Memories, like the corners of my mind. Misty water-coloured meeeemorrrriiiiiiiies, of the way we were.
Ahem. I’ll begin again.
The act of remembering is less a willed experience, and more a reminder of the deus ex machina nature of our minds. Like an ever-spinning Rolodex whose cards jump out at will, half-formed snapshots leap forward of their own volition, their edges blurred (misty, water-coloured), the details filled in with estimations of the truth.
Some of these might be trivial and are only recalled because of their shock effect at the time or physical reminder in the present – the birthday party runaround where my hand got hooked on a rusting nail on the gate and I needed stitches; the actual photo of our family – so funny – that allows me to believe I remember the sequence of events surrounding it being taken.
Most are more significant because that’s why they’re remembered, and like spectres, move through the rooms of our minds. Organisms we’ve brought to life and no longer control.
That’s why I’m haunted by a film, and more specifically a particular sequence from it. I’ve never seen the film since, and it’s probably laughable now, but on my very young self, it made an intense impression. It’s a western ( a Euro-western?), with Sean Connery. Stop tittering at the back; the thought seems ridiculous too – no more ridiculous than Zardoz though. I think it involves a convoy losing their stagecoaches in Injun country and somehow striving to make it through the badlands alive. One by one, the stock characters are wiped out, and only those with compassion, or ‘true grit’ survive. It’s a death of one of the stocks that has remained with me, and likes to spring up, half-formed in my thoughts, on a regular basis. I could google it to find out the detail and remove those points that lack clarity, but though the memory isn’t particularly pleasant, it’s part of me. I don’t want to, yet.
A woman is part of the party, and she’s obsessed by material goods, distance from the labouring world, and the spotlessness of her appearance. I can’t remember much else about her – she might be gentry or nobility. She wears a string of pearls, and much is made of this. Eventually, when surrounded by the baddies, she is made to swallow the thing she loves, and, in my rewritten memories, this act kills her. I like to think this sequence has imprinted itself on me because my proto-self was already appalled by the explicit misogyny of most 70s film-making; unlikely though. The transparency of the metaphor is probably what got me, at all of 8 or 9 or 10. Her avarice, represented in that luxurious byproduct of true grit, eventually led to her demise. For a poor boy, from a poor family, there was both justice and horror in the outcome.
And so, I went on to have an awkward relationship with luxury, label and the status apparently inferred by both. I’ve never bought designer clothes, at least not first hand. My university days were spent in a pretentious parade of early twentieth century suits (legs rolled up, desert boots) and Edwardian shirts without the button on collar. When less effort in appearance became mandatory, I was resolutely middle-brow. I either wanted to subvert the codes of dress (ha!) or try to skip ’em completely.
And therefore it’s some puzzle to me why I’m so accepting of the ‘allowable’ luxury of expensive niche perfumery. The last one I bought, and I can’t see myself adding any more for quite some time, was Amouage Dia. I can’t justify spending on it, and yet its quiet beauty, its poise and balance, make luxury have meaning to me. It whispers, which always helps.
It’s a frankincense scent, but done with such subtlety and balance, there is nothing which jars or clashes, and nothing which stands out beyond a quiet thrum of loveliness. It defies description in its blending of spice, dry winds, and a powdery heart. And I thought I hated powder. Wearing this on the stagecoach run would court disaster, I don’t doubt.
Which perfume justifies luxury to you? Makes you gulp on the price but go for it anyway? And which doesn’t?
p.s. Sorry if you checked in earlier. I forgot to post and dashed this one off lickety-split. Please by kind with in accuracies and non-seqituurs. I wrote faaast.
p.p.s. And oh, reading recommendation. Sarah Waters’ The Little Stranger is quite marvellous.
p.p.p.s. Winner of the Chamarre draw is Veronica. Please get in touch via the contact us button, V!
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