It's been nearly two weeks now since the Harper Collins summer party in Kensington Gardens, and I meant to write about it sooner. For someone who has been writing as it were in the shadows for more than 20 years it was fantastic to get such an attractive, glittering invitation and to feel like someone who matters! And glittering indeed it was. It was a lovely warm evening when got the train from Winchester and across London on the tube, and as soon as I walked through the gates into the park I was taken back to the era of my late teens when I was lucky enough to live in Kensington in my year off before going to uni, and used to roller skate up and down the Broad Walk.
Now many years later I was tottering through the park in my cocktail dress while limos with blacked out windows swept past me towards the Orangery. I will admit to you now I was nervous, and when I got to the door and the wall of noise rolled out to greet me, I realised why. I was maybe 20 minutes late, but already the beautiful glass conservatory was packed with happy, glamorous people holding champagne, picking up twixt finger and thumb the tiniest canapes I've ever seen, and chattering very loud and very animatedly to make themselves heard.
I decided just to be brazen about this. I had to remember that I was one of them, after all, not an outsider looking in which is how it has felt for so long, so I pushed on into the crowd of strangers. Oh, the joys of social media, because the first person I recognised from her blog post was Victoria Connelly who had written on her blog about last year's party. She and Claudia Carroll both looked lovely and cool with their rivers of blonde hair, and very sweetly greeted me. I was feeling distinctly damp around the armpits, though, and was led by Cleo Little to the far end of the conservatory where some of the other Avon Ladies were chatting, including my editor Helen, and boy did they look beautiful and soignee! Here it was cooler and quieter and I had a great view of Victoria Barnsley giving a great speech after her surprise announcement that she was leaving HP,then a short address by Max Hastings.
Outside the party spilled onto the lovely lawns of the Orangery, and I moved around as sociably as I could without knowing anyone, talking to two historical novelists and a children's author. Although I saw Victoria Pendleton and someone from Made in Chelsea, my own celebrity moment came when I said hello to Nigel Slater, and after gabbling away about studio kitchens and allotments, I slightly over-excitedly declared I would call my next erotic hero after him! Slater, that is..! I swear I'd only had one glass of champagne, because I am even more of a chatterbox if I had more than that. He is as nice in real life as he looks on screen, and much more rumpled and attractive.
I started to feel hot and weary after nearly two hours though as I'm not great at standing for that long and to sit down would have made me invisible, so I quietly slipped out into the lovely warm air without saying goodbye to anyone, got into a taxi helpfully waiting right outside the door, and bowled back to Waterloo. I'd forgotten how mellow London is when it's a warm summer's evening, everyone out and about in party clothes or standing on balconies or outside pubs, and I felt extremely pleased with life as my taxi driver talked me through the Andy Murray quarter final, shot by shot, as I made my way home.