Tuesday, 5 October 2021

The Smell of Despair: random off-topic post on how not to sell a sofa


Apologies for the lack of squarely perfume-centric content of late: I do have a couple of perfumes I quite fancy writing about, but before I get to those something else always seems to catch my fancy! I am gearing up at some point to write a piece on skincare, and one on sleep, and one on "life hacks" I was surprised to discover recently. But I'll admit to having been majorly sidetracked by a full-on house project lately that has taken the best part of a month, involved preternaturally early starts, and consumed my attention - and an entire jar of sugar in the workmen's tea. ;) I could write a post about that experience perhaps, as lessons have been learnt. Much as they were when I had the main bathroom refurbished back in 2016, and reported on that process, which was harrowing and instructive in equal measure.


And because of my distracted state, instead of something more germane (feeble pun in the title notwithstanding), I have decided to split an infinitive and finally do the silly post I threatened to write some years ago (bet nobody remembers!) - on how not to sell a sofa. I don't believe I have ever sold a sofa myself, but I have bought a few...er...a lot, even. Looking back, I bought five for the house I shared with ex-Mr Bonkers (they are all still there too); then I have shoehorned five into this house, which I am astonished to realise on totting them up, and have two in France - one a cast off from my friend L, which was gathering dust in her barn, and goes back to her student days. Of the sofas in this house, two were bought on eBay, two on Facebook Marketplace, and only one was new - bought at a very good price from a manufacturer near Nottingham which deals directly with the public in a limited way, but doesn't advertise the fact. The company allegedly made the chairs for the film Dark Shadows, starring Johnny Depp, but I certainly didn't run into him browsing through fabric books on my visit to their showroom. Finally, the one in France that wasn't a gift was another eBay bargain. So I may be a bit of a sofa tycoon, but I am a canny shopper with it.

Now the fact that I have searched for so many sofas online - sofa surfed, you could say! - means that I have seen a lot of listings, and formed a view as to what is and isn't conducive to making that sale. There will undoubtedly be other factors, but for my money these are some of the problem areas that occur in adverts:

Sofa looks like a Michelin Man wannabe

Now I accept that in order for a sofa to be comfortable, a degree of padding is required. But these examples of "extreme upholstery" take the concept of pneumatic seating to a whole new level.


This one arguably has a 'Birth of Venus' scallop shell vibe going on?


This imposing black and beige model is free to a good home!


Sofa has hidden flaws?

I nearly named this "implausible antimacassars", for that is what the fabric draped over the back of the sofa below reminds me of.



And here is a covert operation involving cushions AND strategically placed fabric.


And another one... "Throwing" everything at the cover up operation. ;)

Sofa is not "staged" to its best advantage

I have a friend who - as a kind of running joke - posts photos on Instagram of furniture he has spotted abandoned on street corners. The photographs below are not quite that, but not far off it!



 Not a very scenic backdrop, but a bonus pouffe.


Misjudging the optimal cushion count

This point is related to the staging one above, but concerns the accessories placed on the sofa itself rather than the background of the photo.

Strangely, it IS possible to have too many cushions, and I speak as someone who errs on the side of profusion.


Meanwhile, this sofa strikes me as crying out for a "balancing cushion".


Sofa (and/or its owner) have given up the will to live

Actually, this category has some overlap with the others - or probably would have if you could see all the items in question. Full marks for transparency, mind.


At least this throw and baby drink paraphernalia? are not disguising any imperfections as such, but it doesn't make for a smart presentation of the goods.



The seller of this one is both transparent - and persuasive...

"hole in the back but cushions cover it perfect for someone just starting out and in need"



 By way of contrast, here is how the sofa that ended up in France was displayed by its owner:



I kept it for a while in the garage until I found someone to transport it over there (see photo at the top of the post). If I ever decide to sell it I have the listing photo ready to go! ;)

Have you ever bought or sold a sofa on the Internet? Do share your good or bad experiences!

Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Grand Theft Olfacto! The content scrapers are at it again...

It has been a while (nine years!) since I noticed someone posting chunks of my blog posts on their own website. The last time it was an Israeli site, and I wrote about the incident here. Which is not to say that people haven't been quietly scraping my content since 2012, because I haven't actively been on the lookout for it. The other day though, I was idly googling Bonkers about Perfume in the same way as you sometimes get the urge to google your own name and see what comes up - what? you don't do that? - and it wasn't long till I lit upon a site called "Bonkers about the Perfume". Which is not even correct English, so I immediately smelt a rat. 

I clicked on the site, which contained eight posts (in chronological order) from the autumn of 2015. Why those eight I will never know, but one of them was an account of how Val the Cookie Queen stepped up as emergency roadie and ferried the band around very close to her home in Austria, so I was a bit peeved about that one in particular being nicked. Also this account of visiting Liz Moores en route to another gig. The rest of the blog - labels, titles, headers etc - was in a foreign language.

Next up, I clicked on the name of the blog "owner" - a Roni Kusoy - who I think is probably Indonesian, based on the number of Indonesian people of that name on Facebook, though admittedly no Ronis. And on his Blogger profile I spied a further four perfume blogs I recognised: "old-timers" like me, and even bigger sites, namely:

Persolaise Perfumes (Persolaise)

Smellin Things of Perfume (Perfume Smellin Things)

Shrines Perfume (Perfume Shrine)

The Maisque Perfume (+ Q Perfume Blog)

And blow me down if this Roni Kusoy bloke hadn't also taken precisely eight posts from the same period of 2015 from each of these blogs and posted them on his phoney sites. He has scraped another nine blogs beyond that, including several about cats. ;) At least he hasn't been able to copy the illustrations across, so there are daft-looking blank spaces everywhere. You can see the full list if you are curious, and click through to the perfume ones from there. I don't want to give the man too many clicks from my own site, as that feels like playing into his hands.

Now it is only eight posts per blog, whereas the Israeli thief had taken a lot more, but I felt sufficiently annoyed to leave a comment on Bonkers about the Perfume, asking him to take the site down, and adding that I was going to inform the other blog owners (well, the owners of the perfume blogs, certainly, with whom I have a connection).


[At the time of writing I hadn't yet clocked the fake version of + Q Perfume Blog...]

Well, some time has elapsed but the offending sites are still there, and Kusoy hasn't responded to, or even deleted, my comment! (Which I made a point of leaving on all eight posts.) This chap also has a YouTube channel - it is the only other search result in Google apart from his Blogger profile - with two videos uploaded onto it, and all of 11 subscribers. Assuming it is the same Roni Kusoy, and I can find no one else of that name.

It just remains to puzzle over why he would even want to pose as the owner of all these blogs? Is it a mischievous game to climb higher up the rankings than the legitimate sites in question? Is he simply trying to harness lots of clicks and awareness of his name by instantly creating new sites with content, albeit not his own? And am I right that he is Indonesian?

If you are a blogger, have you had your own content scraped, and were you able to resolve the issue? I would be grateful for any tips as to how to get the sites taken down, because asking politely - or even rudely! - doesn't seem to make much difference. And I know this act of brazen scrapery doesn't really matter in the grand scheme of things, and barely counts as a "Grand Theft", except on aggregate perhaps, but still...

Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Mind how you go: France - the sequel, now the cuckoo has landed


The cuckoo has landed. Yes, I am back in Blighty, after a 600 mile drive, two PCR tests, and 29 loads of washing. Or so it felt. And this after not having driven further than Stoke in 18 months until a test run to Buxton the weekend before I went to France, though that was only 50 miles.

I didn't initially think the holiday would spawn two blog posts, but there were a few noteworthy events since I wrote the one in August, so I decided to commit them to screen after all, prefaced by sub-headings for ease. 

The model guest

This is my 11th stay in the village, and my 7th as a home owner. And my first as a host! For I finally took the plunge and had a guest to stay, an old tutor from my university days in Belfast, whose hospitality I have enjoyed on work trips on and off for 40 years, but to whom I have never returned the favour - until now.

He was a delight to have around, spontaneously doing food shopping and the washing up. We remarked on what a treat it is when you live alone (as we both do) to have someone to share the chores with. He had helpful suggestions on task lighting for the area which would be a kitchen if I had the full complement of relevant appliances, and also made the happy discovery that my fridge does in fact have a freezer compartment! On the practical front, he pointed out some crumbling areas of masonry that had escaped my eye, an earth cable outside that might benefit from a protective cover against the elements, and a patch of possibly recent woodworm. For the time being I have set a "tissue trap" over the affected area (the beetles will eat their way through it if they are still extant), and will address the "tissue issue" on my next visit. 

My friend was also a mine of surprising food facts: for example, that if you eat even the tiniest bit of eggshell you might get appendicitis; that mashed bananas are okay to eat even after they go brown, and that eating carbs for breakfast is in fact the worst time of day. Wot, no croissants or pains aux raisins...? Why, in English they are even collectively called "morning goods". Clearly that one is never going to (Garibaldi) fly.

Most impressive of all, on the first day that I suggested we make an excursion to some local beauty spots in the Dordogne, he said he'd much rather go in search of a clothes airer for me, as there is nowhere to dry my laundry in the French house, assuming I had first figured out the coin-operated washing machine in the wall outside Carrefour. He would only agree to doing touristy things once we had scoured the aisles of a Leclerc hypermarket (in vain) in search of one. 

Another endearing aspect of my friend was the fact that he understood the insecurities associated with aging, announcing brightly one morning that he was going to the bathroom "to try to make myself look a bit less like Cro-Magnon". So yes, he is welcome back anytime.

And he hadn't been gone five minutes when the orange and white cat (by now a daily visitor) annexed his bed.

Pass the pool tickets

Towards the end of the holiday - and the end of the swimming pool season - a French friend in the village handed me a clutch of swim tickets, which had in turn been given to her by a Dutch lady who had some spare. I kept a couple for myself, as there were only two days left before the annual closure, and I couldn't see myself going for a swim more than once a day, and passed three on to my English neighbours next door. When I went to settle a bill with the guy who troubleshot my gas hob in 2019 (things move very slowly in rural France, not least invoicing), I offloaded the remaining tickets onto him, as time was running out. He couldn't use them himself, as he was working, but was confident he could give them to a French friend with small children. Sure enough, when I went that afternoon, there was a lady of a similar age to him in the pool, children in tow, so I inferred (with some satisfaction, I can tell you ;) ) that the last tickets had found a home...

Of note too is that when you go for a swim, you have to present your vaccine passport, which in my case consisted of a letter in an NHS envelope. The lady on the door didn't even glance at it, saying: "I trust you." I was touched by this, though it did make me realise that I could have had the letter in there inviting me for my bone density scan - or arguably just a bank statement.

Covid regulation hoop-jumping

I am now well and truly blooded in all the requisite forms and procedures involved (currently!) in going to and coming back from France. One of these requirements is the pre-departure Covid test at a local laboratory, the precise timing of which you have to calculate with care, as it needs to be so many hours before you leave the country, plus you also need to be sure of receiving the results before you set off on your homeward journey. I guess you could assume a negative result and set off regardless, but in the event of a positive result you would need to be prepared to turn back and self-isolate where you had come from. The lab promised results within 24 hours, and I had factored in 26 before I really did need to leave. As it happens, they were through in less than 10, which was a jolly quick turnaround.

I nearly came a cropper though when I tried to pay for the lab test upfront with a 50 euro note. The girl on reception looked horrified, and gestured for me to remove the offending cash from the counter. "We can't accept that - it's microbial!" 

Another aspect of the protocol to re-enter the country is a lengthy online form you must complete in the 48 hour window before arriving in the UK. (You need good maths for this caper, let me tell you.) I overheard two women talking about this outside the lab. I assumed they were frequent foreign travellers as they were already referring to said form by an acronym - "PLF".  Move over, Palestine Liberation Front - the new acronym on the block is for the Passenger Locator Form!

Another yogurt implement incident

In 1978, aged 19, my friend Averil and I went backpacking round France and Italy. Rouen was an early stop in the trip and where we realised we had failed to pack any cutlery. After trying and failing with a comb, we managed to eat a yogurt with the end of a toothbrush. I am 62 now, and stopped in Rouen overnight on the journey back, where history repeated itself.

The ne plus ultra of customer service

Whilst on the ferry I wandered into the duty free - looking for a small edt bottle of Shalimar in fact, but no joy - and instead came out with a box of six assorted wines from a small producer in Aix-en-Provence which the manager said were better quality and value than the ones I had randomly picked out myself. This lady also arranged for her colleague - who looked like a female prison warder in navy trousers and sturdy steel-capped shoes, with a big bunch of keys in her hand - to open up the car deck specially for me, despite it being normally out of bounds to passengers during the crossing. To be fair I couldn't have handled the box of wine and my belongings when the ship docked, but it still felt like a big favour. The colleague proceeded to undo bolts and pull back levers on the heavy metal door with a dramatic flourish, as though she were opening up a bank vault to reveal a gleaming pile of ingots, not my 9 year old Ford Focus, fortuitously parked just behind it.

And my luck kept coming...the same manager of the duty free magically popped up on the till of the cafeteria moments after I returned from the wine stowing mission. She insisted I be given a second cup of machine-dispensed hot chocolate free, in a bigger paper cup, because I had accidentally used a small espresso one and some of my drink had run over the side!

Here is the wine (not all purchased on this trip, hehe). Even so, I think I may need to up my drinking...;)

The not so speedy supercar

On the long drive back from Newhaven, I got stuck in stop-start traffic on the M25 (as you do, even in a pandemic with sizeable numbers of people still supposedly working from home). Interestingly, the French for "stop-start" traffic is "circulation en accordéon" (accordion traffic - or perhaps, concertina, even), which is nicely graphic. At one point I got stuck behind the low slung head turning high performance beast that is a McClaren car, and thought how frustrated the driver must have been not to get above second gear till nearly the exit for the M40.

Now I am back I am already looking forward to my next visit to the house, even if it will be dominated by chasing up a joiner to do some much needed window repairs, pouring gravel down a hole under the stairs, and treating the woodworm as appropriate. And more hoovering and weeding and de-cobwebbing, obviously. Apparently the cat is still hanging around my house, doubtless puzzled that I still haven't opened the door to let him in...

Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Mind how you go: why six swallows do not a summer make, and one cuckoo flew the nest

This post is a tale of two halves...it starts with the latest on my "supermarket sweep" of comorbidities (I exaggerate, I know, but I have gone and picked up another diagnosis!), and then the action moves to France, where I have boldly gone, despite the Government's relentless pushing of "staycations". The very word alone would propel me to go abroad for a holiday, I will be honest. More on that anon. 

The Thursday before I left I had a bone density scan at a hospital in Burslem (one of The Five Towns in The Potteries, not to be confused with bursitis). I didn't know this hospital even existed - and I nearly didn't have the scan at all, as there was some confusion in my records as to whether I had actually fractured my scaphoid bone back in January when I fell on ice, as you may recall. For they could only scan people who had sustained a fracture, being strictly a Fracture Clinic, not a "Had a Nasty Fall of Any Kind Clinic". However the staff put their heads together and decided to let me through based on a 1-1 draw of medical opinion for and against, plus the fact that it had taken me an hour to get there, what with the roadworks on Stoke's notorious 'D-Road' being such a nightmare at the moment. Good job they did, as I came out with osteoporosis(!), which I did not see coming. 

Source: Pinterest

The nurse in the Fracture Clinic I was sent straight in to see after the scan had what looked like two plaster of Paris objects on her desk. I had no idea what they were, and was told they were cross-sections of two kinds of bone: one normal, one with osteoporosis. The healthy one was dense and thick and full of wavy lines with reasonably small holes in between like a Gaudi building in Barcelona (okay, eyeballing that photo maybe the holes are bigger than I remember ;)); the other one looked like a Cadbury's Crunchie bar you had sucked the middle out of - surely you must have done that? It had much thinner stalagmites and stalactites that had been snapped off here and there as though someone had driven a model Dinky car all the way through. Plus the top and bottom of the cast skewed sideways at a disconcerting angle, like a Leaning Tower of Pisa made of bone. I did not want to accept the conclusion in the direction of which I was being pointed, namely that my bones looked more like that one...Next up, a perky young student with the Stoke equivalent of Scouse brows took blood - to rule out other unspecified sinister things (as they do). She announced brightly afterwards that she hadn't had any practice with needles since Christmas. ;) It looks like they might want me to go on bone strengthening drugs, but these are quite punishing on the oesophagus apparently, so there would need to be 'buy in' from the nice gastric consultant who made a cameo appearance in a previous post. At the very least now I need to mind where I put my feet.

Like this, but *much* holier and more slanty ~ Source: ABC7

Moving on, the very next day I had a barium swallow requiring a six hour fast in the run up...well, I say "swallow" - it was in fact a series of about six tightly choreographed swallows preceded by a pause where you have to hold the liquid in your mouth first. I found it a strange and interesting procedure, standing on a platform that tilted this way and that - a bit like being an astronaut. Plus some lying down in an Odalisque pose and drinking through a straw at exactly the sort of angle a person suffering from reflux like me would never dare to do, hehe. And rolling over through a full 360 degrees in fits and starts as though you were an insomniac (which I also am) trying to find a comfortable sleeping position. The barium stuff tasted way better than I expected: like molten Love Hearts or a raspberry flavoured Sherbert Fountain crossed with Gaviscon. I was bracing myself for something far more elemental, like sucking on Shungite. 

Blimey, I wasn't far off too... They must have a jolly good juicer is all I can say. 

I don't have the results of that procedure yet, but calculated that I had a perfect window of opportunity to come away to France and check on my house there while waiting...the lifting of quarantine on my return, and the removal of the requirement for TWO of the four Covid tests being the icing on the cake. There's even talk of capping the prices of the PCR test I have to take on Day 2 after I get back.

[In case anyone is shocked at my skipping the country in this manner, I promise I didn't take my decision lightly: I checked the French pandemic situation on the Worldometer site, and note that France is running at 22,636 new cases at the time of writing, with 81 deaths a day. The vast majority of people with Covid at the moment (99.86%!) have mild symptoms. Then the dreaded Beta variant accounts for about 2% of cases, mostly in Reunion Island, some 5,700 miles away. So the country looked as safe if not more safe than Britain, not least the sleepy village where I was headed. Masks are still compulsory in French shops, and vaccine passports are required in a whole clatter of public places like cafes, restaurants, museums and cinemas - even open air markets.]

I also took a lateral flow test for my own peace of mind before leaving the country, even though that was one of the tests you no longer have to do, and arrived at Newhaven ferry terminal with a bristling clutch of documentation - as much to do with Brexit as with Covid to be fair: passport, International Driving Permit, Green Card, vaccination certificate, and a sworn statement in two languages to the effect that I didn't have any Coronavirus symptoms. A marshal from the ferry company promptly gave me yet another similar form of their own to fill in, so I had now sworn my health status in triplicateAll my paperwork was found to be in order, which felt like a win, and I had a lighthearted moment with the Border Force team, explaining that I had a Hoover, ironing board and two feather dusters with me, and was driving 600 miles to do a load of housework. As I drove onto the ferry I felt a surge of excitement, as though Neptune was favouring the brave. Mad, bad, completely cuckoo? You decide.

The ferry was sparsely populated for August, and there were probably no more than 25 cars aboard. I met a lady who had made the trip to the UK back in April (I am not sure on what grounds, as travel was even more tightly controlled back then) and she said there were only 8 cars on her sailing, yet the ferry staff said that was a good day! I managed to use the ship's wifi during the crossing, and given the mere smattering of passengers I'd say there would have been ample bandwidth to go round, even if all the mostly retired folk in the lounge had been avid gamers.

Some 400 miles later, I reached journey's end, having only spotted half a dozen British cars since leaving Dieppe. And felt sad for the many more who didn't feel they could or should have the holiday they had planned.

The house was nowhere near as dirty or damp and musty as I was expecting after my long absence, though there were numerous impudent lianas of wisteria which had insinuated themselves inside the shutters and dead leaves all over the floor, while spiders had taken back control like a spindly multi-legged version of the Taliban. There was also a huge pile of post for a couple who have the same street address as me, but in the next village. The next day, I walked to their house to deliver it all. Luckily they had a sufficiently roomy letter box. They weren't around in person so I could explain, so I imagine it will give them a bit of a shock... All those offers on casual slacks and camping stools they have missed!

There have been a couple of incidents so far which brought it home to me how much I value the little quirks of village life. My French elderly friend is very ill, sadly, and I went to buy her some flowers in the supermarket. A man of a similar age jokily asked me at the till if they were for him, and quick as a flash I said: "No, they're for R...", knowing full well he would know who I meant.

After that I popped to the Post Office, which is housed in a Media Centre at the end of a long passageway. The postmistress was sitting on the ground, leaning against a wall, mask slung round her chin, soaking up the sun. On my approach, she scrambled to her feet, reassembled herself, and scurried into the PO seconds ahead of me.

On the way back, armed with lots of stamps for postcards I may not get around to writing if past years are anything to go by, I was astonished to chance across Neptune himself nestling in some boulders on the ground.

Another evening I ran into the sick friend's cousin, who was sitting outside his house in the dark, his little auburn-coloured dachshund by his side. He mentioned his upcoming visit to the doctor's in another village. "I drive there with the dog - she's no bother. As long as I can drive I will stay with that practice, as I am used to them. Obviously not when I can't anymore, as she would not be great behind the wheel." "No indeed", I replied, "There are her short legs for starters."

I haven't spent any time yet in holiday mode, as I am trying to get the house shipshape ahead of a friend coming to stay. The other day saw me brushing the cobwebs off the rafters of Miss Havisham's attic and sweeping the floor and stairs. I am not sure I could have faced the task were it not for the prospect of a visitor spurring me on.

In other news, I am now on Day 2 of waiting in for an Amazon parcel. In the UK you are given a precise and narrow time slot for delivery, whereas Amazon France have guaranteed delivery days, not hours, and thanks to a nifty oxymoron these 'guaranteed' days are only estimates, as I now realise. And this despite signing up to a free trial of the French version of Amazon Prime: normally held in high regard as a behemoth of speedy shipping, over here it is a completely meaningless concept. I am the only one who appears to be 'primed' so far, eagerly awaiting the mattress topper I have bought for my guest...

Touching briefly on scented matters(!), I have brought a few more perfumes out here to join my growing collection. I keep them in the bathroom cabinet - I know, sacrilege, flying in the face of my own advice from way back - because I am on holiday, and have clearly let my usual standards drop. ;)

Oh, plus I have made a new furry friend! Please don't tell Truffle...

Friday, 13 August 2021

Spritz and sip: Seamist Liquid Garnish from the Salcombe Distilling Company

Photo courtesy of Salcombe Distilling Co.

Last Christmas a friend with a long and distinguished history of giving me unusual gins performed a sideways gifting* manoeuvre into gin 'additives', if I could loosely term them as that. You know, things like angostura bitters which go to make classic pink gin, though it wasn't those. And which until I looked them up just now I mistakenly thought contained anchovy. No, what she gave me was a 'liquid garnish' with the dreamily evocative name of Seamist. The idea is that you add it to one of several Salcombe Gins - or in my case whatever 'plain' brand I happen to have in the cupboard, more like. It is the mode of dosing that is the fun part though, for the bottle of Seamist looks exactly like a perfume atomiser of the old 'sit on the dressing table of a Hollywood starlet' variety.

Moreover, the list of ingredients (though the precise nature of the botanicals isn't specified) reads for all the world like a fragrance formula - orris root I am looking at you!:

"Distilled and crafted using the finest fresh red grapefruit peels, which are hand peeled each day prior to distillation and combined with coastal botanicals, a hint of Macedonian juniper berries, lime, coconut, orris root and bay leaf, before adding Cornish sea salt, which is first dissolved in pure, naturally soft Dartmoor water before being blended with the distillate that has been created. The salt concentration is roughly twice that of sea water."



A gin garnish in a perfume bottle: what a splendid confluence of my special interests...;)

The ABV is a whopping 60%, I should mention, which is 50% more than my usual tipple of gin at around 40%. Good job it is only finely sprayed over the finished drink...!

Now despite my alleged gin and perfume credentials, I have yet to spray the Seamist into my gin. So far I have only tipped a bit out of the neck into my glass, which wasn't very successful, as a fair bit spilled onto the worktop, necessitating my 'doing a Truffle' and licking it off. What do you mean, you don't do that too?? Having since taken a better look at the company's website, I shall be spritzing from now on. I have no idea why I even hesitated. There is lots of information on the website by the way, from cocktail recipes** to try at home, to tasting sessions on the premises - you can even go along and learn how to make your own personalised bottle of gin. Of interest too is the timeline of Salcombe's maritime past and how the distillery was set up by two sailing instructors called Angus and Howard.

The inspiration behind Seamist is also revealed:

"Seamist’ has been inspired by, and is created to, replicate the aromas and sensation of a morning walk along the shore, with your senses being filled fresh sea air and a subtle saltiness from the spray of waves as the early morning sun turns it into sea mist."

This is obviously not the sort of morning walk experience that can be readily conjured up in landlocked Staffordshire. Mind you, Stafford was built on top of salt mines at least(!), though the practice of brine pumping was banned in 1970 following some bad cases of subsidence in the north of the town. As for how Seamist tastes to me, it is not as grapefruity as I thought it would be, nor as salty, but adds a boozy citrus twist to an already boozy drink - in a good way. Which doesn't really tell you very much, I know. To be fair, I should have written this post after I had managed to get more of the garnish into my actual glass... ;).


Source: Stiller Beobachter via Wikimedia Commons

Now as any fellow sufferers of reflux / GERD will know, fizzy beverages (tonic water!), alcohol (gin!, Seamist!) and citrus fruit (grapefruit!) are the Unholy Trinity of acid-producing drink- and foodstuffs. So a gin and tonic with a slice of lemon or lime in it is already a supposed no-no, even without the addition of extra citrus and extra alcohol. But my drinking overall has fallen by about 85% (though it may creep up again presently, I sense), and sometimes you simply have to live a little (or go mad)...;)


*I swear I would not normally say "gifting", but "presenting" isn't a word. 

**As well as just adding Seamist to gin, there is also a recipe for a Martini cocktail called a Mistini, which is another great name.

Tuesday, 27 July 2021

Perfumista samples site, and how Robin made me blog again

Princess Diana rose

I have been away too long. Too long from the blog, and from the perfume scene generally. I have not been completely asleep on the job, but have largely got tip offs about new releases from other blogger friends, and occasionally still from a perfumer directly. I read just two fragrance blogs regularly, and comment on both. In the old days it was upwards of 20. I wear perfume fitfully, but always with enthusiasm when I remember to do so. I am not making great inroads into my SABLE*, but it gives me pleasure to drain the odd 1ml sample or little decant every so often. A few things have turned while I wasn't looking, but we are none of us getting any younger.

Yet perhaps unexpectedly, it is my recent distracting health issues that have led me back to perfume. I am still being investigated for a couple of issues, while a few others have been diagnosed, or have disappeared as mysteriously as they came, or been relegated to the "to be monitored" (aka "too hard") pile. Harrowing as the process has been at times, I am so grateful to have been scanned from top to toe, as I mentioned in my earlier posts. Last week saw my eyeballs join the list, with bones to follow next month. Somewhere along the way, a consultant said he really liked me, as I was "unusual", which was a tonic in itself. ;) Another doctor said he believed in "treating the person rather than the test results", while conceding that I had managed to clock up a startling number of abnormal findings in recent months which would worry anyone.

So this unsettling experience - compounded by a spike in neighbour bother, on which I shan't dwell here - led me to crave rose perfumes of late, which I do periodically in times of stress, ever since I hit the menopause. I have been enjoying them in my garden too, while the friend who painted my flittersniffer avatar (David Gleeson) gave me a 'Princess Diana rose' from his, so one way and another, the flowers and their scents have been on my mind. 

A cursory rummage in my perfume wardrobes (literally!) was enough to establish that I own very few rose-centric scents anymore. I have Bvlgari's Rose Essentielle, which I wore to my dad's funeral, but it is quite modern in style. I was after something lush and multi-layered, like Keiko Mecheri's Mogador, which my friend Jessica found for herself after a long and winding quest. A veritable feather bed of petals you can sink into with your nose, you know the sort of thing. Or indeed the late lamented Creed Fleur de The Rose Bulgare, which Bois de Jasmin rates very highly: "After a somewhat perfume-y and oddly 'green' start, this one is unmatched rose verisimilitude". Hiram Green's Lustre also ticks the box, but a vegan friend has fallen in love with it, and I wouldn't part them for the world, while the other rose scents in my collection are wintery, or dark, or spicy, or powdery, or linear, or have a goodly dollop of Tauerade. I couldn't find a single soliflore in my drawer. ;)

Minutes later, I had clicked on a perfume sampling site called "Perfumista" (a very good name to appeal to our community!), and scored a 5ml decant of Parfumerie Generale Brulure de Rose, and a 1ml sample of Diptyque's Ilio, my curiosity about which had been piqued by Undina's recent review. I hunted for the chilly new Serge Lutens she also reviewedLa Dompteuse Encagée - but to no avail. They were out of the Hiram Green as well, though I was impressed the brand was even stocked. I wracked my brain for other scents I had heard about lately, and rootled around in Jo Loves, Jo Malone, Tom Ford and Hermes, then left it at that. And I know Brulure de Rose isn't a soliflore either, but I miss having a bottle, and 5ml should keep the lemmings from the door for a bit. They don't do Keiko Mecheri in fact, though I did look. An impressive range of niche lines nonetheless.

'Thinking of you' 

The Perfumista site offers free delivery on orders over £10, which is great, as I expect to buy at least £25 worth of something (invariably wool!) to qualify for that perk. A slightly irritating thing about the website - as it displayed on my laptop anyway - is that it was impossible to scroll down the brand list beyond the M row, no idea why. I viewed the site on my mobile instead (where brands appeared under the Categories tab, somewhat illogically) to refresh my mind about what else I might be interested in.

And I am writing about this site before the perfumes have even arrived, because the mere fact of my having bought them - like in the good old days of The Perfumed Court! - is noteworthy enough, I felt. Today I have gone back into Google to see what other sites are out there now (I may be the last person to know about them all, haha), and on the first page of results I clocked Fragrance Samples UK, Perfume-samples, and Scent Samples, all of which were new to me. I have been away too long, as I say.

So how, you may ask, does Robin come into it? That would be Robin of Now Smell This of course, though I hardly need to mention that I am sure, as her blog is a cross between a behemoth and a bellwether; it is the CNN of the blogosphere, and a bottomless resource in more ways than you can shake a blotter at. I am in awe of the work Robin has put into maintaining the site all these years. She is a tower of strength and endurance, no question. And of course I once had a couple of guest posts on there in 2012 (well, one on NST itself and a companion post the next day on Bonkers); unfortunately they led to a barrage of trolling, and got me banned from linking to the blog on Facebook for three years, which I admit to thinking a disproportionate response at the time. ;) [Links on request for anyone who missed the whole kerfuffle and may be curious.] Anyway, I was looking to see if Robin or anyone at NST had also reviewed the new Serge Lutens, and then thought to check her blogroll to see if I was even still on it, and miraculously I was! It was quite a sobering read, mind, as so many of the names have got "no longer updated" in brackets after them, and I really didn't want that fate to befall me too.

So here I am, sneaking a post in before Robin notices I had been gone a while, hehe; still not through the 'testing tunnel', but learning to live with being abnormal. After all, that consultant did say I was "unusual", so I have a reputation to maintain...

And lastly, here is a rose David painted earlier - doubtless also from his garden (am surprised he is not called Austin, quite frankly) - because while perfume sillage evaporates and real flowers die, a still life painting is a joy forever. 

'rose pink' by David Gleeson

UPDATE: The samples are here! The vials are nicely presented, in an easy-to-rip-open sealed silver pouch inside a sturdy brown envelope inside a white Jiffy bag. Oh, it is so good to be reunited with the PG...!

*My SIL's acronym for "Stash Above and Beyond Life Expectancy"

Monday, 5 July 2021

Blog housekeeping: Bonkers moves from Feedburner to Follow.it, and thoughts on 'turning green'

Well, would you believe that not a lot has happened since I wrote my post in April about being indisposed. The scan I mentioned at the time did find a little something that has since been surgically removed and sent off for inspection, but I remain 'under investigation' for the other issues I mentioned. Meanwhile new organ systems continue to be added to the list of suspects with monotonous regularity, a bit like the Government with its red and amber countries. I have come to view abnormal blood results as the new normal, though hopefully not forever. Throw into the mix the impact of seasonal allergies on my eczema (as in this post, though not quite so bad this year!) and several chipped front teeth, and you have the general picture. I feel very much like a oldish car that you take in for its MOT and one wiper replacement, only to have the garage mutter darkly that your brake pads are worn, the steering is out, your head gasket is leaking, and your big end could fall off at any moment.

I hope to resume posting by and by, but remain a bit detached from the perfume scene while this diagnostic limbo is ongoing. A waggish friend said: "Yes, you are left in a constant state of never-knowing, a phrase for which there is probably some obscure tribal word." And the not knowing what is wrong with me makes it difficult to 'live right', though I am broadly having a go, with the odd dietary lapse (aka cake) here and there.

The other week I was jolted out of my distracted state, however, by the notification from Google that its Feedburner subscription service was going to be axed later this month. I started to half-heartedly research alternatives when I was approached by one of the free platforms I had lit upon myself, namely Follow.it. I gladly let them guide me through the process and port my list of email subscribers across to their system - they kindly offered to weed out the many bots who were on the list, like bad bacteria colonising one's gut. These creepy web crawlies are largely detectable by their tell-tale gobbledygook addresses, so it may turn out in the end that I only have fifty subscribers rather than 1650... 

So this post is just to give readers the heads up about the switch, which you will notice in due course. It should be seamless, but in the unfortunate instance of your having a rather implausible email address yourself(!), leading you to be culled by the nice people at Follow.it doing the heavy list lifting, I apologise in advance. It should be a relatively straightforward process to reinstate your email subscription in that case by using the new Follow.it widget in the sidebar.

As you can tell I don't understand much about these things, being supremely untechy as a blog owner, but I gather that Follow.it has some extra features compared to Feedburner, if that sort of thing interests you: this link should take you to their new dashboard where you can define certain filters and delivery channels, with more whizzy options apparently in the pipeline. 

Any queries, let me know, and I hope to 'turn green' (to reprise our traffic light analogy) and be back before too long!

Thursday, 15 April 2021

Bonkers is indisposed and on hiatus (not hernia, I don't think!)

St Pancreas?

I am sorry for the longer than usual interval since my last post (even by my own leisurely slow blogging standards), but I haven't been well lately - ever since I had my first dose of the vaccine as it happens, though I am hoping that is a case of 'correlation, not causation'. Or that at the very worst, the shock of the jab may have lit a blue touch paper of latent conditions, and prompted a number of organs to flare up at once. I did have a couple of prior symptoms which both might loosely come under the umbrella of 'digestive distress', but things have ramped up to include a mildly insulted pancreas, nightly heartburn, and more besides.

I happened to mention this (genuine medical ;) ) description of my pancreas to a solicitor friend who instantly quipped: "A mildly insulted organ? My liver is probably curled up with gross defamation of character!"

For the foreseeable future I have been told to give up alcohol (though I was only drinking three days a week latterly), all supplements, and caffeine, though I sneak in the odd cup of decaf tea here and there. FYI, Yorkshire Tea with the blue flash is the best I have tried. Then it seems the pancreas doesn't care for gin, while the oesophagus hates tonic and lemon, so between them they are a right pair of party poopers. I have thoroughly researched pancreas-friendly foods and non-acidic ones that are good for the oesophagus, and am endeavouring to placate both organs at once (and not add injury to insult, hehe) by eating the intersecting set. This requires a lot of fancy dietary footwork, as you might imagine.

Unfortunately I still have to live with uncertainty about the cause of these symptoms for a while longer, as investigations are ongoing. The one I had today involved a 24 hour fast in the run up, which was tough. I never thought I would get my head around construing a beef OXO cube dissolved in hot water as dinner. 

I had a helpful sheet of instructions to guide me:

"You should aim to drink a glass of water, juice, tea or coffee WITHOUT milk every hour up to two hours before your investigation. (Except when sleeping)."

The sleeping exemption was greatly appreciated ;), though Alexei Navalny could have managed such a stunt with ease, as they are apparently waking him every hour in prison, poor man.

This morning's procedure was billed as 'virtual', but I can confirm that while it may have been virtual in technical terms it was the furthest thing from sensation-free(!). Still, it should rule in or 'eliminate' a few suspects, so I am most grateful to have been offered it. Had I fallen ill last April the situation in hospitals would have been very different... 

Now I know it is generally considered bad form to link to old posts in lieu of fresh content - mindful that the above barely counts - but given its relative antiquity and the distraction of my digestive issues I thought to do so regardless. It is a guest post I wrote on Cafleurebon ten years ago this month about the wedding of Prince William to Catherine Middleton. I see I mention Prince Philip right at the end, which is topical at least. In my mind I am sure I included more of a story about him, possibly even involving a joke of his, but it seems to have gone. There was a fair bit of editorial tweaking after submission, so maybe that bit ended up on the cutting room floor. I also note that William and Kate are still married, despite the bookmakers betting generous sums to the contrary!

Please excuse the distracting profusion of fonts in that post - nothing to do with me, hehe. 

I will close with a bit of graffiti I spied the other night, which nicely sums up my current health puzzle...

Have you had any odd side effects from the vaccine? (AZ / other?)

Have you ever had to eat a challenging diet, and if so how did you get on?

Friday, 26 March 2021

The age old problem of losing face: Absolute Collagen review

I watched a heartwarming programme on Channel 5 last night: '10 Years Younger in Ten Days', which is another of those quick turnaround makeover shows in the tradition of 'The Swan', 'What Not to Wear', and 'Changing Rooms' (for houses!). Both the women featured had touching stories, and I particularly sympathised with the one who had had some horrible - only adumbrated - things happen to her in the past, compounded by 43 years of heavy smoking. As a result she was heavily lined, careworn and sad, and a straw poll of straight-shooting passersby guessed she was on average 8 years older than her actual age. The presenter made the point that chronic stress floods the body with cortisol, which in turn 'eats' collagen, a dismal truth of which I was already aware. Within ten days, however, the makeover candidate had had a complete new set of teeth, botox, fillers, a sassy wardrobe and a leonine cascade of toffee-coloured hair. Whilst I don't agree with the post-makeover poll that said she now looked 52 rather than 64, she was certainly much revivified by this comprehensive overhaul. I am especially envious of her teeth.

I concede that nothing in my own past comes close to whatever troubles this woman had experienced, but the point about cortisol eating collagen struck a chord with me. The lockdown has been a stressor for all of us to varying degrees, and I have found it much harder than I expected, despite being someone who is normally fine on their own. Over the course of the year I acquired tinnitus and have had protracted spells of insomnia, itself a source of stress, as well as robbing you of what is rightly termed 'beauty sleep', for it is at night that the body repairs itself. Long story short, I fear I may have been awash in cortisol for quite a bit of the past year, and come November, my gaunt and sunken face was starting to bug me. The line of my jaw, once smooth and slightly rounded, now had a distinct and saggy triangle in it half way along, like a miniature map of Tasmania. The brown spots on my cheeks, caused by a mix of long term use of antibiotics and sun exposure, and which once took the form of separate little patches, have managed to coalesce into archipelagos stretching from ear to mouth nearly, making my face look permanently dirty. The 'peach fuzz' on my cheeks also seemed more luxuriant, but it is blonde at least, so have bought a de-fuzzer by Revlon and will get round to tackling that one day, when I can pluck up the courage. As for estimating my age, the best approach is the dendrochronological one of counting the concentric rings on my neck. ;)

Baseline photo - me in March 2019. NB My blog avatar photo (to the right) is from 2014. ;)

November is a depressing month at the best of times, never mind in a lockdown scenario, but the local private hospital was still open for business, and one dark rainy night I had a consultation with a rather dashing plastic surgeon from Minneapolis. I had no intention of actually having any cosmetic surgery - it was more of a fact finding mission. I am delighted to say he didn't charge me for the session, because he felt that the radical work I needed(!) was not his speciality. 'I could sort your eyes out, though.' The session was not quite as dispiriting as you might be forgiven for thinking. He added that my eyes (even in their hooded and crepey state) 'had a spark about them', and that I had good skin, 'just too much of it'. He explained that the main reason for people's skin becoming looser as they age is in fact the shrinkage of the underlying bone structure, like the facial equivalent of coastal erosion. 

Source: rejuvent.com

This instantly explained the disconcerting amount of 'travel' in my cheek when I applied moisturiser. It seemed almost as though it would slide past my ear, given half a chance. I did lob in a tentative question about fillers, thinking that might be a more affordable and less scary route if I ever did bite the bullet and have anything done, but he wasn't a fan. 'I mostly work in a hospital in Liverpool, and walking around the city centre I see far too many cases of unnatural looking fillers.' (My thoughts immediately flew to those preposterous trout pouts that sometimes accompany the infamous Scouse brow.)

And then I asked him about oral collagen, a bargain bottle of which from Amazon I had in fact just started taking from a company called SuperSelf - probably not long enough for it to have made a difference, if it was ever going to. His hesitation before replying struck me as significant, and though I can't remember his exact answer, it was far from an outright no, as though he were leaving the door ajar to its possible efficacy.

Picture from last August - if you look closely, you can see Tasmania is just starting to get her droop on.

So I came away thinking there was no way I could afford or ever face a face lift, given my phobia of blood and knives, and if this chap was anti-fillers, that just left me with my collagen experiment. I decided to pursue it for now, to rule it in or out, and when the SuperSelf bottle ran out, I took out a subscription to Absolute Collagen, which is one of the leading brands, with (to my mind) the most convincing 'before' and 'after' pictures from users. AC's founder, Maxine Laceby, has won a number of beauty industry awards, which served as further reassurance of there being 'something in it'. Accordingly, after a month of taking the other brand, I switched to Absolute Collagen on 8/12, and every fortnight receive a cheery yellow box containing a clutch of lemon flavoured sachets which I dissolve in hot water and drink first thing.

[Oh look, they use the dreaded word 'journey'! But as I like the product I will cut them some slack, no dermatological pun intended.]

I am part way through this box!

One week later, in mid-December, I met up with a friend, whom I had not told I was taking anything, but who immediately noticed a difference to my face - a sort of blurring round the edges, as it were. Here is our email exchange shortly afterwards:

> I have also been taking some new supplements
'They really are working - I did notice it without prompt or prior knowledge...'

Fast forward to a full three months later - four, if you include the other brand - and I thought it was time to take stock. I have decided to carry on for a while, not least because the company has brought out a new raspberry flavour which they were kind enough to let users trial before choosing, along with another alternative of mango & mandarin, which is also nice. Notwithstanding the fact that collagen is derived from fish, the raspberry flavour is so expertly blended that I could fancy I am eating a sloppy version of Bonne Maman jam. A coulis, if you will.

So without further ado, here are three areas where I have seen improvements - some more striking than others.

1) Hair is stronger.

I had my hair cut in December and as she was washing it, the stylist spontaneously commented on the fact that my hair felt noticeably thicker! If anything, it feels even thicker and stronger now, to the point where I reckon that you could attach one end to the bow of that poor marooned ship in the Suez Canal and yank the unfortunate vessel out of its wedged position.

[No picture would convey this, so you will have to take my word for it!]

2) Nails are completely transformed!

For as long as I can remember, I have had 'severely ridged thumbnails', to such an extent that they were mentioned in just such terms on early passports in the days when there was a section on 'distinguishing features'. 

Left thumb just starting to grow out...[sorry, my phone doesn't really do close ups!]

Nearly there...!

Right thumb is there already!

Once or twice in the past 60 odd years my thumbnails have grown out straight, but very, very rarely - I could count the times on the fingers of one hand, minus the thumb, haha. I never knew why they did that on those occasions and the effect was shortlived. It was soon apparent that the collagen was turbo-charging the nail regrowth again, and it will be interesting to see if the change stays - while taking collagen, or more impressively when I stop.

3) Facial skin is thicker and fuller.

The most marked change when it comes to my face is the strengthening and thickening of my skin. When I pummel my face or use creams on it, it doesn't do that unnerving 'travelling' I mentioned earlier, and snaps back into place when I let go. I still have the same lip lines and naso-labial lines, but my face is a bit plumper, which I cannot attribute to putting on weight overall, for it has only been a few pounds since the summer and my face is the last place I normally do gain weight. 


So I am pretty sure it is the collagen. I still have too much skin, to quote the lovely surgeon, but it has more bounce and elasticity. If it were bedding, I would liken it to the consistency of a duvet or a quilt, rather than a sheet, or the thinnest of coverlets. It resists you when you go to move it. Obviously I would love the collagen to take up residence in the remaining slack areas of my jaw, to smooth the contours back to how they were. This downward trend has been going on for between 2-3 years I reckon?, and if I could turn back even half that time - the ravages of lockdown, say! - I'd consider it money well spent. 

Would I recommend Absolute Collagen? I would, absolutely, though it is expensive - but hey, it's actually less than the price of a takeaway coffee every day. Plus there is no way of knowing quite how it will change you. But change you it most likely will.

And finally, does any of this matter? Am I just being vain? Is aging an inescapable process it is folly to try to even slow down, never mind stop in its tracks? Maybe, but 2020 has been such a strange and alienating year that aspiring to have a skull that broadly fits my face is perhaps an understandable indulgence...

PS For those of you who were guessing a while back what supplements I was trialling, no, it wasn't biotin, hehe.

UPDATE: As you know, I have no commercial connection with Absolute Collagen, but it has just come to my attention that anyone purchasing the product who cites my name in full (Vanessa Musson) as a 'referring friend' gets £10 off their subscription, with a similar amount coming my way(!). The latest person to order must have chanced across this mechanism and given my name - I was not aware of it. It may come down to people's definition of 'friend', hehe, but I thought it worth mentioning, as a shared £20 is a win-win situation. ;)