Category Archives: Uncategorized

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)

 

 

 

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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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I RISKED MY LIFE FOR SOME SPICED CHINESE CHICKEN

 

 

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Sometimes you suddenly cross a line.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

I was lonely.

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

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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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You never know what’s going to happen

 

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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.

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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

the gimmies

 

 

 

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Aaagggh! My friend Joan just, or a few hours ago, out of the blue, or I only just noticed it because I was too absorbed in Downton Abbey, sends me a message, and a picture attached, saying

 

 

 

‘fancy any of these?’

 

 

 

GrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrI need to be there, where it is (it looks like Shinagawa flea market, which recently has yielded absolutely nothing), NOW, barter a little bit; hoover it all up. All the Shalimars, maybe even the Jade Jagger redesigned bottle, if it is cheap enough, even if I don’t quite like the juice as much.  I need those refills though so I can just spray wantonly. Carelessly. And I have just spotted a Must Parfum ( isn’t it? or you tell me, is it the edt? ) which I don’t have a full bottle of and WANT. Real treasure. Gorgeous. Those original Chanel No 19 EDPs in the silver square bottles, also, particularly, which I remember with great fondness from my university days and have never  personally used (I always remember it being sharper, crisper, more irisey and green. AAAAAAAAGGGH I WANT THEM.)

 

 

 

And isn’t that Guerlain’s Winter Delice at the back, on the left? I need it! Only the other day, while vacuuming, D unearthed my miniature of this delicious and strange sweet frankincense delight, which is down at most, now, to two Christmas Day helpings (when I really like to wear it). The full bottle I once had, and cherished, he once used in some performance piece or other (almost choking the audience to death) and it somehow got lost. God knows how. I was really disappointed. It is one of those singular, unrepeatable fragrances that have ‘acquired taste’ written all over them, and how fantastic it would be to have a brand new bottle again. A weird coincidence. And people, what is the Allegoria at the front with the pink ribbon? Don’t I need it? Can you identify it? I have a great fondness for the Allegorias. I have a dream of one day coming across a bottle of the gorgeous Lys Soleia. Could it possibly be that?

 

 

 

Looking more intently, to the back, it’s true that I already have a bottle of Boudoir, which I love to wear on occasion –   it totally suits me, oddly enough –  but bizarrely, I gave my bottle of Vivienne Westwood Sin Garden, the flanker, to Duncan to give to a Dominatrix Mistress of Tokyo only yesterday, for her ‘Haunted Carnival’ rope tying party last night (I wasn’t up to going, but she had recently sent me get well flowers and I wanted to return the favour, and who doesn’t like being given an unexpected bottle of perfume? ) He promised he would try to get me another bottle if he ever came across one again – and here one is ( or is it, in fact, another Westwood perfume that I rather like:  : : :  Libertine?)

 

 

 

What else do we espy among the plastic wrapped semi-detritus selection of fine ‘vintage’ perfume splayed out on a blanket at the flea market? Eau Sauvage Extreme; love it, but my one bottle is quite enough ( I wear it on occasion and remember my delicate youth) ; Dolce Vita – want; Poison – want (that is Burning Bush’s true signature scent now) ; Tresor – want; and that isn’t that Gucci Eau De Parfum, is it, the thing at the front, that orange blossom heliotrope delight that is so cuddly and comforting ? WANT. Hypnotic Poison? Want. . And I am not right in thinking that we can see a vintage, probably parfum, of that increasingly endangered species, the incredible spice animal that is Yves Saint Laurent’s original, unreformulated, Opium?  WANT.

 

 

 

 

 

In short.

 

 

 

 

Is there anything I fancy?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pretty much the whole damn lot.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Filed under Bric-a-brac, Catastrophe, neurotic meltdowns, pigs, Psychodrama, Slinky, Uncategorized, Voyeur

COVFEFE PARFUM POUR IDIOT (2017)

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Filed under Catastrophe, Celebrity Scents, groping motherfuckers, I really do have a bad feeling about all of this, occasionally sickening scents, pigs, religious hatred and death, Republican, Uncategorized

THE TRANSFORMATION

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And so it goes. The beard is shaved off: unwillingly – I don’t recognize myself.

But that’s the rules.

The work clothes are washed; then rewashed (and hung outside in fresh air, for fear of contamination).

The body is soaped down; scrubbed. the hair, panthèned; conditioned.

Scent? A little. The rules say please do not.

But, just before leaving the house I find that I just do anyway; I can’t stop myself: a small spray, on each cuff, of Montale Sunset Flowers: that sheeny, bright lemon leaf, green apple violet wholesomeness I bought the other day on a strange anti-intuitive whim. For this precise purpose.

I iron my suit while staring out the window absently. Drinking coffee, willing myself into the spirit. A suit really shouldn’t be thrown into the washing machine in this way I realise but I am neurotic, aware of my smell at all times, and it simply has to be tip-top clean on this first day back; flawless.

I dress myself. Pick out a tie.

The transformation is now complete.

It is the first day of term. I am spruce: depilated; Delilah’d.

Clean-smelling – clean looking. Nervous. In new September sun.

Gone is the frangipani and the coconut, the thick and lavishing Infini stage; the Nocturnes. The Calandre vintage extrait, that I wore each time that we went to the beach and that remained on my swimming trunks; the towels. The thick Arab sweetness; the undeodorized armpits and late, and lazy sex phase of vintage, Givenchy Gentleman; that day of bare-chested vintage Azzarro and its anisic, manly, mutual affections; days spent loungeing with red wine in front of dark, lurid films in our new mini private cinema : Mulholland Drive, Contagion, My Beautiful Laundrette (how that new projector has been wonderful this summer holiday: how my film collection has been re-born to life with that screen).

The marination of oneself; in odour, in perfume; in love, as the cicadas and crickets sing thrummingly beyond the balcony, approaching their end, and the hot, sultry summer heat that I suspend myself in so naturally starts, too early, to lose its fertility.

The nerves. The out of practice. The how was your summer. But, also, the instantaneous and strangely pleasurable change into that other persona. Not an alter ego, or a Hyde, but another strata. 

Like coming back up for air.

 

 

 

 

 

The kids are raucous and sweet. Bright, and full of energy – we are pleased to see each other. And I have dynamism, from being away from them during these precious weeks of necessary recuperation. I find I am quite wired and in tune with them, with an immediacy that inspires me when just a few hours ago there I was all morose, and childish and not wanting to get into the elevator and enter the school. Now it comes to me naturally. They are stimulated; I am stimulated. It’s fun, spontaneous.

I come home. I enter the house: Realize how strongly it does smell of patchouli oil, as my friends always tell me. And incense.  It is my den, though: I am inoculated. Now, however, I enter it with new senses, smell the evidence.

I enter the kitchen. The remnants of some vanilla or other; coffee smells, home smells, and, unexpectedly, a heartrending vetiver that I inexplicably can’t place.

Where is it coming from? It smells familiar. And then I realize: ah yes, come on stupid, it’s your navy blue sweater, slung over the back of that chair, emanating those poetically beautiful final stages of vintage Nº19 parfum that I enjoy so much, daubed in it; snuggled up in it, loving it, that I found for virtually nothing one day at my new secret well, somewhere in Tokyo one day in the holiday when I was just wandering about aimlessly in the big city with nothing much to do except take in the rain and try to deal with the loss of heat and that I wore to death in those final seven days, when I was mourning the end of the summer, and autumn began its inexorable entrance.

Yet, for some moments as I question my senses vaguely, I don’t recognize it.

It is exterior to me, now; hanging in the ether like an other. A ghost, almost, of past remembrance.

I have morphed, for this moment, into this other person.

This teacher; emasculated, perhaps, but enjoying, nevertheless, the spruceness; the end of the slovenliness and indulgence.

The neatly groomed, sweet-apple shampoo shine of flowers. The renewing vigor of work.

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