The death of Hungarian actress Zsa Zsa Gabor, aged 99, has robbed us of yet another Hollywood icon. I’m married to a beautiful Hungarian woman called Zsuzsa but there the similarity ends. Zsuzsa’s only been married once (so far). Zsa Zsa was married nine times if you ask the press, eight times if you asked her and ten times if you asked her widow, Frederic Prinz von Anhalt, the last man standing.
Those multiple marriages fairly make her stick in a man’s mind. That and her endless supply of witty put-downs – mainly aimed at the hairier sex.
She made no secret of the fact she married for money: “I always said marriage should be a 50-50 proposition. He should be at least 50 and have at least $50 million.”
Men and the remarks she made about them kept her in the public eye. “I want a man who’s kind and understanding,” she used to say. “Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?” Although she was often dismissed as a frothy, superficial blonde, there was no shadowy PR expert scripting her public utterances. She was always supremely aware of her own value to the gossip columnists: “What is important for a woman, dahlink, even more than being beautiful or intelligent, is to be entertaining,” she said. She called everyone “dahlink”. “I call them darling because I can’t remember their names.”
She claimed to like intelligent men but even her brightest lovers were no match for her: “I love the intellectual type. They know everything and suspect nothing.”
Some celebrities are considered unlucky or difficult if their marriages can’t survive the twin destroyers of showbusiness and sudden wealth. Not Zsa Zsa. She wore her failure to stay wed as a badge of pride. “I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house”; “I never hated any of my husbands enough to give them back their diamonds”; and “You never really know a man until you’ve divorced him.”
With all the bitterness and wrangling that surrounds divorce, especially when it’s conducted in the public eye, it’s refreshing to have shared the century with a woman who could see the comedy in life and put it in a nutshell for us. We’ll miss you Zsa Zsa. Probably more than you ever missed any of your men.
You can’t beat walking in a winter wonderland
Nobody misses burst pipes and chilblains. But am I the only one who’s fed up with the mild winters we get now?
Snow is such a startling, sudden transformation of our surroundings. It’s like art on a giant scale. It turns our world so black and white and before it thaws and melts, that it’s hard to take a bad photograph.
It isn’t just a visual shock, either. Snow brings its own soundproofing. It falls silently and once it’s down, everything’s muffled. The birds fall silent. The traffic diminishes. If you’re lucky, you’re one of the hundreds of rural dwellers who manages to get snowed in. You’re forced out of your routine. You’ve an excuse not to make it into the office. And if your school gets shut down, oh the joy!
Snow is the best plaything ever invented. When I was a kid, we didn’t need a sledge. As long as there was a tin tray in the house that was all the speed we required to shoot down the slopes of the Braidburn Park and brake hard or jump off just before we overshot into the icy waters of the Braid Burn. On the days we had to go to school there were mass snowball fights in the playground. I think we can all remember the ghastly chill when some evil little git secretly crammed snow into the hood of your duffle-coat only for it to run down the inside of your clothes when you put your hood up. But the biggest thrill of all were the slides we made, turning the snow into ice by repeatedly sliding along the same stretch until it was 20 feet of glass. The teachers would have a hairy fit and come running into the playground shouting health and safety warnings.
When I finally had children of my own, it was just as much fun introducing them to the thrills of sledging, snowball fights and snowmen. I can’t understand the grinches who moan the minute the first flakes start to fall. As far as I’m concerned, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
I’d like to tear a strip off the lazy flytippers
As you know, folk who drop litter get on my nerves. But the people who really make my blood boil are the flytippers.
As the name suggests, flytippers get rid of the things they don’t want any more “on the fly”, in a hurry and in secret. They really don’t want to get caught. Because unlike a coffee cup or a Mars Bar wrapper, the stuff they’re dumping is super-obnoxious: a soiled mattress, half a ton of rubble or, in the case of a gang recently jailed in Shropshire, a bedstead, a wardrobe and 16 dead sheep. That’s right, they were jailed. Just so you know, flytipping, unlike litter-dropping, is a criminal offence. Depending on what you dump and where you dump it, you can be sentenced to up to three years.
Don’t think you’re off the hook if you dump your unwanted bulky items next to a bin. That’s still flytipping. And if you get caught in the act, or on camera, the fixed penalty is £200. Those of you who think it’s ok to leave a mattress in their bin-store better wake up fast. You’re just as likely to get prosecuted. Right now, you can pay Edinburgh council to take up to six bulky items away for a payment of £26. You’ll have to pay in advance and you’ll have to have them out on the pavement waiting by 7am. There’s also a way to have bulky items taken off your hands for nothing. If the thing you’re getting rid of is in good nick and could be used by somebody else, you can call the National Re-Use Phone Line on 0800 0665 820. They’ll come and get it and pass it on to a charity or social enterprise. They collect bed-frames, mattresses, chests of drawers, wardrobes, bookcases, dressing tables, tables, chairs, sofas, armchairs, washing machines, electric cookers, fridge freezers and bikes.
There’s nothing uglier than a dirty old mattress dumped on the pavement or a busted sofa lying out in the rain. Don’t risk it. Get rid of it responsibly, either by driving it to your nearest recycling centre or phoning the council or the Re-Use Phoneline. It’s criminal not to.