Do you / did you make a distinction between work and play in terms of perfume?

While at weekends I am always scented, either randomly grabbing and dabbing or spraying and indulging at home , or choosing instinctively – sometimes very carefully, for going out, D often doesn’t bother, but often will have a few spritzes for work, particularly if it’s a day of preparation and not actual teaching (nice to be subtly fragrant while hovering around the photocopier). I no longer wear perfume to work. Occasionally I can’t resist a little on a wrist here or there, but I have been truly burned by previous experiences when students or teachers clearly hated my scent choices: – once when wearing Givenchy Pi the students were literally covering their faces and screaming for me to open the windows. I was mortified.The only time I got positive reactions, bizarrely, was when wearing Happy (women’s) by Clinique – which had girls swooning and following me down the corridor like the Pied Piper.

That chemical citrus flower perfume did give me super intense, very specific migraine-like headaches at the back of my neck though (and one of my male students too); I had the same reaction from Floret by Antonia’s Flowers: it must be a particular ingredient – so that went out the window. Now I just have essential oils in my pocket and my citrus hand balms. To be honest, I like the Return To Stench at night – the contraband luxuriance. All the perfumes waiting for me. It’s a nice way to unwind, like putting oil paint on plain canvas.

For work, D likes something unadorned and gentlemanly – Mizu by Di Ser is perfect in this regard – woody but crisp and citrus. I love him in Aramis Tuscany – balmily aromatic if we meet at Ofuna station; Fougere Intense by Sven Pritzoleit is low-key and skindrowsy; I have even miraculously persuaded him into a full citrus with a verbena fragrance by Jeanne En Provence: personally I think he carries lemon better than he realises.

I find Blenheim Bouquet – a coniferous lime / amalfi lemon /pine lavender, piquant, dry and very elegant perfume, for instance, delightful in its restraint – but he unfortunately very rarely reaches for it (it is quite faint, very skin close, a tad ‘tight’). Conservative. Almost standoffish.

Blenheim Bouquet, was, also, incidentally – I wrote this yesterday, but heard the news of his death this morning – interestingly the favoured scent of Prince Philip – RIP; (…..I feel very sorry for The Queen losing her partner and having to navigate the pressures of her position at such an advanced age); I hardly know anything about him; I know he made some blunders and said some things that were offensive, over the years, but I do like what my wise friend Joan said about the hard working, eccentric royal consort this morning; (“In the last couple of years I have met someone who worked very closely with him, on issues related to environmental protection, and particularly in bringing people of different faiths together to promote greater awareness of the importance of biodiversity and the ‘web of life’ (his phrase!). This really changed my view of him, and I salute his contributions and his life”).

He certainly had good taste in scent.

For D, although he occasionally wears Blenheim at my insistence, especially in early summer, Opus 1870 – a well regarded scent by many – and one he finds pleasing in its rounded whole, is favoured for its warmer heart. A woody aromatic, for me this is well crafted, but ultimately just a so-so scent. Not one of his all time best. Nice. Agreeable. Kind of dapper. No ungentlemanly. But somehow, a little ‘meh’ and mediocre ( probably, in truth, why he doesn’t wear it For Best.). To me, Opus 1870 smells like a fresh tea sandalwood similar to Annick Goutal’s Duel, a scent I could never get along with, but the notes are apparently actually yuzu and pepper with coriander – a herb D also likes more than I do (for me there is something almost foetidly fresh about it, off-putting), along with rose, cinnamon, cedar and sandalwoods, and a solid, durational base of incense. The perfume certainly does leave a nice morning sillage in the air ( – amazing when someone has already left, but their scent still trails the house; sad that Queen Elizabeth will no longer get to experience this phenomenon….) – but not, in this particular case, one that I am passionate for.


In a strange and very unexpected case of unknown until now three degrees of separation, I have just this moment found out that my paternal grandfather once CARRIED the young Prince Philip aboard a ship.

“Hi Neil.

One thing I forgot to mention was that your grandad Bert actually carried The Duke when he was a Prince of Greece as a young child.

A formal visit to HMS Montrose (scrapped in 1946), a Royal Navy Destroyer, took place off Greece as part of the Mediterranean fleet when Britain assisted Greece before WWII. It was normal practice for visits to RN ships by royalty and presidents, and so the young Prince Philip was then taken on board by his dad. I don’t know why grandad was selected to carry him down the gangplank off the ship, but he must have been highly respected.

Hope you find this interesting.

Love Dad

xx “


Filed under Flowers

13 responses to “JUST SO: OPUS 1870 by PENHALIGONS (2003)

  1. I have to say my heart sank when I heard Prince Philip’s passing on BBC radio this morning. My mom was a fan of the Royals, seems to have been a thing for teenagers in the 1930s and 1940s to follow royal families. Prince Philip was a relic from a time before the Woke woke and PCness. Everybody has a crazy uncle like that.
    Are any of Penhaligon’s florals worth buying? I see their gardenia & orange blossom fragrances on offer quite inexpensively on eBay from tine to time.

    • I love Castile, for sure, and found their lily of the valley quaint and green lovely in an intriguing seventies’ kind of way.

      As for the passing of Prince Phillip, it is strange. I am not a royalist by any stretch, but I am not anti them either. It’s a rare case of extreme neutrality on my part. Usually I am rabidly opinionated – about DT for example (oh how blessed the silence has been since the January eviction! It is a whole new world!), but although I completely understand British people who would happily scrap the whole shebang, because a lot of the cost etc really is outrageous, I also understand people who like the tradition and the symbolism. It is difficult to let go of.

      I have no sense of a royal being superior to me in any way whatsoever (just look at the skank that is Prince Andrew and his disgusting connections with Jeffrey Epstein – unconscionable ), but at the same time, someone who you have grown up with, who you have paid no mind to, not even slightly, but who was there in the background throughout your life….when they move on there is a slight void. And I do genuinely just have empathy for the queen, just as a human being. She must be completely desolate. I know she is surrounded by grandeur (even if Buckingham Palace etc is actually quite ugly), but that wouldn’t do anything to assuage such a terrible loss as your partner of so many years. She must be very lonely, and just be thinking of her own funeral now, which will be a proper state affair. I feel for her. And I do admire her ‘soldiering on’ stolidity.

      • Robin

        I feel the same way you do about the royals. We learned about our connection to them at school as kids, and I always thought the whole thing was a bit of a bonus compared to our neighbours to the south. We loved when they came to visit. I never had any princess fantasies as a girl, but I did like the sense of history and continuity that came with the family, and the feeling that Canada was part of this neat thing called the Commonwealth.

        Like you, I’m in no way in awe of them, of any species of royalty, of inherited position or wealth. They’re flawed human beings like all of us. In that way, they provided a good bit of drama: Princess Margaret was a slightly tragic character — oh, scalding her feet, my god, what circumstances must have surrounded that; and her heartbreaks, and hyper-aware-hyper-majesty with all its quirks of arrogance and rank-pulling, and her alcoholism — and Diana was fascinating: complex, contradictory, unstable, narcissistic but compassionate. Another tragic trajectory.

        Of all of them, I do have a soft spot for the Queen. I love her. I love her reliability. I love her stiff unchanging hairdo, her over-the-top hats and bright coordinated outfits and same old black handbag and sensible signature shoes. I like her reputation for frugality. I’ve loved her being in the background of our lives, aging through the decades and bringing out our collective affection. Her life of phenomenal devotion to service has my respect. When I heard about Prince Philip, the first thing I thought of was the Queen, and in those same very personal terms. Seventy-three years is an extraordinary marriage, and that loss — how profound the sadness and emptiness would be, to a degree I can’t imagine. He was her strength. Your mention of the scent of BB lingering in the private rooms of Windsor being no more kind of got to me. Just some basic sense of mortality all this has brought up. The Queen is irreplaceable. (I’m not as thrilled with the subsequent generations. Poor pathetic Harry is really lost. I had a moment’s small hope for him when they moved to Vancouver Island. I had visions of him working outdoors with his hands and heart, guiding young people in some kind of non-intellectual, apolitical, inspirational sporty/environmental way. Well away from the media circus. It would have been the best thing for him. But there were other designs.)

        Once the Queen goes, it will all feel a bit empty and pointless. Evidently the majority of Canadians would like to see the monarchy go.

        Do you think Ric and I would like Blenheim Bouquet on him? Would Penhaligon’s have anything better for him?

      • It is quite slight, but yes – I think you would.

        I love what you write here. A brilliant summation of the situation.

      • I very much agree with your reply and I feel the same about the Royals.

  2. I was laughing at your description of your students’ reactions to Givenchy Pi, gagging at the smell, begging you to open the windows.

    I once bought a bottle of it at Ross, a discount chain in the US. It was a glass bottle inside a plastic box, locked to prevent theft, which the cashier had to take out after purchase. I must have paid around $19.

    When I got home and sprayed it for the first time, I hated it intensely. It was not just unappealing, it had a sharp, aggressive, hard smell, without any sensual or aesthetic appeal. I think I eventually sold it on Ebay or maybe just threw it in the garbage.

  3. Tara C

    What Robin said. I feel sad for the Queen and will feel even sadder when she passes away. Such an example of public service, which you basically never see in political figures. I do think William will be a good king though.

  4. rosestrang

    I’m fond of Opus as a friend of mine wears it well. It verges almost on standard, but there’s something subtle. I like the bitter edge, reminds me of leather a little.
    I also found Clinque’s Happy headache-inducing. I wonder if it’s Freesia? A synthetic note I usually don’t like in perfumes, not because it’s synthetic, just that it has that nasty edge that makes me feel I can’t breathe properly.

    I’m actually enjoying natural perfumes more – have you tried Hiram Green’s Vivacious? I find it really perfect for spring. Also I love Luminous Lemurs which features a gorgeous sandalwood and orange.

    Totally agree with your sentiment about The Duke, I too can’t help but feel very sad for the Queen. I mean I’m no flag waving monarchist and I do feel the Monarchy represents something past – a hierarchy no longer very relevant. Growing up in Scotland that’s a very common view. However, when I worked as an arts curator for hospitals in the English Midlands, I saw at first hand how much the Royal family does for the NHS and businesses. Not a week passed, during the situation in Afghanistan, when one or other of the princes would turn up at Birmingham’s hospital to visit war wounded. The wards were decorated with paintings from Paintings in Hospitals, supported by Prince Charles. When I worked at Stoke on Trent hospital, I saw the sad demise of almost all its ceramics industries – including Spode, Port Merion and so on.(they’d used the cheaper workers available in China, decimating employment in Stoke). Only one working ceramicist survived – that was Emma Bridgewater (she makes those ceramics with big dots, before Damien Hirst got the idea!). Anyway, she survived because Clarence House donated 7 million. Kind of made me wonder why our Gov hadn’t intervened to save one of the UK’s unique industries. They do a lot of good basically. I found the Duke amusing – with his non pc gaffs and long skinny legs he reminded me of my dad at times!

  5. I have always enjoyed the older Penhaligons scents, mostly for their historic value, Blenheim Bouquet in particular. To think of the poor Queen possibly getting a whif of it as she passes the dear departed Prince’s dressing table makes me sad. Personally I enjoy the royal family, well many of them, but surely not all, and the Queen has been a figure of comfort throughout my life. Even though we are not part of the “Empire”, I have always found her broadcasts, Christmas ones in particular, to be extremely comforting. There is a certain stability, and comfort, she exudes. One which none of our presidents here, nor back in France, nor the PMs have the ability to convey. Yes she is exceptionally regal, and completely a product of the royal ways of yore, but there is something motherly about her. Knowing that Phillip was her source of strength for all these 73 years of marriage, just makes my heart ache for her. I am sure she will navigate things with the same steadfast attitude she always has, but I am sure that her heart will be hurting far more than any of us will know. It was a true love marriage, and that makes the loss for her so much more profound.

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