Monday, 13 June 2022

Do-not-follow: my abortive brush with the world of affiliate marketing, and a "no comment(s)" apology


Source: Creative Commons ~ Nick Youngson, Alpha Stock Images

From time to time I receive unsolicited approaches from PR people working for perfume brands, sometimes offering me product samples - often in expectation of a review - sometimes asking if I would feature a guest post by them (invariably on the most off-topic of products, far more so than my own thematic digressions on Bonkers, which is saying a lot ;)), and occasionally asking if I would enter into some kind of affiliate marketing arrangement, whereby I would link to a particular website of a perfume I had been reviewing, and if readers clicked on it - or actually bought the product! - I might be remunerated in some way.

Taking these overtures in turn, I have always insisted that I won't write perfume reviews as a quid pro quo for free stuff, and would rather not receive samples in the first place if I sense any pressure in that regard. For when I do feel moved to write a review of something it is because I have thought of my own slightly sideways angle to the subject matter. 

Case in point:

"If you're interested in trying out the products, then I'd love to send you some samples to test and create a 'Christmas Gift Guide' with on your blog."

To which the only possible Bonkers reply was:

"I write about things I come across when the spirit moves me, so there is no guarantee I would feature them and if I did it wouldn't be in the form of anything like a Christmas Gift Guide."


And this, directly from a new perfume house, in an email entitled "I'd like to partner":

"Meantime, we would love to mail you demos and brochures of our recent products for you to evaluate if they fit in with your strategic plans."

I appreciated his conditional use of "if", but it was still a conditional response from me:

"Thank you for your inquiry. I don't have any strategic plans! I would be curious to try any scents you have available in very small samples quantities only, but I don't enter into partnerships or promise to review everything I have been sent. I have to like a fragrance and be inspired by some aspect to want to write a blog post about it. If you are still interested on that basis, let me know."

Radio silence.


And here are some of the more unusual product review requests - I have called the woman in question "Rebecca" rather than her real name:

"This is Rebecca from ****. I’m writing to you to see if our best-selling products 82% Merino Wool Socks and 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Towels can be featured in your 2021 holiday gift guide." 

What's this obsession with gift guides?

"This is Rebecca from ****. I’m contacting you to see if you’d be interested in writing something about **** Carbon e-bike --- a full carbon e-bike known as one of the smartest e-bikes on the market."


Source: humandiaries.com

This is Rebecca from ****, here. I’m very honored to introduce **** 100% Egyptian Cotton Bath Towel to you. Giza 86 (The top 10% of Long-staple Egyptian Cotton), 720 GSM, OEKO-TEX certified, super-thick and super-fluffy, **** Bath Towels encase you in a high-weight terry luxury that feels like you're lounging in a bathrobe waiting for room service."

Are you also getting the feeling that this may be one and the same Rebecca? She is really pushing those bath towels...And I must admit to being quite tempted by the idea of "high-weight terry luxury". ;)


As for guest posts on the blog, I have never had these in the 12+ years I've been going, for what I can only describe as curious Protestant work ethic reasons - I feel that as it is my blog, I should do all the work involved, though I realise this is an odd way to look at things, and that many of my fellow bloggers have several contributors on board.


Then as regards the affiliate marketing angle, I once dabbled very briefly in such a venture with Ormonde Jayne - it may have been longer, but it felt like all of five minutes, for no sooner had I set up the link in question, than there was a change of PR company and the link was promptly broken(!). I didn't earn a penny from that association - and given the low traffic volumes on here, may never have done, hehe.**

And so we come onto the most recent approach, from a US-based media company. The conversation went like this, where PRP = PR Person!

PRP: "I recently came across your website and noticed that you are linking to a similar page that (sic) one of our clients', and I'm wondering if you could add a link to an article for a reasonable fee?

My marketing budget is what it is, but hopefully, we can agree on an amount of money that makes it worthwhile for you to take a few minutes to add one more link to the article." [The offer for "link insertion" was $30, with a similar amount on the table for a guest post - which I declined smartish.]

ME: "Which article are you thinking of? I am open to adding a link, depending on the context / circumstances?"

PRP: "In the near future, we'd like to contact you with that information ready, for you to approve the do-follow link. The link and content would always be related to your existing blog post. Would that be OK?

PS: If you agree, please send your PayPal address and confirm that this is the best email to contact you in the near future."
 
ME: "I think the links would be do-follow - I am not very tech savvy, so I doubt I would have set them to something else. I don't have guest posts, so this would just be a link insertion on a post of mine - you have yet to tell me which one, so my agreement is subject to knowing that last bit of information."

PRP "We'll make sure to be in touch with our batch of links!

Also, keep in mind that after placing either an anchor or requesting a guest post, our team will always come back to follow up on our insertions' conditions. We will check if our anchors are still where we asked you to place them and are still do-follow tagged."

ME: "Just to check - you spoke in your first email of "a link", and "a similar page", so I assumed it was a one off? I don't want to have many links in one post that could look out of keeping with my normal way of doing things, which is one at most per post, if that?"

Who knew there was such a thing as "our insertions' conditions"? :) The whole exchange felt like talking to a bot...and I never heard from them again either.


So that was that. And while I am on the subject of blog housekeeping, I would like to apologise to any readers who left me a comment since the end of February(!). I experienced an absolutely "spam storm" about a week ago, which upset me so much that I went into the gubbins of the blog and started deleting pages of them at a time in a fit of panic. I didn't really need to, as I don't believe any of the comments in question had managed to get themselves published, but it was distressing to see this veritable blizzard of unwanted spam comments in my feed. What I think must have happened is that a whole bunch of legitimate comments from readers were included on one particular page I deleted en masse, but must have been out of "scrolling view" on my phone, as it were, and I accidentally vaporised them all. I am so very sorry, as there was a lot of collective time and thought involved in the leaving of them in the first place, and I will ensure it never happens again. So please don't be scared to comment here in future!


Lastly, it might amuse you to see one of a number of wrongly addressed emails I receive:

Hello abottledrose,

Get noticed in search results, You must have a responsive web design with advanced layout and search engine friendly design.

We can review and offer you a better design to allow brands to stand out among competitors

Well, personally I don't think there is anything amiss with the design of A Bottled Rose, but this company's punctuation leaves much to be desired.

I also got them for a long time addressed to the Non-Blonde, while she was still with us, at least.

Dear thenonblonde.com Team

Hope you are doing well.

I thought you might like to know some reasons why you are not getting enough website hits/visitors and conversion.

Till I could take it no more:

THIS IS THE FOURTH TIME I HAVE WRITTEN TO TELL YOU THAT I AM NOT THE NON-BLONDE!!!!!!!!!!

**Editor's Note: I have since had a catch up with the PR from Ormonde Jayne (see her comment below), and we have established that though she took up the role in 2003, there was a period of five years when she left OJ, before returning to the company in 2017. And my short-lived affiliate association was in 2013, when a different PR person would have been in the chair, with a different approach to marketing and social media. Since this lady's return in 2017, however, Ormonde Jayne has not entered into any kind of paid collaboration with bloggers.

Sunday, 5 June 2022

The smell of disrepair: my stay at The Hylands Hotel - like Fawlty Towers, only faultier



It has been a while since I wrote a travel-related post, which is perhaps surprising, as I have been doing a fair bit of travelling lately. After a recent experience in Coventry - to which I went willingly, I might add, I wasn't sent there - I felt just such a post well up in me, on account of the extraordinary hotel in which I stayed. It was basically all the fault of Ed Sheeran, who happened to be on the bill that day as part of a BBC Big Weekend festival; some 80,000 music fans had descended on the city, snapping up all the decent accommodation. A fact that was rubbed in the moment I stepped out of the railway station and spied a digital screen that toggled between "BBC Big Weekend" and "This Way", over a big arrow pointing to the left. 




The band I was there to see (no prizes for guessing who) could have done with an equivalent sign really, to shepherd their own fans - plus any last minute punters not enamoured of the blockbusting ginger one - in the direction of the repurposed coal tunnel by a canal where their gig was being held.

I stopped by the Visitors Centre outside the station first of all to pick up a map of the town centre, and fell into conversation with the lady fielding questions from new arrivals. Right off the bat she asked me where I was staying, and I replied: "Oh, I'd rather not say, because it is so wretched." "Ah, I know where that is then...hmm, it is certainly tired-looking...but you should be safe enough. Well, why don't you come back tomorrow and tell me how you got on?" I wondered at the time whether her solicitousness and request for a vital sign from me the next day might have concealed a genuine concern for my well-being, and promptly tried to discount the thought.


"Where moss may safely grow"

The hotel was a short walk from the station: a sprawling white stucco building, with a peeling paint problem so pronounced that I was reminded of an albino snake sloughing off its skin. As I checked in, I inquired whether I could have a "quiet room". The amiable man on reception threw his head back and guffawed, which I took to mean no. He said he would do his best though to pick out a room not noted for being within earshot of the bar, or other areas where people congregate (as in "fight").

Without further ado I will fast forward to my review on Booking.com, which I found quite cathartic to write, I must say...


Even Truffle is not this bad 

A very rum place!, but a bargain on a Saturday night for those with a strong constitution

Likes

It was with great trepidation that I approached my stay at The Hylands on account of all the awful reviews on here and Tripadvisor, not least because I was a woman travelling alone. It was the only hotel left in Coventry that had not been booked out by festival goers and in fact it met my expectations exactly, albeit they were very low! Special mention goes to the fantastic staff, notably Naseem(?) and Jad, who went above and beyond to be helpful and to watch out for me. They really should be working in a superior establishment as their customer service ethic was second to none. I also found the bed comfortable and the sheets clean, which is a very important point, although the pillows were a little firm for my liking. The bathroom was a bit dysfunctional - namely that the shower switch wouldn't stay in position, meaning I got an intermittent dribble of hot water - but it was better than I expected, and the water was very hot. If I had brought my own plug I could even have had a luxurious bath ;), so that is something to think of another time.


Stylish, if torn and grubby?

Dislikes


Ah, where to begin...filthy torn furniture, sets of drawers with no drawers, ripped carpet, bits of fluff everywhere, moss on windows, weird sticky black marks on a table, no milk for tea, no hangers for clothes - I ended up draping mine over the TV, after giving it a quick dust. But I was ready for this - and more.


What even are these?

The wonderful guy on reception did his best to give me a quiet room and it was quiet in the afternoon, but I was disturbed in the night by repeated knocking on the room next door and people raking around the corridors, also by the sound of the man next door's mobile phone. I did half wonder if he might have been running a little shop of some kind. I also encountered a man staggering down the stairs off his head on something, while outside there were a couple of guys stationed by the gate with bulging bum bags, who I suspect may not have been car park attendants.



Editor's note: I did wonder if the executive rooms might have had hangers and milk, along with mossless windows that fully closed.





I mentioned above that the hotel staff were extremely friendly and helpful: a further example of this was their being kind enough to put the remains of my noodle dinner in a bar fridge overnight, so I could take my doggy bag home the next day. They also reunited a lost mobile phone with its owner: one of the other guests had found it on the ground outside and brought it into reception. The amiable bloke gave another guffaw, and remarked: "We don't usually get people handing in phones, haha!"





No hangers, but extra pillows!, and is that by any chance a safe?


Also in slight mitigation of the place is the fact that it didn't actually smell bad to my nose, as some guests have reported in their many entertaining reviews on both Booking.com and Tripadvisor. There was even a pleasantly fruity air freshener / disinfectant-type scent in one of the corridors. I suppose if I had buried my nose in the upholstery of the sofa it might have had a rather fusty odour, but it was enough already to dare to leave my coat on it.

Would I stay at The Hylands again...? Er, no, not if I could help it, even though the saving versus the usual chains was very significant - I paid just £36 compared with £107 for the Ramada, say, had it not been fully booked. I was pleased that I survived though - and on my birthday to boot! - it felt like a strange kind of coup...and the guy in the mirror never did get his sushi.



If you are feeling brave...



Friday, 27 May 2022

Katie Puckrik's tales of perfume and persona - featuring the sniffs of The Smiths and a Bonkers quote

Illustration by Lydia Silver

Perfume expert and multi-media personality Katie Puckrik has written a feature in this week's Evening Standard magazine, in which she reminisces about wearing Revlon Intimate, a raunchy animalic floral pinched from her mother's dressing table; it made her feel all grown up and ready for the sort of carnal capers that my father used to collectively - and disapprovingly - dub "filthy slop". 

"Wearing Intimate was my introduction to the power of perfume to transform dubious raw material into the person I was nowhere near being."

Katie goes on to explore this theme of "wear the perfume and you can be the perfume" with the help of fellow contributors Denyse Beaulieu, Tania Sanchez, Sali Hughes, Alison Goldfrapp, and Johnny Marr. And there is even a quote from yours truly - I am not accustomed to being in such august company!

What tickled me most about the feature was the inclusion of Johnny Marr's perfume MO. So okay, one Smith rather than the sniffs of the whole band, as the title of this post might suggest. For as I may have mentioned before, Johnny Marr and Morrissey bonded over a shared appreciation of The Monochrome Set, and were influenced by their music when they formed The Smiths. They went on to become much more famous and commercially successful, and then many years later, in one of those strange twists of fate, The Monochrome Set found themselves supporting Johnny Marr at a festival gig in Bognor Regis, which I attended. Those meringue peak canopies at Butlin's are hard to forget. So given my own close association with TMS, it struck me that there is a curious and amusing parallel in my now randomly "sharing a bill" with Johnny Marr in an article on perfume!

And at that gig in Bognor, I wore the punch-packing Salome by Papillon Perfumery, following a visit to Liz Moores' house in the afternoon. Salome perfectly illustrates the notion of trying to assume a ballsy persona that may be a little incongruous or too big for one's boots. I let the band sniff it on me as well as one of Liz's raw ingredients, African stone - here is an extract from a post about that day.

"The band duly sniffed both the remnants of Salome AND the African Stone, intrigued by my explanation that it was the fossilised excrement of the rock hyrax, an animal I tried to big up by likening it to a robust yet endearing variant on the guinea pig. They continued to chew thoughtfully on slices of the family size pepperoni pizza several of us were sharing, and didn't bat an eyelid - or flare a nostril in disgust.

Now my wearing of actual African Stone may have been a lifetime one off, but in the light of this rock 'n' roll nonchalance in the face of the ne plus ultra of poo, I plan to wear Salome to the next gig without a backward glance..."

I shan't give away any more spoilers to Katie's article, which is full of memorable stories and insights into the transformative potential of perfume, so do check it out!


The Monochrome Set in sadly small print!

NB Note the perfume blotters tucked into the programme...;)


Tuesday, 3 May 2022

Dare to Love?: Estee Lauder Beautiful Magnolia and Beautiful Magnolia Intense review


Source: Wikimedia Commons ~ Peter Deak


I have been thinking a lot about my interest in perfume lately...where I am up to with it now, and how that compares with the early days of my hobby. Then I was in Boots the other week buying benign emollients for my face - I will do another skin post sometime, as there have been further developments on that front - and succumbed to the prominently displayed tester of the new fragrance from Estee Lauder, "Beautiful Magnolia Intense", this year's flanker to last year's Beautiful Magnolia, which was in turn a flanker of the 1985 scent Beautiful. I find this hard to imagine, even though my recall of the original is sketchy - I feel sure Beautiful Mk I was a more robust and busy composition, with a list of notes as long as your arm, and a semi-retro feel, but there you go.

I asked to smell Beautiful Magnolia by way of comparison with the Intense version, not realising when I was in the shop that either of these newer releases was in any way related to its 80s ancestor. Beautiful Magnolia is a floral aquatic created by Anne Flipo and Laurent Le Guernec. It is a sprightly spring floral, but is too watery(!) for my taste - aquatics were never my thing...Issey Miyake, here's looking at you. I could only find one "print" review of Beautiful Magnolia, on Colognoisseur: Mark Behnke rates it as a new take on "debutante rose grilled cheese", though his wife was troubled by its distinctive aspect, namely a sharp note from the addition of mate tea. Which also bothers me, I have to say. I am minded of the spikiness of Illuminum White Gardenia Petals, the perfume that turned out to be Kate Middleton's actual wedding scent as opposed to the one we all got PR samples of that was a completely different animal altogether, and which I much preferred. I commend Mark's review to you, as he has a lovely turn of phrase, and to call Beautiful Magnolia "a grilled cheese with tea" is spot on.

Notes: magnolia, lotus, mate, magnolia (again!), gardenia, solar notes, rose, musk, sandalwood, cedar

I looked up Anne Flipo's other past work to check that my recall of her style as leaning towards light airy feminine scents is correct. Interestingly, Lancome's La Vie est Belle is one of hers (with Dominique Ropion), also L'Artisan's Mimosa pour Moi (which I regret not buying while I still could), and Fleur d'Oranger, plus the sweet ambery leather number, Sonia Rykiel Woman, of which I have a small decant left somewhere. Laurent le Guernec meanwhile has created a slew of Bond No 9s (not a favourite brand of mine), but intriguingly was also one of the two noses behind Sarah Jessica Parker's Lovely, which shares the same demure style as Beautiful Magnolia, to which I would add Hugo Boss Femme.

Femme was one of the first perfumes I discovered as a newbie: I found myself in Dusseldorf late one Saturday afternoon, and was suddenly possessed to sniff a tester in a branch of the Douglas chain of perfumeries (in Flingerstrasse ;)) just before closing time. I only went in to look for a bag to keep samples in, which I still have in fact. Hugo Boss Femme is a simple, innocently girlish scent, and though I have long outgrown it it brings back potent memories of the excitement I felt back then at the start of my fragrant j*****y. I scored a carded sample that day and went on to buy a bottle, which I later sold after falling deeper down the rabbit hole of niche.



I didn't care for Beautiful Magnolia as much as Lovely or Femme, but how much of that is down to the intrinsic qualities of the perfumes and how much to my happy associations with the latter two is a moot point. I had smelt so little back then, whereas my nose is pretty jaded nowadays and Beautiful Magnolia has a much higher bar to beat.

Moving on, Beautiful Magnolia Intense is a chypre floral and a somewhat darker (relatively speaking!) proposition. The perfume isn't dark by any means, or only the degree of dark that can be obtained by drawing diaphanous net curtains rather than the heavily lined black out variety. I couldn't find the name of the perfumer(s), but will assume it is the same duo unless someone knows any different. 

Notes: violet leaf, mandarin orange, cardamom, iris, magnolia, patchouli, musk, leather, Virginia cedar, vanilla bean

Beautiful Magnolia Intense (I'd abbreviate it to BMI if it wouldn't risk possible confusion with the more well known acronym for Body Mass Index), is a subtle and fairly fleeting skin scent, a tender floral with a powdery dusting of iris. It is smoother and creamier than its aquatic cousin, so more to my taste, and the addition of cardamom and leather lends the composition more interest and sophistication. For anyone who finds La Vie est Belle too sweet, or who likes the subtle take on leather of Bottega Veneta, I'd say this might hit the spot. I also prefer BMI (am going to risk it!) to Guerlain Shalimar Parfum Initial, which is quite heavy on the patchouli.




Now while I like the perfume - and its pleasingly rounded and chunky bottle - the marketing campaign for Beautiful Magnolia Intense is the usual trope-ridden guff to which the industry remains hopelessly wedded. Like almost all advertising nowadays, the promotional video features a racially diverse couple: an arrestingly beautiful brunette in a pale pink off-one-shoulder pleated gown, cavorting in some romantic paradise with her equally handsome beau. The strapline is "Dare to Love", and each stage of the scent's development purports to mirror those of a relationship: "A whirlwind of emotions, An intense love affair, note by note". You may just be able to make out the exact pairings in the photo above, which imho are only more of the same fragrant flimflammery.

But Beautiful Magnolia Intense the perfume is very pleasant indeed, and if I hadn't been ruined by niche scents - am on Hera autopilot most days at the moment! - I'd be happy to wear it a lot in the summer, with frequent reapplications, mind. I dare to like it, if not quite love it, and I say "dare", because there is a fair bit of sniffiness in the blogosphere about mainstream scents (to which I am not immune), but I do like to lob one in here from time to time when it distinguishes itself from the cookie cutter herd. I'd conclude by saying that Beautiful Magnolia Intense is "grilled magnolia cheese" topped with the merest smear of mango chutney. Any thicker, and you might have to start worrying about your actual BMI...;)


[Samples kindly provided by @staffordbeauties in Boots, Stafford.]






Monday, 18 April 2022

Papillon Perfumery Hera review: a nasal nutraceutical in a Grecian gown

Source: protestantedigital.com

When a little package landed on the floor the other day with a sample vial of Hera, the latest creation by Liz Moores of Papillon Perfumery (due for release on 16th May), it could not have come at a better time. For I have been in a bit of a "mood tunnel" lately, a reference to a recent episode of the Daily Trip, one of the guided meditation series in the vast compendium of "mental health interventions" that is the Calm app. ;) For anyone not familiar with it, it also includes sleep stories, a library of soothing music and ambient sounds, self-help podcasts, masterclasses in useful topics on everything from stoicism to screen addiction (you may need the former if you are trying to give up the latter), and is peppered with pithy aphorisms for just about every occasion. In this particular episode, the author/presenter of the Daily Trip series, Jeff Warren, talked about how some days "everything seems awesome!", while other days "everything sucks" (insert "seems great" and "is s**t" for English sensibilities). The thing I wanted to mention from this talk on moods is the takeaway that once you realise you are in a mood tunnel, that very acknowledgement of the fact means it loosens its hold over you...

A key reason for the tunnel may warrant a post of its own, for I have been doing a ton of research recently into so-called "nutraceutical" remedies to try to fix a new - and irritatingly recurrent - skin condition on my face (seborrheic dermatitis: the third in an unholy trinity of facial eczema varieties I have acquired), and I may just have chanced upon one or two things that are making a difference.

But anyway, I mention all of that by way of scene setting: the perfume's arrival was perfectly timed, and its ability to switch up my mood instant. 

Turning first to the inspiration behind Hera, this latest addition to the Papillon stable was originally conceived as a wedding scent (and "auspicious amulet") for Liz's eldest daughter Jasmine, who graciously allowed her mother - after a decent interval! - to release the scent publicly as part of the Papillon line. Indeed it will be the last release for the foreseeable future, while Liz takes a well earned break. 

Without delay, here are the notes of Hera, including jasmine as a fragrant nod to its eponymous wearer:

Jasmine, orange blossom, ylang, rose de mai, orris, narcissus, heliotrope, ambrette, musk




The significance of Liz's choice of the name Hera for the perfume may be inferred by readers brought up on Greek mythology, namely that she was the "protector of women, presiding over marriages and births". I also discovered that Hera is "commonly seen with animals she considers sacred, including the cow, the lion and the peacock". Well, Jasmine being her mother's daughter is almost certainly going to be able to rustle up a companion menagerie comprising pretty much any combo of animals - now also including some quite big and scary spiders! - though these have probably been annexed by the goddess Arachne already...(Oh, I just noticed that one of Liz's spider family is in fact called Arachne - "no flies on her", hehe...not least because they've all been eaten.)

Other surprising things I learnt about Hera are the fact that she was both the wife and sister of Zeus, a rather cosy arrangement not typically replicated in modern marriages, and that she reportedly had frequent fights with Zeus over his affairs and illegitimate children. I love the euphemistic use of the word "recourse" in the following quote from Liquisearch:

"The legitimate offspring of her union with Zeus are Ares (the god of war), Hebe (the goddess of youth), Eris (the goddess of discord) and Eileithyia (goddess of childbirth)...Hera was jealous of Zeus' giving birth to Athena without recourse to her (actually with Metis), so she gave birth to Hephaestus without him. Hera was then disgusted with Hephaestus' ugliness and threw him from Mount Olympus. In an alternate version, Hera alone produced Hebe after being impregnated by a head of lettuce or by beating her hand on the Earth, a solemnizing action for the Greeks."


Source: dasil.ca

I am still reeling from the lettuce reference, the practicality of whose use as an artificial inseminator strikes me as most implausible. Anyway, the moral of all this is that with Greek myths it pays not to delve too deeply; the Olympian crew were a pretty rum bunch, as further detailed in this bizarre and startling post by a travel insurance company, presumably in a bid to drum up package holiday sales to Greece. It turns out that Hera's father / father-in-law Cronus swallowed his own children whole, such that it is frankly a miracle Zeus and she ever made it to adulthood.

But enough of these delinquent deities, how does Hera the fragrance smell, you may well ask?

Well, I have tried it three times now: on the first go the perfume opened with a sunny bouquet of sultry flowers with a juicy undertow, thanks to a piquant spike of ylang. Then quite quickly a muted powdery cloud passed over the sun and stayed there for the rest of the perfume's development, with the sensuous floral notes peeking through here and there like a box of wriggling kittens. On the second two samplings, the perfume went more or less straight to the cloud cover stage with no discrete bright opening. I should point out that my skin greatly amplifies musk and heliotrope in every scent I have ever tried with those notes in, and it seems that with Hera too, it has a tendency to grab the basenotes from the off. And ambrette is in itself a type of musk, as I understand it, so the entire base of the scent happens to be what I tend to magnify at the expense of the rest of the composition. I would LOVE to do a wrist-to-wrist comparison with someone whose skin showcases the brighter florals for longer, as they are a gorgeous assortment. 

Which is not to say that the iris-ambrette-musk accord is not very beautiful in itself, as it really is, and there is zero hint of the dreaded "laundry musk" that spoils so many modern perfumes for me, even before the magnification issue. Nor can I take a lot of heliotrope in more vintage compositions - as in L'Heure Bleue, for example, or Les Parfums de Nicolai Sacrebleu, both of which made me slightly queasy. In Hera the accord comes off as a really delicate, perfectly blended, wistful trail, with no note more prominent than the rest - which is no mean feat when heliotrope is in the mix. And for anyone who is not a massive fan of iris, which I guess I am not really, this isn't an overtly iris scent that tips into Chanel No 19 territory. Rather it is the cloud behind which I mostly only glimpse the brighter notes, so they are damped down by the iris and it by them, as it were. Yes, this impeccably tasteful composition hovers quiveringly between a sensuous summer floral and a powdery high end boudoir scent: it happens to skew more towards the latter on me, but your olfactory mileage may well vary, so please do give it a whirl.


Source: mosaico.com

The original image that popped into my head when I first smelt Hera and caught more of the floral notes was that of "a vintage sundress with staves", to convey the summery vibe of the opening counterbalanced by the formality of the drydown; in the end though I decided that a sundress was too casual a garment, even one reinforced by bits of metal. I would also describe Hera as a "cheerier Apres L'Ondee", of which there are echoes in the base. I could definitely have featured Hera in my "Careless Whispers" series of scent reviews if I was still keeping it up, as it would fit right into that category. But in the end I have gone with my "nasal nutraceutical" image, to mark the fact that I was in my mood tunnel and Hera gave me a jolly good shunt along it. Then I teamed it with that of a Grecian gown, though from memory Jasmine's actual wedding dress was a fabulous black sequined fishtail number.

In short, Hera is fantastically understated and sophisticated, and "Juno what, it may be my favourite Papillon scent yet!", which as a big fan of Bengale Rouge I don't say lightly.



Tuesday, 29 March 2022

"Bleak since I was ten", and a whiff of murder: The Perfume Killer by Linda Hagan mini-review



Sorry for the long hiatus between posts...I have been feeling rather "off" and existentially rattled lately, owing to the traumatic events in you-know-where, though there may be a glimmer of hope in the talks in Turkey today...?

Something unexpected did happen recently which cheered me up though...ex-Mr Bonkers was having a big clear out of travel books and B & B, hotel and pub guides, some of them from as far back as 1987, which I will have used on holidays and work trips. I took them all home with me, though they are hopelessly out of date, for I can't bear to throw a book away and no charity shop is likely to want them. In amongst the pile was an old school magazine of mine from 1971, which I was curious to see again after 50+ years. There was a photo of me in The Gondoliers and a poem about the Pakistan Tidal Wave for which I had won a prize sponsored by the UNO (to mark 25 years since the founding of the League of Nations). How quaint that name sounds now. It was rather a depressing poem - with a lot more mud where that came from! - and I will only quote some of it, to give you the idea:




The Pakistan Tidal Wave

"Alone on a delta
Surrounded by rotting carcasses and human skeletons;
Faced with the problems of starvation,
A small Indian boy,
Crawling like a fly on the face of the earth;
Lost and homeless, eating mud,
He gnaws the bones of his friend
To keep alive"





But more memorable even than the magazine is this poem that fell out, which I wrote in the final year of primary school.

It is nigh on illegible, yet I can just make the words out. 





Cathedral Cloisters

Alabaster icy cell
This is where the spirits dwell
Among the gloomy catacombs
Among the cold damp marble tombs
Black coffins, sarcophagi, graves and vaults
12th century martyrs who had no faults
Immortalised in cold grey stone
Their remains? Ghoulish black bone
Frozen bishops, onyx people
Rugged steps up to the steeple
In the belfry one iron bell
Tolls for sinners lost in hell
What an awesome place is this!
Gargoyles leer, stone serpents hiss
Despite the stained glass
And the mown grass
And the humming of the bees
And the white magnolia trees
My feelings are of fear and dread
For
I can
almost
hear
the dead

Ex-Mr Bonkers said: "Well, I know how much you love all those 'forensic prostitute' programmes on TV and thrillers with 'Bones' in the title, and this just proves that you have been bleak since you were 10!

And my lock screen on this netbook is a sarcophagus, as it happens - of one of our landed gentry in a local church (St Mary's, Ingestre).





So, having set the scene of me being a person with a fascination for the darker side of life, it is time to talk about the book I have just finished and greatly enjoyed, namely "The Perfume Killer" by Linda Hagan. This novel, written during the pandemic, could not be more tailored to my interests: set in my home city of Belfast, with my alma mater of Queen's University featured on the cover and many of the locations in the book well-trodden haunts from my student and schooldays, it is a gripping murder mystery with a multi-faceted perfume theme. For starters, part of the killer's signature is to leave the stopper from an empty perfume bottle by the body of the victim, which happens to be that of a scent also worn by the female Chief Inspector (and lead character) investigating the case. All we know is that it is a fragrance by Gucci, and that it is "unusual" and not particularly new. Well, that is half a story if you ask me, and sent me scurrying to Basenotes to identify older scents it could possibly be. I am thinking it might possibly be Gucci by Gucci edp, of which I have a decant myself. Gucci III or L'Arte di Gucci are much older, but I can't see the female lead wearing either of those earlier fragrances, as she is not that old herself.

There again the bottle itself doesn't sound like anything by Gucci - here is one of the police team who tracked it down: 

"It's French and expensive. The bottles are in the shape of a cat and the stopper is the cat's head complete with ears."

Yet elsewhere the bottle to which the stopper belongs is described as "heavy" and "blue".


Source: parfumo.de - rare, but neither blue nor cat shaped!


To add to the confusion - and cast the whiffy net of suspicion more widely - there are two characters in the book who collect artworks featuring perfume bottles (one a witness and one the slightly creepy pathologist on the case!) - while the pathologist also owns a sizeable collection of old perfume bottles, which he keeps in his office, including a heavy blue one that matches the one whose stopper was left at the crime scene.

So there is another mystery within a mystery that remains unsolved...never mind who the murderer is, what is the blinking perfume - and what bottle is it in?!

I shan't give anymore away, but for any perfumistas who live in Norn Iron (and I can think of at least two of my acquaintance) it is a must read, though I would recommend it to any fan of crime novels. Reading between the lines the main character may even have gone to my school, and the aforementioned witness to my brother's school nearby, though neither are named.

The author, Linda Hagan, is in her early 70s and only took to writing fiction relatively late in life after a career in education and academia, which as a would-be writer myself I find encouraging(!). She lives in the seaside town of Carrickfergus, with its imposing Norman castle. The area features prominently in the action of the book, and I also had an incident there as a small child. We had gone to see the castle on a train as a treat for me on the occasion of my fifth birthday, but the outing ended badly when I took a bite out of a glass of Fanta in a cafe on the quay.


Source: Michael Kooiman via Wikimedia Commons



What perfume-themed books have you enjoyed, other than guides / directories etc?

Here is my list below (in no particular order, and with links to my reviews - am not including Chanel: An Intimate Life by Lisa Chaney as I didn't enjoy it and didn't finish it!):




Perfume, The Story of a Murderer by Patrick Süskind (so obviously that I never reviewed it!)





Monday, 28 February 2022

How a pair of old curtains and three lengths of downpipe led (very circuitously) to Shangri La (by Hiram Green)

Shangri La by Hiriam(!) Green ;)

My friends on Facebook will recall that my Elderly Friend has a time-honoured tradition of pressing a random selection of gifts on me just as I am about to leave. The other day she added a new twist to this custom, by giving me a large slice of M & S Apricot Roll (highly recommended if you do not eschew sugar and/or ultra processed cake) and a pair of old curtains for me *to dispose of*. She recently gave up driving, so is more constrained in terms of carrying things into town to a charity shop, for example. I mentioned that there was a textile recycling container at the tip, and that I would take the curtains there, together with a motley collection of other items earmarked for recycling, from three bits of sawn off downpipe to an outsized cardboard box, a couple of beaten up plastic drawers that used to hold cassettes, a black bin bag full of said cassettes(!), a mouldy old blanket which proved to be the "canary in the boot" that signalled a leak beneath the spare tyre, and some broken fairy lights.

Having got rid of everything in its appropriate receptacle, I returned to my car, noticing as I did so that someone had shoved a load of books in the paper bank reserved for things like old telephone directories, junk mail and magazines. I had a little rootle around and rescued four of the misplaced titles, including a hardback by Compton Mackenzie called The Red Tapeworm with an interesting dustjacket - a third edition from 1955! (Which looks like it might even be worth something...or more than the nothing I paid for it, certainly.) Hmm, I see it is a satire on the economic measures imposed by the UK Government in wartime, so it might be hauntingly topical as well.



Now next door to the tip is a large charity warehouse, so I usually reward myself for my green compliance with a rummage in there, and this visit did not disappoint. I came away with two framed prints (one antique!), a monochrome teapot with a nod to Mary Quant, a tea caddy, a mug, and a book by Julian Barnes - a snip at £15 for the lot. Back home, I made tea with my new accoutrements and knuckled down to the task of integrating this latest clutch of books. 


Sancho and the Duchess (engraving by R Staines)

This proved to be no easy feat, as my sitting room is already brimming with tottering tsundokus - like my father before me, I do suffer from a touch of bibliomania - and I spent an hour or so emptying out knick-knacks from shelves in a bid to free up more space for the even greater surplus. Having integrated the vast majority of spare books, I only had a few small format ones left, and set about looking for any kind of receptacle or nook where I could stash these. My eye lit upon several decorative boxes on top of a bureau, the largest of which I thought might serve my purpose. I fetched all three down and opened them: the smallest was home to half dozen highlighter and marker pens (so that is where they went!), while the other two contained perfume samples.


The juice has done a runner!

What was odd was that ALL the samples in one box had evaporated! I don't know if they had had very little perfume left in them anyway, or whether the seal of the box was defective, or what had occurred, but they were empty. Forgive me for the trivial comparison, but to chance upon so many expired samples in one place had a whiff of the Jonestown Massacre about it, as though the vials had collectively agreed to lie down and give up the ghost at the same time. And I must confess that at this relatively jaded stage in my perfume hobby my first thought was relief... Here were twenty or so scents with which I no longer had to engage...and yes, I know that is ungrateful of me. I did duly sniff all the vials, mind, to remind myself of how they smelt - there is invariably a trace of fragrance left around the nozzle - but I think I will chuck them presently.


"I was here first, you know"


The other box contained an eclectic mix of things that I had meant to review one day - and may still do perhaps - along with designer rejects, and samples of such extreme obscurity that I have absolutely no idea how I came by them, or who the brands even are - and if they still exist. A couple of samples caught my eye though...Slowdive and Shangri La by Hiram Green, the innovative Dutch perfumer noted for his hyper-realistic vegan range. I parked Slow Dive for now to retry at a later date, and immediately dabbed a bit of Shangri La on my wrists, intrigued by the name, which struck me as an ironic counterpoint to the state of the world at the moment.

Top notes: citrus notes

Heart notes: peach, jasmine, rose, iris, spices

Base notes: vetiver, oakmoss

Well, how beautiful is this? Shangri La is classed as a chypre, and I was initially reminded of Mary Greenwell Plum and 4160 Tuesdays Goddess of Love & Perfume: after a juicy citrus opening blast, Shangri La also showcases a luscious fruity floral bouquet including peach, with oakmoss in the base. The texture is unctuous and rich (Think Patou Joy if you are not familiar with the other two) without being cloying, though it might still be a bit full-on for some until it has settled down. A number of reviewers have compared Shangri La to Mitsouko, with caveats of course, given the latter's status as a towering  behemoth of the 20th century. Shangri-La is more cheerful, and less overtly retro, austere, and "dusty" to my nose. It is also twisty turny in its development: at times faintly spicy, or powdery (thanks to the iris?), with bright darts of peach and jasmine periodically peeping through. Whatever facet greeted my nose, it was just gorgeous, in a wistfully vintage way, and I don't say that lightly.

And so, speaking of things being twisty turny, this is the story of how a pair of old curtains and other detritus eventually led me to Shangri La...a tender ray of sunshine for these dark and ominous times.


Still no room for the last few books...








Monday, 14 February 2022

Pink grenade : how Viktor&Rolf Bonbon (flower)bombed my search for myself

Source: Soundcloud
 

It's Valentine's Day again... regular readers know better than to come to Bonkers looking for inspiration on the Ten Best Rose Perfumes to give your loved one, or anything else of that predictable romantic ilk. Which is not to say that I haven't written posts in the past tailored to this (sadly increasingly commercial) occasion - several may come up in this link - but the post that popped into my head to write this morning is more pink in its inspiration than the classic deep red of rose and heart motifs...

For at the weekend a friend in the US sent me a link to a Luxe magazine article; it lists the "37 Best Perfumes for Women", with the byline: "Find your signature scent". You can immediately tell that this piece was aimed at a mainstream audience, for perfumistas prefer to own fragrance wardrobes, on the basis that "more is more". Anyway, each of the 37 perfumes listed had won a separate category, which included "Best Luxury", "Best value", "Best floral", "Best for night", "Best as gift" (another notion we don't hold with, unless the person has specifically requested said scent as a gift!), "Best over 50" (Dior J'adore- pardon?!?), "Best for young", and so on and so forth in that reductionist and inevitably doomed pigeonholing vein. FYI, Black Opium was "Best for night", which says it all right there. And how Byredo Bal d'Afrique could take the prize for "Best earthy" beats me. Where is the oakmoss and patchouli? And right at the top of the list was the perfume deemed "Most popular"- or should that be "Best popular" for the sake of consistency? - namely Viktor&Rolf Flowerbomb.

Seeing this accolade awarded to Flowerbomb fired me up with indignation, which may have coloured my reply to the friend:

"Ah, that list had more of a 'designer' bias than the niche perfumes I am mostly into, and when that happens I always wonder if the perfume house has chucked them a load of money to promote their product. I say this, because Viktor&Rolf gets a mention, and if I do an Internet search for my blog - Bonkers about Perfume - up comes a load of images of V&R bottles as the first result, even though that clearly has zilch to do with the search terms. So I tend to completely disregard 'Best of' lists in women's magazines, sorry!"
 
 

 

I may have been a bit harsh there, but I have been really exercised by the monotonous regularity with which Bonbon ads bombard the search results for the blog, the butterfly-shaped bottle serving as an additional taunt, in view of my online "flittersniffer" identity. It doesn't happen with any search engine, mind - just on Microsoft Bing, which I have on my netbook. Google has no ads, whether accessed through my Firefox browser (desktop PC) or Chrome (phone). I spend most time on my netbook though, so the pink-winged bottles will continue to torment! Do let me know if you use Yahoo or any other search engine (eg Duckduckgo?), and get ads as the first search result.
 
I would also be interested to know whether you would assume that Flowerbomb really is "the most popular perfume" through its own merits, or whether a massive marketing budget has managed to lob it front and centre of consumer consciousness, like a great big pink grenade on a mercenary mission. And I don't necessarily even mean by greasing reviewers' palms with silver - which is mere supposition on my part, after all - it could be by aggressive in-store promo campaigns, or saturated magazine advertising, or SEO-jiggery pokery, or any other kind of above or below-the-line spending.

Anyway...I guess I got myself a bit worked up - more over the nefarious power of brands to buy exposure and/or influence than the mere fact of my blog not having the prominence you would expect for an exact match of the search phrase. Tomorrow I will sally forth as is customary, and hoover up any out of date Valentine's bargains I spy in the form of flowers or foodstuffs. I would say "in a therapeutic act of 'self-care'", but I have come to dislike the expression "self-care" every bit as much as "uptick", "put food on the table", and "baked in". "Baked in" being my newest and most irritating mot du jour - usually used in connection with Boris's character flaws rather than to denote the inclusion of dried fruit in a cake. That's assuming you have the funds to put the ingredients for food on the table.

Then tonight I am off for a girls' night in with two friends. As an offering I am taking a large jar of Sauerkraut, a partly used bottle of magnesium tablets, and a small hot water bottle cover I knitted for the hostess's son's puppy**. Oh, come to think of it - that is red (though it looks more like "hot pink" in this photo, haha).

Happy Valentine's Day, however you are spending it!
 



**NB The hostess and I do have a long and honourable tradition of unconventional present exchanges - packets of quinoa, half bars of chocolate, open bottles of wine and life-limited fruit have also featured.