Senait Mehari has gone from being a child soldier in Eritria enduring some of the worst conditions on earth to being a pop star in Germany.
As her book Heart of Fire graphically describes, Mehari lived in conditions so squalid that she was bitten by rats at night. She had to bury corpses and experience the deaths of other child soldiers.
â€œThe only thing that makes me happy is that I never killed anyone myself. The knowledge of that would kill me,â€ she says. â€œI went to the front to fight, but I used to wee in my underwear from fear. The soldiers all teased me about it. They made up a name for me, and used to sing it at me.
â€œThey didnâ€™t want innocence. We were never cuddled. We were drilled to kill; we were all fighting for independence from Ethiopia. The war had a reason; but using children?â€
By contrast, The Countess of Mar has a title going back to 1115, an aristocratic hateur and an independent mind, having just resigned in protest from the Immigration Appeal Tribunal.
â€œI think it is accepted among peers that some have bought their peerages,â€ she says casually, â€œalthough that has probably always been the case. Where it has gone to the dogs in the last 10 years is we have got a lot of people who have lost an election (to the Commons). Why should we get the dross?â€ If you think that spirited, wait for her view of the appeal tribunal. â€œI donâ€™t tolerate fools gladly,â€ she says, appraising me over the floral teacups. â€œI just grew irritated. The management of the tribunal got so bad. It is an appalling con. My conscience could no longer stand it.â€ Relations with Hodge nosedived last Christmas. â€œI had a huge stand-up row with him,â€ she says.