Sunday, 31 January 2010
Thursday, 28 January 2010
A two part post on make-up for grown-ups
'What have you done to your eyes?' Asks Mr Trefusis, staring gloomily at me as I'm on my way out to a party, 'I assume it's fashion.'
Whenever Mr Trefusis says 'fashion', it's always as if there are vast inverted commas around the word, making it sound as if it's something I've just invented to tease him.
Trefusis Minor adds his ten pence-worth: 'I like your lipstick, Mummy, but not your eyeshadow.'
And with that, my self-esteem hits the floor: why couldn't he say 'You look beautiful, Mummy, like a beautiful shiny star, twinking in the night', like he did once when he was four. Ok, so that was a peculiarly extravagant compliment, but one can usually rely on Trefusis Minor for a positive comment whatever the occasion. Not this time, apparently, though in fairness, it's sweet he's trying to be tactful. Trefusis Minor has quite firm views on makeup - I came home from work one day and got changed to go running and he ran after me to tell me that I should take my lipstick off before I went out because 'Red Lipstick is only for glamorous parties'. He's quite ahead of the game, even if I am a little concerned that he knows rather more about beauty than is usual in a boy of his age.
'It's deeply fashionable,' I say, naturally on the defensive, 'It's the last word in fashion, actually. They're Dior's new colours and I've copied the look from Harper's Bazaar. Blue is back.'
'Hmmm,' says Mr Trefusis, an eyebrow vanishing into his hairline, and goes back to playing with the cursèd Wii.
I tuck my sparkly clutch firmly under my arm, and flounce off grandly into the taxi waiting to take me to some work do or other. Yet I no longer feel quite so fashionable. I squint into the tiny mirror above the door of the cab and am slightly aghast: The bold drama of a pale cobalt eye with an equally colourful lip looked amazing when done by Aaron de Mey for Bazaar, but looks decidedly Barbara Cartland on me. I'm just wondering whether to tone it down a bit by scrubbing at my eye with an old bit of tissue - probably the same one I spat on earlier that day when removing nutella traces from the Tiniest Trefusis's face - when I arrive and forget all about it.
A few days later, it comes back to me. Mr Trefusis was right - perhaps these kinds of directional looks are like very up-to-the-minute clothes - only the very young or intensely trendy can carry them off. If you are neither, then probably one should bite the bullet and go for make-up that makes the best of what you've already got, rather than spoiling the lily with a hefty gilt impasto.
And frankly, the very best kind of makeup at all is not the edgiest runway look, it's the kind that takes years off you, like in the picture of Julianne Moore on the cover of February British Harper's Bazaar (above). She's had a little light airbrushing but I have it on good authority that in Real Life she looks utterly amazing for 49 and has eschewed the dark arts of the cosmetic dermatologist to boot.
Christian Dior once said, “I dream of saving women from nature”, and that seems to me to be the essence of beauty. I don't want to appear in front of anyone in the same dishevelled, unmade-up state that greets me in the mirror every morning, natural as that is: I want to make the best of myself, even if that's doesn't immediately scream that I'm au fait with the latest Moschino eye, or the Bottega Veneta brow. Most of all, I want to look young(er) and fabulous, not like an old has-been try-hard.
This post was going to neatly segue into a list of tips and techniques for turn back the clock make-up, but I've run out of time somewhat. However, in the very next post I promise to impart everything I've picked up whilst working with make-up artists and with some of the very best magazine beauty editors.
Friday, 22 January 2010
Many thanks to India Knight for sending me Jason's Cootie picture, and to Jason himself for kindly giving me permission to reproduce his work for this post: do visit his website and have a look for yourself at his clever and quirky prints.
Tuesday, 19 January 2010
Every morning, at about half four, The Tiniest Trefusis climbs into bed with Mr Trefusis and I. Still more than three-quarters asleep, she clambers between us, and welds herself to me, head pressed against mine, a hot arm thrown round my neck, icy feet jammed into my side. Her snuffling breath blows stertorously into my ear, keeping me awake, but I don’t mind. She’s my baby, my last child, and the more Trefusis Minor grows up from infant to boy, each passing week ushering in the wilful independence of six, rather than the boyish neediness of five, the more I cling to the fleeting babyhood of Tiny Trefusis.
So really, much against the better judgement of Mr Trefusis, I can’t quite bring myself to put her back in her own bed. We both crave the comfort of each other still, listening as the intense intimacy of mother and newborn baby echoes back at us over the intervening years. Every time she hops in it reminds me of those precious weeks after her birth, when we seemed to spend most of our time in bed together, she dozing at my breast, and me too awed by her fragile beauty to go to sleep. We’re both caught in the no man’s land of toddlerhood: she reserves the right to be simultaneously ‘a Big’ and a baby, and I can’t bear to discourage her.
However, now that she is on her way to being three, and has started Montessori, this physical proximity has its disadvantages. I waved her off on her first day, and not a week later, as I sat one afternoon at my desk, I started to feel a tell-tale prickling on my scalp, behind my ears, and near the nape of my neck. It quickly became more than a tickling irritation, and I found I could no longer suppress the urge to scratch and furtively shoved a plastic fork underneath my hair and wiggled it about, scraping about the roots as gently and subtly as I could.
Nits. The Tiniest Trefusis had given me nits.
Scratch. Scritch. Scratch. Scratch. Scritch-scritch. Scratch.
As the afternoon wore on, I could find no relief in a little light fork therapy: I locked myself in the ladies lavatory and gave into an ecstasy of scratching; scarlet fingernails whirling dervishes underneath my hair. Oh, the rapture. The elation of being able to sate the insane itching. I emerged to look at myself in the mirror. Any vestige of a once elegant coiffure excised by the beserker action of my fingers, I looked as if I’d had a particularly enthusiastic run-in with a live cable.
The relief was short-lived. As I travelled home on the bus, I had to sit on my hands to stop them going to my hair. To keep myself sane, I focused on the image of the rather ancient nit comb rusting at the bottom of the medicine chest in the bathroom.
Scratch. Scritch. Scratch. Scratch. Scritch-scritch. Scratch.
I gathered the Trefusii together, larded them with the only conditioner I could find – an extremely expensive Kerastase hair masque, rather too fit for purpose, and ignoring their screams as I pulled heartlessly through tangles - Mr Trefusis the loudest of the protestors, naturally – I de-nitted them. Astonishingly, Trefusis Minor and Mr Trefusis were entirely nit free and in a fit of pique I threatened to send them down the road to the Glaxo Smith Kline laboratory to see if they had any special immunity that could be bottled and patented as an expensive anti-nit vaccine. It could make us rich beyond our wildest dreams - I’d pay, wouldn’t you?
The Tiniest Trefusis had six proper nits. Nits so big, you could give them their own sideshow in a flea circus, and they didn’t appear to bother her remotely – not a surreptitious scratch or poke into her still downy baby hair. I started on my own. I’m secretly immensely pleased with my hair – it’s very long, and very thick, and the greatest treat I can think of is a visit to Graham the Hair God for a re-blonding, or a blow-dry or for one of his more elaborate confections should I have something exciting to go to. It’s a devil to get a nit comb through, though. I think it took me a full thirty minutes to comb the Kerastase through the lot. And if I wasn’t as badly affected as The Tiny T, the little buggers were certainly in there. On the upside, of course, we're the shiniest-haired family in Shepherds Bush.
Of course, the problem with treating nits is that you have to keep it up – one session with the nit comb and the conditioner isn’t enough: I’ve been taking the family through the nit ritual daily, and in the case of La Princesse Pou, twice – once with conditioner and once with a special evil battery operated comb which is supposed to condemn the nits to death by electrocution. I’ve developed a whole range of severe, scraped back Let-Me-Be-Your-Stern-Mistress hairdos – the nit comb conditioner trick takes so long in the morning I don’t have the time left to blow dry it, and I’m pretty keen to keep my hair up and out of everyone’s way until I have the nit all-clear, particularly given the amount of air-kissing that's obligatory in my line of work. It also means I can poke hair pins at the itchy bits mid afternoon, on the pretext of tidying my 'do'.
I’m very over all this – how long do I have to keep doing it? Do you have nits? Any cunning ways for getting rid of them that I don’t know about, short of making the Tiniest Trefusis wear a bedcap so she doesn’t keep on sharing her nits with me at night?
Scratch. Scritch. Scratch. Scratch. Scritch-scritch. Scratch.
Friday, 15 January 2010
I’ve always yearned to be a Femme Fatale: oozing mystique and an exotic allure, instantly enslaving every man who claps eyes on me. Perhaps not like Salome, who was a little, well, perverse, not to mention wicked, more Zuleika Dobson, a femme so truly fatale all the Oxford undergraduates hurled themselves to their doom in the Isis, for unrequited love of her.
In truth, I’m not sure I have it in me – I’m too blonde, too British, too married. I haven’t the sophistication to be heartless, which seems to be an essential femme fatale ingredient, and I suppose I’d probably rather be stouthearted and loyal, than full of wiles and enchantment. After all, with the exception of Zuleika, who is last heard of boarding a train for Cambridge, literary femme fatales tend to come to a Bad End.
It’s not without regret that I admit my lack of femme fatale-ness: don’t all women long to be beguiling and mysterious, and to entrance and ensnare, just a little?
But perhaps there is a way to embrace one’s inner siren without having to go the full Morgan le Fay: scent. The subliminal olfactory message of exactly the right scent is able to hint at something complicated and intriguing beneath a prim and rather proper surface, and perhaps even transform one from housewife to houri with a mere spritz from a magic bottle. Such is the alchemical power of perfume.
Mitsouko does this for me, which is possibly why I don’t wear it that often: it feels somehow too intimate, too revealing, as if I’ve said too much. So in the office I tend to wear another defining Chypre, Diorella, which doesn’t have a hint of femme fatale about it, in my opinion.
And so there I was, content to just dabble timidly in femme fatale territory on special occasions, by means of a dab of Mitsouko -which is, after all, one of the world's most divine scents - until I made an extraordinary discovery: Ormonde Woman, a smoky eye of a perfume, thrilling and novel, yet subtle and intriguing.
Lured in by the promise of Black Hemlock as a key ingredient – and anyone who knows Waffle or I will testify to our predilection for offering each other a Hemlocktini, when times are tough or tedious - I tried it only to be instantly and utterly seduced by its exquisite unconventionality.
I don’t think I’d ever smelled anything like Ormonde Woman before – India Knight - whose opinion on scent I’d trust even above the great Guru himself, Luca Turin – described it to me as ‘beautiful yet sinister’, and I can’t think of a more apposite description. Hemlock – an unusual and expensive ingredient when used in this kind of concentration – immediately roots one’s expectations firmly in femme fatale territory (do I need to mention Socrates? I thought not). Its siren song is the spice-market top notes of cardamom and coriander that create instant allure, before ceding to a more conventionally feminine heart of violet and jasmine absolute.
It’s subtle, yet hypnotic, and even now, more than five hours after I last sprayed it on, I keep raising my wrist to my nose to breathe in the beauty of its base notes. These are uncompromisingly masculine - vetiver, cedar wood, amber and sandalwood – and I think that’s what makes Ormonde Woman so astonishingly sexy: It’s such a seductively feminine scent, but then leaves you with these complex and beguiling, yet somehow male, traces of wood and incense.
You see – the more I write about it,I’m more under its spell: it’s not simply about bringing out any latent femme fatale in me, Ormonde Woman is itself the femme fatale: an original, beautiful, enigmatic temptress, and above all one that is wonderfully confident and wholly uncompromising. Wouldn't you love to be like that? I absolutely would, which is possibly why I'm mad about it.
I should stop evangelising before you gently suggest that my enthusiasm is bordering on zealotry: So tell me, what perfume makes you feel like a femme fatale?
Ormonde Woman. Eau de Parfum 50mls £68
Ormonde Jayne - 12 The Royal Arcade 28 Old Bond Street London W1S 4SL T. +44 (0)20 7499 1100
Sunday, 10 January 2010
Thursday, 7 January 2010
I can absolutely understand how she feels. I didn’t have enough holiday to get me the whole time off, so had to come in for a morning between Christmas and New Year and, God, the bliss of sitting at my desk with Radio Four on, drinking an entire cup of tea whilst it was still hot, rather than coming back to it half an hour later after some Ben 10 induced trauma, to discover it topped with the white bloom of cold milky tea. Having children has taught me that, with practice, the taste of microwaved tea becomes perfectly acceptable.
But, oh, the crippling guilt of longing to be at work: I admit it seems rather transgressive to discover there are times - and a lot of them - where one wants to be away from one’s children. It seems so terribly ungrateful, particularly if one has worked hard to have them in the first place, or had them rather late in life, like me. I think of friends who are still struggling with IVF and feel like a wretched ingrate – really, I’m so very blessed, I shouldn’t find two weeks at home at all wearing, but the most glorious Christmas present of all.
Ho hum. I’m afraid I’m no plaster saint: the myth of working motherhood is that one must want to spend every available moment – every minute one isn’t at work or asleep, that is – with one’s infants, engaged in some cosy ‘Listen with Mother’ type activity, or cosily cutting and sticking beautiful collages or baking or collaborating on a jigsaw, before pausing to offer them a cold glass of milk and a home-made biscuit.
The scene, illustrated as if in the Ladybird Peter and Jane books, is so clearly etched in my head, I’m astonished the reality is so different.
Erm, obviously, I love being with Trefusis Minor and his sister, but I will also confess there were several times when I was at home that I had reason to fantasise wildly about the extraordinary bliss of having a bath without having a tiny creature pull off all their clothes and hop in with me, or the hitherto unappreciated bliss of reading a book all afternoon. All of these treats must, necessarily, go by the wayside when the children are small. Partly it's the idiocy of the theory of quality time: young children don't really give a stuff about quality - they want you in quantity. And when they know that any moment you might hop off back to the office, they attach themselves like limpets and demand - rightly so - the entire and whole of your attention. And perhaps that's the conflict - you know you owe it to them, and your heart wants to be with them, but sometimes, you're just a little bit knackered and would like a nice, quiet sit-down.
So, no matter how different the reality, no matter how often one sticks Peter Pan on the dvd just so you can buy enough time to push the vacuum cleaner round, no matter how one feels inside, the idea remains that any time you have away from work is not discretionary time, and doing anything other than stuff with the spawn feels like cheating. And hence, the office represents the only Get Out of Jail Free card a working mother has - here are very few legitimate escapes from childcare, and work is one: no wonder men tried to keep women out of the workplace for so very long.