Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Partying

I’m back at my childhood home in St John’s Wood but have been checking the Covid map of the states—although mostly out of habit these days. I’ve finally concluded that with less than one-half of 1% dead, I’m just torturing myself. I had called my housekeeper in Los Angeles on more than one occasion, just to ask her to pop round and check on things but still no reply. Her mobile always seems to work when she’s running late or needs to cancel but not so when I want to reach her. 

I was starting to get a bit down when Judith suggested I have some friends round for a small (under six) garden party. Under six guests of course, because the world has gone mental and we are led to believe that six is a party… and seven equals death. In some small way I thought she (mummy) might just be wanting to gloat about how much better the garden looks without the compost that got us into so much trouble. Or rather the compost I insisted upon that got them into a literal heap of trouble, but I’d like to think that nasty bit of business is well and truly behind us.

For added measure father planted a rather established Japanese maple in its stead and assured me that in time, it would all be forgotten, like a bad dream…an expensive bad dream he reminded me, but forgotten nonetheless.

No composing necessary.

I rang up nearly everyone I could think to invite and ended up with a whopping two. Both friends from Cheltenham, both somehow not married, or working. Food would have to be managed by delivery as there was no one to do the cooking and washing up. Sadly I was just going to have to let go of the massive amount of plastic containers this will require. And perhaps too, I can find a post-consumer plastics stock in which to invest.

A minute after speaking to her, Jane rang back asking if she could bring a friend round to meet me. “WHO? I asked. “Who are you bringing round? Do you mean a boy??”

Well she did mean a boy, someone named Christopher, which didn’t narrow it down but she promised me he was not only keen on all things green… he was committed to capping the earth’s temperature at not greater than a 3-degree rise. Points for specificity! This did make it awkward though, three girls and a boy… so I’d have to ask my parents to join us. Alas.

And no sooner did they say yes than I was told Patrick (my ex and father’s colleague) was needing to “rest” here as he didn’t feel well enough to take his flight or to make his way back to Wiltshire.

“Rest here?” I asked. “As in quarantine?”

“No of course not.” Father insisted, “he just mentioned…and I offered.”

“You said, by all means, do come rest with us?”

“No, I said we… and I did mean WE wouldn’t hear of anything else.”

“Well yes, of course…we wouldn’t but it just seems so Jane Bennett-esque—getting sick and having to recover at Netherfield Hall.”
“Netherfield Hall—yes well. Some riveting Jane Austen reference I assume, but let’s just keep that to ourselves, shall we?”

Jane would approve.

Ugh. Of course, yes. Note to self: despite not being an annoying Jane Austen fan, one reference and you sound like one.

I must have been in the shower when Patrick arrived because sitting on my bed in my towel I heard the zip, zip, zip of his carry-on from the next room. And it didn’t sound like the zips of a very sick person either. Then Judith popped in to alert me that Patrick was here, because apparently I needed to be told twice. Three if one counts the zipping.

“Yes, thank you. Poor lamb…” was all I could get out. After all the whole luncheon party was her idea. And I was now its hostess. I so wanted to wear a crisp navy dress I’d just purchased but it was the last bit of summer and I really needed to wear something summer-y. So it was me, Jane, Emma, Jane’s mystery introduction—Christopher -- Daddy, and Judith. Three girls one boy and my parents as chaperones. Riveting. On the bright side daddy would serve as bartender.

Christopher, as it turns out, is third generation green! And was part of the environmentalist club dating back to high school. I was ready to gush that we had so much in common when Patrick appeared, looking fit as a fiddle.

“Sixty-minute bug must’ve been,” was all he had to say for himself as he beamed to show his wellness. “I didn’t mean to interrupt…Karl, is it?”

“No, it’s Christopher, he replied.

“So... Karl would be…”

“My father.”

“I thought I recognised something," said Patrick. "He spoke to my graduating class at Duke, on the heels of having given a small fortune to Climate Works. But you were talking about your high school club when I so rudely interrupted.… I'm Patrick by the way, I work with Mr. Kennedy.”


“Jenny’s father, James Kennedy. The gentleman to your right.”

“Yes, of course, lovely to meet you, Patrick.”

Father got up to get Patrick a drink and smartly Judith suggested we eat. I for one was famished but Patrick was just getting started. I thought about digging my heel into his foot under the table but for a boy who had just been sick, he now looked like a million bucks, and began again. “So after high school…? he asked.

“I did an internship with the Swiss Embassy in Nairobi.”

“So as to immerse yourself in a corrupt mining economy?”

Not an ounce of corruption.

“Actually, all matters concerning diplomatic relations between Switzerland and Kenya.”

“Which didn’t include mining?”

“Well, actually the most corruption is surrounding the gold.”

“ONLY the gold—which Switzerland has no need of. I see.”

“And niobium…”

“…Formerly known as columbium. Still, an odd place to find an environmentalist."

I flashed father a look who I must say deserved an Oscar for not smiling but my look said DO SOMETHING. Which he did—in the form of a toast to mummy, and then to me, and to great friends, and then he told every single detail of my having once secured interest-free loans for women in India, who over the course of their lifetimes, would otherwise have spent the equivalent of $12,000 paying down the interest on a $300 sewing machine. Subject changed—crisis averted!

But I’d had a second glass of prosecco and was comfortably relaxed, not terribly stimulating, and certainly not alert enough to steer the conversation to what few social or artistic events were happening in the world. Patrick however, was in fighting form.

“So yes, Bravo to our lovely Jenny,” Patrick began, “because truly one hundred percent of those loans helped women support themselves and their families for generations to come. She is lucky in that. Whereas I was reading that, with climate philanthropy, only 2 percent of donations go to fighting climate change head-on. So cheers to you mate, for sticking to it.”

“And what is your line of work?” Christopher asked.

“Oh sorry mate, thought I’d mentioned I work with Jenny’s father. I’m an engineer and in a sense, we too operate from a deep and abiding respect for the planet. Our very existence depends on it. That is to say from a business standpoint, we cannot exist if we do not continually find and prove we have found better ways of supporting human life, and we are self-sufficient; meaning lacking the generous funding of our detractors, we have to run a ship so tight that it actually supports itself. Although you might call that profit, the economic scientists would call it sustainability.”

It was clear that if I didn’t spirit Christopher away and fast—the prospect of our green union was doomed. Alas, I doubted even without Patrick’s arrival I’d have found him the least bit attractive. Just now he was babbling on about his family having cleverly used a pseudonym -- the name of a tree -- for their philanthropic foundation so as to take the focus off the family and make it all about the work. Yes, how utterly clever. All I could think of was how similarly clever Nicholas Coppola was to have changed his name to Nicholas Cage thus proving nepotism had no hand in his success despite appearing in his uncle’s films.

I gave Jane the look that asked…What about you two? She returned the answer—Just no. I mouthed to my father “help,” which Judith caught and promptly announced she’d make coffee. It’s what she does when it’s time for people to go. Hearing Ray Charles’ Till There Was You, playing, Patrick asked me to dance.

And while I knew it might be a mistake I just closed my eyes and placed my head on his shoulder, hearing the faint tinkling of coffee cups… and soon enough they were gone. Try as they might, neither this pandemic nor the Christophers of the world could keep us down forever.

Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Unmasked

I’m not sure what I expected when I came back to visit mummy and daddy but to be sure—Mummy and Daddy! That, however was not to be.

Other than referring to my mother as Judith for almost as long as I can remember, they’ve been pretty normal as parents go. And one could generally expect to find them home—Judith organising something or other, and Daddy reading or shuffling papers. As Judith never took breakfast they usually didn’t see one another until evening cocktails, but that ritual was truly sacrosanct. So when I arrived—on time and as promised, I in turn, expected to find them—drinks in hand and nibbling curry-spiced cashews and paper-thin slices of salmon on rye. What I found was most of the lights off and a half- melted bucket of ice at the bar.

I went up to my room to find mail that had been deposited over the course of the last several weeks, and half a dozen tulips placed into a vase—but no note. I must’ve slept for a good hour before I heard my father call from downstairs. No Judith. She’d decided to remain in the country in the interest of “essential” travel strictures. I never got a straight answer about how they got separated in the first place but how could she not bother to turn up when her only child had traveled halfway 'round the world to see her? Father gave me a look as though I was getting unnecessarily agitated so I just fumed inside and let it go.

Seriously though—who were these people? Quarantine-panicked and cowering like two pensioners who’d lost their house, their livelihood and their only child to a single incendiary. And who was this man sitting in front of me? I’d expected the reluctant RAF hero who took nothing too seriously and above all refused to give in, especially when those around him did. This was far too depressing after leaving a US that had likewise all but flown the white flag. Defeated as well, I went back upstairs, nicked a moisturising mask from my mother’s bathroom and fell asleep a second time.

Day Two: awoke to find father knocking about the kitchen only to soon learn we were out of milk, bread, eggs and, as he added 'soon enough…toilet roll'. On our way to Tesco we weren’t steps from our home when we were stopped by a policeman…yes we live in the same house, yes this is an essential trip but apparently we weren’t convincing enough—as we got a stern warning. Lovely. Two bagfuls later, we headed back—sharing a ham and pickle sandwich only to be met by a second officer. 'No it isn’t compulsory to wear a face mask,' she explained, 'but the mayor strongly urges you to do so'.

And with that, the father I used to know returned—and in full force I might add. 'Was this warning compulsory?'and, 'Does the mayor have any suggestions for eating while simultaneously wearing a mask'? Shocked, I rustled the paper wrapper of my half sandwich to underscore the fact that we were in fact eating, and to plead our case that we should be be spared the £30 fine. It worked, and the officer turned to look for her next scofflaw. Still ,I was quiet.

'You do realise that in London alone there were a hundred domestic violence arrests yesterday'? he said to me with pain in his voice. 'I hadn’t' I responded, and added, 'Clearly nobody’s having cured salmon on rye' and he stifled a smile. Seeking to change the subject fully, I began regaling him with the very positive effects of the global shutdown on the environment only to find myself once again at seven years of age, having been patted on the head and sent back to the nursery. 'No appreciable benefit', he corrected. 'The planet is still getting hotter, smog has decreased somewhat but no appreciable benefit. And I need not remind you of the year you lobbied me, and anyone who would listen to you, that we needed to buy property on the equator— just to survive the impending and unavoidable ice age'?

He wasn’t wrong. I had done, and thankfully they hadn’t listened. But it wasn’t ever likely my father was going to make any substantive change based on the opinions of a seven-year old climate scientist. For her part, Judith had asked him to 'buy something small… just to appease her' -- and to keep me from having night terrors. But he wasn’t having any part of it.

So dear reader, with the planet heading to either heat or ice, depending on when you tuned in and whom you follow, I think I should address the issue of the mask. Do choose something stylish, there’s no way of knowing how long this will last, and frankly do you want to be remembered as a sloppy bandit? Or join the millions of women who have decided just not to colour their hair or look presentable? Of course you don’t.

And while many of you have written about adding a coffee filter to boost the filtration aspect, I think it important to remember, no matter where you are on the mask spectrum— just like dressing for dinner—you are wearing the mask to make others feel comfortable. Touting how 'comfortable' you are in sweats or some lumpy dress while a savvy maitre d’ seats you in Siberia is nothing to be proud of. You are dressing to make others feel more comfortable around you. And the same holds true for a mask. Even if like me, you know your immune system will fight off nearly any virus… you wear the mask so that others feel comfortable around you. It really is the only thing befitting a well-bred gel.


Diary of an Acclimatised Beauty: Isolation

Quarantine: Day Number icantevenremember. First and foremost, ladies, and really for the love of humanity— stop posting your home workouts! That, and pictures from the market.

And speaking of the market -- I’m in trouble with the plastic police again. Thing is, the reusable plastic bags can hold the coronavirus for days—and spread it.  And so, I bought about ten new reusables and wisely threw them away when I got home. YES I KNOW! But we are being forced to accept that this is a crisis so at the risk of furthering the crisis the planet is just going to have to wait. At least until spring. I’ll figure out some carbon offset something.

Which reminds me: I’m headed to Florida whence most of my clients have absconded, only to find that the governor wants everyone to self-quarantine -- presumably in one of the hotels that are closed? Madness! And it’s making my client nuts, just when we had her on track. She is literally days away from making a presentation about the risks of fracking to Kentucky songbirds, and the thing is they’ve already been endangered for DECADES, so time is running out, and it makes her tear up every time.

Air travel, as it turns out, provides ample opportunity to isolate. Sadly, no one was curbside to take my bag so I had to go all the way in and plop it on the scale myself, but on the upside -- no one breathing in my face asking if I’ve packed any spare lithium batteries or e-cigarettes. Once inside, there aren’t the usual hordes of polite Asians who seem to have bought up all the face masks in the first place — and really not much of anyone else at all. I did the retinal scan instead of two fingers at security and away I went having touched nothing and managing to keep my trusty spray bottle of alcohol and essential oil. (It really is essential!)

All well until I came upon a single sheet of paper decreeing the airline lounge closed. Just FLAT CLOSED when I really expected to be given a travel kit of airline-branded gloves and masks and cocktails brimming with vitamin C. They really do have some cheek deserting us in a crisis. The airlines are clearly not taking this coronavirus seriously if now, of all times, they expect us to be out among everyone else—so irresponsible!

Next stop: Water. (Obvi!) Fiji has the highest PH of anything you can get at the airport and I have to assume since it ships in boxes that the plastic doesn’t get exposed to the light. I try not to think about whether it makes the trip all the way from Fiji in the cargo hold.

Next tip: No sugar during flu season. Your body’s ability to fight off a virus is reduced by 50 percent for 2-4 hours after consuming a sugary snack.  If you must, chips are better. To be on the safe side I doused the Fiji with my spray and wiped it down before slipping it into my tote. The clerk said “she needs to see it to ring it up”. I opened the bag wider for her to see but of course she meant she needs to scan it. “Couldn't you just scan one of the bottles you have stacked next to your register?” I asked. And she did after making some snicking noise. Undeniably easier to get water in the lounge!

Once on board -- yet another chance to isolate, as there was only one other person in first, and two in the back. Like an idiot, the one (40-something gentleman) passenger moves closer to me and asks, “Do you mind?” motioning to the seat beside me. Before I got a chance to say something clever I noticed the handset shoulder and hand pick stitching of his bespoke suit and “Umm no” was all I got out. “But in the seat across the aisle,” I added. He laughed and did as he was bade.

Turns out he had been sick three weeks ago, very sick, didn’t test but is quite sure he can’t be a carrier of anything now. He also said he doesn’t usually fly commercial but his pilot is out sick -- standard flu. Obviously I don’t know if anything he says is true, I just know I’m not on the receiving end of a carbon-footprint lecture, and am grateful for it. Several hours later I woke up to my neck smarting from having slept sideways with the headset on. Bathroom was the only thing I could think of as I’d drunk most of my water but naturally the pilot was in the bathroom as they always are when I want to be.

We landed to sunny skies but, naturally, we can’t get to the gate. Somewhere, nearby, the pilot assures us—there are lightning strikes. I open my phone’s my radar app which shows absolutely nothing. I’ll never understand why they just don’t make lightning-grounded hats and suits for these people. I mean, how hard could it be when you consider the inconvenience to absolutely everybody?

Having not spoken to Mr. Bespoke since I awoke, I see he’s on his phone texting, he still looks like a million bucks. I fish inside my bag for a piece of gum and apply some lipgloss. “Dinner?” he asks. “OH!—I’ve got to work” I reply. “Breakfast, then?” “Work still” I answer.  He is quiet. “Lift home then?” He finally asks, handing me his card.

“In…your plane?” Is the only thing I can think to say but of course he means in his plane.

“Yes”, he says sweetly.

“Um, maybe—thank you” I say, fully keeping my cool but realising it’s not exactly the carbon offset I was seeking. It would decrease his if I joined…except actually no—it wouldn’t. But it’s not any worse if he’s already going right?

Oh, planet, you don’t make this easy.