|Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Andy Jamieson|
Natalie, who knows the city well - having lived and studied there not so long ago - suggested a central location for our rendez-vous, to wit the steps of The Council House in Old Market Square. On my arrival I sent her a text to explain that I was the same side as a funfair, in between two stone lions. I was mindful of the pitfalls of 'multiple entrance syndrome', of which I once fell most spectacularly foul in Toronto. I gaily offered to meet a colleague at The Bay department store, which boasts no fewer than eight doors across all four facades. I ended up circling the building for a full 45 minutes looking out for a stranger of unknown physical description who was at least also looking for me...
|Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Andy Jamieson|
Now I did have a pretty good idea of Natalie's appearance, gleaned from glimpses of her long curly hair in photos on APB, supplemented by dim recollections of an eyebrow tweezing video she posted there. But even armed with these mental images, I was surprised to find not one but two women sitting on the steps of The Council House who looked broadly as I imagined Natalie to. I discounted one of them because she was wearing hi-top baseball boots - an assumption that was wholly vindicated when the woman in question got up moments later and legged it. The second woman lingered a little longer, but her high-waisted spangly black jeggings didn't quite chime with my impression of Natalie's sartorial style either. ;-) And I was right again, for at that point the real Natalie hove into view, dressed in jeans and a white blouse, her luxuriant hair tied in a plait curvng round one shoulder. I am pleased to report that she was sporting one of her scarves, in a mix of jewel colours of which purple was a principal component. I think it is the penultimate one featured in that post, but will await confirmation from its owner!
Next up, Natalie took me on a walking tour of the city centre, pointing out buildings of interest and favourite hang outs from her student days. At the first stirrings of hunger we headed for an Italian restaurant recommended by Natalie's friend, and were soon tucking into a couple of hearty pasta dishes. At this point I must say what a good sport Natalie was, for at the start of the meal we had agreed to share our dishes. However, having lobbed an initial morsel of ravioli onto Natalie's plate, I promptly forgot about our deal and polished off the rest of my food myself. Not only did Natalie politely overlook this aberrant behaviour, but she even invited me to minesweep her leftover cannelloni.
From the restaurant we adjourned to a pub called The Pitcher & Piano, which is housed in a former church. It was a vast, cavernous and echoing space, and reminded me a bit of the gothic wine bar Freddie of Smellythoughts had taken me to in Birmingham. At this point in the evening we finally got on to the subject of perfume(!), chewing the cud about the latest releases, our approaches to blogging, people in Perfume Land we would like to meet, as well as the seemingly endless differences between US and British English, which were a source of much hilarity. 'You say plugboard, I say power strip...' (And I must mention here that Natalie has the prettiest and most infectious laugh I have ever heard!) I had brought along some bottles from my vintage collection, and managed to comprehensively drench us both in Blue Grass from the 1970s. Natalie gave me a sample of Zelda by En Voyage Perfumes to try, and we bonded over our mutual appreciation of its fine magnolia note.
At about 10pm I reluctantly thought I had better make tracks - I had the drive back ahead of me, plus I hadn't clocked when the car park closed. I gave Natalie a lift back to her digs on the university campus - well, once I finally found the car park where I had left my car, that is. ;-) Oh, and once we found the correct building on the campus. I tried programming my sat nav with various addresses and postcodes, but English Kate, the voice in the machine, was flummoxed by all of them, so we resorted to peering through serial gloomy expanses in a bid to discern Natalie's accommodation block, eventually coming up trumps.
|Natalie, improvising with the menu in the absence of a large camera|
With Natalie safely dropped off I had a clear run home, and when I got back to Stafford I was suddenly struck by the unreality of the day's events. I think this was because I expect to have to travel further than I just did to meet a perfumista who is herself from so far away - to London at the very least, if not mainlaind Europe indeed. But the vial of Zelda is proof that I did in fact meet Natalie in Nottingham. I wonder if I could pull this stunt off again, and rendez-vous with other perfumistas in places near me...for example Ines in Ingestre, Kafka in Keele, Asali in Aston, Suzanne in Sutton Coldfield and so on. Now there's a challenge!