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27 September, 2007

Secondhand bananas

Anyone know what (specifically) goes into bark chippings, as used in gardening?

A small corner beside the entrance to my office building used to be block-paved, featuring a smooth boulder¹ on a small plinth and a couple of benches. Following refurbishment, the area has been landscaped as a bed of shrubs/palms punctuated by pebble mosaics, with a central plinth still to be occupied².

The point is that the soil has been covered with bark chippings, which have a strong smell, which becomes less pleasant with distance. From a few metres away, the scent is of damp wood; no problem. However, the building's foyer reeks of overripe bananas, and there's a disturbing odour of vomit in the stairwell and upper-floor landings.

It's not the first time I've noticed this 'scent spectrum' effect. A couple of weeks ago, the smell of tomato soup experienced on the second-floor landing seamless changed to currant buns by the time I reached the first floor (I went back and forwards a couple of times, and couldn't identify a single point of transition), fading to the odour of burnt toast by the ground floor. I have no idea about the source of the smell, presumably on the third floor.


1: Actually a huge manganese nodule unearthed during the excavation of the Alex Square underpass. They're a common component of the local shale/sandstone bedrock, though the biggest I've found myself is about 10cm across.

2: I suspect the boulder will be reinstalled, but I vote for a larger-than-life statue of the VC in a Lenin-like declamatory pose, one hand gripping his waistcoat lapel, the other pointing to a brighter future (not that I have reason to think the VC would do that; it's just a compelling image).

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