They hadn’t intended to drink so much and no one, but no one, had gone out looking for a fight.
But it had all began badly with nectarine bellinis at a quarter to four.
Champagne and fruit sugar syrup served in green clear stemmed flutes to kick off an ‘evening out’ is rarely a recipe for refinement and style.
Neither was it in this case.
Barreling out of the top floor bar an hour, two mandarin vodka chillers and a Long Island Iced Oolong Orange Blossom Tea later, our girls, ladies of a certain age to be precise, have the express lift in their increasingly blurred sights.
Puzzled to find an ‘elevator man’ inside, the Leader barks ‘Florists please’, the even more puzzled fellow passenger timidly replies ‘I don’t think we go to that floor’ knowing the store has no actual flower department. A stranger in the increasingly cramped descending room, a clean-starched lily of the valley type, remarks with disdain ‘You’ll have to get out at the bottom and try to clamber back up’.
With an art deco bell the doors open and all thoughts of elegant floral arrangements evaporate.
What palace is this in which our heroines find themselves?
Who knows, but this room is certainly its perfume hall.
Remembering their lost blooms they scatter hither and thither in search of a perfect scent for the next stage of their adventure.
Without discrimination or discernment they try every faux flower chemists have conjured for their delight.
At the concession by the stairs some carnation, at the one in the corner iris, here an over made up assistant offers hyacinth, there her male, even more made up colleague jollily proffers jasmine. Gardenia are everywhere and our gang are not sure whether the last cocktail is repeating but orange blossom lurks ominously always.
Then ‘This is it!’ our Leader of the lift, our elevator Amazon exclaims loudly and proudly enough to alarm the manager in the attic. ‘I’ve found it’.
She grasps a flacon in her meticulously manicured fist and thrusts it first aloft and then across the pushed out sacrificial pulse points of her hoard, spraying all with her scent.
Some swoon with sublime joy, others with impending sickness.
Whether it was that most particular of perfumes or the proximity of linens and furnishing that did it, but a little little lay down suddenly seemed the most preferable position to take.
And here they were, our ladies turned girls of a certain age, draped over demonstration divans and corpsed on country chintz covered canapes when the officers of the law arrived, called no doubt by that alarmed manager from his office in the attic.
Repelled by the aromatic altercation that arrested them upon arrival our law enforcers still sought to intervene, to negotiate a retreat by our over-scented sleeping sirens.
One went to wake the Leader.
She expressly had not meant to hit a policeman.
Her meticulously manicured fist was not designed for that sorry purpose.
And as for the melee that followed…
That Fracas has a lot to answer for.
Arriving like a steam train punch in 1948, Germaine Cellier’s southpaw to the jaw still has force enough to dislocate sixty years later, despite a 1998 reissue.
This over-ripe fruit and floral explosion, an apotheosis of glittering and splendid tack, must have been ‘call an officer’ alarming at the time of it’s release.
One can imagine men asking men at their clubs whether they thought it fit for wives or servants to catch the merest whiff of it for fear of corruption.
Indeed, there is something both corrupted and frankly contemptible in a self consciously scientific fruit bowl punch opening, whose saccharine sweetness never really leaves the party. Quite an accomplishment when one considers that the next guests are a whole bouquet of every type of flower except for a shrinking violet.
Most prominent and ghoulishly got up of all a formidable drag artiste of a tuberose.
And what this lady lacks in authenticity she more than makes up for staying power. Many hours after the guests have departed and when the hosts are in their pyjamas gazing bleary-eyed at watches, this old bloom is still hitting out renditions of ‘We’ll meet again’.
Most likely we will: in the morning, because this Fracas goes on and on and on…
Excuse me if I sound churlish, but this is an aroma best experienced in anecdote.
As for the idea of men wanting to wear it?
To be frank, I would rather endure the original than the death by a thousand and one echoes (though generally without the tuberose and therefore the point) that currently assail the feminine fragrance market.
The Perfumed Dandy