Wednesday 26 December 2018

Still MIA, mired in more goop, and completely depleted! A patchwork post from me this time...

The Monochrome Paint Tray
Goodness, it is a long time since my last post, but - much like the Brexit talks - I seem to have been on a runaway train of (in my case home improvement) setbacks. The sloping floor issues alluded to in my last post got Very Slopey Indeed, and that floor had to be ripped up not long after it was laid, after being declared 'failed'. Cue purchase of new floor, more goop (brown this time!), another 12 hours straight of fan whirring, more floor laying, and a post mortem with the supplier of Floor No 1, the technical niceties of which I will spare you. And the final upshot of which is some way off.

There was additionally a fair old smattering of plumbing and joinery problems following on immediately behind, though I am thankful that Floor No 2 is showing no signs of legging it on its own, like the last 'floating jigsaw' disaster. If someone offers you a 'click-style' floor Be Very Afraid. I can see that this post may be becoming quite Capitalised, not far off the texts from my sister-in-law's brother, who has his phone settings weirdly turned in such a way as to Capitalise Every Last Darn Word.

The 'before':

That's a big sink!

More 'before':

The blue fishing net is for rescuing mice!

No sooner had the workmen gone off for Christmas, when I succumbed to some kind of winter vomiting bug, which lasted two full days and nights and then a bit, and completely kiboshed my Christmas prep and any social plans last weekend. I was weak and nearly delirious by Christmas Eve from not even keeping water down, and the doctor called me in for tests, to see if I might in fact have food poisoning rather than the Norovirus, say - only I had a very similar 'do', you see, earlier this month. A friend kindly ran me there, as I would not have passed the: 'Are you too ill to pick up a twenty quid note from the bottom of the drive?' test, never mind make my own way to the surgery.

I turned a corner finally on Christmas Day itself, but lost a couple of days and all their concomitant Facebook posts and depressing news bulletins, crowds in Asda, futile hunts for cranberry sauce at this very late stage, seriously discounted Christmas cards, and what have you. Moreover, I was meant to be on stuffing and veg duty in a combined effort Christmas meal with two friends, but by the time I felt more myself, the shops were well and truly closed. I felt decidedly sheepish showing up to the meal without having contributed to its making after all, but that is just how my recovery worked out, honest!

Oh, and I did manage to spritz on a bit of By Kilian's Amber Oud on Christmas night, as I promised Undina I would. She has kindly given me samples of this at least twice now. ;) And if you haven't already seen it, Truffle makes a cameo appearance in the latest post on Undina's Looking Glass, as Undina celebrates Rusty's 10th birthday and features a gallery of other pets in Perfumeland. I must say that Truffle looks particularly imperious in the photo Undina has chosen. The highlights for me in her post were Rusty powering through the paper hats, and a little dog with unfeasibly huge ears. But yes, I did wear my designated scent last night, and very wintery and comforting it was too.

Source: Lucky Scent

But generally of late perfume has been a little distant from my mind. I am not ready to park Bonkers - though the thought has certainly occurred to me - but I shall be in this distracted phase for a while yet, with the French house completion in the early New Year (whee!), and a lot more work to be done on the utility side of this multi-tasking utility/shower room. The other wall is a truly fantastical tangle of cables and pipes, with random bits of wood here and there and splodges of white and red paint (not pictured ;) ).

The 'during' (snatching a brief window of opportunity between Floors 1 and 2!):

The 'so far' (skirting boards and window sills, mirror etc to come, plus a few remaining fixes / bodges here and there, the need for which I am hoping you won't notice):

Now in 1995, it so happens that I did a research project on applications for curved glass of various kinds, and predicted that the curved shower enclosure market in particular would be huge...and was proved right! I was even offered a full time job on the back of it, though I didn't want my life to be all about glass any more than I wanted it to be all about coleslaw a decade before. And now for the first time, 23 years on, I have such a shower of my own...;)

Going back to the time when I was ill, Nurse Truffle kept up her usual devoted vigil, spending a good 90% of her time night and day either in or on my bed. She only ever does that when something is wrong with me, because as we have discussed in previous posts, Cats Know. There I go again. Italicised caps, no less. The downside of her coming and going at will is that the white duvet cover is now well and truly decorated with muddy paw marks, and despite three washings I cannot get the blessed things out. I may need bio rather than non-bio washing powder, come to think of it. Anyway, I do kind of forgive her, as she was so attentive, washing my eyes, nose, and cheeks periodically as she saw fit. Here she is, checking out the clean sheets post-recovery.

Echoes of The Handmaid's Tale?

In other Christmas news, ex-Mr Bonkers was on national telly three times in a week, playing bass with Roy "I wish it could be Christmas every day" Wood, my tinsel on him. This means the tinsel has made it onto four out of five terrestrial channels now...cracking BBC2 is proving more of a challenge. This year I have told ex-Mr B he can keep the tinsel, as I don't normally have a use for the big furry red strands he favours.

Live on The Last Leg

And you won't be surprised to hear that I couldn't possibly do any kind of New Year's perfume round up, as I used to do in the old days on Bonkers, because I am barely aware of what is coming out on the market anymore, unless I am sent it, or one of my blogger mates grabs me and says: 'Try this!' Also, most revealingly, I did not jump on my copy of the latest edition of Perfumes: The Guide, as I did with the one from 2008, when I was first mad for the stuff. Instead, I had a bit of a flick through when it arrived, looking up some of my fave fragrances from recent years (such as I could even remember!) and glancing at anything that happened to catch my eye. But since then the book has languished untouched on a side table. I find the plethora of releases frankly too overwhelming, and my own interest has waned, I cannot deny it, from its frenetic early phase. I still love fragrance, I still help friends locally find 'the one' - or one possible 'the one' more like - I wear perfume more often than not, though perhaps a bit more 'not' lately, and it will always be a thread in my life to some degree.

That all said, I do see myself as a fading character - if 'character' is not overstating it - in the blogosphere. Yes, I feel I am slipping away gradually from the scene, and that is okay. There are newer, more passionate bloggers than me taking up the mantle, who have the energy and drive - and who may well have just as much chaos in their home lives to boot, but if so they are better at managing it, haha - or more professional in compartmentalising their lives, maybe. I am not gone yet though, and there are perfume posts I have up my sleeve, it is just that I cannot bring myself to write most of them at the moment. For I like to write about what is uppermost in my mind there and then. And that so often used to be perfume, but it isn't right now...So we will see.

I am not so distracted though that I wasn't very sad to learn of the passing of the great, maverick perfumer, Vero Kern. Val of APJ was her good friend and 'brand ambassador', and will miss her keenly I know. I met Vero just the once in 2015, for afternoon tea at Zurich railway station, and was struck by her lack of airs and graces, and how she ploughed her own high quality and very personal furrow amidst the welter of cookie cutter dross. We spoke in a comedy mix of English and German, and she said that she liked the fact that she never knew whether I would review a new scent of hers or not - and if I did, she knew it might not be till ages after its release - which seemed to amuse her. Of her work, I liked the Mitos best, but am also curiously partial to Rozy Voile d'Extrait, and Rubj on a very 'bosomy' day. I don't have too many of those, to be fair.

Note that I was so overawed to meet Vero that I only took a photograph of her feet and little dog, whose name I can never spell, so always gloss over.

Out of interest, I looked to see what I had posted around this date some years ago,to contrast where I was then versus now. Here is a perfume report from Paris in 2011, for example, featuring JAR Parfums.

Eight years ago I linked to a guest post I wrote for Cafleurebon(!) on perfume gift giving.

While this year I am mired in goop of every hue and throwing up, haha. Which, interestingly, I believe is also known as 'Huey'. Hue knew?

But as Val also says, 'this too shall pass'. She's very wise, our Val.

Thursday 6 December 2018

MIA and mired in goop: a patchwork post from would-be collaborators!

Sorry for yet another hiatus between posts...there seems to have been a lot going on in my life on various fronts. I am still hugely distracted by the home renovations, which have been a case yet again of one step forward, several steps back, with more 'sudden death' least worst decisions at every turn. I said to the tiler yesterday: 'Whatever would you do if I wasn't here? You know, if I was at work?' 'I'd ring often as necessary!' he replied, quick as a flash.

This past couple of days we have had different lots of goop - the 'goop of the day' is pictured below. One lot was black, one lot was grey, yet I was warned that the latter might turn Truffle's paws blue. Yes, it has been a challenge to say the least to keep her off the affected areas, yet it was actually me that ended up prematurely stepping on the floor yesterday and sinking into the quagmire in one particularly slow drying spot. A case of the Hollywood Utility of Fame, you might say. Or maybe not. Then the front room is full of all my laundry paraphernalia, along with the fascia of the shower tray, which must be allowed to rest in state in its natural curved position(!); the dining room is crammed with white goods diaspora, and there is nowhere frankly to be, and to feel comfortable and at home. I tell myself it will be lovely in the end, though my floors are still insufficiently level to meet the spec of the flooring system being used (for a variety of insurmountable and/or unforeseeable reasons with which I shan't trouble you), such that there is a very real risk it will ride up, peel, separate, move, or undulate underfoot as soon as the fitter has gone. Not for nothing do they call it a 'floating' system...

The other thing that has consumed a lot of my attention lately is knitting, which I know is not of interest to some (or most!) readers. I sold quite a lot of my woolly wares at my friend Gillie's Open House pottery event the other weekend, the money from which will come in very handy in the absence of any work at the moment. I went on a wool replacement buying spree after the weekend, laying waste to my PayPal balance, which always feels like free money, and have been gleefully opening package after package of jewelled balls of yarn.

One particular obsession is with the brand Scheepjes, which has named every shade after a different Dutch town. I am slowly collecting examples from every colour family (and part of The Netherlands!) like a demented magpie, leading Tara of A Bottled Rose to remind me that this current urge with adding to my wool stash was 'like Farrow & Ball tester pots all over again'. She is spot on there!  

I still have outstanding knitted commissions - and am always on the lookout for others ;) - all of which has meant that I have not been feeling like writing the blog. Perfume generally seems quite far down my list of preoccupations at the moment, though I do still wear it at least every other day. I have a number of perfume related posts in mind, even, but they are simply not ready to come out...

So then I had the bright idea that I would share with you instead some of the recent communications I have had from companies who write to my blog email address, asking me to collaborate in some shape or form. The inquiries really are quite varied as you will see, and I will try to group them thematically.

Would-be guest writers

"I'm a fan of your site and feel like you cover the hunting space very well. I'm writing to see if you accept guest content."

The hunting space???

Product plugs / review requests 

"Pure Hemp Plus is a range of natural oils and honeys containing cannabidiol or CBD...Might this be something you would kindly consider covering at all? As a how to regain balance during Christmas Party season perhaps, or how to get through ones daily commute?"

I think Val has the drugs angle nicely covered in her Strange Tales series, thank you. ;)

"My name is Kelsey and I work in the marketing department at I'm writing to you because I came across the content on your website, and I really enjoyed your writing style....we have created a guide on eco-friendly travel and how to keep the Earth enjoyable for our children, and our children's children! I was writing to see if you would be interested in sharing this post on your page. You can find the post here:"

I find the capitalisation of CheapOair oddly unsettling, never mind its irrelevance to perfume, though it is true that I travel a fair bit. Also, I have no children.

"I wanted to reach out to you to see if you'd be interested in receiving a review copy of (perfumer's) new book."

You lost me at "reach out".

"We had contacted you earlier because we believe your website visitors would benefit from knowing about Have you had a chance to look at our new site yet? Not only do we offer a database of furniture from major retailers, but we also have a daily updated local Sales Finder to help users find the best deals in their area. You can check out our Sales Finder here:"

My reply: "I am blocked from access to your website, as I outside California. Moreover, most of my readers are. Plus it is a perfume website, albeit the odd reader in California may conceivably be on the lookout for a sofa."

"I hope you’re well and having a wonderful week so far? I just wanted to get in touch as I wanted to see if you were interested in reviewing a beloved fragrance of the 60’s, for any upcoming fragrance features...If you have fond memories of being young and carefree, this fragrance will have you feeling a sense of nostalgia. But also for those who weren’t born in the 60’s/70’s you can also embody the era with the gorgeous scent."

You lost me at "wonderful week". Also repetition of "wanted". And your efforts to cover all bases demographically are somewhat transparent.

Requests for participation on other sites

"Without wasting any of your time, I wanted to ask if you'd be interested in sharing your favourite tip to making money online for a huge post I'm writing."

What money online? Does he mean selling my stuff on eBay?

Unusual invitations 

"We would love to invite you to attend an immersive experience with (perfume brand)."

I am feeling immersed enough as it is, thank you.

"This is just a gentle reminder to let you know that we will be hosting the first 'Third Thursday' poetry reading event in (perfume brand's) 'Poet' store, in Westfield White City this Thursday evening.

Even if I didn't live 160 miles away from White City, I would in principle decline any invitation which was accompanied by "gentle reminders". Also, "first Third Thursday" sounds like a contradiction in terms, though on reflection it is indeed possible.

"Will you be attending Pitti Fragranze this Fall?"

No, and not next year either,  or any year! 

Miscellaneous gibberish

"I went through your blog in detail and found that you are actively creating contents on your blog."

Do some blogs have inactively created contents then? Or no contents?

"I am Jack from Coshow Cosmetics Company, as a professional OEM/ODM cosmetics manufacturer in Shanghai, China. With the best quality products, competitive price and timely delivery have being stable cooperation with some ." (sic, including intriguing ending)

Can you tell I am preoccupied, hehe? ;)

Back to my sloping floor issue...

Sunday 11 November 2018

Palindromes and French leave(s)

Topic advisory: this isn't a post about perfume, if any readers are selective in that regard. It isn't about make up or skincare or my travels with the band either, though it does have a travel theme. For this week I flew to France to sign a 'compromis de vente' - which approximates to a sales agreement, and is the first legal step in buying a house over there. In property purchase terms it could best be likened to an engagement perhaps - I have to go back later for the marriage itself(!), or 'acte authentique de vente' (deed of sale).

You may well ask how all this came about, for I realise it sounds rather sudden - impulsive even. Well, I have stayed with my friend L in her house in the Correze - a hop and a skip from the Dordogne - for the past three summers, and documented two of these holidays on the blog, eg here. I did actually say even on my first visit two years ago that it felt like coming home. Then this summer a little house popped up for sale a few doors down her street. We had two viewings with the estate agent, and a few weeks later, after consulting a dozen or so friends and associates with experience of owning property overseas, or of legal or financial matters or big life decisions generally - in short, people endowed with a good dollop of common sense as I did not want my friends to act simply as an echo chamber - I put an offer in which was accepted. Including the solicitor's and estate agent's fees (the buyer pays the latter here!), plus taxes and some furniture, the price comes out at just over £40,000. You could buy three such houses for the price of a small terrace in Stafford, so it seemed like a bargain I couldn't let slip away - that was certainly the consensus of the people I spoke to who already had houses in France.

The house last summer

As a holiday home I am well aware that it would be rather a luxury, so all being well, I hope to move there full-time when I finally retire, and to keep the place ticking over meanwhile in terms of running costs. I am not ready to emigrate yet, as I have all sorts of ties still in Blighty. Plus my economic status at the moment is too shaky for me to be allowed to stay in France for more than three months of the year - with my current level of earnings I would be considered a burden on the state. That all changes, however, once I hit 66 and am in receipt of a state pension. At that point the French government considers it quite normal for a person to be 'economically inactive'(!), and takes a more benign view of immigrants and the minimum income they must bring with them.

The other day - those shutters need a lick of lead-free paint! (see below)

To fund the purchase I broke into a long term investment product I had previously considered strictly as a pension pot. I do see this as forward planning for my retirement though. Yes, the whole thing feels a bit as though I were a student who accidentally falls pregnant at university and decides to keep the baby and muddle through her studies somehow, in the hope that it will all come good in the end. A case of the right decision at the wrong time you could say. But there again, if I set out to look for a house in seven years' time, specifically in my friend's village, never mind her street, I might look in vain - or find something, but not be able to afford it. So I decided to take the plunge, secure my retirement home now, and put it behind my ear for later. Or rather use it as a holiday home to be going on with, and as an opportunity to gradually find out more about the ins and outs of living in France. I did spend an academic year on the Riviera as it happens, teaching English in a school, but that was forty years ago!, so things will surely have changed since then. And I didn't own a home, obviously, so there will be much to learn. As ex-Mr Bonkers' mother advised, my MO will be one of 'creep and go'.

So that is the background...and here is some more on the trip itself...

I had bagged a cheap flight from Bristol to Limoges, and there was the usual mayhem and ground-to-a-halt chaos on the roads around Birmingham, topped off with gridlock in Bristol itself, the centre of which seemed to have been entirely dug up! Then I was next to a baby on the plane, as is always the way - I attract them as a magnet does iron filings - though to the infant's credit it slept much of the flight. At the other end I picked up a gratifyingly tiny hire car, and an hour and a half later was installed in the simple but well appointed studio accommodation I had booked through Airbnb. It was located at the back of the owners' garage, and my hostess kindly showed me a labyrinthine route from my flat to their quarters, in case I was 'ill in the night'.

My studio accommodation

The house was situated on a long residential road, high above the little town where the solicitor's office was, and where I was due to do the deed in a couple of days' time. Or not the deed deed, but the earlier one I mentioned, obvs. ;) After unpacking my bulging Ryanair-compliant hand luggage, I scurried down a steep, pitch black road in the general direction of the lights below, and once I reached town, soon ascertained that all the supermarkets shut on the dot of 7.30pm, and I had no supplies bar an apple. Luckily, the barman at the one hotel in town stepped into the breach and sold me a litre of UHT milk at cost price, and I also scored a warm pizza slice from the bakery just as it was closing.

The patio outside my studio

The next day I had a productive meeting with that traditional tourist mecca, the water board(!), about how to read the meter at the point of handover from one owner to another. I was even given different models of meter to study, so that I knew which numbers were which on any possible design I might encounter. I also met two lovely ladies at the office of a big French insurance company. One of them normally works mornings in a little branch just behind my house-to-be. 'Oh, we will be neighbours!' she remarked brightly. I am strongly inclined to place my business with her, because at least five times a week she will be able to check my house hasn't burnt down or the roof blown off. It is in her interest to keep an eye on it, after all, to preempt any claims on my side. ;)

After extensive reconnoitring, I can tell you that this little town where the solicitor is boasts not one but two opticians - unless I was seeing double? - a book shop, an abattoir, a wine merchant, a manufacturer of duvet fillings, a flour mill...and that blessed endangered species, a wool shop. Of course I had to go and patronise it, and bought a ball of wool to make wristwarmers with. When I went back a couple of days later, the owner remembered me and said she hoped I wasn't after any more of the same yarn, only someone had been in that morning and snapped it all up! Luckily I was after a different colour...

Autumn in all its mellow yellowness

After custom buying a few French foodstuffs for friends, and before I went back up the hill to my digs, I couldn't resist a peep in the windows of two estate agents to check I hadn't missed any other local property gems. But no, I am happy to report that there was nothing that could remotely have swayed me from my choice...

The next morning I had an early appointment at the bank in 'my' village, to finalise the paperwork required to open an account. I handed over 75 euros to get it started, and ordered a debit card. The bank clerk sent a temporary access code to my mobile so that I could manage my account online, and seemed frankly astonished that it reached my UK number with a few moments' delay. The last time I had a French bank account - in Cannes in 1979 - there were no such things as debit cards or cash dispensers, and I only had a cheque book instead. I wasn't offered a cheque book on this occasion, times having moved on!

The solicitor's office

Then it was back to the town where I was staying, and at noon in the solicitor's waiting room I met the estate agent and the vendor (who lives opposite the house I am buying - it was she and her late husband's holiday home till they retired and moved to the village full-time, rendering it redundant).

The meeting was held in a grand office with extremely tall windows. It was conducted in French, though the estate agent was on hand to help if I got stuck on anything. While the solicitor nipped out to the photocopier, I mentioned to the others the random trivia fact that the date of 8.11.18 was a palindrome - well, it is if you budge the numerals up a bit as you go backwards - which seemed to make the occasion even more momentous.

I have bought this bed and chairs!

The only word I had to ask the meaning of in the event was the one for asbestos, which had come up in the French equivalent of a survey. Which fortunately I don't have, along with a very low risk of earthquakes, flooding, industrial pollution, landslides, subsidence, and unsympathetic new developments. There are, however, highish levels of radon gas in the area, though not especially in the village. The solicitor, who was born here, pretended to be alarmed about this, and said she hoped she would live long enough to complete our conveyancing. Then I also learnt that I am termite- and dry rot-free, but there are traces of lead in the exterior paint used on the house - so no sucking the window frames, then, as Val the Cookie Queen observed. And the survey also threw up a few 'electrical anomalies', though to be fair I am still discovering the full gamut of electrical anomalies in my house here in Stafford, six years on. As luck would have it, the next day I bumped into one of the two recommended electricians in the village. I told him about my 'anomalies', and he gave me his card, looked reassuringly unfazed, and said that as soon as I was ready he'd pop up and take a look.

The house gives good door

Yes, the community feeling I sensed in the village and neighbouring town where I stayed - after three days of not even being a home owner - was remarkable. The lady in the second hand shop explained how to convert an old fashioned linen cupboard into a conventional wardrobe with the aid of a glide rail or two, and offered to keep an eye out for one for me. She can also organise a van to take away any furniture left behind in the house I don't want to keep, which will go to charity.

 And on my last night, my Airbnb host invited me to join her and her husband in the main house to 'wet the sales agreement's head' (roughly translated ;) ) with champagne and canapes. There was a moment of utter confusion when the husband pointed out that a log in the grate looked like a 'chevreuil' (deer), which I got mixed up with 'chevrefeuille' (honeysuckle), prompting me to make an inane comment about its having a sweet smell. We had a wide ranging conversation which covered patchwork families, Brexit, young (and not so young!) people's obsession with selfies, the weather, the soil, views on incomers, tradesmen tips and much more. I learnt the words for 'chimney sweep', 'loophole' and 'up your own a**e'. I do need a chimney sweep as it happens, and am sure I will have much recourse to the 'a**e' phrase. When I retired to my studio two hours later, I felt pleasantly squiffy and not really hungry, so I ended up having my microwavable ham and cheese crepe - and as many other random leftovers as I could force down me - for breakfast the next morning.

I will be back soon, and though it is a while before I would begin to contemplate living here full-time for the reasons I explained, this trip has already had a profound effect. I do believe I could settle there quite nicely, even though the pace of life is very, very slow. My host summed up the village where I am buying with the comment: 'Some nice houses, but a bit dead', adding: 'I guess it depends what you like really!' I would sum up the people in the area as down to earth, warm and kind, and as long as you are not up your own 'a**e' you will fit right in.

So yes, sorry this is far away from perfume - that said, I can report that I wore Aroma M Geisha Botan on the signing day! - but it is a major thing going on in my life at the moment, such that it would have felt odd not to write about it...

Thursday 1 November 2018

Hallowe'en Bah Humbug, and results of the 9th blog anniversary dishcloth draw!

Where do you stand on Hallowe'en? No really, it is a serious question. Me, I am becoming increasingly Bah Humbug about what I am astonished to learn has become 'our second favourite family celebration behind Christmas'. And that is a headline from The Daily Mail, so it must be true...ahem. I can also feel a creeping Bah Humbugness coming on about Christmas in fact - with its dispiritingly excessive consumerism - so I guess the highly manufactured commercial occasion of Hallowe'en was a natural casualty.

When I was a child growing up in Northern Ireland, Hallowe'en was the only cause for festivities - Guy Fawkes passed us completely by. Instead, we threw ourselves headlong into the serious business of wearing 'false faces' (the Ulsterism for masks), eating toffee apples in the days when we had the teeth to take it, bobbing for apples in the days when we had full neck mobility, and of course lighting fireworks. Though not after about 1968, when letting off fireworks at home was banned due to The Troubles, and it was a case of either attending public displays of pyrotechnics or bust. Additionally, our father had a student who would sometimes act as MC at my Hallowe'en parties, and whose star turn was making a ring move on the end of a string by the power of thought alone. And she had more tricks up her sleeve besides that. Speaking of tricks, we didn't do Trick or Treating in those days, or get dressed up, or decorate the house - there may have been some mimimal interaction with pumpkins, but I don't even remember that.  All the same Hallowe'en still managed to be a relatively big deal in the '60s and '70s - pre- and post-private fireworks.

I guess one of the reasons I went off Hallowe'en is the whole Trick and Treating thing, which came over from the States and which really annoys me, for I hate begging of any description. I don't care for crowd funding for that matter as a way of raising money for anything other than charitable causes, and consider it no more or less than a 21st century euphemism for begging. Then the practice of being mean to people who don't give you the requisite confectionery swag, or who insult you with a bag of carrots, notwithstanding their nutritional value, is anathema to me. Consequently last night I lurked upstairs and did not respond to the serial knocks on my door. I didn't stoop to turning the lights off downstairs, mind, because I simply refuse to be cowed by this tradition to the point of plunging the cat into darkness.

The other reason I went off Hallowe'en is frankly the goriness of people's costumes and make up. I am a squeamish soul and had to avert my eyes many times yesterday while scrolling through the Facebook posts of friends in their full ghoulish regalia. It is not that I can't appreciate the imagination and make up artistry involved, much of it highly elaborate, it is just that I am terrified of the sight of blood. ;) I don't go to Cake Club anymore, and I certainly wouldn't have relished last night's offerings, which included severed finger biscuits. Boy, were they realistic!

Source: Clare Chick

So did I do anything of a Hallowe'enish nature? Well, I did buy a squash for 39p in Aldi, mainly because it was colourful and nicely fills up the fruit bowl in the absence of fruit. I nearly bought a second one to finish the job, but balked at another 39p on an item I would probably not attempt to peel and cook, if indeed you can. For all I know, they may be entirely decorative.

Oh, and I will keep my eyes peeled when I go to the shops next in case they are selling off those little nets of chocolate pumpkin balls and the like. But I shall draw the line at eyeballs or spiders, however deeply discounted.

As for wearing a spooky or witchy Hallowe'en perfume yesterday, not a chance. I am currently trying to use up a few unknown vials which have been lying around for ages, having long since separated themselves from their Les Senteurs card or whatever they may have been attached to in the distant past. So I drained one of oriental of some kind at a guess, but not remotely susceptible to spooking the wearer, I am happy to say.

So there you have it. What a incorrigibly curmudgeonly soul I am in the Hallowe'en department, not entering into the fun at all. I didn't even wear my purple Lipstick Queen Goodbye lipstick that Undina gave me, which might at least have been a small concession to ghostly pallor. much did I enjoy looking at this garden, in a street above my house? What a lot of effort they went to, and what a veritable cornucopia of ghoulish artefacts! The pebbledash pachyderm is particularly unsettling. But seriously, if I was a kid now, I would have loved all that, just as I loved riding the Ghost Train at funfairs. It is perhaps a shame that I have lost my sense of childish wonder somewhere along the way, and become the humbug of today...

And now, on to the dishcloth draw! I excluded the overt DNEMs and put everyone else in. If I misread Lady Jane Grey's wishes a refusal will not offend, and I will do the draw again. As I foretold, the odds were excellent, as only four people were entered, haha.

So, having used the good offices of I can reveal that the winner of the 9th Blog Anniversary prize draw is:



Let me know your address again on flittersniffer at gmail dot com, even though I feel I should have it somewhere already, and I will post your prize off without delay.

Wednesday 24 October 2018

Plush peony: Aroma M Geisha Botan review, as Bonkers turns 9

I don't know where the time goes, but I have just checked when I started Bonkers about Perfume, and it is 25th October, 2009. Some years I celebrate my blog anniversary late - up to eight months late in 2013!, then I may even have forgotten it altogether the odd time, while this year I decided to mark the occasion a day early, why not?  I do wonder if it is a bit cheeky to have an anniversary at all when my posting has become sparse of late, but I guess I am still just about going at least, on my tod, after a fashion. Or rather not after a fashion, as being on trend or 'in the swim', or even vaguely Zeitgeisty is not really my way.  I can't even bring myself to do Instagram and engage with those pesky thickets of hashtags, but that is a matter for a whole other post some time.

Behold, a cake that says those look a wee bit like peonies to you? Just getting in the mood...

Source: Pinterest

Truffle is thankfully asleep as I type, for she really got her claws into the bag containing HOCB Immortal Beloved last year.

And on to Geisha Botan, two samples of which arrived from Maria of Aroma M this week. Now I did have a number of perfume-themed (no, really!) posts in the pipeline, so the fact that this review (after a fashion) has catapulted the scent to the top of the queue - or to the mouth of the pipeline, should that be? - speaks volumes. This is suddenly the perfume I want to write about most of all, as you may rightly infer.

Before I tried Botan, I had a quick glance over the PR blurb that was sent with it. The first thing to mention is that Botan is another Japanese-inspired scent - as its inclusion in the Geisha range would suggest indeed - moreover the word Botan actually means 'peony'. I have to say I would never have made the connection, for Botan is quite a heavy word, and peonies blowsy but lighter somehow, even when they droop, of which more anon. My mind also keeps drifting towards 'butane', from which obviously I quickly yank it back. To top things off I have a type of monkey image running through my brain, but I may in fact merely be conflating Borneo and Orang-utan.

So it is doubtless best to move on from such unhelpful free associations and return to our peony muttons. The potted version of the story behind Botan is as follows: newly arrived in Tokyo in the 1980s, Maria visited Ueno Park, noted for its 17th century Toshogu Shrine. Here she chanced upon a peony garden and was struck "not only by this flower's profusion of bedazzling jagged-edged pink blossoms, but by its gentle rose-like scent." Maria considers peonies "quintessential Asian flowers" and harboured a long term wish to create the quintessential peony perfume herself one day. And now here it is.

Ueno Park ~ Source:

On a side note, I used to have two enormous peony bushes in the back garden of the house I shared with Mr Bonkers. The blossoms were incredibly profuse and a very pale pink, and every year I would 'kettle' them in a kind of metal pen to stop the heavy heads drooping till they eventually caused the whole plant to fall over. The bushes bloomed every year all the time I lived there, but I suspect Mr Bonkers - not someone overly endowed with green fingers - may since have managed to kill them, if the fate of my beloved Pieris is anything to go by.

Notes: peony, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, "velvet woods".

Now, returning to peony-inspired perfumes, in the spirit of full disclosure I didn't think I was a big fan of these. There are a few I have tried, and they can be a bit watery and insipid, or occasionally even tart. Moreover, I associate them firmly with spring, so was faintly puzzled to be receiving samples of a peony perfume in October. Though the timing of the package may have been fortuitous. Anyway, I need not have worried...oh no...

This was a peony perfume with welly. The plushest of peony perfumes ever made. It is thick and powdery and velvety and musky with just the right amount of sweetness. The peony and rose notes are beautifully blended with the lighter peony keeping the rose from being overly dark and Gothic, a la Czech & Speake's Dark Rose (there's a clue in the name!). If I remember rightly, it was also a touch agar woody and used to catch in my throat.

Now I do love gourmand orientals (being the happy owner of both Parfumerie Generale's Brulure de Rose and Tauer PHI Une Rose de Kandahar), and when Maria described this to me as a 'floral gourmand', that seemed spot on. If anyone remembers Sonoma Scent Studio's Velvet Rose, I am reminded of its rich, velvety texture, if not its scent particularly. And there are one or two other fragrances with this kind of vibe that I can't summon up for the moment. But think the olfactory equivalent of sensuous velvet damask cushions and you won't go far wrong. Funnily enough, I was thinking of getting this very one for a friend as a present. Interestingly, I imagine there is a phantom hint of plum in Botan for some reason, which I swear I detected before lighting upon this plum - and pleasingly plump - cushion!

Source: Ian Snow

I can see me wearing these samples of Botan all through the winter, day or night. Botan is a light heavy oriental, if you know what I mean. A soprano as it were. But it has heft and swagged folds too. While managing to completely avoid being the sort of powdery diva scent you would associate with a stout opera singer. I love the idea of an peony oriental scent - it really does seem to subvert the usual conventions. I am very drawn to Maria's other amber-forward creations, both for Aroma M and House of Cherry Bomb, and now I am delighted to have discovered a whole other fragrance style of hers that moves me to the same extent.

Oh, I say, I have just googled an image of the bottle - my very first sighting of it - and look what colour it is!

Source: Luckyscent

Wednesday 10 October 2018

Come rain, shine, or anything in between: Miller Harris La Pluie review

I am afraid it has been another funny week or two: I am still beset with delays and problems on my renovations, due mainly to an unhappy mixture of incommunicado and astronomically priced tradesmen. On top of that I had a ten day-long cold with a side of exhaustion and headaches, topped off with an odd house guest and a doomed insurance claim, the very thought of which makes my blood run - not cold exactly, as it is unseasonably warm outside - but cooler than whatever temperature blood tends to be as a rule.

Perfume-wise it has been a strange old time as well. Initially I was so distracted that I forgot to put any on, but then something happened: I unthinkingly sprayed on Miller Harris La Pluie one morning, as a sample vial just came to hand in a sponge bag, and found myself reaching for it day after day, as though on autopilot. I don't believe I have ever worn a single perfume on so many consecutive occasions - it is most unlike what my conscious self would do, or even approve of. But La Pluie has been hitting the spot, so I have stuck with it.

Ironically, though I have had this sample for ages, I have consistently passed over it up till now. La Pluie hadn't really registered or imposed itself on my nostrils or memory. I remember it as inoffensive and nondescript, and it certainly is the former, however I now think that it does have quite a bit going on in a quiet, companionable way. And that is just the kind of perfume I am drawn to at the moment, something gentle, soothing and supportive, like the way Truffle was during the worst of my cold, snuggled under the covers with her head lying facing me on my outstretched arm, and her paws resting empathetically on my neck. Truly a laying on of paws, if such a thing exists, and most therapeutic at the time. It was only when I started to get up and display signs of normal behaviour that Truffle decided she could dispense with her 'under covers' vigil and go outside. So La Pluie is, if you will, the scented equivalent of a consoling cat. In short it is ideal for when it rains, when it pours(!), when it drizzles, and for bizarre episodes of Indian summer weather as we have today.

Notes: tangerine, lavender, 'wet' white flowers, ylang-ylang, vetiver, bourbon vanilla

So how does La Pluie smell? Well, in the opening I do just about get a fresh and dewy bouquet of those white flowers (don't ask me what, obviously). I am a little reminded of Annick Goutal's Un Matin d'Orage, which has a similar damp floral effect. But there is a weightiness to the composition of La Pluie even at this early stage, and a powdery note almost immediately creeps in, never to leave. As the scent develops, the powder at times seems 'granular', and I don't think I am hallucinating (thought given my recent illness, the possibility cannot be excluded) and the scent takes on a wet pavement kind of facet.

Also, the lavender is always in the background, but not in an overt, identifiable way so much as a kind of herbal counterpoint to the floral / orangey aspects. I don't generally like lavender as a note in perfume, which is testament to how subtle and well blended it is here. There's a soupcon of spice too, rather like Tom Ford Private Blend Shanghai Lily, but a million times more muted (and I love Shanghai Lily). Pepper? Clove? Carnation? No idea. And then over time La Pluie gradually fades away to an almost indescribable powdery, yet faintly tangy murmur. (That'll doubtless be some combo of the tangerine and ylang-ylang, a note of which I am inordinately fond.) There isn't any dankness to this rain-themed scent - and over its whole trajectory there is far more powder than moisture to be fair - and no hint of earthiness or petrichor. The powderiness could perhaps be likened to the faintest of light drizzles falling tinglingly on your skin, and there is that brief and possibly chimerical pavement interlude, as I say.

But rain is really not what I would have thought of on my repeated wearings of La Pluie, had it not been suggested by the perfume's name. Hence why my chosen photos show La Pluie in various sunlit spots round the house. ;) I am not sure I even agree with the description of the perfume on the sample box as: "A story of tropical showers and the balmy climate of a faraway island". Except perhaps by way of fleeting glimpses, but these are always wreathed in powder. Un Matin d'Orage comes much closer to that 'unalloyed damp flowers' visualisation.

So there you have no means a showstopper, and not necessarily even that memorable, though after my marathon wearing of La Pluie I for one will definitely remember it. But exactly the undemanding, comforting hum that you look for from a scent when it seems that all around you are losing their heads, and you reckon yours can't be far behind.

Now onto a regime of 'on the bed' care

Saturday 29 September 2018

TePe or not TePe: my interdental 'journey', and a flossing epiphany

Source: Wikimedia Commons (via Becker1999)
Sorry for the long gap between posts: this was partly due to another fitful procession of tradesmen, compounded by a stinking cold, which I still have, but with any luck you won't catch it from my keyboard. My sense of smell is a distant memory, so I really don't feel like writing about perfume at the moment. I have even been off alcohol, would you believe, which goes to show how rough I have been, though last night I 'made myself' have a gin and tonic, as I still managed to get a massive amount done this week, and wanted to mark that achievement alcoholically, as I do. The lime was doubtless good for my throat anyway. ;)

So instead of a perfume-themed post (again!!...I know, I know...I promise they'll be back), I would like to share my recent - and quite profound and far-reaching (literally, haha) - flossing epiphany.  I will use a more or less chronological format for the flossing methods I have used over the years, setting out the pros and cons of each. For it is certainly the case that interdental implements have evolved no end since the early days of wooden toothpicks.

But they are a good place to start, come to think of it. ;)

Wooden toothpicks

I remember these going right back to my childhood, usually kept in a little glass jar in the centre of a dining room or restaurant table, along with the condiments. If you were among friends or family, it was acceptable to have a good old rootle around your gums after your meal, even in company. The downside of these 'old school' toothpicks - which for any knitters amongst you very much resembled extremely short double-pointed needles - is that they were invariably too fat to get into any but the widest of interstices. That said, they are good at fetching out biggish pieces of meat or vegetable matter that are wedged half in, half out of a tooth, say. (Sorry if that is too much information.)

Source: Amazon

Classic floss thread

I didn't really get into flossing proper till my 30s, when I dated a guy who was evangelical about flossing twice a day and took absolutely forever over it. Even at that age he had had problems with receding gums, and we went to LA together in 1994 for him to have cutting-edge dental surgery - cutting being the operative word! - which involved his gums being cut and flipped back and somehow coaxed into re-affixing themselves lower down the teeth afterwards. And no, I really don't know how that was done, but it was the sort of semi-cosmetic dentistry for which Hollywood is renowned. And then he engaged in a spot of primal screaming therapy while he was there. I can understand how the mere fact of having your gums rearranged may have driven him to such a thing, though he did have other unresolved personal issues not related to teeth. Anyway, his flossing weapon of choice in those days, which I do still occasionally resort to today, was a reel of coated thread that you cut to the required length.

The pros of thread are that it is cheap and quite effective. However, it can hurt your gums by cutting into them (here we go again with our cutting imagery!), plus it is only deployable where you have double-sided access. There is no chance of using it in some tiny crevices on a back molar that can only be approached from the front. Plus it makes me salivate an unseemly amount, so is messy!

Floss picks

These are a supposedly convenient format, where a piece of floss thread is strung tightly between two prongs of a plastic pick. They remind me of a small hacksaw crossed with a bow and arrow and are neither use nor ornament - or not in my mouth. The locations where you can insert the floss part and not find the plastic frame bangs into your teeth at the same time are few and far between.

Source: dentagama

TePe brushes (in assorted sizes)

I don't know when I gravitated to these - it was probably at my dentist's suggestion - but they were my go-to flossing tool of choice for a long time, even though they were also deeply flawed. A pack of about 5 or 6 costs around £3 (if you get the actual brand, TePe), and they were almost always sold out of my size - .45mm ie the orange ones. Buy a size up or down and they would be so big you'd be ramming them pointlessly in between your smaller teeth, while the overly small ones rattle about from side to side and don't get that optimum traction for poking stuff out. (I have a friend who owns TePes in about four or five different colours, each dedicated to about three teeth each, but such a systematic approach is much too fiddly for me, even if they do look quite pretty lined up on the edge of the sink.)

Blue TePe - 0.6mm (too big for most of my teeth!)

To the lack of availability issue in my preferred size add the fact that TePes - the branded ones, but also to varying degress every single own label and budget knock off on the market (and believe me, I've tried them all) - are flagrant examples of built-in product obsolescence. Even if you have bought the correct size for the majority of your teeth, the TePes or their equivalent invariably crumple on impact after a few teeth and are as good as useless from that point on. As well as crumpling and bending into unusable shapes, I have had some cheapo ones that actually shed all their toilet brush-style fibres in between my teeth, making them feel like there was more stuff trapped in them than I started with, because there was! This left the TePe wannabe as bare steel, which was like flossing with a straight bit of barbed wire. That way lies bleeding gums, trust me on this.

Bendy white plastic toothpicks

Not so long ago I was staying with my brother and sister-in-law and they introduced me to a different kind of toothpick - a flat, tapered plastic white spear, that was completely flexible and seemed to fit most of my teeth except the ones with really tiny gaps. So technology has clearly come on a lot since the days of the wooden ones and I was really impressed with these, which are washable and reusable to boot. They are quite hard to find, plus I cannot even remember their name, but meanwhile, I have recently made an even greater discovery...drum roll...

TePe EasyPick

I found these quite by chance when failing (yet again!) to located the .45mm variety of the classic TePe style. They are a slight enhancement of the bendy white plastic toothpicks, because they are very fine at the tip, but graduated in width so by the time you get to the hilt, they are suitable for the gappiest of gaps (in my mouth at any rate, and excluding the gap where I had a tooth out and didn't put anything in its place, haha, which would take some bridging!). They are also incredibly flexible and bendy, to the point of going 'boing' when you flick them. Okay, maybe not quite. But they fit absolutely every tooth, you get tons of them in a pack, they are reusable quite a few times before you may accidentally deform the delicate fine tip. And of course your mileage may vary. I mentioned them to the friend with all the colours of TePes - and teeth of different sizes - and he said they didn't work for him. So probably if you have tighter teeth in the main they will be a perfect solution, less so if you have a more gappy arrangement.

That said, they do come in two sizes: M/L (in blue) and S/XS in orange - there is more info in this link, and no, I am not on commission or in any way associated with the company. ;) If one of the variants of TePe EasyPick is suitable for your gnashers, the savings are potentially huge! I for one am smitten. And my interdental detritus is history.