Magazine article The Spectator

Notebook

Magazine article The Spectator

Notebook

Article excerpt

All eyes on the Philippines and British ships making their way to the devastation in Leyte and Samar. It's sad, though, that the global news machine can only process one disaster at a time. The world has all but forgotten the tropical storms and floods that have battered Acapulco in the past two months. It's a lesser tragedy, with mercifully a much less significant death toll, but nevertheless it tears at my heart. Acapulco was my youthful stamping ground, the most glamorous, exciting, beautiful place I had ever been. At 22 I went on holiday there for a week and stayed for another six. It was a playground for some big Hollywood names, and the surroundings reflected their standards of hedonism. I followed in their footsteps like a panting little puppy, water-skiing around the gorgeous, unpolluted bay for hours, eating in fabulous restaurants and dancing all night. Alas, no more. These days it feels as if the drug cartels have taken over: everyone who owned a villa triplelocked their doors and hired hefty security guards. Most of those I knew eventually sold up and left.

The Oscar race has begun in earnest, with a few good movies on release and some terrible ones. I agree with all the praise for Tom Hanks in Captain Phillips - but not about Gravity, the film which has the lovely and talented Sandra Bullock being pulled about in space on what looks like an umbilical cord. It sent me to sleep. I dragged Percy and Ivan Massow to see another film I had high hopes for, having read four-star raves from several critics. Sadly it was such a pretentious boring dud that we left halfway through. It amazes me that critics can be so enthusiastic about what was - we all agreed - a dull secondrate film, and yet give lukewarm and bad reviews to truly entertaining and original movies. (Blue Jasmine was underrated this year, for instance. ) I keep re-learning that the 'critics' choice' is most emphatically not mine.

It was enormous fun collating photographs for my new illustrated memoir, Passion for Life. There are more than 500 images in the finished book, but the most exciting find, for me, was a cache of early-20th-century photographs and scrapbooks belonging to my late Aunt Pauline, which now forms the bulk of the chapter on my family. As the pictures show, we were a showbiz tribe. My grandmother entertained the troops in ostrich feathers and lace-up boots during the Boer War, my Aunt Lalla played opposite the 1920s matinee idol Jack Buchanan in a West End revue, and Aunt Pauline revealed more than a hint of legs and bare bosom as a showgirl and flapper. …

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