BLACK VINES by KEROSENE (2014) +my last three SURREAL days in London



– Anne Pigalle





I have had an unbelievable few days in London but as I am preparing for tonight’s big launch event ( The Perfume Society, mine and D’s family, old friends, people I haven’t seen for over twenty five years all in attendance), this might have to be an abridged version. I feel slightly breathless.



On Monday we went to Rouillier White (the perfume shop extraordinaire in East Dulwich where the event tonight is to be held), just to get our bearings, and to meet the owner, Michael Donovan, who is highly involved in all aspects of the industry , owner of the shop and his own perfume line, St Giles, and who was incredibly friendly, down to earth, ebullient and effusive with an almost intimidatingly vast knowledge of and passion for scent ( he loves the extreme, the wonderful and the weird, like Black Vines, a smell which is like cramming your face with licorice allsorts while guzzling ouzo or pernod – I have never known such a shocker of aniseed in such high concentration over cinnamon and woods – one of the most singular scents I have ever experienced : I asked for a sample, while D bought a bottle of Histoires de Parfum’s excellent 1899, a tobacco celebration  of the birth of Ernest Hemingway whose sillage on the streets of London  leaves me giddy with pleasure).




What I also really respect, aside knowing everyone who is anyone ( I heard some tantalizing secrets ) is Michael’s ethos : he deliberately won’t stock anything over 150 pounds because he believes it can alienate certain people in the local community – when luxe is taken to absurd levels of snobbery – and so he also has very inexpensive colognes stacked close to the higher niche to make the whole experience more relatable;  while in the home furnishings section there are wooden chopping boards made by prison inmates to help them get back on tbeir feet after they are released; lights made by Syrians living in war zones to keep them alive – for me this is a beautiful place that celebrates perfume but is also socially conscious and very human. I couldn’t really ask for a better place to celebrate the book ( I will be taking the audience on a tour of some scents that are featured in Perfume but are also sold there as an interesting collaboration).






Tursday was UNBELIEVABLE for me. As a pre-launch party, a friend had spontaneously decided to hold a gathering at his stunning flat at the Barbican – which has a 26th floor fully panoramic view of the entire city that has to be seen to be believed). I met the tailor to Queen Noor, the king or queen of the London underground  drag and cabaret scene who cannot live without a house full of hyacinths and tuberoses, a New York stand up comic, old friends I hadn’t seen for decades, and, to my utter astonishment, on a whim, because we had been connected through Facebook, a singer – Anne Pigalle ( pictured), whose album from 1986, Everything Could Have Been So Perfect I have loved ever since, and whose second one, 33 years later – Ecstase, a drunken, Fassbinder evocation of late night bars and chansons ( she calls herself The Last Chanteuse ) we have recently been listening to in our kitchen.



Not only did she decide to come to the party, even though we have never met in person ( this was my first time meeting a pop singer whose records I own and I was slightly starstruck), we ACTUALLY PERFORMED TOGETHER. I quickly tried to work out the chords to Looking For Love on the grand piano and then we just did it as friends chatted drinking red wine.




I am still reeling.











And then yesterday : I was at the BBC, on Radio London, speaking live in front of half a million people in a segment between Brexit and Bananarama with the lovely Jo Good, a really fun woman and genuine perfume lover who clearly really likes my book (as she was quoting extensively from it )………. …    I don’t know ::::::::the whole experience was dizzying: all the security, the rushedness of it (‘ok Neil, you’re on after the news and a song’), and then suddenly there I was, just saying whatever came into my head over the natural course of the conversation  and then flushed and mindbombed out into the fresh air where Duncan was waiting for me.






He and his parents have just gone out for the day, to go to Westminster to see all the Brexit protesters – for and against- quite interesting to see it all up close, history being lived,  and do other sightseeing – and let me just mull on what I am going to talk about tonight while I marinate in the bath  ( a gorgeous Italian iris soap I found at a charity shop which will prepare my No 19 very nicely indeed ).






I know these days will remain with me forever.






I will get back to you later.








Filed under Flowers

32 responses to “BLACK VINES by KEROSENE (2014) +my last three SURREAL days in London

  1. Oh my goodness what an incredible few days for you. Enjoy everything that is happening right now and keep writing about it too! I’ve just ordered your book and can’t wait for it to arrive. ✨

  2. Robert

    Simply wonderful hearing your interview over the wireless! It seemed to end too soon. All the best from us for tonight. Would gatecrash if it were possible! Banzai!

  3. Ariane

    Enjoy every wonderful minute! This is the acclaim you’ve earned and deserved. So happy for you!

  4. Matty

    What a wonderful and exciting fews days you have had in London.I loved reading every word of your post, your excitment leaps off the page.
    You really deserve it.

  5. Tara C

    This is a real peak moment in your life, savour every drop! Loved the description of Roullier White and the song by Anne Pigalle. Do you know where in the BBC broadcast your bit is? It’s 3.5 hours long and after skipping through it I couldn’t find the part with your interview.

  6. Eric Love

    I didn’t think anyone remembered that album anymore, I loved it.

  7. dubaiscents

    I only listened to a few minutes of the BBC segment so far but, you sound wonderful. So calm and relaxed, I’d be a nervous wreck! Enjoy all of this, you deserve it!

  8. Celebrate every moment of this fabulous life event!! I can not think of anyone more deserving of this than you, so enjoy it all!!

  9. MrsDalloway

    It was terrific to meet you and your family and friends – a lovely evening. The book is a great achievement and I’m amazed you got it together so quickly. Hope it does really well. Love the gilded prayer book page edges too…

    • Yes – great to see you too: sorry we didn’t get more chance to speak – as you could see though I was being pulled hither and thither – plus I thought you must be too young to be Mrs Dalloway

      • MrsDalloway

        Heh, it’s false representation really: I should be somewhat older and *much* smarter and richer. But it’s possibly my favourite book and seemed a good alias when I started going on perfume sites. Why are you ginzaintherain, by the way?

      • D chose that actually! But the book does also begin with Ginza, and it is a stunning part of Tokyo (especially in the rain).

  10. Julia

    Proud parents, proud friends, what a week! Even with all that glamour, recognition and attention (so deserved), you are still the most endearingly self-deprecating person I know. Amazing. x

  11. What an exciting time you had. Must visit Roullier some time

  12. Grayspoole

    Congratulations on the success of your book, Neil. So deserved! As I wait impatiently for Amazon to deliver it to me in the US, I enjoyed listening to your BBC radio interview. My favorite part: when the host asked in disbelief “You don’t mean OLD perfume, do you?” after you said 1970’s No. 19 was your favorite perfume. Your response was perfectly charming and funny (and educational).

  13. emmawoolf

    Have your feet touched the ground yet? I hope not. I’m not sure that mine have, and I was only there to see you, perfume superstar! Will write properly soon. Lots to write about! I’ve said it before, but possibly not on here: am so proud of you, dear friend. Your book is a treasure, the writing sparkles and it’s such a pleasure to dip into it with a cup of tea and my new stash of fragrance samples from Les Senteurs (James Craven was equally delightful, you were right about that). After wearing the same fragrances (my top 10) for quite a while, you’ve rekindled an interest in new discoveries. Wishing you lots and lots of success with the book. You deserve it x

    • Thanks so much E. And sorry for taking so long to reply. After the week of being in the spotlight I just had to shut down for a few days and hide! What perfumes did you end up with in the end? I would like to hear more about the whole experience. James Craven is lovely.

  14. Enjoy the madness Neil, it’s so fabulous and fleeting that you must snapshot the feelings and the whirlwind in your mind so you can unpack it and spend a lifetime enjoying the memories.
    I’m loving the book and can feel your self pushing out and being present while I read.
    Portia xx

    • This is very interesting, because that is how I also experienced writing it, somehow – ‘pushing out and being present’ – it was a MAELSTROM putting it together, but a delirious one. So glad you are enjoying it.

      And I agree about writing about the experience. Right now though I am just back in Japan and am half dead, but when the mood/feeling is right, I want to write in detail about the book launch evening and the times I had in England.

      Now back to dreary reality…

  15. Robin

    I love your voice. And how lovely to hear you sounding so relaxed and confident. Success suits you. I’m so happy this is all unfolding so
    naturally and pleasurably for you, this whole whirlwind of a time.

    “I know these days will remain with me forever.” That awareness is a beautiful thing to possess.

    • Thanks for saying this. You also know how neurotic I am – I don’t really feel like I have achieved success yet and worry about a million things – but yes, that week was quite something; healing, lovely, and exciting.

  16. Robin

    Found this too, which is brilliant, really you. The interviewer is good, too.

  17. rosestrang

    So pleased for you Neil – after all the challenges you’re enjoying life, long may it last!! Really enjoyed the radio interview – you’ve got a great laugh, and gave interesting answers. Brilliant, reading this and hearing the interview really makes me smile. I’ve got to buy the book now!

    • Thanks for writing this, Rose. I mean I always have enjoyed life: I think I do live in the moment, and naturally experience joy in so many things despite all the darkness, fury and oversensitivity that is the other side of things – but I did feel in England that I was riding the crest of a wave. I am writing this with jet lag though and realising the sheer drear and hard work ahead of me this term (UGH). Still, I am very lucky to have been able to have this experience. I hope if you do get the book you enjoy it. x

  18. rosestrang

    Bought it, and now look forward to reading it!

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