I went to Paris last week for a friend's birthday. It's a good job I'd paid for the trip in advance. During my 48 hours outside bankrupt Britain, the pound keeled over to its lowest level since the euro was launched back in 1999. Shopping in Paris was a different experience: no massive closing-down sales on the chic boulevards of the Left Bank, and the 40 per cent discount day at Bon Marché only applied to those with a French bank account. That's how much the sniffy frogs care about wooing tourists.
Nevertheless, the window displays were elegant, the food delicious and the Christmas decorations fabulous. Back in Blighty, we suddenly discovered why we loved Woolies on the very day it closed down, fighting over plastic kitchenware, computer games and slippers.
Just as many French women eat quality food in smaller portions, they shop far more selectively. We're definitely a nation of bingers, be it over-eating or buying ludicrous gadgetry for our kids' Christmas presents, even when there's nothing in the bank.
Have you noticed how a new gang of poverty pundits have sprung up in recent weeks? The boss of Asda claims the financial climate will usher in a new age of austerity, when frugality will be chic and rampant consumerism the height of vulgarity. I think not – to live like previous generations did in the post-war years, you have to have the following skills: cooking, gardening, sewing and plenty of patience.
Meanwhile, lifestyle guru Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen is telling anyone who'll listen that we're enjoying having no cash to spend. According to the king of swags and pelmets, "People are making things from scratch... and enjoying waking up to the fact they have been eating and drinking too much." Hello? Does this chap spend any time in the real world, where, in the run-up to Christmas, pubs might be closing down and office lunches cancelled? This time it's taking place at home, rather than in public.
Another misapprehension about less cash and a weak pound is that we'll choose to holiday in the UK rather than overseas. Sadly, this is wishful thinking on the part of the British travel industry. People generally don't pick holiday destinations for better value. They choose them to get laid, get sunburnt, eat and drink far more cheaply than they can back home, and – most important of all – be sufficiently chilled out to put all their financial and domestic worries on to the back burner. Somehow that's easier to achieve on a lounger in Spain, Thailand, Italy, Morocco or Florida, than it is sheltering behind a wind break in Lowestoft, Bridlington or Worthing.
Sad, but true. Even in straightened circumstances, the average British hotelier still treats customers as if they are an inconvenience. Last week I booked a mini-break in a remote part of Scotland, miles from the nearest town. I was informed that "denim is not acceptable in the dining room". When I pointed out that designer jeans cost more than a hotel room, the receptionist announced, "Well, you won't be policed." I think it was a joke, but I can't be sure. Last summer I rented a house in France where I could lie around wearing what I liked, conforming to no dress code except my own. And, no matter how pitifully the pound is performing, that is what I shall be doing next August.
Animal passion: Fur-lovin' Nigella stirs up a row
Nigella Lawson had the temerity to state the obvious: if we choose to eat meat, what's the problem about wearing animal skins? Our favourite domestic goddess had the cheek to make a little joke on television about killing a bear and wearing its skin – what a major mistake! A torrent of abuse has rained down on her ever since. The vegetarian anti-fur brigade of militant harpies might have high principles and clear consciences, but generally they lack any sense of humour. Nigella is intelligent and funny. But fur is one of those sacrosanct subjects, like obesity, that you cannot be ironic about. Duncan Bannatyne, that bighead on 'Dragon's Den', once made a light-hearted remark about fatties not working as hard as thin people. After all, it's what millions of people secretly think. But he was roundly condemned.
I'm sitting on a train with a huge man-mountain occupying two seats, with his coat over a third. He's eaten two sandwiches and has ordered another from the buffet. Don't tell me he's taking any notice of the government's fat-busting initiatives. Mr Chubby is happily munching his way to an early grave.
I made a film about eating horse meat last year – in France, animals are bred for the purpose. Animal rights protesters dumped a ton of manure outside Gordon Ramsay's restaurant at Claridge's because he cooked horse meat on his TV show. Very subtle. Nigella can expect similar treatment – and should probably reschedule her Christmas festivities to a high-security compound. It's far easier to target a glamorous high-profile writer and broadcaster than the Queen, whose guardsmen continue to wear bearskins for antiquated ceremonies staged to please tourists.
Bosses have posties on the run
As a life-long walker, I know that 4mph is a brisk pace, which doesn't allow for any dawdling, and is best achieved not carrying anything other than a rucksack.
However, the bean counters running the Post Office have bought a fancy piece of software from Canada to calculate how fast postal workers should be walking on their delivery rounds. The official rate is 2.1mph, but union officials claim that some postmen are now expected to clock up 4.1mph to complete deliveries in the time available.
Comparing the convoluted road and street patterns of Britain with a newish country like Canada – where cities and towns are laid out on grids – is potty. And what about the time that postmen have to spend hanging around waiting for someone to answer the doorbell and sign for a special delivery?
Now I'm sure God is a man
Humans are the only primates who stop producing offspring into old age – and scientists think they've found the reason. Researchers claim the menopause evolved thousands of years ago, when men were hunter-gatherers. Stone-age women moved from one group to another to mate, and older females realised life was better (more food was available) if they stopped breeding and looked after grandchildren.
I thought the menopause was created to remind women that whatever we achieve, we have to put up with more than men. It's what convinces me that if there is a God, that being is most definitely male. We still haven't come up with a way of avoiding periods. And don't write in to tell me they are a "joyous" chance to celebrate your womanhood. Rubbish. I had a menopause – according to my friends I was even grumpier than usual for a couple of years.Reuse content