The Great Washed

Woodstock cottage England
Getting on the train these days is like visiting a country garden on steroids. Hair smells of rich and exotic blooms and all the perfumes of Arabia and everywhere else vie for dominance in the carriage.

I remember the days before deodorant was considered to be a universal necessity. A true Aussie Bloke would never have  dared risk his bronzed manliness being called into question by attempting to cover up his natural odour in the 1970’s and consequently most of my childhood recollections of anywhere crowded in summertime involve trying to escape from the overwhelming stench of the “great unwashed”.

Eventually, men came to clearly understand that most women preferred them not to reek and tentatively applied ozone destroying pine scented sprays to offending underarms and some even splashed about “Brut 33” or “Old Spice” aftershave in case they encountered the fairer sex on the disco dance floor.

Today of course it is quite the reverse.

I boarded the busy train this morning and was almost bowled over by the overwhelming miasma of perfumed and deodorised bodies packed into the carriage. Imagine a boiling vat of rose scented oil into which someone has just thrown a bucket of fresh potpourri, sandalwood, limes, and all the spices of Asia and you will begin to understand why I found the effect somewhat overpowering.

I added my own scent to this “odour painting” in the form of the cocoanut beard balm and the “extreme sport” deodorant as well as some unidentifiable but undoubtedly very manly fragrance from my hair pomade. A teenager who smelt like bubble gum, but was not eating any, squeezed past; fat man to the right reminded one of a cigar box; a lady in a flowered dress conjured up cinnamon and chai lattes while another ancient Egypt. I think it was patchouli…I am not sure what patchouli is, but it sounds like something used in the embalming process.

I am sure all of the passengers were wearing things like “Poison”, “L’air du Strumpet”, “Chanel No 666” or “Corruption for Men”. Whatever they were, the combination was truly appalling and as the doors closed I felt the old terror coming back.

I cannot now think what is worse; this perfume saturated age or the one of the “great unwashed”.

Mind you, university students seem to still adhere to the principles of the “hippy generation” and I would not risk a trip into the tavern of my old Alma Mater on a 43 degree centigrade summer’s day under any circumstances.

In response to The Secret Keeper’s weekly writing prompt


Thursday Doors



  1. Patchouli is the worst! I’ve been experimenting with aluminium free deodorants since summer. Character building exercise to do away with the confidence that a trustworthy antiperspirant gives you! Here we are at winter and I think I can safely stop calling it an experiment now…

    Liked by 1 person

      1. So many alternatives! Best I’ve found is moo goo, but leaves white patches so depends on clothing. My other brand is Dr Organics. I have no share in either company btw 😊. There is obviously sweat without antiperspirant but miraculously, not the odour that comes with regular pore clogging antiperspirants! I assumed you’re in Melb, but now I’m not sure…

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Thanks for the tips and I will pass the info onto a few people who have shown an interest as well. I am in Perth Western Australia. I love Melbourne but, with a 4 hour flight to get there, I don’t go as often as I would like.

          Liked by 1 person

  2. What a magical door! Here in Finland I have noticed odorless spaces showing up. For example at swimming pools or gyms. You can’t spray any perfume there! I’m sure the ones who can’t live without, will spray with abandon once they get outside though 😉


  3. Wow, sounds like you had had quite a train journey with all that odor floating around..People where I live (in Poland) use a lot of overpowering scent as well, especially the ladies and younger people. But I always come across nasty smelling people (old, poor, homeless..?) during my public transportation commutes haha. I therefore, among other reasons, do not like using public transportation here and use bike during summer and spring. I’d rather deal with the perfumes and deodorants than nasty old smell from unhygienic people..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I always used to dream of living in the time of Louis XV until I realized how little attention they gave to personal hygiene. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading. TJ

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m with you TJ, I can’t stand all the very strong perfumes that assault my senses when out and about, and that linger in my house long after perfumed people have left. I never wear perfume or scented anti-persperants and choose soap very carefully. I use a Crystal Body Deodorant that I get from the health food shop. It is a cylinder of mineral salts that you wet and then rub on the skin where needed, and completely fragrance free. The ingredient listed is Ammonium Alum and their website is:

    Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s