İnto it lushly pavements

Prolific: Barbara Taylor Bradford last week – her novels have sold 92 million copies around the worldIf Barbara Taylor Bradford were made of metal, it would be gold. Beneath an expensively honeyed bob, her face – with just a little Botox to the forehead – is radiant. The bestselling novelist, who has sold 88 million books and commands a devoted worldwide following, looks expensively at home in the splendour of The Promenade at The Dorchester on Park Lane.But her opinions? They are another matter, for they would appear to be made, somewhat unexpectedly, of tungsten.We need ‘boots on the ground’ in the Middle East to stop Islamic State, some modern feminism is ‘silly’, internet porn is sending real sex to hell in a handcart, the Church of England needs to come out fighting for Christian rights, foreign aid shouldn’t be mandatory when there’s hunger at home, and legally the land of Magna Carta should not have to kowtow to Brussels.She understands why Ukip has come into existence (with no hint of endorsement), wonders why we’re cutting our defence budget with Russia in our air space, admires Boris Johnson and thinks that Michelle Obama really should put her bare arms back inside a smart cardigan. Add to that it’s still a man’s world and women, even super-rich super-successful ones such as her – Women of Substance, in fact – definitely can’t have it all.Phew. She’s wearing a blazer of pure Tory-lady blue and sounds like she wants to grab the nation by the scruff of its neck.Given that we are asizzle with General Election politics, it’s hard not to be reminded of Baroness Thatcher. (A grocer’s daughter who stormed No 10 Downing Street, she would have been an archetypal Barbara Taylor Bradford heroine.)
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The Manhattan-based author, now 81 ‘though I still think I’m really 49’, has come back to Britain ahead of the publication of her 30th novel, The Cavendon Women, later this month.Distance lends objectivity about her home country and – with her books in print in 40 languages across 90 countries, she knows full well her opinions resonate in this one.From her pen has flowed a stream of of strong, successful heroines, so I start by asking her opinion on womanhood today. ‘There’s still a lot of sexism, it’s still a man’s world,’ she begins bluntly. ‘I think a woman is equal to a man except she does not have a penis. She can, however, have balls!
From rags to riches: Jenny Seagrove as the indomitable Emma Harte in a 1984 TV adaptation of Taylor Bradfords A Woman of Substance‘So when a woman has the same intellect as a man, the same work ethic, the same stamina, she is his equal and she should be paid the same money for the same job.‘When I was made Woman’s Page editor of the Yorkshire Evening Post at 18, I was told you can have the title but not the money. That was typical then and it is typical now. You only have to look at the recent Sony hacking scandal to know women, both stars and senior executives, remain the victims of a pay gap. That’s the battle we should be fighting.’However, she fears battlelines are being blurred by modern hang-ups about old-fashioned chivalry. ‘I don’t care if a man opens the door for me or pays the bill in a restaurant – I like help getting out of a cab in high heels, thank you – but today there’s a fuss about these inconsequential things when we should be looking at the bigger picture, the one which demands women be accorded the same pay and same respect as men.’ Taylor Bradford is not a fan of selective discrimination (she’s horrified at the idea of women voting Hillary Clinton into the White House next year on grounds of gender alone) or of some of the more radical strands of the women’s movement such as Slut Walks. ‘Ugh, so juvenile, I mean what are they supposed to do?’And she despairs of sleazy dressing. ‘If a man likes you, he is not going to be enticed by a lump of bare bum and half a bosom in one of those cutaway net dresses. Even Michelle Obama’s arms – who wants to see them, really?’She thinks there’s too much rude stuff on British television and won’t be going to the cinema to watch Fifty Shades Of Grey, but has no problem justifying her own sex scenes.
Show time: The author says that nobody want to see First Lady Michelle Obamas arms‘A good sex scene does not discuss body parts, it should be about showing emotion,’ she says.‘Suggestiveness, I think, is very sexual. There’s too much pornography today. It may turn men on – and some women, too – but it makes sexual love vulgar, diminishes it.‘When you can download it on to your phone then it becomes commonplace, ordinary, not special, emotionally uninvolved and that’s dangerous.’Despite being a financial powerhouse herself (‘there are two things I won’t discuss, Sarah, one is my sex life and the other is money, but I’m not starving’), Taylor Bradford is hugely supportive of stay-at-home mothers.‘Today’s woman of substance can come from anywhere, be anyone, a woman who digs into herself to find ambition, discipline, dedication and focus. She can be a mother supporting her husband and raising her children, or a career woman – it’s a free world, nobody should dictate which is best.‘What I would say is that a woman can’t have everything, not unless there are 48 hours in a day and there aren’t. Something has to give. You can’t have the career, the husband you love, children to raise… it’s impossible.’Those issues could all come under one section of The Cavendon Women which Taylor Bradford calls ‘Warrior Women’. There’s another entitled ‘Deceptions Revealed’ which brings us neatly, I joke, to British politics.‘I think we’ll have a coalition again. I’m not sure the Tories or Labour can pull it off alone and they have a lot of suitors in Westminster.’ So which leader would be the best custodian of the country for the next four years, I ask. She’s too canny to call it, but looks at me pointedly and asks: ‘Do we have a Churchill or a Mrs Thatcher…?’What does she think of Ukip? ‘I understand why it exists,’ she says, but stays grim-faced until we get to Boris. ‘Boris for PM,’ I suggest when she praises his writing on the threat from Islamic State. ‘Who knows?’ she chuckles. ‘He does say a lot of the right things.’Islamic State and the radicalisation of England, including her beloved Yorkshire, is something that terrifies her.‘Leeds, where I was born, has changed so much. I was shocked that the 7/7 bombers were mostly from Leeds, born in England with all the benefits of growing up in a just, fair, warm society which has accepted immigrants for generations. It makes me afraid. Western powers don’t know what to do, people don’t realise we are in the middle of a third world war.‘Boris Johnson said IS was about power and plunder, and it is. They’ll come to us if we don’t take the fight to them. Churchill maintained that you can’t fight a war without boots on the ground. I don’t agree with the appeasers and the negotiators, if you have an enemy who wants to kill you, you have to retaliate. It’s breaking my heart but something has gone fundamentally wrong when men and women start turning their backs on all that being British bestows.’Despite her dual nationality and being a doyenne of New York society, Taylor Bradford describes herself as ‘British to my toenails’. I imagine they’re perfectly painted as she does like to be well groomed. ‘Plain colours, sharp tailoring – one friend says I look like I should be reading the news on Fox TV – hair done twice a week when I can.’
Boris for Number 10? Taylor Bradford believes the Mayor of London does say a lot of right thingsHer best beauty tip? ‘Not too much powder as you get older – it settles into the creases.’She’s also an ardent monarchist who doesn’t believe the Queen will ever abdicate and spends ‘a lot of time explaining the rules to Americans’. She thinks Prince Charles’s long wait for the throne will make him a good king.Asked how would she write the rest of Kate and William’s love story, she says ‘with a happy ending’.‘She’ll make a wise queen. She’s very grounded and just right for him. As a couple they will become even better with age’.Taylor Bradford longed to be a writer from childhood, left school at 15 for the typing pool of the Yorkshire Evening Post and fought her way to a Fleet Street column at the age of 20. She was in her mid-40s when she found global fame with her debut novel, A Woman Of Substance, which was published in 1979. It is still in the top ten bestselling works of fiction ever. She married her husband, Bob Bradford, an American film and television producer in 1963, and they have a legendary romantic relationship. After two miscarriages, they elected to have neither tests nor treatment and do not have a family.The oddness of someone who is an only child (her elder brother died in childhood) and who has no children of her own being such a gifted chronicler of family sagas is not lost on her. ‘I know, I know, but I always say the most dangerous place to be is in the middle of a big family!’
Taylor Bradfords ideas for if she was Prime Minister include cutting spending on foreign aid and increasing Britains defence budgetShe writes lushly long books with a moral core and recurring themes – grit and graft bring success, there will be sacrifices along the way, many people keep secrets.The journalist in her delights in their commercial return, the grande dame of her literary genre hopes their value is more than just their cover price. ‘She inspired women to be their best,’ is what she’d liked carved on her gravestone.The Cavendon Women is an epic tale of two families, the aristocratic Inghams and the Swanns who serve them, centred on Cavendon Hall in the Yorkshire Dales. Set in the early 20th Century, it taps into the current vogue for cosiness and nostalgia fed by television’s Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge and Call The Midwife.‘People like to lose themselves in simpler times,’ Taylor Bradford says, and swallow dives into a list of her own 21st-Century concerns – doubtless which will be shared by Middle England at the ballot box.She despairs of excessive health and safety: ‘There are so many rules and regulations about cutting down trees because a branch might fall off or stopping children cycling on pavements. Consider that alongside the incomprehensible, reprehensible attitude to child welfare where social services take children from parents with no real evidence of abuse or neglect and leave endangered children in damaging environments.’She is withering about the Church of England. ‘Why does it not defend our Christian-Judaic society? Why is the Church so quiet about Christian bashing, why don’t its leaders get up and defend us, why can’t we speak about Christmas and Easter any more?’ She worries about literacy, that today’s children may never have the chance to burrow into books as she did when she was small.‘Gadgets get in the way,’ she sighs, although she has started writing e-books to fulfil the modern hunger for shorter, tablet and phone-friendly reads.There’s more: ‘Why are we spending money on foreign aid when there is need here? Can anyone explain that to me? And why should British laws be controlled by Brussels? Why are we cutting our defence programme when we have Russian planes over the Channel… Oh, there’s a lot I would do if I were PM!’So what would she call her party? We toss a couple of ideas around but nothing sensible or funny sticks. She says she’ll think about it.But after an encounter brimming with life, her candid company and common sense as invigorating as a morning mug of Yorkshire Tea, I’d suggest the Come To My Dinner Party party, because that Barbara Taylor Bradford, I bet she throws a good one.The Cavendon Women by Barbara Taylor Bradford will be published by HarperCollins on March 26, priced £16.99 in hardback, and £10.99 as an e-book.

weeks the in apart

So when would have been a good time for Aston Villa to play West Bromwich Albion? How about six? In the morning, obviously.The Friday night drunks would have slept it off and the Saturday session boys couldn’t yet have got going. Perfect. Obviously, there would have been some inconvenience for those who just want to watch a football match, rather than get tanked up and chin a police horse, or Callum McManaman.But since when did they matter? 
Police clashed with supporters on the pitch after Aston Villas FA Cup clash with local rivals West Brom
Trouble flared before, during and after the FA Cup showdown as Aston Villa secured their place at Wembley
West Brom midfielder Callum McManaman is helped off the field following the full-time whistle and invasionThe reason police are in city centres at chucking-out time, we imagine, is to uphold law and order. And why do we need law and order? To protect the millions of citizens who wish to lead their lives in a peaceable way.‘The police are for the protection of ordinary people,’ exclaims the God-fearing McLeavy, in Joe Orton’s Loot. Inspector Truscott views him coldly. ‘I don’t know where you pick up these slogans, sir,’ he says. ‘You must read them on hoardings.’A law-abiding football supporter will recognise that sentiment. Forever herded, segregated and inconvenienced, unable to even have a drink with his mates at the game — where are the people who are meant to protect his rights?They are part of the problem — forever whinging about their part of the deal, their hardship, their costs, their pressures. An FA Cup replay, of even minor status, takes close to two weeks to make secure in this country yet, in America, baseball’s World Series can take place at two days’ notice.In 2009, the New York Yankees made the final on the Sunday night, and hosted the first match of the Series against Philadelphia that Tuesday. And don’t kid yourselves there are no away fans: those cities are less than a two-hour drive apart. Previous
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