Monday, 26 September 2016

My scented week: from zero to hero (Aroma M Geisha Noire!) via some musty old books

In last week's post about my recent brush with allergic contact dermatitis I mentioned that I don't believe fragrance is a contributory factor. I still don't, yet at the same time, I haven't felt much like wearing perfume lately, whether during the flare ups or the fragile periods of quiescence in between. When the double decker oedemas strike, my whole focus is on calming my skin down, not adding other chemicals to the mix. And when my skin is in a good phase, a bit of me doesn't want to tempt fate on the remote offchance that fragrance might be a trigger. But mostly I have gone scentless in recent weeks because as with make up I have simply got out of the habit. Though I have worn the odd dab of Lancome's La Vie est Belle from my newly acquired miniature, and can report that I do like it as much on me as I did on my friend L's friend S in France. ;)

Then this week wasn't actually free of dermatological incident in any case: I had a bad reaction to raw garlic and/or onion on Tuesday evening while engaging in a rare bout of cooking. That'll teach me! Turns out they are poisonous plants, to dogs at least, so go figure. Luckily, thanks to a timely tip off from Lisa Jones, the immediate deployment of a couple of new weapons in my skincare armoury from the Avene range - specially formulated for 'peaux intolerantes' - had things back under control by the middle of the next day.

Two days later saw the installation of a new dishwasher, seven weeks after the polystyrene cube was deposited by the delivery men in the middle of the dining room floor. The excitement I felt to see the appliance in position at last triggered a completely out of character five hour flurry of kitchen cleaning.  One cupboard leads to another, you know how it is... And in the course of this operation, my hands inevitably came into contact with a wide range of powerful cleaning agents, as I didn't wear rubber gloves consistently throughout. Cue flare up No 2! Cooking, cleaning...why, I have only myself to blame. ;)

Friday saw the visit of an antiquarian book dealer, who had come to appraise a small selection of my late father's enormous collection of theological and devotional books. We holed ourselves up at the dining room table for a couple of hours: I passed the lady each book in turn, which she examined with professional care, noting the type and quality of paper, the lie of the ribbon marker, the pattern of end papers, the clasps, the binding - no aspect was left unturned. She was also looking for any rips or tears, missing pages, faded covers, brown stains or foxing, loose stitching, defacement in the form of underlining / annotations / colouring in(!) by lost generations of Victorian children - and most pertinently in the context of this post, she put the books to her nose and inhaled deeply, on the look out for any which had a musty smell.

For as with old clothes in a wardrobe, a musty smell is not a desirable aspect in an old book, and detracts from its appeal, and ultimately also its value. I watched rapt, as the book dealer conscientiously sniffed each volume. Humidity is the main culprit in causing books to go mildewy, and some cursory research on the Net has unearthed a surprising number of strategies for removing this unpleasant odour, including baking soda, cat litter(!), coffee grounds, charcoal briquettes, clothes dryer sheets, newspaper, and something called 'MicroChamber paper', incorporating zeolite molecular traps, whatever they may be. Unfortunately, my father's books run into the thousands, so the logistics of submitting the mustier volumes to one or more of these ingenious remedies make this pretty much a non-starter.

Then by Saturday, my skin was in a holding pattern of good behaviour, and at a gig that night, I risked both makeup and perfume for the first time in a while. My SOTE was the very addictive Geisha Noire from Aroma M. I shan't attempt a full review of it, as I couldn't possibly top The Silver Fox's glorious paean here. I will just say that Geisha Noire is a smouldering, furrily sensuous, ceremonial cupcake of a scent that did not feel out of place in the atmospheric venue, a converted church, partly dating back to 1270. Interesting factoid - one of the 49 rectors to have officiated in St Mary at the Walls (as it was called in its consecrated days) turns out to be the grandson of Thomas Twining, founder of the tea company of that name, whose 'Everyday' tea bags are standard issue in the Premier Inn where we were staying.


I had several unprompted compliments on Geisha Noire from other audience members, and one of the band pronounced it 'sweet', before adding: 'It's nice', in case I might construe that as a criticism. I am afraid I completely forgot to sniff any of my friends - including Caryne, the diehard Lush fan, and Andy, whom I introduced to Ormonde Jayne. I did at least chat about perfume to my Swedish friend Louise. (Check out this post for the lowdown on Stockholm's perfume trail during my stay with her in 2009.)

Courtesy of Louise Bodin 

As we strolled though the churchyard during the very noisy support act, Louise told me about her recent perfume purchases in a British branch of T K Maxx: L'Artisan Parfumeur Timbuktu and a Penhaligon's whose name escaped her, except that it began with 'z'.  (That was easy to check later - my money is on Zizonia!)

And speaking of Penhaligon's, the band played 'Stick Your Hand Up if You're Louche', with its reference to Tralala mentioned in a recent post. As you can see, the bass player took this opportunity to come clean. We were in a church, after all.


  1. Good review. I was going to say old books give me skin irritation but Holly tells me she has said it already. It's a family thing!

    1. Hi Angie,

      Oh dear, what a shame about your skin irritation, especially as you are a family of book - and paper - lovers!

  2. Totally off topic, but before I forget, David Rees of pencil-sharpening video and interview fame wrote a book, How to Sharpen Pencils, back in 2013. It's still available in paperback, and totally defeating the point ;-) in ebook format.

    Meanwhile back to the allergies -- sorry you are having to figure out which of the wide variety of things we use and eat each day are triggers.
    So, how did you do with wearing the make-up?

    -- Lindaloo

    1. Hi Lindaloo,

      LOL at 'totally defeating the point', not least because that was the whole point of his videos, to make pencils pointier. Thanks for the tip off - very germane, I say. ;)

      It was a bit of a downer to realise that my skin may be hypersensitised to anything that takes its fancy, as it were, but at least the 'wildcat flare ups' were shortlived.

      The make up I approached with great caution, priming my face with the Avene cream, then realising it was rather oddly shiny, so taking a bit off again with damp cotton wool. I remembered to use makeup of recent vintage on my eyes, and not as much as I might have done in the past for the evening, and it all seemed to stay put and not sting unduly.

      Took it all off again with the Toleriane cleanser and lots of cold water and cotton wool. Very, very gradually! Haven't worn any since - I think it is going to be a 'going out' thing in future, to minimise irritable wear and tear. Thanks for your inquiry!

  3. The smell of old books is wonderful.

    Congratulations on the new appliance and the cleaning adventure. I hope your skin will continue to forgive you.

    Geisha Noire is on my must-try list. The Silver Fox took my breath away with his writing about the aroma M Geishas. I often drift off to sleep in a cloud of Geisha Vanilla Hinoki.

    Please say hello to Truffle on behalf of this blog reader. Thank you for sharing your adventures.

    1. Hi Tiffanie,

      Thank you for your good wishes. I guess where my skin is concerned it is going to be something to take day by day.

      The Silver Fox took my breath away too, though I was already smitten by the scent by the time I read it. It was a year ago in Austria that Val gave me a first whiff from her bottle, and she has kindly offered to top me up when we meet at the weekend. ;)

      I will indeed say hello from you to Truffle. I noticed last night that a pet care company I use had done a special birthday post for her on their Facebook page when she turned one recently, with a montage of photos the carer had taken. I was very touched!

  4. Skin woes are horrid, sorry to hear that you are still troubled. But, good job on the dishwasher, a very wise investment. As for cleaning: we have inherited a steam cleaner, and it's an amazing little thing. Works on pretty much any surface and you don't need any cleaning products!
    Hoffe du fuehlst dich bald wieder wohl in deiner Haut.

    1. Hi Sabine,

      Glad you approve of the dishwasher - it is already making light work of the usual mountain, and am just doing a few things by hand. I may do even fewer as I get more familiar with the layout and capability of the machine! Your steam cleaner sounds very clever, I must say - I had not even heard of such a thing. And not needing any cleaning products must be good for the environment and sensitive skin!

      Danke sehr - im Moment fuehle ich mich in meiner Haut noch nicht wieder zu Hause. ;)

  5. Never, NEVER do any cleaning without gloves! (but I do know how it goes - just this one shelf... yeah, probably I should finish the cabinet... and the next one, while I'm at it... and the next... :) ).

    It's not the first time you're praising this perfume, so I probably set aside my dislike of the name and get to try it - after all, I'm wearing Courtesan by Worth from time to time (a gift from a perfumista friend: I wouldn't have bought it otherwise - because of the name).

    1. Hi Undina,

      I know, it was most silly of me, and I shall know better next time. I see you understand how the cleaning is a bit compulsive once you start!

      If you like By Kilian Amber Oud, and I know you do, this in the same vein. You might feel you have that style covered, but do give it a whirl. And that is funny about Courtesan - not an easy name to pull off, I agree. ;)

  6. Good news about the make-up and perfume for the gig, V. Even a minimal amount must have buoyed you up. Unsolicited perfume compliments are rare and so nice! Great pic of you too.

    Extremely happy for your dishwasher purchase! I love mine and wouldn't want to be without it.

    I'm going to buy the Tolerlaine cleanser today as it works for you and will see if my small Boots stock Avene. My whole Paula's Choice routine has gone out the window with my newly sensitised/dehydrated skin.

    I thought the musty smell was unavoidable with old books. I guess it makes sense but still. Sounds like she was super thorough which is a good sign. It's such a mammoth operations I hope you feel you're getting somewhere with it.

    1. Hi Tara,

      Thanks on multiple fronts. ;) Now that I have used my dishwasher I don't think there is any going back.

      If you don't manage to find the Toleriane today I can bring you a sample on Saturday? It is the shizz, as they say, utterly bombproof on the most angry of skin. I seem to have acquired several bottles of the Avene cleansing solution, but haven't quite plucked up the courage to try it in case nothing but the Toleriane works anymore. I am working up to doing so, though! Sorry that your Paula's Choice routine is now in question - what is happening to us all?!

      I did feel a good connection to this lady book dealer and think that my dad would have liked to do business with her if he *had* to be parted from his books (which of course in life was unthinkable for him, and he just kept on collecting till his flat was at breaking point!).

    2. Very much enjoyed your use of "the shizz" :) Thanks for the offer. I did manage to get the Toleraine cleanser. I also got their eye cream. From Avene I got a moisturiser with SPF and a toner. I really appreciate the tips. Who knows how long this skin madness will last for us?! Hopefully not too much longer but having to put the heating on won't help with the dryness. I may have to give in tonight though as it's getting chilly in the evening. I sound 100 years old!

    3. Haha, I am so down with the kids. ;) Oh, what eye cream was that in the LRP range? Good that you found something suitable in the Avene range as well.

      I have been starting to put the heating on lately! Trying to hold off till the evening, but sometimes I cave in earlier. There is definitely a nip in the air. My skin has been bad again since yesterday - possibly some airborne exposure to tile adhesive! Either that or the new Puredistance, but I do hope not, as I really like it.