Over the last week or so, I've yet again had cause to think about the link between smells and memories, and I've found myself remembering a recent episode of Desert Island Discs. For those unaware of this revered British radio institution, I'll briefly state that it takes the form of an interview in which the subject has to choose eight pieces of music which he or she would wish to have nearby in the event of an unexpected stint on a desert island. At the end of the programme, once all the tracks have been played, the interviewee also has to choose one book (in addition to the Bible and the complete works of Shakespeare) as well as one luxury item.
In the episode broadcast on the 15th of July, the actor and director Simon McBurney decided that his luxury item would be the pillow from his family bed. "On the pillow," he said, "is the smell of my family. I remember when my father died, and his body was removed from his bedroom, my sister and I ran down. She took me by the hand, and she said, 'Come, come quickly.' And we ran down. And we both buried our faces in his pillow. And we smelt him for the last time. So I would like to carry the smell of my family with me."
I'm sure that, on one level, the reason so many of us adore scent is that it captures what is otherwise elusive.
In other news, I'm pleased to report that my book continues to be received with open arms. In fact, at various points in the last seven days, it reached the Top 5 of one Amazon UK chart, the Top 10 of another and the Top 50 of the Beauty & Fashion chart. My heartfelt thanks to all of you who've bought it. I'd also like to express thanks to Yosh Han, for an interview with me which she posted the other day. Click here to read it (you may have to sign in to Facebook to be able to access it).
And finally, I can't pass up this opportunity to say a couple of words about the perfume event that is currently on everybody's lips: Mr Brad Pitt's outing as Chanel's first ever male face of No 5... 'face' really being the operative word. There's no question that the advert is both portentous and pretentious (What's with the shot of the globe? Is Brad playing God??) but I suspect its verbal content was never planned to be anything more than opaque gobbledegook.
This is a commercial designed to make No 5 cool to a new generation of shoppers, and as such, it knows better than to pay undue attention to anything beyond surface level. What matters is the aforementioned face. The ad will be played on countless iPads, iPods and iPhones. It will adorn screens in thousands of airports and hotel foyers across the world. It will form the backdrop to endless hours spent in department stores. And I'm convinced that, more often than not, its sound will be muted. Brad's goatee - and the eye-catching background lighting - will do their work in silence.
Meanwhile, I'll turn to YouTube and relive my favourite No 5 film, a gem from the 80s directed by Ridley Scott. Why do I like it so much? Perhaps I'll save the explanation for another post.