Monthly Archives: April 2018

green #2

 

 

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I overshot my trainstop last night, lost in reading something, and ended up at Kitakamakura station, from where, for nearly twenty years I would usually walk up the steep valley road, past temples and dark forests, back to our house.

 

Since the operation I have been taking the  bus from the stop before that – Ofuna, a bustling little transit and shopping hub with a lot of after hours night life, the same predictable routine every night but my legs still are not quite robust enough to tackle the steep incline at the top, much as I would love to : instead, I sit with my head facing forward on the bus like all the other tired commuters as we are shuttled back steadily to our bus stops and our homes.

 

 

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Last night though, when the train doors opened onto the night air I almost gasped ( in fact I actually might have ): at the sheer vegetal richness that was suspended in the air – a loamy, warm green canopy of just blossomed flowers; sleeping pollen; moist earth, still wet in the undergrowth from the previous day but sun baked during this glorious one; the freshwater smell from the pond across from Engakuji temple where frogs croaked much louder than you imagine they should have; amplified by the darkness and the stillness ( I decided to walk, no matter what, and had complete solitude, not a soul, until I almost reached the top)

 

 

 

 

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What hit me so hard, and so immediately, was just how much I have missed this walk. The peace of it, the tranquillity after a long day of teaching in Fujisawa and Yokohama – the mysteriousness of what lies behind the temple gates in the gardens beyond the monks’ quarters; the mamushi snakes that lurk in the grass, all the flowers : now wild irises, callum lilies, azaleas, dandelions, the dark, peaty smell of fresh vetiver grass used to stave off flooding, it is more this – the smell, the smells, that I bathed in last night, all so familiar to me, as familiar as perfumes from the past, an inchoate, emotional recognition in the pit of my pituary, as though my life here were voiced in those plants –

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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green

 

 

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“We began as a mineral. We emerged into plant life and the animal state, and then into being human;  and always we have forgotten our former states, except in early spring –  when we slightly recall being green again”.

 

 

 

– Rumi

 

(‘The Dream That Must Be Interpreted’)

 

 

 

 

 

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THE LEMONS OF DREAR: EAU UNIVERSELLE by L’OCCITANE (2012)

ANY MORE CITRUSES ?

 

 

( NOT like this crap )

The Black Narcissus

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Would you buy a perfume with this name? ‘Universal water’?

I used to get excited whenever I went into the L’Occitane shop. Sixteen years ago, when the brand had not become the great high street empire it has today, there was an element of mystique. The perfumes, often in delightful extrait miniatures, were of really high quality, some quite unbelievably good, such as their original clove/violet Patchouli (there have been two other completely different versions since, which were no way near as adorable); their wonderful Santal, Bois de Rose, Cannelle Orange, and the indelibly sweet and luscious Vanille Bourbon.

Yesterday, in Tokyo, in the of-the-moment-for-snoots Marounochi building, I came up the escalators to be welcomed by the dreary smell of duty free lounges, posh toilets, and the soul-depleting odour of industrial citrus. This was Eau Universelle, a scent with no personality. A pleasing generic sherbet lemon to begin with, yes…

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YOU LOOK RIGHT THROUGH ME : : : EAU DE ROCHAS (I970)

Calling all Narcissi. I am currently writing about citrus and colognes for my book. Any citrus favourites you might like to share? Any lemon oddballs like this one that I should include? Any citric obscurities that might have slipped my attention?

 

I await your comments.

The Black Narcissus

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Strangely, I read the other day that Eau De Rochas is currently this venerable company’s best selling scent in France (I have never seen it sold anywhere else, although there is still a bottle on the dresser in the guest bedroom back in England).

There is a vintage bottle, also, in my collection, but for some reason I seem to never want to wear it.

This sharp, lemony perfume is an anomaly. A depressed, serotonin-dipping citrus – the image evoked, for me, of a valiumed up California housewife, staring out, trapped in suburban hell.

The sun blazes outside her white 70’s condo. But all she sees is clouds, in her pressed, grey slacks. The shadows under plants:  a schizoid effect achieved with two very opposing accords that constantly dim and sync with each other: a bright top note of Calabrian lime, tangerine, bergamot and Sicilian lemon, giving a quick flowing…

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GOOD LORD! SATURDAY BARGAINS AT THE SALVATION ARMY BAZAAR, TOKYO

SO in the mood for all this kind of thing.

The Black Narcissus

 

 

 

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The bazaar at the Salvation Army store in Tokyo is held every Saturday from 9 til 2, and on the infrequent occasions that we decide to go, D and I always end up scrambling to get out of the house in time when we would rather be staying in bed. Yet somehow the shining beacon of potential bargains always beams bright enough for us to make the long-winded journey to the bristling heart of the metropolis, Shinjuku station (the busiest station in the world – 3 million people use it every day) and from there a meandering trip to a nice little neighbourhood called Nakano-Fujimicho, where the Salvation Army has its headquarters.

 

It has a lovely, bustling atmosphere, very friendly and non-avaricious, Tokyoites and foreigners and people who look rather down on their luck rummaging happily…

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TIPPING THE VELVET::: : COEUR JOIE by NINA RICCI (1946)

 

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Like most  perfume lovers, I usually associate the great Germaine Cellier, one of the most daring and innovative perfumers of the twentieth century, with her fierce productions for Pierre Balmain and Robert Piguet : Vent Vert, Fracas, Bandit, and the gloriously androgynous Jolie Madame – all uncompromising, forward-looking perfumes that speak of intelligence, independence, and an emotive olfactory beauty.

 

 

We forget ( or in my case just don’t know ) that she also composed for Nina Ricci: a house with softer, more traditionally feminine codes that don’t necessarily tie in with our image of this legendarily provocative scent creator.

 

 

 

Yet if Fille D’Eve, one of the most suggestive and erotic perfumes in history, potentially indulged Cellier’s own sexual fantasies and took womanly carnality to an almost salacious extreme in its unveiling of naked pink flesh and the temptations of the serpent, Coeur Joie – a perfume I discovered only for the first time recently – hovers on the edge of tantalizing, but restrained, powder of peach blushes;  flourishes, then, into the cool of iris and violet and fecund jasmine rose, shimmering in an acknowledgement of classical aldehydes,  green-tinged with bergamot; delicately subdued …a gorgeously charismatic, but never overstated, secret, more yielding side of Cellier I had never known existed.

 

 

 

 

 

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bergamot #2

 

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I had a bergamot bath this morning. Beautiful.  I don’t think there is any other essential oil I find more refreshing. I can’t use orange or grapefruit: in even small amounts they give me hives. Lemon burns. Lavender is too multifaceted for morning clarity; rosemary can make me feel aggressive. Cardamom is great when you find a good quality oil, but it is rare; that green, fresh and beautifully focused spice is like putting in a new lens: it brings you back to life.

 

Bergamot, for me, has similar qualities, but more delicate. It brings you round more gently : there is an inherent slight mystery in that scent, a quality removed. Despite its photosensitivity, I never react to it just in bath water, and as I float, immersed, in the morning silence ( just the birds and muffled ambient noise from the neighbourhood outside ) it is almost like a meditation: I dip a couple of notches into slight dream mode, while concurrently veining my way into consciousness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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