ALEXANDRA SHULMAN'S NOTEBOOK: Emma's got me thinking about sex

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN’S NOTEBOOK: Emma’s got me thinking about sex…when I’m 90

Emma Thompson gives an award-winning performance in Goodbye Leo Grande as a middle-aged woman who pays for sex with an attractive young man.

We first see her wearing a frumpy suit, with the sort of hairdo that was last popular among housewives in the 1960s.

She is embarrassed by herself and her body, and depressed by years of a sexually unsatisfying marriage.

By the time her liaison with the young man is over, she’s got her hair in a relaxed up-do and finally is able to survey her fully-naked middle-aged body – a body now sexually aware – in the mirror.

I contrast this with two images of middle-aged women in the news last week.

The about-to-be-divorced Jerry Hall – wife of Rupert Murdoch, all long hair and glamorous outfits – and the gorgeous filmmaker Sam Taylor-Johnson, who has renewed her marriage vows at the age of 55 with her 32-year-old husband, actor Aaron.

Emma Thompson gives an award-winning performance in Goodbye Leo Grande as a middle-aged woman who pays for sex with an attractive young man. We first see her wearing a frumpy suit, with the sort of hairdo that was last popular among housewives in the 1960s

You don’t get the sense they’ve ever felt sexually bereft as Thompson’s character did before her renaissance.

The reality is that the richness (or otherwise) of our sex lives is not predicated on age.

Some people don’t get much out of sex in their 30s; others regard it as the ultimate goal.

I recall a friend barking at me as I started a new relationship (and was clearly in the early throes of lust) that it wasn’t the be-all and end-all.

Of course it isn’t – but it’s jolly nice all the same.

When you’re young, it seems utterly impossible that anybody over 50 might have sex of any kind. But as the years go by, that benchmark moves later and later.

I’m now at the stage where I’m wondering what happens when you get to 90. Is it possible? Would one want it?

Was it a modern-day dumping for Jerry?

Perhaps I should ask nonagenarian Rupert Murdoch, whose soon-to-be ex-wife hinted at the passion in their relationship a few years back when she described older men as ‘much better lovers’. The chatter I’ve heard is that Rupert ditched Jerry by text message. Whatever his sex life, if that’s true his manners in his 90s are clearly lacking a certain something.

A chocolate box view of the Royals

Yet another dreary royal portrait has emerged, this time of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. It’s not awful, but it joins the ranks of utterly mediocre specimens of the genre.

It would be tempting to think it’s more difficult to create a brilliantly painted portrait now we are flooded with photographic images.

Would we have been as critical of portraits of Elizabeth I or other kings and queens if we had had photographs to compare them with?

You only have to look at the terrific works in the National Portrait Gallery collection painted over the past few decades – or observe the vibrant range of artists in the BP Portrait Award – to see painted portraits can still be wondrous.

My guess is that when it comes to royal portraits the artists feel frozen by their desire to please a large audience and are unwilling to risk any of the ‘well, it doesn’t even look much like them’ criticism.

That’s not really the point. Painted portraits are not meant to be entirely accurate representations. When that’s attempted – as with Jamie Coreth’s painting of the William and Kate – you get a chocolate box interpretation rather than anything of true artistic merit.

If you want truth, speak to a ‘former’

Last week I was billed in the Daily Mail as the ‘former editor of British Vogue’.

Later that night, I was captioned the same way while talking on BBC’s Newsnight about whether Britain was mirroring the 1970s with the unions on strike and Kate Bush at No 1 in the charts.

It feels odd to always be labelled as the ‘former’, as if you have no present identity.

As a ‘former’, I’ve become obsessed with how many commentators are former people.

You can’t switch on the radio without hearing a former military chap holding forth on Ukraine, or a former politician airing their views on this Government.

And thank heavens for that. Freed from the constraints of loyalty to one’s job, we ‘formers’ are able to speak the truth – unlike Government spokesmen fumbling around on the day’s newsrounds, or fashion journalists who can’t risk offending someone they need to keep on side.

If you want to know what’s really going on – yup, a ‘former’ is exactly who you need.

Kate’s talent now the focus, not her image

Back to Kate Bush, who has a new generation of fans thanks to the copious use of Running Up That Hill in the latest series of the Netflix drama Stranger Things.

These newcomers to Bush judge her purely on her music, which must feel hugely rewarding. When she hit the scene, yes it was her songs that became the wallpaper to our student years – but it was also her style. Her fabulous curly hair, her cupid bow mouth, her whirling hippie clothes.

What more can you ask than to be appreciated for your talents after the lure of your once-youthful appearance has started to wane?

We have an adult Ukrainian couple living with us and are often being contacted by others in the same position suggesting that their guests and ours might like to meet, no matter their age or occupation.

It’s just like when you are a parent of a small child and anyone who has a similarly aged young one suggests a playdate, desperate to keep their offspring entertained.

The intentions are good but it seems patronising to assume that because they have a nationality and language in common, Ukrainian visitors will all get along.

People talk about ‘their Ukrainians’ rather as they would their cockapoos, as if a bringing them together for a jolly walk in the park will be appreciated.

It may well be, but I can’t help thinking how I would hate it if the roles were reversed and I was expected to pal up with any Brit thrown my way after I’d fled to a foreign land.

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