Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Votive duet: Aftelier Perfumes Vanilla Smoke & Amber Tapestry mini-reviews - plus an Ajne retrospective

Made by me - a rare gift TO my elderly friend!
Strange to report, I didn't develop a liking for wine till I was at least 22, and olives still remain a challenge too far today. In the nine years of my perfume hobby, I have also come late to appreciating natural perfumes - that's with the exception of Carmel-based Ajne, a house to which I was introduced by Michelyn Camen early on in my perfume j*****y, before she founded Cafleurebon. I still possess a small bottle of Calypso - a woozy blend of frangipani, jasmine, cardamom and vanilla - which doesn't seem to have turned yet, despite being at least eight years old. Ajne* had quite a low profile in the blogosphere back then, and I never hear tell of them now. For a while though the range exerted a hypnotising pull over me, due to the hyper-realism of the luxurious ingredients, coupled with the delicate filigree of the Bohemian bottles, and the ritualistic way I would dab on my precious collection of samples. There was even one called Om, described as 'a consciousness-altering blend of smoke-laden sandalwood, Himalayan heart incense cedar, deep forest lichen and smooth musk'. I remember liking Om quite a lot, but I was busy chasing samples and splits of the other heady florals in the range apart from Calypso, notably Printemps (gardenia, linden), and Fleur Blanche (gardenia, stone fruit). It all feels like a lost chapter in my life, with only the increasingly amber-toned remnants of Calypso as testament to my ever having had this intense but fleeting dalliance with natural perfumery...

Ajne Calypso

Then something happened recently to ignite a spark of interest in naturals again, namely an email from Mandy Aftel, explaining that she had spotted my comment on a blog post by Tara of A Bottled Rose, expressing an interest in trying Amber Tapestry and Vanilla Smoke, both of which Tara had reviewed. Mandy invited me to pick a couple more samples to go into the package, and after an enjoyable evening spent reading the reviews of fellow bloggers with tastes congruent to mine, I settled on Wild Roses and Honey Blossom (which I may feature one day).

But before getting to my impressions of the scents themselves, I must devote a paragraph or two to the packaging, which greatly contributes to the 'devotional' aspect of my response to them - though not before mentioning the lightning speed with which the package arrived. It took an astonishing three days to come by FedEx Express all the way from Berkeley, California (including a brief pitstop in a depot in Cannock!). Why, I have known Christmas cards take longer to get from Littleworth to the other side of Stafford.

After the speed, I was completely smitten by the packaging...the golden Jiffy bag, the dear little cardboard box with its charming country scene and the tiny scent pots nestling in paper 'straw' at each corner.

Oh, and the distinctive use of priestly purple as Aftelier's 'house colour'. (Which reminds me of the time my father - not known for his largesse - bought me a colour TV on a whim, purely so he could watch a televised procession of bishops in New Zealand in all their ecclesiastical finery.)

Then there are other dainty touches to savour: the mysterious motif of a long stemmed retort, like a spindly garlic bulb, and Mandy's characterfully spiky calligraphy on her little note, enclosed in a glassine bag to protect the ink from the elements.

How much did I love all these thoughtful trappings? It activated whatever part of my brain - somewhere deep in the amygdala, perhaps? - is excited by miniaturisation, and brought back happy memories of dolls' houses and advent calendars of yore.

And there is something very significant too about the little pots; the Ajne samples were similarly presented, though it was all so long ago. I do believe these tiny receptacles predispose one to a mood of solemn reverence when applying - nay, anointing oneself with - the perfumes. And Vanilla Smoke in particular had the meditative quality of Ajne Om, or the Om at least of my distant recall.

So without further ado, here are my impressions of these two - I must stress that they were both written without reference to the note list!:

Source: kevineats.com

Vanilla Smoke 

I was not too sure about the first few seconds of Vanilla Smoke, as it was all about the smoke initially. A resinous puff of something like birch tar - or gunpowder? - in a quiet register, but still a bit too 'medicinal smoky' for me, if that makes sense. Very slightly like burning Band-Aids. But I was not at all daunted, having read enough reviews to be confident of a more seductive sequel, and so it proved. Soon a veiled sweet note emerged, like jaggery sugar or a dark, veering to treacly, vanilla, and smoothed out the smokiness. The texture of the scent was now silken and soft and comforting, the stern opening quite forgotten.  Who knew a bonfire (for there is smouldering wood still going on in the base) could be so cosseting? If anyone knows Om, cross it with Mona di Orio's Vanille and you would be in the right general ballpark. Vanilla Smoke is a judicious blend of austere smoky backbone and yielding vanilla vulnerability, if I may lapse into purple prose for a moment. Given the purple livery of Aftelier, I am hoping this may be excused! Vanilla Smoke is at once haunting and calming, and unlike any take on vanilla I have ever smelt - and vanilla being my favourite note, I have made it my mission to sample as many of its incarnations as I can find. I am not religious, but as I intimated earlier, dabbing a drop of this on my wrist borders on the spiritual. Hmm, I sense the dabbing part is key. Maybe Aftelier perfumes should only be available in tiny, dabbable quantities to foster this association. Now there's a radical idea... Or if my reference to transcendental experiences sounds a bit un-bonkerslike of me, at the very least Vanilla Smoke would be the perfect accompaniment to one of those Headspace apps where you sit still in a chair, scan your body parts one by one, and generally try to feel floppy. I  loved it, and wouldn't mind if I never smelt any of those 'straight up gourmand' vanilla scents (of which I have so many iterations in my collection) again.

Notes: yellow mandarin, Siam wood, saffron absolute, vanilla absolute, lapsang souchong tea essence (for which the tea leaves were smoked over pinewood), coumarin and ambergris

Source; pixabay
Amber Tapestry

Now although I didn't peek at the note list before marshalling my thoughts on this one, I remember reading somewhere that Amber Tapestry had jasmine in it - very likely in Tara's review - and was also waiting for a cosy, more amber-forward drydown. Instead I got a whoosh of fresh, green, vaguely mentholated, mahoosive and slightly bubble gummy phantom tuberose! And I promise I mean this in a good way! It was really, really interesting, and transported me back to the Palm House of Belfast's botanical gardens, inhaling the dewy, fleshy, otherworldly scent of some unspecified and faintly triffid-like plant. Think the blowsy Vero Kern Rubj crossed with Tubereuse Criminelle and you won't be far off, though I have only smelt the latter once. I see Tube Crim contains jasmine AND tuberose, as well as orange blossom and vanilla. And an eclectic collection of spices. And it is amber coloured to boot! So yes, those two...and maybe lob in a soupcon of Nuit de Tubereuse for good measure.

Source; Wikimedia Commons

Amber Tapestry is a highly unusual scent: odd and shapeshifting and not at all what I expected. Now that I have spied the note list, I reckon the faux-tuberose effect may in fact have been created by the combination of heliotrope (which can read big and 'plasticky') and the jasmine. And how intriguing that both Vanilla Smoke and Amber Tapestry should contain yellow mandarin and coumarin, not that I could have picked either of those out unaided. I suspect the coumarin could also be amping up the heliotrope and helping it stage this surprise tuberose stunt. I can't honestly say I get amber. Or even a drydown as such. The compelling tuberose chimera simply becomes more attenuated and finally fades away.

To compensate for my strange take on this scent, which I realise is way off the reviews I have now caught up with(!), I am inserting pictures of tapestries I have made - or co-made with my mother in the case of the footstool. Both feature an orange colour that could loosely be called amber.

Notes: heliotrope, yellow mandarin, jasmine, jasmine sambac, pear and cinnamon, amber, labdanum, benzoin, castoreum, ambergris and coumarin

The full footstool!

*Ajne did of course famously mark their card by unexpectedly closing early on the day I said I was coming to visit, hehe.

Monday, 13 February 2017

'Hunting the Snark': results of the perfume putdown flingaway / giveaway prize draw

Source: Living Property.co
So I threw down the gauntlet last week, asking people to dish up their favourite perfume putdowns and creatively snarky critiques. A lively and entertaining discussion ensued, in the course of which a consensus emerged about the style of perfume review people favour, namely one that steers a diplomatic line between bland deferential puffery and mean spirited thuggery, ideally with a bit of humour thrown in.

Once the deadline for the competition had passed - a little later than loosely advertised, it must be said - I compiled a list of the entrants who did not officially exempt themselves and did the aleatory biz with Random-org.

Accordingly, I am now in a position to announce the winner:


Congratulations, Crikey! 

Please get in touch to let me know which of the prize options you would prefer, from a ceremonial chucking away of a loathed scent to a decant of a lemming to have and hold, not forgetting the notebook option.

In other news, a perfume review post is up next - no, really!

Saturday, 4 February 2017

Diss your worst! Share your scent slur similes in a perfume putdown throwdown. (Featuring a 'subject to availability' fragrance flingaway, and other prize options)

Photo by Tom Haroldson of MLive.com - just add creosote
I love a good perfume simile - or metaphor for that matter. I don't stand on figure of speech ceremony, me. And I'll be honest that I sometimes enjoy the negative imagery more than the positive, even though there is less of it about. Not least because there are still lots of hackneyed tropes flying about the blogosphere like the dreaded 'cosy as a cashmere stole', for which I keep meaning to start a swear box. With 'sitting on my pipe-smoking grandfather's knee' and 'billowing fresh laundry on the line' following closely behind. With and without accents of mown grass and roses growing round the back door. Of the grandfather's house, indeed. There is arguably mileage in a whole post devoted to perfume writing cliches, but that is for another time.

There isn't that much negativity in perfume reviews, as I say, people in our community being by and large of the 'if you can't think of anything nice to blog, don't blog anything' persuasion, to slightly adapt all our mothers' adage for these social media-savvy times. I will qualify that though. I don't like swingeing critiques of perfumes from smaller houses, as they feel more personal somehow, a bit like mugging your neighbour and nicking their wallet rather than shoplifting in T K Maxx, if you get my drift - or not taking back the extra fiver you were mistakenly given in your change in John Lewis. Not that I would condone these activities either, obviously. So in my view there is a time and a place - and a sliding scale of appropriate targets - for wicked perfume putdowns.

Luca Turin is of course the master of these, though he has occasionally strayed into 'neighbour mugging' territory, most controversially in his dissing of Mona di Orio's original range. There is still much to savour in 'Perfumes: The Guide' without feeling you are rubbernecking at said mugging. Also, I would contend, if you disagree with his views, as I frequently do.

Two of my all-time favourite quotes from The Guide have to be:

"Like getting lemon juice in a paper cut" (Caroline Herrera 212)

Why, I don't mind this one at all!

"Powerfully cloying and nauseating. Trails for miles. Frightens horses. Gets worse." (EL Spellbound)

Ooh, I totally agree with him here, also his sub-heading for that one of "medicated treacle".

Then I am sure Turin had another corker about a perfume that smelt of molten plastic bottles floating down river, but I am blowed if I can find it.

I was actually moved to write this post by a chance comment of my brother's on Facebook the other day. He was reporting on a dream he'd had, in which someone was offended by another person's perfume, likening it to "last Friday night's spectacle cleaner". Now I know the subconscious is noted for its kaleidoscopically random firings, but the originality of this phrase is as startling as it is enigmatic. I don't know about you, but I tend to clean my glasses with a little slippery cloth from Sunglass Hut et al. What are these pungent cleaning products on which I am missing out? And is Friday night typically a time to make whoopee, as it were, with one's spectacle cleaning regime? And how long ago was Friday, in this particular instance? Also, does spectacle cleaner have a poor shelf life such that once opened, it deteriorates at an alarming rate - like flat tonic water, the dreaded occupational hazard of committed gin drinkers, only smellier? Who would have thought five words could be so gloriously baffling?

Source: Boots

Then I thought back to some of my own perfume putdowns - mostly (but not all) from back when I was VM I hate civet on Basenotes eight years ago or so, and lived in terror of any scent that was remotely animalic or overly spicy. For the record, I don't suppose I would still endorse these images, but they will serve to get the ball rolling.

"Sticks of celery coyly peeping over a freshly creosoted fence" (LesNez The Unicorn Spell)

"Like being trapped in a tea chest" (SL Tam Dao)

"Vintage embalming fluid" (Dioressence)

"Tuberose fright wig" (Givenchy Amarige) I stand by this one!

So today's 'Hunting the Snark' challenge is: hit me with your favourite perfume putdowns - your own, or favourite ones by other writers.

Then after the customary time has elapsed - say a week from today - I will hold a draw from those who have entered, and offer the winner a choice of prize:

- Cite a perfume that is a pet dislike of yours, and if I happen to have any of it in the house, I will ceremoniously throw away a sample of it in your name(!). ;)

- OR I will send the sample to a friend of your choice who you think might like it. Not out of mischief, obviously.

- OR I will consult with the winner as to their favourite styles / houses, and devise a decant prize that would appeal.

OR (for anyone who has enough perfume in their life) there is the option of a notebook in which to record your perfume wearings / musings / smart one-liners!

NB I will gladly ship within the UK, while Undina of Undina's Looking Glass has kindly offered to post the winner's item within the US, thanks to the good offices of an associate who regularly shuttles across the pond. It might delay the delivery a little until we can coordinate with his next visit to England, but it won't get me into trouble with the customs authorities again.

And I would also be most interested to hear whether you think there is enough negativity / frankness in perfume reviews - or too much - and/or whether it is more about how the criticism is conveyed rather than whether or not a negative view is expressed. Though wishy-washy comments like: "It doesn't work on my skin, sadly" (of which I am as guilty as the next man) are surely the equivalent of having your boyfriend break up with you by saying: "It's not you, it's me", or "You will make some guy very happy one day".

Source: Fragrantica

Editor's note: I happen to agree with LT's assessment of Mona di Orio's Nuit Noire - or I did in my civet-averse days at least. I even had a pop at it myself, so I will put my hand up and say that I am by no means squeaky clean myself on the mugging front. By way of defence, my main issue at the time was with the amount of the scent with which I was forcibly sprayed by the sales assistant, though I suspect I wouldn't have cared for it back then anyway.  I really like a number of her later creations, mind, notably Tubereuse, Musc and Vanille.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Fetching furry frolics and a flurry of feisty felonies: A Truffle (Ganache Salome) Bonkers Winter Special

Tara, the radiator bed is still a hit!
Since my last post about cracks and leaks, the former are still appearing, albeit at a slower rate, and I think the leaks are broadly sorted, though I still can't bring myself to stage the acid test of a 'messy shower'. And certainly not the 'acid acid test', which would be asking for trouble. But I seem to have lurched from one tumultuous phase to another: this one is due to an avalanche of work, about which I am not complaining. Oh, via an unfortunate incident whereby a legacy email account I no longer use started sending rude spam to everyone in my address book the other night, including work contacts! I am hoping all the recipients will think the phrase 'goon new' is not really me. So  yes, I will be head down till mid-Feb on the work front, and perfume reviews that require more prep may have to be deferred till then. But meanwhile, I did promise you a Truffle special...after all, there hasn't been a post entirely devoted to her since this one last Christmas.

I did actually do a tiny bit of prep for this feature - I looked up the judging criteria for Crufts (I know that is for dogs, but bear with me) to see how Truffle measures up some of them. There was a clatter of obvious things like 'size', 'weight' and 'colour', but then it got into the realms of specific body parts, some with sub-criteria that intrigued me - for example, there's much more to legs than meets the eye:

'Legs: Muscles, stance, proportionality.'

Oh dear, I think I would fail on all of those myself, though Truffle has a nice set I'd say.

'Teeth: kind of bite (level or scissors bite)'

I am sure I would get eliminated for grinding, and Truffle for biting her owner when she doesn't get her own way.

Did I say the radiator bed was a hit?

Oh, I quite like 'gait' too. Truffle has a rolling gait that is very endearing -  it is almost a swagger, but in a sweet way.

And then there's 'attitude'. Who knew that a beagle should look 'cheerful', while a poodle must be 'proud'?

So all those criteria got me thinking about how to present the highlights of Truffle's second winter. I shall go with one or two physical characteristics, but it is mostly going to be about attitude in its various guises, plus the whole gamut of naughty to delightful behaviours.


Since I got Truffle at eight weeks in November 2015, she has grown rather, as you can see.

Still using the same bowls, mind.


Truffle gives good stance, I'd say. Here she is doing her best impression of a lion statue posing with the obligatory ball.

Actual lion:

You really can't spot the difference, now can you?


Facebook friends may recall Truffle's early repurposing of the ironing board as a home gym.

She is still working on her agility, and has recently taken up cycling, though has not quite got the hang of it yet.

Note how she manages to make it look cool, even while technically riding the radiator.

Also under agility we could perhaps file 'turning the St Germain light on single-pawed' - or having a jolly good go at least. 

She also managed to knock a drawstring pouch containing two vials of a new House of Cherry Bomb perfume onto the floor, open the strings with her teeth, and extract the contents. 

NB This could also be filed under '(Dis)-obedience' and 'Fetishes'.

Staying with the theme of agility, Truffle doesn't excel in every area. As you can see, her (kibble-containing) Tupperware opening skills are still on the floor.


Oh dear, this could potentially be a big category. Firstly there is Truffle's complete refusal to observe the 'no jumping up on the worktop' rule.

She also enjoys flaunting the corollary of that - the 'no jumping up on any surface really, but especially where food might be involved, like a dining room table, for example' rule.


Soap suds

In this category, we firstly have soap suds - Truffle goes mad for them, whether in the bath or the kitchen sink. She lies in wait when I do the washing up and makes a dive for the suds as soon as I go to tip the dirty water out, hoiking them out with her paw and proceeding to lick them off. I can't help feeling this isn't good for her, but Fairy Liquid seems to be the detergent equivalent of catnip as far as she is concerned.

Pictured here momentarily distracted by another of her favourite quarries - birds.


Right, so this definitely also counts as '(Dis)-obedience'. Like all cats, Truffle is mad for wool and must not be left unsupervised in its presence. Or this happens. Sadly, there has been no perceptible improvement in her propensity for wool savagery since she was a kitten.


I did say above that her recently acquired interest in perfume may also constitute a fetish. Having opened the perfume pouch pictured above, she proceeded to roll the vials around and roll on top of them - presumably attracted by the smell rather than some kind of variation on the Indian bed of nails idea. 

And only the other week, there was a similar 'coming over all unnecessary' with a perfume package from Undina, whose contents had impregnated the cardboard box with a delicious woody oriental potpourri.

And now we move on to her more positive traits, starting with a category that I could best describe as 'keeping my owner in line'. Think of Edina's daughter Saffron in AbFab and you won't be far off. That's funny, I used to have a cat called Saffron!

Saffron: 1986-1993

Keeping my owner in line

'You are not seriously going to go out in that?'

The offending garment in question was only a hat - one of my own, to boot!

'Isn't it time you stopped messing about on Facebook and went to bed?'


'It's time for You and Yours in five minutes.'

Not forgetting...

'If I keep staring she'll put the suitcase away.'

Keeping an eye on her owner also manifests itself as displays of affection when I am feeling ill or stressed - as touched on in my last post. Truffle has taken to lying on me when I have a headache and am spark out on the bed, say. Here she is, just checking for a pulse. (And yes, I am wearing all my clothes in bed. It was a particularly bad day.)

And this is one of our regular Sunday morning lie ins. I am in pyjamas here at least.


So that was rather a lot of pictures, I know. There are loads more where they came from, so in my own terms as her doting owner I have actually been quite restrained. ;)

On which note it seems appropriate to close with this extract from the very amusing Ladybird book on Cats (a new spoof edition). In case you can't read it at this resolution, I have quoted the text below.

'It is important to constantly take photographs of your cat or people might not know you have a cat. If your camera breaks, a simple cat photographing device can be improvised from things you find in a bin, so you need not miss a moment of proving that you have a cat.'

So yes, I promise you this is still a perfume blog! Normal service will resume soon.

Thursday, 19 January 2017

Cracking up, falling damp, and a bit of a bonkers bad patch

I am sorry for the delay in my usual (loosely weekly) posting schedule/habit. My Facebook friends will know that I don't put a status update on there if I can't either think of something funny to say (or something intended to be funny, more like - who knows what people actually make of my comments?) or haven't got a new picture of Truffle in an amusing pose. Or Truffle just being impossibly cute in a slightly - some might say imperceptibly - new way. And the same is true on the blog, pretty much. Even when I report on the misfortunes that periodically befall me - and there have been a fair few down the years, notably on my business travels, but also after I moved into this house - by and large my posts set out to be entertaining, as opposed to merely a cathartic rant about outrageous fortune and her pesky slings and arrows...though they are that as well.

All the same, I felt that sufficient time had passed for it to behove me to put my head over the tumultuous parapet and give you the topline on what has been happening lately. Perfume reviews, a Truffle winter special and a bathroom refurb report will follow, but right now I am in the midst of a particularly worrisome twist in that particular renovation saga. It is a bit of a spoiler alert to mention it now, but unfortunately, on the day that I put the finishing touches to the room - a few ornaments and pot plants with appropriately toned dark green foliage - I could no longer deny the fact that both the bath and shower were separately and jointly (joint possibly being an operative word!) leaking through the floor and into the kitchen below, causing a number of big damp patches at the top of one wall and all around the track lighting. Why, there's a good excuse not to bathe - it's an electrical hazard!

Additionally, last weekend 20+ longish cracks appeared out of nowhere on walls and ceilings all over the house, one or two the entire length of a room. It felt as though the place was haunted, for no sooner was my back turned when another one or several popped up! I spent a couple of dark nights of the soul googling the small print of my buildings insurance policy to find out the amount of the subsidence excess, and getting ballpark estimates for underpinning(!) the foundations in case the worst came to the worst. In the event, these particular cracks, though legion, leggy, unsightly, and downright alarming, only register as a Category 2 on the architectural equivalent of the Beaufort scale ('fine structural'), and it seems the house - though subtly shifting beneath me - may yet stand for some years to come. ;) I did half wonder whether Truffle may have precipitated the movement by persistently clawing at the dining room door every morning to be fed(!), but a friend who trained as a surveyor reckons the cracks are more likely to be linked to the many, varied, and violent kinds of weather we have been having lately.

So I have put my crack problem behind me (got to be careful how I phrase that, on several levels!). However, the unresolved matter - and associated horrible piquancy - of a brand new bathroom that was five months in the making leaking from multiple undiagnosed and mostly inaccessible sites, remains with me. So I may be liaising with my plumber - and possibly other plumbers! - on an ongoing basis until we can get to the bottom of everything. I have myself done a ton of forensic investigation: this has involved every kind of water volume/pressure, from jet spraying with the shower's own diverter to pouring from a watering can, squirting with a spray bottle designed to banish Truffle's arch enemy, the interloping Tootsie, and administering small amounts of water into the casing of the bath taps via a pipette. I have also isolated certain components from the water blast as a 'control' using a freezer bag and some gaffer tap. Ooh, 'gaffer tap'! Freudian slip...On the plus side, I have learnt an awful lot about the gubbins behind a mixer shower, including the plumbing meaning of the word 'escutcheon'.

My stress levels are compounded by the fact that I am entering a hellishly busy work phase, though I should not be sorry for that, in case some money has to be thrown at the problem one way or another...

Finally, hats off to Truffle for showing a great deal of empathy this week - I'd say 'a rock', but that way lies Princess Diana and that rum bodyguard chappy, Paul Burrell. I swear she (Truffle, not Diana) knows I am run ragged with it all. In the mornings she has taken to sitting on my neck for a bit like a furry comforter, and staged a dedicated vigil outside the bathroom door when the problem was first diagnosed. But that may just have been because she was dying to explore the airing cupboard where the action is all going on!

Monday, 9 January 2017

The Scent Crimes Series: No 17 - Mistakenly thinking gin and scented bath products are interchangeable

Well, thank you for all your feedback on my last post about the 'direction of travel' of the blog. Ooh, how I hate that phrase, whether or not it happens to be a direction that is also 'going forward'. And it seems that travel as a topic is okay! Yes, it was great to hear from so many people all at once, including a few back channel: it galvanised and re-energised me, and confirmed that the blog is in a broadly congenial groove rather than in a rut. And also that some people are still having technical difficulties when they try to leave a comment, for which I can only apologise. I am sorry that I don't even know what to suggest to get round the problem, though in my experience commenting from mobile devices can be more hit and miss. And copying your comment beforehand is a wise precaution to preempt that very understandable phenomenon of 'eaten blog comment rage'.

One of my several gin accessories

Now I had planned to write a post featuring a miscellany of Truffle's winter antics this time round - but something came up yesterday, so I thought I would get that off my chest first. You see, one of my more novel presents this Christmas was an empty gin bottle. It is porcelain rather than glass, with a charming monochrome woodcut design on it, possibly involving a weasel**. The idea seems to be that you decant some gin you already own into it. Or maybe make your own and pop it in there. The bottle has a pump mechanism which is also novel, as personally I don't mind pouring my drinks of whatever kind.

My small but select gin family

The friend who gave the bottle to me apologised for the unusual nature of her present - I would say 'gift' to mix things up a bit, but I hate that word with nearly the same passion as 'gifting'. If you ever catch me saying 'gifting' on here in an absent-minded moment, please come round and shoot me. But back to the bottle, which was bigger than my friend imagined - it would contain at least a full bottle of gin, possible of any denomination, including the 1 litre size I rarely buy, in case people think I have a 'drink problem'. My friend thought I could deploy it as an ornament in my new bathroom, on account of its neutral colour scheme. With the added bonus that a gin bottle positioned at the end of the bath or even - more discreetly - in a corner of the room, would be a bit of a talking point when visitors come.

New bathroom decor spoiler alert!

So I tried the container in various spots around the bathroom, but felt that on balance - quite literally in some ledge-type locations, which were too narrow for it to perch safely - it was on the large side. Plus I am reluctant to start filling up this minimalist, supposedly zenlike  and calming space with too much bathroom-related tackle, never mind potentially controversial alcohol-themed accessories. But my friend had certainly sewn the seed of finding a bathroom-related purpose for the present, so I kept thinking along those lines. Finally I came up with the idea to decant large bottles of bubble bath into it instead - those big plastic ones that aren't pretty enough to display, or whose packaging has a clashing colour scheme - and squirt a bit into the bath via the pump supplied. For easy access, I could store the gin bottle in the airing cupboard, so it would be nearby, but not taking up space - or connoting a dysfunctional relationship with Mother's Ruin.

So I reached for my bottle of Abahna Jasmine & Orange Blossom bubble bath, which has nice packaging, but whose dominant colour is unfortunately bright pink, which won't do at all in there - because the designated accent colour is in fact blue - and poured the whole lot into the gin bottle.

And pumped. And pumped. I know these things take a bit of priming, so I primed a bit. And pumped. And pumped some more. And nothing, but nothing came out.

A sample of my gin glass collection - please don't buy me any more!

So that's torn it. I probably couldn't even wash the bottle out now and put gin in it, even if I could get my head around the concept of a pumpable alcohol delivery system. I could perhaps remove the pump and POUR the bubble bath into my bath. That is probably my best bet, so as not to waste a quality T K Maxx bargain.

And the moral of the story is that I should have known about the variable viscosities of different liquids. Meanwhile, I am thinking it would make a nice lamp, if I could figure out how to affix all the electrical gubbins to the top.

Whoo - I see someone has already done it!!

Source: Bee and Anchor UK's Etsy shop

Are there any electricians out there?

Have you ever pumped gin into your glass?

Or used a present for a lateral thinking kind of purpose that you have later regretted?

How are you on viscosities?

**Oh I say, I was right about the weasel!

UPDATE: I am happy to report that I have now got the pump working! I thought to turn the bottle upside down and that helped coax the bubble bath up the plastic tube. Then when I turned it the right way round again, it was still working. I wonder whether I should have used liquid soap rather than bubble bath to start with, as soap is less thick and gloopy - I think I will next time, as it may have better flow characteristics.

A lamp waiting to happen