Monday, 23 September 2013

Murder on the British Pullman

“There has been a murder! Can you help?  asked the butler, as we stood on the platform at Victoria Station, gazing in awe at the spectacle that is the British Pullman – the sister train of the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express.

At Victoria Station

As my mother and I mingled with the other excited passengers getting ready to board, we immediately spotted more characters in period dress talking and waving their hands around and looking anxious. 

A buxom nurse, whose name tag read Nurse B.E Ware introduced herself to us. She told us that she was supposed to be announcing her engagement to the 6th Lord Deville at the fatal dinner party. Instead of it being a celebration, he ended up dead – murdered, actually. Apparently, poisoned, face first into the semolina. Could she have done it?  After all, she was his nurse and was responsible for  attending to his needs. 

A stunning train journey through the Kent countryside
Courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels

What was certain was that one of those people was the murderer and we were going to have to find out who did it, albeit in a rather grandiose fashion over a five-course lunch and a stunning train journey through the Kent countryside.

From the moment we entered one of the cream and umber carriages, we were made to feel special. A friendly steward greeted us and showed us to our comfortable upholstered armchairs  at a linen-clothed table, set out ready for lunch. A silk lamp added a romantic touch of old-world charm.

As we sat down and sipped our glass of champagne, it was if  the clocks had been turned back to the golden age of train travel – a time when journeys were made in style and opulence.

All the immaculately restored vintage carriages pay homage to George Mortimer Pullman, who designed trains to be “palaces on wheels”. I’m sure that if he could see this marvel, he would approve.

An immaculately restored vintage carriage

Every individually-named carriage can divulge its own story. We were in Perseus, decked out in ash panels covered with wonderful old prints. To think that the Russian leaders, Bulganin and Khrushchev once travelled here only added to the seductive ambience.  I half-expected to see Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple at any moment. We certainly could have done with her on the case. 

As we began our soup, which was the most delicious garden pea soup that I had ever tasted, a couple more suspects came by. Tamara Crispin-Pettipace, the former mistress of the deceased, and Van Quaffleur, a self-proclaimed wine expert, gave their version of events of the night that  the wealthy Lord Deville had met his end. We, along with a delightful lady called Trudie, whom we met on the train, dutifully listened, asked questions and took notes. Turned out the Lord had changed his will at the last minute.

By the time we had got to our main course, a sumptuous guinea fowl breast wrapped in Parma ham, which we washed down with a refreshing, yet intense sauvignon blanc, my mother pointed out that we still hadn’t seen all the suspects. But, by the time we were nearly back in London, we had. 

I am not going to divulge who did it, because that would spoil the fun. However, what I will say is that if you want a day out with memories to savour where you will dine exquisitely and be treated as a VIP from yesteryear, book yourself a ticket! 

By Daralyn Danns

The British Pullman offers an extensive programme of luxury day excursions to Britain’s historic towns and stately homes as well as fine dining experiences as Britain’s countryside unfolds at the window. Prices start from £205 per person. For further information call 0845 077 22 22 or visit

Tuesday, 17 September 2013


I remember working on a national newspaper and going with one of the senior editors, a hard-nosed news journalist, to a fragrance launch. After the presentation and the air was filled with the new heady scent, he turned round to me and said:” I could sum this multi-paged press release up in one paragraph. No matter what the image is you are trying to sell, surely what really counts is do you or don’t you like the fragrance?”

Perfume is personal. I might like a floral oriental while you may prefer a fresh citrusy scent. What suits one person may not suit another. Certain notes can be intensified on some people or pale into insignificance on others. If you have an oily skin, scent tends to last longer than on somebody who has a drier skin as it usually evaporates much quicker. Diet and weather are another couple of factors that can alter the smell.

Spritzing on a perfume is like blowing bubbles, some stay, while others float away. The first notes of a fragrance that hit you are the lightest ones, the top notes, such as soft florals or citrus. Next comes the medium weight molecules and what you are left with are the base notes that tend to linger longer. Think woods and leather. It takes times for a fragrance to develop, so walk round wearing it for a few hours before you buy it. Or, better still ask for a sample and try it during the day and in the evening. 

You may also want to play around with different strengths. The perfume may work better in the evening, while an eau de toilette is better for day time.

What counts when you choose a fragrance is that you like it and it makes you feel good when you wear it. There is nothing like scent to evoke memories, so spend time choosing the right one for you.

If you want to try something a little bit different, here are three houses to seek out.

Atelier Cologne
The company was founded by two lovers, Sylvie Ganter and Christophe Cervasel, who had a penchant for cologne. This citrus-scented, Kölnisch Wasser, as the Germans called it, was first concocted in Cologne in the 18th century by an Italian perfumer. Atelier Cologne has fused the concentrate of a perfume with the freshness of cologne with interesting results. And for those that like some emotion dished up with their scent, each one comes with its own story. If you buy one of these, don’t be surprised if your man takes it to using it as well. They have been created to be worn by men and women.

Silver Iris, Cologne Absolue, £130, Selfridges
One of Atelier Cologne’s latest fragrances to hit the counters. A melange of citrus, pink pepper and blackcurrant underpinned with patchouli, amber and Brazilian tonka bean, this scent packs quite a punch.

Tiziani Terenzi
Established over 44 years ago, this Italian family-owned company has stayed true to is origins and is still producing scents from the same small artisan laboratory where it started. The fragrances tend to be quite intense. The aromas are supposed to make you feel as if they have captured the essence of life – the rough and the smooth.  

Maremma Extrait de Parfum, £115, Fortnum & Mason
The hills of Maremma, Tuscany were the inspiration for  this fruity-floral perfume, that is toughened up with wood,  leather and coca powder. It is quite powerful on first whiff, but when it settles and warms with the skin it is extremely wearable.

It roots date back to 1799. James Atkinson’s fine scents and grooming essentials, were used by some influential people of the time including Napoleon and Nelson. He also attracted the attention of King George IV and became the official parfumer to the Court of St James’s. Now the brand has reawakened after its long sleep and is back with plenty of quintessentially English fragrances to tempt you.

24 Old Bond Street, £60
Equally appealing to men and women, this cologne says English, in no uncertain terms. Rose and black tea are given oomph with smoky whisky. If you like something a little bit out of the ordinary, this will be for you.

By Daralyn Danns

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

Wines of Italy

Nothing goes better with Italian food than one of the country’s home produced wines. One of the oldest wine makers on the planet, Italy produces a wide variety ranging from fizz to hearty red to crisp and dry or sweet and fruity.

David Berry Green, the Italian wine buyer for the renowned wine merchants, Berry Bros & Rudd has been on a mission to snap up some authentic numbers.  Here are four which I have picked from his selection.

Chianti Classico, Bibbiano, 2010, Castellina-in-Chianti, £14.50 (£12.33 per bottle, when buying 12 until 16 October,
If a spaghetti in a simple tomato sauce makes you yearn for a good chianti to accompany it, then this elegant, yet delicate red-berried flavoured wine will slip down a treat.

Berrys' Barolo, 2009, Fratelli Alessandria, Piedmont, £24.95 (£21.21 per bottle, when buying 12, until 16 October,
Think of Piedmont and you think of barolo. Made from the nebbiolo grape, this corker produced by the Fratelli Alessandria family of Verduno, oozes red berry aromas with a hint of liquorice. It has subtle tannins with just the right amount of acidity. A good price for such a well-structured wine.

Cornarea, Roero Arneis, 2012, Canale, Piedmont, £15.95, (£13.56 per bottle, when buying 12, until 16 October,
A superb dry wine bursting with peachy aromas which comes from the Roero Arneis  area, where  the superior arneis grapes are grown. Probably one of Piedmont’s lesser known grapes, it works well with weighty pasta dishes. 

Franciacorta Satèn, Cantine Biondelli, Cazzago San Martino, £26.95, (£22.91 per bottle, when buying 12, until 16 October
A sophisticated chardonnay sparkler from Lombardy that tastes of  juicy white peaches and ripe pears. It has a restrained mousse and satiny feel on the plate. It makes a great aperitif.  

By Daralyn Danns

Monday, 9 September 2013

Hair looks so different in the sunlight

No matter what you do to protect your hair, the colour will fade over time, especially in the hot sun. 

After the heat wave my barnet had gone from a gorgeous golden brown to a wishy-washy orangey dark blonde, though, I hasten to add not brassy. 

Like most people, I tend to wash my hair more in the summer, and as we all know, the more you wash your hair, the more the colour fades, even using shampoos which are supposed to help prevent colour loss. Hairdryers and other heated appliances also take their toll on our locks. 

I did wear a hat when I was spending long periods outside, but I guess on the days I just popped to the shops or walked for 10 minutes to catch the Tube to go to a meeting, the sun managed to lighten it.

In the sunlight my tresses washed me out even more. (Yes, even a half a shade can have an effect on your complexion.) So, I had to be rather more heavy handed with the blusher brush and use a slightly peachier one.

When the weather cooled down, the first thing I did was make an appointment to see Liz Edmonds, Daniel Galvin’s superb colour director. On seeing my hair she said it had lifted a shade.  

“The lighter your hair, the more light reflection you get. The darker, the less light it reflects and the more shine you will get,” she said.  “The sun tends to make, brunettes go orangey or redder”. 

What we actually see as colour is light reflecting from the pigments. The Oxford Dictionary online defines colour as “the property possessed by an object of producing different sensations on the eye as a result of the way it reflects or emits light.” 

Unlike sunlight, most light bulbs do not produce the full spectrum of colour, so hair in artificial light can appear darker.

Liz’s cure was to take it down a shade (hair colour levels range from 1 to 10 with 1 being the darkest) giving it more depth and make it a more neutral shade. “In some cases, I would just use a toner,” said Liz. “In your case, I am going to paint the pieces that have faded and then massage it through the ends for five minutes.”

I was so happy to be back to being a brunette. In fact this is the darkest I have been for ages and I love it and so do my friends and family from the comments that I have received.

By Daralyn Danns

Daniel Galvin (