ELIZABETH TAYLOR’S DIAMONDS AND EMERALDS (1993)

Diamonds And Emeralds has the rare distinction of being the only perfume in my collection which cost more at the junk shop than it does in real life. Retailing now for around 10 miserable dollars, we paid more at a mangy thrift store in the down at heel area of Oppama than you would nowadays online. That said, there is actually nothing cheap about this gem. In fact, it is rather lovely.

(okay, the bottle is a bit tacky)

Sometimes compared to Givenchy’s Amarige (a not unfair analogy, though Emeralds is far darker, shadowy, less dazzling and sickening; and ultimately more interesting), this perfume is in essence a tuberose gardenia peach with an interesting dash of sage and patchouli as a more serious adjunct to a soft and lingering base note of ambered vanilla. Yes, it is adult, and ‘glamourous’ in an old school way ; fully rendered, missing nothing – but not tawdry. I don’t know why I suddenly felt like wearing this the other day (just a daring dash on the back of my hand) – perhaps it was the Oscar announcements (I was thrilled at Anna De Arma’s nomination for Best Actress in what I thought was the incredible ‘Blonde’). Or maybe the well balanced composition itself was just calling me at that precise moment, right for that cold, but sunny/cloudy day.

Ironically, I met D in the evening later in clouds of my beloved Chanel Pour Monsieur, which he hates on me, finding it dowdy and old hat and defiantly unsexy. I then proffered the back of my hand across the tempura set table to let him smell the smouldering green floral vanilla that was still purring, low key but gorgeous, on my skin.

An entirely different kettle of fish.

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me and my brother and the rabbits

My mum just sent me some old photos she came across today of my brother and I holding our baby rabbits.

He looks so sweet.

I look like Damien from The Omen.

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THE RANDOM PERFUME VENDING MACHINE

“Echantillon gratuit. Ne peut être vendu que par ….” is a standard, unforgettable French phrase printed on the back of free boxed samples given out by the more magnanimous perfume houses telling you that this item is a gift and definitely not for sale. In Japan, though, perfume retailers are tighter than a shrew’s arse in terms of how generous they are in giving out free samples (even when you have spent a lot on an actual bottle, you are sometimes, only sometimes – even if you ask nicely – presented with one measly vial; expected to be radiantly grateful in return).

In contrast, I remember trawling the department stores as a teenager and young adult in Birmingham and London and coming home, later in the evening, flushed and exhilarated with bags of them (how else are you meant to properly try perfume? Stand blinking and pathetic at the counter like a knowledgeless ninny as the assistant blathers on about this or that and sprays a micro inch onto a scent strip from about half a metre away and expects you to buy the vastly overpriced import item just from overpolite and unrevealing company manual scentspeak?)

Guerlain used to do not only beautifully presented miniature bottles – in the same shape as the motherbottle, boxed in a miniature version of the packaging also, housed in a paper indentation – I have had Chamades and Parures like these – even the precious extraits (free samples of parfum!); the Chanels were lovely also; little Bel Respiros; miniature Cristalles.) The best ever, though, was when Helen and her sister Julia somehow got their hands on a full back-off-the-end-of-a-lorry boxload of Chlöé by Lagerfeld samples – the original seventies tuberose – in the late eighties; each was brand new and perfect; crisp and sensuous and gorgeous (these days when I smell my old bottles of this scent they have gone flaccid and doughy: they smell outdated: but I still vividly remember the joy of the finger scrabble to get the little vial out of its box and spray it anew; the top notes of honeysuckle; hyacinth; coconut and bergamot/peach so new and exciting to my brain. The smell is imprinted, now like embedded DNA onto my perfumatory brain cells: it reminds me of Prince records, and Kate Bush cassettes; hairsprays and lip gloss, lying around a clothes-strewn shared teenage bedroom.)

In Japan, you can forget such largesse. Here, you usually have to pay for your samples (have you seen how much 1.5ml spray vials of even totally run of the mill commercial fragrances go sometimes on all the e-floggers?) For me, there is something very anally retentive and kechi – stingy and miserly – about this fetishization of such a tiny amount of scent, clutched in your palm like an egotistical talisman, but I can also look at it from another angle: in Japan, with its Shintoist gods residing in virtually every inanimate object, from rivers to stones, to furniture (even the household toilet has its own deity), there is genuinely far more respect for products and things in general than elsewhere : quite a beautiful and elegantly acted out part of this culture; objects gain respect; luxury is venerated, or at least not taken lightly, particularly when it comes to European or American ‘brands’ (a whole subject unto intself). So profligacy of my natural nature – pouring half bottles over my body in one go; smearing myself in unguents as though I were a Roman at the unctuarium etc, is absolutely at the other end of the general Japanese scent purchasing concept and experience. My own relationship to perfume is quite different.

Japan is a consumerist hell. Or paradise, depending on your viewpoint. Shopping is of paramount importance: the national pastime. Biblic waves of human beings pouring through the electronic gates into stations and underground thoroughfares and into exitless labyrinths of underground endlessness; pop up stores and cafes and boutiques and discounters and hundreds and hundreds (thousands) of specialist clothes shops; honey-sellers, aroma oils, hats, home decor, sweets’ oh god all the sweets and the cakes and cutely wrapped up knick knacks and snacks and anything else you go out to mindlessly spend all your money on : you name it, they have it, in horrendous, plastically wrapped abundance ; there is such a proliferation of bounty, if you like shopping : I H A T E it personally (and what if there is an earthquake and you can’t get out?) (And where does all the discard go………?)

Yesterday, a freezing Saturday early evening in Yokohama after special pre-exam lessons, as I entered the thronging maelstrom of buzzed up product-choosers laughing and chattering at deafening volumes in their cream and camel coats and light brown dyed hair and identical eyemakeup I simply couldn’t stand it anymore , truly desperate to get back to the quiet of Kamakura. But as Nose Shop, a niche little niche shop tucked on the third floor of a department store on the way back to my platform was not a hassle and en route, I made a quick stopover to just sniff my way through quickly and try to enter another zone.

There was a lot of syncretic niche; woody and nauseating at the gut level : aggressive and mood-lowering. I quite liked Nicolaï’s heliotrope almond, Kiss Me Intense. And Maya Nijie’s dark and self absorbed leather, Voyeur Verde. But to be honest, I wasn’t entirely in the right mood (as you might have gathered). I was, however, quite intrigued, and amused, by the company’s gachapon fragrance tombola that had been put right in the centre of things for this Saturday spendfest: I saw a smartly dressed couple indulging and each walking away with something they had absolutely no idea about (there was something pleasing about the idea of them getting on public transport, and later taking out these perfumes and giving them more attention than my own couple of half-hearted and cynical inhalations) . For 900 yen, or $6.93, you could put your money in the vending machine – the gacha – is the onomatopeic sound of the chosen as it is drawn out randomly and the pon the moment it hits the removal slot – and get a totally unchoosable scent sample of various sizes and shapes. I didn’t get one, on this occasion, but I do actually find myself from time to time when on a train platform on my way home putting a few coins in (usually 300 yen) the standard gachapon vending machines from one of these useless and pointless toys and gadgets that are everywhere just for the hell of it (Duncan just nearly ate a rubber doughnut on a keyring that was downstairs because he thought it looked so tasty and realistic; my sister loves these things as well and often eggs me on to get her more : sometimes I text her and send pictures of the latest finds – she liked the ‘windswept animals’ collection – see the poodle above, steeling itself in a great urban gust; I preferred the windblown Afghan hound as its hair looked more dramatic, but wasn’t lucky enough to ‘win’ it when I put my money in the two times that I felt like doing it – I was not after the whole collection. She loved the scowling yakuza boss cats you can see staring at you just there above; unfortunately I didn’t get to the office workers giving each other enemas in time, or the prognathous people and animals with outsized chins before they sold out (really: that was one thing: someone’s job, somewhere up in a crowded office in Tokyo, is coming up with this nonsense ; the creation and execution of the next utterly ridiculous concept). My sister especially loves the ‘cat sushi’ – sushi literally with cats inside – as well as the comatose donkey (animals in comas is another ludicrous thing someone invented) that I brought back in my suitcase especially for her over the summer. Sometimes I just think that all of this is such a hideous waste of time and energy, seeing that it is all probably just going to end up in the ocean and destroying the planet; I wish that humanity had somehow worked out differently. Others, I just think it is fun; hilarious even; something to laugh about: an amuse bouche for the brain and eyes. Perhaps I would be better off wasting my cash on a scent sample from the random perfume vending machine instead though. I might be given something I like. You never know what you will get.

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the smile

I am definitely no educational saint nor wannabe humanitarian savior (too decadent and selfish, obviously), but I must admit that seeing an extraordinarily socially awkward seventeen year old, after nine or ten months of teaching him and assuming, from his totally blank and robotic facial expression that he hated the lessons, and me ( and the other students ) – and so massive kudos to the rest of the class for accepting, and even nurturing him to the point where he feels like something frozen, slowly, thawing and coming alive : to see him laugh and smile unabashedly, finally, after all this time, is something exceedingly precious and beautiful

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SEEING RED : GEORGETTE by VYRAO (2021)

The main problem with this brand is that I can’t remember their name.

Walking one afternoon pre-work past the unchanging little niche shop in Fujisawa which stores a modest range of fragrances by such houses as Studio Olfactive, Nobile 1942 and The Different Company, I noticed to my surprise the newly stocked bottles of a brand I was unfamiliar with.

I had cursory inhales of all, identified Georgette as perhaps the most interesting, but then realized that as I left the store, about to possibly do a quick review on here, that I had completely forgotten the name of the perfume house. It had 100% slipped my brain (though I did, to my credit, remember that I think it began with a V). This happened not once, but twice: the other day – the third time – trying the perfume again, I made sure to take notes as I left the building so as not to forget it.

What is this instant amnesia? Are we just too jaded from the millions of new houses that keep sprouting up like so many mushrooms that our brains simply can’t take any more names and concepts, or is there something inherent and particular about, wait was it it – = Vyrao – that doesn’t stick? In my favour, it’s not impossible that as I was passing by the shelves I simply couldn’t see the logo in its entirety, as it was only partially visible on the bottle and I was in a hurry. Or else I just have giant Swiss cheese holes in my brain.

At any rate, this peppered zinger of a warm and resinous tobacco rose – a very red – orange red – rose made a certain impression on me. It has something. It has a glow. A subtly commanding presence. I am not sure I would want to wear it myself, in the same way I was hovering over Le Feu D’Issey today, in the mood for something vibrant (they have a similar aura and it was almost right ); the spiked woodiness and patchouli guaiac freshly assertive while also warming, androgynous; intelligent, but possibly a little over-insistent. Cunning. There are undertones.

Finally having remembered (and memorized!) the name Vyrao, I looked them up this evening and discovered that they are a ‘wellness’ oriented new house focused on holistically rounded perfume formulae that are designed to make you feel better (are most perfumes designed to make you feel worse?) Red is a colour I love, as is coral orange: and sometimes a red scent – and this smells quite red, woodily peppered red – is just what you are in the mood for on a cold day. In terms of really feeling good though, I have to be honest and say that I personally simply couldn’t look at all those garishly coloured bottles for very long. Rather than wellness, this ghastly tonal palette, in my own peculiar case, would most likely lead to illness.

Still, no one is saying you have to buy the entire set – which in any case would turn out to be very expensive. One or two might look acceptable if you locate the best place in your collection for them. Plus, finding out that the majority of the collection was created by perfumer Lyn Harris, an unsentimental but intuitive creatrice of subtle and intricate scent I have long admired, I am tempted to go back and smell all of these again more thoroughly at the shop again next week. Witchy Woo (?!!!!), a patchouli incense, has a lot of polarized comments on Fragrantica which usually means there might be something worth smelling, it sounds quite strange: and as a bona fide green lover I will definitely be re-trying I Am Verdant – and Free 00 – a solar floral citrus, which sounds light and breezy perfect for the summer.

Have you tried any perfumes by this house? Vyrao? I wasn’t wowed: but I did sense a certain energy.

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“PERFUMES, DESIGNER CLOTHES AND SEX PILLS WERE FOUND” – THE UNDOING OF A MURDEROUS PERFUMISTA MAFIOSO

Perfumes, designer clothes and sex pills were found on Tuesday in an apartment which investigators believe was the last hideout of Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro” said the world headlines last week, after the arrest of a notorious ex capo who had been on the run for thirty years and was responsible for some of the most heinous crimes in the history of modern Italy: a boss who once vindictively dissolved a police informant’s twelve year old son in vats of acid so that he would never be able to bury his body, and who once boasted that his victims – allegedly at least 150 – could fill up the local cemetery. After thirty years of evading the authorities (how many of them must have been complicit?) Denaro was finally caught by the carabinieri in broad daylight : in the birthplace, ironically, of cosa nostra itself: Palermo, while visiting a cancer clinic for treatment, under an alias.

He had been right under their noses the entire time.

Other than the sensationalism of the crimes and the ludicrous fact that it took them so long to nail this obviously nasty piece of work who was suspected to still be in town, what struck me most about this story was the fact that his collection of perfumes was what made the headlines (“suspected of perfume”) as though there had been a cache of ak-47s , mountains of heroin and cocaine, or a stockpile of grenades. It is certainly not the most traditionally macho of accolades for a crook (“Police discover secret boudoirs full of vintage Nº5, Houbigant Chantilly, for mafia boss’s personal use”) (“Head honcho caught sniffing Bal A Versailles cologne under the boardwalk, redhanded!”). Perfume very rarely comes up in the news – the most notable exception being of course the deadly Nina Ricci Premier Jour that was smuggled into the UK from Moscow in 2018 which contained the highly toxic and radioactive Russian nerve gas novichok for a politically motivated assassination, tragically killing an unsuspecting woman in Salisbury who was given the perfume by her partner after finding it discarded, wrapped in plastic in a local dustbin; she sprayed the ‘Nina Ricci’ twice on her wrists, rubbed them together, and died a bizarre, slow agonizing death.

The ‘luxury perfumes’ in Denaro’s possession (quite the ironic surname : denaro – ‘money’ in Italian, the very thing he had a lot of and presumably sold his soul for) were mentioned in the news stories not as lethal poison dupes as per the Russian spy case, but as proof of his wealth and extravagance (“He had ……… .. perfumes!“) . Exorbitant watches, fur coats; suits; Ferraris, Lamborghinis, yes – but perfumes? This we don’t usually hear about in any criminal context, nor as inherent valuables in a scandal connected to murder, theft, and grand larceny (demonstrating very clearly just how expensive niche perfumes and special editions really are these days) . By ‘Perfumes were found‘ – presumably we are not just talking about a couple of half-used bottles of Cerruti 1881 and Armani Aqua di Giò left malingering next to a pair of Ray Bans, a whiskey glass – and some mouldering, half-smoked cigar.

Instead, I imagine this man, wracked with disease and perhaps even plagued by conscience, crouching in the candlelit dark beside his rows of niche rare collectibles of the most exclusive kind; full ranges of the most inaccessibly priced concoctions, in their stone and crystal artisanal flacon editions; gorgeous artifice, wondering to himself what he will wear for that day …………mmmm.………….not for a moment predicting (but secretly, deep in his heart, always actually suspecting his inevitable eventual betrayal) : the soon to be stark, perfumeless and incarcerated future. The Catechin monks of Rome and their walled skulled cells in the catacombs hidden underneath the ancient city, the ceilings rife with the carefully placed bones and skeletons of their forefathers – a constant reminder of death; the memento mori as decoration, but here unholy; a witch gnarled and breathing; hovering over its hoary potions of woods; spices; extracts; musk; all in silence, behind closed blinds. I see luxurious art presentation sets of Filippo Sorcinellil; Unum for Il Papa – the illusory olfactory confession of Catholic sanctity with its captured, smokeless purified frankincense and cherubim aldehydes; rows of the finest Xerjoffs, the Meo Fusciumis, Borellis, Orto Parisis: the horological Byzantine overdecoration of all the gilded Tiziana Terenzis. Which one to pick today? Which ornate, Venetian mask of scent to try and coat the inner putrefaction? A spray or two to the wrist; inhale; eyes closed, in sensual grimace……try and counteract the inextinguishable stench of all those sad, corrupt and wasted years of violence and meaningless bloodletting.

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rabbits

2023 is the Year Of The Rabbit in the Chinese zodiac and begins next Sunday – the 22nd. Believed to be lucky and auspicious, this year, in contrast with the far more aggressive Year Of The Tiger, is destined – if you believe in such things, to be much more peaceful – with an overall sense of ‘relaxation, fluidity, quietness and contemplation’ compared to the overenergized fury of 2022. Rabbits are seen as gentle, calm – if nervous and slightly suspicious- creatures; sensitive to emotion – composed, and tranquil, appealing, animals.

As a child I kept rabbits, and they were the first animals I loved. We had a white one with bright blue eyes which I rather unoriginally named Snowy, followed by a beautiful champagne rex breed called Bambi, who we had mated at a local animal farm and who had the most exquisitely cute fawn coloured babies that you weren’t allowed to touch for the first two weeks or the mother would ingest them – an early lesson in the more frightening side of beauty, although it was worth the wait. I remember my delirious excitement when my parents said I could finally open the lid of the hutch and see them all – I think there were nine – all nestled together in the corner, sightless, but so sweet I also wanted to eat them myself. Other rabbits that we kept included Chloe and Zoe – a grey dwarf and a black and white, and there were more, though I can’t distinguish them now in my mind. The impression that rabbits make on you is nothing like that of cats or dogs; although rabbits can be reponsive, even affectionate, they are silent creatures, except when agitated; they don’t do very much. Just sit there, looking, twitching, eating greens; bolting round the garden uncatchable and scratching…In fact, having lived with a cat for these last fifteen years, where interaction, intuition, telepathy, humour, and real communication exist on a daily basis – cats’ mood range is astonishing and something I continue to find fascinating even when she gets on my nerves – I realize in retrospect that rabbits are probably, as pets, rather boring.

Still, I did love them as a kid, even if, as always with me in virtually anything, there was an anguished ambivalence. Their claws – talons, really, which you were supposed to cut regularly – were like sabres jutting out from the paw: you could be quite seriously wounded if they dug them in. Under the noiseless mouth, innocuously chewing robotically on dandelion leaves, staring forward (the scent of these leaves automatically throw me back to childhood whenever I pick them by the roadside and rip them to smell that rabbit hutch mix of straw and ammonia if you hadn’t properly cleaned it out regularly enough, which became a real problem for me: a mixture of morbid apprehension/avoidance/ procrastination that would soon take over when it came to clearing out the droppings; partly just because I was lazy, and hated shoveling it out, but also from a fear of finding one of them dead – which once experienced is something of a shock to the system ; how their mysterious, blank placid faces would transform into frightening death masks ; rigid toothed snarls : a cold domestic mxyomotosis when you lifted up the roof and screamed for your dad to come and take the lifeless rock hard body away (and then a very sad burial ceremony, somewhere in the garden). I can see myself on a cold winter’s night, gingerly going out in the dark into the garden, treading past the rabbits’ spacious wooden abode, but sometimes lacking the courage to look inside; this haunted my dreams for many years: a swirl of leporine shadows and accusatory rabbit eyes, suffocating nightmares fused with the exquisite sadness of Watership Down – the animated film which was out at the time about a warren of warring rabbits that included Art Garfunkel’s total heartbreaker of a ballad, Bright Eyes, which just happened to be number one in 1979 at the time Snowy died — I can remember running out of the living room sobbing, disconsolate when it was on Top Of The Pops. Even now, while I have the film soundtrack somewhere on record downstairs, this music is just somehow far too poignant to ever listen to.

The art work for the original single sleeve – pictured here – encapsulates the dark and heroic savagery of the rabbits defending their territory in the (for a young child rather scary) film, narrated beautifully by the grave and deeply soul piercing voice of actor John Hurt; a melancholically enveloping, nostalgic pastoral, in which the rabbits were often anything but cute but instead rather violent and vicious (which they can be in real life; I found myself this summer, on the morning I was leaving my parents’ house, when there were still a few hours to go before we were going to drive to the station and say goodbye, and I found myself utterly absorbed in one of those ‘animal reality’ tv shows that I would probably not normally watch but which happened to be on the screen. It concerned the daily travails of the staff working on a stately home menagerie/animal park – goats getting ensnared in wire fences; moody rampaging bullocks ; balding lions with alopecia, mad chickens, that kind of thing, but this particular episode happened to be about all the extreme drama surrounding introducing a new member to the rabbit enclosure. The rabbit specialists working there gave quite in depth analyses of each bunny’s personality – this one is introverted, this one is a bit of a showoff, this one is depressed, that one laid back and contented, just like the human colleagues in an average workspace; all different, they all knew their place in the scheme of things and that the boss – by far the smallest – a rabbit with Napoleon syndrome which bit and nudged and bullied all the others into its own schemata would soon attack them into submission – a female dwarf that no one messed with; and sure enough, as the veterinarians predicted, the second they put a couple of new inmates in the pen then all hell broke loose.

The mass of rabbits were moving so fast that the human eye couldn’t make out what was happening – you would assume that the film had been sped up 77%; it was a hilarious blur of darting fur tails and ears and eyes and sharp teeth, the cohabiting females running at breakneck speed to nip and scratch each other into the correct pecking order; one of them docile yet gung ho enough to just go with the flow; another, more stubbornly non violent just wanting to get on with its quiet life – got quite badly injured – an incision right through the fur that would require antibiotics and having to be kept separately for quite a long time until could make any further attempts to reintroduce it to the colony).

The defensive and quick acting, teeth tearing reality, for me, though, doesn’t really take anything away from the fundamentally placid and appealing serenity of how rabbits still seem to humans; at least to me; I used to sometimes walk across Hampstead Heath when I worked in London, and on the meadows in front of Kenwood house, at dusk,the grass was teeming with them – calmly grazing and sitting; hopping to another patch. Sometimes moving; sometimes not. I loved stopping to watch. Just stand there for a while and unobtrusively observe. And rather than the cartooned oversimplification of much cute rabbit imagery – Miffy may be lovely, like Hello Kitty, if you say so, I prefer the true duality of the animals; beautiful, sociable, energetic, but aggressive when necessary, the more dangerous yang to the essential yin. They have a delightful shape, and smell good (they do – not the urine, which is pungent – but up close, you pick up a rabbit to cuddle and they just smell clean and fresh, of air and hay and rabbit fur – unlike other rodents like hamsters and gerbils, which perhaps not coincidentally I never took a shine to).

This is why, though now a cat keeper, I still collect rabbits. Not expensive and antique collectible ones, like those you have seen so far, but which I would definitely buy if I came across them at an acceptable price (I never go looking for these on the internet either), but, on ocasionl if I see a peculiar rabbit trinket or knick knack at a junk sail or local antique market I will sometimes pick it up to add the rabbits that happen to inhabit some of the upstairs shelves.

Speaking of which, please pardon the two week silence : I retreated into a much needed blissful hibernation over the New Year Period. One week or two spent intensely researching the culture of flowers until my brain burst; then after a New Year’s Day feast with our Japanese neighbours eating all the traditional food like o-sechi ryori I switched to my Japan book, which I had promised myself I would do, daring to finally open all the folders of writing I did last year – jettisoned, by the strong currents of the year, but also always waiting to be re-examined. There is so much of it it is hard to know what to do with it but I am certainly re-ignited; watching J-dramas on TV for research, trying to get my head around it all, but all this newness of knowledge and relaxing while always analyzing and reading and writing was essentially my idea of heaven. The weather was a stable temperature – cold, but blue skied and sunny – the perfect climate for headclearing afternoon walks. The morning, we would wake up whenever, and spend two or three hours with the cat in bed leisurely drinking tea and then coffee reading the papers from cover to cover, the sunlight illuminating the upstairs; later we would drift into individual projects for the rest of the day and evening – I am also in the middle of a long article I want to submit to a new perfume magazine – I felt, for a change, really at ease and in the moment: it was true contentment (I can’t actually think of a time I have been happier). I don’t know if the celestial Rabbit has anything to do with any of this, casting a benign and calming spell over everything, but if this is what the year holds for us – slower, tranquil, more dreamy (rabbits, though alert, patient and responsible, apparently have a tendency to evade reality) – then I am very happy to play along.

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TWENTY TWO OLFACTORY MEMORIES OF 2022

1.The ridiculously good smell of Rogue’s Jasmin Antique on my mother :

I had sent a bottle of Manuel Cross’s extraordinarily life-like jasmine to my mum a couple of years previously as I knew immediately that this was a good one, but it wasn’t until we met in Windsor at the Royal Adelaide Hotel in August that I got to experience this in person. Wow. Admittedly insistent and unwaning, the simple, but genius formula, of living jasmine flowers gently decorated with a little vanilla, clove essence and musk, drifting on the surrounding breeze is like no other.

The best jasmine ever made.

2. The gardenia in my wallet:

The very best perfume I smelled all year was honestly this : I plucked an exquisitely perfumed gardenia from a neighbourhood bush at night; enclosed it in my leather wallet, and when I opened it the next day the scent was almost obscenely beautiful. Paying at the cash register, with shop assistants registrably noticing the scent as I handed over my enfleuraged 1,000 yen notes, has never been more amusing nor so thoroughly ecstacizing.

3. Boiled ginger and fried chicken curry :

This year was the best ever at work for me: a serene and very unstressful, mutually respectful environment (and openable windows!). I have some lovely colleagues, one of whom, Mr K, with his openness, kindness, and insistence on a positive atmosphere, has made a huge difference to my daily life. You get to know each other’s foibles and habits: he spends all his money on mod cons for his expensive new home and motorbike, and thus economizes by eating the same thing everyday : very cheap fried chicken and Japanese curry. I am always microwaving ginger in rooibos for health : the two scents mingle: they are familiar to everybody around us.

4. One Day’s Pu’er Tea

All niche perfumeries have ‘discovery sets’ now where you can peruse 2ml vials of the often overextensive catalogue of fragrances in each collection. The bottles in this sample collection were bigger; enough to get a real handle. Sometimes I find that it is easy to overlook the best fragrances in any selection because you are drawn to the more unusual or outrageous: this was also true, at first, with Hong Kong perfumery’s One Day’s tea collection, which was immediately appealing to me, especially the Jasmine and Osmanthus. Oolong was by far the most unusual; Pu’er, essentially a sandalwood tea, the least surprising – but it was, eventually, also a real slowburner of love and recognition. The gentle, refined sillage glow of this on the D is probably my favourite perfume on him all year.

5. The smell of flying:

Everything about being on an aircraft headed elsewhere, from the plastic of the overhead lockers to the scents worn by the tightly dressed stewards and stewardesses to the slow familiar heat up of the onboard meals, smelled utterly exhilarating for me when we first sat down on our Etihad Airways flight and ordered a G + T : the sheer anticipation and blue of the sky and clouds outside.

6. The scent of crisp apples pinched from the tree in my brother’s garden :

Crisp cox; still with the leaves from the stem: the true beauty of the beginning of Autumn in England.

7. The WTF weirdness of Miskeo Brume:

New Australian brand Miskeo has two very modern, relatable, fine perfumes – Epices – a streamlined aromatic citrus, and Daim – a holographically fresh suede I would definitely recommend. Brume, on the other hand, is one of those unfathomable weirdos that made me exclaim, out loud, ‘Oh my god!’ when I smelled it. This is totally new, unchartered territory, a fierce, ozonic/ aldehydic green with juniper, lentisque, moss and seaweed lemon that practically takes your eye out.

8: The pore-sealing hideousness of Tom Ford Noir Extreme Parfum:

This overboiled nightmare, one of a whole plethora of too densified concoctions that contain everything but the kitchen sink, so compressed and everyman amber, sweetened and woodied, is very emblematic of the frightening direction that a lot of nauseating niche perfume is going in generally. The olfactory equivalent of the asphyxiated girl drowned in gilt paint in Goldfinger.

9. The lilies where I live:

The osmanthus tree in the garden; the perfect magnolia; the plum blossom and narcissus.

Yes. But the giant lily fest in July and August, growing wild in abundance in the mountains, luring me in, and occasionally staining my clothes with their overeaching pollen pistils as I ride by deliriously on my bicycle, most definitely takes the biscuit.

10. My sister in Fracas by Piguet

Good lord how this suits her.

The scent trail she left in the house, in the morning, when she had already gone off to work…..

11. Finally smelling Violet Volynka:

In the end, this very elegant, spritely, yet ever so slightly sluggish, violet leather perfume wasn’t quite my Birkin, but the thrill of finally smelling it after all the wondering and thwarting showcased the sheer founts of curiosity that new perfume releases can still provoke.

12. The new Ralph Lauren Polo vs Calvin Klein ‘Everyone’

Killing time, thinking, very naively, that I was about to board the return flight to Japan at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, on a whim, with eyes rolling like a tombola I approached the CK stand with its cynically yawnworthily ‘hip’ and overexplicated photo essay on gender inclusivity and homosensuality and smelled the scent – which smelled of absolutely nothing. Ironically, the RL newest edition of Polo – always a typically manly brand – smelled of nothing but neroli. A rough source of neroli, admittedly, but just raw orange blossom. For me, the latter of these youthful skateboarders’ spritzes was much more interesting in terms of subverted gender expectations by far: men in flowers – – WE LIKE.

13. Vintage Farouche:

I came across a shop this year near one of my work places that blows my mind. Already, as you will remember, I have a massive vintage Shalimar; I have eyes on others; they have more stock they are going to bring in for me specifically so watch this space for more surprises. This year, the icing on the cake vintage-wise was the pristine supremacy of the Nina Ricci Farouche parfum, which in this untouched extrait has an almost tearworthy beauty beyond words: every time I glance in its direction, at its red velvet box, I feel an intense satisfaction.

14. Frederic Malle’s Synthetic Jungle :

It ate my brain.

15: The smell of the incense at Ryukoji Temple:

The Buddhist ceremony we attended at a temple in Fujisawa this November was intriguing and mesmerizing, all to an olfactory soundtrack of the most austere kyara and jinko Japanese agarwood incense. As the lights went out, and you were suspended in absolute darkness, very slowly being re-illuminated by the monk who was lighting the candles (as beautiful a metaphor on hope and life after death as you could hope for), in the pitch black, all you could smell was slow burning, beautiful smoke.

16. Fleur de Weil :

Just looking at the daily newsfeed on the miraculous Fragrantica can either induce extreme envy and terrible Fear Of Missing Out – or else give me a feeling of overwhelmed panic and inundation. How to possibly catch up?

This is why it is sometimes also fun to also explore the rejects; those that didn’t make it. Even from more recent times. The more inexpensive. The lost obscurities.

I was, of course already very familiar with the exquisitely benevolent Antilope by Weil from 1946; also, this year, the haunting Weil de Weil which was sent to me courtesy of the lovely Diane. Fleur is one I tried for the first time yesterday, having picked it up last week at Genio Antica in Ebisu; a failed perfume that nobody bought from 1995 in the manner of rosey Sophia Grosjman classics like Boucheron Jaipür and Trésor, but so much lighter and aerated, with fresh top notes of tagetes/ marigold, plum and pineapple and a sheen of soothingly disarming fields of wild flowers. This was only a miniature, but I now want a full bottle.

17: The erotic intemporality of Chanel Nº 5 modern edp :

I had a full, unfamiliar, heterosexual frisson with this perfume in the summer. My photographer and filmmaker friend Michael – aka Belgium Solanas, – introduced me to his artist/showgirl performer friend from Nagoya when we were at the fascinating Daikanyama party where we all caught Covid. Blinded by the gorgeousness and familiarity of her perfume, which she was wearing quite a lot of, I couldn’t at first place it. Quickly, we found ourselves sat in a corner slightly coy, sipping our drinks and eyeing each other while talking (she also liked me: the twist being that on that day I was Burning Bush…); Later, in October, we were to share a dressing room at a different event in Setagaya. When I walked in to get ready, seeing her half dressed from behind by the mirror, all I could smell in the room were magnificent blasts of the contemporary Nº5.

My god she smelled good.

18: The smell of cinema:

This was the year, after two years away, that I went back to the cinema. Beginning with No Time To Die, when I found myself literally weeping with pleasure as the grand and ludicrously sweeping credits came up on the screen, from the spectacular overwhelm of it all, the plenitude of sound; sitting and basking in the true happiness that is real cinema again. It being my dad’s 80’th birthday (he has spent his life watching planes and obsessed with aviation in general), my family paid for him to fly in a real World War II Spitfire over the English downs and the sea in June; apparently an extremely emotional moment that I wish I could have witnessed. Instead, I took myself off to the military airbase town of Yokosuka, where I enjoyed the undeniable thrill of the year’s most financially successful film, Top Gun: Maverick. Otherwise, we went for more typically arthouse fare like the brilliant Titane by Julia Ducouneau – which left us in a deliciously exhilarated mush in the backstreets of Isezakicho; the hilarious and bizarre Zola by Janicza Bravo, starring Elvis’s granddaughter, Riley Keough, as well as, most memorably perhaps, a beauteous cinema in Shizuoka prefecture where we melted in the strange holistic beauty that was Apichatpong Weerusthakul’s meditative opus, Memoria. The multiplexes had the expected smell of popcorn, artificial indoor lighting, and greyfoam seats; the art house cinemas a more thoughtful aroma, occasionally tinted with freshly opened bottles of locally brewed craft beer.

19: Eilish by Billie Eilish:

It is fascinating to meet your friends’ children. Aside from having mindblowingly clear, profound, and acutely mutually perceptive conversations on every possible topic with my best childhood friend Helen – who I was nervous about meeting initially, but who I then wished I could have talked with for days (how we lost out during the pandemic in all our isolation!) it was wonderful to spend a whole car journey listening to Billie Eilish’s excellent Happier Than Ever on the stereo with a true, teenage die-hard Eilish fan, Helen’s daughter Esther, avidly listening in the back seat. We had some very interesting exchanges; she eyeing me curiously (my favourite quote was when she said, after discussing our very differing feelings about weather and temperature: “You confuse me”.) She naturally, at home, had the eponymous debut scent by the singer, Eilish, which I was extremely eager to try (particularly on the young girl’s hand, who clutched the bottle as if it were a religious relic): when I eventually got the chance to see how it was – very briefly – I only had time for a couple of quick inhalations, I realized that this was in actual fact a beautifully produced gourmand vanilla that exuded from her skin like a golden chalice.

20: The smell of the ancients:

These are the only smells in the list I haven’t actually physically smelled myself – but oh how I wish I could. Currently researching everything perfume-related for my talk in Hawaii next year (!!!), I find myself longing at the pit of my stomach, when reading about ancient Egypt, Persia, Greece, Rome, to be able to actually experience the detailed, lascivious descriptions of all the scent orgies, and the worship of perfume generally that went on in the past in so many different cultures : the unguents, the distillation, the ointments, smeared, drunk, eaten, bathed in… our olfactory lives, now, are so bland and psychologically repressed in comparison : : : : SOMEBODY BUILD ME A TIME MACHINE.

21. Hume’s Legumes

Few things make me happier than the aroma of D’s delicious vegetable stews and broths cooking downstairs. Drifting up from the floorboards, the smell is absolutely delicious. Fresh rosemary, lots of garlic and bay laurel with locally grown produce, weekends together are a true contentment (one of the great things this year on our street has been the new farm produce collective that has a market just thirty seconds from our house every Friday morning : a real boon of regeneration for the community as a whole). Hurrah for healthy, home-cooked food.

22. THE SMELL OF FRESH AIR

Because sometimes, after everything, you just want to sweep away all the bullshit on a brand new sunny or cloudy or rainy or whatever it is day, put your head out of the window, and inhale.

*

Thank you so much for putting up with my strange excesses this year, for reading my splurges and excesses. The correspondence and conversational exchanges we have on here have been a real source of pleasure for me.

All the best to you for 2023 : let’s make it a good one.

Neil

x

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BENEATH THE FIG LEAF : ATHENEAN by HEELEY (2021) + FICO D’INDIA by ORTIGIA (2011) + FIGUIER EDEN by ARMANI PRIVÉ (2012)

In ‘A Handbook Of Symbols In Christian Art’ by Gertrude Grace Sill, we are told that :

‘The fig, the figleaf and the fig tree are all symbols of lust, which originated after the Fall, when Adam and Eve “sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons” (Gen. 3:7). The Tree Of Knowledge is sometimes a fig tree instead of an apple’.

The fig tree here represents temptation; awakening; but also subterfuge and hiding; sly : evil.

In contradiction , we are also told that

“The fig itself represents fertility as well as lust, because of its many seeds. In a positive sense, the tree is used to represent fruitfulness and good works”. Just as in many cultures, where figs are seen as celebratory, there are two or more sides to everything: the Buddha, sitting beneath a fig tree, achieved enlightenment.

The religious and cultural ambivalence towards the fig match my own feelings towards this plant. I love the smell of the leaves, and sometimes pinch them when I walk past a garden which houses a fig tree growing to extract the darkly green juice from the strong hairy leaves; the scent drawn from the vessels within the leaf invigorating and pure; resolute and full of health. I like dried fig: we had a very nice confiture de figue with our Christmas dinner, a cooked ‘co-production’ that we both enjoyed; the sweetness went well with the meat. And yet I find the fresh fruit quite repulsive (figs are not even botanically a fruit, apparently, but rather an ‘infructescence’, or inverted flower; pollinated by specific fig wasps, the females of which, while searching for nectar, often get trapped inside, eventually devoured by the fig itself, like a Venus Fly Trap.) Texturally, the soft squishiness of the pulp, oozing with seeds against the about-to-split eerieness of the skin, is instantaneously problematic, so I never try or buy them. And yet the generalized figginess of the fig is something I find attractive, from the shape of the beautiful leaves to the overall scent (if you are going to be standing naked, deeply ashamed of your physical reality, it might as well be with a fig leaf – a flattering form against the body ; the lactic sap of the fig veins, as a complement tp the flesh and blood pulsing of the human skin..)

The Black Narcissus is essentially a diary, and if I were to scroll through what I have written this year, I am sure I would find quite a lot of joy. There have been a lot of good experiences to be grateful for. But this year has also been very brutal; intense; chaotic. At times it has felt almost apocalyptic. Even if you don’t have problems of your own (and who doesn’t?), the sense of a world shifting seismically, of being out of control and veering intocalamity, has been very palpable from the beginning of the year. The horrible war in Ukraine forms a continual backdrop to everything; peace immediately shattered, then impacted globally in the economic fall out and misery that is spreading across continents and affecting hundreds of millions of people (thanks Putin! Great job! ) The ex-prime minister of Japan was shot; tyrants everywhere rose up; societal currents became more and more inflamed, brim full of hatred and mutual loathing and deliberate misunderstanding even as the world itself often literally went up in flames as environmental catastrophe loomed. Anyone whose head isn’t totally in the clouds will have been affected by all of this in some way; the lingering effects of all the splintered anger; the violence, the oppression, the revolt, the after effects of the coronavirus, whether psychological (and they have been phenomenal) or physical, in terms of recovery ; even before getting to your own issues, be they health, relationships; financial; the dread and terror of death, it is a pretty much undeniable fact that universally, this has not been a restful year.

I myself reached some kind of tipping point in the summer, which is why I disappeared from here for a couple of months. I was so burnt out I couldn’t even dream. When I can’t dream – waking up from the boredom of repetitious actions and unfinished sentences like scratched records – I know my soul is tired. In such circumstances I can’t write a word. I am sure that a numbed resignation, weariness, suppressed stress, is a contagion that has affected many people reading this in one way or another over the last three years ; we became so used to it that we no longer express it because seems so obvious; a shared understanding. So we stopped talking about things – because it just became too self evident, about whether or not we had had the virus ourselves, because we were just too tired to do so anymore and it became easier to discuss pleasant things — like perfume. We need these delicious distractions.

If the fig represents self-knowledge – and fig leaves have been fluttering at the peripheries of what scents have been worn this year – then 2022 was for me a year when I categorically came to some important personal realizations. Forgive my self-indulgence if I explain (or repeat myself) further. I have become much more aware, and unashamed of my own natural limitations as a human being this year; less willing to compromise on what I know will damage my delicate equilibrium (which, perhaps unsurprisingly, actually has involved compromise). Because of all the rows starting at the beginning of 2022 with D, connected to the fact of having to socialize with people I am not interested in – we have actually acted on this now and it is working well. Aside an all nighter at our house with two good friends – when the ingenious Antonia/ Bubblegum Chic amalgam unleashed its beauty – I haven’t been meeting anyone aside a couple of one on onee parties before the end of term; Christmas Eve, we went up to Tokyo together, where I found the exquisite Dior Dior; we had dinner in a Vietnamese restaurant in Okubo, then went our separate ways for a few hours; he to an underground party at Mistress Maya’s, I wandering Shinjuku to find a film I could watch at one of the many cinemas (another, worrying, slightly sad, but also illuminating thing I have realized this year : I am just not getting stimulated by Tokyo any more : I don’t dislike it, but you would have thought that two years away stuck in Kamakura, would have made everything feel new and refreshing; in fact, however, the opposite is true; the fashion (all beige and baggy still with boys and girls in pale faces and red/orange eyemakeup, bores me to death; I feel like I know every corner from memory; nothing feels new or especially interesting. Is this age, or just saturation?). The loneliness of walking in the cold on Christmas Eve was a little piercing at first, but then as I pounded the streets looking for a suitable entertaining, headclearing; I went to a small cinema to see an old French film (La Boum 2 with Sophie Marceau); we met up afterwards in the centre of Shinjuku and came home happily together : YES! SOLUTION! – this will be the modus operandi henceforth.

Everything came to a head, for me, in the summer. In the intense heat, both of us had been occasionally reaching for Heeley’s Athenean, a very green fig – they can’t be too green for me – with a white tea and cedar base that we both like, and a melon note that we don’t – and yet somehow, what irked initially faded into the background and I don’t notice that note any more : it just forms part of the flesh. When it is sweltering, this sharp fragrance worked really well sprayed onto a t-shirt; robust but Greek-romantic with an unsentimental staying power that cuts through the sweat and grime). It now has a pride of place in the bathroom downstairs.

The summer term is my purgatory – it lasts for eighteen weeks, and I am only really ‘there’ for about nine or ten. The rest of the time I am on autopilot, just getting through: I have realized succinctly, slightly embarrassedly, but not really, that once I pass over a certain threshold of working I am poisoned like Chernobyl and there is no going back until I am on holiday again. I am just built that way: I have inbuilt limits. Yet the trip back to England, so loaded, so fraught, so emotional, so important, felt like anything but a holiday and was constantly looming on the horizon. It was wonderful and vital, to see family and reconnect, even when painful memories were unearthed. Still, it felt like overcoming an invisible hurdle: not seeing everybody for so long was not healthy; so there was no question we would be going back for the full summer holiday then coming straight back to work in September. And yet the knowledge, the fear of interaction; the worry over Covid (knowing that no one was wearing masks and not having had it yet; knowing that the National Health Service is going down the pan and that we probably couldn’t have got treatment even if we were sick); just the fretting over everything as the term boiled to its conclusion meant that my filament went; thus we semi-deliberately caught corona at a party – maskless throughout in close proximity in a club underground with no ventilation – everybody got it, with precisely the same symptoms; D was ill for a week; I just worked and drank wine through it; very hot to the touch, a horrible sore throat, but as the rapid antigen test said negative I just thought fuck it and carried on.

Being in England was both familiar and strange. After the confinement in one place for so long my senses were alive to the newness and the sameness; the differences from Japan; the overall, comparative sense of relaxation in the UK but also the comparative great lack of general finesse. Still, ambling about beautiful places like Leamington Spa and Norwich on nice sunny days when the temperature was so pleasant – little of the stereotypical cold rainy Englishness here: long summer evenings; the shivering clouds of morning that almost always dissipate; the enjoyment of browsing for perfume unpestered, I tried Ortigia’s Fico Di India twice: once with D in Leamington; such an airy place that I have loved since childhood, only half an hour or so from where I grew up with a beautiful, reedy river and park; we drifted into Cologne & Cotton, always a fantastic place to buy big bottles of delicately scented lavender and orange blossom eaux de cologne; at the back of the shop they had the Ortigia range – I loved their Ambra Nera straight away, a proper dense amber without annoying fake sandalwood endings, and their Indian Fig was undoubtedly also very alluring, the type of perfume you pick up three or four times to keep smelling and get a proper angle on. Warm, heavy, and sultry, this is quite the dark narcotic fig; orange blossom and cedarish dark woods, and probably vanilla with fig leaf, cactus and fruit – a real, slow-lidded seductress. Smelling it again with Emma in Jarrolds – Norwich’s biggest department store, where you can just spray at your leisure without worried suspicion and overeager staff like you have in Japan – it was bliss to be left alone. E told me that one of her teaching colleagues wears the body lotion of Fico D’India, and that it apparently smells rather gorgeous under clothes, so if you like the more full-bodied, semi-hippiesh fig style (like Miller Harris’ old Figue Amère: click this also for more figs in the pantheon), you might also gravitate towards this Ortigia.

.

Armani’s Figuier Eden, worn later in the month, turned out to be a very ironic choice of perfume for D at the airport in the crowded, overheated nightmare that was Abu Dhabi airport on the return trip as our journey soon descended into hell. After a week of severe stress, with flights being cancelled with no notice, mad scrambles and hours on the phone and family eruptions, frantic rearrangements with work, we then had to pay for the privilege of a multi-legged horror show back which involved London>>Abu Dhabi>> Kuala Lumpur>> Tokyo, as documented in September, which took at least 73 hours. We left Windsor very early Monday morning to get a taxi to Heathrow, and arrived Thursday afternoon, blind with tiredness, in Kamakura. It took me days to just even see properly and shake the brain fog. I was already feeling foul and sweaty by the time we arrived in Abu Dhabi International Airport- a place with no feng shui, so horribly designed that nobody can sit down anywhere; the perfumes blaring everywhere as loud as foghorns and absolutely what you don’t need when all you want is fresh air (I spread on a vetiver selection anyway), D much more sensibly opting for the far more temperate fragrance, Thé Noir by Le Labo, which had a stabilizing effect on the nerves; a fresh and calming sense of reliability.

By the time we arrived in Kuala Lumpur we were already fatigued, but a shower and a stay at the airport hotel was very reviving; you may remember my dipping my finger into a hot essential oil burner of jasmine sambac and being elated, though I think that any posts written at that time are probably too confused and illegible as my mind was scrambled. KL airport is a lot more user friendly than most; aerated, spacious, which was good, seeing we were destined to spend a lot of time there. Like hundreds of thousands of travellers in this year of chaos, , having waited for hours for our departure, our flight was cancelled due to ‘technical difficulties’ and, after great confusion, incompetence and endless waiting we found out that the next one wouldn’t be for another 24 hours. D had had some final quick spritzes from the Armani stand as we made our way to the gate, and to my slight surprise, Figuier Eden felt perfect; cool and collected; clean; fig leaf, grass and tea for a green lift; mandarin and bergamot, with a contrastingly elegant iris and amber; nothing to shout home about, but definitely very pleasant: lingering for hours as we descended into the next bewildering stages of our odyssey back home, being forced to leave the airport and enter Malaysia, even though it contradicted the ‘promise’ we had made to the Japanese government on the SOS phone app, – which in itself took an entire evening for us to work out how to do in London – and which was mandatory at the time Covid-wise to get back legally into the country.

The adventurer in me loved the detour to Putrajaya, the bus, the mosques and Hindu and Chinese temples, as a rainstorm pounded on the windows and the palm trees outside, and the luxury of the hotel – the Marriott – was certainly not a problem. The food was incredible, the rooms grand with fine views over the muddy estuary of the riverbanks, statues and coconut trees, but we still felt quite ill at ease. Refused a room for two, it didn’t occur to me until afterwards, when I checked, that homosexuality is actually illegal in Malaysia, punishable by death.

Initially excited looking at our respective rooms, if perturbed by the overly strong artificial floral lemon being pumped into the ambience, we had been comparing the views and planning where to rest, sleep, shower etc before the meals in the restaurant downstairs. Seeing this information on our phones, however, we suddenly felt extremely vulnerable. Under threat. I respect, to a considerable extent, local customs and traditions, religion, and laws, and am not about to go on a damning indictment of Malaysian society or its Islamic principles (though quite how Islamic such Shariah law is remains open to interpretation – this was obviously also a big issue for many during the World Cup in Qatar). Also, it is doubtful that tourists, diverted into a city they had no desire especially to be in – effectively against their will, we had zero choice – would in any way be ‘hunted down’ and prosecuted just for being our natural born selves. Still, with D’s Paradisicial Italian Fig ironically still lingering on his skin, the mood descended rapidly into something akin to fear; fear of persecution (even physical harm, no matter how irrational it might seem now; the Religious Police do exist – just look at what is happening in Iran with all the executions); fear of fucking up the electronic reentry procedure back into Japan – which felt, at that moment, like HEAVEN ON EARTH ITSELF: we were suddenly so desperate to just get back there, to get back home, where nobody gives a shit about what happens behind closed doors, and where sexuality is effectively a total non issue because it is private. At a distance of just six and a half hours from where we were trapped, it felt like a deeply desirable haven where we might feel a little bit more safe.

In that moment, waiting for a terrifying ‘knock on the door’, I began to imagine, or wonder, what it must have been like to have been Jewish, in hiding, waiting for the Nazis during the Second World War. Waiting to be attacked, and then killed, for merely being who you are. Holding your breath in desperation behind a heavy wooden door. Captured. Then sent off to a death machine, a concentration camp. All because of one, despicably distorted viewpoint.

While my luxurious experience in Putrajaya obviously has nothing, really, to do with any of this, the recent exponential rise in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial has brought this homicidal prejudice very much back into the foreground this year and is by far one of the most horrifying aspects of the recent rapid shifts in world perceptions for me in 2022. Trump hosting ‘Ye’ and other uncloseted fascists down in Florida; the mainstream acceptance of Jew-hating and bigotry in general, the unleashing of human’s worst instincts and tendencies sanctioned by this man, who I have written quite enough about already, but which I feel 100% vindicated over as I was right : his influence on humanity has been more pernicious than anyone in recent memory; more than we even knew. The Bolsonaro refusal to concede tells us all we need to know; the man who deliberately destroys the rainforest; no human receives more contempt from me ; all I know is that the broad currents of intolerance and the anti-Asian violence, the shooting of gay people in clubs (I wrote about a vogueing. gay pride event on a US airbase in Yokota earlier this year; the person who invited us – a marine who hosted Joe Biden on the base and was personally responsible for much of his visit, was later at the club in Colorado : he and his partner moved back there, and three of his friends were seriously injured, one killed when they all went out for the night…). There has been so much rabid antipathy and bitterness unleashed it could and actually does, make me cry.

In many ways, despite some definite highs and plenty of distinct, distilled, positive and enjoyable experiences, many hopefully documented on The Black Narcissus – I will be glad to put this year behind me. It has just been far too much. The tiger sure bared its teeth! Even ripped open a few jugulars: and then feasted ( I am ready for next year’s Chinese rabbit). That said, I do continue to have hope for the coming year. There are plenty of more benevolent, humanistic tides shoring up the meaningless, violent negativity. There is a feeling of life everywhere: there was in England, there was in Malaysia, there is in Japan. Human beings, in my view, are fundamentally decent, just too easily led by egomaniacs and fucked up by false philosophies. America has shown some sanity in recent months in rejecting the lies and instability; Europe has come together, to a large extent, for Ukraine. Periods of turbulence and misery come and go. This is the way that it is. There are still seeds of optimism.

As the Greek Stoic philosopher Epictetus said:

“No great thing is created suddenly, any more than a bunch of grapes or a fig. If you tell me that you desire a fig, I tell you that there must be time. Let it first blossom, then bear fruit, then ripen. “

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LAYERING TO MAKE YOU SCREAM

We had friends over the other night for a pre-Christmas party.

Staying in the guest bedroom / perfume office, one of them emerged, while we were watching a film in the other room, so fragrantly resplendent I actually screamed.

OH MY GOD WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? !!! I beseeched.

“I’m not sure.

Let me look again..

“One of them was something called…..

///\\ ..Antonia?

“The other one was – I don’t know, you have so many I just sniffed round and grabbed the ones I liked..

.was it ‘Bubblegum Chic‘?…..?”

OH MY GOD REALLY?

(there had been quite a lot of wine)

But… But..

You smell INCREDIBLE! !!! I would never have thought of wearing those two together.

You are a genius!

“They DO smell kind of amazing together”.

I would never have picked these up at the same time..

I would have thought them to be dissonant.

One (Antonia by Puredistance), a verdant lush floral: sharp ivy leaf and galbanum over green rose, vanilla and vetiver; pretty, firm; dignified; the other, James Heeley’s Bubblegum Chic (recently rechristened Jasmine OD) an already very exciting unleashed tuberose jasmine sambac; the first gorgeously restrained, the latter unrestrainedly gorgeous – perhaps why they went so unexpectedly well together; the beauty of the initial clash, as the perfumes rose up in the air together nothing less than INSANE.

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