ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Ghislaine Maxwell was a pampered princess who turned into a hunter
I’ve never met Ghislaine Maxwell but I know many people who have and many of them will be trying to make sense of how the pretty, young girl they knew from Oxford turned into a remorseless and terrifying procurer.
When my sister was in her first year at the university, she ended up at one of Robert Maxwell’s frequent multi-generational parties at the nearby Headington Hill Hall. It was a popular invitation.
Champagne flowed generously and she found herself the centre of insistent, unwanted attention from one of Maxwell’s sons also present. Just as she was about to disengage herself from his company, a younger girl she didn’t recognise came across the room and said ‘I’m going out’ to the man by my sister’s side.
He looked angry and asked the girl who was bringing her home. She pointed at a boy on the other side of the room.
I’ve never met Ghislaine Maxwell but I know many people who have and many of them will be trying to make sense of how the pretty, young girl they knew from Oxford turned into a remorseless and terrifying procurer
‘If he lays a finger on my sister I’ll kill him,’ Maxwell’s son said as yes, you’ve guessed it… the young Ghislaine departed.
It’s a good illustration of how Ghislaine, as the youngest daughter, was brought up to be the protected princess of the family. She adored her father, who also adored her while simultaneously being violent and abusive. Her brothers, several years older, stood guard.
But in 1991 everything disappeared. Maxwell died, falling from the yacht he had named after Ghislaine, his finances and reputation in tatters – and Ghislaine’s brothers were left fighting for their own existence. The privileged Maxwell life had disappeared in an instant.
Enter the hugely wealthy, socially geeky Jeffrey Epstein who takes their place, becoming her new male provider and giving her the financial security and status that she was used to.
But this time, in a grim Faustian deal, she is no longer the treasured princess guarded from all evil in the castle.
Instead she becomes the hunter, dispatched from Epstein’s many palaces to feed his insatiable appetite for young girls who never had the same privilege and protection as her. Why did she do it? We may never know.
Why Christmas was a very testing time
I’ve just done a lateral flow test. It’s in the bathroom as I wait for the drops to make their way through the little white window and return their verdict. Will I be able to join friends in Yorkshire for New Year?
Call me cavalier, but I’ve never felt particularly worried that I was going to test positive. But then came Christmas Eve. I really, really wanted a clear test with my 94-year-old mother en route (and a huge turkey in the fridge) for the next day’s gathering.
Wouldn’t you just know it. For the first time, that welcome little red line next to ‘C’ did not appear. Instead, half the testing window was a smudgy pink. Madly Googling the meaning of this smudgy pink was no help at all.
I took a deep breath, took another test… and got the same result. Cue total panic.
I had no symptoms, no one else in the house was ill. Should I just ignore it? I could argue there was a 50 per cent chance I was negative. Couldn’t I?
I called upstairs to my son, who appeared in a facemask and said it meant that I had to cancel Christmas.
I phoned my partner David, who was visiting his daughter before she caught a flight the following day, and told him not to go near her. I might be positive. What should we do? I went back to the bathroom, tears pricking at my eyes with fury at the inconvenience. And then, amazingly, the smudge turned to a crisp red negative line.
Although there is no information either in the testing kits or online, it turns out the pink smudge can happen if you wait too long or check too early.
As it’s now 20 minutes since I took the test, if you’ll excuse me I am going to check my result. Clear. North Sea here I come.
Even marmalade makers are at war!
So many of our acquaintances make marmalade that we’ve been given enough jars to see us through 2022. It turns out that marmalade making, which I imagined a soothing domestic exercise, is like a game of croquet and brings out fiercely competitive natures.
A few of our friends enter a marmalade making competition each year and one reported that he’d been awarded a prize. On hearing this, another competitor (female) replied ‘Yes, I had heard that. The men’s prize’, with dismissive scorn at a category she regarded as the lowest of the low.
Claire’s gift to the new girls in pearls
A Very British Scandal, the dramatised divorce case of the Duke and Duchess of Argyll, will have done for pearls what Bridgerton did for corsets.
Throughout the three episodes, Claire Foy, as the wilful Margaret, is seen in glorious three-strand pearls, even wearing the same jewels in the infamous ‘headless man’ photograph and in the courtroom. And she looks marvellous in them.
They make a common cardigan as fabulous as an evening gown. They add glamour to tweed. They’re perfect for our Zoom world.
Hands down, they’re the accessory we all owe ourselves as a New Year gift.
A disturbing trip down memory lane
A notification pops up on my computer screen. ‘On this day you have a new memory.’ I hope it’s better than my old memory, which is shot to pieces. No luck. It’s a photo taken the same day ten years ago of a heavily frosted flagstone path in Scotland.
It was pleasant to look at it and it did make me think about that New Year’s weekend and what fun it was. But at the same time, there’s something disturbing about my Apple MacBook selecting ‘memories’ to pop into my head, as if it has some authority over my brain.
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