Wednesday 11 February 2009


Enough of the specious nonsense. On with the plot or I'll lose my audience - yes, you three, I can see you yawning. It might be dull but it's my life and you'll enjoy it even if I have to bribe you with promises of champagne cocktails in Claridges.

So. It's Easter 2002. London is, as ever on a public holiday, empty of everyone and everything. Thursday's copy of The Evening Standard blows like tumbleweed around the legs of the Japanese tourists blocking the entrance to the escalator at Piccadilly Circus. All of my friends appear to have dashed off in a fit of giggling coupledom in the direction of Babington House or other hip Mr&Mrs Smith hangout. Honestly, that kind of behaviour is designed to bring the twisted spinster out in even the most resolute dating devotee. And when one's audience has disappeared, gathering petits amuses about lecherous lecturers or demented dentists begins to pall.

I mooch around for a bit on Good Friday, watching Audrey Hepburn in The Nun's Story and spend some time in front of the mirror draping a black scarf round my head, wondering if taking up Holy Orders might not be just the thing. And then, whilst idling on the internet - not nearly as fun as it is now, due to it only being web 1 point zero, or whatever it was called before it was 2.0 - a couple of more than fortuitous emails drop into my inbox. One is from Manolo-Man, with whom I've had a little desultory email exchange since the initial one-liner. The other is from Canadian Banker who, despite littering his emails with the kind of literary pretension guaranteed to get my pulses racing, has been irritatingly tardy in extending an invitation to meet. Being an ex-pat, he's evidently bored and home alone with the Audrey Hepburn box set too. Or possibly something a bit more rugged because I've just made him sound very gay. Maybe he was, albeit locked in a B&B Italia closet of his own choosing. I never stopped to find out.

Canadian Banker suggests getting together for the Modernism exhibition at the RA, and frankly, meeting for just a grande frappe latte at Costa isn't going to fill anything like enough of the long weekend stretching and yawning before me. But Manolo-Man's email is, curiously, much more intriguing. "I've had to come over on business, and I've stayed for the long weekend. Don't suppose you're free for dinner tomorrow night?" Well, the mountain has come to mohammed. MM is no longer in parts foreign, at least temporarily. Left to my own devices, Saturday dinner would be pasta with pesto at best: dinner in a proper restaurant with The International Man of Mystery is far to good to pass up on the grounds that I suspect he may be a man of few words. Yippee, I think, the weekend might not be miserable after all, send 'yes' replies to both invitations and nip off to start the laborious process of de-spinsterfying myself.

This involves more than an emergency Show Me Your Wardrobe session, though frankly it's a good job neither of the prospective candidates could have seen the Sweaty Betty yoga pants and a fleece so unattractive that I couldn't even have fancied myself. Obviously there's eyebrows to be plucked, face packs to be smeared on, hair to be laboriously blowdried, nails to be painted etc etc. God that I could have the time to go to this level of effort for anything these days. It's possibly so memorable because it's the last time I did. But it's relevant here, readers, because I break my golden rule: I shave my legs. Now, mistake me not - the hairy legs have nothing to do with sisterhood, though if you've been party to my rants about Observer Woman, you'll know that feminist is a much cherished word in my vocabulary. The unshaven legs were my tried, tested and trusted way of remaining chaste, despite all temptation and the most fervent persuasion. I have too much vanity to be in a situation where I get my kit off only to be unmasked as Mr Tumnus. But although I've read Freud's Psychopathology Of Everyday Life, consciously I believe I'm only defoliating because I have time to kill, rather than because my unconscious is almost certainly Up For It.

The following day, I present myself at the Royal Academy ticket office, and recognise Canadian Banker at once, he having helpfully worn an enormous pair of yellow Oliver Peoples sunglasses in the manner of Bono. Which he doesn't take off during the whole exhibition. In manner of Anna Wintour. We show off madly to each other, and nearly come to blows rushing to translate L.H.O.O.Q on Duchamp's Mona Lisa in a bid to prove that we're so damn cool we love a clever joke in a foreign language (though he cheated, obviously, being Canadian). He's utterly fabulous but really, we were too busy scoring points to notice if there was anything swirling in the undercurrent. And perhaps, dear reader, something has picqued my interest about the trappist with whom I'm due to have dinner....

Unfortunately for you, it's way past my bedtime, and this post has gone on long enough. To discover the true identity of Manolo Man, and to find out whether my unconscious knew what it was doing when it made me wield the Bic razor, you'll have to wait. Again. But I solemnly promise to finish the story next time, if only so I can get on with the business of telling you all about my super-strength British Botox.

Ok, here's a sneak preview for those of you who haven't already guessed the end: Manolo Man is, naturally, Mr Trefusis. But what's more, he's far from a man of few words and reminds me most spookily of favourite Heyer Hero, the Marquis of Alverstoke. Not only that, but I discover an Interesting Truth about myself. And yes, oh yes: Lady Luck has shone upon the future Mrs Trefusis and in the fullness of time, you'll get your happy ever after...Possibly in time for Valentine's Day.

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