Friday, 30 December 2011

Lost perfume treasure

It has not been good news on the buying things that have been on the wish list front of late.

I tried a great bay rum but with citrus, great on a guy, cool on a girl, scent in Anthropologie in the summer and now I can find it nowhere. It was really good, the cool label contained a cool scent- but I think it must not have found enough noses (despite seeming so... yes I'm going to say cool again because it just was). I have tried to contact the Grove company but they thought it was on sale on Anthropologie's US site and it isn't.

Oh the perfume treasure we see and should grab when we can. If you see some try it and let me know what you think- it may have become better than it was in my mind because I can't get it- but I think it was excellent!

So the loss of Grove is a shame but oh well. However I also have been wearing as my every day scent for some years L'Occitane Green tea and mint (as discussed here), just for work and play and to smell fresh- it's a good price, good quality and I like the way the mint makes it a bit quirky and everyone likes a tea and mint smell- so I've found. Well. Well. What should I find when I do some boxing day online browsing, my go to every day, smells of me scent is gone- gone! also not on ebay! Okay they still do the green tea and they still do the green tea with jasmine- but it's the mint that makes it worth getting- that makes it a bit unusual and a bargain for it's price that I can spray without feeling guilty. Gone. The prescious is lost. I should not have sprayed with wild abandon.

So the search is on for a new every day smell that is not expensive so I can spray lots. I don't want anything too feminine or that would overpower people but I don't want anything very insipid either, no bland citrus or floral smells please. I like laundry fragrances for this sort of thing- I used to wear Clean but you get through that in about a day it smells so good. A green tea might be the thing, or a mint- or the two halves as a whole- but then we stray into expense again. I would like Heeley mint but that's no really cheap enough to spray around the office if your colleague has a smelly lunch. It's good to have a project I suppose. Sniff.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Films I didn't see the first time: Heartburn

Frankly I didn't see Heartburn because I was five when it came out and not the target audience for a relationship drama about two journalists from New York and Washington respectively.

However I have read many times that Nigella loves it- and Meryl is always great (though I must say there is one sequence in this film where she looks just like Alan Cumming and it's so funny at a not funny point in the film- but I digress).

So Heartburn the book features food more heavily, Heartburn the film still has food, the main character is a food writer and food is her therapy at times and the thing she hides in, the method she tries to improve herself via, I think lots of women do this- I do, it's interesting- do men go and change a tyre to feel better about themselves or more calm, perhaps they do.

Anyway the film stars Meryl and Jack (Nicholson) and is written by Nora Ephron (it is apparently quite autobiographical). So that's a sort of dream team- plus there is food as we've covered. There is also bad fashion and some brief Alan Cumming impersonating but those things don't matter. This film is very good and, worryingly, felt very modern- so ladies we haven't come very far at all since 1986- good news. It's about what happens to women when they think they've found the one, how they either wish to or their men wish them too give up who they are- the trade off of a big house and not working and beautiful children for, well perhaps men thinking they can do what they want. Perhaps some men always would though, perhaps it's more about re finding yourself, perhaps men would say that was all unfair- I'm afraid I'm making it sound like indulgent rubbish and this isn't like that at all- it's good and it is funny mostly and the characters are very charismatic.

I'm not the writer Nora Ephron is so if you like Meryl and Jack and Nora and food then this is enjoyable and about £3 online. There is also a good (and quite brief) book if you prefer but that doesn't have Meryl and Jack and doesn't feature the Alan Cumming bit.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Pho takeaway

When you get take away noodle soup from Pho they pack you off with a beautifully prepared bag with a hot tub of spicy broth and all the trimmings for a delicious soup. I had tofu and mushroom so I first added my noddles and stirred them into the soup, then I added my tofu and mushrooms and finally my beansprouts and onions. and squirted in some lime- you can also add mint and other herbs they give you but I didn't because I wanted the spicy kick. Delicious for when you have had enough Christmas type food or to fight off a cold. If you have to be eating at a desk at this time of year, why not do it in style.

Thanks to Christmas

This year I really thought what would I do without Christmas. Yes December is exhausting, it's too commercial, the people who would rather go to the sales at 2am than see their families drive me mad and I know it can be a very difficult time.

But without Christmas how would you get through Winter? Without the enforced stopping, the enforced closure of shops, the enforced catching up with family and friends that makes you tighten what can be loosening connections because life is so big and requires so much of us now- without all these I think the world would really be colder and darker in all ways. I am so grateful for the chance of Christmas, for what it can bring, I feel so much better and more ready for the world again.

(The picture is of one of my window sills- I quite like the way my bad i phone photography makes it look like a star is shining brightly outside!).

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Christmas Rev

The final episode of season 2 of Rev- which was also a Christmas episode- was everything I wanted it to be. I don't think anyone sensible who has seen the programme needs to be told this- but because last night, full of virus and after a difficult day Adam and his friends and family made my face and my heart smile- I am talking about it anyway.

This programme is a tiny nugget of joy, a simple, sometimes gentle but always sharply accurate picture of life when you're trying your best in London- that it happens to be about a Rev is to some extent by the by. That said I think the portrayal of the Reverend Adam Smallbone as a very real human being is doing an enormous amount for certainly this person's view of the church.

I am biased because Rev is filmed all over where I live but I think it would make me chuckle if I lived in Alaska just as well- though perhaps not the bits about bike etiquette on London roads or the dirty cornershops that are more expensive than Fortnum's.

So anyway, my point is Rev is utter joy and Christmas Rev was everything I wanted it to be. Hooray. Happy Advent (and then Christmas) to everyone- must try not to use midnight mass as the religious equivalent of a kebab (I don't even like kebabs and I love carols).

Monday, 19 December 2011

Christmas eton mess

For Christmas eton mess (to feed 12) you will need: 300g fresh cranberries, approx one bag of amaretti biscuits (I used some gingernuts too and therefore less amaretti but I'm sure both work), Marsala wine (just a glug- and I'm sure something else sweet and boozy would also work), 600ml double cream (I found one flavoured with brandy but again that isn't necessary), meringue nests or the ingredients to make meringues, the juice and zest of one large orange, 150g caster sugar, 500g mascarpone.

First take the fresh cranberries, the zest and juice of one orange and the caster sugar and put on a medium heat, bring to the boil then simmer for ten minutes, or a little longer if you'd prefer some of the cranberries to burst (say 12 minutes). Stir at regular intervals to ensure all the cranberries are getting sweetened. Take off the heat and allow to rest in the pan.

Then take the biscuits and break with your hands, then pour in the Masala, depending on how much you wish- I would say you need at least two tablespoons but a little more if you wish. If you don't want to use any alchochol I would suggest just skipping this stage but crushing the biscuits more finely so they are crumbs and possibly mixing them with the cramberries rather than layering.

Beat the biscuits and Marsala together so you have a softened but still textured mixture

Then take a bowel or glass (preferably something see through to make the most of the dish). First put in a layer of biscuit and then add a layer of cranberries on the top as shown. Keep back a small ammount of the cranberry mixture for later.

Put those to one side, If possible keep them at room tempreture but if you are making them in advance then just remove them from the fridge approx half an hour before serving (and keep them covered with cling film which I did after taking the picture but which didn't look so pretty! this is hygienic and also keeps the aroma in).

Then take the cream and marscapone, whisk them together. Then add your home made or bought meringues in small crumbled pieaces.

Then add the small ammount of fruit that is left and stir in.

Put the cream and meringue mixture in the fridge and only add that section when you are serving the mess otherwise it will seep into the laters of cranberry.

Wishing everyone a very happy, aromatic Christmas

Thursday, 15 December 2011

On festive stamina

I love Christmas, truly I do, everyone says they do at this time of year but for me it's the top of the year mountain- when everything feels as it should be. I cannot describe properly how happy I was sitting by the lit, adorned tree watching Elf on Sunday after several lovely Christmas meals over the weekend.

December is exhausting though isn't it? It's the thing no one wants to say. It's the most wonderful time of the year but the hope of Boxing Day and salvation via a duvet and Christmas tv or books is the only thing that gets me through some of the darker hours of Christmas hangovers.

In fact I think Boxing day should be renamed boxset day. This makes me a little cross with myself too because really I love the idea of getting all wrapped up in thermals and chic winter hats and going to the races to top up on festive er cheer (alcohol) and have a gamble out in the open, bracing air on the 26th of December and then perhaps collapsing for boxset day, or what you will, on the 27th- but I'm back to work on the Wednesday and so for me boxing day will be about pots (and pots) of tea, Nancy Mitford, a murder mystery and rose and violet creams. Right now, hugging my venti latte and drinking the fifth resolve of the week it's all I long for.

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Advent adventures

Happy advent- I'm just back from scandilicious Sweden which was filled with the warm magic of the countdown to Christmas. Of course advent has already started and everywhere in Gothenburg they had their first week's candles burning. I love the communal celebration in Sweden- every house has candles in the window and everyone seems to treasure the warmth and light of this time of year.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thought for the day

"Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you." Oscar Wilde.

As seen at Clapham North underground station- some tube stations seem to favour thought for the day more than others, I always like seeing them, they're always good thoughts.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Good things about London: The booking office bar at The St Pancras Hotel

Recipe for unwinding after a long day at work- go to the St Pancras Hotel. Find a well appointed seat at The Booking Office bar. Order a gin fix. Repeat until relaxed.

gin fix:

Sugar, soda water, gin, the juice and peel of a lemon, garnish with seasonal berries

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Cloth House

When I was little most large towns had a fabric shop and now, even with the resurgence of interest in crafts, they are something of a rarity. Like bookshops that were once essential to your local life haberdashery shops have become something you travel to a larger town for- if you're lucky. The passing of the high street is often spoken about but I think it's hard to put into words how it feels when you go back to your own place and see it become homogeneous and feeling powerless to help.

Happily in London fabric shops survive- as any schoolgirl who lives near a John Lewis knows they continue to support selling fabric, thread and more and of course lovely Liberty is heaven for all craft and sewing lovers. In terms of stand alone stores Berwick street in Soho has lots of lovely doors to walk through and my particular favourite is the branch of Cloth House towards Oxford street. This window is one their recent displays, they always have lovely offerings featuring vintage sewing machines and lovely cloth- I can't wait to see what they do for Christmas.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Dior: Maison de Parfums

The Dior Maisons De Parfums is located exclusively in Selfridges in London but it feels like visiting Maison Dior itself (I imagine, I am yet to go to heaven in Paris).

We were invited to sit down on the classic dove grey Dior chaise with a glass of champagne and some serious coffee tables books about Dior, to relax and acclimatise to our new surroundings.

I had decided to take a good friend who is getting married next year and wanted to pick a new scent for the day as I thought my perfume schizophrenia would be too much of a challenge for a service designed to choose one signature or occasion perfume for you. We began by discussing the perfumes my friend already enjoys and wears- we concluded that the feminine florals she enjoys (Benefit's Maybe Baby and Dior's own Miss Dior Cherie) were in her opinion to relaxed for a wedding and that her beau found them a little sweet and she wanted to find something new and sophisticated that he would appreciate.

With a brief and a style in mind we started the best part of any fragrance quest- the sniffing! The extremely helpful and I must say very knowledgeable lady who works exclusively for the Maisons De Parfums gave us approximately five scents to begin with- which is a reasonable number I felt.

My friend (and I) had strong reactions to these smells as they were obviously chosen to be quite distinct from each other. This process allowed us all to understand that despite thinking she enjoyed sweet florals the scents my friend was actually choosing in a blind sniffing session were sophisticated but still relatively light florals like J'Adore and Forever and Ever Dior as opposed to the heavier scents like Diorissimo- more classic masculine or citrus and aldehyde leaning scents like Diorella were firmly rejected (as I think we all expected they would be- but it is fascinating watching someone test scents for the first time without thinking about the packaging and marketing of them).

After a quick sip of champagne and a waft of coffee beans to refresh us we moved on to a narrowed down selection in the family of preferred fragrances. The perfumes are always initially tested blind but then their names and some of the history is revealed and it's interesting how that can change or support some one's reaction to a fragrance.

Ultimately we took home a beautiful bottle of Forever and Ever Dior- a scent my friend had a strong initial liking for and which does come in one of Dior's grandest, most special boxes. It's a lovely choice for a bride I think and it is different from perfumes she has worn in the past but still very much in character for her. She loved the evening at the Maison De Parfums and interesting so did I, even with my knowledge and being so used to trying perfume they managed to make the experience very enjoyable and to teach me things I didn't know. I was also give some lovely samples of perfumes I had enjoyed trying which I thought was a nice touch (hello New Look 1947, you smell extremely good).

Friday, 11 November 2011


You can live in the present and be modern and remember the past.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Arran Aromatics: After the Rain

Turnberry in Scotland is a dream of a hotel. From the moment your foot steps over the threshold you feel wrapped up in a cosy, stylish blanket of comfort. You can sit by roaring fires eating butter tablet and reading, get straight into your bed with so many soft, downy pillows you may never get out, run a hot bath and then recline for what feels like forever or head straight out to the wild beach to get invigoratingly wind, salt and sea swept before you do all of that.

Scent is a strange thing- when you ask people about their favourite smells they don't generally say 'Chanel Number 5' or 'Miss Dior' they say hot tarmac and bacon sandwiches, both great smells that you would never want to wear as a perfume even if someone could recreate them well.

Rain though is a smell that is often mentioned which perfumers can and do try and replicate. Apres L'Ondee is one of my favourite perfumes of all time and is of course named for the scent of a place after rain, or a shower- that's a summer shower though, over a garden perhaps and is more about atmosphere, a smile after tears, than about the scent of a place.

It rained when I was in Scotland, not all the time and it didn't make me sad- I wanted it to rain- I love that smell, I adore wild seas and all the things I've mentioned above, getting a bit wet knowing you can go indoors to a steaming cauldron of a bath- or just never going outside and watching the weather storming around you as you stay warm and content inside (under a blanket).

I did go outside though, chiefly to smell the scent of rain and sea- salt, some humidity, the musk of sand and reeds breathing or being kissed by a sweeping mist from the sea. Amazingly I found that very smell in a bottle inside the shop at Turnberry- the perfume is Arran Aromatics After the Rain. I can report it is as good as it sounds and also very good value and made in Scotland, which must be a good thing.

Beach image courtesy of Turnberry, bottle courtesy of Arran Aromatics. After the Rain and all Arran Aromatics products are available from their website.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

A Review of a book that is not new: I don't know how she does it by Allison Pearson

I recently had a bibliotherapy session (via the The School of Life) which was very enlightening. Via the process of writing about my favourite books and thinking about books that have made an impression on my life- and those that haven't- I realised several things. Firstly that I have a terrible habit of loving one book by a writer and then being scared that the next one won't be so good and not reading anymore (unless they are George Orwell who I trust absolutely). Secondly that I don't tend to read the current 'thing' and thirdly that when I read the current 'thing' a few years later I tend to like it.

So I come to I don't know how she does it. A book I had never read- partly because I avoid pink covers (which I also realised I should not) and partly because I am not a working Mother of two and didn't necessarily think I would relate.

I was completely wrong, I really liked the character of Kate Reddy. As I say I am not married, do not have children and do not run a house but I completely relate to the feeling of being exhausted, not quite doing everything properly and also the need and want to make a wage. As I say although Kate was more successful than I am in terms of her career and arguable her personal life she seemed like friend not foe. I particularly liked the affirmation that she wanted to be a successful woman partly to give her daughter an example but also for herself.

Now of course success doesn't have to mean being in the boardroom and Kate goes on a journey in the book that I think is quite realistic- because you can't have it all. In the film I think the journey is far less believable, it would be wonderful if we really could be amazing at our careers and work 9-5 with a lunch break and time to have our hair done and go to sports days but it doesn't happen on my planet. More and more as I get older I think it is going to extremely difficult for women to have a career and a family and do both well- it's difficult for men too, of course, but not as difficult.

On that subject I loved that the men in Kate's life were real and well drawn. There is the standard city idiot but also a boss who makes the right decisions for his company and member of staff in the end. Her husband is a great man but he's not perfect because no one is- and her business partner is also an interesting and believable person.

So if like me you sometimes live under a rock when it comes to best sellers and if like me you sometimes wonder how on earth we might approach being women today then I actually recommend this book- it's light but it's good, it became my great friend.

Finally I wondered, as I always do, what perfume Kate Reddy might wear- because busy as she is I think Kate would find time to spritz- I decided she would wear Coco Chanel- classic, proper and improper, seductive but ok with a suit- a perfume for all occasions which she needs and a perfume you dream of owning when you're young.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Life in Scents podcast

Life in Scents is a new podcast from olfactory aficionados Jo Barratt (@JoBarratt) and Odette Toilette (@OdetteToilette who I interviewed here). It is not unlike a Desert Island Discs of smell, a scented journey through a person's life. So far there are four podcasts, all of which I thoroughly enjoyed (perhaps unsurprisingly!) and all of which taught me something I didn't know about scent.

I think what is particularly good about this project for me is the feeling that I am not the only person whose memories are completely caught up in smell, or the only person who perhaps thinks of scent in terms of memory. As regular readers know I love the radio and podcasts especially so this is perhaps my ideal pre- recorded feature- in fact it's something I've wanted to do myself and never quite managed so hurrah for Odette and Jo and do have a listen- the podcasts are free and available via i tunes or at the Life in Scents website.

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Smile and the world smiles with you

Teeth have been a major preoccupation for me of late because I have had to have root canal work. My dentist is wonderful and charming but it still cost the price of a mini break and wasn't so fun. I am very fastidious about tooth brushing and use the products the dentist recommends but I also wanted to share a couple of dental products that are lovely for your shelf and which I use sometimes to give me a little boost.

This yellow sunny toothpaste is from a Portuguese company called Couto and can be found (like most pretty things) at Anthropologie.

For perfume lovers and those who like flower food like me there is Marvis jasmin mint toothpaste from Niven and Joshua (and in Liberty and more). Other fabulous flavours by Marvis include cinnamon, amerelli licorice and ginger- I have the jasmine and my teeth feel great afterwards (though I used Colgate mixed with it if I'm honest).

Finally there is rose mouthwash from beautiful Floris on Jermyn street (or online) clearly this could have been made for me and it's rather lovely, if you like turkish delight etc. Think about it, if you like kissing someone after they've eaten a strawberry or a cherry then why not with a rosy taste.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Frame: fun fitness (who knew)

Frame in Shoreditch is a 'dance, fitness and holistic studio' in Shoreditch, which all sounds very grown up- but what first attracted me to Frame was the sense of fun.

So they offere yoga and power plate classes and have grown up things like hair dryers and straighteners in the changing rooms but their classes include 80's aerobics and Beyonce music video work outs, really what's not to like I ask?

Fancy dress is encouraged according to the website but I didn't know how seriously to take that so I hedged my bets in black leggings and an eighties brightly coloured t- shirt but left the leg warmers at home. I can report that people in the 80s were very fit! no mamby pamby stretching, lengthening or breathing for them, no cardio all the way baby. After fifty minutes of Michael Jackson, footloose, Wham and more I was begging for the floor section of the class.

Frame is very swish but it's swish with a wink- and it offers great times for classes too (working long hours there is nothing that annoys me more than places that aren't open after 7pm). I recommend it! maybe I'll see you there, I will be the one with the very red face!

Image from the Frame website here.


From outer space!

Not really, from that lovely garden and the land of no internets- well I've been back for a while in truth...

Lots to come- perfume, music, books, films, STUFF

Hope everyone is well and happy

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Thursday, 28 July 2011

To sleep, perchance to dream

Perfect pillow cases from Kat.Devine on Folksy.

I love the 'night night, sleep tight' message but Kat can embroider anything on the pillow cases for you, which is also rather tempting.

She is also running a tumblr 'Make Me a Million' her folksy shop is part of the challenge but there are other ideas up there too which are quite fun. (There is also an A Rose Beyond the Thames tumblr here for my excess pictures and just stuff I like that I don't get round to writing about- tumblr is fun, come and play!).

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

L'Artisan Parfumeur Mûre et Musc

I saw my first blackberries of the year at the weekend and was immediately inspired to reach for L'Artisan Parfumeur's Mûre et Musc, a perfume concoction of equal parts blackberry, musc and magic.

In all truth blackberry musc sounds like something you might buy in a pharmacy/ chemist, a cheaper body spray that would be beloved of teen girls on their first independent foray into picking a scent for themselves.

This scent couldn't be further from that fragrance you imagine. There is blackberry yes, but it is blackberry from the branch not the sugared kind from a pie a body spray might contain. There is still dew on these fruits and a hint of the forest they came from. There is musc here too but not the very shouty, so synthetic your teeth stand on end kind. This musc is the cleaner, sophisticated smell of a grown up.

So when I spray the enticingly named Mûre et Musc I always smile a grown ups smile. I can wear a really good musc, a chic one, one that makes me check my posture, straighten my back a little and I can still have a little fun with a dash of blackberry. Perhaps the little girl can grow into a woman without forgetting where she started.

Disclosure: I received a bottle of Mûre et Musc as a press gift

Friday, 15 July 2011

The noise

It was a perfumer who first made me aware of that overwhelming loudness of the capitol. I suppose being so attuned to one sense- and loving it so- perhaps developes your other senses, or makes you appreciate them more. In any case really ever since then I do find myself noticing that wall of sound more and more, I don't necessarily say I don't like it, but I do say it is an overwhelming presence sometimes.

There are nights, when the windows must be open and the bus hurtles round the corner at 4am for who knows what reason, there are those times when the noise is too much. When I want to get up and ask everyone carrying on to just dissist so I can please sleep and dream. There are also those days on Oxford street where I'm turning my earphones up and up until they are at warning levels and I still cannot hear when I want to tell the city to hush because I am very interested in what makes the perfect fish soup on Woman's Hour and would like to hear about it while I walk to M&S for cheese- the walking to get cheese and the Woman's Hour shouldn't be denied me together purely because I choose to walk in W1.

Then there are the other days when the hum is like a lullaby, comforting my hectic thoughts and making sense of them. The times when I stay in the country and everyone says how well I must have slept without the noise from London and I want to say no actually it was disturbingly quiet, I've been awake since 5am and I'm much rather hear the bus than your snoring down the hall (though of course I say all the right things about terribly noisy grey London because it is what you do when you go to the country- NB. I'm from the country ish so I can say so justifiably I think).

When it is loud though (the noise), like a wall, like heat, when you can't quell it or turn it off, it can make you feel panicky, overcome and out of control- I wonder if that's how animals feel all the time. Then I worry that I'm becoming one of those people who needs to be taken to the country for their health and will have to start catching trains back to town like Virginia Woolf because I want to be in the city and I want to manage- then I think it's perhaps best to stop worrying and go to sleep (with the windows closed).

Wednesday, 13 July 2011


Isn't Biscuiteers the best possible name for bakers or biscuits you could imagine? They make biscuits for presents, for companies and that you can buy in the kind of nice shops that sell pretty things in tins.

I was gifted this brilliant biscuit at a 4711 cologne party last week and thought it was almost (almost) too good to eat.

If you fancy becoming a biscuiteer yourself then you don't need to travel all the way to Paris, you can rather by the book The Biscuiteers book of Iced Biscuits which I had from the library recently. Unfortunately I did the thing of reading the book from cover to cover but not actually baking anything, but sometimes just reading cookery books is relaxing in itself.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Opening old books

During the summer the beautiful Northumbrian shop Re have had an installation on the interiors floor at Liberty. One quiet and colder than it should have been evening I wandered over to my favourite shop looking for peace rather than shopping and decided to look at the new area. They had lots of great found objects, properly old things not items that had been artfully distressed for no reason.

In short they had a great deal to admire but what I loved most was looking through the old horticultural books. I am very far from an expert on flowers, I like the way they look and smell very much of course but I have no idea of their classical names, when they should bloom, what their names might mean and so on, still I find that people do know all these things (especially in this day and age) really extremely good.

I came away with two gifts to myself which you can see above (wrapped might I say with the same love and care he might have reserved for an antique mirror worth vastly more by the charming gentleman who worked in the furniture department). The first is of course fascinating to me because it's about scents and gardens and the second because it is all about roses, which I actually know very little about but adore completely anyhow.

Both look very pretty on my shelf, they look like the kind of book an interior decorator might put there. What is best about them though is what they say. The way of writing, the care and the love the two men have for these very feminine subjects they've chosen to write about, the time they've take to write, the old fashioned language and old fashioned way of coming to the point they use- it's all like a lullaby in a book.

We read old novels all the time don't we but I certainly very rarely read other old books and they are just as lovely- perhaps lovelier. As a historian they are certainly more interesting in many ways than novels, we use novels to time travel but we are so used to do that I'm not sure we always do. These two books genuinely transport me to a house that wasn't centrally heated, with a walled vegetable garden and a proper garden beyond perhaps. To a writer sitting at a very old wooden desk writing long hand next to a type writer, with a pile of books and cuttings of flowers, perhaps in failing light that isn't helped too quickly by electricity.

Next time you are looking around charity shops, or bric a brac shops, pick up the old factual books, they are like deep pile blankets of book joy.

Friday, 8 July 2011

Films I've liked recently and forgotten to mention at the time

I like films best in the cinema. The first film I saw at one was The Care Bears (I know, I could pretend it was something cool but it would be a lie). There was then, for reasons unknown, a very long gap and I went again when I was about thirteen to see Crimson Tide with Denzel Washington and Gene Hackman; a strange choice for my friend's Mother to take us to as we were thirteen year old girls and it was an eighteen certificate film set on a nuclear submarine- but I still adored it, I think the cinema held so much excitement for me that I would have enjoyed anything at all.

In the summer I don't go to the cinema so much and I'm not sure why because there's lots I want to see out.

However I have seen various films on dvd that I wanted to mention liking even though they aren't new now- with all this falling rain sometimes a dvd a pot of tea and a duvet is the only option for a Sunday afternoon and I secretly quite thank the rain for making it so sometimes.

Little White Lies: I actually saw this at the London Film Festival last year but didn't review it then because it seemed too early and then forgot to when it was out properly. I thought it was terrific though, it looks like a French Richard Curtis film from the poster and in parts it sort of is, but in much more French way. Certainly the beginning is not what I was expecting from the press at all and you should be prepared for that! Actually this films also makes me think that perhaps Richard Curtis films would be more charming in French (and that many French films would not be half as charming were they in English or American).

The Kids are Alright: Well this is a great film and the two parents being lesbians hardly really matters to the plot, which is great too. It's a really funny film but it also made me think quite a lot about sperm or egg donation and have little yous walking around you didn't know. The script is very, very witty and the characters, certainly the adults are extremely well drawn, it's a great cast of course, Julianne Moore is amazing- she literally becomes a new person every time I see her in a film.

Never Let Me Go: Well I loved the book, more than I can describe. I know Ishiguro can be cold and that this book is especially that way but I think that is the point, he writes Englishness so beautifully- the slight detachment from our emotions on the outside that are churning like fire inside. The film is absolutely worth seeing. They truly haven't sacrificed the story, the horror of it, that coldness. Unfortunately it is that calculation, certainty and lack of humanity in the book that is also the problem for the film but not everything we watch is easy and I thought Cary Mulligan's performance was especially touching.

Thursday, 7 July 2011

What it's easy to forget about perfume

As you may well know bbc4 are currently showing a short series about perfume.

You can watch the first two episodes on the i-player here if you haven't already.

It is perhaps not surprising that I stayed in to watch this programme, in fact several friends apologised for messaging me during the transmission (which I assured them was silly, because of course I was recording it). It was really wonderful, partly because some of it really wasn't, if that makes any sense. The behind the scenes look at the creation of a new mass market scent will not I think have won that perfume any fans but I rather loved that.

Anyway this post is not about the programme, though if you like either perfume or eccentric people then I do recommend it. It is about remembering as a scent lover that not everyone has the perfume education we have all given ourselves.

After Tuesday evening's programme a good friend who wears several lovely and not especially generic scents messaged me to ask if I knew of Shalimar by Guerlain which had featured quite heavily in the first episode. Initially I sent a message back saying of course I have, I could hardly call myself someone who liked fragrance if I had not- and said she should catch up as soon as possible. She asked what it was like and I said wonderful but that it was not my most favourite Guerlain but that I thought it was perhaps the most accessible of the older ones and so on and so forth, as any scent lover might.

She knows I love perfumes but she said wow you know so much about it (and I really hadn't said much). I have despatched her to suitable perfume counters in London to try one of the Queens of perfume but this has reminded me that we all assume everyone must know L'heure Bleu for example, or Rive Gauche or Diorella. We are so consumed by scent that we sometimes forget the classics are to be so revered and to always be talked about. I am so often looking for what is new or what is old but hard to find that I forget to point people towards and to talk about what is there year on year.

So if for some reason you have never tried Shalimar please, please do. Then try Mitsouko and if you don't like it try it again and again, look for the peach and the moss and fall in love with it. Then on a more bad tempered day try L'heure Bleu and let is take you over a little. On a better day try Apres L'Ondee and embrace your inner pre war suffragette. When you have tried all these try the mens scents, many women wear Vetiver so spritz that by try them all. Then go to the Dior counter and try all the ones they don't talk about very much in the bottles that look the same, they are far better than any of the scents they will want to talk to you about. Then over to Chanel to try Chanel 19 and Cristalle because they don't give them enough love and they are scents for women not girls (or men).

Perhaps even those of us who think we know everything there is to know about perfumes in standard perfume halls would do well to re- try some of the scents that have been there for a long time- or to remember to love them.

Wednesday, 6 July 2011

Lutyens and Rubinstein

Lutyens and Rubinstein is easily one of my favourite bookshops. Based in Notting Hill it is owned by two literary agents (Sarah Lutyens and Felicity Rubinstein). The shops is so obviously owned by people who love books that is barely needs explaining. It is not a large space but on the two small floors they have managed to fit many, many interesting titles as well as some crockery and, fabulously in my opinion, some perfume.

The scents are from CB I hate Perfume and many of them are directly inspired by books or literature. Particularly note worthy are A Room with A View and fabulous In the Library- but they are all worth smelling ( and you can read about the full range of perfumes by the very talented Christpher Brosius on the CB I hate Perfume website).

Picture of the interior of Lutyens and Rubinstein from The Guardian here.

Picture of the range of CB I hate Perfume scents available at Lutyens and Rubenstein courtesy of Vogue. You can read their own blog about Lutyens and Rubinstein here.