The countries would be added to the ‘red’ list of high-risk destinations, but it comes as the Government is considering slashing quarantine from 14 days to eight days.
A negative test on the eight day after returning from a high-risk country would allow the period of self-isolation to end.
Italy, Greece and Sweden could be added to the UK’s quarantine list this week amid the continued surge in coronavirus cases across Europe. Pictured: tourists outside St Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City
Italy’s cumulative number of cases over seven days – a key metric watched by Downing Street – hit 25.6 per 100,000 residents
But the shortened isolation will be of little solace to families looking to take half-term holidays as the number of ‘red’ countries grows.
Italy’s cumulative number of cases over seven days – a key metric watched by Downing Street – hit 25.6 per 100,000 residents. In Greece, it is 22.3 and Sweden, which adopted fewer restrictive lockdown measures, is 31.7. The Government’s threshold is said to be 20.
The Daily Mail’s Get Britain Flying Again campaign is calling for an air passenger testing regime to rescue the aviation sector and boost the virus-ravaged economy.
It is hoped the new eight-day quarantine could come into effect before Christmas, and the tests would be paid for by travellers, according to The Telegraph.
Speaking at the Tory party conference yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would be saying more about testing ‘shortly’
The Government is said to be sceptical about testing on the fifth day, a model adopted by Germany and Iceland, because 15 per cent of infections would be missed.
Testing on the eight day results in a 95 per cent accuracy, Ministers say.
Speaking at the Tory party conference yesterday, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said he would be saying more about testing ‘shortly’.
He said: ‘The next stage of course is to enable testing, which people sometimes wrongly think is a very straightforward thing, why don’t you just test people at the airport? You know they’re clear; let people in, job done.
‘The answer is that in somebody who’s asymptomatic, not displaying any symptoms, that won’t find a very large proportion of cases.
‘In fact, studies show, if you check somebody on the first day that they arrive, probably just find seven per cent of people who actually do have the virus.
Sweden, which did not impose a full national lockdown, is seeing a rise in infections in line with many other European countries
‘So we’ve got to be smarter than that and the way to do that is to still have a period of quarantine, but also test and then be able to release people, and I’ll be saying more about that shortly.’
Ministers have so far resisted applying restrictions to Italy, Sweden and Greece, arguing that rising infection rates are down to an increase in testing.
But industry leaders fear this could change by the end of the week because the proportion of positive tests is rising.
In Greece, 2.9 per cent of those tested are positive. In Italy and Sweden the rate has hit 2.2 per cent.
Testing positivity is one of the criteria examined by the Government when it makes decisions over quarantine.
Sweden encouraged social distancing measures but kept much of its economy open throughout the pandemic (pictured, a Stockholm shopping centre)
European Commission guidance recommends quarantine restrictions should be applied to a country if its rate exceeds three per cent. Downing Street is thought to apply a similar threshold.
Germany is also at risk of quarantine restraints, having yesterday logged 18.4 infections per 100,000 people.
The addition of more popular holiday destinations to the quarantine list would leave most of Europe subject to restrictions.
It will intensify pressure on the Government to unveil an air passenger testing regime to boost traveller confidence and salvage autumn and winter bookings.
Italy, Greece and Sweden could get added to the quarantine list in the Department for Transport’s weekly update on Thursday evening.
There is speculation that Shapps is planning to soften the blow by making a long-awaited announcement about plans for trials of air passenger testing.
One rumour is that a pilot scheme will be announced for flights between London and New York, the world’s most profitable air route and an important link for trade.
Italy, Greece and Sweden could get added to the quarantine list in the Department for Transport’s weekly update on Thursday evening
Aviation insiders say autumn and winter sales – usually a busy period for winter sun and ski bookings – are looking ‘dire’ as the ever-changing quarantine rules have stifled demand.
There are mounting concerns some airlines could be forced to lay off staff and mothball their fleets to save money should passenger numbers continue to stagnate.
Travel consultant Paul Charles, of the PC Agency, told the Daily Mail: ‘We are in danger of heading back to a blanket quarantine.
‘The last of the major European countries could get added to the quarantine list this week and that is why we urgently need a testing solution. An announcement couldn’t come any sooner.’ As well as airlines, the UK’s airports are struggling for survival amid plummeting passenger numbers.
The addition of more popular holiday destinations to the quarantine list would leave most of Europe subject to restrictions
Yesterday, Gatwick said it would start charging £5 to drop-off passengers to raise money during the pandemic.
Heathrow – Britain’s busiest airport – is still operating at half capacity, with two out of four terminals closed. BA, the airport’s biggest airline, is only flying 30 per cent of its schedule.
A Department for Transport spokesman said: ‘The Government recognises the impact that coronavirus is having on the economy and workers, and has put together an extensive package of financial support to help the aviation sector.
‘Work is ongoing with clinicians and health experts on the practicalities of using testing to reduce the self-isolation period for international arrivals.’
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
ROBERT HARDMAN: Ban on singing national anthem at armistice events shows Covid threatens our sanity
As if this week’s threats of police raids on over-sized Christmas Day gatherings were not barmy enough, then along comes something even sillier: a ban on singing the national anthem.
Even the Welsh Government’s comedy order prohibiting the sale of kettles does not come close to the absurdity of forbidding loyal ex-servicemen and women and even members of the Royal Family from singing God Save The Queen in the days ahead.
It is merely the latest example of how coronavirus does not merely threaten the health of the vulnerable, but the sanity of us all.
Tomorrow week – Remembrance Sunday – is the most sacred date in the national calendar. By all means, feel free to head for a supermarket that day – as well as the pub, the gym and even the golf club in many parts of Britain.
However, if you are planning to turn up at a war memorial for the traditional service and two-minute silence at 11am, hold your horses.
The Field of Remembrance at Westminster Abbey is photographed in 2018. The field has been held in the grounds of the abbey since 1928 [File photo]
Because special rules apply. Not only must numbers be ‘minimised’, there is a ban on ‘communal singing’. In many places, ceremonies have simply been cancelled. In others, they are closed to all but a few local representatives.
To read the new rules for next weekend, you sense that officialdom regards Remembrance Sunday like Cup Final day or Halloween – just another irksome, public order issue that needs some tight controls. Astonishingly, it turns out the Government has not even drafted its own legislation correctly.
The latest Health Protection (Coronavirus) Regulations 2020 bolted on to the 1984 Public Health Act dictate what commemorative events may take place and how. Legally, councils can authorise a ceremony only if ‘the gathering takes place to commemorate Remembrance Sunday’.
This is nonsense. We do not gather to ‘commemorate Remembrance Sunday’. We gather on Remembrance Sunday to commemorate our war dead, not the day itself. This is just sloppy legislation. If the Government can’t even word its own rules accurately, then how the hell can they expect the rest of us to observe them?
The official ministerial guidance to local authorities is blunt and wholly negative. Organisers are repeatedly ordered to ‘keep numbers to a minimum’, to ‘take reasonable steps to ensure the public attend alone’ and to take everyone’s details.
We all accept these are exceptional times. But this is not just another annual tradition.
For millions, Remembrance Sunday and Armistice Day are hallowed days of obligation, occasions when we make an effort to honour those who gave their all for our freedoms. For many, who are still mourning loved ones killed in the line of duty, it is a day of great sadness and pride. The Government has urged people to stay at home and switch on the telly. But for countless people, that is simply not going to suffice.
Where is the common sense here? Everyone accepts the need for social distancing. And the sort of people who turn up at remembrance events do not behave like people piling out of bars at a 10pm curfew or protesters in Trafalgar Square. They come in the quiet expectation of dignity and solemnity. Above all, most services of commemoration are outside. It is why many veterans are dismayed that the traditional open-air Royal British Legion parade at the Cenotaph has virtually disappeared.
The turnout of politicians will be the same but that eternally poignant march-past of ex-servicemen and women is off. Obviously, a parade of 10,000 veterans – watched by huge crowds – is out of the question.
However, the Legion had been planning a Covid-compliant alternative. Last month, charities such as Blind Veterans UK were offered ten socially distanced places in a much-reduced parade. All representatives would have to be ‘physically fit’ and ‘have the ability to march for 45 minutes’ without escorts or wheelchairs. There would be no room for carers. But at least it was something. The Legion had worked out it could accommodate about 2,000 veterans at well-regulated intervals.
Then Public Health England weighed in. That number has now been reduced to just 30 able-bodied veterans. Everyone else wishing to lay a wreath at the Cenotaph can do so online or by mail order.
A Remembrance Day event at place at the Cenotaph in Westminster in 2018 is pictured with numerous veterans in attendance [File photo]
Meanwhile, the Met Police are preparing rigorous counter-measures to deter any passers-by from dawdling. Large white screens are to be erected at either end of Whitehall to block the view. ‘Move along now, nothing to see here. Just the Queen on her balcony…’
Quite apart from the oppressive sense of overkill, has anyone paused to contemplate what sort of message all these restrictions are sending out? From the outset, the official mindset has got it all wrong. Rather than finding constructive ways to help people commemorate safely and sensibly, the priority has been to shoo them elsewhere. Let them go shopping or drinking instead.
At the same time, people are still banned from ‘communal singing’ in line with the edict from the Ministry of Housing and Communities.
Following the Government’s latest U-turn allowing VIPs to sing at the Cenotaph, officials have hinted that the rules may now be changed for outdoor – but not indoor – ceremonies. As of last night, however, the blanket singing ban remained in place on the Government website.
The ruling has hit other major events. All the Armed Forces taking part in next Saturday’s Royal British Legion Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall – which will be screened on BBC1 – must remain mute. ‘There is no singing by anyone other than the choir and the individual artists,’ a Legion spokesperson explained.
Speaking for millions of veterans and their families, no doubt, the President of the Merchant Navy Association, Vivien Foster, sums it all up in one word: ‘Ridiculous’.
Elsewhere, the public are left wondering where and how they are allowed to pay their respects.
Truro in Cornwall will have a small invitation-only ceremony at the cathedral. Coventry is among many places holding its official ceremony online. Many towns and villages have taken their lead from the Government and simply cancelled their ceremonies.
Not so much the Last Post as the last straw.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Kate Garraway’s husband Derek Draper speaks for first time in 7-months amid his coronavirus battle
Kate Garraway’s husband Derek Draper has spoken for the first time in seven months amid his battle with coronavirus.
The former Blair lobbyist, 53, was able to whisper the word ‘pain’ to his wife, who watched on ‘in tears’ over FaceTime.
He was originally admitted to hospital with COVID-19 symptoms on March 30 and remains seriously ill.
First word: Kate Garraway’s husband Derek Draper has spoken for the first time in seven months amid his battle with coronavirus (pictured in 2019)
Recounting the moment to The Sun, the Good Morning Britain star, also 53, said the breakthrough was both ‘amazing’ and ‘heartbreaking’.
Kate said: ‘It happened when the nurses were moving Derek, as part of his treatment, to trigger the sensation of gravity because he’s been horizontal for so long.
‘As they were shifting him, they asked if he could feel anything — not expecting a response as he hadn’t previously. But suddenly he mouthed in a whisper, “Pain”.
‘They called me straight after and I burst into tears. The staff told me later that they were so emotional as well. He’s said it twice now and I was there for the second one, watching him over FaceTime.’
Glimmer of hope: The former Blair lobbyist, 53, was able to whisper the word ‘pain’ to his wife, who watched on ‘in tears’ over FaceTime (pictured in September)
The Good Morning Britain presenter explained that the hospital staff have been constantly trying to engage Derek and get a response from him, but this is the first time.
Kate described it as a breakthrough due to the fact that Derek ‘has been able to connect the feeling in his body to his brain and mouth’.
The development comes after it was reported that Kate is set to front an emotional documentary about husband Derek’s battle with coronavirus.
Kate is said to be determined to ensure people are aware how serious the virus is, after her family ‘had their lives turned upside down.’
Her husband – who has become the longest surviving patient in the UK, after seven months in hospital – was taken into hospital with COVID-19 symptoms on March 30 and remains in intensive care after being in a coma for several months.
Kate will reportedly look at other families who have been impacted by the pandemic as she investigates the effects of the virus on the UK.
Kate said: ‘They called me straight after and I burst into tears. The staff told me later that they were so emotional as well. He’s said it twice now and I was there for the second one, watching him over FaceTime’ (pictured earlier this month on GMB)
It’s claimed that the documentary will be produced by Flicker Productions, who were behind All Women – a recent documentary hosted by Kathy Burke.
A source told The Sun: ‘Kate is keen to spread the message about how serious Covid-19 can be and was happy to talk about it if it meant people would take it seriously, as well as updating the thousands of fans who ask daily about Derek’s progress.
‘Kate and her family have had their lives turned upside down by the virus and want to show the effect it’s had on them, but also on others going through the same thing.’
MailOnline has contacted ITV for comment.
Devastating: The development comes after it was reported that Kate is set to front an emotional documentary about husband Derek’s battle with coronavirus (pictured with their two children Darcey, 14, and son Billy, 11)
Earlier this month, Kate told GMB viewers of her husband’s condition, saying: ‘There are big ups and big downs, not big ups really, small improvements and worrying downs as well.
‘But the last few days have been pretty stable, so keeping everything crossed really.’
Kate added that due to hospital restrictions she’s the only person in her family that’s been able to visit Derek.
Using her journalism skills: Kate will reportedly look at other families who have been impacted by the pandemic as she investigates the effects of the virus on the UK
‘It’s tough, it’s very hard. You completely understand why hospitals have to do it, they have to protect those inside who may be recovering from COVID or maybe dealing with other serious conditions,’ she explained.
‘But to do that, they have to decrease footfall, so Darcy hasn’t been able to see Derek, his mum and dad haven’t been able to see him for a long time now.
‘The fact they live in Lancashire and that might go into tier two will have an effect because it will be very tough for them to argue the case to be able to visit. It is difficult.’
Heartbreaking: The presenter recently revealed that their children haven’t seen their father since he was first admitted to hospital seven months ago (pictured December 2019)
Back in July, Kate told Piers Morgan and Susanna Reid during a GMB interview: ‘It is a very desperate situation, it’s very very difficult, of course there’s fantastic hope he’s still alive, the doctors do keep saying it’s a miracle he’s still alive.
‘I was speaking to a doctor yesterday who said he’s sick as anyone I’ve ever seen in 35 years of medicine, and some of those people who were as sick as him aren’t here.
A timeline of Derek’s coronavirus battle
Kate revealed she and Prince Charles had got ‘relatively close’ at the Prince’s Trust Awards on March 11 – Charles was diagnosed with coronavirus in mid-March.
She said: ‘Around the 29/30 March, I came home came in and said [to Derek] ‘god you look ill.’
‘He said he had a headache, numbness in his right hand, and was struggling to breathe,
‘I rang Dr Hilary (Jones) and tried to get through, he talked to Derek. He said put me back on, I think you need to call an ambulance’
Derek, 52, was taken into hospital on March 30 and remained in an unresponsive condition.
Kate and her children isolated at home after she displayed ‘mild symptoms’.
Kate said: ‘Derek remains in intensive care and is still very ill. I’m afraid it remains an excruciatingly worrying time.
‘I’m afraid he is still in a deeply critical condition, but he is still here, which means there is hope.’
Kate said: ‘The journey for me and my family seems to be far from over as every day my heart sinks as I learn new and devastating ways this virus has more battles for Derek to fight.
‘But he is still HERE & so there is still hope.’
That month, Kate and her family took part in the final clap for carers
She said: ‘I’ll never give up on that because Derek’s the love of my life but at the same time I have absolute uncertainty’
On June 5, Kate revealed Derek is now free from coronavirus but continues to fight against the damage inflicted on his body
On July 5, Kate revealed Derek has woken from his coma but he remains in a serious yet critical condition.
On July 8, she announced she would be returning to GMB, after being urged by doctors to ‘get on with life’ during Derek’s recovery.
She added that Derek had ‘opened his eyes’ after waking from his coma, but has been told his recovery could take years.
On July 13, Kate returned to GMB for the first time since Derek was hospitalised.
‘Six times they said he’s not going to make it, and obviously you couldn’t visit. So he’s been very very sick, but it’s a new disease, there’s no data, so what they can say is it’s great he’s here.
‘There’s flickers of hope, his lungs are starting to recover, his kidneys are doing better, his liver, but they don’t know how much better he can get.’
Asked whether there had been any explanation for why Derek had been so badly affected by the virus, Kate admitted doctors are still unsure.
She said: ‘There isn’t, he was a little bit overweight, I’m a bit of a feeder! Zero underlying conditions, he’s young comparatively, he’s 52, so there is no explanation.
‘I think what’s happened is at every stage they’ve been learning. One of the wonderful things is that they’ve changed medical practices, they’ve changed pathways because of Derek. I keep telling him on the Facetime he would be very pleased about that.’
Now that Derek has been declared COVID-free, Kate admitted she fears for the long-term damage the virus may have done, and whether that will affect Derek in his recovery.
‘When he went into hospital, I got some texts saying ”oh I’m definitely not gonna die, tell the children I’m doing great,” but there was a feeling of terror because he had COVID and suddenly it escalated.
‘And then suddenly it became everything, and each stage has been sort of a new terror and just when I thought we were moving forward suddenly it can now affect your body everywhere.
‘There’s a huge post-viral syndrome, damage done in ways we didn’t know. I was sitting with Dr Hilary and he said it’s the lungs, it’s respiratory you’re fearing from COVID.’
Kate also reiterated that doctors had urged her to ‘get on with life’ while Derek continues to recover, insisting she had to be present for their two children Darcey, 14, and Billy, 10.
‘I have had moments, you know when you get abs gripped with fear and everything was going so well, but it’s happened to the world it’s happened to everybody, in this time you’ve seen people, I know people, you know people who have been watching this show who have been diagnosed with terrible illnesses,’ Kate added.
‘The doctors are saying to me now, ”You’ve got to get on, you’ve got to get on with life”. For Darcey and Billy effectively right now, they’ve lost their dad, they haven’t, he’s there.. he’s not a presence as he should be in their lives.’
Kate’s husband has been in hospital since March, and while Kate sparked hope in July by revealing he has awoken from a coma, the star has been told his recovery could take years.
She told Hello! ‘The doctors have been urging me not to put my life on pause. They’ve told me that I need to go back to work and create a routine in our lives again.
‘The children and Derek are all I’ve thought about and they’re the most important people in my life, but I must create structure and normality for the children, to clean the bath, put the plates in the dishwasher and tidy the house.
‘I also need to get back to work so that I can provide for the children and we can do things together, to make them feel that the light hasn’t gone out of their lives, that there’s hope for the future.’
During an appearance on GMB last month, Kate spoke about the start of Derek’s devastating illness, saying: ‘Derek had a painful shoulder for a couple months, and had been taking medication and having scans.
Tough times: Kate sparked hope in July by revealing he has awoken from a coma, the star has been told his recovery could take years
‘He was due to have a steroid injection, he felt unwell and was home tutoring the kids. I got back and said ”you don’t you look right babe, I think it’s the painkillers.”
‘I just had this weird feeling, asked if he had a cough. He didn’t, he said ”I think I’ve got weird sinusitis.” I rang the doctor, I said ”you don’t look great, no real feeling that it’s COVID, he had none of those symptoms.”
‘Around the 29/30 March, I came home, came in and said ”God you look ill”. He said he had a headache, numbness in his right hand, and was struggling to breathe.
‘I rang Dr Hilary (Jones) and tried to get through, he talked to Derek. He said put me back on, I think you need to call an ambulance. I said ”I can’t believe I’m calling an ambulance”, I was very scared.’
Touching: Derek has credited Kate for saving him from depression which started during his career as a political advisor and led to a nervous breakdown (pictured in 2006)
Derek has previously credited Kate for saving him from depression which started during his career as a political advisor and led to a nervous breakdown and a stint in The Priory in the late 1990s.
After moving to Los Angeles for three years and retraining as a therapist, his friend GMTV’s political correspondent, Gloria De Piero, offered to set him up with her friend and colleague Kate.
Kate and Derek have been married since 2005, with the former lobbyist cheering his wife on for the duration of her stint on I’m A Celebrity last year.
Following her stint on I’m A Celebrity, the couple were planning to renew their vows in the coming months after Kate revealed Derek had proposed for a second time.
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
Novelist Fay Weldon lays bare the secret misery of her marriage as she files for divorce at 89
Almost exactly a year ago, Fay Weldon, one of our most eminent novelists, attempted suicide.
The shock of this revelation is seismic, not least because the day before she had written about her happy near 30-year marriage to Nick Fox.
But today she reveals the article — like many that preceded it — was a sham, virtually dictated by her ‘controlling’ third husband who oversaw the content of her journalism so the world was hoodwinked into believing the myth of their blissful union.
‘In effect, Nick wrote the article in my name, saying how happy our marriage was. It’s shocking, but I didn’t have the strength to argue with him.’ She shrugs.
‘The next day, I took an overdose. I was in such pain, emotional and physical. It seemed like a rational thing to do at the time.
Fay Weldon, one of Britain’s leading authors, has walked out on her third husband, Nick Fox, at the age of 89 (the couple pictured together)
She intends to divorce, alleging ‘coercive control and financial mismanagement’ by Fox, whom she married aged 60 when he was 45
‘Nick controlled my life. He wanted to run everything. My friends came less and less because he did all the talking and they wanted to see me.
‘He’d play the piano loudly if they talked to me. I was embarrassed. Was it professional envy? No. It wasn’t. He wanted to be famous. In fact, he wanted to be me.
‘He decided who I could be friends with. He tried to stop me seeing my sons. He never struck me, but he’d break plates and hurl things and, occasionally, they’d hit me. I was frightened of him.
‘I was very wealthy when I married him. I suppose I earned around £500,000 a year. But when my income declined, he still spent at the same rate.
Lobster, grappa and oysters, first-class travel — while I would go standard class to save money. And now I am virtually penniless because of his extravagance.
‘My third marriage was the most disastrous of all of them. I was married to a He-Devil.’
Weldon has plundered her own extraordinary life for inspiration for her 40-plus best-selling novels — the most celebrated of which, The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil, she wrote aged 53.
But this week’s astonishing news that she intends, aged 89, to divorce Fox, eclipses even the more extravagant plots of her fiction.
Almost exactly a year ago, Fay Weldon (pictured in 2009) attempted suicide
The grounds for the split are incendiary. In a recent email to friends, she first explained that the silence she has maintained for the past year was prompted by ill health. She suffered a stroke this April, preceded by a broken bone in her back.
Then came the revelation that, as she approaches her tenth decade, she intends to divorce, alleging ‘coercive control and financial mismanagement’ by Fox, whom she married aged 60 when he was 45.
Fox, a former bookseller, became Fay’s manager, to whom she delegated control of her finances, with devastating results.
Today, in an explosive interview with the Daily Mail, Weldon reveals for the first time, her account — often harrowing — about the marriage the world perceived as contented.
Speaking from the sanctuary of her eldest son Nick Weldon’s home in Northamptonshire, where she has lived for the year since her split from Fox, Fay claims that her husband’s spending has meant they have amassed huge debts, including a mortgage on the marital home in Dorset, a bank overdraft and loans totalling around £500,000.
She talks about how the sudden and devastating death of the third of her four sons, Tom, aged 48, from oesophageal cancer in April 2019 precipitated a grief so acute it ‘knocked her for six.’
And she discloses that an accident soon afterwards, that happened as Fox parked their car, left her barely able to walk and in such agony that it signalled the end of their sex life.
Fay claims that her husband’s spending has meant they have amassed huge debts, including a mortgage on the marital home in Dorset, a bank overdraft and loans totalling around £500,000
She tells, too, how Fox’s ‘complete lack of empathy’ left her floundering alone in grief and pain and how she took that overdose.
And she recalls how when he found her passed out, instead of dialling 999, Fox lay with her inert body for four hours until a carer arrived and insisted an ambulance was called.
I meet Fay this week at the converted shoe factory that is home to Nick, 66, a jazz musician and his partner Andra, 69, a singer.
All is airy, spacious and welcoming. They bustle around, fixing Fay’s breakfast, which they take to the room they have adapted for her. She sits comfortably there under a plaid rug; her handsome oval face unlined, her blue eyes bright, alert; amused.
Fox, a former bookseller, became Fay’s manager, to whom she delegated control of her finances, with devastating results
‘It’s lovely to have Mum here,’ says Nick, who is softly-spoken and mild in demeanour. He and Andra run a jazz school on the premises. Although Covid has temporarily halted classes, Fay enjoys the music he says.
‘For many years, I’d only see Mum a couple of times a year.
‘We assumed her marriage was happy, but we’d begun to think she’d moved away from the family,’ he says carefully. He does not elaborate. He is keen to be placatory, neutral.
Although Fay’s voice is frail and faltering — sometimes barely audible — since her stroke, her mind remains sharp as a tack and her sense of humour, despite her travails, is undimmed.
‘Nick [her husband] said I’d lost my marbles after I had the stroke,’ she tells me, smiling.
‘But I certainly haven’t.’ The exertion of speaking is, however, huge. She pauses between each short sentence. ‘It was a long marriage and, for many years, it was very good, which is a reason why I was so forgiving for so long,’ she says.
‘But I have no regrets about leaving him. It is a relief. A liberation. I am 89 and I’m divorcing him. It is the right thing to do.
‘I blame myself for being so foolish. I wish the marriage had never happened. He is very intelligent, well-read and could be funny and I loved him to start with.
‘Then, as the years passed, he became more and more eccentric. I am alleging coercive control, as it’s now called. Nick decided who I could be friends with. He didn’t want me to see my sons. It upset me, but I didn’t cry.
‘Nick didn’t like crying. He didn’t want me to show emotion.
‘Lots of my friends drifted away because his behaviour was so intolerable. He would embarrass me at literary and social events by expressing his extreme views then getting angry and swearing at people who disagreed.
‘Once he marched me out of a lunch. I felt humiliated.
‘Every year on my birthday, he would throw a huge party for me, but I barely knew anyone who came, other than my family and his three sons — all of whom I adore. And if someone talked to me at smaller gatherings, he would stand between us.
‘My children couldn’t ring me up without going through Nick. They had to have a conversation with him first.
Weldon was chairman of the Booker Prize in 1983 and retains a professorship of creative writing at Bath Spa University
‘He successfully distanced me from anyone who could have any influence over me and I think my friends and family thought I was part of it all, that I was encouraging it. But I wasn’t. I was just too frightened to challenge him.’
Weldon was, of course, the creative genius in the partnership. Her screenplays, novels and plays earned her acclaim and wealth. She was chairman of the Booker Prize in 1983 and retains a professorship of creative writing at Bath Spa University.
She was also the breadwinner and, in the heady early days of their relationship, when publishing advances were generous, she owned properties together worth several million pounds in London’s Hampstead and Kentish Town, and Glastonbury, Somerset.
She also had a healthy bank balance. Fox managed her career and finances from the off. ‘I’m hopeless with money,’ she says.
‘I delegated everything to him and trusted him. I told him to deal with it all so I could just write. So he looked after all the bank accounts. I didn’t know what was going on. I never looked at them.’
Fox’s influence, as the years progressed, became insidiously all-pervasive. ‘He cooked all my meals,’ she says, ‘and I think he over-fed me so I would be fatter because he didn’t want other men to desire me. He told me off like a child if I didn’t finish my food.
‘He didn’t let me watch TV or listen to the radio — in fact, we didn’t even have a TV — because he said it was a waste of life. I think it was partly, too, that he wanted to shut me off from the world. But I loved working and writing — I still do — so that was my life.’
Weldon has plundered her own extraordinary life for inspiration for her 40-plus best-selling novels — the most celebrated of which, The Life And Loves Of A She-Devil, she wrote aged 53
Her praise of him remains generous but it is clear that in the later years of their marriage he even tried to control her writing. ‘He was a good editor,’ she says, ‘but in my journalism, although not the fiction, he was influencing the content.
‘He’d put in paragraphs of his own. We had terrible rows about it. He virtually wrote the piece (actually commissioned by this newspaper) about our “happy” marriage.
‘I had to massage his ego. He would tell me how good he was at everything and I agreed. I was terrified of him in the end.’
It was the tragedy of son Tom’s early death that triggered her descent into despair. Tom was one of three siblings from her second marriage to antiques dealer Ron Weldon, who left her for his ‘astrological therapist’ in 1992.
‘Tom’s death was just terrible,’ she says. ‘He died within weeks of the diagnosis. It was such a shock, so sudden. I was knocked for six by the grief. Nick didn’t want me to tell other people about it. I don’t know why, but perhaps he didn’t want me to have the attention.
Admitting he has not spoken to his wife for months Fox said: ‘I feel I have been hung out to dry. ‘Marriages do break up but not when someone is 89 years old. I know Fay has not written a book for 18 months and it is as if fiction is being turned into real life’
‘There were no hugs. I think he is completely incapable of empathy. I don’t think he felt any sorrow.’
Shortly after her son’s death, Fay suffered her devastating back injury as Nick parked their car to go to a literary event.
‘I leant on the back of the car as it moved forward and I fell and broke a bone, one of my vertebrae, at the base of my spine. I landed on my bum.’ She laughs.
‘Nick didn’t take me to hospital. He said he was worried about norovirus so I saw his physio who said all was fine.
‘But I could hardly walk. It was very painful to get upstairs.
‘We’d had a good sex life until then — it was one of the reasons why I stayed for so long!’ She laughs again. ‘But it stopped when I hurt my back. Nick was angry that I couldn’t have sex. I thought he had stopped loving me. And he didn’t know how to comfort me.
‘So it was grief and pain, emotional and physical, that made me take the overdose last October.
‘I took the pills hoping I’d die. I thought: “I’m 89. Many children have lost their mothers by now.”’
Fox, it emerges, realised Fay was unconscious on the floor of their bedroom in the early hours.
‘It seems he lay down beside me in the early hours of the morning but didn’t summon help until a carer arrived at 8.30 in the morning,’ Fay says. ‘She insisted he phoned for an ambulance.’
I ask Fay why she believes Fox delayed calling 999 and she says: ‘He had a deep mistrust of the NHS. He thought they were a source of evil.’
Fox, when contacted by the Daily Mail, insisted he ‘called an ambulance as soon as it was clear that Fay needed medical assistance’. Mercifully, the NHS saved her. She was rushed to Salisbury Hospital, the closest emergency unit to their home in Shaftesbury, Dorset.
‘I think I was pretty close to dying,’ says Fay. ‘The doctor says I would not have survived if I’d been thin.’
She smiles. ‘At the time, I wanted to die, but now I’m glad I didn’t.’
Her hospital visit, it emerges, was pivotal to her decision to divorce Fox. It was while she was convalescing at the small cottage hospital near their home, that he visited her in a raging temper.
He had discovered during his wife’s absence — after finding a document on her computer — that she had secretly changed her will to include the children of her late son Tom, and to limit Fox’s control and benefit over her literary estate to three years after her death.
‘I didn’t tell him when I changed it. I did it in secret,’ she says. ‘I thought I’d be dead when he found out. He was absolutely furious.
‘He said I was stupid and he ranted and swore at me. I didn’t swear back. I never did. The hospital staff heard him and said his behaviour was bullying.’
Fox only confirmed this belief when he arrived at Fay’s bedside with a power of attorney. She refused to sign it. Fox insisted that Fay, distraught, in severe pain and in a wheelchair, return home so she could attend an interview he had arranged with Danish TV.
‘He wanted me to keep working, to keep earning money,’ she comments dryly.
However, a safeguarding team, concerned by the hectoring of Fay, questioned her further and concluded she was ‘a victim of domestic abuse.’
The team in charge of her care advised that she should not be discharged into Fox’s care, which is when Nick and Andra agreed she should live with them.
And it was only when she moved there that the extent of what she terms her husband’s ‘financial mismanagement’ — and their mounting debts — came to light.
‘I am not quite penniless,’ she says brightly, ‘but Nick has been very extravagant and we are in a lot of debt.’ There is, she now knows, a mortgage of £450,000 on the rambling home in Shaftesbury that Nick inherited from his mother.
Now jointly owned, it became their marital home: the mortgage alone is a huge financial commitment for a woman approaching 90 and her financially dependent 74-year-old spouse.
In addition, they have an overdraft of nearly £40,000 and bank loans of £24,000.
‘Nick just kept spending at the same rate when publishers stopped paying huge advances because of the economic climate,’ says Fay.
‘He is extravagant. He likes the celebrity lifestyle. He fritters away money on unnecessary extravagances.
Between January and May of this year, he spent £44,000, which, even allowing for the mortgage and bills, is a great deal for a man on his own in his 70s.’
Despite their reduced means, Fox has admitted paying £82 a week for a cleaner and £500 for three months’ worth of logs ‘to heat the south side of the house’.
Such levels of spending seem grandiose to Fay: ‘He has always been self-indulgent — and I’m certainly not frugal — but he would be nervous if I spent anything. He didn’t like it when I bought face cream. He’d raise his eyebrows.’
Since their separation, Fox has bombarded Weldon with emails and voice messages, many of them saccharine and verbose outpourings of his love. When contacted by the Daily Mail, he denied much of Fay’s account of their marriage.
In relation to the car accident, he said she had not complained of any pain at the time and that he later got a doctor, osteopath and trainer to attend to her repeatedly.
He also said Fay had several phone lines and could be contacted by family and that she ‘wrote all’ of the article on how happy she was in her marriage. And he denied that he ever threw things which inadvertently struck Fay.
But Fay will no longer be either charmed or bullied into submission.
She looks serene; contented actually. A hefty biography of Samuel Pepys sits on her table; Andra is helping her with speech therapy and a team of carers call throughout the day to attend to her personal needs.
She enjoys watching musicals on TV — a pleasure forbidden, of course, by Fox — and hopes her hands will soon be sufficiently recuperated so she can start writing again.
‘All my most valuable work was written before I married Nick,’ she says pointedly. ‘So I did not want him to get his hands on my literary estate.’
She is dignified, quietly defiant adamant. ‘I pretended my third marriage was the best,’ she says.
‘When, in fact, it was the worst.’
This post first appeared on dailymail.co.uk
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