Monthly Archives: September 2020


Had to go in early today for high school interviews.

Almost drained my bottle of Eau De Rochas Fraiche, my work scent since early summer.


September 21, 2020 · 8:02 am

24 FAUBOURG by HERMÈS (1995)

Usually, when I went back to England for the spring or summer holidays I would always have some perfume in my suitcase to hand out to my mother and friends. It was a tradition: get back to the familiar surroundings of my parents’ house, unpack, and hand out the goodies; vintage Chanel extraits, Jacomo Parfum Rare, old Guerlain bottles to decorate the bathroom. Before 9/11, I would also frequently send lavishly decorated packages in the post filled with perfume, CD compilations, letters, strange artefacts; but once the rules changed and prohibitions came into place, all that was over. It is strange to think that it is now impossible for me to do any of these things.

One perfume I randomly gifted my mum one summer in England was 24, Faubourg by Hermès, a smooth and lustrous creation by the brilliant Maurice Roucel (Iris Silver Mist; Tocade; Insolence); a very perfumey perfume in its homogenised richness and glamour, with no obvious stray notes or beginnings and endings, and which I have always quite liked for its flawless construction but never quite loved – to me there is an emotional opacity to this scent that can almost come across as mindless; even if that shielding quality – a dependable and semi-elegant armour – is exactly what probably makes the perfume so enduringly popular.

With its warm, salted ambergris and vanilla finish profused generously with deliberately controlled lashings of vetiver and tuberose/orange blossom over adult jasmine, this glowing and undoubtedly very sexy perfume is to me always reminiscent of that other inimitable glamourpuss of the previous decade, Giorgio by Giorgio Beverly Hills: just Francofied and given a more dignified makeover. It is distinctly wearable; versatile, and subtly, animally feminine in a way that most contemporary perfumes never achieve, although I find it personally slightly wearing if I am in too much regular contact with it ( I just can’t find any chinks of light). Still, this was a surprise hit for my mum, who garnered more compliments when wearing 24 Faubourg than almost any other perfume she wears – the hairdresser was all over it; others have commented on positively it as well, and it has now become part of her repertoire. I don’t know if I have ever smelled it on her, personally (she usually wears First or No 22 vintage parfum when they pick me up at the airport) but now I finally have another bottle that I found at an antiques store, which I will be hopefully taking back with me and giving to her, on some future, as yet unspecified date.


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But don’t look now………: HABIT ROUGE by GUERLAIN (1965)

The Black Narcissus


Habit Rouge, in my humble view, is one of the most unique and troubling scents of all time. It is one I own but find essentially unwearable   – I use it instead to scent red velvet curtains and the like, once basing a whole party in Tokyo on this theme: all the scarlet velours banquettes sprayed copiously with this decadent and headily enigmatic smell, the guests all clad in dress code red…


A curiously ghostly creation, despite its supposedly manly credentials, this perfume, for me, is rather more like a melancholy, powdered octogenarian traipsing confusedly and crimsonly about his old mansion, down whispering, cobwebbed corridors; in long silk dressing gown and softly pressing pantouffles; in the cold, and spine -tingling, dead of night.

This house is probably haunted. A headspinning, olfactive evocation of long, wintery passages;  old, stuffed, armoires; and crisp, freshly laundered sheets. But still: : :…

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We booked for a fancy eight course French breakfast /lunch on Saturday morning at the Koga Residence – one of Kamakura’s three ‘Official Western Buildings Of Interest’ (one of the few to withstand The Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923 that destroyed almost everything in its wake) for D’s upcoming birthday, having seen it down a lane a couple of months ago after being unaware of its existence our entire time living here, feeling like celebrating in style, just to try something different.

Perfume-wise, we both wanted to try something new that we had never worn before. To mark the occasion, D opted for French Cuffs by Pink MahogHany, a very elegant boisé animalic tobacco by perfumer Chavalia Mwamba that is just on the perfect cusp of suggestiveness – the husky smoke breath of the rich pipe tobacco melded with woods and what smells like vetiver inverting the usual scent pyramid so that you get a full, rich, but mellow and unobtrusive base accord on first spray, very suitable for the environment we were in (an interesting mix of people, from old couples to close friends gathering for their own special events, all apparently getting happily wasted in the a/m with the generous wine-tasting option which paired wines, poured with a generous elbow, for each of the chi-chi courses that were delivered and given overly lengthy explanations by the gusto staff; some of these old girls sipping their seventh glass of rosé could definitely drink us under the table while still keeping their dignified chops – just I did see the odd wobble and hesitant step on the way to and back from the bathroom). French Cuffs, though is an excellent, and really quite erotic scent ( I feel slightly restless just thinking about it again) with lost Cuban memories of Molinard Habanita, nicely balanced, even if the end accord is not quite as exciting as its beginning (just an attenuation of the first). This is a definitely a scent though with an emotional pull and core of soft gravitas that is gentlemanly – but definitely a living gentleman with a libido.

For myself, rushing to get ready in the morning after a really exhausting and hard week at work, my eyes barely open as I showered and tried to spruce up for the overly rich food ahead (Japanese French is never our favourite: just a once in a blue moon kind of thing as you are always deluged with a whole fine array of luxuriantly appointed lipids; foie gras and conger eel, beef cooked half rare, duck fat drenched pumpkin mochi, all kinds of lovingly prepared dishes followed of course with even richer dessert; for us there was almost an amusing sense of dread of what the hell was coming next; for me the joy is experiential more than gastronomic ). I had been trying, frantically, to find the sample of the Gent, also by Pink MahogHany, which is a curious, milky-fresh creation that felt very talcum decadent and obliviously nonchalant in the manner of Caron Royal Bain De Champagne, or Creed’s regretted Acier Aluminium (1973) that would have been ideal to grace my own person but I simply couldn’t find it in our chaotic perfume/ bedroom chamber that was in a hell of a mess but which we didn’t have time to tidy up. Instead, I decided on a last minute duo of Guerlain Habit Rouge on the body (that long-neglected perfume had come floating up into my consciousness the night before), and a few spritzes of Fedora on the wrists and hair, a tight, mint-fresh tea citrus cologne (lovers of Herba Fresca should definitely try this one) that felt perfect as I left the house under my umbrella in the light mists of rain and got into the taxi, the always strange soft contradictions of the Guerlain highlighting the herbaceous gracefulness of the Fedora.

Photos of the Koga Residence and the antique shop we went to after to get a birthday present (The Boy) by D himself.


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I have never liked the brand Ralph Lauren. In its prim Russo-Anglophilic conservatism and elitist, traditionalist log-by-the-fire Ivy Leagueness, there has always been something extraordinarily unimaginative for me that appeals on no level. When the flagship store in Kamakura closed down in the nineties, with its hideous fixtures and furniture and house stylings and plaid skirts and blazers, (to be taken over by a bank) I was strangely relieved. I didn’t want to see it. I don’t really like horses either.

The perfumes by the company are also dire (if perennially uberpopular. While I have a grudging respect for the artful engineering of the original Polo and do definitely consider it a masculine ‘classic’, I don’t have any love for it personally. As for the rest, I can understand why people like them – athletic; strong; ‘fresh‘ etc – even if the original Safari For Men made me want to actually commit murder – but it is an aesthetic that to me will remain forever alien.

The original perfume from Ralph Lauren, however – ‘Lauren’, by perfumer Bernard Chant, the author of Cabochard, Aramis, Aromatics Elixir but also the quintessentially clean and ultra-American Antonia’s Flower range (which I strangely like), is an exception to my rule. I am ill-advisedly wearing this today, imagining recklessly that I can somehow pull it off – I can’t – but I saw the vintage parfum bottle I have earlier in my collection and couldn’t resist having a bath and then applying it in droves.

It is lovely.

Lauren is a fresh green floral of its era that is gorgeously crisp: lovers of perfume on Fragrantica and other websites talk of how girls with long hair in the seventies would be wearing this perfume drifting (or Love’s Baby Soft, or Cacharel’s Anaïs Anaïs), floating musk down the air waves of summer high school corridors – shampoo clean and inviting (in the top accord, marigold/tagetes, the smell of a bright new day and one of my favourite notes in perfumery; broom, blackcurrant, cantaloupe melon; green leaves and citrus for strictness, a touch of herbaceous thyme…………..while a delicately floral (rose, jasmine and ylang ylang) heart covers a subtly woody, musk base of cedar wood, sandalwood and oakmoss that remains carefully defined, not animalic. The perfume is not hypnotic, or erotic, even, in and of itself, but in the vintage pre-formulation I own (changed beyond recognition and not really worth bothering with now), in its steadfast belief in the powers of goodness and freshly showered femininity, this creation has all the boy-crazyingly seductive power of a Brian De Palma heroine.


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The Arabic word fo’ah has no equivalent in any other language, a specific, and poetic, term that refers to the moment of flowering of the palm tree, a symbol of hospitality and prosperity across the Arab world; an oasis of hydration and nourishment in the desert.

The palm tree is also the inspiration for a series of five perfumes by Emirati-French fragrance brand Fo’ah, who use an unusual accord based on the essence of palm tree – fresh, green, vegetal, watery – as the basis for all of the fragrances in the collection, a lush quality that infuses the scents with a quiet hushed aeration, allowing the ingredients to flourish more subtly within themselves; bloom gently on the skin. There is a certain refinement to these perfumes, and I find them pleasing.

While Mémoire D’Une Palmeraie 02, a gentle, coniferous incense, may be somewhat too subdued for my personal tastes (palm tree, juniper, Siberian pine, Georgian cedar, frankincense), it is a well made, convincing skin scent that will work well for those who don’t necessarily wear their hearts on their sleeve but dress up their introversions in good style.

14, an oud-centred composition, was initially the one in the collection (from just reading the descriptions), that I assumed I would be least drawn to due to the oversaturation of agar wood scents in the world perfume market right now, but I was wrong : this is in fact a fresh, spiced rose oud perfume with sandalwood and musk that is almost pointillist in its culminations, rather than oil-paint (or oil-slick) thick like many recent niche perfumes, taking me back to vintage florientals such as Coco by Chanel or Ungaro Diva, but refreshed, and modernised, by the greener palm tree accord to give an understatedly lavish sillage that lovers of the aforementioned classic perfumes will enjoy in newer form. This would be a great and glamorous scent for an important evening out : surrounding its wearer like a high-end pashmina (for a similar, but lighter and less spicy rose scent combined with jasmine and a touch of patchouli, try Mémoire D’une Palmeraie 08).

For me, the palm tree accord is probably the most impressively and effectively used in Number 11, a true of breath of oceanic air. “I imagined a Palm Tree that would bloom on the seashore, its palms sprinkled with salt crystals,” explains its creator, Perfumer Michel Girard, and although apparently composed with notes of Sicilian citrus and Sichuan pepper with a central core of muguet and palm tree, the main impression the scent gives is of cool blue sea smells, gentle and appeasing, but not in the powerfully ozonic manner of calone-heavy ball-busters that fill up a room like a water-bellowing sea monster. Rather, this perfume reminds me of the expensive, mineralised soaps you get from luxury spas and retreats, where sea minerals and other oceanic plant ingredients are cold-pressed into hard, triple-milled soaps that when used in the shower, the familiar but strange blueness of the sea unknotting the stress in your body, gives you a sense of calm and expansive solace. This is not a dramatic perfume, but a tranquil and reflective one that does indeed give a sense of a breather – of a pause at a personal oasis.


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answers to an interview that never happened

  1. Could you tell me a little about your background, where did you grow up and when did you embark on your professional journey?
  2. What captivated you about perfumes and perfume-making?
  3. Travel seems to be an important part of your life, how do these journeys inform your work?
  4. Why did you choose Japan as your current base? Does Japanese culture inspire you in some ways?
  5. Can you describe your day-to-day life – How does the day usually start and end for you? What gets you out of bed in the morning?
  6. What keeps you focused and passionate today?
  7. Has your relationship with your job changed over time?
  8. Any new upcoming project you would like to share with us?

  9.   1 I am from Birmingham in the centre of the UK and I lived in London and Rome before coming to Japan. I have always loved reading books, and was known by my friends for being an avid letter writer ( I would quite often send people thirty page letters from wherever I was), but it wasn’t until I started trying to capture smells and perfume in words that I realized where my real niche as a writer lay. One day I just started an evocation of Guerlains’ Mitsouko on a paper and found it incredibly exciting  – the challenge of making something as ephemeral and ungraspable as a perfume come alive on the page. I then came up with an idea for a book, a guide to perfume note by note, found a literary agent, started my perfume blog The Black Narcissus, wrote some articles on olfaction for some magazines and then ended up publishing ‘Perfume: In Search Of Your Signature Scent’ last year. 
    2 Perfume is something unnameable (if you don’t know its identity), yet very emotionally arresting. It stamps itself on time, meaning that you can relieve moments in life with it, accentuate feelings and experiences with other people: it is a form of invisible bonding. Aesthetically, it should be appreciated the way music is – as an art form. One thing that fascinated me as a teenager growing up on perfume was its volatility and changeability; if you take a pair of shoes out of a box, or a record out of its sleeve, it remains the same, every time, but the second you put a perfume on your skin, it is already evaporating and evolving; shedding layers and revealing meaning . I would be obsessed with the top notes of a particular perfume and then be perplexed how different it would be a few hours later, trying to understand the inner workings and coming to enjoy each scent in all its stages. The best perfumes are like mini chamber symphonies. 
    3 From a young age I was very interested in other countries. I was perfectly satisfied where I was growing up, but also had a boundless curiosity about what other places were like as well. Studying foreign languages at school was like a gateway into another consciousness, and going to Paris for the first time as a twelve year old was mind-blowing for me in terms of taste and smell, as were the arid smells of eucalyptus trees in the hot afternoon sun of Crete when I was seventeen; each place imprints itself on you in unique ways; the scent of the plumeria trees down by the Mekong river in Laos; the pungent plum blossom of Japan in January; they are signifiers that make your existence. It is not only childhood smells that evoke emotions but for me an ongoing process that perfume allows me to self consciously punctuate in time. I guess in some ways I am trying to preserve time in the way that photographs immortalise visual memory. 
    4 I came to Japan on a whim in my late twenties as I wanted to immerse myself in a culture that was totally different from the one I was brought up in and was nothing like any other I had ever experienced. Japan is fascinating on a number of levels in that it is an ancient and very complex culture that was sealed off from the rest of the world for centuries and thus retains an inherent ‘mystery’ which my naturally very analytical nature is always trying to decipher. Sometimes I admit I am flummoxed and frustrated by the impenetrability, but in general I am always in awe of the dignity and finesse of the people as well as the fine tuned aesthetics that are ingrained in this society. It is a place I feel safe, inspired, and creative. 
    5 I teach English for university entrance examinations part time at an evening preparatory school. The other days I research and write about the perfumes I get sent by independent perfumers in the post, the fragrances I discover at departments stores and specialist perfumeries in Tokyo when out and about, or the vintage perfumes I collect from flea markets and antique stores. My perfume reviews are not hermetically sealed but absorb everything that is going on in my life and in the world; they get absorbed into my Black Narcissus posts like a diary. 
    6 I am naturally passionate (Neil actually means ‘passion’). On days when I am tired or feeling less naturally energised I just read the New York Times or a novel or watch films on my projector, but there are always ideas for new pieces circulating at the back of my brain and then usually a new perfume that I smell will stir me into writing something. Life itself always provides new impetus. 
    7 Sometimes I feel a little jaded by the sheer volume of new perfume releases (it seems now that anyone can be a ‘perfumer; if they just mix a few oils together and come up with a ‘concept’, when the true geniuses of the art form like Jacques Guerlain or Edmond Roudnitska were more like alchemists that created real magic. There is a huge difference for me between a masterpiece perfume and something just reads as ‘quite a nice smell’, but on the other hand, there is always that promise of the next ‘holy grail’; I don’t think I am ever unexcited when the postman knocks on the door with a new scented parcel. 
    8 I am writing a book on Japan, and how living here has impacted my life in a profound and unexpected ways (like becoming a cabaret performer!)It might even become a whole life memoir, I am still pondering different angles on how to approach it all; my life thus far has been very intense and I don’t know how I would fit it all in….


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Getting a set of scent samples from Dawn Spencer Hurwitz is like getting a box of chocolates from an adventurous chocolatier dabbling in strange flavours that you savour and morsel and wonder over confluences. Some you love, some you are not sure of, some you take a nibble and pass over to the person next to you to get their verdict, but you always love the sense of boldness and playful experimentation, the inventiveness, all in the interest of pleasure, and nailing an emotion.

Viva La Frida! immediately caught my attention : a green, cassis-y (actually guava) fruit floral taunt that I would love to walk into a party in summer having spritzed myself with it just at the right moment prior to entry to get maximum olfactory attention and glee, as watermelons miraculously appear before your eyes, lush and wrapped in dark green foliage, hidden jasmine and gardenia flowers: a burst of summer freshness. The base is light and green (Cristalle….Vert De Bohème;) easy on the skin; the whole unusual, fun.

”Frida’s vivacious fruit paintings are some of her most luscious and evocative, as well as deeply life affirming.

I have long wanted to create this fragrance filled to the brim with fruit, flowers, and watery green leaves from Frida’s own Mexican cornucopia. The world that she created at La Casa Azul was brightly colored: her house, her clothes, her jewelry, the flowers she wore in her hair, and her entire persona. (No doubt through all of her physical and emotional pain, the colors and fruit imagery were panacea).

Viva la Frida!

To be able to paint a vision of Frida’s garden in scent is heaven. I love Viva la Frida’s stark contrasts: the sense of watery refreshment needed in the heat of summer, the glorious colors and flavors, down to the deep shadows from the bright sun onto parched earth.’

Maybe next year.


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Three weeks ago, on the last day of term, D travelled up with me to the city of Atsugi. We checked into a hotel there, met after work at our favourite Indian restaurant that caters almost exclusively to the diaspora and feels like a vacation in itself, and wandered the streets. Now that travel is off, it is fascinating to explore deeper in places you already know: Atsugi is a fully non-picturesque place and emphatically non-touristic, but it has a special energy that is more down to earth (home, uncoincidentally, to yakuza and other gangsters: the teenagers shout louder, are slouchier, very un-Tokyo; there is a certain buoyancy and don’t-give-a-fuckness that is refreshing, plus a hilarious novelty in the fact that we were staying there for the first two days of the summer holiday.)

It was roiling hot; absurd. I needed perfumes that would meet the time, something fresh and invigorating for the morning, maybe a more sensual scent for when the sun went down. I had my Discovery Box of J F Schwarzlose perfumes with me, having noted already previously that they were all very unfussy and bright, with an energy and newness that felt perfect for exploring the backstreets of a city somewhere in the depths of Kanagawa, far away from the stricter fashionisms of Yokohama, Ginza, Shibuya, and Shinjuku.

Berlin is a city we spent several summers a decade ago and both miss : the artistic anarchy meets elegance; the underground, permissive hedonism and messy, diverse, beautiful people and architecture. The original Schwarzlose parfums from the 1920’s would have been entirely different one presumes, suited to the powdery and floral musky times before the horrors of fascism rose up once again and smashed it all into nothing.

Resurrected recently as a new embodiment of current Berlin, smelling the range as a whole you can easily imagine a flock of young new things meeting on a street corner in Kreuzberg, each wearing one of these niche-ish but approachable modern scents that would fill the air with a sense of the fun of the evening ahead. Rather than overthought and overagonized fragrances (not haute parfumerie; more like pleasing pret a porter); these are the kind of scents that if you were staying in the city and stumbled across a boutique, you would probably just sniff and walk away unthinkingly with a bottle or two for the immediate appeal. I loved IA-33 immediately.

From the brand:


In the 50s 1A-33 was the decade-long bestseller of the traditional Berlin perfume brand. In addition to the perfume, there was a large range of soaps and powders of 1A-33. And even today the extraordinary fragrance formula of the noble perfume convinces with the lovely lime-tree blossom, magnolia and jasmine in the heart notes and the fresh top notes of mandarin and spicy pink pepper. The lime-tree blossom extract symbolizes the famous “Berliner Luft”; the air of Berlin, which swings around the beautiful boulevard of Unter den Linden in the middle of the city – but not only that makes 1A-33 a Berlin scent: The name of the fragrance itself embodies the German capital. It is based on the former license plate on Berlin cars. 1A stands for Berlin, the number 33 for the company’s location in the district of Moabit.

I tend to struggle with linden/ lime blossom notes in perfume, much as am mesmerized by the smell of the flowers themselves on the breeze; a sickly-dreamy scent, almost hops-like, that drugs you into a fantasy on a hot summer’s afternoon. I do love how Olivia Giacobetti used linden, however, in her well-loved La Chasse Aux Papillons for L’Artisan Parfumeur, with tuberose and orange flower, which this lovely reminds me of a little: 1A-33 doesn’t share the ‘French flair’ in that scent but it is similarly joyous and exuberant. In fact, although the base accord can’t live up to the opening (just an attenuated version of the beginning, slightly woody, a little boring), the top notes of this perfume are to die for, the mandarin and linden-jasmine a burst of pure optimism that smells more like neroli and is a scent option I absolutely need in my life.. It was the perfect scent to come down to breakfast in at the hotel, showered, ‘yey it’s the summer holidays!’ before meandering randomly through the city until we ended up having ‘Crap River Date Vol. 3’ down by the Sagami river, which in truth, though thoroughly nondescript in many ways, we had to ourself, sittingt under a wisteria tree, blissfully happy, feeling extraordinarily cinematic.

The other perfume I would like a full bottle of from Schwarzlose and which I wore out the previous evening successfully is Treffpunkt um 8 Uhr (‘Rendezvous at 8 o ‘clock ): a rasping vetiver masquerading as a mangotastic floral that gradually cedes to the aforementioned vetiver but with a glass ceiling of powderiness to preserve a more conciliatory texture.

In the golden twenties of Berlin it symbolized the legendary Berlin nights, in which the international art scene came together. Celebrities, such as Marlene Dietrich or Josephine Baker, were well-received guests in the clubs of the city and contributed to the glitz and glamour of the scene. Treffpunkt 8 Uhr was considered a sporty men’s fragrance at that time. But that did not stop the famous French dancer and actress Josephine Baker from wearing it. Today the fragrance is officially a unisex perfume and convinces with the fresh ginger and mango chord in the top note and the seductive vetiver heart in the base note. There’s no better olfaction translation for the anticipation of a date that is hinted in the name of the fragrance! “

Trying the other fragrances from Schwarzlose on the balcony one evening, Rausch (‘the ecstacy of a Berlin night’) didn’t do it for either of us simply because it is just another cypriol/oud/harsh ambered wood number that is probably perfectly well constructed but which I simply don’t want to smell any more; D took more to Leder 6, formerly known as Fetisch, which is a soft, supple sweet leather that is worth trying if you are a leatherhead looking for some new positions. On him it smelled quite nice, if undaunting (which, having seen some of the basement clubs in Berlin firsthand, is not necessarily an entirely bad thing).

Carnal Lust:
Leather & Saffron Flower.
Fantasy Dream:
Milk & Vanilla Pure: Jungle Essence™.
Dark Wildness:
Incense essence & Styrax resinoid.

More obviously ‘clubby’ and bright is Altruist, which Schwarzlose rather awkwardly describes as a perfume for ‘feminists, cyborgs and survivors’ but which for me is more simply a contemporary twist on the 90’s gay club freshies like Armani Acqua Di Gio Pour Homme (but better). Winner of the 2017 Art & Olfaction award for best independent perfume, this club cologne is very zingy and zesty (bergamot, lemon, ‘aqual’, ‘Ginger Pure Jungle Essence’, nutmeg, Rose superessence, vetiver, cedarwood and ambramone – and much more) : sprayed on a t-shirt before going out I would not contradict the idea that this perfume has’ transparency, imagination and contrast’, despite its dancefloor familiarity.

And speaking of the dancefloor – definitely one of the joys of being in Berlin, which lives for techno and electronic music (we have had some fantastic nights out there), the company also has two disco roses that are quite nice and would smell great on a newbie who is debuting on the club scene. 20/20 is a modern rose patchouli you have smelled before but which is well-balanced, convincing – she whispers, shouts in your ear over the belting music, cradling her cocktail with black nails; you look her straight into the eyes (this perfume would probably draw you in).

‘20I20 celebrates the centennial of Berlin’s ‘Roaring, Golden 1920s’ – a legendary era of glam, excess and irreverence – internationally known as “The Roaring 1920’s”. The formula of 20I20 is a contemporary interpretation of the theme: A burst of floral, fruity sweetness mingles with spicy patchouli and cool freshness of rose and geranium – 1920’s glamour reissued for the new Twenties and today’s fragrance lovers of generation X, Y & Z.The scent is a new interpretation of CHIC, Schwarzlose’s iconic 1920’s perfume, that was a sensation 100 years ago with its fine blend of patchouli and velvety sweetness. CHIC’s original formula was determined in an elaborate process from archived original bottles from the 1920s and interpreted in a modern way by J.F. Schwarzlose perfumer Véronique Nyberg (MANE). Tradition inspires creativity when 1920 meets 2020 – in Berlin, the place where anything goes.’

I think I prefer Trance, which smells like a freshly slapped arse; rose-cheeked powder, sensual, marred slightly by a generic Montale-ish ending, but potentially very sexy indeed – powdery with Turkish roses, spices, ciste absolute and absinth, for a slinky-dink winking night seraphim.

Atsugi was a great way to begin the summer holiday, maneuvering through a place you always work in but never get to properly circumnavigate and know better, its circuitry scribed into your brain scars with fresh spatial awareness until it becomes part of your own map. We like to wander down backstreets, take random roads : at one point, after we had finally left the dreaminess of the river and had discovered a delicious Indonesian restaurant where we had amazing turmeric ayam soup, we emerged out onto the main road leading back to the station into heat that was almost terrifying. It was like being baked alive, the sun too hot to withstand. I thought to myself about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, how the prime August days were already roasting hot even before what was about to happen; we took a right, and to our astonishment, down some suburban road was a jazz bar, Mcarthur’s Garage, that we read opened two days after the Declaration of the End of the War on August 15th, 1945. It was closed, but fascinating to behold. A dip in time. We will be back.

We have had days at the beach, in Hayama and Kamakura. I swam and dived off rocks for the first time in five years, coming up from underwater so happy that I could do again what I could not before for so long because of my leg condition and operation: it felt amazing. On Sunday we went for the last time this summer holiday and D was wearing Nebbia Spessa, the ultimate ozonic/aquatic from Filippo Sorcinelli which is made for the sea and the sun on the beach (next year I might try Schwarzlose’s Zeitgeist, which would be absolute melon-hell for those who don’t like ozonics : a dazzling oceanic with a contrasting cuir base (Sexiness:
Amber Xtreme & Peru Balsame, Calone & Algae Absolue ; Changeability:
A faceted musk complex – Nebulone and Edelonide; Avantgarde:
). It is a curiously compelling summer perfume, that reminded me a little of Montale’s Sandflowers; just meant for sandblasts:

– sometimes these extraordinarily solar/aqua perfumes can be brilliant on the hottest of days even if they are not my own familiar territory (I would have to be feeling very bold to wear this, but I can imagine it happening). I just know that I love summer, and anything that reminds me of it, and though this was the Summer of 2020, of viral contagion in masks, with almost no socializing, or travelling, at least not to far away places, everybody distanced – but still out and about and enjoying themselves; (generally speaking Japan has found a good balance; social co-operation with the natural consumerist hedonism of the nation (yes, really – the people can not be kept down for long: all of the beaches were officially closed but you would never have known when we went, even if people were not packed together like idiots for the sake of defiance like in many other places)).

The Yokohama Museum Of Modern Art had a lot of virus safety protocols in place for its Triennale, a three-yearly big art event that marvellously, this year D was also featured in (as part of an installation piece by Australian artist Ellena Knox). While the main building of the museum was slightly too frigid both in terms of its relentless air-conditioning and the froideur of the staff – but at least corona-sensible – Plot 48, another building near the port area where D was featured, was far more conducive from many angles: we saw him on the screen as soon as we walked into the space, which was thrilling for me, and very much for him too (I have seen Warhol exhibitions, Yayoi Kusama, many artists in that gallery, and to see D in the same space was amazing – great for his Art CV and our pluralist Double Lives – being watched daily twirling and untwirling in thread, by hundreds of people). We wandered out blissfully afterwards into unknown backyards of Yokohama, and down through Sakuragicho and Kannai, our usual watering grounds, just traipsing in the sun, not thinking, stopping for beers in new (old) izakaya, browsing through bric-a-brac in a lazy, happy world of our own.

It’s now September, though. Tomorrow: back to school.


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Our cat Mori – pictured – is approximately thirteen years old, a proud and very independent creature that we found in the forest by chance by the lake one day out of the blue and who is a big and important part of our lives. She smells divine – immaculately clean – just of fur, or sometimes picking up the perfume in the house (last night I could smell delicate wisps of Mona Di Orio Musc as she sat by my pillow; it was dreamishly beautiful on her), a very athletic alpha-female cat who spends a great deal of her time outdoors, running around, killing birds, jumping across rooves; (the only way she can come and go is to jump from our balcony to the neighbour’s roof and then take it elaborately from there, a repetitive feat that always surprises people who see it for the first time). All the fresh air keeps her fit; clean-smelling; white ruffled.

In terms of allegiances, Mori is definitely D’s. He is very much a cat person – I am not, really. Cats tend to run away from me when they see me on the street while D can coax them; I can take them or leave them, an attitude that she has also largely taken towards me (we always valued our mutual independence ; she sits with him, often sleeps next to him; they have a special communing with each other that I am not usually part of and don’t mind. I prefer just watching them together as I find the proximity of an animal to me in too large doses not conducive to relaxation), although her beautiful curled up presence – inexpressibly cute – is very calming in winter, and we seem to have precisely the same temperature cues (she loves how hot we keep the house in the colder months, and I am convinced this is one of the reasons she is in such good shape).

The strange thing is though that in recent months, the last half a year, maybe, or even longer, Mori has taken to staring at me during the night, fixated. D is bemused by this, as am I, but it is as though she is besotted with me all of a sudden, and can’t take her eyes off me. Guarding me. I often wake up, sometimes with a start, to find her right by my pillow, eyes on me. Looking into mine. Watching. It is somewhat unnerving. She needles to be stroked at all hours of the night, and sometimes I wake up to find her wedged under the small of my back, almost crushing her when I turn over unaware. She never did this before, and it is slightly affecting my sleep. It’s like being under strict feline surveillance; she will lick my arm; I wake up to warm rasps. It is bothering me and I am not entirely sure what to do. A lot of people I know keep pets downstairs, locked up at night, and let them be eagerly let out come the morning for breakfast, tails wagging. We have never done this – she has free reign – scratching all the paper shoji screens and going in and out as she pleases – but I find it almost disconcerting waking up to be sharing the same breathing space, too close; eyes staring straight into mine (“She keeps staring at you all through the night”, D has told me): I just can’t sleep in a normal relaxed manner. What is this ? She seems to be in tip top health condition, has the usual appetite (we only give her good quality food), and is as affectionate with Duncan as she always is. It’s just me. Is she worried that I am ill? Can she sense my soon-to-come demise? Can any cat people reading this tell me what might be the cause of this recent, but peculiarly prolonged, human obsession?


Filed under Flowers