Wednesday, 13 January 2021

Taking stock: an off the wall quiz for off the wall times

About a month ago, the lead singer of The Monochrome Set took part in an interview for Paris-based Le Village Pop, which describes itself as "International web radio focused on music, cinema and artists' words". VIPop, as it is also known, is noted for its podcasts, which aim to "discover an artist from a different perspective...An elegant mix of music and words of a musician (pop, rock, folk, soul, etc...)."

The entertaining half hour podcast is a medley of Monochrome Set songs interspersed with tracks from other bands, and with Bid's answers to a most original set of questions. For their part, the Village Pop team were delighted with his responses:

"He is the one who answered our questions and he wins to this day the Grand Prix for the most laconic answers among all the episodes of the VIPop Collection!...This band is definitely not like the others...And we love it!"

I can thoroughly recommend the original podcast HERE for Bid's amusing and quirky answers alone, even if you are not a fan of the music as such.

Now...the New Year is generally a time for taking stock and looking back on the year gone by, making resolutions etc, and never more so than in 2021 after the white knuckle ride we've just had in 2020. Many of us not working on the front line - or working at all in my case! - have had ample opportunity to re-evaluate our lifestyles and relationships during the isolation of lockdown.

I love this reader comment quoted in a blog post by Mark Manson on the impact of the pandemic, entitled: "You Only Know Who You Are When Everything Is Taken From You". In it the commenter observes that the pandemic "brought out the 'factory default settings' of everyone. The paranoid became more paranoid. The needy became more needy. The anxious became more anxious and the optimistic became more optimistic".

Like a lot of people, I have been doing a lot of navel gazing over the past year, and this quiz appealed to me as the questions were so unusual. I have taken part in a few interviews in the blogosphere, for example this one on Olfactoria's Travels from way back in 2013, as part of her series "People in Perfumeland". Looking back, Birgit's questions were also a bit different!

So as this is the time of year for ponderings, I thought I would have a go at answering the Village Pop questionnaire myself...As a market researcher, I am usually the one wielding the clip board, so it is fun to be answering rather than asking the questions. I do hope the Village Pop team don't mind my taking this liberty - or 'liberté', even! (I have messaged them to ask for their permission, and will obviously take down the post if need be.)


 1) Growing up, what virtue did you see in your parents that you hope to emulate?

Finding a redeeming aspect in even the most depressing situations. [My mother's special knack. Case in point: a holiday in Crete where there was more rainfall that week than at any time since 1923. Marooned in our hotel, Mother remarked cheerily on how much the plants must be enjoying a drink.]

2) What poem or song really moves you? Can you share a line from it?

Louis MacNeice's Snow:

World is crazier and more of it than we think,
Incorrigibly plural. I peel and portion
A tangerine and spit the pips and feel
The drunkenness of things being various.

3) When have you recently felt overwhelmed? Describe the situation?

Lying awake night after night for four months listening to a mysterious hum / whirring from next door. The noise has gone now, but I appear to have encoded the memory in the form of tinnitus. That was overwhelming initially too(!), but am gradually learning to live with it.

4) What's the best bargain you've ever found?

A black Kookai jacket in a vintage shop in Berlin, for 8 euros. It is not so much the price in itself that was a bargain, but the truly incredible amount of wear I got out of it! It has finally been retired, due to extreme fading and a large reddish patch on one arm; it had got to the point where the jacket could only be worn during the hours of darkness - a limiting factor for at least half the year. ;)

5) If you were assured you wouldn't fail what would you attempt to do?

Write a book and try to get it published.

6) Has your heart ever lied to you, or do you think it always tells the truth? Can you

My heart doesn't lie as such, but it can be error prone and is much given to paranoia and catastrophising. [Case in point: when the sample from my routine blood test was rejected by the lab yesterday, I instantly assumed there was something wrong with my blood. Further research suggests there is a 2% chance this is in fact the reason, as opposed to a glitch during the administering of the test itself, but me being me I went straight for the more worrying possibility! NB If it was my blood, I will be sure to come back and tell you.]

7) When do you feel insecure?

Oh, on more occasions than you can shake a stick at, haha... Finding unexplained scratches on my car (a disconcertingly frequent occurrence); looking in the mirror, especially barefaced; lurking at parties where I hardly know anyone; tackling DIY projects, and problems with phones, wifi and computers, all of which are outside my sphere of competence. Oh, and cooking meat, which - like Alsatians - sniffs fear in the fryer.

8) What is unforgivable?

The insidious downspec-ing of trusted household brands, eg Andrex and Fray Bentos.

9) What paradox or contradiction in life have you had to learn to accept or embrace?

That everything you buy in T K Maxx, intending to give it as a gift, comes with a price tag that is impossible to peel off.

10) If you could change one thing about the culture you live in, what would it be and why?

The pressure on women not to age, as though it were a kind of failure, like death to Christian Scientists.

11) Is it better to love or to be loved? Why?

Both matter: as a baby you need to be loved by your primary caregiver to avoid attachment issues in later life. For as with donning oxygen masks in an in-flight emergency, it is important to love yourself first before loving others. I would also observe that unrequited love can be exquisitely painful and ultimately unsatisfactory for the sufferer.

12) Is there a family tradition that has a special meaning to you? Can you describe it?

Clean sheets on Christmas Eve.

13) What advice can you give about how to conquer fear?

That the thing you fear is rarely as scary when you finally screw your courage to the sticking place and get stuck in. With the notable exception of rock climbing if you are only 5' 3".

14) Is there one thing you know for sure?

I will continue to spill tea on pale carpets.

15) If you could bring one person back from the dead who would it be and why?

My mother, because she was simply lovely in every way, and I never got to say goodbye.

16) How would you define freedom?

Going on a 'living room crawl' of local friends' houses.

17) What do you recommend to overcome self pity?

Watching a 'forensic detectives'-type programme, and thanking my lucky stars I wasn't murdered in a horrible way and my body dumped in a wood when I was only 19.

18) In what area of your life are you immature?

I am diffident and mealy-mouthed when complaining, though less so than I used to be.

19) What is your greatest achievement?

Such things are hard to quantify...arguably being subjected to a violent assault by a stranger in a park on a Sunday afternoon, and doing an A-Level exam the next morning. Also up there was getting compensation out of Ryanair - years before making claims for flight delays were 'a thing' people knew they could do. I had to escalate my case all the way to a director at the CAA before Ryanair coughed up, but they did - in full, bar the cost of a beer to soothe my frazzled nerves on Day 3 of the flight delay. I guess they felt the need to retain a little bit of control...I am proud to say that a local business travel agent used my complaint letter as a template for years afterwards. 

20) If you could take back something you've said what would it be?

Telling an examiner in my university finals that I enjoyed the dark humour in the works of Samuel Beckett, despite his "bottomless contempt for the human condition" and jibes at the marginalised and disadvantaged...before discovering on shaking the examiner's hand that he only had three fingers.

21) When do you feel sad what do you do to find comfort?

I knit furiously, burn incense, and occasionally wallow in Stina Nordenstam records. In extreme cases, I go to bed and write the day off, as (another maternal truism) things often look better in the morning.

22) What do you dream about most often? How do you interpret your dream?

My dreams are insanely varied, and invariably bad. I'd rather not try to interpret them, but be grateful they were only dreams.

23) Is there one question you're asking yourself these days?

Will life really return to normal?

(Photo of La Pensadora via AWa, Wikimedia Commons)

Sunday, 3 January 2021

Going solo: a festive Christmas first, plus an Hermessence Ambre Narguile epiphany

I am sadly of the age now where I don't fall over, but have a fall...Yesterday, while out on a gloriously sunny and snowy, but perilously slippery, walk - note that I didn't manage to stop my falls, but caught myself in time from saying 'slippy' - I had three falls: two on ice, and one attempting to jump a stream. I boasted on Facebook that I had 'fallen well' (by putting out my hand each time I went down). Alas, a sleepless night with a limp hand suggests I may have spoken too soon. And meanwhile, I have also gone and broken one of my New Year's Resolutions - not to keep going on about my ailments(!). Too bad, not least because it isn't even the first time in 2021...I saw the New Year in with a 24 hour migraine, and when I showed up in my ghostly half recovered state to a Zoom call on New Year's Day, immediately felt the need to tell my friends how I was feeling. Never mind, there's still the 'be less timid around meat' and 're-learn how to sleep' resolutions to go at. The sleep project may actually merit a post of its own, along with the one on my new brace of supplements at some point, as I am trying everything under the sun to coax the long lost art of feeling sleepy back into my incorrigibly wired brain.

I also want to say that despite the falls, I have been so 'radicalised' by Val the Cookie Queen about the benefits of exercise that I don't remotely regret venturing out in icy conditions and comprehensively coming a cropper.

But back to Christmas...according to the news, some 8 million households spent it on their own this year, including me in the end. This was the natural consequence - I nearly said 'fall out', but we have had enough falls already - of the mixing restrictions, prompting families and friends alike to bubble up in smaller combinations, in a bid to keep the 'indoor breathing entities' to a manageable level. Very occasionally have I spent large parts of Christmas alone in the past - there was that other migraine(!) in 2012 I mentioned in my last post, also a long drive from Edinburgh to Swindon in 1996 - but this was my first ever 'festive meal for one'. I approached it with mild curiosity rather than any sense of being 'Billy-no-mates', knowing that perversely, the nation is presently united in its very isolation.

To my surprise, this special day, traditionally so loaded with high expectations, felt eerily calm and satisfactory, in part due to the endorphins of another sunny walk with my cat-feeding friend, M - our route was positively glittering with frosty wonders. A highlight was a man wearing an inflatable Santa suit jogging at full tilt while pushing an elderly lady in a wheelchair. On our return, M gave me some homemade mince pies and I gave her a bunch of grapes to accessorise her sister's cheeseboard, where she was headed next. She knocked on my door again that night bearing a Tupperware of treacle glazed ham(!). I reciprocated with some titbits for her cat. Then Truffle and I sat down to watch 'Call the Midwife'. She didn't like the noisy cries of the newborns, while I didn't like the cutting of the cords and the bloody slime on their heads, so we both looked away rather a lot.

Oh, and ex-Mr Bonkers turned up unexpectedly in the middle of the day en route to his own Christmas pairing, bearing a tiny chocolate Santa. He swore it looked "substantially" bigger on the Tesco website.

Of note this year is that I received SIX gin bottles - including three red fruit ones, a classic 'see through' variety, a light fashioned from a gin bottle, and a non-alcoholic gin fronted by a squirrel.

I missed the Queen's speech while peeling sprouts, but caught it (and the alternative one doing the rounds!) later. Her Majesty put in a word for lone diners, which was nice. One good thing about the day was being able to microwave my dinner endless times - I have a completely ludicrous and OCD love of piping hot food that can only be indulged at home - another was a hilarious skit about Laura Kuenssberg on the Dead Ringers Christmas Special, which I heartily recommend if you can find it on iPlayer. I did go with a chicken on the day - try as I might, I can't seem to f*** up roasting one.

Mid-way through my meal, I asked Alexa if she was having a good Christmas. 

"Terrific, thanks", she replied without hesitation. "Especially as I am spending it with you."

Then I asked her if she would like a glass of Prosecco.

"I don't have an opinion on that." Her loss!

As I thought, the year has been so strange and separate for so many people that a Christmas in similar vein could feel almost normal, and so it proved. Did anyone else go it alone this year?

Fast forward a week to my 'Tier 4 headache' on New Year's Eve. Given the constant barrage of fireworks from 6pm to 1am, the Beirut-like bangs would have been enough to make anyone's head hurt. ;) Not a patch on a Dutch firework display, mind! (Hamamelis has already read this post about her compatriots' warzone-style New Year celebrations - 'Before Covid', I mean - but I include it here for anyone else who is curious, and wasn't reading the blog ten years ago almost to the day!)

And now...on to the perfume part. On Christmas Eve I was auditioning Hermes samples to choose one to give to a friend - I went with Santal Massoia in the end. But along the way I tried Ambre Narguile (sorry about the lack of accent, but it comes up in a weird font in the current incarnation of Blogger, so will have to pass), and it was love at first sniff. I was sure I didn't care for it, but had almost certainly confused it with Ambre Sultan, and assumed it had a herbal facet. Instead, it was this enveloping ambery gourmand concoction, which I will leave it to Victoria of Bois de Jasmin to describe. Yet again, I am drawn to another of her 'four star' winners, whilst lacking her knack of parsing its foody delights.

"Sheer layers of smoke swirling over a honeyed undercurrent set the stage for the sensation of dark richness, which very much reminds me of cutting into a caramel cake and watching the burned sugar redolent cream drip slowly from the edge. It pairs the dark translucence of honey seeping through the tobacco leaf with a fruity note that lies between a brandied cherry and a baked apple."

Notes (also from BDJ):  labdanum, benzoin, vanilla, tonka beans, roasted sesame seeds, cinnamon, coumarin, orchid.

I was so taken with Ambre Narguile that I wore it on Christmas Day too, and reckon it will become a winter staple, as long as my long vial lasts.

On a side note, here is an excerpt from a post on the relative sizes of manufacturer samples, and an explanation of how I will have acquired this one:

" the other end of the scale there are still some houses which are generous - perhaps too generous - with their samples.  Take Hermès, for example, who give out 4ml samples in long glass-stoppered vials slipped into those distinctive orange card cases.  Hermès has to be the most forthcoming with samples of all the luxury brands I know, and I am borderline ashamed of the times I have sauntered in (invariably wearing my good, sample scoring coat or its summer frock equivalent, depending on the season), spun some line about a friend / husband / relative with an upcoming birthday / wedding / anniversary, and walked out with not one but two of the 4ml vials.  For two fit better into the card case than one - one just rattles around, quite frankly - so the SA usually cracks and sticks two in there, one for me and one for my imaginary friend.  In my defence, I have genuinely given away a number of the Hermès samples I have procured using various ruses - my old English teacher did wear Vetiver Tonka at her wedding (er...the sample, not a full bottle) - but I cannot pretend not to have squirrelled away a few vials for my own nefarious use.  Though some of the ones pictured above were gifts to me by friends and relations on similar morally questionable foraging missions."

So here we can't be worse than 2020, surely? It had better not be, is all I can say!

It remains to wish a HAPPY NEW YEAR to readers old and new. Whatever awfulness goes down in the coming year, perfume will always be part of the answer...

Sunday, 20 December 2020

Have Yourself a Funny Little Christmas!

Well, I promised I would return to a perfume theme in this post, after my woolly digression in the last one. I will be honest and say I am not really in the mood for writing a pure perfume post right now, as I am feeling a bit 'overwhelmed' by the prevailing existential angst and global gloom, which is regularly given a brutal fillip by the abrupt twists and turns, volte-faces (is that a plural? ;) ), and generalised rug pulling of our country's Covid strategy. I know it is a fast moving situation requiring a 'dynamic response', but the constant raising and dashing of expectations throughout the year is proving hard to absorb psychologically. So I will return to those themes I had planned when I am feeling 'more the thing', as my friend Lizzie is wont to say. I am also taking a variety of new supplements, and the promising early results of those may also spawn a future post, albeit one under the wider heading of skincare / health...

That all said, I will mention a few scent-related aspects of this year's festive season: for example, I have quite randomly rediscovered Ava Luxe's Love's True Bluish Light, and am finding its milky-amber-vanilla vibe most soothing. I fancy Undina might like this one too, if she doesn't already know it, due to its crossover with Jo Malone's Sweet Milk. 

I have also dug out my little decant of SL Fille en Aiguilles, with the specific intention of spraying my wooden Christmas tree ornament with it. I ended up on the receiving end of some collateral spritzing(!), and actually enjoyed the scent on me more than I would have imagined. I had previously dismissed pine out of hand as a note solely reminiscent of janitorial products, which I realise is very 'short-nosed' of me.

I am a big fan of joss sticks and burn incense year round. It does feel especially fitting at Christmas. My absolute favourite is nag champa, and not any nag champa either - Goloka, with its distinctive yellow and orange box.  Great for anyone who needs to make up the value of an Amazon order to qualify for free delivery. Assuming you don't eschew Amazon for being an evil behemoth, which I totally respect, even as I remain stubbornly pragmatic.

For any UK-based readers, I don't know if your Christmas plans have changed in the light of the new Tier rules that nobbled London and some of the South East yesterday; the effect in my town was not as drastic as to ban all household mixing, but you can now only see up to two other households on Christmas Day itself, instead of spread over five days. I get why they are doing it, though it will make catching up with friends more logistically tricky over the holidays. Basically we are back to outdoor one-on-one meetings, typically based around a walk, not least to keep warm!

I may end up celebrating on my own, which I have never done before, except for the first Christmas in this house, when I had a migraine and spent the day in bed. Even so, I rallied by the evening and ventured out to a friend's, who rustled me up a plated supper in front of Call the Midwife. If that is the outcome, it will be novel and interesting at least, and there may yet be fellow waifs and strays who come forward to suggest forming a festive bubble. This year has been so comprehensively strange that it almost seems appropriate for the big day itself to be a bit of a departure from the norm! 

Then I have a truly minuscule turkey crown in the freezer, which I bought intending to use to practise on ahead of the date, as I haven't interacted with frozen fowl before, but never got round to it. I will either brave the unknown, hehe, or buy a tried and tested chicken at the last minute instead. 

Truffle will be here, obviously. She is still not bringing in any prey for the Derbyshire Uni survey, the second month's lot of stats for which I am due to upload shortly. Another big fat zero hunting tally is my prediction. Truffle is currently in the doghouse - or cathouse, should that be? - after savaging a wrist warmer that had taken me all day to make and sew up. I was on Facebook, busy defending myself against a sudden outburst of 'microwavable rice shaming', and she clearly targeted that item as 'the last thing I had shown a keen interest in that wasn't her', and set about chewing it with gusto. Unfortunately the glove is beyond repair, but I have just enough wool to start the pair all over again. Up until now, Truffle has only shown an interest in balls of wool - never the finished product that incorporates all those hours of labour! - so this is a worrying development. I mention the cat's presence, for in the light of this delinquent behaviour I feel she may have forfeited her right to the usual festive morsels. By the same token, I reserve the right to relent nearer the time. ;)

To match the turkey, here is a photo of my equally tiny Christmas tree. I put it up on 5th December, which is completely out of character, having been brought up to resist the urge to decorate the house until Christmas Eve (blame Nancy Mitford, hehe). However, something about the pandemic has prompted people to bring that ritual well forward - even into November - so 5th December turned out to be almost fashionably late in our street. I guess whatever else is going on in the world, pretty lights never lose their ability to excite and delight, and so it is with me.

I think that for many, the holiday period - truncated and weird as all get-out though it may be - will be a time of reflection and taking stock. I recently came across this photograph of a gig in Barcelona from a few years back - the first one I have ever watched entirely from behind(!). The contrast between this scene and the masked and socially distanced world we live in now couldn't be more stark. I hope the 'old normal' - or something loosely approximating to it - will return one day, but I am not 100% convinced.

As well as knitting - and soon to be re-knitting, hehe - I have been enjoying reading lately. My current book is Mrs Bridge by Evan S Connell, a superbly understated study of a 1950s housewife's life in America. If you like the little period touches in The Queen's Gambit, this might well appeal. There are some priceless lines, such as this comment about Mrs Bridge's husband Walter:

"For a while after their marriage she was in such demand that it was not unpleasant when he fell asleep."

After I have finished this I am spoilt for choice, with several tottering tsundokus in the living room to dive into. For I am as much of a compulsive book buyer as I am of wool - and used to be of perfume. However, I promised my English teacher (with whom I am still in touch!) that I would read The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton, which I bought when it first came out. Just checked - the print is not too small, which often puts me off tackling books.

Then does anyone else do that thing where you buy yourself presents and put them under the tree unwrapped? I have got into the habit of doing this, and this year so far have bought myself a calendar, a diary - okay, they technically count as 'office essentials' - some socks, a little pottery bowl with a bottle of gin and a cat on it(!), and a bicycle pump.

So I think that is all for now - for those who are celebrating I would be interested to know whether you buy yourself presents on top of the ones you receive from family and friends, and also, crucially, how different your Christmas will be this year...

Monday, 7 December 2020

'Multi-coloured Monday': a cyber sale of woolly wares (aka Bonkers knits).

Following on from Black Friday, and my custom perfume purchase for my friend during 4160 Tuesdays' Hot Pink Weekend, I decided to invent a new cyber sale colour of my own - or rather, a multi-coloured one, to reflect the nature of the items on offer. And they are not merely multi-coloured on aggregate, but some are individually variegated to boot, Jacob's Technicolour Dreamcoat-style.

I have never really featured my knitted output on Bonkers before, because it is supposed to be a perfume blog after all. That said, the number of readers who come here for the perfume posts is doubtless vanishingly small, as they know what a motley collection of other topics I have been wont to cover. And as it happens, the next two posts I have in mind are about perfume, properly speaking, so that should cheer any hardliners amongst you, hehe. ;)

Ear warmer / headband

What prompted me on this occasion to draw attention to my knitting venture - under the brand name of Runraglan Knits - is the fact that the pandemic has forced my friend Gillie to cancel the traditional craft event she holds at her house around this time, at which I also sell some of my knitting. The money I generated in that weekend was a similar proportion of my overall sales in a year as it would be for those benighted restaurants also in Tier 3, who do the bulk of their trade in the festive season, and can't serve so much as a Scotch egg at the moment. By the same token, I can't even go in Gillie's garden, never mind any potential customers, though had we fallen in a lower tier, we had seriously considered having an al fresco sale there!

'Band tour scarf' from Germany last year!

Thus it is that I am adding a link below to the public Facebook page for my crafty side hustle, in case anyone has not finished their Christmas shopping and is still on the lookout for a gift idea or two. Assuming they aren't a knitter themselves, obviously.

Runraglan Knits

You would need to scroll down quite a bit to the heading 'OTHER POSTS', where I have uploaded collections of items by category. There are five different sub-groups of scarves alone! Prices start at £6 for a pot holder / small dish cloth or a book mark, and go all the way up to £60 for a pure cashmere scarf that may have taken me two series of Happy Valley (and a fair few Panoramas and train journeys) to make. ;) But there are many things in between. Message me (through the page or on my blog email of flittersniffer at gmail dot com) for individual prices where it is not clear. For they do vary quite a bit in categories like scarves, for example, depending on the length, yarn type etc. One or two of these are in fact discounted for being 'rather vivid, veering towards neon', and while I enjoyed making them, their commercial appeal is a mite moot.

I can post anywhere in the world, and will include a quirky novelty with each package, unless explicitly asked not to.

Now I am very mindful that many of my fellow bloggers and friends have already bought - or been given - my woolly wares, so this post is really directed at people I don't know, who may not even be reading. So to say this is a bit of a wild punt on my part is an understatement. But hey, nothing ventured...

Oh, and Undina suggested the other week that I could consider covering fewer topics in one post and generally making posts shorter. Possibly even blogging more often as a result. Well, I don't know about the more frequent blogging, hehe, but I am definitely going to try keeping posts a bit shorter, so as not to overface people, like Victor Hugo's Les Miserables. It recently came to my attention that that book is a whopping 1200 pages long - fancy that! 

Saturday, 28 November 2020

The Rare Witch Project: A REEK Perfume Damn Rebel Witches hunt - with a lot at stake...!

Source: REEK Perfume

I say, did you go a bit mad this Black Friday? I didn't buy an enormous telly, an Amazon Ring Stick Up Cam Battery (in contrasting white!), a Ninja Foodi 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker, or anything of that gadgety ilk, but I did do some impromptu Christmas shopping, the nature of which I obviously can't reveal. I also scored some bargain health supplements - neither vitamins nor minerals as such, but offbeat vegetal things that purport to cure oxidative stress, lower cholesterol, and generally finetune your brain like the Holland & Barrett equivalent of WD40.

Oh, and I stocked up on no fewer than three jars of Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel for my particular type of normal/combination skin, about which I wrote a mini-review a year ago. It is usually about £12, occasionally discounted in Boots by a third to around the £8 mark, but these pots were £6.99 each, so had to be snapped up. I am indebted to Caroline Hirons for this moisturising epiphany, and have been using it non-stop ever since I saw her talking about it on a morning TV show. It is fantastically hydrating, and though goopy going on, soon dries to a silky soft consistency. It doesn't contain any SPF, so I apply a tinted moisturiser by Paula's Choice that has SPF30 in it on top. It truly is like an instantly plumping bath for my increasingly crepey skin.

Source: Amazon

Then the other day a friend contacted me (he features in a number of past posts, including this one), to say that his daughter had fallen in love with a REEK scent I had given him to try in one of my lucky dip bundles of samples, and which he had in turn passed on to her, to wit Damn Rebel Witches - not to be confused with its rhyming stablemate, Damn Rebel Bitches. She had tried to google it with a view to buying a bottle for herself, but drew a blank.

Should anyone need reminding, this duo of perfumes was the brainchild of historical novelist Sara Sheridan and her daughter Molly, in collaboration with perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. They wanted to honour the feisty exploits of Jacobite women, whom the brand describe as "powerful" and "unapologetic". The two REEK scents were sold in the Urban Reivers pop-up store in Edinburgh, which opened at the time of the Edinburgh festival in 2016, and sold a variety of Scottish-themed "luxury treats and gifts".

As an aside I simply must mention that my friend Clare had a dog Meg - no longer with us, sadly, but who has been featured on Cafleurebon! - and was also the offspring of a pedigree spaniel rejoicing in the patrician canine name of Whaupley Reiver. This list of his equally whimsical progeny is easily as absorbing as anything you will read on here!

Anyway, my friend's daughter drew a blank with stockists of her new favourite perfume, Damn Rebel Witches, so turned to me for help via her dad. Always happy to help foster the cause of niche perfume in any way, shape or form, I thought to contact Sarah herself, to inquire if she knew of any stock still knocking around the UK - assuming the REEK brand had indeed been discontinued.

Sarah did confirm the demise of REEK, but gave me the good news that she was now poised to resurrect the Damn Rebel perfume pair under her own brand, and pointed me in the direction of her Hot Pink Weekend sale. Knowing Sarah to be an individualistic canoe paddler, I am not at all surprised that she wouldn't be so dull and conformist as to stick with Black.

Source: 4160 Tuesdays

Having consulted with my friend as to his daughter's quantity requirements, and bearing in mind the very attractive discount applying this weekend, I custom bought a couple of bottles, which should last her a good long while. You never know when things might be discontinued again for one reason of another, so it made sense to stock up, I felt.

It was nice to reconnect with Sarah through this quest: she has the rare distinction of being the only perfumer ever to visit Bonkers Towers (on her and her husband's way down from Morecambe). I was very glad to help track down this proxy lemming, and it was a happy coincidence that I knew Sarah and was able to get to the bottom of the supply situation.

Then I learnt from a piece by Suzy Nightingale for The Perfume Society, that another one of Sarah's scents, Maxed Out, is amongst Molly Sheridan's top five smells, along with bread, petrol, Chanel No 5 and Elnett hairspray - august company indeed. I have a sample of Maxed Out somewhere and am curious to give it another go, even though I am not at that point, despite my Black Friday splurge...;)

The empty vial that sparked the hunt!

Saturday, 14 November 2020

Covid Nose: can we all still smell?, plus a lockdown medley

Brandon Gregory [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Covid Nose

The other week one of the tenants in the house next door popped his head over the garden wall - rather too close(!), looking back, and announced that he had just had a Covid test delivered, as he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, and had lost his sense of smell. I dived back inside my house sharpish, hoping that the virus wouldn't be able to leach through the wall, like the occasional whiff of weed. I never did find out if he had the illness or not, but the exchange got me thinking about this quite distinctive symptom of Coronavirus, present apparently in about 60% of cases. From ENT UK:

"Post-viral anosmia is one of the leading causes of loss of sense of smell in adults, accounting for up to 40% cases of anosmia. Viruses that give rise to the common cold are well known to cause post-infectious loss, and over 200 different viruses are known to cause upper respiratory tract infections. Previously described coronaviruses are thought to account for 10- 15% cases. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients."

The phenomenon is more common in women than men apparently, and can sometimes even be the only symptom of Covid. I know of two other young people and someone of my own age to whom that happened when they fell ill with the virus, and in all three cases they recovered their sense of smell after some weeks. From what I have read to date, I don't think the anosmia is irreversible, but obviously this is a very individual disease, so there may be exceptions to the rule. I thought to mention the matter, as losing one's sense of smell is such a blow for a perfume lover, and I wondered if anyone else had had this experience. 

NIAID [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Reading more, and judging a book by its cover

According to the little black notebook I keep for this purpose, in 2019 I read a paltry 12 books in the whole year, or one a month on average, while so far in 2020 I am up to 21 books, with seven weeks of the year still to go. Two were admittedly slimmish volumes of poetry, and one an even slimmer self-help-type book - Derren Brown's 'A Little Happier', which I highly recommend by the way - but many were in the 300 page range, with a few doorstopper thrillers half as long again.

The other day I felt moved to post an 'unbook review' of a recent read on Facebook, 'Everything Under' by Daisy Johnson. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018, which didn't sway me either way, for the winners often write works I find as impenetrable as their names unpronounceable, and having now read 'Everything Under', I find the accolade frankly baffling. Yes, I have to confess that I picked the book out in a charity shop purely on account of its beautiful retro cover.  

"Now I am as liberal as they come, but 'Everything Under' proved to be an outlandish case of minority bingo. The story featured not one but two cross-dressers, one of them living in a shed, the other a child murderer with a limp, learning difficulties, two different identities, and an unfortunate start in life in a wheelie bin. There is also a bisexual woman with Alzheimer's, incestuous tendencies, and a surprise ability to do handstands, a number of grumpy fishermen, a floating female butcher, and a peripatetic river monster called The Bonak. None of which is a spoiler. I should perhaps have spotted the two reviews which both described the book as 'unsettling'."

What the cat hasn't dragged far!

At the start of this month, I received a tip off from my former lodger about a study being conducted by Derby University, amusingly entitled: 'What the cat dragged in'. They were appealing for feline volunteers, so I enrolled Truffle immediately. I also put her forward for a camera and/or GPS experiment, about which Truffle would be appalled if she knew, as she is the kind of cat who sloughs off a collar minutes after it has been forced on her. The study requires me to upload her prey stats (dead and alive) every month, and bone up on the difference between a mouse, a shrew and a vole, using a handy illustrated pdf they have supplied. Not sure what I am meant to do if Truffle only leaves me a spleen or a tail, as has been known. I am also mindful that her kill rate is massively down since the Covid crisis - to almost nothing in fact. It makes me suspect that much of her hunting in the last couple of years was attention-seeking behaviour, for there was a steady procession of Airbnb guests over that period, and she may have felt left out. By contrast, I have only been to France since Covid struck, and the cat has had me around far more than she is used to. That is not necessarily a wholly positive thing, mind, for she seems to have switched to hunting me, and has an annoying habit of biting my arm at the drop of a hat.

Truffle may also have found another outlet for her attention-seeking tendencies, namely crashing Zoom calls!

Photo courtesy of Sarah Rayne

Remembering The Non-Blonde

Facebook reminded me this week that Gaia Fishler, aka The Non-Blonde, who died suddenly in late November last year, would have been 50 the other day. A Non-Birthday, if you will, and how poignant that Gaia didn't even make that modest middle-aged milestone. I have a soft spot for her, not least because of her great work caring for all those cats, our shared love of MAC Taupe Satin eyeshadow, and the fact that when I was starting out with Bonkers, Gaia was possibly the first 'senior blogger' to add me to her blog roll, and give me that bit of a leg up through her endorsement.

Gaia and Lizzy via her blog

My ongoing Olive Oyl transformation

Okay, now I don't mean to overplay this, but I have been inspired by fellow blogger, born again DJ, and all-round good egg Val The Cookie Queen to carry on using the piece of gym equipment I inherited a while back from ex-Mr Bonkers - to whom I had originally given it 20 years ago! - and have been working out more on than off since March, with noticeable results. My thighs are somewhat more solid (though obviously not up to Val's steel pylon standard  ;) ), instead of being a flaccid mass flanked by a jodhpur flap. I also have discernible bulges on my shoulders and upper arms, although my underarms are still a bit batwing-y, and I hope to find more exercises to specifically target those areas. 

'But I would walk 10,000 steps'

And now that we are in fullish lockdown again, one of the few things we still can do apart from grocery shopping is go for a walk with one friend. I have been doing quite a lot of long walks in and around Stafford, both on my own and accompanied by a series of singletons seeking company. The not being able to be inside other people's homes is a mighty inconvenience though. For yesterday after a particularly long walk on the local marshes (18,200 steps!), my companion went into her house to warm me up some soup, which I proceeded to stand and drink on the pavement outside her house(!). But it is what it is, and I do have the lockdown to thank for the fact that I have been devoting a lot more time to exercise indoors and out, not least for its mental health benefits, which are considerable.

'Chase View'

Knitting for England

I have no comparative statistics on my knitting output in 2019 versus this year, but I can say with confidence that 2020 will have massively dwarfed it. ;) I have been knitting non-stop in fact, and find the action of the needles meditative and calming. This year I have added a couple of new categories to my repertoire, namely bookmarks and ear warmers. Yesterday I had a flask of tea on the allotments with the friend known as Crafty Kate, and she went home with this pale cream and beige number, which she thought nicely wintery in its colour scheme. "For when you don't want your whole head to be hot", she went on to explain. I may upload an album of photos on Facebook of my latest projects sometime soon and link to it on the blog, in case anyone who is not a knitter themselves fancies picking up any handmade items for themselves or as Christmas presents.

I would be most interested to learn how everyone is doing in terms of dodging the virus - or not! - and also how your life has changed due to the pandemic, and what coping strategies you are deploying to get through this 'unprecedented' time.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Results of the Puredistance RUBIKONA giveaway!

Now that lockdown is upon us, I am getting on with indoor activities, including the all-important task of selecting two winners of the Puredistance RUBIKONA samples.

I promised readers that the odds were excellent, as Bonkers receives very few comments, plus I am mindful that other giveaways had preceded my post, heading off some of the demand. 

The last time I held a draw - for a Puredistance GOLD sample - there were eight participants who wished to be entered, and one vial up for grabs. This time there were only four such readers living in the UK - at least I think they all do - and TWO samples, giving entrants a 50% chance of winning. How much better is that than the National Lottery! Or even the throw of a dice. 

I used again, which seemed surprised that the number range was so short I could almost have flipped a coin. If there had been three winners, I really could have picked the last one that way. ;)

Without further ado I can reveal that the winners of the RUBIKONA samples are:





Drop me a line on flittersniffer at gmail dot com with your postal address and I will happily brave the lockdown regulations to get your perfume off to you. I will choose a Post Office that is also a shop and construe the sortie as a unit of exercise or a foray for milk.