Private Soap Opera

In 1998, I was looking for a Christmas gift for my father, when, sometimes that happens, I ran out of ideas and, coincidentally and quite by chance, Hermès had just launched their Rocabar men’s cologne, a very elegant fragrance that seemed perfect for my father. All problems solved. I bought the entire range. My father was delighted and smelled fine for weeks and months.

Today, however, when looking for a new piece of soap at my parents’ place, I found one of these gifts still untouched: the matching soap, stuffed in a drawer, next to various cosmetic items like tooth brushes, dental floss, lotion tonique aux plantes, toothpaste (white, extra white, and diamond white), shampoo (dandruff, extra volume, extra body, and some arctic prunes elixir), and other little helpers that we can’t live without, it has been waiting for the last 21 years to be finally taken out of the box and into the shower. I guess, some things just seem to need the right moment…

The black letter.

I did the impossible, I finished Proust! I finished! I finished Marcel Proust! I am so proud of myself!

Well, as you might have found out by now, I didn’t finish À la recherche du temps perdu, no, of course not, I’m still trapped in one of those extended Guermantes reflections of his, I only finished Jean Santeuil, one might call it Proust for beginners, it should set them at ease as Proust himself didn’t finish that one either, writing, I mean, not just reading it. So, obviously he was a quitter, too. Ha! But I don’t give up that easily, and from now on, I’ll start wearing this Étrivière Double Tour by Hermès to remind me of my literary shortcomings. If ever I succeed in finishing Proust’s masterpiece, all volumes, all of them, all of these three thousand pages, I shall take it off again. Until then, it’s going to serve as a scarlet letter for everybody to see what a quitter I am — damn, I have to finish Hawthorne, too. Damn!

Hamburg‘s fish market.

One day, strolling through Hamburg’s Neuer Wall, I came, quite by chance, across some deep sea fish. Despite their vivid colours they seemed to be smothering, their mouths gasped for air, their eyes were wide open in fear of death, a very realistic illustration of the stress put on fish by, well, fishing. Now, Hamburg is known for its Fischmarkt, you can find almost anything in the shadow of the 100-year old fish auction hall, but I wasn’t expecting anything like it on display in the Hermès windows on Neuer Wall, obviously, I had come across some fine ichthyology, quite haut de gamme. I was hooked, quite literally, I was reeled in, so to say, and was set free again some minutes later, a little poorer, but with Grands Fonds in its orange box, I was quite at ease, not only had I a new scarf in splendid colours, but also had I learned that there’s a lot to see in the deep blue sea, and that the depicted fish were all still very much alive.

Healthy decorating.

Last weekend, I made some minor interior decorating changes, and some major ones. As for the minor ones, my DVD player is now placed on my Hermès magazines, collected for some many a year, decades even, now finally they have a purpose, and I spare the money for the matching Marcel Breuer Bauhaus table on which the TV set is placed a floor above, so to speak. Then I hall chaired a corner in the living room, scented it with Diptyque’s Benjoin, benzoin, by the way, is the best of scents, and turquoised it with a tiny tray, wooden and lacquered, made in Vietnam, it’s from Hermès in Zurich, achat spontané, and finally, here comes the major change in style: I put apples in a bowl that has been empty ever since I bought it when spending two weeks on the Maldives in 2006. Have more apples, organic of course, that’s my new motto. Healthwise and decorwise.

Brides de Gala.

If I were to name a truly successful design, I’d pick Hermès’ Brides de Gala print. It has had more comebacks than Shirley MacLaine and every single one of them was well received. Huge box office successes. This one is my mother’s from the early 1970s. It’s been around the globe twice and has met a lot of dry cleaners. It saw The Godfather not on DVD or on Netflix but at a cinema when it first came out. It was knotted around my mother’s neck the day Richard Nixon took his last helicopter ride aboard “Marine One” after leaving the White House for good. And although the style of politics and movies has changed a lot since then, it hasn’t aged a bit. Just take a look at the quality of that silk.

Marlene in Paris.

In 1936, Marlene Dietrich entered a jeweller’s shop in Paris and uttered some unforgettable words to me: “I would like to see some pearls”. Some pearls. Not to necessarily buy any, just to see some, in a tone that left no doubt about having some infinite riches on her hands, while suavely smiling, with that ironic twinkle of hers, not in her eye, but in her lips, unmatched sophistication and wit, the sort of smile that demands an IQ way above average, quite Einsteinesque a brain, just with a much better hair-do, or, in that particular case, a hat by Travis Banton, of course, later in that movie it turns out she’s utterly broke, anyway, I was deeply impressed. Deeply. In 1999, I entered the Hermès shop in Cologne, uttering the words “I would like to see some cufflinks.”, but it just wasn’t the same. I had aimed too high. But now that you know about my connection to Marlene Dietrich, I give you Flammarion’s edition of Pierre Passebon’s collection of some of the best photographs ever taken of her, the collection’s still on display in Paris, until February 25th at Maison Européenne de la Photographie in Paris. But if you can’t make it to 5-7, rue de Fourcy in the Marais within the next 48 hours, you just enter a bookshop and repeat after me: “I would like to see some photographs of Marlene Dietrich.”

The magic of Lake Lucerne.

Lake Lucerne, like any other lake, looks best in summer. Then, the scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, the clear, transparent water, there is no lake cleaner than in Switzerland, believe you me, I swam in it, it’s gorgeous, anyway, the high mountains, topped with snow, the lush trees that line its border, the figs, chestnuts, yuccas and cypresses, the intensely blue sky, insanely blue even, everything looks just majestic, as I said, in summer. In winter, it looks something like that, grey and shapeless, you might say, or quite bewitching, if you have a liking for anything mystic, romantic and enchanted, then it might be impossible to resist its allure, you’re facing a magic realm, by the way, are these old willows on the border or the Erl-Kings daughters? Don’t blame these streaks of fog, your sight is not deceived, you might find yourself entering a different world, out of touch, disconnected, ethereal spheres will take you in and never let you go, so beware, these cruising boats might never come back, leaving you behind in that gloomy place, you might want to change your plans and stay ashore, you will find some enchantment here too, just head for Hermès, the store is right there, just follow the voices coming through the withering leaves, we have many a golden robe for you …

It’s a bird‘s world.

The Bible, which I have never been too fond of, says birds don’t put seeds in the earth, which, pardon my bursting out into laughter, is so completely wrong, it’s such utter nonsense, as of course they do, this is how trees and stuff spread, anyway, although they don’t get in any grain and put it in any store-houses, the Bible is right about that at least, I appreciate their being around and that they are being fed by our Father – or, more accurately, by my mother. You cannot imagine the amounts of seeds, big and small, my mother is giving them, some of it is also enjoyed by our squirrel population, regardless of the walnuts these guys are given twice a day, the good ones at that, the French ones from Grenoble, our grocer had run out of the cheap ones from California, so they might never suffer from hunger or any kind of starvation-inflicted deficiency, anyway, growing up with such a love for birds, I just had to buy this Hermès scarf when it came out some years ago, the Zurich store had Le bal des oiseaux on display in their windows, couldn’t resist, it‘s not the manliest print of them all, but hey, the title is really fitting, as that’s what birds are having on a daily basis, a ball.

I love Paris when it drizzles.

One day, or rather one night, in February, 2016, I decided to go to Paris, right away, I mean, I’m talking taking the first possible train, quite spontaneously, so to speak, actually, that’s no big deal, the TGV makes it from Zurich to Paris in less than four hours, and there’s no reservation needed, they might tell you it is, but it’s not, even when it’s really crowded you do still find a place, at least, I always did, anyway, on that morning, it was already raining when I left the house, but I didn’t give a damn, and when I arrived in Paris, at Gare de Lyon, nothing had changed, it was still raining, but I am not that easily defeated, and, for some strange reasons, I always carry an umbrella, those tiny foldable ones, black in a black plastic bag that looks just like the black plastic stuff from Prada, for far less money as there’s no logo, try this with one of those big ones which nowadays are only seen on state funerals and such, laughable constructions, so very cumbersome the moment it stops raining, anyway, my point is, I made it through the rain. I walked and walked and walked, and doing so, I praised not only my umbrella but more importantly, my sneakers’ soles’ reliability, soyez loué, Pierre Hardy, obviously, we are the only two people left on this world with dry and warm feet, the others are hiding, some place sheltered, wimps, all of them, and they are missing the best about Paris in the rain: you have it all to yourself.

Basic me.

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I came across this selfie when I was looking for photos of Marie Antoinette’s tomb in Paris, and as I found that I have equally important things to say about this outfit of mine, I shall postpone my article about Marie Antoinette’s last resort. So, instead of learning that Proust lived quite nearby, on the opposite side of the street actually, you learn about what I wore the day I went to see the tomb of France’s notorious queen. I actually never take selfies, but on this day, in the restroom of a bistrot next to Galerie Maeght and Deyrolle in St.Germain, I had to (although, is it a selfie if you leave your head out? Well, I had just visited the tomb of Marie Antoinette and let’s not forget she was beheaded, too), as I was wearing my favourite jacket, I’ve been wearing it day in, day out ever since the day I bought it at Hamburg’s Jil Sander flagship store, it’s from an autumn/winter collection when Raf Simons was still in charge. It’s been in the washing machine dozens of times, its zipper is mostly out of order, and if it works it gets stuck in the tiny pleat that frames the zipper, nice detail, nicely sewn, but not very intelligently placed, its only fault actually, but I wonder if Madame Bertin would have lost her head sooner than Marie Antoinette if she had ever confronted Sa Majesté with such thoughtlessness in tailoring, anyway, then there’s my favourite pair of jeans ever, the only one that I will really miss, from that frightful day on when they dissolve into thin air, Ralph Lauren will be invited to attend its funeral, and one of my many black crew neck cashmere pullovers, a cheap one, no logo, but their quality is actually the same, a white shirt, you only see its cuffs, I think it’s from Charvet, and my beloved Hermès scarf, 140 x 140 cm, silk and cotton, imprimeur fou, Les Clefs and some other iconic design printed on top of it (or the other way round). That’s it. Basic me. Tomorrow, I might wear the very same, so you won’t have any difficulties recognizing me in the streets.