This post was brought to you very, very slowly by voice recognition and mostly lefthanded editing...
This post was brought to you very, very slowly by voice recognition and mostly lefthanded editing...
|Source: Wikimedia Commons (GXXF)|
I thought I should write a line or two to explain why a post from 2011 briefly appeared just now as my most recent post - that's for any readers quick enough off the mark to spot it. I have now figured out how to publish to a past date, and the errant piece is back where it belongs in the archives.
How the sorry saga came about is as follows...I woke up this morning to a slew of seven emails from Blogger, each containing a link to a different blog post that they had "unpublished", as it violated their content policy on the grounds of being spam. Ironically, two of these notifications landed in my own spam folder, the very offence of which I had been accused.
I am glad Blogger pointed out which category of violation my posts fell under, as I would have struggled to work that out for myself: most of them seemed wildly inappropriate, such as "violence and gore", "unauthorised images of minors", "harassment, bullying and threats", and "non-consensual explicit imagery". Having thoroughly examined the wording of the spam clause, and looked for similarities amongst the seven posts, I concluded that it was the pr*ze dr*ws that Blogger took exception to, which it must have construed as "mass solicitation". Given how few readers enter such things on Bonkers, the term "mass" does seem a little overegged, but anyway...
Do not spam. This may include unwanted promotional or commercial content, unwanted content that is created by an automated program, unwanted repetitive content, nonsensical content or anything that appears to be a mass solicitation.
G*veaw*ys are of course - or were - a time-honoured tradition in perfume circles, and I can think of other blogs who host them with much greater regularity than me; it tended to be a once-a-year thing as a rule, to commemorate my blog anniversary (another one of which is looming!) or when reaching a milestone in terms of numbers of posts. But clearly Blogger has taken agin them, so there was nothing for it but to edit all the posts in question and submit them for review. To their credit, the people involved in assessing my changes were very prompt about it, and all the posts were approved and re-posted within an hour or so.
Most of them kept their original dates, except one with a review of a Puredistance 1 from 2011, which somehow managed to publish itself today. Now fixed, as I say.
Thinking about it, I am surprised I haven't been fingered for "nonsensical content", which is arguably not exactly my house style, but Lord knows I have written a lot of whimsical and silly copy down the years. ;)
Now what this all means is that the posts have been changed, but the comments below remain, including references to the various pr*ze dr*ws to which there is no longer any reference in the post itself. I could have deleted all of them, but would then have lost the other remarks people made, which would have been sad. (Especially as I lost a bunch of genuine comments recently when I reacted too hastily to a spam attack by a third party.) There were 44 comments in all on the Puredistance post I mentioned, which is from the days when I used to have a lot more reader interaction. I may go back in later and add a note at the end of each post, explaining what has happened and why there is now "nonsensical content" in the comments(!). And I should also delete the companion posts from the following week announcing the results of the g*veaw*ys, only one of which has been picked up by the bots - and strangely not the post in which the dr*w was originally mentioned.
All of these examples of mass solicitation are very historic though, so I don't really see what the point is of amending them so long after the event. It is not as through anyone could respond all these years later, as the entry deadlines are well and truly past. I am reminded of the current fashion for removing all traces of historical misdemeanours more widely, for example by toppling statues of controversial figures from centuries ago. But that is a whole other discussion I don't wish to get into here. I will just carry on with my blog housekeeping, complying with any further requests by Blogger to remove more posts that contravene the guidelines. With the Online Safety Bill in the offing, who knows what offences I may yet unwittingly commit?
And I would be interested to know if there are any other bloggers out there to whom something similar has happened, though I sense most people on the perfume scene use Wordpress these days, where the content rules may be more forgiving.
I always used to say that Lovely is one of the early celebrity scents that punched above its price tag. Well, that is even more the case now that this Lovely-shaped hole is valued at a mere £6.39. For 100ml! The rollerball is 10ml and the body lotion 200ml, and I cannot see how such a modest price reduction is justified...For on a purely pro rata basis the rollerball would therefore be worth 64p(!), and the body lotion just under a whopping £11.96, which is 87% more than the perfume that isn't there. That's never right.
The maths gets even more off kilter when you compare this set to one costing £9.99 and containing 3 x 10ml rollerballs: one of Lovely plus two of its flankers (Born Lovely and Sheer Lovely); it is also on sale in B & M, with all three perfumes still present and correct in the box. Each 10ml costs £3.33, much more than a tenth of the £6.39 the absent 100ml bottle is supposedly worth. And I know that smaller quantities cost proportionately more per ml, but still...even if the rollerball in the discounted gift set were worth twice 64p, the difference versus the trio set is quite stark.
There are the makings of an absorbing algebra problem here, I sense! 3 x a = £9.99, while a + c = £12.50. (where b = bottle = £6.39 = missing.) If we now decide that a = £3.33 in both sets, that leaves a value for the lotion of £9.27, but there is still no escaping from the lowball price of £6.39 for b! If anyone would like to take the full price of £18.99 and reallocate fair values to all three items that should be in there, be my guest. ;)
And you do have to admire the sheer effrontery of the person who removed the bottle from its box. The perfume was presumably pilfered, for I cannot imagine the store allowing a customer to buy the bottle on its own, the way they usually condone my purchases of lone bottles of mineral water from a previously broached polythene multipack.
For anyone who manages to find a complete set, this is certainly a bargain..."a steal", I could almost say.
Speaking of which, we can at least take comfort in the fact that the thief will smell lovely...;)
I am interrupting my series of travel posts about the recent French trip because a) something came up in the perfume sphere that I would like to air without delay, and b) I figured people might like a break anyway from the travelogue style of writing, even though the final part will feature perfume in a small way (if and) when I do eventually get to it.
What sparked the present post was this email I received from my old English teacher, Sheila:
"I’ve completely run out of perfume and have no idea what to buy. You once kindly gave me some little phials, amongst which was one for Hermès which I still love - I have a tiny, tiny amount left. It's a long time ago (before 2013), but can you remember what it was? It just says Hermès on the side with no further clue. I’ve been googling and think it may be Un Jardin sur le Nil, as that is quite old and has woody notes like this one. I love cedar, sandalwood, leather and vetiver, but not strong floral notes."
I immediately snapped into sleuthing mode, and replied:
Failing to be in and be counted
There is always a lot of junk mail in my letter box at the house every time I go, typically of the local newspaper and shopping flyer variety. But on this trip there were several communications waiting for me - of increasing urgency - to do with a village census. It had taken place over a four week period back in January / February, a time of year when most residents would likely be around, but not second home owners. The next day I popped to the town hall to apologise in person for my non-compliance with the census summons, which had been compulsory. They told me not to worry, and pointed out that - this being August - I had well and truly missed it. "What a shame" I piped up brightly, "as I like filling in forms". Later I decided to take a look at the questions, the most interesting of which concerned the bathroom arrangements of my house. The options were:
"Neither bath tub, nor shower"
"Bath tub or shower in a room not specifically reserved for washing"
"Bathroom (with bath tub or shower)"
Now I have been known to liken my very basic and rustic house to a "living folk museum", but it does at least have a dedicated (if rudimentary) bathroom with a shower. I would be intrigued to learn what proportion of the census participants were in the first category, having a "lick and a promise" kind of wash in the sink?
Getting trapped by more gates
After my scary adventure in the "zone restreinte" in Dieppe, I could hardly believe that during my stay I would manage to get trapped in by gates on two further occasions: once after visiting a bus depot to check their lost property stash for my missing beret (from last November, so I wasn't very hopeful), and once after visiting an old people's home. I had hoped to speak to the manager, whose grandmother was the last person to live year-round in my house in the early 70s, as opposed to using it just as a holiday home. In the first instance I drove through the open gate into the car park of the bus depot only to have it shut (and lock) behind me again. "No problem", I thought, "I will ask the staff to open it as I leave". Which I did, only they couldn't remember the code for that day, and spent a good few minutes trying various combinations of numbers it might have been. After many fruitless attempts, one man asked cheerily: "Would you like a leg up?" (known as a "short ladder" in French). It looked a fair old drop the other side, so I said I would be happy to wait till they figured out the code, which thankfully they did in the end.
Looking back, the visit to the old people's home could have escalated into a more worrying scenario than merely being unable to find a way out. I should really have rung to say I was coming. As it was, I opened a side gate into the drive of the residential home - which also required a code, helpfully taped beside the lock, with an injunction not to tell anyone and to request a (presumably different) exit code after my visit. I went through the gate, and it too clanged shut and locked behind me. "No problem", I thought, "I will ask the staff for the other code as I leave." Once inside the home, with the reception area dark and unmanned, I realised that the staff may have been thin on the ground - it was a Sunday, after all. I tried the courtesy phone, but nobody answered. There was nothing for it but to wander through the communal areas of the building, looking for personnel. I passed several residents in wheelchairs, watching television with the volume turned up loud, but saw no one even vaguely in charge. It then occurred to me that even if I did meet someone, I had walked so far into the building by now that they might take me for an intruder and I might actually get into trouble. The incident in Dieppe had clearly scarred me, and I had sudden visions of nearly being arrested again. So I suddenly changed tack and decided to beat a hasty retreat, forgetting for a moment that I had failed to obtain the all-important exit code. I legged it back to the perimeter fence, but this time tried another side gate further round, and to my great relief and surprise it was unlocked, and I made my escape. I would love to talk to the relative of the former owner - who may herself have lived there as a child - but I will be sure to do so by arrangement next time.
Obstructing an exhibition with knitting
For some time now I had been aware that my village had its version of a "Knit and Natter" club based at the library, but on this trip I finally made it to a session, taking a prototype cotton flannel with me, along with my Belgian neighbour C, who was also curious to check out the group. Apart from us there were four other participants: three French and one Dutch. Of the French knitters, one was an eleven year old boy, who had come with his grandmother. Fair play to him for not thinking it a cissy pursuit, and having the patience to sit with a bunch of grown ups for two hours without appearing remotely restless. Amusingly, his grandmother turned out to have been born in the house where the other French lady lived. Wheels within wheels...
Anyway, we quickly bonded, as knitters do, over questions such as: "How old were you when you started?", "What was the first thing you made?", and "How big is your stash?", and I also learnt the French for an easy project you can watch TV to, known in English as "mindless knitting", and in French as "zéro cerveau" ("zero brain", which sadly lacks the rhyme of the original). The lady who lived in the other lady's house mentioned that she dares to knit fingerless gloves during Zoom meetings at work, her hands carefully positioned out of sight of the webcam. These would be very much an example of a "zéro cerveau" project, which she dubbed "meeting mittens".
The obstructing bit alluded to above came about because we were sitting in a circle in the middle of an exhibition on the history of roofing and roof tiles in the area. Several visitors came in during the afternoon and valiantly tried to squeeze behind our chairs to read the display boards. It only took a few of us to obscure several hundred years' worth of this ancient craft on our side of the room, but happily nobody complained.
NB Perfume will be back in Part 2, in a cameo role at least, after which "normal" posts will resume...
|The final send off|
|Source: British Comedy Club|
For any non-UK readers, or any UK readers not of a certain age, say, my adopted - and adapted - moniker in the title of "Harriet Worth" is explained here.
So...nine months on from my last (very chilly!) trip to my house in the "not quite the Dordogne", I made it back there this month, albeit not without incident.
It started with a horrible journey down to Newhaven, to which I had - rather ironically, looking back - switched as my departure point at short notice to avoid the much publicised queues and traffic jams around the Eurotunnel at Folkestone. A drive that should have taken three and a half hours took seven and a quarter; I had only allowed six and a quarter, which should have been ample, but wasn't. There were vehicle fires on both the M40 and the M25 causing stationary traffic for hours at a time. Somewhere around the turn off for Heathrow I accepted my fate, namely that I was not going to get to the coast in time for the embarcation deadline. At that moment, a text came in, purporting to be from my phone company, with the alarming news:
"You have reached your spend cap limit so you will not be able to use any out of allowance services in the UK or make calls, send texts or access data when you roam abroad."
I thought on balance that it must be a scam, because I rarely use the allowances I have, but because it seemed to know I was going abroad - or trying to, at least! - I can't pretend it didn't put the wind up me, hard on the heels of my dawning realisation that I was going to miss the boat.
And I did miss it...I've never missed a ferry - or a plane - in 35 years of solo overseas travel. But there's always a first time. I had to wait five and a quarter hours for the next sailing, and pay a supplement of £33.50 to change my ticket. This was now a night crossing, so no sleep... At five o'clock I was driving off the ramp of the ship into the port of Dieppe when I realised that my French bank card was missing, which was in a wallet along with my driving licence, both of which are not things you want to lose. I did have other cards on me, but not ones linked to my French account with euros in it.
When I reached the French Customs checkpoint I asked the lady if they could have a look on the ship for the wallet, and she told me to go to the harbour office and sort it out with them. I parked up outside the building, which was of course thoroughly shut because it was five in the morning. Then, leaving the car where it was, I set off back to the Customs booth but got lost and managed to wander into a compound which turned out to be some highly restricted, highly secure area that you are not supposed to enter. But in I blundered, whereupon an electric gate clanked shut behind me, and I realised I was locked in. There was no alarm bell, no little intercom thing, so I stood there in the dark in this holding pen surrounded by high fences and gates, and thought: "Oh no! How am I going to get out of this?"
|Photo of the offending zone taken on the way home - in daylight!|
Eventually a border guard drove up in a van and unlocked the gate. He was not pleased to find me there and said sternly: "Do you realise you could go to prison for this?" This area was indeed completely off limits - no idea why, as it was just a bit of concrete, though with hindsight I wonder if it might have been some kind of international no man's land. Hmm, it looks like I am not the first person to be found in a ZAR (zone d'acces restreint). Anyway, I was profusely apologetic: I explained that I had taken a wrong turn and was trying to get back to the Customs area, and in the pitch black hadn't seen the no entry signs. He repeated his warning: "Well, you could go to prison for that!", before asking what I was doing there in the first place. I told him about the lost driving licence and how I was trying to find someone who could communicate with the ship. To which he replied: "Ah, but you won't be allowed to drive in France without a licence", conjuring up visions of my being put straight back on the ferry and being stuck in gridlock on the M25 again...not a happy prospect.
Then in an access of empathy the guard said he would drive me in convoy to the police station to discuss the driving licence problem, as the place was very hard to find. Having done so he waited for me to park in the spot he designated. Meaning I had to do a parallel park maneouvre right there in front of him. I am absolutely rubbish at parallel parking, never mind at night, and thought: "Well, regardless of whether I do or don't have a driving licence, they could ban me from driving in France purely on the basis on my parking!" It took me a couple of go's, but to my great surprise I managed the manoeuvre and went into the police station while the guard went back to his post, and said he would notify the ship of my loss.
Alone in the station, whose intimidation factor was somewhat mitigated by its being one of the few light sources in Dieppe at that time of night, I suddenly remembered that I did in fact have an old paper plus photo ID version of my driving licence, which was at the back of my travel folder. I brought it out, and conceded that it wasn't up-to-date like the one I had lost, and had the wrong address on it, but it was "the long version", really trying to big up length over recency. To my relief the policeman was satisfied with that and declared me free to travel, and I also cancelled my bank card while I was there by phoning the bank's "lost and stolen" helpline.
At six o'clock I finally set off, and drove the 400 miles south in one go, rather than breaking my journey overnight as I usually do, had I caught the earlier ferry. It took eight and a half hours, stopping quite a few times. Also, for the last hundred miles or so I had to drive with one eye shut, owing to the sudden onset of acute light sensitivity (photophobia) and double vision, which I think may have been eyestrain from all the driving over the two days, compounded by the stress of recent events. It is really uncomfortable driving with one eye, if you have ever tried it, especially over that distance. Plus my Satnav packed up about half way down France(!) - the screen just froze - and thank goodness it wasn't anywhere near Paris, which is the wiggly bit I could not have managed on my own - but luckily I knew the way from where it did stop working. I think the device may have frozen because it overheated, if that is not a contradiction in terms.
Having arrived at the house I spent much of the first few days cleaning, once again removing leaves and impudent lianas of wisteria that were climbing up the inside of the shutters, escorting enormous spiders out of the house, dusting cobwebs, and sweeping up the particular cocktail of particulates my house seems to shed in between visits: white powdered plaster, red brick dust, and black miscellaneous "crud", which had mysteriously formed a light patina over many of the surfaces. I also weeded the entire perimeter of the house (aka the street). In the course of all this cleaning and "gardening" I clocked a new gutter leak, a widespread infestation of woodworm (of which more in the next post), two rotted beams, a kink in the shower hose strangling the flow of water to a few drops - it clearly needs the plumbing equivalent of a stent - a dripping tap, a dropped door that scraped across the floor, and one with a very stiff bolt. Then the cat I befriended last summer came into the house and immediately sprayed on the sofa(!), though luckily the throw that was over it caught the brunt of his proprietorial gesture. To cap it all, the washing machine on the wall of the supermarket where I was about to wash it the following morning swallowed my money, and I got cut off in mid-sentence from the technical helpline because of network issues caused by an electrical storm.
|Wisteria from INSIDE my bedroom!|
So there you have it: how I was nearly arrested twice in as many minutes for separate offences at a time when I am not normally up, never mind breaking the law. Based on those first few days alone, I could best describe the trip as "character building", but I am a firm - veering to occasionally wobbly - believer in the motto: "A change (and a setback or three) is as good as a rest".
More adventures - and relatively light-hearted mishaps! - to come...
Are you one of those people who enjoys cruising the shelves of charity shops in between bursts of "proper shopping", in the knowledge that a bargain find of a £2 jug or a £3 pair of shoes will be a surefire way to give yourself a little lift? I am that charity shop cruising soldier, and even if nothing else turns up, there are invariably a few paperbacks that come home with me on any given sortie - you just need to poke around enough amongst the serried ranks of horror, historical romance, and chick lit. So imagine my delight when I was browsing in my local Oxfam shop and spied this hardback book from 1928(!) - on perfume of all unlikely topics. Bagged for the improbably precise sum of £1.79, and I turned a blind eye to its foxed cover and tatty spine. It is not far off a hundred years old, after all.
To be honest it was more of a technical read than I was after, but I enjoyed parts of it a lot, and loved the mere fact of handling such a venerable textbook on fragrance, with such a charmingly blunt title to boot: "and all about it". The book describes itself as "A Popular Account of the Science and Art of Perfumery", and I would question how popular it would be now, or was then even. The chapters were originally submitted to "The Hairdressers' Chronicle and Beauty Specialists' Trade Journal", which struck me as a spectacularly unspecialist periodical. I guess IFRA didn't come along till 1973 after all.
In the preface to the book the author, H Stanley Redgrove (we can but guess at the name behind the "H", but my money is on Harold or Henry), refers readers seeking more technical information on perfumery to the technical works of Askinson, Durvelle, Parry & Poucher, who do sound so very much of their time.
There's a great titbit about the need for a "compounder's license" costing £15 15s a year, in order to be allowed to prepare perfumes containing alcohol commercially. I wonder what the going rate is today.
The book proper kicks off with a section on the history of perfume: from Egyptian times up to the invention of Hungary Water, the first scent made with alcohol. Redgrove covers the advent of synthetics in perfumery, and soon gets into my favourite section: "Some Peculiarities of Odorous Bodies", where we learn about the appeal of indol when it is deployed at an optimal dilution, and fixatives such as civet, ambergris and musk. He notes how back then ambergris was already being replaced by sweet gum and oleo resins, while a successful substitute for natural musk remained elusive.
|African civet cat ~ Source: animalspot.net|
Later in the book there are some grim details about the exact MO by which these precious animal substances are harvested:
"...the cat is placed in a cage only just long enough to contain it, and after its legs are tied it is teased, as this increases secretion. Some of the civet is spontaneously ejected, the rest removed via a small spoon from pouches the glands excrete it into."
I will spare you the nitty-gritty on the extraction methods for the secretions of deer and badgers, but there were a couple more strange nuggets of info, namely the fact that most of the civet used in the UK at that time came from Abyssinia and was packed in ox-horns containing 1.5 - 2 lbs. I have to ask why? Couldn't they have used the early 20th century equivalent of a Tupperware? I also learnt that some nefarious middlemen tried to adulterate civet, I guess along similar lines to those who cut heroin with baking soda or talc. But I wasn't expecting the substance in question - banana pulp! Redgrove helpfully goes on to tell readers how to test for it. ;)
There is a little bit in the book on more abstract topics such as whether perfumery is art, the aesthetics of perfume, and its psychological effects - including a nice analogy with music where accords = chords - and he makes the excellent point that we are ill-equipped to describe smells with our current vocabulary and must resort to comparisons, as in: "this smells like x". However, most of the rest of the content is rather over my head.
For example, there is a whole chapter dedicated to the different types of alcohol; I now know more than I feel I need to about pyridine, fusel oils and empyreumatic substances. Then as well as detailed explanations of that well-known quartet of techniques used to produce essential oils - expression, enfleurage, distillation and extraction - he wanders into the chemistry of carbon compounds, and before I knew it I was bogged down in isomerism and phenolic bodies / esters. Actually, esters are ringing a bit of a bell with me, ditto aliphatic compounds, from my various work projects in chemicals down the years - including one famously in aroma chemicals in fine fragrances years before I became interested in perfume - but I couldn't tell you what they are now, haha.
The book finishes with some actual perfume formulations from the period, including Jockey Club by Askinson (sic), and recipes for Eau de Cologne and Lavender Water. For anyone curious about the former, there are three pints of extract of jasmine in Jockey Club, two of rose, and one of tuberose, along with half a pint of tincture of civet! I reckon that might have smelt more like the stables at mucking out time than the stated odour of "sweet wild flowers wafted over Epsom Downs".
Now I have more to say about my own evolving relationship with civet, but that can wait for another time...
So I definitely had my £1.79's worth(!), and I believe the book may have some value, battered spine notwithstanding. I have sent it to Eliza though - it is the back up book I omitted to bring with me when I met her the other weekend...;)
What's the best book find you've had lately in a charity shop? Have you ever come across any on perfume?