THE TIMES, October 11, 2007

How John Mortimer, at the age of 82, met for the first time his 42-year-old son by the actress Wendy Craig

British actress Wendy Craig, proudly presents her new born son, Ross Alexander, at the Royal Northern Hospital, in London, November 14, 1961.

It had always endeared me to John that, as an excitable youth of 24, he fell in love with a mother of four aged 28. The beautiful Penelope Dimont, née Fletcher, already had two daughters by her husband, Charles Dimont, another by her wartime lover, Kenneth Harrison, and she was now pregnant with a fourth daughter by her latest lover, Randall Swingler. (A man had only to hang his trousers over the end of the bed, as Penelope said, for her to become pregnant.)

When they married in 1947, both were about to publish their first novels, and she was the next important influence on his life. The media became obsessed by the writing pair and their large brood (six children by 1955) living in Hampstead in chaotic domesticity.

Life was turbulent, punctuated by dramatic rows and reconciliations, usually caused by the “hints and confessions, implausible excuses, furtive mutterings on the phone” during John’s forays into the theatre, “which supplied a succession of accessible girlfriends”, as Penelope, an inveterate diarist, wrote.

Both plundered their marriage in their work. John’s 1973 play Collaborators was his version. But in 1962, Penelope’s The Pumpkin Eater dissected their life with an unsparing honesty.

Later filmed with a script by Harold Pinter, it told the story of a screenwriter husband’s affair with an actress, and the actress’s pregnancy coinciding with his wife’s abortion and sterilisation.

In real life, John’s affair with the actress Wendy Craig, star of his latest West End play, produced a son, just after Penelope had been aborted and sterilised. It was not until their marriage was long over and he was happily married to “Penny Two”, with two more daughters, that he met, at the age of 82, Ross, his 42-year-old son by Wendy.

Given John’s elisions and excisions as a memoirist, it was fortuitous for me that an unauthorised biography appeared two years ago. Graham Lord’s inquiries caused Wendy Craig to contact her former lover in 2004, and John to go public on the welcome discovery of this likeable son who so resembled him, and of whose existence he claimed to be unaware.

By now John was adept at self-deception, erasing unpleasant or inconvenient matters from his mind.

“When John doesn’t want to know something,” the forthright Penny told me, “he doesn’t know it.” As one commentator said at the time, if a footballer was caught cheating on his wife he would be labelled a love-rat. John, national treasure, escaped censure. But in several works he had already written about a son whose paternity is in dispute; in Felix and the Underworldhis writer protagonist is accused of fathering a love-child, causing headlines and publicity that revitalise his flagging reputation. (This proved highly prescient.) Ross grew up believing he was the son of Wendy’s husband Jack Bentley. His mother said that Bentley, on his deathbed in 1994, had implored her never to speak about it. So it was not until September 2004 that Wendy went to lunch with John and Penny.

Ross did not wish to intrude on their lives, said Wendy; but they urged otherwise and things moved swiftly. Ross telephoned John, and told Penny: “Penny, do you realise I’ve spoken to my father for the first time in my life.” When he arrived at Turville Heath Cottage, Penny greeted him – “Welcome to the family” – and led him into John’s study, where the two exchanged a manly British handshake.

Ross spied a signed photo of Fred Astaire, given to John by his daughter Emily, and said: “I have an album of Stacey Kent singing Fred Astaire songs. I was listening to it before I came. John pressed the play button of his stereo – and he had the same CD on!” Photographs of Ross taken that day revealed that he looked more like his father than any of John’s other children.

Extracted from A Voyage Around John Mortimer, to be published by Penguin on October 25 at £25.

 

For full article visit : entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/books/book_extracts/article2631639.ece

Related Internet Links

* Voyage Around John Mortimer

Related Links

* Mortimer and his undergraduate crush

* Father, dear father . . .

* Rumpole, his greatest creation

 

New York Times July 13, 2006.

Stacey is an inspiration for one of France's perfume makers. See below....

NEW YORK TIMES

July 13, 2006

SKIN DEEP

Is a Scent Like a Song? Oui and Non By ELAINE SCIOLINO

VERSAILLES, France

 

DAY after day in a white-tiled laboratory at France’s elite perfume training school here, students sniff their way to magic. Their materials are exotic essences: Indian tuberose, Calabrian bergamot, Egyptian jasmine, Indonesian patchouli. Their assignment is to compose a lighter summer variation of a classic evening floral scent.

“For me this is pure artistry,” said Sarah Delville, 28, as she worked on her project at the International Superior Institute of Perfume, Cosmetics and Food Aromas, as the school is known. “I have no background in chemistry. I studied painting and drawing, so I think in terms of colors. We’re not just mixing chemicals. We’re creating images.”

Marina Jung-Allégret, their professor, used another metaphor. “We work with notes to make music, to create a perfect harmony,” she said. But in mid-June, the highest court in France ruled that making perfume is not an artistic creation, but the work of a mere artisan.

The distinction is not an abstraction. Legally, it is more about money than about art. At stake are potential royalties for perfume makers (a k a noses) and profits and protection for manufacturers during the life of a fragrance. In its ruling, the court, the Cour de Cassation, denied the petition of a perfume maker, who claimed she deserved to continue receiving royalties from a former employer, even after she had been fired. The court stated, “The fragrance of a perfume, which results from the simple implementation of expertise,” does not constitute “the creation of a form of expression able to profit from protection of works of the mind.”

To confuse matters, a French court of appeals ruled the opposite last January, determining that a perfume could be a “work of the mind” protected by intellectual property law. It ordered a Belgian company to pay damages to the perfume and cosmetics giant L’Oréal, which sued it for producing counterfeits of best-selling L’Oréal perfumes.

The rulings have the noses and the perfume houses of France twitching nervously. Many “noses” consider the scents they create as important and valuable as paintings or poems. Even the Bible seems to agree. As God told Moses (Exodus 30:35), “And you shall make incense of it, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy.”

If perfume is not an authentic intellectual creation, protecting a scent from being copied by competitors becomes harder. “It’s an extremely open and controversial question,” said Catherine Verneret, the lawyer for Bellure, the company that lost in the L’Oréal case. “Perfume is not only a simple aesthetic creation. It is also an assemblage of molecules, a technical solution to a technical problem.”

Applicants to the Versailles-based school are not required to have any innate olfactory talent but must prove extraordinary academic accomplishments. What counts most in the initial training is the ability to memorize and identify the smell of several hundred raw materials and to master the history of perfumery. Only afterward do students learn how to blend the raw materials to create a perfume.

In recent years, however, there has been a campaign to pull perfumers out of the shadows and transform them into high-profile creators. In 2000, Frédéric Malle, one of the industry’s more innovative perfumers, began his own line by showcasing the people who make perfumes. The labels of his Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle bear the names of the perfume creators. Their photos are displayed prominently in his Paris shops and in Barneys in the United States.

“The idea of my company is to call upon the ‘noses’ I consider artists and ask them to create perfumes they consider works of art,” said Mr. Malle, who trained in art history and economics at New York University and whose grandfather founded Parfums Christian Dior. (The film director Louis Malle was his uncle.) “I’m trying to give them more and more artistic freedom. The real star becomes the perfumer.” He compares creating perfume artistry to the teaching techniques of Henri Matisse. “Matisse used to tell his students: ‘Don’t try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out.’ ” When France’s perfumers talk about their sources of inspiration, they evoke images of imagination, artistry and memory.

 

For example, Jean-Claude Ellena, who has been called “the poet of perfumers,” draws his inspiration from literary figures like Baudelaire, composers like Debussy, painters like Cézanne and jazz singers like Stacey Kent. A dabbler in watercolors and a collector of Chinese art, Mr. Ellena is now the official “nose” of Hermès. “When I write a perfume, the scents are the words,” he said. “And with these words I construct a story. There is breathing, and there are transitions, just as in sentences. Perfume, first of all, is a mental construction.”

 

He said that his Poivre Samarcande for Hermès came together after an enormous sick oak tree had to be cut down in his garden near Grasse, the capital of the French perfume industry. The perfume Angéliques Sous la Pluie was inspired when he crumpled the leaf of a huge angelica bush in his garden during a drizzling rain.

But some perfumers will tell you that their talent was learned, not innate. “I would be deceiving you if I said that I knew I had a good nose when I was young,” said Sylvie Jourdet, a perfumer and the president of the French Society of Perfumers. “I was driven by passion.” She said her epiphany came one day as she was working in a laboratory and sniffed an essence of the white privet flower. “We had rows of privet at our family house by the sea in Normandy,” she recalled. “That smell brought me back to the great moments of happiness of my childhood. We all have our Proustian moments, and that was mine.”

The legal cases have complicated, rather than clarified the issue. In the case decided last month by France’s high court, Nejla Bsiri-Barbir, a perfumer with Haarman & Reimer, was dismissed from her job in a downsizing move in 1999. Maintaining that she was the creator of Dune, Dior’s 1992 blockbuster perfume, she asked for a continuation of the royalties she had received during her employment. Earlier she had won a lawsuit against the company in a labor court for wrongful dismissal. “I had a feeling of profound injustice,” said Ms. Bsiri-Barbir, 42, who has since created her own perfume laboratory. “I wanted to be recognized for something I created. Now they have closed the door.” As it happens, the scent of Dune, a mixture of lily, wallflower and peony with ocean smells of lichen, amber and broom, was supposed to evoke “a feeling of serenity” and “an escape from the complexities of today’s competitive society,” the advertising copy stated.

Under French law the high court does not function like the Supreme Court in the United States, so its ruling does not set aside previous verdicts and leaves the issue open to interpretation. That means that the contradictory ruling in the L’Oréal case still stands. In contending that Bellure produced counterfeits of its best-selling perfumes, L’Oréal had to disclose its perfume formulas and to submit the originals and the Bellure versions to the sensory and physical-chemical laboratory at the Versailles institute. The court ruled that Bellure counterfeited 12 L’Oréal scents, including Acqua di Gio and Romance. More important, the court held that a “fragrance can be treated like the result of intellectual research by a composer” and thus can constitute “a work of the mind.” Bellure was ordered to pay about $2 million to L’Oréal and to destroy the perfumes that were ruled to be counterfeit. Despite the new ruling, Bellure will not appeal, Ms. Verneret said. It’s simply too costly, she added.

Some master perfumers find the debate about their identity a bit too precious. Jean-Louis Sieuzac, the lead “nose” in creating Dune with Maurice Roger, Dior’s former master perfumer and chairman, acknowledged that Ms. Bsiri-Barbir was part of his team and had a role in creating it. But he interprets his own role much differently. “Creating a perfume is the result of the synergy of a team, the result of an intimate, intense collaboration based on the desire of the client and the work of the perfumer to carry it out,” said Mr. Sieuzac, who is now retired. “I don’t care whether a ‘nose’ is or isn’t an artist. What I care about is having someone come to me tomorrow to say: ‘Jean-Louis, come. Come and make a great perfume with me.’ ”

Ariane Bernard contributed reporting for this article.

 

 

New York Times July 13, 2006.

Stacey is an inspiration for one of France's perfume makers. See below....

NEW YORK TIMES

July 13, 2006

SKIN DEEP

Is a Scent Like a Song? Oui and Non By ELAINE SCIOLINO

VERSAILLES, France

 

DAY after day in a white-tiled laboratory at France’s elite perfume training school here, students sniff their way to magic. Their materials are exotic essences: Indian tuberose, Calabrian bergamot, Egyptian jasmine, Indonesian patchouli. Their assignment is to compose a lighter summer variation of a classic evening floral scent.

“For me this is pure artistry,” said Sarah Delville, 28, as she worked on her project at the International Superior Institute of Perfume, Cosmetics and Food Aromas, as the school is known. “I have no background in chemistry. I studied painting and drawing, so I think in terms of colors. We’re not just mixing chemicals. We’re creating images.”

Marina Jung-Allégret, their professor, used another metaphor. “We work with notes to make music, to create a perfect harmony,” she said. But in mid-June, the highest court in France ruled that making perfume is not an artistic creation, but the work of a mere artisan.

The distinction is not an abstraction. Legally, it is more about money than about art. At stake are potential royalties for perfume makers (a k a noses) and profits and protection for manufacturers during the life of a fragrance. In its ruling, the court, the Cour de Cassation, denied the petition of a perfume maker, who claimed she deserved to continue receiving royalties from a former employer, even after she had been fired. The court stated, “The fragrance of a perfume, which results from the simple implementation of expertise,” does not constitute “the creation of a form of expression able to profit from protection of works of the mind.”

To confuse matters, a French court of appeals ruled the opposite last January, determining that a perfume could be a “work of the mind” protected by intellectual property law. It ordered a Belgian company to pay damages to the perfume and cosmetics giant L’Oréal, which sued it for producing counterfeits of best-selling L’Oréal perfumes.

The rulings have the noses and the perfume houses of France twitching nervously. Many “noses” consider the scents they create as important and valuable as paintings or poems. Even the Bible seems to agree. As God told Moses (Exodus 30:35), “And you shall make incense of it, a perfume after the art of the perfumer, seasoned with salt, pure and holy.”

If perfume is not an authentic intellectual creation, protecting a scent from being copied by competitors becomes harder. “It’s an extremely open and controversial question,” said Catherine Verneret, the lawyer for Bellure, the company that lost in the L’Oréal case. “Perfume is not only a simple aesthetic creation. It is also an assemblage of molecules, a technical solution to a technical problem.”

Applicants to the Versailles-based school are not required to have any innate olfactory talent but must prove extraordinary academic accomplishments. What counts most in the initial training is the ability to memorize and identify the smell of several hundred raw materials and to master the history of perfumery. Only afterward do students learn how to blend the raw materials to create a perfume.

In recent years, however, there has been a campaign to pull perfumers out of the shadows and transform them into high-profile creators. In 2000, Frédéric Malle, one of the industry’s more innovative perfumers, began his own line by showcasing the people who make perfumes. The labels of his Éditions de Parfums Frédéric Malle bear the names of the perfume creators. Their photos are displayed prominently in his Paris shops and in Barneys in the United States.

“The idea of my company is to call upon the ‘noses’ I consider artists and ask them to create perfumes they consider works of art,” said Mr. Malle, who trained in art history and economics at New York University and whose grandfather founded Parfums Christian Dior. (The film director Louis Malle was his uncle.) “I’m trying to give them more and more artistic freedom. The real star becomes the perfumer.” He compares creating perfume artistry to the teaching techniques of Henri Matisse. “Matisse used to tell his students: ‘Don’t try to be original. Be simple. Be good technically, and if there is something in you, it will come out.’ ” When France’s perfumers talk about their sources of inspiration, they evoke images of imagination, artistry and memory.

 

For example, Jean-Claude Ellena, who has been called “the poet of perfumers,” draws his inspiration from literary figures like Baudelaire, composers like Debussy, painters like Cézanne and jazz singers like Stacey Kent. A dabbler in watercolors and a collector of Chinese art, Mr. Ellena is now the official “nose” of Hermès. “When I write a perfume, the scents are the words,” he said. “And with these words I construct a story. There is breathing, and there are transitions, just as in sentences. Perfume, first of all, is a mental construction.”

 

He said that his Poivre Samarcande for Hermès came together after an enormous sick oak tree had to be cut down in his garden near Grasse, the capital of the French perfume industry. The perfume Angéliques Sous la Pluie was inspired when he crumpled the leaf of a huge angelica bush in his garden during a drizzling rain.

But some perfumers will tell you that their talent was learned, not innate. “I would be deceiving you if I said that I knew I had a good nose when I was young,” said Sylvie Jourdet, a perfumer and the president of the French Society of Perfumers. “I was driven by passion.” She said her epiphany came one day as she was working in a laboratory and sniffed an essence of the white privet flower. “We had rows of privet at our family house by the sea in Normandy,” she recalled. “That smell brought me back to the great moments of happiness of my childhood. We all have our Proustian moments, and that was mine.”

The legal cases have complicated, rather than clarified the issue. In the case decided last month by France’s high court, Nejla Bsiri-Barbir, a perfumer with Haarman & Reimer, was dismissed from her job in a downsizing move in 1999. Maintaining that she was the creator of Dune, Dior’s 1992 blockbuster perfume, she asked for a continuation of the royalties she had received during her employment. Earlier she had won a lawsuit against the company in a labor court for wrongful dismissal. “I had a feeling of profound injustice,” said Ms. Bsiri-Barbir, 42, who has since created her own perfume laboratory. “I wanted to be recognized for something I created. Now they have closed the door.” As it happens, the scent of Dune, a mixture of lily, wallflower and peony with ocean smells of lichen, amber and broom, was supposed to evoke “a feeling of serenity” and “an escape from the complexities of today’s competitive society,” the advertising copy stated.

Under French law the high court does not function like the Supreme Court in the United States, so its ruling does not set aside previous verdicts and leaves the issue open to interpretation. That means that the contradictory ruling in the L’Oréal case still stands. In contending that Bellure produced counterfeits of its best-selling perfumes, L’Oréal had to disclose its perfume formulas and to submit the originals and the Bellure versions to the sensory and physical-chemical laboratory at the Versailles institute. The court ruled that Bellure counterfeited 12 L’Oréal scents, including Acqua di Gio and Romance. More important, the court held that a “fragrance can be treated like the result of intellectual research by a composer” and thus can constitute “a work of the mind.” Bellure was ordered to pay about $2 million to L’Oréal and to destroy the perfumes that were ruled to be counterfeit. Despite the new ruling, Bellure will not appeal, Ms. Verneret said. It’s simply too costly, she added.

Some master perfumers find the debate about their identity a bit too precious. Jean-Louis Sieuzac, the lead “nose” in creating Dune with Maurice Roger, Dior’s former master perfumer and chairman, acknowledged that Ms. Bsiri-Barbir was part of his team and had a role in creating it. But he interprets his own role much differently. “Creating a perfume is the result of the synergy of a team, the result of an intimate, intense collaboration based on the desire of the client and the work of the perfumer to carry it out,” said Mr. Sieuzac, who is now retired. “I don’t care whether a ‘nose’ is or isn’t an artist. What I care about is having someone come to me tomorrow to say: ‘Jean-Louis, come. Come and make a great perfume with me.’ ”

Ariane Bernard contributed reporting for this article.

 

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