Sunday, 15 May 2016
A Newport Pagnell near miss, innumerable bees briefly reprised, and my failure to crack the 'Givenchy Code'*
So yes, I have been to visit the last surviving friend of my (sadly not surviving) mother, who at 91 is even more elderly than 'my elderly friend', aka ex-Mrs Bonkers Senior. I have featured my mother's friend in a couple of posts already: for example, on my last visit she kindly gave me a cast off bottle of Magie Noire and O de Lancome. P, as I shall henceforth call her, lives on the edge of The Cotswolds in a picture book cottage with her one surviving corgi.
The journey down should have taken an hour and a half and ended up taking three. For I was listening with such rapt attention to Paddy Ashdown's fantastically articulate answers on Question Time that I sailed down the M1 and inadvertently ended up at Newport Pagnell, which is really not something you'd want to do by accident, let alone on purpose. It's not that the Sat Nav didn't try to get me to turn off sooner, but I had already marked its card at Rugby, where it said to turn around and go back up the M1 the way I had come. So when it suggested I come off at every single subsequent junction I assumed it was having another of its funny turns - and that it just wanted to go home, basically. I decided to ignore it and keep my eyes peeled for the turn off to the big town nearest my friend. Then promptly became mesmerised by Paddy Ashdown and forgot to watch out for signs. Not that it would have made a difference if I had, for the signs are on the M40, and I was on the M1. Maybe the Sat Nav had been trying to tell me as much in its own cryptic and inflammatory way. But Newport Pagnell jolted me out of my navigational stupor, and I eventually manage to tack cross country to P's village.
Fortified by tea and lemon cake, we spent a pleasant afternoon sitting in the conservatory, listening - I kid you not - to the murmuring of innumerable bees. 'I know they say there is a world shortage of bees', P remarked, 'but not in my garden there's not!' P needs to take things steady, as she has spent long stints in hospital in the past year, following a series of falls. I thought she had stumbled over her corgi - corgis being notiorously low slung trip hazards as dogs go - but it turns out that that was some years previously. These falls were precipitated by less colourful causes, which I signally failed to record.
But what I did do for the very first time, was ask P to tell me the story of her life. It took four hours, and was absolutely fascinating, full of twists and turns that soon had me scurrying for pen and paper to jot the key points down. I knew she and my mother had been old friends in Northern Ireland, who lost touch after they moved back to England, but found each other again when P's son spotted a letter in The Times sent in by my mother - not such a strange coincidence as you might think - my mother was forever writing to The Times about this and that, almost to the point of it being a sport, and every now and then one of her letters made it into print.
Here then are a few interesting facts about P:
- Her father was a big cheese in coal - or should that be a 'big lump'?
- P first met my mother through a neighbour whose son fell out of a tree, and who asked to use her phone to call a doctor (in the days when phones were far from universal).
- She lived in a house called The Wooden House, which burnt to the ground. (Accident waiting to happen, I hear you say.)
- The upside down ostrich on the wall belongs to the corgi, but he cannot be trusted not to savage his own toys.
- P's grandson played Simba in a much acclaimed production of The Lion King on Broadway.
- A family member is married to a Havers!
- And best of all....P was a code breaker at Bletchley Park during the war! I tentatively asked her what she did exactly, and obviously she couldn't tell me, as this was all highly classified Secret Squirrel stuff. Which doubtless explains the wraparound shades she was wearing.
- P always opens a banana from the bottom, so of course I had to have a go.
But, despite having paid such careful attention to the narration of P's life, I completely forgot to inquire about the story behind the perfumes on the dressing table in the spare bedroom where I stayed - which featured in my 'through the keyhole' post about the way other people store/display their fragrance collections. The perfumes in question are Floris Elite and Eau de Givenchy - now that I am home I realise that the latter is in fact a women's scent:
Givenchy Eau de Givenchy edt
Notes: bergamot, spearmint, tagetes, greens, fruits, honeysuckle, jasmine, lily of the valley, tuberose, rose, cyclamen, orris, musk, cedarwood, sandalwood, and moss.
Notes: top notes are bergamot, virginia cedar, grapefruit, juniper and petitgrain; middle notes are fir, lavender and bay leaf; base notes are amber, oakmoss, musk, patchouli, vetiver, cedar and leather.
By an odd coincidence both were launched in 1980. The Givenchy perfume is definitely vintage, though I am not sure from what year.
Yup, I can't believe I didn't ask P if I could test either of them, though that does rather give me a mission for next time...
Do you ever find yourself distracted from perfume sniffing opportunities by other absorbing pursuits?
Does it ever get to the point where you question your perfumista credentials?
(*With apologies to Dan Brown)