Just a quick post to point you in the direction of Surrender to Chance, a perfume samples shop which I discovered recently. It stocks CB I Hate Perfume which I was keen to try and which is hard to get here so I ordered one or two things which were despatched very promptly and arrived about a week later. Black March appealed on paper as it's described as "a fresh clean scent composed of Rain Drops, Leaf Buds, Wet Twigs, Tree Sap, Bark, Mossy Earth and the faintest hint of Spring", and I'd say that's exactly what it is. I understand that Christopher Brosius (the eponymous CB) used to be the nose behind Demeter, and I have a bottle of their famous Dirt; Black March is very much along those lines but more subtle and more authentic - for lovers of rain and wet earth, like me, it's quite delectable.
Karie Westermann (designer of the Vedbaek shawl*, among many other lovely things) has just this morning launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund a most interesting-sounding project. This Thing of Paper is, in summary, "a knitting book with ten patterns and accompanying essays – all inspired by the age of Johan Gutenberg and the invention of the printing press."
This is Daughter of a Shepherd yarn. If you've not already come across the story behind it (click here, here, here, here, and for a bit more background, here) it's very much worth reading, and if you have a liking for 'real' wool, then snap up a skein or two if you can*.
It's the colour of bitter chocolate, darkest peat, or good earth, it's soft but characterful, and it smells deliciously of sheep and hay and fresh air. I like it so much I've ordered more.
If you struggle to avoid the little 'hole' which occurs between the heel and the instep when knitting socks, help is at hand. When you've turned the heel and picked up the stitches on the edge of the heel flap, patterns often tell you to pick up one extra stitch before and after working the instep part of the round, but I've never seen one explain how best to do so. I've tried various permutations of knitting through the back loop, or into the row below, and sometimes this does the trick, but it's hit-or-miss.
Paula Emons-Fuessle of The Knitting Pipeline has helpfully filmed a short tutorial showing a good method of avoiding the hole; I've just used it for my current sock (pictured above, one round after picking up the heel stitches, and below, a little further on), and found it excellent for closing the gap after you've picked up the left-hand side of the heel stitches, less good - for some reason I do not understand - on the other side, but I shall persevere.
Edited to add: if you're still having trouble, try these socks in which the holes become part of the design.
A few years ago many of us were fascinated by the BBC documentary series Perfume. It's no longer available on iPlayer, but I've just discovered it on Youtube, so for anyone who wants to see it again, or for those who couldn't watch due to geographical restrictions, you can find it there.
Following the series I read and loved The Diary of a Nose: A Year in the Life of a Parfumeur by Jean-Claude Ellena, the "philosopher-nose" who is featured in programme 2 (parts 1, 2, 3, and 4); there's an introductory post on the book here and a short extract from it here. In the documentary, M. Ellena is described as "making fragrance inspired by fantasy", and I am currently much taken with one of his "olfactory masterpieces" for Frederic Malle, L'Eau d'Hiver. Luca Turin classifies it, in Perfumes: The A-Z Guide, as "pale almonds", and begins its entry thus:
"One of the dangers of the new French school of perfumery typified by Jean-Claude Ellena is the lure of bloodless overrefinement, what I would describe as Ravel's* disease: wonderfully crafted, elegantly orchestrated pieces drenched in pale sunlight." He goes on to talk about Ellena's treatment of the fragrance's mimosa note of heliotropin and says, "the result is stunning: an elegiac, powdery, almonds-and-water accord that takes its place [...] among the fragrance Ophelias of this world."
To me it seems understated and effortlessly, seamlessly beautiful, simultaneously warm and cool, serene.
If you want an in-depth look at the chemistry and neuroscience of olfaction and the art and culture of perfume, how about this Secret of Scent course with Luca Turin and Bois de Jasmin's Victoria Frolova? Sounds wonderful.
And one more thing, The Perfume Society has a 'Fragrance Editor', an online search device which helps you find scents based on your perfume preferences. I've no idea how accurate it is, but testing it could be fun.
If you have three of four minutes to spare, listen to this lovely rendition of The Fairy Garden* from Ravel's Mother Goose Suite played (as an unorthodox encore during a Proms concert) by Jean-Yves Thibaudet and the conductor Philippe Jordan.
If you have longer, click here for the whole concert and go straight to M. Thibaudet's sparkling performance of Ravel's G major piano concerto beginning at the 20.04 mark.
*The resolution to the story of Sleeping Beauty, as you'll see here.
In his Anatomy of Dessert: With a Few Notes on Wine, Edward Bunyard - nurseryman and pomologist - describes James Grieve as "in its Midlothian home, a Christmas apple, but with us in the Home Counties a September fruit." Mine didn't get much chance of being either last year as the squirrels got most of them, but perhaps the apple's late season here explains why in September and October so many specimens were sampled by the squirrels and found wanting. Typically the blighters brazenly picked the fruit, took a bite, decided they weren't to their taste, and left them littered about the garden. Perhaps this year I should net the tree.