We shall never surrender

We have just moved back to London. At the moment we are in Fulham, which as you can imagine this morning was a bit like a war zone. Helicopters buzzed above us, ambulances whizzed through the streets and there were police everywhere. It made me feel fiercely protective of this city and livid that yet again it is under attack.
I have just written the speech I wish London mayor Sadiq Khan had given rather than trotting out the same old tiresome platitudes. It seems to me that what we need is a Winston Churchill to take charge…download-1

This morning at 8.20am there was an attack on a tube as it pulled up at Parson’s Green. A home-made bomb caught fire. Thankfully the perpetrators were too inept to make it explode. But still, it went up in flames, hurling a fireball down the carriage into the faces of people going to work and children going to school. Among the injured was a 10-year-old boy. If the bomb had actually blown up he, as well as countless other, would now be dead.
London is one of the world’s great cities. It has always welcomed people from all countries and religions. Walk down any street in London and I guarantee you will hear people talking in foreign languages. They will be different colours, different religions, they will even support different football teams.
But they will have one thing in common. Their home. London.
An attack on London, as my predecessor Boris Johnson said, is an attack on the world. It is an indiscriminate attack on whatever religion, culture or creed happens to be in the wrong place as the wrong time. It is also an attack on our way of life. And we are no longer prepared to put up with this kind of assault.
If you want to live in London, make a life here for your family, have a career and exist peacefully in this great city, you are welcome.
But if you attack us, if you try to kill and maim our children in the name of some spurious utopia that takes us back to the Middle Ages then you are not welcome. In fact, anyone who posts allegiance to Isis or any extremist organisations, or declares our way of life abhorrent, is not welcome.
If you don’t like the way we live, then leave. Just as Londoners have let millions who differ from them live alongside them for centuries without bothering them or trying to impose their own beliefs on them, let us live how we want to live without fear of attack. We will not be hounded in our own home. Londoners are famously stoical and patient. You only have to spend a winter here to see that. But enough is enough.
From today, anyone swearing allegiance to any extremist organisation that threatens our way of life, or who goes abroad to fight for a foreign enemy will have their residence revoked. Living in London is a privilege, not a right. It is a privilege that too many have come by too easily. And maybe that’s why they don’t respect it.
We are not prepared to see our children injured, innocent people maimed or frightened to leave their homes. The time has come to take action. London will survive this era. You cowards will not.

Harvest Festival

For about an hour this week, I could have been in Wiltshire. I went to Leo’s Harvest Festival at the church next to his school. The children sang hymns and harvest songs, we said a few prayers of thanks and the head of the primary school made a little speech.
As we filed out, I bumped into the (Welsh) headmaster and we had a chat about the hideous rugby world cup semi-final. Then I stepped outside into 40 degree heat and my illusion was shattered.

Rupert teases me about my obsession with Wiltshire. For some reason I have a notion that if we lived there in a large thatched cottage somewhere on the edge of a field, our lives would be perfect. I imagine driving the children to school along a windy road with high hedges either side and wild flowers in the ditches. Dropping them at the school gate and heading off to Waitrose to do the thrice-weekly shop before going home to work on my latest book in a office with central heating instead of air conditioning.

The reality is probably that we would be living next to a water-logged field, impenetrable without a boat for most of the year, that Waitrose would be packed full of people and utterly hideous, and that the roads on the way to school would be jammed with people with road rage and we would be broke from paying endless tax.

But until I try it, I won’t believe it.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2011

Update on Leonardo

I realise that Bea gets most of the column inches on my blog, but I have a few updates on Leo.

A few evenings ago we were invited to the Swedish ambassador’s residence to celebrate Santa Lucia. This is a Swedish tradition, a festival of light, where children wear candles (or lights nowadays I think it is, much safer I suppose but not as romantic) and sing beautiful songs. Traditionally we wake our parents up with coffee and cakes singing. Every school has a ‘Lucia-train’ as it is called and being chosen as the Lucia is a huge honour; like being a prom-queen or winning a beauty contest.

lucia_1908_by_carl_larsson

So there we were, listening to the lovely Swedish voices in the moonlight. I was almost in tears the nostalgia was so much. After two songs Leo turned to me.

lucia

“Mummy,” he said. “Is this going to go on all night?”

“Why?” I asked. “Don’t you like it?”

“Not much.”

I’m not sure he is really in touch with his Swedish side.

The bad news is that his best friend at school, Oscar, whom Leo describes as “just like me, only with less hair”, is moving to another school. He is leaving the French system for the British system. He will have a school uniform and play cricket. I am so tempted to move Leo as well, but is it mad to pay double the school fees so he can play cricket and be with his friend? Also it would mean the end of his French I fear….but on the other hand, the thought of Leo in a school uniform is just too divine. And I think he would be very happy; he is definitely more English than anything else.

Next year I might try taking him to the embassy carol concert instead.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

Another country

I have a strange (according to Rupert) and enduring love of England, and more specifically an England that I suspect no longer exists.

It is an England full of nice middle-class people drinking tea on lush lawns and playing tennis as the sun sets while someone mixes the Pimm’s and everyone behaves like they’re in a PG Wodehouse book. It is an England that you probably only see in films like Howard’s End. But nonetheless I get a glimpse of it every now and again and I am filled with longing to be there.

I had a tearful and terrible longing on Friday as I watched the Household Cavalry perform the famous Musical Ride. The music was emotive; I vow to thee, my country; the Black Beauty theme; Land of Hope and Glory. The Horses and men in perfect synchrony and the buckles all so shiny you could have plucked your eyebrows in them. I was unaccountably happy that the children were witnessing this. Even if it broke my heart that they knew none of the words to any of the songs.

cavalry

The other thing that is heartbreaking is that much in the same way that I have a terribly romantic view of Blighty, they have a rose-coloured view of France. Everything that is bad here is followed by a “that wouldn’t happen in France”, every time any holidays are discussed all the talk is of going back to Sainte Cecile.

I wonder if this is a symptom of any child taken from a country at an early age? And I also wonder if by the time they grow up, the France they long for will still exist?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

Forever England…..

I am in Austria at the Viva Mayr clinic and online again after several days. I am here for my new book deal; I am writing a diet book based on the Viva Mayr philosophy, which is all about chewing a lot and not eating too late. Well, there is more to it than that of course, but as I only just arrived you can’t expect too many details. And anyway, I don’t want to put you off buying the book.

London was good practice for Abu Dhabi. It was unbearably hot and full of people from the Middle East. We stayed near Marble Arch at our Society of Authors affiliated club, The New Cavendish Club. Let’s get this straight, there’s nothing ‘new’ about it. And that’s what makes it so charming and so very English.

“This is a proper Englishman’s breakfast,” said Olivia tucking into bacon, baked beans, tea and toast. “Grandpa would like this. He’s a proper Englishman. He fought in the war and he won it.”

I doubt the club has changed much since the war (hence the lack of internet connection). The ‘public areas’ require a certain dress code, copies of The Daily Telegraph are strewn over lavishly upholstered sofas and fish and chips is on the bar menu. It is a little corner of London that remains forever England.

Step outside though and you may as well be in down town Abu Dhabi. I would say at least 50% of the people walking down the street are Middle Eastern, quite amazing. Why are they all there? What is it they like about it so much? If you walk through Hyde Park to Kensington Park Gardens and up to the Diana memorial playground the average increases to around 70%. Here at least I can see what has attracted them; the sand around the pirate ship makes them feel at home.

Anyway I am pleased to report they seem extremely nice and I am looking forward to moving there next week even more. Bea met a charming and beautiful young boy at the playground who clearly fell in love with her on sight. Olivia spent her time asking young girls if they liked wearing head scarves. They don’t really think about it is the impression she got.

I saw some very elegant ladies in traditional dress with just a touch of frivolity; a pair of pink shoes, or a Prada handbag, or some gold lace lining the austere black garb. It seems under all that cloth they are a bit like us.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Dishy Dave

We are in London, it’s great to be back. Yesterday I visited my favourite haunts; the Blink Bar at Harvey Nichols and HB Health where Botox Brenda worked her magic needle. On the way back to the hotel (Rupert has managed to get us into The Connaught, a more civilised place is hard to imagine, Leo has his own bed, dressing gown, slippers, teddy bear, London map etc) I was walking up Park Lane feeling jolly happy when I saw a familiar figure walking towards me.

Dave & Heathcliff

It was David Cameron, the leader of the opposition conservative party. I have always rather liked Dishy Dave as I call him because he’s, well, quite dishy. He is an Old Etonian which is a good start (in my experience they are usually charming, clever and amusing) and he just looks so good compared with the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. This week Brown compared himself with my all-time hero (only downside is he’s not an Old Etonian) Heathcliff. Well, I mean, really. He is about as reminiscent of Heathcliff as a sack of old potatoes, in fact less.

Dishy Dave looked so bright, handsome and fresh faced that I smiled broadly, praying silently that the blood left by Brenda’s needle had left my forehead. He smiled back and said “hello”. Rather annoyingly when I said hello back my new Tom Ford glasses decided to do that trick of moving up and down on my face so I must have looked like a mad woman. Still at least he’ll remember me.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Fat, fatter, fattest…..

Deep-fried Mars BarI admit it, I am a fattist. Every time I see a fat person I want to throw up. I can’t stand the sight of that blubber blubbering around. If I see a fat person walking into Burger King I am tempted to make a citizen’s arrest.

Now I see that Britain is officially the fattest nation in Europe with a shocking 59% of women judged overweight or obese. This is more than half the female population. What the hell are they thinking about? Chips and deep-fried Mars Bars? Obviously not their health or how to look good in skinny jeans.

OK, so I may care more than the average person about the way people look. But It’s not just the fact that I hate the idea of someone with so little will-power or care for themselves that they let themselves get into that state. There is the deadly serious side to obesity.

Do you know that being overweight knocks NINE YEARS off a person’s life? And how much is the medical care going to cost? And who pays for that?
We don’t mind looking after smokers on the NHS, after all they fund a large part of it, but how are you going to feel when you realise that a vast amount of your hard-earned money is going on treating people for this obesity epidemic? Reinforced beds don’t come cheap. Nor does the medical care to treat cardiovascular diseases, cancer, diabetes, arthritis and a whole host of other effects of stuffing your face at every given opportunity. And before you all start writing telling me for most fat people it’s a medical condition, I sat next to two extremely experienced doctors at lunch yesterday and asked them how many people were fat due to a medical condtion. The both shook their heads.

“Hardly any at all,” said one, “the most common medical condition would be a mental disorder that leads to over-eating. Other than that it’s simply life-style. And eating too much.”

But being obese is no longer a personal lifestyle choice, it’s an issue we’re all going to have to deal with. And look at. And while I’m ranting; a friend of mine used to extremely thin, not through any eating disorder, she was just thin. People would often come up to her (even strangers in the street) and ask “do you ever eat?” How come you’re allowed to ask that of thin people but were you to ask a fat person if they ever stopped eating you would be judged incredibly rude?

Maybe it’s time we started asking them that question, it might make them stop and think before they stuff in that deep-fried Mars Bar.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Fame at last…..

BorisI am in the Richard Kay column in the Daily Mail today (see below for text of article). This is thrilling news on many counts. First they have made me younger than I am (always useful for an anti-ageing guru), second they call me “pouting” and finally it’s only a matter of time before Boris gets on the phone to ask when my new exclusively Old Etonian retreat is going to take place.

I have always wanted to meet Boris; I think he seems extremely amusing and now that he’s mayor of London he will be a useful contact to have. I could talk to him about my plans to introduce 24-hour opening at Harvey Nichols for example and to ban smoking in the royal boroughs of Kensington and Chelsea. Now that all these smokers intent on killing themselves can only do so outside, London air has become extremely ageing. I think it should only be permitted outside zone one. Boris can implement my plan. After the retreat, obviously.

Pouting anti-ageing authoress Helena “To Hell In High Heels” Frith-Powell says she’s planning a special Toffs Weekend at her new health spa, Renew Retreats, in the South of France.

Helena, 40, who likes to swim in the nude, says: “Now it’s cool to be an Old Etonian again, I’m sure they could benefit from some exercise and style hints.”

But just who could Helena have in mind? “David Cameron looks pretty fit, but I think Boris Johnson could benefit,” she explains.

Back to Blighty

The almond orchardAfter a lovely trip on the Eurostar (now my number one way to travel anywhere due to the opening of not one, but TWO, Marks & Spencer’s at St Pancras International, I am on the TGV speeding towards home.

I am desperate to see the children, Rupert, my dog etc but I have to admit that something approaching depression hit me as soon as I walked off the train and into Lille Station.
Suddenly all the signs were in French, people were speaking French and it all seemed horribly unfamiliar. Obviously after almost eight years of living in France it is familiar, but the fact is it is not home.

But if I am going to get over this depression I have to change my mind-set. When I go to England I stay in Chelsea (somewhere we would never be able to afford to live), I am able to be supremely selfish (I have no children in tow) and I spend most of my time shopping, applying fake tan, having my eyebrows threaded, seeing friends or painting my nails. This is not life. This is a holiday. So from now on, France is going to be home and England my number one holiday destination.

I am going to make an effort to feel more French by listing things I like about living here.

The weather
The countryside
The girls’ ballet school
The straight, empty roads
The TGV
The fresh food
The sense of civic pride
The view from our house
Our house and garden (especially fig trees)
The vineyard at the end of our road with a cross in the corner
Our almond orchard
My new beauty column in Sante Magazine
The lack of people falling over drunk in the street (yes, even in Chelsea)
The lack of women showing less clothes than flesh
The fact that they stop for lunch

And talking of lunch, it is now at least 15 minutes past the allotted eating hour of midday so I need to get my picnic out (from M&S of course, where else? I’m not completely French yet).

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Get in touch with your inner teenager

I am lying on a bed, eating almonds, covered in fake tan, reading Tatler. The last time I did this I was child-free and about 19.

I am having an evening in after an exhausting day, which started with breakfast with the Features Director of Red Magazine and ended with a massage from Nari, who is based near Notting Hill and claims to give the best massage in the world.

Nari

Not having tried them all, I can’t say he’s right, but he is extremely good. He has incredibly soft but strong hands which he uses to expertly pummel your body. The treatment ends with a head massage which apparently children in India are given as a matter of course, their mothers tell them it makes them brainy.

I may not be any brainier, but instead of feeling exhausted after a glass of champagne and two glasses of delicious (English) rose at a lunch with a Daily Mail editor I skipped home, relaxed and invigorated. Actually Nari (bless him) insisted on driving me home (a service he doesn’t offer to all his clients but you might get lucky, check him out at www.thismassageworks.co.uk).

Despite my hectic schedule I have had time to go to M&S four times and can confirm that it’s as blissful as ever. The threading at Harvey Nichols went well and pink seems to be the colour to be seen in, which is lucky for born-again teenagers like me.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008