Tuesday 30 December 2008

Penhaligon's Elixir

I discovered Penhaligon's Elixir on a wander up the Burlington Arcade killing time before meeting friends to see the Nutcracker. My mind was awash with Christmas, how had I spent so much again, would people like their presents, what time would I be able to leave work on Christmas Eve, why wasn't I feeling quite as festive as usual this year. I bought myself my ultimate food treat, a small but perfectly formed box of Laduree orange blossom and rosewater macaroons. The intention was to have one and save the rest for boxing day (really reader, did I think this would ever happen?).

I wandered from Laduree at the Piccadily end of the Arcade upwards, munching on the delictable treats that showed us Nora in A Doll's House was not a doll at all but a living woman who could be tempted like Eve was tempted by the apple.

I gazed like a, slightly better dressed, Dicken's pauper character into the windows of jewellery (these shops are definitely the kind where you ring the bell to go in and I didn't want to go in, I wanted to just take in all the glory in my own time). The Art Deco jewels particularly always nearly make me gasp they are so beautiful. Whenever I look at jewellery I do say to myself why, oh why, am I so taken in? They are just rocks, bits of carbon set in bits of metal- why am I so fatally attracted to these glittering gems? But I am. They are like the macaroons, I can't resist and if I had the money I fear one bite, one ring and I would be doomed to necklaces, bracelets and brooches.

So it was, my head now filled with the extreme decadence of too much fine French sugar and looking at too much jewellery, I continued up the arcade. All the London arcades are a little like libraries I find. People speak quietly, in the hushed but rich tones of the wealthy, or those who have had a good lunch with wine and (dare I say it) the odd now seemingly rather naughty cigarette or cigar. They have wonderful acoustics so the whispers and the footsteps of the elegant shoes reverberate around. You can hear the roar of the city outside but it sounds much further away than it is- none of the dirt or commotion can touch you inside these little cloisters of luxury.

I arrived at Penhaligon’s, a favourite shop of mine because many people I am fond of use their wares. I didn’t need anything at all having already done a large internet order from them and my credit card most certainly didn’t need to go in. But the sugar and those little bottles with their perfect bows pulled me feet in where my brain was telling them not to go.

I wandered up to the little ‘tasting’ table they always have and reached for familiar favourites Bluebell and Violetta, they were lovely as ever. Then I saw the crimson red of the new Elixir bow. I have always like Hammam, Penhaligon’s first scent, a men’s rose cent- and had read that this was the inspiration for Elixir. I was intrigued but in light of recent Penhaligon’s releases and the notes I didn’t expect to be bowled over, my inclination was why mess with the lovely original?

How I was wrong. This scent is wonderful on me and quite unlike the other Penhaligon’s scents that are aimed at either a female or unisex customer (I think Penhaligon’s men’s scents have always been their most interesting and that they are where they excel really).

Elixir is much more daring than I ever thought a Penhaligon’s scent for a woman could be. I am not sure if it was all the sweetness of the Christmas scents around town and the macaroons but the jolt of dry, church incense was just what I needed and had me immediately. I have to say on my skin I don’t get the strong eucalyptus note the ingredients lead me to expect but frankincense in a cold, very old church sense- no a Cathedral with ancient crypts and secret tunnels. This is not musty or antique though, it is fresh and dry, like the air when it’s snowed.

I wandered down the next half of the arcade in quite a different mood; contemplative but happy, quite content to have found such a lovely fragrance so unexpectedly. Also actually feeling quite peaceful in the thought that, although I do love Christmas very much, we would soon leave it behind for simpler less excessive days and that those days were as good in their way.

A final note. I imagine that Elixir has a great deal of layering potential when worn by either a man or a woman and one of my New Year scent resolutions is to investigate that potential further.

Hammam picture from: http://www.morocco-travel.com/morocco/PublicHammam/PublicHammam-Hammam-1.jpg

Sunday 28 December 2008

Looking back on 2008

I'm very happy to be participating in a retrospective of 2008 in the world of fragrance with the authors of some other wonderful blogs about perfume: Perfume Shrine, Ars Aromatica, Bittergrace Notes, Grain de Musc, I smell therefore I am, Savvy Thinker, The Non Blonde, Tuilleries, Legerdenez, Notes From the Ledge, 1000 Fragrances and Olfactarma

So without further ado.

My top 3 new scents of 2008 have been:

1) Dans Tes Bras by Frenderic Malle, which I wrote about here. I'm not sure this has been every one's cup of tea but it's actually one of my favourites from the Malle line now. It is a wonderful name too.

2) Elixir, by Olivia Giacobetti for Penhaligon's. I have only recently smelled this and haven't had time to review it yet. On me it was a very true church incense fragrance that was wearable on my skin, which is exactly what I have been looking for. I am also very pleased that Penhaligon's have pursued this more daring scent. Full review to follow in 2009!

3) Fleur De Sal by Miller Harris. I tried this fragrance when salt was a relatively new scent to me and one I was obsessed with it. I have since found other salt scents but for me this scent still has *something* special in it. It's by far the most satisfying scent in the Miller Harris line for me. I read today with great interest in the Telegraph's Stella magazine that Lynn Harris is working on a scent based on a raining morning in Regent's Park. If it's anything like as good as it sounds this is going to be top of my wish list.

My 3 favourite developments in the perfume world outside of fragrances themselves have been:

1) Perfume books! I have devoured Perfumes: The Guide and Roja Dove's Essence of Perfume this year. For me while I love perfume blogs and magazine and newspaper articles there is nothing so good as have a book I can hold in my hands and refer to whenever I want. I have been so pleased to see the attention these books have had in the mainstream press and hope they open the door for even more perfume books to add to the growing collection available.

2) Personally I have gained a great deal of pleasure and knowledge from finding more perfume blogs and have really enjoyed having contact with their authors. I'm also very grateful to the people who read and comment here, I really enjoy writing the blog and it always brightens my day to know that it's read and enjoyed.

3)The increased availability of samples. Whether that's via sites like The Perfumed Court, Lucky Scent or through scent houses offering sample sets. I think this is especially useful where scents aren't widely available, because even if you can make a journey to somewhere that sells the fragrances you might not want to make a decision about if you want to buy something or not without sampling a scent for several hours at least. I myself have made use of Lostmarc'h's excellent sample service recently and will be writing about the perfumes they sent in the new year.

My 3 favourite fragrance discoveries in 2008 have been:

1) Pour Troubler by Guerlain. Again I found myself thinking that, to my nose, Guerlain's classic scents are just head and shoulders above most fragrances I have ever smelled and I think I ever will.

2) Lostmarc'h, whose scents I have already mentioned I will discuss in January. I have been curious about this house for some time and their fragrances really didn't disappoint.

3) Sel de Vetiver by the Different Company. Finding this was like finding the answer to a complicated puzzle to me; it is everything I want a Vetiver scent to be.

I would like to wish everyone a very happy, healthy and fragrant 2009!

Tuesday 23 December 2008

Guerlain Winter Delices

Thank you to the Christmas post I received a sample of Guerlain’s Winter Delices just in time!

It didn’t come down the chimney but was no less exciting for coming through the letter box. It has been suggested to me by several knowledgeable friends that I would enjoy this and that is one of the best of the Aqua Allegorias so I ripped the parcel open like a small child on Christmas morning.

The initial scent on my skin was very masculine and I had to distract myself with some last minute card writing while I waited for the dry down. When the settled scent came I could completely understand why this is so often named as a favourite Christmas fragrance. The gingerbread note, which on me took at least an hour to develop, is the full festive gingerbread decoration on the tree note. I do also detect pine and warm Christmas spices and underneath it all there is some musky, incense goodness. However on me this really is about spicy gingerbread.

This is a fun scent. That doesn’t mean it’s light or frivolous at all but it brings a smile. It’s also the perfect scent to put on before you go out to build a snowman or throw snowballs! There is a hint of something else too, a suggestion of the cold outside and winter but it’s not melancholy with it I don’t think.

Nuit de Noel is still my Christmas scent but this is a much more obviously festive scent without being at all gimmicky or clich├ęd. You could also easily wear it outside of Christmas too and I think it would be very interesting layered with some heavier incense fragrances.

I can only agree with comments I have read that don’t understand why this is so hard to find, it’s easily the nicest of the Aqua Allegoria range I have smelled.

I would like to thank you for all your support and comments this year. Have a very happy Christmas.

'A Heavy Blanket of Snow and Fog Cover a Group of Pine Trees' picture courtesy of All Posters and available here

The London of Christmas past

I really enjoyed looking at this gallery of London back in the day. Pictures and information from the BBC website.

Last minute Christmas shoppers on Petticoat Lane 16th Decemeber 1946

Christmas turkeys hanging outside a poulterers in Watling Street, London December 1923

Two policemen looking at London's 64ft Christmas tree, a gift from Norway, illuminated in Trafalgar Square, in front of the National Gallery. 1st December 1948

Crowds of Christmas shoppers in Oxford Street 8th December 1936

Children from the Homeless Children's Aid and Adoption Society Home at Leytonstone, London, hauling in their Christmas tree 10th December 1938

ARP members hang Christmas decorations in a cubicle of a shelter beneath a cinema in South London. 20th December 1940.

Monday 22 December 2008

Chistmas by John Betjeman

The bells of waiting Advent ring,
The Tortoise stove is lit again
And lamp-oil light across the night
Has caught the streaks of winter rain
In many a stained-glass window sheen
From Crimson Lake to Hookers Green.

The holly in the windy hedge
And round the Manor House the yew
Will soon be stripped to deck the ledge,
The altar, font and arch and pew,
So that the villagers can say
'The church looks nice' on Christmas Day.

Provincial Public Houses blaze,
Corporation tramcars clang,
On lighted tenements I gaze,
Where paper decorations hang,
And bunting in the red Town Hall
Says 'Merry Christmas to you all'.

And London shops on Christmas Eve
Are strung with silver bells and flowers
As hurrying clerks the City leave
To pigeon-haunted classic towers,
And marbled clouds go scudding by
The many-steepled London sky.

And girls in slacks remember Dad,
And oafish louts remember Mum,
And sleepless children's hearts are glad.
And Christmas-morning bells say 'Come!'
Even to shining ones who dwell
Safe in the Dorchester Hotel.

And is it true,
This most tremendous tale of all,
Seen in a stained-glass window's hue,
A Baby in an ox's stall ?
The Maker of the stars and sea
Become a Child on earth for me ?

And is it true ? For if it is,
No loving fingers tying strings
Around those tissued fripperies,
The sweet and silly Christmas things,
Bath salts and inexpensive scent
And hideous tie so kindly meant,

No love that in a family dwells,
No carolling in frosty air,
Nor all the steeple-shaking bells
Can with this single Truth compare -
That God was man in Palestine
And lives today in Bread and Wine.

Picture from: http://www.londonmagicaltours.com/

Thursday 18 December 2008

Nuit De Noel

Caron Nuit De Noel is my favourite Christmas scent of all (so far, if my Guerlain Winter Delices sample ever arrives it might have competition!).

I had very little experience of the Caron house when the name Nuit de Noel led me to seek it out. I was immediately impressed with the beautiful bottles and the all round design and presentation of the house; their products have a very classic but not old fashioned look, to me. I wanted to like Mughuet De Bonheur because Ian Fleming writes that James Bond likes it on women but sadly it didn't work for me.

Nuit de Noel on the other hand was a revelation! I have read others say and I completely agree that it does share *something* with one of my beloved scents, L'Heure Bleu by Guerlain. Nuit de Noel has the same essence of a precious time in it's scent without, to my nose, being old fashioned. In fact I think it's probably slightly more accessible than LB if you are someone who finds an old lady note in lots of scents.

Nuit de Noel is exceptionally well blended and, although this is something that is often said about fragrances with some warmth, it really does feel like wearing a luxurious cape around you.

I was, probably quite naively, expecting a much more 'standard' Christmas scent, pine needles and mulling spices and that kind of thing but actually what you get is much more the scent of serene contentment after night fall on Christmas eve. It has the most beautiful powdered dry down I think I have come across. The Perfumed court says the notes for this are: rose, jasmine, ylang ylang, oakmoss, sandalwood and vetiver but they are so well blended, or I am so on a Christmas and scent high, that I can only detect sublime oakmoss and, which is not unlike the oakmoss of Mitsouko.

I actually save this scent to wear during advent. It would be totally wearable throughout the winter as it doesn't scream Christmas but I quite like to keep it as a special festive treat.

Picture originally from the Scented Salamander

Tuesday 16 December 2008

Putting the festive feeling on film

I am a big film lover and I am quite the Christmas elf, so of course I do have a, not so secret, love of Christmas films. I think there is no avoiding that festive films are a love them or hate them thing- and also fairly kitsch. Films I love at Christmas are also not necessarily the ones I would enjoy at any other time of the year. But hey that's why I like Yule I guess.

These are The Times' top 20 Christmas films.

Mine are a mixture of the classic and the eclectic. They are in the order I work up to Christmas Day. That doesn't mean they are in favourite order, just in the vague order I might watch them in if I had as much time as I would like!

The Family Stone: Not particularly well received when it came out, in this country anyway. I can't totally put my finger on why I like this one except that it features a lovely but slightly eccentric family which I always like at Christmas. It features some good, understated performances and isn't smaltchzy. It's quiet but very festive and I just enjoy it. I never fail to smile when Sarah Jessica Parker is singing repeat the sounding joy under her breath at the end.

The Holiday: I think this is a bit like the Family Stone. One that I really can't help liking against my better judgement. I think Kate Winslet's likeability is a big factor but Eli Wallach steals the show.

Miracle on 34th Street:the original and the Richard Attenborough version. Really if you like Christmas and are a little, or big, kid what is not to like about this tale of Chris Cringle proving he is real. I believe.

The Polar Express: I am actually not that keen on the early stages but it's all made up for when they get to the Pole. I can hear the bells.

Elf : I think this might be fast becoming my favourite! Will Ferrel as an Elf (genius), Zooey Deschanel as fabulous as ever, Santa in peril and needing us all to sing.

Love Actually: It's not as good as it could be and there are stories I could live without but it's set in London at Christmas and it just makes me smile.

It's a Wonderful Life: This is the Christmas film, as good and as relevant every year.

The Snowman: Perfection. From David Bowie to the score, to the illustration. When it begins the hairs on the back of my neck stand up and I am always transfixed for the entirety. Proof that to have an impact a film need not be long or have a very complex narrative. I am in floods of tears by the end every single time.

Santa Claus the Movie: This really is camp as Christmas. It has some quite bad effects and is really strange in some ways but it came out when I was a child and I remember it being on every Christmas eve and it just *has* the Christmas spirit.

Joyeux Noel: A dramatisation of the laying down of arms on Christmas Day in 1914. This could be very try hard poignant but it isn't.

Finally Christmas wouldn't be Christmas to me without the proper Dickens A Christmas Carol. My favourite is the Patrick Stewart and Richard E. Grant version but I like them all (especially the Muppets!)

It's a Wonderful Life poster on www.allposters.com

Love Actually: http://moviesmedia.ign.com/movies/image/love-actually-1.jpg

The Snowman: http://photos.thefirstpost.co.uk/arts/2005/07/images/071213snowman.jpg

Thursday 11 December 2008


I have always loved the smell of incense, specifically proper high church incense.

A church at Christmas with the bells and smells is very nice but what I really want is the smell of these great buildings when they are unoocupied except for echoes and occasional whispering visitors.

Whenever I step into a church, particularly in Europe where they seem to wave the incense around with wild abandon, I am literally hypnotised. I wander around in a state of absolute happiness but also wondering why that exact smell of frankincense, cold, slight damp and the burning of candles can't be reproduced on my skin.

I have, of course, tried and do love Commes Des Garcon's Avignon. However it is just not as good on my skin as it is in the bottle and I have come to accept that to work at it's best it either needs to go on a scarf on me or be a candle.

The other fragrance I wear that has an incense note is Santa Maria Novella Melograno which I absolutely love but isn't really as churchey as I'm craving at the moment.

So I begin a new quest for the perfect incense on me.

Candidates I am interested in are Heeley Cardinal and Tauer Incense Extreme. I'm also interested in giving L'Artisan Passage D'Enfer another try, it didn't work for me the first time but I think my tastes have changed since then and I do LOVE the name.

If you have any thoughts on these scents or recommendations of scents to try I would be very grateful!

Picture of Temple church (London) courtesy of: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Image:Temple_Church_edited.jpg

Wednesday 10 December 2008

Wrapping routine

I have started wrapping presents that need to be sent to far away places (and Wales!). I save lots of my wrapping for Christmas eve and the 23rd of December as by then I am feeling at my most Christmas mad and it helps to have something to do.

I find that wrapping earlier on requires you to get some of the festive spirit going so that you can fully enjoy yourself.

So last night I dimmed the lights, got out the wrapping apparel (paper, tissue, sellotape, ribbon, gold pens, gift tags and so on), I then selected a Christmas cd (traditional and pop) but you can also put on a Christmas film (more on those later in the month). I spritzed some Christmas fragrance on myself (Caron Nuit de Noel) and got out some Christmas pot pouri (this is actually going in the parcels with the presents to infuse them but also scented the room nicely).

I like to pile the presents that need to be wrapped next to me in their bags as it makes me feel more like a relative of santa. I selected some warming tea last night but really one ought to have a Christmas infused tea/ coffee/ hot chocolate or best of all a mulled wine or cider (or indeed you could have all these things).

Wrapping things for friends and loved ones far away is such a small pleasure. With every little turn of the paper and fastening of the bows I felt more festive.

Noel ribbon picture courtesy of Cox and Cox. You buy the ribbon from them here

Air mail envlope picture courtesy of: www.healeyandwise.co.uk/auction.asp?id=AL36

Monday 8 December 2008

Early Christmas presents... to myself...

I have been wanting to see the BBC's Love in a Cold Climate for as long as I've known it existed. Infuriatingly it has been available in America for some time but I have never managed to unlock my dvd player to region 1. Then when doing a big online Christmas order this little gem popped up in my recommendations in glorious region 2 format! I was so excited I ordered it then and there, with the intention of saving it to watch at Christmas.

I have of course failed completely in this. I cracked open the box about two hours after it arrived. I love Nancy Mitford's books and go to The Pursuit of Love (my particular favourite) and Love in a Cold Climate for comfort reading. This two part production is actually an amalgam of the two books.

For the most part the characters can seem frothy, light and hilariously snobby but they can actually be very touching and over time they mostly develop into people you really care about. I always find Linda Radlett's journey and the great love affair of her life, which it takes her time to find, very romantic. I also adore that she wears Apres L'Ondee (a fact that is happily noted in this production).

I searched online for the quote from the book about the scent and actually found this article which discusses Linda but is also a great piece in itself.

Thursday 4 December 2008

L'eau D'Hiver

When I first tested the Frederic Malle Editions De Parfums line L'Eau D'Hiver by Jean- Claude Ellena was the scent that most resonated with me. I tried it on a crisp, early summer's day rather than during the winter it's named for.

I am sure my fondness for it comes in not small part from the fact that Elena used Apres L'Ondee as an inspiration or starting point for the scent. As I have said before Apres L'Ondee is one of my favourite scents and one of the scents that started me on a journey from not just enjoying scent but really appreciating the artistry of the perfumer.

It is perhaps because I first tried it in the summer but I actually think this smells a little bit of a whisper of sunshine- and perhaps a whisper of hope. Then I suppose winter can be sunny and Apres L'Ondee suggests light coming through after the rain.

Revisiting this in the winter I felt some of the same things I had originally; that is a very delicate but emotive scent. I can smell the almond and helitrope from Apres L'Ondee but they are worked totally differently, covered in a layer of water, or perhaps mist. In the dry down I detect iris and a bread like note. I don't find the scent cold but it suggests a coolness has come before it, rather a bit like warm tears on a cold face, or perhaps condensation on a window- which is less over the top!

It's quite a skin scent, perhaps only appreciated by the wearer or someone very close to them. It brings to mind being wrapped up in your warmest most luxurious coat and scarf, or pyjama's, trying to keep the elements out.

On reflection I decided L'Eau D'Hiver was the perfect scent for the character of Eowyn in the Lord of the Rings.

Eowyn and Aragorn picture: news.bbc.co.uk/.../jpg/_39623575_eowyn_6.jpg

Eowyn in white dress: http://www.tanz-der-schatten.de/bilder/arbeit/filme/hdr/ttt/eowyn_white3.jpg

Eowyn at Edoras: http://tolkienilu.chez-alice.fr/film/ttt/Eowyn-Edoras-big.jpg

Wednesday 3 December 2008

In the Bleak Midwinter

I am not particularly religious but I have always enjoyed the Christmas story and I love carols.

In the bleak midwinter is a favourite. I love the description of a Narnia like (always winter but never Christmas) winter in the first stanza/ verse.

My favourite verse though is the final one. 'What can I can I give him, poor as I am?... give my heart'.

In the Bleak Midwinter
Christina Rosetti (1872)

In the bleak mid-winter
Frosty wind made moan,
Earth stood hard as iron,
Water like a stone;
Snow had fallen, snow on snow,
Snow on snow,
In the bleak mid-winter
Long ago.

Our God, Heaven cannot hold Him
Nor earth sustain;
Heaven and earth shall flee away
When He comes to reign:
In the bleak mid-winter
A stable-place sufficed
The Lord God Almighty,
Jesus Christ.

Enough for Him, whom cherubim
Worship night and day,
A breastful of milk
And a mangerful of hay;
Enough for Him, whom angels
Fall down before,
The ox and ass and camel
Which adore.

Angels and archangels
May have gathered there,
Cherubim and seraphim
Thronged the air,
But only His mother
In her maiden bliss,
Worshipped the Beloved
With a kiss.

What can I give Him,
Poor as I am?
If I were a shepherd
I would bring a lamb,
If I were a wise man
I would do my part,
Yet what I can I give Him,
Give my heart.

Poem/ carol courtesy of: http://poetry.about.com/library/weekly/blrossettichristmas.htm

Pictures courtesy of: www.franto.com/wallpaper-for-you

A cup of Christmas for you?

Out Christmas shopping last weekend my friend and I loved all the teas, coffees and cups at Ringtons. Whoever picks their quotes has a great sense of humour and picks out really fun quotes that aren't gimmicky.

I love the Dickens on the mug above. Dickens and I agree on a lot about Christmas.

we also both felt Billy Connelly was very wise when he said:

But our favourite stocking filler of all was this cup:

Tuesday 2 December 2008

The Ice Maiden

Last Christmas I visited one of my favourite exhibition spaces, Dulwich Picture Gallery, for their The Age of Enchantment exhibition about Beardsley, Dulac and other illustrators, including some Arthur Rackham, from 1890 to 1930. I had been so looking forward to the exhibition and it was a feast for the eyes and mind.

I particularly fell in love with the Ice Maiden picture above and have a poster I bought at the exhibition as a kind of Christmas decoration. It's a strange picture I suppose in that she looks so calm and serene but she is clearly cupping a heart in her hands so I wonder if she is as angelic as she looks. She seems able to tame Polar bears so she must be very powerful or knowledgeable, or perhaps they have a great respect for her. I think the mystery makes the picture more interesting.

Whenever I look at this illustration I think of the scent of Crabtree and Evelyn's Winter Birch. This sadly seems to be discontinued from their main sites but I did find some independent American sites which are still selling some of the line, including this one.

From memory it is a startling well put together home fragrance; it smells of walking through snow in darkness or fading light as the ice maiden is doing, there are fir trees nearby and in the far distance a house with a gentle glow of warmth and the scent of mulling and logs from the chimney floats on the breeze. It is both a scent that smells of the cold but is also incredibly warming and comforting. I really regret not stocking up on more of the candles last year and am going to have to track some down so I can be my own kind of ice maiden.

Winter Birch picture courtesy of: https://www.paradiseemporium.com.au/companyProducts.asp?id=465

The Ice Maiden by Aubrey Beardlsey picture courtesy of: www.dulwichpicturegallery.org.uk

Monday 1 December 2008

And so this is Christmas

Happy Advent.

I'm an unashamed Christmas lover, although I don't think that necessarily means saying it's always a happy time. It can be a reflective time and for some it can be very sad but I think it brings out the best in most people and the best in me.

I am hoping to share some of my favourite Christmas pictures, poems and stories over the coming weeks.

I love the Liberty advent calender this year and can't wait to go to their shopping evening tomorrow, drink in the smells of minced pies and their perfume department. Go up to the Christmas shop and look at all the baubles and lights and then wander home under Regent Street's blanket of starry lights.

I have worked in central London for the last five years and I really miss being there most right now. It's the process of seeing somewhere changing you feel, the lights and decorations going up, the window displays changing and the familiarity of the people in the sandwich shops and cafes. Of course I am not far away and can pop up anytime but it's different to living most of your waking hours in a place and knowing it so well. Now when I go up I'm like a visitor, even though I'm only half an hour away. I don't wander the streets of St. James at 8am long before the shoppers so I don't have the peace to gaze at the Fortnum's windows or just take in all the Christmas atmosphere while everything is quiet and still- that's when it's best.

Liberty advent calender available from their Christmas shop.

Friday 28 November 2008

Little black dress perfume

I think we all have our 'little black dress' outfit, even if it's not a little black dress it's an outfit we know we look at our best in, or perhaps just smart in, that we know we can whip out at short notice and look great in, should the occasion arise.

I bought a fantastic little black dress this weekend, rather by accident. I actually don't wear very much black and it's not my normal default look so I quite enjoyed putting on the dress, the heels, the full make up and going out feeling very together.

I only had Coco Mademoiselle perfume with me so it was, by default, my little black dress perfume.

Not being able to choose which scent to wear (I was getting ready at a friend's) made me think what would I wear if I could choose? Much as I do like Coco Mademoiselle it's in my bag because it covers any occasion and in truth for going out I prefer something a bit riskier and a bit more unusual. Do ladies have an equivalent of the little black dress in perfume? Something they always feel attractive and interesting in when they are out? I know I have a default wear to work scent but I am normally very fickle when going out.

I also like a bit of juxtaposition with my outfits so by nature in a black satin dress I would tend to wear something unexpected, some Diptyque Philosykos or something out there and unusual, Commes De Garcon or Costume Nationale Scent Intense for example. Likewise I quite like to wear jeans and a t shirt with L'heure Bleu or Bois De Illes, the unexpected can really work.

I would be very interested to hear if people have a 'going out' perfume or perfumes and what they are.

picture courtesy of: www.itusozluk.com/gorseller.php/eva+green/5661

Thursday 27 November 2008

Idle Pleasures

I was walking very briskly through the arctic winds last night when I took refuge in a favourite gift shop. You know the kind of place where you simple shouldn't go if you are feeling in the slightest bit credit crunched because you will want countless things; candles, shower gels, cashmere eyes masks, whole recipe books devoted to marmite, all those non essential items that feel far more needed than a pint of milk.

I happened upon a lovely little ray of sunshine in the form of the hardbacked, crisp paged, The Book of Idle Pleasures.

The book is a collection of one hundred small pleasures to cherish that we perhaps forget about. I was actually already in a good enough mood but this touched me somehow and did exactly what it says it wants to; reminds you of the little things that make life better. It's witty, it's fun, it's poignant and it's very high up on my wish list! for this is really the sort of thing you should be given rather than give yourself.

Really I think knowing the pleasure of kicking leaves, waiting for tea to brew and napping is the beginning of wisdom.

When books are bliss there is barely anything so good.

Wednesday 26 November 2008

Pour Troubler

I was the very lucky winner of the Perfumeshrine draw for a sample of Guerlain's Pour Troubler.

When my sample arrived in the post (with unexpected friends!) it was definitely like Christmas had come early.

Helg's review of Pour Troubler is so thorough in terms of historical context, Guerlain and scent that I don't feel I should cover the same ground less well- but you can and should read the review here if you haven't already.

However I can give my opinion with the scent so far. So back to last night...

Being ever so careful but also moving ever so quickly I dropped a little of the Guerlain nectar on my wrist while trying to inhale the scent from the vial I was holding.

The first thing I felt was that I was literally smelling a little time capsule, which I thought was perhaps silly because I smell lots of scents that were formulated around this time. Thinking again though I am always smelling current formulations of those scents not the real thing from the real time. So I had a real sensation of sampling something precious but also from another time, it was like holding a vintage dress, ever so delicately.

The scent from the vial and on my skin was actually far more modern and also lighter than I had expected.

I am a great lover of L'heure Bleu and completely agree with Helg that this scent shares characteristics with my great love. Funnily enough though, much as I adore L'heure Bleu, on my skin this smells like it was made more recently. It is missing some of the melancholy and anise which makes L'heure Bleu slightly gourmand to my nose.

Still while the 'blue' aspect is missing to some extent there is something like the blue character there. The name Pour Troubler is very apt for while it's comforting I suppose it is also transitive, disrupting, head turning but in a subtle way, not quite arresting but it has something. I think perhaps where L'heure Bleu is melancholy this is reflective but with some optimism too perhaps?

If L'heure Bleu and Pour Troubler were sitting at a bar I think they would both be sipping a cocktail, L'heure Bleu in navy satin and Pour Troubler in soft pink, perhaps with a white fur stole. L'heure Bleu would catch your gaze and perhaps smile at you with her eyes but no more, Pour Troubler would give you a proper little smile but probably wouldn't be able to hold your eye for so long.

I can't totally put my finger on what is pulling me into this scent but I can't stop sniffing my wrist. I am not detecting as much 'Guerlanaide' as is evident in L'heure Bleu or Mitsouoko or subsequent Guerlain scents. It is certainly slightly sweet but it isn't sickly, sugary or at all fruity. On my it is more of a powdery, sweet skin scent with a touch of Guerlain magic. Something to treasure.

picture courtesy of: http://cinematicpassions.files.wordpress.com/2008/07/english-patient-ralph-fiennes-kristin-scott-thomas.jpg

Monday 24 November 2008

The art of scent

This weekend I really enjoyed this article in the Times Literary Supplement by Angus Trumble.

He discusses why perfume isn't taken more seriously as an art form while references Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez's beautiful Perfumes the Guide.

What I really enjoyed about the article as that the author was obviously not from inside the world of perfume, the article says he is curator of paintings and sculpture at the Yale Center for British Art in New Haven Connecticut. Nevertheless he is saying exactly what so many of us say, that some scents are as evocative as a great piece of music or a particularly poignant, beautiful or even unsettling painting. Also that the great perfumers are artists who deserve to be recognised as such in the way a sculpture, painter or composer is.

I just enjoyed coming across these thoughts somewhere I wasn't expecting to and the idea that someone might read their paper, pick up their favourite scent and think again about it, about who composed it and why they enjoy it.

Friday 21 November 2008

No longer waiting

picture courtesy of www.allposters.co.uk

Hotel Rough Luxe

I love the look of the new Hotel Rough Luxe in London. I adore the dishevelled grandeur look and it's sadly missing in most hotels. I particularly want to curl up in that copper bath.

The Rough Luxe concept is quite interesting for these times, it's about putting a little luxury in a rough area, or roughing up something very luxurious. In homes or hotels I want rooms that seem real, not ones that are so perfect you are afraid to lie back in a chair. The Rough Luxe concept is involved in other areas as well, their philosophy is outlined here and you can also read more about the shops and other destinations who are signed up with them. The Cowshed in St Moritz looks particularly fabulous.

I was thinking about rough luxe as concept in beauty. I guess the equivalent is mixing up a £100 face cream with a devotion to Carmex or mixing a chemist/ drug store scent up with a fabulous niche scent , a la Sarah Jessica Parker before Lovely.

Thursday 20 November 2008

The Devil's Whore

The Devil's Whore is a new civil war drama that started on Channel 4 last night. You can read more about it here. I have been looking forward to this more than most of the Autumn TV.

It's written by Peter Flannery who wrote Our Friends in the North. He has apparently been working on this story since 1997 which shows dedication to the narrative and ideas.

One of my main reasons to be so interested is the English civil war gets far less treatment in terms of film, television and wider influence than the French revolution some one hundred and twenty years later. Obviously the French revolution has a certain je ne sais quoi that we can't quite compete with but this new adaptations goes some way to making things more interesting- and the scenery is stunning (although apparently south african for budgetry reasons- eek- well it doubles well).

The civil war is one of England's most radical episodes. We were really quite ahead of ourselves with ideas about democracy and equality, granted it all came to nothing in the end and, as with all the best ideologies, it got used for individual gain. I am very fond of the royals and I wouldn't really want President Brown/ Blair/ Thatcher so perhaps it did all end well but there is no denying that the revolutionaries were onto something.

The first episode was really rather good, granted there were some slightly special special effects involving visions of the devil, but I liked that Cromwell was quite sidelined in this telling, so far. I prefer to see things from a slight side view (and Cromwell has had his fair share of air time).

I was also actually very taken with the ladies fashion (the less said about the men's facial hair the better I think). Really this period wouldn't get me going but they have dressed Andrea Riseborough in some fabulous blues with shots of red and all the clothes are of the most rippling and tumbling silks and velvet with touches of leather. Everything looks to smell of newly died leather, gunpowder and woods.

Next week she seem to be working cross dressing/ female bandit chic. There is also a wealth of earnst men for her to get involved with. I can't wait!

Picture cortesy of Channel 4

Wednesday 19 November 2008


I'm waiting for an e-mail.

It's a kind of madness.

Checking every minute won't help will it?

Inbox. click. No new messages.

Do something else, make tea.

Return. I'll just check. Inbox, 2 new messages, click, neither is the one. Heart slumps a little. Still no sense in obsessing.

Read e-mails, my friend is well, the National Theatres new stuff sounds very worthy but not gripping.

Inbox. click, no new messages.

I won't check again until lunch unless a new message flashes up.

Well maybe just once.

Inbox, click, no new messages.

Tuesday 18 November 2008

The Expresso Martini

All hail the Espresso Martini, you make tired Londoners kick their heels off and party long after the last tube. You may also be guilty of leading them to stay up much too late and behave much too badly but you are still fabulous in every way.

Should you need some help from the Espresso party starter here is the recipe. Use with caution, sore feet, lack of sleep and lots of fun may follow.

Classic Espresso Martini

1 oz cold Espresso
1 1/2 oz Vodka (Absolut)
1 1/2 oz Kahlua
1 oz white Creme de cacao
Mixing instructions:
Pour ingredients into shaker filled with ice, shake vigorously, and strain into chilled martini glass.
It should be somewhat frothy.

picture courtesy of: http://flickr.com/photos/83838608@N00/324819770

Monday 17 November 2008

Wake up and smell the coffee

I have a serious weakness for Starbucks eggnog lattes. I have completely bought into the marketing and now associate the arrival of the red cups with the start of the Christmas season.

You can understand then that I was fairly horrified that Starbucks have stolen a little bit of my Christmas and discontinued the eggnog latte this year (in the UK in any case).

I know I'm not the only person who feels this sense of despair and muting of the Christmas bells, in fact there is a Facebook group called bring back the eggnog latte. While I hope they will conquer the giant and bring back the eggnog I'm fairly certain that this year I will not be able to enjoy my seasonal favourite.

So in the meantime I will be getting my coffee hit elsewhere (aside from red cup time I'm more of a chai tea gal than a coffee addict).

I have a secret passion for Cacharel's Noa perfume which has a prominent coffee note.

This is not every one's cup of tea (or coffee), Susan Irvine describes it as being for 'nuns and virgins' in herThe Perfume Guide book. But Luca Turin and Tania Sanchez are keener in Perfumes the Guide calling it a 'low budget wonder' that has the 'feel of a perfect everyday fragrance'.

I actually wore this a lot on a holiday to Cornwall, which should smell of crashing waves, driftwood, moss and rain on sand. So the soft whisper of cashmere and coffee that I get from Noa was perhaps a strange choice- but I like to mix it up and this fragrance is a whisper rather than a shout which appealed to my idea of soaking up the natural Cornish smells while having scent on- and retaining some slight smell of the city I love.

This scent now has lovely memories of a great holiday in a county I love. So at a time when the city is very busy and everything is very hectic Noa calms me and takes me back to the grey deserted beaches in Cornwall- and gives me a little coffee hit too.

Noa picture courtesy of www.iloveperfumes.com

Sunday 9 November 2008


I have been tagged again this time by Helg whose work at the wonderfulPerfume Shrine I enjoy and admire a great deal.

The rules of the game are: 1. Link to the person who tagged you 2. Post the rules on your blog 3. Write six random things about yourself 4. Tag six people at the end of your post and link to them 5. Let each person know they've been tagged and leave a comment on their blog 6. Let the tagger know when your entry is up.

So to the six random things!

1) Although I seem very English I have Irish ancestry and think in my way I am quite Irish too

2) I feel quite uncomfortable if I don't have a pen and paper with me at all times

3) When I go to other European countries people seem to invariably think I'm native, well until I open my mouth, I get asked for directions by locals and other tourists pick me out to ask questions as if I am not one of them. This pleases and amuses me, I like to think there is a touch of the Alec Guinness about me and I can blend in well.

4) My favourite food of all is pasta, well today anyway. Pasta is a life affirming sort of food, I always feel better when I have it and ready for whatever comes next.

5) As well as my obvious love for perfume I also adore jewellery, particularly anything Art Deco or Nouveau but really anything sparkly and/ or shiny. It is perhaps strange then that I only had my ears pierced when I was twenty five (there another thing about me- I am more than 25...) I would like to say that I am now enjoying earrings as much as any other item of jewellery I wear. However people who say ear piercing doesn't hurt are either lying or have VERY high pain thresholds. I thought it felt like someone had attached a stapler to my ear and didn't take it off for at least 2 hours.

6)I am Capricorn and in many ways am very true to my sign, I certainly always like other Capricorns which is a supposed trait. I have always felt a strange affinity with Aquarius though. I would love to find out if I could in some way be slightly Aquarian, the descriptions always fit me well and seem far more natural to me.

Kate Moss as Marlene Dietrich courtesy of: www.artisnotdead.blogspot.com/2007_06_01_archive.html (Kate Moss and I are both Capricorns and we share the same birthday- so I thought it was a good excuse for this great picture!)

I am not going to pass on the tag as most of the blogs I regularly comment on have been tagged recently- but I think this is really fun so in lots of ways I wish I could re tag people!

The week

A week of red cups, paracetomol and sleeping away from home for days.

What calms me is what feeds me, news of progress and hope far away so close and small things; typing, riding the bus, being with friends but also being alone.

So to the weekend and shopping, my head swimming with scents and last nights wine, rain endlessly falling, somehow London is trying to wash the week off me so I'm ready for more.

I'm like a child and find repetition so comforting, to Mr kiss kiss bang bang again, is it wrong that to me everything in the world is right when I'm watching a James Bond film?

Heading home lapels, blouses and the ground are awash with paper poppies while late bonfire night fireworks ring out- but tomorrow all will be silent and still as we remember.

Saturday 8 November 2008

Le Labo Poivre 23

Le Labo’s Poivre 23 is named, like all Le Labo fragrances, for its main ingredient (pepper) and the number of raw ingredients that go into it (in this case 23). This Le Labo fragrance is only available from Liberty in London, which is also the only UK stockist for Le Labo.

On initial spritzing this scent is all pepper, it literally smells as if your nostrils are filled with the entire contents of a pepper mill. What is slightly bizarre about this is your body expects to sneeze when it smells a pepper blast but of course it doesn’t.

Clever as it is that the scent is so realistic I don’t really want to smell of a pepper mill so was pleased that this passed in a minute or two. For the following ten minutes I found Poivre 23 strong and muddled.

After these ten minutes a familiar scent started to develop on my skin but initially I couldn't pinpoint what it was. It was a dirty incense which I soon realised was very similar to Commes De Garcon Avignon on my skin.
Avignon is a perfume I greatly admire but sadly it is not at its best on my skin and I think I am destined to only own the candle.

After about half an hour Poivre 23 is a lighter Avignon on me. For people who Avignon smells fantastic on I can’t really see why you would need Poivre 23 but if like me Avignon loses some of its church refinement and is the wrong side of dirty then this might work for you.

After about 4 hours Poivre 23 was still apparent on my skin. By now it had changed again to a slightly more soapy incense smell, a cousin to Santa Maria Novella's Melograno.
This dried down scent is fantastic but not as complex as the other scents I have mentioned. By this time it is quite light and I’m not sure either the cost or the time it takes the scent to develop will mean it’s going straight to the top of my wish list. The initial fifteen minutes or so are very tricky too. However I can't deny this scent has something.

picture courtesy of www.perfumeposse.com

Wednesday 5 November 2008

Celia Birtwell Apres L'Ondee

I'm a big fan of Celia Birtwell. I also love the work of her sadly deceased husband Ossie Clark but that is for another post.

Celia seems to have walked a sometimes difficult road always with grace and always on her own terms. She has also achieved the seemingly difficult position of being a very relevant lady in her later years. Her website is here and is filled with lovely textiles. She also designs capsule collections for Topshop which I have found to be not only lovely but of very good quality for the price.

On reading my Vogue yesterday (I'm not normally this obsessed with an issue honestly!) there was a little feature on people's extravagances. Celia Birtwell named hers as perfume (she is one of us!) and said how much she loves Apres L'Ondee. I don't know why this pleased me so but it did. It is just perfect for her, perfume can tell you so much about a person.

You can read more about the David Hockney painting Mr and Mrs Clark and Percy here picture courtesy of Wikipedia.

Picture of Celia Birtwell courtesy of www.independent.co.uk

Tuesday 4 November 2008

Tales of the Unexpected

Following on from my earlier post I have found some of the Tim Walker pictures with Tim Burton and Helena Bonham Carter that I was getting all of a flutter about. These are my favourites, more are available here

Pictures courtesy of: http://stylefrizz.com/200811/tim-burton-and-helena-bonham-carter-in-vogue-uk-december-2008/