So this is day nineteen. You might think that I would be bored out of my mind being stuck in my bed with the tedious view from my window; that I’d be screaming with boredom and frustration my not being able to move and go somewhere other than here. At the regimen, the dull routine, the lack of colour.

True, I am in quite a lot of pain ( but not as much as I was expecting). And I am certainly envious and frustrated when I see the other osteotomy patients who chose to have one leg done at a time, a year apart: apparently 95% of people go down that path, rather than the crazy, gung-ho 5% who say fuck it! Just do both! Just make me totally crippled and unable to walk and have to start again from zero like a newborn infant! Give me double the pain, twice the agony and total immobility! like me.

I travel around the ward and around the hospital in my wheelchair ( fun: I took to it like a duck to water and feel I could compete in the Paralympics) and see them hobbling along but at least WALKING with their sticks along the shining, brightly lit corridors and feel like the loser. At least though if my treatment is successful, I won’t have to go through it all again. And doing both together ultimately leads to better balance and more uniform healing.

But despite my occasional impatience, if I look back to that terrible time when I had just had the surgery and related the true extent of my claustrophobic ordeal, I am doing rather well. Although it hurts when I do it, I can bend both knees as fully as an unaffected person. I can get in and out of my wheelchair unattended; go to and back from the shower room by myself ( when initially the entire operation required five people), there is no swelling; the scars are clean, and I am doing well in my daily physiotherapy.

As I wrote the other day, I have started to practice walking, holding onto the parallel bars and putting one foot in front of the other in a simulacrum of strolling. Yes I sometimes feel like a tipsy marionette, and I am aware that it is my arms that are doing a lot of the work, but the last couple of days I have been conscious of putting more weight on my legs themselves, which feel more solid.

I changed physios last week. The first one, a Miss Iikura, was sweet gentle and perfect for those early stages, just post-operation when I felt vulnerable, and traumatized. Encouraging. Soft-touched. Diligent.

Her replacement, though, Mr Murase, young but with very natural ability ( you know when a masseur/masseuse just has that knack of intuiting everything in your body?), is far better. Having moved to the rehabilitation ward, I get to work with him weekdays for longer sessions and I really feel that he understands exactly what is going on inside my sore, tortured legs.

We begin with quite a hard and decisive manipulation of tendons, joints, and muscles; progress to stretches and ball exercises ( god how my poor bones ache !), leg lifts (ditto), and then ‘walking’, when I put the training into action. He, like all the staff here, are 100% committed. I never feel that he is bored or thinking about something else, just the development and progress of my legs. It doesn’t hurt, either, that he has extremely beautiful eyes.

I have got quite used to the regimen. Up at 6.30am, doctor’ visit 7.15; breakfast at 8:00: lunch at 12:00, physio at 1, visiting hours from 3; dinner at 6; bedtime at 10.

I am impressed by how the hospital combines carefully thought out nutrition, Chinese herbs, and conventional medicine, round the clock care, and that it iat least three or five ( possibly even ten) times less expensive than it would be in the US, which has the morally reprehensible, capitalistically exploitative ‘healthcare’ system in the world, but I’ll save that roil-blooded rant for some other time ( just that supposed Christians like Paul Ryan and Mike Pence, who piously believe that poor people don’t deserve health coverage because they are ‘lazy’ and it demotivates them, deserve excruciating deaths by crucifixion themselves, a sanctimonious ending they would orgasmically ADORE ) and that I am grateful to be in a position to have access to the treatment I need for this exceedingly challenging experience when those less fortunate than me would just be condemned to a wheelchair for life if they could even afford to buy one.

I am not bored though. I know that I am ‘stuck in hospital’, and people commiserate on how hard it must be to be stuck in bed for most of the day, but the reality is that I am one of the laziest, most sybaritic and disgustingly decadent fucks in the entire world and I actively enjoy it.

Boredom, for me, is everyday life. Housework. Bank details. Trivial, blank conversations. The held-in atmosphere on a bus. Stupidity. Banality. Brainwashing pointless commercialism. The insincere, dead-eyed presenters on television. Received ideas. Unthinking cliches. History books. Economics. Cars. Machinery. Dust. Blind sick adoration of money as the main motivation in life. The mind numbing tedium of people who can’t think for themselves. Chart music. Shopping malls. What is ‘trending.’ Magazines. The ‘news’. The grind of daily life and the joyless toil.

In other words, everything that is going on outside these walls. But not my own company or reading the New York Times; not my friends coming to visit or the view of the flowering trees outside my window, nor the physiotherapy, the films I am watching, the music I am listening to, the words I am writing, the carefully prepared food that is brought by the nurses to my bed.

I am not bored at all! Is that weird? I suppose I have always been one who is good at doing nothing. At just relaxing and dreaming and doing sweet F.A. In a way I feel that this is hard-wired into me genetically in order to help me survive. Like a cat running around joyfully outside I have my maniacal spurts of ecstatic energy, but then also like a cat I am neurotic and nervous and highly oversensitive to everything so I need my time of zoning out and quiet delicious contemplation as a way of regaining equilibrium.

Relaxation and absorbed, joyful indolence, where you can be inside each moment of existence and just enjoy the fact of living and BEING, not obsessing over the future or the past, is for me a form of rebellion ( my whole LIFE is actually a rebellion ). The world can fuck off. We are told we have to keep striving for more, that we must have more economic growth even though we have already raped the planet to the extent that it may soon no longer exist ( I have no words for Trump’s trying to pull out of the Paris climate accords except for plain, unadulterated disgust); that we have to work as much as we can in order to buy more products that we actually don’t need; that we must ‘carpe diem’, seize the day and live each moment as if it were our last: (true, fear and procrastination can lead to failure and disappointment if we don’t take the plunge sometimes but at the same time this anxiety about constant ‘achievement’ and ‘goals’ and ‘being the best person you can be’ on a daily basis leads to a constant sense of underminement and guilt that you are ‘nobody’, rather than ‘somebody’).

I reject this way of thinking outright. Nobody is a ‘nobody’. And everyone is a ‘somebody’. From the second I emerged from my mother’s womb ( and even a long time before that ) I was somebody and so were you. Happiness is the realization of the self; being who you are to the maximum level possible; connecting with others and yourself; love; creativity, laughter, sensual pleasure, knowledge, growth ( not GDP); freedom, pineapple, chocolate, coffee, curry, and flowers in the springtime in the breeze- not portfolios and assets and commodities and shareholdings and greed so fuck you in my perfumed pyjamas as I go and put on another record.

Smell, as you might expect, has loomed large here ( and forgive me if all the above is too opinionated and arrogantly expressed – but I HAVE been self-marinating for almost three weeks and have had a lot of time to think, and anyway, it’s my blog so you get MY philosophy whether you like it or not. I lie here reading about what’s going on in the world and I just can’t help fuming about it); a cause of both stress and altercation and intense pleasure.

In essence, Japanese people hate perfume. Especially in a hospital. And then you have the obviously insane Black Narcissus, lurking in his private room, congenitally unable to resist. At first, it was lavender and bergamot essential oil, and some nurses would comment on how lovely and relaxing it smelled when they passed by my room, though being Japanese I took this as an implicity veiled criticism that the smell was too strong, something that led to an actual verbal warning when I didn’t screw the top on properly and had a spillage, the concentrated green citrus wafting out into the corridors and offending the delicate nostrils of the other patients.

The same incident was repeated, but worse, when I moved to the rehabilitation ward and had an accident in the toilet. I don’t know about you, or how prudish or self-conscious you are ( and now I am fully independent in my wheelchair regarding all ablutions), but initially I had to suffer the indignity of being sat in the wheelchair, stark naked, as four or five members of staff had to grapple with how to undress me and move me into the shower. Worse, I wasn’t allowed to go to the toilet unattended. While in the process of answering nature’s call, the door was mercifully closed, but then when I was ‘done’ the staff had to come into the space to shift me from toilet to wheelchair. Mortifying, no? Now, nobody’s shit smells like roses ( except perhaps Ivanka Trump’s), but there was no way I was going to sit there surrounded by my primal shame as three nurses grimaced their way towards me to get me out of there, no; a few flushes with some lemon and bergamot oil and I was like the immaculate conception- not a trace of my emissions to be detected.

Unfortunately, on one evening I had taken a 30ml bottle of bergamot essential room into the powder room with me without a top on, confident it would stand upright in my pyjama pocket until it was needed; however I was oblivious to the fact that it was drip drip dripping upside down the entire time I was in there, soaking my pyjamas to the skin and causing biohazard levels of olfactory and chemical alarm ( some patients on the ward were developing hives and could not eat their dinners).

I am a danger to humanity! So an official representative of the hospital was sent to my room, who politely and respectfully but quite assuredly told me that she understood that there were a lot of cultural differences between the west and Japan regarding perfume, and that she understood that the previous night’s Official Bergamot Disaster had been unintentional and just an accident, but that I was also using too many perfumes and scented things generally, ‘particularly in the morning’, and would I kindly refrain from scenting myself further.

I naturally assented. When some old dear is trying to eat her evening fish and rice but is pricking up red in urticaria because of the reckless deeds of some weird gaijin, you have to tone it down. As you will remember, quite soon after the operation I had a neroli/ orange blossom revelation with Sana Jardin Berber Blonde and Annick Goutal Neroli: somehow the optimistic, natural sunniness of the orange tree suited my mood to perfection, somehow taking me almost outside of my self in their refreshingness: I could therefore not refrain completely from wearing ANY perfume at all as it would just be too depressing and colourless, even if a few motionless J-zombies lay clutching their throats in their beds as I did so. They were sprayed, in subtle amounts ( for me at least ) on my skin and my pyjamas, changed each day, and made me feel vital.

In response to my orange tree obsession, and feeling I was missing out on other nerolis and orange flower based perfumes, expert in structural integration and neuromuscular therapy and regular Black Narcissus reader Tora sent me a delicious and very generous hospital care package containing samples of her two favourite notes in perfumery, orange blossom and rose.

Although none of this will endear me any further to the hospital staff or fellow patients ( mind you, I do have my own room and keep the door shut, though – SHOCK ! HORROR ! sometimes an odour will seep out into the corridor oh gasp our sensitive Nipponesque nostrils ! – whatever, like the state of my room ( ” We’ve got used to it now: you’re not messy, you’re just artistic”) , they have practically just given up on me. Most Japanese patients just lie there like pathetic, big adult babies, passive and obedient with secret nurse fetishes probably- they come into my to them bizarre smelling confines and see me holding court in my play pen with my visitors like some demented guru and realize that there is nothing to be done with me but anyway: how lovely to have such a fine array of gorgeous niche scents to sample like this when I come out of the shower; all smooth, full-bodied, yum-smelling confections that I am really enjoying and that are making my days even less boring than they already weren’t.

The first orange blossom I tried was Prada #4 Fleur D’Oranger from their expensive, hidden exclusive collection that you have to ask for if you dare to enter their store. They come in lovely simple bottles in luxurious leather cases and I like all the ones I have tried including their Oeillet and Tubereuse ( and I own and covet the Benjoin ( benzoin) and Opoponax ( which also just happens to be my email : opoponax8@hotmail.con if you want my address so you can send me more perfume samples to review! Although it is supposed to be impossible to send perfumes by post now and it certainly is from my end, Japan being the most strictly efficient nation in the world by far they check everything, perfumes do seem to get to me : this package was labeled home made therapeutic rub or something, my perfume journalist friend Bethan just fabricates the truth with ‘cosmetics samples’).

The Prada Fleur D’Oranger though, not to be confused with the orange blossom variant of their best selling Infusion D’Iris, I immediately took to; a quiet,covert, adult and velvety orange blossom perfume with a pronounced and depthening heart of linden blossom, or tilleul, even though it’s not listed in the notes. This is a rounded, comforting scent that I really like, very soothing and ‘goodness’, textured; dusky and hovering.

Houbigant’s Oranger En Fleurs, which I was previously unfamiliar with, is another very pleasing little creation, very carefree summer night in Barcelona, the way perfume should be when it’s warm and light outside and as Baudelaire I think, once wrote, les sons et les parfums tournent dans l’air du soir and fresh from your bath and dressed in your clothes you spritz on some perfume before going out. Though slightly too generic to be considered great perfumery, the bright and fine mood enhancement of its tuberose/ylang/ nutmeg arrangement
make Oranger En Fleurs an ideal holiday scent..

And on the subject of the Mediterranean ( oh all the travelling I yearn to be able to do once these bones in my legs have set!), Hiram Green’s all natural Dilettante tapped nicely into my Crete mountain fantasies ( that was the first foreign place we ever went to as a family and I have retained a certain Greek longing ever since). Like Serge Lutens’ unrelated but for me metaphorically connected Miel De Bois- which reminds me of the Minotaur in the labyrinth- Dilettante is strong and unquivering: I see beehives and goatherds broom bushes and a big yellow sun; a potent, unforgiveless orange bloom with dry, honeycombed facets that is a tad too animalistic for me personally, perhaps, but which I know for that very reason I will dip into again.

There are plenty more perfumes for me to delve into in Victoria’s floral cornucopia of a parcel ( and plenty more days in hospital), so for now ( I have been writing this letter by letter on my cell phone and am flagging) I will finish with Sonoma Scent Studio’s sublime Velvet Rose.

I have liked everything I have ever smelled by this independent perfumery, but this is my favourite so far. A big, cool, Damask rose, all dewy and giving; powdered but green, skin loving and assuaging, I think I might need to buy myself a full bottle of this gem. Like Guerlain’s Nahema and the recent Roja Dove Rose Parfum which I also liked, this is all about that most above it all flowers but more centred – less complicated. Melting down to nothing more than a hay-like benificence, today, after being the first person to get to use the shower room this morning, on my freshly soaped down skin and new pyjamas, this feels a bit like heaven.


Filed under Flowers


  1. This is the most stressful post I have ever done. I really enjoyed writing it but I had so many problems trying to put/ keep it up and no success in trying to edit it / make corrections that I toyed with deleting it altogether.

    I kept it here, imperfect as it is, as a kind of diary entry though.

  2. ninakane1

    Great post!! I’m loving your hospital tales! Keep them coming.

  3. You are writing every day better. I could not lift my eyes from his article until I finished it. Making your hospital experience interesting is a big thing. I share with you the experience of doing nothing. Doing nothing takes a long time.
    He also made me laugh when he explained how he was warned about using perfumes. Receive my best wishes, Sonia

  4. Lilybelle

    I know you are being extremely well taken care of – the hospital people are going to want you walking and out of there as soon as possible, lol! 🙂 x

  5. I am so glad to hear how well they are taking care of you. The physio, the food, and the nurses all sound so committed and lovely. I agree completely with your political rants, I am mortified daily by what is going on in our congress and white house. I had to laugh when you got busted by the administration for being too perfumed. They would probably do that to me, too. As for your ease with doing nothing, Yay for that, because right now your restful nature is serving you so well. I continue to send you fragrant healing vibes. I love your view of your daily life on the ward. You can make even hospital confinement interesting. XO

  6. Grayspoole/Maria

    Dear Neil-
    So glad to hear you are doing so well! I have no words to describe how much I enjoyed this essay and how much I value your defense of the importance of living a humane, connected, and artistic life in these difficult times. You remind me of M.F.K Fisher writing about the pleasures of simple cooking in the years before WWII. (Have you read her, I wonder?)
    I have and love Rose Volupte by Sonoma Scent Studios. I think it may be a precursor to Velvet Rose (or the other way around). Laurie Erickson’s work is so unusual and remarkable. She and other indie perfumers provide the only real competition for my vintage bottles, I think.
    Best wishes as you continue to heal, brave and perfumed.

    • I have never heard of nor read MK Fisher but I would love like to.

      You are right though about living a connected artistic life though: I wasn’t consciously thinking along those lines but that is what it is.

      Those soulless evil bastards in power right now are the direct antithesis of everything I believe in. I can’t help sometimes just raving like a loon about them. Particularly pious fucks like Paul Ryan, who in fact is Anti-Christian- Jesus WEEPS for him I tell you. There is no love or compassion ( the central tenets of his supposed religion ), just greed and hatred. There are no words to describe my loathing for their agenda. I know in the gristle of my marrow they are WRONG.

  7. Neil, what a magnificent piece of prose! And I couldn’t agree with you more regarding boredom. I am glad that you are doing well and wish you a continuance of good healing.

    • Well I think we are like buffeted butterflies on the wind sometimes; there is so much NOISE from every corner of the media telling us this, telling us that; there was something I saw the other day ( but which I would never read ): Thirteen Things That Productive People Never Do or some other such tripe- the point being that you are supposed to ‘maximize the potential of every minute’ or whatever to get things done and treat each day as though it were a corporation to be run.

      FUCK THAT.

      The worst idiom I have ever heard is ‘time is money’. Yes, we need some, enough, to survive and live a decent life but beyond that I would literally rather die than live like that. And though it might seem from the strung out, self indulgent hysteria of my paragraphs that I probably don’t know how to relax, in fact I am a genius at it. I can slob in bliss like no other. Really not thinking about anything except the film I am watching, the piece I am writing, or the music I am listening to. Half the world just doesn’t know how to do that.

      Since being in here I am learned, I kid you not, to slow down my blood pressure as well. I can slow down my heartbeat.

  8. Stephen

    Glad you’re on the mend!

  9. Oh, how I loved your post! It was torrid, and honest, and full of passion. Yes, you have been being remade in your hospital bed. The lack of outside stimuli seem to have enabled a creative environment within that poetic mind of yours. Thank you so much for sharing.
    One part in particular, about freedom of the soul, and the importance of following one’s dreams, was immediately juxtaposed with something I was reading about last night: “The Drama of the Gifted Child: The Search for the True Self”, by Alice Miller.
    “For the human soul is virtually indestructible, and its ability to rise from the ashes remains as long as the body draws breath.”
    ― Alice Miller

  10. I have been absent for a bit and sorry to hear of your present pain. But I am sure you will be up and back to your wonderful old self soon. speaking of perfumes you mentioned. Houbigant’s Oranger En Fleurs I to find it lovely especially at this time of the year. Cheers!

  11. MrsDalloway

    I wonder if you had a break of say 4 or 5 days from perfume, would it change how you experience it when you go back to it? They say one day off a week is meant to sharpen your nose, though since I got into perfume I never do it. Hope you’re fully fit soon – be kind to staff and patients….

  12. rosestrang

    This beautifully written musing piece brought tears to my, partly as it’s so timely and relevant to me today – I was just trying to fill in my tax return online and of course nothing works and if you try three login attempts they punish you and prolong the hell by shutting you out the system for three hours (Oh I feel so rejected by HMRC :))
    Your writing actually helped switch my frayed brain and emotions back to ‘normal’ mode – i.e. as you put it – “just relaxing and dreaming and doing sweet F.A”. Bliss! It sometimes feels like the ‘outside’ world is designed to render us soulless and devoid of imagination.

    The way you describe the enjoyment of just drifting, allowing thoughts and sensations to blossom in imagination is such a huge part of creativity, and I must say during this time your writing has been fascinating, you have a real talent for describing those states, experiences and senses we all share but don’t always manage to articulate, it’s such a pleasure to read, and I wonder if you’re thinking of writing a book, or series of short stories? You have a ready-made readership here anyway!

    I’ve just ordered a few perfume samples recently (I go through phases with samples, mostly related to economics but also quality of life of course!) – Sammarco’s Ariel, a new one by Gritti – ‘Guidecca’ and another I can’t remember the name of. Have you tried Ariel? Sounds intriguing though I’ve no idea if I’ll like it

    • Please tell us about these perfumes when you have tried them.

      As for this piece , I think I am just so full of equal measures of passion, and fury that to produce the catharsis I need means just gushing out the right words in the right way: if that cathartic effect affects others too then that is truly wonderful.

      Like you, I engage completely with the beauty of the world but at the same time it must be kept OUT. I WILL filter the evil. I WILL reject the banality.

      Only then can we get the beautiful peace that we need. I think too many people are too afraid to question all the presumed bullshit around be us and kind of lock themselves down WITHIN it ( hence all the need for antidepressants etc).

      I consider myself now to be a total outsider who is still able to work within the system ( up to a point until it starts to poison me ).

      Talking of frustration though. I wrote one of the best pieces I have ever written yesterday and there were SO many technical difficulties and fuck ups it eventually disappeared. Dear god the FRUSTRATION!

  13. Great stuff. Wow. I love you when you’re on a roll like this. Your writing is often the very best thing I’ll read all day. By a mile.

    I’m with you on the whole “productivity” worship. It is, to me, the epitome of American culture: a certain, predominant section of it anyway. It’s creepy. There is some holier-than-thou, happily righteous and judgmental thing going on. Their materialism is the physical manifestation of that.

    This was incredible, such vivid imagery: “. . . they come into my to them bizarre smelling confines and see me holding court in my play pen with my visitors like some demented guru and realize that there is nothing to be done with me. . .”

    I’m a fan of Velvet Rose, too, and so many of Laurie Erickson’s other compositions. So much bang for the buck as well.

    So many other good things to comment on. I know what you mean about not being bored, just living your day. People always say, “But what do you DO all day? Aren’t you bored?” when they hear I’m retired and living on the edge of civilization on the western edge of Canada. I don’t understand. Boredom, to me, is doing what other people want you to do. My own time, my own interests, my own schedule, freedom: the day is always too short, always more things I want to explore, be stimulated by, or just enjoy hedonistically.

    Japanese hospitals sound dreamy, especially the food and the devoted staff. Canadian hospitals — Ric will be the first to tell you — are much less consistently good. Some nurses are angels, the best, but some are hateful. Last surgery, he had the Evil Bitch Nurse from Hell, who INTENTIONALLY, sadistically, left his curtain open (the one that surrounds the bed and is the only thing between the patient and the ugly reality of the six-bed ward each time she had to attend to him, and grumpily, resentfully at that), pretending not to hear his polite (but increasingly less-so) requests to do so. To get up and close it himself was agony, and she knew it. If I’d found out which bitch was the culprit, heads would have rolled, but Ric didn’t want to raise a fuss and didn’t disclose the identifiers. Grrr. So you are a lucky man.

    • Nothing compares though to your truly bone chilling to read about experience of your being left on the table, blue, teeth-chattering and alone and confused post-operation. They could have killed you!

      • Aw, you remembered my small saga! That is very kind. ❤

      • ‘Small saga’? Are you joking? The only reason I didn’t comment at the time was because I was either too horrified or more likely that there was no ‘reply’ place ( I have noticed that if someone replies to a reply there is no place left to reply and if you do it somewhere else it just looks like a crazed non-sequitur).

        These are my phobias:

        enclosed spaces

        powdered textures ( flour; soft feet on beaches; peaches; velvet )

        With the exception of the last one, I think I might actually have died had I been in your position. I might have sued as well.

        HIDEOUS !!!

    • That powdered texture thing is fascinating! Wonder where that originates?

      • Well my sister and I discovered quite by chance that we both had the same horror when on holiday. We were sat on a promenade at the beach and had been in the sea and on the fine sand and I commented that I would need some kind of lotion or anything slimy because I simply couldn’t BEAR that softness. Unbelievably she told me she had the same thing. The worst is flour = death), a second worst is when mud (fine when wet, I can touch frogs no problem) dries and cakes onto your hands or when you have been holding a wet umbrella and your hands go all soft and dry.I always have Vaseline ( usually adulterated with lemon oil to make it smell lovely- the students are used to it now: I have three lots at least where I am lying in this hospital room): if I didn’t, I would begin to feel agitated and then possibly hysterical. ( I know… ridiculous).

        My sister’s was much worse though : the range of textures she couldn’t abide spread even to toilet paper whose feel she couldn’t stand ( for me it’s rough enough to touch- the really expensive silky stuff is problematic), but anyway she was getting to the point where she was having to lick each piece or something before using it which is obviously descending into madness a bit so she had hypnotherapy which cured her of it in one go.

        That’s why I hope to go to a hypnotherapist I read about in Tokyo to at least try and deal with the water horror. The soft texture thing is only a minor foible. No one will forbid me from carrying a lip balm or small tub of Vaseline so it’s ok.

        And there you are!

      • Very sensitive to your environments, you two, and I love that! Not so fun when you’re agitated by these things, though, obviously, so hope the hypnotherapy can at least help with the hydration issue. I think I go nuts sometimes with noise, if it’s unpleasant and insistent, especially if I’m trying to concentrate and/or carry on a conversation. Crazy-making, for me.

      • Oh god did I forget to add noise to the list? It will be a top ten before you know it. OBSESSED.

        That’s why we live where we do!

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