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Sunday 5 January 2014


Nigella serves Saatchi up a lesson in staying classy

The TV chef has launched her US cookery show while the PR guru lives it up with A-list parties and new celebrity lady-in-tow Trinny Woodall, writes Ruth Dudley Edwards

'Our website is currently down due to a huge interest in the Midhurst dress worn by Nigella," explained the Facebook page for a brand called Diva Catwalk.

Worse still, they were sold out. These days, only the Duchess of Cambridge can set off a sartorial stampede quicker than this 53-year-old cook.

But there's good news for those of you craving a €100 form-fitting, curve-enhancing, electric-blue dress with a plunging neckline: the seamstresses are hard at work and it'll be back in stock on January 15.

Judging by the frock-crisis, a soft and sympathetic interview with Nigella Lawson on Good Morning America, the ecstatic coverage of it in the press and social media, favourable reactions to her flirty and endearing performance on the first programme in the second series of her US culinary show The Taste, and by the speed at which she's acquiring Twitter followers, Nigella is over the worst of her tribulations.

True, there's a small chance the Metropolitan Police might ask some awkward questions about drug consumption, her ex-assistants might sue over what she said about them and her unfortunate children still have to deal with the awful publicity, but Nigella's done as well as anyone could in exceptionally trying circumstances.

Her pitch to the viewers of America's most-watched morning news show on Thursday was sheer genius. Forget cocaine and cannabis: Nigella confided to a sweet-toothed audience that she had consoled herself with chocolate. While it was "mortifying" to have "distortions of your private life on display", she explained, "there are people going through an awful lot worse, so to dwell on any of it would be self-pity and I don't like to do that".

That dignified and high-minded answer saw the interviewer off and they fell into discussing chocolate lemon meringue pie and the show she was promoting.

One of the ways Nigella maintains her classy image is by relentlessly tweeting about food, whatever is going on around her.

She announced her return to London on Friday with: "Back home to toast and marmalade, and tea in my Archers mug."

Meanwhile, her ex-husband Charles Saatchi, 70, who received nothing but bad publicity over his attempts to punish Nigella for leaving him, had been continuing his strange public wooing of fashion guru Trinny Woodall, 49, at a table outside Scott's, where the sorry saga began in June when he was snapped there, encircling his wife's throat with his hands.

I hate to be unromantic, but Saatchi is an adman of genius, he'd been humiliated by the terrible press coverage and there might just possibly have been some calculation in becoming involved in mid-September -- six weeks after his divorce -- with another high-profile, clever, posh TV presenter. And it seems not impossible that Trinny feels the endless parade of glamorous photographs of her in elegant and expensive clothes could be professionally helpful.

Trinny showed her serious side, too. In late November, at a time when the press was full of speculation about allegations of Nigella's drug-use, Saatchi's new squeeze appeared at a Spectator debate opposing the motion "Addiction is not a Disease".

"I'm Trinny, I'm an alcoholic and I'm an addict," she began arrestingly, and after describing how she became clean, she explained: "I have this hole in myself. In the past I filled that hole with drugs, and now I have to fill it with a more spiritual path."

Her speech rang with sincerity, but the timing was odd.

While Nigella was photographed over the festive season displaying the enormous, perfectly browned turkey she had cooked for family and friends, Saatchi, the famous recluse, hired a £25m (€30m) yacht and appeared at the turn of the year with Trinny "partying with A-listers" in the Caribbean, at a bash thrown by Kate Moss. A stomach-churning report in Hello magazine revealed: "Charles and Trinny were acting like honeymooners -- he was showing her off to everyone like a prize turkey."

They were, allegedly, repeatedly joking by "pointing to the yacht and laughing that they were having to 'doss down' on it".

We are not told how Trinny felt when -- rather than party on Mustique chez Moss's neighbour Mick Jagger -- they had a "cosy" quiet night in on New Year's Eve.

Saatchi has been accused of deeply resenting Nigella's career and her children, hating her travelling and being a control freak.

Trinny, the mother of a 10-year-old, has been to many countries with her show and is allegedly an ambitious and bossy workaholic.

Who knows how their romance will pan out? But Trinny should bear in mind the words of Saatchi's second wife, Kay: "When the light shines on you, he is charming and amazing and special. I know because it shone on me. Then the light fades and there is darkness."




Ruth Dudley Edwards

© Ruth Dudley Edwards