Andy Tauer at Les Senteurs – Photo Essay

I was invited to an event at London niche perfume store Les Senteurs that took place last Wednesday. It featured three special guests from the perfume industry: Pissara Umavijani of Parfums Dusita, Lynorette Morsch from  Les Bains Guerbois and Andy Tauer of Tauer Perfumes.

 

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Pissara moved to Paris from Thailand in the hope of starting her own perfume brand within three months, which turned out to be a year. Lynorette is the Product & Export Manager for Les Bains Guerbois who are a heritage brand dating back to the 1885 Parisian Spa, reinvented in 2016. I trotted along largely because I’d missed out on hearing Andy Tauer talk previously. He has been making artisan perfumes in Zurich, Switzerland for the last 14 years-odd years.

 

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Andy Tauer

 

He explained to us that he wouldn’t be where he is now without Luca Turin. They were both blogging in 2005 when blogging really was a thing. Andy sent Luca some samples which were included in Perfumes: The Guide, kick-starting his career. Prior to that he been working on research programmes for the EU and was looking for a creative outlet. He happened to read a book by natural perfumer Mandy Aftel while on holiday (presumably Essence and Alchemy) and decided to explore perfumery, firstly using essential oils.

 

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It was interesting to hear how he believes his inspiration comes from outside and sees it as “a genie on my shoulder”. He mentioned that in the past, artists didn’t take credit for their creations but felt they acted as a conduit.  Andy says if anything he sees himself more as an engineer and doesn’t feel it appropriate to call his own work “art” .

His favourite materials to compose with are ambergris and its synthetic interpretation, Ambroxan. He also enjoys working with rose as you can tell from the number of rose perfumes in his line.

 

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When the three were asked to pick a perfume or two from their collections to share, Andy (of course) chose L’AdDM. He told us that in a way, it is a curse as well as a blessing because everything he releases gets compared to it and it’s hard to beat.  The idea behind it was the scented breeze you encounter when stepping out onto the balcony at a hotel on the edge of the Moroccan desert, filled with spice and a touch of jasmine. It featured in the fantastic exhibition Perfume: A Sensory Journey Through Contemporary Scent that Megan in Sainte Maxime and I visited last year.

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Lynorette, Andy and Pissara

 

Pissara chose two fragrances, the first of which is evocative of her home country, Thailand. As James Craven, the Fragrance Archivist for Les Senteurs noted, La Douceur de Siam is a very romantic, pink-tinged perfume. Pissara agreed, saying that it was inspired in part by the sun rising over the temples. The second was Melodie de l’Amour which is a lush white floral with a fair bit of fresh tuberose that won an Art and Olfaction Award in 2017.

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James Craven, Fragrance Archivist (centre)

 

The Dusita perfumes are high quality and very polished. Mind you, Oudh Infini has enough barnyard skank to knock your socks off.

 

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Lynorette chose two fragrances from Les Bains Guerbois which to her, represent two different seasons: 2015 Le Phenix for winter (cardamom, ginger, patchouli, cedarwood, incense and amber) and 1885 Les Bains Sulfureux (the aromatic scent of the Turkish and Roman bathhouses) for summer.

 

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Persolaise was live-streaming the event and asked a great question from one of the viewers: “Which perfume do you admire from another brand?”.

 

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Persolaise had social media covered

 

Pissara said she loves fragrances with a long history such as Diorissimo and Andy Tauer said he has worn the classic leather Knize Ten as wall as Palisander from the Comme des Garcons Red Series. Lynorette was fond of By Kilian’s Taste of Heaven because she likes lavender and Cocobello by Heeley because its coconut scent reminds her of holidays.

 

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It was an enjoyable and enlightening evening and an added bonus was getting to catch up with a few fragrance friends.

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Nick Gilbert of Olfiction – how to wear this season’s brights

 

Do let me know your thoughts about the perfumes of any of these three houses in the comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Current Favourites – Beauty/Hair/Body

I thought I’d share a few products I’ve recently discovered that have been real gam-changers for me.

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Lack of sleep and long, busy – but super fun – days for 3 weeks in Australia really showed on my face each morning. What saved it were two new cosmetic buys. The first was IT Cosmetics Your Skin But Better CC+ Cream with SPF50+ (£30). This cult product finally became available in the UK at Boots this year after long being raved about Stateside.

It’s leans more medium coverage than the advertised full, but you can build it up a little. It’s quite thick so I found that applying it with a damp Beauty Blender was the best method. The look is incredibly luminous in daylight (see below pic) without looking shiny. Worth noting is that you only need to apply about a pump and a bit so clearly it’s not going to provide you with the full SPF 50 protection on its own.

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Me wearing the It Cosmetics CC Cream

 

The other product that worked miracles by hiding the ever-present dark circles and dips under my eyes was NARS Soft Matte Complete Concealer (£24). The make-up artists at SpaceNK may recommend this for blemishes but if the undereye area is a concern for you – and you apply with a damp Beauty Blender – it can work brilliantly. I use it on evenings out or days when I need a little extra help.
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Olaplex Hair Perfector No.3 and Philip Kingsley’s Elasticizer Extreme have both transformed my hair. I colour and heat treat my fine and naturally curly locks, so regular strengthening treatments are an absolute must. Olaplex was a previously only a salon service but Hair Perfector No.3 is now available to purchase from online retailers (currently just £18.70 for 100ml on AllBeauty as opposed to £32 on LookFantastic) .

Now my hair is in much healthier condition I’ve been using Elasticizer Extreme (£32 for 150ml) every other week which makes my mane feel considerably thicker. Both need to be applied to towel-dried hair for at least 10-20 minutes (I do 30 minutes). You then rinse out and shampoo and condition as normal.

 

The Soaper Duper range of bath and body products have great green credentials and are   reasonably priced. I order online but apparently you can find them in larger branches of Tesco. They use 95% naturally derived ingredients and come in 100% recycled plastic bottles.  Fragrances include Nourishing Coconut, Fig & Yuzu, Juicy Passionfruit, Zingy Ginger, Zesty Lemon and even Fruity Green Tuberose. I really like the body washes (£6.50 each for 500ml) and intend to try the Non Drying Shea Butter Hand Wash next.
soaperHave you tried any of these or have a favourite of your own to share?

 

 

 

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Perfumes That Work For Everyone Else But You – Mood Scent 4

You know what it’s like, you read all these rave reviews for perfumes that seem to be super popular with the cognoscenti or are venerated as classics. You go out of your way to try one with eager anticipation but after lifting your wrist to your nose you think “Nope”.

It’s a feeling of disappointment mixed with a touch of confusion as to why it didn’t work for you.

I don’t have the taste of most hardcore perfumistas so this tends to happen to me a fair bit. I’m not one for typically niche-style scents which are characteristically dark and heavy. I was gutted at the beginning of my perfume career because I wanted to be one of the cool kids and like the edgy stuff. Since then I’ve become fine with it but there are still some perfumes mismatches that stick.

So today, we – the Mood Scent 4 – are sharing those fragrances that feel as if everyone  gets them but us.

 

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Feminite du Bois by Serge Lutens

I might as well start with the big one. Feminite du Bois with its rich cedar and stewed plum, represents all those Serge Lutens perfumes that I am far too fey to carry-off. They are the ones full of warm fruit and resinous woods that must be wonderful in cooler weather and give the wearer an air of chic with a touch of edge. Sadly that will never be me. I can only wear Uncle Serge’s more transparent and non-woody compositions such as the rooty Iris Silver Mist and the rose-violet veil of La Fille de Berlin. It’s not you FdB, it’s me.

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Chanel No.5 

It was a ground-breaker when released in 1921 and manages to retain its position as the most famous perfume in the world. No.5 is synonymous with class and effortless elegance. On me it is just too soapy and well, nondescript. I have a vintage parfum from Portia to give our mutual friend, Val the Cookie Queen and I imagine that is another experience entirely. She didn’t always love it so maybe one day it will click with me too. There is always hope. Apart from anything else, who doesn’t want to own that iconic bottle?

 

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Nahema by Guerlain

On paper this one should be perfect for me. I love Guerlain, I love rose, so why don’t I love Nahema? Each time I’ve tried it I’ve got an acidic green, metallic rose, which is not to my taste at all. I love roses which have a touch of sweetness but this is just plain sour on me. I have heard that it is one of those perfumes that is different on different people so I suspect my skin chemistry is the culprit. Shame.

 

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Avignon by Comme des Garcons

Oh how I wanted to love the ultimate incense perfume by those proto-hipsters at CdG. I sprayed Avignon – probably too generously – on the back of my hand and inhaled. Jeez that thing was powerful. It nearly knocked me sideways. Straight-up, full-force Catholic frankincense clearly wasn’t for me. This led me to discover that I like my incense more subdued and preferably combined with another contrasting accord. The muted, woody incense of Passage d’Enfer with its waxy white lilies was the version that worked for me.

 

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Knize Ten

Released in the 1920s and lauded as one of the best leathers of all time, Knize Ten sounded fantastic. Unfortunately it was oily, tough and scratchy on me. The good thing that came out of this less than positive experience was that once again, I found out what kind of leathers do work for me: those smoky, birch tar based leathers and softer suedes such as my holy grail Cuir de Lancôme.

 

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This is a fun one so hop on over to my blogging partners to see which notable scents missed the mark for Megan In Sainte Maxime, L’Esperessence and I Scent You A Day.

Now it’s over to you. Which perfumes that fell flat did you expect to love because everyone else did? Let me know in the comments.

 

 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

COME TRIP WITH ME

“Gather your wits and hold on fast, your mind must learn to roam, just as the gypsy queen must do, you’re gonna hit the road.”  – The Acid Queen by The Who 1968/69

Lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD, was first synthesized November 16, 1938 by Albert Hoffman, the Swiss chemist.  However it was not until five years later that the psychedelic properties were found.

Just in time to celebrate its eightieth birthday, we find ourselves bang in the middle of a complete resurgence of interest in psychedelics.

LSD was distributed by the Swiss company Sandoz in the 1950s, given free to researchers.  The neurologists at the time were totally excited, testing the drug out for treating depression, anxiety and alcoholism.

And then the counter culture got hold of it and along with it came the bad trips, psychotic episodes, suicides and other scary stuff, killing all the excitement.  The scientific establishment proceeded to turn against psychedelics, pushing them underground.  But lately there has been a renaissance.  A new generation of scientists are returning to them, once again looking into what they can teach us, their effects on consciousness, addiction, depression and so much more.

CHANGING YOUR MIND

Psychedelics do change your consciousness and we all dabble in one way or another.

Every culture uses some kind of fungus or plant to change consciousness: coffee, tea, chocolate, tobacco, marijuana.  In fact we can read in Michael Pollan’s ‘How to Change Your Mind’, that the only culture that does not traditionally use anything are the Inuits and that is because nothing psychoactive grows where they live.

TRIPPING

We have dreams, and we forget them.

However hard we try to nag onto them, they fade. Psychedelics are different.  They open a door in your mind and it stays open, even if just ajar; it never shuts totally.  It is not possible to write about a psychedelic trip unless you have had one.  It is an internal experience and not one that can be participated in from the outside.  I can only try and recall a few seconds …

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THE GIRL WITH KALEIDOSCOPE EYES

A first-time user really needs to have adequate supervision from someone experienced with the hallucinogenic/psychedelic of choice.  Leaving what you know as reality behind, for a number of hours, is best done with someone who knows the way.

I was accompanied by three amazing people on my first trip, one of them being the guy who would be my partner for the next ten crazy years, of some amazing highs and terrible lows.  We dropped the acid in the apartment and as it started to work, they took me outside into the city, over the bridges and into the parks.

Every colour magnified a thousand times, colours with no names, every movement, followed by its own shadow trail of the same movement; an eternal stroboscopic effect, forever being replaced by the next.  You could follow the flight of a bumblebee in slow motion forever. I did not know where to look.

The most fascinating thing to me was finding that time as I knew it, no longer applied. There is no time.  Five minutes may take five seconds, or five hours.  As we returned to the apartment several hours later, there is a particular hallucination that remains with me.

We sat down at the table to have tea and as I peered, because you do peer at the seemingly never-ending kaleidoscope of movement and colours, everything melted across the table, and slowly dripped down onto the floor.  The cups, the teapot, the sugar bowl…exactly like a Salvador Dali painting.  You know it is not real, but that doesn’t mean it’s not there.  wild stuff.

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Val trying to focus on a never-ending kaleidoscope

“Go ask Alice, I think she’ll know. When logic and proportion have fallen sloppy dead. And the white knight is talking backwards and the Red Queen’s off with her head. Remember what the dormouse said. Feed your head. – White Rabbit by The Jefferson Airplane  1965/66

NATURE TRIP

One of the most exquisite trips I took was in The New Forest. A camping weekend.
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Psychedelics taken out in nature are really quite beautiful.  It bears mentioning that you are of course, quite exhausted after about twelve hours of your brain being in overdrive, allowing you to see and take part in these intense experiences.  Like with any mind-altering substance, what goes up must come down.  It is not just hallucinations, the thoughts you have are affected too.  Things are most vivid at the highest point of the trip.

As four of us lay in our tent, we began talking to each other.  But we were all so high, we could not hear each others’ voices. The words instead were coming out of our mouths in sheets of vibrating colours.  We understood everything, including the secret of the universe – which we promptly forgot.  You come so close to grasping the meaning of everything and just when you have it, it goes.

“The golden void speaks to me, denying my reality, I lose my body, lose my mind, I blow like wind, I flow like wine, down that corridor of flame, will I fly so high again?”  – The Golden Void Pt 2 by Hawkwind

Tripping at the Stonehenge Free Festival,  sitting on the stones as the solstice sun came up, Hawkwind playing on the far-off stage, the music drifting across the fields.  The days before there no were wires around the stones and you could touch them.  Everyone so high, Druids standing amongst the stones.  It felt as though everyone was having the same thoughts and the same time, and maybe we were. Looking up into the blue sky, the white clouds, the rays of sunshine, a spinning psychedelic prism.  An uninterrupted stream of shapes and colours.

 

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“Some call it heavenly in its brilliance …….. Out here on the perimeter there are no stars, out here we is stoned – immaculate.  – The W.A.S.P Radio Texas by The Doors 1971

BEACH TRIP

We were tripping on a hidden beach in the Dominican Republic.  People say you need to be careful with psychedelics because you can lose control. Although that can be true, it was never my experience. When necessary you can bring yourself down in an instant.

We were in the woods, made up mostly of coconut palms, intently studying the beautiful, almost chiselled, trunks.  You can feel the life and the breath in the vegetation, when in this state of mind.  It was very early in the morning.

Suddenly there was what seemed like a tremendous crashing sound as someone came running through the grove.  A Dominican farmer appeared before our very eyes, waving a machete around.  Trust me, we straightened up in a nano-second.  I don’t know who was more shocked, us, or him finding a bunch of white tourists hugging his trees.  He introduced himself, in Spanish, as Jesus, and promptly shot up a tree and cut down some coconuts for us.  We were saved.

LSD MICRODOSING 2018

Meanwhile here we are today.  Microdosing LSD is the current thing to do; taking a “sub perceptual” amount, as a mental pick-me-up. Imperceptible, but making you more creative and clearer in your work. Very fashionable amongst the tech communities, including of course, Silicon Valley.

Eighty years.  What a long, strange trip it’s been.

“It gave me an inner joy, an open kindness, a gratefulness, open eyes and an internal sensitivity for the miracles of creation ….. I think that in human evolution it has never been as necessary to have this substance LSD.  It is just a tool to turn us into what we are supposed to be.  – Albert Hoffman.  Part of his 100th birthday speech.

 

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Of course this could all be a figment of my crazy imagination.  Who knows?

–  By Val the Acid Queen of APJ

 

 

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Vintage Mini Reviews – Bal a Versailles, Paris and Magie Noire

My Aussie friends gave me so many wonderful gifts when I visited in July. These included sweets, skincare, earrings, boots (2 pairs!) and of course, perfume.

The lovely Scott is a pal of Portia’s and a fragrance fiend like the rest of us. At my last evening attending Turbo Trivia he very sweetly presented me with a selection of decants from his collection which all feature rose to some extent. This was incredibly thoughtful, given my obvious love of the note. They were all perfumes that I didn’t know well – if at all – and I was excited to try them.

 

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Portia, Jin, me and Scott

 

There were five decants in all  but I’ve decided to focus on the three that impressed me the most. (The other two being Voleur de Roses by L’Artisan Parfumeur and Parfum de Peau by Montana).

 

Bal a Versailles Vintage EDC, Jean Desprez

Rosemary, orange blossom, mandarin orange, cassia, jasmine, rose, neroli, bergamot, Bulgarian rose, lemon, sandalwood, patchouli, lilac, orris root, vetiver, ylang-ylang, lily-of-the-valley, leather, Tolu balsam, amber, musk, benzoin, civet, vanilla, cedar, resins

Bal a Versailles is a busty oriental from the days when you could find animalic perfumes on the high street. I thought it would be a real ball-buster: loud and skanky. On me however, it radiates a warm and furry hum that is suggestive rather than obscene. I’m not at ease in pornographic perfume but on me, this is lightly draped curves and candle-lit seduction. I actually find it rather comforting in small amounts, though I have little doubt spraying liberally from the bottle gives you a decidedly different effect.

The musks are silky, fuzzy, moreish and of course, sensual. The powder is pitched just right. It’s the kind of perfume that I imagine being dabbed on the décolleté and mingling with the wearer’s skin chemistry. It positively blooms with body heat. The musky base is embellished with flowers and gilded with aromatics, woods and sweet resins. Bal a Versailles is enticingly intimate and gloriously lavish.

 

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Paris Vintage EDT, YSL

Bergamot, orange blossom, rose, mimosa, cassia, hawthorn, nasturtium, violet, hyacinth, geranium, violet leaves, jasmine, orris, ylang ylang, lily of the valley, lily, linden, sandalwood, amber, musk, moss, heliotrope, cedar and ambergris

I flip over good powdery rose/violet perfumes. They tend to be feminine, glamourous  and often reminiscent of vintage cosmetics. In short, they give me my pin-up girl moment.

I imagined vintage Paris would overwhelm me with chilly and jagged aldehydes, but it is surprisingly warm and velvety.  That’s not to say it is a quiet perfume – quite the opposite. A full spray from the bottle must envelop you in a dazzling pink cloud. Its personality is charmingly optimistic, carefree and elegant. The only thing that puts me off seeking out more juice, is the tell-tale Playdoh effect caused by heliotrope. For some reason the dominant presence of that almond-tinged note gives me a headache.

Although I may not be able to wear it, Paris is still a standout fragrance.

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Magie Noire Vintage EDT, Lancome

Bulgarian rose, blackcurrant buds, jasmine, ylang-ylang, sandalwood, amber and patchouli

I remember sniffing this at the very, very beginning of my slip into perfumania. I didn’t get it. It seemed too sour and austere.

Now I’m ready for it.

This sophisticated virago brings to mind black and white movie femme fatales like Bette Davis. Maybe not conventionally beautiful but absolutely magnetic. The individual elements shouldn’t work but the overall effect is compelling. As time wears on, I find myself constantly bringing my wrist to my nose. This potion is bewitchingly good.

There are hissing blackcurrant buds and dark, bitter greens tempered by white flower petals. It’s like escaping to an enchanted hideaway, concealed by a curtain of moss. Originally released in 1971, I can’t envisage Lancôme launching something like this today (more’s the pity). Vintage Magie Noire is magnificent.

 

 

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Huge thanks to Scott for sharing these fabulous decants with me. I know these perfumes are dear to his heart and in short supply, which makes it all the more special. It’s been a real education and filled a lacuna in my knowledge. An added bonus is that I’ve found more fragrances to covet.

Do you know and love any of these treasures?

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STRANGE TALES FROM THE COOKIE KITCHEN

Editor’s note: Many of you will already know Val the Cookie Queen from her perfume posts here and on APJ. She’s now going to be doing something a bit different for ABR on the last Friday of each month. She’s going to be telling us stories from her colourful past that are vivid, humorous and often moving.
So get ready to take a walk on the wild side…
PSILOCYBIN TEQUILA AND A MYNA BIRD
I’m up and down the Westway, in and out the lights,
What a great traffic system, it’s so bright
I can’t think of better way to spend the night
Than speeding around beneath the yellow lights.“  
 – London’s Burning by The Clash.

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April 2 1980 saw violent clashes with police after they had raided the infamous Black and White Café on Grosvenor Road in St. Paul’sBristol.
Police officers – including several members of the drug squad – had stormed the café, suspecting drug dealing might have been going there. It ended in bloody riots and twenty-one arrests, but no one was ever convicted of any crime. It took until midnight to get it under control.  The police had to be called in from surrounding areas. Although I later lived in St Paul’s, at this point I was on the boundary and not involvedbut the atmosphere was beyond tense and I could hear the noise, smell the burning cars. 
However, this post is not about the St. Paul’s Riots, but something that happened I guess because of themTensions remained high for months.
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Two weeks after the riots, I was alone in my flat expecting my boyfriend and some friends to turn up at any momentThere was a knock at the door and stupidly, I opened it without checking who was there. should have known better. Five drug squad cops came hurtling in through the door yelling, “We’re coming in.“ Clearly. I have no memory of asking them if they had a warrant or not, but it was too late by then anyway. They were never the friendliest of people. I was just twenty years old.
stood there holding my breath. They marched around the threebedroomed apartment, looking under chairs, lifting pillows and throwing bedcovers all over the place in a haphazard and disorganised search.  In doing so they completely buried from view a plastic bag with a few hundred blues (uhm ….diet pills) with the duvets.  I breathed out.
They regrouped in the living room after having thoroughly’ searched the rest of the apartment. There was a couple of grams of weed lying on the table, which they happily took.  On the mantelpiece was a bottle of tequila, with about two thousand liberty caps, magic mushrooms, psilocybe semilanceata, call them what you will, merrily brewing in it. It was about nine-tenths sludge and one-tenth clear tequila. On the front of the bottle we had a large sticker of a cartoon fly agaric mushroom. No one had tried it yet. The drug squad nabbed it immediately, commenting that it was the first time they had seen anything like that. They told me they couldn’t bust me with it but would take it away to be analysed and for my own safety. Right
I was charged with possession of a controlled substance and eventually fined eighty pounds. Whilst I was down the nick, the cops informed me that our Psilocybin Tequila would go on display in their little room of paraphernalia along with other stuff that had been stolen from people to help keep them safe. I wonder to this day if they still have it.  Had I been older and more secure in myself, I would have fought to get it back.  bet it’s well macerated by now….
My parents knew nothing of my double life.  Several weeks later the bust went into the newspaper, just a paragraph on one of the inside pages. 
My folks kept a myna bird in the Esso station they ran as their business.  Amongst other things that bird could mimic air brakes and trick us every time into running out to the pumps to serve truck drivers that weren’t there. When we cleaned the birdcage, it was lined with newspaper before putting sand on top. One day, my brother called me and told me he had been cleaning the cage out and after tipping the sand into the bin had seen the article on my bust, face up at the bottom of the cage. We still laugh about it today. I thought for a while I had gotten clean away with it and wouldn’t have to tell my parents.
A week after the myna bird incident, the bishop of the church I attended came up to melooked at the ground and mumbled about something in the newspaper.  Church, yes, I was brought up in a strong faith and although I chose to leave for a long period of time, I still went home most Sundays and attended church.  It made my parents happy and probably kept me from killing myself. I would comb my hair neatly over the few dreadlocks I had cultivated and off to church I would go. Really it was the faith that saved my life, but more on that in later instalments if anyone ever wants to read them.
I digressI told the bishop not to worry, it was all a big mistake and I’d had to take the rap for someone else. There was a party at my place and it was loud and the cops came and it was on the table and yeah, I was blamed.  He scuttled off never told a soul and I’m still friends with him.
However I did get totally paranoid that my folks would somehow find out, so took a deep breath and went to talk to my stepfather.  I told him the same party at my place story.  As far as I know he believed me and as far as I’m aware, didn’t tell Mum. He slipped upstairs and came down with eighty pounds. I never thanked him properly.
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Val’s stepfather and Barney the myna bird

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Val, age twenty

©CQ of APJ

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Reading Diary – Summer 2018

 

I never thought I liked Science Fiction but then I found out last month that my favourite book series The Chronicles of St. Mary’s is classed as Sci-Fi. Hilarious. You live and learn.

 

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The Essex Serpent by Sarah Perry

I’ve just started getting back into historical fiction and this was a great example of the genre. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about life in Victorian London/Essex and especially how it portrayed a more informal version than what we’re used to. The mythical Essex Serpent seemingly returned to the Blackwater estuary made for a compelling thread of intrigue. The characters were wonderful and I loved the relationship between Cora and the vicar, Will. The tension between the two regarding how they viewed the serpent – and each other – drew me in more and more. Sarah Perry’s writing was superb and never too slow or heavy on detail. I especially enjoyed the various letters between characters. 4.8

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An Argumentation of Historians by Jodi Taylor

This is the ninth book in The Chronicles of St. Mary’s about my beloved bunch of haphazard historians. We visit Persepolis as it’s about to go up in flames and rural 14th Century England. It seemed like it would be a rather relaxing read after the harrowing rollercoaster of book eight. However, towards the end there’s a twist and things rapidly ramp up, leaving us on a bit of a cliff-hanger. I guess it will have to happen one day if Jodi Taylor keeps writing this series but I find it hard to believe any of them will every be less than five stars for me. 5/5

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

I always steered away from reading this clssic because it sounded like a gloomy ghost story. However, recently I kept hearing people compare it to Jane Eyre, so I finally picked it up. I find it really amusing that for a good portion of the book I was wondering what all the fuss was about. It all seemed very transparent and I was lulled into a sense of complacency. Then the rug was pulled from under me so brilliantly I gasped. Very quickly, I could see why people adore this book and why Daphne du Maurier was such a clever writer.  It’s such an evocative book and Rebecca is such a shocking and vivid character. I didn’t see much of a resemblance to Jane Eyre (who is still my favourite female literary character of all-time despite Millennials apparent dislike of the book).  5/5

 

Rebecca

 

Lost Connections by Johann Hari

This investigation into the causes of depression and the effectiveness of antidepressants was pretty confusing for me. I know my life changed when I started taking SSRI medication but I also had to try several different types before I found one that worked. This makes me conclude that it wasn’t a placebo effect and there was a chemical component. They don’t help everyone but even if they don’t help most people they can be life-changing (indeed life-saving) for some people. I also know there are people with great lives who get hit with depression out of a clear blue sky. The book did however make me want to check I still need them.  Consequently I’ve weened myself off and will see where I go from there. Please consult your doctor if you are considering coming off medication yourself.

 

Have you read any of these books or have another to recommend?

 

 

 

 

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Shopping Portia’s Perfume Collection – Photo Essay

Portia did a very brave thing recently. She employed a couple of friends to catalogue her extensive perfume collection. They took two days and came up with a figure of 1,208 bottles.

 

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Not many of us fragrance fanatics know the exact number we have and I dare say even fewer of us would want to publish it.

Some thought it might actually be more considering Portia often refers to her “perfume room” but this hallowed space functions as an office as well as providing storage. This is where the hard work of keeping Australian Perfume Junkies motoring takes place.

The cabinet you can see in the left of the photo below holds boxes with various groupings of fragrance.

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We had a really fun couple of evenings going through some of the boxes on Portia and Jin’s dining room table.

 

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We did some serious spritzing and I was in danger of running out of skin real estate.

 

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I was particularly interested in Portia’s stash of Geurlain and Chanel. There were so many vintage gems. Lots of Mitsouko, Samsara, No.22 and No.5.

 

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I also tried all three Les Eaux de Chanel and liked the herbaceous citrus breeze of ParisDeauville the most.

 

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Mahora Parfum, Guerlain

 

Portia gave me a partial bottle of vintage Miss Dior Parfum when last in London and as it is all but finished, I asked if I could buy one of the many back-ups. I wore it to Portia’s wedding and you can read my review of it here.

I also bought a full bottle of the EDT which I’d never tried before.

 

 

 

 

The perfume that was on my To Buy List at the time was Chanel No.19. I didn’t know which concentration to get so we tried them all. I totally fell in love with an old bottle of the Parfum. The galbanum is so smooth and silky that it made me swoon.

I decided to buy the EDT version along with the Parfum. We thought I could wear both at the same time to give the Parfum some throw. Well, that was my excuse.

 

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No.19 Parfum and EDT

 

Portia kindly provided me with two ‘Gifts With Purchase’. One was Niki de Saint Phalle EDT, which I liked a lot but had only owned a sample of. It’s a gorgeous, powdery green scent that I find easier to wear than Jacomo’s Silences but is in the same vein (my review is here).

The other was Caleche Parfum by Hermes which I’m looking forward to getting to know.

 

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Portia only charged me what she paid for them less what she had used (if any). I got a great deal and did my bit to help reduce the Aussie fragrance mountain 🙂 It was also the perfect way to buy vintage without risk.

 

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Just before I left Australia, Portia very generously gave me a partial bottle of vintage Mitsouko. It’s the EDT which is my favourite concentration. It is glorious.

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They will remind me of Portia and my trip of a lifetime every time I spray.

 

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Are any of these favourites of yours?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Australia Trip Highlights – Photo Essay

 

Clearly Portia’s wedding was the highlight of the holiday but the whole 3 weeks were so jam-packed that this post really contains the highlights of the highlights. I haven’t even included the little train ride through the Sydney Botanic Gardens or the morning spent chatting with Portia and Anna-Maria in the Chinese Gardens at Darling Harbour.

Before I even I arrived, I decided that despite my various ‘limitations’, I’d really go for it on this trip – and I did. No lie-ins, no rest days. I pushed myself and found I could do a lot more than I imagined, socially as well as physically. None of it would have been possible however, without the support of my friends. They mean the world to me and I would never have got to experience Australia without them.

 

 

 

Soon after I arrived, Jin (Portia’s partner, now husband) took me by ferry to a tour of Sydney Opera House. I loved the building and found its history fascinating.

 

 

 

 

 

Our mate Tina G organised our 3 night stay at Emu Apartments in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in the Northern Territory. The day we arrived, she had arranged for us to have ‘Dinner Under the Stars’ with a talk through the night sky and a walk around the Field of Lights: a light installation which sadly could not be captured effectively by camera. It was a magical experience from start to finish.

 

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I adore that red earth!

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The landscape was like nothing I’d seen before.

 

Not only did we see Uluru at sunrise and sunset on the same day, but we did a tour of the rock itelf. Some of the aborignal stories the guide shared can only be told at Uluru and they had me enthralled.

 

 

Tina booked us on a hike of nearby Kata Tjuta – a landmark made up of 36 huge domed rocks. I had a couple of stumbles but I survived! Without her knowledge of the area, we might have missed out on this wonder.

 

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Next Portia and I flew to Cairns, Queensland and I got to meet Portia’s wonderful Auntie Tracey. We took a Quicksilver boat excursion to the outer Great Barrier Reef. I had not intended to snorkel out in the deep sea, but I did. We also took the semi-submersible for a closer look at the coral.

 

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Portia in the semi-submersible. Luckily, I wasn’t claustrophobic.

 

 

 

We drove nearly 9 hours from Cairns to Airlie Beach where we stayed at a lovely Airbnb apartment. We spent our one full day on an Ocean Rafting adventure into the Whitsunday Islands. Here I got to see the most stunning beaches and snorkel as close as it gets to the colourful coral which comes down from the beach at Border Island.

 

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The breath-taking Hill Inlet

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The breath-taking Portia Turbo

 

Spending a few days with my friend Natalie – an ex-blogger who now lives in Sydney – was a highlight in itself. I felt happy just being in her company. We visited some of the city’s many beautiful beaches. My favourite was Palm Beach where they film the TV show Home and Away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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World famous Bondi Beach

 

Like many tourists visiting Australia, I really wanted to meet a kangaroo and a koala. I got to do both and see a lot more native animals at Featherdale Wildlife Park.

 

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Feeding a baby kangaroo

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With Jin, Kath, Portia and Victor the koala (who is asleep, not drugged!)

 

Finally, it was a thrill to experience Turbo Trivia live. It was impressive to see Portia in full performance mode, entertaining the players while keeping the quiz on track. She makes it look effortless but I know how much work it takes behind the scenes.

 

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The real incentive for me to spend around 21 hours on planes to get to Australia was the people that live there. Spending time with the friends I had already made and making new ones is what made it super special. Everything else was the most fabulous bonus ever.

 

Have you visited Australia? What should I do on my next visit? 

 

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Portia and Jin Tie The Knot – Photo Essay

With a bit of planning, it worked out perfectly that I was in Australia for the wedding of my dear friend Portia (from Australian Perfume Junkies) to the adorable Jin. The Big Day came on the 28th July, towards the end of my stay, but I wanted to start with it and then post about the rest of the trip.

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Me and Jin

 

 

It was an emotional day, maybe more so because I was there for the run-up to the event and attended a planning meeting the day after I arrived in Sydney. It was held at a local Italian restaurant and the dress code was casual. The informal vibe suited the happy couple perfectly, however a string quartet kept it classy.

 

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Eleven of Jin’s South Korean family had flown in and he was given away by his father. Considering being gay isn’t even acknowledged in South Korea this was a big deal and a testament to what an exceptional person Jin is.

Portia was given away by his cousin, Mark, who flew in just for the day. They all walked down the aisle to Amazing Grace which is Jin’s mother’s favourite hymn. I understand she shed a tear. The Celebrant was a fellow drag queen and  long time friend of Portia’s, Sandy Bottom, which made proceedings more personal.

We were very firmly – and understandably – asked to put our phones on silent and not to take photos during the ceremony.  A funny thing happened when Jin realised he had not in fact switched his own phone off. This may have been Portia’s faovurite moment of the whole day.

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Portia and Jin with their Best Men and Women

 

The couple said their own vows to each other and exchanged Tiffany diamond earrings. This was harder than they expected because their hands were shaking. It was extremely touching. These two are such a great match.

 

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The rose-cut diamond stud in situ.

 

Speeches took place after the starters. Portia’s BFF Kath gave a moving speech and read out messages from those who were unable to attend. The words from Val the Cookie Queen and her family were received with “aaaahs” around the room.

 

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BFF Kath

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Portia’s Best Man Phil came up with my favourite line of the event “Portia has found the Jin to his Yang.”

 

 

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Portia’s wedding day scent was Rahele by Neela Verneire Creations. Jin, entirely coincidentally, wore Bombay Bling! also by NVC. I went for vintage Miss Dior Parfum which I fell in love with after Portia introduced me it to.

 
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You can tell the food was fabulous from me stuffing my face rather than posing for this photo (top right).

 

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Tina G, Scott and Ainslie Walker 

 

After the cake was cut, Portia and Jin invited us all to have a photo taken with them.

 

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Below is the Aussie crew I hung out with in Paris earlier this year.

 

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Michael wore Sheiduna by Puredistance, while Anna Maria  and Scott both wore Shalimar, which is a favourite of Portia’s.

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Me and the married couple.

It was interesting to learn that one gentlemen told Portia he expected the “gay wedding” to be over-the-top and showy. It was the exact opposite, being intimate, warm and relaxed. A Turbo Trivia regular summed it up for me when she said to Portia that she told her mum “You could cut the love in the room with a knife”.

 

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Huge congratulations to Portia and Jin who I know will continue to share lots of laughs and exciting journeys for many, many years to come. I love them to bits.

 

Thanks to Portia, Anna Maria and others for some of these photos. 

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