Having hours to kill, for a moment I was undecided whether to return back home and then go out again later, or to spend the day in Yokohama. The decision was easy to make. There was no way I was going to be shut in on a day like this. A day off. Nothing to do. Glorious sunshine. A return to freedom. The shot finally in my arm.
So I just ambled slowly from spot to spot, reading Polly Barton’s Fifty Sounds, which arrived at the perfect time – an examination of all things Japanese, linguistic, social, psychological, very personal, and gladly surrendered to another person’s piercing mind for the day, ravished by the words and the ideas, sometimes putting it back down on the grass to just look up and watch the scene in Yamashita park, where I lay for so long in a stasis of one I got sunburn. People running; tai-chi against the backdrop of the ocean liners; rose gardens in full bloom; dogs leaping, the air alive with being.
Making my way through the park, people relaxed on the grass looking out at the water, lovers holding hands, old ladies chatting on wooden benches, (everything looks different when you have had the vaccine), I decided to mosey on down past Marine Tower and all the plush wedding hotels and have a look in Barney’s New York: a spacious, white, neo-art deco building I always enjoy a quick look in because of its prime location and marbled airiness; surrounded by space: on the top floor, you can have a coffee and cake in the cafe overlooking the sea (remember, Emma); hardly ever anyone in there; everything cool and white; ‘choice products’, rather than the onslaught of artificial lights, swirling crowds, and the intense novel mania for goods that is the commerce catacomb of Isetan Shinjuku.
No – in Barney’s, with its predictable quiet backdrop of light jazz standards, usually Sarah Vaughan, Chet Baker or Ella Fitzgerald, I could just move slowly, at my leisure, to the perfume counters, and (I genuinely felt different, the nano-technology running its course through my body; who knew what was going to happen; but I didn’t particularly care; I was just glad to be able to take my mask off and cherry-select just a few scents I didn’t know in a mindless state of day-lit, semi-somnabulant bliss).
Staring at the spartanly showcased shelves, it shocked me how many Roses De Rosines I was unfamiliar with (where have I been?)
I suppose I have neglected to smell the Ballerina series: though they have been out for a few years now, much as the frou frou of it all delights me to some extent (and what a perfect gift for a young daughter or niece) I’m not sure I have ever properly smelled this collection: perhaps I would have just felt like too much of a nonce picking over all the tulle and the netting to actually get to the nozzle, I don’t know. A man has his limits.
The Roses Absolument etc too – I love the boxes, that patterned embossed geometry: and let’s say I had a few thousand dollars to splash out on a frivolous whimsy, just for the fresh hell of it, I would probably have bought the entire series yesterday. There is something about Rosine: the perfumes themselves often very lovely, if not actually scintillating, but I feel they are somehow outside of the main niche frame; not quite commercial, not quite classical, something unsullied and porcelain that makes me just live in a huge glass house with a beautiful bathroom that has cabinets and cabinets to stock all of these bottles and boxes, so much so that you would never actually know how many you had or what was actually in there; lost in the mirrored madness of your luxuriantly oblivious purchases. To enter, and, on a flight of fancy, pick one particular rose, the one that has laid itself open for you, all the while enveloped in the fluffiest, dense white bathrobe.
The new, ultra-cute Rose Griotte struck me as rather delightful, as an example. I love cherry, and this is of course a cherry rose, but not done in the usual black forest gateau manner, all syrupy kirsch black cherries and oud. Non, non, cherie, this is a light and playful thing, with an ‘acidulous cherry taste’ that reminds me of the acerola juice drinks you get here in Japan, quenching with vitamin C: other fruit notes, Japanese nashi pear, cherry blossom, tangerine, heliotrope, jasmine sambac and osmanthus all contributing to make this a very pretty little perfume indeed. I think I want it.
Mon Amie La Rose is another very typically Rosine-ish light summer rose, with notes of bamboo and white tea, pear, lotus – you know the score – summery, refreshing and relaxing. Simple. Easy. Lightly aquatic. Perfect for the kind of young women who frequent Barney’s – an instant hit. I wouldn’t mind this one either, in the aforementioned imaginary Ali Baba’s cave of Pristine Endless Toiletry. Why not? After a nice bath, a spritz of a crisp, diaphanous rose can do the trick.
And as I was making all the right noises about the cherry, because it just felt so cheerful and perfect at that moment – the lone assistant – who I would give top points for being just helpful, friendly and knowledgeable enough; unpatronizing, polite and space-giving : cleverly directed me to the ‘sale section’, where a few Rosines from the evidently unpopular Les Extravagants were going for half price (still $150 though); the not dissimilar, similarly fruity Bois Fuchsia (and look at the boxxxxx……………..this has Neil Chapman written all over it: I love these 1920’s geometric designs………..) making me feel happy as a simpleton, in a blissfully childhood memory kind of way. Safe and cozy. Welcoming. A rather delicious combo of cassis, raspberry and litchi/lichee, iris, rose, and a sandalwood/patchouli finish I would have to test on skin before committing to (because you know how I am with woods), this perfume did something to me, and has lodged itself in my mind as a possible catch. Sometimes I like perfumes that are outside my pre-delineated territories.
Sampling the other three perfumes in the discounted Les Extravagants quartet, I found I was categorically not in the right mood for Vanille Paradoxe, a spicy ambroxan vanilla that I cowed away from; it is just not the kind of thing I am in the mood for right now. Too suffocating. Eloge Du Vert, a quite interesting scent centred around a very penetrating green peppercorn note, bolstered with other peppers and dry woods, rose and ginger, is a good option for those who really want to clear the air around them and get some zing, but I found it somewhat lacking in complexity.
Bleu Abysse, though, is what drew me in the most. I think mainly because of the sheer poetry of the name – those two French words together, which I find extremely beautiful, and which encapsulates precisely what many of us are slowly crawling out of now. This summer. An abyss. A blue abyss. Ulysses. The ocean depths – a seaweed rose. With mineral notes: algae, vetiver, elemi, incense, rose and bright citruses, this perfume strikes me as the furthest Rosine has ever strayed from its lovely, but somewhat narrowly rose-strewn path; darker, and more peculiar, the marine aspect of its athletic masculinity the one that somehow strayed onto my mask when I was reading, imbuing the day from that point on. Inspired by the scent of a particular species of French rose – the rosa moscata – a rambling rose on rocky shores, Bleu Abysse is a curious, rejuvenating dissident of the Rosine family that has struck a chord.