Tag Archives: remembrance

Of Angels, Art and Imperium Scenes from The Perfumed Dandy’s American Adventure Part One : Washington DC

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Some impressions of a city that impressed us much more than we could have expected.

Important and self-important all at once, fitted out in wall to wall marble punctuated by red velvet ropes and heavy curtains.

A Capitol and Capital of Imperial Proportions, like a vast movie set Rome in elongated letterbox Cinemascope: inflated and stretched almost to the horizon and absurdity.

And yet, and yet at once quite profoundly beautiful, marked out everywhere by memorials for lost souls and past presidents.

And the Art so much of it and all around and so very, very good…

1. The Hotel

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The place is vast, as American hotels seem to be.

The lobby long enough to accommodate a golf range if so chose it.

Apparently the Inauguration Ball for newly sworn in Presidents is held here. They must do something right as two have chosen to stay while their own abode was being fixed up.

The fixtures here are something very special, harking back to an age in which gold leaf was elegant rather than merely gauche.

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That peculiar rams head motif on each side of the patriarch’s broad face reminds us how much like rutting goats politicians are: so obstinate and unnecessarily aggressive, and with invariably voracious appetites (for food, for fame, for fornication) .

I reflect on the neo-classical surroundings, the pomp, the powerful people who have been here, their presidential or even imperial ambitions and can think of only one perfume…

Van Cleef and Arpels Tsar.

I wonder if anyone wears this egocentric aromatic fougere extraordinaire any more?

Then a thought occurs: if… when a woman occupies The White House, as anything other than a First Lady, will she be allowed to break perfume rules as well as glass ceilings?

Could she where a fougere herself?

Tauer Perfumes 04 Reverie au Jardin?

Its creamy coniferousness, its resinous, iris and lavender could usher in an entirely new type of perfumed executive power.

2. That House

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Of course the place is terribly grand.

But not ostentatiously so.

It’s nothing that could outshine the megalomaniac follies of the magnates who made their fortunes on the vast continent in the nineteenth and America’s century, the twentieth.

Just modest enough, in fact, to remind the inhabitant that the Commander in Chief is ultimately meant to be a servant  and not master of the people.

So the President may not have anything approaching absolute power, but he is still allowed his toys.

The whirring of helicopters the whole time in Washington bears testament to this.

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On this occasion at least, so the policewoman told me, it was  The Man.

Creating a whirlwind off to visit the victims of a real storm in Oklahoma.

Helicopters, an infrequent sight in London save for the military and police, are synonymous in my mind with war.

With war in Vietnam in particular.

The cinema that retells that conflict has fixed this association.

Helicopters, ‘Apocalypse’ and Wagner.

Strangely, I begin to ponder whether there was a perfume like Worth’s Je Reviens that sweethearts wore to remember their far away soldiers in the sixties and seventies. Or a scent like Shalimar by Guerlain than men brought back as a gift.

Then I reflect that there were no couture houses in Saigon, no Chanel or Guerlain boutiques in Hanoi.

Perhaps the perfume the women left back home wore depended more on their political persuasion than fashion.

Jane Fonda and protesters in patchouli oil smelling as rough and ready as le labo’s 24.

Marine wives holding it together in Avon, or No.5.

A decade later it would have been easy, Estee Lauder’s White Linen.

3. Angels in Leather

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The hum of choppers comes and goes, but the first part of Memorial Weekend is accompanied by the constant roar of engines.

Harleys mainly, but other American motorcycles too.

Men, who when they were considered or were counter cultural, were called Hell’s Angels have descended on the Capital.

From across the Continent they have come on thousand mile sponsored rides to remember the POWs and MIAs as their banners, fluttering along side stars and stripes, proclaim.

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The machines all around smell of petrol and polish, of gasoline and grime-defying sheen.

The men, almost invariably men, that drive them smell of gas, and sweat and unusually of sweet fruity sodas they drink all day through straws from the enormous buckets of sugary liquid they carry around with them.

Only one scent comes to mind.

That of the first mechanised war.

The perfume of petrol and peaches that is The Great Fragrance of the end of The Great War.

The war that was supposed to end all wars but didn’t.

The faded photographs and photocopies of lost brothers, friends and perhaps lovers show that.

All attached with sellotape and tender care to mudguards and windshields of shining machines.

The unmistakable smell of Mitsouko is in my nose and on my mind as we turn and walk towards The National Mall and the formal memorials…

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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Sul y Blodau Ten Fragrances of Remembrance The Perfumed Dandy’s Sunday Supplement

Dearest Ones

A word of explanation.

Where The Dandy hails from, in certain parts of about the most rural part of Britain where the most beautiful language of Cymraeg, also known as Welsh, is spoken, today is a rather special day.

Sul y Blodau, literally “Sunday of the Flowers” is the name given to the Sunday before Easter, known as “Palm Sunday” elsewhere in the English speaking world.

Here an ancient tradition of decorating Christian churches ahead of the forthcoming festivities has metamorphosised into a utterly moving celebration.

In place of decorating places of worship, the day is marked by the placing of flowers of remembrance on the graves or resting places of those departed. Or by decorating the home with blooms as a keep sake of those who are now gone forever or those merely temporarily absent.

Despite the awful weather today, The Dandy knows that churchyards and cemeteries will have become flower meadows and window sills, kitchen tables and hearths will be ablaze with the colour of floral tributes in this very small corner of the world.

This raises a wry smile and kindles a small, warm flame in the heart.

In tribute to this wonderful tradition, which now itself seems to be fading into the past, The Perfumed Dandy present his selection of Ten Fragrances of Remembrance, not all floral, for your contemplation…

1. Private Collection by Estee Lauder

A scent of solitary sorrow, Estee Lauder‘s Private Collection is perfume of private grief and almost immeasurable melancholy.

This is the fragrance of an unforgotten lost friendship. Of an affair left unfinished.

That this was Estee Lauder’s personal fragrance for many years before it was made available to the public testifies to its regal quality.

A tragic masterpiece, smelling irrevocably of chrysanthemums.

2. Jour by Hermes

This day of remembrance is all about the simplicity of flowers. Jour is all about the simplicity of flowers.

Jean-Claude Ellena’s new work seems to have divided the critics, personally I find it at once over abundant and sparse, a bitter sweet experience, a little like the act of memory itself.

3. Norell by Norell

The sharp green smell of unsettled soil and crisp spring air.

The smell of carnation buttonholes.

There is such a thing as a good funeral and if that funeral had a fragrance it would be Norell.

4. Dioressence by Dior

“In her heart she knew that spring was the hopeful season, yet this year it felt, if not cruel, then hard.

“It was hard too to let go of the rituals of winter, of early suppers and open fires, sleeping in until darkness ended and of hospital visits without, it seemed then, an end.”

You can read more of The Perfumed Dandy‘s reflections on the melancholy scent of the Spring in my Dioressence review.

As remembrance is also in part about keeping memories and in a way the people remembered alive, it is a pleasant thought that, of all the recently revived Dior’s, the current Dioressence is (with Diorella) is itself the most alive.

5. Le Baiser du Dragon by Cartier

One of the most wonderful elements of Sul y Bolodau is that it is about remembering the joy and happiness that those departed brought to the world.

These are memories of celebrations, high days and holidays, first meetings and whirlwind romances.

Thoughts of afternoons where one too many almond liqueur might lead to a decision that led to whole different and more fulfilled life.

Le Baiser du Dragon is a perfume that speaks of the happy acts of fate that bring so many of us together in the first place.

6. Cuir de Russie by Chanel

The most humane and humanly sensual of all animalic notes: leather.

Leather hints of polished boots, riding gear, handbags, wristwatches and wallets.

Leather is the stuff of the accoutrements of life. The things that people leave behind them.

Leather is, of course, legendarily the very fabric of love affairs.

7. Un Lys by Serge Lutens

The scent of lilies filling the house and celebrating the lives of those who once lived here.

8. Narcisse Noir by Caron

A perfume of new hope and new beginnings, of the cycle of life and of endless possibilities.

It is also one of the most refined renderings of the scent of the narcissus anywhere in perfumery.

Narcissi are mainly daffodils in Wales, the national flower of the country, the flower of the early spring and the signature of this amazing day.

They come in every colour so long as it’s yellow. They come a sun shinning profusion.

For more of The perfumed Dandy‘s thoughts on this redolent aroma visit my relflections on Narcisse noir.

9. Je Reviens by Worth

The ultimate promise of fidelity and unforgetting love.

Gifted by millions of American soldiers to the women they left behind when they went off to fight The Second World War, it is an icon of indissoluble amour.

Brought back from the otherworld of ghostly imitations and ghoulish cheapskate reformulations, the 2004 ‘Couture’ incarnation is a bold and demanding aldehyde worthy of unswerving devotion.

10. L’Heure Bleue by Guerlain

The Blue Hour.

The minutes between daylight and darkness.

A perfume of perfect, calm crepuscular contemplation.

A collective deep breath in before The Great War began.

A work of wonder.

So there we have it.

A list of the sorrowful, the spring-like, the joyous, the timeless, the unforgettable and most especially the fantastically fine fragrances of remembrance.

The Dandy is very curious to know whether similar tribute days are marked in other parts of the world, and if so when?

Do you, my friends, have a perfume that is especially redolent of a departed loved one or time long since passed?

If so, please do share.

After all, scent is the sense unlike all the others that is able to travel through time.

I’m away now to wear a little Private Collection and contemplate in the encompassing odour of chrysanthemums.

Yours ever

The Perfumed Dandy.

The Perfumed Dandy

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