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.