Monthly Archives: May 2016

President Hollande Unleashes his Latest Weapon

President Hollande is a crafty old devil. With his public support at a very low level and his tenure at the Élysée Palace coming to an end in a year’s time, he is now deploying his actress lover the delectable Julie Gayet as his main weapon to boost his image as he embarks on an uphill battle to be re-elected.


Ms Gayet, 42, who spends most of her time giving a much-needed physical comfort to the president but refrains from appearing in public, is ferried in and out of the Élysée Palace in cars with blacked-out windows now that she is busy at work in her new task.

She is being briefed by Mr Hollande’s media managers to spread the word that the socialist president, 61, is a warm, loveable and likeable character. The couple’s well-publicised affair began when Ms Gayet, who hails from a well-to-do, left-wing family was supporting Mr Hollande’s campaign in 2011. At the time he was living with Valérie Trierweiler. Miss Gayet was currently receiving star treatment at the Cannes Film Festival despite having no film on show.

‘The president is already campaigning and Gayet’s communication activity is now under orders, at the service of restoring his image,’ a senior Palace media strategist said. ‘She must help make people see him as a nice and straight forward guy.’

Le Canard Enchaîné, the satirical weekly newspaper said: ‘Everything is being done to erase the disaster of the Trierweiler years and what the Hollande entourage calls his ‘ghastly women troubles’. The pair are a ‘loving’ couple according to Mademoiselle a book published this week.

I wonder what the Rottweiler will say next about her ex-lover now that she has almost faded into oblivion. Will anybody listen to her anymore? Time will only tell.


The Rattigan Era Very Much In Focus


Terence Rattigan, the great playwright who I always thought was underrated, is back in full throttle. His plays are having an amazing revival throughout Britain with the Royal National Theatre’s production of The Deep Blue Sea starting June 1 and running until August 17 and a production of Ross to run from 3 to 25 June at the Festival Theatre in Chichester. Soon after this, the Theatre Royal in Bath will show a production of While the Sun Shines from 13 July to 30 July, while French Without Tears will be performed at the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond from 30 June to 30 July. After that it will be on tour as follows:

13 – 24 September, Northcott Theatre, Exeter

27 September – 1 October, Harrogate Theatre

4 – 6 October, Queen’s Theatre, Barnstaple

11 – 15 October, Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham

18 – 22 October, Cast Theatre, Doncaster

25 – 29 October, Coliseum, Oldham

1 – 5 November, Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry

8 – 12 November, Lighthouse Theatre, Poole

16 – 19 November, Lawrence Batley Theatre, Huddersfield


A revised and updated edition of Terence Rattigan: The Man and His Work by Michael Darlow, published by Quartet Books in 2010, is without doubt the definitive study of the great man, released to celebrate the centenary of Rattigan’s birth. It continues to receive great acclaim from the critics.

Terence Rattigan had, in the words of Harold Hobson, ‘the greatest natural talent for the stage of any man this century.’

He was the most financially successful dramatist of his generation and despite attempts to declare his work unfashionable his plays continue to be performed both on the West End stage and in the cinema.

In his lifetime he was a well-known public figure, yet despite his friendships with people such as Noel Coward he always publicly hid his homosexuality. Michael Darlow has been able to describe this important aspect of his life and fully consider it in relation to his work. Plays such as French Without Tears, The Browning Version, Separate Tables and The Winslow Boy are some of the best loved and most memorable plays of the century. Yet even in his lifetime Rattigan was regarded as somehow artistically suspect. This portrait of a complex and fascinating man unfolds to provide a compelling case for Rattigan to be accepted as one of the great dramatists of the last century.

With the latest revival of his work, theatre lovers should not miss the opportunity to order a copy of Darlow’s remarkable book while it is still available.



Stella Maxwell, 26, is a British fashion model. Since 2015 she has been one of Victoria’s Secrets Agents, among whom she’s currently the only British model. Born in Belgium to Northern Irish parents, she was raised in the country of her birth until she was 13 years old where she attended the European School in Woluwe-St-Lambert, a suburb of Brussels. She moved with her parents to Canberra, Australia, where they stayed for one year before moving to Wellington, New Zealand, when she was fourteen. She attended Queen Margaret College at the University of Otago, where she was discovered as a model.


In 2014, she walked the Victoria’s Secret fashion show catwalk, where she was credited. In 2015 she became a Victoria’s Secret Agent. She is without doubt a gorgeous model with sexy features worthy of her role.


Her body, as these pictures show, has a salubrity and a marked concupiscent feel about it that catapults men’s libido to uncharted heights. The once rumoured girlfriend of Miley Cyrus, 22, was seen chilling out on the beach during the latest photo shoots for Victoria’s Secret. She looks sultry in Malibu, California, perhaps because she was missing Miley after last year’s posting of a selfie of her kissing the singer. Otherwise, who knows the reason…?


The Brexit Mob on the Run

Holding a Referendum was an error of judgement by David Cameron for he need not have taken the risk, which has so far divided the whole nation and caused a civil war within the Conservative Party.

That said, I have an innate feeling that the Brexit brigade is losing ground with their outrageous contentions that the unification of Europe is tantamount to the birth of fascism and the advent of the likes of Hitler and Napoleon.

The architect of this new twist is none other than our bonking Boris who has lost his mind in pursuit of his ambition to oust and replace Cameron with whatever means  at his disposal. To hear him talk these days puts you off politics and confirms the view held by most people in this country that the standards of the political fraternity have fallen so low as to make us wonder what calamity to expect next.

Boris Johnson caricature by Hugh Raine.jpg

Michael Gove has similarly shown aspects of mediocrity in his over-exuberance to keep pace with Boris in his pronouncements as to the benefits of going alone by forsaking the European Union. Both of them disregard the old adage that working with the devil you know is far better than taking the plunge in total darkness without knowledge of the consequences.


Against the advice of many distinguished and caring friends who love Great Britain, the Brexit conjurers seem determined to lessen our influence and prestige worldwide on the erroneous assumption that ‘Rule Britannia’ will nevertheless be as prominent in world affairs as ever before while retaining our sovereignty.

Wishful thinking at this level is much too juvenile to be taken seriously. Let’s hope and pray that the British public will see through it all and, in their wisdom, vote to remain as an integral and most important part of Europe.


Knickergate is still Rife in the Republic

Female politicians are experiencing a lack of reverence from the French establishment as revelations of a crude farce sweep across the palaces of the Republic. In an outflow of resentment over the sexual harassment they have experienced, female politicians have turned their anger on their male colleagues, shaming them with tales of being chased around tables, groped and sent salacious texts. One journalist had her knickers ‘twanged’ by a senior cabinet minister.

 François Hollande’s tenure seems to have failed to contain this latest form of lewd behaviour towards female MPs, staffers and councillors who have now begun an offensive against the ways of les hommes politiques and the impunity that has continued to shield them despite the French awareness of sexual harassment.

 The trigger was the exposure of Denis Baupin, 53, a deputy speaker at Parliament who allegedly assaulted and harassed female colleagues. Unexpectedly, eight of the victims went public with their tales, forcing his resignation as speaker but not as an MP with the Green Party. A police enquiry has opened; Mr Baupin denies everything.

 Old habits of hanky-panky, not unusual in France, were supposed to have been banished in 2011 with the disgrace of Dominique Strauss-Kahn, the socialist who headed the International Monetary Fund until he was charged with assaulting a hotel maid in New York. As a result, the politicians promised to end the tolerance of sexual predators in their midst but obviously little has changed.

 The victims have now hit out more openly and with renewed vigour; 500 politicians, staff and activists have called to end ‘the honour code of silence over sexual violence’ in the political workplace. Mr Baupin has become the symbol of the propensity of les élus – elected officer holders of all parties – to treat women as fair game for their lust.

 Emmanuelle Cosse, Mr Baupin’s wife and the housing minister in the Hollande administration, seems to be the only person unaware of his reputation. Sandrine Rousseau, a member of the Green leadership, described being accosted by Mr Baupin in a corridor. ‘He pressed me against the wall holding my breasts and tried to kiss me,’ she said. Annie Lahmer, a Paris regional councillor, said that she received text messages from the MP ‘twenty-four hours a day.’ She also alleges: ‘He once chased me around a big office. I said, “I will not have sex with you.” And he replied, “in that case Annie, you’ll never have any post in this party.”’

 Michel Sabin the finance minister and one of Mr Hollande’s closest friends was also outed. After earlier denials, he admitted ‘inappropriately touching’ the back of a woman journalist at the Davos World Economic Forum. However, he denied a report published in a book that alleged he had twanged her pants when she bent down. He faces no further action over the incident.

 In the country at large, tolerance of abusive macho behaviour has faded. A poll last week reported that 80% of the French believe that the country is too lenient toward harassment. Such enlightenment has yet to arrive in Parliament, however.

 One unnamed MP was overheard loudly telling his young female assistant to go out and buy him a packet of extra-large condoms. A reputation as a lothario remains an asset and the fine line between the seduction of subordinates and assault is only now coming to light.

 The last presidents – Giscard d’Estaing, Mitterrand, Chirac and Sarkozy – were known for their dalliances with women in the workplace. Before he became president, Jacques Chirac’s fondness for quick encounters with his female aids earned him the nickname ‘Mr 3 Minutes – shower included’. At dinners he liked to raise his glass with an old cavalry toast: ‘To our horses, our women and those who mount them.’

 France is, in my view, a hotbed of workplace misconduct; male politicians have always treated women as their subordinates and believe that sexual favours were to be gifted to them as a matter of course. When I interviewed Édith Cresson who was once a mistress of President Mitterrand – who then appointed her as prime minister – she as much admitted to me that this was invariably almost an accepted tradition.

 Well, well, who would have thought that such abominable practices could still exist?




There seems to be a hiccup these days on whether wine is beneficial to one’s health if drunk in moderation. With the government now cracking down on the quantity to be consumed of no more than 6 glasses a week, the guidelines tend to make a mockery of the whole issue. The government triggered off the controversy with these new alcohol guidelines in January, slashing the maximum weekly intake for men from 21 units to 14 – the same as for women. This is the equivalent of just under 6 standard glasses of wine.

However, a study has now found that those who drink up to a third of a bottle of wine – or two small glasses – with food every day suffer fewer illnesses and have a more positive outlook on life. They are less likely to binge drink and ‘should not be considered a risk,’ according to researchers from the Universities of Helsinki and Tampere in Finland.

Scientists tracked the alcohol consumption of 2,600 participants aged between 18 and 69 while also asking them to rate their self-esteem and health, both physical and mental. The 12 per cent who regularly have wine with their meal scored far higher on all three counts – even when other factors such as occupation, education and marital status were taken into consideration.

Both the timing of the drinking and the type of alcohol consumed were important, for those who drank wine away from the dinner table did not enjoy the same rewards in their health and well-being. In addition, hazardous habits could be predicted according to what and when people drank.

A quarter of those who mixed wine and beer at mealtimes were bingers while among people who had wine only and always with food, the proportion was just 8 per cent. The study – published in Alcohol and Alcoholism states: ‘This further confirms that those drinking only wine during meals should not be considered as a risk group on the population level.’

But the Mediterranean habit of enjoying a glass of wine or two with your evening meal could be the key to a happy, healthy life new research has deduced. So folks, get with the programme. Enjoy life, live precariously and dare to throw caution to the wind!


Wherever you look at the world today there seems to be strife, internal instability or cause for dissatisfaction threatening the very fabric of organised societies. Nowhere is ideally safe. We live day by day hoping that matters will improve globally but alas optimistic views are often as unpredictable as clouds in the sky during the rainy season.

Take Brazil as an example these days. The economy is suffering, the country is in total upheaval and the political scene is so dour that civil war is no longer a remote possibility.

However, individuals with a mission can achieve a measure of success in saving a tribe from extinction. Mark Rylance is best known in Britain for his portrayal as Thomas Cromwell in the hit TV drama series Wolf Hall. In the US he’s famous for his Oscar-winning performance in Bridge of Spies. In Brazil, he’s renowned for helping to save a tribe of Amazon Indians from extinction at the hands of illegal loggers and aggressive cattle ranchers.


Last October, Rylance, 56, led a campaign by Survivors International which lobbies to save indigenous tribes to prevent the annihilation of the Kawahiva, a small group whose lifestyle on the Southern fringes of the Amazon Rainforest was under threat. He narrated a video that showed the destruction of virgin forest in which the Kawahiva survived by hunting, fishing and gathering fruits. ‘Armed loggers and aggressive ranchers are illegally razing the trees to the ground,’ Rylance says, describing the Kawahiva as ‘living on the run to escape violence from outsiders, attacks and diseases have killed their relatives.’ The film shows a chance encounter in a thatched shelter in the forest between members of the tribe and agents from the National Indian Foundation of Brazil (FUNAI), a government body responsible for policies related to indigenous peoples.

The Kawahiva who are known to have lived in the area since 1750 make nets from tree bark. The campaign prompted 14,000 people to send emails to the Justice Ministry demanding that the Kawahiva’s ancestral territory be officially defined and protected. Recently, in the middle of political meltdown that could allow the agribusiness lobby to gain even more power, the Justice Minister finally signed the decree after decades of prevarication. Rylance said: ‘This is great news – helping to protect a unique vulnerable people who are part of our human diversity however small. Now they are in with a chance of survival.’

Fiona Watson of Survival International said: ‘What it means is the territory cannot be challenged now that the minister has signed it. It’s been highly contested by lots of people lobbying around the area. While the law is a victory for the Kawahiva, FUNAI is facing an uncertain future. It’s funding has been cut as a result of Brazil’s economic crisis.’

The looming impeachment of President Rousseff is likely to usher in a new government whose minsters will have close links with their ranching and logging lobby, many of whom are under investigation for corruption. Ms Watson says; ‘It’s hugely worrying. Delma Rousseff hasn’t done nearly as much as she could have for the indigenous peoples but the prospects on the horizon are even worse.’

The political scene all over the world has changed dramatically over the past three decades. Corruption is rampant and the old type of honest politician is rarely to be found and those few left with any principles have become powerless to make the least difference. Woe to the world we live in.

Gwyneth Cometh on a Mission

Gwyneth Paltrow can easily outshine any of her contemporaries in attracting the press to follow every new gimmick she can conjure up. She has, over the years, managed to remain in the limelight by re-inventing herself and making pronouncements on whatever subject she deems will ensure her being talked about. Her controversial lifestyle which is cleverly presented has never failed her.



The latest nuggets of wisdom to have stunned her fans are a string of saucy sex tips like watching porn and even using lube made from sweet potatoes and coconut oil. The great actress, 43, who disrobed in 1998 blockbuster Great Expectations, sent out a ‘sex issue’ email from her lifestyle website Goop recently. In it she advises women on which gadgets will best stimulate their pelvic floor and ponders why orgasms can be elusive.

Mother of two Gwyneth says she was inspired by a friend who made her own lube using yams, citrus seeds and coconut oil but she has withheld the recipe at this stage, telling her fans to try alternatives like sweet potatoes until the formula is available. She writes: ‘When it comes to lube, if it is safe to eat it is generally safe to apply.’

Gwyneth who divorced Coldplay singer Chris Martin last year also revealed that the best way to achieve orgasm is to ‘explore writings or videos that induce pleasure and arousal’.

It seems that Gwyneth is a jack of all trades, good at everything she touches. What an amazing gal she is. I presume inspiration is her motto and giving pleasure to women is her crusade. Feminists take note, your days are numbered.




Meditation is normally accredited with keeping the brain young and some say knocks off seven years of brain decline. Researchers have found that the combination of intense concentration and relaxation may trigger the growth of new brain cells. Although they did not look at whether the meditation was also smarter, brain shrinkage can lead to Alzheimer’s and other brain diseases.

The scientists scanned the brains of 50 American men and women who regularly meditated and 50 non-meditators. Scans were fed into a computer programme that analysed the images and provided an age for each brain based on its physical condition. The results were striking. In general, the non-meditators’ brain ages and actual ages were the same. But the meditators brains were younger than their years, with the average 50 year old having a brain that belonged in a 42 or 43 year-old body. The benefits were particularly greater for older meditators.

For every year over the age of fifty, a youth spent meditating knocked an extra year off brain age, the Journal Neuroimage reports. Researcher Christian Gaser, a neuroscientist at Jena University Hospital in Germany, said: ‘These findings seem to suggest that meditation is beneficial for brain preservation with a slower rate of brain ageing throughout life.’

Dr Gaser, who collaborated with US and Australian scientists, said it is not clear how meditation protects the brain but that it’s possible that ‘intense mental processes’ trigger the growth of new cells and connections. The chemicals behind the feel-good sensations produced by meditation may also provide a boost. However, he cautioned that those who meditate may lead healthier lifestyles in general.

It is also possible that some inherent difference in brain structure make some people more likely to take up meditating. Those studied had practiced various types of traditional meditation for an average of twenty years. Some did seven sessions a week or had more than 40 years’ experience under their belt.

It isn’t clear from the results if shorter bursts are also beneficial and if mindfulness, the ‘meditation lite’ that is becoming increasingly popular, is having the same effect. Interestingly the scan reveals that meditation ‘isn’t the only way you keep the mind youthful,’ being female also helps. The women’s brains were on average three years younger than the men’s, whether they meditated or not.

Meditation is credited with improving health in numerous ways, from boosting the immune system to easing loneliness. Some scientists say it can be linked to unpleasant side effects. One study from the University of California found that 63% of people who had been on meditation retreats suffered from at least one side effect, ranging from confusion or panic and depression. Other research had flagged up twitches and fits as possible effects.

All I can deduce from the whole scientific exercise is that it shows that often sauce for the goose is not necessarily sauce for the gander.

Afterlife Ode

Having lost the love of my life in February, I’m still devastated by her unexpected death and feel desolate despite putting on a brave face, as was her wish. Life has become bereft of any meaning unless, of course, I discover a raison d’être which has so far escaped me. My wife’s companionship of 60 years has simply faded away from its terrestrial presence, to an afterlife which baffles the most enlightened people I know.

 Yet I feel her watchful eye is constantly hovering in my vicinity, guiding every move I make and giving me the strength to cope with life on my own until the day I too will join her in what true believers describe as the paradise reserved for the good-doers in this spiritual world. It is a place no human being since creation has tangibly been able to identify.


Belief in life after death is increasing, despite a fall in the number who believe in God. Research suggest that growing feelings of entitlement may be fuelling the idea that there is some kind of afterlife. A recent study of 59,000 people found the number of atheists trebled between 1972 and 2014. The biggest decline in believers was seen between 18 and 29 year olds. Despite this, overall belief in the afterlife has increased from 76% to 79%.

 ‘It was interesting that fewer people participated in religion or prayer but more believed in an afterlife,’ said Jean Twenge of San Diego State University. ‘It might be part of a growing entitlement mentality – thinking you can get something for nothing. The large decline in religious practice among young adults is also further evidence that millennials – those born between 1980 and 2000 – are the least religious generation in memory.’

 Doctor Twenge suggested that the growing belief in the afterlife might be explained by the famous ‘wager’ of Blaise Pascal the seventeenth-century French mathematician. He made the argument that it might be wise to behave as if God existed, since the possibility of eternal punishment in hell outweighs any advantage in believing otherwise.

 Similar findings to the US research have been seen in Britain. A 2012 survey at the Institute of Education found that 49% of Britons born in 1970 believe there was definitely, or probably, life after death. Yet only 31% said they believed in God.

 The San Diego researchers found that women were more likely than men to say they believed in heaven and those with a degree were less likely than others to be godly. A YouGov poll released last year found that 33% of Britons do not believe in God or a greater spiritual power of any kind, while 32% do. The remainder either believe in a higher power but not a God or don’t know what they believe. In 2012 the polling group found that 37% believed in God and 29% were atheists. Previous research has found that roughly seven out of ten Americans believe in a heaven where people who have led good lives are eternally rewarded.

 Mormons are the religious group with the greatest belief in heaven at 95%, while black Protestants follow closely behind with 93%. Only 88% of white Protestants believe in heaven, while for Catholics the figure is 85%. Among Muslims, 89% believe in heaven, while just 40% Jews believe in an afterlife. Women are more likely than men to say they believe in heaven and people with a degree are less likely to believe in heaven than those without a degree.

 On deep reflection, however, my own conviction is now rock solid. I believe an afterlife awaits us where our loved ones who have already departed are anxiously looking forward to the day we gracefully join them to celebrate an eternal life in total harmony. Amen.