Category Archives: things of beauty

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.

 

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.

Walking around a winter wonderland

It snowed in Luxembourg this morning.

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It was a rather lovely, peaceful snowy scene in the park near my apartment this morning so I took a walk around it before going in search of furniture. I wandered over to the lift down to Pfaffenthal but that was closed for some reason. I don’t know why.

This is what you could see from the Ville Haute near the lift anyway so you got the view even if you couldn’t get into the viewing platform.

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The bridge is called the Charlotte or the Red Bridge. I think they like the colour idea because the new bridge in the city centre is called the Blue Bridge. It was built because the main bridge, called the Adolphe Bridge, is in need of serious repair so it had to be closed. Imagine, if you will, closing O’Connell Bridge and building a temporary replacement almost right next to it. That’s what the Luxembourgers appeared to do.

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The glassy thing on the left is the elevator.

Anyway, flickr is not cooperating with me right now so I might add other photographs later.

Small pleasures

I do not know what time sunrise is these days but as I left the house at 6 this morning, it was to face the sun coming over the roofs of the house across from my own.

It was truly beautiful.

I woke at 5 this morning, which might seem awfully early but for someone who regularly wakes with a view to getting up at six (with varying degrees of success), it is only an hour in the difference. I read some, mostly about SpaceX this morning. I realised sometime ago that a lot of what I read in bed in the morning was so utterly meaningless that I had forgotten what it was, by the time I got to breakfast, cursing my tardiness in the morning.

Today, however, I don’t have to be anywhere at 8, but I was still awake, and failed to talk myself out of going for a walk. It wasn’t a long walk, and it took me around the estate I live in. However, it was far more than I tend to get. In an ideal world, those 15 minutes would happen every morning but they haven’t been.

I love the early morning. There’s something utterly peaceful about it and one of the things which has made my life feel very stressful is the disconnect I have had from enjoying the peace of the early morning. The world looks very different and you hear sounds very differently as well. There is not the constant sound track of traffic. This morning, I am not hearing the aircraft taking off either. It is utterly gorgeous as a feeling.

Working in the city has a major downside and that is trying to negotiate the thorny question of “how long will it take me to get to work”. In Dublin this is not a question with a consistent answer.

The thing about it is, if you get up in the morning generally feeling good, it sets a tone for the day. It is not yet 7am and I have been for a walk, I have done some needlework. I have done some reading about SpaceX. I have coffee beside me and shortly, there will be breakfast.

A lot of what comes into my inbox lately is exhorting me to be better. To be more successful. To do this. To do that. I don’t read very much of it, and I cleared down some of the bossier elements of it lately. I sometimes wonder if we know what better and more successful is. Whether we have a superficial view of what life should be like. Much of our discussion in that area is by comparison to someone else.

I am not in favour of exhorting the rest of the world to get up early and go for a walk. The beauty and solitude I enjoyed this morning would be destroyed if 800 people leaving around me all decided to go for a walk at 6am just to get some fresh-ish air. What I am in favour of is people identifying the small pleasures that put some shine on their days. There’s an article somewhere on the web – I did not save the link – but it includes a list of 10 things to make your day better or some such. Maybe 11 because it’s being hip and edgy. The underlying idea, I like. Make small pleasures through your day so that even when things are hard, you have a something small to look forward to. And make them a part of life rather than a reward for life. They do not have to come from a blog list and I’m not in the business of telling anyone else what those small things should be. Some people might call it “being kind to yourself”. If it is something as simple as blocking accounts on twitter whose primary objective is to make you feel outraged about something, so be it. If it is fifteen minutes with a newspaper, so be it.  If it is an early morning walk in the dawnlight, so be it.

For me, the small pleasures are a small cup of coffee in the morning. A non-rushed, non-piecemeal breakfast. Fresh bread from Marks & Spencers. Time to myself. I wrote last week about how I struggled with the fact that I just didn’t have time to do all the things I wanted to. I still don’t. I have to set priorities. And my primary priority is to try and set aside time that is sacrosanct to me and which doesn’t include the remotest possibility that the word “should” in terms of “you’re not good enough and you should…” gets to get in the way.

It seems to be hard, sometimes, to take time out for ourselves. So much so that the world appears to have decided that we need loads of advice to do so.

There is a section of the film Le Vrai Destin d’Amelie Poulain where the narrator talks about how Amelie likes the simple things in life. Skimming stones at the canal, the sound a spoon makes as it cracks through the caramelised sugar on a creme brulée. It is very evisceral as a sequence.

I like getting up early. I like the possibilities the morning gives me. I like the way that sometimes, I might do nothing between 8am and 5pm on a Saturday, but what I did between 7am and 8am has made the day massively more productive than it might have been if I had stayed in bed until 9am. I have never, ever regretted getting up early. I have always regretted getting up late.

And this morning, that bought me a little bit of sunlight that made the world of a north Dublin suburb look beautiful.

 

Main Railway Station, Helsinki

It’s three years since I was last in Finland – I’d say it was far too long but there was a 14 year gap prior to that.

Anyway, for various art related reasons I wanted a picture of an icebreaker and I knew there had been one near the hotel where I stayed the last time and given I was still dragging a large camera around then, I would have been surprised if I didn’t take a picture of it. So I rooted out the relevant hard drive to find the pictures from Helsinki, and while I was scrolling through them, I found this.

 

IMG_1080Basically, this is the railway station in Helsinki. It’s a rather austere looking building – a lot of discussions online suggest it’s a bit Soviet Union. The day I got the train to Tampere, there was, however, a train to Saint Petersburg on one of the quays. Finland does share a border with Russia. I’ve always remembered the other picture I took of the train station, or made anyway as the processing was rather unique IMG_1083

So I’d forgotten about this. Whether it is the passage of time, or the mood I find myself in now, I suddenly find I love the black and white picture now, and particularly, in full screen version as my desktop image. Helsinki is a lovely city. I really do want to go back.

For what it’s worth, I did take a picture of the icebreaker too. Here it is.

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the VW T1 Campervan, bus, variations on a split screen theme

I started a painting project last week, part of a project to make me more comfortable sketching things and making it easier to paint, called, rather unofficially, the vw campervan project. I have a sketch book and most days, I set aside half an hour to do a picture of a VW Campervan. I favour the T1 for some reason.

If you asked me what my favourite car was, I probably would never have answered VW Campervan. All my driving life I have driven Fiestas, for example.

But on the other hand I own one biscuit box and one moneybox and several keyrings which are basically T1s and while I don’t get the whole thing with the Beetles, I have to say somewhere buried under me is a liking for the T1. I think it’s a lifestyle thing with the whole VW campervan thing – they are closely aligned with an element of the surfing lifestyle.

So anyway, I decided to have a go at a campervan, and this was the first one.

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

This wa the first one. I have cheerfully called it Rust bucket because well, let’s face it, a rust bucket is what it is. The T1 is both easy and hard to paint at the same time. You can get a flattened impression of the camper quite easily and that V at the front along with the split screen is iconic. Most of the time though I get the impression that if I painted it as a Tube train, most people would get the impression I was painting Tube trains. The thought does occasionally occur to me. The few people who get to see these things on my Facebook, twitter or instagram feed have rather liked this one.

A photo posted by Me (@wnbpaints) on

and later on this afternoon, I will be painting it for the third time following a family request. I don’t quite know why it appealed to people so much but apparently the cyclist…don’t you know?

Anyway, I do, as it happens, have a sketching blog which I am going to do something about using more often once I figure out a low hassle way of getting decent pictures of the vans onto flickr.

The thing is, the T1 especially, and the T2 (no split screen, no V) are rounded, shapely vans. My hope is that when I get to the end of the project in about 6 months time, that the vans I draw will be significantly less boxy.

In the meantime, I’m struggling to identify iconic cars from any later than about the 1980s.

Brunch @ Brother Hubbard

My plans for today fell apart at around 3.30 this morning and in the end, I wound up in the Capel Street area having discovered that Evans Art Supplies sell Copic markers while actually spending money on other stuff. This is a good, if potentially extremely expensive discovery for the future.

Anyway, this trip took me past Brother Hubbard and having heard great things about it, I decided to see if brunch could be procured. People who are awake making decisions at 3.30 in the morning usually welcome other people doing the cooking. I am aware they are popular so I was surprised when they said yes, but in their premises next door which I think is known as Brother Hubbard’s Little Brother.

Foodwise, I wanted something more substantial than granola so I went for one of their cooked breakfasts – they have a lot of great looking options and menu wise, it’s probably the best brunch menu I have seen in Dublin – and made the choice with some difficulty. Eventually, I went for Breakfast of Champignons, I think it was called, which was basically 2 poached eggs, three large field mushrooms on sourdough bread with I think, onion marmalade. Along with that, I ordered Irish breakfast tea and some orange juice.

The orange juice was freshly squeezed (hardly surprising given the reputation of the establishment) and probably the nicest freshly squeezed orange juice I have had. I don’t know who their orange supplier is, but they chose well on the orange front. Not a hint of bitterness that ever was.

The main event, the breakfast for champions, as the waiter said he took it, was excellent. Everything was cooked to perfection – I might have given the poached eggs a moment longer but that’s the subject of the wider debate on boiled eggs – runny or hard – either way, beautiful. And the bread was gorgeous.

They provide pepper in a beautiful grinder which doesn’t look unlike a mini Turkish coffee grinder, and the salt is in flake format. I liked that, in particular the grinder.

The tea was meh. I’m not sure what tea provider they use and arguably I could have drunk it a bit sooner, but I’d argue it was one of the weaker elements of the universe. It absolutely wouldn’t put me off going there again – the food was excellent – but I wouldn’t necessarily have tea the next time. Would, perhaps, experiment with their hot chocolate.

The one thing that would put me off going back is I didn’t find the table/chair/seating arrangement very comfortable in the little Brother premises. To be blunt, it felt very squished in – I was seated beside the glass wall between the tables and falling down the chairs and this left my arm shoved into my body with nowhere to go. The tables were small and put me in mind of school desks, and if I’m honest, they were probably smaller than that again. It is not a place you would feel tempted to linger, which, I suppose makes good business sense if you’re aiming for fast food level volumes. I don’t think they are. So, if I were going back there, I would prefer to try the main premises before making a final call on it.

On the other hand, their wait staff were unfailingly polite and friendly – I somehow managed to deal with at least four of them during the course of my business there – and the service was unobtrusive and relatively quick. I bought one chocolate pastry as I was leaving just to taste as I hadn’t ordered any with my breakfast. It was gorgeous.

I’d strongly recommend the place for the food. As somewhere to relax, where I ate today really isn’t an option.

Boxed Lives

I have an ongoing struggle to organise stuff in my life. I own a lot of stuff. I own a lot of CDs, a lot of notebooks, a lot of books. And I’m limited in how I can organise things to keep them under control. In my wardrobe, there’s a box of yarn, and a box of tapestries. Yesterday, I emptied some boxes of stuff.

Over breakfast, I was thinking about this. All this stuff I have, arguably, some of it isn’t necessary. But some of it, I don’t quite want to let go and, if I am honest, deep down, I don’t like having it in boxes. For example, I have 10 years worth of personal journals. Now people have different views of diaries/journals/whatever term you’d like to apply. In past lives – of which I’ve had a few at this stage of my existence – they weren’t kept in boxes. They were kept on shelves. They were a living testament to me, the things I did, the things that made me happy; the things that made me sad. This is not a eulogy of my life, more a feeling that when I box up my memories, I box up me.

One of the dangers with putting things in boxes is that they slowly become irrelevant to your day to day living. One of the boxes I emptied yesterday was a box of tins.

Pretty tins. Some of them came with tea inside, some of them were picked up on travels. Two of them I know I bought in Belgium which means I definitely had them at least 16 years, and possibly closer to 18. I won’t say I wasn’t slightly sentimentally attached to them. But…they had been in a box for at least a year; I have no where to store them and, more importantly, I wasn’t using them. I had two boxes of tins. I now have less than one box of tins. I won’t be adding to the collection beyond the tins which are in circulation in my kitchen until I can actually use the tins.

Boxes are handy for storage. We go to IKEA, we buy boxes and temporarily put stuff away. Sometimes, temporarily…becomes long…

I want to limit the existence of boxes in my life. I don’t know how to fix it all immediately, but I’m not really in a hurry to box up all my books and CDs, my bottles of ink for some indiscriminate time in the future when it will all be grand. The things we keep in boxes slowly migrate from our lives and when that happens, we’ve already lost them.

First impressions: Kusmi

Most people who know me are aware there’s a tea thing going on in my life, and if you know me at all well, you’ll know that the default choice if I have access to it is Marco Polo Noir from the Mariage Freres range. I can’t get it in Dublin.

Last week, one of my friends gave me some Kusmi tea, a sampler box if you like, of 24 teabags. Brown Thomas sell (or at least used to) sell some Kusmi tea and they are well known, apparently for detox teas.

I’m not going to review the tea right here, right now, as I only have one mug of tea beside me here (in a beautiful Dunoon china mug notable for the presence of at least one lighthouse painted on the exterior). I will say this though: the aroma on ripping off the crinkly transparent paper from the outside is utterly gorgeous. I am very happy with it.

review: Beautiful Goodbye/Richard Marx

So, somewhere amongst my possessions there are a few Richard Marx cassettes. I was a fan when I was 14 years old and of all the music I was listening to nearly 30 years ago, he’s one of the few I’m still listening to now.

Sometime last year, he put out another album – there haven’t been all that many of them in the grand scheme of things, for all he’s been plying his trade for more than 30 years now – which is probably more rnb than soft rock. I was never sure soft rock worked as a label for him. Not sure any label did to be honest.

Anyway, I like this a lot. I don’t know if I would have liked it when I was 14. It’s extremely glossy. You could work your way through any artist’s output if their career is long enough to get a feel for how production values in general have changed over time. But the voice hasn’t changed much since I was watching the video to Right Here Waiting on MTV. It’s a touch bass heavy and tending very much to what I always called adult contemporary until I discovered I had arrived in that demographic myself. I like the soundscapes of this (okay (I’ve been a bit distracted from the point of view of lyrics). They are like very expensive chocolate, probably because the string sections here and there, matched up with the very contemporary bass lines.

Highlights are obviously going to include the title track, and then also on regular play here are To My Senses and Have a Little Faith. It is the sort of music I like to sound track my life to. When I’m not listening to big orchestral stuff anyway.