Tuesday. I thought it might be a good day. I started merrily typing my new column. And then I got an email. In the header box it stated: ‘Letter to Ms Jones.’ It was from the Official Receiver.
‘Dear Miss Jones. Your affairs. [I always give a wry laugh when I read ‘Your affairs’: I’ve never had an affair in my life. I raised this point with David once, when he said that he too had lost his home. ‘You cheated on your wife and son. I did nothing of the sort.’]
‘It has been brought to my attention that in your latest column you refer to giving a present: “It was my maternal grandmother’s platinum and diamond engagement ring from the very early 1920s. I wanted my niece to have something from her great-grandmother.”
‘The Official Receiver has no record of this being disclosed. Please provide the name and address of the recipient as the ring would seem to be an asset and should be recovered. You should also set out your reasons for not disclosing it.
‘Yours faithfully, etc, etc, etc.’
I felt sick. I couldn’t breathe. I got chest pains. I started to cry. It wasn’t as if I was trying to hide the ring: I wore it in every meeting. I wrote about the fact I gave it to my niece in a national newspaper. I had no idea they would want something of sentimental value. I had tried to sell the ring in 2014, after I was sacked in January, but the woman in the antique shop in Hawes hadn’t even looked up at me while she examined it through an eyeglass. ‘There is no call for it. Prices have gone down.’ I gave the ring to my niece as I had no money to buy her a present; I don’t think she got anything when my mum died.
I replied to the OR, telling her all this, and I also told her she is welcome to the wedding band and eternity ring from my marriage. I had tried to sell both in the past to pay bills, but was told the diamond chips are too small. I wonder if anyone from HMRC wrote to Lewis Hamilton that day, too.
I started to think back about all the times my column has got me into trouble. On the train home from Paris after my first fashion week for the Daily Mail. I was feeling triumphant: I’d done a good job, and actually been allowed into the Louis Vuitton and Hermès shows. It was a Sunday. Oh my God how I now dread Sundays. My then husband on the phone, screaming at me because I had written about his affair with the Dreaded Daphne. Legal letters from a firm representing the work experience girl he had sex with in Mumbai. Cease and desist legal letters from the Rock Star; I expect we’d still be together if I hadn’t detailed our relationship on this page. A friend, texting me in a rage because I had called her a flake. I wrote about having to drive to Bristol for a difficult meeting with my debt adviser, as I was about to lose not only my own house but my sister’s cottage, as I had paid her mortgage for what is now nearly six years, and she texted me, distraught: ‘I don’t think you realise what this is doing to me.’
And David. How he puts up with me writing about him, I don’t know. I have called him cadaverous. Needy. I have described his flat as a tip. I have written how he can barely walk 200 yards. About his Denis Healey eyebrows and rosacea. How he got drunk at my niece’s wedding and started sobbing. And on and on and on.
My only defence is that what I write is simply what happens. I don’t sit, concocting. I never think, hmm, well, this week I am going to write about whether or not I use an oven glove or a tea towel like a normal person. But I wonder what it is all for. I used to kid myself that my writing helped other women who have chin whiskers, and a grey badger stripe, and nerves, and a collapsed bottom, and no money, and a cheating husband who never even looked up when I returned from a gruelling work trip abroad spent in economy, staying at a hotel that didn’t even do room service. I used to kid myself that at least it earned me a nice house, a nice life.