Monthly Archives: December 2014

Delving into the Past

The beautiful Julia Lemigova and her girlfriend, the tennis supremo Martina Navratilova, tied the knot recently in New York in a love match that dazzled their closely-knit circle of friends, who wished them well and a longevity of heavenly bliss.

For both had to cope with tragic events in their own life that seemed to blight their ordered existence and yet managed to recover and find each other in a relationship of rare closeness that reflects a true unsullied love and commitment.

Julia and I, under a genuine platinum umbrella, in 1991

Julia and I, under a genuine platinum umbrella, in 1991

I first met Julia in London after she was crowned Miss USSR in 1990. As CEO of Asprey, Garrard and Mappin & Webb at the time, I asked her to model a twenty-four carat gold dress in conjunction with the World Gold Council during a promotion Mappin & Webb undertook jointly. She readily accepted.

Julia looked stunningly attractive and we became friends ever since.

Then she left to live in Paris, and apart from seeing her briefly on two occasions when I accidentally bumped into her in Avenue Montaigne, we lost contact until two years ago when a reunion took place in my office in London during the Wimbledon tennis tournament.

I never met Martina but what I have heard from Julia was enough to convince me that she’s a very nice person whose loyalty and love are beyond any doubt.

For those who haven’t seen Julia in all her glory, here she is in the gold dress which she wore in 1991.

Martina is very lucky indeed to have bagged such a gorgeous and intelligent creature. She will be the envy of all who have the good fortune of knowing Julia, even if fleetingly.

Marlen Haushofer

There is a three-page spread in the December issue of The London Review of Books discussing the extraordinary talent of Marlen Haushofer.

‘She shall be nameless’
Nicholas Spice

Among the leading Austrian writers of the postwar period, Marlen Haushofer is an unobtrusive presence. Where Bachmann and Bernhard, Handke and Jelinek all in their time achieved international recognition, Haushofer hung back, failing to take the chance, when it came, to break beyond Austrian borders, and, at her untimely death (she died of bone cancer in 1970, three weeks short of her fiftieth birthday), left a miscellany of work that has neither fallen into complete neglect nor settled into general acceptance.

For German language readers, Haushofer’s claim to fame has always been her 1963 novel Die Wand (The Wall), a cult book in some quarters, made into a dutiful movie in 2012, with Martina Gedek, star of The Lives of Others, in the role of a woman who finds herself stranded in the mountains, cut off by a limitless invisible barrier from a world in which everyone appears to have died; alone, except for a dog, a cow and a cat.

In Britain, the publication in 1990 of the first and only translation of Die Wand passed unnoticed, and its reissue last year, along with Nowhere Ending Sky, Haushofer’s remarkable novel about her childhood, has been met with silence, as was also the case with The Loft, which Quartet brought out in 2011. The current availability in English of Haushofer’s three most accomplished novels offers a chance to get to know this subtle and unusual writer. Haushofer didn’t wish her work to remain obscure, but that this has been its fate is all of a piece with her character. Anonymity answered to something in her nature. Being cut off and unknowable was also what she wrote about best.

It’s said that the reclusive French composer Charles-Valentin Alkan rented a house in Paris with two front doors, so that whenever someone called at one of them, he could claim he had been in the other part of the house and hadn’t heard the bell. Haushofer divided her life after the war between Vienna and Steyr, a small town south of Linz, on much the same principle: she avoided notice in one place by being in the other. It allowed her to be two different people: in Vienna she moved in fashionable literary circles, discussed books and ideas, had affairs; in Steyr she played the biddable housewife, married to a dentist and mother to two boys. In Vienna she was known for being reticent, in company moving to the margins, from where she could listen and watch. From Steyr she wrote to a friend that the effort to remain inconspicuous was taking up half her energy. No one in Steyr knew that she and her husband had divorced (they continued to live together), or that later they’d remarried. When in 1968 Haushofer was diagnosed with terminal cancer she kept the truth to herself, telling friends and family that she had a form of curable bone tuberculosis. When she died, her neighbours were surprised to learn that she had been a writer at all.

Haushofer possessed neither the confidence nor the sense of entitlement to impose herself on the world as a writer. She doubted at times not only her own abilities but the superior claims of literature itself. She thought it was difficult to be a good person and a good writer, and she was certain that, if it came to the crunch, she would prefer the interests of her family over the demands of her art. The pram in the hall is usually thought of as getting in the way of the male writer as he tries to leave the house; no one makes allowances for a neglectful mother – not now, and certainly not then. A more suffocatingly conventional society it would be hard to imagine than provincial Steyr in the 1950s. Women were expected to keep house, while the men – described by Haushofer in a letter to a Vienna friend as ‘former-still-and-always Nazis’ (‘ehemalige Noch-immer-Nazis’) – did pretty much whatever they liked, which mostly meant boozing, hunting and screwing each other’s wives.

Register with The London Review of Books for free and read the full article here. Quartet Books published The Loft, The Wall and Nowhere Ending Sky.

Get your copies today!

The Rising Stock of Abbey Clancy

Abbey Clancy is a well-known lingerie and catwalk model as well as a television presenter.

Born in Liverpool in 1986 and married to footballer Peter Crouch, she has of late been catapulted to become a highly-prized commodity after winning series eleven of the prestigious BBC extravaganza Strictly Come Dancing in 2013.

I can still remember how she danced so gracefully, like a cheeky rose undulating in a gentle summer breeze. I could not but marvel at the sight of a young woman blessed with good looks and a fine frame who was not a professional dancer and whose control of every limb of her body surpassed all expectations.

Her nimble movements saturated with an irresistible sexual tempo were a joy to watch and a master class of entrancing playfulness. I was hooked every time she appeared on the screen, as her dancing skills never faltered and seemed to gain momentum as the competition reached its final stages.

In her latest photo shoot she turns her back on all that glitters and demonstrates how she is shaping up for a black midwinter.

In her no frills Ultimo undies and lacy stockings, she proves once again that her sexuality has no boundaries and has yet to scale new heights.

However, Clancy will be at her fancy best when she appears in this year’s Strictly Christmas Special where she’s expected to score a perfect 10. I can’t wait.

The Engaging Miss E

Miss E is my favourite waitress in a French restaurant close to my office that I have adopted as my eaterie of preference, where the food competes with the service and the ambience that this amalgam generates is hard to beat.

Not to say that the rest of the girls are less efficient or lack the charm of my chosen one, but in life you feel a certain frisson to a particular maiden who electrifies your own private space and whose absence when it occurs creates a void which is not easy to decipher.

Every time she comes to my table to greet me I feel a sense of contentment and my food seems to taste better, as if my palate gets a refinement and my appetite engenders a boost that defies psychological scrutiny.

Perhaps the secret of it all is less strange than it seems. It all began when one day at random, being served with some delicious home-made chocolate with my usual espresso, I called her to open her delicate mouth discreetly and gently guided a piece of chocolate between her parted lips.

I felt then the compulsion to share something exquisite to heighten my own gastronomic sensation to uncharted domains that only dreams can create.

It’s odd that such an incident can perpetuate a bond from its infancy to maturity in a short period of time, for the perception of food and sensuality are interlinked. Women who eat are more likely to be sexually active than those who do not.

I once lived the experience in my bachelor days with a beautiful woman who buried her sexuality in a lettuce leaf. She horrified me to the extent of repulsion and I felt no longer able to touch her.

Food can be a slow killer but lack of it is a libido destroyer, a fate worse than death.

On reflection, however, the dreamlike incident could be attributed to a fecund imaginative process rather than a factual adventure – for the mind can sometimes fail to differentiate between reality and fiction.

Could it be perhaps a journey of creative proportions that beguiles the reader but fails to manifest itself in more mundane fashion?

That’s my quiz for the day.

Venus: An Aphrodisiac of Refinement

Venus, by Grace Vane Percy, is receiving the kind of acclaim that photographic books hardly ever collect.

The reason, if I were to make a wild guess, is due to her clear and defined skills in presenting the nude female form in a perspective where elegance enhances its impact and the surrounding environment gives her photographs an artistic edge that propels them into a class of their own.

Shot in black and white, in country homes noted for their fine art treasures, Venus becomes a dreamlike compendium of a coterie of beautiful young maidens whose innocence and sensuality shine through as if the angels have willed it.

The author, endowed with a lanky frame, infuses what one may call a prototype of her own art. She combines femininity with a visual dimension that inspires the very fabric of her work.

Venus is a book that will remain an outstanding objet d’art and will certainly outlast the vagaries of fashion.

As Christmas is the festive season, why not celebrate with a gift of substance at a price you can afford? £50 in today’s money is a bargain for what you are getting. Hurry and don’t leave matters hanging in the air. Time is not on your side now that the bells of Christmas are about to toll merrily.

So be bold! Defy the misers who think otherwise with a gift that may even give a boost to your love life…

The Pig that Nearly Flew

Pigs are animals that are rarely pampered, looked upon as dirty and with a pungent smell most people consider revoltingly off-putting.

Yet curiously enough some adopt them as pets despite their stink and seem not to mind the strong smell that their close proximity ravages on the human nose.

Passengers were mortified over a pig that was allowed on to their plane recently. An American woman was eventually forced to disembark after bringing a seventy-pound pot-bellied pig on board for ’emotional support’, a term often used for the wrong reasons.

She carried the swine on board – which is apparently legal in the US – and sat down, cradling the creature. So far, so good…

However, it was not long before the pig, which was on a leash, went out of control pacing around the cabin in a disruptive manner that other passengers objected to. In addition, it was also making the cabin smell.

Jonathan Skolnik, a professor at the University of Massachusetts, who was sitting next to the unnamed woman and her pig, said he initially thought the farmyard animal was a large duffle bag. ‘It turns out it wasn’t a duffle bag. We could smell it and it was a pig on a leash,’ Professor Skolnik recalled. ‘She tethered it to the armrest next to me and started to deal with her stuff, but the pig was walking back and forth. I was terrified because I was thinking, “I’m gonna be on the plane with the pig,”‘ he told ABC News.

US Airways confirmed that the woman and her pig were then asked to get off the plane before it took off from Connecticut. She was allowed through security and on to the plane at the discretion of airline staff because the animal was classified as an ’emotional support animal’.

Can you imagine the world going bonkers with psychological mania? They now claim emotional support for the weirdest of things. Could it be rats next?

Monkeys, cats and miniature horses can all reportedly qualify as ’emotional support animals’ under 2012 Federal Law. Pigs are a popular choice in such cases for people allergic to cats and dogs because they are tuned into their owners.

Pigs may fly; but they are very unlikely birds.

Cara at the Peak of Everest

On the face of it Cara Delevingne’s sexual capacity knows no limitation if our imagination were to run wild in line with her public manifestation of a serial bigamist, having had a string of high-profile ‘wifeys’.

She appears to play the field and although the novelty of every relationship she has so far is self-consuming in a honeymoon context she nevertheless succumbs to the eternal sin when a new temptress rears her beautiful head and bids her a passionate embrace.

Cara has certainly made her dramatic impact on the glamorous world of fashion, and is now trying to conquer new grounds in acting and singing. The girl has a multitude of talents with a personality that veers from the comic to the sublime, with her eyes constantly focused on the next challenge to come her way.

She has developed a sense of pinpointing the next opportunity that keeps her firmly in the public arena, and has with very little practice mastered the art of keeping herself in the headlines.

Her latest escapade, or we might call it her new love, is the model Kendall Jenner, the young sister of Kim Kardashian – who is noted among other things as the girl with the great protruding behind, the object of desire to many a frustrated male hunk who fancies a fleshy overblown carnal bomb-like object.

Cara’s roving eye has this time hit the jackpot. It is now reported that she and Kendall will share a love nest where they can freely pour out a torrent of passionate sexual embracing that will eclipse any past or future relationship.

Cara and Kendall have been seen cavorting at parties together for a few months but recently they took their photogenic union public with a high-profile double spot at Chanel, and the leaking of a new joint LOVE magazine cover – ‘Kendall on Cara’ – conceived by the magazine editor-in-chief Katie Grand.


The new meaning of togetherness

The issue of LOVE with its sensational cover is due on 9th February next year and the signs are that its raunchy cover and the photo shoot inside will propel the pair to a drone-like explosion that in its wake the media will have a lightning bonanza to keep its readers mesmerised for more.

Well done, Cara. No one can say that you haven’t made it big. Keep going, girl – for the world is your oyster and sin is your energising body supplement.