Archive for December, 2014|Monthly archive page

Seven Days of Positive – Day 98

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2014 at 9:03 pm

Happy New Year everybody. I hope 2015 will be stonkingly good for you all.

I don’t make resolutions any more (they are a great way to start the year feeling disappointed with yourself), but I do like to reflect a little on the year that’s gone and think about what my goals are for the new one.

2014 got off to a great start for me because it wasn’t 2013. That was one lousy old year. Thirteen has always been my unlucky number me and boy did it beat me up.

So I woke up on January 1st, 2014 punching the air that it was over and it went on to be a much better year in many ways. For one thing, I’m much clearer now about the areas of my life which need some fine tuning.

One of the ways I think about all this kind of stuff is through astrology. Those of you who think it’s crap can tune out now.

I’ve been fascinated by it ever since I started reading Patric Walker’s* horoscopes in my mother’s copies of Harper’s Bazaar when I was a kid.


Then I pinched my big sister’s copy of Linda Goodman’s wonderful book, Sun Signs, and that was it. There was my entire family, my best friend and my frenemy described perfectly. And I couldn’t help recognising a lot of what she had to say about my own sign, Leo.

I still refer to her advice mentally, reminding myself, when my Sagittarian husband is telling me with great enthusiasm the entire movie plot he’s dreamed up over night and I just want to get on with making breakfast – let him fly his kites.

My favourite astrologer now also happens to be one of my very best friends. And I consider it a very great privilege to be able to say that about Jessica Adams.

She was one of the first people I bonded with when I landed in Sydney in 1993. In my job as acting editor of Cleo (while Lisa Wilkinson had her first baby), I had to ring the magazine’s astrologer.

The minute we started talking, I knew she was a kindred spirit. And not just because she’s another Leo (rooooooaaaaarrrrrr).

Jessica and I have had many adventures together over the years and I’ve so appreciated being a part of her brilliant charity projects for War Child. The Girls Night In and Kids Night In series have raised millions of dollars.


We also had a very funny time doing the In Bed With book of filthy stories by well-known authors writing under their porn star names (first pet, first street).


So it is to Jessica’s brilliant website that I will be turning to see what 2015 has in store for me astrologically and how I can work with the opportunities it brings.

You can read a lot of it for nothing, but I’m very happy to pay an annual subscription to get all the exclusive members’ stuff. What I particularly enjoy is Jessica’s analysis of how astrology influences global events.

I will always remember asking her who was going to win the 2000 US Presidential election. To my very great surprise, she replied ‘No one…’

You will remember the Bush-Gore election debacle… Jessica explained it all to me before it even happened, introducing me to the fascinating concept of Mercury Retrograde.

Have a look here at what Jessica predicts for your sign this year.

* I’ve just remembered that when I was editing ES magazine (the colour supplement of London’s Evening Standard newspaper) I once had to ring Patric Walker up on the Greek island where he lived. He was the newspaper’s astrologer and I wanted him to do a piece for the mag. I was so nervous to do it. Even ringing Greece seemed scary in 1988, but I plunged in and he was so so lovely. I must have a look through my old copies of the magazine and see what the piece was. I know Jessica is a big admirer of Mr Walker and I’m sure she’d like to read it.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 97

In cashmere, New Year's Eve, Shopping on December 30, 2014 at 10:06 pm


This is the weirdest time of year in the UK.

It’s much better in Australia because it’s summer holidays and everyone is legitimately chilled, but over here – where we are very much chilled in the original meaning of the word, it’s freeeeezing – it’s all half-arsed and peculiar.

Strictly speaking yesterday, today and tomorrow are normal working days, but you try getting hold of a plumber, as I’ve been trying to do. No chance.

Because so many companies just close down from Christmas Eve to January 2nd, everyone is crouched in a kind of limbo state. Living and partly living.

You don’t feel entitled to lie on the sofa watching Harry Potter films and mainlining chocolates, which I consider a perfectly acceptable way to spend Boxing Day, but it’s hard to settle to any proper work either – although I have to, because I’ve got to get something finished and fast.

Tomorrow night is a moment to get through as far as I’m concerned. I’ve done my share of wildly celebrating New Years and loved it, but these days unless I’ve got a really jolly invitation worth putting high heels on for, I secretly relish staying in and sneaking off to bed before midnight.

There’s something oddly magical about going to sleep in one year and waking up in another.

Then it’s only two more weird days – New Year’s Day followed by a random-feeling Friday until we’re into a normal weekend and then a proper working Monday. I’m ready for that.

Meanwhile, I’ve done the only thing a girl can do when feeling a bit arse over and discombobulated. I bought this fab jumper in the sales.

Cashmere, grey, cute sweatshirt detail and raglan sleeves – and nearly £50 off. Get in!

In the flush of this sale find I couldn’t resist this great silk top in my favourite colour, Very Dark Navy.


How useful will this be? Both were from Jigsaw.

For more like this, see my Pinterest board ‘Things I’ve Bought Recently’.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 96

In Uncategorized on December 29, 2014 at 4:17 pm


Snap! And I’m back in the room…

Thank you all so much for your very kind thoughts about my Mum. It was a scary moment, but I went in to her bedroom the next morning to find her sitting up in bed asking what was for breakfast.

Her 92 and a half year old body is pretty worn out but her spirit is indomitable.

Watching your beloved parent fading into very old age is a challenge I hadn’t understood until it started happening.

But I’m learning a lot from it – in fact I’m compiling an action plan of how I’m going to plan for my own old age, because when Peggy is 40, I’ll be 82 (if I make it that far) and I’m every aware she won’t have any siblings to support her through it.

I don’t know how I would have got through this without mine, but I’m hoping Peggy’s crowd of wonderful cousins – eight from my side, one from my husband’s, seven second cousins already and two more on the way – will be there for her.

My brother and sister-in-law have been visiting with two of their sons and it’s been the most brilliant fun. There is something very special about seeing your child connecting with your sibling’s offspring.

Iain and Jonny (above) tease Peggy in that loving way which only very close relatives can and it’s really adorable.

One of the highlights of their visit has been playing silly games after dinner.

We’ve given up on Trivial Pursuit because the original 1970s version might as well be written in Klingon as far as the younger generation is concerned and the new edition seems to be dumbed down to the point of moronic.

Instead, my sister in law has bought a simple book of quiz questions and we had hours of fun with that.

It may not be a lie to say that I get rather, ahem, overexcited and competitive, where general knowledge quizzes are concerned… Picture a six year old, hand in the air, jumping up and down in their seat. Miss! Miss! Miss!

Another favourite is the hat game, where everyone writes the names of famous people on bits of paper, folds them up tight and puts them in a hat.

You then work in pairs with one pulling out a name and describing the person, the other one figuring out who it is – as many as you can in a minute.

I felt slightly hysterical when I pulled out Mick Jagger and said to my team mate, Jonny (aged 20), with great confidence, ‘The lead singer of the Rolling Stones’.

He replied: ‘I know it’s that old bloke, but I don’t know his name…’

Peggy played with Iain and I was very proud when she unfolded the piece of paper, looked at it and said: ‘That cool American black guy. I had a dream…’


But the hot new game this year has been Bananagrams, which we have re-named Scroggle, because it’s like a cross between Scrabble (you make interconnecting rows of words from letter tiles) and Boggle.

I love it because, like Boggle, it’s fast and furious, with a race to be the first to use up all your letters, with much hysterical shouting of BUNCH! (when you want to trade one crap letter for three unseen alternatives), PEEL! (you’ve used all your letters and need to get another one – and everyone else has to take another one too) and BANANAS! (you’ve finished and therefore, won).

Time pressure and a lot of shouting are the two elements which make games interesting to me – which is probably why I liked working on newspapers so much.

If Scroggle (Bananagrams) ever becomes an Olympic event, my brother Nick will definitely win gold. He’s terrifyingly good at it, to the point where the rest of us thought he should play on his own, to give us a tiny chance.

But in the end everyone won at least once, including Miss Peggy, which makes it the best kind of family game. And unlike, say Monopoly, there was no cause for anyone to kick the board over and stomp off in a temper (usually my role…).

Good times.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 95

In Christmas on December 25, 2014 at 12:00 am


Seven Days of Positive – Day 94

In Hospital, Musicals, Parents on December 22, 2014 at 10:39 pm


It might have been hard to find much good in today. I spent most of it at the hospital with my mother.

I had to rush her to A&E when this thing flared up and we were there most of the day. It’s been horrible for her and pretty freaky for me.

The rational side of your brain tells you ageing is only natural, but the reality of seeing your beloved mum, once so vital and beautiful, with charisma that could light up a room, transformed into this tiny little frail bird of a creature, trembling in a hospital bed, finding it hard even to take a sip of water… well, it’s just horrible.

Making it even more poignant, there was another family on the other side of the curtain who were there with their mum – she’d had a fall and broken her hip. My heart was bursting with empathy for them.

I could hear what a lovely lady their mum was and at one point she wept because she felt a burden to them. A tear slid down my own cheek and I was glad my mum was napping and didn’t see it.

But… but… there was good, because the staff at the hospital were so amazing. They saw my mum immediately, they were kind, gentle, caring and nice – and they didn’t want to keep her in, which was a huge relief.

When we got home, she refused to go to bed, she wanted to sit by the fire and be involved with life, which showed an encouraging sign of her customary game spirit. She has always very much taken part in life.

I sat with her and with the most marvellous bit of luck The Railway Children was on TV.

It was a film we adored as a family when it came out and it was very special to watch it with her and Peggy Junior, even though Peggy Senior nodded off through a lot of it.

In another bonus, after watching a bit of Paul Hollywood and Mary Berry baking for Christmas and other delights, what should be on? Only my favourite musical: Guys and Dolls.


To gaze upon the face of a young Marlon Brando is truly balm to the troubled soul.

The ‘Woman in Love’ scene with Jean Simmons makes me swoon. He couldn’t sing very well, but he could certainly make you believe he was in love.

There’s a moment where he kisses the palm of her hand which makes me faint nearly dead away. He even had beautiful hands.


And after a very challenging day, with the prospect of a difficult Christmas, I will go to sleep with that memory to comfort me.

This clip isn’t very good quality, but it’ll give you an idea.

PS In light of today’s events, I don’t whether I’ll be able to keep up my daily posts over the next week. I’ll take each day as it comes.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 93

In Christmas on December 21, 2014 at 10:41 pm


Tonight we finally decorated the tree.

I love it when it’s up, but I do find the process of getting all the decorations down from the attic, fighting with metres of tangled lights and having bits of tissue paper scattered all over the sitting room very enervating.

Especially as, over the years, the cat is refining the art of sitting in the most inconvenient place, while we’re doing it. Then he attacks the lowest level ornaments. Viciously.

The whole thing makes me feel hot and itchy, but I do love seeing all the baubles again as I unpack them.

In all honesty, I probably have too many ornaments now as I have a few from the family tree, loads of vintage ones I bought before they became a thing (they’re now about £7 each which is just ridiculous) and each year I feel it’s very important to buy one new one.

It is lovely when you get those out and remember where you bought them.


This year my very good friend Barbie gave me this gorgeous ballerina pig, so every time I get her out in future I’ll think of Barbs. I don’t know what she’s just said to this snowman, but he looks shocked.


I have so many favourites. My koala and kangaroo are very dear and I like this football, which I bought for my footballer husband (he couldn’t be less interested, but I like it).


I have a special area, always near the top of the tree, where I hang my shoes, most of which I bought in the shop of the Metropolitan Museum in New York, they’re serious treasures.


But I think my number one decoration is Napoleon. My great friend William bought him for me in the shop at Les Invalides, in Paris, when we were visiting the great man’s tomb.

What an extraordinary place that is. In all my years of going to Paris for the shows (I’ve spent several months of my life there, when you add it all together, which makes me very happy), I’d never been there. It looks like the interior was designed by Gianni Versace it’s so over the top. Marble a go go.

William and I had such a special day racketing around the city (he lives in Sydney, but Paris is his spiritual home) and it’s lovely to put Napoleon up and be reminded of it.

So Napoleon is on his branch looking out over the room and a joyeux Noël feels very close to hand.


Seven Days of Positive – Day 92

In Family, junk shopping, salvage on December 20, 2014 at 10:57 pm


This morning got off to a good start when I fired up the computer to find lovely positive responses to yesterday’s post on here and on Twitter.

I’d been nervous about confessing to my cringey little ritual with the pinking shears and the neurotically horded tiny pieces of ribbon – only to find that loads of other people save those ribbons too.

It’s funny how it’s always the posts and columns you think ‘This is a weird one, they’re all going to go right off me now…’ which get the biggest response.

After that I didn’t have long at my screen as we had to leave by 9.30 latest (husband’s orders) to drive to Oxfordshire to meet up with sister, brother and sister-in-law and mother for lunch, so we could then bring my mum back here for Christmas.


We meet at the country branch of Lassco, the amazing architectural salvage yard (they have two amazing sites in London as well), because it’s half way between me and my sister and mother, close to my brother, and two minutes off the motorway.

It’s also the most fabulously atmospheric place, with roaring log fires and you eat your lunch next to a row of elegant claw foot baths.


I love roaming around seeing what rusty treasures I can find. They’re so artlessly clever the way they mix them all up. A tower of industrial metal storage boxes, next to a marble urn, then a huge chandelier next to some beaten up old steamer trunk.


And to let you in on a little secret, it’s one of the places which inspired the setting of my new book…


Seven Days of Positive – Day 91

In Christmas traditions, Family, Food on December 19, 2014 at 10:34 pm


Today was Christmas Friday – the real start of the jolly holiday, with many people breaking up from work today, and not going back until Monday 29th, if not fully into January.

You could almost feel the collective excitement rank up a notch and in celebration I put the wreath (£7 deal with Christmas tree) up on our front door, with some £1.99 lights, which I think make it look very jolly.

I’m not telling you this for a cheapskate thrill. I’m definitely more of a spendthrift, a tendency I have to wrestle with on a daily basis. What I saved not buying a posh wreath was immediately spent ordering a side of smoked salmon from the Inverawe smokehouse, in Scotland.

The Queen gets her smoked salmon from there, so that’s good enough for me.


It’s also a tradition in my family to have it for breakfast on Christmas morning and I wasn’t going to disappoint my mum, with some cheap supermarket, it’ll-do smoked salmon.

Christmas is about a feeling of generosity and plenty. I want my mum to see that beautiful side of salmon in my fridge in that familiar packaging – Royal warrant and all – and be reminded of all the wonderful family Christmases we had, when it was a once a year a treat.

The other thing I did this evening – and this is going to make me look like a superscrimper again – was to make my gift tags.

This is a little ritual that’s grown up, because I can never find gift tags I like and when they come with the wrapping paper there’s never enough. So I save the Christmas cards from the year before and cut out jolly pictures using some craft scissors someone gave me daughter when she was five.

Sometimes it’s handy to be a little tiny bit of a hoarder.


I never have time to do anything crafty, so I do rather love sitting on the floor and cutting them out. Then I make a hole with my office hole puncher and thread pieces of narrow ribbon through it to attach them to the present.


Where do I get these handy little bits of ribbon, you wonder? I save them all year cutting them from the shoulders of new clothes, where they sew them in to stop them falling off the hangers in the shop – but if you leave them in there, they keep poking out and showing. Or sometimes you get them attaching a price tag to the garment.


Is this a little bit tragic? Probably, but it gives me immense satisfaction not to waste things. And when I go through the Christmas cards, it’s really nice to read them again.


Fewer and fewer people are sending the things – I really hate e-cards – and I think it shows a level of respect first to display people’s cards and then to find another use for them.

I was particularly pleased with this one, where I was able to create a reindeer called Chris.


Seven Days of Positive – Day 91

In Gymnastics on December 19, 2014 at 1:10 am


I would like to thank someone. Her name is Irene Poole and she’s my daughter’s gymnastics coach. This picture is their team Acromax, taken at the Christmas party and show tonight.

Peggy’s on the left. Casually doing the splits, as you do.

The reason she can do them like that, is because she’d been training with Irene since she was five years old.

irene best

In that time she’s not only learned to do a perfect cartwheel, a walkover, a flick, a one-handed cartwheel and many more amazing moves, she’s learned the discipline of commitment and the joy of being part of a team.

Three times a week Peggy goes to Irene’s sessions, during which Irene and her daughter Libby (below), a very talented choreographer (and dancer and former champion gymnast), coach all these kids.


I love watching Irene teach, because she treats all the kids the same, whether they are naturally talented or gangly galumphers. Every correction is made with a joke and a smile.

She’s firm with kids who fool about (like my daughter…) but if a child shows commitment to training, they get it back double from Irene.

Every year the team does displays at local events and they’ve won loads of awards. Acromax sweeps the board every year at the East Sussex championships. I’m very proud that Peggy has won silver and bronze medals there. That’s a self-esteem boost she never would have had without Irene and Libby.

The training has also set her up with a six pack which should guarantee her good abs for life.

But most of all belonging to Irene’s team has given Peggy a sense of belonging to a tight-knit gang. When she’s had tricky times at school, gym has been a wonderful alternative support network making her feel appreciated and wanted. She has real friends there.

I also love the way the group is a such a mixture. There are kids from five up to twenty something and they all muck in together. They’re all different shapes and sizes – you don’t have to be a tiny stick insect to excel with Irene, some of the most talented gymnasts have strong bodies, not little skinny ones.

The kids also come from very varied backgrounds and their skin colour ranges from the palest red-head white (Irene’s fabulous granddaughter, Tamsin, who’s in the middle doing the splits), through all shades of pink, caramel and coffee, to chocolate.

At Acromax, none of that matters. There’s a place for everyone willing to commit seven hours a week to training. What they get back from that is priceless.

Irene – and Libby – thank you, from a very grateful mum.


Irene’s grandson, Andy Poole, holding his great mate Jack on his shoulders here, is training in sports gymnastics at a very high level.

You don’t like to favour any of the team above others, but it’s a real privilege to see him in action at the group’s events – and UK readers may be able to see him soon on Britain’s Got Talent, as he’s made it through to the first round. Go Andy!

Here’s a very small clip of him in action.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 90

In Christmas, London, public transport on December 18, 2014 at 12:02 am


I went to London again and I don’t think I have ever known it more joyously festive.

I was in a different part of the city today – Sloane Square in Chelsea – and there were more of those beautiful big blobs in the trees.

Peter Jones has the most adorable window theme of a penguin family, in keeping with the John Lewis Monty and Molly commercial.



There were three men outside the tube station playing Christmas songs on big brass instruments.

I was there to meet up with one of my most adored and cherished friends, Julie Gibbs, the legendary publisher of Penguin’s beautiful Lantern imprint.

We met at the gorgeous Sloane Club, where there was the most perfect Christmas tree.


Julie has the most exquisite taste. Follow her on Instagram for a treat.

When I arrived back at Charing Cross, after a few other errands, there was a gospel choir singing carols.

Commuters had gathered to watch and cheer, which was the most lovely echo of the things which had were the highlights of the very start of my day, the morning trawl through Facebook.

Joy on public transport seems to be the theme.

I filmed the brass group and the gospel carol singers but I can’t make them embed in this post, so if you’d like to see them they are both on my Instagram feed (link here and also at the bottom of the page).

Oh it did just embed! How did I do that…?

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