Alexandra Shulman’s Notebook: ‘Rest is rust’ – perfect advice for me

Alexandra Shulman’s Notebook: ‘Rest is rust’ – the perfect advice for a sloth like me

It’s become a marker of success not to need sleep. 

James Cracknell’s coach spurred him on with the mantra ‘rest is rust’, while Twitter boss Jack Dorsey takes ice baths at 5am, making those who indulge in seven or eight hours a night feel like proper schlumps.

Balancing achievement and relaxation is a skill I’m having to learn now that, for the first time in my adult life, I am not propped up by the rigour of an office timetable. No more does the alarm trill its urgent summons at 6.45 on the nose.

On those mornings where, heaven forbid, I’m not feeling my sharpest, I no longer have to pull myself together and chair a meeting with the aid of Nurofen and Vitamin C.

Rowing triumph: James Cracknell was told ‘rest is rust’ by his coach as he battled for glory

Come those grey hours mid-afternoon where blood-sugar slumps demand either a chocolate fix or the comfort of the sheets, it’s all too easy to assume the prone position and fall into a deep doze.

Succumbing to the temptation of lie-ins and siestas is a dangerous path. Most of us need a reasonable amount of sleep that ‘knits up the raveled sleave of care’, as Shakespeare put it, but unless you are really sick, the notion that rest is a healing mechanism is highly questionable.

How many people who flourished in their working lives have become shrunken versions of their former selves in retirement?

How many of us come down with some bug or other within days of going on holiday, having allowed ourselves to slow down?

Being a natural sloth, I know that giving in to rest is guaranteed to make me feel less good about myself, less healthy and even more tired.

Cracknell’s drive is borderline crazy, but his coach made a good point. I prefer, though, to think of Neil Young’s more rock ‘n’ roll version of the same advice: ‘It’s better to burn out than it is to rust.’

Debenhams forgot one thing: customers

Counting the cost: Debenhams has forgotten its customers, according to Alexandra

Department stores began life as thrillingly exotic destinations where you could find all manner of goods temptingly laid out.

Previously, shops hid their stock discreetly under counters and behind doors. The displays in the new emporia encouraged you to browse and discover. Their USP was allure.

Last week, Debenhams fell into administration, following quickly on from House of Fraser’s collapse. Another nail in the giant coffin of the high street, some might say.

As easy as it is to bemoan the rapacious might of Amazon, large chains are equally victims of their own failure to provide what they were intended to do.

When department stores turn into dismal morgues, it’s because they’ve ignored the crucial point that if their customers already know what they are looking for then they no longer need to visit – they just buy online instead.

But if these shops take the trouble – like Liberty in London’s Regent Street, or Harrods or Selfridges – to offer surprise, exciting choices and a fascinating voyage of discovery, it can be them, as well as us, who find the treasure at the end.

Chameleon Helena steals The Crown

Star turn: Helena Bonham Carter is expected to steal the show as Princess Margaret in Season 3 of The Crown

The Crown team have an excellent track record at casting relative unknowns as members of the Royal Family, so Emma Corrin will no doubt make a convincing young Diana Spencer in the fourth series of the drama.

For now, though, word is that it is Helena Bonham Carter’s portrayal of Princess Margaret that is the star turn of the next series.

Interior design guru Nicky Haslam, who gave her some tips for the part, was struck by her uncanny resemblance.

‘When you told Margaret something shocking or funny, she would throw her head back, her eyes would pop and her mouth turned down. You never knew how she would react. Helena got it brilliantly. They share that chameleon change of mood.’

Untimely death of an eternal optimist

Paying tribute: Alexandra Shulman speaks out about the loss of Professor Martin Gore, who is pictured meeting the Duke of Cambridge

Were proof ever needed that life isn’t fair, it came with the unexpected and untimely death in January of the Royal Marsden Hospital’s much-loved Professor Martin Gore, from a rogue reaction to a yellow fever jab.

At last week’s standing-room-only memorial service, tributes were paid to a man who, as one of the most influential oncologists of his generation, not only helped save thousands of lives, but also trained and mentored the best and the brightest of those who are following in his footsteps.

Gore was a man whose glass was metaphorically and literally almost always full. He was also, tragically, in the eyes of his many Chelsea-supporting colleagues, a passionate Fulham FC man.

Standing in horizontal rain at Craven Cottage one afternoon, his team 3-0 down before half-time, he turned to his son to say: ‘You know, Alex. Life doesn’t get much better than this.’ I don’t suppose he would have wasted a second whingeing on about fairness.

My quick split? It only took 7 years…

During the miserable process of divorce, the last thing you need is to layer it up with blame, so the move towards no-fault splits is a great step. The less complicated the whole grim process can possibly be made, the better.

One of the most successful things my husband and I did together was handle our divorce online using something called No money changed hands between us or lawyers.

Ironically, it did take us seven years to get around to finalising it, but it has meant that we have remained affectionate friends all these years later.

Hey Jude, you look pants in Y-fronts

Fashion error: Even Jude Law fails to make Y-fronts top of the fashion stakes

Even Jude Law can’t make Y-fronts acceptable. Photographs last week of him strolling along a beach in a pair while filming The Young Pope confirmed that they win, hands-down, the title of the most unpleasant item of clothing ever designed.

Luckily, I came of a certain age when most men had begun to swap theirs for the infinitely more tasteful boxers. But with fashion’s love of retro chic, there’s always the ghastly possibility they might make a return to the nation’s bedrooms.  

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