MADAME ROCHAS (1960)


It is evaluation time for me right now in my company, the students giving us ratings out of 5 and adding comments about our teaching and the quality of our lessons in the locked-up manual (to be taken out of the cupboard only by the most senior staff, and to be read alone in a small room down the corridor). Not being especially good at accepting criticism, I find this period – the crescendo from June to November – rather straining, and as soon as it is over and I know what is what I traditionally enter into my ultra-dreamy pre-hibernation stage where I start to detach from everything and everyone around me and just autopilot it until the second week of December, when I have a whole paid month off to hide away and do what I like.

Yesterday I realized, from the hubbub in the final class of the evening, a group of twenty very high level students who are trying to get into the nation’s top institution, Tokyo University (Todai), that these superficially very overserious young people have definitely now eased a lot around each other and that the infernal stiffness and frostiness of those initial lessons at the height of the coronafear (when I was in mask and plastic visor, shouting out like an intoxicated beekeeper and getting nowhere with them) has thawed out into something almost resembling mutual affection. They can now at least manage normal eye contact. One strategy this year has been to have them keep a notebook for writing their exam essays, which I collect and mark every week, but which I also encourage them to write anything they like in, how they are feeling; a confessional – we write back and forth, I give some written advice; and that way I have come to know some of them better, the barrier between us becoming slightly more invisible.

All the teachers are on edge at this time – it doesn’t help that everything is written in one book all together so you can see everyone else’s scores and comments as well (Japan is nothing if not egalitarian; there is very little privacy in a company setting) – the usual student/teacher power relationship here inverted: rather than doleing out report cards to nervous students worried about their parents’ reactions at home it is you, here, who are being judged instead – so I was happy, yesterday, to just get out of the more than usually pressurized building for my lunchbreak and have an amble round in the beautifully warm November sunshine.

It will not be hard for you to now guess that after fuelling up, I then couldn’t quite resist taking a quick peek in my usual secondhand megahardware store – packed with everything from washing machines to floors of old clothing and records to ornaments and useless odds and ends – even though it is a bit of a walk – to see if any olfactory oddities had washed up onto their unpredictable shores: and sure enough, there, on the perfume shelf, was a bottle of Guerlain Eau De Fleurs De Cedrat (which I love), even if it is probably the most short-lived perfume in history; at 4400 yen and not quite pristine I thought I could live without it for the time being as I would rather have a brand new bottle with the freshest citrus oils. A 15ml extrait of Madame Rochas for 860 yen, though (about £6.40)………………just clasping the box of this gem by Guy Robert (Hermès Calèche, Doblis, Amouage Gold) makes me feel as though I were gallantly riding a horse in a Jane Austen novel.

I love Madame Rochas. Cool, glassy; clear as a bell in its elegant compression of top notes, ylang ylang and muguet and rose over aldehydes and jasmine tuberose and a phalanx of other delicate ingredients ingeniously unfurling over sandalwood and musk; unperturbed, assured – yet effortlessly comforting ; No 5 blowsily coquettish in comparison; Infini oblivious; upright and unemotional confronted with Arpège, Madame Rochas is a beautiful, unshowy monument, the very essence of deceptive simplicity. Women of the day would have added a touch of this scent to finish their ensemble before heading out the door. I myself usually wear it after a bath at night to go to sleep.

26 Comments

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26 responses to “MADAME ROCHAS (1960)

  1. Are your student evaluations anonymous? Thank goodness, I don’t teach, but I do get anonymous commentary from students in an annual survey I administer, and some of it is just outrageous, or outright false. It’s as if they go from flaming unknown strangers anonymously on Reddit or Yelp to doing the same thing in “evaluating” teachers and staff they actually know in real life.

    • That sounds horrendous.

      The evaluation is anonymous, but unfailingly polite! This is one of the great things about teaching in Japan at this level. Zero complaints or problems or behavioural issues; incredibly courteous students (even when exhausted from their ludicrously long days on the whole they will try to stifle a yawn and concentrate): it takes effort on my part to make it all work, but it is only four days a week and I don’t have to take any work home: I have a perfect distinction between school and my private time. If I sometimes feel lonely, it is definitely better than aggro and interpersonal stresses. Also, most of the kids have been in the organisation from when they were young – in order to get into high school – so there is an almost family-like atmosphere everywhere in the corridors with the students milling about ; very upbeat.

      • Honestly, that sounds really nice in terms of the dynamics with the kids! American students are much ruder as a group, even at university. Most are fine, and I’m very fond of many, but there are always the vocal, angry few …

      • Angry politically or about logistical issues ?

      • Honestly, angry when they don’t get what they want. I don’t mind anger about politics, there’s plenty to be angry about (and I’m angry about that stuff, but I have to compartmentalized that away from my work with students). And if it’s about logistics, I would rather they approach those challenges like adults and collaborate to solve problems, but I get it. What I don’t like is when they approach me as if I’m a sales person at Neiman Marcus, and they’re the entitled customers who will only ever see me once in their lives. I prefer having an interactive relationship with students, which is what you have! I’ll be teaching a real academic course next semester and I’m really looking forward to it.

      • That sounds pretty great! I like to teach, but I would (will) have a hard time taking nasty evaluations from students when the time comes. I tend to pour my heart into my work with students, and it seems to me that teaching amplifies that aspect. Right now, my teaching is limited to academic strategies and support but I’ll be teaching a new academic course next semester, and I’m emotionally very invested in it already. Send good vibes my way!

    • What I like about teaching is the fact that it is purely an honest, interactive human exchange. I am big on the human aspect of it, and the instructing itself, probably less on the planning. I go in: do it, leave; usually feeling quite energised or exhilarated when it goes well, although the build up to the lesson is sometimes enervating. Aside writing, I don’t really know what else I could have done for a living in truth. It does suit me.

      I personally couldn’t do any kind of office job or administrative job because I hate computers, paper, files, and order; office politics; the stasis of it, everyone sat at their desks…….. My head would explode.

  2. Not sure about students, but I find coworker evaluations often go for the low-hanging fruit in terms of things to give “feedback” on. Enjoy your lucky find!

    • Thank GOD I don’t get ‘feedback’. The niggles! The resentment!

      I am lucky: I have forged my own space in the school which is pretty much a peripatetic one man show; they trust me to do good lessons, so I don’t have to do any of the training and observations and feedback and meetings. I am basically a free agent, which suits me just fine. I am really not a group person in any sense. I took the job initially precisely because I would basically have three and a half days off a week – which led to my writing and all the rest. I have to rev myself up each time I walk into a classroom but I think working with young people keeps you fresh: you learn from each other. I think D is the same. He basically just wants to do his creative work, teaching is just the bread and butter, but like other people we know the contrast is quite nice – it keeps you (relatively) grounded. God knows what hedonism we would plunge into otherwise…

  3. Tara C

    I originally thought I would be an ESL teacher, but during my training took a job teaching spoiled rich European (mostly French) teens and it was horrendous. Decided teaching was not for me and went to work in an office doing all the things you hate. But it was better suited to my personality. I hate being on stage so to speak and have no natural sense of authority.

    I actually think I’ve never smelled Madame Rochas, oddly enough.

  4. Teaching English sounds fun. Can’t wait to take the CELTA.
    Madame Rochas sounds divine!

    • It is.

      Traditionalist and / but soothing. Classy but not a snob. And gorgeously smooth

    • As for teaching, I quite enjoy teaching returnees who can already speak English from living abroad, and high level academic stuff for universities, but I personally can’t tolerate beginners or kids – I would rather be homeless. I have never been a ‘games and activities’ type person and at times over the years when I have been required to do it I just felt like a dancing bear or clown. It is very important to me that they see me as a regular teacher who can be as strict as the Japanese teachers – not a tap dancing Ronald McDonald.

  5. Georgia Kossifou

    MADAME ROCHAS!!!!!!! £6.40 WTF😫

  6. Wishing you much luck on your evaluation, I’m sure it will be glowing.
    I wanted to be a teacher, until I was in the classroom as a student teacher teaching French, in a high school, where the students annoyed the hell out of me. They didn’t seem to grasp that I was the one who knew what I was teaching and that they should learn from that, only three students were receptive. Language arts are not too much of a choice for students, they are required, so they don’t put much effort into them. They assumed wherever they go people will speak English, so why bother with another language.

    Madame Rochas is one on those magnificent scents, the type that will never come into being again. It truly is one of my favorites and rightly so. I remember the first time I smelt this and was floored by it, it was just that phenomenal. I am so saddened though when I smell this, because I only wear vintage, knowing that what is being offered these days is just a weak adulterated version of a true classic. So glad you found this treasure, I have about 4 bottles of the extrait as back up, along with 3 pdt as well.

  7. Robin

    “Just clasping the box of this gem by Guy Robert (Hermès Calèche, Doblis, Amouage Gold) makes me feel as though I were gallantly riding a horse in a Jane Austen novel.”

    Sigh.

    I’ve only experienced Madame Rochas in its early aughts formulation. Found a set with lotion, shower gel and edp for el cheapo at the thrift store. Packaging looked just like your photo. But. It was not good. So close, yet so far away from what I’d expected. Really rough, actually, harsh and disjointed. I haven’t seen any since. I have a feeling I would like it. “No 5 blowsily coquettish in comparison; Infini oblivious; upright and unemotional confronted with Arpège.” I can imagine that perfectly. It sounds very polite and proper. Maybe not exactly me, but yes, certainly a relaxing, well-proportioned bedtime scent you couldn’t overdo.

    Enjoyed reading about teaching. I always do. I can’t imagine it would be easy for you to find another job with the same kind of semi-perfect fit for you. I love that. And “shouting out like an intoxicated beekeeper” is your descriptive powers at their best.

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