It has been a tense couple of days here in the United Kingdom, what with last week’s referendum and subsequent decision to leave the EU. I understand that this is a divisive issue so I’m not going to go into the politics of the situation and whether the right decision was made or not (democracy has spoken), but I will say that the mood of the country is not jubilant, far from it in fact. There’s a lot of uncertainty at the moment and the whole campaign has been peppered with ugliness. So yes, things aren’t exactly ‘Great’ in Britain at the moment.
Feeling a bit fed up, Nigel (Mr. Candy) suggested that we cheer ourselves up by spending some time around beautiful things. This, I thought, was a spiffy idea so I offered up the suggestion of Hitchin Lavender Farm. Nigel agreed and off we went. Now, Hitchin is a small market town just up the road from us on the outskirts of Hertfordshire. Like all places in the Home Counties it’s so scenic it almost hurts and the lavender farm that sits just outside it really is an idyllic English beauty spot like no other.
For a small fee, one can load up a bag of fresh lavender, straight from the bush, as well as some wild flowers too. There’s nothing more pleasant than a summer stroll through rolling fields of lavender blooms. The flowers grow in highways that stretch as far as the eye can see with each lane filling the air with the beautiful smell of lavender soap and caramelised sugar on the breeze. Bumble bees the size of small dirigibles hum as the wind billows. It’s a restorative experience and we had a lot of fun, especially in the gift shop at the end (I splurged). We now have more lavender than we will ever need…
Maybe it’s because I’m British and I simply have no choice, but I love the rain. My favourite moments are those cold nights when one is all tucked up in bed as the rain and wind lashes against the house. Not to mention warm summer days peppered by hot showers of rain that bring a welcome breeze through open doors and windows. These rainy moments are some of my absolute favourites and we haven’t even discussed the smell! The odour of rain is mineral, but it’s also an atmospheric adaptor that relies heavily on the landscape around it. Summer rain on hot tarmac smells different from muddy winter downpours, and so on. The one constant however, is the fact that rain always smells and more importantly, feels beautiful.
In this piece I’ve selected five fragrances inspired by the opening of the Heavens, which we’ve certainly seen a lot of in the UK over the last few weeks. They range from the grey nimbus clouds that precede and promise rain through to storms in the summer and the city, all the way to the odours left by the rain as it moves on. Each and everyone presents a different idea of deluge and downpour, crafting through olfaction, the spirit of nature’s temperamental emotions. So prepare yourself for precipitation and a veritable storm of scented rain!
The American state of North Carolina recently passed a disgusting bill that not only removes some of the legal protections provided for LGBT employees, but also stipulates that transgender people can only use the toilet facilities correspondent to the gender on their birth certificate. To most normal humans this seems utterly absurd. People are people, right? What harm can it cause if they want to live their life as the gender they feel they truly are? The answer is none, but this goes against the wider conditioning within society that states that men and women, and boys and girls, should behave, dress and love in particular ways. It’s that old trope that baby boys must wear blue and baby girls must wear pink and you know what? It’s bullshit.
But why are we so caught up on the idea of gender, and what makes the world so uncomfortable with people living outside the conventions of ‘male’ and ‘female’? Is it fear of the unknown? Fear of change? I’m not sure I can answer, but it’s certainly driven by both fear and a lack of knowledge, and understanding. In truth, we all know, deep down, that it doesn’t matter what gender a person is because there is beauty in what we perceive to be masculine and what we perceive to be feminine, so when these lines blur, we just see something equally as beautiful, different yes, but still wonderful.
Spritz Me, Kiss Me! – Five Lipstick-esque Fragrances
This post is inspired by Chanel’s Misia, a fragrance named after Misia Sert, the godmother of the Ballets Russes and Coco Chanel’s greatest friend. Smelling Misia properly for the first time over the weekend I was struck by how cosmetic it was, in the sense that it was strikingly evocative of blushes, powders and lipsticks, giving the impression of a gigantic cast of impeccably made-up performers about to burst onto the stage. My mind wondered, as it does, and I got to thinking about other fragrances in the Lipstick League. So here we are with ‘Spritz Me, Kiss Me! – a roundup of five lipstick-esque fragrances.
Lipsticks and fragrances go together like bacon and eggs, it’s true. Every perfume lover will tell you their story of how the smell of their mother’s goodnight kiss was peppered by the lipstick, blush and perfume that she wore, forming a core scented memory that would last far into adulthood. Cosmetics and their distinct smells – odours of violet power, rose blush and waxy lipsticks – have permeated the world of perfume and perfumers have attempted to capture these smells in liquid form so that those precious memories of childhood can be replayed with each and every spritz. Here is my top five.
As I walked up the Crawford Street in Marylebone, London, towards the new Perfumer H store, I must admit that I had a fair few butterflies in my stomach. I’m a nervous person at the best of times, but I was especially so on this occasion because I was on my way to meet Lyn Harris, the nose that puts the ‘Perfumer’ and the ‘H’ into Perfumer H. Harris’ CV precedes her, having built the hugely successful fragrance house, Miller Harris, from scratch in her early twenties, to the global lifestyle brand that it is today, Harris has a knack for making unfussy perfumes with a spirit of clarity. This spirit is not lost in Perfumer H however, it is presented in an entirely different way.
Stepping across the threshold of Perfumer H, I needn’t have been worried or been nervous at all, as the whole experience was an entirely relaxed affair, from the setup of the shop to the rather insightful chat I had with Harris herself over a cup of hot bergamot tea. As I enter the store, I’m greeted by a dog snoozing calmly on the chair. His name is Pop and he’s a handsome border terrier who, quite rightly, appears rather at home amongst the inviting, yet surprisingly minimal decor of the store. The presence of Pop cements the fact that Perfumer H is not a brand in the typical sense, with a pre-defined personality or ethos. Instead, Perfumer H is an extension of Lyn Harris, and its personality is Lyn as she is today, and it says what she wants to say, all through the medium of olfaction.
There is no perfumery quite like Papillon Artisan Perfumes. Situated within a peaceful lodge tucked just inside the New Forest, this perfumery doesn’t march to the rapid beat of the perfume industry, choosing instead to move at its own pace. “It’s hard not to be inspired here”, says Papillon perfumer, Liz Moores, and I can see what she means. In a space surrounded by the natural beauty of expansive woodland, and a practical menagerie of animals (I counted two cats, two dogs, an owl, an assortment of snakes, a bearded dragon, a tortoise, and a horse, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t catch them all), and not to mention Liz’s very own family clan, one can see that Papillon is very much a unique outfit where fragrances are hand made as and when the inspiration comes.
Working from home, Moores is able to set her own schedule, balancing duties of motherhood with perfume-hood. But Papillon is a growing business. The brand now has four fragrances on the market (Angélique, Anubis, Salome and Tobacco Rose) which can be found at a number of points of sale across the globe, so expectant noses around the world are pointing towards the New Forest hoping for more. On a recent trip to Liz’s home studio, I asked her what he release schedule will be and she firmly says that she will only release another perfume when it’s right and won’t follow a set pattern of a scent or two per year, as is often driven by the industry. It’s admirable to see a perfumer work in such a way and it’s clear from the four fragrances within the Papillon line that this particular nose is a perfectionist who strives to create beautiful and unique fragrances without bowing to market pressure.
I have come to the realisation that I am an incredibly fortunate person. I am gay. I came out at the age of fourteen to a family that shrugged their shoulders, said “big deal” and told me that they loved me. I have always been sure of myself and my sexuality, and having accepted myself at a young age, I have been able to move forward through life with confidence and without shame. Sure, things were a little rocky at school (coming out at 14 isn’t all unicorns and rainbows, I must say) but I encountered nothing I couldn’t handle with a raised middle finger and a simple “fuck you”.
I have found love and because I live in a country with marriage equality, I have been able to make a lifelong commitment to my love and I’m honoured to be able to call him my husband. Sexual orientation is also a protected characteristic under the Equality Act (2010), which means that it would be unlawful for someone to discriminate against me, whether directly or indirectly, due to my sexuality and therefore, I cannot lose my job or be denied a service because I am gay. Most importantly, I live without fear and I live openly with freedom.
This however, is not the case for every LGBT person in the world. Whilst we have been celebrating pride over the weekend and the American Supreme Court’s decision that all states must offer marriage equality, we mustn’t forget that it is still illegal to be gay in 76 countries around the globe. I can live and love freely, but others cannot, and sometimes those that cannot risk, not only imprisonment for their love, but also death. A fact that is astonishing in this day and age. Imagine risking death to be yourself, or love who you want. It’s almost impossible to believe, isn’t it? We take our love for granted, where others have to fight for theirs, or even worse, they have to conceal it.