Awake too soon. Decide to tidy my handkerchief drawer. Empty it out on the bed. Here’s a rainbow of coloured cottons: every sort of hanky from sturdy spotted indigo bandanas to dainty lexicons of the Language of Flowers. Some have been gifts, others found in the street. Iron, fold and stack. Re-line drawer and spray everything with Papillon’s delectable Dryad. Spend rest of morning opening and shutting drawer for the sheer pleasure of smelling that heavenly Dryad flying out. Take late afternoon train back to London. No seats. Balance myself in the aisles. Write my blog standing, like Florence Nightingale’s papa. Passengers stampede like cattle over one another’s baggage. A bad couple of hours, and to crown all I find I have forgotten my heartburn tablets. Though not my scented hanky.
Take Tube down to Richmond for a day in the office. It’s right next door to Virginia Woolf’s Hogarth House. Mrs W. once wrote that poor Katherine Mansfield smelled like a civet cat.
Read a fascinating Times obituary of Frank Sinatra’s last wife. I’ve always found Frankie a most unattractive character, but Marlene adored him; and so did this wonderful woman Barbara Blakeley who stood for no nonsense. “He signed his love letters to her as ‘Charlie Neat’, a reference to his tendency to take several showers a day and to smell of lavender water”.¤
The fondness for lavender is interesting. Too many folk still associate it with ennervated effete old ladies whereas it can be a very virile, invigorating scent. Today I’m working at Creed UK HQ: Sinatra is often said to have had a yen for Creed products. People fixate on knowing which perfume a celebrity wears: but you never know for sure, not really. Stars get sent so many gifts. And, like the rest of us – but on a vaster scale – they buy stuff but never use it. Or they pass it on, unopened, to the maid and the valet. Nonetheless it’s still a thrill to think that one can smell – more or less – like one’s idol. The purchase of a little sympathetic magic.
Quite a day. Les Senteurs at 71 Elizabeth St is now being wonderfully done up – redecorated and refurbished – so every last stick has to be moved out.
We packed all that could be packed into the van and that’s a fact – then we haul it down into the basement of Les Senteurs at 2 Seymour Place. Here we now congregate like a colony of bower birds. All sorts of flotsam and jetsam from the past drift ashore. Perfume stimulates memory as we all know, so the whole experience is exceedingly overwhelming. For the next couple of months all the staff will be at your service at the one shop in elegant Seymour Place. Plenty of good restaurants nearby; so why not come down and spend the day in Marylebone?
Two new scents from Mona di Orio arrive & are unpacked. Pascale – always the perfect House Model for every perfume – smells swooningly lovely in Dojima. This is a delicate fantasy of rice powder, jasmine, nutmeg and creamy musk. We all go out for supper at ‘Zayna’ in New Quebec Street to console ourselves for Pascale leaving us on August 15th. For the past two and half years she has been not only a dear and irreplaceable Friend, but also a perfect Nose, a witty and perceptive cultural Philosopher, an adroit PR Operative and a conscientious Manager. The loss is irreparable.
Take our places at ‘Zayna’, eat wonderful food – including the best prawns in the world – and feel a bit weepy.
How differently we all interpret the same fragrance – thank Heaven for that! Else, as my father used to say, some of us would be killed in the rush. Enjoy animated chat with a most charming and erudite gentleman who comes to buy a bottle of BOIS D’OMBRIE. I experience this dark woody resinous fragrance as a sleepy siesta in a deep green velvet armchair. My visitor thinks of it as a wild war-time forest ‘where ignorant armies clash by night’. Fascinating. Just goes to show you need imagination as well as a nose to get the most from perfume.
Awake up to find my phone chocka with texts & emails. Have I seen the Daily Mail? No. Apparently I’m ‘in’. Hobble out for a copy, and – o dear! – it’s true. Here is a whole page, lavishly illustrated – and with a by-line, yet. It’s an article I wrote back in the spring about Diana’s Perfumes. Here at Les Senteurs we stock Houbigant’s legendary QUELQUES FLEURS, the scent the Princess is said to have worn on her wedding day. It has been adored by generations of women since 1912. Said to be perfumery’s first true multi-floral bouquet, Quelques Fleurs (brilliantly understated name) is as fresh and dewy as it was 105 years ago. I like the apple blossom note myself – and the deep musky jasmine shadows.
Awake in my own bed having caught the late train home last night. Gather a large bowl of blackberries in record time. The gleaming warm fruits are already tumbling off the briars or being pecked by birds. They are shining and brilliant in the morning sun, almost the colour of iridescent bluebottles – or beryls. This year’s crop has been ripe since July. Abnormally early. The Devil spits on the berries on Michaelmas Day – so it’s a long harvest this year. Poach them briefly in a little sugar and their own juices: a wonderful sweet nutty smell. I think of MOMENT PERPETUEL and how artfully Msr Arnaud blends blackberry with lavender: symphony in violet, purple and mauve.
Eat the blackberries.