"You'll all say, another day, what jolly brave BOYS were we."
That's the motto below the shield on the wall behind these jolly brave boys. I love depictions of fresh, temporal things that no longer exist. Food, drink and flowers mainly. The Roman frescoes in places like Pompeii are particularly poignant, suddenly deserted or buried as they were. Bowls of fruit, and brightly coloured flowers, figs, dinners laid out in banqueting halls.
A few years ago, I had a very bad dose of influenza (the real thing that time) and was in bed with a great pile of old National Geographic magazines for company. In one of them, there was an article on perfume through history, and one passage concentrated on the very Cologne that Napoleon used to take into the field of with him, sprinkling it onto handkerchiefs and holding it to his face to escape the smells of battle.
A Parisian parfumier had somehow got hold of the original recipe for Bonaparte's favourite scent (maybe they had it all along?) and had recreated it exactly as it was in his day.
I noticed a panel of paper folded against the side of the page, and saw that it was one of those things that you gently tear away to release a scent which has been trapped inside tiny spheres of whatever, like the old 'scratch and sniff' printed ones. If you have ever bought Vogue, you will know them, and if you're like me, you will have avoided releasing most men's after-shave scents - ghastly.
Anyway, I noticed that nobody had bothered to sniff Boney's Cologne, so I took hold of one corner and lifted the paper, then brought it to my stuffed-up nose to smell.
I cannot describe the effect it had on me, but I was transported to a place I had never been before - at least not in this lifetime. I spent the next few days intermittently sniffing the page before carefully folding it back down again in a vain attempt to stop the volatile oils from dissipating. As I returned to health, so the scent disappeared until nothing but the vaguest of hints was left - so slight that a dog would have had problems detecting it. Then it was gone forever.
A week or so later, I looked up the French parfumier who had recreated the scent, and I think I found the very bottle for sale. Because it cost about £200, I asked them politely if they could send me a little sample - a matchstick dipped in it would have sufficed - so I could be sure it was the same one, but they didn't even reply. Bloody frogs.
Maybe I'll go and look it up again, and maybe I'll visit that place Napoleon used to inhabit again. Maybe I would have to be very ill to go there again, though.