Asma Assad is very modest. "I am," she says, "absolutely clueless when it comes to fine jewellery!" But I don't think she should say things like that. I don't think she should do herself down. To me, it doesn't sound as though she's at all "clueless" when it comes to ordering jewellery. To me, it sounds as though she knows an awful lot.
She knows, for example, that it's a good idea, when you're ordering necklaces, from a special workshop in Paris, to have one that's "turquoise with yellow gold diamonds", and one that's "amethyst with white gold diamonds", and one with "full black onyx". She also knows about vases, and furniture, and shoes. She knows, for example, that if you order a vase that costs £2,650 from Harrods, you might be able to get 15 per cent off.
She knows how to get hold of shoes studded with crystals, with six-inch heels. She knows it's difficult to get hold of shoes like this, because the person who designed them doesn't make them "for the general public", and she's kind enough to pass the information on. And she knows where in Chelsea you can get a pair of handcrafted bedside tables, and where in Sussex you can get an oval table with a marble top.
You might think that someone who went to a CofE primary school in Acton, and who then went on to study computer science, and get a diploma in French literature, wouldn't know about things like this. But just because you once studied French literature, it doesn't mean you can't have other interests, too. You might think that Rabelais, and Voltaire, were actually quite boring, and that what was interesting was knowing where to get a chandelier for 35 grand.
I think Asma Assad's parents must be proud. It isn't every day that your daughter marries the son of the leader of the country of your birth, and then becomes First Lady herself. It isn't every day that your daughter is described by Vogue as "a rose in the desert". You might, it's true, be worried, if you came from Homs, which hasn't been having a very nice time, and your daughter was married to the person who'd been making sure it didn't, that she might be feeling a bit stressed.
But Asma Assad's father, who's a cardiologist in London, doesn't seem to be worried. What's happening in Syria, he has just told another newspaper, is just like the London riots. Asma Assad's father has, in fact, been in such a good mood that he's been sending his son-in-law text messages about the size of Obama's penis.
Asma Assad's father was right not to worry about his daughter being stressed. Although you can't necessarily know what's going on in someone's head unless you speak to them, you can tell quite a lot from their emails. And it seems pretty clear, from the 3,000 or so emails that seem to have been leaked from the private email accounts of Asma and Bashar Assad, that she isn't worried at all. You might think that someone who said that Israel's attacks on Gaza three years ago were "barbaric", and who called for an end to the violence "as a mother and as a human being", might be worried that her husband's forces were killing children in Homs. But what her emails show is that she isn't. What her emails show is that she's very good at concentrating on the things she thinks are important. Like, for example, shopping.
You might also think that if you heard that your husband's forces were blowing the legs off children the same age as yours, and pulling their tongues out with pliers, and hanging them from the ceiling, and electrocuting them with cattle prods, and cutting off their penises, and beating them with Kalashnikovs, you might feel a little bit upset. But Asma Assad doesn't seem to be. Asma Assad thinks it's better, in a situation like this, to forget about other children and just think about your own. So that when, for example, you know that the nephew of the Lebanese Prime Minister is coming to visit, what you do is ask him to bring Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2.
It's also important, in a situation like this, to remember that you married your husband, as you once told Paris Match, for his "values". And that you're living, as you told another interviewer a few years ago, in a "country of transition" where you're trying to "develop human capital". It's important to remember that your "dream", which your husband also shares, is "to make a difference". And that when your husband's feeling a bit fed up, you should tell him you love him, and that you both need to be "strong".
I think it would be very unfair to say that someone who had supported her husband in wiping out the "human capital" of about 10,000 people, and in ordering the torture of thousands of others, hadn't "made a difference" to the world. I think Asma Assad has shown us that you can be very pretty, and very thin, and have a really lovely smile, and still know about the kind of courage you have to "screw" to "the sticking place". I think she has reminded us that anyone can do anything if they really try.
The secret email accounts have, unfortunately, been stopped. So we can't find out if Asma Assad has ordered "all the perfumes of Arabia" on Amazon. But I don't think we need to worry. I think if she can't find them, she'll find a nice onyx, or diamond, to sweeten that little hand instead.
A fair swap for our furry friends
If you're the kind of person who thinks sentient beings with fur should only ever have lovely lives, there are plenty of causes to fight. You could occupy supermarkets that sell meat from factory farms. You could wave placards outside halal butchers and mosques. Or you could do what animal rights activists have done, which is put so much pressure on the ferry companies and airlines that carry rats and mice into the country for research, that they now say they won't.
It seems a bit strange that you'd make more of a fuss over animals suffering for a life-saving medical treatment than for a nice shepherd's pie. But each to their own. Just as long as the people who've done the protesting sign a form saying that if they get cancer, they wouldn't dream of taking the drugs.
The fundamental problem of growth
It's a tough choice, isn't it? A phone or a loo? Luckily, most of us don't have to choose. In India, they do. In India, according to its latest household census, there are 16 million homes that have a mobile phone, but no loo. That's not "no loo" as in having to queue up for a stinky shack like the one in Slumdog Millionaire. That's "no loo" as in having to shit on open ground. And the number of people who have to shit on open ground has actually gone up. And is now almost half the 1.2 billion population.
India is the world's second fastest growing economy. If this is the future, it's looking a little bit grim.