Paris Jade

And throughout it all I have never had a crash. In Paris last weekend I had two — in the time it took to go round a single roundabout.
“It’s nothing!” my driver shouted as we bounced off a Citroen van on the 10-lane circular interchange at the Arc de Triomphe.
Five seconds later, a Fiat two-seater sent us veering across two lanes into a bollard that smashed a headlight, but failed to stop us.
“Crazy idiot!” screamed our driver over his shoulder, as he accelerated blindly through the traffic. “You want to have an accident?”
When Hanna, Shipi and I emerged from the car a few minutes later, we were white and shaken. I love the adrenalin charge of live TV, when you’re a constantly split-second from disaster, because I know I’m working with experts, and because I trust my own experience.
But to be strapped into a hurtling chunk of metal at the mercy of a cityful of motoring maniacs is my idea of sheer terror.
As we walked up the steps of the Pavillon d’Armenonville in the Bois de Boulogne, I asked Shipi if he remembered our last car crash, over 30 years ago.
We had just taken delivery of our Cadillac Brougham — the same monster limo which is now an auto sculpture, covered in bent cutlery — and we had decided to drive from New York to Knoxville, Tennessee, to visit our hotelier friends, Bob and Candace.
Many long hours into the ride, with the radio blasting out rock ’n’ roll, Shipi got distracted and ploughed the Caddy into a ditch at 60mph.
Miraculously, we escaped with cuts, bruises and, in the car’s case, a few minor dents. We even found a tow-truck heavy enough to haul the car back onto the road.
Since then, we have avoided long car journeys, which is why we took the train from Amsterdam Central to Paris Gard du Nord when President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, Carla Bruni, invited us to an international charity event in aid of abused children.
The card said the presidential couple looked forward to meeting us, but unfortunately a political crisis prevented them from attending.

They are the most glamorous and powerful couple in the world — if you don’t count Ant and Dec — and I would have loved to meet them, but many of the other guests rivalled them for sheer sparkle.
Mrs Nazik Hariri, widow of the murdered Lebanese prime minister Rafiq, watched intently as I bent a spoon for her, and then became engrossed in conversation with Hanna.

I was introduced to the movie director Yamina Benguigui, and to the couturier Elie Saab with his wife, Jette Joop.
The compere was a highly-rated Moroccan actor, Gad Elmaleh, who was joined by the actress Vahina Giocante and Duke Philipp of Wurttemberg as they conducted an auction.

All the funds went to the Innocence In Danger fund, celebrating its tenth anniversary. Russian oligarch Umar Dzhabrailov bought many of the lots with an expansive sweep of his hand, including exquisite designer handbags, which he gallantly presented to some of the ladies.
He also snapped up a spoon which I had bent and signed, paying 5000 euros with a smile.
Umar applauded louder than anyone when the opera diva Elina Zinskaya took the stage — she too is Russian, and I have discovered during my visits to Moscow that it is a national trait to be fiercely proud of their fellow countrymen.
I like that: it’s a positive mental attitude.

UNLIKE the Russians, the British sometimes focus instead on people they are ashamed of.
That’s how Jade Goody became a celebrity, but now, as she fights bravely for her life against a horrific cancer, I hope that the country will realised she is a good-hearted and courageous young woman who deserves our support and our prayers.
I met Jade when we were guests of Channel Five for a reality TV show. I walked off the set, but Jade stuck with it to the bitter end, and came back for more on Celebrity Big Brother.
She told me she couldn’t care less if millions of people she didn’t know admired her or despised her: what mattered was the people she loved.
For a girl who wore her lack of education as a badge of pride, that showed remarkable wisdom.
After that, whenever I met her at a TV studio or a party, she always told me about her children. I don’t think that was because she regarded me as a family man — she just couldn’t stop talking about her boys, Bobbie Jack and Freddie.
When she was told, in front of the cameras of another reality show, that she had cancer, many people suspected it was a publicity stunt. But I knew Jade would be disgusted by that idea, and I was immediately worried for her.
It seems my fears were justified, for despite chemotherapy and the best efforts of her specialists, Jade has been told the tumours have spread and are incurable.
When I meet patients with terminal diagnoses, I tell them: “There is always hope. There can always be a miracle. These things happen and they are not impossible, if you hang on to your hope.”
That’s my message to Jade, and to her sons. I believe fervently in the power of prayer to work miracles, and I hope all my readers will join me in praying for this brave young mother’s recovery.


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