Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Me, myself, Instagram, and a summer of droppings and (unrelated!) broken things

"Hercules against the Hydra" ~ via Wikimedia Commons (Wolfgang Sauber)
Goodness, it is has been over a month since I wrote my last post. That doesn't surprise me though, for I have been besieged, beset, and beleaguered by a legion of problems, of which more anon (including the more amusing ones!).

But first a word on social media. I have historically been a Facebook fan through and through...well, not an unconditional one, I should add, as there is much that is wrong with Facebook, and I don't just mean the constant slew of ads for slimming hose and relaxed fit slacks. I never really took to the bitty bearpit that is Twitter, or the soothing aesthetics of Instagram, where beautifully shot images drift by like cumulus clouds. Beyond that, for a long time I had a downer on the hashtags that are such an integral part now of the virtual landscape. Their messy, spiky aspect upset me, especially when posters used a vast thicket of them, including hashtags in foreign languages. This struck me as the acme - nay, nadir! - of SEO savvy, but then I don't like pushiness and self-promotion in any guise, and struggle to embrace it myself, even though it is very much the modern way. For if you don't take active steps to climb out of the Google sandbox, you will never be heard in the chorus - some might say babble - of Internet voices.

And I don't know how it came about exactly that I started to gravitate towards Instagram after all...I may partly have been propelled into its arms by the increasingly strident tone of Facebook, the ramping up of its adverts, or the depressing snippets of news which cannot fail to catch your eye at every turn: Brexit, climate change, factory farming, pop stars dying before their time. Instagram is a languorous oasis of sensory delight by comparison, albeit peppered with the offending hashtags. I continued to wrestle with the concept of these, trying to see them merely as labels on the drawers of a cyber filing cabinet, and not as so many mini-portcullises, bordering on medieval instruments of mental torture. You can tell that I have a serious aversion to the things, bordering on hashtagophobia!


But gradually I came to enjoy picking out photos to upload onto Instagram - I steadfastly refuse to call it 'Insta', mind, for that way lies 'nom nom nom' and 'sleeps' (shudders). I even got to the point of having fun with the hashtags, occasionally running with ones that had no precedent on the Interwebs - hashtag neologisms, if you will. It surprises me that I was the first to coin #catmustbecateredfor, and there are only four other posts under #croissantmutant. That is worth checking out actually, for the one that looks like a ram in particular!

And then there are all the filters to play with, like some kind of instant colouring game(!) - a new toy for me, would you believe? - albeit I quite often end up posting pictures simply as nature intended.

If you would like to check out my page - which is embarrassingly light on perfume-related imagery, though I plan to rectify that by and by - I am flittersniffer on there. Just noticed how many 'glittersniffer's there are, but there's only one of me. What even is a 'glittersniffer'? Though didn't there used to be a perfume with gold bits in it?...hold on, at least one version of Donna Karan Gold and a JPG is also coming vaguely back to me. I am betting that they don't mean that though.

Okay, so a brief word on the summer of droppings and broken things - those would be flea and mouse droppings, not things that have been dropped, in case of any confusion. The poor birds don't last long enough in the house to leave any such calling card, plus it is ten mice for every bird 'present', to be fair. Yes, it has been a rum old time lately, with typically between four and five things going wrong every single day. Today so far there has only been 'a bad night's sleep' and 'a big fat dead mouse', so a good day really by recent standards. Though my eye eczema - complete with distinctly unfetching atopic pleats (you really don't want to know) - is back with a vengeance, and making blinking uncomfortable. (It counts towards yesterday's tally.)

"No idea how it got in, mum."

Here is a smattering - and splattering! - of recent mishaps and problems, to give you an idea of why I have been missing in action as far as blogging is concerned, though I have been inordinately busy in a firefighting / Hydra head chopping / Whack-a-mole sense. There was an equally lengthy selection in France, but one set is enough!
  • Throwing up headache for two days (three times)
  • Toner cartridge splatter painted a pale carpet
  • Suitcase wheel mysteriously self-destructed
  • Mouse droppings all round the perimeter of the living room
  • Unidentified droppings on all hinges of the pantry
  • Cat has ongoing flea issue
  • I have itchy red lumps - praying they are mosquito bites, being more socially acceptable
  • Found a bed bug casing, which I have convinced myself is historic (to avoid going mad)
  • Patio has suddenly sported / sprouted? both white and green lichen!
  • Phone malfunction - batteries found to be a crystalline corroded mess
  • Splashed a radio with chilli con carne, now permanently stained auburn, and tacky to touch
  • Bought a second hand set of drawers which will cost three times as much to fix than I paid for them (Moral of the story: buyer beware - of Photoshop!).
  • Bought a pair of trainers before realising they were two different colours
  • Accidentally sent my hole puncher and stapler to France
  • No sooner had I repaired one silk curtain that had perished and sheared, when I noticed that the other one has gone the same way.
  • Treated alleged water marks on a second hand table with oxalic acid - quite a H & S-conscious undertaking, I might add - only to discover the marks are metal - from some piece of industrial machinery that had been sitting on it. Procedure declared a resounding failure, and meanwhile have inadvertently bleached my drive (not pictured).

I will return with 'normal' blog posts though, once things have calmed down. I would like to review a new perfume from Swindon(!) for example, and more besides - but first I sense there may be a few more Hydra heads to chop and moles to whack...!

UPDATE: I have just remembered that there was another trigger for taking up with Instagram again...I managed to fix my broken blog link in the bio after several hours of deep Googling - turned out it lacked a security certificate in the format it was in, plus for some strange reason the 'www' part of the name was causing an issue, so I took that off. So there's another example of a broken thing I managed to fix!

Friday, 12 July 2019

Mojo, Maja, Portia, and her Magicka: a spooky tale of Airbnb and Australian perfume junkies

Source: Pinterest
I feel it behoves me to mention again! that despite all appearances to the contrary I am not dead, under a rock, AWOL or lacking in mojo. Such mojo as I have has simply been channelled into a host of domestic projects on both sides of the Channel, work, cat feeding for a friend, and the now regular thread of Airbnb guests - or 'paying guests' in more generic terms rather, as they are not necessarily on that footing. I have recently also learnt the term 'fractional renter', which perfectly describes my current long stay chap, who is here three nights a week.

But it is Airbnb itself which is the trigger for this tale...When I first decided to launch myself into this sideline because my usual work was slack, Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies was very supportive, with helpful suggestions about how to maximise the appeal of my listing through more professional-looking photographs. More of Portia anon, but for now cue the other P, whose name also ends in '-ia', as it happens. For no sooner had my fractional renter left for the week than the latest Airbnb visitor arrived, a lady in her early 70s called P from northern New South Wales. I warmed to her the moment I opened the door, despite being weary beyond anything after a three day headache and sickness bug which had only just lifted(!). And despite the fact that she turned up unannounced an hour ahead of the earliest check in time, haha, and found me looking dishevelled, Hoover in hand, cable trailing all the way up the stairs. I couldn't believe that P was in her 70s, and said I had instantly assumed she was about my age. She replied that she had instantly thought I looked the same age as her younger sister - early 50s (I don't!) - so you can tell that that exchange, however removed from reality, endeared us each to the other right off the bat. ;)

P is originally from England, but moved to Australia when she was seven, in a neat parallel to my mother, who was born in Australia, but moved to England at the age of eight. Unlike my mum, P did not stay put in her adopted country, and was visiting an old colleague from her army days, in a district the other side of town. I spent a good 20 minutes looking round the house in vain for OS or other town maps at a reasonable resolution, then trying to print out walking maps that were legible on my feeble printer, before finally giving up and saying: 'Why don't I just take you there? That would be a lot easier!', and off we went. But because I was too lazy to fire up the Satnav for a journey in my own town, and had not enlarged the Google map on my phone sufficiently to include all the street names of different sections of roads, I ended up dropping P off in Witney rather than Woodstock Road(!), meaning that the much anticipated reunion with her old chum from 40 years ago got off to a puzzling start. P was very decent about my mistake, and cheerfully walked the remaining 100 yards or so to the proper address. And we were at least still in Oxfordshire...

Some five hours later, P was back (in a cab!), had posted a letter for me and picked up a fish supper, the chips from which she kindly shared. At some point in the conversation she mentioned right out of left field that people often stop her and ask what perfume she is wearing. Which was interesting, as I had indeed clocked her perfume on the landing (going one step beyond the sillage from guests' toiletries, you will note!), and had been going to ask her about that unprompted. It was even funnier when P said she couldn't actually recall what she was wearing that day! But we went on to discuss her dozen-strong collection - or the ones she could remember...;) We are still both puzzling over what bottle of hers is in a purple box (Google images didn't come up trumps despite concerted scrolling, I should add).

Coty L'Aimant - post-decimilisation, but still old!

Of the fragrances P could remember owning - though some were running low to empty - vintage Coty L'Aimant was one, also a Spanish scent she thought was called 'Magicka', which had a lady flamenco dancer in a black and red dress on the packaging. 'Oooh', I said, 'I have some vintage L'Aimant in the cupboard under the stairs, and I do have a Spanish scent called Maja?' Cue a good hour of diving into my three plastic crates of older perfumes, mostly the bounty from my friend Clare's late MIL's collection. The L'Aimant was instantly rehomed with P, and a quick search on the Net confirmed that earlier versions of Maja did indeed have the 'magicka' lady on them, so that went to P as well, along with nostalgic bottles (for her) of Lentheric Elle and Mystique, released a couple of years apart at the turn of the 80s. I felt I had really landed on my feet to find someone who truly appreciated these 'period perfumes', which I would probably never have got out again left to my own devices.

And so to bed...The next morning we sat at the dining room table again over a cup of tea, swapping notes on places we knew in Australia - for I spent a month in NSW some 25 years ago. The stuffed koala in the guest bedroom, named after the Sydney suburb of Mosman, had not escaped P's notice. Then I was just explaining how I was once chased by a kangaroo in Jarvis Bay when there was the sound of a small thud on the hall floor. A pink package had landed....from Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies! How uncannily timely was that on all three accounts of Airbnb, Oz, and matters olfactory. I wasn't remotely expecting to hear from Portia - it was one of those out of the blue RAOKs people in the perfume community spring on one another from time to time. So before I took P to her bus stop for the next leg of her UK visit, we eagerly opened the package to reveal a dear little purse from Mongolia, and some perfume samples. The purse was a particularly apt gift, as Portia had remembered I collect them, and that they had even featured in a blog post!

The timing was so spooky it was truly Twilight Zone-y. I had already spoken of Portia to P during our sniffing session, and now here was a little pouch of scents from Sydney popping through the letter box right before she set off. Five minutes later, and the magicka moment would have been missed.

Perfect timing, Portia! 'Thank me'?? Thanks so much to you rather, and to P....ia, for putting an antipodean pep in my perfumed step!

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Adjectival perfumes: the Very Irresistible game of thinking up new (silly!) fragrance names...

Source: groupon.com
The other day I had a much needed haircut, and my hairdresser happened to mention that she had received a bottle of Givenchy's Very Irrésistible (sorry, I prefer it without the accent) from her husband for her birthday. She went on to say that she tries to hoover up any bottles she sees as it is her favourite scent and has been discontinued. I took a look on the Internet just now to confirm that this is in fact the case, and stumbled upon a thread on Basenotes where people were speculating on the reason why the fragrance got the chop. Some wag had written: 'Because it was resistible.' Well, I can't comment on the appeal or otherwise of this particular perfume, as I haven't tried it, but hearing the name again reminded me of an amusing conversation with Andy, the bass player in The Monochrome Set when we were on tour one time. With his deadpan tone belied by a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he remarked that the concept of using adjectives as fragrance names had a lot of untapped potential, instantly illustrating his point with the corker, 'Incorrigible'. He also thought of 'Remorse', the application scenarios for which had my imagination running riot, though 'Remorse' is of course technically a whole other noun naming route...

When I tried thinking of all the other well-known fragrance names based on adjectives, I could only come up with Schiaparelli Shocking and SJP Lovely, though there are many more of them, I know!

So I decided to take up Andy's baton and turned my mind instead to thinking up a few more adjectival names myself, that in some way capture the scent in question, even if they are most unlikely to get through the focus group stage(!).

INELUCTABLE: another name for Very Irresistible if it ever stages a come back.

INDIGENT: for a budget perfume that aspires to punch above its price tag with an obscurely impactful name.

BOMBASTIC: so many big production 'kitchen sink' fragrances deserve this epithet - let's call a spade a spade at last!

ETIOLATED: a descriptor that doesn't get out much and evokes a whole swathe of pale and uninteresting, insipid scents.

AVUNCULAR: for the next one of those 'in the library' pipe smoke and leather-type frags?

REBARBATIVE: one of those Marmite / controversial / Emperor's new clothes perfumes that people admire for their avant-garde smell of photocopier toner or whatever, but which are frankly repellent.

Come to think of it, 'Repellent' might be another contender for a citronella-forward fragrance. ;)

REGURGITATED: perfect for a tiresome flanker? OR for a rich oriental featuring a generous lump of ambergris.

PERVASIVE: similar to the above, but with the added nuance of strong sillage. (Very similar in style to 'INSIDIOUS' and 'TENACIOUS'.)

RISIBLE: a good all-rounder of a name that is perfectly in tune with the olfactory Zeitgeist.

MORDANT: one of those spiky, galbanum-heavy compositions with a bonus Hogwarts vibe.

INVIDIOUS: this one manages to be full of vim, verve, and chutzpah, while actually meaning 'obnoxious'. (Not to be confused with 'INSIDIOUS' above.)

HUBRISTIC: one for the high end 'fur coat and no knicker' niche set (embellished with Swarowski crystals, why don't we?)

EQUANIMOUS: calm, composed, like the urbane metrosexual for whom it is intended.

MIASMIC: not a criticism of J-Lo's Miami Glow, which is quite a nice beachy scent, apparently.

So please now hit me up with reminders of existing adjectival perfumes, or some more suggestions of promising names!

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Ghost sanctuary: aka 'What do you do with your empties?'

Not the definitive 'fraid' of ghosts!
Back in January, I wrote a post about the pleasant sillage of toiletries left behind by my Airbnb guests. In the comments that followed, a lively discussion ensued about the phenomenon of 'scent ghosts', both in this sense of sillage left behind in rooms after people have left, OR the scent of ghosts proper. Here is reader Jillie, who has personal experience of such olfactory apparitions:

"...there are other "ghost" smells, ie perfumes that actual supernatural spirits release into the air...we lived in a very haunted house when I was a child, and every so often there would be an overwhelming fragrance of lily of the valley wafting through the rooms."

Then reader Crikey came up with another variant - a vestige of a scent tenaciously clinging onto something, that is so spookily old as to pretty much qualify as a ghost:

"But I think that very old houses do hold traces of the lives lived in them. I once visited a bronze age archaeological site in Syria, they were still working down through the layers. The earth bricks in one room in the palace still had a faint trace of the scent of oranges - scented oil had been worked in as it was built. Four thousand years ago." 

This talk of scented spectres got me thinking of my own collection of empty decants. If you stick your nose directly on the nozzle you can still just about make out a faint remnant of the perfume they once contained. In the past I used to chuck decants when I had finished them - or when they had merely evaporated or leaked while my back was turned! - but now I consciously keep my empties. They live in a shoe box, nestling amongst the folds of an old silk scarf (for no good reason other than that the scarf got there first).

The Travalos are the most problematic item, as they are such intrinsically attractive receptacles that I would never stick a label on them. As a result the only way of determining what used to be in them is my rather inadequate nose. I can't even remember by association - 'Meharees is in the red one', say - because I have two red Travalos. I do still have a fighting chance of knowing which is Meharees if the other red one had contained a heady neroli scent, but I am not always that organised, and have previous for putting two perfumes that are remarkably alike in Travalos of the same colour.

And though my system has flaws, one of the reasons I keep these scent ghosts is for reference purposes. This is especially the case if the fragrance in question has been discontinued, like L'Artisan Parfumeur's Safran Troublant or Damien Bash Lucifer #3. Another reason is sheer nostalgia! That's quite a biggie, actually. 

While we are on the subject, just as the collective noun for ghosts turns out to be the very wonderful 'fraid', there should perhaps be a collective noun for 'an assortment of out of service Travalo holders'. This unfortunate situation was of course brought about by the fact that the Travalos they once housed have all come to the end of their natural life, not being ones that were filled in the first place from bottles in my collection. And I do have Travalos which fall into that category, however I also owned enough I had bought or which were given to me to fill the three empty leather holders you see forlornly displayed above. Oh, and the topping up gesture would only work if I knew what was in the blessed thing in the first place, which is moot.

So that is the third reason I might be inclined to keep an empty decant...in case I came by more of a fragrance one day. The act of throwing decants away says to me: 'I will never smell that scent again', which feels too definitive and brutal somehow. I am more your 'never say never' kind of perfumista. I should perhaps add that I do routinely throw away small glass 1ml vials, as they are a fiddle to refill even if the opportunity arose. So my 'ghost sanctuary' comprises decants only. It is growing, but at a glacial pace, for the obvious reason that 'thunking' is a rare event in the life of an average perfumista like me with more scent than sense...;)

Do you keep empty decants, and if so, why?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Mini-leopard in the boudoir: Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge 'review'

Source: eBay
Topic advisory: this post may end up being more about cats than the upcoming release from Papillon Perfumery, the 6th perfume in Liz Moore's carefully curated scent stable. That is no reflection on the merits of the fragrance itself, which has all the hall- - and paw- - marks of a (highly-hyphenated) feline-themed lemming-in-waiting, but rather on my own increasing shortcomings as a reviewer. The inability to parse notes is one aspect, for which some combination of nose and brain are to blame, but I also struggle these days to even convey the overall 'vibe' or atmosphere of a perfume. I shall of course give it my best shot, confident that there will be other reviews along shortly which will more than pick up the slack, if they haven't already indeed.

But first, to cats. I received this sample in the post at the weekend, along with an amusingly surreal card painted by Liz's artist friend Tracy Dovey. "Those fish aren't long for this world", was my first thought. "That poor woman is going to stink of them", was my second - assuming she escapes the cat's embrace, which is moot. The sample was accompanied by a note list written on the back of a photo of Liz's beloved cat Mimi, one of her Bengal harem.

In an exchange following my receipt of the package, Liz explained the inspiration behind Bengale Rouge:

"...little Mimi was my muse for the new perfume. It is my attempt at recreating the scent of her fur, which is generally a mix of cat or any fragrance that I seem to be wearing."

Mimi muffler

While here Liz seems to be wearing her cat...;)

A bit of background may be in order on these 'mini-leopards', as they have been dubbed by the magazine, 'Your Cat'. Today's Bengals are descended from the Asian leopard cat, which was bred with regular moggies. Prized for their beautiful markings, 'Your Cat' goes on to describe them as 'a domestic cat in wild wrapping'. The Chairman of the Bengal Cat Club has likened them to the Duracell bunny on account of their boisterousness and boundless energy, which - as Liz would be the first to admit - often spills over into 'a funny five minutes'. She rather aptly calls her home in the New Forest 'the funny farm', which is at least in part a reference to the madcap behaviours of the cat contingent rather than just the foibles of her human family. Here is Noo, eschewing her designated sleeping spot in order to luxuriate in a sea of discarded polythene, in time-honoured cat fashion.

Noo, coming over all unnecessary on some packaging

So we know that Mimi - and more specifically the smell of her fur - was the starting point for Bengale Rouge. But we don't know exactly how she smells. I am kicking myself now, as I have been to Liz's house a few times, and reckon Mimi would have been threading herself between people's legs on each occasion. I had the perfect opportunity to bury my nose in her fur and sniff her thoroughly, and would then be able to compare that scent memory with Bengale Rouge the perfume. Oh well, 'hindsmell' is a wonderful thing.

Mimi the muse

Hunting digression - contains upsetting scenes that some readers may find distressing

There is nothing for it but to compare the perfume with my own cat, Truffle. An important point to mention, with olfactory implications, is the fact that she and Mimi both go outside. In Mimi's case this is only during the day - to stop her wandering off under cover of darkness and into other people's homes, for which she has form apparently - whereas  Truffle pulls many an all-nighter on the tiles. This is of course prime hunting time, and Truffle's killing sprees have been escalating lately, Jack the Ripper-style. Only this time last week she brought in both a disembowelled starling AND a mouse in a similar state of intestinal disarray. In a curious presage of my writing this post, I had a nightmare the other day in which I conflated Liz's diverse menagerie with Truffle's prey, and dreamt that she had brought in a whole owl and a cock's head and neck. An owl would have been jolly tricky to pick up using only a bit of kitchen towel, my go-to disposal method on such occasions. In desperation, the next day I made Truffle wear a collar again for the first time in three years. And added a bell to warn wildlife of her approach! Tolling of bell = reduced death toll, was my thinking. It has worked a treat all week, until Sunday morning, when the pitter patter of rain helped disguise the telltale tinkle of the bell, and Truffle left me this on the landing...Hmm, she looks like she is sniffing the mouse there!

Not saved by the bell!

Despite their big cat vibe, Bengals are apparently not that bothered about hunting. Here is the Chairman of the Bengal Cat Club again:

"Bengals don't prey on wildlife. Even with their history and where they've come from, they're not mass killers. Bengals are generally not good hunters; they're more likely to just watch."

Goodness me, that gives a whole new meaning to the term 'peeping Tom'(!). So it seems like Mimi wouldn't need a bell then, even if she hadn't been grounded for sauntering nonchalantly into neighbours' houses. She is more likely to curl up on top of someone else's Aga than bring a brace of pheasant home at dawn, with or without their full quota of innards.

So given that she does go out (hunting!), Truffle's fur has its own innate animal smell, plus a few extra accords from the great outdoors. Chief amongst these is an earthy, patchouli-like scent from her routine latrine-digging in flowerbeds. I have often caught a hint of gravel or concrete too - some kind of stone, anyway - and when it has been raining, this of course morphs into the full petrichor, haha. Oh, as is the case for Liz with Mimi, there's also a smidge of whatever scent I am wearing thanks to my frequent nuzzling in her fur.

The particular sniffing action pictured below was staged specifically for this post, mind, and took about ten takes before I got both of us in the shot, and the shot vaguely in focus.

Notes: Turkish rose, orris, sandalwood, tonka, oakmoss, honey, vanilla, labdanum, benzoin, sweet myrrh

On first sampling Bengale Rouge, I was struck by how quiet it was compared to the big production bodice ripper that is Salome, and Liz agreed with me that it was more understated, adding that it was 'fluffier', and the 'softest' of her creations. I cannot convey how soft it is - I could have included Bengale Rouge in my 'Careful Whispers' series if I could have been bothered to work out from my archives which number it would be. Editor's note: No 4 at a guess, but I am not going to change the title now...!

From the off I have to say that Bengale Rouge smells a lot more like an indoor cat, notwithstanding Mimi's daytime excursions. Lose the earthy smell and the petrichor; there is none of that here. It is a 'Bengal with a bell' scent, ie de-wilded (no really, that is a word, like de-planed), even though we have established that it doesn't need to wear one. It is a mini- or should that be a Mimi-? - leopard in the boudoir, an image that came to me after I chanced across this item on eBay (see above):


This is not a Lipstick Rose kind of boudoir scent, mind - it is nowhere near as overtly feminine and stylised as that - but there's not a whiff of rock hyrax either. Bengale Rouge's fur is faintly sweet smelling and clean. It is a cat that has been freshly bathed and dusted down with talc. Yes, Bengals like water apparently, though I don't know quite to what extent. Truffle won't let me near her paws when she comes in muddy and sopping wet, though she is not averse to a quick back rub with a tea towel. Hmm, I should perhaps have said 'en suite' rather than 'boudoir', being less loaded with sexual imagery, but Bengale Rouge is still sensual all right, in a muted kind of way.

Then by analogy with the 'YLBB' style of lipsticks, I could say that this is '(The Scent of )Your Cat, But Better'. And if you aspired to be 'Catwoman', you might very well wish to smell like this. Bengal Rouge is unmistakably animal-like, thanks to the cunning interplay of the oakmoss, sandalwood, labdanum and myrrh - more so than a woman, yet more fragrant than a cat. Though not more fragrant than a cat that lives with a perfumer...!

Liz and Mimi, briefly tolerating the pose

On first spraying Bengale Rouge, I get a faint hint of rose trussed in a corset of oakmoss and labdanum, The overriding impression is smoky and resinous rather than floral, but I love labdanum, so that's okay.. Even the opening is quiet, then very soon the composition becomes wistful and attenuated, and very slightly sweeter as the honey and vanilla notes kick in, buttressed by puffs of orris and little wisps of incense. The myrrh does not have that vaguely static buzz you sometimes get with the note - for example in AG Myrrhe Ardente, where it fizzes like Pepsi or root beer. The overriding feel of Bengale Rouge is definitely more powdery. That and meditative, and Lord knows my cat sleeps a lot when she is not out killing things, so 'meditative' is the very word for it.

I should also mention my observation that over the course of writing this post, Truffle's scent has changed slightly. You wouldn't believe how many times I have toggled between sniffing my wrist and her fur! I am now getting a distinct aroma of carpet, which I swear wasn't there earlier, but which may simply be scent transference from her fabric collar to her head and neck area as she has been scratching herself. And there have been times in the past - most notably when she got stuck in a garage for 36 hours - that she ended up smelling primarily of cobwebs and piss. So while your cat's smell is very much a moving feast, as it were, Bengale Rouge has deftly rendered a generic 'base smell' that would be typical of most cats, then cleaned and prettied it up just enough to elevate it from smell to fragrance.

In short, Bengale Rouge is a ballgown scent without the va-va-voom. It's the ne plus ultra of discreetly mysterious sillage as you swish past in your bustle of silk. (Sorry, I have uncharacteristically been watching the period drama Gentleman Jack, but only because it's got swashbuckling, coal mine sinking Suranne Jones in it.) Bengale Rouge is where - perhaps counter-intuitively - orientals meet 'office appropriate'.  Through her ingenious blend of 'actual cat smell' and notes more closely associated with 'perfume properly speaking' Liz has delivered on the brief she set herself of recreating her 'collaterally scented cat'. And because of its quiet elegance - think Volutes edt, but even quieter and more refined, and I love Volutes! - Bengale Rouge is 'paws down' my favourite of the line to date.

Finally, here is Truffle, weary from her earlier mousing exploits, followed by a long stint of being the 'control' sample.

Truffle's bottom partially obscures the notes

PS Any fans of Volutes edt would love Bengale Rouge, I reckon. The scents have a similar languid vibe, and though the compositions are obviously different, there is some crossover of notes, namely iris, honey, benzoin and myrrh.

PPS Hmm...now Truffle has come in smelling of coal. I think I might start smelling people to work out where they have been.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel, and a four star way to pre-empt 'post-perfume purchase cognitive dissonance'

Guerande salt marshes~ Source: definingfrance.com
I did the unthinkable the other day. I bought a nearly full bottle of perfume on the Facebook Fragrance/Sale/Swap/Split UK site. A woman was offloading her entire collection - or so it seemed - at very reasonable prices, and I quickly joined in the buying frenzy that ensued within a short while of her post going up. "MH Fleurs de Sel please if still available". My fingers tapped out the order as though with a life of their own. The very next day the bottle arrived, mine for £25 all in. Mint condition, with just 2ml or less missing.

I was very, very shocked at this impulsive behaviour. As regular readers know, I have absolutely no need of any more perfume, given my 60? strong bottle collection, countless decants, and innumerable samples. And while I do hanker after a few things: more/back ups of DSH Foxy and House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved, for example, plus samples of Chanel 1957 and that new rose Hiram Green people are raving about - Lustre, that's the one - it is a big old leap from hankering to actually acquiring any of the stuff.

UPDATE: I have broken off writing this post to go and order samples of Lustre and Slowdive from the Hiram Green website! And was also bidding on eBay on a BNIB bottle of 1957 that is running at £75 at the moment, so I have accepted that while it is still a bargain at that price it is too much to pay, and way more juice than I need, so have bowed out of that particular fray...

Source: notino.co.uk

But back to my 48ml of Fleurs de Sel. I wasn't lemming after this scent - not remotely. I only have a dim recollection of how it smelt, though I do remember it as haunting in a flinty, grassy, salty way, as well as being splendidly evocative of the Brittany coastline with its wild, wind-whipped vegetation, spiky thistles underfoot as you tread on hot sand. Well, hot in the summer, maybe. You may recall how I am quietly obsessed with this particular hair gunk from Label M, which sadly makes my locks greasy, but has the most wonderful scent imaginable, far superior to many non-functional fragrances.

I blogged about the Label M mousse here, and note that I incorporated a mini-review of Fleurs de Sel into my post, along with one of The Different Company's Sel de Vetiver, of which the hair goo also reminded me:


Notes: rosemary, thyme, clary sage, angelica, iris, rose, narcissus, leather, amber, oakmoss and vetiver

This is very piquant and aromatic and an excellent rendition of the wild grasses in the sand dunes  and the beach. It is grainy in texture and a bit salty too, as though someone had gone for a swim and then rolled around immediately afterwards in a carpet of marram grass, sea rocket, holly and spurge. Maybe even the odd sprig of mouse ear hawkweed.

So notwithstanding its strongly vegetal focus, I think FdS is a very successful olfactory interpretation of the Breton coast which was its inspiration."

Well, well, I appear to have appreciated how Fleurs de Sel captures the Breton seascape way back then, even though this is the furthest thing from the style of scent I usually go for - vanilla-forward orientals and sultry white flower florals being my go-to genres for the most part.

Source: frenchfoodintheus.org

And in that split second when I perused the Facebook seller's list and typed my request to buy her bottle of Fleurs de Sel, a switch must have flicked in my brain and reconnected me to that beautiful rocky wilderness, even though I have never in fact been there. I have been to Brittany, mind, to interview a company that made cling film, but saw very little of the area. I just looked up where the factory was - in Pontivy - which is about as far inland as it is possible to go. Now that I have the house in France I am perhaps more drawn to perfumes inspired by anywhere in the 'hexagon', as the French refer to their country.

On a whim, I googled Batz-sur-Mer, the childhood home of perfumer Lyn Harris, which provided the inspiration for Fleurs de Sel. And lo and behold - it isn't in Brittany after all, but a bit south and round the coast in the Pays-de-la-Loire region, specifically the Loire-Atlantique department. Maybe there has been a deliberate spot of geographical fudging, as Brittany is so close, and more people would have heard of that area than its sister region. I have also pegged the salt marshes that provided the aromatic trigger to the scent's creation as those of the Guerande peninsula, also in the Loire-Atlantique (Pays-de-la-Loire). Frontier quibbler, moi? Oh, and I so wanted to put 'Quimper quibbler', but Quimper, being about as inland as Pontivy, doesn't come into it.;)

UPDATE: further research has uncovered the fact that the Loire-Atlantique department was spun off from Brittany in 1941, but was part of 'Old Brittany'. Apparently there is a big kerfuffle about it all that is still raging on, with many of the locals eager to be reintegrated into Brittany. More on the controversy here:

Batz-sur-Mer ~ Source: Tripadvisor

So anyway, the bottle arrived, and the perfume was just as I remembered it: bright, granular, herby, salty and earthy. I am pleased to be adding a bottle by Miller Harris to my collection - I have had one or two in the past - including Fleurs de Bois, for sure - but must have sold or lost them. Obviously I would not dream of suggesting I might have actually used them up!

Oh, just checked the notes of Fleurs de Bois - now discontinued - and it is classed as aromatic-citrus. I must be a closet herbal fan after all...For there's rosemary and grass in there!

Notes: galbanum, grass, Sicilian lemon, tangerine, rose, rosemary, iris, oakmoss, patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver

I have been wearing Fleurs de Sel for two days now, and it is as haunting as I remember - and as 'not-really-me-but-I-like-it'. Then, because it was so out of character for me to buy a whole bottle of something so vaguely remembered and so far from lemming status, I felt I needed extra validation for my - if not blind exactly, but definitely somewhat myopic - buy. I turned to Bois de Jasmin first of all, whose taste happens to be closely aligned with mine, such that many of my most loved perfumes historically have been ones she has awarded four or five stars. And blow me if she didn't give Fleurs de Sel four stars too...;)

In her review, Victoria writes:

"Fleurs de Sel is one of the best examples of Lyn Harris’s ability to marry a lush, nature-inspired quality with modern minimalism. The result is nuanced and elegant, with an interesting twist on the classical theme."

On a reviewer roll here, I dared to consult the original Perfumes The Guide book, and was delighted to see that Luca Turin gave Fleurs de Sel four stars as well! He calls it "this elegant, highly original herbaceous-marine composition", adding that it cannot have been easy to compose.

So I feel completely vindicated now.  I Did Not Need this perfume - and didn't even know I wanted it until a moment before I committed to buy - but it feels like a distinctive and special addition to my collection. Intimately bound up with my happy links to France. And as I have a friend in Nantes, the nearest city, maybe I will visit the Loire-Atlantique one day...

Source: ucipliban.org

Tuesday, 30 April 2019

A Twilight zone Tom Ford encounter, meeting the Undinas, extreme burritos, and pancake urges: Part Two

I don't know about you, but I find shoe shopping quite a fraught business. However, undeterred by my usual trepidation, I have just ordered a pair of grey lace up plimsolls online. Or sneakers, as American friends might term them. Or gym shoes - or gutties, indeed - as comes more naturally to me. Pumps, if you will. It took me over an hour to find 'the ones', though that was a vast improvement on the seven hours I spent researching microwaves recently. There are of course so many factors to consider:

  • Price - £5.99 is worryingly cheap, while over £30 is pushing it
  • Customer reviews on quality and fit
  • Not having excessive lettering or logos
  • Not having gratuitous colour accents that hamper outfit coordination
  • Minimal white soles and toes - some of them look like a hovercraft
  • Returns policy
  • The website not making reference to 'millennials'

So this is the pair I have bought, for £25 including postage. Toes crossed!

I mention this purchase partly because as you know I have a habit of blogging about whatever happens to be uppermost on my mind at the time of sitting down to write a post(!), but also because there is a genuine link to the next part of my US tour post. In the end I decided to split it into three, so this is the perfume part. No, really it is!

A Twilight Zone Tom Ford encounter

For at the New York gig - held in Lower East Side's historic Bowery Ballroom - I hooked up with friend and fellow fan Brian, who is based in the Mid-West and had flown over specially, and his wife's cousin Peter, who lives in the city. Brian was keen for me to meet his cousin-in-law, for while his main business is an understated brand of Italian-made 'luxe sneakers' - he really does just say 'I make shoes' if you ask him what he does - Peter has been a creative and artistic director in various guises down the years. And one of his projects was coming up with the packaging design for the entire Tom Ford perfume line. (That's boxes and bottles.) This left field nugget of information knocked me properly for six, having owned examples of both the standard ribbed bottles and the tall rectangular version of the Private Blends collection. Peter readily admitted that it was just another brief for him, and that he doesn't have the same visceral connection to fragrance that we fumeheads have. Which makes it all the more of an achievement to have come up with such elegant and aesthetically pleasing designs. And in the case of the ribbed bottle, a haptically pleasing one to boot. (I promise I wasn't trying to shoehorn in a footwear pun there!)

Brian, Gerry and Peter

Anyway, Brian and Peter came out with us to dinner - stood us dinner, no less!, which was very kind - and then we all headed back to the venue. The gig went down a storm and garnered some very good reviews afterwards. I was chuffed to see my own handwritten set list feature in one of them. It even gets a mention in the title!


Source: P Squared 

After the show I got into conversation with some other fans, including Diane, whom I instantly recognised from the gig a couple of days previously in Philadelphia. I had clocked her there as a person who looked nice, and broadly my age, but never managed to have a word on that occasion. However, on seeing her again I didn't let the opportunity slip by, and soon we were chatting away at breakneck speed about all sorts of things. The speed being due to the fact that Diane had to catch the last train back to Philly shortly. And as we stood together, I noticed how good she smelt, and asked her what perfume she was wearing. "It's Tom Ford", she replied. Whoah, I thought. It is going to be one of those nights...! D wasn't too sure which, except that it had Vanille in the name. I think it may well have been Vanille Fatale, but will check. It has to be either that or Tobacco Vanille, but I think the word Vanille came first, which would point to the former.

Source: Fragrantica

Top notes: saffron, coriander, myrrh, olibanum
Heart notes: coffee, narcissus, frangipani
Basenotes: vanilla, mahogany, suede

Source: mixedgems.co.uk

Mixedgems closes her review with the observation: "This will be for you if you like to feel a ‘good enough to eat’ scrumptiousness when you catch an air of your fragrance." And having sniffed Diane I can but agree. As we were talking, we were joined by Bid, the singer, and at my suggestion he also leant in and had a sniff of my new fumhead/fan friend, whom he also pronounced to be very fragrant. While she had a reciprocal sniff of his chest, or what was visible of it, though I am not sure he even knew what he was wearing. The scene was all rather primal, indeed we were not unlike a trio of sniffer dogs - not to preempt a theme of Part Three, mind...;)

Meeting the Undinas

So that gig was on the Monday night, and by Friday we had made it to San Francisco, via Seattle, Portland and Redding. After the sound check, during which I diligently crafted my latest version of the set list (still without mistakes at this point!), the band headed off to one restaurant, Steve, our driver, peeled off to another to meet friends, while I hotfooted it to another eaterie again (all three in the vicinity of the venue) to meet Undina and her vSO. It was called Corridor, and we sat upstairs - that is our table for four - though we were of course three - in the far corner below the long mirror.

Source: Yelp

I had exactly two hours with Undina and her husband, which simply flew by. Having been in this exhausting but highly entertaining 'band on tour bubble' for the past ten days, where our whole routine is dictated by 'get ins' at gigs and radio stations, check ins at airports, and pick up times by vans and occasionally cabs, it took me a little while to adjust to being in the company of friends from a different sphere, though I have met Undina and her husband twice before, in Paris and London. And here I was on their home turf. It was all a bit discombobulating, but as lovely as ever to see the two of them. They kindly treated me to dinner too, and Undina gave me a zipped up cosmetics case full of samples, through which I am still steadily working my way, some six weeks on. Undina knows my taste very well, and the strike rate of success with this selection is pretty high, Maybe I could do a bunch of 'tiny unreviews of unprecedented vacuousness', as I keep promising Portia I will some day. Not that the perfumes don't deserve a better standard of review, it is just that I have such trouble describing what I smell. Shortly after 10pm, the Undinas hurried back to their parking garage, as their ticket was about to expire, while I plunged back into the murky gloom of the venue and snapped back into tour mode, marvelling that that brief encounter with a favourite fumehead friend and her vSO had really happened...

The rather pink green room at Rickshaw Stop, SF

UPDATE: Have checked with Diane, and it was indeed Vanille Fatale she wore to such great effect!