Category Archives: postcards from the edge

I RISKED MY LIFE FOR SOME SPICED CHINESE CHICKEN

 

 

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Sometimes you suddenly cross a line.

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, we decided on the spur of the moment – tempted by the thought of eating something different from the last twelve satisfying, but occasionally too predictable, weeks of home cooking – to just do it : go and eat in a favourite restaurant. I  had actually already broken my own hymen of taboo a couple of hours earlier.

 

 

 

I was lonely.

 

 

 

 

When D went back to work on Monday, I enjoyed being alone for about 45 minutes max,  then immediately felt too solitary and empty. For me, the best solitude is when you are not alone – when the other person is in another part of the house for most of the day, doing their thing, and you are doing yours, and then you meet up for coffee and meals at certain times and then watch something together in the evening. To me, this is the essence of happiness. You become completely acclimatised to it when you are together 24/7 for three entire months. It becomes natural – you are inseparable. And I felt both intensely restless yet also desolate on Monday, going down to the lake alone, trying desperately hard to concentrate on, and enjoy, reading. Yesterday, I couldn’t do it again and decided to just spontaneously meet him outside the school gates, something – unbelievably – I have never done before in 14 years of D working there.

 

 

 

I had been at home, looked at the clock as it ticked towards the afternoon and just thought fuck it – I am going to cycle down into Kamakura, even though it looked like storm clouds overhead and heavy rain, packing raincoats into my rucksack just in case and then just gliding down the hill at full speed past all the pungently fecund flowers that are out right now suffusing the air with their bee smells, all the moist greenery, past the temples and the people on the streets (still not so many, but some sitting spaced out in coffee shops, a sense of stirring and the lid being taken off the pressure pot now that the state of emergency has officially been lifted across the whole of Japan, a lightening in the air, a less tightening in the chest, a physically palpable sensation of cautious optimism and movement tangible in the shared space). I felt enlivened and bolstered, like we were all entering a new chapter.

 

 

 

 

People are cautious though. Which is obviously the right attitude to be taking. Even if it took quite a long while to get to that point. As reported here, when I was going crazy with exasperation from January onwards, the quarantined, disease-ridden cruise ship stranded at Yokohama Port dealt with the authorities with jaw-grindingly infuriating incompetence, the refusal of our schools to look the situation squarely in the face when I was permanently baffled by the willing oblivion that seemed to be the status quo for so long when it was obvious that the world was heading into a pandemic and there seemed to be zero trend towards social distancing and I feared a calamitous siege of the hospitals as seen in many other countries, somehow, people just kept their calm, gradually adopted the measures (most people wear masks here anyway, especially in winter and spring; people are naturally more socially distant in the sense of not shaking hands nor hugging and have for a long time had to learn how to negotiate space given the situation on rush hour trains on weekday mornings); somehow, the government’s policy – which I was melodramatically opposed to for a long while, and it did, it must said,get a bit hairy for a while with Tokyo hospitals becoming overwhelmed with severely affected COVID 19 patients – of limited, precision point testing, but treating those that obviously needed to be treated, while the population as a while complied with the lockdown, unlike the foolish protesters in some other countries who can only ever seen government intervention as a threat to their ‘liberty even though by doing so they are risking the shutdown of their lungs and then the failure and then perishing of their vital organs, leading to painful death in complete isolation – somehow ( I still can’t completely explain it to myself fully and will be re-analysing this for a while) , the country as a whole has pulled it off, the World Health Organisation making a statement the other day that in Japan, the coronavirus response had been a ‘success’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Obviously, we are not ‘out of the woods’. Anxiety remains. Convenience stores and most shops have plastic surrounding tills and cashier desks; the employees are masked, and it has become natural to not stand too close to other people. But, as I said, the feeling was definitely different yesterday, and, seeing an outside table free, tucked in a corner on a woody veranda by itself, a seat directly facing Duncan’s school gate across the street, I made the split-second, unconscious decision to just park my bike, buy a beer, and sit down, watching the world go by, the masked teachers coming out one by one from the security guarded gate (there are no students there yet, and they are working reduced schedules, gearing up for a probable full return – like me – for next week. )

 

 

 

 

 

 

I went to the counter. Paid my money. Sat down. The server brought me my drink. I sipped from my glass. Watched faces, others walking by – it felt humanising and stimulating. Still a little daunting, drinking from the glass. But hygiene has never been a problem in Japan, and the servers in the cafe were very cautious; I figured it was no more dangerous than handling the grocery shopping that we have been doing locally for the last twelve weeks – and anyway, the crisp, draught ice cold beer tasted delicious. I felt a sense of ‘general positivity’ for the first time in a long while: you realise that, yes, you might be alright Jack – and we were; in our suppressed dream routine, in the house and on the usual cycling route – but it is not the same as being a part of the outside world, which everyone, except for the most confirmed social recluse or hermit, ultimately wants. I loved seeing human beings again. A young couple, sat on the other side of the veranda, having an argument – both pretty and ludicrously petulant; I couldn’t understand why she was taking his aggressive taunts at her, and could picture them in old age, if they stayed together, encrusted with misery and resentment if they didn’t change their ways, but that was just my personal take – they were just immature and learning how to do relationships; they will doubtlessly break up ; the point was that I could look at them and listen to them, keep myself to myself, but be part of a wider picture. It felt hydrating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eventually, D emerged from the school premises, surprised but happy to see me, and we decided, rather than go straight home, to just take some random meanderings down the backstreets of Kamakura, taking pictures of things we had never noticed before, seeing new small details; taking them all in. We decided to just go and sit outside one of our favourite temples and just talk for a while, passing a Chinese restaurant we had once been to on the way and I suddenly decided: I WANT TO EAT CHICKEN IN THAT PLACE. LET’S GO. Normally, of course, this would be completely par for the course – you go out, you eat out. Recently, however, it has felt unthinkable; horrifying. Even yesterday morning. But it is interesting how the psyche works: sometimes you just move through the inhibiting membrane to the other side again without thinking too hard; it is a natural metamorphosis. I said, jokingly, I am willing to risk my life for some spiced Chinese chicken and dumplings and D, to my amusement, was also effortlessly persuaded.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we mosied around further until it was open for dinner, dipping in and out of old temples sites or down the back streets or by certain points of the river, until it was time for opening hour, and we took the plunge. We went in. The only customers. The tables spaced out (exactly as they were before; I am a claustrophobe, so can only go into restaurants, bars, cafes or pubs where there is enough room to breathe and manoeuvre – I won’t even consider them otherwise; I know which places work for me ); open windows were letting pleasantly naturally temperatured air move freely about the premises; the staff were all masked and delighted they had some customers, and we sat down. We ordered. Ordering food. Later, some other people came in and took up some more tables- the restaurant had also been doing a take out service for people who wanted freshly cooked Chinese food on their way back from the office: a fair number of people cycling or walking by to stop and order their dinner. The background music was good – very eclectic, cool, not too loud – a frequent problem for me – the food was fine; not as amazing as I had been expecting, perhaps, but still extremely satisfying; spicy with chilli and they do a great lemongrass-infused, almond and apricot stoned annindofu : but it was rather the normality of the situation that was thrilling, the sense that the world had shifted a gear a little, that economic activity was resuming; that the inevitable interdependence of people in any society was starting up again. I felt kind of elated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Also, I have to say, I liked the symbolic nature of the restaurant that we had chosen, which I think was semi-deliberate on my part, once I had thought of it. I am no apologist for the government of China: the regime is brutal, and now on a rampage:  God knows what is going to happen in Hong Kong; I don’t believe their death toll or infection figures any more than I do Russia’s or any other country’s; and it is obvious that the oppressive Communist party  were trying to conceal the true extent of the initial outbreak in Wuhan, and that the very reason that the majority of these coronaviruses exist in the first place is due to the circumstances in which livestock and wild animals are kept in wet markets in China and other regions in Asia, such as Vietnam and Indonesia. Though it will be extremely difficult to stop or reduce these cultural practices (try making Northern Europeans stop drinking heavily, or get Americans to give up their guns; ingrained tendencies are very hard to remove from any culture), the W.H.O must insist that action be taken in order to prevent a reoccurrence of this global disaster. They have to be pressured into doing so, diplomatically. Presumably, China, if only for its own interests, and to regain some international respect, will have already realized this too and will do their best to halt the trade in exotic species. If anyone has the militaristic power to stamp something out, surely it is China.

 

 

 

 

 

Despite all of this, though, to me, only the most facile, and unintelligent person will reduce this pandemic to a China-hating trope. Racist people have such dull minds. Such limited thinkers. So unphilosophical, bigoted and trite. I despise nothing more. Things are never completely simple. Which countries colonised more vulnerable ones in the past and reduced their cultures to debt-ridden third world states prone to disease? MERS originated in the Middle East; Ebola in Africa; the opioid epidemic a complex economic web over continents and social groups. Where did malaria first come from? : who procured the mosquitoes? It could even be argued that the biggest global killers, such as obesity, heart disease and diabetes, stem directly from the Fast Food Culture of the USA and the global behemoths that deliberately spread the unhealthy practices that follow when such innutritious food is introduced into a society; diseases caused by the intentional spread for economic gain by poor eating habits surely account for far more deaths a year than this virus ever will. It is all complex; we are all interlinked; It is simply boring,  moronic, and not necessary to demonize one particular society ; the way that Trump leeringly pronounces the ‘China virus’, with extra sarcastic emphasis on the former word, is sickening to the human soul: people who actually think for themselves, and are not swayed by cheap, vile, impulses. The man is such a dick. Always the very lowest common denominator. Tacky. Corrupt to the marrow. Undignifying to his country. It’s almost as if the atrocious death toll in the USA is a spiritual reaction to his ‘government’s’ leadership;  a malaise made physically manifest. Perhaps I am going too far saying that, I don’t know, but in any case, to me, the answer is not to become more insular, more nationalistic, more racist, more full of hatred, more ready to blame and to avoid responsibility for one’s own mistakes, but to open up. Start the dialogue. And yesterday’s meal, which felt like a new beginning for me, felt like the ideal place to start.

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Filed under inexplicable happenings, LOVE, postcards from the edge, Uncategorized

HEARTLESS HELEN by PENHALIGONS (2019)

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I had promised myself I wouldn’t write anything today as I am feeling mind-wiped, but seeing this just-out-in-Nippon release in Takashimaya ( a take no prisoners, self confidently fresh and sharp mandarin tuberose neroli that she would never wear in a million years though I might ),  I am simply putting this up to pique the amusement of my best friend Helen – who is anything but heartless

 

 

 

 

 

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– though she can be severe and cut to the core and tell it like it is because she seems to understand me better than possibly anybody else: a soul twin, telepathic understanding that, though we speak far too little ( as we are both lazy and crap ) we know, as long as we remain intact, we will always have.

 

 

 

 

 

 

( the picture above is H giving me a pep talk before my Perfume Lovers London talk of 2014 ….. god how time so quickly flies……)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Helen has talked me through many a difficult situation: like my mother (in the earthquake, my operation, both were amazing ) they tell me just the right combination of reality and boost. A hotwire to my sensibility;  fraternal umbilical straight to my fevered, potholed  brain.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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We are also both hypochondriacs. So god knows how she would feel being here where I am today, in Yokohama,; the biggest China Town in all of Asia, where a cruise ship is quarantined off shore walking distance from where I have lessons with passengers coming down like flies with the coronavirus, and where, as you can see, masks are selling out and there is a very uneasy feel in the air – as there is globally – as people are wondering what to believe, and whether they are over or underreacting; where being on packed trains feels unpleasant and dangerous, and where tempers get frayed —

 

 

 

 

– —- my ragged own, especially ( I had an argument with my closest Japanese male friend on the bus earlier this afternoon. about a common colleague who was espousing theories the other day about only the ‘weak’ being in danger of contracting the virus and being very arrogantly ‘unconcerned’ about the illness –  —- so would that include me, then?  having had very serious pneumonia in my left lung twice before ; I didn’t like the almost Nietzschean Ubermensch implications of what he was saying (and what of the immune stressed sleep deprived students, just before the most important exams of their lives ?); my friend said it was a linguistic misunderstanding: I responded with something below the belt about the man’s appearance…., oh when I get on the defensive I can be very venomous ; bile slips from my tongue with slippered ease.,..  …. never mind Heartless Helen; it is more like Noxious Neil (so should I wear the partner in the set, then  : the devilish and dastardly woody tobacco scent, Terrible Ted? )

 

 

 

 

 

No : I think Helen would suit me much better : we need proud nosegays in these pestilential times; bright flowers (Penhaligons calls this a ‘fearless conquistador’), and everybody knows that I love oranges.  don’t think about it, H would say, rationalize, hone in to the very best perspective; reverse or brake my hysteria  —-   ———- or at the very least, just try and  steer me towards a more pacified lucidity

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHEN YOU SPRAY ON THE WRONG PERFUME

 

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DAMN.

 

 

We have a French goth queen diva coming to our house for dinner tonight and I wanted incense and intrigue : the mysterious impenetrability of L’Artisan’s  genius Eau Du Navigateur.

 

Instead I blindly grabbed and copiously sprayed a perfume in the same bottle : Jour De Fete.

 

 

So instead of balsams and coffee and repressed spices and a hierarchical mellow, I smell like blowsy sugared almonds drowning in sad musk.

 

AAAAAAAGH.

 

 

Have you ever done this?

 

 

It is too late to shower and change.

 

 

 

She will soon be approaching the hill..

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Filed under Almond, Faux Toxic, postcards from the edge, Powder, Psychodrama

ALL OVER MYSELF ::::::::: CRISTAL Pour Homme by AMOUAGE

 

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On Monday morning at Strawberry Fields in Kamakura I had a naughtyish splurge on a cache : for sixty pounds sterling, a vintage 30ml Opium parfum, a No 19, a Caron Fleurs De Rocaille extrait, but these were kind of thrown in, really, because the real purchase, and prize, was this vintage edition of Amouage Cristal for men ( or possibly Gold? Experts please weigh in ) that was roaring to me silently from the top of the glass shelf.

 

 

 

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The bottom of the bottle says Cristal, apparently a rare perfume on eBay that sells for around 1,000 dollars  – the Japanese internet has one for half that

 

 

 

 

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but the notes do seem to match those of Gold, an intense ( though this word doesn’t do it justice, not remotely ; I have never known anything like it ), aldehydically animalic, musky soapy floral that smells just like a pristine extract of Madame Rochas parfum on United Arab Emirates steroids and cristillated to spectacularly nuclear strength.

 

 

 

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The second I sprayed this oily, golden slick of perfume on the back of my hand I experienced a delirium tremens of being enveloped, head to toe, in regal downiness and flowers; rose, jasmine, but most specifically a powdery sandalwood and overall smell that reminded me very specifically of Imperial Leather soap – which I have always loved, and can use up a whole bar of in one long sitting…………….despite the swirl of richness gradually coalescing into one skin smell, the overall feeling is definitely that familiar scent; I use the talc and the deodorant spray, and having this too as the main event after all that initial background pampering will be orgiastically pleasurable for me. I was practically WRITHING on the train back home in olfactory arousal: tending and loosening like a cat in heat ……  perhaps the sublimated civet, that I experience without consciously sensing it: some secret code of sensuality immersed in the blend that makes it just so horny yet so MAJESTIQUE.

 

 

 

 

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To me, anyway.

 

 

 

 

D was having none of it.

 

 

 

 

 

“it smells……. pissy, or something” he said when we met in Ofuna : “I don’t like it”.

 

 

 

 

 

“UGH”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

And on Basenotes :

 

 

 

 

“Musky, soapy floral, like taking a bath in the clawfoot tub of my gtandmother’s house in the seventies “

 

 

 

says one reviewer.

 

 

 

“I got through the initial blast of granny’s partially soiled bloomers, tiptoeing around the house trying to avoid my wife”,

 

 

 

 

says another.

 

 

 

 

Most other reviewers spin variations on this ‘old lady’ incontinence theme ( WHICH I DON’T GET AT ALL ::: I JUST SMELL SWOONWORTHY ARAB PRINCES IN WHITE ROBES )

 

 

 

– an (ageist, sexist ?), scaredy-cat reaction to a man’s scent that veers from the usual, ‘masculine’ brutality? Or maybe Duncan is right after all and I am just blind : though he does like the beginning, which is glorious: derailingly erotic for me personally, there is something in the base he can’t abide. A grimacing recoil.  It almost makes me fearful, like some dreaded halitosis I am unaware of, that my olfactory apparatus has gone awry. Why does it smell like that to him ??????

 

 

 

 

As another reviewer of the perfume says,    (as I mentioned I think this perfume must be Gold, (though please correct me if I am wrong) / could the ‘cristal’ on the glass be just referring to the material of which the bottle is made? It does feel ludicrously expensive]]

 

 

 

 

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Yes. That was what I was wanting to say.

 

 

 

 

Wow is precisely the word I would use to describe this extravagant creation.

 

 

 

Which obviously I am only going to be able to wear indulgently alone, doors locked and bolted ,at home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE PROMENADE OF THE DAMNED: : : : : :: :WHEN YOU WEAR A PERFUME YOU HATE

 

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I woke up through a tunnel of nightmares on Saturday morning and opened my eyes. Duncan had gone in to work for the opening ceremony of the school year; I had to get myself together for the evening’s performance.

 

 

 

 

Meeting Lona in a park to practice our moves, described with great precision by D in his notes (almost impossible for a person like me, who possibly has dyspraxia – a horrific clumsiness, as any of my friends or family members would vouch: a virtual lack of coordination and spatial awareness (which is why I would never drive – it would lead to death))     ……….I can’t even remember one part of dance choreography, nor get left and right correctly)) We nevertheless went through the instructions, like Japanese junior high school students doing their hip hop routines unselfconsciously in municipal areas for hours, to get them right

 

 

 

 

 

 

D then eventually turned up, reeking of, and drenched in, Rose Jam by Lush, a perfume I know he hates, passionately (when he hates a perfume there is always a visceral revulsion and rejection which begs the question why on earth he was wearing this sticky, Turkish rose, geranium and honey perfume that is like plunging your tongue into dollops of sickly sweet Russian rose jam in rice pudding smeared on somebody’s body)………………….well, the piece, based on an inscrutable poem called The  Promenade Of The Damned, had we, the handmaidens – though I felt somewhat more Anglo-Saxon than ancient Greek, more like a disrobed courtier from Yorgos Lanthimos’ The Favourite – burning candle wax onto his laurelled head, and rose petals (drenched in Nahema); blowing glitter (he is still sparkling this morning); we came on bearing a pictorial representation of the sun, and a hand (Icarus), and rakes on either side, a bit grim reaper::  you could feel a slight hush and murmur in the audience as the first bit of visual stimulation of the night changed the sphere; ;;;;D coming in in a chameleon’s head and doing a slow motion flight towards being burned (and he had wanted a literal rose scent to augment the feeling in the room, seen a perfume with rose in the name back home as he panickedly tried to get his things together in the suitcase and come up to Tokyo, having forgotten, somehow (I never would have) that this was a perfume, that for him (and me, actually – just too potent and cloying), is very, very wrong. 

 

 

 

 

 

In England I had secretly scented his coat with two perfumes: on the collar, too much 1899 by Histoires De Parfums, an aromatic spice very redolent of fresh tobacco (in homage to Ernest Hemingway), one of a few perfumes I bought there, for D, as he loves tobacco perfumes, the other being a lavender for my mother, and a full bottle of Fragonard’s delectably lascivious amber, Reve Indien, which out shalimars Shalimar in its civety richness (gorgeous); I had also borrowed Daphne’s Santa Maria Novella Patchouli for radio interviews and surreptitiously lined his coat with it, at the base, at the back.  Now this is a classic patchouli, brilliant, tightly made, but it did, on this woollen coat, smell pungent as hell, and still continues to do so; right now, the earthy, musky scent of the entrails of patchouli in its driest death throes trails him like a long unwashed hippie, the balsams of the 1899 still lingering like sex on dirty sheets; the cloying erotica of his detested rose jam almost making me quite embarrassed last night, post performance, as we tried to find somewhere to eat : nowhere would have been suitable, I knew this: people in restaurants would have been repelled by how strong we smelled – – – – I had also rather overdone the Nahema – we smelled like an orgy of roses and dirt musk, most definitely enigmatic and troubling; but also, quite possibly, quite disgusting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under occasionally sickening scents, postcards from the edge, Rose perfumes

A DISASTROUS END TO A DAY OF VINTAGE PERFUME SHOPPING

 

 

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On Monday, I hooked up with my perfume-adoring friend Catherine for a day of scent hunting in Tokyo. Having moved up to Yokohama from Osaka, where she lived with her husband for a long while, she was yet to visit any of the troves I occasionally frequent to plunder for old vintages and any other bargains of that nature, and was eager to see what we might find.

 

 

 

Me too. The excitement of finding a beloved classic in some cabinet never abates, even if such moments are getting rarer these days as the sources gradually dry up. Still, although I was worried about disappointing her in case she had grandiose images in her mind of veritable Aladdin’s caves overflowing with abandoned, boxed, pristine Guerlains (“Will there be L’Heure Bleue?” – no there will not, of that I am sure; only Mitsouko in all its possible vintage forms, if ya pleasey – but neither of us is particularly bothered by Mitsouko); I was a little apprehensive that the day was going to turn out a big bore and that there would be nothing to buy.

 

 

 

First stop was the arcade in Jiyugaoka, where Catherine immediately found a pristine, perfect Caron Narcisse Noir extrait for 500 yen. She had never smelled it before and proffered it up for my inspection to check if this is how it should be (me being The Black Narcissus and all), and it was – a sickening bargain at five dollars. Beautifully glinting, fresh, and as unique as ever, she snatched it up without a second thought. Now let’s get the slightly gruff  shop owner to open up the very cabinets. Where all of the main treasure is to be had….

 

 

 

 

Not having worked out how we would, er, divide any of the loot were we to come across any, only a few minutes had passed before the linguistically-envy-inducing polyglot interpreter’s hand alighted wantonly on a Le Galion Violette parfum (exquisite! sheer powdery, swooning violets cold as the earth), also for 500 yen. I also wanted it but no I want it insisted Catherine in a tone I couldn’t argue with – we were like siblings arguing over cake, getting ready to shove each other out of the way in the event of coming across a Vol De Nuit – but no, only Mitsouko-ko-ko-ko, always that bloody perfume……. but I had found a  vintage Obsession parfum (heaven! can’t wait to apply it to a cashmere scarf) and a Rochas Femme parfum, a scent I like to wear at night sometimes for its deep tapestries of fur and fruit; C had spotted an unopened Givenchy Interdit, a scent I had never really liked for some reason, not entirely, until we later retired to a coffee shop and she prized open the wax top of the bottle and the most gorgeous ylang, rose, jasmine and iris top notes wafted out and I was in heaven, finally appreciating this perfume for the first time in its beautiful, pristine edition. Audrey and Hubert would have been proud.

 

 

 

 

 

The scent of aldehydes that had been released from decades of imprisonment in their glass bottle and floated their way across the mille crepe and cafe au lait of the table was joined, and contrasted, in an anti-intuitively stunning blend of that Interdit and a rare bottle of Donna Karan Black Cashmere that Catherine had bought in a shop in Asagaya,  the frankincense and dark woods and musks of which Catherine was sniffing at her arm like a madwoman in love, and whose sillage, from a mere spritz, filled up all the air around her brilliantly. What a great scent ! (and why, on earth, are such perfumes discontinued? We all know the usual tedious answers, but still – women in woods, yes please; so much more intriguing that the vulgar, IQ lowering pink sludge that is the current scent trail of many current ladies’ favourites). She smelled great and was enjoying the proceedings : yes, we were pleased with our bargains – this was about 35 dollars, but considering how much this scent can go for on eBay now, it was definitely a steal. Plus, the way C was swooning over the perfume on her hand – such fun to be out with a true perfumaniac like her- the pleasure is real – you know that this is going to be a perfume that she wafts about her as she interprets for the upper echelons of society, politicians,  and even the visiting European royalty.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So. Where next. I had been saving the best til last. We would do bargain recycle stores in Asagaya, and then there would be the crowning glory, the legend that is MARISOL. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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It is strange, but I haven’t written about this place before until now for some reason, even if I have mentioned it in the introduction of my book as an incredible old vintage perfume emporium that stocks practically anything you might want as a teasing detail of how much fun it can be in Tokyo; floors and floors of precious Carons, Guerlains, perfumes from the eighties and nineties; wrapped Jacomos, a repository of your teenage dreams. Still there. Tantalizing stacks of boxes reaching up the stairs to forbidden floors; the most amazing old perfume shop in the metropolis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I had also been a bit disingenuous though. The big (and it is a big, a really big) problem with this shop is that the owner, pictured, is an extraordinarily ‘difficult’ woman, to say the least. Famously so. I was of course aware of this, but as I have bought a couple of things from the shop before – Jacomo Parfum Rare Extrait and Lancome Trophee, I know that once you butter the old bag up a bit, or if she happens to be in the right mood, she becomes more personable and guides you around the contents of her treasure house and introduces you to some of her fabulous wares. Also, seeing that Catherine speaks impeccable Japanese, of a level I could never attain in a thousand years, with all the nuances of register, politeness, grammatical accuracy – I come across like a grunting chimpanzee in comparison – which Madame Marisol scorns openly, pretending not to understand a word I am saying – I thought that as I was gingerly entering the holy premises with not only a bona vide perfume connoisseur but also someone with the language skills to negotiate the croc-infested waters, we would succeed in gaining access to some of the hidden preciousnesses – I dream of a Caron Poivre parfum with the studded glass tears; or even just to look at and gaze with my retinas at some magical Guerlain extracts glowing silently from their boxes begging secretly to be opened and worn on the skin, but………………………..…sadly this was not to be. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Having been in Marisol before, which is situated in completely the wrong area of Tokyo – bang in the middle of the youth district, where twenty year old couples smooch on down from the 109 department stores geared to their age group, and pancake houses and cinemas and jean shops and cheap izakaya to get drunk in – and, passing the inviting windows full of cute looking perfumes, once entering, quickly get sent packing, I kind of know what to expect.  I have seen this happen before: an innocuous and sweet young couple came in and politely asked the proprietress if she had any fragrances that smelled like tea, only to be told nai’a very abrupt way of saying ‘there aren’t any’, that NO regular person in any form of customer service would dream of uttering in a million years, this being the apex of refined, artificial politeness in the world, comparable to none, which is what makes it all so surprising and even upsetting: I remember the look on their faces (but what did we say wrong? ).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The answer is nothing. The woman is as bitter and twisted as a hag in a fairy tale: the witch in the forest you feared as a child, just that this is a perfume shop instead, and Catherine wandered in as innocent as Red Riding Hood knowing none of this. Should I have warned her? As I said, I honestly thought that given her Japanese and fragrance credentials, that we would be fine. Also, I didn’t want to spoil the surprise : I thought that we would enter, gaze in awe at all the potential perfumes we could buy, and then charm the fuming, chuntering  psycho-hag into ‘letting ‘ us buy one of them.

 

 

 

 

 

Watching two young people go in as we climbed the street towards the shop, I waited for the expected thirty seconds before they were sent out (!!I know – what kind of shop IS this?!!), and out they came, right on cue, looking perplexed – what just happened?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We entered.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And the air was immediately hostile (in fact, it felt as if there was no air). Unwelcoming. Compressed. Sat on her chair, the owner of Marisol sat leviathan-like, unmoving, emitting  silent, noxious fumes of hatred – like an old cobra awaiting death.

 

 

 

 

Despite the plenitude of cabinets of perfumes we were both fascinated by, she clearly didn’t want us in there. You felt an uneasiness in your chest, a strong sense of discomfort, her eyes piercing into yours and yet clouded over at the same time with foregone, spiteful conclusions.

 

 

 

 

 

‘How much is the Leonard Tamango?’ I asked.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘I don’t know’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

(?)

 

 

 

 

Catherine:

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Do you have L’Heure Bleue?’

 

 

 

 

 

‘I do, but it’s expensive.

 

 

 

 

 

(?!!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘How much is it, if you don’t mind my asking’?

 

 

 

 

WE DON’T HAVE IT.

 

 

 

 

NOW SHUT UP AND GET OUT !!!!!!!!

 

 

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hissed the creature vituperously to Catherine’s utter shock and astonishment. Completely taken aback, I could feel her heart beating just standing behind her; the sheer stupefaction of the situation, and I immediately regretted not having given any warning or instruction on how to proceed in ‘Marisol’ beforehand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘But what did I do wrong? Have I said something untoward’? said Catherine in very polite, even poignantly soothing tones.  ‘This shop was recommended to me by a friend who said you have some wonderful things to buy, which is why we came here’

 

 

 

 

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‘then you should have asked that person why I am such a bitch beforehand and learned what to do in here ‘  spat back she at Catherine’s gobsmacked face; with really horrible breath, too, which only added to the true vileness and rudeness being displayed in the ‘shop’

 

 

 

 

 

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‘I just wanted to know if you have any L’Heure Bleue!!” protested Catherine.

 

 

 

 

If you really wanted that perfume, you wouldn’t say it like that 

 

 

 

 

spat the witch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

–  – – and I wanted to show you this, said I stupidly , taking my book out of my bag, which mentions this vile komodo in the introduction as a place to look for vintage perfumes if you are ever in Tokyo – now I kind of wish it could be redacted-

 

 

 

 

 

TAKE. IT. AWAY.  !!!!   

 

 

 

 

 

DON’T SHOW IT TO ME !!!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

shrieked the crone as Catherine was getting more and more upset and trying to reason with her, asking why she was being so hated in her fluid and intelligent Japanese, at which point the woman was momentarily silenced –  perhaps even slightly embarrassed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was obvious we would have to leave (the drama queen I am, I was partly loving all of this, I have to confess – am I a terrible person? I let it linger on than I should have; but it was as though Catherine was slightly hypnotized :::::::::::::)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It was the language. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Which she kept repeating.

 

 

 

‘SHUT UP.

 

 

 

LEAVE!’

 

 

 

GET OUT!!!

 

 

 

 

SHUT YOUR MOUTH !!!! 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Urusai‘, which literally means ‘noisy’ in Japanese , is used as a way of saying ‘shut your mouth’ when said in a certain way; only with family members in a moment of anger – never, never never,  to a stranger, and certainly not to someone who has come to your shop, with only the best intentions, to peruse and possibly buy your wares.

 

 

 

 

 

‘Kaette !literally means ‘go home’, but in the context of where we were, it would probably be better translated as GET OUT for its rawness, particularly when combined with her dismissive, and very aggressive, waves of the hand towards the exit………….. and though dumbfounded, gobsmacked and horrified by the incredible rudeness we had just experienced – ‘I just want to slap the bitch!‘ exclaimed Catherine as we finally pushed the glass doors open, one final kaette and urusai was enough to convince us to leave (which we should have done, really, from the first moment).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On the street, Catherine’s heart was beating in rage so badly I truly regretted having taken her there (even though I was doubled up in hysterics on the street – I don’t know, I just couldn’t help finding the whole thing H I L A R I O U S); but then I suppose I kind of knew what might – potentially – happen. Catherine had gone in as innocent as a doe, and been ferociously attacked and reviled by this obviously desperately sad woman who owns the entire premises and thus doesn’t need the money, but opens up each day so that she can insult people and make them feel dreadful: the camp side of me loves this: I often find the drabness of daily life so tedious that any drama, particularly surrounded by perfume bottles I so badly want, is curiously stimulating and at the moment, outside, as we gathered ourselves, I must say that I felt 100% alive. And couldn’t stop laughing.

 

 

 

 

 

But I couldn’t leave Catherine. She was too upset. I had been planning to part ways there,  and go to a club I know in Ebisu called Enjoy House as I want to book it for our Love Goddess Of The Cannibals party that we want to hold in June; a disco/ art performance event, something tropical and lush and amazing, based on the film Papaya from 1978 by Joe D’Amato, because at that point in the term I am always ready to really let loose and do something mad and amusing, gathering all our friends up and creating something lurid and exciting and memorable –

 

 

 

 

 

– but it was obvious that Catherine really didn’t want to be left alone. She was simply so  furious, shocked, and outraged by the terrible treatment she had experienced that she said she was about to burst into tears (what can be done about this monstrous woman, do you think? If you ever come to Tokyo, will you give it a go?!)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

So we took the train back to Yokohama together; processing and laughing, imagining glitterbombing the place and temporarily stunning Marisol (possibly even tying her up) while we scamper up and down those mysterious stairs making off with bags and bags of unbelievable loot (imagine the Nahema parfums I would run off with! I know she has it, because she has told me, as has her poor assistant, who occasionally works with her, but naturally she wouldn’t show it to me, as it is ‘too expensive’………)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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‘It was like Catherine and Neil’s Adventures In Perfume Heaven and Hell’ , said Catherine. One minute I was so zen and relaxed from the pleasure of buying all those perfumes and from just hanging out, and the next I was being harangued by a wicked witch, just out of the blue, and it shocked me to the core.

 

 

 

 

 

Horrible. I can’t believe it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I AM NEVER SETTING FOOT IN THERE AGAIN. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bitch, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, postcards from the edge, Psychodrama, Rare, SCANDAL, Uncategorized, Witchy

EAU DE VERVEINE, SAIGON

 

 

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Greetings from Saigon; Good Morning Vietnam, etc; Tao Dan Park, where I inaugurated my remixed Verveine Naturelle by Cadentia – a full, if unvarying inexpensive verbena cologne that comes in huge 500 ml bottles – but which I have freshened and diversified with essential oils of bergamot, lemon and vetiver for extra development and interest.

 

It works a treat in this weather – hot and humid but nothing like Japan in August; this just feels lush and tropical. I have chosen a vetiver theme for the holiday : emptied/ sprayed virtually a whole bottle of a Florame eau biologique into my unusually early packed suitcase last week : the organic, dry, earthy vetiver with a slightly bitter adjunct of lavender mellowed down beautifully and has suffused all my clothes. Thus, for day, this cologne which I have decanted into varying sized spray bottles to secrete on my person works perfectly for day wear; at night I can shower and use something aldehydic with vetiver in the base (Calandre, Caleche), or a more ‘gentlemanly’ vetiver – last night I wore Vetyver by Roger Et Gallet which worked nicely during our first foray into the city, which, far to the south of Hanoi, where we went three and a half years ago, feels more expansive, languorous and less furrow browed : there is an openness.

 

 

For nightlife – who can resist a disco called Apocalypse Now ?  – I have Guerlain Lys Soleia, vanilla tropical lily that goes better with the vetiver than you might imagine and Unum Opus  1144 – a lemon opoponax amber: D is rocking his Comme Des Garçons Black Pepper, which is gravely seductive but a bit full on : I might try to find him something else while we are here. Mind you, it might be suitable for the Revolutionary Museum, which we are about to head off to, having come back for a quick sojourn at our hotel

 

 

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It’s so nice to be away !

 

 

 

 

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6 Comments

Filed under Citrus, postcards from the edge, Vetiver