Sunday 24 April 2016

"Keep Me" - my Penhaligon's perfume pendant-protected puss!

I will be back presently with more substantial perfume posts - okay, somewhat less tangential perfume-related posts might be nearer the mark - but I have been away this weekend, and just have time to mention another rather fortuitous perfume/cat crossover, also involving Truffle's collar, as it happens!

For the kitten has been coming and going outside unsupervised for the past week now - I am gradually getting used to the feeling of not even knowing for sure whether she is in or out. She has been wearing a fabric collar (not the Gucci watch strap, sorry!) for a while now, onto the inside of which I wrote my mobile phone number with indelible marker pen.

I was conscious, however, of the fact that anyone who found her might not think to take the collar off and look on the inside, just as it might not occur to them to have her scanned for a chip, even though she has one. So I decided that the best way to make the kitten readily identifiable to the casual passer by was via a visible tag hanging off her collar.

After extensive Internet searches, I ordered three hand-stamped small tags on the Internet - well, it is always good to have a spare, and they were all so cute, and in such attractive metals and designs! Two are coming from an Etsy company in Florida that rejoices in the name of Critterbling. They are being sent first to Undina, as the company doesn't ship overseas, and she is kindly forwarding them on to me using our tried and tested mule service (aka a travelling colleague).

The other one was made in Quebec by another Etsy seller called M J Lessard, and it has just landed!

But because of the leadtimes involved with these transatlantic tags, I lit upon a cunning temporary solution, also one which would gradually accustom Truffle to wearing something around her neck. For my 50th birthday, my friend Clare gave me a perfume bottle pendant from Penhaligon's. You are supposed to commit a fragrance to the egg-shaped receptacle, from which you can refresh your chosen scent periodically using the dipper built into the screw top. (Well, me being me, obviously I never did any such thing, and the bottle remains empty to this day.)

The pendant has been worn though, most notably to my 'transcentendal meeting with Bertrand Duchaufour' on the occasion of the launch of Penhaligon's Amaranthine. Ooh, that is a genuine typo, but I rather like my new coinage...!

Now in addition to the chain the bottle hangs on, there was a tiny little rectangular tag on a separate loop. You could engrave the name of the perfume on it, I suppose, or your own name maybe. It bugged me ever so slightly, mind, because it made you tinkle when you walked. (In the auditory sense of the term, I hasten to add.)

But suddenly I spied a use for it as an improvised Truffle tag, and had the chap at Timpson's in town fetch it off the main chain and engrave my landline number on it instead! There was no room for the dialling code, but I am hoping that the chances of Truffle wandering out of the whole of Stafford are remote, though her territory is growing by the day.;)

When I got home, I slipped the tag on the kitten's collar in a trice and it hasn't bothered her in the slightest - no dangling in the food or anything else untoward. The plan is to upgrade to the slightly larger round tags when she is a little bigger and well used to the principle, though I don't foresee any problems based on how well she has adapted so far.

And here finally is a shot of her enjoying the sunshine the other day. Tagged, chipped, marked, and ready for action!

Sunday 17 April 2016

'Remember Preston': a surprise perfume and music mecca of the North!

Harris Museum ~ Source: Wikimedia Commons
Back in July 2011, I was up in Preston for a Monochrome Set gig at the town's noted music venue, The Continental, and managed to fit in a lightning visit to the Harris Museum just before closing time. I was keen to have even a quick look at Britain's largest collection of perfume bottles, which is on permanent display there. Some seven months later, I blogged about the visit, apologising for my woeful snook-cocking at chronology. Then the other day- four years later!- I received the following comment under my 2012 post:

"Hello - I am a curator from the Harris Museum & Art Gallery and I've just read your blog entry. I'm sorry not to have read it sooner and/or known about your visit. There is an information sheet available on Mrs French's collection which I can send to any interested parties. But I'm afraid we have no idea about whether Mrs French loved perfume or scent generally. She certainly loved the bottles. We look forward to welcoming more perfume enthusiasts at the Harris in the future. 

Sending all best from Preston."

Now the reason I found this spectacularly asynchronous comment worthy of mention is because I happened to be in Preston again myself last weekend, for another gig by - you've guessed it - The Monochrome Set, their fourth at that same venue since 2011. So the timing of the curator's comment felt a little Twilight Zone-y. ;)

The Continental

On this occasion, instead of a last minute dash to the museum, I dived into Debenhams just before they closed, on a skincare-related mission that I am saving for another day. (I am stockpiling dermatological disasters, you see, until I have a quorum worthy of a post in their own right.)

Skincare solution sorted, and after an M & S salad, a bit of a lie down and a hot shower, I drove the half mile to the gig at what seemed to me to be the fashionably late hour of 9pm, Hmm, maybe not all that fashionable in hindsight, as the band weren't on till 10.15pm. (Oh, and I would normally walk such a derisorily short distance, but I was on band ferrying duty later, and stuck to the very wonderful Fentiman's Rose Lemonade all night. It is infused with spicy botanicals and is like drinking a pink version of Hendricks the gin.) I immediately ran into the singer in the beer garden, closely followed by fellow fan Andy V, whom I am proud to have converted to Ormonde Jayne. Isfarkand and Zizan are his two favourites from the line as regular readers may recall, but the samples I gave him have long since run out, so he has defaulted to his existing stocks of aftershave.

Like this, only dark ~ Source:

As is the way of perfumistas at large, I asked to sniff Andy, while the singer looked on in mild bemusement. I inhaled the merest vestige of a woody, spicy scent. "No idea" I said, with not even a millisecond's hesitation: "You're going to have to tell me."

"It's Bang!" he replied, "Cillit Bang!" Adding, after a dramatic pause, "Only kidding - it's by....."

"...Marc Jacobs, haha." I laughed, as I finished his sentence.

Next up, I made Andy V and the singer sniff my sample of Amouage Journey Woman, which Hamamelis had kindly sent me that very week. For a fruity floral with leather and tobacco and a smattering of spice it really is surprisingly light. To my nose, if you crossed APOM pour Femme with Diptyque Volutes edt you'd get a vague idea of how it smells. Then if you were to read the reviews on NST and Perfume Posse you'd get a much better one!

Source: Fragrantica

The pair leaned in and smelt my wrist assiduously several times. "It's supposed to represent Shanghai Art Deco or something", I added helpfully.

The singer looked incredulous: "Nah, I am getting more...more flowers, lots of flowers - we are talking French country garden."

So that was that, but whatever continent it conjures up, boy, do I love Journey!

Then inside the venue, I bumped into Andy's ex-wife J and her friend X (no, her name really did begin with 'X'!), who quickly engaged me in a conversation about perfume, announcing that they would both like to make their own natural fragrances - as would J's daughter, apparently, and did I know where to start. My mind quickly cycled through all the natural perfumers I had heard of - in the US, mostly - and I vaguely remembered that The Perfumer's Apprentice might be a good port of call for starter kits of materials. But I really didn't know what to advise, and admitted as much, adding that I would see if I could dig out any pointers on the Internet that might get them going. But even after having a look, I am still at a loss as to what to suggest to them, frankly - perfume making of any kind is just not something I have been interested in pursuing myself.

Is that you, Lindaloo?

J also remarked on how photogenic Truffle was, which reminded me that we must already be Facebook friends, and that J must therefore be one of the many hundreds of (apparently remarkably resilient!) people subjected to the near daily barrage of kitten pics...

Now J is a taxi driver, and recently picked up a lady who was wreathed in a cloud of Rochas Femme. (J couldn't resist asking her what she was wearing.) So we talked about that for a while: about vintage and modern versions of scents, and about reformulation and skin chemistry - sadly J's quest to find the very same version she sniffed in her cab is ongoing. Or it may just be that her own skin is not such a perfect canvas as that of her passenger. I mentioned that I had a smidge left of a vintage parfum formulation, not that we know if that is 'the one'...

But the perfume sub-theme to this gig did not stop there. For I handed over a bag of Le Labo samples to Caryne, who is in charge of band merchandise, and a vegan. A long-time Lush lover, she was sporting the new release All Good Things - it's reportedly a bit of a Marmite fragrance, but it was spectacular on her. I have only recently discovered that the Le Labo line is also vegan, so it will be interesting to get Caryne's take on the line.

And the last perfume-linked aspect of the gig - again thanks to one of my readers - was the fact that on the way out I donned the reflective armband that Ingeborg had kindly sent me, to boost my visibility in dark alleys and the like.

There's even the word 'band' in the name!

It didn't get much of a workout this time, as I was only walking a few yards to the car, but I am sure that in future there will be other possible outings.

Low jinks with the keyboard player ~ Source: Caryne Pearce

If anyone has any tips on how to go about making natural perfumes, do let me know in the comments!

Sunday 10 April 2016

An interview with Matt M. Hewitt, perfumista and lead singer of prog rock group Palladium!

Regular readers are aware that I have three main themes on Bonkers: perfume, make up / skincare for 'mature problem skin' - well, some might argue that its being mature is a bit of a problem in itself ;) - and my travels, including business trips abroad and tours with The Monochrome Set. So music is a significant sub-plot on the blog, you could say, which is doubtless why I was recently fascinated to discover a 'card(ed sample)-carrying' perfumista with his own fragrance review channel (@FragranceMatt), who also happens to be the lead singer of Palladium. I should point out that Palladium is a progressive rock group, not a 'light metal band' as you could be forgiven for inferring from the name...;)

Now as with bell bottoms, smocks, vertiginous platforms, and little strawberry and snail patches applique'd onto my jeans, I feel I have done prog first time round. I had vinyl albums by Genesis, Yes, Pink Floyd and Tangerine Dream in the 70s, and am mostly into other genres these days. However, I think it is great that Matt and his bandmates should follow their musical muse regardless of fashion - and after listening to a few of their tracks on YouTube I can confirm that Palladium is still the real deal in 2016, if prog is your thing.

Here is a link to Palladium's album, Beyond the Red Curtain:

To explain how this all came about, Matt initially approached me on Facebook. I was flattered by the friend request, as it was clear from his fresh-faced avatar that I was old enough to be his mother, not that age matters really in Perfume Land. Matt's mum does in fact appear in some of Matt's fragrance review videos, most recently one in which he reviews Chanel No 5. (I might even be older than his mum, come to think of it. ;) )

Anyway, shortly afterwards I had the idea of inviting Matt to take part in a questionnaire to be featured on Bonkers: with questions that would be partly about his band, and partly his love of perfume. He agreed straight away, and had the bright idea of answering my questions in a YouTube video. It sounded like a good plan to me, as it saved him an awful lot of typing for starters, plus you will get more of an idea of Matt himself 'in person'.

So without further ado, here is the video he made!

So there you have it - Matt is that very rare bird of a fully formed fumehead-cum-musician, while my favourite band are still very much a work in progress. (More on that topic in a later - possibly even the next! - post.)

Oh, and the 'M' stands for Michael. Obviously I had to ask.

Sunday 3 April 2016

Proustian purses: travel bags of perfume samples with stories to tell

As time goes by, I seem to have accumulated more and more small bags full of perfume samples. Now I consciously put the word 'travel' in the title to distinguish the type of bags I am talking about from your basic polythene baggie with one of those easy seal tops that are in practice quite fiddly to close, especially when passing through security at airports. The staff will not fail to ask you to shut your bursting bag of sub-100ml toiletries that is on the point of disgorging its contents onto the belt, the gaping top of which you vainly try to conceal with some combination of passport, shoes and belt.

No, I mean the cosmetic or regular purse variety made of fabric or leather etc - and that's regardless of whether you do in fact travel with such things. And by purse I may mean wallet, depending on which side of the pond you are on.

Not the kind of travel bag in question!

So the other day I was having one of those 'reorgs', to reprise my favourite management speak term, and laid my multitudinous bags out on the bed, moving samples from one to another in a very loosely themed way: 'summer', 'winter', 'overflow winter','ones with myrrh in them', 'Guerlain Plus Que Jamais Only', 'a lucky dip of evening-y things I can just grab and go', and so on. But this post is not about the perfumes contained within, but rather the bags themselves, and the memories they evoke, which may only partly relate to their scented cargo.

So I have selected the purses (which is most of them!) which have a particular resonance - either because of the time they were acquired, or the place, or the person who gave them to me.

Source: tripadvisor

No 1 - The Düsseldorf bag

I have had this black patent bag since about 2008 at a guess. It was on offer in a bargain bin in one of those pharmacy-cum-perfumeries you get abroad - in a shopping mall in Düsseldorf. I bought a cheap bottle of Yves Rocher Voile d'Ambre at the same time, which turned out to be a mistake, and which was re-homed shortly thereafter. The bag has been an absolute workhorse ever since, however, and I just have to touch its shiny - and now somewhat scratched - surface to be instantly transported back to dark autumn nights in the the slippery mulch of leaves underfoot, and the inviting glint of tea lights in the windows of arty cafes; to grandiose buildings with baroque flourishes juxtaposed with more brutal concrete blocks; to the sluggishly dark depths of the river Ko, and the cosy wood panelled interiors of traditional German restaurants serving monstrous hunks of ham on the bone with sticky dumplings and mounds of vinegary cabbage.

No 2 - The Nick Gilbert bag

Now this bag wasn't given to me by Nick, but I associate it very closely with him because I bought it in T K Maxx the day before I went to meet him in the branch of Boots where he worked at the time - on a retail park on the outskirts of Bristol. Yep, I was his mate before he was famous! I managed to hover by his side for some two and a half hours while he let me test a ton of perfumes - including a bunch of men's scents which were new to me - without losing any sales in the process. I will have had the bag with me to show him some samples of my own and possibly to take home bits and pieces Nick gave me. It was six years ago, but I can place the bag at the scene!

Check out the funky interior!

No 3 - The lost Sabine elephant bag

Right, so this one was given to me by Sabine of Iridescents - she brought it back from her holiday in Thailand. I thought it very sweet, being a sucker for elephants in all their incarnations. I took it with me on my work trips last summer, full of pretty floral fragrances like Mona di Orio Tubereuse, which I remember wearing several days on the trot in the sweltering heat wave.

But then, not long after I had acquired it, the elephant bag was sadly lost in my stolen luggage, and I felt frankly bereft. So I was delighted when Sabine presented me with a replacement purse, bought on her next holiday to Japan!  No elephants, but a pretty velvet and brocade design in red and black.

No 4 - The repurposed Tara perfume bag

A few years ago Tara of A Bottled Rose gave me this charming bag for my samples, with an applique perfume bottle on it and my initials on the back. A perfume purse just doesn't get more quintessential than that! However, I must 'fess up to the fact that owing to its capacious size, it makes the perfect travel bag for make up, of which I need more - and more voluminous - items than perfume on a typical trip. ;)

No 5 - The vivid Val perfume pouch

I cannot for the life of me remember what was in this bag, but I know that Val kindly gave me some perfume in it. The quirky felt design with its retro tie closure - reminiscent of medieval money pouches, if you overlook the small matter of its being shocking pink! - is a gift in itself to be fair, and ideal for taking away a couple of larger decants, which is what I think may have been in it to start with. Half a story, I know - sorry, Val! 

No 6 - The go-to gig bag

I bought this pretty silk drawstring bag in a hippy shop in Sidmouth, which if any of you have been there - and I know Blacknall has - is an incongruous sort of emporium to find in a town congested with mobility scooters. Anyway, I love the fabric and the feel of it, and it holds enough small vials for a one-off gig (I need to whip up a bit of option anxiety even for a single night out!) or even a longer tour.

No 7 - The cat bag

I think this bag - a serendipitous find in T K Maxx a while back - was telling me to get a cat.


The cat's pyjamas - for Lindaloo

Do you have perfume sample travel purses that are lined with memories?