Thursday, 3 December 2009
So it’s all been the tiniest bit Vortex of Despair, and I’m really rather resenting the fact that the Studio appears to have brought in Orwell and Kafka to rewrite my original screenplay, excising all the charming feel-good, lovely-you-lovely-me bits, sacking Richard Curtis and putting Ingmar Bergman in to direct the picture instead.
Really, this wasn’t what I had in mind for 2009 at all, and my stiff upper lip is occasionally getting rather quivery. On occasion, I become rather spineless and behave like Chicken Licken.
Try as I might to be stout-heartedly brave about everything, and give it my best Mrs Miniver, lovely colleagues at work have noticed that it’s not all as ticketty-boo as it might be. The signs that they’ve noticed are subtle - the British are particularly good at sensing when one just can’t bear to talk about something, and rather than manacling you to a couch and bludgeoning you into a furious, forensic psychoanalysis, they offer up quiet acts of love. It is these mute yet potent tropes of friendship which sustain and nurture you through difficult times.
It was as a result of one of these rhetorical touches that I found myself yesterday lunchtime running with one of the team around St James’ Park, wheezing past the enormous pelicans, trying not to trip over squirrels and lunching tourists, as we ran in comradely silence round the periphery and on into Green Park.
Getting me running has been a labour of love for my colleague – I think it has taken her three weeks of nagging to get me to bring my kit in, and another three weeks to get me to put it on, but she has persevered, quietly and doggedly determined to effect a cure before the illness takes a firm hold. The unspoken truth hanging between us is that she knows I need digging out of a pit of gloom, and if I am unable to change the situation I find myself in, she can at least help me change the way I deal with it. Running is nature’s prozac: I’m sure it’s utterly useless as a therapy in extremis, but when things are mild to moderate grim, the endorphin boost suddenly gives one the courage to face things head on. Like any treatment, it needs to be taken regularly to be properly effective, but for the first time in weeks, as I was belting back to the office to beat the rain, I found the strength to believe that things will get better, thanks to a friend who knew I couldn’t talk, but had her own way of listening.
And this is what I think about when I think about running.
Monday, 16 November 2009
I expect someone inventive will soon have something like that for the iPhone, but in the meantime we'll have to make do with the tried, tested and trusted advice of the planets: here's what I think you can tell about a man from his starsign.
How to spot one: His X-ray eyes strip you to the bone: he doesn’t know it’s rude to stare
Good at: Sex – he’s very talented
Worst habit: Jealousy and possessiveness. He may be cool on the outside, but don't flaunt old - or current - flames
Most likely to say: Not much. He’s the strong, silent, staring type (no, don’t call the police)
How to play him: He’s into power-games – let him think he’s in charge
Reliability rating: **** Exceptionally loyal, but if you break up, he’ll never forgive you
Romance rating:*** Big on brooding intensity and drama. Is it just me, or does that sound the tiniest bit tiring?
Sex rating:***** Oh dear. He’ll spoil you for everyone else. Too rude, too fabulous.
SAGITTARIUS: THE FREE SPIRIT
How to spot one: An endearing combination of optimism and clumsiness, he’s the one who knocks his glass of wine all over you
Good at: Adventure – he’ll encourage you to do mad things you’d never do off your own bat
Worst habit: Doesn’t know the difference between honesty and tactlessness
Most likely to say: 'Er, yes, actually, your bum looks enormous in those jeans'
How to play him: Respect his independence
Reliability rating: * A risk-taker who may not think twice about gambling with your heart
Romance rating: **** Even the most basic model is generous, cheerful and impulsive
Sex rating: *** Values quantity above quality. Enthusiastic, yet lacking in technical merit.
CAPRICORN: THE ENTREPRENEUR
How to spot one: he’s the sign most likely to wear a jacket: even if he doesn't look like a Captain of Industry, he'll have a distinct air of gravitas
Worst habit: Career will always be his priority – he treats his blackberry as if it were a tamagotchi that has to be kept alive with constant attention
Most likely to say: ‘Darling, I’m afraid I’m stuck in this meeting’.
How to play him: Don’t look too enthusiastic – he’s the one who you should treat mean to keep him keen
Reliability rating: ***** Accept his work comes first and you couldn’t wish for a more constant consort
Romance rating: **** If he sets his sights on you, he won’t give up until you’re his. Buys extremely decent presents
Sex rating: ***** He’s determined to excel in every area of his life, including you.
AQUARIUS: THE ODDBALL
How to spot one: He’s the one keen to get inside your head, rather than in your pants. Slightly odd fashion-sense – either out-there trendy or, well, just badly dressed
Good at: Creating a truly equal relationship – he genuinely wants you to be yourself (as long as your true self isn’t clingy and emotional)
Worst habit: Emotionally illiterate. Even Mr Spock had more EQ
Most likely to say: ‘You’re just being irrational’
How to play him: Be challenging and ballsy, always phone when you’ve said you will. Never, ever cry or sulk
Reliability rating: ** Does what he likes, when he likes.
Romance rating: ** Doesn’t expect to have to treat the relationship like some kind of kitten that needs nurturing and fluffy ickle babba talk. If he’s said he likes you, he likes you – why do you need to hear it twice?
Sex rating: ***** Inventive. Experimental. Unshockable. Don’t let him near the fruit basket.
PISCES: THE ROMANTIC
How to spot one: Acts tough with the guys and sensitive with the girls, merging chameleon-like into his environment
Good at: Being sensitive and romantic – he’ll give you a spritz of Eau d’Empathy at every opportunity
Worst habit: Escapism – loves a romantic fantasy, not always troubled by telling the truth
Most likely to say: ‘I’ve found this poem that describes exactly how I feel about you’
How to play him: Trust him as far as you can throw him – Pisces is ruled by Neptune, planet of deception
Reliability rating:** Just as you feel the relationship might be going somewhere, he’ll drift away
Romance rating: ***** If you’re cynical, you’ll think he’s watched far too many soppy films. Otherwise, expect to be carried away by the sheer force of his poetry
Sex rating: ***** His imagination would make a Swedish porn movie seem tame. Book the chiropractor – he’s bound to put your back out.
ARIES: THE COMPETITIVE ONE
How to spot one: Hunt one down at the gym, preferably playing some kind of competitive sport
Good at: Winning – once he feels you’re the prize, he won’t stop til he’s got you
Worst habit: Appallingly impatient. Won’t wait, even for five minutes. Not even during a tube strike
Most likely to say: ‘I love you’. Ten minutes after you meet.
How to play him: He loves the thrill of the chase, so always leave him wanting
Reliability rating: **** As long as you make him feel he’s number one, he’ll come back for more
Romance rating: *** Fantastic when he’s in pursuit, pretty pants once he’s made the conquest
Sex rating: *** Aries men will try anything once. And twice if they like it.
TAURUS: THE ROCK
How to spot one: Looks strong, handsome, manly. Rarely badly dressed.
Good at: Creating an entire shelving unit out of some mystery IKEA flatpack, unblocking the lav, cooking dinner, sex
Worst habit: Pedantic. Stubborn. Mulish.
Most likely to say: ‘I can bring my toolkit round if there’s anything you need fixing’
How to play him: Cook for him at the earliest opportunity – the way to a Taurean’s heart is through his stomach
Reliability rating: **** Oh God, so reliable. And tenacious. Taureans are like porridge – easy to make, nutritious, but a devil to get off the pan once you’ve done
Romance rating: ***** Believes in men being men, women being women, and is good at buying presents. What’s not to like?
Sex rating: **** A sexual gourmet with an insatiable appetite and earthy tastes. But once he’s discovered what works, he’s reluctant to alter the routine.
GEMINI: THE FLIRT
How to spot one: Simultaneous use of iPhone and Blackberry. Fidgety. Outrageous flirt. Constant checking of Twitter.
Good at: Making you laugh and being terrific company. Gives good email, and sends saucy texts.
Worst habit: Gemini men always manage to look single. Especially at parties.
Most likely to say: ‘What are you thinking?’
How to play him: Be cool and amusing. Avoid laying any heavy emotional trips on him. Keep him guessing
Reliability rating: ** Forget it. Learn to love his unpredictability
Romance rating: *** Great at Cary Grant-style flirty quips and compliments. Always texts to say he misses you.
Sex rating: *** All gong and no dinner. Unless there’s an App for that too.
CANCER: THE SENSITIVE ONE
How to spot one: By his kind look and shy smile. Loves his mum. Thinks animals are cute. At work you’ll find him sulking in the kitchen
Good at: Hugging, stroking, getting in touch with his feminine side. He’s sensitive, sympathetic and understanding
Worst habit: Extreme moodiness – one minute it’s raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens, the next he’s giving you the cold shoulder
Most likely to say: ‘If you don’t know, I’m not going to tell you’
How to play him: Look after him – deep down he’s quite needy
Reliability rating: ***** A real catch (whatever you think of the above) – he’s the best starsign for commitment
Romance rating: *** Sentimental rather than romantic – but wouldn’t you prefer a great husband and father to a tough action hero?
Sex rating: *** Exceptionally good at the post-coital bit: think plenty of cuddling followed by a nice cup of tea.
AND FINALLY...THE MAN MOST LIKELY TO...
...cross dress: Aquarius - he can take his belief in gender equality a little too far
...commit: Scorpio - tops in the loyalty stakes
...jilt you at the altar: Sagittarius - 'they can't take away my freeeeeedom'
...be at B&Q on a Sunday morning: Taurus - loves tools, but isn't one
...spoil you: Leo - loves to impress with expensive gifts
...be a body fascist: Libra- break out the steamed vegetables
...be a good dancer: Pisces - clear the dance-floor
...do the housework: Virgo - bathrooms don't clean themselves, you know
...keep you in style: Capricorn - compensation for another dinner in the dog
...insist you watch the match: Aries - can't understand why you're not turned on by all the aggression
...take you for granted: Gemini - you're there to provide the entertainment, not him
...love his mum more than you: Cancer - she's the most important woman in his life, and don't you forget it
Sunday, 8 November 2009
Wednesday, 4 November 2009
Here she is, slightly closer up. Not as close up as the Marc Quinn picture, which, though idealised in its composition, is un-retouched, and bears witness to her flawless skin. God, how few of us at thirty-nine could stand being scrutinised in close-up and displayed at such magnification?
15 Old Bond Street
10am - 6pm
But be quick - it's only on until this Friday, 6th November.
Thursday, 29 October 2009
I can no longer pretend to be young. I celebrate my birthday in tacit agreement that no one will be so ill-mannered to enquire as to the particular anniversary, and Mr Trefusis has kindly taught Trefusis Minor to tell everyone that I'm thirty-five. But then, as Oscar Wilde once wrote, 'no woman should ever be quite accurate about her age. It looks so calculating'.
I've been gazing at my aging navel lately. Time slips through my fingers, yet winds itself around the body. I find I can no longer defy the signs of aging, despite the exortations to do so from the Olay adverts. Some of it is insidious, like the slow contagion of reading glasses amongst my closest friends: our book group has been meeting for more than fifteen years, yet in the last six months, I've noticed that as soon as we start talking about the latest book, seven pairs of spectacles are simultaneously repositioned on noses. Some of it is merely the inevitable triumph of comfort over style: no one my age ever bothers to try and walk anywhere in taxi shoes - we simply adopt a large enough handbag in which to hide the spare flats, and hop back into the heels round the corner from the destination. The list of aging evidence is seemingly endless. Oh, God - everything - modern music is just TOO LOUD, particularly in clothes shops, and I wore all the fashions the first time round. I even found myself looking longingly at a KitchenAid mixer in the John Lewis catalogue - the last time I looked longingly at anything in region of four hundred quid, it was a pair of killingly high raspberry-glacé Louboutins. Actually, I'm not dead yet: they're much nicer than a KitchenAid, and just as inaccessibly priced.
Until shamefully recently, I was rabidly anxious about getting older: I loathed the creeping lines on my face, and my white, skinny, Ancient Mariner hands. I hated myself for both being absurdly perked up by a shout of 'Oy! Darlin'!' from White-Van-Man and for resenting the fact that I was no longer the woman at the party the men wanted to talk to. I felt the missed opportunities of youth too keenly: I longed to get back the time when life was all potential, when it was still a rehearsal. I wanted to smash something when Kazuo Ishiguro said that it dawned on him that most of the literary masterpieces had been written by people under forty. So I pretended to myself that it wasn't happening: I grew my hair defiantly long. I had vats of botox pumped into my forehead. The effects were superficial: I was still the same person inside.
But lately, there has been rather a change. I am, for the first time in my life, genuinely bien dans ma peau.
What happened? Well, on the vanity front, money got tighter and so I gave up Botox. My self-esteem didn't fall the same distance as my brow and it made me ponder a while on the current vogue for a one-size-fits-all ideal of grown-up beauty (yes, Nicole Kidman, Madonna, Kylie Minogue et al, I'm talking about you), particularly after visiting an eminent cosmetic dermatologist for work and hearing about an experimental rejuvenating treatment involving sucking out your own fat, harvesting the stem cells from it and then reinjecting it into your face at a cost of nearly eight thousand pounds. Is it just me, or does that sound really quite horrid? It sent me scuttling into google to look at images of beautiful ancients. Lauren Bacall (above) is no stranger to sun and cigarettes, yet still manages to look rather fabulous. The face I want at seventy is one which reflects the wisdom and character that time has built, rather than the skill of a cosmetic surgeon.
Yet, it's not just about conquering my besetting sin: I think the revolution about the way I feel about myself has had an awful lot to do with the therapeutic qualities of writing this blog (and lovely twitter, to which I'm still addicted). It's not only that it's given me an identity outside the - admittedly lovely - ones I already occupy as wife, mother, career-kind-of-person, but it's also introduced me to the whole glorious world of the internets - the burgeoning blog-roll down the side of Mrs Trefusis is testament to the quantity and quality of fascinating minds out there in the ether.
And most of all, I hear the words of Virginia Woolf echo in my head - 'One of the signs of passing youth is the birth of a sense of fellowship with other human beings as we take our place among them.' - and feel reconciled and content.
Friday, 23 October 2009
The Bert Stern sitting is the backdrop for Marilyn, Forever Blonde, a new one-woman play that has just opened at the Leicester Square Theatre. Marilyn, played by the extraordinary Sunny Thompson, confides her life-story to the unseen photographer. The script is scrupulous in using only Monroe's own words, with the occasional voice-over quote from, say, Joe DiMaggio, or Arthur Miller, to construct its compelling and necessarily tragic narrative.
Yet, when it comes to a notion of a 'real' Marilyn, I can't help but think Truman Capote, quoted in Sarah's book, had it best.
* "Hollywood is a place where they'll pay you a thousand dollars for a kiss, and fifty cents for your soul" Marilyn Monroe.
Tuesday, 6 October 2009
Thursday, 1 October 2009
To see Venice at its best visit in Winter, between the middle of October and before the claustrophobic squalor of Carnevale in February. The days are short, and you have to plan carefully to catch the Titians or Raphaels or Carpaccios in the churches, often closed for restauro, and in which the light is appalling at the best of times. But the compensatory magic of dusk falling to meet the fog rising off the lagoon, the poetic, mystical wilderness of Torcello and the lapping lull of the canals as you fall asleep make up for any inconveniences of winter opening hours, or the occasional acqua alta, and the weather is mostly kind enough to let you enjoy the real beauty of Venice, which lies not in its museums or churches but in walking and walking and walking, deliberately allowing yourself to be lost in its unnavigable calle and canale.
I admit to a preoccupation with Venice, bordering on obsession. Before Trefusis Minor and his sister were born, I would visit a great friend of mine there at least once a year. But Venice is hopeless with small children - at least, the Venice I enjoy - and it's hard to negotiate a Bunbury there without them. So I dream and I read anything from Peter Ackroyd to Donna Leon and sometimes the longing for the place gets so bad that even a whiff of bad drains is enough to transport me back to a favourite square in Cannareggio, bordered by narrow washing-line festooned alleyways.
But now I've found something to alleviate all of this hopeless yearning, somewhere that evokes Venice so beautifully it's a source of deep consolation. What's more, it's so close I walk past it every day on my way to work. Polpo, on Soho's Beak Street, is modelled on a Venetian bacaro - the kind of place tourists leave to the real Venetians, where people go after their passagiata for a Spritz or an ombra and a plate of cichetti, a kind of Venetian tapas. Polpo is more than a bacaro really - I assume one can pop in after work and sit at the terribly inviting zinc-topped bar for a glass of one of their carefully sourced wines (mostly from the north of Italy, with a proper emphasis on the Veneto) and a plate full of delicious bits and pieces - but Polpo is more about the current vogue for restaurants which serve small plates of things to share at lunch and at dinner.
The team behind Polpo have an impeccable pedigree: it's the first independent venture for Russell Norman, previously Operations Director for Caprice Holdings and its head chef is Tom Oldroyd, previously at Bocca di Lupo, who has worked closely with Russell to create a menu of simple and authentic small plates and cicheti. Classics like Salt Cod, Bigoli, Polpette and Cuttlefish in its ink sit alongside some of Tom’s own dishes, like Roast Belly of Pork with Radicchio and Hazelnut Salad, and Mackerel tartare with cucumber, horseradish & carta di musica.
Curiously, unlike anywhere else in Italy, it's possible to eat abominably badly in Venice and pay handsomely for the privilege: there's a very clear delineation between restaurants designated for tourists and those beloved of locals. If you're visiting, avoid anything within striking distance of San Marco, or the Rialto, and move further afield to Canareggio where there are some gems near the Strada Nova as well as some good, if unprepossessing looking restaurants on the Fondamenta Misericorda. Or to the area around Campo S.Barnaba and the Frari. But in the Venetian enclave that is Polpo Soho, you need have no such fears. Not only is Polpo exceptional value for the quality, it's somewhere that will charm locals and incomers alike. Its reservations policy is refreshing too - the bar and around half of the tables are available for those who lead more spontaneous lives, but one can also book in advance to avoid the ghastliness of arranging to meet a group of friends and arriving to find there's no room at the bacaro.
41 Beak Street, London, W1F 9SB
Telephone: 020 7734 4479
Friday, 18 September 2009
Clothes: There are classics every man should own once he's old enough to look after them properly: Turnbull & Asser Sea Island white shirts, for example, Hermès ties - particularly the ones with the distinctive animal patterns on them, an Hermès belt, a decent jacket from Gieves, a cashmere v-neck. Non-comedy cufflinks. A pair of shoes from Loakes or Church's. A classic Burberry or Aquascutum trench. A good winter coat.
A watch: If he won't be troubled by a present that will show him how quickly time zips past once you're in your middle youth, a watch is a particularly appropriate fortieth birthday present. A man should own three watches: sports, work and dress. Remember, it's better to buy a good Timex than a fake Rolex.
Distinctive accessories: Every man should have something suave to carry his laptop around in, rather than one of those ghastly IT black things. Bill Amberg do the nicest, and they come in several sizes - the smallest works for a laptop, the largest for a weekend bag. The Medicine Bag is particularly good, offering a modern twist on the traditional Gladstone.
Food: Men seem very keen at the moment to adopt some of the more traditional female skills - sadly this never seems to involve a taste for emptying the dishwasher, or cleaning up when the children have been sick in the middle of the night - if they want to do some cooking it seems to involve a trip to Borough Market in search of some rare vegetable or artisinal cheese which will then be presented at the dinner party with a flourish and its full resumé. Anyway, the using of every single pot and pan in the kitchen will soon no longer be your problem, so you can feel free to indulge his latent Gordon Ramsay without any qualms about having to spend decades clearing up afterwards. Leith's do wonderful cookery courses ranging from week long intensive cheffery to high tech specifics: I'd hesitate to give Knife skills as a present to someone I was breaking up from, but it's apparently hugely popular with men.
Tuesday, 8 September 2009
Monday, 24 August 2009
Wednesday, 19 August 2009
As if to add insult to injury, I've taken terrible liberties with the original meme. I hope that Motherhood the Final Frontier will forgive me for having bent the rules. It's probably an enormous sin in the blogosphere and I'll have to go to confession. But not this one, I hope.
Anyway, here's the meme. Or, ahem, my version of the meme....
What's your favourite piece of writing?
I'm afraid you'd get a different answer to this question every time it was asked. Writing is a little like clothes, so much depends on your mood. The Good Soldier by Ford Madox Ford made a great impression on me when I first read it at eighteen, and I must have read it at least every decade since, possibly because it has one of the boldest opening lines of any book - if you start your first chapter 'This is the saddest story I have ever heard', you're setting the bar very high.
But there's a passage within it that struck a chord with me then, and it still resonates, for reasons I'm not prepared to go into, not being a confessional blogger.
We are all so afraid, we are all so alone, we all so need from the outside the assurance of our own worthiness to exist.
So, for a time, if such a passion comes to fruition, the man will get what he wants. He will get the moral support, the encouragement, the relief from the sense of loneliness, the assurance of his own worth. But these things pass away; inevitably they pass away as the shadows across sun-dials. It is sad, but it is so. The pages of the book will have become familiar; the beautiful corner of the road will have been turned to many times. Well, this is the saddest story.
Thursday, 13 August 2009
My taxi driver sensibly dropped me off on Porchester Gardens, right outside the private entrance to Le Café Anglais. If I'd had my wits about me, I'd have stepped out of the cab, and into Café Anglais’ private lift and found myself cocooned in elegant luxury in a trice. Too intent on looking glamorous in an enormous pair of Prada sunglasses, I tottered straight past the lift, and found myself stranded in the middle of Whiteley's shopping centre.
It's slightly counter-intuitive to put a very smart restaurant at the top of a rather less smart mall, and it's greatly to the credit of Le Café Anglais that it manages to overcome the experience of actually getting there. Having finally stumbled upon a public lift, I found myself alone with a Mohammed Al Fayed lookeylikey, who pressed me lasciviously against the lift's buttons, breathed hotly on me, insisting I was 'beeyootifooll' and that we must go for a drink together immediately. It's at times like these I realise the extraordinary disadvantages of being middle-middle class: DidI hit him with my capacious handbag? Did I cry 'Unhand me sir' in a ringing tone, pressing the alarm? No, I did not. Appalled and disconcerted, yet unwilling to appear impolite, I merely squeaked, 'Sweet of you, but I'm meeting friends' and scuttled out of the lift in heart-pounding relief as the doors opened not a second too soon.
I still couldn't find Le Café Anglais. I asked someone in Yo Sushi! who sent me to Cafe Nero. Had I not still been wearing my dark glasses, I daresay I would have arrived at the restaurant an awful lot sooner. When I finally got there, I had to spend several minutes outside, trying to recompose myself, partly to shake off the sweaty horror of my enthusiastic lift companion, but mostly to try and conquer my embarrassment at my own navigational incompetence.
Only a fool - me - would think Le Café Anglais difficult to get to. The upside of the story is that it's such a bower of bliss, I could have walked barefoot from Acton along the Westway, and it would have been worth the pain.
The interior is astonishingly beautiful - all art-deco detailing, floor to ceiling windows, and double-height ceiling. It has a wonderful understated opulence about it, cleverly excising all trace of the MacDonalds that once occupied the same space.
But it wasn’t to stare admiringly at its design or drool at the enormous menu that I was there: co-founder Charlie McVeigh had invited a cabal of twitterers to a lunch, with nothing more taxing on our agenda than a hedonistic afternoon of delicious food, wine far better than my ignorant palate deserves, and vast amounts of gossip – real life twittering, perhaps.
Proper restaurant critics have reviewed the delights on offer far better than I ever could– you may read them here and here – all I shall say is that the menu is cleverly composed of all the things you most want to eat in the world, and some things that you might hesitate to try but are works of staggering genius – like the parmesan custard with anchovy toast, which I’d rather feared might taste like a pair of superannuated socks, but is such heaven I’m salivating as I write, wondering when I can contrive to go back so I may eat it again.
An afternoon like this is my version of Wilde’s Bunburying – a miniature holiday, carefree and without a to-do list or pressing agenda – the London equivalent of a lazy day on the beach with a not-very-improving novel, and with all the transgressive appeal of stolen time, though I hasten to add, in case anyone from work is reading, I have a properly completed holiday form for anyone who'd like to see it.
And really, despite the fact that the lunch gave onto drinks and then dinner, before ending shortly before midnight, it was a very restorative Bunbury indeed.
Le Café Anglais, 8 Porchester gardens, London W2 4DB tel: 020 7221 1415 firstname.lastname@example.org