'on tour' in Germany with my favourite - and recently reformed - band, The Monochrome Set. I had the job of singlehandedly selling the merchandise (including their newly released album, Platinum Coils) in German, and in the sepulchral gloom of the various eclectic and grungy venues on our circuit: an old hospital, an Art Nouveau villa, a Lost & Found bureau under a railway arch - you get the picture. This year saw a UK tour to mark the launch of The Monochrome Set's latest album, Super Plastic City, and I decided to catch as many gigs as was practical in the week I shoehorned in between the end of one work project and the start of the next. For as I always say: 'No fan went to their grave regretting that they had been to too many Monochrome Set gigs'. In fact I wasn't sure if ANY fan had gone to their grave yet, as all of us who have grown up with the band since they emerged from the 'ridiculously nutritious ooze of the post-punk milieu' are still in our mid-50s like them.
In the end, I made it to a borderline embarrassing seven(!) gigs - an itinerary of some 1050 miles - and managed to combine the concerts with seeing another of my top bands, The Would-Be-Goods, and meeting fellow fans from as far away as Ireland and Denmark, several of whom came to multiple gigs. I also visited four(!) sets of cousins on Teesside and caught up with a fumehead friend, Anna from Edinburgh.
I wasn't involved with the merchandise this time, as a husband and wife team of equally diehard fans was doing the honours. They did sometimes press me into service at the end of the night as a 'part-time Blu-tack removal operative', helping out with the very important task of taking down posters and collecting the Blu-tack and White-tack - it was by no means straightforward! - and squidging it all back into two large blobs. For the record, the wife was wearing Lush Gorilla Flower's Barrow for much of the tour, an oddly herbal, fruity scent with geranium and a cosy, powdery, almost Playdoh aspect.
So, without further ado I will endeavour to combine a 'mini-scentalogue' with an abbreviated travelogue, featuring some of the more noteworthy and amusing events of the week, including a surprisingly varied assortment of ailments and mishaps on my part, which really do deserve their own sub-headings.
|Voodoo Rooms, Edinburgh|
Ailments: Headache, then later cut my finger on the spoke of my umbrella and sought first aid in a nearby pizza restaurant.
Mishaps: Forgot my styling mousse, necessitating a breathtakingly brazen bit of parking in George Street and a lightning dash into a Tony & Guy salon moments before closing time. Hotel bed sloped at a funny angle, leading to a sleepless night.
Scent of the evening: Shalimar Parfum Initial. When this first came out, I found the patchouli loud and overpowering, but have gradually bonded with it after many wearings, culminating the other day in the purchase of a boxed set for just £25 in my local mall. A friendly more than foxy rose-patchouli-vanilla number. I think of it as a poor woman's JHAG Lady Vengeance, now that my sample of that is drained.
Highlights: The Voodoo Rooms was the nightspot where I spotted the towering Taueralike last year, but he was not in evidence this time, and goodness knows you wouldn't have missed his lofty physique if he had been there. A high point of the night (apart from the gig, obviously) was sniffing two friends who were wearing FM Carnal Flower and Lolita Lempicka (both supplied by me ;-) ). Another highlight was the shortbread in the hotel room, a welcome touch that adds value well in excess of the nominal cost involved.
|What Mr Bonkers used to refer to generically as 'Peruvian fishing cats' (with or without rod)|
The next morning I met up with Anna from Edinburgh, resisting the urge to say 'Cheerio' until the end of our meeting. We had tea in a Fairtrade cafe just off Princes Street, after browsing in the adjacent shop while waiting for them to open up. We did the usual 'tipping stuff up on the table' trick - Anna had brought some Lush / Gorilla scents with her with which I was not familiar, while I had the contents of my travel bag to proffer, plus the gift of a bar of soap. ('No one ever went to their grave regretting that they had accumulated too much soap', I also say, with possibly less justification.) Unfortunately, this turned out to be a bit of a thoughtless present, as Anna's neighbourhood had just had its water cut off due to a burst main, with no indication of when supplies would be resumed.
Ailments: Headache, involuntary consumption of raw onion, nocturnal hunger pangs so bad it felt like dozens of tiny men with forks gouging the tines against my stomach wall. I should just have got up and braved the driving rain to retrieve a cereal bar from the boot of my car.
Mishaps: Persistent distrust of the satnav added some 10-15 miles to the journey, compounded by gridlock in Gateshead and ongoing lashing rain. On arrival in Stockton the satnav was completely foxed by the one way system to the point of emitting staccato gibberish for minutes at a time. Later stopped by the police for driving without lights in an area reserved for taxis. (They were nice about it, mind!)
Scent of the evening: En Voyage Perfumes Zelda. A tender magnolia centre in a crisp shell of galbanum. Felt a bit blowsy and Southern Belle-ish, which was somewhat at odds with my conspicuous lack of flouncy underskirts. Or any skirts indeed. Could still smell it on my sheets the next morning. Was tempted to take them with me, but Housekeeping might have noticed.
Highlights: The fact that there were as many as 50 people there on a wet, windy Sunday night in Stockton, including a woman in tight humbug-striped jeggings in a shiny fabric. My first thought was: 'That's not Natalie either.' Owing to exceptional logistical issues I shan't trouble you with, another highlight was playing that well known game of 'How many musicians can you cram into a Mini?' I managed 3 out of 4, though the drummer's head was entangled with my in-car hanging wardrobe, while the bass player was obliged to hold the satnav box, a bag of rhubarb and custard sweets and my tatty old driving cardigan. The lead singer sat up front and teased me about my oversized rev counter (which in fairness had been fitted by the previous owner) and the fact that I had named my car Maurice.
A family interlude in the Stockton area ensues...
|Bass player looking suitably monochrome and perfectly bissected by the mike stand|
Ailments: Headache, chronic indecision at the salad counter of Marks & Spencer.
Mishaps: Flies accidentally came undone at an unknown point in the evening.
Scent of the evening: Diptyque Volutes edt (Sample courtesy of Tamsin) A cosy, sensual, snuffed out kind of scent with honey, iris, tobacco and incense. A bit like Dior's Bois d'Argent, but with more powder and less vanilla.
Highlights: Afternoon walk with The Would-Be-Goods around the architectural gems of Preston. We spotted a former Turkish Baths! I told them about Preston's Harris museum being home to Britain's largest collection of perfume bottles... (No takers, though in fairness it was coming up to closing time, and you do need a good couple of hours to take them all in...;-) ) The other highlight was the double bill featuring The Would-Be-Goods and The Monochrome Set - the bass player (who is in both bands) thoughtfully changed his shirt in between.
Here is Too old - possibly my favourite track of The Would-Be-Goods and another contender for the 'beautiful' UK music category in Lavanya's interview on Purple Paper Planes. I am not sure why there is a man holding a broken guitar in this video, but I hope the curious visual doesn't impair your listening pleasure.
Ailments: Blisters from walking too far on aggregate in inappropriate party shoes.
Mishaps: Putting my dress on backwards - I think I got away with it! - these places are always on the dark side.
Scent of the evening: Ormonde Jayne Ta'if - haunting, dusty, desert rose.
Highlights: Finding a large selection of Annick Goutal in T K Maxx that afternoon, albeit mostly priced between £50-£60, so no bargains to be had. Fondled and replaced Musc Nomade several times. Venue was bang next door to the Cavern Club!
Ailments: See mishaps.
Mishaps: Slipped on the way out and fell hard, spraining my hand which I used to break my fall. Waiting for the results of some X-rays to see if I have fractured anything. Many simple tasks have been proving challenging since, from changing gear to tucking in bedding to squeezing ketchup and doing up buttons. You just wouldn't credit how useful a thumb can be till it's limp and useless.
Scent of the evening: Puredistance Black - review here.
Highlights: My friend Gillie came along! She enjoyed the set much more than I expected, even saying she'd go another time. Bit of banter with the band at the end, involving thinking of British place names that are also breakfast items. Bass player won hands down with 'Towcester' (pronounced 'toaster').
Ailments: Ongoing sore hand - conventional clapping eluded me, so had to hit the inside of my arm instead, which attracted one or two odd looks.
Mishaps: Ordered a very, very dry piece of chicken at a motorway services and failed to gauge the correct amount of school dinner gravy to go with it. Later made the grave error of trying to recce the venue in daylight at the height of Oxford's rush hour. Satnav was totally thrown by the 'dreaming spires', and sent me into a pedestrian zone where I nearly came a cropper against some bollards outside the iconic Blackwell's bookshop. It took all my concentration not to mow down several dozen cyclists during the tricky process of extricating myself from the town centre.
Scent of the evening: Dior Ambre Nuit - softly spicy, ambery rose scent - mini-review here.
Highlights: The Would-Be-Goods were in the audience this time!, leading to bonus chat. Fry up breakfast of the finest calibre at my B & B. You know you are in Oxford when there is both ground black pepper AND ground sea salt at the table - the height of sophistication in condiment terms.
|The ne plus ultra of full fry ups|
Ailments: Ongoing sore hand, insufficient dinner of cashew nuts and shortbread (snaffled from the Edinburgh hotel).
Mishaps: Cheery bloke from Essex kicked over my glass of cranberry and soda before I had time to drink it. It was admittedly in a silly spot on the floor by my feet. He was good enough to buy me another, while I promised to use the bar or other serviceable ledge next time.
Scent of the evening: L'Arte di Gucci - bombastic dark rose chypre with a retro twist.
Highlights: Crabtree & Evelyn toiletries in my hotel room, plus an unexpected chaise longue in grey corduroy! Without batting an eyelid, the lead singer forged the drummer's signature on my copy of the album. The breakfast item word game had by now segued into one about renaming models of Fender guitars - the bass player set the bar high with 'Fender Doncaster'. I decided to branch out into basses and came up with the 'Fender Derision' (to reflect the backlash in some quarters about the brand's overexposure / ubiquity).
So, to reprise my opening theme, I would be interested to know whether you also do this deliberate imprinting of a particular perfume with anticipated happy memories?
NB Since my last post, in which I mentioned that Susanna Pellinen - aka Tigrushka on Basenotes - is also a fan of the band, I have discovered that Valerie Sperrer of Australianperfumejunkies - aka Cookie Queen - is one too! If any more of you come to light, it may be worth drawing a Venn diagram of perfumistas, Monochrome Set fans and 'The Intersecting Set'. ;-)
PS I just realised that Bonkers turned FOUR on 29th October, but as I have already celebrated my 3.6th anniversary back in the summer, I don't feel it warrants too much of a 'song and dance' so soon afterwards. Maybe I'll mark my 5th anniversary in more style, if Bonkers is still going then!