Heavy rain puts a beautiful barrier between you and the outside world. Curtained off by sheets of water and winds as the typhoon passes over but doesn’t actually hit, you are lagooned in your home with an extra layer of protection from what lies beyond, the most perfect feeling after a week of physical and psychological exertion. Lost in the cinema room, shutters on the windows – the air outside dark and livid green grey, we had an afternoon matinee of England Is Mine; a biographical film based on the life of Morrissey, miserabilist poet and singer of The Smiths; more rain and gloom down the Victorian canals of Manchester as the icon barely just survived his depressed pre-fame days stuck in jobs at the Inland Revenue and as a cleaner at the local hospital; a double compounding of dankness and rain that equated a positive – a blocking out of filth; a purification.
We started following this with a film from Ireland, ‘Cured’, about the partial rehabilitation of zombies after a psychosis-causing and murderous plague (sound familiar?); these still nightmare-stricken individuals’ attempts -re-introduction into society after the discovery of a vaccine, but it was a little too grim; a tad too close to the bone; so we switched to a romantic coming-of-age film by Francis Ford Coppola – The Outsiders, from 1983, based on the novel by S.E Hinton; pomaded, jacketed young hoods in Oklahoma trouble, straight from a Smiths cover. Stark, beautiful, the looming, figures in their bleak town at night desperately trying to stir up a reason for living, this segued perfectly with England Is Mine. Drinking red wine in the dark, we both felt that we had been beautifully dipped into a dream.
I was, and am wearing, a pure vetiver essential oil as I write this; one I discovered in a local aromatherapy shop, and a scent I now consider to be my perfect perfume. Viscous and rough at first (for the first minute or so), it then melds with my body in the most pleasingly natural way imaginable – cool, mysterious, earthy and woody, but constantly changing; a natural adaptogen. These last few weekends I have actually not washed nor showered – sometimes for two or three days in a row; very unlike me. Instead, I have just applied vetiver oil all over, in carefully orchestrated measures and places, and then worn the same clothes for days and just relaxed and luxuriated into myself; sensing the smell rise up now and then (D really loves it on me) in all its deep-grassed greenness and cool sagacity. During the week I am always meticulously clean; I enjoy the procedures; the lemon soap, the right shampoos, the carefully chosen washing powders for my clothes, but sometimes I sense an abrasion, that my skin and my organism needs a break. And filthy I may be (in some people’s eyes) – but smelling into my undershirt right now I am liking what I smell ; we have melded. The vetiver oil is present and has become part of me.
Is it possible that wholly natural perfumes and preparations have an edge sometimes, when you are feeling overloaded? Sometimes I do feel so. A lot of things that I get sent to smell are unpleasantly chemical; alien, and when I am in home-mode I instinctively recoil from them as fashionist intrusions. Sometimes I want to return to something more organic. Finishing the Coppola after dinner, I felt like an addition to my scent, a top-up, and reached for Dutch all-natural perfumery Abel’s Cobalt Amber. A fresh, spritzy opening aside (pink pepper, cardamom and juniper berries), the part that I am less keen on, the perfume quickly subsides into a eminently wearable, simple, and gorgeous skin amber; all labdanum, tonka bean, peru balsam and a touch of cacao that is not heavy, not too sweet, but has a persistent gossamer lightness to it that lingers pleasingly on the skin. Ambers can be very ‘involved’; I feel that you must be committed to wearing one for the day (or let’s just admit it – the perfume wears you); the additional conceptual additions – Ambre Russe, by Parfums D’Empire, say, all caviar and vodka and Trans-Siberian Express and fitted train carriages; the glinting, extra ingredients much more suited to dressing up, going out; displaying yourself for the sake of other people. For staying in, and the much needed interiorizing and containment of privacy, sometimes just skin and natural essences are good. With vetiver surrounding and soothing me with its quiet masculinity, the ambered textures of this perfume; gentle, fluffed; contented and innocent, took me to the necessary, soft-padded edges of my own cocoon.