The Women in My Week.
Monday. Dr Samantha Callan, stayed overnight. She’s an anthropologist and a director of the Centre for Social Justice. She says that staying with me is “like going home to mum”. I try to give her breakfast in bed when she stays, but she starts work at 5am!
Samantha is a joy to work with and worked with me on Money Stuff. Samantha was the first person I contacted – I was interested in understanding body language. I would take her to meetings with ministers. Before we went in she would tell me what physical signs to look for, to see if they were interested. At the first meeting I almost collapsed with laughter as the minister did everything Samantha predicted!
Tuesday . Caitlin Moran generously gave me and a friend free tickets to her last gig at Union Chapel in Islington. Caitlin was her usual amazing self. She held the stage for two hours, and was very funny. It was such an impressive performance. I felt privileged to be there in the second row. Afterwards, the queue for her book signing went round the church and outside.
I had my monthly talk with my M.E. mentor, Alex Howard. He has had M.E. since he was 18. When you have M.E. you have to do what the virus wants you to do. It’s always unexpected and no one can predict where it will strike you or when. My life, at the moment, is on a danger line – after the Maths Anxiety Trust launch I had to deal with huge amounts of attention, plus talk to education people. There was no question of putting it off.
Treat of the week was lunch with Antonia Fraser who has recently been made a Companion of Honour by Her Majesty The Queen. I said that it was a pity that Harold wasn’t here to see this, and she replied that she didn’t think Harold would care but her mother would have.
Antonia was looking very pretty in mauve, an Edwardian colour that has fallen out of fashion, but is very flattering. We talked about what authors generally talk about: agents, tours, publishers. But also online publicity, which is just as important these days.
Antonia is is very disciplined – she had to be, with six children – and she can only work from order. She has a big, beautiful QUIET work room in which she writes but she does all her housekeeping work at a desk in a niche from her rose-patterned bedroom.
Worked with Caroline Shott, Chair of the Learning Skills Foundation. The Foundation is working to introduce teachers to scientists who are making discoveries in the brain. Neuroscientists can work with teachers to look at ways to make learning better geared to their needs. It sound boring but it explains why teenagers – previously normal human beings – can’t get up before 11am.
I’ve booked my yearly trip to The Abbey in Penzance, run by the first international model- and still turning heads – Jean Shrimpton. She has exquisite taste and the hotel is stunning, with views of Penzance Harbour on one side, and the blue walled gardens with its privet hedges on the other side.
Each bedroom suite is individually furnished with beautiful pictures and antiques: The Abbey is more luxurious and comfortable than many a stately home.
I can get to a romantic beach without the horrors of an airport that can exhaust me before I start a trip. Then there’s no jet lag. I simply get on train at Paddington Station, have a good read and get off at Penzance, where Jean whisks me off to a strawberries tea with clotted cream-and-scones in the quiet of an elegant drawing room .
The Abbey is available to rent – and it’s the perfect place for a family occasion.
I visited Sophie Conran’s charming new website. I see Sophie as a more-sophisticated Cath Kidston with good taste – I ordered some raspberry linen napkins, knowing that they would be the right shade of raspberry. My connection with Sophie is that she’s part of my extended family – the half-sister of my sons, Sebastian and Jasper, and the daughter of my first husband by his third wife.I hope that’s clear.