St Trinians for grown-ups?

Has anyone else found that the more choice we have on TV the less there is to watch?
Last night I scrolled through the channels. At the last episode it really was too late for me to get into The Great British Bake Off. I love The Simpsons but just wasn’t in the mood. Channel 4 news annoyed me, again. And England are out of the Rugby World Cup, so no point in watching that.
I wished then that I had done something about an idea I had a couple of years ago for what I think would be a brilliant reality TV show. Something to rival The Great British Bake Off, only less fattening. The plan is this: you pick a suitably snooty girls’ boarding school, Benenden for example, or maybe even Heathfield Ascot. You take say three or four of the girls, possibly from Lower Sixth or maybe from various age groups, and you replace them, for a period of two weeks, with their mothers.bfi-00m-mjh
Obviously you need to pick the mothers wisely. You need women who will create good TV. It’s no good having someone who doesn’t say anything intelligent, stupid or outrageous. But my experience of these boarding school mothers is that they have plenty of chatter. The mothers would live at school, wear the uniform, attend lessons, play lacrosse and eat the ghastly boarding school food. In short they would live their daughters’ lives for a couple of weeks.trinians_682x400_405423a
We viewers would monitor their progress. How they were doing conjugating their French verbs for example, or being told by matron when to get up, sharing a bathroom with ten other girls who are all trying to steal their La Prairie face cream, attending chapel on a compulsory basis. It might be a good idea if one of them was an ‘old girl’ so she could compare life then and now. “Well, in my day we didn’t have heating, we had a hot water bottle, but only in Upper Sixth.” You can imagine the sort of thing.
There would obviously have to be some kind of competitive element in order to make it more interesting. Maybe the mother who wins the most votes from the viewing public gets a term’s free schooling for her daughter?
At around £11,000 this would definitely be worth embarrassing yourself on national TV for. I think it would make great viewing, and if someone wants to make the show they can count me in as one of the mothers. Bea will be grateful for the time off and I would even be willing to subject myself to chapel for two weeks. It can’t be more boring than television.

Downton Abbey

I have the perfect answer to getting through an eight-hour flight in economy. Watch seven hours of Downton Abbey. I have been desperate to see it ever since all my friends in England first mentioned it and raved about it endlessly and lost the will to live when the first season was over. And where better to do so than while stuck in an uncomfortable seat with the great unwashed coughing and spluttering and snoring all around me.

With my headphones on I was able to immerse myself totally in the world of Downton. And actually feel like I was doing something useful at the same time, because there is nothing worse than that all your friends endlessly telling you what an amazing series you are missing and  being utterly horrified to hear you are not already hooked.

To make matters even better, once we arrived in England, Bea and I went to a place that is not unlike Downton Abbey. We were staying with friends at Bramham Park in Yorkshire for my lovely godson Freddie’s confirmation. In fact the creator of Downton Julian Fellowes had visited Bramham with a view to making it the location for the servant’s quarters. Bloody cheek.

Bea and I had a magical time. I have not been to Bramham for many years, but used to go there a lot. During Durham University days and after we had many wonderful weekends there. Julia, my stepdaughter, learned to ride a bike on the lawn in front of the house. It is not just the beauty and elegance of the house that is so special, but the relaxed and happy atmosphere that always makes you feel instantly welcome and ready for fun.

We were very sad to leave after four sunny, fun, happy days. At the check-in queue I remembered that Etihad only has Season One of Downton. Then a miracle. “Half-price upgrades available,” a stewardess walked up and down the check-in line shouting. I quickly texted Rupert. “Go for it,” he replied. “You both deserve it.” “Do you think someone has stolen his phone?” I asked Bea. “Who cares?” she said.

We did go for it, and it was marvellous. So there’s my other top tip for getting through an economy flight: upgrade to business.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2012

Secret sex and the city….

Olivia and I are addicted to Brothers & Sisters. We lie on my bed under the blanket and watch it on a portable DVD player. We have watched Grey’s Anatomy together, along with the first season of Desperate Housewives, before I decided it was too grown-up for her.

One thing I have never allowed the girls to watch is Sex and the City. My box set is on top of the cupboard, hidden away. I love Sex and the City or SATC as we call it. I love the glamour, the intrigue, the fashion, the plots. And I am mad about Mr Big. On Wednesday night I went out with three girlfriends. We discussed boyfriends, affairs, husbands, shoes – all the usual.

“We’re so SATC,” said one of my friends.

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Little did I imagine that while I was out acting SATC, my daughters were at home watching it.

Yesterday the secret came out. We were in the car when Bea pulled a pouty face and said “this is what Samantha does.”

Immediately I knew. It was like one of those moments when suddenly everything makes sense. They tried to deny it but there was no going back. So we started to discuss it.
“Did you see the bit where Carrie breaks up with Mr Big?” asked Olivia.

“What are crabs?” asked Bea.

I think it may be time to buy a safe.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

Oscar night

There was an Oscar party last night at the Intercontinental Hotel here in Abu Dhabi. Three friends and I decided to go, mainly because the dress code was “red carpet” and I can resist no excuse to wear my full-length sequinned dress which now looks even more glam, paired as it is with my Valentine’s present from Rupert; a purple cashmere fur-lined mini-cape.

“I’m going to an Oscars party, ” I told the children. Leo started crying.

“Why are you going to Oscar’s party? Why aren’t I invited? He’s MY friend,” he sobbed.

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I calmed him down and set off to meet the girls. It started well, with pink champagne, flash-photography and canapes. Then it seems the whole room took up smoking. Then David Hasselhoff arrived. Could things get any worse?

“I can’t breathe,” I texted Rupert.

“I’m on the terrace drinking wine,” he texted back. It sounded like a much better option. I headed home, joined him on the terrace and watched the Oscars on YouTube in bed in a smoke-free environment.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2009

Every eight seconds

MrDreamyI have a friend of a friend who is on the UK soap Coronation Street. He told her an amazing fact the other day which is that the scriptwriters are forced to come up with something exciting every eight seconds in order to prevent people from switching channels.

Every eight seconds….can you imagine if life was like that? No sooner have you given birth when your brother-in-law announces he’s running off with his best (male) friend and your mother tells you that you are in fact the product of a liaison she once had with a Brazilian opera singer and not your father who thinks Rigoletto is a pasta dish.

McSteamyAnyway, as you may know, the favoured soap around here is Grey’s Anatomy. I have the good fortune to have a very technically-minded friend who downloaded the whole of the fourth series for me. Yesterday was a sad day. Olivia and I watched the final episode. I don’t even think they’ve made a fifth series yet and am wondering how on earth to get through the ironing during the coming months.

My friend who downloaded the series says you can tell a lot about a woman by asking her if she prefers McDreamy or McSteamy.

As long as either or both of them are on every eight seconds, I’m happy. So what does that say about me?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

To Hell in High Heels

To Hell in High HeelsIt really was to hell in high heels when I finally left the launch party wearing my gorgeous red snakeskin Fratelli Rossetti stilettos. After three days of tottering around London in high heels there is not a part of my feet that doesn’t hurt. But it was all worth it.

Yesterday was pretty perfect. It started with TV, then went on to shopping, a massage and a sleep, and ended with a lovely party. Actually it ended for me after the party when I went to BBC London to talk about the book. Then back to the most comfortable bed in town at The Berkeley Hotel.

I am now on the Eurostar heading back home, pondering the high and lowlights of the trip. Highlights are: Getting to the giddy heights of number 21 in the Amazon ratings with To Hell; meeting a woman who interviewed George Clooney (and since you ask, yes, he was everything you could possibly hope, dream and wish for and more); The suite at the Berkeley Hotel with everything you could ever want in a room, including a TV you can watch from the bath and wardrobes that light up as you walk towards them; wandering around London in the sunshine (yes, it was sunny for FOUR days, I bet that hasn’t happened since about 1856); stumbling across a sample sale where I found a fuschia pink leather jacket (can you imagine the joy?); seeing so many lovely friends at the party and having Rupert with me for once.

Lowlights; the red sofa on BBC Breakfast clashing horribly with my jumper (you can guess what colour it is); getting stuck in a size 8 dress at H&M and wondering if I would have to call the fire brigade (but as Rina my publicist said “We’ve all been there honey.”); not sleeping (no change there, the international conspiracy continues); getting my high heels repeatedly caught in cracks in the pavement; leaving Knightsbridge this morning and wondering when I’ll be back.

But a highlight will be seeing the babies, Max and Wolfie.

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

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

No fool like an April fool

When I went to collect Leo from school today he ran at me, threw his arms around me and started giggling hysterically. As this is something he often does, I didn’t pay any attention. We left school, went to the park, chatted to friends and then came home.

At home I finally realised I had a fish stuck to my back, they call them poisson d’avril here. Seconds later I found a hand-written letter on my desk from the mayor. Rather suspiciously the handwriting looked just like Bea’s.

‘Helena,’ it read. ‘Your work is no good, your books are horrible, if there is not an improvement by the end of the week you will be removed from your work. Signed’ and there was a signature that looked a bit like a jelly-fish in some kind of trouble.

""An email arrived from a TV production company specialising in food shows. They have read my blog and love it, it read. Would I like to come and chat to them about appearing on one of their shows. They made such hits as Two Fat Ladies and Gordon Ramsay’s F-word. I have made an appointment but am slightly worried the address will turn out to be fake. And how stupid will I feel standing on a building site wearing my chef’s hat and apron?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008

A long time in childcare

Twenty-four hours is a long time in childcare. My husband is back, the kidney infection is in fact a trapped nerve and the children are being saints.

I can’t credit myself with their transformation. We have come to stay with our friends Norrie and Mary which seems to have done the trick.

Just as there’s nothing quite as horrendous as three children being horrible, there is also nothing quite as lovely as three children having fun and playing. Here they have lots to do. The rabbits, donkey, dogs, geese, chickens and ducks all need constant bossing about. Norrie and Mary are like the grandparents from heaven. “Go for a sleep,” they told us after lunch. “We’ll take the children for a walk.”

I didn’t even need my agv (see below) last night so have woken up feeling much better. I asked Rupert why he thought the children were so much nicer here than at home.

“They love it here,” he said, “and it’s different.” Rather like me in Harvey Nicks I suppose.

Today we head off with whichever children want to come (probably none) to Annecy. This is a town in the Savoie famous for looking a little like Venice where house prices are almost as high as in Paris.

Dr DreamyWherever I go I carry with me my box-set of the third series of Grey’s Anatomy. I am sorry to say this addiction has not been cured. Meredith is choosing between Finn the vet and Dr McDreamy at the moment.

“Who would you choose?” asked Bea.

“It’s a tricky one,” I said. “I don’t really know.”

“I would choose McDreamy,” said Bea. “Because he’s a doctor. And he’s dreamy.”

What more do you need?

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007

Halle Berry and her big nose

BabsOh for goodness sake. Where will this all end? Halle Berry has had to issue a groveling apology because when she was shown a distorted image of herself where her nose was over-sized she exclaimed “I look like my Jewish cousin.”

“She must be punished,” says one reader in reaction to the article about the incident on the Daily Mail website. Oh please.

I am half-Swedish and half-Italian. Almost every time I tell people this they say (with an air of unconcealed disappointment) “oh, you don’t look very Swedish.” It is true, I don’t look remotely Swedish. As my Italian father pointed out when he first saw me after 12 years: “You’ve ended up with my looks and your mother’s brain; a most unfortunate way for things to turn out.”

But do I get offended if someone tells me I look Italian? I have brown eyes and brown hair. That is the Italian look. And no, it really doesn’t bother me if people point out that I look like an Italian as opposed to a Swede. It is true, just as it is true that a lot of people of Jewish descent have big noses. When did you ever see an actor playing Shylock with a small one? What is wrong with people? What is there to get offended about here? Why is having a big nose such a bad thing?

I despair at the political correctness we are forced to live with. It makes the world a really boring place where people are too frightened to speak for fear of upsetting someone. Halle Berry made a joke. But even she knew she would be in trouble so got the TV station to edit the word Jewish out of her sentence. Still news spread that she said it and everyone went crazy. How did we get so po-faced?

I’m with Peter from London, who also left a comment on the website. “Get over it. Nobody died.”

Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2007