Monthly Archives: February 2013

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The Black Narcissus

 

 

 

 

 

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November 1992.

 

 

I was twenty one and had been living in Rome for a month, looking in vain for a job, and staying in the cheapest hotel I could find – a garish, pink-painted pensione near the infamous Stazione Termine. One muggy afternoon, hot, bored, and mildy depressed – but too lazy to look for work – I decided just to hop on a train and see where it took me. I was idling on the Linea B, looking at the stations to come, when I saw ‘Piramide.’

 

 

 

 

I got off. As I turned the corner from the station, there it was: a two thousand year old pyramid – the last thing that St Paul is supposed to have seen before he was…

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The Black Narcissus

 

 

In ‘Japanese Cultural Code Words: 233 Key Terms That Explain the Attitudes and Behaviour of the Japanese’, author Boye Lafayette de Mente talks of the ‘grave beauty’ of Japan and its effect on blundering westerners encountering it for the first time.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Foreigners are often left speechless…They know they are in the presence of extraordinary beauty, but generally they do not have the experience – or the vocabulary – to describe it.

 

 

It is difficult to argue with this. The austere, filtering light of incense smoke unfurling slowly above a Zen temple in December; the strict symmetry of the Japanese interior; or the tranquillity of a Zen garden in spring, can be astounding in their otherworldliness, yet still of the utmost simplicity. Whatever the chosen ‘path’- be it zen, tea, kimono, haiku, calligraphy – the Japanese are surely unsurpassed in their…

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The Black Narcissus

 

One of my most self-indulgent fantasies, when the neuroses get too much and life overwhelms, is willing incarceration in a white, Thomas Mann sanatorium.

Nurses. Steamed sheets. The mountains beyond. Nothing to do but walk in the Alpine resuscitating air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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On first experiencing Le Labo’s unusual take on neroli, I was immediately transported to such a place.

 

 

 

 

 

The megadose of calone that impregnates the blend of neroli, mandarin, tonka and musk, turns this nominally floral creation into a technical soap chamber of hygiene: of  fresh, dreamy air; clinicians, and white, billowing clouds beyond the skylight.

 

 

 

 

 

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After acquiring a bottle of the substance, however, and on repeated wearing –  on a shirt cuff here; on a collar there –  another, more sinister…

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Broken Narcissus

The Black Narcissus is currently suffering from burnout ( plus the web is down ( an unpaid bill? ) 

Hopefully see you soon. 

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More love, more romance, more violets, more Caron

The Black Narcissus

 

 

 

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‘Aimez moi‘: an insistent, clamouring plea.  Love me. 

But to whom?  A lover? An unrequited passion?  ‘Aimez,’ in the formal, or plural form of the French verb suggests the unknown.  Anyone –  a complete stranger; the world. And the first blast of engorged, extravagant top notes surely suggest the latter, this perfume reaching out with outstretched, desperate arms – all cards on the table –  saying LOVE ME, LOVE ME to whoever out there who will listen. There is an almost deliriously sweet intensity here- a greedy, peach-licorice violet, with lushly overladen uses of anise, vanilla and mint, that at this stage in the perfume quite simply either overwhelms ( you fall in love), or repels. It is certainly something of a love gamble….

Aimez Moi had been absent from my olfactory mental landscape for a very long time until a few weeks ago when…

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BLOOMS A ROSE IN THE DEEPS OF MY HEART…… Rose Volupté by Sonoma Scent Studio (2012)

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I like a big rose. A rose that is generous and of itself; a lovely rose: not a mean, thin-lipped rose; nor a methane-dipped rose, a high street rose or a sneering, clipped, high-octane rose; a fashion rose or a bridal rose; a cheap, leering acid rose, nor some dusty old, crabby rose, no: I like a full, joyous pronouncement of a rose, a rose that knows who she is.

 

The world, though, it seems, loves scents like L’Eau Chloé, a mingily pertinent fragrance formed of rose water and green things and reduced-fat patchouli, but I most certainly don’t: we smell far too many of these perfumes around us in cities, especially in Japan, where immaculately turned-out young women walk the streets of Tokyo, untouchably beautiful, a red-blooded, heterosexual male’s idea of paradise; girls with the flawless patina of a Shiseido commercial but in the flesh, slender young things in the all latest fashions and just a touch of rose to finish: nothing too thick, now, and a touch acidulous if you please – I maintain you, sir, at arm’s length with my thorns, my scent a barrier not a come-on, my artificial rose with its just-so projection perfected in the laboratory for this very purpose to offer that strange, iced chasteness, that modern-girl impenetrable whim of here-and-now Ginza sexy: this, this hideous perfectionism we smell in all the roses of the day such as Stella, Paul Smith Rose, and, especially, here, the vile Eau Des Quatres Reines by L’Occitane, which from personal exposure I would say is by far the most popular female scent in the country: you smell it all the time, as though, like everything else in Japan, it were accepted by the group and thus sanctioned, even by young mothers!

 

Young mothers, yes, those saintly, desexualized mama-san as they are called, poor creatures in my view, who, unless they rebel and refuse to conform, will often be co-erced into fascistic, nasty, Lord Of The Flies groups they cannot escape from even as they smile and present their iron-haired, A-line skirted, guilt-racked personas to the playground. The Occitane perfume, with its hints of salted, musks under penetratingly sharp, artificial rosey top notes, fixed, unchanging as it hangs in the air around train stations and department stores is the rose du jour, accepted, sucked into the mainstream, worn constantly, and I can tell you quite passionately that I loathe it.

 

No: give me an unfettered, uninhibited rose any day, a rose of love, not of conformity, a rose which springs directly from the heart: give me Nahéma, Montale Aoud Rose Petals with its blackness of the desert and Turkish Delight, give me Caron Rose, with its cherished poetical heart of Damask, or, if we need pearlescent dew drop roses, Fleurs de Thé Bulgare by Creed: just don’t dilute it with ‘market trends’ , fear of trying, or with ‘what women want‘: give it to me straight and liberated and heartfelt. Or don’t give it to me at all.

 

 

Rose Volupté, a huge, blowsy thing, belongs in this latter category of mine; roses with heart and soul, a big Valentine’s Day rose that is as rounded, enveloping as imaginable; powdery, effusive, diffusive: a tampy, musky pink rose of thick material: balanced – an undeceiving, happily direct perfume.

An oriental rose, with ambered base notes of labdanum absolute, vetiver and sandalwood, and a heart of heliotrope and cinnamony plum, all leading the perfume somewhat into the ‘old fashioned’ category, but neverly over so in my view, more pleasingly, just slightly, retro: top notes fruity and full, flowered like sugared raspberries on a summer trifle, and as multitiered, the geographical strata of the perfume leading down to pillowy, benzoiny, classic oriental skin scents, generous and feminine, soft:  Teint De Neige’s rosier, more bosomy country cousin.

 

While the perfume might lack a certain psychological complexity ( I find it rather ‘straight’ and ‘thick’ in some ways) this is simultaneously very much part of its appeal. Rose Volupté is simple, lovely, and it wears like an honest statement of love for the flower, and for perfume come to think of it, not some anorexic urban cipher and her puny, half-hearted, haughtily prettily ‘rosy’ emanations.

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