Category Archives: being me

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.

 

Sunpool

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.

House decor

Someone else in the past helpfully hammered a couple of nails in the wall and I found them the other day. As a result, I bought a couple of frames and did some Art for the walls

 

This one is my favourite.

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.

Fond memories awakened

I started playing the piano recently and to that end, there’s a pile of sheet music – disproportionately by Yann Tiersen – on my piano for me to learn. Most days I play some of the music I need to read and learn, and other days, I also play music I remember from my mispent youth. It might surprise you to know I spent a lot of time in pubs, with a diet 7-up in front of me, playing music.

I also listened to a lot of traditional music from Scotland and Ireland, and I added Brittany and Galicia to that later, Right now I am listening to Alistair Fraser and Paul Machlis. I make no apologies and anyway it featured on the Sex and the City soundtrack which I found out by accident because I didn’t actually watch Sex and the City being that I tended to be in bars and places of musical interest like Whelans, the old HQ, the Olympia the first time you could stick to the floor, and Vicar Street. Anyway, tonight, for some bizarre reason, a song by an outfit called Silly Wizard came into my head, a song called the Broom of the Cowdenowes, sung by Andy M. Stewart. I fully expect not many people to be familiar; the band broke up years and years ago and at least one of them is dead now that I know of. Not sure whether Andy Stewart is alive – let me just check – and it looks like he died at the end of 2015, Somehow I missed that, Arguably, given what 2016 turned out to be it seems he left before the rush.

Anyway, I played a bit of the song, realised there was a bit of the 3rd line of the verse structure I couldn’t remember, so went and looked it up online, like we do for everything. Shortly after that I fell down a rabbit hole that involved old records by Aly Bain – if you watch the Transatlantic Sessions you’ll know him – and wound up with a piece of music called the Pearl. (that’s a youtube link by the way).

I used to play the Pearl and what kind of gets me now is that I had forgotten it existed. Completely. It’s a piece of music by Phil Cunningham (he was a member of Silly Wizard by the way so you can see the link here). I don’t even know what key I played it in. It’s all the more upsetting that I still play a couple of other pieces by Phil Cunningham regularly, but mainly from his days in Relativity (and sadly, two of them are dead for definite and I never got to see them in concert) and as a result of all that, amongst the pieces of music I need to learn is now the Pearl, for which I am on my own without a pile of sheet music, and also, now I am listening to Rip the Calico by the Bothy Band because two of the members of Relativity were also members of the Bothy Band and you know what, I don’t care if their records are like 40 years old, they were fantastic.

Loss of R116

Until I left Ireland in November, I used to live quite close to Beaumont Hospital, and, before that, quite near to Dublin Airport. The Coastguard helicopter used to fly over both houses regularly, to or from Beaumont, or to or from the airport. If I was at home when it passed over, I used to pop out to the garden to watch them fly over. There were nights I lay in bed listening to gale force winds as it passed over and I often railed at the misfortune that brought people braver than myself out of their warm homes or base to fly to someone’s assistance. There were some very ugly nights that the Coastguard helicopter was out. .

I was devastated this morning to hear R116 was missing. To be honest, my first reaction was “I’m sure R116 is the Dublin helicopter. What was it doing off the coast of Black Sod?”

It and its crew were doing its job. Providing support to R118 on its way to do a medical evacuation 150 odd miles off the coast of Mayo.

At this point, only one of the crew members has been retrieved, and she ultimately did not survive. She was a year older than me, and she left behind a three year old as well as sisters, brothers and other family members. There seems to me to be something awful unjust in a story like this. In the same way that the hearts of normal people would have to go out to the crew of R118 who became part of the SAR effort for their own colleagues on the way back in. I’m sure that they would say they were just doing their job but their job is a very special job and it makes the kind of demands which my IT job never really has.

My hope is that as soon as possible, the rest of the crew are located so that their families will too have some kind of closure, or something tangible to hold to.

These people, and their colleagues in the RNLI, and in the mountain rescue services, and the other emergency services are very often, unsung heroes. We do not talk about what heroes they are until we lose one. Or, as the case to day may be, several

RIP.

Caran d’Ache pens

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I own rather a lot of them. I also have a lot of Caran d’Ache colouring pencils which I use from time to time. But my relationship with Caran d’Ache has its roots in its fine writing instruments.

Caran d’Ache makes some serious expensive limited edition pieces. I have never really aspired to those. But I was given an Ecridor with a Chevron pattern when I was 16 and I hae been in love with them since.

The picture above has 2 fountain pens, a few mechanical pencils and then, the rest are all ball points. Caran d’Ache do thei. r own refill. If you’re really stuck, a Parker will fit but Caran d’Ache Goliath refills claim to write 8000m. I occasionally find them running dry but some of those pens, I have had quite a long time. I love the Goliath refill. It is a lovely shade of blue, the medium is a firm, reliable weight when I write with it. My choice of pen varies. The most recent purchase is the Ecridor Yacht and that is getting a lot of work as is the petrol blue coloured Paul Smith.

I do not necessarily use the pencils as often – they are mostly 0.7 mm and while they are okay for writing, I usually draw with pencils. But I love knowing they are there, ready to be used if I want, for example, to take interpreting notes with them.

 

On washing machines…

It is a beautiful sunny day here in Luxembourg. I’m sitting here with a cup of tea, listening to the dulcet tones of Air via my computer and the somewhat less sweeter tones of the washing machine.

I love the washing machine. I love it like I love my bed, my sofa and the three sets of bookshelves that arrived yesterday. But I especially love the washing machine.

Mostly I love it because I own it, but also, because it works properly.

It works properly, because it’s pretty much brand new. I bought it two months ago. I own it.

I don’t want to go on at length about it but I have never actually owned a washing machine before. I have had washing machines in my rented houses in Dublin. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad, one or two of them have been downright awful and not much newer than a 1950s roller washer thing.

This one was bought in the sale, with about 25% knocked off. It was a brand I recognised (generally good), and more importantly, it is a doddle to use. I think it’s got a timer on it but that doesn’t really bother me because otherwise, I put stuff into it, I press the button, and it then tells me how long the wash is going to take. It even has a 15 minute wash for those quick needs.

I haven’t tried that yet.

The thing is, when I pointed out to people that in Luxembourg, it was going to be a tall order to get an apartment (it is) and what’s more, I’d need to furnish it, I was greeted with horror. Wasn’t that going to cost money? Well yes. But you know what. I own the washing machine and it works and I have the instruction book.

I once lived in a house with a washing machine that was so old, the instruction manual was not on the internet. In this day and age, that’s fairly Jurassic.

I don’t mind the whole furnishing thing. Here’s why. I chose the mattress. It’s comfortable and I can sleep on it. I chose the washing machine. It washes my clothes properly and quickly. I wonder sometimes if Irish people would not be better off learning to deal with unfurnished accommodation and getting more autonomy over their furniture. I mean, I’ve been in some houses with fairly desperate furniture options and requests to remove it have been met with flat refusals. Take or leave the house.

In the meantime, the light coloured wash currently decorating the soundscape of my Sunday afternoon will be done in 30 minutes. It’s wonderful.

den Atelier: Divine Comedy in concert

Monday evening last, I was perusing Facebook for family news as you do when, underneath a picture of my sister was an ad telling me The Divine Comedy were playing in den Atelier Luxembourg on Friday night.

Ooops Somehow I failed to know this.

I had, at some point, last year, done a search of concert venues in Luxembourg and come up with a) the Philharmonie and b) Rockhal. And that was it. But there’s this den Atelier place and it had the Divine Comedy lined up. The Divine Comedy. Seriously, how the hell did I miss this?

So a ticket was procured. The internet is a wonderful place.

 

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He hasn’t changed. Still the utter showman.

They are touring a new album so we got quite a bit of new stuff. But also, we got quite a bit of Fin de Siecle which is one of the best albums of the 1990s and should have sold many, many more copies than it did.

About 7 gig photogs showed up when the band arrived, all brandishing shiny DSLRs. My DSLR is somewhere else, plus, frankly, I’m not in the mood for carrying it around much. What I have here, I took with my mobile. I also took out my sketchbook but you’re not going to see those.

Favourite song of the night, definitely Certainty of a Chance which I think is my favourite Divine Comedy song anyway. But we also got National Express, Generation Sex, and from the rest of the canon, yes, Songs of Love and Something for the Weekend and pretty much every hit he ever had. And an Abba cover.

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The thing about Neil Hannon is from the audience point of view, he looks like he is having a ball on stage. Like he loves playing, loves singing. And while every piece I have ever read about him interviewing him, reviewing his stuff has always focused on his writing which is sharp and extremely witty, the fact remains that he has a stunning voice as well and is well capable of pyrotechnics with it.

I loved every minute of this concert.

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Great band with him as well.

Piano Geekery

My main lot of furniture arrived yesterday, which means I have a desk, a few chairs, a sofa, and a table and a wardrobe. The shelves for the books I don’t have are due to arrive sometime in the next two or three weeks which left only one item on the shopping list and that was a piano.

To be honest, a piano has always been on my shopping list; namely a grand piano and if I am honest, for a long time, the piano in question was an 1882 which you can still, as of today, January 2017, see on the Pianos Plus website. Believe me, it’s a beautiful piano to play but I’ve never had a space worthy of that piano. It’s a big piano. It has a price tag to match. Another dealer also had a really nice 1970s Kawai which I liked as well.

However, I’ve realised that I am now 44 years old and while it could be another 10 years before I get a lovely grand piano, in the meantime, I’m going to need something else to play. I have the space for a piano now and I live in Luxembourg (sorry Pianos Plus). In researching piano dealers here, I discovered that they rented pianos. Not only did they rent pianos, they rented digital pianos, a service which is hard to find in Ireland. So I tracked down two piano dealers which were close to bus stops, and I went to visit the first of them today. Well it was joyful.

I’ve chosen a piano to hire – it is a Roland digital, and it will fit in my living room. I also played a lot of grand pianos. I played a Bechstein which, like the 1882 beauty, tugged many heart strings. Strictly speaking, I have the space for this one. On the other hand, I have neighbours upstairs. Hence digital piano. Sadface. I also played a Steinway and while I tend to find them a bit sparkly bright, this was a really nice one, a bargain at more than a year’s salary; and then I played a piano which I had never seen before. I played a Schultz. I’ve since learned that the pianos are designed in Germany and built elsewhere. I’m told this one was built in China. It was a gorgeous piano to play. I loved it.

Some day, I will own my own grand piano. It may be a Bechstein, or it may be a Schultz. Or it may be a Pleyel or a Kawai. I don’t know. But I realised today, playing that Bechstein, and that Schultz, and also, having a conversation with the sales staff in Kleber, that there’s an element of destiny around these things and that when the moment presents itself, so too will the piano. In the meantime, Kleber are happy for me to explore what they have got and that makes me happy.

Bonus point: cutest thing all day was a daddy explaining to his two small children how it was that a piano made noise.