Category Archives: this is not a perfume review






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)





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


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




– and had met D after work for shenanigans.







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








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






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.
{ 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 }.




( 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.





( 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






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





– –   and the food is very








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











But your country does have one good thing




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










Your country controlled the world !



Very powerful !



( yawning abysses itch their knuckles)



How long are you here in Japan ?







( unable to contain extraordinary Maggie Smith depths of irritation)









I hope we meet again












( 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.











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.










Filed under autobiography, B0RN TO BE TROPICAL, Depressed, destroying the shackles of heterosexuality, FUCK EVERYTHING, FURIOUS PERFUME CRITIC, HOT MESS, I really do have a bad feeling about all of this, inexplicable happenings, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, JOUISSANCE, LOVE, LUXURIANCE, occasionally sickening scents, Oceanic, Psychodrama, religious hatred and death, Republican, SCANDAL, SELF-OBSESSION, SEXBOMB, Slinky, THE WORLD, this is not a perfume review, Tokyo Art Museums, Uncategorized, unleashing the shackles of heterosexuality, Urine, Voyeur










A gloom has descended as the rainy season begins; we are energyless; listless, this weekend, after the return to work. It has been more positive and energising than I anticipated, if fraught and suffocating in all the headgear -but  on Friday I was so zoned out, blasé :  I felt almost as if I no longer existed.



















Just been to the local shops for provisions.








Cakes.  Condensation, like rain, on the refrigerator.







I love custard, and could not resist.























Had to stop to take a picture of these roses.






But can you believe that I forgot to smell them?





















Even the cat has picked up the melancholy.



























We were supposed to be going to the Black Lives Matter march in Tokyo this afternoon, which a lot of our Tokyoite friends are attending; but have decided to donate instead. I feel guilty, but after all this quarantining and caution, the thought of crowds shouting and mingling when the coronavirus is still circulating up there  – right in the centre of the city, especially Shinjuku, the area we go to the most – is just too daunting. Call me a coward.































These are the magnolias I mentioned the other day.










I took these pictures on Thursday – I got there just in time. Now most of them are decomposing on the branch.













Filed under autobiography, Flowers, JAPAN PHOTOGRAPHY, this is not a perfume review






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










– 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.













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










































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

You never know what’s going to happen





Duncan is very good at choosing what to watch on Netflix. I had discounted ‘Strong Island’, simply because I thought the name was so crap and unevocative (and it is: a real shame in my opinion for a documentary so overwhelmingly raw and brilliantly executed).

But this was coruscating, searing : we couldn’t really speak throughout. But we both dreamed about it the whole night (literally in my case, my brain gripped like a leather glove); yes, the director was ‘performing’ his pain, but it was in the name of something deep and wounded and guilt drenched that had to be expurgated (not that it ever could be).

The unvarnished rawness of the film – unlike anything I have ever seen I think – was accentuated, and emphasized beautifully, and very noticeably ( the aesthetics were so good they made you uncomfortable ‘with the fact that you were enjoying’ it – often an intrinsic problem with documentaries I often feel ) with – FINALLY !- the minimal use of background music, which my cold heart rejects after a while no matter how tragic the story: I am simply too musically and cranially sensitive to endure too many overwrought strings or pianeggios ripping off the dreaded score of The Hours: ::: here, the pain was left to burn itself into your brain preconceived but unadorned :: my heart was palpitating as I watched it but I couldn’t actually ‘take’ the emotion as it happened : it had to be stored, and worked around, later.

Yes, it verged on emotional or experiential pornography, if you want to think of it like that. But the director, pictured – so unflinchingly earnest, honest, and assured in the rejection of the cliche ( which I fucking HAIL, personally ; YES to looking straight into the camera and addressing the audience directly when it works; yes to letting people stutter or go back on themselves or cough on camera or backtrack slightly, just as people actually do; yes to art where a person excavates, and illuminates, their family’s most unbearable agony for the common truth): was so intuitive, and merciless, that the film added up to something beautiful, and devastating.


Filed under art and politics, New Beginnings, Organic, this is not a perfume review, Uncategorized, Voyeur, Writing


































We arrived in Phnom Penh dazed and overwhelmed from Saigon. Ultimately, much as we had enjoyed many aspects of that surging, dynamic, and incendiary city, there were times – caught in the heavy pollution of a humid, overcast afternoon, motorbikes roaring constantly as people blared into mobile phones; the sheer frenzy and libido of the place – that we felt we could hardly take any more. There are quieter areas, and beauty in a variety of ways, but when we left The Cinnamon Hotel we were ready.






D and I are quite weird travellers in a number of ways. I don’t know about you, or how you choose your own destinations, but I imagine that the majority of people go somewhere they have long wanted to visit, or else a place that has been talked about recently, and then they busily go about planning and  organizing their itineraries in all the minutiae of hotels, things to do; checking each thing on tripadvisor, and then arriving with the holiday all set in place.




Perhaps rashly, because we want everything to be fresh and new; as stimulating as possible on all levels, we choose where to go almost randomly, anti-intuitively ( I had never wanted to go to Cambodia especially), and then just book our hotels. Seeing everything in advance in photos ruins the pleasure of a place unveiled, unfurling before your eyes, so we just arrive and then take it from there.







Phnom Penh is a place name you cannot disassociate from the genocide of two million Cambodians under the Khmer Rouge (perhaps the reason why I had never really wanted to go there: we ‘did’ Nagasaki many moons ago and were very shaken, as you should be, by the Atomic Bomb museum; I feel no need, important and ‘interesting’ as it was, to now go to Hiroshima as well – I just felt too many ghosts there – the air was leaden and heavy and oppressive, a feeling that lifted the second we crossed the water to Kumamoto but I digress): growing up in England, the image of Cambodia in the seventies and eighties was nothing but misery.




Upon arriving, everything felt wider, mellower, if still infested with motorbikes, even if not quite as densely; the architecture (decaying French colonial, Buddhist) appealing, the roads still noisy, which, as we were finally dropped off at our hotel, The Hotel Anise, I realized was probably going to be a problem – inheriting the neurosis directly from my mother, who gets very agitated in hotels if there is even the slightest noise – my father usually having to use his wily ways to convince the staff to move them, often several times- the hotel was overbooked and we were led to the annex, a separate building across the street with five flights of stairs (not ideal for my imperfect pins); a simple room, but with our own private balcony, that looked out over a thronging party at a famous Khmer restaurant across the street; karaoke floating up from unseen places; construction work going on…….I will admit that I was tense as hell at first, to the D’s understandable irritation. We had paid for the room though and couldn’t afford to go anywhere else, and I had earplugs with me, and after a delicious meal at the hotel restaurant with Angkor beers, I started to melt more into my surroundings.






































We were not very adventurous for the first day, just too tired from the blowouts in Ho Chi Minh, and didn’t venture much further than our hotel. Just down the street was a golden temple, so serene, with cats and mango trees and people fanning themselves in shady nooks, so slow. Catching a tuk-tuk to one of the lesser known markets, where the local people go rather than tourists, we realized we definitely were tourists because it was just too cramped, suffocating and claustrophobic inside, with stall owners sprawled among heaps of clothing and other goods in their own spaces that had no respite from the heat: D couldn’t take it, and was feeling a bit hot and bothered, so we randomly went to a roadside restaurant and ordered sour fish soup; very anisic, herbal, fresh, unlike anything I have ever had before, but that was it for the day. We felt instead like just resting and reading in our city garret, whose atmosphere I was starting to appreciate: somehow, the ambient noise was just that – ambient; I felt like a character in Rear Window able to observe the goings on of tenement dwellers and the people in the street, there was a life to it, but also a sleepiness. We could tell that the city was one we were going to rather like.




















‘Be careful with cruel dogs’.



















The next morning we decided to do a tour of the city by tuk-tuk to get our bearings. I don’t really being guided or explained to: I prefer to just be taken to the key destinations and see what I might come back to later; having been conned by a couple of taxi-drivers in Ho Chi Minh we decided to get a more reputable one from the omnipresent Tripadvisor, which turned out to be a good move: Wuthi was fun but unobtrusive, and he took us to one of the key temples in Phnom Penh, where we lost track of time until he came looking for us; Wat Promh, another Buddhist tower in the centre of the city near trees loaded with hanging bats (fascinating), and down the river near the Royal Palace. Asking us if we wanted to go The Killing Fields, we instinctively said no.





















Returning to the hotel after a day in the hot sun warming to our environment, he asked us out of the blue if we would like to go to kickboxing. We had never considered doing this before – we had been planning to go to a bar called Heart Of Darkness – but thought why not: I actually really like kung fu films and let’s be honest, the idea of the boxers themselves wasn’t exactly unattractive either. We said yes. I will pick you up in three hours then, from the hotel.













I love new and unexpected experiences, and it was exciting heading out to a stadium just outside the city centre on a Friday night in the full, heated hubbub of Pnom Penh. It was a bumpy ride, but I was in going out mode: Unum Opus 1144 for the first time, and it felt correct, if absurd; extravagant amber richness for a sporting event, but I was in the right mood for it.




















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We arrived, and had seats ringside, behind where the boxers sat prior to and after their bouts (matches? rounds? episodes? I know nothing about it): it was  a sensory delight; musicians in sombreros would play traditional Khmer music on drums and some kind of oboe – which sounded like the sinuous music that a snake charmer would use to coax a cobra (the national animal, incidentally – there are stone, onyx or gold cobras wherever you go) from its box. The lithe boxers would initially step dance along with the music, having performed some form of Buddhist prayer in the ring, draped in flowers, and would then gradually begin to fight and kick their way through each round; punctured by loud, exhilarating Khmer hip hop pounding through an excellent sound system that got the atmosphere and the crowd really heated up. Initially, I was mesmerized by the aesthetics of the event. The music, the beauty of the boxers and their smell- the scent of sweat commingled with the jasmine garlands they wore, often left on the seat right in front of me; mixed with my own perfume and the changing smells in the air around me I was intoxicated, if uninvolved with the events on the ‘stage’, as I couldnt’ really understand it. You had an idea of who was winning – most of the matches were between a Cambodian and a Thai, but I couldn’t quite focus my eyes on the details of what the kickboxers were actually doing. After a while, the rousing pull of the vanquisher raising his gloved fists aloft to the increasingly raucous reactions of the crowd became indomitable and I was genuinely swept up in the sport itself, becoming more attuned to technique and impressed by the athleticism and strength.










By the end, the sheer percussive din of it all left us pummelled as soft-shelled crabs, and there was no way we were going to be going to any bar. The only possibility was bed.





























The next day, there was no escaping the fact that we would have to go to the Genocide Museum. A disaster that killed up to a quarter of the population, the Khmer Rouge’s take over of the country in order to build an ‘agrarian utopia’ that resulted in the pointless annihilation of city people, Buddhists (temples smashed, monks executed), all ethic minorities, intellectuals, government officials, anyone who seemed to stand in the way of the agricultural slavery the regime thought was the answer to the country’s problems.  I hadn’t realized, either, that this fundamentally  terrorist organization also essentially came into being as a reaction against U.S interference in the country and the bombing from Vietnam that spread to Laos and Cambodia – actions that caused many deaths and huge wells of resentment but which have basically been hushed up (at least for those, like me, quite ignorant in world history: I was never good at it at school nor particularly interested which is precisely why I need to go to such places). The parallels with organizations like ISIS, though, cannot be ignored. And the cruelty, barbarity, and horrifying violence enacted in the name of ideology, are also very similar.









Instinctively, neither of us took any photos at S121, a former school turned torture centre where 16,000 people were ‘processed’, although many more nonchalant and casual daytrippers were, some sauntering through the rooms where people were decimated just snapping away……To me it seemed disrespectful and insensitive to the dead, but this was the thing: how do you react in such a place? To cry, as you listen to your audio guide and realize what happened and that you are in the place where it happened, feels very self-indulgent (this is not all about you!), but then again, how can you not? 






The ‘tour’, which felt interminable, began in a courtyard filled with frangipani trees, in full bloom, beautifully fragrant, and my first thought was stupidly that I wondered whether these flowers had given any solace to the prisoners at all. But I quickly realized that all would have been too desensitized and numb and in acute pain and suffering to notice anything. The guide – a Cambodian man who took you through everything in a dignified, unsensationalistic manner, gentle (as the people seem to be in Cambodia ) asked you to sit down on a bench near the fourteen white gravestones that contained the remains of the unidentifiable last victims of the Khmer Rouge at that site before the liberation by the Vietnamese army and Cambodian insurgents. He talked of the symbolism of frangipani trees, sacred in Buddhist culture because they represent immortality as they will flower, even if uprooted, and as I found myself immediately in tears I saw that flowers from the trees, pink and yellow, were slowly falling down around me onto the grass. The pathos of this was poetic but unbearable, particularly when we were asked to go into Building A, which for me was by far the worst and most difficult of the four buildings that constituted the old school that had been turned into a place of unimaginable horror.








In each room was a bed, exactly as the soldiers found it, with iron shackles that kept each poor victim chained up, tortured in inconceivable ways, with the very stains that were there still on the floors, and a sepia photograph of each person on the wall, so that you were actually in the place where they died and could see what they looked like. Sometimes, the faces were covered with a paper strip, probably because it would have just been too horrific to absorb, but as it was, I found it profoundly upsetting and my heart ached that these people, imprisoned for no reason, should have had to go through so much unbearable suffering. Each room seemed to be worse than the last, until finally we were out in the courtyard, not looking at each other, but staring downwards, trying not to burst into tears (other people walked about also with their headphones, dealing with it all in their own way, even if some were too glib and carefree for my own liking: I found it incomprehensible.) Most, though, were lost in their own thoughts and processing the information and reality of what happened – this was just one of many such places across the country; I also didn’t quite know how to proceed. Through room after room and story after story of sickening cruelty; all the photographs, not only of the victims, staring out into the camera, but also the perpetrators, often young vulnerable children who were coerced into joining the organization but who you could tell had been completely dehumanized by the experience; the relating of individual stories of torture…….after a while it all became so overwhelming that I didn’t think I could take any more. The final exhibit, with skulls stacked up as evidence (like the Holocaust, naturally there are deniers, probably why the museum did not forbid photography – this needs to be documented and disseminated the world over so it is not forgotten) was almost intolerable to me, especially with the insensitive snapping them as part of their holiday albums……………..escaping outside to the grass I listened to a smot, or Cambodian song for the dead, and turning my head to avoid anyone seeing, just let the tears flow uncontrollably.








Leaving, we knew the only thing we could do was go back to the hotel. ‘You want to go to the Killing Fields?’ says the driver, but there was no way: this was enough. I am sure that the experience just reinforces the horror even further, but unless it was silent, there were no people, and I were with a Cambodian person who could lead me through it from personal experience (everyone is affected here: Wuthi had both sets of grandparents murdered) it would make no sense, and even then it would just be too ghastly and ghoulish for me to ‘enjoy’ (some tourist websites talk of the fact that when it rains, ‘you can see skulls and other bone matter rising up from the grass!’ as though this were something I would want to see but no way: everything I needed to know I saw at S121 and unfortunately now it is in my head and I can’t ever rid myself of it.) Those rooms are still coming back to me at night, particularly as we are both reading the books by Loung Ung, First They Killed My Father and Lucky Child – last night I turned off the lights and felt like I was having a minor panic attack, so I am not sure if this is the right time to read them. Immersing ourselves in the reality of this history is important (the hotel also had copies of documentaries and films – rather than the real thing, we watched the 1984 film The Killing Fields instead) but for the porous among us it can be too affecting. A duty though. I can’t imagine what the Khmer Rouge Victims went through.



















What to do in the evening after a daytime trip to the genocide museum?








After a few hours resting we decided to go out to the Blue Chilli, a famed drag show night – Phnom Penh is relaxed about such things, it feels subtly permissive, as any country would be after being oppressed so horrendously in the past – plus there is a certain live and let live quality about Buddhist countries, I have found; you make your own karma, the tenets on one temple wall we saw saying do no evil, cultivate good, and purify your mind, a ‘doctrine’ that I think the world could do with adhering a lot more to be honest, but anyway, I am talking about a gay bar, which was fun – the queens were pretty and hilarious, there was a very mixed crowd, and the atmosphere was friendly and upbeat.



























D was dancing around with strangers, where I felt subdued: even with the music and the alcohol I couldn’t shake off the day’s horrors, and there was one man, a Cambodian, among the throng, who stood out from the crowd in his thinness and particular features, and who I had seen, I am sure, among the faces, the hundreds and thousands of faces on display at the killing centre.














He looked very similar; the bone structure and eyes, a direct link, even in the midst of the festiveness all around me, that was a direct reminder that all the modern culture is a palimpsest over the traumas of the past. It has only been 25 years since democracy was restored; the people have had to move on and build a new society (a very appealing one, I must say – we both felt strangely at home there for some reason), but which most definitely is still haunted, on a daily basis, by the sheer evil of the detestable Khmer Rouge and their repugnantly misguided, sadistic, regime.























I have never been particularly history-minded, as I said earlier. The ins and outs of the civil war and the longstanding mutual animosity between Cambodia and Vietnam are not something I can plunge into with too much detail: in truth, I was more interested in how the people now are moving on and overcoming their collective post-traumatic stress; what methods they have for reasserting calmness and sanity in their lives, and I came across a very interesting article by a woman from Denmark who wrote a thesis on that very subject, spending years, with an interpreter, interviewing victims of the Khmer Rouge on their coping strategies, all of which are very culturally specific ( a need to maintain social contact with the dead, for one, to appease the spirits on a regular basis (S121 has been regularly purified with ritual, to try to give the souls of the dead peace there); discussions with monks and nuns along with meditation, which seems to be the most effective way of quietening the mind, for most people; groups that meet and discuss their lost ones, and so on). This did very much put into focus the importance of Buddhism in the daily lives of Cambodians now (95% are apparently Buddhist); showing that despite the atrocities and the attempts to destroy spirituality, it has naturally sprung up as a way for people to cope.










Of course, the main attraction in Cambodia is Angkor Wat, one of the Seven Wonders Of The World, and one of the world’s most visited tourist sites (as the biggest religious complex anywhere). It might seem obvious that we should have gone there  – I know anyone who has been to that apparently awe-inspiring place will think we are mad  not to have made the trip, but after a while we decided that we couldn’t face the day there and day back it would have taken, nor the hordes of people in shorts and t-shirts waiting for the ultimate camera angle; our nerves jangled at the mere thought of it. Also, we were enjoying Phnom Penh so much – it is always great, I think, to just sink into a city to the point of boredom, almost, as then it feels more like reality than mere spectating. Sitting on our balcony reading or drinking beer, or else just going for a wander in a cafe (on the main avenue where the statue of the king and the monument to independence is, I had the most beautiful herb tea, made with fresh mint, cinnamon, and anise, which after steeping became the most perfect melange of the three notes; the taste was mesmerizing).















































Instead of the trip to Angkor, which we have deferred to another time as I think we will want to go back there, we asked Wuthi to take us to a miniature temple site out of town (on the way to which D ate the dreaded fried frog), where there were no people except the people living within the temple grounds; as ancient as Angkor, even if on a far less impressive scale. Still, it was peaceful and very atmospheric. Even more, I liked the temple nearby which had no one except us and some families and chickens who lived within its precincts. The sun was blazing, and scented, tropical flowers were everywhere, ones I didn’t know the name of but whose perfume and appearance I adored. After a while, I decided to go off by myself.






















D was overheating, but I felt fantastically alive and undisturbed, just wandering around in the intense sunlight taking pictures, walking down by the river with the strange statues; seeing white buffalo sleeping in the meadow beyond. I realized that – and I know this might sound ridiculous – but sometimes, you can access your younger self, the essential core of your nature. I felt twenty again, as I did when I used to live in Rome and go off for the day exploring ruins, walking down the Appian Way, alone but content. Sometimes, in just dousing yourself in another place, absorbing its atmospheres and realities, you forget about yourself for a while; it almost becomes like shedding skin, like a snake, until you access the untouched being within.






























Filed under CAMBODIAN TRAVELOGUE, Flowers, this is not a perfume review