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:
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...


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.


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...


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


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!

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Vital signs, and diving for Perles (de Lalique)

Ludlow, optimally fluffy and characterful
Contrary to all reasonable inferences from my latest (lengthy!) blogging hiatus, I am not dead. It would only be partially true to say that I sleepeth instead, though over the Easter weekend I did in fact spend 32 consecutive hours in bed: 14 of them awake and in the vice-like grip of a migraine, and the rest genuinely out for the count. But that is barely two days of my long absence. No, since I posted Part One of my US tour report - the rest of it will appear presently! - I have been unexpectedly working again in a three week stint of white heat activity that segued into a trip to France to sort out the house some more. A blog post may also be forthcoming about that eventful (and mercifully warmer ;) ) week.

Then on my return from France I hit the ground running in Airbnb mode, simultaneously hosting an acute medicine doctor providing cover at the hospital, and a scientific director at a well known pharmaceutical company. It occurred to me that had I been ill that night - rather than a little while after they had gone - one of them could have diagnosed my problem, while the other might have had just the pill for it! And then there was the 'ill'-timed migraine, from which I am slowly coming round, so I thought I would write a short post while the going was good.

And somewhere in all this blur of busyness, I rummaged in a perfume sample and decant drawer, and from its furthest recesses happened to pull out a small decant of Perles de Lalique, which I happily wore for five days' straight until it ran out. That degree of serial scent wearing is in itself noteworthy, and most untypical of me, but I think it has something to do with nostalgia for the early days of my perfume hobby, which it instantly conjured up. I have had that sample for eight or nine years at a guess, as part of a swap haul on MUA, judging from the handwriting - though whose handwriting in particular it might be is forever lost in the mists of time and gauzy musk.

Notes: bergamot, Bulgarian rose, iris, Bourbon pepper, Indonesian patchouli, oakmoss, vetiver, cashmeran

Now I associate Perles de Lalique with Roja Dove, way back when I looked up to the man as the David Attenborough of fragrance, the go-to guru of our time, his ubiquitous authority marred only by the odd typo. I may even have thought he was a perfumer. You can tell this was a long time ago because the prices will have gone up hugely since, but I think you used to be able to have some kind of fragrance consultancy with him up in the sumptuous surroundings of the Haute Parfumerie in Harrods for a mere £50. Or maybe it was with one of his sidekicks? I simply can't recall, but it was certainly a lot cheaper back then, whoever it was with. I have just checked Tinternet and the price today for one hour with Benjamin, Roja Dove's 'Maitre de Consultation', is £150, redeemable against purchase.  Quite possibly a bargain indeed.

So anyway, I clearly remember reading interviews with several people who had had this profiling experience, all of whom had been 'prescribed' Perles de Lalique on the basis of their stated tastes and preferences. Which at the time I thought was a tad lazy, but arguably it is more a tribute to the crowd pleasing nature of the perfume than any lack of analysis on the M de C's part. I might well have come out of the process with the same result.

Perles de Lalique, for anyone whom it has managed to pass by, is a modern twist on a chypre, which I for one am glad about, as I tend to shy away from those retro, green, sappy, stabby numbers. Perles is very much a 'fluffy' rather than a 'spiky' scent (see my blog post on the distinction here), despite its chypre label. It isn't that I don't like a number of chypres on a case-by-case basis, much as I do dogs, but I also half expect them to take my eye out (as with the larger and more sabre-toothed end of the canine spectrum).

Source: eBay

Perles is soft and pillowy, with just an outline of a rose's vegetal and earth-stained stem in there somewhere, and in the far drydown I also detect shafts of something juicy that I am quite at a loss to pinpoint further. Now I have never claimed to be much of a perfume reviewer, but Ludlow the bear does a pretty good job of evoking the 'atmosphere' of Perles de Lalique simply by sitting there with the empty vial perched on his leg. He manages to exude the requisite character and approachability, teamed with optimal amounts of fluffiness.

Amusingly, in her original review of Perles de Lalique, Bois de Jasmin spoke of its 'consumptive pallor' - that's my kind of chypre, hehe - but revised her view more recently.

"Edit (May 2011): I revisited Perles de Lalique recently, and I feel that I may have been too harsh in my criticism. What seemed pale 5 years ago comes across as lush and opulent today. Is it because most new launches have gotten so attenuated? Or is it because I grew to love the modern chypre style? Either way, worth revisiting."

Similarly, in her review of the fragrance in 2016, Jessica of NST describes her rediscovery of this old love after a long interval as a 'productive mid-winter reunion'.

Which is all to say that Perles de Lalique is the sort of scent you might at first judge to be underwhelming, or merely forget about while it languishes at the back of a drawer, only to find much later that it absolutely hits the spot. For as well as catapulting me back to my early state of unalloyed wonder and excitement about perfume and its associated 'scene', it served as a comforting counterpoint during the hyperactive time I have had lately.

Though I still wouldn't drop $645 on the exquisite 'cactus' bottle of the extrait, which is now relegated to the status of a very scarce find on eBay.

As for what I intend to do with the empty vial of Perles de Lalique, that is a topic for another day, hopefully not too far away...!

Thursday, 14 March 2019

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

I will be 60 soon. A milestone age that focuses the mind wonderfully, and one to which I am wholeheartedly looking forward, in a way I never did with my 50th. For the big Six-O will usher in an era of free bus travel, free prescriptions (except I get those anyway), and penalty-free pension access, as well as an end to nearly thirty years of payments on an income protection policy on which I have never claimed. My bad for not breaking my neck while the going was good.

I should say that by and large I have been backwards in coming forwards about celebrating big birthdays. I spent my 21st on a solo moped trip in the South of France, my 30th getting lost and ripped to shreds by brambles in the New Forest, my 40th on my tod at a health spa, before downing a whole bottle of Bollinger and provoking a richly deserved hangover before the day was out. Then my 50th was marked by a quiet gathering down the pub to which I was oddly fearful that no one would come. And so for my 60th I decided to do something a bit more memorable and 'out there', not least because it wasn't even my birthday at the time.

For I have just returned from a band tour of the USA, largely funded by an unexpected legacy from my much missed friend who died last year. I knew that had she been less ill towards the end, M had planned to spend her money on a busking trip in Spain, so I felt sure she would have approved of my putting it towards another music-related travel experience.

In the past I have taken to calling these tours 'gruelling fun', and this one took gruelling to a whole new level. On three occasions we were all up for 24 hours, and normal days were very, very long and almost entirely lacking in downtime, or any demarcation between day and night. The clocks going forward the other Sunday robbed us of another precious hour of sleep(!). But despite the physical toll of our punishing schedule, the trip was a truly extraordinary experience, and I don't regret going one bit. One of its main satisfactions was the fact I survived, showed up on time each day, and didn't fall ill and become a liability to everyone else. That said, I might not rush to go back again, even if cost was not a barrier, as it ordinarily would be. Or not to the exact same places, say. There wouldn't be the same novelty factor second time round, plus I would go in knowing how ridiculously knackering the whole thing was!

My set list fail - "I had one (small) job!"

On tours to Germany and France I feel I add value in terms of translation and interpreting, but clearly in The States there was no such need for language services, and I was without obvious 'portfolio'. That said, on Day 1 I was assigned the small yet important role of copying out each night's set list. Apart from neat, accurate writing without any smudges or spotting, and the requisite spatial awareness to ensure you can fit all 17 tracks on one sheet of A4, I had to have my wits about me as the set changed from time to time - songs were left off or added, or played in a different order. I dutifully performed this task for the first seven gigs until we got to San Diego. By this late stage in the tour we were all dropping with tiredness, and I forgot to put in the extra track from the day before. I cannot even pretend it was a Freudian slip - it was not a song I particularly cared for - as it was a simple oversight on my part. When the band discovered the error mid-set, the singer announced the fact to the audience, while the bass player screened his eyes with one hand and peered pointedly into the crowd, as if searching for the miscreant. I apologised profusely afterwards, but it was all okay in the end, as they had in fact decided to take it out for good anyway after that gig. It seems I was merely ahead of the game...

As the tour wore on, I did acquire other (very minor!) roles. A smorgasbord of little ad hoc tasks that I was free to execute, being the spare person in the party. These included cutting pizza, finding entrances, dispensing essential items I happened to have on my person (moisturiser, tissues, bandage, scissors, sleeping aids and sweets (not a euphemism) ), holding things, carrying things, guarding things, muling cigarettes through Customs, waking people up on planes when their food arrived, scurrying ahead to recce eateries, fixing wobbly tables (a surprisingly common occurrence), executing a clean sweep of remaining green room snacks at the end of the night, and flushing overly sociable band members out of venues while I was about it. There was one task I didn't manage, however, as I didn't have time to go back to the hotel between the meal and the gig to carry it out, namely to 'squeeze' someone's wet laundry. I was flattered to be asked, mind.

Not being challenged for our ID

On arrival into Seattle, having been up already for more hours than we cared to calculate, we were pretty peckish, and several of us were craving something all-American like pancakes. In my disorientated state, I was still vaguely aware that 5th March was Shrove Tuesday, which seemed to seal our choice, and I promptly steered the party towards a nearby I-Hop. A cursory appraisal of the menu revealed a whole section devoted to dishes for the over-55s, to which the qualifying members of our party (all but one) instantly gravitated, thanks to the twin appeal of the meals being tailored to our demographic, and a bit cheaper. Which didn't stop us feeling distinctly crestfallen that the waitress didn't ask any of us for our ID...

Source: Pinterest

Napkin-intensive 'fist food'

Early on in the trip I had an embarrassing incident with an oversized wrap from Subway. It was absolutely stuffed to the gunwales with filling, and was the size and weight of a small infant. I only managed half of it in the end, and that very messily. T S Eliot's Prufrock famously wondered whether he dared eat a peach. He clearly hasn't tried one of these greasy torpedoes if that is the most undignified foodstuff he can think of. I ended up wiping my mouth after every bite, which led to the coinage of a term to which we had much recourse during the trip - 'napkin-intensive'. And yes, 'finger food' doesn't cut it either, as you needed both hands to get purchase on these squelchy zeppelins.

Source: Chew Boom

Pick up trucks with nothing on them

In all the miles we travelled by road - over 2000 at a guess - we passed a lot of pick up trucks. We have them over here, but they are an even more common sight on roads across the pond. And nary a one had anything on it, not even a dog or a pot of paint. What's that about?

Passive spliffing in venues

I mentioned in my last post that you only have to stand at certain points along my road to catch a whiff of waccy baccy. To my surprise I learnt that weed is legal in a number of states, mainly on the West Coast, such that venues in the second half of the tour were routinely fragrant in that - to my nose - still louchely 'erbal way, and there was some talk of skunk varieties in the green rooms. Largely amongst the indigenous support bands, to be fair.

Source: Portland Marijuana

My unprecedented hotel toiletry haul

Anyone who has stayed in chain hotels in Europe lately may have noticed the steady switch to wall mounted soap-cum-shower gel dispensers. It is a sad trend in my view, as one of the few perks of paying over the odds these days for a quite ordinary hotel pretty much anywhere is to nick the stuff in the room...from hotel pens and pads you really don't need (though that is not the point) to tea bags, sugar sachets, vanity kits, shoe polish sponges, and little bars of soap and bottles of shampoo. I always leave a token bottle of conditioner behind, not because I am ashamed of my minesweeping abandon, but because I can't be bothered to embrace a two-step hair washing process. You can imagine my delight in the US when every hotel without exception had 'takeaway toiletries'. Check out my haul below, insofar as Truffle's photo bombing permits. It is not even the definitive set, as I found six more bars of soap and a couple of shower caps since this shot was taken.

The leftover eating - and drinking - imperative

Living at such close quarters with seven other people means you get to know their little quirks.  I am mindful that I have a fair few idiosyncrasies myself, notably a phobia of lukewarm or cold food that is meant to be hot. Plus an aversion to gratuitously added value teas that purport to be 'something recognisably Breakfast', but do in fact have a surprise slug of caramel and spices in them. And one of our party happened to be most particular about not leaving waste food or drink, and I tried very hard to accommodate his strong line on this, finishing anyone's plate as needed, and swigging entire bottles of water on the very point of going through airport security. I got into the habit of getting a box to take my own leftovers back to the hotel, where we had increasingly started to find both fridges and microwaves. By the last day, I had stockpiled several pancakes the size of plates and a mound of quesadilla quarters, which sadly I didn't manage to dispatch before our flight home, though I had valiantly eaten reheated quesadilla for breakfast the previous morning. You may be wondering at this point why it says 'extreme burritos' in the title, when I appear to have been mostly eating quesadillas. In fact it was a bit of both, as Mexican cuisine proved to be the happy intersection of all our respective food requirements (carnivorous, vegetarian, vegan), such that we had floury wrappy things quite a lot. The burritos were as big as the aforementioned Subway wrap, which is why I moved onto the more manageably flat quesadilla in the end. And I borrowed the term 'extreme' from a menu option in Jack in the Box, which tantalisingly offered 'Extreme sausage'. If you absolutely have to eat there, please at all costs avoid the vile grey slime masquerading as hash browns.

Doomed attempts not to lose stuff

Following a distressing lost rucksack incident in Barcelona last year, I was determined to have nothing stolen and leave nothing behind anywhere on this trip. Well, that went well. From the very first day my long and ripply scarf kept falling off and winding up on the floor, and various members of our party repeatedly drew my attention to its dangerous trailing proclivities. I also left my wallet on the floor of a toilet that must have just flirted out of my handbag somehow - have you noticed how valuable items have innate leaping abilities? Luckily I realised the mistake at the bar a moment later before anyone else went in there! Then I also managed to leave an Urban Decay eyeshadow palette in some hotel or other (I console myself with the thought that it was rather long in the tooth already). I thought I had additionally lost a blusher, scissors, and eyelash curlers, but they all turned up in odd places by and by. Luckily, I was not alone in my carelessness. Three other members of our group left rucksacks behind in hotels and restaurants, but were quickly reunited with them by thoughtful staff, while the keyboard player left his laptop in one venue, without which his instrument would not have produced a single note at subsequent gigs! The following morning, after finally getting hold of the promoter as he emerged from a dental appointment, and making two eye-wateringly expensive cab trips into town and back, the keyboard player recovered his laptop, and the show could go on. Oh, and the drummer left a beloved jacket behind in San Diego. So glad it's not just me then.  ;)

Dunce cap of light

Perfume aspects of the trip coming up in Part Two!

Wednesday, 27 February 2019

Home Foul Home! A tale of supposedly spliffing sofas and frighteningly fetid footwear

Well, there's me waxing lyrical in my last post about the fragrant sillage of my house guests, when all hell breaks loose...Oh, the latest chap to stay borrowed my shower gel - a manly green coloured hotel freebie - which isn't the same thing at all as scenting the house with something he had brought with him. ;)

Yes, the first (allegedly) malodorous incident turned out to be a whiff in a pan - well, no whiff at all really. My good friend Kate, known as 'Crafty Kate' in our crafting circles, is a home interiors magpie who has an eye for - and is passionate about scooping up - a bargain. Her house is already filled to the gunnels with an eclectic and quirky assortment of furniture and artefacts she bought for a song, so to satisfy her ongoing acquisitive urge she has now taken to searching for items for her friends - often unprompted, but very often things we never knew we really needed till she drew our attention to them. And thus it was with a little two seater sofa she spied up in The Potteries for £20. Sort of mid-century, but with rolled arms that nodded more towards retro styling. Neutral beige woollen covers that had the odd grubby mark whichever way you turned the cushions. But hey, £20! First of all I had to clear some space in the bay window of the front room, which necessitated the re-homing of a very tall elephant's foot / pony tail palm with my neighbour two doors down. She was absolutely delighted, and has put the plant in the exact same spot in her bay window. With that I donated a lightly used tub of Oreo ice cream, of which she said her two little boys would make light work.

And so it was that Kate turned up yesterday with the sofa, which she had collected in her work van. I did pay her for the cost of borrowing the van and something for her time, in case anyone thinks I am a complete freeloader. 'Free loader' being the operative term! The first thing she asked was whether I had any Febreze or other deodorising fabric spray, as she reckoned the sofa smelt 'a bit 'erbal'. This being code for...well, you can guess what for. I said I didn't mind a bit of 'erbal actually, given that you only have to walk down my street to - perforce - end up 'passively spliffing' in the ambient air at several points. Anyway, I gave the sofa a good old sniff, but frankly I didn't detect any smell really, other than a sort of 'old wool' one, which was not at all objectionable.

A displaced pink chair, formerly in the window!

So we moved the sofa to one or two places in the room, and after Kate - and another friend who had taken custody of a throw K had also hunter gathered on the same trip! - had gone, I spent the next hour and a half rearranging all the furniture some more. And then some more again. I have put a throw over the little sofa for now, partly because of the grubby marks, which I may address at a later date, but also because the simple addition of another fabric made it fit nicely into my scheme.

Hall of shame...

So that was that...and then the same morning I smelt the most potent pong at a specific point half way down the hall. It made me catch my breath, it was so unpleasant, in a rotten egg / sewage kind of a way. I puzzled over this long and hard, looked under the hall furniture for a possible present from Truffle, rang my friend Gillie to ask her about the likelihood of a localised gas leak, and generally fretted a lot, thinking my house was unsafe, smelly, or both. And then something made me pull out a trainer (as in the shoe, not a fitness professional house guest who forgot to check out ;) ) from under a chair, and I suddenly spied a dark furry mass nestling inside. Nestling, and oozing...Having tossed the mouse, I examined the dark patches its partly decomposing body had left behind. Too extensive to disinfect/sterilise and wash in the machine, though I did have a go. Before tossing the wet trainers as well. Luckily, a cursory rummage in my T K Maxx receipts - yes, I really do have a separate folder for these! - revealed that I had only paid £12 for them in the first place. But still, it was a stomach-churning episode, second only to the discovery of an even more decaying mouse corpse in the loo once.

And on that unsavoury note, I will dream of more Airbnb guests coming, bringing fragrant bodycare products with them to fumigate the house...;)

Sunday, 17 February 2019

Serendipitous and subliminal sillage surprises, and functional fragrances punching above their product category

Apologies for another long hiatus between posts: if this keeps up, I will have to google the plural of hiatus to see if it is in fact 'hiati', and take great care not to get it muddled with the disaster-torn island in the Caribbean of the same name. In my flimsy defence, I was laid low by a flu-like entity for a couple of weeks, hard on the heels of the two sickness bugs I had in December. And I have also been busy lately with an unexpected flurry of work, which unfortunately overlapped with the most acute phase of the aforementioned viral entity. (Not a good combination, and one I hope never to repeat!) But more of the work would be great...;)

Now somewhere in that mix was a smattering of Airbnb guests, who were most congenial company, and two of whom are coming back soon. I have now had enough people to stay to start noticing a rather interesting phenomenon, of which more anon. The first point I wanted to explore is the smell of a house - any house. I couldn't tell you what my own house smells like - in a general, ambient kind of way, I mean - but I do know that when I step over the threshold into other people's places, such as the friends whose cats I feed, their homes have a completely different scent. I would love to do a blind test, whereby I am guided into one of these houses at random and asked to guess where I am purely by smell.

So that is definitely 'a thing'. And what I have also noticed, when I have gone into the bedroom where my Airbnb house guests have been staying, is that that room invariably also has a (new) smell of its own, most likely that of some toiletries they brought with them, with my money being on shower gel. On quite a few occasions now my nose has encountered a pleasant trail of scent, whether in their room, on the landing, or in the bathroom itself, that can last up to five days after the people have gone. Sometimes it is a sort of fruity, tangy fragrance - I spied a bottle of the Body Shop's Satsuma shower gel in the bathroom once - while other times it is more of a fresh, clean scent that I couldn't really place or describe, other than to say it is agreeable, and 'other' than how the room smelt before.

And my enjoyment of guests' (presumed) shower gel sillage reminds me of a recent post by Odiferess, in which she laments the explosion of new releases in the so-called 'niche' perfume market, dismissing many of them as cheap dross. She goes on to say that there are bodycare products that can easily hold their own with these pretentious perfume parvenus. And I couldn't agree more, indeed even before I had the experience of catching residual wafts of guests' toiletries, I had already been revelling in the scent of my own current shower gel, a bracking - bracking?...okay, bracing and cracking then - citrus and cardamom combo from Champneys. I cannot recommend it highly enough, especially at the price. The addition of cardamom is a nice counterpoint to the lemon and orange bouquet - or do I mean fruit bowl? - which could otherwise have lapsed into something blowsily generic. I am not a natural shower person, but I really could see myself turning into one with the enticement of this gorgeous product. What do you mean, I could just squirt some shower gel in the bath? I read labels, me. And for the record, I am not the sort either to defy social mores by having pancakes on Ash Wednesday.

Odiferess references the Elemis line of spa products - as Champneys is of course - which is another fine example. I have already blogged about the truly uplifting scent of my Label M hair mousse, into whose pot I could just bury my nose and inhale deeply, even if I have now reluctantly concluded that it makes my hair far too sticky to actually use. ;)

And finally, on a side note, I knitted a scarf as a Christmas present for a friend, who mentioned after wearing it for the first time that it smelt 'quite strongly' of perfume. I was taken aback to hear this, as I had smelt nothing myself, and had also knitted the entire thing on my lap, which is self-evidently unscented. Transfer of perfume from wrists to needles also seemed a bit of a stretch, so the only other 'transference occasion' had to be during the few seconds I tried the scarf on myself when it was finished, to check out its looping capabilities. For I cannot swear I wasn't wearing perfume then, albeit I would have applied it many hours earlier. The good news is that the scarf is washable(!) - and that the smell may wear off of its own accord eventually. Though I know perfume impregnating fabric can be pretty tenacious.

So there you have the guests may not know that their shower gel sillage lingers in the atmosphere after they leave - not that I mind at all! - while I had no idea I had 'knitted' my perfume into this scarf. Plus I have no idea what my house smells of generally, though if you have been there, you may do...!

Do you have a favourite bath or body product that is 'almost as good as perfume' - if not better in some cases...?

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

Dawn Spencer Hurwitz versus Domestic Short Hair: Truffle, the feline felon, finally finds a furry Foxy fragrance!

Foxy detail from my new office chair
Okay, so that was a lot of alliteration, sorry. The 'f' words provide quite rich pickings in that regard. Now it so happens that almost eight years ago to the week, I wrote this highly silly post, exploring the potential crossover between perfume house names and other, more banal acronyms. I was inspired to pursue this whimsical line of inquiry by the sudden connection I made when looking at my late cat Charlie Bonkers' vet record card, which described her as 'DSH', short for 'Domestic Short Hair'. We perfumistas are really big on abbreviations, which often have an additional received hierarchy of upper and lower case letters - PoaL (Portrait of a Lady) springs to mind - and I immediately thought of Dawn Spencer Hurwitz. And Dawn Spencer Hurwitz led in the 2010 post to Strange Invisible Perfumes (Self Invested Pension), Parfumerie Generale (Parental Guidance), and much more nonsense in similar acronymic vein.

Fast forward to 2018 (or a recent year, certainly, as my sense of time is a little sketchy these days), when I fell hard for the furry animalic amber beauty that is DSH Foxy. Dawn sent me a selection of samples of her newest releases, all in dinky little roller ball pots, and that was my standout favourite, closely followed by Zibeline. These tiny pots are a perfect sample size, but also quite easy to lose, as it turned out...I should know better than to leave small, easily battable objects on my desk. For I have a cat - a different cat now, also a Domestic Short Hair, you know the one - though I note on a veterinary site from which I ordered a flea treatment at the weekend that to avoid confusion, the DSH option has been renamed 'Regular Moggy'. I can't see my vet changing his record cards to something quite so colloquial any time soon...

So yes, you can guess what is coming some point, not long after receipt of the sample of Foxy, the cat knocked the pot-ette from my desk and promptly made off with it. I do occasionally clean the house, but in the intervening months it never came to light again. Till the other night, when Truffle picked up a pencil in her mouth from under my nose and started 'hunting it' on the floor, as she does.

I knew exactly where this story would end up...the pencil would roll under the wardrobe or the bookcase, and Truffle would reach under each piece of furniture in turn with her paw, but fail to get purchase. The hidden recesses of my office have become something of a graveyard for pencils, but frankly I have enough overall to allow for half a dozen or more to go awol. It was purely the annoying scrabbling noise that Truffle made in her efforts to retrieve this latest pencil that made me lie down beside her and start reaching my own arm blindly under the wardrobe to see what I could feel.

The first object I retrieved was a petrified apple core, sympathetically juxtaposed with a William Morris print.

The next object was the little roller ball pot of DSH Foxy! Oh how happy I was to clap eyes on that again - there are probably three more wears in there.

I never did find the pencil...

Full view of foxy chair

Does your cat routinely steal and secrete small objects? If so, what?

And have you ever lost a beloved perfume sample, only to have it turn up unexpectedly months or even years later?

My as yet unhunted pencil stash