Well, that was rather a silly post the other day, wasn't it? But it was in the spirit of the Third Thing on The Non-Blonde's list of "Five Things I Learned In 4 Years of Beauty Blogging", namely "Inspiration comes in many shapes and forms".
And the title of this post, with its feeble nod to Peter Greenaway, is also on the frivolous side... But anyway, on to the recent lightning trip to London last Thursday, lightning because we went down and back in a day. I cadged a lift with Mr Bonkers, who was going to pick up a new, custom-made bass guitar he had commissioned as a present to himself for his 50th birthday. It was some time in the making, for Mr Bonkers is now 51 and a quarter, but he didn't seem to mind the wait.
On the day, Mr B reckoned he needed about five hours in the store's workshop to preside over the finishing touches to the bass, and to brief the staff on some modifications to three other guitars he was leaving off with them - for the musical instrument equivalent of cosmetic surgery, as far as I could gather. So, seizing my five hour window, I jumped on a tube to Sloane Square, bound for Les Senteurs, the bijou niche perfumery in the smart back streets of Belgravia, if "smart back streets" is not a contradiction in terms.
I have a passing acquaintance with Claire, the proprietor of Les Senteurs, as we have a close mutual friend, who is a strange hybrid of my profession (market researcher) and that of Mr Bonkers (musician). My friend's signature scent is FM Angeliques sous la Pluie, and I have made it a bit of a mission to swap for samples of this on MUA and keep him permanently topped up.
As luck would have it, Claire was in that afternoon, along with two new SAs: Martin, who had worked there before (in my dark, pre-perfumista days), and who has recently come back, and Eva. Shelley, whom I had met several times before, was also around.
I spent a most enjoyable hour and a half there (it flew, honest!), sniffing some new things and some things that were new to me, and shooting the breeze generally with Claire and the team. I have bought FBs on two of my previous visits: PG Brulure de Rose and Les Parfums d'Empire Osmanthus Interdite, so I didn't feel under any particular pressure to make a purchase on this occasion, and didn't.
Here is my test list, with comments on each (somewhat sketchy in places!):
Grossmith Shem-El-Nessim - retro, powdery iris floral of the most headache-inducing kind.
Annick Goutal Ninfeo Mio - third attempt to "get" this, but it still too sharp (though there is a lot of interesting stuff going on beneath the astringency).
Les Parfums de Rosine Secrets de Rose - retro powdery rose - not headache-inducing as such, but not my thing.
DelRae Mythique - third attempt to "get" this one too, and I did! Wish I had tried it on skin now, as it was a beautifully soft and powdery iris - not in a retro way.
L'Etat Libre d'Orange Like This - documented in my earlier post.
LesNez Let Me Play The Lion - a cool green scent I would like to try again. Not as cryogenically cool as Unicorn Spell, and mercifully also lacking the "peapod peeping through a freshly creosoted fence" vibe of the latter.
Honore des Pres Bonte's Bloom - a soft, greenish and rather distinctive floral, which I must revisit. Here is a description of this scent from Les Senteurs' website (penned by the perfume house, I would like to hope):
"Girls in muslin on summer afternoons when the fields are white with daisies, conjuring thoughts of corn fields, sunflowers, garlands of meadow flowers and tedded (sic) hay. Iris butter, camomile, fragrant herbs and Paraguayan leaves - green, soft, aromatic and delicate."
Honore des Pres Nu Green - another cool green floral, with a slightly weird opening, but it soon got into its stride. Another delightfully purple blurb follows:
"A beautiful all-purpose ambisexual green cologne to make you feel clean, re-born and vital: like diving into cold sea-water and then drying out in the sun on red rocks. A melange of green mint, plant musc, Indian herbs and tarragon is enveloped in sparkling dewy leaves and supported by drifts of pure white cedar."
Parfumerie Generale Louanges Profanes - a warm oriental floral - not noticeably profane!
Notes: neroli, hawthorn, lily infusion, incense smoke, benzoin and lignum vitae (guaiac) wood.
Parfumerie Generale Papyrus de Ciane - this has been fully reviewed elsewhere, notably by 1000 Fragrances, so I will just say that it struck me as a complex and interesting vegetal kind of floral, and reminded me of Diptyque's Eau de Lierre or a less sharp Ninfeo Mio.
Notes: bergamot, galbanum, neroli, broom, solar notes, lavender, mugwort, clove, incense, cistus labadanum, hedione, vetiver, Mousse de Saxe, Silvanone, white musk
Parfumerie Generale Gardenia Grand Soir - a good representation of gardenia, simple but unremarkable.
Parfumerie Generale Bois Naufrage - fig and driftwood. Very interesting, reminiscent of Ava Luxe Fig Wood, but slightly more saline and attenuated.
I found notes listed as fig tree, fleur de sel and ambergris. My impression of woody notes must come from the tree, though the fruit of the fig is also quite marked.
There is a superb review of this scent - the highlight of the afternoon - here, together with the story behind it:
During all this testing, a funny thing happened, which proves how suggestible the human mind is - or my mind, anyway. I was re-smelling the Gardenia Grand Soir strip, thinking it was Papyrus de Ciane, and blow me if it didn't SMELL like Papyrus Ciane, until Martin pointed out my mistake. How weird and gullible is that?
It reminded me of the time when I was sixteen and on holiday with my father, who had ordered me pistachio ice cream in error instead of lime. Rather than send it back, he told me it WAS lime and I ate it all up quite happily - it really did taste of lime. Afterwards, my father confessed to the stunt he had just pulled and I was retrospectively furious!
After Les Senteurs, I had planned to go to Harrods next, so only tested Bois Naufrage on skin, saving space for a bunch of whatever took my fancy there. Which is a shame, because I never made it to Knightsbridge, but instead wandered the wrong way down the Kings Road. However, I did find a great pair of straight jeans in Gap, with magic slimming powers!
And I bumped into Claudia Schiffer! "Bump" being the operative word, as she is 8 months' pregnant. She was surrounded by a clutch of small blonde schifferlets, some of whom may have belonged to her tall blonde friend, who was the one not wearing "I'm a celebrity, please don't stare at me" sunglasses.
Summoned by a call from Mr Bonkers, I hotfooted it back to the guitar shop in Camden, and we set off for home. I kept sniffing the one spot on my hands with perfume on it all the way back up the M1, imagining tangled heaps of driftwood, salty breakers and ripe figs. By about Corley Services, the last trace of it had vanished.
Oh, and I may have made up The Lover for reasons of filmic verisimilitude....
(Photos of Les Senteurs are from Basenotes. Photo of Claudia Schiffer by Bauer Griffin. Jeans modelled by Freja Eriksen!)