Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Scents, smells and body cream

For mostly better, and sometimes worse, I have always had a very acute sense of smell.
Had I been aware of this natural ability early in life I might have made my way in the scent trade instead of plying my way through a myriad of other endeavours. But anyway, the war intervened and made all of us who participated in it see and think things differently. I became a medical student.

As an example of my olfactory attributes, some 30 years after leaving a preparatory school, a man passed me as I was sitting in a London bus, and I knew exactly who he was by his smell.
That I always knew when I was near to a woman enduring her menstrual period is a sensitivity that I am glad to have lost in my later years.

After I had broken my wrist as a sculptor and been unable to complete a large exhibition of objects/creatures out of elm wood (soon after the disease had infected and killed England’s large elm trees), to enter the wine trade seemed a natural change of direction for me. As a writer on wine (several books and lots of articles) my ability to distinguish and separate smells was a great asset when determining grape varieties and districts, etc.

Throughout the 1960s I could discern each Bordeaux year accurately, and sometimes the district from whence came the wine. But in those days good claret was every-day wine – delicious and moderately priced. So the English drank a lot of it. I even imported Bordeaux in cask and bottled it in London – but that is another and longer story.

What I am leading up to is Body Cream.

Women of my knowledge love to use body cream. After a bath or shower and then drying off surface water, they like to apply body cream to their skin.

So, being the loving husband that I hope to be, I once bought a fancy pot of body cream that was perfumed with one of my wife’s favourite scents. It cost so much that I thought it to be unfair.

There is an inexpensive substance available called cold cream. The white bulk of the expensively scented creams must, I thought, be this cold cream. And there it was, obtainable in every chemist, not as cold cream but as aqueous cream (although the chemist believes both creams to be comparable in many ways) – and very cheap it turned out to be.

So I thought that all I now needed to do was to buy aqueous cream, add scent to it and, hey presto, I would have made body cream.

Those of us who buy scent for wives and girl friends know that when buying some expensive (they all are) scent, sample phials of perfume, usually made by the same house, are given away as samples to test. If these are not offered, it is wise to ask for them.

May I digress a second to tell you that during a friendship with the mistress of a French scent baron (who gave her samples which she sprayed on ants to keep them at bay), I learned that nearly all scents are made in chemical laboratories (he kept a factory in Grasse only as an advertising medium for tourists). And on later consideration, I thought that many a powerful perfume must be dirt cheap to make when you consider that lavatory deodorants, often pleasant, and always strong, are available at a modest price – as are near identical copies of famous marques of scent obtainable, for instance, in Greece.

So take these small sample phials, given away with a scent purchase and, with a dessert spoon, stir their contents into a 50-gram pot of aqueous cream. Decant the result, if wanted, into smaller and smarter jars as gifts. And out of it all have a happy mate at minimum expense - well, certainly a lesser expense than normal.