The May issue of Vogue has Kate Moss’s daughter Lila on the cover, which makes me feel as old as the hills. It features an interview with a shoe designer who can somehow afford a Swiss bolthole and a restored castle in Puglia. ‘He rises at 6.30am, exercises and washes his stallion Cavani Z, and is at his desk by 11am. Later, he will tend to his nine hens and to his garden, irrigated by an artesian well.’ Everything is soundtracked by the hum of honeybees, apparently.
I used to buy into stories like this one. I believed that if I moved to the countryside, I too would rise at six, exercise and wash my horse, tend to my chickens and listen to bees. The reality is you must drive 4,000 miles to the nearest Sainsbury’s, during which time your last remaining hens (Gwen and Veronica) are dragged into a hedge by a fox. The horse gets colic, twice, and dies in agony. She never did like being washed; she preferred a damp sponge. The only soundtrack is incessant leaf-blowing and strimming. The well (indeed my source of water in the Dales) contained a dead sheep and high levels of lead.
Real life is never as it is portrayed in glossy magazines. And because I spent my life trying to emulate a spread in a glossy, I’ve been doomed to fail. I peeled difficult fruit to emulate model Debbie Dickinson and bought crystal bud vases from Petersham Nurseries. I was never invited on board yachts. The flowers always died.
I bought into romcoms hook, line and sinker. I cried at the end of Notting Hill, when the reality of most celebrity couplings more often resembles the shenanigans between Johnny Depp and Amber Heard. I embarked on a several-years-long romance with a man, entirely on the strength of the way his eyes twinkled at a party in 1983. I still, despite the setbacks, go about my day as if I’m in a film. I put a soundtrack on Sonos. I wear a cropped Prada tee and flared jeans, though no one will see me. I still read Vogue.
And yet. And yet.
Ben Affleck calls me. Well, not the Ben Affleck. But the Old Flame (the Rock Star). I’m his Jennifer. Only my bottom has deflated.
Me: ‘Yes? I’m on deadline.’
Him: ‘I’ve sold out!’
I am thinking, ‘Of what?’ Those two words should have stayed in my head, but instead, caught off guard, I say them out loud.
‘What do you mean, “Of what?” Of tickets for the festival!’
‘Oh, that’s fantastic news. Does that mean I can no longer come?’
I am sort of hopeful. Not just because I can’t stand festivals – all those smug people with hampers and mosquito coils, as if it were Tuscany – but because the spa isn’t returning my calls. I can’t meet a pop singer with hairy knees. I’m like organic raspberries: I go past my sell-by date surprisingly swiftly.
‘No, of course you can still come, but the suite is off.’
‘What do you mean?’ I try to keep the horror from my voice. The attraction, of course, should have been seeing him and hearing him play. Not the square pillows. But I can’t help squeaking: ‘Then where will we be staying? What about the four collies?’
‘I have to leave straight after. That night. Another gig.’
Who is he? Phil Collins?
‘OK,’ I say. ‘But I could still stay over. If I drive too many miles in one day Gracie stress wees.’
‘All the rooms have gone. You could try a pub.’
You could try a pub.
This must go down in history alongside the many put-downs men have given me over the years, viz: ‘You didn’t always look beautiful on Celebrity Big Brother.’ ‘If the Evening Standard finds out your real age, will you be sacked?’ And my ex-husband, writing in the Daily Mail: ‘Liz chose a young, impressionable ethnic man to accessorise her vacuous 40-something fashionista lifestyle.’
Vacuous! I published pieces about female genital mutilation, babies left to starve in China and foot binding! Nonetheless, I’m currently googling ‘boutique dog-friendly hotels with rooms’. He texts: ‘I’m joking. We’ve got the room in the main house, overlooking the deer park, the one we had when you were on top.’
Oh. Dear. God.