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.

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Hendrick's Lecture Series with The Last Tuesday Society

I've long wanted to attend the Hendrick's Lecture Series so when a talk by Mitford's biographer Selina Hastings appeared on the schedule I took my chance. Sadly a combination of TFL troubles and an unfortunate error with postcodes meant I missed half the talk and what I heard was from the back of a room without a line of sight, which I must say left me a little sad.

However the good news is you can listen to the talk on Evelyn and Nancy and lots of the other lectures via The Last Tuesday Society's website.

EVELYN WAUGH AND NANCY MITFORD A Literary Correspondence Course
With Selina Hastings can be heard here and you can find a full selection of the podcasts available here.

Saturday, 2 July 2011

Juniper Sling

Juniper Sling, just the name sounds decadent, 1920s esque and even a little debauched (in the best possible way). It is the name of the new scent from Penhaligon's which will be available later this Summer.

To celebrate Penhaligon's created a secret, pop- up speak easy in London's Fitzrovia. With the help of Dalston's The Clove Club we were treated to cocktails and a dinner inspired by Olivier Cresp's new olfactory wonder.

Obviously being a gin inspired scent the menu featured a healthy and very welcome ammount of London's finest spirit but Olivier has accented the juniper with notes of brown sugar and black cherry- so that was pudding sorted. Cresp is the creator of Angel and therefore the master of the gourmand scent and he spoke very genuinely about how much he had enjoyed his experience with Penhaligon's, I find listening to perfumers speak so fascinating, they are always so precise with their language as I suppose they must be in their work.

I think one of my favourite touches of the entire evening was the salad dressing being spritzed from atomizers, surely the chicest serving suggestion possible. All the food (and drink!) was utterly delicious, particularly the brown sugar ice cream and the cloudy red wine with a eucalyptus note (sounds strange but it's very very good).

We were lucky enough to sample the new fragrance with dinner and I must it's very good and perhaps more importantly in these days of utter scent saturation it's really new and interesting. Penhaligon's are building a very innovative set of new scents with some of the most talented perfumers in the world- Amaranthine, Elixir, Sartorial and now Juniper Sling compliment their classic scents and offer truly unusual fragrances.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Summer dressing

This week in London it has been hot, sticky, sunny, cloudy, black skied, pouring rain and cold winds- usually all within two hours. Mostly though whenever there is the suggestion of summer, even for a few hours, I take the opportunity to get the sandals on and the summer dresses out. This year I have been very pleasantly surprised by the great dresses I've found at Mango, which if I'm honest is not somewhere I've really shopped for a long time and only wandered into one evening waiting for someone. Well I'm glad I did because they have lots of the things a quirky gal or lady could want for their summer wardrobes and lots of what they have looks like it would be much more expensive (I am also a big fan of the reasonably priced summer frock, because lets be honest they get covered in that tube black soot stuff, grass stains, Pimms and all other manner of nasties).

lemon skirt dress

white and navy dress