Come on Carla, pull the other one…

Sister JackieIt was the Greek philosopher Heraclitus who said that ‘no man can step into the same river twice, for fresh waters are ever flowing in upon you’. I had hoped that when Carla showed up for the state visit to England that she might have brought a bit of fresh water with her.

Sadly not. One commentator observed that she looked like a mixture betweeb Jackie Kennedy and a nun. I am all for Jackie Kennedy. Style icons like her are to be adored and admired. But the fact is that our dear tutti fruity Carla is about as far removed from her as she is to a nun, and yet she is trying to be her. Heraclitus would not approve.

I can see that for her this was a safe option. Show up looking demure and like Jackie – that’s what people expect from a First Lady. They do indeed. Unless that particular First Lady has a reputation for sleeping with rock stars and conducting interviews topless (I promise you, she did, I read the article, the (male) journalist had to keep trying not to look at her tits and bury his head in his notebook).

What I was hoping from tutti fruity Carla was something with a little flair, a touch of the frivolous, the fun, the daring. Why show up looking like a frigid matron when the whole world knows you’re anything but?

Who knows, she could have created a style all her own, that future first ladies and women all over the world would have emulated.

And another thing. How long before she realises that going on tour with Mick was much more fun than state visits to drafty old castles?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

The wallies from Wham!

George & AndrewI have had one of those days when nothing goes right. I go to grab something and break a nail (newly manicured I might add, I painted them last night before I fell asleep with the new Laura Mercier colour), I go to use a stapler and there are no staples in it, I go to get a towel down from the towel rail and the whole bloody lot fall on my head, I have NO work, my work phone rings and I think ‘yippee, it’s the Daily Mail’. It is not, it’s some man trying to sell me frozen foods. In French. Olivia’s CD player breaks and she says she will never be able to sleep without music.

This is where things start improving. We find Rupert’s old stereo, on which only the tape deck works. So then I have to dig out old tapes. Oh JOY – what do I find? The Bangles and Wham! So we spent a happy hour dancing and singing to songs I haven’t heard for at least 20 years.

It is a little known fact that Andrew Ridgley (from Wham!) was once very keen on me. I remember several nights at the Camden Palace when he and George Michael sidled up to me and I was informed by George that Andrew fancied me. Sadly this was all before they were famous. “The wallies from Wham!” we used to call them. We all thought we were much cooler and more talented than them. And would be more famous. Besides, he was far too thin for me.

Anyway, after the dancing Olivia and I had an even more exciting experience. A friend (God bless him) pirated the fourth series of Grey’s Anatomy from the Internet for us. So we watched episodes one and two. I can’t tell you how brilliant it was. Much better than Wham! and certainly better than working.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Proud to be Brit-ish?

ShazzaLast night I watched the Brit Awards. For those of you who don’t know what they are, they are the British music industry’s equivalent of a Grammy or an Oscar. The show was presented by the Osbourne family who shot to fame on a US reality TV show. They looked like the Adams family and behaved like yobs.

It was led by the matriarch, Sharon. Every other word was “pissed” or “piss off”. Her behaviour would have got me expelled from school but here she was on live TV, being paid thousands no doubt, to screech like a fish-wife and show off her limited vocabulary. She made the so-called really bad girl of rock, Amy Winehouse, look angelic.

Someone should tell Mrs Osbourne that there is nothing amusing about a fifty-something woman dressed in a curtain swearing and flirting with a series of drunk men whom I had never heard of.

I sat and cringed for the two hours of the show. All I could think was, ‘what will the rest of the world think of us?’ Is this really the best person we have for the job? Her daughter showed more decorum but was about as elegant as a squashed snail. As for Ozzy himself, I don’t even want to go there. The son had the sense to keep quiet.

Man-bandThe rare highlights when Mrs Osbourne shut her foul mouth were Amy (a little wobbly but what a voice), Mika (cute as anything and extremely polite) and of course Take That, which was the main reason I was watching. They were lovely, and briefly restored my pride in the British, if not the British music industry.

Meanwhile there has been an alleged sighting of Madeleine close to us, at a service station near Montpellier. A Dutch student claims to have seen the little girl and says she reacted when she called her name. I really want to believe she is still alive, I had given up all hope, reluctantly taking down the picture of her from my blog. But if anyone else should spot a little girl they think is her, for heaven’s sake just grab her and call the police immediately – no one will hold it against you.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Disgusted of Tunbridge Wells

Mr RudeThis afternoon I was on Radio BBC Southern Counties (what?! How could you miss it?) talking about a new Mr Man character. He is called Mr Rude and he encourages children to pull his finger and then he farts. Apparently he does all this in a French accent.

Call me old-fashioned, but isn’t this just a tad low-rent? And while we’re on the subject, last night I saw the most disgusting television ad I have ever seen. I won’t go into too many details but it showed a man on the loo. Bad enough you might think, but it got worse. He realises the loo-paper has run out and looks around him and then at the newspaper he is reading and decided the newspape is too good to use so doesn’t. His expression is disgusting, as is the whole idea of it.

What is this advertisement for? Some low-rent, down-market paper you or I will never have heard of? No, it’s for the football section of The Times. The TIMES for crying out loud? THE TIMES OF LONDON as it has proudly been known since 1803 when its name was changed from The Daily Universal Register.

At the risk of sounding like the legendary ‘disgusted of Tunbridge Wells’, I am just that. Although happily I don’t live in Tunbridge Wells.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Anyone for tennis?

Jo-Wilfried TsongaThe Australian Open is on at the moment and every morning I switch on the television to be greeted with images of French players battling it out down under. And every morning I ask the same question: Why are there no British players playing?

There was one, Andy Murray, who was knocked out in the first round. But the French seem to have a never-ending supply. This seems a bit rum, after all we invented the game, didn’t we?

Up to a point. In the 19th century the English invented lawn tennis, but it was based on Real Tennis which had been played in France since the 12th Century. In fact the word tennis comes from the French tenez meaning get it in the context of Real Tennis.

One of the criticisms levelled at the French educational system is that they don’t do enough sport or art. This may be true. But we have Wednesdays off to do all that and on Wednesdays my children all trot off to Pezenas Tennis Club where they have tennis coaching with other children.

The fact is they may not do tennis at school but it is made very easy to do it outside of school and every village, no matter how small, has a tennis court.

I would love to see one of my children represent England in the Australian Open one day and I know where they should be brought up if they’re to stand a chance.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

A good pirate

JohnnyJohnny Depp has given £1 million to Great Ormond Street Children’s Hospital for saving his daughter’s life last year. In March 2007 Lily-Rose contracted E-coli poisoning and her kidneys failed. It was touch and go for nine days, but she pulled through.

I have always thought that one of the best things about being really rich must be being able to come up with grand gestures like this one. But Johnny has done even more than give money which, let’s face it, is easy if you have lots of it. He also had his Captain Jack Sparrow costume flown over from LA and spent four hours reading bedtime stories to the hospitalised children.

Disney, which made the Pirates Of The Caribbean films, has donated £10million to Great Ormond Street, which needs to raise £170million in five years to re-develop two-thirds of the hospital site.

I wonder why people spend money helping donkeys (however sweet they are) in Greece and other far-flung places when there are causes like this one to support.

Anyway, hats off to Johnny, I always liked him. Although one might argue that a hospital like Great Ormond Street should not have to rely on the kindness of pirates.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Plus ca change….

The New Year is traditionally a time for looking forward. But thanks to some old school reports from Shaw House Grammar School for Girls I found at my mother’s house, I have been looking back, all the way back to my teens…..

My English report does not bode well for my writing future. This one is from 1977. Achievement C+ Effort B. Helena is a bright and active member of this group, into which she has settled well. Her written work does not live up to the general impression she otherwise makes.

Rupert says that’s before I had him as an editor.

By 1978 things have improved slightly. Achievement A (no mark for effort). Helena shows a lively interest in English. She takes an active part in class work and enjoys discussion, reading and acting. Her written work is imaginative and mature.

The headmistress’s comment from 1977 perhaps has more in common with the present than I will admit.

Although Helena is a very mature girl in many ways, she is inclined to fuss and bother over minor matters. She seems to want to organise everyone about her, but I think she will soon find that other people are not always willing to be organised! If Helena would concern herself a little more with Helena alone, I am sure things would improve!

I don’t like people who end critical little sentences with punctuation marks. It’s almost as if they don’t really mean what they’re saying. Or they’re too scared to really stand behind what they’re saying.

When I read that out to Rupert he said it sounded like an exact description of Olivia and me. So the past is always part of the future.

Happy New/Old Year.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

The Age of Stupidity

With his famous book, the Age of Reason, published in 1795 Thomas Paine confirmed a new age; the age of enlightenment. If Thomas Paine were to write a book today he would probably call it The Age of Stupidity.

In it he would chart the relentless rise of reality TV, talk about hoodies taking over the streets of Britain and the celebrity culture that has gripped the inhabitants of this once proud and intelligent island.

I don’t know when it finally dawned on me that we have entered an age of stupidity – maybe I was a bit dim not to work it out sooner – but a number of cumulating factors have led me to this conclusion. Take this example. What do you suppose is Britain’s best-selling autobiography? Ghandi’s perhaps? Or Winston Churchill’s account of how he saved Britain – and the world – from Nazism? Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom? Wrong. It is the account of how a woman tripled her breast size and thus endeared herself to a nation. Yes, Jordan’s is the fastest-selling autobiography in British publishing history.

Intelligence goes tits upBeing Jordan and Jordan: A Whole New World have sold almost 1.2 million copies in the UK over the past five years. Churchill’s has sold just over 5,000. I looked at one of her autobiographies in a book shop once, just to see what all the fuss was about. I no longer remember which one, but it all started with a cat-fight and the unforgettable line, er actually I’ve forgotten, but it was something along the lines of ‘don’t you come creeping up to me you bitch, I know what the f*** you’ve been saying behind my back.’

Truly gripping stuff. I see her novel is in the best-seller list too.

So I am now faced with a dilemma. When I was in London last I had a life-changing moment. A publisher approached me at a party and said; “I think you should write a novel.” This to me was the equivalent of someone telling the England rugby team they are going to beat France on Saturday. Ever since I was little girl I have wanted to (and tried to) write novels. So once I have sent off the edited To Hell in High Heels on Monday, I will begin to realise this life-long ambition.

The dilemma is, do I write something I want to write or something I think will sell in this Age of Stupidity? Am I prepared to dumb down? No is the answer of course. But I shall probably remain a penniless writer while Jordan sips pink champagne before breakfast and has her numerous pools cleaned by Jonny Wilkinson look-alikes.

Perhaps I am the one being truly stupid, retaining a normal breast-size and trying to write relatively good books?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

An ideal to die for

Nelson MandelaOlivia and I have been listening to a CD of African music. One of the songs begins with a quote from Nelson Mandela. “I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if it needs be it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die,” he says.
Yesterday was the unveiling of a statue of the great man himself in London’s Parliament Square. I was thrilled to be able to show him to Olivia, who has found the concept of dying for an ideal a little hard to understand, as well as the 27 years he spent in prison. “27 years?” she exclaimed. “That’s more than my life. No, that’s much older than me. I wouldn’t want that thank you very much.”

What struck me as I watched the news coverage of Nelson and other “dignitaries” including Gordon Brown and Red Ken was just how dignified he is and how undignified they are. This is a man who really was willing to die for his principles and who sacrificed 27 years of his life in prison for them. And it shows in his face and comportment. I can’t imagine our politicians today sacrificing a weekend for much, although Gordon Brown did very generously cut short his summer holiday in Dorset this year to deal with a national security alert. I suspect he was secretly relieved to get out of the rain and back to town.

I am on my way to London now and hope to see the new statue. Maybe it will inspire future generations of politicians as they walk past it. Let’s hope so, we need more Nelsons.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

This yob-rule must end

I once read somewhere that when children start killing children it is the end of the world. In Liverpool last week an 11-year-old-boy was gunned down as he played in a park, apparently by a 13-year-old youth.

What has happend to Britain's yuf?

When I was in England last week it seemed that every day someone was murdered for standing up to yobs. One day it was a talented student who reprimanded some yob for throwing litter. Another day it was a man trying to protect his car. A columnist in the Daily Mail described how his whole street is scared to go out after 9pm because of the yobs who hang out in the park opposite their house. Daily Mail hacks are not easily scared, it must be bad.

How has this happened? Perhaps our armed forces should be brought back from Iraq and Afghanistan to restore order and civility to our streets? It seems the police are powerless. When my father-in-law was the victim of yob-like behaviour recently the only thing they were interested in was how old he is. They simply couldn’t have cared less about the crime itself.

On a lighter note I am pleased to report that my children are showing true feminist instincts. Last night we were watching Mean Girls with Lindsay Lohan. She is in love with what she calls a “hot boy” and pretends to be bad at maths so he can help her. In truth she is better at maths than him.

“I wouldn’t pretend to be stupid for some hot boy,” said Olivia. “I would just find another one.”

“So would I,” said Bea.

“Me too,” said Leonardo. Bless him.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007