Jayne Dawson: Denise, you were in the best tradition of wise women

Denise Robertson.
Denise Robertson.
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Well that was sad news. To get to 83 isn’t bad and all that, But Denise Robertson so clearly had lots left to give.

She was still working for a start. There was no fading away, no gradual dimming of the light for this octogenarian.

She continued to look splendid on the telly, with her hair styled and her bright earrings and
 lippie setting off that lovely complexion.

But it was what Denise said that I will miss, and the way she said it.

Because the resident agony aunt on This Morning was warm and knowledgeable in the best tradition of the wise woman.

Just to look at her meant you knew that any secret would be safe with her. Denise was clearly so unshockable as to be bombproof.

Her expression said she had seen it all, heard it all, and been through it all - which indeed she had.

Denise had lost two husbands and a stepson, but she came through with warmth, compassion and wisdom intact.

What I really loved about her was that, while you knew she would be up for a laugh, she was at all times utterly grown-up.

That’s more rare than you might think. We live in an era when women are encouraged to act in ways that are childlike, shallow and ditzy.

You know what I mean. Women in their thirties and forties who will clap their hands and jump in glee like toddlers, and hug and shriek like teenagers.

Who will declare their love of shoes, handbags, shopping, and chocolate. For a while cupcakes were top of this list but, at last, I believe we have passed peak cupcake. Praise the Lord - because they are awful.

Women in their fifties who will fill any theatre in the land featuring the remains of the Bay City Rollers, David Cassidy or anything to do with Jackie magazine.

Denise wasn’t like that. She represented a different type of woman. The type with kind eyes that had seen the lot, who could get a meal on the table in ten minutes flat, who knew how to donkey stone a doorstep even if they didn’t actually practise the art anymore.

If a terrified woman had happened to knock on Denise’s door in the middle of the night, on the run from a man intent on beating her to a pulp, you knew that Denise would have had her in the spare bed with a cup of tea and a hot water bottle in mere moments without wasting time on words of shock and surprise, and managed to phone the police with the other hand.

She represented all those women who are practical, who are copers, who see life for what it is and take it just as it comes.

That’s not to say that other, younger, more modern type of woman, the one who shrieks and claps, isn’t a coper too. She is. Chances are she will have a job that runs her ragged, children that she worries about in the small hours, parents that she is afraid to lose. She will have money worries, health worries ...just worries, because we all do.

But she is encouraged to adopt a childlike front too often. And she will use phrases that do all women a disservice. I don’t like it when women talk about “baby brain” or “menopausal fog” or “time of the month” because I think they are playing into enemy hands.

Either we are rational human beings who can control or thoughts and actions as well as a man in any situation where a clear, cool head is required, or we are at the mercy of our hormones.

We cannot be both.

And, by the way, baby brain - that’s a myth. You might have a lot to worry about when you’re pregnant but your brain - it doesn’t actually change.

Denise would have known that while- unlike me - being entirely sympathetic and full of sensible advice at the same time. That is what made her special.

I used to ask myself in any tricky situation: “What would Vera Lynn do?”. In honour of the late agony aunt, I’m changing it to: “What would Denise do?”.


Madonna has never really been the gal for me. I think she had great style in the 1980s - that pointy bra phase was genius - but after that, nah, not really.

She always seemed too American, in that way some Americans have of believing they are totally worth it.

Madonna didn’t seem to have much of a sense of humour, or much appreciation that her astonishing success had to be at least in part due to dumb luck.

But now, at this late stage, I find myself feeling more in sympathy with her, on account of the custody battle with ex-husband Guy Ritchie over their fifteen-year-old son Rocco. Now, I have no idea who Rocco should live with. All I know is he is a very lucky boy to be able to choose between two wealthy parents who both love him.

But since the situation became public knowledge, Madonna has come in for a lot of flak - and not much of it about her parenting skills.

Madonna’s big crime appears to be that she is still out there, performing, dressing like an attractive, sexy woman at the age of 57.

She is derided and pilloried in a way that a male star never would be. Does Mick Jagger receive this kind of flak for wearing exactly the same clothes and dancing in exactly the same way as when he was a youngster, and not the 72-year-old man he now is? I think not.

I don’t care where Rocco lives, but it’s time to lay off Madonna for daring to be still performing in her late 50s.


Nope, I don’t get it. The idea of a holiday is to get away from the grinding routine of it all. Isn’t it?

I’ve always thought so. A holiday is about adventure, the thrill of the new. That’s what creates the memories - the difference, the novelty.

But clearly you don’t all think that way. Research by holiday protection firm ATOL reveals that a third of people who go abroad return to the same place. One in ten of you have been to the same resort ten or more times. Some of you even try to get the same hotel room. You eat in the same restaurants, you drink in the same bars.

Now, I’m not being funny but that’s not a holiday, that’s a second home.

You’re not going to create memories to last a lifetime there because all the trips will morph into each other. You are not going to feel more zingy and alive than normal, because everything will be so familiar.

But I guess you must be enjoying yourselves. So carry on.