I’m taking full credit for suggesting Annabel start the season off with her own, soon-to-be annual event. Truth be told I just couldn’t bear another year of last-minute Covid cancellations, and boy did they stack up. Even the brand-new Badminton Horse Trials failed to launch in its inaugural year. How utterly embarrassing. And they couldn’t get it together the next year either despite not having anything to live up to.
I was happy the planet had been given a breather but I was determined to push forward and LIVE. And by the turnout it was clear I wasn’t alone. Like any good overnight guest, I am always keen to find the best gift for the hostess—even if she is your best friend and wants for nothing. Annabel truly has everything—including the annoying habit of pretending to be overjoyed by every gift when you just know the lot is going in the bin or home with her housekeeper. Daddy’s suggestion is always a bottle of something and Judith would suggest a scarf, but then she hasn’t seen the excesses I’ve seen. The Faber-Castell twins, (also houseguests) did bring a bottle of something which sort of surprised me because wouldn’t you expect—pencils?They’d been crowned this year’sCorviglia Club glamour girls which likely accounted for the hoards of young chaps milling about Annabel’s garden. I’m sure Judith (mummy) hoped I would have chosen to be more of a society darling but the planet was always my first love—even if it means some of us are going to have to eat bugs.
Corviglia: if you have to ask, you don't belong here.
I struck up a conversation with Raj Tanna because I was keen to get his input on ESG.His theory is we really need to focus on the ’S’ (social) in that grouping of letters as it has been ‘the previously ignored middle child’. My motivation, having come so very close to serving on HSBC’s board, was to make sure to sufficiently leverage my stakeholder credibility next time around. My work for so many of the green oligarchs, and in the environmental sector in general, had made me an attractive addition to their board. In the end, they decided the bona fides they cared about most were BIPOC and gender identity--meaning the belief that illuminating previously-marginalised races, or sexes, would bode well for the company’s bottom line.
I was discouraged after a chat with my father (‘these are not actual qualifications’), and the insights of Warren Buffett (‘I did not receive even three letters last year from shareholders asking for [ESG] disclosures'),but they were what HSBC wanted. Optics. I just didn’t have enough of them. So I sought to learn from Mr Tanna in hopes of improving my chances on future boards. Sadly,he was so much less helpful than I’d imagined. After I introduced myself he seemed only to want to talk about his real love… a glass house on the water.He said the ‘ecological element had been so important to him and his wife’, adding, ‘We wanted the house not to interfere with nature—we wanted it to disappear’. All I could imagine was birds crashing into all sides and leaving bloody splotches all around. He went on saying, ‘Glass reflects the light and the sky and the water, so the house at times is much less visible than others’.Wow. Snore.
I told him I’d been fascinated by his tenure in the sector and the research his company had put forth but he was unmoved. I tried stroking his ego with what I knew to be his tightly-held belief… when good companies do good thingsshare prices follow, but he didn’t take it up. I’d watched a recent interview in which he said the pandemic was a catalyst for changeand with that he said… ‘Oh I wholly agree’.Agree??They were his words! Odd. I was about to play my very last card and tell him that Annabel (our hostess) was my very best friend but his wife came by and whisked him away. Annabel’s husband James must have seen my utter shock as he came to my rescue with a glass of champagne.
‘Interesting fellow isn’t he?’ James asked. ‘Do you know him?’
‘Do YOU know him?’ I responded.
‘Well of course’ James laughed, ‘he owns what we are calling the futuristic Versailles.Made money in Russia—as folks tend to do. You should see the house. Very nature-y. Is that what you talked about?’.
‘No. Well maybe he did. I’m not sure. I thought he was the Raj Tanna who’s trying to put the S in ESG. Environmental, Social, Gov…’
‘Environmental?’ Ha ha. ‘No. Wrong chap, same name. Well, no harm done. By the way, did you see what someone gave us? It's like a toilet for the kitchen counter.You put food scraps in, you flush it, and overnight it turns into dirt. Can you imagine?’ he asked, laughing hysterically.
‘No. I can’t’ I said. My face turning ashen. The gift had been mine.
‘The only good thing is maybe we can put all the rest of the crap gifts in there’, he said, chuckling away. ‘Can you imagine?’ He laughed again. ‘In a house this size? Oh meet my little friend kitchen loo…’
‘Hilarious', I said, downing the glass of bubbly.
I made my way up to the house and called my father. No answer. I texted. Nothing. Everyone was talking about St. Moritz which soundedlike the best St. Moritz season in the history of ever. I couldn’t go. Perhaps Judith was right. Perhaps this working thing was overrated. And just then someone rushed over to ask if I was the famous eco-hostess from the cover of Paris Match magazine. Why yes I was! In fact I’d circumnavigated the globe four times this last year. Perhaps there was more than one way to skin a cat.
Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Styling
It’s official! According to Judith (mummy), their phone in St John’s Wood has been ringing nonstop with calls from my former school chums, (and some I wasn’t all that chummy with) ever since I was on the cover of Paris Match. I’m not sure how that ranks higher than my place on the Olympic Equestrian Team but perhaps they share a keen interest in the environment. Although frankly I doubt it.
One such call really got under Judith’s skin as it was a reporter asking if she too ate bugs, and if it were a habit she’d picked up in China. According to Daddy she corrected them and hung up. After all, it was British Hong Kong (not China) and I doubt mummy ventured outside of the shops where she saw other Britons in Karl Lagerfeld or Prada. It was quite the fashion parade according to the pictures she kept and well… if you knew Judith she doesn’t even eat Chinese food here in England. After that, Daddy took the calls and deftly provided my email. His is the kind of voice one knows not to ask probing questions.
Bugs aren't really animals, are they?
Out of a half dozen or so emails I’m now set to appear on This Morning with Gino D’Acampo and the morning programme Breakfastout of New Zealand. This I will do by video conference as New Zealand has decided not to let me in unless I’ve been fourteen days in Australia or the Cook Islands, (as if) and there certainly isn’t time enough for all that. Oh the nerve of these people! Maybe they should have a look at their very own flag and realise the Union Jack figures rather prominently. I’ve just had it with draconian restrictions that make no practical sense, especially given I didn’t contract anything during my actual travels… it was when I was holed up in Annabel’s country estate that we both took ill, and recovered just as quickly.
I’m also rather put off after reading so many horror stories—like that of the footballer who got stuck in an Indian airport for three months or the Australians who were basically arrested for finding a clever way back home and I just don’t want to have to call Daddy, or Patrick, or (God forbid) my fabulous new client to wrest me free from some horrible lockdown.
The main question now is what to wear. I’d had several Dahlia Macphee options overnighted to me which are known to be (mostly) vegan clothes but unfortunately they were all gowns…and not appropriate for a morning show. Umasan sent me loads of ‘ethical’ separates—none of which became an ensemble, and thankfully one other ethical/sustainable/vegan designer who fit the bill perfectly—bright colours and reasonably flattering… or at least nothing that a good clamp in the mid-back wouldn’t fix for the camera.
I just needed a good forty-five minutes with Daddy to explain to me just what was going on with China’s new push to non-Bitcoin cryptocurrency. One of the talent bookers asked me some questions about it and I needed to be ready in case it came up on the show. He mainly asked why China is now moving away from the eco-disaster that is created by mining iBtcoin and if I believed my exposé had any effect. Daddy answered:
‘Jennifer’s press secretary how can I help you?’
‘Very funny’ I countered. ‘But I do need to ask a few things.’
‘She was always a wonderful child… helpful, kind… walking and talking at six months…’
‘Daddy! I need to ask about cryptocurrency. More specifically China’s departure from mining Bitcoin in favour of something more eco-friendly.’
‘I should think you’d be thrilled. Clearly China’s gone green.’
Going green for fun and profit, Chinese-style.
‘Do you really think so?’ I asked.
UGH! Two minutes in and I’ve asked a stupid question.
‘No, not really I guess. So why then?’
‘I’m not an expert on China’s but it’s always safe to say if China is doing anything, it’s because it benefits China.’
‘So…’ I began again, ‘Can I just frame this as China being in step with a green future?’
‘If you can say it with a straight face—then by all means, yes, say it! But if you are looking for my advice, I would suggest you don’t frame it at all, and in this way you don’t have to backtrack when China continues to find new and worse ways to destroy the planet you love so much.’
I wasn’t sure if I felt better or worse but he had saved me from looking as foolish as Greenpeace falsely extolling China’s green virtues. With this in mind I felt prepared for my video conference which was fast-approaching due to the ten-hour time difference between Saint Tropez and New Zealand.
Just then I got a call from my oh-so-ethical wardrobe supplier. It seems ’after consideration’ they will to ask me NOT to wear their clothes as their PR focus had been animal organisations, and ‘couldn’t risk being seen supporting blatant animal cruelty’.WHAT!? ME? I literally held the phone away from my head as I pondered what absolute rot she was on about. Apparently she was under the very misguided belief that eating bugs was eating animals, which OKAY technically it is, but it is the more green option.
I wanted to scream I’M THE GOOD PEOPLE but I just let her adenoidal rant continue. That was until she said the word ‘standards’ —meaning she was questioning mine and at which point I just hung up. What cheek! If they sent anyone to collect their clothes I was going to tell her I’d recycled them with the other trash. And little did she know I’d never actually eaten one of the crispy critters but then I wasn’t exactly advertising that. It was far too late to get any other clothes shipped to me so I just fumed for a few minutes while deciding what to do. I went back to the Dahlia MacPhee gowns and decided to make a full go of it— glam hair, earrings, lipstick and dramatic lighting. Done.
Home sweet home, fraught but bug-free.
I was ready with plenty of time to spare and took a tip from Judith in her debutante days… I lay perfectly still on my back with a silk scarf under my head and set my alarm for one hour. She would have been rather proud of me as I woke up—hair and make-up still impeccable and then sipped on lemon water until we were live. Frankly I looked fabulous. And thank God for that because five seconds in I found they did not want to talk about China’s crypto-at all. It was the bug show all over again. “Our International bug hostess… Jenny Kennedy!"
I smiled even wider knowing it now made perfect sense for a hostess to be dressed for entertaining until they asked if (OMG not again!) I’d eat a bug for the camera. I felt that familiar bile creeping up the back of my throat. Luckily, I mean ‘Sadly’ I corrected… 'we’ve set up our entire spread for an after party that I’ll be hosting later.’ It was a small lie but it beat the heck out of losing it on international television. Just one last smile and we were out. Whew! I clapped shut my computer and opened a hard-earned bottle of champagne. It’s possible it goes well with crickets but cheers to standards.