Monthly Archives: December 2015


D’s mum and dad are here and we are listening to Barbra…

The Black Narcissus






She has one of the most famous noses in the world: a honker, a schnoz, an unmistakeable profile that provokes love/hate reactions from her fans and detractors. But Barbra Streisand was surely in on the big nasal joke when she took on the role of Hillary Kramer in the 1979 comedy romance film ‘The Main Event’.

The story of a ‘nose’, director of her own successful perfume house, the film begins with Kramer ecstatically inhaling a new team-effort formula created by her in-house perfumers, a revolutionary unisex number that she is convinced will be a super-hit, the camera honing in woozily on that proud Cleopatran nez as she swoons heartily with approval:

” Smooth…….high quality….

There is an orgy going on right here in my nose!!”



Soon though, despite my delight that here at last there was a movie about a perfumer (I had had no idea that the film…

View original post 876 more words


Filed under Flowers



You know I think this is actually starting to suit me.


I just bought a cheap vintage parfum as just an adjunct to my Chanel collection and woof….it smells kind of fabulous.

The Black Narcissus













Coco, always Chanel’s most exuberant and joyful creation, to me exudes a conspicuous air of eighties consumption. Blazing gold jewellery and glinting, multifaceted jewels, this woman knowingly struts her real or imaginary red carpet no matter the weather – transforming grey, mundane realities with a brush of the colourful high life.





Though she is loud and a little persistent, this fruity Miss, you still can’t help somehow inhaling, with rich pleasure, her dense, baroque carnival of odorous riches; her compressed, spiced, fusillades of peach, coriander, orange blossom, Spice Island clove; Indian jasmine, mimosa; the heart of Bulgarian rose over an effortlessly shoulder-wrapping base accord of sandalwood, amber, patchouli, leather, and chocolate: a complex, sweet…

View original post 38 more words


Filed under Flowers

“We know, without being told, that this woman smells of delicious perfume….”






In an afterword to her 1952 novel “The Price of Salt” (published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan), novelist Patricia Highsmith recalled an incident that took place when she was working in a Manhattan department store during the 1948 Christmas season. A “blondish woman” in a fur coat, “slapping a pair of gloves absently into one hand,” approached to buy a child’s gift. On the surface, it was an unexceptional encounter — the woman chose a doll, paid and departed — but Highsmith writes that she “felt odd and swimmy in the head, near to fainting, yet at the same time uplifted, as if I had seen a vision.”

In real life, the two never met again. But the moment inspired a novel in which the women fall in love, and has now become the gently dazzling movie “Carol.” That word “swimmy” describes it precisely; together, director Todd Haynes, screenwriter Phyllis Nagy, actors Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara, cinematographer Edward Lachman and composer Carter Burwell immerse us — nearly drowning us, happily — in beauty and longing. You leave the film’s soft-grained world reluctantly, as if taking off a warm coat when it’s still a little chilly inside.

Haynes, whose nostalgic 1950s melodrama “Far from Heaven” is something of a companion piece to this film, softens Highsmith’s sometimes hard-edge world — this, remember, is the novelist best known for creating the murderous psychopath Tom Ripley. Mara plays Therese, a quiet, thoughtful young woman not yet sure what she’ll do with her life; Blanchett is the poised, precise title character — we know, without being told, that this woman smells of delicious perfume. (How does Blanchett convey that? It’s something in the posture, perhaps.) The store encounter becomes a meal, which becomes a visit to Carol’s elegant manse (where she lives with her husband and young daughter), which leads to a road trip. Along the way, they fall deeply in love: Therese instantly, like a soft thunderbolt; Carol more deliberately, but just as passionately.

Movie Review ★★★★

‘Carol,’ with Cate Blanchett, Rooney Mara, Kyle Chandler, Jake Lacy, Sarah Paulson. Directed by Todd Haynes, from a screenplay by Phyllis Nagy, based on the novel “The Price of Salt” by Patricia Highsmith. 118 minutes. Rated R for a scene of sexuality/nudity and brief language. Guild 45th, Lincoln Square, SIFF Uptown.

This being the 1950s, a lesbian affair brings its own peril; we know things can’t go smoothly for Therese and Carol — and they don’t. (Highsmith, though, allowed her literary doppelgänger some hope, which shines through here.) But the film is less about telling a story than creating a mood; letting us wallow in the way Blanchett’s voice, low and carefully placed, makes you think of pearls dropping onto a carpet; or how Mara’s face seems to open up and her breathing changes when Carol is nearby; or how the whole movie, with its burnished colors and city lights, looks like a Hopper painting come to life. “Carol” is, to quote Highsmith’s words written so long ago, a vision.


Filed under Flowers


Thanks to everyone for everything this year. xx

The Black Narcissus













































































View original post


Filed under Flowers





I am intensely familiar with the smell of natural vanilla. Intensely: as if I myself, in a former life, had been a grain of unctuous vanilla ‘caviar’, emanating oily vanilla-ness gaily from within my warm, brown seed pod.


Having stayed on a vanilla plantation in Java and seen the process of vanilla bean cultivation and after-production first hand, standing in an Indonesian family’s drying attic and being overwhelmed by the intoxicating scent of natural vanilla; from crates and crates of the beans just stacked there in open caskets, giving off scent, each one of them replete with vanillin and hundreds of other natural aromachemicals, so different, so so different from the ‘vanilla’ you get in most perfumes – far deeper, leathery, textured, complex and animalically three dimensional (if not as easy or even as necessarily pleasing), I learned, with own my nose, that this is a fulsome, living and breathing smell; of a multi-dimensionality you simply don’t get from the synthetic vanilla we all know so well  –  a much clearer smell that maintains a smoother, lighter, more crystalline and ice-creamy transparency.


No. Vanilla beans in the flesh, and in great profusion, so strong that your brain tastes of it and you dream it again at night, are far more savoury, masculine and obstinate than one might expect; percolating and ruminating within themselves oleaginously and without compromise. As a result, I think of vanilla pods almost more as creatures than as just a ‘spice’, the way in which the air root of the vine is constantly searching and moving down towards the ground to gain anchor, the fact that the vanilla orchid flowers on one day and on one day only (and if you miss it, you miss the pollination, which is done by hand); the way the pods have to gestate for such long periods, hanging fecundly and with high suggestiveness, before they are ready to be plucked; even the curing process itself, when the beans (which have no scent until cured) are ‘killed’ before being wrapped up in shrouds, and put in wooden boxes, and lovingly and caringly placed in the sunlight to sweat and be cured, and embalmed, like miniature  mummies.


When I came back to Japan with my suitcase (illegally) full of vanilla beans and living orchids that we managed to keep for a fairly long time though ultimately the climate was wrong for them here, I tried, without much success, to make decent perfumes of my Javan vanilla beans; doused in spirits; soused in vodka to infuse the browning, tangible molecules I was always trying to get the blend right with (see my Black Narcissus Java review for the one exception that didn’t turn out too badly). Yet there was always something off in one or more of the later stages; the strange, bodily, dirtiness always coming out on the skin at some later point, just one of the vanilla pod’s inevitable facets, something skeezy you don’t get in the ‘purer’ synthetic (which is why Shalimar is so seamless). The pod always seems to spread itself out and not curtail its unrulier, oozier elements – it is quite a difficult essence to control, which is why it is very interesting for me to smell Mandy Aftel’s new and quite original take on natural vanilla extract, Vanilla Smoke.



From the first microsecond of smelling this perfume, I was plunged immediately back into the world of vanilla steeping – the type here is unquestionably natural, and I found the vanilla pod department of my brain cells lighting up the second I whiffed it – but it has also been cleverly smoothed out; lit up, decorated but also rounded, in all the right places with intuitively (and counter-intuitively) chosen aromatics. We are immediately aware of a smokiness, as the name of course suggests, but here it is a fuzzy and soft, warm and gustatory smoke, rather than, say, the broiled ham horror of Le Labo’s Patchouli 24 (I used to love the bonfire aspect of that scent, with its strong vanilla undertones, but once I had honed in the birch tar, barbecued meat-fest lurking at the heart, I could never put it on again). No. This is rather the mellow, snug infusion of lapsang souchong tea leaf extract (a very acquired taste among teas, but one which is very atmospheric I always find; somehow nostalgic and touching; historical) fusing together with the vanilla in great ease, cradled with some ambergris, some coumarin and some synthesised vanillin, so that in the base, once the hazy, autumnal-wintery vibe of the opening (also tinged with mandarin and saffron) subsides, you are left with a sweet, and quite comforting scent that clings peacefully to the skin.



While this may not be an ‘event’ oriental in the style of the traditional grand parfum (it is hard to imagine anyone wearing this to a gala for example, or to the opera), every well made perfume has its place. Personally, I would like it stronger and more intense, so am interested in sampling the perfume version as opposed to the edp (and it is crying out for a really intense solid version, surely; it would be lovely to have a secret compact of Vanilla Smoke in my pocket to just open and dab on at the right moment in winter) but even in this concentration, the scent, rather than a paen to extroversion, is more for the indoors and for the introverted, or at the very least a scent to snuggle up to. Caught on the wool hairs of a sweater, for instance, or on a soft and favourite scarf, as you wrap yourself up and step out into a cold winter’s day, I imagine that this could be really rather lovely.



Filed under Flowers, Vanilla

CLOVES ( or, ” One tear is enough” ) …POIVRE by CARON (1954)



Unknown-1                        images-9




I love cloves. And today I find myself really craving them. Maybe it was writing about Nuit De Noel the other day, maybe it’s the colder weather, or perhaps it’s because my chest feels a bit vulnerable today, but the searing dignity of this most aloof of spices is what I am feeling. So I am wearing some of finest cloves in my possession: Diptyque’s L’Eau de L’Eau; Caron Bellodgia parfum, and Floris’s gorgeously carnationesque Malmaison, the latter two adulterated by me to make them more spicy: two drops of ylang ylang, black pepper and clove essential oil in each, and boo ha we have what we want (I know it sounds heretical, but the Bellodgia is just too musky otherwise, and the Malmaison too polite and trust me, my sharper remix works nicely).

Still, I am not quite satisfied. And just now it suddenly struck me. What I need, in fact, is Caron POIVRE. Yes I know that it means pepper, and there are plenty of fiery, whip-cracked peppercorns lurking in the heart of that scent, along with carnations, and a fascinating, dark, miasma that wraps the wearer like a cloak, but it is cloves, cloves, cloves that this perfume really smells of – cloves regalized and embellished until they become parfum;  the vintage edition of this perfume undulating within itself in a shrouded rhythm of solitude  –  and quiet, drawn-out, heat. Divinely self-conducted and assured, Poivre is a Cruella De Vil, dressed-up excellence of spice and refined taste with a gloomed and obfuscated heart that makes you wonder if it has one, but it is that that I love – this scent is a scoundrel. Just one that is dressed like a duchess.

I have only ever had one parfum of Poivre, one bought for me online by a Japanese friend who got it for my birthday. But grateful though I was, it just didn’t cut it. Yes it was clovy (and I added even more), yes it was peppery and full of oeillet, but it was definitely not like the vintage. Too clean, too angular, too transparent, there was none of the blackness, the incorrigible, spicy contempt. Looking the perfume up online just a few minutes ago I find this











3 .oz (89ml) bottle of vintage perfume extract (ah, how I covet it), priced at $2,800. Wow. It’s not just me, then, who realises how good this scent once was, who knows that it is unique in the world of wintry spice perfumes, that there there has never been a peppercorn, or more particularly a clove bud, quite so profoundly distanced and beautiful.






Filed under Flowers




For most people, Caron’s famous Christmas perfume is a cosy, Yuletide Noel of sweet mosses, spice, and mellow florals, a quaint, comforting refuge that is perfect come this nostalgic time of year.


For me, though, it conjures up remembrances of dazzling sunlight; palm trees; and the almost sinister fascination of glittering, uptown LA in summertime: all piercing dark shadows, rich people behind sunglasses, and a humming bird I saw fluttering behind a flowering bush on Rodeo Drive.


The Beverly Hills Perfumery is a magnificent Babylon of treasures for the perfume collector. Boxes and boxes of vintage perfumes, still in their original cellophane wrappings, piled ceiling high, all Shalimar body creams and shower gels and soaps and face powders and and hair gels and glorious, discontinued originals; rarities, things you thought would never be found again, and things you have never smelled, but are dying, just dying, to get your hands on.



I only had enough money for one bottle. And god knows what I thought that should be. I wanted Ungaro Homme I, now so hard to find, I wanted all manner of things (let’s just rob a bank together and go there in a pick up truck, shovelling the entire stock into the back of a van and take it home).



Seriously. This is not a department store, it is not a niche fragrance boutique, it is not a flea market, it is a repository. A cavern of precious, olfactory loot, and my eyes wouldn’t stop darting over the merchandise, salivating, panicking, and  wondering what to get.



Then I saw the beautiful green, gold and black box of Caron’s much feted Nuit De Noel, a scent that looked so intriguing and was so reasonably priced, a perfume I had read about and was most eager to smell, and suddenly I just knew that it was going to be the one that I would buy.









And so for me, now, this dusty, old fashioned creation – woody, resinous, harmonious and affecting, the smell of spiced plum puddings and hair-spray, is not snow, and Christmas trees, and carols, and all the familiar trimmings, but rather the smell of adventure. Of my Lynchian fantasy of being in Los Angeles (just to be on Mulholland Drive, and to be able to re-enact a film that I was so obsessed with), a pungent celluloid based-desire that was just, at that moment, coming true.


Of my first time being so woozily in the cinematic centre of the universe, of seeing Larry King walk by us on the way back to the hotel. Of so much furniture spray and overly cold air-conditioning in that hotel room that we could hardly breathe.


The smell of America. Of that first martini in the bar downstairs that felt like a crystallized whirlpool of the brain; and the weird plastic-surgery lady walking her dressed-in-pink chihuahua that we giggled at, and us, google-eyed, jet-lagged, and overstimulated from our flight from Japan, Nuit De Noel oozing, sparkling, providing the soundtrack.





Filed under Flowers




Filed under Flowers















The contrast between Friday and Saturday was startling.


The day before found me at the doctor’s round the corner, sat in a stuffy, overheated waiting room with a dozen or two pensioners waiting to be treated for pharyngitis (how on earth can I be expected to sing like this, I wailed to myself), and this, also, before a day of teaching at work where I felt like death warmed up and about as glamorous as a cold lump of dough.



And yet the next day was to be a birthday extravaganza organized by Duncan, participants unrevealed, activities secret, the only thing I knew being that I was supposed to be singing two songs at the Closet Ball Tokyo in Asagaya (in my debut cabaret performance (!)), something that at that tired, head-fuzzed stage, on Saturday morning as we sat on the train to Tokyo, my crappy Casio toy piano in hand, suitcase stuffed last minute with all kinds of costume possibilities, felt like an absolute, distinct impossibility.



Really I should have been in bed, sleeping, antibiotics and throat medicines and cough suppressants working their way through my system (oh how Japanese doctors like to dispense those pills!). Instead, we were now approaching Takadanobaba station, just in time for the appointed meeting – the morning had seen us shouting irritatedly at each other and leaving the house in an utter heap as we tried to pull everything together before the taxi arrived – as the first of our friends arrived for a birthday meal at a Myanmar restaurant called Mingalaba.










Me, third from right, looking pale and puffy.
















(Un)surprisingly, once the red wine started flowing and the dishes came (interesting and new – I’ve never had that food before), and people were enjoying just meeting up and chatting – D had assembled a lovely group of friends who all talk, if you know what I mean: after a week of teaching I don’t want to elicit conversation from people; one thing I hate sometimes socially is when I feel as though I have to play the fool, the joker and make everyone laugh; on this occasion it was more like just swimming in a stream of words and interesting stories where no one had anything to prove (the scourge of being in your twenties, surely – how I hated dinner parties then, so many insecure yet pretentious people in London in the media, in theatre, in the arts, I used to feel so unsatisfied by social exchanges: really I think that the black hole post-university is the first often uncredited crisis we have, where no-one really knows what they are doing and are all panicking…) How lovely, then, to be in ‘middle age’, if you must call it that, and be with people who all know who they are, a diverse bunch who are all curious and sensitive and open-minded, with interesting things to say, just enjoying each others’ company. The time seemed to just pass by in a flash, and so some of us then decided to continue the proceedings at a nice cafe down the road, in that warm, unthinking, relaxed kind of way (or was I just monged out from the drugs); whatever, it was nice, although I could feel the fact that I was supposed to be doing something later on stage (how?) starting to tug at me. How? 





I have written some posts on here before about Duncan’s recent performance art at The Closet Ball, a kind of anything-goes cabaret featuring burlesque, drag, and whatever else, organised by our friend Taylor/Tatianna, who we first met through a group of people who were protesting against the ludicrous ‘dance ban’ enacted a couple of years ago when the Tokyo mayor suddenly decided, in typically draconian, fascistic fashion, to ban dancing in bars and clubs for ‘moral’ reasons (and this in the child pornography and human trafficking capital of Asia for god’s sake; what kind of messed up ethics were these?). In any case, we soon found ourselves meeting up in Tokyo for dance-offs in the streets and ‘flash mobs’ (most memorably to Michael Jackson’s Thriller, such fun), and through it we made a whole new coterie of friends. One thing led to another and before we knew it, Duncan was on stage doing bizarre and highly inventive performance pieces every couple of months or so, letting his wild imagination go untrammelled and unexpurgated in public: thrilling, actually, and intensely liberating. 





We now essentially have two lives: the working week, when we hardly see each other because we are just working and coming home and sleeping – me on lates, he on early; during the week we are respectable ( I like to kid myself ) teachers, conventional in many ways, and pretty hard working, though secretly with eyes, always, in truth, on the weekends, which have, quite frankly, become quite ridiculously exciting. Depending on your viewpoint, this is either infantile, or perhaps merely adolescent, or else, perhaps just incredibly lucky. We are told that once we hit thirty and have commitments and responsibilities and are in a long-term relationship that life will become calcified, stultified, that we will become these zombies and shadows of our former selves, set in our ways; bored, and boring. But does ‘adult’ have to mean this? As long as you are a responsible citizen during the week, pay your taxes, your bills, and all the rest, as far as I am concerned you can do what the hell you like the rest of the time especially if it is something you love, that makes you feel passion. As I said to my students yesterday, passion is key.





And for me and the D, I suppose that ultimately comes from the imagination and from art. Everyone is different; we are drawn to different inspirations, but I know for us, what lurks beneath or beyond, in dreams rather than reality, in what touches the senses and the aesthetic rather than the practical or the prosaic, is what turns us on, what thrills. When you go ‘under the membrane’, pierce something, get away from the commercial and the brainwashed and access something more instinctual and intuitive, you feel alive, and to have reached an age where you almost have nothing to lose, when you are doing it for the sake of pure experience, to me, that in itself is beautiful.












But now there is a show to be done. And on this occasion, our roles are reversed. Usually I am doing the music and taking the pictures and assisting backstage (a little upstairs dressing room I love hanging about in), but tonight, it is me, my first time at trying this – Duncan had said a short while back, it’s your birthday, do you want to perform? And although the idea terrified me, I thought it was just too boring to say no. So here I am: Burning Bush, my brand off-the-cuff new alter-ego, in homage to Kate Bush, my favourite ever singer, but also a stage name, I thought, with several other possible interpretations. Not really being a clothes person (call yourself a drag queen?) I am being styled by D, who has picked up various things in cheap recycle shops, and for obvious reasons, I am wearing Aimez Moi by Caron, because I do absolutely want to be loved by the audience.
























Rather than sit and quake upstairs and wait my turn, though, I decide to watch the first few acts, including the deliriously fascinating Die Schwarze Frau, a friend from Sweden called Yukiro now (he won’t tell us his real name), who is a ‘drag queen’ but also not, somehow, as he often seems to be subverting the genre (which, in truth, I can find really quite tedious with all its conventions and false eyelashes and camp stereotypes, just one more unthinking part of the gay canon). No. Yukiro is a true sight to behold, as you are about to see. Tall, slender as a snake, he transforms himself into creatures that people are speechless in front of: there is something icy and cold, even terrifying about him (though in truth he is gentle and sweet) – at our Delicate Delinquents party in July he absolutely stole the show: people were open-mouthed and dazzled. What is fantastic is that we are fast becoming very good friends, with a great deal in common in terms of musical and cinematic taste, and in fact Duncan and he are, as we speak, writing a screenplay and are set to co-direct a film next year, a very low-budget (or rather no-budget), but quite hilarious sounding spoof on the British cult classic The Wicker Man, but set here, at the Closet Ball itself. A collection of people are quickly becoming involved, including Tom, the amazing Reuters photographer, sat next to me at the Burmese restaurant, who took some of these pictures (the really clear, professional-looking ones) and who has volunteered to be the chief cameraman for the film. Duncan is on a complete creative roll at the moment (I think I lied when I said that we were concentrating on our jobs properly during the week, as he is currently completely burning the midnight oil with ideas for this film and keeps going up to Tokyo to meet people: he is going again tonight to recruit a Japanese friend who is to play the Brooklyn detective’s Japanese side-kick. I can’t wait for it all to start filming).




























D + Y, much later on….













Yukiro is dazzling again tonight, performing some kind of excoriating German Christmas song where he looks more like a devil from a fantasy movie, and, later, a death-metal rendition of a Britney Spears song, Oops…..I Did It Again, which comes across as incredibly exciting, thrashing,  and spellbinding. After Dolly Tarton, a Scottish girl who does cute 50’s style Carmen Miranda routines has finished her Christmassy Edward Scissor Hands act I glance worriedly at the schedule and suddenly think shit, maybe we should get ready as we are on soon, just after the Lip Sync Til You Die contest, and I am still in my Christmas jumper and jeans. In our confusion and Saturday morning rush we have failed to bring the music stand (and I have been too busy, or too lazy, to memorize the chords properly, to Tori Amos’s Leather, my first song) and thus have no way of reading the music while I am singing. Shit. But Duncan has dressed me, I have slapped on the same face paint I used for my Halloween costume, and as somehow the nozzle to the Love Me perfume has come off rendering it unsprayable, I decide on my second choice of scent, Louis Feraud’s Fantasque from ’82, which I also wore at Halloween and which has now become deeply redolent and affecting as a result of this last Saturday evening where I reeked of it – a kind of deeply eighties, and intentionally on my part, musky Anais-Anais type affair, all aldehydic and hair-sprayey which for some reason garnered compliments all night.





‘BURNING BUSH! BURNING BUSH!’ the host(ess) Tatianna is screaming up the stairs…..YOU’RE ON!!’ and I have no choice but to oblige, drunk though I already am (thank god, or I might never be able to do it otherwise), emerging on stage ready to take to my crappy, pedal-less keyboard that exposes every wrong note horribly and will undoubtedly make me look like a total fool (if I don’t already), in the fabulous yellow and black jacket that Duncan has got me, and my Kate Bush meets Kabuki white, black and red make up.































The bright white stage lights dazzle me. I close my eyes and start playing. Thankfully, the red wine has loosened up my throat and this song and its key usually suit my voice okay anyway,  and although I cock up some of the chorus’s chords, I feel that I am making the audience hang on every moment. I camp it up with deliberate pauses during the song where I stare at certain people standing there in the dark shadows at the front of the stage,  and by the time the third verse has come I slow it down a bit and LOVE EVERY MOMENT. I am in my element. I could do this again, I think to myself, but by now it is time for me to do my second act, which, in truth, I shouldn’t have done. Next I am doing Wuthering Heights as a parody, which I know makes people laugh when I have done it at home before as I can do a pretty good imitation, in a kind of screeching falsetto, of Kate’s most famous number, but it really needs full, proper vocal chords in healthy condition to do properly, to make it genuinely comical. Although I have risen to the occasion with the first song (if anything, my cold has made my voice more husky, in a good way) it sounds rubbish with the second, just a lame piss-take that I know isn’t working, a kind of junk-falsetto, but which it is too late to get out of, and it makes me  lose my bottle (and Duncan tells me this is obvious) : I end up leaving the stage before the last chorus. Suddenly I can’t stand the eyes on me anymore and just want to run up the stairs. I wish, at this moment, that I had just done a ballad, done something impromptu and different, rather than continuing with the original plan, but I can tell from people’s reactions that the whole thing had something to overall, and that they seem to have at least enjoyed the first song. And that is enough.







We are upstairs. Friends come up to say goodbye, and it is the end of the evening, and time to go home. Duncan and I swore blind that morning before leaving the house that we would go home, that, given my health condition, we definitely were not going to go anywhere afterwards, we were without doubt going to get the last train. Not this time. We can’t stay out all night, particularly when it is so cold, particularly when I am wearing a dress. Don’t want to catch pneumonia again.














Clearly charred by the experience…..


















But Yukiro and his boyfriend are discussing a place, now, called Department H they are on their way to, a weird underground club at a disused cinema in Uguisudani, or Nightingale Valley, the seedier end of North Tokyo, where, he tells me, the freaks and weirdos of Tokyo gather and you can see unbelievable things. Duncan and I are pretending that we are going to be sensible and go home, but as we listen to this we know, in truth, that  I am feeling fine, now, that we have shaken off the cobwebs, that the performance has exhilarated me, and anyway, you can’t put the idea of an abandoned cinema in my head and expect me not to go there. No, it is obvious that we are going to go (who are we trying to kid?), and so, once we have said goodbye to the friends that have come to the Ball, we all set off in the opposite direction of where I should really be going (home, to respectable old Kamakura), to get the last train instead to the Other Side Of Town.































































The people welcoming the crowd at Department H…..














As soon as we get to the place, and the convenience store outside, we can see that the reputation of the club is justified. There are extreme looking people everywhere, and I am one of them. In my Burning Bush guise I get in much more cheaply (Duncan, tonight’s straight man, is dressed much more conventionally and pays the full price), and here we are: through the looking glass and into a world I have never been in before, the Japanese world of geeks and freaks and fetishists, all anime otaku and leather and Lolita obsessions and fat-fanciers and god knows what else, and I feel sheepish as I enter (through profoundly intrigued) as I  see a naked woman is a glass cage (as you do), people dressed up as cartoon characters, in rubber, as animals, or just in normal clothes, lounging about talking and drinking (things they have bought at the convenience store, there is no bar) the atmosphere heady and potent. I actually find that I am not really speaking.



I am just looking and taking it in.


























































































The place is both relaxed and boisterous. On the main stage various acts are performing:  a topless girl does a Star Wars suite; there is female wrestling, there are comedians, drag acts, an opera singer performing Puccini’s O Mio Babbino Caro, all kinds of things, but suddenly I realise that I have been with other people for over twelve hours now and I just have to go outside and get some fresh air and solitude.



Wandering around the cold night streets though for half an hour or so, I suddenly remember what I look like when a policeman cycles past me and rolls his eyes, tutting at yet another freak that has graced, or rather soiled, the streets of this borough of the great metropolis ( I love Tokyo, you know : it is so endless; vast, ever changing, ever morphing, you could never know it fully and can just immerse yourself forever in its glittering anonymity), but, starting, now, to get cold, I  decide to go back to Department H and see some more.




Yes, there are some vaguely frisky and seamy goings on in some of the corners of the spaces, but you know, you imagine something similar in America or Europe and it would just be so much more decadent and steamy, even sordid. This is different. It is almost innocent. It is fun, even child-like, although after a few hours it does all start to pall, and I begin to find the infantalizing titillations almost tedious. I have had enough now, I am finding it unpalatable, fascinating though it all has been. At one point Duncan asks me if I am alright as I am so quiet and I say yes, I am just……watching. We dance. To some seventies disco 12″. And someone (this freak you see here with the beard)











swerves up to me on the dance floor and says to me in English, god you smell so eighties and I say yes I know that was the idea and he says I knew it and in fact, my smell, Fantasque, has allured me all night to the point where I am sick of it now, sticking as it is to my entire being but D says I love this smell, your hair smells lovely; but it isn’t my hair; and this fascinates me.




The next day, when we are finally home, after being asleep on the train and a mortifying taxi journey where in the cold light of day I am aware of just atrocious I am now looking – though of course a Japanese taxi driver would never even bat an eyelid as they are self-control itself – when we have had a good sleep, and I come downstairs in my pyjamas again I smell that perfume on my clothes, on the wig, on that yellow and black jacket, it is me, but then it isn’t. It is my alter ego. I am remembering myself, as someone else. And this bifurcation is strange. I have the sensation of illusion, but there is a solidity to it. Like the images you see in the photographs, most of which are not mine but a professional photographer who was there and an acquaintance of Yukiro’s, someone much more used to that world than I am, a guy called Shinobu Morohashi, there is a mesmerizing disconnect between the way I saw things there, and the way that  he did (and the way that we all did).



Just as Tom makes me look much more superstar-like (and alluring) than I actually was in the photos you have seen of my performance, this photographer hardens, and heterosexualises, the place I was in at the same time as he was and it just makes you realise: we all see things differently, whether it is with your eyes or looking through a machine, a lens.



In the end, though, it doesn’t really matter; it all just adds to the heady, kaleidoscopic brew. Which, come Tuesday morning when I shower and shave and pack my bag for work, to be honest, is already in the past and has started to take on something like the colour of a dream.






























Filed under Flowers




Filed under Flowers