I am afraid Marla deserves to be a foot fetishist's solemate: anyone who can lose 65 pairs of shoes before realising something is amiss is just asking for trouble. And Marla is incredibly careless with her shoes, using them freely as missiles where most people would stop and think, 'no, I have to keep these for walking in': she once threw a pair at Donald Trump in the middle of the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, and yelled: 'I'll never marry you, I don't care how much money you make.'
There is a growing and unpleasant fascination with feet, for which I blame Fergie. Since the toe-sucking pictures flashed around the world, we don't seem to be able to get away from feet as a new erogenous zone. The central character in Edwina Currie's novel sprays her feet with perfume before going out on dates, and a colleague who has made a study of women's erotic fiction assures me the heroines are much given to wiping different flavoured honeys between their toes. Dr Paul Brown, a clinical psychologist, tells me, though, that these fictions misinterpret the real point of foot fetishism: it's the body smell that's important, hence the lack of cardigan fetishes. 'It's all to do with the inanimate object acquiring the whole sexual persona of the person to whom it belongs,' Dr Brown explains. Rich, tall and possessed of many pairs of Charles Jourdan Marla Maples may be, but she doesn't impress me now I know her sexual persona can be summed up by sniffing her insoles.
I AM growing quite fond of The Idler, a magazine which pretends to be for indolent people everywhere. The third issue, which is just out, praises Barnet Football Club for having scored only 15 points this season, and a computer programmer called Stan Mould for getting sacked for daydreaming. The fashion focus is on slippers. It was the kaftan last time, and why Homer Simpson is a hero.
Secretly, The Idler isn't for idle people at all, but for those who work all the time and never think about anything else, even though they know it wrecks their friendships and their chances of writing letters or deciding what colour to paint their flats. These are the people who will get excited by the tip in the latest issue from Charles Handy of the London Business School, to the effect that when asked what they do at parties, they should reply 'nothing'. They are the ones who will be titillated by the suggestion that we need to redefine wealth, not in terms of money, but of what makes us happy - relationships, plenty of greenery - and the unemployed, not as a burden, but as contributors to this better environment and nicer time for all.
The most vivid part is often the column in which people describe how they have given up well-paid, prestigious and vile occupations. The Idler's founder Tom Hodgkinson says it's doing particularly well in Italy, where they really understand the point of idleness, and where economics professors and Umberto Eco subscribe. The only drag he can see is that it's incredibly hard work.
JOHN PATTEN announced his pounds 14m truancy watch scheme in the week in which he also met pupils from St Paul's School, Balsall Heath, Birmingham. St Paul's accepts only persistent truants, difficult or expelled children, but came sixth out of Birmingham's 70 secondary schools in the recent GCSE league tables. Most truants, according to Dr Anita Halliday, head of St Paul's, aren't mooching around shopping centres; they're at home in their bedrooms, or skulking unseen in parks. And their (to them) perfectly sound reasons for not being at school can be overcome if they feel involved and see the point of lessons.
I could never see the point of cross-country running myself. It was cold and boring and gave me a stitch. But the last thing I'd have done was hang around shopping centres where officious grown-ups could spot me. Truanting was rational and considered - it was just nicer drinking coffee at my friend's house - and dumping me back at school wouldn't have changed my feelings about anything. St Paul's pupils do a great deal of art, drama, cookery and child development alongside their English, maths and science. They produce a newspaper, and help run a farm and a nursery. And they emerge, not hating authority as they once did, with exam results to show for their 11 years of education. You have to wonder whether dumping children back at school is enough.
THE Sun cruelly reprinted what it called 'a particularly cutting note' from Victoria, Countess Spencer, to her children's nanny. 'I strongly disapprove of the radio being on most of the day,' Diana's sister-in-law wrote stroppily. 'Visits to the tea shop for cakes should be OCCASIONAL.'
Whoever took the decision to print this cannot ever have employed a nanny. Anyone who has would have smiled sadly and moved on, recognising that disappointment which comes from assuming that any nanny you employ is going to be like Nanny Smith on television, but with the energy of an 18-year-old. What you actually get is someone who has her Take That] tapes on constantly, whose idea of home cooking is to add water to pot noodles, and who says things (in front of the children) like: 'Christ, I could never employ a nanny myself]' I have written the odd 'I would prefer fresh food' note myself in my time. It is one of the ways we women who abandon our children to others try to assuage our guilt. It doesn't address the fundamental problem of our own absence, but it offers a temporary illusion of control. It is pretty pathetic, really.