Monday, 19 April 2010

The Unsung Hero Of The Swap Scene - Electrical Insulation Tape

I am starting this week with a severe case of "Julie Andrews déjà vu", but I have greatly enjoyed reading the synchronised "Scents that Sing Spring!" picks (why, that is almost a tongue twister). Aside perhaps from the "vermiposting" dimension to ScentScelf's piece, with its disturbingly graphic imagery of writhing worminess aka annelids...

Anyway, in the light of this comprehensive coverage of the spring scent theme, I thought the blogosphere probably doesn't need any unsolicited suggestions from my side (Ajne Printemps! - sorry, that just slipped out). Instead I am going to sing the praises of a humble, utilitarian, yet vital accessory in the armoury of any perfumista who is serious about swapping: PVC electrical insulation tape.

I had just finished the roll I bought when I first got into swapping on Makeupalley. Twelve months on, and some 60-70 swaps and RAOKs later, I needed to restock. As it happens, right next door to my local post office is a neighbourhood hardware store. It has a large sign over the doorway, which reads:


I pondered why the shop decided that it would focus on these three lines in particular. Could they really be best sellers? It seemed unlikely. Perhaps they are amongst the slowest moving products, and the proprietor reckoned a bit of shop frontage advertising would give a much needed filip to sales. Hmm, that seems unlikely too. Musing on this, I went inside and noted how sparsely filled the shelves were. Some of them were so empty that they could have doubled up as (rather uncomfortable) bunks.

Rather than jump to the conclusion that there had in fact been a run on cable glands, cavity wall anchors and boat varnish, with fresh deliveries expected any minute, I got the feeling that the store might be running stocks down. Clearly they had missed my patronage since last April's 99p purchase! I hurried to the till with a roll of insulation tape - £1.19 this time, but it looked bigger. Should I buy two? Will they be here next year if I don't? My sense of philanthropy didn't quite rise to the occasion, and I came away with one roll.

As anyone engaged in swapping perfume knows, this tape is the vital membrane that protects the precious liquid cargo from the ravages inflicted on packages by unsuspecting postal workers and their machinery. Plain old Sellotape (or Scotch, as it is known in some parts), is nowhere near as effective for sealing the tops of decants. Anyone using common or garden sticky tape would be a pariah in the MUA community - or at the very least branded as semi-pro.

I have only ever seen black in my hardware store (local demand probably wouldn't support a rainbow palette), but I have noticed that the tape used by Canadian and US swappers is often yellow or green. From such subtle cultural differences we may deduce that North American electricians are cheery, upbeat souls.

What else can I tell you about this workhorse sealant? Well, for starters it is resistant to biting. Also, very fastidious swappers may use it to seal up the hole in the nozzle before putting a second layer around the top to secure it to the body of the atomiser. NB This requires a very fine gauge of tape and very nimble fingers. If I attempt this double seal stunt, I dismally fail to get the top back on over the trussed up nozzle.

I would be lying too, if I gave the impression that insulation tape is infallible, even when applied with practised dexterity. I had a parcel leak only the other day, causing one label to flirt off completely and the lettering on another to blur.

But for the most part the tape performs very well in its unusual (and covert) calling, given that the sending of perfume flies in the face of many countries' postal regulations. It is our partner in crime, our sticky-fingered friend.

And if you were very strapped for cash - and exceedingly shortsighted - you might just be able to pass off a roll of tape on your dressing table as a bottle of Bvlgari Black.


ScentScelf said...

I enjoyed myself much too much whilst reading this piece, and hold you thoroughly accountable.

I feel oddly compelled to point out that here in the States, we have a service called Miss J.U.L.I.E., which is some sort of joint utility extortion, erm, safety firm, which will come to your manse and identify where underground cables and pipes and such are, so that you need only turn up worms and not sparks or gas or some such should you do any Serious Digging.

Also, your duck made me snort.

THE TAPE is so seriously simple and important. Wait...what's that you is NOT INFALLIBLE? Surely you jest. The tape is not only a sealant, it is...voodoo. Decanting incantation incarnate. Or intapate, as it were. Surely, other diabolical forces were at work on your leaky parcel?

Okay, I also chuckled a number of other places, including the concluding Faux Black option.

I will NOT share the most disturbing of annelids with you, supplied by a rather disturbingly intrigued pre-adolescent boy student, who had found a picture on the interwebs of one residing in a human eye. Oh, dear...that was sort of sharing...QUICK! The tape!! Over our eyes!!!!

See, it has many a use, indeed. Quack, quack.

(Brava, FS, brava. :) )

Ines said...

I don't which of you two is funnier. :) I love the fact that reading perfume blogs is such a happy experience.
Btw, of all the tapes that went through my hands, none was black (violet, red, blue, white but no black).
Btw, I wasn't really thinking last week when I sent your package by air that it might not make it into air. Sorry. :( It's probably going to take a while now.

Vanessa said...

Hi SS,

Oh wow! Your country's (albeit oddly named) J.U.L.I.E service fulfils a genuine market niche - I have caused what Mr Bonkers described as "serious disruptification" to telephone wires buried in our front flowerbed. And this despite the fact that in my professional capacity I have conducted a market study on detrenching grapnels used in the installation of telecommunications cables beneath the Atlantic.

As ever, you teach me a new word in every comment. Today's word is "intapate", which I sense may not be a pesto-based hors d'oeuvre. In fact I am willing to bet you made this one up, which in no way diminishes its pertinence.

The tape is Vodoo with feet of clay, I fear. When things go wrong, I don't know what else could be the weak link. Or weak leak, even.

Vanessa said...

Hi Ines

Interesting to hear your colour experiences with this type of tape. The UK may turn out to be Europe's blackspot!

I guess my parcel to you may also take longer - it may be negotiating a shared ride in a minibus with a party of schoolchildren as we speak.

Olfacta said...

Very funny and very original!

They say that if you have a roll of duct tape and a can of WD-40 you can fix just about anything. The tape is to stick things together and the WD-40 is to unstick things that are stuck together.

I use the duct tape to seal my swap packages, thereby making them just about impossible for any post office snoop (and, probably, the recipient) to open.

The Scentimentalist said...

Cheesed off! The Vol de Nuit I sent you was duct taped (green tape, no less) and THAT'S the very bottle that leaked! By rights, it should have been the Pecksniff's (*very small and embarrassed voice*) Naughty! Sorry, old girl!

The Scentimentalist said...

PS I played Miss Julie in a sixth-form Strindberg production. My one, shining moment in amateur theatre :(

The Left Coast Nose said...

May I just take a moment and marvel over:
Surely that was the signage makers Scrabble folly...

I am going to say something that will probably mark me as a swaps pariah, but I actually reuse the little bits of purple, black and blue tape that others send to me. Is that nasty? (I already have Social Services breathing down my neck for another perfume hygiene violation....)

Mals86 said...

I don't even know what Architraves are. (Dado rails and Perspex are less of a mystery.)

ScentScelf mentioned a Miss J.U.L.I.E. - in Virginia, we have Miss Utility serving the same function. Several years ago, putting in a call to her would have prevented a lot of anguish: we lived "in town" before we built our house on the farm, and our house was right at the edge of the town limits, although there were several houses up the street in the county. We had cable TV, and we could see how the cable line, the electricity line, and the phone line came to our house from the telephone pole in the corner of our yard. So when The CEO decided to dig a small hole near the driveway in order to install a basketball goal, we didn't give a second's thought to wires of any kind... until he had dug about six inches down and cut through the cable line that connected to our neighbor's houses from the telephone pole. Yes, the cable was buried from the pole on, and we never imagined! It was the start of a long summer holiday weekend, with numerous sports events on cable TV that our poor neighbors missed out on, mea (husband's) culpa.

I just bought a set of five different-colored rolls of electrical tape, having been banned from using Actual (black) Electrical Tape from the farm shop toolbox. It's purty: red, yellow, green, blue, and (yes) black.

I miss Julie Andrews' voice, but probably far less than she does. It's inspiring to me that she's focused on the things she can do rather than the thing she can no longer do.

Vanessa said...

Hi Olfacta - loved the crack about duct tape and WD-40! I use brown parcel tape to seal my packages as a rule, but duct tape would take them to a whole other level of postal worker deterrence. Must try that some time... : - )

Vanessa said...

Hi Scentimentalist,

Fret not, Vol de Nuit is hardwired to take flight and escape from any receptacle in which it finds itself confined. And this unfortunate mishap is further evidence of the erratic protection afforded by duct tape of any hue. : - )

Vanessa said...


That product selection is pretty darn random, isn't it?

As for re-using little bits of tape, how is this possible, may I inquire? I thought its stickiness was only good for a one-time usage? Should this not be the case, I guess I would have no objections to your re-using tape, any more than I would Jiffy bags and bubble wrap, as long as you didn't spit on it unduly. : - )

Vanessa said...

I say, Mals, don't you call Perspex Plexiglass over there? I think an architrave is some kind of decorative moulding over a doorway, but don't quote me on that. I am trying to relate to the Parthenon here and visualising the triangular bit above the pillars and below the roofline. But I may have made that up, though I am on very sure ground with caryatids.

Love the story about the CEO's digging disaster - all too easy, as I know to my cost -as in the cost of a British Telecom engineer...

Poor Julie Andrews - anyone know what happened with that rubbery gel that promised a cure?

Mals86 said...

We do say Plexiglass. I just read a lot of British novels (some might say I read too many novels, as a matter of fact).

And I haven't heard anything about the gel...

Vanessa said...

Mals, I read a lot of US and Canadian novels, as it happens!: mainly crime and "women's fiction" - your Carol Shieldses, Anne Tylers, Anita Shreves and the like.

LATE NEWS JUST IN! Decant of OJ Tiare arrived today from The Netherlands, mummified in a fetching white shade of duct tape. Hurrah! One of the extras had duct tape around and about and over the the top - it looked like a cross between a chef's hat and a bandaged finger. : - )

The Left Coast Nose said...

Phew! Delighted to hear that I haven't been committing some unforgivable act of cross-scent contamination.

The perfume habit, in my house, has taken over a corner of the spare bedroom. (Heaven help the next set of guests we get, whenever they come...) I have a little work table, and I stick the bits of electrical tape around the edge of it. The sticky seems to have quite a long life, although I'm sure, due to my, how shall I say it? indifference to all things house-cleansey, there will come a time when they get too full of dust to reuse.

Vanessa said...

I am envisioning the table with a boho chic multicoloured fringe - what a clever way of combining recycling AND home improvements!