Laughing at the bizarre antics of Sarah Ferguson is easy. It's the modern equivalent of bear-baiting or cockfighting... a guilty pleasure that's too seductive to pass up. This woman can't hold on to a tenner, let alone 10,000, and will readily go to the opening of a door providing someone else is paying (and someone sending her a designer frock to wear) but, for a woman who left secretarial college at 18, she certainly delivers memorable quotes. My favourites include: "I'm a complete aristocrat ... I love it", "The Queen is my friend", and (to Saga magazine earlier this year) "Andrew is the most wonderful man in the world". When she tried and failed to sort out antisocial behaviour on a council estate in Manchester, she told a reporter: "Maybe I ought to let Britain settle down a bit... it's so difficult to be supportive and help." Finally, the real icing on the cake: "I haven't got a pot to piss in."
Dissecting Sarah's increasingly desperate behaviour is not really the job of a public hungry for royal scandal. Now she plans to "confess" and "apologise" to Oprah on US television. The more I hear, the more I'm convinced she's suffering from some kind of bipolar disorder. There are so many parallels between the frenetic ups and downs of this Duchess in Distress and Iceland's former superstar Kerry Katona. The mood swings, the folie de grandeur, the relentless shopping, the seesaw weight, the never-ending need for approval. The unshakeable belief that they represent some kind of role model sent down to earth by a higher being to help the less fortunate.
Sure, Sarah has raised millions for charity. But as I've said before, 21st-century charity is all about networking – and meeting the right people is her lifeblood. I am sure that her charity has helped thousands of children, but ordinary middle-class mums bake cakes, organise jumble sales, collect clothes and send off old computers to charities that are just as worthwhile. Sarah can wear her charity work like a badge of honour, but the truth is, it just fills a big social hole in her life.
More bothering than the tabloid sting, and her hapless attempt to extract cash for introducing people to her ex-husband, was the revelation she is being supported by her daughters with money from their trust funds. Has this woman no pride? What sense of values does that instil in a couple of indulged young women who want for nothing and who are protected at public expense night and day? We are told that Sarah put aside half of her £15,000-a-year divorce settlement (which, a bit late in the day, she wants to renegotiate) to help her mother, who died in 1998, and maintain her ranch in Argentina. Let's be brutal and point out that plenty of hard-working Brits support their ageing relatives.
It's a fact of modern life. Sarah managed to snare a title and won't let it go – is she that different from the much derided Paul Burrell, who used his close relationship with Princess Diana to flog china and homeware in the US? There's little to choose between this pair of opportunists when it comes to cashing in on connections.
I've met Sarah a few times and she's really sweet. Naive and a hopeless judge of character. She drinks, she smokes and frets about her weight. She wants friends but is exasperating. I find it incredible that anyone so needy and immature can earn a living making motivational speeches about "empowerment" and "realising your potential". Risible. The truth is, the Yanks were just paying to ogle at a minor member of the British aristocracy. And although she might claim to have written 26 books, they do include Dining with the Duchess and Reinventing Yourself with the Duchess of York. No one needs a spot of reinvention or rebranding more than dear Sarah herself.
Instead of getting a dressing down from her long-suffering ex, and more cold-shoulder treatment from the Royals, what she could do with is a long period of time away from the public gaze, being counselled in how to grow up and cope with the real world. The Queen should cough up for this poor woman to be put out of her misery. We've enjoyed the floor show, and now it's time that Sarah was given a home (and taught how to live alone), a more generous stipend, and helped to do some useful work in the community. Otherwise, I fear that her health will suffer for good.
Umpire! Venus flouts all the fashion rules with her lacy number
Is it uncharitable to observe that Venus Williams might be one hell of a tennis player, but she lacks much talent as a dress designer? Last week, she astounded spectators at the French Open by wearing a black and red, lace-trimmed dress that would have seemed vulgar in the nightwear section of a discount store.
Her biggest fashion crime was to team this schlock-frock with a pair of flesh-coloured pants, which made it look as if she was naked. Not very subtle. She commented: "The dress has nothing to do with my rear – it just happens I have a very well-developed one."
Last January, Venus sported an equally repulsive canary yellow mini frock with deep slits at the Australian Open – again with those nasty pants. She's keen to promote her sportswear range, EleVen, and clearly thinks her style is distinctive, not to mention commercial. But, stripped of its star branding, would women be interested?
Last week the successor to Alexander McQueen was announced. Sarah Burton, the loyal assistant who carefully turned his often challenging designs into wearable reality, is to take over at the fashion house that bears his name. Venus might have studied design between tournaments, but, unlike McQueen, her taste is vulgar and demeaning.
How I love a rerun of 'Local Hero'
One of my favourite films is Local Hero, which recounts the struggle to prevent an American oil tycoon from buying up a beautiful stretch of Scottish coastline. Sounds familiar? The same David and Goliath battle is being fought outside Aberdeen, where Donald Trump wants to turn pristine sand dunes and farmland into a golf course, resort hotel and holiday apartments.
His plans have been stymied by a single fisherman who lives right in the middle of the grandiose scheme and is refusing to sell. Trump wants a compulsory purchase order, but he might have a big fight on his hands. David Puttnam, one of the original producers of Local Hero, has thrown his weight behind the protest group Tripping Up Trump, which has bought an acre of land alongside the lone farmer. I hope there's a happy ending and Trump abandons his plan to desecrate the landscape.
And they call this a care home...
The day after 84-year-old Alan Simper was admitted to an establishment run by Southern Cross, Britain's largest care home provider, horrified relatives found him wearing a nappy and covered in bruises and blood. He had three bedsores, which rapidly increased to 18, covered with dirty dressings. He died shortly after being admitted to hospital.
Southern Cross says it has carried out a full investigation and "significant steps had been taken to improve the quality of care". One hardly needs to add that the point of a care home is to offer care. It's far too easy to say conditions will improve, after a poor old man has died unnecessarily.
That is of no consolation whatsoever to Mr Simper's family. Care homes ought to be far more rigorously policed.