Thursday, 18 July 2013

Dark, fragrant fiction - Jean Lindsay, Guest Writer

Those of you who read Jean Lindsay's fragrant memoir of her mother's precious Soir de Paris (Evening in Paris), enjoyed her evocative descriptions of life as a young girl in the 1950s. Writing once more for Odiferess, Jean reveals the darker side of her literary works. 
Be warned, you may never wear Lutens Gris Clair or Penhaligons Bluebell again!

I first noticed it last Tuesday when I came home from work. Imagine you are painting a stormy seascape. Take some Paynes grey, mix a loose wash and then with a large brush, say a hake, drag the wash right along the top of your paper. Part of it will seep in and part of it will run down. Thats exactly the effect on the wall. Running right along, under the cornice, which incidentally is beautiful, left white thank goodness, very ornate, early Victorian I would say.
s very elegant- my flat- well bed sitting room I suppose. In its halcyon days, when the house contained a family, before its main artery was severed and it was chopped into several dwellings, it must have been the master bedroom. It has a wide bay window looking out onto the front garden where a large beech tree spreads its fingers and they almost touch the window. I feel as if Im in the middle of a wood.
My bed is in one corner, covered in an old silk bedspread; Vermillion with Chinese embroidery in Jade and gold. The carpets are ancient and the furniture is carved walnut, heavy and dark but in keeping with the house.
s a large table under the widow and the light is excellent, ideal for my painting. The whole place exudes an aura of faded grandeur. It will suit me for a while anyway. Until I get over things.
Anyway, I stood on a chair to get a better look at the mark, relieved to find it wasn
t damp. I was afraid that the water tank may have burst in the loft.
By the weekend the grey had spread down the wall. The landlord had given me his number, only to be used in an emergency, but this seemed serious enough to me. He lives out in the dales somewhere. In a stately pile I should think, if all his rents are as high as mine. He said that my room was the best in the house on account of it being over his private apartment, thought I might like the peace and quiet, being a bit older than his usual bed sit tenants. He collects the rents on the first Saturday of the month and stays over in the flat. Probably has a floozy on the side. He seemed a touch off hand when I rang him. Assured me there was no damp in the house and had I been doing some DIY that had gone wrong. I replied that I certainly had not. I
m not the DIY type. He said hed come and inspect it, but not for a few weeks as he was going off on a golfing holiday to the Algarve and would I put the rent cheque through his letterbox.
Yes this room will be fine. I
m glad I made the move. I couldnt bear to stay in the house without her… How can you live with someone and not realize theyre in love with someone else? They were going to live in Ireland - her and the new man, some where remote on the West coast. She didnt want any thing from the house - new start she said.
I couldn
t get rid of her perfume after shed gone. I could smell it every where. I put all her clothes in bin bags and took them down to the RSPCA shop. She loved her clothes -always immaculate - that was one of the first things I noticed about her. Jewellery too, all of it went. The cosmetics went in the bin, bottles jars, hair dye - that was a surprise. Id no idea she had so much stuff and even when I got rid of I could still smell her perfume. It seemed to have permeated deep into the drawers and the wardrobes and the bed - especially the bed, the place where we had made love…passionately… right up until the time that she told me she was leaving - shocked me that.
I put the house on the market straight away. It sold quickly as I knew it would. It was a lovely house. Ten years we
d been there. Id planted an orchard with bluebells, always thought wed have kids one day and pictured them picking apples in the autumn.
The young couple who bought it were starting out, so I left them everything,
carpets furniture - the lot. They were grateful.
Morris called me into his office today. Asked me how I was coping on my own. I told him fine. He said but on a scale of one to ten. I said oh about six, and he said why didn
t I go home with him tonight and have a meal. Wednesdays his wifes Yoga night and she leaves him a casserole in the oven, we could have a chat over a good bottle of shiraz. I told him thanks but I had to get home to the flat. I had a problem with my walls they were going grey.
The bus was crowded tonight. It
s unnerving being in such close proximity to strangers. I dont like my personal space being invaded, but I expect Ill get used to it.
I got rid of the car, there didn
t seem much point in keeping it. Im only a couple of miles from the office, the bus is handy and its a relief not having parking problems.
I went into the City last weekend, bought lots of new clothes, a suit for work, shirts ties, that sort of thing and some casual stuff for weekends. I binned my old things, I could still smell her perfume on them. The grey has spread to the other walls now. It
s most odd.
There must be other people living in the house although I never see them. Their entrance will be round the back. I occasionally hear music through the adjoining wall, but only faintly. That
s the advantage of an old house. The walls are very thick. I suppose I could go round one night and see if any one else is having problems with the walls, but I dont really want to get involved with neighbours.
I got soaked tonight walking from the bus stop. It looked like a nice day, so I didn
t take my umbrella. Ill put my take away in the oven and have a shower, thatll warm me up. I can eat in my dressing gown. Its quite liberating knowing that no ones going to call. Theres a Chinese take away, a curry house and a chip shop all near by. I never need to cook. The grey is in the shower cubicle now. It has a strong smell I cant quite place.
Morris called me into his office again today. Asked how I was progressing with the plans for the new ring road. Said he thought I
d have had the outline plans finished by now. I told him Id get a move one, but Id been having headaches these last few weeks and theyd slowed me down a little. I said I was still having problems with my walls. He said that he thought some time off was in order, he knew Id been under a lot of pressure lately and why didnt I pop along and see my GP and hed get David Carter to finish off the plans as the City Council were pushing for completion.
I won
t set the alarm tonight. Ill have a rest in the morning. I am feeling a little stressed, but theres no need to the see the doctor.
The grey has started to creep across the ceiling now. I lie on my back and watch it travel.
s strange being home in the daytime. Ive been sitting by the bay window painting the beech. Its so beautiful. The leaves are fully out now and when the sunlight hits them theyre almost fluorescent. I struggled getting the exact green, I got it eventually - Lemon Yellow with just a spot of Viridian. Its a lovely window, very elegant; long panels with opening lights in stained glass above. The problem is that when I open them the noise of the traffic is unbearable, so I have to keep them closed and it gets hot. I still dont understand why she didnt tell me she was unhappy. She said that shed tried to, but I didnt listen. I said how can you just fall out of love with some one, and she said it was easy when they were on another planet. I still dont know what she meant by that.
s so hot this morning. Ill lie on the bed for a while. I dont even need to get dressed, Im not going any where. All the walls are grey now and so is the ceiling. Id have a shower but the waters grey and smells too. I dont feel clean however hard I scrub.
s getting dark now. It might be late or it might be the grey, Its shading the windows like a veil. I recognise the smell now. Its the smell of earth and bluebells. Yes… of course thats it,…wet earth and bluebells. It was raining that afternoon and I got drenched to the skin. She was only about five foot, petite I suppose youd call her, but the grave took a lot of digging. I picked the bluebells first, she loved bluebells. I covered her with them, all except her beautiful face. She looked so serene.
I can smell her perfume on the pillow again. I thought I
d got rid of it - so strong - Its’s as if she’s here in the room.
The grey is covering the carpets now and rising like fog. I can feel the chill and smell the stench.
s on my feet now, theyre going numb. I raise my hands and note the distended grey veins. Its found its way into my bloodstream. Up my legs now. I cup my testicles in my right hand and grasp my flaccid penis. There is no feeling. I’m floating in a cloud of perfume, I can hardly breathe. Ill lie here quietly and wait. It wont be long.

Jean Lindsay

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