Lately, I can't seem to escape news and features on Mario Testino. King of celebrity (and royal) portraits, he has a retrospective entitled 'Kate Who?' opening in London in July, and the columns are sagging with the news.

His work is fairly uninteresting to me, but it did remind me about a set of 1930s portraits I found tucked away in a corner of the Guardian a while ago, promoting the considerably less column-worthy exhibition of the work of 1930s photographer Madame Yevonde, on in London until July.

Mrs Richard Hart Davis as Ariel & Lady Anne Rhys as Flora

Mrs Anthony Eden as Clio & Lady Bridgett Poulett as Arethusa

Mrs Brian Guinness as Venus & Margaret, Duchess of Argyll as Helen of Troy

All photographs taken from the Guardian

This exhibition focuses on a series of 1935 photographs in which 1930s society women (the majority known predominantly by their husbands' names) portray Classical heroines in these experimental colour portraits. Here we have Clio, the muse of history, portrayed by Beatrice Beckett, the wife of the future prime minister Anthony Eden, and Margaret, Duchess of Argyll as Helen of Troy (ironically she is best known for her scandalous divorce from her Duke in 1963 after an affair).

The images are in many ways far more interesting than the results of Mario Testino's famous ability to get his subjects to strip off – Madame Yevonde adds layers, and through the veneer of these otherworldly characters, highlights the contrasts between the independent mythical goddesses of old and the 'goddesses' of the early twentieth century.


Book Guilt

Foyles bookshop came to Bristol, and I was so excited that I wanted to queue outside for the opening. At work instead on opening day, I waited until the weekend, dragging Ben down into town with me for my intended statement of support for the miserable book trade. I knew what I wanted to buy, and I was going to buy it, at cover price, from a brand new book shop. I work in publishing and I was going to set an example.

I got there. It was beautifully laid out, but not very busy. I browsed and flicked pages and pointed things out, and settled on the books I wanted. Wandering around the shop with them in my hand, I realised gradually that I couldn't go through with it.

I think I'm ruined for bookshops. Spoiled by Amazon, too used to glorious second-hand bookshops and spoiled by internet undercutting. Even my guilt didn't stop me from buying both of my chosen titles (for the price I would have paid for one in the bookshop), from the Amazon machine. I was reminded of my guilt by this New York Times visual of beautiful cover designs that were discarded along the publishing way – it's a perfect illustration of just how much time and energy goes into every book, and puts my miserly attitude to shame.

One day, I tell myself, when I have the means to do it, I'll go back into one of those new bookshops and I'll put all this right – the problem is, by then there might not be any of them left.


Country Garden

Driving through the countryside, you peer through the green privacy hedges and elbow your boyfriend in the ribs and say 'hey, look at that one', pointing at another beautiful country mansion, set back from the road, covered with large windows and ivy and architectural curiosities. Then you see a village cricket bowler run towards his batsman, watch the ball hit for six and call the score for the benefit of everyone else in the car, interested or otherwise.

Sometimes, if you are lucky, these hidden houses are open to visitors, and you can drive up and explore their gardens all you like. It's an addiction surprisingly simple to cultivate on a hot spring day with little else to do.

This garden wander was the weekend of the wedding – my royal blue velvet blazer adds a touch of unintended regency I think. It was an outfit I wore all around London too when I went to visit this past weekend. In true royal fashion, it's an outfit that likes to be leisurely both in the city and in the countryside.