|Judi Dench played Philomena in the film|
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Friday, 6 December 2013
Which is more important: a mother's love or a life of opportunity? A few weeks ago I went to see the film Philomena, a true story about a mother trying to trace her illegitimate son, fifty years after he was sold into adoption by Irish nuns. I won't spoil the ending, but it enough to say that her son went on to have a high-flying career as legal counsel to President Reagan in the United States. At several points on Philomena's journey to find her son, she remarks, "I could never have given him this." It is some small measure of consolation for the suffering she has borne - the fact that her boy made good in the land of the free. He would never have achieved such dizzy heights had he remained with his Irish mother, stigmatised by the circumstances of his birth - or so she believes.
It is a well-worn argument used to justify the adoption of children in the cases of unwed mothers sixty or seventy years ago. In the aftermath of the second-world war, many unfortunate women were persuaded to give up their babies to save the children from the stain of illegitimacy. It plays on every mother's instinct: do the best for your child, at any cost. There were practical considerations as well since many unmarried mothers could not afford to bring up a child on their own. Indeed such a dilemma faces one of the characters - an unmarried actress who falls pregnant - in my novel, A Sister for Margot.
Wednesday, 27 November 2013
Every year it feels like Christmas kicks off earlier than the previous year. All of us have a friend who has written her cards by the end of the November, or completed her Christmas shopping a month ahead of schedule, or got the tree up on the first day of December. Well, beat this Xmas keenos: I recently met someone who signed off on his Christmas back in April! In fact he's already preparing for next year. I'm talking about Morrisons' very own father of Christmas, Neil Nugent, otherwise known as the supermarket's executive chef. "Christmas is over for me now," he told me at the BritMums bloggers' Xmas do this week. "I'm on next year now."
The chef, who was poached from Waitrose by Morrisons in 2011, has signed off on 972 product launches for Christmas, all of which have been personally tasted over a period of time. Now he is waiting with bated breath to see whether we (the customers) will warm to his festive feast. "My neck's on the block for the range," he admitted, perhaps mindful of his 42-week old turkeys about to meet their doom.
Neil Nugent, executive chef for Morrisons
|Gingerbread houses are expected to be BIG this year|
Thursday, 21 November 2013
In 1403 an enterprising group of booksellers (known as stationers) set up a fraternity of tradesmen. A few hundred years later in 1670, after the great fire of London, they built themselves a beautiful meeting place, called The Stationers' Hall, a stone's throw from St Paul's Cathedral. They could hardly have predicted that several centuries later, a swarm of opinionated women would storm their hall, ready to challenge the male establishment. Thanks to the London Press Club, we had all been invited to attend a forum on women in media led by a female panel from journalism's frontline.
|THE PANEL: Kay Burley (Sky News), Carla Buzasi (Huffington Post), |
Anne McElvoy (Evening Standard), Lisa Markwell (Independent on Sunday),
Sarah Sands (Evening Standard)
Credit: Nigel Howard / London Evening Standard
"I feel personally that I have got a responsibility in the way we portray women," Carla Buzasi, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, told us in her opening salvo. She believes women bloggers are "worried about putting themselves out there" and has deliberately put female role models on her front page to set an example.
Thursday, 14 November 2013
Tuesday night found me discussing my novel, A Sister for Margot, with a book club from Nettlebed. The prospect of talking about my work with a group of strangers is always daunting, but the group's relaxed vibe made for an enjoyable evening. There's something about a book club that oils communication (or was that the wine?) and leads you down conversational alleys you may not have visited before. In two hours, we covered blighted potential, use of the present tense in A Sister for Margot, ebooks, the war dead and the devastation of Typhoon Haiyan.
I know from my own book club that discussion of a story or plotline is often a jumping-off point for more personal revelations. It is a cliche to say that women love to chat, but book clubs provide a few extra ingredients: literary analysis, escapism, a window on another world and the chance to exchange ideas. Girls consistently outperform boys at school and the popularity of book clubs amongst women perhaps harks back to a fondness for structured study and analysis.
|Books could keep you out of prison|
Thursday, 31 October 2013
I had a significant birthday the other week: I turned 40. My six-year old son assured me that I was now "properly grown up". This comes from someone whose definition of a grown-up depends upon a peculiar ranking of emotion. "I am not grown up yet," he told us recently, "because I love Mummy more than my girlfriend. When I am a grown-up, I will love my girlfriend more." He declined to reveal the identity of said girlfriend.
Lots of friends have asked me how I felt about turning 40. Frankly, on the morning of my birthday, it felt pretty much the same as 39, except that I had a stonking hangover. Life begins at 40, apparently, which is odd because I thought it began four decades ago (and I am sure people told me the same thing when I turned 30). There have obviously been a few false starts along the way.
|Intimations of mortality on turning 40|