I went into the office last week for two days. I sat at a desk, used a landline and wore clothes. I have only been in an office (other than my own, with its view of the ruins of an abbey and my horses) twice in 20 years. The first was when William married Kate. The second was when Harry married Meghan.
When Wills and Kate got married, my car broke down in Harley Street on the way there. I was so worried about being late, I abandoned it. When Harry married Meghan, I was shocked that all the other writers packed up and rushed out of the door as soon as they’d filed, while I stayed until the bitter end, which meant that, although I got to review the bride’s second wedding dress (the halterneck Stella McCartney), I missed my last train home and had to stay at The Hoxton hotel at great expense. I was groomed more thoroughly than Meghan before going into the office that day: hair dye, lashes, pedi, mani. I even bought a new suit, whereas everyone else looked as though they were off to the beach.
I’m forgetting one other instance when I didn’t work from home. I was asked to report on a vote on Brexit in Parliament. I was assigned a desk but no one told me the password for the wifi, or where the loo was. As I didn’t have a security pass, someone was supposed to escort me out of the building. But no one could be bothered, so again, I missed the last train.
On the train home after this latest foray into the corporate world, my agent emailed me with some devastating news. My new novel, which took five years to write, has been deemed ‘not strong enough’ by an important publisher. Seems I haven’t improved since my first attempt ‒ a reimagining of the life of suffragette Emily Wilding Davison, who threw herself under the king’s horse ‒ was deemed ‘a good idea but poorly executed’. ‘They still want to meet you,’ my agent wrote. ‘They love your voice. Can you go into the office?’ I don’t have the energy to write another book. I should be retired, except I don’t have a pension.
Nothing works out. After that call, I was told off for not allowing a viewing at my cottage, as I was in London. Teddy, the new collie, refuses to come in the house after a walk. He just lies down, an immovable lump. I throw treats to tempt him, but Gracie gets there first. I employed a dog trainer who told me I don’t have any authority, and that Teddy can feel my anxiety down his lead.
The Rock Star calls me: ‘You sound fed up.’
Me: ‘I am. I had to get a taxi from the station to the office, as my bag was so heavy with overnight stuff, and the cab went through Notting Hill. Past all those lovely houses in ice-cream colours. I kept wondering what on earth the people who live in them do for a living, when I can’t even afford a caravan. Going home, the lights were on and they looked so safe and cosy. Whereas I had a 250-mile journey ahead of me.’
Him: ‘I’m still gigging all over Europe to pay for my ex-wives’ alimony and for my, as you call them, giant children. I’d far rather be growing broad beans and mowing a lawn.’
Me: ‘I no longer own a lawn. I’ve got a patch of gravel, but even that isn’t mine for much longer.’
Him: ‘Your lawn didn’t make you happy. You were always taking the mower to be repaired. Counting the days until it had to be mown again. Think of not owning a lawn as a liberation. You always said your book was so out there, so shocking, it would get you sacked. Think of the rejection as a lucky escape. A new start. The people who live in those mansions in Notting Hill aren’t necessarily happy.’
I’m certain some of them are.
What Liz Loathes This Week
- In a store, I ask if they have a certain dress in a 10, and they say, ‘If it’s not on the rail…’
- Men who, when making scrambled eggs, say, ‘Don’t talk to me when I’m cooking.’ Yet, when you’re writing they say, ‘Can you stop typing and look for my keys?’
- GP receptionists who shout, ‘Date of birth!’ instead of saying, ‘Good morning.’
- Men who are ‘against’ dishwashers.