The Independent, 7 February 2014

Hold on to your compacts: Vanity Fair has printed pictures of Scarlett Johansson and Kate Winslet wearing no make-up. This is, apparently, an audacious decision on the part of the magazine and the stars, happily justified by the fact that both women look precisely as lovely without make-up as they do in full red-carpet regalia. Who could really be surprised? Make-up certainly does you a lot of favours, but movie stars, like models, are starting ahead of the beauty curve.

I’m hoping the shock revelation that women look perfectly nice with or without make-up means that everyone might go for a slightly lower-maintenance look for a while. Then I won’t look quite so bad in comparison. I was appalled to discover recently that a friend of mine spends more than two hours getting ready for work each morning. That’s at least an hour too long, surely, no matter how good you look.

Whereas I have been leaving the house with wet hair every morning for 20 years and — honestly — until Adele did so a couple of years ago, and newspaper columnists were scandalised by her slovenliness, it had never occurred to me that it was odd. How could it be slovenly? She’d just washed her hair. You could tell, because it was still wet.

And the same is true with make-up. Contrarily, I realised I had given up wearing make-up while I was buying concealer from a small chemist in the south of France. I had been at the Cannes film festival for four days, slipping from one dark screening room to another. We finally had the chance to see a gala performance, which includes walking up the red carpet in a fancy frock.

Only when I put on my dress did I realise I had no make-up with me, and I would need some if I was going to be filmed on a red carpet. Wearing a swanky dress and no make-up is so peculiar that even I can see it looks bad. So I had to stop off at the chemist on the way there, to colour in the purple rings I like to keep beneath my eyes.

I know that for some people, the act of not wearing make-up is an insult: a sign that the bare-faced don’t care about other people’s good opinion. They see it as the cosmetic equivalent of going to work in pyjamas. But I tend to view make-up as akin to jewellery, not clothing. If you choose to adorn yourself, with anything from a glittery eyeliner to a sparkly rock, then I’ll admire your bling.

But if you prefer not to, why would anyone be affronted? Courtesy demands that we all turn up everywhere looking and smelling clean, but above and beyond that, it’s up to you. I would no more judge a woman for going without make-up than I would a man for going without hair-gel. And if a low-maintenance look means you have more time to do something else, so much the better. No-one ever looked back on their life and wished they’d worn more eyeliner.

Besides, I hate getting up early. If I have to choose between looking perfectly groomed and not being horribly tired, I pick the latter every time. And I damaged one eye a long time ago, which means I often sleep with medication in it. This, in turn, means any make-up applied to my right eye before, say, lunchtime will be decorating my right cheek within an hour. Tempting as it is to have one elaborately decorated eye, and one rakish eye-patch, I have stuck with symmetry.

I do make an effort sometimes, especially if I’m giving a talk under bright lights (my eyebrows can scarcely be seen with the naked eye). But, for the most part, if the rest of you could all look a bit less groomed, I’d consider it a big favour. And you’d look like Scarlett Johansson.

Even more shocking news this week: Eurovision rules are being tightened up to prevent vote-rigging, after a dubious video emerged, appearing to show Euro-shenanigans. Any countries found to be in breach of the new conditions could be banned for three years. I couldn’t be more surprised. Firstly, I had always assumed that Eurovision was supposed to be silly, and that no-one cared who won. I now see that I was in a minority of one, and I apologise.

Secondly, and in my defence, my views on winning Eurovision have been coloured by Father Ted. In their Eurovision episode, Ireland are so desperate to lose (because they can’t afford to host the competition again the following year) that they allow Ted and Dougal to represent the country with the infamous ‘My Lovely Horse’. I now see that this was a joke, not a documentary, and I apologise a second time.