I’ve never met Ghislaine Maxwell but I know many people who have and many of them will be trying to make sense of how the pretty, young girl they knew from Oxford turned into a remorseless and terrifying procurer.

When my sister was in her first year at the university, she ended up at one of Robert Maxwell’s frequent multi-generational parties at the nearby Headington Hill Hall. It was very popular.

Champagne flowed generously and she found herself the centre of insistent, unwanted attention from one of Maxwell’s sons also present. Just as she was about to disengage herself from his company, a younger girl she didn’t recognise came across the room and said ‘I’m going out’ to the man by my sister’s side.

The boy looked furious and asked the girl who had brought her home. He pointed to a boy in the opposite corner of the room. 

I've never met Ghislaine Maxwell but I know many people who have and many of them will be trying to make sense of how the pretty, young girl they knew from Oxford turned into a remorseless and terrifying procurer

Although I haven’t met GhislaineMaxwell, I do know people who have. Many of these will try to understand how the beautiful young Oxford girl became a terrifying and reprehensible procurer. 

‘If he lays a finger on my sister I’ll kill him,’ Maxwell’s son said as yes, you’ve guessed it… the young Ghislaine departed.

It’s a good illustration of how Ghislaine, as the youngest daughter, was brought up to be the protected princess of the family. Her father loved her, but he was also violently and abusive. She adored him. The older siblings of her mother stood by.

All of that changed in 1991. Maxwell died, falling from the yacht he had named after Ghislaine, his finances and reputation in tatters – and Ghislaine’s brothers were left fighting for their own existence. Maxwell’s privileged life was over in an instant.

Jeffrey Epstein is a hugely successful, geeky socially-savvy man who will take their place. He’ll be her new male provider. This will give her the financial security she needs and the status she deserves.

This time she has to be the Faustian princess who guards the castle from evil.

Instead she becomes the hunter, dispatched from Epstein’s many palaces to feed his insatiable appetite for young girls who never had the same privilege and protection as her. What is the reason she did it? It’s possible that we will never find out.

The Christmas season was difficult

I’ve just done a lateral flow test. It’s in the bathroom as I wait for the drops to make their way through the little white window and return their verdict. Can I join my Yorkshire friends for the New Year?

Call me cavalier, but I’ve never felt particularly worried that I was going to test positive. Then came Christmas Eve. I really, really wanted a clear test with my 94-year-old mother en route (and a huge turkey in the fridge) for the next day’s gathering.

Wouldn’t you just know it. For the first time, that welcome little red line next to ‘C’ did not appear. Half of the window had a muted pink. This smudgy-pink was not explained by Madly Googling.

I took a deep breath, took another test… and got the same result. Cue total panic.

No symptoms were present, so I can ignore them. There was an approximately 50% chance that I was not positive. Couldn’t I?

My son appeared with a facemask on and told me that it meant I needed to cancel Christmas.

My partner David was in town visiting my daughter and I called him to tell him not go near her. It’s possible that I am positive. How can we make this better? With fury and tears running down my face, I ran back to the toilet. Amazingly, my smudge became a sharp red line.

There isn’t any info in the test kits, nor online. However, the pink smudge could happen if the patient waits too long to check or if they are too late.

As it’s now 20 minutes since I took the test, if you’ll excuse me I am going to check my result. Clear. North Sea Is Here.

Marmalade manufacturers are also at war

So many of our acquaintances make marmalade that we’ve been given enough jars to see us through 2022. Marmalade-making is not what I expected to be a peaceful domestic task. It’s more like playing croquet, and it brings out competitive natures. 

A few of our friends enter a marmalade making competition each year and one reported that he’d been awarded a prize. On hearing this, another competitor (female) replied ‘Yes, I had heard that. The men’s prize’, with dismissive scorn at a category she regarded as the lowest of the low.

Claire’s gift to the new girls in pearls

A Very British Scandal is the dramatic divorce case between the Duke of Argyll and the Duchess. It will do for pearls what Bridgerton did to corsets.

Throughout the three episodes, Claire Foy, as the wilful Margaret, is seen in glorious three-strand pearls, even wearing the same jewels in the infamous ‘headless man’ photograph and in the courtroom. They are stunning and she looks amazing in them.

A common cardigan can look as glamorous as an evening dress with these. These add glamour and elegance to tweed. They’re perfect for our Zoom world.

Hands down, they’re the accessory we all owe ourselves as a New Year gift.

It’s a disturbing journey down memory lane

My computer screens displays a notification. ‘On this day you have a new memory.’ I hope it’s better than my old memory, which is shot to pieces. No luck. It’s a photo taken the same day ten years ago of a heavily frosted flagstone path in Scotland.

It was pleasant to look at it and it did make me think about that New Year’s weekend and what fun it was. But at the same time, there’s something disturbing about my Apple MacBook selecting ‘memories’ to pop into my head, as if it has some authority over my brain.