And now for something completely different . . .


For some relief from the recession, try surfing the web for real life stories that are stranger than fiction, suggests ORNA MULCAHY

ALL THIS staring into the vortex is depressing, so this week, instead of dwelling on headlines of a trillion being sunk here, and billions wiped out there, and job losses everywhere, the eye has been allowed to drift to the margins of newspaper websites, where real life stories are played out, frequently under the “Most read” or “Most curious” banner.

Did you hear about the village in Switzerland where they’re trying to ban nude hiking? It’s marvellous stuff.

There are pictures of hale and hearty men striding through the snow with only their backpacks and boots in sub- zero temperatures.

They’ve been criss-crossing the Alps for years, totally starkers, but now the villagers of Appenzell want a new law to stop it once and for all, the spoilsports.

There are the Spanish teenagers who managed to send a camera into the stratosphere to take stunning pictures for a total cost of about €60.

There’s the flame-haired Swedish countess, Marie Douglas-David, who wants her American husband to cough up $53 million in a divorce settlement, as she says it is impossible to live on anything less, what with her weekly outgoings including $1,000 worth of hair and beauty treatments and $4,500 for clothes.

And in the same vein there is Mrs Madoff, wife of the infamous Bernard, who is trying to hold on to assets of her own that could be seized to offset his $40 billion scam, including a villa in Cap D’Antibes and several boats, all called Bull.

What about Anatoly Konenky, the Siberian man who has transcribed 10 of his favourite Pushkin poems about roses in a book made entirely of rose petals?

Or the demise of Millard Kaufman, one of the creators of the Mr Magoo cartoon, who wrote his first novel at 90.

There’s been the guilty fix of watching Jade Goody die, poor lamb, while in pictures, it’s riveting to see Kate Moss step in and out of nightclubs, looking fabulous at 9pm and shocking some hours later when she’s either ripped her dress, fallen over or let her top fall down.

Then, shock horror, those close-up shots of Victoria Beckham’s ageing hands with the veins standing out – a big red ring around one handbag-clutching claw just in case one missed the point.

I feel for her. We all know about Botox, but what can you do with hands? They’re a terrible giveaway once they start getting dry and speckled, which tends to happen after 35, when no amount of hand cream will repair the damage. Like men’s shoes, people tend to look at women’s hands and judge them accordingly.

An old girlfriend who has been fanatical about her beauty routine has no such problems.

Since girlhood she has anointed her hands daily, hourly maybe, and slips them into cotton gloves overnight. As a result she has the most beautiful smooth and silky extremities.

I won’t go into the rest of her routine here but suffice to say that her flatmate developed camel-like habits – the bathroom was never free.

The rest of us felt she had an unfair advantage, having a glamorous foreign mother who brought with her to Ireland many beauty secrets.

Our home therapies were of a more basic nature, inspired by the farmyard rather than the salons of Paris.

There was an egg-white face mask that was very good at tightening things up, teabags on the eyes and a horrible concoction of beer and wheat germ that was supposed to make your hair shine like a mirror, but instead repelled boys during a slow set.

Other treatments included half a lemon to remove freckles and plunging the face into ice-cold water – we had all read that the agelessly handsome Paul Newman did this every day – or standing over the steam of an open kettle with a towel over the head, which was the equivalent of deep cleansing during the early 1990s.

These homely recipes may be due for a comeback, as we shun expensive products and spa sessions and shop for beauty treatments in the supermarket aisles rather than in the marble halls of department stores. Or so you would think.

Not everyone is cutting back, though. A sales lady at the Crème de la Mer counter in Harvey Nichols tells me that they can’t keep the €225 jar in stock, but that there is no point buying the stuff unless you put it on properly.

It’s all about rubbing it in the correct way, circular motions with the fingertips and light pattings here. I’m sure if I look closely enough into the net there’s a website somewhere that will show me exactly how to do it. Let the recession go on without me.