Posts Tagged ‘comfort’

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summer kick.

July 5, 2012

When I was little, summer was my least favourite season of the year – and this is despite 8-week long summer holidays! There were two main reasons for this – 1) I had a major phobia of wasps. Nowadays I still don’t like them, but I have learned to control my fear; back then however, I used to go crazy if they even came near me. It got to the point where I would never open my bedroom window, even in summer; I was afraid that if I did, the wasps would come in. I went through a phase of sleeping with a can of bug spray within arm’s reach. At about the age of 11, one of my worst nightmares came true – I would wake up every morning to find a handful of dead / dying wasps on my floor and even lying on my clothes (which I would hang up on the rocking chair in the corner). It was traumatic (eventually the summer ended and the wasp deluge with it), but in a way it helped me, because it forced me to deal with my fear.

2) The heat, and the sweating. In the winter, you can always wrap up warm, and there are few things that are more lovely than snuggling up in front of the fire with a blanket. However, in the summer, when it’s stifling, it feels like there’s nothing you can do to combat the oppressive heat.  As I’ve grown older, I have learned how to deal with sweating (mostly – see my post on how to dress for a British summer) and I have grown out of the really bad phases I used to have. During the year that I lived in Spain, I realised that it wasn’t the heat that I hated, but the humidity that comes with it (or even comes alone) in England. Living in Spain, I developed a healthy, natural tan, and although the temperatures would rise up to 30 degrees and beyond, it was a dry heat so it was totally comfortable.

Just as I learned to conquer my fear of wasps, I learned to love the summer. I love the sunshine and the way that it can kickstart a day and give one an optimistic outlook on life. I love the freedom that a nice day gives you – it opens up your opportunities to go out and about, wherever you please. I love that there’s less traffic on the roads, and so getting out and about is easier and more pleasant. My musical tastes become bouncier, more exuberant and more worldly in the summer. I love going out for a leisurely walk through the park – even simple, unplanned or mundane trips can become pleasant experiences. The fact that I can do this while getting a tan is icing on the cake!

Just as our clothing gets lighter and often less restrictive, so does my taste in fragrance. In the winter I like to wear fragrances that give me a sense of comfort, sophistication and warmth – they tend to be heavier, a little spicier and more opaque. However, although I may still wear this kind of fragrance on a summer evening, generally my summer perfume choices involve something a bit more exuberant – bold fruity combinations, floral bouquets with a splash of green freshness, and sweet scents. Although I am a believer that fragrance has no gender, I tend to wear more women’s fragrances in summer as they are genuinely fresher, sweeter and freer than decent men’s fragrances (obviously this is a massive generalisation and I also own exceptions to this rule; but I’m not a fan of men’s “fresh”/”cool”/”sport” fragrances, and ozonic perfumes bore me). Just as in fragrance, I change what I drink to reflect more fruits – I always love orange juice all day every day, but in summer I mix it up more with pineapple juice, mixed fruits and my new favourite: coconut water. Although it was initially an acquired taste, the freshness and hint of Caribbean sensuality makes me feel healthy, happy and sunny. This is my summer kick – I just wanted to share a little bit of my seasonal happiness and feelings of freedom with you all 🙂

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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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act your age.

August 4, 2010

The other night I was on the phone to Toby walking through Tesco when I was stopped in my tracks by the sight of a big cuddly Hello Kitty in a half-price toys bin. I checked the price (£10), fell in love with it, plucked it out of the bin and kept walking, all the while telling Toby what I had just done.  He chuckled at me, as people often do when confronted with my weakness for cute cuddly toys. However, all my friends know what I am like by now, and my family does too – they think it’s part cute, part bizarre, part they just shake their heads in despair.  The cashier at Tesco thought my mum was joking when, in response to what age the toy was aimed at, my mother gave me a glance and a grin.

In my bedroom at home, Hello Kitty joins my menagerie of Nemo, Ramón, Bing and Bong the white seals, Pikachu & a giant dog called Doug. I guess I always loved cuddling stuffed animals and teddy bears ever since I was a child, and they are soft and warm and comforting. They all come off the bed at night, except for in the winter when it’s cold and I want the weight of something on top of me to make me feel more cocooned and warm (hopefully Toby is my grown-up replacement! 😉 ).  They make me feel at once whimsical and cosy.

Unlike Taylor Lautner, who keeps me warm in a very different way:

After much deliberation and resisting buying the Eclipse poster in the cinema, I finally caved and bought the above poster yesterday in HMV, which is now framed on my wall as you can see. When I was with Toby (although it is in a slight ironic way, I do really enjoy the Twilight Saga!) queuing for Eclipse, I pointed out the poster and was tempted to buy it; the same happened when I was queuing for the same film with Karina, Davina and Deena. Both times I resisted, and Toby’s teasing reproach was that “get it if you want, if you have no problems with having pictures of teenage boys on your bedroom wall”.  Well, when he put it like that… I was briefly shamed into restraint, but as they say, resistance is futile.  Anyway, Lautner is 18 and therefore a legal adult, as well as a total hottie (far more than Robert Pattinson, at any rate).

Both of these purchases made me think that I’ve always had a certain kind of taste for both men and cuddly toys. I’ve not changed in that respect since I was young; I like big cute stuffed animals and I like sexy men; I doubt this will change from 13 to 30 to beyond. As a teenager, my appreciation of teddy bears was considered a cute throwback to childhood in the face of so many pressures of adolescence and incipient adulthood. And it’s natural to find others attractive as you become in touch with your sexuality: I always was attracted to people who were older than me when I was a teenager, and now it’s to people who are the same age as me.  Perhaps I’m an eternal late teen? Unlike Mariah Carey who claims she is “eternally 12”, perhaps I’m eternally 19. After all, Taylor may be 18 but he has a better body than most people in their 20s, and when sexualised as he is both above and in the Twilight Saga films, he comes off as early twenties rather than a teen. That’s my defence and I’m sticking to it, but while I physically age, my mentality and preferences will evolve and mature in some respects, but I guess that some of my tastes will remain constant.  This is just who I am, and I think that it’s very healthy to be in touch with your inner child and indulge that fun-loving, fresh side of your personality. 🙂

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3.

April 1, 2010

Look what I did today!

Okay, so this has been on the cards for a little while. But today was the day (and no, this is no April Fool’s – that is an actual picture of me, you can see my flab and the grubby inkstains around my body so I wouldn’t put this up for fun, and I don’t have a sense of humour anyway so April Fool’s Day is irrelevant to me) that I went to Dean & Lewis at Iron & Ink tattoo studio in Whitchurch, Bristol, and got this stained-glass patterned raven tattooed on me. It took 4 and a half hours and was, at times (particularly the outlining & infill of the wingtips near my hip) excruciating – luckily I was alone, because I don’t think my facial expressions would have been particularly pretty. I would say this tattoo was the most painful experience of my life (and Mike giving me a lift home was a godsend – he’s wicked jealous now and I’m waiting to see his next move!), but looking at it now, it was so, so worth it.  I feel great (well, great and sore) and proud to have this on my body.

For me, I originally just chose this design (which I found online, and then edited and redrew somewhat myself) because I thought it was beautiful.  But it also symbolises emancipation and strength for me.  Ironically, I am concealing it from my parents (though how long this is going to last is debatable – however, they don’t know about the other two! If I can get through the initial 2 weeks’ pain stage & the family-centric Easter weekend, I think I might be in with a shot 😉 ) which doesn’t really scream “freedom”, but I’m only doing that for an easy life.  After all, it’s not worth the questions, the inquisition, nor the horrified look on my mother (and possibly grandmother)’s face and declarations that I have ruined myself, that I will never get a job (because I am obviously going to be applying for jobs where I need to strip naked) and so on. It’s kinder to them to keep it under wraps for as long as possible.  And it’s kinder to me too.  I’m aware that the jig will soon be up, but if I can give myself a couple of weeks’ head start, I’d feel better about it.  The only other question is, what will I get next?  I would be lying if I said this was the last one, but I think that I’ll have a bit of a longer gap and think of something really personal to get.  Watch this space!

See tattoo number one HERE

See tattoo number two HERE

And here is the stencilled version before I started having it done:

Once again, I have to shout out Dean & Lewis at Iron & Ink Tattoo Studio, Whitchurch, Bristol, for the stellar job they’ve done, the hospitality they’ve shown me and my friends, and for the beautiful art they’ve created.  They are fantastic and if you’re thinking of getting a tattoo done, definitely go and see them for advice, a hygienic and comfortable atmosphere (Dean gave me a pillow when my shoulder was cramping today, and I was able to watch music videos on Viva to pass the time) and fantastic service. I couldn’t recommend them more.

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shopaholic.

February 13, 2010

“She got a Fendi fetish / She got a shopping problem
That girl’s a shopaholic / She only mess with ballers
She got a Gucci fetish / She got a Louis problem
She got a shopping problem / That girl’s a shopaholic”

— “Shopaholic”, Nicki Minaj f/ Gucci Mane.

Listening to the above song from Nicki Minaj’s stellar Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape, I can’t help but relate.  I have never been very good at resisting shops, but today I went into Guess with Toby and promptly dropped £136 on a bag (it matches my wallet! And I’ve been keeping an eye out for a new bag) and a hoodie (it was in the sale, the last one and my size.  Therefore, it was destiny and there was nothing I could do but fulfil it).  Note that I have my excuses rationale ready 😉 I felt a little guilty because Toby has a little bit of cashflow difficulty, and I didn’t work last week when I went to get my new tattoo done (which cost £100 in itself!).  I think I might have to take on some extra shifts at the hospital.  I am not one to flash cash, especially when that cash comes largely from funding to do my course, and I am also spending a significant amount of money on getting my driving licence (wish me luck for my theory test on Tuesday morning!), which is a pretty necessary measure.  I’ve never been rich.  But sometimes the allure of beautiful designer things is just too much to resist.

I spoke in a recent entry about the fact that I wasn’t always like this.  Designer names used to be something out of reach, irrelevant.  I was younger, those were things that would come in time.  Well, I’m not younger anymore; that time is now. Life is too short to be wanting forever; I don’t spend crazy amounts on irrelevant things, so why shouldn’t I treat myself?  Generally, I am a shopaholic because I love spending money, be it on myself or on other people, and I’m just as happy to buy other people things because I find the look on their faces when they open a well-chosen gift something to treasure; that’s my favourite part of holidays like Christmas.  But sometimes I feel a little guilty because perhaps I should be a little more responsible with money – you never know what is going to happen tomorrow.  I should appreciate more the plight of people who might never be able to have even one beautiful thing in their life.

I think about my grandmother when I have crises of confidence like this.  She’s actually quite wealthy, but she’s never been one to treat herself; she would much rather give everything she has to other people.  She will be  77 years old next month, and in April it will be 2 years since my grandfather died.  I love her to pieces, but it’s hard to get through to her the philosophy that she’s earned the right to spend a little on herself and treat herself to a nice little something every now and then.  Hell, I’m 24 and I’m feeling that life is too short! But since she’s never bought herself designer things, precious jewellery, something special, preferring instead to shop at pound stores and discounters (even though their wares often fall apart in a matter of weeks, necessitating a repeat purchase and costing you more in the long run – I’m a believer that generally you get what you pay for, and if you don’t then you take it back and you take your money elsewhere).  I wish that she would recognise that she is worth a little bit of luxury.  I think that she is a good person; I think that I am at the heart of it a good person, and a good person doesn’t declare themselves all the time.  But nor should a good person go totally unsung or unrecognised.  That’s why I love to treat my friends, my family, those close to me – they are good people and they deserve a little luxury.  The same goes for myself.  And I wouldn’t spend it if I really couldn’t afford it, so why should I feel bad about it?  The only thing I hate is to be spending like this around people who honestly can’t afford it, because the last thing I am is a snob.  After all, this ability to buy something nice is fairly new to me – I wasn’t always like this, and I’ll never forget that there was a time (and there might be a time again soon – who knows?) when I couldn’t afford it myself.  I know what it’s like to have to really budget, and I truly hope that nobody close to me thinks that I’m buying things just for the name.  Shopping is about achieving the person I always aimed to be, about externally realising the man I am inside.  I hope that nobody close to me ever thinks that I don’t appreciate what I have, or that I take for granted my current finances.  Because I do, and I don’t (respectively).  And as for what the rest of the world thinks, I couldn’t give a fuck.

I have found my own sense of style, and a look in which I feel comfortable.  Unfortunately, that look is expensive 😛 (What do you expect? I have Italian blood 😉 ) Sometimes I have to ask Toby / Hannah / Nick / Davina / Deena / Karina to drag or steer me away from certain shops, because I know that I shouldn’t spend the money – it’s not necessary.  But from time to time, I give in to the devil on my right shoulder and buy myself something nice because I want it, I need it, I earned it.  Maybe I’m a little bit devilish, maybe I’m a shopaholic.  But if so, that’s who I am and on the whole, I like it 😉

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what christmas means to me.

December 20, 2009

I remember when I was little I would count down the days to Christmas Day so eagerly.  About the 22nd December, I would be so excited I couldn’t sleep.  And then on the day itself, I’d be up ridiculously early, eager to open my presents and be spoiled for the day before we would go to my nan’s for a big Christmas lunch, relax in front of the television watching one film or another while my mum and my nan chatted, my grandfather slept and my dad made a nuisance of himself in one way or another.  Eventually we would go home to wait for the inevitable boredom that was Boxing Day. But overall, it’d be a lovely day and hold the type of memories I’ll always cherish.

I guess it’s called growing up, but I don’t feel at all the same now.  Part of it is that those memories are irreplaceable – my grandfather is now dead, my grandmother is in Australia this year, and the year before last spent the day in hospital with my granddad, and my father is the one who cooks now (nowhere near as well, though it’s ok) and we eat here at home.  There’s no eagerness to open my presents, and since my parents don’t seem bothered by what I get them, they wait until 11am or something ridiculous like that just so that I can see their faces and suss out whether they really like their gifts.  In other words, the childhood traditions of Christmas are completely broken and gone; we do things differently now, and sometimes I wonder if I was the only one who ever enjoyed Christmas.

Nowadays, I dread the day itself.  There’s nothing to watch on TV, there’s nowhere to go that isn’t parent-sponsored (my friends are all busy with their families, obviously; there aren’t any buses and as I don’t yet have a car – something which I’m looking to change in the very near future – I am essentially home-bound), the sanity of my nan’s conversation and the scrumptiousness of her cooking is poorly imitated by my father.  And I feel bad for saying that, because it’s not that his cooking is bad; it’s not. It’s perfectly edible, but it’s not the same.  I have a lot of my own issues with food, eating food and generally feeling guilty for it. (Another down side to Christmas – every cigarette I have is under surveillance, so I am currently eating more and smoking less.  Not good for my figure, nor my state of mind!) But nevertheless I am always eager to taste my nan’s cooking – it is that good (I like to call it the Italian influence) that even though I exercise restraint in size of portions, I eat more than I otherwise would.  Her food has a certain feeling of safety to it that is comforting and yet vibrant and actively tangible; my father’s food just feels fake and bland in comparison.  That’s just Christmas Day – this year I plan to be talking to Mike (who is a real Scrooge!  I’m certainly not as bad as he is – he actively hates it) and complaining in unison, and quite possibly working on my essay.  Hell, there’s nothing else to do.

Nowadays, my favourite part of Christmas is buying everyone’s presents.  I couldn’t really care less what people get me, as I appreciate anyone thinking about me enough to get me a present, and I don’t tell people what to get me as everything I actively want is invariably too expensive, and I wouldn’t be happy with people (not even my parents) spending that much money on me.  I prefer to buy jewellery and expensive items with my own money, because then it’s my own decision and I’m not bound to being grateful to anyone.  The thing I enjoy about buying people’s presents is the rush and buzz in the shops, the feeling that Christmas is here (maybe it’s left over from my days working in retail – which I am still so glad are over) and most of all, choosing the right gift for somebody so that it will genuinely make them happy and let them know I have not only put thought into what I’ve chosen for them, but that I value them as a friend.  This year I have spent a bit more money than usual and than I intended, but since I have my bursary from university, I can afford it 😉 Hell, if I can afford my Gucci earrings and bracelet (which FINALLY came on Wednesday after a 3-month wait!), I can afford splashing out an extra few £ for my friends.  I take pleasure and pride in that, and I believe that as much as I deserve to be treated, so do they.  We all should allow ourselves to feel good, and allow our friends to shine a little sunshine our way every now and then.

But the meaning of Christmas has changed.  This year at university has been something I’ve enjoyed so much, I plan to go into the library over the holiday just to see Mike and do some work – it fills the time! I can barely stand to be at home anymore unless I have the house to myself, because I feel like I’m in a cage that isn’t allowed to co-exist comfortably in the same room as my parents.  I go to Starbucks most days when I have free time just to work on my essay – it has the double bonus of allowing me to escape the house & have some cigarettes, and I actually seem to get a fair amount of work done there.  (The unfortunate drawback is that I consume a beverage that contains calories – though I always go for skinny, so I guess it’s not too bad.) I like being around people, I like being close to my friends, and the fact that I have this essay to work on means that I have something to focus my energy on.  I don’t know if it’s that my attention span is getting shorter as I grow older, but I cannot stand to simply sit in front of the television and vacate my brain.  I need my laptop near me at the same time as I am watching anything just so that I can talk to friends and surf the internet – my nan jokes that I am constantly multitasking, but it is true!  I don’t know if it’s that I don’t know how to relax, but most of the time I don’t really feel the need to relax, because I’d rather be on the go.  And I guess that that’s at the heart of the problem – at Christmas, there’s just not enough to do that keeps me entertained!  I don’t dislike Christmas, but as I’ve gotten older I’ve realised that the soft-focus memories of my childhood aren’t enough to hold my attention anymore, even if they were still able to be replicated (which they’re beyond not).  I don’t need gifts anymore, and I don’t need to watch a silly film on the TV while eating x, y and z.  That’s not me. Fundamentally, what I want from Christmas more than anything is to spend time with my friends, get out of the house and go somewhere and talk, be silly and have fun.

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teddy bear.

August 6, 2009

Something that I think surprises people who are getting to know me is my fondness for cute teddy bears and stuffed animals.  My bed is covered with them: among other things, I have a Bambi head, two seals, a giant Nemo and a talking Pikachu.  I walked into a gift shop the other day and could not keep my eyes off the giant Hello Kitty.  I don’t know why I love stuffed animals so much – of course I find them cute, and they’re a nice concession to my childhood that most people think is sweet.  After all, who doesn’t like stuffed animals?  But at the same time, I am a grown man who is nearly 24 years old, and yet I still go to sleep at night cuddling a giant teddy bear named Ramón (my mother’s choice of name).  It’s beautiful and reassuring, but perhaps a little immature at this point!

Me & Ramón (aww!)

Me & Ramón (aww!)

Bizarrely enough, sharing a bed with somebody is something I enjoy a lot less.  Obviously, when I’m trying to be awake, cuddling is nice and reassuring and comforting, but when I am trying to sleep, the overwhelming body heat of somebody who keeps rubbing up to me, trying to hold me and put their arms around me (usually in awkward, uncomfortable positions) is a little irritating.  I’m not trying to say “dick me up and go home”, and I’m not trying to say that I don’t appreciate the sentiment of someone wanting to be close to me, but when it comes to sleeping, I want my own space and room to breathe.  I am a fussy sleeper and I don’t like noise, I don’t like light (though at home I can sleep with the curtains open because nothing overlooks my window, other than the moon) because otherwise I will focus on these things and be unable to stop fixating.  There have been times when I have had to take the batteries out of my clocks because the ticking would keep me awake for hours.  And you know how it is when you’re trying to sleep, and you end up concentrating on the tiniest little things which are silent by day but echo through the stillness of night.

Do I prefer teddy bears to actual humans?  Of course! (No, not really 😉 ) The point is that I love being snug and warm; even in the height of ‘summer’ (I live in England so we don’t really have much of a summer!) I cover my bed in toys and blankets and cushions.  It’s super-comfortable and I love to sleep with the feeling of weight on top of me (behave) because I feel secure and warm.  I find it weird if my body doesn’t feel covered when I’m sleeping, and I can sense if the covers are too light.  But I also believe that with the right person, I would probably feel more at ease sleeping beside somebody, sharing comfort and warmth.  Perhaps it’s sad, possibly it’s a reflection of me that up until now, my sleeping partners have gotten on my nerves once it comes to the actual sleeping part.  But when the right person comes along and it feels right, perhaps I won’t mind their body heat and their touch reassuring me through the night.  Or at least they will know to give me a bit of breathing room!  Until then, you can just dick me up and then go home.