Family additions, fond farewells and the pleasures of tweeting

I am optimistic for Alice and Owen; their old age will be a damn sight better than that of most pensioners today


There are two exciting new additions to my family – Owen and Alice. My nephew Kerry and cousin David have become proud dads, emailing me gorgeous pictures of my new relatives. These babies have very different prospects to mine – last week George Osborne announced they will have to wait until they are 70 (at least, depending on life expectancy) in order to claim a state pension. Campaigners have protested, complaining the next generation will have to work "until they drop".

I disagree. The whole nature of work will change dramatically over the next 20 years. Look at how cars are built, and the use of robotics. In the 1980s I filmed a steelworks in the Midlands – hundreds of workers had already been replaced by computers. Leisure and tourism are huge industries earning us billions and they will grow – the Chinese newspaper that trashed the UK, claiming we were just somewhere to visit, was partly correct, but there's nothing wrong in exploiting your assets – and our history, culture, architecture and scenery are unique. We are already happy for EU immigrants to do a lot of the dreary back-breaking jobs in agriculture and building, and that won't change.

There will probably be fewer jobs anyway by the time Owen and Alice reach 25 – and statistically, the number of old people will have started to decline. Even so, in the future, the only way for everyone to work will be for the old to mentor the young and to share jobs. That way they pass on social skills as well as valuable expertise. Instead of moaning about older workers hogging jobs we need to buddy them up with the young, so that there is continuity and pride in essential skills is nurtured again.

Forget the current bunch of 16 to 24-year-old couch potatoes obsessed with their phones and screens, the next generation of young people – Owen and Alice – will be healthier and live longer. Surely they will benefit from medical breakthroughs in fighting cancer and dementia. And saving for your retirement will be compulsory – the Government has introduced auto enrolment, forcing employers to set up and contribute to pension schemes for staff earning more than £9,440 a year. I am optimistic for Alice and Owen; their old age will be a damn sight better than that of most pensioners today.

Nelson the charmer

I was lucky enough to meet Nelson Mandela in an informal gathering – in 2000, aged 81, he visited Dublin to receive an honorary doctorate from Trinity College and deliver the Irish Independent's annual lecture – Mandela was a good friend of this paper's then owner, Sir Anthony O'Reilly.

Tony held a lunch at his elegant Georgian home in the city to meet the great man before the lecture. As editor of this paper, I was the only woman present – something Mandela picked up on the moment he came into the room – and met a line-up of male executives and editors in sober suits. "Are you really the only woman?" he asked me with a huge smile as we shook hands. He had a subtle way of letting you know exactly what he thought of that discrepancy; his life was dominated by some very strong females. I'd like to think that if the same lunch were held today, he'd be pleased that women edit two of the four newspapers in this group.

Nigella dresses the part

Nigella Lawson's court appearances last week, when she was clad in black, were textbook examples of dressing for the occasion. Lawson is bound to have received detailed advice on presentation by her legal team, if my own experience is anything to go by.

When I sought a divorce on pretty flimsy grounds after being married less than a year (back in the 1970s) my counsel ordered me to wear a cloth coat, no fur, no leather or suede. Jewellery was banned, no bright lipstick, understated eye make-up, no short skirts or high heels. I had to look sad, but determined, just like Nigella. I stood only a 30 per cent chance of pulling it off, but after my court performance we were successful, and 30 minutes later I was in the Wig and Pen club opposite the court, swigging champers.

At your service

In the past few days, two extraordinary people who enriched my life have died. Martin Sharp, the idiosyncratic Australian artist and co-founder of Oz magazine, created some of the best images of the psychedelic era – posters for concerts, legalise-pot rallies and designs for album sleeves for artists like Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Cream and Donovan are highly prized today and his acid-inspired art has been hugely influential.

I don't think Martin ever met Alvaro Maccioni, the legendary restaurateur who has just died, but for a while in the late 1960s, he lived in the Pheasantry on the King's Road in Chelsea, right by Alvaro's famous restaurant and club, the Aretusa. For a few years, I would go there on alternate Saturdays for lunch with a gang of reprobates.

Alvaro was one of a small group of Italians who transformed dining out in London in the 1960s. He'd started out as manager at the fashionable La Terrazza in Soho and quickly established his own empire, going on to open La Famiglia in World's End, where he greeted everyone with a huge smile and a hug.

He understood that running a restaurant is about making customers feeling cosseted, something a lot of modern managers would do well to remember. These days, I eat only where the staff are smiley and pleasant; the food comes second. Alvaro had genius people skills.

Twitter is not just for twits

There are few times when I'll admit to making a misjudgement. One was writing and presenting a polemic for Channel 4 years ago, slagging off the internet, complaining it offered unlimited, unchecked information and half-truths, and would damage relationships and replace real friendships with cyber-pals. (I was right, but the internet has become a useful tool, not my enemy.)

The other wrong call was about Twitter – vowing never to succumb. Just before the Celebrity MasterChef final was broadcast, I signed up; I wanted to know what you thought of the show, and Twitter seemed the most immediate way of gauging reaction. In the three months since, I've been pleasantly surprised – few trolls (all male) and a lot of laughs. George Clooney says in this month's Esquire magazine "anyone who is famous is a moron if they're on Twitter". Actually, the most stupid thing about Twitter is that irritating box that constantly suggests people you might want to follow – in my case Gary Lineker, Alastair Campbell and Joey Essex . No, No, No.

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