The greatest orange blossom neroli of all time?……….. Berber Blonde by Sana Jardin Paris ( 2017 )


When I came round I was in Hell. I was shouting and screaming. I didn’t know where I was. I couldn’t feel my legs; my right arm was in intense pain, and I couldn’t move it, either, from the six hours of tight pulsating blood pressure control it had been under in the operating theatre.

The lights in the corridors were ferociously blinding and disorienting as I was led back, blurring and jolting, to my room. Faces in masks whirled above me clamouring in Japanese, and then, suddenly, incomprehensible, assailing my drugged, tampered brain, there was the nauseating and overwhelming smell of No 19 parfum assaulting my senses from all angles – foreign, unwelcome : like a block of pure unwanted evil.

Screaming to get it away from me, get that smell oh god I need water so badly my mouth is so dry what have I done I’m going to die, why have you put 19 everywhere (he hadn’t: it was discharging from my carefully saturated bathrobe that was lurking hidden in the hospital drawer and emanating fumes- entirely my fault), but it couldn’t possibly at all have been more wrong in that situation; it just smelled poisonous.

I was in hell. I didn’t know what I had been expecting, but I hadn’t been expecting this. To be so pitiably helpless like a deformed, newborn child. And for my ‘legs’ – packed in ice packs and bandages and machine compressors- to feel so lifeless.


I wanted to disappear. I was shuddering from the shock of it. I didn’t know what I wanted : except water. Water. Water. Water. That was all I could think about, only water, but they told me kindly, but firmly, that I wasn’t allowed any more fluids for another torturous four hours.

This, unless you suffer from the same thing that I do, you won’t quite realize the impact of. The intolerableness. The unacceptability. Nobody understands, actually, except perhaps one friend of mine who feels somewhat similarly, but being deprived of water at any one time is literally unbearable for me, as is any situation in which I am denied water for even a moment. It is a fully fledged phobia, the depths of which only now I am realizing.

When I heard, from someone who had undergone a similar operation, that in some cases, in some hospitals ( or perhaps this is just how it used to be, I don’t know), no food or drink is allowed twenty four hours before an operation, despite the fact that I was becoming unable to walk through lack of cartilage, I was seriously considering cancelling it. Because it was impossible. There was honestly no way that I could have done it.

Then, other friends who have also been in hospital told me that the usual procedure before a major operation was nil by mouth after midnight- still utterly unfathomable as a doable thing on my part, and something I could never have complied with, no matter the consequences. If I was risking death, so be it.

I drink water during the night whenever I wake up ( often). I have bottles in my bag, in the classroom, on the bus, beside me at all times, wherever I am. I am never at any time without it. I CAN’T be without it.

As you will have realized from reading this, my obsession, my dehydrophobia, if that’s the name for it – -is exactly that : an irrational phobia of not having constant access to water even when you are not dehydrated………and realizing that when you are in this situation you succumb to an accelerating sensation of dryness and fear.

(or is it possible that I died of thirst in a former life?… who knows )

In any case, as the operation date approached, water, rather than pain, was my biggest anxiety. To me this is natural, normal, instinctive, but I could find almost no information on similar people when I looked into it further online.

I was surprised. I would have presumed that far more people, water being so essential, so crucial to our existence and well being, would have had a similar obsession. The fear of desiccation . Of dehydration. Of death by thirst. So much more all-consuming and murderous than hunger.

Yet while many articles discussing phobias naturally list hydrophobia ( a physically- derived symptom of rabies ) and aquaphobia ( a terror of actually physically being in the water ), no one seems to have mentioned its direct opposite: people like me, water lovers, who are aquaphilic in the extreme.

I love swimming in the open sea more than almost anything. live in the bath. have no fear of drowning ( at least it’s in water) or of diving off rocks into waves. Heaven.

I love liquids, hydration, warm, tropical rains, rivers, lakes, just staring down into the water, like Narcissus, himself, who was drowned in that treacherous pool in the forest but transformed, thereafter, into that shy but powerfully perfumed flower.

Water is the opposite of stasis, of inertia: it signifies life and the movement of the blood in our veins, the rain bringing newness and the annihilation of dryness – it IS life, so having even the mere possibility of having water taken away from me at any time: forbidden, disallowed, but then also being physically unable to reach out for it, is thus, essentially, my worst fear realized.

It is a fear that I can usually quite easily keep a lid on though – no one needed to know about it, really, until now. Because unlike, say, phobia of exposure to a particular kind of creature or person; or a terror of public vomiting or flowers or buttons – all much more commonly recognized phobias, in fact, than my own fear – no one would really have ever known about my own formidable anxiety about this issue until now because obviously, no has prevented ever really tried to prevent me from having water.

But how do you ignore doctors’ orders, when presumably those very rules that are in place in the majority of health facilities are there to protect your health, even your life?

The night before the operation I was told that I could drink fluids until 6.30am and this was quite surprising and blissful news for me, even if there was still the time until the surgery at 9.15 to be considered ( yes, I realize that I could have called to find out all this vital information in advance, but I was planning on having bottles secreted away in case I had to flout the rules and I was paranoid they would then be keeping an extra eye on me to make sure that I didn’t………..)

I managed to remain relatively calm, knowing what was going to soon be happening to me, all things considered, and I didn’t really even drink that high a volume of water I don’t think, at least as far as I can now remember. For me, anyway.

The night before, I had had a Skype conversation with an old flame of mine, Christopher Green, a well known comic performer and resident performance artist at the Royal College Of Art in London where he works as the Singing Hynotherapist. He is fully qualified, and practices, but given our history ( a three day fling at Cambridge in 1991, all very poetic and passion in the daffodils ) he said it probably wasn’t wise to have a real hypnotherapy session over Skype; you need to be treated in person. The trust needed to go under that way requires the energy of person to person interaction, and it shouldn’t be someone you have been involved with.

It helped, though, certainly: the visualization he suggested, the breathing practice, but it wasn’t enough. Although I had read about the dangers of combining water and anaesthetic, my anxiety level, by 6.31 am, was such that I had no possibility internally of stopping all fluids; kept sipping water, even drinking it normally, swallowing quite a lot, right up until the dreaded time I found myself dead man walking into the operating theatre, where I was strapped to the gurney in the middle of the room, stared down at by the Japanese medical team, ready for them to begin cutting and sawing at my leg bones….but all I could think about, aside noting all the people, the machines, the sound of my heart beat on the monitor, the pattern on the dull, glassed, ceiling, was WATER, WATER, I just can’t stand not having it, I can’t wait for the anaesthetic please give it me, and and so in pity they finally let me rinse my mouth with a side gargle tray – though I took undisguised sips as I was desperate for it, it was necessary for me to have it, could not not just spit all of it out, and then RIGHT BEFORE, just before the actual moment of surrender and I went under I begged them for another.

No more.



And they let me have one more final drink before my lights went out.

But then I woke up – what was actually six hours later but what felt like immediacy, and the all consuming need for hydration was so potent that it overwhelmed ALL other considerations, including whether I lived or died. But it was denied me.

Those first four hours after the operation were the worst of my life so far: queasy, paralyzed, in pain, dying for water and just trying to get through each interminable hour ( I could only get the mouthwashes, but they still were some mental salve as I was going in and out of consciousness….) until I reached the magical hour of 8pm when I could resume having water again.



Going into hospital I had initially, as you know, settled on No 19. My underwear is scented with it, which I like, because I have been stuck in the same position in bed for six days, but that outrageous bathrobe drenched in the parfum, the one that made me feel so sick when I was coming round, is just too much. What the hell had I been thinking? Strong tasting food and overwhelming odours become like anathema.

In the first days after the Trauma, though, as I began to gather myself and feel more human, I noticed how nice the nurses, both female and male, who were giving me round the clock care, were smelling. But thismight just have been the contrast with my own foetid squalor in the bed – caused by the shroud I was wrapped in with hot heating apparatus during the surgery and what I was carried in on as they brought me to the bed, drenched in panic sweat which seeped into the bed itself; I was changed into other hospital clothes two days later but god, the smell……although I like my skin smell and don’t think on the whole I have a particularly pernicious body odour, in concentration, like that, sickly and perspiring at my most perilous I would say the ooze I was emitting was a something like a pungent melange of warm, wet digestive biscuits and dead dogs with a pinch of nutmeg.

As for my mouth…….parched, lying there wide open for six hours in dehydration, well I am sure I would have won Top Honours at the Bad Breath Awards 2017. Uueuurgh. That taste….. it’s as if the day when you know your exhalations weren’t at their freshest – you know, that smell – that exact, dreaded scent were changed from a cologne fraiche to a double strength extrait de parfum; viscous and arid; but you can’t do anything but lie there like a bandaged open sewer and accept it.

In contrast to all this vileness emanating from my brutalized and sutured, dehydrated self, then, the fact that the staff all smelled so fresh and fragrant was an immediate boon. Not perfumed, as such, although one nurse, smelling as Atlas cedary as Serge Lutens Feminite Du Bois, told me that her scent was from products she had got at an onsen, or hotspring – perhaps something floral and hinoki, but every time her hair is anywhere in my vicinity as she is changing a drip or inserting an intravenous, I feel more alive.

Even my physiotherapist, the lovely, tiny, Ms Iikura (god, getting made to try and stand up- even supported by Duncan and her the day after the operation- and get into the wheelchair, to go to the rehabilitation room,….Christ the agony), smells cute and fresh as a daisy. I can’t identify what she is wearing – no doubt the hospital doesn’t allow any perfumes, it must be toiletries, or shampoo, but the gentle sweet cleanness of her scent, that perfectly matches her personality, is a much needed accompaniment to the excruciating challenges of that room.


My tastes are different in here. I thought I would be sickened by the meals, but in fact the light, healthy and very balanced Japanese food is just what I feel like, even things I ordinarily don’t enjoy, such as seaweed. Strong food, snacks, coffee, all just seem nightmarish at this stage. I am sure I will tire of it at some point ( edit: I already have):  the food is fresh and good to the point of saintliness, but in truth it’s exactly what I want. I have to feed the healing.

The same goes for my oils. Vetiver : no. So wrong. It just smells like exhaust engines and creosote. Frankincense : miserable, morose – horrible, actually, and ylang ylang just took me aback with its repellent, overfull yellow pink sweetness, and made me almost heave.

My Tasmanian lavender oil, however, was a godsend those first twenty four hours when I felt a regret that I have never before felt in this lifetime ( I just wanted to go back to how it was before…)

– a bright, purple, almost cassis -noted organically grown lavender that cleared the air of the room beautifully, changed it, and took away some of my worry. I could concentrate on that smell and imagine landscapes, feel less  confined to my body.


It is predominantly citrus, though, that I have wanted and have been using all the time here. The nurses are either beguiled or disturbed by it but I just sprinkle some bergamot here, some lemon there, just on towels and tissues to brighten things up, on my tongue, on my chest ( last night the male night nurse obviously had bronchitis, was feverish although he claimed otherwise – I could feel his hot fingers though, when he gave me the antibiotic injection and I wasn’t taking any chances; these essential oils not only smell beautiful, but they are germ killers as well, and right now, there could be no better essences. Bergamot, in particular, just clears the air, it relaxes me, it enlivens me, it just smells like a big giant aura of green orange happiness.)


By chance Duncan, one point on the third day of my stay here, sorting out what we had brought with us in our bags and putting the room in order, just took out, at random, one of the perfume sample bottles I had brought along to review in case I found myself in such a mood one day and……rejoice ! it just seemed so perfect for that particular moment that, suddenly mood-altered, immediately I began spraying it in tiny amounts on different parts of my pyjamas: sunshined: respirited, and elated.


As the press release from this new ‘ethical perfumer’ says ( and no, I don’t usually take these things seriously either, nor have even the slightest expectations any more from reading the purple prosed verbiage spewed up by pen-chewing copywriters, but this sample just winged its way across the ocean to me via a friend, and I like to keep an open mind) – Sana Jardin Paris, a new perfume house prioritizing sustainability and fair trade of all the jasmine, orange blossom, neroli and citrus oils used in the perfume grown in Morocco, is apparently designed to just smell like pure yellow happiness and sunshine in a bottle.

And the thing is, IT DOES.

This could of course simply be because of my current situation. Things I normally like, I am finding I don’t. And vice versa. So it’s quite possible that my ecstatic reaction to this scent that only smells of the orange blossom tree on a hot blue afternoon and just took me away from this immediate environment to somewhere happy, where I could walk freely among the orange groves  and just BE, is because of one of subjectively extreme experience, not intrinsic beauty.

Berber Blonde, a curious name for an orange blossom perfume but one I like, is all about the neroli and the orange blossom and nothing else, and I had in fact already been sampling on my skin before coming into hospital and already liked it. To me it just smells like  beams of sunlight: zinging, new – so blindingly optimistic when you first unlock the bottle, the future seems so bright that you’ve got to wear shades.

Some, who like the softer orange blossoms, many of which I also quite like myself and have written about here on The Black Narcissus, such as Mademoiselle and Petit Guerlain; Divin Enfant, Penhaligons Castile, Lorenzo Villoresi’s Dilmun or the sweet and lovely Eau Des Minimes Cologne Of Love, will perhaps find Berber Blonde too illuminated and lucid, though it is never as sharp and strong as Lutens  Fleurs D’Oranger, Gaultier’s Fragile, nor as citrussed and rasping as my own personal (and prior to this discovery, favourite) Annick Goutal’s Neroli cologne with its green and white on-the-bough realness.

No, Berber Blonde has a different, more psychologically lucent register.

You spray, you go; to a different place instantaneously, somewhere bright, and simple, and fragrant smelling;; just orange blossom buds and open flowers in some hot, imaginary place……..fresh, alive; breathing in sunlight, suspended above pools of bottomless clear blue water


Filed under Flowers

45 responses to “The greatest orange blossom neroli of all time?……….. Berber Blonde by Sana Jardin Paris ( 2017 )

  1. Photo: from the hospital, the night before the operation.

    And to pre-empt: of course I am considering hypnotherapy. D wants to go as well for his blood phobia.

    I would love, actually, to open up any discussions here about trauma, surgery, hypnotherapy, and past life regression ( what do you all think about it? Nonsense? Possible? Duncan is keener than I am : I think I just want to stop this water obsession now before it gets out of hand and in case in the future I need another surgical procedure, whereas he is interested in seeing what happens.

    Would it not be too disturbing to one’s sense of self identity? Would you still feel like you? I am, as with many things, completely open to the idea of it with a healthy dose of skepticism.

    Whatever you think, no matter how batty you may think it sounds, if you feel so inclined, please lay your cards on the table.

    Any feelings and comments on neroli and orange blossom perfumes also extremely welcome !

    • Lilybelle

      I’m very interested in hypnotherapy though I’ve never been through it. I’m not sure I’m trusting enough but I’m willing to be guided and I visualize easily. I think anyone in the hands of a competent fully qualified hypnotherapist would benefit. We’ve all got our issues. On past life regression, I reserve judgment but I’ve been fascinated by the subject ever since I was fourteen and read The Autobiography of Bridie Murphy – something like that. It would be fun but I also think the hypnotherapist would have to be very, VERY good. Go for it if you like, but if you feel some instinctive hesitation then don’t.

  2. Lilybelle

    Well well! Wow, what a post! I am so sorry for your painfull ordeal. 😦 That’s difficult but at least it’s over now. And I can see by this writing that you are actually doing well. Before you know it you’ll be over all this and hopping around like the Easter bunny.

    We always forget which few fragrances we tolerate when we’re unwell until we’re actually ill again. Everything else is revolting, until that corner is turned and then we forget again. For me, the only bearable fragrances when I’m feeling ill are pure lavender essence, citruses (Eau d’Hadrien has been my staple for years, one of the few actual perfume compositions that make the sick list), and fresh mint. Some people don’t like mint but I love the scent of the natural leaves. None of these can be dressed up with musk or amber or vanilla or anything. And just the thought of indolic jasmine or orange blossom. Heave. Speaking of mint, maybe you can have some fresh mint in a little jug of water by your bed. Or some fresh citrus rind. I think the closer to the original source of the essence the better.

    I’m so glad you’re over the surgery part and don’t have to waterless anymore. You’re going to be just fine and better than new. XX

    • Yes, I would never have thought that orange blossom would be right either but this is just a really bright, happy neroli. And yes, I have never been so grateful to lavender as in those first two days and I’m really glad I chose that particular Tasmanian strain. The Tree Of Life aromatherapist I go to in Tokyo has at least eight different lavenders to choose from, and I’m glad I spent such a long time selecting the right one.

      As for hypnotherapy, like you Ii am open but reserved, and at this stage I have no intention of going into it – it’s just too monumental.

      For a phobia though I think it might work : I just can’t go through this again.

  3. ninakane1

    Great post! Glad you’re on the mend and are sharing your rich perfume journey with us whilst healing. Recovery is a very creative time. Keep going strong xx

  4. Whoa. I can only imagine what torture being water deprived pre and post op was for you. I had actually never heard of that particular phobia, but as phobias go, keeping water close by seems manageable. Until surgery. Thank goodness that part is over!
    I was not at all surprised to hear about your change in scent and food preferences after hours of being rebuilt. How lovely that the staff, with their clean freshness, are appealing and soothing!
    Orange blossom and neroli perfumes are the second largest floral group in my collection. (Rose is the first ). I love these: Hiram Green Dilettante, Vero Profumo Rubj Voile d’Extrait, Prada Exclusives Fleur d’Oranger, Houbigant Orangers en Fleurs, Atelier Cologne Grand Neroli, Profumum Battito d’Ali, and Armani Prive Rose Alexandrie. The last perfume is almost 100% orange blossom to me.
    Now that that initial trauma has passed, I know you will be working hard to get all your muscles and tendons working smoothly with your new knees. I send you thoughts of strength, tenacity, and patience. When do you go home??

    • In six weeks, roughly.

      I only know a few of these perfumes, by the way, and am intrigued. I’d like to know how orange blossom makes you feel compared to rose.

      • Hmm. I think of the two flowers in terms of the season more than mood. There are so few perfumes I can wear in the Florida summers with 100 degrees and 98% humidity. I do live in what was the orange grove capital of the universe, so orange blossom really is the right choice. A few I reserve for cooler days, but Dilettante, Grand Neroli, the Armani, and Houbigant can really take the heat. The only roses I can wear in the summer and not suffocate, are Roja Dove’s Risque, Keiko Mercheri Attar de Roses, and Sonoma Scent Studio Rose Musk.

        Orange Blossom feels frivolous, carefree and brilliantly cheerful. Rose is serious. I am at my most confident wearing it. It is is moody and introspective, tender, and romantic.

      • How gorgeously you describe these two flowers…

  5. All I can say is WOW and YOW…what a post! I hope the worst is all behind you and you will heal perfectly and speedily.

  6. empliau

    I can’t think of many hells worse than the depths of one’s phobia while in pain. Kudos to you for getting through those four terrible hours.

    I share your affection for AG’s Neroli – it’s one of the few FBs I own, and I also cherish Fleurs d’Oranger (only in a decant, alas). Fleurs de Citronnier never interested me. Our loves are, in so many ways, visceral – why this orange blossom and not that? Writers such as you and Birgit, Tara and Vanessa, (just to name a few, not meant to be exhaustive) have a gift for describing what you perceive, but in the end scents are evocative and instinctive, for me. Having spent many happy years in southern California, orange blossom brings me back to warm nights where amazing fragrances lurked in the dark, some subtle, some strong. Some practically assaulted me. On a moonless night, sometimes I’d have no idea of the source. And sometimes, irony of ironies, I’d have an allergy attack in the middle of an transcendently beautiful smell. It’s painful to be both thrilled, wondering “What IS that amazing smelling thing?” while eyes and nose are running and burning.

    Keep getting better! I’m so glad you can write again.

    • Thank you : I think many people will probably just think blimey, he really is a psycho reading this, but it’s a risk I am willing to take because I need the catharsis and it distances me from it.

      Orange blossom is usually very much usually just an occasional, minor player for me so it is strange that it should feel so right now, but perhaps it’s because it’s just so forceful and THERE in nature on the tree that you just stop in your tracks when you smell it. It is instant optimism and aliveness and that’s just what I need right now.

  7. Your recovery power is fascinating ! Good to see you are able to post soon while still in a huge pain.

    • The pain is not so great actually now, especially when I have the pain killers, and I am able to move my legs more, which is great.

      Maybe it’s a good thing that I don’t have internet in my room, because then I would only be watching Netflix, probably.

      Right now I am alternating between reading and writing.

  8. David

    I felt your terror reading this!
    I am praying for your quick recovery.
    While I was reading this, I kept thinking how I am, in some ways, the opposite of you: I have hyperthyroidism, and one of my symptoms is excessive urination. (TMI, I know). I am so scared of drinking too many liquids (like even one full cup of coffee in the morning) and having to constantly run to the loo. I have to remain a bit parched during the work day. In a way, this is one of the reasons I finally left Japan. Leaving a meeting or a classroom was frowned upon. Oh, they said they understood, but it just caused too much talk and concern and whispers of lack of self-control (maybe I imagined that). Ultra-relaxed Brazil just fits better with my hyperthyroidism.
    If misery loves company, I can offer it up to you.
    By the way, I found an ancient bottle of Yardley’s lavender cologne at a street market here in São Paulo. The back of the front label is marked 1913. (I noticed it when l looked through the glass from the back). I know that’s when this was first launched and I am hoping my bottle is from that year, but probably not. Anyway, it is the best thing for my monthly migraines (actually a little weed is…. TMI, again…. and here lies another reason I left Japan).
    Well, I just stopped by to offer my prayers. Yes, thIs pothead sinner with an overactive thyroid still says the rosary every day and I am thinking of you as I pray.

    • Bless you too, I completely appreciate it and for your information, for me, virtually nothing is Too Much Information. I go to the loo way too frequently as well which was why I couldn’t handle having only one bottle, as I neurotically knew that as it filled up I would need to go again and there would be a never ending circus of nurses changing it and me proffering up the golden prize. Having two solved the problem ( even though they found it weird ) and I immediately began to relax about it.

      The Japanese stamina phenomenon is something I am extremely ambivalent about. On the one hand I marvel at it and respect it, and on the other it’s almost like masochism: endurance for endurance’s sake, which I find philosophically void and pointless.

      Doubtlessly many people ( including D , who was furious) will find it incredibly indulgent of me to be staying in a private room for at least the first three weeks ( it is, after all, around ten times cheaper than it would be in the U.S ) , but even though it might be seen as a total waste of mine ( and my parents’) money, the experience is hard enough as it is – I am the only foreigner in the hospital, and though the nurses are lovely, the patients look through me … there is no way in hell I am going to be cooped up with three or four wheezing, snoring, ancient xenophobes who have those bright lights on all the time ( no. Fucking. Way) and who just lie there staring like zombies.

      No. fuck that. I am staying in my own room where I can relax and sleep ( no chance in HELL in a ward room, and sleep is vital for successful rehabilitation – going well, by the way, I can get into the wheelchair, wheel myself down to the physio room and today managed to bend and stretch quite well and even do one of those yellow balls where you roll your legs back and forth- the classic physiotherapy – SO SO much better than last week’s Boxing Helena nightmare where I couldn’t move…. well you know the story).

      No: I have no interest in suffering for the sake of it: I would take out a loan if necessary to stay in this room. Tonight I was rewatching Twin Peaks in here and now I’m going to do FaceTime with my parents, but visiting hours are over and there’s no way I could do that in one of those pissy, miserable, sour faced chambers.

      No siree: I am going to ENJOY my recovery!

      Thanks so much for sharing.


      • David

        You did the right thing by springing for the private room. Old Japanese men are the worst wheezers I have ever met. You can occasionally run into some cool ones with salty tales of yesteryear, but more often they are cantankerous and grouchy and you might have become an easy target. Whosever money it was, it was well-spent.

      • I couldn’t agree more!
        Most of the patients just look right through me as though I were a ghost ( even if they themselves actually look like one ) : no, there’s no way I could handle it.

  9. rosestrang

    Congratulations on surviving your ordeal!

    Once again, I relate very much to your experience of illness and hospital. And as always your description is intensely evocative.

    In relation to past lives, hypnotherapy,trauma and the like, I have some observations and ideas, but I’d like to mention that for about 7 years I was an arts curator for the National Health Service (in Scotland and the West Midlands) so I have strong beliefs about healing in the holistic sense.Working within hospitals was so difficult for me (the sterile environment, lack of greenery, hierarchy of the modern corporate NHS etc, though doctors and nurses are amazing people) that I could only last so long there, and it’s such a relief to be a full-time artist now I can tell you!

    People who might normally love urban living and barely give a thought to the beauty or healing power of nature can change their attitudes radically once they’ve experienced hospital. Most patients (especially long term ones) come to deeply appreciate anything that reminds them of the outdoors.In fact I’ve also read accounts of people taken hostage, Brian Keenan in particular, who described the time when his captors gave him an orange. He became obsessed with its beauty, scent and so on, completely unwilling to eat it, simply gazing at it for days on end until it fell apart. It was one of the most moving accounts in a very harrowing book.

    Your appreciation of bergamot, orange blossom and neroli in natural forms makes absolute sense of course, these scents as you day are both antibiotic and uplifting.

    When Keenan was finally released, his loved ones wanted to offer a beautiful feast of all the foods and flowers he’d been denied, but contrary to expectation he was overwhelmed, even sickened by the complex impressions – the assault to his senses.

    I’m thinking also of the moving tale of Christian Dior offering his sister one of her favourite meals when she was released from the Nazis, she couldn’t cope with the richness of the food, and he (allegedly) made ‘Miss Dior’ by way of healing and asked his perfumers to create a perfume that is ‘like love’. This echos your response to the complexity of No 19 – a beautifully composed perfume, but highly complex in the French abstract way – great in the right circumstances – overwhelming in hospital – nurses and doctors are usually banned from wearing perfumes, especially musky ones. I used to only wear Infusion d’Iris or Au The Vert when working for the NHS).

    I do know that anxiety and fear causes a dry mouth. I used to suffer from panic attacks, and a dry mouth was one symptom which added to the sense of being unable to breathe. I eventually overcame the attacks via exercise and positive thinking, but as far as past lives go, I’m open minded…

    I’ve had occasional unusual experiences, enough to remind me that really our human perceptions (five senses as well as our usual thought patterns) are incredibly limited – for example – to a narrow frequency of different wave patterns such as sound, light and colour etc. These are complex enough for us, but ‘out there’ is so much more we can’t access, so we don’t consider it, or we call it for example ‘dark matter’ given the fact we don’t yet understand it.

    Gradually science and quantum physics tells us a different story -that what we see is a tiny spectrum of what’s actually there. It’s as though our brain ‘de-codes’ information around us, to suit our narrow perception of reality.

    Living in the east, you must come across ideas of Zen (the illusion of time, that time is a human construct and so on, quite often). Science increasingly tells us a story that chimes with these ancient philosophies and beliefs – so we increasingly ask what is reality? And increasingly science appears to say ‘it’s what you want it to be’. Ancient philosophies, or wise people, ask us to expand our conscious awareness in myriad ways, I suppose we all choose what way that would be.

    Past lives, hypnotherapy, past-life regression, the healing energy of natural forms – all of these ideas or experiences are completely valid areas to explore.

    Just think of the power of placebos for example. A traditionally minded doctor might say ‘it’s just a placebo’, and I’d reply ‘Just?!!’. I mean, just think of what the effect of placebos tells us about the power of our own minds.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on a bit, and have no actual answers! But this post of yours has been most thought-provoking.

    Wishing you a speedy, happy recovery!

    • You can ‘go on’ all day as far as I am concerned: I am fascinated by what you are writing here and grateful that what is a somewhat unbridled and hysterical piece could chime with anyone and garner such a beautifully thought out ( but instinctive ) response. I’m interested to find out more about the art that you do.

    • I’ve just been looking at your paintings. I really like how much space there is but how they draw you in. No agoraphobia nor claustrophobia but passion simmered nevertheless in the gorgeous blue brush strokes. I was particularly taken with Leaving L.. forgotten the spelling and also the canal series. What a beautiful way to make a living!

  10. rosestrang

    Well if it’s unbridled hysteria you experienced I must experience it too since it resonates with me, some people are just given to a more intense imagination – it’s the flip side of being creative I suppose!

    My paintings are mostly landscape, I find landscape healing, so at its best in my painting I try to capture my deeper response towards landscape. Other times I’m just painting something for commission, so it’s maybe just mimetic.
    This is my blog anyway –
    It has a gallery page, and I usually write a post once a week at least, and post whatever painting I’m working on.

    On the subject of healing and trauma again though, I think science is also catching up on the idea of thoughts and emotions as energy. I wouldn’t say I have definite beliefs about any of this in a spiritual sense, but it does make perfect sense that visualising nature, people or experiences that uplift us, can change our levels of anxiety. I’ve always come to think that our thoughts and feelings may well go beyond our own minds, as wave patterns affecting the world around us in some way. Though really this is just instinct and speculation on my part.

    If you look online though, there’s probably tonnes of evidence to support this, some of it scientifically (or anyway philosophically) sound, and some of it completely ridiculous.

    I notice in your message above that you booked a private room, and (whatever the ethics of private treatment!), I agree this would aid your recovery, so why not?

    In an ideal world our hospitals would be filled with wonderful light, foliage and peace, but yeah, being stuck in a ward with people you feel uncomfortable with sounds pretty hellish!

    I hope you have plenty to occupy you – books and whatnot as well as perfumes, fragrant essences and flowers of course. Sending healing thoughts your way!

  11. I’m just so glad the surgery is behind you. What a brilliant piece of writing👌🌹👌.

  12. Wow. I wish we could sit down and just talk. You bring up so many things that deserve a good long discussion, a real conversation.

    The post-surgery nightmare stuff is powerful stuff. Whatever drugs you’re taking aren’t adversely affecting your writing, that’s for sure. I was THERE. Fantastic.

    That’s a drag about the whole water-drinking (or not-drinking) issue. On top of all the fraughtness of the hospital/surgery situation, the additional trauma and fear. It would feel, to me, exactly as though I wasn’t able to BREATHE. The claustrophobia, the panic, the terror, the sense of suffocation, but in terms of lack of water rather than air. The same urgency. Ack. No suggestions for you on dealing with that one, but I hope you find a way that helps. Swimming in the ocean is at the top of my list of Things I Love and Crave and Which Make Me Feel Utterly Blissed-Out and Alive, right up there with fragrance. It’s no coincidence that I hear the ocean waves right now, sitting in my little aerie in the cedars.

    I understand everything you’ve said about No 19, lavender, neroli, “You spray, you go; to a different place instantaneously, somewhere bright, and simple, and fragrant smelling;; just orange blossom buds and open flowers in some hot, imaginary place……..fresh, alive; breathing in sunlight, suspended above pools of bottomless clear blue water.” Again, I’m right there with you.

    To commiserate, let me share my post-surgical nightmare. Waking up all alone in the recovery room, not a soul around, FREEZING from being operated on so long and losing blood, truly hypothermic, my teeth chattering so hard I thought I was going to bite through my tongue (no exaggeration; it was all cut up, I could taste the blood), couldn’t make a sound, still drugged-up and unable to move even a finger, desperate to call out but no one to hear even if I could, abandoned for what I thought could be hours, not even a thin blanket to cover me.

    I think it’s essential that you have your private room. Ric’s been in wards and I’ve visited him there and they are, to use a Canadian term, gross. To be avoided, cost be damned. Your sanity and optimum recovery are priceless.

    I do like that Acqua di Parma Néroli Cologne very much.

  13. Well, I love reading your account. Although I am sorry for your ordeal.

    I do not think you are crazy at all to think about the past life stuff. Here’s my story. I have always disliked cold. But then sometime in my 40’s it turned from dislike to outright fear. To the point where I would become anxious at a weather report. ( I lived in Chicago at the time). I was cold all the time and was constantly checking thermostats, etc. Then it developed into outright anxiety attacks when there was wind at the door. Or if I had to go out in it. Heart pounding, breathless, can’t standup. It was getting worse and worse and somehow I got the thought that I had died in Greenland. No, froze to death in Greenland. So I was doing all sorts of research about Greenland and vikings, etc.

    Then my friend told me about a psychic school where they do readings of past lives – not regressions. So I went and had a really fascinating reading where she told me all sorts of stuff. Finally I asked the psychic about my fear of cold, and she went on to tell me I had died in Greenland of hypothermia on an exploratory expedition. Note – I had not told her about my dying in Greenland theory. And I had been a captain of some boat and screwed up and we all died.

    Tears were streaming down my face and it felt really cathartic.

    So after the psychic came out of her reading phase we talked. She said, well, now you know that was in the past and it’s not now. So now you can be outside in the cold and know that when you have had enough you just go back inside. So I started challenging myself and going out in the worst cold, and somehow my fear was completely gone. Really! And has not returned. In fact, I rather enjoy the cold.

    Oh – I had developed a case of that disease where all the fingers freeze and turn blue at the slightest cold – which is now nearly completely gone!

    Anyway – there’s my story. It may be worth your looking into to understand the water/dyhydration thing. But it sounds like you already know!

    Also, fascinating about your distaste for 19 and vetiver and frankincense, etc. I guess it’s always good to have a selection on hand!!!

    TO your continued improvement!

    • Sadly, I wish that water were my only obsession. Alas, my own terror of cold ( I can withstand high extremes of heat no problem ) comes very close to my water thing. Poor Duncan knows the extent of it. Cold air conditioning in summer makes me irrational to the point of hysterical/homicidal and I have constant battles wherever I am about it.

      We sleep with three heaters on at night in winter : I’d rather burn than freeze to death. When it comes to the cold itself though, I can enjoy it provided I myself am warm ( I love snow for example). Your own terror of the cold itself far surpasses mine but I find your Greenland story utterly fascinating. AMAZING. Have you ever had any connection to Greenland in your life before? It can’t possibly be a coincidence ( the only other possibility I think is that she psychically read your mind ).

      Surely, though, if past lives really do happen to human beings that changes so much about our feelings towards identity, religion, and death and life itself. I understand that it could be cathartic, but wasn’t it also a total mindfuck?

      • It was an amazing experience. And to answer the question, I had not had any experience with Greenland in my life, prior. I have no idea how me dying there popped into my head. And I do wonder if the psychic picked it up from me instead of seeing it. At any rate, it was a cathartic confirmation. It seems we ‘know’ certain things. Info is lurking around. And even if it is not a real pst life experience, somehow I invented the story of Greenland and then cured myself. Without conscious effort.
        I suppose the whole experience also confirmed that there is a sort of past life thing. Or many lives happening at once. She also cited a lot of interesting things about my son and I which parallel our current lives. Regarding a fascination with birds and his athleticism and some other things I cannot quite recall. The bird thing really stood out. Apparently in several lives we were involved in birds together. Watching them, etc. Which was interesting as we owned birds (one just was on the sidewalk in front of him, a parakeet) and he used to go do bird rescue as a high school student (I’d go with) and now wants to make a career of it. So that was another sort of mind fuck too!
        Where is this information coming from?!?!?!?
        It is quite the mystery…

  14. 💐💐💐🌻🌺🌸🌷🌷🌷🌹🌹🌹🌹🌹🌾🌾
    I wish you good convalescence.

    • Thankyou. I’ve made a lot of progress since this time last week when I was a paralyzed ice packed screaming mummy : I can dress myself and even tie my own shoelaces, which feels quite wonderful. It’s very painful, but I am feeling positive.

  15. Tracey

    I am glad the operation is over! I too love Neroli….not least of all because the essential oil is proven to lessen anxiety and promote a sense of well being. And yes, I do believe in past lives/ancestral memory. I was put up for adoption as a baby and never knew my biological background. I went to see the Fassbender/Cotillard version of Macbeth when it first came out a few years ago. It was filmed on The Isle of Skye, off of Scotland. I had a strange, intense reaction to the landscape…that slightly elusive deja-vu feeling. . The spooky part? Due to a health scare last fall, I had the first written interaction with my biological mother- and after I asked some genealogical questions, she told me her family is from Scotland, and that she (and thus I) are part of an unbroken line of descent from King Robert the Bruce. I also strongly believe that certain people and relationships are brought into our lives because they are experiences we are simply meant to have….and even in some cases, continue.

  16. Tracey

    I felt…..odd 🙂 on the one hand, it was a fun little jolt, but….it was a bit frightening, because sometimes being determinedly unknowing regarding certain issues is just so much more , well, comfortable. And so it was like opening a Pandora’s Box on many levels.

    By the way, not too long ago a friend gave me an old mini glass bottle of vintage Chanel 19 Parfum. I took one whiff and nearly swooned.

    • A Pandora’s box is exactly how I imagine it would be like and I’m not sure I could handle it. It might feel like I was unraveling from the overwhelmingness of it all. On the other hand the feeling of vast possibilities opening up in terms of what life and death is all about is undeniably exciting. I wonder what would happen if I did a similar thing?

      As for 19, it’s funny you should mention it.
      The vintage is so beautiful, as you say, but I was completely wrong at first.

      However they moved me into a different room today and I am really stressed out about it. I feel more isolated, and suddenly I am glad I bought it because I can imagine it giving me strength.

  17. Tracey

    I hope you are feeling at least a little better! Any fragranced soaps you can use? Perhaps Neroli Portofino?

  18. Hello! First of all, I am sorry to hear of your horrific injuries and hospital stay and wish you a speedy and healthy recovery. I am so touched you wrote about Sana Jardin and Berber Blonde as I am the founder of Sana Jardin. 🙂 Carlos Benaim (the perfumer) and I tried our best to capture glittering sunshine and happiness in a bottle so I almost fell off my chair when I read your words! I am really happy you like it. I wanted it to be a portal to a place where love and joy radiates and has an uplifting effect on people’s spirits. Thank you for your comments, I appreciate them more than you will even know. Warmly, Amy Christiansen Si-Ahmed. PS – Berber Blonde is named after my two sons as they are half Berber and very blonde 🙂

    • Wow, how fantastic to read this. And how strange my reaction to the scent was exactly as you intended it!

      Obviously, this is not a standard perfume review at all as it is all wrapped up in trauma (I am now at home, recovering), and I did wonder how the person who created the scent might feel if they ever read this ‘review’.

      At the same time, a perfume being a ‘portal’ like this is a wonder thing.

      If you ever make any more perfumes, please feel free to send me samples! I’ll have a nice, non-oudhy, non-synthetic woody base, sense-ravishing rose next, please. A heartbreakingly lovely one.

      • Hello again! Sana Jardin is launching with 7 fragrances this summer in London. I am happy to send you all 7 but I think you will particularly like Celestial Patchouli which is very heady and transporting and has rose and patchouli but is similar to that deep oud you seem to like. What is the best way to reach you? Are you in London? Are you on Instagram? You can follow Sana Jardin on instagram @sanajardin and direct message me your address and personal email if you like and ill send through the 7 to you. Warmly and all my best

      • Thanks Amy. My email is and then if you don’t mind you can send them to where I live in Japan. I look forward to smelling them all.

  19. Reblogged this on The Black Narcissus and commented:

    My God. Two years ago all this was just around the corner….

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