Time changes and gradually an increasing number of what I regarded as simple pleasures are now denied me. I am not an unreasonable man and I quite understand why our legislators saw fit to discourage us from drinking a bottle of Scotch and then driving ourselves home. Likewise, I am alive to the hazards of smoking on the London Underground, but I continue to chafe at the restriction placed upon my enjoyment of the occasional postprandial cigar.
Still, I suppose I can shock any grandchildren I might have with the news that I am old enough to have known a time when people used to smoke on planes and in cinemas, and when the government ran public information films dissuading the nation from enjoying a cigarette in bed for fear that the entire country would go up in smoke one night.
However, just as I am dragged harrumphing into grudging acceptance of the restriction placed up on the enjoyment of the torcedor’s art, I receive news that another of my consolations is under threat. I was alerted to the possible discontinuation of one of my favourite scents by Dorothy Gaffney, a Californienne and art historian for whom I have had soft spot ever since she told me how much she liked a book I wrote about Count d’Orsay some years ago – an appeal to my vanity is seldom made in... well... vain.
The fragrance in question is Coup de Fouet by Caron and the gist of Miss Gaffney’s alarming message was that some ingredient or other had been suspected of carrying health risks. Even though these days I am more of an Ormonde Jayne Oris Noir man, I continue to dabble in scents by Charvet, Creed and Caron and when I have time I fragrance my watchstraps with Coup de Fouet – a wonderfully rich and room-filling scent of such headiness that I used to need a lie down after applying it. But now I am habituated to its puissance. I was introduced to Coup de Fouet by the great Nicky Haslam – a one-man encyclopaedia on matters of taste.
Of course, on hearing the news I swooned. Luckily, I was reclining on my daybed toying with a cup of white tip tea, so no lasting harm was done. And once I had been revived with a few dabs of eau de cologne to the temples, I placed a call to Chris Hawksley of The Orange Square Company, importer of Caron into the UK, who told me that the legislation on ingredients in perfumes had been in force for some years and that while he very much doubted Coup de Fouet was of exactly the same composition as in the 1950s, he had not heard that it was being discontinued.
All the same, I will be stockpiling a couple of hundred litres in order that, after I have regaled my grandchildren with tales of how people used to set fire to tobacco leaves in restaurants and the workplace and inhale the vapours, I will be able to demonstrate how the really foolhardy among us used to flirt with death by applying perfumed unguents to our bare skin.