Sunday, September 21, 2014

Why write?

Well, that's a million dollar question.

I have an odd habit of using "you" when writing, when I mean "me". I think it's about distancing myself. Correcting it means I become conscious of what I'm writing and lose the thread, so please bear with this quirk of changing first/second person! If I was proofreading, I'd fix it, so think of it as a challenge in flexibility...

Why write? Because you want to. It matters less what you write, than that you write. And you write for your own pleasure. This is very distinctly different to writing for work. I work in IT, and there are remarkably few techs who will, without compulsion, write documents (even basic troubleshooting for an application) which is infuriating. I can and do write those documents, but that's not the sort of writing I'm talking about. No, the sort of writing that's the reason I have this blog, and hopefully that someone is reading it - although that is really an added bonus.

The teasing out of ideas, a full-on brain dump, topics of interest, be they of narrow or wide ranges. Writing for entertainment, for intellectual enjoyment.

Now this, as Virginia Woolf wrote, does indeed necessitate a room of one's own and financial independence. It means having the space to think, to write and not be interrupted by others needs and desires, or by the necessities of life, such as the making of your livelihood.

It does require energy. I've had a sod of a winter, one bad cold followed by a nasty bout of influenza, so my poor brain has basically given up on anything outside of the necessaries. I did have about two weeks of feeling okay, and blessedly, that's when Queen and Adam Lambert did their Sydney concert (life is all downhill from there). This definitely stuffed up my plans on reviewing old perfumes, because my nose was otherwise engaged. Soon my pretties, soon....

It doesn't have to be Good Writing, or Serious Writing. I do think though, that the more you read and the more widely you read, the more easily you write. The words just fall together with little to no effort because your mental ear has grown attuned to their easy cadence.

There is definitely some writing that doesn't make it out into the world, and not necessarily because it's bad. Some of it may be very, very good - but it is too close and too painful to let go. Confessional writings,  the vivid nightmares that happened in your dreams and in your life. The grey depths of depression that you struggle to map and understand so that maybe, just maybe, you can deal with it and come through the other side.

Conversely, there is the writing that may one day be worth properly publishing, so why the heck would you let it out when it could be taken from you?  Although I am of at least two minds about that. After all, they are just words, and if they sing to someone else, why not share them? And poetry is certainly not a way to make money, so why not? But they matter too much, those darlings of your mind, could you bear it if someone abducted them or worse, if they told you they were crap?

Alec Hope told me some of my work reminded him of the Norse sagas, of Goethe, and to keep writing. No one can take that away from me. AD Hope was one of the last classic poets of Australia, and one of the greats. After he died, his collection of poetry was sold off by a very good second hand book dealer in Canberra (no longer extant, but a lovely place to browse and, inevitably, spend money). Of course I bought an armful of books, including Christopher Smart and Anna Akhmatova. But how terribly sad. One of the great poets of twentieth century Australia, and the collection that he shaped/shaped him, dispersed.

Why write? Because you want to.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Lentheric - Red Lilac

Totally unrelated, but has there ever been a uni student who hasn't survived on instant noodles/rice/potatoes?

More on the recent perfume bonanza.  Lentheric - like Coty, another old house and almost forgotten about.  French, over 130 years old.  Tweed and Just Musk are probably the two that spring to mind for my generation (oh lord, if ever there was a phrase to show aging, that's it!).

Red Lilac was released in 1958, so it's comparatively recent, given that many of my loves are pre-1930.

At first whiff, there are definitely lilacs - and how I love the syringa when it's in flower! Even more so because it can be neglected, copes with drought and really does herald spring for me.  I cut swathes of it and stuff it in vases around the house.  They never last very long and the flowers dry and drop off, but the beauty and freshness is unmatched (and this from someone who is besotted by roses, November lilies and sweet peas).

15 minutes in, and I'm getting a hint of musk (and oddly, a sense of sea water - there must be associative memories there somewhere).

And almost an hour later - just a soft dry, slightly salt/honey sweetness, and a slight hint of cedar.  Not sickly by any means - on someone else, it would be quite intriguing, but I don't think it's my style - or that it works particularly well on my skin.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Blanchard's Conflict

I have confessed my not-quite-obsession with scent before.  All sorts of scent, books, dogs, food, vegetation, fabric, wood and, inevitably, perfume.

I will start this post by stating that my mother is an enabler. We'd gone onto eBay to get her some classic white shirts, and somehow the topic came up of old luggage that she'd bought as a QANTAS flight hostess in the late 1950s. I've already got some of it, but there was a Samsonite make up case that she'd bought in New York and which my father had thrown out. So we looked and found. And I found one that had vintage perfume bottles, with varying levels of scent still in them.  Yeah, like I could resist. The parcel arrived today from the US.


All bottles can be opened, so there is a certain amount of excitement. And, while this blog is nowhere near the realm of The Non-Blonde or Perfume Shrine, nor my nose as acute or well-trained, I thought it would be interesting to document how I feel they work on my skin.

First up: Blanchard's Conflict, which, according to Google searches, was released in 1946.  I can't find any description of it. So.

One drop on the left wrist... and my initial reaction was that it's overwhelming and unbearable. At this point, I couldn't decide if it was carnation or violet that was dominant - it was just sickly sweet. But after half an hour, my opinion has totally changed. It's soft and lovely. I can smell carnation, slightly musky, a hint of woodiness and a powdery finish. Love it.

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Fly like an Eagle....

When I was young, I wanted to be a falconer (amongst other things). A large part of this was the romantic image of holding my gloved hand out, and a raptor sitting gently on it. Of course, there is a lot more to it than that and it is definitely not a mainstream occupation in Australia, but I remain fascinated by raptors, and read up on hawking during a semester when we were studying domestication of animals.

I was thrilled to see one of the smaller falcons (Brown Falcon, I think) swooped briefly into my fig tree one year.

And then Maman sends me a link....

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Arthur Dent

I don't understand...
Where's the tea?

It's been a very uneven few months and culminated in having to take a week off work and just rest.  Seriously doing nothing except wash up, feed the animals, watch a DVD and sleep.  And I feel so much better for it.  Well, I feel vaguely functional again and no longer a danger at work because my brain is once again back on board (hence the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy reference).

Which possibly means I'm learning - if the psoriasis on my hand flares up, I'm stressed and need to slow down/take time out.  Brain fog - I'm too tired and need to slow down/take time out.  Large gatherings - (more than six people for a few hours) are no longer viable.  Small gatherings - can do, but need to plan for that weekend to be devoted to rest, no chores at all, so I can recover.

The impact of CFS on my life and on Best Beloved's life is much wider and more long term than I was prepared for. There is continual adjustment and explanation, because the physical side is easier to see than the mental/emotional fatigue.  Learning to pace myself is probably the hardest aspect, because even confirmed introverts want to socialise occasionally, want to be able to do what used to be commonplace.


I started this a couple of months ago, got too tired to continue and it's languished.  Wotthehell, as Mehitabel said.  Press Publish.

Coty's Chypre

It may seem paradoxical, but as someone who loves the smell of dogs (including damp dogs - or in the case of Winston, sodden-because-he's-been-"helping"-with-the-watering), I also adore fragrance.   Scented candles, oil burners, incense, body lotion, hand cream, perfume, dusting powder, sachets or scented paper for drawers of clothing, bunches of lavender in the linen cupboard, fragrant plants, food, furniture wax, books....

I am by no means a Nose.  I don't have the ability to fine tune what I can smell.  But I am sensitive to smells and rather averse to the toxic aisle in the supermarket (AKA cleaning products).  And smell is important.  It is most of what we taste and is one of the best triggers of memory.

But perfume.  For me, it's an affordable luxury and something I rarely go without.  Guerlain remains my preference if I had to pick just one fragrance house, but I tend to prefer the older perfumes - Mitsuoko, Parure, Chamade, Vol de Nuit .... also some of the leathery colognes - Antaeus, Pour Monsieur. I like a bit of richness, but subtly, maybe a hint of sillage.  I wear it for myself, Best Beloved gets to enjoy it.

I buy fragrance oils from the health food shop, I buy current (plaguing friends who do go overseas to France, to buy me more Guerlain!), I buy vintage, looking through eBay for ones that have been discontinued, prepared to gamble on it being in reasonable condition.  Which is how I come to have Coty's Chypre - a small jar of pomade and a small bottle of eau de toilette.  And oh, how I love it!  There is a frisson of delight in smelling my wrists, in the softness that lingers all day and into evening.  I will be sad when the supply ends, but how I will have enjoyed the association.

Coty is interesting.  The company been around since 1904, it has some very high end labels (Balenciaga anyone?), but in Australia, certainly, it is mostly known for perfumes that you buy at the chemist, generally in gift packs for your nanna.  Which is rather sad, because they are consistent and reasonably priced, unlike so many of the celebrity perfumes which flood the shops.

There is a certain amount of snobbery in perfumes, vintage or otherwise, and far too many people try to save it for best, or as an investment.  Absolutely daft in my opinion.  Perfume is made to be worn, that is it's whole raison d'etre.  Once opened, it will age and change, regardless of how well you store it (cool and dark, if you don't already know, and tightly stoppered).  Your tastes change over time, your nose's acuity will change over time.  Wear it and enjoy it.  And plunge your nose into your dog's fur (or a cat's sun heated tummy), into the leather jacket, the pages of an old book, a handful of crushed mint or curry leaves.  Breathe deeply with your eyes closed, and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


CFS throws interesting things into your life. Apart from really poor sleep patterns the last few months, another symptom that's popped up has been the moveable arthritis. That is, arthritic pain that comes and goes, whilst also moving from one part of the body to another.  It's been mild, but there were a couple of weeks I couldn't get my wedding rings on. And, oh woe, I could no longer whack the portafilter into position on Miss Silvia.

Now, for a serious coffee-head, who has had to reduce herself to one cup a day (and apparently I shouldn't be having that, but heck, life's too short and I don't have many vices), this amounts to a tragedy of epic proportions.  Silvia and Rocky, the grinders, both Rancilio machines, were my indulgences in our mortgage. Best Beloved got surround sound for the television.  A bit of play and a couple of ordinary cups, then fairly consistently good coffees. The hardest thing was getting the milk steamed correctly so that it was slightly sweetened and had a dense micro-foam. That was always a bit hit or miss, mostly if I got distracted.

I love making coffee with a fully manual machine. I love the whole routine, the almost ceremony, and it is an opportunity to reflect on luck. That we have coffee, the tools, the opportunities. To be grateful for the gift of coffee, for all the hard work and long planning that goes into producing the beans, and the process that takes them from the growers, through the roasters, and into my greedy little mitts.  Because it takes several years for the coffee tree (or shrub, depending on locale and variety) to grow, to be able to produce a harvestable crop. This on top of all the usual variables a farmer has to deal with - weather, sale prices, labour costs, ongoing maintenance, political unrest in some areas, and debts.

But dodgy, unpredictable wrists have put a stop to that.  Miss Silvia is now living with a friend in Victoria, who is over the moon, because she's just started a week of night shifts.  And I'm stalking possible replacements on eBay. They'll have to be a super-automatic.  I can make an okay cup just using a jug and fine tea strainer, but I miss my crema!