On Saturday I did that thing I am trying so hard not to do - I accosted a stranger in a shop again. Two strangers in fact: a lady of a certain age, and her mother, who was of an even certainer age. It is not very long since I approached that other lady in T K Maxx and asked if she was wearing Coco Chanel, prompting her to scuttle round to the fixture for shoes several sizes too large for her. So following that incident, I really had made a conscious effort to rein in my impulse to strike up perfume-related conversations with innocent members of the shopping public.
Until Saturday that is, when I was hovering aimlessly by the Hermès display in our small and rather time warpy department store. It is actually part of the Midlands Coop - the Cooperative Movement being better known historically for its bulk buying of sacks of oatmeal, and more recently for its loyalty-inducing "divvy" stamps. But though it may appear a bit homely and tired-looking, it is the only department store we've got. Plus I have days like that, so who am I to talk? : - )
So there I was hovering by the Hermès table, together with these two ladies, who were clearly considering sampling one or two bottles from this unknown line. I am afraid I couldn't help myself:
"I can give you a guided tour if you'd like?"
Upturned faces smiled blankly, which I didn't take as an actively discouraging sign. The younger lady fingered the bottle of Un Jardin Sur Le Nil.
"Ah, that one is very fresh, with a note of green mangoes, and was inspired by the perfumer's boat trip down the Nile."
The lady quickly sniffed the nozzle and hastily replaced it, before picking up Un Jardin en Méditerranée.
"Okay, that one is a bit in the same vein but different - more vegetabley, I guess you'd say."
It was replaced unsniffed, and before I could say anything, the lady had sprayed the back of her mother's hand with 24 Faubourg.
"Oh, now that is a whole other ballgame - a classic powerhouse of a scent." I volunteered nervously.
Both women sniffed it and wrinkled their noses. "Oh no, too sweet!", exclaimed the daughter with a visible 'moue'. Then suddenly, on a whim, she grabbed a bottle of Eau des Merveilles and sprayed her own hand liberally with it.
Notes: elemi, bitter orange, Italian lemon, Indonesian pepper, pink pepper, “ambergris accord”, oakwood, cedarwood, vetiver, balsam of Peru, benzoin
"Eugh!" They both exclaimed.
"Er, yes, that one is quite unusual - it is sort of salty and orangey and woody - you either like it or you hate it, as a rule. The name means 'Marvellous Water' or 'Water of Wonders' or something along those lines, you know."
Not only did they hate it, but the Eau des Merveilles experience cured them of any further curiosity about the Hermès range. Which was a shame, as I never got to point out the Calèches, which might have been more to their taste - regular Calèche at least - even if the Jardin range was too modern and fresh, and EdM downright peculiar (possibly on account of its "ambergris accord" - I must say I find the use of inverted commas in the list of notes strangely disconcerting).
As they backed away, the daughter quipped darkly: "Well yes, I suppose it does rather make you wonder..."