Hurrah for Britney Spears and her flashy diamond ring


ant to know where I’ve just been? Let me tell you anyway. In Paris, that’s where, and it was fabulous. Le Meurice was heaven — strictly in the way of business, ahem — there’s a five-minute wait to get into the Louvre and restaurants (hurrah!) are open once you’ve shown someone your Covid app thing. Oh, and my 14-year-old daughter got to share a carriage on the Eurostar with Stella McCartney. “My bum sat on the same loo seat that Stella McCartney just used!” she squeaked. Paris is back in business.

I don’t need to tell you, do I, the one shadow over the treat? Looking at the checklist that the Eurostar provided, the heart sank. There was the Covid certification for me and the PCR test for my daughter. There was the Declaration of Honour needed by the French (can you imagine the UK Government asking for someone’s word of honour?) and the Covid app for entry to museums and restaurants.

On return there was the passenger locator form which requires you to have booked a Covid test — up to £69 — and provide the reference number. Then there was the PCR or antigen test needed to board the train — that’s €25 to €30 each. All a formidable deterrent for travellers. Actually, it’s a bit of a party game now, to compare the costs of travel. At one lunch last week the game was won by the friend who had travelled to the US with his wife and daughter: the cost of the whole thing for two vaccinated adults, including a test for the little girl, was £733. So, no surprise that the boss of Heathrow has declared that the Covid restrictions on travel are a downer for business.

Plainly, the health of the nation takes priority but it’s not obvious that the amber list designation, from countries with much the same levels as here, does protect health. Thank goodness that’s to go. And all right, a trip to Paris isn’t a necessity. It cheered me up though.

Hurrah for Britney Spears, newly engaged, and with a completely flashy diamond ring to prove it. She’s happy and she knows it and she really wants to show it and you can’t help feeling happy for her. In the case of this wedding to Sam Ashgari, it’ll be third time lucky, though the first marriage to her childhood sweetheart did last just 55 hours.

Now that she’s – almost –  freed from her father’s legal custody after 13 years, she’s able to do things like get engaged, though this move will still have to be approved by her present legal conservator-guardians. Hell, she’s able to go for a drive with her boyfriend and  get rid of the IUD contraceptive implant which, she says, she wasn’t allowed to remove. Recently she tweeted that she’d become a Catholic. Britney is 39. What’s worrying about the conservatorship  – imposed by the courts when she suffered mental health problems – isn’t just that her father allegedly made free with her money. It’s that it was grounds for removing her human rights. Being mentally ill, it seems, even for a time, means you can be denied the liberties of a citizen. The Free Britney movement was onto something. Being able to marry and have children, to go for a drive with your boyfriend…it doesn’t get more fundamental than that.

I was grieved to learn Stephen Vizinczey has died. He was an erudite and charming Hungarian who wrote the most cheering book for women of my age: In Praise of Older Women. He had an astonishingly elegant style for someone who knew no English when he escaped Hungary in 1956. But then his models were the great writers.

As for his best-known book, his gist was that for young men, older women are way more appealing than young girls. And the more intelligent the woman, the more attractive she is. I think this view is more common among Hungarian intellectuals than our lot. But if you want to feel good about getting older, that’s the book to read.

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