- Holly Searle
- London, United Kingdom
- Holly Searle is a writer who was born in Westminster in the middle of London. She shares her birthday with Jarvis Cocker and David Seaman and like Jarvis Cocker she wears glasses but has nothing whatsoever in common with David Seaman. She is fascinated by words, people and their stories, and regularly spends hours fantasising about being offered a weekly column. She has a degree in Film and Television which she gained from Brunel University in 1997. She has been blessed with two quite remarkable children whom she adores. She enjoys the company of her friends and the circus that is life. Long Walk to Forever by Kurt Vonnegut is her favourite short story. She is the author of the published children's tale The Story of Balan Singh, and is currently working on her first book.
Thursday, 11 February 2016
What a Pen and Ink By Holly Searle
In Patrick Süskind novel Perfume, his protagonist Jean-Baptiste Grenouille possesses an exceptional sense of smell that enables him to rise from his poverty stricken beginnings to become the toast of the perfume trade in France. If you know this story, you'll know that is doesn't end well. His desire to create the ultimate perfume is met when he smells the most sublime scent he has ever encountered. The only issue is, that it is the scent of a flame haired young woman. He becomes so obsessed with capturing her essence, that he unwittingly becomes an 18th century French serial killer who stalks innocent red headed virgins, whom he then murders in order to distil their essence with which to make the ultimate perfume.
He’s no Tom Ford, that’s for sure.
Historically the perfume industry in France had been a big deal since the 14th century, prior to wafting its delightful smells across the rest of Europe.
Although he is a work of fiction, Jean-Baptiste shared the same keen sense of smell as Elizabeth I whom detested the vile smells that emanated from her subjects and their surroundings. So much so that she introduced the use of perfume, which she advised them to use in order to cover up all of their noxious nastiness.
I bet Liz would have loved a bit of Shake n Vac in the palace.
Ironically she had a fine head of red hair and was of course known as the Virgin Queen. How weird then that Jean-Baptiste was trying to create a perfume from red headed virgins to produce a more fragrant France. They probably would have had a lot to discuss given their political and personal hygiene choices.
Fast forward to now, and to modern society. The perfume industry is big business. Every celebrity, sports star or pop puppet who possesses a well-oiled media constructed identity has a perfume for sale in every high street chemist or duty free lounge in the First World.
It's all part of the marketing master plan to get those who wish to mimic the unobtainable lifestyles of their heroes or heroine, to part with their hard earned cash. Or supposedly smell like them.
But do they?
I doubt very much that these nasty chemically synthesised pongs are ever dabbed behind the ears of those heroes or heroines. No, I am pretty sure they're not. If I had their cash, I'd be hiring the best perfumiers in the world to make my own. And let's face it, with all that revenue from the sale of my stinky mass produced whiff, I could probably afford to do exactly that.
About 12 years ago, I started suffering from migraines. I use the term suffering loosely as if you have ever had a migraine, you do not just have a headache, and you have a full blown pick axe in the head nauseating pain in your poor brain that means that you cannot speak or function as you would otherwise.
They are crippling, so much so, that I have ended up in A&E before now, begging and pleading for some assistance to help relieve the pain.
On two occasions, they have been so bad, that as I have laid my head down onto my pillow, I have prayed that I would still be alive in the morning.
They are horrible and nasty. When I get one, the first sign is usually when the bridge of my nose and the area around my eye sockets starts to hurt. This discomfort spreads to my head and creates a pain so immense, that I am unable to perform the simplest task. Even turning my head is a pain filled effort that makes me feels physically sick. I cannot speak, I cannot see. I cannot eat. I simply have to lie down in a dark room and sleep it off.
Migraines are caused for me in the most part by smells. More often than not, these smells derive from this modern obsession that people appear to have in covering themselves in foul smelling synthetic perfumes that would have made Jean-Baptiste weep.
I now avoid taking the bus to work on purpose and walk as these walking tester sticks are a nightmare that my nostrils can't abide. One whiff of some office worker who has literally bathed in Eau d'celebrity, and I risk being saddled with a migraine for the following two days. When I get to work, I risk the same outcome if I venture into the ladies. In there it is a twofold nose assault course with young fillies’ busy topping up their foul pre-work spray fest, or due to the air freshening dispenser that fills the air with an acrid vile odour that is more offensive than copping a sniff of someone’s poo.
Why are we so obsessed with covering ourselves, and the smells we naturally produce, with these unnatural rancid smellies?
And why aren’t people just content to use soap and water anymore?
There is a scene in Se7en where Detectives Mills and Somerset discover the near dead victim of John Doe’s. The victim is laying on a bed above which hangs an assortment of Magic Tree car fresheners. This scene used to make me wince due to the content of their horrifying discovery. But now it just makes me squirm: as I well know exactly the effect those Magic Trees would have on my nose, resulting in a full-blown migraine attack.
I do however like a nice perfume. In my 80’s hay day, I used to collect perfumes. I simply adored them. I had hundreds of bottles of the classic fragrances that were produced by many of the haute couture French fashion houses. Some of these perfumes no longer exist. Back in the 80’s celebrities didn’t bring out their own perfumes. Back then, we just had stars and personalities. And whilst stars may have worn a dab or two of Chanel No 5 (and nothing else in bed), personalities didn’t even endorse a bottle of 4711. And yes alright, maybe it’s all Henry Cooper and Keven Keegan’s fault for splashing Brut all over themselves that made way for this modern evil.
No matter who we are, or what we do, or what we have in the bank: we quite like to imagine what it might be like to be someone else. So when we buy these nasty niffs, we are buying into a little bit of this fantasy.
However, unlike those classic haute couture posh pongs, these modern pretenders are made of unnatural and nasty synthetic chemicals that can cause harm to sensitive flowers like me.
So please humanity, stop using what smells like a bottle a day of these rancid poisons because you want to be like a little bit more like your latest celebrity crush.
And to the air freshening industry, please stop insisting that I inhale your idea of what citrus fruits smell like.
Please, please, please will you all try and spray a tiny bit less in consideration of those of us who suffer in the silence of dark rooms.
Just like Jean-Baptiste, it should be as clear as the nose on your face, that some smells are not always so pleasing.
But unfortunately for me, and my nose it isn’t.