The money, all 500, 000 yen of it, had just been handed over to the woman at the travel agency when he got the phone call: ” I don’t think we can go. There has been a locust invasion. ”
This was our scenario yesterday, and how utterly, and bitterly disappointing!
It has been a long-time dream of mine to go to Madagascar, heart of vanilla, and mysterious animals and plants; Duncan, as I was working, was up in Yokohama finally about to hand over the quite considerable amount of money that we had saved up for the flight, and I was in a delicious tension of excitement that the moment was finally arriving where the flight would be booked and we could begin properly planning for our adventure to the vanilla trails, the perfumed island of Nosy Be where you can watch the ylang ylang flowers being distilled while chameleons cling oddly to orchid vines and lemurs languidly curl themselves from the trees. I was scared as well, as Madagascar is not without its dangers, but, call me a fool, the thought that I might actually get to see a vanilla plant growing its pods in the Indian Ocean sun, even see one get picked and prepared for the curing treatment, made me almost stop my breath in anticipation: I have wanted to see these tropical essences I so adore in the flesh for so long, and yesterday, at 3pm, it was about to happen.
‘Madgascar here we come’ wrote Duncan on Facebook, to a flourish of replies, although Marina had written that there were locusts, something I think I had heard about vaguely, but had pushed to the back of my mind, imagining a seasonal swarm of them that would soon flutter away by the time we arrived in all our horse-blinkered splendour on the islands. And then I wisely decide to check up on my friend’s advice, having flippantly initially written that ‘locust or no locust’ I was going all the same, but good lord look at these hideous Biblical storms of insectoid plague cruttering above the people’s heads and destroying their food. Bloody hell I had no idea whatsoever that this was happening, how oblivious to reality I have been, just childishly dreaming about those drips of ylang ylang essential oil, just extracted, dropping perfumedly into the glass receptacles of the distillery as I look enrapturedly on, when in fact the rest of the island is possibly starving to death. Some reports say that the insects can stay up to seventeen years, and a decade is reasonable guess too unless the country gets aid from rich countries immediately and they start to fight the locusts. Those fucking locusts. LOCUSTS for god’s sake!
The island of Nosy Be is apparently so far untouched, though there is no guarantee that the plague will not move up to the north. In any case, I am sure not going to be swaying in my hammock sipping cocktails and inhaling the famed isle’s perfumed breeze while the rest of the country starves to death like some callous colonialist, so it looks like our holiday is off, the adventure into vanilla, direct to the source.
Next spring I am to be doing a Vanilla Evening at Perfume Lover’s London, following on from the series I did at Olfactoria on Vanilla, a scent I adore and am obsessed with. I want to not only delve into the delights of vanilla perfumes but also go straight to its actual DNA, the orchid, that difficult, hand-pollinated beauty that makes those vanillin-drenched pods that so allure me, so although it looks as though the Madagascar trip is off (I can’t even believe I am writing this), I am going to have to find an alternative. Yesterday was a day of absolute misery for me. All of this happened just before my company’s nyushashiki, or opening ceremony ‘party’ for the new slaves, sorry, initiates, no sorry I must mean new recruits, new teachers, and though I was doing my best to remain upbeat and cheerful as I was the only foreigner among two hundred Japanese and we must appear the perfect English gentleman! with every gulp of beer I felt myself disappearing and becoming smaller, more alienated. The great disappointment of what I have been dreaming about for so long not coming to fruition, the cruel immersion into the reality of the working world where I feel so restricted and curtailed
( I really do need to leave and do something else; I can feel my soul straining against my rib cages sometimes, desperate to be freed from the bullshit of the framework, the system, the performance, the assessment ) after the bliss of being free and myself, all of it made me feel so depressed I came home sodden, dejected, and black as hell. And to think: there are people whose lives are at stake, properly threatened by these foul, food-mad insects, and there I am, a spoiled, impossibly rich-in-comparison white man with a job, and food, complaining and whining about not being able to savour the frivolous scent of the vanilla vine. Like the locusta migratoria capito, I feel like I just deserve to be squashed.