The journey back to England began horrendously.




We were safely at the airport, on time, and I went through customs. And Duncan was taking a long time. Much longer than he should have been taking, when you usually go straight through. I waited. What was going on? Had he suddenly been taken ill? There is  a history of fainting. But he had been fine, both of us were, really excited to be coming back to England for a bit for my designated five minutes of fame and I couldn’t quite imagine that that was the case. Something was delaying him.I considered looking at the Chanel concession, but the thought bore me to death. I looked to see what other Duty Free there was, but why was he taking so long. And the clock was ticking, boarding was becoming an imminent necessity. And still he hadn’t passed immigration. But with all the officers and plexiglass and barriers you can’t go back, obviously, and I couldn’t see what was happening. But finally, when I went to the far right, the ingress for the officials, and,  there he was…….


















The red no entry sign. The not being able to talk to each other or kiss or hug goodbye – we were like Pyramus and Thisbe, whispering through walls. I was utterly gutted and speechless. And no idea what to do. And I decided to continue, because the tickets are so expensive from Japan – fixed at vastly elevated prices – and I have radio interviews; a big launch party and a family gathering yesterday evening to celebrate (fantastic – a really lovely evening), but I had no choice but to get onto the miserable plane alone, crying cheap tears watching A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody, and then gradually , slowly, as all the booze sunk in, drawn in and mesmerized by the real cinema of First Man and the first flight to the moon, which allowed me, for a while, to finally forget the empty seat next to me and endure the sleepless 12 hour journey to Paris, where I smelled the vile chemical miasmas of all the disgusting perfumes on offer and felt nauseous at how foul contemporary perfume is;  got on a plane to Birmingham but had a panic attack becauseI didn’t have an aisle seat as requested; then switched and sat next to a man I started talking to – a Pakistani hypnotherapist from Leicester who was amazingly interesting and who absorbed some of my pent up stress; and we talked about the meaning of life; our hatred of the strictures of nationality, and agreed that all culture is a strait jacket and that ultimately, all we really care about is being free.  Fascinating. And I finally got my suitcase, which took so long…..met my parents waiting for me at arrivals, who hugged and commiserated me on the lack of D and arrived home utterly zonked, stinking,  and exhausted and unable to even properly utter any sentences.







D, back in Japan going through the bureaucratic motions, is going to do his darnedest to get the visa sorted out and pay for another flight as I NEED HIM HERE. This is my time: the book comes out next week, I am going to be in Japan Vogue (!!!!!!!!!!), on BBC London Radio (!), the devastatingly trendy Monocle Radio (what to wear?!) as well as Talk Radio Europe, with a potential listening audience of two million people, a fact that I find incomprehensible, especially considering that I stutter and garble and will just sound like a gibbering idiot probably and will just have had breakfast at Duncan’s parents’ house – IF HE GETS HERE- and







Anyway I just felt I needed to share some of that in an update. It was a hideous journey out. But I must say that it was s a marvellous antidote, the next day to discover that  the lovely Persolaise, who received an advance copy of my book a few weeks ago, had reviewed it on his website : the timing couldn’t have been better for me – and what a lovely balm to my mangled nerves.




Here is the review:












I couldn’t be more pleased with what he says about it. Being fully aware of its flaws and lacks – he mentions that I forgot to include scents such as Habit Rouge (and how could I have forgotten Geoffrey Beene’s Green Flannel  in either the violet or green chapter?) something I realised after the fact – it was a MAELSTROM of stress and deadlines last summer and I honestly almost lost my mind at one point, there are so many omissions and things that got lost in the mania of the final edit…..and I suppose as the writer of  the thing I sometimes forget that there might be good things about the book as well: it was lovely, and very gratifying, therefore, to have someone else’s reaction to the thing after being stuck so much in my own head, someone who knows more than I do about perfume and is a great writer himself. I am delighted.






We had a wonderful family party last night, with my aunt, uncle, cousins and second cousins, animated and hilarious, like the parties of my childhood, and a moving champagne toast by my dad, and I feel quite exhilarated about the coming two weeks here – I just have to seize the moment. The sun is out, even if it was just sleeting as well for a few minutes (the weather here is insane), and I feel very much here, and present, and in the moment. Quite happy.






I really could have done without the drama at immigration though.



I felt sick to the pit of my stomach.


Filed under autobiography, Flowers, neurotic meltdowns, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCEN, Psychodrama


  1. rprichpot

    Heartfelt congratulations!❤️

  2. Matty

    Hells Bells and Bloody Buckets, what a total nightmare for you both. Hope Duncan gets sorted and can join you soon. Good Luck with everything XX

  3. Congratulations on the book review. How amazing to be in Japanese Vogue. Good luck with the interviews. Typical Duncan, bless him! Hope he gets to you soon.

  4. Matty

    Any more news from Duncan ? XX

  5. Congratulations! Sorry about Duncan. Hope the stupid visa thing gets straightened out. Yes, we all just want to be free…

    • And I kind of think it is semi-achievable. And such conversations are the way, definitely. That is the main thrust of the next book I am already writing about Japan. Probably unpublishable, but I am doing it anyway.

      • I do agree it is semi-achievable. Maybe even more than just semi. We have to be willing to go through the process to get there. This is sometimes a rigorous and off-putting thing. Perhaps it is also more achievable to those that just cannot go on in shackles. Write the book! Where do we get a copy of your recent book?

      • It comes out on the 21st in shops and on Amazon etc. I still can’t quite believe it.

      • Fantastic!!! Dreamy realism!!! I will be in line!

  6. Oh no, how awful about the visa! Fingers crossed that he reaches you soon. Enjoy all the festivities, you’ve earned them!

  7. MikasMinion

    Congratulations! I’ve pretty much given up on making time for reading lately but plan to make an exception when I get your book. Your writing always takes me places I didn’t know I wanted to be.
    Don’t know that I could have completed that trip alone. I would likely have had a huge panic attack and be stranded someplace. Just reading the first couple paragraphs made my palms sweat. Hope Duncan makes it through to you soon.

  8. mikasminion

    Congratulations! I’ve pretty much given up on making time for reading lately but plan to make an exception when I get your book. Your writing always takes me places I didn’t know I wanted to be.
    Don’t know that I could have completed that trip alone. I would likely have had a huge panic attack and be stranded someplace. Just reading the first couple paragraphs made my palms sweat. Hope Duncan makes it through to you soon.

  9. MrsDalloway

    Oh no! I didn’t know you would need a visa to fly here if you’re a UK national, that is odd. Hope he makes it soon. Nice review, looking forward to it!

    • No it was the fact that his Japanese visa had run out so he was a Trumpian ‘overstayer’ and might not have been able to return to Japan. He’s lucky that he didn’t get into more trouble actually, but it was a genuine mistake, and his school supports him so it should be ok. Still, a HIDEOUS way to start a journey that I was really looking forward to doing together! Hopefully we will both meet you at the book launch!

      • MrsDalloway

        Oh, no, AARGH! Hope that is sorted very soon and yes, looking forward very much to meeting you.

  10. emmawoolf

    Oh N, what a travel mare (if this had happened to Hugh, and we were travelling together I cannot imagine what a state I would be in) but am positive that D will find a way to meet you very, very soon. And look forward to seeing you at the launch! (AND…those publicity wheels have begun to churn! Japanese Vogue! Think of us tearing pages out of the UK version to stick on our student walls). Forza. You can do this x

  11. Phyllis Ann Iervello

    I am sorry about Duncan and hope that he will eventually get there. In the meantime, enjoy your well-deserved time in the limelight. I just pre-ordered you book on Amazon and cannot wait to receive it. Congratulations Neil!

  12. Tara C

    Oh no, how terrible to have a visa crisis at the airport! I hope it gets sorted quickly and he can join you. Sounds very exciting, all you have coming up! Very much looking forward to my copy of the book. Bon courage and enjoy!

  13. So sorry to hear about all this happening at such an inopportune time. I hope D gets everything in order and will be joining you as soon as possible. Wishing you all the best during this whirlwind time. I am just so excited for you, you deserve this.
    Do try to take care and keep yourself feeling positive.

  14. Tara C

    Just received the email from Amazon.uk: your order has been dispatched! Yay!! 🙂

  15. Robin

    You poor thing. Duncan, too. The photo of him behind the glass is tragic. But oh, my god, that review is glorious. And so your book must be. No doubt (since D. must be with you by now) you are delirious now with relief: at home with loved ones, book written and clearly a masterpiece, fame and fortune on the doorstep. Bravo, Neil.

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