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.

Have yourself a vapid little Christmas.

They’re everywhere, the KaDeWe in Berlin is filled with these little Santa Claus martians, some kind of old school futuristic kitsch, post-midcentury monsters making it to the homes of metrosexual hipsters, giving me the creeps in any of their various colourings, I want to get away, make it to the fifth floor, to get my favourite cake from Lenôtre, but I’m mesmerized, their shiny empty faces seem to captivate us, we’re spellbound by some vapid features, purposeless design, free of any expression, faces void of character and emotion, insignificance galore, like the people from these TV shows in “Fahrenheit 451”, pointless triviality starting at €39,90, so that everybody can have one, but why would anyone want one? Why? And why do I want one? Why?

Interiors.

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Some people have an inner child that they allow to, well, come out every once in a while and play, just to make sure they stay human, these guys are to be congratulated, for their wisdom, humanity and charm, I, however, whose inner child has never been locked up, whose emotional intelligence might be the one of Methuselah but whose behaviour is rather Calvinistic, and I’m referring to Calvin from Calvin and Hobbes here, not to that repressed guy from Geneva, what am I to do? You cannot let out what’s already out, can you? So I had to come up with an alternative: I let my inner interior designer out, and I pamper him well. I frolic through stores, buy bowls, vases and pitchers from Royal Copenhagen or Lalique, overpriced flowers from fancy stores, those way cheaper tulips from your grocer won’t do sometimes, fruit and cookies and other stuff that just has to be remotely decorative to give me a thrill and there I go, a new arrangement on my Regency table, I’m happy as a child, sorry, as an interior designer and ready to cope with life, business and deadlines.

Shocking grey.

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Farrow & Ball. One doesn’t need to explain this English brand’s achievements. They psychoanalysed our taste, discovered our need to be perceived as subtle and refined, as some spun eccentric, and came up with colours, well, not colours, tones, tones that were completely new to us, perfectly indescribable to the human eye, even to theirs. How else could you explain tones being named Dead Salmon, Elephant’s Breath or Mouse’s Back (the latter being Mousey’s choix du cœur). Pitch Black, however, made my friend Katja from Luxembourg lose her mind while applying it. It really wasn’t what she expected at all, it turned out light grey, far from anything black, it didn’t even try to make a pitch to appear black. So she rushed to the store to ask for help, wondering if she had turned colour blind, tone blind at the very least. But the shop’s sales personnel were developing the same tone blindness after trying it on an Eames chair in their showroom, just imagine, Eames being used as a guinea pig. That chair didn’t turn out black either, just shocking grey. So they phoned Farrow & Ball, the headquarters based in Paris, as Luxembourg hasn’t one of its own, just the European Parliament and a Grand Duke named Henri, a Nassau, which makes him a real Royal Highness, not like this Albert guy from Monaco who’s not royal at all, just serene, anyway, Katja and the people in the shop were all ready to cause a commotion, ready to have the colour’s name changed to Deceptive Black. Farrow & Ball, however, stayed calm. Wait for the colour to dry, they told Luxembourg. Aha. And so they did. And both that Eames chair in the shop and Katja’s Louis Something commode turned out wonderfully black, sorry, pitch black.

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A pillow from San Francisco.

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One lazy afternoon, I was scrolling through my Instagram feed, through selfies and haute couture dresses, admiring the ones by Cristóbal Balenciaga, the best designer there ever was, through Japanese architecture and perfectly set dinner tables, followed by chickens and ducks in the countryside, when suddenly a pillow on display in Jonathan Rachman’s San Francisco shop made me stop. Just liking wasn’t enough, I had to tell Mr Rachman how I felt about it, so I did just that, by telling him this pillow was missing in my life. Now guess what happened. Some minutes later, Jonathan replied “Shall I send you one?”, and just a week later, that same pillow had crossed the pond, arrived in Zurich, in a gigantic parcel, wrapped in brown silk paper with his store’s beautiful logo, and was joyfully thrown on my couch.

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The most amazing thing was that this pillow’s colours matched the colours of my grandmother’s oil painting, hanging just over it, how marvelous, I thought, but somehow, quite strangely, it made me feel like that rockstar in Woody Allen’s “Hannah and her Sisters”, that obnoxiously uncultivated guy who wants to buy an oil painting in the very same colour as his new ottoman, a way of art reception that made the artist, played by Max von Sydow, throw him out of his studio, telling him to go to hell or something of the sort. Of course I always subscribed to von Sydow’s character’s point of view, thought it an idiotic idea to match art with furniture, one of the things you expect from Melania Trump once she redecorates the White House, until now, now I can relate. Actually, I love this wonderful coincidence. I just hope, my grandmother won’t be insulted by it.

Anyway, I’m not the only one who’s fond of Jonathan Rachman’s good taste in interior design. You find him in Louis Vuitton’s new San Francisco City Guide, too. Mousey is really attracted to him and insisted on showing his awesome portrait on page 209.

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My gourmet restaurant.

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I love insects. Dragonflies for example. Beautiful creatures. Fascinating even, some kind of chinoiserie helicopters in turbulence, caused by tropical summer heat, with a pilot who has had one too many whisky sours, until they’re suddenly disappearing in your garden’s Bermuda triangle while you’re having tea. Moths, however, I disapprove of, I despise them from the bottom of my heart. I’ve killed generations of moths over the years, or at least, I’ve made their lives miserable with moth paper, vast amounts of moth paper, placed everywhere, in my bedroom’s wardrobe, in the other wardrobe in the hall, in every fucking drawer, between pullovers, next to pullovers, on top of pullovers, layers everywhere, hysterical layers of moth paper, but these beasts are smarter than I thought. They discovered that one loophole in my meticulous precautions: my Hermès pillows. The other day, when I just wanted to rest my head after over-ordering at Mr Porter’s, nothing of importance actually, just underwear and socks, I discovered the holes they’ve left behind. Not even tiny ones, no, very gourmand ones. They had quite an appetite. I am still under shock. Who would think of moths attacking Avalon?

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Peter Pan syndrome.

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Today, I was confronted with my life’s awful truth. I have not grown up. Not at all. My mind is not yet of that certain age I am. Not at all. I still relate to Le petit Nicolas when I am re- and re-reading Goscinny’s stories, much more than I relate to these heroes of my own age, say Julien Sorel, Prince Bolkonsky or Tom Ripley, all these grown up people with their grown up problems, I still don’t tidy up my room, and for some ironic reasons I now have many more rooms to tidy up, even a kitchen and a bathroom, and I still get lectured by my mother about that mess I make each time she visits, I still eat way too many cookies while watching TV, always the whole box, and then I feel sick and want somebody to bring me some herbal tea, my mother or at least Antoine, the valet de chambre I’ve had as an imaginary servant ever since I was twelve or so, I was reading Dorothy L. Sayers’ Lord Peter Wimsey stories at the time, and I was so impressed with his valet, to have someone to draw your bath and serve you tea in bed and tidy up your wardrobe, because, really, one cannot expect me to arrange the sock department of my drawer all by myself, can one? I still hate to go to school, meaning to work, I am still counting the days until the holidays and I still wonder what I shall play with my friends after school and that test in arithmetic, meaning which bar to go to and which drink to have after that meeting with the account management. There’s only one thing that offers some hope that I might finally grow up one day. Lately, I started buying vases and flowers. Now, that’s a very grown up and responsible thing to do, isn’t it?

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