Thursday, 04 October 2012
Barbara Taylor Bradford: A Lady of Substance
Joan Collins, the joy of toy boys – and the four-letter word that has got us all hot under the collar…People tend to smile indulgently when a man in his 50s starts dating a woman in her 20s or 30s. And his ‘arm candy’ as they call it in New York, is usually much admired, especially by other older men. But when a woman starts dating a younger man, the patronising and snide comments seem to start immediately and the relationship often makes headlines if she’s famous.
That’s not fair play, is it? As my mother used to say, ‘What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.’
I read the other day that Carol Vorderman is dating a man 14 years her junior – and, seemingly, everyone is talking about it. Why?
To begin with, it’s their business and nobody else’s. And anyway, why wouldn’t her dashing new friend, 37-year-old former Red Arrows pilot Graham Duff, want to take her out?
I met Carol numerous times when the late Richard Whiteley, an old friend of mine, invited me to appear on Countdown. I thought she was smart, goodlooking, charming and brilliant at her job. To me, her age is not important – it is just a number. It’s who and what she is that really counts.
If you glance into Betsy Prioleau’s book, Seductress, you will see how older women have always appealed to younger men over the centuries.
Diane de Poitiers became a favourite of the future Henri II of France when he was an anxious youth of 12. She seduced him when he was 17 and she was 37, and she dominated his life until the day he died. He not only loved this remarkable 16th-century Mrs Robinson, and lavished her with sex and money, he also gave her the crown jewels and the Châteaux Chenonceau. They were together for 28 years and she reigned supreme at the court when he became king. He was married to another, but according to Betsy’s book, Diane had ruined him for other women with her sexual experience, political know-how and statecraft.
Colette, the French writer, met Maurice Goudeket, a young bachelor, when she was 52 and he was 35. Apparently, she made him swoon. He married her and for the next 30 years, loved her unconditionally.
Then there was Mae West, a genuine femme fatale. When she was almost 70, she was hooked up with a man called Chester Ribonsky, a chorus boy from Vegas, who was all of 30 years her junior. He even changed his name to Paul Novak, just to please her, and stayed with her until her death. What’s more, he was apparently very happy to do so.
Then there’s my friend Joan Collins, a woman I genuinely admire. Joan has always worked hard, put food on the table for her children, and managed to look great doing it. And she still does. When she was 69 and about to marry Percy Gibson, a friend gaped at her and said, ‘But Joan, he’s more than 30 years younger than you!’
The inimitable Joan simply shrugged and said, ‘If he dies, he dies.’
P**b, the very worst wordLike so many others, I was appalled to hear of Conservative Chief Whip Andrew Mitchell’s foul-mouthed outburst to the police when they refused to let him ride his bike through the gates of Downing Street.
But there was one thing about what has become known as ‘Gate-gate’ that particularly fascinated me: that the worst word in the English language is no longer **** or **** (you can use your imagination to fill in the asterisks), but another four-letter word, ‘pleb’.
No one seems to mind too much that this minister subjected a police officer to a tirade of obscenities.
Instead, everyone seems to be getting most hot under the collar about whether or not he referred to him as a commoner.
Not only does this reveal that Britain has become depressingly familiar with bad language, it also shows all too starkly that the class system here is very much alive and well.
Daily tip from the lady archive
"It is not always she who appears most kindly in her interest who is the safe sharer of sacred (maybe sorrowful) secrets! Charming manners do not always connote sincerity of heart!”The Lady. In Confidence. 4th April, 1918
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