Purveyor of Bollocks to the Crowned Heads of Europe
Thursday, 7 June 2012
When the weather finally turned into summer a couple of weeks ago, I planted the Night-Scented Stock seeds on our kitchen window-cill as I do every year, and waited for the unassuming little flowers to appear and flood the room with their wonderful nocturnal perfume. We'll have to wait for the festival season to be over - as is the Jubilee - until it stops raining again like we do every year, but the blossoms haven't appeared yet anyway.
I had a girlfriend who used to refer to these plants as 'Night-Scented Socks' - ha ha.
Years ago, I read that Night Stock only released it's scent in the dark in order to be pollinated by moths, but I don't know how true that is. I certainly see bees around them in the daylight, but I can't think why it should only be scented at night, and bees seem to be attracted by colour. They do close up a bit after the sun has risen, though.
Ironically (there seems to be a lot of irony in my life) the evening breeze only pushes into the kitchen when there is a somewhat easterly wind, and if the wind comes from the east, it is usually cold and raining - not the ideal weather for a heavy, soporific perfume. On a warm summer night, 90% of the fragrance drifts over the building sites away from the house. I hope they appreciate it.
It is difficult - not to say impossible - to describe the perfume produced by Night-Scented Stock, but the closest artificial experience I have had to it was listening to an all night concert of classical Indian music (evening rag, of course) when they burnt a good quality Sandalwood to accompany the doleful melody. It is verging on a crime to burn Sandalwood in the day.
We were all sitting around on the carpet of a large house in town, and the sitar player began explaining the story behind one tune, for the benefit of us English.
"A young man arranges to meet his sweetheart on a bridge," he began, "and to start with, he is full of hope and optimism at her arrival. Then, as the sun goes down - slowly slowly - he begins to understand that she will not be coming, and he sinks into deep despair."
And how accurate that story was. The tale only took about 10 seconds to relate, but we lived it out in real time, and with real emotions. We were that young man for the whole two hours.
Rather like there being two sounds to the ring of a good bell - one from the metal and one from somewhere else - there were two fragrances in the air that night. One came from the Sandalwood, and the other was the pure essence of femininity - that's the only way I can describe it.
Oh well, back to the wind and rain of an English summer.