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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Daring to dice with expiry dates: Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm, versus some old soap or other

Readers who made it to the end of my recent spate of band tour posts will have noticed that towards the end of the trip - to use Tara's excellent word - I went a bit 'feral', neglecting my usual standards of personal grooming, not that these were particularly high in the first place. This slatternly behaviour felt like a small act of rebellion, and now that I am home, I find the mentality to challenge convention and generally 'kick against the pricks', however they may manifest themselves, is still with me. I am especially exercised at the moment by (to my mind) spurious expiry dates. For example, ex-Mr Bonkers gave me some dried pasta the other night that was six months out of date. My reading on the Interwebs suggests that in the absence of obvious weevils, it will be just fine for at least another 6 months or so, possibly more. And only this morning I had some porridge (best before October 2014), sweetened by honey that I should allegedly have tossed in April 2013. In the light of such high risk behaviour, it will be interesting to see if I make it to the end of this post.

And in a parallel exercise, I have also been testing some out-of-date toiletries, to see how injurious and/or efficacious they are, long after they notionally expired. For the increasing complexity of modern skincare regimes, with specific products for this or that step - preferably several indeed, so you can toggle between products offering different active ingredients / benefits - inevitably leads to a greater stock of bottles and tubes etc in the bathroom, many of which have a life expectancy of just 12 months - expressed as a PAO (Period After Opening) date. Cue Wikipedia:

"In the European Union, cosmetics products with a shelf life of at least 30 months are not required to carry a 'best used before end of...' date. Instead, there has to be 'an indication of the period of time after opening for which the product can be used without harm to the consumer'."

Source: Pinterest

So from the off, it becomes a bit of a race against time to use the blinking things up before they 'turn' in some way. Which is more or less difficult, depending on whether you are meant to use a pea-sized blob or a generous palmful per application. I simply don't have enough eyes to get through an eye cream in its allotted lifespan.

But that all said, I am not completely reckless about my health, and am prepared to believe that sun creams lose their efficacy over time, for example, such that it would be foolish to slather old lotion on and expect the SPF factor to be anything more than a shadow of its former self. And by the same token, maybe the dizzying array of acids and peptides and retinol and hydraluron etc that are in so many hero serums and creams nowadays also degrade over time, I don't know.



But when it comes to more basic cleansing / exfoliating products, I figured that they might still be up to the job, and decided to test my rather old tube of Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème and equally senescent tub of REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm - in the same bath session, no less, how brazen is that?! As for how old these products each are, I can date the Ormonde Jayne Shower Crème quite precisely, as it was a freebie at a Basenotes event in 2009. And yes, that IS an expensive freebie, but it was a very expensive event to start with, including a seminar and lunch with Roja Dove. I wouldn't drop that kind of money to see him today, I might add, but I was 'young' and impressionable back then...So yes, the shower creme is six years old, and carries a 12 month PAO symbol. The REN exfoliating balm is from a similar era at a guess and carries a PAO of just 9 months.

So how did they perform?

Ormonde Jayne Ta'if Hydrating Bath & Shower Crème

Well, the Ta'if shower creme left my skin clean and silky smooth - the gel is a pale yellow now, but to be honest I don't remember what colour it was when I first got it. The main difference between how it used to be and how it is now is that it no longer smells of Ta'if!! Or anything. The perfume has definitely left the building. But as a substitute for soap that has a very nice hydrating effect, nothing wrong with it at all.


NB I had such a job squeezing any more gel out of this one for photographic purposes that I think I can confidently say it is more or less finished at last!

REN Guerande Salt Exfoliating Body Balm

The REN scrub - 'balm' is such a misnomer for such a vicious toiletry! - looks okay in the tub. I detect a little bit of a darker cream colour in a streak across the middle, but nothing offputting like a puddle of ooze or major 'separation' issues. When I first used it, it really stung and left my skin a bright red colour, and also had a sort of salty, sauna-ish scent to it. It was very sticky and awkward to clean off, but left my skin feeling nice and smooth like the proverbial baby's bottom. Six years on(!?!), it doesn't sting nearly as much, though is as gritty and generally gunky as it ever was. Overall, I'd say it still seems to work in terms of the exfoliating aspect, but like the Ormonde Jayne it doesn't have a scent anymore - well, other than that generic kind of wallpaper paste smell which these scrubs tend to have in their base.



So in summary, I wouldn't say that the experience of using either product is quite as pleasurable as if they were scented still, but I don't think they have lost their functional benefits, and I am assuming that they are not doing me any mischief either. I would be more wary of old sunscreen, as I say, or a product I am going to use on my face. Old shampoo is probably okay, thinking about it.

And maybe I could also do my bit to increase my throughput of toiletries by...um...just washing more...;)



Oh, and finally, here is a toiletry product that comes without any kind of best before date - soap. I don't know how old this bar is, but evidently if you let it hang about for too long, it will crack, split and turn into a pair of upturned coracles.



Source: dark-ages-boats.co.uk






Monday, 27 April 2015

Beyond Hate: By Kilian Beyond Love, Prohibited, and my Love and Tears Janus moment!

Source: Hayley Armagost on Pinterest
Hate...it's a strong word. There are very few people in the world, if any, whom I would say I have ever hated. Oh, maybe the former colleague who slammed the door in my face after I had pulled an all-nighter at the office. I'd been editing a report that was chock full of someone else's typos, for which I took the rap, even though the person in question was knocking on thirty at the time and perfectly capable of proofing his own work. So yes, I probably wouldn't rush to meet her again.

As for my reaction to the By Kilian line, every blogger who has ever posted about their perfumes has probably had a comment from yours truly bemoaning the headache-inducing 'house fug acccord' that killed this range for me. Liaisons Dangereuses - which I would liken to Poison for the Noughties - was the worst offender, but I remember having 'fug issues' during my brief encounters with Love, Beyond Love and one or two others. Interestingly, I have experienced no such problem with later releases, such as Love and Tears or Sweet Redemption, to name but two, so I can only assume it is a stylistic hallmark of the early years. By a similar token, the early Mona di Orios were all kinds of wrong on  me - I still shudder at the memory of my Nuit Noire 'necklacing' incident - but I went on to love several of the Nombres d'Or collection.

The other slightly annoying thing about this brand - apart from the price and the preposterous promo shots of a snake-draped Kilian Hennessey - is the opaque packaging. Very unhelpful for anyone attempting to sell a partial bottle at a later date. Though props to the brand for its tassles. Yet overall I have largely tuned out to By Kilian, and though I was recently in Augsburg, where the niche perfumery Naegele has a whole wall devoted to the line, I didn't make any effort to go there this time - and didn't even point it out to Val, though we passed close by. 'Friends before perfume'...? Well, before By Kilian perfume, for sure.

NO, IT ISN'T!!!!

But two things happened recently to prompt me to revisit this brand. Firstly, not so long ago, Tara was sending me some bits and bobs, and enclosed a packet of my own By Kilian samples which I vaguely remembered having given to someone. Not to Tara, as it transpired, but to Holly Cranmer at the time of her visit in August, and now she was giving them back, having presumably also had a poor hit rate with the line. So for a while the little bag of vials, with their distinctive calligraphic script, sat on my desk, awaiting transferral to long term storage / purgatory. But before I got round to doing that, a chance reference to the tuberose note in Carnal Flower during the German tour - which was greeted by a chorus of 'Oh, tuberose, that's a nice scent' - made me think to tentatively retry the (to me, still) very scary tuberose perfume in the By Kilian stable, Beyond Love, Prohibited.


Source: havenessence.com

And guess what? It wasn't scary. There was no discernable fug. No headache ensued. But rather, I fell hard for this heady, coconut-tinged, almost gourmand tuberose soliflore, which Luca Turin dubbed 'tuberose tuberose' in Perfumes The Guide, citing it as the greatest example of the note.

"Calice Becker has composed a straight-up tuberose using the best absolute from India, with touches of other notes (magnolia iris) used only to narrow the gap between the extract and the fresh flower. The result is the best tuberose soliflore on earth."

Notes: coconut accord, Egyptian jasmine absolute, tuberose concrete, tuberose absolute, green tuberose, tuberose petals accord, ambergris, tonkin musk.

Um...would you like a side of tuberose with that? ;)

Source: vroma.org

Yes, it was creamy, in an oozing patisserie kind of a way. I pictured a cream slice, but with white custard. To my mind's eye, this is a very white, yet warm and enveloping scent. Evocative of a tropical beach holiday, so arguably not the best fit for a rainswept night in Bristol, which is where I decided to give my sample its first ever public outing.

Then I remembered that Caryne had asked me to wear Love and Tears, its jasmine-foward counterpart, at a gig some time, so she could gauge whether that was the intensity of jasmine she was looking for on her own, vegan jasmine perfume quest. (Ongoing, and a bit of a tall order it seems.) So anyway, Janus-like, I decided to wear Love and Tears on the back of my neck, and Beyond Love everywhere else. I sense that there may be a piquant psychological metaphor in the near juxtaposition of these two scents, but I can't quite put my finger on it. It certainly made for some comedy moments in the pre-gig milling as I proffered both the front and nape of my neck for interested parties to sniff. Both perfumes got the thumbs up, with Beyond Love deemed more suitable for evening wear.

Mazzie and Simon

I resniffed the same fans who had attended one of the Berlin gigs wearing Chanel pour Monsieur and Aromatics Elixir respectively. This time Simon was in Clinique Chemistry - which I thought was a wind up, but it turns out to be its real name! - while Mazzie was in a peppery poppy perfume from the Body Shop, which smelt delightful on her. Caryne herself was wearing a sample of a patchouli scent from L'Erbolario, purchased at the same time as my bottle of Méharées.

The next day, on a whim, I morphed into a reverse Janus, wearing Beyond Love on the back of my neck and Love and Tears everywhere else. ;) Oh, after further reading on the Interwebs I have just realised that these two are part a collection of love themed perfumes, which comprises: Prelude to Love, Invitation, Love, Don't be shy, Beyond Love, Prohibited, and Love and Tears, Surrender. Me being me, I appear to have skipped the preamble and jumped into this series just as it gets interesting...;)

So yes, beyond hate lay a surprise love for this tuberose beauty. I don't anticipate that there will be a 'beyond Beyond Love' phase, but I will soon have finished my sample at this rate, so - given the prices and general hoo-hah surrounding this brand - there will imminently be a 'Beyond Wearing' phase.  And possibly a few tears about that...

Source: fragrantica

Bonus tassle pic specially for Tara!


Thursday, 23 April 2015

Spargel Everywhere: The Monochrome Set Germany Tour 2015: Part 5 - Hannover & the journey home

Outside Faust, Hannover
AUGSBURG TO HANNOVER

I didn't see Val the next day, as we were due to leave at 9am, however, we had an animated exchange of messages via Facebook as I was getting dressed and packed. At one point I thought to send her a picture of my hotel room in complete disarray, by way of apology that I was not able to chat as much as I would like. Val took one look at the scene of devastation and said: 'I will leave you alone.' 

I should mention that by this stage in the tour, my normal standards of personal grooming had long since gone out the window. I hadn't ironed a single garment all week - not that I had an iron with me, but I could have made some kind of half-arsed attempt to borrow one from the hotels - and as a result, all my clothes were irredeemably crumpled aka 'zerknittert'.



I must say I was banking on the darkness of the venues obfuscating the worst of the creases, but the daytime just couldn't be helped. Then already by Frankfurt I had managed to sleep all night in my contact lenses. I was also washing less than my usual two showers a day - partly through lack of opportunity, partly exhaustion-induced apathy - and as a consequence the back of my left hand was a veritable palimpsest of inky venue stamps or 'Stempel'. Moreover, as the photo below shows, I was barely touching my travel-sized bottle of toner. It was simply an exfoliating step too far in my bleary-eyed morning - or evening - state!

Toner on the left, cleanser on the right...

And although I had brought actual shampoo with me, several times I went ahead and chanced those strange, multifunctional, 'one gel fits all' Hair & Body Shampoo dispensers affixed to shower walls. How bad could they be? Oh, and it is ironic that I was so worried on the first day about not having my usual hair 'product' on the trip, when by the last day or two I was leaving my hair to dry on its own rather than blow drying it. Which just a week previously would have felt like leaving the house with no clothes on. So yes, my personal care regime was fatefully on the slide, but I could at least construe this slatternly behaviour as 'rock 'n' roll'.

I don't remember very much about the drive up to Hannover, except that I had a very large piece of chicken at a service station somewhere near Fulda. Though I may even be wrong about that. And as this might have been our last visit to a service station, we all pooled our toilet vouchers and chucked them at Alaska - it costs 70c to use the facilities, of which 50c is redeemable against purchases in the shop or restaurant. He should have been able to buy himself a Wunderbar at the very least! ;)

Oh look - here's one that got away!

HANNOVER

On this, the last night, there was no time to go to our respective accommodation - a mix of unspecified 'band flat' and an airport hotel - so we went to the venue and stayed put till the end of the night. This also meant that the notion of being on the guest list rather went by the board, for I wandered unchallenged into the auditorium through a side door. Indeed I realised by the time of the gig in Schorndorf that that old chestnut - 'ich bin mit der Band' (shameless Denglisch for 'I am with the band'!) - would probably have worked just as well at gaining me admittance. I guess you can't very well spend 10 days and several thousand km wodged in a van next to them and not consider that as being 'with'.



Of note at the Hannover venue were the pert-looking 'arrival snacks' in the green room, whose vintage furniture was also reminiscent of the funky cafe in Freiburg. Yes, from the mozzarella and tomato balls on sticks to the sheaves of pretzels in jars, everything seemed to be erect and standing to attention. Yet again, I have signally failed to capture these in a photograph, but here is one of John chilling out in the adjacent 'sitting room'.



My missions that day were to take pictures of the band posing with Alaska and the van - for the former to use on his Facebook page - and to find the drummer a taxi to take him to the hotel he had hastily booked before the gig, with the help of his girlfriend back in England. For he had been around the block enough for the words 'band flat' to strike an ominous note in his mind, and with the benefit of hindsight, his instinct was completely vindicated. Our accommodation was billed as having four bedrooms: one each for Alaska, John, Caryne & Dave and me (being the 'elders' in the band, Bid and Andy were booked into the airport hotel). However, when we finally climbed up the five flights of stairs to the flat, it was quickly apparent that there were in fact four beds, not four bedrooms. Alaska very chivalrously offered to sleep on the couch and give me a bedroom with two double beds in it all to myself. This didn't feel right to me at all, though, a) because Alaska had just driven 600 odd km and worked all night mixing the sound and b) because it was a waste of a bed in the same room.

A very tired Alaska

I initially offered to take the couch myself, though it was in a bit of a thoroughfare, plus there was some talk of a couple of our party staying up late drinking in the very living room where I would be trying to sleep. So when Caryne & Dave kindly offered me the spare bed in their room, I jumped at the chance. After a week on the road together, the time had passed to stand on ceremony or insist on the usual levels of personal space. I actually slept better that night than I had for ages, make of that what you will!

Of particular note in the flat was the idiosyncratic toilet, which had pride of place in the middle of the narrow bathroom. The shower toggled viciously between scalding and freezing cold, but that would be my only complaint, and the whole stay felt like a huge adventure! Alaska surpassed himself by calling out: 'Bathroom's free if anyone wants to know!' at the very moment when I was lying in bed, wondering just that, and he also left cups of perfectly brewed tea outside our door. Not for nothing did we dub him the '5th, 6th and 7th emergency services'...



THE JOURNEY HOME

After a flurry of emotional goodbyes to Alaska at Hannover station, we got on the first of three trains home - or four in my case, if you include the last leg up to Stafford. Bid and I went to fetch drinks for everyone from Starbucks. He had taken to writing people's names on the lids to avoid confusion about whose particular style of coffee - or tea - was whose. I decided to keep mine, amused at the wholly accidental juxtaposition of 'Vanessa' and 'hot contents'.



I am lucky he spelt Vanessa correctly too, mindful of Cheryl Krueger's longstanding battle with a seemingly Protean set of bastardisations of her first name.

Photo stolen from Cheryl's Facebook page

Now I wasn't present at the time, but I heard that the band cookie bucket was finally jettisoned at Cologne Hauptbahnhof. Not in a careless way, mind - oh no. They set it on a podium in the main concourse for maximum ambient promotional value.

We had a quick bite to eat at Brussels station - anyone who has taken the Eurostar there will know exactly what I mean by the 'quiche cafe'. (Also memorable for its giant replica of a zebra.) I ate my slice of chicken, coconut and ginger quiche surreptitiously while Bid went off for a smoke, knowing that he considered anything other than Quiche Lorraine to be a complete travesty.

Source: samscafe.be

In what seemed like no time at all, we were at St Pancras, the main parting of the ways, though John and I headed off together to Euston, and stopped for a quick al fresco pint (or G & T in my own case) before it was time for me to catch my train. I would see him and the rest of the band the following Friday in Manchester, so the leaving wasn't as much of a wrench as it might otherwise been. I hopped off the train in Stafford at 10.30pm and went straight to my friend Gillie's 60th birthday party! It was the perfect way to 'come down' from the excitement of the trip, and help me reconnect with my normal life and the great bunch of friends I have in my home town. But would I go on tour again if I was invited? In a heartbeat! Though I would try to remember to cleanse AND tone next time...



Sign in the ladies' toilets at the Hannover venue
NB A number of readers have pointed out the lamentable lack of Spargel in most of these posts. To which I can only say that the punning opportunity with the new CD's title 'Spaces Everywhere' was irresistible. There again, you could argue that this is entirely consistent with the theme of the album, namely that there are spaces everywhere where Spargel ought to be. Be that as it may, I am sorry if any diehard asparagus lovers - like Andy with his foiled pig excursion - felt shortchanged, and will close this series of travelogues with a picture of that noble yet elusive vegetable.


Source: Caspian Blue via Wikimedia Commons

PS Oh, and here is a link to Alaska's company, Pop und die Welt. If anyone reading needs a driver / sound engineer for their tour, he's your man!


Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Spargel Everywhere: The Monochrome Set Germany Tour 2015: Part 4 - Schorndorf & Augsburg (including a meet up with Val the Cookie Queen and her husband!)

Backstage at Club Manufaktur
FREIBURG TO SCHORNDORF

The following day we spent a leisurely morning in Freiburg before a relatively short drive through the Black Forest up to Stuttgart. My early morning mission consisted of accompanying the singer to a local supermarket to buy kefir. I had clocked the presence of this probiotic wonder drink the night before, when I popped in to buy some (not so healthy) crisps and wine.

The venue hadn't closed till 4am that morning, so the business of breaking down and loading the gear had been deferred till noon on our day of departure, the earliest time the promoter could reasonably be expected to roll out of bed and open up the club.



This gave us a chance to hang out in another of Alaska's 'Geheimtipps' - a characterful cafe quite close to our hotel stuffed with vintage furniture, posters and a motley assortment of eclectic artefacts. There was a toboggan on the wall - but of course! And a motorbike in an archway. Every object had been carefully curated, down to the 'period' toilet roll holder, which I have conspicuously failed to photograph.


Alaska, Dave and Caryne at the cafe



After a pleasant pitstop, we foregathered outside the club at the appointed 'get out' time. I am not sure if this is the correct opposite of 'get in', but it is now. Within moments of our arrival, a series of small tasks fell to me: the first of these was retrieving the bass player's gloves, which had fallen under his seat at the back of the van. I basically 'dived' head first over the front bench seat to recover them, with Andy holding me by the ankles, like a tourist kissing the Blarney Stone. I then had to hold the gloves for a while, until he needed them as extra protection when manhandling the gig bags. Meanwhile, Bid asked me to hold his cigarette while he went to retrieve some item of gear or other. I am quite surprised no one parked their hat on my head or hooked an umbrella over my elbow. I have got this holding lark - of so many different items, indeed - off to a 't' now.



Shortly after this, I really needed the loo, but decided against using the one in the club, as there was no water in the ladies, assuming I could even have remembered which door was which.

The only foolproof way to 'sex' these toilets is to wait for someone to come out

So I popped into the restaurant where we had eaten the night before (with the imposing green door above), only to encounter yet another memorable toilet roll dispenser.

Is it just me, or is this plain greedy?

Then no description of Freiburg would be complete without mentioned the dreaded 'c' word. That's 'c' for 'cyclists', obviously. The town is positively overrun with them, much like Oxford or Cambridge or the whole of that benighted bicycle-ridden car park known as Holland. When I have visited Freiburg for work, it has always been by car, and as a motorist you are doing quite well if you only come away having mowed down half a dozen cyclists or fewer. And there is an additional hazard I have not come across anywhere else - small water channels at the side of the road, the purpose of which may be purely decorative, I don't know. If the cyclists don't get you, the 'water torture feature' (to quote ex-Mr Bonkers) most certainly will.



By half past twelve we were rolling, the weather still fine and warm. Even in that scenic area of the Black Forest, there were 'ghost interviews' lurking just off the main drag (Donaueschingen - children's shoe soles, I'm looking at you!). By the time we hit the outskirts of Stuttgart, 'the cradle of the automobile', as well as home to a myriad of engineering firms, it was like a veritable spooks' convention, a gaggle - nay, Gaggenau - of career ghosts, if you will.

I also spotted a sign to a place where I had spent several happy weekends on past business trips - a chocolate box-pretty place called Ebersbach. I told the band that this quaint little town was only down the road and that the streets were dotted with bronze pigs. The bass player got quite excited by this, and suggested a scenic detour so that the band could take whimsical photographs of themselves posing with this posse of porcine sculptures. Unfortunately, I realised about two seconds later that I had got Ebersbach mixed up with Eberbach, a completely different town near Heidelberg, that was not remotely on our way to Stuttgart. 'You raised our hopes of a fun time with the pigs and now you've gone and dashed them!' piped up the bass player from the back of the bus in a forlorn voice.

The proper Eberbach and its pigs ~ Source: e-stories.de

SCHORNDORF

Because of 'get in' time constraints, we all went straight to the venue rather than checking in at the hotel first. Alaska had promised us 'arrival snacks', which turned out to be a souped up version of what ex-Mr Bonkers calls 'the cheese and ham rider', though with a perky Easter twist.

Photo courtesy of Caryne

Club Manufaktur was pretty wacky - even by our jaded standards, and we had seen a fair few variants of 'funky / mad / dilapidated / graffiti-strewn / generally bonkers' buildings in our touring time. There were beaten up old sofas with audibly boing-ing springs, stylised signs on the doors of the toilets, and a platter of complimentary tampons in the ladies. 'I should have got here earlier', I thought ruefully.



Then I was thrilled to be able to redeem myself for the pig fiasco, when the bass player asked if I could organise some photocopies of the set list. I put in a polite request with the lady in the venue's main office, and in a trice we had 10 copies ready for the band to use, and for fans to nick at the end of the night, as is the immutable way of such things.

John, digesting the arrival snacks.
SCHORNDORF TO AUGSBURG

It was a short trip the next day over to Augsburg, preceded by a fair bit of hanging around at the hotel for Alaska-related reasons we never did quite fathom, but a mountainous backlog of emails may have been involved. Bid was complaining of a sore neck and shoulders, so I offered to apply that universal panacea for aches of all kinds - 4HEAD - to the affected areas. 'Balm me, balm me!' he pleaded in what can best be described as a strangled yet enthusiastic tone. I also caught a most agreeable whiff of the drummer's cologne, which turned out to be Activist from The Body Shop, a citrus-woody-ambery number that most definitely punches above its price range.



On the way to Augsburg, my excitement was mounting about meeting Val there, eclipsing even multiple further sightings of asparagus fields. She and her husband were driving up from Austria at the same time, and in a flurry of in-car messaging, she sent me a teaser photo of cookie buckets to come...;) She had the new album, Spaces Everywhere, playing at full blast on the stereo. At least I assume so - Val strikes me as someone who would engage with every aspect of life at full blast.

Photo courtesy of Val

AUGSBURG

Soon after checking into my hotel, I headed out to a street called Hinterer Lech that I had picked for our rendez-vous, for no other reason than that it was fairly central and blessed with a pleasingly louche name. I make no apologies for the fact that our meeting was like an urban parody of the classic scene of lovers running towards each other in slow motion through a meadow filled with flowers - I was just so darn pleased to see Val, and also took an instant like to her easy-going, warm and chatty husband, Chris.



Photos courtesy of Chris (by a process of elimination indeed!)

Val was wearing Rozy edp (like Anka - Twilight Zone-y!), and of course I had to give her a thorough olfactory going over, just moments after our ecstatic embrace.

Photo courtesy of Chris

Our first port of call was a little gift shop selling knick-knacks, gemstones, scarves, bags and a modicum of 'hippie tat'. Val was instantly drawn to a beautiful white wood cabinet, with a set of little ceramic drawers - absolutely perfect for her perfume samples - and Chris bought it for her on the spot.

Photo courtesy of Val

The shop was about to close, so the owner kindly offered to stash the parcel in a shed round the back where no one would think to go rummaging with thieving intent. I bought a little semi-precious stone - it was a toss up between a swirly one and a spotty one in shades of black and grey, but Chris observed that the spotty one looked worryingly like the diseased lung of a chronic smoker, so that settled that then.

Managed to catch Val's happy snapper hubby in the act!

Photo courtesy of Chris ~ more navigating(!), albeit less mission-critical
After a bit of a wander round town and a bite to eat in a steakhouse, we went back to our hotels to change and get ready for the gig. Val turned up outside the City Club armed with not one but TWO buckets of cookies for the band and Caryne - who got her own bucket because she was a vegan - together with a generous selection of perfumes for us both, and a travel spray of Hermes Cuir d'Ange ('Angel Leather'). She had in mind to scent the band with the latter - openly or by stealth if necessary - instantly turning them into rock gods. Given that the singer is notorious for his 'leather trouser phase' in the early 90s, he arguably didn't have all that far to go, and submitted his décolleté to a vigorous spritz or three by Val as he emerged from the dressing room in search of a drink.

The band in the 90s ~ unknown source
I asked Bid later in an email what he had made of Cuir d'Ange:

"I thought that it initially smelled of electrical malfunction, but it became ok."

Speaking of electrical malfunctions, I was asked to tap a microphone at some point in the evening. I was crestfallen, mind. not to be asked to say: 'One two, one two' with that. For the first time since Freiburg, I was also summoned on stage again to do my little announcement at the end of the set about the band staying put. This time the issue was not so much the lack of a dressing room as the distance to it. I was ready at last with the right word for dressing room - and clapping, for that matter - but I never even got to finish my sentence about the band playing on, before the already lively crowd broke into an uproar at the mention of whooping and several encores swiftly ensued. I am still puzzling over where the verb should have gone in my sentence, or what it was, even. The endless meandering of German sentence structure has that effect. Oh, I should also mention that after a bit of priming, Val stepped forward and posed with a Wunderbar chocolate bar at exactly the correct point in the song, Alphaville, where the word 'wunderbar' features in the lyrics. Someone took a blurry picture of her in action, but I can't put my hand on it for the moment.

Photo courtesy of Caryne

There was a bit of milling after the gig, chatting to Val and Chris and the band, as well as to Augsburg fans and musicians I met on the tour last year. Meanwile, the Cookie Monster snuck off and had a little go on the drum kit before it was packed away.

Photo courtesy of Val

Then at one point some bonus Prosecco appeared from nowhere and my glass of white wine simultaneously vanished. And all too soon it seemed, Val and Chris had vanished too - we had a long journey the next day, plus they are used to early nights on account of the cookie business. But brief as our meet up was, the memories will linger for far longer. The cookies, meanwhile, were all gone by Brussels.

Photo courtesy of Caryne

PS This happens to be my 500th post!!! It seems fitting that it should be one about a perfumista meet up. 'Friends before perfume' as we have now taken to saying...