Friday 27 February 2009

The sun is shining the weather is sweet


In the words of Finlay Quaye it makes me want to move my dancing feet.

I just my first ice cream van of the year singing it's distinctive, happy tune.

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday 25 February 2009

By Redo: Green

Green describes a whole family or genre of perfume but to my knowledge no one has ever been as direct as to call a perfume Green.

But By Redo have a fragrance called just that.

I think it’s a great name but to me it’s one that could be hard to live up to- as I kind of ultimate green scent. To me when I think of green like everyone else I think of grass fresh with dew, of leaves and of vegetal freshness.

Scent wise I think of the same I suppose, everything in the garden that isn’t a flower and some of the things in the kitchen that are green too! In a more abstract sense I suppose I think of spring or summer days, red hair (I think that comes from, would love to have red hair and wear a green dress), tennis or cricket matches and picnics, of crisp white shirts with matt gold or silver jewellery, of a light tan, of summer dresses and leather sandals or pumps.

In the bottled sense my favourite greens are vent vert (I have never smelt the original), Chanel 19 (I know this is a debatable green), Un Jardin Sur le Nil (also debateable perhaps), Miller Harris Jasmine Vert and... well the list could go on. There is a whole other sub section of the darker, more bewitching scents that are green chypres but I think they are for a different post.

When green scents are good they are divine but I think they can be tricky, perfume lovers often prefer the heavier orientals and chypres and non lovers often go for the more citrus or floral safer options in my experience. The poor greens can get a little left out I think because people don’t understand their particular beauty! Especially now that there are so many linen and fresh scents possible stealing their thunder in the summer, when they are best to me.

So to By Redo Green. On initial spritz it is unsurprisingly very green! But it’s not a sharp green and never becomes one. There is quite a vegetal tone to this which stops it from being generic. It dries down and settles quickly to a very green but also quite a soft scent. Almond is listed in the dry down notes and it is indeed present and gives the scent a comforting, more- ish aspect. I also initially mistook what is quite a strong honeysuckle note for lily of the valley, together with this there is a soapy freshness and still a little grass keeping this on the green and fresh page.

This is unexpectedly good I have to say. Yes I am partly charmed by it’s rarity I’m sure but this is a perfume you would wear a lot once it was in your scent wardrobe; one you would fine you reached for throughout the summer because it worked but also because it has a slightly left of centre aspect that keeps it interesting and it is very moreish for a green scent.

More By Redo to follow soon!

By Redo is available from Les Sentuers in London and online and in Paris and online. (Picture from the Colette website)

Tuesday 24 February 2009

All kinds of everything

Mr Scruff makes tea... and the mint and chilli is amazing

I find that I generally hate planning departments and particularly hate whoever said Camden passage was not of particular importance, it is to me. It is much more important than another branch of a huge chain of shops.

A big shout for the Royal Court theatre, which as the Evening Standard pointed out yesterday was a training ground for oscar winner Danny Boyle and oscar nominee Stephen Daldry and I’m sure lots of other previous Oscars winners and nominees. (Also note to the planners please do not put a road where Sloane Square should be... it’s not clever and it won’t make the traffic any better... nothing ever makes London traffic any better)

Speaking of the Royal Court it features in the beautiful little gem of a film Venus which is being shown on Film Four at the moment. I hadn’t seen this since it came out.

It’s a strange film I suppose but the acting is wonderful, not just from Peter O'Toole(seriously if this man doesn’t deserve an Oscar on merit I really don’t know who does) but also Vanessa Redgrave, Leslie Philips- and all the cast. It’s funny, it shows a side of London with its grimy seen better days cafes and past their best apartment blocks which might not be glamorous but is real to me. You can almost taste the weak tea and see the damp growing in the bathroom.

It also shows the more familiar, the national gallery- somewhere wonderful to go for free even on a pension- and the beach down on the south bank which I love, a tiny oasis of the seaside smack in the middle of the city. I think it brings as much pleasure as a deserted beach in the Caribbean would bring on the right day.

The film has lovely humour running throughout it and doesn’t present old people as old people but as people, it reminds you of what I am only just starting to understand- that some of us are eternally 23 trapped in older bodies.

Friday 20 February 2009

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet

Wouldn’t it?

There are a select group of perfumes that I try and try again because I love their names but the juice of the scents never lives up to the promise of the words on the bottle. I don’t suggest that means they don’t smell of what they are named to others, or indeed that that means they aren’t interesting fragrances to others- but to me they don’t smell as their beautiful names suggest and I definitely wouldn’t even consider them if it weren’t for their names.

I have been trying not to say which scents I’m thinking of but it all seems a bit too cryptic! So the scents I am particularly thinking of are Jo Malone Red Roses and Annick Goutal Ce Soir ou Jamais, although I’m certain there are others.

Recently a re purchase of Apres L’Ondee, a perfume which smells so exactly of what it suggests to me and seeing the posters of Red Roses everywhere for Valentines day has meant I have been thinking a lot about this.

What are we really buying when we choose a scent?

I always tell myself that as true perfume lover I buy fragrances based on what they smell of, not on the marketing hype, not on the bottle and not on the name- although I freely admit to myself if all of those are interesting in addition to the lovely liquid being so it’s all for the better.

I am now re- assessing this.

I am someone for whom words are a constant companion and comfort in life. I am constantly jotting down lovely phrases as I’m reading or watching films and keep a notebook of them. I always take note of strange, unusual words that have a wonderful meaning. I don’t mean to say that I have the widest vocabulary but words of interest to me and I find English particularly endlessly fascinating, it’s strange quirks, the lovely little words only Stephen Fry knows the meaning of and is able to use in conversation without sounding utterly pretentious- so it makes sense that a fragrance with a beautiful name will appeal to me.

I think if I’m honest I woudn’t love L’heure Bleu say, or even a new scent like Un Jardin Sue le Nil if I didn’t like the names so much. No I probably wouldn’t.

I do own a scent with a name I don’t like at all and I rarely wear it, which is a shame really. It’s Dolce and Gabbana’s The One and I bought it when I was outward bound in duty free. I cannot resist duty fee and the scent was newly out, I was looking for a light but interesting holiday scent. Actually who am I kidding I had decided I was going to buy some perfume and it was the best of what was on offer that I didn’t already have. Anyway I did and do like the apricot/ peach and vanilla notes although my inner perfume snob says CSP’s Vanille Abricot does the whole thing better it The One is a lot less intense. I have to say I had a lovely holiday and I was repeatedly asked by men and woman what I was wearing and told I smelled delicious, not my sole reason for wearing fragrance but it’s always nice to hear!

However the inevitable question comes:

Friend/ boy/ random Austrian chemist:.... you smell great... what are you wearing?

Me: .. thanks... er... well it’s new.... I picked up in duty free in London actually... er

Others: well it’s lovely, who is it buy?

Me: Dolce and Gabbana... it’s a new fragrance

Others: what’s it called...

Me: Er... The One... it’s a silly name isn’t it but I liked it... so yeah... um... yeah

Them: slight subdued yes it is a bit of a strange name- but it’s very nice

Both: slightly awkward transition to new topic

So in short I am not sure that a rose by another name would smell as sweet to me after all.

Picture courtesy of

Monday 16 February 2009

Perfume shopping in London: Fortnum and Mason

I am very happy to add Fortnum and Mason to my list of London shops for the fragrance enthusiast to visit.

Fortnum’s has been undergoing a gradual transformation from what I can see. It has always been a must visit for me for food and wine but I don’t think I had ventured above the ground floor until about a year ago- and I suspect that is the case for many of their customers (I say customer loosely, I'm not sure if buying some rose petal jam once every 3 months is really going to keep them afloat).

It as beautiful upstairs, if not more so. It also has that wonderful hushed peace that some shops can have and makes you feel instantly calmer. They also have a divine ice cream bar but I managed to resist the temptation of the first floor and head straight up to the second- for beauty, perfume and handbags- oh my!

They seem to have added far more contemporary names to their general assortment of stock but I of course was mainly interested in the perfume. The first thing your eye sees as you step through the doors or lift is a divine carousel with all the Caron fragrances in decanters.

As I explored I found Penhaligon’s, Ortigia, Miller Harris, Creed, Annick Goutal, Serge Lutens, Tokyo Milk which I have mentioned below and lots more. It was the Guerlain counter that I most loved though. They have gold bee bottles and I was told they carry the full assortment of fragrances available to the UK market- they certainly had Apres L'Ondee which is increasingly hard to find, so I told myself I had better stock up, I had forgotten just how beautiful it is.

They also seemed to be, whisper it, very generous with samples at F&M and have them in bowls, like sweets to help yourself to! Why is it so satisfying to get free samples?

Dressing table picture courtesy of and available at Graham and Green

Tokyo Milk

I was delighted to find that I still love discovering a new fragrance line this weekend. Sometimes I worry that my appetite for fragrance is waning. I occasionally feel as if I have just tried just about everything I want to try and found such wonderful fragrances that nothing is going to top them or spark my curiosity. While that might be good for the purse strings it would also be terrible as I so enjoy the voyage of discovery.

These worries always vanish when I something new and interesting to explore!

I found Tokyo Milk on the second floor of Fortnum and Mason (more on their beauty floor to follow soon!). As you can see the bottles are small but beautiful, with a vintage feeling and lots of attention to detail.

The fragrance names and styles vary quite a lot. Cherry Bomb and I want Candy are very nice but perhaps not unlike lots of other sweet, candy fragrances on the market- albeit in slightly more chic packaging.

The fragrances I enjoyed most were Gin and Rosewater- a lovely, surprisingly refreshing but pretty scent that feels part 1920s and part ultra contemporary- it would be perfect on a hot summer's day punting by the river or for a boozy picnic in Kensington Gardens.

I also really took to Song in D Minor. Initially the notes of orange flower, gardenia and white orchid sounded pleasant but not really for me- and not very like a song in D minor would smell in my mind. The first spritz was a pleasant smell but a bit too sweet and fruity for me. The dry down becomes much less sweet and more contemplative. A slightly smoky but transparent comforting scent that would be lovely as a long day turned to dusk.

Tokyo Milk pictures courtesy of

Thursday 12 February 2009

Playing and dressing up

I think I am regressing.

It all started with the purchase of what I think is a very fun Scrabble tile necklace. I have been a big Scrabble fan since I was old enough to spell (and to look up the 2 letter words in the dictionary to try and get rid of all my awkward letters). I could probably write a whole post, or group of posts on Scrabble, the amusement/ arguments that can follow from playing with unfamiliar partners whose families have a whole different set of rules they play by and how ultra competitive even the nicest person can get when they are convinced you can use abbreviations. I thought the necklace was witty and fun whether you like the game or not.

I bought my version here (although there are lots available on e-bay and other sites). I logged back in because a friend had admired my necklace and I have now found a Lego necklace too!

My interest in Lego, which has been a constant since birth really, was reignited recently during an acoustic set at The Liberties in Camden where the audience were provided with buckets of the lovely bricks, together with colouring pencils, cupcakes and Starbust (they should still be called Opal Fruits!).

It was such an enjoyable evening. The acts were very good but actually even if they weren't I think I realised that the reason we all think children are so relaxed is because they play with Lego and do lots of colouring. I honestly think a session with Lego and or with a colouring book and some nice sharp pencils should be a weekly must for all the stressed out. Colouring isn't just for adults, look at this lovely Arthur Rackham colouring book.

So I am going continue to flit around town with my necklace, possibly ad to my arsenal of dressing up stuff by getting a Lego version and perhaps add a colouring book to the notebook I always carry- so I can do colouring when there aren't any words coming.

Regressing is fun! and relatively cheap too ;-)

Tuesday 10 February 2009

I'm still here, entertaining and being entertained

The baby was showered with sugar, bucks fizz and a sprinkling of snow this weekend. Thank you for all the suggestions for making it a happy day!

After all the excitement of organising the party and getting up at crazy am to make many, many teeny tiny sandwiches I collapsed on Sunday. I have developed a worrying hang over/ snow stopping play addiction to UKTV History repeats of The House of Elliott (1920’s period fashion drama). I began watching for nostalgic reasons and to see if it was still good, I remember loving it as a child. Initially I wasn’t convinced but three hours later I was still there. I find watching TV from my childhood strangely comforting, especially on Sundays. To me they are either made for roasts and walks, trawling markets or period TV.

I also watched the BAFTA’s fest. I thought most of the fashion this year was decidedly so so, although Thandie Newton looked great as ever I prefer her in the more unusual colours because she wears them so well.

I love Kate Winslet and I thought she looked good but a bit safe, she seems to have developed an addiction to black. Now we all know the benefits of black but I’m worried she has decided it’s a lucky colour and won’t ever stop wearing it- and she can wear colour so well. The red Ben De Lisi Oscars number is still my favourite of all her awards dresses.

Before the snow came I went to see theatrical bliss- The Donmar West End’s Twelfth Night is the definition of delightful. I think everyone (including me) uses far too many superlatives these days but I am not overdoing it on this occasion. I defy anyone not to come out of the theatre beaming with pleasure. It should be available on prescription.

House of Elliott picture courtesy of:
Twelfth night picture courtesy of

Thandie Newton picture courtesy of:

Kte Winslet picture courtesy of:

Thursday 5 February 2009

The Road less travelled

This week I have been getting up earlier and studying people more acutely as I have tried to get to work through the snow.

(As an aside I am still amazed snow can cause so much chaos, when I was a child I'm sure it snowed this much all the time and we still went to school and parents still went to work- ah well those were the days, Mars bars were bigger too and there less adverts on the TV).

Anyway. What I have noticed is the very early morning is the best time to watch different kinds of people interact. Specifically the only people who have to be a train at 6am are either pinstriped suited city types, usually older, usually I suspect directors or at some level where they get paid enough to go in at 6am- or- the people who clean their offices (and everyone else's) or work in some other service type capacity. It's actually rather sweet to note that I suppose both sections play a very important role in our economy and they treat each other with a lot of respect. They let each other go first and say good morning in a way that people don't on a packed 8.34 northern line tube.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

Lostmarc'h: Atao

Atao means Always in the Breton language, the name is apt because this scent is the most classic in the line and would always be timeless. Sometimes though it is the most classic style that can be the most contemporary and this scent is certainly in no way boring. Quite the opposite, I find it engaging, stimulating and moreish- and although it's intended to be masculine I see no reason the right woman couldn't wear this very well.

Still Lostmarc'h themselves call Atao a traditional cologne for men so it must be put in the Pour Homme file at least. It's official notes are: 'Orange, bergamot, lemon, mandarin, with a woody and slightly spicy after scent' and they describe it as 'citrus fresh' with 'hints of rosemary'. Rather than hints of rosemary I would say large fistfuls of it- and for citrus fresh I would say cleansing, sorbet like cooling lemon. There is a slight smokiness to the herbal dry down but the scent stay quite true to the scent you first spritz.

I find rosemary deeply relaxing and calming- to be it is as sleep inducing as lavender but with an added calming effect not unlike rose. I could almost use this scent as a rather expensive mood enhancing spray for myself.

I have found all the Lostmarc'h scents very interesting; from the fragrances themselves to the Breton history and language, even the bottles and packaging appeal to me. It is the sort of line it's a pleasure to discover and you want not to become too widely available because some of the pleasure in it is seeking it out.

I don't think tourist boards usually think of using fragrance as a reason to holiday, except perhaps in Grasse, but this collection of scents has also inspired a wish in me to visit more of northern France and perhaps be more interested in the shared French and English history. These are the kind of scents I would love to find someone producing on one of our coastal shores, with the same attention to detail and mixture of respect for the past and relevance for today.

Sunday 1 February 2009

Out and about in market towns

So this weekend saw me hurtling up and down motorways and A roads to see friends in various parts of the home counties. I visited two market towns in under twenty- four hours and enjoyed their differences from London proper and the outer London excursions I normally go on. I hasten to add that is because a change is as good as a rest and not because I am out of love with London at all.

Firstly parking in market towns. It's still as tricky as it is in London but here we must park in either circa 1960 multi story car parks that have not been updated for many a year OR those pay and display car parks that don't have change machines. So if you're like me you bowl up the machine to pay very full of yourself because for once you actually have cash in your purse (I am the sort of person who uses their debit card to buy milk or a newspaper) and then find your £10 note is not wanted and you are a bit stuck. Still when I did find a multi story after having got back into the car it was incredibly reasonably priced and there was no stressing about parking because the little spaces are all marked out nicely.

So on to the town. The first market town was somewhere I periodically visited as a child and it was always nice in a the army and navy store is as trendy as it gets kind of way. Well it's all change now; Celine, Chloe and Marc Jacobs bags are available in the town's department store (I don't like it bags really but it was interesting). What I do like, obviously, it perfume and there was a little Roja Dove boutique with Creed, Donna Karan essences, Lalique and other scents. Amazed and very content I sniffed away for quite some time. Then it was out to the street where I found lots of nice and reasonably prices independent shops together with all the usual chains. I did think 'so this is where the independents are now that they are slowly being priced out of Notting Hill, Marylebone, Richmond and aren't trendy enough for East London'.

I found the market town quite stress relieving and having boosted the locally economy a little but not too much I headed back to the car park. Bizarrely it only seemed to have one pay machine for all nine levels but I queued up, twentieth in line (I did have time to count) paid and scooted off on my way.

This is where things get more interesting because rather than hopping on the M4 like a sensible person I decided I would use country roads to authentically reach my next market destination. Reader I had no map, no sat nav and the road signage, well I think it was out to trick me. I did get to see some extremely pretty small towns with very little road lighting and rather a lot of speed cameras but got hopelessly lost and not a little tearful. I eventually saw a sign to the M4 and hurtled towards it. I finally arrived at my destination only an hour late and really quite hungry. The next market town has no multi story but ample road parking and I slotted in without too much parallel parking concern.

I enjoyed a lovely dinner at a free house and a very speedy journey home. I have accepted that country roads by night are only exciting if you know them. I have to say I was the annoying, obviously not local, Granny driver doing 40 mph on the all the deregulated roads. Sorry people of Oxfordshire who wanted to drive more quickly. When I eventually hit the street lit roads with signs for London I had the surge of happiness you always get when you are going home but really for an interesting stress free shop and park (but not drive) I think it's less about London and more about the market town these days.

Revolutionary Road

In recent weeks there have been so many films that I wanted to see. I think it is virtually impossible to catch all the films at this time of year without taking up residence at a local cinema and refusing to leave.

One film I knew I wouldn't let myself miss was Revolutionary Road, which is of course the latest film from Sam Mendes whose work on stage and screen I have always loved. Not because I think I should but just because it is my kind of work. Films that are beautiful to look at but have a depth and resonance without having an obvious aching agenda to be worthy.

Revolutionary Road is a worthy follow up to his other films and as good a film as I have seen this year. It is not necessarily an easy film because much of what it says about life and the way people end up leading their lives is uncomfortably true- and as uncomfortably true now as it was in the 1950s when the film and Richard Yates' book are set.

I don't necessarily want to quote lines from the film or book because they are so much a part of watching the story unfold. I have not read the novel that this film is based on but I have read and got the impression that this was an extremely faithful adaptation. If that is the case it is certainly a tragedy that Richard Yates was not more appreciated in his time because this story and dialogue is beautifully written.

Revolutionary Road has stayed with me much as The Hours did and I have to say both stopped me in my tracks a little and left me struggling for a couple of days, which I think is a natural reaction to really strong writing that has something quite important to say.

This film holds a mirror up to people who settle in their lives for what 'should' make them happy. Now for some these things will make them happy: a lovely house, a contented family and economic stability are all important and there is nothing wrong with being fulfilled by that life. However for others that isn't the case and I suppose this film is saying that is okay and if you are one of those people then you shouldn't look to cage yourself and conform.