Sali Hughes!

Sali Hughes!  Pretty Honest!  Readings!

Hello amigos, hello, hello, hello. You are probably surprised to hear from me again so soon after my lengthy spell of unreliableness but so many interesting and lovely things have happened that I HAVE to tell you.

Firstly, may I tell you about last Wednesday, which turned out to be one of the happiest days of my entire life? I may? Tanken yew! Well! You know Sali Hughes, the make-up artist and beauty journalist who writes for The Guardian on a Saturday? And has her own website where she does great videos called In The Bathroom, where she visits the bathrooms of famous and/or interesting people and discusses their beauty products and skincare and whatnot? Well, I’ve been a fan of hers for a long time because while she really loves all things beauty, she’s entirely honest and reliable and informative. She knows everything.

We first came into contact when I twittered asking people what I should do about the little broken capillaries on my face and everyone told me to email Sali – and she emailed me back immediately, giving me a variety of options and telling me the upsides and downsides of each. And after that we stayed in touch and even though we hadn’t met in real life, I loved her already because she has great sweetness and gentleness coupled with razor-sharp intelligence. Also, she gives airtime to all kinds of brands, they don’t have to be big names and expensive, so she’s in nobody’s pocket, so I know that what she writes in her column is genuinely impartial. Also, she’s wonderful for giving exposure to new and emerging brands, which thrills me because I am a divil for ‘New and Exciting.’

And now she’s after writing a book, called Pretty Honest and it is the ABSOLUTE BEAUTY BIBLE – it covers everything from the very basics, such as identifying your skin type to how to manage your beauty when you’re going through something awful like cancer, and she de-mystifies the ‘anti-ageing’ industry, separating out cod science from things that do actually work. (As well as acknowledging that there’s nothing wrong with looking your age – basically she gives you every option.)

Every woman should have this book. Because beauty stuff is a passionate hobby of mine, I thought I knew a bit, but compared to Sali, I know nothing and I’ve already consulted the book many times.

So anyway, there I am, living in Dublin and you know, living a quiet life, seeing my mammy and the Redzers and the Praguers and going for walks with Himself and Posh Kate and Posh Malcolm – when Sali sends me this invitation to a lunch. A foncy lunch – being thrown for her by Bobbi Brown – yes! The make-up brand Bobbi Brown! And I was invited! There were only 20 people invited and I was one of them – and when I saw the list of the other invitees, didn’t I nearly get sick! They were all writers or journalists that I hold in HUGE regard – India Knight, JoJo Moyes, Sam Baker, Polly Samson, Miranda Sawyer, Hadley Freeman, Lucy Mangan, Maria McErlane, Georgia Garrett, Julia Raeside, Jo Elvin, Camilla Long, Sophie Heawood, Bryony Gordon and Sarah Morgan. Also invited were three amazing women from the Estee Lauder group – Jay Squier, Cheryl Joannides and Anna Bartle.

My immediate impulse was that I couldn’t possibly go, that I didn’t belong, that I wouldn’t fit in and then I thought, feck it! I want to go. I’m GOING!

And this was huge for me because I’ve been mad-in-the-head for so long that I’ve had to keep my life very small and safe because it was all that I could cope with. But I realised I was ready to go into a daunting, intimidating situation and try and hold my own.

And off I went. And I really hope you don’t think I’m being a boasty-boaster, I just wanted to let you know that if you’ve suffered from the MITH-ness yourself and you think you’ll always feel terrible, it may not be the case forever.

I ‘jetted’ in from Dublin – normally when I travel by air, I simply fly, but because this was so glamorous, I ‘jetted’ and the lunch was upstairs in the private room in Balthazaar and I had to scuttle past the welcoming committee to go to the ladies to do last minute checks on myself – only to discover that – horrors! – I’d somehow managed to leave Dublin without my comb!

For a brief but very real moment I contemplated leaving Balthazaar and getting a taxi back to the airport and flying home – yes ‘flying’ home, no ‘jetting’ this time, it would be an ignominious return – and never contacting any of the people here today ever again. Then I remembered a day long ago when my mammy couldn’t find any of her combs because all of her daughters had stolen them and she had to go to Mass (not a Sunday but a holy day of obligation) and she ended up having to comb her hair with a fork. Inspired by her ingenuity, I resolved that as soon as was polite, I’d secret a fork from the table into my handbag and race back to the ladies and sort my hair out that way.

So in I went to the room and I was appallingly nervous – the first person I saw was Camilla Long – Camilla Long! In real life! And then I met Sali and my hands were shaking so much, my fingers were all fumbly. But she was the kindness, nicest woman you could meet, and exquisite-looking, like a doll.

And as it transpired, everyone was INCREDIBLY nice. The only person I’d properly met before, apart from the amazing Jay Squier, was the wonderful novelist and Red editor-in-chief Sam Baker, who is very grounded and calm and kind and she passed on a little of her calmness to me. And she was with Jojo Moyes – Jojo Moyes! My love, my admiration, my downright jealousy of Jojo’s talent knows no bounds. But would you believe Jojo had also forgotten her comb! So I decided that if someone as amazing as Jojo Moyes had forgotten her comb that forgetting ones comb was actually admirable. Perhaps it could become ‘A Thing’. A bit like the ice-bucket challenge – where you go out for the evening without your comb…? No, maybe not. Sorry. Not all my ideas are runners…

Then I met Miranda Sawyer, the music journalist, who is so cooooollll! But she was extremely welcoming and warm and fun and that did a huge amount to put me at my ease.

So we were standing around having drinks and I went mad and had a diet coke, because of the day that was in it and before I knew it, I was in the thick of things. Initially I was acting, trying hard to chat and act normal and not keel over with intimidation, but after a while it became real – and then I discovered I was enjoying myself. Like really enjoying myself.

And when we sat down for the lunch I discovered several things:

A) a personalised name tag – while we’d been doing our chatting and mingling an illustrator had sat in the room and sketched each of us – here’s a picture of my one. I’ve never encountered a more charming, delightful gesture ever

B) I was seated on Sali’s right hand which was a massive honour.

C) On my other side was India Knight and oh my GOD! She’s incredible! Utterly hilarious – I nearly got sick laughing – and entertaining and warm and vital and alive and passionate and smart as a whip.

D) A Bobbi Brown goodie bag next to my sideplate. It took EVERYTHING IN MY POWER to stop myself from ripping it open and kissing the things inside

E) I was seated opposite Hadley Freeman, who is the nicest nicest person and was so complimentary about Ireland that I totally fell in love with her.

F) Maria McErlane was sort of diagonally across from me and she was another one that had me choking with laughter.

G) Diagonally across from me on the other side was the aforementioned lovely Miranda Sawyer

What was very interesting was the atmosphere in the room – there was nothing but love. I’m very attuned to undercurrents and unspoken tension and there was absolutely none. Everyone was so happy for Sali and everyone seemed genuinely thrilled to be in such a beautiful room, eating such delicious food, and being with such lovely people. And there was no oneupmanship or posturing or “Oh yeah? So when’s your book coming out? Because my book…” And believe me, I’ve been at my fair share of those sort of competitive yokes over the years and this was nothing like them.

I was having such a great time that the time rattled by and before I knew it, it was 4 o’clock and I had to leave to ketch my flight to ‘jet’ back to Dublin (definitely ‘jetting’) and as I was leaving I had a little chat with Lucy Mangan and to be honest, I was afeerd of Lucy Mangan because she’s such a passionate defender of the poorest and most deprived people in Britain, that I thought she’d dismiss me as a fluffy eejit airhead. But! Would you believe that we talked about shoes! Yes! We both have abnormally small feet and we bonded over what a pain in the arse it is to never to be able to find shoes to fit.

Then off I went and because everyone was so great and because it’s not that long since I was so mad-in-the-head that I couldn’t even get out of bed, it was one of the best days of my entire life.

Right then, in other lovely news, on November 5th, at 6.30, I’m doing a reading/question&answer session/chat about shoes, nails, BeachHouse Banjoing and anything else you like, at Waterstones, Piccadilly in London. [Sorry – appears to be sold out now – Himself]

There are tickets (available here) and they’re £5 and I’m sorry there’s a charge at all (it doesn’t go to me, I suppose it’s to cover admin and whatnot) but The Woman Who Stole My Life will be available at half-price and you’ll be getting it a day before official publication, so I hope it’s okay with you. The first batch of tickets sold out very quickly, but more have been made available, so please comes, we’ll have lots of fun.

Also, in Dublin, on November 8th, at Eason’s Dundrum, at 2pm, I’ll be doing a signing. No tickets needed for that, just come along.

So that’s all my news! What else? I’m looking forward to Hallowe’en when we go out with the Redzers. They live in an estate that’s ASWARM with nippers and everyone does their house up lovely and has skeletons swinging from the upstairs windows and spooky noises playing in their gardens and the quality of the sweets given out! By gor! Second to none! Dylan is going as Darth Vader and Oscar is going as Ben 10, but with a blue face… Riiiiight….

Thank you very much for reading this, I really hope I didn’t come across as a braggart or a boasty boaster, I just wanted to let you know that MITHness can go away. Mine could well come back again but it’s managable for today and shur, today is all we have.

Big kisses to you all and lots of love


PS I forgot to say that Sali Hughes will be coming over to film me In The Bathroom, sometime in late Nov or early Dec. We’re also going to film in my shoe press…


Back in the long ago nineties, Rachel Walsh was a mess. But a spell in rehab transformed everything. Life became very good, very quickly.