Just as we started to enjoy the company of those we don’t live with, the rules changed, and so back we go to our families, partners and flatmates, who we’ve spent enough time with this year, thank you very much. The first lockdown blindsided us. We sat on our beds with towels on our heads, sharing memes and eating cereal out of mixing bowls. But the third lockdown - the one that’s not actually a lockdown, but is, for all intents and purposes, a lockdown - is where we get smart. It’s where we utilise our time to enhance our brains and exercise our imaginations. Unlike the first, that coincided with an unruly heatwave, the second comes with wind, rain and mid-afternoon darkness. So head to that stack of books on your bedside table, you know, the one that’s been goading you since March, pick one up, and go find the nearest comfortable chair. Hang on, we’ve skipped a step. You need to draw the curtains and pour yourself something to drink. Then turn off the big lights, stick on the lamps, and fire up a candle. The candle bit is vital; indispensable to the whole experience. You might think it's a bit cliché, a bit Pinterest even, but lean in and revel in its romance.
We won’t tell you what book to pick up, because books are pretty personal (though if you are in need of a steer, there’s a good selection here). But candles enjoy more consensus. When the world is on the brink, they can make everything seem a bit better, like that sensible friend who tells you to sleep on it, because you probably won’t feel like this in the morning. Couple one with a book and you’re onto a winner. Unless of course, it’s a political or medical memoir about an unravelling cabinet or insatiable virus.
They say: clove Buds Heart: Ylang, Carnation Base: Haiti Vetiver, Papyrus
I say: it’s cracked the unique way that churches smell simultaneously foisty and fresh. This takes me to my local church in Yorkshire, with its eagled-carved lectern, stone flags and soaring ceiling. Resinous, rich and powdery, for me, it’s the most obvious expression of hygge.
They say: Incense, Vetiver-Mandarin, Fig-lemon
I say: explicitly figgy - a bit like a pudding, actually, with its sweet vanilla and fragrant citrussy notes.
They say: a blend of sensuous notes of violet and sweet marshmallow with almond and ethereal woods.
I say: elegant, soft and comforting, it’s the scent that hangs in the hall of someone discerning. They once left their scarf at yours and you couldn't help sniffing it, despite not knowing them very well.
They say: modern, clean yet evocative: top notes of bergamot and neroli, fused with English camomile and angelica seed, sit on a base of cedar wood, sandalwood and oak moss, sealed with amber and frankincense.
I say: gorgeously heady. It flooded my living room with the smell of bonfire, except with less smoke and more mossy wood.
They say: peppery rose underscored by the pungent, slightly smoky scent of vetiver
I say: the person that penned the above is good, because that’s exactly how I’d describe it (though I wouldn't have got there without their help).
They say: a timeless blend of rose and strawberries, garden peony and oakmoss.
I say: this throws me back to my childhood because with lots of fruity, flowery notes, it reminds me of a strawberry lip balm that was once my most prized possession. It's comforting and carefree and sweet.
They say: a warm and bright fragrance where pine tree’s balsamic notes are heated by the burning woods and made vibrant by tingling and spicy accents.
I say: like arriving home for Christmas. There's orange peel and cloves swimming in a vat of wine on the hob; mushroom vol au vents are waiting patiently on a platter, and Frank Sinatra’s Ultimate Christmas CD is on loop.
They say: amble up the sunny pathway and past a fragrant tapestry of thorny shrubs and arching brambles, brimming with red berries. Their fresh juiciness carried on the air.
I say: like a summer cocktail that you can't quite decipher the ingredients of. It’s dainty and a little bit fizzy, so maybe elderflower and champagne, but there’s definitely berry in there - cassis, is that you?
They say: evokes the atmosphere of Tangier through Cardamom, Mimosa and discreet notes of Tobacco.
I say: First, it comes in a characteristically chic vessel that’s ceramic and ripe for repurposing. Scent wise it's delicious and distinctly aromatic, but not what I'd imagine Tangier to smell like - though I've never been. It's so relaxing, I want to say it smells like a cool, non-conformist spa that doesn't deal in lavender.
They say: your warm welcome home. Comforting and reassuring with camomile, geranium and rose.
I say: exactly what I imagine when I think about aromatherapy. Mood-boosting botanicals and lots of essential oils.