Celebrity sweating

Twitter, facebook and all that is all very well, but if you really want to know what’s going on, read the Daily Mail. That’s how I found out, literally seconds ago, that John Terry (Chelsea and England Captain) is here in Abu Dhabi, staying at the Emirates Palace Hotel.

There are pictures of him and his family frolicking on the beach, which is totally empty, despite the presence of a premier league player. Funny that as it’s about 50 degrees Celsius today and I can barely walk from my car door to my front door without breaking into a hideous sweat.

These pics are clearly staged. After his Giggs-like behaviour last year, he wants to make it clear all is well in the Terry household. Does he really think we’re stupid enough to fall for that? And also, why has he picked Abu Dhabi? I’m amazed he found a paparazzi brave enough to join them on the beach in this heat and humidity.

Anyway, my point is this – how do I get him to meet Leo, spot the talent of the young man and sign him up for the Chelsea Academy? Hang out on the beach with the young footballer and his favourite (blue) football I guess. If only it weren’t so hot……

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2011

Fame at last…..

The call came in just over half an hour ago. “They want you on BBC breakfast tomorrow morning,” said Rina the Arrow Books publicist. “And GMTV in two weeks.” After breakfast TV we have several local radio stations and LBC tomorrow evening after the launch party for an hour between 10.30 and 11.30pm.”

“11.30? Don’t they know how essential a good night’s sleep is in the fight against ageing?” I want to ask. But of course I am thrilled, excited and just, well, happy, that by the end of tomorrow the great British public may at least have heard of the book, even if they don’t want to buy it.

So, now for the preparation. I only have another 12 hours before I start. Luckily I ran across Elle MacPherson’s secret to big sexy hair in Harvey Nicks and bought a pot of it for a bargain £55. If my hair looks terrible tomorrow blame her. I also have a seaweed face mask (which I must remember to rinse off), exfoliators, new nail varnish and a whole evening alone to pamper myself.

Rupert has gone out with his publisher to talk about books. I have the much more serious task of deciding what to wear. I have been lent clothes by top designer Karen Brost (www.karenbrost.com) for the launch party, but I wonder if red stiletos and a strapless black satin dress might be a bit much before breakfast?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

One book better than two?

Two Lipsticks and a LoverI have finally made it into the Guardian newspaper, twice in a week. I wrote a blog about romantic literary heroes that don’t age, then appeared in a piece in today’s lifestyle section. Today’s article is not flattering (read it here if you can be bothered, it goes on a bit). The writer, someone I’ve never heard of called Zoe Williams, clearly loathes and detests me. This is not unusual in a Guardian writer. She says she is ‘amazed’ by me, calling me a ‘no-mark’. What’s that exactly? I can only assume that she is referring to my wrinkle-free complexion, something I am rather pleased about. She goes on to insist that she cannot believe how I managed to string out my observations about French women into one book, let alone two.

It was around here that I got confused. I know I write books with more regularity than most people have their eye-brows plucked, but can I really have missed one? What is this second book about French women?

It was then I twigged: Ms Williams is referring to the US edition of Two Lipsticks and a Lover, called All you need to be Impossibly French. How unfortunate. It is one thing writing a vehement attack on someone, but to get such a basic fact wrong is rather, well, sloppy.

All You Need To Be Impossibly FrenchMs Williams has every right to refuse to take care of herself (as she so proudly states that she does) but she should really take more care in her research. Moreover, she is guilty of missing the point of my one book about Frenchwomen. It is not that I think that Frenchwomen are a superior race, nor do I think that English women should be condemned for not looking good. However, I do think that one can both look good and be intelligent; it is these two qualities that one should strive for. I said in the book that I thought that English women had a stronger sense of sisterhood and I would always rather go out with a group of them than a group of French women.

If Ms Williams had bothered to read one of the books – rather than thinking they were two separate books – she would have learnt this. But maybe she was too busy stroking her goatee to care!

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Finally a centrefold

HelenaSo I finally make it to the centre spread of a newspaper and guess what? Instead of a picture of me in my old wedding dress displaying my grey hair and droning on about my new book they have turned me into a cartoon character.

In fact when I first saw the cartoon on the Daily Mail website I thought to myself ‘why have they drawn a picture of some random woman and put her in my article’? Mind you, it was 5am and Bea had decided that was a good time to get up to watch Zoe 101.

Then Rupert said; “That’s supposed to be you.” And now I look at it closer, it is. But with bigger hair and bigger tits, and in fact longer, thinner legs. What’s not to like? They’ve even turned my old wedding dress pink. How did they know that’s my favourite colour?

I think I will get used to life as a cartoon character. I am always smiling, my hair is constantly glossy (never grey), and I can’t empty the dishwasher or do the ironing.

And more crucially than all that, I will never age…..

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

Yeah, right….

OK, so who was it? Which one of you is responsible for the following letter?

Trinny & SusannahHi Helena.

Love the column.

Any chance, I wonder, of a signed photograph of yourself?

The one (or similar) accompanying your French mistress article in yesterday’s Sunday Times/Home Section would be FAB.

It really would complement the Joanna Lumley, Doon Mackichan and Trinny & Suzannah ones’ that already adorn my office wall!

DoonIf you’re willing to respond to such a request then I’ll obviously forward you my UK postal address.


This email ranks alongside those ‘I’m a Nigerian prince and want to give you all my money’ or ‘my name is Jonny Wilkinson and I have been secretly in love with you since I spotted you in the crowd at the Marseille Velodrome’ style mails.

JoannaMy husband maintains he has never heard of Richard and that it wasn’t him. Most of my friends are too lazy or busy to pull a stunt like this. Maybe it was my step-children in revenge for my column about how spoiled their generation is? Maybe Leonardo is a precocious internet user? But the only celebs he knows are Spiderman and Peter Pan.

Whoever it was, I didn’t fall for it. As if I would be seen dead next to Trinny and Suzannah. I mean, puhleeaaase.

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

Unaccustomed as I am….

Renew Retreats - at Le Couvent d'HerepianThere are certain dreads in life one never gets over. Having been on Richard & Judy a few times I now don’t stay awake all night worrying about the prospect of a TV appearance. As a mother of three I am just about able to cope with a summons to the headmaster’s office, though as it was with me during my school days this rarely means good news.

But PUBLIC SPEAKING – that is something I will never be comfortable with even if I live to be 150. Last night was the launch party for Renew Retreats, my new PINK business. We had pink balloons, pink champagne, lots of glamorous guests, including my lovely step-daughter, the Telegraph gossip columnist and the editor of YOU Magazine. Then it was time for the speech…I had been dreading it for weeks. I had asked Mary to do it instead. She refused. At 7.10 (ten minutes after the time I was meant to make the damn thing) I thought I could get away with it. And I would have done if it hadn’t been for my friend Annika. This is a girl who was a very successful model, is about two metres tall and can be extremely loud.

“Speech time,” she bellowed and everyone shut up. So there I stood, pink champagne in hand, expectant faces looking at me. Is there a worse feeling in the world? Possibly the dentist’s drill, but even that seemed like a good option at the time. My step-father once told me that the way to deal with nerves is to squeeze your toes hard and all your nervousness will go to your feet. I would have done that but had earlier invested in a pair of incredibly high pink satin shoes which don’t leave any room to squeeze a toe-nail let alone a toe.

“Welcome,” I began. And then went on, and totally miraculously, it all went fine. At least I think it went fine but by that stage I had drunk so much pink champagne to steady my nerves that I was beyond noticing. Let’s hope everyone else had too.

Anyway Renew Retreats is officially launched and a jolly good party it was too. As far as I can remember.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

The Lady in the Lake

Rupert and I have just been to Albi, covering a murder trial. I won’t go into all the details here as am about to collapse after two days hard work but what it taught me is how much fun old-fashioned reporting can be.

I started off thinking the man was guilty, mainly based on newspaper stories I found on the internet. The fact that he looks like a sinister character from a Dickens novel doesn’t help either.

I spoke to the dead wife’s best friend, a charming lady, and was even more convinced of the rotter’s guilt. Then I met more people and heard their side of the story. Then I went to the lake where her body was found, and her house and suddenly it was no longer that easy. Neither Rupert nor I could understand how she could have ended up in that lake unaided.

The Lake

Finally we met her neighbour. He was terrifying to start with. “What are you doing here?” he demanded. I could tell he was a hunting man by his cars and dogs and was slightly worried we might end up dead too. He huffed and puffed and then said: “If he did kill her he deserves a medal.” Then talked some more and eventually invited us in for coffee. It was one of those classic situations where just doing nothing gets you what you want.

My point is this. Nowadays it’s so easy as a journalist to rely on the internet. We all knock out stories without moving from our desks. But this was the real thing. We were Woodward and Bernstein in full flow. I felt like a proper journalist. One day a film will be made about us starring Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.

It was all so exciting. Following the trail of the dead woman, talking to the people who loved and knew her. Discovering another side to her that was not revealed in court. And trying to work out how she ended up in that lake.

The article comes out in this week’s Sunday Times. I think we might write a book about the whole affair. An ‘In Cold Blood’ based in France profonde. Then maybe I can come out with Truman Capote’s immortal line: “When I think about how good this book is going to be I can hardly breathe.”

Even if I can’t, we might at least solve the mystery of the Lady in the Lake.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

Trial by TV

Robert MuratWe all want a conclusion to this story. It has to be said that it was with a sense of relief that at last something was happening that we watched the news the other night of Robert Murat’s arrest and the house search. It was chillingly familiar to the Soham murders; a local man hanging around the crime scene. And of course he had a dodgy glass eye as well as a shady past so suddenly two plus two made four and here was our man.

It was interesting to see how the Sky news reporter (not their brilliant correspondent Martin Brunt who has been calm and sanguine throughout) went from thinking Robert Murat was quite a “good bloke” to the chief suspect as the course of the news report went on.

He may very well be guilty. Only he really knows. But the fact is whatever else happens; his life as he knows it is over. If they don’t catch the abductor then he will face suspicion and possibly hatred wherever he goes. As he told Martin Brunt yesterday; “my life is ruined”.

This has the appearance of a witch hunt. No one knows anything about this man apart from the fact that he’s slightly dodgy. Slightly dodgy is not a crime and the media is no judge.

The local police are obviously desperate to come up with something. This has dragged on far too long. But to me the only crime so far has been Maddy’s abduction and to a much lesser extent the ineptitude of the police in the hours that followed. I am sure vital clues went missing then. Clues that could probably have determined Robert Murat’s innocence or otherwise, without this trial by TV.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

A dubious honour

I see that in this week’s Sunday Times I share the dubious honour of being a columnist alongside Vladimir ‘Stalin’ Putin. I realise that good commentators on Russia are hard to find, mainly because he’s had them all murdered, but I am still horrified.

Anna Politkovskaya - murderedSince Putin came to power in 2000 fourteen journalists have died in questionable circumstances. I found his column dreary bordering on unreadable. I would have preferred to have read something by the brave and brilliant Anna Politkovskaya but she was gunned down in October last year in the lift of her apartment block. Putin was widely assumed to have ordered the killing due to her coverage of the Chechen war. The latest journalist to die was only a few weeks ago; Ivan Safronov, a military affairs correspondent for Kommersant “fell” from a window.

But Putin is not only murdering journalists. What is happening in Chechnya is beyond belief and now it seems he is not above attacking his own people. His police broke up two anti-government protests recently, arresting the key speakers and beating the protestors. Also reported in the Sunday Times this week was the fact that demonstrators were dragged off trains on their way to demos last week. So much for the “democracy” he so long-windedly drones on about in his less-than-riveting column. Instead of writing this drivel himself, which many of us on the Sunday Times are perfectly capable of doing, he should be allowing journalists in Russia the freedom to express their views without fear of extermination.

I wonder what I will be reading this week? Maybe a column on good farming policy by Robert Mugabe? ‘How to be nice to political dissidents’ by China’s Hu Jintao? ‘Look after your Nobel peace prize winners’ by Burma’s Than Schwe? I can hardly wait for next Sunday.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007