Message from my father to my son

Leo is still terribly in love. “I have a heart broken,” he told me last night. The cause of this is still Eloise who has now apparently fallen in love with a boy with dark hair – can you imagine?

“It’s not about how cute you are mummy,” he told me angrily last night. “It’s about how clever you are. And he is really really stupid.”

My father (pictured above with the children in Florence) sent the following advice to him, in Italian of course, translated for the blog by my mother.

Dear Leonardo,
I write to you in Italian and your mother despite speaking a miserable Italian with double errors will translate.

In our world, women are as numerous as the leaves on the trees and the arenas of the sea. If you ask too much from one of them, you show little appreciation to all the others. Always remember this saying by Don Giovanni: if you are faithful to one woman, you are unfaithful to all the others.

You need to be wise and grateful. It is natural to fall in love, but you must never forget that if you show it too much, it is not like with your mother, for whom there is only you. Eloisa has a lot of choice: and she is having a lot of fun seeing how you are in her hands, when you cry, to her, it is like music.

Only two things in life deserve absolute fidelity: la Ferrari and il parmigiano. I ask you to think and to always consult your mother.

Abbracci Benedetto

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2010

Misery memoirs and all that

While I was in India last week I interviewed the writer Amit Chaudhuri. He was charming and interesting and terribly middle-class. He comes from a middle-class Bengali family, grew up with “servants” as he called them (interesting note we PC Europeans would not think of calling them that but I just arranged for our maid’s visa and in her passport under job description is written just that) and went to private schools.

In a poem I read by him he said that: “My problem was how to suffer, for I knew suffering to be essential to art; and yet there was little cause for suffering. I had loving parents and everything I required.”

This is a sentiment Rupert and I have often discussed. OK so we have had our share of suffering but we have often wondered if we are just not angst-ridden enough to be serious writers. Actually all I ever wanted to be was Jilly Cooper so not much need for angst but you get the idea. Chaudhuri laughed when I asked him about his lack of suffering and said, “I suffered because I didn’t suffer.”

I am pleased to report that Leonardo will be able to call himself a serious writer. He is still suffering because of his “girlfriend”, the feckless Eloise. In fact the total angst and suffering knows no bounds. He won’t even CONSIDER the option of another girl and cries at the very mention of her. Here he is looking dreamy on the beach at the weekend.

The only sign that he is toughening up was that yesterday, after weeks of pleading from us all, he proudly told us “I haven’t called her for two days. Normally I call her every day, all day. Now she’ll be thinking ‘why hasn’t he called?’ Ha. I’m doing hard to get.”

With advisers like his canny sisters, there is no way his strategy can fail. And if it does, it will just be fodder for more poetry.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2010

Girlfriend update

All went well. The Egyptian scarf was a huge success. Leo lent it to his girlfriend during the mid-morning break when she complained that she was cold.

“Then I kissed her,” he told us proudly over lunch. “But not on the lips.”

“Er, does she know she’s your girlfriend?” asked Rupert, a highly-trained hack, always ready with the most penetrating question.

“No, of course not,” said Leo, tucking into his pumpkin salad.

“Oh good. I’ve got lots of girlfriends like that,” said his father.

Meanwhile the other gift from Egypt; the tent pictured here, has been a huge success. They have pretty much lived in it since I got back. So we have been allowed to watch the Australian Open undisturbed. What an amazing tournament, I am going to miss it once it is all over tomorrow.

I’m sure once Heloise, as the “girlfriend” is called, sees the tent she will be begging to be Leo’s girlfriend and stop her flirting with the other boys. I hope so anyway. The end of the tennis along with a broken-hearted Leo might be more than I can handle all at the same time……

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2010

Young and in love

I returned from Cairo last night to sad news. Leo apparently came home from school yesterday weeping.

“What’s wrong?” asked Rupert.

“She broke my heart,” he wailed.


“My girlfriend,” Leo told him. This girl is the reason he was all dressed up on Monday last week. When I questioned why he was wearing a gold-sequined waistcoat to school he looked at me as if I were a total idiot.

“Don’t you know my girlfriend comes back today?” he snapped and went back to combing his hair.

Anyway, back to yesterday.

“What did she do?” asked the concerned father. “How did she break your heart?”

“She spoke to another boy,” said the heart-broken one.

“Oh don’t worry about that, Mummy speaks to other boys all the time.”

But he was inconsolable. “It’s not the same,” he wailed and ran upstairs.

This morning he was clearly prepared to take out the competition. He was wearing another waistcoat and very dapper he looked too. Especially when I gave him the Egyptian cotton navy scarf I bought him from Cairo.

If all else fails, he can always gag her with it.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2010

This is what I want for Christmas


Just in case you were wondering what to get me…’s the new Ferrari California. Apparently it’s very versatile. Although there isn’t much room for the kids. Oh well, never mind.

I wouldn’t mind it for my birthday either, which is tomorrow by the way. I plan to spend several hours in a spa and drink lots of pink champagne, though possibly not at the same time.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

THE house….

My stepson Hugo is here. He is wonderful. But he wears his boxer shorts underneath his swimming trunks. What’s that all about?

Right, down to business…we saw the house. It is heavenly, totally heavenly. It was built in 1750 and looks like it will last another few hundred years. It is all marble, stone and wood. Solid, safe and glorious. It reminds me a little of an English farmhouse.

We played tennis on the tennis court. I played well and Leo lost a tooth. A sure sign that we must buy it. Having said that we can’t afford the asking price, but are keen to offer less. In part because we have just been told by the lady in the boulangerie in the nearest town (and they know everything) that we it is only worth a third of the asking price. But when you’re in love it’s hard to be practical….

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

The engagement is announced between….

….Leonardo and er, some girl at summer camp. Yes, he is a little sketchy on the details but, he is in love and engaged.

“Why?” I asked him.

“Mummy, you know I’m going to have dark hair when I grow up. She’s got dark curly hair. That’s the thing,” he explained.

“Lovely. What’s her name?”

“She’s called…er, I have no idea.”

He explained that she is one of a family of five children. And furthermore one of triplets. “You got the ones in the middle what’s this size,” he demonstrated to me. “Well she’s one of those.”

He is very sweet, talks about her all the time and calls her his girlfriend (mainly I am guessing because he can’t remember her name). She apparently calls him “cute boy” and loves his hair going to one side. He is very worried that he won’t see her when camp finishes tomorrow, but I have promised to get her number.


I feel bad for Miranda, but she did go to Venezuela for the summer. What’s a boy to do….?
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

First love…

As I said, Bea and Olivia could not join Facebook because they are too young. Instead they joined the BBC’s social networking site for kids. This is Bea’s bio, which was sent to me as I had to approve it before it went live:


my name is bea and i love singging and i love dancing i love watching tele but not all the time i love playing lots of games i have 2 sisters and 2 brothers my little brother is called leonardo and hes five years old he loves spiderman then my oldest sister she is called jullia and she is 15 years old my other oldest sister is 10 she is named olivia then i have my oldest brother named hugo he is 16 years old i live at abu dhabi at 25 strret little 8 street i love shopping my secret is that i love a boy in france he has black hair and he’s like me

It was the last sentence that broke my heart. I asked Olivia if it is the boy I suspect it is, the one she has always loved, a little cutie called Julien who was in her class and is the son of the local woodman (who is also quite cute).


“Yes,” she said. “She sometimes thinks she sees him in the street and then she thinks ‘oh he’s here in Abu Dhabi’ but it’s never him.”

I haven’t talked to Bea about it, Olivia says I’m not meant to know.

I feel terrible dragging her away from her first love and even more terrible that I had no idea she even thought about him any more.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

Who will I marry?

Never mind the arrival of the Daily Mail in the region, the big news yesterday was that Louis has a girlfriend. “She’s called Elisa. They even kissed on the lips,” Leo told us when he came home from school. He was more scandalised than my mother was when I showed up at home with dreadlocks. Actually come to think of it, she wasn’t remotely scandalised.

Anyway, Leo was shocked. Disgusted from Tunbridge Wells. Then this evening he came home looking all pleased with himself.

“I kissed Louis’ girlfriend,” he told me happily chomping on a carrot.

“Didn’t he mind?” I asked.

“We was hiding,” he replied, somewhat smugly. This girl spells trouble, at four years old. So does my son.

“Mummy, who will I marry?” Leo asked after a minute or two.

“Who do you want to marry?” I asked.

“I don’t know. Maybe Louis’ girlfriend,” he said. “But definitely someone with long hair.”

Talking of marriage – one of the ways they may illustrate the Mail serialisation of the book is to show me ten years ago at our wedding (June 1998) and compare the picture with me now, wearing the same dress. Here is an exclusive sneak preview. The photographer kindly said I could publish it for free with a credit. His name is Ben Lister and his website is

Before After

When I sent my mother the picture she called to say how amazing it was that I could still get into the same dress ten years on. What most readers of the Mail won’t realise is that the back wasn’t done up.

So the pressing question of the day, apart from who will Leo marry, is when did my rib-cage grow, and why?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Bea has a boyfriend

BeaSo it’s finally happened. Well I say finally, she is only seven, but it was only a matter of time. Bea has a boyfriend. She came home yesterday from the leisure centre where French schoolchildren spend half-term if they’re not skiing glowing with the news.

“I’ve got a boyfriend, I’ve got a boyfriend,” she chanted all around the house. I asked all the obvious questions like what does he look like, where does he live, what do his parents do, can he ride a bike, does he play rugby, where does he go to school?

“He looks like a girl,” said Bea. “And he’s got a girlfriend.” Then she went back to singing and prancing around the room like a ballerina on acid.

So not a great start is my conclusion. Rupert is more concerned for the boy, Sammie as he is called.

“In Papua New Guinea they advise you that if you have a car crash you should head for the airport immediately and get the first plane out of the country,” he said as he watched Bea celebrate her new relationship. “I strongly suggest Sammie does the same.”

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008