Friday 15 February 2013


Somewhere in the years after Baudelaire expired from an excess of absinthe and poetry and before Proust had everyone madly eating madeleines as a memory aid, it became fashionable for your average Haute Bourgeois to keep a mistress, who he'd visit on the way home from the office. The French, having no truck with our mimsy, pursed-lip disapproval of infidelity, coined a phrase for these two relaxing hours wedged between the responsibilities of work and the duties of family: 'Le Cinq á Sept' entered the language as a little lost time in the early evening when one could indulge in some 'no-questions-asked' philandering. 

Lately, it's struck me that this incredibly louche phrase should be revived for the twenty-first century. I'm not advocating adultery - after all, who has the time or energy - but I wonder if le cinq á sept could be repurposed to mean a stolen hour where one can go off grid. My days are spent ricocheting between one meeting and another, the tiny gaps between meetings punctuated by frantic blackberrying just to stay on top of the demands of the job. Then I hurtle home to wrangle the infant Trefusii into bath and bed and make dinner by the end of which I'm too wrung out to do more than snarl at Mr Trefusis before collapsing gratefully into bed. How much more agreeable I might be if I carved a little Cinq á Sept into my day, a very modern take on 'me-time', and - switching off all mobile tracking devices (because as far as the blackberry or the iPhone know, I could be stuck on the underground) - idle into a smart bar for a reviving cocktail with a good book or in the company of an interesting friend. Please don't take 'friend' as a euphemism: to be properly relaxing, my take on le Cinq á Sept is easier if the agenda is uncomplicated. But the sweetest pleasures often need an illicit element, and in the case of my Cinq á Sept, this means home thinking I'm still at work, and work thinking I've gone home...when all the time I'm lounge-lizarding.

Why? For the super-chic euro-crowd and the unbelievably flattering light after dusk. 
Where to sit: At the bar, no one interesting sits at the tables at this time of day.
What to drink: Better Negronis than any bar in Milan
Cecconi's Mayfair
5A Burlington Gardens
T: +44 (0)20 7434 1500

Bar Americain
Why? For the Gatsby-esque glamour and Bollinger by the glass
Where to sit? The tables nearest the bar are perfect if drinking a deux
What to drink? A Sidecar - it's not on the menu, but Bar Americain's alchemy turns this classic mix of Remy Martin, Cointreau and lemon juice into something spectacular 
Bar Americain
Brasserie Zedel
20 Sherwood Street
London W1F 7ED
United Kingdom
020 7734 4888

Coburg Bar, The Connaught
Why? Sink into the warm embrace of one of the Coburg's velvet armchairs and you'll never want to leave.
Where to sit? The table near the fireplace under the Julian Opies offers good people watching opportunities
What to drink? The extremely comprehensive cocktail list reminds one why 'cocktail' is a verb as well as a noun.
The Coburg Bar at The Connaught
Carlos Place

Thursday 14 February 2013


It can't only have been me who found Jeremy Hunt so depressing on the television news the other night, giving us the oh so marvellous news that the government was capping care home costs in 2017.  Grinning punchably as he always seems to regardless of what's coming out of his mouth, he told us all that we should make provision via insurance or savings in case we degenerate inexorably into a less than perfect old age. Well, Jeremy, can I just say that the unfortunate slip about your name made by Radio 4's Today programme last year is looking increasingly less unfortunate?

I'm talking about this whole crazy-ass issue of accelerating decrepitude with a friend and I say, Bugger care homes, I'm taking the precaution booking myself into Dignitas at 78, with an option to extend should I not be bonkers and a burden by that age, there being nothing like a deadline for a writer after all. And my friend says, absolutely, top idea, me too, book into Dignitas before one's lost one's marbles, say good-bye to nearest and dearest, all that kind of stuff. Have a wonderful last meal, even.

Last meal? I say, What kind of a last meal is one going to get in Switzerland for God's sake? I'm not going to do the decent thing and save the family fortunes from being spanked on a care home in Western Supernightmare for assisted suicide after a Cheese Fondue and half a toblerone. I have in mind a more elegant death: ideally one in which one can choose to discreetly expire in a velvet armchair somewhere not dissimilar to the Coburg Bar of the Connaught, at an elegant and still witty eighty, in exciting shoes and a mink coat, clutching a three-quarter's drunk glass of Krug, whilst a white haired yet still atttactive Daniel Craig reads softly to me from the collected works of Yeats.

What about you? If you could order the manner of your death, what would you choose?

Monday 11 February 2013


Stacked heels - back in?

If by 'stacked' you mean the low, chunky, square-ish, sixties inspired heels like those seen at Vuitton and YSL (their Ingenue is attracting a lot of press), then yes, they're in. Should you wear them? Unless you have the coltish legs of Alexa Chung, you're under thirty or have an obviously 'fashion' edge to your look, absolutely not: they are to the WI what peep-toe platforms and spray tans are to footballer's wives, something of a trademark.

Tights with open-toed shoes, nude, opaque, both, neither?

Black opaque tights may be worn with black open-toed shoes as long as the opaque is of sufficient denier not to reveal your toenail varnish. Nude sandals must only ever be worn with bare legs - holiday in the Bahamas, get a spray tan or buy new shoes.

Bootleg jeans - back in?

Are you mad?

Skinny jeans - still in?

Of course. They are the Ford Model T of jeans -any shape you like as long as it's skinny. If your bottom is enormous please wear something long on top.

It's freezing, can I wear fur?

During the snow, I saw more vintage fur in Town than in an auction of Steiff bears. It's controversial, of course, but the theory seems to be that if your coat is very clearly an ancient something inherited from your mother-in-law's mother - by which I mean the styling is well out of date and there's a hint of moth - you can get away with it.

New fur is unacceptable, of course, unless you're Italian or Russian. So, the fur rules are, wear something twenty-third hand or learn to speak with an impenetrable foreign accent. Failing that, buy a thermal vest.

  PS: I like a lot of what's around this season, even if it's too cold to wear it yet, but I can't quite get into the mega-sixties vibe that seems to be so prevalent. I really struggle when fashion revives a period so emphatically because whenever I put anything on, it makes me feel as if I'm off to a fancy-dress party.   That being said, I don't very often embrace a trend full-on these days - mainly because I'm too broke to do it properly, and too old to do it courtesy of H&M or Top Shop. I'll adopt accents, so it doesn't look as if I'm absolutely immune to the lures of fashion - whatever this season's smokey eye is, for instance, or a shoe shape (stacked heel aside) or a colour accent that's particularly strong - but mostly I think the image of Edina from Absolutely Fabulous looking wonderfully ridiculous in head to toe 'this season' is still too strong in my head.   What about you? Which fashion-trends are you struggling with and why? Or which have taken your fancy?

Monday 4 February 2013


Every working woman knows what a struggle it is to shrug on something halfway presentable for the office each morning. It's not simply the lack of time, it's the need for five outfits which are simultaneously suitable for office-based meetings, a lunch with clients and a boardroom presentation not to mention fashionable enough to reflect the modernity of one's ideas yet not so hip as to indicate a lack of independent thought. And, unless one is in an extremely creative industry, one is really hoping for elegant anonymity rather than a strong style statement.

Small wonder I've started to pine nostalgically for the days of school uniform. I mean, not my exact school uniform which was composed entirely from different weights and weaves of wool and, because I was educated in the dreich far north, meant we all smelt of wet sheep for nine months of the year. But ugly as it was, uniform meant not having to fret about what to wear every morning, thus freeing up one's head so it could be filled with other, more interesting, things. Ideally, I'd like to get dressed in about three minutes, with minimum fuss and without a single agony of indecision

So, I've resolved to create a workwear uniform of my own: obviously it's in fashion's default colour, black, but two pairs of well-cut trousers, two black skirts (all worn with black cashmere jerseys when cold and white shirts when, erm, less cold) and a black dress will form the daily staples and then it's down to accessories and jewellery to dial the look up from unexceptional to interesting according to what the occasion requires. Such a pared-down look relies heavily on good grooming: a decent hair-cut at the very least, and, in my opinion, on a little more thought given to one's makeup  - it's not really possible to get away with a scrubbed face and a slash of bright lipstick when one's wardrobe borders on the monastic. It's also essential to invest in really good pieces - I spent a decent sum of money on a black wool trouser from Armani six years ago and they're still working as hard as they did when new, making cost per wear about tuppence ha'penny. The same is true of a great DVF wrap dress - again, six or seven years after I bought it, it's still a wardrobe staple. As the saying goes, you can have two out of three - good, cheap and quick - when it comes to workwear, go for good and quick.