Category Archives: Psychodrama

asshole

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I had just bought a perfect Vol De Nuit vintage boxed extrait; an imperfect Infini; a Kenzo deodorant stick ; and my first ever full bottle of Rochas Byzance

 

(Burning Bush is already desperate to wear this musky, tuberose tribute to Poison and Ysatis)

 

 

 

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[pre- Covid Cabaret,on stairs, last Sunday}

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{ – the shit heap where D parked his bike today }

 

 

 

– and had met D after work for shenanigans.

 

 

 

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Admittedly, like the British louts we probably are, we were drinking a can of surreptitious lager down an unfamiliar street in Kamakura post work

 

 

 

 

 

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– minding our own business near the mossy steps of a closed down library and what looked like a decommissioned school.

 

 

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When rude old Japanese men approach and start speaking their version of English, clearly egging for an insult, I usually try to avoid them : run a  mile. Naturally, as with any segment of society, there are ‘good apples and bad apples’; and people are generally so dignified here that they would never intrude on your personal space in the first place.
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{ sometimes I think it would be most amenable to just be able to transform into BB in the split hair of a microsecond to scare away mouldering bigot invaders without having to endure their intolerably stupid and impolite versions of conversation }.

 

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( a truly groanworthy pun, but this bakery DOES do a delicious brown spongy loaf ).

 

 

Anyway, if this kind of thing hadn’t happened before. I wouldn’t say anything; just laugh it off as ‘amusing.’ However, moronic, othering interactions are legion here, as I am sure Michael and Emma will attest. D is too polite to ever say anything : I tend to cut these assholes short with my sharp, seething snake tongue.

 

 

ASSHOLE (A) ‘ America ‘?

Neil and Duncan ( ND) ( ….. already extraordinarily bored as two minute complete failure to communicate ensues; English not understood; Japanese not computing, as is often the case : the disbelief that the foreigner could possibly be uttering words in the native language).

 

The UK.

 

England.

 

 

( A) : ?

?

 

 

ND :   Igirisu.

 

 

A : Aaah, England. I have been to your country three times

 

 

( Neil Chapman, incredibly bored; eyes rolling into the back of the hollow sockets ;  speaks in low tones, knowing what is coming, flat as a pancake )

 

 

: oh really how was it

 

 

A :

 

 

Are you drinking Japanese beer ?

( looks at Kirin and Sapporo cans of beer ; peepholes register recognition of domestic brand ie utterly pointless comment)

 

 

ND ( politely praising brewery companies, even though we actually rate them VERY low compared to other countries: Japan is definitely near the bottom internationally in terms of beer, but what is a boy to do ? )

 

( slightly raised, optimistic voice in order not to offend )

 

 

in unison, like the twins in the lift in The Shining

 

 

YES. IT’s VERY NICE.

 

 

A :

 

English beer is terrible . Warm !

German beer is so much better !!!

 

 

(Shelley Duvall and Jack Nicholson ; )

 

 

YES ( demurring with fake laughter ):

 

Mild, Bitter, etc but there are also

 

ASSHOLE CUTS IN TO DUNCAN’s SWEET REPLY

 

 

– –   and the food is very

 

 

 

LOW LEVEL.

 

 

 

So simple ! Not delicious, like France

 

 

( Burning Bush starts murmuring within, dreaming of whirling machetes )

 

 

 

ND ( bored to death )

 

 

 

– staring out like slugs in slime

 

 

 

……..

 

 

 

A:

 

 

But your country does have one good thing

 

 

 

( four eyeballs stare out like cold boiled potatoes willing the intrusive cretin away)

 

 

 

whatisthatthen

 

 

A:

 

 

Your country controlled the world !

 

 

Very powerful !

 

 

( yawning abysses itch their knuckles)

 

 

How long are you here in Japan ?

 

NEIL CHAPMAN:

 

 

THREE DAYS.

 

( unable to contain extraordinary Maggie Smith depths of irritation)

 

 

ASSHOLE

 

 

SO SHORT !

 

 

I hope we meet again

 

 

 

NEIL CHAPMAN

 

 

I HOPE NOT.

 

 

 

 

( Loping fool cycles off )

 

 

 

 

****

 

 

 

 

Obviousiy, this was not a particularly harrowing incident. It is just stupid. It’s fine. We have experienced it many times before. It’s just extraordinarily dull, and I look forward to that generation dying out.

 

 

It is not that I am the nationalistic type: that much should be obvious to anyone who reads this blog. The old fart is entitled to his opinions. I also prefer German beer on the whole, because it is utterly delicious, drunk cold from the bottle; though it has to be said that the British beer/ ale culture is a centuries old tradition, and there is every type imaginable, from chilled lagers to room temperature mild and bitters to craft beers, but anyway ; it is like talking to a piece of plasticine : an unthinking imbecile.

 

And yes : I also vastly prefer Asian food on the whole, but the tedious, so familiar put downs of British food are also very unjustified ( the point, obviously, is why does this asshole, like many before him, feel the need to say all of this in the first place to complete strangers ; why be so offensive ?)

 

 

The British Empire ? What can I say?  Practically every problem that is unfolding in the world today is connected to it ; I have never been an imperialist (and let’s not even BEGIN to talk about what happened in Asia with the delightfully kind Japanese Imperial Army).

 

The point is : all of this was completely unnecessary. By reducing us to a crude national stereotype this poor bewildered fuckwit created a highly unpleasant atmosphere that sent my blood roaring (WHY, asshole, WHY?!!)

 

 

I honestly can’t imagine walking up to strangers in the UK ( or here ); finding out what nation they ‘come from’, and then deliberately trying to rile them, out of the blue, with banal, and prejudiced TRIPE.Tripe that dribbled from this quivering fucktard’s lips like a drooling banana.

 

 

 

FUCK YOU !!!!!

 

 

 

 

******

 

 

 

Naturally, I should probably delete this crass, unseemly ‘Black Narcissus Post.’ I might. This might be an on fire limited edition burning Bush. I can’t be arsed to go back and edit like I normally would; if there are errors blame it on the Creature. In the scheme of things, I of course realize that this is PRECISELY NOTHING compared to being shot to death, beaten; having a cold fascist with his knee to your throat placidly watching the life drain out of you in a callous, act devoid of common humanity. And black people get it SO, so much worse also here as well ( and let’s not start talking about China, where the current situation is HEINOUS in that regard – people running from African Americans when they see them in the street etc; legitimate foreign residents having to be airlifted out of their racist environs). I am profoundly aware of the difference. This was just an afternoon quibble. A tidbit. I brushed it off. We had a good old bitch about how tired we are of these ‘rogai’(or old assholes): it is nothing new. They can’t help their stunted vision; their reductionist idiocy ( I suppose, even though I actually think that they can). Still, they stain the air around them. All bigots do. All racists do ( seriously, fuck you). Grow a brain. Become human. Think. Philosophize. Realize the human condition. Learn that we all come the same shared DNA. Stop othering ( so fucking dull ; just TREAT PEOPLE AS INDIVIDUALS, WITH RESPECT. DO NOT LIMIT YOUR PERCEPTION OF THEM. DO NOT FOIST YOUR TEDIOUS PRECONCEPTIONS ONTO THEM; USE YOUR HIGHER INSTINCTS, NOT YOUR BASE ONES, AMOEBA).

 

 

 

Not that I wanted to talk to this dickhead in the first place, but you know what?

 

 

We could have had a perfectly pleasant conversation. It was a nice evening. We were loving the balmy Kamakura June night. The infuriating exchange was totally unnecessary.

 

 

 

 

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We had a lovely dinner, at that same Chinese place again. Packed. Full of young people. The atmosphere was thrumming and delightful, and the food was delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After, we went up our beautiful local hill in contented silence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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THE BAFFLING BEHAVIOUR IN JAPAN : : : ON CORONAVIRUS, ‘DISTANCING’, AND THE CRIPPLING ‘AMBIGUITY’

 

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Sitting on the balcony yesterday evening, I asked Duncan why he was living in Japan. It is not usually a question I would ask outright, but recently, he seems to have rather hardened in his irritation – you might even called it a kind of calcified, internalized fury – about the general reaction to the current pandemic here (which this country only slowly seems to be opening its eyes to; it has been beyond exasperating). He will roll his eyes, or look straight ahead of him in a way I am not sure that I have ever seen before, when asked about the general attitudes and lack of action taking place in these perturbing, maddening;   terrifying times.

 

 

 

 

 

He thought about my question quietly for a moment and then calmly gave a list of reasons why he loves living in this country:  the first one being, quite sensibly, that ‘our life is here’. That is true. It was never any part of any general plan to move to this part of the world, but it happened, and it worked. The refinement, the finesse, he said. The politeness. The general respect. The unbelievable levels of safety (something you can truly never, ever take for granted: until you have experienced this, you cannot imagine what it feels like). The sheer excitement of the cities. The incredible food. The gentleness. The surroundings here in Kamakura. Nature, the ancient culture. The open-mindedness (you could also call it permissiveness, or tolerance  – how else do you think we can walk around the way we do sometimes at night in Tokyo without anything ever happening? The responses are almost unanimously joyous and gleeful: there is no Judaeo-Christian moral judgment). These were just his first, throw-away ideas of why we do like living here; I could add many more (the classical culture; the weird, manic cyber- subcultures, the sheer, visual, aesthetic pleasure we derive from floating through Japan enough to sustain us for many years still to come). ‘But I really hate the work culture’ he said, looking at me firmly. And this, despite the fact that his own school is comparatively very mindful of the wellbeing of its staff and students and nurtures a generally positive environment.

 

 

 

 

 

 

He is not just thinking of himself though. He is thinking of all the brainwashed fools – sorry, loyal company employees, that have been continuously going into work on buses and trains in the last few critical weeks despite the government’s ‘request’ that social contact be reduced by 80% in order to save the country from a catastrophe ; a very ineffectual plea when people are given an implicit choice whether to work under such an ‘edict’ in a endemically workaholic culture such as this one  (the government apparently does not have the legal right to enforce the kind of lockdowns being experienced in other countries, since the Allies post World War II set up a deliberately very liberal constitution to avoid repeating any nationalistic military dictatorships such as the Emperor Hirohito), all leading to this bizarre, truly ambiguous situation in which there is a State Of Emergency while there isn’t a ‘state of emergency’; pachinko parlours – vile slot machine and pinball arcades,  hotbeds of infection, the domains of the chronically addicted, drop outs who queue up outside them every day in huge droves right now despite the risk of the coronavirus to play deafening automated machines sat right next to each other in hideously smoky environments (the smell when you walk on by one of these places!) their quickminded fingers constantly smearing the screens, always inhaling the same, foetid air……………largely remain open (all the government will do is print the names of such rule-bucking establishments in order to ‘shame’ them, often to no avail – the pachinko honchos, probably in cahoots with the yakuza, couldn’t care less, and the government needs the huge revenue they get from them in the first place); restaurants are still open and being patronised (because how many salarymen know how to cook here?) ; couples and families are still happily out and about – albeit in waning numbers, it was reported today, as people finally come to realise the severity of the situation. Just. Yet it always seems that many –  most, even – are pretending that nothing is happening,  or at least they are looking that way on the surface. ‘We are Japanese, so we are stoic. We have great hygiene. We are above all of this and will not be affected by it in the same way as other countries’ was Duncan’s sarcastic appraisal yesterday evening of the situation. I would agree: I would even say there is a fatalistic ‘if it happens, it happens’ samurai-ish suicide dream packed somewhere in there; a ‘shoganai’ – there’s nothing I can do about it resignation, or else a deeper unwillingness to sacrifice the daily sacrifices in the name of an unseen virus when the pressures to conform in the workplace are so strong that they can override the very real fears that people must have somewhere, locked and bolted deep inside.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But do they? Really? It’s hard to tell. Cycling back from the local shops to buy some sundries for mealmaking for the next couple of days yesterday afternoon, I was again baffled, and immediately angered, by the complete lack of social distancing occurring; customers crowding round outside the meat shop to buy home made croquettes now it is Golden Week and families are off together ( I wanted some too, but was put off straight away and desisted); most were wearing masks, but there was still no real sense of urgency or needing to stand away from each other; locals milling; no hand sanitisers used by the shopkeepers   (I did, quite boldly, make the suggestion in one place; the lady at the organic vegetable grocer’s, whose produce we categorically rely on – really delicious, fresh produce – made a wry unnn when I said this to her, looking at me slightly dryly from behind her paper mask as though I were questioning the levels of her personal hygiene); I know the lady in the bread shop is rather out of it these days; dotty, forgetful, still wearing her winged, liquid eyeliner and teased up thinning beehive that went out of fashion in the mid-sixties, but I had expressly said I didn’t want a plastic bag in an bid to reduce physical contact; I don’t want my purchases to be manhandled, preferably – in a dreamworld, not even touched; having assembled the things I wanted, I was about to deposit those items in my rucksack but the old dear did have to thoroughly fondle the chocolate with her fingers trying to locate the price tag (she never has any idea how much anything is); the same at every other shop, where we could be picking up the virus from everything we eat. We don’t know what to do: The alternative: cycle forty minutes into town, a busy commuter hub, to bigger supermarkets, with crowds of people in even closer proximity, and a much higher chance of infection – at least up here at the top of the hill in Imaizumidai it is marginally better, or start to order groceries online (have you been doing this?). We have no choice – where else are we going to get food? We have to eat. Even the hapless pizza delivery boy the other night kept dropping his change and re-handling everything and passing it on – there were no attempts to stand away as I opened the door:  as I handed over the yen to him from my  wallet we practically kissed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Riding home, yesterday, I passed by the well-renowned tempura and soba restaurant which is thirty seconds from our house – one of the most delicious meals you could ever have is there for our delightment virtually every weekend; the place is justifiably famous, and people come from miles around to have the homemade buckwheat noodles and incredible mixed vegetable kakeage. But now? Although part of me feels a bit guilty that we haven’t been going recently – of course I want to support local businesses – they rely on customers to keep going –  a stronger part of me selfishly just simply does not want to go into a restaurant. Any restaurant. I feel turned off. Sickened at the thought of it (don’t you?) In almost all countries, they are all closed in any case, so you can’t go out and eat even if you want to. But not here. They close at 8pm rather than 11pm, as though the virus only comes after you after dark, like a virological vampire. Yesterday, in the street I saw a group of seven or eight middle aged men emerge from the premises of the soba-ya and they were all maskless, the restauranteur included; jolly, close together, faces up close, clapping each other the back, having a whale of a Golden Week party gathering, physically close and touching – and I despaired. What is it going to take to make these people realize?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(THE CHRONIC HOSPITAL SCENARIOS! ! )

 

 

https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2020/04/18/national/coronavirus-japan-hospitals/#.XqY07DJh08Y

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To look at the situation simply, and rationally, is to feel your chest contracting in stress. The fact is – corroborated by the prime minister and every reliable news agency here – that the rate of infection in Tokyo has increased ten fold over the last four weeks, and the country is running out of hospital beds (per capita it has half the number of ICU units as Italy does). We all know that the reason that Germany has a far lower death rate than most other countries is because of the number of intensive care facilities and ventilators it has amassed; Japan has far fewer. There have been numerous reports of very sick patients being turned away from hospitals, unable to breathe; ambulances circling around for hours trying to find a willing emergency department to take them in; like other countries, the doctors and nurses are crying out for surgical masks, gloves, protective equipment  – and this is one thing I will honestly never understand : how the richest countries in the world: the US, the UK, Japan, Italy, aren’t able to provide the basic necessities for their heroic medical staff in these terrible times; why they can’t just jump up production – it is literally beyond my intelligence to grasp why this could be so difficult.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Or to let people work from home. Do you know that I am, to my knowledge, the only person in my company who has been refusing to go in to the workplace? Everyone else, unless they have family members that have been infected, has been going in; commuting. This means that when I return, I will be even more of a pariah than I already was (no, I was never a pariah as such, just someone always ‘outside’ of everything; removed, except for when I am in the classroom). I will possibly be seen as weak, scared; a coward, when my instinct tells me that I am the opposite in my resistance: I was brave to stand up for my right to try to not get infected, particularly when, if caught by the disease, I probably won’t be able to get into a hospital in any case. By negotiating with the top bodies, I have managed to reach a compromise situation in which I am able to record lessons at home, for the time being at least, with my borrowed video camera, which is what I have been doing these last few weeks; something I have still to acclimatise to but which is getting better as I get used to talking into a camera lens and not physical students in attendance (right now I have two weeks off, as does most of the country, for Golden Week, the time when people traditionally travel to see their parents or leave the country or go on trips and fill up all the famous places, like Kamakura (the other day a couple we sometimes bump into walking their dog said that the famous viewing platform near our house overlooking the beautiful Hansōbo and Kenchōji temples was thronging with about thirty eager Japanese tourists………. …..the government is imploring people not to do this; every morning we have an announcement at 10:00am over the loudspeakers by the Local Resident’s Association stating that the ‘infections of the novel coronavirus are increasing. Please stay at home’, but it is often to no avail. The illogic of it all is mystifying; physically painful to contemplate.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(recent office workers going about their ‘corona-free’ days in Tokyo, about 45 minutes by train from our local station:: : : : : :  is this your own personal idea of ‘social distancing’ ?)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am praying that more people here will start to comply and take real heed. Reports say that the popular hotspots in Tokyo were significantly less crowded over the weekend compared to January and February  – when the virus was already present but nobody gave a damn whatsoever – with the exception of parks (in our local recreational areas and children’s playgrounds, families are also all out together – no social distancing! ; the concept itself somehow just isn’t taking off; it is impossible for people to take it on……………….why?) They are standing as close as they always would. Kids are all running around laughing and squealing and playing in the sand as they always do; yes, the bigger supermarket we cycled down to the other day did, finally, have a system approximating every other country’s idea of reducing physical contact: shop clerks standing glumly behind plastic screens to avoid ‘aerosol droplets’ plastic markers on the floor delineating where each person should stand – probably one metre apart, though – not two; the pictures of social distancing in other countries look like photographs from another planet. It is somehow unfeasible here, in a collective society, a group-oriented mindset where to stand two metres apart would be to look ludicrous. ‘Selfish’.  But it is a start, anyway.  And it might, when I am in an optimistic mood,  be enough to prevent what some grim forecasts say could be 400,000 infections soon if things don’t actually get properly turned around (though for some reason I feel that those predictions are exaggerated, not that I am an expert. Or maybe I just can’t handle thinking about such a dreadful situation) There are already talks of a ‘total collapse of the medical system’ – an expression I am not very fond of, and which strikes terror into my heart; like you, I have read about the symptoms, and the intubation needed for severe cases, and the extremities of the body going black if you can’t get sufficient oxygen to them – if you can even get into a hospital here there are so few beds. It does not sound much like much of a summer picnic to me, and makes my determination to try and stay here at home for as long as humanly possible until the situation begins to improve a little bit  – and we can be safer  – all the more hard-headed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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As usual, everything here is complex. Nothing is ever simple. You never really know what people are thinking. How afraid they are, or are are not. I have experienced this before, after the Great Tohoku Earthquake in 2011, a truly catastrophic triple disaster with a devastating tsunami and nuclear meltdown that left the entire population very shaken, but which was met with great (at times mind-bending) equanimity and mental strength that amazed me; people simply refused to be undone by it;  were determined, at core level, to present a brave face to the world. I was both deeply awed, and flummoxed by it at the time; I will never forget it. That said, the current global challenge is surely different. In being ‘stoic and hardworking’  – some of my colleagues have been travelling to and from Tokyo, the viral epicentre, to the workplace, where the teachers have still been having daily meeting crowded together in the staff room (!) with no real distance between them at all  – I heard, from my source, they even closed the plastic sliding windows, in the staffroom, as they usually would, to prevent students from hearing confidential matters – except there were no students; this was pure force of habit, and where I differ: oh yes ! You can be sure, oh you can be sure,  that, no matter what the consequences were, I would leap up – fuck everybody – and dramatically pull those windows  open so fast they would possibly even break or fly off their hinges as I cannot under any circumstances put up with such idiocy, no matter the reactions of my more self-contained, ‘dignified’ colleagues who just grin and bear it. It perplexes. Oh, how it perplexes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am aware, as I always am here, that there are layers of compulsion, reasons for certain actions and behaviours that I am sometimes not consciously aware of. Like a societal onion, the layers are removed; a deeper layer revealed. I learn. I take in. I understand. It makes sense, in the context. While certain failures are undeniable – I was already spewing acid on here a long while ago about the useless reaction to the Diamond Princess quarantine in Yokohama at the end of January and the beginning of February (WHY. DID IT TAKE THEM. SO LONG. TO FUCKING DO SOMETHING? Why did they just release the infected passengers into the public transportation system? It was beyond, beyond comprehension. STOP! I HAD PROMISED MYSELF I WOULDN’T GET TOO RILED UP HERE; I was trying to keep it calm and measured! !!!! ); but why are there all these half-assed, half-baked measures that go against common sense and global objective reason in combatting the spread of this fucking virus?) 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

AAAAAAGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHH – excuse me while I scream and blow my head off. But no, as D says, this is Japan, and you just have to accept that you can’t do anything about it. The Japanese have their ways. We just have to keep going with it. You live here. You reap the benefits, the advantages: you have to go with the flow. There are things you perhaps have not considered: for example, I read in an article in the Japan Times that the correlation between unemployment and suicide is so great here – deaths have already been increasing a lot on the railways of Tokyo, people leaping to their deaths on the tracks despite the lower numbers of passengers – that the government has to seriously weigh up the risk of suicide and social breakdown against the risk of death from the virus. Though complete loss of income is obviously a traumatic event for any human being, a study has shown that the prevalence of mental illness and self-harm when connected to the loss of work and the presumed loss of dignity that ‘failure’ entails in Japan is in direct proportion to the seriousness of the economic malaise; for many people here, they are their work, so when small or middle-income businesses close down and those that rely on this money to stay afloat go under, so, often, do their owners. It is a spiritual death. According to this study, there is no comparable tendency in Spain and Italy. Though the economic distress will be no less appalling, perhaps people in those countries value time with their families or at home more, or at least do not feel that their intrinsic worth, their value as a human being,  lies in the job that they do day to day. One thing I know unambiguously; mine most certainly does not.

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Filed under FURIOUS PERFUME CRITIC, Psychodrama

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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Filed under art and politics, autobiography, B0RN TO BE TROPICAL, Bitch, Flowers, FUCK EVERYTHING, I really do have a bad feeling about all of this, incomplete perfume reviews, inexplicable happenings, Japan, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, LUXURIANCE, Neroli, neurotic meltdowns, occasionally sickening scents, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, postcards from the edge, pretentious aesthetes, Psychodrama, Rare, religious hatred and death, SCANDAL, SELF-OBSESSION, this is not a perfume review, Tuberose, Uncategorized, Urine, Vietnam travelogue, when an artist spins in his grave, Writing

THE BLACK NARCISSUS FOR VOGUE JAPAN

 

 

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It is with great pleasure and delight that I can announce that from next year I will be writing about perfume for Vogue Japan.

 

 

 

This is a turn of events that is extraordinarily exciting for me. I am daunted, but cannot wait. Frothing like a latte. Just call me Anne Hathaway, clutching her cappuccinos hysterically on her way to the offices in Shibuya to meet Meryl Streep. A rabbit in the headlights. Absorbing all the glitz. Smelling all the fumes. Foaming at the gills. An amazing way to start the new decade. Because although I have always thought that fashion is a double headed beast, at once nothing (it can be foolish, vacuous, pretentious, elitist; passive aggressive; ridiculous; disastrous for nature), and everything (profoundly influencing all the things I love most in the world – music, cinema, perfume; literature; the visual universe around us, the people on the street, how we present ourselves, the smell of the city; the tip of the iceberg)  – to a person to whom aesthetics matter almost more than anything else in this life –  the visual, the sensory, art, basically – creativity is of the most fundamental and sacrosanct importance. ‘Beauty’. I suck it up with continuous pleasure. We both do. Urban creatures. Living near the biggest city in the world (in the nature-surrounded refuge of zen temples, Kamakura where we cool off and gain calm) but I adore Tokyo. We are there all the time.I am addicted. I love the extremes. The quiet ancient beauty of this restrained, austere, but atmospherically profound place I live in, and the constant stimulation of the great metropolis of thirty three million people under an hour away that provides, constantly, never-ending, exhilarating stimulation and energy and is the coolest place I have ever known. It is beautiful to be there. Busy, crowded, maddening, but simultaneously serene. Gliding through neon at night; swimming in it; I love to watch people, photograph them, thrive in the energy. The gender blasting, outlandish and creative ensembles worn by people on the street; the sleekness; the style. Because although I am not such a fashion horse myself (as you know, the money goes on perfume)  I have always kept on eye on what is happening, in magazines and on television, since I was old enough to think. ‘Fashion’ leaves a vivid, temporal stamp on any given month or year…….it marks our passage. Without it, where would the pleasure be in dipping back into past decades, whole time periods? The beauty of an old zeitgeist captured eternally in celluloid? In a pop video, a film, a photograph, a news reel, all captured in the current…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As teenagers, Helen and I would leaf through Vogue at her house, marvelling at the bewildering, almost alien beauty of the models (we could never quite get over the beauty of Christy Turlington and Karen Mulder; the supermodel years of Linda Evangelista and Naomi Campbell – we would stare into the pages, feasting on it). My younger sister Deborah and I would rip out pages all the time and plaster them over our bedroom walls.  And the perfume adverts. The mystery and delirium of a new ad campaign (Coco, Poison, Anais Anais…..which are your most pungent memories?); the sealed enticement of the late 80’s scent strips you could rip open like glued velcro on the bus and release the latest fragrant sensation into the collective air….these were all very formative influences on my life. The photo shoots, the fashion stories, the faces, presented an almost obscene unattainability of covetable desire; I would buy Vogue Hommes, and Uomo Vogue when I lived in Italy; obsessed with this picture or that; pasted on my university bedroom walls……it always seemed like the apex of a rarified world that was in another stratosphere. Until now.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Madonna. When her single Vogue came out in 1990, after the complete transformation of Like A Prayer, and yet another vampiric, chameleonic shift into the gay underground world of Paris Is Burning and its ravishing capturing of larger than life queens and their vogueing balls in NYC, just the word Vogue itself is now synonymous with something fantastic and shimmering; we danced that entire summer to that song, my sister and I, like a million other people around the world mimicking the video, striking poses (: ‘on the cover of a magazine’), and to think that I might now actually be part of all that from next year is almost absurdly stimulating (feel the exclamation marks exploding in my mind and bloodstream…D and I went out to have a celebration dinner last night). It will give me great new challenges as this decade comes to an end and we enter the 2020’s; present opportunities to flex my flexibility as a writer. I am in the mood for versatility. My book: ‘Perfume, In Search Of Your Signature Scent’, is what got me into this position, and I have come to feel quite proud of it in many ways despite its flaws and lacks – I feel it is a moment in time; frozen in binding,  a diary that has been confiscated. I put my absolute heart and soul into that tome – my blood, sweat and tears if you like –  and I hope that it in some way inspires people and lets them dream a little; it was designed to be very immersive. At the same time, I relish the opportunity to be able to smell brand new things and report on them, to revel in the now, and to try my hand at different kinds of writing. The Black Narcissus will always still be perfume + , because I can’t help myself; I cannot be limited to a scent flacon. To me, perfume has always meant much more than that – it leads to so many other things; memory, life, experience, other art forms, culture, people and how I interact with them, politics, everything – to me it is inherently psychological. Having said that, a more society-wide olfactory objectivity based on what is going on in the higher echelons of commercial creativity is also appealing to me from a different angle – I will definitely be meeting a lot of new people through this venture – and since I plan at some stage ( I have already written several chapters) to publish an autobiographical book on my years spent in this fascinating, vexing, unleavable place full of the most superb contradictions, I cannot possibly say no to this new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Japan Vogue here we come!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PS. D and I first properly laid eyes on each other when dancing, extravagantly, in tuxedo and bow tie to Vogue at a summer ball…..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Beauty’s where you find it……”

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, inexplicable happenings, Japan, LUXURIANCE, New Beginnings, operatic, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCEN, pretentious aesthetes, Psychodrama, SELF-OBSESSION

LIQUID ILLUSION by JULIETTE HAS A GUN (2018) + GOLD LEAF by DSH PERFUMES (2019)

 

 

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I am increasingly questioning my subjective perceptions when it comes to perfume, realizing more and more that scent truly does smell quite different on different people and that when testing out new fragrances I need a model.

 

 

 

It is also always fun to give perfume to people as presents, so I took some samples along with me to the film shoot on Saturday, an absolute riot of a day that ended with a mayhem in a bar scene in Fujisawa via a quite outrageous one filmed in the woods somewhere outside Totsuka, but began with a serene and exquisite scene at a tea house in Kamakura ( pictured ), titled The Way Of Tears, a lesson in which the abducted students at the Academy are taught the correct way to cry – with homework – as part of their ‘sensitivity training’.

 

 

 

 

Michael, pictured left, has what I call a really good ‘canvas’: his skin brings out perfumes in a very clean and huggable way; we had a flea market sale a few months ago to raise money for Spoiled Identity, featuring clothes and bric a brac and a slew of perfumes I didn’t need anymore, and he decided to pick up some vintage Chanel Egoiste (1990), a sweet cinnamon spiced sandalwood that always smelled vile, even nauseating, on me but which on him was stunning : an entirely different skin interpretation with a warm, gentle aura I would never have recognized as being the same perfume.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Liquid Illusion is a another sweet perfume I somehow thought he would be able to pull off. Although I briefly considered keeping the small bottle for myself ( with almondy heliotrope over a dry, rooty iris note, what could possibly go wrong?), but there is something about the insistence of the dry amber, irone, iracine and obstinate tonka bean in the base note that I knew would just gradually grate on me : he loved it unhesitatingly straight away, though – a perfume you would  ‘inhale greedily in an elevator’.

 

 

 

 

 

Rumi, the kimono clad sensei in the centre of the shot, whose tears flowed almost too freely for the scene (I think she is actually something of a grande actrice but just hasn’t realized that about herself yet), had not eaten breakfast that morning, neither before nor after going to the specialist shop to have her dress fitting in Kamakura, in order to be able to carry off the strictures of her many layered kimono and feel right for the part. She felt faint ( and looked very pale ) when we all met at Kamakura station, just managing a small energy drink through a straw, and emitting a faint scent of incense powder that was beguiling and befitting her generally mysterious atmosphere. A perfume lover, embroidery teacher and couture maker, she told me that recently, rather than her usual French classics – she loves Ricci Farouche in particular – she has taken to wearing traditional Japanese incense in special powdered forms, as skin scent; and invited me to come round one day this month or the next to sample them myself – an invitation I am definitely going to take her up on. It sounds like the way to also perfume myself, come my month-long planned hibernation this December.

 

 

 

 

 

I proffered Gold Leaf to her, a new, very gilded, rich, mellow fruit of an autumnal ambered chypre to her that is beautifully blended, enigmatic and sure to be very popular addition to the Dawn Spencer Hurwitz  line of perfumes that covers the full spectrum of the fragranced alphabet; although I personally don’t enjoy East Indian or Australian sandalwood notes on my own skin, so would not be able to pull this one off myself,  I agree fully with Tora who sent me the sample that this perfume somehow takes her to the edges of a memory she can’t quite place; locating you in a ‘nostalgia of the present’.

 

 

 

 

 

The teashop, down a side street in Kamakura with a traditional room at the back, was a tranquil little place, selling glassware, wooden furniture, and all kinds of tea related paraphernalia; there were even gold-leaf covered chocolate ganaches placed on ceramic trays in the entrance which I thought was an odd coincidence. Rumi had found Gold Leaf a tad too sweet given her current more austere predilections, but after we had finished the scene – which, despite the dark sardonic comedy of D’s script – with the students learning various techniques of crying, from the one single tear rolling down the cheek of each attendee, to full wailing, but which despite the hilarity of those filming and watching left all the actors looking curiously, genuinely desolate by the end, I offered the sample of Gold Leaf instead to Michael. On him it smelled very complex, burnished, a little too ‘mature’, perhaps, I thought at first, but he was immediately intrigued by its obvious elegance, and the concept that perfumes really do differ tremendously depending on the individual ( an idea that he said he had never really  considered before). As the day of filming continued in different locations, the scent began to feel more at home on him, perhaps more pleasing, ultimately,  than the less emotional Liquid Illusion, whose name I hadn’t initially realized the complete aptness of until immersed, Saturday morning, in D’s strange, captivating, and poetic, vale of tears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Flowers, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Psychodrama, Voyeur

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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Filed under amber floral musks, Antidotes to the banality of modern times, Civet, Classics, Floral Aldehydes, FUCK EVERYTHING, Hairy Masculines, LUXURIANCE, Masculines, Musk, New Beginnings, occasionally sickening scents, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, pigs, postcards from the edge, Powder, Psychodrama, Urine

DISASTER AT THE AIRPORT & THE FIRST REVIEW OF MY BOOK

 

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The journey back to England began horrendously.

 

 

 

We were safely at the airport, on time, and I went through customs. And Duncan was taking a long time. Much longer than he should have been taking, when you usually go straight through. I waited. What was going on? Had he suddenly been taken ill? There is  a history of fainting. But he had been fine, both of us were, really excited to be coming back to England for a bit for my designated five minutes of fame and I couldn’t quite imagine that that was the case. Something was delaying him.I considered looking at the Chanel concession, but the thought bore me to death. I looked to see what other Duty Free there was, but why was he taking so long. And the clock was ticking, boarding was becoming an imminent necessity. And still he hadn’t passed immigration. But with all the officers and plexiglass and barriers you can’t go back, obviously, and I couldn’t see what was happening. But finally, when I went to the far right, the ingress for the officials, and,  there he was…….

 

 

 

 

 

 

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HIS VISA HAD RUN OUT – HE HAD FORGOTTEN TO CHECK, AND HE COULDN’T FLY. `

 

 

 

 

The red no entry sign. The not being able to talk to each other or kiss or hug goodbye – we were like Pyramus and Thisbe, whispering through walls. I was utterly gutted and speechless. And no idea what to do. And I decided to continue, because the tickets are so expensive from Japan – fixed at vastly elevated prices – and I have radio interviews; a big launch party and a family gathering yesterday evening to celebrate (fantastic – a really lovely evening), but I had no choice but to get onto the miserable plane alone, crying cheap tears watching A Star Is Born and Bohemian Rhapsody, and then gradually , slowly, as all the booze sunk in, drawn in and mesmerized by the real cinema of First Man and the first flight to the moon, which allowed me, for a while, to finally forget the empty seat next to me and endure the sleepless 12 hour journey to Paris, where I smelled the vile chemical miasmas of all the disgusting perfumes on offer and felt nauseous at how foul contemporary perfume is;  got on a plane to Birmingham but had a panic attack becauseI didn’t have an aisle seat as requested; then switched and sat next to a man I started talking to – a Pakistani hypnotherapist from Leicester who was amazingly interesting and who absorbed some of my pent up stress; and we talked about the meaning of life; our hatred of the strictures of nationality, and agreed that all culture is a strait jacket and that ultimately, all we really care about is being free.  Fascinating. And I finally got my suitcase, which took so long…..met my parents waiting for me at arrivals, who hugged and commiserated me on the lack of D and arrived home utterly zonked, stinking,  and exhausted and unable to even properly utter any sentences.

 

 

 

 

 

 

D, back in Japan going through the bureaucratic motions, is going to do his darnedest to get the visa sorted out and pay for another flight as I NEED HIM HERE. This is my time: the book comes out next week, I am going to be in Japan Vogue (!!!!!!!!!!), on BBC London Radio (!), the devastatingly trendy Monocle Radio (what to wear?!) as well as Talk Radio Europe, with a potential listening audience of two million people, a fact that I find incomprehensible, especially considering that I stutter and garble and will just sound like a gibbering idiot probably and will just have had breakfast at Duncan’s parents’ house – IF HE GETS HERE- and

 

 

 

 

 

 

Anyway I just felt I needed to share some of that in an update. It was a hideous journey out. But I must say that it was s a marvellous antidote, the next day to discover that  the lovely Persolaise, who received an advance copy of my book a few weeks ago, had reviewed it on his website : the timing couldn’t have been better for me – and what a lovely balm to my mangled nerves.

 

 

 

Here is the review:

 

 

 

 

 

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I couldn’t be more pleased with what he says about it. Being fully aware of its flaws and lacks – he mentions that I forgot to include scents such as Habit Rouge (and how could I have forgotten Geoffrey Beene’s Green Flannel  in either the violet or green chapter?) something I realised after the fact – it was a MAELSTROM of stress and deadlines last summer and I honestly almost lost my mind at one point, there are so many omissions and things that got lost in the mania of the final edit…..and I suppose as the writer of  the thing I sometimes forget that there might be good things about the book as well: it was lovely, and very gratifying, therefore, to have someone else’s reaction to the thing after being stuck so much in my own head, someone who knows more than I do about perfume and is a great writer himself. I am delighted.

 

 

 

 

 

We had a wonderful family party last night, with my aunt, uncle, cousins and second cousins, animated and hilarious, like the parties of my childhood, and a moving champagne toast by my dad, and I feel quite exhilarated about the coming two weeks here – I just have to seize the moment. The sun is out, even if it was just sleeting as well for a few minutes (the weather here is insane), and I feel very much here, and present, and in the moment. Quite happy.

 

 

 

 

 

I really could have done without the drama at immigration though.

 

 

I felt sick to the pit of my stomach.

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Filed under autobiography, Flowers, neurotic meltdowns, PERFUME: IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCEN, Psychodrama

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

‘PERFUME : IN SEARCH OF YOUR SIGNATURE SCENT’ – RELEASE DATES AND PERFUME SOCIETY READING EVENT

 

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Well, here it is !

 

The only reason I haven’t done this before  now is that I wanted the cover and the physical reality of the book to be a surprise for my parents, who finally got their hands on an advance copy on Wednesday ( ‘look, Roger ! It’s arrived!’ shouted my mum as a book-shaped parcel was carried by the postman down the driveway and they weren’t quite sure how to proceed ::: should there be some kind of special ceremony or ritual for removing it from the envelope and bubblewrap? In the end they just released the book from its package and were, I think, thrilled.)

 

 

 

 

They love it ( how it looks, anyway : I don’t know what they will make of the florid nonsense inside), and spent the exhilarated day clutching and caressing it and carrying it around the house with them everywhere they went

 

 

( as did I ::::  :: the design team have done a great job I think, and I had no idea it would all turn out so sumptuous.  Initially, there were many things to be worked out – inital concepts were too fey and girly; the title was different, so was the essential composition of the book, but from the back and forths  over the spring and summer we eventially settled together on a contemporary Art Deco feel, which reflects the luxuriance of all the perfume reviews quite well,  my love of vintage, and it is all just something I can’t help but feel rather delighted about.)

 

 

 

 

The book is HEAVY: a proper tome. Like a book of spells, or a volume from an old library,  and though not as lengthy as my blog ramblings nor quite as personal, hopefully the new concision and the new taxonomy of the world of perfume I have come up in this guide with will appeal both to perfume people and also the curious neophyte. My goal is to induce passion for the subject – obviously there are just too many perfumes in the world to be definitive : the book is called ‘In Search Of….’ for good reason; I wanted it to be immersive and indulgent and also a little strange…

 

 

 

 

Anyway, the book comes out in the UK on March 21st, published by Hardie Grant, and on April 2nd in the US, distributed by Chronicle, as well as being available to order worldwide on Amazon. I also have an event being organized by The Perfume Society at Rouillier White in south London on March 28th, where I will be doing a reading and a book signing (!); I am really looking forward to gathering family and friends and mingling with perfume maniacs while sniffing the marvelous selections of Michael Donovan ( this really is one of the best perfumeries, so I am delighted the party is being held there).

 

 

Unfortunately, though, space and tickets will be quite limited, so I can’t make this a big thing I can invite everyone to, much as I would like to. I was wondering, though, if any UK people, particularly London people, reading this,  can think of any venues where I might have a more casual sip and sniff type of affair -or even just straightforward event with books and bubbles –  Hardie Grant will ship books there if it becomes an event. I would love a Black Narcissus hook up !

 

 

 

I don’t know. I am just so excited ( if daunted : you never know whether anyone is going to like what you have created), but this time last year, when I was still wallowing in self pity with all the aftermath of my operation and arduous rehabilitation, I had no idea whatsoever what was just round the corner – nor the year of extraordinary pressure that was ahead of me, with a full teaching schedule and book deadlines constantly looming)

 

 

 

– but I DID IT

 

 

 

 

 

 

And I want to C E L E B R A T E

 

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Filed under Antidotes to the banality of modern times, LUXURIANCE, New Beginnings, PERFUME AND PERFORMANCE, Perfume Reviews, Psychodrama, Vintage Bonanza, Writing