Archive for January, 2013|Monthly archive page

The good oil

In Hair on January 30, 2013 at 8:52 pm


As a child in the 1960s I developed my ideal of womanhood from watching television.

My perfect woman was Lady Penelope from Thunderbirds. She had it all. A mansion, a chauffeur (who could pick safe locks with one of her hairpins – handy), adventures and a pink Rolls Royce. She also had great hair.


Another lady pin up was Alexandra Bastedo in a spy series called The Champions. She tended to go the up do, but I thought her unutterably glamorous. I also had a big crush on the dark-haired man in the series (centre, below), Stuart Damon, who I now realise looks rather like my husband. And dresses like him too…


Even in those pre -Female Eunuch days I never felt comfortable watching the Bond films, just as I always hated Benny Hill (and don’t even start me on the creepiness of Gigi…).  But I used to watch them for the Bond girls.


Ursula Andress in the bikini, of course, but my favourite was always Honor Blackman in her suede jodphurs as Pussy Galore (FFS…). She had seriously great hair. My favourite doll, Sindy (preferred her to Barbie) had similar hair.


But my all-time number one hair inspiration was always my mother’s can of Elnett hairspray. The chick in that drawing has the best hair of all time. I still aspire to it.


Which is all by way of saying that I was a little hasty when I dissed L’Oreal’s Extraordinary Oil, the other day. I’ve been using it for over a week now and I think it lives up to its name.

I think it was the John Frieda Full Repair range which cured my traumatised fright wig hair, but the Extraordinary Oil – combined with my precious Big Hair dryer – has taken it on to another level.

I apply it lavishly before every wash, but the real genius comes when you use it the next day on dry hair. It gives it the kind of body I’ve only achieved before the day after doing a massive hairdo for a party with rollers and setting lotion.

For a moment just now, my hair was so big and high I felt a little like the lady on the Elnett can…

PS I so love all your comments on this I had to add this picture of TRESSY. I had a Tressy too, but she broke very quickly and then the long hair extension was just weird. She was a novelty, Barbie was a freak – Sindy was the It Girl.



Single sole

In Shoes on January 28, 2013 at 10:25 am

329944_in_xlHow is your single sole? As opposed to your single soul, which is another conversation entirely and one most perfectly addressed by the film of Bridget Jones Diary.

I will never get over the moment when the lift doors open and there is Hugh Grant at the height of his glory. The first time I saw it a full howl escaped from my throat. About twenty viewings later I’ve just about got it down to a yelp. The boating scene absolutely kills me too.


He is my perfect man in that film. Well, apart from the skinny American woman in the bathroom, but the stiletto sharp intelligence, the throwaway wit, the hair, the unbuttoned shirt, the naughty eyes, he just kills me. He was brilliant in real life too, at the Levison Enquiry, sigh… Anyway, where was I? Oh yes, shoes.

‘Single sole’ is the term marvellous Net-a-Porter has come up with for NON platform shoes. I let out another kind of yelp when I first saw it, captioning a picture of the Jimmy Choo above, in the site’s most excellent on line magazine. Here’s the link.!/179/2

It’s such a funny term and so necessary to make the difference between the two kinds of shoes – being normally soled shoes and the platform monstrosities which have dominated the last few years of footwear. Like these monstosities by Guiseppe Zanotti.


If you’ve been reading me for the last year, you will already know what I thinof platform pumps, particularly the nude pump. I HATE THEM. I hated them on sight, weird mutant woman Mr Tumnus feet. They are like Barbie’s permanent high-heel-ready plastic trotters, but worse.


Even after the entire Royal family, who are the world’s most unstylish people, all wore them to Will and Kate’s nups and Ascot, people who should know better were getting around in them.

royals in nude pumps

I don’t hate platforms entirely. I appreciate extended leg length as much as the next stumpy woman. I loved them in the 1970s, when they were new to teen me and I embraced them enthusiastically again when they first re-appeared in the mid-noughties. I still love these Louboutins – they’re properly camp – it was just that the genre then hung around way too long and started to look cheaper and cheaper, in the pursuit of novelty, even when they were £500 shoes.


I still love a wedge. I can’t wait for summer to roll around so I can get back into those. And I love my brothel creeper ‘flatforms’ too, it’s just the endless Louboutin rip offs, I can’t bear.


It’s probably my age, but if I’m going to spend far more money than is quite moral on shoes, they are going to be Manolo Blahnik. Particularly these two styles, which – alongside a whole new collection every season – he has always done. Any shoe style that can still inspire lust, twenty years after you first saw them has to be a classic.



A quick fast update

In Diets on January 20, 2013 at 10:23 am



I wasn’t going to write any more about the new – and very ancient – ideas about fasting for health and wellbeing until I’ve been on the two day a week fasting regime for a month, but then yesterday the Australian ran a big story about it. (I felt a little smug. Not something I normally allow myself. Rather enjoyed it.)

This is useful as it goes into all the scientific research in some detail so am posting the link here FYI.

I also came across an article by Mimi Spencer (a most excellent fashion writer) who wrote the book the Fast Diet with the BBC’s medical journalist Dr Michael Mosley, after she watched the same programme which inspired my interest in fasting, so here’s the link to that too.

Fast love

In Diets on January 18, 2013 at 10:23 am


I’ve made an interesting discovery since posting about the Fast Diet yesterday – the word ‘diet’ provokes strong reactions. I entirely understand. I loathe the word and concept so much I covered my copy of the Fast Diet book in wrapping paper, so my daughter wouldn’t see it lying around the house. I don’t want her to grow up thinking that dieting is something all grown ups do.

Neither do I want her to spend her childhood – as I did – with a parent in ill health, so I simply have to get the weight off that I carry around my waist; the place we are constantly told is the worst risk for heart disease. Which is what killed my dad at 63 and both his parents even younger.

I’m a genetically programmed cardiac time bomb and the apple shape body has to go. I wish I could do it by taking more exercise and eating ‘in moderation’, but I know from experience I just can’t keep that up. I need clear rules and the sense of undertaking a project to stick at it.

And, as always, I’m fervently hoping this is the last ‘diet’ this yo yo dieter will ever have to do. The proof will be in the pudding – or how much less of one I resemble in a few weeks time – but here’s how it’s been so far.

Fast Day One

8.45am An hour ater than usual, had my usual breakfast of oats soaked in semi-skimmed milk, with 0% fat yogurt, half an apple chopped up and blueberries. This seems to add up to 224 calories – or nearly half my day’s allowance of 500, which is a bit scary.

11am Feel peckish, with a craving for some nice crunchy crackers. Which is exactly what I would normally be snacking on aroud this time on a normal day. Remind myself can have them tomorrow and resist.

Have another cup of tea instead. Think I will find not being able to have tea with milk, whenever I damn well want it, the hardest thing on this regime. I certainly couldn’t deal with caffeine cravings as well. So in future will measure out 100ml of milk each fasting day (100 calories) and see how far I go with it.

12.30pm Starting to feel food obsessed. This is when I would normally start thinking about what to have for lunch. Have a cup of black coffee, which is surprisingly satisfying. Once that wears off start to feel really chilled. I suffer from Raynaud’s syndrome and all my fingers go white, so I can’t type.

1.30pm Have a cup of instant miso to get fingers back. Delicious, although 84 calories seems monstrous for what is basically a mug of salty water.


2.30pm Go out for a walk with a friend to distract myself.

3.30pm Could gnaw my own arm off. I normally have a mid-afternoon snack around this time, so it’s clear my body is well programmed to expect these regular top ups.

4pm Have to go to kitchen to check options for child/husband dinner. Everywhere I look there is food. A big chunk of brie. A pomegranate my daughter has cut in half. A bowl of apples. A bow of grapes. Normal me would have happily grazed on all this without thinking about it.

4.30pm Is it really not dinner time yet? It’s hard putting just two potatoes in the oven to bake… Wonder if the family will notice they are having their dinner an hour earlier than normal.

5.10pm Can smell the baked potatoes cooking. Feel like a dog in a cartoon, could follow the scent for miles…

5.15pm OOH I think it might be time to put my fish in the oven!!! Oh, no it’s still too early. If I eat at 5.30 I’ll be climbing the walls by bedtime, although I have scheduled an orange for later… that’s how KRAZEE I am. How much orange is 100g though? Finding the food weighing aspect hard. Will have to be more stringent about it, but really don’t want my daughter seeing me do that. It’s neurotic and eating disorder-y.

Measured my waist to concentrate my mind. V v bad.

6pm Dinner! Fillet of white fish, cooked in tin foil with garlic, ginger and lemon (a combo which would make balsa wood quite palatable – actually, I wonder how many calories there are in 100g of that…?). A small mountain of spinach. Feel quite satisfied.

It was hard watching the family tuck into cold chicken and baked potatoes (with lashings of butter). Had a little bit of chicken – no idea of the weight. Find that element of this regime hard to accept. Think I will deny myself the orange to make up for it.

But I’m just about through Day One and I’ve survived and feel oddly keen to get on with the next one. Will stock up with Diet Coke and sugar free gum, although I didn’t need either today.

Also very much looking forward to the arrival of my Miracle Noodles… A friend who has already lost 5 kilos on the diet told me about them. They’re the secret of slim Japanese women, noodles made of fibre some obscure Asian vegetable, which rack up only 5 calories a packet.

7pm Finding it distressing even to read the word ‘gin’. Have a diet ginger beer in one of my best highball glasses and it hits the spot.

According to my calculations, I have eaten exactly 501 calories, although I do fear I’ve been a bit lax about milk in tea.

10pm Go to bed feeling quite hungry, but buoyed up by the knowledge I can have a monster fry up in the morning.

The next morning: didn’t feel hungry at all… Less hungry than usual, in fact. I’m a big breakfast eater, but feel slightly queasy at the thought.

Amazed. Would be quite happy to face another day of fasting and it feels a bit like I’m ‘breaking my diet’ not to, but I’m going up to London, so I’m going to eat normally today and fast again tomorrow.


Fasting Day 2
Woke feeling really hungry after fisting chocolate raisins into my mouth last night in panic at the thought of the food restriction coming today. Find it hard not to eat daughter’s breakfast bacon…

Made myself weigh everything and used water instead of milk on the oats, which was fine. Measured out the 200ml of milk for the day – not much of it. If I can’t have enough cups of tea from that will have to switch to vile, lower-caloried skimmed milk, which I loathe.

11am Postman delivered Miracle Noodles! Can have two packs with my dinner and will only be 10 cals. Here’s praying they are edible.

12 noon Feel really hungry again and slightly crazed with it. Re-read book and reminded myself that I could snack, if desperate but the whole point is to give your body a good long stretch with no food to deal with at all. Had one spoonful of the coleslaw I made for dinner the day before and a precious cup of tea.

Rest of day much the same as yesterday’s pattern, including miso soup, which was almost too salty to bear. Think I will phase those out. A packet of sugar free gum got me through the afternoon in my office.

6pm Managed to hold out reasonably late for dinner again. Had the Miracle Noodles – the ‘fettucine’ style – with a tomato sauce and three meatballs. The meatballs and sauce taste like celestial angel food. Feel my senses have been heightened by the day without snacking.

The noodles are pretty foul, like hot shredded plastic bags, but with the sauce mostly drowning the taste, they were bearable and have certainly filled me up. They would be much better in soup or a stirfry and that’s how I’ll use them in future.

Miracle Noodles pic

7.15pm Have found today much harder than the first fast. I feel quite weak and want to go to bed. I think next week I’ll do my fast days two days apart – say, Monday and Thursday.

I’m also going to follow religiously one of the daily menu plans in the book, or from the Sunday Times Style supplement, as I am a little concerned I’ve gone through all this and busted my 500 limit unintentionally and I won’t lose any weight.

Am surprised to find there is still 50ml of milk left in the fridge at bedtime, so that’s going to be fine.

One thing I have realised doing this, is that I am like a prawn in our kitchen: swimming around cleaning up all the little bits other people haven’t eaten. My daughter left two licked Orea halves in her lunch box today and last week, they would have been in my mouth in a flash. Equally I would have hovered up all the delicious slightly burned little crumbs of meat balls left in the frying pan. Today I stopped myself. No point making such an effort and then blowing it for some cheap biscuits.

No fasting now for three days. And no blogging about it for a couple of weeks, when I’ll tell you how I got on.

Another day, another diet

In Diets on January 17, 2013 at 8:46 pm


I am to diets what Taylor Swift is to relationships. I’m convinced every new one is The One, the stayer, the answer to all my prayers… then three months later it’s all over. Except in my case, I then put all the weight back on and she writes a new album about the latest heartbreak and makes another $50,000,000.

I’ve done every diet craze of the last ten years. They all worked. I think the GI Diet was the best, the one it was most possible to live ‘normally’ on. Weight Watchers also worked brilliantly for me. Twice. When I went back a third time and the ‘leader’ just assumed I’d done it before, I knew it was a loser’s game. And not the right kind of losing.

Dukan is amazing. Three of my friends have each lost a stack of weight on it and kept it off. They followed it to the letter, no short cuts, and I don’t think they will ever put it on again now. It worked for me, but I didn’t follow through all the stages, put the weight on again, and then found I just couldn’t go back to endless plates of slimy food.

So I was immediately gripped when I happened to see Dr Michael Mosley’s (below) fascinating Horizon programme about the health and weight loss benefits of fasting.


Annoyingly it doesn’t seem to be on Youtube and I fear people outside the UK won’t be able to watch it on the BBC iPlayer, but the progression of his research was fascinating – the science rigorous and very convincing.

I immediately wanted to try the system he decided combined the greatest effect (on blood sugar and cholesterol, as well as weight loss) with the easiest stickability, which has come to be known as 5:2 fasting. This means one week equals five days of free, unrestricted eating and two when you eat no more than 500 calories (600 for men).

I started looking at calorie counting apps online and found it too difficult because everything is listed by 100g. The thought of boiling an egg, weighing it and then working out the percentage of 100g and thence the calories was just too hard. So I waited for the inevitable books to come out.

This January magazines and newspapers in the UK are full of versions of the diet programme, but I was thrilled to see that the man himself has produced a book with the very excellent Mimi Spencer, one of my preferred journalistas.


The book is great, going through all the research, before getting on to the nitty gritty of follwing the diet, with tips and meal plans, and although the calorie charts are still in the maddening 100g system (I suppose it is the only way, really…) you can find out the value of a boiled egg by cross referencing to the recipe section. 90 calories.

I am now in my first week of the diet, coming towards the end – THANK GOD – of my second day of fasting. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you how I’ve found it so far. I may have chocolate all round my mouth…

Meanwhile, here is the link to the article about the programme on the BBC website.

Hair mares

In Age, Grooming, Hair on January 16, 2013 at 11:22 am


There are all the things that you expect about ageing: The thickening of the waist. The loosening of the inner thighs. Bingo wings, wrinkles, reading glasses, senior moments.

Then there’s all the other stuff you don’t find out about until it happens to you. Strange whiskers on the chin being the first of those that I experienced. Pluck those bastards right out. The lastest of these is hair weirdness. Hair that’s permanently in a mood, won’t do as it’s told at all.

I’m finding this particularly hard to cope with as my hair has always been the one body part I took comfort from. As a stump-legged short arse with no waist and joke shop boobs, hair I could rely on was my saviour. I’m not being up myself – everyone has something like that. I’ve got one good friend with legs as long as the M6. Another with a tiny waist which never increases no matter what happens to her hips. One of my best pals has breasts of such spectacular gravity-defying perfection I’d walk around topless if I had them.

My saving grace has always been hair with body and sheen that never goes lank or frizzy. Until now, when I’m living with a fright wig. Even with the excellent cuts of my wonderful hairdresser, my rug won’t play fair.

It looks wonderful when Giles (of John Frieda, Alford Street, London W1 – tell him I sent you…) blow dries it – and it used to look just as good when I did it. Then suddenly, bam, no matter what I do – leave it to dry naturally, blow dry it upside down – it sticks out like triangular candy floss.

This led to the day in a ghastly motorway café when my mother said to me: ‘Your hair really is awful. You look like Jimmy Saville…’

I have never been so offended – and if you follow the news, you’ll have an idea that there really isn’t anyone on earth you would less like to resemble. I don’t even like typing his name. Making matters worse, my husband agreed with her, the crawler. My darling daughter then sprang to my defence saying: ‘Don’t be so mean to Mummy!’ Then reaching out to squeeze my hand, she put on her best spaniel expression, looked up at me with huge eyes and said, ‘Don’t worry…. Jimmy.’

My husband and mother fell about laughing. I stormed off in a huff that took 24 hours to subside. And the hair hasn’t got any better since.

I’ve been up to see Giles and my equally wonderful colourist Cetera, neither of whom could come up with a reason for my hair mare – Cetera confirmed she never uses bleach on it – until I dared to venture it might be my age. They are both way too polite (and good at their jobs) to leap in to agree, but it was clear: I’ve got old hair and it’s gone weird.

Since then I’ve invested in a lot of product. Always one to be taken in by television advertising I paid out for the Elvive Extraordinary Oil only to find it to be pretty ordinary oil. Then I bought most of the John Frieda Full Repair range. The Deep conditioner is excellent and the Deep Infusion oily stuff is the only thing which has made my tissue paper dry ends lie a little flatter, applied before and after drying.


The inspiration struck. I blogged ages ago about the miracle of Babyliss Big Hair hairdryer – only to leave mine in a hotel room last summer. It had felt wrong to shell out another £40, when I’d been so slack and stupid to lose it, but last week they were on offer in Boots and I bought one.

Finally, my hair is looking like me again and I no longer fear the Saville resemblance. The funny thing is though, if my mum had said I looked like that other shock-haired fellow Andy Warhol (above), I wouldn’t have minded at all.

andy really big

PS A note about the appearance of this blog. Sigh… Let’s just say I’m having ‘issues’ with the design of it and trying to make it look better, it has ended up going all weird. So please bear with me until I get some professional help. xxx

Topknot Tails

In Hair on January 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm



Did you know it is now illegal for a woman under the age of 28 to be seen in public without her hair in some kind of up do?  It’s a trend I absolutely love, although I was sad when I first saw so many girls starting to wear the top of the head topknot, as it was a hairstyle I felt belonged to my niece, Katy.

She started wearing her hair like that about six years ago and it looked so cute, quite a small bun, right on the top of her head, with a long straight fringe. It was her signature look and so suited her.

So when I started to see the trickle down reaching the kind of teenage girls who hang around the shopping centre where I live, I was furious on Katy’s behalf, but I’m over it now. It’s the style of the moment; she was just ahead of the game.

Katy has a new signature style now. It started as Heidi style over the head plaits and has segued into rolls in the same formation. It’s a really good look and I’m glad she’s found it, as the hairdo she used to call her own is now even de rigeur for my 10 year old (below), who goes off to school every morning with her hair twisted up into some kind of bun.


I love all the different versions of it and so enjoy seeing young women walking around with their own interpretations. I’d love to wear it myself, but think it would be a bit trag at my age. Sob. The closest I get is wearing a little knot of hair at the base of my nape, rather than a ponytail.



The only times I’m not so keen on the modern bun is when an over extravagant use of the bun ring makes the bun the same size as the head, as here.


Or when it’s too severe, as illustrated here by Mrs Beckham.


Genetically engineering my grandchildren

In Child, Uncategorized on January 10, 2013 at 7:22 am


My mother has always broadcast her belief in arranged marriage, which used to horrify the teenage me, brain liquidized into romantic soup by over consumption of Jackie magazine (‘Red was a loner…’).

Now I’m a mother myself, I entirely agree with her. Especially as when I asked her who she would have chosen from my slideshow of boyfriends she came right out with a very impressive answer. Didn’t pause for a second – and that was a fling that happened in about 1981.

My husband has a simpler solution, he’s going to stand outside the front door with a gun, lest a youth resembling any aspect of Frankie Cocozza ventures near our precious babe, now aged ten. Needless to say, she loved the tattooed twunt.

As she clearly has appalling taste, who would we choose for her, to guarantee us perfect grandchildren? Well, I’ve had my eye on the Beckham boys from the outset. They’ll have the looks and the work ethic and Brooklyn is just the right age, at three years older, but only 13 now, he’s still forming.

So after studying the form (watching pop videos on Youtube), here’s who I’d choose now, already of breeding age.


All of The Wanted
The entire reason boy bands are so appealing is that the whole is so much greater than the sum of the parts. It was years before Take That separated in my head from one blob of madly attractive testosterone into the Short One, the Thick One, the Smug One, the Real Genius and the Actual Love God.

I’m not at that stage with The Wanted yet, but after repeated watches of the video for Lightning (really worth a look – it will take you very hormonally back to the snogging years…) I would choose Max, the one with the shaven head.

He’s from Manchester, so northern, which is a big plus to me and he looks like a mix of a young Robbie Williams (cf the Real Genius, above) and Puck, from Glee, see below.


One Direction
Another boy band, so all of the above applies, except that studying their website confirmed what I suspected from their recent appearance on X Factor: every one of these charming chappies is better looking than all of Take That, Blue, The Wanted, JLS, Boyzone etc etc put together.

One Direction – or One Erection as a middle-aged male friend memorably re-named them (bitter) – really are an exceptionally pretty selection box. The teens seem to favour Harry, by a long margin, but I rather like the look of sleepy-eye Liam, but then I was always fiercely torn between Mickey Dolenz and Davy Jones.

And by the way, no one in a boy band is allowed a surname until they’re 25 and have been in re-hab at least once.

So I’m looking forward to being on the side of the stage, holding the baby (equipped with sound cancelling headphones a la Apple Martin-Paltrow), when they re-form and play Wembley in 2031.


Puck from Glee
Not the sappy actor, the actual character, with the mohawk. He’s built, he’s bad, he’s dark – but he’s got a sensitive side. He can play the guitar and he’s Jewish. Tick, tick, tickety, tick. Only problem is that his mother-in-law might be caught trying to get glimpses of him naked through the crack in the bathroom door which would be embarrassing all round. Next.


Devon Bostick
Putting aside the fact that he sounds like a brand of West Country glue, this excellent young Canadian actor, who plays the brilliantly appalling older brother in the Wimpy Kid films, is also very amusing on Twitter.

I love a young man who is clearly delighted to wear eyeliner and he has the sexiest mouth since the front man of Showaddywaddy. What?

Most importantly, when me and Peggy posted a picture of her reading a Wimpy Kid book walking along the street (in fashionable Shoreditch, which added to our edge…) on his Facebook page – HE REPLIED. So they are practically engaged already.

I also very much like the look of his parents. His casting director mother is responsible for a hilarious series of online short films about how not to get a part called The Casting Room. So with an assured GSOH added to the rest of the package, you have my runaway favourite. He will have to change his name, though.

Here he is featuring in one of his mum’s filmettes.

The New Eyeliner Era

In Make up, Style icons on January 9, 2013 at 2:37 pm


One recent evening, after the usual desperation scroll through 5000 very expensive TV channels of crud, I decided to watch a really ancient episode of dear old Sex and the City.

The girls were sitting around a table, slightly overdressed, Charlotte and Samantha were having a fight, everything was as it should be – so why did it all look so odd?

It took me a moment or two to figure it out, but then it hit me. It was their make up. Their eye make up in particular looked so weird. It was like they weren’t wearing any. They looked oddly naked and vulnerable.

After a little more analysis, I finally worked out what was missing: eyeliner. They weren’t wearing eyeliner. And it looked crayzee!


We are living in the biggest eyeliner era since Dusty Springfield blinked her way into our hearts on 1960s telly.


I can’t leave the house without it now – I’m addicted to Bobbi Brown’s gel liner, with its special brush – but not so long ago it was a radical look. I’ve always kept a bottle of liquid liner in my make up kit – I held onto a Rimmel one for years, because it was quite hard to get it in the 90s – but I only used it for special occasions, when I wanted to be a bit camp.

Amy Winehouse was the one who brought it back, with her fabulously extreme make up look, which seemed so radical when she first registered on the collective consciousness back in 2006.


Her style launched a million back combs as well as the catseye flick, but in the years since her MTV debut that simple black line along the upper lid, has become so mainstream, it looks odd when it’s not there.

Now I find I’m scanning for eyeliner/no eyeliner in old films and TV shows and it’s fascinating. Mary Poppins has almost as much eyeliner as Adele wears – but at the time it looked normal. In the years between it looked a bit insane, now it looks normal again and Sex and the City’s unlined noughties eyes look unfinished.

It’s a perfect example of how aesthetic ‘norms’ change with fashion. And here are some pictures of Adele, who I reckon does eyeliner better than anyone.


adele 2


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