I owe a lot to Nigella Lawson – she’s been there for me on some pretty big occasions. She was there for me last week when I baked her Old Fashioned Chocolate Cake for the work ‘bake-off’ competition. She was there for me when I baked my first Christmas cake about 5 or 6 years ago, and she was there for me last Christmas when for the first time I hosted the festivities for my family at my flat. Although like most Christmas chefs I was anxious about the moistness of the bird sitting in my oven, I knew I could afford a quiet confidence because I had followed Nigella’s recipe (in fact, her entire Christmas countdown) to the letter.
Like me, Nigella is also a Godolphin girl, and when I went to a book signing of hers at John Lewis a couple of years ago she laughed as she named a list of teachers, working out which ones we had in common. Therefore, when I saw the pictures of her husband, Charles Saatchi, grasping her by the neck in a London restaurant a couple of days ago I strangely felt as though someone I knew had been hurt.
Sadly what Nigella experienced is far from unusual; there are 12.9 million incidences of domestic violence every year in the UK alone, but mostly these incidents occur behind closed doors so there is no audience there to witness the abuse. In this case there was a whole restaurant and a photographer viewing the incident, so what I find most shocking about it is that not a single one of them got up and told Saatchi that what he was doing was completely unacceptable. Were the audience frozen by shock to see a professional, successful woman treated this way? Were they paralysed, embarassed to be gawping at a celebrity couple? I have no idea why no one intervened, but it’s a poor state of affairs when a man can assault a woman in public without reproach.
Charles Saatchi has accepted a police caution for the incident, but has shown no remorse and described the whole thing as a ‘playful tiff’, but the photographs, the comments of the paralysed witnesses, and the fact that Nigella has so far stayed silent and moved out of the family home, suggest otherwise.
I wish Nigella Lawson and her children all the strength and support they need to get through this. As many commentators have pointed out, Nigella certainly has the financial resources to go her own way, but even with all the resources in the world, walking away from a violent relationship is never easy.