Column and MY PAPERBACK COVER11th February 2019
There’s exciting news today but I’m also on day two of a three-day fast (don’t ask) and I’m feeling a leeeeeeettle bit slow. Like a badger who’s been given a computer but doesn’t know how to use it, so bear with me.
The news is my paperback cover for The Plus One. Ta daaaaaaaa. It’s poor old Polly at a wedding, looking hopefully for a tray of canapés while spilling champagne because she’s already a bit pissed. So, basically me at every wedding I’ve ever been to. It’s out on April 18th and you can buy it HERE.
As a little treat, the paperback is going to come with the first chapter of my second book, What Happens Now, which is out on August 8th. Got that? KEY DATES – April 18th and August 8th. You don’t absolutely have to write them in your diary but I’d be awfully touched if you did.
And am going to paste yesterday’s column below and then go off for yet another delicious…glass of water.
How posh are your walls? I ask because Prince Harry and Meghan are being given the run of the Royal Collection to decorate their new gaff in Windsor. The couple are supposedly moving from Kensington Palace into Frogmore Cottage next month and the Queen’s generous housewarming offer means they could have a Vermeer in the kitchen, a Canaletto above the fireplace and a Warhol in the downstairs loo.
My flat is sadly lacking big-name artists. No Michaelangelos. No Hockneys. Not even a paltry line drawing by Picasso. I have two oil portraits which might lend an air of Blenheim to my cosy, 700 square-foot living quarters if I knew who they were. They were left to me by a kindly cousin but they’re not relatives. Just plump-cheeked ladies who gaze down at me disapprovingly whenever I watch something frivolous on the telly. It would be much grander to have actual ‘dead rellies’ on the wall so I could boast about their achievements in various wars.
I’m missing animals, too. No animal pictures on my walls and yet really posh sorts have an idealised version of Noah’s ark strung up in their houses. A fox, a couple of pheasants, at least one horse, often an owl. Probably a chicken. Although obviously dogs trump the rest of the animal kingdom. I have a friend whose father has commissioned charcoals of every black Labrador they’ve ever owned, so five or six jowly faces stare out at you from the sitting room wall. Posh people also commission pictures of their children. Watercolours when they were young, or portraits by someone who studied in Florence when said child turns 18 or 21. But it’s the pet portraits they really go in for. It’s the dog charcoals they’d rip off the wall and carry safely outside if there was a fire.
School and sports team photos are a given – even if the person in question was only in the rugby team for half a game when they were 11. My dad has gone one further and strung up two oars which date from the years he rowed for Oxford. Photo collages are another clue, the homemade sorts that were made 10 or 20 years ago and stuck behind glass screens with Pritt Stick. These will depict birthday parties, small children in a bath together, summer holidays in Provence, godparents who have since fallen out of favour, more dogs and several people in fancy dress. One of the dukes I met while working at Tatler had several of these photo collages along a downstairs corridor. While traipsing through his castle, they felt a sweet, more normal insight into family life (although a few of these photos were of his family grouse shooting, so everything’s relative).
I have yet to make a photo collage, although I do have a huge black and white photo in my bedroom. It’s of me, a naked portrait I had taken a few years ago after I interviewed the photographer about her work. I’d just run a marathon, I figured I’d never be as svelte again, I thought it would be something to horrify my grandchildren in due course. I love it, even though nude photos of oneself are terribly Non-U (although if you’ve got a nude painting by the likes of Freud or Botticelli don’t worry, they’re absolutely fine). The only trouble is when I have a builder round and forget it’s there. A surveyor called Ryan popped over recently, sent by my neighbours who’ve just dug a basement. Poor Ryan looked startled when we walked into my room, so we concentrated on the hairline cracks in the ceiling instead.
What time do you eat lunch? The late Duchess of Argyll, scandalous ‘Marg of Arg’ who is mostly remembered for her 1963 divorce case and the explicit ‘headless man’ photographs, had firm views on this. A fantastic snob right up until her last breath, Marg refused to eat lunch at midday with everyone else in her Pimlico nursing home. Instead, she would hang on until 1pm to eat then, even though her lunch had gone cold. One has to admire such commitment to standards, although even 1pm sounded a fraction déclassé to me. If one is asked out to lunch on a Sunday, say, you arrive for 1 and sit down at 2. But I consulted an expert on the matter (my mother) who said 1pm is alright if you’re eating on your own ‘because you lose the cocktail hour’. So that’s us told.
I’ve grumbled about ‘comedy’ out of office emails before (‘Sorry, I’m currently lying on a sunbed, sipping a Mai Tai’). I’ve also moaned about the growing craze for people to turn on their out of office settings if they’re stepping into a meeting, as if the sky will fall in if they don’t reply for five minutes. But I got an out of office email this week which made me bark with laughter behind my laptop. It was from my friend Holly who lives in Hong Kong. ‘Thanks for your email,’ it started, ‘I am on annual leave for the Chinese New Year. Wishing you and your families and friends an outstanding year of the pig…’. As Holly is one of my greediest pals and smuggles large hunks of cheddar in her suitcase from her parents’ house in Somerset to Hong Kong whenever she makes the trip, it seemed appropriate.