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21 October 2011 1:07 PM

Help yourself to de Botton’s sexy thoughts

He’s done travel, status anxiety and airports. What next will the nation’s favourite philosopher Alain de Botton turn his hand to? Sex, unfortunately. De Botton is writing a self-help book on the art of love entitled How to Think More About Sex. It will cover lust, fetishism, adultery, pornography and impotence, with the tagline “We don’t think too much about sex; we’re merely thinking about it in the wrong way”.It is part of a series of six books under the School of Life brand, published by Pan Macmillan, and de Botton seems to be on a personal mission to re-invigorate the genre of self-help.  The Bloomsbury school, chaired  by de Botton, already offers courses in such wonderful things as “How to find a job you love” and “How to be cool”. But lest his readers are anxious that de Botton is dumbing down, the television philosopher makes it clear that self-help publishing comes from a fine tradition.“For 2,000 years in the history of the West the self-help book stood as a pinnacle of literary achievement,” says de Botton of his series. “The ancients were particularly adept practitioners,” he adds, going on to cite the works of Epicurus, Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, whose Meditations, he says, are “one of the finest works of self-help ever written, as relevant to someone facing a financial meltdown as the disintegration of an empire.“In an age of moral and practical confusion, the self-help book is crying out to be redesigned and rehabilitated,”  he concludes. “We are proud to announce its rebirth."

A question of honour for Lumley’s Garrick backer

Now that the names of Joanna Lumley and Lady Lucinda Lambton have been removed from the candidates’ book at the Garrick Club, a question mark must hang over the members who put them there.Hugh Bonneville, of Downton Abbey fame, backed Lumley while Peter Jay, former British Ambassador in Washington, supported Lambton. Both men are legendary for their admiration of women. Peter O’Toole and Lucy’s husband, Sir Peregrine Worsthorne, spoke enthusiastically in favour of them joining.The old convention in clubland was that anyone who proposed a candidate who was blackballed was honour-bound to resign. Bonneville and Jay took the law into their own hands by proposing candidates who weren’t even eligible because, according to Garrick rules, it’s a club for men only. “It’s a disgrace that they were allowed to put these names in the book,” says a lawyer. “It’s equally disgraceful that they have been removed without consultation with members.”“The majority has prevailed,” says Sir Perry. “It’s sad but ‘try again later’ may be the way forward.”

Paula wants the love of her life back

Model Paula Hamilton has made a public appeal on YouTube.“I’m desperate, I want my baby back,” she pleads. She’s not referring to ex-lover Simon Cowell, to whom she lost her virginity aged 16, but her pedigree chum Huckleberry, half-Jack Russell, half-sausage, which seems to have been dognapped from her garden in Slough.  “He’s eight inches off the ground, he’s tan coloured, he’s wearing a collar, his tail’s like a piglet’s, it curls when he’s happy and goes straight when he’s sad.” Appeals have gone out in the press. “The police know about him, the dog wardens know about him, and there are thousands of posters. Someone has got him and I’m not going to give up.” She goes on to open up her heart: “I love human beings but I really do love my dog."

French fast lane is just wizard

French high society welcomed Harry Potter actor Jamie Campbell Bower and his fiancée Bonnie Wright to Monte Carlo last night at the launch of the Monégasque collection of Roger Dubuis in the Hotel de Paris. Also there were actor James Purefoy, bag designer Christian Louboutin  and Daphne  Guinness. Jazz singer Curtis Stigers entertained the audience: “Terriiiiific”, said Campbell Bower. Festivities continued at the casino. “How many times do you get to go to Monaco and gamble?” joked Purefoy.

Nighy sticks to his stories

A blast from Bill Nighy, the thinking woman’s crumpet. He has joined the Society of Authors’ campaign to reverse the short story cuts on Radio 4, to allow World at One to be extended from next month. “The idea that we need more news on Radio 4 is bewildering,” says the 61-year-old actor, “I can’t move for news. What I don’t see around me is the opportunity to listen to new writing, or indeed old writing, in short story form. I love to be told stories. The world loves to be told stories. “Radio 4 is a time-honoured outlet for such stories, a famous part of our nation’s tradition and it reaches a comparatively large audience. I personally treasure that and I can get my news from just about anywhere.” More than 7,000 listeners have signed an online petition expressing the same view. Over to you, Lord Patten.

Peston is in the doghouse now

Robert Peston’s BBC colleagues spared him no mercy after his boob at the Editorial Intelligence awards yesterday when he mistakenly named the FT’s Martin Wolf as the winner of the best economics commentator award.  Wolf even got up to make an acceptance speech before he had to hand back the award minutes later to the true winner, Irwin Stelzer. Fellow BBC presenter Jon Sopel, who followed Peston on stage, joked to the audience: “Can you imagine? ‘Did I say Northern Rock? I meant Halifax.'"

* Labour MP Denis MacShane says he bumped into David  Cameron in the Commons yesterday afternoon and told him he should read yesterday’s Londoner’s Diary because he was praising William Hague for his efforts as Foreign Secretary. “I will Denis, I will,” said the PM.

* Alarms were set off twice last night at The Freud Museum, former home of Sigmund Freud, at a 25th anniversary fundraiser art auction and raffle. The first occurred during speeches prompting director Carol  Seigel to cry out, “Oh no. Someone’s sat on The Couch!”

Methuen’s mystery employee keeps shtum

The Londoner is sad to report that the Westminster Bookshop in Artillery Row is closing its doors to the public today. London’s last major political bookshop was bought by Methuen Publishing in 2004. So what has happened to that historic publisher?“We’ve no money left,” says a grumpy man with a Yorkshire burr who answers the phone and described himself as an employee. “It’s been a disaster since the day it began. They [Methuen] have lost a lot of money on it. The forecasts of those supposedly in the know were way out. It’s our last day. We’re just waiting to clear up admin issues.” The employee, who declined to be named, would not give out details of Methuen, whose website is down and whose number is no longer listed. In its glory days it published Oscar Wilde’s De Profundis, Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity and Tintin. The Londoner looks forward to speaking to Peter Tummons, current owner of Methuen — whom former colleagues describe as “a grumpy man with a Yorkshire burr”... 

* So Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni have named their baby daughter Giulia. Perhaps they took their inspiration from Pope Alexander VI’s mistress, Guilia Farnese, in the recent television series The Borgias.  Not that such tales of power and lust would interest the French President and his fascinating third wife.

A peer is simply starstruck

Crsssbench peer Adrian Palmer is full of praise for Richard E Grant and Sarah Brightman, pictured, who star in First Night, a new film made at Manderston, his home in the Scottish borders. His Lordship, who resigned from the Royal Company of Archers after a film about Princess Diana was made there, said: “It’s an extremely good film. There is wonderful chemistry between the stars.” Friends note the peer’s resemblance to Lord Lloyd-Webber, Brightman’s ex-husband.

08 December 2010 12:06 PM

The Only Way Is Essex - a barometer for our boom and bust society

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The Only Way Is Essex has been one of this year's surprise hits. Whilst you might scoff at the vulgarity of it all, ITV2's (un)reality show - which has a special recap episode tonight - has done more than merely teach us the meaning of the word vajazzle and show us how to achieve that much sought after orangey glow. No, ridiculous as it sounds, The Only Way Is Essex has also provided us with the best barometer through which to measure our boom and bust society since the pocket calculator. Don't believe me? Well then read on.

In more auspicious times our taste in this kind of staged reality reflected the respective health of our collective bank balances. We fawned over the fashion world in The City and lapped up the glamorous lives of the IT girls in MTV's other smash hit series The Hills. In fact in those halcyon days of prosperity before the credit crunch we were all too willing to delve into the existence of these impossibly rich, impossibly well turned out and impossibly dull reality stars. It was a simpler time then, where we were encouraged to shop our way to success, buoyed by the notion that the more sale items we shove on our credit cards the more likely we were to achieve our dreams. And with their exotic apartments, expensive sports cars and lop-sided work-life balances, the characters of these pseudo reality shows were the perfect pin-ups for this kind of fantasy capitalism.

But after the global economic crash we've all faced up to the uncomfortable reality that we're broke, our jobs suck and that no matter how many sunbed sessions we splash out on, the chances of us getting paid to laze by a pool all day are about the same as me finding a unicorn steak in the meat aisle at Tescos. As a result shows like The Hills and it's spin off The City no longer look like valuable life lessons, but more like false promises of prosperity whose cast have become vulgar relics from a now defunct era.

They say that every society gets the hero it deserves and since the credit crunch ours have dutifully turned up in the form of a new breed of series. There's nothing likeable about the stars of The Only Way Is Essex, and it's wildly successful US counterpart Jersey Shore, the new kids on the (un)reality block. They're vulgar, they're shallow, they're vain and they look like they've been dipped in a bag of crunched up Wotsits before going on camera. In short they're the type of people we'd never admit to knowing, but secretly can't get enough of. There's nothing to aspire to here, no celebrity, no glamour and very little in the way of intelligence. But that's why we can't stop watching them. Rather than dangling the carrot of what we can strive to achieve in front of our eyes, the programme makers are repeatedly beating us with the stick of what we could have easily become; and in these increasingly bleak times that makes them about the most life affirming role models that we're likely to get.

The Only Way Is Essex: Totally Vajazzled is on ITV2 tonight at 9pm and I urge you to watch it.

01 December 2010 3:48 PM

America can't understand Vernon Kay

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After steel, chemicals and manufacturing equipment, two of Britain's most successful exports are reality TV formats and presenters, both of which have converged in the US at the moment as naughty texter Vernon Kay is hosting an American version of Dancing On Ice.

Yes Vernon is following in Cat Deeley's dainty footsteps and is trying to crack the US market by fronting a reality show that has ensured panto gigs for at least three ex-Hollyoaks stars. But things aren't going particularly well for the former model turned ITV gameshow presenter. After his first appearance on Skating With The Stars, thousands of viewers took to Internet forums to ask who he was and to complain that they were struggling to follow what he was saying with many mistaking his broad northern twang for a Scottish accent. And as if that wasn't enough, things have gone from bad to worse for our Brit abroad after he made an embarrassing on air gaffe, fluffing his lines by calling one of the contestants by the wrong name.

Oh well Vernon, there'll always be All Star Family Fortunes eh? Want to find out what you're missing? take a look at the video after the jump fosneak peek at Skating With The Stars.

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