Piccadilly Rose

The Perfume Shop

In London, a short walk from Piccadilly Circus, is Jermyn Street. There you will find a perfume shop which has been selling perfume since the 1700s. One of the perfumes is particularly refined. It has a scent that exquisitely combines sensuousness, innocence and honour. It’s fragrance is impossible to forget. The perfume is called “Piccadilly Rose”.

28 June 2021. The Evening meal at a Holiday Farm

Evening, just before supper. Peter and his family had just arrived at “Rainbow’s End”, a holiday farm nestling between two hills in the Karoo a few hours drive from Port Elizabeth. The farm has been a holiday home for generations of families. It is a place where cherished memories and friendships are made. Peter was celebrating his fortieth birthday with his family

The family booked in and found their chalet. It was now about 6 o’clock. Tired after the long drive, they decided to head for supper in the large dining room in the main building. Many guests were eating already. Peter and the family were sharing their table with a couple from Cape Town. The meal was excellent. They were enjoying coffee and biscuits when he saw her. Or rather, he saw she was looking at him.

She was sitting about four tables away with two teenage children. Her prematurely grey hair was a beautiful silver pulled into an elegant ponytail.

As soon as their eyes met, both dropped their eyes immediately.

Peter was sure he knew the woman so he decided to go to the lounge after supper and find her. When he got to the lounge, she was not there. She and her two children were gone.

Easter 2000 The Tennis Camp

Peter was sixteen. A keen tennis player, he went to a tennis camp in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, held over the Easter Weekend. It was during the camp that Peter met Jean. They became friends. At the end of the camp there was a dance. They had danced together most of the night. Peter was completely blown over by the softness of here warm body. She was the most beautiful girl he had ever seen. During the evening Peter and Jean had gone for a walk on the sports field next to the tennis courts. There, beneath the stars Peter and Jean kissed for the first time. Peter never forgot the intoxicating taste of her soft lips.

After the Easter tennis camp Jean left Bulawayo to go to a private school for girls in Grahamstown, South Africa. The relationship between Pater and Jean blossomed by correspondence. Peter was at his happiest when he got a letter from Jean. He took the letters to his room and gently opened them, as gently as he would hold her hand if she were with him. Jean started ending her letters with “X X X” which caused Peter’s stomach to surge with joy. Then Jean started to scent her letters with beautiful perfume. Just holding the perfumed page and breathing in the scent brought Peter great joy. At 16, Peter was deeply in love.

Is there such a thing as “love at first sight”? Does young love last forever?

In one of his letters to Jean, Peter asked what perfume it was. Jean wrote back telling him that it was perfume her mother had bought in London and the name of the perfume was “Piccadilly Rose”.

Jean’s parents emigrated at the end of that year and Peter and Jean never saw each other again. They wrote occasionally but even that died away. Time passed. Peter married a girl from Cape Town and they had two children. Peter never found out what happened to Jean, although he often wondered.

29 June 2021 Early morning at Rainbow’s End

Peter did not sleep well. He could not get the woman with the beautiful silver hair out of his mind. He kept wondering if it was Jean who he had loved so deeply so long ago. He was happily married so all the memories about Jean made him feel quite guilty. He hoped he was making a mistake. Obviously, it was someone who looked like her. Anyway, it was twenty-one years ago that he last saw her. It was easy to make a mistake. Really easy. However, he decided he must ask at the office who she was.

So, before breakfast he went to the office. He spoke to the owner who was in early.

“Mind if I pop in and ask you something?”

“Sure”

“We arrived yesterday. At supper last night I thought I recognised one of the guests. She had long silver hair and was sitting with two teenage children”

“I know who you mean. That was Mrs Clarance from Pretoria and her two boys. She was going to stay a few more days but she left this morning early. She told me that something had happened that made it right and necessary for her to leave at once.”

“But here is a strange thing. Before she left, she said if anyone made enquiries about her, I must give them this envelope. You have asked about her. The envelope must be for you.”

The owner opened a draw in his desk, took out an envelope and handed it to Peter.

It was still about half an hour until breakfast. Peter slowly walked down to a small paddock below the chalets. The early morning sun was touching the top of the nearby hill. There was a chill in the still air. It was quiet. Peaceful.

Slowly Peter opened the envelope. Inside was a blank piece of paper.

No writing.

No message.

Then a deep instinct urged him to smell the paper.

He did so.

He breathed in deeply

Joy swept over him.

The scented joy of Piccadilly Rose.

The fragrance of sensuousness. The fragrance of innocence.

But also the fragrance of honour.

Peter very tenderly put the scented paper in the breast pocket of his shirt and quietly left the paddock. It was time for breakfast.

John Bartels 2021

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