Something has changed. You don’t get a sunburn when you sip your lemonade in the garden at noon without any sunscreen, you don’t even get a tan any longer, the ice cubes in your lemonade aren’t killed by the sun either, and later in the day, at dinner, when you can rarely see what’s on your plate, it’s not your eyesight that has gone, it’s the sunlight, vanished, at half past eight, of course nobody thought of candles, who thinks of candles in summer (apart from Diptyque’s scented Figuier candles to make up for the missing fig trees in your garden that smell so much like summer in the Mediterranean), so you manage without, facing the fact that summer is gone, autumn is ante portas, you can’t ignore it any longer, you have had proof, the garden’s been full of spider webs, for days (or weeks?), the roses are moribund, their petals have turned from shocking pink to some sort of beige, from Schiaparelli to Chanel so to speak, the hydrangeas have changed from a bright white to a mossy green, leaves have started to come down, so did the ripe walnuts, they’re falling on your head or in your tea, sometimes you hear some squirrels laugh about that, mocking you and your inappropriate need to have breakfast outside, however cold and grey the morning is, your coughing might turn into pneumonia, if you don’t start to wear a pullover, no white after Labour Day, they say, what utter nonsense, your t-shirt’s blue, a dark, intense blue, quite to the black side, not navy, more a Chanel blue, a bleu Chanel, definitely not white, do you hear me, it’s not white at all, why can’t I wear a blue t-shirt after Labour Day?
In 1982, I was 14 years old and we got our first cat, a black beauty that I named Schiaparelli, although, truth be told, no alternative facts here, I pronounced it German, not Italian. Not at all Italian. At the time I only spoke German and French, and some Luxembourgish if you consider that a language. Still, I was a huge fan of Elsa Schiaparelli although I can’t recall when I first heard about her, she wasn’t in fashion at all then, I suppose it was an article in some smart magazine, for instance, I was deeply fond of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Magazine at that time, I cut out a photo of a young, barely dressed, or probably naked Jean Marais from it, photographed by Horst. Years later, as a student at university, I had it on my kitchen wall, still fond of the young Marais. Anyway, Schiaparelli was the loveliest cat ever. Utterly elegant. And believe it or not, she always – always! – smelled like my mother’s loose Christian Dior powder, I think it’s been discontinued, 600 Plus Qu’Invisible, at the time still sold in these pink old school boxes, completely old fashioned even at that time, we all wondered how she did it, she would come in after extended walks in the neighbourhood, after days sometimes, she was quite a tramp, from rain or snow, her paws covered in mud and dirt, but she always smelled like Dior. But don’t judge her by that alone. She was quite destructive. She mocked the craftsmanship of my mother’s antique prie dieu, a kneeler from the 1850s whose original upholstery she made look as if Jeanne d’Arc had left it behind in battle, but we left it that way, she seemed to enjoy her iconoclasm, it was only restored after her death, in black silk cotton, in a neverending mourning period style. I think Elsa would have liked her, Coco Chanel maybe not so much.
Christmas is nothing but a neverending dinner party, you never seem to leave the table, you’re stuck with opulent entrées followed by opulent game followed by opulent desserts, you have your glasses filled and filled again, you’re in a time vacuum in which you might have changed your clothes or even your fragrance, but you aren’t quite sure, have you? Different guests appear on the stage, others seem to have left, but when? You never know, the candles on the Christmas tree burn perpetually.
This year, however, this sempiternity was forever interrupted by Alma, the dachshund. Alma made me forget about eating and asking the person next to me for more wine, instead she had me crawl under the table where I metabolized most of the dinners by cuddling her ears, asking myself why I don’t have a dachshund, a question much more important than what the meaning of life is, as this one has obviously been answered, it’s to have a dachshund called Alma. While I tried to give her lop-ears the shape of Elsa Schiaparelli’s high-heeled shoe hat, still under the table while another dessert was being served, my mother’s famous Charlotte Russe, I promised Alma two dachshund boys for company, Gustav and Franz, some kind of ménage à trois of convenience, as I was sure she was a reincarnation of Alma Mahler-Werfel, and she surely had some unfinished business with these guys. I grabbed my iPhone and we listened to Mahler’s fifth symphony, and later to his Kindertotenlieder, ignoring the comments from upstairs, all these people wondering if I had lost my mind completely. Dachshunds are very loyal.