Archive for 2015|Yearly archive page

Flip over the to new website for all the action

In Uncategorized on April 27, 2015 at 5:08 pm


Yoohoo! Just a quick reminder that all the action is now on my lovely new website, so please flip over there by clicking here

PS My new book is in shops in Australia NOW and I’ll be in Australia on Thursday. I’m beside myself and currently in the process of breaking the world record for how many navy blue garments you can put in one suitcase. That’s one of them above.

New post up on the website!

In Uncategorized on April 16, 2015 at 10:43 pm

If you’ve subscribed on here, but aren’t getting emails announcing new posts – please pop over here to read it. And please sign up using the widget on the right hand column.

Every subscriber was supposed to have been transferred, but I think some are missing out.

Testing… one, two…. one two…

In Uncategorized on April 15, 2015 at 8:05 pm

ALbertHello dear friends

I urgently need your help… I’m a bit of a boffin, but not boffin enough for this and my tech genius friend is on a well-deserved holiday.

Can anyone who has subscribed to this blog tell me this: are you getting the new posts I’m putting up on the website?

Everyone who is on here is supposed to still get the email announcing a new post, but on clicking it should take you to, rather than here.

I would be so so grateful if you could let me know, on here, on there, or on Twitter (@MaggieA) if the link up is working.

I’m posting all the stuff about my new book on there now and if all my lovely subscribers are missing out on it, that will be bad. Very very bad.

V grateful for any help.

M xxx

Seven Days of Positive – Day 128: Me and Mrs B

In Uncategorized on March 31, 2015 at 9:10 pm


Twenty five years I was taken out to tea in Paris by the most refined woman I had ever met. It was love at first macaroon.

I was the new editor of British ELLE, she was Joan Burstein, the legendary founder of Browns boutique and she thought we should get to know each other. Angelina’s on the rue de Rivoli was the venue. Where else?

What I didn’t tell her, was that I was almost too awestruck to go. Along with Barbara Hulanicki of Biba, Mrs B – as I already knew to call her, everyone did – had shaped my life and helped to turn me into someone fascinated by every aspect of fashion.

As a child in the early 1970s my mother had told me all about Feathers in Kensington High Street, the boutique before Browns, which wasn’t so much a shop as a club for London’s most glamorous young things. I didn’t get to go there, but I loved hearing about it.

Later I became obsessed with Browns, which always seemed to be the stockist for the clothes I most adored in my mother’s copies of Vogue and Harpers & Queen.

I swooned over the things they stocked, committing to memory the designer’s names – Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Missoni – and when I was old enough to go to London on my own, I finally got my chance to go in for a look. Until then I’d only dared gaze at the windows.

Browns long

My entrée came in 1978 when a friend of my mother’s saw a multi-coloured stripe silk blouse in Vogue she wanted to buy, Browns was the stockist. She heard I was going down ‘to town’ gave me a wodge of cash to get it for her.

In I went, clutching the magazine, only to be told it was out of stock, but through the door as a genuine customer, I went through every room of the rambling interjoining shop spaces like a forensic scientist.

It was like a visit to a museum where I could touch everything, although I didn’t have the bottle to try anything on. I remember it was the Perry Ellis womenswear I particularly wanted to see, a New York designer Mrs Burstein had brought to London and I thought was heaven. I loved his oversized coats and chunky knits.


With Rosita Missoni

A few months later on one of South Molton Street pilgrimages, I saw a sign saying ‘staff wanted’ in the window and walked in to apply for the job. I thought I looked marvellous in my tobacco brown cargo pants and ultra dark brown leather jacket (both by the then ultra hot London label PX) but I didn’t get the gig.

Never mind, my admiration for the store and its brilliant master buyer, who I had read about in magazines, was undiminished, so what a thrill it was, just over ten years later, to meet her and find out that she was one of the most gracious and delightful people you could ever hope to spend time with.


Mrs B with her daughter Caroline Burstein, creative director of Browns

In all the years since then, I’ve had the pleasure to get to know her – and her daughter Caroline – as more than just fellow travellers in the fashion shipping lanes. I’m proud to call them friends. And in that time I have never heard Mrs B utter an irritable word, whinge, or badmouth anyone.

In one of the world’s most self-obsessed and bitchy milieus, that’s really saying something.

Not to say Mrs B is uptight or goodie goodie, she has a great sense of humour and while she may never utter a catty remark herself, she most certainly appreciates wicked wit in others…

Over that time we’ve shared many lovely dinners, she’s squeezed me into fashion shows when an Australian newspaper was not deemed worthy of an invitation, allowed me to come with her when she was buying from Akira Isogawa one season (a masterclass) – and taught me how a lady handles her gloves…

She doesn’t stuff them in her pockets, as I always did, so they come out like a pair of mangled dead rodents, but lays them neatly on the palm of one hand, while also holding a glass with it, leaving the hand other free to greet people and pick up the odd passing canape… This wasn’t a formal lesson, but my goggle-eyed observation one evening in Paris. I’ve attempted to live up to it since.

So with all that lovely shared history, it was such a pleasure last night to go to London’s Victoria and Albert Museum to listen to Mrs B, now a CBE, being interviewed by Colin McDowell – looking wonderful in a Dries Van Noten dress with pink feathers embroidered on the front (Mrs B, not Colin, he was in a bespoke suit).


Mrs B with Colin McDowell at the V&A on March 30th, 2015

I already knew about all the amazing fashion names Mrs B brought first to London – Giorgio Armani, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren, Donna Karan, Azzedine Alaia, Missoni and Rei Kawakubo to mention just a few – and those whose names she made. Most memorably John Galliano, when she bought his entire St Martins degree show and filled the shop’s windows with it.

Every piece sold – ‘I don’t have a single one,’ she said sadly.

But that’s all well documented. What I found really fascinating was hearing how she had started the business with her late husband, Sidney, just after the war.

He’d started out selling hosiery and underwear on a market stall and from there they. working with Sidney’s brother Willy and his wife, built the business up into a chain of thirty five shops called Neataware. They were the first to specialise in the new idea of ‘separates’ – and with their success, she told us, came a lovely lifestyle, with a beautiful house and both her children attending the Lycee school, only to have it all snatched away when the banks suddenly decided to call in their loans.

The shops were all closed, staff laid off, the children taken out of their wonderful school, the house and everything in it, lost.

‘It made me more determined,’ she said, ‘when I felt poor, the humiliation. I could live in one room, if it was lovely, but never anywhere sordid. Someone said to me, “In your position, there isn’t too much choice…” and I decided I never wanted to hear those words again.”


After that they clawed their way back – with some help from her friend Vidal Sassoon (who did her hair – who else in the 1960s?) who let them have the shop space at the front of his Sloane Square salon, which they made a great success of before opening Feathers.

‘I feel very lucky. I’ve always been supported by friends. There’s luck out there, you just have to recognise it.’

When they got the space for Feathers, right next door to the ultra fashionable Antiquarius market, Mrs B had the vision for it ‘not to look like a shop’, with an interior like no other in London – bamboo fittings and clothes in armoirs. Her idea worked and it immediately took off. Like really immediately:

‘We took £5000 on the first day…’

A huge sum in those days. Manolo Blahnik worked there. Darcy Bussell’s mum was the PR… It must have been a blast.

Finding the iconic premises on South Molton Street was another bit of luck, after her son Simon applied for a Saturday job at the shop that was there before. After opening in 1970, it very quickly became a London fashion institution, with people coming from all over the world to shop there.

Although there are some now, she says, who live very close to the shop, but choose to buy from the on line store so they can try it on at home.

‘I never thought people would buy very expensive things online, because you can’t touch it,’ she said. ‘I like to touch the cloth – is it soft? would it be lovely to wear? I was wrong about that, people do buy the most expensive things online but I couldn’t do that. Fashion is very personal to me.

‘I look at my clothes sometimes and think, aren’t you beautiful?’

Something you could also say about their owner. A paragon of deportment and elegance, a true fashion legend and a wonderful friend.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 127

In Uncategorized on March 24, 2015 at 10:46 pm

Sam Smith

Don’t say you don’t hear it here first… My lovely nutritional coach Amelia Freer is suddenly world famous, now that’s it’s been revealed that she’s behind the recent weight loss of singer Sam Smith.

He used to look like this.

SS before

She’s also helped slim down British comedian James Corden, who has just taken over as host of the very prestigious US TV staple The Late Late Show.


cordon 2

Amelia’s book Eat. Nourish. Glow. is now number one on UK Amazon, and number one in the diet section of the US site. Harper Collins hadn’t even been going to publish it over there, but suddenly it’s very hot property.

She’s got over 40,000 followers on Instagram…

I feel so incredibly lucky that Amelia took me on as a client before her success went global. It’s so deserved because her techniques work, they just do.


Read all about it here, in this piece by my friend Imogen Edwards-Jones, who very kindly let me in on her diet secret last year (she’s the gorgeous blonde on the left).

I’ve been eating the Amelia Freer way for five months now and it’s become a way of life. Apart from the weekly treat meals, which are mandatory, I’ve only strayed a few times – and when I do (like yesterday) I give myself permission to do so.

Then you don’t feel you’re a hopeless failure, you’ve wrecked the whole thing and you might as well give up because you’re a fat bastard and you don’t deserve any better.

I needed a day off, so I had it.

Maybe I won’t lose any weight this week, as a result, but neither will I give up trying because I can’t bear another moment without eating a chocolate digestive. I had six yesterday. Got over that one.

Unrealistic levels of privation are what makes most diets fail.

I’m so confident I have the tools to keep the weight coming off – including my new enjoyment of exercise – I don’t have that sense of panic any more. With only a couple of kilos left to lose, I know it will happen and if it takes a few more weeks, that’s fine.

Especially as looking at the friends who inspired me to seek Amelia’s help (Imo has looked that good for two years now) – I know I will also learn how to keep it off.


Seven Days of Positve – Day 126

In Exercise on March 18, 2015 at 10:20 pm


So here I am in my new life as a person who ‘does exercise’. Not only does it, but looks forward to it and plans things around it. It’s a miracle.

Finding the right teacher, the previously mentioned Sue, was the clincher (and her classses are at the right time, which is about 98% of it, don’t you think?) and sealing my new lifestyle was an amazing trip I did last weekend for a travel feature.

I can’t tell you anything about it until the magazine has come out, except to say it took place in Provence (JOY) and I walked up and down a couple of small mountains, among other sporty activities.

The best thing was that it came with a kit list – so I had to go shopping. For sports gear.


After an initial sense of outrage – spend money on that? – followed by a sense of dread more usually associated with swimwear shopping, I forced myself into a local discount sportswear retailer.

Wow. There’s a whole other world out there. I had no idea. Now I understand why the lovely Sue has been looking at me quizzically. I was doing her classes in my yoga pants and an old T shirt. That was my idea of sports clothes.

Now I see it was like turning up for aqua aerobics in a pair of pyjamas.


I found the rail after rail of flimsy slippery things emblazoned with logos overwhelming and ended up in a changing room with about 30 garments, many even of them even harder to get off than they were to get on.

Eventually I narrowed it down to one pair of grey white and black graphic floral print ankle-length stretchy pants, with one of those cool zip pockets in the back waist band for your keys, and one black t shirt top thingo.

It wasn’t enough, so I headed over to TK Maxx where there were rails of the stuff. Here I found two pairs of natty trews in lightweight lycra to a Capri length (is there a real name for these?), one black, the other black and grey with pink detailing, and a really nice mid-grey marl effect T shirt thingo (sports top?).

gym 2

The clincher was a super groovy fitted outer shell jacket by Avalanche in fluoro pink, one of my favourite colours – which also features on my workout Nikes. So with black, grey and le shocking working back together, I had my capsule workout wardrobe sorted. And I was thrilled when I remembered I have an old J Crew light cotton fitted hoodie in a very similar pink which would make a great layering piece.


What? Was I not supposed to care what these clothes look like? I may have had a small personality transplant with regard to doing exercise, but there are limits.

If I have to jump about like a middle-aged flea, at least I can just do it in a subtly co-ordinated outfit.


Seven Days of Positive – Day 125

In Packing, Weight loss on March 12, 2015 at 10:40 pm


I’ve just done the easiest pack I’ve ever done. Not a moment of anguish.

Out of the closet it came – navy blue, navy blue, navy blue, bright pink and white stripes, navy blue, pink, navy blue, navy blue, pink – and into the bag it went.

There was one small anxiety when I couldn’t remember where I had put my Sperry Oxfords (pink), then I remembered. Another short angst about which bag to take for use in the resort – you know that carrying your room key, lippie and phone thing – until I remembered the brilliant 1970s one my mum gave me.


The strap is a gold chain link arrangement, so it works shoulder or can be converted into a clutch.

It’s navy blue.

Sort out the toilietries and make up. Two feature necklaces. A scarf wrap. In the bag.


Travelling clothes laid out on bed. Travel handbag packed. Passport? Check. Done.

So what made the process I normally find torturous so easy, in fact enjoyable?

Losing ten kilos. True fact.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 124

In Accessories, Friends on March 11, 2015 at 10:09 pm


I’ve had such an exciting day.

I’m working on updating my website, which hasn’t been touched since about 2005, because in those days once someone had put your site up there was nothing you could do to it, without getting the designer to do it for you.

It was all just too hard, so after one small adjustment about three years ago, I’ve just let it sit there, fugging the buck out of me.

The problem was that it was just too hard to get it the way I want it by remote control – and you can understand, as someone who has edited four magazines and as many newspaper sections, I really know how I want things.


That’s why I started playing around with blogs, to have that control, but now – HURRAH! – I’m finally doing what I’ve been longing to for years and I’m re-working with this blog nestled at the heart of it.

Best of all I’m doing it with someone I’ve been friends and colleagues with since 1986.

Jayne Gould is a fantastic designer. She was art director of YOU magazine when I went to work there and we immediately recognised each other as kindred spirits of the let’s do it, let’s do it like we mean it and let’s do it NOW mindset.

We’ve worked together on two other titles since (including the Sydney Morning Herald) and pretty much finish each other’s sentences.


So today, there we were, 100 miles apart, looking at the same thing on our screens and I’d say ‘Do you think we should make the sub-title a little bigger?’ and Jayne would reply ‘I’ve just done it, refresh your screen…’.

While Jayne is the expert (she’s a serious tech head) what I love is that I’m getting to build quite a lot of it myself. Because I’m so familiar with WordPress (it’s a self-hosted WordPress site – ooh, get me) I’m putting together the pages I want on the nav bar (oo er) while she does the more complicated stuff.

It’s quite a lot of fiddling with pictures, but worth it to have that editorial control I so need… cue maniacal laugh.

I’m not sure when it will go ‘live’, but if all goes according to plan everyone who follows this blog, will continue to get an email every time I post, which will link through to the new blog posting on the website.

I have illustrated this post with gratuitous pictures of a handsome man, a handbag I like (the Beamish by Village England)  and a cute animal.


Seven Days of Positive – Day 123

In Exercise on March 10, 2015 at 10:02 pm


The light has changed. The sky is still bright at 6pm. The birds are singing. My house is full of spring flowers. It’s not long until we’ll change the clocks. Hibernation is nearly over.

Although I have remembered this year – I usually forget – that there will still be several months before I can leave the house without a jacket. Even when all the trees are back in leaf by the beginning of May, there can still be a cutting edge in the wind in England.

But even so, everyone has a new bounce in their step and I have a particular bounce in mine, because I’m still exercising. I think I might be getting the bug.

Last week I did one aerobic class, a long walk and a session on the treadmill. I’ve already done two classes this week.

I’m trying various different ones to find my groove. It’s one of those times when living in a small town is a bit frustrating as there’s not even any hot yoga here, or anything interesting like that.

As I’ve mentioned before, last week I ended up in a class taken by chap who looked exactly like my brother’s Action Man doll. When it got to a bit where we were supposed to do star jumps, he jumped fully in the air, bringing his knees up to his chest like a ninja.

Body Attack is definitely a bit much for me.


On Monday I went to another class at the same local authority ‘leisure centre’. And what kind of name is that for somewhere you take exercise, by the way? My idea of leisure is lying on the sofa watching Indian Summers, my new favourite drama. They should call it an Exercise Centre.

Anyway, I’d got my times mixed up and as I was an hour early for Legs, Bums and Tums, the young chap at the desk suggested I try ‘Fit and Nifty’. When I got into the class I realised it was for Senior Citizens.

Great, so I looked over 65 to him.

I felt such a banana and could hardly control my giggles, I felt like I was in the film Cocoon, but I brazened it out. When I got home and looked at my timetable it was called ‘Senior Conditioning’. Marvellous.

My favourite classes so far are at a more appropriately named ‘health club’ led by a very nice woman called Sue, who is about my age and has a figure I wish I’d had when I was 25.


They’re just the right level – somewhere between Body Attack and Senior Conditioning – where I feel comfortable skipping about to music, but a bit stretched beyond my comfort zone. I even enjoy doing ‘boxer running’, holding weights.

But I would like to try something a bit more fun, so I’m hugely grateful to Michelle Hill for telling me about No Lights No Lyrca, a brilliant new concept in exercise, which started in Melbourne.

As far as I can tell it’s party dancing – without having to wait for someone to have a party and no bother with staying up late, wearing high heels and getting a hangover.

I’m hoping to start a weekly session here, with my friend Gail.


My fitness craze will continue this weekend, when I’m going to Provence (hurrah!) to do a travel story about a ‘wellness’ detox weekend in a swanky resort up in the mountains. I’m really looking forward to it. Really madly truly.

And having received the required kit list (there will be biking and hiking) from the trainer, tomorrow I’m off to a sportswear shop to buy some proper gear. I’ve been doing my aerobics classes in yoga clothes and I really need to get properly equipped.

I can’t quite believe it.

Seven Days of Positive – Day 122

In Friends, Swimwear on March 7, 2015 at 9:51 pm


It’s been another beautiful day. I can’t remember a winter with so many towering blue skies.

To make the most of it I walked for nearly two hours, all the way along the seafront to where the Hastings Half Marathon will start in a couple of weeks, my chap running in it for his chosen charity Disaway. (A great organisation that provides holidays for physically disabled people, with volunteers going along to care for them.)

It’s over five miles there and back and I could really feel I’d done something which was great. The light was really beautiful, with children and dogs casting dark shadows as they ran on the shiny wet sand at low tide.


It was wonderful to see the re-emergence of Hastings Pier, like a phoenix from the ashes – it was torched by arsonists in 2010, although it had fallen into shameful disrepair (another bungle by Hastings Council) rendering it unsafe to use, some years before.

An amazing team of volunteers has made this happen, winning a grant of over £8 million from the Lottery Heritage Fund, which they’re using to re-launch the Victorian structure as an exciting modern pier.

It’s very sad that the wonderful round ballroom where the Rolling Stones, The Who, Jimi Hendrix, Tom Jones, and Pink Floyd all played has gone, but the re-born pier will be thrilling in a new way. Bring it on.

You can read more about it here

My niece Sarah – one of my six – came to stay which was so lovely. I don’t see nearly enough of any of them, but when we do meet up there’s never any awkwardness. Seeing her and Peggy snuggled up on the sofa together watching a movie thoroughly toasted my cockles.

In other news, a couple of days ago I went on an expedition with my dear friend Sall, to our newly discovered lingerie shop in Rye, Pearl & Siren. I was on a mission which always fills me dread – I needed a new swimsuit for a spa trip in a couple of weeks.

It wasn’t a nightmare at all. I immediately found the most gorgeous cozzie and when I tried it on, it really looked OK. I didn’t projectile vomit at all as I looked at myself. That was a first.

The price of it just about made me faint dead away, but as Sall said – what price can you put on feeling confident in a swimsuit?

It’s by a Belgian brand called Prima Donna which seriously understands engineering – and it’s navy and gold, which I think is the chicest colour combo ever.

This is my prize cossie. Fab, no?


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