Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Diary Of a Lost Girl.

Clare sits at a table in Bishops Palace. The fading September sun streams through the high panelled windows onto her slender form that’s clad in a clinging, plum coloured, Juicy Couture day dress. Her blue eyes peer out from under Charlotte Tilbury mascaraed lashes, and that splash of freckles that runs across the bridge of her nose, has deepened after the summer, in spite of RoC SPF 50 (they obviously don’t keep all their promises.) There’s a dazzling solitaire Tiffany engagement ring on her finger, and a gorgeous, black, double breasted Chittra coat by Escada, adorning the back of her chair. Her lengthy and unruly mass of soft chestnut curls spill around her shoulders with the same abandon that I remember being typical of Clare. I take a moment to worship over the ring, and in spite of feeling so happy for Clare, wonder if I will ever wear a nugget so large that I might have to rechristen the month Rocktober. For a moment I feel sad, in the same way that I feel sad when I fantasise about Tom Ford.

The last time I met Clare was in London, eleven months ago. She was visibly stressed and buying her wedding dress for her wedding this December. We were sitting in The Georgian Tea Rooms at Harrods, after purchasing a sumptuous, white satin, Vera Wang gown that was a sartorial cross between Scarlett O’ Hara and Madame De Pompadour. It was magnificent, full skirted and sweeping, and the demure and somewhat introverted Clare surprisingly did it justice. When she emerged from the changing rooms she had that same cool elegance that reminded me of Hedy Lamarr, and even drew gasps of admiration from the consultant.

I was busy spooning jam onto my dish of Devon clotted cream as we chatted, I had abandoned my scone. It was only a vehicle for jam and cream, and I was cutting to the chase. I was also flirting with Salvador, a magnificent specimen of Spanish manhood, poured into drainpipe black trousers, crisp shirt, waistcoat, a full length fitted apron; and hotter than a June Bride in a brass featherbed. I was silently thanking God for my Rigby and Peller corset. My bust rises like a muffin every time. Salvador pours tea with white gloves, and leans in for an appreciative look. I think I’m about to squeal, but bite my tongue.

“Agnes is that good for you?” 

Clare asks tentatively, after making a meal of three sugared almonds, and a finger sandwich.

“Darling, probably not, would you pass the caramel syrup, the champagne, and the ice-bucket?”

The great thing about being myself is that I don’t have to apologise anymore, not even to bona-fide sex God Salvador. Every time he wafts by I find myself inhaling and fast forwarding to our marriage after we have walked the Camino.Clare, who counts every calorie, goes to the gym religiously, and is well acquainted with my inability to be disciplined around the “delights of the table” and indeed “the vineyard,” feigns shock, and then laughs a little , probably for the first time in months, and suddenly and rather inexplicably becomes teary eyed.

“It’s really great to see you Agnes, really great.”

The tears just drop from her eyes, and she looks utterly dejected.

“Darling it’s so great to see you, I wouldn’t have missed this for the world, and why the tears?” 

I reach over and squeeze her hand, trying to reassure her that there’s nothing she can’t divulge, or that I won’t be prepared to help with.

“Tell The Diva” I added and winked.

So out the story came, and poor Clare; she’s been under incredible stress. Marrying into a family from the “Home Counties” and all that it entails, has had her in a spin. When she moved to London and began working her way up in a legal firm, Clare wasn’t thinking about love. She liked her life and trusted the regularity of it. She had her close circle of girlfriends, a great salary, and a spacious apartment. She felt that she was completely standing on her own two feet, and reaping the benefits of her hard work and diligence; so falling for Mr. Right came as a bit of a shock.

David; tall, fair haired, handsome, well-spoken; and can wear a suit in a way that would have a girl thinking about what’s under it. We had met briefly the day before. I was perched on the side of a Hotel Lobby armchair, sucking my stomach in and trying to be witty and charming at the same time. I probably looked like I had some sort of disorder. I could detect that there was something wrong between the couple, though I said nothing. He seemed a little tense with Clare, and she in turn was reticent. Yet the three of us just pretended that there was nothing untoward, sipped our cocktails and chatted.

As the Tearoom in Harrods buzzed, Clare told me the story of the pressure she was under, and how the wedding had quite simply been taken out of her hands by “Mumsie in law,” yet somehow Clare was still responsible for the micro-manging and organising, while doubling as a channel of communication and peacekeeping between David and his Mother Ester, who “don’t always see eye to eye,” not to mention having to put up with “Mumsie’s” silent and sub-zero moments of disapproval and weekly visits. I couldn’t help but wonder that if marriage is a game for two, why does a whole family get to play? And can a modern and liberated couple really make their own rules without offending “The Team”?

“Ok Darling, now listen to the Diva, I’m going to tell you something.”

We had since left Harrods and gone for a walk on the beautiful South Bank. It was November and all the shop fronts sparkled with red, gold and crimsons, the dusky crisp evening set off the fairy lights that were strewn amid the trees, and the Thames was as smooth and reflective as dark glass. A thin sliver of moon sat in a navy sky, and the stars were just beginning to twinkle.Clare looked at me like I had the answer, I didn’t, but I did have some useful advice, that had helped me out a long time ago when I was having my own crisis.

“You are going to have to start keeping a Diary”

“Oh for God’s sake Agnes “she interjected, throwing her eyes up to heaven, and looking at me like I had lost it.

“No, wait, let me explain Clare, please. When I started my business I had huge challenges, but my biggest was managing my own emotions, and while therapy might be an option for some, that’s not for me, I know myself well, better than any therapist will ever do, and what I needed, really needed, was a daily dialogue with myself.” I wanted to add that red wine probably saved me as well, but thought better of it, as I wanted to be a realistic and positive role model…you know…a crusading Joan of Arc with undertones of Mother Teresa, Ghandi and Oprah Winfrey.

“I’m listening” said Clare, though still looking a little dubious and cynical.

“Right, so let me put it this way, what I discovered is that what I wrote, and I only wrote about what I felt, was on the day or evening that I wrote it, completely justifiable. Yet when I was in a better and more balanced place that same entry seemed crazed. I mean I swung from “Diary of a Diva” to “Confessions of a Mad Cow.” But the real value of keeping the Diary was reading previous entries. I mean I blushed when I could see how irrational I had been, and was able to amend my behaviour and recognise it; if and when it returned…get it?”

(I omitted the time I had a fall from grace, when with a particularly bad bout of PMS I set fire to my then Boyfriend’s DVD Soccer Highlights collection. I sat on his lawn at 2.00am, hysterically sobbing, clutching my diary, slugging from a bottle of Cabernet, and hearing the reassuring sound of the Fire Brigade in the distance, just after a calming chat with Celine who had answered my 999 call, and was incredibly efficient and prompt, and who also thought he was a complete bastard for heading to Barcelona with the lads on my Birthday.)

“Yes” replied Clare in that thoughtful way she had when something was under serious consideration. “I have to admit to feeling lost Agnes, maybe writing will help me find myself again, I don’t think I have the time or energy for anything else.”

She wrapped her red Merino wool coat around her, hoisted her black Louis Vuitton onto her shoulder, and we set off in silence down the South Bank, past booksellers, quaint pubs, galleries, museums and restaurants. Both of us comfortable in the quiet that only good friends can endure, heading toward some destination that we didn’t yet know. I knew Clare was considering what I had said carefully, and she needed the time to mull it over while we walked.

So fast forward and here we are, October 2015 and Cappuccino’s at Bishops Palace. Clare looks very much like her old self again, and indeed the last few months have been an epiphany. We had of course kept in touch by phone and text, but there’s nothing like a sit down “heart to heart”, and I could feel “good news” in the air.

“It was difficult at first Agnes, and what surprised me was that I was so angry with David. The anger just seemed to come out as I wrote. I was tired of being the intermediary between himself and Ester, and I was emotionally exhausted from not dealing with my own feelings, and they weren’t going away. I eventually realised as I kept making entries that we were going to have to talk. We did, he listened, and to give him credit he understood. He also admitted to feeling completely ignored when he suggested something for the wedding. He was right you know, I’m a control freak, hands-up I’m guilty. I admitted as much to myself in my diary, so I could hardly contradict him. Ester will be Ester, Dave knows that better than anyone, but he and l are at least on the same page regarding her. Writing really unravelled me, and I’m still scribbling. God it’s never ending.”

She laughs with genuine warmth and self-deprecation. And it’s truly great to see Clare wrestling with her demons and winning. After two great hours I walk her to the train and receive my wedding invitation personally. We hug with sisterly warmth, and as I watch the train pull away I was almost tempted to feel that my life was missing some vital component for happiness, and maybe when compared to the glamourous life of my friend, with her gorgeous fiancĂ©e, it was. But was it?

My life is not in London, it doesn’t have the same rich rhythm and tempo, and while a diamond solitaire attached to a finger and a lifetime together must have its advantages, it doesn’t mean that my days are on hold while I’m waiting for things to get better. Life is something that is happening now, so I’m seizing the rest of the day. I pick up my phone and ring my editor Roland, immediately followed by the fabulous Matthew Reilly. The light is so perfect, and as I’m already dressed for a shoot, why waste the moment? As I pose in the mellowing golden September evening, and Matthew’s eagle eyes sweep and shoot the scenes, I remember that great quote “Today is a gift, that’s why they call it the present.”…and it can sparkle as much as a solitaire.x  


Edited by Roland Thackaberry.

Photography by Matthew Reilly 



  1. Agnes, you are such a beautiful, beautiful writer. And the outfits! Xx

  2. Thank you darling, I'm glad you're enjoying reading it xx

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