Wicked Waste

There was a terrible item in the news the other day, I wonder if you read it? It made me quite sick and it was to the effect that a third of all the bread sold in Britain ends up in the bin, uneaten and wasted by greedy people whose eyes are bigger than their stomachs. “Bulk buying leads to bulk eating and bulky people” my mother used to say. It leads to the dreaded Waist of Time. But my parents were also of that interwar generation who wasted nothing.
When my father died we found boxes neatly stacked with all kinds of odd things that might come in handy: feathers, scallop shells, pipe cleaners, string, slivers of Wrights Coal Tar soap.
Great smell, that soap, by the way.

As my father was a country vet we largely lived off the land: a brace or two of pheasants were usually rotting into ripeness in the coalhouse, and many clients paid their bills in kind: even to cascades of slightly whiffy prawns. What we couldn’t eat went to the dogs; what the dogs refused was polished off by the hens who also provided eggs and meat. We shopped daily as most people did then; the supermarkets did not yet hold absolute sway. None of us were fussy eaters and I remember nothing ever needing to be chucked out: we were an universally consuming household.

I often use the metaphor of equating food with perfume: both nourish and stimulate, both may be aphrodisiac, should smell good and are at their best when fresh. Both also need regular re-application. You cannot expect taste, nourishment or smell to last for ever. Therefore try to avoid keeping your perfume for that special occasion … that never comes. Or when it finally does, the beautiful scent is somewhat past its best, so that then it never gets worn at all. Think of perfume as lovely BECAUSE ephemeral and use it liberally and at its best. It is as wrong to hoard a scent unworn for years as it would be to keep a piece of luscious fruit till it wizens and rots. This breeds guilt and in the end a resentment of the thing wasted. To coin a phrase from Shakespeare’s Richard II :
“I have wasted perfume and now doth perfume waste me…”

And if you are the type (like myself) who tends to accumulate endless half-filled bottles that you’re still smelling but not wearing, then use them up creatively in 100 ways. Let me not echo Diana Vreeland’s Vogue advice to “turn that old ermine opera coat into a bath robe”, but do be imaginative. Perfume your bath water with a quick spray; freshen rooms and linen (or the dog); if you’re still writing letters, fragrance your stationery. Your cigarettes. Bed linen. The car. And the inside of suitcases, your shoes, waste paper baskets, wardrobes and cushions. With fabrics, of course, do a patch test first, but most modern perfumes should not stain. Find some way of enjoying those left-overs – and in a way that will please others, too, even if you can’t quite bring yourself to give them away.

There is still a misconception that spraying a perfume is less economical than dabbing it on – “so much must be lost in the air”. In fact the reverse is true: using an atomiser disperses the fragrance and breaks up the molecules far more efficiently, while using only a fraction of the perfume applied by hand. And a sealed atomiser keeps the perfume airtight and uncontaminated: thus avoiding more waste. Keep it clean and keep it green! Please do write in with your own favourite tips.

There are also, as I’m sure my readers know, a multitude of delicious and useful ways of recycling stale bread: from poultices to the Prince of Wales’s favourite pudding. Waste not, want not: it has never been more true.

Mothers Day

American Mother

Do you remember that Nancy Mitford novel in which a daring lady attends a costume ball in a fig leaf, dressed exiguously as Eve The Mother of Us All? It is a banal old truism to say that mothers come in every age, shape, style and size but you might be amazed at the number of people who ask for a suitable gift scent and when asked what sort of lady it is for, reply, “oh you know – just a mum!” How depressing is this? You often hear the same remark about grandmothers: “It’s only for gran…” But do try to refine the search: is granny a glamorous 36 year old with a new baby of her own or a thrice widowed World War veteran of 101? Is she an Adele fan or still stuck on Gracie Fields? Is she a practising brain surgeon, a housewife, a ballet dancer or a street sweeper, like those little old ladies who used to sweep Red Square with dustpan and brush? I remember working in Harrods one Christmas Eve and trying to help a girl who came by with her boyfriend to find something to offer up to granny the following day. We narrowed the search to a toss-up between rose or gardenia. The conscientious granddaughter appealed to her young man who shrugged eloquently in obviously terminal throes of boredom, at which point the rich Eastern European tones of an amused onlooker boomed out, “Ho! ho! ho! He don’t care what the old grandmother wear!”

But we have to care, and here come a few suggestions to help.

First of all, define in your own head the kind of personality your mother is; after all you may well be the person who knows her best. Is she the sort of adventurous woman who likes a surprise, a novelty? Or would she be happier with a bottle of her favourite signature scent. Might in fact a Gift Voucher be best, so that she can decide for herself, uninhibited by the ideas of others? Again, do consider whether she is the sort of mum who may be perturbed, even distressed by the idea of your spending what she considers to be too much money on her. In which case, perhaps choose a delicious soap, a room scent for her bedside table, a scented body cream; or even a deliciously perfumed candle with all its ritual associations – “To Mum: shining out like a good deed in a naughty world”. Those gorgeous new Laduree candles for instance come packed in delicate biscuit china cups in a wide array of colours, redolent of all sorts of wonderful odours from rice face powder to wild strawberries and orange blossom. The boxes are so exquisitely designed that you don’t even have to wrap.

Then to go a stage further: say you have decided to give her a surprise and to pick out something new and different – a little adventure. We’ll assist you as much as we can, but please do a little preparation in advance. Think over what scents the lady has worn in the past (and perhaps even more important what she has hated – so we know what oils and ingredients to avoid). It helps a lot to know what her favourite colours are, how she dresses and also WHY she wears scent at all.( I might say at this point: be sure in your own mind that she DOES wear scent. Though even if not, this could prove to be a turning-point in her life: a REAL adventure!). But the last point is important: mothers of families especially tend to wear scent for their husbands and for their children. They often have the lovely idea of sticking to one particular perfume so that their offspring will remember them by this in later life. The late Rita Hayworth’s daughter even a bespoke candle made up of her mother’s personal scent so that she could feel her presence about the place. Less romantically, mothers are often bullied into wearing a perfume for which they don’t much care, but of which their whole family approves. And children’s acute but unsophisticated noses are not the best judges of a good fragrance. Allow your mother some self-expression: try to find the one that best evokes her tastes, personality and dreams. Every man and woman (mums included and especially) should have at least one fragrance that they wear for themselves alone – to boost their morale, use as a comfort blanket, an aphrodisiac or whatever the occasion demands. Please don’t ever say – “She’d love this. I hate it. She’s not having it.”

But mothers are so incredibly emotionally generous to their children that you can be sure that on Mothering Sunday it really IS the thought that counts; and if you still find yourself completely stumped (for we can sometimes find it most difficult to analyse our nearest and dearest) consider buying her something of symbolism, like that candle I mentioned above. Select a perfume whose ingredients say a little something – a rose scent for instance; rose representing pure love and the pearl of womanhood. The violet is for unselfishness love; peppermint (there is a wonderful James Heeley scent which uses this) for warm feelings; juniper (recently fashionable in perfume) denotes protection; the lily, purity; and jasmine for elegance and grace. With a little ingenuity you can make up a ciphered olfactory bouquet that goes straight to the heart as well as the nose. This is the day of all the year when a mother wants to FEEL a mother: use that nurturing instinct that she has always lavished on you to buy something instinctive and special.

Image of Norman Rockwell’s Mothers Day painting sourced by Lemon Wedge

Happy The Bride

Bridal Bouquets, Perfumes for Brides

Consider the flowers you will be carrying and the bouquet: do you wish to team your scent with these or to complement them with your perfume?

If you are planning to marry this spring or summer it is by no means too soon to start thinking about what fragrance you intend to wear on the Day of Days: as we have observed before, one of the most important factors in choosing a new scent is to allow ample time. For your wedding the final choice to be absolutely spot on: your perfume will be as important as the dress and your hair, and so here are a few hints and tips to enable you to find the perfect scent.

1. However lovely the scent may be, remember that the bride is the star of the show, not her fragrance. Her scent must frame her, enhance her, empower her – not overwhelm or distract attention. Never choose a novelty scent or something “amusing” or garish for the wedding day.

2. Match the perfume to the style of the wedding: are you inviting 1000 guests to a cathedral or 6 intimate friends to your garden or registry office? Your dress: a satin crinoline and Chantilly lace veil or cotton frock?

3. Leading on from the above: will you be changing between ceremony and reception? or after the reception for another evening function? Do you therefore require more than one scent?

4. Are you searching for a special scent just to be worn for the wedding day and perhaps reserved thereafter for anniversaries and very special sentimental occasions? Or are you celebrating the beginning of a new life by inaugurating a new signature scent?

5. What season/climate are you marrying in? What are your expectations of the temperature and the weather? Remember that the scent of perfume will swell in warmer weather and diminish in cold.

6. Secure samples of all likely choices to try out for a day or two: this you be doing in any case with all perfume purchases but for your wedding day you must ensure that the perfume you wear will be absolutely right: you should feel completely comfortable in it. It must make you feel marvellous and with no reservations whatsoever.

7. Consider the flowers you will be carrying and the bouquet: do you wish to team your scent with these or to complement them with your perfume?

8. Make the perfume your own choice. Take advice from friends by all means – then ignore it. I honestly believe that everyone is better to shop for perfume ALONE, without those well meant recommendations and hints of your nearest and dearest. Take time out for yourself and shop in thoughtful peace and quiet, with the help of an expert.

9. Within reasonable limits, choose a perfume with good lasting power and tenacity – you need a scent that will last well without repeated applications. Failing this, select a scent which is available in small bottles so that you can secrete one about your person during the celebrations.

10. Avoid olfactory clashes with bridesmaids and groom! The bride has the starring role: everyone else in her retinue should “dress down”.

Image from Flowersbydesign.net