When I was fourteen I went on a French exchange to the town of Moulins in central France. It was my first time abroad, and you might say that I was almost delirious with excitement. After a whistle stop tour of the sights and sounds of Paris, my fellow classmates and I found ourselves plunged, directly and fully, into the culture of the country I had been dreaming about for so long. We arrived by train, and were soon paired off (a bit scarily I felt, for ones so young); shacked up with our pen pals and their families for a week. Escargots, cooked in garlic and slimy butter for dinner (yuk! I can still feel them sliding around in my mouth); petits pois, “vinaigrette”, it all just seemed so weird, slightly terrifying, and wonderful to an over-excited, easily stimulated, and very Francophile ‘budding linguist’ such as myself. Cela m’a beaucoup plu.
One of the highlights of that holiday, I remember, was a trip to the fairground, where my crush, a cute girl with braces called Laetitia, was all eyes, and so was I, and the sweet aromas hanging on the air, different, but familiar (is the rush of the fairground not universal?) were such a thrill. I always loved such places in England as well; the sugared clash of the cold, Yuleish wintry air and the tantalizing, caramelized steam that hung in nimbulus streams on the zingy atmosphere of Saturday night; the mischievousness of the dodgem cars, when you would deliberately bump and crash some giggling, hapless victims into hilarious mercy; that sadness – always out there, waiting in bushes – coated in pink and yellow, sugar glazed delight. And upon smelling this mood-lifting oddity by L’Artisan Parfumeur the other day ( Bertrand Duchaufour at his most playful), I was lifted out of my moment and plunged back, dreamily, into that world of fun, love, and French sweets: those rule-rubbing days when afternoons bled into evenings and the fair came to town: the cold, deep-pocketed frissons you felt at the clown-terror lurking at the concreted edges of the park; the lure of strangers; the dangers in those wild, mechanized rides.
“Prepare to be thrilled”, says L’Artisan. “Your senses will be shaken into a delicious blur”. Well, I wouldn’t perhaps go quite that far, but Déliria, part of a new set of three perfumes called ‘Explosions D’Emotions’, is certainly a bit of light-hearted fun in this often po-faced world of perfumery, and it did put a smile on my face. Composed, apparently, of ‘dizzying’ accords of candy floss; toffee apple; ‘metallic notes’ and rhum, the most memorable theme of this perfume is, I would say however, the fantastically vivid top note of pineapple that bursts out at you from first go from the bottle, like one of those sticky, sugary and creamy pineapple cakes from Braggs the Bakers that my auntie Val is so addicted to.
Pineappled, phantasm dodgem cars scrape and spark with laughing electricity; music speakers boom with the gullible, teenage sweetness of surging, pubescent enthusiasms: love blooms, and Kia Ora – Orange & Pineapple flavour – is slurped greedily through stripey, twisty, plastic straws. L’ananas, musing with artificial flavouring, a child-loving burst of taste; of yellowy, custardish vanilla swirling before your eyes as candy floss stings, sweetly, the late November air…
Just like the clumsy, ardent first fumblings of youth though, the stamina and performance here, are, sadly however, not awe-inspiring. Soon, once the deliria have faded (and they always do…) we find a more prosaic, uglier, tail-end of steel and santaloids, rather than the soft and cheek-pinching vanilla that we were yearning for (…. were those kisses not meant to last?) We can’t help noticing, suddenly, the rust and rudders of those ageing dodgem cars scratching the ride’s dirty floors: for the first time in a good few hours we look at our watches.
Yes, it’s a shame that it couldn’t last. As they say, after love, omne animal triste est. But who can really complain, honestly, when those first spurts – of fruits, and rum, of fairground thrills, and sweet, vanillic things – feel so spontaneous, so joyful?