May 10, 2013 7:17 pm

The prize for well-groomed prose

She may not be a beauty writer, but that doesn’t mean Mrs Moneypenny can’t judge a beauty journalism competition
An illustration depicting a 'Wax Lyrical Award'©James Ferguson

I go a long way, sometimes, to eat food. This is how a group of us made a special visit to the café at Wickenby airfield, near Lincoln, for Saturday brunch. What would I tell you if I were a food writer? The most important thing to know is that the food is prepared by Jean – but only on Thursdays to Sundays. The rest of the week there’s an honesty system for the tea and cake left out for hungry pilots.

If you plan a mass visit, it’s best to call and warn Jean, who took over a year ago, so that she can factor it into her supermarket run. I took 20 people to try her brunch and forgot to do just that.

Service? Excellent. She even drove me to the hangar at the far end of the airfield to use the loo because the nearer one was out of action. Location? A nice outdoor terrace if the weather allows, with a great view of the runway (note to Oxford airport – please move the café to somewhere we can see the planes), and a museum upstairs with hundreds of artefacts and photographs from the war days when it was RAF Wickenby, home to two squadrons of Lancasters. The brunch? Delicious. And great value for money, unless you include the round trip from Oxford.

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Mrs Moneypenny

Maybe I am not cut out to be a food writer, after all. But then I am also not cut out to be a beauty writer. This didn’t stop me being invited to judge the Procter & Gamble Beauty & Grooming Awards this year. Yes, that’s right, beauty and grooming. Me. Once you stop laughing (I am beautiful! I do groom!) you might like to know that I was allocated two specific categories to judge, one of which was the best journalism award for shorter articles.

This was won by my strong favourite, a piece in Red by Annabel Meggeson and Rosie Green, entitled “Is fur a feminist issue?” This referred not to coats but to arguments both for and against intimate waxing for women. Very few people, male or female, that I canvass (and yes, I do) on the subject have a neutral view. Men in particular seem to feel very strongly one way or another about whether women should bother with this. I suspect it is something worth asking about long before a relationship gets intimate. Girls, can you imagine spending all that money and then finding out he prefers au naturel?

There was also a best journalism award for longer articles, won by Beatrice Aidin for a piece in this very newspaper. Beatrice, salut! The awarding judge, one Ed Needham, praised her work as: “Refreshingly free of men’s grooming-world jargon – no self-deprecation; no getting in touch with another ‘side’, feminine or otherwise; no unsubstantiated research; no awkward voyage of self-discovery. Instead, proper facts, meaty quotes from sources other than the manufacturer’s publicist, and assumptions challenged. You emerge from the experience having read a fragment of journalism rather than a sales pitch.” Forgive the lengthy quote, but I was rather blown away by that and nearly gave it an award of its own. Best judgment of a beauty and grooming journalism award – Ed, salut!

My other category was the best indie blog for grooming, which was awarded to SCforM.com, a blog written by Dil Uppal. It strikes me that there is a lot about male grooming around, although I am not sure how much grooming the males I know actually do. CC#1, for instance, now 23, sports a natty amount of facial hair that is kept at stubble length by an electric razor exactly set to make it look as if he hasn’t shaved at all.

Later on the day of my trip to Wickenby, CC#1 got me to meet him and some of his friends for dinner. It was not until I was on the train from Didcot Parkway that I looked up where we were to meet. The nearest station was Haggerston. (No, me neither. It involved changing at Whitechapel. Sorry, east Londoners – just not my patch.) It was called Duke’s Brew & Que, and houses its own brewery. What can I tell you? Worth travelling a long way for.

mrsmoneypenny@ft.com

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