About Jackie Annesley

Posts by Jackie Annesley

Cool To Be Kind

be-kind-by-jackie-annesley

The place was rammed.

Friday night,  late November, a gallery on Duke Street in St James, central London. Inside home counties couples and groups of W11 women shuffled through the small space, straining to see every drawing covering the walls of both rooms. The objects of their gaze were anthropomorphic sketches of a horse, a mole and a fox, plus a young boy and girl, in the breezy ink-on-paper style of artist E H Shepard’s Winnie the Pooh.

One of them portrayed the boy and the mole on the bough of a tree. “What’s your favourite thing about the horse?” asks the mole.  “His power? His wisdom? His beauty?”

“He is kind,” said the boy.

In another, the mole tells the boy:  “We often wait for kindness, but being kind to yourself can start now”.

The artist Charlie Mackesy,  better known for his sculptures and lithographs, stood behind the counter looking bemused at both the volume of people and sales. He later posted on Instagram – 115k followers and rapidly rising – that he wasn’t ready “for so many tears. Particularly men’s tears.”

These were men dressed like barristers and bankers and who could drop £3,000 for an original drawing with an accompanying truism about life beyond capitalism, Trump and Brexit. For £100, I chose a print that said: “What do you think success is?” asked the boy.  “To love,”  said the mole.  For one of the teens, I thought. If only someone had gifted that to every young baby boomer, perhaps we wouldn’t be in this global holy mess.

Luckily, the call to kindness seems to be gathering pace. The Mackesy exhibition (which has since led to a book deal) had come just a few weeks after fashion company The Vampire’s Wife posted a poem entitled Kindness by Naomi Shihab Nye. Only true sociopaths (quite a few out there, mind) won’t feel moved by its introductory verse:

“Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.”

Losing things and finding ourselves in a desolate landscape – who hasn’t been there? It’s where crumbs of kindness are devoured. Which is probably why last year’s bestseller The Language of Kindness by Chrissie Watson, the memoir of an NHS nurse, sparked a 14-way bidding war between publishers and is being turned into TV drama.

I reviewed it for the Sunday Times when it came out,  writing:

“Who knew nurses prepared the bodies of those who died on their wards, massaging the grey skin of a drowned six year old with baby lotion in readiness for the grieving family. Watson’s final duty? To brush the little girl’s teeth with her dinosaur toothbrush and toothpaste ‘until I smell nothing but bubble gum’.”

In her acknowledgements, the saintly Watson thanks her patients: “What an extraordinary privilege it was to be your nurse”,  and yet the privilege was surely theirs too. God knows the world needs more Nurse Watsons.

Actually we are genetically wired to be kind. In The Little Book of Kindness, out last month, David R. Hamilton lays out the scientific evidence in favour of popping round to see that elderly neighbour or surprising your partner by picking him/her up from the station in the pouring rain.  Page 17 is divided into two parts: What Stress Does and What Kindness Does. He has zero good things to say,  obvs, about stress.

But kindness? It reduces blood pressure, protects the heart (perfect synergy), boosts the immune system, relaxes the nervous system, reduces inflammation and can be an antidote to depression. Beats all those drugs. Apparently it even slows the ageing process.

So physically this kindness shtick is a no-brainer.  But how exactly does it benefit our personal relationships, always a thorny work-in-progress? It was the Roman philosopher-emperor Marcus Aurelius who said  kindness is mankind’s “greatest delight,”  and many a scientist has set out to prove just that, most notably American psychologist John Gottman. In 1986, he co-founded The Love Lab (I mean, fab name) and for  the past four decades has studied thousands of couples in a quest to figure out what makes relationships work. As the guru of divorce prediction and marital stability,  Gottman divides us all up into Masters and Disasters.

Exactly what I was thinking – which are you?

The Masters scan their social environment for things they can appreciate and say thank you for. They purposefully build this culture of respect and appreciation. Disasters scan for partners’ mistakes. Even if talking about mundane events, their bodies are in fight or flight mode, preparing to attack and be attacked. Disasters deliberately ignore, or continually criticise their partner’s style or choices and kill the love in the relationship by making the other person feel invisible.

Gottman’s extensive research concluded that kindness glues couples together, making them feel cared for, understood and validated. By the way this is a man who at  76  is on his third wife Julie, whom he has been with for more than 30 years, so you can only presume that he’s become of Master of what he preaches.

This June another psychology professor – Jamil Zaki from Stanford University – launches his scientific take on empathy with the release of The War for Kindness. In an age of rampant tribalism and a divided Britain, Zaki argues that empathy is  like a muscle – a skill we can all strengthen with a daily workout. I totally agree with this – when I found myself cast into a desolate landscape a few years ago, I got the kindest message from a former colleague not exactly known for her empathy. It was so unexpected I still think about it, and her, most weeks. Life changes people, often for the better. In his forthcoming book, Zaki tells the story of a former neo-Nazi who is now helping extract people from hate groups, as well as US police officers who are changing their culture to decrease violence among their ranks. “An inspiring call to action” says the publicity blurb.

Shoot me if I sound straight out of Private Eye’s Pseud’s Corner but my favourite message of all comes in the final line of Naomi Shihab Nye poem. It is, she writes, only kindness that makes any sense amid all this madness.

“…
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend.”

The boy, the girl, the mole, the horse and the fox would surely agree.

The Kitten, The Vet And The Pet That Made Our Family Happier

Stethescope

“So she’s … dead?”

The young Australian vet looked at me with red eyes. “I’ve never had this happen to me before,” he half whispered, as if reading my look of alarm.

A silence hung between us as we sat  facing each other on fake leather chairs. Only one question ran screaming round my brain: “What the hell am I going to tell the children?”

Eventually I asked to see her and we trooped downstairs to the operating theatre.  “Fluffy Offenbach” (don’t ask) was written on a marker board outside, among a list of operations that day. At six months, she was down to be spayed, a supposedly simple ten minute operation. Or not. She lay under an old blanket, with her head and paws poking out.  Like all the world’s deceased, she appeared shrunken.  I stroked her head like I’d done a hundred  times, the fur still soft but her body now cool. A post mortem by the Royal Veterinary College would later reveal, for a sum of £400, precisely nothing.  “Allergic to anaesthetic” was the only proffered explanation.

I was genuinely surprised how devastated I felt.

In my lifetime I’d lost both parents within ten days of each other and a close friend who was barely 40. That was it. And yet, this felt just as painful.

To explain, let me backtrack.

As a family, we didn’t really do pets. Growing up the Middle East I had a feral cat called Tiger who’d deposit mice on our pillows. When thoughts turned to fury friends on acquiring a family of my own, it turned out my husband was allergic to moggies. Dogs? Out of the question, as they needed as much looking after as a baby, three of which I already possessed.

The children were fobbed off with hamsters Monty and Roderick, followed by Rosie the budgie. All met a swift ending at the hands of said small people.

The clamour for a ‘proper pet’ began again when they were teens, and ended last summer with us knocking on the door of a terrace in Hounslow, where a Russian breeder presented a litter of six week old pedigree Siberian Forest kittens. The husband rolled around with them without a hint of a sneeze. We’d found the answer.

Another six weeks later and for an obscene amount of money (£900) our feline teen was welcomed into a household of both raging and dying hormones.

Marl grey, long-tailed, green-eyed and as soft as down, she set about stealing all our hearts.

At 6.30 am she was all mine, curling up on my lap as I drank tea and watched the dawn. At 4 pm, she ensured our 14 year old never came home to an empty house. On the weekends, she reposed, purring, on my husbands chest on the sofa. (“I want nothing to do with this cat” he had previously proclaimed. Now? Putty.) She became the perfect nocturnal plaything for the elder teens who hibernated in their rooms with friends doing heaven-knows-what. To lure them out, once a mammoth task of shouting up the stairs and unanswered texts, now all I had to do now was kidnap this ball of fur.

My sister, owner of Betty and Lily, explained: “The cats are the one thing we don’t argue about. They are like glue in a family – no-one dislikes them.’

And then the vet went and killed ours.

We packed up her toys, washed out her litter tray and cried many tears. The house appeared depleted.

To be honest I’d always found “cat person” a pejorative term, invariably applied to tricky women. But I totally get it now.

They are usually low maintenance providers of unconditional love,  affection and acceptance, with numerous studies proving they counter feelings of worry, distress and loneliness. Certainly the happiness index of our family had risen exponentially.

We needed a Fluffy doppelgänger and pronto.

Within two weeks I’d found another Siberian on the internet, inconveniently residing in Barcelona (they are not easy to find).  We FaceTimed the breeders, cooed over Sky the tabby kitten, paid even more obscene sums and the following Saturday waited in the back streets of Kings Cross for her and her blue EU pet passport to be delivered from the back of a black Mercedes Benz van.

Did I mention we’ve never had much luck with pets?

Within 36 hours our four month old kitten was at the vets (a different one) suffering from an upper respiratory infection. “Is she going to die?” I solemnly asked the elderly man with the rheumy eyes who’d cared for local pets for more than 40 years.  “No,” he said.  And he was right.

Sky very much lives, but who knew cats were such mercurial characters, even among their own breed? More catch-me-if-you-can than love-me-do, she isn’t quite the Fluffy replacement I’d imagined.

She remains, nevertheless, beguiling. We find her leonine stalking and pouncing around the garden as transfixing as any Attenborough wildlife programme. Her favourite game is to pull off a piece of ribbon I’ve draped over the apple tree and race back to me in the kitchen with it between her bared teeth. Like a dog. As I write she’s studiously trying to catch raindrops lashing the other side of the kitchen window. It’s like having an amusingly clever toddler in the house.

More importantly the teens adore her, mostly because she takes turns sleeping with them. If you catch her dozing and manage to pull her onto your lap, all that stroking and subsequent purring is positively meditative and distracts us all away from our pernicious screens.

It was the cat-loving French novelist Colette (whose life is currently depicted in a film out now starring Keira Knightly) who decreed: “Time spent with cats is never wasted.”

Agreed.

Six months on and two kittens later, I have transmogrified (lol) into a ‘cat person’. Although when it comes to famous cat quotes, I still aspire to this from Charles Dickens: “What greater gift than the love of a cat?”

Indeed.

Sky, listen up babe. I really appreciate your unifying effect on the family. But I’m still waiting for you to hop on my lap unprompted.

The Fifty-Somethings Guide To Party Season Make-Up

multiple spaced out fake eyelashes on a pink background

I found a picture of myself the other day on a random iCloud app on my phone. (You know that thing you pay Apple for monthly and you haven’t really a clue what it’s for.) It was among loads of old pap pictures of my former VIP life but this one really stood out for its extreme hideousness. The ‘look’ was for a party in Manchester that Style was co-hosting a few years ago and I remember some lovely girl spending at least 75 minutes achieving it in a darkened hotel room.

Where to start? There was a thick heavy foundation, brown glittery shadow that mutated over and under my eye sockets, heavy black eyeliner, spidery false eyelashes and Groucho Marx eyebrows. But the best (worse) of all was the white, shiny highlighter dolloped on my cheeks, chin and nose (HELLO nose!) which illuminated every-single-sodding-line around my eyes.

When I beamed, the general effect was akin to glistening tributaries of the Okavango Delta. Selena Gomez had a not dissimilar highlighter and bronzing fail at this year’s Met Ball, so your ovaries don’t have to have packed up to succumb to this one. Approach that white shine with caution.

So what else should we of a mature disposition need to both avoid and embrace during this party season? I first asked my younger friends at The Midult as they have recently launched a beauty podcast called “I’m Absolutely fine!” (ie: not), which looks at the glamour and indignity of being a grown-up, while also dispensing indispensable beauty tips. Emilie McMeekan’s biggest make-up fail was to embrace frosted lipstick (I see a theme here) and a snowstorm of Clinique powder. Even at the age of 15 , it made her skin “look like a dried out river bed”. She didn’t wear make-up again until her wedding day and now sticks with Sarah Chapman tinted moisturiser, Hourglass extreme mascara and a swipe of Bobbi Brown’s eyeshadow stick.

Hands up, I never thought I’d get make-up lessons from the lovely Emilie, who is usually as fresh-faced as a peach. But her recommendation of that Hourglass mascara also kept popping up with my fifty something friends. Hourglass Caution Extreme Lash Mascara, to give it its full name (I mean great name guys), is the fail-safe product that Audrey, interior designer extraordinaire, always keeps in her bag.

Would she go one step further and apply false lashes for spesh occasions? “I can’t put them on myself” she admits, and she’s not the only one. Chandrima, dexterous enough to persuade a baby out of your body, is another falsie refusenik. “They end up wonky and down my face. Like an unruly (tame) pet spider.”

Of course there is always the odd-one-out in a girl group and the fabulous Charlotte breaks all the rules. She reminded us of the evening she stuck falsies on, with a diamanté KISS written on one and a diamanté ME on the other. “Never had such a fun night out.” Respect.

But where should most sane people draw the line when it comes to party make-up? As a reporter in Australia in the 80s, I once interviewed Tyen, Dior’s creative director of cosmetics. He was to stay with the company for more than 30 years (unheard of these days) and I’ll never forget asking him which three cosmetics every woman should own. Only two, he said – lipstick and powder.

Lipstick agreed, but the powder was interesting (well it was the eighties) because it’s now considered the enemy to those of a wrinkly disposition. Unless you have the dewy complexion of a teen model, just lightly brush your t-zone and eyes to set your make-up, then step away.

But Tyen wasn’t wrong when it came to less is more. Most cool-looking older women I asked stuck to a trio of eyes, face and lips or eyes, face and blush – the most popular being mascara/eyeliner, lipstick and base/tinted moisturiser. Heavy eye, heavy lips and heavy blush pushes you into RuPaul territory. Always avoid shimmery eyeshadow – has the same magnifying effect on wrinkles as high lighter. And generally keep your look soft – your heavy black eyeliner Goth years are ova girl, as is your flirtation with rainbow-coloured palettes. Go for smudgy browns and dark brown mascara applied to the top lashes only to widen your eyes.

One last thing – don’t forget that light, liquid concealer. It’s great for toning down redness and covering dark circles and brown patches. Clarins Instant Concealer is apparently brilliant for dry skin. (I’m coming for you just as soon as I get paid).

On the topic of great recommendations, I’ll leave you with a final quote from Leigh, my Costco-shopping cohort and all round favourite person.

“I’m shit with make-up. Am buying everything everyone’s suggested,” she posted on our Girls Night Out WhatsApp.  Which should remind us that new cosmetic brands are ephemeral, sweet-like treats for the post menopausal generation. To be played with, tested and routinely updated. Just walk away from that blue eyeshadow.

Avoid

  1. Applying false eyelashes with failing sight – the potential for disaster is endless.
  2. Pearly, shiny, glittery anything. Once applied, screams: “Just look here at these giant skin fissures!”
  3. Heavy blusher – you could be five brush strokes away from impersonating Aunt Sally from Worzel Gummidge.
  4. More than 20 mins in the chair with a professional make-up artist – they’ll just want to keep layering ’til you emerge like someone from RuPaul’s Drag Race.
  5. Eyes, lips and blush. Just pick two for a more youthful look.

Embrace

  1. A demon mascara – Hourglass seems to win out if you’re cashed up, while Maybelline’s classic pink and green Great Lash Mascara for a fiver does it for me. (And while you can get away with cheap mascara, cheap eyeliner is akin to using a Crayola. Desist.)
  2. Friends’ tried and tested recommendations. Especially for eyebrows – vital as you get older for framing the face. (Dyeing them mid-light brown is my recommendation – colouring them in badly is potentially comical).
  3. A light, dewy foundation with SPF for workdays, tinted moisturiser when you’re at ease. (If you’re ever at ease.)
  4. A good creamy lipstick (and complementary lip liner to hold the wrinkles at bay). I wasted a tenner on a cheap one the other day and it equalled a seriously bad lip day. Also when you find a colour you love, buy a few – it’ll be discontinued before you know it. But upgrade more than you do your partners. Variety/spice etc.
  5. Great looking, hydrated, happy skin. Make-up is just the cherry on top.

Jackie Annesley is the Creative Dirctor of www.sodasays.co.uk selling smart tech to busy women

Beauty Confessions Of A 56 Year Old

ja-september-18

Hello 56, who the hell let you in?

One minute you’re a dimple-cheeked forty something who could get away with being several years younger and the next you mistakenly press FaceTime and this scary apparition is peering down at you – all folded neck and chin and hooded eyes.

What can you do?  Few have the time, money or inclination to spend the next  20 years sealed inside a medi-spa or to be stretched and stitched by some weird-looking dude in Harley Street.  Here’s all I know about looking as good as you can, without being ridiculous.

Most expensive beauty unctions are a waste of money

Gill would agree, which is why she spends so much time weeding out the over-packaged rubbish. Only this week my husband brought me back a “collagen molecular spray” from Milan – he knows of my love for foreign pharmacies – which promised, as ever,  to be ‘anti-ageing’. Of course I’ll spray it around and am grateful for the thought, but it will not make one iota of difference to my skin.

A pot of coconut oil is mostly all you need

It’s the perfect cleanser and make-up remover and costs next-to-nothing.  Massage it into your face while in the bath, then thoroughly wipe off with a wet muslin cloth.  Naturally antibacterial,   it’s also a breath freshener,  body moisturiser,  scrub (just add salt or sugar) and an overnight hair treatment.  NB: Remember to seal the jar well and use a wooden spoon to extract the oil or it could go rancid. PS Do not eat. This stuff is 92% saturated fat.

A half decent moisturiser will do

All moisturisers fundamentally form a barrier on the skin to prevent moisture loss when exposed  to dry air or wind.  Which is why I often prefer more moisturising facial oils, my current companion  being an organic Argan oil for which I was recently royally fleeced in Marrakesh’s medina. In my VIP days,  Sisley moisturisers were a requirement, but nowadays I’ll reach for anything that’s affordable and begins with ‘organic’ or ‘bio’.

Serums can be seriously good

They’re the magic weapon in your beauty armoury.  GOW’s Niacinamide Serum is great for regulating sebum and costs the price of two fancy coffees (£9).  Change it up with  GOW’s Hyaluronic Acid Serum which seems to plump everything. Squirt on after toning (use pure rose water which costs about a fiver from your local chemist) and before moisturising.

Sun = wrinkles

Those with beautiful skin never, ever roast it.  I’ve been a hat and factor 50 wearer ever since a friend got skin cancer in her early 20s. Desist now and ensure your foundation/base/whatevs includes a high SPF.

Facial horticulture is a weekly must

Buy decent tweezers and a magnifying mirror with suction pads.  No-one wants to be that woman with errant waving follicles.

Invest major money in your hair and teeth

Either go au natural grey and channel a fabulous sharp haircut, or find a colourist you love. Shiny, swingy, perfectly tinted hair from Josh Wood is worth forgoing any amount of seasonal fashion fripperies. Ditto get those snaggly teeth sorted – no-one wants Tony Blair’s smile. Also keep up with the hygienist appointments as there’s a halitosis epidemic out there, and nothing screams ‘old’ more than sour breath. Also lightly bleach if you can be bothered. There’s lots of kissing years left.

Hands and necks are a dead giveaway

Do yours now look like they’ve been vacuum sealed with a Hoover nozzle – every blood vessel and sinew on show?  Sadly, zero can be done. Don’t bother with half gloves, a la Madonna and Karl Lagerfeld, but do consider soft turtlenecks or distracting jewellery, a la Anna Wintour.

Parmesan feet suck

I once heard a well-known magazine editor ridiculed for having crusty “Parmesan” heels on the front row. The horror!  It was enough to send me scurrying for my Margaret Dabbs Professional Foot File, which is truly brilliant.

No eyebrow shades of grey

They frame your face, so keep them on fleek. Save yourself the cost and humiliation of sitting in one of those eyebrow bars in Selfridges (where you are bound to see an old boyfriend), and buy yourself a Julienne eyelash and brow tint from the internet. Easy peasy.

Forget Botox and plastic surgery

Do like Anna Murphy in this brilliant read and get over trying to completely change your face – everyone’s used to it by now.  If anything,  get those brown spots zapped off – an unmottled complexion is a younger-looking one.

These pills really do pop

Not a fan of gobbling handfuls of pills but I believe entirely in these four: Turmeric that targets inflammation,  Vitamin D for bones and immunity, Ionicell for great hair and nails and Hyaluronic Acid High Strength because it actually plumps skin from within and it’s Shabir’s favourite.

Try smiling more

Your resting face looks increasingly worse as gravity takes its toll. Just saying.

And finally…

Ask for facials instead of gifts. No-one needs more stuff and they have the added benefit of letting your lie down undisturbed for a least one whole hour.

My go-to are both celeb magnets for a reason. Anastasia Achilleos is a genius who will even massage inside your mouth to get results, and Amanda Lacey’s complexion is a perfect advert for her plant-based range. Anyway I’ve known her since we were both truly young in Sydney in the 1980s, and as author Gertrude Stein once wisely said: “We are always the same age inside”.

Why Is It So Hard To Find The Perfect Nightwear?

embroidered heart

It began with a pair of Ladybird’s, I’m pretty sure of that. In a cosy brushed cotton with little flower motifs. It wasn’t like there was a whole lot of choice back then – I mean are they even still around, Ladybird?

Google says yes and there they are, £7.20 at Mothercare. In fact the brand that first appeared on UK rails in 1938 is now owned by Shop Direct, the UK’s largest online retailer.  It survived the retail armageddon and is now the third largest kidswear brand in the UK, with a growing market share of 5%.

Seriously, who knew?

Boarding school at 11 meant progressing onto regulation winceyette nighties from M & S.  This was a Catholic convent and girls didn’t usually wear PJs in the 70s,  gender stereotyping being still mandatory back then. Here I really need to give you a bit of a history of ‘winceyette’ because it was one of my mother’s favourite words, along with ‘Axminster’ carpets, both of which occupy the part of my brain where Horlicks, Angel Delight and Top of the Pops reside.

Traditionally, winceyette is a cotton fabric made from a twill weave, with a design similar to flannel only slightly thinner and more breathable. For those familiar with weaving (yep, no-one), the weft is closer than the warp.  So, that’s winceyette, which along with collywobbles, it’s probably one of the best  British words ever.

But the perfect fabric for nightwear? Maybe as a child in the perma-frost that was 70s central heating, but it was neither attractive nor stylish. (Fortunately teens had little idea of either concepts back then.)

Throughout my twenties I travelled the world and can’t remember ever wearing anything in bed beyond a succession of t-shirts. Maybe even the odd boyfriend’s shirt, the operative word being odd. These were the days well before Netflix and chill and loungewear was unheard of.

It wasn’t until my wedding night in my 30s that I invested in a sheer back spaghetti-strapped night slip from Fenwicks, which at about three in the morning I remember being absolutely determined to get into.  I’m looking at it right now and has a definite baby doll aura to it.  As such it usually reposes in the nothing-within-is-ever-worn drawer, next to two Hermes silk scarves and some dodgy patterned tights. The label says “Only Hearts N.Y.C. Helena Stuart”. A quick look on the internet and it appears they have gone out of business, natch.

The baby doll moment heralded a long decline into voluminous, cosy pyjamas as the child-rearing years beckoned and were spent reposing in bed or reclined on the sofa.  I was never a fan of nighties – they invariably ended up round your armpits in the middle of the night, and not in a good way. Or made you channel Cherie Blair the-morning-after-the-Labour-victory-the-night -before in 1997, when she famously opened the door in her blue Next nightie and knobbly knees.

Earlier generations obviously wore nothing else. When my mother died, I found a long handmade nightdress I initially presumed had been sewn by my grandmother. On reflection, it was probably the work of her seamstress.  Mary was the eldest of eight from an Irish family and by the time she married, she was so done with domesticity that she only had one child and promptly fled to India and a house full of servants. This solitary family heirloom, (all her jewellery was stolen in the 80s) which I have also unearthed, still smells of that Victorian cure-all, camphor oil. It is made of the palest cream silk with a lattice of embroidery on the bodice (fagotting to those in the know), and a tiny heart-shaped pocket on the left hip. Every single seam is delicately hand sewn, a eulogy to an age when nightwear was treasured and not worn as flotsam to shop in at Tesco’s. I have never dared put it on and darkly fantasise about one day being buried in it.

Which is not to say I haven’t had some success with recycling long-lost nightwear. For the birth our first child, I took a massive pair of white linen jimmy-jams from the Italian label 120% Lino into hospital and found them again only recently, 18 years on. A new length elastic around the waistband, a 90 degree  wash and they’re as good as new. Flattering? Not so much, as I’m about two stone lighter.

For a few years, I quite liked my pink flannelettes from The White Company before they suddenly turned shrunken and hard. Then there were the brown silky pjs that had weird fastenings. A pair of DKNY grey brushed cotton ones from Costco (£13) last winter are super comfy but the trousers end halfway up my shins, and not in a cool, cropped way.

Less practical but more stylish are my Olivia von Halle navy blue heavy silk pyjamas, which I was persuaded to fork out £150 for (which included a 50% discount) during my foray on Planet Fashion. Yet they are cut so slim across the back that the silk has been stretched and I hardly wear them any more in case one final midnight toss-and-turn will precipitate a rip. For wafting around posh hotels only.

This week, one of my favourite bloggers and fellow journalist Esther Coren, also on a quest for the perfect pyjamas, highlighted a great-looking pair from Jigsaw – random, no? – and only £45.  Navy, fave colour, a bit of piping, cropped in a good way and roomy.

But could they handle these now warm summer nights? A recent buy from Zara Home of a shirt/shorts PJ combo erred on the decidedly damp side come morning.

When it’s really hot or on our annual sojourn down to the Gulf of Mexico, I reach for a couple of eberjey bamboo viscose nighties my sister-in-law introduced me to. They’re slightly too short and have the riding up problem, but stick them on some tanned legs and there’s a flatteringly cool LA feel about them.

Most likely to actually keep you looking and feeling cool is a new brand called Cucumber with high tech fabric that wicks away moisture and lasts six times longer than cotton. I’ve yet to try them but they have the Lisa Armstrong seal of approval and come navy and cropped.  Win, win. (I do have their matching sleep mask  which is the best £20 I’ve spent this year).

Short of ever finding the perfect nightwear, my dream scenario would be to live in the tropics and spend nights between 400 plus thread count sheets and nothing else. If our bedroom wasn’t at the back of a draughty Victorian terrace with a 20 foot pitch ceiling, I would. Because there is something wholly luxurious about lying between heavenly fabric ironed to within an inch of its life.

A quest for the perfect bedlinen, you say?  Don’t get me started…

Jackie Annesley is Creative Director of SODA, which sells cool tech stuff that works. 

Dear iPhone, You Are Seriously Annoying

red apple core

Dear iPhone.

I used to quite like you.

When you were really new, all rose gold and box fresh, a 6S Plus in full working order with a massive 128GB of memory. Which wasn’t that long ago in the great trajectory of life. Only 25 months to be exact. If you were a truculent toddler, you’d still be in nappies.

But you’re not. You have become a really annoying pocket computer with a truculent battery (among many other things). It’s the very worst of combinations.

I have to tell you there was a time when man used to make machines to last. My grandmother had a Hoover which I swear was working perfectly 25 years in. My mother inherited it and I can see it now standing proud under the stairs. It had a simple motor that sucked dust into a bag. Job done.

These days those Apple engineers in Cupertino, California design computers like you that have the lifespan of a mayfly. Built-in obsolescence, it’s called. Who knew that a trick hatched on December 23rd, 1924 by a cartel of lightbulb manufacturers to cut the lifespan of an incandescent light bulb from 2,000 hours down to just 1,000 in a bid to boost profits would still be legally adopted by so many businesses almost 100 years later?

Longevity was never part of your DNA my friend, and knowing your demise had something to do with downloading the latest iOS software, I studiously rejected your persistent calls to “install now” the software update. For months and months. Then standing in the cinema queue recently without my glasses, an erroneous tap resulted in that single white line eating its way across a black screen – like a flat-lining cardio monitor heralding death.

The die was cast.

Fully charged at 6am, you used to be out of puff by 2pm. Now it’s 10.28am. Copy gets locked on horizontal mode. Apps refuse to open. Everything sticks. Especially the home button. Tapping the screen becomes a bad-tempered jab.

Your bosses were finally forced to admit the truth last December. Announcing it had been deliberately slowing down iPhones in order to “preserve battery life” and give us “a better user experience” (I mean who writes this giberrish?), Apple apologised for not telling us all sooner.

So its software “upgrades” had indeed been sabotaging the likes of you for years, mildly anaesthetizing every iPhone and iPad except the very latest model.

Seriously, it’s not like Apple is exactly strapped for cash.

A few months ago it posted record quarterly revenues – £61.9 billion with a capital B, up from £55 billion in the same period last year. As the high street dies (something else you’re not entirely blameless for), Apple stores blossom like Japanese knotweed. Boy have you lot come a long way since co-founder Steve Jobs set up Apple Computer Inc in 1976 in the garage of his childhood home.

There are now more than 1.3 billion of us Apple addicts around the globe, plus millions more who regularly get that “Your invoice from Apple” for various apps and music services. I pay a monthly £2.99 for “upgraded Apple storage” for literally I don’t know what. (Honestly, must cancel, pronto).

In the age of plastic-free Fridays, the world according to David Attenborough demands better sustainability and more transparency from the most valuable company on planet Earth and the most successful of the tech titans in the FANG gang – Facebook, Apple, Netflix and Google. Instead of conning us with petty tricks, your name should be leading the way in making less disposable, more enduringly green machines.

It was your old boss Steve Jobs who once said: “My favourite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.” This is undoubtedly true, although I’m not sure I believe him, given his avaricious obsolescence legacy.

Clearly, I’d like to spend less time fiddling with you, my obstreperous iPhone 6s, and more time fulfilling IRL long-held travel fantasies and the like.

A new battery – free to those within warranty, cheap at £25 to the rest off us – was subsequently promised by Apple to all owners of the iPhone 6 and more modern models  throughout 2018, no questions asked. At the time it said: “We are able to do the work we love only because of your faith and support – and we will never forget that or take it for granted.”

Obviously it has now both forgotten our faith and support and taken it for granted.

Because earlier last month (subs: early May) BBC’s Watchdog revealed that Apple’s “no questions asked” policy translated into squeezing customers for inconsequential repairs, charging them up to ten times the cost of the new £25 battery, before it considered honouring the replacement. For minor transgressions like a cracked screen which it says might “impair the battery replacement”. One viewer reported Apple insisted he pay £200 to fix a dent in the chassis before it would replace the battery.

Never mind taking our faith for granted, that sounds like fraud to me. When I went online and asked for my £25 new battery, they trotted out the same line: “If there are cracked screens or other damage that may affect the functioning of a new battery they are required to fix it”.

I’d take you in for a refit myself if I didn’t think I’d be stung in the same manner as our French intern. She  returned a brand-new £1,249 MacBook Pro which had developed dents on the hinges, only to be told she’d opened the lid too far and that would be another £380, thank you very much.

She paid up but her fellow countrymen are having none of these Cupertino capers.

Earlier this year the French government opened a fraud case into Apple’s ‘planned obsolescence’ which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison and up to five per cent of a company’s annual turnover. It’s also facing eight lawsuits in California, New York and Illinois over the concerns.

Our laws are a bit more rubbish over here, so for the moment I’m stuck with you. Until I get a lottery win or a random tax return.

But I certainly can’t pretend to like you anymore.