Category Archives: Flowers

THE BLACK NARCISSUS INTERVIEW BY FRAGROOM, SOUTH AFRICA

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BLACK NARCISSUS


Hard (but exciting) to imagine there is a new tv series based on this

https://theblacknarcissus.com/2015/05/05/narcisse-noir-by-caron-i9ii/

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BITTER PEACH by TOM FORD (2020)


Bitter Peach is a fun name and concept for a fragrance – particularly one by Tom Ford. I love the presentation : a confitured venom, encased in a sealed, vitreous cyanide chamber like a nectarous poison. Or high gloss nail varnish. A bitter peach is an oxymoron : we expect the flesh to be sweet, unless we bite into the kernel of toxic amygdalin.

I am not immune to bitterness (nor averse to the taste in food or liqueurs); there can be strange pleasures to be had in that involuntary shudder. I also love the smell of peaches : fruit tones that can be found in many a classic chypre or aldehyde (the best perhaps being Femme De Rochas), lending flattering curves and inner sunshine – from MCDI’s lovely Peche Cardinal to The Different Company’s White Zagara via the Body Shop’s classic Peach Oil. They are girlish ; carefree.



The new Tom Ford release Bitter Peach, which I tried yesterday at Yokohama Takashimaya (¥41000 – about $400 for the small bottle pictured), starts promisingly, like peach pot-pourried wood shavings (blood orange, cardamom); lighthearted and easy; upbeat, but then quickly, for me at least, becomes cloying and sickly; a peach skin without pores, as davana-infused cognac and rum meld with labdanum and vanilla…………an overly sweetened confection that on most of us will smell overboiled and tongue-rotting trollope;, but which you can certainly imagine more readily – in measures doses —— on one of his gap-toothed, inveterately nubile young models.

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MADAME ROCHAS (1960)


It is evaluation time for me right now in my company, the students giving us ratings out of 5 and adding comments about our teaching and the quality of our lessons in the locked-up manual (to be taken out of the cupboard only by the most senior staff, and to be read alone in a small room down the corridor). Not being especially good at accepting criticism, I find this period – the crescendo from June to November – rather straining, and as soon as it is over and I know what is what I traditionally enter into my ultra-dreamy pre-hibernation stage where I start to detach from everything and everyone around me and just autopilot it until the second week of December, when I have a whole paid month off to hide away and do what I like.

Yesterday I realized, from the hubbub in the final class of the evening, a group of twenty very high level students who are trying to get into the nation’s top institution, Tokyo University (Todai), that these superficially very overserious young people have definitely now eased a lot around each other and that the infernal stiffness and frostiness of those initial lessons at the height of the coronafear (when I was in mask and plastic visor, shouting out like an intoxicated beekeeper and getting nowhere with them) has thawed out into something almost resembling mutual affection. They can now at least manage normal eye contact. One strategy this year has been to have them keep a notebook for writing their exam essays, which I collect and mark every week, but which I also encourage them to write anything they like in, how they are feeling; a confessional – we write back and forth, I give some written advice; and that way I have come to know some of them better, the barrier between us becoming slightly more invisible.

All the teachers are on edge at this time – it doesn’t help that everything is written in one book all together so you can see everyone else’s scores and comments as well (Japan is nothing if not egalitarian; there is very little privacy in a company setting) – the usual student/teacher power relationship here inverted: rather than doleing out report cards to nervous students worried about their parents’ reactions at home it is you, here, who are being judged instead – so I was happy, yesterday, to just get out of the more than usually pressurized building for my lunchbreak and have an amble round in the beautifully warm November sunshine.

It will not be hard for you to now guess that after fuelling up, I then couldn’t quite resist taking a quick peek in my usual secondhand megahardware store – packed with everything from washing machines to floors of old clothing and records to ornaments and useless odds and ends – even though it is a bit of a walk – to see if any olfactory oddities had washed up onto their unpredictable shores: and sure enough, there, on the perfume shelf, was a bottle of Guerlain Eau De Fleurs De Cedrat (which I love), even if it is probably the most short-lived perfume in history; at 4400 yen and not quite pristine I thought I could live without it for the time being as I would rather have a brand new bottle with the freshest citrus oils. A 15ml extrait of Madame Rochas for 860 yen, though (about £6.40)………………just clasping the box of this gem by Guy Robert (Hermès Calèche, Doblis, Amouage Gold) makes me feel as though I were gallantly riding a horse in a Jane Austen novel.

I love Madame Rochas. Cool, glassy; clear as a bell in its elegant compression of top notes, ylang ylang and muguet and rose over aldehydes and jasmine tuberose and a phalanx of other delicate ingredients ingeniously unfurling over sandalwood and musk; unperturbed, assured – yet effortlessly comforting ; No 5 blowsily coquettish in comparison; Infini oblivious; upright and unemotional confronted with Arpège, Madame Rochas is a beautiful, unshowy monument, the very essence of deceptive simplicity. Women of the day would have added a touch of this scent to finish their ensemble before heading out the door. I myself usually wear it after a bath at night to go to sleep.

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LEON CHARME & THE UNGILDED LILY (2020)


I don’t quite know how he does it, but D somehow rustled up this delightful comic miniature Roaring Twenties piece this past week for an online Tokyo cabaret.

Sit back and enjoy.

I told you we were going to party.

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TREASURE

I don’t think we even ourselves realize the impact that this year has had on us. Yesterday I met my old friend and music partner Yoko (had it really been more than a year?). It feels like longer but also as though it could have been last week. Time itself has changed.

But in that time, except for Duncan, I realize that excepting perhaps two or three nights of socializing since February I basically haven’t seen anyone. Yes, my students, but that is work : a performance. I often feel isolated and lonely with my colleagues – nice people, busy – which is why it felt almost monumental meeting Yoko yesterday for two hours of piano duet practice on rented grand pianos in Zushi : pounding out Tori Amos songs and classical pieces, the sonoroties bleeding out like prisms of the wooden church-like building flooded with natural light; it was as if all that had been building up over the past few weeks ( when in truth, as will be apparent, I almost lost it ) were finally given an outlet. I hadn’t played for over a year but yesterday we really PLAYED. Sometimes it is like sex, when you forget whose body it is and you dissolve into the universe; when instinct takes over and the music is playing you…… this couldn’t have come at a better time.

Lunch at an old fashioned Chinese turned into five hours. My god the pleasures of in-person conversation: I had almost forgotten it. With a partner you have a symbiosis : often silence in the moment is pleasure; D and I can have long conversations into the night but there is so much unspoken absorbed into our house that we needn’t.

Yesterday Yoko and I spoke in torrents : life, love, family, death, reincarnation ( she lost her mother two years ago and still hasn’t come to terms with it) but has two wonderfully eccentric, ( psychic? ) children who see her through. Suddenly at one point I found myself crying – finally something had pierced through – not a common occurrence for me but in the connection, the shared history ( we have been playing together off and on for about 23 years; done recitals and fully fledged concerts together ), the lack of artifice or polite encasements or having to choose my words carefully the floodgates were opened. And it felt immensely, and purifyingly, cathartic.

The dreadful toilets at the restaurant we stayed in.

My bicycle parked outside Strawberry Fields antique shop in Kamakura earlier today.


This morning I realized I had lost my glasses (a much more common occurrence than public weeping ), but it is a glorious day today – sunny, about nineteen – so I decided to ride down to Zushi via Kamakura to see if they were in the restaurant, meeting the D in his lunch break and having a quick look in Strawberry Fields, a place I haven’t been in a long while.

Stacks of Ricci

A favourite of Robin’s

Rare Shiseido

Damn my batteries are running out..

I am sat in a beautiful place down by the sea

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REMINISCENCES OF ROME

My mind and soul have been so eaten up with the election this last week that I almost forgot that my book ‘Profumo: Alla Ricerca Della Tua Fragranza’ comes out in Italy today.

I am excited: Rome runs deep in my blood after having lived there at the age of 21, and the thought of it being in all the Feltrinelli bookstores across the city; in the shop next to the Florence railway station, in its black and gold Italian, to be randomly discovered and perhaps dipped into by people I don’t know browsing in various places that sell books across the country, is exhilarating.

I was as profumatissimo back then as I am now: always scanning the shelves of the profumerie that dot every other street corner and coveting new scents for myself or goading on others to buy them as well; getting through bottle after bottle of Dior Fahrenheit, my signature of the time ( I can’t remember if I wore anything else, initially, except later, Kenzo Pour Homme – I can see myself on a hot summer’s night in Piazza Navona feeling ultra new; slick, young and cool in its fresh never-beforeness).

In those first few months in Rome, I had been living with some Italian university students who were taking forever to graduate, given that you yourself can decide in Italy when to take the required (oral) examinations (I think it took them about seven years )………so easy to procrastinate instead and just lounge around your apartment smoking and drinking espresso instead – amazing how quickly you make friends there and get invited to be a housemate…….. – I remember beardy, philosophical Federico and his poignantly beautiful bottle of Signoricci – one of the most refined and delicate citruses ever created; I can see it there, placed carefully on his bookshelf.

Following this I was happily living with two friends from university in our apartment next to a flashing Campari sign; the always glamorous Rachel (our diva), who wore Obsession or No 19 ( I always used to berate her for wearing such oppositional fragrances as they would sometimes linger together on clothes and create an unwanted third party); and Adam, more reserved and serious, who usually wore the hard-bodied Cerruti 1881, suiting his nocturnal exploits in the clubs near where we lived in Testaccio. We only had two beds, and had a roster where two of us would share one; one in the other. We were always out in Trastevere with our friends, Maurizio (Krizia Uomo – fantastic), and the ultra-intense Alessandra, who had a precious big bottle of Cartier Must extrait that we would pore over, and I would sniff enviously, in her room,as she told me of her obsessive train trips to see the lover that had given it to her somewhere in Germany.

Emma would come down from Florence every once in a while – a dazzling jewel box of a city that it is nevertheless less exciting than Rome – wearing her exquisite Cristalle, I believe (or had she already discovered Jardins De Bagatelle?) ;when Helen came, and we got locked in the cemetery in Testaccio sitting and dreaming in the sunset next to Keats’ grave, for all I know she may have still been wearing Eternity.

I was there again last year. And it was fascinating for me, standing in the rain in that same graveyard, alone, next to Keats, moved to tears; almost thirty years older, but though conscious of the passage of time, wonderfully alive; feeling, somehow that I was exactly the same. The same but different; evolved. A continuum. That I had not compromised myself: just a more experienced version of that hopelessly romantic young man who would come to that gated, silent place marshalled by cats and just read or write letters; wondering what life was about and what he should do, but palpitating inwardly, always, clear as a bell, with the overwhelming beauty of it all. Standing there, under my umbrella, breathing in the cold, clear air, I realized that I still feel things just as keenly, as intensely; as passionately.

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IS IT DEFINITELY ALL OVER ? I FEEL SO TRAUMATIZED !




Can’t wait for a reset.

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November 10, 2020 · 10:29 pm

THE BLUE HOUR : : : : : : : : L’HEURE BLEUE by GUERLAIN (1912)

L’Heure Bleue is a perfume that is gorgeous beyond words. Thank you so much for sending me this vintage version, Tora. I hope you are basking in this new Blue Hour in bliss.

https://theblacknarcissus.com/2017/04/11/conversations-with-nina-neil-vol-one-lheure-bleue-de-guerlain-i9i2-2/

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MA VICTOIRE by SALVADOR DALI HAUTE PARFUMERIE (2019)

We have been oppressed by a crude heathen philistine for the past four years and it is time to celebrate his impending removal, to savour the triumph of sanity over the basest impulses and to revel in this weekend’s victory: I believe that literally billions of people across the planet are big breathing beautiful sighs of relief this weekend just as me and D are: it’s like having your brain stem attached back to the oxygen tank. We know that the enraged tweets will continue ad nauseam, and that there are multiple problems in the world right now that will continue to blight and challenge humanity, but at the very least those twittering insults and impotent, grievance filled furies (the fist pounding of a grotesque and amoral toddler) will be dimmed by the fact that they will be coming from one no longer in power. They will be coming from one dining on McDonald’s alone, sequestered in a fortressed, golden mansion.

For the Orange One, all that ever mattered was his maintaining a grip on his bankrupt self, his failed businesses,and not relinquishing his power. I don’t believe for one moment he has ever actually cared about the people he purports to (the working classes); he just took advantage of their insecurities. He didn’t care about the environment, he didn’t care about whether the coronavirus killed hundreds of thousands of people, it was always just his bottom line: bring in some cash. There was no culture in this White House; no Art. All previous presidencies, Democrat or Republican, have honoured the arts in some way: this regime severed all of that at the jugular on mean-hearted arrival.

I am not naive. I am personally under no illusions that suddenly the world is righted, or that the Biden/ Harris administration will be able to perform miracles without senate control, inheriting a catastrophic economic and pandemic crisis (which could easily have been less serious if sensible precautions had been taken by person with the power to do so); politics worldwide will still continue to be tumultuous in this period we are currently living in. But at the same time, I do feel entirely justified in celebrating this morning, feeling like the citizens of Oz skipping along the yellow brick road singing Ding Dong, The Witch Is Dead, because I physically feel something oppressive has been lifted from my neck and shoulders: I feel lighter. To me, this is not political, about left and right: it is about that particular person, a bullying, trivial, nasty little tyrant, who should never have been elected in the first place.

All we want is some quiet. Not the rabid postings, lurching the world into outrage every single morning to the point where no one could think straight anymore. It has been a nightmare. Four more years of it would have been utterly intolerable, untenable – which is why I have felt so ill all week with anxiety and why so many people lined up in the cold in the United States to ensure they could vote him out: why people made sure they sent in their votes: because all people with a conscience are just sick to the back teeth of this fool: all his noise. We need a reprieve; some peace. And no matter what happens next, I feel sure that at the very least, some dignity and decency will be restored to the proceedings; that other countries will finally think they can actually have a dialogue with America again; that we are liberated.

When I was a teenager I loved Salvador Dali. A cliche – the melting clocks, the surrealistic dreamscapes all obvious draws for anyone wanting to escape the restrictions of four walled reality. As an adult I got bored of him, as you do with any artist whose reproductions you have seen a million times, until we went one sunny winter’s day to one of the biggest Dali retrospectives ever held in the world, at the Modern Art Museum in Roppongi, Tokyo, where with all the drawings and sketches and ballet posters and bizarre objets, I had my eyes opened to the sheer rapaciousness of the artist’s eclectic talent and saw a whole new side to his brilliance and imagination. To me, Salvador Dali represents expression, not repression – a flourishing of the mind – not just everything reduced to the toxicity of cheap dollar signs. We loved that exhibition, one of those days, pre-corona, where you could line up for the exhibition in the crowed, and then enjoy lunch in the strange fancy French restaurant up in the sky by the ceiling; wandering through new streets and finding curiosities; just a fun, stimulating usual day out in Tokyo. Life, in other words.

All of this will come back. And celebrants are already in the streets, in America and elsewhere, dancing and singing and delighted, deep in their souls, that the gruesome reality TV dictator will soon be off their backs. To let some colour back in : dress up, put out, wear perfume, celebrate humanity, not just this angry, cultureless, limited and corrosive capitalist redprint for the American Dream. There is so much more to life : joy, for a start. Forget about the resentment, for a moment: hating people because they are different from you. Get a hobby. Find a passion. Stop blaming other people. Spray on some perfume and go out and have a good time, or dance around your house if that’s not possible. Join the celebration.

The perfumes of Salvador Dali (or at least the perfume house that is licensed to produce them in his name now) will do quite nicely on a day like this: Ma Victoire for instance, a sultry, buttery tuberose leather vanilla, sexy and tenacious, that smells very much like vintage Christian Dior Hypnotic Poison and elides from the skin in a poised, and self-confident, seductive fashion: I think, propulsed along in the chanting jubilations if I were to catch this on the air, I would look back and see who was wearing this, and just want to kiss them, whoever they were, out of sheer happiness for this moment. I could happily pass by someone in the throng of revellers on the streets wearing Ma Reine as well, a jasmine sambac/orange blossom perfume that smells happy and gay – just anything, any scent that expresses some positivity, after the poisoned well of negativity that that creature has been trying to suck us all down into for the last half a decade: a whirlpool of hate and strife and provocation that will now, at the very least, once he is removed from the residence, be subdued.

I am so very, very, relieved.

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