I decided not to invite David to my friend’s wedding, partly because he was away at a party in France with his Brixton buddies (these people are all very left wing, yet seem to have lots of spare time and second homes), but also because I couldn’t afford to have yet another expensive mini-break ruined (he spoilt the last one by getting drunk and insulting me).
He texted to say he was leaving for France.
‘Enjoy sleeping with Julie!’
‘I’d rather not go than this be a problem!’ he replied of me finding out his ex will be there. ‘There will be 60-plus people. My room is like a cupboard with a single bed. I will not be having sex with anyone but you. x’
I told him I was teasing. I didn’t mention the wedding, as doubtless he would start questioning me about who I was taking instead. But I’m quite glad to be going on my own. Men always spoil things. The moment they are shown into a pristine hotel room, they sully it with keys and change and receipts and bald socks. I hate having to share a bathroom. Marie Helvin once told me that whenever she travelled with David Bailey, she would always book two suites.
I would go further, and say it’s wise to book separate hotels. As I drove south, I started to cheer up, despite just having had a really bad week. I was turned down for a new flat because the landlord would only allow one dog. Next, I learned the publication date of my novel has been put back to May. I sent a cross email to the publishers, saying it’s taken five years of my life already and that, having worked in Fleet Street for 35 years, I’m used to speed and fixed deadlines, and am easily bored. Because of the 32-degree weather, even up here in the North where I live, I ordered a Waitrose delivery as I couldn’t leave the dogs in the car while I went inside a shop. In the few seconds that I was unloading groceries at the door, Gracie shredded a brand new dog bed.
When I finally got to the coast, I checked into my little hotel and made my way to the beach, where there were drinks on the terrace of the Saunton Sands Hotel, which of course now inevitably has a sign saying ‘Source Spa and Wellness’. I wonder what my maternal grandfather, doorman here in the 1930s, would think. In the Great War, he went to France with a horse, and returned with that horse. His worst story was when an officer forced him to go on all fours in the mud, and used his back as a prop for his gun. I imagine he’d think the modern quest for finding ourselves too self-indulgent for words.
As the evening grew darker, I found myself in a little group. The bride – whom I’d met when I was an editor, she a PR – was on one side of me, along with her teenage son, who uttered not one word, and a mildly famous man. Divorced. Children.
I could tell that he fancied me by the way he kept staring. Either that or one of my hearing aids was whistling. Oddly, the bride seemed uncomfortable. ‘Where’s the boyfriend?’ she asked me. ‘You know we got some gluten-free bread in specially.’
‘He’s in France, prior engagement,’ I said. I could have whispered, ‘Don’t worry, I don’t fancy this one, far too short, while I’m 6ft in my heels, which you told me not to wear.’
‘I’ve had a facial before the big day,’ she said, apropos of nothing. ‘I could never do what you did.’
‘Have a facelift.’
The man nearly choked on his beer, while her teenager momentarily glanced up from his phone.
‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘It’s not a secret. Just one of my four million Google entries.’
‘Which hotel are you in?’ Divorced Man asked me. ‘This one?’
‘No! Full up. One down the coast. It’s OK. At least I won’t hear the disco tomorrow night, and it doesn’t have a sign saying Wellness.’
The bride interrupted. ‘Who are you wearing tomorrow?’ she said. For us designer divas, it’s never what, always who.
‘Him,’ I said, taking my leave, giving a little wink.