Sue Barton asks ‘can you smell nostalgia’?

Sue BartonSue Barton asks ‘can you smell nostalgia’?
During the sixties and seventies there was a certain smell to a working men’s club. The pungency of old hops and fermenting yeast permeated the air, and added to this was the lingering aroma of tobacco, pipe, cigarette, cigar or roll-up.
The bouquet marinated the faux leather bench seating around the side of the room. The seating had robust wooden armrests and the upholstery was usually in an olive green or burgundy colour, ergonomically uncomfortable, yet frequently slippery and shiny in places with wear. Small wooden tables, often burned with carelessly handled cigarette butts, yet polished within an inch of their lives, arranged regimentally on the chequered Marley tiles, gleaming with the care given by the buffer and its operative.
Some tables would be topped with ‘formica’, which although hard-wearing would split at the edges, the veneer peeling off to show the wood underneath. Each table would have a large ashtray made of thick coloured glass or moulded tin placed in the middle, usually an advertising medium from the brewery. This would be emptied periodically by someone coming round with bucket, metal of course to prevent fire, and a paintbrush to remove the sticky bits.
The table top would be reused and, if they had been there for a few sessions, smelled strongly of stale ale. Surrounding the table there would be its own set of wooden chairs, the backs and seats upholstered in the same faux leather as the bench seats, secured around the edges with bright gold studs at perfect intervals, yet the seats were often so miniscule in size so that it was impossible to sit all night comfortably.
The tables would invariably have a shelf beneath, meaning that it was hopeless to get your legs under, but invaluable for placing handbags, bingo tickets and dominoes.
The smell of the club would infuse itself into the artistes’ equipment so much that when the equipment was taken home, often the smell of the club would accompany it. The busier the artiste was, the more pungent the aroma would become. You could wipe the speakers over repeatedly with detergent or even use a strongly perfumed polish, but the smell would still be there. Equipment does not have the same smell nowadays. The smoking ban meant that smoking was no longer allowed in public places, even private clubs which should surely determine their own rule-book. Admittedly there is still a smell of alcohol about the venues but it does not seem to permeate like the old aromas did. The smell of the old smoky pubs and clubs will soon be forgotten. At the moment Nostalgia is in and Vintage is in vogue. If any entertainers have old equipment still lying around, you may find it is redolent of Clubland past, so breathe deeply and bring back the memories of the clubs and pubs of yesteryear.

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