Sunday, 7 January 2018

Happy New Year! Plus flu-induced musings on perfume and life in general, and yet another surfeit of cat photos....

'You're really not very well, are you?'
Getting back to blogging after a month's hiatus is not unlike getting back into exercise after a long absence. Though I wouldn't know about that as I haven't done any exercise yet. Not that I do an awful lot at the best of times. But I thought I'd have a crack at a blog post, even if it isn't overly perfume-themed. My Facebook friends are already aware that my mad work phase in December segued seamlessly into a protracted bout of illness, from which I am only just emerging: I succumbed to a regular cold, which then morphed into this pesky Aussie flu which is doing the rounds. Or maybe it was two separate viruses, not that it matters really. As anyone who has had full-bore influenza knows, it really chops the legs off from under you, such that you would instantly fail the "not too ill to pick up a twenty quid note from the bottom of the drive" test. When the flu was most acute, I stayed in bed for four days straight, drifting in and out of consciousness. As in sleep, sorry - I am not trying to be melodramatic and suggest I was in a coma or anything. Any sound from radio or TV would have been too intrusive, so I just lay there thinking and dozing. Obviously I had to get up periodically to fetch water, or the crispbread bites off which I was largely subsisting at that point. Or to put more crunchies down for the cat.

Before I took to my bed, I took to the sofa.

Oh yes, a special mention is due to Truffle, whose quizzically concerned looks and sustained ownerside vigil were a source of great comfort. On New Year's Eve, a night when I would usually be out whooping it up amongst friends, Truffle lay on my chest with her face pressed to mine, intermittently licking the tip of my nose as if to say: 'You're poorly and I don't like the loud bangs - but we can make our own fun here just as well.' A big thank you is also due to the friends who did 'porch drops' of home made soup, stewed fruit and other nourishing foodstuffs. When you live alone, the good offices of friends are an absolute mainstay.

A change of room is as good as a rest - which we also had!

As the days went by and I felt a bit better, the cat noticed that I was changing levels in the house for a few hours here and there, so she relocated her watch to the radiator cradle in the dining room. At the first sign that I might be tiring and need to lie down again (a daily occurrence over the past week), she would return upstairs and continue her bed sitting duties, whether to one side of me, on me, in the bed, or on the warm spot at the bottom of the bed occupied by the hot water bottle. And eventually, a couple of days ago, Truffle decided that if I was well enough to get dressed I no longer needed constant ministrations, and promptly took up residence again in her cooker top eyrie.

Now although it is customary at this time, I am afraid that there will be absolutely no 'launches of 2017' retrospective from me - and probably never again. I am too far out of the loop to have anything approaching a proper overview of new perfume releases, though I have tested and liked a number of things which were launched last year. In terms of my favourite scented discoveries overall, they might actually be Annick Goutal Songes - in both the edt and edp versions (my only full bottle purchase of the year, and technically a re-discovery!), and House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved. Yep, if you restricted me to just two perfumes - one for summer and one for winter - at the time of writing these may be they. I cannot believe I just limited myself to two perfumes! And of course I reserve the right to change my mind at a moment's notice. I am indebted to perfumers and friends alike for continuing to send me samples, which is the main way I get to try new things these days, apart from my (exceptional) sniffing marathons like the one I had with Undina and Tara last May.

Songes also having a nice little lie down

If I am honest, I would probably not go near the perfume counter of a major department store even if I happened to find myself in one - not without being pushed in that direction. I know how much I already tune out to the fragrance section of Duty Frees in airports these days, albeit their selection is not typically in the same league. I will definitely try new perfumes if they land on my mat or are otherwise put in front of me, but I don't seem to go out of my way to seek things out any more, and a lot of the conversations that go on between perfumista friends pass right over my head. I haven't heard of whole houses, never mind individual scents!

I don't know if this is just a phase or whether my interest in perfume has now muted down to a positively passive level. Given that I already have such a huge stash to use up, it is probably for the best that I don't start developing too many new lemmings.

The night shift

During my time lying in bed all sorts of other random thoughts came to me about my perfume hobby: my attachment to friends is the blogosphere is as strong as ever, if not more so; I am still troubled by cliches in reviews (also from me!), by an excess of flashing, fruit machine-style ads - which to be fair you don't see very often, but I wouldn't like them if I did! - and by unspoken commercial connections between bloggers and perfume houses. As well as relationships that strike me as frankly coercive, whereby bloggers use a degree of emotional manipulation to 'extract' free product from perfumers and/or retailers to use in giveaways, or sell on privately to hapless newbies unaware of the bottles' provenance. I have been that (latter) soldier myself when starting out in this hobby. Nor do I care for perfumes with preposterously blingy bottles and eye-watering price points that cynically target stratospherically rich Saudi princes and Russian oligarchs, though I sense I have a problem with conspicuous luxury in every sphere! I also feel uneasy about decadently swanky perfume launches - apart from anything, the cost of those has got to be going on the price of the perfume...

Some of my sense of detachment from the perfume scene may be attributable to my current difficulties at finding work (notwithstanding the recent overload!). The enforced frugality which inevitably ensues may also have led to an estrangement from consumerism in general. For it is not just the scarcity of work: such projects as I have been offered tend to be pitched at more or less the going rate earnt by Romanian strawberry pickers. It would be unthinkable for a person in full time employment suddenly to be told they will be receiving a third - or even a fifth - of their usual monthly pay packet while doing the same job, yet in the freelance world it is clear that anything goes. So the viability of my current profession, and the need to find more lucrative and/or less stressful alternative sources of income is weighing heavily on me at the moment, such that the notion of buying a new bottle of perfume or an expensive item of skincare feels completely alien. In the event of a fillip to my finances that could of course all change...;)

Purple Christmas gin!

I haven't made any New Year's Resolutions as such, although one or two appear to have made themselves. For example I was very pleased to learn - following a statistical computation worthy of Undina - that in 2017 I achieved my target of an average of 2 alcohol-free days a week, up from 'just over one' in past years going back as far as I can remember. It doesn't sound like much of a lifestyle change, but that still probably equates to 40 days on which I consciously opted not to have a drink when it might so easily have been the default choice before. Thanks to the flu, 2018 has got off to a stellar start in terms of non-drinking: in the first week of the year I have had two days on which I have had a drink, rather than the reverse. So I am well in credit for the rest of the month at least, haha.

(Editor's note: In case I come across as a bit of a lush, I could perhaps add that I do mostly just have one drink at a time, so my weekly units remain within the Government guidelines. ;) )

The other 'not a resolution' that seems to be spontaneously happening - also prompted by my gradual recovery from illness - is reading. I am already 450 pages into the New Year, hurrah!, an unprecedented improvement on my reading rate in past years. I am sorry to report that I read just 11 books in 2017, so didn't quite make my target of one a month. Though work might make a jolly good excuse for December...

Beyond that, I have the usual clutch of vague aspirations: to go to bed earlier, knock off Facebook a bit(!), drink more water, and obey Michael Mosley to the letter and incorporate 150 minutes of medium intensity exercise into my life every week, at all of which I will most likely fail. Inspired by Louise Woollam, I'd also quite like to relearn to crochet...2017 has in fact been a great year for my knitting endeavours, and I have even earnt a bit of money from selling my wares. It is sadly too labour-intensive a hobby to ever become a full-time occupation, but it has its place as a hugely satisfying sideline. Oh, and I am actively considering doing Airbnb, as a friend in the next street makes a tidy living from that, with pretty much zero stress, beyond guests flaunting her house rules of not flushing the wc with the lid up. I have even let in one or two of her clients when she couldn't be around.

'Naja' the scarf

So we will see...2018 is definitely set to be a year of change for me on the work front - it just has to be. I haven't been wearing much perfume while I was ill, but here and there I did dab on a spot of Bois des Iles, which acted as a perfect complementary comforter to the cat. Thanks, Val! There are other perfumes I discovered in 2017 that I fully intend to write about, but simply didn't get round to, so I promise I am still a perfume blogger after a fashion till the fat lady sings. Or the thin lady more like, as I inadvertently lost 9lb over Christmas!

It remains to wish readers near and far a very Happy New Year - I hope your holidays were not characterised by illness or existential doubt. I will be back with perfume reviews in due course, and the inevitable tangential posts on toiletries, travel and Truffle...

Oh, and I am getting a flu jab next year. The requisite tenner is already on the hall table...;)


  1. Hi Vanessa,
    I'm glad that you're in recovery now. True flu is hell isn't it? And good to see that Truffle was such a loyal companion.
    I too had an iffy Christmas due to the combination of a horrid coccyx injury and giving up smoking. The two were not meant to be at the same time but such is fate. I have obviously done the opposite of you and gained multiple pounds. My bruised rear is wobbling.
    I seem to be getting over my recent year of perfume fatigue and having a resurgent rush of enthusiasm. My nose is happy but my bank balance isn't! WARSAWA seemed to be a bit of a catalyst in this. How are you feeling about it now?

    1. Hi odiferess,

      Sorry to hear about your iffy Christmas. I have clocked the odd b/w photo of Joseph in a striking pose, but didn't realise you had hurt your coccyx. Giving up smoking does seem like rather a heavy burden to lay on yourself at this time. Are you trying vaping initially?

      I haven't tried WARSAWA lately, so I guess I still feel as I did when I first reviewed it. Don't want to use up the sample, as is my way.

    2. No - vaping free zone. Champix instead. I'm having bonkers dreams as a result and should maybe be writing them down in the morning to create a book of short stories!

    3. Hi Sarah,

      Scurries to google Champix. I take it it is not a skiing resort - or a spa. Though a spa would be a good place to kick smoking perhaps!

      The bonkers dreams sound interesting. Have been having a few of those myself lately, with no stimulant involved as far as I am aware. ;)

  2. Doesn’t your GP offer free flu jabs? Or is that just for the Very Old like me?

    1. Hi Hazel,

      I think you have to be over 65? Though that is a long way off Very Old in my book!

  3. Apologies is this is a duplicate comment, I can't tell if the first attempt disappeared . . .

    Wishing you health in the New Year! Thank you for the update, and very sorry you have been ill. Truffle is a darling kitty and quite heroic in your hours of need.

    I too have had a hard look at the expense (and time) the perfume hobby demands of me. This year I ought to pare down both. I have plenty of samples and bottles to enjoy.

    While tidying up I found a long-neglected sample of Bois des Isles edt and have dabbed a bit on my wrist today. It has not been a favorite in the past, the particular blend of sandalwood and tonka overwhelms me, but these several years later I can see the beauty there.

    1. Hi Tiffanie,

      No problems with a duplicate comment, though I would of course delete the spare one had that occurred.

      All the best to you for 2018! It was interesting to hear you are also assessing the scale of your perfume collection and time spent on the hobby. I guess I mostly spend my perfume hobby time blogging, though I have recently been helping friends to find new things they like from my stash. It is lovely when they do light upon things to enjoy, and it also kind of makes up for my own 'plateau status'.

      Happy that you have rediscovered Bois des Iles - I do think it trumps even Chanel No 5.

  4. Oh you poor thing, that sounds like a rampaging monster of a flu virus that knocked you down. I'm so glad that Truffle takes the Cat Nurse role seriously, though. There's something very reassuring about the feline presence when in that between-worlds stage of illness. Awfully glad you're on the mend.

    Bit of a bugger about the crashing freelance rates, though. I hope something both lucrative and unstressful turns up soon.

    1. p.s. was thinking about you the other day, as I was wading through the horrors of places to stay in London--such as the tiny "deluxe double room. no window" which was still eye-wateringly expensive--and I found myself peering at photos for the position of plug sockets. And finally found a decent looking airbnb in bloomsbury.

    2. Hi crikey / Katie,

      As a cat lover yourself, I am sure you can relate to the comforting nature of a furry Florence Nightingale sitting on your bed.

      I laughed at your hotel searches - I had one of those windowless rooms last May and it was downright disorientating. My sister-in-law - Hazel above - has taken to referring to my chosen accommodation as 'those plywood hotels you stay in', which amused me greatly. I definitely think airbnb is increasingly the way to go - as a traveller and possibly for me as a host!

    3. I can indeed, and rather rely on it when I'm feeling rotten.

      Oh, I don't know if you saw, but we have a new addition to the household: After a couple of days of hiding when she first arrived, she's no longer even slightly timid, but is bold and funny, and ludicrously playful. And very, very shouty about food.

      I've had *very* good luck with airbnb so far--apart from one who cancelled on me with less than 24 hours to go--but I can't seen myself ever hosting. My place is far, far too untidy and chaotic to share with strangers.

      But so pleased to be going to London for a couple of days of not-work, and a couple of days of archive time. I may need a couple of fragrant diversions along the way. Where would you recommend most?

    4. Hi Crikey,

      Atkins looks very sweet with a great attitude and I am so glad you got another cat. I love the idea of her being shouty about food. ;) I must confess I have not been near Instagram in weeks - I think that on balance I am more of a Facebook fan, for all its faults.

      In terms of a fragrant destination in London, you are asking the person who doesn't go sniffing even when dropped in a department store, unless given a big nudge, haha? I like Les Senteurs' Seymour Place branch for its calm atmosphere and more curated approach. Nearby Selfridges is rammed with everything imaginable, but is very hectic by comparison, ditto Harrods. But you would cover a lot of ground with the first two, certainly. Bloom and Roullier White also have good selections, but the former is not very friendly and the latter is a bit of a schlep. I think Persolaise wrote a good perfumery guide to London, which you could also check out. There are lots of shops specific to the individual houses - Ormonde Jayne, Amouage etc - so it depends what you like.

  5. Dear Vanessa, I'm glad to hear that you're on the mend: being sick is sooo not fun - ask me how I know ;)

    I have to say that Truffle seems to be much more considerate than Rusty: he wouldn't completely abandon the idea to chew on some plastic as soon as I wasn't looking.

    It's a rotten situation with your job: it's a pity that instead of doing what you know how to do well you have to come up with some alternative ways of making living.

    Our "sniffing marathons" followed by my solo spree in Barcelona somehow jolted my interest in perfumes testing: while I'm not trying to find more perfumes to wear (I have more than enough of those already as is), I seem to be drawn to testing more and more perfumes (when I'm not sick, that is).

    I hope you get back all your strength soon. Meanwhile, enjoy your books and take it slowly.

    Happy New Year!

    1. Dear Undina,

      Thanks for your lovely comment - you completely understand why it hurts to be offered derisorily low pay for something I have done for decades at a higher rate.

      I shouldn't paint too saintly a picture of Truffle, hehe. She still savages wool on a daily basis, given the least opportunity. As with Rusty and plastic, I think these feline fetishes are pretty intractable. ;)

      She also protests noisily if I pick her up and carry her somewhere when she doesn't want to move. Not just in terms of noise, but also bites me like a good 'un. Or a bad 'un.

      I am glad you are still enjoying testing perfumes - and boy can you test a lot in one session! You are a veritable sniffing machine, and I mean that in the nicest possible way.

      It feels so good to be into reading in a big way. But I must also finish my work projects this week...

  6. What a miserable time you have had - true flu is indeed horrendous and completely floors you; it takes weeks to feel strong again. Thank heaven for the ministrations of Nurse Truffle.

    Hope you will soon be fully recovered and can enjoy your gin again.

    Wishing you and Truffle a very happy 2018 - and may you get lots of well paid work! And I definitely think the Airbnb idea is one to pursue.


    1. Hi Jillie,

      Thanks for your good wishes, and Happy New Year - and good health - to you too! As you say, it is surprising how long it takes to get up to full strength after flu. I had to bow out of the trade fair work I should have been doing in Frankfurt this week because I knew I wouldn't be fit enough in time, which was a blow.

      I have snuck in two gins already so far this year(!), though I have had five nights of not drinking. ;)

  7. Well done for getting this post out after only just recovering, V. It's nice to have your Bonkers voice back in the blogosphere.
    For a moment I thought perhaps you had been subsisting on a diet of crispbreads and Crunchie bars, which I wouldn't mind myself :)
    Truffle really did rally in your time of need. It was quite something for her to stay at bed-level, I'm sure.
    Interesting that you are considering being an Airbnb host. I've been using the site to look for accommodation in Cornwall for Easter. It would be nice for you to earn a bit of cash while spending it on your travels.

    1. Hi Tara,

      It is good to be back; I was only initially going to write another holding post, and then as you can see it grew rather!

      I laughed at that unorthodox diet. I think my teeth might have protested at the Crunchies, hehe. I am even finding Bounty bars too sweet these days, and the bits of coconut don't half get stuck in your teeth.

      I hadn't thought of the fact that Truffle was giving up going outside to maintain her bed-based vigil, but it is a good point.

      I have had two good experiences of airbnb as a a guest - okay, the one in Brussels was a bit rum, but did the job. Have rented a lovely flat in Germany once though, that I had all to myself for not much money at all. I have also met lots of my friend's guests in Stafford, and they are mostly absolutely lovely and no trouble, so that has encouraged me. But there are some essential home improvements I would have to carry out first. It has given me a goal though.

  8. Dear Vanessa--

    I think we're twins. (This is formerly Nora B.) I haven't had the flu, but I have fallen a bit off the perfume wagon lately as well. I hadn't bought any smellies, or even samples of smellies, for maybe two years, until right before Christmas. When I did open up the lovely selection of vials, it reminded me of how much fun it can be, although I don't regret holding back. I just can't justify the expense, most of the time.

    And I agree with you, the price points of fragrances have gotten nearly insulting. I love a good indie fragrance as much as the next person, but even if I woke up tomorrow a millionaire, I would almost be opposed to buying some of this stuff just on principle. Divine, yes, but good Lord...I'm mostly buying alcohol in a pretty bottle, and it's not something I can turn into a hot toddy or clean wounds with should civilization collapse. Wait, I guess that last one might work.

    Hope your strength continues to improve and that your work prospects do, too.

    1. Hi Jennifer,

      Lovely to hear from you, and I do remember you as Nora B! Was really interested to learn of your own ennui and wagon jumping in respect to perfume lately. Like me, here and there you can still titillate your nostrils, but overall there is a reluctance to buy new things, especially at the prices that are now the norm. Yes, I think I would refuse to buy things for over the odds on principle too!

      And we may need a good wound cleanser, you are right...!

  9. Hi Vanessa,

    Oh the demons of work and pay-they are terribly annoying- and the whole world of free lancing is difficult to a degree. Here in the US we also have all sorts of extra tax forms, explanations, worksheets, all specific to the self employed.

    Truffle is quite good on sitting with you when you are unwell. Our cat-the remarkably social Charcoal- does not. She visits "I would sit with you. I would, but you stink. My paws are tied."

    As for perfume, since I quit blogging I have contentedly gone back to Caron. I don't wear anything else.

    Is the Frankfort Fair the same one the book people go to?

    1. Hi Blacknall,

      I did not know that about the US requiring freelancers to jump through more administrative hoops - we are spared that at least.

      I am sorry that Charcoal is too particular to sit with you when you are ill. I am sure you are perfectly fragrant, even when indisposed.

      I remember your love of Caron, and funny that you should have homed in exclusively on that house. Quite enough to enjoy there I am sure.

      Frankfurt has a number of famous fairs - the book one is separate and in October (the one I missed is Heimtex, for textiles).