Monday, 29 March 2010

CB I hate Perfume: Black March

If you don't already know about CB I hate perfume by Christopher Brosius then you really should; even if you aren't terribly interested in fragrance. I have admired Christopher's incredible nose and ability to create scents that truly smell of exactly what they purport to from a far for a long time; this man is an artist, he can recreate the smell of playdoh, dirt, snow- seemingly anything you could wish for. You can read all about his journey to becoming an independent perfumer here; I think it's a fascinating story.

Until now it has only been possible to buy CB I hate perfume on the internet and from the US but now I am delighted to say a selection are available from Liberty of London online and in their beautiful shop.

The scents Liberty are stocking are: At the beach 1966, Mr Hulot's Holiday Water, In the Library, Fire from Heaven and finally my favourite of these M (for metamorphosis series) #2Black March.

This scent was inspired by the following poem of the same name:

Black March, a poem by Stevie Smith, 1902-1971

I have a friend
At the end
Of the world.
His name is a breath

Of fresh air.
He is dressed in
Grey chiffon. At least
I think it is chiffon.
It has a
Peculiar look, like smoke.

It wraps him round
It blows out of place
It conceals him
I have not seen his face.

But I have seen his eyes, they are
As pretty and bright
As raindrops on black twigs
In March, and heard him say:

I am a breath
Of fresh air for you, a change
By and by.

Black March I call him
Because of his eyes
Being like March raindrops
On black twigs.

(Such a pretty time when the sky
Behind black twigs can be seen
Stretched out in one
Cambridge blue as cold as snow.)

But this friend
Whatever new names I give him
Is an old friend. He says:

Whatever names you give me
I am
A breath of fresh air,
A change for you.

Christopher Brosius calls this 'A fresh clean scent composed of Rain Drops, Leaf Buds, Wet Twigs, Tree Sap, Bark, Mossy Earth and the faintest hint of Spring' and of course it is all these things. To me it is mostly an extremely clear and quite uncanny smell of rain in early spring- where the trees and ground are woken by the water but there aren't yet many flowers to contribute to the scented song nature creates when it rains. It is quite beautiful and there is a strange mixture of melancholy and hope that perhaps you wouldn't smell if you hadn't read the poem- but knowing the inspiration for the perfume does add that certain poignance.

As with all the CB I hate perfume scents if you are looking for a conventional pretty and not terribly challenging smell this might not be for you. If you like something that is truly well crafted made by someone who seems to have a complete gift for what they do and that is constantly fascinating and challenges your perception of what we wear scent for then look for these. Just trying them will open your eyes as to what people can achieve with smell. I think Black March is beautiful and CB I hate perfume is remarkable.

'Black March' by Stevie Smith copied from here.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Walking in the morning

the penultimate walk. i will come hear again but then i will be revisiting, there will be an echo of these mornings that i won't be able to ignore that will make the steps less pure.

in a story book the sun would have shone from nowhere like it does on summer mornings when the common is awake but the city is not. when you can feel wet dew between your toes because you wore sandals, even though you knew it was too cold.

in fact it was slate grey and a little bit misty but not romantically so; the air was wet but there were no drops of rain. The grass was sticky and I slid on the mud and it made me smile and miss it already. isn't it strange that something that would have annoyed you a day before can be so touching when you won't have it anymore?

the big dog i sometimes see- the one who looks more like a horse and always wants to play and never understands when some people are scared- was not there. i wish he had been because i like to play too and i know the biggest dogs have the biggest hearts. i gave him an imaginary pat on the head and hoped he would meet new friends.

of course i wouldn't have time to have thrown a stick for him because i was late but at the time and when i look back now the minutes seemed to move slowly.

then i could hear the train and I had to hurry but there was just time to look round and look at that dearest pocket of the wild that i called home.

tomorrow will be the final day and of course on final days it is like you have already moved- it's all excitement and change and hope- and you can't imagine why you thought you'd be sad.

but today was the penultimate day and so i dabbed my eyes a little on my sleeve as my feet ran from grass to concrete and from this place to the next.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Comforting scents for uncomfortable times

The lovely Ayala from Smelly Blog has kindly arranged a joint project between a group of perfume bloggers about the perfumes and perfume materials that are comforting to us.

So what is comforting? The online dictionary says:

com·fort (kum′fərt)

transitive verb

1. to soothe in distress or sorrow; ease the misery or grief of; bring consolation or hope to
2. to give a sense of ease to
3. Law to help; aid


1. aid; encouragement: now only in aid and comfort
2. relief from distress, grief, etc.; consolation
3. a person or thing that comforts
4. a state of ease and quiet enjoyment, free from worry, pain, or trouble
5. anything that makes life easy or comfortable

The following scents do all of the above for me at different times.

Guerlain L'heure Bleu- so complex it makes me feel less so, a friend in times of trouble. Strangely this scent above all oils and other fragrances is the best at getting me to sleep when everything else fails.

Guerlain Apres L'Ondee- likes sunshine on dew, or a smile after tears; it's reflective, it's balancing and it's so beautiful wearing it makes you feel like you have a special secret

Nina Ricci L'Air De Temps- because my Mother wears it and it was my first perfume, because it signalled the end of the second world ward- because it, unlike me, is unashamedly glass half full and sometimes that is what you need

Chanel Allure- I don't wear this anymore but it reminds me of a happy time in my life when I did- and a very good friend wears it also

Penhaligon's Blenheim Bouquet- Firstly there is lots of lavender which is already calming, my Father wears this and uses the products so it reminds me of him, also the longevity of the scent, the fact it's seen well turned out gentleman through war and advancements and is still the same scent in the same bottle- I find that comforting.

Commes De Garcon Avignon (scent and candles)- I don't go to church often but there's something very calming about incense and for me this is the perfect one.

Frederic Malle L'Eau D'Hiver- now this is a bit of a cheat because it is in so many ways like Apres L'Ondee that perhaps it shouldn't count- but it is even more restful and quiet than the original.

L'Artisan Parfeumeur Mimosa Pour Moi- for the kitten or puppy paws quality and for being gloriously yellow

Penhaligon's Bluebell- for when I can't be near the countryside or the woods- the smell of English earth in magical forests.

Finally I cannot name one rose perfume or product above them all because I love so many- so I will just say the scent of roses, whether they are growing in the garden, wrapped up in the florist, in my face cream, my macaroon or in my perfume- they always make me happier.

Please don't forget to visit the other excellent blogs taking part in this project:

Katie Puckrik Smells

Savvy Thinker

Roxana's Illuminated Journal

Bitter Grace Notes

Perfume Shrine

Notes from the Ledge

Scent Hive

The Non Blonde

Perfume in Progress

I Smell Therefore I Am


All I Am A Redhead

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Van Gogh: The artist and his letters

The Real Van Gogh the artist and his letters.

I remember the first time I went to an art gallery very well; I was eleven or twelve and I was dressed in my Sunday best for a Saturday in town with my Father. At that age a day out in London was as exciting as Christmas to me and I felt so terribly grown up and important having people to meet and things to do in this enormous, beautiful place. We were early for our engagement so my father said would I like to go to the National Gallery and I said yes- not because I really knew if I would like the paintings or not but because it was national and important and in a building that looked like it was from Mary Poppins London and it felt like something you simply must do if offered.

I remember walking inside and being amazed at how beautiful the building was, like a church or museum, which were the only things I had to compare it to. I distinctly remember saying to my Father hadn’t we forgotten to pay when we walked into the first room with paintings and him saying no, it was free, it was the national gallery. I said so anyone can come? And he said yes of course (I’m not sure he went into details of permanent collections and special exhibitions at this stage). I thought how wonderful that was.

We looked at quite a few rooms with different styles and I remember having a good time. Then my Father said would I like to see the Sunflowers. I didn’t know very much at all about art or painting at this age but I knew what the sunflowers were. I stood in front of that picture for what felt like a long time- I suppose it was actually about five minutes. I said to my Father how wonderful it was that we could just walk off the street and share such a valuable, precious, beautiful thing- don’t hate my small self I wasn’t insufferable I was just struck with the idea that art should be for everyone and not locked up in houses where no one can see it.

Anyway that day a love affair with galleries and particularly Van Gogh began.

Some of my friends don’t like galleries and want to know why I do- and I think it is the chance to see something up close and in reality. I suppose seeing a Van Gogh is like having seen the Beatles play live or Richard Burton in Shakespeare- but we can all do it, it isn’t a moment in time- it captures that moment for us forever.

This post has come about because I have recently been to see Van Gogh the artist and his letters at the Royal Academy and seeing so many of his paintings in the flesh reminded me of that day out when I was younger. I felt exactly the same about the pictures now as I did then- that no postcard or reproduction I’d ever seen could come close to the real pictures. Now honestly I don’t feel this about a lot of artworks I see, it’s lovely to see them of course but it’s not so dramatically different to a text book that I feel desperately sorry for people who can’t see them. The Van Gogh paintings are different- I suppose it’s the technique, that heavy layering of paint.

Whatever the reason is they hit you with beauty, sadness and a hypnotic quality that just doesn’t translate in a print or postcard- you feel like you are a bit drunk with them- the colours, the life, the light he captures. They are almost too beautiful, especially when viewed with his letters, themselves written in the handwriting of an artist, which are at times filled with joy and at times sorrow. I had tears in my eyes when I looked at the work of his last days. I could never produce anything that beautiful if I worked all my life and he produced so many magnificent works in a matter of months. The fact he never knew how celebrated he would be, how much pleasure his work would give people breaks my heart because he sounds like a kind if troubled soul in his letters, full of love his brother and the places he lived.

Monday, 15 March 2010

#musicmonday Ben Howard: London

I'm going to do something quite out of character here. I am going to tell you how much I enjoy a song that is about not liking London. I think it's very clear from this blog that London is one of the loves of my life and normally a song about not liking it would be a turn off for me- but I really like Ben Howard and something about these lyrics makes me smile- perhaps it's because to me it sort of reminds me of why I do adore this city despite the sirens and the missing stars, perhaps it's the hopeful bit about Paris at the end, perhaps it's because it's just a really good song. You can find Ben Howard on his myspace and you can download his EP 'These Waters' from itunes.


Oh, how i wish i could drag you down here,
Pull these feet far from the ground
Because this, this city ain't no friend of mine
Ain't no friend.

All i can do
When the tracks stop at the final destination
Is just push on through,
The weariness and silences of such a crowded situation here.

All i can do
When every brick, every bar, every elegance i see, i see her face,
Is just push on, just push on through,
These embers of memories that float from the fire, from the fire of this place.

So don't give up on me now,
Oh these legs that'll walk me home.

Because it's only concrete and cars,
It's only sirens and missing stars,
It's only whiskey and disregard
In the smallest hours here, when i feel alone.

All i can do
when these lights, they haunt me like orchids in a graveyard,
Is just just push on, just push on through
These faces of dust and stone,
The dirt and bone of loss.

So don't give up on me now,
Oh these legs that'll walk me home.

Because it's only concrete and cars,
It's only sirens and missing stars,
It's only whiskey and disregard
In the smallest hours here, when i feel alone.

..and i hope, Paris is as beautiful as i've been told
and that everything you do is galvanised in gold.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Never too busy for shoes

Dear Blog, I am so sorry you have been neglected, it's been so busy. Have some pretty shoes while I turn my attention to updating you. They are from Kitty Cooper and are all made in the East End of London. They seem to have achingly hip ethical credentials without sacrificing any of the beauty of their shoes. You can read all about the vintage fabric they use and their policies here- it's impressive reading.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Man's candle

I don't know if the world necessarily needs candles just for men but they are good scents and the names are quite funny.

Lady Luck candle

Motor oil candle

Full 'Mans Candle' range available here.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A beautiful bungalow

Bungalows are slightly unloved in the UK aren't they? When we think of them I would suggest we mostly think of retirement, avocado bathrooms and frosted glass. Actually I rather love them- I don't know why, probably because I always like unloved things- and my Grandparents had a bungalow, which was a very happy place with a walled garden where they grew vegetables (still digging for victory well into their eighties); there were always pots and pots of tea and yes a coloured bathroom- though actually theirs was turquoise which is surely pretty rare in the world of bathing suites?

The Bungalow on etsy is also a very happy place and is filled with goods that are very far from what you might imagine finding in a normal bungalow.

There are lots of beautiful headpieces:

I also think these necklaces based on doilies work very well and would liven up any plain tops or dresses:

These little shoe clips made me smile; I remember my mother having these kinds of clips that you could add to shoes to make them look more interesting or varied when I was young. They seem to not really exist anymore but they are a great way of customising or making an inexpensive shoe look like a great deal more.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Funny things about living with people

A very happily married Mother recently told me never live alone or you will never want to live with anyone- even a husband- again. I was mildly alarmed but I do know what she might have meant- I think. I haven't lived alone yet and I haven't had a husband either- perhaps it's an only child thing but I rather like living with people- as long as I get the odd night in alone. I like that there is always someone to play with, to watch terrible TV with, suffer a hangover with, team clean with.

Still however much you love friends, housemates and even significant others they do have some idiosyncrasies don't they? You know your family from small and so until you move away you don't know that, for example, other families don't put eggs in the fridge say, or always turn the TV off at the switch.

Likewise I don't think you really know someone until you live with them- it's quite an intimate thing even amongst friends. You can't always be your best self with the people you live with, they will see you poorly, down, moody and just plain knackered- and you will see them and there is unsaid knowledge of each other that people you don't live with won't have.

So it's with affection that I mention the following slightly strange things I have noticed about other people over the years- though it might be me that is out of the ordinary.

* I have recently noticed one of the girls I live with brushes her teeth with really hot water. I found this out because ours is a mixer tap and if you flick it on you get the last position- like a shower- and I keep getting a mouthful of hot water. Now another thing I have noticed is quite a lot of people brush their teeth in the shower. I find both the hot water and the shower a bit strange, surely teeth brushing water should be done in cold water from the sink? But perhaps not- it may just be my family who do this.

* Using soap in the shower. I know this is more common but in this age of shower gel it was still unexpected to me. The first person I noticed do it was a man and I have picked up on men being bigger soap fans than women generally. I do like a well milled soap but soap is a bit like socks and tights- never the same after the first use. I find it a bit annoying having soaps bumbling around on the shower floor, trying to trip me up and cause mischief in the morning. Also those cracks that develop in the soap are a bit strange and I end up staring at them for a long time instead of having a shower.

* Not keeping ketchup in the fridge- as far as I'm concerned the ketchup goes in the fridge and that's the end of it but I seem to be in the minority and I am open minded- so I'm trying the room temperature tomato sauce- it's okay- it makes the consistency a bit strange over time though.

* Not having a drink while you eat. This goes back to childhood actually and going over to friends houses for tea. Mrs Newfriend or oldfriend or balletfriend would present lovely dinners with no drink- no tap water, not a sniff of a squash or juice, no liquid at all. I need a drink while I'm eating, it's comforting and I just do- it's fine if other people don't but I've noticed lots of people don't drink with food. Then I am like the little girl in Signs, constantly carrying around a glass of water like a comfort blanket- I am not diabetic, just thirsty I guess!

* Not eating. Now this is said with less affection and more anger. Living and working with girls of 20- 35 I would say it's horrifyingly noticeable how many have a totally unhealthy attitude to food- and actually how many of their boyfriends and even husbands well know it and just say it's a phase or it's 'sweet'. It isn't sweet to never eat solids and just live on tea, soup, wine and an occasional no fat yoghurt. It also isn't sweet to just eat 800 calories a day forever.

It's very frustrating when you prepare a normal meal, for example pasta with sauce and they look at you like you are about to eat a whole wild boar with a keg of milkshake or whatever. Or if you too have soup and they say oh what a treat to have some bread- it's not a treat it's just a pitta bread! If I were to treat myself I hope I could do a bit better- maybe run to a crusty roll with butter or something.

Monday, 1 March 2010

#musicmonday: southwest of never

Southwest of never is a compilation of tracks by artists playing at this years south by southwest conference in Texas. All of the artists involved have given their tracks for free and all proceeds from the sales of the album will go to the Institute of Cancer Research.

South by southwest is a showcase for all kinds of music and that is reflected in the complilation which is eclectic in the best possible way, moving through different genres from folk to indie to funk- and opening your eyes to new artists. Certainly I immediately veered towards the acts I knew on first listening to the album, particularly broadcast 2000 and the brilliant kill it kid but I then found new bands and artists I didn't know and want to know more after listening to this. I fell particularly for Ólöf Arnalds beautiful song Klara and will be looking for more of her music and hoping that she comes to play in London soon.

The full track listing is:

1. The Boxer Rebellion - Evacuate
2. Broadcast 2000 - Pep Talk (acoustic)
3. Leggins - A Knight With A Sword Killed His Own Son
4. Ólöf Arnalds - Klara
5. Autumn Owls - A Thousand Blind Windows
6. Kill It Kid - Burst Its Banks
7. French Horn Rebellion - Beaches & Friends (Hey Champ remix)
8. Strait Laces - Where The Wolf Rome
9. A Classic Education - What My Life Could Have Been
10. Tiger! Shit! Tiger! Tiger! - Crime Wave
11. The Black Atlantic - Heirloom
12. The Minutes - Black Keys
13. The Watermarks - Fast Song
14. Bridges And Powerlines - The Ghost Types

You can buy the album for a very reasonable £5 for from here. It is currently only available as a download but it comes with artwork so you can burn yourself a CD and a front cover- which is a sweet touch I think.

For further information on the album go to here.