Diary

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The Independent Online
How's this for a plot: three women - a former Fleet Street editor, a veteran former magazine editor, and a film-maker married to a prominent politician - find themselves at a loose end and decide to set up new home-based careers. They're social creatures, so they sit down around a Hampstead kitchen table, pool their collective media experiences of treachery and betrayal and, hey presto, up comes a novel - which brings them yet more fame and fortune. Improbable? Eve Pollard, ousted from the Sunday Express last August; Joyce Hopkirk (whose latest project is Chic magazine); and Val Corbett, of Goldhawk Films and wife of the Labour MP Robin Corbett, have completed their first novel, Splash. It runs to 500,000 words and will be published in July. Ms Pollardsays the plot does indeed involve three women friends, all in the media. One, an acting newspaper editor, faces the dilemma of whether to publish a front-page expose of another, which will destroy the friend's career. But didn't Express Newspapers have the story of the Princess of Wales's alleged silent phone calls to Oliver Hoare and not run it? "It is not at all autobiographical," Pollard insists.

"And they are believable women, not shopping bitches. It takes place over a week, and it's about whether women choose friendship over a career." Will the novel deliver more post-media fortune and fame? It had better, because the writing trio needs a plotfor the second novel they've been contracted to write.

Anna Ford, presenting the Today programme with John Humphrys, sparked off a lot of silent cheers from women yesterday when she asked the sports presenter Gary Richardson tartly: "Is it all boys' sports again?" Speaking after the programme, she said it was meant to be a light-hearted dig, but that she was depressed by the way sports reporting and writing was such a male ghetto and so utterly focused on cricket and football. "I never open the Sunday sports sections now, just put them to one side to light the fire with," she says. "Kate [her small daughter] and I checked the Sunday Times sports section at the weekend - 20 pages of sport, 58 pictures, only three of them women. The photos are all of vast men in headbands, covered in mud. Sports pages hold little interest for women, unless they are fanatical about football and cricket." Ms Ford, who has a track record of forthright criticism of the wiles of the male-run BBC, says she loves tennis, swimming, lacrosse, netball and sailing. But she admits thatthe huge coverage of Eric Cantona's bad behaviour was understandable. "At least he's slightly more exciting."

I'm with her there. Cantona deserved the front page. And I'd give all the space in the world to Kate Hoey's allegations about the game's mucky practices. Those of us who hate football love to see our prejudices confirmed.

So, do real football-loving men have facials? I promised to find out last week when I won a free facial and body makeover - for a man. The beautician at the salon, in a plush Knightsbridge hotel, was quite unfazed by my being the wrong sex. She said the treatments were virtually identical, unless the client had a beard. No, she said, as endless coatings of oils and deep cleansers were applied to my face, not that many men had facials, and those who did were mostly over 60, and not often British. If theywere British, then their wives had probably booked them in, and they were a bit apprehensive.

"I think when they get to that age, they are desperate to try anything," she said. But men do book up for manicures, while Arabs are especially keen on waxing their chests and shoulders to get rid of body hair. "Isn't that painful?" I asked. "Yes, very: their eyes water, but they never make a sound. They tell me they do it because their girlfriends prefer them that way." Conclusion: real men don't have facials, they wax - painfully.

I've got to that disturbing point when my eldest daughter's social life is becoming far more interesting than mine. It's 6.45pm on a Saturday night, and she, aged 12, is preparing to go to a Mongolian barbecue birthday party. This takes place at a restaurant called, oddly, the Mongolian Barbecue. You take a bowl, choose lumps of raw meat and vegetables, and give them to the chef to grill. Several weeks ago it was a birthday lunch at Planet Hollywood - the party spent most of the time in the ladies' loo,trying out the perfume.

At least my nine-year-old is behaving like a child still. She's been nagging me to buy her 14 Crunchie bars. This is because she is going to a sleepover party and the Crunchies are her contribution to the midnight feast. Sleepovers consist of groups of friends who gather at one of their houses equipped with sleeping bags, which get very little use since the object of the party is to hold feasts and rampages until 3am. Sleepover children are collected, red-eyed next morning: the moment they get home theygo to bed all day. It's a truism that the middle classes can neither afford nor aspire to send their children to boarding school. Never fear, our offspring have ways of making up for lost opportunities.

The focal point of a wet weekend was a visit to the museum. From 3pm we walked around the Museum of London, promising the foot-weary children that when we had finished we would go to the cafe. At 5pm, an hour before the museum closed, we made our way to the cafe, only to find it closed. Why do museum and gallery tea shops always shut just when you want to visit them, at the end of the afternoon? The Victoria & Albert cafe (that famous one of the controversial Saatchi & Saatchi campaign "Ace Cafe with quite a nice museum attached") says it stops serving at 5pm and expects people to leave at 5.30pm, because it takes time to get the museum closed by 6pm. The British Museum, which closes at 4.50pm, says its cafe takes last orders around 4.15pm, to finish at 4.30pm.

But how long does it take to drink a cup of tea or for a child to eat an ice-cream? The Museum of London's approach is even more unforgiving when you consider that the cafe entrance is separated from the museum entrance. And there is a desert of City offices around it. We were pitched, with three thirsty children, into flood-ridden, empty, closed City streets. In a laudable attempt to lure visitors back, the museum allows you to re-use your ticket within three months. But it will be a long time before Ican persuade the children to visit again.

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