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Heaven Scent.

It was 1987 and I was flat out busted broke. I had a part time job and the pay was lousy, however hard I tried I couldn't make ends meet and the fact that I was young and silly with a tendency towards shopping when I was sad didn't help. So there I stood in my local chemist. I had half an hour before work and I was feeling panicky as I asked the shop assistant: "What perfume can I buy for three pounds?"

You'd think that the fact I was going to have to go into work with not one drop of perfume on my skin was nothing to get worried about, the buying of food and other necessaries would seem to be a much more practical way of spending those three pounds, but even then they couldn't have bought much, and the tiny bottle of something called L'aimant Eternelle I was able to purchase gave me something. It made me, however down I was, however grey and dreary my life felt, feel feminine and special.

I love perfume, I always have. I have two evocative memories of when I first became aware of it. When I was very tiny my Father had a high-powered job and on occasions my parents would go out to very grand evening parties. I would sit in my parents' bedroom doorway and listen as my Mum got ready for the evening.

I would hear the rustle as she got into her beautiful lilac and black ballgown. I would hear that special sound her pearls made as she took them out of her jewelry box and fastened them around her neck, the clink and clatter of her makeup boxes. Finally I would hear the sound of the bottle of Chanel number 5 being opened. Mum had other perfume but the Chanel was for special occasions. You can't describe the smell really, it just smelt expensive. Sometimes I was allowed to hold the chunky cube shaped bottle, but I was never to open it.

That always made me think of perfume as special, luxurious, something Princesses wore to the ball. Then one day I started to notice lots of people wore it. My Auntie Rene for example. I was still very small at this stage and I noticed that Auntie Rene always smelt like the candy called parma violets: tiny purple candies which you sucked, they had a scenty violet taste. Auntie Rene couldn't always be eating parma Violets, so why did she always smell like that? One day I asked her. She laughed and took me upstairs to her cluttered bedroom that smelt of beeswax, hairspray and, yes, Parma Violets.

She led me over to her dressing-table, telling me to be careful. There were bottles and bottles and bottles there, I decided on the spot that one day I was going to have one just like it. Auntie Rene showed me a long, cylindrical bottle. You pulled off the top and there was a little spray button. In those days, before the hole in the O-Zone layer, perfumes used aerosol sprays so when Auntie Rene sprayed Yardley's April Violets on me it hissed out of the bottle, making a sound that, if I hear it now, I find very nostalgic. I think that was the first time I ever wore perfume. I was smitten.

As I got older I just grew to like it more. In the seventies and eighties you didn't have to spend a fortune, you could get cheap perfume from any drugstore/chemist shop, and pretty awful some of it was! Those endless counters, how I remember, Yardley, Lentheric, Coty, the endless TV adverts which weren't for Couture names but for cheap brands which didn't cost a lot at all.

It was in the early eighties that I first smelt good perfume and knew what it was. Of course, I'd smelt my Mum's Chanel but I'd been too little to appreciate it then. I was staying with some people for a weekend and the lady, on learning I liked perfume, brought out a tiny Flacon, that's the name for a perfume bottle by the way, I don't remember too much about it but I do remember the top, it had a little dipper so that you didn't waste any of the precious, precious liquid inside. This was Joy by Jean Patou, the most expensive perfume in the world. It takes thousands of whole roses and jasmine blossoms to make one ounce of the pure Parfum, which is what this was. I wish I'd known then what I do now! She gave me a teeny drop. i really wish I can remember exactly how it smelt. What i do remember is hard to describe, a floral essence so pure, clear and light that it almost made you cry, and one drop lasted all day.

I smelt Joy years later in a department store but the formula has been changed and it was such a disappointment: powdery, too loudly floral, old-fashioned, I certainly couldn't wear it. I wish I could smell the original Joy again.

There are couture classics that have stood the test of time. Among them shahlimar, Mitzuko, Amarige, Rive Gauche, and of course Chanel number 5. I've learned over the years that I can't wear any of them, they smell terrible on me! That's another thing I love about perfume, it's a mystery. I have a friend who loves Cacharel's Anais Anais. It loves her right back and smells luscious on her with its soft jasmine breeze. On me it smells like toilet cleaner. Conversely though, it seems that perfumes that a lot of people can't wear seem to like me.

The one Couture classic which never lets me down is Saint laurent's Opium. I smelt that in the eighties too when i got to know a glamorous blonde lady who had a glass dressing-table which I seriously coveted! Still do, as a matter of fact! Smile. Opium's heavy, opulent oriental spiciness isnt' for everyone and isn't for anyone, in my opinion, in the summer, but for an evening out or a special occasion it likes me.

The same thing with Thiery Mugler's Angels, all of them, the original in its beautiful crystal blue star flacon, the Angel Garden collection in their standing up coloured star flacons, even Innocence which is just Angel given a freshen up. Lots of people don't like the opulence, the fruity vanilla chocolate but since I smelt it back in the nineties on a never to be forgotten trip to London we've always gotten on fine.

These days I'm finding myself moving away from the heavy decadence and lightening up considerably. I was looking out for a true Orange Blossom fragrance and came across the Jo Malone collection. I now own four and that's not all of them by a long way. French Lime-blossom, nectarine blossom and Honey, White Jasmine and Mint, they really are luscious, subtle and delicate. I've seen reviews where people say they don't last. On me they last all day.

My latest find in the Perfume department came about through a chance mention on Twitter. The name caught my imagination, I did some Googling and now I have three new girls in my life: Dot, Honey and Daisy. These are all perfumes by Marc jacobs and I really don't know which I like most. Dot and Honey are fruity florals, lovely for spring and summer. Daisy is pure, delicate white floral and lovely for any time. There is a fourth girl in this collection, Lola, and I wouldn't be surprised if she doesn't join the Marc Jacobs family before the end of the year!

Life goes on and times change. Now every morning I go through my routine, get clean and tidy, walk into my bedroom which smells not of beeswax and hairspray but of the fresh air coming in through the open window. My dressing-table is clutter free, only my decent jewelry box, make up box and a statue of a fairy holding on her butterfly wings my necklaces, bracelets and earrings stand there. i open the third draw, put my hand in among the multi-coloured, many shaped flacons of perfume which are all stored here to keep them away from the light and at their best.

Now, I think contentedly, what shall I choose today? Ah, how about the Penhaligan's Violetta which Brian bought me for my birthday? I'll wear it in loving memory of Auntie Rene. I select the beautiful mauve flacon with its silken ribbon, take off the top, wait for that tiny waft of essence that you always get, just a promise of better things to come. I aim the nozzle at the pulse point of my throat and gently press down. As the soft, pure violet fragrance surrounds me, like the breath of a meadow in springtime, I marvel that a little water, alcohol and perfumed oil can perform a mini miracle. However I was feeling, just that little piece of magic has done its work. Now, once more, I feel femimine and special.

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