CRAIG BROWN: Mine's a pint… and a sniff of British boozer

CRAIG BROWN: Mine’s a pint… and a sniff of British boozer

Years ago, an enterprising estate agent called Roy Brooks was well-known for his decidedly off-beat property advertisements.

Instead of delivering hand-me-down flannel about ‘highly sought after’ homes ‘with a wealth of original features’, Brooks delighted in highlighting all the worst points of a property.

‘Wanted: someone with taste, means and a stomach strong enough to buy this erstwhile house of ill-repute in Pimlico,’ ran one of his advertisements. 

‘Although it reeks of damp or worse, the plaster is coming off the walls and daylight peeps through a hole in the roof, it is habitable judging by the bed of rags, fag ends and empty bottles in one corner.’

Oddly enough, Brooks’s honesty was rewarded with success. People who would normally avoid property-for-sale columns would make a bee-line for his, in search of a good laugh.

The blurb for the Local candle is wonderfully funny. ‘Hand-poured in East London, the Local candle evokes the classic British boozer. ‘Top notes of spilt beer, hair pomade and chip fat jostle amongst a pungent base of varnished teak and sticky carpet’

They might then become intrigued by a hint in the last line that the property might not be quite as bad as all that.

For instance, he ended his description of the house in Pimlico by declaring: ‘Comprises 10 rather unpleasant rooms with slimy back yard. £4,560 Freehold. Tarted up, these houses make £15,000.’

But most of the time, he handed out abuse. 

Of another property, this one in Chelsea, he warned: ‘Do not be misled by the trim exterior of this modest period res with its dirty broken windows: all is not well with the inside. 

‘The decor of the nine rooms, some of which hangs inelegantly from the walls, is revolting.

‘Not entirely devoid of plumbing, there is a pathetic kitchen and one cold tap. No bathroom, of course, but Chelsea has excellent public baths. Rain sadly drips through the ceiling on to the oilcloth. The pock-marked basement floor indicates a thriving community of woodworm.’

These candles are designed to evoke the smells of places and events — the cinema, the festival, the local — that have been cancelled this summer

The happy memory of Roy Brooks came to mind when I heard that a company with the unpromising name of Earl of East has brought out a range of candles called Scents Of Normality. 

These candles are designed to evoke the smells of places and events — the cinema, the festival, the local — that have been cancelled this summer.

The blurb for the Local candle is wonderfully funny. ‘Hand-poured in East London, the Local candle evokes the classic British boozer. 

‘Top notes of spilt beer, hair pomade and chip fat jostle amongst a pungent base of varnished teak and sticky carpet. 

‘A waft of testosterone gives way to the ersatz lemon of a urinal block, as the salted breath of pork scratchings is soused in cheap rose and freckled with cigarette ash.’

It ends on a suitably poignant note: ‘A potent fragrance that lingers like the melancholy ramblings of an old inebriate.’

You would have to feel a perverse sense of nostalgia for grotty pubs to splash out £45 on such a candle — but, then again, the link between smell and pleasure has always been very subjective.

To take an extreme example, when urban types walk past a steaming pile of manure, they tend to gasp and hold their noses, whereas to us country types the aroma can evoke happy childhood memories.

Gwyneth Paltrow’s famous GOOP website is full of smells — or, as she puts it, ‘fragrances’: oils, soaps, creams, candles. 

But fragrances of manure, chip fat, damp, pork scratchings and cigarette ash are notable by their absence.

Instead, Gwyneth offers us her Garden Of Earthly Delights Body Wash, which she describes as ‘handcrafted in small batches on an island off the west coast of Canada’, rather than, say, pulped by machine in a factory in Nuneaton.

According to Gwyneth, this body wash smells like an accident in a school lab. 

‘This nourishing, gentle botanical body wash is made with silkifying rose hip and olive oils, plus soothing lavender and calendula essential oils. 

Gwyneth’s Mind And Body Wash is, we are told, ‘inspired by the redwood forests of Northern California’

‘It lathers beautifully, and the scent — cedar, sandalwood and bergamot — blooms subtly in the shower.’

Gwyneth’s Mind And Body Wash is, we are told, ‘inspired by the redwood forests of Northern California.’ 

She insists it smells ‘delightfully woodsy’ though its hotchpotch list of ingredients — saponified organic coconut, olive and sunflower oils, aloe vera, shea butter, citric acid and steam-distilled essential oils — suggests a smell closer to The Creature from the Black Lagoon.

In my next column, I will be comparing Gwyneth Paltrow with the more robustly critical approach of the late Auberon Waugh, who once memorably described Californian wine as tasting like ‘sanitised lavatory seats’.

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