Thursday 26 September 2013

Perfume blogging and parenting - a pair of 'embryonic' hypotheses...

Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Ida Waugh
At the last meeting of Cake Club, it came to light that only one of the five of us had children - M (one son). That's an average of 0.2 of a child between us.  At a gathering a few weeks earlier, when my Scandal- and Fracas-loving friend Sharon came to visit with four of her friends in tow, we established that out of the six of us only one of our number had children - A (one son) - so the average fell to 0.17.  Then at a reunion of school friends in 2012, I distinctly recall that there were six women in our party and one man.  Yet again, only one had kids, albeit she had an impressive total of five - one for each of the rest of us - all fathered by the token man in our midst, her husband!  A pattern seems to be forming here, namely that by and large my circle of friends appears to include a disproportionate number of childless women.  Possibly for the very reason that the ones with children - and I do have a number of dear friends in this category - aren't free to come out as much.

And so this observation got me thinking about the perfume blogosphere, and how many female blog owners I know (or can think of) who are mothers or not.  I am curious to know whether the not inconsiderable amount of work involved in regular blogging - Gaia Fishler's comment always comes to mind at such times, namely that 'blogging is not for the fainthearted' - is difficult (though by no means impossible) to combine with being a mum.

Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Giovanni Dall'Orto

The other point I would be interested to know - but which is not so easily ascertainable - is whether any of the bloggers without offspring feel that their blog is in any sense a child substitute.  I do think that might be true of me up to a point.  I guess blogging does give a focus and structure to my free time in the same way that bringing up a kid might.  Okay, not really in the same way, as child rearing is much more full-on(!), but a blog needs regular tending, say.  And the more it grows in terms of post output, the more satisfying I find the whole undertaking!  Hmm, maybe blogging is more like gardening than having children - please do let me know what you reckon, whichever side of the parenting fence you are on.

And this is by no means a scientific exercise, because in some cases I simply do not know the parental status of the blog owners in question, and there will be many others out there whom I have omitted to include or simply don't know at all.  So I will just start by tossing a few names into the arena, and see where it gets us.

Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Joseph Martin Kronheim

Female perfume blog owners with known children - UPDATED

Robin of Now Smell This
Marina of Perfume Smelling Things
Patty of Perfume Posse
Elena of Perfumeshrine
Birgit of Olfactoria's Travels
Carol of Museinwoodenshoes
Carol of Bloody Frida
Sheila of The Alembicated Genie
Samantha of iscentyouaday
Lena of Olfactorialist
Sigrun of Riktig Parfym
Lavanya of Purple Paper Planes

NB Interestingly - and this may just be coincidence - some of the above currently have co-bloggers to help spread the load.  I don't know the early history of the other blogs, but I do know that Birgit started Olfactorias Travels on her own, and her prodigious output in that initial phase was matched only by her remarkable time management. Special mention should also be made of Carol of Museinwoodenshoes who manages to combine solo blogging with raising a large family of children.  And until fairly recently she used to have a day job too!  In response to my post, I also heard from Lena of Olfactorialist on the subject of blogging and motherhood: 'I have a son born in January and I have to admit that I completely underestimated what it means to be a mom.  The cuties eat up all your time.'

There are further refinements to this classification - and doubtless others I have failed to think of! - such as the age of the children and whether they are dependent and living at home, which would likely have a bearing on a blogger's free time for creative pursuits.

Female perfume blog owners with the pet equivalent of at least one or two children

Gaia of The Non-Blonde (somewhere in the realms of 10 -16 cats?  I envy her those - well, at least three, certainly)
Kafka of Kafkaesque (one large & emotionally demanding dog - the Hairy German ;-) )

Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ D Lothrop Company

Female perfume blog owners with no known children - UPDATED

Victoria of Boisdejasmin
Denyse of Graindemusc
Katie of Katie Puckrik Smells
Victoria of EauMG
Ines of All I am a Redhead
Suzanne of Eiderdown Press
Lucy of Indieperfumes
Natalie of anotherperfumeblog
Carrie of Eyeliner on a Cat
Michelyn of Cafleurebon
Martha of Chicken Freak's Obsession
Ari of Scents of Self (in her defence, she is only about 22!)
Sarah of Odiferess
Olfacta of Olfactarama


And it goes without saying that there are A TON of other people who could be added to this list, and their status clarified - do please suggest other blog owners to round out and balance the picture, which I will update accordingly.

Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Elmar Ersch

Sunday 22 September 2013

Three Thin Women of Antibes - a postscript...(for Suzanne & Lavanya)

In a comment on my last post Suzanne expressed her curiosity about the presence or otherwise of any Frenchmen in my life during my year spent teaching English in a school in Cannes at the end of the 70s.  I explained that there was one rather unconventional fellow called Pierre that I hung out with.

I should point out that I never dated Pierre.  He was a little on the thin side for one thing, and had trouble remembering where he had parked his car.  Milk for tea was an alien concept. Tea itself was an alien concept.  I spent one night on a camp bed in his living room, having declined his invitation to 'walk a portion of the way' with him, which I took to be code for a cosier sleeping arrangement.

So without further ado, here is my story:

"Pierre was a philosophy student at Nice University with Communist leanings, a punk haircut and a year to live - something about an Alsatian and a heart attack.  Certainly his cadaverous features and shabby clothes suggested a fey attitude to life, as did the squalor of his ant-infested council flat.  A dog-eared poster of Lenin hid peeling paint in the bathroom, while photos of Watford cemetery decorated the living room walls.  An insomniac, Pierre spent most nights in the abattoir opposite, 'looking on'.  He rarely ate, and the only provisions in the flat were a tin of salsify and a bowl of pear halves, black with mould.  For entertainment, he read overdue library books and listened to bootleg tapes.  He once gave a party, but a fight broke out, the stereo was clogged with peanuts and Pierre collapsed.  He turned a disquieting shade of purple, but survived."


Thursday 12 September 2013

Dita Von Teese edp review - a less lairy LouLou?

Although my interest in fragrance was pretty minimal most of my life, I did get excited about LouLou by Cacharel.  I bought a bottle, no less, a very unusual move at the time.  It reminds me vividly of my year teaching English in a lycee on the French riviera.  I lived in a villa - well, more of a bog standard bungalow that had been embellished with squiggly flourishes of wrought iron - with two fellow students, who rejoiced in surnames that were also body parts (Dick and Knuckles).  They were both extremely body-conscious as it happens, with matching eating disorders.  One of the duo existed entirely off Granny Smith apples, which she sat munching while devouring the complete works of Emile Zola, I never did figure why.  I once thought of writing my memoirs from that year and calling it 'Three Thin Women of Antibes' in a homage to Somerset Maugham.  

Now my villa-mates may have been slim, but they punched above their weight when it came to 'relationships' - I use the word loosely, because they were.  Yes, the year was punctuated by a steady procession of hot-tempered, arm windmilling Frenchmen coming and going at our villa, while I stood meekly by, occasionally emptying waste paper baskets full of apple cores.  In short, the Mediterranean is a very sensuous part of the world, and our villa arguably its pulsating heart - or pulsating something...  

My next visit to the area was in the mid to late 80s around the time of the launch of LouLou, a loud, intoxicating, tropical oriental centred around the sweet note of tiare.  I promptly bought it, possibly even at the airport - I don't remember - and it has served as a symbol of pugnacious sensuality ever since.  I must have worn it back then, but I cannot abide it now, as it gives me an instant headache, in much the same way that Giorgio does.  If you eyeball that note list you just know there is no way your that your forehead is going to escape its darkly heady vice:

Source: fragrantica

Notes: violet, plum black currant, marigold and anis, tiare flower, tuberose, ylang-ylang, orange blossom, orris, Tonka bean, vanilla and balsam.

And as it happens, Fragrantica, from whom I pinched that note list, agrees that LouLou is a polarising scent: 

"LouLou is a controversial perfume that people either like, or dislike, the one that provoke different emotions, and indifference for sure is not one of them."  For sure not.

Fast forward to 2012, and the release of burlesque artist Dita Von Teese's first eponymous scent, which is also built around the tiare flower, and which I think has some crossover with LouLou, though you might not think so from the notes. 

Dita Von Teese ~ Source:

Notes: bergamot, peony, Bourbon pepper, rose, Tahitian tiare flower, jasmine, incense, patchouli, musk, guaiac wood and sandalwood.

For starters, both scents have raunchy connotations.  As Elena explains in her review on Perfumeshrine:

"LouLou was meant to evoke the great film actress Louise Brooks and her Lulu role in the silent 1928 Pabst film Pandora's Box (tamer than its title would hint at, but not by much considering)." 

Another similarity is the fact that they are both cheap, and in LouLou's case, the bottle is both cheap and tacky.  Dita Von Teese, on the other hand, has a brassy-looking box with a hideous red plastic inner tray, but the bottle itself is pure class!  How many ways do I love the bottle?  Let me count the ways...!  I make that at least three.

- It has a flat facet you can rest it on.

- It is an intriguing cross between Neela Vermeire's classy ribbed flacons and a small incendiary device.

- It has a cute tassle that will amuse your cat for hours.  (Note to self to get cat.)

Bottle resting on its flat facet, though it probably would have done so anyway on that soft surface

Then as I say, they both feature the tiare flower, which isn't that common a note in perfumery, and which has a distinctive sweetness to it that not even a shedload of other foghorn florals in LouLou can manage to mask. And both scents are sweetly floral - not unduly so in Dita Von Teese's case, mind.  Then while LouLou mugs you with a fuggy base of vanilla-esque variants, Dita Von Teese is relatively sheer and inoffensive, with no noticeable base at all.  I'd describe it is a watery, faintly tropical floral braced with a shot of pepper that gives it the faintest smidge of raunch.  I completely agree with Natalie of anotherperfumeblog's of Dita Von Teese here.

So for the princely sum of £10.80 (for 20ml) delivered from Cheapsmells, I think I have discovered in Dita Von Teese something rather remarkable - a 'louche-lite' aka an 'office-appropriate business scent'.  Which isn't meant to be tautology - or oxymoron - though it may look that way.

Juan-les-Pins ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons via jwieski

Saturday 7 September 2013

Results of the Bonkers milestone giveaway!

So last night's deadline for the giveaway to mark the occasion of my 400th post and 150th follower is past, and I compiled a list of all the readers who had left a comment.

Then, in time-honoured fashion, I had recourse to that virtual bouncy ball number generating machine that is and can announce that the winner is No 3:


Congratulations, Undina!

Do please get in touch to discuss whether anything from my list appeals, or if not, what selection of samples or other decant might hit the spot.

Oh, and I must just share this post-it note with you, which I left on my desk last night as a reminder to myself about the giveaway.  It rather suggests that I am not such a whizz at spelling as I like to think...

Thursday 5 September 2013

Rigid rats reeking of Revlon - perfume conversations you never thought you'd have

Three years ago I had a suspect mole removed in hospital, and to my great surprise ended up discussing the work of Sophia Grosjman with the consultant - as I was lying on the trolley in the operating theatre having my wound stitched up!  For anyone who missed this curious tale, the relevant blog posts are here and here.  There are two, because on a whim I sent a link to the first post to the consultant and his response is featured in the second one!

So yes, that was a clear case of a perfume conversation I never thought I'd have in that surgical setting...Then just the other day at Cake Club, my fellow members lobbed another conversational curved ball at me on the theme of perfume.

But to rewind for a moment, you may well wish to know what it is exactly, this Cake Club. Well, of course 'The first rule of cake club is that you don't talk about Cake Club!'  But waiving it for a moment, a group of five women from Staffordshire and Shropshire come together on a Monday evening every six weeks or so at one of our houses.  (It should be six women, but one of our number has yet to put in an appearance, two years on; we still assiduously copy her in on all our emails on the off-chance that she might turn up one day.) We each bring a cake - usually of our own making, though I did get special dispensation once to bring a bought one from a Farmer's Market because I had been working crazy hours the preceding weekend (it was pronounced the best!).  And then at the last meeting one person simply forgot Cake Club was on and rocked up empty-handed, which we generously overlooked.  It's not like there isn't enough cake to go round or anything. 

Prototype 'Pacman cake'

But yes, generally the idea is to bring a cake, eat a bit of everybody's cakes, and go 'Oooh' and 'Aaah' about everybody's cakes unless they are truly inedible - like my first attempt at banana and walnut.  Photos of my friend Clare's hens appeared on Facebook at 8am the next morning showing a flock of her hens fighting over the leftovers (which was the entire cake in fact).  One shot pictured two hens, each holding the end of a piece of my cake in its beak, tug-of-war style.  That was the low point in my club attendance, no question.

A victorious hen making off with her cake spoils

But at the recent session in question I had brought along a low rise but perfectly passable chocolate sponge with orange glaze, so thankfully the night was not memorable on account of one of my culinary misfits.  No, it was an odd night because the conversation turned quite spontaneously to people's scent memories - I am not even sure how - I was certainly not the instigator, as I always assume friends are a bit fed up with my hobby by now.  Before I knew it, each member of the group was sharing a perfume-related experience - some from many years ago - others ongoing.

As a courtesy, I will abbreviate their names to initials only!

Early practice attempt at a cake-like entity

 J: Brought up in the country, J spoke of her attachment to the usual range of rural smells: horses, grass, hay, manure, silage etc.  We asked her to please stop there as we were tucking into M's courgette and lemon icing cake at the time.

M: A policewoman by profession, M declared her abiding love of the smell of Faberge Brut, the signature scent of a fellow copper at her police station.  She admitted to regularly asking him to proffer his arm so she can sniff it - I am assuming a short sleeved scenario here.

C: C kicked off with a typical childhood scent memory of her mother's silk scarves impregnated with perfume, and of her father's old woollen cardigan that smelt just of 'dad', and which she snuggled for some time after his death.  But then her memories took a more avant-garde turn, as she recalled a gift of AnaisAnais from a boyfriend who - as she later found out to her horror - turned out to be married.   Another policeman in fact, but not the current sniffing subject of M.  AnaisAnais had in fact bordered on being C's signature scent during her time with a previous boyfriend, but the policeman's purchase of it was purely fortuitous.  AnaisAnais was very common at the time - the Coco Mademoiselle of its day, if you will.  So as you can imagine, any positive associations with it were now well and truly out the window following the wife revelation, so C set about disposing of the bottle in a psychologically cathartic way. 


With the help of her father (still very much around at the time, and doubtless sporting the favourite cardy), C positioned the family's metal dustbin a challenging distance away and proceeded to throw the bottle at it.  The idea was to get it in the bin, but a lateral smash would have been a perfectly acceptable outcome.  On the first few attempts her aim was wide of the mark, but eventually the bin was moved to a position which was both pleasingly far away and yet within range of her increasingly ferocious underhand bowling, and she was gratified to hear the clunk of the bottle hitting the inside of the bin and shattering. Which nicely exorcised the memory of both scent and associated Lothario.

Source: Wikimedia Commons

K: But in terms of rum stories, the best was yet to come, for K casually revealed that she associated the scent of Revlon Charlie (didn't get the exact colour, but it scarcely matters, as you will see) with third form biology classes, specifically with the lessons where they had to dissect rats.  In order to get full value out of the rats' complex and extensive anatomy, they would dissect one rat and - I don't know - look at its heart or whatever, then the teacher would pop them back in the freezer till the next time.  On retrieving these rigid, semi-mutilated corpses, K and her classmates would recoil at the smell - formaldeyde? freezer coolant? general odour of deceased rat that's been round the block a bit? (she didn't elaborate) - and promptly spray Revlon Charlie all over it before the next round of dissection, which apparently made the 'net pong' half way tolerable.  To this day she hasn't personally worn any variant of Charlie, strange to tell.


And then the conversation got onto rodent droppings and another topic embargo had to be imposed, following which we got on with the business in hand of eating more cake.  C's raspberry streusel was up next!

Do you - or does anyone you know - have any scent memories that are right out of left field, so to speak?  The more bizarre the better.  Do share them in the comments!

And meanwhile here is a photo of a cake I made the other night completely out of synch with club meetings - my first wholly gratuitous bake, you could say. It nicely used up some very elderly and spotty bananas and I must say I am rather pleased with how it turned out.  No pressure to perform, that'll be it...