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.

13 thoughts on “Sunlight on the lawn

  1. Congratulations – on your new bottle, your perfect warm day and a great perfume that fits it perfectly.

    I like Le Temps d’une Fête and have a small decant of it but for me it’s not a sunny perfume; it’s not even a deep shade-y perfume. For me it’s dark and cool scent. But maybe I should try wearing it on a perfectly sunny day and see how it feels?

    1. Yes, maybe. Perfumes do react differently according to season and weather, or at least that has been my experience. So do you find Le Temps foresty? That would be fun too, a secret party in a forest … ooohh!

      1. Adding: thanks for your congrats. I love the new little member of my perfume family. Hope the others don’t get too jealous …

  2. Wonderful review! Nicolai is a master at creating a well layered intricate fragrance, I haven’t smelled this one, but what you’re describing is exactly how difficult it is to nail down some of her others. Pour Homme in particular is a simple concept with so much going on, it’s best described using tones and feeling rather than notes. Which is the exciting part, the magic that happens when the notes become more than the sum of it’s parts.

    1. I’ve only tried a few but I’m planning to try a lot more soon. I really agree with you about the magic. The tones and feelings matter much more than notes, for me at least. That’s why I wear perfume.

  3. Very lovely writing, Anne Marie. Also, thank you for the introduction to Beverley Nichols: I’ve never heard of him, but his books sound delightful (except for the one about his father, of course, but good for him for writing that one and getting it out of his system).

    And my heartiest congrats on your purchase of 24, Faubourg, a personal favorite of mine. I love the bottle design too! (I don’t have one of the limited edition bottles, just the regular one for the edp, and its gorgeous).

    1. Thanks Suzanne, I just re-read your gorgeous review of 24F ( for anyone who has not read it). ‘Something worth having’ indeed. Something worth saving for and feeling proud thereafter to own. You have also reminded me that I must order some orange blossom honey!

      Hope you get a chance to try Beverly Nichols’ books. Yu don’t have to be a gardener to enjoy them, although it helps if you are.

      1. Adding: there seem to have been a few LE bottles of 24F over the years but the original is really lovely, as you say, nothing to be disappointed. I love the way the 30 ml EDP bottle seems to twinkle at me so prettily.

        1. Anne Marie, yes, there have been quite a few limited edition bottles, and a few years back, I was shopping for a bottle of 24 Faubourg on Amazon and found a couple bottles where they were actually selling the bottle along with a 24 Faubourg silk scarf. (In other words, not the limited edition “scarf bottle” but a regular bottle along with a scarf designed to go with it.) And I am kicking myself for not getting it, because this was apparently at a time when 24 Faubourg wasn’t on people’s minds, and Amazon had this for a song (compared to what it would fetch now). Soooo stupid of me not to get it, but I think I was probably on a budget at the time and just sprang for the perfume.

          Patou used to sell some of their perfumes with silk scarves too … and yes, I idiotically passed those over as well.

  4. Those gardening books sound like a hoot. I shall have to look him up. It was nice to read about your celebratory-for-no-particular-reason day; those are great days! My respect for PdN is growing and growing, so I can understand how wearing one of her frags would enhance the mood. Congrats on the new Hermes, too!

    1. Thanks Natalie, and thanks for your comments. Continuing a theme, my next sample order is going to be some more Nicolais (Number One and Maharanih, I think), and Hermes’ Amazone. Both houses offer quality fragrances at relatively reasonable prices. I’ve been a bit disillusioned recently with some new niche houses and their high prices.

  5. It’s nice to know, from reading your charming post here, that people are discovering Beverly Nichols again. His books were one of the reasons that I started gardening. He was so consistently funny, and delightful, and had that intimate sense of what exactly was going on in his back garden, down to the last ailing primrose, that it made you want to have the same kind of connection with your plot of ground.
    And of course Le Temps d’une Fete is a wonderful perfume to pair with a Nichols book. A perfume orchestrating Spring flowers in chorus, he would have loved that…

    1. How wonderful to hear from another Nichols reader, and thanks for your kind comment. You are right – his books are so joyful. You feel you can’t just sit inside and not join in. I wonder if in his personal habits Nichols might have been a bit of a dandy at times? I can imagine him being rather careful about the cologne he chose to scent his handkerchiefs. All the same, he would be happiest outside among the flowers and the soil. He’d probably think that the garden is where the best scents are to be found.

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