Wednesday, 29 June 2011
Gather ye roses
I feel so behind with everything, at the same time as moving forward. It was my birthday last week -- 50, which seems impossible, when I still feel the same inside -- and this has been a year of so many changes. There have been adventures, like my trip to the rose fields of Grasse last month, where I saw the harvest of May roses for Chanel No. 5, and renewed my acquaintance with Jacques Polge, the legendary Chanel nose who I'd already interviewed for my book. (He's the dashing gentleman in the hat in the photograph above; I'm the dorky one beside).
Since then, I've been rushing, rushing, rushing -- to the supermarket, away from deadlines, to the Hay Festival, back to the shops, to the dry-cleaners, late for the tube, to and from the school, on to the airport, over to Moscow and St Petersburg, back home, into the kitchen, head inside the dishwasher. None of this is a complaint -- at 50, I know how very lucky I am, and how much I love being at home, as well appreciating the wondrous journeys that Coco Chanel has sent me on.
But anyway, here I am in Crouch End again, deadheading the roses this afternoon, because it's already the end of June. Where did the month go, let alone the last year?
While catching my breath, I'm also trying to gather my thoughts -- the ones that bloom and then fade like petals -- and am venturing into the new territory of my next book. All of which makes it a good moment to post this poem by Robert Herrick, which I love, though in an entirely different way to when I first read it, decades ago, as a teenager. If I could meet my younger self now, I could not tell her to do anything differently -- for if I had tarried, my beloved sons would not have been born -- but I might also suggest that life need not end at 30, or 40, or 50. Of course, sometimes it does -- my sister Ruth died at the age of 33 -- and terrible things can befall us (divorce, death, the ordinary disasters of life that everyone shares). But when happiness appears, as if by magic, then enjoy it -- love life, seize its pleasures, yet also cherish its fragility with tenderness.
248. To the Virgins, to make much of Time
GATHER ye rosebuds while ye may,
Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to-day
To-morrow will be dying.
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
The higher he 's a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he 's to setting.
That age is best which is the first,
When youth and blood are warmer;
But being spent, the worse, and worst
Times still succeed the former.
Then be not coy, but use your time,
And while ye may, go marry:
For having lost but once your prime,
You may for ever tarry.