The Scent of Blue, final version

For anyone who can't (or doesn't want to!) get hold of the poetry pamphlet, here's the last draft of the title poem, which seems to strike a chord with a number of people, particularly women. There's an earlier version of this somewhere on here - but this is the one that was published.


A concert in Edinburgh, years ago.
She manages to find a single seat,
sees a famous conductor,
silver haired, sharp featured like some
bird of prey, but smaller than you would
expect in evening dress.
On his arm a thin woman,
taller than he is, strides with
striking face and hair, a cloud of
grey blonde curls around her head.
Not a young woman but a
diva surely, inhabiting her clothes,
inhabiting her skin with such confidence.
She wants to be like that some day,
longs for self possession
and she remembers the scent of her,
musky, mysterious, a heavy, night time
scent, like flowers after dark.
The scent of passion.
The scent of money.
The scent of blue.

She searches for the scent for years.
Her mother wore Tweed.
Now she wishes she could
open a wardrobe door, and
smell the scent of Tweed, her
mother’s plain sweet scent,
almost as much as she
wishes she could tell her mother so.

As a girl, she wears Bluebell,
fresh and full of hope, or
Diorissimo, like the lilac she once
carried through the streets,
on her way from meeting a man
she desired and admired, thinking
Girl with Lilac, still so young,
self conscious, not possessed.
Later, she tries luscious l’Air du Temps and
Je Reviens and Fleurs de Rocaille
but they are none of them the scent of blue.
She wears Chanel, briefly, with
dreams of Marilyn,
loves to watch her, loves to hear her voice,
soothing as chocolate but
Number Five is not her scent,
never suits her, never will.

She discovers Mitsouko.
Some tester in some chemist’s shop somewhere.
An old, old fashioned scent,
syncopated, unexpected, not to every taste.
Whenever she wears it,
women ask her what it is,
I love your scent they say.
How strange the way scent lingers in the mind.
How strange the way scent
changes on warm skin.
On her it ripens to something peachy,
mossy, rich and singular.
But it is not the scent of blue.

She loses her heart.
It is an affair of telephone lines
more profound, more sweet and
bitter even than Mitsouko,
a sad song in the dark,
and the colour of that time is blue.

Afterwards, she searches through
Bellodgia, Apres L’Ondee,
Nuit de Noel, Mon Peche, Apercu
until drawn by nostalgia
she finds Joy,
dearly bought roses and jasmine,
a summer garden in one small bottle.
She marries in Joy.
But she wears Mitsouko
and she forgets the scent of blue.

Older, she discovers Arpege,
not just rose and jasmine but
bergamot, orange blossom, peach,
vanilla, ylang ylang,
one essence piled on another like the
notes on the piano she
used to, sometimes still does, play:
love songs mostly.
Oh this is not a scent for the very young.
It is too dark for that
a memory of something lost,
an unfinished story.
This scent has a past.

She sees him across a room.
Another woman ushers him,
this way and that, makes introductions,
a little charmed the way women
always did flutter irresistably around this man.
It used to make her smile the way
women flocked around this
wolf who walked alone who
belonged to nobody but himself.

She is wearing Arpege.
Not a scent for the very young,
vertiginous as the layers of time between.
With age comes wisdom,
but as when mud is
stirred at the bottom of a pool,
memories bubble to the surface.
Not wisely but too well they loved.
Now, they are waving across the
chasm of the years.
They speak, in measured tones,
they speak and walk away,
they speak again in careful words, that
every now and then
recall the scent of

It will not do.
Only in dreams
can one innocently recapture that
first fine careless

So much more is forgotten
than is ever remembered.
And the clock insists
let it be let it be.

One summer evening
a young man observes the way
twilight closes the flowers,
whose scent lingers on the last heat of the day,
the way the light goes out of the sky,
painting it dark blue, how
soon the war will tear this place apart.
How soon all things resort to sadness.

In a new century,
She finds among jasmine and rose,
vanilla and violet,
a dark twist of anise, like the
twist of a knife.
First last always.
The scent of the diva.
The scent of passion.
Fine beyond imagining.
She sees it is essentially
sad, sad, sad, a
sad scent:
L’Heure Bleue.
The beautiful bitter perilous scent of blue.

November Blues

Almost the end of November, and what have I achieved this month? Sweet nothing, that's what.
Is it the time of year or the time of life? I don't know.
I have sat at my desk and tried to write, regularly, but the results have been something less than inspiring.
I have done a lot of thinking and the results of that have been a bit more interesting, but faintly depressing as well.
I am chasing my tail to make some money but the bills get higher and the earnings get lower, and after a while, you wonder what it's all about.
The mornings are dark and the evenings are darker and you work away but nobody wants what you have written...
Welcome to the world of freelance writing.
You may remember that - a longish while ago - I mentioned a play called The Physic Garden and how I was waiting to hear from David McLennan at the Oran Mor about it.
Have I heard from him? You bet your sweet life I haven't. Not a word, zero, zilch, nada.
BUT, having lived with William (the gardener) and Thomas (the botany lecturer) for all these months, I have begun to think that there is more to these characters and their relationship than meets the eye, much much more than I have been tinkering with in the play - and so I have begun to write their story as a novel. Thomas is the one telling it. And it suddenly seems to have the potential to be a serious, funny, moving and literary story.
All of which fits in with the doubts that have been besetting me with increasing regularity over the past couple of months. I think I have seriously short changed myself for years and years in the pursuit of the elusive will o' the wisp of commercial success. Nothing wrong, I might add, with a bit of commercial success. But when you find that you are increasingly tailoring what you write to the demands of some elusive market - and actually, you still aren't making any money out of it, however, professionally you behave - you do start to wonder. I must admit, that over the past few months, I have started to think that I have been selling myself short for years. I used to have the potential to be a writer of some consequence. One or two of my plays have shown the literary skills I used to have. So have a few of the poems. I should have been more true to myself all those years ago. I should have written what I wanted to write, explored all those ideas I wanted to explore, grown and stretched myself. Instead, I have the uneasy feeling that I have run up and down a series of dead ends, and the result has been that I am ill considered among people who used to admire what I did - and I still haven't made any money. Worst of both worlds really. This is a cautionary tale. Be true to yourself above all else. What I need to do (as a friend recently pointed out, succinctly) is 'fail better.' How right he is.
I'm about to give it another try.

A Room With A View - TV Version

I was so irritated by the latest television version of this classic novel that I had to wait for a day or two, just to calm down, before posting about it. Have to say I mostly hated it.
This is a much loved book as far as I'm concerned, one I read over and over again - and always find something new in it. But what could have possessed the ubiquitous Andrew Davies to change the ending so radically and what could have possessed whoever was in charge to let him? Or does he now have so much power in television circles that nobody dares to question him ?
If you haven't already watched it, don't. Go and buy the excellent movie version instead.
There were other faults with the production too, although it seems like overkill to detail them here. But one did wonder whether the casting director had quite deliberately chosen plain Brits so that he or she could contrast them with beautiful Italians. Plainness would have been forgiveable. It was just that the young men in particular had a lumpish and underanimated quality that made you wonder why anybody could ever have fallen for them. George came across as just a bit of a lad instead of the wonderful, complex and troubled young man of the novel and the film. Plus the accents, particularly Cecil's (who is written to perfection in the novel) were dodgy in the extreme. But all of this pales into insignificance beside Davies' inexplicable and wrong headed decision to kill off our hero in the war and show us a last scene with Lucy and a young Italian (admittedly a much more beautiful Italian than poor dead George) picnicking in the Florentine hills with the implication that there might just be a bit of obligatory Davies bonking round the corner.
It was AWFUL and not just because it wasn't Forster's ending at all. Because the new ending was predicted right at the start of this adaptation, and then throughout, by various flashes forward to a shorn and short skirted Lucy alone in Florence, the whole lovely balance of the book and the movie, the inevitability of the ending which is at once romantic and revolutionary, the headlong rush of it all, was not just upset but completely and utterly destroyed. Which perhaps explainswhy it left me feeling not just upset but incandescent with rage. I'll have to go and watch the film again, just to get a sense of perspective!