Schiaparelli.

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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.

Alma.

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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.