Monday, 4 January 2010


The divine Errant Aesthete tagged me on her beautiful blog just before Christmas. I feel dreadful for having taken so long to respond in kind, but I hope she will forgive me my tardiness, and not reproach me for my manners. She may happily rebuke me for not having fulfilled the rules of the game - the tag requires one to offer ten things about oneself, and I'm afraid I could only manage eight and a bit.

But that reminded me of how much I like Fellini's 8½, which I've not seen for eons, so I frittered away rather a lot of time on YouTube watching clips of it instead of finishing this post. It's a film about a midlife crisis, which resonates with me now rather more than it did when I first saw it. Watch it, it's magnificent, and rather better, by all accounts than Nine, the film of the musical based on the Fellini film.

Anyway, here's my eight and a half.

1.What's in a name?
I was determined to
write a blog as an alternative - an antidote, really - to therapy, but couldn't think what to call it. Somehow I felt that the title of the blog would be hugely important. And then, as I was sitting in the back of a cab, patiently enduring the traffic on Bond Street, looking at the love-worn copy of Virginia Woolf's Mrs Dalloway in my bag, the title Mrs Trefusis Takes a Taxi came to me. In those days, pre-recession, I seemed to spend an inordinate amount of time and money in taxis, and I rather liked the way a taxi could be simultaneously a useful literal device for taking me from one place - and blog post- to another and a metaphor for the journey of self-discovery I'd embarked upon.
And as for the Mrs Trefusis bit - Mrs Dalloway took me to Virginia Woolf, which lead me to Vita Sackville-West and in turn to naughty Violet Trefusis, who I'd always rather loved after reading '
Portrait of a Marriage'. I have nothing in common with Violet Trefusis, but the name had exactly the kind of patrician, stiff-upper-lip, Britishness I'd been looking for. I hope that here, and on twitter, I'm living up to it.

2.Solipsistic Wailing
I used to write a diary. It was utterly, appallingly, rubbish, indecipherably written in a hand that even a GP would be ashamed of, and full of poor punctuation and self-pity. Blogging, on the other hand, forced me to be a little more mindful of how and what I was writing and the result was that it became vastly more therapeutic than my diary ever was, despite being much less confessional. But then, I am the kind of person who would put lipstick on to put the bins out, in case anyone was looking, so a degree of self-consciousness must be in my nature. In fact, the one and only time I left the house looking shocking, almost but not quite in coat-worn-over-pyjamas mode, with unbrushed hair and smudged day-old mascara, I bumped into Colin Firth in Ravenscourt Park - we'd both taken our children there at the unearthly hour of half past eight in the morning. Trefusis Minor played happily with Mr Darcy's children in the sandpit, whilst I tried to hide underneath the swings, scarlet with shame at looking like a bag lady in front of one of the great Romantic Heroes.

Who actually makes proper New Year's resolutions and sticks to them? I don't think I know anyone, least of all me. It's not that I'm without resolve, and I can exercise enormous willpower when absolutely necessary, despite being a bit of an all or nothing girl, but mostly my New Year's resolutions barely outlast breakfast on 1st January. And really, January is far too long and depressing a month to give up booze and chocolate: if one wants to show off one's ascetism, far better to wait for the mercifully short 28 days of February
However, I have made a resolution that I will try to maintain. I'm going to try to blog more frequently. The challenge will be learning to be concise. It doesn't come naturally.

Four years ago, I resolved to be fit enough to run the Fullers Thames Towpath Ten Miler. I started with a little hesitant jog around the block one icy January evening, and by April I was ready to race ten miles along the Thames from Chiswick Bridge to Teddington Lock and back again. I did it in a perfectly respectable time and even kept up the running afterwards, recording my best ever 10k time of 51 minutes a few months later when pregnant with Hunca Munca*. I kept up the running until I was five months gone and people started pointing and laughing, and so I gave it up in favour of lounging on a chaise longue, eating vast amounts of cake and chocolate.
I've run since in a desultory kind of way, for therapeutic rather than aesthetic reasons, but now it's time to maximise its benefits: I need a proper goal, a challenge to keep me going. I suppose I'd better sign up for the Towpath Ten again. Oh God, I'm tired just thinking about it.

5. Astrology
A very long time ago, I trained in astrology with The Company Of Astrologers. Alongside the day job, I used to write horoscope columns and features for various women's magazines but gave it all up when the children came along and I became far too knackered to care about my own future, let alone anyone else's. But I still like to keep my hand in, which is why you'll be subjected from time to time to an astrology post on Mrs Trefusis.

6. French without Tears
For complicated reasons that have a post all of their own, Trefusis Minor goes to a French school. Not being very, um, capable in any language other than English when he got there, he cried every day for the whole of the first term. A year later, he can speak french (and a lot of franglais) but still sings in English. This holiday he's been mostly singing Cheryl Cole, which is slightly odd in a five year old.

7. Vanity
I used to lie about my age all the time for all sorts of dropped-on-my-head-as-an-adult reasons, mostly to do with the fact that until you're forty you can pretend you're still all potential. But after the big Four-Oh, really, one has to admit that life is no longer a rehearsal. I didn't feel nearly grown up enough to be forty, and in fact went to a lot of trouble to put a thick smokescreen round the big birthday, giving birth to the Tiny Trefusis* three days before as a distraction technique, and so I could truthfully say that I had both my children in my thirties.
Anyway, the botox has been banished in the Great Trefusis Economy Drive and I had to get reading glasses so I couldn't really lie about my age anymore. Fortunately, writing this blog and the high jinx of twitter has given me a new-found self-confidence and at last I feel I can come clean: I'm 42. The profile picture of me with complicated hair was taken in November 2008: believe me, having your hair pulled back that tightly does things botox can only dream about.

8. Accents
I would say that I didn't have an accent. Well, when I'm quite awfully drunk I speak terribly- terribly carefully and enunciatedly in accents of Celia Johnson. What I mean to say is that I don't have a specific regional accent. However, I can, when required, offer you a marvellous Merseyside. When I was sixteen, I went to live with my cousins on the Wirral so I could go to school with them for my A' Levels, rather than continue at the boarding school at which I'd been so miserable. I arrived at their door with an accent that was pure Fotherington-Thomas and which they quickly established would get me into all sorts of trouble, and probably get me beaten up, quite aside from the fact that few people understood what I was saying. So they gave me reverse elocution lessons. To this day, I am able to speak scouse like a native. Try me.

.* Tiny Trefusis
Tiny Trefusis was formerly known as Hunca Munca. But she's a little less destructive now she's coming up to three, so it seems unfair to stick her with the soubriquet. She's very funny and told my mother over Christmas that she liked the vicar at church because he wore curtains and a party hat.

My blogs to watch in 2010
I love all the blogs on my blogroll, look at all of them with unerring regularity and heartily recommend them.
However, it's hard to chose which seven to actually tag, and pass this meme onto, but here are a few that were new discoveries for me in 2009 that I'd like to share with you.

SmackCrumpleBang. Oh, I'm devoted to 'Dougie' Houser. He's clever and funny and talented and one of the most delightful people you could care to meet. His utterly original blog is, on the whole, picture-led, him being an artist and all. He does wonderful pop-ups too.

The Spice Spoon. I'll confess a bias: S is a real-life friend of long-standing, but look at her blog and judge for yourself whether I'm allowing a personal relationship to affect my objectivity. I don't think so - I'm mad about this site, which is more of a food memoir than a typical food blog, and was recently, and rightly, recommended as one of her Top Ten Blogs to Follow in 2010 by ace blogger LibertyLondonGirl.

All Best Wishes. Like me, All Best Wishes is not a prolific blogger, so when she does post, you fall upon her writing with ravenous hunger. Broadly, her subjects are motherhood and work, but her themes are universal. I hope, like me, you'll enjoy the discovery.

Mr London Street. It's more a collection of essays than a traditional blog, and the quality of prose makes for a terrific read. I'm not going to say anything more - check it out for yourself.

One of 365. 'One' posts every day without fail, as the title of her blog suggests. The scope of her blog encompasses everything from fashion and beauty to depression and heartbreak. Follow her journey.

Helena Halme. Another of LLG's 2010 picks, Helena Halme's chronicle of love for her English Sailor has been keeping her readers hooked for months. An expat Finn, her writing is compelling stuff.

Knightley or Elton. This is a comparatively new blog by a very young and very clever aspiring actor. Originally from Australia, he talks and writes as if he's straight from the pages of Brideshead Revisited, and I really rather like that. I include him here not merely because I like him, but also to encourage him to keep up the good work.


Clare said...

Lovely post. Very warming on this coldest of days. Funnily enough, I had recently decided to start lying about my age - was told 38 was believable and thought could sustain for a couple of years. But sod it, I'm 42 as well. My cher Maman constantly tells me 50 is the new 30 (to justify her 60 as the new 40 I assume)...
Happy New Year Mrs T. x clare

Rose said...

I like the resolution to blog more because I love reading your work- I will look these blogs up- I think I've said somewhere else that I feel like I need some fresh reading!

Unknown said...

Happy New Year! With you on the resolutions, and love the take on pre-40 being all about potential. I think I am developing jowls at 37, how depressing. Must get them fixed x

nappy valley girl said...

Aha, another miserable boarding school survivor! Great post, really enjoyed reading it; you reveal just enough about yourself to maintain the mystery. Love the Colin Firth story.

Patrick Baty said...

I feel almost like an intruder commenting on your post as a man, however so much of it resonates and bridges the gender gap. I laughed and, in turn, was pulled up short by the honesty and humanity of it. All-too realistic words on resolutions balanced by your account of ten-milers shows a degree of steeliness not often seen.

The vanity thing hit home, especially with regard to reading glasses and I can see that I really must ditch that 30 year old Facebook profile picture taken during a more glamorous past! Thank you.

Mrs L. said...

Genius blog! So happy to have started my day here... Mrs L of the 43rd Year.

Lewis William said...

Why is it so cold in London? Thank you so very much for your kind words, I hope you can post more - we fall upon yours with ravenous hunger!

I hope I lived up to expectations.

Anonymous said...

Beautifully written and - as ever - a fascinating insight into Mrs Trefusis. So much so that I will forgive you for having taken up this meme from another blogger, whilst shunning the same meme offered from my own paltry blog. Sniff.

mothership said...

I LOVE the curtains and a party hat comment. What a hoot TT is!
Being 42 sounds much more glamorous and self-assured than fibbing a few years and having to do mental arithmetic (this last gets more challenging with increasing age, I find ).
Being a writer is one of the things that only gets better with age and experience so you can look forward to the years improving you and potential being replaced with achievement and satisfaction (yours and ours). Keep writing. We hang upon your every word xo

one of 365 said...

Mrs. T.

Only you would have your children play with Mr. Darcy's offspring. Now, what would Lizzie Bennett think! Jealous, I reckon---I mean, she is almost 200 years old and compared to your youthful 42--and YOU think you need Botox! Thank you so very much for tagging me amongst the very best of the best blogs of 2009. I hope I live up to the expectations of your suggestion. My resolution has to be better at posting more.....and I think you just gave me the challenge to do so. I am thankful for your faith and really pleased to be on the list. You know how I feel---you started it all for me. And without your guidance, well, I'd be twiddling my fingers. You're a force to be reckoned with Madame--and I don't care how tight your hair is pulled back in that picture......or how much bloody Botox you claim to use.......I've seen other pics of you.........and you look a helluva lot better than most women a decade younger. And you have had 2 kids. Good on you girl. Hopes for a better 2010. And I am looking forward to sharing this year with, downs and frown lines ;) With all my love..........xoxoxoxo

Welsh Girl said...

I adore Hunca Munca / Tiny Trefusis's vicar description. Heavenly in all ways. Happy New Year Mrs T...

Welsh Girl said...

I adore Hunca Munca / Tiny Trefusis's vicar description. Heavenly in all ways. Happy New Year Mrs T...

linda said...

I get a little thrill every time I see you've written something new -- love your blog.

I used to write for a daily newspaper, so as much as I love the idea of blogging and admire the blogging talents of others, I cannot beat the self-consciousness out of me. I suspect it must be too much in my nature. Maybe I just need a really good title?

Your Colin Firth story tickled me -- it was almost cinematic.

P.S. I am 43. It's not so bad, I keep telling myself. And quite a lot better than the alternative.

Anonymous said...

I am truly touched by your sidebar addition - thank you xxxxx

Unknown said...

What a fabulous post.

I have been known to lie about my age on occasion but find telling the truth gets gets much a much better and sometimes surprising response.

So here's to 2010, no new year's resoulutions and running in February.


LK said...

Just found you, interesting blog. Agree with you on the what's in a name piece. Could not think what to call my blog either.

Errant Aesthete said...

Mrs. Trefusis,

No apologies necessary. Too wonderful you are! Your honesty, humor and humanity are without equal, as is your prose. I laughed throughout and share your penchant for the importance of looking good on the way to the dumpster (bins).

Loved the origins of your blog and drooled over the story of Mr. Darcy, the quintessential heart throb of my reveries. Last, but not least, was completely charmed by the eloquence of Ms. Tiny Trefusus.

Helen James said...

Thank you I thoroughly enjoyed reading that insightful and witty post , I will check out some of those blogs you recommend x

Deeba PAB said...

I got here from Shyama's and am so glad you included her in your list of blogs. Gosh, I love her style, like I do yours!
This is indeed a great post & s very 'head-nodding' sorta one, if you know what I mean. You almost convince me to try & run...almost! Resolutions scare me to bits, so I stay clear of putting my head on the block!!
It was wonderful being here. I hig the ground running every single morning, now in my 42nd year!
Have a wonderful day!!

Linda said...

I saw something today that reminded me of your Colin Firth story.

Here ( ), he tells Ellen Degeneres about the time his neighbours caught him in his not-for-public-presentation underpants and slippers.

Anonymous said...

Good point, though sometimes it's hard to arrive to definite conclusions

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