ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: Yes, I'm vain – but at least I'm in good company

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Yes, I’m vain – but at least I’m in good company…

The new paperback edition of my book Clothes… And Other Things That Matter has just arrived. The cover is a black and white picture of me seated on a suitcase in the Vogue fashion room. The portrait was taken by the late photographer Jane Bown and there’s a copy of it in the National Portrait Gallery archive. It is also about 30 years old.

Of course I look nice in it – after all, you’d have to be a bit of a mug to allow a picture where you think you look hideous to be the cover of your book.

Jane Bown was a great photographer who specialised in naturalistic style, wasn’t into much retouching and took all her pictures using daylight. Even at the time, it was jolly flattering.

I had suggested that we didn’t use a picture of me at all for the cover, but my publishers felt that since the book’s a quasi-memoir, it made sense.

Funnily enough, though, none of us wanted to use a contemporary image that shows how I actually look now.

In recent weeks, Kate Winslet has received a fair amount of acclaim not only for her brilliant performance in the gripping TV drama Mare Of Easttown but also for being prepared to appear on screen looking deliberately dowdy, complete with a middle-aged shelf of bosom and some facial furrows.

She apparently also instructed the producers to ensure that her belly fat wasn’t removed in her sex scene, although I can’t say I noticed it. The point, she said, was to show what a real woman of 45 looks like.

In recent weeks, Kate Winslet has received a fair amount of acclaim not only for her brilliant performance in the gripping TV drama Mare Of Easttown

Having criticised the manufactured appearance of so many celebrities in this Notebook only a couple of weeks back, I’m naturally impressed by this attitude and not surprised it has won Winslet so many plaudits.

However, even in this let-it- all-hang-out guise, she’s still a great-looking woman and, as anyone who has watched Mare will know, the second she puts on a dab of make-up she certainly wouldn’t go unnoticed in any small town – or big one, come to that.

She was also playing a tough, middle-America detective who has been through the wringer in her personal life, so the warts-and-all approach added to the authenticity of her performance. In other words, her schlumpy appearance was costume and surely not how she always chooses to look.

Given the opportunity to choose my book cover, I have clearly not grabbed the chance to show how a woman of 64 looks.

The fact is that most of us are fairly vain and I certainly prefer pictures of myself looking my best. Even as the keeper of volumes of family snaps, I don’t choose to print out the ones where my tummy is bulging or my face jowly.

But then I think about the many bestselling autobiographical book covers like Michelle Obama’s, or more recently Arsene Wenger’s, all heavily scrubbed up and I realise I am undoubtedly vain – but in excellent company

Funnily enough, though, none of us wanted to use a contemporary image that shows how I actually look now

Since I’m also a woman who is always banging on about how much healthier it is to accept the natural effects of ageing rather than rail against it, I feel a bit queasy about endorsing the idea that a book might sell better with a more youthful image on the cover, or at least a pretty one.

But then I think about the many bestselling autobiographical book covers like Michelle Obama’s, or more recently Arsene Wenger’s, all heavily scrubbed up and I realise I am undoubtedly vain – but in excellent company.

Cornish staff? It’s a job to find them

MY CORNISH sources say that you can’t find the staff round those parts for love, money or anything else. The hospitality industry is suffering not because of lockdown closure but because now we’re reopening, no one wants the work.

The local population don’t want to wait on tables, clean kitchens and pull pints, and the combination of Covid and Brexit has driven out the relatively few non-Brits who used to live there. Heaven knows how they’ve managed to crew up this weekend’s G7.

Presumably it won’t have been a do-it-yourself affair, with Angela Merkel making her own bed and Emmanuel Macron serving up his own Cornish pasties. Although it would no doubt give them both a certain satisfaction to discover our staff shortage, post-Brexit.

Boris is still the blue-skied boy

IT’S a brave man who banks on good weather in this country – but then Boris Johnson seems to carry around good luck like an extra body part. Barbecue-on-the-beach weather can never be guaranteed, so it was taking quite a chance to shoot for fire pits and toasted marshmallows for last night’s dinner. But after the more usual mizzle cleared, the weather fairy has clearly proved to be a Brexiteer.

We got the golden ticket when we travelled to and returned from Portugal with no quarantine. But I still had to have a Day 2 PCR test – and pay £70 for the privilege

£70 Covid sham tests our patience

We got the golden ticket when we travelled to and returned from Portugal with no quarantine. But I still had to have a Day 2 PCR test – and pay £70 for the privilege.

It took an astonishing NINE days to get the result, and that was only after hugely time-consuming detective work to try to chase it.

Could the testing unit have provided something simple like a phone number? Of course not.

If we are going to be stuck with these tests, they need to be made not only cheaper, but a great deal more efficient. I was wandering here, there and everywhere – perfectly legitimately under the rules – while awaiting my results. Yes, I tested negative, but what if I hadn’t? 

I’ve replaced my usual running soundtrack with the audiobook of Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s novel The President’s Daughter, which is great stuff. But what a missed opportunity not to have persuaded Clinton to narrate the central role of the President himself

Seductive Bill’s my ideal running mate

I’ve replaced my usual running soundtrack with the audiobook of Bill Clinton and James Patterson’s novel The President’s Daughter, which is great stuff. But what a missed opportunity not to have persuaded Clinton to narrate the central role of the President himself. His Arkansas accent – equal parts knowing, seductive and sleazy – would have made this thriller even more thrilling.

How petty dons get away with murder

The appalling behaviour of the 150 Oxford academics boycotting students at Oriel College over the Cecil Rhodes sculpture epitomises the petty, mean-spirited side of academia that has frequently made such colleges locations for murder-mysteries. Surely right now some current-day Dorothy L. Sayers is penning a tale of bloodshed in the quads with a sprinkling of anti-colonial politics to spice it up.

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