ALL IT TOOK WAS A TUBE OF HAND CREAM

It was just so incongruous.

The plainness of the staff room; the unflinching familiarity. The piles of papers; documents, notebooks, registers, files – and then, suddenly, as if out of nowhere, the heart-lifting smell of a celestial osmanthus: an alabaster Athena bathed in cold-cream.

And all this, coming seemingly- bizarrely- from the direction of one head of English and master Japanese grammarian – : personable, steadfast and doggedly diligent, ( who even I as a native speaker have consulted upon occasion about some fine points of English structure) -but certainly not necessarily known for his perfume, or his glamour.

It is strange in those moments when you are lost in dour thoughts, or dull thoughts, or just practical, work-based thoughts, but then a scent just comes over you like a bolt from the blue and your deeper, more crystalline inner self is somehow unlocked in a special moment of pure sensuousness; when, for a few seconds , you can think of nothing at all but oh my god, what the hell is that smell (and where can I get it?)

Clearly demonstrating the comparative nonchalance in Japan of most men towards what is traditionally considered to be masculine or not (because let’s face it, your average guy in his late-fifties approaching retirement age in most countries is not going to consciously reach for a hand cream entitled ‘Body Fantasies: : You Wanna Shampoo? ‘), but presumably, in the spirit of economizing – having randomly or otherwise obliviously bought this at Daiso, one of the cut-price Japanese equivalents of Walmart, this ‘veteran teacher’ had just bought it on a whim thinking ‘my hands are dry: this’ll do’, then, one fine day when the moment was ready, proceeded to generously squeeze some of the highly, very highly perfumed cream onto his hands one afternoon, not realizing that, from the olfactory point of view, in that particular room, this was a take over.

I was completely entranced. And naturally, immediately inquired what this heavenly substance was, trying not to smile too much when I saw the name on the label. “I’ll get you some the next time” was his kind response, and I was in fact given a tube of my very own at the beginning of this week.

Now, let’s not get carried away.

This is, simply, nothing more than a typical, girly, fruity hand cream. To you, it might ‘just smell like an American teenager’. Nothing special. So don’t go ordering a whole warehouse of the stuff just because of this review. But to me, it smells just so lovely. Osmanthus, topped with fresh raspberries; the freshness of Calyx by Prescriptives, but with a more shadowy undertone of vintage Cristalle Chanel ( I am quite taken with those more troubled, and lingering aftereffects). Just a clean, ‘handcreamy’ scent, yes – but as I applied just a little to my fingertips yesterday; let it touch brush past my temples, I must say that when I went out into the sunny, Autumnal afternoon — I was on Cloud Nine.

15 Comments

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15 responses to “ALL IT TOOK WAS A TUBE OF HAND CREAM

  1. Reminds me of when I used St Ives apricot-scented lotion as a teenager. Osmanthus and raspberry?! Two notes I really like in perfumes, never imagined them together. Enjoy!

    • Neither official, just what I detect (might be worth grabbing a tube in that case!). St Ives – I used to LOVE their weirdly fresh creamy products – there was some ‘face lift’ tightening thing I used to use in my early twenties when I really didn’t need it – but how the cheekbones sucked in as a result. Anything apricot is divine. This reminds me a bit of the Gwen Stefani L.A.MB type scent – that ‘holy pear’ type aroma. Love it.

  2. Ann

    He sounds like such a nice man. We have a Daiso here in Sydney …maybe i wil see if it’s available here.

  3. OnWingsofSaffron

    Great situation! Could also have ended in blushes, coughing and excuses, but it didn‘t!
    Apropos hand creams: Your mentioning of the Santa Maria Novella almond hand cream — „Pasta di mandorle“ — in your book made me buy a little tub in Italy. It is an absolute delight, like bathing in marzipan cream! Another recommendation and all-time favourite: „Crème pour les mains au beurre d‘iris“ by Frédéric Malle. Long name for an exquisite iris hand cream by Olivia Giacobetti. An austere yet thrillingly elegant iris scent. And lastly, when feeling slightly ditsy: Benamôr‘s „Nata“ hand cream which smells just like those absurdly delicious Portuguese pasteis de nata!

    • Oh god – what portal have we opened here?

      I am in love with the Malle hand cream all ready reading this: but who has the money for perfumes AND such ‘novelties’? The thing is, I think in Japan, as ‘perfume’ is seen as something slightly terrifying, hand cream is seen as a ‘safer’ option, even if, as we see here, the strength of the scent is in actual fact more far more nuclear. A hand cream, profusely administered can definitely lead to the blushes, coughs and excuses you so rightly mention here (some of them are so STRONG – and I personally DETEST the current L’Occitane ones….just vile – so passive aggressive, chemical and cheap). The idea of a beautifully perfumed one though is truly an alternative way of wearing fragrance…which is why the pasta di mandorle made it into my book. So glad someone (you specifically) have mentioned it and that it worked for you. I am now craving a tub badly. It is especially divine on those cold snowy days when the hands are chapped and you feel like just giving up and dying in the snow

    • I love Olivia Giacobetti, incidentally – and think she is very underrated. All the big men who like to overdose everything and fill up a whole trapeze tent full of groovster ingredients tend to eclipse the perfumers who genuinely just want to create something elegant and simple.

      WIR SAGEN JA

  4. Olivia Giacobetti is one of my absolute favorite perfumers. Philosykos, L’Artisan Premier Figuier, and En Passant are absolute masterpieces. (Naturalistic figs remind me so much of my childhood in California.) The clean, modern, minimalistic realism in her compositions is almost Scandinavian, her choice of notes leans a bit Italian but always startlingly innovative.
    Body Fantasies has some true gems. Seems to be of a bit dodgy company in where they are offer and marketing though. I have never seen the full line of Body Fantasies products on display anyway, even their website! Bodycology is another drugstore line that makes some fabulous cheapies, their Pure White Gardenia is amazing.

  5. This reminded me of a hand cream i purchased, in a set from Caudalie, with the scent of pamplemousse rose. I would have purchased a liter of fragrance if they had produced one, that is how much I adored that scent. Sadly they never made it a fragrance, which they have so many of their products, nor was it ever available past 2014, which was so sad. It was so much more thana grapefruit scent. It was floral, it was sweet, it had depth, it was uplifting. Funny how sometimes a functional product can have a scent that just is so transporting.

  6. Robin

    Particularly superb writing, N.

    My own hand cream at work experience: wafting on the otherwise scentless breeze, a really delicious blast of something fruity and tropical. I searched for the source. Thrilled, of course, and surprised. It was a rare occurrence. I’d only smelled three other memorable scents at the courthouse. No, four: two different judges’ chambers, one filled with Dolce Vita, the other Chanel N° 22; a hallway, courtesy a court clerk, reeking nicely of Fragile; and a witness wearing (I asked at the break) Angel, which smelled fabulous on her, drier and smokier than was typical.

    The hand cream was just your basic Fruits & Passion Orange Cantaloupe, but in that austere context it smelled like a gift from the fragrance goddesses.

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