The obligatory outfit crisis
As you may recall, I invariably have an outfit crisis before any kind of important event, and this PLL meet up was no exception. In the end I gave up on reconciling my twin aims of smartness and warmth, and went for smartness. However, this was undermined somewhat by the stomach I had developed in the past week after consuming an entire bucket of Maltesers, which was unfortunately showcased by my aptly named 'dinner trousers'. Or 'after dinner choc binge trousers' to give them their full name. I only noticed this problem protuberance when I saw the photos of me from the night, and in hindsight would have been better off with something a bit more floaty and forgiving.
|Me and Portia - lost a tum and gained Angela Merkel!|
And it is also traditional for me to forget something on such occasions: this time it was my watch, an umbrella, money, and one of the five coupons which collectively comprised my train ticket - I must have failed to scoop it up from the vending machine. As luck would have it, the next customer retrieved the coupon, handed it to a member of staff, who gave it to the conductor of the train I was on, who proceeded to walk through all the carriages looking for its owner, which could be ascertained by marrying up the serial numbers with my other coupons. What a fine example of proactive customer service that I didn't even know I needed! Or not until I attempted to travel home and found my ticket was invalid without that missing coupon...
I was met at Euston (the novelty! the Brief Encountery-ness of it all!) by Val the Cookie Queen of APJ and Rachael Potts, both examples of that remarkable Venn diagram intersection of fumehead and fellow Monochrome Set fans. Rachael - whom I was meeting for the first time - immediately endeared herself to me by saying that I had a 'grown up voice' and was 'enigmatic'. (This may have meant in practice that I was unable to give any advance platform information, or even let her know where my train was coming from.) The three of us quickly hooked up with Tara of A Bottled Rose, Val's husband Chris, Val's travelling therapist, Dr Fox, and Lady Jane Grey, who had just flown in from a business meeting near Geneva! Some of us went to grab an impromptu bite near the venue, before joining the rest of our (predominantly German speaking ;) ) party at the venue. This was accessed by a very steep flight of stairs, which you would not wish to negotiate in either direction if you were a few Cosmopolitans to the wind.
|Val, looking lively in leopardskin|
Quirky and top notch scram
Yes, before moving on to an account of the event proper, the refreshments deserve a word of special commendation. I don't recall the full spread, but I did clock unwrapped Penguins, the Aussie delicacy known as Fairy Bread (dainty triangles of bread and butter sprinkled with hundreds and thousands - or 'sprinkles' for any US readers who don't mind a spot of repetition), some kind of twizzly extruded snacks and the biggest cashew nuts I have ever seen. If I hadn't just eaten a sizzling bowl of bibimbap I would have made light work of those, I can tell you. And even though the jug of ready mixed Cosmopolitans had been drunk by the time I investigated the options, I was impressed by the fact that this 'fun, fruity cocktail', beloved of the characters in Sex and The City had been on offer. It set the tone for Portia's fun, fruity talk no less!
|We didn't have the teal variety! Source: Wikipedia|
Portia's outfit - worth the ticket price in itself
I am not sure there is such an expression as 'a destination outfit' as there is a 'destination wedding' - you know, where the bride and groom fly to the Caribbean and combine the ceremony and honeymoon under one petal-strewn poolside pergola - but I would pay good money just to go and see Portia in all her glamorous finery. The coruscating talk was a bonus. So, starting at the bottom, Portia was shod in clear perspex peep-toe shoes with tottering 'f*** me' heels, to the terrifying vertiginousness of which her stretchy ankle bandage may have been testament. Next came a pair of very pale flesh coloured tights on her shapely legs, topped by a baby doll nightie in some suitably - or unsuitably depending on your stance on such things - diaphanous material, which made an interesting counterpoint with Portia's newly grown hipster beard. Well, new since I saw her last, which is a while ago (see outfit crisis link above!). And then came the crowning glory - Portia's headpiece, which I can best describe as a sparkly golden whelk. It was truly magnificent and looked quite heavy, but she is a real trouper, I sense, and has doubtless been weighed down by even more elaborate headgear in her time.
Scent of a (clatter of remarkable) women from down the ages
So finally, on to the event itself, which kicked off about 7.15pm 'We are starting a bit late', quipped Portia, 'because some of you can't afford watches!' (Can't afford - or can't remember to bring them, I thought to myself.) The session was relaxed, interactive, completely hilarious and occasionally blue or sweary in places. A winning combination of ingredients in my book.
|Kirk, Val, Chris and Pia|
Now I know that Tara will be reporting on the night for APJ itself, and she is noted for being as meticulous as a court reporter in her note taking. Consequently, I shall not attempt to present a full account of Portia's talk, for my own scribbly jottings would fall woefully short. Instead, I will endeavour to give a flavour of the content, which centred around a list of twelve formidable female figures from history - mostly, but not all benign, it should be said - whom Portia had matched with a scent which she felt summed up their character / persona. Blotters of the fragrances in question were distributed amongst us so we could all experience Portia's suggestion. The audience meanwhile had been randomly assigned fabric strips with the names of one of the women featured, and were asked to think what we would associate that person with ourselves. Googling was permitted, should anyone be a bit nonplussed by the name they had been allocated!
So without further preamble - though you knew there would have to be some, this being Bonkers ;) - here is a quick romp through a selection of the featured women from history, their assigned scents, and any comments from the audience. I should point out that the titbits I have homed in on in the 'Famous for' category by no means give an exhaustive picture of that individual's lifetime achievements, hehe.
Famous for: Marrying her brother and creating the Syrian army - 'which was just as f***ed then as it is now'. Cleopatra apparently had a good body, but a 'face like a foot'. She painted her skin with lead to make her face whiter, and drank a pearl dissolved in vinegar in a bet with Mark Antony. (My notes were a bit shaky at this point, but Googling is permitted, as I say.)
Ubar by Amouage
NB (I chose this as my sample to take home at the end of the night, because I know it is a particular favourite of Undina's, and thought that after my recent rapprochement with Salome, I was ready to give this 'big hitter' perfume another go).
Audience suggestions: White Diamonds, Poison, Onda Extrait (no prizes for guessing who that was!), and good old plain ass's milk. Or even asses' milk, as it would take a couple to fill a bath.
SAINT JOAN OF ARC
Famous for: Leading the French to victory against England in the Hundred Years' War and being burnt at the stake. ;(
Celtic Fire by Union(!)
Audience suggestions: I didn't say so, but Brulure de Rose flitted into my mind - and promptly out again! I think it was in connection with poor Joan that Lila came up with Jovoy Paris's La Liturgie des Heures, because of its being an incense scent. There was much ribald discussion of the existence of the Marmite accord that is meant to be in Celtic Fire, but Grant Osborne has seen it in the vial, so that settled the matter.
Famous for: Being a nurse in the Crimean War and having the idea of sanitising hospital wards and washing patients' clothes.
Sharp by Andrea Maack
NB (My review of Sharp may be found here. I liked it best out of Andrea Maack's range, not least because it had no discernible metal note, though arguably that would not have been out of place in a scent associated with field hospitals.) Sharp reminded Portia of SL Laine de Fer, and some loft? insulation material the name of which I didn't catch, but which sounded humorous.
Audience suggestions: Dettol(!), Estee Lauder White Linen, and something else I have failed to write down.
|Source: Roullier White|
Famous for: Being the Chinese Emperor's concubine, Dowager Empress and Regent of China, and having unfeasibly long nails, which knock the entire cast of TOWIE's talons into a cocked hat. Tz'u Hsi also oversaw the establishment of schools, the reorganisation of the army - and the suppression of opium cultivation.
YSL Opium (vintage) - haha!
Audience suggestions/comments: Rachael mentioned that she once got off her head sniffing Opium in the 1970s during a bout of flu. 'While we were all snorting poppers!' joked Portia. Given the age Portia would have been in the '70s it is sincerely to be hoped not. ;)
KATHARINE HEPBURN (note spelling - I speak as a 'not quite fellow' Kathryn)
Famous for: A stellar Hollywood career spanning 60 years, and legendary cheekbones. Portia said: 'I ate my way out of that look, but I like to think I have some of her poise'. Based on how well Portia was managing in those killer heels, despite a dodgy ankle, I would say a resounding yes to that.
Portia joked: 'A lot of perfumistas need to be challenged every time they breathe in, but I just need to smell good!' I liked this soapy yet crisp orange-y cologne myself and would say 'Amen' to that sentiment!
Audience suggestions: FM Le Parfum de Therese (ie something a bit more spiky and angular, I infer - more African Queen, if you will), Jicky, Dior Eau Sauvage ('Ooh yes,' exclaimed Portia, 'she would have bathed in the s***!'), Miss Dior and Chanel No 5.
And finally, I would like to include this one, because of my personal connection to the scent Portia chose for her...
Famous for: Her magnetic violet eyes, continually marrying and unmarrying Richard Burton, and being in a ton of iconic films, including Cleopatra (see above!). Her face is considerably more beautiful than a foot, it must be said.
NB This was the perfume I associate with my mother because of her not wearing it, and which gave rise to this elegaic post about her, which some readers may remember, and which is the piece of writing anywhere on Bonkers which means the most to me. I describe Byzance in my review as 'A retro soapfest clouded in mystery'.
Audience suggestions: Tara came up with FM Lipstick Rose, which spookily enough was the exact same scent that popped into my mind, on account of its cosmetic boudoir vibe and violet connection!
|Portia having a swishy skirt moment.|
So yes, these are only half the people featured. I was assigned Oprah Winfrey, for example, and 'channelled' Michael Kors as my suggestion, which is weird as I am not sure I have even smelt it - that's why I say 'channelled', because it came to me just like that! Portia, meanwhile, picked YSL M7 for her. And higher up the post I may of course be seen posing with Angela Merkel, who was teamed with a Byredo scent. Oh, and I would just like to mention that I had heard of the oceanographer and explorer Sylvia Earle, but only because there was a programme on her on Radio 4 the other week.
|Portia, Val, Tara and Sabine (of Iridescents)|
Then after the talk there was the usual high octane milling around and having lightning conversations with fellow fumeheads - much like speed dating, indeed, but without the dating part.
|Rachael and me|
This was a good opportunity to hand over a pair of wrist warmers I had knitted as a commission for Val, and there was also the usual exchanging of little goody bags. Oh, and of course I had to take away one of Val's brownies. Eating it on the train home was (not for the first time, indeed) a way of proving to myself that that night of unalloyed fabulousness, razzle-dazzle, and all round not-quite-family entertainment really happened. Yep, Portia, you are still a caution and a hoot and a half, and long may you continue to be so!
|Brownie plus coupons reunited!|