Do you take a list when you go shopping? Really you should, for apparently we are all likely to spend twice as much if we browse the packed aisles without an aide-memoire. I am never in the supermarket without a pen, notebook, a postcard or two and auxiliary scaps of paper to update me. This is not really to ensure economy. It’s because, unlike an elephant, I can’t remember. There is also something about any kind of list that stimulates and fascinates me. I collect other people’s memoranda, left behind in trollies, baskets or on the pavement. I love to ponder the curious shorthand priorities of strangers – “lettuce, tonic water, frozen peas”/ “whiskey, vodka, beer, pork pie, sausage roll, butter, cream, Mr Kipling…BREAD!”. One of our local charity shops has had the brilliant idea of pinning a board with the papers found in donated books – almost invariably prayers or shopping lists. Or prayer lists. Library lists would be interesting but are not shown.
Lists are compelling because they cut straight to the heart of a matter; they are all meat and no pastry. They seem to convey something of the power of a clairvoyant or a preacher or a magician: gnomic utterances ‘en bref’, stripped of padding or explanation. They can be startling revelations of inner preoccupations: so I’m not keen on strangers having a gander at my lists – as sometimes they will, over my shoulder, idling away time in the check out queue.
Lists may also take the form of recitals to contemplate, to relish, to inspire and comfort. I have only recently found out why a Bucket List is so named – it’s a charter of what you want to do before you kick said bucket.¤ Shopping lists are needed only to remind us of our more mundane requirements, not of our treats. You would hardly expect to read “perfume” scribbled down between ‘scouring pads’ and ‘quinoa’. Scent is more likely to appear on those gloating rosters that appear in Christmas gift books or decorate magazine columns: 12 Forgettable Fragrances, 50 Royals Who Went Mad, Your 100 Best Tunes.
However, when you are out and about – as the weather men say – you might like to jot down the following to remind you, not of WHAT to buy in the fragrance line, but WHY to buy it. For this is one of the questions I am most frequently asked: how shall I know I have the RIGHT one?
As ever – “By their fruits ye shall know them”.
And so: when you are smelling and musing in the relaxed haven of Les Senteurs, so different – o, so very different! – from the hurly-burly of the department stores, ask yourself the following:
Does this perfume excite me?
Yes, I like it – yes, I believe it suits me. But it must do more. It must have me awake at 5am, willing the clock on so that I can spring up to souse and douse myself in this heavenly scent. Perfume must draw you like the most powerful magnet; like a child to his favourite new toy – “may I take it to bed with me?”. You will know you’ve chosen the Right Scent if you just can’t leave it alone: like a lover with his new inamorata.
Does this scent elevate me?
Does it make me soar like a bird? The ideal perfume should have you taking wing like a bird of paradise, leaving the mundane far below, falling away and discarded like a sloughed skin. You’ll know when you light on the Right One because it will act like a talisman – changing everything and “painting the clouds with sunshine”. Life begins anew: or appears to, and who can do better than that?
Does the perfume intrigue me?
Is there an oddity in there, something that intrigues, mystifies, baffles? That’s good. You won’t get bored by it – you will be forever pursuing that final delicious enigma, and that in turn means that you won’t become onosmic. Your nose won’t lose the scent because your brain will be still trying to rationalise its components. Your perfume will be like a mesmerising lover or intoxicating mistress, forever witholding an essential elusive Something…….
Does it last?
And if not does that matter?
It may be Heaven if it is tenacious – like everlasting love – but if your preferred scent is transient that’s perhaps because it’s intended to be so. Life is all a bout the bitter-sweet joys of fleeting pleasures. Would we want a delicious meal, a concert or a movie to last for ever? Not unless there was something badly wrong. Fragrance conjures up a fragile mood, a passing emotion, an atmosphere: perfumers try to reflect this in the construction of their creations through ingredients, structure and concentration. If you love the scent, buy it. Don’t insist on its being glued on: just enjoy the luxurious ancient ritual of re-application.
And finally, will my significant others like it?
Try to ignore this consideration. If you love a scent and embrace it fully then others will love it too as part of your Gestalt and aura. The thing is, never to ask your Dear Friend: “do you like this? Does this perfume suit me?” This always predicts the answer ‘no’, as we used to be told in language classes. Your anxious tone will very likely put your partner on the defensive and prompt a discouraging reply. So say nothing: apply your new scent with quiet confidence. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
Just now, as I finish this – very Jungian and extraordinary! – I read of a new exhibition – Alice Instone’s THE PRAM IN THE HALL – opening @ 1 Cathedral St SE1 on 9 March! It all revolves around the ‘Things To Do’ lists of notable women. How great is that?!
¤ is the implied subconscious suggestion that if we faithfully fulfil the list we won’t need to kick the pail?