TRAVELLING INSIDE………….. SPANISH MOSS by HOVÉ PARFUMEUR

 

 

Bayou Swamp Scene with Spanish MossECB4959SpanishMoss

 

 

 

Not wanting to cancel our appointments at a hair salon down the hill yesterday despite deciding to no longer attend the wedding tomorrow afternoon, D went in first:  I followed him an hour later. I have never been one to enjoy having my hair cut – to put it mildly – and have been sticking to the same old barber in Ofuna for a good few years, intermittently, when I don’t just snip at my barnet myself (I often just can’t be bothered with all the hassle of the experience; the having to make conversation, avert your eyes, watch yourself get transformed – often not in quite the way you imagined – and walk out feeling like a different person). Which I get is the whole point for many people – when it goes right, a new haircut can be quite refreshing, like sprucing up a hedge in the garden, or dusting your shelves, or a good-fitting new winter coat.

 

 

Yesterday’s experience was one of the better ones. We had never been to that particular place before : straight down the hill on the bike to the corner that meets the railway tracks, and it was pricier, but they were younger, there was a lot of natural light, and space, and the conversation in my always slightly stilted Japanese flowed fairly smoothly: I suppose having not really socialised with many people outside this household for a while I suddenly found myself in super-extrovert mode, making them laugh the second I went in, playing the buffoonish gaijin……….. the whole process felt effortless (as though I wasn’t even aware that they were cutting my hair…………). I came out of the shop feeling neater, and somewhat renewed – a bit preppier, younger; not that anyone is really going to see me for a while, as we are thinking that from today we might be shutting ourselves in properly just like everybody else.

 

 

Neither the hairstylist nor his assistant were wearing masks. And neither were Duncan nor I. You have to question yourself: what does this mean? I know in the UK, hair salons are going out of business – I have a friend who is now unemployed – it seems obvious that this is a perfect opportunity to get infected, with all the personal space being reduced to the intimacy of physical contact and shared oxygen, but, like many people here – despite the semi-mandatory lockdown this weekend, in which no one in Tokyo is supposed to go out of their houses except for the essentials – cue mass supermarket panics like everywhere else – and throngs unable to resist the allure of the opening cherry blossoms – reality has not quite bitten yet. It is still lurking as a possibility. Japan is a genius of deflection: turning a (knowing) blind eye a preternatural state of existence.

 

 

And yet this morning I have read that Birmingham Airport, ten minutes by car from my parent’s house, is being converted into a temporary makeshift morgue to store 1,500 bodies in the expected rise in mortal cases. My cousin’s case of coronavirus has come back, and now her husband has got it as well. Another cousin’s close friend actually died of it yesterday.  I am sure we have reached a situation, or will do soon, in which everybody will know somebody who has either come down with the illness or died from it, or at the very least lost their jobs and entered a perilous state of financial security (someone even closer in my family has reached this dreadful situation and is in a very dangerous state psychologically ). D and I even talked, quite matter of factly, of making wills this afternoon just in case. Not that we have any especially exciting assets to speak of (except, bizarrely, for an apartment in Berlin), but, you know,  just in case. I like to be truthful, face facts, and not to unduly beat around the bush (     though I do love to bush around the beat, and was dancing upstairs in the room I am writing this yesterday, vogueing like a fool with D, concurrently just living in the spontaneous moment because I have to and we totally felt like it. Nothing can stop me enjoying life, especially not the shadow of death).       It is quite mindbogglingly awful, though, that the whole world is now in a similar predicament, in fear of no longer existing:  or much worse, that we have entered the rites of plague, without funerals, that a hangar in my hometown is now being turned into a place for corpse storage, that the virus is in the town where my parents live: it is difficult how to know what to do with the worry, where to store it, in which internal organs, out of reach……..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I am aware of the great importance of being thankful for what you have got. So far, it seems that both of our jobs are safe; that we will still get paid, because education is at the very heart of Japanese priorities, more so than anywhere else I am aware of. For parents, it is everything. Far too much, in my humble opinion. To the detriment of too many other things, like free time and self-exploration, or just the criminally under appreciated importance of simple relaxation ( I thank god that despite the histrionics of my nature, my nervous volatility and piteous lack of impulse control -as a result of which I truly do live in the moment, another thing I am grateful for despite its sometimes dangerous repercussions – I am simultaneously really very good at doing nothing and truly switching off. My family knows that I am the best at this: the slob to end all slobs: I can luxuriate all day; a friend the other day said she just sits on the edge of her sofa and stares at the sky and I think that this is wonderful: some people can never turn off their brains, which is why it is so necessary to be able to focus on other things, such as reading, watching TV series or films, writing, playing the piano, cooking, swimming, having sex, running, walking, talking to others, daydreaming, even – with almost 100% of your concentration. To lose yourself. I always have been good at doing this,I must say,  but I mean that in a good way; particularly in the times we are living in right now : if you can’t escape, mentally, spiritually, from the relentless misery that is in the news then there is the potential to go under, and I don’t want to until I am taking my very last breath on that ventilator, intubated alone (that is, presuming the Japanese authorities even let a foreigner take a place in one of those limited hospital beds, who knows?) Until then, though, I intend to keep surfing on the crest of the ether and the pleasure receptors that are working full tick, in fact better than ever, if I am truthful with you; a curious state of affairs when you think about it, given these grotesquely surreal current circumstances.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I have a friend who lives in Berlin  – A French/ Indian/ British dancer and performance artist who deals with quite abstract philosophical issues: last time we were in London Duncan in fact took part in one of her ‘collapses’ – a protest against Brexit, staged in front of King’s Cross St Pancras station in which the participants slowly – out of the blue – in broad public, started falling, very slowly, towards the ground, in an eerie and provocative dance piece of solidarity and collaboration. I was one of the spectators, just one of the public sitting in the square, and though the skeptical will find such ‘nonsense’ pretentious posturing and so on, I personally found the ‘disruption’ of normal perception very interesting; cleansing; watching people’s reactions on the street : it was like opening up something pre-existing – I remember a Chinese man coming up to me and striking up a conversation about what the hell I thought was going on: to me it was like slicing through the quotidian grime of people zoned out in their own preoccupied little capsules of apprehension; all of us walking forward lost in our thoughts, trapped in our necessities and agendas, getting through the day.

 

 

 

Writing this I suppose I should be now be saying, how I yearn for those regular times before all this happened, the normality, just the normal clockwork workings of the day, but as I tap these words onto the computer that is not actually the way I am feeling. Does that make me terrible? I don’t know. Dominique, the artist in question, has written extensively, and done performances, about her theory of ‘somatic revolt’, the idea that even when you are consciously aware of the importance of an office job, for example, in which you feel repressed or which feels deeply unnatural to you  – as it does for me, no matter how much you try to convince yourself otherwise, like psychosomatic illness, your body will eventually revolt ; against itself, against society, which is why there are so many auto-immune disorders and so much mental illness worldwide: this ruthless system, in truth, just doesn’t work for people  (and don’t think for a minute that I am just a spoilt little bitch who is not aware of ‘the necessity of work’: I come from a regular background,  and as I have written above, people I know are in quite dire situations and I am very worried for them ; I am genuinely grateful to still have a job; we don’t have sufficient savings to sustain us should we become unemployed; I have always worked, and would be fucked if I didn’t have any income coming in) – but at the same time, I dp know that working, at least doing what I am doing, or at least the general environment, is not good for my actual health. Right now I feel 100% human; 100% alive. In some ways, despite the horror, quite amazing. Four weeks ago I was in a situation – which I documented on here – in which the reprehensible decision by my ‘superior’ to make me work and teach students in ludicrous emergency conditions even though the rest of the company and the whole country was on lockdown made me so angry – I would say apoplectic – that I literally exploded myself out of the situation in the purest form of somatic revolt: my body simply could not contain my frustration and fury and I lost it, with the result  that although I have been working in that particular school for almost twenty years, my desk has now been ‘removed’ : I have been summarily ejected, and I will be working in another section from this April, assuming the virus hasn’t spread, and we are still required to go into the school in order to teach our lessons.

 

 

 

 

 

 

While part of me was indignant, and slightly embarrassed, to be honest with you, to have ended my time. my ‘career’ in that stuff, unbreathable and mouldering teachers’ room in such an out of control fashion, a much, much  bigger part of me is truly delighted; I did it! I will be with much more sophisticated colleagues from now who will actually talk to me, and with much more natural light surrounding me (which is absolutely essential to my well being). I am pretty sure that my stress levels will be significantly reduced, so in the end, my uncontrollable instincts were proven right. I don’t deny them, nor disassociate myself from them. Work environments can be extraordinarily stressful; sometimes you don’t even realise yourself how much they are affecting you until you are taken away from that physical space. And I imagine that all around the world right now, though people are dismayed at the prospect of rapidly changing living and work circumstances  – and the prospect of actual death  ( I know several friends back home in the UK who are probably reading this and nodding to themselves ruefully : some literally even wondering how they are going to put food on the table, I am not in any way ignorant of this ) –  at the same time, I have to say that this enforced isolation will probably be making a very large number of people reassess the meaning of their life itself; when forced to slow down, to stay inside, to regroup, and remodel your whole way of living,you are taken away from the ‘hustle and bustle’ of daily life (which I know we all ‘need’ to keep busy, though deep down I say it can go fuck itself) :you are compelled – against your will in many cases – to travel inside. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The quality of this ‘travelling’ of course, will depend on what kind of apartment or house you are living in. I have friends up in Tokyo who live in tiny shoeboxes: one in particular who is hoping to move soon to London (what timing!) to further her work as a milliner is living, like a great many Tokyoites, in a tiny space; hardly enough to move around and I do worry about what will happen to my friends in these situations if it all actually does come to a fully fledged lockdown. It might be a little bit like being trapped in a prison cell, albeit one decorated with your own furnishings. I am worried that they will feel too penned in, submerged in their own isolation tank. In contrast I am lucky: I happen to live in an old, quite run down house that is nevertheless the perfect, ideal size for me. It is not big: D estimated the other day that it is no more than 80 metres squared, which shocked me ( I would have said at least a hundred, but his spatial awareness is far better than mine is so I will kowtow to his slightly more mathematical brain). I do know though that I often see huge, spacious, palatial houses and apartments in TV shows and films and unlike many, who sigh with aspiration – I must keep working to ‘better myself’; to climb the ladder! To have more! to ‘live the dream’ – I just see cold, empty spaces full of air and windows: meaningless ostentation. Showrooms. Catalogues. For me, the perfect balance between claustro and agora phobias  – enough space to feel free and unhindered but also withdrawn enough, unvisible,  to be able to hide, and nest –  must be right for me to ever fully enjoy living somewhere, and this place just happens to hit the spot very nicely. Our old place  – just one street along where we lived for thirteen years – was ok in some ways but a little too cramped and you could hear the man upstairs: where we are living now, since the earthquake, in a house,  D says he sometimes finds cramped, or rather in his words, ‘poky’ – but it is the opposite for me. Quiet. Virtually no noise. Just ambient sounds from outside. An upstairs and a downstairs; a contrast between a bohemian, den-like kitchen and sitting area with red lights and an almost sleazy aspect to it, packed with records, art books, knickknacks, spice shelves, patterned fabrics, kitsch bits and pieces – my dad sometimes says it is like talking to me in a red light district in Amsterdam when we communicate on FaceTime or WhatsApp  – why is your face always orange, why are you always in a bordello; but to me it is my lair, my refuge. I know there are a lot of bitter online debates between people about minimalism versus the opposite, but some friends who came the other day and marinaded themselves in our peculiar surroundings  said that they now were rethinking their positions – ‘we love this cosiness’,  —- and so do I.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Upstairs is very different. Light blue, green, or aquamarine. All the plants. The kitchen gets very little natural daylight, which is why it was pointless having it as anything other than a Madamish parlour à la Toulouse Lautrec (incidentally, we found some fabulous art books the other day in the trash, including a couple on the ultimate Parisian decadent: Friday is book collection day, and you wouldn’t believe some of the beautiful books that get thrown away,  just tied up with a little string, or sometimes kimono fabric: though considered rat like and scummiest – the stinking foreign reprobate – I have no compunction in riding along on my bicycle and    – yes, I’ll have that pile thank you very much :    whipping it up with my little finger and enduring the pain until I get the pile back to our house just down the street: wonderful to then lie on the sofa with your herb tea or beer and leaf through some art catalogues from the seventies, or books on psychology and sociology, or just picture books on Persia and places around Japan (although there was a deathly dull book I picked up the other day which featured a series of photographs on the North Japanese logging industry, in black and white; rarely have I been more bored than staring at pictures of tied up, immobile riverside logs); still, it provided a momentary diversion, and I think I am going to keep it. Why not? You never know when a Log Lady might turn up for the evening and be in absolute heaven, leafing through the pages in somatic ecstasy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yes, exploring our own house has actually been quite fascinating. We never would have done this if we hadn’t had so much time off to physically do so. Not able to go out as much as usual, we have made discoveries. The record player is broken, as is the projector, so there are so many films, so much beauteous vinyl just sitting there, pleading to be enjoyed, but it will just have to wait. When this coronashite subsides – and it WILL, it MUST – I will sip on a whisky and enter heaven on multiple occasions, on repetition (my favourite films are in my bloodstream; I sometimes have a physical ache for them); my record collection is no less precious. I could swear that just looking through my 12″s and LPs strengthens my immune system. I can feel it. But moving upstairs, past bookshelves filled with novels I have never read, and magazines and pamphlets I never knew existed (my boyfriend is a true magpie: not only is there always an ever growing dressing up cupboard, there are draws and draws filled with jewellery and sunglasses and postcards and inexplicable paraphernalia and curious accessories if you ever fancy coming round and dressing up, not to mention the costumes of Burning Bush and D Whom and Zarza Ardiente and Leon Charmé, if you can even get into the galakutabeya, or rubbish repository, or jumble cupboard, or Mr Benn’s changing room , whatever you want to call it, with its dolls heads and mannequins and taxidermy and wigs and god knows what – D’s family were supposed to be coming for a holiday in March and we were looking forward to having movie screenings and dressing up boxes with his four nieces and nephews – I can just imagine what hilarity and chaos would have ensued – but it will have to happen another day, maybe next year in October…………….

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As you go up the narrow staircase you reach the only typically ‘tasteful’ room in our house. More refined, with no colour, only natural materials…..the traditional Japanese room, made of wood, with high ceiling, shoji screens, tatami mats –  but also antique armoires packed full of perfumes for you to peruse and spray on (what time are you coming over?). It has been wonderful just lazing around in the morning and reaching out for some perfume I had forgotten I even had, or else one of Zubeyde’s, which I had somewhat neglected to put put back in her collection – and which is still in the genkan, blocking the entrance, hundreds and hundreds of rare and precious perfumes she has not yet been able to pick up (Z, your coffee awaits you!) ; this morning I was trying on something from my own collection that Duncan had brought home for me one day and I hadn’t yet properly tested on my skin, Alla Festa, by Pola – a Japanese marigold floral a little like vintage Lauren by Ralph Lauren with a rich shampoo sheen that will do nicely for this afternoon. Enlivening. Just one spray and it takes me out of myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cat is clearly very contented having us both home together at the same time. She follows us everywhere. The other day we found ourselves in the piano room, looking through books and finding things we didn’t even know were there (or even existed, really): oh look at this, this is interesting; where did this come from? actually using those that had been neglected or unread or unlistened to: a beautiful book of paintings and sculptures by Max Ernst, one of our surrealist favourites, some vintage Japanese erotica; photograph albums (enough to lose a whole day in); boxes of tapes – incredibly enjoyable to be listening to; whole eras and times I had forgotten coming back; not being able to listen to records has made us listen to long forgotten CDs and cassettes again,  compilations from when we first met each other – one he made me for Valentine’s Day when I was 23; yesterday I really teared up and became emotional listening to one made in my friend Peter’s university room and which I remembered listened to on the day after I came out to my parents – (literally:  Dancing Queen), a very momentous day for me emotionally, the importance of which cannot be underestimated; and the list of tracks ended eventually, after some music from the gorgeous French film Diva, about a down and out biker falling in love with an opera singer, with some unexpected music by Michael The Zither Man, a homeless, madrigal-like musician who used to play very magical music on his strange instruments that tinged the twilight blue sky outside of King’s College, Cambridge on June summer evenings         –        hearing it all again quite startling.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

With a need for evening entertainment, but no DVDs to watch until we hear from the projector factory, we have been glued to the screen of the computer on which I am writing this (the lightest room in the house, and the one that houses the more contemporary perfumes for me to reach out for when I am writing about scent as well as white painted shelves housing part of the movie collection)………….I don’t think it can be emphasised how lucky we all are in many ways to be living in this era and  to have access to such endless visual diversions. Whenever we want them.  Yes, as my favourite film critic Manohla Dargis wrote the other day in a very moving piece in the New York Times about the beauty of sharing a space in the dark with your fellow man to watch a piece of cinema, and the great loss she is feeling right now from its absence, the alternative might be merely ‘suboptimal’ TV series on streaming services such as Netflix (which for a month cost half the price of one cinema ticket ), but in my view, so many of these series are so totally involving, and of such quality, that the so called phenomenon of ‘binge-viewing’ (which unnecessarily denigrates the natural pleasure of viewing and being fully engrossed in something) is a true blessing for humanity, especially right now, and I couldn’t be more happy to be so susceptible. Granted, were you to spend every single day of your life doing nothing other than being immersed in other people’s worlds, it might be regrettable – depending on your life philosophy-  although a very ill friend of mine in Leicester truly has no other option as she is virtually unable to move because of paralysing nerve issues and it really does give her a portal to staying afloat when her body has been giving up on her for so long –  – – – – – she is sustained and kept part of humanity  by continuously watching the programmes that she loves. But though we tend to feel ‘guilty’ about spending so much time absorbed in the dramas of other people’s lives, real, or fictional, for me it is the opposite: I couldn’t be more curious about other spaces, other realities, other places, I want to go everywhere, I want to step inside every house, to smell it, see through its windows, feel how the occupants live, sense their lives, imbibe them; hear other languages, wonder over other cultures; different realms of possibility; the beautiful stimulation of different light, nature, belief systems, knowledge (we watched a very interesting documentary about babies that was extremely enlightening the other day ); to be aroused, horrified, excited, amused; the fact that we have these experiences constructed by other, creative people on tap for us at the mere touch of a button is in many ways nothing short of miraculous when in truth otherwise we could be just interiorising our fears and own built in limitations and just fretting; wrecking our bodies with all the stress : I say no, turn your gaze outwards ; drink in the world through your senses, take it in without tedious remorse over laziness or ‘unproductiveness’:  instead, in my view,  this is a gift.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

‘Tiger King’ a wild, bizarre, hilarious, unbelievable, trashy, and utterly thrilling documentary we watched the last two days on Netflix, had both of us agape on the bed, screaming at the camp and the ‘murder and mayhem’ of the true story of rival tiger owners in the US (did you know that there are 5,000 – 10,000 tigers kept as pets in America, but only 4,000 alive in the wild worldwide?), in a plot that you couldn’t possibly make up because nobody would ever believe it, and which, I could tell, was stimulating Duncan to the depths of his core – he looked elated  (“This is the best thing I have seen since Toni Erdmann”, he exclaimed, as we rushed to make dinner to get back to it – the beyond brilliant absurdist German film that was the film critics’ number one choice globally a few years ago, a film you can’t quite imagine until you see it, both grotesque and tender and hilarious beyond measure; ; ; ; ; )  this also took us out of ourselves to the extent that I felt thoroughly exhausted and brain-mashed by the time we finally went to bed. I felt that my head couldn’t possibly take any more. It was about to explode with what I had just absorbed into my body and brain, which couldn’t’ quite take in the preposterousness of what I was viewing. (I think of this phenomenon as a good thing though; to empty your own head, and have it occupied, for a while, by someone else, another moment. Just let it flood in). Filmed in Tampa, Florida, it really made me ache for foreign travel again, to go back to the Deep South – New Orleans, in particular, a place that has always stayed with us, badly, for some reason  – I remember us, after an especially mad night of tequila and dancing in every club we could find in the town centre of Tampa, where Duncan was going nuts on the dance floor next to go go  boys and we danced to merengue in a Cuban bar and he had one of the worst hangovers of his life, the next day while he slept it off I wrote an extended piece on The Black Narcissus about New Orleans, trying to capture the experience, and the city itself in words, as we travelled back from Tampa to Miami by train in a private car, and I couldn’t possibly have been more happy; watching the bayous and the beautiful, trailing Spanish moss trees that seemed so specific to that part of the world alongside the humid orange groves; the sheer wealth of literature and cinema and music from those specific places that are steeped in our general consciousness: Elizabeth Taylor pleading with Paul Newman in Cat On A Hot Tin Roof; the moist mysteries of Truman Capote and his strange families of oddballs lounging on their verandas like lizards: Nicolas Cage and Eva Mendes raging on the post Katrina streets in the brilliant Bad Lieutenant, Port Of Call, New Orleans by Werner Herzog with its iguanas and voodoo cemeteries; its saloon bars and sea snakes and dry crouching alligators; the over plenitude of crocodiles at the amusement park that we all went to, slinking into the waters but so close to the crowding families out to have fun in the hot summertime sunshine; the swirling deliciousness of the rich, Louisiana food; the crazed delectability of the lobster bisque, served by a waiter who then took us on a secret tour of the famous old restaurant we had dinner in, taking us upstairs to all the backrooms, the laced dining rooms with their solid wood tables where the movers and shakers of the city did their deals, looking out from the balustraded rooftops over the city with its warm, sluggish seduction and its derelict vampire graves; the solemn beauty of the old houses, the cascading trees, the river, and the jazz bars.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The perfumeries of the French Quarter. Hové Parfumeur and its other worldliness; the bunches of dried Creole vetivert grass piled up for purchase; soap, eaux de toilette, parfum strength; this in enough would warrant a trip back for me – next time I will fill up my suitcase with the stuff, I can tell you. The oozy aldehydic Pirate’s Gold that smelled so unctuously glinting on Duncan that he got through his small bottle of parfum in no time when we got back to Japan ; it smelled so decadent, and yet so simultaneously trustworthy and warm. I adored it. And Spanish Moss. What a beautiful perfume. I came across it again the other day, when randomly going through my collection: my small bottle, waiting to be found by me, having forgotten that it even existed. But this is treasure. The smell of acacia blossoms shot through with honey; the bearded willows of the Spanish Moss trees trailing gently above the flowing river waters; sweet with mosses and orange flowers (lilac; heliotrope, osmanthus) ; green, with a clandestine tenderness and optimism; composed within itself with an unforced ease of long ago: a replete – and life-giving  – elixir.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PERFUMED PLUMES BOOK OF THE YEAR FINALISTS REVEALED

 

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I am delighted to announce that I have been nominated as one of the finalists for the Perfumed Plume Book Of The Year 2020 award  – for “Perfume: In Search Of Your Signature Scent”, the guide to scent that I published last year with Hardie Grant. My co-nominees in the category include “The Perfume Roads” by Creezy Courtoy, an intriguing treatise on the historical and cultural origins of perfumery; “Nose Dive” by artist Catherine Haley Epstein – an in-depth and highly original journey into the sense of smell itself and  (I can hardly believe I am writing this), “Perfume Legends II: French Feminine Fragrances” by Michael Edwards. ‘Legendary’ doesn’t even begin to cover it! I am honoured, and very pleased to say the least, to be in such company, even if it looks unlikely that I will be able to make it to New York for the awards ceremony, assuming there even is one given the current circumstances. Still, I can’t deny that I am slightly puffing up my plumage this afternoon, here in Japan.

 

 

 

Here is the full list of nominees for each category :

http://www.perfumedplume.com/announcing-2020-Perfumed-Plume-Awards-finalists.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tra la la !!

 

 

 

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coronawalrus

 

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It goes without saying that it is difficult for all of us to completely think straight right now in these times of escalating infection and lockdowns. I am also wondering about what to do on here: should I just be creating a ‘space of dreams’ to escape from the increasingly terrifying realities by melding perfume with memory and sensation as I usually do, or should I instead just be writing about what is happening around me in the world from my country of residence’s bizarrely head in the sand Japanese perspective ;  or alternatively, not writing at all? Advice welcome – is it even ‘appropriate’ at this particular time to be rambling on about perfume –  I know that all of us have much more important things on our plates than to even contemplate thinking about such ‘frivolities’.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We have a morning ritual. We wake up, and D makes Earl Grey.  He brings up the Japan Times and The New York Times, which we read virtually from cover to cover through the morning as I go downstairs and make mugs of coffee, grinding the beans (which I sometimes find exhausting, so lazy am I). I have an insatiable desire to read as much as I possibly can, though, about the coronavirus, sick though we already all are with reading and hearing about it; the horror in the New York Hospitals, the epidemic in Spain, the malignant fuckwit that is ‘the president of Brazil’ calling the entire thing simply a left wing ‘fantasia’  – (can’t this dastardly virus be more selective in who it takes out?) ;  the Japanese weirdly muted response that is still entirely baffling to the mind and which is so very different to our neighbours South Korea and China who have taken swift action to deal with the pandemic (sometimes I honestly feel like I am living in a dream world. Examples: our lovely neighbours and a family we are very close to, and who I would never say a bad word about, well not usually, bumped into D as he was taking out the rubbish to the assigned place the other day – they are both around eighty years of age- and it was great, if perplexing, to hear that they apparently seemed so cheery and business as usual: ‘This is a high class place, so we are not worried. We will be ok’. Er…………..mmmmm …………..The same day, a little bit later as we were heading along on our bicycles heading for yet another rendezvous (so much for social distancing! We are failing miserably) – we saw our very overworked local doctor on the street who was making a house call looking flustered but cheerful as always and who assured us ‘ daijobu yo! Koko wa heiwa desu yo!’ “ It’s ok! It is fine! It is peaceful up here’! as though we were all nuns at the top of a cliff in the Himalayas, cut off from the rest of the world with no possible transference of any communicable diseases, when the reality is that yes, we do live at the top of a hill, in a residential area that was carved into a former zen temple mountain at the end of the 1960’s, but it is a commuter area: everyone either takes the bus down to Ofuna  (twenty minutes) where there have been confirmed cases – or walks down the hill along the scenic route past the temples to the station at Kitakamakura (fifteen minutes), home of Engakuji, world centre of Zen Buddhism, but as far as I know, still not a protector against the virus; the point being that people are coming and going all the time from Tokyo and Yokohama where they work, and then returning to the relative haven that is Imaizumidai, packed on trains and on buses back up here to their homes…….as far as I am concerned an awareness of this is just common sense (says he who was planning to go to a friend’s wedding on Sunday! ). AT ANY RATE the idea that we are somehow safe and living ‘peacefully’ ‘up here’ is pure and unadulterated nonsense. Bullshit. I feel like I am living in a surreal zone of oddness where people can say such things that are pleasantly self-deceiving to keep up the spirits – which I understand – you need need to be as cheerful as you possibly can – but at the same time, almost  – if I am honest with you –    quite i n s a n e. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As is planning to go to a wedding with a room full of dressed up guests in a Yokohama hotel when the world is in self-isolation mode and even Japan, now the Olympics have officially been postponed, is beginning to murmur about lockdowns just like everybody else (some articles have put forward the idea that this country is just quietly dealing with ‘pneumonia’ cases and then just treating them as pneumonia cases without actually doing the test to find out if it is anything else ; thus keeping the official figures, and the panic levels down  – and the economy ticking obliviously along –  – – –  = = = ). I don’t know. I don’t want to let my friends down when they are ‘braving everything’ to go ahead with the wedding as intended, and wasting so much money, but I am also starting to realise that this is more than slightly foolish. I have had severe pneumonia twice, as you know (as has the bride! just two years ago, and she had it really badly, dear god what are we all thinking), and realistically none of us should be putting ourselves in a position of physical danger all for the sake of a punkish middle fingered hedonism, which as you all know, I am also severely prone to, and have been from the moment I plugged in to my own personality as a teen ; like most other people I love life, and enjoyment, and pleasure; parties, people, perfume, food, alcohol, dancing, photography, art, music, experience – anything that isn’t the daily grind – which I am significantly less partial to  – but let’s face it, despite this appalling libertarian Sagittarianness of freedom über alles there are limits. Yes, we bought new clothes the other day, after a mutually irritable day of bickering and taunting, but so what (all resolved by a delicious Thai meal at my favourite restaurant, I must say; the second the coconut based kaffir lime sublime balance of the Tom Yum Kun soup hit our taste buds and smell receptors, warming our throats with the extraordinary  deliciousness reserved for the finest cuisine from that most sensuous of culinary cultures, everything got immediately better; the moods back on an even keel, helped along immeasurably by cold Chang beers, and the neon of the street outside; as the reality parameters became more blurred; and the imminent threat of mortal illness subsided, and we re-entered the dream state that is our default modus operandi).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But. We are not stupid, I hope. At least not completely. On the way up on the train on Tuesday to Yokohama to hunt down some clothes at our usual haunts we had our masks on together: the first time we have ever been out wearing them as a pair –    reused ones,  as we can’t buy any more  here, and so probably quite pointless; D’s pitiful number hardly even covered up his face with big gaps at the side; for comfort, I had turned my also multiply-utilised mask upside down, which made me look something like the walrus from Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky; even the right way up it looks ridiculous, supposedly a mask to stop your glasses from steaming up, but on me with the horns pointing towards the eyeballs it just made me look really ugly and very evil. So no properly working masks. And probably no wedding, either we are beginning to realise, as it is a little bit too reckless, even for us. I don’t want to worry our parents back home, who think we are mad as it is even at the best of times (because you know, you only live once – as far as we know – and we have always hated the mundane and that really is never going to change: : : but even so).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

No. Not attending the wedding is obviously the most sensible option, even if I know I will get pangs of regret when I see all the photos published in droves on social media with a D+ N shaped hole in them and feel like something of a coward (I love all the bonhomie – the clinking of glasses; the toasts and the hors d’oeuvres  :the possibly misguided ‘rising above’ the sense of global calamity that the Japanese government has attempted to hide from us “We can overcome the coronavirus!” shouts Abe, but which we all deep down know is obviously the reality, because you feel it in the deeper recesses of your corpuscles).  You know it in the back of your mind (and at night in your dreams). We should not  be going to this wedding  (     tell me honestly: I think all exchanges of conversation and communication are good at this time between us all, no matter the subject, as a way of lightning the psychic burden on the spirit). And on that note, how are you doing personally, right this moment,  in terms of health and happiness and sanity, as you read this, in this bizarre ‘new world’  that has suddenly been turned completely  upside down?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The sun was shining on the sea,

 

Shining with all his might:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He did his very best to make

 

The billows smooth and bright ………

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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And this was odd, because it was

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The middle of the night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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WHAT PERFUME TO WEAR TO A WEDDING? – RADIANT TUBEROSE by JIMMY CHOO SEDUCTION COLLECTION (2020) + PASHA PARFUM by CARTIER (2020)

 

 

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I have been to a fair number of weddings in my time and I sometimes enjoy them. I have never, I must say though, considered going to one in the middle of a viral pandemic. Not that Japan seems to be having one: as I wrote the other day, everything is business as usual here. Either we have dodged the bullet – which strikes me as impossible – or something else is going on. I do know that it is very complicated for non-Japanese to get tested for Covid-19 even if you do come down with symptoms (it sounds like a bureaucratic labyrinth from the depths of hell). I don’t know. We have been invited – it is on Sunday – and are still thinking about going. We don’t want to let her down. The bride’s family can’t attend from America, so it will be up to us to fill up her side of the aisle; her other extended family of quite unconventional people; gamers, anime freaks, cabaret artistes and death metal fans dressed in black.

 

 

 

 

 

I have never been to a Goth wedding. Which is an added bonus for me, something new (all the weddings I have ever been to have been delightful at times, especially when you know that the couple are made for one another  but also exhausting: traditionally I have usually been asked to play the piano  – I once also did a Vivaldi flute concerto accompanied by a professional string quartet – and so also have had a lot of stage fright). This one will be a little bit different I would imagine  – I hope – and we would like to support our friends – Amber has DJed at some of our events, been Duncan’s back up dancer in one of his performances, along with Dayane

 

 

 

 

 

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who will also be in attendance (as a bridesmaid). My own personal dilemma has been what to wear (in terms of clothes – I simply do not have anything whatsoever to wear right now and have spent all of this month’s money stocking up on food and supplies for Armageddon so would have to go out and buy a secondhand suit this week, do what I always dislike…..going shopping (something a little bit dandyish, perhaps, compared to my boring work suit?, I don’t know). Another option, of course, was to go as Burning Bush, but I am just not in the mood. Several of my other friends are weighing up which incarnation they would like to rock up in, though – it’s interesting to have this as an option. But no, I am just going to go as myself in something simple.In terms of scent,I am feeling like something deep and masculine but not too obvious ; either the original Gentleman by Givenchy (1974), an enveloping leather patchouli, or else Ermenigildo Zegna’s Haitian Vetiver from 2012  – staid, sturdy, dependable – which I have been wearing as a body scent and then topping up with other vetiver perfumes or citruses like Armani Pour Homme (which goes with it perfectly). I am more in the mood for being a subdued spectatorright now – if I go – and just let the young people do their thing. As Yukiro said last night, he doesn’t want to upstage the bride, if he goes as the ever beautiful Die Schwarze Frau.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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(Atsushi. The best man? It is going to be interesting to see how some of the attendees dress: whether they will be toning it down for the groom’s family in attendance or going full out like the above, which would be somewhat astonishing).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

One thing that I am sure none of us would consider wearing for these nuptials I think is Radiant Tuberose by Jimmy Choo, which Yukiro has just tried on downstairs and promptly washed off with great vehemence (he and D have spent the last two nights going through footage of their film; I have kept out of the way for the most part but looked in at times and what I have seen has been hilarious and outrageous; all of the people pictured here also feature in the movie). Our Swedish master of the macabre is not at all afraid of wearing florid flowers, not at all, and has received quite a few perfumes from me in his time as well, as do all my friends,  but this one – a very chokeworthy if,  yes radiant – as in, it irradiates through the room like leakage from a nuclear reactor –  full of ylang ylang a little in the vein of Dipytque’s Eau Moheli, all peppery and pretty and tuberosey and bright as the lights in an operating theatre – is just too much. The kind of perfume that some ladies might wear to a wedding; done up a couple of notches too many in their orange foundation and false eyelashes;  too keen to catch the bouquet – the scent you can imagine on those British holidaygoers stuck in Tenerife, clutching cocktails, wearing bikinis, and gas masks by the pool.

 

 

 

 

 

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Pasha by Cartier is no less sexy  – I think the Jimmy Choo could probably work okay in limited doses – even if it is as predictable as the morning sun. A brand new parfum version of the 1992 macho-fougère, it is fresh and spicy and lavendery and manly as you would expect from a perfume of this genre; Yukiro’s reaction just now; ‘My god, that would really add to the stress of the office …………..if I had to work in one’, and I know what he means. Despite its suave efficacy, it would bug me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A touch too much of Pasha Parfum on the wrong obnoxious male could be an absolute headache. YES, a part of me will always like these classic ‘barbershop’ old style fougères such as Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche Pour Homme (because it is a recipe that is unequivocally erotic on the right man, and sometimes woman);  and D has a crisp little thing called Eau De Berlin that we picked up in Germany one year and which he sometimes wears  ( I also really rather like Grigioperla, grey pearl,  which to me is like dawn light glinting on granite as the groom has pre-wedding jitters, smoking a cigarette on the patio outside with his best mates sprucing up after the inevitable stag do); this, though, obviously, is not the kind of fragrance that I would ever consider wearing in a million years, despite its competent construction (the oudh-amber base note, on me, which I have just had to shower off, is truly grim). There’s manly, and there is manly. And there is feminine, and there is ridiculousAnd neither the bride, nor the groom, at this wedding, if we go, has any truck with traditional gender roles:  I would be embarrassed to turn up smelling in either of these perfumes – not that we can hug or kiss anyone there, presumably  – social distancing regulations undoubtedly strictly enforced  – so they might not even notice.. But even so, I would feel like I was boxed up in restriction. Wafting from my wedding table, tucking into my amuses bouches. Smelling horrible. So I will have to think out mine and the D’s perfume selections a bit more carefully, to get it right – ( I still haven’t actually decided). Plus in truth, it’s highly unlikely that either of the wedding couple, it being Japan  – will be wearing any perfume in the first place –  though I did once give Amber a miniature bottle of vintage Vivenne Westwood Boudoir, her all time favourite and one I can wear quite impressively myself as well in truth ….all incense dens, leopard skin throws, salmon sheets and quilted hookah pipes………………………………………)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SHISEIDO ‘TENTATRICE’ ………………..THE ORCHID LADY (1997)

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In David Lynch’s Twin Peaks, Donna goes to the house of The Orchid Man  –  a germ fearing, horticulturalist agoraphobe who never leaves his rooms, surrounded by his darlings, during an episode entitled ‘The Orchid Curse’. They kiss. Chaos ensues. Cigarettes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Orchids always strike me as being very extreme. The care they require, the obsession they evoke in those that tend to them (Clint Eastwood’s flawed but intriguing film ‘The Mule’ from 2018 was centred around a flower grower so possessed with the blooming of his orchids that he was willing to not only sacrifice his family, but also become a drug runner for the Mexican cartels); in Java, I witnessed firsthand the painstaking work required by the employees on the vanilla plantation to nurture the vines, spread out as over several hectares of forests while the orchid plants climbed quietly and stealthily up the trees but would bloom only one day of the year – that frantic time when the workers would be searching the entire premises looking for the ice cream coloured flower as it opened for the process of pollination;  a precious, beeless moment that, despite seeing every other step of the agricultural methods used to produce one hanging vanilla pod, I was unfortunately just a few days too early to witness firsthand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I have noticed recently – having seen lots of documentaries set in various parts of the world, but especially in the U.S, that there is a  preponderance of  minimalism in many of the interiors (‘millennials favour experiences, not possessions‘), almost as if they themselves, the protagonists, form the decoration in the places that they live; the surroundings almost plain, utilitarian.   Space.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am a lot more like the Orchid Man. I love to be inside. Surrounded by things, living or otherwise. If I could grow them, I would have them trailing the balcony, strangling other plants. Breathing. I want tropical flowers, succulents, as many as possible. If I could, I would make the inside of my house like a jungle. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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In ‘Orchid Fever – A Horticultural Tale Of Love, Lust and Lunacy’ by Eric Hansen, we come to learn of perfumers working for Shiseido who have consulted orchidologists in order to recreate the specific scent of a delicately perfumed orchid that is favoured in Japan (the perfume was an Asia only release), the Chinese Cymbidium :

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Indeed, as described, this understated perfume is gentle and delicate, but more than discreetly erotic as well (after all, tentatrice does mean  ‘temptress’ in French); based more on a gorgeously prominent note of palpably living jasmine than any orchid that I have smelled (I was once amazed by the low, numb glow of the scent of a sweet powdered orchid that had opened in the botanical garden at Shinjukugyoen national park: I think previously I had thought that the flowers’ perfume was imaginary ) – though we smell something of the snake in the hothouse here in the foreground as well; leaves, a fresh white, a calm, but also a coquettishness that I remember was much more prevalent here in Japan when I arrived in the late 1990’s when women were less afraid to smell sexy (despite the clannish cultural ‘exclusivity’ of the above, if you can read it, this perfume could work very effectively on anyone, anywhere). There was more of an international mindset still going on at that time, before the slow interiority of the last two decades started to set in to calcify the  veins and women became, on the whole, somewhat more dowdy and/ or ‘childlike’ (and with a tedious prevalence of desexualised rose perfumes to match). Tentatrice is different, and quite imaginable on a much more mentally and physically lithe and unafraid woman of the late Bubble Era who may well still be wearing this mid 90’s fragrance right now somewhere in Tokyo as I write this;  someone chic but not uptight; one who would value her perfume properly,  happily to regularly use these reconstituted flowers – these living, mysterious, sexual analogies  – as ensnaring, and skin close    —   eaux de toilette. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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PEACHY AND KEEN AND HAPPY AS LARRY : : : : : : : : : WHITE ZAGARA by THE DIFFERENT COMPANY (2013)

 

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Peach is not a note I often reach for. Though there are peach notes in the obvious classics: Femme De Rochas, Mitsouko, those are chypre peaches. I do like the powdery rose peaches such as Guerlain Nahéma and Unum Rosa Nigra; tight, pressed-peach rose pressing powders perhaps because they remind me of a hilarious incident as a university student when I was horsing around one lazy afternoon with my friend George when we should have been studying but instead were messing around in my room and in the process wrestled with each other and somehow the lid suddenly flew off a huge brand new tin of Marks & Spencers Peach Talc – a smell I adored and  which I would smother myself in nightly after bathing – which blasted off a whole swathe of cloying peachy talcum  – the entire contents  – into our hair and mouths as we laughed our powdered heads off  while at that very same moment, as we choked and declogged our eyes and throats, a  prim friend of mine called Chloe walked in unexpectedly to ask me a question about some matter academic : blinking non-comprehendingly at us, the sight and smell that met her eyes.

 

 

 

 

 

Peach. I had peach pot pourri also in that room I remember as I suppose I was going through something of a peachy phase generally, even if I have always hated ‘peach’ as a colour (I remember when we nearly got to see Prince for his Sign O The Times tour in 1987 – he cancelled for some reason I can’t remember –  and I was so excited, but was also dreading the sight of everyone wearing peach and black which his Highness had decreed that his funking acolytes shouldwear….I would rather have died ); but I have never really worn a peach peach perfume I don’t think until a couple of weeks ago when I just couldn’t resist buying a cheap bottle of The Different Company’s White Zagara which I found in a shop in Isezakicho and which in truth is not a solifruit pȇche number really, but more a mood enhancing, very well blended and carefree white springtime floral of orange blossom and honeyed tuberose with delicious citrus overtones – citron and bergamot – with also a very pronounced and lovely orange note that melds perfectly with a delightfully charming peach blossom note that is somewhat irresistible: even if in truth at this stage of my life and manhood I am not 100% persuaded that I can convincingly pull such an exuberant and girlishly giddy scent off.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Right now, in the bathroom, however, I do in fact have a conditioner by the always very strong smelling Herbal Essences called White Grapefruit and Mosa Mint that, when it has been rinsed out smells just like peaches, and I can imagine after drying my hair on a nice day in April a few spritzes of this lovely little perfume  would be quite a mood lifter (not that I need that, necessarily; the world has gone bananas, and I am coming to that  – sorry, it can’t be avoided – ) but we are still very much, the two of use, in Gloriously Uplifted Oblivious Spring Holiday mode, cycling about as though on a summer picnic, enjoying the sun, the blue sky, and Mount Fuji, which looked so spectacular when we turned round the corner yesterday at Zushi Marina that I intook my breath very sharply: staggered just by how beautiful it looked against the surrealist blue waves; like a dream of  Magritte; hyperreal, knowing full well it would not come out on an iPhone lens so feasting my eyes on the scene and drinking it in as we sped along in hyperkinetic action mode, past the throngs of people out and enjoying their day (social distancing?! ) Ha! Don’t make me laugh…..yesterday was like a national celebration and I asked Duncan to confirm it last night as I tried to take stock of the day we had had  (I sometimes need corroboration that my wilder instincts and natural hyperbole are not off target). ‘When I write about this tomorrow, could I not describe today as almost celebratory? Do you think I could even say that it was rapturous’?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

He did not disagree. We had cycled into Kamakura, past groups of giggling happy girls in white blouses, whose hair, as I rode past them, gave off a perfume quite similar to the one I am describing here today; unimpeachable (sorry!), clean and fresh, sensual enough to get married but not improper  – usually the case here: young woman often do smell extremely nice with all their shampoos and hair treatments and lightly scented skin care, and White Zagara would  – if more widely promoted – probably become a monster seller here in Japan if it were slightly less expensive as it is so balanced and seamless in its blending that it immediately brings a smile to the face: and smiles were in great abundance yesterday, I am telling you: you would never, in a million years, have suspected that a worldwide pandemic was happening simultaneously all over the world (and probably here as well). All were out and about, no one was self-isolating (and neither were we: so it would be hypocritical to criticise others): it was such a beautiful day, about 20 degrees, breezy so the waves were white capped and frothed and the air was filled with a rigorous and consolidating  energy; surfers and windsurfers and sailing boats were bobbing along delightedly on the wind-whipped waves; children ate ice creams, mothers and fathers were laughing, and everyone was smiling like there was no tomorrow. We sat on a hillside gazing, like many other couples as though it were Woodstock, or the Solstice, as the shades and the colours of Magnificent Mount Fuji changed slowly with the sunset; we sat with the sun shining full on our faces to the point of sunburn, drinking up the vitamin D and the exultingly pleasant air, with other families, and little dogs, and old couples who had climbed up to sample the view, and I wondered, and we discussed openly, whether this all was some form of madness that we were warped up in, or was it just the rest of the world – huddling frightenedly inside their houses, that was booby-trapped with disinformation and was this in fact the reality (seriously, I am carried away here, I know, but I know that if you had been with me yesterday you would have seen the same thing: it was undeniable; wedding parties out laughing, restaurants and cafes in full swing, hundreds on the beaches, everyone out enjoying the sunny Friday: I would not have entirely been surprised to find myself waking up, plugged in the back of the head like Keanu Reeves into the Matrix to find that all this eye-popping colour and beauty was just a simulation to keep my mind occupied while my body was pumped with a ventilator to keep my lungs going ), except I am not actually mad and yesterday was real. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Japan Times this morning had the headline: ‘WHAT IS BEHIND JAPAN’S FLAT CURVE OF INFECTIONS’? I am also desperate to know. All of my non-Japanese friends here in Japan are lamenting and ranting quite righteously in hypercritical mode at the country they have chosen to live in, up in arms at the complete nonchalance that seems to have taken over the entire country like some sleeping sickness : the majority of people yesterday weren’t even wearing masks, we included – the fact that the trains are packed as usual, and school kids are going back in just a week or two, wondering whether the country has ‘somehow dodged a bullet’ and is just lucky, or whether the fact that we have so little testing compared to other countries means that a mass epidemic is just lurking underneath the peachy keen skin of the current, obliviously happy madness.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You can argue from where you are sitting, locked down in New York or London or San Paolo or wherever you are reading this from that the latter must definitely be the case (and I do suspect as such myself; after all, I am a skeptical, some might say cynical, person by nature, and I know that Abe will do anything not to cancel the Olympics, which was to be the swan song of his legacy); plus I also know from personal experience that Japan is the pretend that nothing is wrong country par excellence  – it thrives on maintaining surface appearances which is why everything is always so smooth (interesting that contrary to all assurances otherwise, Greenpeace has found radiation spots along the Olympic Torch route (see my piece on the Earthquake of 2011 for much more on what has turned out to be a similar situation in some ways – Reality vs Reality vs Reality  (because it always just depends on how you look at it)). And yet according to the newspaper this morning, which is quite left in its leanings and always very critical of the government, cases of coronavirus in Tokyo ‘make up 0.0008 per cent of the population’  –  I checked those three zeros carefully – so no wonder people are not panicking especially at this very moment as this is the very opposite of Northern Italy where people seem to be going down like flies and we read about tragic cases of bodies piling up in morgues that can’t yet be buried like scenes from a Medieval Plague. Surely, if in Tokyo there really were such levels of infections and deaths occurring, it would be impossible for the government to cover them up? A body is a body. If the health services were truly so overwhelmed, I am pretty certain that the TV companies and voracious media here, which are no less vulture-like and sordid than the notorious tabloids back home, would quickly get a whiff of it and – though fearful of reprisals from the government – my Japanese friend says that this country is essentially becoming a Police State – if things were truly cataclysmic, then surely we would know. We would smell it. And right now, it is eerily normal. No, better than normal because of the cherry blossom blooming and the sun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Speaking of my Japanese friend, I got an email from him yesterday morning in which to be honest I was slightly worried about his mental health as he is truly fuming at what he sees is the docility of the inhabitants of this country and yearning for the executions of certain people in power saying quite openly that ‘it’s actually no different from North Korea’, and both D and I did also note, while cycling along as happy as Larry yesterday afternoon that if the government had, out of the blue, suddenly released an edict saying ‘STAY INSIDE. THERE IS DANGER. WEAR MASKS. A NEW OUTBREAK HAS OCCURRED’ then you can bet your bottom dollar that the streets would be totally EMPTY.  People would OBEY. IMMEDIATELY. Which we can laugh at. Ha ha ha the obedient orientals. And yet, now the tables are turned (that piece I wrote a few weeks ago, if you remember, about Penhaligons Heartless Helen, where I was in Yokohama the very day that the infected passengers were being released from the Diamond Princess and I was freaking out, feels like an eternity ago now. You read it from wherever you were and thought, perhaps, oh dear, Neil is in a bit of a weird situation, he sounds like he is starting to losing it a bit), but I imagine that it seemed so distant to you, nothing really to do with you, and yet look at all of us now. All in quarantine. Yet it seems that the more line-towing cultures, the ‘tighter’ ones like Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam and Singapore, are the ones that are actually managing to keep the virus under control, whereas the so called ‘looser’ societies  – the term that the New York Times was using yesterday in an analytical piece on the situation, the cultures that value individual freedom, defying the law, doing exactly what you want, are anti big government, like Italy, the UK and America, are how the ones that are currently terrifyingly under siege. So I don’t know. I don’t know what is real. Yesterday’s Day Of Beauty, which was so intense it seared itself into my retina and brain and I had to go to bed early as I felt strange and tired and overwhelmed (from the physical activity- we cycled for quite a long way), but also from the amazement that I could be having such a perfectly lovely day with my D in these circumstances, left me feeling that I genuinely don’t know what information – my own sense included – that I can trust,; that I can’t parse the layers of truth; that there are very different possibilities simultaneously, but also that, like White Zagara, with its dazzling positivity in its flourishingly delicious top notes that could convince you that the world is just a big happy peach; concurrently, a very generic, unthinking white musk in the base lies underneath all of this; undermining those cheerful flowers with its yielding and conformist, gentle passivity : a little bit gullible, and quite a bit dumb.

 

 

 

 

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AFTER THE VIRUS : : INDRA! by ULRIC DE VARENS (1983)

 

 

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The wonderful thing about living now is how connected we are. I know that this is problematic as well: you don’t need to tell me. But when we are faced with the prospect of all being locked up inside, going barn crazy, it is so great that we can just press a few buttons and talk to our family and friends and simultaneously see their faces while doing so. This was something I actively used to fantasise about when watching Startrek on TV as a child. To boldly go. And now it is real.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Talking with my parents today earlier – them in the living room in their dressing gowns, us upstairs in ‘Joni Mitchell’ (the piano and cinema room) about the escalating situations around the world that we are all glued to, even if it is quite nice to take your mind off it sometimes for a while (D and I spent this glorious sunny afternoon cycling along parts of our neighbourhood we have infrequently or never been to before; random roads, past unknown houses), I discovered to my absolute astonishment during the conversation that one of my cousins has in fact already come down with the virus and already recovered (she caught it in Northern Italy, when skiing and is now in isolation).

 

 

 

 

 

My senses went into overdrive. Somehow, feeling all greasy and grotty after all the exercise in the unusually warm sun and then from the heat of cooking dinner ce soir, the news that someone in my family has already been through the coronavirus and come out the other side alive just made me suddenly despair strongly for something soft, aldehydic, harmless, lovely – a hot shower with lots of soap and then rushing upstairs frantically in search of More By Shiseido, my first choice that came immediately to mind, a sixties or seventies floral aldehydic that has all the fluffiness and teen bedroomness of those cozed up in the sheets pyjama party perfumes like Chantilly by Houbigant (remember that one? so damn comforting); but try as I might I just couldn’t locate the gorgeously crisp yet talcum powdery confection that is More. Instead, my lingering wrist chanced lightly among my armoire upon a small bottle of Indra!, a cheap as chips little perfume (rose, jasmine, iris, aldehydes, soft base)  – given to me by a friend a few years ago and that I had somehow neglected but that actually ended up being even better. As I sit here in my pyjamas, clean and very pleased that my cousin is alright ( I know it doesn’t detract from the severity of the worldwide situation, but just let me have my five minutes), this perfume couldn’t possibly be more perfect right now, at this actual moment. I don’t need to psychoanalyse the situation.  I just know that this smells like 1983, and I am happy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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