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Tuesday, January 8, 2013

2012 - A Year In 'Omnishambles'

Barbara Taylor Bradford on those infuriating comments by ‘friends’

It may have been an ‘omnishambles’, says Barbara Taylor Bradford, but there was plenty to celebrate in 2012 – not least a skydiving Queen
(From "The Lady" Magazine)

It has been quite a year: successes and stars galore, and so much more. Not to mention savage weather and any number of disasters. There were scandals, and shameful and squalid secrets have been revealed. The BBC, mired in accusations about concealing the alleged sex crimes of Jimmy Savile, is in total denial. Meanwhile, a peer of the realm, wrongly accused, is suing everyone. Quite right. 

When I take a keener look at the last six months, I do see a great many villains and idols with clay feet. But then, suddenly, along come the true heroes, cheering each other as they hug gold, silver and bronze. The Olympians made us all smile with pride, instead of shudder in disgust. 

Then there was superstorm Sandy, battering the east coast of the US and causing death, heartache and sorrow, plus tens of billions of dollars in estimated losses and damage. The November floods across England were just as horrifying and heartrending. The worst catastrophe was the tiny, North Wales city of St Asaph, which literally disappeared underwater. Yet again, we have learnt that we are helpless when it comes to the weather – we can’t control it. Nor can we control people for that matter. 

Barbara Taylor Bradford

Undoubtedly, this has been an outlandish year. In fact, the Oxford English Dictionary has already coined a new word to describe 2012: omnishambles. 

But most of the events I remember best were truly spectacular and worthy of celebration: in June, the Diamond Jubilee. Whoever planned that spectacle should get a knighthood, a peerage, a duchy even. It was brilliant – but then we Brits do spectacle better than anyone else. 

The Queen and Prince Philip were magnificent, bright and sparkling, like the 100-carat diamonds they are. And how they managed to stand, smiling, for more than seven hours in the drizzle on the Royal barge, beggars belief. But what a thrilling sight the armada was, floating down the Thames. It reminded me of our great naval achievements and brought a poignant flash of memory of another armada… all those ships and pleasure cruisers, sail boats and yachts and barges, of all shapes and sizes, rushing across the English Channel to rescue our boys stranded on the beaches of Dunkirk in the Second World War. It was one of the greatest acts of bravery and it told the world who we are as a people. The Jubilee celebrations recaptured that spirit. 

Then there was Seb, who came running in, full of confidence and elan, with the Olympics tucked under his arm. He took my breath away. Despite all the mutterings of incompetence, the naysayers were proved wrong. The Olympics was a huge success. Our athletes showed us what they were made of… talent, power, guts and the determination to win. 

I watched the Olympics opening ceremony on a big TV screen, in a lounge, on a cruise ship. I know there were quite a few British people in the audience, because scattered around the room were people suddenly jumping up and standing to attention when the national anthem was played. My American husband, Bob, stood up, too. I choked up as I saw the story of Britain unfold in the production that followed. 

And then we got to see our Queen, acting alongside 007, Daniel Craig. What a thrill when she parachuted down into the Olympic stadium! Wild shouts and screams of amazement were heard around the room – although eventually we all realised that it wasn’t really Her Majesty jumping out of the plane. 

I never thought of an email as a deadly weapon, but a few anonymous messages, sent by a woman reservist in the US military to a Florida socialite, so-called, turned out to be lethal. Paula Broadwell’s emails warned Jill Kelley to stay away from ‘my guy’. They led a trail right to the doorstep of CIA director, General David Petraeus, a genuine war hero and a man of great bravery and stature. Eventually, the emails revealed an affair between Petraeus and Broadwell, his biographer. And so he resigned, which, in my view, is a great shame. 

I am so glad Nelson didn’t resign over his affair with Lady Hamilton. Then where would we have been? And what about General Eisenhower during the Second World War? He had a long affair with his driver, Kay Summersby, but he didn’t resign when the affair was discovered. He didn’t even blink. Instead, he went on to become US President. 

Talking of generals, most of the women I know are attracted to men in the military. It’s the uniform, of course. An impeccably tailored jacket, embellished with a blaze of medals, four silver stars on each shoulder, truly does give off the e ffluvium of power, machismo, command and heroism. Total aphrodisiacs to us of the fairer sex. 

But remove the uniform and the glory instantly fades. I was a young journalist in Fleet Street, and still single, when I met a general while working on a feature. He took a shine to me and relentlessly pursued me until I finally agreed to have dinner with him. He arrived to pick me up, but was no longer quite the same. Disappointingly, he had changed his uniform into ‘civvies’. The suit, he explained, was his ‘disguise’. But it wasn’t. What it did was reveal him to be, well, just another man. Suddenly, the glamour was gone. 

I am writing this column in Paris and not very far from my hotel is the Élysée Palace, where lives the president of France, François Hollande. As the EU faces crisis after crisis after crisis, his current mistress, Madame Trierweiler, and former, Madame Royal, are at war with each other. Royal, the mother of his four children, seems to be the favourite of the French at moment. Trierweiler, meanwhile, got black marks for causing trouble for Royal in her political campaign and was reportedly threatened with the sack by Paris Match, where she works as a journalist. 

So where does Monsieur le Président stand in all this? Who knows? Quelle omnishambles, indeed. 

And finally… it was great to learn that Great Britain has just been voted the most in”fluential nation in the world, by Monocle magazine’s Soft Power Survey. We have earned this top spot thanks to the Queen, the Olympics, our music and books and the millions of tourists who ”flock here. 

So Happy New Year to one and all. Let’s just hope it’s not another omnishambles.

Barbara Taylor Bradford’s new novel, Secrets From The Past, is published by HarperCollins on 28 February.