I had to be in London on Wednesday to do some filming for a TV show about the British high street. I haven’t really written about fashion for four years but everyone assumes I’m still an expert. I do miss that world, in a way. The teetering in heels across cobbles in Paris to the Chanel show, waiting in line among ladies who lunch with faces lifted even higher than mine before showing my passport and finding my chair, which would invariably have a bottle of scent perched on it.
Almost everyone in that world was unfriendly and hated me (even a young fashion editor whom I’d once offered a job behaved as though I were invisible) because I wrote the truth about what is really a nasty business, and I even hosted the Peta fur protestors to drinks in the bar of my hotel in Milan. But it was still thrilling to breathe the same air as the models, and wonder whether if I bought (or was gifted, more like, in those days) what they were wearing some of their allure would rub off on me. It didn’t.
But oh, the gifts. The Italians were always the most generous. After each catwalk season ended, the executive editor of my glossy magazine would come into my loft-like office and ask me to choose an outfit from each designer. Alberta Ferretti was a favourite, and one season she gave me a green floral silk dress and a suede coat, both of which I promptly regifted to one of my staff. She came to my wedding, I went to her house for dinner. As an addendum to my column last week about no longer speaking to my best friend, this former colleague is another one we can add to that list. I don’t know what happened but after I was fired I never heard from her. Still haven’t. Wonder if she still wears the coat.
Anyway, the filming took place in a house off Percy Circus in Finsbury. A gorgeous front door of a Regency building, with huge windows and black railings. I was shown down to the kitchen in the basement. It was lined with books. As I was waiting for the cameraman to set up, I looked at the spines. The collection was almost identical to mine: Zadie Smith, Philip Roth, Hollywood Babylon, Captain Corelli’s Mandolin. They even had my sofa in the kitchen, the one I queued overnight at the SCP sale in Farringdon to buy when I bought my lovely house in Islington. The one Gracie decided to chew a collie-shaped nest in when she was stressed.
So I was distracted during filming. I kept looking around at the signs of a happy life – photos, cards, things stuck on the fridge (though I would never allow that, obviously) – and wonder how it is other people have happiness and normality and I don’t. (Oops, sorry. I have just been interrupted by a waiter as I sit in the bar of the St Pancras hotel, waiting for my train. He asked if my salad was ok and I snapped, ‘Yes, if I were a guinea pig I’m sure it would be fine; why does no one think vegans need protein?’) But in the house was also a huge mirror, with a poem written on it in red marker pen, to a child on his fifth birthday. Ah, so here’s the thing: kids brought up believing they are special get what they want. I was brought up believing if I reached adulthood without being run over, it would be a triumph. When I got my lovely house, deep down I didn’t believe I deserved it, so I sold it and embarked on a crazy trajectory downwards.
I suppose the same thing happened with men. I had a man who loved me and his very presence threw me into a rage. The same thing happened in my lovely house in Islington. I would fly into a rage about the steel light switches not fitting or the fact I couldn’t programme my Bang & Olufsen phones (I took them to Somerset when I sold up; Gracie chewed them, too). I have what I want and then, because I’m not worthy, I throw everything away.