ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: Celebrities can flee Britain can't but not guilt
24th January 2021

ALEXANDRA SHULMAN: Celebrities can flee Britain to a fabulous villa but they can’t escape from guilt as the daily death toll creeps up

Here’s a question. If someone offered to whisk you away on a generous holiday in some glamorous winter sun spot – St Barts, Mustique or even the Kenyan island of Lamu – what would you do?

Would you a) start packing; b) consult the Government travel advice, discover you are only meant to go abroad for work and fret about what to do; c) decide that you wouldn’t go because of the above and anyway it felt immoral when times are so dire for so many people?

Robbie’s plight highlights an uncomfortable truth. Many people who have the resources and opportunity to get away are doing so.

Total disclosure here: I was invited on just such an expedition in early December before London went into tier 4. And after all of five minutes wrestling, more with logistics than conscience, I went. 

It was wonderful. The sea was warm, there were sundowners at sunset. Fabulous.

Would I have accepted that invitation now, as we are mired in full national lockdown and our hospitals are at breaking point?

No, obviously not. But I’d be lying if I didn’t admit I’d be sorely tempted.

Who doesn’t want to flee Britain’s rain-soaked January chill, shuttered restaurants and soulless, empty high streets?

Yet when I heard Robbie Williams has coronavirus on the playground paradise of St Barts, I’m sure I wasn’t alone in the fleeting thought: ‘Serves him right for going there, wandering around in Hawaiian shirts in the sun while we’re all in duvet coats and woolly hats.’

Is that a nice reaction? Nope. And certainly unreasonable of me given my earlier indulgence. 

But Robbie’s plight highlights an uncomfortable truth. Many people who have the resources and opportunity to get away are doing so. 

Who said when it came to Covid we are all in it together? The virus has disproportionately affected those in the most deprived circumstances in both economic and health terms. 

It’s also run a neon-pink highlighter over how money can buy escape.

Cash pays for private planes that avoid all those British Airways cancellations. 

It can dream up an ersatz work reason to justify your presence in another country. 

It can pay for suitcases full of lateral flow tests to self-administer any time you feel the need to check your health. It can isolate you in a sumptuous private villa.

But while the gold-plated refugees can escape the virus along with the January weather, they can’t escape the contagion of guilt.

There’s a new omerta about who’s hanging out with who. 

Even private Instagram accounts are being edited for who the snaps are shared with. 

Lazing poolside with a pina colada as the daily death toll creeps up is not something any sane celebrity would want to publicise.

But really, aren’t we just deeply envious that they can do what we can’t? I ask that question again. Well, would you?

A purple patch in US politics

Nobody knows better than politicians that life is all about the optics. So there was enough sartorial messaging at the Biden inauguration to fill a library – in particular a deep dive into The Color Purple, Alice Walker’s 1982 bestselling novel about the hardships of African-American women in the Deep South.

Since this inauguration was all about demonstrating racial and gender equality, purple was everywhere. From Kamala Harris’s vivid mauve coat and dress, to Hillary Clinton’s violet pantsuit and even Joe Biden’s lavender tie, the Capitol steps were like a clematis catalogue.

Even Michelle Obama’s Mulberry outfit with a gilded buckle that would give Wonder Woman a run for her money just sneaked on to the purple ticket.

One person not embracing the purple look was the outgoing First Lady, Melania Trump. She had her own message to send.

It was no secret that she didn’t go a bundle on that White House role. ‘Holy Cow, I’m outta there,’ shrieked her tropical-print Gucci kaftan as she walked out on to the steps of Air Force One for the last time into the balmy Florida air.

And, coming from the woman who once wore a jacket inscribed with ‘I really don’t care’, she certainly knows clothes talk.

Stylish Jill will be a First Lady of fashion

In contrast to Melania, America’s new First Lady is, I would guess, going to embrace every Easter Egg-rolling moment.

She doesn’t strike me as a backseat woman, and as a highly qualified teacher, she is set to be an opinionated consort.

If I have a criticism of Joe Biden, it’s that he seems a bit po-faced. But Dr Jill looks like fun.

Her clothes are always colourful and I loved how she chose a crystal embellished coat and tulle neck-lined dress (practically party wear) for the most important day of her life. And how she’s into fashion enough to have adopted one of the sillier style practices of wearing bare legs, even on an icy January day.

At 69, Jill Biden is a fantastic fashion role model for older women who sometimes feel they have to give up on caring about clothes. She’s not as young as the previous two First Ladies – but in style terms she’s every bit their equal.

One term I’d like to stick in a blender

Please let’s stop talking about ‘blended’ families. 

Speaking as part of one (does that make me an ingredient?), I hate us sounding like some wheatgerm smoothie straight out of the NutriBullet.

Why we’re drooling over a dashing duke

Covid might have changed a lot but not the way that we’re still enthralled by a socking great romance

Two of the biggest TV hits of the past year have been the bodice-ripping Bridgerton and Sally Rooney’s Normal People.

One is set in Georgian London, the other in 21st Century Ireland but at root they’re both good old ‘girl meets boy, will boy get girl?’ love stories.

Covid might have changed a lot but not the way that we’re still enthralled by a socking great romance, especially one loaded with a fairly substantial dollop of mouth-watering sex.

PS: Word is that the second series of Bridgerton is not scheduled to include the dashing Rege-Jean Page, the Duke of Hastings who stole our hearts. Surely Netflix won’t risk such an obvious own goal?

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