Thursday 28 August 2008

How the Dalmation got her spots

I want this print- lots!

It's by artist Sonia Rollo and you can read more about her here

I saw the print in the window of a closed gallery/ shop on the Lower Richmond Road in Putney and have been thinking back about it ever since.

I think the falling leaves are very appropriate at the moment... London definitely feels more Autmunal now. There's a chill in the morning and the evening and the light has changed so that whatever the weather everything seems a little darker.

I'm not sure we have had enough of a Summer this year but I am looking forward to a long and glorious Autumn- and already thinking of wearing my heavier perfumes.

Wednesday 27 August 2008

Lovely Lille

I am still recovering from a bank holiday break to Lille.

The whole experience was a lovely mix of British and French with a little bit of Flemish and even Welsh thrown in.

We started at the newly redecorated St. Pancras station which does live up to all the hype. I can see why the French envy us our international terminal if nothing else. We had very British tea and scones at Peyton and Byrne (if you think this is making you hungry wait for later...) and then skipped onto the Eurostar.

We arrived in just an hour and twenty minutes and were soon trundling with our little suitcases looking for pitchers of wine and cafes in which to ahem familiarise ourselves with Lille.

There is actually a great deal to do and to eat in Lille and I cannot mention all of it. Mostly I enjoy soaking up a French town, sitting in the restaurants and cafes and walking around the gorgeous streets.

However if pressed my favourite things were: the book market off the main square, the interiors shops on the way to our hotel and the onion soup at the cafe which is open until 6am- I have no idea of it's name because I had one too many glasses of rose the day we visited...

My favourite place in Lille was definitely the cafe Meert

As you can see it's a wonderful chic French patisserie. It is filled with cakes, nougat and macaroons. It was the tea that was the revelation though, I had the most delicious rose infused tea, better than any I have tasted in similar French and Viennese tea rooms. Of course I should have bought some when I was there because by Monday it was closed for the day and the website doesn't do mail order tea. Still sometimes what's best about holidays is that you try things you cannot have at home.

I also had the local speciality, the Flanders version of welsh rarebit. It involves rich bread being soaked in Flemish beer then cooked with lardons and lots of rich local Maroilles cheese. It's all topped off with a friend egg. It's wonderful but you need a lie down afterwards.

Lille street picture courtesy of:

Meert picture courtesy of:

Picture of Meert inside:

Friday 22 August 2008

Perfumer at home: Lynn Harris

Following on from my earlier post I remembered I had bookmarked this piece from the Independent about the perfumer Lynn Harris' home in North London.

I thought it would make good reading over the bank holiday.

Miller Harris Marche Au Foin at the Haymarket Hotel

Reading today's ES Magazine my heart started racing at the news that Lynn Harris of Miller Harris has teamed up with the Haymarket Hotel in London to create a signature scent for their toiletries.

The hotel's website says 'Kit Kemp and Lyn Harris have collaborated to create a bespoke fragrance called Marche au Foin (Haymarket in French). It was designed around Kit's love of lavender. It is a fresh scent that has been applied to the hotel's various bath products including soap, shampoo, conditioner, body lotion and shower gel. There is also a beautifully presented box-set of 3 scented candles which are available to buy from the hotel exclusively for £32'.

The packaging you can see mixes Miller Harris's signature etchings of flowers with a more modern look of a woman's face and I think it looks divine.

The ES magazine lists the lavender note and adds bitter orange and bergamot. It sounds like a very good unisex option.

I have been lucky enough to have lunch at the Haymarket which was delicious, but have never stayed there. I suppose it would be rather over the top to stay just to try the toiletries line! but I would like to try sniffing the candles as soon as possible.

Tuesday 19 August 2008

Hammershoi and Firelight

The Hammershoi exhibition has really stayed with me. I suppose when you go see an exhibition at somewhere like the Royal Academy you often go because you already know about an artist they are exhibiting and like their work.

However in this case I didn't know of Hammershoi but the poster on the tube really struck a chord and I wanted to see more. I suppose discovering work I had never seen before up close as oils on canvas for the first time rather than in a book is really much better and that is part of the reason I am a bit obsessed.

I also think the fact that in the majority of the house studies we see the lady from the back keeps the intrigue up as Michael Plain suggests. Plus there is the fact that the paintings are beautiful and the interiors make me want to paint everything dove grey and to be much more minimalist.

Anyway I have been thinking how like the Hammershois the interiors and light of a little film called Firelight are. Which leads me on to the film itself. I happened upon Firelight when I was looking up some period dramas on amazon, seeing that Sophie Marceau and Stephen Dillane were the leads I was intrigued. The story also sounded strange but very interesting and not unlike Jane Eyre (which all comments on this film note), which is a certain favourite of mine. So I did something unusual for me and just clicked 'buy' not wishlist, not think about it for a while 'buy'.

The film has an unusual premise but I really enjoyed it, I don't want to spoil it but you can read the plot here if you want to. I was really gripped by both the film itself and the incredibly spare but beautiful set dressing and interiors. This was partiucularly true of the upper, servants quarters type part of the house where everything is shown in muted tones of dove grey and charcoal or ebony with accents of white and some occasional shots of colour on China or paintings. The costumes were also very spare and almost puritanically plain. Now I can't stop thinking how like the Hammershois some of the upstairs interiors scenes were and wanting to check if I remeber correctly.

My dvd is, of course, on an extended loan 400 miles away. So I have done some internet searching but I can't find pictures of the scenes I'm thinking of with the little girl and the governess in the teaching room and of the governess' quarters.

These are the best stills I could find from the film.

Picture 1:

Picture 2:

Small film stills:

Sunday 17 August 2008

Solitary scents

I have been wanting to write about the idea of scents that you generally wear when you are alone for some time.

As a perfume enthusiast I love many scents that might be considered quite old fashioned or avant- garde which I don't wear for work- and don't always want to wear around friends or family who might not appreciate them- and who might comment that they didn't!

More than that though there are some scents that I just appreciate more when I'm on my own. You have more time to really take in a scent when you are alone, whether you're working, travelling somewhere, relaxing or even sleeping a scent can really enhance or alter your mood.

Having thought about it my preferred solitary scents are the ones that are evocative but also that I might be concerned were too 'big' for general wear.

They are:

L'heure Bleu by Guerlain: this is my number one solitary scent. The vanilla is comforting and the slightly wistful sillage it gives the air around me appeals to my mood when I'm alone. That isn't to say I don't enjoy being alone, in fact I absolutely require some time with myself to re- centre, but I am often prone to being thoughtful and more creative on my own and L'heure bleu enhances both my intellect and my creativity- because it is so beautifully crafted and I admire it so.

Diva by Ungaro: This is a bold rose chypre, many think it is too bold and I think they imply it's a little brassy. I don't agree, I think this is a beautiful scent but like so many stronger scents it really must be worn sparingly. If you apply just a little of this to skin that is still hot from a bath or shower the rose just blooms. I find rose very steadying but also very stimulating, both of which I find can be very useful if I need an extra bit of confidence because I'm doing something alone or out of my comfort zone.

En Passant by Frederic Malle: This is another slightly wistful scent, like L'heure Bleu. However I would say En Passant is overall an extremely optimistic scent. It comes and goes on the skin, but when it comes it blooms and I think you have to appreicate this when you are alone more than you might with others. It is also a light scent and again it's beauty could easily be lost if someone you were with was wearing quite a strong fragrance or quite a lot of a scented product.

I am off to see friends now and am wearing some Diptyque Philosykos, but I look forward to wearing my solitary scents when the occasions arise soon.

blue flower picture courtesy of:

Wednesday 13 August 2008

Your duty to buy perfume

I read this article in the Sunday Times this weekend. It's about the best duty free buys in various countries- perfume barely gets a mention, which is madness when the DF perfumes are one of my favourite bits of going on holiday!

I am recently back from Barcelona and so was lucky enough to go through the excellent airport there again. I often fly from Heathrow which it has to be said has an excellent scent selection including some unusual sniffs like the Hermes essence range. So it's tricky for lots of other airports (not cities airports) that I visit to match up. However what they might like in square footage they more than make up for with unheard of scents and lines that are no longer carried at home.

What I always long to find in the DF is an unusual Guerlain like Nahema or Lancome's Mille Et Une Rose. I haven't been lucky anywhere yet...

However it isn't really the buying that is the main joy of DF sniffing. It's the fact that you're in transit and there is very little to do so no one can really mind you spending a lot of time sampling and enjoying the scents.

I also think it can be very nice to pick a scent either at the start or the end of the holiday. If you buy at the start of the trip you can wear the scent throughout the holiday and it will always remind you of that place- and if you buy a perfume at the end of the trip it's like a last gasp of the holiday and a little pick me up to carry you through the drudgery of returning to work and holiday washing!

Sunday 10 August 2008

Blood orange and rosewater sorbet Sunday

I have had rosewater in my store cupboard for ages and decided yesterday that I really needed to put it to use.

A quick internet search found this recipe from Casa Moro for blood orange and rosewater sorbet.

It sounded so delicious I set about making it immediately (well having sourced some blood orange juice and granulated sugar).

Making sorbet does not offer immediate gratification as it takes about 6 hours for the juice/ rosewater/ sugar mixture to freeze and you have to stir it every half an hour. However the process certainly gets you in the mood and you can have little sips of the rosewater and blood orange juice mixture which is to sorbet what licking the bowl is to cake making.

I had never really had blood orange juice before and am a total convert. I can also report that the sorbet is as good as it sounds and the ruby red colour looks incredible- the end result is definitely worth the stirring every thirty minutes (although I would save up a lot of home based tasks for sorbet making day as you can't really go anywhere for hours!).

Now being a perfume obsessive I can't stop thinking about blood orange as an ingredient in scent as well as food...

Blood oranges picture courtesy of:

Saturday 9 August 2008

Grey days: Saturday 9th of August

It has been raining and grey all day in London and I’ve had a wonderful time. If you just accept the soggy flip flop shod feet and frizz to the hair there is really nothing so bad about a warm, grey, drizzly day in the best city of all the rainy day cities.

So I hopped on the 22 up to Piccadily and in a wildly extravagant and possibly slight crazy move I bought these:

From here

Then I went to see this which is compelling… the muted colours and grey skies in the windows were perfect for today. I rather fell in love with Hammershoi’s work. I agree with Michael Palin, who it appears stole a march on lots of us and has been a Hammershoi fan for many years, when he says he can’t understand why Hammershoi’s work isn’t better known or more admired.

His painting is very photographic, he captures light beautifully and his work is very quiet, as far from ostentatious or showy as it could possibly be. It’s true that his style reminded me of Whistler, who the catalogue tells us was one of Hammershio’s heroes.

The exhibition made me think again how gifted and artistic Scandinavian people have always been and how much more we have in common with them than the neighbours we look to on our Southern and Western shores.

I ended my day visiting two bookshops, both lovely treasures but in different ways.
First a hop and a skip over the road to Hatchard’s where I bought this:

Then on to Holborn to Lamb’s Conduit Street and Persephone Books.

I bought this but wanted virtually everything. Lamb’s Conduit Street is one of those hidden wonder streets, it’s pedestrianised which is always agreeable (I am not an anti car fascist, I love cars but find concentrating on the road and not walking into it when I see something arresting in a window tricky!) it also has some nice individual shops that are fun to potter in.

It is very easy to get lost in this part of London, or at least it is for me. Still I don’t seem to learn so having bought a book I wandered off with purpose and apparently not much sense of direction and got fairly lost, but not in alarming way- I always vaguely knew where I was… just not exactly where I was. Still I found my way and sometimes the best way isn't the quickest way. As Jack Johnson says getting lost is not a waste of time. I eventually hopped back on a bus and home to a warm bath looking forward to reading my new book.

Rupert Sanderson grey court shoe picture courtesy of Rupert Sanderson's website, as above

Hammershoi picture courtesy of the Royal Acadmey website, as above

Special edition Virago 84 Charing Cross Road picture courtesy of:

Persephone books picture courtesy of their website, as above.