It is said that one day while walking in the country, a whiff of goose poop sent Carl Jung whooshing back into his past. I’ve had those olfactory memories, too. I think we all do, don’t we? It may not be goose poop that sets them off, but in my case, a freshly manured field will do.

The sounds that are connected to memory are perhaps less clear. If we live in a city, even if they are still out there, will we hear them? Even though I live on a quiet side street, there is still plenty of noise during business hours (and after, but that’s another post).

That’s why I was delighted this morning to hear the strange, slightly discordant three-note whistle that announces the knife-sharpener is on your block. This recording was made in Seville, and the progression of the notes is slightly different, but you get the idea.

I hadn’t heard it since I lived here back in the 80s, and even then it seemed anachronistic, like the butane man’s cry of “Bu-ta-nooooooo” that let you know you could get your cooking gas cartridge changed. Still hear that one from time to time, too, though most of Madrid is either on electric or natural gas now.

Given the current economy, people who fix stuff are doing well — because it’s generally cheaper to repair than replace — and I have a feeling that the knife-man is among them. Next time I hear that whistle, I’m going to take my three kitchen knives down and have them seen to.

Are there sounds that take you into the way-back machine?

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