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.

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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.

AHEAD OF ITS TIMES

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.

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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.

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

RED WINE MIGHT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE

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.

CHINA MARCHES ON

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.

DOES A CURE BECKON?

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.

A LITTLE FISHIE WHEN THE BOAT COMES IN…

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?’

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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.

KEEP RIGHT ON TILL THE END OF THE ROAD

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.