Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Getting The Christmas Party Started

Shirley Bassey is brilliant, it's official. This week she's been everywhere promoting her 'must have' new CD, 'The Performance' and it's going straight to the top of my Christmas list. Alan Yentob's 'Imagine' profiled her and was so absorbing I just wanted it to go on and on but it was her appearance on Graham Norton that stole my heart. She was hilarious and stunning in equal measures with apparently boundless energy for a woman of 27 let alone 72, and an infectious naughty streak. I don't think I've ever seen her interviewed before but it wasn't what I was expecting. In the 'Imagine' we got to see her working on the new songs for the CD, written by an eclectic mix of the good and the great from the Manic Street Preachers to KT Tunstall. Each was given the SB treatment and magically transformed before our very eyes.

Which is all rather marvellous because I shall need something to raise my Christmas spirits. This year the son gets to do the Continental with his Dad and with cash severely strapped there'll be no beach action for me so I'm being the good daughter and going to see my mother. Normally I don't. My brother (divorced and childless) does a very good line in Bah Humbug and so I could imagine us sat in a darkened room, an unlit fire, slurping a bowl of gruel.........actually it's not that bad, well hopefully. I am attempting to embrace the countryside in all it's festive glory, go to the pub and cheer on the Boxing Day charity fun-run and so on. As luck would have it, a good friend of mine is appearing in pantomime at an almost local theatre, starring along side Julian Clarey, he will give us his ugly sister, and we're all going.....oh yes we are!!

Top tip: Mineral powder foundation, easy and quick to apply, defies wrinkles and leaves you with more time to party........

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

I know it's only rock and roll.....

The thought of going out on a Friday or Saturday night holds less and less appeal in London. When once the weekend was looked forward to with eager anticipation, an endless sea of hedonistic pleasures, now, the streets where I live start to fill up early with packs of eager young ladies, scantily clad (why is it the bigger the girl, the smaller the outfit?), and totally up for it. Burly bouncers stand po-faced rocking on their Doc Martens outside the once humble pub, checking the lads who shuffle about in the cold night air, violently sucking in the smoke, puffing out their Clearasiled cheeks, rummaging in their condom stuffed pockets for their ID. Anything over 35 heads for home, by 9 the streets are deserted of all grown-up life, herded on by the youth police, "Move along there's nothing for you out here." A few brave the dark and scurry off to the theatre or a restaurant, the natural home of the mature, but otherwise Friday and Saturday nights appear to belong to the young.

So it was with some trepidation that last Saturday night I went to see a band. It was cold and wet and very windy but the venue was only round the corner and the friend of the friend was very keen to galvanise the troops, so, fuelled with a couple of vodka tonics, off we went.

Outside the north London cellar, teenagers with cigarettes and mobile phones thronged. My initial instinct was to tell then to put their coats on and although we looked more like parents there to pick up children, with hands stamped, we descended the stairs into a small basement room. Beneath Highbury we discovered a hot, dimly lit bar reminiscent of a Paris club or East village haunt. Boys with full beards (what is that about?) and girls in silky scarves and bits of black lace (reminding me of my own college days) mixed with a number of balding, bespectacled men of a certain age, two with pony tales and one in a navy blazer, all lurking in the gloom.

We found our party and ordered drinks at which point the band came on stage, more a sort of platform really, and to my great joy, they were older than me...... Anyway, they were very.....enthusiastic and quite entertaining in a Lobster Rock sort of way and, after the second vodka and much posturing and posing by the lead singer, we were cheering with the crowd. The man with the mic turned out to be Valentine Guinness, as in the famous pint, and the band was The New Forbidden. We were standing at the bar which, because of the size of the venue, was also the side of the stage, when suddenly Valentine careered towards us and started pointing. At me. I don't know what the lyrics he was singing were but I only hope they were complimentary...........The biggest shock though was when he introduced the band. "On lead guitar....Loyd Grossman"!! Is it only me that didn't know that Loyd 'through the keyhole' Grossman by day is a rock God by night?
I mean, who'd have thought..........

Top Tip: Never leave home without Bach Rescue Remedy

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Fa-Fa-Fa-Fashion ...... beep beep!

The phrase, 'at least I've got my health' is becoming less and less of a joke these days. Last year 4 of my friends were diagnosed with cancer, in less than 6 months: 2 breasts, one skin and a throat, and he didn't even smoke. They were all 48 and are now all in various stages of treatment or recovery but their much hoped for clean bill of health seems to be a bit of a lottery, as much to do with luck as science. Looking death straight in the face certainly puts the onset of old age in perspective. While I bemoan the fact that this time next year I'll have reached a half century, my oldest friend, from junior school no less, embraced her 50th last week with as much gusto as her medically-battered body could muster, and is very much looking forward to her 60th, when she is better. She can't wait for her gray hair....to grow back, the spread of middle age to cover her emaciated frame and the crapey chemo-skin to give way to the wrinkles of old age because old age is something that may not be hers to bemoan.

The Sunday lunch celebration was planned, and I wondered what I should wear and then I realised I have nothing to wear.........or at least nothing age appropriate. Can I still wear skinny jeans and converse at 49? Is my Diesel dress too 80s for my own good? If you can remember wearing it the first time, should you be wearing it again? Apparently not, according to my cousin. But surely if you can still fit into it......I don't feel old so do I have to dress old? But what's left? Do I abandon my twisted denim skirt for something more sensible in tweed with a twinset and pearls.....well yes if it's a Vivienne Westwood twinset. Now there is a woman who knows how to fly in the face of convention. She has never even seen the rule book let alone made any concessions to it and yet her designs have revolutionised the way we all dress. So when does trendy become tragic? When you hit 40? Or 50? Or was it 35?

Thus, when asked to entertain my unwell friend's two half term-holiday daughters of 11 and 13, and with a view to over-hauling my wardrobe, I took them shopping. However, the best laid plans and all that...... the 13 year old is the image of her mum at that age and all the clothes on offer in Top Shop appeared to be exactly the same as when we were teenagers, my personality defining fashion era. I gleefully grabbed at a little sequined jacket, shiny leggings and fluffy, off-the-shoulder sweaters, floaty bits of Bibaesque chiffon, sparkly hair bands and flowery smock tops, to the sound of their raucous giggles and chants of 'no-way, you can so not wear that' and well.....they had a point. So it was, with eye-rolling ecstasy, that I was dragged, kicking and screaming, away from a Kate Moss shoulder-padded, diamante studded sweater, and relinquished the opportunity to conduct a requiem for my youth.

However, layers of cashmere in subtle shades of grey aren't really my thing and I've never been able to pull off the groomed look, I'm more of the second-hand rose with a dash of designer label: Doris Day meets Patti Smith by way of the thrift store. There was nothing for it but to get back in the closet and retrieve the skinny jeans and biker boots, a bit of Top Shop chiffon and a Luella Bartley cardie with her bat motif to amuse the children. It may not have been chic but the look went very well with roast chicken and anyway, life really is too short to worry about what other people think.....

Top tip: To keep young and beautiful, start the day with a mug of green tea.