Style | The Aesthete

Susan Greenfield talks personal style: Part Two

The scientist and author reveals more of her preferences and predilections.

November 06 2009
Maria Shollenbarger

My style icon is Vivienne Westwood, because she makes clothes for women with curves, which I like. And I like her originality, her attitude, which is irreverent and warm. “Warm” and “highly original” strikes me as a rare, and very nice, combination.

In my fridge you’ll always find all manner of sparkling things – beer, water, sparkling wine, champagne. This very moment it’s Fox Creek Vixen [£10.99], a sparkling shiraz/cabernet sauvignon/cabernet franc made at McLaren Vale in Australia, which is very nice despite what one might think; and lots of Stella Artois. Anything bubbly I associate with celebration. Fox Creek Vixen available from Tilley’s Wines, Eastfield Road, Wollaston, Northamptonshire NN29 7RS ( and see

The best gift I’ve received recently was very special indeed – a Bible, from the wife of a good friend. She’s quite an observant Christian, and I was brought up in a completely secular environment and am half-Jewish. But I’m intrigued by religion. It’s a New Study Bible, annotated, so I have that access to and explanation of everything. It’s lovely when people put such care into a truly thoughtful gift.

The site that inspires me is Radcliffe Camera, in Radcliffe Square in Oxford. It’s truly a place where time has stood still; you have the perspective and the understanding that it’s existed for hundreds of years. I’ve seen it in snow, in sun, filled with tourists, empty at 1am – and through the lens of every one of my moods. And it’s majestic at all times.

An object I’d never part with is a little Colombian gold charm, about 2in high, of a South American deity. A colleague gave it to me in the 1980s and I carry it round all the time. It’s become a talisman of sorts. It’s quite primitive, a bit anthropomorphic – it could be a person but the face has a snout, and there’s a sort of peacock’s full arch of feathers behind. It’s certainly not beautiful, but is so unusual.

My favourite room in my house is my terrace. It’s on the upper level, off the dining/kitchen area. It’s got a lovely black iron table and chairs, and a lounger, and olive trees, jasmine and lots of potted plants. It’s private but alfresco. It’s carefully furnished and arranged so it has the sense of a room, but also the casualness and immediacy of being outdoors.

If I had to limit my shopping to one neighbourhood in one city, I’d choose Heathrow Terminal 5. It’s nice for wandering around, and it’s arranged a bit like a neighbourhood. Importantly, I’ve got the time and am in the mindset to shop when I’m there. And then, of course, you always have the feeling you’re fleeing the country, so you can let loose and spend.

The city I’d live in if I didn’t live in Oxford is Paris. I did when I was young – I lived in the 6th and worked in the 5th – and I have incredible memories. I continue to feel energised and inspired by it, by both small and big things. I mean, Sèvres-Babylone; it has a more exotic ring than Baron’s Court, doesn’t it?

If I weren’t doing what I do now, I’d be a simultaneous translator; you’re on duty, and then you’re off – no office politics, no lingering work concerns. And I do sometimes aspire to write a novel; it’s one thing that one does all by oneself, and you have something tangible to show for it.