After months of intense industriousness during which time the house fell into a state of semi-squalour, now the book is finished, D is insisting on a sprucing. Some of the perfume cabinets are in a parlous state of dust- crusted Ms Haversham, and so although my natural tendency in this utterly exhausted aftermath is to just lie about doing nothing except read about the state of the world in the New York Times or immerse myself mindlessly in Netflix (after six months of hardly watching anything, playing the piano or reading a single book), my other half is rightfully demanding we now set about restituting some dignity to my ramshackle collection of bottles, cleaning them one by one, shelf by shelf, over successive weekends.
I am so lazy by nature that I practically have to be dragged towards the perfume choked armoires with the wet cloths, but I must admit that my Vol De Nuit ensemble, which I keep next to my bed ( I found an EXQUISITE new boxed 14ml vintage extrait the other day which, with its ultra-powdered ambery vanilla iris dry down, took my love of this perfume to new heights of adoration ) now is something I can lie on my futon GAZING at, drawing power from its olfactory, visual, and artistic – almost SPIRITUAL – sheer beauty.
The main cabinets are still to be tackled – the ‘men’s section’ so dust-laden there might even be spider’s webs in there for all I know, but next weekend it will be time to de-dust all the Aramis, Azzaro, Givenchy Gentlemen and so on and so forth, the Chanels and Diors; plus the heady, sweet tropicalia of my white floral and coconut shelves.
When it is all done, I think I will be quite pleased to restore some order to it all, to know where certain perfumes ARE, for a start, because you can be sure that, with the dark clouds of fascism and bigoted hatred rising all around the world as we speak ( WHAT is going on?) sometimes you just need to retreat into dreams and sigh into your wrists; OR: embolden yourself with scented, inviolable armour………protections from all the ugly brutality; gentle, incantations of unvisible artistry that are like sweet scented, sensuous buffers from the shock.
I need to leave the maelstrom of my life and just float about in places like this, or record shops, to leave the brain behind
Watching ‘Only God Forgives’ on DVD again tonight – that lurid, oneiric, pungent, light-soaked film starring Ryan Gosling and Kristen Scott Thomas set in Bangkok, I find myself drifting back in my mind’s eye again to the backstreets of Jakarta, last August, where I had forgotten that I had found, quite unexpectedly and to my surprise, a vintage perfume shop, open at midnight, ‘selling’ rare and unwanted perfumes that probably nobody was ever going to buy: dusting and unloved, but proud and upright on shelves, which I tested for authenticity (they definitely weren’t fakes: that was real Monsieur Rochas).
We never found that same street again, but I fortunately did take a couple of photos, much to the older daughter’s consternation, as she barked out information to her older relatives, sitting out of view in the beyond of…
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Guerlain’s strange and exquisite Après L’Ondée has a cool, primeval innocence, yet a wise, sage, intuition; as new as a just-blossomed flower, but as ancient as its knowing, tearful DNA. The soft diluvial transparency it breathes makes the perfume by far the most natural and air-kissed of the classical Jacques Guerlains, while the unusual bouquet garni of anise, cassie, rosemary, heliotrope, carnation and hawthorn contrasting emotionally, and perturbingly, with the vanillic-lined silken flower dust beauty of its powdered iris, violet, mimosa and musks make the scent quietly Arcadian: mythological, almost in its shy but steadfastly feminine beauty. A poignancy: rainsoothed; unfathomed.