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Pilot MR Retro Pop

One of my weaknesses in life is stationery. I am trying to control it very much by not adding to my discoveries. I have very strong likes and not many dislikes but in general I try not to buy notebooks that I can’t fit into my life (this still leaves lots of scope for Clairefontaine, Paperblanks and Rhodia) and normally I do not need any more pens, pencils or the like apart from the specific items currently on my shopping list (so that would be the new Lamy Safari Petrol because already owning two dozen Lamys is never enough, two or three Caran d’Ache ballpoints and a 0.2mm Kuru Toga).

Anyway, we would not be here if I had avoided Temptation so this is about temptation in a way. €19.99 worth of temptation as it happens so not as bad as all that. Last Sunday, I bought a Pilot Pen. Now I already own a Pilot as I have a Plumenix somewhere which cost about €6 if I remember right. I may have bought that for much the same reason as I bought this one. Defending myself against colours in the turquoise-aquamarine range is difficult. An aquamarine Lamy Safari was my entry level drug into the world of special edition Lamys and somehow now I have loads of the bloody things. Which I love. My new pen is turquoise.

Anyway, there’s a bit of a difference between the Plumenix which frankly leaked all the time so I rarely used it despite the gorgeous (but cheap) italic nib on it and this Pilot MR Retro Pop. If you hang around the fountain pen community at all, the Pilot Metropolitan or the Retro Pop are recommended as good starter fountain pens if you do not want to spend much.

Pilot are a Japanese company and for this reason, their nibs tend to be finer than the European average. I tend to a medium and so this medium Pilot is a good deal finer than most of my Safaris, Lxes, AL-Stars etc etc etc etc etc and ad infinitum. It also was decidedly reluctant to write initially despite the fact that I had fed it with Pelikan Edelstein Onyx ink, an ink which generally causes no problems and is a really nice very, very dark grey, near black. A little warmer than black. So it took a while to get things flowing but once it started to write properly, it really turned out to be a most gorgeous writing experience. I like it a lot.

This is how it looked.


#fountainpens #ink #pilotpens #styloplume #writing #handwriting #edelsteininkcollection

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It is obviously a very different style to most of my other pens. For one thing it’s more of a bullet shape, compared to the kinda boxy impression you get with the Safaris and Al-Stars, or the hexagonal shape of my couple of Caran d’Ache fountains, or even the Pelikan M100. While I really do not need any more collecting habits, I would not say no to a few of these to hand inked up in different colours. Regrettably, I do not have a converter for it which is a shame as I have two beautiful bottles of Pilot ink which I love.

Taking pleasure in the small things

I moved to Luxembourg at the end of last year – a move which, to be honest, quite a few of my friends would not necessarily have considered doing because they had Commitments. Children. Houses. The like.

I did not have Commitments. I have had a singular failure in hanging onto any Commitments longer than about 5 minutes, and the net result is there haven’t been children either. Not having a house is a feature of having lived in Dublin and having had a deep desire not to endebt myself to the tune of 10 years gross salary. This has meant, however, that I have had choices at certain points in my life that other people have felt as though they have not had choices and so, I took some rather serious decisions which eventually resulted in me getting on a plane with a suitcase, some clothes, a kindle and an iPad and an illusion I could live without a laptop for very long at the end of last November.

That being said, while I was angling towards a big international housemove, the truth is, I did not expect it to be Luxembourg. This is a pity because Luxembourg has turned out to be a rather happiness inducing gem. Possibly if I were 22 I would find it a bit quiet but so far I have been able to create a life here that makes me feel a lot more content, a lot more relaxed and in general, sleeping better. It has a great concert hall where I’ve been fortunate enough to hear Yuja Wang and Joshua Bell already this year; I am planning on getting a ticket to Anne-Sophie Mutter in a month’s time too. But that isn’t really it. It is possible that my view at the moment is coloured by the fact that for the past 3 weeks or so, the weather has been singularly stunning. The place is a gorgeous golden colour when you walk around it. It is swimming in parks. Lots of it is picturesque. For the most part, the services are very decent. There is nothing really to beat the feeling of walking around a place and just feeling happy all the time. Possibly this is because I get to walk around most of the time, rather than driving.

Who knows what the underlying reason is. Point is, life seems to me to be better when it is relaxed rather than when it is not relaxed.

on attitudes to others

This is one of a few pieces around the piano which will come up.

Yesterday I signed up for gold membership of Piano Street. A couple of their features drew me to do this, namely the sheet music library (okay it’s not petrucci but it has some useful stuff and also, annotations for learners), there is access to the full Naxos classical catalogue. Naxos have a great search too. Access to International Piano as well. I found that quite interesting.

Piano Street is something I hadn’t paid for before but I had signed up for silver membership years ago and via that, got limited time offer for a reduced cost access. I might not have done it for the full whack. It fascinates me as a resource. Clearly, the key attraction has to be the Naxos library followed by the sheet music. The part which most people have access to, however, is the forum and to be honest, I find it a bit hit or miss in terms of the community. I might ask for advice about a piano, but not necessarily about playing it.

This is not to say that the average community of contributors to Piano Street are bad musicians. There are some very knowledgeable people there and I’ve found some interesting threads on repertoire there – it’s through that site I have found a lot of the less well known piano concerto works, including Paderewski, Medtner and a couple of others. I don’t always find their attitudes to be less than somewhat jaded. In certain respects, I can’t blame them. Two threads caught my attention yesterday, one relating to someone whose teacher had told them to give up on their dream of being a concert pianist. The other related to a 14 year old looking for advice on playing a rather highly rated piece on the difficulty scale.

There were a variety of answers to both questions although both voiced dissatisfaction with the idea that they might take time to respond to people who might be trolls.

I have mixed views. I used to mod two internet fora in Ireland and the issue of bad faith posters, well it’s just one of those features of the forum. However. Neither got an answer that I felt was really useful.

If we take the 19 year old who wanted to be a concert pianist, the first thing any 19 year old should be concerned about is where they are relative to their business competitors. Being a concert pianist is less being a musician and more being a business person. If you are 19 years old, you need to look at the people you want to be competing with for engagements, and where you are. We were all 19 once, and we were all probably clueless once. But I had established by the time I was 16 that I wasn’t going to make it as a concert pianist, key amongst them is that even though I might have been one of my teacher’s star pupils, I wasn’t yet playing what you might today call the sexy music. I was 15 by the time I got to Fur Elise which with the best will the world, is definitely on the easy side of repertoire. A 19 year old who is at Ronda Alla Turca is competing against people who have been in the Julliard School since they were 14 or 15. Of that class in the Julliard School, it’s not likely that many of them will make it either. If you have reached the age of 19 with a desire to make it as a concert pianist and do not know whether it is too late or not, the likelihood is that it is too late. If not, there’s a lot of rehearsal ahead of you. I was working on Rach 2 – ambitiously – at the age of 14  but I knew at that point that playing it on the stage of a concert hall as a star was a dream and it was not likely to turn into reality any time soon. Didn’t stop me spending hours at a time working on tiny sections of it, because that wasn’t why I did it in the first place.


One of the things that in hindsight got on my nerves is that when one of my co-students saw I had got the Rachmaninoff two piano script for the second piano concerto, flicked through it and pointed at bits that said “it’s impossible. You’ll never do it”. It’s a rotten seed to plant in someone’s head. It didn’t help on the journey which I am still nowhere close to finishing.

I’m much more in tune with people being realistic about how likely it is going to take. I think sometimes we tend to want to protect youngsters from stretching themselves. So I’m more in favour of saying to a youngster that if they want to try it, perhaps they should, but to recognise that a journey which is worth while may occasionally take you in a different direction to what you expected. The piece of music in question was the Chopin Ballade No 1 which is on my wishlist but not high enough up it for the moment. It is unquestionably a lovely piece of music, but, almost like Rachmaninoff 3 is getting a bit hackneyed owing to a reputation.

I remember reading an article about Rachmaninoff 3 – never my favourite of his works – in which someone asked was it really the hardest in the repertoire. This was sometime after the David Helfgott biopic, and a senior teacher from Julliard responded to the journalist in question that yeah, you know it’s really hard. Then he paused. “But I have 25 16 year olds in a class who can all play it perfectly, you know.” The point is, the standards move and sometimes, when a lot of people target something, something of its mystique leaves us.  Ballade No 1 is iconic, so yes, teenagers are going to want to play it. And they approach problems in a different way to adults in many respects. Adults look at the risks and the pitfalls. Teenagers look at the opportunities.  I don’t regret starting Rach 2 when I was then, and in many respects, still am not, technically tooled up for some of the challenges in it. I do regret though that parts which are not in my view, the hardest parts in that work were pointed out to me as “impossible”.

And so, I tend to favour supporting teenagers attempting to do something hard but laudable. So many of them are not attempting to do hard stuff after all.


I spent some time yesterday and the day before considering whether to restart piano grades or not. If you spend any time around some of the piano forums on the internet, you find this is a question which quite a lot of adults who have gaps in their piano playing life address at some point, and a question that beginners want to deal with. Since most people doing grades tend to be children or teenagers, it is a question which causes a certain amount of nerves. A bit like someone going back to school after 30 years away because they never did do a school leaving exam. In many respects, on account of being completely out of whack with the rest of your cohort, it can be very nervewracking to be different, older and behind. Plus, children and especially teenagers, can be quite cruel sometimes.

On balance there’s a part of me that would like to finish things out. I made it to grade five with the Royal Irish Academy of Music before school got in the way and then I started on a journey through life where access to a piano was erratic at best. It is the same part of me that tries to tempt me into signing up for a PhD. I don’t have time to do all the things I want to do because unfortunately I also have to work. And I like my job. I like the meeting of other people. Anyway it is in that context that I was considering this. I had a look at repertoire for the Royal Irish Academy and against, that, for ABRCM and Trinity in the UK. I could not find a local centre that made sense to me, but ABRCM have an exam centre here in Luxembourg

From what I can see, the RIAM offers the grade structure, but also a couple of recital options. ABRCM seems to be double grade – performance and musicology. I can’t remember too many details about Trinity. Anyway, I had a look down through the assigned pieces for each of the examining authorities and one of the things that struck me was this: There are pieces I want to play. And there are pieces on the assigned lists. The overlap was sadly, rather limited. On the basis of this years sets of lists, I will not be starting back at grades.

One of the many things which cratered my attachment to music as a child was an assigned piece for grade 3 or 4 – so not exactly beginner but not very high up the scale  – by Bela Bartok called Pentatonic Tune. I continued on because I knew enough to know that in general, this awful, awful piece of music which I hated but which some examiner had thought valid for a young person was not representative of all music. You will have teachers who consider this stuff required to have a well rounded musical education. I am not sure I agree – Bartok existed way after the piano repertoire – Liszt seemed to survive okay without him, as did JS Bach who didn’t per se write for the piano. What came into consideration for me as I reviewed these lists was this question: do I want to play these pieces, do I want to put the very minimal time I have free to do this into pieces I wasn’t really inspired to play in the first place? Where Bartok is concerned, the answer is a straight no, and I’m not too enamoured of Prokofiev either. They could both be avoided

I’m not afraid of hard work with the piano. When I have the freedom to do so – and I am having increasingly more of it – I am well capable of sitting at the piano for 2 to 3 hours at a time, breaking the hearts of my neighbours upstairs in constant repetition of parts to master fingering. I’m also not afraid of the piece I am learning taking a long time to learn. I’m aware that I have a massive gap in my practice, and I have some weaknesses with sight reading. But I also have some pieces I am motivated to learn, some easier than others. I spent a good chunk of yesterday with a piece of Handel which, if fortune smiles on the spare time front this week may well be finished by Easter. It’s a short piece. It’s an easy piece. And it is something to play for when people say “Play something there”. People tend to want the well known.

But I have a couple of serious stretch targets, here on my desk beside me is a book of the Chopin ballades of which I started work on the second the last time I had reasonably dependable access to a piano (thanks to the nice people at the music department in UCD). There is a choice to be made between hours into a Chopin Ballade which really interests me – challenging and a bit beyond me yes – and hours into a few pieces, most of which I am not yet familiar with and of those, not on my radar. It may be that I would be better off sitting down with a teacher and considering the recital exams with the RIAM instead and selecting three pieces which appeal to me, or possibly 2 plus one obnoxious piece of modern stuff which I don’t much like to round off completeness. It is a hard call.

In the meantime, if it comes to me to spend around 4 hours with the piano transcript of Sarabande by Handel, I’m not sure I’ve lost anything because I’m not doing the grades. I suspect it is a decision I will be revisiting on a year to year basis.

Some notes on a consecutive interpreting

I still follow a bunch of interpreters on twitter despite the fact that I don’t interpret at the moment. One of the things which cropped up yesterday was a query on the subject of developing a set of ideograms for consecutive interpreting, and there was a discussion. Twitter being what it is, plus with them having broken conversation threading in some small but significant ways, I wanted to put my thoughts together here.

When I first took interpreting lessons – it was a minor option in my first degree – it was in the days when young women still did secretarial courses that involved learning shorthand. I’m aware (sadly) that a lot of younger people have never even heard of shorthand so basically, it was a symbol based note taking system that enabled secretaries to listen to their bosses, note what they had said exactly, and transcribe it later. The word “exactly” is pretty important – this was pure transcription. At least one of my co-students at the time had taken a year out to be a secretarial student (at the time they were handy qualifications to have which basically ensured that even if the shooting for the stars job didn’t work out, you had a saleable skill that ensured work and more importantly, income) and she struggled immensely with interpreter note taking.

There is a key difference between taking shorthand to reproduce a document exactly later, and taking interpreting notes to reproduce the content of a speech immediately, and that is the relationship between your notes and your memory. Typically, the shorthand replaced you having to remember all that detail, and the consecutive notes supported you remembering all that detail.

So a core component of developing a note taking system for consecutive interpreting relates to how you use it to support you actively remembering things you have heard. We are not in the business of creating a transcription writing system, or an alternative alphabet as it were.

Each interpreter is different and each interpreter will develop a system to fulfill their needs depending on a number of different factors: a) what environment they are working in b) what sectors they tend to work in c) how their memory works and d) what’s easiest for them to use without thinking. A large set of interpreting note symbols can be hard to maintain plus makes demands of your memory which really you want to be applying to the speech you’re going to be interpreting.

This is something that my computer programming friends would find difficult to understand but it isn’t like computer programming in that there isn’t a fixed set of symbols which every interpreter can apply (and thereby have everyone’s notes be completely interoperable). We humans are not machines.

When I did my training first, and when I did my CPD about a year ago, there were a couple of key tools given as starting points, and that is to look at identifying the logical flow of a speech. Deconstructing the speech and how it fits together. The last set of exercises I did focused on not noting content at all, but only noting the logical links between parts of what was said. This includes things like

  • Because
  • However
  • And

There is a whole lot of them and I am pretty sure they are listed in the interpreting text books.

When I was developing tools for consecutive interpreting, I took a mixed approach to things. I’m not always a fan of calling them symbols or ideograms because they aren’t always either. Some of mine were fixed abbreviations. To this day, if I am writing notes for a speech or a presention, you will find Bcs or Hwr (in other words, despite not interpreting I use consecutive interpreting notes when I am giving a speech or presentation myself).

One of the other things I did was look at symbols I had from other fields which I could apply without too much learning as it were. Maths is a handy source of things like addition, subtraction. I added computer science later != is not equal, not the same as. I was interested in stickers on the backs of cars when I was a teenager and with a European focus, I already knew the abbreviation for every single country in Europe so that was a handy way of dealing with those. There are generic things to watch for like changes in the states of economic numbers – how do you indicate that a number is trending upwards or downwards? How do you add emphasis to these things? For example “Inflation rose” versus “Inflation rose sharply”.

These are generic problems which frequently need to be addressed and possibly the way to identify the common problems which need to be supported by a notetaking system is to review a lot of speeches designed for that purpose.

One of the benefits which I feel younger interpreters have now over my generation is that they have a lot of access to listen to professional interpreters doing what they do on a day to day basis. While I was thinking about this yesterday, it occurred to me that most of this was simultaneous interpreting. I am thinking about live streamed broadcasts from the European institutions (Parliament in particular, but Council also) and the United Nations also I think. But I cannot recall ever coming across examples of consecutive interpreters at work. As I think it’s useful for inexperienced people at the start of their career to have access to seeing more experienced (and good – this goes without saying) colleagues doing their job, this is maybe a pity.

I’m going to close out with links to a couple of resources on the subject but before doing so, my personal view is that consecutive interpreting is a skill that benefits from training with people who know how to teach people how to interpret and developing a notetaking system is a key component of that. CPD may be available via AIIC or your local university which runs interpreting training)

Note-taking for Conference Interpreting by Andrew Gillies – it looks like there is a new edition of this on the way – Amazon

Analysis exercises for consecutive interpreting – Andrew Gillies – Youtube

Symbols Dos and Don’ts – Andrew Gillies – Youtube

La Prise de notes en interprétation consécutive – Jean Francois Rozan – it looks like this is increasingly hard to find, but a university with an interpreting course probably has a few copies. – Google books

(In English was available as Note-Taking in Consecutive Interpreting but I cannot find a useful link to that at the moment)



Philharmonie – Yuja Wang

Last night, I wandered off to the Philharmonie in Luxembourg to hear Yuja Wang play. I have seen some people write some rather positive things about her, lately about her rendition of Beethoven’s Hammerklavier.

Yesterday was a gorgeous spring day in Luxembourg and the temperature as I walked to the concert hall was about 20 degrees. Very pleasant. The concert was not fully sold out but there was not much choice left in the way of seat. The program was a full set of Chopin Preludes followed by a set of Brahms variations on a theme by Georg Handel. I was familiar with the theme in question although I am not sure where I heard it.


There’s something almost lonely about a concert grand alone on a stage. It’s a long walk from the side of the stage. For Yuja Wang, it’s a really long walk in very high heels. And yet somehow once she is sitting at that piano, she takes over the world.

There are a lot of words I could choose to describe her playing. She is unquestionably one of the great technicians of the piano, but there is something more there. Something elusive but something that says that right here, right now, the right place to be is in front of a piano, if you are Yuja Wang. I’ve seen a few concert pianists over the years, all unquestionably talented, but with the possible exception of Daniil Trifenov, none so totally joined to the piano in a unit.

The Chopin was in many respects, imperious. More power than I am used to hearing from these things. I sat there and wondered how my life would have been different if I had heard Chopin like this when I was about 12 years old.

The Brahms was very different. Less imposing and yet, very inviting.

Then there were the 7 encores. Du jamais vu, I kept hearing around me. Some Tchaikovsky. Some Rachmaninoff. Some Prokofiev. A Horowitz transcript of Mozart. Some Bizet. Some Schubert. This was watching someone who was not, as it were, just a performer. This is someone who just wanted to play the piano.

Utterly inspiring.

Old habits die and return all of a sudden

Most of my perfume is in Ireland but I must confess that at some point between around 2005 and 2010 I stopped wearing perfume regularly. I don’t really know why – it was around the same time I seemed to stop wearing rings on my fingers. Every once in a while, I reviewed the whole perfume situation and cleared out the stuff that made me feel vaguely nauseous if I sprayed it on (indicative of a bottle gone bad). So when I say my perfume is left in Ireland, there is a lot less of it than there used to be.

Somewhere along the lines, I discovered Hermes perfume – of course I have to have expensive tastes here – and theirs was the only perfume I bought over about four years. Three bottles of perfume in total. I even managed to finish out one. This was seriously at odds with my life 10 to 15 years previously.

For those who know me from the beach (most of the people who “know” me on Facebook to be honest), the fact that I might spend a good deal of time in perfume shops might be a surprise. It’s not as if I noticeably wore make up – which I still do not for various reasons – so what would I be doing in there.

I used to buy lots of perfume. Until the great clearouts with no replacements, I typically had around 25 different bottles of perfume to hand. Some dropped in and out of fashion for me. I started wearing Poison by Christian Dior when I was 16 because someone didn’t want a bottle they’d gotten as a present, and it moved to me. For the next five or six years, it was mostly that I wore – mostly because it was carefully eked out and also, because it really was the only one I knew. At some point though, I realised that I had changed and it wasn’t me any more. It dropped in and out of fashion a couple of more times but I don’t own a bottle of it any more and I can’t remember when I last did. It must be at least ten years, and probably longer.

But I liked the Christian Dior perfumes a lot, and for years, I tended to have at least one bottle of J’Adore in the drawer. I still have a few bottles of it, at least one opened, in Ireland. I need to see about moving perfume to Luxembourg.

I brought one bottle of perfume with me to Luxembourg, and that was one of the Hermes ones, Un Jardin sur le Nil from the Garden series. It is a light, fresh perfume which I’ve tended to wear daily, and is one of the few perfumes I’ve tended to replace. It is, characteristically, very different to Poison, which I wore as a teenager, and I suppose if I am honest, more than a few people would suggest that Poison was not exactly suitable for a 16 year old. I’m inclined not to argue with younger me – we should wear what makes us feel good in our skin and Poison certainly did that for me for a long time.

I’ve run out of Un Jardin sur le Nil for a second time and when I went to buy a replacement, it somehow didn’t happen. Instead, I bought a bottle of Un Jardin Apres le Mousson. Owing to some confusion in my perfume drawer (I blame the house move and the lack of fixed habits even yet) I actually managed to buy two bottles of it across a few different trips to the shop in question. It could be a while before Un Jardin sur le Nil makes it back in. Hermes market both these perfumes to both men and women, although in my local perfume store, I find them in the women’s section. Your mileage may vary. I like the idea of them not being fixed as directed towards women or men. But I do also think they are quite light, and fairly different to what I traditionally associate with men. I don’t have much experience in buying men perfume.

One of the things about buying perfume in foreign countries (assuming the base is Ireland) is that in many ways, it is much more enjoyable.

One of the things which broke my heart about Ireland for the 18 years that I lived there as an adult was the lack of a branch of Sephora. Buying perfume online is not the same experience. It’s fine and dandy to be able to order all this stuff online but it truly is one of those things that is much more than pressing a button on a computer. There is no way of knowing what a perfume smells like without smelling it and the internet cannot do that. You cannot serendipitously find a new perfume in an online store.

We have a few branches of Sephora in Luxembourg and although I have tried to buy stuff in there, it doesn’t happen for me.  There is competition from what I think is a local chain – Paris 8 – and also from one of the big Belgian chains – Ici Paris XL. They bought out the small perfume shop where I used to spend quite a bit of money when I was living in Brussels. All that time, I tended to still prefer Sephora if I was in Paris though.

Now, I mostly buy in Paris 8. There isn’t really a chain like these things in Ireland. There is a shop called The Perfume Shop which, like a lot of stores in Ireland, is a UK chain. But they were small, and you couldn’t really browse. The department stores tended to be vendor specific – there wasn’t really a wall of perfume – you had to tour the different brands. When I think of it like that, this probably contributed to the fact that I wasn’t buying perfume in Ireland much and why I wasn’t wearing it. It wasn’t really the same pleasure.

Anyway, the thing with buying perfume is they give you samples. Samples are what introduced me to most of the perfume I wear. Basically, I spend an almighty fortune on some perfume, they give me a “free” sample and a week later, here we are looking for more perfume. Or three months later if I bought the perfume in France and lived in Ireland and had to wait until I went back to get a bottle. Hermes were a nuisance for this. I bought bottles of Eau de Merveilles (they have several items in that range) and look here is a sample of Un Jardin sur le Nil and goddamnit, they didn’t have it in Brown Thomas, and when they did get it, it was in 100ml bottles.

I don’t buy bottles of perfume bigger than 50ml, and if I can manage 30ml, so much the better. Sure, you get more perfume per euro the bigger a bottle you buy but then, I used to have about 25 bottles of perfume on the go at a given time. And I’ve had to clear out perfume which has turned. It’s expensive to be tossing. My advice: unless you will only ever wear one or two different perfumes, do not buy 100ml bottles.

I had more or less forgotten this sample thing because the amount of perfume I had, and the frequency which which I had bought it had more or less fallen off a cliff. However, because I ran out of the one solitary bottle I brought from Ireland, and also, needed skin care, I was lately shopping. The net result is 4 new bottles of perfume not including the one I actually went to get but still have not managed to buy because I’ve been distracted – and suddenly, the memory of the beauty of perfume.

I feel great when I wear perfume. I’d forgotten how great me wearing perfume felt. It comes in gorgeous packaging. In a lot of ways, it can be a journey. Some older friends, some new acquaintances. Some new loves. If you were to data analyse my purchases over the years, two brands stand out as suppliers to my perfume habit – Christian Dior, for Poison, J’Adore, and assorted different versions of Addict. In the end, Addict went the way of Poison, and Addict 2 which wasn’t universally available went the way of J’Adore.  – and Givenchy. At various points, I was wearing three to four different Givenchy perfume products, namely Hot Couture, Very Irresistible, Organza and possibly one or two others which I cannot now remember.

A couple of others stood out as being regular features – for me, it was unusual to be without a bottle of L’Eau d’Issey and indeed, I’m fairly sure there is a bottle of that in Ireland at the moment, and I’m almost certain it’s unopened too. And of course, recently, Hermes have been doing well out of me.

Now, there are two bottles of Hermes on my shelf, along with one Givenchy, and one Sisley. The Givenchy is one of the newer ones – one of the Dahlia Divins, and I picked that up randomly in a shop. I was so out of touch I just did not know it existed and there was a time I could identify every single Givenchy perfume on the market. The Sisley is notable for me because it is the first time in about 5 years I bought a bottle of perfume on the back of a sample – on this occasion, Eau Tropicale. The two Hermes are Un Jardin Apres le Mousson and Eau de Merveilles Bleu.

What is striking for me about this is I had forgotten how beautifully designed perfume bottles are. Part of this, I suppose, is because in Dublin, I kept perfume in a drawer in the dark to protect it from the sun in the small rooms I tended to inhabit. And because I wasn’t often in perfume shops where these things were on display. They truly are things of beauty.

I wear perfume daily again. If I’m absolutely honest, I don’t wear it to make myself feel great – but I am more likely to wear it if I am feeling great already. I think that knowledge of myself should have a lot of meaning the next time I somehow stop wearing it.

I’m not sure I can go back to owning 20 bottles of perfume although as my relationship with fountain pen ink can show, it is awfully easy to do so. But I am back in a zone where I feel like having the choice. In that context, it may be that I wind up not buying a replacement Jardin sur le Nil for quite a while yet. I’m too busy spreading my love rather than playing for easy predictability.



According to my phone the outside temperature is about 17 degrees Celsius. I’m from Ireland. We don’t usually expect this kind of thing until around July, and to earn it, we need to have suffered a lot of rain.

I tend to like the sun in the Spring. It’s low enough in the sky to create sunpools in a bedroom. You know, where the sun shines through making a lovely nice warm pool of heat and light to curl up in reading a book. Or a magazine. Well they are sweltering when the outside temperature is 17 degrees. I have the windows open today. Sunburn is a serious risk. It is March. I have no suncream. Yet.

Boy is that going to change soon.

You don’t need anything but…

Let us assume you are someone like me, and you are taking up a new sport, namely running because oh…you have a yen to run in the wilderness, or at least, pretty parts of nature, preferably without snakes and to do that, being able to run would help.

You will need to skip every magazine or online article that says “you don’t need to spend much money to start running”. This is most probably a lie. What follows is a list of the stuff I got so that I could take up running. Your mileage and life may vary in terms of whether you need all of them, or possibly any of them. If you have got everything already, then you probably run already.

  • decent pair of running shoes, preferably not completely decrepid because you’ve owned them for “some time”.
  • at least one sports bra if you are a woman. Particularly if you are well endowed, this is not something you should skimp on. I’m not going to recommend any particular brand but if you have trouble finding a source, well I ordered mine on-line from figleaves, and so help me god if Brexit fouls that up on me, there will be swearwords.
  • Some comfortable to run in clothes. You may or may not have suitable stuff in your wardrobe. I did not.
  • A couple of pairs of socks.
  • Probably not a bad idea to get a box of plasters as well, just in case.

Okay. The shoes, I bought in the sale, down 30%. The sports bra I paid full whack for. The clothes I bought in a sale too. The socks I had. The plasters were cheap. All told though, if I had paid full whack for what I bought, we are probably looking at around 150E. Running is not cheap and what’s more, now that you’ve got all that stuff, you’ll be maintaining it and replacing bits of it as you go.

Now, I also got a couple of extra bits and pieces and already owned a couple of other bits and pieces which contribute to the running experience.

  • small back pack to toss a bottle of water into and your keys. I
  • a water bottle.
  • some sort of music player
  • headphones.

In truth, if you have a smart phone you have the music player sorted and probably the headphones. I got the small back pack in the sale where I bought the clothes cheap, and they were doing special deals on the water bottle if you spent something like 25E at the time. I bought the bottle. In hindsight I don’t like it but I am stuck with it until I get my hands on one of my own Swiss water bottles (admittedly slightly heavier being metal, but not having the filter which makes getting the water out a bit too much like hard work). For music, I tend to go with Above and Beyond’s Group Therapy podcast.

After that it really is just a case of getting out there and running until you can’t (and walking the rest of the way) (until you’re running more than you can walk). There are programmes and apps and websites, and pinterest pins providing all sorts of advice but the one piece of advice that worked for me when I was swimming training is it doesn’t matter how much or how little you do so long as you do. Regularity matters. I haven’t got this sorted yet but I get other exercise during the week so from a pure exercise point of view, I’m moving and it’s feeding into the running.

If you are a child of the modern era and possess a smartphone, the chances are, you will also want to figure out how best to start tracking your progress. I have two plans of attack here. I have Google Fit tracking my movement all the time. I also use Runkeeper as a more specialised app. So far, they tend not to agree. I also lie and tell Runkeeper I am walking because let’s be honest, right now March 2017. I walk more than run (the objective is to change that of course). Today Google said I did 5.05km and Runkeeper said I did 4.6. They also didn’t agree on the average pace for obvious reasons; they were dividing differences by the same amount of time. So the difference is plus or minus 10%. I can live with that more or less. For now, anyway. What I can see is an improvement over last week which is good. Since I don’t trust one of today’s Runkeeper splits, I’m not going to be totally surprised if next week, it falls back a little.

Most of my life, when i have gotten interested in something, I tend to do quite a bit of reading about it. I’m somewhat disappointed by a lot of what comes to me from running reading. On more than a few times, I have come across different articles talking about how horrible running is, and that running is not fun. I find that sad. I think if you’re going to spend a lot of your time doing something – and we have so little free time – it’s worth finding a way to enjoy it. I really don’t know how much of my training run is actual running at the moment and it’s not enough for Google Fit to identify it as such – but the small stretches of running I have done, have really put a smile on my face. We don’t do these things on sufferance or at least we shouldn’t. I used to swim 1600M three times a week and it was a hard journey to get to the point where I could string those 64 lengths together. But I never hated swimming. Some strokes could be harder than others but au fond, the main reason I kept on going back was not to tell people “I can swim 1600m”, but because I actually liked doing it. It can be hard enough to keep doing something you like doing because Real Life. Doing something you actively don’t find fun strikes me as wasted opportunity. There will be days it’s harder than others because oh, it’s raining, you’re a few days’ shy of your period.

People run for different reasons. Have different motivations. I know people who run to do road races. Other people run for the hell of it. I know a couple of people who have trained to do marathons. Some people run with friends (Runkeeper will nag you about this by the way). I run on my own, listening to music, listening to the five minute reports of how I am doing. I’m not sure how I’d feel about running with someone else. Particularly at the moment when the running bit of things is erratic and limited. Sometimes you need space to grow.

My hope is that come September, I will be fit enough to go for short runs in the mountains in Switzerland. What I really want to do with this is not run road races with lots of people but to run in beautiful places. I have a yen to go back to Zermatt this year, preferably before it snows, and run around there a bit, and then paint or draw when I’m not moving. I have six months to get there. In the meantime, I get to run around a rather picturesque part of Luxembourg and see the turning of the year here.