A fine display of horseflesh this morning at Piccadilly Market as a troop of the 1st Dragoons walked down Piccadilly past St James’s church. But no sign of the Queen leaping from a helicopter….
Chatting just now with a customer I learned a startling fact. Queen Victoria’s knickers…
… were scented with patchouli! Well I’m blowed.
It seems that 18th and 19th century silk traders from China packed their cloth with dried patchouli leaves as moth repellent. This led wealthy Europeans to associate patchouli with opulent Eastern goods. Which, in turn, caused Queen Victoria, Empress of India, ruler of half the globe, to pack her knicker drawer with the famous Hippie Gold.
Chill out ma’am!
One of the most exotic oils we sell is frangipani. We describe it as ‘rich, heady, exotic, deeply floral’ but that does not do it justice. Together with jasmine, gardenia, lotus, the roses, and a few other flower scents, frangipani is an aristocrat of the sweet, in-your-face, ‘feminine,’ essential oils/absolutes.
Some people baulk at the scent. It’s so sweet. Rose, for example, can be understated. But not frangipani. In its raw form, as an absolute, it grabs you by the throat and may make the eyes water. The variety we sell — plumeria rubra — is coloured blood red.
The frangipani tree enjoys a symbiotic relationship with the Frangipani Hawkmoth (pseudosphinx tetrio). The caterpillars are tremendous: six inches long, a poisonous yellow and black, a spike on abdominal segment eight, feeding on the frangipani leaves before pupating and emerging as a moth with a five inch wing-span.
The moth returns to the frangipani flowers, attracted by the perfume, in search of nectar, and a dirty trick is pulled on it: there is no nectar, only pollen, which the moth distributes unwittingly to other trees, causing fertilisation to occur.
There’s much more to be said about frangipani. It has a role in both religion and sex. It is the national tree of Laos (called dok jampa) and every Buddhist temple has one or more in their courtyard.
In Polynesian culture, the frangipani is worn by women to indicate their relationship status – over the right ear if seeking a relationship, over the left if taken.
A rare, expensive, and (in Chinese culture) historically important scent: Osmanthus (osmanthus fragrans).
The scent is described variously as a blend of jasmine, gardenia and ripe apricots and like new shoe leather with cherry-like overtones. This will be available once we source a good, reputable, supplier who doesn’t charge an arm and a leg!
Also known as Sweet Olive, Tea Olive and Fragrant Olive. It can be seen in the Temperate House at Kew.
The beautiful gardens at St James’s Church, next to Piccadilly Market, contain seven magnificent London plane trees which have just decided to shed their flowers.
See those spines? As the flowers spin through the air — the trees are air pollinators — the spines break off and turn into highly efficient bioaerosols. These attach themselves to the skin, mouth, throat, eyes, and may penetrate into the lungs. Result: coughing, sneezing, watering eyes, itching. Asthmatics need to be careful.
High temperatures and a strong hot wind don’t help (humans) but, of course, help the trees. Heat = perspiration = more plane tree bioaerosols sticking to the skin = more itching.
What can be done? Tree surgeons wear gas masks when dealing with a flowering plane tree. It’s that bad. Or refuse to go near them until winter. Those forced into close proximity should chew gum to wash the spines from the throat, and bathe regularly to remove the spines from the skin. Lavender essential oil — a natural antihistamine — may help a bit but pollen isn’t really the problem.
- smell fabulous — used for millennia in scents and balms
- good for you — we sell lots of Tea Tree for spots and Athlete’s Foot!
- go deep into human history — Mary Magdalen poured Spikenard on the feet of Christ and wiped it away with her hair
Not only that but the plants they come from are often exquisitely beautiful:
Piccadilly Market at St James’s Church sprouted Jubilee flags this morning…
…in preparation for the Big Event…
… on Sat 2nd June to Tues 5th June. Here’s the view from the North side of Piccadilly:
Yet looking east, towards Fortnum’s and The Ritz, where are the flags? Has London’s wealthiest area turned Republican?
Welcome to our sister site, Street Markets London, which aims to:
… tell the story of London’s covered, outdoor and street markets, including their history, location, goods sold, opening hours, plus news of notable events and traders.
Markets are where supply meets demand at a most basic level. Anyone with a few pounds in their pocket to rent a stall can set out their wares — supply — and discover if the public wants it — demand.
Street Markets London is a work in progress. All London’s major markets will be visited, photographed, and written about. There are a lot of them so it will take a while.
And then, because markets are dynamic, they’ll need to be visited again…