Wednesday, December 30, 2009

C'mon baby light my fire!

Happy crimbo everybody. More exciting than Christmas, new year and even the January sales is the fact that finally, after 18 months of futile efforts, we can finally light an open fire and not have to call the pompiers.

Will came and fitted a commercial incandescent fan to the top of the chimney yesterday and tonight, we lit a fire. I fully expected plumes of smoke to fill the room as usual and resigned myself to a choking fit tonight and getting out the white paint again tomorrow for a couple of hours of redecoration. Iain had more faith, went for it and couldn't contain his excitement when the smoke actually curled its beautiful way up the chimney. It doesn't take much to make me happy, I would say this is the highlight of my week in a week when there have been quite a few, including:

* shopping in Selfridges, Liberty and Top Shop (still nowhere coming even close to those big three here) and catching up with family and friends in the UK for drinks, dinner, laughs, Christmas pressies etc

* My gorgeous bro in laws Gary and Phil arriving two days before Christmas amidst the snowy chaos at Luton (they had to run from the car park to the airport dragging their hand baggage through a mile of grey slush at 6am in order to catch their plane) lol I was still in bed blissfully unaware of how close they came to missing their flight

* Christmas Eve at the Mayos where (too) much Champagne was imbued all afternoon, necessitating a 6pm nap, followed by a second wind of fish pie, san pelly (for me, lightweight) and some frenzied disco dancing to Gaz's iPod til late which reminded me of our days burning up the dance floor at the Phoenix in London and too many Mykonos nighclubs

* Gorgeous pressies including a superduper camera, a stopwatch that does everything bar run for me and a weekend at a boutique hotel in Aix en Provence shopping in the sales...but I love watching everyone else open theirs even more (it's the giver in me)

* Christmas day sipping aperos on the terrace in such warm sunshine that Gaz felt the need to sit T-shirtless before sitting down to lunch cooked by Iain followed by charades and The Grinch.

* Boxing day lunch (cooked by Iain again, he is reading over my shoulder and insisted I namecheck him AGAIN but I did put the Christmas pud in the microwave and unwrap the After Eights.) Lunch lasted five hours with Karen followed by more Studio 54 style dancing from the five of us in and out of the garden, as three dismayed girls looked on in horror at the shapes being thrown. Most of the photos have now been destroyed, as Iain reckons he'd have a really good unfit mother court suit if he ever needed it.

* Watching Now Voyager and It's a Wonderful Life with the rest of the After Eights, a glass of Baileys and a big box of tissues. The boys were stoic while I wept buckets.

The lowlight

*Waving goodbye to G&P on Sunday eve, it's the first time I've seen them in a year, way too long, and makes me realise how much I miss them. Lily declared that she wants a gay uncle too (actually, every girl should have one) so she and Liv are planning a trip to Spain to stay at their house next summer. I might have to join them.

We miss you boys, come back soon when we can lay by the pool instead.

HAPPY NEW YEAR tout le monde xxx

Monday, December 7, 2009

Santa no more

Can anyone spot a resemblance between the two men pictured? All will become clear further down.

In the words of the Four Seasons, O what a night! Have just spent a few days in London having meetings and obviously, having some social gatherings in the name of Christmas, the finale being my annual reunion with my best Fleet Street girlfriends Clare, Sarah, Ange and Sally. I really hope we are as loud, un-pc and bolshy 10/20/30years from now.....

These are the bits I remember...

- Trying to pick the cheapest vino Sheekeys had to offer when a bottle of Champagne arrives at the table courtesy of Iain (what a lovely gesture!) Husbands be warned, we are all cheap dates when it comes to sending a bottle to the table.

- The unfortunate lovey dovey couple sitting next to us who thought they were in for a bit of cultural conversation and sweet nothings only to discover they were seated next a raucously indiscreet bunch of Fleet Street's finest ..... but who quickly realised they had the hottest table in the room as they stopped talking to each other so they could listen in on our increasingly steamy and uncensored conversation instead.

- Sally refusing to let anyone else get a word in edgways (or was that me) as she pulled off her best interview technique of steering the juiciest conversation onwards and upwards and never losing focus. This is what comes of staying wonder she earns more than the rest of us combined.

-Finding ourselves in a pub in Dean Street at a table with three nutters who had been on a bender all day long and were unable to speak or focus. Even scarier, they were women. We were so scared of being glassed that we were rooted to the spot until we could drain our glasses and leave.

- Hitting the hotel bar only for Sarah to peak after 15 bottles of wine and Secret Santa and start nodding off in the corner....NB to Sarah - you are only getting away with it because your children are under five, next year, you will be forced to come out for the duration of the night/morning/lunch in dark glasses the next day.

- Clare insisting on an early hours visit to Gerrys, even though it was raining cats and dogs, it was 2am and we really should have all just done the decent thing and gone to bed. Interestingly tho, as soon as bed was mentioned, Ange was RARING to go, sprinting out of the hotel and insisting that we should trot along for old times sake.

- Clare falling alseep in the rickshaw taking us to Gerrys, and refusing to wake up on arrival. She was out cold for 20 minutes despite being shaken and shouted at. She insists she had his best interests at heart because he earnt a far bigger fare out of the extra time it took to wake her.

- Arriving at Gerrys and bunking in again under an assumed name(thank you Caroline S for making every Soho night out unforgettable even though you aren't actually with us) only for Clare to shout up a vodka and promptly crash out on me without taking so much as a sip of her drink (what was that about cheap dates?) Ange and Karen have to mount a paramedic drive to get her out again.

- Falling asleep in the hotel lobby (guess who?) while I order a cab as yes, Clare encore une fois, refuses to crash on Ange and Sarah's hotel room floor.

- Having a stand up ruck at 5am outside her house with our driver who wants £70 for a £30 journey (I knew we were in trouble when a top of the range AMG Mercedes pulled up, and it was our cab.)

- Clare offering to trade my suitcase, with all my Christmas shopping and fab new (unnecessary) purchases in exchange for the cab fare.

- Me screaming as he loads my case into the boot, and Clare screeching 'Kazza, you'd be sooooo crap at poker!' as she urges him to drive off with my suitcase. We beat him down to £50 but it took half an hour in the rain with my suitcase as the bait. Clare's verdict? 'We'd have got him down to £30 if you hadn't been such a pussy about your case.'

- Opening the door to the spare room at 6.30am after two cups of tea and an inquest into the night, to find Nosferatu in my bed (see picture.) A Hallowe'en mask stuffed with Clare's pjs was on the pillow, and her husband Nick thought it was funny to pad out the body under the duvet. I laughed til I had a heart attack. Funnily enough, it did bear a startling resemblance to Nick (he's the one in the first picture.)

Have cancelled Christmas as I can't take any more excitement. Talking of which, Santa has been cancelled in our house forever and I am devastated. Issy was talking about what she wants for Christmas and I said, Well, put it all in your letter to Santa. She shot me a withering look and said in a loaded tone: ‘Mum, I know that Santa is the same person as the tooth fairy because the writing is the’s DADDY!’ Me: ‘Are you sure about that?’ (Actually it’s me who always writes the Santa note thanking her for the mince pie and carrot for Rudolph, after I have knocked back Santa’s brandy.)

I felt completely knocked for six and Iain must have looked gutted too because she then piped up: ‘I know you’re both upset, I’m really sorry! I’ve been meaning to tell you for ages that I don’t believe in Santa anymore but I didn't know how to tell you!!!!’

So this is how Christmas will be different this year....

- No more having to buy different wrapping paper for ‘Santa’s’ pressies. When the girls were young, I once made the mistake of using the same paper and had a whole lot of explaining about why Santa got his paper from WH Smiths just like us.

- No more squirrelling presents away for weeks and sneaking them down in the early hours of Christmas morning to put by the fireplace.

- No more making talcum powder snowy footprints by the fireplace (always loved that bit.)

- No more eating the mince pie, drinking the brandy (I loved that bit more) and writing in squiggly handwriting.

- No more dawn raids on Christmas morning as Issy charges in to say, ‘Has he been?’ (I’m crying as I write this, gonna miss that bit most of all.)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Galloping round Grasse

I'm sitting here with a cup of tea, some chocolate and my pjs on, having just got home from the Grasse 10k run. It's a great race which I did last year for the first time in 51 mins 59 secs (sadly obsessed that I remember, I know.)

Anyway, after some serious training sessions and a run of the course last week in 51 minutes (this was after a very late wine-fuelled night with Karen and JP) I had high hopes of beating my time this year. I have made a pact with myself that when my times start getting slower, I will have to stop competing as what is the point in doing worse rather than better?

Kicking the partying the night before might help but I have always had a healthy respect for runners who like to party til the small hours before getting up for a run. My old friend Shane Starling, who worked for Men's Health, is the perfect example of a hardcore party animal who'd stay out all night on our London Marathon warm weather training trips in Spain and Lanzarote while all the serious runners would be in bed by 9pm after a plate of pasta. Then he'd get up, frequently after an hour or two of sleep on a sunbed by the pool, and knock everyone else into a cocked hat on a 15k volcano run fuelled on vodka and adrenaline. Shane, I salute you.

It was with Shane in mind that I went out for dinner last night to Sara and Adrian's, which I couldn't resist even though I should've had an early wine-free night before the race. Sara cooked an amazing Thai meal and two and a half bottles of Chablis later (the boys were on red) I was beginning to think the race might not be such a good idea.

Awoke this morning to torrential rain, the first for almost two months, and it was so tempting to roll over in bed and go back to sleep but we dragged ourselves up and out to the centre of Grasse old town, where hundreds of runners were arriving. It might have been damp and miserable but spirits were high. They were playing Jump by Van Halen as everyone gathered at the start and call me a sap if you like but I can't help getting emotional at the start of a race....I always cry at the beginning of the London Marathon, whether I'm running it or watching it on TV. All non-runners/couch potaties can skip the next bit as it won't interest you one jot.

The gun went off at 10.34am and everyone took off. I decided on a new strategy. Have been quite stressed of late so I emptied my mind of everything and ran as fast as I could to catch the 50 minute pacer. Once I had overtaken her at 7k, I concentrated on maintaining my speed and went for it in the last kilometre. My mum, a fantastic county runner in her day, always told me to never look back (a good mantra for life too) and I was so obsessed with crossing the line that I forgot to look at the stopclock at the finish line so I am completely in the dark about my time, except I THINK I did it in under 50 mins. 49 something will do nicely.
I know you are as excited as me about finding out my time (!!!!) so I will be back later to put everyone out of their misery.........
omg 47 mins 07 secs
whoo whoo

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wine glorous wine

Haven't blogged for ages, no excuse apart from I have been busy and sometimes as my blogger extraordinaire bro-in-law Gaz says, you just aren't in the mood. So, the rule is, only do it when you are feeling funny and/or have a bit of news, otherwise it is boring for EVERYONE, me included. Here's me and Issy after lunch in Villefranche today...we went to Le Cosmo on the harbour with Iain, truly amazing pacific rim cuisine as well as traditional French, fantastic service and hot sunshine in late November (the only bit I can't guarantee.)

Last week I did an interview for The French Paper with Stephen Williams. I realise this doesn't sound that scintillating but stay with me. What Stephen doesn't know about wine, one of my all-time favourite subjects, frankly isn't worth knowing. I think the email from Rachel, the associate editor, asking if I would be interested in meeting one of the world's leading authorities on vintage wine at the Grand-Hotel in St Jean Cap Ferrat, is possibly one of the most inviting I have ever received. (Okay, apart from the Bora Bora job, and meeting Nelson Mandela in Cape Town. And Rio....will stop now.)
The hotel is amazing in every sense. Superb attentive service (I was the only guest but let's not split hairs,) a fabulously decadent facelift which preserves the character of the hotel while giving it a very clean-lines effect and staff that enjoy their jobs and are proud to be in the service industry, which is becoming way too much of a rarity. The general manager Michel Galopin was charming and utterly understated. Stephen arrived with his lovely PR Julie and we toured the Salon des Collections, where some of the world's most valuable wines are stored. There is around £2m worth of wine in this cosy little private dining room, including the world's most expensive white, Chateau d'Yquem, dating back to 1797.

We sat down to chat and the waiter brought over a bottle of 2002 Chateau d'Yquem, a delicious Sauternes that retails at a cool €820 a bottle. I had a personal masterclass in wine tasting from Stephen on everything from smelling it to swilling it around in the glass to finally sipping it. It was glorious. If only every interview was this civilised. Later I stood up a bit too quickly (nothing to do with the wine, reader) and cut my knee on the table, at which point the waiter appeared with yet another glass, purely for medicinal purposes, while his colleague produced a swab and plaster. Now that really is service.

Started yoga two weeks ago with Faye, who is a yoga teacher, funnily enough, and lovely Fiona. We do it at my house after the school run and I wasn't sure how I would find it, although with all the running and tennis I really need something that is a bit more flexible and relaxing in my life. Fi is an old hand while I am completely new to it but the 90 minute session flies by, with me usually falling asleep during the 'relaxation' bit at the end and then feeling spaced out for the rest of the morning. Lovely and competely legal.

Have been watching the floods in the Lake District, which makes the weather here seem all the more bizarre. This time last year, the first falls of snow were covering the Alpes Maritimes and our local resort Greolieres had its best season for 25 years. This year, no snow to speak of yet but 21 degrees and hot sunshine every day. We swam on the beach last Wednesday and will probably do the same this week, it is totally mad and while I'm desperate to see snow, really cannot find it in my heart to complain about still being able to put on a bikini in late November. I seem to remember this is why I left Hertfordshire.

We went to the remembrance day service at Bar sur Loup cemetary on November 11th. It's a bank holiday here - I cannot understand why it isn't in the UK - and the girls know that we (ergo they) have to go. This year, even Lily came too, and given that she and Liv would far rather be at Cap 3000 or in Cannes shopping, chatting to boys and eating at Subway, I was quite impressed. Even more so when everyone sang La Marseillaise and Issy quietly joined in word perfect.

Finally (this is my funny bit) Issy came home today to say that her class had been given the 'period talk' at school. She was horrified (but not as horrified as when I said I would put it in my blog.) With a 14 yo sister, clearly she knows most of it already, and said as soon as it started, the boys were giggling, everyone was blushing and no-one knew where to look. By the time the teacher moved onto pubic hair, the entire class was in a state of shock horror. I would so have loved to be a fly on the wall. After she finished telling me, I said, well if there's any more you need to know, ask away. Cue a very withering look and deafening silence.

Monday, November 2, 2009 sizzles

Paris was a blast. Thought I was being clever booking the train and it worked perfectly until I was on the way back. Had booked first class and was busy working on my laptop and feeling extremely smug about how much I was getting done thanks to my little personal plug point at my side when I was unceremoniously kicked off at Marseille due to a technical fault, then missed my connection back to Nice by an hour and finally crawled in at just before 1am. I will try REALLY hard not to moan about easyJet in future.

Highlights in Paris - hanging out at the Lido, watching rehearsals with Amanda in feathery costumes and swapping great gossip with her lovely husband Chris, stopping traffic on the Champs Elysees as we did an impromptu photo shoot in front of the Arc de Triomphe, watching the show that night (it was amazing, camp, kitsch and utterly over the top, like being transported back to the 50s) as the manager told me to order what I liked and they would carry me home (reader, be assured that wasn't necessary,) and gazing at the lit-up-like-a-christmas-tree Eiffel Tower on the way back to the hotel. Only thing I would say is Paris is not a place to be on your own, better when you are with someone, but didn't allow that to cramp my style.

Mooched around the Rue St Honore the next day, checked out the Hotel Costes, truly a cool place to stay, and Colette, which is every bit as good as the hype except the designers featured are Lanvin, Dior, Chanel and therefore suitable for window shopping but defo not buying. Found a great book called I Love Your Style by Amanda Brooks who used to work for Vogue. Full of amazing photos from the past 40 years of style icons, classic, vintage and boho fashion. Perfect reading material for Sunday morning in bed with a cup of tea.

Came home to an empty house as Iain and the girls were in London. Cleaned like a demon (wish I could lose my OCD complex) while playing the Police and the Jam at full volume which would not be acceptable if we were en famille, then ate in the dark (well candlelight) because that is how I like it, while everyone one else likes bright lights illuminating every corner. Funny how rebellion can take on different forms. Having the house to myself for two days was completely lovely although I think it's lovely only because it isn't a permanent situation. Usually I am the one who is away so I never get the chance to clean up and actually see it last. What a novelty to get up the next day and not trip over dirty clothes, towels and duvets strewn across the floor, or find toilets unflushed and countless mugs of cold tea and beakers of rank juice going mouldy. It was joy..but makes me wonder what am I turning into?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Village life

The clocks have gone back so autumn is officially here but on the beach at Juan les Pins today, it still felt like summer. Now that the summer dog ban is finished, Tallulah and Oscar can come to the beach, so they spent the whole day tearing around, rolling in the sand, paddling in the sea and sidling up to restaurant tables looking for scraps. Oscar followed me along the shoreline as I swam but wasn't brave enough to come into the water, as it was a bit fresh.

Have spent the last two weeks writing and pitching for commissions on the LA interviews. Have lots of meetings fixed up in London in early December with PR friends who have lots of projects coming up, including one with a friend who is now in charge of Comic Relief press, which will be a great one to cover next spring. Am also covering Glastonbury for Hello next summer - it's the 40th anniversary so the line up is sure to be even more amazing than usual - the girls are overjoyed at the idea of being there, even more so at the thought of VIP treatment and rubbing shoulders with the acts.

So it's all go at Chemin du Laquet, but sadly the same can't be said for Bar sur Loup in general. In recent weeks, there have been whispers in the village about 'le village, c'est mort' meaning that quite literally, the village is dying. It sounds dramatic but in recent weeks, our fave restaurant/hotel the Hostellerie du Chateau, closed for good as it is not making any money, as did the butcher. The boulangerie is up for sale, while our local Boulangerie Maia has been closed since spring after the baker was diagnosed with cancer. He has tried to find someone to take over but had no luck. And our little pizzeria, Michelangelo, hasn't opened at all this year. The Hostellerie is where we stayed when we were househunting and Michelangelo was our regular haunt so it is really sad to see places close because of a dwindling economy. Sometimes you feel like you are in a bubble here but the crunch is affecting everyone.

Off to Paris tomorrow to meet up with Amanda Holden, who is learning to be a showgirl at the Lido for a new ITV series called Fantasy Lives. She told me last week it's the hardest thing she's ever done and reckons it might look really easy when the show airs, so she asked me to come and watch her in action and tell everyone it's not as easy as it looks! I had to think for about 5 seconds before saying yes. She did mention something about me joining in but am pretending I didn't hear that bit! It's about 11 years since I last went to Paris and even the thought of a 6.30am train tomorrow morning can't kill the excitement. Staying til Tuesday evening and determined to fit in a visit to Colette, the most amazing store in Paris, and its new offshoot Merci.

We also talked about Simon Cowell's party a few weeks ago - her highlights were his brother's speech, which bluntly 'outed' Simon in the most hysterical fashion (half the partygoers were crying with laughter, Amanda included, while the other half, who have yet to work with Simon, were straightfaced for fear of blowing their chances.) The other highlight was a woman dressed up as a dancing vagina, I kid you not. Simon told his elderly mum it was a giant mouse! Think Paris will be a hoot, she is such good value because unlike a lot of showbiz stars, she has a wicked sense of humour and is gloriously indiscreet.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

LA part two

Went surfing to Malibu on my birthday with Jude. It made up for not seeing the girls and Iain, which felt very weird. Now Watergate Bay, where beginners can stand up is one thing, Malibu is another. Put it this way, I did not do a Cameron Diaz and effortlessly sweep in on every wave, I spent most of my time paddling out to catch waves that kept eluding me. Caught a few in the end, but got nervous when one female surfer paddled over to say she just wanted to tell me how brave I was! It was plainly obvious to all the experts I was completely out of my depth. No worries, I surfed (very badly) at Malibu, and if you lose the brackets, that's all that matters! We had cocktails on the beach and then headed back for a fab supper.

Our big night out was at The Abbey, LA's most famous gay bar, and whether you're gay or straight, you cannot fail to have a good time. Most of the barmen are very good looking, straight, married guys (work that out) and it reminded me of the mad times we used to have clubbing with Gary, my lovely bro-in-law.

Came home Sunday night and still battling jet lag - as an eight hours a night girl, it is so dull to wake up at 3am feeling wide awake - and back in the groove of doing the less glamorous bit of writing everything up.

The only thing to get really excited about this week was the prospect of an open fire now the nights are getting chilly. It's a way of avoiding the five times an hour power cuts we were getting last winter and nothing beats an open fire. As I write, it's been going an hour, the room is filling with smoke and I can barely see, so not exactly a triumph but determined to get that *&**%ing chimney working. Have discovered that flames are good, but as soon as they die down, the smoke starts to flow in, so it's a constant relay of chucking more on everytime it starts to settle down - the perfect antidote to a cosy night lazing by the fire!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sometimes there is nothing better in the world than room service. Arrived in LA on Friday and have been busy working and going out to fab restaurants. Interviews so far include Sam Neill (charming) Sally Field (very sweet) Rob Lowe, Felicity Huffman (very witty) and today, Courteney Cox (having heard horror stories, was surprised to find she was really quite funny and a good chat and in excellent shape at 45, which is comforting for someone who is not a million miles away from that herself.)
I'm staying at the London Hotel in West Hollywood, a truly decadent hotel where they hold yoga classes by the pool, give you suites big enough to throw a party in and generally go the extra mile to make you feel special. After eating sushi at Koi, which is one of the best Japanese restaurants in LA, and dinner last night here at Gordon Ramsay's restaurant, it was a thrill to realise that actually, I didn't have to go out tonight. So I went to the gym, soaked in a bath so big that a small child could swim lengths in it and ordered, yes, more sushi, from room service. Perfection.
On Sunday night some friends of friends took me to see Kylie in concert at the Hollywood Bowl. It is an amazing venue, an amphitheatre set in parkland so as it gets dark, it looks even more magical. We were right at the front and Kylie was a little pocket fairy in wacky costumes, belting out all her disco tunes and making the 75% gay crowd go delirious with excitement. The after-show party was equally fab, with pole dancers, drag queens and dancers on stilts entertaining everyone while Kylie sat in the VIP area with a few friends.
So far, have checked out a few shops between interviews (it has to happen) and these are my tips if you come to LA. Wasteland on Melrose is probably the best vintage store I have ever been to, they stock everything from Marc Jacobs to Missoni at basement prices, including Sass and Bide jeans for $45 (don't bother rushing, I bought them.) Everything I have ever bought there I still love, it's worth the airfare for that alone. Madison on Melrose is designer but with a sale offering 75% off, it was affordable too, so the studded black Pour la Victoire heels found a worthy home.
It's my birthday tomorrow and it is going to be very weird waking up alone. I have the girls homemade cards in my suitcase which will make me cry, but Judy has arranged cocktails and dinner at the Mondrian tomorrow evening, which will be really good fun. If we get a chance we are heading to Malibu after work so I can do some surfing and she can do some laughing.

Monday, September 28, 2009

It's official...Issy is a proper Frenchy now. She sang La Marseillaise yesterday in the village square with all her classmates at a commemoration for Amiral de Grasse, a famous French admiral who was born in the village 200-odd years ago. It was amazing to hear her sing the French national anthem in perfect French, especially when she doesn't even know God Save The Queen! She has been practising all week and despite the fact that we had heavy heads thanks to a very late night, we were blown away.
I'm off to LA on a lovely job this week but it has extended from 8 days to almost three weeks, meaning I will be away for my birthday, so we had a few friends over for sushi and champers on Saturday. The highlights....making a speech barefoot on the bench as everyone sang happy birthday, falling over with Faye (thankfully by that time I was so 'relaxed' that neither of us hurt ourselves) and just catching up with all our lovely mates. Iain had been out the previous night in Cannes with all his old city mates plus Mat and Milly so to say he was fragile would be understating it somewhat.
He came home Saturday afternoon, really wanting to go to bed, but instead had to be the host wth the most and actually filled people's glasses up and was very effective, much more so than usual when he is too busy knocking back the vino to worry about silly things like making sure everyone else has a drink. Then he cut all the sushi that Issy and I spent Friday night making, and laid it all out beautifully. I'd like to say that he also cleared up while I went to bed but that would be a lie. When the last stragglers left at 3.30, he just mumbled 'gotta go bed, let's leave it til morning' always a mistake but I could see his point.
Had my second tennis lesson today. Liv is fuming that my coach is the best looking man that possibly either of us have ever seen, which certainly makes it a more enjoyable experience on a Monday morning. It was a toss up between the tall, dark and extremely handsome 25-year-old and the grey haired but very sweet closer to my age 50-year-old. Reader, who would you choose?
My efforts to be cool are failing miserably though. Last week, I fell over trying to return a shot and cut my knee and ended up a bloody, sweaty mess. And this week, I managed to top that by whacking him in the shoulder with my raquet as I tried to practise the shot he was demonstrating. He said he is going to wear a crash helmet for my next lesson and I don't think he's joking.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Surf bore

Going to an old people's home to see my 92-year-old Nanny Kit, who has Alzheimers and is virtually immobile was always going to be a sad experience. It's the first time I've seen her since April, when I visited her in hospital in London after a fall at home left her bruised and disorientated. What I didn't expect was the laughter and sheer hilarity that a random bunch of old people can generate. Justin and mum have dubbed it One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest at Lennox House because there is always some utterly mad scenario going on which has the visitors in stitches.

Last time I saw Nanny Kit, she looked very old, very frail and very much like she had given up on life. She was barely eating, she hated being visited by carers four times a day at home and seemed to have nothing to make her smile. I braced myself for the worst so to see her with her hair freshly permed, her nails painted, looking yes a bit thin but happy was beyond brilliant.

She has made a good friend in Lily, an octogenarian with two teeth, whose best buddy is a toy monkey called Jamie, which hangs off her walking frame and which she talks to non-stop. She also has three-way conversations between her girlhood self, her dad and Jamie...getting the picture? Lily got up to start dancing around the dayroom on her walkng frame as everyone else was having afternoon tea and cake, and Nanny Kit whispered to me, in a stage whisper that everyone else could hear, 'Oooh Karen, look at Lily, she's mad that one!' like she was only sane person in the room.

It's the best laugh I've had with Nan for about five years, and you couldn't feel sad for her, because she seems so much happier surrounded by people and staff who really care, than sat in her flat on her own 24/7.

Went surfing to Newquay the next day and after three years of trying desperately hard to stand up on the board for longer than 3 seconds, finally it all came together. Sarah and I spent our mornings struggling into wetsuits to be battered around by the waves, but the sun was shining and the surf made you feel alive, even after 4am nights and too much partying. On paper, it sounds like hell but it is the most fun you can have, and we would drag ourselves exhausted out of the water after three hours, desperately keen to carry on but just too damn knackered to continue. Norma thought we were both mental, and kept wondering how being rolled around the Atlantic could be more attractive than lying on a sun lounger with the papers, wandering off for the odd massage or swim in the heated outdoor pool.

My little world was rocked this morning when I saw Sara on the school run and she told me that she and Adrian are moving back to England. Adrian was the first person who spoke to me on the school run last year, when we were newbies and had no friends, and their Christmas Eve drinks party introduced us to the village community and put us in the mood for a great crimble. They both love a party, are always the last to leave (just like us!) and we quickly became friends, so it is a real blow to hear they are going, although hopefully their departure is not imminent.

Monday, September 7, 2009

It's eight years since I last went to New York. This trip was a fly-in, fly-out job, one night at the W on Lexington (fab, especially all the Bliss spa minatures in the bathroom) one night on the red eye (not so fab, but Virgin premium made it a bit more bearable) and a total of 40 hours on six planes and in transit. I could have done New Zealand and back in the time it took to connect to London and NY, mainly because there were no available direct flights to London at such short notice due to the mass exodus back to the UK for the start of school so I had to fly Swiss Air via Zurich both ways. The best bit of all, after eight hours in the lounge at Heathrow post red eye, was being delayed into Zurich which meant a jet lagged dash from one gate to another to make the last flight to Nice. Fun.
Even so, it was worth it. We arrived Wednesday afternoon, dumped our luggage and went straight to Brooklyn to watch Phill Jupitus do the comedy circuit with loads of other New York stand ups. He was unknown to everyone but us, and pulled it off at two brilliant clubs, The Lovin' Cup in Williamsburg and The UCB, in Chelsea, which is one of NY's most respected comedy clubs. Lasted til 1am fuelled by mojitos and was gutted to find out we missed karaoke until 4am with Phill and his mates belting out numbers from Hairspray at a tranny bar. Another time.
Highlight No 2, shopping in SoHo after the interview on Thursday. Abercrombie's ridiculous up-their-own-bottom rule of making shoppers queue outside to be allowed in by two bouncers (I'm not kidding), only to struggle through the store, which is dimly lit and reverberates to really loud music, slightly dented the experience. Maybe I'm just getting old but I fail to see the joy in not knowing what colour hoodies and t shirts you have bought until you have paid and stumbled back out into the glaring sunshine. Suffice it to say I'm popular chez moi with the girls and Iain who got his longed for Converse (at $45 not €70, which almost makes it worth the trip alone.)
Here's me and Zoe, above, having a rest in SoHo, shopping is hard work!
Have fitted in some work and am off tomorrow to see my nan in London in her care home, which I know will be sad. She has aged so much since I last saw her according to Mum, so I'm bracing myself for that, but still so pleased to be seeing her. Then off to Newquay to make a fool of myself in the surf one more time - if i don't stand up for longer than 10 seconds on my board I might have to admit defeat and take up crochet instead. AS IF.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Where did summer go?

Summer is almost over, the girls go back to school this week and we have had the best time. The last two months has been busy with lots of UK friends and family visiting, and although it has been amazing fun, we are all completely shattered and secretly looking forward to a normal back-to-school back-to-work September.

Spent a week at Lake Maggiore in Italy, see pictures above, Mac and Laura took a camper van and a speedboat so we spent our days wakeboarding, waterskiing and exploring villages like Arona and Stresa, shopping, eating and drinking. We were outnumbered by kids (7) aged between 15 and ten but they all hung out together and had the most brilliant time (especially Livvy, who had three teen boys to keep her company!)

We had a pitch right by the lake so every morning started with a swim and breakfast outside under the trees. I know that of all the holidays the girls have had at amazing places around the world, camping is their absolute favourite. I remember once packing up our stuff early after a wet weekend in Dorset and they refused to speak to me all the way home because they were so mad that I had cut short their best ever holiday. And even for a creature comfort freak like me, leaving after five days under canvas felt a bit premature, but it's a different deal altogether when you don't have to wade through mud in flip flops to reach the shower block.

The last ten days have been spent catching up with London friends, which means putting your tourist hat on and doing all the things you don't have time to do when live here. Shopping with the girls in St Tropez and lunch at Byblos, Baoli with Lydia and Livvy on their first grown up night out at a club, lazy suppers with friends, cocktails at a couple of new beach bars and tennis with Sarah have been my highlights. We have all agreed that this has been the best summer in the seven summers we have spent on the Cote d'Azur.

The month was rounded off in fabulous style last night at Tony and Shan's summer party. Eighty people sat at long candlelit trestle tables under the trees on their terrace and Shan produced a fantastic array of dishes, many of which were made from veggies grown in her garden. Gazpacho, garlic soup, tomato salsa, chicken kebabs, Thai chicken, pork and aubergine curries were followed by liqueur panna cottas and frozen grapefruit in bowls made of ice. It was a magical night.

Work hat is firmly on now, and am off to New York this week to watch Phill Jupitus take the stand-up circuit by storm and get his views on the differences between American and British comedy. Cannot wait.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Breaking and entering

It's the holidays, cue a time when you get nothing productive done and have whining voices in your ear saying I'm hungry, what are we doing today and when can we stop for lunch so this week my plan of action was take them out as much as possible and make them so tired they can barely speak, all in the name of fun.
So, we tripped off to St Tropez on Tuesday to stay with a friend who is house sitting in a villa overlooking the bay for six weeks. We chatted by the pool, drank un petit Chablis and put the world to rights while the kids played, all good. It is so hot at the moment, at 6.30 last night it was showing 34 degrees on the car, which is too, too much (but I know how rubbish the UK summer is right now so not moaning, really.)
Arrived back last night and spent this morning in Antibes at the market with a friend who knows it so well that I ended up spending a fortune at all the rigt stalls (but a Triumph bikini, sundress, silk shift and red leather handbag made it feel better and all for the price of a half price Tara Jarmon silk skirt in Rue d'Antibes) before heading to the beach. The boys suggested tombstoning off the rocks at Cap d'Antibes, a phrase which conjures up the local A&E to me, but the girls were keen so off they went, leaving us to swim and chat on the beach in perfect peace.
When we got a text at 7 asking if we could come and meet them, they couldn't wait to tell us how they bunked into the pool at the Eden Roc, only the most expensive hotel on the Riviera (preferred choice of Brad, Angelina, Quentin etc) and how they spent 45 minutes in the infinity pool undetected. Scarily, they had the whole trespassing thing off to a fine art. Every time they swam past a resident, one of them would say, my suite is lovely, how is yours? They talked about the chocolates left on the pillows each night and even worked out which room numbers they would use if quizzed by the lifeguard! Issy spent an hour tonight facebooking all her friends with the hotel link so they can check it out - most of them live in Brookmans Park in currently very rainy Herts so am sure they will be thrilled to get her message.
The day got even better when I saw that my first feature, on our lovely mate Mat Barker and his boat The Blue Peter, was the cover story of The French Paper's Life section, and then arrived home to open my mail - a cheque from the DSS for overpayment of my NI in the UK for the past 11 years, two copies of Grazia (thanks Jeanie), and a letter from my accountant saying that the taxman owes me. Don't feel so bad about the market now.
The only downside of the past two weeks has been getting stung by a jellyfish. As I swam I felt something attack my thigh, no kidding I thought it was a shark the pain was so intense. By the time I got back to the beach, my leg was throbbing and the next day, it had swelled to twice its usual size, was bright red, itchy and about 100 degrees. Ten days on, I have a massive scar and it is still itching like the pox. I braved the sea today but must have looked like a paranoid schizo as every time something glistened or moved by me I was a bag of nerves. Have noticed people really staring at it if I wear shorts or a bikini, it is quite interesting how differently you are perceived with such an obvious physical imperfection.
Anyway, tennis tomorrow, am planning to hold my head high after the aquasplash swimsuit debacle, I have no shame. Perhaps I should just slash my tennis skirt across the butt to prove that I do indeed have a sense of humour.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

A cheeky day out

Over the years, I have found myself in some truly embarrassing situations. Being offered a genital massage in a posh Cape Town spa was pretty memorable (if only for the fact that the South African therapist actually said gentle!) That story still haunts me on nights out with my old Fleet Street buddies. Then there was the time I vomited in my hand in the back of a black cab before politely asking the driver to stop so I could chuck it in the kerb and continue the journey home....there are too many more humiliations to mention but last week's expedition to Aquasplash in Antibes comes pretty close to topping them all.

The girls were enrolled at tennis stage for the week and the highlight was a trip to Aquasplash. They begged me to come and join them and also begged me not to wear a bikini that might a. give me a wedgie on the slides or worse b. come off completely on a slide. Add to this the fact that the tennis coaches were taking the kids along (we are talking tanned, fit, uber good-looking 20-something trainers, say no more) so cue much trying on the night before to find suitable swimwear that wasn't too mutton and would save my blushes on the slides.

I settled for a black one piece and headed off for an afternoon of fun. Managed to say hello to aforementioned coaches while my hair was still intact, which was a good start I felt. I can't remember if it was slide one or two but I felt a sharp pain in my butt as I came down where something sharp dug me. I shrugged it off and carried on doing the rounds in the wave pool and water chutes. We decided to stay a bit later than planned but went over to say goodbye when everyone else was leaving. Suddenly Livvy, who was standing behind me, nudged me hard and whispered: 'Mum, you've got a hole in your costume and it's right on your BUM!' Yeah, right, stop winding me up. Issy stepped back and gasped: 'Mum don't turn round or everyone will see!' This is presuming no-one had spotted it already as it probably happened within minutes of arriving.

I stood there rooted to the spot, rigid with embarrassment, saying goodbye to all the hotties and the kids, then chucked my towel on the only spare sun lounger and leapt onto it without turning around, quite a feat of gymnastic excellence.

It was 32 degrees, so hot you could have fried an egg on my chest, but I couldn't go back in the water as the hole was actually a gaping great crevice right on the crack of my arse! The shame! I lay there thinking, please God let no-one have noticed, just as Stefan, the girl's very hunky coach, came back with a little boy who had lost one shoe. He was hunting around me looking for the other shoe and very probably wondering why I didn't get up to help like any normal parent would. I stayed, buttocks clenched, on my lounger, praying he would leave without rooting around too close to me! Why is it that whenever you want to look cool, something awful happens to drop you right in it?

Moving on, my neighbours here have been gifting me some lovely home produce. I was walking the dogs when I stopped for a chat with Michel, who lives down the road. He is married to the former headmistress of the village school Issy goes to and now he is retired, he is always working in his garden. He invited me to look at his new dry stone terrace and vegetable patch where he grows artichokes, aubergines, peppers, tomatoes, green beans and strawberries to name just a few. He grows everything organically and makes his own compost. I left with two beautiful flowering courgettes and a coeur du boeuf tomato the size of a grapefruit, which smelled divine. I ate the tomato for lunch - it tasted as good as it smelt - but didn't do the courgettes justice, slicing them into a madras curry instead of cooking them the way Michel advised, steamed and then drizzled with lemon and olive oil. Still, they tasted good.

Tonight I was walking the lasy few metres after an 8k run when I saw Rosine next door. I told her how good our olives are as she helped me harvest them last autumn and she invited me in to taste her home made vin d'oranger, made with the oranges I gave her from our garden. It was amazing, very sweet and tasty, but maybe not the drink you should be enjoying straight after a 45 minute run in the hills. We chatted for ages and then her husband Agostino fetched a bottle from the shed and insisted I take it home, chill it in the fridge and enjoy it as an apero, which I will but perhaps after a pint of water first.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

It's a man's world

I have come to the conclusion that the dogs are taking over my life. Whenever I go out, I have a guilt attack about not taking them with me, but when I do take them, they are a hazard. They jump around the car and Oscar has developed a worrying tendency of squeezing his chubby body under the driver's seat to nestle into my feet right by the accelerator. The first time he did it I nearly drove off the edge of the hillside as I thought it was a big hairy rat!

As if dealing with our two dogs isn't enough, I now have the pleasure of all the various waifs and strays in our neighbourhood coming to visit. It can only mean one thing - Tallulah's season is about to begin which is when our house and garden turns into the village's canine red light district. They scramble down the steep bank through the pine trees from the road and wander around our garden, peeing everywhere and searching out Tallulah, who loves the attention, the old slapper, while Oscar runs circles round them yapping like a demented lunatic and trying to start a fight because now he has been neutered, he can't have her and he is determined that no other dog will either.

This week I woke up to find a Jack Russell in my bedroom, the following day an alsatian was wandering on the terrace and for the last two days, Alchy, the huge rottweiler/boxer cross who lives down the road has been staking us out so Iain's first job when he gets off that bike is to put up a proper fence.

Much as we have had fun this last week while Iain has been away, with Bastille Day fireworks at Juan-les-Pins which were fantastic, and a lovely lunch and day on the beach at Vegaluna in Cannes, I have come to the conclusion that I wouldn't make a very good single parent. I picked up a flat pack TV unit last Friday and told the girls I was intending to assemble it when we got home with Iain's tool kit. When they had picked themselves up off the floor from laughing, they both offered to help me. Sadly, we couldn't even lift the box out of the car as it weighs 52 kilos so we have been driving around all week with the back seats folded down and a huge great box in the back, with the girls and dogs crushed in beside it. Job number two for Iain, he will be thrilled we have missed him so much!

Monday, July 13, 2009

Olives a-plenty

Two weeks ago, my Italian neighbour Rosine spotted me as Issy and I walked to school. She rattled off to me in Italo-French for about five minutes and as we left, Issy said, Mum did you understand any of that? I heard the word olives but that was all I could decipher, so Issy explained that she was saying that the olives she helped me pick in our garden last autumn should now be ready to eat. It has taken me two weeks to get down to the shed to dig out the bonbonniere containing all our olives in a salted water and bay leaf solution and when I opened the lid to see a white crusty coating on top, I feared the worst, after all they have been in there since November.
I took a scoop out and we all tried one and they are delicious! The best thing is I have enough to last us all summer. It was lovely to serve up olives from our garden that night drizzled with a little garlic and lemon juice from the lemon tree. There is a Barbara Good in me just struggling to get out and grow everything from scratch but the reality is, it's very time consuming to be self sufficient. We have olives, lemons, oranges, plums, figs, and rosemary growing here so I think that will have to tick the home farm box.
We went up to Pre du Lac last weekend to watch the Tour de France go by, it's the first time in many years they have taken a route through this particular area and everyone was out to cheer them on. The speeds were fantastic and it was a blaze of colour as two packs - the advance pack of four and the rest - sped past but in about 45 seconds it was all over.
Iain is motorbiking through France, Italy and Austria this week and by happy coincidence, the girls are at tennis camp this week so the house is quiet, tidy and an oasis of zen-like calm, which is a rare occurence indeed.
With two months of school holidays stretching ahead, I thought I would plan some good stuff for the girls to keep them occupied. You would think with a pool in the garden and fantastic, guaranteed sunshine that that might be enough but they are more likely to play on their nintendo DS or watch daytime TV than swim or hang out in the garden. Whenever I suggest the beach, I get, 'Noooo the beach is so BORING unless we're with our friends.' So Iain and I spent two hours putting up the tent for them to camp out in. I thought the novelty might last a week, not so. They stayed in the house until 10.30pm when I ordered them to take down sleeping bags and they seemed reluctant to leave. They took power cables, a lamp and a laptop to watch a movie on - and were back in the house at 7am cooking breakfast of scrambled eggs and smoked salmon on toast. So much for the great outdoors.
The next day we did the Picasso museum at Antibes. It's housed in the amazing Grimaldi chateau where Picasso spent two months working, with phenomenal views across the sea. So we have also ticked the culture box too.
It is Bastille Day tomorrow and the fireworks are incredible all around France so we are heading down to Cannes to watch the display tomorrow evening. There is always something going on here, the same is true of London too but it seems so much easier to get everywhere here. A traffic jam lasts 20 minutes if you are really unlucky and then it's all over.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Life's a beach

First of all, a photo of me and my best schoolfriend Jackie, who came to stay last weekend with her boyfriend Chris and son Louie. We had a fab weekend, catching up, eating and drinking and laughing. We've been friends for 30 years now and I love her!
I must admit, before we moved here, I used to dream of spending the odd weekday on the beach in early summer, away from the madding weekend and holiday crowds. It's that naughty I-should-be-working-but-I'm-playing-truant feeling that makes it all the more enjoyable. I know my friends back home have this image of me shooting down to the coast at every available opportunity to soak up the rays while they sweat and toil in London. With the girls both off school yesterday and my mum here for a week from the UK, I thought we should put the plan into action.

We arrived at Theoule, still my fave beach within easy reach, to find there were no parking spaces left so I stopped to offload the girls, mum and all the beach stuff (minus the bucket and spade and fishing nets) before trawling around for half an hour in 90 degrees looking for a space. By the time I walked to the beach, sweating and desperate for a swim, Livvy had stormed off in a huff after a massive shouting match on the beach with Issy, mum was threatening to go to Ibiza next time and Issy had a face like thunder. All caused by the girls sharing a parasol - Issy's idea of sharing was to set it up on the rocks four feet away from her sister so that she could hog the lot. Then the clincher - 'I wanted to phone you to bring my bucket and spade with you?' 'Well why didn't you take them out of the car when we unloaded?' 'Because I didn't want to carry them, I wanted you to carry them.'

Two minutes after I sit down comes the cry 'I'm starving, when are we going for lunch?' Well, just as soon as I have had a chance to sit down, catch my breath and enjoy 20 minutes sunshine perhaps. I get out last week's Grazia that my ma-in-law sweetly sends me only to hear 'Mum, you've read that magazine already, why can't we just go now, we're all STARVING!' No-one pipes up differently, so we pack up again and trot to the beach bar for lunch. Moodiness and hunger seem to go hand in hand in our house and thankfully the girls are in a better mood and even talking to each other after lunch so we head back to the beach whereupon I realise that we have to replace the parking ticket because the limit is 90 minutes in that part of town.

The girls reluctantly agree to go and do it together when I offer them 5 euros as a bribe but take off in such a rush that they forget to take the car keys with them. I ring Livvy's mobile, which I can hear going off in her bag beside me so wait for Issy to reappear red-faced and sweating 10 minutes later to grab the keys and sprint back. Ticket replaced, no parking fine imposed and girls back, I settle down for a relaxing nap in the sunshine but there are now black clouds rolling in and the first big fat spots of rain start to fall. So we pack up again, laden with mats, parasol, towels and beach bags and stagger back to the car to drive home. Next time, I am going on my own.

On a happy note, Issy got an amazing school report, full of bravos, and a line from her teacher talking about the magnificent progress she has made in the last year in French. And Livvy has been told she will move up to Troisieme in September at Fenelon, along with all her friends. There was a very real risk that she might not move up but redouble the year again - something that is very common in France - because she is still struggling with the language but her head of International was so impressed with her marks in English that she has let her move up. So it's extra French lessons through the summer hols each weekend to show her teachers that she really is trying. Much harder as a 14 year-old than a 10 year-old to master the language but she has worked hard this year and I have noticed she is much more motivated than she was in England.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Time for a moan

Well it couldn't last could it? Have finally taken off my rose tinted spectacles and realised that shit happens, no matter where you live. Will try to keep moaning to a minimum but am feeling quite murderous at the moment.

It was to good to be true that the Parisian pest at Grand Duc would stay quiet for long....last weekend she flew at a couple who had just arrived to rent our apartment. They hadn't even entered the domaine to start their holiday yet she was screaming abuse at them and threatening them there would be hell to pay if she heard their baby cry.

She is mentally unhinged so I have lodged a formal complaint with the management company and her landlord. She is the most anti-social beast, she chats loudly on her mobile on the balcony at all times of the day and night and plays Barbra Streisand and - even worse - sings along to it, yet I have never said a word. Gloves are off. But the couple, understandably, were upset.

The next bit I don't understand. The woman client rang us late on Saturday night to say she was disgusted by the state of the apartment and they wanted to leave and have a refund. Er, doesn't quite work like that. Iain went over to placate them on Sunday and said the woman is a manic depressive with OCD, she said it was a health hazard for her baby to stay there any longer! She has taken pictures of our coffee pot, the corners of the room and the shower cubicle citing filth and dirt.

I would be laughing it it weren't for the fact that they have now buggered off with our keys, all our linen and travel cot to stay somewhere else, still demanding a refund or they will plaster the internet with pictures of our uninhabitable apartment. Just makes me even more determined to get that unspeakable cow next door out, even if I have to take a petition around. There's no way they would be doing this if she hadn't ruined their holiday within 30 seconds of arrival.

So, moving onto reasons for living (or not) in France. Shall we start with the bad news and move onto the good news?

Reasons NOT to live in France:

1. In a word, SFR. This mobile phone company (in fact, pretty much all mobile companies) treat you like a convicted felon. I waited a year before signing up for a French mobile and wish I hadn't bothered. The guy at the shop in Grasse sold me a BlackBerry Storm. It wasn't what I wanted but it was the only BlackBerry he had in stock. Should have heard the warning bells then. Three weeks down the line it stopped delivering emails. I went back to be told with an indifferent shrug that the software wasn't good, so did I want to go home and call the British helpline or download the new software with a print off from the shop in French? Well, not really but there was no other option so I did. Spent all afternoon trying the duff number (it didn't work) then in desperation, I somehow worked out the printed instructions and bingo, it started working again.

Fast forward two more weeks and texts suddenly stopped coming through. Back to Grasse encore une fois and my mate the friendly SFR bi-lingual shop assistant looked SO pleased to see me. Explained the situation, he looked very bored and kept saying I could always pay another 99 euros and take another model. Hello? Even in nightmare red tapesville UK, if your phone isn't working they at least try to sort it out without charging you for a new phone. He then said I should have brought it back in the first week if I wasn't happy. The fact that that was two weeks before it went wrong seemed to pass him by. By this point I was steaming, so he just walked off to serve someone else, leaving me with a more helpful but totally French speaking assistant who would have swapped it quite happily if he was on his own. Under much duress, happy pants finally got out a jiffy bag with a huge sigh and said he would send it to be fixed but it would have to go back to the manufacturers at least twice before they will replace it.

My friend has an iPhone and she said hers has come back from repair and now it won't charge. Have reached the conclusion that the French serveice industry doesn't really exist and as for the customer always being right, don't even go there.

Reasons for living in France:

1. Havent yet heard about bent, freeloading French politicians claiming extortionate expenses for moats, mortgages that have already been paid off (the French are a nation of renters not buyers) and porn movies from Blockbusters. The worst they seem to do is have the odd mistress but there is no law against that.

2. The train journey from Grasse to Monte-Carlo. When there are no wild cat strikes, it is scenic, fairly clean, on time (I've only taken a train four times since I arrived, all in the last two days, so I might moan about it sometime soon.) It was lovely ear-marking all the places I still want to visit - Cap d'Ail, Beaulieu, St Jean Cap Ferrat - when I get the time.

3. Arriving in Monaco, a twee toytown invented to make mass excess feel quite normal, where you are just as likely to see a Bentley, Ferrari or Lamborghini as a Mini Cooper (my personal fave, I still miss my cream and black one now lovingly cared for by Melanie.) What's not to like about a place where you can never ever feel under or over dressed? It's a bit like Geneva - quite clean and clinical - but with much better people watching and more kitsch factor.

4. The Monte-Carlo TV Festival, possibly the last place on earth where journalists are made to feel a bit special rather than like something the cat brought in. The free three course lunch every day with copious quantities of wine, Badoit, coffee etc obviously tipped the balance.

5. Meeting my second famous Brad of the last three weeks - that would be Brad Walsh rather than Brad Pitt, a lovely bloke who has never changed over the years and who entertained me with stories of all the famous A listers staying at his hotel. He has spent most of his stay here calling his mates at home in Watford to tell them who he is off to dinner with each night.

6. Being able to stop off en route to the train station at the Fairmont Plaza for a glass of pink Champagne on the roof terrace overlooking the Med. St Pancras' Champagne bar is lovely but it will never compete with that.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Here a year

This time last year, we were packing up our lives in the UK to head to France for a new life. Hard to believe that on Tuesday, it's a year since we arrived. I still vividly remember pulling up on the lane by our house at dawn and climbing over the fence with the cats precariously balanced in their travel cage so we could get them into some shade and fresh air after a hot 14 hour drive through France.

Such a lot has happened in 12 months. Issy is virtually fluent in French while Iain still only knows the basics, the ground floor of our house is completely unrecognisable while the upstairs is still utter chaos and we have had our ups and downs settling in. Suddenly we have a teenager who has more of a social life than I do (hard to believe, I know,) borrows my clothes and shoes on the quiet and sees me as a never ending well of cash advances and a handy cabbie for the many parties and sleepovers she plans each weekend! It certainly hasn't been plain sailing - there have been tough times, disappointments and frustrations along the way but I have never doubted that we did the right thing at the right time.

Lately we have also got a bit more balance back in our lives after a pretty manic few months. The plan was to take life a little easier down here, enjoy the weather, the beautiful surroundings and explore the Riviera and its environs. Instead, life became even more crazy and full on than it was in the UK and after 20 odd years on that treadmill, it was time for a rethink.

It's funny, I think the perceived wisdom is that our life here is all about drinking rose, lying by the pool in the sunshine and wondering which village restaurant to try next. The truth is the shopping still needs to be done, so does the cleaning and then there is the little matter of work but today I actually ticked the 'rose by the pool' box all afternoon and it was rather lovely!

Yesterday I went racing in the Voile d'Antibes regatta with Mat and Milly on board their beautiful yacht The Blue Peter. The forecast storms never materialised but the wind was up and it was questionable whether the race would take place. We got the go ahead and I can't describe how exciting it was to be counting down to the start along with all the other classic yachts in Antibes harbour. We got off to a great start and the boat was flying. Mat's mates were all crewing and they are serious sailors so everyone was doing their bit as they had had a disappointing couple of days at the start of the regatta. For much of the time, I was clinging onto the boat and sliding from one side of the deck to the other trying to keep out of the way as they tacked and guided the yacht into the best position. Mat kept asking 'Are you ok, are you scared Karen?' but I can honestly say fear wasn't happening, it was just very very exciting, even when the waves washed over us, soaking us all to the skin. We were cruising at 13 knots and on course for a possible win when the coastguard sounded his horn and cancelled the race.

We were gutted, especially as we were not far off the finish but unbeknownst to us, two boats had been damaged in collisions due to the high winds, which were getting stronger, and one yacht was completely written off so it was just too dangerous to continue. The mood on board was jubilant nevertheless and we hit the owners marquee for a celebration drink. My white Abercrombie shorts will never be the same again and I was rocking the bag lady look, wandering around Antibes looking dishevelled with my hair matted with salt and sea water (one shop owner gave me a very strange look when I popped into his trendy boutique to try on a T shirt - luckily for him, I bought it!) but the adrenaline rush was amazing and it's a day I won't forget.

I might have embraced France wholeheartedly over the last year but The Apprentice final has just started so a bientot......

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Brad Pitt - my new crush

Have just spent the last 12 days covering the Cannes Film Festival - what a blast. It's been round the clock, leaving home at 7am for screenings at the Palais des Festivals, then onto the press conferences for the films and then finally home to write it up before dressing up and hitting the party scene.
The first party was Nowhere Boy, the new Sam Taylor Wood film about John Lennon. It was at the trendy 3.14 beach club in Cannes and was brilliant - fab DJ, champagne and vodka cocktails (altho I was driving so no getting drunk or even a bit squiffy for me) and loads of star spotting - Kristin Scott Thomas, Paris Hilton, Peaches Geldof, Nicky Haslem, Martin Kemp, Colin Firth, Ralph Fiennes, Ben Whishaw and so on. Everyone was on the dancefloor, singing along to Billy Jean and We Will Rock You and I can honestly say it was one of the best showbiz parties I have ever been to - usually celebs stand around chatting politely to other celebs and it's all a bit dull.
The highlight was Quentin Tarantino's new movie Inglourious Basterds, a very clever, violent and strangely humorous take on World War 2 which I didn't expect to enjoy as much as I did. And then Brad Pitt turned up for the press conference looking gorgeous in a cream suit, cravat (strange choice for 80 degrees of sunshine) and sunnies. I was right at the front of the press crush and as he smiled and chatted to people, looking really relaxed and not at all on the edge of a relationship break-up, I caught his eye and waved and HE WAVED BACK! It wasn't like we were surrounded by fans - that wave was meant for me (especially as journos are usually a bit cooler than that and don't usually wave to stars like demented fans.) But hey, we are talking Brad Pitt here, all logic and usual behaviour went straight out the door. It was a moment.
Other parties included Victoria Hervey at Cosy Box, where she told me about her recent trip to Africa and Paris H (again!) at VIP Room, bopping til dawn.
Films I loved: Bright Star, about John Keats, which was superb, Looking For Eric, starring Eric Cantona, which is funny, poignant and has hit written all over it and Tarantino's latest offering. I wanted to like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus because it's Heath Ledger's last movie and he was a great talent but found it confusing and hard work, despite the valiant efforts of Lily Cole and Andrew Garfield.
So, all over for another year and must say the thought of a few early nights is filling me with joy. (Expecting no sympathy btw.)

Friday, May 15, 2009

Launch at last!

What a week. Wednesday arrived, the day of the launch and everything we have been working so hard for suddenly arrives. We are running on empty now but adrenaline kicks in and suddenly you find the reserves somewhere to keep going. The party was in Cannes, everyone tunred up and the night was a great success. I can't even remember how many people I spoke to but they all said how much they love the site and that means a lot.

Having said that he would drive me, Norma and Sarah (who flew out for one night only just to give their support - I love you girls) home, Iain proceeded to get completely blotto, so just as well that I drank half a glass of rose and one small vodka cocktail all night and was able to get us home. Sarah was in foetal position in the back of the car, muttering about what a great night she'd had for aproximately 30 seconds before she passed out! Sometimes I really enjoyed being sober, especially the morning after. If you want to read all about it, check out

The girls headed off to the airport the next morning, one bright and bouncy the other jaded and full of Nurofen, while I headed off to the Cannes Film Festival for two weeks of madness. Have to say that being in the hub of the showbiz vibe was a real buzz, I have forgotten how much I miss that. Even though I had to leave today at 7am (in the pouring rain) to get to a screening at the Palais des Festivals, there was a spring in my step. I LOVE films, I used to review movies and go to premieres all the time when I was at The Sun and I can't tell you how brilliant it is to sit in a screening theatre and watch a film that the wider world has not yet seen, in Cannes of all places. Special. Bright Star is amazing, all I can say is go and see it, it is beautifully filmed and a real work of art. Early days but if it doesn't win, I hope it is usurped by something even greater.

Met a lovely journo at the very mad press conference afterwards, Lesley-Ann Jones, whose stuff I have been reading forever. We had a great chat about the mentality of the whole thing (staff who don't know where to direct you, a press conference room that holds a fraction of the journalists who are accredited, I could go on but I might be banned next year if I do.) She is doing a piece on the craziness of it all and was telling me about an Alsatian she saw on the Croisette in a bikini and a baby who had been spray tanned with St Tropez by its weirdo mother, who was quite proud of the fact. I know this place is a bit insane but stories like that make you shiver.

Parties are a big part of the season down here too. Have some great invites - Sam Taylor Wood's party with Harvey Weinstein, Elton and Jade on Sunday eve til late, then a screening at 8.30am Monday morning (so maybe I will sleep in the car,) Victoria Hervey's private dinner and party on Monday night and Paris Hilton and Solange Knowles along with MTV on Wednesday (this one made the girls cry with the unfairness of it all as I know nothing about Paris while they know every bit of trivia having just watched Paris Hilton's BBF on TV and are OBSESSED with her.) Oh and D&G's party on Friday. C'est la vie. Livvy did say, but mum, why would they want YOU there? I had to explain that they are occasional benefits to having spent 20 years in showbiz journalism.

Anyway peeps, need an early night so will be back very soon.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Portofino's so fine!

Just back from a wonderful weekend in Italy to celebrate Justin's 40th. He had no idea we were coming because as far as he was aware, I am covering the Cannes Film Festival at the moment (luckily J never questions anything so didn't realise it actually starts next week!)

We kept in touch with my cousin Michael by text and arrived at Sestri Levante, just down the coast from Portofino to find them wandering along the beach. We managed to creep right up on him and he nearly fell over with surprise. It was a really lovely moment and set the scene for the six of us having a fab weekend.

We explored Santa Margherita Ligure, Sestri Levante and Rapallo, which have a real charm about them. Lots of bright ice cream colours on all the buildings and a very olde worlde seaside feel to the towns. The highlight was Portofino - a place on my must-see list for years now and I wasn't disappointed. Very upscale on the shopping front -Louis Vuitton is the first shop you see as you step off the boat - and so pretty but also very friendly. The people watching is superb, we sat for ages sipping Prosecco on the port and umming and aaahing at all the bling!

One night we ended up at Da Beppe, a family run little restaurant in Santa Margherita, where the food just kept on coming at you. Octopus and potato salad, huge mussels, a whole seabass in Genovese sauce of parsley, garlic and olive oil, the list goes on.

The big family party opposite us must have had seven courses and at the end, a guitarist and singer struck up on their table and gave the most amazing impromptu performance of lots of old Italian songs as well as My Way (which got us all singing, much their amusement and they gave us a big round of applause at the end of it!)

The best bit is that door to door, it is just three hours away, which would have got us to Bournemouth in one direction or Skegness in the other a year ago in the UK! The girls were babysitting the outlaws ( a term of endearment Jean, honest!) and despite the fact that they were stranded at the house with no transport, peace reigned all weekend.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

The marathon at last!

What a day Sunday was. More than a little nervous, as I hadn't done so much training in the last month because of work.
So much for the showery, cool, perfect running weather that was forecast - instead it was blazing hot and sunny, fab for the spectators but cruel for the runners. I can't believe that the only two marathons I have run have been in scorching temperatures.
I set off feeling very emotional, there is something about standing on that start line with thousands of other strangers all trying to do your best. Really enjoyed the first 11 miles, ran it all with a big smile on my face and hearing strangers shout your name and encourage you is a very moving experience. Docklands stretch was harder, it's less popluated and seems to go on forever until you loop back to the Highway at Wapping.
Seeing my mum, brother, niece, nephew (who also ran the mini marathon for kids that day) and the rest of my family and friends cheering me on at 11 and 23 miles was pretty amazing, just the tonic you need to keep you going.
From mile 20, it was tough. I had huge blood blisters on both feet (luckily didn't realise until I took off my trainers) and my knees were weak but I thought, there is no way I am giving up after 20 miles!
I crossed the finishing line in 4 hrs 30 mins and 22 secs - 22 minutes faster than my first marathon two years ago - and was so happy I could have cried.
Nell McAndrew, who I interviewed for FR2DAY a few weeks ago, was the fastest celebrity at an amazing 3 hrs 10 mins. Superwoman! And poor Katie Price took over seven hours because of injury, and had to walk the vast majority but she raised £250k for charity so respect to her and every other person who competed that day, as well as my buddy Darren, who did his third marathon.
It's over and I'm saying never again, despite the fact that a few friends have asked me to run it again with them. Don't think I will ever beat that time so what is the point but there is something strangely addictive about that particular race, it really gets under your skin.
So that's it, have enjoyed a few glasses of guilt-free rose since, and it's a lovely feeling.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Fetes, Prince Albert and orange cake

What a week. We launched the mag, it looks great, have had a few teething problems but nothing we can't overcome and it's so good to see the fruits of all our hard work finally out there.

One week to go til London marathon, fair to say that I am physically and mentally shattered from working and training. Today I thought I'd sit with my book on Marseille and find out a bit more about it, and promptly fell asleep (no reflection on the delightful second city.) Iam looking forward to it and dreading it in equal measure.

On Monday, we went to the Fete de l'Oranger in the village, see above. It was a beautiful sunny day and the whole village turned out to man stalls, help or just enjoy it. The theme was oranges (this part of the world is famous for them) and the streets were decked with orange bunting and oranges studded into garlands, hanging from the street lamps and balconies - it looked so pretty. Everything for sale had an orange theme, from biscuits, to jams and marmelades and the local vin d'orange liqueur (lethal.) Issy entered the cake competition with an orange, honey and polenta cake she bakes with her best buddy Tabitha but sadly didn't win, even though we all thought it was the best cake there. Her's in the one in the middle, above.

From village fetes to the Top Marques supercar show in Monaco, our first assignment for FR2DAY. Wayne, Lucy, Iain and I left at the crack of dawn to get there and mooched around some amazing cars alongside Prince Albert, who is also a bit of a petrolhead. Then we headed to the VIP bar to have a glass of champagne - Lucy's birthday was the excuse - and ended up meeting a London art dealer and his star painter Paul Karslake, who is the brother-in-law of Rolling Stone Ronnie Wood. Naturally I interviewed him, and as well as being a very talented artist, he was also very entertaining and made a great piece.

Have just heard that the line up for the Cannes film festival is looking fab - Quentin Tarantino, Johnny Depp, Brad Pitt even Bill Clinton and better than that, Now mag have secured me an invitation to the D&G closing party, where all the A list party, so to say I'm a little bit excited would be a gross understatement. New dress anybody?

Would love to write more but just too damn tired - thanks to my loyal little core of readers, please stay tuned and I will tell you all about the horror and joy of the race next week.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Alive alive-o

Well campers, you are now reading the blog of an is finally up and live on the web...just a taster at the mo but check it out and let me know what you think. For all you lovely followers who just can't get enough of me, please feel free to follow the blog about setting up's called It's a little joint combo between me and Wayne and we have a running competition about who can be the funniest. As he hasn't posted on there for about two months I think I'm winning (Wayne, before you get on the phone, I know you've been taking to LA and India late into the night and you are happy to let me be the creative one!!!!)
Am so tired I could sleep for a month and REALLY need a holiday but there's currently zero chance of that, which just makes me want one even more. So what can I tell you? Well, lowlight of the last week was getting lost in the mountains on a marathon training run last Saturday. I should've seen the signs when the other four runners (the fastest in my club by a mile) turned up with backpacks, automatic straws to drink from said backpacks, gallons of water, high energy snacks etc etc. Me, I had my iPod Touch to help me out on the hills and er, nothing else, no water (I thought we might pass a few fountains,) no phone and 2 euros to buy some Evian in case we didn't see a fountain. We ended up in the Esterel mountain range near the coast at Theoule where we proceeded to run the interior 27 kilometre circuit!
The first half hour involved running up boulders to the summit at which point I should've just turned around. Then I got lost, basically they were a kilometre ahead of me all the time and when the path split, they took the low track and I took the high one. I spent an hour in thick fog running in different directions, calling out only to hear my own echo and seeing no-one and nothing but rocks and low cloud. I didn't even know which direction the coast was and I really started to panic. Funnily enough, what I thought was 'Bugger, this is my first day off for ages, I'm lost, and I'm probably never gonna make my launch party for the mag now, what a bloody shame.' Wayne was seriously impressed that my first thought was not hubby and kids but the dire disappointment of missing our mag launch party.
Finally bumped into them by accident on a track miles away as I tried to navigate my way back, they looked pleased-ish and bemused to see me while I wanted to scream. So that is my last long run with the club - no more running up mountains on my own.
Met an amazing organic facialist from London called Alexandra Soveral who taught a few of us how to massage away wrinkles and be good to our skin. She was really good fun and I was so impressed I bought all her products and have now been reduced to emptying my wardrobe and donating clothes to a secondhand designer sale to try and claw back some cash!
Other news - went back to London for my brother Justin's 40th - what a great night, so lovely to see him and all my old mates and have a bop with them. And had a perfect Cote d'Azur outing last week (before the rain arrived) playing tennis for one precious hour in the sunshine.
Livvy is back from a week in London doing work experience with Sarah at her PR company in the West End...she lunched, she shopped, she socialised and she even did some work! Sarah said she was very self-motivated and did brilliantly so hopefully it has shown her that hard work really does yield a good life. Having said that she has laid on the bed and the sofa ever since she got home but think that is called being a teen! She was 14 yesterday, we celebrated quietly at home and it was just perfect - sleepover, chicken fajitas and The Apprentice.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The tooth, the whole tooth and nothing but the tooth...

March 16th 2009

The last couple of weeks have passed by in a blur. Head down working, having meetings and meeting lots of new people. We found time to go for lunch on the beach at Juan les Pins a couple of weekends ago and it was fab, sitting on a deck with a cold pichet of rose and a plate of seafood watching the waves lap on the shore, warm sunshine on our faces. The weather has warmed up over the last week and is almost - but not quite - bikini warm. After the wettest, coldest winter
here for years it's so good to cast off the ski jackets and boots.

Had a little soiree here on Saturday evening, about 20 friends for sushi and drinks. It was a fab evening, lots of chat, laughter and wine. Much as I miss my friends in the UK, it was really good to have a mix of different people, many of whom are becoming good friends. I feel very lucky to have found that within a year of moving here. Highlights of the night: Iain headbutting the piano and remembering nothing about it. And Mat the lovely sailor throwing his keys drunkenly on the floor as he stood in the middle of me and one of the other lovely ladies and saying, Right who's the lucky girl then? All good clean fun.

Went running tonight with the club as it's five weeks til M day. As we ran through the next village Pont du Loup in the evening twilight with the lights twinkling and the mountains looming over us, I couldn't take my eyes off the view, it is stunning, no matter what time of day or night. I love beaches but my favourite view in the world is mountains.

Tonight was also the night Issy found out the truth about the tooth fairy. She lost a tooth today and was quizzing Iain about how much she would get from the tooth fairy (apparently the going rate is 10 euros. I don't believe it either.) Then: 'Are you SURE you're not the tooth fairy Daddy? Because she writes in messy capital letters, just like you!'

Iain was lamely denying that he is the tooth fairy but she wouldn't let it drop so I told her the truth - Daddy is the fairy in our house. I have always felt that when the girls are old enough to ask, and keep on asking, they are old enough to know the truth. The tooth fairy went mad at me and was quite upset that I had blown his cover, while Issy was shaking her head in disbelief that she had been taken in for so long. I felt a bit sad too, but we still have Santa.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Out of the mouths of babes....

March 3rd 2009

There I was, cooking supper when Issy came up to me and said: 'Mum, what would you live on if I confiscated your PC?'
'Fresh air and exercise I suppose', I said absently, stirring the pasta. Then the killer line: 'Would you play with me more?' What do you say to that? She didn't even mean it horribly, she was just interested in my answer. All she has asked me to do with her this half term is play a game of Monopoly and I haven't even had time for that. For the past week, the girls have been in their world doing their own thing, and I've been in mine, working, meeting people, working and then working some more. I'm not moaning, I love work, but there's no food in the fridge, the house looks like a land fill site and I don't hear the kids when they talk to me. Think I have crossed a line.
So, we put on The Feeling and danced around the kitchen singing along, something we haven't done for ages. It felt good. Three more days of half term left and I have promised to go to the Picasso museum in Antibes, as she is mad keen on art, and play that game of Monopoly, hardly a sacrifice as it's my favourite childhood game (right up there with Scrabble.)
She'll be a good source for comedy material in the future. Earlier, she was talking about how Tallulah had brought up loads of braille (she meant bile!) and tonight, when we were discussing my day, she asked how my meeting with a lovely Dutch woman called Sylvia had gone. Sylvia will be a valuable asset to our shopping page on FR2DAY, she knows every cool boutique on the Riviera and is funny to boot. 'Really well,' I said, 'she really knows her stuff on shopping.' 'So is she your guru Mummy ?'
Gotta go, she has just set up Connect 4 and I'd much rather be playing that than writing this.

Saturday, February 28, 2009


February 27th 2009

Well, have spent way too many thousands to mention this week going legit with your breath Monte-Carlo to Marseille, here we come and let the fun commence. We now have the rights to the LA2DAY site, plus their backing, now all that remains is to find contributors, write 200 features and get it all looking super duper, which of course it will. Have probably met more people in the last four weeks than the previous eight months (including two hot Brazilian sushi chefs who gave Liv and I some free spicy tuna when we went for lunch the other day. It was probably her they were after ...but has there ever been a better combination of words than Brazilian+sushi+chef?)
Had a minor heart attack earlier when the pugster, otherwise known as Oscar, went missing. He is usually glued to my ankle, never further than three paces from me (and my food.) After an hour of not seeing him pressed pitifully up against the glass doors asking to come in, I started to panic. Even Iain left his desk so we could all go and search. We were running up and down the road, me convinced that he was pancaked, when Issy shouted that she could hear whimpering in the bushes. He'd managed to get trapped in a huge bramble bush two gardens (and about five terraces away). He was so pleased to be rescued, I can't even think what might have happened if we didn't find him then as it was almost dark. Suffice it to say I won't be kicking him off the bed tonight.
Went running with the club this week for the first time in ages, it was horrific. I always bring up the rear by at least a minute, however much I try and put in a sprint finish. It could be quite depressing if I didn't have so many other things to think about. I was idly thinking about dropping out of the London Marathon as I tried to keep up when Antoine, our leader (50 years old and runs like a gazelle on speed) told me he was getting me a specially printed T shirt to wear on the day and could I please arrange a good time to be photographed by Nice-Matin for a celebratory article. Could hardly tell him I'm too shattered to train and will be swapping early runs for lie ins.
Note to Badger: so loved your lezza faux pas, sublime.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

The dangers of email

24th February 2009

I am so embarrassed. I am recruiting for FR2DAY, our new online magazine for the French Riviera, so sending out loads of emails to possible contributors that I'm finding through Facebook etc. Every so often, my partner Wayne and I will email each other and forward on someone we find. Tonight I found a girl who is running a networking group down in Cannes, and banged out an email asking a bit about her. She came back to me, saying she works in advertising and marketing and has established a global gay networking website amongst other things. We are having a gay page on FR2DAY too, as there is nothing much going on down her for gay people (or anyone else come to that.) so imagine my excitement at finding someone like this on the doorstep.
I forwarded her email to Wayne, with a note at the top saying, 'heard back from that Cannes girl, she sounds worth meeting as she has a gay website, think she is probably gay (altho people will be saying that about us too) blah blah blah'...except I DIDN'T send it to Wayne, I sent it to her!
Two minutes later I receive an email saying, 'Hey Karen, this is sooo funny, I have never laughed so much, but don't think you meant to send this to me!' I have however established she has a wicked sense of humour.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Holidays schmolidays

February 18th 2009

Issy just made me laugh. We were listening to Adele and she said, ‘I always thought this song was called Chasing Payments!’ She needs to keep making me laugh as I’ve just discovered their half term stretches for two long weeks, not ten days as I thought. With weekends, that’s 16 days off. The girls are celebrating while I am mildly panicked. One of the best things about state schools in the UK is the fact that the kids get bog standard week-long half terms and fairly manageable Christmas, Easter and summer holidays (although that might be selective memory playing tricks on me as six weeks summer hols is enough to try the patience of a saint.) I used to be the smug one when all my private school fee paying friends moaned about the eight week summer break and three and half week Christmas hols. It’s particularly handy when you’re self employed and work from home to have a school term that outweighs the length of the holidays. This year, they have an Easter break a month after going back to school followed by nine weeks summer holidays! All this in addition to every Wednesday off and more bank holidays in May than the UK gets all year. Vive la France!
I’ve been really sad reading about Jade Goody’s cancer battle. To be staring death in the face when you have two young children and are not yet 30 is a hideous situation. I must admit, I hate Big Brother and all it stands for (although I’m a closet fan of Celebrity BB) and when I interviewed Jade three years ago, before she had the infamous racist run in with Shilpa Shetty on CBB, I wasn’t impressed. She was promoting her new perfume for a reality show on Living and I was interviewing her on her mobile while she was driving her car! We got cut off three times which was frustrating enough but when she mentioned going to Mumbai to source spices and ingredients for her perfume, my interest was ignited as I love India. ‘What did you think?’ I asked, to be met with ‘Well, it wasn’t very nice, it wasn’t clean and it was smelly’. I dismissed her as an ignorant airhead but watching her prepare to marry and get her house in order for her two sons as she faces up to a premature and painful death has been an education in courage. I’ve just re-read the last few lines of the interview where she told me: ‘I’m good at seeing things through. I’ve never had money before so I’m very grateful for it. I’ve had some great opportunities and I can look after my family.’
Signing off with a poem Issy wrote this morning, it's called Your Angel in Heaven. It says it all.

Your angel in heaven
Is the guardian of your heart
Give her your worries
And your fears
So hope and peace can start
Keep the angel near you
And know how much she cares
For when you need love and joy
Your angel will be there.