I have on my desk a small bunch of mimosa. The tiny yellow powder puffs are all shrivelled because they’ve been with me since Friday afternoon and they didn’t have a drink of water for several hours. I’m not intentionally cruel to flowers: I was at the Vive la France! exhibition and I got those few sprigs right at the start of my visit. By the way, how can the organizers of that event justify the £16 entrance fee? For a few stands selling expensive French products; a few others selling crappy non-French crafts; a cookery demonstration by Jean-Christophe Novelli and a fashion show (that’s the best thing, actually, but I managed to miss it). In previous years, I have been able to taste some rather nice liqueurs and cocktails and wine jellies, but not any more: all I had this time was one cashew nut and one very thin slice of wild-boar saucisson – in that order. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay to get in because I pretended to be someone else. I don’t make a habit of that either, but I needed to go to the exhibition in order to collect brochures from the Provence-Côte d’Azur tourist offices (I’m currently updating a guide to that region) so I took the identity of the managing editor of the publishing house that’s employing me. There was a slightly hairy moment when they couldn’t find her/my name on the list and they asked me to fill in a form so they could give me a complimentary ticket and create a badge for me. I wonder whether they noticed, later, that the name I wrote down wasn’t quite spelt the same as the one on the business card I handed them and that the email address was a bit different too. Ssshhhh!
Anyway, I am passionate about mimosa: it’s beautiful; it has the most gorgeous scent and it reminds me of Nice. Anyone who has only sniffed fragrances purporting to smell of mimosa has no idea how wonderful it is. (The only one that’s close to the real thing is the home fragrance by Diptyque. I smelled it in SpaceNK a while ago and for an instant I didn't know where I was. Trust me; it's the only one.)
I live in Central London. (How do I know that? Taxi drivers agree to take me home if I hail one late at night. That’s the test.) You know what the weather is like in London most of the time. Yes? What’s the likelihood of a mimosa tree growing in Shepherds Bush? Nil, I would have said a few years ago. Wrong! There used to be a beautiful mimosa tree in someone’s front garden, in a side street, between here and Hammersmith. I’ve lived in this area for over ten years, but I only discovered it three years ago. So, around this time – when it’s still dark and horrible, I used to go and stand underneath that tree practically every day, and inhale the wonderful scent. I also used to talk to it – it was so lovely.
And then, last year, in April, I think, it was cut down. I couldn’t believe my eyes. One day I’d been walking down to Hammersmith and had automatically looked towards the house as I always did (I don't any more: there's nothing to see). It wasn’t there. I thought I’d made a mistake. I checked the name of the street again and again. I got closer and stood outside the house. Stunned. I felt I’d lost a friend.
That tree was a real delight. I miss it terribly. I’m slapping the people who cut it down. I don’t care why they did it. (It’s quite possible they had a good reason for doing it, but I don’t care.) I doubt they even knew what sort of tree it was and what a treasure they had.