Sunday 29 January 2017

Fetching furry frolics and a flurry of feisty felonies: A Truffle (Ganache Salome) Bonkers Winter Special

Tara, the radiator bed is still a hit!
Since my last post about cracks and leaks, the former are still appearing, albeit at a slower rate, and I think the leaks are broadly sorted, though I still can't bring myself to stage the acid test of a 'messy shower'. And certainly not the 'acid acid test', which would be asking for trouble. But I seem to have lurched from one tumultuous phase to another: this one is due to an avalanche of work, about which I am not complaining. Oh, via an unfortunate incident whereby a legacy email account I no longer use started sending rude spam to everyone in my address book the other night, including work contacts! I am hoping all the recipients will think the phrase 'goon new' is not really me. So  yes, I will be head down till mid-Feb on the work front, and perfume reviews that require more prep may have to be deferred till then. But meanwhile, I did promise you a Truffle special...after all, there hasn't been a post entirely devoted to her since this one last Christmas.

I did actually do a tiny bit of prep for this feature - I looked up the judging criteria for Crufts (I know that is for dogs, but bear with me) to see how Truffle measures up some of them. There was a clatter of obvious things like 'size', 'weight' and 'colour', but then it got into the realms of specific body parts, some with sub-criteria that intrigued me - for example, there's much more to legs than meets the eye:

'Legs: Muscles, stance, proportionality.'

Oh dear, I think I would fail on all of those myself, though Truffle has a nice set I'd say.

'Teeth: kind of bite (level or scissors bite)'

I am sure I would get eliminated for grinding, and Truffle for biting her owner when she doesn't get her own way.

Did I say the radiator bed was a hit?

Oh, I quite like 'gait' too. Truffle has a rolling gait that is very endearing -  it is almost a swagger, but in a sweet way.

And then there's 'attitude'. Who knew that a beagle should look 'cheerful', while a poodle must be 'proud'?

So all those criteria got me thinking about how to present the highlights of Truffle's second winter. I shall go with one or two physical characteristics, but it is mostly going to be about attitude in its various guises, plus the whole gamut of naughty to delightful behaviours.


Since I got Truffle at eight weeks in November 2015, she has grown rather, as you can see.

Still using the same bowls, mind.


Truffle gives good stance, I'd say. Here she is doing her best impression of a lion statue posing with the obligatory ball.

Actual lion:

You really can't spot the difference, now can you?


Facebook friends may recall Truffle's early repurposing of the ironing board as a home gym.

She is still working on her agility, and has recently taken up cycling, though has not quite got the hang of it yet.

Note how she manages to make it look cool, even while technically riding the radiator.

Also under agility we could perhaps file 'turning the St Germain light on single-pawed' - or having a jolly good go at least. 

She also managed to knock a drawstring pouch containing two vials of a new House of Cherry Bomb perfume onto the floor, open the strings with her teeth, and extract the contents. 

NB This could also be filed under '(Dis)-obedience' and 'Fetishes'.

Staying with the theme of agility, Truffle doesn't excel in every area. As you can see, her (kibble-containing) Tupperware opening skills are still on the floor.


Oh dear, this could potentially be a big category. Firstly there is Truffle's complete refusal to observe the 'no jumping up on the worktop' rule.

She also enjoys flaunting the corollary of that - the 'no jumping up on any surface really, but especially where food might be involved, like a dining room table, for example' rule.


Soap suds

In this category, we firstly have soap suds - Truffle goes mad for them, whether in the bath or the kitchen sink. She lies in wait when I do the washing up and makes a dive for the suds as soon as I go to tip the dirty water out, hoiking them out with her paw and proceeding to lick them off. I can't help feeling this isn't good for her, but Fairy Liquid seems to be the detergent equivalent of catnip as far as she is concerned.

Pictured here momentarily distracted by another of her favourite quarries - birds.


Right, so this definitely also counts as '(Dis)-obedience'. Like all cats, Truffle is mad for wool and must not be left unsupervised in its presence. Or this happens. Sadly, there has been no perceptible improvement in her propensity for wool savagery since she was a kitten.


I did say above that her recently acquired interest in perfume may also constitute a fetish. Having opened the perfume pouch pictured above, she proceeded to roll the vials around and roll on top of them - presumably attracted by the smell rather than some kind of variation on the Indian bed of nails idea. 

And only the other week, there was a similar 'coming over all unnecessary' with a perfume package from Undina, whose contents had impregnated the cardboard box with a delicious woody oriental potpourri.

And now we move on to her more positive traits, starting with a category that I could best describe as 'keeping my owner in line'. Think of Edina's daughter Saffron in AbFab and you won't be far off. That's funny, I used to have a cat called Saffron!

Saffron: 1986-1993

Keeping my owner in line

'You are not seriously going to go out in that?'

The offending garment in question was only a hat - one of my own, to boot!

'Isn't it time you stopped messing about on Facebook and went to bed?'


'It's time for You and Yours in five minutes.'

Not forgetting...

'If I keep staring she'll put the suitcase away.'

Keeping an eye on her owner also manifests itself as displays of affection when I am feeling ill or stressed - as touched on in my last post. Truffle has taken to lying on me when I have a headache and am spark out on the bed, say. Here she is, just checking for a pulse. (And yes, I am wearing all my clothes in bed. It was a particularly bad day.)

And this is one of our regular Sunday morning lie ins. I am in pyjamas here at least.


So that was rather a lot of pictures, I know. There are loads more where they came from, so in my own terms as her doting owner I have actually been quite restrained. ;)

On which note it seems appropriate to close with this extract from the very amusing Ladybird book on Cats (a new spoof edition). In case you can't read it at this resolution, I have quoted the text below.

'It is important to constantly take photographs of your cat or people might not know you have a cat. If your camera breaks, a simple cat photographing device can be improvised from things you find in a bin, so you need not miss a moment of proving that you have a cat.'

So yes, I promise you this is still a perfume blog! Normal service will resume soon.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Cracking up, falling damp, and a bit of a bonkers bad patch

I am sorry for the delay in my usual (loosely weekly) posting schedule/habit. My Facebook friends will know that I don't put a status update on there if I can't either think of something funny to say (or something intended to be funny, more like - who knows what people actually make of my comments?) or haven't got a new picture of Truffle in an amusing pose. Or Truffle just being impossibly cute in a slightly - some might say imperceptibly - new way. And the same is true on the blog, pretty much. Even when I report on the misfortunes that periodically befall me - and there have been a fair few down the years, notably on my business travels, but also after I moved into this house - by and large my posts set out to be entertaining, as opposed to merely a cathartic rant about outrageous fortune and her pesky slings and arrows...though they are that as well.

All the same, I felt that sufficient time had passed for it to behove me to put my head over the tumultuous parapet and give you the topline on what has been happening lately. Perfume reviews, a Truffle winter special and a bathroom refurb report will follow, but right now I am in the midst of a particularly worrisome twist in that particular renovation saga. It is a bit of a spoiler alert to mention it now, but unfortunately, on the day that I put the finishing touches to the room - a few ornaments and pot plants with appropriately toned dark green foliage - I could no longer deny the fact that both the bath and shower were separately and jointly (joint possibly being an operative word!) leaking through the floor and into the kitchen below, causing a number of big damp patches at the top of one wall and all around the track lighting. Why, there's a good excuse not to bathe - it's an electrical hazard!

Additionally, last weekend 20+ longish cracks appeared out of nowhere on walls and ceilings all over the house, one or two the entire length of a room. It felt as though the place was haunted, for no sooner was my back turned when another one or several popped up! I spent a couple of dark nights of the soul googling the small print of my buildings insurance policy to find out the amount of the subsidence excess, and getting ballpark estimates for underpinning(!) the foundations in case the worst came to the worst. In the event, these particular cracks, though legion, leggy, unsightly, and downright alarming, only register as a Category 2 on the architectural equivalent of the Beaufort scale ('fine structural'), and it seems the house - though subtly shifting beneath me - may yet stand for some years to come. ;) I did half wonder whether Truffle may have precipitated the movement by persistently clawing at the dining room door every morning to be fed(!), but a friend who trained as a surveyor reckons the cracks are more likely to be linked to the many, varied, and violent kinds of weather we have been having lately.

So I have put my crack problem behind me (got to be careful how I phrase that, on several levels!). However, the unresolved matter - and associated horrible piquancy - of a brand new bathroom that was five months in the making leaking from multiple undiagnosed and mostly inaccessible sites, remains with me. So I may be liaising with my plumber - and possibly other plumbers! - on an ongoing basis until we can get to the bottom of everything. I have myself done a ton of forensic investigation: this has involved every kind of water volume/pressure, from jet spraying with the shower's own diverter to pouring from a watering can, squirting with a spray bottle designed to banish Truffle's arch enemy, the interloping Tootsie, and administering small amounts of water into the casing of the bath taps via a pipette. I have also isolated certain components from the water blast as a 'control' using a freezer bag and some gaffer tap. Ooh, 'gaffer tap'! Freudian slip...On the plus side, I have learnt an awful lot about the gubbins behind a mixer shower, including the plumbing meaning of the word 'escutcheon'.

My stress levels are compounded by the fact that I am entering a hellishly busy work phase, though I should not be sorry for that, in case some money has to be thrown at the problem one way or another...

Finally, hats off to Truffle for showing a great deal of empathy this week - I'd say 'a rock', but that way lies Princess Diana and that rum bodyguard chappy, Paul Burrell. I swear she (Truffle, not Diana) knows I am run ragged with it all. In the mornings she has taken to sitting on my neck for a bit like a furry comforter, and staged a dedicated vigil outside the bathroom door when the problem was first diagnosed. But that may just have been because she was dying to explore the airing cupboard where the action is all going on!

Monday 9 January 2017

The Scent Crimes Series: No 17 - Mistakenly thinking gin and scented bath products are interchangeable

Well, thank you for all your feedback on my last post about the 'direction of travel' of the blog. Ooh, how I hate that phrase, whether or not it happens to be a direction that is also 'going forward'. And it seems that travel as a topic is okay! Yes, it was great to hear from so many people all at once, including a few back channel: it galvanised and re-energised me, and confirmed that the blog is in a broadly congenial groove rather than in a rut. And also that some people are still having technical difficulties when they try to leave a comment, for which I can only apologise. I am sorry that I don't even know what to suggest to get round the problem, though in my experience commenting from mobile devices can be more hit and miss. And copying your comment beforehand is a wise precaution to preempt that very understandable phenomenon of 'eaten blog comment rage'.

One of my several gin accessories

Now I had planned to write a post featuring a miscellany of Truffle's winter antics this time round - but something came up yesterday, so I thought I would get that off my chest first. You see, one of my more novel presents this Christmas was an empty gin bottle. It is porcelain rather than glass, with a charming monochrome woodcut design on it, possibly involving a weasel**. The idea seems to be that you decant some gin you already own into it. Or maybe make your own and pop it in there. The bottle has a pump mechanism which is also novel, as personally I don't mind pouring my drinks of whatever kind.

My small but select gin family

The friend who gave the bottle to me apologised for the unusual nature of her present - I would say 'gift' to mix things up a bit, but I hate that word with nearly the same passion as 'gifting'. If you ever catch me saying 'gifting' on here in an absent-minded moment, please come round and shoot me. But back to the bottle, which was bigger than my friend imagined - it would contain at least a full bottle of gin, possible of any denomination, including the 1 litre size I rarely buy, in case people think I have a 'drink problem'. My friend thought I could deploy it as an ornament in my new bathroom, on account of its neutral colour scheme. With the added bonus that a gin bottle positioned at the end of the bath or even - more discreetly - in a corner of the room, would be a bit of a talking point when visitors come.

New bathroom decor spoiler alert!

So I tried the container in various spots around the bathroom, but felt that on balance - quite literally in some ledge-type locations, which were too narrow for it to perch safely - it was on the large side. Plus I am reluctant to start filling up this minimalist, supposedly zenlike  and calming space with too much bathroom-related tackle, never mind potentially controversial alcohol-themed accessories. But my friend had certainly sewn the seed of finding a bathroom-related purpose for the present, so I kept thinking along those lines. Finally I came up with the idea to decant large bottles of bubble bath into it instead - those big plastic ones that aren't pretty enough to display, or whose packaging has a clashing colour scheme - and squirt a bit into the bath via the pump supplied. For easy access, I could store the gin bottle in the airing cupboard, so it would be nearby, but not taking up space - or connoting a dysfunctional relationship with Mother's Ruin.

So I reached for my bottle of Abahna Jasmine & Orange Blossom bubble bath, which has nice packaging, but whose dominant colour is unfortunately bright pink, which won't do at all in there - because the designated accent colour is in fact blue - and poured the whole lot into the gin bottle.

And pumped. And pumped. I know these things take a bit of priming, so I primed a bit. And pumped. And pumped some more. And nothing, but nothing came out.

A sample of my gin glass collection - please don't buy me any more!

So that's torn it. I probably couldn't even wash the bottle out now and put gin in it, even if I could get my head around the concept of a pumpable alcohol delivery system. I could perhaps remove the pump and POUR the bubble bath into my bath. That is probably my best bet, so as not to waste a quality T K Maxx bargain.

And the moral of the story is that I should have known about the variable viscosities of different liquids. Meanwhile, I am thinking it would make a nice lamp, if I could figure out how to affix all the electrical gubbins to the top.

Whoo - I see someone has already done it!!

Source: Bee and Anchor UK's Etsy shop

Are there any electricians out there?

Have you ever pumped gin into your glass?

Or used a present for a lateral thinking kind of purpose that you have later regretted?

How are you on viscosities?

**Oh I say, I was right about the weasel!

UPDATE: I am happy to report that I have now got the pump working! I thought to turn the bottle upside down and that helped coax the bubble bath up the plastic tube. Then when I turned it the right way round again, it was still working. I wonder whether I should have used liquid soap rather than bubble bath to start with, as soap is less thick and gloopy - I think I will next time, as it may have better flow characteristics.

A lamp waiting to happen

Sunday 1 January 2017

New Year, old perfume, musings on (all kinds of!) ageing, and other random retrospective stuff

New Year's Day - a time for Solpadeine and regret, and if and when the hangover eases, quiet introspection. Maybe a spot of knitting. Maybe more Solpadeine. I blame my friend Gillie, who egged me on to have a second glass of Malbec, on top of the first one - and the glass of Sauvignon Blanc I had earlier. She got as far as a fourth glass, though in fairness some of glass No 2 went over my dress during an exuberant pointing episode - but I think I managed to pass it off as another red accessory (see below).

New Year is also when you finally start to have tantalising glimpses of the back of the fridge. And when you fashion oddball fusion dishes from faintly fermenting leftovers, because you would rather play Russian roulette with salmonella and listeria than accept that you went a bit mad with the big Christmas shop.

That said, I did get into the habit lately of sniffing my food before consumption, as well as scrutinising it for obvious signs of mould - and thus it was that some fizzy and oddly sweet-smelling parsnips with mushy middles got the chop smartish. As in didn't get the chop and go in the soup I was making!

"Sprouts are not just for Christmas."

Then New Year makes you realise your friends' eyesight is ageing at the same rapid pace as yours, as their festive messages - while warm and uplifting - are full of typos and predictive text gibberish.

It is also a time for writing appointments in new diaries in exceptionally neat handwriting, while knowing full well that your painstaking script will turn to complete rats**t as the year progresses.

New Year's Resolutions

And let's not forget those New Year's resolutions. This was a popular topic of conversation at the party I attended last night, and it amused me that in answer to the question: "What do you wish for in 2017?" one friend said "World peace" while I said "Teeming neurons", an oblique reference to the beneficial effect of aerobic exercise on hippocampus tissue. I did at least go for a long hike the other day with two friends, each of whom had two dogs. On the way round we met so many other people out with their dogs that it got mighty confusing, and in the ensuing furry melees I felt sure that people must just have been glad to go home with the same number of dogs that they set out with.

The lady in red is wearing a cashmere scarf I knitted!

I do have other resolutions, mind - all equally selfish it must be said: to read more books, and knit more, and sell a load of old clothes on eBay. And ideally eat less sugar, having recently scared myself witless about the deleterious effects of refined carbohydrates with this Long Read. It really is long, I must warn you. As I said on Facebook, where I posted the link, I think I could romp through 'Girl on a Train' quicker. It even made me eye up my four pack of Double Deckers with a newfound suspicion. That particular New Year's resolution isn't going at all well, however, as the very first thing I ate today as I walked home from the party was half a cranberry muffin, distributed free to departing revellers by our host. It was quite delicious, and on balance I think I will carry on eating my favourite confectionery and biscuits, and the devil and the dentist and the doctor take the hindmost.

Patchouli paws

Because it was the holidays, I relaxed my usual rules and allowed Truffle to sleep on the bed with me - but only in the mornings, if I was having a lie in. I associate this time with the rich scent of patchouli, for often her paws would have traces of earth on them from night manoeuvres on the allotments.

Diptyque Eau Duelle: the boomerang bottle with a duo of botched sales

So yes, now  that I am in my late 50s and things are starting to fail on multiple fronts, health issues are very much on my mind. Not helped by the slew of celebrity deaths this year, some of them younger than me. Though one or two had rather caned it in their time, one way and another. But maybe that is ultimately okay, for it is not about how long you live, but how fully, and how alive you felt while you were at it. (See muffin mention above.) I sense a discussion on the pros and cons of living in the fast lane / a rock 'n' roll lifestyle - or even one with occasional treats, haha - could warrant a whole other post sometime, albeit not about perfume, I know.

But on to the health of my fragrance collection, and specifically the unfortunate effects of ageing on my 70% full 100ml bottle of Diptyque Eau Duelle. I have owned it since 2009 or 2010 at a guess?, so quite a few years it must be said, and recently tried selling it on that UK Fragrance Sale/Swap/Split site. I put it up for a reduced price of £25, which was intended to reflect the bottle's age in a non-specific way. The first person to buy it messaged me shortly afterwards to say that she had compared my Eau Duelle with a recently acquired sample and found my bottle to be all about the vanilla, and missing "some of the more smoky woodsy notes".

I wrote back, most apologetic, and explaining that I had sort of "grown old" with my bottle, as it were, and had not noticed how it might have morphed over that time. However, I quite understood that she was in a position to check on the difference that ageing had brought about, and promptly refunded her money.

A little while later, another would-be purchaser came through, offering to buy my 'boomerang bottle' of Eau Duelle - so I had now received dual offers, you could say! I told him what had happened with the previous buyer, and this chap replied that he only wanted to use the scent as a room atomiser, and wasn't too worried about all the nuances of the notes being detectable. So the bottle was duly despatched before Christmas, with an even more reduced price of £19. Though this time I suggested to the buyer that he only pay me if he was happy with the perfume. And now it is sadly on its way back again... ;) In a message I learnt the reason for his not wishing to keep the bottle:

"Although I like the smell I think it has lost a lot of its strength. I tried it on the aroma diffuser but it was very weak and I could not really smell it."

I have to say that Eau Duelle is quite strong when applied as a perfume, even in its EDT concentration, but for his particular purpose it was clearly not fit, so no money changed hands and it seems this bottle is destined to stay put!

These incidents have brought it home to me that it is very difficult to sell a bottle of perfume you have had knocking around for a while, because the buyer expects it to be just as it was when it was new. And this got me thinking about the notion of ageing in broad terms, and how women too are expected to look as they did when they were young, or at least to give the arresting of the effects of ageing their very best shot! And that is a shame - the fact that something or someone is only acceptable if they are as they once were, even though the changes may not necessarily be all bad - just different. My Eau Duelle doesn't smell off; it still smells as pleasantly vanilla-y as many a vanilla-forward scent such as Annick Goutal's Vanille Exquise, or L'Artisan's Vanilia. But like me, I accept that it is missing some of its faculties - I mean facets!

Miscellaneous retrospective stuff

On the world stage, it goes without saying that 2016 was a pretty diabolical year, with spiralling levels of conflict and political turmoil. Frankly I am not too hopeful that 2017 is going to be much of an improvement. Or rather that things may get worse before they get better...

In a much more minor way, 2016 was a bit of a bummer for me personally in that I developed eyelid eczema in the spring, which still flares up from time to time, though I am more aware of the triggers now. I plan to do a separate post on how I have got on with various skincare products, now that I have been using them all for a while - some of them recommended by readers!

Highlights of the year on the social front included the great gathering of the clans in January for Portia's PLL talk, and subsequently knitting beanies for her ;) - I will get onto the next commission in good time for your winter! - along with Pia and Nick's highly enjoyable Smelly Cakey Perfume Meet Up in October. Then in May I spent a birthday to remember when I visited Liz Moores again, this time with Tara. My trip to France in August to visit my friend L was also one of my happiest times this year - a life changing one, no less, in that it planted the seed that I might one day retire over there, while the recent band tour in Germany was the usual rumbustious and 'sleep when I'm dead' fun.

Portia, me and Angela

Favourite perfumes of 2016

Of all the years I have been blogging, this is going to be my sketchiest selection, as I have tried so few of the new releases! With that caveat here is my little list - I have fellow bloggers to thanks for introducing me to quite a few of these - Val is responsible for three,and Undina two! As Undina found in her own recent round up of the best of 2016, my list quite fortuitously runs to ten...;)

Jo Malone Mimosa & Cardamom

Aroma M Vanilla Hinoki

Aroma M Geisha Noire (my new favourite furry animalic amber)

By Kilian Amber Oud (as above, but sweeter, and less hoochy)

Ruth Mastenbroek Oxford

Puredistance SHEIDUNA

Chanel No 5 L'Eau (briefly tried on skin in store, but I liked what I remember)

Hermès Doblis (I have no words! The ne plus ultra ambrosia of leather scents. Okay, I had a few.)

Le Jardin Retrouvé Citrus Boboli (review to follow)

Source: aroma M perfumes

What I would really like to try!

Aftelier Perfumes Vanilla Smoke
Afterlier Perfumes Amber Tapestry
Hiram Green Arbolé Arbolé
Galop d'Hermès
Sarah Jessica Parker Stash

Fellow bloggers have massively piqued my curiosity about these.

Losing the plot?

On a housekeeping note, I noticed that in 2016 my page views went up quite markedly to nearly 40,000 a month, while the comments on my blog fell. I am not sure what is behind that dual(!) phenomenon, though if I had to guess I'd say that some of the new traffic is probably a fluke-y spike. As for the reduction in comments, it may be that I am now too much on the margins of the perfume scene to be regarded as a bona fide - or even a particularly enthusiastic! - voice on developments within it, compounded by my possibly annoying propensity to go off with alarming regularity on tangents (travel posts, skincare posts, and manifestations of off-topic silliness of every stripe). But I may never know the reason, as those readers may now have stopped reading as well as commenting! And it may not be that the lack of interaction by readers is a protest vote at all, but is due to something else entirely. I have no way of knowing though - that is the conundrum - so as a blogger it is natural to question the merits of what you are doing first. (Especially when you factor in middle-aged paranoia, haha.) But seriously, I would be glad to know what people think of the topic mix, and whether I should stick to perfume on here, and create a separate blog for the other topics. Or even drop the perfume side and just focus on travel periodically - I don't know. I do wonder whether Bonkers might have become a bit of an unholy mishmash now, and people are just too polite to say so. ;)

I can assure you though that I will be reviewing some more perfumes soon. Also, the bathroom renovation really does deserve a post of its own - for the comedy value of the whole sorry palaver alone! - though I realise that would be another digression. For yes, as you may have noticed, I am rather Bonkers about Bathrooms - and sanitary- and brassware in particular. Yet in this picture I took last night (several sheets to the wind it must be said) I completely failed to get the all-important taps in!

And finally, I would like to wish everyone out there - regular readers, occasional readers, or those who have landed here by mistake! - a very Happy New Year, or as happy a one as we can collectively contrive in this mad, mad world...

Ooh look, I have managed to get back to Sunday posting after a bit of a 'temporal drift' of late.