According to the Japan Times, this year’s rainy season was the longest and most interminable in memory, leading to a depressed and listless population already lethargic from the coronavirus. I know that I, after being energized by my return to the world after the first lockdown (another may be imminent as cases rise in all major cities) was also operating at a snail’s pace autopilot, a survival slug shouting through a surgical mask.



Promptly on August 1st the sun said enough is enough; this enforced sabbatical by Cloud Central is boring me to death I am pressing the On switch and sure enough the heat has descended, blasting out cobwebs (you should we the mould on our shoes, the mould that has crept over bus stops and train timetables, even our tatami mats it is vile); we spent the weekend drinking cava and flinging open windows and cycling and lounging around on the balcony letting the rays in and rejoicing in the dryness and the light.


Today I have to go in to Yokohama. I am writing this on the train. It doesn’t feel safe. I always open the windows as far as they will go, possibly too angrily and to the consternation of some passengers who just sit their impassively but no : I WILL have ventilation (I have been laying the law down at work as well, where a weird inertia has set in and students sit dangerously in classrooms with sealed windows.)


For dinner last night – a lovely place in Kamakura with red sun umbrellas, delicious cold Ebisu beer ( we really felt the need to get smashed this weekend : I had to just obliterate something in my conscious as I have felt hemmed in and screaming); perfectly cooked tempura and grilled fish with pickled Japanese ginger, Duncan wore Mizu by Di Ser ( a nice, fresh woody citrus that smells very natural), while I went for Uomo by Lorenzo Villoresi, a lavender aromatic similar to the Tuscany I was wearing the other day ( and which the mosquitoes unfortunately loved as well ; we decided to sit outside, not wanting the misery of air conditioning to ruin the first real Sunday evening of summer.)



Today it is baking hot. Ordinarily in this weather I would probably be going for tropical; frangipani, coconut; Lys Soleia. This morning I woke up for some reason craving deep sandalwood and cedar, something inward and fortifying rather than flamboyant Blue Lagoon. I knew what I wanted : my tube of Bois De Santal hand creme; rosewood and spice and sweet sandalwood, which goes beautifully with the edp tiny bottle of vintage Shiseido Feminite Du Bois I once found at a Berlin flea market. Rich, dense with plum and cinnamon with a heart of Moroccan Atlas cedar wood, vanilla and sandalwood, benzoin and a hint of buried violets, it is not quite as stunning as the ultra rare parfum I only have a couple of drops left of ( I like it on D even more than I do on myself; it lasts for hours, is ever-changing and never loses a moment of integrity).
Still, today’s combination, though anti-intuitive, perhaps, feels right to me; soothing and solidifying, like a great wooden temple in Nikko, where you can steal in for some stillness.




Filed under Flowers


  1. bibimaizoon

    By the time August rolls around I too get a little weary of summery citrus and tropical florals. It always amazes me how woods, resins, and spice feel so clean and serene in the blazing sun. Sort of a hint of Autumn approaching as Summer wanes? (or perhaps I’ve just had enough of the steamy, damp, gray June Monsoon of Nepal?) I find attars and oils are better behaved in hot weather and last longer than alcohol-based perfumes. Rose tempered with a styptic, smoky myrrh or balsamic sandalwood is my favorite combination for this time of year. My decade-old bottle of Ajmal’s Ragheeb fits the rose and myrrh bill perfectly. I haven’t found a Taif rose and Mysore sandalwood attar I like yet though 😦

    • I love Ajmal wood perfumes – their sandalwood is absolutely perfect and I can wear it quite happily alongside the vetiver Kus.

      Do NOT mention the dreaded word Autumn yet though as summer has just started. I am hoping for a global warming extension into November.

  2. Robin

    You transported me again to your exotic everyday world. I like that combination and I can see why you and Duncan would have felt unbearably bored and or stifled to be still living in England all these adult years.

    The rain, heat, mildew. I could feel and smell its oppression.

    Shiseido FeB (not the Lutens ghost of it, gone in two hours with nothing in it to unfold) is up there with my very very favourite perfumes. You describe it so well. I don’t know anything that outperforms it. Fascinating for hours and hours, gaining in depth, complexity and beauty — beauty: that word, that pinnacle, the most arresting thing about it. The wood, the smoky plum. It’s just so right up my alley. Now I only have the edp, but at least I do have a back-up bottle. Somehow I knew it was bound for a sad reformulation. All the great beauties, when they’re not discontinued outright, seem to be. Now I’m getting angry thinking about how beauty, in the perfume world, is almost inevitably sacrificed at the altar of profitability.

    • I totally agree. The Lutens appropriation is a mere spectral afterthought. Rubbish. Actually depressing to think about. Even this edp doesn’t hold up against the divine parfum which is like a TINCTURE of geniusly mixed essences.Elegant, slightly bizarre, and like nothing else. Definitely very good for introspection I think or for making you feel dignified and resilient

    • I don’t think that being in England per se would be dull – no more than any other European or primarily Anglo Saxon originated country like Australia or Canada- there are a million things to do anywhere, and people in most countries like where they live I think. I do also think though that you are right – me and D need some kind of Otherness or particular aesthetic stimulation. Kamakura is an odd mix of primary ancient Zen capital of Japan; an almost trashy seaside resort, and a place only 30 minutes from Yokohama and an hour from Tokyo, so it has everything, really. Quite a unique atmosphere. Kyoto is also incredible but it is landlocked and extra snobby (and packed with even more tourists) – I find the grandiosity of that city slightly overwhelming. Kamakura is manageable, like Cambridge – I like places you can bike around that don’t make you feel like an ant.

      • Robin

        I know I would find England a fascinating place to live for years and years. All my Anglophilian (?) curiosity about my homeland would be satisfied. Same when I spent time in Ireland, where the other half of my family comes from. Smelling a peat fire for the first time, seeing with my eyes the colour of the Irish Sea and smelling the breeze and tasting the particular concentration of flavours (I’m an ocean swimmer and know all the nuances of the northern Pacific), listening to a folk band in a Kilkenny pub, walking through the old farmhouse my grandmother was raised in and feeling the plaster walls and soft floorboards, hearing the same soft country accent spoken by the neighbours, walking the same path through the fields and seeing the same ancient sycamores that shaded it.

        Canada is quite boring in many ways, comparatively. I’m not complaining. This particular part is so beautiful and physically varied and part of my soul that I’ve never tired of it. In truth, I fall in love more and more each year. I do love traveling to radically different places from time to time, though, urban and rural, and feel really stuck here by the pandemic.

  3. Tara C

    It has been very hot and rainy in Montréal so I can certainly sympathize. Our summer started early this year and I am already quite ready for fall. I’ve been wearing woods & incenses in spite of the stickiness. This morning I was eyeing Filles en Aiguilles, but FdB vintage is even better. It will be a sad day when that runs out, the current formulation is not at all to my taste.

    • It IS that ‘binding’ feeling, isn’t it? I would usually prefer them later in the year, but yesterday it felt right to be wearing something thick and woody; the air conditioning accentuates the aura emanating from your person on such a day; calming.

  4. Glad you are writing a lot these days, it’s like a message from the outer world that is relatable yet so elsewhere. At this point in the demonic possession of my country, it feels very strange to be so perfume oriented but I have been leaning hard on my collection for solace and beauty. So agree with you about the cedar of FdB. Been thinking the sheerest incense would be just right in the subtropical heat of the city. NYC climate has shifted, the scientists say, to that of Virginia, and the Magnolias prosper but the Maple trees will soon be gone. Luckily all the greenery got a good start this Spring from the lull in traffic and noise, so shielding us all a bit more in the city.

    • ‘Demonic possession’ is the word for it. Since that Creature got in power, the world has gone HAYWIRE. And I genuinely believe he is personally responsible for a great deal of it; just the bad energy he has unleashed.

      My ability to write depends on my exhaustion levels, but I am glad that even a quick post tapped out on a train is still enjoyable for people to read.

  5. There are times when a scent like FdB is the perfect choice on a sweltering day. I usually wear all my florals and citruses during the warm months, just because I enjoy them more, but there are those days when I want something richer and with more body. Those are the days I would reach for something like FdB or Samsara, I even wore Winter Delice from Guerlain one day and smelt like a Chrismas celebration.
    Oh how I would love to explore Kamakura during a beautiful summer day. It all sounds so divine there, far more interesting than rural New Hampshire. I would move in a heartbeat at this point.

  6. Brigitte

    Oh my God!! You still have this tube that I sent you, what, seven years ago? The very best hand cream ever, eh?

  7. Brigitte

    Well, I left a comment which was then deleted. I can’t believe that you still have that hand cream that I mailed to you seven years ago. Now let’s see if this comment is deleted as well.

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