Your email back, however

Synaesthete would like to meet

Other synaesthetes describe their experiences as pleasant whilst for me it is a constant sensory overload…. pick up any cheap paperback that uses too many mixed metaphors and that is my day to day, with all attempts at clarity squandered by confusing, muddled leaps of imagery. I see fireflies when a tyre screeches, smell fried onions when I step on an upturned plug…

Online dating marked a huge step. At first I found the profile I created absolutely disgusting. Reading through it, the paragraph smelt of tar and vinegar and was full of sticky, tooth-chewing words. I had no hope of response to such a squalid, acrid thing, and imagined that anyone to whom it might in any way appeal must have some kind of perversion I did not want to share. You must understand that it was not just that I did not have high hopes, I actively dreaded who would be interested in such a thing. I gave it to my doctor to edit, and he gave me two thumbs up, but I could tell by his tweedy, neoprenaged vowels, he was just being kind.

Your email back, however, smelt like a sea breeze: that was all it took. I didn’t have to read about the interests you listed, your hobbies or your star sign. It was that sea breeze smell, cutting through the snow and mown grass, that convinced me this was a chance I had to take. I organised a meeting.

You chose a spot at Piccadilly, within sight of Eros and the Criterion. I like Piccadilly Circus; the exhaust fumes and the chatter present me with a fresh inky blue, it’s almost precisely the colour of the line on the Tube map. To me the flashing neon adverts are a barbershop quartet suffering the giggles, which pleases me, and the tourists’ interbraiding accents cause a firework display of neurological responses. The taxi drivers’ swearing is accompanied by different shades of silver, squeaky and lickable.

As I waited, the rain made a pink overture against my jacket. And your colour, when you introduced yourself? You must not be insulted, but you were blank. A soundless, tasteless, brilliant blank.

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From “Attrib. and other stories by Eley Williams”, a book I’m rushing to buy after hearing this extract read aloud on the Backlisted podcast.

Perfume: go, go

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I was pretty sceptical when I heard that Somerset House was putting on a show about perfume, and even more so that it would be done in the manner of a contemporary art installation. Well that’ll show me – it was actually great fun, very well thought out, would be perfect to do either on a date or with friends, and is actually both non-intimidating and witty, a real achievement for a craft that is second only to wine-making for jargon, history and insiders’ snobbism.

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As the notes to the show said, self-taught perfumiers are now breaking the mould, getting away both from the stuffiness of some schools, and the idea of scent as a marketing product. I won’t tell you too much about the perfumes in this exhibition as the whole point of the showing is to have a guessing game / voyage of discovery of your own, but you can see from the pictures above how inventive the sets were. In other rooms you smelt white cotton scarves or brilliant liberty-style print pouches, whilst the room with “paint pots” inspired this response from some other visitors:

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I didn’t get so creative myself, but enjoyed the game of hide and seek, and the weekend I went there was also an interesting series of presentations from perfumiers at the end in the testing lab.

PS in the first room you smelt the bowling balls…it felt quite James Bond, actually.

Balenciaga

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Another exploration from my staycation this year – I loved seeing these dresses close up and the amazing skill that went into them. Such amazing shapes! And the details…

Bravo the V&A for encouraging photography and sketching.

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All photos by me from my visit.

Indulgence

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Sorry/not sorry for the shouty capitals, but if you are in or visiting London then YOU MUST GO to Coin Street, one of the backroads between Waterloo and the Southbank, and the restaurant Sticky Mango.

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I’m still having dreams about the Singapore-style crab with creamy tomato sauce, the pin-sharp taste of the oysters, and of course the eponymous sticky mango dessert, made up to look like a fried egg. All photos from Sticky Mango’s website and Twitter feed.

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Fierceness

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This belongs with Leonie and the green dress, and possibly also this for added wickedness.

Miu Miu are actually doing a ballet pump version with studded black leather straps, and chiffon ties that go up the leg, but I can’t find a picture of that, so you’re just going to have to imagine it in all its lusciousness.

Immaculate

 

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Not a stitch wrong on this stunning Worth dress from the 1930s, but goodness, you couldn’t wear a stitch underneath either, and heaven help you if you didn’t have exactly the perfect figure. Best admired from afar as a piece of impeccable design – I imagine an impulsive try-on in front of the mirror could reduce most women to deep despair, except for Mademoiselle M, whose debut in a Palermo dress shop’s finest fishtail dress and lace was worth a Vogue shoot.

Image from Pinterest.

Theatre time

 

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Winter is always the time I want to see most plays, and to me this picture just couldn’t be from any other time of year, despite the low backs of the dresses. Theatre is also definitely for seeing with friends and discussing at the interval, unlike other art forms.

I find the way these two women are shown intriguing too – there’s no suggestion that they’re pining for lost husbands in the trenches, or waiting to be viewed (unlike in Renoir’s theatre paintings), or otherwise doing anything besides expecting a good time.

At the theatre, by Prudence Heward, 1928. Image and more discussion here.

Painting with light

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An evocative title for a documentary I’d like to watch about the life and work of Louise Dahl-Wolfe.

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You can see from these black and white photos how apt the title is.

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I already knew of Dahl-Wolfe, who famously discovered Lauren Bacall, and also took the photos of Diana Vreeland in the New Mexico desert dressed in a matador’s hat, with a rose behind one ear

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but I didn’t realise how versatile her photos were, and how well they captured the independence and glamour of the 1940s heroine.

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This surrealist one is like Erwin Blunenfeld’s covers for Vogue – I wonder who inspired who?

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Most of all I love the confidence and power of these.

Images from top to bottom: Pinterest / New York Times / pleasurephoto.wordpress.com / alchetron.com / Pinterest / staleywise.com / whatgoesaroundnyc.com / legacy.dianavreeland.com / lonewolfmag.com / whatgoesaroundnyc.com / ndmagazine.net / harpersbazaar.com