Thursday, 31 October 2019

Bonkers turned Ten the other day!

I know, I know, another nonchalantly asynchronous blog anniversary - the actual date being 25th October (I am pretty sure, but will just check...). I don't think readers will mind though, indeed I am not at all sure I even deserve an anniversary owing to the spasmodic and infrequent nature of my posts this year: a measly 16 to date in total. Still and all, it is a bit over a month at the current rate till I will reach two million page views, and I have written 678 posts in the past ten years. (679 now...) That does sound like quite a lot, actually(!), especially when I reckon up how long each one takes.

Meanwhile, I could have accepted various offers from would-be guest posters down the years, most recently one from the PR of a company that makes 'fermented skin products'. I was offered $35 for the privilege, but turned her down. I know I hardly post myself, but if you started to see features on beauty in a completely different - and doubtless conspicuously advertorial - style by someone called Mindy (not her real name, but you get the idea) you would probably smell a rat.

The thing about not posting very much, however, is that people naturally drift off after a while, unsure whether you will ever get your act together again. I understand that blogs may be somewhat on the decline anyway, and Instagram in the ascendent, but I am not going to start blogging on there in my twilight years, as it were - OR in bitesize snippets on Twitter, though I have seen that done. The format on that occasion proved spectacular, in a relentlessly bludgeoning kind of a way.

Now I do get a few comments from genuine perfume lovers still, but the vast majority are bot-driven(?) gibberish from spammers of every stripe. Some of these are funny though, so here is a small selection, reproduced verbatim:

"Thank you for the good write up. It in fact was an amusement account it. Look advanced to more added agreeable from you. However, how could we communicate?"

"Yes finally someone writes about url shorten." (I didn't!)

"Hurrah that's what I was exploring for, what a data! present here at this blog, thanks admin of this website."

If I am honest, I do find the slew of spam comments depressing, even if, for the most part, they are intercepted and await my moderation. I know that if Blogger was not such a cantankerous and unuser-friendly format, I might get a few more real people making it through, but I am not going to jump ship to Wordpress at this late stage either.

Rather, I will continue to sputter on, not unlike the tramps in Waiting for Godot:

"I can't go on. I'll go on."

My blogging helper and familiar!

For I do love perfume and wear it most days. It's the sadly discontinued Guerlain Plus Que Jamais today, rather aptly, as it was always my kneejerk choice whenever anyone asked me what my favourite scent was. And maybe it still is, though there are numerous others biting at its heels, not least HOCB Immortal Beloved, and now Bengale Rouge.

And of course there are the great friends in this community, my regular exchanges with whom mean the world to me (you know who you are!).

Then behind the scenes I continue to convert more of my 'civilian'* friends to niche fragrance. One in particular doesn't have a clue what they are wearing on any given occasion - the samples they've been given are all simply called 'sprays'- but the main thing is that they are 'spraying' at all(!).

So, you know, there is still a degree of scented goings on in my life. But while I do genuinely think that some of my early posts were proper reviews with perfume (more or less!) firmly centre stage - eg this seasonal one of L'Etat Libre d'Orange's pumpkin-forward Like This or this ode to body odour and libraries that is my take on Miller Harris's L'Air de Rien - I would be the first to concede that fragrance has become an increasingly tangential theme over time, such that I doubt very much whether anyone would stop by Bonkers these days for a real review of a new release.

But that's okay. I think Nature is quietly trying to tell me that I am if anything a travel writer who happens to like fragrance. I have been doing a fair bit of travelling lately in fact - interspersed with bursts of renovations and repairs to two houses! - and that is my main focus.

One of those black eyes is genuine!

In summary therefore, I am definitely slowing down in blogging terms, but am not at a complete stop yet...and if you don't mind the topic veering a bit to the left and right of perfume per se, you can look forward to more 'added agreeable' from the admin of this website for a bit longer at least...;)

*(copyright Tara of A Bottled Rose)

Thursday, 17 October 2019

The Travel Disruption Tour: The Monochrome Set in Germany, October 2019

Arriving into Frankfurt
Well, I said in my last post that I would write about the recent German tour of The Monochrome Set 'very shortly', and to do so in under ten days definitely counts as that, given the current, languid pace of my blogging. I could take to calling it 'slow blogging', but I am not sure that that would be seen as a good thing. It is not as though I am producing an unctuous beef stew at the end of it that has been simmering for six hours, or a coat that will last you for ten years instead of a couple of wearings. Oh I say, look how many slow things there are as part of the 'slow movement'! There's also 'slow travel', which the relentless pace of this latest trip most certainly was not, though arguably the many train delays we incurred might perhaps be described as 'enforced slow travel'. No, we should have stayed in one spot really to qualify as slow travellers, rather than zigzagging hither and thither as the gig schedule dictated. As has become the pattern for my travel posts, I shall approach this one thematically rather than chronologically, starting with:

Stop-and-Go statt Rock 'n' Roll 

Check out the advert below for the German railways, aka the Deutsche Bahn: 'Time at last for Rock 'n' Roll instead of Stop-and-Go'. Oh, the irony...the exact reverse is the case! To be fair, Easyjet should take some of the blame for making us arrive into Munich two hours late on Day 1, so that we missed our specified train and were obliged to buy fresh tickets for the next one. I had run on ahead to the travel centre to see what could be done, while the band collected their luggage. By a horrible quirk of fate, had they not hoved into view (no really, that is the past participle) within the next four minutes, we would have missed that train, forked out over 50% extra for the one after that, and got to our destination later still. As it was, we thought we might miss our onward connection to Nuremberg at Munich, as there didn't seem to be any carriage No 23 on the train standing at the platform stated on our itinerary. Now there were just two minutes to work out where the correct train was: it turned out to be joined to the back of the one we were puzzling over. Well, actually we had 20 minutes in hindsight, as the blasted thing was delayed by a technical fault. I rang ahead to the promoter to explain about the hold ups and revise our ETA. Thus it was that the band walked on stage - not having eaten or sound checked or changed, and half an hour later than their nominal stage time - but as cool, calm and collected as though nothing had happened. Delighted that they had made it, the audience gave them a rapturous welcome, and called for several encores at the end of the set.


Overly elaborate hotel instructions

This next topic only relates to me, as on the first night I opted to stay in a different, cheaper hotel from the band. When I realised how late I was going to be - with no time to check in before the gig - I thought to ask how I would in fact get in, as there isn't always someone on reception 24/7, and so it proved. Instead, whilst I was still on the train, I was sent an email from the hotel with instructions:

'We will deposit the room key in our key safe at the night entrance at [street address] (white box). The night entrance is located on the right hand side round the corner from the main entrance, in [street address], under the illuminated advert for the [hotel name] (opposite [name of] hair salon).

You will find your key, together with additional information, in locker No 1. Your personal opening code is xxxx. If the door of the locker doesn't open within 5 seconds, please repeat the process again.

Please hold the chip on your key on the reading field to the left of the door until the green light comes on. (Watch out: the door opens outwards!) The white chip card opens the entrance door and also the door of your room. Your room is located on the 4th floor (Room number 455B.)'

And just in case I wondered...

'Room 455A is not occupied.

You are welcome to take the lift up to the fourth floor. When you step out of the lift, please go left towards the rooms.'

They haven't quite finished thinking of all eventualities...

'If the doors of our hotel or your overnight room do not open with your room chip, or if you have lost your chip, we kindly request you to contact: The emergency key service of Company x on tel no y.'

Readers, I managed everything okay! NB This is NOT the entrance I used...;)

Source: Wikimedia Commons

An ornamental sink

At the Hamburg venue on the last night, each individual cubicle in the ladies toilets was equipped with its own miniature sink. However, Jane, the other female member of our party, had gone in before me and warned me that the sink was purely ornamental, and that I should wash my hands in one of bigger basins beyond. Have you ever come across such a futile fixture before? Maybe they just haven't got round to plumbing them in, but it didn't look that way. The mirror was handy, to be fair.

Neither use nor ornament?

Serial meetings with people from Stoke

During a smoking interlude outside the venue in Frankfurt, Bid the singer got chatting to a member of the audience, who turned out to be a guitar player - from Stoke-on-Trent. 'Oh', he replied, 'I know someone from Stafford'. Indeed the Stafford person in question was yards away at the time. A couple of days later and we had reached Hamburg. During the band's sound check, I got chatting to the tall blond guitarist in the support group, who were local. Ah, local they may have been, but it didn't take too many steps in our conversation before he revealed that he had spent a year in Stoke(!), studying Engineering Management, and taking a lively interest in the Potteries music scene. He suggested a few venues there that might be suitable for The Monochrome Set. We segued into neighbouring Newcastle-under-Lyme and the conversation rapidly descended into the realms of the surreal.


Excessively dark venues

It is customary on the music circuit - well, indie and rock, say - to expect dark, grungy, often subterranean interiors, but one venue on this trip took the cake. Not only was the green room plunged into almost total darkness, but the stage was pretty gloomy, and at several points Bid the singer was unable to see his own guitar to play. I seriously need to work on my nocturnal knitting skills, and it was also difficult to check the fillings of the rolls that constituted our 'arrival snacks'. Given the presence of two vegans and a vegetarian in our party of seven, being able to accurately ID what's in the food is pretty key. The walls of the green room were not unlike the Santa's grottos in department stores of my childhood, only black rather than snow white. I guess there was a clue in the name of the club - The Cave.

Lederhosen and Dirndl frenzy

This latest tour coincided with Oktoberfest, and we shared quite a few of our troubled train journeys with large groups of both sexes sporting the traditional Bavarian costume of Lederhosen and Dirndl. The latter being those corseted Nell Gwynn-type dresses that give women supernatural amounts of uplift. We couldn't help but be distracted by bouncing bosoms at every turn as the trains juddered along the tracks. I failed to capture any of these gaily got up festival goers on camera, though later spotted outfits for sale in a vintage shop on my final day in Hamburg.

With bonus building reflection!

Lightning quick hotel turnarounds

Speaking of outfits, one notable feature of this trip - linked to the train bother - was the fact that we had next to no downtime in our hotels before heading out to the venue. We would reach our hotels around four or five (if at all!), after being on the go all day. Then half an hour later at most - or as little as ten minutes, even - we would meet in the foyer and embark on the next leg of what always ended up being a very long day and night. Sometimes my brain went into meltdown trying to decide what were the most important things to accomplish in that short window of time after checking in, and whatever I did manage to do I invariably laid complete waste to my hotel room in the process! This photo was taken the following morning, but as you can see I haven't tidied up in between. ;) NB I was to lose those bed socks in the sheet chaos the very next night.

The big swizz that is "the world's narrowest street": Spreuerhofstrasse in Reutlingen

I did not make a detour to visit it, but Mike the drummer was curious to check out this Guinness record-holding street in Reutlingen after their gig. It measures only 31cm (a foot to you and me) at its narrowest point, and was constructed after most of the town was destroyed in the great fire of 1726. Mike has devoted a whole post to it on his blog, Urban75. He dismissed it as most disappointing, and 'a passageway at best'. ;) Check out his amusing piece here.

Source: Wikipedia (via kathrin_glaisser)

Fizzy in-flight fun

As is often the way in pressurised cabins, on the return flight home my sparkling water sprayed over the man in the seat next to me. "It will prepare you for Manchester?", I volunteered lamely, after first 'showering' him with apologies. Then I resumed my knitting, whereupon the man inquired:

"What are you making?"

"A scarf."

"Oh, I thought it might have been a towel."


Graffiti galore

I have included pictures of graffiti-strewn venues on the blog before (see, for example, this post from 2012), but I will add one of the finer examples of the genre I spotted in Hamburg on my final walkabout. And believe me, there are lots of awful ones on inappropriate walls and fixtures, that amount to plain vandalism in my view. But here and there there are colourful splurges - and splodges - of genuine whimsy and creativity.

Perfumes worn

To close, here is a note of the perfumes I wore over the course of the week (if I can remember!):

  • DSH Foxy edp
  • Diptyque Volutes edt
  • Chanel Cuir de Russie
  • Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge (twice!)
  • Elizabeth and James Nirvana Amethyst

How real is that doggy in the window?

Wednesday, 9 October 2019

Brief - and Wet - Encounter: meeting Undina and her vSO on a rainy day in London

The keen-eyed reader - if I still have any of those left given the sketchiness of my posting frequency - may have noted that I have yet to post Part Two of my report on the US tour with The Monochrome Set back in March. I am not sure why I didn't finish the travelogue closer to the time, but the band are going back next spring (I am giving that one a miss), and could always post Part Two as an anniversary tribute while they are actually on the road over there, possibly having similar experiences(!). We'll see... But meanwhile I have just returned from a rather fraught week with them in Germany, and as that is top of my mind at the moment I shall make it the subject of the next post. Lord knows it won't be the first time on Bonkers that I have cocked a snook at chronology. ;)

Now the last time I saw Undina and her husband was during that trip in March, and by a quirk of chance, I got to see them very briefly the day before I set off on this latest one. I can't be sure that we will always keep up such tidy synchronicity, but for the moment I associate band tours with meeting The Undinas.

The travel issues referenced in the title started at Stafford in fact, when I discovered a sleeping man in my forward facing, window, power socket-supplied seat. And next to him, his sleeping girlfriend with her head on his shoulder. I let it go, though friends have since suggested that he was probably faking it, and that I should at least have given him a hard stare or an admonishing poke.

Undina and her vSO were flying into Heathroom from the Ukraine at the same time as my train arrived in Euston, but it took a while before they finally got their bags and could make their way to their Airbnb in Bayswater. They were due to pick up the keys to it in a little supermarket nearby, so I staked the shop out from an outside table at the cafe next door, despite the inclement weather.

Eventually the by now familiar pair hove into view, suitcases in tow, and we hurried to their apartment as best we could in the pouring rain. The first time I met Undina and her husband was also at their accommodation - in Paris back in 2013. I got there first, and the landlady showed me up, and explained how all the various appliances worked, including the all-important washing machine. In a neat parallel, when we got into their flat this time round, the first thing Undina wanted to locate was a washing machine. We eventually found it, and a drier, concealed in cupboards in the living room to the right of the fold up bed (also concealed in a cupboard). The kitchen wasn't concealed in a cupboard, but was barely bigger than one, and we remarked that it was the smallest kitchen we had ever seen. Everything else about the apartment was perfectly proportioned, and there were tall windows overlooking the leafy terraced street through which one could comfortably pass an hour or six staring at the pouring rain.

While the pair were still getting their bearings in what was to be their home for the next week, I handed over a pint of milk, which I had bought round the corner, thinking it one of life's absolute necessities, right up there with the washing machine. Having recce'd their accommodation and its compact amenities we collapsed on the sofas, and the ritual exchange of perfumes between Undina and me commenced, preceded by the ritual exchange of small presents (I wasn't counting the milk). Undina gave me a cat-themed foldaway tote bag from Ulster Weavers, which - given where I am from - is a welcome example of carrying cats to Newcastle...I mean Belfast.

Meanwhile, in another neat parallel, I gave Undina a make up bag / pouch with a Voysey-esque design on it. I bought it from a museum shop in the UK, but couldn't resist a wry smile on spotting that it was in fact by a brand in New York.

Although it was only a short catch up, there was also time for Undina to show me several extremely sweet videos on her phone of Rusty having his tummy stroked. As they were away for a while this time, they had engaged a live-in pet sitter, whose daily footage of their blissed out cat was testament to the fact that he was being well cared for in their absence.

Now I am back from Germany, I am just getting into trying the samples Undina gave me. She has a very good sense of my taste - which could be summed up in a nutshell as furry ambers and powdery orientals for winter, and sultry florals or refreshing colognes for summer. For our meeting I had drained the last of a sample of Long Courrier, from Pierre Guillaume's The Cruise collection, which was kindly donated by Sabine (Iridescents) many moons ago.

I see that the name means 'long distance flight', which could certainly apply to the one Undina and her vSO had just come on.

"...a solar oriental built around a core of salty vanilla, the perfumer evokes faraway destinations, beaches on the other side of the world, lazy days gorged with sea spray and the delicious scent of suntan lotion…"

In hindsight, that was an ironic choice for a wet and blustery autumn day in London, which set the tone for the wet and wayward week that followed in Germany, of which more very shortly!

Editor's note: special thanks are due to John, the band's keyboard player, who kindly stowed Undina's samples in his instrument case for me, as I was travelling on hand luggage only, and they wouldn't have fitted in my already bulging(!) transparent plastic bag you take through security.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

Are you one of PAN's People?: Barbury Castle PAN gentleman's cologne review (eventually)

Source: Barbury Castle

Oh dear, it has been a month or more since I last posted. I do still think of myself as a perfume blogger - no, really - just one who is frequently waylaid and overtaken by events. Since I last wrote there has been much more of the same: the mice, the malfunctions, the migraines, the medication side effects, and assorted mishaps and mayhem. Yesterday by mid-morning, for example, I had clocked up a dead mouse, a printer jam, a default notice from HMRC for failing to file my VAT return on time, and a headache. I was absolutely mortified to have forgotten my VAT, I might add - a first in 28 years! - but have now paid up and made an honest self-employed person of myself. I will spare you any more of my own travails, not least because it seems there are a lot of us in the blogosphere having a torrid time of it lately. But, as I mentioned on Facebook, if you think you go through chaotic phases, I urge you to watch ITV's rollercoaster drama, 'Deep Water'. By comparison with the women featured, our lives are positively shallow and smooth as a millpond. Though Anna Friel's problems are somewhat mitigated by her enviable collection of knitwear.

But I promised you a review of the debut scent from new perfume brand Barbury Castle in my last post, and here it is!  

Firstly, a word about the links that bind me and Val the Cookie Queen: we both like perfume, we both like The Monochrome Set, and we both have links to Swindon! For along with Diana Dors and Billie Piper, Val was born there, while I moved to the city with my first job in the mid-80s, prophetically staying in digs in Stafford Street.

And Barbury Castle is a start up company founded by Stanley Bolden, an accountant at a water control equipment company (how much do I like him already ;) ). Stanley lives in a village outside Swindon, and also a few miles from the iron age hill fort in question. Barbury Castle also has particular memories for me, as I have walked the 140 km length of the ancient Ridgeway path with my friends Clare and Nicola, and Barbury Hill is close to the western end where we chose to start. We completed the hike over three weekends a year apart, and had lots of laughs - and one cheeky train ride to Wendover (in pouring rain, to be fair) along the way. I did pull rank and veto a taxi, mind. 

Source: Clare Chick

As it happens I was in charge of map reading on Day 1 and caused us to take a wrong turn, precisely at Barbury Castle. This was partly because I was chatting animatedly at that point, and partly because the sign was slightly skew-wiff, adding four miles to our quota for the day. So the castle has become synonymous with my big navigating fail of the whole trail. Well, apart from nearly sending us down the A4 towards Bristol earlier that day, that is. At least we were in the car at the time.

This picture was taken right after we got lost...!

Nicola and I, looking a bit lost and windswept

Stanley's associations with the place, meanwhile, are more upbeat:

"Climbing up the hill fort gives fantastic views of the local countryside and an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of nature, to which Pan has a strong connection."

So...back to the story behind the perfume and its inspiration. Note that I am not sure whether it should be spelled in lower or UPPER CASE, but I shall go with UPPER when I remember. This concern may well be a hangover from reviewing Puredistance BLACK and WHITE, and Stanley may well not mind either way.

"Inspired by Pan, the mythical Greek god of nature, forests and rustic music, with a mischievous side, Pan is a classy, refined, stylish and sophisticated fragrance. A woody and earthy fougere, Pan has depth, contrast and complexity in its structure."

Source: Barbury Castle

Stanley opted for a men's fragrance, as there are fewer on the market, meaning less competition for PAN. Without wishing to dampen his enthusiasm unduly, I did suggest that this may be down to the lower percentage of men who wear fragrance versus women, ie a case of fewer fish in a smaller pond.

After initally having a play at creating a woody, earthy fragrance himself using some 100 ingredients sourced from Plush Folly - "without even measuring or recording the proportions" - Stanley quickly twigged to the fact that this was a "science and skill acquired over a long time", aka a job for the professionals. Cue the appointment of John Stephen of The Cotswold Perfumery, who is also an independent perfumer, and who took on the brief to transform Stanley's vision into a well composed reality.

Stanley did suggest some ingredients to John, namely:

  • ivy
  • juniper berry
  • oakmoss
  • sandalwood
  • carnation
  • geranium

Here are the notes that ended up in the composition, plus Stanley's summary of the effect of each combination:

Top notes: bergamot, lavender, lemon - "fresh clean top notes"
Middle notes: black pepper, cardamom, coriander - "spicy, warm and slightly sweet aroma"
Base notes: oakmoss, patchouli, ambergris - "woody, earthy, musky character"

So what did I make of PAN? Right off the bat I should say that I could almost wear this myself! And in its drydown I definitely could, and I speak as someone much more drawn to outright feminine scents. PAN teeters on the cusp between unisex and masculine territory with its fougere style, albeit quite a muted one. Also, PAN has a shade more lavender than I care for. Yet despite this, it does remind me quite a lot, and in a good way, of Ormonde Jayne Man - both have bergamot, pepper, cardamom and coriander in common - and also of Carner Barcelona D600, where the notes in common are the same, minus coriander. Bergamot and pepper are of course fairly standard ingredients, but my nose must have homed in on the coriander and cardamom to spot that connection. That said, PAN is different from either, but with a similar vibe for sure. I think it would appeal to men who like the fougere style, but with a woody/earthy twist. I don't want to overplay the fougere aspect, if that is not your thing either, as it does fade away to a large degree.

Source: Wikipedia

For any readers who happen to live or work in Swindon, there is/was a poster advertising PAN inside the railway station! By the ticket barrier, to be specific. Stanley is also advertising the scent in the magazine 'The English Garden', on the premise that it might appeal to genteel male gardeners or nature lovers more widely, and is open to any other promotional suggestions.

"My gardening knowledge rivals my fragrance knowledge", he quipped good-naturedly.

By his own admission - and this is another reason why I warm to him - Stanley is an 'ingenu' on the perfume scene, blissfully unaware of most of the nonsense and factions with which we fumeheads are all too familiar. He genuinely wanted to create something tangible and put it out in the world, and Pan is his baby. I found Stanley's unstuffy approach to the process of creating a new fragrance frankly refreshing - there is such a lot of overwrought tosh said and written in this industry. 

I also like the fact that his pricing is fair and realistic at just £50 for 50ml, namely the sort of pricing levels I remember - even for some niche - ten years ago when I was first getting into the hobby. Ormonde Jayne Man and Carner Barcelona D600, against which I do genuinely feel PAN holds its own, cost £110 and 100 euros respectively for the same size bottle.

So are you one of PAN's People? Are your curious to check out its moves? And please don't tell me that's a terrible joke and to 'pipe' down. ;)

Source: Barbury Castle

Tuesday, 20 August 2019

Me, myself, Instagram, and a summer of droppings and (unrelated!) broken things

"Hercules against the Hydra" ~ via Wikimedia Commons (Wolfgang Sauber)
Goodness, it is has been over a month since I wrote my last post. That doesn't surprise me though, for I have been besieged, beset, and beleaguered by a legion of problems, of which more anon (including the more amusing ones!).

But first a word on social media. I have historically been a Facebook fan through and through...well, not an unconditional one, I should add, as there is much that is wrong with Facebook, and I don't just mean the constant slew of ads for slimming hose and relaxed fit slacks. I never really took to the bitty bearpit that is Twitter, or the soothing aesthetics of Instagram, where beautifully shot images drift by like cumulus clouds. Beyond that, for a long time I had a downer on the hashtags that are such an integral part now of the virtual landscape. Their messy, spiky aspect upset me, especially when posters used a vast thicket of them, including hashtags in foreign languages. This struck me as the acme - nay, nadir! - of SEO savvy, but then I don't like pushiness and self-promotion in any guise, and struggle to embrace it myself, even though it is very much the modern way. For if you don't take active steps to climb out of the Google sandbox, you will never be heard in the chorus - some might say babble - of Internet voices.

And I don't know how it came about exactly that I started to gravitate towards Instagram after all...I may partly have been propelled into its arms by the increasingly strident tone of Facebook, the ramping up of its adverts, or the depressing snippets of news which cannot fail to catch your eye at every turn: Brexit, climate change, factory farming, pop stars dying before their time. Instagram is a languorous oasis of sensory delight by comparison, albeit peppered with the offending hashtags. I continued to wrestle with the concept of these, trying to see them merely as labels on the drawers of a cyber filing cabinet, and not as so many mini-portcullises, bordering on medieval instruments of mental torture. You can tell that I have a serious aversion to the things, bordering on hashtagophobia!


But gradually I came to enjoy picking out photos to upload onto Instagram - I steadfastly refuse to call it 'Insta', mind, for that way lies 'nom nom nom' and 'sleeps' (shudders). I even got to the point of having fun with the hashtags, occasionally running with ones that had no precedent on the Interwebs - hashtag neologisms, if you will. It surprises me that I was the first to coin #catmustbecateredfor, and there are only four other posts under #croissantmutant. That is worth checking out actually, for the one that looks like a ram in particular!

And then there are all the filters to play with, like some kind of instant colouring game(!) - a new toy for me, would you believe? - albeit I quite often end up posting pictures simply as nature intended.

If you would like to check out my page - which is embarrassingly light on perfume-related imagery, though I plan to rectify that by and by - I am flittersniffer on there. Just noticed how many 'glittersniffer's there are, but there's only one of me. What even is a 'glittersniffer'? Though didn't there used to be a perfume with gold bits in it?...hold on, at least one version of Donna Karan Gold and a JPG is also coming vaguely back to me. I am betting that they don't mean that though.

Okay, so a brief word on the summer of droppings and broken things - those would be flea and mouse droppings, not things that have been dropped, in case of any confusion. The poor birds don't last long enough in the house to leave any such calling card, plus it is ten mice for every bird 'present', to be fair. Yes, it has been a rum old time lately, with typically between four and five things going wrong every single day. Today so far there has only been 'a bad night's sleep' and 'a big fat dead mouse', so a good day really by recent standards. Though my eye eczema - complete with distinctly unfetching atopic pleats (you really don't want to know) - is back with a vengeance, and making blinking uncomfortable. (It counts towards yesterday's tally.)

"No idea how it got in, mum."

Here is a smattering - and splattering! - of recent mishaps and problems, to give you an idea of why I have been missing in action as far as blogging is concerned, though I have been inordinately busy in a firefighting / Hydra head chopping / Whack-a-mole sense. There was an equally lengthy selection in France, but one set is enough!
  • Throwing up headache for two days (three times)
  • Toner cartridge splatter painted a pale carpet
  • Suitcase wheel mysteriously self-destructed
  • Mouse droppings all round the perimeter of the living room
  • Unidentified droppings on all hinges of the pantry
  • Cat has ongoing flea issue
  • I have itchy red lumps - praying they are mosquito bites, being more socially acceptable
  • Found a bed bug casing, which I have convinced myself is historic (to avoid going mad)
  • Patio has suddenly sported / sprouted? both white and green lichen!
  • Phone malfunction - batteries found to be a crystalline corroded mess
  • Splashed a radio with chilli con carne, now permanently stained auburn, and tacky to touch
  • Bought a second hand set of drawers which will cost three times as much to fix than I paid for them (Moral of the story: buyer beware - of Photoshop!).
  • Bought a pair of trainers before realising they were two different colours
  • Accidentally sent my hole puncher and stapler to France
  • No sooner had I repaired one silk curtain that had perished and sheared, when I noticed that the other one has gone the same way.
  • Treated alleged water marks on a second hand table with oxalic acid - quite a H & S-conscious undertaking, I might add - only to discover the marks are metal - from some piece of industrial machinery that had been sitting on it. Procedure declared a resounding failure, and meanwhile have inadvertently bleached my drive (not pictured).

I will return with 'normal' blog posts though, once things have calmed down. I would like to review a new perfume from Swindon(!) for example, and more besides - but first I sense there may be a few more Hydra heads to chop and moles to whack...!

UPDATE: I have just remembered that there was another trigger for taking up with Instagram again...I managed to fix my broken blog link in the bio after several hours of deep Googling - turned out it lacked a security certificate in the format it was in, plus for some strange reason the 'www' part of the name was causing an issue, so I took that off. So there's another example of a broken thing I managed to fix!

Friday, 12 July 2019

Mojo, Maja, Portia, and her Magicka: a spooky tale of Airbnb and Australian perfume junkies

Source: Pinterest
I feel it behoves me to mention again! that despite all appearances to the contrary I am not dead, under a rock, AWOL or lacking in mojo. Such mojo as I have has simply been channelled into a host of domestic projects on both sides of the Channel, work, cat feeding for a friend, and the now regular thread of Airbnb guests - or 'paying guests' in more generic terms rather, as they are not necessarily on that footing. I have recently also learnt the term 'fractional renter', which perfectly describes my current long stay chap, who is here three nights a week.

But it is Airbnb itself which is the trigger for this tale...When I first decided to launch myself into this sideline because my usual work was slack, Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies was very supportive, with helpful suggestions about how to maximise the appeal of my listing through more professional-looking photographs. More of Portia anon, but for now cue the other P, whose name also ends in '-ia', as it happens. For no sooner had my fractional renter left for the week than the latest Airbnb visitor arrived, a lady in her early 70s called P from northern New South Wales. I warmed to her the moment I opened the door, despite being weary beyond anything after a three day headache and sickness bug which had only just lifted(!). And despite the fact that she turned up unannounced an hour ahead of the earliest check in time, haha, and found me looking dishevelled, Hoover in hand, cable trailing all the way up the stairs. I couldn't believe that P was in her 70s, and said I had instantly assumed she was about my age. She replied that she had instantly thought I looked the same age as her younger sister - early 50s (I don't!) - so you can tell that that exchange, however removed from reality, endeared us each to the other right off the bat. ;)

P is originally from England, but moved to Australia when she was seven, in a neat parallel to my mother, who was born in Australia, but moved to England at the age of eight. Unlike my mum, P did not stay put in her adopted country, and was visiting an old colleague from her army days, in a district the other side of town. I spent a good 20 minutes looking round the house in vain for OS or other town maps at a reasonable resolution, then trying to print out walking maps that were legible on my feeble printer, before finally giving up and saying: 'Why don't I just take you there? That would be a lot easier!', and off we went. But because I was too lazy to fire up the Satnav for a journey in my own town, and had not enlarged the Google map on my phone sufficiently to include all the street names of different sections of roads, I ended up dropping P off in Witney rather than Woodstock Road(!), meaning that the much anticipated reunion with her old chum from 40 years ago got off to a puzzling start. P was very decent about my mistake, and cheerfully walked the remaining 100 yards or so to the proper address. And we were at least still in Oxfordshire...

Some five hours later, P was back (in a cab!), had posted a letter for me and picked up a fish supper, the chips from which she kindly shared. At some point in the conversation she mentioned right out of left field that people often stop her and ask what perfume she is wearing. Which was interesting, as I had indeed clocked her perfume on the landing (going one step beyond the sillage from guests' toiletries, you will note!), and had been going to ask her about that unprompted. It was even funnier when P said she couldn't actually recall what she was wearing that day! But we went on to discuss her dozen-strong collection - or the ones she could remember...;) We are still both puzzling over what bottle of hers is in a purple box (Google images didn't come up trumps despite concerted scrolling, I should add).

Coty L'Aimant - post-decimilisation, but still old!

Of the fragrances P could remember owning - though some were running low to empty - vintage Coty L'Aimant was one, also a Spanish scent she thought was called 'Magicka', which had a lady flamenco dancer in a black and red dress on the packaging. 'Oooh', I said, 'I have some vintage L'Aimant in the cupboard under the stairs, and I do have a Spanish scent called Maja?' Cue a good hour of diving into my three plastic crates of older perfumes, mostly the bounty from my friend Clare's late MIL's collection. The L'Aimant was instantly rehomed with P, and a quick search on the Net confirmed that earlier versions of Maja did indeed have the 'magicka' lady on them, so that went to P as well, along with nostalgic bottles (for her) of Lentheric Elle and Mystique, released a couple of years apart at the turn of the 80s. I felt I had really landed on my feet to find someone who truly appreciated these 'period perfumes', which I would probably never have got out again left to my own devices.

And so to bed...The next morning we sat at the dining room table again over a cup of tea, swapping notes on places we knew in Australia - for I spent a month in NSW some 25 years ago. The stuffed koala in the guest bedroom, named after the Sydney suburb of Mosman, had not escaped P's notice. Then I was just explaining how I was once chased by a kangaroo in Jarvis Bay when there was the sound of a small thud on the hall floor. A pink package had landed....from Portia of Australian Perfume Junkies! How uncannily timely was that on all three accounts of Airbnb, Oz, and matters olfactory. I wasn't remotely expecting to hear from Portia - it was one of those out of the blue RAOKs people in the perfume community spring on one another from time to time. So before I took P to her bus stop for the next leg of her UK visit, we eagerly opened the package to reveal a dear little purse from Mongolia, and some perfume samples. The purse was a particularly apt gift, as Portia had remembered I collect them, and that they had even featured in a blog post!

The timing was so spooky it was truly Twilight Zone-y. I had already spoken of Portia to P during our sniffing session, and now here was a little pouch of scents from Sydney popping through the letter box right before she set off. Five minutes later, and the magicka moment would have been missed.

Perfect timing, Portia! 'Thank me'?? Thanks so much to you rather, and to P....ia, for putting an antipodean pep in my perfumed step!

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Adjectival perfumes: the Very Irresistible game of thinking up new (silly!) fragrance names...

The other day I had a much needed haircut, and my hairdresser happened to mention that she had received a bottle of Givenchy's Very Irrésistible (sorry, I prefer it without the accent) from her husband for her birthday. She went on to say that she tries to hoover up any bottles she sees as it is her favourite scent and has been discontinued. I took a look on the Internet just now to confirm that this is in fact the case, and stumbled upon a thread on Basenotes where people were speculating on the reason why the fragrance got the chop. Some wag had written: 'Because it was resistible.' Well, I can't comment on the appeal or otherwise of this particular perfume, as I haven't tried it, but hearing the name again reminded me of an amusing conversation with Andy, the bass player in The Monochrome Set when we were on tour one time. With his deadpan tone belied by a mischievous twinkle in his eye, he remarked that the concept of using adjectives as fragrance names had a lot of untapped potential, instantly illustrating his point with the corker, 'Incorrigible'. He also thought of 'Remorse', the application scenarios for which had my imagination running riot, though 'Remorse' is of course technically a whole other noun naming route...

When I tried thinking of all the other well-known fragrance names based on adjectives, I could only come up with Schiaparelli Shocking and SJP Lovely, though there are many more of them, I know!

So I decided to take up Andy's baton and turned my mind instead to thinking up a few more adjectival names myself, that in some way capture the scent in question, even if they are most unlikely to get through the focus group stage(!).

INELUCTABLE: another name for Very Irresistible if it ever stages a come back.

INDIGENT: for a budget perfume that aspires to punch above its price tag with an obscurely impactful name.

BOMBASTIC: so many big production 'kitchen sink' fragrances deserve this epithet - let's call a spade a spade at last!

ETIOLATED: a descriptor that doesn't get out much and evokes a whole swathe of pale and uninteresting, insipid scents.

AVUNCULAR: for the next one of those 'in the library' pipe smoke and leather-type frags?

REBARBATIVE: one of those Marmite / controversial / Emperor's new clothes perfumes that people admire for their avant-garde smell of photocopier toner or whatever, but which are frankly repellent.

Come to think of it, 'Repellent' might be another contender for a citronella-forward fragrance. ;)

REGURGITATED: perfect for a tiresome flanker? OR for a rich oriental featuring a generous lump of ambergris.

PERVASIVE: similar to the above, but with the added nuance of strong sillage. (Very similar in style to 'INSIDIOUS' and 'TENACIOUS'.)

RISIBLE: a good all-rounder of a name that is perfectly in tune with the olfactory Zeitgeist.

MORDANT: one of those spiky, galbanum-heavy compositions with a bonus Hogwarts vibe.

INVIDIOUS: this one manages to be full of vim, verve, and chutzpah, while actually meaning 'obnoxious'. (Not to be confused with 'INSIDIOUS' above.)

HUBRISTIC: one for the high end 'fur coat and no knicker' niche set (embellished with Swarowski crystals, why don't we?)

EQUANIMOUS: calm, composed, like the urbane metrosexual for whom it is intended.

MIASMIC: not a criticism of J-Lo's Miami Glow, which is quite a nice beachy scent, apparently.

So please now hit me up with reminders of existing adjectival perfumes, or some more suggestions of promising names!

Saturday, 8 June 2019

Ghost sanctuary: aka 'What do you do with your empties?'

Not the definitive 'fraid' of ghosts!
Back in January, I wrote a post about the pleasant sillage of toiletries left behind by my Airbnb guests. In the comments that followed, a lively discussion ensued about the phenomenon of 'scent ghosts', both in this sense of sillage left behind in rooms after people have left, OR the scent of ghosts proper. Here is reader Jillie, who has personal experience of such olfactory apparitions:

"...there are other "ghost" smells, ie perfumes that actual supernatural spirits release into the air...we lived in a very haunted house when I was a child, and every so often there would be an overwhelming fragrance of lily of the valley wafting through the rooms."

Then reader Crikey came up with another variant - a vestige of a scent tenaciously clinging onto something, that is so spookily old as to pretty much qualify as a ghost:

"But I think that very old houses do hold traces of the lives lived in them. I once visited a bronze age archaeological site in Syria, they were still working down through the layers. The earth bricks in one room in the palace still had a faint trace of the scent of oranges - scented oil had been worked in as it was built. Four thousand years ago." 

This talk of scented spectres got me thinking of my own collection of empty decants. If you stick your nose directly on the nozzle you can still just about make out a faint remnant of the perfume they once contained. In the past I used to chuck decants when I had finished them - or when they had merely evaporated or leaked while my back was turned! - but now I consciously keep my empties. They live in a shoe box, nestling amongst the folds of an old silk scarf (for no good reason other than that the scarf got there first).

The Travalos are the most problematic item, as they are such intrinsically attractive receptacles that I would never stick a label on them. As a result the only way of determining what used to be in them is my rather inadequate nose. I can't even remember by association - 'Meharees is in the red one', say - because I have two red Travalos. I do still have a fighting chance of knowing which is Meharees if the other red one had contained a heady neroli scent, but I am not always that organised, and have previous for putting two perfumes that are remarkably alike in Travalos of the same colour.

And though my system has flaws, one of the reasons I keep these scent ghosts is for reference purposes. This is especially the case if the fragrance in question has been discontinued, like L'Artisan Parfumeur's Safran Troublant or Damien Bash Lucifer #3. Another reason is sheer nostalgia! That's quite a biggie, actually. 

While we are on the subject, just as the collective noun for ghosts turns out to be the very wonderful 'fraid', there should perhaps be a collective noun for 'an assortment of out of service Travalo holders'. This unfortunate situation was of course brought about by the fact that the Travalos they once housed have all come to the end of their natural life, not being ones that were filled in the first place from bottles in my collection. And I do have Travalos which fall into that category, however I also owned enough I had bought or which were given to me to fill the three empty leather holders you see forlornly displayed above. Oh, and the topping up gesture would only work if I knew what was in the blessed thing in the first place, which is moot.

So that is the third reason I might be inclined to keep an empty case I came by more of a fragrance one day. The act of throwing decants away says to me: 'I will never smell that scent again', which feels too definitive and brutal somehow. I am more your 'never say never' kind of perfumista. I should perhaps add that I do routinely throw away small glass 1ml vials, as they are a fiddle to refill even if the opportunity arose. So my 'ghost sanctuary' comprises decants only. It is growing, but at a glacial pace, for the obvious reason that 'thunking' is a rare event in the life of an average perfumista like me with more scent than sense...;)

Do you keep empty decants, and if so, why?

Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Mini-leopard in the boudoir: Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge 'review'

Source: eBay
Topic advisory: this post may end up being more about cats than the upcoming release from Papillon Perfumery, the 6th perfume in Liz Moore's carefully curated scent stable. That is no reflection on the merits of the fragrance itself, which has all the hall- - and paw- - marks of a (highly-hyphenated) feline-themed lemming-in-waiting, but rather on my own increasing shortcomings as a reviewer. The inability to parse notes is one aspect, for which some combination of nose and brain are to blame, but I also struggle these days to even convey the overall 'vibe' or atmosphere of a perfume. I shall of course give it my best shot, confident that there will be other reviews along shortly which will more than pick up the slack, if they haven't already indeed.

But first, to cats. I received this sample in the post at the weekend, along with an amusingly surreal card painted by Liz's artist friend Tracy Dovey. "Those fish aren't long for this world", was my first thought. "That poor woman is going to stink of them", was my second - assuming she escapes the cat's embrace, which is moot. The sample was accompanied by a note list written on the back of a photo of Liz's beloved cat Mimi, one of her Bengal harem.

In an exchange following my receipt of the package, Liz explained the inspiration behind Bengale Rouge:

"...little Mimi was my muse for the new perfume. It is my attempt at recreating the scent of her fur, which is generally a mix of cat or any fragrance that I seem to be wearing."

Mimi muffler

While here Liz seems to be wearing her cat...;)

A bit of background may be in order on these 'mini-leopards', as they have been dubbed by the magazine, 'Your Cat'. Today's Bengals are descended from the Asian leopard cat, which was bred with regular moggies. Prized for their beautiful markings, 'Your Cat' goes on to describe them as 'a domestic cat in wild wrapping'. The Chairman of the Bengal Cat Club has likened them to the Duracell bunny on account of their boisterousness and boundless energy, which - as Liz would be the first to admit - often spills over into 'a funny five minutes'. She rather aptly calls her home in the New Forest 'the funny farm', which is at least in part a reference to the madcap behaviours of the cat contingent rather than just the foibles of her human family. Here is Noo, eschewing her designated sleeping spot in order to luxuriate in a sea of discarded polythene, in time-honoured cat fashion.

Noo, coming over all unnecessary on some packaging

So we know that Mimi - and more specifically the smell of her fur - was the starting point for Bengale Rouge. But we don't know exactly how she smells. I am kicking myself now, as I have been to Liz's house a few times, and reckon Mimi would have been threading herself between people's legs on each occasion. I had the perfect opportunity to bury my nose in her fur and sniff her thoroughly, and would then be able to compare that scent memory with Bengale Rouge the perfume. Oh well, 'hindsmell' is a wonderful thing.

Mimi the muse

Hunting digression - contains upsetting scenes that some readers may find distressing

There is nothing for it but to compare the perfume with my own cat, Truffle. An important point to mention, with olfactory implications, is the fact that she and Mimi both go outside. In Mimi's case this is only during the day - to stop her wandering off under cover of darkness and into other people's homes, for which she has form apparently - whereas  Truffle pulls many an all-nighter on the tiles. This is of course prime hunting time, and Truffle's killing sprees have been escalating lately, Jack the Ripper-style. Only this time last week she brought in both a disembowelled starling AND a mouse in a similar state of intestinal disarray. In a curious presage of my writing this post, I had a nightmare the other day in which I conflated Liz's diverse menagerie with Truffle's prey, and dreamt that she had brought in a whole owl and a cock's head and neck. An owl would have been jolly tricky to pick up using only a bit of kitchen towel, my go-to disposal method on such occasions. In desperation, the next day I made Truffle wear a collar again for the first time in three years. And added a bell to warn wildlife of her approach! Tolling of bell = reduced death toll, was my thinking. It has worked a treat all week, until Sunday morning, when the pitter patter of rain helped disguise the telltale tinkle of the bell, and Truffle left me this on the landing...Hmm, she looks like she is sniffing the mouse there!

Not saved by the bell!

Despite their big cat vibe, Bengals are apparently not that bothered about hunting. Here is the Chairman of the Bengal Cat Club again:

"Bengals don't prey on wildlife. Even with their history and where they've come from, they're not mass killers. Bengals are generally not good hunters; they're more likely to just watch."

Goodness me, that gives a whole new meaning to the term 'peeping Tom'(!). So it seems like Mimi wouldn't need a bell then, even if she hadn't been grounded for sauntering nonchalantly into neighbours' houses. She is more likely to curl up on top of someone else's Aga than bring a brace of pheasant home at dawn, with or without their full quota of innards.

So given that she does go out (hunting!), Truffle's fur has its own innate animal smell, plus a few extra accords from the great outdoors. Chief amongst these is an earthy, patchouli-like scent from her routine latrine-digging in flowerbeds. I have often caught a hint of gravel or concrete too - some kind of stone, anyway - and when it has been raining, this of course morphs into the full petrichor, haha. Oh, as is the case for Liz with Mimi, there's also a smidge of whatever scent I am wearing thanks to my frequent nuzzling in her fur.

The particular sniffing action pictured below was staged specifically for this post, mind, and took about ten takes before I got both of us in the shot, and the shot vaguely in focus.

Notes: Turkish rose, orris, sandalwood, tonka, oakmoss, honey, vanilla, labdanum, benzoin, sweet myrrh

On first sampling Bengale Rouge, I was struck by how quiet it was compared to the big production bodice ripper that is Salome, and Liz agreed with me that it was more understated, adding that it was 'fluffier', and the 'softest' of her creations. I cannot convey how soft it is - I could have included Bengale Rouge in my 'Careful Whispers' series if I could have been bothered to work out from my archives which number it would be. Editor's note: No 4 at a guess, but I am not going to change the title now...!

From the off I have to say that Bengale Rouge smells a lot more like an indoor cat, notwithstanding Mimi's daytime excursions. Lose the earthy smell and the petrichor; there is none of that here. It is a 'Bengal with a bell' scent, ie de-wilded (no really, that is a word, like de-planed), even though we have established that it doesn't need to wear one. It is a mini- or should that be a Mimi-? - leopard in the boudoir, an image that came to me after I chanced across this item on eBay (see above):


This is not a Lipstick Rose kind of boudoir scent, mind - it is nowhere near as overtly feminine and stylised as that - but there's not a whiff of rock hyrax either. Bengale Rouge's fur is faintly sweet smelling and clean. It is a cat that has been freshly bathed and dusted down with talc. Yes, Bengals like water apparently, though I don't know quite to what extent. Truffle won't let me near her paws when she comes in muddy and sopping wet, though she is not averse to a quick back rub with a tea towel. Hmm, I should perhaps have said 'en suite' rather than 'boudoir', being less loaded with sexual imagery, but Bengale Rouge is still sensual all right, in a muted kind of way.

Then by analogy with the 'YLBB' style of lipsticks, I could say that this is '(The Scent of )Your Cat, But Better'. And if you aspired to be 'Catwoman', you might very well wish to smell like this. Bengal Rouge is unmistakably animal-like, thanks to the cunning interplay of the oakmoss, sandalwood, labdanum and myrrh - more so than a woman, yet more fragrant than a cat. Though not more fragrant than a cat that lives with a perfumer...!

Liz and Mimi, briefly tolerating the pose

On first spraying Bengale Rouge, I get a faint hint of rose trussed in a corset of oakmoss and labdanum, The overriding impression is smoky and resinous rather than floral, but I love labdanum, so that's okay.. Even the opening is quiet, then very soon the composition becomes wistful and attenuated, and very slightly sweeter as the honey and vanilla notes kick in, buttressed by puffs of orris and little wisps of incense. The myrrh does not have that vaguely static buzz you sometimes get with the note - for example in AG Myrrhe Ardente, where it fizzes like Pepsi or root beer. The overriding feel of Bengale Rouge is definitely more powdery. That and meditative, and Lord knows my cat sleeps a lot when she is not out killing things, so 'meditative' is the very word for it.

I should also mention my observation that over the course of writing this post, Truffle's scent has changed slightly. You wouldn't believe how many times I have toggled between sniffing my wrist and her fur! I am now getting a distinct aroma of carpet, which I swear wasn't there earlier, but which may simply be scent transference from her fabric collar to her head and neck area as she has been scratching herself. And there have been times in the past - most notably when she got stuck in a garage for 36 hours - that she ended up smelling primarily of cobwebs and piss. So while your cat's smell is very much a moving feast, as it were, Bengale Rouge has deftly rendered a generic 'base smell' that would be typical of most cats, then cleaned and prettied it up just enough to elevate it from smell to fragrance.

In short, Bengale Rouge is a ballgown scent without the va-va-voom. It's the ne plus ultra of discreetly mysterious sillage as you swish past in your bustle of silk. (Sorry, I have uncharacteristically been watching the period drama Gentleman Jack, but only because it's got swashbuckling, coal mine sinking Suranne Jones in it.) Bengale Rouge is where - perhaps counter-intuitively - orientals meet 'office appropriate'.  Through her ingenious blend of 'actual cat smell' and notes more closely associated with 'perfume properly speaking' Liz has delivered on the brief she set herself of recreating her 'collaterally scented cat'. And because of its quiet elegance - think Volutes edt, but even quieter and more refined, and I love Volutes! - Bengale Rouge is 'paws down' my favourite of the line to date.

Finally, here is Truffle, weary from her earlier mousing exploits, followed by a long stint of being the 'control' sample.

Truffle's bottom partially obscures the notes

PS Any fans of Volutes edt would love Bengale Rouge, I reckon. The scents have a similar languid vibe, and though the compositions are obviously different, there is some crossover of notes, namely iris, honey, benzoin and myrrh.

PPS Truffle has come in smelling of coal. I think I might start smelling people to work out where they have been.