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ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Never let the man in your life actually run your life 

Two very different women appeared in court last week, their lives brutally controlled by men.

Britney Spears spoke via video to Los Angeles Superior Court in an impassioned attempt to end her father’s involvement in the conservatorship that had controlled every aspect of her life for 13 years; her finances, her performances, her associations, even her fertility. 

The conservatorship was launched to ensure the wellbeing of Britney when, at 27, she was deemed incapable of taking care of herself.

Meanwhile, in a courtroom of the French town of Chalon-sur-Saone, 40-year-old Valerie Bacot is on trial for killing Daniel Polette, the stepfather who began sexually abusing her when she was 12, then married her, regularly raped her and pimped her out in the back of his car. 

The final straw was when she suspected him of turning his attentions to their teenage daughter.

Britney Spears spoke via video to Los Angeles Superior Court in an impassioned attempt to end her father’s involvement in the conservatorship that had controlled every aspect of her life for 13 years; her finances, her performances, her associations, even her fertility

In a courtroom of the French town of Chalon-sur-Saone, 40-year-old Valerie Bacot is on trial for killing Daniel Polette, the stepfather who began sexually abusing her when she was 12, then married her, regularly raped her and pimped her out in the back of his car

In a courtroom of the French town of Chalon-sur-Saone, 40-year-old Valerie Bacot is on trial for killing Daniel Polette, the stepfather who began sexually abusing her when she was 12, then married her, regularly raped her and pimped her out in the back of his car

Very obviously, the multi-millionaire pop star and poor, desperate Valerie are at the extreme end of the spectrum of abuse. 

But on a much lower level I’m constantly surprised by how many women willingly hand over control of a large part of life to the men they live with – choosing to make themselves relatively helpless and highly dependent as a result.

For example, several highly intelligent women of my acquaintance have only the most rudimentary understanding of their finances, all too content to leave the subject to the men in their lives. 

Their mortgages, their investments, their tax, their pensions, the planning for the future – all crucial information that they have only the barest acquaintance with, having given away the management of it with relief rather than apprehension. 

That would make me feel incredibly vulnerable.

Maybe I feel this way because I have always been responsible for taking care of myself. 

But it’s also because I’ve often seen how otherwise resourceful and seemingly independent women have struggled when they eventually found themselves alone, or discovered the men they relied on to make the right decisions were not infallible after all.

Years of ignorance of much of the detail of their lives becomes a huge problem. One that, unlike the legally sanctioned abuse of Britney and the kind of unimaginable brutality that drives someone to murder, was entirely consensual and welcomed.

Boris gives his date night a little Polish

In the 1980s, I often hung out at London’s Polish Hearth Club.

Founded in 1940 as a sanctuary for Polish exiles, the club is in a stuccoed South Kensington townhouse and had become a favourite venue to hire for parties, especially book launches. 

We bright young things spent many a louche night there during the Thatcherite era.

Then it fell out of fashion, became rundown and empty, and only a few years back members were on the verge of selling the property.

Now the place has been revived by Jan Woroniecki and his Ognisko restaurant and it is once again humming with young and old.

As we sat down to dinner last week, I was proudly informed that only the night before Boris had sat in the very same chair as me on a date night with Carrie. 

What’s with the popularity of a Polish club under Tory governments?

The place has been revived by Jan Woroniecki and his Ognisko restaurant and it is once again humming with young and old

The place has been revived by Jan Woroniecki and his Ognisko restaurant and it is once again humming with young and old

We’re running out of cash and kindness

Our cashless world is not great news for the buskers and the hungry homeless still reliant on being handed loose change.

Last week I spoke to a man seated outside our local Post Office after giving him what coins I had.

He told me the cashless situation was so bad that he’d been to Argos and splashed out on a card reader for £49.99. 

Card readers, of course, have to be connected to phones so he must have had one of those too.

But as soon as he placed it on the pavement beside him, a bloke came along and stamped on it, smashing it to pieces – saying that if he had one of these then he obviously didn’t need the money. All in all, a bleak tableau of modern life.

Who knew builders love Barry White?

There are builders working on the house next door. 

They’ve been there for weeks, effing and blinding all day at high volume, singing along to AM radio (how much Barry White can a girl take?) and generally making a racket. They seem to be enjoying themselves. 

We’re more exposed to our neighbours in summer when everyone is in their gardens and the windows are wide open.

The builders’ din may not be quite to our taste but I suppose the indie music I occasionally blast out of the kitchen and our chatty dinners around the garden table are no doubt equally irritating to some who have to listen.

One person’s ghastly noise is another’s good time.

They’ve been there for weeks, effing and blinding all day at high volume, singing along to AM radio (how much Barry White can a girl take?) and generally making a racket. They seem to be enjoying themselves

They’ve been there for weeks, effing and blinding all day at high volume, singing along to AM radio (how much Barry White can a girl take?) and generally making a racket. They seem to be enjoying themselves

Levelling up? All we needed was lipstick…

My alma mater, St Paul’s Girls’ School, has been in the news for changing the head girl’s title to head of school – a strange twist for a place that prides itself on the levelling-up of women. 

It’s clearly come a long way from my time, when the headmistress of the day urged girls in the Debating Society to wear lipstick so that their audience would pay attention to their red lips when they were speaking.

Bruce isn’t the Boss when it comes to jabs

Bruce Springsteen returned to Broadway last night, performing to a double-vaxxed audience.

Bruce Springsteen returned to Broadway last night, performing to a double-vaxxed audience

Bruce Springsteen returned to Broadway last night, performing to a double-vaxxed audience 

At first, the St James Theatre said only those who’d had the Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson jabs could attend – not our Astra-Zeneca. 

Happily, it relented. But why would the man who penned the rebel anthem Born To Run be in favour of such prohibitive – and frankly bizarre – vaccine discrimination in the first place?

Jess’s flower power beats cancel culture

The Royal Academy has apologised to artist Jess de Wahls for removing her floral patches from its shop because eight people objected to her views on gender. 

The controversy has made a hitherto unknown artist headline news, but, more importantly, it’s a welcome step in a new direction in our cancel-culture times. 

It’s the first time I can remember that an arts institution has reinstated someone they removed or cancelled. 

Hopefully, for the sake of creative voices everywhere, it won’t be the last.

The Royal Academy has apologised to artist Jess de Wahls for removing her floral patches from its shop because eight people objected to her views on gender

The Royal Academy has apologised to artist Jess de Wahls for removing her floral patches from its shop because eight people objected to her views on gender


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