Saturday, 28 November 2020

The Rare Witch Project: A REEK Perfume Damn Rebel Witches hunt - with a lot at stake...!

Source: REEK Perfume

I say, did you go a bit mad this Black Friday? I didn't buy an enormous telly, an Amazon Ring Stick Up Cam Battery (in contrasting white!), a Ninja Foodi 7-in-1 Multi-Cooker, or anything of that gadgety ilk, but I did do some impromptu Christmas shopping, the nature of which I obviously can't reveal. I also scored some bargain health supplements - neither vitamins nor minerals as such, but offbeat vegetal things that purport to cure oxidative stress, lower cholesterol, and generally finetune your brain like the Holland & Barrett equivalent of WD40.

Oh, and I stocked up on no fewer than three jars of Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel for my particular type of normal/combination skin, about which I wrote a mini-review a year ago. It is usually about £12, occasionally discounted in Boots by a third to around the £8 mark, but these pots were £6.99 each, so had to be snapped up. I am indebted to Caroline Hirons for this moisturising epiphany, and have been using it non-stop ever since I saw her talking about it on a morning TV show. It is fantastically hydrating, and though goopy going on, soon dries to a silky soft consistency. It doesn't contain any SPF, so I apply a tinted moisturiser by Paula's Choice that has SPF30 in it on top. It truly is like an instantly plumping bath for my increasingly crepey skin.


Source: Amazon

Then the other day a friend contacted me (he features in a number of past posts, including this one), to say that his daughter had fallen in love with a REEK scent I had given him to try in one of my lucky dip bundles of samples, and which he had in turn passed on to her, to wit Damn Rebel Witches - not to be confused with its rhyming stablemate, Damn Rebel Bitches. She had tried to google it with a view to buying a bottle for herself, but drew a blank.

Should anyone need reminding, this duo of perfumes was the brainchild of historical novelist Sara Sheridan and her daughter Molly, in collaboration with perfumer Sarah McCartney of 4160 Tuesdays. They wanted to honour the feisty exploits of Jacobite women, whom the brand describe as "powerful" and "unapologetic". The two REEK scents were sold in the Urban Reivers pop-up store in Edinburgh, which opened at the time of the Edinburgh festival in 2016, and sold a variety of Scottish-themed "luxury treats and gifts".

As an aside I simply must mention that my friend Clare had a dog Meg - no longer with us, sadly, but who has been featured on Cafleurebon! - and was also the offspring of a pedigree spaniel rejoicing in the patrician canine name of Whaupley Reiver. This list of his equally whimsical progeny is easily as absorbing as anything you will read on here!

Anyway, my friend's daughter drew a blank with stockists of her new favourite perfume, Damn Rebel Witches, so turned to me for help via her dad. Always happy to help foster the cause of niche perfume in any way, shape or form, I thought to contact Sarah herself, to inquire if she knew of any stock still knocking around the UK - assuming the REEK brand had indeed been discontinued.

Sarah did confirm the demise of REEK, but gave me the good news that she was now poised to resurrect the Damn Rebel perfume pair under her own brand, and pointed me in the direction of her Hot Pink Weekend sale. Knowing Sarah to be an individualistic canoe paddler, I am not at all surprised that she wouldn't be so dull and conformist as to stick with Black.


Source: 4160 Tuesdays

Having consulted with my friend as to his daughter's quantity requirements, and bearing in mind the very attractive discount applying this weekend, I custom bought a couple of bottles, which should last her a good long while. You never know when things might be discontinued again for one reason of another, so it made sense to stock up, I felt.

It was nice to reconnect with Sarah through this quest: she has the rare distinction of being the only perfumer ever to visit Bonkers Towers (on her and her husband's way down from Morecambe). I was very glad to help track down this proxy lemming, and it was a happy coincidence that I knew Sarah and was able to get to the bottom of the supply situation.

Then I learnt from a piece by Suzy Nightingale for The Perfume Society, that another one of Sarah's scents, Maxed Out, is amongst Molly Sheridan's top five smells, along with bread, petrol, Chanel No 5 and Elnett hairspray - august company indeed. I have a sample of Maxed Out somewhere and am curious to give it another go, even though I am not at that point, despite my Black Friday splurge...;)


The empty vial that sparked the hunt!




Saturday, 14 November 2020

Covid Nose: can we all still smell?, plus a lockdown medley

Brandon Gregory [CC BY-SA 4.0] via Wikimedia Commons

Covid Nose

The other week one of the tenants in the house next door popped his head over the garden wall - rather too close(!), looking back, and announced that he had just had a Covid test delivered, as he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, and had lost his sense of smell. I dived back inside my house sharpish, hoping that the virus wouldn't be able to leach through the wall, like the occasional whiff of weed. I never did find out if he had the illness or not, but the exchange got me thinking about this quite distinctive symptom of Coronavirus, present apparently in about 60% of cases. From ENT UK:

"Post-viral anosmia is one of the leading causes of loss of sense of smell in adults, accounting for up to 40% cases of anosmia. Viruses that give rise to the common cold are well known to cause post-infectious loss, and over 200 different viruses are known to cause upper respiratory tract infections. Previously described coronaviruses are thought to account for 10- 15% cases. It is therefore perhaps no surprise that the novel COVID-19 virus would also cause anosmia in infected patients."

The phenomenon is more common in women than men apparently, and can sometimes even be the only symptom of Covid. I know of two other young people and someone of my own age to whom that happened when they fell ill with the virus, and in all three cases they recovered their sense of smell after some weeks. From what I have read to date, I don't think the anosmia is irreversible, but obviously this is a very individual disease, so there may be exceptions to the rule. I thought to mention the matter, as losing one's sense of smell is such a blow for a perfume lover, and I wondered if anyone else had had this experience. 


NIAID [CC BY 2.0] via Wikimedia Commons


Reading more, and judging a book by its cover

According to the little black notebook I keep for this purpose, in 2019 I read a paltry 12 books in the whole year, or one a month on average, while so far in 2020 I am up to 21 books, with seven weeks of the year still to go. Two were admittedly slimmish volumes of poetry, and one an even slimmer self-help-type book - Derren Brown's 'A Little Happier', which I highly recommend by the way - but many were in the 300 page range, with a few doorstopper thrillers half as long again.

The other day I felt moved to post an 'unbook review' of a recent read on Facebook, 'Everything Under' by Daisy Johnson. It was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize in 2018, which didn't sway me either way, for the winners often write works I find as impenetrable as their names unpronounceable, and having now read 'Everything Under', I find the accolade frankly baffling. Yes, I have to confess that I picked the book out in a charity shop purely on account of its beautiful retro cover.  

"Now I am as liberal as they come, but 'Everything Under' proved to be an outlandish case of minority bingo. The story featured not one but two cross-dressers, one of them living in a shed, the other a child murderer with a limp, learning difficulties, two different identities, and an unfortunate start in life in a wheelie bin. There is also a bisexual woman with Alzheimer's, incestuous tendencies, and a surprise ability to do handstands, a number of grumpy fishermen, a floating female butcher, and a peripatetic river monster called The Bonak. None of which is a spoiler. I should perhaps have spotted the two reviews which both described the book as 'unsettling'."




What the cat hasn't dragged in...so far!

At the start of this month, I received a tip off from my former lodger about a study being conducted by Derby University, amusingly entitled: 'What the cat dragged in'. They were appealing for feline volunteers, so I enrolled Truffle immediately. I also put her forward for a camera and/or GPS experiment, about which Truffle would be appalled if she knew, as she is the kind of cat who sloughs off a collar minutes after it has been forced on her. The study requires me to upload her prey stats (dead and alive) every month, and bone up on the difference between a mouse, a shrew and a vole, using a handy illustrated pdf they have supplied. Not sure what I am meant to do if Truffle only leaves me a spleen or a tail, as has been known. I am also mindful that her kill rate is massively down since the Covid crisis - to almost nothing in fact. It makes me suspect that much of her hunting in the last couple of years was attention-seeking behaviour, for there was a steady procession of Airbnb guests over that period, and she may have felt left out. By contrast, I have only been to France since Covid struck, and the cat has had me around far more than she is used to. That is not necessarily a wholly positive thing, mind, for she seems to have switched to hunting me, and has an annoying habit of biting my arm at the drop of a hat.

Truffle may also have found another outlet for her attention-seeking tendencies, namely crashing Zoom calls!


Photo courtesy of Sarah Rayne


Remembering The Non-Blonde

Facebook reminded me this week that Gaia Fishler, aka The Non-Blonde, who died suddenly in late November last year, would have been 50 the other day. A Non-Birthday, if you will, and how poignant that Gaia didn't even make that modest middle-aged milestone. I have a soft spot for her, not least because of her great work caring for all those cats, our shared love of MAC Taupe Satin eyeshadow, and the fact that when I was starting out with Bonkers, Gaia was possibly the first 'senior blogger' to add me to her blog roll, and give me that bit of a leg up through her endorsement.


Gaia and Lizzy via her blog

My ongoing Olive Oyl transformation

Okay, now I don't mean to overplay this, but I have been inspired by fellow blogger, born again DJ, and all-round good egg Val The Cookie Queen to carry on using the piece of gym equipment I inherited a while back from ex-Mr Bonkers - to whom I had originally given it 20 years ago! - and have been working out more on than off since March, with noticeable results. My thighs are somewhat more solid (though obviously not up to Val's steel pylon standard  ;) ), instead of being a flaccid mass flanked by a jodhpur flap. I also have discernible bulges on my shoulders and upper arms, although my underarms are still a bit batwing-y, and I hope to find more exercises to specifically target those areas. 

'But I would walk 10,000 steps'

And now that we are in fullish lockdown again, one of the few things we still can do apart from grocery shopping is go for a walk with one friend. I have been doing quite a lot of long walks in and around Stafford, both on my own and accompanied by a series of singletons seeking company. The not being able to be inside other people's homes is a mighty inconvenience though. For yesterday after a particularly long walk on the local marshes (18,200 steps!), my companion went into her house to warm me up some soup, which I proceeded to stand and drink on the pavement outside her house(!). But it is what it is, and I do have the lockdown to thank for the fact that I have been devoting a lot more time to exercise indoors and out, not least for its mental health benefits, which are considerable.


'Chase View'

Knitting for England

I have no comparative statistics on my knitting output in 2019 versus this year, but I can say with confidence that 2020 will have massively dwarfed it. ;) I have been knitting non-stop in fact, and find the action of the needles meditative and calming. This year I have added a couple of new categories to my repertoire, namely bookmarks and ear warmers. Yesterday I had a flask of tea on the allotments with the friend known as Crafty Kate, and she went home with this pale cream and beige number, which she thought nicely wintery in its colour scheme. "For when you don't want your whole head to be hot", she went on to explain. I may upload an album of photos on Facebook of my latest projects sometime soon and link to it on the blog, in case anyone who is not a knitter themselves fancies picking up any handmade items for themselves or as Christmas presents.


I would be most interested to learn how everyone is doing in terms of dodging the virus - or not! - and also how your life has changed due to the pandemic, and what coping strategies you are deploying to get through this 'unprecedented' time.

Thursday, 5 November 2020

Results of the Puredistance RUBIKONA giveaway!

Now that lockdown is upon us, I am getting on with indoor activities, including the all-important task of selecting two winners of the Puredistance RUBIKONA samples.

I promised readers that the odds were excellent, as Bonkers receives very few comments, plus I am mindful that other giveaways had preceded my post, heading off some of the demand. 

The last time I held a draw - for a Puredistance GOLD sample - there were eight participants who wished to be entered, and one vial up for grabs. This time there were only four such readers living in the UK - at least I think they all do - and TWO samples, giving entrants a 50% chance of winning. How much better is that than the National Lottery! Or even the throw of a dice. 

I used Random.org again, which seemed surprised that the number range was so short I could almost have flipped a coin. If there had been three winners, I really could have picked the last one that way. ;)

Without further ado I can reveal that the winners of the RUBIKONA samples are:


Catlady1649

AND

Speranza16

Congratulations!


Drop me a line on flittersniffer at gmail dot com with your postal address and I will happily brave the lockdown regulations to get your perfume off to you. I will choose a Post Office that is also a shop and construe the sortie as a unit of exercise or a foray for milk.

Sunday, 25 October 2020

Hidden gem, aka a corundum conundrum: Puredistance RUBIKONA review (eventually!), and a giveaway


Source: Puredistance




Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved secret things. I don't mean secrets as such, though goodness knows I have kept a few of those down the years(!), but things in secret places...usually, but not always small things. The miniaturisation aspect contributes greatly to the objects' sweetness, it always seemed to me. But I also mean something observed from afar, so it appears mysterious or elusive. Take the puppets you watch longways in a shoebox theatre, for instance. Then on childhood holidays in Ireland on the way to our seaside caravan, we would pass a house at the end of a long drive. It had a wrought iron gate which was overgrown with creeper, and the drive itself was more like a tunnel due to the intertwined branches of trees on either side. You could just about spy a glimpse of the house itself in the distance, which massively piqued my brother's and my curiosity...A good everyday example of 'small secret things' might be an advent calendar. (It's nearly that time!) I haven't had one since I was a kid, but I can imagine I'd still get the same frisson of excitement on opening each little door and viewing the picture behind. Or finding the piece of chocolate, to which the secret may well have upgraded these days. Not forgetting nests of Russian dolls - the littlest one in the set was impossibly sweet! - and roos in kangaroo's pouches.


Source: Amazon



One of the most memorable illustrations of this principle was a plastic souvenir altar my father brought back from his travels to Spain or Italy, which stood on the mantlepiece of his study. Despite its being unashamedly cheap and kitsch, I derived endless fun from opening the little door in the centre of the altar to reveal a tiny gold chalice - in my memory it is against a red background and backlit, but that is perhaps the embellishment of my imagination. I may be getting muddled with this votive candle I lit in St Therese's basilica in Lisieux last year. The candles in the photo are actually a bit blurry, but that serves my purpose in fact, as will become clear. But you can tell a red theme is at least forming, with a side of religious imagery that may also prove significant in these meandering musings. I thought I might be able to play on the perfume's namesake of the Rubicon river and its wandering course, but having consulted a map I see that the river believed to have been the ancient waterway so famously and irreversibly crossed by Julius Caesar is in fact shortish and disappointingly straight.


Here is the altar, or one just like it, which does indeed have a red back panel. This is from a Worthpoint auction site, so it may have been worth a bob or two, had we known!



And lastly there is the miniature cargo that came with one of my favourite childhood boardgames, Buccaneer. How adorable are those gemstones and little ingots and barrels of rum! How many attractive combinations there are to play around with of boat colour and pirate swag. ;) These little plastic replicas still thrill and excite me, like the chalice in its niche. Check out those tiny rubies...


Source: Shpock

And now - rather circuitously - we have at last come to the gemstone itself which inspired the creation of Puredistance's latest release, RUBIKONA.

I do actually have some professional experience of the jewellery business, having worked all over America for De Beers on a project mapping the supply pipeline for diamonds. Coloured stones were mentioned in passing, but diamonds were the main focus. A quick google of industry websites has confirmed that the market for rubies, like diamonds, is every bit as arcane and insiderish, with its own impenetrable jargon. ;) Here are a couple of fun facts I gleaned:

1) Burmese rubies are the most prized of all. The Prince of Burma weighs in in its raw state at 950 carats. If it were cut, it would produce a stone of 300 carats, which the jeweller from whose website I learnt this staggering nugget, wrily observed is: 'possibly not realistic for a stud earring'.

2) The most desirable colour for rubies is 'pigeon blood red', which is a very deep shade, though I have not dissected a frog in biology class, never mind a pigeon. Interestingly, if you google 'pigeon blood red' you get a whole slew of pictures of rubies - loose and set in rings etc - and absolutely nary a one of pigeons, wounded or otherwise. Oddly, there are pictures of fish, which appear to have annexed the name. Then some rubies have their colour enhanced through heat treatment, which arguably involves the same cheat factor as acquiring your sunkissed look in a tanning salon.


The 25.59 carat Sunrise Ruby, via Wikiwand


And now on to some specialist terms from minerals.net and the GIA website, which are every bit as eclectic as in the diamond world, and which I see include the term 'inclusions', meaning anything naturally occurring which gets trapped inside a mineral as it forms:

3) Rubies and sapphires are the same mineral, known as 'corundum' - they just differ in colour. And there's more...

"Typical ruby clarity characteristics include thin mineral inclusions called needles. When the mineral is rutile and needles are present in intersecting groups, it is called silk...Some inclusions can actually contribute positively to a gem’s appearance. The presence of rutile silk causes light to scatter across facets that might otherwise be too dark. This adds softness to the color and spreads the color more evenly across the ruby’s crown."

I will spare you asterisms, cabochon cuts and pleochroism(!), about which the article goes on talk, or we really would be here all day.

But hey, 'rutile silk' - wasn't the detour worth it for that gem of a term!?

There is much more on this mineral phenomenon here, in which the author - amongst other gloriously offbeat revelations about the formation of silk inclusions - quotes Joni Mitchell, and also likens these 'daggers of rutile' to a 'beguiling silk lattice'; meanwhile The Natural Ruby Company speaks of the 'sleepy transparency' conferred to rubies by the little needles. 


Source: Lotus Gemology

EDITOR'S NOTE: REVIEW PROPER STARTS HERE!

I apologise for that monster preamble before getting down to the nitty gritty of what RUBIKONA is like. But I would make a case for all the foregoing being relevant, for one of the key powers of scent is to trigger memories, and as you can see, that has happened to me in spades here! And there is also the alchemy of how RUBIKONA conjures the impression of this red jewel in olfactory terms. Where is it in the composition, when does it emerge? As the fragrance unfolds, there is a secret, hidden, trompe-nez of a gem, glimpsed from afar - and occasionally close up - which teases and fascinates my nose in equal measure.

The first thing to clear up is the actual inspiration for RUBIKONA, as oppposed to my own gemological and other riffings. 

"The creation of this perfume started with the word RUBIKONA that combines the deep and warm colour red of a RUBY with the timeless beauty of an ICON...RUBIKONA is 'Chic inside Out'".

The word 'icon' is meant here in a couture sense, rather than my religious take on it, but Jan Ewoud Vos, Puredistance's founder, is not the sort to mind where the mind takes the wearer of one of their fragrances. Though this post may test him to the max(!).


Source: Puredistance


I say, does this dress look like rutile silk to you? ;)

The perfumer behind RUBIKONA is Cecile Zarokian, who created SHEIDUNA for Puredistance.  As ever, the fragrance is extrait strength, at 28%.

Notes

Top notes: Grapefruit, bergamot, mandarin

Middle notes: Rose, iris, ylang, clove, orange blossom, creamy notes

Base notes: Patchouli, cedarwood, vanilla, solar notes, musk

When I heard the name of the new scent, I wondered if it might be diva-esque like Vero Kern's Rubj, with its vampish teaming of narcotic white flowers and an exotic fruit bowl. It isn't, and doesn't smell remotely like Rubj, which I do like, but which is quite full on. I note that Vero Kern's scent also has bergamot, mandarin, orange flower, cedar and musk, which information I will park for now and possibly feed into my 'ruby detection matrix' by and by.

A perfume I thought of fleetingly when I first sniffed RUBIKONA was Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial. Here there are seven crossover notes: bergamot, orange, rose, iris, patchouli, vanilla and musk. The only similarity that struck me though was its patchouli-forwardness, notwithstanding the many notes in common. The vetiver and green notes - and possibly what Robin of NST cleverly identifies as its "flat" feel and "ever so slightly almond-y" facet - take Parfum Initial in a dull, vegetal and relentlessly patchouli-driven direction. I am so with Robin when she says: "It's something else entirely, and whatever that something else is, I don't find it all that compelling."

No, I think the stylistic register to compare RUBIKONA to might be Penhaligon's Iris Prima, which I included in my 'Careful Whispers' series. It has the same 'diffusive, indistinct' quality, which makes it so hard to parse. Funnily enough, I originally thought of dropping RUBIKONA into that series, before I even spotted the atmospheric likeness between the two scents, but what a waste of a good title that would have been...! ;)


Source: Puredistance

It is hard to parse, as I say, but here goes anyway...RUBIKONA opens with a noticeable showing of patchouli, but the earthy salvo is held in check by a wistful posse of powdery iris, sensual florals, and a creamy musky trail that persists throughout. It is not chilly or austere as some iris-containing scents can be, and strikes me as neither vintage nor especially modern. This is despite the mention of 'solar notes', which I first came across as a term in Guerlain's Lys Soleia, and which I associate with contemporary scents, even though I gather they have been used in perfumery in one guise or another for a long time. Here I am guessing they infuse the composition with a sunny radiance that helps connote the idea of a ruby catching the light. I am not really aware of any overt citrus element at any point in the fragrance's development, but I expect the rose (betcha they were red!) - and the various orange notes (as in Rubj) - together suggest the warmth and depth of a ruby. Of the requisite pigeon blood shade no less. Now RUBIKONA is not a dark scent, for it is of course refracted by our rutile silk inclusions(!), but it is 'darker' and more grown up than Iris Prima, while remaining resolutely subtle and staying close to the skin. Over time, RUBIKONA becomes a gentle, attenuated version of the aforementioned wistful posse, their having by now wrangled the patchouli into submission in fairly short order, not that it was ever loud to begin with.

So did I find the ruby in the composition? I am going with a combination of patchouli, orange, rose and solar note facets (see what I did there?)...final answer!

To sum up, I am a big fan of Puredistance 1, and BLACK, and GOLD in particular. Puredistance 1 reminds me nostalgically of the early days of my perfume hobby, coming out just a year before I fell down the rabbit hole; BLACK I associate with happy times touring with the band; GOLD makes me think of my work trips abroad, which once even took me to the HQ of Puredistance itself.

 And now the understated, hidden gem in the Puredistance stable that is RUBIKONA is definitely up in my top two or three of the eleven releases so far. It reminds me of so many things as you can see! Which may go a long way to explaining why I feel such a visceral connection to the Puredistance brand. Their scents are elegant, singular, wearable, and made from high quality materials, with exquisite packaging. And to be fair, prices to match - though as Undina points out in her post (see link below), considering the perfumes are extrait the price per ml is in fact very reasonable. And crucially they are also evocative - and as I said above in mitigation for my meandering memories - for me that is what the best perfumery is all about...


The Graff ring via truefacet.com

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The Giveaway

As with GOLD last time, I am delighted to be hosting another giveaway - of two 2ml samples of RUBIKONA for readers in the UK. I am sorry that I cannot post internationally, but hopefully you might have caught one of the other prize draws which I note close tonight in their respective regions: Europe (Chemist in the Bottle) and North America (Undina's Looking Glass). 

The deadline for my draw will be midnight next Sunday, 2/11, and as I often say, the odds are exceptionally good on Bonkers due to the relative scarcity of comments!


Source: Wikipedia



NB Note the Rubicon river above - a lot less wiggly than my review, as you can see - but if you have got this far, it is TOO LATE NOW! The die is cast, and the post is read...

er...not quite!

The forgotten anniversary

For it is only now that it has suddenly occurred to me that it might be my 11th blogging anniversary around about this time of year, and it turns out that it is in fact today. ;) Well, there is no point writing a separate post to mark that milestone, but I can think of no more fitting brand to devote this post to instead. I will celebrate with a virtual Ruby Red Buttercream cake. (Photo via Liggys Cake Co.)


JUST ADD 11 CANDLES!






Tuesday, 13 October 2020

'Be more Undina': another full juice count and radical 'reorg' of my perfume collection - Part 2

I am a little bit behind with things, even by my own 'slow blogging' standards, but I did say the deliberations over my full bottle collection warranted a separate post, and so I think it will prove. In Part 1 I quoted some of my thoughts at the time of a collection 'reorg' in 2014, having completely forgotten that three years later I conducted another one, and wrote a post focusing on my decision-making MO, entitled: 'Lemmings and lemons reprised: a current capsule collection of 20 desert island scents'. I was clearly getting maximum mileage out of its pleasingly rhyming title...! And how could I even have missed that more recent post, which suggests that I am drawn to such existential musings every three years...;) Maybe it is good that it had slipped my mind, because I compiled my latest list of 'what I would keep plus what I would acquire' - aka 'my desert island scents' - without reference to the choices I made in 2017 or 2014. Or at least not until the very end, haha, when I succumbed to a spot of last minute tweaking. Nor did I consult the list of possible ways to make my selection, though looking back it is spot on, for this time round I did in fact use a haphazard melange of all the MOs mentioned in the 2017 post. These may bear repeating, namely:

  1. The burning building speed grab method
  2. The systematic review of ALL perfumes owned, including samples, to determine favourites
  3. The travel bag 'nuclear precedent' approach (that's nuclear in the 'capsule', not 'apocalyptic' sense)
  4. The fragrance family method
  5. The scents for all seasons method
  6. The scents for all occasions method
  7. The covering all my favourite notes method
  8. The scents I had happy times in method
  9. The inclusive perfume house / perfumer approach
  10. The Bois de Jasmin seal of approval approach
I have just thought of another one: 'The association with the early days of my perfume hobby method.' Jasper Conran Woman snuck onto my list that way...it was discontinued for a while, but seems to be back in stock now on a number of internet retailer sites. Ooh look - my fourth post out of a current tally of 704...;)


Does anyone remember this? ;)


Eyeballing that method list, I think I mostly homed in on #3, #4, #5, #7, and #8, but I did have a bash at #1 and #2 before abandoning both: with #1 I feared I might miss things, and with #2 I ran out of patience pretty fast, limiting my research to anything in a bottle, in a decant with a metal top(!) (because that connotes value/importance in the receptacle pecking order, ditto Travalos), or smaller samples I could remember spontaneously. So given this slapdash, flip-flopping smorgasbord of scent selection methods, there is no way I could remotely liken myself to Undina, hehe. I am reminded of my Latin textbook, which was called: "The Approach to Latin". Five years into learning the language and it still seemed like a hazy mirage on the horizon - I may have been approaching Latin in tiny imperceptible increments, but I certainly never got close.

Now before presenting my list of 20 (so much for the 15 target!), I have had to revise the figures of my bottle count, as a few more came to light, plus one had gone off**, and one I decided was more of a purse spray, when larger quantities were available. 30ml is therefore my chosen cut off to be classed as a 'bottle', unless the brand don't do a bigger size. Hence the inclusion of HOCB Immortal Beloved, for which the largest size appears to be 10ml. 

Source: HCOB

(**There might be more scents that have turned in fact, but I haven't the heart to try them all to find out, hehe.)

The total (excluding the perfumes I can't bring myself to include for reasons touched on in my earlier post) was 63 in the end, though a few are nearly finished. 

Of these, I bought 31, so about half. As I mentioned, the remainder were a mix of gifts from friends (mainly fellow perfume lovers), and the brands themselves, plus a handful I inherited (from my own -and somebody else's - mother).

For reference, here is my modest list of 20 from 2017... To which I retro-added a seasonal split, though I don't think it was a major driver of the final cut. I have added italics to the ones I actually owned at the time, so you can see the lemming proportion (quite high!).

2017

Wintry scents

Guerlain Attrape-Coeur
Chanel Bois des Iles
Caron Parfum Sacre Hermes
Hermes Doblis
Tom Ford Private Blend Fleur de Chine
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
PG Brulure de Rose (have run out of this now, but used to own it)
DSH Cimabue 
Flower by Kenzo Oriental
Christian Dior Ambre Nuit
House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved
Prada Candy

Summery Scents

Annick Goutal Songes edt
Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse
FM Carnal Flower
Mona di Orio Tubereuse
Serge Lutens Un Lys
EL Bronze Goddess
ELDO Fils de Dieu, du Riz, et des Agrumes
En Voyage Perfumes Zelda

And here is today's selection, with only very minor amendments, when I realised I had forgotten a few things.

2020

Lemmings

DSH Foxy
Chanel Bois des Iles
Caron Parfum Sacre
Hermes Doblis
PG Brulure de Rose
DSH Cimabue
House of Cherry Bomb Immortal Beloved
Prada Candy
EL Bronze Goddess
Mona di Orio Tubereuse
Ann Gerard Perle de Mousse


Source: hww.ca

Scents I already own

DKNY Gold
Annick Goutal Songes edt
Annick Goutal Chevrefeuille
Flower by Kenzo Oriental
Bvlgari Black
Jasper Conran Woman
Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge
Ormonde Jayne Ta'if
Diptyque Volutes edt

I think I am disproportionately leaning towards wintry fragrances, although these are not flagged up as such. This is likely in response to our current dismal weather. ;)

Note that the two lists have a lot of crossover, even though they were largely compiled independently and several years apart - 13 of the 20 (or two thirds approx) are the same as last time - and if you said I could only have 2017's list I wouldn't lose any sleep over it. I came very close to including five of the perfumes on that list, in fact! The same goes for the more generous list from 2014 with 30 perfumes in it. Because as we perfumistas know, so many alternatives would fit the bill we'd probably be happy if a friend picked us out the scents we had to wear. After all, it is through friends (you know who you are!) that I have discovered most of my recent fragrant loves. 

Then bubbling under the twenty are a number of what I called 'podium-hustlers' in one of my earlier posts - some of these are from the earlier list; others are sadly discontinued, so it seems a bit pointless to include them, but I have strong feelings for those scents regardless. Thinking of Balenciaga Cristobal - the edible fig scent - Damien Bash Lucifer #3, Guerlain Plus Que Jamais, and Prada L'Eau Ambree to name but a few. Strictly speaking, I shouldn't have Hermes Doblis, as it was released as a Limited Edition, and the chances of finding some today are vanishingly small. If I shouldn't be breaking my own rules again, I would substitute Cuir de Lancome instead. 

And of course I reserve the right to change my mind the moment I hit publish!

As you feel about your 'wardrobe' today, could you limit yourself to 20 perfumes? I'd be interested to know...


Editor's note: Oh dear...I spilt a full mug of tea on a pale carpet in my efforts to take this photograph of the bottles I already own that made the list without getting a shadow of any of my body parts in the frame! All the photos I have subsequently taken are a bit blurry, probably due to the artificial light. It does at least show the lengths to which I go to try to illustrate my posts with appropriate images. ;)
















Sunday, 27 September 2020

'Be more Undina': another full juice count and radical 'reorg' of my perfume collection - Part 1

I am confined to barracks at the moment, for reasons which will become apparent in a later post (in case you are wondering, no, I'm not ill ;) ). I would challenge the notion that staying in - whatever prompts this - is the new going out, and I soon began to feel a little odd and 'not myself', as evidenced by uncharacteristic flurries of decluttering. On a whim one day I decided to move the half dozen or so full bottles which had somehow insinuated themselves in my decant drawer and store them with the other bottles. Then before you could say "leaky atomiser", I had knuckled down to a comprehensive reorganisation - or 'reorg' as they say in the aerospace company where my friend works - of every bag, box, and tray containing every bottle, decant and sample I own. This took all day, and even the cat wearied of it after a while, and she does like boxes as a rule.




It is six years since I undertook anything comparable, so I have scurried back to look at that post and see how I approached things last time. It seems the theme of it was more about 'fantasy collection whittling' than the process of reorganising per se: 

"...following a recent massive reorganisation of my perfume collection - the tedious and largely illogical principles of which I will spare you - I kept coming back to the idea that I would really love to own far fewer full bottles - maybe around 30, say, instead of well over twice that number. I couldn't quite face sitting down with a blank piece of paper and compiling a list of which scents should be in the 30, so I decided to approach the question from another, more intellectually - and emotionally - forgiving angle. I took a long hard look at my current collection of full bottles and asked myself which ones I would buy again if I had my time over...I decided to strip price out of the equation and focus purely on which perfumes I would wish to hold on to for themselves, and not because - when considered in the round - they represented 'good value for money'."

Six years on, I reckon I could easily be happy with a collection of 20 full bottles rather than 30 - perhaps as few as 15. But we will see...I'd like to come back to that later in Part 2 and see what has changed in my collection itself and my preferences within - and outwith - it.

So the focus of this post will be the 'tedious and largely illogical principles' of my perfume reorg, for though I agree wholeheartedly that it has been just as illogical this time round, I think its very illogicality might conceivably be entertaining. Well, you can be the judge of that, hehe...




Step One - Remove full bottles from boxes, and store boxes in a separate container

Except, that is, where the footprint of the box with bottle in it is minimally extra (Crabtree & Evelyn Iris), or where I am especially drawn to the box for some reason (Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge and those novel-looking Tauer tins), or I want to keep the box and bottle together as I might sell the perfume in question soon (Miller Harris Fleurs de Sel), or I have an irrational fear that the bottle might fall over on its own (no examples, due to aforesaid irrationality of the idea). In short: 'Store some boxes in a separate container'.

Step Two - Group all full bottles together, whether or not they are still in their boxes

Except, that is, the ones I wish to disown, because I don't like them, or because they are in some way not worthy of being counted as 'proper perfumes' - these will be stored with the boxes and not included in the final tally. (I am trying to give them away to charity, but it is hard to get charity shops to take donations these days, if they are even open.)

For reasons of discretion, I shan't name names, as most were gifts or PR freebies. The remaining two bottles are vintage Lancome Magie Noire, my visceral attachment to which in the 1980s I am at a complete loss to explain, and Lidl's Suddenly Madame Glamour. Sure it is a great dupe of Coco Mademoiselle and all that, but at £3.99 it is without question much too cheap to count. In case anyone is interested at this point, the tally (excluding pariahs) is 62. This includes a nearly finished 30ml bottle of Jo Malone Vanilla & Anise, and another of vintage Rochas Femme parfum. So if I got a wiggle on, nostril-wise, the total could be down to a round 60 in no time.

NB The keen-eyed observer may spot that there is a sub-set of bottles grouped together by square or rectangular top design.





Step Three a) - Divide the 'book-shaped' carded samples into thematically meaningful categories

This is interesting...and further evidence that packaging format is 'shaping' up to be a key driver in determining where a perfume ultimately lives. The three way split turned out to be:

Designer / Niche / Samples in the little blue cards from Les Senteurs ;)




Step Three b) - Keep all other carded samples of whatever shape together 

To this I added 'samples in paper bags from meetings of Perfume Lovers London', as they didn't fit anywhere else.

Step Four - Throw away empty or leaky vials, and any I vividly remember being disagreeable 

This was hugely satisfying - you wouldn't believe how many things had evaporated in the four years since I last inspected my collection up close! NB If I couldn't remember clearly whether a perfume was disagreeable or not, it got a last minute reprieve. I did not venture to retest it..oh no...

Step Five - Isolate vials with just a tiny bit of juice left in them

The aim here was to keep this set of nearly finished samples to hand in my bedroom to encourage me to 'thunk' a sample a day until further notice. I should move the Jo Malone and Femme to join them really.

Step Six - Bag up big collections of samples by brand and keep in a box

The thinking behind this was logical, while appearing somewhat arbitrary...for while small bags of samples such as those belonging to En Voyage Perfumes or Vero Profumo could be comfortably housed in little compartments in my wooden drawer divider, the bigger bags needed to go elsewhere - the likes of Papillon Perfumery, 4160 Tuesdays, and Geza Schoen, who kindly donated lots of samples to the band when he memorably attended a gig in 2018.

Staying with the system (I use the word loosely) for the wooden drawer divider and beyond:

Step Seven - Group decants by colour of metallic top(!) 

Step Eight - Keep miniatures and Travalos broadly together

Step Nine - Group atomisers by body material - glass / plastic - and by length (in any material!)




Step Ten - Keep vials in individual poly bags together

I am not sure why these samples were ever in poly bags in the first place, except where the perfume names were too long to write on a label on the vial itself - these being all 1ml.

Step Eleven - Bag up remaining spray samples, split by niche and designer

BUT don't bother doing that with the 1ml samples! - being of a lower order, on account of their size and lack of sprayability, they just got stuffed in bags with no theme, though to be fair in that size they are more than likely all going to be niche - eg from The Perfumed Court or Lucky Scent (ah, those were the days...;) ).

Step Twelve - Keep unlabelled / unknown samples together 

(Oooh, I came very close to chucking these.  For I will never run so short of perfume that I will need to resort to sniffing anonymous samples...though I suppose it could be fodder for a blog post some day.)

Hmm, a Twelve Step Programme, I see, hehe...

Yet one so haphazard as to make the comparison with Undina and her rigorously methodical cataloguing almost blasphemous. Though you could also say that the 'Be more Undina' injunction still holds for that very reason.

And I am not sure that this account of my sorting MO was even slightly entertaining after all. In terms of its illogicality, however, it was arguably right up there with some of the Covid guidelines.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Now, going back to the full bottles, out of the 62, 31 I bought; 13 were gifts from friends and fellow perfumistas; 13 were PR freebies, and 5 I inherited - quite literally - from a deceased person.

I only paid full retail on about 10 of the c30 bottles, and bought many on eBay, Amazon or discount sites.

Of the 62, I probably would only wish to own about 10 of them again, but I do have quite a few additional lemmings, which would take my tally to something approaching the 20 I mentioned. But that might be better explored in Part 2...


Do you have a more logical system to storing your decants and samples? It could hardly be less logical! I would be curious to know...






Sunday, 13 September 2020

The Scent Crimes Series: No 21 - The lion sleeps today, and sales assistants who are not up to speed

Source: Tony Brierton via Wikimedia Commons
Ooh, it is several years since I last did a post in The Scent Crimes Series - this may be partly due to having covered most of the usual egregious suspects already, and partly because I have been wearing my 'Visor of Ennui' for some time now. It takes a very special perfume to penetrate it, and by the same token a very poor show in some aspect of our perfume scene to make me sit up and complain. And at an undisclosed airport last week, there was a perfect confluence of those two factors...

But before I start, may I interject an update about train and air travel. From my limited experience to date during the pandemic of five trains, one tube journey and one flight, I can announce that it feels safe to use these modes of transport at the moment. Fares are cheap! There's no b****r on them! Moreover, if we don't rise up and use collective means of travel soon, I suspect many of the air and rail companies won't be there when we decide we are psychologically ready to come out from under our Covid-secure rocks and want to use them. So just as the Chancellor urged us all to "Eat out to help out", I would add: "Take the strain off the train/plane" by going on one. End of transport-related homily, sorry(!), and obviously this is very much an individual thing, but for anyone in two minds about the whole conundrum of getting from A to B I wanted to say that these modes of travel still seem to be lightly used and pretty consistently socially distanced. In my post about masks at the end of July I reported a more mixed experience on one leg of a train journey, but I think people are 'getting with the programme' as time goes on and mask wearing becomes more widespread and normalised. I would imagine you might actually be more likely to catch Covid in a gastropub where people are eating in even closer confines than on a three quarters empty train or plane, and with masks off (for obvious reasons).

So on to my Visor of Ennui, that was recently breached by the latest release from Chanel's Les Exclusifs range, Le Lion. Well, slightly released, as it is still a Middle East exclusive. As I know now, it is coming into general distribution in the early New Year, hopefully straight into the January sales, though I won't hold my breath, hehe. I am indebted to Val and Portia for the fact that a sample reached me via a highly circuitous route from Dubai to Australia to Austria to England. We won't consider the air miles involved in getting Le Lion to me, and however many they were, they were totally worth it. Which in these days of climate change concerns, you may rightly infer is praise indeed...

I don't propose to review Le Lion, as I am away at the moment and don't have my sample to hand. Also because Le Lion is a shapeshifter of a scent that skews differently on different people, and even differently on the same person(!); most of its key 'personae' have already been admirably covered by Val and Portia in their reviews (which I did originally link to, but a corrupt bit of blog code means they are not showing, sorry). From memory I can say that on me Le Lion is firstly a leather scent, with a warm hum of amber and vanilla, and the animalic vibe of PG L'Ombre Fauve asserting itself here and there, with which there is significant note crossover. Le Lion is lighter, less earthy, and more 'edible' (I use the term advisedly!) than L'Ombre Fauve, though I am a big fan of that one. Oh, and not forgetting Le Lion's hints of Shalimar thanks to the lemony facet. So yes, I love Le Lion, which has promptly shot to the No 1 spot on on my vanishingly small list of lemmings, along with Nars Audacious for which Val has also fallen hard, and back up bottles of a few things.


Source: Fragrantica

Le Lion

Notes (via Fragrantica): bergamot, lemon, labdanum, amber, vanilla, patchouli, sandalwood, musk

L'Ombre Fauve

Notes (via MimiFroufrou): amber, musk, woods, vanilla, patchouli

No, this post is rather about my experience of the duty free at the unspecified airport in question. Perfume sampling in that excited state of anticipation before your holiday is a thing of the past now...there are no promotions ladies lying in wait with testers, trying to forcibly spray you as you pass. (see Scent Crime Series: No 5 - The Tester as Tommy Gun). You can't even try fragrances unilaterally, for the testers and blotters have long been put away. The perfume hall is more like a supermarket than the sensory playground of yore. There again, for the past several years I haven't been bothered to test things anymore (see Visor of Ennui above ;) ), so it doesn't make much of a difference to me in practice. At best I might have sprayed a familiar favourite to wear that day, having invariably got up too early to apply perfume before setting out.

On this occasion, I made a beeline for the Chanel concession, and approached the SA who was hovering with no role left other than to dispense product information to would-be customers. I asked her when Le Lion was coming to the UK and she said she hadn't heard of that one. "Have you tried 1957?" she countered cheerily. I assured her I had, and that I liked it a lot, notwithstanding its goodly percentage of musk.

The sales assistant inquired how I had come to try this new scent which was not yet on her radar, and I briefly explained its complicated itinerary to me, glossing over the controversial aspect of the homemade sample, hehe. I don't think the details quite registered, for she summoned a colleague over to answer my question, who was in the middle of training a new recruit. "When is Le Lion coming to Britain?"

The more senior SA said: "Next year", before turning in my direction and adding that she had tried it already.

"So has this lady - she was in Dubai", piped up her colleague. I feebly tried repeating a shorter version of the sample's backstory, before swiftly aborting the attempt.

Ignoring the fact that I could possibly have tried Le Lion - in its exclusive sales territory or by any other means - the senior SA proceeded to tell me what it smelt like:

"It's a cross between Coromandel and Sycamore."

Hey, I know I said Le Lion was a shapeshifter, but that is some shifting of shapes to come up with such a startling comparison. I am not sure whether it might have qualified as an additional 'crime' or not, but it certainly left me puzzling over the odd lovechild such a coupling would make.

Have you tried Le Lion? Were you in Dubai? If not, does it sound like your thing?

Saturday, 29 August 2020

By gum! For some resin I am myrrh and myrrh drawn to perfumes with this note...


For much of the summer, I have been behaving in perfect conformity with the principle of seasonal fragrance wardrobe rotation, wearing perfumes with lilies and white flower bouquets for the most part. I also had a long run of Annick Goutal's Chevrefeuille (accents throughout this post on request), because its zingy lemon meringue note put a spring in my step, while the tomato leaf accord chimed with my prevailing gardening mojo. 

Then I don't know if it was the sudden turn for the worse in the weather, but I have been on a bit of a myrrh kick lately, which shows no signs of letting up. And not just perfumes showcasing the note, but to my surprise I realise that quite a few of my summery florals also have myrrh in the base. I recently scored a 5ml decant on eBay of that iconic beachy scent, Estee Lauder Bronze Goddess, which is a good example of this unexpected incense phenomenon - perhaps the myrrh is intended to connote the grittiness of the sand between your toes?

And I wore DKNY Gold a few times this summer, and blow me if it doesn't also have myrrh in it. Ditto Annick Goutal's Grand Amour. I wonder if I might be subliminally drawn to myrrh's grounding, meditative quality, though at such a small percentage in the formulation I may be rather overstating things, like detecting a soupcon of Worcester sauce in a meat pie.


Source: Fragrantica

Some other, more overtly myrrh-y scents for which I have reached lately (did I say 'reached for'? Feel free to shoot me) are:

Armani Prive Myrrhe Imperiale 

Hermes Myrrhe Eglantine

Eau d'Italie Baume du Doge

Papillon Perfumery Bengale Rouge

Puredistance SHEIDUNA

NB A couple of these reviews are worth a (re-)visit if only for the truly appalling puns in their titles.

Then I had a delve into my samples and decants and it seems there are quite a few more myrrh-containing scents to retry, including Ormonde Jayne Orris Noir, Dior Bois d'Argent, Guerlain Myrrhe et Delires, Huitieme Art Myrrhiad, Caron Parfum Sacre, Neila Vermeire Trayee, Mona di Orio Myrrh Casati, 100BON Myrrhe & Encens Mysterieux, YSL Opium(!) and more. Also worth mentioning is that on this list there are not one but TWO perfumes featuring that well known combo of myrrh and licorice.

I remember once owning a bottle of AG Myrrhe Ardente, an impulse buy on eBay in response to Boisdejasmin's four star review. Her and my tastes generally have a high degree of congruence, but on this occasion I found myself troubled by the oddball Coca-Cola note. It did smell amazing on fellow perfumista Donna in Belfast, but it wasn't right on me, and I sold it on.

Meanwhile, I have been dabbling again in burning myrrh resin with the help of my friend Gillie. The first time we did this was in 2014, and I ended up accidentally getting my finger trapped in a sash window, but as they say of women and labour pains, I have long since forgotten that traumatic association and entered into our experiment the other day with enthusiasm. Gillie is a real pro, and burns all kinds of incense in resin form in a variety of receptacles: charcoal holders, bowls, on spoons, and even on the end of a pin. I left with a 'party bag' of figs and flapjack as well as a delicious olfactory memory in my nostrils, and once home promptly bought two little bags of the resin on eBay - of which one was organic and from The Yemen, to hedge my bets on the quality if not the human rights front.




I had never really researched myrrh's botanical origins to any degree, and have only just learnt that it comes from the Commiphora Myrrha tree. Before I go any further - and especially given my earlier mention of giving birth - I should warn readers that 'this herb is contraindicated during pregnancy because of its emmenagogic activity'. 'Emmenagogic' - a splendid word which connotes the more strident kind of zealot, but means nothing of the sort. Speaking of pleasing amounts of 'g's in a word, a close relation of the Commiphora Myrrha is the Commophora Wightii (which has pleasing amounts of juxtaposed 'i's, while we are on the subject). The resin of the Wightii variety is known as 'gum guggulu' - as well as 'bdellium', not to be confused with the brand of makeup brushes of the same name. But how good is 'guggulu'? While browsing Wikipedia, I also learnt the excellent term 'anti-tussive', which is one of myrrh's various medicinal benefits.


Source: Wikipedia

It will be interesting to see if my craving for myrrh abates when the good weather returns, as surely it must before we have to declare the summer over. Or maybe it will segue into a similar fixation on frankincense, hehe...


What are your favourite myrrh-forward or 'hint of myrrh' perfumes? What else should I try?!















Sunday, 16 August 2020

"How does your garden (not) grow?" Call for scented plant suggestions for next year...

Sorry, that was a rather 'contrary' use of the nursery rhyme lyrics, but I am currently in a phase of reverse gardening. By that I mean that the whole thing is undergoing a radical overhaul that is very much still at the 'rip it up, and start again' stage. Well, still ripping it up in fact. In the eight years since I bought the house, the well-stocked and fleetingly orderly flower beds have run absolutely rampant. In the end, the long and wide one on the left was populated almost entirely by a militant mob of aquilegia occupying the top half, with the rest completely colonised by pampas grass. I am dimly aware of the term 'self-seeding', and it looks like such surreptitious propagation had been going on at an explosive rate lately.

So back in March I engaged the services of an old school gardener - a chap who has worked all his life in nurseries, and instinctively refers to plants by their Latin names, as opposed to the usual kind of 'gardener' you meet nowadays, who basically cuts hedges and lawns and knows zilch about anything else - to clear out whatever plants he thought were spreading like wildfire, or growing too tall, or suffering from rot, or just plain ugly. He went at this job like a whirling dervish one day while I was in France, about to be locked down(!), and on my return my neighbour commented on how much he had achieved in a single day. His horticultural MO was tantamount to a scorched earth policy, without the military context or the scorching. But certainly my beds were nearly bare by the end of it, with a few plants spared on account of their fitting my stringent selection criteria for next time, of which more anon. 


Charlie Bonkers, the previous incumbent


In addition to dealing with the jungle of the flower beds themselves, I did finally screw my courage to the sticking place - suppressing my not inconsiderable repulsion in the process - and tackled the far end of the patio, into which I had never felt brave enough to venture all this while. Like the recent 'big garage clearout', which took two days and a lot of sheer physical graft, this was another job that was in the 'too hard' and 'too horrible' category to be done till now, but once I overcame my mental block and got on with it, there was a huge feeling of release and satisfaction in the finished result. 




For on that side of the patio were all sorts of receptacles with stagnant water and soil and stones in them; broken bits of pottery; old watering cans lying on their sides, home to rotting leaves and snails galore; watering cans with puddles of suspected weedkiller inside, plus a thicket of tangled vegetation and an old jerry can with a hole in it. I simply avoided going there, not least because there was also a clematis and honeysuckle madly climbing up the back of the garage, adding to the knotty mess of foliage. I could put a small bench in the space I have created. And have been using the water butt! It's a whole new outdoor space to just be in.


"Yes, it probably could do with thinning out!"


Until the gardener can replant next year, he will be doing another round of weedkilling, while I am in charge of lawncare. Which brings me to an embarrassing tale on that subject...

For the last time I mowed the lawn, on one of those boiling hot days we have had lately, I was nearly stopped in my tracks as soon as I started by the discovery of a dead frog. I had seen a live frog in a flower bed a couple of days previously, and presumed it had fallen prey to the cat - even though I had also observed them companionably sitting back to back to each other, like two amusingly mis-sized book ends. So I dashed out into the street, aimlessly looking for someone's husband to borrow to dispose of it, as I can only handle dead birds and mice - frogs seem a more alien and offputting category of corpse to me, especially as I couldn't detect any legs on this one. In the road I ran into the man who runs the local hardware store and solicited his help. "You just pick it up with a shovel and put it in a bag", was his opening salvo, until I apprised him of my psychological issues with amphibians. "Ah, but I can't leave my car unattended, as I have a lawn mower sticking out of the boot", he countered, "but if you prepare the tools first, then come back here and mind my mower, I'll deal with it." After thanking him profusely, I laid a spade, a pan and brush, and a sturdy rubble bag on the lawn, and stood guard by his car while he did the biz. The chap was back in no time, my equipment clearly untouched. He had evidently removed the snail (as it turned out to be) between his finger and thumb.


Bare or what?! (interrobang)


Hmm...so taking stock I wonder if I might get the gardening bug, as I briefly did after my mother died? I do feel a lot better psychologically for doing even the most menial physical work outside, and by clearing the patio after so much time I feel I have bulldozed a huge mental and physical obstacle out of the way. 

Then the gardener had previously asked me to make a list of flowers and shrubs that I like, which he can then vet for their behavioural characteristics - for as with people, beauty is only petal deep, and plants may run amok or succumb to weevils as soon as look at you, which would never do. I went away and did that, and also added a list of my own parameters the plants must meet - not all of them(!) - but I would like the garden to include some plants like this in the mix:

  • Hardy
  • Perennial
  • Architecturally interesting 
  • Not overly prone to pests or disease
  • Not overly prone to self-seeding / going bonkers
  • Slightly acid-loving
  • Easy care
  • Variegated foliage
  • Seasonally colour-changing foliage (two for the price of one)
  • Plants with silvery / frosted foliage in winter (bit niche, this)
  • Plants with shoots that droop down like exploding fireworks (arguably even more niche!)
  • Arrestingly blue flowers

And last but not least....SCENTED. Which is where you all come in. I would be most grateful if you could suggest flowers, shrubs or trees (dwarf varieties only!) that have a nice fragrance. Not honeysuckle, as I have just chopped one of those down, haha.


The clematis survived the cull....


So far I have come up with a peachy rose, 'Virginal' mock orange, lemon-scented geraniums, jasmine, and a daphne of some description, but I have lots of time to gather more ideas, which can then be fed into / run past the gardener's reality-checking algorithm.

Strangely, I love the smell of lavender as a shrub - and it ticks the architectural box as well, also 'bee-friendly', if I was sufficiently ecologically-minded to have that one too - but not in any other format, so that is on my list. And I have a selection of mints in pots already, which I love to smell, though I don't really care for mints as a flavour either, plus the different varieties are not all pleasant by any means(!). I think apple mint is the one that smells traditionally - and acceptably - minty to my nose.

In my research on possible contenders for the big planting next year, I chanced upon four plant terms or names that made me smile:

  • Ranunculus
  • Macrophylla (sounds like a kind of immune cell)
  • Bracts
  • Panicles

So in addition to scented suggestions, do add any quirky horticultural words to this list. ;)

Oh, I nearly forgot...there has been one new addition to the planting already - 'Larry the Locust tree', donated by my friend Kate. He comes in the biggest pot I have ever seen, so am mindful that the watering operation needs to be substantially scaled up, especially in the hot weather. He provides a nice focus at the newly cleared end of the patio, and hopefully will soon recover from his inevitable transplant shock.