It is difficult to look into the saga of Nigella, Saatchi, the servants and, in the background, Nigella’s first husband, John Diamond, without having the cliché ‘nobody’s perfect’ cross one’s mind.
But once you’ve pushed that aside, there follows, almost immediately, a more complicated thought.
Of those imperfect people, many have been pushed by chance, talent and wealth into a degree of public notice and even quasi-worship which, perhaps, few of us could sustain without becoming self-centred and arrogant.
As it happens, I met Nigella Lawson, sometime in the nineteen-eighties.
The occasion was a P.E.N. gathering at the University Women’s Club in Belgravia. She was with Lady Antonia Fraser, who introduced us.
At that time Nigella was known only for her restaurant column in The Spectator, which I chuckled over every week. I made some hyperbolic
reference to its merits.
She smiled shyly and our acquaintance concluded.
In 1988, as, again, it happens, I had a telephone conversation with her brother, Dominic Lawson, then editor of The Spectator.
When the Ayatollah pronounced a fatwa (death sentence) on Salman Rushdie for his allegedly blasphemous novel The Satanic Verses. Writers’ and Freedom of Speech organizations erupted. I worked for one such, English PEN, at the time, and I attended a meeting called by the Mosque in Regent’s Park to debate the
The General Secretary of PEN had said that we should act as silent observers, but changed her mind. We both addressed the gathering. Next day I
wrote an account of the event and sent it to The Spectator.
When it did not appear and I had heard nothing from them, I rang the magazine to find out what, if anything was happening.
I was put through to Lawson, who told me that he was not minded to publish anything on the subject, because the book was greatly overrated and the subject was now, journalistically speaking, dead.
Clearly, then, despite the undoubted intelligence of the family (Nigel Lawson, Nigella’s and Dominic’s father, was Mrs Thatcher’s Chancellor of the
Exchequer) it was possible for a Lawson to be in error.
The trial at present in progress is full of puzzles. Not the least of them is who is really on trial.
Allegedly it is two servants of Nigella, who are being accused by Charles Saatchi of fraud and misuse of his cheque book.
It is tempting, however, to interpret events as being in fact driven by both Nigella’s and Charles Saatchi’s urge to blacken each other¹s names in
public in revenge for a marriage that has been widely perceived as a failure for several years.
It is also tempting for crusty old moralists like myself to suggest that the two of them have far too much money to feel any need to act sensibly or
Saatchi, appears to have woken up to considerable sums of his money being spent by the two young women working for Nigella, somewhat belatedly.
Although money, and the patronage of the arts that it allows him to indulge, seem to be all that really matters to him, he cannot be bothered with the
administration of small (comparatively small) sums.
His older brother and partner, Maurice, Baron Saatchi, has gone public about his belief that Charles is a psychologically damaged person. Others
who know Charles have described him as a control freak .
He makes great play of his interest in art, culture and the things of the mind, but the bottom line to his personality seems to be a fierce concentration on the
accumulation of an ever-increasing fortune.
If so, then his mock throttling of Nigella outside a restaurant suggests
that he resents the failure of their marriage as much as she does.
She resents his allegations, based on the evidence of the two young women being prosecuted, that she used cocaine regularly, and allowed her children to
Nigella appears to have been introduced to cocaine by her first husband, John Diamond, and she admits to having taken it during his long and painful
death from cancer in 2001, and as a very occasional user since.
She herself is not short of a million (or several) and leads what must be quite a busy and taxing career as a television cook and ‘domestic goddess.’
At least some of the arrogance of riches has clearly rubbed off on her.
However, her suggestion that her relatively trim figure is evidence that she is not the regular cocaine user Charles accuses her of being seems at least
What does this story tell us? It would appear to show us that money cannot make us happy, but also that, contrary to the aged joke, neither does
it necessarily allow us to be miserable in comfort.
It also allows us to take revenge upon partners who have lost whaever affection we once had for them !