Philip Hensher writes in today's Independent about the demise of the Library Ponger: the banning of an individual from his local library because of unbearable BO.
May I add a little plea to this? Because if you think a Library Ponger is bad, just try the Concert Stinker.
He seems to be at every performance I go to at the RFH, the Wigmore or Covent Garden, to the extent that I wonder if there are clones of him at each venue. He is dressed in dark clothes and carries a briefcase. And to judge from the odour that accompanies him, he probably hasn't cleaned his outfit since the fall of the Berlin Wall, if not its rise. If you see him sneaking towards the empty seat in front of you, it is time to move away, fast.
He's not the only culprit. Anoraks, dear chaps, do require the occasional whirl in the washing machine, including navy blue ones, as do socks even when worn under sandals, and your local supermarket will happily sell you a bottle of stuff for handwashing your woollies. Amazingly enough, they are also well stocked with a variety of different anti-dandruff shampoos, some of which are very cheap.
It takes a brave soul to challenge a stranger (even if one familiar by sight) over his whiff. But the best Concert Stinker I've ever heard of went one step further: he was a conductor. Who apparently wore the same fleece to each and every rehearsal, and terrorised his players to such a degree that many dared not speak to him at all, never mind about the smell.
Back in the audience, I've been thinking of buying myself a little camcorder for Christmas. Because if you are stuck in a concert close to a stinker, you can't get away. You can't just jump to your feet in the middle of Mahler 2, make a loud expression of disgust and clamber out over that tightly packed row of knees. However, if you openly switch on and wield a camcorder, the ushers should be upon you in no time, and if you refuse to switch it off they will probably throw you out. Bingo!
Though obviously it would be better if people just remembered to wash.
Jessica Duchen is a music journalist and the author of four novels, two biographies and several stage works. She writes regularly for The Independent and BBC Music Magazine. Her latest novel, Songs of Triumphant Love, is published by Hodder.
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