LIZ JONES’S DIARY: In which I face my fears

I was going to write this column about the new edition of Vogue, which is devoted to the closure of Vogue House on Hanover Square. 

The November issue is dedicated to the end of an era, featuring miniature models on the cover (Emily Ratajkowksi and Adwoa Aboah, though you’d never know). Numerous self-congratulatory photos inside of fashion insiders.

I wonder whether its readers are remotely interested.

For me, Vogue House, temple of fashion, is a reminder I failed. I first entered via its revolving doors in the late 1970s. 

I wore black loons and a loose-knit polyester sweater from Topshop. I was interviewed by Ingrid, the editor’s PA. I was told my only hope of working there was to enter its talent contest, which I duly did. I wasn’t even shortlisted.

I missed every 7am 5k run as, without collies to alert me, I didn’t realise my alarm had gone off. I also had no idea we had, during forest yoga, moved on to downward dog. The sound bath went over my head

I simply wasn’t posh enough. Though in the decades since I have edited many winners, and they weren’t all that. 

One winner, interviewing a football star, had no idea club games were different to international games. She also wrote a pop star’s mum had died, when his parents were merely divorced. 

The second time I entered its portals was in 1999, as editor of Marie Claire, to discuss how we could improve London Fashion Week. I suggested we lure some top models, top brands, but was shot down in flames. That is, of course, what LFW later did, persuading Burberry to return from Milan.

And so instead I’m going to write about the fact that I’ve just returned from a country-house retreat. I only went as I’d been given the mini break as an assignment for next January – you know I don’t like to leave the house. 

Whenever I arrive anywhere, I must unpack immediately, laying out cosmetics and brushes as though about to perform open-heart surgery. 

I was with a small group, and as always I warned everyone I’m deaf. It’s awful having to say this. No one comes up to me and says, ‘Hi, Liz. I’m really boring.’ Or, ‘Hi. I always leave the herbal teabag on the work surface.’ 

The venue was a stately home, set in 3,000 acres near Skipton*, and it was all going so well until the ancestral owner, mindful of his priceless artefacts (one book fascinated me: it only showed half of Australia, the rest then being unmapped; back then, Sydney and Quality Nigel did not exist), thought the fire alarms had gone off. 

Men and ladders were summoned. It was only later the hosts performed an intervention. ‘Liz. We think the shrill shrieking is your ears. We think your hearing aids must be faulty.’

I’m officially Regan in A Quiet Place. I spent the rest of the retreat in the blur that is being deaf minus hearing aids. 

I missed every 7am 5k run as, without collies to alert me, I didn’t realise my alarm had gone off. I also had no idea we had, during forest yoga, moved on to downward dog. The sound bath went over my head. 

At the yurt disco, around a magical fire pit, I couldn’t dance, as I was unable to tell if they were playing Young Disciples or Michael Jackson. 

I couldn’t make conversation, as I knew people would become bored with my nonsensical replies. I was omitted from selfies, as I never knew to lift my head and gurn at the camera.

Jones Moans… What Liz loathes this week

  • Zara. I bought a sheer wool tank, just shy of £40. Went bobbly after two wears, and now has a hole and a ladder in the seam.
  • I met an accountant the other day. My reaction? ‘Wow! How useful. I never even passed my maths O level!’ She asked what I do. Her response? ‘Does anyone still buy newspapers?’ Why are people so blunt?
  • Patch tests.

Life is all about confidence. I should have told the wretched Ingrid that no, actually, I don’t want to enter a contest. I should have had faith in myself. 

But the retreat taught me two important things. First, the house was so beautiful (I am such an interiors freak, I knew who had made the bathrooms – the same firm, Drummonds, laid the ancient oak floor of my ill-fated Somerset barn conversion), I am more determined than ever to buy the vicarage, I will just have to find more work. 

And second, I learned I can face physical fears, and that the angst and shame I feel about being deaf is all in my head. No one minded.

At the edge of the forest, I stepped into a barrel full of ice, encouraged by team leader Veryan, an amazing woman who transformed her super-busy life as a working mum through exercise. 

I wore a swimming costume and remained submerged for two minutes. I didn’t die. I didn’t have a heart attack. I am going to live the best, most beautiful, successful life I possibly can. I refuse to give up.

*They do three weddings a year. To get married here I’d even put up with David.

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