Showing posts with label Alexandra Shulman. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Alexandra Shulman. Show all posts

Saturday, 12 January 2013

Natalie Haynes and Alexandra Shulman appear on With Great Pleasure

With Great Pleasure is one of the best programmes on BBC Radio 4.

If you haven’t discovered it, do give it a try. The series asks well-known names to pick prose and poetry they love - so it’s a fantastic way to discover new writers and hear old favourites.

This week I got the chance to attend a recording of two forthcoming programmes at the BBC’s Broadcasting House. The shows featured two ultra-inspiring women – the first, comedian and writer Natalie Haynes and the second, Vogue editor-in-chief Alexandra Shulman.

The programmes will both be broadcast in February so I don’t want to give too much of the game away but Natalie Haynes’s selection included two rare and exquisite readings by one of our most distinguished writers. Like the rest of the audience, I couldn’t quite believe my eyes when he walked on to the stage.

Then it was time for the second recording. I was fascinated to hear Alexandra Shulman’s choices – not only because she is a brilliant editor but because she is exactly the same generation as me. And sure enough, listening to her choices (beautifully read by Tracy Wiles and Stella Gonet) sent a shiver down my spine. Her favourites included Noel Streatfeild’s classic White Boots, Dorothy Parker’s The Telephone Call, Rosamund Lehman’s Invitation to the Waltz and even Mediterranean Cookery by Elizabeth David. Shulman recalled how the book took her straight back to her North London childhood, in the days when her mother (the distinguished journalist Drusilla Beyfus) would rush in from work and start cooking supper from scratch in their tiny kitchen.

As the child of two journalists, Shulman said that when she was growing up journalism seemed like very hard work for little remuneration. But she loved reading journalists’ writing and the journalist she most admired was Joan Didion, whose Play It As It Lays was another of her (universally excellent) choices.

Shulman, dressed in a stylish bottle green velvet dress, was surprisingly modest and self-effacing as she talked about the titles she’d selected. Being asked to do the programme was, she said, “an incredible treat and privilege.” Actually, being part of the audience was a treat and privilege too.

PS. Alexandra Shulman’s debut novel about three friends who graduate in the 1980s is out in paperback this week. Can We Still Be Friends (Fig Tree, £5.99)

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

Alexandra Shulman's debut novel - and how my 80s began

Alexandra Shulman, the brilliant Vogue editor-in-chief, has just written her first novel. Can We Still Be Friends is set in the 1980s and relates the lives and loves of three female friends. I’ve ordered the book from Amazon and can’t wait to see how her memories of the decade compare with mine.

Shulman gave readers a vivid snapshot of her 80s in a first person piece for The Times Magazine at the weekend. “My 80s began in the summer of 1980 when I was dumped by my boyfriend,” she said. “He chucked me the day I learnt my university degree – a 2.2 – so I began my 80s walking the streets of London in floods of tears.”

The image Shulman conjured up was so striking that I got to thinking about how my own 80s began. In the summer of 1980, I’d just graduated too – with a degree in history and politics that I’ve never used to this day.

I spent the long summer holiday driving through France in a bright green (and very temperamental) 2CV with my boyfriend of the time and arrived back in September to start training as a journalist.

I nervously drove the highly-strung 2CV from my parents’ house in Dorset to Plymouth, where the Mirror Group Newspapers training scheme was based, and booked into the YMCA for the first few nights. After teaming up with fellow trainees Fiona Millar and Jenny Craddock, we looked for somewhere more permanent to live together and ended up in a tiny ground-floor flat in a place called Mutley. Within a couple of months, though, Fiona moved to the Tavistock Times with Alastair Campbell, while Jenny and I were dispatched to the Mid-Devon Advertiser in Newton Abbot. We moved to a house in the wilds of Dartmoor, where it rained so much I had to start the 2CV with a liberal dosing of WD40 every morning to stand the faintest chance of getting to work.

My starting salary was the princely sum of £3,300 and mostly went on rent, petrol, the pub and trips to London to catch up with university friends who I thought were leading more glamorous lives. My favourite clothes came from French Connection, In-Wear and a shop in York called Sarah Coggles. I whiled away lots of evenings playing Elvis Costello, The Pretenders and Carly Simon on my (oh dear) record player. It wasn’t quite a wind-up gramophone, but not far off…
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