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Season’s Change: My Top Tips on Owning Autumn

It’s hard to ignore the Back to School signs in the shop windows, the dust in the streets, the yellowing of the leaves and the shift in the air as the days get shorter. Programmed by my own years at school, then again as a teacher and parent, I can never escape the rhythm of the academic year. I take stock, reassess, set goals and make resolution that are far more realistic than the perennial ones abandoned in the first week of January. Fresh starts are not just for kids. Start the new season with energy for yourself as well.

1. Plan the new you. The weather here in LA stays warm until October but the quality of light changes. We get wardrobe fatigue after months of sunshine. The appeal of a lightweight dress, so perfect a few months ago is fading as fast as our tans. We’re getting into a new routine. We’re changing gear. Anticipate the version of you that will reappear in snuggly sweaters and your favorite boots. Dig them out and freshen them up. Make a list of any new key items you need then pack away or donate your ‘high summer’ clothes.

2. Get sorted. This is the perfect time of year to clear clutter from your house. Clean out drawers, the kitchen cupboards, the fridge, the shed, the car or your home office. Remember how good it felt years ago when you threw away all the old pens and half chewed pencils, the ragged notebooks and the beaten up back -pack from the previous school year? That’s how you want to feel again. Even if this level of organization is impossible to keep up, it’s a great start and you’ll feel more energized and positive as a result.

3. Check out courses. Sign up for evening classes, on-line learning, a book club or any of the many activities that will keep you active and away from the cake- tin, the couch and the remote control during the chilly evenings ahead. You could learn an instrument, sew, dance, paint… be inspired by the possibilities and then commit.

4. Devise a new exercise routine. Our serotonin levels can take a nose -dive in the winter months when we don’t get sufficient sunlight and it’s important for our moods and to boost our immune systems to fight against the winter cold. It’s hard to drag ourselves out of bed in the dark mornings so don’t set yourself up for failure. Pick sessions that are at a realistic time. Pay in advance or plan to go with a friend to keep motivated. You’ll be less inclined to cancel when you’ve made an arrangement.

5. Focus on your work. Take the time for a re- appraisal. No matter how much you love your job, the first days back at work after a holiday can be tough. Ask yourself if this the right time to plan a change of direction, work towards moving on, change career path or maybe challenge your current role? If you are absolutely dreading going back to work then you may need a major re- think before you make yourself ill. We all have to earn our living, but do you really have to earn your money in a way that is unfulfilling? Are you as stuck as you think or just fearful and lacking the confidence to make a change? You know the answer. Now might be the moment to do something about it.

6. Tune into the energy. This is the season of rest and quiet growth. Mimic nature and go with the flow as much as possible. Rediscover the festive holidays and plan to enjoy them in the true sense by celebrating the harvest even when you live in the city. Plan to cook wholesome food, to rest and to walk. Take time for yourself whenever you can. You deserve it.

Posted: Aug. 28, 2015


 Let Your Hair Down: Top Tips on Styling Through the Ages

I love a signature style, and I’m a fierce admirer of women like Charlotte Rampling or Helen Mirren who adapt their make- up and hairstyles as they age and have looked sexy and cool over the decades. The fear of looking like mutton dressed as lamb is part of the reason many of us succumb to the cut.

We have a deep-seated terror of coming across as if we’re desperately hanging onto our youth. But there is no set age at which we should cut our tresses any more than there is a fixed point to retire our high heels. Feeling fabulous is about confidence. There are no rules. Life is for living and if your inner diva expresses itself through your long hair, embrace it, work with it, own it, and keep it.

1. Get the best haircut you can afford. The debate around short versus long hair is too simplistic. Most of us have moved on since the sixties. Today long hair is all about the cut, the shape and flattering layers. A few weeks ago I had my hair colored and styled at Tres Confidential in Paris and left the salon walking on air. When the miraculous happens and the cut and the color are perfect, you’re ready to take on the world. Voila!

2. Care for your hair as though it’s cashmere. As we get older our hair loses some of its natural sheen and years of coloring can thicken and damage it. I’ve been forty shades of grey since my twenties. It’s important to use a shampoo for color treated hair and a great conditioner. I use Kerastase products. They also do a great once -a -week hydrating mask. They’re not cheap but if you’ve ever used hotel shampoo and conditioner (eek) you’ll know that you mostly get what you pay for.

3. Fight the frizz. Don’t neglect the ends of your hair, which tend to get dry. There are a ton of smoothing serums out there. My favorite is John Frieda’s Frizz-Ease it works like magic. Squeeze a little onto your hands and rub it into the ends of your hair after you’ve dried it. For even better results use my granny’s tip and massage in warm olive oil before you wash it.

4. Work it from the inside too. The condition of our hair reflects our wellbeing. When we look healthy a few wrinkles are neither here nor there, our zest for life shines through. Make sure to get enough Omega3, Vitamin A and iron and to exercise regularly. This is hard science and you only have to think of times when you weren’t well and your hair lacked luster to know that it’s important.

5. I live in LA and swim most days so I use a UV hair protector. Try Biolage Color Care Therapie Shine Shake Spray on your hair during the summer months to protect it from sea water or chlorine damage.

6. Play with the style. Once you have a good cut; one that hits at your cheekbones, again at your jaw line and is soft around your face, then it’s down to you. That’s what’s so brilliant about longer hair. It’s so versatile. Put it up and pull out those Brigitte Bardot dangly wisps or pull it back into a smooth low ponytail. Try parting it at the side and tucking it behind one ear a la Lauren Bacall. Get a great blow dry and channel Demi Moore. It’s summer. Pile it in a top- knot and forget all about it. You’re fabulous at any age and your locks are your crowning glory.

Posted: Aug. 3, 2015


Once Bitten Twice Shy

Some memories are indelibly burned into my psyche. Rural living would be one of them. I mean let’s face it you can’t wear Louboutins in a field can you? At one point during our thirteen-year sojourn in the British countryside, my family wanted a dog. I wasn’t keen on the idea but you know when you’re outnumbered.

With hindsight I should have insisted on a purse-sized mutt; a spaniel or a Chihuahua, because Sandy, the hyperactive border-collie that came to live with us turned out to be mad. It’s as simple as that. He was a stark-raving-insane-out of control-lunatic. I have a hyperactive thyroid, but this dog made me feel like a sloth on Valium.

It may seem obvious, but if you don’t have sheep, you don’t need a sheep-dog. Sandy the dog had a pathological need to round things up. I fully expected to come home one afternoon to find the postman and a couple of visitors corralled in a corner of the garden. I was getting up in the dark at five o’clock in the morning in the dead of winter to race around fields with him because I couldn’t risk the kids being dragged across a main road or have him break loose and cause a pile-up on the freeway. I’d come back from these marathons and he’d be leaping up and down as if the previous two hours had been a warm up.

I wasn’t free to leave my own house. I’d open the front door and he’d charge over and mug me. One day it took three complete changes of outfits before I finally managed to sneak out the back door to work.

In the end I called an emergency family meeting.

“Either that dog goes or I do.” I told them.

There was a pause, a little too long for my liking, before everyone agreed that we would all be happier, including Sandy if we were to find him a more appropriate home. He lived out his days happily on a farm. Although by that stage I would have happily seen him roasted on an open spit in the medieval banquet hall at Warwick Castle.

We also bought two guinea pigs around that time, which we were assured were both female. Twelve more guinea pigs later we realized our mistake. I think the chickens may have overlapped with them. My memory is not reliable here, I’ve blanked out a lot from this period of our lives would need trauma counselling before the full details could emerge. I do remember discovering Sandy the dog with feathers in his mouth and that being the end of the fresh eggs. By the way if you ever buy chickens don’t get Bantams. They look really cute, but the eggs are about the size of a pea and you end up knee deep in chicken shit and still have to buy proper eggs from the supermarket.

Of course in California we have ‘Doggie Day Care,’ a service that to the best of my knowledge is not available in England. Here you get a daily report on what your dog had for dinner, which other dogs they spent time with, their mood and general progress. You can check them into The Club in Beverly Hills for an afternoon of grooming and massage treatments while you pick out a seasonal wardrobe for them. You can send your pooch on a mini-break to Paradise Pet Resort a facility designed for the more privileged of canines.

You can keep a dog in LA and have absolutely none of the work that goes with it. A dog-walker’s no problem. You can book house calls to shampoo, manicure and pedicure your pooch and there’s a neighbourhood ‘Dog Poop Removal Service.’

Here I could have a sanitized live accessory. It might even be fun, but you know what they say – “Once bitten twice shy.”

Posted: June 26, 2015


Use a picture. It’s worth a thousand words. – Arthur Brisbane.

Lights Camera Action

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 sunny California, pictures that would reflect the themes in my novels; India’s Summer and Letter from Paris, 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 neighbourhood. 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 neighbour’s television. I was ‘unavailable for comment’ mostly due to the fact that I was still in pyjamas and sans make- up. I also met most of my neighbours 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.

Finally, make sure you remember to enjoy writing and look to it with pleasure and not as if it’s a chore – that’s when the real magic happens.

Posted: June 15, 2015


Summer Ready: Tips on Looking Bikini Fabulous After 50

I was 49 when we moved to LA. Long gone were the years when I might have had the confidence to carve down the boardwalk on roller blades in a bikini. Nevertheless, I had to reach some kind of peace with my body because I certainly wasn’t going to avoid the ocean or the pool.

As a result I have mastered the art of the strategic cover-up and perfected the most flattering angle to lie on a sun bed. I’m expert at hanging onto a towel before plunging into the water and grabbing it fast getting out. I excel at camouflage, am a mistress of the art of illusion and how to make myself feel confident and beach ready.

Gravity gets us all eventually but when you live in a warm climate you relax a little more because you’re seeing real people rather than photo shopped magazine images. Even in California not everyone looks like Miranda Kerr, which is hugely consoling.

1. Think Layers. After a certain age, buying a bikini is about as much fun as the bikini wax you’ll need before you can wear it. You’re in the shop, you know the colours you like and you grab a few options. You struggle into something that eventually feels like it fits and then in the harsh glare of the fitting room lights you see a woman who cannot possibly be you. Help is at hand – this is the very reason cover-ups were invented. Have shirt- dress styles on hand for full coverage and sarongs for wrapping around your waist. Get oversized T- shirts and linen drawstring pants. You need layers that you peel off and put back on depending on how you’re feeling.

2. Swimsuit or two-piece? Surely it’s not so much about what you wear as how you wear it – even though my middle is no longer quite in the middle, I still look better with the lines broken up in a bikini. Avoid colours and patterns you wouldn’t ordinarily wear. Now is not the moment to channel your inner vixen with leopard print and avoid polka dots unless they’re subtle or you’re Lulu Guinness. Itsy -witsy -teeny- weeny is a no- no unless you’re going to Brazil…

3. Clothes you already have in your wardrobe are surprisingly versatile. Many years ago I bought a skirt from Anthropologie that used to be dressy and now looks great with a t -shirt on the beach. White linen is timeless and versatile so recycle your tops and pants and give them one last outing.

4. The one thing that age does not wither is your ability to look groomed. Pedicures and manicures are your secret weapon – don’t neglect them. Equally do not underestimate the power of accessories as this is all about feeling good and complimenting your swimwear. Have a lovely tote bag for your equally lovely sunglasses, a flattering sun hat and pretty sandals. It also goes without saying that you need a good sun cream – burnt is not the new brown.

5. The principles for dressing for the pool or the beach are the same as for anywhere. Stick to what works for you. Remember that you will only be wearing swimwear because the sun is shining and you are on vacation. You are there to enjoy yourself. If all else fails order a Mojito or a Margarita – you will feel so much better about everything.

Posted: May 22, 2015


Life in the Fast Lane: Top Tips on Overcoming Jetlag

Whether it’s flying my life across the globe, nipping to Paris for a petit voyage or travelling business for a book launch, I consider myself to be a pretty seasoned traveller.

Traveling is like childbirth, after a while you forget the pain and want to do it all over again. In the last twelve months I’ve circumnavigated the globe twice – zigzagging my way from LA to Sydney, Miami and LA then onto Cannes, Paris, London and Dubai. I’m really lucky to be able to combine business with pleasure and to travel in comfort.

I know that jetlag is a first world problem, but even so – it is a problem. Over the years I’ve tried to lessen the misery by trying everything; from flotation tanks to melatonin, rehydration therapies, vitamins, staying awake the whole way, falling asleep part of the way, setting my watch forward and setting it back. I’ve bought a Blue Max light therapy visor and countless insomnia hypnotherapy tapes and frankly I’m not sure it was all worth the effort.

It’s best to keep things simple and accept that you’ll be out of kilter for a few days. Hopefully you’ll be having such a wonderful time, you’ll hardly notice.

Some of my tips…

1. Hydrate and eat lightly for a day or two before you travel. Part of that horrible jetlagged feeling is caused by water retention from sitting down too long. Walk around the cabin every hour if possible. That way your feet won’t swell and you’ll still fit your clothes when you land.

2. A few days before you fly, try switching your bedtime closer to your new time zone. When I’m going to New York I start to get up a few hours earlier in LA. For long haul I take evening flights so that I can have a nap in the afternoon.

3. Don’t take medication to help you sleep on the plane. It may seem like a good idea, but you run the risk of rebound insomnia the next night. I’m always terrified I’d be out for the count and have to be escorted off by medics on arrival.

4. Take a good book. Reading takes more effort than watching the in-flight movies and you’ll get a better quality of sleep on board when you’re more tired. You know the rest of the drill – dress in layers, carry a fleece or pajamas and wear loose fitting clothes.

5. Take advantage of the in-flight hospitality. Having said that, I do try to moderate the wine. It goes to your head more quickly in the air and you don’t want to arrive with a hangover. Eat a full meal at the local lunch or dinnertime. Your body will adjust much more quickly. One of the worst parts of jetlag is waking up hungry in the small hours of the morning.

Finally the best cure of all is excitement! Be really happy to be where you are and the energy will find you. Bon Voyage!

Posted: May 12, 2015


Top Tips on Keeping It in the Family When It Comes to Business

With British Mother’s Day behind me and the US Mother’s Day just gone (10 May), I have been thinking a lot about my own relationship with Kate, who is not only my beautiful daughter she’s also a consultant for my promotional work.

The mother daughter relationship is a complex one but like any other, when the chemistry is right, it can make for a great partnership. We might be divided by the Atlantic Ocean (I’m in LA and Kate is in London) but we have some clear rules of engagement that make for a powerful dynamic.

1. Dress for success. At home I’ll be at the computer writing in my pyjamas, but I do my best to look pulled together when I’m at meetings. Kate always looks polished and professional. This helps set the tone for both of us when we’re in public mode.

2. Work out your respective strengths and weaknesses. We’re lucky that we’re both good about deadlines and that’s a deal breaker for me. I’ve taught her that if you say you’re going to do something, do it to the best of your ability and deliver on time and she does. We also have very clearly designated areas of responsibility. Kate is in charge of specific aspects of a project. I really enjoy the creativity she brings to our planning sessions. While I have years of experience, she brings a fresh perspective and a youthful energy. She’s savvy about social media, and a great networker. We learn a lot from each other.

3. Agree a cut-off point. We are both good at putting work to bed when we chat on the phone long distance over the weekends. Work happens in working hours unless it’s urgent. When I’m in London we enjoy having dinner and sharing a bottle of Sancerre but we have an embargo on discussing projects when it’s downtime.

4. Agree the terms of engagement. Kate is paid a consultancy rate that is comparable with her other clients. This may be more difficult as you set out on a new venture, but in the spirit of things I think it’s important to agree the financial terms so that there are incentives and independence on both sides.

…..and some tips from Kate:

1. Make it fun. There’s a lot of trust between us. We have conversations that are honest and know that we can throw out any ideas, no matter how ridiculous without judgment. We don’t get self conscious about it.

2. Try to keep the balance between work and other things. There are times especially at the start of a project when we run things by each other casually and have long ‘work’ chats, but what’s great is that we can leave things and move on, come back later when we’ve let thoughts and ideas develop organically.

3. Use your gut instincts. I feel that I know what’s in my mum’s best interests and she allows me to make decisions on her behalf. She isn’t breathing over my shoulder. Sometimes I don’t bother mentioning to people that we’re related. It really isn’t relevant a lot of the time.

4. Listening to each other is important. I value mum’s opinion even if I don’t always agree with it. We’re lucky that we’ve always had a great relationship and been very close (with a slight hiatus during my teenage years, but we won’t go there!)

Posted: May 11, 2015



The Secrets of Speaking Success

I have been lucky enough to have had the best mentor for learning to speak in public, my husband, top TED speaker Sir Ken Robinson.

In fact this inspired my latest novel, Letter from Paris, a tale of love and career transformation where main character India Butler delivers the speech of her life.

If the idea of giving a speech or making a presentation leaves you quaking, take consolation from the fact that even the world’s most charismatic professional speakers fight through a degree of nervousness. It lessens with practice, but never completely disappears. You have a message to convey and you want to make it impactful and entertaining. How do you conquer your fear and hold your audience?

So with many hoping for a pay rise at the end of the financial year, I wanted to share my top tips on preparing a speech, overcoming stage fright and keeping an audience in the palm of your hand:

1. Find out as much as you can about your audience. Why will they be listening? What can you do to really connect with them? What stories can you share that will illustrate your message? Start writing your speech with a story that will engage the room.

2. Make it personal, or at your own expense, or make it powerful or emotional, funny or light but you always need to tell a story to engage your audience.

3. Write your speech so that it has three distinct sections – a clear introduction, middle and end. A brilliant way to end your speech is to link back to your opening story.

4. We all know how tedious it can be when a speaker reads from a script and makes no effort to connect with their audience. Avoid this by knowing your material so fully you could give the speech blindfolded. Write headings on note-cards so that if you do lose your train of thought you can look down at them to remember where you were.

5. Watch a bunch of TED videos. Notice how some speakers use strong visuals to illustrate their message. Jill Bolte Taylor holds her audience instantly by bringing a brain onto the stage. Others use cartoons or music. Let your imagination fly. What will best support your message?

6. Tape-record your talk and listen to it critically. Be aware of any ‘ ticks’ you may have developed – the common ones are ‘ er ‘ or ‘ ya know’ or ‘so you see…’ Is your voice squeaky and high-pitched? Are you speaking too quickly? Try again… and again… until your confidence grows.

7. Time your speech so that you know you have enough material.

8. Give some thought to what you will wear. Avoid buying a new outfit for the occasion. You don’t want to feel like a trussed chicken in a new suit or to wobble onto a platform in precarious heels. Try on a few outfits that make you feel authentic and powerful and rehearse your speech in them.

9. If at all possible, check out the venue in advance of your talk. Stand behind the podium, or wherever you will be on the stage and get a feel for the room. Do a sound check with the technicians to make sure everything is working well, that the volume controls are correct. Do you prefer a hand held microphone? If so ask for one. Do you know how your voice sounds through it? Make sure you do, so that you don’t startle yourself when you first begin speaking.

10. Finally take a deep breath and go out there and do your very best. Be determined to enjoy the connection with your audience and believe me, if you’ve done your homework thoroughly you will be just fine. Better than that, you’ll be great. You will. I promise, you really will.

Posted: May 7, 2015