Reading Diary – Autumn/Winter 2018

2018 is the first year I’ve set a reading goal to be achieved by 31st December. I’ve done it on Goodreads and it’s currently telling me that at 30 books read so far, I’m two books behind schedule. I’m aiming for a total of 35 but at this rate I’m not going to make it.

I like having the incentive to read and I’m trying to catch up. I know a lot of people switch to short books if they’re falling behind at the end of year. I might resort to that.

 

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A Study in Scarlet by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle

The BBC’s modern day adaptation of Sherlock Holmes is one of my favourite TV programmes. I felt I should therefore get round to reading the stories and started at the beginning with A Study in Scarlet. I enjoyed seeing Watson and Holmes meet for the first time and the latter’s deductions were as brilliant as I’d expect. Reading about Victorian London was also a joy. However, when we went back in time to America, I felt a bit thrown and the characterisation of the Morman community was nothing short of horrific. On top of this, the way the name of the culprit was discovered was less than thrilling so it finished on a flat note for me. I don’t feel compelled to read the next in the series but if you think I should, please let me know in the comments. 3/5

 

12 Rules for Life by Dr Jordan Peterson

Dr Peterson must be the most controversial intellectual in the world today. His views relating to women frequently make me absolutely livid. However his knowledge and research in the field of clinical psychology is formidable. This book does largely stick to the personal development theme and once I got past the long section about lobsters (yes, really) I found much of value. Its message of the importance of personal responsibility and meaning are both concepts that resonated with me and what I’m going through right now. I even found myself in the pages at one point and it was a stark reminder of why I continue to push myself outside of my comfort zone despite the anxiety it causes. 4/5

 

The Mistborn Trilogy – Books 1 & 2 by Brandon Sanderson

This epic fantasy series has been majorly hyped so it was always going to struggle to live up to expectations. It’s set in a world where some people can consume one of a number of metals which will give them a corresponding power. Then there are the Mistborns who can consume all the metals and therefore have all of the powers. It’s the most well thought out magic system I’ve come across and the plotting is great. I could have really done without YET ANOTHER female assassin, but that’s just me. I have to say though, I preferred the world created in the Darker Shade of Magic trilogy by V.E. Schwab and liked the characters more. All the same, this is top quality high fantasy. I will finish the trilogy and probably continue with series at some point now more books have been released. 4/5

 

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

I’ve never read this classic and decided to rectify that for Halloween. I had no idea about the personal anguish the protagonist, Viktor Frankenstein, goes through. Or for that matter, his monster. It’s a highly emotionally charged book as well as a horror story. The depiction of despair and torment experienced by both the man characters was intense to the point of melodrama. I had a tough time suspending my disbelief at times even though it’s a fantastical story. How did the monster manage to follow Victor from Switzerland to the Orkney Islands unaided and unobserved?!  I was hooked all the same. 3.5/5

 

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Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor E Frankl

I’ve been putting off reading this classic in the field of psychology for over 20 years. I’ve  always avoided anything connected to The Holocaust, however it’s time to ditch this naïvety and read what people had to endure in the Nazi death camps. The first half of this slim book details Frankl’s experience in Auschwitz in relation to the way he and others reacted and coped psychologically with the terror and daily deprivations of life in the camps. The second half is a meditation on how his experiences informed his professional practice of “logotherapy”. He was a remarkable individual and it’s hard to feel you can’t find meaning in your own suffering when Frankl and (a few) others managed to achieve this in the harshest of circumstances imaginable. 4/5

 

Circe by Madeline Miller

I loved Miller’s Song of Achilles and I ate up Circe with a spoon. What a treat. I love the Greek Myths and Circe interacts with many of the well known gods and heroes. It was particularly enjoyable to observe her relationship with the ever-fascinating Odysseus. She starts out a timid youth, craving the attention of her father (Helios) but her character transforms once she’s exiled. It’s an archetypal hero’s journey but with a woman as the protagonist. The exquisite writing is a beautiful bonus. 5/5

 

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Have you read any of these? Do you set an annual reading goal? How are you getting on?

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Hyde by Hiram Green

Notes: Lemon, Bergamot, Birch, Cassie, Labdanum, Vanilla and Oakmoss

 

I only drift off easily at night these days when listening to recordings of turbulent weather, such as squally winds, heavy rain or a rumbling thunderstorm. It may seem odd that these restless sounds soothe me to sleep, but I find something calming about the wildness of nature when I’m safe inside.  Wearing Hyde, the new EdP release by indie perfumer Hiram Green, gives me the same feeling.

 

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The fragrance opens a little medicinal and those citrus top notes don’t hang around as we leap headlong into the warming arms of leather.

Most fragrances in this category smell like molten tar but this is much more of a bonfire on the breeze. It has that quality of smoke in the air that regularly occurs here in autumn/winter, which I love and look forward to at the end of every summer.

Hyde is not as heavy as many leathers. It possesses all of the atmosphere with only half of the weight. It doesn’t have that same level of dense meatiness you often find in similarly themed scents either.  It has real presence but exhibits a lightness of touch, and it’s that sinuousness in a normally rugged style, that really captivates me.

There is a savoury and moreish aspect to Hyde, although it’s not in the least bit edible.  It’s also considerably more parched than a lot of birch leather fragrances, with the feel of charred wood rather than sticky tar. I picture it as deepest brown rather than inky black.

I find myself breathing it in deeply. I like the burnt facet that hits the back of my throat at the end of the inhale. Bois d’Ascese by Naomi Goodsir is a conflagration but Hyde is a smouldering slow burn.  Where Cuir de Lancôme is plush, Hyde is unworldly. The fragrance wraps itself like smoke rings around the body and the sense of intimacy is alluring. The lasting power – particularly for a natural perfume – is superb.

The soft malt vanilla in the drydown can only be enjoyed through the lingering wisps of woodsmoke and I like it all the more for that. In common with a lot of base-heavy fragrances, Hyde is best experienced at one remove.

I’ve been thinking about how, when the shadows lengthen or the internal darkness falls, it makes sense to step down a couple of gears to ease the pressure.  It’s time to take some respite from the rat-race, either with your loved ones or alone. Hyde is the perfect perfume to hibernate with. It is as reassuring as it is addictive and would make a wonderful shared scent.

It is a must-try if you like burning/smoky scents. It’s not going to appeal to everyone but the best fragrances often don’t. Hyde isn’t trying to please the crowd. It walks its own path, leaving a trail of smoking footprints scorched into the moss-covered earth.

 

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How do you feel about smoky perfumes? Will you be seeking out Hyde?

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread

“Some plant coffee, some plant tea, So why can’t I and I plant collie?  If you stray from the root, Then you’ll never know the truth right now, Ca’ the war can’t solve no problem, love is the emblem, Instead of hate and malice, we should be sipping chalice, And giving praises to His Most High Jah Jah Rastafari …….”    ‘Free Up The Weed’ from the album Roast Fish, Collie Weed & Cornbread by Lee Perry 1978
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Kingston, Jamaica 1988

Our end destination was the Dominican Republic, way before the “package holiday and get shit-faced on all-the-free-rum you want” days made it popular for the masses.  We had friends there and were gonna stay for five months.

February 1988 saw us leaving Amsterdam, heading for Jamaica for a two week stop-over before continuing on over to the Dom Rep.   I don’t remember when we landed in Kingston but it was dark already.   We had specially booked a well known chain hotel, not knowing our arses from our elbows in Kingston, with the intention of seeking out somewhere else on the island to stay from there.  We hopped into a taxi, the driver assuring us he knew where the hotel was.

It was about a half hour drive into Kingston and we sat back.  As we thought we were getting close, the driver abruptly took a right hand turn down a road that narrowed quite quickly and street lights disappeared.  He pulled up in front of a bungalow, everything dark, and informed us that we had reached our destination.  It definitely did not look like the Four Seasons Hotel in downtown Kingston.  When we questioned him, he said that this was his friend’s place and suggested we might want to stay there. Cheaper.  Chris yelled at him and said absolutely not and take us to the hotel now.  He turned around and proceeded to do exactly that.  I still wonder if we were lucky to make it.

Irie Vibes and Weed in the Trees

We took a walk into downtown Kingston the next day.  Reggae booming out everywhere. Dancehall, Ska, Johnny Clarke, Dub, The Congos, Mighty Diamonds, U-Roy, I-Roy and a hundred other tunes.  I loved – and still love – the reggae from the seventies and eighties. At no point on our way there or back, did we pass any other white people.  A lot of dreadlock Rastas.  And yeah, we walked through Trenchtown too, which kind of surprised the receptionist back in the hotel later.  Irie vibes and pounding loud music everywhere, bass to shake the foundations of the earth.

Heading back to the hotel we were stopped by a guy who asked if we might want some grass.  Mirrored shades, very cool.  We talked for a while before agreeing to take him up on his kind offer.  At which point he snapped his fingers and yelled something, looking up into the tree we were standing under.  We raised our eyes too and were surprised to see about eight dudes sitting in the branches and sixteen eyes looking down on us.  One of them threw down a package.  Deal.

Strawberry Fields, Robin’s Bay

We asked in the hotel where we could go to be in the real Jamaica, as far away as possible from the Montego Bay scene.   They sent us up to Strawberry Fields. How could we resist the name?  About a three hour drive, due north, through the Blue Mountains, in a taxi.  Beautiful.   The driver took us right up to a wooden hut, Bobby`s hut, where Bobby himself greeted us with a handful of weed and a Red Stripe beer.

We were to eat there every day for a week; breakfast and dinner.  Roast fish, cornbread, breadfruit, mangos, avocados, beans, plantain, ackee and a shit ton of ganja. Bobby cooked.  Bobby was the main man.  He rented us a bamboo hut down near the beach. Strawberry Fields was named in the seventies and supposedly became a popular tourist destination.  But when we were there, there was not another tourist, let alone white person to be seen. Again.

 

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Bobby’s hut

 

We met a number of the local guys that same evening, I have no memories of seeing another woman.  None of that mattered though.  We sat around having a smoke together.  A chalice was filled and passed to me to light (basically what we call a bong.)  I smoked the whole thing in one toke. My lungs as big as my mouth.  I was not showing off, we smoked huge pipes in Amsterdam and I did not know I was supposed to pass it on.

You have to picture this.  There were about six of us sat around, totally high, and it was time to introduce ourselves.  There was one guy, fat dreads, who looked up and slowly said  “I am the Bush Doctor”.  We became friends with him.  He was the only guy who had been out of Jamaica, and he had visited New York.

We paid one of the men a few bucks a day to keep an eye on us. He called himself a bodyguard.  We were told that a couple of weeks earlier some German guys had had a run in with a guy with a machete.  That may or may not have been true.

 

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The bodyguard

Two weeks up there saw us forming some friendships.  Some of the dudes took us deep sea fishing. We were out on the boat for a few hours.  Everyone was too off of their heads to actually catch anything.  Smoking with these guys was wicked.

One day we had the privilege of being taken on a long hike, up through the woods and into their hidden fields of green.  High point.  Pun intended.

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Chris and guide on the hike

 

We had our own beach, not another soul to be seen for miles. We were in bed each night by eight and up again with the first pipe at four.  I am surprised I remember anything.

 

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The beach

 

After eleven days living this free life, experiences too numerous to mention, the guys walked us to get a bus back down to Kingston.  We maybe left them with some LSD.  It was a minibus for 12 and there were 22 people on it.  Three hours, and winding mountain roads until we were back at the hotel for our last night.  I was so desperate to get off the bus I forgot my sleeping bag.

Dead Bodies and Valium

Next day we flew to Port-au-Prince, Haiti, with a two day stopover, before we would be able to fly on to Santa Domingo.  There was no straight connection between Amsterdam and the Dominican Republic.

As the plane came into land over Port-au-Prince, all you could see was slums. Corrugated iron shacks; thousands of them, right up to the perimeter of the airport.  A country with no tourists, and not because they were in Montego Bay.  There were none.  Well us and a bizarre American woman with her two daughters.  The five of us stayed in the Royal Haitian Hotel.  200 rooms, a full staff, and us.  Voodoo weird.

 

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As we left the airport, pushing our way through throngs of people, a couple of kids asked us if we wanted to see a dead body.  For five bucks.  Maybe that explained why you could buy Valium over the counter.  Most counters.

 

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About eighteen months later, we received a letter from Jamaica.  Upon opening it, a small piece of paper fell out with the words “More LSD” written on it.

“Nothing is real, and nothing to get hung about, Strawberry Fields forever.”  The Beatles 1967

CQ of APJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

All memories approximate, due to …..

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Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker

Notes: Grapefruit Zest, Black Pepper, Sage, Atlas Cedar, Patchouli, Ginger Lily, Pistachio, Olibanum, Massoia Wood, Vetiver and Musk

 

I first met my friend Anna Maria on holiday with Portia in Venice a couple of years ago, then in Paris, and in her home town of Austral, Sydney last July.  She very generously gave me a bag of beauty products and jewellery, plus a bottle of her latest fragrant discovery, Stash by Sarah Jessica Parker. Anna Maria said she was really impressed by it and was interested in my thoughts – so here we are.

 

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I had been curious about Stash partly because I like SJP but also because I had heard good things about it when it was released in late 2016. I had also thoroughly enjoyed reading The Perfect Scent in which Chandler Burr charts the development of Sarah Jessica Parker’s first fragrance.  What we learn during the book is that while Lovely is the first perfume that was released, she actually wanted what we find in Stash: something decidedly darker.

It couldn’t be much further from the pink ballet slippers of Lovely, coming across as positively niche in character.  I had tried Stash on paper once but the difference on skin is considerable. It’s grimy and musky in the best way but wears close, like a greasy leather glove. I was happy to discover that despite the connotation of its name, Stash smells nothing like weed.

I’ve occasionally found grapefruit reminiscent of body odour but here in the opening it’s perfectly pulpy and zesty. Stash‘s heart is cedar of the dense variety found in Tam Dao by Diptyque, but there are also the nutty, milky woods of massoia and a nice base of mineralised vetiver. The incense of olibanum is what marks this fragrance out for me. That spike of burning joss sticks gives it a twist and saves it from smelling like a run-of-the-mill masculine.

The musks make it feel a little oily rather than skanky. It’s attractive in an undone, dirt-smeared kind of way. Stash is much more intimate than I expected and I like the fact it feels slick. If you prefer more throw, you’ll have to lean heavy on the sprayer. Now we’ve reached the depths of autumn, it feels just right for “sweater weather” and ideal for spritzing on a scarf.

While it’s much better than I imagined, I still need to layer something floral over the top to make it suit my style. The incense-flecked orange blossom of  Seville a L’Aube by L’Artisan Parfumeur works fantastically well.

It’s pleasing that there is a niche-style perfume like Stash on the high street for a bargain price. It may be unlikely to revive the fortunes of celebrity fragrances but at the very least it offers an alternative to the candy dross that passes for a lot of mainstream output these days.

SJP may have had to wait just over 10 years to launch her dream perfume but I have no doubt she feels it was worth the wait.

 

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Do you admire Stash or do you prefer another SJP fragrance? Are celebrity perfumes really over?

Photo © Alex Buts/Alamy

 

 

 

 

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A Mini London Meetup – Photo Essay

Last weekend Val the Cookie Queen and her fabulous daughter Hannah (aka Blondes Wunder) landed in London for a flying visit. I met them on Friday afternoon and we had a chilled time after healthy fast food at Leon.

We got on the tube to Oxford Circus and similar to last time, Val and I installed ourselves in the Topshop cafe while Hannah trawled the rails. We had goods to exchange. Val brought me perfume but I was more excited about the world’s best cookies. I immediately ate three which showed great restraint on my part.

 

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Val’s first sniff of the vintage Chanel No.5 I brought back from Sydney for Portia.

 

 

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On Saturday morning I met Val at the back entrance of Liberty on Canaby Street. We’d be spending the day with Nick of fragrance consultancy Olfiction and Thomas, The Candy Perfume Boy who was coming down from Milton Keynes with his lovely husband, Nigel.

 

 

Before they arrived, we went into the store and had a look at Le Labo. The new Tonka 25 is very soft and quiet – likely to appeal to those craving something comforting. Val checked out Vetiver 46 which was better than most in that genre for me. (Later Thomas and I had a laugh about the fact that people regularly tell him that they wear a perfume called Santal 33 that nobody else knows about).

 

 

 

We spent some time at the Frederic Malle counter where Val and I always seem to gravitate. As a collection, it’s hard to beat, especially when it comes to niche.

 

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Val’s friend Rosie joined us and became totally smitten with Portrait of a Lady. We were shown the new 30ml atomisers which are a nice addition. Prices vary depending on the perfume: Musc Ravageur is £85 while Carnal Flower is £122.

 

 

 

Thomas and Nigel arrived.

 

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Thomas checked out the Christmas limited edition coloured bottles.

 

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Nick found us after having to get an Uber thanks to a cancelled train. He was due to be on QVC at 6pm for Miller Harris. We regrouped outside and decided to head to Muji to buy some atomisers for Val.

 

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Lunch was at Nando’s. I rarely eat there but luckily I was with aficionados. I had the Fino Pitta with Peri Peri salted chips and it was so good I didn’t stop to take a photo. Before the food arrived we did what my friend Natalie calls ‘table spritzing’. Not to be encouraged in public but we were seated in a corner away from other people. Nick had brought the strangelove nyc perfume samples for Val. Believe me when I tell you the vicinity smelt of oud from then on (it was good oud though).

 

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Next stop was the bakery Crumbs and Dollies in Kingly Court for Nigel. Hannah found a vegan cupcake too.

 

 

 

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Nick and me outside the bakery. He gives excellent advice and is a great listener.

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At this point it began to rain. We made it to Champion for Hannah to get some jogging pants and then went on to Selfridges as the downpour got considerably heavier. Nick had to shoot off to QVC once we got to Oxford Street.

Our last sniff was at the Chanel counter. Bien sûr! We looked at the limited edition red bottles which photograph beautifully but I found a little underwhelming in reality.

 

 

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Check out Blondes Wunder’s excellent beauty channel on YouTube here.

 

I’m currently experiencing extremely high levels of anxiety thanks to a house move so to spend time with such wonderful people was just what I needed.

 

 

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Geisha Botan by aroma M perfumes

Notes: Peony, rose, sandalwood, vanilla, velvet woods, oakmoss and musk. 

I love the whole aroma M perfumes aesthetic from the Yuzen paper used to decorate the bottles to the American indie brand’s Atelier (pictured below).

 

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Perfumer and style maven Maria McElroy regularly posts pictures full of beauty on social media, including Japanese fine art and her cat Tama chan. When it comes to the fragrances themselves, they are equally captivating. There has to be a perfume among the varied Geisha collection for just about everyone.

Geisha Botan (botan being peony in Japanese) is the latest addition.

 

 

Maria first encountered a peony garden when she moved to Tokyo in the 1980s and sees them as a quintessentially Asian flower. The peony derived its name from Paeon, a physician to the Greek gods. For centuries the roots, bark, seeds and flowers of peonies have been used for medicinal purposes and are purported to ward off evil chi.  They have a joyous, carefree quality and are a popular motif in traditional Japanese tattoos, denoting a devil-may-care attitude.

 

The peonies do not allow
The rain-clouds a hundred leagues round
To approach them.
– Buson

 

I was predisposed to like Geisha Botan because I knew it was inspired by the uplifting, rosy scent of peonies, but they are the overarching theme rather than the whole story. It is a much more nuanced and full-bodied fragrance than I expected it to be. I was imagining a breezy and innocent scent but it possesses presence and depth right from the beginning.

I was pleasantly surprised by the mossy facet and its juxtaposition with the fresh flower works well. The peony and accentuating presence of rose, lie like a bolt of vivid pink satin over the forest floor.  The contrast between the bright, blowsy blooms and the lichen covered earth makes what could have been a pretty but simple scent, into something rich and compelling.  It mirrors Aroma M’s eclectic feel, where Japanese influences are filtered through a New York state of mind.

The composition is filled out by a substantial though airy vanilla, similar to the variety found in Geisha Vanilla Hinoki, softening the overall effect and adding comfort. If you like vanilla but tire of perfumes where it’s overpowering and overly sweet, this could be a good option for you. The base compromises musky woods with a velvety feel, as advertised in the notes.

Geisha Botan is a versatile fragrance – relaxed enough to wear during the day but also intriguing enough to wear at night. It’s a sophisticated floral vanilla, the likes of which we don’t see often enough.

 

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Do you like peonies? Do you like the sound of Geisha Botan?

 

 

 

 

 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“A drug is a substance which, if injected into a rabbit, produces a paper.”  Otto Loewi

HOW?  

After my LSD post several people asked me how I had got into that world.  I have psychoanalysed myself on many occasions; there is no single answer.

Not everyone who gets into the drug scene has suffered a trauma, but in my case I do think a part of my childhood may have put me onto the road to the sphere of mind altering substances.

Everyone has the potential for addiction, but some people are more predisposed to addiction than others.

CHILDHOOD TRAUMAS

I was living in the Azores, 1969.  My father was in the USAF and we were stationed on the island of Terceira.

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I think I was nine or ten years old.  I was out biking around with a girlfriend, we were sharing her bike.  It was one of those chopper bicycles. It was my turn and I jumped onto it and went down a steep hill.  I have no memory of it.  I came to in the hospital, with someone putting a needle through my lip.  Funnily enough I can remember that, and one of my parents telling me to stay still, the doctor was going to sew my lip up.

I had fallen off of my bike, and as I lay unconscious,  the pedals kept turning and hitting me in my mouth.  They found a complete tooth, with root, in the street, one of six upper teeth that were badly damaged.  I had a hole in my lip you could put three fingers through.  I was so incredibly lucky though.  On the day that this happened, a plastic surgeon had flown onto the island, to visit with his family.  He came to the hospital and repaired my lip for me.

When I think of that now I cry, and wish I could thank him for fixing my face.  I still have a small lump and scarring on the inside of my lower lip.  I did not look in a mirror for many weeks. I would go on my hands and knees into the bathroom to avoid even passing one. It took eight years until my mouth had matured enough to finally have my teeth permanently fixed.  By then I was already smoking weed.

 

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My parents’ marriage had been in difficulty for a while but as a kid I did not know that. Perhaps subconsciously.  One day, three or four month after my accident, Mum packed us up, my two siblings and myself, and we boarded an Iranian C130 to London Heathrow.   My Dad waving us off at the airport.  I did not know I would never see him again.  I remember the flight really well, I shared my Enid Blyton book with one of the military men on board, and he showed me his book, which I had to look at back to front, and with letters I did not recognise.

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We went to live with my grandmother over the next few months, might have been nearly a year. I cannot remember clearly.   My father left the island and went back to California, where I do believe he hoped to take steps to repair the marriage. Daddy suffered from alcoholism, maybe partly due to his days when he was stationed in Korea.

 

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We eventually moved into our own flat with Mum.  One morning, December 10, 1971 as we got up to go to school, Mum told us that Daddy had died suddenly, the day before.  Diabetic complications; but I now know that you can add a broken heart to that.  She then sent us off to school.  That was it.   Honestly, as I write this I have no idea how we ever began to process this.  I wonder if we ever did.  I did not recognize how desperately sad this was until many years later.

I neither accuse nor judge my parents.

AN AVERAGE FAMILY

I do feel that these two traumas in my formative years might have played a role in my going down the drugs and rock’n’roll path. And the death of my father affected all three of us kids.  No one talked about stuff like that in the seventies, you just didn’t.

My brother got into extreme sports before they were called extreme sports.  Bungee jumping using cave harnesses and elastic, cave diving and cliff jumping.  We talk daily.

My sister climbed out of her bedroom window and ran away and became a polygamist, a plural wife.  Passed away at 43 with breast cancer.

Just an average family.

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I still love music of all kinds, and am at my happiest in the gym with the tunes up loud in my ears.  Perfume is my drug now.  Which is how I ended up here. And we have a bike shop.   A strange tale indeed.

I regret nothing.

CQ of APJ.

 

 

 

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Portia’s Autumn List

 

Hi there A Bottled Rosers. Thanks Tara for letting me infiltrate you inner sanctum.

I thought it might be nice to introduce myself to those of you unfamiliar with me and Australian Perfume Junkies through some of my all-time favourite fragrances. If this works and Tara continues to enjoy my presence here, I think it might be a seasonal concept. So each season, according to your Northern Hemisphere weather, I’ll tell you what I have that gets quite a bit of wear. So Portia’s Autumn List will be like an all-star list.

Here’s a pic of Tara and I on holidays earlier this year in the Whitsunday Islands, Australia.

 
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Autumn is my favourite time of year. The blistering heat of summer recedes and the nights turn cool. I love the breadth of the temperature variation from day to day too. Here in Sydney we have quite a long Indian Summer so temps may range over a week from 11-30C during the days. That gives quite a good variety of fragrances that I can choose and still feel like I’m fitting into the Autumn spectrum. That’s not to say I always choose something Autumnal particularly, but that is the parameter we are working within here. Get it?

Ambre Céruléen by Huitième Art

You want a sweet, refined, thick yet light amber that will enfold you in its arms and sweep you away? Ambre Céruléen is the answer. Simple, comfortable, warm and inviting. I love the way I smell when wearing it.

Aromatics Elixir, Clinique

Yes, the one and only. Long-term love and long-time department store beauty, Aromatics Elixir has been pumping out its spicy, herbal, smoky woods vibe since 1971. You have probably smelt it wafting by in the street and shopping malls for years. The brighter sister of Aramis, Azuree and Cabochard, all created by Bernard Chant. Particularly fitting for Autumnal blustery days.

Cuir Beluga, Guerlain

Cuir Beluga is a strange beast. The sweetness and patchouli override the leather for much of my wear. It isn’t till almost the very last gasp that leather becomes the defining note. I wear it all year round but when Autumn hits I feel it fits the mood perfectly.

Equistrius by Parfum d’Empire

This is by far my most worn iris-centric fragrance. Though to say it is only an iris fragrance is doing Equistrius a major disservice. I also find it so perfectly blended that most of the notes I’m supposed to be smelling have all combined to become Equistrius alone. The chocolate, leather and amber are significant bit players. A very pretty choice for the warmer days of autumn and can happily segue to evening wear.

Mohur by Neela Vermeire Creations

My rose above all others. Thick and ropey gouts of Bulgarian and Damascene roses all mixed up with an Indian spice shop and the resins from a souk. Mohair is a big fragrance that happily crosses the divide between French perfumery and subcontinental attars. More going on than you can poke a stick at Mohur is the queen for me.

Olympic Amber by Olympic Orchids

You want a simple, straight up amber with a little bit of a growl, burnt caramel and a warm cocooning presence? Olympic Amber is an excellent choice from indie perfumer Ellen Covey. Particularly fabulous after soaking in a bath of her Amber/Labdanum Bath Oil. Sweet perfection.

 

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So, what are you guys wearing this Autumn?
Portia xx

 

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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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