Just a quick post to point you in the direction of Surrender to Chance, a perfume samples shop which I discovered recently. It stocks CB I Hate Perfume which I was keen to try and which is hard to get here so I ordered one or two things which were despatched very promptly and arrived about a week later. Black March appealed on paper as it's described as "a fresh clean scent composed of Rain Drops, Leaf Buds, Wet Twigs, Tree Sap, Bark, Mossy Earth and the faintest hint of Spring", and I'd say that's exactly what it is. I understand that Christopher Brosius (the eponymous CB) used to be the nose behind Demeter, and I have a bottle of their famous Dirt; Black March is very much along those lines but more subtle and more authentic - for lovers of rain and wet earth, like me, it's quite delectable.
Karie Westermann (designer of the Vedbaek shawl*, among many other lovely things) has just this morning launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a most interesting-sounding project. This Thing of Paper is, in summary, "a knitting book with ten patterns and accompanying essays – all inspired by the age of Johan Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press."
This is Daughter of a Shepherd yarn. If you've not already come across the story behind it (click here, here, here, here, and for a bit more background, here) it's very much worth reading, and if you have a liking for 'real' wool, then snap up a skein or two if you can*.
It's the colour of bitter chocolate, darkest peat, or good earth, it's soft but characterful, and it smells deliciously of sheep and hay and fresh air. I like it so much I've ordered more.
If you struggle to avoid the little 'hole' which occurs between the heel and the instep when knitting socks, help is at hand. When you've turned the heel and picked up the stitches on the edge of the heel flap, patterns often tell you to pick up one extra stitch before and after working the instep part of the round, but I've never seen one explain how best to do so. I've tried various permutations of knitting through the back loop, or into the row below, and sometimes this does the trick, but it's hit-or-miss.
Paula Emons-Fuessle of The Knitting Pipeline has helpfully filmed a short tutorial showing a good method of avoiding the hole; I've just used it for my current sock (pictured above, one round after picking up the heel stitches, and below, a little further on), and found it excellent for closing the gap after you've picked up the left-hand side of the heel stitches, less good - for some reason I do not understand - on the other side, but I shall persevere.
Edited to add: if you're still having trouble, try these socks in which the holes become part of the design.
A few years ago many of us were fascinated by the BBC documentary series Perfume. It's no longer available on iPlayer, but I've just discovered it on Youtube, so for anyone who wants to see it again, or for those who couldn't watch due to geographical restrictions, you can find it there.
Following the series I read and loved The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur by Jean-Claude Ellena, the "philosopher-nose" who is featured in programme 2 (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4); there's an introductory post on the book here and a short extract from it here. In the documentary, M. Ellena is described as "making fragrance inspired by fantasy", and I am currently much taken with one of his "olfactory masterpieces" for Frederic Malle, L'Eau d'Hiver. Luca Turin classifies it, in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, as "pale almonds", and begins its entry thus:
"One of the dangers of the new French school of perfumery typified by Jean-Claude Ellena is the lure of bloodless overrefinement, what I would describe as Ravel's* disease: wonderfully crafted, elegantly orchestrated pieces drenched in pale sunlight." He goes on to talk about Ellena's treatment of the fragrance's mimosa note of heliotropin and says, "the result is stunning: an elegiac, powdery, almonds-and-water accord that takes its place [...] among the fragrance Ophelias of this world."
To me it seems understated and effortlessly, seamlessly beautiful, simultaneously warm and cool, serene.
If you want an in-depth look at the chemistry and neuroscience of olfaction and the art and culture of perfume, how about this Secret of Scent course with Luca Turin and Bois de Jasmin's Victoria Frolova? Sounds wonderful.
And one more thing, The Perfume Society has a 'Fragrance Editor', an online search device which helps you find scents based on your perfume preferences. I've no idea how accurate it is, but testing it could be fun.
If you have three of four minutes to spare, listen to this lovely rendition of The Fairy Garden* from Ravel's Mother Goose Suite played (as an unorthodox encore during a Proms concert) by Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the conductor Philippe Jordan.
If you have longer, click here for the whole concert and go straight to M. Thibaudet's sparkling performance of Ravel's G major piano concerto beginning at the 20.04 mark.
*The resolution to the story of Sleeping Beauty, as you'll see here.
In his Anatomy of Dessert: With a Few Notes on Wine, Edward Bunyard - nurseryman and pomologist - describes James Grieve as "in its Midlothian home, a Christmas apple, but with us in the Home Counties a September fruit." Mine didn't get much chance of being either last year as the squirrels got most of them, but perhaps the apple's late season here explains why in September and October so many specimens were sampled by the squirrels and found wanting. Typically the blighters brazenly picked the fruit, took a bite, decided they weren't to their taste, and left them littered about the garden. Perhaps this year I should net the tree.
If you saw December's three short posts relating to Robert Frost's poem Stopping by Woods - they featured works by Angie Lewin, Angela Harding, and Janet Johnson - you may like to know that Janet has a new website which you can find here. Her paintings of snow are particularly 'topical' as Britain has been having very wintry weather for the time of year, and as I write more snow is forecast for the end of the week!
We've been using Marius Fabre liquid soap (alternating with the Finnish stuff) for a year and more now, and I do recommend it - it lasts a long time and the fragrances are lovely. The bars have been in use for many months, too, but not in the conventional way; I took a tip from Bois de Jasmin and put them in the linen cupboard where (even still tightly wrapped) they scent the sheets beautifully.
Still on the subject of music, if you're in the mood for something joyful, may I offer you the above performed by Edinburgh's own Dunedin Consort conducted by John Butt (and I suggest listening closely to Matthew Brook's bass part). For the significance to the piece of the number three, click here.
For more from the Dunedin Consort have a look at these videos - we had the benefit of John Butt's erudition at an excellent evening a couple of years ago so I can tell you he is well worth listening to.
My thanks again to Rosie for flagging up Eric Whitacre's Cloudburst, a piece I hadn't come across before; to hear it, follow the link in Rosie's comment here.
"My only purpose in this book was for me, as a music lover, to have a discussion of music with the musician Seiji Ozawa that was as open and honest as possible. I simply wanted to bring out the ways that each of us (though on vastly different levels) is dedicated to music." Haruki Murakami's passion for music runs deep. Before turning his hand to writing, he ran a jazz club in Tokyo, and the aesthetic and emotional power of music permeates every one of his much-loved books. Now, in Absolutely on Music, Murakami fulfills a personal dream, sitting down with his friend, acclaimed conductor Seiji Ozawa, to talk about their shared interest. Transcribed from lengthy conversations about the nature of music and writing, here they discuss everything from Brahms to Beethoven, from Leonard Bernstein to Glenn Gould, from record collecting to pop-up orchestras, and much more. Ultimately this book gives readers an unprecedented glimpse into the minds of two maestros.'
The snails have made a garden of green lace: broderie anglaise from the cabbages, chantilly from the choux-fleurs, tiny veils- I see already that I lift the blind upon a woman's wardrobe of the mind.
Such female whimsy floats about me like a kind of tulle, a flimsy mesh, while feet in gumboots pace the rectangles- garden abstracted, geometry awash- an unknown theorem argued in green ink, dropped in the bath. Euclid in glorious chlorophyll, half drunk.
I none too sober slipping in the mud where rigged with guys of rain the clothes-reel gauche as the rangy skeleton of some gaunt delicate spidery mute is pitched as if listening; while hung from one thin rib a silver web- its infant, skeletal, diminutive, now sagged with sequins, pulled ellipsoid, glistening.
I suffer shame in all these images. The garden is primeval, Giovanni in soggy denim squelches by my hub, over his ruin shakes a doleful head. But he so beautiful and diademed, his long Italian hands so wrung with rain I find his ache exists beyond my rim and almost weep to see a broken man made subject to my whim.
O choir him, birds, and let him come to rest within this beauty as one rests in love, till pears upon the bough encrusted with small snails as pale as pearls hang golden in a heart that know tears are a part of love.
And choir me too to keep my heart a size larger than seeing, unseduced by each bright glimpse of beauty striking like a bell, so that the whole may toll, its meaning shine clear of the myriad images that still- do what I will-encumber its pure line.