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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Bonkers Goes Dutch!

Am off today to Holland to visit friends over the New Year - with luck I will return to something approaching a normal posting schedule next week (work permitting...).

Meanwhile, the forlorn lump of snot and misery that is Mr Bonkers (and I mean that most kindly!) is protesting at this latest abandonment. He is not sure that he will be up to solo Ribena-buying missions. In his darkest moments last night he muttered that he might expire completely in the first fifteen minutes following my departure, and that I would doubtless return on Monday night to find him half eaten by Charlie Bonkers. I am hoping that the cat would have the wit to pop round the neighbours if she was getting peckish, but you never know in an apocalyptic scenario of this nature.

So if you don't see any posts from me next week, you'll know that I am busy sourcing a guitar-shaped wheelie bin (despite Mr B's injunctions not to take any trouble over his funeral arrangements), and organising fellow musicians to play Django Bates' version of "New York, New York" at Mr B's wake. Though obviously I hope to find him sitting comfortably in front of the TV watching Sky Sports, tube of Pringles by his side, cat snoozing peacefully on his lap...

Photo from nonprints.com

Sunday, 26 December 2010

New Post on Ça Fleure Bon - Gift Ghosts Of Christmas Past

Thanks to a curious unseen algorhythm, my first two posts for Ça Fleure Bon have been published the day after a public holiday involving the consumption of copious amounts of turkey - "holiday feasts", no less.

This remarkable pattern may be broken in January, for by my reckoning my next post should fall after Martin Luther King's Birthday (not that that holiday is especially associated with poultry, to my knowledge), and if it happens to coincide with the day after Burns' Night, at least the protein element will be different, and the presentation (in a sheep's stomach) radically so.

So here is a link to the latest one: Boxing Day "Bah Humbug!" And A Glut Of Gift Giving Gaffes

Christmas in this household was decidedly low key this year. Mr Bonkers has unfortunately been struck down with an unpleasant combination of flu and a stomach bug. He struggled up at 9am, laid the table, and went back to bed until Mrs Bonkers Senior arrived in the afternoon. Our usual Christmas tipple of champagne was put on ice, and Mr B opted instead for pints of Ribena, which at least matched the place mats. This may have been the first Christmas ever when he has not been well enough to devour a whole Terry's Chocolate Orange in one sitting, though he did manage a second helping of his mother's trifle - because the jelly "slipped down nicely". Then he manfully lounged around on the sofa till just after The Royle Family, and I say that without a trace of irony - it took all his reserves to manage even short stints of festive slumpery.

On the present front, I did pretty well on the whole. Mr Bonkers gave me an I.O.U., Sibling Claus gave me a big bottle of Diptyque Eau Duelle, Mrs Bonkers Senior gave me a pretty silver bracelet and half a radiator to take the chill off Charlie Bonkers's quarters. Indeed the only gifting gaffe which I could have included in my Ça Fleure Bon post is the present a good friend gave me, which comprised four different foodstuffs. The only one of the four I liked was the packet of chicken soup.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

We Three Kings: Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh - Myrrh



Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch

MYRRH: Eau d’Italie – Baume du Doge (“boho pomade”)

Notes: sweet orange, bergamot, wild fennel, myrrh, frankincense, saffron, cloves, cinnamon, coriander, black pepper, benzoin, cedar, vetiver, cardamom, vanilla


Baume du Doge, created by Bertrand Duchaufour, takes its inspiration from Venice: firstly from the lofty personage of the Doge himself, the Republic's highest ranking official, and secondly from the spice trade, for which the area was an important hub. The position of Doge, an ecclesiastical, civil and military leader in a somewhat gynaecological-sounding power structure known as “caesoropapism”, was created as early as 700 AD, and persisted for some 1000 years.

I use the term “persisted” advisedly, for holding down the office of Doge was no cushy number, and the roll call of incumbents sounds a lot like the screenplay of a medieval Pulp Fiction. Yes, a cursory glance at Wikipedia reveals that some of the 120 doges over that millennium, who clocked up an average of 8.33 years apiece, actually had a bit of a torrid time to say the least. Already in the 8th century, a worrying pattern seems to be emerging:

- Teodato Ipato (742–755) deposed, blinded, and exiled
- Galla Gaulo (755–756) deposed, blinded, and exiled
- Domenico Monegario (756–764) deposed, blinded, and exiled

And see what happens when one of their number tried to break this cycle of sightless sacking and banishment…?

- Obelereo Antenoreo (804–811) exiled, attempted to return to power, killed & head displayed in the market

And then the pattern broke itself, though in a way that would have brought small comfort to the Doge in question.

- Pietro Gradonico (837–864) assassination, although in this case his successor arrested and executed the assassins

Given dogeal survival rates down the ages, losing some facial hair was pretty much as good a result as could be hoped for.

- Otto Orseolo (1009–1026) arrested, beard shaved, and banished to Constantinople for nepotism.

Okay, so so much for the Doges themselves – on to the “baume”….The word means “balm”, which in turn suggests to me some kind of solid perfume or pomade with which the Doge would have topped off his resplendent ceremonial attire. And meanwhile myrrh, which features in this scent, was traditionally used as an “embalming oil”, and there are suggestions that the Wise Man who gave it to the infant Jesus was alluding obliquely to the crucifixion the latter would go on to suffer. If so, that makes myrrh rather a dark choice on his part, but there it is.

In selecting Baume du Doge and Icon, I seem to be drawn to an orangey-myrrh kind of a vibe, as both scents feature those notes. (Baume du Doge additionally has frankincense, so it could also have traded places with Eau Duelle.) However, Baume du Doge is very different in style from Icon: it is heavy, where Icon is bright and slightly astringent; it is also sweet and woody and spicy and jolly incensey. I am almost inclined to call it “gourmand incense”, if such a fragrance category exists. The first main olfactory element I can discern here is a bone dry woodiness that is the Duchaufour's hallmark (most memorably in Timbuktu), with connotations of tea chests and old furniture – it is an overtly “planky” style of woodiness. We are talking sharp shards of wood you could snag your pullover on if you are not careful.

This woody base is overlaid with the sweet, spicy creamy accord of the “baume”. The orange disappears quite quickly in the scent’s development, and the clovey, cinnamony spices take over. I picture a pot of pomade on dark wood dressing table in a room that barely sees the light of day. A dressing table stored in an attic would be even better, but I can’t see our Doge being quite spry enough to shimmy up the retractable step ladder to fetch down his musty unguent.

The overall effect of this scent is soothing and ecclesiastical. The same feel as Etro’s Messe de Minuit, but creamier and spicier – warmer and with less of the dank flagstoney thing going on.

Now one of the ceremonial duties of the Doge was to celebrate the symbolic marriage of the city of Venice with the sea by throwing a ring from the State barge into the Adriatic. And it just so happens that I wrote this post in Venice, California, right on the beach, lushly fringed by palm trees and encampments of tramps and hippies.

Hippies…ah yes… that is the other element of which Baume du Doge vaguely reminds me. Head shops selling joss sticks abound in Venice Beach, and everyone here is pretty chilled, so possibly they are high on nag champa and baumed up on the nearest contemporary equivalent to our Doge’s pomade...which in modern hairdressing parlance would of course be called "product", but that is a whole other post...

The other participating blogs are listed below - we have all chosen different scents, so every post will be a different interpretation of this theme!

Redolent of Spices

Scent of the Day

EauMG

Parfumieren

All I Am - A Redhead

Chicken Freak's Obsession

Notes from Josephine

The Perfume Chronicles

My Perfume Life


Photo of Baume du Doge from Fragrantica, photo of a Doge from Wikimedia Commons, photo of the Doge's Palace from egypttoursonline.com and photo of an incense stall on Venice Beach my own.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

We Three Kings: Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh - Frankincense



Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch

FRANKINCENSE: Diptyque – Eau Duelle (“ebony and ivory”)

Notes: bergamot, cardamom, pink pepper, elemi, juniper, saffron, calamus, frankincense, cypriol, black tea, vanilla, musk, amber

I love the word “frankincense”. It rolls off the tongue in the same satisfyingly clunky manner as the name “Blenkinsop”. I may in fact love “frankincense” as much as my other favourite words: “gutta percha”, “tangerine”, “susurration” and “kibble”. That said, I had to trawl pretty widely to find a perfume featuring frankincense with which I had a particular rapport. I was initially going to choose Flower by Kenzo Oriental, but on checking the notes found that the incense in that one is “Chinese”, which, like that country's livelier styles of fireworks, is something else altogether. A blend of agarwood and sandalwood I believe, whereas frankincense (and myrrh) are of course both fragrant resins.

Then I remembered my newest fragrant squeeze, Eau Duelle by Diptyque, which I am quietly confident of Sibling Claus giving me for Christmas this year. Classed as a woody oriental and created by Fabrice Pellegrin, it has a number of my favourite notes in it, notably saffron, but also pepper, which was in the Kenzo that failed on the incense technicality. And while Eau Duelle is primarily a soft, cosseting scent featuring not one but two types of vanilla – the lighter firnat and the darker bourbon – its beguiling appeal is also due to the smoky tendrils of frankincense in the base.

The duality of Eau Duelle works on a number of levels: the internal light and shade of the vanillas themselves, and of the vanillas versus the incense, all echoed by the contrasting monochrome livery of the Diptyque brand. And beyond the frankincense connection, there are other tie-ins with the Christmas theme: Eau Duelle is both comforting and mysterious, like so many aspects of Jesus's life, if that is not too crass a comparison. And as the Son of God, Jesus embodied the duality of the divine in human form – “by flesh embound”, indeed.

Moreover, the wise men are traditionally depicted as being both black and white – well, one or the other, I mean, not both colours in the same Magus. That would give a very different spin to the term “Bah! Humbug”...

Then I guess there is the uneasy duality of Christmas itself, for somewhere buried underneath the groaning mountains of food and presents there is a religious festival struggling to get out, though every year it slides a little further into secular oblivion. Which brings me to that other, politically correct, duality of “Christmas” versus “the holidays”, a phrase I heard countless times during my recent trip in the States - it is standard usage over there but still sounds strange to British ears. There are holiday cards, holiday trees, holiday pies, holiday feasts, holiday wines, holiday gifts, holiday traffic and (presumably) “holiday holidays” - as distinct from “holiday holidays” - which as their name suggests are at a completely different time of year. Intriguingly, I heard on the news the other day that President Obama is planning to take a “holiday vacation”.

So yes, Eau Duelle would have been a good choice for the baby Jesus all ways round. Perhaps, in the next edition of the Good News Bible - or whichever one is the latest update of the original King James version – we will read that the wise men brought gifts of shares in an Emerging Markets Technology Fund and a £10 mobile phone top up, a bottle of Eau Duelle and....er....some myrrh.

But then again, nothing has quite the ring of frankincense. And a word that is at once a perfume and an object lesson in the beauty of the English language – why, that is a very precious gift indeed.

The other participating blogs are listed below - we have all chosen different scents, so every post will be a different interpretation of this theme!

Redolent of Spices

Scent of the Day

EauMG

Parfumieren

All I Am - A Redhead

Chicken Freak's Obsession

Notes from Josephine

The Perfume Chronicles

My Perfume Life


Photo of Eau Duelle from the Diptyque website, photo of the Magi from Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, 19 December 2010

We Three Kings: Gold, Frankincense & Myrrh - Gold



Three Kings Icon ©2010 Megan Ruisch

By most standards, the infant Jesus had a bit of a rough start in life, what between the lowly manger, the presence of assorted farm animals in his straw-carpeted nursery, and the constant nagging fear of becoming the next cot death statistic at the hands of Herod. But on the other hand, he did receive some excellent presents. For the three wise men who came to pay homage to this very special baby brought exotic gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. These are more imaginative choices than the usual suspects of a Beatrix Potter mug, a silver spoon or an educational mobile. And they are all gifts that you would be happy to receive at any age, well, speaking for the perfumistas amongst us, anyway.

And so it came to pass that Krista of Scent of The Day and Joanne from Redolent of Spices invited a number of their fellow bloggers to review perfumes inspired by the three gifts of the Magi. Here is the first of my three picks - I will post the other two in the course of the week.

GOLD: Gorilla Perfume – Icon ("sacred bling")

Notes: bergamot, orange blossom, mandarin, myrrh, sandalwood

Nothwithstanding the somewhat flip introduction to the Christmas story above, I actually had a strict religious upbringing in the fold of a minor American sect. Our church was plain and unadorned, as were its lay readers who took the place of priests. We didn’t really have carols either, though I do recall one hymn that included the faintly curious line: “the Bethlehem babe - beloved, replete, by flesh embound”.

Understandably, my father felt sensorily deprived in his own church, and greatly envied the rich trappings of more mainstream faiths. In an uncharacteristic access of generosity he even bought me a colour TV, just so he could watch a live broadcast of a bishops’ convention in New Zealand while staying with me. Father didn’t get much change out of £200, but he was able to enjoy the procession of diocesan dignatories down under in all their full technicolour finery.

This craving of my father’s for ecclesiastical glitz goes way back. For on family holidays, instead of being taken to child-orientated attractions such as theme parks and zoos, as soon as we could walk my brother and I were made to traipse round old churches and monasteries instead. The most fun we ever had as kids was rewinding home cine camera footage to watch monks crossing cloisters backwards.

And from these nave-gazing holidays Father would invariably bring back cheap and gaudy religious knick-knacks, which appealed to his magpie-like eye. The two I remember most vividly are a white plastic altar with a gold chalice concealed behind an Advent-calendar-sized door, and an ornate carved triptych with paintings of Greek icons, its lavish gilt imagery contrasting with the dark wood.

Gorilla Perfume’s Icon perfectly captures the mystique and rituals of these other, very different religions of Catholicism and Greek Orthodoxy, with which my father had a life-long dalliance. They were the bright silk lining in the dull worsted overcoat of his main faith. Icon conjures up the familiar whiff of incense, the clunk of the censer, and above all the flashes of gold in the cool and gloomy church interiors – from the glittering brocade vestments to the gleaming chalice and the ornate paintings adorning the high altar and shadowy side chapels.

I detect three main strands to Icon: a pronounced orange note, the myrrh (I could have used it as my myrrh selection(!), and something undefinable but vaguely herby. This slightly odd combination works surprisingly well and the scent remains pretty light throughout. The orangey/herbal aspects have a bright, slightly medicinal and cleansed feeling about them, as befits a scent associated with the purgative benefits of religious rites. They also evoke images of citrus groves and scrubby Mediterranean vegetation just outside the churches, while the incense undertones summon up their dark and cavernous depths, with bewitching glimpses of secret, "sacred bling"…


Photo of Icon perfume from the Gorilla website, photo of Greek Orthodox church from members.virtualtourist.com

The other participating blogs are listed below - we have all chosen different scents, so every post will be a different interpretation of this theme!

Redolent of Spices

Scent of the Day

EauMG

Parfumieren

All I Am - A Redhead

Chicken Freak's Obsession

Notes from Josephine

The Perfume Chronicles

My Perfume Life


PS Having mastered my friend's MAC to write this, I will be travelling back from California from this afternoon till Tuesday morning (weather and transport modes permitting!) In addition to posting the other two parts of this joint blogging project later this week, another Bonkers Road Trip report (with scented bits!) will be along soon...

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Brief Dispatch From The Rabbit Hole

Okay, so this post is not perfume-related...to be honest, I have been so preoccupied and mithered this week that I have sometimes forgotten to apply perfume till late in the day - or even late in the Americans' day. This is a sure sign that the balance of my mind is disturbed.

Yes, I am afraid I am still grappling with the Terrible Database and its 16000 contacts: only one person in 20 is picking up their phone, and only one in 10 of those who do answer turn out to be relevant to the matter in hand.

But I am slowly mustering a quorum of people to visit, and I shall be flying out on Monday to Los Angeles come what may. Moreover, there have been a few oddities along the way that have brightened these long, frustrating evenings. For example, the chap who described a component in his manufacturing process as "persnickety".

And then there were these unexpected recorded messages, in amongst the usual kind that go something like: "For sales press 1, for customer service press 2, for the company directory press pound" etc:

"If you are calling to report an injured or ill marine animal, please press 3."

And this one, intuitively sensing my mounting despair at the impossible challenges I have been set in this project, not least by automated telephony systems:

"If this is a life-threatening emergency, please hang up and dial 911."

We'll just see how my sample quota goes, shall we? Come to think of it, the Emergency Services may actually use the product I am researching. What was that number again?


Photo of injured seal from odt.co.nz