Sunday, 6 December 2009

Smell check

Public libraries have always had their quota of malodorous visitors, shuffling in to scour the papers. Now a library has actually banned someone with a particularly pungent aroma.

Apparently Stuart Penman of Wigston near Leicester had such a noxious niff that when he entered the library other users would leave. So he's been barred from the library for six months.

After numerous complaints, the staff had talked to him about his personal hygiene. Did he wash, did he use deodorant, did he change his clothes regularly?

Stuart maintains he has a bath every day and is perfectly clean. But the staff continued to get complaints so they issued the ban.

A tricky situation to deal with. People's personal hygiene is generally a taboo subject, to be carefully ignored even if the person's body odour is enough to kill a herd of elephants.

The member of staff chosen to bring the subject up must have been pretty embarrassed. I certainly would be if I had to ask someone if they were actually acquainted with soap and water.

But there's only so much other library users can overlook. Trying to select your reading matter for the next week as an unsavoury reek assails your nostrils must be somewhat challenging. It's bad enough dealing with the mutterers, sniffers, fidgeters and other random eccentrics who frequent such places.

Oh and before you ask, yes, Stuart has a girlfriend. And yes, she admits "he does have a bit of a problem sometimes." That's one way of putting it....

PS: I thought about not using Stuart's name, to save him some embarrassment, but hell, his name is all over the media anyway.

Pic: Stuart Penman outside the library


  1. Poor fellow. Some people just have a problem no matter what they do. I used to have a friend with the stinkiest feet. Didn't matter whether he showered, used odour eaters, put talk in his shoes, they just stank! Pity the person who had to broach the subject with him.

  2. Apparently his feet were one of the things mentioned. And you're right about stubborn smells. My own father had very smelly feet and also found it hard to get rid of the smell.

  3. As an office manager back in the day, I had to deal with this problem on a few occasions.
    One fellow that I tackled on behalf of management and staff had the most appalling wrinkled clothes I'd ever seen and razor marks oozing bloody drips all morning.
    It turns out he washed both himself and his clothes frequently but didn't believe in using soap of any kind. So mere water does not a sanitary person make.
    And in case you're wondering, he thought the government were behind a great soap conspiracy, i.e. a slow poisoning of us all. I put him in a stockroom where he had minimal contact with other employees. His work was above reproach.

  4. Ewwww! I guess he may have a medical condition?! Anyway if not then there seems little excuse. It is a very taboo subject though, which is strange really when we live in a society which thrives on unsavouryness!!

  5. www - The great soap conspiracy, eh? Goodness, I'd better dump all my soap immediately. Very awkward when the person's work is exemplary so you don't actually want to get rid of them.

    Suburbia - I've never heard of a medical condition that produces a foul smell, but if it's so uncontrollable, who knows? I think we love to discuss such unsavouriness with other people, but we don't dare mention it directly to the person.

  6. He can't sue over this? If he was here in the States I bet he'd be suing.

    Back in college I had a friend who had serious body odor so I bought him a 12-pack of Speed Stick. I also have a very sweaty friend. 10 minutes after he puts on a clean shirt it's damp. I couldn't be around him when I was pregnant because the odor made me severely nauseous. He's tried botox and all sorts of things. Nothing works for him and it's been SO hard for him to keep a girlfriend.

  7. Oh, poor Stuart.

    I had the foot problem for a while because I went barefoot so much. With age comes wisdom. Or at least the desire to make my shoes last a bit longer before I have to throw them out!

    Not quite off-topic - it so bothers me when I walk into the rest room and see something in my nose or teeth, and have no idea how long it's been there. TELL me, somebody!

  8. Liz - I'm sure there's some smart local lawyer already offering him a court case and huge damages. I know heavy sweating is very common though for obvious reasons not disclosed much. And if it's an unpleasant smell you just can't control, it must be awful. I sweat a lot myself in hot weather but luckily it's nostril-friendly!

    Megan - I went barefoot for a while in my youth, not only unsavoury but dangerous. Ah, the unsuspected fragment-on-face dilemma. Yes, why won't people just tell you, it would be more relief than embarrassment.

  9. Poor Sod. God in his infinite wisdom has decided to make his life miserable. He should pray for deliverance from whatever sin he has committed.

  10. He should try those crystal deodorant jobs, they work rather well, dealt with my brother in law's persistent pit pong problem, he too showered every day, but the bacteria causing the issue can be tough to shift.

  11. Ramana - No, I don't believe in the sin hypothesis. Just some very unfortunate medical condition by the sound of it.

    Thrifty - If anyone with an odour problem is reading this blog, there's a handy tip. Your brother in law must have been relieved it did the trick.

  12. I'd say my sister in law was even more relieved.

  13. Thrifty - I can imagine!

  14. I knew a man who eventually called in the doctor to his wife because of her foul smell. Turned out she had a fungating tumour she had been trying to hide. So maybe a trip to the docs is not such a bad idea for this poor chap.

    Smells can often emanate through sweat and poor diet is usually the cause. Foods which are acid-producing like dairy, wheat, beer can cuase yeasts to grow. The answer is- eat more fresh vegetables!

    Brave librarian, I say!

    You do pick some quirky topics Nick! We were discussing feminism at a recent reading group meeting and I thought of your feminism post and was impressed by your current thinking :)

  15. i keep coming back here but still cant imagine what to say?

    my right armpit sweats almost constantly and the left very little

    the silly nylon coat i have to wear at work is less than helpful but alcohol is abundant and a discreet spray of that works miracles

    cant believe i just said that......
    i cant meet any of you now

  16. Cinnamon - A fungating tumour? Yukkk. Yes, I wonder if he's ever consulted his doctor about the problem? So fresh vegetables are beneficial, what about fruit? Or is that no good because it's acidic?

    Thanks for the compliment! I like the quirky topics that others tend to overlook. As for feminism, I've been a feminist since my teens, partly because my father was so nasty to my mother. I applauded the Women's Liberation Movement from the start.

    Kylie - Just your right armpit, huh? Mysterious. Useful having a ready supply of alcohol to slap on.

    Goodness yes, now you've disclosed such horrors, I couldn't possibly come face to face with your right armpit. Eeeek.

  17. Nick, there is a curious consonance between our posts--fragrant soap, loathsome odor.

    We had a gent who worked with us when we were editors, and his odor was so dreadful that I had to hold my breath when I entered the room in which he sat. I think it was actually his breath in that case. Alas, he couldn't be banned.

  18. Leah - Very true, a timely juxtaposition. At least you didn't have to share the same room as the said gent, you only had to enter it occasionally....

  19. Interesting topic. Natural fabrics eg: cotton, linen, silk or wool all ease the problem of body odour.

    Gargle with white vinegar in warm water to cleanse the mouth and throat.

    All leather shoes, not synthetic with cotton or wool socks should rid one of the foot odour

  20. Grannymar - Natural fibres definitely help, though in Stuart's case it sounds like something rather more basic than a synthetic-fabric problem.

  21. Ewwww. While I feel bad for him, I have a superhuman sense of smell and would probably be one of those fleeing the library.

  22. Heart - Jenny has a very acute sense of smell too and even a mildly unpleasant odour will repel her. That sort of pong would have her rushing straight for the exit.

  23. That just stinks - his girlfriend is obviously very tolerant or has sinus issues

  24. Quicky - His girlfriend must be remarkably tolerant. Perhaps he has other sterling virtues we're unaware of? Perhaps he's a DIY expert?

  25. Wow - I'm amazed....not just because somebody has put my birthplace on a bloggy map but because a man who has been banned from somewhere because he didn't smell good can stand there for a photo, holding his letter and he hadn't even bothered to wash his hair in a small attempt to redeem his status.... he must be enjoying the notoriety

  26. Kate - Indeed, he must be enjoying the limelight in some perverse way. Any normal person wouldn't willingly broadcast his personal hygiene problems to a load of tittering journalists. Or as you say, do so with such neglected hair.