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Scented Snapshot- Day 7. Woodsmoke.

The final instalment of my intensive seven day blog challenge. It has been a brilliant exercise for both my memory and my nose, so much so that I’m thinking up ways in which to do another one! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading them as much as I’ve enjoyed writing. 

  

Woodsmoke.

We used to live here. Can you believe it? I’m struck every time I look back at photos just how much of a dream cottage it was. 

We decided to get a little bit more peace and quiet after living right in the centre of Exeter in a rubbish flat for six years together. Recently married, we figured it was time to ‘move into the next phase’. After months of scouring the Internet, seeing dozens of properties that weren’t quite right with extortionate rent (that’s Devon for you) I finally came across the Coach House. It was a perfect late summer’s day when we went to view it and I think anyone would have fallen in love with the place there and then. 

We moved in November 2011. The cottage had a log burning stove, which was both a novelty and a neccessity, living on Dartmoor during winter months. The scent of woodsmoke was everywhere in the village, drifting from all the chimneys and cocooning our little idyll in warmth and fragrant fire. 

I can honestly say that we felt more still and peaceful during the 18 months that we lived there than we had ever felt before. It was truly magical. A nurturing, healing environment at the perfect time. Then along came a little baby girl and suddenly there weren’t enough rooms, only one car and an intermittent bus service to the nearest shop. We knew we’d have to move back to the city at some point, so we did it before we fell out of love with the cottage. The day we left I swear the house closed its eyes as we drove away. 

I’ve never felt so connected to a building before and there are times when I feel extremely nostalgic for those granite walls, with their little nooks for house sparrows and wisteria clinging in the crevices. Although our terraced house now is more suited to our current lifestyle, I often long for the soft stillness of the countryside and the warmth of a log fire. Every time I catch a drift of woodsmoke on the breeze, I’m carried straight back to our magic cottage.

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Scented Snapshot- Day 6. Ivy.


Here you will find the penultimate entry in my seven day blog challenge- to write every day about a place or a thing that is linked with a scent memory. 

  

Ivy.

It is really the wrong time of year to be photographing Hedera Helix at its most potent. English ivy flowers in September and October in the UK, so those are the months when my nose is most assaulted. I can recall the scent at any moment though, such is my hate/love for this dark and clingy creeper.

Ivy totally stinks. It smells fetid and dirty, like sheets left for days in the washing machine. It grew in abundance all over the high, red brick garden wall of my childhood home. When we first moved a big, ugly garage dominated the outdoor space, which my parents knocked down at the first opportunity, leaving behind a concrete slab perfect for riding a tricycle around on.

It must have been early autumn and I remember it had rained heavily. There were slugs and snails and fallen ivy blossom all over the concrete and I got in a right strop because I couldn’t ride my tricycle without squashing all the snails. I parked myself under the overhanging ivy and sulked. The smell under that canopy was intense and disgusting, I had never experienced anything like it. Damp, sweet, rotten, mulchy. Awful.

Even now the smells makes me feel a little angry. It’s just such an assault on the nose. As with everything scent related now though, I kind of love it because it smells so horrid.

Scented Snapshot- Day 5. Sweeties.

This series of seven daily blog posts explores the links between everyday places/things and the scent memories connected to them.

  

Sweeties.

I was a very idealistic kid. I read a lot of books, had an active imagination and often I would find myself disappointed that my internal pictures could not live up to reality. I remember having a collection of illustrated stories, in Enid Blyton style (although I can’t recall if it was actually her) about children learning lessons in morality through misguided actions.

The story I remember most was about a little girl who found a penny in the street. Instead of giving it to her mother she went to the sweet shop and bought some delicious, brightly coloured sweeties, ate every single one and had a tummy ache all night long. 

The illustration in the book depicted those tempting tooth rotters as Dolly Mixtures, a mix of tiny pastel coloured sugar paste and jelly sweets aimed at very young children. You can still (and I do) buy them now. Up until I read the story I hadn’t really had Dolly Mixtures, but suddenly I was overwhelmed with the need to sample these saccharin delights that had been so irresistible to the main character. So I took my pocket money to the corner shop and purchased a paper bag of them from the big glass jar behind the counter. I can remember quite clearly the sound of the metal scoop clanging inside the glass, and the sticky, sugary, slightly fruity aroma wafting from inside the bag as I carried them home.

I sat on the swing in the garden and ate them, enraptured by their colours and perfect miniature cuteness. They were possibly the best sweets ever at that moment in time and absolutely lived up to the dream. I remembered the moral of the tale and saved half the bag for the next day though, of course. 

They don’t smell the same anymore (or maybe that idealistic child still lingers within) but I still buy them, just for a little trip down memory lane.

Scented Snapshot- Day 4. Basil.

This is the fourth in my series of seven blog posts, each focused on a particular place or object which provokes a strong olfactory memory.

  

Basil.

Most people would associate the scent of fresh basil with the kitchen, Italian pasta dishes, a pot of fragrant green leaves growing upon a sunny windowsill. My scent associations with basil do include the obvious, but also a rather more obscure memory. 

I became fascinated by herb lore and hedgewitchery when I was a teenager, buying what books I could and experimenting with oils and candles and potions. I have never been particularly green fingered but the idea of growing my own herbs had a kind of mystical appeal. I got a little pot of basil and placed it on the windowsill in my parent’s kitchen, but refused to let anyone use it for cooking. I bestowed a lot of care on that little plant, watering it, turning it so it would grow evenly all the way round. I would take a leaf to bed with me at night and place it inside the pillowcase, having read somewhere that basil was good for headaches and relaxation. 

I don’t really know what I wanted to achieve exactly, I just felt that the vibrancy of this plant might somehow rub off on me. Even now I have a funny little suspicion that basil smells like magic.

Scented Snapshot- Day 3. Shower Gel. 

Here you will find the third instalment of my seven day challenge to photograph and write about places/objects in my everyday life that are associated with strong scent memories.

  

Shower Gel.

This is a bottle of Original Source Lavender and Tea Tree Shower Gel. The number of bottles I’ve bought probably run into triple figures and there has rarely been a time when my bathroom was not inhabited by at least one. 

The first time I smelled this was on a  september morning in 2002, waking up in my new room in halls at university for the first time. My mum had taken me to the supermarket the day before to pick up food and other essentials. My halls were newly built and still smelt of fresh paint, the bathroom of new plastic and grout. I can remember climbing into the shower, full of anticipation for the day ahead, In equal parts elated and absolutely crapping myself. 

Oddly, although my first memory of the scent of this shower gel is connected with a time of great change and anxiety, I find the smell extremely soothing. I’ve always loved lavender, it was the first essential oil I was allowed as a child, using one of those ceramic rings that fits around a lightbulb. 

Perhaps the familiarly of lavender will always take me to a safe place, no matter the situation, and that’s why I go back to it over and over again. I suppose this is a memory within a memory. 

Scented Snapshot- Day 2. Sewing box.

This is the second in my series of seven snippets of olfactory memory. An exercise in capturing the day to day places and objects that are connected with scent in some way.

  

Sewing box.

This sewing box belonged to my husband’s grandmother. It was handed down to me after she passed away a few years ago. When I opened the lid and started to explore the contents, a huge rush of memory flooded in from my childhood, sitting beside a similar sewing box at my own grandmother’s house in Portsmouth. 

My mother’s mother was a seamstress, a skill she passed down to her daughters and granddaughters. Her house was decorated in greens and browns and beige and peach and grey, with lots of fascinating nooks and crannies to explore. Her sewing boxes and tins were stuffed full of buttons and pins, needles and thread, binding and trimming and elastic and zippers and tailor’s chalk. All of it smelled old and dry. A bit dusty and woody and fibrous. It smelt like an age gone by that seemed far away and faded, yet there were the remnants nestled inside various containers. I would spend rainy afternoons rummaging around, making tiny doll dresses and mandalas out of colourful buttons. 

Now, when I need scissors or a piece of thread, all I need to do is open this sewing box and all those afternoons come back to me. The pins might have rusted but the memory is sharp and bright as brass buttons.  

Scented Snapshot- Day 1. Window

I’ve set myself a challenge. For the next seven days I will be posting a picture- a scented snapshot if you will- of something or somewhere in my everyday life that is connected with a scent memory. I’m doing this as an exercise in blogging daily, but also to increase my awareness of the way in which I’ve made connections to things/places via my sense of smell.

  

Window.

This is the window in the bathroom of the delicatessen where I work. For four years I have looked at this rooftop view whilst washing my hands with Carex Moisture Plus hand wash. I have stood here whilst recovering from an overload of stress, I have stood here whilst planning my wedding, I have stood here whilst pregnant and I have stood here contemplating a complete change of career. 

It might be a dull view, the scent of hand wash ordinary and uninspiring. But this spot on my personal geographic map has witnessed so much change and so many life altering plans. I’m soon to leave this place, but should I ever wash my hands with this particular soap elsewhere, I’ll be transported straight back to this place behind the flaking window pane, staring at slate roofs and planning my future.

A Christmas Note

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2014 has been a year packed full of minor achievements. When I look back over the things I have done and how they have impacted upon my life, I realise that almost subconsciously I have been building the foundations of something. It seems as if I’ve been moving steadily forwards, even when it’s felt like I’m going backwards.

I’ve worked harder than I ever have before, but in a very different way. In the past I’ve done very long hours in retail environments, which is totally exhausting. This year I have learned that when you are working towards something for yourself, the other demands don’t just stop because you are busy. I’ve worked at the deli 30 hours a week, done a six month writing internship, written for my own blog, for two other publications and most recently for CaFleureBon. I’ve also made and sold dozens of small felted animals and tried to be the best mum I can be to our daughter. At one point I thought my mind was going to split into too many pieces and I wouldn’t be able to put it back together again. I have had to force myself to switch off sometimes.

Please understand that I don’t mention these achievements in order to brag. I am genuinely amazed at myself that I have managed to do all these things. I’d always thought that I was rather a lazy person. It turns out that when I really want something I’m quite the opposite.

If it weren’t for all the people in the perfume community and everyone who visits Epiphany to read my ramblings, I would not be at the stage I’m at now. I feel confident enough to tell people I’m a fragrance writer, which at the beginning of the year I was still struggling to do. I’m proud of myself for the first time in a very long time and I want to continue to feel this way.

So thank you, all of you, for your support and encouragement and your faith in me. You may not know the impact you have when you read a piece I have written, but let me tell you that it makes a huge impact on me. This blog doesn’t have the enormous reader views of some, I wouldn’t be able to keep that up, but the very fact that anyone comes here at all is still such a thrill for me.

Happy Christmas everyone. Let’s see what’s possible in 2015.

Love Susie x

Late summer madness.

I haven’t written about a perfume on this blog for over a month now. That gives me a sad and uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach, something akin to guilt. I have a real sense that I owe this space more love and attention than I can currently lavish upon it.

You see, things have gotten a little complicated recently. I’m still writing regularly about perfumes, except it’s been for London magazines in collaboration with Bloom. It’s been really fun to do actually, very short scent descriptions require me to really think about the vocabulary I’m using.

It’s also meant that I’ve discovered a treasure trove of new fragrances to get excited about, which I hope to be able to write about in more detail soon. I can tell you that I’m currently head over heels for ‘The Architects Club’ from Arquiste. It’s a light and delicious vanilla soufflé with gorgeous sharp citruses. A totally heavenly concoction of my two fail safe favourite notes. I’m also rather enamoured with ‘Tardes’ from Carner. This one is oozy, sticky, dark red cherries and boozy almonds in the opening, with a surprising grassiness in the dry down that’s all sunlit and autumnal. It’s sweet, sweet, sweet but then I like that.

So why haven’t I just sat down and written about either of them? Well, my fickle nature and wanton creativity have led me slightly astray over recent weeks, that and the daily realities of earning money and being a mother. I’m halfway through an unpaid internship with a big wedding blog called Love My Dress, meaning every week I trawl through beautiful pictures of beautiful weddings and pull it all together into an article. I applied in the hope that writing in a different style might broaden my skills, and also because I love a good wedding so I’ll be sad when it’s over in December. I’ve been writing for them and writing for Bloom and I’ve also been keeping up three ten hour shifts a week at work.

The niggling voice in my head that tells me to make things had been growing louder and louder, until I couldn’t silence it anymore. If I’m not physically creating something, anything in three dimensions my mind gets itchy and frustrated, it’s always been this way. Although writing uses lots of my creative juices, the fact that when it’s published it sort of just flies off into the ether leaves me somewhat wanting. So I’ve been making things agaIn.

If you’d be interested in seeing what I’ve been up to then visit The Felted Arc on Facebook. It’s a very fledgling project and I hope to keep it up alongside everything else, as long as my brain doesn’t split one too many ways! My little creatures have been fairly popular so far, one mouse even making her way across the ocean to Boston USA!

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I’m so sorry that there haven’t been any perfume stories of late. My life seems so full of twists and turns at the moment and I don’t feel fully in control of it. It’s exciting though and I’m willing to run alongside this mad runaway train and just try to keep up. Who knows where I’ll be in another two months!

Love from Susie x

Why do I write a perfume blog?

It’s coming up to Epiphany’s first birthday and I’ve been looking back at some of my earliest posts. This one has reminded me of the goals I set for myself back then, when my daughter was still a tiny baby and my soul was just bursting with love and passion for everything. Although my plan has developed and changed slightly over the course of a year, I’m still writing and still immensely proud of what I’ve achieved so far. Reading this post again as given me a little boost so I thought I’d share it once more….

Epiphany

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For the first time in Epiphany’s little life so far, I’ve decided to keep the fragrance on the shelf and talk about the reasons why I write a blog and in particular, a perfume blog. I read a very thought provoking piece by Nafia at ‘Confessions of a Creative’ about whether bloggers are selling out for free bottles of perfume and it really got me thinking. Why do I write? Why do I write about perfume? What do I expect to get from it?

I have always tried to be as honest and thought provoking as I can be within these pages, I strive to stir memories, inspire beauty and cause emotional reactions with the words I choose. These are the things that move me and therefor it is all I have to give. This is not a blog where I pretend to be someone else. This is really me. In…

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