Perfume

I know I dreamt. And I know that they were complex, rich experiences. But I cannot catch them. Not this morning. Though there was something. Something about perfume. I had a lover. I wanted to ready myself for him and reached for some perfume. It wasn’t my usual one. I recall delving into some luxurious, velvety material to find the bottle and thinking I can’t wear this, it isn’t my usual scent, he won’t recognise me by it. An image undoubtedly inspired by a scene from one of the Midwife series we have been watching where a man blinded by an accident on the docks calls out for his wife after recognising her fragrance. They had made a big thing about his sense of smell being heightened by his blindness, I can smell every tea leaf in this cup of tea, he says to the nurse, but it still didn’t ring true. It unsettled me. Would she, a baker’s assistant in the East End in the early 1960s have been able to afford perfume? It must’ve stuck with me. And then there was my beginning to read Deborah Maggoch’s Tulip Fever at work yesterday. An intense immersion in all that sumptuous sexiness. (Though to be honest, I know I was meant to find it so, but I didn’t, not really, though the writing is gorgeous.) That, no doubt provided my dream with the sensuousness of the material. Nothing comes from nothing they say.

The harbour stank of fish this morning. I’d seen a dark line the morning before, seemingly coming from underneath one of the sheds. I leaned in closer, even retraced my steps. Was it oil, or worse, blood? No, it was fish. It stank. To high heaven, as my mother would’ve said. And it wasn’t coming from one of the sheds but a trailer outside. Had they been gutting the fish there? And the sea too, on the Perygyl reeked. A brackish, salty, clammy, mouldy smell. Is it the warmer mornings that is increasing the potency of smells?

I walked out with music this morning. I hummed and haa-ed. Isn’t it better to be alive to all, to hear all? But I longed for music, to be distracted. A new tactic against anxiety. I don’t have it loud. I can still hear the outside, though I didn’t see the taxi turning and had to stop him, my hand raised in apology as I crossed in front of him. But I did still hear the oystercatchers peep-peeping across the beach. I walked out to Kate Bush’s Big Sky. Caterwauling, my mother used to call it. Turn off that caterwauling, she’d shout up the stairs. It was fantastic. I yelled silently along with her.

There’s a front garden along Llanbadarn Road that has a crop of enormous Mexican poppies. Bright red they are. More and more are opening out. The hard, almost prehistoric-looking hairy shells are falling off to reveal the silken petticoats of petals beneath. Their cores are inky black, blue-black.

I have much to do. To send out seeds of questions, requests and favours. I don’t know what will come back. Maybe nothing. It brought me down yesterday. I could…I thought, why not? Then tiredness saps me, and the doubts weigh down my shoulders and my precious optimism. I can but try. And try I must. I will ask. I will send out my requests. All they can say is no.

Be, and be not afraid, sings Tracy Chapman.