Monthly Archives: August 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.
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
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
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?
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.
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.
We had a really fun couple of evenings going through some of the boxes on Portia and Jin’s dining room table.
We did some serious spritzing and I was in danger of running out of skin real estate.
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.
I also tried all three Les Eaux de Chanel and liked the herbaceous citrus breeze of Paris–Deauville the most.
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.
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.
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.
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.
They will remind me of Portia and my trip of a lifetime every time I spray.
Are any of these favourites of yours?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
After the cake was cut, Portia and Jin invited us all to have a photo taken with them.
Below is the Aussie crew I hung out with in Paris earlier this year.
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”.
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.
Shut out any distractions and put your feet up for a scroll through the perfumes that the Mood Scent 4 turn to when they want to kick back. I’ve chosen four very difference fragrances that all induce a feeling of calm in me. Not everyone uses fragrance for mood-altering purposes but I find it particularly useful for this and regularly choose my Scent of the Day based on how I feel that day, or how I’d like to feel.
Slowdive by Hiram Green
Neroli, Orange Flower, Tobacco Flower, Dried Fruit, Beeswax, Tuberose and Resins.
Imagine floating in a warm pool of honey while watching a beautiful orange-tinted sunset. That is the blissed-out feeling you get when wearing Slowdive. This tobacco/honey fragrance is full of the mellow fruitiness and hazy sunlight of early autumn. The languid feeling of summer still lingers but without that season’s oppressiveness. Walk through the orchard at harvest time and look ahead to an evening cosying-up with the comforting scent of woodsmoke in the air. The hint of floral creaminess from tuberose adds to the languor.
Passage d’Enfer by L’Artisan Parfumeur
White Lily, Frankincense, Aloe Wood, Benzoin and White Musk
I associate quiet incense perfumes, such as this, with peace and a kind of meditative tranquillity. Instead of being restricted to the room where you’ve lit that stick of Nag Champa, you can take that soothing incense with you. Not all incense fragrances are relaxing though. Avignon by Comme des Garcons is an exemplar of the genre but it’s too powerful to enable me to unwind. Passage d’Enfer is a low-key, woody incense with the soft, waxy petals of lily to aid its gentility. You’re entering a cool, musty church and taking a moment to soak up the mystical atmosphere. I wear it on days when I’m feeling the need for a bit of centring.
Iris Silver Mist by Serge Lutens
Iris Pallida, Galbanum, Cedarwood, Sandalwood, Clove, Incense, Vetiver, Labdanum, Musk, Benzoin and White Amber
This is the fragrance that descends on me like a calming fog; obliterating all annoyances. It is the one I turn to when life is feeling just a little too harsh and I need something to buffer me from the world. The rooty iris is grounding, beautiful and supremely relaxing to the point of anathesatic. The stark, breath=taking beauty of it is enough to make the earth stop turning for a brief moment. It’s a fragrant form of respite and an escape route to another place where is all is well.
Rahele by Neela Vermeire Creations
Green Mandarin, Cardamom, Cinnamon, Violet Leaf, Osmanthus, Rose, Magnolia, Jasmine, Iris, Violet, Cedar, Sandalwood, Oakmoss, Patchouli and Leather.
I’ve always found osmanthus to be a dreamy floral scent. Its the aroma of ripe apricots caught on a cool breeze. Rahele is a composition based on osmanthus, accented with other muted florals to create a perfume with the same meditative quality you sometimes get when spending time in nature. It possesses space and air, giving the wearer lots of room to breathe.
Is there a perfume in your collection that you find relaxing?