Liz Jones’s Diary: In which I learn an important lesson

The man who says he’s in love with me, despite never having met me, continued to send long emails. Each one had its own heading, such as, ‘More about me’, ‘Last one tonight I promise’ and ‘New Year opportunities’.

Abbey Lossing

A couple of things put me off. First, that he chose as a lunch venue a hotel that would involve me in a five-hour round trip. I know I’ve criticised men for only dating within a manageable distance, but I’m too busy to drive for five hours to meet a man who heads an email: ‘Quirks’.

Then came the inevitable missive that really set off alarm bells: ‘Mostly, my pleasure in sex is giving my partner pleasure. I’m not one to boast, as I’m rusty, and would probably take ages to get you to the heights you deserve. Better get back to your podcast…’

Oh. My. God. Who discusses sex with a woman they haven’t met! Men are mad! And I certainly don’t need another man who hangs on my every word. I ignored the sex stuff but told him off about this point. That I can’t date a stalker. He promised he would never listen to another podcast or read another word. But they all say, ‘Write what you like’ until you write what they don’t like*. They want their ego, as well as other unspeakable parts, massaged.

Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not hard to please. I once had sex with a man** because he bought me a cinema ticket, even though I couldn’t follow the film as this was pre-laser eye surgery and pre-hearing aids. My then boyfriend bought me a DVD of The L Word one Christmas (it wasn’t even the box set; the protagonists were lesbians), and I still married him!

But then, a month ago, something happened. The model Stella Tennant sadly died aged 50. Her death shook me as I had, 16 years ago, travelled to her home in Berwick-upon-Tweed to interview her, an encounter that literally changed my life. Unlike most famous people, she picked me up from the station in her battered estate car, stuffed full of dry-cleaning and dog towels. I wore Burberry as an homage to her role in the brand’s new campaign; she wore old jeans and dirty Converse sneakers. Her handsome husband made me a vegan lunch so delicious I still remember each ingredient. We went for a walk with her children and stood, gazing back at her perfect doll’s house. She told me she had made enough money from modelling to be set for life, and never had to dip into the family funds (her grandmother was Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire). She dropped me back at the station.

When I got home to London, my husband was on the sofa, having not made dinner. ‘Let’s order a curry,’ I said, smarting that he hadn’t asked what Stella was like. ‘We could,’ he said. ‘But I can’t be bothered to find the number.’

The contrast between what Stella had and what I had was stark, but I wasn’t jealous. I was inspired. I wanted the country house, the boot room, to not wear make-up each time I left the house, to embrace nature. I got all those things, but they didn’t make me happy. I remember, after Celebrity Big Brother, I went for dinner with a former housemate. She showed me on her phone the Ferrari she’d just taken delivery of. ‘Ah,’ I thought. ‘I deserve a nice car.’ Within days, I’d taken out a lease on a Mercedes. Only later did I discover it was the former housemate’s fiancé who’d bought the Ferrari for her. Stella’s marriage had broken up not long before she died. Nobody’s life is quite what it seems. Her final inspiration will be that I will no longer waste my life striving  for what other people have. Nobody’s perfect, after all…

*You might think it mean, but as Andrew Neil told my then soon-to-be-ex-husband on TV, ‘If you don’t want to be written about, don’t date a columnist!’

** Osama Bin Laden lookalike