A woman with the loveliest name made me rose and violet creams for my birthday. Chocolate-coated crystals of over-the-top Romantic perfumed confectionery that should be eaten whilst reading novels and lounging in a silk kimono. The unusually-named woman and I had chatted about this sugared symbol of high romance in the past and she had remembered my gushes. Plucking them from the fridge on a hot day at work before meeting my parents in the evening for a warm drunken night put me in mind of an old poem. A poem that I wrote years ago when I was brimful of fancy. I read it now and scream inside my head: 'Edit! Edit! Cringe... EDIT!'. Here are the opening lines:
Veils in parade, each clutching rosary beads,
Rubbed between fingers like strings of pomegranate seeds.
Then this is the section where I was obviously dosed up to the eyeballs on sugar and escapism and 1920s glamour that I had only read about:
Both chocolates and kisses are exchanged by flush-faced girls,
Rose creams and violet creams and hazelnut whirls.
The lipstick prints left hanging in the air beside rouged cheeks
Linger like faint perfume of female mystique.
Other choice lines are:
Mata Hari dances wild, in her robes of gypsy russet.
Men glimpse flashes of gold, flashes of gusset.
The decorated mime artist, with cuffs and collar frilly,
Deeply downs champagne from the trumpet of a lily.
And then towards the end comes the height of excessive, pretentious poesy. I use French and everything. For goodness' sake:
They laugh at others en francais, monsieur et mademoiselle,
Judging if each debutante resembles bête ou belle.
The party is invaded, by barbarians vain and louche,
Starved for entertainment, guzzling amuse bouche.
And I hadn't even read any Ronald Firbank or Zelda Fitzgerald at this point. They were to come later, and they did actually starkly expose the absurdity of such a sense of whimsy. I still adore them both of course.
I wrote this poem one summer on the car journey back from the Dordogne, where I had been holidaying with my family (and a boy named Budzak). The holiday was filled with devouring a biography of Lydia Lopokova (the Bloomsbury Ballerina who danced with the Ballet Russes and ended up living across the street from where I lived for my first year in London), smoking weed with teenage boys, sour expressions from my hollowed cheeks, a skinny love for everything I ate up with my eyes, delicious lychee liqueur, reading Middlemarch in hammocks, and being wedged in the back of the car on the way home with my youngest brother feeling delirious and silly and happy and half-asleep-dreamy. That's when I wrote a first draft of this long spiralling flight of fancy in clumsy couplets. I can't believe it was all the way back in 2008. It is so cringe. But was, and still is, so entirely me with my head in the highly scented pink clouds.