Category Archives: Flowers









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April 22, 2019 · 3:15 pm

rotting datura




How nice to have a weekend free after surviving six days on the trot :; yesterday at home with wine and cooking and an 80’s kitchen disco, blissfully listening to all those old 12” singles we lugged at backbreaking maximum weight from England to Japan.


Today, en route from Kannai station down Isezakicho street to our favourite Thai restaurant, Im Aroy, Japanese jasmine perfume already in the bag; Thursday, here I also picked up a pristine Ricci Capricci velvet-boxed parfum for virtually nothing, and there will be more later – we passed these dangling, perfumed atrocities that I immediately recognized as Hell’s Bell’s, Devil’s Weed, or Datura, one of the absolute poisinest plants in the natural world, psychotropic to the max, leading to hypothermia, convulsions, visions, and death (and probably easy to just slip into someone’s tea).



I grasped and inhaled one of the non-decomposing flowers pictured, and it smelled beautiful – literally intoxicating, and much closer to Serge Lutens’ Datura Noir than I had ever realized








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Cherryade and the fluff: G de ROMEO GIGLI (1994) + DIAMONDS AND RUBIES by ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1993)










via Cherryade and the fluff: G de ROMEO GIGLI (1994) + DIAMONDS AND RUBIES by ELIZABETH TAYLOR (1993)


April 13, 2019 · 11:06 am






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April 10, 2019 · 10:13 pm






Sometimes it is difficult to distill experiences into words. Especially when they have been  among the most intense and memorable of your life (this post might take several chapters; or alternatively, realistically, as time gets swallowed up in the living of the regular week, not even amount to much at all – yesterday I went back to work, shaved my beard off, and became someone I am not again, with all the damage that entails to the body and the soul). The flight home was exhausting, memories gestating in my head, the bifurcation of cultures, the rabbit hole of my existence.




England was fantastic. It was great to have our own pad in Pimlico to slink back to this time, rather than carting suitcases on the underground and half-sleeping on other people’s sofas (those days are gone: I am too old). It meant we could retreat and conserve energy. And wake up on white, Georgian streets, and see England with new eyes. Night taxis past the Houses Of Parliament and the London Eye; gliding silently past midnight clad in new perfumes to demarcate new experience: I had been given a bottle of a perfume by Anima Vinci, and also something entirely not me (and yet me: I wore it in great profusion……after meeting Monsieur and Madame Persolaise for a catch up at an Indian restaurant, though exhausted from the night before – the launch and the gathering afterwards – there was one more assignation to Dalston to go to the house of one Lyall Hakaraia : a fascinating creature from New Zealand who lives in  permanently flower drenched air, on this occasion an almost suffocating pleasure of lilies, hyacinths and tuberoses, his own club in the basement – Femmetopia – but it was too cold for me to dance; my heating needs are now beyond reptilian – Garrick, the host of the party where I played with Anne Pigalle (did I really?) there, resplendent in what looked like black Issey Miyake……it felt like a stage set, I was in The Matrix, Lyall in silk Japanese dressing gown, classical music coming from Radio 3 as they waited for JT Leroy, who was staying there and drinking at a pub around the corner………(surreal).



I had been unable to bear the smell of all the fried onions on my clothes, to the extent that I couldn’t even wear my coat (death for me): instead I had had an emergency shower and different, boring clothes, and sick of bloody No 19, which I have been signaturing all over the shop, felt like a new skin: : :: Mugler’s Love You All sprayed all over me like a waterfall: all steamed, laundry fresh ultramodern neroli and probably lime and the most innocuous, almost angelic, white musks, for that moment it felt strange but absolutely right, and our host made motions of pleasure as he inhaled me brushing past, climbing the stairs away from the revellers in the basement to the unbelievable florality of the reeking fleurs du mal of the living room and kitchen where we sipped neat Zubrowka vodka and rambled coherently about all kinds of nonsense until it was suddenly 3am and we had to leave in order not to miss our morning trains.




Back home at my parents’, I was completely drawn to wearing Anima Vinci’s delicious Sesame Chan, a perfume of extreme, soothing comfort that fits me like a glove and is my new favourite scent. Those that like Hermes’ Vetiver Tonka will in all likelihood also like this warm gourmand based on vetiver with delicately balanced notes of ginger, hazelnut, cereals, sesame and an eventual base note of pure, soft vanilla……I was LOVING myself on the train ride home, past fields of green, lost in thought and a novel, constantly aware of the aura around me: sweet, but not too much so, fresh, light, yet long lasting and completely pleasurable ; for me this is a perfectly blended comfort blanket and I am going to wear it today in Tokyo as well (tonight, in a sharp reverse from yesterday’s dungeon of condensed office culture I am attending the launch party of a Canadian poet, Joy Waller, and her first published book of poetry, Pause: Heartbeat, at which a range of foreign Tokyoites are going to interpret some of her works, including Duncan, who will be Icarus, and myself and Lola his Grecian tormentors (Burning Bush in a sack and a rake….I am getting whiplash just thinking about it: sometimes I feel that my own life is happening beyond my authorisation and I just watch it salaciously).




It was somewhat similar at the Launch party. The day before, I had been on BBC Radio London, live, which was a terrifying experience (have I already talked about this? probably), but it was so heightened and heartbeaty arriving at Broadcasting House, getting through all the levels of security, going up to Jo Good’s floor, where she was doing her show, talking about all kinds of things: Brexit, the price of tuna steaks, Neil Chapman’s perfume book – and feel free to call in and ask him any questions about fragrance! I am also going to ask him to guess what I am wearing…….as I sat in the lobby, knowing that I would be on after the news and a song::: holding my bag o ‘ perfumes close to me, knowing I would be talking live and having absolutely no idea how it would turn out…Neil you are on in five; Neil you can come in now, as the new single by Bananarama was playing –  who were being interviewed after me – I now wished I could have hung around a bit longer and met them as I used to love their early stuff, but I was already being ushered out at that point, the fifteen minutes having gone by so quickly. Ms Good was a lovely woman; really enthusiastic, and she loved the fact that I had taken so many scents in for her to try. I found myself quite enjoying myself by the end, getting into my stride.




It all took its nerve toll, though, and although D and his parents came round in the evening, fresh from the Norwich bus and staying at the Windermere Hotel next door to hear me on the radio – like families gathering around the wireless in the 1940’s there was something very special and beautiful about this, my mum having also called up having just got back from the hairdresser’s, hearing something about tuna steaks and then not being able to believe her son was on the radio, she and dad gathered around the computer back home……








The next day though I had to be alone to get my act together for the evening. The Launch. 










There are times in your life that you know are going to be defining moments. And this was definitely one of them (hopefully not the apex, but who knows? Perhaps this was my small moment). Whatever it was, it involved people from my life coming together – ‘characters’ from my book : girls, women from the past -(and present, we are still in contact) Rebecca, Natasha, Julianne, Julia, of course Helen, but in the flesh – friends from university I hadn’t seen for twenty five years (Lesley! Artemis, it was divine to see you, seriously), my family, and Duncan’s – plus The Perfume Society, hosted by Jo Fairley, who had just rushed across London fresh from winning a Jasmine Award, and though I have realised that in truth I am not entirely comfortable with eyes and attention on me (hence not wanting to teach any more – at times I feel violated by it: : :I get more and more sensitive as I get older, not less – I thought it was meant to be the opposite); this was different: in essence a celebration. The book, with its gold-embossed pages, was piled up on a table near the entrance. The handsome duo of my cousin Dominic and his husband Scott arrived (both architects/ designers) and seemed quite taken with it; there was Mrs Dalloway from The Black Narcissus too, and Catherine, standing shyly in a corner (very nice to meet you!), Samantha from I Scent You A day, with a friend (so sorry we didn’t get to properly talk: it was like that with everyone though: I was jealous of people being able to just relax and have conversations): Emma we hardly spoke at all, which I regret: Rachel and Sally, hardly at all either (sorry!): a lovely Japanese lady who has given me some introductions to perfume people in Tokyo (I am trying to get a Japanese co-edition put out for the small but passionate fragrance lovers of this city), all kinds of people, but in truth within the swirl of the champagne and the food – which I didn’t touch, weird for me I didn’t even get a chance to relieve my bladder- and with everything going on I had to be interviewed in front of everyone and read from the book, and I was not entirely present. At the time, or immediately afterwards, I couldn’t even remember anything I said: : afterwards I realised that despite feeling like the heaviest person in the world, heavier than lead, an animated corpse jolted by electric batteries to come alive and say something, as though I was rallying myself and battening down to the primal basics, eventually I started flowing; Jo was down to earth, relaxed and saying very nice things about the book, and I let my eccentricities out – I do remember quite a few times that people were laughing.






I signed books – by the end of the event there were none left, or maybe one (Georgia, I can’t believe you bought four, or was it five?) and we all piled next door to a cocktail bar, where everyone met and talked and the time went in no time in a blur of booze and love, and we found ourself in yet another taxi going home.





So: the book is out. It came out in America on April 2nd. There have been some extremely glowing reviews from The Perfume Society, Persolaise, I Scent You A Day, Australian Perfume Junkies, The Fragrant Wanderer, and Old Herbaceous (thanks very much), all of which I am so delighted with, – you never know how things will be received,) so it does seem that my crazed and pressurised labours of last year were not in vain. I expect the intense and touching memories will eventually decompact themselves and I may write more on all of this again, but for now I have to get ready for Duncan’s piece tonight, again on stage: : what has happened to me! Am I an extroverted introvert or the other way round: (how about you?). His piece, based on another’s poem, on the intense desire to escape life, or at the very least reality. Which, ultimately, in many ways, is what my book is basically about. The desire for beauty, and the transcendental.








The reviews:











BLACK VINES by KEROSENE (2014) +my last three SURREAL days in London



– Anne Pigalle





I have had an unbelievable few days in London but as I am preparing for tonight’s big launch event ( The Perfume Society, mine and D’s family, old friends, people I haven’t seen for over twenty five years all in attendance), this might have to be an abridged version. I feel slightly breathless.



On Monday we went to Rouillier White (the perfume shop extraordinaire in East Dulwich where the event tonight is to be held), just to get our bearings, and to meet the owner, Michael Donovan, who is highly involved in all aspects of the industry , owner of the shop and his own perfume line, St Giles, and who was incredibly friendly, down to earth, ebullient and effusive with an almost intimidatingly vast knowledge of and passion for scent ( he loves the extreme, the wonderful and the weird, like Black Vines, a smell which is like cramming your face with licorice allsorts while guzzling ouzo or pernod – I have never known such a shocker of aniseed in such high concentration over cinnamon and woods – one of the most singular scents I have ever experienced : I asked for a sample, while D bought a bottle of Histoires de Parfum’s excellent 1899, a tobacco celebration  of the birth of Ernest Hemingway whose sillage on the streets of London  leaves me giddy with pleasure).




What I also really respect, aside knowing everyone who is anyone ( I heard some tantalizing secrets ) is Michael’s ethos : he deliberately won’t stock anything over 150 pounds because he believes it can alienate certain people in the local community – when luxe is taken to absurd levels of snobbery – and so he also has very inexpensive colognes stacked close to the higher niche to make the whole experience more relatable;  while in the home furnishings section there are wooden chopping boards made by prison inmates to help them get back on tbeir feet after they are released; lights made by Syrians living in war zones to keep them alive – for me this is a beautiful place that celebrates perfume but is also socially conscious and very human. I couldn’t really ask for a better place to celebrate the book ( I will be taking the audience on a tour of some scents that are featured in Perfume but are also sold there as an interesting collaboration).






Tursday was UNBELIEVABLE for me. As a pre-launch party, a friend had spontaneously decided to hold a gathering at his stunning flat at the Barbican – which has a 26th floor fully panoramic view of the entire city that has to be seen to be believed). I met the tailor to Queen Noor, the king or queen of the London underground  drag and cabaret scene who cannot live without a house full of hyacinths and tuberoses, a New York stand up comic, old friends I hadn’t seen for decades, and, to my utter astonishment, on a whim, because we had been connected through Facebook, a singer – Anne Pigalle ( pictured), whose album from 1986, Everything Could Have Been So Perfect I have loved ever since, and whose second one, 33 years later – Ecstase, a drunken, Fassbinder evocation of late night bars and chansons ( she calls herself The Last Chanteuse ) we have recently been listening to in our kitchen.



Not only did she decide to come to the party, even though we have never met in person ( this was my first time meeting a pop singer whose records I own and I was slightly starstruck), we ACTUALLY PERFORMED TOGETHER. I quickly tried to work out the chords to Looking For Love on the grand piano and then we just did it as friends chatted drinking red wine.




I am still reeling.











And then yesterday : I was at the BBC, on Radio London, speaking live in front of half a million people in a segment between Brexit and Bananarama with the lovely Jo Good, a really fun woman and genuine perfume lover who clearly really likes my book (as she was quoting extensively from it )………. …    I don’t know ::::::::the whole experience was dizzying: all the security, the rushedness of it (‘ok Neil, you’re on after the news and a song’), and then suddenly there I was, just saying whatever came into my head over the natural course of the conversation  and then flushed and mindbombed out into the fresh air where Duncan was waiting for me.






He and his parents have just gone out for the day, to go to Westminster to see all the Brexit protesters – for and against- quite interesting to see it all up close, history being lived,  and do other sightseeing – and let me just mull on what I am going to talk about tonight while I marinate in the bath  ( a gorgeous Italian iris soap I found at a charity shop which will prepare my No 19 very nicely indeed ).






I know these days will remain with me forever.






I will get back to you later.








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I am not one for the barbers ( I have actually had a phobia of getting my hair cut my entire life), but after a pub lunch in Pimlico, on the spur of the moment, I decided to pop in to a place on the corner of the road – all tattoos, bikers, ZZ Top and Guns N Roses – to have a quick hair cut and beard trim.



The stylist was from my neck of the woods – Birmingham – and was as beautiful as a woodland satyr: piercing blue wolf eyes, lanky, floppy indie boy hair, and as the d and I sat down to beers ( since when do you get beer at the barber’s? I have been in the wrong country for too long ) we discussed horror movies, Japan, and what to do about my conservative visuals ( only Burning Bush is wild and wears anything ……… I myself am boring and staid fashion-wise in the extreme).




He smelled really nice. Typical – blue sports fragrance- but not intrusive, nor abrasive, not staggeringly brutalizing your senses like so many I have come across: I assumed it was just some supermarket body spray but was intrigued enough to ask him about it eventually, and it was Versace’s Eros.




We havejust got back to the flat and his smell is all over me. I can smell myself and him on my clothes and skin, like a forty minute infatuation that lingers on the body like an imaginary kiss. And I think this is what perfume is : even if the scent in question is not a masterpiece (which this unquestionably isn’t), if at the very least it is balanced and well made, and suits the skin of the individual wearing it,  it seeps into your consciousness and bloodstream….,, the momentary pleasures of real, and spontaneous, human interaction.






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