I was very bolstered up, moved even, by the great advice and support I received yesterday when I wrote up my ridiculous post about the knee surgery I will unfortunately have to have done. Although the piece was much more facetious and deliberately over-the-top than some people seem to have realized (I was sending myself up, basically, and it was essentially intended to be comic: I was chuckling to myself the whole time I was writing it – I do realize that knee surgery is hardly the end of the world): it was, still, nevertheless all true, and I was, as you could tell, genuinely quite disturbed at the news that I would have to be sliced up. I do have, however, the fantastic precendent of my dad, who several years ago was actually wheel-chair-bound his knees were in such horrendous shape, but who then, having had knee replacement surgery on both knees, went on to win second prize in a hotel dance contest in Havana. With my mum whooping and cheering, he was apparently spinning around with some gorgeous señorita on stage to the wild applause of the audience, not only getting over his painful knee surgeries but twisting and shouting like a superstar. I really love that story, and know that my ‘ripped little meniscus’ thing is nothing in comparison. I am inspired by his positive attitude, but I have to say that yesterday, getting all those practical, useful and heartfelt responses from you was remarkably, and equally uplifting. Arigato. I feel quite embarrassed now for making such a big deal about it all, even if in its entirety, the piece was meant to be taken in jest.
I haven’t even been doing The Black Narcissus for even two years yet, but yesterday really made me realize how truly precious it is to me. I am the kind of person that needs to express himself or die for some reason, so the second I got home from the clinic, although I had planned another perfume review instead, I felt immediately compelled to somehow get the experience off my chest, before going out for an evening of piano duets with my friend Yoko at my piano teacher’s house that also really helped to put things in perspective and make me realize the true beauty of this life (we are doing a transcription for two pianos of Ravels’ Piano Concerto in G for piano and orchestra, the exquisitely heartrending second movement that I used to get all emotional to when I listened continually to my record at university: I had shivers going all down my spine yesterday when we started to get bits of it right).
Although it is strange that I am writing, essentially, into a void, and have no idea who might be reading at any given time, I still feel quite often that I am writing for friends. We haven’t met, but I feel that I know many of you in some way. I love the connection. You know, I used to be a whole lot lonelier here in Japan. Though I am blessed to have many friends, both here, in England, and in other countries as well, due to my time schedule, coming home late at night with Duncan already asleep, my social life until a few years ago, pre-Narcissus and Facebook, was limited to weekends and the odd Friday night, and in truth I was spending way too much time by myself in a peculiar loveless void of mornings with nothing to do, just staring into space, and colleagues, when I got to work, with whom I would often exchange not much more than pleasantries. I need more, and I was often, to be honest, at times really quite isolated and depressed.
In the regular conversations we now have on here, as well as other wonderful perfume blogs, I feel as if I am really part of a community. We naughtily send each other samples of perfumes across the world, disguising them as other things to circumvent the ludicrous anti-terrorist current post office conventions, even though we have never seen each other’s faces: there is a trust, a generosity of spirit, a wanting to go beyond the boringness of everyday life and to let our romantic spirits soar in a way you somehow just can’t do elsewhere. And I think that perfume is the perfect medium for this, as it encapsulates so much. It is not fixed like cinema, literature or the visual arts, which are obviously open to much interpretation and individual response but are yet more undeniably there in their undeniable, physical reality for all to analyze and ponder over. With its invisibility, its searing emotivity, its inextricable bonding to personal experience, perfume lets something in the soul become released, and to share those different experiences with people all over the world, in different time zones, with different occupations, viewpoints, and ways of living, strikes me as a very beautiful thing. In essence, yesterday I knew I just had to vent (plus the whole idea of ‘What Perfume To Wear For ‘The Big Day’ struck me as strangely hilarious, the black humour of what perfume to wear for an operation enjoyably cathartic for me: I couldn’t resist it).
In truth, I know that I do lose readers sometimes for my salty language and the occasionally unconventional stance I might take on what is ‘suitable’ for a perfume blog post, but you know, I really just don’t care. I don’t want to compromise. I will just write whatever I want to write, even if it means that The Black Narcissus might not ever become the more ‘popular’ entity it could potentially be if I were to just reign myself in a bit (a lot). The thing is, being held back and distant; ‘politesse’, and the whole idea of a ‘correct way of doing things’ bores me to death, as does the whole ‘beauty editor’ approach to perfume, which is too obsequious, shallow, and cannily ‘respectful’ in my view. I like a wider perspective: something that encompasses life, and death, the beyond; sex, our childhoods, our loves, our disappointments, our dreams; art, cinema, music, history, all of which is tied up in perfume, which drifts its oneiric tentacle silks over each experience and lets us dip back into it like a well; I LOVE IT. And I truly thank you for reading the blog, and also, yesterday, for helping to make a hysterical hypochondriac feel much better. It was an ENORMOUS help and I kiss you for it.
Last night, while doing my knee exercises (Duncan did them with me to show me how to do it as I am crap at understanding instructions), I reached out for a bit of a perfumed accompaniment so as not to be too entirely tied to reality, and on the side was a vial of something called Raghba. I didn’t know what it was, or who it was by, but the lovely Victoria R recently sent me a fantastic package of vanilla-based perfumes, as I will soon be hobbling along to Perfume Lovers London to do my thing on vanilla scents and she wanted to introduce me to some vanillas I still had not managed to get my hands on (including the mighty Tihota by Indult, which got used up in one weekend; it really is the holy grail that everyone says it is; the vanilla lover’s vanilla – GORGEOUS). I will be writing about some of these over the next couple of weeks, as well as talking more about vanilla in general, a note I love to death, but Raghba was something I had never heard of, as were many of the perfumes in the package.
Anyway, I put some on and got to work on the stretches.
You know, I think the main problem with a lot of Arab perfume is that it makes you realize how crappy much western scent is in comparison. Definitely including ‘niche’ as well, which is often just so…..pretentious and overcomplicated ( I am talking to you, Bertrand Duchaufour, among many others): so bloody cerebral, thin, and overconceptualized, disappointing and conservative when all you want most of the time is something that just smells gorgeous; full; sensual. The Arab perfumers know this, because Arab cultures themselves appreciate perfume so much more than any other culture on earth. They douse themselves; they love it; they wear it, they LIVE IT. It is an essential part of existence; it gives pleasure, it purifies, it helps us bond, being something to share and comment on: it fills the air with goodness.
And Raghba Bakhoor Sweet Vanilla by Lattafa of Dubai, an inexpensive little thing when I looked it up, just smells delicious. A rich, sweet, rosy, oudhy, powdery, ambered, almondy, sugared cherry wood-shavings smell that just runs so smooth in that overdosed, seamless way that only Arab perfumes have that I will have to try and look it up when I go through Dubai International Airport in two weeks’ time on my way back to England (flying Emirates for the first time – are they good? Is Dubai duty free the exciting place I am imagining it will be?). I like this kind of perfume, one that just puts me in a good mood, even if I am less overstruck on the sandalwoodish base than I would be if it were pure vanilla or amber. Nevertheless, it lifts the spirits, it is blooming and sensual, and it is the kind of perfume that would make you warm to whoever was wearing it, in a doctor’s waiting room, a school, on the street. You would just like this person, somehow. The scent is full of heart: generous, sweet. Much like the readers of this blog.