Monthly Archives: November 2018

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
jam lee

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.

 

jam hut

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.

 

jam joint

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.

jam chris and guide

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.

 

jam beach

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.

 

jam slums

 

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.

 

jam weed

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 …..

Advertisements

18 Comments

Filed under Stories, Travels

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.

 

stash-sjp-perfume-ad-lg

 

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.

 

woman with newspaper and zip make-up

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

Photo © Alex Buts/Alamy

 

 

 

 

27 Comments

Filed under Perfume Reviews

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.

 

20181109_141723

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

 

 

20181109_162524

 

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.

 

20181110_114004

 

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.

 

20181110_120635

 

Thomas checked out the Christmas limited edition coloured bottles.

 

20181110_121022

 

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.

 

20181110_122406

20181110_124635

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).

 

20181110_13284820181110_14205420181110_131119

20181110_140638

 

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

 

 

 

received_337633727014343.jpeg

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

20181110_144430

 

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.

 

 

20181110_155950

20181110_155857

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.

 

 

27 Comments

Filed under Perfume Friends, Perfume Shopping