Sunday 6 March 2011

Senses Working Overtime

I wonder about stuff; weird stuff.

Today’s weirdness has been spawned by nothing more than eating a spicy Chinese dish in Kunming last week. Kunming is in the Yunnan province of South Western China and some of the food there can leave a lasting impression on your tongue, even on those that relish a decent curry.

One night, we were in a restaurant, poised in front of a plethora of dishes when, without thinking, I thrust my chopsticks into a dish full of meat and vegetables, managed to capture enough food to give the impression that I could in fact use chopsticks, and then piled the food into my mouth, proud that I had managed to do so without dropping it all over the table or onto my shirt.

I started chewing and then, after a few seconds, realised that I had molten lava in my mouth.

My immediate thought was this:


My second thought was this: I wonder what it would be like to lose my sense of taste.

I then started thinking about all of my five senses and how much they mean to me.

As my weird imagination started to mull this over, I pictured myself in the dock in a courtroom, having just been found guilty of a heinous crime – like being caught watching “The Jeremy Kyle Show” with a huge grin of enjoyment painted on your face. Now this was a weird court handing out weird punishments; my punishment for my crime was extremely weird:

You shall be taken from this place and have one of your senses removed for a period of twelve months. 

Which sense shall it be?

And that, dear reader, is a difficult choice. Which of you five senses would you least mind losing for a period of a year?

Let’s take them one at a time:


Without my sense of taste, I would have easily survived the mouthful of molten steel that I threw into my mouth without a care in the world. I would have been able to chew it over and over again without feeling my taste buds being incinerated by the chilli peppers in the dish.

Surely that is a plus point in favour of the other four senses.

The problem is that while I would undoubtedly find myself able to eat odious foodstuffs like liver or rhubarb, I would find myself pining for the food that I enjoyed – like steak, cheese, beer, bacon, chicken etc.

I’ve had a taste of tastelessness (if you will pardon the pun) when I have had a particularly nasty cold that has resulted in my whole head feeling like it was being stuffed with vast quantities of cotton wool. I found it rather unpleasant to be honest. Eating a bacon sandwich in that state is about as enjoyable as eating a couple of pieces of cardboard between two pieces of tofu; bland and awkward.

Could I stand that for a whole year?


If you have ever trodden barefoot in a steaming pile of cat shit or cat vomit then you might immediately think that without you sense of touch, you would not suffer the unpleasantness of slimy cat excreta between your toes.

But there is a downside, dear reader. If you were to tread in an enormous pile of poo while staggering to the loo in the middle of the night, you would be unaware of it, walk it through your house and get back into bed smearing the foul substance all over the sheets.

That’s not nice.

Also, without your sense of touch, you would also not feel pain. That may not be a bad thing but the whole point of pain is to warn you that something nasty is happening to your body. As undesirable as pain may be, it is there for a reason.

Again I have had exposure to losing my sense of touch. I had two fillings and the tooth butcher (aka the dentist) stabbed the left side of my face with a needle full of anaesthetic before applying a drill to my tooth and then filling it with molten metal. I couldn’t feel my face for hours and as I drove home, I dribbled like an imbecile. I reached up and touched my face and it felt really odd – so odd in fact that I almost crashed the car. I was planning to go back to work, but I couldn’t actually speak properly.

And to be honest I couldn’t stand the thought of being ridiculed by my mates, who would undoubtedly have leapt on the opportunity to point out the similarity between me and a drooling Homer Simpson.

I doubt that I could live without my sense of touch after that incident.


There are some truly obnoxious smells in the world, like cat shit for example (I apologise dear reader for yet another reference to cat shit but if you had plunged your hand or your foot into a great steaming pile of it, you would know what I mean – I’m not obsessed – honestly). The truth is I would not miss certain odours – particularly nasty farts, the smell of fresh vomit, Chinese toilets or other putrid stenches.

Of course, there are many lovely smells out there like freshly mown grass, a field full of flowers, sizzling bacon to name but a few.

Nevertheless, your sense of smell is there to protect you so that you can avoid noxious gases for example.

Furthermore, when you have a nasty cold with a head full of cotton wool, your sense of smell is cast asunder as well your sense of taste. And to be honest, I haven’t missed it in the past.

Smell might just be a contender.


Without my glasses I am as blind as a bat. I walk around and see woolly blurred shapes and can barely distinguish a bus from a building.

With my specs, however, I have perfect vision and to be perfectly honest I love that. The world is a beautiful place, full of beautiful people and beautiful things and I simply could not bear to part with that – even for a day.

How would I cope not being able to see Mrs PM?


Like sight, hearing is a major sense that I simply do not think I could do without. I love listening to noises and conversation and, most importantly, my vast collection of music.

Losing my hearing for an entire year would be like not listening to a single song during that period or exchanging words with friends, strangers and, of course, Mrs PM.

That would be unacceptable.


I have come to a decision – finally. If I found myself standing in a dock having been sentenced to lose a sense of my choosing for being caught surreptitiously enjoying watching nutters being verbally assaulted by Jeremy Kyle, I would say:

Your honour, I shall relinquish my sense of smell for a period of twelve months – just as long as you don’t make me wander through a mine filled with chlorine.

Over to you, dear reader. Which sense do you value above all others?

And more importantly, because I am weird, what would you regard as a crime worthy of sensory deprivation for a whole year in my weird courtroom?

I would suggest that a large percentage of Americans might find themselves in that court in the near future – for being caught enjoying watching Piers Morgan on CNN – and actually enjoying it.

That is an almost unforgiveable crime.


Mind Of Mine said...


You need to have your own column in the Manchester Evening News. Your technique is just so entertaining. I am a little jealous I don't have that skill.

River said...

I've thought about this a bit myself, but only ever considered sight, hearing and taste. Life would be tragic indeed if I couldn't taste chocolate, a medium rare steak or a baked potato. Sight is needed to read all these wonderful blogs and for watching TV too. Hearing? I'm already losing that....
Smell is something I'd never thought about. Usually, I'm the one people come to and say "smell this and tell me is it still okay", because I can pick out meat which is just beginning to turn, and also I can pick the one orange in a bowlful that is going off and will be mouldy in a week.
So I'd hate to lose that ability.
If I were before a judge who asked such a question of me, I'd offer to wash his dishes for a year instead.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi Mom,

Thanks for the kind comment. Perhaps if I had a column in the MEN I would be able to quit my day job.

Well - maybe...




Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi River,

Yes - taste is a difficult one to lose (though I'm clearly not as fond of chocolate as you are).

I think I would rather lose my sense of smell than wash up for a year.

I hate washing up.




Kath Lockett said...

Smell, for sure.

As much I like perfume and sizzling bacon and vanilla and freshly-washed sheets, it'd be the one I could do without.


Plastic Mancunian said...

G'Day Kath,

I can see your point about taste and I totally agree - mind you, I can definitely do without chocolate.




Elephant's Child said...

Just to be a bit perverse. A woman I worked with had a stroke and lost (permanently) her ability to read and write. I think I would pass up one of the senses to retain those skills. If I had to choose a sense perhaps smell - though it is intrinsically connected to taste, and I suspect if one went so would the other. Too hard.

Plastic Mancunian said...

Hi EC,

That's tragic. My mum had a series of "mini strokes" but thankfully there was no lasting damage.

You are probably right about taste and smell - as I said, a cold usually disposes of both of them.