most resounding convert to Roja Dove Scandal, as some readers may recall), turned 40 on Friday 13th and celebrated in style. It turned out to be a more auspicious date than it may sound, for some 30 family and friends converged on her home town from all over the country, bearing gifts and trailing party outfits in garment bags. Sharon's birthday haul included some beautiful pieces of jewellery, flowers and champagne, while I gave her a bottle of Piguet Fracas, having noted that it was her favourite of the "big white floral" samples I had given her lately to try.
As I was getting changed at Sharon's parents' house (from whom I am equidistant in age!), I cast my mind back to a few of my own milestone birthdays, which went roughly like this:
18th: Revised for my English Literature A-Level on the fire escape. Parents gave me a suitcase. Was that a hint?
21st: Cleaned the bungalow I had been sharing with two other teaching assistants in France, my housemates having already cunningly skipped the country. Then treated myself to a solo moped ride and a picnic.
40th: Checked into a spa for a day of solo pampering. Failed dismally to crack any of the yoga positions, and had a blart in the grounds when I realised I would never receive another greetings card from my mother, who had died a few months previously. Spent the evening doing serious damage to a bottle of Bollinger, which rallied and ended up doing considerably greater damage to me.
So in view of my own mixed bag of mostly solitary birthday celebrations, I was pretty confident that Sharon's 40th would comfortably top them, and so it proved. She had booked a table at a popular nightspot with panoramic views of the sea from its upstairs bar. When we arrived, we were already several sheets of pink cava to the wind, and if I am honest, not all the squinting I found myself doing could be attributed to the dazzling rays of the setting sun.
Understandably, given our high liquid intake over the course of the night, repeated trips were made to the ladies, not least by me. Both in the toilets and on the dance floor, I was struck by how fragrant the air was, and enjoyed deeply inhaling this pleasant pot pourri of contemporary women's scents. Everyone at the venue was very dressed up (well, I say that, but we did also spot one or two vertiginously high hemlines, which skimmed their wearers' bottoms more by luck than design. Which in its way I suppose is a sort of dressing "up".) And though people may have skimped on fabric (not in our group, obviously), crucially, no one seemed to have skipped the finishing touch of applying perfume.
And my overriding feeling at that moment was one of pride. Pride in my relative sobriety such that I could capture highlights of the night on my camera phone. And I'll admit to a bit of self-satisfaction at the part I had played in helping Sharon find another diva scent to love.
But most of the pride I felt was directed towards women in general - all these unknown women at large having a great night out, myself included. Proud that they cared enough to wear fragrance - any fragrance - not that I smelt a duff one.
OUR PARTY WINS THE AWARD FOR BEST SHOE OF THE NIGHT!
HOPING THAT POSING WITH A YOUNGER BALLOON WILL SHAVE YEARS OFF MY AGE
Now they say that alcohol oils the wheels of a great party, and it would be fair to say that the wheels of ours were pretty darn lubricated. Yes, we bonded through sharing a drink, through making fools of ourselves on the dance floor, and through making light of the burnt bacon (my fault!) at our fry-up breakfast the next morning.
But over and above that I felt an invisible extra connection with every woman in the room who had chosen to put on a Scent Of - and For - The Evening.
Yes, it was as fabulously fragrant a fortieth bash as you could wish for, and I look forward to doing it all again in ten years. Which gives us ample time to find a Robbie act with a snappier name. And next time, I shall remember to smell him as well when he does his mock stage diving routine...
Photo of Fracas from perfume-malaysia.com, other photos my own