Showing posts with label Grazia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grazia. Show all posts

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Yvette Cooper, family life and dressing up for school

There’s a great interview in this week’s Grazia with Yvette Cooper, who as well as being the shadow home secretary is married to shadow chancellor Ed Balls and has three children between the ages of eight and thirteen.

The best thing of all about the piece (written by Gaby Hinsliff) is that it gives a vivid glimpse of life in a hectic household, where two high-flying politicians are juggling about a million things at once. On the morning of the interview the roof was leaking, a builder had arrived to fix it, they were busy getting the children off to school and Cooper was trying to agree a quote about the police reforms.

And, I must say I couldn’t quite get my head round this bit, in the midst of the chaos Balls was trying to do his piano practice. Piano Practice? At eight-thirty in the morning?

Cooper admits that domestic life “may be a bit of a muddle” sometimes but they muddle through it together. She says that while Balls does “more tidying up and cleaning than I do” she tends to panic about things like “how come they need a Spanish costume for school tomorrow?”

Now that, I reckon that will strike a chord with parents everywhere. I’m a mega-admirer of teachers but the one thing I couldn’t cope with when my children were at primary school was the vogue for themed days. Over the years my two had to dress up as Victorian children, characters from their favourite books, characters from Roald Dahl stories, French children, animals, birds - you name it.

Quite apart from the fact that I’m the worst seamstress going, my son usually only mentioned it the night before. So I'd stay up till midnight  trying to cobble together an owl costume out of an old blanket.

And worst of all, schools assume that children love dressing up. Well, my son HATED it. On World Book Day the only outfit he deigned to wear was an aviator’s boiler suit and goggles. In the end we had to pretend that Biggles was his favourite book and he went as a pilot. Even though he’d never read any of the Biggles stories – and still hasn't.

And the following year he refused point-blank to dress up at all.  

Tuesday, 29 January 2013

My favourite glossy magazine

Glossy magazines have always been a big part of my life. My mum started her career as a feature writer for Woman’s Mirror, a weekly magazine in the Sixties, and I can vividly remember the day she met me from primary school brandishing a tall retro coffee pot in her hand. She’d bought it with the proceeds of her first magazine commission and she was SO proud. So was I for that matter.

In the intervening years I’ve subscribed to scores of different magazines – from Vogue to Country Living – and even worked for a few myself. I love that exciting moment when they thump on to the doormat, usually a couple of days before you can buy them at the shops.

But in recent months I’ve cut the magazines I read down to two. I’m not sure why but I found that I was flicking through most of them and barely reading any articles. They all seemed a bit samey and dull.

There are two subscriptions I’ve hung on to though – for two magazines I reckon are head and shoulders above the rest. One is Grazia, the weekly magazine I’ve blogged about before, and the other is the utterly brilliant Red.

So what’s so great about Red? Well, for starters, it looks like a work of art. The photography is stunning and if I was a student I’d be half tempted to tear the fashion pages out and stick them on my walls. But more importantly, it’s full of stuff I actually want to read. Take the March issue. It’s got an At Home piece with novelist Maggie O’Farrell (I’m counting the days till her latest novel, Instructions for a Heatwave, is published on February 28), an interview with Noel Gallagher and a Q&A with the wonderful Tracey Thorn. The Everything But the Girl singer has just written a book about her life called Bedsit Disco Queen – my favourite book title of the year so far.

But as I flicked through the current issue’s 274 pages I was sad to see that the March issue is editor-in-chief Sam Baker’s last one. She’s leaving to write her next novel and have a go at being her own boss – which shows that she follows her own advice because Red is all about inspiring its readers and exhorting them to try new things.

So, from a loyal Oxford reader, all I can say is goodbye and good luck to Sam Baker. And thank you for all the amazing issues of Red you’ve published over the last six years.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

What Susie Orbach told Daisy Lowe

I'm a big fan of GraziaThe magazine’s target reader is probably a chic 20-something fashionista with legs up to her armpits so I must be one of Grazia’s oldest and least stylish fans - but what the hell, I love its eclectic mix of fashion, showbiz, news and culture.

And this week’s edition is a corker. As well as discussing whether girls should be taught to put careers before motherhood and offering the latest lowdown on Brangelina, it also features a great interview by journalist Shane Watson with the model Daisy Lowe. The daughter of designer Pearl Lowe and musician Gavin Rossdale, Daisy is only 24 but sounds sweet, unspoilt and impressively level-headed. She likes spending time with her mum, walking her dog, eating sweets and is usually in bed by midnight.

But apart from all that, the reason I enjoyed the piece so much was an anecdote Daisy told about Fat is a Feminist Issue author Susie Orbach.

Orbach's daughter was one of Daisy’s best friends at school and Daisy remembers Orbach telling them: “You must eat. Do not listen to the pressures of society, you are beautiful girls and you will grow into beautiful women. You have nothing to worry about.”  

What brilliant advice. I reckon Orbach’s words should be pinned up on the board of every secondary school in the land…

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

David Beckham and the art of being an embarrassing parent

“Have I ever been an embarrassing parent?” I asked my son the other day. “Quite often,” he muttered with feeling. 

He then proceeded to list everything I’d done to show him up, from the day I fell off a fairground roundabout (stone-cold sober, I hasten to add) to all the times I’d insisted on staying to watch him ride his bike at the skate park. I pretended I wasn’t with him by sitting on a bench and reading the paper, but he still wasn’t best pleased.

So I felt an awful lot better when I picked up this week’s issue of Grazia and read an interview with David Beckham to mark the launch (this was the crowd that turned out!) of his new Bodywear range for H&M.

Asked what his three sons (presumably baby Harper is too little to have an opinion) make of his posing in his pants, he admitted: “They come out with remarks like ‘Oh my God, Daddy, not again,’ or ‘Everyone’s going to see you in your pants!’”

The pictures, emblazoned across thousands of billboards, are clearly working though, because Beckham’s boxers, vests and even long johns are flying off the shelves. And if it’s any comfort to Becks, embarrassing your children is part of being a parent.

I remember that when I was about 11 me and my sister went shopping in Bournemouth every Saturday with my mum. She didn’t drive in those days so on the way back we’d get a taxi home from The Square. As we turned into our road, she’d lean forward and say to the cabbie “it’s just past the fifth lamp-post on the right.” For some inexplicable reason I’d squirm with embarrassment every time she said it. “You always say that,” I’d protest. “Well it always is just past the fifth lamp-post on the right,” she’d reply.

Image © Nick Harvey

Thursday, 3 November 2011

David Cameron on doing the school run once a week

Soon after the coalition government was formed David Cameron and Nick Clegg announced their intention to delay morning cabinet meetings so they could help with the school run.

But in this week’s Grazia interview the PM said he doesn’t take his two school-aged children to school as much as he used to, though he does try and do it once a week. “...every morning there are priority meetings and phone calls,” he told interviewer Jane Moore, “so you’re endlessly being squeezed...”

Well, welcome to real life. David Cameron is far luckier than most of the working population because he lives “above the shop” and can dash upstairs to the flat above No 10 for a cuddle with baby daughter Florence in between meetings. If you’re running a small business or working as a teacher (don’t forget, it’s the last episode of Channel 4’s fantastic Educating Essex tonight) there’s no way you can break off during the day and pop home.

For most of us, working means a lot of hard graft and endless compromises. Six years ago my husband was working on his computer in our freezing cold attic. He was in between jobs at the time and suddenly came rushing downstairs at top speed. He’d had an amazing new idea for an ingenious hi-tech system that helps to reduce water leakage. Not the glamour end of the market, but pretty damn smart all the same.

All this time later, his eureka moment has resulted in a fully-fledged company 70 miles from home that’s helping to save vast quantities of water around the world. There’s still a long way to go, but to get this far at all he’s had to work flat out seven days a week, 52 weeks a year. He’s missed parents’ evenings galore, cancelled holidays at short notice and hardly ever took our children to school. But then again, if he had helped with the school run, his company wouldn’t exist at all – let alone be employing anyone or making a major contribution to saving water.

I’m sure he’s not the only parent who’s made sacrifices. In fact he’s probably very typical of so many working parents.

Nick Clegg said last year that children often miss out on time with their dads and highlighted research showing that “where fathers are involved in their children’s lives they develop better friendships, they learn to empathise, they have higher self-esteem, and they achieve better at school.” Well yes, but this isn’t something you can fix through legislation or by insisting fathers (sorry, but it is usually the dads) get home in time to put the children to bed. Working parents simply have to make time for their children when they are at home.

PS: After reading my blog about the forthcoming RCA Secret exhibition yesterday, a reader asked what I’d bought in previous years. I’m embarrassed to say I can’t remember who the artists are but the two prints we bought are pictured above, in their full glory. Sad to say, they are not by Damien Hirst or Tracey Emin.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

From Victoria Beckham to David Cameron - the new Grazia

Tuesday is my favourite day of the week. Why? Because a loud thump on the doormat signals the arrival of the latest issue of Grazia. I subscribed to the magazine a few years back, ostensibly for my student daughter. But in truth I love its heady mix of news, reviews and fashion just as much as she does.

I’m supposed to be writing a book review right now but couldn’t resist a sneaky look at today’s edition. It’s a cracker, featuring news that Victoria Beckham’s “in torment” over David’s possible move to play for Paris St-Germain (what are you thinking, Posh, Paris is the most fashionable city in the world), claims that the scar on Kate Middleton's head was caused by a sporting accident at school and an exclusive at-home interview with David Cameron.

The chat with the PM, conducted at No 10 by Sun columnist Jane Moore, is clearly designed to head off criticism that he’s sexist following his “calm down, dear” remark to shadow treasury chief secretary Angela Eagle during a House of Commons exchange. Not only that, a recent YouGov poll found that one in three female voters regard him as the “greatest male chauvinist” of the three party leaders.

Today’s interview runs to five pages but I’m not convinced it will make much difference. Revelations include the fact that romantic dinners with wife Sam are tricky when the protection team is sitting close by, that Sam often tells him to “calm down, dear,” that the couple’s elder two children like taking Fox’s Glacier Mints from the cabinet table and while his daughter Nancy loves The X Factor he tends to wait till near the end of the series because he “can’t be dealing with the man in the silver suit.” Does he mean Johnny Robinson? I’m not sure...

The most touching disclosure is that whatever differences the PM has with Nicolas Sarkozy, he’ll always be grateful to the French president for his kindness before his father’s death on holiday in France last year.

“We didn’t really know how bad it was,” says Cameron. “I was going to do PMQs, then get a flight a bit later, but in the meantime someone told President Sarkozy I was coming to France, and he’d got his own doctor to call the hospital and had found out things were really bad. So he rang me in the car to say ‘you must get on a plane now.’ So I did, and when I landed, he got me to the hospital... Whatever row I ever have with President Sarkozy, I will always remember that he got me to my dad before he died.”

PS: It’s probably mad, but I’ve signed up to NaBloPoMo (National Blog Posting Month), which challenges bloggers to post every day for, yes, a whole month. Can I do it? Watch this space!
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