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There is a certain smell......
Started by: priscus (7721) Report abuse
First place I remember encountering said smell, was A in M Carnegie Library.

Then again, Wigan Tech. But only the Library Street Building, Not Parson's Walk.

Next, the UMIST's Sackville Street Building in Manchester.

Then, frequently in older public buildings in London.

And after all that, many decades have now come to pass, without me ever again encountering this aroma once again.

I guess it is the smell which emanates from many years of furniture/floor polish being rubbed into woodwork. Maybe wood no longer gets this sort of treatment.

I know it would be one of those moments identified by Proust, should I ever again encounter this smell, as just recollecting has a Proustian quality.

Posted by: raymyjamie (5939) Report abuse
Priscus, I never knew that floor polish could be so cerebrally elevated as to be Proustian.
I am familiar with Wigan Tech, Parsonís Walk and UMISTís Sackville St buildings, but their respective aromas eluded me LOL !!!!!!

Posted by: priscus (7721) Report abuse
I assume it was polish.

Sense of smell must change a lot with age.

As a child, I loved the smell of petrol.

Now, I think it smells foul! I guess it is me, and not the petrol having changed.

I would say the same in respect of cellulose thinners, and tarmac.

I still like the smell of real turpentine though!

Posted by: roylew (3117) Report abuse
Cut grass...canít be beaten

Posted by: raymyjamie (5939) Report abuse
I just LOVE the smell of fresh basil.
I chop/tear it on to salads and some hot dishes, just so fragrant.
You can buy it from Supermarkets in pots.
Keep it warm, watered and in light, it will last for a few weeks.

Posted by: momac (10224)  Report abuse
Talking about smells,Barcelona has a smell all of its own,due to all old
buildings I guess..as soon as I step into 'Bygone Times' the smell is just the
But...my favourite smell is Chanel No 5 ...oh yes.

Posted by: broady (15226)   Report abuse
We grow herbs on the deck in Summer and the one I have a habit of rubbing for the smell is the Rosemary. Lovely smell.

Posted by: priscus (7721) Report abuse
I cook Italian, so tend to use both Basil and Rosemary on an almost daily basis.

Have been experimenting for a while with attempt to grow harvestable supply all year round of both herbs.

Rosemary survives outside in winter, but does not thrive, and will be some months before it is sufficiently productive to cut. Indoor-grown did not do well. Pots which I put out in Winter, and let them experience cold, but I bring in to save them from most severe freezing are doing best.

Basil died, it did not survive my attempt to grow indoors over Winter. (outdoors, only crops in Summer)

There are a lot of variables, so I will keep on trying. Commercial herb farms do grow them over winter, but they have computerised climate control to help get it right.

In past, have grown a lot of lavender: probably main scent of my garden and home. But it had spread to take up too much room. I needed the space, so have grubbed it out. Have kept a handful of rooted cuttings, so can re-establish a smaller lavender patch to attract bees.

Posted by: broady (15226)   Report abuse
We are due a -25 day tomorrow so nothing can be left outside. However we sometimes move the rosemary from the herb pot into the garden during the summer and by some miracle one year it survived. I wouldn't say it was at its best though the following year. It is a miracle of nature to watch the perennials coming out every year. We still have snow on half of the garden and the sunny side has plants reappearing.

Posted by: priscus (7721) Report abuse
Have you been getting the same chill that has been experienced in The States, or is this just your usual Canadian Winter temperature?

Yes, I find Rosemary takes a long time to recover from Winter exposure.

I know this will sound odd, but 'Rosemary' was the name of my late other-half. I still do not emote well when dealing with the stuff. (from Rose-Marine: the flower which grows by the sea!)

Posted by: broady (15226)   Report abuse
Just the usual. As a matter of fact these are the first sustained low temperatures of the winter.

Posted by: raymyjamie (5939) Report abuse
"We grow herbs on the deck in Summer and the one I have a habit of rubbing for the smell is the Rosemary. Lovely smell."

Only just seen your post Bill.
Youíve given me an idea to maybe grow my own herbs over this Summer.
It seems that trying to keep them over Winter is a bit of a no-win situation, so maybe plant new each year.

Posted by: priscus (7721) Report abuse

Basil is easy to grow from seed but is very sensitive to cold.

It is an annual, so cannot keep through Winter, but it is possible to sow successively to get crops anytime, providing right conditions can be replicated.

Rosemary is a perennial, but cropping a plant that has struggled to survive winter is maybe demanding too much, hence have a number of plants: some for cropping, and others for growing on.

Had more than a dozen successive sowings of Basil, but just did not get right conditions for them to thrive over the Winter this time round.

I'll be starting another batch in a heated propagator in next few days, but these are my usual 'grow over Summer', rather than Winter attempts!

Posted by: mollie m (6273)  Report abuse
Regarding the original post, I can still smell the wood polish that was used in the Children's Library which used to be on, what was, Station Road in the 1950s. I'd go there as a 6 year old child to get out the latest Noddy book or, perhaps a year later, Famous Five or Secret Seven. The floors were wooden, the balustrades were wooden, in fact, all that lovely dark wood gleamed and the smell was amazing. I believe it was Beeswax that was used.


I think you're right about smells changing with age as I grew to love the smell of firelighters - not to be recommended - damp wood and soil, and even coal. There are a lot of food smells that I love as well.

Posted by: jouell (4705) Report abuse
As a child, I always loved the smell of Leather, (of course not realizing then, as to how it was made, ).. Back then there were no man made materials, so all shoes, handbags, school satchels etc, were made of leather.. I loved going into shoe shops just for the smell and it was heaven when I got a new school satchel..

Posted by: momac (10224)  Report abuse
I love the smell of Lavender..my Mam used to get the polish in a tin..and
growing up I always seemed to be polishing the bedroom furniture,just to
smell it....and of course when the tin was emptied I used it for hopscotch.

Posted by: jouell (4705) Report abuse
momac, I love lavender too, in fact drinking Honey and Lavender tea right now..
I have forgotten all about the Lavender polish, yes, we used that as well .. you also jogged my memories with the firelighters, we are going back a long time.. Good old days.. hard times, but I loved my childhood days...

Posted by: momac (10224)  Report abuse
Jouell..I agree about childhood days..I couldn't have had a better childhood
if we'd lived in a mansion.

Posted by: raymyjamie (5939) Report abuse
FAO Priscus, thanks for your advice re herbs, much appreciated.

Posted by: mindar (1331) Report abuse
Posted: Thu Feb 07, 2019 3:38 pm Post subject: The smell of heritage
Over on Handbags priscus discusses how they remember the certain smells of libraries, old buildings etc. Maybe the paper published on this website could help explaining this Proustian olfaction or aroma-chology as it has become known.

Ta Cyril

Posted by: priscus (7721) Report abuse
Once upon a time, I had attributed the aroma to aged paper.

However, neither Manchester Central Reference Library which has old books,

nor the Old Science Library at Manchester University, and ditto the Medical library produced the said aroma.

Also, When Wigan Tech Library moved to Parson's Walk, the aroma stayed behind in the Library Street building. (Cannot speak of now, as I have not been there since it has become Town Hall.)

All of which has lead me to reject that notion, and attribute the aroma to polish on wood. Though, that is no more than a guess!


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