10 am. My mother takes Abby and I to the station in her small, very clean, Renault Clio—nearly killing us all on a roundabout. This is not a very glamorous start to our trip, but things improve when we get down to the platform (early— because my mother is like that ). Abby buys a copy of Vogue and then hot chocolate and pain au chocolate for us (do you spot a theme there?). I decide that I am never leaving home without her, ever again.
1pm. London is bathed in golden sunshine as we take a cab to our hotel. The glamour stakes are rising by the second. The Mandeville boasts a doorman in an oversized scarlet coat, a lobby that looks like a cross between the starship enterprise and a Victorian gentleman’s club, and—as we discover when we reach our room—a bathroom door made of frosted glass.
4pm. We return from lunch and a trawl through Selfridges and Oxford street having purchased an eyeshadow and a packet of hairgrips between us. (A slight dip in the glamour quota here.) We lounge around on our beds for a while, fiddling with the TV and looking out of the window before Abby goes for a shower. I inform her that, when steamed up, the frosted glass becomes completely... unfrosted.
5.30pm. Lovely Natalie Rivers arrives just as we are finishing getting dressed, and we go down to the insanely stylish hotel bar for a drink before leaving. Perched on tall stools at the etched mirrored bar with its changing light display, we sip champagne and talk frenziedly about work, with all the animation of three women who spend long weeks alone with nothing but a computer screen for company.
6pm. I realise my camera has no batteries in it. (Therefore all the following pics are scrounged from Abby, on whom I'm blaming the bizarre sizing...)
6.45pm We walk across the road from the hotel, into Manchester Square. The Wallace Collection is lit up like a fairytale palace, with flaming torches on either side of the majestic doorway and the night is stained pink from the lights of the party inside. Two feathered flamingo-ladies on stilts welcome guests. Needle on the glam-ometer shoots up several notches.
7pm. Inside the atrium of the Wallace Collection it’s a bit like I imagine Paradise must be. Trees are hung with pink paper lanterns, Gorgeous, half-stripped butlers wander round distributing champagne and long-stemmed roses, and all my favourite people are there to talk to. I guess if I was being really picky I might substitute Alan Titchmarsh for Johnny Depp in my perfect paradise, but that just shows how shallow I am because lovely Alan does a great speech, makes us all laugh and is a real gentleman.
9 pm. The vast marble floor, which two hours ago was filled with people, is now almost empty as everyone has sought out one of the delicate wirework benches around the edge of the room to sit and rest their aching feet. I have caught up with old friends Sue Stephens, Julie Cohen, Fiona Harper and Sharon Kendrick as well as had the huge pleasure (and fan-girly excitement) of meeting Sarah Morgan and Chantelle Shaw for the first time. I have also had a chance to chat to the editors—including Tessa Shapcott, about a very exciting forthcoming project—and got hopelessly sticky and covered in (very unglamorous) crumbs eating oversized, Alice in Wonderland-style fairy cakes with a gorgeous man from Midas PR. It has been a fabulous party.
11pm. We are back in the Elle-Decoration-esque bar of our hotel, drinking champagne with wonderful Kate Walker and the ever-charming Babe Magnet, Trish Wylie (exhausted from a round of interviews and photo calls with all kinds of media giants) Fiona Harper and Natasha Oakley. We delve excitedly into our party bags, unearthing from layers of pink tissue books, magazines, pens, one of the brilliant new range of retro Mills and Boon greetings cards, a bookmark and calendar and most fabulous of all.... a bar of Galaxy chocolate. I am so hungry I am beginning to hallucinate about pizza.
Midnight. Up in our room we change into pyjamas and order room service. When I was little my ultimate idea of grown up decadence was eating chips in bed... Writing for Mills and Boon was one ambition fulfilled, and now I can tick another one off the list.