Christmas is being imported this year.
It will come in a crate by boat and be brought, a little piece of Europe in a box, up from the harbour to our room at Raffles Hotel.
On opening it, I “must be careful” not to unsettle the contents lest one item has been broken and is spilt upon and spoils the others.
The pre-fabricated festivities will have as little to do with Christmas as our lives in this heat and 70% humidity have with a happy marriage.
The box is all flashes and flickers of the world I once knew, before Singapore, before the War even.
Candied fruit, heavy English rosewater – slightly turned, vanilla essence just good enough for custard and a cologne that promises Scandinavian forests and delivers the sweaty, peaty, mossy mass of wet woodland floor in early German spring.
Biscuits shot with caraway, aniseed and oats remind one of the cheeses, hams and cold cuts that we do not have to go with them. They draw an outline around the absence, forming a shape where Christmas and love should be.
These gifts from home serve only to unsettle. Hallowed by sea wave salts and ambers, they are little relics of lost happiness.
The hamper but half emptied, I turn away and fix a gin with something pink and something holy and something local.
How I wish this dress was more loosely fitted.
I raise the glass, a foaming mousse the liquid’s head, to my mouth and inhale the whole in one measure.
The emptied vessel returned to the cabinet I charge another and walk out onto the hot and balmy balcony drink in hand.
Ylang ylang and jasmine fill the air, sharp and distracting, they feel like passing dangers soon supplanted by the reek of the real cancer within: my chest and its presents from the past.
I should shut it up and lock it away, but know the scent it gives off and the pervading sense of an incomplete existence will remain.
I surrender to the smell of passed contentments, long to clamber inside the crate, wrap myself in padding and packaging and be posted back a steerage stowaway in time for Easter.
I will decide tomorrow, it is, after all, the eve of a day of great import.
Nuit de Noel by Caron is no Christmas as we know it.
It is a strange, apprehending and unnerving fragrance that brings forth a variety of notes all slightly off key and not what they should be.
It is an unfloral-floral, a savoury Vanilla, a wintery Chypre a Western oriental.
It is in fact a foreigner abroad, the perpetual expatriate.
It gathers around itself all the talismans of celebration and success: a little animalic, some rose, jasmine, oakmoss and leather.
But rather than a self confident Paris-dressed woman at the height of European chic the effect is of a lonely glamorously tragic gin-soaked figure carving out an existence in place of living a life, somewhere far off and unhappy.
This is a precise and beautiful perfume, done great disservice by reviewers who perceive only its sweeter and more flowery notes.
They are like the local diplomat who intentionally misses the melancholy in the eyes of his colleagues wife, just to save inconvenience.
Like many sad smells it is eminently wearable, yet fearfully beautiful.
The Dandy knows this review comes at just the wrong time of year, but as this is a perfume composed of paradoxes it seems entirely appropriate…
The Perfumed Dandy.