Thursday, 15 December 2011


When I wrote about The Plankton back in September, it sparked much debate with friends about whether or not women over forty became suddenly invisible. 

But every conversation about sex appeal - were we still desirable, beautiful, attractive, we asked ourselves anxiously - inevitably turned into a broader discussion about the forty-something state:  Suddenly, I became appallingly paranoid that I would wake up one morning and discover myself wearing purple with a red hat that doesn't go

'We simply have to work harder to make ourselves visible, particularly at work' said my friend Basista, and I think she's right - one does lose the effortlessness of youth in one's mid-forties. Sometimes it's the small things like having to think twice about wearing an A-line skirt with a chunky heel - what looks hip on a thirty year old can easily look frumpy on a fortysomething, particularly if you remember the look first time round - I mean, God knows what havoc the coming Thatcher-inspired trend will wreak. All I'm going to say is, if you're old enough to remember her as Prime Minister, steer well clear of the clothes unless you're achingly hip and very obviously working in fashion. 

Anyway, sometimes it's also the bigger stuff, like realising that life isn't the rehearsal it once was, and you've got to get on with the Next Big Thing before it's Too Late. 

However, since this is supposed to be a post about make-up, I shall stop myself segueing off into some psycho-drama about a dawning realisation of one's mortality/career shelf-life etc etc, because I've remembered that what my friend Basista went onto say - not entirely flippantly - about how the antidote to mid-life invisibility was to wear bright lipstick. She's right, of course but it's not just about making a bold statement, it's also about the subliminal sophistication conferred by a really good red lip. 

Although I'm madly keen on my shiny Dior Addict one, if it's done perfectly, a red lip should be matte and it should also be expensive - not Tom Ford spendy, necessarily, but definitely something bought with due ceremony and sense of occasion from one of the more intimidating beauty counters in a department store. Chanel, of course, is the gold standard when it comes to sophisticated glamour and there are several marvellous reds in the Rouge Allure range, but I do wish they had Rouge Premier - a copy of the first ever red lipstick Chanel produced -  as part of the permanent offer: it came out as a limited edition about ten years ago along with a killingly beautiful gold eyeshadow, and I only wear it once a year because I can't bear to think of using it all up.  

Finding one's perfect red takes time and a lot of experimenting - it's all about nuance - I had fourteen at the last count (six of which are badly photographed below) in every shade of red from vermillion to crimson.

Now that I add up the approximate cost, fourteen red lipsticks is a rather lavish investment. But of course, I wasn't just buying a lipstick, I was investing in the whole idea of myself as elegant and well-put together.

I don't think the search for the perfect red is finished by any stretch of the imagination - I've yet to try the Bobbi Brown red that everyone says is a classic- and as I write this, I've just rummaged in my desk drawer and come across a very serious red I'd forgotten I even had (make that fifteen red lipsticks) - Dior Addict in Red Carpet. Possibly it ticks the 'get you noticed' box a little more emphatically than my everyday red (which I'm wearing in the Dior taxi), but that's all to the good.

Is Basista right? Is bright lipstick the perfect antidote to mid-life invisibility? It certainly seems to give one a much needed confidence boost. However, I'll offer one small warning: the distance between groomed glamour and looking like Bette Davis in 'Whatever Happened to Baby Jane' is little more than a sharp jog of the elbow.

Monday, 12 December 2011


At least half the fun of going to a party is in the anticipation: it's not just the hours spent getting ready, it's endless debate about what to wear.

The big event in the Harper's Bazaar calendar is the annual Women of the Year Awards - and the sartorial stakes are pretty high - I'm pretty sure we talked of nothing but party dresses for weeks beforehand. I had thought of wearing a very nice strapless 'MadMen' style dress I bought for a party not long after the Tiniest Trefusis was born until I came across this from my absolute favourite label, Bastyan. I hadn't thought of wearing long, but since it meant I didn't need to slather my blue-white legs in fake tan, it was pretty tempting, and as ever with Bastyan, the fabric drapes in a wonderfully flattering and luxurious way.

This is me at the party - it's not a very clear picture, but the mirror shows how nice the back is too

This is me just before we left - I've rubbed out the grim office from the background - magazine offices are much closer to The Office than they are to the Devil Wears Prada. One shoulder has a beautiful gold clasp, and the other is designed to drape - I wanted it slightly off the shoulder, so I stuck it in place with some tit tape (I'm sure there's a more elegant word for it - but you know what I mean).

The jewellery is from Carat* - they're simulated diamonds, but they're set so beautifully I defy anyone to be able to tell the difference - I wore the Pear Exquisite necklace, a pear drop tennis bracelet  and an incredibly covetable pair of drop earrings, which shivered and shimmered and caught the light most gratifyingly whenever I turned my head. I don't seem to be able to find them on the website, but these are similar.
Sometimes partywear needs to be a bit of a disguise, doesn't it - it's about costuming oneself appropriately for the occasion: and for once, at Bazaar Women of the Year, I felt appropriate.

The Mormo Maxi dress I wore is on sale in the Bastyan pop-up shop on Regents Street - if you're in the market for a party dress (or a beautiful coat like this one -  the tweed it's made from comes from the same mill as Chanel gets theirs from) then you must hurry to this oasis of loveliness and calm toot sweet because the stand-alone only exists until 24th December.
I asked Tonia Bastyan for her buys of the season - this exquisite lace 'Dia' dress [above], with jet beads that button closely up the wrists promises to be an heirloom piece: I can quite imagine putting it away after a few seasons and saving it for when the Tiniest Trefusis grows up - it's utterly beautiful and absolutely timeless. It has a very elegant wool crepe skirt, but the back is absolutely sheer lace - I've not seen anything of the quality in most Bond Street designer stores. I'm kicking myself that I didn't take a better picture. It's sold out online, however, there were plenty of sizes at the pop up store.

Tonia also picked out this pony-skin coat as one of her favourite pieces - as ever with Bastyan, the devil's in the detail -  it has long woollen gauntlets under the bracelet sleeve - I don't know if they're detachable, but fortunately this is on the website so you can get a better look if you want.  Here's my snap of Tonia with the coat.

London Bastyan Pop Up Boutique 288 - 294 Regent Street W1 Tel: 020 7323 5978

Sunday, 13 November 2011


I've had a life-long love affair with Dior - when I was a child, my father bought my mother a bottle of Diorissimo, and I thought that it was the most luxurious present imaginable. I used to sit and stare at it on her dressing table, admiring the - now iconic - houndstooth packaging and longing but not daring to take the beautiful glass bottle out of its case and dab it behind my ears as I'd seen my mother do.

Working for Harper's Bazaar, it's hard not to be a devotee of Christian Dior - after all, it was Bazaar editor, Carmen Snow, who coined the expression The New Look in 1947, for the exquisite nipped in waists and full-skirts with which Dior created such an impact after the austerity of the war years. 

I've always liked Dior for saying that his 'dream' was to 'save women from nature': never having had much truck with a 'natural look'  myself, I'm more than willing to be rescued. What I like about Dior beauty is that sixty years on from the New Look, and fifty years after Christian Dior's death, the brand is still absolutely true to his original vision. It's all about enhancing, transforming and creating an incredibly feminine, elegantly made-up face. 

With such a promise, it's no surprise my make-up bag is completely Dior dependent - these below are the products I use pretty much every day: I just slap more on to create an evening look. And Sali Hughes is completely right - a navy eye is incredibly wearable, no matter what colour one's eyes. This Dior 5 couleurs palette is particularly versatile.

my makeup, as captured by my utterly rubbish iphone camera
The Skin-flash primer is a work of complete brilliance - I swear it takes five years off me. Under foundation it just brings back that nice glossiness that one seems to lack after forty, and it's packed full of hyaluronic acid, which nicely plumps up fine lines and stops them looking so visible. The 'New Look' lipstick is absolutely the perfect red for me, and I live in terror of it being discontinued - it's all the things I thought were inadvisable in a red lipstick - sheer and shiny with a tiny hint of shimmer - but it really works and helps you avoid the 'all lips' thing you can get with a strong, matte, red lipstick. 

I forgot to photograph my favourite mascara ever - Dior's Extase - it gives you vast lashes without going the full Pauline Prescott. There's a brilliant new one launching at the very end of January, which promises to be even better - 'New Look' apparently creates an 'unprecedented voluminous effect'. I can't wait.

Anyway, coming up for Spring is a whole host of beautiful, tempting new colours, all designed to save me from nature. But in the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy the Dior staples I have - here I am wearing them in Dior's specially customised taxi. 
With Vincent Jeanniard, General Manager of Parfums Christian Dior UK, in the Dior Taxi

Saturday, 15 October 2011


Three and a half years after starting at the french school, Trefusis Minor can now pass for a natural born têtard, slipping in and out of French and English without skipping a beat. All the tears and 'don't leave me Mummy's are a thing of the past, and he now reads more fluently in French than he does in English.

At home, only Mr Trefusis is permitted to speak french to him: if I offer a few words, or join in if the conversation round the supper table is in french as it often is, I get a look of withering scorn mixed with pity - 'Please don't try, Mummy, it sounds really horrible: tu vas casser mes oreilles.' he says. If Mr Trefusis sticks up for me (as he mostly does) and tells Trefusis Minor that my french is perfectly good, if strongly accented, Trefusis Minor will concede, begrudgingly, that I don't sound as bad as his English teacher, who really does 'break his ears'.

Anyway, the gallification of Trefusis Minor extends to extra-curricular activities too: after-school clubs are called 'Atelier' which makes them sound impossibly grand, quite as if he's going to come home and start pinning a toile on me for a couture frock. Hope springs eternal, I suppose.

But it's true, isn't it, that everything sounds more elegant in French - last term's Atelier was 'Jeux de Societé' which sounds like experimental sociology but seemed to mostly involve learning how to play Connect 4 and Draughts. This term, his favourite atelier is cooking: does he come home with the droopy peppermint creams, rock buns and butterfly cakes I remember learning in cookery as a child? He does not. So far, he has learned how to make a clafoutis, madeleines, financiers, and some kind of small savoury tart. I fully expect him to be working his way up to a croquembouche, or to suddenly appear with a selection of tiny macarons to rival Pierre Hermé or Ladurée.

I think this should be greatly encouraged - if he keeps it up, he'll be able to make the Tiniest Trefusis' birthday cake - in a few years, I might even be able to earn back the school fees by hiring him out for dinner parties.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011


I seem to have conquered the insomnia, for which relief much thanks. Someone suggested I might be hungry, which seemed an absurd idea, til I tried eating dinner very slightly later, and drinking some hot milk before bed, and then it was suddenly seven a.m. and I'd not woken once and all that day my synapses snapped and sang with delight at not having my thoughts mediated through a fog of dull exhaustion.

I am very much hoping I shall stay sleeping soundly from now on, and plan to read this wonderful Fleur Adcock poem every night in bed as a talisman to ward off further bouts of insomnia.

There are worse things than having behaved foolishly in public.
There are worse things than these miniature betrayals,
committed or endured or suspected; there are worse things
than not being able to sleep for thinking about them.
It is 5 a.m. All the worse things come stalking in
and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse

and worse.

Friday, 30 September 2011


Brigitte Bardot, Terry O'Neil
I was nearly sixteen when I smoked my first cigarette, deep into the old gardens at school, under a tree. It was pouring down, as ever, and we went through an entire box of matches trying to light the damn thing, and even now the smell of smoke hanging heavy on cold damp air conjures the ghost of stolen pleasures.

The cigarette was Dunhill, which at the time seemed the apogee of glamour, filched by my best friend from her parent's cocktail party one exeat, and carefully smuggled back, hidden in a box of tampax. Neither of us had much idea how to smoke, which added to the difficulty of lighting it because it took us a couple of goes to realise that you had to suck in at the same time as holding the match to the end, and we shared the cigarette in a series of jagged, exaggerated puffs, wrists held stiffly like dowagers, neither of us inhaling, even accidentally. Had I inhaled, I'm quite sure I'd never have smoked again, but as it was, that first time had all the allure of the illicit, and we were determined to acquire the sophistication we felt sure smoking would confer on us. We may have been two schoolgirls huddled together, in our woollen kilts and gabardine macs in the clammy air, but in our heads we were Jean Seberg in A Bout de Souffle, Joan Collins in Dynasty, Faye Dunaway in The Thomas Crowne Affair, Catherine Deneuve in Belle De Jour. Life had never seemed so daring. This was what it felt like to be a proper grown-up.

A little less than ten years on, when I was trying to give up, I realised that it was the pose of smoking I was addicted to, rather than the nicotine, or trying to stay thin, or the sheer habit, or the social smoking, or whatever other reason one usually gives for smoking. Cigarettes were less of a psychological prop than a literal prop: they simply complemented whatever role I was inhabiting at the time. I spent my mid teens smoking brightly-coloured Sobranie Cocktails, the perfect accessory for a New Romantic. At university, I imagined myself a left-bank intellectual circa 1968, and carried a pack of Gauloise around with my copies of Barthes and Baudrillard: Fortunately for my health and my wallet, I found them so revolting I could only ever smoke one a day. A little later on at university, when I was briefly a placard-waving socialist-culturalist-feminist, I smoked roll-ups in a print frock and clumpy Doctor Martins and later still, in my first job, I had shoulder-pads in my nipped-in, double-breasted, pencil-skirted suit, and in the pub after work I propped twenty Marlborough Reds on top of my outsize Filofax.

Anyway, I managed to quit, partly by curing myself of the need to be such a hopeless poseur. And an ex-smoker I remained until almost twenty years after that first fag when, on holiday with my Godbrother in Tuscany, sitting outside a chic coffee bar, espresso in hand, Prada sunspecs glued to our faces, he remarked idly that the only thing we were missing to make the experience truly contextual, was a cigarette. Did I demur, or point out that we were, at thirty-three, far too old and sensible to take up smoking again? I did not. 'We'll give up in the departure lounge,' I said, and promptly lit up.

Of course, we didn't give up at the airport at all but passed customs with 200 Marlborough Lights in a Duty Free carrier bag.  I managed to wean myself off what quickly became a twenty a day habit by the winter of that year, but still scabbed a fag whenever I had a drink in my hand.  I gave up properly when I realised I was pregnant with Trefusis Minor, but took it up again the minute I returned to work, keen to prove to myself I was still a bit of a rebel, not merely a pinny-wearing, carrot-pureeing mummy. But my heart wasn't really in it.  And by the time the Tiniest Trefusis came along, smoking gave me up altogether - tipsy after a supper-party, I took a cigarette from Mr Trefusis' emergency stash, and it tasted so unutterably vile in a way smoking never had at anytime during the preceding twenty five years, I immediately ground it out, taking a huge belt of someone's after-dinner whisky to try to take the horrid taste away.

Of course, the thing about smoking is that one has one's first fag in an attempt to look more grown up, and by the time one is an actual bone fide adult, you realise that it's neither big nor clever. I don't miss smoking, but I miss the camaraderie of smoker's corner, the gang membership of the ashtray, and I never mind keeping a friend company as they shiver outside a restaurant or the office. But I won't smoke again.  Not even if someone offered me a More Menthol, a la Joan Collins, or a Sobranie Black Russian, like a character from James Bond.

Thursday, 22 September 2011


I would have described myself as a good sleeper. All my life I've been able to drop off at a moments notice: I can sleep on aeroplanes, on trains, on sofas, in strange beds. I can go to sleep for an hour in the afternoon, or twenty minutes before supper, for ten hours of respite after the bone-shaking exhaustion of being awake with a sick child, or for seven hours common or garden beauty sleep.

Sleep is one of those things I've never questioned: however dogged by uncertainty I might be about my ability in other areas, I've always taken sleep for granted. It's true there have been times when I've craved more sleep -during finals; when I was young enough to cope with the physical demands of swotting furiously til 3am, or after the children were born, where dumb with tiredness from the endless night feeds, you find yourself putting your car keys in the fridge and the milk in the bathroom cupboard.

Those periods of sleep deprivation seem voluntary, self-imposed, temporary. But now, as I wave wearily at the bedside clock ticking past four, and yet again I'm stuck in the long dark teatime of the soul, and in the long dark teatime of the soul, all the sandwiches are stale, the scones crumble to dust, and the cake is always seedcake and never coffee-walnut.

I wonder, a little despairingly, if this bloody sleeplessness will ever end.

I've tried the usual things -a warm bath, a cup of cocoa, moving the pile of shoes from the side of the bed in case they were interfering with the feng shui or something. I've tried meditation, counting sheep and self-hypnosis. I've opened windows and tried different combinations of bedclothes. I've listened to The Goldberg Variations, which is my secret instant-calmer & usually works in any situation from childbirth to coping with rush hour on the Central Line. To no avail: I drop off fine, and then I wake up.

And what is it about the wee small hours that's so much more horrid than any other time of day? All the things you haven't done line up around your bed and start pointing at you, muttering about your inadequacies, undermining your ability to believe you can get on and finish anything. So the mind plays games, which is wearing, and the tiredness debilitates, and the jeering creatures around the bed peel off a layer of your skin, so that in the bright of day you're unable to face things with quite the equanimity they require.

Anyway, this four in the morning thing has been going on almost since i came back from holiday and it's driving me demented. It feels like a habit now too, which is even more peeving.

Any good suggestions for knocking it on the head and getting my sanity back?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011


"This year, from Father Christmas,' says The TT, 'I would like a pony, a pink palace full of rubies and diamonds and pearls and treasure and a pink garden with loads of flowers: silver and gold flowers, bell flowers, sunflowers.'

'Oh,' I say, 'anything else?'

'A fan.'

At least she's given me three months to figure out either how to manage her expectations or discover how to come up with the goods without first winning Euromillions.

Thursday, 15 September 2011


Writing the previous post on The Plankton, and reading the wonderful, incisive comments, has made me ponder a lot on the subject of women’s sexual allure as one gets into proper middle age, as opposed to middle youth.

I don't know how old the model is in this Marks and Spencers commercial - I'm guessing she has ten years on me, but she's bloody fabulous. Still got it? Hell, yes. I loved the comment made by anonymous about her late mother being ‘like Scarlet O’Hara at the Twelve Oaks BBQ’ when she was in her sixties. That, my lovely readers, is the example to which we must all aspire.

I do hope The Plankton is successful in her relationship quest: in the meantime, I’d like to remind her that Wendy Cope’s words are no less true at forty or fifty-something than they are at any other age.

Bloody men are like bloody buses -

You wait for about a year

And as soon as one approaches your stop

Two or three others appear.

You look at them flashing their indicators,

Offering you a ride.

You're trying to read the destination,

You haven't much time to decide.

If you make a mistake, there is no turning back.

Jump off, and you'll stand there and gaze

While the cars and the taxis and lorries go by

And the minutes, the hours, the days.

Monday, 12 September 2011


There is grey in your hair
Young men no longer suddenly catch their breath
When you are passing

That haunting beginning of Yeats' Broken Dreams has been on my mind a lot these last few days, partly because wonderful Waffle, arbiter of all things new and interesting, brought to my attention a new blog called The Plankton, whose first entry begins

As a divorced woman the wrong side of 45 with a brace of kids, I am a plankton on the food chain of sexuality and the prospect of a relationship.
Women die long before they actually die.

It's an interesting blog: she began it - as she writes in her column for The Times - "because I felt it was about time to voice the unsayable: that women of a certain age such as myself (and there are a heck of a lot of us — divorced, never married, widowed, and alone) are at the very bottom of the food chain when it comes to romance, relationships and sex, and it feels like shit."

I've become slightly obsessed by The Plankton's blog: it does help that she posts at least once a day, and that she's unflinchingly honest in her despair in how difficult it is to find new love at a certain age. So unflinching is she I feel a little voyeuristic reading it, however, give it a go because I suspect, like me, you'll want to see where the journey takes her.

I do think there's a sense in which women don an invisibility cloak once they hit forty - there's that sense of contracting possibilities, of the winnowing of time and every time you look in the mirror you're caught between your internal midlife crisis and wondering what economies you could make in order to afford a vat of botox. Miranda Sawyer's piece in The Guardian says all I could possibly say on the subject of quiet midlife crises, only a lot better of course.*
Do I think that a woman of a certain age is inevitably at 'the bottom of the sexual food chain'? No, of course I don't, but then I'm not single, so haven't had to put The Plankton's assertion to the test, and I'm heartily relieved I don't have to. However, I can see that the dating field is hardly lush, green and ripe with possibilities once one is past forty. I know many beautiful, elegant, desirable fortysomething single women, and frankly, the single men of my acquaintance can't hold a candle to them, though they behave as if the dating world is their oyster.

The Plankton has had a lot of 'helpful' comments about getting a dog, or joining a class or going to therapy to boost her self-esteem, all of which is as dispiriting as it is well-meant. On behalf of all fortysomething women, I'd like to say, we're not dead yet - you can't stare the second half of your life in the face and feel like you've missed the boat, and none of us is ready for Saga magazine style activities. Mind you, when you do stare the second half of your life in the face, it takes you a moment to recognise whose face it is - in your head you still look just like you did at thirty, but the reality is the tiniest bit different.

Anyway, I was talking about The Plankton's blog with a single fortysomething friend earlier today.

Did she think she was at the bottom of the sexual food chain, I asked? 

She looked at me thoughtfully for a while. 'Nothing would persuade me to call myself a plankton,' she said, 'But I would call the last six men I've dated pond life'.

*Thanks go again to Waffle for sending me a link to this piece.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Win a Champney's Pedicure courtesy of

No matter how good my pre-holiday pedicure, I always seem to come back with appalling hobbit trotters: if your feet could do with some TLC, then send me an email and I'll enter you into a free prize draw to win a luxurious 55 minute pedicure at one of the Champney's high-street spas, courtesy of* is a new site, just launched in the UK, that offers a fantastic range of experience days, perfect for presents, or for treating yourself. From fast and furious driving days to relaxing spa experiences, Wish has something to suit all ages, interests and pockets: have a look around to see what's on offer.

*NB: 30th September 2011: competition is now closed

Monday, 5 September 2011


St Benoit Du Sault, darkest France
I’ve worked out why New Year is such a damp squib for me: It’s not exhaustion after the effort of Christmas for all that New Year/New You stuff or a lack of enthusiasm for a Brave New Dawn when there’s only three hours of daylight, it’s that January is not my physiological, or psychological fresh start. No, my internal clock is set to start the year afresh in September, after the long summer break – well, a fortnight away from work – and whilst there’s still a glimmer of sunshine around to keep one feeling optimistic and encouraged. Long after leaving school, the imprint of the school year’s rhythm is still so strong that September always seems to offer a much more promising clean slate.

We spent our holiday in La France Profonde – it was so profonde that I spent my first fortnight in nearly ten years without an internet connection. Even my work Blackberry could only summon up one bar of signal if I went to the other end of the village, which was a marvellous excuse for staying out of touch with the office, and our only contact with the outside world was an occasional text from my mother. The world didn’t stop turning on its axis without Facebook or Twitter, but I did realise what a time thief twitter has been. I adore twitter, and there are few better ways to fritter away the idle minute, but fewer tweets could mean more time to spend doing other things. It’s no coincidence that I became a much more infrequent blogger when I joined twitter. Twitter has its place - and it's huge fun - but there are things which require more than 140 characters.

And so I made La rentrée resolution #1: see if life without twitter means a revival of the blog.

We spent part of our holiday in a very prettily restored 16th century town house in one of Les Plus Beaux Villages en France – the village itself is a walled medieval town, which despite its size, boasts three hairdressers, two butchers and three bakers. I love the morning ritual of going off to the boulangerie to buy bread, crisp and still warm from the oven, but if I ever see another baguette, it will be too soon. Between the baguettes and the vast quantities of wine I managed to put on six pounds to add to the ten I’d put on after a year eating cake and drinking cocktails, which wasn’t any the less depressing for being inevitable. If I don’t arrest the growth of my waistline between now and Christmas, I predict this blog will become nothing more than an endless series of whinging about not fitting into any of my clothes.

Hence, La rentrée resolution #2: Do the Dukan diet.

I’m not really a great one for punishing regimes – I lost the three stone I put on when pregnant with the Tiniest Trefusis by joining Weightwatchers, which was very effective, but I need something quicker and more ascetic. Two friends have done Dukan with absolutely amazing results too, which is quite encouraging. Anyway, according to the Dukan website, if I start now I’ll get to my goal weight by October 28th: sounds do-able. Hmm, I've just looked at my diary - I have a wine-tasting tonight and dinner with one of my very best friends on Wednesday, I think I'll start the Dukan on Thursday....

There were a few other tweaks and changes I decided to make too – but I think two main resolutions are enough to be going on with, and certainly the twittering and Dukan-ing will require daunting amount of self discipline. I shall let you know how I get on.

Update: 5th October - the Dukan does work - it's not a healthy long-term solution, I don't think, and certainly it's probably best if you have only a small amount of weight to lose, but it was easy enough to drop the few pounds that stood between me and a comfortable fit to my clothes.

Sunday, 17 July 2011


'When was the last time you read a book?' asks Mr Trefusis one evening, 'You used to read all the time.'

'I do read.' I say indignantly, but I know Mr Trefusis is right - I was once a book bulimic, devouring novel after novel, forever on holiday in someone else's imagination. But lately I've found it tiring to read more than a few pages at a time: it's started to take weeks rather than days to finish even a thriller. I've blamed work (too much of), twitter (distraction), Angry Birds (ditto), but really the truth of the matter is as plain as the lines that are springing up all over my forehead: I can't do without my reading glasses. If I try to, even reading Harper's Bazaar becomes too much of an effort, which seems a shame considering it's the magazine I work on.

'Presbyte' says Mr Trefusis, somewhat eliptically, 'that's what the French call you, from the Greek for Old Man.'

And so it is: as confirmed by my optician, I have the kind of long-sightedness that's inevitable after forty, and, although it's helpful of Mr T to contribute to my education by offering me the French for long-sight, presbyte makes me feel as if I ought to come over all Calvinist and start railing disapprovingly about the sin of vanity.

It's no good though: presbyte or not, I still want to look good. I want my reading specs to be fabulous face-furniture, rather than just something practical: I want glasses of distinction. What's more, I want glasses that scream an elegant protest against the presbyte diagnosis - I might be old enough to need them, but I am not so old that I want to entirely relinquish looking vaguely hip and moderately sexy.

The first glasses I bought were the insanely expensive Bulgari pair you see sitting on the laptop in the holding shot of this blog. It's to my shame that I immediately went off them - they're fine, but - you know - they're a bit dull. Realising that it's deeply inconvenient only having one pair of reading glasses, I had some lenses put in a pair of Emporio Armani frames that were discovered unclaimed at the back of the fashion cupboard, but they're also a bit ordinaire. I mean, obviously I'm too grown-up to suddenly go all Hoxton, and sport statement frames like a self-consciously trendy architect or  app developer, but there is a middle ground, surely, and one which doesn't necessitate eating baked beans for a month to afford the bill.

Reader, I think I have the answer - London Retro is a new range of vintage-inspired frames, seemingly designed with me in mind. Ok, that's a little solipsistic, especially when there's enough edge in the range to please my imaginary Hoxton dwelling architect, but really, all boxes ticked - cool and interesting frames and they come complete with single vision lenses for £99 with a second pair free, which seems astonishingly cheap in the context of the Bulgaris. I have Carnaby in red, which have a wonderfully 1980's ad agency feel to them and Camden with a tinted lens for reading outside (have previously felt very foolish wearing sunglasses on top of reading glasses).

London Retro Carnaby in red £99

London Retro Camden in tortoiseshell with a tinted lens-
there's an agreeably Wayfarer feel about them, which kind of reminds me of my yoof, and of the first time I read Money and Brideshead Revisited.

London Retro specs are only available online, but all you do is imput the details of your prescription into the right box and a couple of days later they arrive on your desk, all gleaming and fabulous - kind of like a net-a-porter for spectacles - and despite the price-tag, the quality is at least as good as my existing Bulgari and Armani pairs.

I'm slightly worried now that specs are going to replace shoes as my guilty pleasure - I love the Carnabys, and they definitely suit me, but I do also rather fancy something a bit edgier: these below are next on my acquisition list, just as soon as I've finished all 974pp of Belle du Seigneur to prove that I've really earned them.

 Shoreditch - what do you think? Too cool for school, or could I get away with it, despite my advancing years? Being a bit bookish, I really wanted Fitzrovia, but my face is entirely the wrong shape for that kind of frame.

Of course, what I'd really like now that I've discovered trendy specs is a pair of bifocals - my reading prescription in the bottom so I can see what I'm doing, and plain glass in the top half so I don't fall over when I walk around still wearing them. 

Monday, 23 May 2011


About a zillion years ago, one of my favourite bloggers, Christina at Fashion's Most Wanted, tagged me in a shoe meme. It's taken me such a shamefully long time to pick up the baton, I can't actually remember the rules of the meme, other than one had to post pictures of one's favourite shoes. 

This weekend, however, Mr Trefusis made me sort out my shoe cupboard, and I finally got round to taking some (rather bad) pictures. Like all women I have far too many shoes, yet end up wearing only three pairs, and those are either too worn or too boring to show here. My favourite shoes should really go in the bin - they're completely knackered but they're chocolate brown stilettos, with a very pointy Blahnik-style toe and schiaparelli pink detail and I completely love them.

These are Prada: Black kid with a natural coloured lizardskin and silver piping. Sadly, like their owner , they're getting on a bit and are a little tired and worn.  Nevertheless, every time I slide my feet into them, I feel like Zelda Fitzgerald - without the dodgy alcoholism and mental issues, obviously - but in a jazz age kind of way that makes me want to perch elegantly on a bar stool and knock back a couple of Sidecars.
These are also Prada: fabric with ostrich: I fell in love with the print and the bright turquoise toes and heels. Like all Prada shoes they're very comfortable, but they're a little too distinctive to wear often and so, despite being ten years old, they're still in quite good nick.

Bottega Veneta and my most bargainacious shoes ever: they were twenty-five pounds reduced from £250, presumably because there was no call for orange shoes in London 12 years ago when I bought them. Twenty five pounds. More than anything else, they make me feel like Summer's finally arrived: I like to wear them with a pink linen shift dress and with watermelon pink varnish on my toes.

These are Kurt Geiger - satin with swarovski crystal studded heels and cripplingly uncomfortable - taxi shoes if ever there were any. They also upstage me terribly so, fabulous as they are, I've worn them about twice - once to a Harper's Bazaar party where I had to take paracetamol to be able to keep them on, and then once to a dinner party where I knew I'd be sitting down all the time. Are these what magazines call a statement shoe?

'No one would ever mistake you for my mistress in those shoes,' said Mr Trefusis, rather unflatteringly. I don't for one minute suspect him of having a mistress, but I do know what he means: you'd never slap a super-injunction on someone in Ferragamos.  However, what they lack in vampiness, they make up for in sophistication and I love them passionately not least because they remind me of my honorary grandmother, who had immense style, and swore by cashmere jumpers, linen sheets and Ferragamos with every outfit. 
I couldn't work out why these were the only flat shoes in the shoe cupboard - surely I must have other flats, I thought, casting around for evidence. I found a pair of Converse, a couple of pair of really beaten up ballet flats and (the shame) a pair of frog green Crocs: I seem only to wear flats to get from A to B, and then whip out the heels. I must have a terrible complex about being short, or maybe it's that unconsciously I think it's only worth spanking serious shoe money on what the Tiniest Trefusis calls 'heel-high shoes'. However, these glamorous gold Prada flats make me feel a bit Jacqueline Onassis. Is it just me, or do shoes have a transformative power for every woman? Is it the Cinderella thing all over again?

I couldn't photograph these to save my life - they're purple satin and very high and I wore them when I married Mr Trefusis, but that's another story for another time. They're Kurt Geiger.

My favourite shoes don't belong to me at all - the Tiniest Trefusis wore these silver Kicker boots not long after she first learned to walk.  She's very much her mother's daughter - the first word she ever said was 'Shoe'.  

Thursday, 28 April 2011


‘In France, Mummy, they have a President and we have a Queen’  Trefusis Minor said as we were walking down the street earlier today. ‘In France everyone thought it wasn’t fair that you had to be from just one family so a long time ago they cut a lot of people’s heads off and had a vote and now they have a president.’

‘And is that better than having a Queen?’ I ask, thinking Trefusis Minor seems to have a remarkably precocious grasp on current affairs.

‘It goes both ways,’ he says obliquely, ‘It’s not as fair to have a Queen, but it goes both ways’

I’m not entirely sure what he means by this, but I’m interested in where the conversation is heading, particularly since Trefusis Minor has already declared himself against the Royal Wedding – ‘it’s just two people getting married,’ he said earlier this week, with appealing understatement, ‘it’s not that interesting’.

‘We cut a King’s head off and had a republic in this country about a hundred and fifty years before the French got down to it’ I say.

‘Yes, but it didn’t really work. I think they got it a bit wrong – there was no fun, no singing, no sport, you had to go to church all the time, more than once a day*. It was really boring. We’re probably all right with the Queen.’ I do so love the influence of Horrible Histories on seven year olds - is the '1066 and All That' of their generation.

Sadly, the conversation then veered off down a ‘if-you-had-radiation-what-super-power-would-you-get’ cul-de-sac, but whilst Trefusis Minor was telling me I’d probably find it handy to be able to pick things up without having to actually go and get them, I started to think that his laconic ‘we’re probably all right with the Queen’ captured the reason why republicanism finds it so hard to take root in the UK - we're just not bothered enough to change. According to a recent YouGov poll, only 13% of Britons want the monarchy scrapped in favour of an elected president – and even in the emotionally charged wake of Diana’s death, three-quarters of us remained broadly in favour of retaining the monarchy.

Last month, I went to an Editorial Intelligence panel discussion on the Royal Wedding. On the panel were, amongst others, Rachel Johnson, The Evening Standard’s Sarah Sands, YouGov president Peter Kellner and the wonderful civil rights campaigner and republican Peter Tatchell. Tatchell is, by all logical measures, absolutely right when he says that the monarchy is profoundly unfair:

"This is an issue of democracy and human rights. The monarch is our head of state. The monarchical system is anti-Catholic, sexist and, by default, racist. Catholics are barred. For the foreseeable future, no black or Asian person can be our head of state. First-born girls are passed over in favour of younger male children....Our head of state ought to be chosen based on merit and public endorsement, not on the grounds of privileged parentage and inheritance."

Who can disagree? And yet, 66% of us believe that Britain will be still be a monarchy in 100 years time. How can one begin to sum up the general feeling of the nation? There’s an awful lot wrong with the monarchy, but we kind of like it, and we’re deeply suspicious of change? An elected system is also no guarantee of fairness – the great Republics of France and the US haven’t exactly yielded a representative sample of Presidents. As Peter Kellner said at the same debate, ‘For 123 of the last 174 years, we’ve had a female monarch… for how many of the last 174 years has American democracy produced a female president?’

As I drink my cup of tea from the fabulously kitsch Wills ‘n’ Kate mug Mr Trefusis bought me, I think I’m with Trefusis Minor, we're probably all right with the Queen. Unlike Trefusis Minor, I absolutely love a good Royal Wedding.   

*Trefusis Minor's rather jaundiced views on life under the British Commonwealth seem mostly to have been sourced from Horrible Histories...

Saturday, 23 April 2011


Strictly speaking, Mr Trefusis is not so much unwell as broken: A couple of months ago, he was happily free-wheeling down a hill on his pushbike and, having built up enough speed for things to really hurt, promptly hit an inconveniently positioned speed-bump and came off over the handlebars.

Thankfully, the first thing that hit the tarmac was his elbow: if the force of impact was enough to shatter his left elbow and dislocate his right shoulder, imagine what it might have done to his helmet-less head?  I mean, I can't actually quite write that sentence without shuddering and sending up yet another silent prayer that he's still here so I can make pathetic jokes about my 'armless 'usband.

Of course, he's not literally armless, but he has been a bit 'elpless, and the road to recovery is long and hard. The dislocated shoulder was comparatively easy to treat with a spot of general anaesthetic and a couple of medical students standing on his chest to wrench it back into place, but the elbow has proved to be a bit of a brute - it turns out that Mr Trefusis has a displaced unstable comminuted fracture - I may well have those words in the wrong order, but in laymans terms, it means that his elbow is as buggered as it's possible to be and still vaguely connect the upper and lower arms. Of course, if you're an orthopaedic surgeon, buggered elbows represent a fantastically juicy technical challenge, and Mr Trefusis stuffed his up enough to warrant the attentions of a professor of orthopaedics, a senior consultant, a consultant and about forty five students for his five hours in theatre, and for the follow-up treatment, all working incredibly hard to give him back an elbow. And all for free, too: God bless the NHS.

Mr Trefusis continues to look as if he's auditioning for an AmDram Richard III, with his still-painful dislocated shoulder held slightly hunched and his broken elbow crooked.
Irritatingly, he refuses to launch into "Now is the winter of our discontent" as a party piece, which is rather unsporting: I daresay if I'd been through what he'd been through I'd resent someone trying to get comedy value out of it too. But six weeks on from the operation
the consultant has upgraded his prognosis from "will regain some movement" to "may regain full mobility", so perhaps that's as much cheer as either of us needs.

Update: a little more than six months on, Mr Trefusis is now back to doing forty press ups. I think the surgeon's prognosis of 'may regain full mobility' was something of an understatement.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011


At least two thirds of anything I utter starts with the words 'I'm so sorry'.  The remaining thirty-odd percent is taken up by the excuses that invariably succeed any of my apologies.

Of course - not that this is any real defence - I'm mainly apologising for sins of omission than commission. I find myself on the back foot because I am an abysmal time manager - chaotic and unmethodical, failing to differentiate the urgent from the important, or to prioritise the essential. I'm told there's a huge satisfaction to be had from writing 'To Do' lists and then ticking things off as they are done. I tried it and promptly lost the list. Then I found the list and had to add a dozen new things that had cropped up between losing the original list and finding it again. So I bluff my way through without a list, keeping some of the plates spinning in the air whilst trying to pretend I'm indifferent to the piles of shattered crockery at my feet.

This post is no different - it's all about the apology - for I am actually awfully sorry for being such a shoddy, infrequent, uninteresting blogger all year. It really wasn't how I started, honestly: when the world for me was shiny and hopeful, and I was less weary, I posted quite often. Few weeks go past without me resolving to write more often, but then a lack of time and imagination get in the way again, and before I know it, it's a month since I last wrote anything other than my signature on a stack of invoices and some terse emails, bashed out on a Blackberry on the bus. Like everyone else, I suppose, I keep buggering on, post-recession - in a world where we all have to do more, with less, and for less, and that's as big a time thief as any. Yes, being time-poor is a good excuse, but is it really a reason?

As far as writing this blog is concerned, if I continue doing nothing more than saying sorry and making excuses all I'll do is hold the snarling dog of guilt at bay.

I do wonder, though, if I say 'sorry' a little too reflexively:  Am I using it away of acknowledging the things undone without including any of your actual, you know, repentence? What is the distance between rueful and contrite? I have a suspicion that if an apology is heartfelt, it should include more than guilt and remorse, and be all about a fervent desire not to repeat the error?

If I resolve to write more often, and actually manage to do it, at least I'll have resolved something. Who knows, it might show me that I could apologise less, and do more in other aspects of my life too. I'll give it a whirl.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011


Winter seems so interminable in London that I can hardly remember the last time I wasn't all rugged up in layer upon layer of black, like a woolly Matryoshka doll.

But now the thermometer is making a concerted effort to stay above zero, I start to long for new clothes. I want something that shows I've cottoned onto the season's new themes and trends, without being achingly fashion forward. I’m also not temperamentally disposed to buying an entire new wardrobe of clothes each season, even if I had the money to do it, which I don’t.

I won’t be able to face the vogue for bright colours until the summer – the spring light feels too weak to take it. Nor will the white thing work for me, since I travel everywhere by tube and bus and have skin the colour of skimmed milk. But I do rather love the way that designers have re-interpreted stark white by way of a Dulux ‘Natural Hints’ colour chart. I like white when it strays as far as buttermilk, or blush or a very pale camel. One might suspect it of not being white at all, but – whatever – fashion is all about the nuance.

The purchase of the scarlet dress pre-Christmas has turned me into something of a Bastyan zealot. Now in its third season, it’s an incredibly wearable label - I love the way the designs are cut for real women: if you have great legs but are less than keen on your tummy, there are lovely skinny trousers to team with embellished tops, and empire line dresses which work as well over trousers as with opaques and a great pair of heels. Or if, like me, you’re a pear rather than an apple, the dresses are incredibly flattering, with signature draping in just the right places.

Anyway, here are a few of the things which I’ve been admiring lately because they combine my kind of shape with a nod at the colours and trends of the early spring season.

Blonde leather dress £395
This butter-soft leather dress is a bit of an investment piece, but looks so beautiful.

Zip belt dress £220
I love the versatility of this dress: it's a cool update on the LBD, and is exactly the kind of thing that could take one from work to something more interesting in the evening just by adjusting the front zip at the neckline. I know we're supposed to move away from black for the S/S 11 season, but it's just so easy to wear.
Fine leather jacket £395
This jacket would be tremendous over the dress - its skillful cut gives one a nod to rock-chick chic without going the full Joan Jett.

Twisted drape jumper £130

I'm more inclined to knitwear than tailored jackets over dresses - and this is soft and modern without being too informal. Our office is so incredibly cold on a Monday morning, I'm always on the hunt for a chic cover-up.

However, the bottom line for me is that, when it comes to new clothes, a party dress trumps work-wear everytime. Esquire's 20th Birthday party at The Berkeley's Blue Bar was the perfect setting for this rather sophisticated navy Bastyan dress. Although it's very fitted (bless you, Spanx), the front of the dress is designed to gather and drape in a way that manages to conceal rather than reveal, thankfully, and the underwired camisole you can see is a separate piece, which adds some structure. Mind you, people did keep whispering that they could see my bra, so either they were fashion ignoramuses, or I need to work harder on how the dress drapes over the camisole.

The bangles I wore with it are actually coral rather than red, and were an impulse buy from Marks and Spencers (I think they were £8).

Bastyan Cowl-neck lace-cami dress £195

NOTA BENE: I've just noticed that Bastyan is offering a 20% discount on the S/S11 collection on their website - good news for my wardrobe, bad news for my bank balance....

Sunday, 20 February 2011


I managed to resist the siren call of the new Liberty paper room for - oh, I don't know  - at least a fortnight. It's been almost impossible - I have a fetish for notebooks of all kinds, and Liberty is a mere hop, skip and a jump from my office - and eventually the lure became too strong. 

Sadly for my bank balance, it's an absolute mecca of glossy stationery, full of exquisitely chosen bits and bobs - there are shining gold pencil cases, Christian Lacroix notecards, a delicious new range of Pantone themed moleskines in all sizes, Liberty's own range of embossed leather-bound notebooks to which one can add one's initials for a small consideration, and a whole world of other paper-based loveliness.  

I love it that Liberty is making a much wider use of its signature prints - these lovely pencil cases and jotters below would make terrific presents. I can't remember how much they were off the top of my head, but I remember thinking it wasn't demented.

In fact, the pricing is another thing Liberty have got absolutely bang on: Nobody wants to really invest in stationery - it should be all about spontaneous spoiling. There are some really luxurious things - the iPad and iBook cases, for example, but on the whole, it's the perfect place for a guilt-free retail pick-me-up when you need something to cheering after a tiresome day. I also saw a dozen things that might make thoughtful presents for friends, from the Archie Grand notebook series - Secret Agents I Knew & Liked and so on at £12 - to this gorgeous book, bound in gold metallic leather for £22, and Sarah Hough's urban notebooks at £6.95.

That being said, £5 to £10 here and there can really add up -  I nipped in on the pretext of buying a quirkily elegant thank-you card for a friend, and left having dropped the best part of forty quid on a selection of treats for me. God knows what I'm going to fill these notebooks with - I wish I could say it might live up to their beauty - but fill them I shall, and then go back to Liberty for more. I particularly love the tiny notebooks based on the original designs for Penguin paperbacks. They're so lovely I don't even want to write in them, just keep them in my handbag as object of beauty.

Liberty. Great Marlborough Street, London W1B 5AH