Saturday 25 July 2020

The masked aisle cruiser: musings on mask wearing for travel and shopping

So it is Day 2 of mandatory mask wear in shops in England, a rule which has already been in place for some time now on public transport. I haven't been to a shop since yesterday, as I have been laid low for a couple of days with one of those "corrective migraine and exhaustion episodes" my body tends to throw my way after a period of extreme physical exertion - in this case a rather strenuous garage clear out last weekend. I have, however, been practising donning a mask in the run up to the change in the regulations, and have some initial thoughts on various aspects of mask wear and disposal.

The fit

Well, where do I start? Just as shoes and dresses come in different sizes, so should masks, for people's heads are vastly different in shape. And not just their heads as a whole: for as one Facebook friend commented, separate features on her face had divergent requirements:  

"I think my nose is a D cup and my ears are only an A cup."

And then there is the matter of chin size relative to the rest of the face, and face width generally. I have tried on loads of masks and most fall short on some dimension: overall looseness, slack elastic, overly long elastic, too much bunched up fabric - giving something of a nappy look - scratchiness, unmouldability over the bridge of the nose, lack of breathability, spectacle fogging etc.


My easiest "straight-out-of-the-packet-with-no-breaking-in-tweaking-or-adjustment" mask to date is this stretchy yet breathable one from The Big Bloomers Company (see above). It also comes in pink and denim blue. The company already do a 'large' and a 'medium', which is a step in the right sizing direction and I correctly went for medium, but so far on the market I have not encountered many sizing options. Maybe the category will evolve and become more nuanced as the wearing of masks becomes an everyday reality. My favourite design in my collection is the leafy one, bottom left in the picture at the top of the post.

I also have one of these snood-cum-scarves-cum-face coverings (known officially as 'collar-shields' to their makers, Patra), which may be a bit porous to count as a mask - or maybe not. I very much doubt that any official in either a supermarket or on a train will get close enough to members of the public to check for fibre density. 


Oh, and while the charcoal grey one I just mentioned is fine for everyday use, I have succumbed to a Facebook advert for these slinky silk masks, which I figured might be nice for evening wear, when that distant time comes round and we can go out to gigs and parties again. It appears to have an adjustable toggle, which looks promising, as long as it isn't an uncomfortable accessory in itself. But hey, three for the price of two in different colourways - how could I resist....!?


The disposal aspect

Now as well as a bunch of washable fabric masks, early on in the pandemic I did buy a pack of the standard blue plastic ones - the kind that could perhaps be classed as 'low tech PPE'-grade. They are too big for my face, haha, and I also don't like the disposability aspect. I have seen quite a few of these masks abandoned in gutters and on verges, and I worry that we may be storing up a huge waste problem for ourselves comparable to the one involving microplastics. I hate to think of a dolphin being strangled by an inevitably ill-fitting mask, but that day may come.


The masked aisle cruiser

I should perhaps update this category once I have been shopping with the new rules in place, but I think I will prefer to wear a mask in the supermarket now they are mandatory. I felt rather self-conscious during my practising phase, not least because I was pretty much the only person in any shop wearing one(!), or one of only a very few. I fully expect some people to flout the rules - and not just those using the government-sanctioned excuse that it would cause them "severe distress", which is a pretty comprehensive get out for anyone actually. :)

"Those who 'cannot put on, wear, or remove a face covering without severe distress' will be exempt."

Distress levels are of course subjective...

The masked rail rider

In a major lockdown development, I went on a train the other day. I did have a friend to see at the other end, but it was also a way to get some value from my Senior Rail Card which had been lying worryingly fallow in recent months, as well as an experiment to see how I felt about using public transport, and whether I would consider it as a means of getting all the way to my French house, or the station that is half an hour's drive away, say. I think I would, but for the immediate future I could probably still do with taking my car, on account of the things I need to bring over.

On the way back from my excursion I had the whole carriage to myself! I decided to wear the mask regardless, so as not to create a miasma of respiratory droplets for anyone to inhale from Stafford to Crewe, and also to keep my face warm as the (droplet dispersing) aircon was so fierce!

On the outward leg my experience was a little more mixed. There can't have been more than a dozen people in the carriage even so, but I started out sitting next to three girls from Liverpool with big party hair and not a mask between them. They were chattering away nineteen to the dozen, so having clocked their high aerosol production, I decided to move further away. The next nearest person was a middle-aged man, quite heavily built and with a disconcerting habit of exhaling deeply with almost every breath. "That's way too much exhalation for one person", I thought to myself, and promptly moved again. The next person to whom I was relatively near kept sniffing, so I didn't last long near him, and the final person I settled near coughed rather more than I would have liked. I had however exhausted places to move to by this point. Plus they were all wearing masks at least, unlike the Scouse girls.

So it has been an interesting learning curve. Can't say I like having to wear a mask one bit, but I will persevere as long as it is the law. And at least I have some "going out masks" aka "facial glad rags" on their way that give me hope for the future...

Hendricks demonstrates my stretchy mask

What is your experience of mask wearing?

Have you tried ones of a different construction, eg with valves or the ones that come to more of a point over your nose?

Do let us know in the comments how covering your face has been for you...

Friday 10 July 2020

"Whose that vial?" The tricky - and tracky! - business of tracing perfume samples...

Some of my samples!

A while ago, Undina wrote a post about Jo Malone's Sweet Milk, which prompted me to have a look for my own sample of that scent. I was going to donate it to her, not least because it was she who had given it to me in the first place. ;) In the course of my concerted rummaging, I came upon dozens and dozens of samples and decants going back ten years or more: some bought from online sites like The Perfumed Court and Lucky Scent, some gifts from fellow fumeheads, and some received in swaps on Makeupalley, where I clocked up an astonishing 75 trades back in the day when you could send fragrance internationally. Now Undina is noted for her typed labels on vials, but many of the samples I uncovered had handwritten ones. I soon became completely absorbed in trying to remember where they had all come from, either from my own recall of the transaction, or by recognising each person's handwriting. This was by no means as straightforward as I thought it would be, as I am out of touch with some of the perfumistas who were "on the circuit" up to a decade ago, and am still puzzling over quite a lot of what I found.

So for fun, I thought I would create a gallery of photos of vials with confirmed IDs, and enlist the help of readers to identify the mystery ones. There were way more unidentified fragrant objects where these came from, but I didn't want to overwhelm people with a blizzard of the things. And I haven't been right through my collection either - this is more of a random dive - so there are doubtless other examples I could have put a name to if my search had been exhaustive, as well as many more I couldn't! So I also hope that no one is offended if they do not happen to be represented in this selection. 

Known sources

Left to right: Thomas (Candy Perfume Boy), Undina (Undina's Looking Glass), Tara (A Bottled Rose), Birgit (Olfactorias Travels), Carol (Bloody Frida), Sarah (Odiferess).

Sources I think I recognise

Left to right: Rachael Potts, Val the Cookie Queen, Marie Pinholt-Krabbe, Freddy (Smellythoughts), Lisa Jones. There is a fair element of doubt about some of these(!).

Sources I have as good as no clue about 

Though I think the one on the far right may be either from Tamsin Simmill or Louise Bodin. ;) 

If you recognise a vial you sent me, or have intell on any of the handwriting, do let me know in the comments. 

I would also be interested to know if you have this problem of forgetting who gave you what!