My true colours.

Long before anybody talked about those wonderfully bleary colours from Farrow & Ball, there were those by Primrose Bordier, the colourist-in-chief of Descamps. If Descamps ever was regarded as a great brand, it was her doing, in a time when everything was brutally colourful, she did mauves, greys and beiges. In towels! Her bedlinens were of blurry non-colours, striped indistinction, never bright, always suavely elegant. My family’s obsession with Primrose Bordier started in the late 1970s in Luxembourg where a wonderful department store on Grand’ Rue, run by Mr Cohen and named Maison Moderne, had a beautiful home department offering Descamps’ entire range, it was also among the very first stores to present Giorgio Armani, when the black label was the master’s only label, but that’s another story, anyway, my mother went nuts with these towels in these amazing colours, all these washed out browns, khakis and even the maroon my mother chose was the mistiest maroon there had ever been, Männerfarben, men’s colours, thus called by a friend of my mother’s who hated everything overly feminine, flower prints especially, as you can guess she hated everything by Porthault, anyway, years and years ago in Hamburg, I bought this duvet cover and pillowcases by Descamps, one of the last before the company changed their identity completely, a greyish, mauve pattern showcasing an indifferent attempt to look like something colourful, a Shelley poem dedicated to a misty heathland morning in the moors…

The hidden splendour of Hamburg.

I lived in Hamburg for 16 years, but I think I was not a very good citizen. On none of these 5,840 days I felt like entering my town’s town hall. Not for one second. Yesterday, however, when visiting Hamburg for a day, I felt like it. Don’t ask me why, I couldn’t tell. Maybe my dark ages came to an end and I am now open for all kind of experiences. Anyway, I should have come sooner, it’s really quite nice. If they served coffee, I’d be there all the time…

The history of things.

I hate new things. I love things with a history attached. Fragrances, for instance. Bois des Iles is from 1926, the year The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was published, Agatha Christie’s first ‘whodunnit’ story featuring Hercule Poirot, her Belgian detective, and reformulated or not, it still smells like Coco Chanel, au petit jour in the backseat of a black Rolls-Royce, wrapped in her sable coat, on her way home from a delightful sexual encounter with some of these men way out of her league, socially speaking, they were all of such noble birth, rich as hell or nouveau pauvre – très nouveau, très pauvre, but in fact, they all were out of hers, they just had names, names they were just born with, she had made herself a name, a name worth millions then and now, she chose her lovers like others chose jewelry, and was hated for it, envied at least, but to hell, she was no bourgeoise, she just dressed them. The dresser it stands on is from the same time, by the way. It belonged to a pharmacist, so the antique dealer I bought it from told me, considering it’s art deco, it wasn’t even new when he bought it. Inherited, maybe. Or a pharmacist who was into art deco, sounds like an interesting man, somebody who had looked out for something special, who wanted to enjoy opening his sock drawer, suavely, pulling it open with the gentlemanly grip burl wood demands. On the other hand, he might have hated it. Too many memories attached. It might have belonged to his wife who left him for another man. A younger one. Although he was only 36 when she left. He waited all his life for her to come back. Didn’t touch her personal things, her silk stockings, kept them as if she would come back for them, or him – as if, she’d reply – maybe it was just one of those things, he kept telling himself. Or maybe not. Maybe he was just way out of her league.

Around the world in 80 attempts.

All of a sudden, when shopping for a globe, they are so decorative, I came to realize that I have seen nothing of this planet, nothing! Not once have I made it all around the globe. The most western place I’ve been to was San Francisco, or Los Angeles, don’t know which town is more western than the other, basically it’s all California, let’s leave it at that, and the most eastern place was the Maldives, tiniest place, too, I made it through the island in six point five minutes, the most northern spot was Reykjavík, and the most southern location was, quite amazingly, also the Maldives, Northern Africa just sounds southern, but, as the name implies, it is quite northern a place, I never made it lower than Morocco, mapwise. So, what does that sudden discovery leave me with? Regret. Nothing but regret. I must start traveling to places that I haven’t been to before, I guess. Sounds like a good plan. I shall miss Paris in the future though, it’s such a nice place and I’ve only been there 1,472 times…

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.

Dusting Frenzy.

Years and years ago, I saw a film with Goldie Hawn, she played some rich girl who, for some reason or another, had a complete blackout, total amnesia, and for some other reason, also unknown to me, partial amnesia on my side here, she winds up on Kurt Russell‘s houseboat, he’s poor of course, for contrast, and I think they fall in love, doesn‘t come as a surprise, does it, anyway, from this film, I remember but one scene, the one where she’s cleaning that houseboat, devotedly, thoroughly, deeply, leaving-out-nothingly, and then, as everything‘s finally spotless, she sits down on a couch – and bursts out into tears, total nervous breakdown. I can relate to that. Especially today. Today, the sun came out, out of nowhere, or the blue, but wherever it came from, it started shining ruthlessly, quite unforgivingly it focused on the dust that has been hiding completely undetected during these months of greyish skies, we‘re talking massive amounts of dust, but now, suddenly, it was out in the open for everyone to see, and thus confronted me, laughingly, feeling ever so secure, that dust knows all about my sloth, so, what are you going to do, it seemed to ask. But, ha! The joke‘s on you, as for once, I set procrastination aside and started hoovering immediately, and dusting, and tidying, and cleaning, even airing my duvet, only those windows still have to wait, just a little, as I haven‘t stopped crying yet.

An essay on Russia and winter.

When lighting one of my scented candles, I felt the need for some olfactory inspiration and thought tuberoses might do the trick, I took a look outside and couldn’t help but be startled by the chair on my fifth floor balcony, I’m only mentioning the storey because everything fifth has such a nice 5th Avenue sound, anyway, I was really puzzled by the chair’s colour, you see, I’m pretty sure that chair was red when I bought it last year, bright red, a vivid and joyful colour, contrasting the olive trees’ matte green, not of this strange non-colour that makes it look like it had been done with some leftover paint from the time when Russia’s economy was still a planned one, when colour pigments were still considered a despicable bourgeois extravaganza, but since red is so damn socialist a colour, they had to try anyway, and that colour on my chair is all they could achieve, poor bastards, but I seem to digress, anyway, it’s not Russia to be blamed here, communist Russia at that, one has to be reasonable, it’s winter, and more precisely so, it’s January, the month known for its days without daylight, January, the most rotten month of them all. I hate January. But as I am writing this, the candle does seem to fulfill its purpose, it’s setting me in a better mood already. I wonder if tuberoses were ever an issue in communist Russia, survival-wise, I mean.

A hundred tulips, please.

You can’t have enough tulips, believe you me, you simply can’t. Even when your favourite vase refuses to take them all, just put the rest in some other vase, in some other room. My favourite vase, for instance, looks best with about 24 tulips. The only alternative to tulips, by the way, are peonies. Once, I stuffed that vase with so many peonies, I almost went bankrupt, peonies in Switzerland are absurdly expensive, in Zurich at that, the Swiss town considered quite expensive even by the Swiss themselves, admittedly, by Swiss from places less posh than Zurich, let’s say, Uri or Wallis, you know, the cantons with more cows than people, anyway, it was the best bouquet ever, I had added more and more peonies, every time I left the house, I came back with more peonies, they were sold in packs of three for 19,90 Swiss francs, just until the vase would burst, leaving almost no place for water, anyway, bankrupt or not, more is definitely more, as far as flowers are concerned, and then you just have to wait for the best, the moment when they slowly fade away, their withered allure is so very Marguerite Gautier, coughing her beautiful spirit into some lace lined damask before she disappears, leaving nothing behind but blood stains on her handkerchief.

Let‘s drink and be merry.

Rest and have lots of fluids, they say. Well, I had lots of’em. Fluids galore. I am soaked. Up to today, day three of my flu, I have had so many lemon flavoured doses of effervescent vitamin C from my Lalique tumblers, even Linus Pauling would have disapproved. Luckily, I had also just stocked up on tea, Mangalam, my very favourite plantation in Assam. I am about to empty those provisions in record time, tea gets cold so very quickly in a cup, especially when you fall asleep just after pouring it, you have to pour it all away, litres of the finest tea down the sewer, it’s a shame, it’s of no use to brew an entire pot, really, but when you don’t, rest assured, you will regret that, too, as you won’t fall asleep then, suddenly you’re wide awake and thirsty, and you’ll want more tea with episode 5 of Downton Abbey or whatever series your brain is trying to follow, you’ll need a fresh cup, too, maybe even a fresh pot, you’re already going through all your china as it is, out goes Royal Copenhagen, in comes Meissen, anyway, you get up again from your sickbed, you schlepp your aching bones into the kitchen to brew some more tea, this Mangalam plantation must really be a vast territory, and then empty an entire pot in 7 minutes 46 seconds. Those viruses are drunkards!

The royal pleasures of summer.

I’ve had enough of it. One more morning to greet me with a grey sky, and I’ll shoot someone, but the joke would be on me, there aren’t any people in the streets, they’re all at home, overcuddling their dogs, as a compensation mechanism, some kind of seasonal displacement activity, overdosing on cookies won’t help any longer, you started that in October, anyway, I can’t stand it any longer, it’s so depressing. I’ve tried to walk the splendid gardens of Charlottenburg Palace to put me in a better mood, one of the royal Prussian residences in my direct neighbourhood, but it didn’t help much, turns out, all that splendour, all that rococo, all that abundance, all that gold and turquoise, all these shades of green, all that chinoiserie, all of it does need some light to shine, too, turns out, it’s just “Bonjour, tristesse” in winter. But I shall be patient, I’ll wait, I’ll endure this rotten season of greyish dullness, I’ll just need some more egg noggs to nogg me out till summer’s back.