x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 24 January 2018

Times of trial for Amanda Holden - and others

Tragedy and tact, disgrace before millions, mother-of-the-bride blues come early, and the triumph of hope over experience.

Christina Aguilera performs the national anthem before the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas.
Christina Aguilera performs the national anthem before the Super Bowl in Arlington, Texas.

'Tweeting' condolences the height of bad taste

Why is it that a tragedy involving somebody in the public eye seems to touch so many people? I'm talking about the British actress Amanda Holden who has just lost a baby at seven months. I keep thinking about her and would love to send her some words of comfort, but I won't. Because I don't know her.

If I did know her personally I would probably have spent some time writing her a letter, thinking carefully about the words I used and trying not to say anything crass, such as "oh well, you can always have another one".

I'd probably choose some plain paper and write with a fountain pen. If I couldn't find the right words I would find a card that said them for me at the very least. That would be my way of showing respect for her and for the sad loss she has suffered. If she had been a close friend I would undoubtedly have sent her flowers or dropped around to her house with something practical like a shepherd's pie so that she wouldn't have to think of cooking, even if she could bring herself to eat.

Whatever I decided to do it would have been private, just as I think any kind of grief should be, something to be experienced away from prying eyes, surrounded and supported by close family and friends but away from life's ambulance chasers and publicity seekers.

What I could never do would be to express my condolences via a social networking site such as Facebook or Twitter. It truly shocked me to see so many B-list celebrities reaching for their iPhones to spew out their messages of support. Why would they do that on Twitter if not to make themselves look good in the eyes of the public?

Holden herself and her husband have disappeared from view and I can't imagine they will be even thinking of accessing their Twitter accounts at such a time.

Maybe it's a generational thing, something that began with the death of the Princess of Wales in 1987, when tens of thousands of people made the journey to London to place flowers at the gates of Buckingham Palace and the princess's home at Kensington Palace. Queen Elizabeth, meanwhile, did that very British thing of retreating behind closed doors to grieve privately and look after her two grandsons, for which she was publicly castigated, unfairly, to my mind.

Tweeting publicly about Holden's loss seems to me like jumping on the bandwagon of her grief. It's lazy and self-promoting, a way of drawing attention to yourself and saying, "Look at me, me me, I'm crying too."

Anyone who has miscarried or lost a full-term baby will know that you never get over that loss. Long after other people have forgotten it, a mother will remember the date her baby was due and the date she lost it.

Society, however, expects her to get over it quickly and not make too much of a fuss. But as one of Holden's friends said, she will never be the same person again. For her and her husband and family, the baby was already a real human being and worthy of more than a tasteless tidal wave of "tweets".

Empty nest

With two months to go before my younger daughter's wedding, I've already had two mother-of-the-bride moments: one at a wedding fair when a harpist played Danny Boy and another in Ikea for no other reason than I was thinking about wedding presents and my little girl setting up her own home. Goodness knows what I'm going to be like on the big day itself.

I used to laugh at women who got weepy at weddings. Now I'm beginning to understand. It's all about new beginnings and hope for the future and an acknowledgement that your baby is all grown-up.

Sometimes we cry because we know the fairy tales don't always come true. We worry that we haven't given them the right guidance over the years, that we won't always be there to put the plaster on the cut finger or pick them up and cuddle them when they fall and graze their knees.

Still, we wouldn't change it for anything. I know that on the day I will be the proudest mother of the bride in the world, even if my eyes are a little damp.

Time to reflect

I confess I've never been a big cricket fan, but I have been mesmerised by the human drama of the match-fixing scandal involving the three Pakistan stars. Looking at the face of the young Pakistan fast bowler Mohammed Amir this week, it was hard to be unmoved at the thought of a brilliant career thrown away at an age when it was really just beginning.

After weeks of misplaced jaunty confidence, he looked as if the penny had finally dropped and he was just beginning to understand the consequences of his actions. A five-year ban must seem like a lifetime to an 18-year-old, even though he could be back playing for his country by the still-young age of 23.

Perhaps he will be lucky and the ruling will be relaxed to allow him to come back before that, but whatever happens he needs to show true shame and a determination to make up for what he did.

Clearly he fell into bad company, but who can blame the kid from the wrong side of the tracks for choosing his captain as a mentor? The realisation that the shame of a nation of cricket-mad fans rested on his young shoulders must have been hard to bear.

He must knuckle down to something useful, such as using his brilliant skills to help young and underprivileged children learn about the sport. His millions of fans will want to see him again out there on the cricket pitch as soon as possible, so if he plays a straight bat from now on, he can do it.

Star bungled

The Star Spangled Banner is not an easy anthem to learn. Unless you've been singing it since you were knee-high, like most Americans, it's quite easy to get the words mixed up. And even they struggle - I certainly don't know many who know all four verses.

I love to watch US politicians launch themselves into "Oh say can you see by the dawn's early light". Not a few tend to tail off in the middle, around the bit about the "broad stripes streaming over the ramparts" - or is it "steaming?"

They pick up again in time for a rousing finish "o'er the land of the free and the home of the brave".

I'm not being disrespectful here, by the way. I certainly don't know the second verse of God Save the Queen, the British national anthem, and for years used to sing "centre victorious" (instead of "send her") and "long to rain over us", wondering why rain should be so patriotic.

Christina Aguilera, however, is as American as apple pie. She's a stalwart of the Mickey Mouse Club and can't be unused to the big occasion, having played to arenas of 40,000 people many times, so has no excuse for making a hash of it at the Super Bowl.

She will also have been paid quite a few hundreds of thousands of dollars for the gig and really ought to have got it right. I mean, that's her job.

Marketing magic

Could it be that scientists have finally discovered the secret of eternal youth? Well maybe that's a bit of a stretch, but they certainly seem to think they've found a magic formula that helps plump up wrinkles.

It doesn't take much convincing where I'm concerned. I'm a complete sucker for hyped-up stories about miracle creams and am still working through the stash of the so-called miracle-working Protect and Perfect Intense serum that flew off the shelves of Boots chemist when some scientist endorsed it two or three years ago.

This time it's a product from the French cosmetics outfit L'Oréal, which claims to have identified a way of rejuvenating our collagen-making cells. All we have to do is rub the new LiftActive Derm Source cream into our faces for eight weeks and, hey presto!, we're gorgeous.

The magic ingredient comes from an Amazonian vine and the cream will cost a modest £27 (Dh160) for a 50ml pot when it goes on sale in April, and I'll be there with all the other women of a certain age who still live in hope, despite years of experience.

While I don't believe anything the beauty industry tells me, you've only got to look at my bathroom shelves to know I'm the perfect target audience.

I like the expensive smells and the fancy packaging, while the very act of cleansing and diligently rubbing in the cream itself makes me feel I am at least trying. If I live to be 120, I expect I'll still be hobbling to the mirror to see if it's working.

Years ago, I spoke to a prominent dermatologist who told me that plain old Vaseline was just as good as the most expensive creams and the reality is that, short of resorting to the surgeon's knife, it's not possible to keep the visible signs of ageing at bay. The only good thing about getting older and developing wrinkles is that failing eyesight means you can't see them.