LIZ JONES’S DIARY
In which I enjoy a normal girls’ night in
ON SATURDAY, I drove to London to have dinner with the girls. It was my friend M’s birthday, and she had invited me and a couple of other girlfriends – a psychic turned actress and a chef who is developing a plant-based menu for a hotel; I immediately started referring to her as ‘the plant eater’ – to her house in Notting Hill for a girly night in.
That is probably the most normal paragraph I’ve written in nine years. I asked David if I could stay with him, as I hate hotels. Also, I wanted to bring the puppies with me. ‘Of course.’ As soon as I arrived, I took them to the park opposite and, apart from scattering an open-air yoga class, they behaved impeccably. It’s such a shame he won’t sort out his flat as the location is perfect: two miles from Central London, next to a really safe park. We only had one cross word when I asked him how he could sit playing computer games all day when his kitchen floor needs washing. ‘But I washed it yesterday!’ he said. ‘And I bought four new pillows!’
He gave me a lift to Notting Hill, and we pulled up outside M’s perfect little mews house off Portobello Road. He offered to pick me up later, too, so I said, ‘What, like my dad?’ ‘No!’ he said. ‘Like your husband!’ Once inside, I asked M what she thought of him and she said, ‘I didn’t really notice. I was too busy cuddling Mini and Gracie.’
My friend Dawn was already there and she had brought me a carrier bag of designer clothes she had snuffled out in charity shops: a Helmut Lang draped top, a Missoni sweater and a pinstriped blazer by MaxMara, which I immediately put on. ‘You will bounce back,’ Dawn told me kindly. She added that a friend of hers had interviewed a famous British film director for a newspaper and he’d told her how much he ‘loves Liz Jones; I read her column every Sunday’. So Dawn had managed to get my screenplay to him. He’s reading it as we speak. I don’t dare get my hopes up, but for a moment a nugget of hope: that news is like an unopened envelope in my inbox from The National Lottery with the header, ‘We have news about your ticket.’ I would cherish the nugget for a few weeks, until I discovered I’ve won two pounds.
M regaled us with stories about all the famous people she knows, and how one editor at Vogue would turn up at Matches and demand free clothes. No one ever dared ask her to write about them or shoot them. Not one of the celebrities she told us about was happy, despite the success and the money. One of the most beautiful British movie stars she knows is a tight knot of insecurity. A family man is terrified his affair will surface. A film star never gets chatted up by men. Another has it in her contract she must remain plus size. That’s no way to live.
I still wake and, in those first few seconds, my brain scrabbles around to latch on to what I should be worried about. I still expect awful things to happen every day. Mostly, they do. Take last Wednesday. I popped into a café and idly reached for a glossy magazine on my table. I stared at the cover photo: a gorgeous rustic table, vases of flowers, an ancient flagstone floor. How lovely. Lucky them. I read the cover line: ‘Dream discovery: a couple’s perfect property in Low Row, Swaledale.’
And then the penny dropped. It was my kitchen. My house. The one I was forced to sell, at a huge, devastating loss. The buyers dropped their offer by £11,000 two weeks after we were due to exchange. The tax man forced me to accept. And yet, six months later, here is my home in a glossy, having undergone a complete renovation, a house now stuffed with ‘a French vitrine, a large ornate mirror, a French butcher’s block, Belgian cupboard and Hungarian milking stools as bedside tables, a Kudu light and exquisite handmade lampshades, and a view through the floor-to-ceiling windows of wild flowers rising steeply and a waterfall cascading down – it is paradise’.
The new owner, who still lives in Suffolk, says, ‘We walked through the door and literally cried. We decided we would sell our souls to buy the house.’ It feels as though that’s exactly what they did. And I’m now the one who is literally crying.
M regaled us with stories about all the famous people she knows