Category Archives: the big biography

The Grand Designer

Beautiful, isn’t  it?  The irregular outline of Cardiff Castle, re-worked from a mediaeval original by Billy  Burges.  I’m just back from a book-launch for the Big Biography there (The Grand Designer:  Third Marquess of Bute) and while there had another first, an interview on the radio.

If you are curious it is available at it is until Wednesday at 2 hours 5 mins, or if you miss that, download just the clip of my interview by clicking  on

I enjoyed every moment of the interview.  It might be cooler to pretend otherwise,  but, no, I just loved doing it.


What to wear


There is to be a launch for my book The Grand Designer in Cardiff in July … which is almost equally exiting and intimidating.  It has launched an exhausting and exhaustive search for clothes.

The problem is that I very rarely wear office clothes, and almost never wear evening-out clothes.  The people I socialise with, like myself, generally ‘dress-up’ by the simple expedient of adding a nicer top and more interesting footwear to their usual jeans.  My usual choice is a quality linen or cotton shirt (Emmanuel or Barefoot) above and pink patent Dr Martens below.  You see the scale of the problem.  A book-launch in a castle calls for more from the centre of attention than pink patent DMs.

Well, not more, perhaps, but Wholly Other.  I spent a tedious amount  of time and bandwidth that my very limited monthly GB could ill-afford, searching for something suitable.  What I found fell into three categories.  Clothes which began far above the knee and revealed all the arm, designed for women under forty, but were charming.  Clothes which were stunning, and hid wobbly arms and the thighs, but which the blinkered ghetto-ism of fashion in this country labelled as ‘Islamic’ (in Asia the Salwar Kemeez is suitably wear for all women), and which I feared would distract from the book.  Clothes which hid arms and thighs but were stunningly boring.  It was as I contemplated yet another dress that I would not normally be seen dead in that I realised spending money on making myself look utterly unlike myself was not the way to go.

What was happening of course was that all my anxieties about the occasion, the book, the reviews, were focused onto sometime I could still change; ‘what to wear’.

Then my eyes fell on this simple frock which I had actually brought for story-telling, where the uniform is all things bright and beautiful.  I think it will do.  True, a white vest is all wrong,but I can easily get a pink or brown one.   Being brown-based it has the huge advantage that I have at least three pairs of shoes and a drop-dead-gorgeous handbag  to go with it.  I have a jacket that I love that will at a pinch go over it (though a cropped jacket would be better, especially just the right brown or pink).  I think, I think I have found what to wear.  But oh – I would have looked so  much better  that kemeez – which I shall wear on some other occasion.