(Photo: Mori, queen of the house, in her younger days….)
N: You surprised me last night by wearing Fleurs D’Ambre. It confused me. At first I wasn’t sure if it was just incense from the house, because I know that despite the utter olfactory horror I feel at the smell of the cat food baking in the landing sun ( is there no way we can find a way to put Mori’s food somewhere else, like the balcony outside for instance or do you think she has just got too used to having it there when she finds her way back at night demanding it like the queen that she is?): despite the fact that I worry the house smells horrendous, often, just from the sheer amount of incense and perfume used over the years, when I meet you in my work clothes – all laundried up and modern clean smelling, you have the aura of the house about you and sometimes it smells really nice. Of Kamakura. Of warm, balsamic incense, that smell that people say lingers on everything that has been in our house like books and all the rest, and last night before we went to the Indian and I met you at Ofuna station you smelled like this but more intense. A beautiful, delicate haze of amber about you but not sweet – as I say, like incense smoke. It really suits you. And yet I would never have imagined that you would wear an amber. As I also wouldn’t have imagined you ever wearing a fruited oriental like Melagrana E Uva (both of which we picked up at recycle shops), yet one day you just unexpectedly rocked up wearing it, all rich and winey and fruity and smelled positively decadent, almost imperialistic. What has made you suddenly start exploring obscure scents you find around the house : is it part of your more general renaissance and entrance into cabaret and performance art? Were you feeling restricted by your more gentlemanly lavenders and tobacco?
D: Actually, last night I couldn’t find Melagrana E Uva, which is absolutely my perfume du jour (spice fruit and brandy depth – I love it), and so I did a quick recce of the scents on the small cabinet top (where most of my staples are located). I was feeling disinclined to wear Sartorial or Tea for Two, way way too English for summer in Shonan – it would feel like stepping back to the Raj in the context of an Indian meal – and so I tried Jour de Fête, which would smell entirely wrong on me. Its vaguely sour vanillic almondy-ness would turn thin and irritating on my skin – Battenburg is not my bag – and then I hit on Lothantique, with that delicious melty amber and light powdery touch and thought it would be much better with heat and Indian food. I used to always go for incense-like scents – the Comme des Garcons range and even the Gucci pour homme – but those po-faced one-note numbers have long failed to grab me. I like a touch of fruit and lushness these days. (And no, I do not think Mori’s food should go on the balcony.)
N: Why not? Can’t cats adapt?
D: But it is part of her night ritual – you have your night rituals why can’t she have hers?
N: You mean all the neurotic herb teas, the marjoram….does it irritate you?
D: Sure do.
N: Why? I can’t get to sleep otherwise, even though you say it’s all in my head.
D: Let Mori have her Mon Petit bickies in the night you stingy git – she is not some yard dog banished to the balcony – she is an Egyptian deity and never forget it.
N: I know, and we are lucky that she isn’t a fussy eater. She has been eating the same food for eight years now and never goes off it. Quite the robust creature, despite her elegance. And yet. That stuff stinks. And pervades the whole upper house. I feel really embarrassed when guests come as you know how much I think about these things. What is the point of incense and all the rest of it if all you can smell is synthetic cheese and foul, dessicated, vitaminized fish?
D: I think you exaggerate. A bit of fish and foulness won’t do you any harm. But getting back to Lothantique – it is pure Japanese incense isn’t it? There is often something about incense and incense-like scents that reminds me of new plasticine – the play dough we used to have as kids. Do you get that? From incense in the box as well.
N: I know what you mean. Last night though, it hung about you like a delicate cloud. On me it becomes too dense and sweet – I think it has found a new home.
I mean you are quite intermittent with perfume. You don’t really wear it. And you will only light an incense stick on the rarest occasion for me at night (even though you know how much I love to come back to it).
When do you feel like wearing scent and when don’t you? Also, how do you feel about my terrorizing your garments and possessions, which happens drunkenly late at night sometimes when I am desperate for more scent (so boring to be unscented). The recent Penhaligons Opus I870 + lashings of patchouli oil that I put in your wallet have produced unexpectedly delightful results. I swear I see Japanese shop assistants’ pupils dilating when you pull out your thousand yen bills….the smell has matured enough now to smell quite disorientatingly erotic. I love that kind of thing. As you know I scent everything.
D: I have to admit that was a stroke of genius – I have really enjoyed paying for things over the last few weeks. My colleagues immediately noticed the next day – Who is wearing patchouli? they said – it instantly conjured our teenage days of indie rock and hippy shops like Head in the Clouds in Norwich – it’s still there I think. But in answer to your question, I wear scent when I go out in the evening or at the weekend – it’s for when I am ‘going out’. Recently, however, I have started to wear a dab of Tuscany on my wrists at work – it’s my dad’s scent – I keep it in the cabinet in the bathroom at work and after lunch, I brush my teeth and apply a bit. It’s clean and smooth, a bit suave, but very fresh. I find it ideal for work and it just clings nicely to the cuffs of my shirts and to my watch strap. Very effortless scent.
N: Again, it’s very interesting because I wore that religiously as a seventeen year old; very white shirt, very consciously ‘becoming a young man’ and finding out who I was, that delicious, lemony, top accord, but I had never noticed the more aromatic, patchouli, even incense-like base notes until you met me at the station a few weeks ago. You smell perfect in that kind of scent, but it smells entirely different to how it did on me. We have quite different skin types. Perhaps it is your half-Cypriot DNA.
Yet Tuscany remains unsurprising as a choice for you as it kind of goes with this gentleman thing you usually go for (Penhaligons Sartorial being a perfect example of that, and you are a million times more sartorially inclined as an individual than I am), but I am rambling. My point is that with Fleurs D’Ambre and the Pomegranate you suddenly just lurched into recently is a whole new style of scent that I have never seen or smelled you do before. You are suddenly smelling flamboyant. I am wondering whether there is any underlying reason or whether it just happened randomly.
D: Hmm. I think that I have gotten a bit bored with the tobacco box genre (Cuba, Sartorial, Tea for Two) and am inclining towards scents that meld earth and incense with fruit and confectionery – I’m turning from a tinderstick into a rum baba…
N: Well that ‘s fine with me. I am enjoying it.
Thanks so much for those treasures I came home to the other day by the way. To have an exhausting, drab day and then come home to a vintage parfum of Vol De Nuit and a Lanvin My Sin extrait (the equivalent of five dollars and two dollars respectively – you are a genius at finding these hidden thrift stores) waiting on the sofa was really wonderful. It’s a good one as well, the VdN: really dark, dense and velveted, and the My Sin a real I950’s babe.
I love that transformation. Come back. Shower off the day, sit down to dinner with you and let the evening perfumes work their magic. Arigato. I like that Krizia book as well – makes me want to get my marvellously soapy Krizia Uomo again and write a review.
D: Yes, that junk shop is a bleeding treasure trove and it seems that though it doesn’t have many scents on offer, supplies are occasionally refreshed, and I love the long walk from work through the valleys and tunnels to it. That is a real junk shop – a right carve-up – the kind of place where, amid chaos, real discoveries are possible. I’ve been on the junk shop patrol this last week. Working, then walking far and wide to rootle through piles of bric-a-brac – though as myopic as they come, my beady eyes are second to none in these conglomerations of accumulated objects. I will find some more vintage scents for you in the coming week, I don’t doubt.
N: My heart leaps at the thought.