How to look like Catherine Zeta Jones

There has been a lot of talk recently about women’s low self-esteem. The journalist Liz Jones, who writes regularly about ailing horses, said in the Mail on Sunday that she copes by having no mirrors in her bathroom.

Personally, I find it much easier to have a positive mental attitude. I think of myself as Catherine Zeta Jones. With, to be strictly accurate, Gok Wan glasses. And blonde highlights.


These Twitter trends! The top two, as I write, are #SometimesIWonder and #YouShouldNever. (#SometimesIWonder why I care, but social media is curiously addictive.) As I waved goodbye to Robin this morning, I started to jot down a few ideas for #YouShouldNever which I think will appeal to Fitton residents. Do, please, add your own thoughts. (Although I should point out to Mary Garvey’s teenage daughter that I do moderate comments and will not publish vile misspelt abuse in capital letters.)

  1. #YouShouldNever pretend to be too busy when someone from the PTA asks you for help. It’s transparently obvious that you generally waste your entire morning drinking coffee at Franco’s.
  2. #YouShouldNever, for your own safety, eat chicken nuggets in the Red Lion.
  3. #YouShouldNever spread malicious gossip, even if you do wonder why Annie Laurence’s husband was seen buying royal blue suede stilettos in size 10 at the Oxfam shop
  4. #YouShouldNever make grandiose promises you can’t keep (think of Nick Clegg)
  5. #YouShouldNever pretend the cut-price case of Sauvignon blanc is for a party when everyone knows you can’t get through children’s bathtime without it
  6. #YouShouldNever chew faster and drop your Twix wrapper on the floor when I ask you how LighterLife is going
  7. #YouShouldNever put buttons in the church collection plate. Ever. It looks so cheap
  8. #YouShouldNever venture out without 60 denier black opaques unless you feel your legs can bear close scrutiny on Fitton high street
  9. #YouShouldNever apply for planning permission for a conservatory that will utterly ruin the view from my spare bedroom
  10. #YouShouldNever boast about your luxury summer holiday in the Maldives. It may cause your listener to recoil with a sharp stab of jealousy.

The editor of Vogue

What a lovely interview with Alexandra Shulman in the Observer magazine! But how rude of the interviewer to suggest that her hair was untidy. I think if you’ve been editor of Vogue for twenty-plus years, you can wear your hair how you like. Personally, having had highlights recently, I can sympathise with uneven colour tone. I try to draw attention away from any possible hair criticism by wearing bold Gok Wan-type spectacles.

Ianthe Snow has never worn glasses. However, given that she narrows her eyes whenever she looks at me, I would suggest that she has severe myopia.

Do blondes have
more fun?

Do blondes have more fun? Here in Fitton, that seems to be the general belief. Half the female population is bleached or streaked. I succumbed to a few highlights myself recently, but I’m not completely convinced. To me, it looks as if I’ve been decorating a window frame and accidentally leant against the white gloss.

There is, however, a very interesting article in the Daily Mail today, written by a journalist called Flic Everett (I would so love to be called Flic Everett) who went the whole hog and became uniformly peroxide.

Everyone’s doing it, she says. ‘Right now, according to Vogue, peroxide is the hottest trend in hair. Sienna Miller, Cameron Diaz, Gwen Stefani, Rihanna and model Agyness Deyn have all reverted to blonde after experimenting with other colours.’

This set me thinking. Perhaps those whose popularity is faltering should consider a blonde makeover. It does seem generally true, after all (the Duchess of Cambridge notwithstanding), that those with a passing resemblance to Marilyn Monroe seem to be more successful in life. Think of Boris Johnson. Or that lovely artist Grayson Perry (I do so admire her ankle socks  –  such a statement of the avant-garde).

I asked Berta if she thought I should dye my hair. She said, ‘It look half-dead already.’

As I’ve explained before, her English is not very good.

True blue

What an extraordinary amount of blue on the new British uniforms for the Olympic athletes. Blue, blue, blue. (With the odd splash of white. And red shoes.) Stella McCartney, who designed it all, said, ‘I wanted the kit to be British, but understated, not ridiculous.’ But is a wash of blue British? Blue is normally associated with the Tory party, Margaret Thatcher, David Osborne making his Budget speech, etc. You can’t help wondering, with the Coalition government in power, whether we’re now seeing everything through Conservative eyes. It’s like squinting through a blue filter. There’s the Duchess of Cambridge with her sapphire engagement ring. There’s Samantha Cameron in her blue evening gown. I am, as you know, enormously fond of the bluebells in Four-Mile Wood. But I am tempted, frankly, to switch my allegiance to snowdrops.

Bad language on Twitter

What are we to make of bad language on Twitter? You can, of course, just ‘unfollow’ someone who makes you blush. But that’s a bit like trying to ‘unfollow’ someone in the aisle ahead of you at Tesco Metro. You may avoid what’s upsetting you, but you can’t get the shopping done.  

Twitter works by bringing together whole communities of people who wouldn’t ordinarily meet. You can’t be too outraged by strange opinions or there’s no point in joining at all. You might as well just sit, mouth zipped, in solitary silence.

But equally, as Twitter is a public forum, you should be able to expect a certain standard of behaviour.

The hurling of sexist abuse, for example, is as horrifying as the sight of a human rights campaigner running naked through the streets of San Diego. (I am not, I hasten to add, seeking to heap shame on those who suffer from mental illness. Both misogyny and psychosis require urgent medical intervention.)

The problem is that some people get very excited by bad language. Even celebrities.  I think it makes them feel young and carefree.

But they forget that those around them  –  me, for example  – might feel very differently.

In my view, it should be possible to express yourself in public without causing offence.

If you really can’t articulate what you want to say without using shocking language, you can always use asterisks. Twitter is, after all, a forum for the written word and writing for the general public (in newspapers, for example) generally makes lavish use of this convention.

Someone called Russell Crowe (@russellcrowe) uses asterisks. This, in my view, is a perfectly acceptable compromise. In a recent tweet, he said, ‘No mate. F**k ’em. I’ll spend my money elsewhere.’ He obviously felt extremely strongly about whatever the issue was, but realised that spelling out the word in full might be upsetting.

On the other hand, someone called Giles Coren (@gilescoren) went out for a drive, crashed, and used utterly appalling language to express his self-disgust.

I’m not claiming that this is an exclusively male fault. Women, too, can tweet offensively. 

But I do think the time has come to turn over a new leaf and become more respectful of each other’s sensibilities.

If you agree with me, we could start a discussion on Twitter using a hashtag. #f**k, for example.

Alternatively, do post a comment.

Goodbye, Dame Edna

They say that Dame Edna Everage is going to retire. Is that such a bad thing? I find her totally mystifying. Without wishing to sound unduly harsh, she really is a case of mutton dressed as lamb. No woman her age should be covered in glitter. She’s Australian, of course. But can’t she shop in the equivalent of M&S? You don’t see Germaine Greer tottering about on stage with bouffant mauve hair and diamond-encrusted glasses.

Sometimes I find the lengths women go to utterly extraordinary. There is a fashion in Fitton for fake tan which makes most young women look faintly orange. Combined with bleached blonde hair and long red nails, the overall effect is of an exuberant fruit stall. Whatever happened to elegance and restraint?

Dress for success

I hear that Annie Laurence is having a large party to celebrate her fortieth birthday. This might be unwise. If you make a big public show of having reached forty, everyone will forever afterwards remember that you’re over the hill. The US comedian Jackie Mason refused to give his age on Radio 4’s Desert Island Discs recently. He said it would make people listen to his jokes differently. ‘From a man of that age, it’s funny enough.’

I think he’s right. Never come clean about shoe size, weight or age.

Age discrimination in the workplace is, of course, rampant. David was keen for me to go back go back to work, and I did make enquiries about taking up my old career. (As you know, I worked in marketing strategy and brand development for a leading British pharmaceuticals company before I decided to devote myself full-time to Robin’s upbringing.) But I decided, on balance, to retrain as a colour consultant. Women returning to the workplace often lack confidence. I am able to offer advice about wardrobe choices. I suspect my Fitton neighbours may be a little nervous about contacting me, as my appointments diary has several spaces available. Please don’t hesitate. You don’t want to be flaunting yourself round Fitton in this spring’s pastels if they drain your complexion and give you the chalky-white appearance of an MP with a hangover. Bold colours may be preferable. Think Samantha Cameron and her fuchsia Ilincic blouse.

The British postal service being what it is (please see my previous post), I have not yet received my invitation to Annie Laurence’s party. I have, however, checked my diary and see that the evening of Saturday June 17 is currently free.

Bridget Jones big pants

M&S is launching new ‘Flatter Me’ control pants, I read in today’s Daily Mail newspaper. They have a stomach-shaping control panel and are less alarming than Bridget Jones big pants.

I can, of course, understand the temptation to wear girdle-like underwear. But M&S might be wise to remind its customers that nothing shapes the stomach more quickly than willpower.  If, for example, you really want to lose half a stone in time for your daughter’s wedding in August, because you’ve already bought the pale pink linen suit in a size 14 and it was in the sale so you can’t take it back (and I think we all know who I mean), it’s a very bad idea to skulk in the churchyard under the weeping willow eating a large bar of Cadbury’s milk. Think salad. It’s the only way. And I recommend signing up for ‘Bums and Tums’ in the church hall on Wednesdays.

M&S forever

If you have ever felt a slight frisson of anxiety when trying on a skirt that won’t zip up, remember this. High street shops have wildly differing dress sizes. The same woman can be anything from a size 8 to a size 16 depending on which retail establishment she happens to be standing in. Two fashion tips on the strength of it: 1) if the much larger size fits better, buy it, take it home, and cut out the label, and 2) if you find yourself in the unlikely position of having worked your way through a whole packet of chocolate biscuits while watching News At Ten, so that you’re left on the sofa like a beached whale with a light crumb coating, be careful where you shop for the next seven days. Patronise only those shops with generous sizing. If in doubt, head for M&S.



Flower-covered legs

I am slightly disturbed by the new fashion for flowery trousers and leggings, like the Top Shop version pictured here.

While tendrils and petals curling round tree trunks is delightful in nature, it is less successful, in my opinion, on the residents of Fitton.

Outsized footwear

The recent bad weather has thrown up no end of strange footwear.

Yesterday, walking past Tesco Metro, I glanced up to see a young woman wearing a denim jacket, a short tartan skirt, shiny black tights and boots that resembled the discarded offcuts from a sheepskin rug. Her legs looked like lagged pipes.

There is the possibility that such a brave fashion statement was merely the result of trying to dress appropriately for snow. But I sincerely doubt it.

There is something about icy weather that makes English women choose disproportionately large footwear.  I see army boots, Doc Martens, wellingtons and the equivalent of oversized Uggs.

Quite frankly, if we’re going to make this much fuss over the odd snowdrift, we might as well start wearing skis.