Archive for July, 2011|Monthly archive page

Truly Glorious Goodwood

In High heels, Men, Older women, People, Shoes on July 30, 2011 at 12:13 am

I’d always thought the name of Goodwood’s annual summer race meeting was rather self-congratulatory. Now I understand it’s simply the most accurate description.

I went on Thursday for Ladies Day and had what I can only describe as one of the most glorious days of my life. The weather was glorious, the setting is glorious, the racing was glorious – and the people watching was truly glorious.

Although it was Ladies Day and Grazia ’s lovely Paula Reed was out with her Channel 4 crew filming the ‘fashions in the field’ (to quote one of my favourite Aussie terms), it was the gents who caught my eye.

And they were ‘gents’. Gentleman of the old school, looking so happy and at ease in their natural habitat and their preferred summer plumage.

Not for Goodwood the painful morning dress of Royal Ascot’s Royal Enclosure.

Even in the smart bit of Gooders – the Richmond Enclosure, my new eden – the dress code for men is nothing more taxing than a suit and tie.


The ideal version being a linen suit worn with a panama hat. They all looked so happy in that get up. Feeling a bit jaunty, but not done up.

The relaxed but chic atmosphere of the event put me most in mind of Henley Regatta, with the big difference that Goodwood is not peopled by a superrace of breathtakingly beautiful love god rowers.

The young men at Henley can make you swoon away – in my early 20s, I could hardly stand it – at Goodwood, I enjoyed admiring the style of the more mature ones.

And it made me reflect, that one of the benefits of growing older is that there is an ever increasing pool of people to find attractive.

Of course it was also fun checking out the women’s oufits, and once again I found I was more taken with the seasoned racegoers, tearing to get to their favourite spot in the stand to watch the race, than I was by the fillies.

Those towering platform stilettos beloved of the under-40s do not look right for the races and they’re so unpractical. I saw a lot of sh’agony – shoe agony – as a result, because you spend your whole time at Goodwood milling about over very uneven terrain.

Over to the parade ring to look at the horses – the true beauties of the day – back to the Tote to place your bet, time for a quick drink, study the form, then over to the stand to watch the race, back to the Tote to collect your winnings, then off to the winners’ enclosure to watch the presentation and generally perve, queue up for some strawberries, listen to the band, and so on.

The whole event is one long passagiata. Which equals people-watching paradise.

I had a wonderful time, not unenhanced by winning on three races and going home £96 richer. Watching the beautiful Gifted Girl romp home, ahead for the whole race, coming in at least four lengths ahead (or so it looked to me…) was a moment of true bliss.

But watching Frankie Dettori, my absolute favourite jockey, collect his second trophy, for winning on a horse I hadn’t backed, was just as good.


I’m already planning next year’s visit. And, of course, I’ll be taking my lucky handbag.


I must add here that I went to Goodwood as a guest member of the press, but that’s not why I’m raving about it. This is my personal blog and I write what I like on it. I can’t be bought – as Giorgio Armani will tell you. He once banned me from his shows for writing a frank and honest review of one I didn’t care for. Not used to being told the inconvenient truth, he got the hump in a big way, but later forgave me.

I’ll be going back to Goodwood next year on my own dollar.


I took far too many pictures to post on here, so I’ve created a Flickr account if you want to have a look at the whole lot (and see what I was wearing ha ha ha).

I don’t really know what I’m doing on there yet, but it’s the ‘set’ called ‘Goodwood 2011’ and you click from shot to shot. They’re all captioned which takes you through the flow of the day.

Amy Winehouse and Fran Landesman

In Older women, Poets, Pop stars on July 26, 2011 at 10:26 pm

Two of my favourite lyricists died on Saturday.

One of them you will know about – the amazing Amy Winehouse, who died way way heartbreakingly too young. The other, Fran Landesman, is not so well known, but highly respected and adored by those who do know her work.

And perhaps Fran’s consolation for her lesser renown was that she died at home at the fine age of 84, just five months after her husband Jay and will be sorely missed by their two sons, Cosmo and Miles and three grandchildren.

I shed tears when I heard about both deaths. For Amy because it was so tragically predictible and such an unbearable waste of talent. For Fran, because I have been lucky enough to know her a little and have seen her perform many times over the years.

Whenever it rains, I hear myself saying, ‘Nice weather for ducks…’ which is the first line of one of Fran’s songs. What a great rhythm that phrase has. In my head I can still exactly hear her singing it at a gig at St Katherine’s Dock in 1983.

She and husband Jay were London living legends, moving to the city from their native US in 1964 and setting up home in Islington, where they both lived until they died. Although I knew Jay better from his legendary tenure in the Groucho Club bar, where I spent most of my time in the late 1980s. So did he.

Jay always seemed to sit in a particular chair in the back left corner and I still can’t walk into that bar without looking for him there. They actually moved the chair a few years ago, but my eye still always goes there. What a dude he was. What a dame Fran was.

They were true beatniks, the real thing. Read Jay’s obituaries in the Daily Telegraph and the Guardian (by my friend Craig Sams) on these links for all the background, it’s fascinating stuff. Names featured include Miles Davis, Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, Woody Allen, Peter Cook and Yoko Ono, to mention just a very few.

And here is his recipe for a happening party:

“a minimum of three potential celebrities (any field); somebody who moves well (male or female); one beautiful Fascist (to confuse people)… no fat people, unless Robert Morley or Peter Ustinov; a swinging accountant; two attractive lesbians; one international drug trafficker; a gay [politician]; one colored TV personality; a pop singer no one recognises, a girl with buck teeth, a corrective shoe.”

They had a famously open marriage.

So Fran was one cool lady and, as well as her sons, leaves behind her a body of work seriously worth taking a look at. Amazon has several of her books of poetry listed.

To give you a taste of her way with words – of why she was called ‘the Dorothy Parker of jazz’ – here is Sarah Vaughan singing my favourite of her songs, Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most. Isn’t ‘hang you up’ just a marvellously beatnik phrase?

The words were set to music by Tommy Wolfe and it became a jazz standard recorded by Ella Fizgerald, Barbra Streisand and Bette Midler, among others. Although my own personal favourite version is by Sarah Moule.

And apologies for not posting last weekend, I was unwell. (I guess I was just too hung up to do it.)

In case you like them as much as I do, here are the lyrics:

Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most

by Fran Landesman

Once I was a sentimental thing,
Threw my heart away each Spring;
Now a Spring romance hasn’t got a chance
Promised my first dance to Winter;
All I’ve got to show’s a splinter for my little fling.

Spring this year has got me feeling like a
horse that never left the post;
I lie in my room staring up at the ceiling,
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Morning’s kiss wakes trees and flowers,
And to them I’d like to drink a toast;
I walk in the park just to kill the lonely hours,
Spring can really hang you up the most.
All afternoon those birds twitter twit,
I know the tune, “This is love, this is it!”
Heard it before and I know the score,
And I’ve decided that Spring is a bore.

Love seemed sure around the New Year,

Now it’s April, love is just a ghost;
Spring arrived on time, only what became of you, dear?
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Spring is here, there’s no mistaking
Robins building nests from coast to coast;
My heart tries to sing so they won’t hear it breaking,
Spring can really hang you up the most.

College boys are writing sonnets,
In the “Tender passion” they’re engrossed;
But I’m on the shelf with last year’s Easter bonnets,
Spring can really hang you up the most.

Love came my way, I hope it would last;
We had our day, now that’s all in the past
Spring came along a season of sun,

Full of sweet promise but something wrong!

Doctors once prescribed a tonic,
“Sulphur and molasses” was the dose;
Didn’t help a bit, my condition must be chronic,
Spring can really hang you up the most.

All alone, the party’s over,
Old man Winter was a gracious host;
But when you keep praying for snow to hide the clover
Spring can really hang you up the most.

School uniform

In Child, Childhood, School, Uncategorized on July 16, 2011 at 12:24 am

How many American films can you think about based on the apparently universal experience of the nightmare of high school?

From Carrie, to Diary of a Wimpy Kid (middle school, but seems to be same difference…) via Glee, Twilight and so many others it has always struck me as being the nation’s defining drama.

A big part of the collective trauma is based on being judged on how you look. How attractive you are. What you wear. Which tribe that puts you in and how you rank on the squash ladder which has the Homecoming King and Queen at its apex.

They’re right – it is a bloody nightmare!

And then the state-run, nationwide institutions which endorse this code of values – good looks, popularity and social success – officially encode it at the end of each graduating year with that terrible concept: the year book.

I loathed every moment of school, but give thanks daily there was no year book, or ‘prom’ at the end of it. I did barely enough work to scrape through anyway, I was so busy thinking about how I looked and how popular I was and if a certain boy liked me. If those anxieties had been an official part of my academic life, I would have imploded.

And if I’d had to choose my outfit for school each morning? I simply would never have got there. My father was always sitting in the car blowing the horn and fuming anyway and I only had my pimples to cover and my greasy hair to tie back. A daily outfit? It would have consumed my life.

Which is why I’m a big fan of school uniforms. How terrible it would be to be the poor kid who couldn’t have the cool new clothes at a US high school. It would scar you for life. Or make you into Oprah Winfrey.

And that’s not the only equalising effect. School uniforms make everyone look equally hideous. Obviously we are not talking about the St Trinian’s or Britney version here… I mean real, nasty, polyester school uniforms.

I love those shapeless dresses Aussie teenage girls wear to school. I can always imagine their inhabitants getting home and sliding into their real clothes. The contrast must be extraordinary, but for the daily grind of school, those polyester sacks really do their job.

As a parent, though, I have found you sometimes have to bend the rules a little. My daughter’s school has an adorable tartan winter uniform. Here she is on her first day at school, five years ago. Aged FOUR, too too young, I should have kept her locked at her home, but there you are. That’s what happens when your birthday is all the way the wrong end of the school year (and read the excellent book Outliers, to see how that can disadvantage you your whole life…)

Three years later she graded up to Year 3 when the uniform changed from the dear little pinafore to a kilt. A nice idea, but hard when you’re the smallest child in your year and don’t have anything resembling a waist to hang it on…

Thus she would go off to school looking reasonable. And come home looking like this. Pure Eloise.

With a lot of very uncomfortable hours in between. That stupid uniform ate her alive. In the end I couldn’t stand it for her and changed the swamping kilt for a discontinued mini version I found lurking deep in the second hand uniform shop and swapped the stupid cravat for a nice comfy tie.

As you can see, she felt a lot more herself in this get up. And her results improved almost immediately.

So I’m a big fan of school uniforms for many reasons. They equalise the effects of income and beauty differentials and they can make inculcate collegiate spirit. But they do need to be comfortable.

What do you think? I would particularly like to hear from American readers (yes, that’s you Toby!)

And here’s one last (forgive me…) pic of Miss P wearing her uniform the way she thought it should be worn…




Take That

In Men, Uncategorized on July 8, 2011 at 6:06 pm

For the first time in my entire life I screamed like a Beatles fan.

I’ve yelled and cheered and hollered and hooted and even gobbed in my long and varied gig-going career, but never before have I screamed. The full aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah shaking your head making Munch faces tearing your hair thing.

That’s what Take That do to me. I can’t help it. I love them. They make my ageing hormones go pop.

So when the one minute count down to their appearance on stage at Wembley Stadium on Monday night (July 4th)  reached zero and there they suddenly were, live on stage, sharing air with me, even several hundred metres away, I screamed. We all did. Eightyfour thousand nine hundred and ninety eight women and about two men. This fabulously amateur bit of video above, from the Sunderland concert really catches the atmosphere (and watching it just now gave me goose bumps…)

And that was just the come back four. The concert was brilliantly divided into three acts. Starting with the material from when Guy, Mark, Howard and….. JASON AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH re-formed back in 2008. All the great tracks like Hold On (swoon…) and Patience.

I screamed, I sang, I danced, I hugged my friend Saska and the total stranger on the other side.

Then they went off (after a spectacularly dopy sequence with dancers dressed as fairy tale characters) and some very familiar opening chords boomed out. There he was ROBBIE!!!!!!!!!!!

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH all over again. Making what must be one of the greatest live entrances of all time. More amateur video follows…

Let me entertain you, he sang, and boy, he did. He hammed it up like the vaudeville star he is. The only person who comes near him for on stage energy is Mr Pop. Robbie looks like he could explode with it at any moment. Leaping around like a fool and singing like a master. God, he’s got a good voice.

I could remember Madonna, the last time I went to that site, back in the 80s to the old stadium, trying to skip about and sing at the same time and so not pulling it off. Get into the, puff, groove, puff, wheeze…

Robbie can sing while he’s doing a cartwheel and he’s nearly forty. The man is a force of nature. I love his music, I adore his cheekiness and I love that we grew up a few miles from each other, it makes me feel like I own a piece of him.

Fancy some pobs, Rob? (sorry you’d have to be a Stookie to get that…)

I also think his lyrics are amazing. If you don’t believe me, listen to Me and My Monkey. A work of brilliance. This one he’s singing below’s not bad either, Come Undone. ‘I’ve contemplated thinking about thinking, it’s overrated, just get another drink in…’

But even solo Robbie pales next to the collective marvel that is the five boys of Take That together. It’s some kind of magical alchemical formula. The whole is so very much greater than the sum of the parts, but when they’re together, singing their brilliant pop songs, old and new, they have an effect on women like no one else.

Nearly two million women (really, there were hardly any men there, it was hilarious) are going to see them on this tour. Not even the Beatles managed that.

I’ve tried to analyse what it is and I can’t nail it. For me it’s a no brainer. I have a fetish for cheeky boys from northern England, where I grew up, because they remind me of the first boys I kissed. Particularly the gorgeous Jason Orange, with his wonderful bony face. No southerners look like that. It’s a particular bone structure and it sends me.

He’s also a wonderful dancer, our Jason, in the great twinkle toes Northern Soul tradition and the hits that first made me like them – Everything Changes But You was the first one I loved – are based on the particular heavy beat and quick tempo of that music. It makes you want to spin on one foot like Jason can. Sigh…

So that’s why I love them, but I don’t entirely understand the mass fetish. I’d love to know your thoughts on it.

And what is particularly interesting to me about Take That AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH now is that they are so much more attractive as a man band, with their lived-in looking faces, than they were as freshly minted hairless boys.

Aren’t men lucky about that?

On beauty

In Beauty, Fashion magazines, Supermodels on July 1, 2011 at 6:00 pm

An archive special this week from 2003. I stumbled across this one by chance the other day and it struck me that it exactly addresses what I’ve been feeling looking at those pictures of Elle McPherson at the school gates.

They are just paparazzi shots, but some of them – the one in the snow particularly – could go straight into US Vogue. It’s had me thinking again about the otherness of true beauty.

And I’ve illustrated it with the amazing Natalia Vodianova (who I consider the most beautiful woman on earth) because her life so illustrates the transformative power of beauty. She was selling vegetables in a Russian market when she was discovered…

I do wonder if it as potent a life-changing quality in men. I’d love to have the opportunity to ask Andres Velencoso Segura… My favourite male model.

I was leafing listlessly through a fashion magazine today, thinking yadda yadda yadda, seen it all before, when one picture stopped me in my campaign weary tracks.

It wasn’t a particularly startling fashion photograph, but then I’ve been looking at fashion pictures for so many years – first as a consumer, then as a magazine editor and latterly as homework – that I find I am less often transported by them than I used to be. I don’t know whether it’s fashion, fashion photography, or me (most likely), but find I am rarely moved to linger and sigh these days. But something really struck me about this shot. It was the extraordinary beauty of the models.

Now that’s a pretty dumb thing to say – all models are gorgeous, or they wouldn’t, er, be models – and it is a fashion photographer’s job to render that beauty on the page. But somehow, this picture seemed particularly to showcase the amazing slender legs, willowy torsos and satiny skin of the two girls. And it made me wonder – what would it be like to be that beautiful?

Theirs was not the kind of fairy floss allure that is spun together by lighting, stylists, make up artists and a certain shutter speed, as is the case with many models. A lot of them are quite wan and plain in real life, their beauty springing forth only when pinioned, like a specimen butterfly, by the camera lens.

You could tell from the picture that these are the kind of girls who are even better in the flesh, who make people’s mouths drop open as they walk down the street. The full girl from Ipamena effect.

It put me in mind of something I once read about the supreme fashion photographer Richard Avedon – whose pictures still make me sigh. He had a sister of extraordinary beauty and he wrote of her: ‘My sister’s beauty was the event of my family.’

Isn’t that good? The ‘event’. I love the way it evokes the impact of amazing beauty, its power to change lives. Because I really think to be as beautiful as the models in that picture – not pretty, not cute, not sexy, but beautiful – must be to inhabit a different world from the rest of us.

I had an inkling of this years ago, when I had one very beautiful friend, who did ultimately become a model herself. We were students doing the same summer job and although we were exactly two weeks apart in age – she the slightly older – the manager of the restaurant where we were working put her on the higher wage scale, because she was ‘nearly’ 19.

When I protested that I was nearly 19 too, only two weeks less nearly than her, he sent me packing. He had smiled the little bit of extra fortune he had to bestow on her simply because she was beautiful. He wasn’t a sleaze bag, he wasn’t trying to crack on to her, but seeing her walking into his office had no doubt made his day, in a way which my entrance had not. I fumed at the time, just as I fumed when every guy I fancied lusted after her and ignored me, but now I understand it.

Beauty has such currency. I know I have given jobs to people mainly because they were beautiful. Having them around cheered up the office and enhanced the image of the magazine when we were out and about. It’s horrible, but it’s true, and that’s why I think to be seriously beautiful must be to exist on a kind of moving walkway of life, with everything made just that little bit easier for you.

Of course there is that thing that beautiful people complain of, when they want to be loved for their minds and not their silken thighs (ha!). But on the whole, I think life must be transformed by beauty in ways we normal people can barely understand.

No wonder we are all so obsessed with it.


Now tell me, who are your current, living Most Beautifuls?

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