About Jackie Annesley

Posts by Jackie Annesley

I Come from a Different World

Retro telephone on table in front mint green background

When I was growing up in the Sixties, we had a black bakelite telephone in the corner of the living room.  It had its own allocated table and chair, because that’s where you went for a quiet chat.

This heavy little piece of tech was first introduced by Ericsson in 1931,  so it wasn’t exactly the latest accessory, even back then.  Life was slower and people didn’t “switch things up” on the interiors front so much.  Still, I loved the weight of it in my hands and the smooth curve of its cupped mouthpiece.  There was the thrill of its metallic ringtone, my mother hollering, “It’s for you!’ and the hours spent whispering into it.  I see you can buy them now on eBay for about £170, not that we even have a home phone connection any more.  That went about five years ago.

I come from a different world – not necessarily better, just different – and without wanting to sound like an irascible OK Boomer, some days I miss it.

I miss the bizarre glamour of smoking on planes,  the cathartic tap-tap-tap of a typewriter and the satisfying clunk of pushing another few shillings into a payphone. I especially miss reversing the charges on a phone call – and even just talking to an operator. “Hello Operator!  I’d like to make a reverse charge call!”  Now more than ever in the age of coronavirus,  all human interaction with strangers is funnelled into a brief greeting to delivery drivers.

Nostalgia usually only hits us in midlife, with the benefit of perspective.  Trapped in our homes, we have even more time to stare at the faces looking out at us from our picture frames, to go through albums,  to clear out cupboards and connect with the past.

So much has changed. Read More…

Blowing Hot and Cold 

Hot and Cold Tap heads cross design with chrome

“On the off-chance that anyone fancies a cold dip and hot sauna after, bring towel and swimmers” emailed my yoga instructor, two days before Christmas.

With cabin fever already beckoning,  I dug out my least awful swimsuit without giving the cold/hot message too much thought.  Until  I arrived at the local unheated lido to see that the water temperature was six degrees.

Exactly how cold is six degrees Celsius?

I know now that it’s colder than wading into the North Sea any time in March, when the temperature hovers around seven degrees.  I’d once swum off our eastern shoreline in December (when it’s weirdly a few degrees warmer) when I’d  been tasked by the Today newspaper in 1992 with finding Freddie the Dolphin. Injured and hanging out in Amble Harbour, north of Newcastle, he was apparently lonely and up for visitors.  I hired a boat whose skipper gave me a half wetsuit and pushed me into the freezing sea where the photographer kept me for 25 minutes,  first waiting for Freddie to appear from the inky depths (one of the scariest moments of my life) and then while he barked  “smile, smile, smile” while my shaking hands tried to stroke Freddie’s shammy leather back.

My only defence is that it was the Nineties.  Today’s millennials would have flatly refused, citing health and safety regulations. The whole extraordinary episode evidently sharpened my senses, a common side effect of cold water therapy,  because I  recall writing up the piece extremely quickly in a local pub and filing it over the phone.

Anyway, back to the waters of London’s Parliament Hill Lido which on that sunny December morning looked so very blue and so very freezing.  We followed the example of our north European cousins and went into its new sauna first for a quick warm-up, where the temperature was a cosy 80 degrees.  The bodies inside were as pink as newborns and one man was physically shaking, having  just completed twenty lengths in the icy waters of the 60 metre pool.  Mad.

I intended to do no more than jump in and scoot up a steps within seconds.

Geronimo!

The effect on the body of immersing it in freezing water is instantaneous, regardless of how much body fat you hold, and is one of the biggest jolts you can ever give it.   Otherwise known as the cold shock response, cold receptors in your skin are suddenly stimulated, causing an involuntary gasp, several in my case, followed usually by hyperventilation or very rapid breathing.  Your heart rate rapidly shoots up too – so step away anyone with high blood pressure or heart disease – as blood is diverted from extremities to your main internal organs.  Yet after less than ten minutes back in the sauna I wanted to repeat that surge of exhilaration.  So we plunged in one more time and then ran into the changing rooms, savouring that delicious feeling of your blood returning to the outer edges of your body as you warm up.

I felt invincible for the rest of the day and was back for more in the new year.  This time it was busier and everyone in the sauna seemed to be talking about cold water therapy.   Three young women were chatting to ‘James’ about their new addiction.  “I dreamt about it recently,” said one.  “It’s really helping me get over my broken relationship,” confessed another.  All three took cold showers at home (tap water comes out at around seven degrees) which prompted queries from  James about where they got their power showers, obvs, until the conversation switched to cold water therapy podcast recommendations.

I blame Gwyneth Paltrow and Hugh Fearnly-Wittingstall, both of whom have relayed  the wellness benefits of cold water in the last few weeks. Our favourite double-barrelled named chef tried it out on the TV show Easy Ways to Live Well  in a bid to tackle his anxiety.  He joined a group of cold water converts in a painful 4.3 degree lido and in between loud gasps for breath, was the only one screaming: “OH MY GOD this is so unbelievably cold, it’s SO cold”, while a gaggle of 60 year old matrons, casually treading water, giggled from afar.

There was less laughter but better swimwear on display when Gwyneth Paltrow sent her minions out to Lake Tahoe for The Goop Lab’s Cold Comfort episode on Netflix, which also aired in January (BTW you have to watch the one on female orgasms).  Could freezing  water stop their LA whining and general malaise?  With them to the lake went one of the world’s leading cold water protagonists, a Dane called Wim Hof, aka The Iceman.  He looks like the wild man of Borneo and has done some pretty wild things in his time, including running a half marathon on his bare feet in the snow and climbing Mount Everest in his shorts.  Within a few days, his deep breathing technique had turned a bunch of strung-out goopsters into hardy cold water swimmers who barely gasped as they came up from the freezing lake for air.

So how exactly does the cold-water therapy help? TV personality Dr Zoe Williams said on Fearnley-Whittingstall programme: “One way to think of it is that our stress ‘alert system’ has become over-sensitive in today’s world, and a short blast of freezing cold water every morning reminds it what a real threat feels like, and makes those everyday irritabilities less likely to trigger the full stress response.”

My second plunge into the lido, by now a balmy eight degrees in January, saw me jump into the middle of the pool and swim ten metres to the steps. Initially, all I could think of was that frozen water scene in the film Titantic. On the night of the real disaster, the water was something like minus two degrees and Kate Winslet’s Rose would have frozen solid alongside Jack with his memorably blue lips.  But puffing through that ten metre swim to the ladder felt totally doable. In fact I did the hot sauna/cold plunge routine three times and then strode across Hampstead Heath afterwards with wet hair plastered to my head, but feeling like I was luminous. That night I fell asleep instantly and woke up at 5 am instead of the usual 4 am. Result.

Apart from being mood-enhancing, cold water plunging can help achy joints by  constricting blood vessels and reducing inflammation. It also releases brain positive endorphins,  which is good for depressives,  triggers the aforementioned sleep hormones, and there is even talk of it generally making you live longer.  Biologist and Harvard Professor David Sinclair, who looks a very young  51, explains that slowing down the ageing process may be connected with the cold turning bad white fat into good brown fat.

“Specifically, the sirtuin-3 gene gets activated by cold, which promotes the browning of fat, which we believe is good for us.  Brown fat is full of mitochondria that use energy and speeds up the metabolism.”

I am contemplating daily cold showers and in the meantime dunk my head into a sink of cold water after washing my hair in a bid to leave it super shiny. Add that to the cold pool therapy and I’m slowly getting there.

Wim Hof has said:  “At one point the cold will feel just as comfortable as wearing your favourite pyjamas.”

Well, maybe.  I’m just not sure Gill would ever agree.

How To Be Less Miserablist

new-how-to-be-less-miserablist

It had been a while since I’d played this game. Maybe even half a century. It’s nighttime, a comfy 30 degrees and we’re at a party that’s progressed into the pool. I have one foot on someone’s shoulder – David? Thomas? Richard? It’s difficult to distinguish between them as I heave myself into the clutches of Liz who’s waiting for me to complete the human pyramid. Finally I’m up and for a few seconds we are a triangular mass of wobbling post-youth bodies that then crash into the inky water, shrieking like the children we once were.

That was last month at a reunion in Bahrain where we all grew up together in a Californian-styled township in the desert, a story for another day. As these pewter grey November days close in, quick, quick, spit spot – name the last time you really goofed around? Like blaaah, head shaking, arm-waving crazy? See. Long time. Too long.

Yet in these not-so-cheerful times, it turns out George Bernard Shaw was right about fooling around being seriously good for you.“We don’t stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing” wrote the Irish playwright. The benefits? Manifold. Adult play relieves stress, boosts feel-good endorphins, improves brain function, helps relationships, keeps you feeling young and energetic and may even improve your resistance to disease.

In my forsaken executive life of being at my desk at 8am, 10 miles from home, I was deemed “lugubrious” by one of the fashion team. He was right. A tendency towards worry and a diabetic child to keep alive was lethally mixed with fierce weekly deadlines.  Something had to give and for me it was the lightness of being. A later bout of working with optimistic millennials did little to help.

Yet in this of all years, life’s become inestimably brighter, slipping those surly bonds of gloom.

What gave? Frankly even I was bored of having a resting worried face. But the turning point came down to a cat, two yogis, one run and two WhatsApp groups. Mostly the latter.

Sky the Siberian Forest kitten arrived to remind us of the joy of stroking and the fun of felines leaping for ping pong balls.  The last year has been like living with an amusingly furry two year old.

Then there was the physical fillip from a weekly run and two yoga sessions.  Emerging from a cotton cocoon to lollop around Wormwood Scrubs for 5km every Saturday at 9am does not induce laughter – but its after effects do. (News reports last month said one shortish run a week is all it takes to reduce the risk of early death, no matter how slow you go.) Ditto the two £10-a-go weekly yoga sessions that melt calcified fascia, lull the mind and mean you can embrace the freelancer’s 5/2 wardrobe – two whole days of never having to be properly dressed.

But the biggest spike in my annual lol activity came from spending more time, that most illusory commodity, with family and friends generally, and two groups of women specifically.

Here we need clarification – spending time at play is about more than just having fun. Renowned American shrink Stuart Brown has done a rather brilliant Ted talk on the subject, which if you can’t be bothered to watch says this: we need to retain our neoteny. Our what-eny?  Make it your word of the day because it means the “retention of juvenile features in the adult animal”, which translates into keep goofing around throughout your life. Because Brown is clear on one fact  — the opposite of play is depression.

He spent years studying prison inmates and almost every one of them suffered play deprivation as children. They missed out on the give-and-take learning that comes from play. “Normally we play,” says Brown.  “When we don’t, something has gone very, very, wrong, and non-players will suffer a number of effects.” He quotes field biologist Marc Bekoff, a former university professor, who says play is “training for the unexpected”.  Which makes it pretty essential in the sand-shifting era of Trump and Brexit.

Beyond playing the usual array of sports (abandoned tennis racket – one day I will return), the adult play market is now huge business, with the Lego trend a prime example. Last month ‘Build Yourself Happy: The Joy of Lego Play’ was published  as a manual for wellness while at John Lewis you can buy the 5,900 piece adult Lego Taj Mahal for £279.99.

Not for me, but let me tell you about those WhatsApp groups.  The ‘girl’s night’ one began several years ago with eight of us getting together whenever we could agree on a date, but which has progressed to added playtime. There was a recent wine drinking and pottery making evening, a perfect getting-your-hands-dirty combo,  with the resultant crusts of unglazed clay still rattling around in the back of my car.  Next up is a poker night in January with a real live poker teacher who’ll hopefully instruct us on how to arrange our flaccid faces into inscrutable masks. Cannot wait.

Meanwhile, a reunion reconnected me with three of my first friends, the ones I’d grown up with in primary school, had played spin the bottle with as a teenager and fooled around with in swimming pools. We are now scattered across Australia, Florida, London and Portugal but every Saturday sees us together again on a WhatsApp video grid, our latest quest being to learn to virally hoola hoop. I’m pretty good thanks – Sara, doll, it’s all in the hip thrust.

We definitely all need to play more.  To put down those  perfidious phones and dig out that frisbee or pack of cards.

The dream? A poker-playing, hoola-hooping pool party.

OMG lol, as only an Ok, Boomer would write.

How to be less of a miserablist in 2020

  1. Delete your Mail Online app pronto. Child killer/Kardashian tales are no longer needed.
  2. Buy Rummikub, the perfect board game as it can last less than 30 minutes. (Habitually losing inures me to the pain of real life.)
  3. Revisit Season 1 of Friends. Basically be more Chandler. Step away from Newsnight.
  4. Ask for ‘Funny Ha-ha’ in your stocking – 80 of the funniest stories ever written, out this month and edited by veteran wit Paul Merton. Leave the Booker prizewinners to gather dust.
  5. Purchase a cheap hoola hoop and eat latkes (hello Gill) or crisp sarnies with friends who make time to see you. Money does not = good times.
  6. When it’s all going south, listen to Baccara’s “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie”, the 1977 best-selling single of all time by a female group (18 million).  Joyfully awful lyrics, but it’ll  make you laugh and dance at the same time. Dream pastime.

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