There was a time when I would go round to someone’s house and only notice the smell if they had a wet dog or, like the old lady who lived round the corner, had smoked heavily for so many years the tobacco had seeped into the wallpaper. (That lady also had a statue of a panther in her living room - visiting her was disturbing in so many ways).
These days, no matter how small and grotty my friends' apartments might be (it's London after all), my nostrils are caressed on entry by the most gratifying scents. Jasmine, gardenia and pomegranate vie for attention. In the bathroom, sitting politely on the top of the loo, is one of those pots with bits of wood sticking out, gently releasing its fragrant oils. The chemical fumes of a Tesco air-freshener will no longer cut it - olfactory bliss is the order of the day.
I can’t tell if this is a modern phenomenon or if it’s simply to do with getting older. While I think nothing of blowing £60 on a new dress, I baulk at spending the same on some scented wax. My friends however, have grown up. A fragrant home is as valuable and uplifting to them as a fantastic new frock. But isn’t it all a kind of vanity? As we learn to care a little less about our appearance do we transpose those hang-ups onto our unwitting homes?
I now find that I am ashamed of having people over if there aren’t candles guttering in every alcove. I linger in the homeware section of Selfridges, agonizing over the unbelievable expense of a DiptyQue candle. These ancient lumps of light have been elevated to exorbitant luxuries and we have lapped it up, almost as if their heady aromas have hypnotised.
The other day I caved and bought a candle whose wick crackles to emulate the sounds of a roaring fire - what kind of middle-class hell have I succumbed to?
P.s. The restaurant, “Restaurant Story”, serves a candle starter. The candle is made of beef dripping that, when lit, forms of a pool of delicious molten fat in which to dunk bread. Now that’s my kind of candle.