The Courtesy of Cursive

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Clockwise from bottom left: Cross Aventura fountain pen in Starry Blue; botanical notepaper; Lotus India Ink for dip pens and brushes; modern postcards from France and Italy; lidded box for two rolls of stamps; vintage reading spectacles; antique postcards dated 1912; cream envelope with wax seal; vintage mother-of-pearl letter opener with gilt handle; all shown on an antique fall-front secretaire.

I’ve always hated my handwriting. Not the childlike printing that everyone seems to use these days, but the careful, flowing script we were taught in grade school. Oh, I learned how to do it, alright, but somehow I never developed a distinct style; I’ve never quite managed to put pen to paper with panache. (And don’t even mention my signature. Yuck.) This is, perhaps, why I’m such a procrastinator when it comes to tackling personal correspondence. I would much prefer to send off a quick (but always well-edited) e-mail than to handwrite a letter or thank-you note.

In Canadian schools, cursive writing is being phased out or has already been dropped from curricula. The other day, when I gave some handwritten notes to my youth archery class, I had to ask my students whether they could understand my cursive script! (Some of them could; some couldn’t.) I suppose the reasoning for the decision – if there is any, besides lack of classroom funding – is that in the Digital Age, people can communicate instantly with their thumbs (you don’t even have to learn how to type, for crying out loud) or even voice-activation, so handwriting is obsolete. Add to that the seeming abandonment of proper spelling and grammar, and you have, my friends, the downfall of civilization as we used to know it.

So perhaps, in reaction to these alarming things, I developed an interest in calligraphy and fine writing instruments. Murano glass dip wands and marbled fountain pens, silver nibs and inkpots filled with jet black India. Rosewood writing desks with secret drawers, crisp ivory parchment and red wax seals. Sepia postcards and lavender-scented billets doux, tied with a silk ribbon from a lover’s hair!

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A secretaire writing desk, with all its delicious cubbyholes, is the perfect place to store treasures such as antique books, postcards and this modern Jinhao fountain pen with rosewood barrel.

I’ve treasured a small collection of writing-related paraphernalia for many years, and I was fortunate to have been given, as a teenager, an old writing desk (shown here) to put it in. What fun it was using that desk, with all its pigeon holes and tiny drawers and two hidden compartments! It sat in a corner of my bedroom, lit by a Victorian-style lamp, its fall-front lid providing a sturdy surface to practice my calligraphy or hold the old Underwood upon which I tapped out all my school essays!

A particular interest of mine, if you haven’t already guessed, is the fountain pen. I love the great variety of styles, from filigreed antique ones to sleek, modern designs, available today. I have a couple of utilitarian examples from my youth and have recently added one or two (or three) more! (I’m waiting for the delivery of a plum-coloured Pilot right now.) Outward appearance aside, weight, proportion and balance in the hand are important factors in deciding which model to buy, as well as its ink delivery system (cartridge, piston, squeeze converter). And, of course, it’s hard to decide upon just the right ink from a dizzying selection of colours and effects: Diamine’s Shimmering Seas, Noodler’s Nightshade or Herbin’s Eclat de Saphir, anyone?

While I may never have the money to buy a 1920s Waterman sterling silver fountain pen, I do have a few items on my wish list. I’m saving up for a Platinum Plaisir fountain pen with rose gold-tone finish (I think I’ll fill it with a Diamine ink called Ancient Copper), a demilune rolling ink blotter, and a vintage cut glass inkwell.

Now, it’s time to lay down a fresh desk pad, dip my quill into that bottle of encre de Chine and put my head, and hand, to those long-neglected thank-you notes!

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This Speedball Classic B-style wooden nib holder in Gold & Black with Speedball 512 nib can be used with the India ink shown here or any fountain pen or drawing ink.

A Writer’s Life

“There is something delicious about writing the first words of a story. You never quite know where they’ll take you.” – Beatrix Potter

dsc_5172-4My love of books, of language, of the power of words, started very early. From the time I was a tiny tot, my parents read me a bedtime story every night. My favourite books back then were the charming tales by Beatrix Potter. Who could resist the likes of Mrs. Tiggywinkle and Squirrel Nutkin? To help prolong the life of these beloved volumes, my mother made covers for them from purple-flowered wallpaper left over from my room. The beautifully-illustrated little hardcover books still wear those slipcovers and occupy a special place on my bookshelves to this day.

Perhaps because my parents instilled a love of books in me from such an early age, I became adept at reading and writing. (My mom also encouraged me to sing before I could read, which I believe helped develop my ear for music.) Spelling always came easily, and I was never confounded by the rules of grammar.

“let me live, love, and say it well in good sentences” – Sylvia Plath

I took typing classes in high school. Throughout those years and in university, I wrote all my papers on a manual Underwood typewriter similar to the one pictured here. (The circa 1912 machine in the photos belonged to my husband’s grandfather, a clergyman who likely used it to compose his sermons and prayers.) Our old typewriter was already a relic when it was handed down to me; frustratingly, the e (the most frequently-used letter in the English language) always got stuck. Imagine how pleased I was later on when, with the proceeds of a stint as a community college English teacher, I was able to purchase – wonder of wonders! – an electric typewriter! This was before personal computers became a household staple, and I thought I’d died and gone to heaven.dsc_5220-3Although my language skills were pretty polished, I didn’t yet have a firm understanding of punctuation. In a university Old English course, as we studied the Venerable Bede, the Great Vowel Shift and the works of Geoffrey Chaucer, I learned a valuable lesson. My professor (we’ll call him Æthelbert) handed back a graded essay of mine. The first couple of pages were covered in red Xs; after that, there was one last acerbic note from the prof. He was thoroughly exasperated with my overuse of commas, he said, and would I, please, stop using them, before he acted on his desperate urge, to commit a rather, unfortunate, violent act. His plea was followed by about a dozen exclamation points.

I took the hint and cleaned up my grammatical act. Thanks in part to Professor Æthelbert, I went on to earn my degree in languages, literature and translation.

I’ve always found it easier to write my thoughts down rather than express them verbally, especially if I’m struggling with a decision or when I’m upset. The process of getting thoughts, feelings and frustrations down on paper is cathartic and therapeutic. And I’ll often think – hours later – of what I should have said: a biting response or a witty bit of repartee. Far too late, I know, but churning words over in my mind and writing them down helps me work through problems and see things more clearly. No one will ever read those scribblings, but I almost always feel better.

“Words can be like X-rays if you use them properly – they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.” – Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

Around 2010, I began work on a novel. It’s based on dreams I had when I was much younger, and the fantasy has been growing and morphing and causing agonizing self-doubt about my writing abilities ever since. There have been days and nights when I sit down at my laptop, forgoing food and drink, conversation and participation in real life for long stretches. Suddenly, I’ll look up to find that, whilst I’ve been lost in my dream world of words, testing phrases on my tongue and searching for le mot juste, a full eight hours have flown by. My characters have lived, loved, fought and sometimes died, and I’ve rejoiced, struggled and wept along with them. Nothing else exists for me during this time, and I’m at my happiest when I’m tapping away in this world, alone yet not alone.dsc_5211-4

That novel is far from finished. Sometimes I go great guns, writing pages and pages; other times, I feel the thing is complete rubbish. Certainly the story has strayed far from where it started, and that doesn’t sit right with me. I know I need to make major changes to its plot and structure, but for the last couple of years I’ve been stricken with a terrible case of writer’s block, an inability to see how it can be done. There are other big issues going on in my life which are undoubtedly damming the creative flow. Perhaps when I sort those out, I can get back to doing what I love most.

Angel Whiskers (Part 3)

The final installment of the story of Simone, or Simmy, Sim-sim, Simkin – whatever you want to call her. (Just don’t call her late for dinner.) If you missed the previous posts, click on Part 1 or Part 2.

10154663021600100-by-nancy-3Simmy the Travelling Cat was also a Wonder Cat. One day when I came to visit, she greeted me as usual but was clearly not herself. My mother wasn’t, either, but neither was about to tell me what was wrong. Then I noticed that the cat seemed disoriented and was bumping into things. My heart sank when I realized what my mother already knew  ̶  that Simone couldn’t see. A trip to the vet told us that Simmy had detached retinas and was completely blind. There was only a small chance of the condition reversing itself, perhaps in a matter of days or weeks. With great sadness, we brought Simmy home, resigned to the fact that our beloved cat would end her days in distress and darkness. Simmy did adapt admirably, navigating through the rooms tolerably well by whisker-feel, and, probably, sound and memory. But our lives – hers and ours – were just not the same.

But, lo! A couple of weeks later – just as the doctor had predicted – Simone was no longer colliding with chair legs or walls, and she seemed so much brighter and happier. Another veterinarian’s visit confirmed that, by some minor miracle, her retinas had spontaneously reattached, and she could see once again!10154663047545100-by-nancy-2

We enjoyed several more years with Simmy. (Gulliver, by the way, went back to my cousins when they returned from New Zealand; he was always their favourite and Simmy their least. They were delighted when my mother agreed to keep her for good.) But time and illness took its toll on the little Japanese Wonder Cat. She lived bravely with hyperthyroidism for the last years, her already petite frame growing increasingly thinner as the disease progressed. In the end, congestive heart failure, so common in old cats, was what claimed her. On that final, merciful visit to the vet, Simmy was courageous to the last. She ended in a purr, hearing how beautiful she was while accepting oh-so-gentle pit-pats on that bizarre yet beloved rear end.

That was about seven years ago. I still miss the ginger-headed little princess, sometimes expecting her to jump down to greet me when I arrive at the door, and to this day she reminds us of how she once graced our lives. Every once in a while, in my mom’s immaculately-kept home where Her Majesty reigned for so long, I still come across the occasional pure white, silky hair, or a long barbed whisker. It’s as if our lovely Sih-muh-nee, in her inscrutable wisdom, stashed them there on purpose, knowing one day we’d find these heart-wrenching yet beautiful souvenirs.by-nancy-simmy2-3

A huge thanks to my sister, Nancy Barrett of Nature’s Dance Photography, for supplying some of the photos for this series.

Angel Whiskers (Part 2)

Part Deux of L’histoire de Simone, the Van from Japan.

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Even house cats need a vacation: Simone spent an idyllic three weeks of every year playing Huntress in the great Muskoka wilderness.

Once the Japanese émigrés, Simone and Gulliver, were ensconced in my mother’s house (Do you think they speak English? Mom – bless her – asked), life took on a rather different slant for all of us. I began visiting Mom a bit more often. My mother was not fooled; she knew I had come to see the cats, a fact I cannot deny. The cat I’d grown up with was long gone. After I’d married a self-confessed cat hater (more on that later) and moved to a small apartment, I was destined to indulge my love of the beasts vicariously through other people’s pets, never my own. I’m the ultimate Cat Auntie – every cat I’ve come to know and love since then, I spoil rotten.

Although she was small, Simone was without a doubt Cat Number One in that household and asserted her royal prerogative over Gulliver accordingly. And when our entire family vacationed at our island cottage (an indoor cats’ paradise), she assimilated quite well with my sister’s older, more established cats, Mister and Missy. Perhaps because Simmy was so sure of herself and didn’t require heaps of attention, that excellent pair accepted her without a flick of a whisker, and life at the cottage hummed along quite harmoniously. They even went on safari in the woods together, sometimes led by their Humans. (Try navigating a narrow woodland path whilst three or four felines, intent on exploring the delicious scents ahead, choose the space between your feet as their primary lane of travel.) Meek and unsure Gulliver, on the other hand, (who, on his very first island visit cowered at the edge of the woods for three days, peering at us longingly with saucer eyes and a grumbling tummy from behind a pine tree) had to submit to Mister’s authoritative paw during several machismo-filled hiss- and growl-fests. Mister, a handsome tabby with a magnificently long, curling tail, made it crystal clear that this was his turf, not the young upstart’s. The two avoided each other quite judiciously after that.

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Brother and sister duo Mister and Missy look ready to rumble.

It was down at the dock, or when we took a dip in the lake, that Simone displayed another of the Van’s characteristic traits. Apparently, these cats love to swim, possibly due to their ancestors’ habit of fishing in Turkey’s Lake Van. Simmy never showed fear of the water; if anything, she enjoyed being around it. She’d hop readily into our gently-rocking moored boat. Once, we even found her underneath the wharf, exploring the rocks exposed by a low waterline. When we took the cats for walks, she was the one who jumped onto the half-submerged rocks farthest out in the lake, showing no distaste when her paws got wet. And, although we could never coax her to actually swim with us, she stayed as close as she could, looking for all the world as if she wanted to join in.

We had also read that Turkish Vans are rather more standoffish than most cats and dislike being held. Simone stayed true to her breed in that regard, to be sure, but that didn’t mean she wasn’t a sweet, loving cat. In her own way, she showed us great tenderness – but always on her terms. She refused to curl up on our laps and would tolerate being picked up for about 3.7 seconds, but absolutely adored snoozing beside me on the couch, an ever-so-convenient position for her most favouritest thing: the administration of endless “pit-pats” on her backside.

Once in a while, though, the Princess surprised us. Back at the cottage on a chilly summer evening, we caught her and my supposedly cat-hating husband nestled together by the fire. Heat-seeking missile Simmy had euphorically if temporarily suspended her “No laps” policy, while my husband was doing his best to maintain an air of complete indifference to this unlooked-for lap rug. The gig was up for both of them when we spied him sneaking out a hand to give the cat a few furtive yet clearly loving caresses. Busted!

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Not exactly a dignified position for Her Majesty, yet essential for soaking up that fireside heat!

During my mother’s move to a condo, Simone expressed bewilderment and grief at the (temporary) loss of her rightful Human when I took the cat home with me for safekeeping one night until the movers were done. She refused to eat, drink or use the litterbox, and prowled the apartment incessantly all night, crying pitifully for my mother. Naturally, I couldn’t sleep for all this caterwauling, either. I loved Simone, but I wasn’t impressed by this performance. Once settled into her new home, however, she happily ruled the roost once again, sleeping at the foot of Mom’s bed (something my mother vowed would never happen) and keeping her faithful company. Whenever I came to visit, she’d wake instantly from her afternoon snooze, hop down from the bed and trot cheerfully to the door to greet me. I wasn’t fooled, either; Simone knew perfectly well that she was in for a glorious few hours of silly talk and endless pit-pats; a task the One Who Fed Her left very happily to me.

~ To be continued ~

Angel Whiskers (Part 1)

The first chapter in the life and times of Simone, a little white cat.

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Simone: Looking a little worried that the garden voles might be bigger than she is

My mother’s cat, Simone, enjoyed a well-travelled, storied life. She was born in Osaka, Japan, where my cousin and his wife taught English as a Second Language for several years in the 1990s. My cousins are diehard cat people, and when it comes to taking pity on strays, each has a big “S” (for Sucker) emblazoned on the forehead. When the teaching gig ended and they came back to Canada, they brought five (or was it six?) rescue cats with them.

One of these wayward waifs was Gulliver, so named because he was an enormous black-and-white boy with a comical moustache and an insatiable appetite for kibble and a whole lotta lovin’. If he wanted cuddles (once he realized with great sadness that a treat wasn’t in his immediate future), he’d peer up with dinner-plate eyes, attempting to mesmerize with his goofy brand of big-boned charm. That rather unsettling green gaze was his way of telegraphing intent to embark on a full-body snuggle, there to stay forever if you let him. Prepare to be boarded was what those eyes were saying. And he did weigh about the same as a jumbo jet. If he sensed we were about to put him down, perhaps to restore circulation to our cold, dead arms, he’d go all limp and pseudo-comatose, as if to project how helpless and hopelessly lovable he was. You could practically hear him beg, I won’t be a bother. I promise I’ll be good, but please, please don’t ever let me go!

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Gulliver: “I’m not fat … just big boned”

The other Japanese import who came into our lives via the nomadic cousins was Simone. She was the polar opposite of her adopted brother: small and dainty, self-possessed and somewhat aloof. For some reason still unknown to me, my cousins (English teachers, if you recall), decided to pronounce the name SIH muh nee. Naturally, that eventually got shortened to Simmy, Sim-sim, Simkin and a couple of other variations.

Back in Japan, Simone was urged upon my hapless cousins by a well-meaning yet rather conniving store owner who’d noticed the young cat struggling to make a living in the mean Osakan streets outside his shop. According to him, the little cat, who was probably two or three years old at the time, had already borne at least one litter of kittens, which she’d once defended from a vicious dog attack. This she had done quite valiantly, claimed the shop keeper, who would have made a great spin doctor or grifter if the corner store had gone under. But what made the tough little cat truly special, he declared, was that she was a Turkish Van, a truly blessed feline indeed. Pronounced VAWN, this breed was developed in the United Kingdom from cats obtained from several cities in Turkey. They are short- to medium-haired, mainly white, with colour – usually red, brown, cream or black – restricted to the head and tail plus a few random body spots. The head colouring forms a vague M shape on the crown between the ears. The shopkeeper insisted this had been created when Allah placed his thumbs on the cat’s forehead in divine blessing  ̶  thus bestowing on that scrappy street urchin a status above all others of her species.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASimmy had another rather unique attribute: her foreshortened, deformed tail. Its origin was the subject of some speculation by vets and owners alike. It was about two-thirds normal length, and had a curious bony nobble on the end. I always thought it was the result of a terrible accident, but one doctor guessed it may have been a birth defect. Further reading revealed that Vans sometimes have shorter tails! They also share several behavioural traits which I’ll talk about later.

If you’d met these peculiar creatures and heard such a tail tale, I bet you would have done exactly what my cousins did: rescue Simmy and four or five of her gang (they found Japanese homes for the kittens), get them all fixed up by a veterinarian, and transport them at great expense to their forever home on the other side of the world. Except that “forever” didn’t exactly pan out as my cousins had intended. After a few months on their native soil, it was clear there was still no employment to be had, so off they scarpered to New Zealand, where they took jobs teaching ESL to Maori children. Because of that country’s strict animal importation laws, it wasn’t possible to bring the cats with them, so before they left, they were forced to farm them out to friends and unsuspecting family.

When I say unsuspecting, I do mean just that. My mother’s brother (and father to the cat-loving cousin in question) very helpfully “volunteered” his sister as a willing foster mother … without speaking to her first. Mom, who shares the “S” gene mentioned above, reluctantly agreed to take two of the cats, on condition that they go back to their owners once the Kiwi stint was done. And so Gulliver and Simone were dropped off at her house on my cousins’ the way to the airport. Gulliver, who was never possessed of much self-esteem or bravado, shot immediately down the basement stairs and hid behind the washing machine for three days. (He probably lost at least half a gram in the process.) Simmy, on the other hand, minced out of her carrier on delicate white paws, cool as a cucumber with petite ginger-stamped head and cropped tail held high. One patrician sniff of her new surroundings made it clear that she was Queen of the Castle now, thank you very much, and we were all henceforth her royal subjects. From that instant, Her Majesty stole our hearts completely, and never looked back.

~ To be continued ~

17 for 2017

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere are some of my hopes and goals for the coming year. (I note how most of them involve health and time … two of our most precious commodities.) Writing this list and keeping tabs on it throughout the coming months is a valuable exercise. Here’s to a happy, healthy and productive New Year!

Seventeen
Such a cliché, but this is the number of pounds I’d like to lose … and then some. 🙂 Enough of the holiday goodies and “winter weight”, already!

Sixteen
The number of novels waiting patiently for me to crack open. I’m an avid reader, but when there are crafts to be done, an online shop, blog and social media to manage, plus a job and the rest of life to attend to, something has to give. I miss my literary escape, so this year I’ll make a concerted effort to be a better bookworm.

Fifteen
Minutes a day, several times per week, to spend decluttering and tidying our home. Short, frequent sessions devoted to one room or task are easier and less overwhelming than an all-at-once cleanup.

Fourteen
The day in March, April or May when I hope to complete my intermediate archery coaching certification. I took the training clinic well over a year ago but still have book work and a practicum to do.

Thirteen
The number of additional years I wish my mother could stay on this planet, which would make her a centenarian! Yes, it’s a fanciful notion, but blessedly she’s still got all her marbles and is doing well. She’s my best friend, and I can’t imagine being without her!

Twelve
I’d like to maintain a stock of about 12 wooden items in my Etsy shop at all times. These wood necklaces and amulets are my most popular pieces but take the longest to make, so I sometimes get lazy. A production blitz every once in a while should be enough to meet this goal.

Eleven
The number of months I will continue to run my shop before I take yearly stock of its viability. (This past November, I considered packing it in but decided to give it another chance.) During this time, I may play around with the shop’s focus or work on ways to freshen it up and bring in more business.

Ten
Multiplied by a thousand = the number of steps I’d like to take every day (to help with #17). 10,000 steps equal about 9 km (5 miles). According to a UK study, the average person manages only about 3,000 daily steps. Now, where’s that dusty old pedometer?

Nine
One hike or photography ramble per month from September through May. (It’s usually too hot for me in the summer, but I might manage June.) We have so many local parks, gardens, conservation areas and trails to choose from, and I long to get back to nature (plus refresh my photo stock).

Eight
The number of strings on a mandolin, the next instrument I’d like to learn to play. I think this would be an awesome addition to my musical repertoire!

Seven
Servings of fruit and vegetables per day (on average), which, according to Canada’s Food Guide, is the recommended allowance for my age and gender. Despite the fact that I’m vegetarian, I don’t get nearly enough of the good stuff, so I’ll try to work up to that amount gradually.

Six
The minimum number of hours of sleep I’d like to get per night, every night. Sleep is an elusive commodity for me nowadays, but this is the year I really hope to kick my night owl habit.

Five
Deep breaths I need to take every time some fool driver does something rude, stupid or illegal on the road. Unsafe and inconsiderate drivers irritate me to no end, but my blood pressure just can’t take the stress anymore! Can someone come and cleanse my aura, please?!

Four
Hours per week I’d like to dedicate to my archery practice. Most of my time at the range these days is devoted to teaching, so regular weekly sessions (no matter the number of hours) would be a great start to building up my personal scores again.

Three
I’d love to have three glorious, uninterrupted weeks on the Muskoka island where my family (mom, siblings & spouses) spends summer vacation — a lifelong tradition. For the last few years, I’ve had to make the two-hour commute to my part-time job every couple of days during this period. If #1 pans out, I may just be able to swing a bit more island time this year!

Two
Continued stability of my eye health. No more relapses, please, of the chronic condition which ten years ago robbed me of most of the sight in one eye and which has entailed constant therapy ever since. Thankfully, things are stable now, but the threat (to both eyes) is always there. Another excellent reason to keep the blood pressure down. Fingers crossed!

One
Get another job that works in conjunction with my part-time coaching gig. Time to clear away some debt and start saving for a new car to replace my 16-year-old clunker.

Zero
The number of craft supplies I intend to purchase (other than those needed to maintain my shop) until I use up much of the vast stock I already have. I will allow myself to try new projects only if I already own or can recycle or create the required materials myself.

The Fragrance of Fog

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI adore fog.

Dewy droplets veiling the ghostly shapes of an urban landscape. Drowsy summer meadows waking to a rising mist. Coverlets of cloud over a slow-running river. Dark roads wrapped in a silent shroud.

I love fog’s various names – dew, wisp, brume, murk, vapour, miasma, mist, smoke – and its colours and textures – pearly grey, cotton-white, a bank of slate or a silvery shimmer. I relish the sight of a glassy lake kissed by early-morning swirls, and – although it can be rather perilous – driving in a dense fog. I love how it softens the view and blankets sound and makes me feel as if I’m the only living thing around.

It’s deeply primal, this damp, ephemeral stuff, and whenever it appears, my imagination rises with it in a shiver. Recently, I stepped out the door on a quiet December evening to find the night completely “socked in” by a thick blanket which hung like a pall for miles around. I stood for a while breathing it in, letting the chill air sting my nostrils and enter my lungs in a cool flood. Suddenly, I became aware that this fog had its own peculiar scent.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI inhaled some more, testing the mist on my tongue, trying to parse out its components, and quickly realized that not all of them were what we’d typically call smells or aromas. There was dampness, of course: the scent of rain. There was also an organic hint of earth and evergreen, probably due to the grass and pines growing nearby. And an elusive, moist sharpness that I could only describe as a cool pungency – something along the lines of peppermint. There and then, I resolved to try to capture these atmospheric elements – and the magic of that foggy night – in a perfume.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFor the past few months, I’ve been attempting to formulate a series of natural perfumes for my shop, blending essential and fragrance oils with a carrier such as fractionated coconut oil. I know what I want the perfumes to be (I’ve even got labels for the bottles ready to go), but the process isn’t as easy as one might think: top, middle and base notes must be mixed in the correct proportions so that they work together and unfold over time in a pleasing, wearable “story”. They must be strong enough to last, yet not so overpowering as to clear a room or give the wearer – or anyone else – a headache. And, in keeping with the theme of my shop, they need to invoke nature: wood, water, flowers, herbs … and, now, fog.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI already had some ideas as to what should go into this misty blend, but I’ve also researched what other people’s interpretations are. (Not to steal their ideas, natch, but just to get a general idea!) I’ve found some products which claim to invoke a London fog or the heathery mist on a Scottish moor, containing such elements as bergamot or Earl Grey tea, ylang-ylang, birch, and even ozone, leather and smoke. I do wish the internet had Smell-o-vision! So far I haven’t quite settled on my own perfect combination, but I’m getting close.

If you could describe mist or fog in a few words – what it looks, feels, tastes or smells like – what would they be?

That’s my last post for 2016. The past six months have been a blast! See you in January, when my theme will be Things that are white. Have a wonderful, safe, healthy and happy New Year!