Monthly Archives: March 2016

The Ora Factor

Rita Ora, the ex-judge and coach on the 4th series of The Voice and who later was to jump ship to become a judge on the 12th series of the X Factor has, in my opinion, lost some of her natural sparkle with the move from the BBC to ITV. Her image has unfortunately become brasher, less elegant and certainly much raunchier, as these pictures reveal.

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Some might venture to say that the Simon Cowell influence has turned her into a sex siren, more in tune with mass market vision than possibly the higher echelons of the modelling elite. The hot singer not only went topless, but hitched up her leather skirt to grin, as if to say: ‘I gave my fans more than a peep at my breasts and perhaps the full Monty will follow next time.’

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This sensational cover for the French magazine LUI was taken by controversial snapper Terry Richardson, 50, and was the second time he has shot this famous British pop star and actress. In the first session, in 2014, Rita, 25, sucked her finger and went topless, but covered her boobs. I must say I find this cover inappropriate. It is simply to emphasise a point.

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But now, Rita has gone commando in France recently in a strung-together orange dress at Versace’s Paris fashion week’s show.

There is no stopping the ambitious lassie whose horizons seem endless. We can now only look forward for her next graduation, if that’s possible.

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The Future Looks Grim

With Britain’s trade deficit not showing signs of improvement and fears rising over the global economy as well as the slump in exports, the pound is facing added pressure it could do without.

 Figures will show a gaping current account deficit likely to add concerns over the EU referendum result which has so far destabilised the pound against the US dollar and the Euro.

 Howard Archer, of IHS Global Insight, predicts the gap to grow to £23bn in the fourth quarter of 2015 from £17.5bn in the first quarter. ‘A renewed widening of the current account deficit would be an uncomfortable development for the UK economy,’ he said. ‘While the markets have so far taken a relaxed view, it could become an increasing problem if they lose confidence in the UK economy.’

 Archer added that a victory for the ‘leave’ campaign on June 23rd creates ‘obvious potential’ for international investors to change their views on sterling.

 Chris Hare, an economist at Investec, said the deficit was likely to have grown from 3.8 per cent to 4.5 per cent of GDP in the final quarter. ‘With the challenging global environment continuing to weigh on exports and net investment, large current account gaps could persist for some time,’ he said.

 Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, recently warned that the large current account deficit meant that Britain was ‘reliant on the kindness of strangers.’

 In a detailed analysis last week, Kristin Forbes, a member of the bank’s monetary policy committee, highlighted the EU referendum as one of the potential threats to the economy given the ‘alarming’ rise of the deficit.

 Other figures due out shortly include a third estimate for growth at the end of last year as well as consumer confidence indicators. Consumer confidence has so far held up well in the face of evidence of slowing growth.

 However, the political in-fighting in the UK is harming the economy and will distract the nation’s attention from the worsening economic stability worldwide. The chancellor’s latest budget will prove to be inaccurate as the figures will not add up and his credibility will further plummet as a potential leader in waiting.

 As for Boris, his popularity is on a knife edge these days as his bonking activities are being publicised to discredit his chances of being considered for the highest office in the land, should David Cameron lose his bid to convince the electorate to remain part of the EU.

 In brief, we are in a mess and it will get much worse as the month of June approaches. Tightening our seatbelts is not the only answer, we need to think very carefully before we cast our votes in a referendum which will affect not only our generation but more importantly the future of our children.

 

A Cautionary Hope

Ghislaine Maxwell, the youngest daughter of Robert Maxwell, the late media baron, is now facing a suit for defamation which will once again cause a flurry of unwanted publicity involving her association with the disgraced business man, Jeffry Epstein. The highly publicised case keeps coming back to haunt her amid claims that the two were involved in sex-trafficking.

A judge has now ordered Ghislaine the well-known British socialite to disclose any letters or dealings that she had with Epstein which might shed light on the nature of their relationship. The suit for defamation was lodged by Virginia Roberts Giuffre, a young woman from Florida, who claims that she was trafficked and sexually abused while still a minor by Mr Epstein with the ‘assistance and participation’ of Ms Maxwell’.

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Ms Giuffre initially made this claim while attempting to join a law suit filed by two other alleged victims of Mr Epstein in Florida. She claimed she was also required to sleep with the Duke of York. A judge hearing the case did not allow her to join the suit and ordered that her claims relating to the Duke be struck from the record as ‘lurid and unnecessary’. The Duke strenuously denied the allegations. Ms Maxwell issued a statement through her agent saying that the claims were ‘obvious lies’. This has prompted Ms Giuffre’s defamation suit, filed last year. In response, Ms Maxwell’s lawyers said that Ms Giuffre was peddling ‘fantastical claims’. However, Judge Robert Sweet has ordered that she disclose correspondence and conversations between 1999 and 2016.

I first met Ghislaine in the late 1980s when she lived in London and was very prominent on the social scene, and highly regarded. She was indeed a bubbling young lady of a warm disposition, and easily likeable. I saw her twice since her move to New York. The order she faces now stems largely because of her friendship with Epstein who, by and large, has proved to be an unsavoury character who she should have distanced herself from.

I sincerely hope she will be vindicated and will be back in circulation soon, where she truly belongs.

More Memories

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My wife, who passed away on 17 February, was, as I suddenly recall, a smart, elegant ‘cookie’. Although low-key in her private life – as the reader can see from what I chronicled about the opening of her shop in my autobiography, Fulfilment & Betrayal, she had a perceptive eye that made her work uniquely noticeable: ‘… in October 1989, in the middle of the month, an unusual new project was announced, though this one involved my wife Maria. A shop was to be opened in Shepherd Market, Mayfair, and called ‘Aphrodisia’. The idea had its roots essentially in the premise that products that are life-enhancing promote a healthy well-being which in turn improves one’s love life. Artificial aids and stimulants had no place in this scheme of things. Nature’s way was to be the answer. Maria would run the shop and assemble the stock. Aphrodisia’s diverse merchandise would all be guaranteed to combat the stress of modern living. Handcrafted gifts and natural products would be evident everywhere. Rare honeys, both bitter and sweet, gathered from a variety of locations from the Mediterranean to the Pacific, would be placed alongside the finest ginseng and pure mineral sea salts. Chocolates to excite the palate, based on an exclusive Aphrodisia recipe, would be available, as would cold-pressed olive oils, rich in aromas and full-bodied, with jars of wild berries to make the mouth water.

‘Maria’s artistic flair was ideally suited to the enterprise. Acting as the sole interior decorator for the Namara Group she had received unequivocal praise for her ingenuity and good taste. The new undertaking was to give her the opportunity to display her many talents in a field primarily aimed at boosting the romantic side of life. The shop would be an Aladdin’s cave with love as its theme and raison d’être. The London Evening Standard seemed taken with the whole idea:

I’m delighted to hear that the publisher Naim Attallah is to set up his wife in an aphrodisiac shop in Shepherd Market, the notorious stretch of Mayfair so enjoyed by businessmen and authors. The excellent Maria Attallah is sometimes forgotten in all the excitement of the publisher’s famous gaggle of nymphets at Quartet Books, so it is heartening to find that Naim is redressing the balance. Among the shop’s products will be a 24-carat-gold powder to sprinkle on your bread-and-butter pudding.

‘Three months later the shop opened. Among the first of its illustrious customers was Auberon Waugh. After his visit, writing in the Spectator, he bemoaned the loss of innocence, until:

I chanced on a shop in Shepherd Market called Aphrodisia. It is kept by Maria Attallah, wife of the Palestinian philanthropist, whose purpose, she tells me, is to sell things which make men and women feel natural and good. Some are toilet preparations, but there are books, too: The NewSensual Massage: Learn to Give Pleasure with Your Hands; Love Spells; Shakespeare’s Sonnets; The Japanese Bath; books on roses; love poems; foods of love; books of pretty Edwardian nudes; beeswax candles; green-apple candles . . . ‘all my objects point towards sensual passion’, says Attallah. Single ostrich feathers; silk damask copes with gold fringes for those with religious fantasies; pretty painted-wood putti; Japanese tea; honey from Hawaii; hearts made of crystal, yellow and rose quartz; amethyst matrices, silver hearts, eggs of agate; little trinkets of affection; gold love chains; ginseng roots pickled in vodka and brandy . . .

At 25 Shepherd Market, Maria Attallah has collected everything that is innocent and pure, everything worth saving from the Sixties. There is a philosophy and a truth in sensuality which need to be separated from the destructive guilt which once supported the drug culture. Apart from anything else, I felt that all my Christmas-present problems are solved as long as Aphrodisia lasts.’

No one could have described the shop better. Though later, the next spring:

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‘At the start of February, in anticipation of St Valentine’s Day, Victoria Hinton of the Daily Express had made a visit to Aphrodisia, my wife’s shop in                                                                           Shepherd Market, and written a comprehensive description of the premises and its contents. She had spoken at length to my wife Maria, who extolled the romantic nature of her merchandise and detailed some of the benefits likely to be derived from it. Victoria Hinton started off her article by describing the tiny dimensions of the shop and its devotion to romance rather than sex or libido. Eerie music pervaded the atmosphere – ‘New Age whale-mating calls, dolphins singing, that kind of thing’. ‘This, the owner Maria Attallah says, is to get you in the mood for romance, but then – according to her – just about anything gets you in the mood for affairs of the heart.’ So far as Victoria Hinton could see, it was all pretty innocent stuff. Where was the rhino horn, the Spanish fly, tiger bones, deer antlers ‘and all manner of grisly things taken from (usually endangered) animals and ground up to perk up flagging sexual urges’?

‘Mrs Attallah has no truck with them. ‘I remember seeing a stall in Tangiers with hedgehog skins and bats. I thought: “Yuck, this is more death potions than love potions. If this is love, I’ll join a nunnery.”

‘What’s an aphrodisiac? Something that unwinds you and relaxes you. You know what it is? It’s up here,’ she says, tapping her head. Yet, if it is all in the mind, why go to a shop called Aphrodisia to buy things to make you feel romantic? ‘You don’t need a lot of money. You can give someone just one flower. It’s using your imagination. . . .

‘What is sexiness? It’s a visual awareness, it’s conversing, it’s a relaxed sense of humour. An ugly person can be sexy.’

‘Yet wasn’t there anything, Ms Hinton wanted to know, ‘which has a sort of, mmm, physical effect’?

Maria Attallah has a way of fixing you with her piercing eyes which makes you understand why, when dodgy types do walk in expecting heavy-duty aphrodisiacs, they head for the door pretty smartly. Ginger, she concedes, ginseng, and chocolate which contains phenylethyamine, which our bodies produce when we are in love, may act as a love tonic.

  For thirty-five years Maria has been married to Naim Attallah . . .his is a lengthy relationship among the high-profile London society circle they inhabit, so they must be doing something right. From her beautifully shaded hair, elegantly manicured hands and soft, touchable wool clothes, this is a woman who looks after herself. Yes, she still lights scented candles when he comes home, and puts on atmospheric music.

‘He is thoughtful. He has his (professional) territory and I have mine – I think it’s important.’

Risk further probing about the Attallah relationship and you get a charming, slightly accented: ‘That’s rather personal,’ and that’s that.

Maria had to admit that the British were not terribly good at romance, though it was not because they didn’t have feelings, because, ‘Everyone has feelings. If they are cut, they will bleed. It’s just that our upbringing has taught us not to show it.’ Any customers to the shop, with its tasteful decoration in ‘rich greens and dark wood’, could rely on being treated with discretion, though they would not be encouraged to expose their emotional lives in too much depth. ‘We want to keep it light, it’s too much if someone comes with big problems.’

You may not be able to scientifically quantify the effects of Maria Attallah’s ‘gifts of love and charm’, but there is a strong chance that if you go there before St Valentine’s Day, whatever you buy may warm the cockles of your loved one’s heart…

Crunch That Nut

Discovery in whatever form could become an addiction for those who seek an in-depth knowledge of how we get the best results from everything we use or consume daily. Since I’m always clamouring to find out new tricks to improve my way of life and add to my knowledge in general, I must admit that this pursuit has over the years become an important focus without which I feel a certain void. The latest odd research has shown that we eat less when we can hear ourselves chew. It may be bad manners, but eating noisily could be good for one’s waistline. Ryan Elder of Brigham Young University in Utah says: ‘Sound is typically the forgotten food sense, but if people were more focused on the sound food makes it could reduce consumption.’

Dr Elder made the findings after several groups of volunteers agreed to do taste tests and measuring how much food they ate. In one, 71 students were asked to rate the taste of a type of pretzel while wearing headphones. Half heard loud noise, which drowned out the sound of their chewing, and they got through 4 pretzels each. The others were able to hear themselves eat and only consumed 2.8 pretzels on average. Dr Elder explained: ‘The effects may not seem huge – one less pretzel – but over the course of a week, month or year it could really add up.’

In another experiment, 156 students were asked to rate biscuits made of pitta bread. Before they ate them, half of the volunteers read packaging which described the crackers as ‘crispy’ while the others were simply told they were ‘tasty and delicious’. Both groups were then given the same biscuits to eat – but those who had been made to think of them as being crunchy, ate fewer.

Writing in the journal Food Quality and Preference, Dr Elder said he isn’t sure why eating noisily has such a notable effect. It may be that the act reminds us of how much we are eating. It is also possible we tire of eating more quickly when it is a louder experience. Whatever the reason, it could help explain why we tend to munch mindlessly in front of the TV or at the cinema – and means that people could lose more weight simply by eating in silence.

Dr Elder said: ‘When you mask the sound of consumption, like when you watch TV while eating it may cause you to eat more than you would normally. But while the crunch factor could lead to us eating less, we may enjoy the food more.’

Previous British research has shown how crisp food triggers the brain’s pleasure centres, with the sound of biting into an apple the most enjoyable. The makers of Magnum ice cream learned this lesson the hard way. In response to criticism that the chocolate coating was too brittle they produced a softer one – only to be told their customers missed the cracking sound of the original. A return to its first formulation soon followed.

Since at my advanced age of 84, I seem to eat much less, I need not eat noisily to remain slim. Thank God I don’t have to take up bad manners!

I leave those whose food consumption is horrendous either to risk falling into disgusting behaviour or reduce naturally their food intake. Big bellies take heed and look at yourselves naked in the mirror if you dare….

Anarchy All Round

The Tory party is in total disarray. It is breaking at the seams. The division within its ranks is more pronounced than ever before. The chaos is almost terminal. With the resignation of Iain Duncan Smith, the only member of the cabinet who it seems has some principles and is not swayed by expediency, will inflict further deadly wounds to a motley of Tory opportunists who are running in every which way to assert themselves, as the leadership of the party is losing its grip on its members. George Osborne’s plan to cut benefits for the disabled appears to be the last straw in a dishevelled government who are clinging to power by the sheer chaos of vulnerability: A Babylonian consortium, speaking an alien language which few can grasp or translate.

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All this is happening when Britain is facing a referendum which will seal its future for generations to come. June is not far off and the politicians are squabbling interminably, mostly in platitudes, without rhyme or reason. Brexit has become a game where those who favour it are plodding in the dark without the least basis for credibility. The world over is convinced that such a course will signal that Britain has given up being a global player and that Germany, who is calling the shots in Europe, will most likely gain additional influence in international forums where Britain might find itself excluded.

I blame David Cameron for not controlling his Chancellor, whose ambition to succeed him I believe is now in tatters. Osborne’s predictions in his budget are far off the mark. It is looked upon as simply a matter of juggling the figures, which will not work in the long term. I don’t trust the man or his figures. His eyes are so shifty that one can see that he himself does not believe the sums he bandies around in his budget, in order to hoodwink a trusting public.

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I fear for the future isolation that Brexit will generate, when Great Britain will ultimately diminish in size and Scotland, Northern Ireland and even Wales, will vote for independence and go their own disastrous way, all cheerfully believing that grass is greener on the other side. However, a fool as I am, I still reckon that the majority will want to remain part of the EU in order to reform it from the inside, and help create a powerful and dynamic block as a counter balance to Russia, China and the dwindling power of the United Sates.

A Wonderful Experience

For the past few years my hearing has gradually deteriorated to such a level that it became embarrassing when, at a board meeting, I found it extremely difficult to follow the essence of what was going on. In the end, after some procrastination, I decided to take the plunge and obtain a hearing aid, in order to avoid a situation where my pronounced disability would cause me no further hardship.

My son took me to an ear specialist, whose professionalism made the whole exercise almost an enjoyable social event rather than a nerve-wracking appointment. Farah Kiani, a young lady of 29, was charm itself with a smile that could launch many a ship and an attitude that made her practice the zenith of affability. Well spoken, with an elegance and comportment rarely encountered these days, especially among this new generation of a professional ‘know-all tribe’ who are carried away by their own self esteem.

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Farah is best described as a breath of freshair, or more appropriately as a beautiful flower undulating in the summer breeze. Her photograph, reproduced here, will give the reader a measure of her aura and hopefully the notion that professionalism need not be stern to reflect itself.