Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Temperley tea party

Temperley is one of those big fashion labels that despite having an international following, has succeeded in retaining a local identity.  Perhaps it is because Alice herself is a hippie chick, whose heart if never far from her somerset scrumpy-growing roots.  This weekend I was invited to a launch at the head office/main shop just off Westbourne Grove.  Following the Temperley signs the journey may not be quite what you would expect of the label that dresses the Middletons....

 .....am I lost this doesn't look like a shopping hot spot?....
...........I've just zipped up my bag and put my phone away...
ta dah! not what I had expected at the end of this street....
Temperley is acutally a row of 3 mews houses and it is beautiful...

The union jack building and the burgandy painted row are all part of the shop.
It is so inviting on the outside and inside is equally cosy, and the welcome had a warmth to match.  Usually everyone just stands around looking at the collection in silence.  This was quite different, the sales assistants and prs introduced customers and press as they came in, so that every one was properly greeted and encouraged to chat.  We were offered tea or champagne and delicious nibbles.

There was also a beautician on hand offering mini manicures and make up retouches. It wasn't a famous name make up house, just a local girl who was distributing her cards for home facials and beauty treatments.
Similarly shoes were on offer from a new independent label called Emmy, a young 30 something from Islington who is trying to launch herself in the accessories world. Which other big fashion label would offer this kind of chance, when they have their own shoe range to sell?
And now for the collection, it was beautiful can you spot me in the shadows?.....

Monday, 30 January 2012


Bourbon and Pearls and her ReAura laser has been stimulating my grey matter, not just for collagen production it seems.  This weekend passed in a kind of grey chilly fug and my mood was similar.
However on this supposedly statistically one of the most positive Mondays of the year (apparently first paycheck after Christmas has arrived for most people) I think I that I have crystallised my stance on letting it all hang out, getting old, growing vegetables, allowing grey hair, fat and wrinkles to proliferate without even a pretence at halting the advance.

Ladies, we simply can't, it is our social and fiscal duty to fight the good fight.

An article in the FT today predicts that 20% of the US population will be over 65 by 2020 and in the UK that figure will be even higher.
We should feel no guilt at our attempts at maintenance, it is not about trying to compete with the 20 year olds (my horror is that anyone might assume that I think that I could!), the simple fact is that the NHS  will not be able to deal with the numbers of infirm and those who are fit and well will need to be able to work well into their 70s.
What we do now will make this possible, it is a simple truth that on the days that we look in the mirror and see nothing but old and tired, we lose all of our self-esteem and energy, this is no use in the workplace. The biggest help that we can be to the next generation is to work and pay taxes for as long as possibly can.  My enlightment has made me change my mind on surgery, again, it is our responsibility to invest in a facelift, tummy tuck, boob job, whatever it takes to ensure that we maintain optimum health and psychological well-being.  And this kind of significant spending stimulates the economy much more than saving it under the bed for a rainy day.

Of course a secondary complication for today's young, is that with nobody retiring, those really desirable jobs in larger companies are simply not being freed up for the next generation.  Youth unemployment is at an all time high and unless you want to work at a supermarket checkout, I struggle to see what the options are for the kids today.
Anyone with their own kids is immediately protectionist about their money and time as they know how tough it will be for their offspring.  But those with knowledge and cash to impart and no vested interests are in the position to really help the 20 and 30 somethings who are living in one of the worst periods in our financial history.  And it is about getting local.  Spend your money carefully and wisely and get a certain satisfaction in knowing that every penny does more than just acquire your own goods and services.
Today I am going to book up the following;
IPL zapping from a girl who has just paid out £14,000 to buy all of the machinery to start her business from home.
Fruit and veg delivery box from a local farm.
Weekly food order from the tiny local shop, which stays open I have no idea how and selling only pints of milk to 3 people a day.
I have been promising myself for years that I will buy a piece of jewellery and there is a lovely girl called Lucy Sylvester who makes all of her jewellery by hand and I have made an appointment to visit her workshop this week.
As this is more of a manifesto than a nice touchy feely post, there are no pics, sorry if it is boring, but I feel positively uplifted! Any more getting local tips that you have I would love to hear, join me for the revolution!

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Finding delight in simplicity

This week yet another survey havs proven that contrary to popular myth, money does make you happier.  Is anyone surprised by this? It really is stating the obvious, barely requiring any comment. I know that I have more fun at the Ritz than McDonalds, that St Barth's is a better holiday destination than Norfolk (for all its drizzley merits), that staying at the Byblos in St Tropez will offer hours of entertainment that a campsite in Antibes just can't match.  That flying by private plane and helicopter is both more enjoyable and more efficient than sitting in traffic and queuing at check in 2 hours before take off.

However we have to be our own curators of happiness and budgets simply will not run to all of the above.  There are little things that mean a lot to us and that give nourishment to our body and soul, that perhaps are more satisfying than paid for pleasure.
J. B  Priestly gathered together his favourite simplicities in a book entitles 'Delight', it was reissued in 2009, at the height of the credit crunch, and is likely to become more relevant over the coming months.

His simple delights included; being silly with small children (not just tolerating them), the smell of coffee, eggs and bacon, detective stories in bed, buying books,  dancing, fountains, a walk in a pine wood, a new box of matches, the sound of a football or an orchestra tuning up, long trousers, playing a cracking game of tennis, smoking in a hot bath.

Some of my simple pleasures are scattered amongst the text; little dogs with lots of personality that I bump into on a walk, beautiful flowers, anywhere; at a florist in a shop or restaurant, they just lift my spirit, tea from vintage china, dark chocolates I'll eat the expensive varieties, but my heart just leaps when I find a long forgotten box of After Eights in the back of the larder, sunlight through yellow curtains, using up ALL of the left overs to create a stew or soup, I love the economy, the abundance and the healthy satisfaction. 

Thursday, 26 January 2012

home is where the heels are

Since I am tall, and have gone through very large periods,  shoes make me anxious. I have a deep rooted fear of high heels which stems back to an 18th ball, where suffering from laryngitis, I was seated next to a good looking young beau, shortly after our hellos, he  asked me in all seriousness, 'Are you a man in drag'?
Today, I could take this on the chin and laugh with my friends at the faux pas, but as an overweight, awkward 18 year old, with swimmer's shoulders that were larger than any man's, it cut me to the core and shaped my shoe habit from there on.
I adore really high heels on everyone else, and marvel at anyone's ability to totter on anything higher than 3 inches for hours at a time.  But for myself I gravitate to fairly low and ladylike.
My shoe fantasy is fulfilled by Rene Caovilla, I also love the fact that tracking them down is like sniffing out truffles and seemingly there are no Chinese imitations (yet!).

These are my black 'going out' shoes, notice the interlopers at the end, that are actually by Coast, but I like to think, nearly my dream Caovillas!

These are the sparkley Caovilla's that I wear for weddings, racing, christenings and anywhere else where there will be lots of standing around.

And for work.....sensible Chanels.

Wednesday, 25 January 2012

Nellie the elephant packed her trunk

This weekend I said Adieu to city living and decided to up sticks for a Symphony Pastoral where I am hoping to awaken some cheerful feelings a la Beethoven (not become the obssession of a dirty old vicar).
I have an aversion to any obvious branding, except for ancient Louis Vuitton, I like the leather to be the colour of a septuagenarian st tropizienne who has never given a stuff about UV protection rather than the sandy coloured new models who tremble under factor 50.
My new abode is an old stately home that has been converted into a number of dwellings, it seems to house some interesting characters and I like the ready made community combined with the remoteness of the location.

At night the stars glow like fairy lights and I hear the church chime the hours. It is magical, I haven't seen stars since 1992.

Tuesday, 24 January 2012

Probably the most exquisite farm shop in the world

Daylesford Organic near Chipping Norton in Gloucestershire offers the perfect retreat from the hustle and bustle of daily life.  It is primarily a farm shop selling produce from the surrounding farmland, in addition there is a fashion boutique, a florist, an interiors section and a restaurant.  It is conceived as you might imagine Marie Antoinette would desire had she lived today and included Vera Wang, Preston Bailey, David Collins and a touch of Martha Stewart in her inner circle of advisers.

 The surrounding countryside is beautiful, all of the Daylesford estate houses, cottages and farm buildings are marked by their signature celadon paint on the doors and window frames.  Daylesford is the whimsy of Lady Bamford, the beautiful consort of the chap behind the multibillion dollar JCB empire.

I spent at leat 2 hours browsing around the different parts of the farm and then met a friend for lunch.  The people watching was fascinating; and the crowd broadly broke into two tribes;
1. Stick thin city types doing 1000 watt country glamour, ie Liz Hurley style spray on jeans, fur gilets and spike heels
2. Robust, rosey cheeks country girls wearing thick Aran knits, oversized shearlings, riding boots (real rather than fashion!) and some serious jewellery.  If you are local it seems you dress for warmth and dazzle with heirloom diamonds.

The folly extrordinaire, Hameau de la Reine,  that Marie Antoinette created at Versailles, isn't it beautiful? I am hoping to visit in March.

I got my oufit (Joseph skirt and Valentino knit) completely wrong for Daylesford, too cold and nowhere near enough dazzle!

Monday, 23 January 2012

let them eat cake

This selection of books and magazines is the literary equivalent of patisserie delicacies.  On days when only a pure sugar hit of pastel fancies and rich chocolate will do, it is to this library that I turn.
The exquisite interiors of Carolyn Quartermaine (a strawberry meringue with whipped cream), summer issues of French Vogue (tarte aux cassis), December Spanish Vogue and Rene Caovilla's 'Haute Couture in the Kitchen' (Concerto au chocolat), US Elle Decor (a multi layered millefeuille), vintage Lady Penelope annuals (lunettes framboises). 
The discovery that visual delicacies could satisfy appetite has been a recent one.  In my youth we would visit Raymond Blanc's first Maison Blanc patisserie shop on the pretext that it was essential to our course, since all of the staff had to speak French.  Outside of French soil, we had never experienced anything like it, English bakeries were prehistoric with their fatty doughnuts, lacklustre bread and 'patisserie cream' a euphemism for a substance that is hard to describe; the texture of marshmallow, with a sickily sweetness, it could stick like superglue, stayed fresh for a week and was used to fill any pastry cavity.
La Maison Blanc was a revelation, with its light as a feather meringue and the delicate mix of sweet and sharp that is always just so, as only the French can do.  We would choose a selection that was then carefully boxed and wrapped in pink ribbon.
On returning to our digs, we painted each other's toe nails in an array of pastel colours and ate cakes until we were fit to burst.  This long predated the era of Urban Decay, our nail lacquer stash was scored at Rollers, a fantastic shop that sold a totally random mix of everything that can be imagined, but where nothing cost more than 50p ($1).  Unfortunately around exam time the trips were more regular and accounted for much of the excess bodyweight that I carried long thereafter.

Raymond Blanc stayed close to his roots and now owns one of the most famous restaurant/hotels in Europe, the two Michelin starred; Le Manoir Aux Quat' Saisons;

I have yet to vist, but it is on my hit list for this year, I still have fond memories of his early attempts to educate the Luddites with some fine cuisine;

Sunday, 22 January 2012

should old aquaintance be forgot

Finalising my New Year's resolutions always takes a while. Optimism around the holiday period often results in promising the unachievable, it's always preferable to wait until the back end of January to be able to focus on reality.  And this year, with writing it down, I am more accountable.
1. Start the personal training business that I have spent 3 years preparing for even if it means working for free
2. Continue the healthy eating regime and guard against slipping back into the old habits and the 15 stone (154 pound) former self
3. Limit purchases from multinationals and focus on supporting local independents
4. Learn to cook gourmet minceur
5. Jog daily with the pooch for a minimum of 40 mins (he is carrying some post holiday poundage)
6. Create a centralised database of all my friends names, children's names, addresses, email addresses and numbers
7. Arrange to meet someone that I haven't seen for a while for lunch at least once a week
8. Don't slip back into the habit of letting work rule my life

These are some pics of New Year's Eve, wearing vintage Chantilly lace Christian Lacroix and Rene Caovilla shoes, drinking Cristal and eating salmon caught in Alaska by my hunter gatherer with home baked bread and Beluga Caviar.