Friday, 13 August 2010

L'Eté En Douce And The Gentle Art Of Stealth Perfuming

The other day, Mr Bonkers attempted to climb into an unmade bed - that's "unmade" as in stripped. In other words, no bedding had been put back on following the mysterious business of laundry processing, which is conducted in our house by a team of invisible and recurring fairies. I shan't specify who these fairies are exactly, but let's just say that I bear an uncanny resemblance to every last one of them. Realising his error, Mr B agreed under duress to help me make the bed first before getting into it. I use the word "help" advisedly, as bed making is largely outside his sphere of competence, along with buying the correct sort of aubergines, detergent and ham.

So I took one corner of the duvet and gave Mr B the other to hold and insert in the duvet cover. I had already got my corner all the way in, when I noticed that Mr B was attempting to stuff the top corner of the duvet into the lower corner of the cover.

"No", I said, "you have to thread it through and up to the other end."

"The wheresit?"

"Up there - a place known as 'the top right hand corner'." Sensing my playfully patronising tone, Mr B smiled, but continued to stab the top corner of the duvet into the opening of the cover.

"Well, I just thought you could maybe use a bit of nomenclature", I quipped.

Mr Bonkers laughed good naturedly, and said: "Well, I don't know what 'nomenclature' is, but it sounds disparaging!"

Whereupon we both collapsed in giggles, and moments later the penny had dropped and the corner was correctly despatched to its rightful corner.

Then last night I hatched a mischievous plan - based around the idea of detergent, indeed ...

Knowing that Mr Bonkers eschews all forms of fragrance, lovethescents jokingly suggested once that I apply a bit of cologne to his person while he slept - a practice known as "stealth perfuming". At the time, I thought that that was a bit radical and risky as pranks go, but last night I came up with a more subtle approach, and stealth perfumed the duvet cover with L'Artisan Parfumeur L'Eté en Douce. L'Eté en Douce is one of my most expensive "albatross" scents, bought in an impulsive moment by what Katie Puckrik recently dubbed the "pin the tail on the donkey" method, right before closing time in Bon Marché in Paris.

Notes: mint, rose, orange blossom, hay, white woods, and (shedloads of) white musk

As anyone who has read Perfumes: The Guide will know, Luca Turin famously compared L'Eté en Douce to "laundry-soap-on-steroids", and - despite a pretty linden note in the opening - this perfume is seriously spoilt for me by an insanely high dose of clean musk, exactly like washing powder.

There are three other things I should perhaps mention: firstly, Mr B has remarked that his mother's laundry smells fresher and cleaner than ours - he has even referred to our clean washing on occasions as "musty". Hmmm...those fairies may need a bit of a pep talk on pre-wash fabric softener procedures. Secondly, the last time I wore L'Eté en Douce (admittedly layered over a German body lotion with aloe vera), Mr B actually said I smelt quite nice. Yes, this is the second such instance apart from SJP Lovely - the unifying factor being the scent of soap. Thirdly, L'Eté en Douce (which roughly translates as "summer comes gently") was formerly known as Extrait de Songe ("extract of a dream"), before the clash with Annick Goutal's Songes prompted a re-think. So, you never know, maybe he would actually sleep better as a result of my little experiment...

Given all these facts, I didn't feel too mean therefore when I crept into the bedroom last night - Mr B having conveniently nodded off downstairs in front of "Amish: The World's Squarest Teenagers" - and sprayed his side of the duvet cover a few times with L'Eté en Douce (okay, maybe about 10 or so: mostly outside, a couple inside, and one on the pillow underneath the one he puts his head on).

This morning, agog with curiosity, I inquired how he had slept.

"Very well, thanks."

"Did you notice anything?"

"Like what?"

Which was my cue to come "clean" immediately about the stealth perfuming scam.

"Actually, I was vile....well, not vile, but a bit too much."

"So....did you get a clean laundry smell, then?"

"Yes, and I couldn't work out how."

(I'm issuing those fairies with a formal warning.)

"But you had a good night?"

"I don't know, I was asleep."

On hearing the good news that I had sort of got away with it, I promised Mr Bonkers that I would not pull such a stunt again. And though I may have managed to "waste" a couple of ml in my spraying spree, the albatross remains firmly round my neck. Though on the upside, Mr B is now a competent bed making partner.

Photo of L'Eté en Douce from, photo of laundry fairies from and, photo of detergent molecules from


Hazel said...

Mmmmm....aubergines, detergent and ham bake. My favourite.

Vanessa said...

Ooh er, Hazel, you're not planning on "stealth cooking" that for us when you come to stay, I hope! : - )

tarleisio said...

Oh, thank you for this - it made my day! Now I have a name for what I've been doing these past ten years - "Stealth perfuming" ! Not that my own man doesn't wear any kind of perfume, but he does so love to sleep in scented bedding! For this I have been known to use...Balmain's Ivoire - if it's slumber I'm trying to induce - and vintage Magie Noire - if I have nefarious plans. Although that might stop soon enough - not even vintage bottles last forever!

Vanessa said...

Hi tarleiso,

Ivoire and Magie Noire are great choices for your own stealth perfuming activity! I recently got hold of some vintage Magie Noire to remind myself of how it used to smell. Way back in the 80s, when I was a normal member of the public with respect to perfume usage, I wore Magie Noire as something approximating to a "pulling scent". I fear it is much changed since - weedier and "pricklier" somehow. Opium is another one that is a shadow of its former self, in a similar sort of way.

Unknown said...

I should try stealth perfuming! Every once in a while I beg the husband to let me spray something I think would be so sexy onto the back of his neck (like Wonderwood) but mostly he likes just smelling of soap. He's been quite good about my own bedtime perfume. Most nights recently I've been going to bed with Penhaligon's Orange Blossom sprayed all over me and the sleeves of my jammies. It's light enough to get away with the overdose.

Carol said...

heheheee - and kudos for Mr. B learning how to properly make the bed!

Vanessa said...

Hi kjanicki,

Another soap loving spouse! Oh, I do like Penhaligon's Orange Blossom - must try it as a night time scent. Have been on an Agent Provocateur kick lately, ever since Josephine wore it to her interview and reminded me how comforting it is.

lovethescents said...

I'm thrilled you did that! Actually, I think you finally found a purpose for that not so douce odeur ;-i Maybe next time just a couple of spritzes at the knee area of the sheet will do.

Vanessa said...

Hi BF!

Yes, it is helpful to have Mr B trained up in bed making - solo duvet manhandling can be tricky if like me you are a bit lacking in the height department.

Vanessa said...

Hi lovethescents, my partner in grime!

Well, the opposite, technically speaking. But yes, I am glad I tried this in the end, and I bet I would have got away with it completely had I not been so trigger happy in my spraying action.

Katie Puckrik said...

My husb has the same "selective stupidity" about how the duvet cover works. And the funny thing is, he actually refers to the "fairies" in our household who make everything happen, so magically and conveniently.

He *has* barely grasped how the washing machine works, but he does what I call "VIP laundry": he'll fill up the entire machine with water, suds -- and one t-shirt and a pair of socks. His, of course.

Vanessa said...

Hi Katie!

"Selective stupidity" is a good word for it. Mr B uses this labour-saving ploy so extensively around the house that it is a wonder he attended a mainstream school. He finds the contents of the fridge and freezer especially baffling, and routinely enlists my help to proof and "English-ise" his website copy.

And like your husb, Mr B is perfectly able to interact with the washing machine when it suits him (during my extended absences on work trips, for example). But on my return the "selective stupidity" sets in again - or is it perhaps "selective amnesia"?

PS Thanks for the follow! (I may have just made up that expression.)

Katy Josephine said...

Great post! I'm embarrassed to say that my husband knows more about all things domestic than I - we have a bit of role reversal going on. Still, props on the sneaky move!

Vanessa said...

Hi Josephine,

"A bit of role reversal" sounds rather appealing from where I am sitting. Rather than reversing roles, I just seem to have acquired extra ones...

: - )

ScentScelf said...

I went on strike once and refused to get in the bed until it had been made by somebody other than me. The kids, the dog, the cats, the hedgehog, they didn't seem to care.

One person did, however; and that has made all the difference.

I must however give props to the Person of Unspecified Identity, as he did all laundry whilst each child was a baby, and continues to participate in the process to this day. Generally competently, if not wonderfully. (I followed the credo "good enough is good enough if you want it to happen again." Besides, given what kind of things happen to bedding and clothing when babies and pets use them, good enough is actually MORE than good enough...)

Said Person has a scent classification system that basically runs to "clean," "talc-y," and "I don't like it," with Talc-y often a subset of I Don't Like It. In this respect, he shares a certain sensibility with Mr B. To give props once again, however, he also had the good sense to pick Miss Dior over a white flower bomb when presented with scented skin options, and ran, I say RAN, out the door to get some Magie Noire after smelling it on me. And is more than happy to wear the Sel de Vetiver I gifted him with.

So, I don't have any call to stealth perfume. But I have filed it away under the "tales I have heard" list of options to present should I ever have cause to counsel a Friend in Need. ;)

Martha said...

Oh, this is so tempting, and there are five or ten scents that I think HImself _would_ like if I could just get him into their cloud in an unguarded mood. Sadly, he has unpredictable allergic reactions to some scents, and I'd feel far too guilty if I caused him to sneeze for twelve hours.

Vanessa said...

Hi ScentScelf,

That's it - a moniker for your Fellow Ledge Lodger - Person of Unspecified Identity aka PUI!

I am glad someone in your household rose to the challenge of an unmade bed. I fear Mr Bonkers would act like an honorary hedgehog in such situations...

And while I agree that PUI shares a certain soap-centred sensibility with Mr B, your chap sounds considerably more advanced - why, he even has a modest fragrance repertoire of his own! And was actively moved by Magie Noire! Mr Bonkers will never get to that point, not unless he loses his sense of smell altogether, whereupon I will be able to perfume him unilaterally with impunity.

Vanessa said...

Hi Chickenfreak,

Hmm, it is hard to square the unguarded mood with the allergies, I accept that. So if your reluctance to stealth perfume Himself should ever tip over into full blown "Spousal Allergic Response Phobia", (adding to your existing reservations about posting perfume parcels), I would of course cut you some slack. : - )

ScentScelf said...

You have employed two keywords:

Hedgehog, of which we have one, which perhaps relieves PUI of any bristling obligations;

Impunity, a word used with alacrity by my elder child. I believe in addition to the meaning, which he wishes to literally enjoy more than is dished out, and the amusement of tossing around of 25cents (as in a 25 cent word), there is some sort of naughty sound to the pronunciation.

Random sharings, like some word-animal gift left on your doorstep in appreciation for the provision of a viable moniker. :)

Vanessa said...

I am liking the cut of your son's gib. Mr Bonkers uses the word "detritus" at every opportunity, which he enunciates with disproportionate relish (and originally got from me).

Thanks for your word-animal gifts. Keep 'em coming - there are saucers of milk enough to go round.

And meanwhile I may just start a chain of stores called: "Viable Monikers-R-Us".