In life, we all have our guilty pleasures. This week, I have been rather taken aback to realise that one of mine is The Lady magazine. I’m not a subscriber (honest) but my mum is and she is also a firm believer in getting as much use out of an item as possible – it’s that wartime generation thing.
So The Lady gets passed around various of her friends and family before each dog-eared copy makes its way to me. I started out flicking through it to please her but, slowly, I have found myself enjoying it more and more – OMG! There is something in the very mention of the name that inspires images of yesteryear when life was slower, kinder somehow. An age when a gentleman raised his hat to a lady rather than his fists. Indeed, the job advertisements in the back few pages can still transport you to another world. For example:-
Housekeeper required: Just the job title sounds like something out of Upstairs Downstairs. Who on earth seriously has a Housekeeper these days? Only the mega- rich or mega-posh I guess. There was an advert recently for domestic staff and the details went something like this “Domestic staff required for large country house, rarely visited but always kept in perfect condition.” I immediately had visions of some mansion, owned perhaps by foreign royalty, which sits in solitary splendour, peopled only by the ghostly figures of the minions paid to look after it but never actually lived in or brought to life....how soulless must that place feel, when Sheikh Yerbooty arrives for a flying visit from one of his other palaces dotted around the world? No thanks!
In fact, The Lady actually ran a “Win a Housekeeper” competition last October – the prize being some saint who would come and work for you for a week over the Christmas period. I wish I had seen it in time to enter but my copies are several weeks old by the time they reach me and, anyway, could a genteel housekeeper (they probably aren’t at all genteel, it’s just the name makes me think that) put up with the hurly burly of life with teenagers, a workaholic husband and the ASBO cats?
Can you imagine coming down to breakfast to find the table beautifully laid with a lace tablecloth (I don’t possess a lace tablecloth but work with me here) adorned with perfect plates of oh, say, scrambled egg and smoked salmon, a pot of Earl Grey and slender slices of perfectly browned toast?
Me: Oh wow! How delicious, Thankyouthankyouthankyou!
Teenager: Woss this? I wanna bowl of cornflakes.
All of a sudden the dream bursts like a bubble.
I have discovered also that, every week, the writer of a short article entitled The Lady and I wins a bottle of Gin! I laughed for about half an hour when I read that. How deliciously old school and politically incorrect - I didn’t even realise anyone drank Gin any more!
Another attraction is the regular column penned by Penny Smith of GMTV – or shortly not to be of GMTV as they have reportedly given her the heave-ho. Why? I love Penny Smith; she has a deliciously wicked sense of humour and, if you ever watch her on the TV, she always manages to give the impression that she is just about to say something utterly inappropriate but hysterically funny. Also her diary seems to consist largely of reports on how much food she has managed to snarf and alcohol she has drunk. A recent entry reads, “Dinner at Michelin-starred Chez Bruce in Wandsworth. So stuffed that can’t eat complimentary chocolates so just lay them gently on my thighs. They’ll end up there anyway.” See what I mean?
It also does a fine line in punning headlines – and why would I admire that in an article, I hear you cry?! For example, a piece on raising chickens is called “Chicken Chic” another on a certain American politician “Beyond the Palin” and an article on how to use up leftover Christmas food, “Remains of the Day.”
But possibly my favourite bit is the Diary page which is guest-written each week. In a recent issue, Tania Kindersley relates this little nugget, as told to her by her godfather.
Winston Churchill was sitting in his study when one of his great-grandsons burst in. “Great Grandfather,” said the boy, “Are you the greatest man in the world?”
Churchill looked up. “Yes,” he said. “Now bugger off.”
There is a documentary on the revival of The Lady at 9pm on Thursday 18th March, Channel 4 and I will be glued!