Great location, staff perfectly friendly, the foyer looked nice!
Room was minute (208 - economy single), and looked out onto a high enclosed wall / well, giving it a prison-like feel. The bed was rammed between the two walls such that a power socket was almost unusable between the struts of the bed head. I had to boil the kettle in the corridor outside! Couldn't dry my hair in front of a mirror either. Bed sloped in both directions so my feet were higher than my head, *and* I thought I was going to fall out laterally. The toilet seat swivelled and the shower dripped all night. Slight smell of drains. Paper thin walls. One towel and one very flat pillow. Didn't sleep a wink.
So there was that. But I figured to myself in my sleep-deprived state the next morning that the beauty of a breakfast function is that you can keel over at 10.30am if you must - well, you can if you don't have to rush back to work straight afterwards, which obviously I didn't.
There was one other person in the lift going up to the floor where the event was being held. 'I will let this lady out first', I thought to myself, 'as she might be one of the judges'. Sure enough she was(!), but I sense the allocation of the awards in no way hinged on my last minute impromptu bellhoppery.
Having registered, I hurried to the toilets, where a number of impeccably groomed and beautiful women of all ages were applying the finishing touches to their already immaculate makeup. Meanwhile, I had multiple contact lens crises in quick succession, thinking at one point that there was a real possibility that I had put TWO lenses in the same eye, but it seems not. Liz Moores had asked me to take photos of my chosen outfit, and I did manage to take a quick selfie in front of a dispensing machine, over the precise contents of which I shall draw a veil. It was one of only two ensembles on the shortlist - the dress I had in mind was a little snug and I could anticipate a few strange looks if I persisted in standing for an hour in an all-seater auditorium.
Contact lenses inserted, the next hour was spent in major milling mode, mostly with other bloggers, but also with the friendly lady ahead of me in the tea queue. Of special note were the exquisite canapes dong the rounds - tiny wisps of smoked salmon, blinis topped with blueberries so minute they looked like caviar. Unfortunately I was way too nervous to sample any of these miniature delicacies, which verily were the amuse-bouche equivalent of your name written on a grain of rice.
The proceedings proper got underway about 9.30am or so: all the judges sat in a row on stage, while the President of the Fragrance Foundation addressed the audience from a lecturn. Maybe I need a public speaking engagement to get some wear out of that dress I rejected. One of the highlights of the ceremony was the awarding of prizes to a clutch of small children who had written poems on a fragrance theme. Richard E Grant was a judge in that particular 'Mini-Jasmines' category, but sadly not in attendance. 'We want the finest perfume poems available to humanity, we want them here, and we want them now!' A couple of the kids were in their school uniform, the others in flouncy party dresses, and all looked exceptionally sweet.
In case anyone hasn't caught up with the details of the winners in the 'grown up' Jasmines(!), here is the complete list. Persolaise won the blogger award, for which I had been shortlisted - that's a hat trick of Jasmines for him now! - while Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy, next to whom I was sitting, picked one up in the digital category for a piece he wrote for Escentual - second time round for him! Thomas was shortlisted in no fewer than four categories, and while I dearly hoped he would sweep the boards this year, realistically there might have been practical issues with multiple bouquet storage in the small area by our feet. Meanwhile Liam Moore's online magazine, ODOU, won again this year in the Literary category. Big congratulations to all the winners!
|Pia sniffing Ostara|
AQUA ALLEGORIA LYS SOLEIA
Top notes: bergamot, lemon and palm leaves
Heart notes: lily, ylang-ylang, tropical fruits
Base notes: tuberose, vanilla and white musk
Top notes: bergamot, clementine, juniper, red berries CO2, currant buds CO2, violet leaf absolute, green leaves and aldehyes
Heart notes: daffodil, hyacinth, cyclamen, ylang-ylang, hawthorn, wisteria and beeswax
Base notes: styrax resin, vanilla, benzoin, musk, amber and blonde wood
No appraisal - not even a mini-one - of Ostara would be complete, however, without a word on the name. To me it conjures up the German for Easter, 'Ostern', but I am also reminded of Ostrava, a town on the border with Slovakia where my friend and I accidentally ended up on a short train ride from Prague. Yes, so engrossed were we in our girly chat that we managed to overshoot our destination by some 180 miles, the truth of which error took some explaining to the bemused ticket inspector.
|Royal Apothic Balmoral Rain|
After Penhaligon's, Pia and I browsed in Anthropologie, toying with the testers of their fragrance line. None of the scents really grabbed me, but they deserve a big thumbs up for their small formats and pretty packaging. From there, we headed to Space NK, passing an amusing sign outside a house where the poet William Blake used to live. One wonders if he had ever availed himself of the Ministry's services? For his moustache, perchance? Here is Blake, waxing lyrical...
"What immortal hand or eye
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?"
In the bijou branch of Space NK I learnt the disturbing news that my favourite cream blusher, NARS Penny Lane, had been discontinued. So after Pia and I split up at Bond Stree tube, I hotfooted it to Selfridges on a NARS blusher dupe mission. The sales assistants at the various concessions were surprisingly helpful in suggesting rival brands that might be worth trying, and the trail of recommendations finally led to Laura Mercier's slightly darker take on Penny Lane, called Canyon. Then in an unprecedented - and ill-advised! - splurge, I picked up not one but two brow pencils: a MAC in Lingering and a Suqqu in Moss Green. What between those and my Benefit Gimme Brow in Light/Medium, I hope to have the greyish-browny-taupe shade I sense my brows are craving thoroughly covered off. Plus I am happy to report that since returning home, I have had a professional plucking session for a fiver(!). And though I still need to grow my 'sprouts' back on one side, my eyebrows look related at last. Not twins, and maybe not even sisters yet, but first cousins, certainly.
|A post-shopping cuppa with added lightbulb moment|