On the Eurostar back to London, I feel nervous. Ah, yes. I was always worried, returning to the office, about what horror awaited me. I’m reminded of the fact that, despite the flowers sent by designers that filled my hotel room, and the gifts left in the lobby, the ‘team’ and the deference, my time as an editor was hugely stressful. I’d be faxed my latest cover, told that the publisher deemed the star too old and wrinkly (she was 42), and it would have to be changed. Or the press officer would send me a story from a tabloid, yet another star complaining, this time to say I’d forced her to pose topless. (I hadn’t. She was wearing a nude bra, her arms covering her chest.) I’d be emailed the latest EPOS (early point of sale) figures: a terrifying full stop to every month. All the other editors and juniors would be cooing down their phones on Eurostar, oblivious to stress or sales, while I’d inevitably have my husband screaming so loud they could all hear him: ‘Why did you write that about me in your column?!!!’
I’m in Paris for fashion week. Well, I say ‘week’, but I’ve only been invited to two shows. I’m here doing research for my next book (I say ‘next’ – my novel still hasn’t been published, although a bidding war means I’m hopeful). I’m staying at the Hôtel Costes, which is so trendy and French that people still smoke in the courtyard over dinner.
When I first started coming to Paris as a fashion magazine editor, my team and I stayed in an awful little hotel miles from anywhere. During my first week as editor, I met Sadie Frost for tea in the salon of the Hôtel Costes; the idea was to follow her front row at the Chanel show, having fittings in its atelier, before wearing the gown to the Oscars (she changed her mind halfway through the story and wore vintage instead). After tea with Sadie, I went on a tour of the hotel (Victoria Beckham was in the lobby) and, incensed, called my managing editor.
‘Why don’t we stay at the Costes?’ I asked. ‘It’s much nicer, is near the shows and the shops, it’s really dark so hides my roots [by week four of the fashion shows, with no time to visit a hairdresser, I’d reached peak badger stripe] and it has Posh Spice and a pool in the basement!’
‘It’s much more expensive,’ she replied.
‘I don’t care.’
So, from then on, four times a year I stayed at the Costes, although I never used the pool.
Paris, this time, seems changed. Colette, the boutique a few doors down, where I used to buy Chloé tops, has closed down. There is no town car waiting to whisk me to the Grand Palais, no ‘team’. I hardly recognise any of the faces at the shows. I used to sit, imperious, front row, expensive bag at my expensive feet, my fashion editor and managing editor flanking me and paid to talk to me. Now, two or three rows back, young girls actually crane round me to talk to each other, as though I am invisible. I feel wintry in the spring sunshine, realising I should be wearing pink, not 20-year-old black Helmut Lang gone shiny from too many visits to the American Dry Cleaning Company. I used to be photographed by the paparazzi emerging from the shows – the legendary Bill Cunningham once took a photo of my feet – but this week people running backwards with their phones actually gesture at me angrily to ‘Get out of the way!’
This time, when I get back to my flat, there is a second stiff envelope on the mat. Last week I was sent an abusive ‘Valentine’. Now what? Why doesn’t anything nice ever happen? I open it with a heavy heart.
‘I don’t know how I put up with you. But then you put up with me, so I guess we’re even.’ And inside: ‘Be my post-Valentine.’ It was from David. I’ve also just got a text: ‘I miss you. Perhaps we could meet up to talk.’
Still more stress. Still more people demanding things, complaining, sucking me dry. I show the text to the dating coach Hayley Quinn, whom I’d met when she advised me for my feature on dating in last week’s YOU, and now count as a friend. ‘Ask him what he wants to talk about,’ she tells me sagely. ‘Because, frankly, what is there possibly left to say?
I start to unpack and realise my Speedo costume has again gone unused. Plus ça change.