Saturday, January 23, 2010

A mixed, if ripe, bag

The vet warned me: "Do not spill this, it smells like ferret."
"What does ferret smell like?"
Easing off the cap, she waves the wee bottle under my nose, like a saucy red.
"Holy smokes, that's Mustelidae, alright."
The Missus, despite my warnings, had to yank off the cap; now the kitchen smells like a mink farm. I think fire will be the only recourse...

There is a novel about the sense of smell : Perfume, by Patrick Suskind, translated from the German. It takes place in pre-revolutionary France, and is about a creature named Jean-Baptiste Grenouille,"one of the most gifted and abominable personages in an era that knew no lack of gifted and abominable personages". He was born to a fishwife in Paris, and he had no scent at all: no baby smell, nothing. He has a gift, though: a gift of a perfect nose, able to discern the smallest components of a scent, especially perfume. Once he grows up, he becomes a serial killer so he can extract a personal scent. Pretty wild stuff.

My brother used to work for SB Thomas, a baking company that makes English muffins, pita bread ("Know what pita means, Scott? Pain in the a**"! Apparently, a tricky process involving air..), and other bread products. I used to enjoy my brief visits to the plant, as the smell of cooking bread brought memories back, memories of bread baking in our house. Scent is a great trigger. I found a bottle of English Leather, an aftershave big in the late sixties and seventies ("All my men wear English Leather, or they wear nothing at all"), in a box in the guest bath. One whiff and I was on the way-back machine, back to those heady stylin' days. Further rummaging (in another room) yielded a can that held 'Balkan Sobranie', my favorite pipe tobacco (Latakia gives it that tar smell) when I used the stuff.

Talk about memories. I am having great fun re-acquainting myself with Samuel Taylor Coleridge. I last read him in my early twenties for a seminar on he and Wordsworth . One of my prized possessions is a rock from Skiddaw. The recent cold snap has made me dig out my Everyman Coleridge and his masterpiece "Frost at Midnight", amongst others. His words warm me. It is interesting to approach authors at different stages of one's life (except for Thomas Wolfe: that is another screed ). The passage of years has yielded publication of STC's 'Notebooks' . They are chock full of aphoristic scribblings,proposed writings (STC had many plans which did not come to fruition), etc. which illustrate the depth and power of STC's mind.


Barrett Bonden said...

You don't explain what you were doing with mustelidae in the first place. But you don't have to. One of the great rules: always leave your readers wanting more. Of that you are a pastmaster.

Used to wrorry that they were always labelled English muffins, as if Americans were just waiting to attach blame to this inoffensive foodstuff. But this form of warfare is more developed between the Brits and the French. In France VD is called la maladie anglaise so you can guess what it's called at the other side of the Channel.

I suppose the question I should ask is did you get anywhere wearing English Leather? Was it thought manly enough? A successor to this form of male garnish was called British Sterling, or some such. The killer was the slogan: "Make him a legend in his own time." uttered in a terribly poncy Homes Counties accent. It became one of those touchstones of pretentiousness between Mrs BB and me.

You have a rock from Skiddaw? The land of my youth and of the Outward Bound Mountain School where I spent a month. Some great mountain names: Scafell, Helvellyn, Blencathra and the best lake name of all - Wastwater. I prepared STC's essays for an online library; huge demands on understanding the more recherché features of Microsoft Word, notably how to deal with footnotes.

Relucent Reader said...

Thank you, BB for your comments.
The mustelidae smellin' extract was prescribed for a lame cat, she has no qualms about lapping it up from her food.The ' leave 'em wanting more' comes from my booktalking to teenagers, where we try to 'hook' them on a particular book, and reading (and library use) in general.

In re: British and French 'warfare': just read Stephen Clarke's A Year in the Merde, a very funny dispatch from that multi-generational scrap.

HAHA, the 'Leather had no effect on making females notice me. I remember British Sterling!

Yes a rock, and great memories. Another book,such a book dork : just read Wings on Windermere, the fascinating story of Short Aircraft's flying boat factory there.

Amazing, another thread between us (STC's shade smiles): which online library? What a mind he had....

Barrett Bonden said...

The online library is The Electric Book Company, run by a pal of mine based in London. The home page tells you everything you need to know.