Thursday 22 November 2012


A London Winter is typically miserable - its chilly without being properly cold, and drizzling and dank: a flabby kind of temperature that plays havoc with my hair and sense of humour.

Relief is a three and a half hour flight and a three hour taxi ride away - I left a dismal west London at 9.30 and by seven I was in a tshirt having dinner in Essaoueria - close enough to the Sahara to enjoy temperatures in the seventies in late November, and close enough to London to make a long weekend make sense.

What can I say, it's blissful. After a morning touring the charms of the ancient port and medina, I retired with a book to a sun lounger on the roof of the Riad for an hour. Dorothy, we're not in London anymore.

Tuesday 20 November 2012


As a self-confessed lipstick junkie, I've found Clinique's easy-to-use chunky lip crayons very easy-to-love.

New for autumn 2012 is a fab new variant: with all the addictive simplicity and lip-cherishing moisturising qualities of the original, Chubby Sticks Intense have a much denser pigment, so if you like an emphatically coloured lip as I do, you'll love these.

My currant favourites are Chunkiest Chili - a wearable brick-red, and Broadest Berry, a less-demanding and prettier take on the wine-stained lips that were so prevalent on the A/W '12 catwalks.

Clinique Chubby Stick Intense Moisturising Lip Colour Balm: £16.00 nationwide stockists.

Tuesday 23 October 2012


I struggle with handbags. I mean, I'm prone to packing my handbag so full of everything but the kitchen sink that I literally struggle with it sometimes and long for a Sherpa to come and lend a hand.

However, the real struggle is to find something that's chic enough to carry a look at work yet big enough to be able to stuff  in it an iPad, a book and the seventeen lipsticks, three biros, a pair of ballet flats and a blackberry charger that I habitually lug around with me. I have a beautiful Gucci bag, bought in a sale in the boutique in Venice about twelve years ago, but frankly, it fits a credit card, a door key and iPhone 4 and nothing else. I have a very pared-down Gladstone-type bag in a dark brown suede that has a Mary Poppins-like ability to contain seemingly endless amounts - I quite expect to discover a hatstand in there one day. I have tiny evening bags and strangely coloured and shaped bags acquired in a fit of over-enthusiastic sample-sale shopping. But you know, I'm not wedded to any of them - none of them says '"This is who I am. This is what I stand for"' as Anya Hindmarch* says the perfect handbag should. None of my handbags has that kind of totemic quality, I'm sorry to say.

However, whilst I'd come to accept that I wasn't the kind of person who wanted a bag to be a metaphor for me, I hadn't quite relinquished the quest for one which properly ticked the 'useful and beautiful' box. And when What's in My Handbag asked if I'd write something about books and beauty, I went slightly into overdrive in my search for the perfect bag - it's all very well showing what's in your handbag, but what of the handbag itself?

What you see in the holding shot of my WIMH  piece is as near to the platonic ideal of handbags as it's possible to get (for me, at least): it's 'The Claudia', a black patent leather tote with 'cavallino'sides which was created by Strenesse to celebrate the twenty-fifth anniversary of stylist and boutique owner Claudia Sebire. Her style signature of wearable modern luxury is perfectly embodied by the bag and it looks as elegant crammed full of all my rubbish as it does when I've been kinder to it and filled it with nothing more than mobile phones and housekeys. Cleverly, it works as hard for post-work cocktail events (with the sides pushed in to create a chic kind of bowling bag) as it does for meetings when it needs to double as a briefcase.

'The Claudia' - Claudia Sebire patent leather tote bag. £675 (I know, I know, but it is really very lovely and as I keep telling Mr Trefusis, the cost per wear over time is almost certainly going to end up being about 20p)

*quoted from The Telegraph, Bags to Riches, Justine Picardie interview May 2012

Saturday 20 October 2012


"I really, really need Botox", I wail to Mr Trefusis, hauling my brow up into my hairline where it belongs. "Then have some Botox", he replies, logically, if a little less flatteringly than I'd like.

On this note, I have some advice for all men: when women start to pull their face about and talk about cosmetic intervention, it's merely the grown-up version of 'does my bum look big in this' and your response should never be truthful. A little polite protestation about the years not having taken any kind of toll is appropriate, before steering the conversation to safer waters. If you don't feel it's laying it on too thick - and only you know the fragility of your beloved's ego in these matters - then a suggestion that she could give her similarly aged friend a few years can also go down well. If you're the poetic sort, I can recommend some cheesy hand-holding accompanied by quoting John Donne - "No spring nor summer beauty hath such grace/As I have seen in one autumnal face...". But gentlemen, you must do this with conviction and without crossing your fingers behind your back.

Of course, the older one is, the less likely one is to ask anyone if one's bum looks big - as the fabulous Catherine Deneuve is supposed to have said, after a certain age one must choose between one's face and one's behind, a few kilos can work wonders to plump out the lines and wrinkles. Callipygian women who look like hags from the front impress no one. The last word on the face Vs arse debate must go to Nigella Lawson: she's 52 and is ravishingly beautiful. I've seen her several times at The Wolseley and notwithstanding its gentle lighting, she could give most 35 year olds a run for their money. And for all women faced with this choice, I give you Sara Blakely, the inventor of SPANX, who was deservedly named in TIME 100 this year as one of its 100 most influential people in the world.

But as ever, I digress. I haven't exactly chosen the most tactful moment for railing against the aesthetic ravages of the passing years: Mr Trefusis's birthday is in a couple of months and if anyone should have the floor for a moan about getting older, it's him, particularly as it's astonishing how much older than me he is since I gave up having birthdays myself. But he doesn't seem to mind the years. In fact, he's always telling people he's older than he is: this is a strategy that hasn't really occurred to me - perhaps the idea is that people are always seriously impressed by how young you look if you're always claiming you're into the next decade. It doesn't really work for me. I prefer to be vague or dodge the question. After all, as Oscar Wilde once said 'A woman who will tell you her real age will tell you anything'. And I've always liked his idea that 'London is full of women who've been 35 for years'. Quite right too.

But lately, I've been having something of a mid-life crisis about the affect of age and gravity on the looks. I know that it's merely a metaphor, and I'm simply displacing a vast amount of angst about age vs accomplishment (youth being wasted on the young blah blah blah) onto my obsession with my appearance. I know I should get over it. But I don't want to look my age. At least, not until I've reconciled some stuff and at the moment the years are sliding past as easily as nails down a blackboard.

I do wonder whether I'm going to end up like Corinna from Swift's poem 'A Beautiful Young Nymph Going to Bed' - it's all available to the modern woman - £200 anti-wrinkle creams, hair highlighting, chicken fillets for your bra, teeth whitening, eyelash extensions, false nails, fillers, not to mention the Botox...though I hasten to add I haven't indulged in all of these. I still look more or less the same after I've got ready for bed as I do beforehand. 40 watt soft tone bulbs help.

I make some idle protest to Mr Trefusis about Botox being a terrible waste of money and that I should get to grips with what's really behind my inability to proudly announce my true age. I believe I even offered some rubbish about my wrinkles being lines of experience, wisdom and character. Of course, he believes me a lot less than I believe myself when I'm offering up this kind of nonsense.

I've dabbled in botox before - I had a couple of sessions a few years ago with the beautiful Preema Vig, whose skill with botox and fillers is the secret behind many a well-known face and at the beginning of this year I went to Dr Rita Rakus, who was also very good and whose clinic is strategically placed near the back of Harrods so one can look as if one's in the market for a spot of upscale shopping and then exit through the Laduree tea room for 'rejuvenation' hem hem..... I confess I liked my three run-ins with botox very much indeed - it fixed my annoying Roger Moore-style eyebrow raising habit and made me look like a fresher, happier, less wearied version of me: it's gratifying how much better people respond to you when you look peaceful and friendly rather than suspicious and cross.

Botox may have replaced beautiful shoes as the thing I long for most, but since the Great Trefusis Economic Crisis kicked in, I can afford neither. And perhaps that's good for me. Perhaps I have to learn to live with the face that time and experience has given me and be grateful for it, rather than gazing mournfully at myself in the mirror like a superannuated Narcissus and seeing nothing but the sand running ever more rapidly through the hour-glass. Just because a little light cosmetic intervention can give the appearance of having turned back the clock, doesn't mean the years aren't there. Hmmm.

And on that note of solipsistic existential angst, I'll go and see what I can do to spruce myself up with makeup.

Anyway, if you can afford botox and so on and would like a recommendation, Preema Vig can be contacted on 07939560247 and Dr Rita Rakus is on 07000400321. 

Saturday 13 October 2012


In twenty years time I know I'll be watching one of those Channel Four '100 Funniest Comedy Moments of the 21st Century' and there will be Max and Ivan. 'Ah, Max Olesker...' I'll say to the current Mr Trefusis, 'I knew him when he was the Assistant Editor on Esquire, long before he was the intergalactic mega-comedian on the telly. Very funny chap, even then, Max...'. and it's true, he is, even in the office on a deadline, and he's even funnier when in tandem with long-time comedy partner Ivan Gonzalez (apologies to Ivan for omitting the various impressive accents in his name: my blogger skilz don't run to them).

Anyway, hot from yet another Edinburgh Festival success (Max and Ivan were the Edinburgh Comedy Festival Panel Prize winners in 2011), their latest show, Con Artists, opens at the Soho Theatre, London, on 15th October. To quote The Guardian's Brian Logan, who puts these things better than I ever could, "Max and Ivan Are … Con Artists is a drum-tight parody of an overfamiliar genre – in this case, the heist movie – whose script is packed with scrambled cliches and flights of absurdist fancy....The Oceans-Eleven style set up sees Max Olesker's East End conman Jim ringing his old accomplices one by one, to assemble them for a final job. These include ace hacker Lavinia ("I've completed the internet on its hardest setting"), explosives ace Tim and his doting getaway driver Raoul, and a camp cat burglar called Graham. The plan is to infiltrate a Las Vegas casino run by Russian oligarch Dmitri, Who lurks in his lair listening to an audio book of Fifty Shades of Grey read by Alan Bennet"

All the characters are played by Max and Ivan who manage to switch between them in a feat of breathtakingly sophisticated comedic legerdemain. I can think of few better (or cheaper) ways to shake off the wet-weather blues than to grab a couple of tickets to the show. 

Max and Ivan are...Con Artists runs from 15th to 20th October at the Soho Theatre: the show starts at 8.30 on Monday and 9.30pm thereafter, leaving you ample time to grab a spot of pre-theatre something at the hip Burger & Lobster just a few doors down further along Dean Street.

Wednesday 18 July 2012


One of the wonderfully bonkers things about working on a magazine is 'Christmas in July' - to meet the long lead times of print titles, PR's show journalists the lovely things coming up for the last quarter of the year in the middle of the summer.

The beautiful pine & eucalyptus room fragrances (below) won't be available in Jo Malone stores til October, but even in July, they conjure up an instant sense of Christmas trees - absolute heaven. The huge candle is, as you'd expect from Jo Malone, incredibly luxurious. The room diffuser (with the black sticks) is more accessibly priced at £45, and lasts forever - this one will still be wafting out the delicious smell of Christmas in late December.

Monday 18 June 2012


Despite sounding like a class one might take with Professor Sprout at Hogwarts Wizarding Academy, Elemental Herbology is a rather gorgeous range of beauty products designed to battle the skin damage caused by environmental factors, lifestyle and ageing.

As one might expect from the name, Elemental Herbology products are high in bio-active essential oils - I'm not usually a mad fan of anything natural - I like Zanussi skincare, packed full of the appliance of science, with as much high tech mumbo jumbo and in-vitro testing  as you can shake a stick at. Talk to me about Nobel Prize winning research into glycobiology and then segue seamlessly into Glycanactif [TM] and I'll whip my debit card out toot sweet (- speaking of which, the YSL Forever Youth Liberator products were my favourite of last year). Anyway, Elemental Herbology may use plenty of plant products, but they're not short on sophisticated technologies either - Cell Active Rejuvenation (£55)contains a selection of effective peptides to plump and smooth fine lines as well as active ingredients to stimulate collagen production and improve skintone. These, combined with the anti-oxident properties of Vitamin C and Royal Jelly, plus indulgent botanical oils to smooth, have brightened my complexion better than anything else I've tried in the last few months. The texture of my skin has also improved - probably helped by the weekly peel (see below). I have very dry skin and found it absorbed easily but it may be too rich if your skin is oily or combination - however, it's available in John Lewis and Space NK so it's worth trying on your skin before you buy.

Cell Active Rejuvenation is pitched as 'The ultimate in age-support for mature skin' which makes me feel appallingly superannuated - there's something terribly dusty about the term 'mature' - makes me think of musty tweeds, Sandeman's port and vigorous cheddar cheese - but I'm prepared to forgive it because the effects have been so good. 

It works particularly well with a weekly mask of Facial Glow Radiance Peel (£39) - full of natural AHA's like papaya, apple and various citruses, natural anti-oxidants (Vitamins A, C & E, green tea and pomegranate), and soothing ingredients like Manuka honey, and argan, macadamai and olive oils. 
The AHA's, together with some kind of very slightly abrasive ingredient, help exfoliate dead skin cells and afterwards skin looks incredibly fresh and smooth. It smells heavenly too and has sorted out an annoying (and not very mature) crop of zits that appeared on my chin without warning a week or so ago.

So, the skin-care is jolly good, but my hero product is Detox: Botanical Bathing Infusion. I spent both friday and saturday nights at completely marvellous parties and by Sunday was feeling - how shall I put it - a little weary and jaded. Half an hour with my big toe stuck up the hot tap of a very deep bath of Detox and I felt quite reborn. It smells completely delicious and just reading the putative effects of the essential oils (quoted below) made me believe some kind of transforming miracle might occur...

Grapefruit has a powerful astringent, diuretic and thermogenic action which helps stimulate circulation, fight fatigue, detoxify the blood, shift fluid retention and eliminate cellulite.

Juniper Berry helps tone the skin and stimulate circulation, aqua-drainage and cell renewal.

Rosemary helps stimulate circulation and invigorate body and mind. Great oil for helping alleviate depression and improve concentration and focus.

Geranium has a wonderful ability to harmonise the body while stimulating circulation and encouraging aqua-drainage.

Sweet Almond, Jojoba and Peach Kernel combine to soften and nourish the skin.

I'm not sure what it did for any cellulite or to detoxify my blood, but it didn't half sort my hangover - and that's worth £20 any day of the week. 

Elemental Herbology products are available from the following outlets

from Space NK

and from John Lewis 

Wednesday 6 June 2012


Emma Chichester Clark's PlumDogBlog

I spent some of the bank holiday weekend sorting out the Trefusis bookshelves, trying to make room for new favourites by getting rid of those the Trefusii had grown out of. There are some books, of course, that have woven themselves so firmly into the Trefusis family history, we can't possibly part with them. Biscuit Bear was given to Trefusis Minor when he was born and, along with Where the Wild Things Are, was read to him almost every day for years and years until we both had all the words by heart. No Fighting, No Biting and Green Eggs and Ham have also survived the cull, as has a children's story by Ted Hughes called Shaggy and SpottyThe Tiger that Came To Tea, Mog the Forgetful Cat, all Roald Dahl, of course, and Emma Chichester Clark's 'I love you, Blue Kangaroo' which is now more sellotape than book, so loved has it been.

I'm delighted to hear that there's another Blue Kangaroo story coming in August, called 'Come to School Too, Blue Kangaroo', but in the meantime, have a look at Emma Chichester Clark's adorable blog about the adventures of her dog, Plum. I can't wait to show the Plumdog Blog to The Tiniest Trefusis who is obsessed by dogs, particularly Belgian Waffling's whippet, The Weepette, with whom she spent her 'best holiday ever' and who has become, for the TT, the platonic ideal of dogs, the dog against which all other dogs are judged.

Other books the TT has enjoyed recently include The Astonishing Adventures of Awesome Man, by Michael Chabon (with lovely retro-style illustrations by Jake Parker) - it's a simple, agreeable story featuring a little boy whose alter-ego is Awesome Man, perfect for five year olds. She also liked the latest Judith Kerr - My Henry - in which an old lady daydreams about adventures with her late husband. I don't think it will become a permanent fixture on the Trefusis bookshelves, unlike Mog and The Tiger Who Came to Tea but My Henry would be a particularly good book buy if a grandparent or other elderly relative had died recently - it's sentimental without being at all mawkish and it allows one to have what can be quite a tricky conversation with a small child.

Getting Trefusis Minor to read for himself is incredibly hard - is this just him or are all eight year old boys reluctant readers? I've even bought him Beast Quest in an attempt to get him going. He loves being read to - we've been ploughing our way through the entire Harry Potter oeuvre since last November (now on book five, which feels like progress of sorts, though I can't help but wish the chapters were shorter) and I'm sneaking in my own childhood favourites like Emile and the Detectives and Professor Branestawm at bedtime too. I was beginning to despair that he would ever read independently (well, voluntarily) until he discovered the Tom Gates series, which he's zoomed through. I suppose it's because it's partly a kind of cartoon book - but I don't care, at least he is reading and has found a book that he enjoys.

Does anyone have any suggestions for other books that might capture the imagination of an eight year old boy? Or classics for five year old girls*?

*I will caveat this request- no princesses, nothing pink, and nothing in the Rainbow Fairy series. The TT loves the Rainbow Fairies with a passion, they make me lose the will to live.

Monday 28 May 2012


One of the highlights of my recent trip to Marrakech was the Caftan festival. This annual fashion event, now in its sixteenth year, is the Moroccan haute-couture show, and showcases not only the country's exquisite craftsmanship but also its hottest designers. Attended by the great, the good and the wealthy, it's very much a selling show - and whilst there are definite trends in play, caftan is much more about the sumptuous fabrics and skilled embellishment than it is about this season's latest look.

Unlike most of the fashion shows I've seen, designers show together in a very lavish themed staging, making one concentrate much more on the individual detail than on the couturier's brand. The Moroccan caftan is traditionally in two pieces - a simpler under-dress with a more elaborate coat over the top, often belted, and I loved the way that the designers who showed at Caftan 2012 played with this trope, layering sumptuous  fabrics on top of each other  and playing with volume so that skirts billowed sensuously from a tiny cinched-in waist.

Whilst most kept the look floor length or longer, some played with a long coat worn over a cropped trouser, and others teamed a filmy coat which opened, Angelina-style to reveal a lot of leg.
Not long before I went I was at an ELLE magazine trends-presentation and learned that A/W'12 puts the emphasis firmly on the waist - with this in mind, I was particularly struck by the incredible wide bronze belts in one show which looked marvellous if not absolutely comfortable.

All in all, it was opulent and elegant in equal measure: I've never seen anything like it.

Rose-garden colours were more typical than jewel-brights at this year's show - soft shades of palest pink, ashes of roses, apricot and old-gold were quiet attention-grabbers. There was also a lot of beautiful eau de nil and aquamarine - such a visual feast and a sharp contrast from London's  default setting of fashion-black.

Voile or chiffon over-dresses  worn over a heavier silk in a contrasting shade featured strongly - this had some incredibly sumptuous metallic embroidery in the front panels of the coat.

These pictures don't do this designer's show justice - it had a faintly Venetian masked ball theme and the caftans had jaw-droppingly lavish embroidery in gold and silver metallic threads - the waistline was higher too, creating a rather quattrocento effect, with sweeping skirts in jewel-coloured satin and brocade. The white caftan you can just see to the right of this picture was breathtakingly beautiful with a kind of peacock design in embroidered paillettes. Having checked my notes, it also involved peacock feathers - but helpfully, all I've written subsequently is 'WOW'.

This was my favourite dress of the show - again, hard to do it justice in a photograph, but the lush cream satin under dress, embroidered with silver thread, just peeped out from an absolutely gorgeous coat of rose silk covered in a very pale pink gauze which was intricately embroidered with pink silk flowers and silver paillettes -  humblingly beautiful craftsmanship. 

I'd not long come back from Marrakech when I saw these pictures of Princess Lalla Meryem of Morocco at the lunch for the Queen's diamond jubilee -I loved this understated silk-satin caftan in an embroidered soft-pink. It's not as 'out-there' as some of those I saw at the Caftan show, but very, very beautiful all the same. 

Princess Lalla Meryem in a dove grey and silver caftan at the sovereign's dinner to celebrate the Queen's Diamond Jubilee

Wednesday 23 May 2012


Gardens are something of a British obsession, and are naturally a major source of inspiration for fragrance brand Jo Malone. To celebrate Chelsea in Bloom, Jo Malone has decorated its Sloane Street store with a sumptuous jubilee-inspired floral display (fresh, gorgeous and on show until 26th May), but in a rather less temporary initiative, Jo Malone has also announced the first of an ongoing series of projects to support charities that use gardens to bring beauty to urban spaces.

The inaugural programme is with Thrive, a UK charity which aims to harness the therapeutic powers of gardening to help change the lives of disabled people, creating something above and beyond a simple garden. Jo Malone will fund Thrive's regeneration of London's largest gardening project - the Old English Garden in Battersea Park. Chelsea Flower Show medal winner, Sarah Price, who honed her skills as a gardener at Hampton Court Palace, has created the garden design and the garden will be developed by a team of trainee gardeners living with physical disabilities or mental health issues.

The Old English Garden, when complete, promises to be a beautiful, romantic, scented space for all the community to enjoy: work is well-underway and by mid-to late summer, should be in its full pomp. As Sarah Price says, “Gardening is good for the soul. It slows you down and forces you to listen to nature.Thrive understands this and their work in promoting the restorative power of gardening is inspirational."

Old English Garden. Cared for by Thrive. Supported by Jo Malone Limited. See updates on the Jo Malone Facebook page.

Thrive Registered Charity No. 277570

Tuesday 22 May 2012


Mr Trefusis warned me at the weekend that the hitherto execrable English weather was set for dramatic improvement and that I should think about swapping the black opaques for a generous coat of fake tan. I'm afraid I didn't believe him - it started raining in mid-March and the absence of anything other than grey cloud ever since has crushed all optimism from me: In Britain the idea of a hot summer is much like Dr Johnson on second marriages - merely the triumph of hope over experience.

Anyway, of course, Mr Trefusis has been proven right: at least for the next few days London will be enjoying temperatures of around 25 degrees - hardly tropical, but warm enough to get one's legs out. Alas, mine are habitually a rather startling shade of skimmed milk white: The only way I get a tan is out of a bottle. The other week, pre-Marrakech, I got a St Tropez spray tan at Debenhams Oxford Street on the recommendation of Katy Young, Harper's Bazaar's beauty editor and very good it was too at £20.

However, I freely admit that my usual approach to summer tanning is to do it myself and just do the bits on show (my fake tan rarely progresses further than mid thigh - fine for during the week, but not gorgeous if you're going swimming). Being so pale, I also find it hard to find a fake tan that doesn't make me go a horrid jaundiced yellow. He-Shi's Express Tan is almost completely foolproof when applied with a tanning mitt - and takes one's legs from Acdo-glow-white to a streak-free golden brown in a matter of hours. A coat of that, maintained daily with one of the less grim smelling everyday tan products (I like L'Oreal Nutrisummer), brings me to an acceptably sun-kissed shade.

Which self-tanners do you swear by?

Thursday 17 May 2012


I discovered Roger & Gallet Huile Sublime Bois D'Orange quite by accident and it's divine - it's a very light spray oil that apparently can be used for hair, face and body (I've only been brave enough to use it on the latter). Very easily absorbed, it smells tantalisingly of a sultry afternoon in Provence and is deliciously moisturising, giving skin a silky, wealthy sheen.

Roger & Gallet was a super chic brand when I was a child (I still remember envying my Grandmother's carnation soap), and I think it still retains a lot of cachet in its native France, but their products are not especially easy to get in the UK, other than in independent chemists. I have a feeling that John Lewis may also stock some of the range. Anyway, if you want Huile Sublime, feelunique have it on their website for £23 and although it's not cheap, I like it even more than the iconic Nuxe Huile Prodigieuse that seems to be the gold standard in luxe body oils.

Sunday 13 May 2012


Fenyadi is a cooperative of four contemporary Moroccan designers producing beautiful pieces for the home, inspired by traditional Morrocan design but with a luxe modern twist.

Ceramics include vast pots for beautiful gardens and holders for outside candles (pictures), as well as smaller items such as the beautiful glazed tea pots and tea-glasses in an elegant range of natural colours. Lack of suitcase room prevented me from buying the fine bed linen - John Malkovich's favourite, apparently - plus unique and carefully designed tableware, textiles, leather notebooks not to mention the adorable Berber inspired pyjamas for kids.

I couldn't resist scented candles from Amira bougies - each one is created to evoke authentically Morrocan scents - from amber to thé à la menthe, jasmin to spices, neroli to cedarwood. I bought six cedarwood in plain glass tea-glasses. I shall light them at home and let them transport me back to my time in Marrakech.

The store itself is at 219 Z.I Sidi Ghanem, Marrakech.
Tel: +212 5 24 35 60 24


These modern alternatives to the iconic Moroccan lamps are available at El Jouli in the Souk Charatine Talâa, No. 48 in the Marrakech Medina. I love the designs but I also really love the mellow golden glow they throw, particularly now I'm at an age when I always sit with my back to the window in restaurants.

All the lamps are hand-made by local craftsman and if you're unlikely to make it to Marrakech anytime soon , they're available at Harrods. However, owner Milioud El Jouli will also ship anywhere in the world - email him on

Friday 11 May 2012


Easy Jet is unlikely to ever make 'World's favourite airline' status: its 'no frills' approach is disingenuous to say the least: one has to box pretty clever to avoid paying extra for something. 'Have you got two bags?' shrieked the Gate Dragon, pointing an accusing finger at Jo's tiny carry-on and modest Anya Hindmarch handbag. ''You'll have to fit your handbag in your hand luggage'. If you're only travelling with hand luggage, I defy anyone to leave enough room spare to squash your handbag into it at the last minute. So into the hold went Jo's tiny carry-on bag for which she was charged forty pounds. I'm a little ashamed to say they didn't notice my handbag, so I scuttled onto the plane before anyone had the chance to reconsider waving me through. I think making 'low-cost' airlines work for you requires an awful lot of practice. However, since the flight to Marrakech only takes three and a half hours direct from Gatwick, I really mustn't complain. When I last visited the city, nearly fifteen years ago, you had to change planes at Casablanca and it took all day. Three and a half hours makes Marrakech a perfect weekend destination when you need a boost of heat and sun in the middle of the relentless drear of an English spring (six weeks of rain in London and counting). With direct access becoming increasingly easy it's no wonder the city has tripled in size since I last visited, with a huge Ville Nouvelle springing up between the airport and the Medina. I adored Marrakech the first time I visited - I wasn't wildly well-travelled outside Europe at the time and nothing prepared me for the extraordinary otherness of the city. Im always a little wary of re-visiting places that have had such a profound effect on me in case the intervening years have lessened the impact. But despite the influx of many more tourists and a much better modern infrastructure in the new parts of the city, the Medina's power to enchant is entirely undiminished. Once through one of the gates in the city's ancient walls, your senses are bombarded by exotic, magical sights, sounds and scents: the bright jewel colours of the barbouche and caftans for sale in the Souk, the cacophony of snake charmers, musicians, acrobats and magicians in the Djemaa El-Fna and the haunting sound of the regular call to prayer from the Koutoubia, the delight in discovering hidden doorways with exquisite, intricate Moorish carvings and beautiful tiling around the frames, the air perfumed with amber and spices from the many apothecaries, all of which promise to cure every ill from sciatica to lovelessness.
Despite odd 21st Century sights, like fake Louis Vuitton footballs and flip flops for sale and being contantly mown down by motorscooters in the labyrinthine alleyways of the Souk, there's a timelessness to it - tread the same path at any point during the last six hundred years and you could see the same crocodile and python skins hanging, the same jars of dried rose petals, cumin, saffron, the same carts piled with small, flat rolls, still warm from the oven, the same craftsmen tanning skins to be dyed and turned into barbouche, drink the same mint tea with the same Berber carpet seller. I love that: it's the perfect antidote to the churn and bustle and impermanence of London life, where everything seems to be an endless hunt for the new and the now, rather than a quest to find the beauty in small things, unchanged by time and technology yet still absolutely relevant.

Marrakech, for me, is like being cast into the middle of a gorgeous storybook. I don't mind where the narrative takes me and the illustrations are breathtaking.

Thursday 10 May 2012


In a few hours, Jo Glynn-Smith of Harper's Bazaar and I will be on a plane to Marrakech - we're only there for a long weekend but it's induced in me the most monumental wardrobe panic. I think it's partly because it's hard to get out of one's head this extraordinary Litchfield image of Talitha Getty, which is at once sensual and exotic and so utterly, achingly stylish that anything I could possibly fling in my suitcase is destined to disappoint. It's partly the pose and partly the styling, but Talitha Getty is in this picture as 'full of Eastern promise' - as Fry's Turkish Delight adverts of the 1970's professed to be.

Oh, the fashion pressure of Marrakech - if it were only this single iconic photograph it would be bad enough, but of course, Marrakech was also the home of fashion god Yves St Laurent - Jo and I plan to pay homage to his genius and visit Les Jardins Majorelle, the garden YSL loved so much he requested his ashes be scattered there after his death (stupid sentence, that - they could hardly be scattered before his death, could they). What's more, Jo and I are in Marrakech partly to cover the Caftan Festival - a huge fashion event in Morocco - and we can't let Harper's Bazaar down by being anything other than well-put together.

However, herein lies a fashion conundrum - we don't dress well for hot weather in Britain, at least, we don't during the week. On the very rare days when the temperature rises in London one has only to look around one in the streets to discover what a struggle it seems to be to navigate the sartorial codes dictated by the appearance of strong sun and cloudless skies. Half the population appears to be dressed for Ascot and the other half for a heavy night in a seedy nightclub. We don't invest in summer clothes - there's no point, the season's too short-lived - even shorter-lived this year when it's well into May and  arctic winds and icy rain are being consistently served up. I haven't even bothered to get my summer clothes out of the loft - I'm still in a wool coat and thick tights, not to mention the thermal vest. In short, as of five o'clock this evening, I had nothing to wear.

Reader, what could I do? I did what any right thinking individual would do and shook off the winter pallor with a St Tropez spray tan (£20 at Debenhams - result) and then went for a trolley dash around Zara.

Liberty London Girl recommended a maxi dress, and I could see the logic of this but Zara is made for etiolated model types so I'd have had to hack two feet off the bottom of anything I tried on. Anyway, I have gone for a kind of YSL/Jardins Majorelle inspired palette of navy and cobalt blue with a smart - if rather short - kind of silk trapeze dress with cut out sleeves for dinner at La Sultana, a silk paisley shift dress (again, slightly shorter than I'd realised, but if I wear flat sandals, perhaps no one will mind too much), and a pair of well-cut navy chinos with a coral belt. I'm hoping the trousers particularly will take me through a variety of eventualities.

My perfect plan will be not to channel Talitha Getty - that's completely beyond my capabilities - but to look moderately cool even when the temperature is stonkingly hot. As long as the hotel has wifi, I aim blog the trip every day and I'll even try to make the posts rather less self-obsessed than this has turned out to be.

Right, only three hours til I need to leave - do I bother going to bed?

Wednesday 9 May 2012


I'm a self-confessed foundation addict - it's partly because I like quite a groomed beauty look, but it's also because I'm long past the age where I dabbed a spot of concealer under my eyes and left my skin bare. Somewhere in my late thirties I found my skin became less even - and if I believe what I hear at the press launches for new anti-ageing products, I'm not alone, which is why there's suddenly a vast array of products which promise to fade brown spots and tackle redness and so on.

This Dior Forever foundation is my current favourite: it provides enough coverage to give an even complexion and reflects light away from fine lines - it also has skincare benefits built into the formula which keep the skin moisturised so that you don't get that ghastly five thirty thing when you look at yourself in the office loo as you're about to go home and realise you look four hundred. Anyway, I like it - it creates an elegant finish without screaming 'I'm wearing a tonne of foundation'

Lauder's Double Wear Light is, apparently, one of the country's top selling foundations - until I discovered Dior Forever it was my favourite, and I'd still wear it if I were going for a hectic night out because it lasts and lasts and lasts. It also photographs well (I'm sure you're not nearly as vain as I am and don't ruthlessly manage all your photographs so that only the ones that present one's best side ever appear: Mr Trefusis only posted one picture of me without make up on Facebook - he soon saw his error)

However, I do think proper foundation only really works in mild to cold weather - the minute the sun comes out everything changes and one goes immediately from perfectly groomed to over-made-up - think Kate Middleton. OF course, this year, in the UK, we can get away with wearing the makeup equivalent of black opaques well into June unless something changes radically, but tomorrow I'm off to Marrakech for the weekend, where foundation will not only look wrong, it will melt off my face. Not only that, but Newby Hands, beauty guru and Bazaar's Beauty Editor At Large has been telling me for ages that going bare skinned looks much more modern, even with made up eyes or lips. I'm not at all ready for no make-up - in the same way as I couldn't bare my legs - so I'm experimenting with BB creams, which seem to be all the rage. They're popular because they're a multi-tasker, offering the combined benefits of a moisturiser, a sun-screen and a foundation, to care and perfect the skin in one easy step. The Lauder one is based on their ever-popular DayWear moisturiser and has a beautiful satiny finish and an SPF of 35. I liked it, but despite what Newby said about the no-makeup look, I didn't feel modern, I simply felt a little too nude.

I slightly prefer the Clinique BB cream  - it's less moisturising than the Lauder one and it's only SPF 30 (not sure my skin will know the difference) but it's a little thicker and has more staying power. Unlike Lauder's, you definitely couldn't use it as a primer under your usual foundation, but it has more staying power. It's better than a tinted moisturiser and it's the one I've packed for my Morocco trip tomorrow in the regulation clear polythene bag. Actually, my clear polythene bag is rather large - I can't travel without a beauty product for every eventuality - are they going to clobber me at the airport? I guess I'll find out.

On balance, I think BB creams are perfect for thirty somethings who want a little extra perfecting and are pushed for time enough to want a multi-tasker. For me, they're good for a weekend in the park with Trefusis Minor and The TT, but for work and for when I'm not loafing round West London in jeans trying to avoid looking like a Boden advert.  But Estee Lauder's new (ish) Invisible is absolutely the halfway house I think I've been looking for: it's almost completely weightless so you don't feel it on the skin and the special magic formula adapts the colour when it's on your skin in a fabulously chameleon-like way, making the match absolutely seamless. It's the only foundation I've ever worn that's elicited spontaneous compliments about how good my skin looks* - even Newby didn't think I was wearing foundation.

*someone at work asked if I'd had 'something done' the first time I wore Invisible - I'm not absolutely sure it's a compliment but I took it to mean that it did its job and glossed over all the wrinkles and crevasses that are otherwise visible on the Trefusis fizzog

Wednesday 28 March 2012

Zou Bisou Bisou - MadMen Season Five

I missed MadMen, unfortunately, but I think this clip of the latest Mrs Don Draper shows why it's still so fabulous: it has a lot to do with the amazing hair and make-up, doesn't it?

Tuesday 13 March 2012


Greer Garson as the eponymous Mrs Miniver
There are a great many reasons to love Mrs Miniver - the film is wonderful, and the book, based on Jan Struther's newspaper columns for The Times, is even better. The film is, of course, a wonderfully uplifting piece of wartime propoganda - Churchill apparently said it did more for the allied cause than a flotilla of battleships -  but it's the character of Mrs Miniver herself which is the most interesting, at once subtle, wise and thoughtful. I'm particularly fond of this quotation;

Mrs. Miniver suddenly understood why she was enjoying the forties so much better than she had enjoyed the thirties: it was the difference between August and October, between the heaviness of late summer and the sparkle of early autumn, between the ending of an old phase and the beginning of a fresh one.”

Jan Struther's book is still in print and has lost nothing of its charm. For a very entertaining, fictional account of wartime film making, do read Lissa Evans' marvellous book 'Their Finest Hour and a Half', long-listed for the 2009 Orange Prize.

Wednesday 15 February 2012


Esquire party Nov 2008, hair by Graham Tilley at Tilley & Montgomery

The Trefusis hair is, I guess, the apogee of up-do's - it took the lovely and very skilled Graham more than two hours to do (he's a virgoan perfectionist, what can I say) and it was so securely pinned I couldn't face taking it down after the party, so I slept with it like that, and went to work with extremely grand hair.

Anyway, much as I wish I had Trefusis hair everyday, possibly all as a clip-on-able hair-piece, like Joan Collins, I don't. If my hair is up, it's most likely because I've skewered it with a pencil, which is effective if inelegant. With a pencil, I seem to be able to achieve a MadMen kind of pleat, in a way I never can if left to my own devices with a can of Elnett and half a dozen kirby grips. But, you know, like shaking cocktails in an old Dolmio jar, the pencil-skewered up-do always felt a bit like I was letting the side down. Quite by chance, however, when in Boots buying a hairbrush, I stumbled upon a kind of thatching hook device (two colours, gold for blondes, dark brown for brunettes, redheads you're on your own) by a company called Goody. It costs about a fiver and does everything a pencil can do with infinitely greater elegance- it's also invisible once you've stuck it in your hair. If you have hair that's long enough to twist into a French pleat, all you need is this single pin - truly it is a product of pure genius.
Goody Simple Styles Modern Up-do pin

Goody Simple Styles Spin Pin

Up-do confidence spurred by the effortlessness of the hook thingy, I made another foray into Boots and discovered the hair screws above - all you do is twist your hair into a chignon (very on-trend this S/S '12), and screw the screws into it - two pins are all you need for a completely secure chignon. I've also used these do do a French pleat and one of those bouffy backcombed top knots that everyone seems to be wearing - they work best when you're creating quite a tight bun, but again, pure genius and not a pencil nor a trillion bendy hair pins in sight.

It's not Graham's Trefusis hair, but for an everyday up-do, it's pretty blooming brilliant.

Goody Simple Styles available in Boots stores or online at Amazon
Graham the hair God, available at Tilley and Carmichael, 5 Silver Place, London W1 Tel, 0207 287 7677