Friday, 16 July 2010


I am shockingly bad at writing prompt thank-you letters. I always mean to, and yet, I came across one loitering unfinished in my handbag the other day that really should have hit the post-box in early January. I've come round to the idea that a text or phone-call the next day is actually better than a letter that never gets sent, but still, you see, the guilt dogs me. It doesn't feel proper, somehow.

The reason I'm feeling twitchy about gratitude is that the ever inspiring Tania Kindersley has given me an award, an honour I'm quite sure I don't deserve, but for which I'm none the less touched and incredibly grateful, and I know that if I don't say thank-you now, it may well be months before I get round to it. Tania is the co-author of one of my favourite books of last year, Backwards in High Heels, a consoling and deeply satisfying book about 'the impossible art of being female'. It's a book one dips into again and again, coming away with fistfuls of gems that go on glittering at you throughout the day. It covers everything from developing a signature style to what it means to be a feminist, and if you don't have a copy I urge you to buy it (it's a complete steal at Amazon - less than six quid). Tania is working on a new book, but in the meantime you can find her terrific blog here.

The award, like all good inheritances, comes entailed with conditions - passing the award onto six other bloggers is the easy bit (see below) but I think another seven things about me hot on the heels of, um, nine things about me, might just end up being Too Much Information.

I'm going to offer you Seven Poems that Saved My Life instead. Coincidentally, the day before Tania told me she'd tagged me for the Beautiful Blogger, I'd found my old commonplace book tucked away at the back of a drawer. It's full of no end of nonsense - old vaporetto tickets, quotations, restaurant receipts and whatnot - and I'd written nothing in it since Trefusis Minor was a tiny wailing infant, but at one stage in its genesis I went through a phase of copying poems into it. They're mostly from a time when I was not very happily single, so if there's rather a relentless theme to them, do forgive.

1. Past One O'Clock. Vladimir Mayakovsky

Past one o'clock. You must have gone to bed.
The Milky Way streams silver through the night.
I'm in no hurry: with lightning telegrams
I have no cause to wake or trouble you.
And, as they say, the incident is closed.
Love's boat has smashed against the daily grind.
Now you and I are quits. Why bother then
To balance mutual sorrows, pains, and hurts.
Behold what quiet settles on the world.
Night wraps the sky in tribute from the stars.
In hours like these, one rises to address
The ages, history and all creation.

When I was half-sick with unresolved love for that scoundrel Vronsky, I used to find the line 'love's boat has smashed against the daily grind' extremely helpful. See also Carol Ann Duffy's 'Words, Wide Night', and - later - 'The Art of Losing' by Elizabeth Bishop.

2. Celia, Celia. Adrian Mitchell

When I am sad and weary
When I think all hope is gone
When I walk along High Holborn
I think of you with nothing on.

I got that on a text once from Mr Trefusis' predecessor. It made me roar with laughter, which wasn't entirely appropriate since I was reading it under the desk in the middle of a hugely dull corporate boardroom love-in at the time.

3. Bloody Men. Wendy Cope

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 destinations,
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.

Few poets are as cheeringly witty as Wendy Cope, and this one was such a solace in the internet dating days.

4. Mrs Icarus. Carol Ann Duffy

I'm not the first or the last
to stand on a hillock,
watching the man she married
prove to the world
he's a total, utter, absolute, Grade A pillock.

It's a matter of public record that I had a very short-lived 'starter marriage' when I was as young as I was stupid. The last time I wrote anything about it, he tried to sue me, so I shall draw a veil over the details. In any case, Carol Ann Duffy's poem says all that needs saying.

5. To His Coy Mistress. Andrew Marvell

Had we but world enough, and time,
This coyness, Lady, were no crime
We would sit down and think which way
To walk and pass our long love's day.
Thou by the Indian Ganges' side
Should'st rubies find: I by the tide
Of Humber would complain. I would
Love you ten years before the Flood,
And you should, if you please, refuse
Til the conversion of the Jews.

[text continues here - it's too long to scribe out on this post]

A terrible rake once seduced me by quoting this poem in its entirety. I don't think I've ever quite recovered.

6. He wishes for the cloths of heaven. W.B. Yeats

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams:
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

My lovely sister read this at my wedding to Mr Trefusis. We all cried. It's one of the few poems I know by heart.

7. Child. Sylvia Plath

Your clear eye is the one absolutely beautiful thing.
I want to fill it with colour and ducks,
The zoo of the new

Whose names you meditate -
April snowdrop, Indian pipe,

Stalk without wrinkle
Pool in which images
Should be grand and classical

Not this troublous wringing of hands, this dark
Ceiling without a star.

This is the very last thing in the notebook. I must have written it in the anxious, uncertain nights of new motherhood, when - if Trefusis Minor wasn't wailing - I'd send Mr Trefusis upstairs three times an hour to check he was still breathing, or, if he was bawling in the unrepentant way of newborn babies, I'd be out, pacing the twilight streets with him in a baby sling, in a futile attempt to march him into sleep.

And now it's my turn to have the very greatest pleasure in passing on the Beautiful Blogger award to the delicious blogs below - it's an edit of some of my favourite aesthetes.

She hasn't posted for a while, but this presents one with all the excuse one could ever need to investigate the back catalogue of She writes so beautifully, and she loves AS Byatt, Molly Keane, Mary Wesley and 'obscure early twentieth century female authors' (isn't it funny how much one instantly likes someone who shares the same taste in books?). I also suspect her of once doing a very similar job to mine.

Do look at the blissful box of delights that is There are always exquisite pictures, and she loves Virginia Woolf, and Edith Sitwell, and Diana Vreeland, and Oscar Wilde - reason enough to point you in her direction)

I'm greatly in favour of - his latest post on the importance of 'distinguished' and 'dignified' says it all. What's more, he quotes one of my favourite lines from Baudelaire 'Luxe, calme et volupte'. Wonderful. is such a lovely mix of culture and fashion, and always a treat to read. Christina tagged me in a fabulous meme about shoes, which I will do when Mr Trefusis goes away in a couple of weeks on one of his expeditions (I can't quite face justifying to him quite why I'm photographing all my favourite pairs of shoes, though I really want to and I keep making little jottings about the stories of those I plan to feature). is my friend in Real Life, despite the fact that I am old enough to be his mum, so I hope it's not cheating to nominate him. He has the nicest manners of just about anyone I know and his blog, albeit new, always offers a fresh perspective. is about France, and about fashion, but above all it's about the kind of elegant, classic style that comes with confidence and self-knowledge, and which never goes out of season. She mixes opinion with observation and includes terrific images. A paradigm of effortless chic.


Miss Welcome said...

What a wonderful idea to put poems instead of "things." I didn't know one single one and it was such a pleasure to discover them.

Sam said...

Thank you so much for the poems - still so relevant for those of us who too have had a 'starter marriage' but are still surveying the car crash that is our love life since. There have been tears, but of grateful recognition that it's not just me and that there IS hope.

Joan Hunter Dunn said...

I didn't know the term 'commomplace book' - but I shall now be using it. So thank you for that. Great choice of poems. I've always smiled at Wendy Cope and Adrian Mitchell. Yeats is a poem that travels through life. I loved it, and it spoke to me when single, in a 'this is what I'm waiting for' way and then we to used it at our wedding and I continue to love it.
End of ramble.

Lewis William said...

You have even made Real Life sound rather exciting and mysterious, thank you.

And I think I know what I can conjure up for this tag.

Blighty said...

Dear Mrs T, a lovely post, we share some of the same tastes in poetry, love Adrian, Carol Ann, Wendy and Sylvia! Am off to check out the blogs you mention too, sound right up my street. V intriguing about your earlier marriage, so glad you found Mr T, even if he does tell you to hurry up and get in the car!! Bx

tish jett said...

Flattered, overwhelmed and absolutely thrilled you chose to give me this award.

Particularly in our blogosphere, the source is the true compliment of this honor.

Thank you so very, very much.

Your blog is a joy. You write so beautifully and you are lol funny. It's what the world needs.

Merci encore et encore.


lady jane grey said...

Ach, what a bliss again, Mrs. Trefusis !

Christina @ Fashion's Most Wanted said...

Dear Mrs T, thank you so much I am most honoured to receive a tag from you.

I love your choice of poems, Yeats always makes me cry, I have all of Wendy Cope's books, Sylvia Plath and Adrian Mitchell and it's lovely to be introduced to some I hadn't read.

I have been tagged on the Beautiful Blog Award twice but I shall think of seven different things to share.

I'm looking forward to your shoe post when Mr T goes away. Christina xx

otherworldlyone said...

Great idea to use poems instead. I enjoyed reading them all though I think #1 is my favorite. #2 made me laugh as well. It's very catchy.

Northern Snippet said...

Love the Wendy Cope poem and looking forward to the shoe post!

Sarah said...

Love the poems (especially Celia). Do you know 'I am no good at love' by Noel Coward - that was one I copied into a notebook way back when. Rather bleak, but it rang true in the melodramatic days of teenage infatuation! with best wishes, Sarah

SuSu said...

So glad you also like "" I saw him at an event here in Virginia last November and he stood out right away - easily the best dressed man in the room. And he is rather shy, too. Great choices!

Chuck said...

Aww, love the Yeats - I have it one of my old commonplace books. Such nice things to reread. Strange when you discover a completely different reading of a poem that has been important to you though...

Anonymous said...

What a lovely post on a lovely site. I saw you listed on the style saloniste and am so glad that I did!

I look forward to reading your past and future posts.

I appreciate your including an overview of your favorite blogs, it is truly helpful in seeing what treasures are out there.


All best wishes said...

More weirdness...I have found a fellow commonplacebook keeper. I thought I was the only one to have kept one for the past hundred years. And what's more, we share an almost identical taste in poetry!

Anonymous said...

Hey, I am checking this blog using the phone and this appears to be kind of odd. Thought you'd wish to know. This is a great write-up nevertheless, did not mess that up.

- David