Bohemian rhapsody… Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

Everyone loved her class because we were allowed to draw with soft dark pencils, practice giant curling handwriting in excitingly large exercise books and generally take a break from the think, think, thinking that the other teachers wanted us to do.

Everyone loved her classroom with its herringbone parquet she insisted be left unpolished so it roughed and scuffed and eventually smelt of the wood it was.

Loved its walls covered in pupils’ work, good and bad, and her own enormous canvases bearing amorphous rectangles in mauves and burgundies and blues that only years later would I understand as post expressionist.

And everyone loved her because she was unlike the others: the teachers, the parents, the people in the village.

She was an un-grown-up version of an adult.

Then there was the smell. The smell we all loved.

To be honest, it was impossible to say where her scent ended and the room’s began.

She was the room and the room an extension of her.

Aside from the floor there wooden desk chairs she’d salvaged when the rest of the school went plastic, trestle tables topped with boards liberated from timber yards and pew boxes salvaged from unwanted chapels.

There were the horse hair and blonde wood brushes for when we were allowed to paint and red cedar boxes full of pastels for Technicolor days.

And there was the sandalwood oil she dabbed behind her ears and said was better than shop bought scent. The oil that she tutored the girls and the willing boys in the ways of wearing.

For still life’s sake there were peaches and plums, never any other fruit, in bowls she talked of having come from North Africa.

Peaches and plums left out in the sun that were always over ripe, just on the point of yielding to rot.

She drank peach nectar too, it was ‘better for you’ and prune juice for the constitution, though what it had to do with history I never knew.

Last of all there were the joss sticks, the smoking vanilla, cinnamon and clove stalks that she surreptitiously smouldered until the day the headteacher caught her.

We always thought that’s why they took her away.

We believed they deprived us of our beloved one for the sake of a few burning sticks.

Only much later would mother let slip that the peach nectar had been found to be laced with schnapps, that the prune juice was damson wine, the joss sticks a clumsy student front for joints and her friendship with student teacher so much more than that.

Of course it didn’t matter. By that point it made me love her even more.


Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens is a highly sexed and slightly sloshed slice of everyday bohemia.

It dances along the line between near propriety and beyond the pale and ends up firmly planting its big feet on the wrong side of the tracks.

After an early and brief spring of orange blossom and a slightly boozy, on the turn peach, the foliage and fruits give way quickly to the main part of the tree and the backbone of the perfume, the trunk.

This is a fragrance that never fails to get and give good wood.

But we’re not in a forest here, this is the whirling saw dust sand storm of a timber mill, the sculptor’s studio, the joiner’s yard or the dustbin at the front of class where 20 children are simultaneously sharpening pencils over the stones of play time plums.

This is raw wood being cut while the sap is still high.

And the softness in the background, the vanilla, and spices and resins and musk?

They all serve to prove how hard and soaringly high the wood is.

How sad then that all effort is expended so quickly on creating such effect that things must come to so untimely an end.


For a man or woman – as long as you’re a lumberjack, then you’re all right.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy


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27 responses to “Bohemian rhapsody… Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens The Perfumed Dandy’s Scented Letter

  1. I love this post! I was the girl who spent all her free time in the art room. The art supply smells, alone, would lure me in. “It was impossible to say where her scent ended and the room’s began.” Oh, Perfumed Dandy, this is brilliant.

  2. Lilybelle

    Bravo, Mr. Dandy! I love that one.

  3. I was one of the girls…er um…boys too in the art room. I loved those smells and still do. This is a must try for me. I loved reading this review it certainly took me back to school.

  4. brie

    Fantastic! you have a brilliant way with words and I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one….and FdB I have never sampled but have longed to do so…now after this review I MUST get my hands on some!

  5. rosestrang

    That was my art class and art teacher too – even the roughed up parquet floorboards! Ah the smell of wood and paint! It was the one class where I felt everything was effortless. Miss Redfern had a mop of unkempt blonde hair, always looked mildly inebriated and even at the age of 13 with my head in the clouds I noticed that the Geography teacher from two classes down the corridor seemed to pay more visits to the class than was entirely necessary!

    Great review, and v funny!

    • Dearest Rose
      Isn’t it wonderful that so many of us seem to have had a Miss Redfern somewhere in our pasts.
      Life would be so much the poorer without them and the dash of colours of many types and hues that they brought.
      And isn’t always geography teachers too?!?
      I wonder why…
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

      • Lilybelle

        This is so funny! My Miss Redfern, whose name I’ve forgotten, was petite and curvy and sweet tempered, soft spoken, sort of “out there” in the zone, and she had a big jet black mop of hair that she wore up in a messy bun with a couple of pencils stuck in it. And she wore a white smock, and Mr. Underwood the English teacher was her lover.

      • rosestrang

        To be honest I can’t remember if he was Geography, either that or Maths, I doubt she remembers either! But the general impression was mustard cords and an earnest manner so I’m guessing Geography!

    • Dear All
      This is too too amusing.
      I feel that a short story ‘Miss Redfern and Mr Underwood’ is in order or better still what we British call a ‘Mills and Boon’ romance.
      Yours ever
      The Perfumed Dandy

  6. I love this post. A SeRge Luttens is like a Haute Couture dress or a bespoke suit.

  7. imsookool

    I actually had an English literature teacher in high school who had similar foibles. Apparently, he had thing for another teacher and she wasn’t in any mood to reciprocate. Long story short he drank plum juice from a coffee mug and would leave the classroom from time to time searching for his the kernel of his interest.
    When he read Yeats to us the tears would flow – it was a perfect expression of the heart and how the fumes of that engine can spew the smoke of it’s desires through letters, colors, sounds, scent etc.
    Thanks for bringing this memory back for me.

  8. rosestrang

    I’m really enjoying these posts, it would be fun to think up a fragrance for Mr Underwood and his frustrated Geography and English Literature friends, I think it would have to smell of chalk, sweat and sea brine for tears of angst!


  10. “This is a fragrance that never fails to get and give good wood.” A truly marvellous and succint description. You have spelled out the sexy strumpetness of this in such a way that nary a blush would be invoked until a few minutes later.

    Your friend

  11. Ana

    Dear Dandy,
    Thanks for a different take of FdB!! I was lucky enough to find (the last in the world, most probably not, but I like to believe that) a full bottle of Shiseido FdB Eau Timide and been going around circles to create a photographic portrait to it but looking through my mind the right path.

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