The European Union has been busy of late, with the collapse of the single currency, riots in Greece and all that. But I couldn't possibly let you get the impression that the people whose salaries you fund in Brussels spend their time dealing with issues of grand historical importance, because alas for them – and us – a lot of their time is spent on more trivial matters. Like perfume.
“For the first time in its 91-year history, Chanel No 5 perfume is under threat”, read a news report earlier this week. “The reason? One of its key ingredients – a naturally occurring type of tree moss – has come under the microscope of a team of EU scientists who believe it may cause allergies.”
Now, don't rush to condemn. Tree moss is a killer, man. I mean, there's no limit to the damage these allergic substances can do when they get on to your skin. Back in the day I almost certainly smoked tree moss, and goodness knows how much better these columns would be had I not.
But if the thought of denying high society its smelly water offends your sense of justice, let me appeal to it further, by saying it's no business of the berks in Brussels to forbid us from extinguishing our bodily odour and increasing our sex appeal. That's the job of either the British government or no government, and certainly not some hooray Hermann getting rich on your taxes. That, you see, is what the European Union, an exquisitely noble and necessary project in its initial incarnation, has become.
You think its employees spend their time arranging bailouts for stricken Spanish banks, or agreeing common positions on fish stocks west of Scandinavia; but in fact there are highly educated men and women who devote their careers to preventing your immediate death through Chanel No 5.
Something called the European Commission's Scientific Committee of Consumer Safety is issuing guidelines suggesting banning many of the most lethal substances. If they get their way, many of these companies will have to change their recipes, with dastardly commercial consequences.
Like I say, some of this may be a worthwhile endeavour. Chemistry matters. Of course people who use perfumes should be made aware of possible dangers associated with them. But informing people is one thing; taking away their freedom to spend money on smelly spray quite another. It is precisely the sort of absurd incursion into our lives that gives the EU a bad name.
Never mind the euro's collapse – if Brussels gets its way, we really will have a two-tier Europe, between a city in Belgium that smells delicious, and a continent that stinks. Imagine the riots then.