Friday 28 October 2011
Julie Burchill: Fashion is for dummies but you're never too fat for a fragrance to fit
I love perfume. I love wearing it, I love buying it for beautiful girls and when there's no alcohol left in the house and the shops are closed, I love drinking it. (I strongly recommend DKNY's very accurately-named Be Delicious – with ice, slice and dash of soda – in the summer, and a tot of Tam Dao by Diptyque in hot water as a moresome winter warmer.)
Perfume is how I remember the parts of my life which my enthusiastic recreational drug use over the decades has wiped clean – with a nose as big as mine, how could it help but be central to my enjoyment?
When I smell certain scents, I literally get a whiff of my various escapes. My only job apart from writing was when, as a 15-year-old runaway, I briefly sold perfume in a chain chemist in central London. I was very good at it, but sadly I lasted only two months before the police spotted me and took me home. I figured then I needed something involving shorter hours, higher pay and less concentration, so I became a writer instead.
I've earned a lush living solely by scribbling from the age of 17 to my current age of 52, and it's true what they say that if you do a job you love, you'll never work a day in your life. But some days, I still go off into a daydream when I get a sniff of Charlie, and I think about what might have been.
When my dirty book, Ambition, became a bestseller, I went back to Bristol wearing diamonds as big as love-bites, anointed myself with Joy – Jean Patou's precious rose and jasmine creation, hyped as "the costliest perfume in the world" – and rode the rackety old land-train along nearby Weston-super-Mare's seafront, scene of many a childhood sulk, smirking up a storm and feeling full of myself. What an ocean-going ponce I was!
With typically modest demands, I've required the same gift from my husband on birthdays and Christmas for the past five years now – half a dozen bottles of Smiley by Arthes in a nice big box, the smell of three-times-a-charm cheerfulness after two seasons in conjugal purgatory. (I wore Tramp during the first and Poison during the second, surely bad omens.)
I've come to believe that while a passion for fashion is mainly for dummies with nothing amusing or interesting to say, perfume is a prompt for narratives. But on the other hand, I could just be fooling myself – you're never too fat for a fragrance to go on smoothly. One spritz fits all!
I love pill-popping almost as much as I do perfume, however, I'm dubious about the new product "Swallowable Parfum", currently being developed, wherein a capsule will take scent straight into the body, releasing "fragrant molecules" through the skin's surface. Surely part of the appeal of perfume is splashing it everywhere, with all the prudence of a sailor on shore-leave? A clean little pill totally negates the sluttish glory of getting a face-full of fragrance when you go overboard – and of seeing the looks of wussy distaste when you get into a lift smelling like a Tijuana pony show. If I'm going to swallow scent, I'll do it the old-fashioned way, thank you – on the rocks.
Give the people what they want, goes the old line, and that day is here at last for me and the vast majority of Independent readers as I write my final column.
I leave you with a light heart, well aware that it's time for me to move over. So I will now concentrate mainly on learning Hebrew and writing my memoir of philo-Semitism UNCHOSEN, with supplementary activity based around lunching, lazing and loafing. And the occasional foray into journalism, of course – I'd miss my trolls too much if I retired.
L'hitraot! as we say in Israel – be seeing you!
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