London Diary: Of trendsetters, colourful Boris, Brexit and Shah Rukh Khan

Prince Harry turned 34 this week. No wonder Priyanka Chopra and Meghan Markle became such good friends — they both fell in love with men younger than them. If this is a trend, then good luck to them — as their example can change the equation for so many brave and beautiful women who can boldly go where others (less adventurous) can follow. Often it’s not just fun to break the accepted rules or norms — it is also very important!

But another (more trivial) trend which might catch on in the UK, to the consternation of fashionistas, is the wearing of socks and sandals together — which (shock and horror) is what David Beckham wore on a shoot for the British Vogue magazine. This has caused tremors in the fashion world, as one of the last bastions, a cardinal rule of wearing socks only with shoes, is being broken. Can this really be so bad? I have to say that I had never thought of my husband as being very fashionable — but now he is completely on trend, as he regularly puts on socks with sandals. Meghnad Desai and David Beckham, together, against the world! Sock it to them, baby!

It was a sad but sweet end to the cricket contest. The fifth and last Test was played at the Oval not far from where we live. The match began with several surprises. In each team in the first innings, the tail wagged better than the top order. Butler and Broad for England and Jadeja and Vihari for India. The second innings were historic for England with Cook scoring a century in his last Test and got a standing ovation from the large crowd. He has gone with a flourish. England piled up a huge score. India batting again had a good opener followed by three quick wickets for one run. Even so the two centuries on the English side were matched by two from India. One has to feel sorry for Virat Kohli. He scored 593 runs in the series but at the crunch point he was out for a duck. Such are fortunes made and lost in cricket. But it was great to see how cool everyone was in victory and defeat…

The big piece of theatre remains Brexit and Boris. During the August silly season, nothing much moved but as politicians returned to Parliament, there was the sensational denunciation of Theresa May and her Chequers plan by Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary. Then two things happened. His wife Marina Wheeler, daughter of a Punjabi mother and a famous journalist, Sir Charles Wheeler, threw him out and said she was suing for divorce. She is a QC so she knows the law. I had met her a few months ago — and we focused on the Partition of India as she is writing her mother’s story, and wanted to discuss the material we have at the Partition Museum in Amritsar, which she visited a while ago. Neither of us discussed the colourful Boris Johnson, who was still the foreign secretary at the time.

In any case, unfazed by his marital blues, Mr Johnson has denounced Ms May as having bound UK up in a suicide vest with the detonator in hands of the EU. This was insulting enough to the PM but many others were also offended — especially families of victims of terrorist bombing in Manchester and London. The tabloids are delighted. They are busy publishing photos of Mr Johnson’s past record of marriages and extra-marital affairs. This one will run and run.  There also was, recently, a day of speeches and discussions on what India can do to help the UK after Brexit, at the Dorchester Hotel. But the serious speeches were interrupted by Shah Rukh Khan, who has happily nothing to do with Brexit but can always provide publicity for any event. The Game Changer of the Year award was awarded to him by high commissioner Yash Sinha. Shah Rukh charmed everyone as expected. He told us how he really wanted to be an economist and study at the LSE. Luckily he stumbled into acting… Those who have never been fans of his acting were not sure he would have been great economist either…

We have a new TV star who can cook! Rahul Mandal is a research Physicist but he can bake cakes that are winners. In the Channel 4 show Bake Off, Mr Mandal has been outstanding in the early rounds. He had not cooked while growing up in India but liked watching cookery shows. Coming to the UK he began baking to make friends. This is certainly a new take on why we must all bake cakes! To make friends, and influence people, darling.

There is growing unease among parents whose children are glued to smartphones and cuddly computers. Kirstie Allsopp, a TV star, to the horror of many, smashed the iPads of her two sons aged 10 and 12 to make them enjoy the outdoors rather than stay indoors. To add to a growing debate, the head of a North London school has decided not to allow her students to have smartphones. The school would sell them phones shaped like bricks, which can only make calls and send messages. People are being advised to ensure they do not appear distracted in front of their kids by messaging on their phones while talking to them… not to use phones on the dining table or at night… apparently it is having a terrible effect on children. So are you ready to smash your kid’s smartphone?


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