Friday, 29 December 2006

A nice break from slapping

Ok, I’m supposed to list the beauty products I’ve most enjoyed using over the last twelve months. I’m so the wrong person for this kind of thing: I hardly ever buy new stuff; in fact, I now buy fewer things than I used to before I joined MakeupAlley. Somehow talking about perfume all the time keeps me satiated and with no desire to ‘own’ anything much. Also, as far as make-up is concerned, I don’t get so much pleasure out of testing new products because, when you’re 58, it’s not much fun testing weird and wonderful eye shadows on crêpey eyelids (you should have seen what I wore in the ‘60s) and seeing the – usually – awful result. Still I haven’t stopped using cosmetics altogether, so here goes…
Durance Lip Balm; pic:
Lip Balm by Durance en Provence
Last year, I ended my list of favourite products by saying that I had just received a tube of lip balm that was so good that I would probably rave about it this year. I was right: it turned out to be just as emollient as my staple, Rêve de Miel Lip Balm by Nuxe, and even a little more practical since it’s in one of those applicator tubes, you know, with a slanted end pierced with a tiny hole through which the balm comes out and can be spread on to one’s lips. So no contamination of the rest of the product. It tastes of honey, which is what the Nuxe one should taste of since it’s got the word ‘honey’ in its name but which for some reason tastes of grapefruit (search me!). I love and use both equally these days. The search for the perfect lip salve is definitely over.

Cream Blusher by Estée Lauder
I’m really cheating here: I’ve used this particular blusher for the past ten years and I don’t mean I’ve bought it again and again; I mean the same one. You see, selecting and buying a blusher has never excited me (as far as I’m concerned it’s a little more fun than choosing a mascara but not much) so I was chuffed when I finally found the right one. For years I’d worn all sorts of shades, mostly recommended by silly sales assistants in department stores. Some very eccentric ones that didn’t suit me at all: I am a ‘blue/red’, yet at different periods of my life I was advised to use brick reds, browns, oranges, stupid shades like that. Also, since I’m not a pale blonde with a peaches-and-cream complexion I don’t blush in ‘pastel’ and pale pink blushers do nothing for me. After years of buying then chucking out blushers that clashed with my complexion rather than enhanced it, I read somewhere that everyone blushes more or less the same: dark blood-red. At last, something that made sense! The advice probably came from Leslie Kenton, who used to write in Harpers & Queen and who, unlike other beauty editors, had a lot of common sense. (For example, when I was still battling with oily skin, I read in her column that ‘only grease removes grease’: it was a revelation. I remembered how, when I was a child, my mother always used butter to remove the black greasy stains left on my legs by my bicycle’s chain. So I threw away all the astringents I owned and started using an oil to remove my make-up, and my skin improved immediately.) Anyway, back to the blusher quest, I looked for a burgundy-coloured blusher and found it: it was part of a limited range that was launched when the film Evita was released. It was perfect. In all those years, I’ve never had the urge to change and there’s still an awful lot left. I can’t tell you the exact name of the shade because I got rid of the original compact a while ago and it now sits in a small Muji palette. Sorry, I’m not much help here. However, there must be some other similar blushers around.

I do have another blusher, which I use lightly on my eyes, under my eyebrows. It’s Lancôme Pommette in Fuchsia. It’s also discontinued, but I know you can still get it on eBay. It was meant for cheeks and eyes and was featured in a magazine a few years ago. They said it was a scary shade (they weren’t kidding) but that once on the skin it just made it ‘glow’. How could anyone resist? I looked for it on what was at the time a very skinny Lancôme website: it was still mentioned as being available but in fact wasn’t. I was so disappointed that I wrote to Lancôme asking why it still appeared on their website. A nice woman apologized and said she would try to track it down for me. A few days later, a small package arrived: it was the blusher, and it was a gift. That was such a nice gesture! I would like to publicly thank that generous Lancôme employee, who went to extra mile to satisfy a potential customer. It doesn’t happen very often.

Tubéreuse Criminelle; pic:
Tubéreuse Criminelle by Serge Lutens
It’s so funny: the first perfume I mentioned last year in Best of 2005 was Cèdre, and this is what I wrote, ‘For me it was love at first sniff. It reconciled me with tuberose, which until then had made me gag. I was even tempted to retest Tubéreuse Criminelle, also by the Divine Serge and his acolyte Chris Sheldrake, and found I did like it after all. Cèdre doesn’t have the mentholated opening of Tubéreuse Criminelle, which is a bonus really since you get to the “nice” notes that much quicker.’ Well, I tried Tubéreuse Criminelle again and again and again and it grew on me so much that I recently bought a bottle of it – directly from the Salons du Palais-Royal (it seems I only travel to Paris in order to buy perfume: the last time, four years ago, I bought a bottle of Fleurs d’Oranger, which I have worn since and which I still love). Poor Cèdre was just a go-between, a means of connecting with tuberose; it was left behind as, in the end, I found it a little too ‘perfumey’, a little too ‘pleasant’. Tubéreuse Criminelle doesn’t make me go, ‘Aaaaah!’and fall into a rapture when I apply it, like Fleurs d’Oranger, but it intrigues and delights me nevertheless. I’m still slightly puzzled when I become aware of it on me: ‘Is this me?’ The top notes are strange and harsh; I think they smell of kerosene. That’s actually the bit I like best now.

Bourjois Lip Stain Pen; pic:
Bons Baisers de Paris Lip Stain Pen by Bourjois
I have this friend in Nice. She used to be my boss, back in 1971-73. She’s a lovely woman. She regularly sends me stuff from France (the Durance lip balm, for instance) and sometimes – very rarely – I ask her for something specific. I saw an ad for this product in a magazine and it created a ‘lemming’ – as we say in our business. LOL!, which was soon fulfilled. It’s a delightful product. I have it in Raspberry (the colour of most of my few lipsticks; the one that suits me best, I believe). It glides on the lips and creates a very natural look, with no thickness. Unlike other lip stains I’ve tried it’s very easy to apply, thanks to the felt tip, but like all other lip stains it’s quite drying so needs to be used sparingly or under a clear gloss or, in my case, a lip balm. Ta da! It sticks to the lips like a limpet, thus colouring them for hours and hours. It does remove the pleasure of reapplying lipstick, though, but, hey, you can’t have it both ways.

Frankincense Nourishing Cream; pic:
Frankincense Nourishing Cream by Neal’s Yard
For a while now I’ve been trying to avoid using products that contain nasty stuff like petrochemicals and preservatives (they’re the parabens you see mentioned in lists of ingredients): it’s better for me and it restricts my choice – there are too many products out there and I very often feel overwhelmed by their number so I like the fact that I can ignore masses of them. Therefore, after using some very high-tech Avon creams (they have the best researchers, you know; they produced one of the first and best AHA creams on the market), I went back to a moisturiser I had bought several years ago, when readers of YOU Magazine voted it ‘Best moisturiser ever’. I believed the hype and bought a jar of it. They weren’t lying: it was great then and still is. It’s for mature skins and therefore quite thick, but it goes in easily (anyway, massaging cream into the skin is enjoyable, I think) and it does the trick: it’s soothing and plumping and, as it says on the jar, nourishing. It’s Neal’s Yard’s star product and it deserves to be.

Raw Sugar Body Lotion; pic:
Crema Fluida per il Corpo con Zucchero di Canna by Angel’s Spa
This is another TK Maxx find. As I said last year, our local branch is wonderful for lovely sweaters (although this year there were only big knits and I get engoncée – look it up – in those, so I didn’t buy any), but quite hopeless for toiletries and fragrances. They have nothing for weeks and then suddenly they will have a shelf-ful of bottles of stuff you’ve never seen anywhere else before. This Rich Body Lotion with Raw Sugar (I think it sounds better in Italian, don’t you?) is good enough to drink. I don’t know why I was attracted to this one in particular – I don’t like sweet smells usually: they had other flavours, oops, scents: cinnamon, ylang-ylang, mint and something else, but I kept going back to that comforting scent of sugar. I didn’t buy it straight away – I didn’t need a body lotion, but I couldn’t get it out of my mind so in the end I caved in (I told myself it was a bargain, which it was, and it had no parabens, which it doesn’t). I mostly use it as a hand lotion, last thing at night, in the hope that it will induce sweet dreams. And it sometimes does.

That’s about it, really. Oh, hang on, there are some cute Bourjois mini make-up things sitting on a shelf over there: a tiny lip gloss that’s supposed to hang from your mobile phone (does it matter that I don’t use lip gloss and my phone is so old I can’t hang anything from it?) and some cute eye shadows. I just couldn’t resist getting them in Paris, a couple of weeks ago. They look lovely. That’s a good enough reason for having them, I think.

Enough blah blah from me, go and check out what my pals recommend. Here’s a list of who’s taking part in the fun today:

  • Afrobella
  • All About The Pretty
  • Aromascope
  • Beauty Addict
  • Beauty Blogging Junkie
  • Beauty by Nadine
  • Beautiful Makeup Search & Beauty Blog
  • Beauty Hatchery
  • Beauty Jones
  • Blogdorf Goodman
  • Bois de Jasmin
  • BonBons in the Bath
  • Brain Trapped in Girl's Body
  • Capital Hill Barbie
  • C'est Chic
  • Coquette
  • Crazy Jay Blue
  • eBeautyDaily
  • Girl's Handbook
  • Hautemommastuff
  • Koneko's *Mostly* Beauty Diary!
  • Legerdenez
  • Makeup Bag
  • Monkeyposh
  • My Muse
  • No one knows why the wolf laughs
  • Now Smell This
  • Perfume Smellin' Things
  • Peppermint Patty's Perfume Posse
  • Platinum Blonde Life
  • Product Girl
  • Scentzilla!
  • She'll Be Feverish After So Much Thinking
  • The Customer Is Always Right
  • The Daily Obsession
  • The Great She Elephant
  • The Life of a Ladybug
  • The Non-Blonde
  • Urbane Girl
  • Victoria's Own
  • Wednesday, 27 December 2006

    Don’t you just hate it…

    ...when you get an email from HMV saying you can download a free song of your choice (not some rubbish they’re trying to promote) from their website with this code – DLX06 (go on, you try it) – and you put on the laptop especially, because you have all your music on it since the old PC’s disc drive is kaput and you log on to the HMV website and enter the code and IT’S NOT RECOGNIZED?

    Slap! (I had to get that off my chest: enough with this goodwill nonsense.)

    Sunday, 24 December 2006

    Friday, 22 December 2006

    Guess where I was!

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    Before I left London, last Friday, one of my commenters wished me ‘a weekend without slaps’. Ha! The gods were reading my blog that day.

    Our trip started very badly: when my partner and I turned up at our local underground station to get to Waterloo, we were stopped at the gates by a guard who told us the Central Line wasn’t running. I have to admit that panic ensued – we only had two and a half hours to get there, after all. No, I’m kidding; we did have plenty of time but the night before I had joked that in my experience the journey from Shepherds Bush to Waterloo had never taken longer than 45 minutes so why were we allowing so much time. Again, the gods were listening. Lots of shouting and cursing and tears (well, maybe not tears, but, you know), lots of running around like demented fleas; lots of wild trundling of uncool suitcases on wheels (I lost a very nice shiny padlock in the scramble); lots of arm waving in an attempt to hail engaged, heartless cabs, and finally, as we were running in the direction of the other Shepherds Bush station, the one on the Metropolitan Line, the line where trains amble along at a snail’s pace, a line that might or might not have taken us eventually to Waterloo, we spotted a black cab that had just dropped someone off at the BBC studios, down the road. It was at a standstill at the traffic lights and was going nowhere that particular instant but we ran towards it as if it was going to suddenly take off vertically like a helicopter and escape our grasp. We could have kissed the driver. It was a miracle. If you’ve ever tried to hail a cab on a Friday afternoon in London, when a major tube line isn’t working, you’ll know what I mean. So, my First Slap goes to London Underground for the stress they caused us even before we’d left the city.

    Onboard the Eurostar, we were sitting in those stupid facing seats that should be reserved for chamber-music quartets or families and never allocated to strangers. The American woman next to me was one of the most inconsiderate people I’ve had the misfortune to travel with: at one point I couldn’t see my partner, who was sitting in front of me, because I had a Guardian double spread before my eyes – and I wasn’t the one reading it! My Second Slap goes to her.

    My Third Slap I’m awarding to the drunk who insulted me, and several other women, in French and English (he was surprisingly fluent in both languages), after I’d jumped to the rescue of the young Japanese woman (complete with cello and mute mother – she only spoke Japanese, I expect) he was pestering, while we were queuing for a taxi at the Gare du Nord. He became very offensive and for some reason attacked my hair – luckily, only verbally. Apparently, since I have white hair, I’m going to die soon so I should shut up. Nice! Finally, a young woman, who was even more bothered by him than I was, left her place in the queue (that showed how incensed she was: no one in their right mind would ever do that) and went to get the police. By then the man had gone. In the meantime, my partner and I had made a few friends in the queue, and chatting away with them made the next ten hours seem like minutes.

    From then on, lots of mishaps, near misses, bag panics, scarf panics (whatever you do, never ever offer to carry someone else’s plastic bag in case they shoved their scarf into it when they boarded a bus, instead of putting it in their handbag as usual: you will save them the stress and humiliation of running after the bus they’ve just alighted from, shouting, ‘My scarf, my scarf, I left my – expensive, but reduced in TK Maxx, beautiful merino wool – scarf on the bus!’ only for them to find it in above-mentioned plastic bag after kind bus driver looks for it in vain and shrugs in very French manner), glove panics (N.B. Paris in December is cold, take pair of warm gloves: will save you having to hurriedly buy non-needed – because already three pairs at home – gloves in nearest Monoprix, when your ‘little hand is frozen’). Also, at your hotel, when you go down to breakfast on your last day, after you’ve exhorted your partner not to leave anything valuable in the room, do not place your handbag on the floor by your chair and go back up to your room, after drinking your first cup of tea (made with a redbush tea sachet you brought all the way from London because you don’t drink real tea or coffee), holding only your key and the croissant you intend to eat a bit later: your heart will stop beating completely when you realize, an hour later, just as you’re packing the last few things in your still uncool suitcase, that you are sans handbag, credit cards, passport, ticket, etc. You will have to fly down four flights of stairs, shrieking, ‘I left my handbag downstairs! I left my handbag downstairs! No, I’m not all right!’ (This last exclamation to the maid who’s cleaning one of the rooms and who’s just asked, ‘Ça va?’ as you’re zooming down the stairs.) Your heart will restart only when the hotel manager hands you your bag, which he retrieved from under the table an hour earlier but didn’t think to return to you as soon as. I guess my Fourth Slap goes to me – and him.

    Last but not least, the Fifth Slap has to be awarded to a brasserie called Relais Paris Opéra (Rue Auber; make a note of it) for charging 9,40€ – that’s over £6.00 for a large (ok, a very large) coke. And £3.50 for a very small goat cheese with nothing else on the plate (you look for a few salad leaves, a couple of French fries, nope, nothing). It lies in wait for people who’ve been traipsing all over Paris in the cold and the rain and who are ready to drop and then it pounces. Stay away from it. You have been warned.

    I suppose the rain deserves to be slapped too. It appeared on Saturday morning and didn’t let up all day. Everything takes twice as long in the rain and battling with dripping umbrellas is not my idea of fun. An English friend of mine, who, I discovered later, was in Paris just for the day, was even more unlucky than we were. At least Sunday was dry.

    End of Slaps. Let the Hugs begin!

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    Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

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    The Christmas lights on the Champs-Elysées and elsewhere were absolutely lovely. The Eiffel Tower was soooo pretty, all glittery and twinkly. Tea at Angelina’s with my best friend and her 22-year-old daughter, whom I last saw when she was three days old, was delightful. Everyone we came across was very very nice: young waitresses, who, here in London would plonk stuff in front of you with a snarl, were charming and smiley, and café owners let us (well, me mostly) use their loos with a cheerful, ‘Mais, bien sûr, Madame!’ even though I never drank anything (I mention them because I became acquainted with an awful lot of those loos: my IBS flared up like crazy from day one – thanks to all the stress, as detailed above). It’s a myth that Parisian shopkeepers, etc. are sulky and unpleasant: for sulky and unpleasant you have to come to London.

    At the Bazar de l’Hôtel-de-Ville (BHV to its friends) – the Parisian John Lewis, a most underrated department store that stocks practical items as well as objets de luxe, I found, at last, great zip-up nylon bags where my delicate sweaters will be protected from those pesky moths that have infested all our drawers. The BHV was crowded but, unlike the other Grands Magasins, it didn't make you lose the will to live.

    And then there was the First Floor at the Salons du Palais-Royal (this will mean something to my Frag Board friends, everyone else will just have to remain puzzled), and being welcomed like a VIP there. Finally, the Ladurée cart, inside one of the entrances of the Printemps, and the two macaroons (one each) we managed to savour in a terrible draught, right under these lights. They were scrumptious.

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    End of Hugs. Resume Slaps.

    The journey back was the most peaceful, restful, pleasant I’ve ever had on the Eurostar: it was very late and everyone was exhausted so not in the mood to chat or be noisy some other way. We got a cab pretty quickly and arrived back at our building to discover that the heating had broken down that day. That was Sunday night; this has been one of the coldest weeks yet (flights, etc. have been cancelled because of the freezing fog); the heating has only just been repaired. Life goes on…

    Friday, 15 December 2006

    Happy Hanukkah!

    I’m off…

    …somewhere. Just for the weekend, but, since I haven’t really been anywhere – apart from around the corner – for four years, it’s a BIG deal for me. All will be revealed on my return.

    I wish I could remove the moderation so my two readers could leave comments freely, but they would soon be joined by all those people who try to leave messages about all sorts of ridiculous things (I have an Inbox full of them) so comments will have to wait until Monday.

    Had I seen it before, I would have bought this portable and minimalist menorah to take with me on my trip. LOL! It’s called Hanukit and was designed by Reddish Studio. It can be found here.

    Wednesday, 13 December 2006

    An obscene amount of money

    No, I’m not being Richard Gere in Pretty Woman (wasn’t that a great scene, by the way?) nor is it the sum of money I’m going to spend this Christmas, I’m referring to the bonus the boss of Goldman Sachs got this year.

    Fifty million pounds sterling (£50m). As a bonus!

    I can’t get my head round this figure. It makes me feel nauseous.

    Years ago, when I worked in publishing, we all used to get a bonus with our last salary of the year (the company was very successful): mine was usually just about enough to pay for a bottle of perfume or something like that, but it was still a nice little extra. My boss's bonus was always much more substantial. One year, she opened the small brown envelope that contained her salary slip and exclaimed, ‘Oh goody, I can book my trip to Tibet now!’

    Fifty million pounds is obscene, though.


    Thursday, 7 December 2006

    Er, thanks for caring... I suppose

    The phone rings. I pick up the receiver and hear a computerized voice saying, ‘Hullo! This is an important message for Miss X [my name badly mispronounced – this isn’t starting very well…] from Y [the name of a bank that doesn’t like to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ or anything at all, in fact, usually, and certainly never calls me in the evening]. We have noticed suspicious activity on your credit card. Please contact us at this number as soon as possible: 0845, etc. etc.’ I go, ‘Don’t be so silly, you fraudulent people you!’ And put the phone down.

    The next day, the same message is left on my answerphone. Ok, I can’t ignore it again; I need to tell my bank that someone is calling their customers, panicking them and asking them to call them back. Obviously, if they do they will be confirming that they are who those fraudsters think they are and will be ripped off somehow.
    Except that it was my bank calling me.

    ‘What fraudulent activity? I’ve just checked on the Net; there’s nothing unusual there.’

    ‘Well, the day before yesterday you spent £1.28 in Tesco, instead of your usual £1.23. And yesterday you spent 59p in Superdrug; you never buy anything in Superdrug.’

    Hey, don’t get me wrong: I’m delighted they’re looking after me and my peanuts so well, but leaving scary messages on answerphones is not on. We keep getting told not to believe anything; not to click on links in emails, for instance, in case they’re ‘phishing’ emails so I said to the nosy man, ‘Who in their right mind is going to call a number they’ve never heard of before, these days? That number isn’t mentioned anywhere in your literature.’ ‘It’s on the back of your credit card.’ I checked: it wasn’t.

    They should have asked me to call the number I’m used to calling the rare times I feel like a chat with them, not a different – and, to me, suspicious – one.

    It’s slightly creepy, isn’t it? There are people out there who are sitting in front of computer screens and scrutinizing our purchases. ‘Oh, look, she bought something for 32p in TK Maxx the other day. Wonder what it is.’


    Friday, 1 December 2006

    Guest Slapper of the Month XI

    We, in the Blogosphere, are all in awe of TLP of Tan Lucy Pez: there is no one who is more quirky, more touching, more humorous. No one makes me hoot with laughter the way she does. No one. Here she is in serious mode, though. She can do that too. That TLP! (Sorry, couldn’t resist it. LOL!)

    Only the rich can buy health care in America.

    The only problem with delivering a SLAP! is narrowing my focus down to one slap. There are a lot of people/groups that I would happily slap. But the one SLAP that I decided on is so obviously over the top, that I just had to go with it. Nope, not anything to do with O.J. Simpson. Anything to do with him is a waste of a good tirade or a slap.

    I’m slapping the Los Angeles Metropolitan Medical Center in California. This hospital dumped hospital patients on Skid Row in L.A. These sick folks were indigent of course. And they were taken to Skid Row by ambulance. That’s right. They were sick enough to be taken by ambulance, and then dumped with no one to care for them.

    According to National Public Radio (NPR), the 50 square blocks of Skid Row are home to more than 10,000 people with no where else to go. It has many shelters, social service agencies -- as well as convicted sex offenders and just about any illegal drug you can think of. It’s a horrible, crime-plagued area.

    In other words, it's no place for someone who's still sick enough to be transported in an ambulance. But on a recent Sunday, Los Angeles police captured video and still photos of five patients from this single hospital being dumped in this unsafe and unclean area.

    When the police interviewed a couple of ambulance drivers they found out that the drop-offs were not a fluke. It was a plan to rid the hospital of indigents. This plan had been in use for some time.

    But wait! It turns out that other hospitals in the L.A. area are doing this too!

    The hospital staff at Kaiser Permanente’s Bellflower hospital called a cab and paid the driver to take older woman with dementia to skid row and drop her off, according to a Los Angeles Times story reporting on “the first criminal prosecution of a medical center accused of ‘dumping’ patients on skid row.” Earlier this year the 63-year-old patient, Carol Ann Reyes, was videotaped leaving in the taxi from Kaiser Bellflower hospital in LA. She was taken away in her hospital gown and socks, and she was found wandering skid row streets. Reyes had never lived on skid row and was unfamiliar with the area. She was a homeless person, so she was dumped.

    The bigger, perhaps better, slap would be to the people of the United States. We don’t have health care for everyone, and as a group we don’t care about our homeless. But I never thought that we would come to this. SLAP!