Category Archives: Shirley’s World

What Will They Inherit?

What Will They Inherit?

Our children - how will the budget  deficit affect them?

No, it’s not Boujis, it’s Woodland Hills High School Prom no. 1, 2012. Photographer: Mark Neville.

A colossal debt is what our grandchildren stand to inherit. Let’s be clear about this, because politicians are not always clear, perhaps because they don’t understand it, although that’s unlikely.

  • The National Debt is the total amount of money that Britain has borrowed and not yet repaid.
  • The Budget Deficit is our yearly overspend, when there isn’t enough tax income to pay for Britain’s expenditure.We borrow the necessary amount of money, and it is added to the National Debt, which has been increased yearly, both by the Labour and Conservative/Liberal governments.
  • There’s a Budget Deficit because every year, there’s not enough money to pay handouts to all the people that want them – and they include all of us, from pram-pushers to pensioners. Because we all want our piece of the pie, the Chancellor borrows money to pay for it all.
  • Interest must be paid promptly on the National Debt, because otherwise nobody would continue to lend money to Britain.
  • The total National Debt is now over £1,430 Billion pounds: that is, over a million pounds, multiplied by a thousand, with that amount multiplied again by another thousand … I hope that’s absolutely clear.

In the last tax year Britain’s National Debt increased by £43 Billion. Britain is spending more on National Debt interest than on Defence and almost the same as on Education. And we are not repaying that borrowed money.

This week, the Treasury sends a letter to every one of Britain’s 24 million taxpayers; it contains a gaily-coloured pie chart, so we can see how our tax is spent. I cannot see that any money is being paid to reduce the National Debt.

Tax pie chart

HMRC tax summary

What can be done about it? Ask your would-be candidates before next year’s General Election.

Why not reduce the National Debt by 3% a year? Then, after 33 years it will have been repaid, so our grandchildren will not inherit this terrible burden. Less than 3% a year will not repay that debt fast enough.

Where can the spending cuts be made? Perhaps on Overseas Aid and Defence – who’s going to invade us? And perhaps Business and Industry might stand on their own feet, unsupported by my tax and your tax?

If we steadily paid off the National Debt in that way, it would reduce the relevant amount of interest payable, and so, gradually, that big slice of the pie would also get smaller and smaller.

But politicians publicly ignore this debt. They know that, to get our votes, they had better pay us our piece of the pie.

But not paying off our National Debt is as morally dishonest as not paying our personal debt. It is even more immoral when we know – conveniently pushed to the back of our mind – that we are leaving this huge burden to our children and – if we don’t do something about it – also to our chubby-cheeked grandchildren.

Clearly, this is morally wrong. So perhaps that 3% repayment should be included in next year’s budget plans and the gaily-coloured pie chart.

Main photo: Pulitzer Prize nominee photographer Mark Neville, famous for his socially focused projects, is about to hold two exhibitions in London. Admission free.

London/Pittsburgh is at the Alan Cristea Gallery from 21st November 2014 – 24th January 2015. Details at www.alancristea.com. Art as Social Document is at the London School of Economics, 2nd – 19th December 2014. Details on the LSE website.

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Breaking Big

Breaking Big

Author Tara Mohr

Author Tara Mohr

It’s an irritating fashion. Internationally famous businesswomen are writing advice books, firstly to publicise themselves as not being a one-trick pony, secondly so that ordinary women can … just get off their arses and DO IT TOO. I’ve been yawning through these books for months when … suddenly … here comes the glass-ceiling smasher.

I had only read halfway through Playing Big when I realised it was one of the most important books in my life. If I see a good point in a book, I underline it in red. The first part of Playing Big looked as if I’d haemorrhaged over it.

I read the second half slowly, one chapter a week, so that I could absorb and practise what this life coach teaches so well. (Don’t think Tara Mohr looks too young to know the Secret of Life.) Some of her book had taken me years to discover, some of the practical stuff I thought I’d invented myself. Much of Playing Big, I quickly realised I needed to know. The New Age bit I took on trust … and it worked: I now have an Inner Mentor.

So, have you ever felt not-good-enough? Of course you have. Ever suffered from fear, self-doubt or lack of confidence? Join the club…

Secretly, every woman aspires to something. If you want to do anything other than housework and homework, this is your guide. If you want to achieve anything, or simply be less stressed, this book will help you do it. In it you will find your voice, your ability, your self-confidence and perhaps even your mission in life. Buy it. Pass it on.

Playing Big by Tara Mohr , is published by Hutchinson, hardback price £16.99.

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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.

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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 men on my Christmas list 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 on 3 July 2014.

Order Warsaw Boy from Penguin or Amazon.

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First Time Publisher

First Time Publisher

Shirley Conran

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.

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My Long Hot Summer

My Long Hot Summer

PUBLISHED 2012

Road trip

In 2012 I had a breathless summer…Different from my own life

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, when 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”, being re-published by Arrow. Penny spent quite a bit of her year to date doing research in Paris and the South of France, while she’s off to New York next month 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.

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