I find it almost impossible to believe that this time next month I will be back in England. The next four weeks are the hottest, sweatiest, most gruelling of the year for me at work, the flight will be endless, Heathrow is hell, but D has come up with the brilliant idea of us just taking a taxi to Windsor, where we will rest and bathe and wake up in a beautiful white Georgian hotel, have breakfast, and be met by my family for lunch and a stroll around some stately gardens or other before being taken back up to the house.
The other day, in a new second hand perfume store I have discovered near one of my work places, there was a bottle of Penhaligon’s English Blackberry, which according to Fragrantica and the perfume house’s own website, doesn’t exist, but it does on other fora, and I also physically witnessed and held (and naughtily sprayed it, the fresh scent of blackberries – lovely – I would like to buy this) filling up the room, so I know full well that it does, and it immediately reminded me of the classic and originator of this type of eau fruitee, Mure Et Musc by L’Artisan Parfumeur, a full and established summer and autumn staple which I have on occasion been wearing of late, as I find it relaxing and easy and reminiscent of the reliable and elegant interiority of Christian Dior’s Eau Sauvage Extreme (1982).
In terms of this genre as a whole, there has been a vast oversaturation of fruit notes in perfumes in the last couple of decades; usually as part of truly over-egged scent pyramids that go through a grim peristalsis of diabetic flowers and ‘balsams’, and end up in turgid vanilla and fake ouds with nuclear levels of sickening sillage. Vile. On their own, though, ‘solifruits’ can be lovely; comforting, charming, particularly fragrances based on the concept of berries – we discussed the pleasures of blackcurrant and cassis perfumes recently, but blackberries and other deep coloured bramble fruit of that nature (recently I have been really enjoying just leaving my Boujee Bougie Queen Jam candle for an hour or so, and coming back into a heartwarming concoction of fruits based on a Finnish summer recipe of bilberries and raspberries with a rich heart of rose) — also have their own particular olfactive niche of the untroubled and the fun ; it all just makes me want to go out fruit picking.
As a child, I used to immensely enjoy the days out at the fruit picking farms, especially strawberries and gooseberries ( I found the texture of raspberries problematic, even if their taste and aroma were exquisite ) ; blackberries also especially exciting with the extricating of the thorns; their fragile squidginess, and delicious taste.
In more recent times, when back in Norfolk with Duncan’s parents, he and I were also sent out to pick wild blackberries that had accumulated in great profusion along some local hedgerows, taking a tupperware container and filling it up to the brim, while eating great handfuls along the way. I loved it, and hope that we can all go out and do it again this summer, in Warwickshire as well.
Sometimes in life, it is the simple things.
– by Seamus Heaney
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full,
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.