HOW THE LOCUSTS BURST MY BUBBLE

 

 

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. ” 

 

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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.

 

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‘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!

 

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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. 

 

 

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39 Comments

Filed under Flowers

39 responses to “HOW THE LOCUSTS BURST MY BUBBLE

  1. I’m very sorry to hear that, Neil! 😦

  2. brie

    oh dear…I was so looking forward to hearing about this trip on your blog upon your return. Agreed with B though…Tahiti should be a worthy consolation prize!

    • It’s not quite us to be honest and we can’t really afford it anyway. I wanted something more….real and local, and Madagascar would have been perfect. Vanilla is grown in Sri Lanka, Java, so we are looking into other options.

      Still it is ridiculous of me to complain. I am very fortunate to be able to take such a trip! And we have saved the money and so are going to spend it.

  3. Marina

    Tahiti is your prize and it will be wonderful. Just think of the frangipani!

  4. Ana

    I’m sorry, Neil!I know how bitter the taste of disappointment can be and no amount of logical reasoning can sweeten it!Hopefully you’ll find a worthy alternative and that many beautiful memories will be created as a result!

    • Thankyou very much, although I am actually deeply ashamed to have written it in the first place. I feel like a child. I REALLY REALLY wanted to go, but then in the bigger scheme of things it seems truly pathetic, hence me being squashed at the end. I just had to get it out of my system, and as soon as I pressed publish I immediately felt a mood uplift. What possess us to broadcast our emotions to a world of strangers?

      • brie

        Neil- I always adore how you shoot from the hip and put your feelings out there…it’s what makes me enjoy reading your blog….and if I may be so bold to answer your question…because we all yearn for connection….and are we really such strangers, all of us perfumaniacs?…….I don’t believe so…(but that ‘s just my opinion)

      • I don’t think we are, either, in complete honesty, which is what makes all this so wonderful. At the same time, it IS quite odd to be revealing oneself to ‘the world’, is it not?

      • Ana

        I don’t think our desires are pathetic.They are probably the only things we have to propel us forward or to give us hope in difficult times.and somehow you don’t feel to me like a strange.so many times I find my own emotions in yours.

      • As I said to Brie, I also agree. But I do dredge up extremes in my feelings and then just spout them out, and at the moment I was tapping those words it suddenly occurred to me that any eyes could be reading it, and it seemed rather strange. Ultimately exciting and cathartic, though.

  5. Marina

    And I was the bearer of bad news and now disappointment. How about Fiji?

    • ninakane1

      I was actually impressed at your knowledge of the situation out there – hadn’t heard a word of it here. Fiji is supposed to be beautiful.

  6. Meg

    Greetings from a mostly non-commenting fan, with sympathies over what’s happening in Madagascar. There is a type of cicada here in the Northeast US which everyone erroneously calls a “17-year-locust” because it takes that long to mature underground. When it emerges, it only lives a few weeks. We complain because “17-year-locusts” litter our sidewalks with their shed carapaces and make a loud droning noise in the trees night and day– forgetting perhaps the REAL locusts which do incredible harm. You’ve reminded me today to be more grateful & aware of Nature.

    • I know what you mean. We have cicadas here in August which also shed their carapaces (I love that word), and they are appealing, except when they fly towards you in a whirlygig of dry clattering sounds, at which point I go ape. I was once almost hit by a car because I leapt into the road to avoid a cicada…this tells me that I wouldn’t be able to cope with billions and billions of them!

  7. Oh no! I am sorry to hear that your trip was disrupted by a literal plague of Biblical proportions! I agree with the comments above: you will see your vanilla in the wild! And I will add that you will get out of this job and find one that lets you be truly you.

    • brie

      Daisy- I say that it is time for Neil and D to head to the Big Apple this summer!

    • Thanks a lot, Madame Bacon!

      I do like teaching, but I prefer it on a smaller scale, with individuals, rather than this standing in front of people horror, which I am finding is getting more and more draining on my psyche the older I get.

      As for vanilla, I hope so.

  8. Now then Ginza.
    Chin up!
    Tahiti can’t be all bad now can it?
    Yours ever taciturn and by turns stoic
    The Perfumed Dandy

  9. Olivia

    Very sorry to hear this, what a horrible anti climax. I know how much you were looking forward to it 😦 (I had no idea this was happening in Madagascar either..how awful.)
    Excited to see you’ll be doing the London talk (I’m a member) – can’t wait to meet you and wax lyrical about The Love of The Bean, a great fug of vanilla-d scent strips waving in one fist and sloshing wine about with the other. Brilliant!
    Oh and that…thing in the last picture is really something. Dear god it’s little face! *shudder*

    • It’s foul, isn’t it. I thought it perhaps represented my own DNA spliced with a poor locust. I needed something repellent at that moment to get my feelings out of my system. My apologies!

      And likewise, it will be lovely to meet you too.

  10. ninakane1

    Sorry to hear about this Neil, and I like your honesty about the disappointment written here. Dreams are important. I think I’ve already said Indonesia (where there is also nutmeg), but I’ll mention it again in case anyone else has been and can offer input.

  11. Katherine

    It’s so interesting to read the comments here, as you have indeed put yourself out there and as you describe it is exciting for that reason and people respond so positively.

    I think sometimes it is hard to dream of happiness for yourself when the limitations of the world can make you down. And you raise some important questions here but my feeling is that you run with what happiness you can! That’s not my whole feeling, and is partly a jaded response, but as Nina said, dreams are important, and things that are good and natural are to be followed, and seeing the vanilla plants and connecting to their processes is a way of living in the heart of the real for you, something that everyone deserves and you should not feel guilty about! We find our own ways of being positive in the world and giving back without it eating us alive, and we do our best!

    • Thoughtfully put, and ultimately I think you are right.
      Life is a pile of shit in so many ways, and for so many reasons, but I also do love it and have a propensity for excitement, fun, and passion which seems inbuilt from birth. It is true: we do have to have these adventures while we can, while also being aware of the dire realities of the real world, and the horrific fact that one day we will die.

    • Thoughtfully put, and ultimately I think you are right.
      Life is a pile of shit in so many ways, and for so many reasons, but I also do love it and have a propensity for excitement, fun, and passion which seems inbuilt from birth. It is true: we do have to have these adventures while we can, while also being aware of the dire realities of the real world, and the horrific fact that one day we will die.

  12. Lilybelle

    How disappointing! You know, locusts aside (and not to trivialize that catastrophe) there may be a good reason that Madagascar is not for you right now. Easy for me to say, I know. How about Mexico?

    • I thought the same thing, actually, as I did have a sense of foreboding about it all anyway, deep down. Interesting that you have picked up on that.

      Mexico: went there for a friend’s wedding, and though it was the most exciting holiday I have ever had, I have no desire to go back. Good lord the food….what it did to our digestive systems….

      • Lilybelle

        Yes, I know what you mean about the food. It did the same thing to me, and I was very careful. Can’t imagine what would have happened if I hadn’t been! I was wondering about their vanilla making, now that you’ve got me interested in the subject, lol!

      • Oh I know, and I wish I had been exposed to it. I know how important Mexico is in that regard. But still, for some reason I can’t face a return. The country didn’t move me in any way, from what I saw of it anyway. It was an adventure, but a one-time adventure. And I was DELIGHTED to come back to Japan : I didn’t complain about it for about seven months afterwards.

      • Oh I know, and I wish I had been exposed to it. I know how important Mexico is in that regard. But still, for some reason I can’t face a return. The country didn’t move me in any way, from what I saw of it anyway. It was an adventure, but a one-time adventure. And I was DELIGHTED to come back to Japan : I didn’t complain about it for about seven months afterwards.

      • Oh I know, and I wish I had been exposed to it. I know how important Mexico is in that regard. But still, for some reason I can’t face a return. The country didn’t move me in any way, from what I saw of it anyway. It was an adventure, but a one-time adventure. And I was DELIGHTED to come back to Japan : I didn’t complain about it for about seven months afterwards.

  13. Lilybelle

    Sorry, there is no further reply button – maybe I should just stop now, but you made me laugh about not complaining about Japan for seven months after Mexico. When I returned from Mexico I had to re-enter USA through Dallas airport customs before changing planes. The clerk looked at my passport and said, “Welcome home, darlin.'”, in the most tender and heartfelt way, as if I’d been through some ordeal. I had a great time but, like you, I have no great desire to go back.

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