Normal service is on the verge of being resumed. I hope you've all been well during my blogging break and that you've enjoyed the reviews that popped up during my absence. September is just a few days away, which means it's time for loins to be girded once again, although I mustn't allow this to detract from the joys of the holidays: it's been wonderful to have an opportunity to take stock of the last twelve months and consider the possibilities that the future might bring.
Naturally, my European travels with Madame Persolaise featured several perfume-related episodes, the first of which occurred on the ferry, when we'd barely left British shores. It involved a Sales Assistant informing a colleague - in what couldn't really be called a stage whisper - that she was determined to "shift as much Marc Jacobs and Chloe and Calvin Klein Euphoria as I can, so I can win tickets to see Lady Gaga." The next time you're accosted by a bottle-wielding employee, think of the cultural experiences you could be denying him or her by not making a purchase.
If time allows, I may post more detailed accounts of my scented wanderings, but for now, I should just report that Taizo in Cannes doesn't always smell like an open sewer (thank goodness) and that Bouteille and Tanagra remain two of the most welcoming perfumeries on the Côte d'Azur.
When I wasn't sniffing blotters or scoffing Nutella beignets, I tried to catch up with my reading. If there's one theme that united my choice of summer literature - from Tom Baker's poignantly haunted account of his childhood, to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's brutal description of the Nigeria-Biafra war, via Fitzgerald's tale of doomed ambition, amongst several others memorable tomes - it's the age-old cliché that the only constant in life is change. Living in the moment and enjoying the blessings that each day brings are two skills that would certainly benefit from further development, as far as yours truly is concerned.
Speaking of memorable moments... a few days ago, during a chat with the staff at Antibes' superlative Charcuterie Lyonnais, we were asked what the weather's like "chez vous". When Madame Persolaise replied, "About 19 degrees," time stopped for a couple of seconds. One of the employees appeared to be gripped by immobility as her knife sliced through a roast chicken. Another froze as she handed some change to a customer. Even the normally unflappable patronne went rigid with shock whilst digging into a tray of gratin dauphinois. And then the three of them, in unison, let out a gasp of horror so loud and so intense, it was probably detected as some kind of air pressure fluctuation by the UK Met Office.
"Perhaps we should stop complaining about la chaleur!" someone quipped, prompting laughter all round.
It was a simple, unforced, entirely human incident... which I'm sure I'll recall and treasure as autumn approaches.
Advance warning: next week, I'll hold a draw for a signed copy of Jean-Claude Ellena's new book.