I’d decided on the location for my new novel, before I’d even visited it. Savannah, Georgia, is a city I have been fascinated every since I read Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, (which I had to re-read before I set off!) Not only is it America’s most haunted city – it’s also…
Can we talk about The Season for a minute, a concept that first came to my attention when I got hold of a copy of the
Sloane Rangers handbook back in the Eighties. How I loved that book. For a teenager growing up in Manchester it seemed incredibly exotic and glamorous, even though when I finally got to London, I realised that a world of penny loafers and red cords wasn’t really what I aspired to at all.
Of course Sloanes don’t really exist anymore. Wealthy Chelsea girls are more likely to be reality TV stars these days rather than Montessori teachers and you’ll find the Hooray Henry’s with a beard living in Hoxton. But the Season still exists and over the the past couple of weeks I’ve popped along to the polo, sipped Pimms at Wimbledon and enjoyed the gardens at the Hampton Court Flower Show (less busy than Chelsea) and decided it’s the best of British distilled down for a more democratic age.
I wrote about the Season in my novel The Proposal and even as recently as the Fifties it was still something very much reserved for members of the social elite. But hop onto Debrett’s website and you’ll find everything from the Boat Race and Bestival to Whiststable Oyster Festival and the Secret Garden Party showing that there’s something in the modern Season for everything taste and price-point.
The Summer Exhibition.
Not only can you visit the RA’s summer exhibition you can go in for it. The deadline for submissions is February
I got tickets in the ballot for the first time this year. Get your application form from the AELTC and apply by December.
Verve Cliquot Gold Cup Polo
Such a democratic event – we once actually sat behind Prince Harry in the stands.
You don’t have to sail, just grab a pint and watch the sight of dozen of boats carve through the Solent
Do you keep a diary? I used to. I found a box of them under the bed (!) and hours slipped by as I read my thoughts and tales of adventure from 1995 to 2000. They stopped around the time I met my husband. Perhaps falling in love made me a little less introspective – I don’t know. Anyway – I thought I’d start a week in view. Mostly it’s to share some good stuff that I’ve enjoyed, but I think a little bit of is to get back to my old journal loving self. After all – there’s no better way to remember the minutiae of our lives.
Wimbledon Fair – at the start of Wimbledon week! The sun was shining, we won a salad bowl on the tombola, the whole village was buzzing with tennis players in the streets and every shop and cafe is getting into the swing of it with tennis ball window displays and green and purple flags hanging from almost every roof.
Qcumber water. I don’t drink very much, so wine o’clock sort of passes me by. But sometimes it’s nice to have a cold glass of something really refreshing on a balmy evening and sparkling water and diet coke can sometimes get a bit boring – so it was great to discover Qcumber. It’s light and fizzy and a tiny bit Pimmsy. Try it.
Manning the face-painting stall at the school fair – I was chuffed with my Spider-man art work!
My friends Chris and Ian’s Open Garden afternoon, part of the Bedford Park Festival. I love the idea of Open Gardens. They create such great community sprit and I love seeing the glorious gardens hidden behind unassuming walls.
Discovering perfect tee-shirt dresses in Gap
Seeing my son Fin in his production of Oliver (and being very proud of his cockney accent!)
Hearing Nick Hornby in conversation
Creating a micro-restaurant in our garden (moving the table and chairs into the sun) and have a lunch date with my husband.
Being a big kid and going on the Umbrella ride at the fun-fair
Seeing my new web-site finally up and running!
To see Nick Hornby last night in conversation, who was as smart and funny as you’d hope. He has the dream career as far as I’m concerned – a super successful novelist, an Oscar-nominated screen writer and the co-founder of a really brilliant place in Hoxton called The Ministry of Stories, which helps young people get fired up about creating writing.
I always love hearing about how other authors write and Nick had some great advice, which was a more articulate rift on the ‘write what you know.’
‘Be specific about your sense of place. That way, even people on the other side of the world can identify it as their place.
I mean, when John Cusack and his two screenwriter friends got in touch about making High Fidelity into a movie they said to me, “this is a book about us. A bit later, in a different location and with a different soundtrack, but this is us.”
You have to be authentic about your place, as that way, it will resonate with others.
If you are writing about ‘another place,’ you can lose your authenticity.’
For sale at the Ministry of Stories: Monster themed paraphernalia! Go check it out.
If you read my recent feature in Red magazine you’ll know that I love going on courses.
After all, why should we stop learning just because we’ve finished school?
One fantastic course I went on this year was a truffle making course at William Curley, who is one of London’s great chocolatiers.
The course wasn’t cheap, but we came home with a huge box of truffles which would have cost at least £20 if you’d have bought them in his Belgravia store.
The truffles themselves…wow. Here’s the recipe in case you wanted a try at home
160g 70% chocolate
145g whipping cream
25g soft unsalted butter
250g tempered chocolate
150g cocoa powder
Bring cream to boil
Chop up the chocolate and add to cream, stirring until it is a smooth emulsion
Add soft butter. Mix.
Pipe your ganache onto your greaseproof tray
Leave to set – ideally in a fridge for at least 30 minutes
Temper your additional chocolate (this is quite complicated but you should find good instructions on the internet)
Coat each truffle in this liquid tempered chocolate
Roll in cocoa and sieve excess cocoa
The beaches can be as golden as Caribbean sand but they have a rugged beauty all of their own
You can buy delicious crab sandwiches in most decent cafes
You can turn a corner and see an honesty box
Or a box of sea urchins for sale
The juice bar at the Eden Project
Fish and chips at the Portminster cafe
The farmhouse cream teas down bumpy dirt-tracks
The surfing at Porthmeor beach
Hot chocolate with whipped cream at the Hidden Hut at Porthscatho
The whiff of smugglers on deserted headlands
You can walk barefoot through the streets
And waste hours going crabbing
Time seems to go slower
You can walk down a country lane and feel as if you are heading off on a Famous Five adventure
The quality of the beachcombing booty
The peachy St Ives light and glorious sunsets
It’s beautiful even when it’s cold and bleak
The fog that swirls over Bodmin – sometimes scary, always atmospheric
The amazing food thanks to fresh ingredients
The sight of clear jade water
Taking the ferry from St Mawes to Place
One of the things I miss most about working in magazines is the beauty sales. Shallow I know – but the beauty cupboard really was a thing of… well, beauty. I didn’t even use half the stuff I was given, I used to take it out of my bathroom cabinet every so often and just look at it and it never failed to be me in a better mood.
My friend Suzanne shares my love of beauty products and we were in Selfridges the other day for a girlie catch-up and discovered these delicious Aerin body creams. I love the Aerin range – the products are excellent and useful – perfect for the busy, modern woman and the creams are something else – they just smell so good. The Ikat Jasmine reminds you of a balmy Mediterranean summer evening, one whiff of the Gardenia and I’m in a gorgeous moonlit garden with a glass of champagne in my hand.
Problem was – when we went to buy one – they were all sold out but I’m looking forward to going to the Hamptons this summer where Aerin has an entire shop!
One of the best things about the Aerin products is the aspirational brand she had built around her vision. She lives that chic lifestyle too – check out her office which was featured in Architectural Digest magazine. Have you ever seen a more gorgeous working space?
I’ve come up with a new word. Glardening.
Glam + gardening = glardening
I had this epiphany yesterday when I headed down to the very chic and lovely Petersham Nurseries to go to a ‘Planting in the shade’ workshop with my friend Sandra.
I have to admit, I wasn’t overly excited by the idea of going on a gardening course at first – I was more interested in having lunch afterwards. I don’t have green fingers. Even my potted Basil plants from the supermarket die within a couple of days. And besides, isn’t what gardening what you get into when you retire?
But – I loved it. I learnt such a lot, (our tutor Martin has a brilliant web-site www.teddingtongardener.com) and it made me realise just how good it is spend time outdoors.
I don’t know about you, but I spend most of my day sitting in front of a screen, so it was a feast for the senses being able to see and smell all the wonderful flowers and foliage.
I discovered a plant with gold tipped leaves (Daphne), found out that my favourite hydragenas would love my shady patio if I gave it lots of water, and that you can get rid of slugs by watering your flowers with a garlic and water solution.
Petersham Nurseries are running a slow gardening event in July which sounds fantastic.
As they say on their website – slow life in the fast lane.
Some plants that don’t mind the shade: including hydragenas, daphne, foxgloves and calla lilies.
Saul Milford, owner of one of England’s oldest and most prestigious luxury goods companies is dead, but who will inherit his estate?
For years Saul’s niece Cassandra, editor-in-chief of Rive magazine, has believed that she would be the sole benefactor. But she’s not the only family member with their eye on the ultimate prize. Roger, Saul’s handsome brother with a demanding wife. Elizabeth the art-dealer with a dark and brooding secret, Tom the playboy nephew, and Emma, the hard–working but unlucky in love niece living and working in Boston. All have their reasons for wanting the company. But one of them will go to any lengths to secure what they believe is rightfully theirs.
‘Tasmina Perry just gets better and better. Utter bliss’ – In Style
I wanted to write another book about families – but a family who were at war with one another because of various reasons including jealousy and greed, a little like those great TV shows of the Eighties like Dallas and Falcon Crest.
I decided to set it in the fashion world because I’d worked at a fashion magazine for five years and knew what a gloriously bitchy and intriguing world it was!
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The Balcon sisters are London’s society darlings.
But when their tyrannical father Oswald Balcon is found dead, the finger of suspicion points towards his glamorous daughters. Suddenly we find that beneath the family’s perfect façade lies a web of deceit and betrayal…
‘The hottest accessory this season’ – Elle
‘The perfect read to help escape the every day world with enough suspense to keep you hooked.’
People always which ask me which one of my books I like the best. That’s a tough one, but the one I am most fond of is Daddy’s Girls, probably because it was my first. The idea for Daddy’s Girls came about on honeymoon when I wanted a big juicy read for my trip but I had read everything Jackie Collins and Jilly Cooper had on offer. Instead – I bought a biography of the Mitford Sisters, and an idea was formed. I also finished Daddy’s Girls the night before I went into hospital to give birth to my son Fin.
The success of Daddy’s Girls meant that I could give up work and become a full-time novelist, which has been a joy.