When we bought this house over five years ago, there were a number of things to, erm, sort – structural, functional and aesthetic. It hadn’t been loved, and its neglect told in the stained and sagging ceilings, the loose floorboards, the squalor of the basement kitchen (now long gone), the patches of weedy grass in the blank canvas of the rear garden interrupted by exposed earth and heaps of Weimaraner turd, the filthy carpets, and so on. The ceilings, whilst still not perfect, are now presentable. The floorboard are tight, man. The kitchen is now a thing of unfussy beauty. The rear garden is turd free and full of plants (new plans for that this autumn), and the carpets – top quality wool no less, are clean. However, I’ve always wanted to replace them and we’ve still yet to get round to it – budget and other priorities. A 200 year old terraced house with four floors always has a list of pressing things to be done… And not all of them get done. But those carpets are still somewhere on the list.
And the reason? Moths. When we moved in, we inherited something (something? Ha!) of an infestation. Every carpeted room had loose patches of pile, and as the first few days passed, we discovered more and more of them. And the small male monsters resting during the day on walls and ceilings. Hundreds of them.
We’re cleared most of the infestation, but it’s been a long battle where pest controllers have failed, and internet bought remedies didn’t do what they said on the tin. What did work – persistence. Moving furniture every time we vacuumed. Lifting carpets and vacuuming under them. Strips of moth killer paper forming random floor patterns in all the relevant rooms. And lavender and cedarwood oil, dissolved in vodka, sprayed liberally on every woollen surface.
We still get one or two appearing on a weekly basis, and might well have to live with that, unless until we finally lift or replace the carpets. They never invaded the wardrobe, and so no holey sweaters, no pockmarked jackets, no coats half digested by tiny caterpillars. And the house always smells goooood.
So, in thinking about what to write this week, and having just killed a moth as it dithered across the bedroom, I was drawn to the fact that what insects find repulsive, we often love. And how, in scent, a touch of the repulsive can be a GOOD THING. Musette commented the other day – hilariously and wonderfully – how she had to change perfumes for a visit to the ER to give off a ‘don’t you go messing with me’ message. Now Musette is never repulsive, of that I can be sure, but here she seemed to be using perfume as repeller more than attracter, and though the message may be conveyed through social association rather than the inherent qualities of the scent itself, that power of perfume to repulse is impressive, no?
I think in their review of Lutens’ Chypre Rouge, Turin/Sanchez stated something along the lines of how it was made of elements that were repulsive in nature, and how these combined – at least in this instance – to make themselves repulsive in perfume too. And they didn’t mean that as a good thing. Now, I’ve always found the aforementioned non-Chypre quite-Rouge, to be a quite harmless, pretty thing, dusted with melancholy like the memories of eating favourite childhood candy. Not repulsive at all.
But I can see the repulsion that some of y’all feel for Borneo 1834. After all, patchouli, like cedar and lavender, is a moth and bug repelllent, and I indeed add a few drops of high grade oil to my moth spray in the colder months. And that perfume also has camphor at the start. And yeah, the cocoa/patchouli combo can smell a little parmesanny/vomitty if you sniff it from the wrong angle.
But you know,
in spite of because of these repulsive facets, I love Borneo 1834. Sniffing it, and wearing it, whenever, however. I didn’t at first, and it’s one of those ‘fumes that took me a couple of years to grow to love, but now it burns with an intensity that can’t diminish, even as I know, oh boy, this stuff pretty well stinks.
So tell me, what repulsive perfumes (and smells, if you want to be less specific) do you love, and why? And I’ll rustle up a batch of samples for one lucky commenter – to include both lovely and repulsive, familiar and strange. I’ll send em next week. And there’ll be no moths included. I now have plenty of sample sprays (thanks L!) so I can at last deliver on my promises.