Style guru

Pink is the new black...Yes, it’s official, I am a style guru. Not only did a member of the Tatler Magazine staff try to steal my red fake croc handbag at my book launch, but I am now being PAID to talk about trends and what motivates women to stay thin, pretty, fashionable etc.

I had an email from a lady at a big advertising agency in New York who had read the US edition of Two Lipsticks inviting me to a dinner discussion in Paris. “As someone who not only spots trends but sets them as well, we are hoping to tap into your insight”.

As well they might. At the time I was reading the email I was in the process of setting a trend I expect you all to follow. I was sitting in my office, naked, on a pink towel, waiting for my fake tan to dry. How trendy is that?

The problem though with being labelled a trend-spotter and setter is that I now have a reputation to live up to. What the hell do I wear to this event? I don’t want the assembled trendies to out-trend me. Oh the pressure. At least I have a new Chanel lip-gloss, bought for me on mother’s day by Rupert.

If all else fails I can wear that and the fake tan and emulate the original imperial fashionista.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Get in touch with your inner teenager

I am lying on a bed, eating almonds, covered in fake tan, reading Tatler. The last time I did this I was child-free and about 19.

I am having an evening in after an exhausting day, which started with breakfast with the Features Director of Red Magazine and ended with a massage from Nari, who is based near Notting Hill and claims to give the best massage in the world.

Nari

Not having tried them all, I can’t say he’s right, but he is extremely good. He has incredibly soft but strong hands which he uses to expertly pummel your body. The treatment ends with a head massage which apparently children in India are given as a matter of course, their mothers tell them it makes them brainy.

I may not be any brainier, but instead of feeling exhausted after a glass of champagne and two glasses of delicious (English) rose at a lunch with a Daily Mail editor I skipped home, relaxed and invigorated. Actually Nari (bless him) insisted on driving me home (a service he doesn’t offer to all his clients but you might get lucky, check him out at www.thismassageworks.co.uk).

Despite my hectic schedule I have had time to go to M&S four times and can confirm that it’s as blissful as ever. The threading at Harvey Nichols went well and pink seems to be the colour to be seen in, which is lucky for born-again teenagers like me.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

How to start a career in journalism….

In order to break into journalism in England I was forced to become a financial journalist on leaving university. This was not, as you can imagine, my natural environment. I worked for the gripping title ‘Trade Finance Magazine’ which shortly after I joined became ‘Project and Trade Finance Magazine’. You can imagine my relief. I am still unsure of the difference between the two.

Anyway, for ten years I struggled on, despite an inauspicious start. I got back from my first ever meeting to find my editor fielding a call from the person I had interviewed who had called to ask her why she had sent “this bimbo who knows less than nothing about trade finance” to interview him.

Finally I gave up journalism altogether, only to reinvent myself as the Sunday Times French Mistress and lifestyle journalist years later.

I have now broken into French journalism which is extremely exciting. Barring the obvious problem that I am unable to write French I think it will go swimmingly. I am a columnist (which is rather like going straight in at number one) for a magazine called Santé.

My first column is Me and my foot cream. I feel I have finally found my level….

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Come on Carla, pull the other one…

Sister JackieIt was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said that ‘no man can step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you’. I had hoped that when Carla showed up for the state visit to England that she might have brought a bit of fresh water with her.

Sadly not. One commentator observed that she looked like a mixture betweeb Jackie Kennedy and a nun. I am all for Jackie Kennedy. Style icons like her are to be adored and admired. But the fact is that our dear tutti fruity Carla is about as far removed from her as she is to a nun, and yet she is trying to be her. Heraclitus would not approve.

I can see that for her this was a safe option. Show up looking demure and like Jackie – that’s what people expect from a First Lady. They do indeed. Unless that particular First Lady has a reputation for sleeping with rock stars and conducting interviews topless (I promise you, she did, I read the article, the (male) journalist had to keep trying not to look at her tits and bury his head in his notebook).

What I was hoping from tutti fruity Carla was something with a little flair, a touch of the frivolous, the fun, the daring. Why show up looking like a frigid matron when the whole world knows you’re anything but?

Who knows, she could have created a style all her own, that future first ladies and women all over the world would have emulated.

And another thing. How long before she realises that going on tour with Mick was much more fun than state visits to drafty old castles?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Falling on Dutch ears

Not amused“Keep it light-hearted,” the producer tells me. “We’ve got a big feature on breast cancer so this item needs to be funny.”

The subject of my discussion on Woman’s Hour today is a new book written by a Dutch woman called Dutch women don’t get depressed. By the end of it, I am. I try a whole host of jokes, like Dutch men being so jolly despite bossy, scruffy women due to high drug intake and French women refusing to wear clogs (rarely in fashion). They all fall on deaf (Dutch) ears. Not even a snigger. The woman has no sense of humour whatsoever.

To make matters worse I get back home to a seriously POISONOUS comment on my blog about my performance. I am apparently snide, xenophobic and smug. And that’s on a good day. “I suppose, however, its all that can be expected from a woman who writes books with such ridiculous titles like ‘Two Lipsticks and a Lover’,” writes the rather bitter Abigail. (Rather smugly I notice she can’t spell it’s).

But I am safe. As I lie down for an afternoon sleep with my ill daughter (I am also ill having been out until 2am which only happens about once a decade, why did it have to happen last night?) she comforts me. “Don’t worry about that silly woman mummy,” she says. “Just go to sleep and pretend like it didn’t happen. I’ll look after you And I’ve got Max and Wolfie on my team.” Abigail beware.

PS By popular demand, here is the ghastly comment, posted on the About Helena section and also emailed to me just in case I missed it:

Abigail Jones

I just listened to a program on Radio 4 Women’s Hour on which you made an appearance – a discussion of Ellen de Bruin’s book ‘Dutch Women Don’t Get Depresssed’ and its sentiment. It is, of course (as de Bruin readily admitted) another example of a ready habit that many people have to stereotype nationalities in a wildly uninformed manner. I can’t say I’m very interested in buying the book or discussing such silly stereotypes, but de Bruin seemed like a pleasant enough woman.
Despite the fact that we were listening a discussion on de Bruin’s book, however, it was your drawling sarcastic comments and performance that really stood out. And not, I assure you, in a positive way. You seem to have an unpleasant obsesion with perpetrating such mindless, crude stereotypes, and some of your responses verged on xenophobic. The one about how Dutch people were happy because they smoked drugs? Embarassing. As for your claim about how women are happier when they believe they look better? I can only judge from the ridiculously smug picture you posted of yourself on this page that you at least are wholly believing that you look ‘good’? Your snappy tone and silly jibes on Woman’s Hour, however, was not the behaviour of a happy woman.
I suppose, however, its all that can be expected from a woman who writes books with such ridiculous titles like ‘Two Lipsticks and a Lover’

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

Hell’s Kitchen in high heels

I am not a big fan of reality TV shows, but as this one involves dinner cooked by a three-star Michelin chef and his two remaining celebrities, I am going.

I doubt very much I will even get on camera, unless of course I dare to complain about the food or trip over on my way to my table.
The logistics of getting to and from my table has been worrying me. Especially as I will be wearing high heels. It would be excruciating to fall flat on my face but possibly good publicity for the paperback of Ciao Bella which I am going to London to launch.
My dinner date at Hell’s Kitchen is Mary, who lives down the road from me in France. She and I have been planning outfits for the past three months and I think we’ve just about got them sorted. Mary is particularly pleased with her leopard-print high-heeled shoes, though quite how we’re going to get Hell’s Kitchen presenter Angus Deayton to notice them and share their splendour with the nation I’m not sure.

I will keep you posted on our progress.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

My Tiffany’s

AudreyOne of my favourite films ever is Breakfast at Tiffany’s. It is the only reason Olivia was originally named Holly. Once we moved to France we changed her name. In fact I had doubts straight after the initial euphoria of the birth. And in French Holly sounds like an invitation to go to bed.

One of the things I love about Breakfast at Tiffany’s is the feeling Holly Golightly has when she is in the shop. “Nothing bad can ever happen to you at Tiffany’s,” she says. Yesterday I too experienced that feeling, at Marks & Spencer in Bath.

I realise that in terms of glamour it’s not really right up there. But for some reason as soon as I walk into an M&S I feel calm and secure. The one in Bath is marvellous. Where else can you find blueberries, mixed seeds, pink underwear, over-sized rag dolls and goose-down pilows all under the same roof?

I seem to have passed this passion down to my children. Olivia came back from a trip to the Tiverton the other day raving about “a brilliant shop”. It wasn’t until she showed me the plastic bag that I realised she was talking about my Tiffany’s. Now she talks about little else.

I suppose it must be something to do with growing up in England that makes M&S so special to me. A bit like a grandparent it has always been there; reliable, comforting and reassuringly middle class.

Meanwhile life at my mother’s house is wonderful. I got back from Bath to find all my dirty clothes washed and ironed. It’s rather like living with myself.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

Tart dressing

When I was in London last I met Heathcliff’s wife. You may remember Heathcliff. He was the first love of my life and we were recently put in touch through a mutual friend. I have yet to see him again after more than 20 years but I have met the mother of his three children.

Tarty?She happened to be having lunch in the same restaurant as the above-mentioned mutual friend and I. The friend, being rather mischievous, called her over and introduced us. He didn’t let on that I knew Heathcliff years ago and had been desperately in love with him.

So what did I think of this woman who ended up with the man I wasted more time dreaming about than I care to remember? It was slightly uncanny because she looked very similar to him; dark hair, fine features. She seemed rather cold, but attractive, and had a very deep sexy voice (rather like his). At one stage he called and they chatted like wives and husbands do. She called him darling and told him what train she’d be home on and not to forget someone’s gym kit. Just a normal domestic scene but I found it hard to grasp that that was Heathcliff on the phone being someone’s husband and father. To me I suppose he is still 19 and getting high in nightclubs.

Apparently his wife didn’t think much of me. “She was rather tartily dressed,” my source tells me she reported to Heathcliff. Tartily dressed indeed. I was wearing jeans, flat shoes (Tod’s, natch), a Sonia Rykiel strappy top and a Hobbs cardigan. Hardly play-boy bunny kit.

At first I was furious, but then I remembered that she’s meant to be a lesbian. So maybe tartily dressed is a good thing?

Meanwhile my youngest daughter Bea has me sussed. “This is mummy,” she announced this morning. “She goes to the shop and comes back with lots of bread which she puts in the freezer. Then she takes it out. But it’s too hard to eat so she feeds it to the ducks.”

Maybe I should stop by the river on the way home from the bakery; cut out the middleman?

Thank you all for your lovely comments and reviews as per yesterday’s blog. I hope that miserable onion is really bitter now s/he’s almost been pushed off the amazon page.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

Sore feet

So Mother’s Day was good except that I got off at the wrong metro and then had to walk about two miles to the hotel. By the time I got there my feet hurt so I changed shoes to go walking in the Tuileries Gardens and then to the Virgin Megastore as I needed a plug for my laptop. By the time I got there my feet hurt again and so I had to hobble around looking for a shoe shop. A taxi would have been more sensible but I was determined to get some exercise.

I found a rather bling pair of torquoise flip-flops and heaved a sigh of relief as I put them on before I started my long walk back to the hotel.

Of course half-way there my feet started hurting in different places due to the bling flip-flops. At this stage my husband called me to tell me he was getting on the train from London. I told him about my feet.

“How many years have we been coming to Paris and how many times have I told you to wear sensible shoes?” he said. Really helpful.

Go ahead, lick itSensible shoes is not something I do. I never have done and really can’t imagine I ever will. Along with matching underwear I find nothing determines your mood quite as much as a pair of shoes. That is why women will spend £300 on Jimmy Choos and then not eat for several months. I remember living off tinned tomatoes on toast when I was saving to buy a flat, but show me a pair of Tods in a sale and I was a gonner. Just think about how many tins of tomatoes you can buy for the price of a pair of Tods, even in the sale.
The tennis was really annoying. First of all my feet hurt, but there were other downsides too. As my husband said when I asked him if he was enjoying it:

“Not really, it’s bloody hot, these seats feel like they were designed by Ryanair and there’s some stupid Aussie playing who can’t hit the ball over the net.”

But apart from the tennis we had a really lovely time. My sore feet and I are now headed to London while Rupert heads home to look after the babies. I am looking forward to getting there and finding some more comfortable less than sensible shoes. The only question is, how will I get from the train to Harvey Nichols without walking?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

Naked (again) in the rain

Nudity seems to be a bit of a theme at the moment. Last night I was about to get in the bath when it started pouring with rain. Wearing nothing but flip-flops and some hair extensions I rush out to get the washing in. Wolfie the dog is more excited by the sight of me naked than anyone has been for about 10 years but I think he thought we were going for a walk.

Next I run to the convertible car. Needless to say the roof is down. I hop in and chuckle to myself as I press the button to bring it back up. “Who needs laughter yoga eh?” I think. “Life is pretty damn funny without it.”

Then I catch sight of my hairline in the rear-view mirror. There are a couple of grey hairs showing. I make a mental note to get my hair dyed. But as I sit there starkers waiting for the roof to close a horrific thought hits me with more force than the Green Goblin taking out Spider-man.

“What happens when your pubic hair goes grey?”

Is it a signal to officially give up on life, sex and happiness as you know it? To admit that for you the war is truly over and all you have to look forward to is an old people’s home with bad food and strange-smelling corridors?

Or can you dye your pubes? Is there such a thing as pubic hair dye? If not, this is surely a business opportunity waiting to happen. Or maybe you can just use normal hair dye? Perhaps a few highlights would look good? You could have a pubic-hair makeover. Maybe go for red just to surprise people.

Green means 'Go'

I am hoping I have a few years to go before I need to find out the answer to all these questions. I have no idea at what age one’s pubic hair goes grey but I do know one thing. I won’t be laughing about it.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007