I have to admit to being completely obsessed with perfume. In excess, it is a ruinously expensive habit but since I don't have an addiction to (illegal) drugs or (expensive) shoes, I can just about support it. Books don't count as an addiction, more as a necessity, and since I'm lucky enough to work in a place where they are at best free and at worst subsidised, I don't even include them as an expense. I have a wardrobe at home and at last count two of its shelves and one of its drawers were full of perfume bottles, meaning that the less important stuff (clothes) ends up crammed into a separate drawer and permanently in need of an iron. They subdivide into: summer and winter, daytime and nighttime, work and weekend, serious and tarty, and the immensely important Perfume That Makes You Feel Good/Clean/Fresh When Hungover*. I completely understand people who have one perfume and always wear the same thing, because it's the whole Proustian madeleine syndrome of "Ah yes a fugitive waft of L'Air Du Temps will always remind me of Kate" etc etc - and it fixes people in your olfactory memory. I can't do it, though, as I all too frequently find myself getting bored with whatever I'm wearing and have to wear something else. Usually other peoples' perfume is out of bounds, and I have had bouts of terrible guilt about this, i.e. the time I "stole" Mitsouko off my friend Catherine (not the actual bottle, just the wearing of it) - is it a sin on a par with actually stealing something real? Or wearing the same dress to a party? Which may be why I end up wearing more and more obscure perfumes**. My favourite pilgrimage, and I can't use this word too strongly, is every couple of weeks to the perfume hall at Liberty's. Selfridge's is too vast and has too much unnecessary tat (celebrity perfumes for those who want to smell like Paris Hilton - which is what exactly? Spilt booze and some bloke's aftershave with a base-note of grubby $100 bills??) - and Harrod's is a no-no as I won't willingly put a penny into the Phony Pharoah's pocket. Liberty's is my Mecca, my Garden of Eden, my Narnia. They have scents and potions you will, trust me, never even have heard of. I may have mentioned that I'm a smoker, and in a way this may be a blessing, as my sense of smell is already as keen as a bloodhound's, and if I hadn't dulled it to an acceptable level I would probably pass out in a swooning ecstasy on crossing the threshold.
*Clarins' "Eau Dynamisante", Penhaligon's "Bluebell", Philosophy's "Pure Grace", Annick Goutal's "Eau Du Sud"
** Ineke's "Evening Edged In Gold", Comme Des Garcons's "Rhubarb", Saira Schwarz's "Lucid Agony", Demeter's "Lavender Martini"
Yes, there really is a perfume called Lucid Agony.