I’m sitting on my sister’s sofa in London.
“My editor wants me to go to a photo shoot in Dublin,” I say, closing my laptop.
“What for?” my sister says.
“To do with promoting writers for the Irish Examiner,” I say.
“When?” my sister says.
“The day after I get back from here,” I say, “I’ll have to go straight to Dublin from Cork airport. It’s do-able but I think I’m going to bail.”
“Why?” my sister says.
“Because,” I say, “the fashion editor for the shoot has just sent me an e-mail saying, ‘please bring in nude underwear and a smooth bra that can be worn with light fabrics’. I mean, what are they planning on putting me in - chiffon?”
“Don’t flatter yourself,” my sister says, “they’re not going to sex an ole one up.”
“It’s going to be a nightmare,” I say, “I can feel it.”
“Where are the photos going?” my sister says.
“I have a terrible feeling my editor said something about billboards,” I say.
“Oh please,” my sister says, “please, please, please let them put you in chiffon.”
Dublin, the night before the photo shoot- and I’m browsing nude underwear in Arnotts.
“If it’s going under light fabric,” the sales assistant says, holding up a flesh-coloured one-piece, “I’d go for something like this. With this, you have a smoothing bra and the added bonus of no VPL.”
“Is it comfortable?” I say.
“Yes,” she says, “it’s light-control. You won’t even know you’re wearing it.”
It’s the morning of the photo shoot and I’m sitting in my Nissan, pressing the “Help” button on the ticket machine, next to the exit barriers in a Q-Park overnight parking facility.
“I’m running late for a photo shoot,” I explain into the machine, “I have two tickets here that the B&B gave me. I’ve tried both in the machine but the barrier won’t go up.”
“There’s a problem with your rebate ticket,” Help says, “you’ll need to speak to the people at the B&B. They’ll have to issue a new ticket if you want the rebate.”
“I haven’t got time to go back to the B&B,” I say, “is there any chance you could come and let me out. I don’t care about the rebate. I’ll pay you whatever the fee is, in cash.”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” Help says.
“Well,” I suggest, “can I come and find you?”
“I’m afraid that won’t be possible,” says Help.
“Not being rude,” I say, “but just wondering why not?”
“I’m based in the UK,” Help says.
“So I’m in Ireland,” I say, “stuck in a car park- and nude underwear I can’t breathe in — so much for Light-Control — and you’re in the UK.”
“Sorry?” Help says, “I didn’t catch that. You’ll have to speak into the machine.”
“Nothing,” I say.
“I’m sorry,” says Help, “but you’ll have to speak up.”
“PLEASE,” I shout, “I’M BEGGING YOU, JUST LET ME OUT.”
I’m stuck in a pharmacy queue, behind an elderly gentleman who’s chatting with the lady on the till. They are quite at their leisure. My Nissan is parked outside on a double-yellow. It would be handy at this point if I could take a few deep, calming breaths but Light-Control has put paid to that.
The writers are having their hair and make-up done by top stylists, in the photo studio.
I could not have chosen a worst week to follow Vanessa’s tips for “cutting layers into your own hair. Easy-peasy, do it all the time”.
“Vanessa said, ‘just grab it all into a pony tail on top of your head and cut it straight across’,” I explain to the hair stylist.
“It’s not the worst thing you can do,” he says kindly, “would you like me to tidy up the ends a bit?”
After hair and make-up, we’re taken over to ‘Wardrobe’.
I am shown a blue dress.
I put it on.
“What do you think?” the stylist asks.
“This dress reminds me of something,” I say, for I cannot think of a polite way to say, “well one thing’s for absolute certain: you’re definitely not going to sex an ole one up.”
“I can’t put my finger on it,” I continue, “but it’ll come to me.”
After ‘Wardrobe’, we are all shown into our positions for the shoot. I am standing in mine, halfway up a wooden ladder when it comes to me. At this point, I feel most grateful that I am standing at the back.
My sister calls.
“Well,” she says, “did they put you in chiffon?”
“No,” I say, “no chiffon.”
“Bummer,” she says, “what did they put you in then?”
“You remember Sister Russell?” I say.
“Our headmistress?” she says.
“Remember the blue dress she used to wear? Knee-length. Blue. Sort of… cross-over front?”
“THE ONE LIKE MRS DOYLE’S HOUSECOAT?” she shouts.
“Yes,” I say, “Mrs, Doyle’s housecoat. So in the photo, I’ll be standing halfway up a wooden ladder, in that.”