I thought I knew about luxury... then I went to the MaldivesComment on this story
In the five decades since my hit Shout topped the charts, I’ve been able to visit much of the globe. I thought I had seen the very best destinations, but then I discovered the Maldives. Touching down in the capital, Male, was as if I had reached the pinnacle of all my travels, because if you want peace and luxury, I cannot think of a better place.
I had certainly come a very long way since, at the age of 15, I became the first person in my family to fly when I went down to London to sign a recording contract.
Where I was brought up in Dennistoun, Glasgow nobody had ever been anywhere by plane. From about the age of five, my parents would take us on summer holidays to either Rothesay Bay on the Isle of Bute or Blackpool. But when I became successful, I started crossing continents in earnest.
I’ve been all over Europe and America, as well as Australia and New Zealand, Malaysia and Japan. I remember going there with the Bee Gees and, while they were singing, the crowd started chanting my name: “We want Ruru! We want Ruru!”
My manager, Marion Massey, always said she was amazed how I adapted to wherever I went. She was an enormously sophisticated woman, not like anyone I’d ever met before, and she taught me everything I knew. I was bowled over that a maid would open her door I came from a tenement in Glasgow.
I was as fascinated with her as she was with me. She was a trained coloratura soprano. We were from different planets.
She travelled everywhere with me. She was my ally, my guide, my surrogate mother. She was the one who chose my name. One day, she said: “You know, they have an expression in America. They might describe someone as a real lulu of a kid, someone who’s really special.”
And that’s how I became Lulu. At first, I simply couldn t believe the luxury, especially on long-haul flights. I first went to New York to appear on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1967 when I was 18. My recording of To Sir, With Love was No 1 for five weeks.
My first flight to the States, I remember, was with TWA. I couldn’t believe my eyes. The stewardess appeared with caviar, shortly followed by a chef who carved roast beef at my seat. It was like being in one of the top restaurants in London L Etoile or Simpson’s.
After my first appearance on TV’s Ready, Steady, Go! we went to San Lorenzo in Knightsbridge and we bumped into the singer Bobby Darin.
Now, instead of excitement, I experience a sense of relief and release when I step on to a plane for a long journey. You can’t go anywhere else. No one can reach you by phone. I like that. But the older I get, the more exhausting I find it.
I remember I was in the South of France where I was performing at the Midem Festival when I met Maurice Gibb. I was on a humungous yacht owned by my record producer Mickie Most and his wife Chris. I ate steak tartare for the first time accompanied by chips dipped into aioli mayonnaise.
I said: “But this meat’s raw. I was assured it was fine but told that I should only ever eat it in the South of France.”
WAS standing on the deck drinking cocktails after the meal and down La Croisette came the impresario Robert Stigwood and the Bee Gees. I think I’d met them once before and it quickly became apparent that Maurice liked me.
I’d been going out with a boy called Alex Bell, who was in my backing group, The Luvvers. But when we split up, Maurice and I got together. We married when he was 19 and I was 20.
I d been to Ibiza a few times with Maurice and his brother Barry and his wife, Linda, who comes from just outside Edinburgh and who became a lifelong friend.
Barry and Maurice’s parents, Hughie and Barbara, had a house on Ibiza and they wanted their sons to buy one there, too. But they didn’t fancy it. I said: “Oh, all right, I’ll buy one.” In the years that followed, I went there many, many times.
I took my son, Jordan, there for the first time when he was three months old. Recently, he was there with his two-year-old daughter, Bella, but I don’t own the house any more. I wasn’t going there enough and it was costing me money, so I announced I was going to sell it.
Both Jordan and then his father, John [Frieda], protested so vehemently that I finally suggested he should buy it. And he did. I’m glad because it represents a sort of continuity.
I think my taste in holidays has changed a bit down the years. One of the best was three years ago in Turkey. I’ll never forget sailing down the Bosphorus in a gulet and staying in Istanbul in the Four Seasons, one of the most unbelievable hotels ever.
I always like going back to the same place and every summer I still go to the South of France to stay with Elton John and David Furnish, and now their son, Zachary, in their beautiful house. They’re the greatest hosts ever. We seem to spend our time sitting at the table, eating and laughing. I love letting out the little child inside me.
When I was younger, I’d only ever take a holiday if I was completely desperate and dropping with fatigue. So I wanted somewhere I knew that didn’t make any demands on me. I’d just crash and recover.
That’s why Ibiza was so good for so many years.
Before John and I had Jordan, we went to Barbados a couple of times and to the Seychelles. I ve always liked Barbados because it’s busy and sociable. The first time I went there, I met Oliver Messel, the artist and stage designer. You should have seen his house, the interior design in the most exquisite taste.
The garden of the house led down to the water’s edge. In fact, it was on that holiday that I learned how to water-ski properly. I’d previously tried with Mickie Most and nearly drowned. He had no patience with me.
I used to like to snow ski, too. I first went with Maurice and Ringo and his first wife, Maureen, to St Moritz. I just loved being on top of a mountain because it gives you a taste of how insignificant you are and the sense of something greater than you. It’s humbling. I was never very good at skiing but I enjoyed it. I don’t go any more, though, because it gives me backache, which probably proves I wasn’t really doing it right.
I’ve had an enduring love affair with India which stems from working since 1984 with my guru Guru-mayi Chidvilasananda. I stay on an ashram in Ganeshpuri, north of Mumbai. I’m drawn to the colour of the place but also to the calm, kind wisdom of the people.
Life on the ashram is very organised and disciplined. You sleep and study and eat there. I love the food. It’s not hot. You only get spicy curries in England.
When the idea of going to the Maldives first came up, I was immediately interested. Half of my professional life now is taken up with music and occasional acting, the other half with my anti-ageing skincare range, Time Bomb. The idea of a working holiday really appealed so I went with a small team - including Gail Federici, co-founder of the company and formerly chief executive of John Frieda’s successful haircare products.
We were joined by two other key members for what we dubbed a tropical brainstorm during which we discussed new lines and the future direction of the company.
Time Bomb was launched when I was 58 (I’m now 63) and it’s proof positive that good things can still happen once you reach 50. While we don’t know what’s round the next corner, I’m also strongly of the opinion that we can help shape our own destinies.
We flew from London to Dubai and then to Male. Dusit International, a Thai company, has built a five-star hotel complex, Dusit Thani Maldives, on a previously uninhabited island called Mudhdhoo - pronounced Moodoo - and we reached it via a 35-minute flight by seaplane. It lands on the water by a jetty and then you transfer to a motor launch which takes you to the island five minutes away.
The first time I flew on a tiny plane it had seats for only three people was when I went to Atlanta and then transferred for the short flight to Mussel Shoals, Alabama. I’d gone there to record for legendary producer Jerry Wexler. I ate black-eyed peas and grits for the first time and we stayed in the most basic motel ever. By then, of course, aged all of 21, I d become Mrs Lah-di-dah so this seemed quite a comedown!
Mudhdhoo, on the other hand, was the last word in luxury. The ocean villas are fabulous. With their thatched roofs, they look like the sort of dwelling you might see in Africa ... but only from the outside. The interiors are amazing with every amenity you could wish for including your own small infinity pool on the deck outside the bedroom and a personal butler.
There are three restaurants, including one serving Thai cuisine, two bars, the largest infinity pool in the Maldives, all manner of water sports I had great fun on a jet-ski and a diving centre from which a guide will lead you to an underwater world of manta rays, whale sharks, sea turtles, reef fish and coral.
There is also a gym and a spa which offers a huge variety of treatments and massages.
Looking back now, though, the single element that stays in my mind most vividly are the colours of the place. The sea is a mix of aquamarine and turquoise and the water is crystal clear.
I went to a David Hockney exhibition at the royal Academy and his use of colour almost takes the breath away. His paintings radiated a sort of wave of energy and I felt just the same about the Maldives.
But then the light in that part of the world as it is in its different way in the South of France and Los Angeles is so gentle, it s almost healing.
If you re looking for a perfect blend of peace and luxury, I can’t think of anywhere better.
You get around either on push-bikes or buggies driven by a member of staff, all of whom greet you with a smile at any time of day or night. - Daily Mail