Jackie could teach Di a bit about dress sense

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The Independent Online
CLUMPING around in the snow this week, car temporarily disabled, was enough to convince me that anyone voluntarily venturing out on the Cairngorms in February for fun must be crackers. Yet it is hard to suppress feelings of warm admiration for Jacqueline Greaves, especially now that she is donating the newspaper fees for telling her story to the rescue services.

A homely school secretary, she has demonstrated far better than Jane Fonda or the dotty Germaine Greer how dynamic and energetic middle-aged menopausal women can be - though note how the press gloated on the fact she is 53 and a grandmother.

But what really won me over was the fact that she ventured out on her snow expedition properly dressed, to the tune of pounds 500, with three thermal vests, proper knee-length boots and thickly padded jacket. She is a refreshing example of middle-aged good sense, of dressing correctly for the outing at hand.

We make a national sport of moaning about how weather men, British Rail, gritting services and motorway police are totally unprepared for cold snaps. But we should examine our own behaviour first. I never cease to be amazed at how badly Britons dress for the cold. Perhaps we have been disarmed by a series of relatively mild winters and the fickle way in which our climate changes.

It is one thing to check each morning that my children have put on their thick vests (which they hate) and have their gloves. But this week I've walked behind countless adult figures in flimsy skirts, heeled shoes, light jackets, all without gloves. It is as if we expect central heating to follow us out on to the streets.

For once I feel sorry for John Major. True, he was wearing a strangely cheap- looking winter coat during his trip to Moscow. But at least he had a proper fur hat, despite the predictable protests of the anti-fur lobby.

But with role models such as Princess Diana, what can you expect? She epitomised unseasonable bad dress sense this week by wearing a summery short-skirted fuchsia suit, high heels, no coat, hat or gloves, to Great Ormond Street children's hospital. This on a day when Siberian winds were lashing the streets. No wonder she had to tell one devoted fan: 'I'm freezing to death.'

What a wimp. If John Major really did back down meekly and promise Baroness Thatcher that Norma would never wear her favourite Downing Street diamond necklace again, as reported by Tatler, then I'm seriously worried for him.

Mr Major should have told his predecessor that he would pass on her views to his wife, then let Norma decide how to dress up on state occasions. And if I'd been Norma, I'd have gone ahead and kept on wearing the jewels.

Even if the pounds 100,000 necklace was given to No 10 during Mrs Thatcher's long tenure, and was her favourite adornment, what is the point of keeping lovely things in the sterile darkness of a safe? There may be a very long wait before another woman achieves the premiership and can claim them in her own right.

Prime ministers cannot take such treasures with them when they fall, any more than Chequers remains their country house. Nor can costly gifts simply be sold off at Sotheby's, like inconvenient bits of unproductive property.

Mr Major really should have the bottle to keep Lady Thatcher in her place: after all, despite his press mauling, uncertain body language and irritating manner, he is the Prime Minister, top dog in the political firmament, at least for the moment. She should stop wasting his time.

The broader point is that we should be increasingly worried about the undignified way ex- politicians behave. Memoirs and occasional outbursts in the House of Lords are one thing. But is Lord Healey, a former Chancellor and Foreign Secretary, so strapped for cash after a highly successful career that he has to appear on television commercials?

First we had him cooking scrambled eggs with smoked salmon and champagne for Sainsbury's (champagne socialist, get the joke?) Now he's promoting credit cards and Thresher's wine merchants in a deliberate spoof of Norman Lamont's payment problems. Even as we giggle, isn't it right to ask whether he is demeaning the profession of politics far more seriously than Hartley Booth with his no-sex affair?

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