Wednesday 24 February 2021

Favourite - and least favourite - perfume *bottles* in your collection


This is a blog post theme with which I have been toying for some time. I have seen features discussing which perfume bottles on the market people consider to be the most beautiful - or the least attractive - but decided to confine the question to bottles I own. Within this finite category I would venture to say that aesthetic considerations have come into my acquisition decisions down the years, but not to any great extent.

So I had a little rummage in the several boxes housing my collection, and started to draw up a list of possible candidates for either title.

Before going any further, I should mention that the twin pack of flacons above are not mine, but rather are from the little perfume museum in Barcelona I have in fact visited (though I can't say I remember them, as there were so many strange and wonderful specimens to take in). The set belonged to Marie Antoinette no less, and is therefore quite long in the tooth. In view of the unfortunate fate of their owner, we should perhaps be impressed they managed to keep their tops all these years...!


For the most beautiful bottle, I initially thought of going with this 15ml bottle-ette of Calypso from natural perfumery Ajne in California. It is one of the smallest perfume receptacles that could feasibly be counted as full-sized, as well as being the most expensive I have ever bought. I reviewed the scent in question many years ago here, and am pleased to report that I still have some of this sultry tropical number left, and that it hasn't turned. The problem with the bottle is - if I am perfectly honest - that the metal filigree work is tacky and cheap-looking: the gold is too gold, if you know what I mean, while silver - or any silverish alloy for that matter - would have been more refined. It is so easy to get gold-type metals wrong. See how much better this cheap tea light holder looks next to it? Hmm...actually, the gold filigree doesn't look too bad in my photo, but trust me that it does in real life - and light!



Indeed I made that very mistake again recently with some make up bags and purses from a company called Elizabeth Scarlett. Several people reading this so nearly got one for Christmas(!), but luckily for them I sent the whole lot back due to the cheap and gaudy-looking fastenings - and made sure to tell the company so. Actually, the pouches were also very creased, and even though I have greatly relaxed my high ironing standards during lockdown, the extremely wrinkly state of the fabric was troubling. Which is a shame as the designs were gorgeous. So yes, it only takes a little slip on one aspect of a product's design to compromise the whole shebang. Going back to Calypso, it also didn't make the cut because its spray mechanism has given up the ghost, so you have to unscrew the whole caboodle and anoint yourself with the rather sharp and pointy end of the little white tube-y thing. Meaning Calypso is out of the frame on two counts. And I swear I am not dismissing it because I felt the shop in Carmel stood me up when I tried to visit. ;)

Now there was a clue to my favourite bottle in the image above of the Elizabeth Scarlett pouch, which has quite fortuitously been styled next to a (bizarrely empty) Annick Goutal bottle. I own three AG perfumes: Grand Amour, Le Chevrefeuille, and Songes, and the prettiest of all is....Le Chevrefeuille! How much do I love that egg yolk yellow ribbon, which nicely sets off the elegant fluted oval-shaped bottle. It is not unlike a boiled egg that has been given a good hard squeeze, something I daresay we Brits are all looking forward to come June, hehe.


Then honourable mention should go to DKNY Gold, even though my bottle is scratched and battered.


I love its 'beaten' gold panels (in an acceptable shade of gold ;) ) and chunky square wooden top, with a soupcon of a nod toward Brutalist architecture.


And what about my least favourite? Well, there was a lively jockeying for position amongst the shortlist: a hot contender was the overblown and space-guzzling Oscar de la Renta, with its floral excrescence of a top, which makes it difficult to store. It is such an awkward beggar in fact that it also refuses to have its image rotated.


Then I do like the graceful arch of my Flower by Kenzo Oriental, but it towers above the other bottles, and invariably ends up lying on top of them like a stagediving pop star. But no, the accolade of 'least favourite' has to go to Olfactive Studio's Lumiere Blanche. What a plain, functional, dull, rectangular non-entity it is! I have seen more seductive half bottles of cheap vodka or maple syrup. 


Plus my olive oil bottles are all without exception more winsome than this lumpen thing. In the spirit of full disclosure, I must say I didn't actually buy the Lumiere Blanche - it was a kind hand-me-down from a fellow fumehead. And I speculate that my aesthetic sense would have been sufficiently offended to have put me off a purchase even if I had been lusting after the scent. Which is saying something, because the juice usually trumps all.

Finally, another pic of the winner, topped off by its bright and luxuriantly bouffant bow! Spring is not quite here, but how cheering is this sight?


And now I would be interested to hear about your own bottle awards, based on your personal perfume wardrobe.


(Photo of perfume bottles at the top of the post from Wikimedia Commons via Marta Muntada Artiles; photo of palmier pouch from; photo of church in Berlin from - other photos my own)

Sunday 14 February 2021

My funny Valentine: spreading the love with mysterious gifts of frankincense, myrrh, and a tinted moisturiser with SPF 30

This is the third post where I have incorporated the phrase: "My funny Valentine" into the title, but the others were in 2012 and 2013 respectively, so I am hoping I might just get away with it. Readers don't show up here looking for a conventional post on rose perfumes or red-themed Valentine's gifts and fripperies. I am not 'agin' such things, indeed I fully intend to scavenge the supermarkets tomorrow for superannuated bouquets and/or heavily discounted pink fizz and chocolates - or at the very least pick up a packet of heart-shaped crumpets (no pun intended). You can hold the squishy teddy bears, mind. I like my bears with better defined bone structure and less overtly flammable fur.

But no, Valentine's Day has been quiet at Bonkers Towers: Truffle came into the bed briefly this morning and purred loudly, though not in a variety of registers as I had been hoping ever since reading Joyce's comments on my previous post about feline vocalisation; for brunch I had a toasted bagel with smoked salmon and cream cheese - note to self to avoid the 'lighter' version of this cheese in future, as it looks like the Sandon Road after heavy rain. Okay, heavy rain on snow, to be precise, with the cheese being white of course. And I followed that up with Treat No 2, a toasted scone with blueberry jam and squirty cream. I shan't have any alcohol later as I had a drink last night, and am trying to give my liver more days off than it knows what to do with. So yes, a pretty low key occasion all in all.

I should mention, however, that I received a mystery package on Friday, right before the Valentine's weekend(!). A tube of my go-to tinted moisturiser with SPF 30 from Paula's Choice: "Resist Super-Light Daily Wrinkle Defense Broad Spectrum SPF 30 with Antioxidants & Resveratrol: Normal - Oily Combination". Or "that blue Resist one" for short. I love it because it is a really light substitute for foundation with a decent amount of SPF in it - well, for winter, say. Anyway, there was no message inside the handwritten Jiffy bag. The writing looked familiar, but I couldn't quite place it initially. Plus it quickly dawned on me that the gift couldn't possibly be from any man I have ever dated, as none of them have a clue about the contents of my sponge bag, which massively narrowed the field of suspects. More of that anon...

Also on Friday I received a request from the friend who had stepped up to do the doorstep squeezing of my current moisturiser tube the other night: "Do you have any vegan perfume recommendations?" My friend had dabbled in the category, trying the odd scent from the likes of Eden and Ffern, but had found it hard to get hold of things to try without committing blind to a full bottle, and has tended to default to her signature staple of Stella McCartney. I like that one too, though back in 2009(!) I could not resist taking a lighthearted pop at the plethora of names of the flankers.

Regular readers know how fired up with missionary zeal I can get when someone in my circle shows an interest in exploring the vast realm of niche scents - most memorably and exhaustively, there was my rose quest for Jessica not so long ago, which ironically ended in her finding something she really liked herself, hehe. So as soon as I got the call to unearth the vegan subset of my collection (mostly in the form of samples), I jumped at the chance. The final bag comprised a mix of natural perfumes and those containing synthetic materials but also with vegan credentials. It really was a random mix of whatever I had been sent by brands or picked up along the way in swaps and gifts from fellow perfumistas, including a couple of Hiram Greens, selections from Dolma, Sage Machado, Haus of Gloi and 100 Bon, plus a few more lone samples from the likes of Pacifica and Le Labo.

Already by the end of Day One - rather fittingly for Valentine's Day! - my friend had fallen for Hiram Green Lustre, a very realistic rose soliflore with a citrus opening. I am indebted to Val the Cookie Queen for introducing me to it, and am a big fan myself. My friend has promised to let me know her thoughts on each sample she tries, and urged me to tell her to get lost if this feedback becomes annoying. As if! The vicarious pleasure to be had from seeing people discover new perfumes is the polar opposite of annoying. 

Notes: Bulgarian rose, citric notes, orris root, frankincense

Today she messaged me to say that she was very taken with 100 Bon Myrrhe & Encens Mystérieux. Note that we are back to mysterious things...She is a funeral celebrant by profession, and reckoned that this one might nicely complement her services. Oh, and a big patchouli fan, and a glance at the notes corroborates why such a simple, but on-point incense scent might hit the spot.

Top notes: bergamot, fresh notes cinnamon

Heart notes: myrrh, patchouli, papyrus

Base notes: tonka bean, frankincense

Ooh, interesting that there is frankincense in both the perfumes that have appealed to my friend so far. ;) I told her to expect to sniff a few frogs along the way, but so far so good. She has already snapped up a bottle of the 100 Bon fragrance as there seem to be limited stocks left online, possibly due to Brexit shenanigans.

And meanwhile I have unmasked the mystery donor of my moisturiser! An old neighbour, who gave me a tube for Christmas, and had heard about the doorstep squeezing antics of my vegan chum, and decided I was in need of more supplies. Too kind of her by far. I ran the handwriting past her son, who asked his mother outright if she was behind the RAOK, and she admitted she was.

So there you have it...a slightly twisty turny saga of two friends linked to one skincare item, and two perfumes with incense linked to one friend. And there is love involved in the story, if not the usual romantic stuff of Valentine's, hehe...

And yes, I really do need to raid the remaindered buckets at Asda for some more flowers: my daffs are dead and my hyacinth comically sparse and disconcertingly floppy.

Oh, and if anyone has an Alexa, do ask her if she will be your Valentine. She thanked me for the invitation, saying it was sweet of me to ask, but she didn't feel we knew each other well enough, before setting me a quiz challenge to verify this point. I correctly guessed her favourite cake (Colin the Caterpillar), but blew it on her favourite animal (octopuses, not lions, although she thinks lions are "roarsome"!), and I also incorrectly guessed that she had made a record with Harry Styles instead of Ed Sheeran. Alexa magnanimously awarded me half a point for Harry Styles though, as she also likes him. But with an overall score of one and a half points, I didn't qualify as her Valentine. Hey-ho - there's always next year! ;)

How was your Valentine's weekend? 

Are there any other brands of vegan perfume - or individual scents - you would recommend?

[Photo of Lustre from, photos of Myrrhe & Encens Mysterieux from fruugo and my friend, heart artwork from Etsy / Pinterest]

Friday 5 February 2021

Evening in (plaster of) Paris: the soothing scent of goo and Tubigrip

Guest post by voice recognition

"There is no such thing as hazardous conditions - only inappropriate footwear."

On the wall of our local hospital's A & E department are two pinboards covered in posters: one takes dementia as its theme, while the other is all about the very real risk of falls. One such poster has a Highway Code-style warning triangle with a stick figure in the act of slipping and the caption: "Falls Aware". The other has a more detailed cartoon of a man falling downstairs and the caption: "One in three older adults fall each year". In a neat graphical flourish, even the letters in 'fall' are falling.

So yes... I realise now that I should have gone to hospital first, clocked the posters, and then decided not to go for a walk that evening. That would have been the better order of events, no question. Instead, I walked six and a half thousand steps to a friend's house and back to deliver something, and it only took one of those steps to be ill-judged. The day before I had walked 18,000 steps safely on freshly powdered snow in a beautiful Narnia-like winter wonderland, but that fateful night I made the mistake of confusing slush with an ice rink.

The next afternoon, after a sleepless night of boiling hot pain I would characterise as just south of agony, I was sitting in a socially distanced way in A & E, waiting to have my wrist X-rayed for a suspected fracture (on the advice of a former paramedic attached to my GP's surgery). It did not escape my notice that the few other people also waiting were mostly women of my age, some wearing makeshift slings, who had clearly not read the posters either in advance of coming.

Two hours later saw me done and dusted with a temporary plaster cast, and after two days and a further review I was downrated to a removable splint, which is almost as constricting as the plaster, but does allow me to wash the wrist once a day. When she saw my original cast, my friend Gillie exclaimed: "Oh dear, you won't be able to have people write on it because of the lockdown!"

I ended up only spending two Evenings in (plaster of) Paris, and I must say I really liked the smell of the creamy goo, such as I could catch it in between the light layers of mesh. The Tubigrip underslip inside my current splint is similarly comforting - a strong medical fabric smell. After all, people do say that oud smells a bit like Band-Aid, so medical scents are far from without precedent. As it happens, I used to have a vintage miniature of Bourjois Soir de Paris, which (once I managed to wrench the top off) I recall as a simple, watery, sweet, very full-on kitchen sink floral, very much of its time and not something I would wear. I have more of an affinity to Eau de Tubigrip in fact, which has a strong woody quality to it like the pencil shaving Dzonga! of my rather faint memory.

A week has passed since I was fitted with this other splint and the pain has started to ease, I am happy to report. The hand remains floppy and pale, with a disconcerting tendency to list 45 degrees to the right as soon as it is released from its protective housing, but less pain feels like progress.

Pain aside, having one usable arm in a lockdown situation is a bit of a double whammy: I have agreed with ex-Mr Bonkers that he will come and help change my bedding, which really needs it now!, under the guise of an ad hoc domiciliary carer, hehe, for I don't see much difference between my incapacitated position and someone needing a district nurse to come into their home and change a dressing on a bedsore.

That said, I have learned to do a myriad of things for myself in unconventional ways, deploying a random assortment of body parts to take the place of my left hand. For example, I have ground pepper holding the mill in my armpit, opened sachets with my teeth, held a box grater under my chin, and peeled a carrot on the worktop jammed into my navel at 90 degrees...rather like a, I shan't say what...;)

Several things continue to defeat me completely: operating a wine saver vacuum pump - oh dear, I had to drink the wine instead, how awful! - using a knife and fork, operating a tin opener, and most actions involving squeezing.

The other night a friend dropped by on a spontaneous visit and happened to mention that her husband had fallen on more or less the same patch of ice as me(!), which makes me feel less foolish; luckily she had caught him and helped to break his fall. 

My friend was of immense help doing two squeezing assignments: of a facial cleanser that was in a pump bottle I could not get to work as it was a bit close to the end and harder to activate, plus a tube of moisturizer, which similarly was near the end and needed rolling and flattening to coax the not insubstantial dregs out. She did a fantastic job of both on my doorstep into the little pots I had provided - it was quite surreal...

Unsurprisingly, I am banned from knitting for the foreseeable, though I am hoping that the hobby might come back in the form of physical therapy later. I find it ironic that my bone may be knitting together as I type, but I must sadly resist the all too familiar urge. Maybe this is Nature's way of telling me that making 36 speculative scarves for nobody in particular is quite enough already. 

I have also learnt to carry on doing certain things but using the opposite hand to the one I normally use, which is of course completely counterintuitive. Do you know which hand you squeeze the toothpaste with, or peel a satsuma, or take strands out of your hair brush with after blow drying your hair? It was something of a revelation, because I never realized which hand I favoured for those specific actions until one of them was not available to me.

In my present state just a few tasks take me most of the morning now, and it occurred to me that this must be not unlike how it is to have a new baby: your world collapses down and revolves completely around the needs of your child; you snatch 20 minutes while it is sleeping to do the things you need to for yourself, like take a shower or whatever. Similarly here my world has dramatically shrunk and my whole focus 24/7 is on keeping my hand immobilized, elevated and dry - or it was to start with when it was in plaster. I can wash it now, as I say, and I also have to wiggle my fingers and make a fist periodically so I don't lose the ability over time. ;)

The bone I have injured is the scaphoid, a very common occurrence apparently in FOOSH incidents (Falls On Outstretched Hand). There is some disagreement between the medics in A & E and the consultant at the Fracture Clinic as to whether it is visibly fractured now, or an occult fracture that may appear by the time of my next review, or not a fracture at all. I don't stand on diagnoses, haha, and the treatment is the same anyway, for possible fractures of the wrist are notoriously Will-o'-the-Wisp-like in their evasive behaviour. Plus the X-ray the consultant showed me was quite different from the one I had seen in A & E, but I was too polite to ask if it was definitely the same hand.

On a side note, I was struck by how much the bones of the wrist resemble a drystone wall. Plus I have learnt the incomparable term 'anatomical snuffbox', which is the bit below the thumb that hurts. It was almost worth falling on ice to learn that gem...oh okay, maybe not quite.

I must insist on no sympathy from readers(!). I had already fallen three times in a single day at the start of January as you may recall, and should have known better than to think Wellingtons were adequately grippy in these conditions. I was lucky to have got away with minor injuries on that occasion, for at this age you are liable to do yourself more mischief and take longer to heal.

But yes, I do commend Eau de Tubi-Grip to anyone not familiar with that scent - it really is a thing.

Editor's note: This post has been brought to you by voice recognition, aided by a bit of one fingered editing. I am a touch typist, and it was all I could do to stop my bad hand joining in when the stretch across the keyboard became comically extended. Fittingly, my left hand most wanted to help out with the letters 'A' & 'E', though I did try to explain that it really needs to rest and not engage in even low impact tapping...

Bone diagram from, whole hand image from