Anne Robinson Memoirs of an Unfit Mother

ISBN 13: 9780743448963

Memoirs of an Unfit Mother

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9780743448963: Memoirs of an Unfit Mother
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Who is Anne Robinson?

She's the notorious grand inquisitor of the television sensation The Weakest Link. She's the first woman in nearly half a century to host a prime-time game show. She's the highest-paid female journalist in British history. She warrants fan mail and death threats, fear and loathing, unqualified admiration and unabashed hatred....

But what you don't know about the Host from Hell could fill a book.

From pioneering journalist to overnight pop-culture phenomenon, Anne Robinson tells all with the same bar-nothing candor that won her the honor of "rudest woman on TV" (Britain's TVTimes). But now Anne Robinson trains her steely-eyed focus on her own past. With unblinking honesty she shares the events of her formative upbringing by a sensitive father and a driven, hardworking mother who was "part magic, part monster." With unreserved pride she reveals the headline-making battles to carve out her own career as a journalist, a controversial consumer reporter, and a BBC anchor -- a calling that took its toll on a troubled marriage and a sensational, highly publicized custody battle.

And with biting humor, Anne Robinson explores what brought her to her latest level of infamy: the autocratic style, withering glance, and stinging lash of the lady in black, landing her in the unique position of being both the most popular and unpopular television personality in history.

This is Anne Robinson. Are you game?

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About the Author:

Anne Robinson is the host of television's The Weakest Link. Good-bye!

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Chapter One: The Founder of Our Plenty

Fifteen years after a mother has left the earth there is a grown-up daughter standing in a shop, saying petulantly to a saleswoman, "I know it looks nice -- but I don't wear purple." Why doesn't she wear purple? Because as a little girl, and then as a bigger little girl, a voice was saying, "Don't wear purple, it's for old people." The same voice that said, "Once you go into brown you never wear anything else," and "Short-sleeved jackets are common," and "Pull your shoulders back and don't frown."

And when the little girl had stopped frowning, rejected the purple outfit and the jacket with short sleeves, but was still undecided between the green dress and the blue dress, the final command: "Have both."

This is my mother's voice. The stylish, excessive, gold-medal shopper.

There was also my mother the unyielding, unforgiving taskmaster. So a cleaning lady or a gardener or an offspring foolishly imagining an element of corner-cutting would go unnoticed ended up terrorized and forever regretted the economy.

Then again, there was my mother the empowerer. "You are," she would declare with an endearing certainty, "second to none. You can go out into the world and do anything!"

The empowering voice, throughout my life, is the one that girlfriends have envied. "If only," they have so often cried, "my mother had talked to me like that."

But it wasn't all rosy.

We lived permanently in extremes. A confusing seesaw existence in which best intentions were constantly thwarted by unintentional abuse.

Yet, to her credit, I never experienced a mother who was also a jealous competitor. In her book, disloyalty to a daughter was worse than the murder of a stranger. She believed jealousy was the vice of mothers who wished to stay young and attractive for their husbands and who ruthlessly eradicated any competitors. Especially daughters.

To my mother, the notion of being suspicious or fearful of one's own flesh and blood was unimaginable. She, in contrast, had only a touching and unrealistic faith in the genius of her children. In her order of priorities my brother came first. It was hardly to his benefit. I came second. Her husband, my father, came not first but last. Probably of the three of us under her control being second was the least traumatic position. But it was still a mixed blessing.

Nevertheless, on her tombstone it would have been fair to write: "She would have died for her children. She did what she thought was her best."

Alas, a mother's best is rarely enough. A mother's best can result in shocking damage and the second half of a child's life spent recovering from the first.

A mother's place is in the wrong.

To begin with, of course, we didn't know our mother was a star. We accepted as normal her energy, her quick wit, her beauty, her dazzling fearlessness, her scary exacting standards and her startling ability to make money. The last talent matched only by her gift for self-maintenance. Emptying Bond Street was a regular hobby. Then again, her generosity within the family was as huge as her stinginess in business.

Auntie Mame crossed with Howard Hughes out of Vogue and Mother Teresa. Eccentricity, secrecy, style, kindness. An exotic cocktail except on a very bad day when, without warning, added to the mix were those unforgettable Stalinesque tendencies. Self-doubt, if it existed, was not on show. With every part she played there was an uncrushable belief in her right to do exactly what she wanted.

And whatever the role of the moment it ran alongside an undisguised contempt for housewifery. Her order to have a facial once a month and get plenty of help in the house was just one of her maxims. Being "up at six and out at five" was another. Ostensibly a bit of Irish nonsense, we were in no doubt what it meant.

In her book, to be second, to be caught out, to be diddled by another who was sharper and quicker and up earlier in the morning was shameful. As was "being taken for a ride."

This was the philosophy of the street trader. It whistled round our lives and our home in St. Michael's Road, Blundellsands in Crosby outside of Liverpool. An imposing thirties house bought with three thousand used one-pound notes toward the end of the war. My mother was a third-, maybe fourth-generation trader. My great-grandmother and my grandmother before her had been in St. John's Market selling chickens.

The family was part of the mass exodus from Ireland. Peasants who came to Liverpool during the famine of the mid-eighteen hundreds. None of the women in the family appeared to have married a man of means. Or one who could turn much of a penny. The women, however, were rather good at it, perhaps out of necessity. And St. John's Market, a forbidding early-nineteenth-century building darkened by years of grime in the center of Liverpool, offered the dash for freedom. It allowed traders to rent a stall by the day. Or even to stand outside the building selling their wares. The women would journey from other parts of Liverpool. Sometimes they had only worn-out secondhand clothes to sell. The better-off could afford to trade in fruit or fish or chickens they bought early each morning in the wholesale market across the road. By the time my mother came along, the family stall in St. John's was a permanent one. It was her fresh blood that sent it spinning into an astoundingly lucrative business. First, in the early forties, unashamedly on the black market, dealing in rabbits. After that as a wholesaler, supplying ships and hotels and railways in the north of England.

By all accounts, my grandmother, less of a business head, shared her daughter's relish for spending. Her market coats were not the traditional white, but navy blue silk especially tailored for her. A week's profit could sensibly be blown on a new hat from Bon Marché. The bailiffs might be circling the door of her rented home but she would still be demanding her new son-in-law drive her to Southport to inspect a row of houses she fancied buying.

Quite how a family of Irish peasants developed such grandness and appetite for all things luxurious plus, admirably, an appetite to make the money that provided for high living, heaven knows.

My mother's pitch was the corner stall in the second aisle. A. Wilson was comparatively small, but in a prize position on one of the busiest corners. Behind the display of chickens was an office with high stools and a long desk, probably unchanged from the previous century, except for the telephone (ROYal 3841). Outside, the goods were laid out, dressed with price tickets. The giblets (1/6d a plate) were separate. Fresh sawdust was sprinkled on the floor. Sweeping up the sawdust and scrubbing down the blocks were parts of the ritual of shutting down at 6 p.m. after the big iron gates had closed the market to shoppers.

To my generation, the Second World War and the early postwar years were likely to have involved austerity, going without, sacrifice and suffering. In our home, of course, it typically meant exactly the opposite. There were two cars in the drive, which had In and Out gates. There was a housekeeper. A gardener. Occasionally a cook, when from time to time an attempt would be made to ape more precisely the conventional middle-class lifestyles that surrounded us. But these experiments rarely lasted. My mother's patience with anyone who did not automatically move with the speed of sound hovered around zero. For the first decade of our lives my brother and I could have been forgiven for imagining our names were Hurry Up.

Our war, which may not have been your war, was a puzzle for a child growing up in its smoldering shadow. At school they taught you about the loss of lives, the bravery, the going without. At every turn in Liverpool bomb damage was evident. Churches without spires. Holes in the groun

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