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Posts from the ‘tiny holiday’ Category

I have a new route to work now. On an overground train that passes parks and houses and a school, that passes other trains. On which I stand closely to strangers for about eight minutes, never more than 10. Sometimes our hands touch as the train lurches and one of us reaches for something to hold on to. Other times I accidentally make eye contact with the done-up blonde or the two men in suits, at least one of whom must feel choked by his tie, the other choked by expectation, regret, any of life’s other nooses.

Often I imagine what it feels like to be the wives of the men wearing wedding rings, to be the children of the mothers who can talk about nothing but them, to be the done-up blonde with everything so perfect and smooth and I wonder how many people ever get to be the version of themselves they wished they could become.

Jane Birkin never really liked perfume. And until Miller Harris asked her to create a signature scent, she always preferred to carry pot pourri in her pocket.

Her brother, director Andrew Birkin, had a perfume lab set up in his house in Wales where he was experimenting with scents as research for his next film. So she joined him and created L’air de Rien. A scent she describes as “a little of my brother’s hair, my father’s pipe, floor polish, an empty chest of drawers, old forgotten houses.” All evoked through rich notes of oak moss, neroli, amber and vanilla.

L’air de Rien, for me a scent that recalls a slow walk through a dark Rothko exhibition, impromptu beers on cold Tuesday nights and the safe comfort of my chosen family, translated roughly means, as if it were nothing.

[photo of this photo, credit unknown]

Jacques Polge is Chanel’s Master Perfumer. To create Chance Eau Tendre, he reimagined Chance in a “constellation of tender and vibrant notes, fruity and airy, intoxicating”. He probably had a girl in mind who’d wear it too: someone with kind eyes, hands so nice that people notice, talent to match her passion.

He couldn’t have imagine how it’d  really be worn though. That I’d buy it in a rush in an airport before a trip that would change things in ways we couldn’t have expected. That it will always remind me of two sleepless nights in the Hudson Hotel, of dark foyers, hairs standing on end, of  May in London, of white roses in bloom on the streets near my house, of feeling like things are always getting bigger than I want them to.

Maybe it’s better that way.

I first smelt Viktor and Rolf’s Flowerbomb when I lived in a heavy city. The sky there was always so close, all over everything. I would go into Selfridges and put it on and imagine things were different, better.

I finally bought it when I made the decision to leave and now when I wear it, I don’t smell freesia or rose, jasmine or the background of patchouli. To me, it smells of indecision, of loose shoulders after a weight has lifted, of a morning in the mountains of Morocco, of the end, the end, the end.

We went to Romania a few years ago. We caught two buses and a train from Transylvania to Bucharest and walked through dusty, dug up streets to our hostel. They buzzed us in. We pushed open the heavy door. And suddenly, out of nowhere I was hit, thrown, blown off my feet by the smell of the place.

The smell of this sunless stairwell in an old mixed-use building near Aleea Principală was identical to the cool, white marble foyer of my grandmother’s apartment in Melbourne. A place I’d not visited since she’d died 17 years earlier.

But suddenly, there I was again: a clumsy 10-year-old spending a hot, restless afternoon naming all the goldfish that swam in the indoor pond, running a small hand along her green velvet sofa, becoming aware of my parents as children of others, seeing my Dad cry for the first time. In that apartment, I understood things about the world for the very first time.

As we climbed up the stairs to the hostel, I dug through my bag for my phone so I could text my Dad to tell him where I was. Not in Romania, but in another time, visiting a place I’d all but forgotten. My skin prickles when I think about it now, this tiny holiday.