It’s no secret that our sense of smell is an incredibly important part of our memory. Different scents can immediately transport us to a time or place in our lives. Place us with people we’ve loved or lost. We can feel the emotions, happiness, nerves, excitement, fear, longing etc
To me, one of the most powerful memory triggers is perfume. Different perfumes instantly bring to mind people, places, times and events. I can map my life through perfume…
My first ever perfume memory is from Childhood and naturally) my Mum and her bottle of ‘Tweed’. She actually gave it to me in the end for ‘dressing up’ after I wore away at her constantly. Always been a girly girl. I remember always touching the small square glass bottle and thinking my Mum was so amazing and posh because she could wear perfume – without asking! But the smell. So strong, almost after-shave. A really heady and woody kind of scent. I had a sniff recently and it just conjures up my Mum and Dad dressed for the work Xmas dinner and dance. My mum in new dress and lots of make-up. Hair streaked and lots of perfume on. Dad in a tie, only once each year. Much excitement at my cousin Sally coming to baby-sit my sister and I. Being allowed to stay up late and Mum always bringing us back the after dinner mints. Happy and innocent times.
Various Avon perfumes came and went in our house. Moon Wind was a favourite in a glass candle bottle one Christmas. I loved the flowery smell and used to dab it on my wrists when Mum was not looking.
When I reached Middle School I remember being in love for the first time, it was innocent and Playful but required liberally applying ‘Dewberry’ from the Body Shop. It was the thing to wear and so naturally we ALL did. Our classroom must have been like a huge giggling fruit pudding. In our rush for sophistication it was compulsory to perm our hair, wear bright blue eye-liner and ‘iced cham-pink’ lipstick (how do I remember that name). We were a curly, pink, berry-scented army and our goal – the school disco. We learned routines to Mel & Kim’s ‘respectable’ and insisted on slow dances to Berlin’s ‘take my breathe away’. Oh those poor boys…
And so to Upper School. More self conscious days. I was particularly fond of Impulse ‘Gypsy’ (I probably believed the ads). I remember my Mum starting to wear Tresor by Lancome. A beautiful smell. It makes me remember having very long hair and exam leave. Nice times walking the dog, just me and her. During this era my auntie gave me a tiny bottle of Beautiful by Estee Lauder. I loved it and it was my special and rarely used perfume. I also met my first proper boyfriend and spent an incredibly turbulent two years learning about love and heart-break.
Starting work in my very early 20’s I remember Safari by Ralph Lauren. Sadly not made now. A lovely smell in a really big fancy glass bottle. It makes me think of my first job in sales, my favourite bright blue mini-skirt and jacket, my curly perm and gold framed glasses (no prescription – thought I looked clever in meetings!). Hilariously getting a taxi (couldn’t drive yet) to GEC Marconi and winning a 30k order on my own. I knew if I asked for a lift with a senior sales person my glory would be stolen. My sales Manager bought me flowers and praised me.
By night I would wear Ysatis by Givenchy. I tried it again recently and dear good it could strip paint. I remember wearing my hot-pants and dancing all night.
In my later 20’s my job took me to Milton Keynes and I became a Calvin Klein fan. I always wore eternity to work and smelling it now I can just feel my old office and wonderful memories in a job I adored. I was still in love with ‘Beautiful’ (kept for best) I also loved ‘Chance by Chanel’.
In 1998 I got married. Definitely not the right move for me but hindsight is a wonderful thing.
In my late 20’s Mum bought me Poemme by Lancome for Xmas. A gorgeous really heady smell and I loved it. But it’s amazing how the sense of smell can bring back feelings of sadness. It’s in my drawer now and one smell brings back the leaves falling, the night’s drawing in, driving to hospital in the half-light and sadly losing my Mum on Sept 10th 2002
In 2003 and 2006 I had my first two little boys. The most beautiful gifts yet the most enormous life change. Oh the wilderness years! I was still reeling from losing my Mum so suddenly. I gave up work and stayed at home full time. I don’t regret that for one second, however it was incredibly lonely. I endured post-natal depression and completely lost myself.
My Dad moved to Cyrprus to start a new life after so much heartache over Mum. I missed him – and still do – more than words can say.
I gained weight, lived in jeans, t shirts, no make-up except a smidge on a very rare night out. During this time I can recall wearing the dwindling Poemme sometimes. I just can’t wear it now. I would be like spraying on sadness.
Going back to my Mum, when we eventually sorted through her belongings I found the Tresor I’d bought her 8 months previously for her birthday. Unopened and saved ‘for best’. I really cried finding that but it was a life changing moment. I vowed that some things shouldn’t be saved or made to wait for ‘best’. Life is the best. I now wear perfume every day, no matter what I’m doing. I love jewellery, dresses, heels and make-up. Every day I wear some or all of them…just because…
Sadly this black cloud just didn’t lift for me and in 2010 I left my marriage. Sometimes you just grow apart and such a lot of trauma made me realise life is too short to be so sad. Mum would have agreed I know.
It was a very tough transition for me, living alone and for some reason just hitting an incredibly black, lonely and poorly few years, crossing paths with too many unkind people. I have no good memories.
But in 2012 I met John. Just when I thought I’d never smile again I found the love of my life. My best friend.
Shortly afterwards John bought me a bottle of ‘Jimmy Choo’ It’s gorgeous and to me highlights the early and bonkers years of our relationship. One sniff and I recall hot Cyprus fun, hurricanes on lands’ end and late nights listening to music, chatting and snuggling until the sun rose. John helped me to come alive again.
Then surprise! In 2015 I found out I was expecting and along came Oliver, my third little boy and our little Angel. Oliver is amazing and I swear is heaven sent.
We now live in a beautiful little market town. I have my church, friends, gorgeous cat Smartie and of course John and Oliver. I am well, happy and working again. I never thought it possible. And the Tresor? It’s in a box in my wardrobe. If ever I ‘need’ my Mum I can smell her and it’s a huge comfort.
This is – briefly – my life in perfume. Nowadays I love my Jimmy Choo. I like Alien by Terry Mugler and if I fancy bathing in something ‘Sparkle’ by next is wonderful and full of shimmer.
But I like to think my signature scent is – and always will be – Beautiful.