I know my own problems - difficulties sleeping, an ongoing lack of work, an expensive repair on the car - pale into insignificance compared with recent events, but the combination of weariness, worry and gloomy news has made me greet the New Year with less of that 'shiny new diary' gung-ho spirit to which I am usually as prone as the next man. But I thought I would have a go at a bit of a 2014 review or New Year stock take, call it what you will. It may be odd, mind, and not especially perfume-forward, I warn you...;)
New launches and hiding under a rock
To jump start my look back at the past year in perfume terms - and spurred on by Undina's traditional analysis of how many scents she tested in 2014, by which brands, and how many of them were new releases etc - I fetched out my perfume diary and started flicking through. Here I had faithfully documented what I wore each day. It was clear that I was sometimes testing several things, or partly wearing familiar scents and partly testing new ones. I soon got bogged down, however, on realising that I didn't know if I was in fact testing or wearing a given scent, ie I simply couldn't remember what I already knew. Nor could I distinguish the perfumes released last year from ones from previous years, though all that could have been ascertained with a bit of digging around, had I really cared.
|Evidently also a drinking diary|
As I continued to flick through, it was clear that not many of the perfumes tested had made much of an impression on me, which is consistent with Undina's own low success rate in such sessions. And significantly, most of any testing I have done was invariably prompted by samples sent to me spontaneously by companies or received as extras in swaps, rather than burning lemmings I have tracked down, though there were a few of those too. The thing is - and I am a little ashamed to say it - nowadays I can quite happily go to an event at Les Senteurs or wherever and hardly sniff anything. I will also walk right through Duty Frees at airports, barely taking in what is new, despite prominent displays specifically designed to intercept the captive traveller with time on their hands. These days I am so lazy and 'not bovvered' in fact, that I can't even manage to put the proper accents in some of the perfumes listed below.
Scented discoveries (from 2014 or otherwise)
One key exception to this tuning out to new - or newish - launches is Tauer's PHI Une Rose de Kandahar from 2013, of which Val of APJ gave me a precious vial in February, and which turned out to be a lemming of the highest order. If I had to pick my top perfume discovery of last year, that would be it, albeit I tried so little in the grand scheme of things that it is not as great an accolade as it might be coming from bloggers who have explored many more new offerings on the market. Penhaligon's Tralala would be the worthy runner up.
|My one *new* bottle purchase of the year (Lidl excepted)|
In terms of other new perfume loves that are not necessarily year-specific, Estee Lauder's Bronze Goddess and Hermes Eau des Merveilles are two key ones to cite, along with Guerlain Attrape-Coeur and Shalimar Extrait, Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse, Vero Profumo Mito Voile d'Extrait and Extrait, Farmacia SS Annunziata Vaniglia del Madagascar, Chanel Coromandel, Annick Goutal Songes and Black Flower Mexican Vanilla from the Dame Perfumery in Scottsdale. (Thanks to Undina, Lila das Gupta, Tara of OT, Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery and Blacknall Allen of aperfumeblog for the above!). I also had an unexpected rapprochement with Chanel No 5, on discovering that Lidl's latest dupe of a mainstream scent had fallen far of the mark. And there are doubtless a few others that will occur to me presently.
It's more about the people than ever before
Yup, 2014 has resoundingly shown me that I am more interested than ever in talking to people at fragrance events and meet ups, rather than taking this unparalleled opportunity to test the many perfumes all around us. For I have formed deep and rewarding friendships with a number of perfumistas, some of which have escalated to the next level: visiting them in their homes, and even staying the night in a couple of instances - hospitality I would be glad to reciprocate. ;)
|Russian doll-reflected perfumistas|
I am belatedly bonkers about skincare
Readers may well have noticed a number of 'beauty posts' creeping into the blog lately, and though I feel my recent waves of frenetic research have run their course for now - not least because I can't afford to buy anything else! - I think that to be purely practical about it, good skincare products are more necessary for me at this time of my life than the next lovely perfume. After all, I already have umpty dozen scents to choose from, and something that smells good is an embellishment at the end of the day - albeit a mood-enhancing and transformative one. Skincare, meanwhile, can address actual physical problems like my pesky chronic acne and the damage from decades of kamikaze sunbathing, as well as setting you on course to arrest or at least slightly mitigate the ageing process. I'm 55 after all - it's not too late exactly to take corrective action, but oh, how I wish I had started a sensible regime thirty years ago...
|My redeployed cutlery drainer|
Slowing down and easing up
I have talked about the principle of 'slow blogging' in previous 'stock taking' posts, and am still convinced of its merits. Additionally, a change I would like to make this year is to slow down in terms of my electronic life generally: 'engaging' with fewer blogs perhaps, and focusing on the ones with whom I have a personal connection, checking emails less frequently throughout the day and taking longer to reply to them, to avoid what I shall elaborately - and possibly impenetrably - call 'Groundhog Day ping pong syndrome'. Then I hope to spend less time on Facebook, where I am mercilessly teased for one thing, and which is the most terrible vortex at the best of times, even though I do like interacting with people that way. But it's a time-sucking curate's egg all right, not to mince metaphors about it. I am also trying to wind down before bedtime, which means resisting the urge to go online in the last hour or so of the evening, as the blue light emitted by electronic devices, coupled with the general mental stimulation entailed, is almost certainly a key factor in my inability to get to - and stay - asleep. That and my middle-aged bladder, of course.
|Look, no phone!|
To this end I am also trying mindfulness, or rather a somewhat simplifed version known as 'McMindfulness'. When practised last thing at night, it morphs into the equally snappily named 'beditation'. Interestingly, a psychologist writing for The Guardian urges people to have ONLY these three New Year's resolutions and to ditch the rest:
1) Take up meditation
2) Stop doing something (ie the opposite of the usual injunction to take up a new sport, hobby etc, but rather to find something in your life - whether a person or activity or goal or state of mind which is unhelpful / too hard / consuming of time and emotional energy etc - and drop it.
3) Go easy on yourself in reference to 1) and 2), or more widely!
'Consider the hyacinths...'
Right, so that is not exactly how the Biblical quotation goes, but I am sure the sentiment transfers across species. For I must say that in all my low level agitation so far this month, I have found a lot of solace and a calming quality in a potted hyacinth a friend gave me for Christmas. It is going over now, with brown bits starting to colonise its white tendrils, but every time I walk into the kitchen I sniff it, and the flower's sweet narcotic scent seems so restful and somehow so sufficient unto itself, just like the non-spinning lilies of the New Testament. Which is not to say that I am poised to abandon manmade perfumes any time soon - not at all - but it was a nice object lesson in the simple pleasures of life, including scented ones. Which, if the work situation doesn't improve, may take on a greater importance by and by.
Anyway, as warned, that was an odd 'round up' post, but I hope to be back next time with something a touch more lighthearted - and squarely perfume-related. Oh okay, that might be pushing it...;)
Has your New Year got off to a more upbeat start, or have you felt a bit weighed down with the cares of the world, or your own?
|Liz Moores - a pint-sized tonic who punches above her height!|