Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.
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Monday 30 July 2012

What goes around comes around.

THERE are many wonderful tastes in the world.

A first kiss; some vintage wine; a fine chocolate fondant. Or maybe a bacon sandwich with brown sauce wafted under your nose by a kind soul when you have a hangover of 9.7.

There is nothing, though, which tastes quite so wonderfully bittersweet and hits all your pleasure centres in quite the same way as karma catching up with someone who thoroughly deserves it.

Not that they should get any more than their due - few people merit having their entire lives ruined. Just that they have a fit and neat punishment for a previous transgression. A banker loses his money, a wife-beater gets thumped, or a cheater is cheated on.

In this case, a woman whose marriage sprung from a doubly-adulterous affair and who when publicly castigated for her selfish decisions said "men don't leave happy marriages" has thrown her husband out on his ear over claims he's been seeing a woman less than half her age.

Lovely, saccharine-sweet Anthea Turner, who was once the nation's TV sweetheart, is now facing a long few days of being the nation's object lesson in natural justice.

She is a prime example of the television executive's habit of taking something which is popular and hitting the audience over the head with it until we loathe it. In Anthea's case she started off on children's show Blue Peter then moved on to the GMTV sofa, Top of the Pops, the National Lottery and prime-time travel show Wish You Were Here?

By this point her perky pixie act was starting to wear a little thin, but she was the second highest-paid woman on television and apparently happily married to her manager, former Radio 1 DJ and all-round good egg Peter Powell.

Behind the scenes all was not well. GMTV co-host Eamonn Holmes hated her so much he nicknamed her Princess Tippy Toes and ended up telling bosses 'either she goes or I do'. She went.

A few years later, it transpired she'd been cheating on Powell with a family friend, a former market trader called Grant Bovey who had produced her workout video. He and his wife Della were family friends and their youngest child was just 18 months old.

The wholesome pixie was suddenly a scarlet woman. The affair was front page news, Della danced wildly at a party in a red dress for photographers and briefly won her husband back before he threw his lot in with Anthea. When they each got divorced over their adultery - Della demanded £1million, Powell just wanted £127.50 for the paperwork - they married and sold the rights to a magazine.

As part of the deal, bride and groom posed while eating a new chocolate bar.

Probably due in part to distaste at their antics and dislike for the happy couple's matching, delighted-with-themselves smiles, there was a national backlash over what became known as 'Flakegate'. It was little more than an excuse to hang our dislike on, but Princess Tippy Toes was mocked, her popularity fell, and she found it harder to work.

Efforts to explain herself included Anthea saying in interviews: "Men don't leave happy marriages, and if it hadn't been me I honestly think it would have been someone else".

She tried and failed to have a family with her new husband, and spoke movingly of the devastation of repeated and failed IVF treatments. His property company collapsed in the crash owing £28million, they had to downgrade from a £11m mansion to a £5m one while creditors pursued him, and she had to do adverts for cleaning products.

She wrote a book giving lurid sexual detail about their affair, and saying her marriage to Powell had become a sham with "rushed conversations and loveless nights - all work, work, work and no play".

The stepdaughters said how much they liked Anthea. She set herself up as the 'Perfect Housewife' with a book and TV show telling people how to fold their towels correctly. The couple appeared on Hell's Kitchen. Della remarried.

None of it helped. That smile still liked itself a little too much, and few of us care that much about towels.

This weekend 'sources' close to Anthea have been telling any journalist who will ask that Bovey was seen kissing a 24-year-old while his wife was away working.

I expect that next we will have, in something like this order: denials, some grainy photographs, Bovey talking about his 'terrible misjudgement', Anthea separately revealing her 'heartbreak', a brief reunion, and Della's 'revenge interview'. Someone will say things had become 'all work, work work and no play', and Anthea will be reminded on a daily basis that according to some sage 'men don't leave happy marriages'.

Those things will probably all happen, and they're probably precisely what Anthea and Bovey deserve. It is a celebrity version of what always happens when somebody cheats, because whether you are the ratbag or the aggrieved party then next time around, even if everyone behaves as they should, doubt will always root a little easier in the mind.

It's also a lesson in what happens if you throw your lot in with someone who cheats on his wife, breaks up a young family, is a serial 'entrepreneur' whose businesses have a tendency to go bust, and who has been investigated by the Department of Trade and Industry over whether he should be allowed to run any more.

Silly Anthea.

We all love a bit of karma, not least because it's a rare thing. And I've never really liked Anthea, because after a long time as a hack I have come to realise that people who make a thing out of how nice they are generally aren't.

But while she might deserve what's coming to her, and while we might roll our eyes about the swathes of Anthea-coverage which will relieve the Olympic reports for the next few weeks, we might do well to remember one other thing.

Schadenfreude is a dish best served in a shot glass. Enjoy her misfortune if it gives you a thrill, knock back the irony of a perfect housewife with a broken home, but remember that people are bad to each other when they've lost their empathy and that you don't need to finish the bottle and join them.

Savour it, and move on.

"Is that your lawyer? Tell him I'm keeping the towels."