This week’s column: candles

I was in an interiors shop in St Mawes the other weekend, because that’s how I roll, when I spotted a prosecco candle. A candle that was prosecco-scented. A candle, just to be absolutely clear, that would fill your house with the smell of prosecco when you lit it.

And I don’t want to overegg this moment, but it felt definitive. It felt pivotal. Like when Martin Luther stuck that bit of paper up on the church door. Or when poor old Archduke Ferdinand was shot. Or when the Berlin Wall came down. It was the exact second that I decided we’d all gone too far and let the smelly candle situation get out of control. It was time for an intervention, I decided there and then in that seaside shop. I know the nights are drawing in and it makes you feel all cosy to light something that wafts the smell of fig and bacon or whatever around your sitting room, but, honestly, have you considered that you could get pretty much the same effect by torching a few £10 notes?

I’m not sure when our candle obsession started in earnest but I do remember standing in a City outpost of Jo Malone a couple of years ago with my dad. It was three days before Christmas and he was hunting for a present for my step-mother. Around us, panicked men who looked as if they’d just been ordered over the top pleaded with shop assistants. ‘I think she likes the lime one, can you help me? Please can you help me?’ begged these men.

I was similarly amused when a friend told me one of her jobs as an assistant in her office, a hedge fund, was to order scented candles for the boss. His favourite, she told me, were the candles that ‘smelt like the floorboards of Versailles.’ I laughed at this back then. ‘Candles that smell of the floorboards of Versailles,’ I chuckled to myself, assuming she must have been exaggerating. ‘They’ll be making candles that smell of prosecco next!’

But I’ve just googled it and you can indeed buy candles that smell like the creaking floorboards of Versailles. Look, here is a description of the very candle – it apparently incorporates ‘the fragrance of the Mirror Gallery and the vast wooden floor of the Château de Versailles, vapours of wax, candelabras and palace. This kingly and solar perfume blends a green and wooded wake of coniferous trees to the sumptuous dizziness of incense with a light ray of citrus.’

You what mate?

‘Fragrance notes’ of this £70 candle include ‘green leaves, eucalyptus, orange, fir’s bark, cedar and incense.’ Nurse, bring me my Nurofen! The guillotine was presumably a welcome relief for Louis XVI if he was inhaling that lot every day.

At the same time, shall we calm down about fragrance diffusers? You know what I mean. Those glass bottles with a load of Pick-up sticks shoved into them. I, admittedly, have a few of these dotted around my flat but I’m sick of the things. They waft their scent – wing of bat and toe of frog, or similar – for five minutes and then sit gathering dust for six months like an expensive but decidedly crap contemporary art installation.

There is a solution to all this. But it’s quite radical so listen up. Ready? Here goes: why not open a window? We are approaching that time of year when colds and snivels start, when we are reminded to book our flu jab, when going on public transport means you run the very real risk of contracting the plague. So let’s worry less about whether our sitting rooms smell of fig or prosecco or even of ancient floorboards and get some fresh air into our lungs. Fling open the windows. As a call to arms, it’s slightly less catchy than Reagan’s ‘Tear down this wall!’ But I feel it would do us all a lot of good.


(NB, A slight disclaimer to my own column. If you want to ignore all this and insist on buying a scented candle then the ones they do in & Other Stories for £17 are great. Click HERE for the one I’ve just burned through. It’s quite strong and oud-y but I then always gravitate towards heavy, musky scents. Not the smell of floorboards though because that’s weird. And I still advocate the opening of windows at all times.)