There is a certain smell......

Started by: priscus (inactive)

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.

Started: 6th Feb 2019 at 14:30
Last edited by priscus: 6th Feb 2019 at 14:32:41

Posted by: raymyjamie (6857)

Priscus, I never knew that floor polish could be so cerebrally elevated as to be Proustian.
I am familiar with Wigan Tech, Parson’s Walk and UMIST’s Sackville St buildings, but their respective aromas eluded me LOL !!!!!!

Replied: 6th Feb 2019 at 19:43

Posted by: priscus (inactive)

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!

Replied: 6th Feb 2019 at 20:37

Posted by: roylew (3608)

Cut grass...can’t be beaten

Replied: 7th Feb 2019 at 18:59

Posted by: raymyjamie (6857)

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.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 11:05

Posted by: momac (12042) 

Talking about smells,Barcelona has a smell all of its own,due to all old
buildings I soon as I step into 'Bygone Times' the smell is just the
same. favourite smell is Chanel No 5 ...oh yes.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 13:04

Posted by: broady (18280) 

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.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 16:29

Posted by: priscus (inactive)

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.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 17:34

Posted by: broady (18280) 

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.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 18:02

Posted by: priscus (inactive)

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!)

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 18:21

Posted by: broady (18280) 

Just the usual. As a matter of fact these are the first sustained low temperatures of the winter.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 18:51

Posted by: raymyjamie (6857)

"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.
You’ve 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.

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 19:32

Posted by: priscus (inactive)


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!

Replied: 8th Feb 2019 at 20:21
Last edited by priscus: 8th Feb 2019 at 20:26:38

Posted by: mollie m (6470) 

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.

Replied: 9th Feb 2019 at 00:25

Posted by: jouell (4705)

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..

Replied: 9th Feb 2019 at 16:32

Posted by: momac (12042) 

I love the smell of 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.

Replied: 9th Feb 2019 at 16:39

Posted by: jouell (4705)

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...

Replied: 9th Feb 2019 at 18:02

Posted by: momac (12042) 

Jouell..I agree about childhood days..I couldn't have had a better childhood
if we'd lived in a mansion.

Replied: 9th Feb 2019 at 18:34

Posted by: raymyjamie (6857)

FAO Priscus, thanks for your advice re herbs, much appreciated.

Replied: 10th Feb 2019 at 18:42

Posted by: mindar (1334)

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

Replied: 12th Feb 2019 at 22:21
Last edited by mindar: 12th Feb 2019 at 22:22:39

Posted by: priscus (inactive)

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!

Replied: 16th Feb 2019 at 18:00
Last edited by priscus: 16th Feb 2019 at 18:00:54


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