Not Dead Yet

“‘Don’t you think you’re too old to sing rock n’ roll?’ some guy said to me.
I said – “You’d better check with Mick Jagger.”

Cher

Why, I ask you, is there an international media debate whenever France’s First Lady Brigitte Macron ‘dares’ to wear leather pants, skinny jeans or above the knee skirts? This is an ageist, feminist and cultural issue. There’s none of that nonsense in France. Vogue and Paris Match adore her style. Brigitte is sexy and smart – she’s confident, she’s rock and roll. When asked about the timing of her husband’s run for office she quipped, “Because by 2022 his problem will be my face.”

The suitcase for my trip to Montreal and Paris tomorrow is replete with the eponymous leather pants, short skirts and ‘car-to-carpet’ high heels. As I was packing, I wondered what it is about leather that is deemed so inappropriate? Should I be avoiding silk and velvet while I’m at it, throwing away the suede boots? Are there other fabrics that have a ‘sell by my birth date’ label? Obviously I’ve never been anywhere near lycra or spandex, so there’s no risk of that, but my generation invented denim and now we’re supposed to retire it? I don’t think so. At this point shouldn’t we be shaking our tail feather or are feathers out as well?

It was Bridget Jones’ Diary that first made me realize I needed a female role model. Whenever Bridget had a decision to make she would ask herself ‘ what would Madonna do or what would Madonna wear? It’s a great idea, but as corsets and fishnet stockings proved not to be such a good look at the school gates I eventually I had to look elsewhere for inspiration. Back in those days I came up with Audrey Hepburn and not because of her Children’s Charity – it was for those black Capri pants, boat necked cocktail dresses and her ability to look impossibly chic even when visiting war torn countries. I suppose the more evolved among you might ask ‘ what would Marie Curie do or Emily Pankhurst, Indira Ghandi, Malala?’ I know. Call me shallow.

Now I have a new role model in Brigitte who like me is une femme d’un certain âge which is a compliment in France where the men have a penchant for older women. Doubtless if we live long enough we’ll become femmes d’un âge certain, which is a completely different thing, but that’s not happening yet, well not in Paris where I’m headed in black leather jeans just as soon as I finish this post. À bientôt…

 

Karma Chameleon

I know. It’s been a while. I’ve missed you too. “So what happened?” I hear you ask, “Where have you been these last few years? What’ve you been up to?”

Well, it’s been quite the journey. I daresay there may have been warning signs in my earlier posts because it was during the writing of Letter From Paris that I developed a rare syndrome. A therapist may have considered it a personality disorder. I prefer to think of it as a need for reinvention upon reaching a certain age. Whatever it was, since I last blogged… I have become French.

Becoming French has not been cheap. What began with the sartorial twist of a few scarves, rapidly developed into marathon shopping expeditions and the quest for quintessential navy blazers, white shirts, leather trousers, ankle boots, trench coats and lingerie. It also led to the complete refurbishment of my home; the addition of antique armoirs, Philippe Starck Ghost chairs, framed Rodin prints and old stone kitchen counter tops. Fortunately the house was desperately in need of renovation which allowed for a relatively guilt free exercise where I became more Gallic by the day.

The foray into French cuisine was less successful. La Bonne Cuisine de Madame Evelyn Saint-Ange, first published in 1927 (mille neuf cent vingt – sept …cough) is known to be the bible on every French kitchen shelf. It remains firmly lodged on my own kitchen shelf. We are told the recipes are ‘ enveloped in charming intricacies of even the most fundamental cooking techniques.’ I suggest you try some of Madame’s recipes to see just how charmingly enveloped you feel after attempting her Bouillon de Poisson pour Apprêts, the ‘fundamental’ of which is a home- made stock from ‘bones, heads and raw trimmings of whiting, sole, brill and turbot.’ Finally we have the answer to all those unused fish entrails. I opted for regular visits to French bistros instead.

Bien sûr becoming French involved many trips to Paris where I would keep conversation to a minimum opting for enigmatic silences, thoughtful pouts and overusing ‘d’accord.’ My school French was about as useful as chopsticks with soup. Looking more authentically French than the average French woman often resulted in people asking me for directions. I would send them off with a cheery “ à droite,” with no clue where they wanted to go. The epiphany came in the form of a gherkin. It arrived with yet another serving of saumon fumé, the one meal I could order with confidence. I’d been there a week. There’s only so much salmon a woman can eat. Clearly it was time to address the communication issue.

Back in LA I signed up for conversation classes. At my first lesson I knew enough French to recognize that the classroom was giving me déjà vu; bare walls, dusty tables, uncomfortable chairs, harsh lighting. Not a croissant in sight. The student booklet was as exciting as an IKEA instruction manual. I was checking the exits when in walked my teacher Amélia. She had me at “Bonjour.” I wanted to be Amélia, she was just so, well… French.

No Strings Attached

You know why I feel older? I went to buy sexy underwear and they automatically gift wrapped it.
~ Joan Rivers.

While it was an American man who invented the tea bag, it was a French man, Louis Réard who invented the bikini. In 1946 while on vacation in St. Tropez, the designer noticed women rolling their two-piece swimsuits to get a better tan and came up with the idea of the exposed midriff. In France you can sunbathe topless. In many states of America wearing a thong bikini is illegal.

 

You may want to avoid planning your vacation at Round Lake Beach Illinois. Not long ago, the locals passed an ordinance forbidding any female from appearing “ …in such a manner that the buttocks…or any portion of the breast at or below the upper edge of the areola is exposed.” Arguing your case in court would be like a modern day version of The Merchant of Venice. “Your honor – what exactly defines ‘at or below the upper edge?’…your honor…what is an areola?”

As the summer season kicks in we’re seeing the annual media debate over the appropriate age to retire your bikini. I have the answer right here – it depends entirely on how good you feel in it, your attitude and your confidence. It’s not about age as a host of women from Helen Mirren, Sarah Jessica Parker and Heather Graham are demonstrating.

I recently reset my age to twenty-eight on Facebook because I don’t relate to the stereotyped adverts that define a woman over fifty – the stair lifts, elastic-waist pants, comfort shoes and assisted living properties. It was the ‘low cost crematorium’ one that tipped the balance.

Now that I am approaching thirty on Facebook a world of wanderlust adverts has opened up – lantern festivals in Taiwan, carnivals in Rio, nightclubs in Vegas and hikes across Kenya. I’ve taken control. I no longer see ads for miracle face creams, ‘before and after’ images of sagging jaws and necks, pills to get rid of belly fat and tests for diabetes. Thanks to the re-targeted advertisements I am offered a smorgasbord of cut-price nail products and make-up as well as discount deals on gym wear, yoga pants and thankfully yes…bikinis.

Liquid Gold

A woman is like a tea bag- you can’t tell how strong she is until you put her in hot water.
~ Eleanor Roosevelt.

Did you know that an American invented the tea bag? Unearthing that nugget was the sum total of my achievements yesterday. After many hours at my desk attempting to draft an introduction to the upcoming Tea With Lady T series, this sentence was all that survived – ‘In 1910, Thomas Sullivan, a New York merchant, started shipping his tea in silk bags rather than metal tins and thus the tea bag was born.’ There’s writer’s block and then there’s writer’s block. I went to bed early.

Back at the computer this morning, I discovered something a tad more interesting. For $7,870 dollars ‘The Rare Tea Company’ will create a unique blend of tea for you and deliver a three -month’s supply. When amortized over three months, at four cups a day that’s about thirty-five dollars a cup. If you only managed to drink two cups a day or you cost it out by the pot then that’s…well…

My brain was still aching from attempting that long- division sum as I started looking up ‘tea ceremonies.’ I was about to research the Tang Dynasty, Silk Roads, Japanese Matcha Ceremony and tea gardens of Assam when my attention was caught by another piece of trivia; a 12-liter bottle of Château Margaux is currently on sale at Dubaii airport for $195,000. And yes, the comma is in the right place.

Also on sale in Dubaii was a non- alcoholic sparkling wine with edible 24carat gold flecks for $125 dollars. It wasn’t the price or the thought of ingesting metal that put me off the idea. It was the lack of alcohol. I’d rather suck on a gold bracelet between shots of tequila.

The Dubaii wine link took me to Howtospendit.com – ‘A Website of Worldly Pleasures,’ dedicated to the delights of the sybaritic lifestyle. I surfed around for a bit but there is only so much of that James Bond vibe I can tolerate, a limit on how much conspicuous consumption I can take. I turned off the computer. Why was I looking at trivia and writing drivel about tea when I could be blogging about serious issues like saving indigenous wildlife or promoting women’s rights? What was I thinking spending two whole days on this twaddle? It was madness. I was still beating myself up for not being Gloria Steinem when I remembered the line from Alice in Wonderland at the Mad Hatter’s tea party and began to feel a little better.

“Have I gone mad?” Alice asked. “I’m afraid so…” He said. “But let me tell you something. The best people usually are.”

The Photo shoot Tales

Part 1   – Tea with Lady T

Uber is like a drug. I can’t stop using it. A couple of trips in the back of their chauffeur driven limousines and my own car was dead, tumbleweed rolling under the tires. People talk about inventions that changed history – Sancerre, Botox, Elvis on iTunes and five-inch stilettos, but to paraphrase John Lennon ‘before Uber there was nothing.’

For the first in our series of photographs we Ubered to The Peninsula Hotel for Afternoon Tea. History has it that in the 1840’s the Duchess of Bedford upon finding herself a little peckish one afternoon invited a few high-society ladies to join her for tea and sandwiches. Apparently they all enjoyed the occasion so much that before long it evolved into a British institution. I only became interested when the institution evolved into including champagne.

We were there to take photographs for my forthcoming column Tea With Lady T an occasional series where I shall be interviewing guests on my blog. The photographer was well prepared. We had our shot-list down; costume changes at the ready, props and makeup. When our sandwiches arrived we toasted the occasion with a glass or two of Veuve and began creating our ‘set’-rearranging cushions, napkins, potted plants and cake displays. None of this attracted any attention. In Beverly Hills it would be far more unusual to see people chatting quietly over a cup of tea.

A little while later, suitably buzzed and on a sugar high it was time to change out of the red tea dress and slip into a different outfit to capture the essence of Lady in La La Land my new blog on the UK Huffington Post. I was back within moments looking dapper in a black jacket, white pants, killer heels, a fedora and sunglasses.

As we were leaving the hotel our waiter dashed out. I had signed what I thought was the check and forgotten to give him my card. He was unfazed that I now bore an uncanny resemblance to Michael Jackson. To make your great escape nowadays you’d clearly need more than a pair of Clark Kent glasses. I’m wondering if you can spot the difference between these two pictures…

therese_blogs_about_rolls

Maintenance

It takes a lot of money to look this cheap
– Dolly Parton

Apologies for being a tad late with promised tales from the LA photo shoot. A trip to New York to promote my husband’s new book, the announcement of our daughter’s engagement and becoming a Huff Post blogger have all been pleasantly and hugely distracting. Now that what passes for normal life in our household has been restored, I am back to regale you.

For those new to this blog, a little back-story – a few weeks ago, feeling in need of writing inspiration I re-read The Artist’s Way where Julia Cameron suggests we connect with our inner artist by channeling our creativity through a play date.

Over the years I’ve attempted to re-connect with my inner artist at not inconsiderable expense. I’ve tried water -color classes, line dancing, yoga, ballet, jewelry making, pottery, embroidery, origami, making collages and improv groups. I own a baby grand piano and a mandolin as a result of various failed attempts to rediscover my inner musician. It was time for a different approach. Remembering how I loved raiding my mother’s closet and make- up drawers as a child, I decided to play ‘dressing- up.’

Everything starts with hair. This is a profound statement. Please feel free to share it on Facebook. A bad hair day is a very bad day. You could be dressed head to toe in Ferragamo, Vuitton, Hermès, carrying a five- thousand dollar Céline purse and tottering around Beverly Hills in your Louboutins, but if your roots are showing forget it. You’re a hot mess.

I spend two hours of my life every two weeks having my base color restored. That’s the kind of commitment we’re discussing here. My hair grows at an alarmingly rapid speed. In LA, getting coiffed takes an army; two muscle bound men to apply the color, another to bring the cappuccino, another to rinse at the sink, another to blow dry it out and another to pick me up off the floor when I’ve handed over my credit card.

I am simply not prepared to grow gray gracefully like the silver haired women you see wandering around art galleries. It’s like wrinkles around the eyes – we love them on other people. Anyway I digress. This is the ‘behind the scenes’ shot. It’s a little taster of the photos I’ll be sharing soon. To paraphrase Dolly – It takes a lot of effort to look this natural.

Spring has Sprung

Last week everyone I met in New York was deliriously happy to be welcoming spring after endless months of grueling winter. My friends and family in England are equally excited that sunny days have arrived there too. The season has finally changed. As I am sure you’re aware, LA is not like the rest of the world. Here we have three seasons not four.

First of the year comes Awards Season- The Oscars, Grammy’s, Golden Globes, Bafta and Screen Actors’ Guild Awards. We Uber ourselves to parties and dinners then recover from all that socializing by binge watching reality TV. We change gear when the last of the dry Santa Ana winds blow in from the desert and we shimmy into Vacation Season which begins in May on Memorial Day and ends in September on Labor Day.

We embrace high summer by leaving town. We have to get out. Los Angeles has a 16.5 billion dollar tourist industry. People flock here from all over the world to relax but we are completely stressed out after months of negotiating the road works on the 405 and endless tailbacks getting to our therapy sessions, yoga classes, aesthetician and hairdressing appointments. We desperately need that vacation in Hawaii or a couple of months on Martha’s Vineyard. I go to the south of France and stay not far from Cannes, which is like a scaled down European version of Santa Monica only with better wine and a warmer ocean.

Coming back to town we gear up for the Holiday Season – Before we know it Halloween is upon us and we’re setting out pumpkins and planning our costumes. There’s barely time to recover before we’re ordering turkeys for Thanksgiving dinner. After a few days of cleansing and juicing we begin planning for Hanukkah and Christmas. The New Year celebrations come in a tardy third and only if we have any energy left.

I sometimes miss springtime in London. About now I’d be booking my ticket for the Chelsea Flower Show and clearing out my winter closet to make way for a new linen jacket and white jeans. Here I already have summer-wardrobe fatigue and the closest I’m going to get to a flower show is the organic kale and broccolini on display at the Farmers’ Market. Yes. I’m ready to get out of town and to the unpredictability of the weather in England and to get wearing my unworn Burberry mac.

Exclusive Celebrity Interview

I lived in Stratford Upon Avon, birthplace of William Shakespeare for thirteen years. It’s a tiny town where the local industry is all things Shakespearean. I got to know him well during that time and was thrilled when he agreed to this exclusive interview to celebrate his 450th birthday. He is currently in LA pitching a remake of Coriolanus so we agreed to meet at The Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

I joined him at a corner table where he sat resplendent in a black- laced doublet, starched while shirt and ruff. His earring caught the light as he turned his head to greet me. I wished him a happy birthday and while we waited for our lunch I asked about his wife Ann and the kids. He told me they were all great and that one of the twins was planning on being an actor. I agreed it was hardly surprising.

“Mr. Shakespeare…” I began, eager to begin the interview once he had finished his quails eggs.

“ Wench more ale.” He yelled, signaling the waitress and sinking back into the cushions. “A dish fit for the gods.” He said, wiping his mouth on the sleeve of his shirt.

“Mr. Shakespeare…”

“Pray call me ‘Will’ fair Lady… shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?  Thou art more lovely and more temporate.”

This threw me quite a bit, so I swiftly pulled out my iPad, grateful I had questions prepared in advance.

Will, you’ve written thirty-eight plays, one hundred and fifty-four sonnets and you don’t even own a laptop.  You’re married with eight children. You’re also an actor. How do you fit it all in?

‘All the world’s a stage and one man in his time plays many parts.’ He answered thoughtfully.

There are rumors of an affair. Do you deny them?

‘I am one who loved not wisely but too well. Let me not to the marriage of true minds admit impediments. I am a man more sinned against than sinning. We have seen better days.’ He added.

What would be your advice to aspiring writers?

‘This above all, to thine own self be true.’

And hard work? That’s important too?

‘ Nothing will come of nothing think again.’

And fame, is that for us all?

‘Some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them. By the way I love your blog.’

Thank you. So Will tell me who do you think will win the forthcoming election?

He sighed. ‘Now is the winter of our discontent … to be or not to be, that is the question. I come to bury Caesar not to praise him. By the way do you know anywhere round here where I can but some new hose? I’m looking for something with a bit of stretch, these don’t have any lycra in them.’ He added pointing to his stocking leg.

I took this as the signal to end my interview. I felt it had gone well. There was definitely enough in there to interest my subscribers. Shakespeare had never discussed his marriage or his political views before.

“I’m thinking Burberry.” I said standing up. “ Why don’t we nip across to Rodeo Drive.  They’ll be delighted to kit you out.

‘Once more unto the breach.’ He murmured dragging himself out of the chair. ‘Pray tell my Lady, how goeth your knight? I hear he has a new book out.’

Lights. Camera. Action…

Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words.

– Arthur Brisbane.
 

 

My UK publicists needed photographs of my life in LA  – shots by the ocean in Malibu, having afternoon tea, writing at my desk, relaxing in the sunshine. They asked for images that would capture the contrast between London and California, pictures that would reflect the themes in my novels as well as ones that can be used for my ongoing series Lady Terry’s Tips where I give advice on topics ranging from writing, traveling, public speaking to lifestyle and career change.

I feel that this photograph, taken by my pool on the first day of shooting, captures that formerly elusive je ne sais quoi. It is worthy of Vanity Fair don’t you think? There are many more I will share in coming weeks, but I think this one is perfect to put with some tips on writing and working from home:

  1. Get out of your sweatpants and fix your hair. It’s a long story, but a few years ago a convicted felon escaping custody drove off in a stolen car Mad Max style down Wilshire and into the side streets of our neighborhood. The police eventually cut him off in our street. He leapt out, ran to our house, shimmied onto our roof and stayed there for six hours until a SWAT team managed to get him down. Fox news filmed the unfolding drama and we watched it all play out on my neighbor’s television. I was ‘unavailable for comment’ mostly due to the fact that I was still in pajamas and sans make- up. I also met most of my neighbors for the first time that day.  I know it’s an extreme example, but it illustrates the point.
  2. Our best creative work happens when we are in flow, using our imaginations, having fun. Obviously there will come a point where we become hypercritical of our writing and believe we’ll never be the next e.e. Cummings, E.L. James or J.K. Rowling. But remember that’s only because the rest of us all have proper first names. There is a time for editing, a time for revising, a time for throwing most of our work in the trash, but there is also a time for play.
  3. Also take time for work. I mean the tough stuff, the sitting at your computer for long enough to write a half decent sentence, even if it takes the entire day. Oscar Wilde is famously quoted as saying “ I was working on the proof of one of my poems all the morning and took out a comma. In the afternoon I put it back in again.”
  4. Keep writing. We can all find excuses. My particular one is that I’m traveling so much. As they say, we can fool some of the people some of the time but not all of the people all of the time. Frankly I just believe that we can’t fool ourselves for very long. Just get up earlier and write or stop talking about wanting to be a writer. Writers write. It’s as simple or as complicated as that.
  5. I love my vintage typewriter. Even though I use a laptop, just having it there as a prop sets a tone and a mood. Surrounding yourself with novels, books you love, bric a brac you treasure creates ambience. I’m all about ambience as you can see.

PS. We took a “grown- up” picture too – click here

Playtime

Globe-trotting has its rewards and one of them is exhaustion. Since coming home I’ve had the urge to do some mental spring cleaning and been re-reading Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way. Her program spurred me on when my first book – How to Stay Upwardly Mobile When you’re Spinning Out of Control was languishing in a drawer, rejected by a publisher because it was too similar to a book they’d recently published called Mommies Who Drink.

I wrote How to Stay Upwardly Mobile back in the pre mommy blog days when there was always a steady stream of material on tap. When you emigrate from a quiet English village to the west side of LA with two teenage children, the well is never dry. If I’d been able to tweet about it, I’d have had more followers than Lady Gaga and Kim Kardashian combined, but the mommy blog boat sailed without me.

The Artist’s Way starts from the premise that we all need to reconnect with our creativity from time to time, to wake up our inner artist and play a little. Julia suggests creating a play-date – remembering the things you enjoyed doing when you were young and revisiting them. Play dates are to be approached with childlike abandon. As I’m not really a grownup this should be easy. I’ve always loved acting, dressing up and playing ‘make believe.’

I’m going to test out new waters. I will be playing ‘thérèse the roving reporter’ with my new camera next week. I will make believe I’ve been hired by the top selling international magazine Good Housekeeping to be their ‘woman on the ground’ on both sides of the Atlantic. I will be blending seamlessly in this city devoted to reinvention. Stay tuned for a whole new take on La La Land.