Author Archives: Editor

The Last Taboo

The Last Taboo


It is the last taboo.

Talking about it is not something a nice girl does in mixed company, it is indelicate, unfeminine.

Many women have been raised to think that men are “naturally good” at money matters and women are “naturally bad”. It’s not said directly, little girls pick up this idea by osmosis.

Outside the home, for a man to say he wants more money or ask for a raise is acceptable; it goes with the hairy chest and the company car. But many women feel uncomfortable about asking for money and they don’t want to think about why. Because they’ve been raised to believe…what? That discussing money will grow hairs on their chest? Or that, being a woman, they don’t deserve more money?

I’ve spent the last fourteen years researching women’s attitudes to money and maths. I asked many women if they would like to be richer.

To my surprise, they all said, “No.” Just like that.

I asked, “You really mean that you wouldn’t like more money?”

They said, “Well, just a little bit more.”

That’s the trouble. Women think small scale about money, in terms of housekeeping or being able to order a new kitchen, rather than being able to give a tablet computer to a quarter of a million people, as British entrepreneur, Felix Dennis, did.

Women need to think bigger, and women need to learn more about money – because they don’t get enough of it.

Why do women need more money?
Because a woman might – sometimes unexpectedly – find she is the main earner in her family. Marriage isn’t always forever, accidents can happen, jobs disappear.

Because the average woman earns up to 20% less than a man who is doing the same job, so no wonder some men still regard women as inferior to themselves.

Because children are the most expensive modern luxury; it costs more to run a child than it does to run a Bentley. To raise an average child costs over £227,000 – and that doesn’t include the cost of your time.

Zillionaires will tell you there’s only one thing more valuable that money and that is your time – although money can buy you quite a lot of that, given a home help, a nanny, a private jet.

There’s another reason that women need more money. Money brings independence, respect…and power.

Exactly what is power?
Many women don’t’ understand what “power” means, or why they should want it. But in the nursery, power is called, “getting your own way”.

In nature, power means physical strength. Rightly or wrongly, money has replaced physical strength as our modern measure of power; it defines our position in the pecking order, which rules our lives as inexorably as physical power does in the animal world of lions, stags or fighting cocks.

In history, think of Sixteenth Century portraits of the bejewelled Queen Elizabeth I of England in her gem-laden gowns. What is the PR pitch of those portraits? Wealth, status, power.

So what’s not to like about having power?

Purse power
The power of the purse means being able to get things done without using your own hands. Sweep that floor, dig that pond, catch that plane and privately educate your children to top status level or pay for a private tutor.

The power of the purse can mean privacy, having a room of your own in which to discover yourself, plus time enough to do it.

Money creates the power to do things: to train your ability to act, to sing, to dance, to hit, throw or kick a ball – and to entrance people with your performance.

You need money to study seriously, to develop ideas, to make discoveries that will improve your town, your country, your planet.

You need money to build a workshop, a church hall, a museum or a university.

Investment money produces inventions that will improve people’s lives, as did the steam engine, the hearing-aid and the bra.

The really powerful women I know – the big earners – don’t waste their lives lying in bed all morning or watching afternoon TV until it changes to evening TV, or drinking themselves stupid (well, not often). They get things done. They improve their business, their community and other people’s lives. They are big spenders. They know how to get power and how to use it.

This is why, as a sex, other women need to raise the bar, throw away the constricting whalebone corset that is our out-dated attitude to money, lift our focus above the housekeeping purse, stop being frightened of the big noughts, dump lack-of-confidence,  get more ambitious about money, and learn more about how to make more. Because, life is too short to be short of money.

Want a little bit, or a lot more money? Take a look at MONEY STUFF.

Posted in Maths: Women: Money | Leave a comment


Want to be a millionaire?


Posted in Quiz | Leave a comment

In Short

Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx or Cara? What’s the link between Charlie Chaplin, Groucho Marx and supermodel Cara Delevigne? Big eyebrows are today’s equivalent of 80′s power shoulder pads: they say “Don’t mess with me.”

Posted in In Short | Leave a comment

Do You Agree

Lost your identity? Still, there are men looking under sofas for their lost identity. But the only thing that’s happened is that women no longer feel inferior. However, women are too reluctant to step forward, too timid, too self-deprecating and in this, a woman can be her own worst enemy. So remember, if you have no regrets, you haven’t taken any risks.


Posted in Do You Agree | Leave a comment

Who do you trust?

Who do you trust?

Singer Lulu at Good Housekeeping Gala

Singer Lulu at Good Housekeeping Gala

I asked around, “Who do you distrust?” Answers were hurled at me, “Politicians, bankers, estate agents, hairdressers, the police.” The usual suspects.

I asked, “Who do you trust?” There was a thoughtful silence. Eventually, people said, “The Queen”… “John Lewis”… “Bus drivers”… “Doctors”… “Nurses.”

Top of my own trustable list is The Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. It’s as reliable and as British as tea time, Tower Bridge and double-decker red buses. So no wonder celebrities from stage, screen and the House of Lords swarmed to the champagne gala opening of the new Good Housekeeping Institute: Emilia Fox, Kirstie Allsopp, Jane Asher, Kathy Lette, Arlene Phillips, Baroness Margaret Jay, Baroness Floella Benjamin.

Fellow guest, Caroline Shott, Head of the Learning Skills Foundation, is used to spending her time with professors who study the brain, and teachers who want to know how that affects their pupils. Afterwards, Caroline gasped, “That was like being shot into the middle of THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA. Everyone so beautiful and exquisitely dressed, so many blondes in black.”

However, what impressed us most was seeing the test rooms: rows and rows of gleaming dishwashers, ovens and washing machines, attended by white-coated, glamorous testers – just as you imagine.

Find out more about the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval.

Posted in Shirley's World | Leave a comment

Soldier Boy

Soldier Boy

Warsaw Boy book coverCan you imagine a schoolboy dreaming at night that he’s in the middle of a battlefield? Of course you can. Now, can you imagine a schoolboy waking up in a real battlefield, with a real enemy really trying to kill him?

This was the nightmare of my Polish brother-in-law, Andrew, an eleven-year-old schoolboy in short pants when the Germans invaded Poland in 1939, and so started World War II. As the Nazis conquered much of Europe – slaughtering Jews and abducting able-bodied men to work on German farms – underground resistance groups in occupied countries waited to support an invasion by the Allies.

When he was fourteen, Andrew ran away from home to join the poorly-equipped Polish underground army. Fighting the well-equipped Germans were poorly-equipped locals, often old men and boys like Andrew. Within a short time Andrew had supplied himself with a rifle, ammunition, boots and a uniform, by snatching them from dead bodies.

Andrew was taught how to strip and reassemble a sub-machine gun, how to make and throw homemade grenades. By the time he was fifteen, Andrew had lobbed a homemade grenade from the high window of an apartment block onto German troops below and had used his sub-machine gun on enemy soldiers.

It is strange to think that my gentle, charming brother-in-law was – as a child – a killer as well as a victim; and that he stoically accepted the fact he might be killed before bedtime.

In June 1944 the Allies invaded France and, shortly afterwards, the Warsaw Uprising took place. As the city was blown up noisily by bombs and shells, Andrew writes, “Sometimes I helped remove civilian bodies from bombed buildings. This was essential work. We had to find the bodies before the rats did.”

For two months, Andrew – still only fifteen – fought in the streets and in the disgusting Warsaw sewers, as the city was torn apart, until he was wounded in the leg and so taken prisoner by the Germans.

Andrew’s story of defiance, bravery and survival has an understandable strain of melancholy and sorrow. But look on the bright side. Firstly, Andrew managed to escape, and eventually reached the USA where he became an influential journalist. Secondly, Andrew’s new book Warsaw Boy – much of it scribbled during the war – is a real-life Boy’s Adventure Story for all the supportive men I love who will always be fifteen on the inside. Eat your heart out, Indiana Jones.

Warsaw Boy by Andrew Borowiec costs £16.99 and is published by Penguin.

Order Warsaw Boy from Penguin or Amazon.

Posted in Shirley's World | Leave a comment

LACE by Shirley Conran

Lace by Shirley Conran


LACE.The feminist classic that defined an era

Already a legend, young, mega-watt film star, beautiful, passionate, notoriously temperamental. Four successful, sophisticated women friends in their forties have been called to the Pierre Hotel in New York to meet her.

Each of the four women has reason to hate Lili. And each of them is astonished to see the others; for they are old friends who first met in school, old friends who chare a guilty secret – old friends whose lives are changed when Lili suddenly confronts them and asks: “Which one of you bitches is my mother?”

The answer to this question – a question that has obsessed and almost destroyed Lili – is at the heart of Lace.

Lace goes to the very core of a woman’s sensibilities, ambitions, sexual needs, and desire for success in a changing world. Shirley Conran has captured the intimate secrets, the guilts, and the passions of every women who has experienced the childhood dreams of great romance – and the realities of adult life. The true subject of this spellbinding novel is femininity itself.

Lace taught men about women and women about themselves.’
The Observer

Lace gave me prolonged pleasure.’
Helen Fielding

‘As sexy and smart now as the first day it came out’
Lauren Laverne

‘There was life before Lace and life after Lace, and nothing was ever the same again. I envy anyone who hasn’t read it.’
India Knight

‘Sex, glamour and bitchery to an epic degree. Lace is the classic that secured Shirley Conran’s place in the same high-octane sorority as Jackie Collins, Judith Krantz and Jacqueline Susann, and it still thrills. It changed my life.’
J.J Salem, author of Tan Times

Lace features women you would be proud to call friends. Pick up this book and be proud to be sucked into the lives of four female characters who use their own intelligence and confidence to get ahead by themselves. I’ve loved Lace since I was a teenager and it’s still as gripping as it ever was’
Harriet Evans

‘A gorgeous, glorious, ground-breaking saga of sex, scandal and family secrets. Here is the return of an awesome blockbuster classic, fearless and fabulous. Lace is the definitive drama of passion, friendship, intrigue and betrayal. I adore it’
Victoria Fox

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

CRIMSON by Shirley Conran

CRIMSON cover scan


CRIMSON is the story of four women who fall victim to their romantic beliefs.

Three sisters, orphaned in a World War II bombing raid, are raised by their grandmother, internationally-successful, romantic novelist, Elinor O’Dare.

Elinor does not realise that she has translated her own life into a fictional fantasy, because that is the only way she can live with her harrowing secret.

Clare is an obedient but stubborn child; Annabel is the family beauty, Miranda is a tomboy, independent and feisty. The sisters become accustomed to a life of ease and privilege as Elinor prepares them to be the gracious wives of powerful men.

The story opens as Elinor lies on her deathbed at her fabulous French château. At last,  she must decide which – if any – of her three granddaughters will inherit her fortune: Annabel, now a New York supermodel; Miranda, the self-made cosmetics tycoon; or Clare, the film producer’s wife with a social conscience? Elinor’s advisor is Adam, a handsome and fascinating lawyer who has known the three sisters since they were born.

When Elinor makes the fateful decision about her will, hidden secrets emerge, relationships clash, sexual battles start, and success demands a terrible price.

Because Elinor does not die.


Crimson was one of my favourite books to write because I wrote it in my own French chateau high in the hills behind Cannes, France. Sadly, I have known more than one woman live in an imaginary dream world, rather than face the reality of her own life. Shirley Conran

Posted in Books | Leave a comment

First Time Publisher

First Time Publisher

Burgess, Anthony, 25.2.1917 - 25.11.1993, English author / writer, portrait, Lugano, 1989, British, 1980s, 80s,Anthony Burgess

Writer Muriel Spark once told an interviewer that before she started to write, she had a life. She travelled, she entertained, she went to the theatre and she met interesting people. Now, she said, I just write in a room, so there’s nothing to talk about

When my first novel became a hit, writer Anthony Burgess told me not to allow myself to get distracted. “Don’t go to parties, get away from people,” he advised. “Get your head down and write”.

Anthony’s second bit of advice was, “Don’t be tempted to become a publisher, it takes up too much time and money.”

Last year I became a publisher, to self-publish my interactive ebook Money Stuff. The drawback to being a publisher is that you need to be several people, all at the same time: the business person, the financial director – money disappears at an astonishing rate – the editor the line editor, the proof reader, the art director (I liked that), the marketing department, the publicity department and the secretarial staff.

I’ve skipped schizophrenia in favour of multi-personality disorder. As Anthony warned, since I became a publisher I’ve had no time to write.

Posted in Shirley's World | Leave a comment

My Long Hot Summer

My Long Hot Summer


Road trip

“What happens on a book tour?” is a question an author often hears

A book tour is very hard work – especially if your are going round the world with only two suitcases and need to look your best – all the time. You get up around 5am for breakfast TV appearances, then rush on to radio, lunch in some grand restaurant with a top journalist who may well be critical, then on to the afternoon TV shows and the early evening ones. In there are no late shows, then around 7pm, you start the next leg of your journey.

Before a tour, you prepare your tour wardrobe, get your hair done and have a meeting in your publisher’s conference room where everyone agrees the six most obvious questions that you will be asked. These questions are NEVER asked, but the same three questions a day come at you all day and the smart thing to do is to give different answers each time, if only to keep yourself awake.

However, you do meet fascinating people, such as interviewer, Oprah Winfrey.

In 2012 I had a breathless summer, organized by Jaz, my publicist at Canongate, which republished LACE, a novel about sex from a girl’s point of view, that I wrote 30 years ago. Jaz was considerate of my great age (80) and thoughtfully provided cars everywhere. As well as being interviewed by the media, I did three, one-hour stand-ups, in question-and-answer form with the audience and to my surprise I enjoyed them immensely.

The first of the on-stage standups was hosted by Lauren Laverne, someone I admired as a radio host and TV anchor. Lauren is as funny as she is beautiful and thoughtful. She very kindly lent me her makeup lady, so I wore false eyelashes for the first time since the ‘Sixties’. Then we also wore false hair, white makeup, pale pink lipstick, flat boots and shoes instead of heels, waistless dresses by Mary Quant or Biba and tights – newly invented – which meant we could fling away a horrible elastic garment called a girdle, which held your stockings up and your stomach in; you bulged over the top and bottom of this updated chastity belt, so your thighs looked the size of Wales.

Lauren Laverne introduced me by email to Caitlin Moran, who wrote non-fiction, book of the year: “How to Be A Woman.”

At my next stand-up, I met the very funny Clare Balding who kept a big live audience roaring with laughter for over an hour at the Shoreditch House Literary Salon, hosted by the witty and urbane Damian Barr.

The third stand-up was Girls Night Out at The Wimbledon Bookfest, with an old friend, Penny Vincenzi, who also talked about her enjoyable blockbuster.

“Old Sins” was re-published by Arrow. Penny spent quite a bit of her year to date doing research in Paris and the South of France, then she went to New York for more research. Well, someone has to do it.

Penny never knows what’s going to happen when she’s writing a book. In my novels I need to know EVERYTHING, even what everybody’s wearing. I spend happy hours constructing time/action charts that look like a railway timetable, so that I know everything that’s going to happen, and when. How very different from my own life.

Posted in Shirley's World | Leave a comment