Thursday, 31 March 2011

Time travel

I've got a pretty poor memory but perfumes and paintings
sharpen my recall of the temps perdus like nothing else.
Because its that time of year again,
I got to thinking about the first bottle of scent I ever had.
It was Sweet Violet in a tiny dimpled bottle
and I kept it in my red plastic handbag, 
shaped like a drum and brought from Paris
by my best friend Jenny.
If I could smell it again,
I know I could reach out to my six year old self
but it would be only the briefest contact.
4711 would be a continuous link, 
but mostly associated with childhood maladies -
 Aqua Manda would give me a positive
sighting of the sixteen year old on a school cruise to the West Indies;
 PM by Mary Quant then patchouli oil would take me to Art College;
Guerlain's Shalimar was a misguided attempt at sophistication,
Estée Lauder's White Linen for the assistant editor, 
Nina Ricci's L'Air du Temps for a long time,
and a succession of Jo Malones would bring me up to the present. 

It's getting late,
I'll have to travel back via the paintings another time.


  1. We must have been shopping at the same perfume counter - except you forgot Kiku, which I was wearing during your Aqua Manda years! Though I certainly wore PM. Which took me through to Rive Gauche.
    But I always preferred Jicky to Shalimar and it's still what I fall back on.

  2. Wonderful post. It is amazing that a perfume or scent of a flower, even the smell of baking can take us back different times and places in our lives. Music and taste can do this for me as well.
    Very beautiful photo.

  3. There's a lot to be said for time travel ...

  4. Suddenly my carefree Aqua Manda years have flooded my senses.............

  5. Wonderful stuff. When we were students my friend wore Aqua Manda and I wore Kiku - which I'd totally forgotten about until this reminder. Wasn't its packaging some kind of yellow plastic? How I'd love to see and smell them again. Bring back the cheesecloth and the Laura Ashley full length frocks.

  6. You wouldn't believe it but violets grow here. Together with primroses they cover many of the banks and verges by the roadside - such a tiny delicate flower growing in such a vast wild landscape.

  7. So true about scents bringing back vivid memories. Perhaps, most vivid for me, is the cooking my mother did on Saturdays with white beans and sausage for lunch and cinnamon buns in the afternoon....! Flowers do it for me too, particularly the Korean Spice flowering shrub that smells like orange blossoms.

  8. Ma Griffe and the deepest blue , floor length cheong sam I insisted on wearing to my first ball .

  9. I think orange blossom must be a particularly powerful memory jogger. It is the main ingredient of Aqua Manda. Can you still buy Kiku? I must smell it and see if it reminds me of any friends! Cooking smells are a whole new area for time travel exploration. Boiled bacon? Vanilla certainly.
    I used to frequent a shop called Fred's that had rack upon rack of cheesecloth shirts. All eminently desirable.

  10. Was it orange blossom? It always smelt more powerfully orange than that ... more like a very dark marmalade.
    I once visited a company where they manufactured scents (some fascinating ones for the Viking experience at York) and they also dabbled in memory-evoking scents for projects in old-people's homes. There was one scent I couldn't put a name to, but I knew it was the scent of my childhood ... tannin. The scent of my mum's stained old teacosy.

  11. From Perfume Intelligence the Encycolpedia of Perfume Aqua Manda First advertised in 1948. Relaunched 1970.
    A spicy floral fragrance with notes of mandarin, sweet herbs, coriander, rosemary, parsley flowers and jasmine.
    Discontinued (date unknown)

  12. I'd no idea it was around in the 1940s!

  13. How right you are - one hint of a smell and you are transported back to the there and then. I remember being told to wear perfume when I was revising and to wear the same one for the exam itself - so all the revised stuff would could come flooding back. I don't know if it worked but I liked the idea.

    Similar perfumes memories here too - and a boyfriend who once wore something hippyish which my mother described as smelling like the cat's flea powder. Oh, the shame.

  14. Oh Aqua Manda! Wonderful packaging. I wonder if they will ever revive it. Did you know that there is a Facebook campaign to bring it back?

  15. My grandmother used to send us 4711. I really thought it smelled awful, but I was too polite to say so. My friend Toni wore Shalimar, but I will always remember my teen years by the scent of the free perfume samples included in editions of Vogue magazines. Donna Karan had a perfume called Cashmere, I believe, and it was wonderful. Now I have a little bottle of CK ONE, and it suits me for special occasions. I enjoyed your trip down the memory scented lane.