A few parenting tips for Madonna

At 18, the English public schoolgirl can bring a dog to heel with just a glance
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The Independent Culture
DEAR MADONNA - You won't know me but I feel somehow that we have much in common. You once almost met someone I've almost met and later commented that he was too well known for his own good - a perfect summary of my own views of Martin Amis.

On another occasion, you were said to have had a fling with the thriller writer Tim Willocks, an act of charity which proved to the world that the English novel is hot and happening, and encouraged a new generation of sex-crazed young men to take up fiction and confessional biographies. It occurred to me then that, were I slightly younger, with longer hair, and "looked like an angel and wrote like the devil", as Willocks's publisher described him, it might have been me that you invited to your castle in Spain (the photograph attached was taken before I started my body-building programme, by the way).

But do not worry, Madonna, this is not a stalking letter (unless you want it to be, in which case it is). No, I want to address you on a more serious matter, parent to parent.

I have it from no less an authority than The Sunday Express that you have put your little daughter Lourdes down for Cheltenham Ladies College. They say that at some point in the future, you, like thousands of middle- class mothers across England, will be packing her off to boarding-school with a trunk and a tuck box, two packets of digestive biscuits and a phonecard, in the hope that she will emerge five years later, confident, qualified and with impeccable table manners. That is valid. Obviously you were an admirer of our sweet, late princess. At some point you realised, in that self-effacing way of yours, that Diana had the one attribute which, for all your many achievements, you would never possess, to put it vulgarly, class.

Not only did she have that lovely accent and a perfect posture, she was in touch with herself and shared her glamour and goodness with the less fortunate, laying hands upon the HIV positive and healing lepers with a smile. You want the same for Lourdes - in fact, come to think of it, that may explain the somewhat zany name you chose for her. But now listen. I fear that, when it comes to the English boarding-school, you are something of an innocent. Yes, Lourdes will learn the basics of etiquette - that it is unladylike to get out of a sports car when not wearing knickers and so on - but at what price?

It is not all lacrosse and Latin, you know. There are pashes and keen- ons and younger girls adoringly brushing the hair of sixth-form girls. When, once a year, the sixth form girls are allowed to meet the local boys' public school for a dance, teachers patrol the dance-floor ensuring that couples keep the statutory 18 inches apart. As a result, generations of well-educated English girls have emerged volatile but confused in these matters, demanding from their partners satisfaction without intimacy, contact but from a distance, preferably from a different bed or even a different room. (Paradoxically, men who went to public schools are well known as masterful yet caring lovers, infinitely more accomplished than, for example, any shaggy south London thriller writer).

Obviously, as the inventor of girl power, you will be in favour of a certain degree of confidence, but have you actually met an English public schoolgirl recently? Five years of singing hymns, shouting at each other on the hockey pitch and making telling interventions in the school debating society does something to them. At 18, they can bring a dog to heel with a glance; by 30, they can reduce a man's height by six inches merely by saying his name. Give them a couple of children and their voices can project across three open fields without a megaphone.

I'm not saying that Cheltenham Ladies College is necessarily like this. Mrs Tuck, the headmistress, sounds a sporty type, telling The Sunday Express that she hoped Lourdes would inherit her mother's love of theatre and dressing up, although I did wonder whether she had seen some of the costumes you wore in your photographic volume Sex. But, before you make any decision, I would simply ask you to look at the photographs accompanying the article of the school's famous old girls, Mary Archer, Nicola Horlick and Kristin Scott-Thomas.

They all have the same look to them - dark, in control, perfectly groomed, yet perhaps missing something, as if they were playing beautiful, heartless aliens in Invasion of the Cheltenham Ladies College Girls.

Think about it. Personally I would not yet rule out the local Hollywood school where the children of celebrities take lessons in self-validation and The Twelve-Step Programme.

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