A Day in the Life, Vol. 1 – Mishka Hoosen
A Day in the Life is a new Attic on Eighth series in which its writers give us glimpses into their days around the world.
Mishka is currently completing an artists’ residency in Paris, working on a book exploring the cultural history of perfume and desire.
My husband, who has already been up for a while, bless him, usually wakes me with breakfast in bed. I have to take medication first thing in the morning in order to be mobile, and it can’t be taken on an empty stomach. If I’m on my own, I’ll keep a little bowl of almonds on the bedside table, but I’m lucky, and instead today I have a very handsome, currently shirtless man bearing tea and toast. I sip my tea while thanking God, my lucky stars, and my husband’s apparent lack of common sense in marrying me. I’ll also either read a bit or, more often honestly, listen to a podcast while having breakfast. My perennial favourite is My Favorite Murder.
I’ll wash and get ready. Recently, I’ve started using some fantastic products from Officine Universelle Buly. Due to my chronic illness, I have a lot of hormonal flare ups that affect my skin, but their True Ionized Cleansing Water and Cold-pressed Hemp Oil have worked wonders for my skin within a week.
I’ll get started on some work, and usually take my meetings at this time. Today, I’m meeting with a sculptor who is exploring the use of perfume in sacred rituals. We meet at a small café near the artists’ residency, and after an hour talking about our research and travels, perfume traditions from Peru and Egypt, theology and chemistry, and making plans for a studio visit and interview, we part ways. My head’s spinning with ideas, so I take a quick walk along the Seine to think it all over, before returning to the studio to meet with my husband.
My husband and I will often take a walk around lunchtime, usually across the Seine and around the Île Saint-Louis and Île de la Cité, sometimes stopping for a crêpe or a poke around the bouquinistes. Spring has finally come to Paris, and the leaves and water are shimmering with light and wind.
After lunch today, we took the Métro to the Fragonard Musée du Parfum. My research concerns the cultural history of perfume as an artistic and tangible exploration of desire, and so of course a visit here was necessary. I’d highly recommend it for their incredible collection of ancient perfume flacons dating from Ancient Greece through the Middle Ages to the present day.
After a quick stop for some chocolat chaud (we made the grave mistake of stopping at a café near the Opéra this time and paid a truly criminal amount — always go at least a couple streets over if you’re near a tourist hotspot) we got back on the Métro for our second museum of the day, and my personal favorite at the moment: the Musée de Cluny, to take a look at the famed La Dame À la Licorne tapestries. Walking through the cool, dim corridors to a room lit and hung with all six of the tapestries, gleaming gold and red and alive in the cloistered dark, was one of the most profound aesthetic shocks I’ve ever experienced. The first five are meant to each represent one of the five senses, with the sixth emblazoned with the words, “À mon seul désir.” Their meaning is greatly contested, and it holds a mysterious sway over the imaginations of art historians and visitors alike. Sitting there, surrounded by them, their breathing gardens of rabbits and climbing vines, wildflowers and those wild, dark eyes of the unicorn, the delicate wisps of golden hair escaping from the lady’s braid, for all the world as if stirred by a breeze from the open door, is like entering a place outside of time, a moment frozen forever in a grace I can’t name, but know. When we left, we walked past the medieval gardens attached to the museum, little sparrows darting between the roses, and back into the world — the rushing streets, the clamour of Paris mid afternoon —strangely still, as if a part of us were still in that strange, still garden, and always would be.
We grab a table at the same neighborhood café I had my meeting at this morning, each with a book (Celtic folklore and history for the husband, The Rise and Fall of Adam and Eve by Stephen Greenblatt for me). We take notes, and share ideas now and then, stopping to read a passage that particularly excites us, sipping at our coffee and tea, and watching people walk by.
We’ll often have a light supper between 8 and 9pm, and I’ll take a shower after taking my evening meds. I’ve taken to using Buly’s Antique Oil in Orange Blossom in the evening, as an act of sheer luxuriousness and self care, and as someone who struggles with chronic insomnia and night terrors, it’s a small but distinct comfort that never fails to bring me joy. We’ll usually curl up in bed, watch some Netflix or QI, or read, before settling down to sleep.
Mishka Hoosen is a writer, creative director, and neophyte perfumer living and working in Cape Town, South Africa. His first novel, Call it a difficult night, was published by Deep South Books in 2015, and he is currently working on a book about perfume and the anthropocene thanks to a residency from IFAS. Mishka is The Attic on Eighth’s Perfume Columnist.