SARAH VINE: There’s no disgrace in growing old the glam way

There’s not an awful lot to smile about these days, what with looming quarantines, the threat of lockdowns in perpetuity and the fact that yesterday Britain passed the grim official milestone of 100,000 deaths from Covid.

So thank goodness for Davina McCall and Liz Hurley who, in their own dogged and indefatigable way, remain selflessly devoted to their main purpose in life, namely adding to the gaiety of the nation.

First of all Liz, whose response to the flurry of snow at the weekend was to rush into her garden in nothing but a pair of bikini bottoms, a white fur coat and a dazzling smile.

Hurley is 55, but looks about 32, while her breasts — struggling to remain within the confines of her coat — defy all decent description, not to mention the laws of gravity.

TV presenter Davina McCall posted a picture of herself wearing a polka-dot slip dress suspended by two spaghetti-thin straps

Davina, meanwhile, posted a picture of herself wearing an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny-polka-dot slip dress in a sort of flimsy satin-type material.

Slashed to the knicker-line and suspended by two spaghetti-thin straps, it almost left less to the imagination than Liz’s get-up, hugging the 53-year-old’s contours like a teenager at a slow dance.

McCall certainly lived up to her description of herself, in a recent interview, as a ‘foxy minx’. Sadly, not everyone agreed.

One Twitter user — a woman called Sue — commented: ‘Old, over-sunkissed woman should cover up . . . stunning dress, but not for the wrinkly-crinkly . . . demure for the mature.’

Davina was nonplussed. ‘Really sorry,’ she replied, ‘no chance of demure here, Sue . . . growing old disgracefully is far more fun.’

I couldn’t agree more. Wrinkly-crinkly or not, we should all be free to wear whatever we want. It’s not for everyone: I’d certainly never attempt either of these looks. But if the bikini bottoms fit — wear them.

There was a time when accusing a woman of growing old disgracefully was one of the biggest insults you could hurl at her. 

Liz Hurley is 55, but looks about 32, while her breasts — struggling to remain within the confines of her coat — defy all decent description, not to mention the laws of gravity

The notion that an older woman should know her place, accept gracefully the slow descent into invisibility, preferably to get on with scrubbing someone else’s dirty washing, has been hardwired in our culture for centuries.

Indeed, the idea of any female over the age of 40 actively seeking the limelight has long been a source of mockery, fear and loathing. 

There was always more than a whiff of misogyny about the way man-eater Samantha, in Sex And The City, was characterised, as though the fact that she was a good decade older than the others was a cringing embarrassment.

In days gone by, there was little wriggle-room for those who dared defy the stereotype. But attitudes have changed. For women of my generation, these rules no longer apply.

Independent, self-supporting, free to make our own choices, we can grow old as disgracefully as we like.

Maybe it’s the HRT talking, but what I admire about Hurley and McCall (apart from their enviable figures) is their cheerful defiance. Their determination not to give a monkey’s what anyone else thinks.

For older women it’s the ultimate form of liberation: to be confident and free in their own bodies and to reject the cliches that have, for centuries, defined them.

I look at these two — and others like them — and see nothing but positivity. Happy, healthy women who look after themselves, take pride in their appearance and offer inspiration to the rest of us.

Their optimism is infectious. They are the embodiment of a joie de vivre that, in this gloomy, judgmental world of ours, is increasingly in short supply. And if that makes some people uncomfortable, so be it.

Take the lead on safety for dogs  

Ordinarily, when I walk my dogs, Snowy and Muffin, I am more than happy for passers-by to pet them.

Muffin is a princess who firmly believes all humans are her slaves and is happy to accept their devotions, while Snowy, affectionately nicknamed ‘Fat Sheep’ by the children, is ever hopeful of a culinary treat.

But, lately, I’ve been more wary. As reported in yesterday’s Mail, dog theft has risen by 170 per cent in the past year, as prices for in-demand breeds have rocketed.

My little Muffin, a Lhasa Apso, cost me just £300 a few years ago; Bichon Snowy, being a rescue, was basically free. Nowadays, a Lhasa Apso can cost up to £2,000, while Bichons exchange hands for about half that. The thought of someone swiping them terrifies me.

If they were stolen for breeding, God only knows what terrible fate would await them when it was discovered that they are neutered.

And the police can’t do anything since dog theft is classified as property theft, making my two faithful companions no more valuable than a lost phone.

But there is one thing that could be done. Many dogs are stolen from outside shops, since most won’t allow them in. 

If retailers were more understanding and let owners of small breeds, the ones targeted, hold on to them while they pop by for a pint of milk or a paper, the opportunities for this ruthless crime would be severely curtailed.

Therese’s end of the Piers show

Therese Coffey was asked by Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain why Britain had such a high death toll

I don’t know Therese Coffey at all but, this week, she became my hero for doing what few politicians dare to do: stand up for herself.

Asked by Piers Morgan on ITV’s Good Morning Britain why Britain had such a high death toll, she replied that rates of obesity and an aged population were factors. Which is true.

The UK has some of the highest rates of obesity in the world (rising faster than America) and, thanks to our excellent medical care, a high proportion of citizens living into very old age.

It might have been the perfect opportunity for a serious debate, but no: Morgan scented blood. He accused her of calling the entire country ‘too old and too fat’. Exasperated, Coffey terminated the interview.

I know Morgan is a fellow journalist, and a brilliant one at that. But my husband is also a Cabinet minister, and I don’t shirk from criticising the Government when I think it’s getting it wrong. 

On that basis, I’m sorry, Piers, but someone needs to say it: not only did you twist Coffey’s words, you also unleashed a torrent of abuse towards her on Twitter, much of it very misogynistic.

You have huge influence and are right to hold ministers to account. But it’s worth remembering that with huge power also comes huge responsibility — and a duty to play fair.

I’m glad Australian PM Scott Morrison is not taking any nonsense from Google. The tech giant has threatened to shut off its search engine Down Under if the government there goes ahead with plans to make Google pay publishers for news.

For far too long, Google has turned unimaginable profits while riding roughshod over the rights of authors and news organisations. Is it too much to ask for a little in return? If only others had Morrison’s courage.

I feel rather sorry for the fashion industry at the moment — after all, with nowhere to go, not many people are buying new clothes. 

I have been wearing the same jumper for about four days (albeit with clean underpinnings). 

But they’re not making it easy for us. There were Gucci’s ripped tights for £146, then the £485 ‘bin bag’ dress, and now we have Prada’s £905 Gruyère jumper. They call the holes ‘distressed’ — I’d say more like seriously distressing. 

Prada’s Gruyère yellow turtleneck jumper, which is part of their Spring/Summer 2021 collection, costs £905

On the eve of World War II, Thessaloniki, in Greece, was home to a vibrant Jewish community. 

By the end of the war it had been decimated, the vast majority of the city’s Jews having perished in Birkenau. 

Among those who escaped the death chambers were members of the Bourla family. 

In 1961, they had a son, Albert, who studied veterinary medicine before moving to the U.S. 

In 2019, he became CEO of Pfizer. He has been instrumental in the development of the Covid vaccine which will, ultimately, save millions of lives. I think it’s worth pausing, on International Holocaust Memorial Day, to contemplate the poignancy of this.

The case of ten-year-old Dylan Freeman, who suffered from autism and who was killed by his mother after she became unable to cope during lockdown, is heartbreaking.

But it also offers an insight into the realities of life with a severely disabled child.

One of Dylan’s former carers has testified that he had to give up his job because he could not cope with the boy’s behaviour, even for a couple of hours a day.

Having known friends and relatives in similar situations, I can see how, alone and with no support (Dylan’s specialist school was closed due to Covid), the exhaustion and the relentlessness might have broken Dylan’s mum Olga.

However much such parents love their children, caring for them, with all the many challenges that entails, takes an immense toll. As a society, we have a duty to do better by them — and make sure tragedies like this never happen again.

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