|Val and Thomas at Bloom, with Michael and half of Nigel in the background|
I say 'blew in', not just because both Portia and Val are live wires, which they are in spades (do spades have wires? Of course they do!), but because it was unfeasibly windy that day. Umbrella-thrapingly so, if I had had the foresight to bring one with me, topped off with a side order of cold lashing rain. Now we have had gales all last week where I live, but I don't expect such dismal weather when I come down to London. Why, London is practically in the tropics as far as I am concerned, and I expect my full thermal value - I had even doffed my winter vest in anticipation! - but it was signally lacking yesterday.
|Spillover clothing crisis in the office|
I don't know if the weather had anything to do with it, but I nearly missed my train in the morning, owing to a clothing crisis of unprecedented proportions that lasted a full hour and laid waste to several rooms (by no means all of them bedrooms). It seemed impossible to pick out a single outfit that went even some way towards a harmonious union of colour, shoe comfort, fabric type (including any day/night connotations), trouser length, weatherproofing, warmth, and flexibility of warmth.Trying to add a fashionable element into the mix would have tipped me into complete meltdown, if indeed I had owned garments that nodded in that direction. But eventually, reason prevailed and I settled on a tunic top and suit trousers, flat shoes - and no vest!
|Epicentre of the clothing carnage|
When the train reached Milton Keynes, I hooked up with Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy, and his soon-to-be-husband Nigel, though not before I had sewn up not one but two knitted hats! Nothing like a wifi coldspot for prompting the completion of an abandoned crafting project. The three of us made our way to Aldgate East tube station, where we had arranged to meet Tara. There we spent the obligatory ten minutes being royally flummoxed by 'multiple exit syndrome', before fortuitously popping up at Exit 3, where Tara was waiting for us, looking serene and lovely as ever - and not the least bit buffeted or rainswept.
We struck out intially in the wrong direction, but Thomas quickly google mapped us back on track, and we wove our way deftly through the narrow streets around Brick Lane. I stuck closely to him, not least because he was emitting beguiling whiffs of Tom Ford Shanghai Lily, which I had briefly sampled in Paris in June, yet somehow its spicy floral glory had failed to woo me till now. I may have offered to marry Thomas at one point, possibly within earshot of Nigel.
|My new scent squeeze ~ Source: harveynichols.com|
When we arrived at Bloom in Spitalfields, it was already packed out with a lively throng of fumeheads in full sniffing mode, including Val and Portia, Michael, Nick Gilbert (Fragrant Reviews) and Joshua Ang (The Smelly Vagabond). Freddie Albrighton (Smellythoughts), whose train had been delayed, joined us shortly afterwards.) Introductions over, a small flurry of mutual present giving ensued. I gave Val a poster of The Monochrome Set and a purse for keeping samples in; she gave me cookies of her own manufacture (yay!) and an antique silver button hook, which belonged to her grandmother. Tara copped for a hat(!) - my hat knitting compulsion having lately escalated to the point where I have exhausted the pool of potential recipients in Stafford - while Portia took custody of a pair of minuscule notebooks and a slightly broached box of fudge that was briefly pre-owned - or at the very least funded - by Tom Cruise. Thereby hangs a tale which will feature in Bonkers in due course, along with its Portia-enabled sequel...
|Nick in classic raised forearm pose, with mischievous grin (not pictured)|
Oh, and I did remember to do a bit of sniffing, but only a couple of things. For example, I finally caught up with the new rose release from Parfumerie Generale - No 26 Isparta. When Pierre Guillaume kissed me(!) after the talk at Les Senteurs in 2012, he also whispered in my ear that he was working on a rose scent. Well, all I can say is that it's been a long time coming, and as Nick pointed out, it does smell somewhat similar to Portrait of a Lady - you might be forgiven for thinking that in the space of two years PG might have taken his composition in a more original direction, but apparently not. So no new lemming there, thankfully.
|The lovely Tara, pictured with her 'To Sniff' list?|
Soon it was time to repair next door to Poppies, a retro diner famous for its prize-winning fish and chips. The table assigned to us wasn't quite big enough, but by sheer force of numbers and a bit of strategic staring we quickly saw off the two couples at adjacent tables, and suddenly had ample room to accommodate our own substantial party.
|Nick, Freddie, Portia Turbot-Gear (sic!) and Michael|
Inevitably, we couldn't stop passing round bottles and samples for one another to sniff, and I got to try the new Dita Von Teese Erotique - which was exactly the 'teesingly' spicy, sandalwoody number Thomas had described in his review - also Vero Profumo Mito Voile d'Extrait, which is less acerbic and more floral than the original EDP, thanks to the addition of tuberose. I sprayed it liberally on my front, then later wiped the overspray from my Zelda bottle (from when I was making samples for other people) on the back of my neck. I felt like a scented version of Janus!
|Tara, Joshua and Nigel|
Our food came pretty quickly, so we had to clear away some of our perfume tackle to make way for huge plates of fish and bottles of condiments. Not only was its flesh as white as a Hollywood smile, but my haddock was intriguingly upended on its side, though I had to knock it over in order to set about eating it. Sarah, another perfumista who joined us at the restaurant, also had vertical fish, which is not a style of presentation I had previously encountered.
|Sarah's fish standing to attention|
Replete from our big meals, our slightly bedraggled gaggle braved the weather again to make our way to - no, not Angela Flounders as you might very well imagine, with it being in the immediate vicinity - but Les Senteurs in Seymour Place. As we walked I chatted to Portia a bit about his time in London some 20 years ago, and mentioned that I had also been to Sydney and owned a koala called Mosman. Only a toy, obviously, but the real things are, after all, not markedly more lively. Or not the ones living in Canberra Zoo in late 1993. Portia endeared himself to me by guessing that he was the eldest in our group, when he is fact nine years my - and Val's - junior. Also by describing me as 'glamorous', which I mistakenly heard as 'cadaverous', to people's amusement.
|The By Kilian invasion|
Since my last visit, Les Senteurs had been rather taken over by By Kilian, to which an entire wall had been devoted. I ignored the whole fixture and instead made a beeline for the opposite, more diversely stocked wall, where I tried Atelier Cologne's Silver Iris. It was every bit as likable as the reviews had suggested, and - like The Monochrome Set's penultimate album - its shiny silver surface could have doubled up in a pinch as an emergency compact mirror, however, I think I have enough irises in my collection.
|Val, 'valiantly' keeping the FM red lippie theme going|
I also tried Sybarite by Cloon Keen Atelier - the Ateliers were out in force yesterday, as you can tell - but couldn't place the scent and it registered as neither overtly pleasant or otherwise. A little bit like YSL Nu EDT, if I had to think of any remote point of comparison. Major props for the name though - I love the word 'sybarite' in all its variants. Maybe I should have tried it on skin, as the composition sounds much more congenial than I remember it smelling. The top notes of incense and bergamot may not have worked for me, though.
|Michael and Freddie at Les Senteurs|
Then Freddie drew my attention to Mona di Orio's Eau Absolue, an unusual citrus and honey scent with an animalic base. It grabbed my attention much more, even on card, and we both agreed that this was a treatment of honey that was more to our liking than Viktoria Minya's Hedonist. Portia had meanwhile ensconced herself at the back of the shop, looking rather grandee-like amongst the rococo furniture and gilt mirrors. As well as describing me as glamorous, he told Tara she had great legs, prompting me to call him a 'caution', prompting me in turn to explain what this peculiarly British term means. I just looked it up and it is classified as 'informal' and 'dated', with a meaning of 'amusing' and 'surprising'. Well, Portia's sense of humour is certainly both of those! ;-)
|Portia striking a pose, possibly involving the sniffing of a mobile phone|
All too soon it was time to make tracks and catch my train back. Thomas and Nigel set off for Euston with me, but we had to part company at the tube station when Nigel got his ticket stuck in the lining of his jacket. ;-) Before I knew it I was speeding north and back to normal life - the excitement of the day's events had assumed an almost dreamlike quality. Though the two cookies Val had given me - which didn't make it past Watford Junction - said otherwise...