What do these 2 things have in common? Well, for me they hold memories of growing up as a child on the island of Jersey in the English Channel. I loved to visit Elizabeth castle and Mont Orgueil castle (formerly Gorey castle) and when I visited Jersey in 2006 I took my son to experience Mont Orgueil castle.
One of my fondest memories as a child was a school excursion where we stayed for 2 nights on St. Aubin’s Fort. It was incredibly exciting to go to bed in a bunk and watch the tide come in and envelope the fort through a tiny slit in the stone wall. I remember waking at the crack of dawn and going outside by myself – surrounded by dawn, the sea and its fresh, salty aroma. It was a magical moment of amazement and wonder.
My least favourite memory of Jersey is THE VRAIC (pronounced rack), the Jèrriais word for seaweed. Vraic was important in Jersey culture having been used as a fertiliser for the farms until being pretty much replaced by chemical fertilisers in the 1960’s. As a young child, going to the beach was not always a pleasant experience. For one, I was a complete polly prissy pants and hated the feeling of sand on my feet and secondly, the vraic. There was so much of it! It served as a giant barrier between the sand and the water. I was quite an adept tantrum thrower and so my Nan would carry me over the seaweed and then place me in the water. To my horror there was seaweed lurking in there as well! Wrapping itself around my legs like some dark, iodine, briny smelling sea monster! My poor Nan – I would climb her in a blink of the eye, wrapping my arms and legs around her as though I was the seaweed sea monster and scream at full volume. She had no choice but to take me out of the water and as far away from the dreaded seaweed as possible. Every trip to the beach involved this little scenario for some time. (What a pain of a child I was).
My basic fear of seaweed still lurks in the deep recesses of my brain. Before moving to Tasmania I lived near an ocean baths and would do early morning laps throughout summer. This was a deeply relaxing and meditative experience except for the odd occasion when the irrational fear of a strange seaweed monster entangling itself around my legs would suddenly wash over me!
But here I sit today – re-visiting my tormentor! Seaweed Absolute, a middle to base note, solvent extracted from the whole plant fucus vesiculosus (bladderwrack) from France, yes, the one I associate with Jersey. I open it and WOW, it is seaweed. Amazing! Salty, pungent, iodine aroma with a subtle sweetness to it. It actually sends no fear, just fond memories of living near the beach and coming home to a fresh sea breeze with the smell of the salty rock-shelf platform thick in the air. It was seaweed’s physicality rather than aroma that scared me. I am looking forward to experimenting with this, but it is going to need respect and a very gentle hand indeed. I don’t actually want to smell like a lump of seaweed. It would be lovely to somehow capture in a perfume the emotions I feel near the ocean: awe and wonder at the beauty of the ocean when it is calm and serene with a dose of respect and fear for the power of the ocean and the strange creatures that inhabit this watery underworld.