Monthly Archives: October 2019








I am increasingly questioning my subjective perceptions when it comes to perfume, realizing more and more that scent truly does smell quite different on different people and that when testing out new fragrances I need a model.




It is also always fun to give perfume to people as presents, so I took some samples along with me to the film shoot on Saturday, an absolute riot of a day that ended with a mayhem in a bar scene in Fujisawa via a quite outrageous one filmed in the woods somewhere outside Totsuka, but began with a serene and exquisite scene at a tea house in Kamakura ( pictured ), titled The Way Of Tears, a lesson in which the abducted students at the Academy are taught the correct way to cry – with homework – as part of their ‘sensitivity training’.





Michael, pictured left, has what I call a really good ‘canvas’: his skin brings out perfumes in a very clean and huggable way; we had a flea market sale a few months ago to raise money for Spoiled Identity, featuring clothes and bric a brac and a slew of perfumes I didn’t need anymore, and he decided to pick up some vintage Chanel Egoiste (1990), a sweet cinnamon spiced sandalwood that always smelled vile, even nauseating, on me but which on him was stunning : an entirely different skin interpretation with a warm, gentle aura I would never have recognized as being the same perfume.
















Liquid Illusion is a another sweet perfume I somehow thought he would be able to pull off. Although I briefly considered keeping the small bottle for myself ( with almondy heliotrope over a dry, rooty iris note, what could possibly go wrong?), but there is something about the insistence of the dry amber, irone, iracine and obstinate tonka bean in the base note that I knew would just gradually grate on me : he loved it unhesitatingly straight away, though – a perfume you would  ‘inhale greedily in an elevator’.






Rumi, the kimono clad sensei in the centre of the shot, whose tears flowed almost too freely for the scene (I think she is actually something of a grande actrice but just hasn’t realized that about herself yet), had not eaten breakfast that morning, neither before nor after going to the specialist shop to have her dress fitting in Kamakura, in order to be able to carry off the strictures of her many layered kimono and feel right for the part. She felt faint ( and looked very pale ) when we all met at Kamakura station, just managing a small energy drink through a straw, and emitting a faint scent of incense powder that was beguiling and befitting her generally mysterious atmosphere. A perfume lover, embroidery teacher and couture maker, she told me that recently, rather than her usual French classics – she loves Ricci Farouche in particular – she has taken to wearing traditional Japanese incense in special powdered forms, as skin scent; and invited me to come round one day this month or the next to sample them myself – an invitation I am definitely going to take her up on. It sounds like the way to also perfume myself, come my month-long planned hibernation this December.






I proffered Gold Leaf to her, a new, very gilded, rich, mellow fruit of an autumnal ambered chypre to her that is beautifully blended, enigmatic and sure to be very popular addition to the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz  line of perfumes that covers the full spectrum of the fragranced alphabet; although I personally don’t enjoy East Indian or Australian sandalwood notes on my own skin, so would not be able to pull this one off myself,  I agree fully with Tora who sent me the sample that this perfume somehow takes her to the edges of a memory she can’t quite place; locating you in a ‘nostalgia of the present’.






The teashop, down a side street in Kamakura with a traditional room at the back, was a tranquil little place, selling glassware, wooden furniture, and all kinds of tea related paraphernalia; there were even gold-leaf covered chocolate ganaches placed on ceramic trays in the entrance which I thought was an odd coincidence. Rumi had found Gold Leaf a tad too sweet given her current more austere predilections, but after we had finished the scene – which, despite the dark sardonic comedy of D’s script – with the students learning various techniques of crying, from the one single tear rolling down the cheek of each attendee, to full wailing, but which despite the hilarity of those filming and watching left all the actors looking curiously, genuinely desolate by the end, I offered the sample of Gold Leaf instead to Michael. On him it smelled very complex, burnished, a little too ‘mature’, perhaps, I thought at first, but he was immediately intrigued by its obvious elegance, and the concept that perfumes really do differ tremendously depending on the individual ( an idea that he said he had never really  considered before). As the day of filming continued in different locations, the scent began to feel more at home on him, perhaps more pleasing, ultimately,  than the less emotional Liquid Illusion, whose name I hadn’t initially realized the complete aptness of until immersed, Saturday morning, in D’s strange, captivating, and poetic, vale of tears.
























Filed under Flowers, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Psychodrama, Voyeur

saturday night in the taxi …….



….. what perfume ?



Filed under Flowers















This is the first perfume I have smelled by Rogue Perfumery and I need to know more. I am in love. Described by the company as an ‘indolic dirge’, Flos Mortis, or Flower Of Death, is a tuberose and jasmine tincture of potent florals over leather, osmanthus and redcurrant that, despite the thematics of decay and floral decadence, is in truth more like a fresh and scintillating Lazarus  (‘wow, that is so vivid‘ said Duncan when he smelled Flos Mortis last night).






This is a perfume that truly leaps from the bottle : alive, with an onslaught of pungent, but pure, wintergreen notes that make Tubereuse Criminelle seem like a cowering ninny in comparison. The clean, accompanying  jasmine absolute that tangos with the tuberose puts one in mind, at certain moments, of Sarrasins, as well as Lust by Gorilla Perfumes (which is fascinating and ravishing on some people, but just too indolic for me, like suffocating on mothballs), while the beautiful, natural tuberose absolute at the centre of the perfume  – green, creamy, pink – blowing concurrently hot and cold – does at times, as you might expect with a high percentage of natural tuberose oils, also remind you, albeit briefly, of the seminal Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle, which is greener, transparent, more ‘scientific’.




Despite these tuberose and jasmine remembrances, Flos Mortis works entirely in its own right,  with a discrete identity fully intact, and on my skin, rather than the faecally sour indoles you might expect from the perfume house’s descriptions (its “sweet, deathly opening“, its “dark-minded Victorian themes”), the central locus of the perfume is more comparable to vintage Poison: rich, a bit dangerous ; warm; glowing; gorgeous.














Filed under Antidotes to the banality of modern times, Flowers, Jasmine, Tuberose














I have received a very pleasing influx of new scent samples this last week and feel quite reinvigorated for perfume. It is nice to just come home from work of an evening and reach out for something new to try; just laze on the sofa, read a book, and haphazardly spray on a fragrance from the padded envelope.





Randomly testing one scent the other evening without looking at what it was, I immediately sensed a Japanese quality to the composition. A watery, paired down aspect, but elegant, with tea and orange, light rose, and incense undertones. Squinting to see the name on the phial I saw it was a perfume called Memoire De Daisen-In, by Ella K, a brand that debuted in Shinjuku Isetan a couple of years ago and which I immediately recognized as being quite good. Very ‘curated’, cool, seamless perfumes, pleasing to wear.





















Light, reminiscent of subdued, fresh scents such as Hermes’ Rose Ikebana and Osmanthe Yunnan, the Ella K  website describes a scent of Kyoto reflection and calm :






































I myself only get attenuated hints of that city’s unique atmosphere, so austere, that ghostly gravitas that cannot be rendered in what to me is more of a Tokyo, urban perfume








From Fragrantica:

















( the woody, nutmeg aspects on my skin reminded of another perfume I once wore on occasion, Equus by Lalique)






















– these photos, incidentally, are not from Kyoto, but taken when we strolled into a random graveyard, at a shrine in the middle of the city on Saturday  : Tokyo has many such places :  drab, and grey, on a rainy October afternoon, but with a stillness, in the green, that clarified the mind.



















Appreciating the perfume’s qualities – a certain enigmatic crispness, and having out of the blue received an email from an old student of mine requesting a private lesson to brush up her English for a potential job that is coming up soon with LVMH (she was always very well presented even as a young teenager; always had a yen for the ‘finer things in life’, so I haven’t been at all surprised that she has been working with luxury brands since graduation ) I thought this would be the ideal interview scent for her – ambivalently unsweetened enough not to seem too obviously ‘feminine’ ( she dresses in black and sober colours, always with perfect cut ) but still with a certain chic and ‘young woman’s allure’ from the rose and the tea, and sharper, woodier notes that lie beneath. While we were discussing, at a cafe yesterday, the minutiae of the luxury industry in great detail, I presented her with the little boxed sample of Memoire De Daisen-In.








Yes. Perfect, she said – and now does indeed intend to wear a discreet spritz or two of the scent when she meets the acquisitions director for an interview in a couple of weeks (also : a new trench coat: accessories from Celine), and to round it all off, this unassuming – but sufficiently stylish and pleasingly fresh, elegant fragrance, clearly suited to Japanese tastes – that I feel sure will add a subtle, invisible deftness to her presentation.
















Filed under Flowers, Rose perfumes






For the last ten days or so I have been thoroughly absorbed – mesmerized, actually – by a book of interviews with genius German filmmaker, Werner Herzog.


Exasperatingly eccentric and idiosyncratic, opinionated (in extremis), intolerant of mediocrity, steadfast in his philosophical and aesthetic beliefs, impassioned, fascinated with all that is beautiful in the world and in humanity, the visionary director of such masterpieces as Fitzcarraldo, Nosferatu and The Enigma Of Casper Hauser, is quite astonishingly brave, adventurous, and reckless, having made ravishing, death-defying films and documentaries on every continent, in locales and places ( and conditions ) I could barely dream of, infusing his works with a strange purity and mysticism – and, most importantly, beauty –  in a way I find very inspiring.




Awe-inspiring, even. Daunting. The man is possibly quite mad, but for fifty years now he has been creating an astonishing body of work (only a fraction which we have seen, but loved) for its intuitive power, humanity, bizarre humour, fearlessness, offbeatness – sometimes, admittedly,   certain films  TOO odd; too slow, yet always with a sharpness and profundity you rarely encounter elsewhere.




Immersing  myself in these cinematic travelogues – his commentaries on the films, and memories associated with them, I realize also how little of the world I have actually seen despite my relatively extensive travels : comfortably, unadventurously; always by plane;  in recommended hotels, not shivering with snakebite delirium in the Amazon rainforest, capturing fleeting hallucinatory mirages in the Sahara, walking thousands of miles on foot ( he insists you should always do this to truly live) across Africa, Russia, Antarctica, India;  the jungles of South East Asia…..









During the first, dazzling seconds of Van Cleef & Arpels latest addition to the Collection Extraordinaire that I smelled last night:  Reve De Ylang, I  had a momentary synaesthetic visual plunging into new terrain: a poisonous, elating tropical flower moistened with the pleasure of its own scent in the midst of one of these equatorial hidden places full of secrets and mortal dangers ; intense, enraptured bursts of ylang ylang, cardamom, citruses and saffron that put me immediately in mind of Kenzo Jungle L’Elephant, the kind of undiscovered flora that Herzog would incorporate into his visual and aural design before photographing the creature too close and succumbing, for some short moment, to an unhospitalized toxic reaction. Quickly, the perfume falls into a Venus fly trap of the cheapened neo chypre trope,  with a torrid, chocolate patchouli heart and ending that I was personally forced to scrub off from the back of my hand, but still, it was quite an experience: a full spectrum of odours and colours; foliage; and tropical plumage.







Eau Papuagena is much more my kind of travel: arriving at a South American airport full of birds of paradise and other exotic succulents, showering and emerging from my Ecuadorian five star hotel showered and gleaming in a mind-zinging, hyperneroli, green mint citrus grapefruit flower extravaganza that achieves that alchemical magic of encapsulating pure sunshine,  and boundless, mindless optimism, in a bottle. Like Neroli Portofino or the original Mugler Cologne, the main melody will probably eventually outstay its welcome, but for the man in the Panama hat and clean linens emerging into the deafening chatter of parakeets in the trees of the colonial town square,  this bright extroversion of a citrus cologne floral –  flashy, and uplifting – can do no harm.






Werner Herzog was born just after World War Two, and spent his entire isolated childhood of semi-poverty locked in his and his friends’ imaginations in a house hidden away – deliberately, by his mother -in the depths of a Bavarian black forest. It is interesting to me the fact that despite his innate thirst for grand adventure and ceaseless exploits in his poetic quest to capture as much of the unknown as humanly possible in his lifetime, with his fluency in many languages and absolute openness to all cultures ( the descriptions of all the locations he has been to in this book is quite dizzying to me, unhingeing), Herzog ultimately, despite living for the past twenty years in the USA, still has a very deep attachment and longing to his original birthplace, Germany, but particularly, Bavaria, in particular its classical music and literature, his European roots, despite all the wanderlust and conquests, ineradicable.





I sometimes wonder about this myself. Someone once described me as ‘an Englishman lost in Japan’. I am not entirely sure how accurate that description is ( both Duncan and I definitely WANT to live in a dream, I know that much ). It is undeniable, though, that I have never even attempted to ‘become Japanese’, and am probably seen by many as culturally inflexible ( I cannot, to this day, convincingly bow). I have started writing my second book on my experiences here, incidentally, sometimes in torrents;then it comes to a standstill, wondering if there are already too many predictable memoirs by ‘bewildered’ foreigners trying to make sense of what lies around them ( or beneath), and whether there is really any point to it all….





Certain things though, certain Englishnesses, like cream teas, rambling gardens, old houses, the smell of pillows and eiderdowns ( somehow they feel different in your home country) never lose their appeal. And thus my instinctive reaction to a new perfume, To The Fairest Cecile, in name reminiscent of A Room With A View, in scent a delicate porcelained posy of roses, bergamot and clove bud but which to me has the sugared almond eggshell cleanness of heliotrope and dreams of coconut, and a cerebral sigh – I know my limits. While Werner is out there taming wildebeests and risking life and limb over volcanoes or scaling fantastical mountains, I am timidly clean and comforted wearing this; under my duvet somewhere; half asleep; stirring in cotton, dreaming of England.







Filed under Flowers










Typhoons and earthquakes are two natural phenomena you have to accept and get used to if you choose to make this country your borrowed home. Somehow, many of us do: despite the frustrations, at heart, we adore something about the mysteries, the refinement, the deep layers, and sheer beauty of this seething place that addicts the blood and is so hard to move away from once seeped into your soulstream: most other places, in comparison, often just seem  dull: unstimulating, ‘flat’, or dangerous just in different ways (being stabbed in the back by a random hooded teenager in London; shot  in the head while shopping at the supermarket in the US.Is anywhere actually safe?)





Although I am not usually particularly nervous about typhoons, as the area we live in is usually relatively unaffected  for some reason compared to other more unfortunate areas of the country such as poor Chiba, just two hours north by regular train, which had its second major storm in one month,cutting off the power supply and running water, and a 5.8 simultaneous earthquake for good measure (I was so restless; dancing basically, that I didn’t even notice, no, couldn’t actually feel the earthquake when Duncan nervously pointed it out to me): on this occasion, as you may have gathered from my previous post, I think I went a little bit nuts. Already on Friday, as the rains started and everyone seemed quite palpably anxious at work, if putting a very brave face on it all, with hearty laughter all round, perhaps for the sake of the children, I had a heavy feeling in my chest; a true sense of fear, and was physically unable to teach. Ditching what I had planned for that day, I thought board games all round were the ticket for us all – my brain had the sophistication of a walnut, and I couldn’t think straight, let alone be educational; I just wanted to get home and get through it. Passing by the late night supermarket, usually loaded with expensive imported food and other sundries, I noticed that many of the shelves were bare, and felt a quiet sense of panic overcoming me (people were talking about being in the dark with no water – my ultimate fear; I had filled up the bathtub and all the plastic bottles we have on the premises just in case; D was busy writing a review of some Japanese short stories when I got in and was wholly focused on doing that; I came in like a hysterical Beetlejuice loaded with bags of available groceries and liquor (“Why aren’t you panicking?”! I shouted at him, disrupting his peace and concentration), the government having warned its citizens to ‘do everything you can to protect your own life’, which you must admit, doesn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence. I enjoy my life, and if possible am not quite ready to throw in the towel; everyone was acting as though something pretty major was about to occur  – my piano duet friend Yoko sent me a message saying that she hoped we would see each other again with ‘full body integrity intact’, but all you can do, passively, and patiently, is sit there and wait, hope the roof doesn’t get blown off and you along with it, and pray the windows don’t smash; Typhoon No 19 apparently the biggest one this year; for decades, the throbbing sense of foreboding made me slightly haywire.






Arriving simultaneously, from another direction, as Typhoon Hagibis made its steady, cataclysmical path from the Philippines in our direction, was a jet plane, carrying in its cargo a beautiful package from Amsterdam sent by Pure Distance founder Jan Ewoud Vos, who had read on here that I was running out of Antonia recently and that I was going to ask Duncan to buy me some more for my birthday. Pipping him to the post, he had sent me some luxuriously boxed bottles of pure parfum in the original clear glass flacons – they have now been repackaged in a new green design more fitting to the olfactory personality of the fragrance, though I think the transparent bottles, now not for sale, work just as  well; and these beauties were delivered by the same friendly postman who delivered the first copy of my my book back in February; always smiling (this is not usual), and someone I wave to when I crisscross his route on my morning bike rides. Tearing open the carefully wrapped up box in my kitchen I was like a kid on Christmas morning delighted to have such a sudden supply; as I said recently, this is a perfume I have come to not be able to live without; one I will turn to regularly as a new default scent; a green, flourishing floral with an immediate sense of balance and tactility, with orris and rose accents (and possibly secret tuberose), a gush of fresh galbanum on a brilliant white, centre of soap-like opacity shot through with light – and a soft, vetiver, sandalwood and delicate ending that lingers all day and just somehow feels totally right. This fragrance is perhaps more ‘conservative’ that what I might usually go for in some ways (and maybe it will improve my general behaviour for that reason) but precisely because of this poise and untouchability, it gives me a feeling of peace and serenity that is extraordinarily comforting; one of those few-sprays-on-clean-clothes-and-ah-yes that-will-do-for-the-day scents. As with No 19, which some people compare this to – even if to me the Chanel is so much bitterer, supercilious, austere; more masculine and cannily intuitive; for me there is only a fleeting resemblance between the perfumes, especially in the drydowns; where 19 is all indisputably elegant, if distancing, vetiver, iris root, and leather on me, Antonia has an opalescent aldehyde warmth of attenuated flowers and a suggestion of vanilla that is far more filled with ease.






Which is what I needed, after a marathon night of cinema viewing in our projector room upstairs as I tried to take my mind off the impending doom on Friday night and prevent myself from  looking at the Internet, getting frothed up into a meteorological frenzy as I imagined our upcoming disarticulation by diabolical winds, waking at 3:30pm on the Day Of The Typhoon (almost unheard of for me); as the rains started picking up with a grin,  and the wind was increasing in kinetic velocity ………as a childhood lover of The Wizard Of Oz, I cannot deny that have always found storms extremely exhilarating- I used to take my little sister running through the local woods when there was a downpour, I always loved the smell ; half expecting the Wicked Witch Of The West to go cycling by in the twister shouting out Dorothy before landing with a thud in the technicolour marvels of the Munchkins, Lionheart and the Tin Man, and the field of delirium poppies,flying monkeys; there is a movement to it all, an indescribable palpitation in the air of spiralling chlorophyll and unstoppable rains that is cleansing and terrifying at the same time. But I have no death wish; obviously, I am talking now only about the beginning, as the typhoon approached; by 6pm I was showered and dressed and spritzed all over ready for it in Antonia (‘the perfume will protect you’, declared Mr Vos in an email, when I told him we had ‘beaten’ the typhoon), and for a while, as the atmosphere started to edge up to danger (Hagibis made landfall around 7:30pm an hour or two south, while I was still dancing next to the wide open kitchen window and marvelling at the energy in the air as D kept wrestling the window shut from only for it to be re-opened again), I was immensely enjoying my own scent lit up further by all the green in the air outside; yes, it may have been fear, but you know when enough is enough though; your instincts tell you – – – oh, this is starting to feel a bit genuinely dangerous now, what shall we do? An ear plugged game of chess?





No. Keep dancing, watching movies and drinking wine, munching on snacks in front of the screen praying the lights won’t go out as the room gets gradually more and more buffeted, bashed from outside as the shutters rattle violently, and you start wondering when the tiles are going to start flying off the roof and crashing to the ground like they did in September 2011 when I was huddled in a room under blankets listening to Tori Amos’ Shattering Sea at maximum volume in a much darker frame of mind than this Saturday, when Donald Trump was ranting and raving on the screen in Michael Moore’s overboiled, if still semi-fascinating documentary on the beloved president, and the shouts of the morons at the conventions were gladly drowned out by our little cinema getting pummelled by killer winds and rains and we were both being gung-ho but wondering if it was going to get any worse.






By the time we had settled into watching Nicolas Cage go apeshit in the stylised 1983 of Mandy, the typhoon outside was torrid and still very noisy, but felt like it was diminishing. We could sit back. As we gratefully sipped Jack Daniels and cokes I reached out in the (deliberately chosen) darkness to see what perfumes were existing unloved and unworn on the tops of the bookshelves next to me; my hand chanced upon an Olivia- decanted bottle of Micallef’s Note Vanille, a rich, dense, sweet and truly gourmand confection of real vanilla beans steeped in brandy and cognac, with sandalwood and mandarin accents – much more embodied and out there than Guerlain’s Spiritueuse Double Vanille, which I loved, awhile,for its cherry deliciousness, the first time I smelled it in Paris on the Champs Elysees at the time of its release, but which has somehow become disappointing to me; just not quite as heavenly and delectable as I remember it. This

gorgeous Micallef, though, sprayed on the right sleeve of my hoodie and wrist, even if it is not really the type of smell  go for any more; just too molasses thick and gooey and as sugar-plum-fairied as densely coated Christmas marrons glaces melting on the tongue,  at this moment it felt just right; pure comfort, heady, and a pleasingly contrasting facet to Antonia, which I could smell everywhere else, with its leafy, benevolent diaphanous.







We woke up on Sunday. To bright blue skies,  conceited sun: and to the air-filling smell of osmanthus, our tree the biggest in the area, ten days later than usual, the flowers also, just battening down their collective hatches and waiting for the right moment to bloom and release their apricot odour into the atmosphere; at first, so warm and so fragrant outside that I was a little bit disoriented (not entirely dissimilar, in fact, to Judy Garland and the syruped strings announcing her blindly colourful arrival at the yellow brick road). As much of this island lay under water from flooded rivers, and the damage and loss of life caused by the mayhem of the typhoon was calculated by the world’s media, we felt lucky, cycling around the streets assessing the impact, that although some very big trees had been unrooted and were lying there exposed, with loss to their dignity, no houses seemed to have been damaged; our streets unscathed.












Filed under Flowers

empty supermarket shelves, as people stock up for the supertyphoon






I have never seen this before, and feel quite alarmed.




Filed under Flowers