Observant readers of this column might have noticed that I am fond of a party. I like a night out. In the olden days I used to do it for a living. As The Times “Arty Animal’ (can you see the joke there!) I would go from film premier to art gallery shindig, hounding random handsome actors, at least four nights a week. I am good at parties. I know what to wear, what to say and how to drink much more than I should. I can handle a party, I am little Miss Party Pants, except of course, when it is my own.
I launched my new book Restaurant Babylon this week. I have had quite a few of these ‘book launch parties’, about a dozen in total over the years, so you’d have thought I’d have got the form by now. But no. What usually happens is I panic buy a dress for an obscene amount of money, I choose a pair of unwearable, excruciatingly agonising shoes, I get myself awful poker straight WAG hair, drink far too much far too early due to nerves, slur my speech and end up looking like a pink pig in expensive knickers in all the photographs.
So this time I decided: a new book, a new me. I would do it right. I found a great dress in the sales, white, crocheted, 90 per cent off, it fits – tick. I resurrected an old faithful pair of Prada shoes – tick. All I had to do was sort out the hair.
But what? For my first book launch I made the mistake of having waist long hair extensions and no matter how many times I availed myself of the glorious charms of Joseph Fiennes and James Frayn, I look like a crazed stalking version of a My Little Pony in red lipstick. It is not an experience/look/vision I want to repeat. Ever. For the others I have occasionally deviated from the poker blow-dries; I have had curls, some waves, a couple of flicks but every time I have been left looking like a greasy, old spoon face with flat hair stuck limply on the top of my head. None of these were pretty or clever, nor did they last the night.
So quite frankly the only way is up. And my new-found king of the updo is Harry Casey at Jamie Stevens in West London.
Jamie Stevens is a proper-hairdressing-to-the-stars-salon. Jamie, himself, is in residence on The X Factor, he does the stars of This Morning and he is a regular Hairdresser of the Year winner. Harry is their updo specialist and is completely charming.
For the first ten minutes of my appointment he grilled me on exactly what I wanted and then he proceeded to explain, in the mirror, what would actually work (two entirely different things, naturally) given the length and thickness of my hair. Next, out came some dry shampoo, giant hairspray, tongs, grips and most satisfyingly of all one those so now, so cool donuts. Up went the hair, on went the donut and then Harry spent the next 40 minutes tweaking and spraying and tonging. It was most relaxing.
“There,” he said at the end giving my chair a spin. “A bit dishevelled, you don’t want to look like a bride.”
Backcombed and artfully pinned, I had the sexiest just-got-out-of-someone-else’s-bed slut bun you have ever seen. A bit Bardot meets Mad Men – it rocked. In fact it rocked so much that I inevitably got a little giddy, drank far too many cocktails and of course slurred my speech. But the hair was admired. In fact it was envied. The lovely Claudia Winkleman and the fabulous Rachel Johnson had a fringe-off in protest.
The next day I got a text from a very glamorous friend (Sophie Theakston), who is girl who really knows her onions. “Great party,” it said. “Who did your hair? Text me the number. That was the best updo I have ever seen, make no mistake…”
The dress, the shoes, the hair, shame about the speech – three ticks out of four isn’t bad.