Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Goodbye golden youth

So I was at a dinner party the other week, seated beside a veteran TV presenter. He was an engaging man with a wealth of anecdotes mined from a long career covering war zones, general news and consumer affairs. As with most charmers, he had that knack of appearing interested in everything I had to say. 


A woman in Victorian costume with the caption, "Age cannot wither her"
At some point in our conversation, we got to discussing how the glut of news on the internet had eroded television audiences. In that context, he remarked that young people didn't really watch breakfast television news anymore. Happy to concur, I told him he was quite right; in our house we tended to listen to Radio 4 of a morning.

"Oh, I meant really young people, teenagers, twenty somethings, who get their news on their phones," he said, before gallantly adding, "but you are young too."

I had fallen into the trap of assuming I was still a paid-up member of the golden youth. During that same weekend I was looking at some photos of myself from another party: who on earth was that woman with all the wrinkles around her eyes? Looking on the bright side, it seems that I have a positive self-image. Clearly, my perception of how old I am has not yet caught up with reality.

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

The quiet determination of Doreen Lawrence

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival... 


Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon, made a startling observation at the Henley Literary Festival this week. She believes that police reforms are not being implemented and that the force is still guilty of racism. "Senior officers get what we need to do," she told the audience. "But somehow that is not being transferred to officers on the ground."

To prove her point, she shared a story about a young black man being arrested at London Bridge, just as she happened to reach the station platform. A group of white officers were kneeling on the young man, who also had his arms held behind his back. Baroness Lawrence decided to intervene and warned one of the officers: "He could die from that, you know." The officer, who clearly did not recognise her, replied: "It happens."
Doreen Lawrence, Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon

It has been more than 20 years since Baroness Lawrence's son Stephen was murdered in 1993 in London by a gang of white youths. Right from the beginning, the Lawrences were aware that the police were not taking the case seriously enough. "We were treated by the police as if we were perpetrators, not victims," she said. The force seemed more interested in investigating the Lawrence family and their friends, rather than pursuing leads to track down Stephen's attackers.

Monday, 29 September 2014

An audience with Jojo and Daisy

Notes from the Henley Literary Festival... 


A few years ago an editor friend of mine at Headline Review sent me a copy of My Last Duchess because she thought I would enjoy it. She knew my tastes well: this tale of an American heiress who marries into the English aristocracy was right up my street. It has been described as Henry James without the boring bits. Today I got to meet the author, Daisy Goodwin, who has now written a second book, The Fortune Hunter, about the 19th century Empress Elisabeth of Austria.


Lucy Cavendish interviews Jojo Moyes and Daisy Goodwin at the Henley Literary Festival
Jojo Moyes is a regular guest at the Literary Festival
Daisy was joined by Jojo Moyes, the bestselling author of Me Before You, and between the two of them, they kept us riveted with a discussion of their characters, their craft and a few homey snippets. 

In her latest book, The One Plus One, Jojo writes about a single mother Jess who ends up embarking on a road trip with Ed - a man she barely knows - to enter her daughter into a maths Olympiad in Aberdeen. Inevitably love blossoms, although there are of course a few twists in the road.

Monday, 15 September 2014

In a bit of a pickle...

I have done things this weekend that I would never have dreamed possible a year ago, including trying to foist a pair of underpants onto a panic-stricken labrador in the dead of night. Why? you ask. Why indeed.


Pickle, the black labrador
Feeling a bit cheesed off...
After months of agonising, we decided last week to have our dog, Pickle, neutered. The live sex-shows outside the school gates (involving a hapless golden retriever) finally pushed us over the edge. So I booked him in for the snip. The course of true love never did run smooth, Pickle.

It's a straight-forward op, the vet told us. Hmm... no mention of having to apply frozen peas four times a day to swollen doggy privates, or of smoothing steroid cream onto itchy patches down under. (When there is a wriggly, under-exercised dog involved, such applications require the accuracy of a surgeon's hand and the patience of a saint.) 

Monday, 8 September 2014

Fragrant dreams

People watching: 
Roja Dove, Master perfumer

I was walking through a National Trust garden the other day when I stooped to smell a rose. The delicate, quintessentially  English scent transported me back to my grandparents' garden when I was a little girl. There I was cavorting under a weeping willow in a frilly frock with brown ribbons in my hair. Magic! 


Roja, Dove, master perfumer
Roja: "Choose your scent wisely"
Such is the power of scent. Frangipani does it for me too. Only this time I'm a teenager in Oman at dusk, full of tempestuous emotions. I long for my freedom and yet I am also frightened of what the world has to offer. For me, the sweetness of frangipani is fraught with danger and temptation.

As the master perfumer, Roja Dove, told a rapt audience last week at Henley's Phyllis Court club: "Unstopping a bottle of scent transports you to a different place. It's like releasing a genie from a bottle."

Monday, 18 August 2014

Mother of the year

Hermaphrodite Mum
Three kids and a single mum

My voice has gone hoarse. Too much shouting. It's week six and I have cracked. It's a shame cos I was doing so well. Only a few stern words and couple of sarcastic retorts in five weeks. I deserved 'Mother of the Year' and then I went and blew it in week six. Shouting. At the kids. It's official: the summer holidays have gone on too long.

Perhaps it's raining in Majorca?
We were in the supermarket. Middle Child wanted to buy a box of Mini Magnums. I said, no darling - remember we are trying to cut down on sugar, and he said, pleeeese, pretty pleeeese, and I said, HOW MANY TIMES DO I HAVE TELL YOU, THE ANSWER IS NO!!! 

I think the guys stacking the trolleys in the car park heard me. It wasn't pretty. The old lady cruising down the frozen-foods aisle with a trolley full of prunes and Bran Flakes gave me a disapproving stare. I wanted to shout after her, "I've had them at home for six weeks for goodness sake! Give me a break! AND my ex-husband is in Majorca right now with his new girlfriend! She's probably rubbing suntan lotion into his back as I speak." But I didn't. I just put the Mini Magnums carefully into the trolley.