Sunlight on the lawn
Today was a perfect day to be wearing Parfums de Nicolaï’s Le Temps d’une Fête.
It was not that I had anything in particular to celebrate. It was just a normal working day . But it was a perfect summer’s day where I live. After a crisp morning the temperature rose to a cloudless 29 degrees (84F), and as I write this the evening is still and golden. Days like today are special.
A reviewer on Fragrantica thinks Le Temps d’une Fête (‘the time of a celebration’) is like ‘like a secret party happening on a warm night in May’. I love this idea. It would be a night like tonight, golden and sweet, and you can’t help but follow the sound of laughter rippling from somewhere close by … down there, is it? … across the grass under the trees by the river. Le Temps d’une Fête. This is the time and place for it.
As I was thinking about this today, suddenly the gardening books of Beverley Nichols sprang to mind. Who is he? (Yes, he.) He was all sorts of things: an English author, memoirist, playwright, composer, journalist, gardener, cat fancier, and lover of flowers, especially winter-blooming flowers. He is probably most famous for his gardening books, which are all based (sometimes in a semi-fictionalised way) on various gardens he owned from the 1930s to the 1970s. The first and perhaps the best-known was Down the Garden Path. But they all had the most delightful titles, such as A Village in a Valley, Merry Hall, Laughter on the Stairs, and Sunlight in the Lawn.
The books are not technical manuals, although there is plenty of gardening advice if you want it. They are more like rambles around the garden with the author there to charm you with his gardening lore and wicked gossip about his neighbours. All are written with that classic dry English humour. His first book was about his first garden and he deliberately wrote it swiftly, before he had learned too much about gardens, before he could:
dilate, with tedious prolixity, on the root formation of the winter aconite, instead of trying to catch on paper the glint of its gold through the snow, as I remember it last winter, like a fistful of largesse thrown over a satin quilt.
But Nichols’ life was not all laughter and roses. His father had been an alcoholic and in 1972 Nichols published a book about this (Father Figure). I read it years ago and found it so distressing I’ve blocked out the memory, except that I think Nichols claims that as a child he tried to murder his father.
Perhaps his gardening and his books allowed Nichols distance himself from all that through the joy of planting and creating. His gardening books are a celebration of living.
Le Temps d’une Fête is joyful, but not exactly ‘sunshine in a bottle’, to me at least. The opening is green and a little sharp. Golden sunshine is filtered through deep shade. Top notes are galbanum and opoponax, so there is your green and your honeyed sweet right there. Narcissus and jasmine are at the heart: warm, sexy, human. The base is darkened – ‘earthened’, to my nose – with patchouli, woody notes, sandalwood and (apparently) oakmoss. You won’t turn up to this party in your best frock because with your host you will want to stoop among the flowers, dab the soil, nip a few deadheads and twitch out the odd weed.
Le Temps is not a pretentiously priced fragrance so if you have not already, do try it if you can. Beverley Nichols’ books can often be bought second hand, including on eBay, and an outfit called Timber Press has re-published many of the gardening books.
PS: I do have something to celebrate after all. My bottle of Hermes’ 24 Faubourg arrived! I had been saving up for it. I got the EDP in a 30ml bottle and I think the bottle design works wonderfully in this small size. It is so charming! Yay me.