Monthly Archives: November 2017

Last night marked the publication of Alexander Newley’s memoir Unaccompanied Minor at Daunt Books Marylebone, London to an enthusiastic audience who came to wish the author well.


Here is what I said in my short address on this occasion.

Ladies and Gentlemen, lend me your ears.

Alexander Newley’s manuscript came to my knowledge through my good friend Basia Briggs, who recommended I should read it. She was sure I would love it. Indeed I did. As a result, we are here today to celebrate its publication.

Alexander has definitely a story to tell. Exquisitely written about his upbringing in a household where parental strife unwittingly robbed him of a more structured life, which to a young man mattered a great deal.

Born with a famous name, to an ill-fated marriage, he had to suffer the insecurity of a life of great privilege which, beneath the glossy veneer, harboured infidelity and emotional turmoil. Growing up, he felt that his parents’ focus was elsewhere as their lives alternated between failure and success in the highly deceptive world of show-business.

This unique, unflinching memoir reveals a bleak chronicle of his nomadic early life, the disintegration of his parents’ marriage and his battle to make sense of his past. It is also a meditation on art, identity and inheritance and a portrait of London and Hollywood during the swinging 60s and 70s, bringing to life his encounters with everyone from the Beatles to Evil Knievel. Complementing his vivid prose and engrossing recollections are 28 of Alexander’s own art works, depicting many of the people who played a pivotal role in his early years, making this the definitive account of an extraordinary childhood.

It also a memoir that keeps you gripped to the very end. In the words of William Boyd: ‘Written with a great style and assurance, candid, heart-felt and fascinating.’

The author himself sums it all up by saying: ‘When I look back at the broken storyline of my childhood, I see that the chief culprit was an ogre called Show-Business. It yanked my helpless father, Antony Newley – of blessed memory – and my mother, Joan Collins – of amazing fortitude – back and forth between England and America, Broadway, Hollywood and the West End. My parents were both enslaved by the monster’s demands. It gave them no security, no safe haven of self, but kept them in the precarious state of wanting and needing the phone call from the agent with the next big gig – the only thing between them and oblivion.’

You must read this book for it is a true and moving insight of a young man who has overcome many a dilemma to rise above his own circumstances and shine brightly, as you can see now.

I must end this address for fear of losing your indulgence by asking you to honour Alexander in the best and practical way I know, and that is to rush and buy a few copies of his book as an acknowledgement of what he has so far achieved.

You will certainly make this evening a memorable one for both author and publisher.


In June this year I wrote the following on my blog about Prince Harry. In view of his forthcoming marriage in the Spring next year, here’s a short piece that happily foretold it all. Good luck Harry and many congratulations!

Prince Harry, apart from Prince Philip, is one of my favourite royals. Prince Philip for his cheeky sense of humour and his unusual turn of phrase when conversing with the public and whose personality seems to endear him wherever he goes, whereas the young Prince Harry for his adventurous life and his courage to serve the nation whenever called upon.


Above all his joie de vivre and his love of women, which make him ‘a bit of a lad’, determined to live his life to the full. His latest girlfriend, Meghan Markle, to whom he’s apparently seriously involved, strikes me as a woman equally devoted to him and has the same characteristics. She would consequently be his perfect consort should they decide to tie the knot.

A successful actress, whose popularity is clearly well-established, casual and sultry, the two sides of her are eye-pleasing to say the least. In one picture they show Ms Markle pouting at the camera as she seductively lifts up a low cut black dress to reveal her legs. In another pose, taken in 2013 for Sharp magazine, she is draped across a leather sofa with only one button done up on her black shirt.

Relaxed as always, she looks stunningly and impassively a fun companion to be with. I hope the Prince will not let her go for she’s without doubt a replica of his own image and would as a result be a perfect woman to give him the stability that every man ultimately desires.


Go for it Harry and give the nation cause for jubilation!


The beauty of research is the fact that very often it does discover that contrary to previous findings, the opposite turns out to be more beneficial. We are now told that women who have regular glasses of red wine are found to be more fertile. Hyena’s Feet, Saltpetre mixed with honey, menopausal urine – their use runs down the centuries as women have resorted to an extraordinary list of remedies in an attempt to have children. However, the latest idea is a lot less smelly and far more congenial.

Scientists, God bless them, have found tantalising hints that women who drink at least a glass of red wine a week have better preserved fertility than those who do not. The researchers think that the molecules involved could be Resveratrol – an antioxidant that protects cells against biological stress and is abundant in red grapes, blueberries and cocoa.

A team of physicians at Waslington University in St Louis, Missouri looked at the association between various alcoholic drinks and ovarian reserve, a measure of a woman’s reproductive health. They asked 135 women, aged between 18 and 44, to keep a diary detailing how much beer, spirits and red and white wine they drank each month. They also used ultrasound scanners to count each woman’s antral follicles, a proxy for the number of eggs she had left for the future.

Their results, which have not yet been peer-reviewed, but will be presented at the American Society for Reproductive Medicine’s Scientific Congress in San Antonio, Texas, showed only a positive strength in women who drank 5 or more glasses of red wine a month. Even after the researchers adjusted their data to take other explanations such as age and income into account, regular red wine consumption was still linked to better ovarian research.

In the past Reveratron has been touted for its mildly protective defence against cancer, heart disease and dementia, though its medical value remains controversial. While some biologists have tested it as an experimental anti-aging drug, one study in the Chianti region of Tuscany suggested that its benefits were largely mythical.

Independent experts said the new findings had to be handled with caution. For one thing, the study has only identified a tentative link, rather than proof that the wine was responsible for the effect. For another, the number of weekly red wine drinkers was relatively small and the result was also on the border of statistical significance, meaning that there is 6% chance it could be a fluke.

Adab Ballen, Professor of Reproductive Medicine at the University of Leeds and chairman of the British Fertility Society. said the results were intriguing but did not give women carte blanche to drink as much red wine as they liked if they were trying conceive. ‘This is an interesting study, albeit with a small sample size which means that it doesn’t read any statistical significance,’ he said.

‘It is an interesting idea that a small idea of red wine might be positively associated with ovarian reserve. However, the exposure of the developing foetus to alcohol may cause irreversible development damage, so alcohol consumption should be less than 6 units [roughly 2 large glasses of wine] for women wishing to conceive.’

Shanna Jayasena, Clinical Senior Lecturer at Imperial College, London and a member of the British Society for Endocrinology, said: ‘There is a lot of interest in whether anti-oxidants could improve fertility in men and women. It is tempting to tell women to rush out and drink red wine which contain anti-oxidants, but this study does not support that.’

Whatever the case, I believe a glass of red wine, which is normally enjoyable to drink, cannot do any harm to men or women. If, however, as a bonus, it helps the fertility of both then surely it’s worth having.


I have always been interested in China and quite frankly, despite the shortcomings of the Communist ideology, felt at ease whenever I happened to visit the country which I did regularly in the 1980s and 1990s when my business activities were at their peak. But during the turn of the century, China has made notable advances economically as well as scientifically and could now be regarded as a power to reckon with, and will eventually be as dominant in world affairs as the USA, if not also a hard competitor to beat.

Recently, China has finished building the hull of the world’s deep ocean mining vessel as part of a push to explore the vast, but largely untapped, sea-bed for the minerals that are crucial to its economy. Once completed, the vessel will mark a milestone for the Chinese ship-building industry. The 227m boat will be the world’s first mining vessel, capable of operating at depths of up to 25km (1.5 miles), carry 45,000 tons of ore and stay at sea for more than five years at a time.

Officials at Fujian Mawei Shipbuilding confirmed to The Times that the boat was on schedule to be completed and handed over to Nautilus Minerals, based in Canada, by next year to be used for mining operations off Papua New Guinea. The company would not provide further details but a new report in the local Fujian Evening News said the ship would be equipped with mining equipment, underwater robots, deck cranes and helicopter pads.

As one of world’s manufacturing giants, China requires huge amounts of mineral resources but mines on land are being depleted and new sources must be found. Jiang Daming, Minister of Land and Resources, said that China needs to safeguard its energy resources and grow its economy. ‘To march deep into the earth is a strategic technology issue that we must address,’ he said. A report from Mr Jiang’s department has estimated that there are 88 billion tons of rare earth, a billion tons of cobalt, and three trillion tons of polymetallic nodules under the sea floor. The minerals are widely used in such fields as electronics, medical equipment, textiles, metallurgy, cars and chemicals. Rare earth materials – minerals and compounds containing rare metals – are strategically important to China for their wide range of uses in the military. Securing reliable sources of such minerals will allow China to assert its dominance as a supplier.

In 2014, it unveiled its first underwater mining vessel, Taixin no 1, to mine for zirconium and titanium sand off Hainan, an island in China’s southernmost province. The boatbuilder, Chonghe Marine Industry in Shanghai, said then that most seafloor mining was limited to depths of less than 40 metres and the new technology would allow mining companies to operate between 80 and 100 metres. It’s unclear how China was able, within a few years, to make the leap to a vessel that can mine at 2.5 km, but the development is consistent with its goal to reach deep into the oceans for mineral resources.

Its manned deep sea research submersible Jioaling, which has been in service since 2010, can dive to more than 7 km (4.3 miles). Goals to investigate and evaluate mineral resources on the international sea floor and push for application of new mining fields are part of Beijing’s 5-year plan for 2016-20. It already has mining rights at four sites in international waters. China has also invested in other deep sea projects. Late last year it set up a group of experts for a deep-sea polymetallic nodule mining test project. At the swearing-in ceremony, members of the team were told that they must understand the political and historic significance of their mission. ‘The deep sea is full of treasures,’ the Land & Resources Minister said: ‘But to obtain those treasures, we must master key technology in entering, exploring and mining the Deep Sea.’

It’s a most remarkable project, which proves that China is awake to its innovative cycle and is on course to reap the benefits of its ingenuity in the not too distant future.


Dementia seems to be on the rise as there could be one million people in the UK who are inflicted with this most ravaging disease – far more than official figures show. Research has revealed that there are around 150,000 people in the early stages of the disease who were not previously included in official statistics. Current estimates put the number of people with Dementia in the UK at around 850,000 – but if the unrecorded patients are included, the true total should be nearly one million. The figures were presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in London recently by a team led by Cambridge and Newcastle University’s academics. They also warned that rising obesity levels could mean an extra 60,000 cases of dementia by 2030.

Fiona Matthews, Professor of Epidemiology at Newcastle, said: ‘People with extra stages of the disease – known as mild dementia – have traditionally been left out of statistics because they did not tick all the boxes for a full diagnosis.’ But experts say these patients often need just as much health and social care as patients with moderate dementia. Professor Matthews said: ‘These are people who have a severe cognitive impairment. From their position they can only get more severe, stay the same or die. They have similar care needs to people with clinical dementia.’ She said these forgotten patients could benefit from being involved in drug trails as they were most likely to benefit from any treatment. She added: ‘In an ideal world where we have a treatment that worked, these are the people who would want to be included. If we have preventive trials, they would be put in them.’

Early findings from the study suggested there were around 147, 000 people with mild dementia in the UK, on top of around 824,000 with dementia. Researchers also said obesity alone will account for an extra 60,000 cases of dementia by 2030. But if the obesity level fell by just 5 per cent, the number of people developing dementia could be cut by 35,000.

Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at the Alzheimer’s Society, said the research ‘rings yet more alarm bells’ for the care system. which he says was at breaking point. The Department of Health spokesman said: ‘We’re investing £50 million to make hospitals and care homes dementia friendly, and £150 million to develop a national dementia research institute.’

Meantime, sticking to a traditional Nordic diet could help fight off dementia. The diet is high in fish, non-root vegetables, fruit, rice and chicken, washed down with plenty of water and tea. In good news for drinkers, the diet also allows a light to moderate amount of wine. A study by the Korolinska Institute in Sweden looked to see whether the diet in which people should avoid root vegetables, refined grains, butter, sugar and fruit juice affected brain function.

They found that being even relatively good at sticking to the diet was linked to a smaller decline in memory and thinking skills. However, a new study claimed that an eye test that could spot Alzheimer’s disease in its early stages is being tested. It was found that patients had more than twice as much of a tell-tale brain protein in their retina. These may start to gather up to 20 years before symptoms emerge. Dr David Reynolds, Chief Scientific Officer of Alzheimer’s Research UK said: ‘Being able to detect changes in Amyloid, using cost-effective and readily available methods would be a promising development.’

The study appeared in JCI Insight.

It is comforting to know that scientists are doing all they can to quell the spreading of the dementia we all fear in old age. Let’s hope their efforts bear fruit in the not too distant future.


I always believed that fish is very nutritious and easy to digest, yet two-thirds of people in Britain are putting their health at risk by not eating enough fish, cancer experts have warned. The NHS advises that everyone should eat fish at least twice a week, including one portion of oily fish such as salmon or tuna, whereas 64 percent of people do not reach this target, a poll found.

Fish and shellfish are good sources of vitamins and minerals, and far lower in fat than any form of meat. Oily fish is also particularly high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which have huge benefits for the heart and brain, and in vitamin D, which strengthens the bones. Regularly eating fish also means people tend to eat less red meat, reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

The World Cancer Research Fund, which commissioned the YouGov poll of 2,000 adults, found that fish eating seems to be a disappearing habit. Of those surveyed, over 55’s ate the most fish, with 45 per cent consuming at least two portions a week. And young families, with children aged between 5 and 11, ate the least, with only 25 per cent consuming fish twice a week.

The charity has recently launched its week-long Hooked on Fish campaign. Sarah Doule, its Head of Health Information, said: ‘Fish offers many health benefits… It’s high in protein and other nutrients such as vitamin D and selenium, and it’s a great alternative to red meat. It is also one of the best sources of healthy omega-3 fats, which are essential for a healthy heart… People should aim to eat fish at least twice a week, including one serving of oily fish such as salmon or herring. We have some amazing seafood from our shores. What better time to start eating more fish than during the summer?’


The NHS recommends that pregnant women should also eat no more than two portions a week of oily fish, because it also contains traces of mercury which can cause problems if it builds up. Others are advised to have no more than four portions of oily fish a week. Research has found that adults who regularly eat fish are less susceptible to heart attacks, strokes and death from heart disease. Despite the benefits, government figures show that our overall consumption of sea food has declined in the past 10 years.

It peaked in 2006, at an average of 199 grams per person a week, equivalent to a large fillet of cod. But by 2015, it was 177 grams per person, per week. Experts have contributed it to a change in our shopping habits and the shrinking economy. Many adults now avoid doing a weekly shop in a large grocery store with its own fish counter. Instead they tend to stock up a few times a week in smaller stores with less of a range.

However, people who are health conscious tell me that eating fish is very much on the menu and it gives their stomach a more restful time, in contrast to people with a preference to red meat. Heavy food taken on a regular basis is likely to cause people a variety of problems, especially for the elderly, whose digestive system is no longer so efficient as ageing takes its toll.


Cycling has become the most popular form of exercise as our roads in major cities can clearly show. However, it seems if you seek to energise the brain, you are better off walking because striking your feet on the ground boosts blood flow in a more beneficial form. A stroll is often seen as gentler exercise than a long bike ride, but as your foot hits the ground, each step sends backward-flowing pressure waves up the arteries which boost the brain’s blood circulation. This makes walking better for cerebral blood flow than cycling, where there is no impact on the feet, and follows numerous studies showing walking can prevent Alzheimer’s disease, which has been linked with reduced blood flow to part of the brain.

Researchers at New Mexico Highlands University say a stroll not only boosts brain function but may make exercise more enjoyable. Lead author, Dr Ernest Greene said: ‘What is surprising is that it took so long for us to finally measure these obvious hydraulic effects on cerebral blood flow. There is an optimising rhythm between brain blood flow and ambulating. Stride rates and their foot impacts are within the range of our normal heart rates (about 120 beats per minute) when we are briskly moving along.’

The scientists took ultrasounds from 12 healthy adults as they stood upright or walked steadily at the rate of a metre per second. This calculated the speed of blood flow through vessels, including the carotid artery, to both sides of the brain. Plodding feet sent pressure waves though the arteries which modify and increase the brain’s blood supply. The waves were found to synchronise with the heart rate and stride rate to regulate blood circulation to the brain. While the effect was less dramatic than when running, it was greater than when cycling.

Until recently the brain’s blood supply was thought to be involuntarily regulated and largely unaffected by changes in blood pressure caused by exercise. But the researchers who presented this study to a meeting of the American Physiotogical Society said it suggests brain blood flow is very dynamic and depends on pressures in the arteries interacting with pressure pulses from foot impacts. The results show that the brain, as well as the heart and muscles, benefit from going for a walk.

The NHS advises people to take 10,000 steps a day to reduce the risk of strokes, heart disease, type2 diabetes and asthma. The scientists added activities increasing blood flow to the brain may optimise overall sense of well-being during exercise. Tai Chi could help increase brain power for over 50s, Australian researchers say. They say a 45-minute session at least once a week helped improve thinking, attention and memory. Other exercise was similarly effective, but the Canberra University team said the ancient Chinese practice could help older people unable or unwilling to take vigorous exercise. The team assessed 39 studies testing the impact of exercise on over-50s and published findings in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

Of late, I find it difficult to impart on long walks as my legs are often unable to take the strain. However, I do what I can to stay active in other ways, at least to keep the brain in good nick. Also hoping that my good relationship with the Almighty might help.


It is horrifying to realise that the UK’s mountain of debt is now £1.8 trillion and that the interest alone has amounted to £520 billion during the past 17 years. This colossal debt is mind-blowing and will keep growing as long as we maintain living beyond our means. The country last balanced the books nearly 20 years ago. Since then profligate chancellors have embarked on a borrowing binge, pushing the National Debt up nearly six-fold from £317 billion on to £1.8 trillion pounds. Debt interest payments over the period topped £21,000 per household – leeching much needed resources away from public services.

The government is due to spend another £41.5 billion servicing the debt this year – nearly as much as it spends on defence, and more than the entire transport budget. The figures pile pressure on Philip Hammond to get a grip on the nation’s finances in what is shaping up to be a crucial budget for the Government desperate to prove that the economy is solid and that it will be able to persuade the nation of its ability to survive a Brexit disaster should this ever happen. And let’s not overlook the daily infighting taking place within its ranks which does not auger well stability wise.

The poor Chancellor is struggling to return Britain to the black by the middle of the next decade – leaving Britain the longest period of deficits since Napoleonic times. He is facing a barrage of demands for extra cash to increase funding for the NHS, give public sector workers a pay rise, ease the burden on students and kick-start house building. In the present circumstances, it is an impossible task. The Treasury is bleeding and the Chancellor has few options available to him. All this shows how truly ineffective the Government’s attempt to get the public finances under control have been.

It bamboozles the nation to believe otherwise and make up figures which are really more wishful thinking than numerically accurate. It is time to live in the real world and stop squandering money which we haven’t got. Experts believe that if we continue to convince the public that all is well when it isn’t, the Government is giving a bad example to the electorate, who in turn now live beyond their means by using their credit cards irresponsibly to trigger off yet another financial crisis which we could do without.

I personally fear for the future unless, of course, we mend our ways and control our finances. Or has the spending spree become an endemic part of our culture – live for today and bugger the future?


The furore erupting around the publication of Tina Brown’s Vanity Fair Diaries, reminds me of the time I interviewed her for my book Women.

A consequence of Anne Smith’s resignation from editing the Literary Review, besides the volcanic fury which her actions had unleashed via her supporters in the media (see below), was my need to appoint a new editor for the magazine. I turned to Gillian Greenwood, who was in charge of Robin Clark Ltd, and offered her the post of editor to the magazine. She had formerly been deputy editor to Books and Bookmen before it folded, so her credentials were excellent. Gillian accepted at once, and the gap she left at Robin Clark was filled by Rebecca Fraser soon afterwards. As soon as Anne heard that Gillian was in line to succeed her in her old editorial chair, she exploded. And what an explosion!

Anne let hardly a moment pass before taking her story to the national press in time to catch their deadlines the same night. The most outrageous calumny against me appeared in The Times, inferring I had ignored my original assurance she would retain editorial independence when she queried the length of an Arab supplement to the magazine.

The press continued hot on the scent of what promised to continue as a major literary scandal. The time came when I could not let the matter rest without putting forward my own account of the facts.

During the last quarter of 1981 I was in touch with my legal advisers over instituting proceedings against The Times for the description of me as an Arab propagandist. An offer to intercede in my complaint against The Times came from an unexpected quarter during a meal at Mark Birley’s Harry’s Bar, when Nigel Dempster and Tina Brown were in the group.

Tina had been close friends at Oxford with Gillian Greenwood, who was now settling in as Literary Review editor, and Sally Emerson, a Quartet author (we have just re-issued 6 of her award-winning novels). Tina was then the editor of Tatler and married to Harold Evans, the editor of The Times. As we talked, Tina asked, ‘Do you want me to talk to Harry? ‘Yes, why not?’ I said. Consequently, both legal threats were withdrawn by mutual agreement and the situation with The Times relaxed on 23 November when it carried the following apology:

‘On September 18 it was reported in the Diary that Dr Anne Smith, the former editor of the Literary Review, had left the magazine because of her refusal to accept Arab propaganda from the proprietor, Mr Naim Attallah. Mr Attallah has asked us to point out – and Dr Smith agrees, as we do – that he is not a propagandist for an Arab or any other political cause and as head of Quartet Books has published a number of works of special Arab interest in the context of world culture. We regret any misunderstanding or embarrassment that may have been caused.’

This heralded the beginning of my friendship with Tina who subsequently agreed to be interviewed for my book which was published in 1987. I now feel it’s time to reproduce the entire interview for the benefit of people who will surely like to hear the young Tina in action.

Here we go:


Early influences:

My mother was the biggest influence because she was at home all the time. She made bringing me up her career. She was a glamorous figure who looked marvellous – like an opera singer, rather like Callas – and everybody always thought she was a model or a movie star. In fact she just brought us up. She was so enormously entertaining that she was quite a hard act to follow and I think a lot of my life has in some ways been trying to equal her lustre. In other ways, though, I wanted to be my father, because my father was a film producer and seemed to be always doing exciting things. He came home with all his outside stories of going on location and film stars. I could see what an enormous effect he had on my mother, and I was so attracted to my mother that, in a funny way, I wanted to be my father so I could attract her admiration. My mother was incredibly protective, too protective. She was obsessed with the idea that any harm should come to me. We lived in the country, so I never did anything particularly. There wasn’t much chance to go out and take drugs and so on, but she was extraordinarily protective while, at the same time, nurturing great ambitions in me. She was a mother who wanted everything for me and encouraged me to get it.

Somehow it was born in me that I must try to go to Oxford or Cambridge. And then I would be a writer or a dramatist or whatever. I was never encouraged just to get married. No one in my household ever thought that that would be a role for me. I was a very timorous child. In many ways, all my career exploits are about going against the grain. I think it’s true that people who achieve quite a lot in their lives are often people who are shy and timid and trying to prove to themselves that they are not. My mother could never leave me at a party. She always had to sit in the car and hope I was all right before she drove away, because I was so anti-social. I was always crying for my mother. I was a tremendously timid little girl, and I have remained quite timid inside. It’s just that I’ve always dared myself to do things, and in that sense I was influenced by my father, because he was the daring one.

Advantages and disadvantages:

I am absolutely shocked at how passive and unencouraged English women are. They have very low aspirations. They never think of themselves as running anything. They always imagine that they will be playing a role doing little ‘jobs’ somewhere. At the time I was at Oxford, there were eight men to one woman. The women were so, so grateful to be at Oxford that they didn’t really bother to shine much, except for a handful who then did go on to do wonderful things afterwards. For me it was the most fantastic opportunity, which I exploited. I never felt it was a handicap to be a woman, because I was so ambitious in the sense that I wanted to live life to the full. I don’t mean that I was sitting there thinking desperately about my next career move, because I’ve never thought like that. But I did have to think big. I wanted to get a good degree and be a great writer and go to America and travel.

I was always very attracted to America, I think because I felt it was a land of great freedom. I’ve always found England a very constricted place in a funny way. There are pros and cons, and when you live in both places, you are obsessed with whichever one you are not in. But, I must say, what amazes me about living here in the States is that the women are so much more ambitious for themselves. They imagine themselves as running the Met., being the big power at the Museum of Modern Art, or the big wheel at Carnegie Hall; the women expect to have these positions of power, and they go after them and get them. But you can’t imagine a female head of the British Museum. You can’t imagine a woman running the Tate. Whereas here the women are formidable in a way that I don’t think is bad. Many of them have had wonderful educations because they have gone to Harvard and Yale and all these places, and they are really involved with the moving and the shaking. American women have much more confidence, and the confidence is born out of their expectations. They have not been told from the year dot that, even if they do go to Oxford, they’ll still dribble on into some very low-paid job somewhere and be grateful to have it, and then, when they get married, they’ll slip from view. Here I think women regard their lives in a much more positive way; they really want to make something of them. And they don’t regard what they do as a little job to tide them over.

I don’t think women have to become aggressive and horrible, I really don’t. I think that for them to have higher aspirations is just healthier, that’s all. Recently I went to Cleveland to talk to 120 women in a luncheon club, and I imagined that these women would be blue-rinsed ladies who didn’t know very much. I couldn’t have been more wrong. They were the wives of the Cleveland establishment, and even though they weren’t doing glamorous things like Gloria Steinem, they were women who were organizing their community in a very high-powered way. They had got together and organized a big Dali exhibition to go to the museum; they were fundraising; they were making sure that the head of the Met was coming to talk to them next week. The same sort of women, a group of housewives in Henley-on-Thames say, what do they ever do? Nothing. I know. I grew up in that environment. They never did anything like that. They just sat around and had coffee mornings and talked about their children and didn’t do a damn thing. It’s true in England still: if you go to Gloucestershire nobody’s particularly got any intellectual curiosity or cultural interest. They just do their country pursuits. I don’t knock country pursuits; it’s all very nice, but I don’t see why you have to be in such an intellectual vacuum. I prefer the atmosphere here.

The great downside of the American women’s achievement is the problem they have with men. There’s no doubt it’s much sexier to be in a relationship where the man is stronger; so what, of course, women want here is men who are so strong that they dominate these very strong women. They are looking for such a high-powered man to counter-balance their own quite high-poweredness that they don’t find anybody and turn them all into homosexuals. The men are so utterly stricken by the necessity to be so dynamic that they just decide, I can’t cope with this, I’m opting out, and become gay. I am sure that the women have made the men gay. And it’s sad. A lot of men are terrified, threatened, by these bright, committed women who come along. I don’t think the answer is to slip back into women trying to pretend they are not like that. Strong women have been unhappy and desperate in situations where they didn’t have an arena or scope. I don’t quite know what the answer is. I think things will evolve, and I think perhaps women will realize they have to give something up.

There comes a time when women can feel very left on the shelf, very useless to society. Their looks have gone and their children have fled the nest, and what is there in life for them? I’ve seen it happen, and I think these women are very, very unhappy. One of the nicest things about being a career woman is that, as I get older, it’s not going to matter half as much. I’ll be an older woman who is doing a job like this, and it won’t matter so hugely.

I wouldn’t be a man for anything. I think, particularly now, it’s a woman’s period. I think this is the time to be a woman, particularly in America. Even in England, it’s better than being a man.


I think we do exaggerate the importance of sex. The old cliché is true: sex isn’t important until you are in a relationship where it is going wrong. I underestimate its importance perhaps, because I am actually very happy. Long periods of chastity are perfectly OK, particularly when you are working hard. I think that gay men are better off in the closet, actually, most of the time. It’s fine to have the occasional relationships, but this pressure to be promiscuous, as a homosexual, has turned out to be medically very unwise. I also think a promiscuous woman is very unlikely to be a happy woman. She is usually a woman who is desperately looking for something. Women, of course, are much more aware of their sexuality now and can enjoy being single and having flings and get a lot out of it. But rabid promiscuity in a woman usually means she is desperate about something.


Being a mother does change you enormously, and the whole nurturing side comes out. It’s a wonderful, softening thing. It’s the ideal thing to introduce into a successful woman’s life, to restore that balance, because everything becomes nicer and you also become a more loving wife, because it softens you, in a way. And there’s no doubt that, in a funny way, having a child hasn’t changed me in a sense, because I always knew I’d be like that if I had a child. I will just cancel anything for the baby, you know. And I do all the time. But it’s a constant pull now, and a constant conflict. I now have to get up at six o’clock in the morning, and I spend between six and eight with the baby always, and then I try to get out of the office at five, and not later, so that I can spend until bedtime with the baby. But if anything upsets that, then I’ve lost out on the baby for the day. Your life becomes very complicated with a child, and you think, well, maybe I’d better give up my job because I feel so terrible about walking out and leaving him during the day with the nanny. I always imagined I would give up my job when I had children, but now I understand myself better and know I can’t be at home all day with the child because I do have a great driving flair and I’m a very good editor. I find it exhilarating to be an achiever in this world of competition. It does make me feel good about myself. I have to keep proving myself. For instance, when I was between Tatler and Vanity Fair, I was just a nothing. I wasn’t happy just to bask in what I had done at Tatler, as it were, I was a big nothing, just a nobody. I went right back to zilch, which is my particular hang-up in life. But one has one’s hang-ups, and they are what drive you on. That’s my particular neurosis, so I may as well fulfil it doing what I am doing. Every weekend, I have the nanny go away and I spend weekends completely with the baby. And I turn down everything. I don’t care what it is. Even if it’s Barbara Walters’s wedding party, it’s too bad. The weekends are for the baby, and I am ruthless about that. I’ve offended a lot of people this year by saying I can’t leave the baby. But I don’t care.

The more I worked in New York with women who had decided against motherhood because they liked their careers so much, the more I realized I didn’t want to be like those particular women. The clichés are true: they are harder, narrower, tougher, more self-absorbed. Obviously some women have tragedies and can’t have children, but that’s rather a different person from the person who has made a choice because they want to have more freedom to travel and all those things. And they usually regret it, I am sure; nine times out of ten they do regret it.

I never thought terribly hard about abortion until my baby was in an incubator in York Hospital; he was born at seven months, weighing 4 lb 8 oz, but there were many babies in there that had been born at four months’ gestation who were 3 lb and 2 lb, and even 1 lb, and they were being nurtured back to life in an incubator with mothers weeping while they waited to see whether the child could make it or not. I felt, then, I could never have an abortion. If a three or four months’ baby can live and grow into an adult, and at four months people are having abortions, then the fact is, it is a kid of murder. Of course, I understand there are tragic personal circumstances, and I wouldn’t like to be forbidden to have an abortion if something terrible happened. If I was raped, or if I was unwell and was told it was dangerous to have another child, I would want to have an abortion. But to use abortion as another kind of birth control is criminal. I can’t understand intelligent women who say they had an accident. They are taking the pill, what’s the matter with them? Why did they have an accident? It’s pathetic to say you had an accident if you’ve got a brain in your head. A middle-class woman, who has got a job, who has an accident, is criminal if she then has an abortion. It’s madness. I know it happens, and I know lots of women, lots of my friends at home, who’ve had abortions. I personally couldn’t because I find it too agonizing. The idea that my baby George could have been aborted is, to me, fearful.


The fact is, it’s not sexy to be with a man who is weaker than you are. In fact, it’s very horrible. You can be as much women’s lib. as you like and say these things don’t matter, but the dynamics of bed are the same as they have always been. This is why the women are so unhappy, particularly in New York. We have got these wonderful, fulfilled, terrific, stylish women, but they can’t find anybody to satisfy them sexually, not because they are ravening beasts, but because the dynamics of domination aren’t there. So they become gay themselves, or they just forgo sex, or they have a wimpy husband. Very few have got husbands who dominate them sexually and make them feel really great. Of course, there are people who have that sort of marriage, and they are very happy marriages. Some women find, in the end, it’s so important to have that that they are prepared to forgo their careers, but then they are not very happy either because they have lost something else that matters very much. The modern dilemma for a woman is very difficult.

I am more comfortable with women. I love having women around me, and most of my staff are women. I’ve got great belief in women, and I love my little guerrilla force of women. They work very, very hard, they are terribly committed, they love their jobs. And that exhilaration is very catching.

I am attracted to men who have great warmth and energy, and a great sense of humour. I suppose I like highly sexed men, full of instant energy. I quite like men who are extremely ugly, actually, but who, I think, are secretly very sexy. They turn out to be the best lovers of all. I like to have some sensitivity, tenderness there. If you are involved in the cut and thrust of competitive life, you really want the flowers and the candlelight.

There was a pernicious cult, which perhaps Gloria Steinem had something to do with, of making women feel they could have it all. And what no one really explained to women, as they went out on their feminist forays, was that they were giving up something. What is tragic to behold are women like Germaine Greer, who suddenly do a volte face at fifty and say, why didn’t I have children? They become almost pathetic, because they are fifty, they are past the biological age for children, nor are they likely to marry anybody. I hate the sight of this pitiable regret for what they’ve missed. And I think the regret comes because they wanted everything. Sometimes you can have a combination for a time, then the combination changes, but you can’t expect to have everything at once. That was the whole pernicious thing of the Cosmopolitan magazine philosophy, which made young women feel they could have these torrid sex lives and great dazzling jobs and motherhood, and feel all these things at once. What’s happened, particularly in America, is that people are too hasty to get divorced. Someone in my office, one minute she is married, then the next minute divorcing. I think she is insane. Why can’t they just work it out? Many people who get divorced don’t find anything better and really wish they hadn’t. They could have rubbed along, they could have lowered their expectations perhaps, or introduced something else into the relationship. I’m not suggesting everybody compromises and takes third best, but I think this whole thing of racing off to get divorced at the first snag you hit seems pathetic.


I don’t think the sexes are the same at all. I think women are instinctively much more nurturing. It’s for the woman to think imaginatively about the emotional life in a relationship. I play that role, even though my husband and I are really quite equal in terms of what we both do. It’s for me to think we really must try and spend three weeks away together, and it’s me who thinks about when, and me who gets the diary out and insists we make time. But I’ve noticed this with women across the board: it’s always they who say we really must think about Christmas now. Women think in that much more caring, strategic way.


It’s hard to believe that almost thirty years ago, in October 1989, my wife Maria opened a shop in Shepherd Market, Mayfair, 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.

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 New Sensual 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.