My love of books was instilled at an early age by my mum who took me to Garstang library every week to borrow an armful of magical free words.
The peculiar 60s architecture of Garstang Library
Each night I send myself to slumber via another world; a curious country, an eerie haunting, a torrid love affair or simply the complexities of someone else’s life. My arms cradle the book ‘praying mantis’ style whilst Joseph purrs away under an elbow.
Most towns in the UK had a library until about 5 years ago when the government cut funding under austerity. Big cities had many branches with the largest ‘central’ library housed in a grand municipal building. Many of the smaller suburban libraries closed forever whilst others now survive on limited hours as volunteer run organisations.
On average, I read about two novels per week, they are free. If I bought them, my reading habit would likely cost me at least £100 per year assuming that I shopped thriftily in charity shops, or up to £700 if I bought shiny new ones from Waterstones.
We need to support them.
My local library in Huddersfield is a quirky venue where alongside newly releases titles, you can find a selection of the bizarre and unconsidered. Whilst browsing the health and beauty section this morning I discovered that alongside Lizzie Ostrom’s ‘Perfume - A century of scents’ and Sally Hornsey’s two make your own skincare and perfume manuals, you can find books about both DIY welding and the history of arsenic. This could be handy if you are planning a murder and an evidence burial in a skilfully sealed metal box.
Bonkers genre combo
Library books can smell a bit stale. Whilst new releases still retain a delicious inky print whiff on their fresh unblemished pages, older titles can sometimes carry an ‘eau de damp portacabin’ or more worryingly ‘unidentifiable fragrant stain’ which might be a bit of spilt Ovaltine if you’re lucky.
I scent my library books, and I choose their fragrance with great consideration.
I imagine that most of my readers have a sizeable stash of promotional fragrance smelling strips as a quick sniffing to trip to the department store usually results in pockets full of the things. They’re pretty, I keep them. But best of all, they make wonderful bookmarks.
One night I sprayed the last dregs of my Serge Lutens Fille en Aiguilles onto a smelling strip and allowed it’s pine sap fragrance to seep into my book. The book was Eowyn Ivey’s haunting forest populated novel ‘The Snow Child’. By the following night the isolated atmosphere of it’s Alaskan location was amplified by the harmonious whiff. I recently read the wonderfully spooky ‘Dolly’ by Susan Hill (of Woman in Black fame). I fragranced this with Antonia by Pure Distance, allowing it’s vintage dusty greenery to evoke the ivy clad derelict house conjured in the story.
I like to imagine that the next borrower will pick up on the fragrance, perhaps so subtly that instead of detecting a ‘perfume’, my scenting activities will simply add to the power of the words, providing an extra-sensory dimension. Perhaps if we all start to do this library books will take on new powers to thrill the imagination?
Caron whiffing cards have the perfect dimensions for a bookmark
In discussion with friends, suggestions were made about possible perfume partners for their favourite books. War and Peace was partnered with a fragrance fit for nobility - Zibeline by Weil, Practical Magic amped it’s spells with Moonlight Patchouli by Van Cleef & Arpels and 50 Shades of Grey was sullied by the notorious Secretions Magnifique. A wonderfully vile idea!
I hope that my readers might join me in my guerrilla book scenting campaign. However, if you’ve gone over to the dark side and become the owner of an e-reader, your local library has oodles of free e-books in it’s catalogue so at least you can support their 21st century service updates by joining up and helping to promote literacy in the UK.
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£48. That’s how
much it costs to scent your home with Diptyque’s beautiful Rosa Mundi candle.
If it’s the middle of winter, or you live in a flat and have money to burn
(literally) I understand the desire to buy this object of loveliness.
However, £48 buys
a hell of a lot of real flowers. Not the rubbish ones that don’t smell of
anything from the florist, I’m talking about growing your own.
Last May I moved
from my sky high urban flat to an old Victorian terraced cottage. It’s tiny and
a little bit knackered, but there is a garden. As the proud owner of green
fingers I couldn’t wait to plan my much missed outdoor space. I have only a miniscule
front garden, South facing and elevated from the lane by rickety stone
steps.Its patio area is just big
enough for a few planters and a deck chair from which I can tipple gin in the
summer. At the rear of the house is a yard filled by an old outdoor toilet
shed. I plan to sow a ‘cut flower’ patch in grow bags upon its roof when the
sun rises high enough to battle for daylight dominance with the neighbouring
The garden was a
mess, an overgrown patch of shrubs that had never seen a blade and waist high
grass on a mission to self-seed dandelion clocks and sadistic thistles. My
determined Dad spent several hours ‘strimming’ the grass, pausing every few
minutes to rethread the machine as its exhausted cord broke repeatedly.
Meanwhile I destroyed my back digging up a plethora of eye pokingly sharp
cordyline plants. I have a fear of spikes…
Hardcore strimming event
Whilst it was too
late in the season to grow many seeds, I couldn’t resist giving life to some
sweet peas. I spent 99p on a packet of ‘Spencer Mixed’ variety which by August grew
into a 5 foot high pot of scented glory. For the next couple of months my house
was filled with their intoxicating fragrance and I slept soundly lulled by
bedside vases of this frilly wonder.
My Mum divided
her old fashioned carnation plants and gave me clumps to plant up by the patio.
If you’ve never smelt a garden grown carnation you will be astounded by its
peppery floral fragrance. Imagine a Caron boutique in the 1950s and that’s
about it. They smell exactly like Bellodgia. A single bloom can fill a room
with a strident Oeillet olé
such is its bold exuberance!
Carnation and Sweat Pea Spencer Mixed spicing up the dining table
The neglected white
Rosa Alba that lived here had bolted to a giant straggle. Although a few
Dior-esque petals remained it needed lopping almost to the ground to encourage
healthy new growth next year. Meanwhile I headed to the garden centre and chose
a David Austin ‘Generous Gardener’ climbing rose to satisfy my craving. Chosen
for its scent, this pink beauty smells like the finest Rose Damascena absolute
with a teeny hint of sugared almond. Sadly I knocked its heavily budded head
off in a clumsy car exit but it rapidly grew back.
My Generous Gardener in full bloom
My plans for 2017
It will be a summer of
vivid scented annual flowers. My ‘Spencer Mixed’ sweet peas are growing
vigorously. In October I transformed a worn out G-Plan side table into a
miniature bubble wrapped greenhouse to see if it really is possible to
‘overwinter’ annual seedlings in the cold damp Pennine winter. It is. In May I
will plant a second variety ‘Sweet Pea Promise’ – a posh one from Thompson and
Morgan that promises to be hugely whiffy.
Sweat Pea Promise from the Thompson and Morgan website
Early flowering scent
will come from Stocks ‘Appleblossom’. Stocks have a heady narcotic whiff, which
with just a few stems is intoxicating. More than a few is a whopping migraine.
Stocks Appleblossom from the Thompson and Morgan website
My perennial white Phlox plants will
hopefully reawaken and battle the slugs to bring some elegance once again. Their
scent is a marvelous combination of the skanky indole that we devour in our white
floral fragrances and a more delicate and fresh green nuance that brings
brightness and vivacity and makes the plant smell ‘youthful’.
Some shrubs inherited from the previous owners have proved to be seasonally boring. They will be dug up and replaced by lavender, the foliage of which will make an excellent 'leafy bit' in my indoor arrangements.
Last year I waged war on slugs. I had
millions of the little thugs. With Joseph and his neighbouring cat friends
around, the use of toxins was not a possibility. This year I’m conducting an experiment. I am collecting my own hair in order to create hairy rings around
the base of tender seedlings. I never brush it so a hair wash yields lots of
useful strands! Apparently slugs hate the dry texture of hair and wool and
won’t cross it. The witchy side of me loves the idea of having a part of myself
lurking sentinel like in the garden. My grandmother would have approved of this
frugal and somewhat pagan approach.
Joseph strolls his territory wall
I’ll post an update in early summer and let
you know which plants yield the greatest fragrance. I would dearly love to hear
from any of my readers who tend a fragrant garden. Your recommendations would
be gratefully received in the comments box.
To ensure that you never miss a piece of my fragrant
waffle why not use the 'subscribe' box on the right hand side. Feedburner will
send you a link asking for confirmation of your request, Alternatively, hit
January is a bleak month for those of us
residing in Northern Europe. It’s chilly, the days are diminutive, and we crave
the onset of the light and energy delivered by Spring. Following the excited
delights of the pre-Christmas credit card binge that is ‘Black Friday and Cyber
Monday’, January brings us ‘Blue Monday’, rumoured to be the most depressing
day of the year.
January in the North, a bleak etching I created in 2009
It’s not all blue though. January often
gives us an opportunity to make personal changes. We are more likely to ditch
an overly stressful job, rethink our personal goals or make good on our
seasonal gluttony and get healthy. Although I didn’t make a list of New Year
resolutions (I’d inevitably break them), I definitely feel a positive force for
With this in mind, I’m shedding some flab.
I’m not obese, just a bit podgy. An auf
wiedersehen to half a stone would set me free to wear my favourite ‘brilliant
arse’ jeans that lie forlornly at the bottom of my thin clothes drawer. It
wasn’t really Christmas that piled on the pounds, more the proximity of a work
canteen that sells fabulous sausage rolls and the forgiving nature of winter
clothing. It just crept on.
My diet is not strict, I’m simply cutting
down on the usual adversaries; booze, sugar, cheese and the occasional foray
into pies. Vaguely based on Slimming World but without the culinary dreadfulness
that is 1 calorie cooking spray and Quark.
I took a jaunt to the January sales and
purposefully left tight fitting clothes well alone, I’d already dropped a
couple of pounds and was excited at the prospect of delving into my thin
clothes drawer in the near future, no point buying new ones. However, in the
sale I found an ideal motivator. Nestling amongst the Estee Lauder counter’s
sale shelf was a discounted purse spray of Private Collection Tuberose
Gardenia. I bought it, took it home, and promptly decorated the package with a
chastising post-it note. I will not unwrap and spray the perfume until I get
half way through the diet. It will be freed from it’s bondage when the scales
display 10 stone 6. As I write this, I’m 1 pound away. Tomorrow might be the
Ironically, Tuberose Gardenia is a fulsome
fatty scent, the fragrance equivalent of one of those delicious custard
pastries that accompany your Espresso in a Parisian café. A Gardenia petal is
firm and waxy to the touch, clustered tightly in a heavy globe, there’s no
frailness here. It’s a voluptuous flower. Tuberose is often likened to the
scent of bacon fat, as rancid and corpulent as it is beautiful.In Tuberose Gardenia, the Lauder labs
have synthesised the concept of gargantuan white flower decadence. If it were a
woman, she would not be thin.
The Gardenia flower
10 stone 6 will mark the occasion of the
first ‘well done you’ spray. From that point it will be consigned to the
fabulous arse/thin clothes drawer. It won’t be properly allowed out until those
jeans fit. By this I mean that I can actually sit down in them without the zip
bursting or instigating the onset of bleeding from my kidneys.
By then it will be spring. And I’ll burst
into fragrant flower as the narcissus in my garden open their faces to greet