Sunday, 27 December 2015

Results of the Travalo Milano and Classic giveaway!

So, some considerable time - aka that whole Christmas business - has passed since the closing deadline for the Travalo prize draw, and it is only now, in my slightly jaded and partied out state, that I am finally getting down to housekeeping matters...you know, doing something constructive with the turkey leftovers, thanking people for presents, and, most importantly, drawing this draw. Well, as ever, Random.org did the aleatory honours, and I can now reveal that the winner of a Travalo Milano and Classic is:

AnnieA 

Congratulations, AnnieA!

Drop me a line at 'flittersniffer at gmail dot com' with your address details and I will liaise with the PR lady for the brand, who will ship your prize directly once she is back from the holiday break.

Meanwhile, you can start thinking what colours you would like for each Travalo from the selection mentioned in my earlier post, and which of the two might best suit Encens Mythique, if that is still your top pick... ;)


Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Kitten Incorrigible - a Truffle-centred festive feline special featuring the twelve tics of Christmas!



ILLUSTRATION ADVISORY!! By any yardstick, this blog post contains an unequivocally excessive number of kitten photos.

Years ago, back when I used to write a humorous column for a local business magazine, I did a piece on the idiosyncrasies of my satnav:

"Fast forward two years and my SatNav and I are like an old couple: I know its strengths and weaknesses and its quirky little ways.  This is the story of our relationship, from the initial feeling of wonder to the more realistic view I hold of it today..."

Well, I have lived with my kitten for six weeks now, which may well equate to two years with an in-car gadget. And I can say with conviction that I have both a realistic view of her little tics and quirks and an ongoing sense of wonder. She is absolutely enchanting - and as the vet said on her first visit there, also 'a little bit demented'...

So, especially for those readers who are not on Facebook, and have not been subjected to a relentless slew of photos on there - it has got so bad that I actually have to put 20p into the kitten pic-posting equivalent of a 'swear cottage' now - I thought I would do a round up of some of Truffle's little mannerisms, six weeks in. This list is by now means exhaustive, but I don't want to exhaust your patience!

You post pics, you pays!
Automated bed bath programme 

Since my previous post, I can report that at night Truffle is still sleeping (pretty solidly!) in the trough between the two sets of pillows in the bed - either bed in fact, as I swapped rooms the other day, having stripped the bed in the master bedroom and completely forgotten to make it again - and she immediately recce'ed the equivalent spot between the pillows in the spare room and 'assumed the position'.



Then, somewhere between 8am and 8.30am, which isn't shockingly early as that is usually when I spontaneously start to stir, an 'automated wash programme' kicks in, whereby Truffle, with her little pink Brillo pad of a tongue, begins slowly and systematically to wash my eyelids, nose, chin, cheeks - and if I still fail to show any vital signs - will burrow under the covers and start on wrists, elbows or any other exposed body part she can find. This invariably does the trick and I get up immediately and feed her, which was of course the whole point.

Photo appears to feature a freshly washed thumb.

Then I have a bath, and Truffle will perch on the edge, or sit inside the wash basin peering over the rim, or even on my head. Whatever vantage point she chooses, she invariably looks puzzled. You just know she is thinking: 'What's with all this water business? - sure I washed you earlier!'




'Plug 'n' play' fun and getting to grips with the recycling

And when I have got out of the bath, and the water - which two unfortunate dips have taught Truffle she does not like - has all gone, she will jump in after me, rush around for a bit chasing her tail, and also deliver a few left hooks to the plug on a chain, which makes a rewarding clinking noise as it ricochets off the cast iron tub. The other day she discovered how satisfying it is to chase the empty toilet roll inner around inside the bath. I have yet to train her to put it in the appropriate bin.



Monitoring flannel rotation and policing filched toiletries

I am a devotee of the Liz Earle Cleanse & Polish hot cloth system, though for reasons of better buffability I have long since substituted a flannel for the muslin cloth supplied. I keep a basket of flannels at the end of the bath, while the one currently on the go is draped over the metal handle on the side. One morning I am sure Truffle was giving me a disapproving look as though to say: 'I think you'll find that this flannel has been in use for some considerable time already.'



Staying with our theme of endless (empty) bathtime fun, I found Truffle playing with a little miniature shampoo bottle the other day. Her accusatory stare in the photo below clearly means: 'So you say you stole this from a hotel? I am confiscating it right now!'



Aspiring toilet attendant

Truffle is a diligent user of her litter tray these days, in fact, she loves it so much that she also enjoys scooting the litter far and wide for the hell of it. Also, when she clocks me removing clumps, she runs over immediately to try to cover up her doings even more, even as I am endeavouring to dig them up.

Completely gratuitous digging

Office assistant

Truffle basically follows me everywhere I go in the house, including the 'office', as I call the back bedroom I use as a study. She helps me with paperwork by sitting on it, batting pens around, walking over the computer keyboard and sitting in front of the screen, effectively blocking it. She also shows a lively interest in the blind cord, which she cuffs with her paw, and enjoys climbing up the bookcase, knocking down ornaments - and also Christmas cards at the moment - in her wake, to reach the button-backed pins on the pin board, which she loves to chew. 

Tired out from all that helping

Button chewing and locket lunging

The button chewing almost deserves a category of its own, as it is a wide-ranging fetish that extends to any button on my clothes, duvet covers etc. I have yet to show her the contents of my button box, as that way could lie sensory overload and emergency gastric surgery. She does seem to have a penchant for putting all sorts of inappropriate items in her mouth and having a go at eating them, including paper clips, pine cones, dead matches, the wrapper of a feminine hygiene product over the precise identity of which we shall draw a veil, and supermarket receipts.



Then whenever she is on my lap Truffle also leaps up at my silver locket, whose tantalising mix of 'swingy' and 'shiny' is proving irresistible.


'A View to a Kill...'

Flex flicking and fascination with fronds

It is frankly a miracle that there are still any working electrical appliances in this house, as Truffle is completely fascinated by flexes of all kinds. The iPhone lead has visible tooth marks on it, and I am constantly on the look-out for places to charge my phone which she might overlook. Ironing is also a particular challenge - both in terms of the iron cord and the extension cable I plug it into...and don't even get me started on the Christmas tree lights!



Truffle's enduring fascination with leafy plants - the foofier and frondier the better - has proved most problematic, and owing to the toxicity of some of her leafier favourites, the cheese plant has been binned and the dracaena and sago palm rehomed with Vera across the road, who is noted in the street for providing a last chance saloon for plants that are unloved, peaky or downright hazardous, as in the present case.


The 8 foot tall ponytail palm is mercifully benign!

 Wool sucking and knitting wars

The first time Truffle started to suck my jumpers and make lapping noises while burrowing deep into my lap, I was a little alarmed. Having looked this phenomenon up on the Internet, I gather that she is simply nostalgic for her mother's and grandmother's milk, and is checking out the lactating potential of my wardrobe of woollies - so far to no avail. Meanwhile, it is proving nigh on impossible to knit while Truffle is around, as she can't resist grabbing (and biting!) the ends of the needles and taking a swipe at the constantly dancing strand of the ball of wool. Which she would also suck if I didn't intercept her sharpish. I have already swapped to shorter, less provocative needles, but my knitting projects continue to beguile.

The knitting equivalent of contributory negligence

Chasing patterns on tableware

Truffle is still primarily eating sachets of wet food, though she can graze on a bowl of small bore kitten kibble through the day. It's a bit of luck really as I can't get her to drink water. Instead, she seems mesmerised by the patterns on the dish and saucer, and shoves them across the kitchen floor like a more embellished version of an ice hockey puck.



Wainscot woodlice vigils

Okay, so I may in fact mean skirting board, but the alliterative urge won out. For Truffle has recently taken to staking out a couple of little holes either side of the panelling by the kitchen door, sitting there rapt for minutes at a time. I take this to be a woodlice vigil, and am encouraged that her hunting interest is already so keenly developed, suggesting that one day she will also be good for spiders of all gauges.



Hiding in waste paper baskets

I am pleased to say that Truffle's under the bath hiding days are over. The vet said it was inadvisable, for as she grows she might get stuck in there and impossible to extract without completely dismantling the bathroom fixtures. Accordingly the hole is now well and truly wedged with bags of tights that mould to fit the oddly shaped gaps, a sponge bag, toilet roll, and a bottle of lavatory cleaner. Meanwhile, Truffle has taken to hiding in the dining room waste paper basket, which I very much hope is not indicative of self-esteem issues. 

'You are so not rubbish!'

Comprehensive obstruction of the laundry process

I was talking to Val of APJ the other day about the difficulty of seamlessly changing bedding with a kitten in tow - or as it turns out, her grown up cat, Meeps, who also likes to lounge sybaritically on the very sheet / mattress protector you are trying to remove / smooth out etc. 

Pointy ears temporarily tamed by pillow packaging

Truffle is an absolute past mistress at this, and having raked around and stuck her head into everything that has an opening, she likes nothing more than to adopt an Odalisque pose on the duvet which you have still not managed to change.



So there you have it, Truffle's Twelve Tics of Christmas...Oh, and here is one for luck...like her owner, Truffle enjoys a festive tipple.



Including a nice G & T, I am pleased to say!

Gin & Truffle

It just remains to wish readers everywhere a very happy Christmas from the two of us, and to ask you to share with us your own cat's idiosyncrasies - it might help me feel that my kitten is a little bit less demented!

Looking deceptively tic-less
Oh, and here - and at the top of the post - you can see my deliberately tiny, fake, low down, tinsel and soil-free Christmas tree. Kitten access to it is strictly supervised, but she still manages to have a jolly good pop at the low-hanging baubles.

Star made by a friend and dedicated to Truffle on the back!










Thursday, 17 December 2015

Sedimentary, dear Watson: decanting tactics, and a Travalo Milano & Classic Christmas giveaway!

About this time of year my thoughts lightly turn to sherry. Well, not exactly 'lightly' turn, or even turn to a light sherry, a) because I annually agonise over sherry options, and b) because I think I usually go for a medium style, and therein lies my problem. For like the apocryphal goldfish, every year I forget what I know and like, and spend a frenetic half hour googling sherry types on Christmas Eve, only to find that everything other than Bristol Cream has sold out, which - perhaps unfairly - is dogged by a bit of a Hyacinth Bucket image. My most important criterion otherwise is longevity after opening, because I am not yet the sort of middle-aged lush who can get through a bottle of Fino in a week, as you are apparently meant to. Though I do also like that drier style of sherry. So I compromise on Amontillado, which is not too syrupy and has a good shelf life - I have been known to make a bottle last till the following Christmas. Ooops...I have just found out that you are meant to drink it in a month, haha. Ah well...I patently have no clue. Either that or the short shelf lives are a conspiracy to get us to chuck stuff away and buy more. Much like my superannuated scrubs and shower gels, whose expiry dates I diced with here.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Anyway, I have been researching sherries again, and this time I decided to find out if I should additionally be decanting it - you know, into one of those rather fetching, retort-shaped receptacles made of crystal that you might see gracing the dining room sideboard in Downtown Abbey. My not very extensive reading on the Interwebs suggests that sherry should not be kept in a decanter, and lasts better in its original bottle with the cork shoved back in. Spirits and Madeira, on the other hand, can be stored long term in a decanter, assuming it is also stoppered.

But it's wine that seems to benefit most from the act of decanting, to separate it from its sediment, which can impair the flavour - this should be done on the day it is going to be drunk, either just before serving or an hour or so previously. And this is with a view to drinking said wine all in one sitting - you wouldn't keep it in a decanter, where it would fare even worse than sherry!

Source: qosy.co

So that's what I have learnt about my festive tipple this year: look for Amontillado - or maybe Oloroso, if I feel daring enough to dabble in a fuller flavour; look for it before 24th December, and drink within four weeks. From the bottle - well, from a glass from the bottle, obviously. And do not decant.

But that is for sherry...perfume of course is governed by completely different laws. It is thanks to decanting that I have been able to diversify my collection as much as this photo of my drawer suggests, and have also been able to take my favourite perfumes away on trips. Which is where the Travalo comes in, the ne plus ultra of classy decant receptacles, albeit only for small amounts, typically 4-5ml.



Earlier this year I blogged about the difficulty of committing to a Travalo, and a few months later I wrote a post about the latest models and colours in the range. Because it is Christmas, the PR company representing the brand is kindly offering a Milano AND a Classic (termed 'New Classic' in my previous post, but the 'New' has since been dropped, as this model has become more established / familiar ;) ) to one reader anywhere in the world. This is in return for 'liking' Travalo's page on Facebook, and/or following them on Twitter - @Travalo - and/or on Instagram - @thetravalo - the combination depends on which social media you use. If you are not on any of these platforms, you aren't eligible, sorry; in my opinion it would be a bit of a performance to join a platform specifically to be able to enter this draw!

L to R: original Classic, Milano, (New) Classic

To recap, The Milano is the Travalo in the Hermes-esque travelling case, which retails for £35 (pictured here in jade). It has a detachable inner atomiser cartridge, so that you can swap the covers over if you so wish, eg to a less imposing (New) Classic model that also has a detachable cartridge. Or you could just leave it in the original metal case. The Milano is heavier than a regular Travalo, but makes more of a statement, design-wise.

In terms of my own entry criteria, you simply need to leave a comment and let me know which perfumes you might commit to these Travalos - no pressure! Or even an idea of a few top contenders. I won't hold you to that decision, of course - it is purely a snapshot in time of intention / leanings. ;) And whether you want to enter or not, I'd be interested to hear who likes sherry, and if so, what kind!

In terms of the colours of the Travalos, the winner can choose from red, orange, black or white for The Milano (see pic at the top of the post), and any of the colours of the Classics (see photo below). I will liaise with the PR contact for the company and she will post out the winner's prizes directly.



Oh, since my post about The Milano and New Classic, they have brought out The Divine...!

"The Divine: the ultimate in opulence for portable fragrance with over 500 individually hand set Swarovski crystals, and presented in a beautiful black gift pouch with a year’s warranty. The silver is available at RRP £250 and the limited edition gold for £400 exclusively from the Roja Dove Haute Parfumerie, Harrods."

Oh, I should perhaps just clarify that The Divine is not included in the draw...;)

For anyone with a bling thing ~ Source: bennyb.net

Moving on, I will pick a winner using Random.org from a list of anyone who entered the giveaway up until midnight next Wednesday, 23rd. Realistically, it will probably be the New Year before the prize can be shipped, but bear with us.

I must say I think the orange coloured Milano particularly fetching, as it looks most like Amontillado sherry. Or it does with the light shining through it (the sherry, I mean). Then of the Classics, the brown one is probably closest to the mark. And my beloved hobnailed glass from Bodega Bay is also an inviting shade of orange!

Time to hit the shops and secure my bottle of sherry...'tis the season to be merry!




Saturday, 12 December 2015

Going the Puredistance (III!) to pin down M: a 'wild vial chase' from MI6 to E10

Source: Wikimedia Commons
About a month ago, I had an email from Puredistance, announcing a redesign of the packaging of their perfume collection.

"We also updated our box and ribbon colours to match the emotion of each fragrance in our line. We call this our 'Puredistance Family' because each fragrance truly has a different character, like a family....We encourage you to choose your favourite Puredistance, and evaluate it through the lens of the family and its DNA."

So below is the line up of the new boxes - and very pretty and nicely coordinated they are too. In the spirit of Sabine's recent PLL talk about associating colour with perfumes - which Tara documented over on Undina's blog - I must say the fawn and red combo for Opardu strikes me as an unusual choice. Opardu I see very much in the shades of Monet's lily paintings - to wit greens, blues and mauves. Then for WHITE they have gone with orange, which arguably looks classier than egg yolk yellow, while Puredistance 1 is all white. I must say that with the juice being amber coloured I would have swapped those over and given the orange ribbon to Puredistance 1, and maybe picked a more muted buttery yellow ribbon for WHITE. Then BLACK is all black, which is fair enough, while M has aptly distinguished accents of grey. The sage green for Antonia also chimes with my mental image of that scent, on account of its strong green opening.

Source: Puredistance

Now I don't suppose that any of the above commentary constitutes 'evaluating my favourite perfume through the lens of the Puredistance family', which is probably BLACK still, though I reserve the right to change my mind at any time. ;) When writing my post on the ROADS Fragrances from Ryanair (all these capitalised names, what's that ALL ABOUT?!) I was vividly reminded of the peppery opening of BLACK by something similar in Harmattan, albeit BLACK has a marked cinnamon note as I recall. But that is as far as that smattering of evaluating went.

A little while later, Puredistance sent me a sample set with all six fragrances in it, but I already have samples of each somewhere, so the gift, generous as it was, didn't make me feel any more inspired or predisposed to (re-)evaluate BLACK (review here), and I just put them in the wardrobe for reference. And then, the other day, something quite unrelated came up that prompted me to dig out my samples of M...and thereby hangs a tale, and the subject proper of this post.

Source: guideautoweb.com

I have a perfumista friend I shall call R, who is still very much at the feverish acquisition stage of the hobby - regularly cruising brand websites and T K Maxx for bargains, and messaging me periodically in a pumped up state with news of the latest deep discount she has spotted. I can totally relate to this 'trigger-happy squirrel' mindset, as I was like that for a good four(?) years maybe. Anyway, like all good perfumistas, R is keen to introduce others in her circle to the niche perfume scene, including a particular work colleague who seemed receptive to the notion of expanding his scented horizons. She was putting together a little collection for him to try and I said I would be happy to lob in a few of my own samples that were either squarely masculine or unisex at the very least. It occurred to me to send her Puredistance M, that rugged leather chypre with oriental overtones, which I must admit I never bonded with all those years ago when I first tried it. It was too birch tarry I think, and computed as a bit 'Burt Reynolds-chested' back then. Ah, but as you know, my tolerance for powerful scents of one kind and another has come on by lascivious leaps and butch bounds since then - witness my surprise rapprochement with Papillon Salome, for example. So I got out my samples, was pleasantly surprised at how relatively smooth the leather aspect of M was this time round, and randomly picked a vial to send.

MI6 HQ ~ Source: Wikipedia

Well, it turns out I picked the wrong one, for my friend reported that the vial refused to spray. Point blank refused. Didn't appear to even have a hole to speak off through which a spray could even have been coaxed. I suggested swivelling, wrenching and decanting, taking a knife to it - or a more surgically precise pin. I wondered about putting her husband T on the case, having recently clocked a Facebook post by him about his successful refurbishment of two anglepoise lamps. T seems the practical sort who could wield a pin with panache. And still, despite the best efforts of both, the M vial wouldn't yield up its secrets - though that is of course entirely in character for a perfume based on a member of the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6, in a James Bond film. As luck would have it, when presented with the samples R's colleague thought he could just catch a whiff of M even so, and liked what he smelt.

Source: Puredistance

So, concerned by the recalcitrance of this sophisticated yet secretive scent, I promptly offered to post on my other vial, thinking I could maybe manage without a reference sample. The compelling need here in my view was to capitalise on R's colleague's newly awakened interest in M. Too lazy to go to the post office, I popped the vial into an ordinary envelope - without one of the mandatory ID8000 hazardous goods stickers! A week passed, and my friend and I puzzled over the non-appearance of the second sample, ironically the one with a functioning spray mechanism. And then finally R received a card from the Royal Mail saying that they were holding the item for collection, subject to the payment of the required excess postage. Oh, the shame! Not only had I risked this precious atomiser without the correct label, but I had also - in a moment of 'Pureabsentmindness' - put a normal first class stamp on instead of a 'large letter' one. I was fulsome in my apologies, while R's husband - who is semi-retired - was despatched to the sorting office the following day to retrieve the offending envelope.

Later, I received a message from R:

"T picked up the perfume - he had a 3 hour round trip cos they sent him to the wrong place. They felt sorry for him so didn't charge!"

T has a free bus pass at least ~ Source: geograph.org.uk

My reaction was a mixture of guilt for inadvertently sending my friend's husband on a wild goose chase, and amazement that the Royal Mail didn't charge him the fee for excess stampage, his flagrantly circuitous route to the sorting office notwithstanding. R assured me that it was all fine:

"Nooooooo Vanessa it's okay!! It did him good to get out of the house!"

And then suddenly the other day, I remembered Jan Ewoud Vos's creative concept for M the perfume:

"Puredistance M is about James Bond-like excitement we every now and then need to escape from boring routines and a dull life."

Well, T may not feel his schlepp round the sorting offices of East London quite counts as 'James Bond-like excitement', but his day definitely took an unexpected turn and he certainly went the distance so his wife's colleague could sniff this scent in all its back of an Aston Martin leather splendour. Many thanks are due to T and the uncharacteristically humane Royal Mail clerk who served him!


PS I happen to share the same birthday as Ian Fleming. Maybe this explains why the chairman of a stairparts company once dubbed me 'the Mata Hari of the spindle world' for my spy-like exploits on strategic research studies.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Sillage in the sky: road testing ROADS Fragrances on Ryanair routes

Photo courtesy of Jim Fogarty
If someone were to ask me what I consider to be my greatest achievements, I would probably say...um...correctly predicting meteoric growth in the curved shower door market (back in 1995!), and co-developing apple & mango juice with my old boss at St Ivel - in a lab in Walthamstow some ten years previously. We did also launch apple & pear and apple & banana at the same time, but while apple & mango stuck to the wall and is a steady seller in supermarkets to this day, the other two variants promptly dribbled down it into oblivion. Then the third thing would have to be extracting compensation out of Ryanair for repeated cancellations to a flight from Gothenburg to Stansted in 2006. I successfully invoked the 'passenger rights in the event of denied boarding' enshrined in EC No 261 / 2004 at a time before these had been widely publicised in the media. It wasn't as easy as it may sound though, taking the combined forces of my own pretty dogged badgering and the intervention of a champion within the Air Transport Users Council at the CAA, to a) winkle out a senior, named individual within Ryanair Customer Services to complain to, and b) to get them to cough up. This was the winning paragraph from the AUTC's letter on my behalf:

"In accordance with the Regulation, we ask that Ryanair reimburse Ms Musson those expenses incurred only because of Ryanair's failure to comply with its obligations. The total to be reimbursed for this would be the equivalent of SEK 900.00. We won't ask you to pay for Ms Musson's no doubt stress-busting beer!"

A nice reliable tram in Gothenburg ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

In the end I received the 900.00 SEK to cover the costs of staying on in Sweden an extra night (minus the beer!), plus a further entirely discretionary 253.93 euros to cover my flight with a different airline which I ended up buying in desperation, due to Ryanair's serial inability to mend planes. Result.

Fast forward to last year, when Tara (formerly of Olfactoria's Travels) kindly loaned me a sample set of a new collection of perfumes created by Danielle Ryan. Danielle is the founder of a prestigious drama academy in Dublin - and intriguingly, also the granddaughter of Tony Ryan, founder of Ryanair. ROADS struck me as an amusingly ironic brand name for a scion of an airline dynasty to light upon. And to be fair, it would have been amusingly ironic even if it had referenced air travel, which is of course famously hostile to the transport of perfume.

Source: thelir.ie

For it is because of the - to my mind, bonkers and unnecessarily draconian - new postal regulations that we can no longer send perfume overseas without a fair degree of subterfuge and moral turpitude, and even shipments within the UK (travelling by ROADS presumably!) are heavily flagged as 'hazardous' thanks to the requirement to affix an ID8000 label.

And even when personally accompanying your perfume on its plane trip, it must of course be either safely stowed in the hold or taken on as hand luggage in a transparent Zip-loc bag. Well, for bottles up to 100ml. If you are planning to take one of those stonking 450ml bottles of a Dior Collection Privée scent, think again. Or make a particular point of coshing the X-ray machine operative over the head with it on your way through security. Yep, as my friend David observed, it's very much a case of a 'Cologne No Fly Zone' where the airlines are concerned. Hmm...remarkably, Ryanair do actually fly to Cologne-Bonn. Eerily close to civilisation for them, you would have thought.

And then when you think of the notion of a fragrance range linked to the budget airline we all love to joke about, you can't help but wonder if you might have to pay extra for the box to go with your perfume bottle, never mind the carrier bag it comes in.



All joking aside, I actually fly Ryanair a lot even now, as they go all over the shop, including to countless places you have never heard of, plus they are pretty darn cheap and do mostly land on time. So when I sat down to test this set of ten perfumes, I thought that it might be fun to pick out scents to talk about which I associated with a particular Ryanair destination (not all from personal experience!), kicking off each mini-review with extracts from the descriptions accompanying the collection.

Harmattan - OUDJA

"The scent of the wind as it crosses the Sahara desert..."

Notes: lavender, vetiver, oud, saffron, black pepper, tuberose, rose, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, bourbon, tonka bean, frankincense, patchouli and myrrh

Hmm...it was a bit of a challenge finding a Ryanair airport in the flight path of the Harmattan wind, which is apparently a 'cold-dry and dusty trade wind, blowing over the West African subcontinent'. So I came up with Oudja, near the Moroccan / Algerian border. To be honest, it's a fair bit north of the windy action, but my guess is that there would be some sand within striking distance at least, even if it is not notably breezy.

Now I read somewhere that Harmattan is the bestseller of the line; it certainly chimes with the oud-y, 'wind wafting curtains of a hotel room overlooking a souk' Zeitgeist, which famously inspired Andy Tauer's L'Air du Désert Marocain. Between the pepper, oud and incense, Harmattan comes off as a somewhat masculine-leaning, arid and austere scent to my nose, making it a good fit for my choice of Oudja - which doesn't seem to go out of its way to attract visitors, though I note that a techno-pole is under construction near the airport. Going back to our trade wind, Harmattan definitely has an overall vibe of 'dusty' and 'cold-dry'. It's not particularly original, but the oud with its medicinal facet nicely scratches that 'English Patient' itch.

Oudja ~ Source: Wikipedia

Graduate 1954 - PARIS

"This represents the woman who, as a result of the limited freedoms offered to her, had to use her femininity and elegance to achieve her goals. Strength through femininity..."

Notes: tuberose, frangipani, old rose, heliotrope, mandarin, muguet, clove, green moss, cedarwood, Virginian sandalwood and patchouli

I am not quite sure why a woman who went to university as long ago as 1954 should still need to use feminine wiles to get anywhere, but assuming that she does, she can start by hitching a lift from Beauvais to actual Paris, a journey of an hour and a half by bus apparently. I chose Paris to be twinned with this pretty scent, because it is a wistful, old-fashioned floral with a feel of Bourjois Soir de Paris about it: watery, sweet and unashamedly girlish - though if one were to cast it in ladies' hosiery terms, it would be more of an 'Ambre' or 'Beige Doré' I sense, rather than fishnets or the implicit bluestocking of the fragrance name.

My vintage mini, since jettisoned due to chronic black gunge issues

Neon - KAVOS

"Fluorescent and alive. This fragrance bursts with fun and style. For the things that make us smile..."

Notes: nutmeg, cinnamon, heliotrope, wild iris, vanilla, and a reassuring woody base

Trust me, there is nothing about this perfume that is 'reassuring'. The clue lies in the name and the description(!), hence my choice of Kavos. For Neon is a brash, vibrant, bubblegum kind of scent, that smacks you over the head with a double whammy of heliotrope and vanilla, not unlike the sort of sickly cocktails being downed by the pitcherful in the pulsating nightspots of this Greek party resort, leading to a general divesting of inhibitions and clothes, and a hangover the size of Colossus (sorry, that's Rhodes, not Corfu) in the morning.

Kavos ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons (they must have been up early!)

White Noise - KRAKOW

"The static calm of white noise inspires a sense of stillness and reflection..."

Notes: green apple, lemon balm, mandarin, grapefruit, iris, violet leaf, heliotrope, tuberose, jasmine blossom, old rose, cedarwood, sandalwood, leather, amber and vanilla

My first thought about White Noise is that it might be the very thing you need a CD of in order to sleep in Kavos, assuming you are not one of the revellers. My second thought was that the perfumer must have a jolly big tub of heliotrope on the go, as this is the third perfume to feature it in a row. But I am going to go with Krakow, which I visited in January 1996, when it was buried under drifts upon drifts of pillowy snow. Sleep does come into this recollection, for I was training a young colleague on that trip, and shortly after setting off for Kielce, some 75 miles away, to conduct her first solo interview, she fainted on the train, kiboshing my lie in and day off in one fell, hypoglycaemic swoop. As with actual white noise, I couldn't pick out any individual notes in this perfume - or even have a stab at describing it - but it is similar in style to Olfactive Studio's Lumière Blanche - a creamy, woody, numinous mantra-type fragrance, and one of my favourites of the bunch.

Krakow ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons

Bitter End - KNOCK

Bitter End is 'inspired by the west of Ireland, a beautiful barren place of isolation...'

Notes: wild grasses, cooling mints and wet bracken, fig leaf, olive, wild thyme, oakmoss, violet leaf, vetiver

Well, though I grew up in the North, I have holidayed extensively in the West of Ireland, and have vivid memories of its wild grasses and wet bracken, not to mention soggy socks, permeable kagoules, and the sharp tingle of relentless drizzle on your cheeks. I picture craggy landscapes shrouded in low cloud, sheep hunkered down by dry stone walls bordering fields of peat, and endless vistas of sludgy grey and brown. The sort of area that is so remote that it pays to trail bread vans so you get a loaf that has a best before date later than yesterday.

Bitter End (is the name some kind of veiled political comment, hehe?) I wouldn't class as bitter. To my nose it smells more of damp violets and some vaguely muddy greenery, shot through with the faintest hint of mint, though your air miles may vary and I don't wish to 'Knock' it.

Connemara ~ courtesy of Clare Chick

Which brings me neatly to the last scent in my virtual olfactory recce of Ryanair routes, namely Cloud 9, which needs no destination...

Cloud 9 - UP IN THE AIR

"A clean, calm scent. A feeling of floating happiness. Clean air, hot milk, comfort and lightness..."

Notes: chamomile, geranium, jasmine, vanilla, amber, musk and sandalwood

I have nothing much to say about Cloud 9, except that it is very pleasant rather than transcendental, though none the worse for that. I am not sure you would find hot milk on a Ryanair flight come to think of it, and the floating happiness only kicks in once they have got that scratch card routine out of the way - not to mention the push on duty free deals. Which do of course include perfume. ;) Hmm, somehow I doubt that the ROADS range - imaginative and amusingly quirky though it is - will displace the designer bellwethers in Ryanair's in-flight magazine any time soon...











Saturday, 28 November 2015

A Swiss student's thesis on the influence of perfume blogs - one blogger's view!

Source: Wikipedia
Further to my recent post, requesting readers' help with a Swiss business student's online survey on the influence of perfume blogs, I feel enough time has passed since I published it to present my answers to Nina's survey for bloggers. I have added the odd thing I have thought of since, and made a couple of slight edits here and there, notably to the formatting. So here goes...

What is especially important to you when choosing a scent?

1. Trend
2. Recommendation
3. Ingredients
4. Origin
5. Price
6. Breakdown of scent
7. Design

"I sense this question is about buying a perfume, which I rarely do these days as I have so many already, and must not be encouraged to add to my existing (ridiculously big) collection! But if something did overcome my resistance at this point in my perfume hobby I would say ‘the way a fragrance smells’, which is different from ‘breakdown of scent’ in 6. I would not look for it to definitely contain x or y notes, though I would be curious after the fact to see what notes were in it to explain why I liked it so much. And sometimes it is not possible to detect the individual notes in a perfume but just be transported by a generally pleasant scent. So ‘how it smells’ is No 1, and then probably ‘Price’ would affect whether I actually bought it at all! ‘Design’ would be a factor of some importance - I recently blogged about how a cheap box that looked like it might contain condoms(!) would hamper sales of a perfume that was recently launched. The packaging must be broadly commensurate with the fragrance. But I am not bound by trends or origin, and tend to go on my own nose’s findings, though a fellow perfumista’s recommendation might steer me towards something now and then."

What is special about a perfume blog compared to a fashion blog, for example?

"Pass - I don't read fashion blogs so don't know what they are like or what they set out to do."

How often do you blog?

"Nowadays I aim for once a week, but work and ‘life’ sometimes sidetrack me, such that the frequency is a bit less often. At the start, nearly six years ago, I posted 2-3 times a week, but that is hard to sustain unless you are a professional."

Source: Wikipedia

How many followers do you have?

"172 at the time of writing. These are people who have actively chosen to follow the blog. I believe Wordpress has a different way of calculating followers, and may just ‘sweep up’ all your friends on Facebook, which is not the same thing at all, hehe. ;) I must be honest and say that if I lose a follower - I can never even work out who, never mind why, for I just see the tally change - it is surprisingly unsettling. I would like to talk to the person to find out what prompted them to stop reading, in case it is anything I can readily fix!"

Why do you blog?

1. Because you want to influence people
2. Because you want to inform
3. Because you would like to warn
4. Because you would like to educate
5. Because you enjoy it, because you are communicative
6. Because your followers value your opinion

"Quite simply - to entertain, which is closest to your #5, though not the same. Perfume is a hook on which to hang what I hope are amusing posts - oh, and I also write travelogues, which have the same aim, and may feature perfume sniffing along the way."

Are you able to describe a scent so well that people buy it without having smelled it beforehand?

"I doubt it very much, in fact I think I am quite bad at this. Yet somehow by dint of using metaphor and various images to conjure up a scent in different ways, I can convey something of its character, and some readers have said they have an idea of whether they might like a perfume or not from my reviews. But I would hope they would read quite a few more reviews before doing anything so rash as to blind buy a scent! That is a practice I don’t approve of - though I am guilty of it myself in the past, haha. I certainly don’t want to encourage it in others, because that way can lie disappointment and buyer’s remorse…;)"

Source: liveinternet.ru

In general, how do you estimate the influence of a perfume blog on the market?

"It depends which one you are talking about. There are some very authoritative, ‘senior bloggers’ with large followings and excellent noses - a couple of the ones I am thinking of are industry insiders, indeed - so their blogs would have influence, maybe more on the subset of the public who like niche perfume. I don’t know to what extent the mainstream market would be influenced by blogs - it tends to operate on woolly copy, pushy sales staff and glossy advertising, and to rely on impulse purchases at the point of sale. They are two different markets in my opinion."

Do you have the feeling that you can influence your readers?

"I really don’t know, because I only ‘engage’ with the small number of readers who leave comments, most of whom are also bloggers. ;) I have no idea what the 95+% of people think or do as a result of landing on Bonkers - or who they even are. It is possible that they do check out perfumes - and the beauty products I also occasionally review - on my blog and take my opinion into account, but I have no way of knowing."

Source: Wikimedia Commons

Do you read other perfume blogs or do you exchange ideas with other bloggers?

"Oh yes, routinely, and I comment on them. And sometimes we have done group blog post-type collaborations, though I haven’t been involved in one lately. I have met quite a lot of other bloggers in person, and they have become proper friends. We often email and message one another - every day I would have some conversations like that online."

Do you only present perfumes that you like?

"Mainly, but not exclusively. When I write a negative review it is usually of something spectacularly bad for whatever reason. The type of perfume I find hard to write about is the kind that merely leaves me cold. Then I do also write reviews of perfumes I admire, but which may not be quite ‘me’."

Do you feel that you are a relevant source of information for your readers’ purchasing decisions?

"That goes back to your earlier question about influencing readers. I would say I am a relevant source up to a point, if they choose to use my reviews in that way. Whether they actually do is another matter that I can have no handle on."

The band at worship ~ Source: A Secret Picnic

What information do your readers look for on your blog? Information regarding:

1. Trend
2. Recommendations
3. Ingredients
4. Origin
5. Price
6. Breakdown of scent components
7. Design

"Probably similar things to me as in your earlier question ie how a fragrance smells, plus maybe a note list for reference and an indication of price. A pack shot, so they can see how the box looks. But I can only speculate here as to what matters to readers. Perhaps I should ask people just that! ;)"

What is your relationship to companies? (influence of companies on blog entries)


"I retain an independent stance in my dealings with companies. I get solicited a lot to write reviews in return for samples - or full bottles, even - but I never agree to do that. I say I will try the perfume and may or may not write about it as a result. And if I do decide to do so, the review may or may not be positive. So the only influence on the blog is the fact that if people send me samples, they are de facto on my radar and if I feel moved to feature the perfumes sent to me, I will. But that only occurs in a minority of cases, and often only months after the event when the muse strikes me!"


An art card bought in a bookshop in St Gallen

To what extent do you represent the interests of certain companies on your blog? (Specific influence of companies on blog entries)

"Not at all - see above. I will qualify that slightly, as there are some companies I have featured repeatedly on Bonkers and may do again, notably Papillon Perfumes, Puredistance, 4160 Tuesdays, and the company that makes Travalos. That is not what I would construe as a formal 'representation', but more a case of my liking those companies and their products, and genuinely wanting to write about them. What is also important is that there has to be a certain something about a perfume house/fragrance - it could be anything! - that is a good fit for the Bonkers 'house style' of nuttiness and frivolity. However great a perfume, if I can't spot a slightly left field angle from which to review it, I probably won't.

To what extent do companies try to influence your opinion? (influence on the blogger)


1. Sample copies
2. Personal contact
3. Newsletter
4. Other

"#1, #3 and #4! I get sent things in every media, including newsletters and press releases, samples and whole bottles. I have also met a number of perfumers, but they have never tried to influence me through that personal contact. It’s the PR companies who do that, but they do vary. Some are quite respectful and low key, others more pushy in actually requesting a ‘tit for tat’ arrangement - product in return for copy. It is my impression that as a sector beauty blogs are more open to that kind of remunerative MO, but that is a very broad generalisation."



St Gallen shoppers!

Is there a link on your blog where you can buy a specific perfume?

"In the body of individual reviews I might link to the website of the perfume house, and maybe to a store where you can buy that perfume, but not in any systematic way. They certainly can’t buy any perfume through the blog as such."

Do you recommend buying a perfume?

"No, only ever trying it! (See previous.)"

Are you compensated by other companies for:

1. The sale of perfume directly on your blog

2. Advertising
3. Production introduction

"No."


Dom Hotel ~ Source: st-gallen.top.hotelek.hu

How do you handle complaints or critique regarding one of the products that you introduced?

"Not applicable, if by ‘introduced’ you mean ‘recommend’. My reviews are just opinions, so people are at liberty to say in a comment that they didn’t like something I was raving about in my post! I am not personally involved in promoting a scent in the sense you may mean?"

How would you describe the relationship to your readers?


1. Interactive
2. One-sided
3. Regular 

"I would say I have an interactive relationship with the small minority of readers who comment - who are mostly fellow bloggers as I say. People come and go, but some are regular visitors and commenters. Other readers may in fact visit regularly yet never comment. To the vast majority who don’t interact with the blog through comments, I guess the relationship may be what you mean by ‘one-sided’, but that's normal with blogs."



Source: filmwettbewerb.ch

To what extent do you entice the readers to try a new scent or to purchase new perfumes?

"That’s for them to decide really, hehe. Where I absolutely love a perfume, I may try to arouse people's interest in it by writing an appealing, sensuous review, because I would be happy if the scent gave others the same pleasure as it does me. But I would never try to get anyone to purchase it, merely to take the step of trying it for themselves."





PS Coming soon...I break my own rules above about blind buying, hehe. Or as good as break them.