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Writing

The Letter I Wish I’d Written

Every year, Elle magazine runs a talent writing competition; this year, the theme was ‘the letter I wish I’d written’, and for the first time ever, I thought I’d enter. Well, I didn’t get very far (or at least, I’m assuming I didn’t as I never heard anything!) but I still thought I’d share it on here. I’d love to get any comments…

Dear-

Oh, for Pete’s sake. I’ve only written a word and I’ve hit a speed bump. Who are you? I don’t know what to call you, and despite asking my mum (helpful but ultimately useless in this particular issue), and my dad (steadfastly taciturn), and my dad’s cousin (eager, but also useless), apart from an address I’m no further than I was when I first found nan’s letter. 

Were you a Roger or a Dave? Or, heaven forbid, a Randy? I hope you weren’t a Randy. Wait; you could still be Randy. If you see what I mean. I know you’d be well into your 90s by now, so perhaps not so randy, but still Randy…

Oh, crap. Scratch that. I can’t go around accusing pensioners of being randy. Let’s start again.

Hi there.

I believe you served in the air force during the Second World War, and when you were stationed over here, you met a young woman called Josephine Kendall. She would have been in the land army. She was very striking looking – perfectly coiffed hair, despite the rationing on hairspray – she used cornstarch. Did you know you could do that? I didn’t. Anyway- stop. Just stop. He doesn’t care, Lizzie. Start again.

Ok, where was I?

So, Josie Kendall: striking, legs up to her armpits, very glam, and a dead shot with a rifle; the whole package. This would have been sometime in 1944, Birmingham-way.

Ringing any bells?

How would you ask someone if they shagged your nan? Erm, remember that land girl you knocked up 70 years ago? A night of passion in the cloakroom of the local disco perhaps? I don’t want to know the details. 

Right. Avoid all and any allusions to sex.

Here’s the thing, Randy (?); can I call you Randy? I think you might be my grandfather. You see, Josie, she had a son – Steve – my dad. And he grew up thinking that this other man was his dad for the longest time, but Tim (that’s him), he was flying over Italy in a bomber in 1944, so you see the problem we have here, Randy.

I didn’t know anything about this until I found Tim’s flying logs. That was an eye-opener; Dad cried, Mum cried, everyone cried. Dad found out a while ago apparently, but he’s happy with things the way they are. Let’s skip over the fact that Dad doesn’t want to know if he was abandoned or not. In fact, avoid mentioning Dad altogether.

I’d love to get to know you. Who are you? What’s my ‘real’ surname? Do I have cousins? I only have two now; well, three since Katie got married I suppose, if you count husbands, I don’t tend to; and only a single set of aunt and uncles. It makes for a small Christmas gathering, and I’ve always seen myself as part of large clan.

You also have a grandson – my brother, Charlie. You’d be pretty impressed if you knew him. He’s an incredibly talented photographer. And you’ve a daughter-in-law – my mum, Mandy. My dad- no, don’t mention Dad. Your son- even worse. Erm, Steve – better - did well for himself when he snagged her. I know I’m biased, but she’s the real deal.

Nan died. I don’t know any better way of saying it, but I guess you weren’t that close anyway, apart from that one time, seventy years ago. I try not to blame her for not telling us about you but I do, or you about us, but apparently, she was a right ‘go-er’ in those days, and she never had a clue she could get pregnant. Some doctor had got it wrong before. And then, you’d gone back to Canada, and it was too late.

So what I’m trying to say is, do you think you’re my granddad? Because I think there’s a pretty good chance that you are. And I really want to know where I got my dreadful feet from.

I hope you get this letter; I hope that you (are still alive to) get this letter and want to write back. I’ve enclosed a SAE. I promise I’m not a psycho.

Love,

Lizzie Peterson (?)

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Health

How do I exercise? Tell me, please!

Please excuse any veering off into ranting, but I’m currently suffering from bafflement and irritation in equal measure. Why? Exercise, that’s why.

I am not a natural exerciser, nor a loyal one, but every now and then, the urge comes along to do something, and then, in my geeky fashion, I set about researching my options.

So here’s where all that has brought me:

I had to stop kickboxing because I kept aggravating my shoulder which has a tendency to dislocate. So that’s out.

Then there was running, which I was enjoying, and even completed the Great North Run, but ended in agony because I’d developed shin splints. So that’s out.

And because of the shin splints, I now have to be very careful about impact exercising, so that meant my second attempt at Jillian Michael’s 30 Day Shred ended in failure.

So then there was swimming. Which I still enjoy, greatly. But, I was getting into a bit of a rut, and finding that I was becoming bored, which I was very keen to avoid, as so far it’s the only form of exercise I can still do. So I thought, why not mix it up a bit?

I thought I could swim intensely for twenty minutes or so, and then spend another twenty minutes working on my legs, or my arms, or my abs in the gym, on their machines. But then I did some research on the gym machines, and at best, they appear to be fairly useless, and at worst, actually damaging.

Free weights, it would seem, are the way forward, but unless you’ve got your technique spot on, then the same applies – useless and damaging.

And then I came across tabata, which is (or was, it’s probably terribly passé by now) the new thing – where you exercise intensely for 20 seconds, rest for 10, and repeat for eight times. You complete one to four full sets of this (so 20 minutes in total) and apparently, this intense exercise gives you as good a result (arguably better) than an hour’s run.

I suppose I can get my head around that, but then you’ve got to work out which exercises to do in your bursts. Do you opt for cardio, such as burpees (shudder…and not great for shin splints) and jumping jacks (ditto)? Or do you throw in some leg action – squats and lunges – or some arm work – push ups and bicep curls – or ab work – bicycle crunches and toe touches? I imagine you’re meant to throw a bit of everything in there, but somehow, I feel poleaxed by the sheer choice out there. At least in the gym, you can go from one machine to the next, finish them all, and feel like you’re somehow complete. Or I can swim a mile, and feel like I’ve ticked a box.

So now I’m just confused. And not exercising.

My problem is I need structure, and even more importantly, I need to feel I’ve had an expert telling me what to do. So, tell me – keep swimming and swimming alone? Combine intense swimming with gym machines? Combine swimming with some sort of mastery of free weights at the gym? Designate swimming a pleasure activity (instead of ‘exercise’, which probably means I won’t bother at all…), and concentrate on at home tabata instead?

Sometimes, I get all doom and gloom that my body will just throw up another injury regardless of what I do or I convince myself that it doesn’t matter because I’ll get bored in a few months and give up anyway…

I find fitness blogs fascinating because these women (and men) genuinely seem to adore exercising, and they’re clearly experts in their fields – the passion just shines out of them – but I’ve yet to find what really works for me. I know exercise is really important for my physical health, and I also know it’s vital for my mental health, but I’m currently all at sea.

And don’t even get me started on healthy eating, and whether that really is more important than exercising in losing weight, which, to my mind, rather renders this whole rant moot…

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Beauty, Betsy Loves

Faking It (a healthy look)

I am lucky enough that every month a new batch of lovely beauty products lands on our doormat at work, and every month they get handed out around the office to review. For our January issue (we’re already working on the February and March issues now, sigh…), we were reviewing those make-up and skin lifesavers that stop you looking like the walking dead in the few weeks post-Xmas. I chose Benefit’s Fake Up to review, and I can honestly say I think it’s great.

I only ever review things on the blog that I actually legitimately like and think are great products, and this is one of them. Most people are aware of Benefit with its kitsch branding, and some of their products are cult status (Hoola bronzer, Highbeam highlighter etc.), but at the same time, they’re not necessarily known as being the go-to brand for make-up (or certainly not for me!), however, I’m beginning to be won around.

So, on to the concealer. This is definitely one for under the eyes, rather than blemishes. It’s a very creamy formula with a stick of colour running through the centre, and a moisturising complex surrounding that. The lipstick-esque tube makes for very easy application, and after I’d mastered my initial panic that it looked too rich and creamy, I was very impressed with the results. I’ve recently learnt (via one of legendary make-up artist, Mary Greenwell’s, YouTube vidoes) that you need a lot more under-eye concealer than you might think – I mean, she layers on the stuff – back and forth and back and forth – and then, you don’t try to rub it into your skin, you simply pat it to make sure all the edges are blended and voila! If you have the right shade, your eyebags will look lighter, if you have the wrong shade, you’ll look like an idiot.

There are three Benefit shades to choose from – light, medium and dark – I went for light because I always do, and instinct proved right (saving me any ‘idiot’ moments). I applied the concealer after my foundation, and followed it with a dusting of powder (I LOVE POWDER), and after the end of the day, well, yeah, I looked a little tired, but on the whole, it had held up remarkably well. The only thing I will say is that its richness means that if some of your mascara moults then the black specks tend to stay under your eye, rather than drop away, however, a little swipe of the finger sorts that out!

Considering I’d only just bought a new concealer – Bobbi Brown’s Face Touch Up Stick in Cool Beige (£20) – that was meant to be my under-eye and blemish saviour, I’m now remarkably disloyal to it. I still use it for spots and marks, but the old under-eyes now get the Benefit Fake Up treatment, and maybe yours should too?…

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Beauty, Betsy Loves, Culture, Fashion

Not another Xmas gift guide

Well, I guess that’s exactly what this is, but hopefully it’ll also be quite helpful! Buying presents for multiple people can be really tough, and more than a little bewildering, so while I might not be able to help you with the men in your life, I might be able to shed some light for the women.

The Red Lipstick

First of all, does the woman (wife/girlfriend/daughter/sister/mother) in your life wear red lipstick? Yes? Then, you’re sorted. Buy her Chanel’s Rouge Coco in Gabrielle, £25. Chanel is a great gift, the packaging is insanely glamorous, the colour is flattering on everyone, and the formula is silky but also strongly pigmented.

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The Cashmere Beanie

Does your lady wear hats? Not a fedora, but beanies? Then go for COS’ cashmere beanie; a steal at £29. Everyone loves cashmere and it’s ridiculously soft. The colour ranges are lovely, and it’s at least half the price of most other cashmere beanies.

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The Expert Tool Kit (no; not that kind!)

Does she enjoy make-up? I mean actively enjoy, as opposed to just wearing it. Then hop on to Space NK’s website, and get a pair of Shu Uemura’s eyelash curlers for £20. These are the best in the business, and will give a lovely curl to lashes.

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The Luxury Make-Up

Another option is to dive into Charlotte Tilbury’s new make-up range. This selection is utterly glamorous and totally lust-worthy. Her Filmstars On The Go (£42) palettes look divine, and are pretty easy to choose from. If you’re scared about picking the wrong colours, jump over to her eye crayons where you can buy individual ones according to eye colour (£19) or buy a selection pack for £75.

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The Silver Bangle

Does she wear jewellery? And is that jewellery delicate? Then look no further than Links of London’s karabiner bangle. Yes, it’s a bit more pricey for £140, but it is stunning.

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The Designer Candle

Is she house proud? Does she lust over elegant interiors? Then go for a decadent scented candle from Jo Malone (£40). Far from being a naff present, scented candles are great, and Jo Malone is pretty high up there. Diptyque candles are super duper pricey, but these look amazing and save you some pennies. Every fragrance they do is delicious, but ask one of the lovely saleswomen to guide you between fruity and floral if you need.

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The Coffee Table Book

Does photography rock her boat? Or perhaps Kate Moss? Or fashion? Easy peasy – Kate: The Kate Moss Book (£32.50).

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The Beauty Must Have

Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream (£26). Until you’ve tried it, you don’t know why you’d need it, once you have, you don’t know how you lived without it. Trust me.

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The Glam Watch

Large faced watches are all the rage at the moment, and Olivia Burton does some of the best for a really good price. My personal favourite is the large white face with black leather strap (£75).

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Hope some of this helps! And if it does nothing else, it means I might be getting a cracking stocking from my nearest and dearest this year. Hint hint.

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Culture, Interview

12 bottles of Oyster Bay with Jodie Prenger!

If you only glean one thing about Jodie Prenger at the interview, let it be that she’s a cracker. The Blackpool-born singer and actress made headlines in 2008 when she beat off thousands to win BBC1’s I’d Do Anything to become Andrew Lloyd Webber’s new Nancy in the West End production of Oliver!. Far from a one hit wonder, she’s gone on to play various other leading roles on stage, appeared in TV programmes, guest radio presented for Elaine Paige and Paul O’Grady, toured with John Barrowman, released a weight loss DVD and now she’s the titular role in a touring production of Calamity Jane. I caught up with Jodie while she was settling down for a nice cuppa.

Right, the kettle is on, so first up, some quick fire questions. What’s your favourite musical?

How very dare you – oh gosh, oh wow – I do love Gypsy. But then there’s Barbra Streisand and Funny Girl. And Calamity Jane, of course. But, I’ve got to go with Gypsy.

Film?

The Notebook [said without a pause]. It’s amazing. I read somewhere that Nicholas Sparks based it on his wife’s parents. I don’t cry at human films; I’m in tears over animal films, but this one makes me go.

Book?

It’s going to sound morbid and awful, but The Book of Human Skin. There is a horrible baddie but a really beautiful love story.

Album?

Off the Wall by Michael Jackson. No question.

Food?

Lots! That’s why I have a backside like a house [guffaws!]. But chocolate; it makes me very happy.

Place?

I’m a secret Disneyworld person. I worship Mickey. But I get too excited, more than a three or four year old would. Forget Santa; I still believe in Snow White.

Way to Spend an Afternoon?

A lazy Sunday with a proper Sunday dinner, an abundance of films, snuggling up to the person you love, with the rain beating on the windows, the fire roaring and nothing to do, no emails to answer and you can switch off from the world.

Now on to the harder stuff… When you were competing for Nancy one of the producers criticised you for being too big for the role; do you think body image is as big an issue in theatre as it is in TV and film?

A tough one. Ironically, I always remember the photoshoot when I won the role, and I was trying on the costume for the previous actress, and they were the same size – a size 14 – so I thought, ‘back off!’. There’s always that size issue, and there will be while it’s at the forefront of media. However, you notice more on TV and theatre, the realness of casting. There is every shape and size and there’s a role and part for everyone. I can’t say when I was ten stone I was right for Nancy.

Do you ever have to defend your weight today?

No. I don’t. Thankfully. I mean, of course, there are some dresses I’d like to drop a stone for, but I’ve decided buckskins [which Jodie wears as Calamity] are the way forward. They’re so comfy. There should be a National Buckskin Wearing Day; just as long as they’re not real!

If your dream was to play Nancy, what’s it now?

I’ve been so lucky, and have played some polar-opposite roles. Calamity is a total dream to play, when I was in a meeting and asked to do it, outside I was calm and cool, inside I was thinking ‘this is the most amazing thing that’s ever happened!’. And it’s such a talented cast; it makes you sick. My dream for when I retire though is to open an animal sanctuary and become feral: let the roots grow out and the fake tan wear off.

Do you still feel like ‘just Jodie from Blackpool’?

Oh god, yes. I mean, I like the odd taste of champagne but I never let it go to my head where I’m demanding 12 bottles of Oyster Bay and M&Ms. I don’t think so. You see people like that, demanding everything and getting away with it. They’re like naughty kids; I am a devil backstage, I love to have fun, but people want more and more. It’s sad to watch, and when you get the inside info that someone’s like that, you don’t really enjoy watching them perform anymore. My nan always said, ‘It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice’.

Did you really wet yourself after winning the role of Nancy?

I actually can’t remember after winning. I was in a total daze. You scream that hard, and jump that hard, and you lose every sort of bodily control. I wasn’t expecting to win. It was genuinely the only out of body experience I’ve had.

What’s your most embarrassing moment to date?

‘Footitis’. I’m always putting my foot in my mouth. It’s that northern thing where you speak as you find. I don’t think I’ll change; sometimes it works for the better, sometimes not.

Will you be making any New Year’s Resolutions?

Probably to send more Christmas cards. The intention is there; I always buy them, and then I never send them. Maybe I should just send a photo of me writing them as proof of the effort. Maybe I should start sending them in January?

How do you tackle the ‘January Blues’?

I don’t really get them. I don’t have the time for them to be honest. I work on an even keel – unless I go to Disneyworld and then come back, and then I’m rocking back and forth hugging a Goofy teddy as I comedown!

Calamity Jane is known as a tomboy; can you relate or are you more feminine?

I do like going and getting my hair done, and putting the fake tan and Spanx on, but I actually read on Wikipedia – apart from being an alcoholic and smoking – I kind of cover every trait the real Calamity, Martha Jane Canary, has. I just think she was an amazing person, this entity from the Wild West: sharp in her tongue and quick in the gun. The role was written for Doris Day, who is beautiful and gorgeous and the rough and ready Martha; this is a happy medium between the both. I read as well that she actually worked in a brothel. Nancy was a prostitute too. What does it say about me?…

Do you prefer Nancy or Calamity Jane?

Another tough one. With Calamity I get to live at the end and I get married, so her.

How do you fill Doris Day’s boots?

That is such a scary thing. I grew up loving Doris Day, and Vera Lynn, and all the old stuff. I never wanted to mimic her. I think that’s actually quite an insult so I hope I’ve done her proud. I didn’t know but she opened an animal sanctuary herself as well, so I hope I can do her proud in that as well.

Without spoiling anything, what can audiences expect?

It used to break my heart to see kids come to Oliver! and get upset when Nancy died, but in this, you’ve got four year olds dressed up in cowboy outfits, and adults in their 90s, then the music starts, and people start humming along. It’s so well know, and it’s fun, with a beautiful love story. The cast is so strong. If I had enough money, I’d pay for everyone to see it! And I can’t wait to bring it to York. I bloody love York. The shopping and the area is lovely. And the people are really nice. People actually talk to you in the shops. It’s not that there aren’t lovely shops down South, you just have to find the right little pocket, but there are more pockets in the North!

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Home

The towel dilemma

I’m not sure how, why and when it’s happened (cough – Pinterest – cough), but I’ve suddenly become obsessed with interior design. I wouldn’t even say ‘obsessed’ is too strong a word. Mr T is finding it all very taxing, especially as the poor man is very logical, and can’t see why I, and everyone else, wouldn’t be happy simply to have four solid walls around us. Sigh.

Looking back, I think it might have started when I first got sick earlier this month. I wasn’t sleeping very well, so, I did what Momma P does, and mentally redecorated. When I finally fell asleep, and then awoke in the mornings, I would look around at our (lovely) flat and feel a little bit dissatisfied. It’s a very dangerous falling asleep tactic. Now our flat is rented, which means we are limited by what we can do (who am I kidding with this ‘we’ business?), but there were still a few changes that I (better?) could make.

I’m on a budget. A poorly managed budget, but a budget nevertheless, so while I fantasised about John Lewis towels (no, really, I did), I actually ended up at Matalan and Wilko. Wilko, for the uninitiated, used to be Wilkinsons, and I only found it when I moved to university in Newcastle. Once you banish your inner snob, it’s fabulous. It does everything – cookware, bedding, furniture, toiletries, DIY stuff, stationery – good quality (for the most part) stuff, but at lower prices than even your local giant supermarket.

And so began the towel saga. I think Mr T still has nightmares. Let me set the scene. We have a minute ensuite that’s tiled in white, with a patterned black line running about waist height. There fixtures and fittings are chrome and white, and, for some unknown and frankly baffling reason, it’s carpeted in sort of honey cream. Wouldn’t you think either black or white towels would fit the bill here? Absolutely. And fortunately, I already had white towels. Sorry, did I say fortunately? Hmmmm.

My problem is I’m a sucker for a great marketing campaign, and The White Company’s strategy is genius – all those gorgeous blonde models prancing around in silver and white cashmere in their pristine white homes with pristine big soft fluffy white towels. Oh how they tricked me! For white towels do not stay white long. Especially if you wrap your hair in one after showering, and then proceed to use it as a handy place to wipe off excess makeup…

Wouldn't this lure you in?

Wouldn’t this lure you in?

So, white towels are OUT! I had some soft brown ones, but pah! Those towels no longer fitted into my sleep-deprived interior design scheme. And as for Mr T’s towels; suffice to say thin smelly blue ones had no place at all.

As you already know, research is a thing of beauty in my mind, so I grabbed my laptop and began searching for black (and possible graphite) towels. I narrowed my search to Matalan and Wilko, and here we are, only 200 words or so, back to the story in question.

Dragging a reluctant Mr T behind me, we went into Matalan, bought a set of black and grey towels – two bath sheets and two hand towels each – and left. Mr T couldn’t believe his luck, until I promptly went into Argos to look for a new set of curtains…

We got the towels home, but something wasn’t right. They weren’t fitting into my dream scheme. Were they soft and thick enough? Was the black the right black? And didn’t the grey look a bit greenish? And weren’t the grey ones softer than the black? I decided to nip back to the store on my next day off, and see if there were better towels to be had. And there were! Softer ones! Thicker ones! But at the same price. So I exchanged the old black for the new black, and left a happier person. Until I went next door into Wilko.

Their towels were the same price and they were much softer and thicker. And the black was a truer black. And they had matching face cloths. Gah! What to do? What did I do? – I bought two black and two grey sets, of course! Lugged them home, plonked them on the bed, and then, in the dim light of a winter afternoon, demanded Mr T pick the best. Fool that he was, he picked the grey Matalan ones and the black Wilko ones. Well that couldn’t possibly work as the woven stripes wouldn’t match. I was stymied. There was still something intrinsically wrong about both sets of towels. How could it be this hard? Was I going to have to resort to John Lewis after all, and live off baked beans and stale bread for the rest of the year?

Saviour came in the form of Wilko’s ‘best’ range. Slightly pricier, you could get your hands on soft thick fluffy towels in true black and grey, and they also had matching face cloths. Ever so slightly sheepishly, I returned the whole lot to Matalan, and, blaming Mr T (sorry, love), exchanged the normal Wilko towels for the ‘best’ ones. And what a wonderful decision it was.

I got home, and I just knew I’d made the right choice. I couldn’t wait to hop into a steaming hot bubble bath to hop right on out into the luxury soft arms of my new black towels.

‘Erm,’ said Mr T, in a cautious tone.

‘Yes, darling?’ I replied, as I snuggled up to him post-bath.

‘You look a bit fluffy.’

‘What?’

‘Your face and arms are covered in black fluff.’

I looked down at the unmistakable signs of towel ‘moultage’, which I’d been steadfastly ignoring, and said, ‘They’re worth it.’

He wisely said nothing. Good man.

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Beauty

The perfume hunt. The update…

Gosh, it’s proving scarily difficult to rediscover my writing mojo after so long away. Rather than tackle anything complex or attempt some creative writing, I bring you this – an update to my perfume hunt.

It was all getting terribly frustrating, trying to track down that one scent that would express all the nuances of my personality (!), and then I realised two things:

1) Stop being a pompous arrogant idiot. If one scent doesn’t jump out at you or its base, heart and top notes don’t immediately tell everyone around you exactly who you are as person, then that’s absolutely fine. So I decided to simply search for any and all perfumes that appealed to me, and just see how that went.

2) Of course, I couldn’t quite be that simple. So I went scientific. Very very scientific. I discovered several websites – Fragrantica and Base Notes – that break down the components of thousands of fragrances. I racked my brain for all the scents I’ve enjoyed in the past, noted down not only their base, heart and top notes, but also what category they fitted in, and lo and behold, suddenly I had a starting point…

What was that starting point, you ask? Well, apparently I’m rather fond of the old Floral Woody Musks (I know! Who knew?), and once I’d established this, I could search the databases for other fragrances that fall into this category.

This left me with a satisfyingly (yet simultaneously scary!) long list of perfumes to consider. I am a diligent student, always searching for the gold star, so off I popped to various retailers with my list in hand, aka stored on my iPhone. First up, Chanel’s ‘Coco Noir’ again, and I have to admit, it’s growing on me, and I adore the bottle, and well, it’s Chanel!

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Then there’s Estee Lauder’s most recent launch – ‘Modern Muse’. I’d toyed with this earlier and quite liked it, I quite liked it when I sprayed it again this time, but later, armed with a teeny tiny sample, I decided it was a bit too chemical-y.

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Next is Acqua di Parma’s ‘Rosa Nobile’. Now, I almost forgot to mention that another way I found floral woody musks was through Space NK. I love that place, and could, quite literally (if I had the funds) spend thousands and thousands of pounds. Anyway, when I was buying some essential new beauty items (Shu Uemura eyelash curlers, since you ask), the girl serving me (who was an example of EXCELLENT customer service) popped a roll on sample of this scent in my bag. I almost told her not to bother as I’ve never seen myself as a particularly rosy person (in outlook or scent), but hey ho, a free sample is a free sample. I opened the mustard yellow box, unscrewed the gold cap, and had a sniff of the rollerball, and my my, wasn’t I pleasantly surprised? When I searched it in the perfume databases, I gave a sort of knowing nod to myself when it revealed itself to be a floral woody musk. ‘Betsy,’ I said. ‘Betsy, you might be on to something here.’ So anyway, back to the latest perfume hunt, and a good old spritz of ‘Rosa Nobile’ still had me smiling with pleasure. Huzzah!

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John Lewis is a middle-class mecca, yes? And they’re about as desperate to please as I am, which makes them about as cool as I am, i.e. not very, but, it does make them useful. On my last visit, I was accosted (the only word to use) as I pottered about the fragrance section by an extremely earnest young woman keen to show me the niche perfume ranges that the company had invested in. Apart from when I’m in a toweringly black mood, I’m too polite to refuse, so I obediently trotted after her, and I’m glad I did, as I discovered Evody – a small French mother-and-daughter perfume house – and their fragrance ‘Musc Intense’, which, surprise surprise, also turned out to be a floral woody musk (FWM from here on out!). I wasn’t sold, but I really liked it.

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The other FWM that intrigued me was Narciso Rodriguez’s ‘Narciso’. My research showed that people raved about his ‘For Her’ scents, but something about them turned me off. ‘Narciso’ is his latest release in a beautifully chic white bottle, and I’d be lying if I said the perfume bottle itself didn’t have an effect on my attitude to it. I grabbed a spritz (poor Mr T was getting soon bored by this point. Bless) and I bloody loved it! Thank god!

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So, after my extensive search, I think that I’m popping ‘Rose Nobile’ on my list as well as ‘Narciso’, and as soon as I get down to Boots (where I have a £5 off voucher, got to watch those pennies…), I’ll be making a purchase of the latter.

There you have it, I’ve finally found a perfume I’m happy to buy and wear, for now… However, I still have a very very very long list of other FWMs to try (I’m particularly keen to get my hands on Tom Ford’s ‘Violet Blonde’) but I’ll do my level best not to bore you with a terribly long update like this again. For those who are interested, I’ve pasted the list below – go forth and smell!

Floral Woody Musks to try:

Aerin Lauder – Iris Meadow

Agent Provocateur – Agent Provocateur, Au Emotionelle, DD Edition, Strip

Bex London – W11, W1X

Bobbi Brown – Baby

Burberry – Burberry Brit Rhythm, The Beat

Bulgari – Jasmin Noir, Omnia Crystalline

Byredo – Rose Noir

Cacharel – Noa

Calvin Klein – Downtown, Reveal

Carven – Le Parfum

Cerruti – Bella Notte

Chanel – No.19, Jersey, 1932

Chloe – Love Chloe Eau Florale

Christian Dior – Dior Grand Bal, La Collection Couturier Parfumeur Milly La Foret

Diptyque – Eau Moheli, Eau Mage, Tam Dao, Vetyverio

D&G – Anthology La Temperance 14

Elizabeth and James – Nirvana White

Estee Lauder – Modern Muse Chic, Very Estee

Floris – Sirena

Frederic Malle – Eau d’Hiver

Ghost – Captivating, Serenity

Givenchy – Neroli Original, Naturally Chic, Ange ou Demon

Gucci – Premiere, Forever Now, Flora Generous Violet

Guerlain – Eau de Cashmere, Eau de Lingerie, Elixir Charnel Floral Romantique, Le Bolshoi Black Swan,

Issey Miyake – Pleats Please, Summer Glimmer, Light

Jasper Conran – Nightshade Woman

Jil Sander – Sunrise

Jo Loves – A Shot of Muguet & Cedar

Jo Malone Intense – Iris and White Musk

Kenzo – Madly Kenzo!

Kiehls – Patcholi and Fresh Rose Blend

Korres – Tonka Purple

La Perla – Charme

Lacoste – Femme de Lacoste

Lancome – Tresor Midnight Rose

Lanvin – Jeanne Lanvin Couture

Le Labo – Aldehyde 44 Dallas, Belle du Soir, Jasmin 17, Rose 31

Loewe – Aire Allegro, Aire Evasion, Aura Loewe Magnetique, El 8 de Grand Via, I Loewe You,

Marc Jacobs – Daisy (Silver, Pop Art and Black), Splash Cotton, Splash Grass,

Michael Kors – Gold, Michael, Michael Kors and Suede

Narciso Rodriguez – Essence Musc, For Her L’Absolu, Narciso Musc, Narciso Rodriguez for Her (Black)

Nina Ricci – L’Eau du Temps, Mademoiselle Ricci

Oscar de la Renta – Coralina, Oscar Gold, Rosamor,

Paul Smith – Extreme Woman, Summer Rose, Sunshine

Philosophy – Sunshine Grace

Prada – Infusion d’Iris

Richard E Grant – Jack

Tom Daxon – Crushing Bloom, Iridium

Tom Ford – Violet Blonde, Musk Collection

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