Captain Moonlight: The sheila's not for squashing

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The Independent Online
KATHY Lette skips into the room and takes off her glasses. 'Blow on my eyes,' she commands. The telephone rings. It is Kitty Kelley. Upstairs, Geoffrey Robertson QC, champion of left causes, is lying ill. Kathy is married to Geoffrey. Kathy is Australian. Kitty is the famous unauthorised biographer, now supposed to be researching Prince Philip. We are, of course, in Islington, the cutting edge of north London.

Kathy is a writer. Her latest book is called Foetal Attraction (Kathy is fond of puns). It is about an Australian woman (who likes puns) amok, mocking and inconveniently pregnant among London's finest right-thinkers. It upset Melvyn Bragg and Rosie Boycott, of north London, who were rude to Kathy about it on the radio. Melvyn has since grudgingly apologised. Kathy has written a rude piece about Esquire, the magazine Rosie edits. Kathy wants me to blow on her eyes to dry her mascara. So I do. Kathy says she was 35 yesterday, 'and I found a great, big, black hair growing out of my chin, bang on cue'. It has gone.

Foetal Attraction gallops through a galere of weak, self- regarding English men and cold, condescending women - people 'with love bites on their mirrors'; the men 'whose mid- life crisis has started without them, the ones who go through the tunnel of love holding their own hands'; poets, television personalities, writers and literary agents, who fawn over empty models turned actresses and silent ageing rock stars with pretensions, while ignoring this feisty Australian or, at best, putting her down.

Well, yes, there are some autobiographical elements in it. Kathy fell in love with Robertson when they appeared on an Australian chat show together (Kathy was already a writer and Sydney media sheila; Robertson is Australian-born). She followed him to London; they married, and have two children; she met his friends, including the Pinters, Rushdie, John Mortimer - people like that. She has hosted television and radio programmes; her previous novel, The Llama Parlour, well received, was about her experiences in Hollywood.

And now she has bitten the hands that fed her? 'Absolutely,' beams Kathy. She had always thought the English had 'this wonderful self-deprecating sense of humour. I thought you invented irony. I thought you had this wonderful talent for self-mockery. Until now.' Now her invitations have dried up, she says. Now she has been 'emotionally date-raped - I know them socially' by Bragg and Boycott.

But she is a forgiving sort. 'Melv the Pelv' is obviously having his own mid-life crisis, she says, and will probably soon be wearing a medallion, while 'Rosie the Rottweiler' is 'such a deeply comic character, an ex- sister who edited Spare Rib and is now pandering to the sexual fantasies of men in a fashion magazine'.

Some people have not been nice to her: 'They thought Geoff had married beneath himself because I left school at 15 and spell phonetic with an f . . . it took me some time, too, to master English Euphemism, to realise that when they say 'Oh, you Australians are so refreshing', it really means 'rack off you loud-mouthed colonial'.'

But at least Englishmen are allowed to talk about opera, gardening and child-minding without being thought of as 'pillow biters', as is the case in her native land, where the men, despite having a sense of humour 'drier than an AA clinic', are 'disproving the theory of evolution by evolving into apes'. That's why the women are either doormats, or like her.

I didn't think the book was that good, but being an Englishman, I didn't say so; I asked her whether she thought it was any good. She beams. 'It should make you laugh. I'm allergic to great literature . . . I write contemporary consumables . . . It will pass its amuse-by date . . .' And Geoff had liked it.

She is not, she says, 'squashable'. 'I'm Australian; we don't care what other people think about us. Life's too short to be subtle, it all makes me laugh.' Melvyn and Rosie hurt her a little, but she was soon over it, and she doesn't want any tears of the clown stuff. 'Shallow and meaningless - S & M - that's what I'm into,' beams Kathy.

(Photograph omitted)