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'Absolutely fabulous at 65' - you had better believe it; AGENDA.

Byline: SARAH EVANS

Until Britt Ekland, it was the perfect end to a perfect Scottish holiday day. The soft mist and gentle drizzle had lifted in the morning.

Rounds of golf on the prettiest of golf courses had been completed with victory only secured on the final hole. A dam across the stream had been attempted and there was hope tomorrow might see it finished.

Novels had been read in deckchairs bathed in afternoon sunshine and younger members of the party had indulged in that nippy splash in the Scottish sea that is their, and only their, prerogative.

After a particularly long and delicious meal with carefully chosen wine, conversation was idly drifting around the room, papers were being finished, crosswords puzzled over and there was that air of contentment only achieved with friends who have no work to go to tomorrow and a wonderfully furnished bedroom into which they know they can retire. In short, 100 per cent satisfied Landmark Trust clients.

And then someone mentioned Britt Ekland. An article had appeared in The Scotsman all about her, heralding her soon to-be-seen show at the Edinburgh Fringe (I hope Birmingham tourists are just as supportive and buy The Birmingham Post).

'Rock chick hits 65' was the general theme of the piece illustrated by a charming photograph of the said Britt looking not at all like a rock chick but a beautiful and sophisticated 65-year-old.

You can see where this is leading. Some people may refrain from politics and religion in order to maintain harmony and friendship but those topics are like mild korma compared with the vindaloo concoction that is the conversational gambit of female ageing and attractiveness. It is quite simply suicide to introduce it when the mixed group is in its 40s and 50s.

"It is so patently untrue" said the hapless 40plusplus man reading out the article. "Just look at her. The journalist is obviously female. No man would ever describe a 65-year-old woman as 'absolutely fabulous'." One of the other middle aged males waded in "Women just can't be gorgeous over ... " he had the decency to pause, do a quick intelligent estimate and race to the finish with "58".

The atmosphere changed from that of a relaxed Edwardian Scottish laird's house party to that of the clan massacres. The bitter feuds of the MacLeods and the MacDonalds were nothing compared with this gender divide.

Britt's photograph was inspected minutely and there was female agreement that she looked "drop dead glamorous".

Slim ("as a reed", said the admiring journalist) with the sort of facial bone structure that would see any woman out, Britt looked like a woman who, as she rightly acknowledged and so did we, had "blossomed after 60".

"She's an old woman with a lot of make-up and a face job" summed up the unappreciative, antediluvian male position.

Other examples of the timeless female attractiveness were brought into battle - the bikini-clad Helen Mirren, and Meryl Streep in her recent film, only to be ridiculed for their years. Ageism ruled OK.

Who were these beefy, balding middle-age men to pontificate about the phenomenon Shakespeare so rightly encapsulated in the immortal lines "Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale Her infinite variety"? was the attack from the other side of the glen. Over the heather stormed an argument put forward by (the traitoress) Tracey Emin in an article where she apparently brought down the age limit considerably - being a rather trying early 40-year-old, she claimed the clock strikes midnight on all of us Cinderellas at 45.

"Even other women acknowledge it," jeered the jowly ones whose red faces sadly lacked the benefits of sunscreen and moisturizer. But in the end the tragedy was theirs. Because the women all acknowledged the considerable attractiveness of some older men - those who just like Britt Ekland had good bone structure, ate sensibly and made the effort to be charming. So it was one of the women who had the excellent idea of trying a glass of the Chateau Rieussec that was sitting on the splendid mantelpiece below the amazing engraving of a dinner to celebrate Waterloo and the conversation turned to how lovely it was the children were all enjoying themselves. Landmark Trust rules OK.

CAPTION(S):

Britt Ekland in her other heyday
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jul 28, 2008
Words:713
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