Monday, October 12, 2009

The Soaps of Life

Soaps are a kind of accompaniment to life.

Now then, by "soaps" I don't mean the television ones - - the Coronation Street, Emmerdale, Eastenders kind of soaps.

I mean bars of soap, for washing with. I tend to favour the traditional kind - - Palmolive, Pears, Camay, Coal Tar - that kind of thing. They've been with me all my life and I find those traditional scents pleasant and comforting.

The Communist was also the Pharmacist; and soap, in my childhood, just appeared in boxes from his shop - we didn't exactly choose our soap, more looked in the box to see what the Communist had brought back for us.

I've never changed to shower gel: I've tried it sometimes in hotels, quite liked it, but always returned to soap.

Sometimes I try clever new soaps with oatmeal in or that exciting Seventies innovation - soap on a rope! But I always return to the old favourites. As with all smells, they are evocative of happy times, good times, ordinary times, times past.

Last week I bought some Cussons Pearl soap - the first that I'd bought for twenty-five years, almost exactly to the day.

How on earth would I remember that?

Okay, the tricky bit.

In October 1984 I was pregnant with my first baby: I went into premature labour and he was born on October 14th, and died three weeks later. I always find this time of year a bit tricky. It would have been his twenty-fifth birthday on Wednesday this week. Twenty-five! I can hardly believe it.

The week before I went into labour I had bought some Cussons Pearl Soap - I don't know if it was new at the time but it was certainly new to me and I really liked the smell.

When I was taken into hospital, I got a lot of stick from some of the staff because I didn't have a ready-packed going-into-hospital-to-have-a-baby bag. The reason, of course, which they didn't appear to understand, was that it had been far too early in the pregnancy for such things.

So Stephen brought me some things into hospital, and the Cussons Pearl Soap was one of them.

I had a truly, unbelievably horrible time in that hospital. The unspeakably awful way in which I ws treated - not being believed, being treated as though I was stupid - led me in a very direct line to the work in Communication Skills that I do today.

And through it all, there was the smell of Cussons Pearl Soap.

I never bought it again. Sometimes, in the supermarket, I'd smell it to see what I thought - - and no, what I thought was the horror of that time, of that ward, instantly.

Last week, I bought some. I'm trying to move on.


Anonymous Milo said...

A powerful story.

I agree with you that smells seem to trigger memories like nothing else. Is quite incredible.

10:27 pm  
Blogger Yorkshire Pudding said...

The very thought of a woman soaping herself down with her Cousins in the shower is enough to drive a red-blooded Yorshireman crazy!
...But seriously I am transmitting kind thoughts to you regarding the baby boy who left too soon. What kind of man would he have become? A nice one I'd wager.

2:24 am  
Blogger Von said...

So sorry you had that life changing experience and good on you for trying again with something, to move on,it takes courage to remember the hurt.Staff in those places can be unbelievably bad with people skills.
On the subject of soaps just what the Wrights Coal tar anywhere private!!

7:23 am  
Blogger Bernard said...

"Can I hold your palm Olive?"
"Not on your life, boy!"

OK , so it's an old joke..but I'm getting old as well.

4:45 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are an absolute darling Daphne. I love your posts and look forward to reading your take on things. I'm very sorry for your loss. The grief might soften for the loss of a child, but it never goes.

11:44 am  
Blogger Daphne said...

Milo - yes, you're right, smells bring back a time like absolutely nothing else.
YP - - calm down, dear! And thank you.
Goosebreeder - I've spent a lot of time since helping to train medics in Communication Skills, in the hope that fewer and fewer people will have bad experiences.
Bernard - I've never heard that one! But I like it!
Anonymous - thank you so much, it is very much appreciated.

11:09 pm  

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