Monthly Archives: February 2013

The 1980s were Quartet’s Most Glamorous Years

In 1980, Quartet published a coffee-table book which celebrated the quality lingerie of Janet Reger, who did as much as anyone in Britain to revive the idea of women’s underwear as a fashion accessory with erotic trimmings.

She brought to the London scene what the French have always known: that it is possible to combine excellent taste with overt sex appeal.

The Foreword was by Francesca Thyssen, a daughter of baron Heini Thyssen and Fiona Campbell-Walker, the famous model of the 1950s. The design of the book, devised around a large selection of fashion plates of the Janet Reger range, was by Brian Clarke, an artist in stained-glass whom Bevis Hillier once described as ‘a most extraordinary and atavistic phenomenon in the England of today.’

The book has the titleChastity In Focus, which I chose. It provoked murmurings of disapproval from the feminists, not only for its contents, but also for the manner of its launch.

A party was held at the newly-built Pineapple Studios in Covent Garden where the literati, celebrities and journalists mingled with model girls wearing saucy underwear, stockings and suspender belts – enough to make a deep impression on any susceptible male.

With Catherine Olsen

The cavernous studio space was infused with a bizarre fetishistic glamour; there had never been a publishing party quite like it before.

As the evening went on, Francesca helped me to compère the proceedings when we raffled some of the lingerie items to a rapturous audience. Some ladies, lucky enough to have a winning number, were urged on by the crowd to try on their prizes there and then. Only a very few had the courage to oblige, to the delight of their fellow guests. Francesca was the ‘It Girl’ of her generation during her time in London, and later became an empress when she married the archduke of Austria.

In his full-page write up for the Glasgow Herald, Alex Hamilton proclaimed that it had been a jolly good party even if some of us felt overdressed. He concluded his piece with a witty evocation of the atmosphere: ‘Everybody behaved beautifully. I’m not aware of any of those fourteen girls, draped each one in a few ounces of diaphanous, provocative tissues being molested. But, come to think of it, what does that say for the product? Or for us, effete good mannered creatures? What other point could there be in prancing about in the stuff? Old Veblen, the sociologist, would have said “conspicuous consumption”. If these girls didn’t look so healthy you might suppose he was thinking of pneumonia.’

Politicians are in a Sizzle

Politicians seem to have every conceivable vice possible: cheating on their expenses, accused of perjury, covering up scandals, sexually harassing women, and telling the public lies while keeping a straight face as if everything is permissible in their quest to remain in power.

Flicking through my morning papers at 6am every day, I am astounded by the number of news items which lead to some errant politician or a political aspect of something which is not what it seems to be. The moral standing of our society has been badly bruised by people in government – or in influential positions throughout the land – whose sole motivation appears to be an amalgam of money and power.

The Liberal Democrats are now involved in a sex scandal where at least ten women claim the party’s chief executive molested them and the Lib-Dem leader’s private office knew all about it.

Nick Clegg, whose influence in the party has dwindled over the past year, is now facing a scandal which may topple him. Lord Rennard, the accused, is a formidable figure who played a leading part in the modern revival of the Liberal Democrats. He has been called the ‘Mystic Meg’ of voting prediction and the by-election wizard. Inevitably, given his surname and wily stratagems, the nickname most often applied was ‘The Fox’. Well the fox, funnily enough, is not a favoured animal at the moment for kidnapping babies and that might cynically apply to Lord Rennard.

His departure is likely to cause tremors throughout the rank and file and will undeniably lead to turmoil and dissension in an already divided party, which is on the verge of falling into an abyss of political wilderness.

The coalition government, which is hanging on by its eyelashes, is bound to feel an added pressure to remain a coherent power-sharing entity if the Liberal Democrats were to disintegrate as a result of this diabolical scandal.

In the midst of it all, the prime minister and his far from enterprising chancellor, who have to deal with a worsening economy, must feel the draft of a chilly wind coming our way from Siberia. I hope they are warmly dressed to avoid a further unexpected ill wind to paralyse the nation.

I wish them both well although the omens are not in the least encouraging. They have too many irons in the fire – some will burn.

The Middletons in Focus

For better or worse the Middletons seem to hit the headlines on a regular basis.

Last Tuesday, Kate was described as a plastic princess designed to breed by none other than Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, the darling of the literati.

The so-called clique of monarchist sycophants mauled Hilary Mantel for daring to utter the unforgivable without giving her the chance to explain her side of the argument. Her friends, however, believe that what she said was taken out of context – yet she was left to roast. The double-faced Establishment proved once again that latent hypocrisy and expediency go hand in hand.

The week before, Kate was caught by photographers – but this time with her top on – wearing a bikini while holidaying in the Caribbean, with her pregnant bump in full view. The lesson of ‘once bitten, twice shy’ was obviously discarded or perhaps her luck has simply run out.

Her sister Pippa has become newsworthy since Kate’s wedding, when her wiggling pert bottom almost stole the show. Then came the payment by Penguin of £400,000 for a moronic book she wrote which has commercially bombed; and currently for her social and love life that the press avidly follows.

Last Saturday, a shocking report in the Daily Mail shed light on the ghetto families who are paid 10p an hour making party gifts for Kate’s mum’s £30 million business empire.

It is much too horrific and painful to read the special investigation carried out by David Jones reporting from the murderous Mexican border city of Tijuana where, in a hillside ghetto, a five-year-old girl toils with her mother in a subtly exploitative industry. Mother and daughter are making piñatas – those colourful cardboard figures filled with sweets which cascade out when their cardboard casing is broken with a stick. They have become a popular source of amusement at middle-class birthday parties, weddings and other celebratory events in Britain.

Among the companies that sell them in sizeable quantities is Party Pieces, the Berkshire-based business run by the Duchess of Cambridge’s family, which offers more than forty types on its website, in all manner of designs, from lions and castles to Minnie Mouse.

The report goes on to say: ‘Since Carole and Michael Middleton have never been slow to cash in on their royal connection (last year they launched a range of regally-themed trinkets to coincide with the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee), they now include giant piñatas in party packs called Little Prince and Little Princess: blue for a boy, pink for a girl.’ Can it be pure coincidence that their daughter is expecting her own little prince or princess?

Monica Villegas and her little girl work ten hours a day seven days a week and earn as little as 10p an hour. They say, ‘It is so unfair! So much work, so little money!’ They add: ‘I hope Princess Kate will do something for us.’

What disastrous PR for Britain and for the royal family as a whole. To be involved wittingly or unwittingly in such misery is beyond anything we could have imagined in the past.

In an article I wrote last week, I suggested that the Duke of Cambridge should as much as possible distance himself from his in-laws for I truly believe that their influence could be an embarrassment for the young royal couple.

The monarchy survives and prospers because of the Queen’s immaculate example. I say this although I am not in the least enamoured with the legion of royal hangers-on, whose advice is often more erroneous than not.

To shield Kate’s family gives the wrong signals. If the Middletons’ zeal for enriching themselves without due care or diligence is not contained, then it will certainly reflect badly on the future of the monarchy.

My Weekend Review

Politics have become a sick joke.

Ed Miliband’s pal, the comedian John O’Farrell, who has apparently written jokes for Gordon Brown, our witless ex-prime minister – and look where it got him – is the Labour candidate contesting the seat vacated by Chris Huhne in Eastleigh.

In his book of memoirs, O’Farrell admits that he would always be in trouble for saying the wrong things. And by golly he is absolutely right.

Some of his quotes coming from an aspiring politician are unbelievably out of order: ‘I wanted Britain to lose the Falklands for its own good.’ He likened the mourning for Diana to a Nazi rally. He’s sorry the IRA did not kill Mrs Thatcher and claims Britain didn’t really win World War II. And to add to his litany of platitudes, he declares that, if elected, he won’t bother to live in Eastleigh. That’s the calibre of the man who is trying to win this week’s by-election for Labour.

How could anyone in his right mind vote for such a clown unless they are determined to discredit our political system; as if it is not already low enough at a time when we need serious men of integrity to deal with our failing economy and the austerity that will follow for many years to come.

New Labour has had its days of glory and look at the legacy they left the nation. Ed Miliband must have had a crippling stroke to have agreed to back this bumbling old comedian whose loose tongue will eventually cut his throat.

Even an economic wizard such as the hyped-up George Osborne is finding himself clutching at the ropes for fear of being knocked out by his lacklustre policies which are causing him a permanent hangover.

What a nightmare for the electorate the next general election will be for choice. To abstain from voting is considered unpatriotic, but worse still, to vote for a party that you know will add to the woes of the nation will be catastrophic and make one’s life more unbearable than ever before.

We need divine inspiration for guidance and even then, unless we are true believers, the odds are stacked against our possible salvation. I can’t imagine what a predicament these political buggers have in store for us.

* * *

Quartet Books once published a luxurious photographic coffee-table book on tattoos printed in four colours – Tattoo by Stefan Richter. It was and is still the definitive book on the subject.

Some of the pictures were distressing to see; male and female bodies were totally disfigured and made you shrink in horror. Men and women had every inch of their bodies tattooed including their private parts. How could they have endured the pain, especially when their sensitive sexual bits were done, escapes me. And for what purpose? Instead of enhancing the beauty of their nakedness, they made it ugly and in some way threateningly disgusting.

I can well understand why a small tattoo is acceptable if it reminds people of a loved one or a sexual initiation they would like to remember. But otherwise it is a mania and if overdone can lose its appeal very quickly.


Take for instance the case of Cheryl Cole who must have gone crackers. An attractive woman, who cuts a stunning figure of elegance when dressed, has now made a hash of her naked body.

Her back, as these pictures show, is like a garden of roses to cover up a previous tattoo of a black butterfly.

I might be right in thinking that the black butterfly reminded her of her cheating ex-husband Ashley who is now having the time of his life bedding sexually loose women and whose memory she has probably decided to wipe out. If that’s the case, anything to hide the butterfly is understandable.


However, questions were being asked whether the red roses were tattoo or paint. Some fans who saw her at Thursday night’s concert, the first of twenty-one dates for Girls Aloud, claim that Cheryl is addicted to tattoos and may have drawn the line at this one and opted for a temporary transfer. One fan tweeted: ‘I hope that tattoo is fake you massive chav.’ Another described the design as ‘vile’, adding: ‘Talk about a Tramp Stamp.’

Celebrity tattoo artist Chris Jones insisted the inking was real, the handiwork of renowned California-based artist Nikko Hurtado.

Whether it is a tattoo or paint, Cheryl looks like a well-heeled tramp who has run out of ideas. Too much money and caprice make a woman do the craziest of things, and Cheryl Cole is no exception.

A Doting Mother Who Went Wrong

Mothers who dote on their daughters are often causing them unintended harm.

Jennifer Lopez already had the name of her idol, the US pop star. And before she was sixteen, she also had the figure to match – thanks to plastic surgery paid for by her mother. Her younger sister, Karen, was next. Their mother Lesley has now spent twenty thousand pounds on cosmetic surgery for her two daughters.

The result was far from satisfactory. Both now regret having gone under the knife when they were so young because their artificially enhanced bottoms and breasts make them an easy target for unwanted attention.

Karen, twenty, said: ‘My bum is now so big it’s kind of a curse because guys in clubs always want to have a feel of it. Even girls want a photo next to it. My body attracts everyone – I get too much attention and it annoys me.’

Her sister Jennifer, twenty-three, who has a young son, added: ‘Sometimes it’s too much. Men keep beeping their horns and whistle at me, even come up and touch my bum. I also get a lot of attention off women. They ask me if my bum is real and if they can touch it. It can be uncomfortable.’

Jennifer was the first to have surgery, a breast enlargement to increase her cup size from A to C when she was 15. She then had an operation which involved having liposuction on her stomach and the fat pumped into her bottom.

Jennifer, a size twelve, said: ‘I envied curvy women like the US pop star but my mother said I had to wait until I was eighteen before I underwent any surgery. My curves had to develop first. But I wanted the result straight away and I kept demanding until my mother agreed a year later.’

Karen, a size eight, started even younger. She had a nose job at fourteen and a breast enhancement. She eventually persuaded her mother to use her savings and money earned through a cleaning job to pay for a liposuction and bottom enlargement operation like her sister.

Most of the surgeries were done in Colombia where their parents migrated from shortly before Karen was born. They now live in Camberwell, South London.

It beggars belief that a well-meaning and hard-working mother will sacrifice her savings to let her two daughters literally deform their bodies and thus unknowingly rob them of their teenage years – turning them into fully grown women with artificially enhanced breasts and protruding bottoms, and for what?

The daughters now admit that their new bodies are a curse. The tragedy is what awaits them in the future and what will happen to their superficially overblown bodies when old age knocks at their door.

The sagging of bits will not be a pretty sight to behold. Nature will then have its revenge, which I hope will be more of a rebuke than a punishment for their folly is but a youthful bungling.

Love is Blind, Sweet in the Beginning but Sour in the Ending…

England star Ashley Cole is rarely out of the news. 

It isn’t always about his soccer performances playing for England or for his club, Chelsea. More often, it is about his canoodling and his choice of women. His performance in bed must be such as to make women of different orientations clamour to meet him, hoping to experience a night of utter ribaldry.

Cheryl Cole

His love life has featured in many a newspaper especially when he was married to Cheryl Cole, the darling of the media.

He is certainly a man of many parts. His soccer rise from a very young Arsenal player to an international star owes much to his mentor of many years Arsene Wenger, who catapulted him to fame and then lost him due to his greed and underhandedness.

His team-mates at Arsenal never forgave him for what amounted to a betrayal when he joined Chelsea, Arsenal’s arch enemy.

He is considered by most to be a boorish character whose loyalty fluctuates in the same manner as his love life. He constantly cheated on his ex-wife Cheryl when they were married with women she considered below her dignity. However, what’s surprising is despite their bitter split rumour has it that she is still besotted with him.

What makes a man like him so attractive to women is beyond my wildest dreams. Is it his sexual vigour that plays a crucial part in his success with the opposite sex? Why do women who are maltreated by men of his ilk yearn for him secretly, when they know that such impulsive yearning is utterly misplaced and leads to painful humiliation?

I always wondered what Cheryl Cole found in him that propelled her to marry him in the first place. It could not have been his intellect that she found so seductive. I must therefore assume his ability to please a woman in bed is his lethal weapon. Whether this is true or not, he has certainly left his mark on her. Since their split, she seems to favour men of a dark complexion perhaps to remind her of her errant ex-husband.

Ashley’s latest catch is a bisexual ex-topless model whose sex drive is apparently so high that her friends describe her as a nymphomaniac.

Anna Kelle, from MTV reality show The Valleys, and Ashley Cole have been dating for two weeks after meeting on Twitter. As her picture clearly shows, she is as hot as they come.

Whether Cheryl will eat her heart out when she sees this picture of a sex siren cavorting with her ex-husband is another matter. She must instead thank her good fortune for being rid of him and should now get him out of her system if he is still lurking there.

He might be a stud, but surely a calamitous one who will bring misery to one’s life.

A pig will never change his habits, so any woman with common sense should stay clear of him unless of course she is looking for a good old-fashioned humping.

The Duke of Cambridge must become his Own Man

Since Prince William got married, a touch of arrogance has surfaced, a trait that was not there before. His character underwent change and a new sensitivity became apparent which was not in evidence.

I think his outburst when pictures of his topless wife first appeared in the press and his subsequent legal action proved one of two things: either he was ill-advised or he found an opportunity to flex his royal muscles. Whichever it was, the decision was catastrophic. He should have shrugged off the whole incident and refrained from making provocative comments. Wiser counsel should have prevailed and did not.

To protect his wife is understandable, but given who he is, he should have been more careful in affording easy access to the press – especially when on a private visit. His minders have certainly failed him on this occasion.

Publicity, which royals love, is a double-edged sword that can enhance one’s image or destroy it. To over-react when you are in his position is viewed with some malaise.

A modern wife such as the Duchess of Cambridge, who is not by any standard considered coy, whose courting with Prince William was not in the least restrained and in full blaze of worldwide publicity, should henceforth be more aware of her position and watch more carefully what she wears or doesn’t wear – especially that she is now pregnant.

She cannot be a fashion icon without attracting undue attention. Add to it her parents – who are overcrowding the royal pair and seeking publicity for themselves with an unusual and sometimes embarrassing zest, given that their son in law is a future king – puts the whole scenario in a less than favourable light. Their influence on the young couple is rather disturbing and their profile is much too high for comfort.

Prince William should try and lessen their involvement – or some might call it their intrusion – and keep them at a proper distance. Otherwise the present situation will become untenable.

The prince needs to assert himself more and create his own distinct personality, and take much less notice of the clique of royal hangers-on whose advice he should ignore.

Go for it William and show them the stuff you are made of. And remember, never to lose your cool and keep your wife’s top in harness.

A High Price to Pay for the Expansion of our Brain

Modern times with technology at its zenith and the vast advancement in medical science has certainly made our life more comfortable but the evolution itself has had its drawbacks.

It may have given us big brains but also bad backs and dodgy feet as well, according to the latest scientific findings.

Niggling back pains, troublesome wisdom teeth, and weak ankles are all the results of our evolution from early primates. Our big brains have left limited space in our skull leading to impacted wisdom teeth where there is not enough room for the final set of molars.

Princeton University professor Alan Mann said, ‘This condition can lead to chronic pain and to reduced reproductive fitness.’

In other words, toothache could put you off a bit of baby-making. He added, ‘People who do not have this particular distraction will have a slightly greater number of children.’

Evolution has also caused problems with feet, according to findings presented at the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s annual conference.

Boston University researchers found the transition from a grasping foot, as found in other primates, to walking feet, has left us ‘susceptible to a variety of foot and ankle injuries’. Separate research found that learning to walk on our hind limbs has resulted in a host of back problems.

Who can say that evolution is good for us health-wise? When you analyse the findings you come to the conclusion that the more man develops his faculties through scientific discoveries, the more he is prone to have physical problems as a result.

Progress and evolution invariably extort a high price for the benefit they give us. The more comfort we attain in certain areas of our lives the more complex problems we face.

Although science becomes a second nature to us, it nevertheless transforms our life into a pattern of living which in the main does little to boost our health prospects of fitness. In other words, our bodies may deteriorate while the brain’s capacity increases. However, one implication is that people who have sedentary jobs and take little exercise may suffer degeneration of the brain as well as the muscles, according to Professor Kramer, director of the Beckham Institute for Advanced Science and Technology.

His warnings were echoed by Barbara Sahakian, professor of psychology at Cambridge University, who said monitoring mental health was as important as looking for a physiological problem.

She suggests adults should take regular tests to check for the signs that diseases such as Alzheimer’s could be developing. There is no known cure for degenerative diseases but there is evidence that certain lifestyles, including avoiding tobacco and alcohol and taking exercise, can slow them down or prevent them.

Sometimes I tend to believe that the little we know the better we fare. Although ignorance can be bliss, knowledge is still an addiction without which our lives become meaningless.

It is a choice we have to contemplate but I know which one I would rather have.

My Weekend Review

The economy is in freefall.

While the economy is not showing any signs of improvement, the chancellor is devoting his time pledging tax rules reforms and talking bunkum about a future Tory government, which I don’t believe we will see after the next general election in two years’ time.

The Tories will find themselves in the political wilderness for a long time to come unless they buck-up their priorities and stop their insane obsessions with matters that have no relevance to a buoyant Britain, whose voice will then be heard and respected by both its partners in the EU and their great ally across the Atlantic.

Instead, they are pussy-footing about Europe, contemplating measures at home which will alienate the middle classes whose support they desperately need, and creating national discord by their foolish pursuit of same-sex marriage.

All this while the beleaguered high street is gloomy after a sharp fall in spending which might lead to a triple-dip recession.

The office for National Statistics announced that retail sales fell 0.6% in January, confounding expectations of a 0.5% rise as heavy snow fall and rising prices hit demand. Food sales stumbled to the lowest level since April 2004 with small stores fairing much worse than large companies, which benefited from an increase in online shopping.

In the currency market, the pound has weakened against both the dollar and the euro. Although this might help exports, it reflects a lack of confidence in our ability to contain the recession by stimulating growth, which we are not doing.

Sluggish growth, however, is not the answer. We need a dynamism that this coalition government is not providing.

The problem is that the ruling gaggle of young Etonians are so pleased with themselves that they have forgotten they are there to serve the nation and not to engage in schoolboy antics that will lead them nowhere.

These young politicians must learn that their salad days are not over. They should seek the advice of their elders if they are to stand any chance of a greater maturity and a small measure of wisdom.

In the interim, they must think old men are fools – but old men know young men are. So please stop taking us for mugs.

* * *

Love is the Viagra of modern times.

Since the total liberation of women and the general acceptance of same-sex coupling on equal footing with heterosexual practices, the field has become more competitive. It narrows the expectations of men in finding a female partner with whom they can conventionally start a family.

The rise of bisexuality in recent years as a fashionable diversity has dramatically changed the entire sexual scene. Whereas traditionally, a man’s choice was broader, in the sense that he was hardly expected to share the love of his woman with another female, it is not uncommon today for the modern woman to conduct an affair with a girlfriend or to pick up another woman.

The sexual liberation of both sexes is now so complete as to make free love irrespective of gender not a remote possibility, but a certainty. Married men with children are no longer immune from conducting a sexual relationship with other men culminating in a total disarming of the concept of love as we traditionally know it.

In a similar vein, the rise of homosexuality and lesbianism has made matters more complex in an already overcrowded arena, where sexuality and its far reaching effects have become a quagmire hard to disentangle.

One has only to open a broadsheet these days to find bizarre stories of young ladies outing themselves as bisexuals, but distinctly more inclined to fall in love with their own gender in a far more passionate involvement than one would have imagined in bygone days.

They have pet names for each other such as Rita Ora’s statement recently referring to supermodel Cara Delevingne as ‘my wifey’.

Rita Ora - Damon Baker, Sunday Times Style

Rita, considered by her fans as one of the most desirable pop stars on the planet, is so intensively in love with Cara that the two friends are practically inseparable, and when they are apart, they text and post messages about each other online.

Rita, the young curvy bombshell who is the subject of male fantasies worldwide, is so besotted with her ‘wifey’ that she’s adamant that Cara is officially hers and is no longer available for anyone but herself.

Who would have thought that such a declaration of love is now publically made without a grain of reserve and in such language as to bring cold shudders to those of a puritanical disposition?

The world has certainly changed, but are we not going too far in shedding our privacy for all to see and judge us according to their own traditional or crotchety beliefs, which may not reflect the exact nature of the subject matter?

I think love and sex should remain confined to their participants and should not be shared by on-lookers or Peeping Toms, and particularly not the media. Once in the open, they lose their pleasurable impact and trivialise the whole relationship.

Secrecy is now the Viagra of the modern age. Reveal it and the game will be over in no time at all.

A Tribute to a Dear Friend

I lost a soul mate yesterday.

An old lady who for the past few years became a kindred spirit; the mere sound of her voice on the telephone brought cheers, encouragement, and hope that sustained me during a bad day and lifted my spirits to fight another day.

I loved her dearly. She was wise, level-headed, cultured and as bright as a button in her early nineties. I sought her counsel and found her a delightful and accommodating friend whose loyalty was unsurpassable.

When I was sixteen years old, I got to know closely two old ladies in Nazareth; one was my grandmother on my father’s side, and the other her unmarried sister. I wrote a book about them and there is not a single day that passes without my memories of their love and kindness comforting me. They could not read or write and lived so close to the earth, barely aware of the world beyond their spartan existence. They were happy and contented, and became a role model which has largely shaped my own life.

Now, with her death, Leila Tannous left a vacuum impossible to fill.

She once told me that she feels that she and I inhabited a different world long before we were born. She added that out friendship was simply an evolution of time past when our souls were intertwined and formed an alliance of a cohesive consensus. I found her feelings to be overpoweringly profound and very moving.

I sent her on a daily basis everything I wrote on my blog, which became her faceless companion at home to bring her solace and entertainment in her advancing years.

She had many friends and was admired by everyone who met her. She never complained nor spoke ill of people. She was a most generous person whose life was dedicated to Lebanon, her country of origin, of which she was extremely proud. The Arab world in general has lost a gem of a lady who towered above everything she encountered. She will always be remembered as an indomitable force in the cultural venues she constantly nurtured with great vigour and conviction.

Now that she has departed to a heavenly destination, I wish her bon voyage and pray that she will never cease to be my guardian angel.