Monthly Archives: November 2016












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 …


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Filed under Incense








In my piece from a year ago, The Rosy Scent Trail of Ms. Pusey, I extolled the virtues and mental clarity of not having a mobile phone. That hiatus has lasted from June 2015 until now, almost a year and a half, and I have loved it. The peace of it. All the books I have read. The non-addictiveness; the sense of being detached.



But for one reason and another, I have had to capitulate. It was essentially kind of forced on me.Being uncontactable is essentially  selfish, I suppose, and no longer tenable (and in the majority of people’s eyes, seriously weird. We don’t have a working house phone either……………..)



So, anyway, I am now the ‘proud’ (and already addicted, and more insomniac, seriously, even after just five days) owner of an iPhone 7. I feel more twitchy, and compulsive, and itching to always check. The ergonomic intimate pleasure, and the smoothness.The plugged-inness. The gleaming, irresistible lure of the brainwashed  consumerist Matrix.



And it has definitely disturbed my inner composure (not that there was much of that going on this crazy, mangled fascist of a year in any case), but at the same time, I can’t deny for a moment that I am enjoying, now that the cold has set in and the end of term and its inevitable alienations and exhaustions begun, the immediate contact with my Loved One. The instant messages that flash up on the screen; the cozy feeling of having him tucked away hidden in my pocket.



And  I feel visually really excited, and turned on: that side of me, I realize now, was muted and turned out, me always grabbing Duncan’s phone when I wanted to take something: but now I can just take my own. Random pictures. Just for the hell of it. Just to mutate the boring day into something more curious.




So here are some snaps from my environs taken over the last few days. In the miserable sleety snow of yesterday, when things happened that put me in one of the foulest possible moods of my entire life. The lurches of today. And the marvellous banality of the everyday, and how you can twist it, and edit it, as your eye, and your brain, see fit.












































Filed under JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, Psychodrama


           March 2007, Kamakura. I had been invited to tea with one Ms Ichihara and her sister: two refined old ladies who have been living in the same elegant old wooden house, near the famous Ken…


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O sweet fig : FLAGRANT DELICE by TERRY DE GUNZBURG (2012) (+ miniature figathon for Nina: L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier; Diptyque Philosokos; Miller Harris Figue Amere; Angela Flanders Figue Noire; Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree; Carthusia Io Capri )

A selection of fig scents: : : :  O sweet fig : FLAGRANT DELICE by TERRY DE GUNZBURG (2012) (+ miniature figathon for Nina: L’Artisan Parfumeur Premier Figuier; Diptyque Philosokos; Miller Harris Figue Amere; Angela Flanders Figue Noire; Sonoma Scent Studio Fig Tree; Carthusia Io Capri )

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Forests, as David Lynch once said, are full of mystery.  They never fully reveal their depths. And some perfumes…..




Filed under Coniferous, Green, Woods









Guest post by Robin




I’d written off Annick Goutal’s Nuit Étoilée about thirty seconds after I tipped a few drops of the 1ml sample onto my wrist, let it dry, and sniffed it. Quickly. Dismissively. Happily.


I’ve been trying to do that lately. I have too many perfumes. I’ve already spent too much. I will die with probably two or three hundred bottles, good ones, expensive ones, that are all still mostly full. (I have already written the note. It is in a drawer. When I die, please give my perfumes to my niece Nadia . . . Otherwise, I haven’t even thought of writing a will.) I can’t bear the thought of whoever empties my house of worldly possessions throwing out those venerable old beauties. I do not need another love, another Must Have. If anything, I should start saving my twenties for a bottle of Superstitious, the new Dominique Ropion creation from Malle slated to be released early next year. I’m pretty sure I’m going to want that one. But I do get curious, and I do receive samples. And if it’s not love at first sniff, out it goes.


So it was with considerable relief that I gave Nuit Etoilée the quick thumbs down. It wasn’t much of a stretch. A toothpaste-y mint note up front, a discordant immortelle behind it, some weird tonka-bean-like sweetness and a murky forest-floor/pine-fresh-cleaning-solvent undercurrent that instantly made me queasy. I wasn’t looking for ways to adore it, but Annick Goutal had made it easy to dump the rest of the vial on my neck (I’m Irish; I don’t like waste) and toss the glass into the recycling.


So off I went to my dear Ric’s for a morning coffee. He’s used to me by now. I grab the steaming cup from his hand, offer up my neck. “What do you think of THIS stuff?” It’s a routine he’s endured every day since we fell in love, two and a half years ago now, with responses that are predictably and endearingly short and sweet; Ric was quite happy with the scent of soap and water before he met me, and he’d be fine with soap and water now. There are four standard verdicts ranging from a tepid yea to an adamant nay: “That’s quite nice”; “It’ll work”; “Room for improvement”; and “NO,” with a snap back of the head. (To his credit – Ric really does have an excellent nose, although he’d deny it – the latter is saved for the vilest mainstream dreck loaded with ethyl maltol and throat-closing white patchoulis. He is surprisingly tolerant of aldehydes, nitro-musks, civet and castoreum.) Of all the fragrances I’ve thrust under his semi-willing nose, he’s liked maybe a handful. Most have been Guerlains, frequently from the Jean-Paul era: Champs-Elysées (actually Olivier Cresp’s), Jardins de Bagatelle, et al. Good taste, he has. This particular “What do you think of THIS stuff?” was said with a hint of I know already you’re not going to like it, but please humour me anyway, my long-suffering Love.

“Mmm,” exhaled that dear man. “That’s actually really nice.”

Reader, I bought a bottle.

Ric is a man of few words, and though I pressed him, he wasn’t willing to provide a flowery review. He liked it, he liked it a great deal in fact, and that was that. When my bottle of Nuit Etoilée arrived in the mail last week – the eau de toilette, by the way; I hear the eau de parfum is a little less green, a little more ambery – I was able to give it a second chance. I see what he sees in it. It has that same breezy, Jean-Paul Guerlain femininity. It’s fresh. It’s . . . pretty. There’s a fair bit going on. There’s a sharp orange note that works well against the oily greens. I wore it, and it lasted nicely. Projection was above average. I still could, if I tried, find that same initial reaction to it; the toothpaste-y mint was there, and the pine-scented cleaning solution, and the immortelle in all its odd-ball glory and the clunky tonka. But you know, it didn’t really matter. And it doesn’t matter. Ric likes it, and I love Ric. He is amazingly tolerant of all the perfumes I foist on him that make his nostril hairs burn and his stomach clench. It feels good to set aside my own prejudices and predilections and opinions – God knows I have enough for a dozen strong-willed women – and bring a sweet man a little happiness and pleasure. And sometimes, a fragrance doesn’t get any better than that.




Filed under Coniferous, Mint, Woods






L’Eau Du Navigateur, unfortunately now discontinued but quite findable if you search hard enough, is one of those distinctive and beautiful scents that make my stomach flip. There is nothing else anything else quite like it: a seamless, delicate, composition that is somehow unfathomable, even mystical: the desert, or early evening sunlight, dappling on warm Moroccan terracotta. There is an honesty here:  something pure and noble that elevates this smooth, enveloping perfume to a higher plane.


So many of the incense perfumes now on the market seem to seek to recreate the arid religiosity of actual church or temple incense, and they can be one-dimensional, aggressive, even depressing. This, though,  which predates that trend by twenty years, is  more complex and soulful: a soft, gentle, twilight in an imaginary Damascus.


A light, fresh, and very mellifluous blend of resins, tobacco, spices, citrus and incense; ambery balsamics, and a most inspired base note of coffee absolute (truly wonderful, actually, and the first perfume ever to use this unusual ingredient:  lending the composition the sandy, enveloping, and trustful warmth of a kaftan), L’Eau Du Navigateur is a unique, and beautifully androgynous composition with a sillage – God-like, almost – that trails the air around it as if kissed by desert winds.


Filed under Incense



We have been convulsed. A ranting playboy demagogue is soon to become the most powerful man in the world at the head of a political party that believes that climate change is a ‘hoax’, and is intent on de-ratifying the historic Paris Accord – possibly the only chance left there is to still make a difference to the planet. Vice President Pence believes in conversion therapies for homosexuals, something akin to psychological torture and which is known to be very damaging spiritually to the individual concerned; entire geopolitical tectonics have been shifted overnight: in Japan, there is a terrified scramble for Prime Minister Abe, himself a nationalist hawk, to try to work out what D.T. is all about and whether the threatened phasing out of America’s military support for Japan and South Korea will leave us at the mercy of the insane nuclear fantasies of another dictator, the ridiculous Kim Jong Un, just across the pond and who could obliterate us in an instant if he so desired, not to mention the renewed aggressiveness of China…….

I could go on, but like the name of this latest perfume by Serge Lutens, it goes without saying that this week has certainly been something of a ‘Baptism Of Fire’. I don’t actually think that I am exaggerating. Yes, I am known to be melodramatic, overemphatic, even way over the top; I do exult in extremes of emotion and the explosive power of language, but that is more to simply try and nail the essence of a feeling than to overembellish it into a lie or a soundbite: this last week, for instance – well I can’t really even say ‘for instance’, can I, because it is all completely unprecedented: there has never been an event like it in my lifetime, and although I expected it deep in my heart and gut (last Tuesday night, when the world still seemed kind of sane, I was talking about the next day’s election with two very bright students of mine and they asked me who I thought was going to win and I honestly told them: my instincts tell me definitely Donald Trump, but the optimist in me is intellectually trying to say Clinton, but I knew (incidentally, I don’t understand why many of you actually didn’t…I do think that the dreamy idealism of many liberal people is intensely problematic…….just because you might have that extra dose of empathy and compassion running naturally in your bloodstream doesn’t mean that half the rest of the world does…..get real)…..anyway, blah, blah,blah it seems to have become impossible to write about anything else whatsoever, let alone try and write on here a new perfume review.

But I shall endeavour to do so nonetheless (and please forgive this rather supercilious tone of mine today – I think I am still trying to contain the fury of my furnace…don’t forget that my stage alter ego is Burning Bush – and never has that name felt more right nor suited to the times).

While many people across America, perhaps understandably, rejoice in the mere fact of tumultuous change (because let’s face it, the prospect of four years or more of Hillary Clinton were rather uninspiring), the rest of us, and most of the world, are full of fear. It has been an extraordinary week, exhausting emotionally and psychically when you are trying to get on with your job and your life and these cataclysmic events are going on all around you. It feels as if life as we know it is coming to an end. And perhaps it is.

At the same time, for mental wellness’ sake, a person cannot let That Man invade his or her consciousness for too many hours of the day (it struck me a couple of days after the election just how much psychological space the Orange One must have been occupying in the Mind of Humanity these last few days (and weeks, and months..)….like a great Satanic scourge coursing through the brain cells and soul systems of much of the planet: it is a face and voice that one cannot abide yet it fills up your brain all the same against your will, like a rapist…when I saw the photos of him gloating in the paper the next day I literally felt my chest compressing in a kind of asphyxiating panic at the prospect of my mind being dominated by such a shallow, opportunistic dick for the next four years, at the thought of what he could do with and to the world, and my absolute rage and disgust towards the crude, foolish suckers who voted for him….god, I could go on and on and on but the whole point of this post was to try and move on to the next stage, to get back to perfume, or something not related to this unholy gaggle.)



(sorry, just vomiting up some fire…..)

In any case. The only reason for my choosing this particular perfume today in order to try and move on (in vain), is obviously because of its name, in keeping with the recent more exclamatory and Biblical sounding perfumes being released from the Serge Lutens range (suited to the haranguingly apocalyptic times we are living in), as if the labels he puts on the bottles will detract our attention from their more lacklustre, attenuated nature. They are still nice, and almost always smell-worthy, but La Religieuse, L’Haleine Des Dieux, Cannibale, Cracheuse de Flammes and their ilk are not the thunderbolt revelations their names might suggest. It is as if, like a certain person we were talking about before, their bark is predictably harsher than their bite (which is what I am really hoping will be the case). Still, Baptême Du Feu is pleasing to the senses, and quite original, in relation to the vast majority of either mainstream or even niche perfumes that very usually smell along quite similar lines. This latest release (part of the middle-tier black labelled line, not the ‘cheapie’ originals nor the recent, extravagantly priced Section D’Or gamut), I would describe as a spiced, balsamic-aromatic, a curious creation that is ostensibly a gingerbread perfume (fresh, taut notes of ginger, cinnamon and mouth-smacking mandarin) over an imaginative contradiction of powdery osmanthus, benzoin, ambrette and castoreum that unexpectedly tilts the perfume, despite its semi-gourmand oriental overtures, into the realm of the eighties’ masculine: a mid-level Lutens that I can’t quite get a handle on myself  – though I am very pleased by its uncategorizability in this fervidly labellous times- yet one that I would certainly gladly be sat next to on a person, male or female, for a couple of hours, in order get to know this fragrance more intimately. It does have something that slightly draws me in. Even, vaguely, a touch of mystery.

But though the grand doyen of Parisian perfume is still going strong after all these sleek, luxuriant years (“ My emotions are fluid. Like liquid wax poured into a mould, they determine what seduces me—like this gingerbread heart”), we, the perfume cognoscenti, are perhaps now less likely to take each of his pronouncements as seriously as we did in the days when Serge Lutens first crashed down beautifully onto the perfumed planet like Bowie in the Man Who Fell To Earth over a quarter of a century ago and each (pseudo?) poetic enunciation we took, almost, to be like  the words of a saviour. We are wiser now, and can see through the bluster. And I am hoping that this also holds true in other realms of the world right now as well, that grand intonements that can terrify or thrill the soul, just on the surface level, be they aesthetic, or political, can instead turn out, like this pleasing but ultimately somewhat disappointing perfume, to be more gentle, hollow, innocuous banalities.


Filed under Ginger

The only consolation I have at present is the thought of all the thrilling Resistance Art and righteous expressions of humanity that will be appearing from now onwards. In some ways, creativity flourishes beautifully under anger and oppression: it is real fuel to the fire. And I will also thrust this cretinous ugliness, this thick, Caucasian carapace of stupidity, base simplification and blind hate from me, and be a thriving, intelligent, and furiously uncompromising part of that movement. DOWN WITH DONALD TRUMP AND ALL HE AND HIS KIND REPRESENT, AND VIVE LA RESISTANCE!!!!!





Filed under Flowers