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Saturday, 26 February 2011

Brief Despatch From A Bonkers Tube Trip

I am down to London for a few days on a couple of scented missions, and also to visit some non-fumehead friends. Now I didn't actually get here on the tube, as the title may suggest, but there are a lot of tube trips involved now I am here, and I am positively caning my Oyster card. The weekend got off to a bad start when the train I was scheduled to take from Stafford was cancelled, owing to a lack of crew. "A lack of crew"? Were they all mysteriously struck down with the same virus? Were they travelling to the rail depot together and got caught up in a massive traffic jam? Or was just the driver available perhaps, but not the rest of the crew, because I would have happily settled for that. There are no refreshments on London Midland trains anyway, and the conductor doesn't always check tickets even when they are fully staffed. Whatever the extent or otherwise of this "lack", they knocked my train on the head regardless, and in turn I had to cancel my meeting with Linda Pilkington of Ormonde Jayne, whom I was due to see at the Old Bond Street store that afternoon. I will hopefully catch her next time I am down, but it was a shame. I was preternaturally smart for one thing. As some of you may know, the working from home thing means I am often in my pyjamas for much if not all of the day. But yesterday I was dressed early, in what Mrs Bonkers Senior would call a "tidy outfit", topped off with coordinated accessories!

To be continued...

Thursday, 24 February 2011

"Bag Of Hell" Update: Holding The Hellish And Rehoming The Ho-Hum

In my latest post about swapping on Makeupalley, I puzzled over how to offload my "bag of hell", namely the hoard of uncongenial samples I have somehow managed to accumulate over the course of 70 odd swaps.

Spurred on by the comments from readers, I made contact with the Domestic Abuse Liaison Officer at our local police station, and yesterday entrusted her with a shoebox full of scent. In the end, I baulked at giving away samples that I consider frankly horrid - these I am holding on to pending a "Bad Perfume Week" group blog event at some point in the future. You guys agreed with me that these women had probably been through enough without their nostrils suffering a fresh "assault".

So in the end I gave them every designer carded sample I could lay my hands on, of which I either had a spare/full bottle/mini, or which I decided I was probably unlikely to get round to using. Additionally, about half of the bag of hell is on its way to a new life - a mixture of designer and niche scents in mostly 1ml sample vials, which I considered "meh", but which just might be someone else's cup of tea. It turns out that they weren't really that hellish in the first place... And now the remaining, considerably smaller, bag doesn't offend me nearly as much.

A big thank you is due to those of you who encouraged me to bite the bullet and simply give my unwanted samples away - I feel much better for doing so and should have done it sooner!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Atelier Cologne Oolang Infini And Other Infinity-Type Things

I very rarely win anything - where chance is involved, I mean. Every now and then I might win something on merit, like the schools scrapbook project that I entered in 1970, sponsored by the Australia High Commission. I distinctly remember my somewhat eclectic prize of a shoehorn and a packet of butterscotch. But raffles, lotteries, premium bonds, that sort of thing - not a peep. And then, to my surprise, I went and won not one but two prize draws organised by Olfacta of Olfactarama! My first haul consisted of decants of Halston Couture, Les Rosines Rose d'Homme and Opium Fleur de Shanghai, while on this most recent occasion I won a set of Atelier Cologne samples, accompanied by their evocative "photo story" postcards in greaseproof paper envelopes (or glassines, to any philatelists out there).

I have tried all the Atelier range now several times, and my favourite is Oolang Infini, though Bois Blonds comes in a close second. They were both created by the same perfumer, Jérome Epinette.

OOLANG INFINI

Notes: bergamot, neroli, oolong tea, jasmine, blond leather, tobacco flower, gaiac wood and vetiver.

I was intrigued at the reference to blue tea, but it turns out that it isn't actually blue in colour. It is called blue because it is in between green and black teas in terms of its strength and the way it is processed. On reflection, it might have been less confusing just to call it "medium". And its production method also sounds interesting, involving "a unique process, including withering under the strong sun and oxidation before curling and twisting".

Sounds like me when I've overdone it on the sun lounger. Well, the withering bit for sure. Since I turned 40, I'd say. Though I do have a friend a few years younger than me who still dares to engage in "unprotected sunbathing", slathering on the olive oil and lying in a field all day. A one-woman crop circle, she is.

But I digress...The special thing about the Atelier colognes is their strength - between 12-20% - ie more like EDP concentration than typical eaux de cologne at 5% or so. Oolang Infini is the most delicate of the quintet, but even after 8 hours it is radiating a woody-vetivery, muzzy jasmine warmth. I get a delicate tea note and a brisk burst of citrus and vetiver in the opening, before the scent segues into a dreamy, limpid accord - not aquatic exactly - yet it feels translucent and very still, like a millpond. The tobacco, leather and gaiac notes are so muted that they barely ripple the surface. Picture if you will a leather folio bobbing in a pond. Assuming it would bob, that is. As the leather got progressively saturated, I suppose it might actually sink. But in my mind's eye it is bobbing, and there are faint plumes of mist/smoke hovering above the pond.

Now tobacco and leather are the last notes I would associate with an oriental style of scent, yet somehow the meditative quality of Oolang Infini manages to conjure up an oriental backdrop for me, rather than the Roger Ackroyd study ambience of the postcard. Okay, I will split the difference and settle on a writing room in Japan. For some reason gaiac wood also sounds oriental to me, though I see that it originated in the West Indies, and is now grown in Central and Southern America as well as Ghana and India.

And along the way I tumbled to the bizarre fact that gaiac wood was the go-to treatment for syphilis in the 16th century, as depicted in this painting by the Flemish artist, Johannes Stradanus.

So, having jotted down my spontaneous impressions of this fragrance - with just the postcard image of the typewriter to go on - I went and found a YouTube clip where Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, the founders of Atelier Cologne, talk about the inspiration behind the scent. Oolang Infini is the "baby" of the bunch, the "wild child", who can do as he pleases. Hmm, maybe that is why I am particularly drawn to it? : - ) And this baby also happens to be a writer, sitting at a typewriter waiting for inspiration to flow...

"His breath fogged the window while he watched new snow fall on the frozen lake. He came here to catch up on his writing and escape the city. At that moment, the fireplace crackled, ice settled in his glass and his thoughts made their way back to the ink."

The last line is a slightly more imaginative rendition of the literal translation of "sa plume reprend vie" as "his pen came to life again".

In the video, Ganter and Cervasel also set the record straight about the nature of the blue tea. Apparently, it combines the freshness of green tea and the smokiness of black tea, and it is this central and unusual note which makes Oolang Infini the most "mysterious" scent in their collection.

Now, while I have been testing the Atelier scents, other Infinity-type things have "mysteriously" crossed my path...Firstly, my good friend Lovethescents put in a request for a hand knitted "circle scarf". I initially assumed this was a scarf with spots on it, but a quick google revealed that it is in fact a "Moebius" or "Infinity" scarf, a new trend in neckwear of which I was only dimly aware. Unlike a conventional scarf, that you just wind round and round, Dr Who-style, - assuming you are not doing that Italian sideways knot manoeuvre or the backwards cowboy thingy, or, God forbid, a spinsterish woggle - the two ends are sewn together to make a gigantic, half twisted oval loop. Or some of them are gigantic, at least. You could end up looking as weighed down as a post for catching quoits, or those tribeswomen in the National Geographic, though admittedly some of them have the added discomfort of saucers in their ears.

And there are different modes of construction for these various Infinity scarves, of which the most tricky looks to be the "knit a volcano/walnut whip in the round" method illustrated. I think I will give that a miss and go for the simpler "start at one end and keep knitting till the desired length is reached" technique.

And also around the same time, I spotted this headline in my local paper: "REDUCED PRICES TO SWIM ON HORIZON". It is actually about a plan to offer the under 16s cheaper rates to a local leisure centre, but you can understand why I thought it was something to do with an Infinity pool. Given the amount of council tax we pay, every home in the Borough should have one really.




Photo of tea from cupmakerinfo.com, photo of writing room from picasaweb.com, photo of 16th century painting from flickr.com, photo of scarf from spudandchloe.com, other photos my own.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Giles Coren - Boondocks-Basher And Dream Lunch Date

I enjoy reading Saturday's edition of The Times. I don't always read it on the Saturday it is published, mind. The carpet is carpeted with unread sections of The Times from several weeks ago. Mixed in with those are bits of the Guardian from the Saturday before last, when I got up too late to catch my preferred paper. And the purchase of today's edition of The Times merely adds to this stealthy accretion of half read newsprint. It wasn't always like this - but since I started writing my own blog and enjoying other people's, my consumption of papers and novels has plummeted. I foolishly asked Mr Bonkers yesterday to name my top three faults and, quick as a flash, he replied:

1. Spending too much time on the Internet
2. Spending too much time on the Internet
3. Spending too much time on the Internet

So, you know, I may have to review my allocation of leisure time at some point... But meanwhile back to our muttons, and an article by Giles Coren that I did find time to read last week. Giles Coren, son of the late Alan Coren, Punch contributor and Sage of Cricklewood, is very funny. He is possibly not quite as funny as my all-time funniest journalist, Caitlin Moran, who also writes for The Times, but he is pretty darn hilarious. However, his coruscating wit can be near the knuckle and below the belt, which is quite a feat if like me you usually keep your hands at keyboard height. And while he is doing all of that, he also manages to sail very close to the wind - so close indeed that he is actually in the wind, busily putting it up other people. Two of his most vitriolic hatchet jobs were the columns he wrote about skiers and dog owners. I would link to these articles if The Times hadn't taken it upon itself to erect a paywall.

And in last week's column there was a telling throwaway line - I'm paraphrasing here, as the paper went out with the recycling and I can't verify the exact wording - but the gist of it was that anyone with an ounce of intellectual credibility moves to the capital at their earliest opportunity. The rest of the country was dismissed as the "boondocks". I had not come across the term before, but it is clearly another term for "cultural desert". A cursory glance at Wikipedia bears this out:

"The term boondocks refers to a remote, usually brushy rural area, or to a remote city or town that is considered unsophisticated. The expression was introduced to English by American military personnel serving in the Philippines during the early years of the 20th century. It derives from the Tagalog word 'bundok', meaning 'mountain'. According to military historian Paul Kramer, the term had attached to it 'connotations of bewilderment and confusion', due to the guerrilla nature of the warfare in which the soldiers were engaged."

Now Caitlin Moran, my favourite Times journalist, is from Wolverhampton, and I feel sure that she would never trash most of the country in such a sweeping, "broad brushy rural" manner. And if my memory serves me, Janice Turner is from Rotherham and Carol Midgley from Burnley. They may all be living in London now of course, but I still don't think they would condone this boondocks jibe.

Now I will cut Giles Coren some slack, because he has just given his baby daughter the sensible name of Kitty, rather than Allegra or Cosima or Calliope, as you might expect from a non-boondocks dweller. And for any humorist - or perhaps any writer - being provocative comes with the territory. As Michael Cunningham, author of "The Hours", sums it up:

"A certain slightly cruel disregard for the feelings of living people is simply part of the package. I think a writer, if he's any good, is not an entirely benign entity in the world."

So, after my annoyance about the use of this derogatory term had subsided, I decided to roll with the punches and let it go. Sticks and stones and whatever. And anyway, I know that it is actually a smart move to live up north, as the cost of living is so much cheaper than in the capital. Why, you can buy a whole terrace for the price of a glass of Merlot in a trendy bar in Hoxton!

But somehow this flip aside in an otherwise entertaining column managed to fester away in my brain, causing it to scramble my synapses in surreally surprising ways. Then out popped the following dream, epically combining subjects as diverse as blogging, the Internet, mental health, immigration, the recently enlarged European Union, food storage, perfume, gastronomy, technology, marine life and disappointment. Why, Wikio's filing system would have a field day with it!

So....in this dream Giles Coren is a practising psychotherapist, and I have checked in for a session to counteract my blogging and general Internet habit. In the consulting room is a big table, and GC is sitting slap bang in the middle, like Alan Sugar in the The Apprentice, with some kind of sidekick/friend/adviser/"eyes and ears" next to him. Now I wasn't expecting a friend, I thought to myself, especially not one who was biblically bearded and kept sniggering as I outlined the reason for my visit. GC himself just smiled inscrutably all the while. And then I spotted another person in the room, sitting cross-legged on the floor at one end of the table. He was surrounded by uncut loaves of white bread and empty Tesco carrier bags, and I knew instinctively that he was from Lithuania, and that if he didn't put most of those loaves in a freezer sharpish, there would be a lot of wasted bread tomorrow.

I hadn't got far with my explanation of my Internet addiction when I decided to tackle GC about the boondocks comment. Whereupon he promptly apologised and offered to take me out to lunch. I brightened considerably at this prospect, for GC is also a noted restaurant critic with access to London's best tables, so I was clearly going to be in for some top scram.

Then the dream cut to one of those long, thin, ultra modern restaurants - a bit like a sushi bar but without the sushi. Though with fish, as it turned out. We were sitting at the bar on high stools, and at one point I leaned over to sniff GC's cologne, but he saw me coming and spun away in time. It was a very forward gesture on my part, I know, especially between therapist and patient, but we fumeheads are driven to sniff strangers with the same compulsion that drives dogs to sniff legs and lamp posts.

Then all of a sudden GC whipped out from his jacket pocket a pair of what looked like 3-D glasses, but they were in fact Blu-Ray glasses, so named because, with them on, you could look into an empty plastic laundry basket (which had mysteriously appeared at our feet at this point), and see an aquarium of fish. There may even have been rays in there, but GC was hogging the glasses. They were so cleverly designed, apparently, that the water didn't run out of the holes in the basket. And then the cat miaowed, wanting her breakfast, and I woke up.

So I never sorted out my Internet addiction. I never got to eat lunch. Hey, I never even saw the fish. I did, however, get an apology out of Giles Coren for the boondocks remark. A retraction in print might be too much to ask. "In your dreams", as they say...


UPDATE: On a whim, I sent the link to this post to the man himself, and today received a humorous reply. GC wasn't apologetic as such, but he wasn't angry with me either for bashing the boondocks-basher back. And if he had been angry, he would have had all sorts of coping strategies at the ready from his book on Anger Management. The gist of the email was that most of the journalists writing for The Times at the moment are from the regions, and he therefore feels the need to defend his beleaguered metropolitan corner: "I am the last of a dying breed".


Photo of Giles Coren from Treehugger.com, photo of Boondocks from thatgrapejuice.net, photo of the North/South divide and of a terrace from flickr.com, photo of a bar from purves-contracts.co.uk

Friday, 18 February 2011

Grès Cabochard & Creed Jasmal: A Baby Boomer Birth Year, Bottled - New Post on Ça Fleure Bon

As the records of my birth are few and rather blurry for the most part, I decided to get in touch with my scented roots, and check out the perfumes launched in my birth year of 1959. You can read the upshot over on Ça Fleure Bon today. It's a bit of a Morton's Fork, as you will see...

Oh, and there is a prize draw to win a bottle of Creed Jasmal, the jasmine floral created for Natalie Wood in the same year I was released. : - )


Photo of me finding my feet - or not finding my feet, even - from the family archives.

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

More Tales From Makeupalley: My Bag (And Box!) Of Hell, And Going The Extra Vial...

The swap scene on Makeupalley has its own complex etiquette. One of my earliest posts on the subject (and there have been a few) focuses on the curious custom of enclosing a boiled sweet, and touches briefly on the subject of other freebies.

"As well as confectionery, swappers often pop in extra perfume samples - from your 'wish list' if you are very lucky, or from their 'wish-to-be-shot-of list' if you are not. Along with the sweets, some of these less aspirational samples commute regularly to and from America."

After just a few months on MUA, it is clear that I already viewed the calibre of these samples with a jaded eye, and they have continued to prey on my mind on and off ever since. Today, my collection of these "less aspirational" samples has achieved a critical mass - or an uncritical mass, more like - for their growing numbers in no way validates their existence. Rather, they have become the scent equivalent of a bloated albatross that oppresses me emotionally and occupies a disproportionate amount of space, split currently between a cardboard box and a tatty plastic bag under the bed. Out of sight, but sadly never far from my mind...

Now it goes without saying that I have tried to lose these samples by every means I could think of - I have gone through the motions of adding them to my Swap List on MUA, a laborious and largely pointless task. Seriously, who is going to be out there actively looking for a sample of FCUK perfume, anything by Joop!, or some very obscure (and to my nose, peculiar) scent like Demeter New Zealand or Index Pomegranate Anise by Fresh? I have also received quite a few vials that have leaked, evaporated or gone off, and others with labels that have run beyond recognition, or with the wrong name written on them to start with. Such errors are more likely to be due to a slip of the Dynamo than any deliberate intention to mislead, though one particular scent - a "faux-Ajne" - did give me pause for thought.

So no wonder no one wants these. Most swappers I do trades with are after decants of Roja Dove and Penhaligon's, high end Chanels and Guerlains. They like the same things I like, pretty much.

Now I know what you are thinking - those samples don't look at all bad in the photo there. Yes, but in the photo - crucially - you can't tell what they are. At that distance, a vial of Gucci Envy Me looks as niche as you like!

And you might also be thinking that I am lucky to have all those samples, and should just knuckle down and appreciate what I've got. How would it be if I was in prison, say? A more sensorily deprived environment couldn't be imagined, compounded by derisory rates of pocket money - how I might savour every last one of those vials under those very different circumstances! This is beginning to sound like my father's argument when I wouldn't clear my plate as a kid: "Think of the starving children in Biafra". It didn't work then and it isn't working now, I'm afraid - the darn things just upset me. Yes, I may be a prisoner after all, though not a grateful one. And this little lot is my chain and ball...

Yet I can't quite bring myself to throw any of these samples away, clinging to the forlorn hope that a male swapper might come along at any moment and snap up Davidoff Adventure or those posey new D & Gs. And there must be armies of Tweens out there who would bite my hand off for Black XS and that Avril Lavigne.

I have periodically tried using the Wish List search function on MUA to see if anyone out there is combing the site for these wallflower scents, but the "no matches found" message gets depressing after a while. And I also puzzle over the sheer scale of the problem and how it has come about. It may actually tip me over into reviewing my own extras policy. For the most part, I give people w/l extras in swaps where I can - one or two, say - and I may add a couple of non-w/l samples to that, which will usually be niche; these will be things I think they might like or could hopefully pass along fairly easily if not. Then if I am swapping with someone who has no w/l to speak of - or does have one, but not with anything on it that I own, such that I am a bit stumped as to what to send them - I tend to go off-piste in my choice of extras, sometimes descending into the realms of silliness, I freely concede.

The final trigger for this post was a chance inquiry by a swapper recently about a couple of non-w/l extras I had included - two different strengths of the same niche scent. She asked me in all innocence which I preferred, and I was immediately stricken with remorse, indeed I have yet to formulate a reply. For the truth is...I didn't care for either of them...that was why I was giving them away. Oh no - now I have gone and done that very thing of sending something from my "wish-to-be-shot-of-list"!

So this unwittingly rattling question has prompted a flurry of moral introspection as to the ethics of extras. If they are not from a person's wish list, should they be niche, if the swapper clearly prefers niche? And if they are niche, must you as the sender also like them? Is it okay to send things that you don't care for if you are pretty sure the swapper will love them? But hey, can you ever be sure? And are there ANY circumstances in a swap under which you can job off your niche OR designer dross that you don't think anyone in their right minds could possibly care for? Well, there must be, surely, or I wouldn't be in this position! : - ) But there again, one man's Dolce Vita is another man's Poison, so all the swappers I have ever dealt with may well have followed this unwritten code to the letter and only sent things they like - it is just that I don't happen to share their tastes completely, though we invariably coincide when it comes to the main focus of the trade.

Yet, surely the whole point behind swapping IS to match your rejects to someone else's lemmings? I'm afraid this remains an elusive ideal for me. I most commonly trade scents I already love but have spare capacity of, for other scents I like at least equally - or mostly equally. It's a slippery slope if you start agreeing to swaps for fear of causing offence, not unlike marrying someone just because they ask you to.

But I don't wish to paint too gloomy a picture, because I have refined and diversified my scent collection immeasurably thanks to MUA and the majority of thoughtful and generous swappers out there. Some of them with the most exquisite wrapping skills. Just this week I fell hard for not one but THREE scents that were extras in swaps that I would never have thought to try otherwise (of which more anon). At their best, those sorts of "random acts of kindness" on MUA are simply priceless.

No, I don't want to get things out of perspective here, for, on balance, swapping is a fun and low cost way to access a much wider range of perfumes than one otherwise might be able to, whether for reasons of cost or geography. But the bag - and the box - that I have somehow managed to acquire still haunt me. : - (

Now my 200th post is fast approaching, and I had always intended to hold a giveaway to mark that particular milestone. So what shall it be, I wonder? No, no, no, nooooo, I couldn't possibly...


Photo of bag from hell from punkdimage.com, photo of furry bag from thefashionpolice.net, photo of poultry bag from retailhellunderground.com, other photos my own.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Valentine's Post On Ça Fleure Bon

Over on Ça Fleure Bon today, nine contributors write about their Scents of Seduction , and there's also a 14-piece fragrance draw. Mr Bonkers and I have been together for over 15 years, so the notion of a Scent of Seduction is a bit of a misnomer in our household. But if I had to go back and woo him all over again, fragrance clearly wouldn't be the way to go!

We both received two cards this morning - we can always count on one from the cat - but our choices were not without incident. Mr Bonkers picked the same card for me as last year, and ended up selling it on to Charlie. It was one of those pricey ones with things stuck on, and the cat wanted to draw my attention to just how many Iams crunchies had changed paws in the transaction. So she managed to peel off the price label from the cellophane wrapper (after vole disembowelling it was a breeze!), and affix it under her spidery signature, which does not seem to improve with annual practice.

Meanwhile, I accidentally sent Mr Bonkers a birthday card instead of a Valentine, but it had heart shaped chocolates all over it so, hey, it was an easy enough mistake to make... : - )

Friday, 11 February 2011

New Wikio Blog Ranking: Because Beauty Is In The Eye Of The Searchbot

Some readers may have spotted the newest addition to this site, a red badge from Wikio, the information portal, listing me as No 44 in their Beauty Blog rankings. I decided to display it not because 44 is a particularly impressive ranking - but rather because it is any ranking at all in a category with which I perceive myself as having a very tenuous affinity. The only post I can remember writing about cosmetics, Mouldy Old Kohl And Broken Bits Of Blusher, didn't exactly present my make up bag in an optimum light...

Now I think about it some more, I also wrote a couple of posts about an Avon face cream, and one about a Chanel nail polish - or about wanting to have it rather than the actual item itself. And along the way there has definitely been something on a Mitchum anti-perspirant and Label M's hair souffle, but that is about the extent of it as far as I can recall, out of nearly 200 posts now. And the latter two aren't really about beauty so much as avoiding the twin personal grooming crimes of unsanitariness and untitivated hair. So I am quietly fascinated by this whole web crawling business, with its armies of industrious software spiders, scurrying in all directions to forage for billions of cyber titbits.

Now it should be remembered that these searchbots are by definition a bit robotic: just for fun I googled "Wikio badge", and got a site called "Behind the Badge". Ah, I thought, a whole blog devoted to decoding the algorithm behind Wikio categories and rankings. But no...it was a blog that offers its readers "General rambling from the perspective of your friendly neighborhood former policeman".

So, bearing in mind the vagaries of web crawling, I couldn't resist taking a peek at my listing under Beauty on Wikio and found that I do in fact cover the following topics:

LIFESTYLE FASHION LINGERIE AGENT PROVOCATEUR FRAGRANCES WOMEN'S FRAGRANCES FASHION DESIGNERS

Why, this is is a revelation to me! I didn't know that I wrote about "Lifestyle" particularly. Well, maybe my own lifestyle, which - when I am not burning rubber on foreign freeways - mostly consists of sitting about in my pyjamas a lot. Could that in fact be what they mean by the third heading, "lingerie"? Thinking of the fleecy M & S pair I am sporting at the moment, that might be a bit of a stretch. And I don't believe I wrote about actual underwear lately. Hmm, might there have been a teeny reference to a satin teddy in a post about Natori? Or was it Stella Nude? Just checked...it was Natori, silk, and the simile in question was not necessarily my own - says she, quickly trying to shimmy off all suggestion of responsibility for louche lingerie allusions.

Hold on, though - these headings are in fact hyperlinks to the selection of posts containing material on each topic. So the lingerie one is based on my recent post about L'Air de Rien (okay, I did utter the words "carnal filth", but no lingerie per se was mentioned. More a scenario where lingerie could have been worn, at least initially).

Then the next post was this one about my nightly ritual of wearing Agent Provocateur to bed. Which does involve pyjamas at least! But again, not lingerie in the sense I understand it. And my regular application of Agent Provocateur was prompted by a desire to quantify the number of wearings in a 4ml mini rather than an attempt to create a boudoir ambience.

And finally, the third post mentioned concerned an Estee Lauder mini of Pure White Linen that went bad during the heatwave last June. I used the word "Impure" in the title, but didn't mean to connote any kind of lewdness or conduct involving scanty clothing. What is slightly concerning is that I wrote that post ages ago, yet it is one of the most popular posts from the past 30 days, suggesting a lot of people might have read it, unless they were shocked by the title and clicked away sharpish!

Hmm, I may have spoken too soon...I just clicked on LIFESTYLE to see what exactly Wikio was classifying there, and on Page 2 up popped titles including the phrases "embrace your inner nymph(o)," "sultry sweetness" and "the dirty half dozen". No wonder they think lingerie is mixed up in all this! On the basis of those saucy spoils from the searchbots, my back catalogue sounds like pure, unadulterated smut - or do I mean impure, adulterated smut?

But at least I am living up to my categories. If you think a Lingerie-Wearing Lifestyle one belongs in Beauty in the first place, that is. Well, the nicer stuff might do. Not those grey and forgiving big pants (known euphemistically as "full briefs") which you hang on to just in case you ever need to wear a very poor quality of pants one day for some reason (though the particular circumstances in which this need might arise are never made clear). So yes, there is a chance that visitors may find Bonkers too lingerie-focused, too racy altogether, which is a possibility I had never entertained.

I bet some of you are wondering why I didn't register my blog under the Perfume section instead of Beauty, because there clearly is one - I know a few highly ranked bloggers with badges to that effect. Well, I actually registered Bonkers under "General" blogs, as I couldn't spot a category for Perfume in the drop down menu at the time I joined - or not on the UK Wikio site, or whichever one it was. Maybe I should have clicked on "No Specialisation" and then typed "Perfume" into the comments box below, the way you do with those "Unlisted Brand" and "2Grrls" options in Makeupalley. And where on earth did they get "2Grrls" from, anyway? But as things stand on Wikio, I don't believe you can "port" your blog across to another category.

Now in General blogs I am currently 3396! Out of how many, goodness knows. That level of ranking is considerably less to write home about than on the Beauty side of things, but at least I can confidently describe myself as "general". I don't think you need to have a broad spread of topics to qualify, but if you do, I obviously have a foot in several thematic camps already. My own belief is that General is entirely made up of lost speciality blogs like me. So I probably fit right in.

So the only question left is which of the remaining categories Bonkers about Perfume might fetch up in next. I think I could make a case for Cars motoring (sic), Knitting, and Wine and beer, but Parenting seems like a long shot, ditto Law, Economy, and Religion and Belief. I don't see a category for Humour, come to think of it, so if the bots get to read this and are not amused, there is always a chance they might boot me and my Beauty badge off the site altogether...


Photo of make up from inetgiant.co.uk, photo of police badge from Wikimedia Commons, photo of pyjamas from letsbuyit.co.uk, photo of searchbot from seoyourblog.com

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Tauer Carillon Pour Un Ange: Galvanising The Lily

I like Switzerland. I go there quite often for work. Why, I even have an expired 2010 vignette on my car, which permitted me to make unlimited use of the country's scenic and densely betunnelled motorway network last year. I also like Andy Tauer, who is THE perfumer everyone associates with Switzerland. Following a tip off from Wordbird, I have visited the Aladdin's Cave of a little bookshop run by his friend in the Spiegelgasse in Zurich. It famously inspired the creation of Le Maroc pour Elle, and cheek by jowl with the books and art cards, the full range of Tauer scents is displayed in the doorway, bizarrely suspended on pieces of string.

Now I have never met the man himself, but there are quite a few of us out in the blogosphere with his handwritten compliments slips, which we have squirrelled away with other fragrance keepsakes, or - in my own case - stuck up on my office pinboard next to the business cards of a couple of other olfactory benefactors. This perfumer is not only very generous with his prize draws - I won a set of samples during the Advent series of 2008 - but he does his own mail outs. Yes, on the basis of these little notes and his blog, Andy Tauer comes across as friendly and approachable. He hikes, he cooks, he is like one of us! Well, except for the hiking, the cooking and the famous and talented nose part. Speaking for myself, anyway. And if I ever were to meet him, I could speak to him in German! Though not his native Swiss German - goodness me, no.

So given the fact that I have always warmed to Andy Tauer as a person, it has been a source of regret to me over the past three years of this hobby that I haven't had a very good "strike rate" with his perfumes, by which I mean I have only liked a small proportion of the total line. Well, pretty much only L'Air du Désert Marocain up to this point, which continues to exert a visceral pull with its haunting blend of rock rose, bone dry cedar and dusty spices, warmed by a soft amber base. The image conjured up by this scent is perfectly summed up by its creator:

'Imagine finding peace in a room, lying on the bed, exhausted from the heat of the day, with the window open, letting the cool air in which still is very dry and filled with the scents from the near desert and overlayed with the spicy scents of the streets below.'

Notes: Coriander, Petitgrain (Bitter orange), Lemon, Bergamot, Jasmin, Cistus, Bourbon, Geranium, Cedarwood, Vetiver, Vanille, Patchouli and Ambergris

L'Air du Désert Marocain is one of the most affecting perfumes I have ever smelt, which I wouldn't say of all the fragrances I am very drawn to or find easy to wear. I should perhaps add that I only love L'Air du Désert Marocain (henceforth LADDM for short) when it has been on for an hour or so, as it is a bit intense and raspy to start with. Which brings me on to the reason why I may have problems appreciating most of the other scents in the range, namely the Tauer "house accord" aka "Tauerade". This term, coined by Marina of Perfumesmellingthings in her review of Tauer's Orris, is the subject of a recent post by Josephine of Notes from Josephine, in which she wrestles with her nose's existential angst in relation to the Tauer line.

Marina reads this accord as a "sweetly-ambery, spicy-herbal, slightly leathery, woody SOMETHING", so no wonder she wanted to come up with a snappier name for it(!); Josephine, meanwhile, detects cough syrup. For myself, I do get a medicinal aspect, also a fuzzy, almost wire wool consistency. It was particularly noticeable in Incense Rosé, Une Rose Chyprée and Lonestar Memories, though there was a lot else going on in that last one, from lighter fluid to bacon, "fuelling" its oddity.

I persisted in this view of Tauers - accepting that LADDM would forever be the one scent from this particular stable on which I could happily ride off into the sunset - until I began to hear good things about the new release, Carillon pour un Ange. I heard it had ylang-ylang and lily of the valley, two favourite notes of mine, though the latter can be tricky and descend into soapy toiletry territory if you are not careful. I also heard that this scent wasn't like other Tauers in terms of the whole medicinal Brillo pad vibe. And though my hasty sniff of a tester nozzle in (the) Scent Bar wasn't too promising, I am three skin trials in now and enjoying the fragrance very much indeed.

For starters, Carillon pour un Ange has an unexpected luminosity for a Tauer - a radiant, almost irradiated quality. Bury it 200 foot underground and its bright heart would still beat, and its bells peal. It has the same intense and bright quality as Ajne Printemps or SIP Magazine Street or DelRae Début, which may partly be to do with the natural ingredients used, for it is mostly in scents with a high proportion of natural materials that I have experienced this "High Definition" phenomenon. The heady hint of lilac, the sensual oomph of jasmine and the tangy clang of ylang-ylang(!) help magnify this impression, aided and abetted by some miscellaneous greenery - none of it bitter like galbanum to my nose - but rather a bright, sherberty linden greenness (which Printemps and Début share, come to think of it, while the DelRae also has ylang-ylang).

Now, having said that I don't detect Tauerade, with its telltale wire woolliness, I DO detect metal all the same, at least in the opening. This may well be intentional, given that the name of the scent refers to a "stationary set of chromatically tuned bells in a tower, usually played from a keyboard" OR "a composition written or arranged for these bells". My first impression of Carillon pour un Ange (or CpuA for short - not to be confused with anything from the Periodic Table of Elements). was of a glade of lilies glimpsed through a wire fence.

Has anyone ever made a peephole theatre out of a shoe box? And if so, do you remember that deep sense of perspective due to the arrangement of different fixtures and fittings at staggered intervals along the box's length? Well, that is how I could best describe the sense of olfactory perspective I get with the accords in CpuA.

The metallic quality hangs around for a while in the foreground, and grounds the scent nicely, stopping it from coming over all Diorissimo. Now don't get me wrong - there is a place for that more feminine, "capering-on-hilltops-in-flouncy-petticoats"-style of springtime scent, though not on my skin particularly. But with CpuA, there's an edge, a metal-strip-in-a banknote bite to it. I may conceivably be chomping on the wire fence initially, as I survey the green dell beyond. Stranger things have been known. I am also reminded a little of the sensation of smelling Nahema, which was like sucking on powdered iron girders, but there the iron note was diffuse and powdery, whereas here the metal is whole and glinting - like sunbeams glancing off the bells in the tower. This is not a gilded lily, but a lily in an iron fist. The lily equivalent of "steel magnolias", if you will. : - )

Notes: lilac, rose, ylang-ylang, green lily of the valley accord, jasmine, leather, ambergris, moss and woods.

Now I see no mention of ferrous material in the note listing, so I am guessing that the metallic impression I get is coming from some combination of moss, leather and woods. Either that, or I am imagining it completely, like the phantom ylang-ylang I detect in Ajne Calypso. And as time goes on, the metal bite disappears, and the radiant piquancy is muted slightly by a musky-woody-leathery trail. It is as though the sun were veiled by a wisp of cloud, behind which it continues to burn brightly.

So there is a threefold learning from this latest scent trial:

1. I like anything Bloody Frida sends me
2. There are more Tauers out there to put a spring in my step and make my heart leap...
3. I like my lilies to be not so much giddy and girly as galvanised.

Yes, Andy Tauer has really "rung the changes" with this one...and I am very happy to have found it.




Photo of Easter card with angel from flickriver, photo of hotel in Marrakesh from concierge.com, photo of Carillon pour un Ange from ry7.ru, photo of brooch from collectibles-articles.com, photo of theatre in a box from papergoods.com, photo of angel from fast-autos-net, photo of galvanising process from bellespics.eu.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Miller Harris L'Air de Rien: Not Nothing, But Nothing To Be Scared Of

The other day, Bloody Frida received a swap parcel from me, prompting her to conduct a preppy fragrance throwdown between the teeny remnants of vintage Lauren I sent her and the modern variety. She illustrated the post with a photograph showing the eclectic set of items I had put in the package, including a "comedy haberdashery decoy" of some ceramic buttons, designed to bamboozle our respective draconian postal authorities.

Then yesterday, I received Bloody Frida's parcel to me. She entrusted her other half, known on these boards as MOTH, with the delicate and dangerous task of posting my package. Before being despatched to the post office, MOTH was briefed to deploy a similar haberdashery decoy strategy, and to mark the contents as "wool". In the event, MOTH was so conscientious in the execution of his fraught mission that he went one better, and wrote "knitted hat" on the customs label.

So as I say, yesterday the knitted hat arrived, along with the trio of fine fragrances that were the real and covert focus of the swap. To be fair, the knitted hat is a bit of a work-in-progress still - not totally off the drawing board you could say - but it is a veritable vision of woolly wonder, fashioned in exactly my preferred shades of sludgy blue and brown.

As for the perfumes, Bloody Frida enclosed the two we had discussed, Tauer's Carillon pour un Ange and Miller Harris L'Air de Rien, and thoughtfully added a decant of Agent Provocateur, which was on my MUA wish list! Now I haven't got round to retesting the Tauer - I wasn't too struck on it at (the) Scent Bar in December, but felt it merited a retrial. However, I wore the Miller Harris all day yesterday...

Of the two, this was the one I was most fearful of trying again. It is the scent created by Lyn Harris (whom I always have to remember to spell with one "n") for Jane Birkin, sixties boho wild child, singer / muse of Serge Gainsbourg, and face of the eponymous Hermes bag. Prior to the development of L'Air de Rien, Jane Birkin had rejected all fragrant materials except potpourri, associating perfume properly speaking with blowsy florals worn by "heady, dark-haired women".

She goes on to explain in an interview with UK Vogue that notes "like hyacinth, tuberose and lily-of-the-valley made me vomit when they were enclosed in a bottle". Okay, I hear what she is saying, but potpourri? In my experience potpourri can be very hit or miss, and much of it is overpowering in a stifling Yankee candle kind of way. JM Pomegranate Noir I am looking at you... So I would like to know where JB got her particular blend and what was in it. I did try googling "Jane Birkin potpourri", but came up instead with a video of her singing in France last year.

Be that as it may, what Jane Birkin did want L'Air de Rien to smell of - which she reckoned would be "much more me" - was "a little of my brother's hair, my father's pipe, floor polish, empty chest of drawers, old forgotten houses." Now interestingly, her brother Andrew Birkin wrote the screenplay for the film of the book "Perfume", so it is to be hoped that his hair didn't smell of any of the ghoulish scents featured in that movie. Glancing at these notes from Lucky Scent, mercifully it would appear not - I see no dead girls listed here.

Notes: French oak moss, Tunisian neroli, sweet musk, amber and vanilla

That said, musk is down as one of the notes, and some reviewers, notably Angela of Now Smell This, have interpreted this animalistic odour in L'Air de Rien specifically as civet. Civet, as some readers may know, is my Room 101 of perfumery notes. I found it ironic that a scent reported to contain my most loathed fragrance ingredient could have the effrontery to call itself: "The appearance of nothing". For not for nothing am I known on Basenotes as "VM I hate civet". But always in the back of my mind is the niggling fact that I smelt L'Air de Rien on Danielle Osborne, aka Mrs Basenotes, back in the summer of 2009 at a Basenotes sniffing event, and it was really something on her. Not in the least offensive. A quiet animalic blur, perfectly blended with her skin. So I knew that one day I would have to square up to a rematch, and yesterday was the day.

Well, to my immense surprise I liked it immediately I sprayed it on. It had a granular texture like Eau Duelle, Habit Rouge EDT and the grandma of grit, Guerlain Sous Le Vent, but not excessively so. It was vaguely animalic, but nowhere near the levels of Jicky, where the unhappy marriage of civet with lavender reminds me unpleasantly of lavatory freshener. There was a whisper of moss and/or patchouli, which was probably as close as I got to "old forgotten houses" and their furniture. It had the warm vanillic quality I love so much in Eau Duelle, though in a much quieter register. It was like unwashed skin, but I'd like to think it actually smelt no worse than I do on those far too frequent occasions when I sit at the computer all day in my dressing gown, and come 6 o'clock decide that it is hardly worth getting washed or dressed anymore - or not on that day, at least.

Okay, maybe there was the merest suggestion of carnal filth, but not at antisocial levels. Musc Ravageur is more of a filth foghorn in that regard. A sweet filth foghorn. And I do like Musc Rav, but I don't think I would wear it outside the home, whereas I am actively planning to wear L'Air de Rien to imminent social events. If anyone asks me what I am wearing (and they never do) I can always say: "Oh, it is one of those 'barely there' scents", which I could go on to justify with the translation of the name.

Moreover, L'Air de Rien is, all things considered, not exactly like anything I have ever smelt. Which I guess the name also hints at - it has the "air of nothing" I have encountered before. I may also have to consider changing my Basenotes name from "VM I hate civet" to "VM I used to hate civet with a vengeance, but now I am prepared evaluate each case on its own merits". That's assuming there IS civet in there, which is by no means certain.

Now I hope I am not being overly optimistic about L'Air de Rien's social acceptability here, for it didn't go down too well with Mr Bonkers. He did his asking me to leave the room trick again, and described it as an "eye-stinger". If you remember, the only perfume I own which received a favourable reception from him was SJP Lovely, so I was probably always going to be on a "hiding to nothing" with something containing even suspected civet in trace amounts that don't appear to bother my hyperosmic nasal receptors. I told Mr Bonkers how the scent conjured up unwashed body parts and explained the link with Jane Birkin, and all he said was: "Who's he?" My follow up reference to 1970s school discos and the way they always played "Je T'Aime" as the smoochy number at the end of the night also fell on uncomprehending ears.

This response has definitely confirmed me in my intention to wear L'Air de Rien exclusively outside the home. I am used to Mr Bonkers ridiculing and stonewalling me over my perfume choices, and his attitude, like the scent itself, is - to quote Adam Ant - "nothing to be scared of".

Oh, look at that sweater Jane Birkin is wearing in the picture below! I know Bloody Frida said the wool she sent me was only sock gauge, but I wonder....






Photo of L'Air de Rien from Lucky Scent website, photo of Jane Birkin and Serge Gainsbourg from frogsmoke.com, photo of monolith of writhing bodies from picasaweb.google.com, photo of Je t'aime record from vasiliska.com, photo of Jane Birkin nowadays from Wikimedia Commons, other photos my own.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Widgets Behaving Weirdly And Frissons From Further Followers

Mrs Bonkers Senior describes herself as a fair weather gardener. I would describe myself as all weathers non-gardener, and only engage with the shrubs in our very dull front bed when the more aggressive specimens like ivy and cotoneaster threaten to prise open the living room window or even insinuate themselves into the fabric of the walls themselves. Which does actually happen every 10 years or so - prompting Mr Bonkers to launch a frenzied attack on these impudent lianas with a pair of blunt and rusty shears.

Now when it comes to PCs, I would describe myself as a fair weather computer operator. I am completely at a loss when settings mysteriously change of their own accord, and have only the sketchiest grasp of things like html code or javascript. I need to be able to add widgets on my blog as you might place a cherry on half a grapefruit (or you might in 1970, when I last did Domestic Science). If there is anything more complicated involved, like scrolling through the main blogger template till you are cross-eyed looking for a line of code that looks roughly like "p blah blah some kind of brackets data:post.body slash close brackets", or having to open screes of code in Notepad - which I am dimly aware is not the spiral-bound jotter by the phone - well, I simply don't want to know.

Thus it was that last weekend, in the course of my hamfisted attempts to add a Facebook and Twitter share button, I managed to delete some text in a sidebar, and every time I went to add it back in, I got messages along the lines of "corrupted code, insert fresh code", right by that irritating little wrench sign that purports to be for my eyes only. It was all rather distressing at the time, but worse things have happened since, with which I shan't trouble you, enabling me to move on.

On the plus side, I didn't accidentally delete all my followers, who collectively comprise a cheering and colourful enhancement to this blog. Yes, at the risk of coming over all unnecessary, I confess to feeling a frisson of excitement every time a new avatar appears. The cubed montage - I believe it even has a proper name ie "avatar mosaic" - reminds me of those executive puzzles where you slide the tiles around to make a specific formation. As far as I know there isn't such a facility in Blogger, say if you thought someone's avatar was particularly fetching and you wanted to keep it in your top line. The last man in bumps an earlier follower into the invisible panel behind, or that is my impression.

But notwithstanding the shortcomings of followers as a human executive toy, I would like to thank every one of the 63 people on there currently who have taken the time to click on the "Google Follow" button, including the unfortunate person who appears to have lost his or her head, and defaulted to the rudimentary representation by an "X". Maybe they are called Malcolm. No, I have just checked, and the person in question is a lady lawyer in South America. She may need to keep a low profile for professional reasons, which arguably I haven't helped by drawing everyone's attention to her.

Now, round about the 57 follower mark, someone joined and promptly unjoined. At least I assumed it was the same person, rather than the perfectly timed coincidence of one follower joining as another one cancelled. Whatever occurred back there, I never established who had left, or the reasons why. I am trying to make up my mind which is better: someone quitting within the hour or a long term follower deciding they have had enough. The first instance could be down to a simple mistake - you would be surprised how many people find Bonkers about Perfume whilst looking for avocados. They may have hit the Google Follow button in an unthinking moment, only to have immediate second thoughts, once they realised how few column inches are in fact devoted to this nutritious fruit.

As for the scenario where a person leaves after some time - if that is what happened - it must take a lot consciously to decide to strike off a blog. (Almost as much effort as it takes consciously to avoid splitting an infinitive, not that anyone cares these days.) I suspect I am listed as a follower of all sorts of blogs I don't read as often as I would like. But to go back in deliberately and unfollow a blog feels like a decisive act, more so than just unfollowing someone on Twitter whose tweets are swamping your feed.

Consequently, I spent a dark - not quite "night of the soul" - but an early evening at least, trying to figure out why a long term follower might have upped sticks. Perhaps they were bemused by my post about Californian road surfaces. Or the sheer number of posts about California last month. Even readers based in California would probably agree that the attention accorded to their state was disproportionate.

Perhaps I should have put a palate-clearing paragraph in amongst all those posts stating that loosely related perfume features would be along again shortly. But then, if I had done that, and the follower had come back today, they would have seen this post on widgets and followers and been resoundingly confirmed in their decision to leave...

Hmmm, I wonder if I should offer a prize for the 100th follower, if and when that time comes, like the sales assistant in Harrods the other day who handled the billionth pound of sales revenue. Though maybe that isn't such a great idea, as the other 99 may quit in disgust at being passed over, and then where would I be?

But anyway, I promise that my next post will be about perfume again. Or avocados. So, please, don't go away, anyone...or get any ideas from the poster above about changing your avatar to an avocado. That would be rather a lot of green - much like our garden, indeed.