Monthly Archives: January 2016

Bottomless, If You Appreciate The Pun

Model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley never fails to astound her faithful followers through the diversity of her stunning poses. This time wearing just a scarf and nothing else for the clothing giant Burberry in its recent Christmas campaign.

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Rosie, 28, looked sizzling stuff for hungry eyes, despite stripping with a certain panache to the cashmere long scarf monogrammed with her initials. The raunchy picture, by iconic fashion photographer Mario Testino, is enough to make her legion of fans gluttonous with excitement as perhaps never before. Her shapely figure shot for maximum impact brings her sexuality to the fore with a cheeky smile that tells it all.

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It is not the first time the renowned beauty has gone nude for the style chain. She starred in a 2011 advert for Burberry body fragrance in which she unbuttoned her trench coat to tantalisingly reveal she was starkers underneath.

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A girl of such talent and creativity needs not worry about her future. She is yet to reach the zenith of her art, which seems bottomless.

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Does Stress Lead to Ugliness?

Stress afflicts so many people in our fast-moving era where speed and competition render one’s life a constant struggle, often to the detriment of our health.

To top it all, a study found, it apparently can make us seem less attractive.

Behavioural expert Dr Fhionna Moore examined how mental and emotional strain can affect the way someone’s physical appearance is perceived.

Her research revealed men and women become significantly more attractive to potential partners if they have lower tension levels than their rivals.

Reduced attractiveness was attributed to the anxiety hormone cortisol which increases the amount of glucose floating around the body, while also inhibiting muscle and bone growth.

The overall impact is that stressed individuals appear less healthy and therefore uglier.

Dr Moore, a lecturer in psychology at Dundee University, conducted several investigations into the effects.

In one study, she measured levels of cortisol from saliva samples and took photographs of the faces of our participants.

‘Cortisol is an interesting hormone because it is released when we deal with a stressor, and allows us to cope in the short term. But if it’s elevated for longer periods, though, for example during more difficult times, it can be very bad for our health.’

She continued, ‘We found that the faces of men and women who had high levels of cortisol in their saliva were rated as less attractive and healthy than those with lower levels of cortisol.’

She added that traits linked to attractiveness often indicate good health. These include facial symmetry, because a strong immune system is needed to develop evenly on both sides, and colour in the skin suggesting a healthy diet and good cardiovascular health.

This study is rather interesting as it confirms the general view that people devoid of stress are likely to age less and maintain a youthful body that defies the degeneration of old age which, in this case, is somehow stopped in its tracks.

I believe there is nothing worse than one’s attractiveness prematurely disappearing when it could be reasonably arrested. If you can’t help nature then nature won’t help you.

Remembering Bron

Last Saturday marked the 15th anniversary of the death of my friend Auberon Waugh. Even now, a day rarely passes when I don’t remember or think about him and his unique qualities.  The Daily Mail asked me to write about him at the time, and here is what I wrote. In his memory, I reprint it below:

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Auberon Waugh, the writer, satirist and son of Brideshead Revisited author Evelyn Waugh, died on Tuesday night at his home in Somerset. Wine-loving Waugh, 61, was a workaholic whose acerbic views were variously described as scathing, rude, sexist and snobbish – as well as brutally provocative. He was never afraid if his views offended and would relish making personal attacks on his many enemies. Yet his irrepressible sense of humour and one-man crusade against ‘powerfreaks, busybodies’ and the forces of political correctness endeared him to a huge following of readers. He married Lady Teresa, daughter of the sixth Earl of Onslow in 1961 and they had four children, Sophia, Alexander, Daisy and Nathaniel. Yesterday, Lady Teresa said: ‘He had been unwell for quite a long time with a bad heart. It’s hard to sum up someone so wonderful, but I’ve been hanging around for 40 years so that says something.’

Without ‘Bron’ life can never be the same. The world of letters has lost a gentle giant who will always be remembered for his puckish humour, brilliant journalism, his loyalty to his friends and, above all, his devotion to his family. No father could have doted more on his offspring than Bron did. Before he and I were even acquainted he wrote me out of the blue extolling the qualities of his daughter, Sophia. He said she was both clever and beautiful and, having just graduated from university, was looking for a post in publishing. Could I, he continued, consider interviewing her for a possible job at Quartet, my publishing firm.

This was in the early eighties, when Quartet had the reputation for being a refuge for well-connected girls of exquisite demeanour, who made it into the gossip columns and, after serving their apprenticeships in the practicalities of publishing, went on to achieve even more meaningful heights in the worlds of journalism and literature. Much taken by the tone of the letter I willingly obliged. Of course, Sophia was employed and proved worthy of her father’s praise and confidence.

Bron’s admiration and support for his children was a far cry from the difficult relationship he had with his father, Evelyn Waugh. ‘My children weary me,’ the great novelist said of his offspring when Bron was a seven-year-old. ‘I can only see them as defective adults: feckless, destructive, frivolous, sensual, humourless… I do not see them until luncheon, as I have my breakfast alone in the library, and they are, in fact, well trained to avoid my part of the house.’

Bron used to talk of his father’s undisguised glee at the prospect of getting rid of his children to school as each holiday drew to a close. And how, just after the war, when the first consignment of bananas reached Britain and the government decided that every child in the country should be allowed one, his mother came home with three. ‘All three bananas were put on my father’s plate,’ Bron wrote later, ‘and before the anguished eyes of his children, he poured on cream, which was almost unprocurable, and sugar, which was heavily rationed, and ate all three.’

Yet Bron hugely admired his father and inherited from him much of his wit, erudition and, above all, his ability to write. So my first serious encounter with Bron came when I offered him the editorship of my magazine, the Literary Review, as Emma Soames, the editor, was planning to join Vogue. To my delight, Bron accepted. He also made it a stipulation that he should receive only a minimal salary to lessen my financial burden as proprietor. Hard as it is to believe, his salary remained the same 15 years on as it had at the beginning. He always insisted that any increases due to him should be passed to junior members of staff to help them cope with the hardships of a badly paid first job.

At the Literary Review he took on bright young things, fresh from university, who were keen to work in the shadow of the ‘great man’ himself. Endearingly, he referred to them as ‘slaves’ until the point came when they had proved themselves and went on to the payroll. From then on they would argue with, provoke and tease their mentor, for he had the ability to create an ambience where good humour and hilarity combined with the pursuit of excellence and rigorous standards. Despite being someone who was so accomplished and so revered by his peers, Bron remained humble and unpretentious in himself.

His pen was often acerbic and the campaigns he pursued against those he felt had wronged him, even in his early youth, were a hallmark of his public persona. Nevertheless, he was kind, hospitable and generous and would back causes for the hell of it. His contrariness was designed to provoke controversy, but there was no malice in his pronouncements. His readers, even the most puritanical, allowed him a measure of tolerance that few others enjoyed. For he was the epitome of British humour, with all its sense of irony and absurdity.

His famous diaries in the satirical magazine Private Eye are masterpieces of comic observation that will endure for decades to come. His perception of human frailties and the decadence of our age was unique. His partnership with the late cartoonist Willie Rushton will be remembered and celebrated as a milestone of innovatory humour that, like opera, presented a colourful and loud view of life.

Even when he fired six bullets from a faulty machine gun into his chest at point blank range while on National Service – an incident that led to 12 operations, the removal of a lung, and nine months in hospital – he joked about it as he lay on the ground. ‘Kiss me, Chudleigh,’ he said to the melodramatic Corporal who attended him. Chudleigh didn’t understand the historical reference and treated him with caution thereafter.

Bron’s ability to shock and entertain are part of our English culture and its long traditions of satire. His love of life, his indulgence in those things supposed to be bad for our health – smoking and drinking in particular – and his love of the opposite sex are but a few of the traits that endeared him to all those who had the privilege of knowing him. They were part of his response to those in power who would dearly like to control aspects of our lives. My relationship with Bron could not have been better for our circumstances. We saw each other from time to time, exchanged conversation at cocktail parties and were always available to each other when the occasion arose.

I could never pretend that I necessarily moved in the same circles, nor that I had the capacity to socialise, as he loved to do. But we shared common interests. We both loved women, appreciated a good glass of fine claret, enjoyed good food and were committed to maintaining the Literary Review, come what may. We both cared about the quality of life, as distinct from its duration, and could be classed as bon viveurs par excellence.

His memoirs were called Will This Do? – the question every journalist asks himself when submitting an article and the one, he said, with which we may all eventually face our Maker. And in Bron’s case, it certainly will. With Bron I felt true comradeship, and if love means a fusion of the spirits and a caring that never wavers in its warmth and intensity, it follows that I must have loved Bron most dearly.

Thought For The Day

What is it about beautiful women that makes the heart race with expectations and gives one’s libido a make-over of revitalization to boost the languidity that comes with old age?

Or is it perhaps a myth, or a sense of wishful thinking that demonstrates itself in a fake reality.

Whatever it is, if it makes life more livable, as dreamland weaves its magic aura and turns the clock back, even if it means the progression of a delusion, it nevertheless invades the senses and gives momentarily a fleeting and indescribable wave of pleasurable states of euphoric dimensions.

I always believe that the mind is the key factor that dominates every movement we make, every feeling that propels us to other uncharted territories, where imagination can transport us to fields unknown which can sometimes lead us to an orgasmic flow of sensuality.

Since sex is the lifeblood of human existence from which life emanates, is it a wonder that its influence in everything we do, or aspire to, is a force so powerful in its thrust that the majority of us find it extremely difficult to control it or abstain from its paralyzing ingredients, knowing full well the dire consequences that might eventually follow?

However, realizing that most of us are inclined to be dupes for punishment of the emotional variety, I can only conclude that human nature, being so complex, is in itself a challenge worth dabbling with and beautiful women who fall into that category are no exception.

It’s A Bumpy Ride Ahead

Crispin Odey, the leading hedge fund operator whose financial insights have made him a multi-millionaire, has warned that a series of threats to the global economy, including the potential bubble in the UK housing market, will make 2016 a difficult year for investors.

Mr Odey, considered one of the brightest London hedge fund operators, has cautioned that a ‘string of threats’ ranging from a possible devaluation of China’s Yuan to concerns about the US economy could damage returns. He made the warning after profits at the hedge fund which bears his name fell by more than half last year.

The 22 partners at Odey Asset Management, the hedge fund he founded in 1991, shared a reported profit of £84.1 million in the year to April 2015, according to accounts recently filed at Companies House. That compares with a record sum of £174.2 million for the prior year. Mr Odey took home £31.8 million, down from £47.8 million. The lower payments reflected a steep decline in the fees partners received for the performance of the £13.7 billion in investments under their management. In 2014, they received £143.5 million, as Odey Funds reaped big rewards in the global recovery.

Mr Odey, renowned as a bon viveur, is a tough, unsentimental operator driven by his rigorous pursuit of profit-making that must push his adrenaline to hitherto unknown heights.

Two years ago, I met this physically giant of a man when he came across from his table at Le Boudin Blanc in Mayfair where I was also lunching, to introduce himself telling me that we had something in common. Prudence Murdoch, the daughter of the global newspaper baron, who once worked for me, was indeed his first wife.

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It was a very brief and pleasant encounter that eventually led to nowhere although he offered me his visiting card. Modern tycoons are not easily reachable these days and he is no exception. However, men like him in a free economy are part of the merry-go-round that inspires a new generation of future men of destiny without whom I reckon the world will become a duller place.

Having said that, I agree with Odey that the economy in 2016 will be a most challenging undertaking. I also fear that Britain’s overvalued sterling, predicted by many to lose some of its current value, will have a counter effect on our ability to balance the books. One may ask whether a new recession similar to 2008 is likely to put the clock back after a new wave of austerity measures is forcibly introduced.

No one in his right mind today will underestimate the problems that the next two years will bring in their wake. Given this bleak possibility it would be prudent to tighten our seat belts and stop squandering our resources when we can ill afford to play the good and the mighty for no apparent gain. 

The days of such indulgence are truly over.

A Little Piece Of Everthing

Cressida Bonas, the young British actress, dancer and model has certainly been blessed with the right provenance.

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The youngest daughter of Lady Mary-Gaye Curzon and entrepreneur Jeffery Bonas, and a granddaughter of Edward Curzon, the sixth Earl Howe, she’s rarely out of the news. An ex-girlfriend of the rumbustious Prince Harry, she can claim to have all the ‘It’ girl resources which she uses to great advantage.

Her wardrobe, which consisted of all tattered jeans, has now turned its owner into a glamorous puss who ditched the common trouser to show a sultry look in the French magazine, L’Officiel: Wearing as little as possible to establish herself as the new Must model who, at the of 26 after splitting up with the Prince last year, is now fancy free with the world at her feet.

Her career has gone from strength to strength, with the success of her lead role in An Evening with Lucien Freud on stage in London, and a contract to front Burberry’s 2015 campaign. We shall see more of her when Harvey Weinstein’s film Tulip Fever is released in the New Year.

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Her future, it seems, is reassured. She has the looks, the connections and hopefully the talent to entertain and allure us for many years to come. Prince Harry, I am sure, will bite his nails for her loss.

Banning Books Is Never The Answer

Israel, which claims to be a free democratic society, is facing a literary upheaval amongst it ranks. Its Education Ministry has taken the unusual step of banning an award-winning book about a love story between and an Israeli woman and a Palestinian man from being taught in schools for fear that it would promote miscegenation and threaten Jewish identity. The book, called Borderlife by Dorit Rabinyan, an Israeli writer with an Iranian heritage, tells the story of Liat, an Israeli translator and Hilmi, a Palestinian artist who meet in New York and fall in love. The pair’s relationship flounders when they return to their respective homes, she to Tel Aviv and he to the West Bank city of Ramallah.

The book was critically acclaimed and won Israel’s Bernstein Prize last year but the ban prompted a surge in demand for the novel, leading to a selling out in shops. .

A committee of literary experts advising the ministry recommended its inclusion in a high school literature course. The ministry, however, ruled against it. In their objection, officials cited the need to protect the identity and the heritage of students in every sector, adding that ‘intimate relations between Jews and non-Jews threaten their separate identity.’ In particular, they feared the romantic seed of forbidden love might appeal to Jewish adolescents who ‘don’t have the systemic view that includes considerations involving maintaining the national ethnic identity of the people and the significance of miscegenation.’

The decision was largely attacked by the Israeli intelligentsia and the opposition parties. Sami Michael, the author of A Trumpet in the Wadi, about a relationship between a Russian-Israeli man and an Arab-Israeli woman, described it as ‘a dark day for Hebrew literature.’

Merav Michaeli, a Labour MP, compared the ban to a warning on Election Day by Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minster, about ‘hordes of Arabs’ going to vote. ‘In a place where people with views that are unacceptable to the government are marked, it’s clear that works of literature and art are also censored,’ she said. ‘The thought police are already here.’

Isaac Herzog, the opposition leader, head of the centre-left Zionist camp, protested against the decision by presenting copies of the book to pupils during a visit to a high school in the town of Sderot, on the border of Gaza.

The author expressed amazement, not least given her heroine’s ultimate decision. ‘Her difficult choice, to turn away from love, is the choice of a young woman whose main Zionist identity is deeply engrained in her,’ Rabinyan said. ‘There is something ironic in the fact that the novel that deals with the Jewish fear of assimilation in the Middle East was eventually rejected by the very fear.’

This healthy debate going on in Israel might open the way for the realisation that defining the true identity of Israel, of hopefully a nation in search of peace and tranquillity. Its assimilation in the Middle East must not rankle, but should signal a new era of toleration: Arab and Jews living side by side, whilst casting away a misguided identity and an isolation that can only bring division and turmoil.