Nerja and Motril

Nerja, where we went today, isn’t really our cup of tea but it’s home to some fantastic cave scenery that is well worth a look:

Yet more astounding vistas on what’s been a trip full of extraordinary sights. Some of the forms reminded me of some of the architectural feats I’ve seen in the last couple of days too.

And then it was on to Motril, where the BYCB were giving their final of the five concerts of this tour. They’ve played in formal auditoria and open air venues, such as the spectacular Antequera the other night, but it’s great that they also choose small squares in the middle of residential areas that are often quite run down.

In Granada on Tuesday night the band played to a packed concert hall of 1,000 people but today the audience of local people started floating in as Big Phat Brass, the excellent BYMT ensemble whose members also play in BYCB, kicked off proceedings. Tonight, as in Sicily last year, it was heartwarming to see tiny children inspired by the teenagers in front of them. The look in the eyes as they lit up at the music was unmistakeable: it was exactly the same look of my Boywonder then two years old, when he saw them perform at the then Glades in Bromley nearly 17 years ago, that made him want to be a trumpeter.

One of the reasons for the existence of the BYMT is to reach out and promote music of a high standard to less well off children like this and the band members are truly ambassadors for Bromley and the very best of British youth. I feel so incredibly proud of all of them.

They consistently win band prizes including Music for Youth and the World Music Festival at Kerkrade, they were invited to play in this year’s Granada Festival alongside ensembles such as the National Ballet Orchestra of Paris and the Vienna Staatsoper orchestra. The band were on television twice in the past week and fêted by their hosts in Spain.

And yet Bromley Council is happy to bask in their reflected glory whilst at the same time making plans to withdraw their remaining support (£150,000) from April next year. The following year they will lose the lease on the Music School. It’s lovely that other people around Europe appreciate our hardworking, self-disclined, talented children. It’s such a pity that their own Council cannot see this asset for what it is. They should be ashamed of themselves.

This being the last time that the Year 13 leavers will play with the band, there were a few high jinx this evening. The flutes dissolved in giggles at one point and our own Adam Richardson, former desk mate of the Boywonder and now off to study Theoretical Physics at university, saw fit to take a selfie in the middle of a solo section with Dan his Principal Trumpet. Trumpet boys will be trumpet boys!

The band are off to the Alhambra Palace tomorrow. It will be an eye opener for many of those who have never travelled before and those who have. I hope they’ve enjoyed their tour.

I’ll finish tonight’s post with some footage we took at the Antequera concert, the BYCB playing Granada.

My happy place

I was lucky enough to be given an annual membership to Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club as a Christmas present and we spent this lunchtime there watching and listening to the Craig Milverton Trio  fronted by Clarinet Maestros Ken Peplowski and Julien Marc Stringle.

How fabulous and wonderful an opportunity it is to listen to this quality of live music! It occurred to me while watching that Ronnie Scott’s is probably one of my very favourite places in the world. As you descend into the club, you’re engulfed by the womblike comforting dinginess. It’s so cosy and you’re so close to the musicians that they can often enter an intimate conversation with you, with with their music and their presence.

The numbers performed today ranged from Bebop to Bossa Nova to swing; from Benny Goodman and Duke Ellington through Bernstein to Jobim. I was alternately grinning and tearing up and concentrating and letting the music wash over me. It’s so hard to explain to anyone who doesn’t love music passionately the effect it has on one’s very soul. Just trust me on this.

I have loved swing music since I was about thirteen years old and managed to conceal that love from my peers. At the very height of punk confessing a love for Glenn Miller would have meant sacrificing even the tiny bit of credibility I possessed.

I was introduced to jazz proper when in China, funnily enough, by my Danish roommate playing Billie Holliday and Ella. I’d never actually listened to such bewitching music before and I was beguiled by it, quickly learning most of the words to Cole Porter and Gershwin songbooks. Of course later on came a love of Getz and Miles and Oscar Peterson (after whom our dog is named) and Sinatra, of course.

I feel truly amazed and delighted that my offspring share a love of this music and are equally enchanted every time they go to, or take part in, jazz gigs. They’ve been lucky enough to be members of jazz and swing ensembles at school and through the BYMT, and will happily combine a playlist of the latest artists with Chopin, Steve Reich and Count Basie. It’s thrilling to go to jazz gigs with them knowing that they share my enjoyment. I’m hoping that MsDD, herself a reeder of note, was inspired. She was actually expected at a rehearsal for her school’s concert next week at St. John’s Smith Square but arguably this family time was just as educational for her.

Whenever I listen to jazz music I’m filled with a heart-rending disappointment in myself that I never learnt how to play jazz piano or even chords like the OH and the Boywonder. It’s so frustrating not to be able to go and join in. In fact it’s long been my secret ambition to be a nightclub jazz singer like, say, Cleo Laine. Maybe one day I shall. In the meantime, jazz will continue to hook my heart, make my feet tap and cause my buttocks to dance on their chair.

 

St. Valentine’s Day

St. Valentine’s Day


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I’m not one for celebrating St. Valentine’s Day, as a rule. I’ve only ever received Valentines from the OH so, whilst nice, it’s all a bit predictable. It’s a pity that one feels forced to spend money on cards; flowers; chocolate; Champagne; overpriced cramped set menu dinners on one day of the year. If you don’t go along with this, you start wondering whether there’s something wrong with you. If you do, you’re aware you’re being manipulated by Consumerism. I’ve written all this stuff before so I’m not going to go into it again here really.

We’ll be going out for one of those meals but we don’t want to leave MsDD on her own, especially as she’s off on a French immersion trip to Normandy tomorrow, so we’re taking her along with us. It will be novel, but nice.

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This week people have been vociferous about tax, the non-payment and avoidance thereof. It’s obviously quite right that people expect large corporations to pay towards supporting the infrastructure of the places where they set up and, presumably, make themselves lots of money. Of course, it isn’t fair that the very rich people who are buying up all the desirable properties in London don’t seem to pay much tax. They should pay their fair share too. But, for example, François Hollande’s baldly populist 75% tax rate in France has just led to more tax avoidance by those people it hits. They’ve come to London, for a start.

Have you noticed how it’s always OTHER people who should pay tax? Labour and the Greens, for example, have an election pledge to raise the top tax rate to 50p again. It’s dead popular because it affects no-one who pays basic rate tax or anyone on less income than that.

At the lower end of the top rate, it has affected us in practice. Even if it hadn’t, I don’t agree conceptually that people should be giving over half their income to the State. It seems especially unfair when we have always paid our way: we don’t get tax exemption or credits and we can’t claim non-dom status or park anything overseas to avoid tax. We’ve declared our child benefit so we’re not paid that. We’re not self-employed so we can’t claim our computers or phones or stationery or travel costs on expenses. So we are obliged to pay it. When the rate rose from 40p to 50p, it had a huge impact on us. Cutting it to 45p was not just a tax cut for millionaires. No Mr. Balls, I don’t care for your spiteful tone.

Haha, you might think. Serves you right, you rich b******s. Plenty of people openly express this view. As if we should somehow be sorry for doing well after honest hard work. I’d like so see whether people would be so sanguine if their own tax rate had risen by 25% overnight. Even if the basic tax rate rose 1p to 21p, there would be howls of protest. Generally everyone wants everyone else to pay without wanting to forego anything themselves. Of course, people always bring up JK Rowling, who is publicly very happy to pay 45% or even 50% on her vast income to pay back the State that supported her when she was an unemployed person penning Harry Potter in a cafe somewhere. Fine. Good for her and good luck to her. But actually it’s more affordable and easier to say if you are a billionaire and have more money than you could ever spend.

There are all sorts of things going around about tax avoidance, which is legal. Some of the stories seem obscene. But I wonder if the people baying for their blood have pensions or ISAs? Do they pay their cleaner in cash to avoid NI contributions and the charges related to employing someone? Do they pay builders in cash to avoid paying 20% VAT? If they’re self employed, do they make sure they declare every single cash transaction? Really?

I know this is not the same thing as billionaires shipping their money offshore to avoid tax but I think very few people would not take advantage of the system that exists to do this, were they in that position. The accountancy profession has been established on this whole premise. As usual, it’s very easy to point an accusing finger at someone else. How subjective morality can be! Fair is a subjective term, I find.

A little bit of politics there, Ladies and Gentlemen.

 

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Sacré bleu!

Merde!

Merde!

Bromley hosted a continental market on Thursday from which I bought some delicious Italian nougat and sniffed the cheeses at a French cheese stall. Yesterday, I drove past this sad sight in Valley Road.

 

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Chanel Vitalumière Aqua Loose Powder Foundation

A fan of both of the other Vitalumière formulations, I like this very much. I keep it in my gym bag. The packaging, with the little Kabuki brush that comes in the packet is cute. It’s not as messy as liquid foundation that I usually use. You tip the tub upside down and it dispenses the right amount of mineral powder for you to pick up with the brush and swirl over your face.

I don’t know how Chanel can tell it’s the right amount for everyone’s face. I have a small currant bun face and it’s fine for me but what if your face is long and large like a horse’s (and any number of those posh counties people with whom I went to University?) What then, eh Chanel?

I digress though. The powder is surprisingly not as matt as you’d think and not drying. This is probably something to do with applying primer first, but it does stay on all day and gives a natural finish. I wouldn’t say it’s enough coverage for formal but it’s fine for normal. I might, in fact, use it as barely there make-up in summer but, ah, that brings me to the one reason why I’d probably not buy this make-up again: the limited colour range.

Chanel make it in five shades and I’m currently using the very darkest they offer: No 50. Which still makes me looks slightly pale. Now is about the fairest my complexion gets so unless they expand their range, it won’t be suitable come April when I have acquired some colour despite my factor 30 sun block. The shades also have a slightly pinker base than some of the other Vitalumière foundations so the undertone is not completely suitable for my complexion. Whilst this isn’t disastrous at this time of year, it isn’t quite perfect. Which is a pity.

 

 

The art of concealment

The art of concealment

This week has been a little epic, hasn’t it?  In the final week of January I’ve gone from breastfeeding to periods to a grumpy moan to dizzy spells. To round it off then, I’m finally bringing you a post that I’ve been working on for some time about cosmetics that hide the late nights of wine or worry and can make the difference between feeling world-worn and feeling wonderful. Am I overstating that? Well, perhaps a little. But you know how I feel about best foot forward.

 

The ones that suit me best.

The ones that suit me best.

 

I am blessed with rather young-looking skin. Perhaps it’s having such a balloon-shaped face that tends to keep me looking younger than I am or perhaps it’s the oily skin that I saw as such a curse until well into my twenties that has lubricated my skin so well that it hasn’t really wrinkled so far. With the help of my beloved L’ Occitane Divine range generally, I’d say I look younger than nearly fifty.

With the exception of the area beneath my eyes. I have shadowy patches under my eyes that are exacerbated by my faded grey skin at this time of year. A little bit of sun often takes about 10 years off me and that’s why I find the undereye area so enraging.

Everyone looks better with concealer,” says make-up guru Sali Hughes.

I find this not strictly true. Maybe it’s the way I apply my make-up but I often look WORSE with concealer, which is why I’ve had to buy and try so many over the years. I might finally have found my holy grail of concealers though and I’m really excited about it.

Waste not want not, though. Here’s what I think of all of the concealers I’ve tried.

First off Bobbi Brown’s Creamy Concealer. I find this settles into the lines under my eyes. It isn’t creamy enough and fades during the day. It IS years since I’ve used it though, and I can’t help wondering what it would look like if I used it properly, as I always do under make-up these days.

Bobbi Brown assistants like to sell their Corrector as well as their concealer. The colour they recommended for me was Bisque – in the summer, anyway –  and they also recommend using pale yellow powder to set the concealer. Whilst this is probably what make-up artists do, It’s probably a bit of a faff for us mere mortals first thing in the morning and another reason not to buy the product.

Chanel Corrector Perfection: Generally I like this one. I like all Chanel products which, though expensive work well in terms of staying power. My beef with this concealer is that it doesn’t last long on the skin and, being packaged in a tube with a sponge applicator, the screw top bit becomes messily clogged with product very quickly and then starts to come off all over the make up drawer. I use Shade 40, in case you’re interested.

Chanel Lift Lumière concealer: utter disappointment. The too-sheer liquid texture did not cover at all and was very expensive.

Chanel Eclat Lumière Highlighter: I have this in my gym bag and it’s better than nothing. It’s apparently Chanel’s answer to the YSL Touche Eclat and does brighten the undereye area but it doesn’t really conceal.

Benefit Boing: No. I don’t like this. It settles into my lines and cakes and doesn’t last. And you have to set it with that white setting power that looks disconcertingly like some sort of A class controlled substance, which might raise some questions if you’re travelling.

Hourglass Hidden Corrective Concealer: very expensive and too creamy for the undereye area. Maybe it was the colour I chose but it settled into my fine lines and made me look older and greyer. HOWEVER, this is probably my concealer of choice for hyperpigmentation spots on the rest of the face. I’ve grown to love this used in this way and probably wouldn’t want to be without it now. I use shade Tan but I bought it online so I’m not sure if there might be an better shade for me.

Laura Mercier Secret Camouflage: Maybe they gave me the wrong colourway for this as I find it both too orange and too grey – each compact has two shades. It’s fairly stiff to apply with a brush and I found that it didn’t deal well with my hyper-pigmentation patches. Nope.

Dr N Perricone: No Concealer Concealer. Well, if this is the version for darker skins, I can only speculate on the shade of the paler-toned version. It clogs, it cakes, and it’s far too light. Not for me.

Mac Pro Longwear Concealer: Now, I do like this but I think the counter assistants thought I needed some extra help with brightening around my eyes as I had a nasty cold that day and I’d been waiting outside the Indian High Commission since 6am to apply for my Overseas Citizenship of India. This is generally good and lasts a long time but I’m not convinced I’ve got exactly the right shade for me. Certainly one of the better ones, though, I’d say.

Nars Radiant Creamy Concealer. I think this is THE ONE. Certainly until a better one comes along. In a stick bottle with a sponge hoof applicator, it blends incredibly easily into my skin with a concealer brush. I guess Ginger must be my colour as it seems to eliminate any under eye greyness and lasts….

So there you are. My favourites are the Nars and the Hourglass, with the Chanel and the Mac (in the correct shade) in the running there too. Just because they suit me, they might not suit your skin tone or the texture of your complexion. For this reason, buying concealers and foundations online unless you know your exact colour, is a silly idea. Even if you do, it’s always worth dropping by the counter to check, especially if, like mine, your face has a tendency to go through a range of colours with the changes of the seasons.

It’s always worth trying lots of different ones to see what’t the best for you and keeping an eye out for new cosmetics developments. It’s expensive though, so it’s worth asking the sales assistants for tester pots but not all brands will oblige. Herewith concludes my concealer odyssey. An opportunity for decluttering now presents itself.

 

***post not at all sponsored***

On the Mumbai seafront

On the Mumbai seafront

When I’m in Mumbai, I like to stay at the Trident Hotel, a rather unsightly edifice that occupies a prime position on the Marine Drive seafront at Nariman Point.

I originally came here because it was very handy for the law firm over the road which helped me with all those knotty bureaucratic visa issues, and it’s a short taxi ride away from the Foreigners’ Registration Office where, in August, I begged the officials there to hand over my mother’s Overseas Citizenship card. Her visa had already expired so the situation was rather urgent. Incidentally, here is the rather apt photo on the wall in that office. I’ve gazed at this for ages, whilst identifying very strongly with this woman:

 

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Now that I’m no longer tussling with bureaucracy, I’ve no real justification for staying at the Trident. Logically, I should stay at one of the hotels near the airport in the Northern part of the city, not too far from the start of the Mumbai-Pune expressway, the road that takes me towards my mum, but I prefer the longer drive through the city, past the hideous Ambani mansion, to the Trident. Are you familiar with the Ambani mansion? I’ve heard it’s the largest, most expensive private dwelling in the world:

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But I like the atmosphere here. It reminds me of a man who’s perfectly turned out in dinner suit; dress shirt; perfectly tied bow tie; patent shoes and bright yellow socks. It’s shiny and clean with just the right amount of endearing shambolicness. The staff are so endearing and friendly and now greet me like an ild friend. The food is great and they proudly play bee-bop in the restaurant.

Plus I can take photos like this at the Trident:

 

Nodding off now, so that’s all from me for now.

 

***post not sponsored***

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