ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: Like Meghan Markle, I know what it’s like to be the daughter of a mother with star quality
The stand-out star of the photographs introducing Archie to the world was Meghan’s mother. Doria Ragland looked so tender and calm, even in the surely daunting position of standing next to the Queen in a global photocall.
She always seems to strike the perfect note; she’s beautiful but not vain, quietly supportive, smart but unshowy, composed but not arrogant. Her paisley shawl was gently and neatly draped around her shoulders, her lips shimmered with a slick of pale lipstick, her multi-pierced ears twinkled with their studs and she wore her specs.
I know what it’s like to be the daughter of a mother with star quality who can outshine you. At 92, mine still inspires admiration and awe in all who meet her. She started her journalistic career as a cub reporter in the 1940s and still writes, brought up three children with a full-time job and a wonderful but domestically illiterate and uncompromising husband, had a career as a TV panellist and cooked dinner for us all every night.
Doria Ragland looked so tender and calm, even in the surely daunting position of standing next to the Queen in a global photocall
I know what it’s like to be the daughter of a mother with star quality who can outshine you. At 92, mine still inspires admiration and awe in all who meet her
Only the other day a young woman met her for the first time and reported back that she had been put to shame by my mother’s energy and engagement in everything that goes on in the world around her. And she hasn’t given up on style. I hope I’ll still be turning up in a Gucci shirt and Prada trainers if I ever make it to her age.
Pictured: Drusilla Beyfus, mother of Alexandra Shulman, who at 26 was one of Britain’s youngest female columnists
As well as formidable matriarchs, Meghan and I now have something else in common: we’re both mothers of single sons. When I was pregnant and people asked what sex I wanted my baby to be I said, as many of us do, that I didn’t care, the only thing that mattered was that it was hopefully healthy. But the truth was I had always wanted a daughter.
I had my only child quite late and knew there was a chance that there might not be another. It seemed likely that I would understand a daughter more easily, we could have fun with clothes and as she grew up and I grew old, we would share interests.
Instead I had a son and I love, as Meghan will do, being granted a riveting insight into male worlds. Without my son I would never have known that the ref is always to blame or understood the joy in calculating odds and placing a bet on almost anything. And I’d never have been able to appreciate how, from an early age, the easy camaraderie of male friendship appears less fraught and judgmental than women’s. One of the joys of having a son lies in the differences between us rather than the comparisons.
My mother is my greatest cheerleader and I hers. She never undermines. But while I really do treasure every compliment I receive from others on her behalf, simultaneously as a daughter it’s hard not to occasionally read into them the implication that one has not quite lived up to her example. I wonder if Meghan ever feels the same way?
On reflection… we don’t need mirrors
You don’t appreciate how much you need certain things until they aren’t there. Take mirrors. We spent a couple of nights in a house without any the other day. The architect who had designed the house, his wife told us, ‘had a thing about mirrors’ and so the only one available was a tiny hand-held offering in the bathroom.
To begin with it was unnerving to not be able to check one’s full-length appearance, especially for someone like me who is always neglecting to do up zips. But by the end of the weekend it seemed perfectly normal and even quite liberating to be able to forget about how one looked.
Why have we given up on sex? It’s dull!
What did we blame for all the wrongs of the world before the internet came along? Now it’s being held responsible for the death of sex, as figures show declining sexual activity across the world.
But maybe this is less due to an addiction to the latest streaming series and more due to the fact that, post the sexual revolution, sex has suffered a bit of reputational damage. No longer is it viewed as a semi-illicit, daringly wild activity that any free-spirit worth their Himalayan salt would indulge in and talk about, at every possible opportunity. Now sex is even included in NHS guidelines for healthy living – it has become so mundane that it’s simply dropped off the must-have list.
I’ll die before I give up my joss sticks
I only need the slightest whiff of patchouli to become an instant time traveller. Any old Indian joss stick does the trick and takes me right back to the days of my teens. But now it emerges that burning incense sticks is just as bad as scented candles for increasing air pollution (yup, that tuberose jar is as harmful to you as walking alongside a ten-ton truck). I don’t care. Incense is the most ancient method of perfuming our world and if it was good enough for the Egyptians, it’s good enough for me. I refuse to put it on the constantly increasing list of enjoyable things we’ve discovered we shouldn’t indulge in.
Britain is great – if you’re from Chicago
A man called Brian arrives to clean up our terrace with his power hose. He moved here three years ago from Chicago, where he lived with his wife and young daughter. He thinks he’s landed in Xanadu.
As his jets clear off 12 years of accumulated algae, he rhapsodises about this land of excellent state education and the NHS, the safety of the streets, no Trump and even the weather.
I scarcely recognised the place he was describing but it was incredibly heartening to spend a few minutes seeing it through his eyes. Someone should snap him up for a post-Brexit advert.
Love shines bright from amid the terror
The most moving words of the week have come from the inquest into the victims of the London Bridge terror attacks.
As the survivors and relatives relive that dreadful evening and paint portraits of those slaughtered, their stories have highlighted the random fragility of life.
But thankfully among this darkness, their powerful tributes and recollections have also demonstrated how strong the concept of love remains (between them and the dead or between those who died), undiminished by being caught up in such awful violence and evil.
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