Monthly Archives: July 2021


my last unvaccinated bus ride home


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July 23, 2021 · 10:11 pm

TOKYO by SABON (2021)

Japan knows how to put on a festival. By rights, we would usually be hearing the familiar patterns of the taiko drumming local children practicing hard for the O-Bon local festival usually held on the first weekend of August. With the arid drone of grasshoppers, crickets and flittering cicadas, this sound forms a natural part of summer. Like last year, and like many unique and often spectacular ancient festivals celebrated across the country, this year’s has been cancelled.

I think I would have really enjoyed the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. It was exciting to be back in the UK during the summer nine years ago for London 2012 – there was a special, celebratory, upbeat and positive atmosphere that was palpable. I was home for Rio 2016 and enjoyed that too. Although not a sport person, there is still something about watching athletes at the top of their game and the meticulous obsession with the medal tables that is undeniably rousing. I know that Japan would have gone all out: Fujisawa, where the sailing starts this weekend, Yokohama, Tokyo, everywhere would have be in full everyone out-at-the -food stalls, drinking beer and fanning themselves in the sunshine mode: visitors would have explored and hugely enjoyed all that traditional and contemporary Japanese culture has to offer (Tokyo and Yokohama are fantastic cites ); the economy would have been given a boost; like 1964 it would surely have been a very memorable, even exultant and jubilant, event.

Instead, the coronavirus happened. And is happening. We can’t change that. But the conservative Japanese government could, I am sure, have expedited the vaccine approval process. That the inoculations came about six months after other countries, simply due to overcaution and what I consider to be a xenophobic exceptionalism regarding the Japanese population and ‘foreign vaccines’, has left the games spectatorless and with embarrassingly flimsy safety protocols ( I am not usually much of a fan of the fascistic, but here we could have done with rules that are far more draconian : : : no vaccine, no participation on any level); a huge money loss except for the corporations with broadcasting rights : a skeleton in the place of full flesh and blood exhilaration.

I have no doubt that, lax disease control aside, the Olympics will be a general organizational success. The televised events will bring excitement and pleasure to their intended audience. Winners will rejoice; losers be unconsoled. And realistically, given the pandemic situation globally, overseas spectators could never have attended : it would simply have been too dangerous. Locals, however, could have thronged the stadiums, and would have, with infectious enthusiasm. Japanese people are famously good hosts: it could have been amazing.

But because of ossified, bureaucratic incompetence, entrenched bias, and logistical failures, right now the Olympics are a behemoth – a nuisance – that hardly anyone here actually wants. To some they even seem like an existential threat.

At least, I suppose, we have Tokyo, a new ( delayed?) release by popular domestic brand Sabon to remind us what might have been- a grassy, pear and lemon raspberry-jasmine clean musk shampoo confection that encapsulates exactly how young people here want to smell; fresh, fruity, dynamic; fashionable. Not great perfumery, but certainly attractive; likeable. This would have been the scent of the air-conditioned trains in the metropolis, fans gathering in groups to make a day and night of it; visitors from other countries – participants and their entourages, handlers, journalists, not restricted to their cabins but venturing out into the neon-lit labyrinths, who might have strayed into a Sabon shop by chance and bought bottles of this perfume as a special memento : a souvenir.


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friday and thank you good night


July 16, 2021 · 11:39 pm

KADINE by GUERLAIN (1911 / 2021)

Anyway. Imagine how nice it must be to have Thierry Wasser’s job: keys to the vaults to revive old recipes ( aside the commercial pressures to come up with jolie fille hits like Ma Petite Robe Noire and Mon Guerlain). A sunny July afternoon spent in a chilly dungeon – I imagine lit tallow candles, yellowing manuscripts : Aime and Jacques’ secret perfume anatomy; meetings a trois with fellow Guerlaineurs and Guerlaineuses on which of the long disappeared perfumes to bring back for the eternally novelty-craving manic parfum collectors.

Will a reconstruction be a lithe Frankenstein, slightly ‘off’ as I imagine reconstitutions of ye olde formulae to be? How could we mere mortals ever know what the original was actually like?

Whatever the new Kadine is like – soft; spicy;

– courtesy of Parfumo: too tired and lazy to type it all out myself –

-I can’t deny it would be lovely to saunter down the Champs Elysees and pick up a telephone reserved bottle just for the hell of it: had I 690 euros available to shell out at my caprice. It does sound nice. Anything of the L’Heure Bleue genus is fine with me.


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July 14, 2021 · 10:12 pm

my commute to work today

With Delta in the air!

Note windows : aggressively opened by me.

There are students going down with Covid now in D’s school. The teachers there are all unvaccinated. Thank God that he, at least, has had the first one…

Happy Wednesday !


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The smell of dirty, unwashed hair is repellent. The smell of frolicking, freshly shampooed hair can also be overwhelming if the product is overscented, as many conditioners, ‘treatments’ and shampoos do tend to be these days. I find all the Pantenes, Luxes, the Doves and wimpy Timoteis quite often to be too much*. Sometimes these perfumed hair soaps eat the air all around them, destroying perfume in their wake. At other times, the ‘sillage’ is enough in itself, as individuals swish by, and you smile at the cozy, blowdried breeze from a mane that seems to be somehow emanating, as the bloodstream pulses under the skin, the person deeper within.

Today I used a special ‘men’s shampoo and conditioner set, ‘Clear’, that made my crummy barnet look slightly fuller; more wavy Mediterranean. I liked the visuals – the sweller texture; a ‘because it gives me confidence’ kind of sensation : even ten hours later I can tell my locks are giving good scent – I smell clean as old Lizzy. At the same time, the whole Clairol aurora makes me feel like an impostor. That I’m not wearing my hair, but that my hair is wearing me.

As perfume lovers, do you also consider these things; how scent and the shampoo and hair products you use will inevitably mix ? (I quickly realized this afternoon that there was no point being perfumed, the scent of this ‘scalp soap’ being so potent): or do you just bathe, in the overall general blend, twirling your haircurtain like Chewbacca in L’Oreal ?

*I miss the lemony citrus, grease-stripping Boots shampoos my mother used to use in the seventies……absolute bath time bliss.

So clean you could hear your hair squeak.


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SEND IN THE FLOWERS : : : : : (featuring BAIN DE MIDI by PARFUM MATINE (2019))

Two hot sunny days; blue skies; heavenly. Just sitting and listening to music and drinking cava on the balcony, losing ourselves in that summer happiness feeling.

I have just been on a long bike ride around the area we live and I can’t remember the last time I felt so relaxed and carefree. Flowers everywhere – like this lily I picked illegally from the roadside ( but they are in such abundance it would be morally wrong not to); spotted orange lilies; orchids; it’s so lush.

I realized as I was riding along – drenched in Lush’s bizarre Sappho, which to me smells like salty lilies but is in fact apparently a jasmine tobacco vanilla iris that I am really enjoying today; it feels plush and pinkly aromatic, cushioned with absolutes and yet almost blaringly fresh – – and some intuitively, anti-intuitively applied Jasmin-Lilas,by Jean Jacques Brosseau, intensely floral, which all bifurcated beautifully with all the yellow and blue of the air around me– – that I have been in an olfactory straitjacket of my own making; nothing but citrus, green tea and vetiver for god knows how long; (a year?): nice, it has worked – I bought another bottle of the excellent Jo Malone for Zara Vetiver Pamplemousse the other day which suits me to perfection – but it wasn’t until today when I suddenly felt like flourishing and stamening outwards (I nearly added some Tom Ford Tubereuse Nue to boot, today,that flower also nudging its way inexorably into my flower conscious – a few days ago I was l semi-delirious – literally – when wearing Meo Fusciuni’s heavy, leather tuberose Odor 93 on a tumultuously grey muggy day…it was so hypnotic and pleasureable it was like autosuggestion – gorgeous); presumably all of this tied in to the newer freedoms that hopefully await: a sense of coming out of a long, very horrible, dark tunnel.

I want all the flowers. Ylang ylang, tiare, Indian jasmine. Maybe some gardenia. It’s been a while since I have felt like this. I suppose you suppress certain desires during more difficult periods; sometimes, admittedly, I have come home at night and after a shower felt like a 90’s sandalwood floral showstopper such as Ferre De Ferre just as an uninhibited, thick-waisted contrast to the day, but right now I am in fully perfumed effulgent mode, for daytime as well; the scent of Coppertone suntan lotion melding with tropical white flowers. That saline sun-kiss feeling on the skin. Sweating flower oils. Yes. This is what we want.

our weird banana flower enjoying the sunshine
A palm I rescued. It had had its fronds severed and was in a plastic rubbish bag, about to be thrown away in the trash, but I asked the neighbour if I could have it. It lay dormant for a while. A month or more. So exciting to see it then spring forth, ancient, pre-historic, like something from Jurassic Park. Behind it, in the banal terracotta pot, a struggling tuberose.

With the season already upon us, it will also soon be time to go to the sea. There are several options: the beaches at Kamakura, more commercial; younger in scope, and those near the Emperor’s Summer House in Hayama, Zushi; a more beautiful stretch of coastline, if a little more difficult to reach. It’s always worth it though. I can’t wait to just dive into the water and then fry on the sand.

If I do, a perfume that will be perfect for such an occasion will be Bain De Midi, a recent tropical flower perfume I discovered by a brand I was unfamiliar with – Parfum Matine – until I smelled it the other day at Nose Shop in Yokohama. This was definitely Pleasure At First Sniff. Catherine, have you smelled this one? Ooh mama. For those who love a good ylang ylang note, the way we do, this is delightful -a trio of coconut, tiare flower, and undulant, creamy ylang; all glandular goodness, teenage simplicity, and very natural, ocean-side happiness. I am going to go back and try this again from beginning to end, to make sure there are no bloopers in the mix – it seemed woodier in the fade out on paper, and I must check for these things; but I really was quite smitten with the beginning. I might need it. With the lessening of constriction, I am ready – with gorgeous, mood-enhancing carefreenesses like this – to just spray……… . and let go.


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Yesterday it was so dark, dank, rainy and gloomy it was difficult to speak. In fact no one was speaking at work, just lost in their own worlds. The humidity must have been at 100% : absolute saturation.

In the crowded hell that was Yokohama station, negotiating my bags and umbrella and self into the freezing air conditioned space of the main new department store, I went up quickly to the Kungyokudo incense shop to grab some sandalwood. The conversation on patchouli incense the other day got me craving some byakudan; drying and grounding when it seems that the damp and the fungal pall will last at least another week ( our house is a mould box right now; not visibly, but you can feel it); the supermarkets all promoting kyabikyilla – mould killing sprays as the rain continues, although sun is forecast tomorrow and from Friday so maybe it’s the end of the rainy season soon: the start of the hot searing sun.

Nice though it is, this incense – nothing but sandalwood , it would seem, is a tad perfunctory, and not really worth the ¥3000 that I paid for it. I will certainly use it, and I liked how it temporarily masked the smells I wanted to mask, but I think I would need to have a proper mooch around my local Buddhist shop in Fujisawa to get a more soulful and nuanced sandalwood blend at some other time.

Right now I am too busy. The summer seminar is coming soon, and I heard on Wednesday that my book is getting a second printing so am in the process of doing corrections of typos and repetitions (any glaring ones please let me know : I have until tonight). Our belated applications for the vaccine from Kamakura City Office arrived this morning:; I am glad that ours are already in the bag ( we are having our second ones together on July the 25th). Delighted, also, that the announcement has just been made that there will be no spectators at the Olympic Games.

Finally, some common sense.


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