Author Archives: audreymw

Bamber Gascoigne on the challenge of his £10m money pit

He inherited a problem along with this crumbling stately: raising funds for the renovation.

In July 2014, after his great-aunt, the Duchess of Roxburghe, had passed away, Bamber Gascoigne was summoned to a meeting by his aunt’s solicitor. The former University Challenge quizmaster assumed they would be discussing his role as executor of the will, but he was told the duchess had chosen him, one of her 25 great-nephews and nieces, as the heir to her 350-acre summer residence in Surrey.
“I was just astonished,” the broadcaster and author recalls. “You try to keep a normal demeanour. It wasn’t that I didn’t take it in, but it didn’t seem an appropriate place to respond in any dramatic manner. I just sort of accepted it, and we went on to talk about the business of being executor.”

It’s fitting that the nation’s favourite polymath should inherit his own slice of history: West Horsley Place, a crumbling stately home, once played host to Henry VIII. But Gascoigne, 82, was also bequeathed a conundrum that might tax the finest brain: how to raise £10m and drag the estate into the 21st century.
The 15th-century property is surrounded by formal gardens, green fields, woodland, an orchard and a crinkle-crankle wall. Yet behind the charming red-brick exterior lurks a host of defects. The 1630s Renaissance brickwork on the south front is crumbling away from the Tudor timbers to which it is affixed. The eagle-eyed will see that the gutters are cracked and the lintels are sagging.

When Gascoigne and his wife, Christina, 78, crossed the threshold of the Tudor mansion as owners, rather than guests, they had only ever set foot in three of the 50 rooms. He had visited West Horsley Place as a teenager, and the pair had enjoyed family lunches hosted by his great-aunt in recent years, but they had never been upstairs. “I hadn’t seen any of that when I already owned it,” he says.

Today, we’re free to explore the labyrinth of rooms. Gascoigne, white hair askew and without his trademark horn-rims, leads me around the two floors and up to the attic rooms, where wallpaper is peeling off the walls and buckets are strategically placed to deal with the leaks. Our tour takes in the pale lemon morning room, the library, which smells of mothballs, and the duchess’s red-hued drawing room.
In the stone-flagged great hall, a fire burns, but there’s a chill in the air. Knowing how impossible the draughty house was, Mary Roxburghe, who became chatelaine of West Horsley Place after her divorce from the Duke of Roxburghe, assumed the property would be sold on her death. But Gascoigne — who when we meet is kitted out against the interior cold in blue mittens, a scarf and a green woolly jumper under a check blazer — felt it would be “a bit feeble” to sell up. “We haven’t got children, we haven’t got anyone to leave it to, so to speak, but we thought, ‘Let’s have a go.’”
The couple, who met at Cambridge in 1960, on the steps of the university library, established pretty quickly that the house “wasn’t part of the modern world”, and though they knew they would never live in it, they bedded down there one winter’s night with a group of friends. “We did very bravely spend a New Year’s Eve here, and it was unbelievably cold,” Gascoigne says. “We had a go, but never again.”

In May 2015, he auctioned off most of the house’s contents to raise funds for the repairs. The paintings, furniture and jewels made more than £5m, with one particular item, the duchess’s Cartier diamond engagement ring, selling for £130,000, despite a guide price of between £8,000 and £12,000.
The survey had highlighted a host of problems, and more money was needed for the restoration. At this point, doubt began to creep in. “I had never done a renovation before,” says Gascoigne, who has overseen a small extension to his 19th-century townhouse on the river near Richmond, southwest London. “We began to feel we couldn’t cope with it — it was absolutely impossible.”

Just as the couple were beginning to flounder, inspiration struck. “Suddenly I had the idea of making it into a charity, which removed huge burdens from our shoulders,” he says. He signed the house and the auction proceeds over to the Mary Roxburghe Trust, set up in late 2015. “Since then, it’s been much easier. I’ve got some brilliant trustees and a wonderful director.” He now feels like he’s “sitting in the back seat of a rather smooth limousine”.
The charity ensures that the house contributes towards its upkeep. West Horsley Place has served as a backdrop for film and TV shoots, including the upcoming movie My Cousin Rachel, with Rachel Weisz, and Peter Morgan’s Netflix series The Crown. Last November, the handbag brand Mulberry shot an ad in the house, and the trustees are encouraging “performing arts” on site.

The recent arrival of Grange Park Opera (GPO) has provided a classy addition on that front. In the grounds, past the box hedges and the flowerbeds where Christina is digging in the soil, and beyond the orchard, is the partially completed “theatre in the woods”: the GPO’s new 700-seater home. In November, the actress Joanna Lumley was among the guests at a ceremony to celebrate the roof being put on the new venue. Today, the builders are beetling about the four-tiered structure — the pressure is on to finish it in time for the inaugural performance on June 8, which Gascoigne will attend.

While most of his fellow octogenarians are kicking back and enjoying their retirement, he’s so busy that he didn’t even catch the recent final of University Challenge. Monkmania, sparked by the losing team’s captain, Eric Monkman, passed him by. “I’ve never been so rushed off my feet,” he says. “For all my working life, there were times when there was a terrible crisis of getting ready for a television documentary or something, but never constant, endless letters of all sorts coming through — people offering help, asking for a job. Nobody, to my distress, has written to say, ‘Do you need a butler?”

Despite his ingenuity, Gascoigne isn’t convinced his great-aunt would have approved of the money-raising ventures. “I think that the great-grandparents of the people running brilliantly successful country houses now would be horrified with all the commercial aspects of it — people paying to do this, paying to do that. My aunt was appalled at the thought of anything commercial.
“The only exception was that she was once persuaded to let somebody photograph a Rolls-Royce at the front door for an advertisement. Then she saw it in a magazine. She said, ‘God, that’s appalling. That’s the last time I’m doing anything of that sort.’”

Who knows what the duchess would have made of her final resting place? When Puccini’s Tosca kicks off the summer proceedings, she won’t be far from the action. Gascoigne, who was a director at the Royal Opera House for seven years, has placed the casket containing her ashes in the foundations of the new theatre, where the first violins will play. “For ever after, as the orchestra strikes up, the duchess will be part of it,” he says.

My separation anxiety

The theft of Min Kym’s violin caused the return of a childhood eating disorder. She tells Audrey Ward how she battled her demons.

Min Kym is 38 years old, small, slim, articulate, a former child prodigy — and a recovering anorexic. Between the ages of 13 and 19, the illness had her tightly in its grip. When we meet, she is clutching her Amati violin. She places it on a chair behind her, out of sight. This small act seems to suggest that she has unshackled herself from the burden of one brief unguarded moment six years ago.
After her beloved Stradivarius was stolen in 2010 she was distraught. “There were days I couldn’t function properly,” she says, adding that at times she wasn’t able to get out of bed. “I was staring into this darkness.” She cancelled concerts and her career came to a sudden halt. The anorexia she had suffered from in her teens loomed large. She says the theft triggered it. “Whenever I’m stressed, I stop eating. It’s not a control thing, it’s the anxiety, but because I’m an adult now I can force myself to have something light. But as a child I was so overwhelmed.”
She speaks gravely and calmly as she describes her 11-year-old self’s unhealthy relationship with food. “I was performing from such a young age. I started becoming conscious of this need to stay a child. It gave me a sense of control. The eating disorder was a barometer of how I felt in general. If I felt I wasn’t good enough, I would deprive myself. It [food] almost became a substitute for love, which is very sad when I look back.”
At 13, as her career was taking off, she was plagued by the notion that people only cared about her worth as a musician. The eating disorder began to take hold. “I felt that people weren’t interested in me as a person. I didn’t want to trouble anybody by talking about how I have a problem with food,” she says, tears pooling in her eyes. “In retrospect I realise how much pressure I was under, the expectation to be perfect and to perform on a world stage … Even as an adult that’s a lot of pressure, let alone for a child.”
She started to eat only every other day and made a diary of her weekly intake. As the weight fell off, she hid her illness — she stopped going swimming, wore extra layers of clothing. Shockingly, a piano tutor warned her: “Don’t let people know you’re ill. It will kill your career.” The school could tell something was wrong and wrote to her mother. In her book, Kym describes her mother as being “scared and out of her depth”.
In the end it was her first boyfriend, an “inappropriate boy” five years older, who helped spark her recovery. “What got me out of it was falling in love. When you fall in love, you love yourself again. That was a massive realisation.” She says she feels fortunate to have recovered, then she does an about-turn. “You never fully recover, but you learn to live with it. I don’t have any issues with food now, but I’m very conscious of that illness.”
The Strad was auctioned and Kym’s share was £441,000. After capital gains tax and paying off other liabilities, she was left with £80,000. Writing the book has helped her to move on. She recently gave her first performance as a soloist since the violin was stolen. She played a Brahms concerto. “I hadn’t played it for the best part of seven years.” The low-key event, which took place in St James’s Church in Piccadilly, had huge significance for the woman who first appeared on a world stage with her violin aged 11. “It made me remember how much I love playing, being on stage and keeping music alive,” she says. “I’ve rediscovered music.”

Boy’s own adventure

Levison Wood has trekked in the world’s toughest places, but doing up his house in Surrey was no walk in the park.

He’s walked the length of the Nile and traipsed across the Himalayas, so you’d imagine that, for Levison Wood, doing up a house in Surrey would be as easy as swatting away a botfly. But no: the British explorer, who has faced down poisonous snakes and drug smugglers, found the whole thing “quite stressful”. And this despite the fact that he had an interior designer and the “kind support of my parents, who came down and supervised the whole thing”.
In the first-floor living room of his home, which overlooks the gardens of Hampton Court Palace, this modern-day Indiana Jones sinks into a studded grey wingback chair. “It was a bit of a madhouse,” he says wearily. “I had five builders living here in camp beds for about three months.” To further complicate things, one of the workmen “had a bit of a mini heart attack halfway through the stairs job, and ended up in hospital”. His eyes widen. “You don’t expect that.”
Wood, 34, bought the grade II listed property, which was on the market for £799,950, in December 2015. “I think an old lady had lived here her whole life, and it had never been decorated.” By the sounds of it, there were plenty of challenges to overcome. I’d expected his latest book, which recounts his hike through Central America, to kick off with a tale of derring-do somewhere like the notorious Darien Gap, in Panama, but it opens with the house.
He describes “the crumbling remains of the bathroom wall” and his horror at wallpaper that belonged “in a 1970s disco”. He recalls the moment his electrician cut through the wrong wire, and how he was so irked by the noise of the drills, the rubble and the chaos that he had to go for a soothing walk in the gardens of the palace.
“The wallpaper hid a multitude of sins,” he tells me. “We were ripping off all the paper and the walls came crumbling away.” The stairs, though, were the biggest challenge. They were so narrow that he couldn’t get the beds up them, so he had to remove the lot and widen the stairwell by six inches.
Clad in blue denim shirt and jeans, Wood seems slightly out of place in his 17th-century abode — imagine Tom Selleck on the set of a period drama and you’ve got the gist. But he had a very particular source of inspiration. “I wanted the house to be in keeping with Hampton Court Palace, a sort of Georgian look. I wanted to keep the same theme in terms of the colour and the style, but add some modern twists, like the glass in the stairs.”
He spent five months transforming the house, and the work was finished last summer, just before he set off on his 1,900-mile trek through the Americas. Once you pass the front garden (“Mum helped me out with that”) and step through the front door, you are straight into the dining room, with its grand fireplace. An aircraft propeller mounted on the wall gives the first clue that this is the lair of an intrepid adventurer.
He offers to take me on a tour of his habitat. First stop, the man cave. He forfeited one of the three bedrooms to create a study to house the souvenirs from his travels, and the room is bursting with all sorts of curios. “This is a Bedouin broadsword from the Sudan,” he says, rapping the metal. “And this is an Ethiopian shield… and my sword from Sandhurst.”
On the other wall is an unnerving selection of daggers. “I collect these things from the tribes I meet along the way.” There are stacks and stacks of books, too. “I have lots of first-edition collections, lots on travel, signed stuff — I have all Kipling’s works, signed.”
Languishing on another shelf is a skull that was once attached to the body of a crocodile: he picked it up in Guatemala. There’s a giant globe by the window and a makeshift bar by the door. He pads out to the sitting room to show me his carpet collection. “All these,” he says pointing to three multicoloured rugs on the floor “are from my travels as well. Afghanistan, Pakistan… the big one there is pure silk, from Kashmir. It took somebody 15 years to make that. It cost a fortune.”
During the renovation, he ripped up the floors and removed the fireplaces. “When I bought the house, there were grates from the 1950s.” The wall leading into the living room is painted in Farrow & Ball Purbeck Stone, and when I ask about the green colour, he answers with a dimpled grin: “Grasshopper’s Fart.”
We head up another flight of stairs to inspect the bathroom, which has plenty of posh-looking products. The two bedrooms are off limits, so I don’t get to see his soft furnishings. I tell him I’ve read that he has a girlfriend. He bursts out laughing. “Top secret, top secret,” he says coyly. “I’m going to keep my mouth shut about that. I’ve made a pact with myself — it’s got me in trouble before, so I’m not going talk about my private life.”
The son of two teachers, he grew up in Stoke-on-Trent. He left the army in 2010 and says he spent the following six years “effectively homeless”. He couch-surfed with friends and took out a few short-term rentals. “All my stuff was in a storage container, so it’s only in these past 12 months that I’ve got it back out. Just to have all my books in one place was the most satisfying thing. It feels nice to come home and not to have to unpack a bag — it’s all there.”
Why did a scruffy-haired thrill-seeker opt for Surrey? “ I’ve always lived in places like Fulham and Putney,” he says. “I wanted to get away from the madness for a while. I like the fact that you’ve got the rivers and the parks. This place came on the market. I thought, ‘Why not?’”
Wood was originally quoted £45,000 for the renovation, but ended up spending twice that. Not that he minds: “I had it valued the other week and it’s more than made its money back.” In fact, now he’s been told it’s worth £1.25m, he’s planning to have another crack. “I could see myself doing this again. It seems a shame, but I am thinking about selling it. If I can get what I’ve been quoted, I can see myself splitting the difference, having a little apartment in town and somewhere bigger out in the countryside.” He’d like a pied-à-terre in Battersea and a country pad in Dorset or the Cotswolds.
What is it that Wood misses most when he’s on one of his expeditions? “It’s the simple things — you miss your friends, family. You don’t really miss luxuries, because you’re mentally prepared for that. It’s more that you can’t get a good cup of tea anywhere else.” While he was away last year, a friend who was staying in the house contacted him for some domestic advice. “He didn’t know how to use the oven, and neither did I, so he had to go on the internet and figure it out.” Today, his publicist is making the tea.
It sounds as if he spends little time at home, relaxing on the Chesterfield sofa. He’s not one for catching up on box sets, either. “This is the first television I’ve ever owned, and I never watch it,” he says, pointing to the giant screen in the corner of his living room. “The only channel that goes on is the news.”
There’s no point in staying home, anyway, now that he’s a fully paid-up celebrity. He gets invited to a lot of events. “There’s always something opening, dinners or awards ceremonies — I met Michael Palin the other night,” he says excitedly.
He even has a few stalkers, who have done “weird things”. Like what? “Fly across the world to chase after me, send me obscene messages, emails and tweets. Mainly women, not exclusively. There’s a few who are on the edge, but it’s fine. Nothing’s been scary yet.”

Walking the Americas by Levison Wood is published on Thursday (Hodder & Stoughton £20)

Get the Levison look
1 If you have a property with gorgeous views, ensure the windows are not obscured in any way. Where possible, take the curtain poles or blinds beyond the window frames so the glass is not covered at all when the curtains are open.
2 When open-plan staircases lead to rooms, it’s difficult to stop and start the colour schemes without it looking messy, so consider shades that complement each other, rather than selecting them separately. We used Farrow & Ball Purbeck Stone for the open-plan stairs and French Gray for the walls.
3 Save on sofas and window dressing so you can splash out on wow-factor statement pieces such as a dramatic staircase or beautiful flooring. All the window dressing was from John Lewis; the staircase was made by Byng Joinery (byngjoinery.co.uk).
4 When working on smaller rooms, ensure you measure the space accurately before purchasing furniture.
5 If you are staining wooden floors, do plenty of practice runs before you decide on the final colour. An untreated floor can change hugely once varnished, so take a small sample and try out five or six finishes. Lev’s oak flooring, which was sourced from Peak Oak, in Staffordshire (peakoak.co.uk), was stained to be as natural as possible.
6 Don’t be afraid to use eBay: there are some real gems to be found at bargain prices, especially if you can arrange collection and are prepared to sit at the computer bidding. That’s where we found Lev’s French oak dining table and Chesterfield.
Tracey Saunders (saundersinteriors.co.uk)

Poldark star Gabriella Wilde sets her stage

The Somerset resident talks birthing pools and 9ft beds over herbal tea at her newly renovated home.

When Gabriella Wilde and her husband first contemplated a move to the country, the actress and former model was hesitant. Now, standing in the revamped kitchen of her Somerset home, blonde ponytail swishing as she makes herbal tea, she couldn’t be more content.

If it wasn’t for the relocation, she might never have bagged a role as the coquettish Caroline Penvenen in Poldark — her minxy antics have been thrilling the 5m-plus viewers of the drama’s second series. Nor would she have given birth to her second son in the master bedroom suite (“The builders had to put up scaffolding to hold up the birth pool. They obviously thought I was completely mad”), or have an immaculate designer farmhouse.

Hillhouse, her rambling home, is set in glorious countryside just outside Bruton. A turning takes you onto a gravelled drive where you are greeted with spectacular autumnal views; you can just about make out King Alfred’s Tower amid the fields and trees. Through a nondescript arch, you enter a wild, overgrown garden set within a courtyard, then a grey door leads you into the quirky property that Wilde, 27, shares with her musician husband, Alan Pownall, and their sons, Sasha, 2, and Shiloh, five months.

Formerly three cottages, now conjoined, the property was on the market for £1.3m in 2015, but with the help of a local property finder, the couple bought it for a little more than £1m. “This was the first one we both felt was right,” Wilde recalls. “The view was incredible — I came in and was shocked by it. You can see for miles. It’s really a special spot and it has a calm energy.”

The peace and quiet was soon disrupted by an extensive year-long refurbishment, under the guidance of the interior designer Sophie Ashby. The layout was reconfigured and the downstairs living area, which has an Aga, a woodburner, a fireplace and radiators, is now free-flowing yet cosy. “I’m someone who hates being cold,” says Wilde, who is dressed in a black poloneck jumper, spray-on grey jeans and chunky black boots.

Three sets of french doors lead to the terrace orangery, which has a fig tree and a grapevine slinking up the sides. Also on this level are a nursery for the children, complete with a fairy-light-strewn tepee, and the studio where Pownall, the lead singer in the electro band Pale, writes music.

Upstairs, there are four bedrooms. “It is lovely to think Shiloh was born in that room,” Wilde says wistfully, motioning her head upwards to the master bedroom, which has a walk-in wardrobe, an ensuite bathroom and a 9ft bed with a snooker-table base. “If you’re going to make roots in the home, having your children in it is quite a special thing.”
It’s certainly one way to settle in to a new house, but the couple’s decision to sell a flat in buzzy Ladbroke Grove and relocate to deepest Somerset seems just as unconventional, given that most ambitious actresses are hotfooting it to London or LA.

While her parents like the idea of their grandchildren being brought up in the countryside, some of her siblings also think she’s mad. There’s quite an array of them, including her half-sisters Isabella, who is married to Richard Branson’s son, Sam, and Olivia, who teaches acting and helps her to prepare for auditions; and her “unofficial” stepsister Cressida Bonas, Prince Harry’s former flame.

When she describes her childhood and how she is now living life “a little bit in fast-forward… the first of my friends to have children”, it begins to makes sense. Wilde enjoyed a rather privileged upbringing in Hampshire with her father, the businessman John Austen Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, and mother, Vanessa, a former model. Christened Gabriella Zanna Vanessa Anstruther-Gough-Calthorpe, she was spotted as a teenager by the late, great stylist Isabella Blow.

An introduction from Naomi Campbell led the modelling agency Premier to sign up the girl with the English-rose looks, but at 18, she abandoned modelling to study fine art. When she decided to give acting a whirl, she ditched her triple-barrelled surname, opting instead for Wilde, after Oscar.
In 2009, she made her debut in St Trinian’s 2, followed by her first big film role in 2011, in The Three Musketeers. The part in Poldark came her way in the summer of 2015, a few days after she discovered that she was pregnant with her second child.

Many of her friends think she’s “insane” to have left the capital. “When they ask what I do all day, I say, ‘I have two young children and a job. I’m not just sitting in a field.’”

“I have in a way self-sabotaged by refusing to go to LA and then leaving London, which is not what many would recommend, but it’s serendipitous, because I moved here and Poldark came up. If I hadn’t come here, maybe I wouldn’t have gone for it.”

Wilde is currently filming series three, and her commute to the studio in Bristol takes 45 minutes. When she’s not there or filming outdoor scenes in Cornwall, she’s working with the cast and crew at one of the nearby National Trust houses in Gloucestershire and Wiltshire.

The birth of Sasha sparked her desire for country living. She wanted to give him a similar outdoorsy, free-range childhood to her own. “We started looking at places around London, and we picked Somerset out of a hat,” she says. “I wanted to have that privacy, to feel like I was in the countryside, but I wanted to be near a village.”

In terms of style, Wilde and Pownall gravitate towards minimalism. Though she didn’t want “a typical country house”, cosiness and practicality were key. “I grew up in a house where there’s not an inch of wall space or a surface without 100 photo frames on,” she says. “It’s not really what we were after. It’s hard to keep it minimal with kids, but slowly we’re starting to fill it with things we genuinely love.”

During the refurbishment, there were a few surprises. “When we took up the wood floor, we discovered it was floorboards, then a foot of nothing, then dirt and mud. I think there was a dead rat in there. There was no insulation.”

Her next role? Tackling the surrounding five acres. “I’ve been talking for a year now about taking a course in gardening, and I’m desperate to do one.” Perhaps she’ll even wield a scythe.

The invitation game

The TV presenter Donna Air has stayed at a friend’s holiday home in Portofino most years since 2005. She tells Audrey Ward how to keep the hospitality flowing.

Donna Air is a perennial overseas house guest. The model, actress and presenter often holidays with pals in their stylish villas and chichi homes from home, regularly staying with friends in the Bahamas, Montauk and the Hamptons. Earlier this year, she enjoyed a week in Mallorca at another pal’s pad, and she’s now making plans to hotfoot it to Portofino, in Italy, for her annual minibreak at a friend’s farmhouse.
As the autumnal weather begins to take hold, skipping abroad to make use of friends with second-home benefits sounds like the perfect antidote. So will James Middleton be joining her? Air, who has been dating the Duchess of Cambridge’s younger brother on and off for the past three years, coyly replies: “I’m not sure who I’ll be going with.”
Yet being a house guest can throw up a host of issues — and, indeed, uncover a host with issues. Remember the family spat that hit the headlines a couple of years ago? One poor young woman was invited to stay with her fiancé and his father and wife, only to receive an email from the stepmother after her visit, outlining transgressions she had allegedly committed. These included staying in bed too late, cracking inappropriate jokes, taking extra helpings of food, failing to send a thank-you card and leaving the family dog traumatised and depressed.
When it comes to staying in someone’s home abroad, it seems the absence of a host — or even an invitation — should not always be a deterrent. Air, 37, isn’t sure if Richard Wolman, her friend of 14 years and the owner of that Italian farmhouse, will be there when she visits in the next few weeks. “I go with or without Richard. I copy everyone in on the email — his wife, his PA and him. It’s not like a set plan, it’s organic,” she says between nibbles of hummus and pitta bread.
Doesn’t she ever feel a bit uncomfortable pitching up at someone else’s holiday home? The secret is to choose your host wisely. “I only stay with people I know well,” Air says. “My friends are all really good hosts, they’re quite relaxed.
“I never feel guilty, because I host a lot, too. I’ve spent years being a host — I think fair’s fair.”
Air, who grew up in Newcastle and started out as an actress in the children’s television series Byker Grove, is certainly well placed to advise on the dos and don’ts of house-hopping, as she’s been on both sides of the sun-burnished front door. During the seven years she spent with the businessman and conservationist Damian Aspinall, they entertained friends and family at Howletts, his neo-Palladian pile in Kent, and at a mansion retreat in South Africa. The couple separated in 2007, and now she plays hostess in her Chelsea townhouse.
Air first rocked up to Wolman’s home on the Italian Riviera with her daughter, Freya, now 12, in 2005. “Richard’s a relaxed guy. He said, ‘Sure, come and stay whenever you like.’ It was probably a long weekend — the first visit anywhere, you just want to stay for a few days.
“We went swimming, down to the port, had a lovely walk in the nature reserve at the back of the house. He’s a keen sailor, loves being on the boat, on the water. There were lots of lovely lunches, lots of pesto.”
The secluded property has wooden floors, original beams and exposed brickwork, and is tastefully kitted out with African art. The grounds, with two pools and olive groves, are tended by a team of six gardeners.
Over the years, Wolman acquired some neighbouring land, and now owns about 60 acres. The main house and a second farmhouse sleep six people each, and two converted barns house eight in total, so the property is not quite as compact as the French gîte or Spanish apartment the rest of us might find ourselves in.
Wolman, a South African doctor and consultant, lives in London with his German wife, Astrid, and their two children. His search for a home from home on the mount of Portofino began back in the 1990s. “It was pre-internet searching, and I found an ad in the classified section of The Sunday Times,” he recalls. “I called the number and the person I spoke to said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding. We don’t know of any houses there, but we’ll see what we can do.’ Three months later, they called me. They’d heard of a little rustica, a farmhouse. I was on the plane the next day.”
Finding a property was one thing — buying it was an even greater undertaking. “It hadn’t been sold for hundreds of years,” says Wolman, 59. “It had been owned by 13 family members and they were all at war with each other. We got it with the help of a 90-year-old lawyer from Genoa.”
Bureaucratic tangles meant it was four years before their first overnight stay. Wolman is tight-lipped as to what he paid, and the costs of the renovation, but even the overheads must be an eye-watering sum. “There’s a huge amount of work involved in managing this place. It’s endless toil, but I love it. I’m a project man, and the gardens are my passion.”
He says the property is at “the centre of Europe, a place where friends and family from all our own histories can visit and pass through”. And he has no problem with being tapped up for a bed. “Our home has always been about getting a call and someone saying, ‘Can I come?’ It’s not an invite — whenever you want to come, you can come.”
He dubs his house guests “the tribe”. “Donna is part of the extended family. She will come and stay whenever she wants. She can pop in and bring other people as well. To me, it’s not about ownership.”
A holiday in a friend’s overseas home shouldn’t cause friction, Air says — and with sterling having taken a tumble this summer, and accommodation abroad costing more, maybe the rest of us should forget about the staycation and be a bit more shameless about gaining free entry.
Wolman has a similarly relaxed attitude on whether guests should pay their way. “If they’re close friends, they just stay. If it’s more formal and it’s the weeks we’re not there during the summer, then they pay.” He lets the main house for a minimum of a week, at a rate of €3,300 (£2,850) a day. “We will let the place to various people, but they always have to be like-minded — we won’t put it on the commercial market. They have to be part of the tribe or known by the tribe.”
There are only a few house rules. “No smoking in the house or dropping butts in the garden, and don’t leave wet trunks on the sofa.” He sees no need for an endless list of regulations: he and Astrid prefer to tackle any issues head-on. “It’s all very honest — if someone does something like that, we’re all open.”
As well as the gardeners, there’s a driver who “schleps everyone around. The house is always functioning. Our housekeeper is a fantastic cook, the best on the mountain.” There’s no need for guests to clean up or to do the shopping, either, because Wolman grows his own fruit and vegetables.
“We produce so much food,” he says, “but if there are extras and we’re not there, the guests will contribute. They are very generous to the staff — they give them good tips. It’s just good behaviour and good manners.”
I expect Air to concur on the subject of tipping, but she is lukewarm. “It depends on the house. I wouldn’t tip the staff at Richard’s place — I don’t get involved in his affairs. But I get it for some people. Some people like to tip staff, and that’s their prerogative.”
Little gestures of gratitude are the thing. “Monetary stuff — I don’t work like that. It’s not an exchange of money, it’s an exchange of kindness. I think that’s really important. I tend to bring food to Richard’s house. I like to take nice photographs, frame them and send them to people, or get little gifts for people’s children, or smellies.”
She says bottles of vino are a no-no —“I’m never going to take wine as a gift, because people like to choose their own” — but treating the hosts to a meal in a local trattoria is a good alternative. “It’s nice to take friends out for supper.”
There’s always the risk that you’ll be bounced into the host’s routine, but Air reckons exercising a degree of independence will head off any strife. “I like guests to be gracious, to be self-sufficient. There’s nothing worse than feeling you have to constantly look after someone. It’s important to give your hosts space. At Richard’s, everybody does what they want and we all gather at mealtimes.”
Air says you should learn a few words of the local language — although she ignores her own advice. “I feel utterly useless for not speaking the language everywhere I go, and sort of ashamed, because it is nice to make an effort.”
Then she starts to giggle. “I really like it when the staff go a bit Fawlty Towers, because it’s always quite amusing. I remember once asking someone for my yoga mat, and I think they brought me a yogurt. Things like that are quite entertaining.”
It sounds as if the friends happily navigate the delicacies of the host and guest relationship, but surely Wolman has encountered some freeloaders who have behaved appallingly? He admits that he and his wife had to turf out one badly behaved visitor, a friend of a friend, earlier this year. He was guilty of “narcissistic, entitled behaviour”, Wolman explains. “The final straw was going to a restaurant where there were about 10 of us. This person sat down, ordered everything and was quite bossy around the waiters, which I abhor.
“Then, when it came to the end of the dinner, when the men were saying ‘pay time’, this person disappeared.” Later that evening, Astrid remarked to her husband: “He’s out”. She marched up to the man and said: “You know what? I think you should leave.” He was spirited away in their car by one of the staff.
Given the guest’s lack of manners, it’s unlikely that he sent a thank-you card, but Air is an advocate: “Super-important — I’ve always sent thank-you cards.” She also recommends ’fessing up straightaway if you break something. Yet on the question of the lazy lie-in in someone else’s home, she’s less of a stickler. “I want to sleep in late on holiday. Isn’t it lovely to do that?”
Future mothers-in-law and holiday hosts, take note.

Miriam had a clever book idea. Penguin also had a clever book idea. But Penguin’s idea looked a lot like Miriam’s

The Ladybird Books for Grown-Ups are a wickedly funny spoof of the classic children’s series. They have been a huge hit for their publisher, Penguin, but an artist, Miriam Elia, claims that she had the idea first.

The battle for a place on the bookshelf of the downstairs loo is a ferocious one. Publishers will try anything. But for the last year, one series has dominated all others. Since the first Ladybirds for Grown-Ups hit the shelves last November, Penguin, publisher of the original books as well as the spoof series, has shifted 2m copies. That’s a lot of loos.
The first 10 in the series, including How It Works: The Husband and The Ladybird Book of the Hangover, have clearly struck a nostalgic chord with those of us who learnt to read with Peter and Jane. Now nine more are planned in time for this year’s batch of Christmas stockings. Penguin and the authors, Joel Morris and Jason Hazeley, are laughing all the way to the bank.
But there is another, less well known, chapter to the story: almost two years before the Penguin books hit the shelves, a British artist called Miriam Elia released a set of prints modelled on these same Ladybird reading books from the 1960s and 70s. She reproduced the style of the original images, but replaced the sugar-coated captions with a healthy dose of modern-day cynicism. Little did she know then that it would embroil her in a legal dispute with Penguin and see her outmuscled on the bookshelves.
I meet Elia at her studio in Haggerston, east London. Her dark hair is short and jagged, as though she has hacked at it with a pair of scissors. She has pale skin and ruddy cheeks and is wearing a multicoloured, oversized woolly dress. There’s a hint of Aunt Sally from the TV series Worzel Gummidge about her.
She grew up in north London and spent her childhood being dragged around galleries by her artist parents. Later, she attended the Royal College of Art, then sidestepped into stand-up and won a BBC new talent competition. Eventually, at 28, she gave up comedy to focus on her art.
Her first work to garner attention was a spoof article from Take a Break magazine called I Fell in Love with a Conceptual Artist and It Was Totally Meaningless, inspired by her relationship with the Turner prizewinner Martin Creed. Soon after, she started on her Ladybird-inspired images, and when, in 2013, she posted some online, they quickly went viral. She went on to raise £5,000 through a Kickstarter campaign, enabling her to cover the costs of self-publishing 1,000 copies of a book, We Go to the Gallery, which features a pair of children being lectured on contemporary art by their mother as they wander past installations of rotting rubbish and images of genitalia that look like something Tracey Emin or Jeff Koons might have produced. “Mummy”, meanwhile, dutifully educates her children on subjects such as feminism, body objectification and the decay of western civilisation. Somehow Peter and Jane make it to the back pages with their innocent smiles intact.
Elia, who turns 34 on Tuesday, launched the book in February 2014 at London’s Cob Gallery and sold copies for £20 each. But while she saw her work as a satirical commentary on contemporary art and an homage to the Ladybird books of her childhod, Penguin failed to see the funny side. The following day the gallery received a thick envelope addressed to her. “I couldn’t believe it,” she says. “The lawyers were in.” The 10-page document from Penguin threatened her with legal action unless sales of the book were immediately halted.
In the weeks that followed, Elia says she regularly burst into tears and struggled to sleep. “I was thinking I was going to be taken to court. I was living in an artist squat in east London. I was giving my solicitor all the money that was coming in from the book. ”
Publishers understandably defend their copyright and trademarks and Penguin was no exception. The use of the Ladybird logo and name was at the core of Penguin’s argument. But as the saga rumbled on, Elia found an unlikely champion in the form of Mark Dolley, the son of the former Penguin chief executive Christopher Dolley. In an open letter in 2014, he wrote: “Both Lane [Allen Lane, the Penguin founder] and my father must be rolling over in their graves at Penguin today both for missing a commercial opportunity and also making a crass attempt to stifle art. Far from trying to ban her work, both would have offered Ms Elia a commission . . . [She] is to be commended for her contribution to the spirit and memory of a great British publishing tradition.”
More letters from Penguin followed. The publishing house accepted that the book was conceived as a work of art and said it was willing to allow her to exhibit the drawings, but not to sell them. Determined not to be constrained, and buoyed by the success of the first run, Elia decided to make some changes ahead of a second print run of 5,000 books. This time she replaced the Ladybird logo with a dung beetle and changed the original children’s names, Peter and Jane, to John and Susan. She also lined up a woman and two children to be photographed in a gallery and then used gouache and watercolour to paint over the photographs, replicating the design technique of the original books. This second print run differed enough from the originals to satisfy Penguin’s lawyers.
It seemed she’d had the last laugh, but then, in the autumn of 2015, Elia was shocked to learn that Penguin had commissioned their own spoof Ladybird series for adults.
“My jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe it.” The way she saw it, “they had nicked the idea and done their own version”. In retaliation, she took a swipe at Penguin with a second Ladybird-inspired work, a limited-edition lithographic print with the title We Sue an Artist and Then Rip off Her Idea. This, too, went viral.
Today, Elia is still bitter but also resigned to the situation. “I couldn’t look at [the authorised books] for a long time. Then I thought, ‘I’ll read them, maybe they’ll be funny…’ But they’re not funny.”
She warms to her theme. “They didn’t illustrate them. They’ve just taken random images from old books and shoved them in. They haven’t created new work. The jokes are dead: there’s no punchline, no payoff.”
Her solicitor, Bernie Nyman, has his own take on the authorised books: “It seemed to me that Penguin must have thought — well, if you can’t beat them, join them. But they looked pretty tame and boring to my mind.”
Rowland White, editorial director of the Penguin imprint Michael Joseph, which publishes the series, disagrees. He says that the inspiration for the official series had nothing to do with Elia’s spoof images. “Jason and Joel’s first pastiche Ladybirds appeared in their book Historic Framley — based on their spoof local newspaper site The Framley Examiner — which we published back in 2003. In between their other projects, they worked up the idea of the Ladybirds for Grown-Ups series and we instantly loved it when they presented it to us. What started as a small part of another piece of their work more than 10 years ago has crystallised into these brilliant comic guides to the confusions of adult life,” he says, adding: “Incidentally, Ladybird spoofs aren’t new — the earliest we know about dates back to 1960 and is by Harry Wingfield, who was one of the original artists. There was also a Jon Bentley art project Peter and Jane: The Lost Episodes.”
Perhaps Elia can take consolation from the fact that sales of her own We Go to the Gallery are now close to 80,000 and she’s made a six-figure sum. Her second and third books, We Learn at Home and We Go Out, which address reactions to the refugee crisis, political correctness and victimhood, will be published in September.
Although they will go head to head with Penguin’s next series, it seems there’s room for both in the publishing world — for now. Philip Jones, the editor of The Bookseller, thinks the popularity of spoof children’s books will continue for at least another year. “We’ve not really had a quirky hit like that for a few years in the book business. There’s probably another Christmas to run of these types of books before people get bored.” Until then there are plenty of bathroom bookshelves to fill.

1b We Learn at Home and 1c We Go Out are published on Sept 22 (Dung Beetle £7.99). Artist’s editions are available from Aug 25, priced £25, from wegotothegallery.com

How it feels to … walk on the moon

In 1972, the US astronaut Eugene Cernan became the last man to set foot on the moon. Now 82, he recalls Nasa’s final Apollo mission — and his own small steps and giant leaps.

As the lunar module approached the surface of the moon, it was noisy from the vibrations and I could just about hear the team on the ground talking to me. Then the dust started blowing underneath, and I lost sight of where I wanted to land. All I could do was flick the switch and shut down the engine.
It was December 1972. I was part of the Apollo 17 crew, the final mission of Nasa’s space programme, which had brought Neil Armstrong to worldwide attention 3½ years earlier. I had orbited the moon before, on Apollo 10, but now I was sitting in the commander’s seat and I was about to land on the lunar surface.
Suddenly, there was no noise, no dust. I held my breath and looked out across the landscape — it was like science fiction. There I was, sitting in this other world with my fellow astronaut, Harrison. There was no wind, no trees, no telephone poles — I was struck by the absence of everything. I don’t know whether this state lasted 10 or 20 seconds, but then I came alive again and realised with excitement: “Hell, I’m on the moon! This is it.”
Stepping out of the lunar module took a lot of preparation, between getting on our spacesuits and doing many checks. Finally, we inched down the rungs of the ladder and onto the surface. This was the first time I had stepped on anything solid that was not Earth. Think about that: every step we take is on this planet somewhere. All of a sudden, I’m walking on a surface — some rocks, some planet — but it’s not Earth. The first steps had been taken by Neil Armstrong, then there were the other men who walked on the moon, but those were my first steps, and nobody could take them away from me.
As we’d left Earth’s orbit, I had seen the multicoloured blues of the ocean, the whites of the snow and clouds. I’d watched it all reach around and close in upon itself. Now, looking across the horizon, I could see Earth a quarter of a million miles away. I gazed across the continent of Africa. Back inside the lunar module 12 hours later, I caught a glimpse of North America. I came to the conclusion that there were so many things I didn’t understand. I got a feeling that this must be what it’s like to sit on God’s front porch and look at creation. I wasn’t afraid. You’ve got oxygen and water, you’ve bought into the fact that you’re going to be in a tin can on the moon. The spacecraft might get hit by a meteor, but it’s one chance in a million and you don’t worry about that.
During the day, we put on our spacesuits and went through all the checks. It was hot in the suit and we perspired a lot. That first day, we unloaded the lunar rover. The second and third days were all about exploring predetermined points. We inspected, photographed and collected samples of lunar rock to bring home. Back inside the spacecraft, we handled the rock with our bare hands. It smelt like gunpowder.
Sleep was difficult. I remember, that first night, thinking: “I’ve come all this way, taken all this risk, and I’m going to sleep?” It seemed crazy, what a waste of time. But the doctor had told us to rest, so we pulled the shades down and lay in our hammocks, crisscrossed one on top of the other.
I never worried about getting off the moon until the time came, three days later. It’s easy now to say, “I didn’t go to the moon not to come home,” but the fact is you knew there was a possibility. The other astronauts and I never talked about it. We didn’t really want to face it as a possibility, but I believe every one of us knew that we were putting ourselves in harm’s way, but that it was worth it. As I walked to the spacecraft, I didn’t want to go home. I impulsively put my daughter Tracy’s initials in the sand where I had parked the rover, behind the lunar module. I’d already put away the cameras, but I wish I had taken a photo of those initials and of my final footsteps.
I knew I wouldn’t come this way again, but thought somebody else would. That was more than 40 years ago, and I’m overwhelmingly disappointed that nobody has been on the moon since. It’s unacceptable for us to be where we are today, not just for America but for all humanity. Humans can relate to humans. We’ve never got the ticker tape out for robots, but we have for Neil Armstrong.
Moonwalkers
1 Neil Armstrong
2 Buzz Aldrin
3 Pete Conrad
4 Alan Bean
5 Alan Shepard
6 Edgar Mitchell
7 David Scott
8 James Irwin
9 John Young
10 Charles Duke
11 Eugene Cernan (Cernan boarded the lunar module last)
12 Harrison Schmitt
The Last Man on the Moon is in cinemas from April 8

Walking into the valley of death

Guiding climbers on Everest is one of the most dangerous jobs in the world. For many Sherpas, it is the only source of income. A new documentary reveals their rebellion against the system.

Climbing Mount Everest takes courage, strength, stamina, patience, precision equipment — and plenty of money. For many westerners, it’s an aspirational goal. For the Himalayan guides, the unsung heroes who have been helping foreigners on their attempts to scale Mount Everest since 1922, it’s a matter of life or death. The Sherpa, who has little in the way of job prospects other than subsistence farming, can choose to become a guide — which isn’t much more than a game of Russian roulette.
The disproportionate risk between climbers and Sherpas — and the tensions it prompts — is at the heart of an upcoming documentary, Sherpa. In April 2014, a year after a brawl broke out on Everest between a group of Sherpas and mountaineers (it was sparked when an Italian climber insulted a Sherpa), the film’s crew set out to uncover why so many of the guides put their lives on the line. While westerners do their training on a side section of Everest and pass through the treacherous Khumbu Icefall just twice, the Sherpas typically navigate the icefall around 30 times each season.
This is because they are required to carry the clients’ ever-expanding roster of equipment up and down the mountain. This includes food, water, cooking apparatus and even home comforts, such as espresso machines and TVs.
Phurba Tashi, a veteran Sherpa guide who was preparing for a world-record 22nd ascent, was to be the star of the documentary along with a supporting cast of 25 real-life Sherpas. However, on April 18, 2014 nature intervened — brutally and remorselessly. As the Sherpas were part-way through their ascent, an avalanche struck. Chunks of ice the size of the average British semi broke away from the mountain and fell onto the Khumbu Icefall. The avalanche killed 16 Sherpas and injured dozens of others. It was, at the time, the single worst disaster to hit the mountain since expeditions began.
On the day of the avalanche, John Smithson, one of the film’s UK-based producers, searched the internet for news. “We were getting no communications back from base camp. I was desperately trying to get through to Jennifer [Peedom, the film’s director] by satellite phone. I was finally able to speak to her that night.” Luckily, the Sherpas they were following all survived. “They were 40 or 50 metres above where the avalanche rolled down onto the climbing route,” he says. Those who were climbing behind them were not spared.
Peedom captures on camera the horrific aftermath. The Sherpas were devastated to lose so many of their fellow guides. There are haunting shots of helicopters transporting the injured Sherpas to base camp, tightly winched onto stretchers. Then the camera pans to the dead, slack bodied, hanging like ragdolls in the sky. The footage moves to the village and the newly widowed Sherpa wives, their faces crumpled with grief.
Smithson knew that they would need to reorientate the film. “We didn’t know whether the Sherpas would climb [to the summit] or not. There was a constant danger of another avalanche and there was the grief and anger of the Sherpas. I just said to Jen, ‘Keep filming. We’ve got to make a film.’ ”
What happened next was like a plot from a movie. The Sherpas were torn. Commercial climbing is a vital means of support for their families, but the risk of death is high. They earn up to £5,000 for a two-month expedition, modest by British standards, but more than 10 times the average annual salary in Nepal. Yet they were afraid to climb and decided to cancel the climbing season out of respect for the dead. They embarked on a protest in a bid to secure better terms from the Nepalese government, which makes millions from permits granted to climbers. For the first time, the Sherpas took a stand. They demanded and won higher insurance payments and compensation for the bereaved families.
“When I said to Jen before she went to base camp, ‘We don’t know what to expect,’ that was an understatement. As those events unfolded, Jen hung in there to capture the emotion. The Sherpas’ grief evolved into anger and it blew the issues into the open. We knew then we had a very different story and a really interesting perspective to take,” Smithson says.
Disaster was to strike again, though. Just as the film-makers were finishing the edit of Sherpa, an earthquake struck on April 25 of this year, killing 24 people, a mix of mountaineers and Sherpas. “No one imagined the savagery of the earthquake. Everyone up the mountain was safe, but the people at base camp were caught in this giant mixture of ice, snow and rock,” Smithson says. The news served only to highlight the risks Sherpas take.
Smithson’s previous producer credits include Touching the Void and 127 Hours. Both are based on true mountaineering stories of survival. “I’m not a mountaineer or an adventurer,” he says. “I don’t even like being on a ski lift, but there’s a fascination with human behaviour and I’m drawn to those big stories.
“It’s that moment between life and death, being in the wrong place at the wrong time and the right place at the right time… I find myself thinking all the time, ‘What was it like in that music hall in Paris a few weeks ago?’ And the truth is, people want to know, they want to know what happened to the pregnant woman who was captured on film hanging from the window. People want to hear those astonishing stories.”
Sherpa is released on December 18 and will be broadcast globally on Discovery in 2016. For more information, visit sherpafilm.com

I’d do anything to kiss Emily one more time

9 November 2014
The Sunday Times

A mother who lost her husband and their eight-year-old daughter when their speedboat went out of control has described how she heard her eldest daughter crying, “Daddy’s dead, Daddy’s dead.”

Victoria Milligan, her husband, Nick, and four young children were thrown from the boat off Cornwall in May last year. Milligan was struggling to hold on to her four-year-old son and swim away from the boat’s propeller when she heard 12-year-old Amber’s cry. She describes how her future flashed before her.

“Lying in the water, dipping into unconsciousness having lost a lot of blood, I was figuring out how I was going to look after the children on my own,” writes Milligan, 40, in an exclusive article for The Sunday Times Magazine. “I would put the house on the market, buy a smaller one… It still surprises me how strong that survival instinct is.”

Milligan’s lower left leg was partially severed by the propeller and later amputated. She writes movingly about how her family’s lives have changed. “Long-term plans for our future have very suddenly been taken away,” she says.

It was a boat trip into the Camel estuary near Padstow, Cornwall, that was to have been the highlight of a perfect family day out on May 5 last year. After a lunch of fish and chips on the boat, they drove up and down the estuary.

As the day wore on, Victoria became concerned about the low tide and suggested going back to Rock, where they stopped. Her husband, Nick, an advertising executive, 51, took off the kill cord — a safety device that switches off the engine if pulled — to retrieve his sunglasses at the back of the boat.

Increasingly worried about the low tide, she had started the engine by the time he returned to her side. Without reattaching the kill cord, her husband reached across her to take the wheel.

“At the same time as pulling the steering wheel down hard to the right, he pushed the throttle up to its maximum, causing the boat to go into a steep turn and we all found ourselves flung into the water,” Milligan writes.

“I can only presume that he was helping me to make the turn and slipped.”

The parents and all four children were flung into the water. As she struggled in the water to save herself and her four-year-old son Kit — whose leg was also sliced by the propeller — Milligan says it was then she heard her daughter Amber shouting. Emily, her eight-year-old daughter, was also killed by the propeller.

On the eve of the inquest into the deaths, which opens in Truro tomorrow, Milligan describes the heart-stopping moment when, after she was flown by RAF helicopter to hospital in Plymouth, a police officer came in to tell her that Nick and Emily were dead.

“I knew that Nicko was dead as Amber had been screaming it in the water, but not my beautiful Emily,” she writes.

It couldn’t possibly be real. I just remember feeling completely numb.”

Milligan later lost her lower left leg but Kit’s leg was saved after 12 operations. Three canoeists had rushed to the scene, performed first aid and called the emergency services. Soon after, a watersports instructor jumped on to the boat from another speedboat and stopped the engine.

Milligan writes with searing honesty about her family’s grief and how their lives are “dictated by short-term plans of what is in the diary for next week or next month”.

“Long-term plans for our future have very suddenly been taken away,” she says.

Sometimes the grief can take her by surprise: “Of course, some things are always going to floor you like when Olivia, my 11-year-old, asked me last week, in a very matter of fact way, ‘Mummy, who is going to walk me down the aisle now?’

“Or when I’m at the supermarket check-out and find I have put peanut butter in the trolley. It was Emily’s favourite and she’s the only one that ever ate it.”

Although the family home is in Wandsworth, southwest London, Nick and Emily are buried at St Enodoc Church in Cornwall, close to where the family have a holiday home.

Milligan, who has helped to raise £750,000 for Child Bereavement UK, the Royal National Lifeboat Institution and the Cornwall Air Ambulance, has returned to work as a personal trainer and is writing a book about the tragedy and its aftermath.

She wants it to serve as a practical handbook on grief. “Nobody knows what to do or say when someone is bereaved and I want this to help people from personal experience.”

She urges others to value what they have and make the most of every day they have with their families. She also wants to raise awareness about the importance of safety devices on boats.

“I can never change what has happened to my family but I can urge other people who use power boats to always wear a kill cord and to do the relevant training.

“My family has been ripped apart and two wonderful and special people taken away from me. I used to resent the bedtime reading, now I would give anything to read Emily one more story and kiss her goodnight one more time.”