Wednesday, 16 April 2014


I should start with a warning: whilst blogging is by definition a solipsistic activity, this is a more than usually narcissistic post. Possibly, this is immediately obvious from the inclusion of a selfie: I'm not too proud to jump on the bandwagon, even though the iPhone camera gives me a wonky nose and makes me look as if I'm reflected in the back of a spoon.

The selfie came about because I had been trying out Clarin's Five Minute Face, which I think launches properly on counter in the UK at the end of June, but the four products I've used here are already  available. I don't really hold with the five minute face as a rule - I much prefer the forty-five minute face, using twenty four products and about seven brushes. I'm not sure it makes me look any better, but being a disciple of Joan Collins in all things, I do like to trowel it on. However, Harper's Bazaar's esteemed Beauty Director At Large Newby Hands says that over forty, less make up rather than more makes for a more ageless look, so here I am with as naked a skin as you will ever see me.

The Clarins Five Minute Face involves a BB Cream, a cream blush (shade 01), a black mascara and a lip gloss (Instant Light, Natural Lip Perfector in shade 01- is this a lip gloss? The blurb says 'lip gel' - it's somewhere between a mildly coloured lip balm and a lip gloss - nice to wear, at any rate). It took much less than five minutes. I managed it for a whole day before going back to the kind of natural look that requires hours. However, if you're the kind of person who likes to simply gild the lily before rushing out of the house, the products are most excellent, and the point of the range is to add a light dusting of cosmetic perfection on the Clarin's skin-care promise: 'you, only better'.

I digress. The other reason for posting the selfie was to show the results of December's Fraxel Dual, four months on. Fraxel's main purpose is to remove sun damage, which tends to give one the uneven, tired complexion associated with middle age, but it also stimulates the production of collagen and elastin, responsible for the texture and plumpness of one's skin, and which diminishes after a certain age, leading inevitably as shadows pass across sundials, to the old sagging and wrinkling.

Whilst Fraxel's effect on sun-damage is fairly immediate, the effect on collagen production beneath the skin takes about three months to show, so here I am after four.

 I know interventions from a cosmetic doctor are not for everyone, but frankly it's done me the power of good: it's not about chasing the chimera of eternal youth, it's my version of 'you, only better'.

I asked Dr Luca Russo (who Fraxeled me) for his five anti-ageing secrets - the things that really will make a difference at every age. Here's what he told me, and none of them require lasers or needles.

1. Cleansing: remove any excess sebum/make-up.
Serums and so on work much better on super-clean skin, and it contributes enormously to a fresher, brighter look. Bazaar's Newby Hands backs this up - she is a huge fan of Clarisonic. I use a cleansing oil, but then I'm a bit sloppy.

2. Use a Vitamin C serum morning and evening.
Vitamin C is the most powerful of all the anti-oxidants: I have had a very good experience of Prevage, which is Vitamin C based, and have read promising things about Skinceuticals CE Ferulic Serum

3. Use a daily SPF 30 as soon as you wake up.
I assume this means as soon as you've cleansed your face and slapped on the Vitamin C serum, but the principle of getting a sunblock on as soon as you can is important. As Dr Russo is wont to say, 80% of skin ageing is preventable because it's caused by exposure to the sun. Sun is the enemy of the face: Joan Collins always swears by a large hat (I've seen her close up, she's eighty and marvellous), and my grandmother, who was born before the first world war and thought suntans very infra-dig, always told me to stay out of the sun. However, those pesky UVA's are everywhere, trying to make you get wrinkles, so put on the factor 30. I use Clinique's Even Better Dark Spot Defence SPF45.

4. Exfoliate every night.
[damn, I knew there was something I was neglecting. I'll start exfoliating and come back to you]

5. Use a retinol-based cream twice-weekly.
Retinol is a proven anti-ager - the best creams are prescription only, but I have heard good things of La Roche-Posay's Redermic and of Skinceuticals Retinol 1.0.

A commenter a few months ago asked if Fraxel was suitable for rosacea - I asked Dr  Russo for his advice: he told me IPL was still the gold standard for rosacea, rather than Fraxel. I was also asked for recommendations on serums - of the department store brands products Estee Lauder's Advanced Night Repair has a well-deserved reputation or follow Dr Russo's recommendations and look for a product that's high in Vitamin C. At the moment I'm using Dr Sebagh's Rose de Vie serum, a soothing, super-moisturising, non-greasy anti-oxidant oil, designed for grown-up skin. 

Monday, 7 April 2014


I'm delighted to announce the launch of a new literary salon, with its first public event on 15th May. 
Behind every great writer is a library full of beloved books - from childhood favourites to grown-up classics. The Books That Built Me will explore the novels that have most influenced and inspired an author’s life and work.

Supported by Harper’s Bazaar, the first Books That Built Me salon is with author, broadcaster and academic, Sarah Churchwell.  Sarah and I will discuss her life in books, and the journey that led her to write the critically acclaimed Careless People: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby.

Careless People tells the true story behind F. Scott Fitzgerald's masterpiece, carefully reconstructing the crucial months during which Scott and Zelda Fitzgerald returned to New York in the autumn of 1922 - parties, jazz clubs and speakeasies, high society and organized crime, and the celebrity culture that surrounded the Fitzgeralds. As Sarah says, ‘Gatsby exemplifies everything that shaped my career: understanding why we love the books that we love, and sharing not only the love, but the explanation, with others.’

The Books That Built Me is on 15th May 2014, 6.30pm until 8.30pm, at The Club at The Café Royal. Tickets are priced at £12 and include a signed copy of Careless People and a pre-talk cocktail reception or £22 which includes a 12 month subscription to Harper's Bazaar in addition to a copy of  Careless People (not to forget the pre-talk cocktail...the spirit of Fitzgerald runs strong in me...). The Club at the Cafe Royal is super-chic, and has long been a bolthole for authors of books that built me, of which more in a later post.
 For tickets, please click here.  Capacity is limited so do reserve your spot early.
“Part memoir, part painstaking historical research, Careless People brings to vivid life prohibition era New York and will make you rethink almost everything you thought you knew about F.Scott Fitzgerald and his most famous work.”
Harper’s Bazaar.


Thursday, 3 April 2014


Yes, yes, the usual apologies apply - after a decent start to the year, I've reverted to my old ways, and have failed to post anything of note. Work has eaten my soul, and the tiny amount of discretionary time I have, I've devoted to the pursuit of narcissism, dressed up as health, and thrown myself hell for leather into the ETC programme at a gratifyingly upscale gym, Equinox.

Although I think my enthusiasm may have resulted in something rather unfortunate happening with my left knee (hoping this is simply rampant hypochondria), the programme overall has been completely transforming - in fourteen hours of exercise, I've dropped an entire dress size, and have proper arm muscles. Rome not built in a day and all that, but it's interesting to see what can be achieved just with three hours of exercise a week. Anyway, I'm still writing it all up for Harper's Bazaar - you can read part three here and then part four, in which I'm rather dreading the end of the programme

Saturday, 15 March 2014


Week two of the Equinox Training Camp is over, four weeks to go. I'm almost certainly stronger and fitter, but Rome wasn't built in a day. You can't undo seven years of inactivity in a fortnight, though I do hope I can make up for lost time during the six intense weeks of ETC.  Here is part two of the piece I'm writing about the exercise odyssey with my very fit colleague for Harper's Bazaar.

Friday, 28 February 2014


I have a great admiration for people who enjoy a good excel spreadsheet and get pleasure out of serious exercise, possibly because I am hopeless at both those things. My attempts at excel  look like the Tiniest T's attempts at knitting, and have to be unpicked and reworked by someone more competent, and my idea of exercise is walking a little faster than usual to the tube whilst listening to another installment of The Forsyte Saga (still going, it's a jolly long book).

So I'm not at all sure how I've managed to get myself signed up for six weeks of a thrice-weekly state-of-the-art 'training camp' at uber-luxe gym, Equinox, on High Street Ken. It must have seemed like a jolly good idea at the time and now my main objective is surviving the experience. 

It is something of an experiment: I'm curious to find out if exercise is as addictive as they say. I'm also interested to discover what might be accomplished in just six weeks - the programme has apparently worked marvels for many a high-profile US celeb, although I suspect they're probably in better shape than me to start with. It's certainly not for the faint-hearted. What it is, is highly-scientific: it's all metabolic cardio whatsit, designed for super-demanding Manhattanites and professional athletes. Fitness was never this sophisticated in the days of step-aerobics and I will confess to being a bit daunted by the prospect - everyone else in the class seemed awfully fit and lissome - I felt like a rescue donkey that's accidentally wandered into the Epsom Derby.

Fortunately, ETC requires determination rather than self-motivation: all you need to do is show up at 6.45 am, Monday, Wednesday & Friday, and do exactly what you're told. Or a version of what you're told, since there's no way on earth I can do two minutes of press-ups. Or even one press-up. At least not yet. I am planning to win the 'most improved' prize, or failing that, the prize for pluck.

Anyway, my lovely friend Henry and I are keeping an online diary to track our progress at this is our first piece:

Visit; 0207 666 6000 99; Kensington High Street, London, W8 5SA

Tuesday, 25 February 2014


'The Gods are angry.' yelled the TT into the tearing wind as we walked as fast as we could towards the stones, coat collars turned up against the hail, shuddering with cold, the day suddenly as dark and icy as it had been bright and warm not ten minutes earlier. 
All Trefusis Minor said was that it was bloody freezing, and he felt we'd seen enough bloody stones. I didn't reprove him for saying 'bloody'; the hail was pelting too fiercely at my face to want to open my mouth to speak, which is possibly why he said it twice, and anyway,the rest of my energy was focused on keeping the TT from being blown off her whippetty legs by the force of the storm sweeping across Salisbury Plain, up and over the stones.   

Neither of the children had had any enthusiasm for a trip to Stonehenge, and visiting in foul weather had killed what tiny shred of goodwill remained toward the place. It was my idea to go and the weather was unfortunate. Knowing how I love the place, they tried to kindle in themselves a spark of interest, only to have it extinguished by the drenching we received in the short distance from the Land Rover to the stone circle and back again. 

Stonehenge rouses a dormant Pagan sensibility in me; I can feel a touch of the old magic crackle out from the bluestones, feel the smoothness of the Sarcen stones, cool as snakeskin, without even touching them. It's an ancient place and I'm fanciful enough to feel greatly awed by it, to find it easily as sacred as Salisbury Cathedral, directly south of the stones themselves. It is much nicer on a rare fine day, but you do feel its power when it's brought a tempest down on your head.

Possibly, I said as we got out of the rain, the Gods were angry and sent the storm because Grandad called the new visitor's centre 'an abomination'. If I were an ancient God whom no one but a handful of Druids bothered to worship anymore, I think I'd be rather pleased with a development that cost £27million - I'd think it a fitting tribute to my majesty. But my father remembers the times he used to bring us here when my sister and I were even younger than the Infant Trefusii - when one could leave one's car at the side of the road and clamber all over the stones, lie on one's back in the centre of the circle, staring at the clouds moving in the sky, lean against the towering Sarsens and wonder at leisure on the impossibility of how they arrived there. Now, it's roped off, you have to admire from a distance, try to get close to the belief of the people who made it by means of an exhibition, rather than touching and imagining and letting your unconscious collide with more than four thousand years of mystery.

Anyway, I can wax all lyrical about having been able to play in and on the stones as a child, but I'm sure that in 2014, English Heritage is right to put the public back at one remove - I don't think a million people a year came here from all over the world in the 1970's, and I daresay the stones might suffer if people were still allowed to touch. I think my father is wrong about the new visitor centre and new way of approaching the henge - it's a huge improvement on what was there until recently, and the exhibition is thoughtful and interesting. 

The Chief Druid is, apparently, unhappy that there are actual skeletons on display, rather than resin replicas - part of me thinks he is right and the originals should be buried back in their mounds, but then I slightly feel like that about the mummies in the British Museum and poor Pete Marsh and the petrified remains at Pompeii. Though, let the dead bury the dead.

So, go to Stonehenge. Go on a fine day. Do not take reluctant children if you want to quietly commune with the ancient religion. I am going to book for one of the special dawn tours, make some offering to the Gods in the hope of kind weather, and sit and stare at the stones, pondering on the questions of four and a half thousand years.

Saturday, 22 February 2014


The Princess and the Gardener (by the Tiniest Trefusis, as dictated to Trefusis Minor)

There was once a lovely king and queen carring for all there kingdom .The beautiful queen sadly died for when the birth of an adorable dauther  there comes sickness and horor.20 years after the trajik accident the king full of sadness  married
Viola Marsh the duchess who for one was a beautiful  though such a mean and nasty women.
The king’s only reason to marry Viola was money. The Queen ordered the princess Georgina to rub all the plates, to polish and clean all the Royal kitchens. The Princess couldn’t help herself, she wanted to say ‘no’ but if she refused an order from her mother her father would not be proud and he would get cross. And so all the servants every night wouldn’t do their job, they would sit down at table and eat three meals a day and so Georgina would have to do all the work herself and keep rubbing and rubbing all the plates with her hands and one day when she was twenty one she didn’t even get to celebrate. One day because her hands were so red and sore of rubbing, she ran out into the garden where she met John the gardener and John the gardener said ‘It’s ok come and live in the garden with me.’ And then when the Queen found out that the princess wasn’t rubbing the plates, she ordered at once the gards to arrest them and throw then in the dungeon. But then John’s friend Tom the Shooter told Georgina and John the Guards were coming and so John and Georgina sailed away and got married in Corsica and became the King and Queen of the island. The End.