‘We are all familiar with the way that certain smells evoke certain memories, you catch the scent of something and it brings to mind a particular image. I was going to use the example of the way Jeyes Fluid reminds me of our primary school toilets but I didn’t think it would be an appropriate illustration for this church sermon’. The congregation have still not quite adjusted to my attempts at levity. ‘Instead of Jeyes Fluid, perhaps we could think of the power of the scent of candles to bring back memories’.
Jeyes Fluid does have a strange power though.
It evokes images of High Ham Primary School with its two classrooms divided by a corridor leading to the cloakroom. Infants to the right, juniors to the left; was there knowledge worth learning that was unknown to our teachers?
The school had a set of smells to go with each season: the conkers from horse chestnut trees on the village green; the glue with which we stuck crepe paper to toilet roll tubes to make ‘candles’ at Christmas time; the coke carried in scuttles from the bunker to feed the pot-bellied stoves in the winter; the school milk from third of a pint bottles that had been left to warm; the scents from the school playing field as the county council tractor and mower cut stripes across the football pitch; the chlorine in the water of the swimming pool with blue plastic sides; the perspiration from kids in the area sports, anxious not to let down our little school in competition against places hugely bigger than our own. But amongst all the smells, none compares with the Jeyes Fluid.
Jeyes Fluid brings memories of cleanliness and memories of discipline. It went with the toilets and the cloakroom, where you were not to be without permission. It was the smell of the school after everyone had gone home at the end of the day and the cleaning began; it was the scent you caught when arriving for a new day. If it is possible for smell to have moral value, then Jeyes Fluid was the smell of virtuosity; it was the smell of hard work and strict instructions.
Are associations between smell and memory different for every person, or are there certain links that are unbreakable? Is there a generation for whom Jeyes Fluid will always be the smell of education? Are there still primary schools where it would be possible to step back to 1972?