Soap is one of the very first manufactured products a baby will come into contact with, and use every day thereafter…………
I have written some of my own soap associations, followed by contributions written by those who attended Artwash on September 20th 2008. everyone was asked to reflect upon and write about any soap associations which came to mind. As some people sniffed the hanging soap boxes for inspiration, some of the contributions are presented as lists relating to particular boxes, mostly describing or trying to identify the hidden smells.
My earliest memories are not of a particular brand, but sensation. Being ‘soaped’ by my mother very systematically and efficiently sliding the bar all over me and rinsing me, leaving me smelling very clean and fresh and ready for bed, and loving that feeling.
Slightly later my memories are Coal Tar soap, lost in the bath and frantic scrambling to try and retrieve it before it became totally soggy and unusable.
I loved turning over a well worn ‘bar’ in my palms and the slipperiness of the sensation. I didn’t like the roughness of a new bar to touch, but I loved unwrapping it for it had a powerfully strong smell which diminished with use.
More well-off friends had rather luxurious soap, the most exotic being Roger Gallet for me. This was bohemian and smelt fantastic and I aspired to owning some. It also came in expensive looking wrapping.
My grandmother used rather dull Imperial Leather which with its pointy ends. Consistent. Every Christmas I went to Boswells and bought her Bronleys lemon soap. Which was a perfect lemon shape and smell, and used to come in wooden boxes.
Maggie says that lots of people attending her G.U clinic (Genitourinary medicine clinics) with undiagnosed rashes ‘down below’, when asked which soap they used, they invariably said Imperial Leather. The doctors were never sure whether this was the source of the problem, or if they gave that brand name because the patient thought it more respectable than the cheap bar that they were ACTUALLY USING.
I always was a bit dismayed by people sticking the left over bits of soap together. It seemed dismal and, doubtless economic.
I remember one bar I had that had oats or something in it, and was a bit gritty and so scrubbed and soaped all in one. That was exciting.
In France we used huge, unwieldy blocks of Marseille soap to wash the laundry, rubbing the clothes against washing boards or on the draining board. It was a pleasure to do as the smell was fantastic, and as the base oil was olive, it was very gentle on the hands. You rarely saw one of those blocks get really small.
As a child on camping holidays, after a poo in the lav, bars of cheap carbolic soap awaited you, covered in pieces of dead grass, by a bowl of cold grey soapy water topped with scum.
Right now I use Pears which combines great smell with lovely semi transparent visual pleasure. My friend's Mum brings me Maja from Spain which smells unbelievably exotic.