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The art of scruffy-smart

CONSIDERING the amount of people Annie helps with their clothing dilemmas in her Independent on Sunday column each week, it is surprising when she confesses: "I don't really buy many clothes, I go in fits and starts, and I'm either very scruffily dressed or very smart."

Annie's casual wardrobe consists of lots of fleeces from Patagonia (0171 721 8717). Scruffy footwear is usually either Nike Air Moc trainers (enquiries: 0800 0561640) "which look like baked potatoes", bought more cheaply in America, or desert boots ("bought in Italy - I don't like the trendy ones you get here that cost 60 quid"). Smart or sexy clothes come from stores as diverse as Top Shop (enquiries: 0171 291 2706), or from the designer Elspeth Gibson (7 Pont Street, London SW3, tel: 0171 235 0601). "Her clothes are really me; pretty but not frilly and girlie," she explains. Annie's "whore heels" come from Senso (6 South Molton Street, London W1, tel: 0171 499 9998) and she rates Office shoes (enquiries: 0181 838 4447), "because they are very good at interpreting trends". Shoes by Ecco (0800 387368) are given a highly prized "Gold Star Award" in the book of Annie's column - "they're brilliant, good quality and their walking boots are so light."

Given Annie's home life - five children, a husband and a pig farm - it's not surprising that she knows as much about food shopping as she does about clothes. She buys her favourite cheeses "Ticklemore goat's cheese for me and Montgomery Cheddar for my husband" from Tavistock Country Cheeses (Market Road, Tavistock, Devon PL19 0BW, mail order and enquiries: 01822 615035). "Every time you go down there they'll have something that one of their local cheese manufacturers has made, special bread or proper fudge - you never know what else you're going to get." Annie also stocks up at the "fabulous" Selfridges Food Hall (0171 629 1234).

Though usually an instinctive shopper, Annie likes "the concept of mail order" and is willing to wait for the delivery of a "heinously sweet" walnut spread called Confit de Noix from Lakeland Limited (enquiries/ mail order: 015394 88100). She also enjoys biscotti del pane "to dunk in my morning zuppa" (from Panificio Capaldo in Atripalda, Italy). "I get my limongello, a lemon liqueur, from my aunt in Southern Italy. M&S sold it last year, but they stopped doing it, thank goodness, before it could become trendy."

Both Annie and her husband are keen fishermen. She shops at Orvis (27 Sackville Street, London W1, tel: 0171 494 2660) or House of Hardy (61 Pall Mall, London SW1, tel 0171 839 5515) or Sport Fish (13 Pall Mall, London SW1, enquiries: 01544 327111). She also loves books and likes to visit the annual London Artists Book Fair at the Barbican Centre (for more information tel: 0171 261 0111) where she buys her leather hand-bound blank notebooks "from a French man there".

What does Annie buy as a treat? "I get my perfumes from Jo Malone [enquiries and mail order: 0171 720 0202]. People ask me what I'm wearing every time I wear it." Special jewellery comes from another Gold Star holder: Jess James (3 Newburgh Street, London W1, tel: 0171 437 0199). Her "dress" watch comes from Cobra & Bellamy (149 Sloane Street, London SW1 tel: 0171 730 9993) or she wears "big diver's watches" by Casio. One of her most useful presents was "a mini screwdriver set with eight heads from Muji [enquiries: 0171 323 2208]. I can almost pretend I can Do It Myself."

'Dear Annie', the book of the column, is now on sale priced pounds 9.99, published by Faber & Faber