Monthly Archives: March 2022


There is a lot of misunderstanding among those not in the know about perfume how long it actually lasts. Yes, some perfumes do ‘turn’. But many do actually in fact last in perfect – or near perfect – condition for decades, particularly if boxed. You can get an old Guerlain from the fifties or sixties and sit in utter amazement as you lift up the unstoppered flacon and inhale the incredibly unsullied beauty. Rochas lasts very well, as does Hermès. Caron extraits can remain immaculate for half a century, or even longer – no problem, their unctuous oils untroubled by time. Quality perfume is often a lot more resilient than you might think.

But what about the other products that are often sold together with liquid fragrance? Are they as durable? Soap, body lotion, shower gels? Not really. Obviously it depends; and I know nothing about chemistry so cannot comment on how different compounds deteriorate over the years in the scientific sense, but from my personal experience, these auxiliary extra indulgences do lose their scent much more quickly. Sometimes if you buy what was once a luxurious soap, deeply infused with your fragrance, it is now, with the passing of time, nothing much more than a mournful faint remembrance of its former self. If it is a cheap bargain bin mystery I don’t mind it his, and enjoy using it anyway, but if I pay more than I should for these elegant toiletries I can’t deny that there is sometimes a slight feeling of deception (look, though! a pristine rectangular stiff white paper box of Chanel Nº19 soap! How could I not? And the glorious ridiculousness of a Rive Gauche soap that comes in its own YSL plastic container and that inimitable silver, blue and black iconic packaging that I have always hugely enjoyed looking at (and which I might therefore take to work when it is used up and then fill it with paperclips…..) Being me, it is often impossible for me to resist such an item, because if it does pay dividends in the bath or shower, I will be set up for the rest of the day. I love how a well-scented hard soap lasts and imparts a more abstract groundwork for the rest of the fragrance, the same DNA, just a different branch of the family – a different perspective – which will then meldeven better right from the start when you apply the actual perfume, like a sword lowered into a chamois leather sheath.

Unfortunately, the soaps you see pictured above were quite disappointing. At least initially. Very underwhelming. Not very perfumed. I think what happens is that while the core of the product often stays scented, the outer layers get exposed to the air or the light over the years and gradually become much more attenuated. And so I was bored and a bit miffed with the generic old lather these were generating: not sufficiently scented, even, to accurately resemble the perfumes in question.

But now that the soaps are half used, a few baths and showers down the line, I am excited to report that they are really starting to come into their own. And both are divine. I have had better Nº19 savons de toilette in the past – some of the most pristine vintage versions of these soaps are utterly incredible in the iris and dark vetiver leather aura they produce as you are using them (current soaps in the line bear no resemblance whatsoever to this scent – I consider the modern version an entirely different perfume, ; quite a nice fresh green muguet/iris/modern sandalwood, but nothing like the original); but I used this original edition yesterday and was in love, seduced into a kind of hot water zen state until the time I started saying to myself “No : : : don’t use all of it now”. Likewise, the extraordinarily pleasant Rive Gauche savon, which, as a classic floral woody aldehydic template I use as a pre-base for wearing Calandre or Farouche (both by the same perfumer, Michael Hy), feels quite different from using a standard modern soap or shower gel, which I often do like by themselves in a different context, but not the way that they, and many shampoos and fabric conditioners, contaminate the scent profile you have carefully been preparing for that day, which then puts me in a state of permanent olfactory irritation. This is the beauty of a great soap like these when you find them – they give you harmony (which is is making me wonder, now, about a whole cache of vintage soaps I spotted the other day at a shop in Ofuna – Calèche, Eau D’Orange Vert, and intriguingly, Equipage, which I would really like to try in order to whip myself up into a more masculine lather – but they are not cheap, I think they were asking for 1400 yen each for the larger size and you never know which way they are going to go – nicely perfumed, or sud duds -until you use them. Mmm. I am tempted, but am currently trying to economize).

With its ergonomic container though (more soaps should come with a hermetically sealable dish like this!), I am going to take the Rive Gauche with me today in my travel bag on our trip to Shizuoka. We are travelling down and staying a couple of days to see the cherry blossom and do a mini hanami (flower viewing party) with some friends, go to a strange open air art museum with bizarre sculptures in the middle of nowhere and perhaps do some filming ; just catch up, generally, and take in the natural scenery of the prefecture famed for its fields of green tea and proximity to Moun Fuji- undoubtedly we will come home ladened down with matcha-themed souvenirs. On the way back from Mishima, we will also go to the cinema to see the only film I am willing to travel so far to experience – the newly released here Memoria, by one of my favourite ever directors, the visionary Apichatpong Weerasthukul, starring Tilda Swinton. I can’t wait to sit in an art cinema in a new city; scented correctly; lose myself; and bliss out into dreams.


Filed under Flowers



Filed under Flowers


I have the same Monday every year, frantically trying to watch the Oscars live via streaming services and failing every time. When I was a teenager, I would sometimes stay up very late in the evening to see it all live on TV in the UK and watch it until dawn : here in Japan, it is always a much more manageable time of around 9:30am, but even so, being the useless technofool that I am, all the scrambling leads to zilch, and I end up just trolling the red carpet photos and getting the news as it comes in via twitterfeeds and bleeped out press nuggets almost as they happen.

While doing this yesterday, though certainly no fashionista, I had presciently singled out Timothée Chalamet in his bare-chested girl’s tuxedo, Nicole Kidman in her lovely blue grey Armani Privé, David Oyelowo in his yellow and black suit ; and Jada Pinkett-Smith in her amazing green Jean Paul Gaultier crumpled gown (I hadn’t noticed the hair, just thought it was part of the look) as standout successes in the usual, overly tasteful sea of manicured mermaids. I am not into the sculptured goddess look as a whole, but Megan Thee Stallion looked luscious; Billie Eilish is always slightly ridiculous, but I somehow love her, and that song (when I did finally go to the cinema to see No Time To Die, a few months ago, the only time I have been in two years, my hairs stood on end when the theme song blasted out of the speakers, so great was my cinematic rapture at being back in the seat after so long. I am glad that she and her brother won).

I adore cinema, and I adore the Oscars, even if I am ‘hate-watching’ such programmes a lot of the time, in a slightly sardonic perversity I don’t even truly understand myself. Artistically, for me there is no doubt that this doesn’t even vaguely compare to Cannes in terms of merit – I am way more a Palme D’Or guy than an Academy Award Best Film winner sucko, the vast majority of which in all honesty I haven’t liked – Green Book, The Shape Of Water, Crash, Beautiful Mind, Birdman, No Country For Old Men, The King’s Speech, Moonlight, Million Dollar Baby, The Hurt Locker – for me they are nothing but meh : I sit watching them dutifully with a slightly bored film over my eyes- all fine productions in their way, and with worthy themes, but at the heart, gut and aesthetic level they don’t do anything for me. They are literally built for The Oscars. Parasite was kind of exciting; I haven’t seen Nomadland yet, nor CODA, but one of the reasons I was so eager to see the ceremony yesterday was because I really wanted Jane Campion to get Best Director, having loved her films since the first time I saw Sweetie back in the nineties as a student at an art cinema in Cambridge; An Angel At My Table, the astonishing The Piano which left me reeling in the car park it was so intoxicating, A Portrait Of A Lady, and the wonderfully erotic and langourously violent In The Cut – I am a huge fan, even if I didn’t like The Power Of The Dog at all and didn’t want it to win Best Picture. It was this news, though, that I was waiting for as I checked my phone every few minutes to find out who had won exactly what.

Prior to this, we had had our own drama during the night. At about 4:45am I had heard weak shouts coming up from downstairs but couldn’t work out what D was saying. When I roused myself and went to see, I saw him collapsed at the bottom of the stairs unable to get up; dizzy and disorientated from an adverse reaction to his Moderna third booster shot. I knew this was the cause, but it was still very disconcerting, and we had to sleep in the kitchen with blankets and duvets as he was too debilitated to get back to our room. It has taken a good 48 hours to make its way through his system – he is now fine; in irritable, manic overly meticulous Virgo housework horror mode so I know the real person is back – I think today we will spend separately – but yesterday he couldn’t move, was very tender and achey and feverish, and couldn’t do anything, so we all – the cat included. absorbing the general lethargy – lay flopped in a heap in the bedroom scrolling the internet and finding out which ‘nominees’ had triumphed or failed : for me it’s the kind of meaningless nonsense you need in these circumstances in order to think about something else (we spent the rest of the time in the evening and yesterday afternoon watching the saint-like Hollywood celebrity medium Tyler Henry talking to the dead on Netflix’s Life After Death (quite astounding and mesmerizing, actually – has anyone else seen this, and is he really genuine? ; We, as the naïve and gullible, believe that he probably is. It just feels that way. And if the family members, so obviously unfake in their reactions to being able to contact their loved ones on the other side, were acting, then they definitely deserved the Oscars more than the pugilistic people who actually got them.)

(I haven’t seen The Eyes Of Tammy Faye, by the way, much as I would like to, as I quite like Jessica Chastain and think she has been lying under the radar for slightly too long: I watched her in a violent action movie the other day, AVA, and thought she was perfect in it)

Before we get onto the ins and outs and the nitty gritty of – gasp in horror! – Best Actor…. in the Actress category, I love or admire all of those nominated and so was quite happy for any of them to win. I watched the underrated fashion art horror film, ‘Personal Shopper’, by Olivier Assayas again the other night in a state of quasi hypnosis, totally under the spell of the sheer beauty of Kristen Stewart, whose nervous tics and mannerisms can get a bit samey at times but who I am still stoked to see in Spencer (can she really get the essence of Princess Diana?!). Had she won the statuette, it would have been cool; also just to see an actress go up to the podium in Chanel shorts – which I thought looked kind of fresh.

Nicole Kidman and Penelope Cruz would have been great selections too, though they already have both already won one, just like Olivia Coleman, whose The Lost Daughter I quite liked in a way, although I am more likely to be head over heels in love with Madres Paralleles, which I have heard is fantastic and quite transporting- being a lifelong Pedro Almovodar devotee, I truly can’t wait to see this! )

In the Best Actor category, I actually wanted Will Smith to win. I don’t know why exactly, as I am not a fan as such, and find him quite annoying and smug at times : his jug-eared Hollywood ‘everyman’ schtick – Mr Popular, at least until yesterday – can grate, especially in dreadful films I have seen him in such as Independence Day, Men In Black, I am Legend, and the truly abominable Aladdin (watching it at the students’ requests, last year I felt a little guilty at how erotic I was finding his blue genie, though – the same thing happened with Sam Worthington in Avatar – why are naked male blue non-humans so damn arousing?). If I do find him personally visually appealing to a certain extent, on another level, I am also always quite interested in actors who manage to slough off their limiting albatross (in his case, light-hearted blockbuster action comedies), and transcend their own cliché. There is something inspiring for me in this, because I really do think that being pigeon-holed and typecast in the eyes of others is a kind of prison. I know that Will Smith has acted in serious films before such as Ali, but I have a really hard time watching bio-pics in general as I find them to be one of the worst genres of film-making and so have never seen him in any of them (the Chilean director of Spencer, Pablo Larrain, in contrast, takes artistic risks: his Natalie Portman take on Jackie O, ‘Jackie’, was flawed, but quite visually mesmerizing in a Kubrickian kind of way; taking the essence of a historical figure and then kaleidoscoping it through his own prism; getting to the character in deeper levels; not as literal (but superficial) as many of these performances that are worshipped by the ‘Academy’).

Also, in truth I don’t particularly like any of the other actors who were contenders for the trophy. Javier Bardem was perfect in Vicky Cristina Barcelona, probably the best romantic comedy I have ever seen, alongside Cruz, Rebecca Hall and Scarlett Johannson – all resplendent – as a grand, but very human, (and very attractive) seducer, as well as in earlier Spanish movies such as Live Flesh, but since that time I have found him overdone and absurd, for example, as Bond Villains or psychopaths, even if I am open to whatever he got up to acting wise in Being the Ricardos (Nicole Kidman as Lucille Ball is a stretch, no? It sounds like essential viewing). As for the other actors, I was almost angered by the fact that Benedict Cumberbatch got so much praise of Power Of The Dog, as I personally found his one-note repressed homo stare unconvincing and tedious. I also have some kind of hang up about Andrew Garfield, and cannot watch him (which means I will, as I always confront my own prejudices in this regard); I don’t especially like Denzel Washington either as I find him too self-righteous and ‘portentous’ in everything I have seen him in (guilty pleasures like The Equalizer: I will also definitely watch him in The Tragedy Of Macbeth as I am intrigued as how he will work with Frances McDormand). Good, though, that he had the sense to take his fellow nominee immediately aside after The Incident and calm him down before his predicted acceptance speech – things might have got really out of hand otherwise.

Which, obviously, finally all brings us to The Moment, guaranteed to become one of the most notorious in Hollywood History and viral Internet history, and which I missed seeing live by just a couple of minutes – refreshing my screen as we lay like lumpards in a pile of blankets and pillows – I almost felt like I was experiencing ghost symptoms of whatever D was having; suddenly woken up with a start, though, by the ‘OMFG’ moment of ‘what just happened?’ just after it happened- (though a large part of me was already paralyzingly, exhaustingly bored the second I saw it : as I could see, as if in ffwd, the sheer amount of gushing and opinionizing and the agonizing volume of words that will be numbingly churned out over this incident, the ones you are reading now included – the very real feeling of why do we care about this bullshit so much?! – but concurrently, very aware of its ‘cultural importance’; or at the very least, the astonishing fact of, as the New York Times so hilariously summed it up today, the world was able to witness a megastar attack someone on the same stage that he will a few minutes later receive the first, and undoubtedly last, Oscar of his life –


Yes, this was definitely a ‘wait, what?‘ thing. I quickly hit the non-censored snippet of Smith striding up to the stage like a raging bull and hitting Chris Rock in the face and then coming back into the audience, still apoplectic and shouting back threateningly, and felt my heart racing – there is enough aggression in my own personal history to make this what is called a ‘triggering’ event I suppose : the flight or fight response (god knows how Rock regained his composure): it was unbelievable. The dramaqueen paparazzo in me (Burning Bush) immediately had me cackling though and handing the phone over urgently to a still temperature-ridden and dazed Duncan as he looked at it in confusion before giving it back to me again so I could rewatch and make sure that I was actually seeing what I was seeing.

THE SHEER DRAMA! AT THE OSCARS! What a mindblowingly (self)destructive moment for Will Smith (I am imagining the whole family, including the incredibly cool fashion icon children Jaden and Willow, standing with mugs of coffee around the kitchen table still going over it together; how the actor’s moment, which everything his life had presumably been leading to, was ruined and completely overshadowed (not to mention Jessica Chastain’s, as there was a pall over everything from that moment on, including for the Best Picture). Trying to digest it all, and work out what he could next. To question his actions.

That he could lose his rag so quickly and resort to physical violence in the blink of an eye. And commit what is actually a crime: a physical assault, which logically could lead to charges by the police. And this should not be sanctioned : it should be treated seriously. But despite his huge popularity, there obviously will be consequences for Smith – I heard that there were discussions even about having to return the Oscar: there will be attorneys and laywers and interviews and contrition and all the rest of it, not to mention jokes and memes for years and years to come. He will literally never live it down. And neither will Chris Rock.

Onto the inevitable subject of whom, I am really not a fan. One reason being that his voice is harsh and high pitched and strident and irritating, and another simply that I personally can’t stand that kind of stand up comedy – because I hate comedy itself. Because I have no sense of humour. I am humourless. No, it presumably isn’t that, as I know that the odd sentence or two has ‘raised a chuckle’ among you on here over the years. But if not that then, what is it? I do think that laughter is, as the saying goes, the very best medicine. I love spontaneous humour, wit in the moment, repartee – although I also do have to say that I find the pressure to have people clutching their bellies with mirth in social situations all the time indescribably tiring (it’s very much of a male thing: in the absence of ability to discuss real emotion, we/they resort to jokes; and ‘ribbing’ and ‘joshing’ and ‘taking the piss’ and often being very cruel at the expense of other people, which is why I entirely avoid that kind of environment as much as is humanly possible). I do have one comedian friend; the US, but London-based stand-up comedienne Spring Day, who said to me that when I saw her live in Tokyo at some little comedy club tucked under a bypass somewhere in the deep womb of the city a few years ago, she immediately recognized me as the ‘asshole who was going to give me a hard time’, misunderstanding my facial expression of discomfiture as someone deliberately opposed to her or determined not to laugh. In fact the opposite was true: I was desperate to laugh, as I find the pressure to do so intensely unpleasant (when I was dragged into seeing Harry Enfield live in London once, I was dying from start to end and just praying to be let out of there I found it all so uncomfortable). In Spring’s case, she genuinely is hilarious in her self-deprecating, fiercely observant, New York kind of way, and fortunately I was eventually laughing and drinking and relaxing a bit: relieved on her behalf: otherwise, you will never seen me at a comedy night out of choice. I just find it mortifying. 

Is it also possible that I have just ‘been in Japan too long’, and have become accustomed to a more heightened level of civility? (well done to Ryusuke Hamaguchi by the way for Best International Feature with Drive My Car- a good friend of mine here with quite similar cinematic tastes said that this film is an absolute masterpiece and a must see but I need a version with English subtitles). Not being anywhere near Japanese-fluent enough (and I never will be), I am completely unable to understand the finer intricacies of the comedy here nor understand rapid-fire humorous anecdotes around me (my fault entirely): but one thing I do know is that there is a definitely a time and a place for humour; perhaps too strictly defined and compartmentalized, like a lot of this society; but while in stand-up situations in a club, or in jokes among friends almost anything goes, when it comes to ceremonies and big media events or even wedding speeches, the humour here is much lighter, less personal, less targeted and nasty; there doesn’t seem to be the same spirit of lampooning and mercilessly mocking individuals for the sake of it, probably because humiliation itself here is one of the worst things that most people can imagine. As a result, most people don’t want to publicly inflict it on others either. 

I am a person with very thin skin. Very. Put simply, I am hypersensitive. In a variety of ways, most of which I feel blessed to have been born with in the creative sense because it makes me who I am, but in terms of being insulted, I am almost psychotically reactive, particularly when it comes to being deliberately offended due to physical appearance. You can criticize my character – fine, I deserve it probably; I am so over the top and volatile and emotional, I know that – but an intentionally hurtful comment about how I look will really not go down well. Partly this is just sheer vanity and insecurity, I realize, but people do also have a sadistic tendency to go after former pretty boys who looked like Timothee Chalamet in their youth, and really make them know how dreadful they look now in fat, old comparison. This is 100% not a cry for flattery {“You look great!” etc}: I personally think I look fine for my age and that is not the point. It is other people, with their unkind and mean impulses (vile comedians like Ricky Gervais, who I detest) who are the insecure themselves villains here, but also quite often those who you encounter in daily life, people who choose to bring you down by pinpointing your weakpoints for the entertainment and grim satisfaction of others (Incidentally, I once referred to actually being bullied in this way in a piece on The Black Narcissus called Blindness; if you want an extra dose of cruelty gossip after this one please look it up and give it a click – it is about a bitter old bastard I was working with for many years who literally made a colleague of mine temporarily go blind because of the stress he caused her with his daily assaults on her self-confidence as well as giving another one stomach also ; I myself was also not immune to his sadism and was really quite emotionally and physically affected). In essence, to not look at fifty how you did at twenty is a crime in some people’s eyes. To not have the perfect face or hair. To not having long, flowing locks. To me, of course, this way of thinking is profoundly unphilosophical, immature, and moronic, not to mention horrible, and a total waste of time. Go and find something better to do instead! But for some people, finding fault with those they encounter and making them feel shit about themselves is a favourite pastime.

Which I suppose is all a very round about way of saying that although Will Smith has certainly set a dangerous precedent for free speech by hitting someone in the face whose ‘joke’ didn’t sit well with him (this is actually quite scary, when you think about it, as it means that any performer on stage has to censor themselves for fear not only of offence, which ties into the often oppressive cancel culture as a whole, but also physical violence: you say the wrong thing in the heat of the moment and get punched or worse), and can easily be described as a symptom of ‘toxic masculinity’ in general – testosterone rising quickly to the surface and resulting in a physical outburst with dire repercussions. As a volatile man myself, though, who isn’t immune to zero-to-sixty loss of temper, it almost hurts me to admit that I can completely understand why he acted the way he did. After all, this was a heat of the moment thing. None of it was planned. Probably not even Chris Rock’s line about Jade Pinkett’s hair either: he saw the couple laughing in the audience, and in the intensely spotlit, adrenaline-drenched performative anxiety of having tens or hundreds of millions of people around the world looking at you waiting to make them laugh out loud and therefore desperately using whatever available material feeds into your neurons at that given moment, Rock saw the opportunity for a cheap laugh sitting in the audience (and saying “When are you going to do GI Jane II?” is surely not the most terrible thing a person could have said: it is quite ‘light’ compared many of the jibes and barbs stand ups make in order to purposely make the audience members cringe); but then again, in that split second of using someone’s physical appearance to have a laugh at their expense, he is also not taking into account at all the feelings nor the background of the person being publicly embarrassed, harassed; someone seen to be a ‘fair target’ but who has also been through a very difficult time and is undoubtedly intensely self-conscious of their appearance; quite desperate not to have a poison-tipped arrow shot into their Achilles heel (hair loss is traumatic, and I know people that have had alopecia and the effect it has had on them: what’s next? Pointing and guffawing at people going through chemo? ). Will Smith himself, also ultra-adrenalized from the proceedings, of living inside the tension of the potential culmination of an entire life’s work and potentially winning his chosen industry’s ultimate prize, and probably also a little extra volatile from a few pre-event drinks I imagine – the bubbly always seems to be flowing on the red carpet – then heard his wife being publicly singled out for cruelty; and in that spur of the moment, he lost control.

If it was D, I can’t guarantee 100% that I wouldn’t do the same. When you love someone, you want to protect them. If you feel someone’s pain that intensely, you might react. Even physically. I am not condoning the lack of self-control, but I do understand it, as it is not necessarily my own strong point either. When riled up to the point of no return, sometimes you cross a red line, and when anger takes over your brain, sometimes a different impulse takes over and there is no turning back. This happened to me several times during the pandemic, when I was so outraged at certain things that were, or rather weren’t, in terms of safety, happening at the office, that the magma that burned through my veins until the point that I boiled over caused me to shout at loud volumes and let out tirades that really shocked people around me: once I started, there was no going back until I had let it all out. I still think that what I was furious about was 100% logical and rational – and it is all on here so I am not going to rehash it as I am managing now to put all that behind me – but the psychological mechanisms of not being able to resist the floodgates were not. It is a psychological vulnerability. Having a ‘short fuse’: I was reading an extended article recently on Will Smith about King Richard, his life, and how we was continuing battling his personal demons (as we all are), and in all honesty, I could sympathize with what he was saying. I think we expect our celebrities or role models not to be prey to the same fallibilities as regular human beings, that the price they pay for all the wealth and fame and accolades they receive is an expectation that they will behave and show the greatest mental resilience; but we are also in a moment where human beings all over the globe are bursting out of repressed boxes in all spheres of life and refusing to do what they are ‘supposed to’. Things are changing. Athletes like Naomi Osaka are admitting to mental health issues and the strains of public attention and are refusing to conform to the strictures of the media that damage them ; Simone Biles and a score of other gymnasts have come forward and talked of the deeply traumatizing effects of sexual abuse at USA Gymnastics, resulting in an inability to perform competitively at the Tokyo Olympics. Of course, there is (perhaps understandably), backlash against this ‘mollycoddling’ of the rich and famous, and insistence that they should just get on with the job that they have been paid a lot of money to do and stop whining, but the internet and social media have truly pierced the precious membrane of fame: we no longer see even the most successful personalities as static wax figurines from Madame Tussauds; or the old Hollywood stars of yore who seemed almost mythical and imaginary smiling into the flashbulbs; now, they are real life flesh and blood human beings like the rest of us, far more vulnerable than before now that so much information is constantly available to anyone with just the touch of a key. The distance between ‘us’ and ‘them’, has, to a large extent, collapsed.

So, how serious and important was this shocking infraction on the norms of an annual Hollywood celebration? In many ways, I don’t give a damn about any of it (totally contradicting the fact that I have spent a whole day writing this), because, obviously, there are much more serious things in the world to think about right now and it is all, ultimately, just spoiled, rich, celebrity culture rubbish. Nonsense, and a storm in a tea cup. It will, at some point soon, all just get swept underneath the tiger skin rug and (somewhat) forgotten. But, on a deeper level, it is also possible that what happened yesterday is all indicative of wider things that are happening in the culture, the sense that we are all exploding. That this represents something significant (in terms of aggressor and defender, for example, who is Russia and who is Ukraine in this equation, Will Smith or Chris Rock?). Smith is the one who had the childish inability to limit his own emotions and physical movements enough to avoid the ensuing ‘disaster’ that overcame him; but his wife was the one who was also being pitilessly lampooned and attacked in front of so many people by Rock (and because of something she herself had absolutely no control over; it really was a kind of punching below the belt), so can we say that her husband’s wounded and ‘valiant’ response in was any way justified? Not legally, it goes without saying, nor in terms of what should be considered acceptable as public behaviour, especially at such a prestigious event. But emotionally, I have to say to some extent it probably is. But he will pay the price for it: his reputation will never be the same again, he himself will become a joke; the extent to which his portrayal of the violent and aggressive nature of the character he played in the role that won him the Oscar – the controlling father of Venus and Serena Williams – was actually acting, or just him playing his ‘natural, bullying’ self, will also be called into question; as will what this behaviour will do in terms of racial stereotyping : a lot of people from the community that he represents as well as those outside it are understandably up in arms. It was a serious error of judgement. He will not be able to escape it. And the stink of it all – the stench of the id rising up unexpurgated into the ether – is probably, I would imagine, going to follow him around; hang around his person, for an extremely long time.


Filed under Flowers


We were tidying up the kitchen the other day when we found a full unused bottle of current Nº5 eau de parfum I had been sent by Vogue and which had rolled under the sofa. I knew it was around somewhere and was itching to find it and try it on – just for a reappraisal.

Wearing a couple of sprays on the back of my right hand as we headed into Yokohama for Ricci Farouche retrieval – more on that in another post – I was first of all amazed by how familiar and comforting it smelled. Duh, you may cry in unison – this is Chanel Nº5 we are talking about: of course it smells familiar: it is the most famous perfume in the world.

But I mean familiar and comforting, in a much more lived in, intimate way : I know this smell. And then I realized – it is my mum. And my parents’ room upstairs back home. She has always had several bottles of Nº5 – mainly the contemporary eau de parfum or toilette bought as presents by my dad when off abroad on aircraft trips, as well perhaps a vintage extrait or two I have brought back home from the fleamarkets here (but you know, this is one of the only perfumes where I stray from the solemn vintage niche-istas to admit that I actually do prefer the current versions, despite my understanding of the gorgeousness of the flower extracts and civet in the original parfum, and the warmer poeticisms, more balsamic and dreamy, in some of the old colognes and edts.I personally like the uncluttered freshness of this version, unlaced with animalics.)

Sprayed newly : it just smells so…………..rounded and lovely and easy and casual and bathroby : of soaps and towels and safety and a nuzzling quality of happiness and comfort in one’s skin; so …happy and relaxing. I know that Nº5 is usually advertised as the great occasion scent – galas, formal dinners in pearls and your best diamonds; all Kidman neck, Deneuve demure grandeur – and it can be that – but for me, overall this perfume is just too satiny and friendly – more pillow underslip simplicity than fabulous gown.

Given the almost mythical, curvaceous womanliness of this Chanel flagship scent – surely one of the most brilliant and brilliantly marketed products ever created, a bottle ‘sold every minute’, or whatever the legend is in France – it might seem strange that I, not very womanly in fact, should smell so good in Nº5. But I realized the other day that the contemporary edp really does kind of suit me (Just like Brad Pitt!). Yes, the initial flourish of overdone aldehydes is rather feminine to say the least, especially when coupled with the fabulous ylang ylang in the head – surely this is the ylang ylang scent of all time? Catherine? What do you say? The essential oil of cananga odorata truly SINGS in this composition – more important by far than the Grasse jasmine, roses and iris – it is definitely the ylang that forms the essential intoxication, and I love it. On me, while the iridescence of all the other notes : neroli, muguet, bergamot, (violet)?) gradually subsides into something more gentle; the softly vanillic sandalwood of Bois Des Isles then comes into play (I was stunned when D said he really liked it on me as we sat down to lunch ‘Is it sandalwood?’) There is a muskiness, for sure, never my favourite facet in any scent, but in the current version this is not like the nitro musks of the vintage which I can’t personally abide. The whole here is more like a luxuriant bubblebath; a whoosh of protectant light-pink euphoria that lasted for twelve hours at least on my skin, leaving just a warm trace that I liked having there. I know that Marilyn Monroe would have worn it better, but it doesn’t stop me from having a go myself.

Later in the evening, after an amazing day out, I then had a few more abundant sprays before going to bed; and when I brought the coffee up in the morning, was delighted by how the whole room smelled the next day – just……………..ideal. Homely. It made me feel almost homesick actually, and although I don’t overtly associate this with my mum – that would be Van Cleef’s First or Nº22, which she has worn more of late – I know that this scent has woven its way into my consciousness over successive visits as the smell of the upstairs of my parent’s house (on the subject of which, when we were talking about this scent the other day, D told me that as a young child he had climbed into his mother’s closet one day, and selecting this as his prey, then unthinkingly just unstoppered a full bottle of Nº5; and poured it all out straight onto the carpet – must have been pretty fragrant……………………..)

All of the legendariness and anecdotal power above might make it all sound as if Chanel Nº5 really is the perfume to suit all of humanity as often advertised, but, you know, it really isn’t (one of the ridiculous old taglines in the ads was : “Every woman alive, loves Chanel Nº5” – which is clearly absolute claptrap – I know plenty of people who absolutely hate it.) Just the other day a friend, in fact, unprovoked, mentioned the musk in the base and illustrated it with a vomit emoji; another told me that her father often buys her mother the parfum for birthdays and Christmases even though she doesn’t even like it, and never has – come to think of it, I have heard this several times; this is a real mistake on some men’s part, as clever commercials aside, no fragrance will please ever everybody, because that is simply not what fragranceing is all about. On some, the aldehydes sit like spare dinners on the skin, unwanted – just……wrong; outdated, fleshily artificial.

On others, conversely, Nº5 can be divine. I remember in particular one occasion when I first came to Japan and was lacking in real friendships for a time and quite lonely. One day, we had a new teacher from Scotland by way of Australia who at first seemed very stern of eye and unfriendly – ‘Oh god, who is this?‘ I thought to myself at the time : ‘And what kind of accent does she call thar ?”I was initially quite judgemental and unimpressed. Going home together on the train that evening, though, during a lull in the slightly forced conversation, a strange thing started to happen. It was as though her perfume were doing the talk for her; filling in all the gaps and ellipses – her silence, her body even, was speaking to me (in)directly and building an entirely different connection to the superficial words we were exchanging, and I found this alchemical effect extraordinarily unloosening; as I shifted closer in my seat I began to warm to her; looked at her more intently (we later became great friends). Naturally, the perfume was Nº5, and she wore it to perfection, as of course does my mum, without even realizing it, and who I consider to be the ultimate Queen Of Aldehydes.

(The last time my parents were in Japan, ten years ago, around this time.)
With my brother in France, 2008




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Unfortunately, Farouche has become a necessity. ‘Unfortunately’ : because it was long discontinued and is something of a rarity, and because now I need a stable and regular supply.

It is so beautiful. Of all the woody aldehydes , it is possibly the most understated, subtle, elegant, ‘difficult’; moody. The most androgynous. And possibly the most poetic.

It has been a slow burner. And it is certainly not sexy on me. But I find it immensely calming and dignifying; and the bottle you see above is now down to a low third.

We are going out to Yokohama tomorrow, where in one particular shop, locked away in a glass cabinet in a basement antique place near the sea, I know for sure that there is a long untouched vintage parfum.


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E1977 INCLUSIVE DISCO by 1000 COLOURS (2021)

N: One of the things I like about you is that when you go out of a day or an evening, you are not afraid to just browse the collection and try something new that takes your fancy. You are quite adventurous. I plan these things in advance as a whole, because if I get it wrong, the whole night might be ruined.

D: Thank you – though sometimes that adventurousness comes just from not being able to find what I had in mind – and being in a rush!!

N: You were out in Kawasaki the other day with Yukiro and when he complimented you on the scent you were wearing and you told him it was called ‘Inclusive Disco’, he burst out laughing. Why do you think this is? Is the name one step of PC-packaged nonsense too far?

D: I like that a perfume is called ‘Inclusive Disco’. There is something a little comical in it because it is so earnestly well-meaning – this is apparently what the brand is all about – diversity, peace, positivity etc.. It is also rather over-ambitious! I mean, how would you render the scent of an ‘inclusive disco’ in reality? It certainly wouldn’t smell like this. It would be way more chaotic and motley when you think of inclusive discos we’ve been to in Berlin or LA back in the day… That said, I like the title and I liked Yukiro’s response. I think he was surprised by the name and then his mind was grappling with how it might be ‘inclusive’ and he said, “Is it because you are including everyone in this restaurant?” which is a kind of private joke between us: I overdid Sancti (by Les Liquides Imaginaires) at Ken’s opera performance recently and the person next to me had to move!!! Oops!

N: Do we like this scent? It is described as being a leather incense and oriental floral; to me it is more about synthetic fruitiness, but I kind of enjoy the overall vibe in a way. If you were praised for how good it smells there must be something alright going on.

D: On first sniff, I was underwhelmed, but after wearing it the other day I am duly converted. It has good staying power and a cheery modern vibe, not unlike COMME des GARÇONS Concrete. I like these musk-melded modern incenses on myself. But whereas Concrete plays out in sandalwood, this tapers off in peace-loving musk.

N: The message I get from the visual presentation of this perfume is that this is an inclusive disco for those of any race and gender, as long as you are tall, lanky, skinny, under 25, and could be a model in a campaign for Gucci or Burberry. Otherwise, get the fuck outta-hayrrr. This is surely a very exclusive disco, like Studio 54, with a faschion-fascist door policy.

D: Well yes I agree. Like I said, an inclusive disco worthy of the name would neither smell like this scent or look like that. But that doesn’t stop me liking the scent – it suits me and is definitely chirpy. I would wear it to an inclusive disco gladly – but it would only be one tincture in the mix!

N: A real inclusive disco would be like that place we went to in Kreuzberg, which really wowed us because it was like nothing we had ever seen before. Literally all kinds of people; older straight couples, young technoheads, bearded men covered in piercings and nose rings and tattoos snogging each other on sofas and it all feeling very natural – it was one of the reasons we were so drawn to that city as it felt different to anywhere else we had ever been before. Gay places can be extremely excluding – in Tokyo there are strictly under this age or that age policies – men or women aren’t allowed in etc: Berlin felt more open.

D: I know. It’s so affirming to have those spaces. Ah Berlin! How I miss it.

N: I like the Ukraine cushion you made yesterday. I can’t remember where you got the material from.

D: From a little shop in Kamakura that does all these brightly-coloured felty things at quite reasonable prices. I think they are made in Thailand.

N: My favourite is the divine Japanese green Ziggy Stardust one you did recently from an old kimono obi I picked up from a junk shop for your birthday last year. I love it.

D: Thanks. I love gold with green. Opulent but also eccentric somehow.

N: We are going out to meet Joan down the hill and go round some temples and discuss the world, life, death and what comes after. I think I am sticking with the vestiges of vetiver oil + vintage Nina Ricci Farouche parfum de toilette I have been wearing as it is keeping me on a distancingly even keel. How about you?

D: Kind of in a Jicky mood today.

N: Right. We’d better start our ablutions and get ready to go out.

D: Just about to hop in the shower!


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The camellias and magnolias are all out.

Traditionally in Japan, camellias and magnolia are said to stand for perseverance : the red camellia the flower of the warrior – it represents a noble death.

As I stood underneath this magnificent tree in a local park, with its lulling medicinality , I thought about the situation in Ukraine and how harrowing it must be there.

I was surprised, also, to see an anti-war sign put up outside someone’s house – a very rare sight here, though it is true that I have seen protestors at stations carrying placards and people wearing face masks in yellow and blue in support : the revulsion and rejection of so much of the world very deeply palpable. Despite the ongoing atrocities, it gives me a vague sense of optimism.

May this conflict be resolved as soon as humanly possible.


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Sometimes I feel I have lost touch with nature. Yes, we do live in a place that is surrounded by hills and trees. But it is still urban; when you take the train down from Narita airport down here, it is shocking the first time you see it all outside of the carriage the window: true, there might be some countryside initially, some bamboo groves and torii shrines; but then, as you approach the satellite cities outside of Chiba and go through Tokyo, Kawasaki, Yokohama and down to Ofuna (our nearest proper ‘shopping town’) it visually and actually is an unbroken connurbation of 36 million people with not a hint of green belt or natural separation; everything just blending into one big mass of buildings and infrastructure that on the regular train goes on for three hours; when I first arrived here on a boiling September weekday many years ago, I could hardly believe my eyes.

Kitakamakura is probably enough for me: enough balance. If I want to go into the woods, I can: there is green everywhere that you look, unlike in the main cities, which feel excessively manmade, built up – though on a smaller scale, when you do walk through a local residential Tokyo neighbourhood, in household gardens and on street corner parks there are plenty of plants and trees (barely enough for someone raised in England) but still, most of the time it is certainly not a concrete jungle, even if it might look that way when you look down from the top of a skyscraper and see nothing but grey, with Mt Fuji standing proudly quite far in the distance two prefectures away in Yamanashi.

When I was a child, I was more of a nature boy. Where I grew up was still of course very suburban (Solihull is the very definition), but we had plenty of greenery and forest walks nearby and at weekends if I wasn’t lounging in the garden with a book from the library we would often be taken on day trips to the nearby countryside in Warwickshire or which I used to really enjoy: woodlands really fired up my imagination; the world of fairy tales and magic, the freshness of the air; I could feel the living and breathingness of it all; picking leaves off the trees or going up close to mushrooms and toadstools and creepers and ivy and moss and inhaling them; the quiet rushing of streams or small rivers (heaven); wild flowers.

I remember running through the local woods once, having broken in through a hole in the fence, with my little sister in the rain : when she came to Japan, years later as an adult, and we were caught in a heavy sudden rainstorm, she was shocked at my reaction to getting wet : as umbrella-less, like any local Japanese person, I frantically wanted to get home to avoid getting soaked. “But I thought you loved the rain”, she said to me: “Don’t you remember how exhilarated you were when we used to run in it as kids? ” And I felt slightly ashamed on hearing this , as though it meant that I had become dull and conventional and boring and no longer had my earlier passion for the euphoria of being free in the outdoors; of looking up with the sky with my mouth open.

If I am not quite as wild and novelistic as I was possibly trying to be in young adulthood, I do still think there is something extremely beautiful about moss. The moist greenness; clinging deftly to a tree trunk; respiring in symbiosis with saps and tree bark; the evanescent glow. And while Japan, at least where we are, is very far from being a wilderness (for that, you would need to go to Northern Hokkaido), the ancient trees of Kamakura and Kyoto are replete with mosses in gradations of green; generations and generations of it, naturally complementing the scenery in an arcane stillness that is numinous, serene.

The mossiest place I have ever been, by far, is the forest at Aokigahara at the foot of Mount Fuji, which, unbelievably, on a summer trip with my school many years ago, we went on a hike to with the students, despite the fact that it is very ‘popular’ and (in)famous as a place to commit suicide. ‘The last place you will ever be seen alive’. I remember entering this mystical, gloomy and cavernous canopy of old trees covered in lichen and moss with a definite trepidation; there were wooden signs at the entrance posted exhorting visitors to seek help if they were in psychological distress; to ‘please think again’ and so on and so forth; I didn’t feel it was an entirely appropriate place to be taking children, to be honest, but then on the other hand it was resplendently atmospheric and dark magical; you could almost understand why those seeking to end it all might venture there, where compasses don’t work and it is very easy to get lost, simply because it would be like falling into the arms of ‘mother nature’ – enveloped in mists and earth and wild creatures, gnarled roots at your feet; a cold, mournful death where it would probably take weeks to be found, if ever……. though magnetized by the physical beauty of the vegetation, and the entrancing vegetal obscurity, at the same time it made me shiver. I have not been back since.

In perfume, moss is dark and heavy; an anchor. By itself, I don’t find extract of oakmoss to be especially beautiful – I admit that it is not a note that I am especially drawn to, even if I do love how it is used in the classic aldehydic chypre accords of perfume like Chanel Pour Monsieur and Calandre / Calèche. As a tincture, as a fixative, it can be rendered quite exquisite and is thus an extremely important ingredient. Now, of course, the substance is banned or at least under tight restrictions by IFRA for its potentially skin sensitizing qualities, so it is quite rare to smell fragrances that are prominent with this note when you are out and about (by far the most mousse de chȇne -heavy perfume I have ever come across is actually vintage Chanel Egoïste Platinum, a scent that bears no resemblance to the original, sweet spicy Egoïste – which for some reason I abhor, but is instead a bracing, silver birch fougère luminary with rosemary, sage and in the original, heapfuls of natural oakmoss : I know, because here, like other inexplicably huge hits such as Bulgari Pour Homme, Givenchy’s Insensé Marine and Alain Delon’s sweet and suave Samouraï, Egoïste Platinum was one of those Japan-only megahits that you would smell all the time in city centres – at least on the players who doused themselves in perfume in order to stand out more back in the nineties; I thus got to know it very intimately – we even have a bottle, as I find it quite manly and erotic – the gradation from its argentine brashness to its warmer, more intimate moss).

In moss-tastic terms of course, though, the ultimate perfume is probably Mitsouko. A perennially popular perfume not only in Japan, but worldwide: the perfumista’s perfume; the holy grail (if not for me; as you know, I have regularly written about this beautiful enigma and often buy it when I find vintage bottles as I just can’t resist them) – even if it never quite makes it to my heartstrings. It obviously does though for many other perfumers and scent cravers, who are still amazingly paying homage to it over one hundred years after its original release: Zoolologist’s intriguing Civet, for example, is a fine and mellow, gently animalic blend with a huge myriad of ingredients that coalesce like late morning sunshine in a forest clearing on the fur of a wild animal ; while initially quite peaceful and lulling, on my skin it eventually becomes too insistent, stuck at a particular shade of yellow. Likewise Rogue’s excellent Flora and Fauna, which opens with a peculiarly fresh apricot note I am not sure I entirely like, is a beautifully done tribute to Mitsouko which at times during its soft, skin-loving duration – all the correct procedures of bergamot and labdanum and soft leather – I actually prefer, even if finally, at the end of the day, it doesn’t quite have the level of inherent mystique that the Guerlain is preternaturally blessed with – and I don’t think anything else really ever will.

Lichen D’Ecosse by Buly is a far more windswept and almost torridly verdant affair that does evoke some of the Hebridean landscape of northern Scotland – a place I find just too stark and mountainous and unadorned, personally (just give me a reedy river with bluebells) – even if its majestic grandeur and rugged naturalness and almost awe-inspiring rainy, bruised indigo skies is indisputable (also; the sheer difference between travelling to a Scottish loch, where there is nothing but lakes, and mountains and heather and the stags of the imagination (and possibly underwater prehistoric beasts), and where even the parking spaces and toilet facilities for visitors are built out of wood so that they blend into the background, and a place like the Kegon waterfalls in the mountains of Nikkō, with its elevator built into the natural rock and the huge number of vending machines and souvenir kiosks and noise and endless trivial distractions for all the schoolkids and old pensioners out for a day trip – I definitely know which approach to presenting natural phenomena to the public I prefer); but I digress. Eau Triple D’Ecosse (“The scent of the upright stones of Hyperborea, dotted with the lichens’ reddish-brown froth. The tartness of the cold grass fur on the hills’ shoulders, the mosses frosted with dew – the pollens sticking to the belly of dawn are left out to dry in the salty wind from the Hebrides.”, is a sea salt and foresty moss number with a cinematic sweep to it; coniferous and alive; even if – and sorry I often say this – a certain sour, contemporary synthetic sandalwood note in the base – which I smell immediately and sniff out like a cadaver dog when trying new perfumes, ruins it for me personally as a potential private purchase.

For a burst of enlivening green energy, I do love the beginning of Le Jardin Retrouvé’s latest release, Mousse Arashiyama, inspired by the Japanese idea of ‘forest bathing’, or simply walking and inhaling the trees – it gives you an immediate boost. In this case, the perfume is apparently inspired by the sacred mountains near Kyoto, which is certainly a city not to be trifled with (Diptyque’s Kyoto, a sweet bright earthy woody and beetroot rose which came out recently and whose packaging I adore, is very young university student graduation trip modern, but slightly……lifeless; and captures nothing of the extraordinary dark austerity of the ancient capital and its ghosts and its fearsomely beautiful aura ; and neither, while we are on the subject, does Comme Des Garçons’ workable incense of the same name, which I always thought was perfectly pleasant but rather overrated and not remotely rendering even the inscrutability of a simple box of daily incense from a local temple).

But can the guest-resider get too protective and precious about these things? Too much Nipponology and Japan worship can smack of western orientalism, where everything is worshipped as extraordinarily mysterious and otherworldly (when in reality it is often just as ugly and mundane as anywhere else-;) perfumes based on place names and cities have been issued for a long time now, whether from Guerlain, or Chanel or niche brands such as Gallivant- who also do a Tokyo that I feel is slightly more on point; no one worrieswhether Patricia De Nicolaï’s New York actually smells like the metropolis; so it is fine, in my book, if Le Jardin Retrouvȇ’s Mousse Arashiyama, which doesn’t really smell mossy in truth (the base of cedar and vetiver and undetectable moss accord) – isn’t reminiscent of the actual wooded area around Arashiyama – famous for its changing leaves in the Autumn, that it isn’t especially Kyoto-esque. The box and the labelling are nice; and the beginning is perfect for summer: a resoundingly light-filled green fig leaf and lentisque, bergamot brightness with a sliver of wateriness that makes it feel very positive and revitalizing to the spirits; I see young Tokyoites getting onto a train on the Yamanote line chatting animatedly in freshly fabric softened new clothes ; to me this is youthful, even futuristic; almost a sport scent I would say. Nice. Quite neat and brisk. But certainly not redolent of the note in question that bears its name; ie. a real Japanese forest with its hidden Buddhist cemetery, where plentiful moss resides perpetually on damp tombstones; on stone; in dark, umbrous glades ; like a gateway to the underworld.


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We had lunch today with a friend over from England, the lovely Aru – a very spritely, unique and romantically unfettered individual who moved to the UK through his love of The Smiths and his dream of Medieval troubadors, and who was married to the brilliantly satirical London-based sculptor Wilfred Wood for five years. Meeting through a mutual friend I lived with in Rome, D and I once spent a fascinating afternoon and evening at their studio (and amazingly curious and stimulating) house of art treasures in Hackney Wick, where the spitting images (Wilfred actually worked for the hilarious TV show, where he realized his uncanny knack for nailing the essence of both the famous and the not) were lined up on shelves; some giant; some in miniature; an organized chaos of novelty and biting comedy.

Parting amicably, the two remain friends, and it was lovely today just sitting in the gardens of the beautiful Villa Koga in Kamakura, drinking bellinis and snacking on overpriced truffle pommes frites with Aru and catching up on everything – it has been a few years – from the extended flight now necessary between the UK and Japan (over Alaska and Greenland… it will be my first time) to the differences in corona etiquette (he couldn’t believe that everyone here is still walking around in masks – he has had Covid 19 three times), to talk of what Wilfred has recently been creating – all kinds of things, apparently; he has become quite famous since that time that we stayed at his house, and with no wonder: I think his work is hilarious, a real feast for the eyes – and technically brilliant.

(( I really, badly, want these mesmerizingly odd and freakish bronze David Bowies….))

As we moved on to a more serious discussion of the ongoing atrocities in Ukraine, Aru mentioned that Wilfred had once actually done a sculpture called Vladimir Putin As A Young Boy and that it was one of his personal favourites. I thought I would share it with you. In its powerfully eerie zealotry, I think this piece captures something very precise about the now monster and dictator in its cold ice blue stare and faint glimmer of a sardonic grin : it also makes me wonder what he was actually like in his formative years, before the obsession with Russian hegemony took over his mind and he made the fatal step of his current miscalculations. For me, dare I say it, this sculpture is also undeniably beautiful, in its execution and balance and the way it seizes the former, more youthful ‘essence’ of this globally reviled politician; deliberately not so Wilfred’s latest endeavours, which comically (but sincerely) involve doing quick sketches of Putin for charity efforts in Ukraine, which you are invited to throw darts at or stick pins in – or whatever you personally choose.


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