Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Games with frontiers: The Monochrome Set's 'bun fight' tour of Germany and Austria - Part 1: Karlsruhe and Ravensburg

Messing about on boats, Karlsruhe
Six months on from the last tour, I have just got back from a trip to Germany and Austria with The Monochrome Set. It was only three gigs and four days away, but we agreed that it felt like at least a week, on account of the early starts and late finishes and the legion logistical problems that confounded us at every turn. But we kept the show on the road - or on the trains when they were running! - and it all came good in the end. Special thanks go out to Val the Cookie Queen from APJ for her epic amounts of roadie-ing on the final leg of the tour, of which more later...

Missing things

I wasn't joking when I said 'early starts', for on Day 1 I was up at 4.20am in my B & B in Tottenham. This pre-dawn hour was so unnatural to my constitution that I managed to leave behind my £400 custom-made gum shield in the communal bathroom, which led to much fretting and gnashing of teeth while I was away - for it is of course gnashing of teeth that it is designed to prevent. In addition to the abandoned mouth guard in London, I had already forgotten several things as soon as I left the house, to wit my brow and eyeliner pencils, a notebook to use as a tour diary, and toothpaste. Arguably, only the lack of toothpaste was key, but I did also pick up a Rimmel kohl pencil and an über-cheapy eyebrow gel mascara by budget brand Essence. Called Make Me Brow, it is a blatant knock-off of Benefit's Gimme Brow but with a better shade of brown ('Browny Brows') for my particular hair colour. I got it in Germany for about three euros, but I see it is available in Wilko's in the UK. Make Me Brow absolutely does the same job and it seems the beauty bloggers who have tumbled to it also agree.

Oh, I never did get a notebook, but just kept nicking those little bedside pads in hotels, as you do. And the odd pen with that, as you also do. But unexpectedly I did have to buy some cleanser, as I couldn't tell if the travel-sized bottle into which I had decanted a transparent liquid some time ago was micellar water or acid peel toner. I mean, better to wake up like a panda than inadvertently rub the latter into your eyes.

This 'missing things' syndrome escalated in unexpected ways later in the trip: once when the entire carriage in which we had reserved seats turned out not to exist, and once when the driver of our moving train was conspicuously absent. The wonky instrument display and missing gearstick which you may just be able to make out in this photo did not escape our notice either. Then the missing carriage - which meant that a tetchy diaspora of 100 plus extra passengers had to be accommodated somehow - almost led to a punch up on the train, as people hotly contested whether the carriage after 268 (which had been assigned the number 266), was logically really 267 (where we had seats booked) in feeble disguise.

This near descent into violence prompted Steve the drummer to coin the phrase 'bun fight' to indicate a train journey for which we were unable to secure advance seat reservations. Each morning he would confirm that day's itinerary with me (as the Gruppenfuehrerin with the Gruppentickets): 'Okay, so it's three trains - bun fight, reserved, bun fight?' Then as our travel arrangements progressively degenerated into chaos, it became apparent that our journeys were simply going to be one long, hot, cross, bun fight. But I will save the ultimate example of missing things syndrome - um...not a carriage, but a whole missing train to Austria - for later.

'Three men in two seats' ~ Photo courtesy of Caryne Pearce

Perfume bottles on walls, and taxing taps

My initial stress about the forgotten items soon dissipated on the Eurostar train bound for Paris, where the toilets were lined with 'trompe l'oeil' subway tiles incorporating a perfume bottle! My joy at this sight eclipsed my complete inability to find the foot pump that operated the water for the sink. As in to even think to look for one in the first place. Instead, I spent several minutes foolishly waving my hands in the general vicinity of the basin in search of one of those new-fangled sensor jobbies, before slapping and twisting the tap in a vain bid to shock it into action. When I got to Austria, I actually had a tap that was activated by being slapped on one side or the other, and hey, I was ready for it. There was no soap, mind, but you can't have everything.

Oddly, seeing perfume bottles on walls that aren't there has been a bit of a theme of late, for I spotted this example at the old Spode pottery factory last week, where I had gone to see the British Ceramics Biennial.

In-train brain games

Despite the Deutsche Bahn's best attempts to thwart us, we still managed to spend a lot of time on trains, and quickly developed a series of mental pursuits to while away the long journeys. (I also had my knitting with me: a green, speculative scarf in moss stitch for which I signally failed to find a taker.) We did crosswords - I embarrassed myself by correctly deciphering one answer as 'thong' - guessed the age of famous people with birthdays (who knew Jimmy Carter was 91?), but the puzzle to end all puzzles has to be the one set by Andy, the bass player: 'Name a tube station in London that doesn't include any of the letters in "mackerel"'. (Answer at the end of this post - sorry I can't make it upside down.)

Incipient second pillows

By mid-afternoon we had arrived in Karlsruhe, our first stopover. Regular readers may recall my banging on about the futility of German pillows, which are typically big square floppy things you have to wrangle, origami-style, into peaks substantial enough to lay your head on. Here - and in my guest house in Austria - I noticed a new phenomenon of an incipient second pillow. These are what I believe are known back home as 'boudoir cushions' in the likes of Dunelm Mill, and I am hoping that by the time of my next visit, they will have grown into full-size pillows with a bit more fight in them than the conventional variety.

Check out the farfalle bedspread!
Tantalising toilet paper

The gig in Karlsruhe was literally round the corner - or at least it was for me and the merch team - while the rest of our party had been relocated at the last minute to what the promoter referred to as 'a much nicer and better hotel', for which  read 'with riotously colourful and busy decor - and no en suite'.

Then the actual room where the gig was held was incredibly cold, due to an over-efficient air con system. Our discomfort was somewhat offset by the system's integration into an amusing 'trompe l'oeil' robot. Then in the single, unisex toilet that served the whole club, I was reassured to read a note on the wall stating that in the event of the loo roll running out - as must surely happen every half hour with this level of traffic - there were ample stocks conveniently perched across bits of pipework by the ceiling.

'Paper view' from the throne
Giant tea bags

Tea bags have been getting bigger for a while on the continent - at least the ones you get in the fancier type of cafe - you know, those silky fabric pyramids on a string, or the long rectangular sachets attached to a bit of cardboard that you have to drape awkwardly over your mug to allow the bag bit to infuse. At the station in Karlsruhe where we had breakfast before catching our train, I noticed that even the conventional paper tea bags had been quietly getting longer - and wider. This disproportionate size of bag to mug or glass is not necessarily a trend to be welcomed, however, for with its sheer size comes added strength, and those who favour a weak to medium brew need to be pretty darn quick off the mark with their bag removal.

The gum shield hunt

Our next stop was Ravensburg, a heartstoppingly picturesque town not far from the Bodensee, bristling with towers on every corner. I had no time to do the tourist trail, sadly, being focused on the important task of scoring a temporary gum shield. For I was struggling to sleep without one, and my teeth felt hot and sore in the morning, suggesting that what little sleep I had managed was spent in grinding mode. After a scurry round the town, I found a chemist with a solution to be going on with, though not before they had offered me a box of cloth face masks of the kind favoured by Japanese people concerned about catching flu or 'worries over micro particulate matter following the earthquake and nuclear accident of 2011'. In the end I bought a whitening kit, on the strict understanding that before retiring I would thoroughly rinse out the gel that had been pre-applied to the mouth guards. I could of course spend 20 minutes actually whitening my teeth beforehand if I wanted to, but on this tour there was never a spare 20 minutes for anything...

Photo courtesy of Caryne Pearce
The Zehntscheuer

The gig in Ravensburg was held in a converted tithe barn (or 'Zehntscheuer' in German), which is odd, as that is the name of my road! It had the most wood of any venue I have ever been to, and it wouldn't have surprised me if the entire backline had been hewn out of oak, though luckily for the band it wasn't. Our good friends Kenji and Ronny had come down from Augsburg for the gig, which was enthusiastically received by a mixture of fans and people who were there to enjoy a meal and whatever music happened to be on offer. Though one person walked out when the singer made a quip about the parlous state of Bob Dylan's toilet, a story which I see has been covered (though happily not in the Biblical sense) by a member of our perfume community - Avery Gilbert of First Nerve!

Photo courtesy of Caryne Pearce

Coming up in Part 2 - border-related train shenanigans and Val the Cookie Queen's heroic feats of ferrying!

Tube station teaser answer - St Johns Wood (no, I didn't get it either).

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Lily of The Hidden Valley (aka 'the drink not taken'): Decennial Lys du Desert review

Source: Tripadvisor
So the perfume sale has come and gone, and I have managed to move on a few things - most of which have yet to reach their destinations, so I am inevitably in a state of nail-biting limbo until they do. Crucially, I managed to shift the Bag of Hell / Indifference, which was going for free and went in the end to Samantha of I Scent You A Day, for whom it was a Bag of Possibility / Promise, which was great. She kindly sent me a handful of samples in return, having taken care to check my preferences in advance, so as not to end up accidentally giving me the starting material for the next 'Bag of Oh No, The Samples I'm Not Wild About Are Mounting Up Again'! ;)

Now the scent that really knocked me for six - in a good way - was Decennial Lys du Desert, which notwithstanding its Gallic character appears to have lost its accent somewhere over the Atlantic. For Lys du Desert is one of a quartet of scents launched by the iconic US perfume e-tailer/store, Luckyscent/Scent Bar, to mark its tenth anniversary. The nose is none other than Andy Tauer, while the other three fragrances were created by Jerome Epinette (who has at least one accent in his name, but a combination of inertia on my part and the interests of brand congruence forbid me from adding it). I have historically had a mixed hit rate with Tauer Perfumes, even though my only full bottle purchase last year was PHI Rose de Kandahar, and I have also taken a belated shine to Une Rose Vermeille. For years I was something of a Tauer refusenik - or Tauer 'reluctantnik', if you will - and found his early work too fuzzy and smoky and generally heavyhanded on the old Tauerade. The other perfume with 'desert' in its name - L'Air du Désert Marocain', henceforth abbreviated to LADDM, as is the convention in perfume circles - was the glorious exception that proved the rule, albeit it was also quite strong, and I had to be in the wood for it - I mean 'mood'(!), but that may be a cedar-y Freudian slip.

Source: basenotes.net

Before accepting Samantha's generous offer to let me have the remains of her sample, I googled the reviews of Lys du Desert and lit upon one by The Non-Blonde in which Gaia notes the kinship between Lys du Desert and LADDM, and reckons people may find this scent more wearable. I see that Jtd of Scenthurdle (writing on Parfumo.net) considers Lys du Desert a stylistic bridge between Orange Star and Noontide Petals. Well, I am retesting both of those (albeit my sample of Orange Star may have gone off on the QT), but I can't say I 'get' that connection myself. For me the obvious comparison is hands down with LADDM. Props to Jtd though for consistently adding the accent. ;)

The amusing genesis of Lys du Desert is narrated on Andy Tauer's blog, where he explains that over a breakfast of pancakes with Franco and Adam of Luckyscent, he agreed to compose a perfume for their commemorative Decennial line, which would be based on his own happy experiences of camping and hiking in the Joshua Tree National Park. He refers to this as not so much a formal commission as a 'pancakission'. A man after my own heart. Specifically, it was the scent of the fleshy, creamy Desert Lily itself that was the cornerstone of Tauer's inspiration.

Source: calflora.net

As the blurb on the Luckyscent explains:

'The Desert Lily was in full bloom in the Pinto Basin - a rare occurrence only a few weeks out of the year. It's white lily scent was intoxicating, with hints of green freshness that reminded him (Tauer) of the oasis at Cottonwood Springs, a site with lush green vegetation at the north entryway. His ode to what spawned LA - the rugged yet delicate, unforgiving yet captivating desert - is captured in Lys du Desert.'

Notes: bergamot, rose, green lily, dry cistrose, iris root, ambergris, dry cedar

On first spraying, I get the characteristic warm, muzzy tingle that is Tauerade, but to my nose in the softest and most gentle register yet. The end is already in the beginning, and I have no problem with that. And the lily is not immediately apparent on my skin - I can just about pick up on what may be powdery iris and dry cistrose but it is hard to know, as they are swooningly melded into the arid, woody-amber base. I really don't mind if the lily is playing hide-and-seek though, as the overall impression is so gentle and dreamy - I'd even go so far as to say 'spiritual' if I was that way inclined. Yes, I think Lys du Desert could give Etro's Messe de Minuit a run for its money in the religiosity department, though it is completely free of that dank, ecclesiastical flagstone vibe. And if LADDM conjures up a bed in a hotel room directly overlooking a souk in Morocco, Lys du Desert makes me think of this room at the Desert Lily B & B in the Joshua Tree National Park.

Source: Tripadvisor

So... I have only just twigged that part of the Mojave Desert is one of two ecozones in this park.

Long time readers may recall my travelogues from California, but the despatches specifically from the Mojave Desert may bear repetition here - for although I was a ways to the North West between Mojave and Tehachapi, intent on winkling out Nissen huts that were home to maintenance engineers on the ginormous wind farm there, I cannot fail to have noticed umpteen examples of the tree in question, for the landscape is fairly homogeneous in that regard.

For your convenience, I have combined extracts from two relevant posts in one handy mash up. ;) If you remember them, jump to below the wavy line of tildes...!

The Mojave desert itself

'Finally, no catalogue of road surfaces would be complete without a description of my intrepid trip up a mountain (taller than Ben Nevis!) in the Mojave Desert. I had an appointment with an executive at a wind farm operating company, and his prefabricated office was conveniently located on the summit. When we arranged the meeting, he strongly recommended that I rent a 4 x 4, warning me of the dangers that could befall the hapless motorist if it had recently rained. The 5 mile dirt track to his office would have been transformed in a matter of hours into a river of mud, and a regular compact car risked becoming mired in the sludge, wheels spinning uselessly, if they spun at all.

I mulled over my respondent's advice long and hard, but in the end my phobia of large clumpy vehicles far outweighed my fear of mudslides, and I rented the sub-compact Chevy mentioned in my previous post. I decided that if it did rain the night before my meeting, there was nothing for it but to get up in the small hours, borrow a Miner's headlamp and a pair of Wellingtons - from where I hadn't quite figured out - and attempt the climb on foot.

As luck would have it, the day dawned bright and sunny - and windy. The 5000 turbines on this, the second largest collection of wind generators in the world, were earning their keep that day, like demented, oversized daisies. I made steady progress up the mountainside in second gear - or what I imagined would have been second gear if I wasn't driving an automatic. 40 minutes later I reached the summit, and when I got out of the car the wind nearly blew the door off! As for my hair...well, suffice to say that a single 80mph gust instantly transformed my slightly blowsy style into the most convincing faux-Puckrik ever! On balance, a blob of gloop probably remains a more practical everyday option.'

Now are those wind turbines or Joshua trees?

Followed by my brief desert encounter...

'But my finest stunt in a Denny's restaurant was picking up a 20-something airforce mechanic in a remote village in the desert. No, I will rephrase that - I did nothing of the sort - he merely struck up conversation with me from the next booth, and after we had both finished our meals, cordially invited me to accompany him to find a bar (this was a dry Denny's, to go with the local terrain).

Reader, I declined, pleading paperwork, but thinking that that would be too much excitement on a school night, while my inner Health & Safety Representative said I shouldn't be getting into any strange men's cars whom I had only known long enough for them to eat a customised French Toast grand slam. My heart, on the other hand, said he was a perfectly decent young man and a credit to his country, and the innocent invitation had been prompted by the inevitable loneliness that comes with chronic solo dining.

My hotel in Mojave - called Desert Winds! ~ Source: Tripadvisor

When I told Mr Bonkers about this encounter, he seemed quite proud of me for showing that I can still pull someone young enough to be my son. A feat even more impressive when you factor in the American Eagle Outfitters cable knit sweater and 9 yr old boot leg jeans - an ensemble strictly confined to in-home comfort wear (which of course Denny's had more or less become by that point : - ) ). And the non-deterrent effect of the outfit reminds me in turn of the time I was mistaken for a hooker down by the Hudson River while wearing a full length camel coat and aran bobble hat.'


And the association of my time in the desert with Denny's brings us neatly back to pancakes - or almost certainly would have done, had it been morning. The flower whose tender sensuality is subtly and elusively woven through this composition I shall hereby dub 'Lily of The Hidden Valley'. As with the bag of samples I gave to Samantha, Lys du Desert is the scent of possibility that is blowing in the warm, soothing wind. It's the scent of throwing caution - and accents! - TO the winds, even. And it is the road - and the drink - not taken, my 'lily-livered' reaction to a chance invitation from an all-American boy...

But I am not sorry I said no. I did have work the next day. And frankly I felt empowered enough by my navigational exploits up hill and down dale tracking down these wind farm mechanics. In terms of logistical feats in my line of work, it may well have been my finest hour. So just as Lys du Desert is the scent of Andy Tauer's hiking holidays, for me it will forever signify the exhilaration of having my work take me to this remote and majestic spot. Take me there and get me safely out again, with the job in the bag.

Hidden Valley, Joshua National Park ~ Source: Tripadvisor

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Kitten impossible: A new ****** Bonkers is coming soon! (Plus a naming poll - of sorts!)

The Bonkers kitten is at the top!
I watched an interesting TV programme last night, in which the producers deprived three teenage girls of their smartphones for 48 hours to see if they would cope. The trio were using them anything from 3 to 5+ hours a day. I mention this because for the past three weeks, I have been surfing kittens on the Internet - yes, in our technologically advanced era of online dating and the like, surfing kittens is also a 'thing'! - for a good few hours a day at a guess. For nearly three years on from the demise of Charlie Bonkers, I was on a mission to find another furry companion to fill the cat-shaped hole in my life - of which, over time, I was becoming more acutely aware - however my very specific criteria were rendering the search quite tricky.

You see, owing to some upcoming travel plans, there were only two possible windows for the receipt of said kitten. Then it needed to be based within a drivable distance for the pick up and to be aged between 8-10 weeks at that point (I was reluctant to miss too much of the short uber-cuteness window!). It also needed to have been well cared for in the early weeks of life, not to have long hair (two of my friends had impressed upon me the high maintenance nature of extra fluffy cats), and not to be too expensive. For there is usually a cost involved, even when rehoming a cat from a rescue centre. And reading between the lines, the vast majority of '£0 cats' in the classified ads came with baggage - and I am not just talking about their own basket and scratching post. So some cost was actually a kind of reassurance, while too much stood out as flagrant monetising. (Unless you are talking a pedigree, who are obviously in a different price league.) Additionally I didn't want the cat to be 'too pointy' or hairless - that ruled out the admittedly rather small category of Sphynx cats! - and I wanted the kitten to be the perfect mix of outgoing and friendly, but not so exuberant as to be likely to rip the furniture to shreds. And not too highly strung or moody. Oh, and not too vocal. Not that such personality traits can necessarily be determined in advance. ;).

The late Charlie Bonkers snoozing in the sun

And most importantly of all - and arguably most shallowly of me, you could say! - I had very specific criteria in terms of the animal's markings...partly based on general aesthetics and partly on my cat owning history ie I didn't want to adopt a kitten who looked similar to one I had had in the past. This narrowed the field to tabby and white or orange/ginger and white, and that was about it! In my capacity as market researcher I would observe that about half the cats in Britain appear to be black or black and white. I already feed a black cat belonging to a friend, and in my street you are never more than six foot away from a black and white cat, most of whom I pet in passing if they will let me, so the monochrome box is well and truly ticked already. This undoubtedly made the search heaps more difficult than it would have been if my colour preferences had been more flexible.

Charlie and Miro - 1995

Now it is 20 years ago since I last rehomed a pair of kittens, and back then you would get word of a litter through friends of friends of friends, postcards in shop windows, the vet's, or ads in local papers. There have of course always been rescue centres as another route, but what has changed in the intervening time is the explosion of online ad sites such as Gumtree and Preloved and many more. I did put my name down with several rescue centres, who promised to get in touch - in the first instance to vet my house and street for their suitability, however, with one exception they didn't get back to me. This was doubtless for very good reasons ie that they were busy rescuing bags of kittens from dustbins or what have you, but it meant that I felt quite passive in the process, and there was a chance that they might never contact me - or have a kitten answering my draconian description! - in my critical window for taking one home. So I dived back into the private sector, to have more control of my options - and more choice to start with.

And in the course of my exhaustive - and exhausting! - googling of kittens I quickly realised that as with estate agent speak, there is also a kind of jargon at work here...

'Stunning! gorgeous!' - unremarkable with one rheumy eye
'Last one remaining!' - as above
'Looking for its forever home' - as above, with possible added behavioural difficulties
'Playful' - will bite your hand off
'Will hopefully soon be litter trained' - behavioural difficulties already apparent
'URGENT - must go asap!' - the landlord is throwing us out
'Comes with scratching post and carrying basket' - it's a complete psycho and I never want to own a cat again.
'Has been socialised around children' - the poor creature is traumatised from having fingers constantly poked in its ears.

The photographs in the ads were of very mixed quality too. The ones where the kitten was very small and distant or completely absent were of particular concern. They should perhaps have had the caption 'Stunning! Very mobile!' In other cases the kitten pictured was at the peak of its cute phase, but a closer correlation of birth and current dates revealed that it was in fact a year and a half, and proving difficult to shift.

Then on Sunday I spotted a picture which caught my eye of three very new kittens curled up together. Posting an image of a kitten that new is quite high risk, as they can resemble furry slugs/stoats/sausage-shaped draught excluders, but this litter was so pretty that extreme youth was no barrier to their appeal. I booked a slot to view them on Monday, with a pale tabby particularly in mind, and the face-to-face encounter with this tiny, fragile, cheeping creature clinched the deal.

So for the next seven weeks I will be known as 'Vanessa White Tabby' in the contacts of a lady in Leicester's phone. The pictures show the kitten's mum Nala, and I also met its granny, Daisy. Oh yes...the little thing is only 8 days old but already has that reassuring 'M' for 'Musson' on her head. ;) And a bonus white tummy.

Mum Nala, working the black eyeliner!

So the next job is of course to choose a name for the new ****** Bonkers. I have a few favourite contenders, but thought I would share the (still rather long!) shortlist with readers in case you could tip me one way or another with your own leanings - or indeed think of something completely new.

Truffle - combines confectionery with a 'riffling through fur' kind of term. A friend also pointed out that it would work well 'shouted in anger'.

Salome - ancestral name (see earlier post)

Shimna - a favourite river in Northern Ireland, in which I would like my ashes scattered one day.

Floozy - suggested by Tara, and makes me smile every time I say it. Could easily be shouted in anger, say if the kitten persists in having her legs in the air (scroll down...!).

Crumpet / Trollop - variants of Floozy ;)

Moth - I just like the delicate flutteriness of this one, plus there will hopefully be a future launch by Papillon called 'White Moth'.

Tilde - kitten has wiggly lines on the side of her head. Also sounds reminiscent of Tilda Swinton, who is no bad role model. Here is my rather whimsical review of Like This!

Sable - the epitome of furry luxury

Cinta - Indonesian for love, and a shortened form of the Spanish Jacinta, meaning hyacinth. It is also a variant of the Spanish for Cynthia (and the kitten looks like a bit of a madam all right!). Finally, there is a cute tiger cub in London Zoo of this name. Pronounced 'Ceenta'.

Pernod - the kitten's fur is currently the same sort of milky/cloudy colour, plus the name contains a homonym of 'purr'.

Latte - as above, and sounds like 'catty'.

What is she like?!?!

Mizzle / Wevet / Dimpse - it's a Farrow & Ball thing...;)

Marble - her markings looks a bit like one?

Shale - evokes the idea of geological striations, but with unfortunate connotations of fracking!

Tilly / Viola / Ruby / Fleur / Plum / Bronte / Prudence - pretty retro names

Cognac - her mum and granny have quite rich brown tabby markings, so with this one am aiming off for how her fur might develop.

Polenta - companion name to Lady Jane Grey's Couscous!

Baroness Chipolata von Currywurst(!) - suggested by a rather waggish friend, with a possible shortened form of 'Chippy'.

Hendricks  / Sapphire / Tonic - gin related names - say no more!

Castell - Spanish name of a lady in Stafford who runs up curtains (as kittens are wont to do, though I very much hope this one won't).

Allegra - Milton, anyone? (Slightly adapted, admittedly.)

Poubelle - French for bin. A friend in France observed: 'Cats are rubbish!'

Nougat, Praline, Topic, Flake, Wispa - more confectionery names that I mostly like for no particular reason.

Do any of those names appeal to you? Any other ideas? I would love your input!

You will look after her, won't you?

UPDATE: Couldn't resist checking the original ad where I found the kitten, and not surprisingly, her boldly striped littermate has also found an owner! ;)

NB Proper perfume posts will resume next time!

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Purgative urge prompts radical reorg and cologne clear out!

There are thematic groupings in this madness
Nearly two weeks have passed since my unreview of Salome, during which time I have found myself possessed by a post-project decluttering demon - well, a general housework demon to be exact. The catalyst for this uncharacteristic bout of domesticity may have been the arrival (and subsequent upcycling) of a blanket box / Ottoman that I got for an absolute snip in a local secondhand shop. My overflow wool stash has now been relocated from under the bed into its cavernous depths, freeing up a great deal of floor space, and simultaneously unleashing my inner tidying genie.

So it was that I spent the next two days systematically demolishing the ironing mountain (which dated back to July!), followed by a mammoth hoe-athon in the borders of the back garden. You can see a lot more earth now and considerably less ground cover, which to the untrained eye seemed mostly to comprise assorted 'weed-like entities'. Then the next two days were spent throwing away old toiletries and medicaments, ruthlessly editing my wardrobe, and sorting through the rest my perfume collection, specifically the bottles and samples that hadn't already been subject to a 'reorg' (to annexe the management term beloved of big corporates) and allocated a compartment in the wooden tray-cum-drawer insert I got from the same shop as the Ottoman.

In a kind of high speed triage exercise I tested dozens of different scents (shoulders, elbows and knees were all pressed into service in addition to the high traffic areas of wrists and forearms), and figured out what I wanted to keep - and what albatrosses I wanted to put up for sale. Well, not necessarily for sale, even. Anything that I did not pay money for (all the vintage section, basically), I am offering for free - I would just ask that you cover the cost of postage and don't re-sell it, as if anyone would! If your vintage acquisition is a) in good nick and b) you like it, feel free to make a discretionary donation to a charity near you (cancer and cats would be my top two themes, but I don't wish to be prescriptive on this point!). Otherwise pass it along to somebody else or throw it away.

The quality aspect will hopefully only be a potential issue with the vintage scents, not all of which I am familiar with, so it is hard to tell how they have evolved since they were new - which is anything up to 40 years ago! That said, I have tested them all and did not recoil once, except when smelling a couple of very retro, spicy animalic numbers that may date back to the 70s or 80s. But I would almost certainly have recoiled back then too. ;) So yes, with the vintage category a degree of mutation goes with the territory - but that will be for the recipient to determine.

NB Hypothetically, in extreme cases of new owner recoil I would be happy to refund postage paid. ;)

There are even two categories of silver atomiser - shiny and matt!

I shan't put prices on the non-vintage scents which - with one exception - I did buy myself, but if you are interested in any, drop me a line and I will work something out, including postage to wherever you are. I don't mind posting to North America, but it is a bit fraught to ship there as you know, and requires a degree of subterfuge and creative customs labelling, a challenge for which I am well up, as Churchill might have said.

And be assured that all the perfumes will all be going VERY CHEAP. Anything from a few quid each for the minis - or less veering to free if they are not full - to maybe £35 for the Creed, which is half full at a guess, and more in the realms of £10 - £30 for anything else, except the Lidl perfume, which only cost £3.99 new, hehe.


Front row:

Dita Von Teese by Dita Von Teese (nowt wrong with the scent, but the bottle has stability issues!) - SOLD

Second row (L to R): 

The Cotswold Perfumery Company Ruby - SOLD
Cloon Keen Atelier Castana (nutty jasmine scent) - SOLD
Boucheron B
Jo Malone Kohdo Wood Day Lotus Blossom and Water Lily

Third row (L to R):

Roja Dove Urban Retreat Reverie (aromatic citrus scent with notes of bergamot and lavender - discontinued!) - SOLD
Creed Love in Black - SOLD
DKNY Cashmere Mist - SOLD
Lostmarc'h L'eau de l'Hermine (sad associations with Max Rat...)
L'Eau par Kenzo l'Eau Indigo pour Femme

Back row:

Lidl Suddenly Madame Glamour (BNIB!) ;)


Front row (L to R): 

Bvlgari Omnia Green Jade
M Micallef Hiver (teeny bit left)
M Micallef Royal Vintage
Lanvin Arpege - SOLD
Chloe by Chloe
Burberry Woman

Centre row (L to R):

Clinique Simply
Sarah Jessica Parker Covet (very sweet bottle!)
Guerlain Champs Elysees (can't be bothered with accents, sorry)

Back row (curving round L to R):

Marc Jacobs Daisy (another sweet bottle!)
Burberry The Beat
Hermes Cologne Verte (slight wobbly top alert!) - SOLD
Etro Vicolo Fiori (some people were keen to explore the Etro line?) - SOLD
Guerlain Jardins de Bagatelle (stonking white floral) - SOLD
Versace Crystal Noir


Here the concept of rows goes somewhat out of the window...

Front row (L to R): 

Myurgia Maja perfume (review by The Non-Blonde here, in which the link to Ramon Monegal is also mentioned)
Goya Gardenia - REHOMED
Madame Rochas (was 'Brand Old in Box' when I got it! And we are talking very old indeed...)
4711 Cologne
Second Sense 1 cologne (evil spicy oriental) - REHOMED

Back row-ish (L to R):

Coty L'Aimant (70s version - I am keeping the 80s purse spray)
Houbigant Chantilly (lemon meringue number - think poor man's MCDI Promesse de l'Aube)
Royal Copenhagen mini (may suit men, or Danish nationals)
Houbigant Chantilly in a boxed set with talcum powder - also 'Brand Old in Box' till I broached it! - REHOMED
Lentheric Elle Bouquet
Lentheric Mystique (another evil spicy oriental)
Nina Ricci L'Air du Temps (yet another BOIB)


Oh, I also have this large bag of (I think mostly niche) samples to give away. I had a similar one of designer scents, which has been rehomed already with a friend's son's girlfriend - a much easier set to place, in fairness.

Don't ask me what's in it!

So there you go...I am not expecting a stampede, but there are one or two things that might appeal to specific people if they see this post. I also have minuscule amounts of Joy Parfum and 'unspecified other vintage format' of Joy which Odiferess might be interested in, for example (not pictured).

Am very happy to describe in more detail any scents people might be curious about - or they can readily be googled, except Second Sense 1, which I can't even tell you who it's by. You are clearly meant to use your Sixth Sense to figure that out. It's a monster, I can say that...Makes Salome look like a pussycat.

PS Speaking of 'rehoming' and 'pussycats', I am currently actively looking for a kitten to be the next 'xxxx Bonkers'. I am especially drawn to 'semi-long haired tabbies with a lot of white and that very defined Kohl-like look around the eye', which sadly is not a recognised search term on any of the rescue centre or classified ad websites. So if you are in the UK and see anyone offering kittens broadly answering to that description, please let me know! FYI, the three attributes I am looking for overall are 'fluffy, loving and independent'. I don't think that's a big ask - why, I like to think of myself as 'loving and independent', though at my age, 'fluffy' might be a bit of a stretch.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

Papillon Perfumery Salome (not a review): thoughts on my f***h j*****y, eponymous ancestors, and nasal literacy

I'm aware that I've taken my time getting round to not reviewing Salome, the latest - truly skanktastic - release from Papillon Perfumery. I had a sample, tested it a number of times on my own skin, focus grouped it after a fashion with my friend Lizzie and her (over 18!) children - that's their age, not their total number - and took it abroad with me, despite its being the furthest thing imaginable from an 'office appropriate' scent. Well, I suppose it depends where you work... ;) And now, sadly, Salome has gone the way of Max Rat and the luggage. A light-fingered tea leaf in Tipton may be stepping out on a Saturday night in a cloud of hyraceum for all I know. At the Lyceum, even. No, wait, that's in Sheffield. Anyway, my Salome sample has gone the way of all flesh, 'all flesh' being the operative words.

You might think that it is a bit of a risky undertaking to even not review a perfume I haven't sniffed in a while. I have to say though that such are the indeterminate impressions formed by my nasal receptors even with the perfume actually present(!) that 'an emotion triggered by a scent and recollected in tranquillity'to adapt Wordsworth only slightly, is arguably enough of a basis and certainly as much as there is ever likely to be. Then I was going to call this post something like a 'Fearless Fandango of Filth', but the 'f' word has been well and truly harnessed by my fellow bloggers in their stellar reviews of Salome, and no one but no one can top The Candy Perfume Boy's masterly coinage in his review of the fragrance of a 'trifecta of filth', in reference to the three animalic notes in Salome of castoreum, hyraceum and a rather louche 'tobacco-like facet' .

Source: Papillon Perfumery

What I remember of my several testings of Salome is broadly as follows: a bright, verging on sparkling opening with a citrus and floral bouquet of some kind, which segues within a very short space of time into a phantasmagorical wallop of f***h. Said wallop starts out like the pornolfactory equivalent of a heavy velvet door curtain, but gradually dies down to the texture of shimmying satin camisoles - those very wispy ones whose straps are forever falling down, by no means always by design. Salome is a big production animalic chypre that reminded me of YSL Y and Jean Desprez's Bal a Versailles, yet Salome feels smoother, creamier, more seamlessly blended, and more classically timeless than either of those somewhat dated scents in my view, just as Joy feels 'wrong' to me nowadays. On my skin there's jasmine and there's civet in Joy, and never the twain shall meet, whereas the notes in Salome are impeccably choreographed. Bal a Versailles is also a soprano to Salome's purring alto register, and it feels less substantial, more tinny and watery. Well, in fairness I do have the EDC concentration so it is hardly a fair comparison!

I must point out, however, that on me Salome is markedly more f***hy than on my friend Lizzie and her two children. They all said that I should categorically not wear it. Then, on Lizzie's son, Salome smelt completely different - it had more of a citrus-sandalwood-leather vibe which reminded him right off the bat of Geo F Trumper's Spanish Leather. I must say I was impressed that a young man just turned 18 would even have heard of Geo F Trumper! Then on Lizzie and her daughter I detected a much expurgated version of Salome compared to on me. Even so, there was the inevitable moue of distaste from her daughter, with comments like: 'Oh no, it reminds me of the dreaded halibut eye!', a reference to the legendary coldness of her grandmother's gaze - whether in life or death I am not quite sure - who apparently wore the formidable vintage Miss Dior (as it would have been at the time), so go figure. There were further associations of Salome with fur coats and old people's homes, not all of them printable. So yes, Lizzie and her daughter also pegged Salome as vintage, but not in a way that they cared for, whereas I think Salome is an example of the floral animalic chypre genre which nods towards the past, is firmly rooted in the present, and yet will still feel relevant in decades to come, assuming you like that sort of thing. Judging by the deferred gratification being barely contained on the blogs, I'd say that Salome will most definitely 'hit the spot' (no, I did not say 'G-'!) of many a fumehead who's a fan of f***h.

A hyrax predictably coming over all unnecessary ~ Source: walkthewilderness.net

Now I didn't love Salome, but I could appreciate it as the finest example of its kind I have smelt. Also on the plus side, I didn't run a mile, even if Lizzie's daughter made a bolt for her bedroom rather sharpish. I doubt very much that I would wear it outside the home - much like Bogue Profumo's Maai in that regard - but I could see myself enjoying the far drydown in crafty lascivious huffs at my desk, say. If I still had my sample, obviously. And coming from someone whose Basenotes handle was once 'VM I hate civet' - nay, still is, though I no longer go on there - that is praise indeed. Not that there is civet in Salome, but I could equally well have called myself 'VM I hate f***h in all its bawdy and scatalogical manifestations' back in the day. And now I am much more open-minded - and open-legged you might say, but I really hope you won't - to the notion. Salome is a cornucopia of carnality, a pot-pourri of pudenda odour, and on that lewdly alliterative note I am going to park this non-review right there.

Source: nyu.edu

As it happens, I lost my sample of Salome not once but twice - for I left it behind at Lizzie's house following that group testing session, prompting mild alarm in the family. She agreed to put it in the porch in a flower pot for me to collect at my convenience. Readers may notice a car key in the foreground, which annoyed the heck out of me when I first looked at the photo, until images of 'car keys in bowls' made me think it might in fact have been a photographic Freudian slip.

Salome sample in organza bag partially obscured by phallic key

And maybe the fact that I feel unfreaked out by Salome's raunchy underbelly - well, I use the term advisedly as the underbelly reaches all the way up to the be-tasselled nipples of my feverish imaginings - is partly due to the fact that the name Salome is very much in the family. No, really. I was the first generation not to be called Salome, at least as a middle name. The belly dancing, head on platter-toting buck stopped (figuratively) with my aunt Rowena Salome, now aged 95. But the Salomes on my father's side stretch back several centuries. And while we are on this earthy theme, I can also reveal that the Salome pictured at the top of the post had a mother who rejoiced in the name of Susan Cock, whose mother in turn was Martha Prickman. You couldn't make it up. None of the Salomes of whom there are extant photos look particularly 'unbuttoned', if you know what I mean, but you never know. They do say the quiet ones are the worst.

Oh look - two Salomes in one screenshot!, although my other aunt, Hilda Salome, sadly died as a baby. Though her aunt Salome Musson (are you keeping up? ;) ) - who married Henry George Coombs and emigrated to New Zealand - lived to be 90 and is pictured below, looking every inch the winsome - and wholesome! - spit of Jenny Agutter in The Railway Children.

And finally, what of 'nasal literacy'? By that I mean that my inability to parse individual notes in scents - or even sometimes to tell you what it makes me think of in the most loosely conjured metaphorical terms - intermittently troubles me. It did so with a vengeance in the case of Salome, because after the initial nuanced but unknown flurry of floral and citrus notes, I was left with a chypre-esque construct that I could evoke in textural terms, but otherwise had nary a clue what I was smelling beyond the catch-all term of a wall of 'f***h'. I mention it here because there are a number of perfumes I have tested lately that I really like, but my inarticulacy with those, should I attempt to feature them on Bonkers, would be even more marked. I would have recourse to the lamest statements about 'a very nice floral blend' or 'kind of masculine leaning, but I like it'. And yet I am so taken with these perfumes that I would like to commend them to you. Maybe I could do a post full of tiny 'unreviews' of unprecedented vacuousness. Because - paradoxically perhaps - it seems a shame not to write about them at all because I am stuck for words.

Source: anmal.uma.es

Then I can't help recalling jtd's comment in his post on Scenthurdle, 'Against Opinion', and tending to agree with him, at least in part:

"I am all for knowing yourself and trusting your gut, but the opinion-judgement two-step doesn't aid the discussion of perfume. 'I love this! (therefore) It's the greatest perfume ever!' and 'I hate this! (therefore) It's terrible!' are equally unhelpful starting points for a meaningful exchange."

Well, I don't think I would judge the perfumes I'd choose to write about in quite such black and white terms, but I can see myself not coming up with much beyond: 'I really like this - and I have no idea what I am actually smelling!' And I know that the alchemy of perfume - as with cooking - is such that a fragrance becomes 'something else' that is greater than the sum of its parts, but as well as enjoying food, I can usually tell if a soup has ginger in it, or whether a cake has hundreds and thousands...um...on top.

Anyway, I mention this issue of nasal literacy because I think my nose is getting worse in this regard and I am not sure it is acceptable to do a post along the lines indicated above. And I haven't even got the excuse that I have had my nostrils cauterised, like a good friend of mine. She had a special knack of making her nose bleed on demand to get out of Maths class, and didn't have the bottle to explain that there was really nothing wrong with it.

Spot the Salomes - two more above!

Thursday, 27 August 2015

My bonkers month of extreme Euro-hoppery: Part 3 - the scented bit

A pleasingly wonky hotel in Ulm
For anyone who clocked my two days or so of technical malfunction - whereby I managed to inadvertently corrupt the code behind the site to such spectacularly awful effect that I had to set Bonkers to private for a while! - I can't tell you how pleased and relieved I am to have the blog back up and looking as normal. Or how grateful I am to the friend who managed to resurrect it.

It now remains to complete this series of travelogues with a round up of the perfume-related aspects of the trips, together with the somewhat deferred explanation of how I came to be parted from Max Rat (and much more).

Cursory airport sniffage leaves me wanting myrrh

Regular readers will have noticed that my interest in keeping up with the latest releases has greatly diminished over the years. Whereas before I used to systematically scope the fixtures in the duty free section of airports for newly launched fragrances - deploying a cunning skin site allocation system that allowed me to test up to ten perfumes at once! - now I am just as likely to walk straight through that area and out the other side, with barely a glance to left and right. That was pretty much the case on all eight occasions when I found myself at airports either on the outward or return legs of my journeys. I was, moreover, trying really hard to avoid the endless displays of Chanel Chance Eau Vive and their associated tester-toting promotional staff, who seemed to be lying in wait for me at every turn.

I stayed strong though, and managed to resist giving that a sniff for four weeks straight, though here and there my curiosity got the better of me and I sprayed a couple of things on skin. L'Occitane's Verveine Agrumes, in its leaf motif-embellished bottle, caught my eye early on - I found it refreshing and tart without being acerbic, and was pleased to note that my hotel in Paris offered toiletries from this very range. Back home, I am eking out my Verveine Agrumes guest soap as we speak. I also tried Jour d'Hermès Gardénia, which Robin liked more than me in her review on NST, though I note with amusement that she describes its latter stages as 'a bland greenish blur'. I found it too heady in a synthetic shampoo-y way from the off, but in fairness I may not have been in the mood.

Another time I chanced upon a couple of Aqua Allegorias that were directly blocking my path on a podium. These were only remarkable for their disconcerting shades of pink and blue, and I remained steadfastly immune to their alleged allure, despite being informed by the hovering SA that they were 'travel exclusives' (Flora Rose and Teazzura, if your own love of the Allegoria range is more inclusive). I also reacquainted myself with Diorella (bracing but ultimately too herbal) and Dune (unexpectedly sweet, and slightly too offbeat to be lovable), and homed in on several of the Armani Privés that were new to me - such as Ambra Eccentrica and Myrrh Impériale. In all of this (admittedly extremely selective and minimal) testing, it was the Myrrh Impériale - that in my jaded state I have mistakenly been calling 'Orientale' up to about a minute ago - that really 'spoke to me'. I applied it again on skin in Harvey Nichols in Edinburgh during a lightning visit to buy replacement Shu Uemura eyelash curlers(!) (see below), and liked it just as much.

Source: armanibeauty.co.uk

Having since caught up with the notes in Patty's review on Perfume Posse - myrrh, benzoin, vanilla, pink pepper, amber and saffron - I can easily see why it would appeal to me, not least because I have been on a bit of a myrrh kick lately. Myrrh Impériale is not too medicinal, or too cold, dank and churchy; it's not too screechy, or too aldehydic - or distracted by other oddball notes - here the myrrh is beautifully blended with such oriental bellwethers as vanilla and amber. I am not going to drop £190 on a bottle any time soon, but I shall be scanning the Fragrance UK Sale/Swap site in case anyone is hosting a split.

A 'scents of place' challenge

At the start of July, before setting off on my travels, my poet friend Lizzie - she of the perfume bottle-shaped earrings and exquisitely vintage dressing table (on which she stores her perfume collection) - suggested I keep my wits and nose about me wherever I went and systematically record the ambient scents of the places I visited. Well, me being me, I promptly forgot about this mission, though suddenly remembered during my stay in Paris, where my nostrils were instantly assailed - and occasionally assaulted - by a cornucopia (veering to a cacophony) of smells.

I jotted down the ones I could remember as soon as I got back to base, and the aggregate list is as follows, split by Paris and Le Havre, not for nothing the celebrated setting for Sartre's 'Nausea'. ;)


'Generalised civic Guerlainade' - many times I smelt a powdery, woody, broadly oriental sillage trailing in the wake of passing women in the Metro and above ground - pretty much everywhere I went in fact. It was the ambient Parisian fragrance equivalent of 'house wine' - a sort of 'civic sillage' worn by more women than not. In vain did I crane my nostrils for a whiff of some cheap fruity floral...it was never forthcoming. The default scent of Parisian women - though I could never put a name to its many yet similar incarnations - is clearly a classy cut above.

Vaping liquid - one hot sunny evening, as I sipped a beer in the 5e arrondissement near my hotel, I was conscious of a fine mist descending on my head. After a moment's double take, during which I speculated as to whether some automatic window box plant watering system might have sprung a leak, it dawned on me that I was being vaped on. Yes, I was enveloped in a soft and cooling drizzle of droplets, pleasantly scented with tobacco and chocolate and/or cherry liqueur?

Bubble gum - half way up a steep hill in Gentilly - yet not a pink plug of the stuff in sight!

Acetone - on an escalator at the Gare du Nord

Freshly squeezed orange juice - ye orange pressé is alive and well, and has not yet been supplanted by artisanal smoothies featuring flavours of mind bending novelty!

Mona di Orio Tubéreuse - because that was the sample I wore all week...now sadly gone the way of Max Rat

Urine / Sweat / Rotten eggs - sorry, no large metropolis would be complete without a bit of an insalubrious olfactory underbelly.

Le Havre ~ Source: avidcruiser.com


Salty sea air

Decomposing rubbish

That is all.

Meeting Vero Kern and my old Basenotes friend, Potiron

In Part 2 I banged on at length about the infernal heat in mainland Europe while I was out there. I think I stopped short of saying that as well as walking around in ambient temperatures of 35C, I was occasionally obliged to jog in them. Yes indeedy, a proper jog job, all the while weighed down by an 8kg briefcase in one hand, which also accounted for my lopsided gait. This was because I had bought a number of train tickets in advance for up to 50% savings on the normal price, but with the caveat that they could only be used on a specific train. And sometimes my meetings overran to the point where the prospects of catching said specific train greatly receded, and I would surely have missed at least two long distance services were it not for my mad and inelegant jogging spurts.

Swiss trains give good view, when you do finally catch them!

One of these trains was from Lausanne to Zurich, where I had agreed to meet Vero Kern. Had I missed it, I would have had to cry off, with all the disappointment, embarrassment and sense of failure that would have entailed. But my ungainly jogging saved the day, and I duly met up with Vero in a rather elegant bistro at Zurich station. We had tea and coffee - Vero seemed singularly unfazed by my breathlessness, gleaming patina and advanced state of crumplitude - while I did my best not to kick her little dog, Isi, who placidly sat in his basket most of the time, apart from occasional sorties to slurp water from a travelling bowl under the seat. We chatted about the people we had met in Perfume Land (notably her No 1 Fan and 'Fragrance Ambassador', Val the Cookie Queen), about her own work and career path, and our thoughts on trends - we even lapsed into German at one point, talking about certain aspects of 'the biz'. Which suited me just fine, as I have vocabulary for 'market segment' and 'packaging' and 'sales', but nary a word for things like 'hem' or 'chaffinch' or 'fondue trivet'. And all too soon it was time for Vero to meet her sister, while I headed south to my hotel in Adliswil. It was a conversation I would very much like to continue some time, as I was very drawn to Vero's free spirit, easygoing manner and nonchalantly maverick style. She is a quintessential example of a perfumer who paddles her own canoe, and the market is a better place for her being in it.

Vero's dog

Then the next day, I had had an appointment cancelled in Basel, and as luck would have it, the same thing had happened to my old Basenotes chum Potiron, who lives and works there. It is going back a bit now, but our previous meet ups - on our own, or in a four-handed gaggle with Lisa Wordbird and Alicka61 - all feature in past posts in Bonkers, typically entitled 'Meeting the Swiss perfumistas' or involving some combination of 'sniffathon', 'Zurich', 'Basel' or 'Switzerland'. On this occasion I met Potiron's girlfriend C for the first time, and we spent an enjoyable - if rather hot! - afternoon outside the Roter Engel (our default cafe of yore) maintaining our fluid intakes with a mix of tea, beer and cola. I still can't get the average size of tea cups down to anything approaching normality, but the peaceful courtyard has an enduring appeal, five years on from our first meeting.

Look at that cup diameter!

A salutary tale of my stolen case, and a ratnapped Max

So although the project went well in the course of all these trips abroad, there was an unexpected sting in the tail - on London Midland rail! - when my case was nicked on a train back from Birmingham airport at the end of Trip 3, just 30 miles from home and with only one more day left in the job. Moreover, the thief whipped it from right behind my seat (the only place I could have put it without blocking the aisle or taking up another seat). So at a stroke I lost an entire capsule wardrobe of favourite work clothes, make up, perfume, jewellery, a netbook, sundry travel accessories - and Max. It upsets me to think where he is now, and to be honest it upsets me to wonder what happened to any of my belongings. I had safely dragged that case behind me for three weeks straight, on umpteen trains and buses and trams, and it had become like a mobile home, almost a companion - or another limb. So the whole incident felt much more like a burglary or an assault rather than a simple 'case' of lost property.

Rocket configures my new netbook
But I am getting over it now, helped in no small measure by the humane attitude of the insurance company, and the kindness of friends and family. For people have generously given me money in various forms, flowers, skincare products, perfume - and replacement soft toys, two of them rats! Only Rocket the rabbit has made the cut as a travel companion, on account of her compact proportions; in fact she has already been 'road tested' in Belgium and Edinburgh. But all the new creatures - along with the other presents - have cheered me up no end, and I would like to sign off this series of travel reports by saying a big thank you to everyone involved.

Above - Elspeth, below - Monster Max Mk II!

Marble the cat cosying up with Olivia the duck.