Lucy O Donnell’s Book Published By Naim Attallah at Quartet

Naim Attallah Speaks at Lucie O Donnells launch of her book Cancer is My Teacher.

Last night tout Londres gathered at Daunt Books in the Fulham Road to celebrate Lucy O’Donnell, a formidable lady, and the launch of her book Cancer is My Teacher.

The evening was emotionally charged as Lucy was in her element, looking bright and beautiful – and full of her usual zest for life.

Here is the text of my short address on this moving occasion.

Ladies and gentlemen, today marks a special launch of a remarkable book written by Lucy O’Donnell, one of the beautiful daughters of Lady Vanessa Hannam, the distinguished historical novelist whose last two books were published by Quartet.

Cancer is My Teacher is a very moving account of the author’s struggle to stay alive, despite the ravages of an advanced cancer.

We are therefore assembled here to celebrate Lucy’s tenacity and her fight against all the odds, never to give in, but to carry on as if nothing has happened to devastate her normal life.

I first met Lucy about two years ago when I sat next to her at a dinner to mark the publication of one of her mother’s books and quite frankly was totally entranced by her energy, her joie de vivre and her natural capacity to make friends. Intelligent and determined, I found her to be a woman of many parts but always exuding a certain warmth that I would describe as her visiting card with some magic attached to it.

Despite the disruption that cancer can cause to one’s ordered life, Lucy never lost her spirit or whinged or complained about her ill-fate, but smiled throughout her ordeal as perhaps few people in her state of health could have done.

Her book is the story of courage and the stark determination of a young woman in the prime of her life who has astonished the world around her and, in particular, her close friends, for her combative power and her endurance in incredibly harsh circumstances which would have defeated most others.

She has more resilience than anyone I know and we are here to pay her the tribute she has rightly earned, for showing us the way of how to turn calamity into hope, and despair into strength.

This evening we must demonstrate how much we admire this indomitable woman by ensuring that each one in this room buys not only one copy, but a few copies of her book, even if they have to dig deep into their pockets – for her cause is not only admirable, but sacrosanct.

The more people buy the book the more hope they give for cancer sufferers as they follow Lucy’s example and say no to cancer, and utter the immortal words, ‘You shall not prevail.’


Woman Hates Other Women, where To Put broken Chimney Cowl, And Back to Grace.

We have just been to see Wolfe Hall. Hilary Mantel is a brilliant historian she assembles her facts with panache, she has some very sharp dialogue both sexy and witty and puts flesh on the bones of history. But along with many others whose literary views I hold in high esteem, I do not think she is a good writer, her books are a hard and dense read you have to look back all the time to see who said what which spoils the sheer genius of what is coming out of her mind. But as a play, now there is where it all comes into its own, the audience was silent as the grave into which most of the protagonists will tumble in part two Bring Up The Bodies.

Here is another thing about Mantel she obviously does not like women, talking of flesh on bones she once claimed meeting the Queens glance made her feel like a cannibal who wanted to consume the flesh off her very Royal Bones. That was after she made nasty remarks about our beloved Duchess of Cambridge. I understand she has recently written something about murdering Mrs Thatcher why can’t’ she let the woman rest in peace. There will be Ghosts coming to get her one day mark my words. Anne Boleyn was a force to be reckoned with but in the Wolfe play she is portrayed as a shrewish harridan who should have been put in scolds bridle. She was in fact very intelligent with a formidable intellect and responsible helping Tindall’s translation of The bible into English for which many people were burned as heretics the theory being that “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing”. During the interval the woman next to me said she was very disappointed because she thought it was about dogs and wolves whom she admires more than humans. I was rather annoyed by this, and could think of nothing to add accept perhaps they hadn’t come on yet as they always keep the best bits till later.

I have been clearing out a lot of sheds and attics on the Isle of Wight, a friend came with truck on Saturday. The Sainted One is a compulsive hoarder, he tries to keep everything; when we first married six broken and unpleasantly stained lavatory bowls were delivered to the house we had ( part of a long awaited load of personal things from his previous life! It was a big van and a friend watched it unload it with me, boy oh boy was there a message there indeed, rather insulting actually. I cried a lot. Anyway it was difficult to get rid of any of this which had to be done covertly, but the lavatory bowls were lined up by the front door and the S.O suggested I took them to Tiverton Market to sell as there was quite trade in lavatories in that underprivileged area. You can imagine the response it was explosive and I left the house for the sophisticated calm of my London bachelor home where all the lavatories are in perfect working order at all times. This weekend it was the broken chimney cowl which did it…..”No No you must not throw it away ,” the SO moaned as he tried to wrestle it from my burley friend.

“What the >>>>> could you want it for?” I said with quiet menace,” “ we might need it in London,” was the reply. “Well mate let go of it or I will put it where the sun don’t shine ,” said the normally anodyne and refined VH . The awful, business with the lavatories came flooding back as if it were yesterday and darn it its thirty two years ago. People never learn!

Lucy O Donnell’s Book, Cancer is My Teacher.

I am an avid reader, always have been, some books do move me to loud raucous laughter and then the family runs for cover. Others make me cry, one such is my darling daughter’s book about cancer. Apart from the fact that it is excellently constructed book, a bible for anyone with cancer or having it in the family or with a friend who has it, for me it was an immensely powerful and difficult read. It is one thing to see the thing through the veil of courage that the darling girl , my child, drew about her, and we all got the message about too much emotion etc…. but it quite another to see written on the page the stark suffering the determination to have the life that let’s face it , I gave her , with pain but knowing the outcome was joy. It is a joy to see her now, with the incredible success of her message to everyone who loves and values life, every moment of it. And she does not really ask what tomorrow will bring. There are times when it drowns me, but she is there brave beautiful, real , I can touch her, see her hear her , then I think God is kind.

The Oestrogn Tube, Man comes out of Cave and The making of Mr Bolsover

All of you may wonder why I have been rather quiet lately, there are a number of reasons for this , is the trauma I have suffered after flying back from France a week or so ago on the “yummy mummy” and pissed off Daddy plane with their forty one screaming babies, for whom they do not pay for seats. The whole plane smelled of breast milk, pooh nappies and menstruation, and a ghastly aura of oestrogen The screaming was a cacophony from hell . The woman next door to me changed her baby’s nappy in the seat. When I complained she looked at me with contempt and said it was in a vile pink bag which smelled worse that the pooh because its auto suggestion….. for me pink bag smelling of talcum is pooh get the sick bucket. There is an arrogance about this but this breeding thing is the fashion now within the middle class Wandsworth clan. They go on until one day the husband can’t stand it anymore has a vasectomy and gets a younger chick with high powered job. Listen you crazed people I have been there, had the tee shirt , don’t come on to me about it press the stop button or you will all end up in Streatham or Tooting and never come out .

The Sainted One is like and angry Bear , today he had to be extricated from the Man Cave by the cleaning assistant and moi. He gets very unpleasant when away from his toys and doggedly sat at his desk while I crawled about on the floor . I drew the line at getting under the desk and being in his crotch while doing the piles of fluff so he gracelessly moved to my pristine area and did his Sudoku on a recently cleaned velvet sofa.

I have delivered the first half of Summers Grace to my editor Elspeth who is a genius, she will be the only person to have seen it and will tell me if it is rubbish. OMG life in the fast lane is a challenge. All of you must read the Making of Mr Bolsover by Cornelius Medvei, it made me laugh so much I feared O might have opened my operation scars. But I hadn’t.

Bear With Me, The Old Person’s Virtual World and Look To The Young…..

OMG are all persons answering Telephone Calls in Labour? Why do they all say “bear with me while I put you on hold,” while they play mindless frigging music and chat to the person at the next desk or maybe even send them an email , I am told this is to make a paper trail of the dialogue eg… “can I book a dental appointment?” then you are in labour bearing down to appalling music. Cut the crap I say but “there you go” that’s another one. A lot of my friends complain that their retired husbands watch the TV all the time and find it impossible to engage in normal conversations because they live in a virtual world. These same persons complain about the young who live in their own screen world but after weekend marathon of twenty hours TV in the man cave the Sainted One looked very peculiar today, oddly a great deal of the viewing material I occasionally glimpsed through the door was of a medical nature with fat women experiencing what are generally called women’s troubles “down there” .. as if they would be anywhere else. So it all boils down to sex does it ? I ask myself is that all there is ? The answer is probably yes.

However what I loosely call the young in my family are quite adorable and having been boringly ill for four months I find them a breath of fresh air. There must be something good about their world which I find invigorating and this brings me to “ Look to the young from whence comith my help” that’s all we have actually. They are great I am so glad I have so many of them around, the secret is to realize that the past is another place and they only do today and that is the basis of all good philosophy isn’t it.