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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Nuit de Bakelite by Naomi Goodsir

“…the sound of latex when several stalks of tuberose tangle…” – Naomi Goodsir website

Notes: Angelica, Violet Leaf, Galbanum, Orris, Karo Karounde, Tuberose, Leather, Davana, Styrax, Tobacco, Labdanum and Gaiac Wood

When I attended the Art & Olfaction Awards last spring, I was really pleased when Naomi Goodsir won an award for Best Indie Perfume with Nuit de Bakelite. I admire her whole line which is full of modern, striking perfumes that stand out in a sea of niche mediocrity.

All the Naomi Goodsir fragrances are inspired by materials and textures. The wonderful Iris Cendré is orris ashes,  Cuir Velours is a leather glove, while Bois d’Ascese was inspired by a wooden church in a blazing forest.

The Aussie designer collects objects made of Bakelite, the first man-made plastic.  When she tasked perfumer Isabelle Doyen with creating a perfume inspired by it, the result  (released in 2017) was compelling and extremely clever. It’s taken me forever to corral my thoughts about it.

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First things first, Nuit de Bakelite is primarily a green perfume with tuberose lurking in in the dark heart of its foliage. So if you haven’t tried it already, kindly forget any ideas of creamy, blousy concoctions like Fracas.

Perhaps galbanum with its powerful, sharp scent of chlorophyll, is one of the few materials that could push tuberose into a supporting role. It wraps huge, rubbery leaves around that fleshy flower, emphasising its green and gummy facets to the nth degree. There are whiffs of earthiness, tobacco and vinyl fumes. This is where the natural world and the synthetic collide.

It has a kinship with the green chypres of the past – only catapulted into a futuristic urban jungle. It certainly shares their fearless nature, but it’s also lush and exotic in a photoreal, exaggerated way. Everything is bigger and brighter than usual.  It feels alive and buzzing with intensity.

There is only a subtle shifting in emphasis as it develops. The tuberose comes more to light as the fierce green opening recedes a little and then, after a number of hours, the presence of tobacco is much more noticeable.

Nuit de Bakelite fascinates me even if it’s not something I would wear myself. There is a hypnotic, addictive quality to it but no indoles to my nose. It possesses nuclear longevity and has exceptional throw. Portia once gave me a card sprayed with it and the next day I could smell it the moment walked into the room where I’d left it.

It is a uniquely arresting fragrance but never anything less than supremely stylish.

 

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Have you tried this most memorable of fragrances?

 

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Violet Ida by Miller Harris

Notes: Bergamot, Carrot Seed, Orris Butter, Heliotrope, Vanilla and Amber

 

When I first heard about the recent Miller Harris release Violet Ida from The Candy Perfume Boy, it sounded like it had my name written all over it. This is because I have a deep affection for fragrances that are reminiscent of old-fashioned make-up.  Examples of this style include Chanel’s Misia, Malle’s Lipstick Rose and L’Artisan Parfumeur’s Drole de Rose. Basically anything that smells like the inside of a vintage hand-bag.

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Despite being called Violet Ida, this is actually an iris perfume. It’s named after a heroine from a Graham Greene novel, Ida Arnold, who wears violets in her hair. The name conjures the retro feel of the fragrance rather than its contents, given that violets make most people think of the scents of a bygone era.

“…she took care of herself, her lipstick told you that, the confidence of her big body. She was well covered but she wasn’t careless; she kept her lines for those that cared about lines.” – Extract from Brighton Rock

There’s a squeeze of fresh bergamot on opening but the iris is right there front and centre, gloriously rich and velvety. The scent of heliotrope makes its presence known as a sweet Play-Doh aroma. It’s not a note I get along with but I appreciate it works here, employing playfulness to break iris’s cool composure.

The powdery texture of Violet Ida is pivotal to its character. It’s a feather-soft cloud over warm skin, possessing that dressing table haze of cold cream, waxy lipstick and face compacts. What I particularly appreciate about it is that where most perfumes in this vein rely on a rose/violet combination to create the cosmetic effect, the main focus here is on iris. This makes it stand out from the crowd and ups the quality quotient considerably.

While some boudoir perfumes have a hint of something naughty in the mix, Violet Ida is entirely innocent. Its gentle nature may not project far but it does last well, progressing to a fluffy crème brûlée base.

For me, Violet Ida evokes the Ziegfeld Follies movies from the 30s and 40s which I watched on TV as a child with my mother. The studied glamour of those heavily made-up and elaborately costumed women parading down staircases may seem faintly ridiculous now, but it made a lasting impression on me.

It feels good to indulge in a spot of harmless nostalgia now and again.

 

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How do you feel about perfumes that mimic cosmetics? Any favourites?

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Portia’s Spring List

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

I come from Australian Perfume Junkies and would like to share some of my all-time favourite fragrances. 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 Spring List will be like an all-star list.

Here’s a pic of Tara and me with Anna Maria, husband Johnny and youngest son Marc while she was out in Australia last year.

Portia’s Spring List

Spring! It means the end of wearing socks and tracksuit pants to bed. PHEW! In Sydney it often means some warm rainy days, one of my favourite combinations. Suddenly I am seeing the bulbs come up, the crabapples and cherry blossoms flower, people are generally smiling more and the feeling of renewal seems universal. I love that the days are warm and evenings cool so I can wear a range of fragrances.

A Quiet Morning by Miller et Bertaux

Saffron, woods, jasmine and rice create an uplifting woodsy fragrance. It’s very 21st century niche but wears so well on my skin and fits a springtime mood perfectly. It also has incredible happy memories of discovering it with Jin, Sandra and Birgit in Vienna back in 2013, then going back to buy it with Michael in 2014.

Eau Absolue by Mona di Orio

Eau Absolue is a queer fish. Citrus, orange blossom and resins float effortlessly over bay and woods. I always smell lavender in the mix too, though it’s not noted. Smooth like just cleaned glass and cool. My 100ml bottle is well over a third used, there may even be a backup bottle around here somewhere. SHHH!

Le Jardin de Monsieur Li by Hermès

A rainswept afternoon in the garden. This mainly minty citrus fragrance is a beautiful way to smell on warmer spring afternoons. The jasmine and musks give it buoyancy. Hard to wear Monsieur Li with a frown.

Ostara by Penhaligon’s

Ostara is the smell of spring. Narcissus in bloom. I completely understand why it didn’t sell well. It’s too obviously a soliflor of a scent people like to smell but not to smell of. Unless of course you are a hard core perfumista and it smells EXACTLY how we want to smell. Fabulous.

Shalimar EdC by Guerlain

Yes, it’s just like Shalimar EdT or EdP. Just a little less intense. It has excellent longevity and throw though. I love to wear it in spring. Just as an aside this EdC can be bought for peanuts on the discounter sites. I know Val the Cookie Queen is an EdC devotee also.

Y by Yves Saint Laurent

A cool galbanum floral chypre in the 1970s style. Full of oak moss and delightfully sheer. If Silences, CHANEL No 19 and Deneuve are way too over the top for you but you like the idea of a chypre then Y could be the perfect choice. You can only find it on eBay nowadays but it’s definitely worth looking for.

 

 

So, what are you guys wearing this Spring?

Portia xx

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Vintage Chanel No.19

Notes: Galbanum, Bergamot, Neroli, Iris, Rose, Lily of the Valley, Jasmine, Leather, Vetiver, Sandalwood and Musk.

I was surprised when Lila (formerly of Perfume Lovers London) said that Chanel’s No.19 was her comfort scent. I had the impression that it was rather austere and aloof. Iris and galbanum with their cooling breeze aren’t most people’s idea of cosy.

Then last summer I had the opportunity to try the vintage EdT and Parfum from Portia’s extensive perfume collection. These were a very different experience to the modern incarnations. I was immediately swooning and bought both bottles.
No.19 was launched in 1970 and the perfumer was Henri Robert who also composed Cristalle and Pour Monsieur for Chanel.

Now winter is behind us, I’m wearing it day after day and I never seem to tire of it. I have even come to find it comforting – not in a cosseting way but in a calming, steadfast way.

It might seem superficially tender with its soft, airy aura of new shoots and delicate flowers but first looks can be deceiving. Like all the greats, it has a distinct personality. No.19 feels willowy yet unshakeable: you can rely on her to possess grace under fire. Her roots go deep into the ground. She has a quiet, inner confidence that feels like an olfactory safety net.

Aldehydes may not be listed but I sense something like them in the vintage versions. The body of the perfume is draped in a cocoon of silk. What really marks this out as belonging to another era however, is the presence of oakmoss. It’s lamented by perfume people for a reason. It’s such a rich, complex material with great depth and a dash of black magic.

Galbanum is such a tricky note. While I like the idea of green stems in theory, when it’s a major part of a perfume I often find it too sharp and harsh, overwhelming the rest of the composition. However, this is Chanel galbanum which is quite a different beast. It must be about as smooth and refined as galbanum can get.

No.19 is an incredibly cohesive fragrance. Every aspect feels streamlined and in harmony. The iris is bound up with the other chief accords and I picture green, blue and white intertwining strands. The base is a pleasing contrast of soft woods, earthy vetiver, low-key leather and feline musks.

Even though I enjoy the EdT, the Parfum is incomparable. It really blooms into a lush, slightly powdery, haze on the skin that has a similar feel to Chamade by Guerlain. The galbanum is also taken to another level to the point where it’s practically green syrup. It is eye-rollingly gorgeous.

Like spring, No.19 gives me hope. There is a chance of renewal after the bleakness of winter. An inner strength that was always there throughout the dark times surges to the surface when there is no longer a need to take cover. It is the chance to live rather than merely survive.

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How do you feel about No.19?

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Strange (Music) Tales From The Cookie Kitchen .

“One shot, this is it, Did you delay?”  Click Click.   The Beat.  

1980 saw the Iranian Embassy siege in London.  My best friend at the time, let´s call her JM, and I, followed it for the five days, smoking weed and listening to music.  This included the Special Air Service of the British Army abseiling off of  the roof of the embassy and going in through the windows.  This was broadcast live, at peak time on a bank holiday Monday, watched by millions of people. We turned the music down and the sound up and watched what would become a defining moment in UK history, and the end of the siege.   Journalists from all over the world were gathered outside the building.  Exciting stuff back then.  The Thatcher years.

1980 also saw The Beat explode onto the music scene, with the album  I Just Can’t Stop It, to become one of the most influential bands of the British Two Tone Ska Movement.  It was a time of social and political upheaval.  Love and Unity was their message, set to a combination of soul and reggae, pop and punk.  The Beat came from the industrial, working-class areas of Birmingham, as did JM.  She had moved to Bristol early 1979, the year that The Beat’s first single, a remake of Smokey Robinson’s Tears of a Clown entered the charts.   JM had been and still was a friend of Roger Charlery, better known as Ranking Roger, toaster and vocalist with The Beat.

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When their tour dates were announced JM called Roger and we were on the guest list.  The show, first of at least twelve that we attended, was superb.

“Say too much war in the city, yeah, Say too much war in the city, whoa I sing I said a love and unity, the only way, And unity, the only way …. ”   Whine and Grine/Stand Down Margaret.  The Beat.  

Roger and a couple of the other members of the band, plus a few road crew, came  back to JM’s place after the gig, where we smoked and listened to reggae they had brought with them, until the small hours of the morning.

We joined them for a fair number of dates on that tour.  Sometimes helping on merchandise, sometimes with the catering crew, more often than not rolling spliffs, and always at the side of the stage during the gig.   We travelled with them to Belgium and Holland for a few shows too.   One of the happiest and most memorable years of my life.

As was the way back in the heady days of the punk scene, reggae music was played before the gigs would start, so heavy on the bass your inner organs would vibrate.  That was where I got my early reggae education.

The Beat played the album Heart of the Congos by the Congos before each show.  It was produced by the mad genius Lee “Scratch” Perry in his Black Ark recording studios.   An absolute masterpiece.  It was at the time only possible to get a hold of it on import, if you could get it at all.  Many of the Jamaican pressings came with a number of small potholes on the vinyl which although very authentic was quite annoying.  My memory is vague as to how The Beat hooked up with the Congos, perhaps I never knew, but they did.  And they then released the Congo`s album onto Go-Feet, their own label. so that everyone could have access to it.  JM and I were invited up into the studios in London for the laying down of, and mixing of the tracks.

We spent twelve hours in a dark studio, so much smoke you could hardly see through it, listening to the production of the album.  The Congoman, the mighty Cedric Myton, was in the studio with us, overseeing the production. This was a pivotal moment in my life, something so amazing and such a privilege that I cannot believe it happened.  Each track was shortened for the album, fading out the dub that each track would go into.  I was given a cassette of the original tracks including the dubs, but sadly over the years I have lost it. The album is an exquisitely spiritual and beautiful piece of work;  Roydel Johnson’s tenor, Watty Burnett’s deep baritone, and  Cedric Myton’s luxurious falsetto.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.  I have kept the album with me for the last nearly forty years.

I continue to play The Beat, their music as fresh and bright and politically on-point now, as it was then.   I closed my recent radio show with them, saving the best for last.

“Say goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, Goodbye everybody, yeah, I say I’m sorry to say but I’m on my way, I won’t be back for many a day.”  Jackpot.  The Beat.  

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Ranking Roger.  1963 – 2019.  RIP Rude Boy.

CQ of APJ   

 

 

 

 

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Reading Diary – February/March 2019

Book people tend to categorise themselves as either a ‘character-based reader’ or a ‘plot-based reader’. Character studies with little plot aren’t enough to keep me interested in a book but at the same time, I’m happy with slow-paced books if I like the overall mood of the world in which they’re set. I have therefore decided that I am an ‘atmosphere-based reader’.

Equal Rites (Discwolrd 3) by Terry Pratchett

“Hilta laughed like someone who had thought hard about Life and had seen the joke.”

This is the first Discworld book I’ve read. I’ve been put off it up to this point because I’m not generally a fan of zany humour and was concerned this wouldn’t be to my taste (as much as I’m a fan of fantasy). I decided to give Equal Rites a try because it’s the first in the Witches series and I liked the premise of a young girl accidentally inheriting a wizard’s powers.

I thoroughly enjoyed myself from start to finish. The world is fascinating and the characters are excellent with the relationship between young Esk and Granny Weatherwax being a complete joy. It’s funny and often silly, but not absurd to the point of being annoying. The writing is pleasingly clever and there is a strong plot.

Generally, I just loved hanging out in the Discworld. There is something warm and comforting about it that soothed my frazzled nerves – perfect light-hearted escapism. I decided to carry on with the next book. 5/5

 

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Mort (Discworld 4) by Terry Pratchett

I bought Mort as it’s the next book in the Discworld and I’d heard good things about it. Unfortunately, I would have been better off continuing with the Witches series. I liked Mort as a character and there was good comic value in Death but the rest of the cast left me cold. This meant I wasn’t engaged with the quest to rescue one of them. There were still some nice ideas, funny moments and clever writing as you’d expect from Terry Pratchett but I never really got on board with it and just wanted to finish the book so I could get back to the witches. 2.5/5

 

The Colour of Magic (Discworld 1) by Terry Pratchett

Portia is a big fan of the Discworld series and told me that I should never have bothered with Mort and to go back to the first book, so I did. It made sense because this book gives you a fair amount of background to the world. Unfortunately, The Colour of Magic was everything I was concerned this series would be – convoluted and all over the place. I didn’t care for the craven wizard, Rinsewind or the irritatingly naïve tourist, Twoflower. Some lines were amusing but it was more like a collection of a stories than a cohesive narrative, with the pair being involved in one surreal episode after another. I did learn more about the world but I barely got through it. Although I still want to read Wyrd Sisters, this has sadly put me off for now. 1.5/5

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

“The beauty of this world where almost everyone was gone. If hell is other people, what is a world with almost no people in it?”

You can’t get much further away from the Discworld than a post-apocalyptic thriller – not a genre I normally read. I’d heard a lot about Station Eleven but what got me to try it is the fact it was often described as atmospheric and elegiac.

The book starts off with Day Zero of the flu pandemic that will wipe out 99% of the globe’s inhabitants in a matter of days.  The story is set around the Great Lakes where we follow the stories of a number of interconnected characters in different time periods before, during and after the collapse of civilisation. Twenty years hence, we follow a travelling band of musicians and actors performing Shakespeare to the disparate settlements.

This isn’t just a tale of survival. it’s about what really sustains us when everything is stripped away, how our lives touch those of others, how we can sleepwalk through our lives and what matters when all is said and done.

It’s a thought-provoking, gripping read. 5/5

 

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Fear: Essential Wisdom for Getting Through The Storm by Thich Nhat Hanh

“To meditate with mindful breathing is to bring body and mind back to the present moment so that you do not miss your appointment with life.”

I’ve wanted to read the teachings of Zen Buddhist monk, Thich Nhat Hanh, for ages. My recent determination to give mindfulness a proper go gave me the impetus I needed to pick this up. It covers fear in a whole range of circumstances from death and personal relationships to terrorism. There are then exercises for incorporating mindfulness into your daily life. I’m a dreamer, so mindfulness will always be a struggle for me but I know it’s practice, rather than something you master. 3.5/5

 

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What are you reading this spring?

 

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Skincare Serums – GOW

The launch of budget skincare brand The Ordinary got me seriously into skincare a few years ago. However, the more I learnt and watched YouTube vloggers, the more I bought  into expensive products. Now I’m stripping it all back and concentrating on well formulated serums with active ingredients at a reasonable price. I don’t want to spend over the odds for gorgeous packaging or coveted brands.

Garden of Wisdom (GOW)

I had limited success with The Ordinary and when they parted ways with Victoria Health I was interested to see that it was replaced with a number of products from an American brand, Garden of Wisdom, which they reformulated and repackaged. I’ve been using three of the serums for a couple of months now and am extremely happy with them.

“All Garden of Wisdom products are cruelty free, suitable for vegetarians and free from alcohol and silicones. Garden of Wisdom uses as few ingredients as possible to allow the actives to reach the deeper layers of skin to improve the appearance of skin.”

 

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant which combats the damage done by pollution and UV exposure. It also has a skin brightening effect. However the formula has to be stable and at a decent percentage. The GOW offering is Vitamin C 23% + Ferulic Acid (£10 for 30ml) and has a pleasant cream formulation which isn’t too grainy or sticky.

It contains the gold standard of Vitamin C (L-ascorbic acid). I could tell it is a high strength from the sharp tingle I felt on my skin the first few times I applied it, however my skin has become accustomed to it. The air-tight packaging with pump is very welcome although after a couple of weeks it started to catapult the product across the room so I had to cup my hand over it. At this price it’s not a deal-breaker.

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Peptides boost collagen which keeps skin plump and bouncy. GOW’s Anti-Aging Multi-Peptide Serum (£20 for 30ml) is a clear, almost jelly-like serum that has a hydrating effect thanks to the presence of hyaluronic acid. It feels lovely on the skin. It can be used over the Vitamin C.

Niacinamide is another ingredient with proven skin benefits. It helps regulate oil production, improves the skin’s barrier function (preventing dehydration) and minimises dark spots. I found the Ordinary’s Niacinamide very drying but I’ve had no such problems with GOW’s Niacinamide Serum (£9 for 30ml). I use it on nights I’m giving my skin a break from retinols or on weekend mornings when I’m not using Vitamin C.GardenOfWisdom_SD-1024x681

I’m going to continue with these products and intend to repurchase when they run out.

Let me know in the comments whether you use any serums in your skincare routine and if you’ve tried GOW.

All products purchased by me. 

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Strange Tales from the Cookie Kitchen.

“But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray.”   Shades of Gray by The Monkees.

I returned from the Dominican Republic to find MJ dead.  He had overdosed the night before.  My first love, my partner of eight years, the person I had moved to Amsterdam with.

My father died in 1971.  MJ´s father died in 1975.  No one teaches you how to deal with the pain and we both carried the scars.

College 1978.  I was sat in the common room, listening to Spirit’s The Twelve Dreams of Doctor Sardonicus, when MJ walked through the door.  Barefoot, ripped jeans, long curly black hair, an earring, and John Lennon glasses.   It was love on the spot.  Who hears warning bells at eighteen?

I was fourteen when I went to see Stardust. It was the 1974 sequel to the film That’ll be the Day.  It follows the fictional band, the Stray Cats,  who were David Essex, Keith Moon, Paul Nicholas and Peter Duncan.  Essex, a real-life pop star, playing the rise and fall of Jim Maclaine, fictitious pop star.  Managed by Mike, played by Adam Faith.   Kind of mixture between fiction and reality.

Spellbound from the start,  I was in the film every step of the way.  The music, the clothes, the drugs, the glamour.  I was living it.   Jim Maclaine, who had become a megastar and split from his band, was being used and abused by the business; and eventually goes to live in Spain in a castle, becoming a  recluse, his manager in tow.  No one has seen him for two years,  at which point he is talked into giving a live interview, in his castle, which he absolutely does not want to do.   As he sits in front of the cameras, he starts to talk,  but makes no sense.  Publicly there was triumph but privately disintegration.  Mike realises that Jim has OD’d, calls an ambulance and goes and pulls him out of the press circus.   You see him carried out and put into the ambulance on a stretcher.  And then he dies.

I was absolutely blindsided and started to cry.  I could not stop.  I wept all the way home, and as I went into the house, my mother came running, asking what was wrong.  I kept crying.  She told me it was only a film, but it was so much more than that.  I felt that I had known Jim, and my heart was broken.  I cried for the rest of the night, a deep pain in my chest.

MJ and I spent the next nine years together, the last two of them in Amsterdam.   A couple of busts.  A shitload of fabulous music, the punk years, the club years, the festivals years.   No TV but always a good sound system.  Music day and night;  reggae, punk, hippie, psychedelic;  Stooges, Velvets, The Clash, Stones, Talking Heads, Grace Jones, the music that accompanied the slow descent into a heavier scene.  Funny stories, sad stories and some quite terrifying stories.

MJ. 1959 – 1989.  I loved not only him, but his amazing family too.  And still do.

I had not been back in Amsterdam for 36 hours from the Dominican Republic, when I found myself on the way to the airport to meet his mother and brother. off of a plane.  I was in total shock.  It would be some time before I was able to cry, my heart so broken that the pain had not yet set in.

 

MJ

 

“It was easy then to know what was fair, when to keep and when to share, How much to protect your heart, And how much to care, But today there is no day or night, Today there is no dark or light, Today there is no black or white, Only shades of gray, Only shades of gray.

CQ of APJ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Reading Diary – Jan/Feb 2019

 

I’ve set myself a much more manageable target of 25 books to read this year and I’m off to a good start. I finished two trilogies which was satisfying and only gave up on Little Women because I wasn’t really in the mood for it.

Frazzled by Ruby Wax

I don’t believe personal development books should be reserved for the New Year but they are particularly helpfully in dealing with the dreaded January Blues. I’ve always liked Ruby Wax and followed her through her different incarnations as a comic actress, interviewer and now mental health warrior. After her TV career ended she studied mindfulness at Oxford University and this book includes a six-week starter course. It made me realise that yoga is actually moving mindfulness (duh) and has changed the way I practise it. Ruby’s personal stories of dealing with depression and anxiety which are interspersed throughout, were often as hilarious as they were heart-wrenching. 4/5

 

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The Winter of the Witch by Katherine Arden

“Magic is forgetting the world was ever other than as you willed it.”

This was the final book in the Winternight trilogy: a historical fantasy incorporating  folklore and fairy tales in medieval Russia. I loved our outcast heroine Vasya and always adore stories about women coming into their power. I also discovered that I relish books set in a magical, frost-bitten environment. I couldn’t get enough of the beautiful descriptions of snowy forests and icy winds. I imagine some people might find the writing a bit too flowery and the plot a little slow to take off, but not me. 5/5

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Tipping The Velvet by Sarah Waters

“I have been being careful since the first minute I saw you. I am the Queen of Carefulness. I shall go on being careful for ever, if you like – so long as I might be a bit reckless, sometimes, when we are quite alone”

I wanted to read more historical fiction this year and one of the great writers in this genre is Sarah Waters. Tipping The Velvet is set in one of my favourite eras, late 19th Century England. It follows the fortunes of Nancy, who is working in her family’s oyster restaurant when she becomes infatuated with Kitty, who performs as a male impersonator at the music hall. This takes her life off in a very different direction and around the mid-point of the book it starts to get very grim (as well as explicit) and Nancy seemed to act out of character. I was worried it would all spiral downhill from here but the final section set in London’s East End was excellent.  The author’s other books look rather bleak though so I’m mulling them over. 4/5

 

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The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

The Mistborn fantasy trilogy is much hyped and while about the first fifth of this final instalment was a little slow, it did meet my expectations as events unfolded towards the end and everything was tied up. Sanderson is a master at creating complex worlds, magic systems and plots. In The Final Empire ash falls constantly from the sky and the nightly mists cause fear. There are mysterious creatures and a selection of the populace gain powers from ingesting metals. The way the revelations in The Hero of Ages doubled back to events in the first book was particularly clever. (I still prefer the Shades of Magic trilogy by V.E. Scwab though). 4.75/5

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The Art of Asking by Amanda Palmer

“Asking is, in itself, the fundamental building block of any relationship.”

Indie rock musician Amanda Palmer is a badass in about a thousand different ways. One of those ways is that – unlike me – she is unafraid to ask strangers for whatever she needs, including funding an album. She was the first artist to raise a million dollars through Kickstarter. Her TED Talk about this experience and the ensuing backlash spawned this book.  Ultimately, for Palmer, it’s all about human connection and trust. However this is as much a memoir as it is a treatise about why artists shouldn’t feel shame about asking for support. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about her early life as street statue in Boston and her burgeoning relationship with one of my favourite authors, Neil Gaiman. 4/5

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I’d love to hear if you’ve read any of these or if there’s another book you’d like to recommend. Let me know in the comments.

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