Sunday, 9 February 2014

A fishy fumehead encounter, featuring Val the Cookie Queen and Portia Turbot-Gear

Val and Thomas at Bloom, with Michael and half of Nigel in the background
Readers may well have been following the adventures of irrepressible Antipodean drag queen Portia of APJ and her urbane fellow contributor Michael as they have been on a bit of a world tour in recent weeks. This has taken in Austria, Germany and France, to name just the countries I have clocked in blog posts and Facebook updates.  In the final leg of her travels, Portia blew into London the other day, as did another member of the APJ crew, Val the Cookie Queen, accompanied by her daughter.  Portia and Michael had already visited Val and family in Austria, as well as hooking up with Birgit and Sandra of Olfactoria's Travels in Vienna for - amongst other things - that all-important tea towel handover. Yesterday, a group of about ten perfumistas (mostly bloggers, in the event) foregathered in the Spitalfields district of London for a mini-perfumery crawl and hearty fish and chip lunch.  Which doesn't have quite the same ring to it as 'fish and chip supper', but there you go.

I say 'blew in', not just because both Portia and Val are live wires, which they are in spades (do spades have wires? Of course they do!), but because it was unfeasibly windy that day.  Umbrella-thrapingly so, if I had had the foresight to bring one with me, topped off with a side order of cold lashing rain.  Now we have had gales all last week where I live, but I don't expect such dismal weather when I come down to London. Why, London is practically in the tropics as far as I am concerned, and I expect my full thermal value - I had even doffed my winter vest in anticipation! - but it was signally lacking yesterday.

Spillover clothing crisis in the office

I don't know if the weather had anything to do with it, but I nearly missed my train in the morning, owing to a clothing crisis of unprecedented proportions that lasted a full hour and laid waste to several rooms (by no means all of them bedrooms).   It seemed impossible to pick out a single outfit that went even some way towards a harmonious union of colour, shoe comfort, fabric type (including any day/night connotations), trouser length, weatherproofing, warmth, and flexibility of warmth.Trying to add a fashionable element into the mix would have tipped me into complete meltdown, if indeed I had owned garments that nodded in that direction. But eventually, reason prevailed and I settled on a tunic top and suit trousers, flat shoes - and no vest!


Epicentre of the clothing carnage

When the train reached Milton Keynes, I hooked up with Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy, and his soon-to-be-husband Nigel, though not before I had sewn up not one but two knitted hats!  Nothing like a wifi coldspot for prompting the completion of an abandoned crafting project.  The three of us made our way to Aldgate East tube station, where we had arranged to meet Tara.  There we spent the obligatory ten minutes being royally flummoxed by 'multiple exit syndrome', before fortuitously popping up at Exit 3, where Tara was waiting for us, looking serene and lovely as ever - and not the least bit buffeted or rainswept.

We struck out intially in the wrong direction, but Thomas quickly google mapped us back on track, and we wove our way deftly through the narrow streets around Brick Lane.  I stuck closely to him, not least because he was emitting beguiling whiffs of Tom Ford Shanghai Lily, which I had briefly sampled in Paris in June, yet somehow its spicy floral glory had failed to woo me till now.  I may have offered to marry Thomas at one point, possibly within earshot of Nigel.

My new scent squeeze ~ Source: harveynichols.com

When we arrived at Bloom in Spitalfields, it was already packed out with a lively throng of fumeheads in full sniffing mode, including Val and Portia, Michael, Nick Gilbert (Fragrant Reviews) and Joshua Ang (The Smelly Vagabond). Freddie Albrighton (Smellythoughts), whose train had been delayed, joined us shortly afterwards.)  Introductions over, a small flurry of mutual present giving ensued.  I gave Val a poster of The Monochrome Set and a purse for keeping samples in; she gave me cookies of her own manufacture (yay!) and an antique silver button hook, which belonged to her grandmother.  Tara copped for a hat(!) - my hat knitting compulsion having lately escalated to the point where I have exhausted the pool of potential recipients in Stafford - while Portia took custody of a pair of minuscule notebooks and a slightly broached box of fudge that was briefly pre-owned - or at the very least funded - by Tom Cruise. Thereby hangs a tale which will feature in Bonkers in due course, along with its Portia-enabled sequel...


Nick in classic raised forearm pose, with mischievous grin (not pictured)

Oh, and I did remember to do a bit of sniffing, but only a couple of things.  For example, I finally caught up with the new rose release from Parfumerie Generale - No 26 Isparta.  When Pierre Guillaume kissed me(!) after the talk at Les Senteurs in 2012, he also whispered in my ear that he was working on a rose scent. Well, all I can say is that it's been a long time coming, and as Nick pointed out, it does smell somewhat similar to Portrait of a Lady - you might be forgiven for thinking that in the space of two years PG might have taken his composition in a more original direction, but apparently not.  So no new lemming there, thankfully.

The lovely Tara, pictured with her 'To Sniff' list?

Soon it was time to repair next door to Poppies, a retro diner famous for its prize-winning fish and chips. The table assigned to us wasn't quite big enough, but by sheer force of numbers and a bit of strategic staring we quickly saw off the two couples at adjacent tables, and suddenly had ample room to accommodate our own substantial party.

Nick, Freddie, Portia Turbot-Gear (sic!) and Michael

Inevitably, we couldn't stop passing round bottles and samples for one another to sniff, and I got to try the new Dita Von Teese Erotique - which was exactly the 'teesingly' spicy, sandalwoody number Thomas had described in his review - also Vero Profumo Mito Voile d'Extrait, which is less acerbic and more floral than the original EDP, thanks to the addition of tuberose.  I sprayed it liberally on my front, then later wiped the overspray from my Zelda bottle (from when I was making samples for other people) on the back of my neck.  I felt like a scented version of Janus!

Tara, Joshua and Nigel

Our food came pretty quickly, so we had to clear away some of our perfume tackle to make way for huge plates of fish and bottles of condiments.  Not only was its flesh as white as a Hollywood smile, but my haddock was intriguingly upended on its side, though I had to knock it over in order to set about eating it. Sarah, another perfumista who joined us at the restaurant, also had vertical fish, which is not a style of presentation I had previously encountered.

Sarah's fish standing to attention

Replete from our big meals, our slightly bedraggled gaggle braved the weather again to make our way to - no, not Angela Flounders as you might very well imagine, with it being in the immediate vicinity - but Les Senteurs in Seymour Place. As we walked I chatted to Portia a bit about his time in London some 20 years ago, and mentioned that I had also been to Sydney and owned a koala called Mosman.  Only a toy, obviously, but the real things are, after all, not markedly more lively.  Or not the ones living in Canberra Zoo in late 1993.  Portia endeared himself to me by guessing that he was the eldest in our group, when he is fact nine years my - and Val's - junior.  Also by describing me as 'glamorous', which I mistakenly heard as 'cadaverous', to people's amusement.


The By Kilian invasion

Since my last visit, Les Senteurs had been rather taken over by By Kilian, to which an entire wall had been devoted. I ignored the whole fixture and instead made a beeline for the opposite, more diversely stocked wall, where I tried Atelier Cologne's Silver Iris.  It was every bit as likable as the reviews had suggested, and - like The Monochrome Set's penultimate album - its shiny silver surface could have doubled up in a pinch as an emergency compact mirror, however, I think I have enough irises in my collection.

Val, 'valiantly' keeping the FM red lippie theme going

I also tried Sybarite by Cloon Keen Atelier - the Ateliers were out in force yesterday, as you can tell - but couldn't place the scent and it registered as neither overtly pleasant or otherwise.  A little bit like YSL Nu EDT, if I had to think of any remote point of comparison.  Major props for the name though - I love the word 'sybarite' in all its variants. Maybe I should have tried it on skin, as the composition sounds much more congenial than I remember it smelling.  The top notes of incense and bergamot may not have worked for me, though.


Michael and Freddie at Les Senteurs

Then Freddie drew my attention to Mona di Orio's Eau Absolue, an unusual citrus and honey scent with an animalic base.  It grabbed my attention much more, even on card, and we both agreed that this was a treatment of honey that was more to our liking than Viktoria Minya's Hedonist.  Portia had meanwhile ensconced herself at the back of the shop, looking rather grandee-like amongst the rococo furniture and gilt mirrors.  As well as describing me as glamorous, he told Tara she had great legs, prompting me to call him a 'caution', prompting me in turn to explain what this peculiarly British term means.  I just looked it up and it is classified as 'informal' and 'dated', with a meaning of 'amusing' and 'surprising'.  Well, Portia's sense of humour is certainly both of those! ;-)

Portia striking a pose, possibly involving the sniffing of a mobile phone

All too soon it was time to make tracks and catch my train back.  Thomas and Nigel set off for Euston with me, but we had to part company at the tube station when Nigel got his ticket stuck in the lining of his jacket. ;-)  Before I knew it I was speeding north and back to normal life - the excitement of the day's events had assumed an almost dreamlike quality.  Though the two cookies Val had given me - which didn't make it past Watford Junction - said otherwise...




42 comments:

  1. That looks like a marvelous day out, especially the plate vertical fish, of which I am a little bit jealous having been on Weight Watchers for a month. What would be your top 3 sniffs from the day?

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    1. Hi Sarah,

      Good for you for keeping up your resolve! Is it paying dividends? I was a member once and the group culture did work for me. Ooh, top 3 sniffs would be a stretch because I hardly sniffed anything all day - probably no more than half a dozen things. I would have to say the scent Thomas was wearing ie Shanghai Lily, and the one Nigel was wearing - CdG Blue Encens! - and the Mito Voile d'Extrait that Val was wearing I think and which I later tried on skin from Joshua's sample spray.

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  2. What a wonderful day, wish I could have been there! But it seems to me the flavor was enhanced by the specific Britishness of it all. Remind me should I forget (but I doubt I will) to bring my stash of Ditas for you when I see you next, whenever/wherever that may be. I'm saving them for you.

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    1. Hi Lucy,

      As an Anglophile you would have fitted right in. Interesting architecture in that part of the city too. Oh, thanks for the offer - would love to play with your stash of Ditas - I have the original one, but do like Erotique in particular.

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  3. Sounds like a great day. Shame I couldn't come along. But I think you owe us a picture of your final outfit.

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    1. Hi Sabine,

      Another time, hopefully... Haha, I am wearing the same outfit again today because it came to hand - not sure if my selfie technique could properly capture it, but I could try!

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  4. V, I missed the glamorous/cadaverous mix-up. That's too funny.

    I'm glad you didn't wear you vest in the end as you may have passed out in the tropical heat of Les Senteurs. It can't too good for the perfumes either.

    That definition of "a caution" is just perfect for Portia. I love it.

    Finally, thanks for always take the most flattering pics of me. I'd never update my profile pic without you :)

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    1. Hi Tara,

      It was a funny mix up, I agree! And you are right - a vest would be a layer too far in Les Senteurs' balmy climate. ;)

      I think everybody takes the most flattering pics of you, hehe. That one of you and Portia on Facebook is out of this world. Why, you look like Miss World indeed. ;)

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    2. You do no end of good for my confidence, dear V! Hugs x

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    3. You're welcome! I don't think you realise how much the camera loves you...;)

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    4. I have to say that I loved Tara's picture!

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    5. Undina, it's going to become my profile pic asap!

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    6. Tara, I am flattered that it made the cut!

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  5. It looks like you really had a great time. I wish we were all so much closer together. I really think that we need to do a perfumista cruise so that everybody can be stuck on one boat together for a few days. The only problem is carrying around all that juice!

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    1. I think we'd sink the ship with all our perfume ;-)

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    2. Hi Steve,

      You would have been very welcome - I know Freddie is a virtual pal of yours, so it would be nice for you two to be able to meet. The cruise idea could be fun, as long as the weather held up. If we all came down with seasickness we wouldn't feel very much like sniffing! ;)

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    3. Hi CPB!

      There is also the weight factor, good point....;)

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  6. Fab write up Vanessa! I love your observations and it was fun meeting up, sniffing and munching fish and chips with everybody!

    Funnily enough, it turns out that Nigel's ticket wasn't stuck in the lining of his coat after all. He'd unknowingly shoved it in a stealthy pocket that he wasn't aware of and we only discovered it after much coat fiddling. That boy!

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    1. Hi CPB,

      It was brilliant to see you both again - you pair were the fragrant highlight of my day. ;) And I am glad to hear that Nigel 'has not so much lost a ticket as gained a pocket'. Some adapted version of this saying may feature at your upcoming nuptials...

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  7. Dear Vanessa,

    Thank you for the great write-up of our amazing day together, it was like living through the memories of the day again! Hope to see you around soon :)

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    1. Hi Joshua,

      It was nice to get to meet you properly, and what a great day it was! Thanks for bringing your box of samples - we didn't have time to do its contents justice, but I enjoyed my spray of Mito Voile d'Extrait. ;)

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    2. I'm glad to be of assistance! Although I regret not having been able to try the famous Zelda!

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    3. Oh no, how did that happen? You should have asked or just grabbed the bottle and waved it at me! It must have come to rest near the ketchup at some point. I suppose it was all go-go-go during the meal in that regard. I managed to miss the Byredo 1996, no idea how! PM me with your address again and I can pop one in the post.

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    4. Ah, I think I was exercising my polite, reserved, British sensibilities at the table. Thanks for the offer! I'll drop you an email (with an interesting proposal!)

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    5. That must have been it then, hehe. ;) You should have nabbed me or the bottle as there was so much going on. Not to worry, can easily post it. Will look out for your message / mail...

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  8. What a wonderful day out. you all are so funny and friendly. We learned so much from you guys and though I am a "caution" I am glad you are not a "cadaver" Vanessa.
    Please give Mosman a big hug fro me and thanks for helping make the day so fun,
    Portia xx

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    1. Hi Portia,

      It was a hoot meeting you, and thanks for coming all this way to be the catalyst for our get together. There - you are a 'catalyst' as well as a 'caution'. Thanks for accepting Mission Fudge, and Mosman says hello. Well, his eucalyptus leaf twitched, which may pass for a wave in a stuffed koala. Oh, and I hope you don't mind my modifying your name for comic ends!

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  9. Sounds amazing.. wish I could have been there.

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    1. Hi Ron,

      Nice to hear from you! Shame you couldn't be there, but at least you can picture yourself 'at the scene' in Les Senteurs. ;)

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  10. Thank you for the report - it was a double treat: not just one of your funnt traveling stories but also with so many characters whom I "know" :)

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    1. Hi Undina,

      It would have been so nice to have had you along and your name did crop up in conversation. ;) I was telling Tara about our 'hers and hers' Burberry lipsticks, for example. Then, as I passed the (rather popular) Zelda bottle around the table in the fish and chip restaurant, I quite forgot to remind people that this very bottle had been toyed with by Rusty...;)

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  11. I finally had time to catch up on what you've been doing. :-) It's so great when you can meet a bigger group of perfumistas, although it gets a bit confusing when everybody starts talking and sniffing and you'd like to listen to everyone and keep track and just have fun. :-) Which is of course what you did and its' great reading about it and looking at the photos.

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    1. Hi Ines,

      I think our group was a manageable size - my yardstick for that is whether I managed to talk to everyone, which I think I did. But it is a risk with bigger gatherings that it can all become a bit of a mad melee - or bunfight, as we say. Sniffapalooza always struck me as bigger than I would feel comfortable with, for example, even if it was a bit closer to home. ;) And I do hope those of us who have yet to meet you can manage that soon - either here, there, or at that important perfumista crossroads into which Austria has evolved!

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  12. Very international - antipodeans and all! Keen to try Erotique which I also read about at The Candy Perfume Boy a while ago.

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    1. Hi Jordan,

      Wasn't it just? Had you been there you could have upped the antipodean ante even further! Can thoroughly recommend Erotique - it was Thomas's review that piqued my curiosity a while back.

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  13. So I reckon I am pretty much back to normal now, until I head to to Milan for Exsense, where I will probably lose yet another piece of my rapidly dwindling mind. Yours Anonymously, VtCQ xxxxxxxxx

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    1. Hi VtCQ,

      If you can spell it, you are far, far from losing your mind! Brilliant news...;)

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  14. London as The Tropics-- as a former resident of Scotland, I agree! This looks like the perfumista event of the year, thanks for the vicarious thrills!

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    1. Hi Marla!

      Thanks for dropping in - if you lived in Scotland, you will definitely be able to relate to my climatic comment. Here in the The Midlands our weather is somewhat in between the two, but I always expect London to be an improvement on here.

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