Last Saturday after work we met in Kannai, Yokohama. I couldn’t face another train journey home alone: that sad repetition : : go to work, come home from work, go to work, come home from work – half a person. It has been a dreadful term, a suppressed fear on autopilot, and I am beat. So last weekend we had a great evening wandering around Isezakicho, our second spiritual home – warm enough just about to sit outside in coats and scarves and have drinks, even if, later on, as the temperature dropped we found ourselves dinnerless with all the restaurants closed, as per the current law by 8pm; local neighbourhood associations zealously doing the rounds with clapboards and megaphones intoning to the ethnic minorities – Korean, Chinese, Russian, Thai – to abide by the regulations and close up shop; we ended up (happily) having last minute discount meal of spicy Szechuan dishes in plastic containers in the park, on a cold stone bench in an island of illuminated rocks.

It was unseasonably warm last week and I loved it. This week, the temperatures have dropped, there has been a continual gale level wind – unbearable, I have found myself shouting into it, at it – and we have both become sick. Not sick sick, I don’t think – no fevers, no obvious corona symptoms : but extreme ‘malaise’, certainly, tiredness; I have had a sore throat and a ‘compressed chest’ feeling in my left lung but then I do get that every year or so and can usually sort it out with a few days of antibiotics; D has had a bad headache which is now thankfully dissipating, but whatever the source of the lurgey we have definitely been out of sorts and achey and just wanting to nest in a properly heated room. Thursday morning I woke up and felt as though I was sinking into the mattress, anchored by my dreams into heaviness, and I knew – just a few seconds scanning the day ahead in my mind – that there was no way I would be able to do all the travelling, the sheer effort required for it all; the appalling contrast between the overly heated seats, and the necessary open windows whistling with ice cold winds, rendering me a human version of Baked Alaska, an uneasy combination of warmed roll and thawing vanilla ice cream. My most basic instincts told me no – no way. Nor could I face the school where I am assigned a room with a broken heater, nor the idea of my potentially bringing something into the school in Yokohama that has no windows. I do sometimes live my life like David and Goliath, I must admit, and David, on this occasion, elected to stay in bed.

I like the colours in this kimono material, particularly in tandem with the fur…

It was lovely to be in the neon of Isezakicho; the oddballs wandering, the sheer diversity of the unselfconscious demographic on the streets (this is a place without the ‘respectable propriety’ of other areas in the Yokohama region, and it feels so much freer; looser, more interesting); eccentricity flourishing left right and centre plus an entrenched sense of history. In fact, at Minato – one of the most quintessential Japanese ‘recycle’ shops I often mention – pictured here, – we ended up buying a framed antiquarian map of the nearby Sakuragicho bay as it used to be in the nineteenth century, lovely aquamarines and blues, as well as an old clock: I liked the typographic on the face.

When we got home later in the evening we realized that that this thing actually seems to have a palpable life of its own ; chiming and clanging at all hours (haunted?), so for now it has been covered in duvets and blankets until its wind up mechanism runs out – I leapt out of bed the other night when it started chiming at 4:30am and threw it again under its covers : it will either be mounted, fittingly, in our bloodbath disco toilet – or else just used as a prop in one of Duncan’s films. Or else discarded.

His latest, incidentally- for Kings Of Tokyo, ‘Lyon, France, 1968’, set to 60’s French chanteur Michel Polnareff’s heartbreaking song ‘Love Me, Please Love Me’, features a very lonely vintage bottle of Guerlain Vetiver, plus many changes of necktie, as he nervously gets ready to go out for a date but dolefully ends up in the cinema watching Pasolini smoking alone…………

I find it all wonderfully melancholic……..https://vimeo.com/dwhom

Boxed Chanel extraits lie among the snakeskin and bric-a-brac:
I couldn’t resist an almost full 28ml of you know what.

Neither could I this. Nina Ricci’s Farouche (1974) is not a perfume I could ever wear myself, but I am helpless in front of such red velours. Plus, the scent is elegant and beautiful (it is my Tokyo dressmaker friend Rumi’s favourite perfume of all time; Helen also likes this, though, so it might have to be hers at some point when I go home – – – mum, it wouldn’t suit you; I have you got you Capricci instead to be brought back in the ‘whenever suitcase’: this, and the Shiseido Suzuro).

Saturday night. Out as you should be. Wandering along, pleasantly spaced out and free, purchasing a curious book of Japanese cat pictures at an old book shop, as well as Mirko Buffinis’ compelling carnation violet Klito – which I reviewed the other day – plus a modern 93ml refill of Jicky, at Opal, and which smells exceptional on D; the definite pièce de resistance (so nice to just be out in a place you love, spending money on luxurious items you want to hold, and handle and stare at with pleasure rather than on just the basic alimentary essentials and your train pass) …… the original version of the classic Paco Rabanne Pour Homme – the now rare and sacred ‘yellow juice’ from 1973 so beloved on the men’s fragrance fora – made how it was meant to be – the perfume pristine and intact, wonderfully optimistic and aromatic; the sage note and the coniferousness beautifully balanced with the citrus and rosewood/lavender/tonka bean sweetish honey of the heart and inconspicuously erotic base; slightly more sweaty/animalic and rich – yet just as fresh – as the subsequent editions (though the Rabannes I wore in the eighties were also perfect; greener, the amiable soapiness, which is the main attraction for me, more at the fore). Recent airport editions I have smelled are fiendishly clever in keeping the basic persona of the original, immediately recognisable structure intact, but then your smell brain, sensitized, immediately senses an unwanted, irking component of metal chiding just beneath the surface. Hollowed. This version – the original – such a benign and lovely piece of work with its satisfying, herbal dependability; undemonstrative yet quietly outgoing – has no such cruelly subverted identity.


Filed under Fougère


  1. LOVE 70s Paco Rabanne pour Homme! Possibly my favorite men”s fragrance of all time! You are correct, the newest version is recognizable but a bit tinny and shrill in comparison to the original. The 80s incarnation of PR was delightfully green and fresh like a posh version of Irish Spring soap. Such a classic.
    We have all had some sort of mild sniffles this last week. But we all get a cold every February. I started taking 60,000ius of vitamin D weekly about 6 years ago when my annual routine self-administered lab tests showed I had a severe deficiency. I used to get horrific bronchitis that would fester into pneumonia frequently, but since taking vitamin D supplements regularly my respiratory ills have been few and mild. Even my bout of Covid last October was minor. (Although the 2 week loss of smell was damned near devastating!)
    Life is almost completely back to normal here in Nepal, most businesses are open and the kids started back to school February 1st. Foreign citizens are still banned from entry though.

    • This vitamin D advice is really welcome – Helen has been talking about that as well; I have had bronchitis many times in the past and pneumonia twice as well.

      Glad things are getting back to normal there – I really hope that happens here too.
      Delighted you love Paco Rabanne as well – there is something really special about it I think: delightfully striated and complex and yet unified. I am going to really enjoy wearing it and ration it carefully!

    • PS: I didn’t know you have actually HAD Covid. Jesus. So glad your smell came back – that completely terrifies me as well.

    • I am going to get some next time I go into town. How are you ?

      • Fine, thanks! Eagerly awaiting my turn and my husband’s to get vaccinated; we’re not in the right group yet. But most importantly, his 90 year-old father is now fully vaccinated, and that is such a relief. We’re getting nicer weather here, which allows me to go out and do more in my garden, which is a wonderful outlet and distraction. Luckily I’m still able to work fully remotely, although part of my job is to help university students deal with crises including COVID in themselves or their families, so it has been a long, tiring school year. If you need to stay in bed once in a while, stay in bed! I loved your tale of the rogue clock, by the way.

      • We still don’t know quite what to do with it….

        I am glad your dad has been vaccinated: I hope it happens for all of us soon.
        That is one great thing, reading the positive news about it all. I know it isn’t remotely over, but it was fantastic lying in bed actually reading some optimistic articles for once.

  2. Robin

    Dear N. and D., I plugged in your symptoms to our provinces’ COVID-19 online checklist and it suggested you get tested and self-isolate until you get your (hopefully negative) results! I did click on “moderate” when asked about the intensity of headache, sore throat, fatigue and muscle aches. Just Auntie Robin suggesting, especially since both of you feel under the weather, that you err on the side of caution. I see I’m the only one expressing concern at the moment, and maybe if your symptoms are mild it’s not a worry, but I’d be remiss not to pass along what the British Columbia health experts are saying.

    On to nicer things. I’m so glad you found the vintage Paco Rabanne, so dear to your heart. And that sweet Farouche set! And the No 19 parfum, all nearly 28mls of it. Score, score and score! My heart beat a bit faster knowing you got so lucky.

    Oh, and speaking of Nina Ricci, I just found — not the parfum, sigh — but some Coeur Joie edt, a bottle from from the seventies and one from the eighties/nineties. They’re on the way. I’ve never sniffed Coeur Joie, so of course when I spied these bottles I immediately went to The Black Narcissus to see what you said. Yippee! I’m excited to see what Germaine Cellier has done in this gentler stylistic vein. These days, I’m leaning more and more to vintage blind buys. Supply in this neck of the woods (Canada) is not what it used to be. Not nearly. Strike while the iron is hot, or even reasonably warm!

    • I have only smelled one Coeur De Joie, but it was utterly divine. Actually, I am just wearing the Farouche edt on the back of my hand and it is an entirely different perfume – much more flourishing floral bouquet typical Ricci -like. Far less grumpy – as different as Must de Cartier edt and parfum1

      As for the symptoms, I definitely know what you mean. I thought the same….

      When I talk about David and Goliath, the Goliath in this particular equation is the Japanese tendency towards self-sacrifice at all costs, which is not in my nature. You would simply go to work no matter what – although a high fever in this situation might be different. One person who works in the company recently had some kind of accident at the station where he fell down the gap between the train and the platform, broke two ribs, but made it into work later dosed up on painkillers. This definitely wins respect.

      I am the type who thinks more logically: if you feel shit, you don’t work, and you don’t give it to anybody else, and then you can get back to the workplace more quickly and do a better job.

      I am not sure how I would go about getting tested at this point here – I will talk to D about it. Thanks for the advice.

  3. Robin

    P.S. If you’re feeling much better and your symptoms lasted no more than 24 hours, probably not to worry. I did redid the BC Self-Assessment test, though, and plugged in “mild” instead of moderate to your/Duncan’s particular symptoms of headache, sore throat and body ache and it still said to get tested, so . . . If you can quite easily, why not? Auntie R. would feel better . . . Sending you good vibes and hope you’re feeling so much better that all this is just a well-meaning but false alarm, my darlings.

    • We seem to be on the up.

      D did say yesterday though ‘I hope we don’t turn next week into some kind of super spreader event’.

      I wonder. Both of us could EASILY have caught it in our treacherous work environments. I still haven’t put up my rage diary – I just might – but then you will see just how utterly mindbendingly stressful it has all been. Hideous.

      • Robin

        Oh, my dears. It’s quite frightful, all this wondering and worrying and being in treacherous work environments. Crazy-making. And the whole Goliath syndrome.

        “I am the type who thinks more logically: if you feel shit, you don’t work, and you don’t give it to anybody else, and then you can get back to the workplace more quickly and do a better job.”

        Seems so self-evident. But cultural pressure can be enormous, can’t it, so it’s clear why the illogic is dominant there. Here in the far west of Canada we’re typically pragmatic, taking care of ourselves for our own sake and the greater good. We aren’t under any social pressure to suck it up and do the self-sacrifice thing. We might do that a bit, feeling a little guilty — wrongly — that we might be milking our symptoms a bit, but if we said that we were going to tough it out and head to work feeling abysmal, we’d be told to head straight home to bed.

      • EXACTLY.

        I could write reams about it – but it is just the westerner spewing in his own juices. Although on the other hand, Japanese companies are more loyal: in the UK I got severe pneumonia while teaching at a language school in Cambridge after graduating, and the school just dumped me when I wasn’t back at work after a few weeks (it takes a few months to properly recover). The same thing happened in 2002 when I was in the UK and couldn’t get back to Japan to teach in time for the new term. I didn’t get paid, as that wasn’t in my contract, but my job was there for me and the president slipped me $1000 in an envelope for nothing just to help out when I came back. They were similarly good during my leg surgery and recuperation – I got three months full pay, and was fully welcomed back when I returned that September. There is very much a reciprocal thing there, which is less pragmatically callous than a lot of western companies – it is way harder to get fired here; you get lots of chances to redeem yourself, and if you have done a good job, it gets remembered.

        The other side of the coin is that the Japanese staff to me look ‘fatally devoted’ – can’t question anything, just get their heads down and get on with it, and that is 100% impossible for me. I will always be the thorn in the side – in that sense it is possible I have low cultural IQ as I simply can’t adapt to certain aspects I detest. I just want to wallow in the things I love here. Very selfish!

        Just to go on for a moment here; the other thing is that although I do feel repressed because of the politeness and constant ‘niceness’, having worked in school where there were a lot of foreign teachers like me, all the egos pushing themselves to the fore can create a lot of stress of a different kind – you know, office politics, people getting on each other’s nerves really badly -a surfeit of yang when I have a surfeit of yin. I would love something in the middle.

        At any rate, I am delighted I have stayed at home as I am feeling much better physically and mentally so can just go in to work tomorrow, say konnichiwa, get preparing, and teach my lessons and aside a ‘are you ok?’ (another thing I can’t bear – anyone’s sickness is broadcast on the company’s daily news sheet, on the ‘intranet’, so EVERYBODY knows your business ) I will just get on with it as usual.

  4. Your work environments always give me a shudder, especially the kamikaze-like attitude of your colleagues to keep on working no matter what. So glad you decided to stay home, it was the correct move. With all your combined symtoms though, you should both think of getting tested, just to be safe.
    Your perfume aquisitions are just fabulous!! Farouch is one of my all-time favorite scents; it is actually the first fragrance I purchased for myself with money from my first job, so it has a special [lace in my heart. Capricci and Coeur Joie are also fabulously special to me. Nina Ricci has always been a favority house of mine, and I adore their Bigarade on especially hot days. The Paco Rabanne, which I know of, I am not as familiar with, but I am sure it is amazing.
    I hope you and D start to feel better soon, but get tested anyways.

  5. johnluna

    I am very glad to hear that you are alright! Thank you, also, for always taking us on your travels, takeout in the park included — it is always those little improvised things with my Sweetheart that I miss the most in time…That and the movies — thank you for that video! I am on a terrible work deadline, but this stops me from chain watching too many French new wave movies on Criterion by way of procrastination. It was indeed melancholy — how I can relate to those defeated efforts at self-care! And then the kingly brooch…

    I admit I kind of find the current Paco Rabanne a guilty pleasure, but a person has to survive the first hour or so of stridency. I suppose it helps that I haven’t tried the original… Currently I am sitting in my office which smells incredibly of the warm, humane base of Caron Pour un Homme. I recently received a 30ml metal travel sprayer that had somehow gone off and, to add insult to injury, proceeded to leak all over the place (an ironically timed design flaw?) The top notes were terrifyingly metallic and hand-sanitizer-like (irony 2: Caron now makes Pour un Homme hand sanitizer). The next morning the space smelled congenially if not quite hygienically of honey and musk…Thank God for the durability of base notes.

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