In which I won­der: what was it all for?

The Mail on Sunday - You - - News -

IREMEMBER THE FIRST TIME I tasted pros­ecco. It was Septem­ber 1998, and I was in the lit­tle bar of my ho­tel in Mi­lan, wait­ing for my ‘team’. I was about to set off in a chauf­feur-driven car for the fash­ion shows, and I was ner­vous. I’m al­ways ner­vous. One of the fash­ion edi­tors on my mag­a­zine came to join me. ‘We’re a bit early,’ she said. ‘Doesn’t do to turn up early. Let’s have a glass of pros­ecco.’

It took the edge off. I folded my­self into the car and we went to the Burberry show. There were hand­some young men in nar­row suits bal­anc­ing flutes of cham­pagne. I took one. There was cham­pagne af­ter the show, too. My years of fash­ion shows were buoyed by bub­bles; the one thing I have in com­mon with Kate Moss. The shows were ghastly: no one ever talked to me. My pub­lish­ing di­rec­tor would come out for a cou­ple of de­sign­ers, to woo ad­ver­tis­ers, though I’m sure she put them all off. I re­mem­ber once, in the lobby of the Ge­orge V ho­tel in Paris, hav­ing yet an­other glass of fizz with her, when one of my fash­ion as­sis­tants clat­tered past. ‘I don’t see why as­sis­tants have to come to the shows, swan­ning in and out,’ she said, or­der­ing an­other bot­tle. I should have said, ‘Well, it’s giv­ing them valu­able ex­pe­ri­ence, con­tacts, and as we pay them next to noth­ing, they should at least have some perks to keep them in the job and not dis­ap­pear to have ba­bies af­ter a cou­ple of years.’ But I said noth­ing.

She went on, ‘And why does your ex­ec­u­tive fash­ion ed­i­tor put the ho­tel tips on ex­penses?’

I could have pointed out that, ‘ Well, tip­ping is nor­mal: it en­sures we get the book­ing twice a year, that all our free­bies make it to our rooms and, any­way, why should a badly paid ex­ec­u­tive fash­ion ed­i­tor fork out when she is here for work, not on hol­i­day?’ But I said noth­ing. ‘And why can’t you all get the metro in Paris?’ she asked me. Fash­ion is all about ap­pear­ances: the shoes, the shiny car spilling us out just inches from the sa­lon. Again, I kept my mouth shut.

It’s hor­ri­ble be­ing an ed­i­tor, be­ing a boss. My first proper boss was a re­mark­able, al­ways cheer­ful wo­man called Mag­gie Good­man. She was the ed­i­tor of Com­pany mag­a­zine, and although I’m sure she had her fights to get a star on the cover, bud­gets to meet, ad­ver­tis­ers to woo, I never once heard her shout or moan. She didn’t even have her own of­fice: she just had a desk in the cor­ner. She never banged on about all the fa­mous peo­ple she had met and in­ter­viewed: I’ve only just found out, to­day, that she used to write for Pet­ti­coat – the bible of the Swing­ing Six­ties! I never once gave her wor­ries a thought as I sat at my desk, gaz­ing out at Carn­aby Street, disappearing for lunch ev­ery day in Soho. You’d think it glam­orous and fun, stay­ing in ho­tels in New York and Paris as an ed­i­tor, but it was hell. I’d get back to let­ters on my bed from lawyers about a model who was su­ing us. Or mes­sages from writ­ers re­fus­ing to get on a plane as we’d booked them an econ­omy ticket*. Or mis­sives from my PA telling me that the Guardian was on the phone, plan­ning an ex­posé on me. (They still do this. Only the other day, an email was for­warded to me from a Guardian jour­nal­ist, sent to my in­sol­vency prac­ti­tioner, say­ing, ‘Where are we on the bank­ruptcy?’ Just read my col­umn, you halfwit!)

Any­way, the rea­son I’m telling you all this is that, yes­ter­day, I had to take my hor­ri­ble cheap car for a ser­vice. I sat in re­cep­tion and got out my iPad. By mis­take, it turned its evil cam­era on me. Oh my God. I knew my mouth was sagging, but my eyes are now in deep hol­lows, so I re­sem­ble my mum on her deathbed. My hair is black and crispy, with an Alice band of grey. I re­sem­ble my old cleaner, H. But even she has Sky TV and a flat in Lon­don. That isn’t to say a cleaner doesn’t de­serve TV and a home, but that I de­serve it, too. Oth­er­wise, what was the point of all those early starts, those dashes to catch a plane, the sto­ries in the Guardian, the fear, the sack­ings (of me; I barely sacked any­one), the le­gal complaints, the meet­ings with the scary women at Prada? What was it all for? *I think this is why I’m very un­com­plain­ing as a writer and never say, ‘I don’t want to do that stupid story!’ Sim­i­larly, be­ing a writer makes you a bet­ter ed­i­tor. I once googled my male boss on a daily tabloid and he had just one story to his name: a travel piece! The only celeb he ever se­cured for an in­ter­view was David Suchet, who can­celled – ha! I have 33 mil­lion en­tries on Google! Just say­ing…

My eyes are now in deep hol­lows, my hair is black with an Alice band of grey

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