Monday, 30 September 2013

Si by Giorgio Armani

Code, by Giorgio Armani is one of my favourite evening scents but it is a bit too strong in my opinion for daytime use.  It also doesn't have the vanilla overtones that I love and look for in all my daytime perfumes.

Then Armani bought out Si.
Firstly, before I go into the deliciousness of the fragrance, just look at the bottle.  Simple, elegant, understated and golden.  I can't stand gimmicky perfume bottles with enormous stoppers that take up too much of my valuable toiletries space.  This little bottle is just perfect, sleek and curvy at the same time and an atomiser that delivers a decent amount of scent in each spray.
Even the box packaging is clean and graceful in a delicate blush pink.
So onto the scent.  The top notes are vanilla, patchouli, freesia and blackcurrant with blond woody undertones and it is soft and spicey and incredibly feminine.  Steve absolutely loves it on me.  It is perfect for this season as it is quite warm and delicate and would probably be too heavy for summer.  There is a sweetness to it from the vanilla but it is not overpowering or sickly.  In fact the addition of the patchouli adds an elegance to this scent. 
It has a relatively low sillage which I like as I don't feel like I am leaving the scent equivalent of a breadcrumb trail behind me and I have found it to last a good few hours.  I have also found it incredibly easy to wear - equally suited for a day in the office to a weekend spent with friends, whereas I only wear Code on a night out due to its strength.
It is quite pricey and would not replace my beloved Un Bois Vanille by Serge Lutens but as I struggle to find vanilla scents that are not too sickly sweet this is another one that will become a staple.

Have you tried it yet?  Are there any scents for Autumn/Winter that you are keen to try or recommend?

Friday, 27 September 2013


This is my final post of a small number of the attractions at Canterbury's Wise Words Festival.  I did debate rolling this one into the Wonderland post as technically they are part of the same exhibit, but the Imaginarium was so clever and had so much attention to detail that I wanted it to have its own post.

Inside the yurt in the centre of Wonderland was the Imaginarium; a series of interactive games and riddles, all inspired by Alice in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass,  mixing modern technology and video filmed in the local area with handcrafted puzzles.  It describes itself as an interactive and immersive experience and was created by the internationally acclaimed theatre company Periplum.  You moved from table to table, took a seat, put on the headphones and watched the film.  Scattered around were paper flowers and real cacti, wellington boots stuffed with plants and herbs and suitcases filled with oyster shells.
Above you were beautiful centrepieces of parasols and birdcages, each one with a card suspended in the centre.
I just want to pause here and explain a bit about the films. All were individually created for the Imaginarium and featured panning images of iconic areas of the Kentish countryside and towns with a soft voice talking over the top, reading local poetry and stories.  The idea is that the films lead you into the hidden life of nature and its creatures, as though you were experiencing life on the back of a bumblebee, where an Ipad becomes your magnifying lens, leading you into the realm of the imagination.  The images show accelerated time, flowers opening and closing, undersea visages and rain falling and had an organic, sleepy, almost dreamlike quality to them which is really hard to convey in words!
The first game was clearly inspired by the riddle 'Why is a Raven like a Writing Desk?' At the end of the first video, which showed fields of golden corn and scarecrows with squawking birds, the first puzzle required you to search under the raven for the the instructions. You then noticed that on the far side of the table was a card with a raven feather in it.  You turned the table like a Lazy Susan to bring the card close enough to reach.  Once you lifted and turned the card pierced with the raven feather you found that the instructions on the back of the card told you to reach under the table, pull out the two giant decks of cards and play snap with the person next to you for three minutes.  At the end of the three minutes whoever had won the most rounds won the game. 
You then continued around the tables, each one set up in a similar manner, with the video leading to a clue which led to an instruction which led to a game.  One required you to play chess using tiny cacti as your pieces, with the checkerboard laid out like the countryside in Through The Looking Glass.
Everything had a very natural, organic feel to it with the sound of running water playing (from inside the wellington boots), green grass on the floor and live plants everywhere.  Even the chairs picked up on the natural theme with the seats being covered with grass instead of cushions.
Another table was set up as the Mad Hatter's Tea Party, with teapots and plates decorated with red hearts balanced at crazy angles.  This table required a test of steady hands as you had to move a cable along a wire without it making contact (a game that for some reason always appears in the children's area of doctors waiting rooms), after finding the instructions written on the petal of a flower!
My favourite station was the one set up as the Walrus and the Carpenter.  I'm not sure why but this was always one of my most memorable scenes in the books as well.  The Imaginarium set this table up with a nautical feeling; vintage suitcases filled with oyster print paper, pepples and oyster shells, old spyglasses and a glowering picture of the walrus looking down over it all.  It's a little bit grim, bearing in mind what actually happens to all the oyster children in the original story, but very cleverly put together for the Imaginarium.

Any Alice In Wonderland themed game would not be complete without the opportunity for a bit of table croquet (sadly minus the flamingo mallets) and this final table was the one that got the children the most excited as they tried to bat their tiny croquet balls through hoops decorated with white roses.
The entire attraction only took about 20 minutes to work through and was obviously geared more towards small children than adults in terms of the games, but the attention to detail, videos and wit of the Imaginarium was simply beautiful.

I would even go so far to say that it had an otherworldly air about it, giving you the feeling that you had really had ventured down the rabbit hole.

Sadly the Festival is over for this year but it will be back next Autumn and if the last two years are anything to go by it keeps growing and getting bigger and better so keep your eyes peeled!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013


As part of the Wise Words Festival I took a little trip down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. 
The City Gardens had been transformed into a celebration of the iconic children's story, complete with roses, strange creatures and a tea party hosted by the March Hare who told stories, jokes and strange facts to the children whilst pouring pink tea and offering cakes.
Children and adults alike could explore and interact with characters bought to life right from the storybook.
Poems and phrases from the stories hung from the trees like strange fruits whilst the Caterpillar, Borogrove and other animals were scattered around for children to find.
Giant roses half-painted red stood tall in the garden with smaller versions available for children to paint and put on the hedges, occasionally interrupted by the Queen of Hearts whose convincing performance of 'Off With Their Heads' did make one small child sob into her tea cup.
The Cheshire Cat also made an appearance, his smile appearing high on a lamp post whilst he lay
hidden in the rose bushes nearby.
Alice herself came and talked to the children, passing off foolish ideas as facts and getting very muddled whilst the children screamed with laughter and shouted that Big Ben was not the highest mountain in the world or that 2 + 3 did not make 14563.5 and a third.
Right in the centre of the garden lay the Imaginarium, the entrance to an interactive world of games and riddles. You entered the tent in ones and two's and were seated at your first game, handed a paid of headphones and instructed to watch the screen.

But that is a story for another day...

Monday, 23 September 2013

Wise Words

The Wise Words Festival, a festival to reawaken wonder and and encourage curiosity, takes place every year throughout Canterbury.  Poets, authors, musicians, artists, actors and dreamers fill the streets of the city.  They can be found in the parks and coffee shops, museums and library, with other performances in the local theatres, giving impromptu recitals, playing word games and encouraging debate. 

I had hoped to attend on the Saturday but the rain kept me inside for most of the day, snuggled up with big cups of tea.  I made sure I headed into town on the Sunday though to catch the final day of the Festival.
The Festival takes place over 4 days with different attractions on every day.  You stroll up the high street and keep your eyes peeled for little hints and tell tale signs of the festival.  All through the city are little details to catch you eye as you move from attraction to attraction.  Outside the Library was the alternative Tourist Information Stand with adapted street signs ask you questions that you can reflect upon and chat about with the entertainers.
I had this very question asked of me.  I answered that it at this time of the year it carried the scent of excited students descending upon the city for the first time, underwritten with a strong waft of chicken manure. This prompted further discussion about how the seasons shift and change and what the tourists bring to the city in terms of smell.  I head that one lady got quite irate at the insinuation that Canterbury ever smelt anything less than wonderful (she has obviously never been anywhere near the sewage facility in Sturry in the height of summer).

The festival promises to spark your imagination and it certainly got mine going. 
The festival challenges the perception that storytelling is only for children with opportunities all over the place to hear a story told to you. You could take a river punt and drift slowly down the river whilst stories were read to you.   The pop up tourist information stand offers tours of the city that are not always what you expect, with the stories told tailored to your mood, personality or even favourite colour.  You could go and listen to stories and poetry being recited in the Yurt tent in the Franciscan Priory gardens.
Poets on apple boxes battled each other with words for votes.  Real life 'dolls' can be wound up and made to move and dance up and down the highstreet, to the delight of small children everywhere.
There is so much to see and do over the course of the 5 day festival that it would be impossible to feature it all in one place.

If I have one criticism of the festival it would be around marketing.  It was really hard to know where anything was as although I had a timetable I didn't have a map which meant I am sure I missed lots of attractions, especially ones based inside buildings.  There was also very little external marketing about it, with most of my friends completely unaware that it was on!

I am glad I found the Imaginarium, an Alice in Wonderland experience.  A world populated with tea parties and red roses whilst the Imaginarium has games and puzzles that invite you to explore the landscape around you...

When you next visit I'll take you in, through the looking glass...