Posts Tagged ‘chemistry’

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Describing Scent workshop at Les Senteurs. (review)

April 15, 2012

On a bright Saturday lunchtime in April, Toby and I headed to Marble Arch to attend Les Senteurs‘ “Describing Scent” workshop, hosted by my good friend Nick (who also happens to be the Store Manager of the Les Senteurs store on Seymour Place). We arrived and as the shop starting filling up with attendees, we made our way downstairs to be greeted by a large table, laid out with place settings which each had a slice of orange on a neon plate, a loop of string, a coin, a rubber band and a glass with ice. The dozen of us seated ourselves, introduced ourselves to the group (among us was a florist, a composer, a student of fashion journalism, a mathematician, a chemist, and the rest of us who were also fans of perfume via various avenues) and then Nick proceeded to explain the purpose of the workshop. Part of it would be smelling scents (starting with the objects on the table, and then followed by a range of perfumes passed around the room on blotters) and experiencing fragrances mostly stocked by Les Senteurs. But the real point, as hinted at in the name of the workshop, would be to describe the fragrance. Not only in terms of smell, but in terms of taste, colour, light, shadow, temperature, textures, shape, sound, the kind of place it evoked and so on. It’s extremely difficult to describe a scent effectively using only the limited vocabulary of adjectives normally ascribed to smell – scents are intangible, and so they evoke a range of images, sounds (interestingly, “notes” and “accords” are used in the language of perfumery), textures and emotions in each of us.

As we proceeded through the objects on the table, and then onto the eight fragrances, we discussed how each of them made us feel, and what they evoked in us. Nick guided us through each of the perfumes, which we firstly smelled ‘blind’ (i.e. not knowing anything about the fragrance – neither its name, nor the brand behind it) and then were tasked with describing as fully and accurately as possible. It was a comfortable environment for us to be honest and unguarded about what the perfume evoked, as we were all passionate about fragrance and we all understood that perfume is personal to each of us. Nick would eventually reveal the perfume’s name and brand, composition and concept. It was intriguing to see what notes each of us picked up (which frequently included ingredients not listed in the perfume’s composition), and how different our own thoughts were from others’. For example, Toby’s scientific knowledge was able to explain various smells and associations in a way that was completely beyond me, but at the same time I made other connections for different reasons. Moving through fragrances by Creed, Parfumerie Générale, Heeley and others, we exposed the different connections and our own varying preferences between a range of scents. But whatever we preferred, be it niche or “high street”; leathery or floral; warm and introverted or cool and expansive – this workshop worked because we were all passionate about fragrance, and because Nick facilitated the workshop in such a way that we all felt comfortable to express ourselves.

At the end of the session, we all filled out a feedback form which asked some intriguing questions – among which were:

  • “Is this kind of event something you would talk to your friends about” (evidently so!);
  • “What is most important to you in a perfume?” (for me, a fragrance has to smell beautiful, but also different to everything else in my collection, so that it complements one of my moods. I am far too fickle / moody to have a ‘signature’ fragrance that would suit me every day, day in and day out! I also think that it’s important that the fragrance has a well-chosen name and attractive bottle, as these are the things that will initially attract me towards trying it out.); and
  • “Are there any events you would like to see that haven’t been suggested already?” (I feel that I would love to attend workshops that would each focus on ‘classic perfumes’ – such as Joy, Chanel No. 5, Chanel Pour Monsieur, Poison and Opium).

I can’t recommend the Les Senteurs workshops highly enough for anyone even slightly curious about perfume beyond the Superdrug counter (for their list of events, please click here). Toby and I both had an excellent time, and it was both luxurious being able to spend an afternoon smelling such wonderful scents, and intellectually stimulating being challenged to describe them and contemplate how others react to fragrance. At the end of the day, there are few rights and wrongs in one’s experience of perfume, and this workshop served to underline how intangible and thus personal fragrance can be.

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brokenhearted.

December 2, 2009

How do you stop your heart from breaking?

Ok, I might be being a bit melodramatic.  Basically, I did what I said I would never do, and after some other revelations, the time was right to tell Mike how I have been feeling about him.  Because of certain things, I was almost positive that he would take it well, and I tried to explain it in the right way – basically that more than simple sexual chemistry (though there is some of that too!), there’s such a strong friendship bond and attraction there. I think he’s amazing and I admire him so much.  He’s probably not the best looking guy in the university, and he’s 11 years my senior, but he ticks all my boxes, if you like.

Of course, he took it maddeningly well and was really flattered, but also understood (he is a dream friend, and he’s coming to the tattoo parlour with me tomorrow).  He said that if he were available (i.e. not straight and not married), it would be me and him, and he also said that if he were available, chances are that I would not like him in the way that I do! I don’t know if that’s true – it’s all “if only”, and as much as my whole feelings for him are based on “if only” statements, there’s not much to be gained from pondering that overly much.  I understand why I look up to him so much – he’s got a loving wife and a beautiful little son, and he has common sense and decency as well as a fit body (he’s putting weight on but he carries it well).  I could go round and round in circles explaining how much he means to me, but basically whenever I’m not around him, I miss him and wish he was there. Although I don’t always feel it, I guess I’m quite an independent and capable person and sometimes that gets a little draining, and I know that he could look after me and keep me safe and it would be ok not to be 100% together around him all the time, because he understands me and he understands life.  On a very human level, we really do click.

There’s only so much I can say on the next bit, in the (extremely unlikely) event that the wrong person reads this, but Mike likes someone else more than he should.  And that someone else seems to like him a little bit too.  I could see it coming, and I’m not surprised.  Nothing is going to happen, because of marriages and families and love and loyalty, and I am 90% sure that nothing will happen.  After all, we said that these feelings will probably pass (although not quickly enough in my case) and it will all be fine – there’s no sense in ruining relationships both within the people on the course, and the families of those people.  But now my jealous streak is coming out, silly as it might be.  For two reasons: a) I saw Mike first, he’s my best friend and nobody else’s.  We connected first and we are the leadership couple (HBICs, if you like).  Nobody is coming between that.  But more importantly (this is the heartbreaking bit), b) even if I had a chance, in an alternate universe, I am not the one Mike would choose.  This isn’t news to me – he’s a straight married man.  But however much I already knew this, and however much he says “If I were gay / if you were a woman, you’re so gorgeous and amazing that I would be so into you and you would be so out of my league, you wouldn’t give me a second glance!”, it hurts me.  That now, I have this added role to make sure nothing inappropriate happens between them. Just in case the world tips on its axis and they can’t stop themselves (again, extremely unlikely), now I have to do it.  And all the time, I’m sitting here (and Mike now knows this is the case!) with my own feelings and heart and love (yeah I said it) and I have to be the rational one, all the time thinking “even if you were going to give into temptation, it wouldn’t be with me. Why can’t it be with me?!??” It’s simple sexuality, and there’s nothing I can do about it, but it breaks my heart that even in a million years, it would never happen for us.

Obviously, this makes things easier for me in the long run, because I’m not going to have to restrain myself that much because I know that it would never happen. (I have a feeling I’ve said that phrase quite a lot in this entry – I apologise!)  I’m single, a free agent, and I don’t have anything at stake.  But fuck the long run – this is me right now, and right now I am having these intense feelings and desires and although they’re totally inappropriate, I can’t help them and I can’t help the admiration that I feel, nor the fact that whenever we’re not together, I call out for him and my thoughts never stray from him.  I can’t stop being jealous of Mike and other person, because even if we are best friends, that is all we will be – never mind that that is all they will be too, and we are closer than the two of them anyway.  But why is that not enough?  Why is friendship never enough?  Why is my heart involved?  I wish I could put my heart in a box and stop it from falling apart.  I guess it makes me cherish just how strong and close our friendship is – I certainly appreciate the man he is, and that is why I admire him so much.  When I’m 35, if I have what he has, then I will consider my life a success (he’s not perfect, but he has accomplished a lot of what I seek to).  But what if I never find someone like him? I know I’m pondering what I said there’s no use in pondering, but I just wish things could be different.  I just wish that I could be rational and not have to deal with my heart pangs every time Mike flirts with someone other than me, even though it’s all harmless.  I wish he could hold me tight and promise he would never leave.  I wish a million futile things, and I don’t know what to do about it.

How do you stop your heart from breaking?