Over the years, I have to confess, I've wasted a bit of money on wacky therapies and gurus of one kind or another: psychics, clairvoyants, feng shui experts, reflexologists, herbalists, and the like. I've even telephoned an exorcism specialist who gets rid of ghosts if she knows your postcode. (I didn't think I actually had a ghost, but I wanted to check.)
But I can't hold a candle, or a crystal pendant, to Cherie Blair. I have no idea what she's spent on crackpots, but it must be a lot. Remember Jack Templeton, who said he could cure her swollen ankles by swinging a pendulum and feeding her a concoction of strawberry leaves?
So it was no surprise to read in the Daily Mail that she has been recovering from the stresses and strains of her recent book tour in China by undergoing 'kriotherapy' at the Champneys health spa in Tring, Herts, half an hour's drive from her new country home.
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Wearing a bikini and pair of thick socks to stop her toes from getting too cold, she went into a room where the temperature is dropped to minus 100C with liquid nitrogen. The treatment is said to help with sleep problems and relieve symptoms of tiredness and depression. Lawyer Kevin Harris-James, who was in the ice room with Cherie, said: "She was absolutely lovely and what's more she kept all our spirits up. You have to keep moving or you would freeze and she led the singing and the clapping as we walked around in circles doing our best to cope and keep warm. I suggested we sing Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life, and we did. After three minutes at minus 100C, you do a 45-minute intensive gym workout. But before that you end up absolutely freezing. Even your eyebrows are frozen. But Cherie was wonderful. She was full of life and great fun."
But, wacky as she may be, even Cherie will have trouble competing with a recent arrival on the world stage, the wife of the newly elected Japanese prime minister, Yukio Hatoyama. Hatoyama was once dubbed 'the Alien' by colleagues on account of his otherworldy manner and prominent eyes. It was an appropriate nickname his wife, Miyuki, claims she was abducted by aliens while asleep one night 20 years ago, then whisked off to the final frontier.
"While my body was asleep," she says, "I think my soul rode on a triangular-shaped UFO and went to Venus. It was a beautiful place, and it was very green."
As well as regaling the media with tales of interplanetary travel, says The Guardian, she likes to describe another fad: her solar breakfasts. "'I eat the sun,' says Miyuki, raising her arms as if to tear pieces off an imaginary sun. 'Like this: yum, yum, yum. It gives me enormous energy. My husband has recently been doing that too.'"
I suppose there are worse things for the wives of our leaders to do than indulge in New Age bunkum, but it's not exactly reassuring. Or perhaps it is. We're often told that Gordon Brown needs to 'lighten up' a bit: if Sarah could just persuade him to eat the sun each morning it might make all the difference.
Tabloid money...Essex police trade in fancy shades for extra bobbies
If you want a demonstration of how to cut waste, visit Essex, says Ross Clark in the Daily Express. In the past year Essex Constabulary has put an extra 239 officers on the beat. "How? By cutting back on waste and bureaucracy." The force has saved £11m through better housekeeping. Ordering officers to refuel their cars at supermarkets has saved £50,000. In 2008, Essex police got through 73,000 pens, some of them gel pens at £5 a time. Now they must all use 8p biros. Cutting back on laser printers has saved £80,000, while "chopping over-generous hospitality" has saved £120,000. Coffee and biscuits are no longer served in staff meetings; nor can officers buy Oakley sunglasses on expenses. The crackdown is far from finished, and recently retired Essex Chief Constable Roger Baker, who instigated the savings, reckons that if every police force in the country adopted the same measures it would save £1bn a year and enable 15,000 to 20,000 extra officers to be put on patrol.
"Generous, kind-hearted bankers at HSBC have unveiled a mortgage with a cut-price interest rate of just 1.99%," says Fiona Phillips in the Daily Mirror. "Er, as long as you've got a 40% deposit to put down. And only if you're prepared to fork out an 'arrangement fee' of £1,119. What is an 'arrangement fee'? I'm constantly arranging things for the whole family and I'm not paid a penny. I thought the banks were supposed to have been brought into line, so they can't con us with charges for absolutely nothing. Can the Chancellor arrange for arrangement fees to be re-arranged? And then abolished."
"No fool, Prez Obama," says Fergus Shanahan in The Sun. "His succinct character assessment of Brown after meeting him: 'Dour, depressing.' His assessment of Dave Cameron: 'Energetic, dynamic.' Most wounding for grim Gord will be news that most Americans still think Tony Blair is PM."
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