Monthly Archives: May 2019

Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“You get under my skin, I don’t find it irritating, You always play to win, But I won’t need rehabilitating, oh no, I think I’m on another world with you, with you, I’m on another planet with you.”  Another Girl, Another Planet.  The Only Ones.  

 

Pete and Christine were a couple.  They were also junkies.  They loved each other, in the codependent way that heroin addicts do.  Christine worked the streets at night to earn the money.  Although I never used needles, end of the seventies, early eighties, if you smoked weed you inevitably came into contact with a harder scene.  Each evening she would paint her face heavily with make up, sometimes with shaking hands, pull on a low top, a short skirt, scuffed heels and leave the house to stand on a street corner, probably hoping to make it back with cash and in one piece.  I never asked.

The two had been together long enough that each set of parents knew each other.   Out of the blue I was handed a wedding invitation.  The parents had gotten together and come up with a plan to save their kids.  They talked with them and said if they gave up drugs, and got married, they would give them six thousand pounds to start a new life with.   I have no doubt whatsoever that Pete and Christine believed that they could give up anything for such an offer, and in turn would have persuaded their folks of the same.   There is nothing as convincing or believable as a junkie who is about to give up and get their life together, they will have you believing black is white.   Whether or not any of Christine’s family knew that she was a prostitute, I don’t know.

It was a registry office marriage.  Pete in borrowed suit, and Christine in a long-sleeved white satin dress, chosen to cover the needle marks on her arms.    There was a mix of guests, from their parents and relatives, to their friends and neighbours.  Those who knew could see that the couple were shaky from lack of drugs, and those who didn’t would have assumed shaky from nervousness.   Despite this there was still an air of happy anticipation and the registry was signed.

 

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We went off to a local hall of some sort, where the reception had been booked.   There was a buffet out on tables, and someone playing the music.   Christine disappeared at some point and was gone for a while, but not quite long enough for everyone to notice.

Having slipped off for a hit, she returned heavily stoned,  a few drops of blood along the long arm of her satin dress.

“Golden brown, finer temptress …… never a frown with golden brown.”  The Stranglers.  

CQ of APJ

 

This is the first Strange Tales that I have felt a need to add something to after the Tale.  I have never forgotten the feeling I had when I saw this junkie-bride return to her reception.  It broke my heart and the scar has never quite healed.  I left their reception and I know that they moved into another place.  I doubt that there was any kind of happy end to the story;  but perhaps Christine was able to quit her street work.   As I have said before I am thankful for the religious teachings I was brought up with, and the strong foundation that it laid.  It prevented me from going too deep into a dark scene, so that a story like this did not become mine.  As a parent now I can only imagine the desperation that their parents had, willing to do anything to rescue their children. Nearly forty years on, Christine will sometimes appear in my dreams.  I hope that she got out of the scene and found happiness.

 

 

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Lustre by Hiram Green

“Life is golden” – Hiram Green

 

Notes: Bulgarian Rose, Citrus, Orris and Olibanum

 

Hiram Green’s strikingly dark and moody Hyde recently won the Artisan Perfume Award at the Art & Olfaction Awards in Amsterdam. It was the worthiest of winners. Hiram is an uncommon talent using naturals to create compositions of great sophistication and complexity.

At Esxence this year he surprised everyone by unveiling a brand new rose soliflore: Lustre.

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However stunning a rose perfume may be, it rarely smells like the real thing. Lustre does. It’s the pure perfume you get when you poke your nose into the heart of the open flower. We had a rose garden when I was growing up and it’s a joy to find this scent captured so beautifully: A true bottled rose.  Not to say that this is a simplistic natural concoction. It is an expertly crafted, well-rounded, fine fragrance.

The sweet scent of the Bulgarian rose is there (of course) but it is edged with citrus tartness. There is something lemony about the scent of real roses and it’s present here, most notably in the opening.

From looking at the notes you may expect to find prominent iris and incense.  I can clearly pick up on the resinous tones of olibanum if I get in close and sometimes I sense iris powder. However, the supporting accords are chiefly working together behind the scenes to create this vivid illusion of a rose in full bloom. Somehow Hiram found a way to do this without relying heavily on tried and tested  materials like patchouli, geranium or vetiver. 

Where Hyde is night, Lustre is day. It is a fresh summer rose bathed in golden sunlight, as heat begins to warm the petals and releases its scent.  Its radiance is a pleasure in itself and it takes a considerable amount of time to die down completely. It encompasses the flower’s multi-faceted aroma and makes it seem as if one has suddenly bloomed somewhere close by.

Lustre proves how a linear soliflore can retain your attention. It’s captivating when a fragrance unfolds on the skin and develops in distinct stages, moving through head, heart and base. But then a perfume will come along to remind me that blanket preferences can’t be set in stone. Lustre is rose, rose, rose and I don’t tire of it because of its depth and beauty. The intrigue is vertical, rather than horizontal. You can reach down, layer after layer, petal after petal and experience a world of rose in a single inhalation.

 

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Do you like the idea of a sunlit garden rose?

 

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Vanilla Collection Winner!

Last week I covered a Meet the Perfumers event at Les Senteurs featuring Sylvaine Delacourte Paris and offered her Vanilla Collection sample set in a giveaway.

Random.org has declared the winner to be:

Vanessa

Congratulations Vanessa! Hope you enjoy discovering the set.

 

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Meet the Perfumers: Photo Essay

Last Wednesday evening London niche perfumerie Les Senteurs held another wonderful ‘Meet The Perfumers’ event . This was a chance to hear from Jeroen Oude Sogtoen and Fredrik Dalman from Mona di Orio, Margaret Mangan and Meabh McCurtin from Cloon Keen Atelier and Sylvaine Delacourte of Sylvaine Delacourte Paris.

Sylvaine, Fredrik, Jeroen and Margaret

I was looking forward to hearing more about Mona di Orio because it’s a house I admire and have followed for a long time. I still remember the stir the release of their oud caused in 2011. Jeroen mentioned that it is still his personal favourite from the line. He started the house in 2004 with Mona and has ensured its output has retained its luxury quality and unique approach to familiar materials.

My favourite from Mona di Orio is the last release Santal Nabataea (you can read my review here) so it was great to hear Swedish perfumer Fredrik Dalman tell us the story behind it. He said that although there have been many sandalwood fragrances over the years, they have often taken a similar path and many feature a kind of figgy top note. He decided to base his in the ancient city of Petra which is a magical place to him. He took inspiration from the effect the sun creates when it hits the sandstone. He used a crackle of black pepper in the top to add to the mineral facet and coffee for the base to give it a dusty texture.

It’s an outstanding piece of work.

Perfumer Fredrik Dalman

Personally, what I love most about Santal Nabataea is the presence of olibanum that pervades the whole composition. It’s a must-try for incense fans and is in my top three.

There was a discussion about the state of the perfume industry and what lay ahead. Jeroen told us that when he goes to perfume fairs these days he’s amazed when there’s another huge crop of new niche brands. People tell him niche is over but he feels that it’s really just begun. It has made him want to show what niche really is; something to “blow your hair off”. He was questioned about what this meant – perhaps something more extreme? He replied that it was more about originality than going to extremes. Sylvaine made the point that perfumes still have to be something you’d want to wear. As one of the attendees commented “No-one wants to smell like a concept”.

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There was a general feeling that the story of the perfume was getting lost in large retail outlets like department stores or niche chain stores. Jeroen did say he was looking at scaling down the number of places their perfumes would be sold in the future so that connection can be restored. His has a new ‘linear’ collection but isn’t ready to share it with the world just yet.

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Cloon Keen is an Irish house co-founded by Margaret Mangan nearly 20 years ago. Their fragrances are very much a reflection of Ireland’s rich history, traditions and landscape. Based in Galway, the fragrances feel as if they’ve been infused with the clean, fresh air of the Atlantic coast.

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Margaret Mangan and perfumer Meabh McCurtin

We tried their latest release La Bealtaine which is named after the Irish May Day festival. Margaret told us that it mean a lot to her to be able to work with an Irish perfumer, Meabh McCurtin of IFF in Paris. La Bealtaine is a bright and innocent blossom-laden composition with a sheer feel. It features notes of bergamot, mandarin, neroli, pink pepper, angelica, jasmine, rose, tuberose, cedarwood, patchouli, amber, musk and cashmeran.

Margaret said she’d like to create a fragrance inspired by an Aran sweater one day. While we found this amusing, James Craven said they’ve had requests for something similar at Les Senteurs.

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Castana with its unusual burnt chestnut accord was given 5 stars by Luca Turin

Sylvaine Delacourte was Perfume Creative Director at Guerlain for 15 years. She created over 70 fragrances including Insolance, L’Instant, Oriental Brulant and Gourmand Coquin. She recalled how La Petite Robe Noire caused a little controversy at the time of its release because Chanel had always been known for the ‘Little Black Dress’.

Her time at Guerlain taught her the importance of quality materials and that a scent doesn’t need to be perfect; in fact it should have flaws. She also learnt that a perfume needs to possess a strong identity, noting that while people may like or dislike Insolence, it is recognisable in moments.

However the marketing regime at Guerlain got her down in the end, with the relentless churning out of flanker after flanker after flanker.

Her favourites from other lines include Lipstick Rose and Musc Ravageur from Frederic Malle (the latter partly because it was done by her friend, Maurice Roucel, the perfumer for Insolence). She’s also a fan of Prada’s Infusion d’Iris and has long loved Guerlain’s classic L’Heure Bleue.

The incredibly chic Sylvaine and a beatific Nick Gilbert

Sylvaine launched her own brand in 2017 which currently includes two collections based around a particular raw material.

The Vanilla Collection features natural Madagascan vanilla interpreted in five different ways: spicy – Vangelis, sunny – Vanori, fresh – Valkyrie, aromatic – Virgile and floral – Vahina.

Vahina: a fantastically lush floral on a bed of vanilla.

I love the use of coloured yarn to convey the mood and drydown of the fragrances.

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Dovana from the Musk Collection (tender musk)

If you’d like to win a sample set of the Vanilla Collection by Sylvaine Delacourte Paris please let me know in the comments and I’ll do a draw on Friday and announce the winner next Monday.

Have you tried any of the fragrances from these brands? Any stand-outs for you?

What do you think of the current state and future prospects of niche?

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Reading Diary Spring 19

Most days I watch BookTube, which is shorthand for the world of book review channels on YouTube.  Regular features usually include monthly wrap-ups, TBRs (books To Be Read) and reading vlogs. These people read in excess of 100 a books a year but once you let go of any inadequacy this may bring up, it’s an entertaining way to get recommendations.  This is YouTube so there are a lot of young people on there only reading YA so you may need to hunt a bit to find someone that clicks wit you. If you’re interested, try putting one of your favourite books into the Search box to find channels that may suit your tastes.

Like our own fumiverse, it’s generally a very warm and welcoming community.

Now, here is my own meagre selection of books read over the last month and a half or so…

 

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman

“Because,” said Thor, “when something goes wrong, the first thing I always think is, it is Loki’s fault. It saves a lot of time.”

I knew very little about Norse mythology so felt rather intimidated by this book. I needn’t have been. Neil Gaiman makes it extremely accessible by telling these tales in the form of short stories with a fair amount of humour. He was fascinated by these myths as a boy and I can see why because they mostly revolve around the adventures of the Gods Odin, Thor and Loki. I would have liked to know more about the Goddesses but they are mostly bit players who are usually treated as bargaining chips (not that I’m blaming that on Gaiman of course). The story I was really taken with was the final one concerning Ragnarok – the Norse version of Armageddon – which was gripping. Overall though, Norse Mythology didn’t capture my heart and make me want to seek out more, like the Greek myths, but it was an enjoyable read and I was very happy to expand my knowledge of them. 3.5/5

 

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The Gracekeepers by Kirsty Logan

Why couldn’t everything smell of warm fur and saltwater and fresh seaweed popping in the fire? Then the world would be perfect.

I tore through this book. Probably because it contains a lot of my favourite things in literature: lyrical writing, interesting female protagonists,  a circus, queerness, a fairytale-like world and heaps of atmosphere. In The Gracekeepers the planet has become mostly submerged by water which, over time, has caused a divide between ‘damplings’ who live on the sea and ‘landlockers’ who live on the few remaining archipelagoes. North lives and works on a circus ship while Callanish is a gracekeeper; someone who performs burials at sea. Both young women are isolated (one physically but both emotionally) and they both have something they want to keep secret. I was totally absorbed by the story which was inspired in part by Scottish myths and folklore. 5/5

 

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The Nakano Thrift Store by Hiromi Kawakami

“There are plenty of people in the world I don’t dislike, some of whom I almost like; on the other hand, I almost hate some of those whom I don’t dislike, too. But how many people did I truly love?”

I wanted to read more Japanese fiction after loving Norwegian Wood by Haruki Murakami. This has a touch of the melancholy of that book but there are many amusing moments throughout. Hiromi is a young woman working in The Nakano Thrift Store in Tokyo. The story follows her interactions with the eccentric owner, colleagues and customers. It’s not a page-turner but I was captivated by Hiromi’s endearingly awkward relationship with co-worker, Takeo. After a violent childhood incident, Takeo finds it hard to connect with people while Hiromi struggles to navigate her own emotions. There is no grand plot and it was a bit too slow-moving for me at times, but the quirkiness and insights into Japanese daily life and culture kept me interested. A solid 3/5

 

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Radical Acceptance by Tara Brach

“Believing that something is wrong with us is a deep and tenacious suffering,”

I came to this book through other personal growth books I’ve been reading of late from Self-Compassion by Kristen Neff to Frazzled by Ruby Wax. It seemed complementary because its concept combines self-compassion with mindfulness. It also has a grounding in Buddhism. Tara Brach is a clinical psychologist and meditation teacher, so the book includes many client case studies (a few too many for me) and guided mediations. While this didn’t have the impact on me that Neff’s book did, it was soothing and reinforced the need for me not berate myself for not being able to push myself as hard as others in areas where I struggle. The introduction to lovingkindness meditation was also beneficial as I incorporated it into my own practice.  3.5/5

 

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What have you been reading this spring? Any recommendations?

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen

“This is England, we can chain you to the rail, this is England, we can kill you in a jail.” Joe Strummer/Bernhard Rhodes.

ENGLAND. THE FIRST FIVE HOURS.

I went home to England to stay for a month, sometime in a September, at the end of the eighties. Chris had never visited the UK and came over from Amsterdam to join me for my last week. It was in the days of getting buses and ferries, cheap flights were not yet a thing. As he was on a bus heading for Victoria Coach Station, London, I was on the bus heading to Victoria from Bristol to meet him.

I found him waiting, leaning against a wall at the grubby coach station. Thin, punky hair, eyeliner. Him, not me. Opposite him was a skinhead, with a wrench the size of a small dog in his hand. Chris said the guy had been there for the ten minutes that he had been waiting for me to turn up, just staring straight at him.

 

 

We rented a small van for a week and drove back to Bristol. We would bring it back up a week later and return to Amsterdam together. This was his first time driving on the right hand side in a car, although he had ridden a motorbike in Thailand. Apart from attempting to enter a roundabout in the wrong direction, we made it safely to King`s Square in Bristol. It was here that Chris needed to maneuver a tricky bit of parallel parking. As he pulled into the spot, and then out again to straighten up, another car zipped in straight behind him and took the space. Absolutely stunned that someone would do that he jumped out of the car and asked the guy what exactly he thought he was doing, in a fairly marked Austrian accent. The aggressive bloke looked straight into Chris´s eyes and said, “Why don’t you just go back to your own sodding country?”

(Over the years it has become a catch phrase in our home, and used many times in arguments, guaranteed to have us laughing and to end whatever bickering we might have been doing.)

ESCAPE TO WALES.

After staying in Bristol for two nights, we jumped into the van, along with sleeping bags, blankets, food and a water cannister, and took off across the Severn Bridge for Wales. Autumn is the season of magic mushrooms. The Liberty Caps are insignificant in their looks, a tiny parasol with a nipple-like point on top of the very thin stalk. They are found in grasslands, usually with sheep or cows in them. Hard to find until you spot a couple, and then the eyes tune into what they are looking for. They grow in many places around the world but if I remember correctly the British Liberty Caps are amongst the most potent.

 

 

We ended up somewhere fairly deep in the Welsh countryside, I cannot remember exactly where, but there were a lot of sheep. We parked up and had an early night, ready to go out hunting mushrooms the next morning. We struck lucky and within a couple of hours had a fairly full bag. Suddenly in the distance we saw a horse and rider galloping full tilt, heading straight for us. We quickly hid the mushroom stash. A woman started to yell at us that we were on private land and what did we think we were doing, and were we looking for mushrooms? Chris immediately spoke with her and said he had no idea that we were on private land, and that in Austria, even if the land is private, you are allowed to walk in the fields.

This time his cute Terminator accent, worked in his favour and she invited us to follow her back to her farm and invited us to share some the cider they had made. A long conversation ensued between her and Chris on how cider should be made and that his dad too made cider every year. She said that she had troubles every year with people stomping her grounds looking for mushrooms and that was why she had been a bit sharp with us. Nice tourists like us were always welcome. She sent us on our way with some homemade bread and a chunk of cheese.

We got back to the van and decided to spend one more night in it, and drove off a few miles to park up in a different place. It was at the top of a slight hill, sheep yes, but no farm, horse, or person in sight. We woke up around three in the morning, and heard some rustling sounds outside the van. (There were no windows in the back to look out of.) After listening on paranoid high alert, the rustling subsided and we decided that it must be the sheep, and went back to sleep. A few hours later we awoke and opened the back doors of the van, and stumbled out to see that we were completely surrounded by the army, and about fifteen of their tents. No vehicles, no noise. Completely shocked, and wondering if we were still stoned from the night before, we got into the van and drove away as fast as we could get our backsides out of there. Army manoeuvres at the crack of dawn.

 

We made it safely back to Amsterdam, with the fungi, and memories of Chris’s hearty welcome to England.

CQ of APJ.

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