When they first turned up, a little before dawn three weeks after summer solstice at Wiltshire’s other set of standing stones, everyone assumed that they were out-of-their-minds hippies, a month late and a score or more miles off track for Stonehenge.
As quickly became apparent, everyone couldn’t have been more wrong.
The avant garde of beautiful boys in Afghan coats and not much else and sleek haired Misses is maxi dresses fitted the bill perfectly.
Spiral eyed and barefoot they ambled along in ecstatic absent mindedness, flowers in their long hair, beads trailing down to their bare or almost bare chests.
The big guns came behind and betrayed this as another sort of gathering altogether.
Three Rolls Royces, a brace of Bentleys, a Citroen limousine all followed by a compact convoy of auxiliary autos.
As the sun snuck its head over the horizon, washing the land sodium street lamp orange, a waft of the same citrus fruit’s scent carried across the air, heavy with clove and smoky from car fumes.
It certainly smelt festive, but what call Christmas in July?
So wondered the dairy farmer who, having grazed his cattle informally hereabouts for years came forward to enquire ‘what the hell’ they thought they were doing on ‘his land’?
At this attack a slight and slightly embarrassed looking man – the only one who might have passed for being ‘normally’ dressed, if that is a business suit at four AM in a West Country field can ever be ‘ordinary’ – stepped forward.
He took the herdsman’s hand and shook it vigorously saying at the same time in an assured tone that belied his manner…
“Your land? Oh no. I can assure you it’s theirs, they’ve bought it… lock stock and stones you might say… I have the deeds.”
Wishing he had never laid claim to the monument and its mound the other man was about to blurt out an apology when a great yelp, that reminded him and him alone of a goat he’d once alarmed, went up.
It was followed by a wail and then an emergence.
Out they came, as if called by the amber sunlight, out from the Royces, the Bentleys, the Citroen and all the other little cars: a crowd of confirmed occultists.
Draped in fantastical costumes that seemed to have been left behind from the last tour the Ballet Russes, these modernist expressionist fashion high priests and priestesses made their way towards the rocky circle.
There, the young disciples set out an orbit of foot high cow pat coloured cones, then lit each one in turn to release an odour not of manure but pure myrrh.
Our local in the midst of the madness is handed a steaming cup of liquid by a man in an oversized yellow and red jester’s hat, “Drink this” he says and then in answer to an unasked question “hot, spiced, mulled, Buck’s Fizz, it’s good”.
The younger, prettier adherents are dancing now, throwing improbable moves, their bodies undulating to music of their making, their voices ululating a strange but vaguely familiar tune: it is the last refrain of ‘Hey Jude’ sung over and over again with ‘la’ replacing ‘na’.
The older members of the group weighed down by their pseudo-clerical gowns are seated for the most part, forming a circle beyond the ring of myrrh.
They applaud and cajole the zealots, sometimes calling them over to caress their glistening bodies or present them a rose. Now and again with a whoop, an elder will create an ark of coloured dust, throwing a handful of spice into the air.
Cinnamon, cardamon, cumin, nutmeg, clove.
The disciples run into the clouds, bursting them, rubbing the pungent powders into their skin, making human camouflage of themselves.
And so a rhythm is established, a Tantric ritual of elongated self-expression and object-less worship.
Deliriously devoted the youths undoubtedly are, but to what remains ultimately clear.
Our small-holder remains transfixed, watching as gradually over three perhaps four hours, despite their jubilant elasticity, the youngsters exhaust themselves, collapsing one by one into the arms and laps of their benefactors who have lain in wait.
Like children now, they lie murmuring and allow their elders and betters to smooth their hair and uncrease their brows.
Assistants, under the direction of the be-suited secretary, bring forth oils to ease their limbs, fresh clothes to replace sweat stained chemises and skirts and sweet smelling vanilla liquids to nourish hungers.
The man of the land can see that they are all made up, powder prettifying their pallors and kohl extending their eyes in exquisite orientalism.
He feels he knows some of them.
From the papers perhaps?
But they have always been black and white before, photographed arriving at airports or readying to go on stage at stadiums.
Here they are in full imperfect colour, real, breathing, perspiring flesh.
The sun has passed through the thinnest colours of the morning and now rising in the sky assumes a power that threatens to fracture this fragile scene.
Gradually from reclines and embraces, intertwines and kisses the congregation disentangles.
Their various scents separate and hang as individual chords in the air: orange, myrrh, spices, vanilla, smoke, make up, musk.
And so they reclaim their carriages, each one seeming to know their place be it Rolls Royce, Bentley, Citroen or some other smaller vehicle.
The adults relinquish their costumes and assume the roles of executives and organisers chattering with the three-piece clerk, who remains unquestionably in charge.
Eventually, the caravan completely packed up, the administrator comes over to the farmer.
“That’s it for this year. You can graze your cattle here. They won’t be back again until this time next summer.”
His soft fingers slip a card bearing a London telephone number into the argiculturalist’s rugged hands.
He smiles and turns and walks towards the rising wall of exhaust fumes and marijuana smoke that has just started moving towards the main road.
Lifting the card to his nose, nature’s man breathes in its smell.
It is the scent of that morning.
He wonders if they really will return and whether he should call the number.
Caron is too old and august a house to be described as niche.
Its history and astonishing array of perfumes set it apart from the sheer commercialism of the designer world.
For some people it is something like a religion.
Perhaps Caron has become, in the truest sense of the word, a cult.
If it has, it is the most luxuriuos, resplendent, decadent and decorous of denominations and Parfum Sacre Intense is its holy oil.
It invades the senses first with a viscous orange and clove smell that sings of celebration.
Then an enormous bank of clouds of myrrh arrives in a potent enticingly overpowering fragrant front. Mixed in it are precipitants of pepper and many spices.
There are a few florals, mainly a musk laden rose that lends the heart a romantic stage make up feel.
The dry down is long, gradual and languid: musk moving further to the foreground with a vanillic sweetness that tempers but does not overtake the smoke and spice accord that is the perfume’s reason for being.
For all its holy allusions though, there is a sensuous, sexual element to this scent.
Erotic and Edwardian exotic in equal measure it truly is sacred and profane, a Byzantine church made brothel.
A near religious object worthy of veneration.
The Perfumed Dandy.