Monday, 26 July 2010

There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad...

The other day, when I was picking a perfume to wear, I caught myself actually feeling excited by the huge choice at my disposal. As I pulled out various bulging gauze bags from the beer chiller, spilling dozens of samples on the carpet, I felt a warm proprietary glow. I fingered each 1ml vial in turn, and took pleasure in my imaginary wearing of it. Imaginary because there is simply not the time to get round to most of them. As my signature on Basenotes reads: "So many scents, so little skin!"

What was interesting is that on this occasion my overriding feeling was one of pleasure and well-being. I found the size and variety of my collection comforting, as my father used to do with books. Towards the end of his life, these were stacked from ceiling to floor in every room of his small flat, including the bathroom, and though completely entombed and with barely anywhere to sit or lie or put things, he always referred to books as his "friends".

I, on the other hand, flipflop between feelings of pride and accomplishment: "I built this collection from EL Intuition up!" "I am lucky to own all these lovely perfumes - I am really spoilt!" and feeling "spoilt for choice" in a negative sense. In other words, "option anxiety" weighs heavily some days, and I fret about things going off (which they are starting to do), and after some listless rummaging I end up wearing any old thing that comes to hand and start the day on quite the wrong "note".

Now... nothing changes from one day to the next, yet I may feel differently about my collection. It is a prime example of "glass half empty or half full" syndrome. Or in the case of my perfume fridge and drawers: "well stocked with a great selection" versus "ram-packed to overflowing and on borrowed time". Hamlet's famous line also serves my purpose of ethical relativism rather well: "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so".

Years ago, I took my mother on holiday to Crete, and it rained all week except for the day we travelled home. It was the "mother of all wash outs", a deluge of Biblical proportions - the worst rain the island had ever known since the 1920s. Fishing boats and public transport were grounded, there was a thriving black market in pac-a-macs and wellingons, and holiday makers were soon confined to their hotels, having run out of dry clothes and shoes.

One afternoon, the two of us were lying on our beds. My mother was knocking back miniatures of Metaxa brandy and reading Henry James, while I was looking forlornly out of the window at the lashing rain. Suddenly Mother piped up out of nowhere, in a bright, Pollyannah-ish voice:

"Ah, but think how the plants must be enjoying a good drink at last!"

At the time, clearly I wanted to punch her. But recently I have been giving this incident some thought, and reckon that there is a lesson here, namely that my attitudes towards my perfume collection correlate with how I am feeling generally. When I cannot see the computer screen for a fringe of post-it notes, and as fast as I cross things off my to do list several other items appear, hydra head-like...on such days negativity and pessimism tend to infiltrate every corner of my life.

On the day of which I speak, when I was feeling upbeat and positive about the wealth of choice at my fingertips, I suddenly came across a sample I didn't know I owned, called "Gratitude" by Zorica of Malibu. It is a 100% perfume oil, containing just oils of grapefruit and vanilla.

On the accompanying card, it says:

"Carry it in your purse and experience Gratitude every day."

I'm not a big fan of grapefruit, as regular readers may recall, and the overriding impression is of an artificially flavoured foodstuff of some kind. A reviewer on Fragrantica puts her finger on it by likening Gratitude to an "orange creamsicle". Without even knowing the meaning of "creamsicle", this sounded very apt to me. I started to imagine frozen cream soda flavoured with fruit - then I looked it up to find that it is in fact the American word for an ice lolly with an ice cream centre. Aha - so we are talking about a lolly like Wall's Solero. That is bang on.

There is a sickly confection quality to this scent, and an oily texture - which it can't really help I suppose, being 100% oil. If someone out there remembers giving this to me in a swap, please don't be offended, for it has taught me a lesson, which I will put into practice on the days when I don't feel quite so upbeat about the humungousness of my perfume collection.

"Experience gratitude every day that you own many perfumes other than this."

Or possibly: "Be grapefruit for small - or in the case of my collection, quite substantial - mercies."

Glass half empty mug from
Photo of Gratitude by Zorica from Fragrantica.


ScentScelf said...

As I dallied in responding to your fine and thoughtful post, I went exploring. Thanks to your links, I went directly to Backwards in High Heels, where the most recent post includes a discussion of Shelley (the poet), including Ozymandias. Which seemed like a nice connect not only to your thoughts on permanence, but to how we find/perceive beauty.

I'll let you go there first before I blather further. Nonetheless, a serendipitous thread.

My friends hold back from slapping me whenever I comment after/during a rain, "ah, but the plants are liking it." Unless we have been through a series of deluges, in which case I know the plants probably aren't liking it, so I clam up.

On this side (metaphorically, as I have not quite crossed back over yet), a "lolly" is going to be understood as hard candy on a stick. Lollipop. Being of a curious nature, I went to find "Wall's Solero," and can tell you that if you wish for such a thing in the U.S., you hail a passing Good Humor truck, which by the looks of things will have a familiar array of frozen confections. Not exactly the same, by the looks of it...differences of the same type as I see when I look at candy bars from here and there. (There and here? Oh, dear.)

For some reason, I feel the need to invest in some Metaxa miniatures, to go with my "to read" pile in anticipation of the next rainstorm... :)

Vanessa said...

Hi ScentScelf,

Thanks for the link to the Shelley post - I will read it at more leisure later, as it looks like just the sort of offbeat fun I like. I am a bit behind with reading the latest crop of posts, owing to a house full of musicians, an uncharacteristic spot of moonlighting on the job front, and the loss of half a day when I was kidnapped and held against my will by Microsoft Outlook.

The semantics of lollies: clearly we are divided by a common language. : - ) Lollies are usually hard candy on a stick for us too, except when they involve frozen flavoured water and/or icecream, whereupon they seamlessly mutate into ICE lollies of an altogether softer persuasion.

Martha said...

I ramble ramblingly in response to your post:

I like your concept. It reminds me of a quote by Henry Mitchell, about the days that your own garden, no matter how small and weedy, is the Finest Garden In The World.

I was struggling to think of a general term for those Cold Things On A Stick, and concluded that my term would be "ice cream pop". Though I usually refer to them by the specific name - Creamsicle, Fudgesicle, and so on.

I've found that I'm happy with my own sample collection when it all fits into one particular lidded food storage container. I suspect that if I purchased a food storage container twice as large, I'd be happy with a sample collection that was also twice as large. This would probably stop somewhere before the food storage container reached suitcase size.

My decant collection is different - I have no satisfying place to keep all of those long skinny decants, so they fail to make me happy. Maybe I should start looking at fancy pencil cases.