Magazine article The Spectator


Magazine article The Spectator


Article excerpt

New York

The highlight of my year was undoubtedly interviewing George Clooney. I don't mean to be star-struck, but in the presence of the square-jawed one my professional facade went Awol. The United Nations is usually a bit short on glamour, but on the day George came to talk about Darfur, a little bit of Hollywood rubbed off on my world. He swept in with an entourage of 50, including the compulsory bossy PR, who kept trying to interrupt and spoil my brief few minutes with George. He was, I can report, devastatingly well briefed on the Darfur peace agreement. 'What was he like?' asked Husband, casually, via email. I crossed my fingers, looked heavenward for guidance, and tapped back with great difficulty - 'that look is so 2006'.

Ban ki-moon, who takes over from Kofi Annan as UN Secretary-General on 1 January, is not quite up there with George Clooney in the acting stakes. But he does have a certain something. At the annual UN correspondents' association dinner in December, Mr Ban brought the house down by singing 'Ban ki-moon is coming to town'.

Edith Lederer of the Associated Press and I looked at one another in shock. We had been planning to surprise the audience with a farewell duet to Kofi to the tune of 'Arrivederci Roma'. Mr Ban stole our thunder - and solo, too. Cometh the hour, we traipsed up and did our bit. Mr Ban was kind enough to congratulate us, but victory was his.

Thankfully, by the time you read this the Happy Holidays season will be nearly over. The sight of Christmas trees in New York weighed down with every kind of religious greeting will be but an unpleasant aesthetic memory. The piped music with the obligatory 'It's the most wonderful time of the year' will be consigned to the dustbin of memory. For 12 months at least. As a small act of rebellion, I tried to teach my oldest son 'Away in a Manger', hoping this carol might somehow subversively work its way into his First Grade Sing. But no. As I sat hopefully in the front row for the event itself, it was 'Rudolph' and 'Frosty' yet again. I began to long for the flight to Heathrow, and the greeting from the pilot on landing - 'We'd just like to take this opportunity to wish you all a merry Christmas.' Such nostalgia can only be a sign of advancing age.

There is nothing quite so terrifying as the sight of a Type A New York mother in full swing. This individual has usually given up her high-powered CEO job in order to devote herself to raising a brood. The intensity once reserved for spreadsheets is now transferred to school fund-raising. The charm and clout applied to professional networking are used to propel one's offspring up the New York social ladder. …

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