OH DEAR GOD, what have I done? Somewhere, on the ferry between Portsmouth and Caen, my feet are no so much turning cold as sprouting icicles in their jade-encrusted Miu Miu flip-flops. Three hours ago, I slammed the door on my West London life, leaving behind a broadband connection, a bath tub, walls calmly painted in Farrow & Ball and a fully-functioning kitchen [complete with floor].
I am now a few hours away from ‘a new life’ in France. My friends have been telling me for months how envious they are and how lucky I am. (So thrilled did they seem when I told them I was moving abroad, that I started to feel a little paranoid.) ‘It’s going to be wonderful you won’t want to come back,’ they said. So no pressure then.
The reality is that I am going to live, alone, in a remote rural village, where I will be half an hour’s drive from the nearest decent supermarket, two hours by train from the nearest Prada store and a five hour journey from the nearest M&S food hall. My new home has no indoor loo, no bath tub, no kitchen sink and no hot water. It has flowery brown wallpaper in almost every room, damp climbing up the crumbly walls and a gaping hole looking down into a dank cellar instead of a kitchen floor. There is also a pile of rubbish the size of the Pyrenees in the rear courtyard.
I don’t even have the clothes for this kind of life. After a decade and a half of working in fashion, most of my wardrobe is designed for going to a cocktail party – or at the very least, breakfast at the Wolseley. My shoes are mostly so high that I need a Sherpa and an oxgyen tank to wear them. I do at least own a pair of Wellington boots, but they are purple and more cut out for Glastonbury than la vie rurale.
Downstairs on deck 3B, my battered Golf is laden with the remnants of my fashionable life in London. My furniture and 24 huge brown boxes of possessions were dispatched to the Poitou Charente in an enormous lorry earlier in the week. This morning, with the help of my friend Jerome, I packed up what remained after the removal lorry had gone. Unfortunately, what remained, could easily have filled another van.
Between 9.00am and noon, we stuffed my remaining clothes and possessions into bin bags and plastic carrier bags and ferried them down four flights of stairs. The last three hours of my London life seemed to slip by in minutes. Finally, I ran the hoover round the bedroom, left a bottle of champagne and some chocolates in the fridge for the new occupants and locked the door for the last time.
Downstairs, Jerome and I surveyed the colourful pile of miscellany on the pavement in dismay. In addition to the bin bags stuffed with clothes, there were work files, my laptop, table lamps, rugs, plants, random coat hangers, a pair of Christian Louboutin zebra shoes stuffed inside a waste paper bin and a big black hat trimmed with roses that I wore to countless weddings. The car boot was already full, the rear seats filled with bin bags, boxes of china and my stockpile of Farrow & Ball paint.
‘If you get in the car, I will pack the rest of the stuff in around you,’said Jerome (a window dresser by profession). When he had finished, stuffing in shoes, clothes and magazines at random, I couldn’t see out of the rear window and my nose was almost touching the windscreen, thanks to a plant in a giant terracotta pot, wedged behind the drivers seat.
‘Good luck,’ said Jerome, as I pulled away in my beleaguered car. ‘Don’t forget to email me when you arrive.’
‘Bon voyage!’ yelled Daisy, my neighbour, who had come out to wave me off. ‘Hopefully, see you there next summer.’
As the car limped to the end of the road, its suspension several inches closer to the ground than usual, I realised I had forgotten something. Panicked, I reversed at speed, the car's contents bouncing ominously as we hit the traffic bumps.
Fortunately, Daisy was still standing by the gate.
‘How do I get to Portsmouth?’ I yelled.
‘The A3,’ she shouted back. ‘Follow the signs from Hammersmith.’
Jerome shakes his head. 'I give it a month,' he says. 'Before you are back.'