All I have been able to think about is getting the second shot in my arm. And in D’s. That’s all. The wait has felt like sheer purgatory. And so the week before we were due to receive the injection, teaching the beginning of the ‘summer seminar’, both very present and yet entirely absent, I just had to get. through. the .days until our cherished appointment at 9:00 am Sunday morning at the vaccination centre in Yokohama.

Perfume wise, I had soured on grapefruit, having worn too much of my Malone Vetiver Pamplemousse during the grey and humid rainy season; one day I just suddenly found I couldn’t wear it any more. With the gloriously hot weather – both mine and D’s favourite time of year by far (he is already on holiday for five delirious weeks, and coming back to himself, slowly, after months of internalization and sociophobia : where I explode outwardly, he goes inside to hidden recesses and sometimes gets slightly lost: but just being able to potter about and read, make videos, do some DIY, just be, I can now feel him rehydrating); I feel like flowers and celebratory scents that exude wellness and optimism.

Givenchy’s remake of L’Interdit – a pleasingly brainless little number – just smells of grape bubble or chewing gum with a hint of 80’s tuberose. Since at work I quite like to sometimes smell of grape gum – Japan does some amazing chewing gums that work almost on the level of perfume; a tiny piece of Xylish Grape enough to surround you with a fruity aura that garners compliments, I suddenly felt like doubling down on the note and wearing L’Interdit as well. Slightly worrying that this might end up disastrous – I am usually more careful about my weekday scents, I found myself spraying it on against my better judgement because what the hell – and ended up having a grapetastic two days. With a tattoo of woodyish/oud/musk that is toned down enough to smell quite masculine by the end, I taught some kids’ classes and felt surprisingly natural. Slightly rambunctious. Even, indeed, somewhat ‘forbidden’. Remembering that I had a small sample spray of the perfume somewhere ( because you know I would definitely drop and smash the bottle if I carried it around in my bag ), I eventually located it and put it in my wallet in order to be able to have a top up on the way home, grimacing as I did so when the horrible cheap patchouli oud vanilla hit my skin and couldn’t nasally comprehend what had happened; what the hell had gone wrong. . ……….I then realized that this was the edp – a nasty duty free typical affair, a real scrubber, whereas the more edgy edt – fresher, and so much grapier, though simplistic and rather unsophisticated, has something uncomplicated and fun that I am definitely drawn to.

Sunday morning eventually : finally : came. I wore vintage Sisley Eau Du Soir. I don’t know why. I wanted to keep the chypre theme – it had been Couturier’s Coriandre for the first. I had to ground myself. We were so excited. Jubilant, actually; it felt like we were off on foreign travels ; up bright and early, a sense of anticipation, seeing the city go by knowing it was the last time I would be in this situation unprotected; and the mood at the vaccination centre was similar, a bunch of tattooed construction worker types getting the shots under the aegis of my company’s programme – taking the shots that had been refused by some of my colleagues – an exuberant mood among them also (I am beginning to realize that the issue here in Japan is that due to the lack of overtness and an inherent need for ‘ambiguity’, and an avoidance of ‘shocking facts’, the coronavirus itself is extremely ‘mysterious’ for many people. I don’t think the symptoms are well enough known; the severity; nor the existence of Long Covid; so the vaccine has somehow become more scary than the illness itself). True, as the day wore on – we went for a Thai meal in Izekakicho and wandered around the junk shops as usual, elated, so delighted to have finally had both jabs, drinking beer in the sun, which was a bit silly —. we started to feel peculiar, tingling in weird places, some strange aches, and by the evening sitting on the balcony, did start to feel oddly ‘disassociated’.

The next morning, admittedly, we both felt terrible and couldn’t get out of bed. It was like having the flu; sensitive to the touch, aching, headache. I slept for fourteen hours and couldn’t move. But it had passed by the following day, and in any case it just felt like evidence that it was doing what it was supposed to. I can’t understand how anyone wouldn’t put themselves through one day of discomfort when the purported benefits are apparently so huge. The relief is absolute bliss. The last eighteen months have been like hell. And in comparison this really does feel like heaven.

a local gardenia

Which is probably why I found myself reaching, on Tuesday morning for Penhaligon’s Gardenia. A reworked reissue from 2009 of a classic from 1976 (I would love to smell the original), this is a blue-print summer gardenia with the expected supporting flower notes of orange blossom, jasmine, and tuberose, the main theme a beautiful gardenia violet. It is the violet note that I love here; powdery, green; wearing it to work all of last week it made me feel elegant; genteel; the right level of sillage; a floral benevolence. I felt that it was almost bringing me closer to the students as well, though that might have also simply been because I no longer regard being in their proximity as something potentially lethal. I think this is going to be my choice of scent, now, until the summer holidays. I only have ten days left until the end of what has been a dreadful, dreadful school year. But I can definitely now feel the light at the end of the tunnel. In fact it’s like I am already bathing in it.


Filed under Flowers


  1. Tora

    I am so glad you got your second shot!! In two weeks you will be super safe. I don’t want to be a buzzkill, but I have 6 friends who have been fully vaccinated who got covid. Most of them just had a little flu and some were asymptomatic. Most troubling was my pregnant daughter who has been vaccinated since March, went to a wedding where everyone was vaccinated and she got covid along with 4 other guests. Luckily she only had bad flu symptoms for 4 days and is now feeling much better. I am wearing a mask again any time I go inside even though our county has an 85% vaccination rate. Please be safe, Neil. These anti-vaxxers are fucking us all up. I just ordered a decant of Penhaligons Gardenia!!

    • Thanks for all this advice. And I hope your daughter and baby are fine and well.

      It is definitely slightly disturbing to realize that it is still possible to get the virus, but I have no fear of the flu: I think I probably come across as a total hypochondriac on here, but the fact is I went for the knee operations and got through them, and have no problem staying in bed and feeling a bit achey – it doesn’t bother me. It’s ‘only’ the severe symptoms – like not being able to breathe or seeing someone I love not being to breathe – that scare the shit out of me. If that danger has basically been drastically reduced by this vaccine, then I will continue my joyful singing and dancing.

      Enjoy the Gardenia. It’s not all THAT different to gardenias of the Marc Jacobs type except that it is less metallic and harsh, and softens much more beautifully on the skin. I am really enjoying it right now. x

  2. Congratulations!! I felt giddy too once my family and I got our second shots. Like you, I slept all day the day after, couldn’t open my eyes, but then I was fine. And in the rare event of a breakthrough infection with Delta, my doctor friends all say the shots will save your life.

    • Precisely. And people don’t want that protection ?

      Anyway, I have spent too much of the last year utterly furious. I need to let go of these feelings now and get some life back. At least we can feel some relief after what has been such an appallingly stressful time. x

  3. carole

    I’m so happy you have had your second shot! We all did, too (Canada) and now lots of clinics are just open to the public. Just bring your medicare card and get the shots. You can even choose which shot you want. I hope this country will choose to somehow help other countries-I believe every person on the planet needs these vaccines.

    And I love the way you use fragrance-I remember you once wrote you had used half a bottle of Cedre, trying to get the gist of the notes 🙂 The count down is on till your vacation!

  4. OnWingsofSaffron

    Fantastic! Now, or two weeks after the 2nd shot, you’ll both be protected against the worst. What an immense relief!!
    You wrote about shots „refused by some of [your] colleagues“. I too have a colleague who refuses to get vaccinated: her reasoning is, if enough other people get their shot, then she won‘t have to because she’ll be on the safe side (courtesy the others)! I am speechless, seeing that that reasoning is absolutely ridiculous as we are far, far, far away from any herd immunity here in Germany/ in the whole world.
    I don‘t want to hijack this comment section with a new rant, yet the post-Trumpian world has really landed in deep shit. I sometimes feel like in some dystopian novel.
    Therefore, on to Gardenia! Yesterday, we spent a happy day in Berlin; had a fantastic Vietnamese lunch in Mitte; visited the new Humboldt Forum (i.e. the rebuilt Palace) which I found pretty spectacular; trawled through some edgy shops and—at the opposite spectrum of „edgy“—said hello to the Chanel boutique on the Kudam, drenched myself with abandon with Paris – Riviera (I want a bottle!), and then got myself a sample of Gardénia which I‘ll wear tonight!

    • How lovely. I would love to be in Berlin again: so gorgeous in summer.

      But you are not alone in the Trumpian ranting: I was doing precisely that yesterday when we were walking, as this non belief in the vaccine etc stems DIRECTLY from him and as you say, the dystopia he basically created. Oh yes. We are not mistaken about that.

  5. Robin

    Sweet relief. Beautiful, N and C. Also deliriously happy, for you two.

    Is that totally weird, or did I mention something about the 2018 l’Interdit edt in the last couple of weeks? I’d gone into the drugstore in early July in search of something fragrant to put me in an elevated mood, and went straight to l’Interdit. I know Ric generally prefers those formulations to edps, so I asked for a spritz of the edt. I was curious about what they’d done to it in the name of the original. The second I sniffed it, I grabbed a bottle to take to the cash desk. Pow. Bang. Done. Grape liqueur and sweet tuberose with an earthy, non-dryer-sheet musk, free of any throat-choking elements or irritatingly mainstream synthetic notes. Ric likes it a lot as well. Can you believe we independently came to the same conclusion about something we were both probably prepared to reject as a La Vie est Belle clone? Fun is a good way to describe it. Sometimes, especially in the summer, I’m looking for the antithesis of serious.

    Now I think I should be looking at Penhaligon’s Gardenia more seriously. I thought it might be a bit too thickly, spicily tuberose for Ric’s sensibilities. But with the violet, with the element of green, I’m wondering if it might be a contender? I’d blind-bought their Ellenisia as something to tempt Ric away from his favourite Chanel Gardenia, which I’m draining with dizzying rapidity. But he dislikes it. Any thoughts?

    • All I can say is that I am SERIOUSLY DELIGHTED that you also went for the Interdit. I find this hilarious. It’s good, no? I don’t think I remember you mentioning it as this feels like the most exuberant coincidence. You would definitely have hated the edp, but there is something quite convincing about the edt, isn’t there? Hardly art, but quite emboldening.

      Chanel Gardenia is heavenly. I think you might quite like the Penhaligon’s. Everyone talks about it being tuberosey, but I don’t think it really is. It has that English quality, albeit possibly influenced by the Marc Jacobs Americanized take on the flower. Ultimately, it is more subdued though, while being creamier and more radiant. Even if he doesn’t like it, you might enjoy it just for carefree walks into town for groceries and sundries.

      • Robin

        Oh, I do love exuberant coincidences. We have more than our share together, you and I.

        Well, I like how you just described the Penhaligon’s Gardenia very much. Gawd, carefree walks into town for groceries and sundries. I’m afraid to believe we’re getting there. I’m still half-stuck in the old way of thinking, where everything is potentially dripping with viral malice. I hope we all can feel safer (and be safer) soon.

      • ‘Dripping with viral malice’. !! I have to use that. We have been shopping as usual the entire year; no disinfecting or anything of the sort. But yes to anything non-viral, and just popping out to the shops in an elegant gardenia. I think you would like it.

  6. Happy for you—it certainly has been a prolonged wait! I haven’t tried Penhaligon’s Gardenia, but recently bought a Caswell-Massey Gardenia on impulse from an old-fashioned drugstore without having tried it first. It’s pleasant, white-floral and a bit green. Is it more important for a gardenia fragrance to be creamy or to have a “mushroom” note?

    • An important question. I am not sure how keen I am on the mushroom facet – just a HINT of that is enough for me; I also don’t like it too creamy. I love the idea of being able to buy cheapish drugstore gardenias -you can’t do that in Japan.

  7. Hi Neil! I’m very happy you and D got your final shots. My boyfriend and I got our final shots in June and we were ecstatic, feeling as though a huge weight was lifted from our shoulders! I did have a reaction to the second shot; I felt rather nauseated and my injection arm was swollen. After one day I was back to normal. It was so worth it to know I am now protected. I would do it again in a heartbeat! Congratulations on having survived a very difficult school year.

    • Thank you. And I feel exactly as you do. One day of feeling ropey is nothing.

      One thing I realized the other day is that I was enjoying the students’ presence more (even though the full protection hasn’t gone into effect yet); I don’t think I have fully been conscious enough of how fearful the situation has been. Students who go to schools where there are outbreaks and could very easily be asymptomatic sitting right in front of me. And last year, and in one school this year, in windowless rooms….

      I shouldn’t go into all that again, but it is DIVINE to be able to escape from these suffocating scenarios and be able to live less anxiously. I do actually enjoy teaching to a large extent – I just didn’t like having the feeling that it could kill me.

  8. AmyD

    Just so, so thrilled for you two, Neil! Hope you have an amazing summer break ~

  9. I have never tried Penhaligon and haven’t seen them anywhere I’ve been. The Gardenia sounds like something I’d like and safe enough for a blind buy?
    I’ve not seen L’Interdit on offer anywhere either. Admittedly, most of my perfume sampling has been/was in duty-free shops in Asia & the Middle East.
    I got the J&J!!! Yup, I am fully vaccinated as is my entire household. My arm feels like it was hit with a baseball bat, but otherwise we are a-ok!

    • Great to hear. I feel so relieved it’s like returning to a previous self. Incredible how stressful it has been.

      As for Gardenia – I think you need it. I am wearing it right now on a boiling hot summer’s sunny day and it is WORKING. No harsh edges and quality right into the drydown.

  10. So thrilled you have both received your second vaccinations. Give it two weeks until it is fully in effect. I will echo what others here have said, to still take some precations. For we are unfortunately at the reaches of the “Typhoid Marys” amongst us, those who are not vaccinated, and we can still catch a more mild case of the plague.
    You will be happuy to know that I was able to meet with two different friends, on two different occasions for lunch al fresco!! First time venturing forth in 18 months. Unfortunately though, the numbers are on the rise again here, so hubby, and my doctor, have suggested I not be so cavallier forthwith until things start looking better.
    I advise you to go and enjoy as much as you can while the cases are low, and Delta is not too bad where you are. Just make sure to take lots of Vitamin D, I here it helps.
    I am amazed you enjoyed the new L’Interdit. I smelt it on a scent strip and I was all set within a moment and knew it was not my cup of tea. You are right though, it does have a fruity aura, which I guess is grape, about it.
    I remember the original Penhaligon’s Gardenia from way back. Oh, that was lovely, so creamy and smooth, I would dare say luscious. I wish I had a bottle of that. I wish I could find Penhaligon’s stockists near me to smell the newer one to compare.

    • I am LOVING the Gardenia at the moment: completely agree that the Interdit is a simplistic fool in comparison , but for two days it had a certain fruity gumption that matched my withering spirits. Grape is not a note I would usually go for, but it is strangely enjoyable here at times.

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