‘We’re going to have to shoot you,’ said the man from the auspicious publication about to feature an article on my new book.
I naturally assumed he hated it so much he was going to put a bullet through my head, until he said, ‘In fact, we need to photograph you as soon as possible…’
‘Oh, yes, of course,’ I said, making out I did this sort of thing all the time. Actually, I’ve been the subject of a photo shoot once before. Now I’ve done two, I can confirm that they follow a pattern.
They always take place in a loft-style apartment with bare brick walls. When you have been buzzed in, there are always four people there — a photographer in jeans, a stylist in an unfathomable dress, a make-up artist who has just had a baby and is expressing milk at the make-up counter (seriously, this happened both times) and a 22-year-old work experience boy who is so good looking you can’t concentrate on anything that is happening, which is unfortunate because an awful lot is happening and you need to keep your wits about you.
Firstly, they offer you very complicated food. ‘Order whatever you like,’ they say, as you try to clamber on to the towering make-up stool.
‘I’m not hungry, thanks.’
‘No, please, you must order something.’
You start to feel like a prisoner on death row being offered his last meal. You toy with the idea of ordering a rack of ribs and a McFlurry but decide against it. You are trying to look chic. ‘Nothing, really.’
‘But it’s no trouble. What can we get you?’
It turns out they can procure skimmed buffalo mozzarella on rye drizzled in liquid nitrogen if that would please you, which it wouldn’t.
‘Sweet and salt popcorn?’
‘Mocha skinny chocca decaf goat’s milk latte?’
‘Blueberry and ginseng smoothie?...Moët?’
In the end, you settle for a bottle of Highland Spring and a prawn sandwich — ‘Where would you like it made? We can ask Claridge’s to do something, or would you prefer The Connaught?…’
‘Ginsters,’ you say, starting to feel Bolshevik.
Second only to the dazzling array of trendy food on offer is the trendy music. Photoshoots are really a showcase for the photographer’s eclectic music tastes. ‘You like this?’ he shouts above the din. ‘It’s the new album from The Refrigerators.’
Meanwhile, the earth mother make-up lady has finished expressing and is starting to poke your face with a brush. ‘What foundation do you wear?’
You might as well be at the trade counter of B&Q. It’s impossible to work out what is going on. The stylist gives you a bright pink dress that is clearly too big and insists you get into it.
When you come out from behind the curtain the photographer has changed the music to another obscure new band and is wildly headbanging.
The achingly good-looking work experience boy sits in silence reading a book about Lady Gaga. You conclude he is gay, but decide to flirt with him anyway. You make a joke about the music, which he gets. But then you realise you are only half inside the dress.
The stylist pulls it all together with bull clips at the back. And then you start the Photoshoot Twister.
‘Stand on the dot,’ yells the photographer, in between digging the music. ‘Back a bit...right foot forward, left hand on your hip, shoulders back...now, wrap your left arm round your body and put your other hand on your hip…now bring your right knee up to your chest…turn your shoulders to me….lift your left foot just slightly off the floor…well, point your toe then…now arch your back…more…that’s it…try not to fall backwards…’
Several thousand blinding flashes later the boy is ordered to place a big black cube in front of you and the photographer orders you to kneel at it and put your head on your hands.
You say, ‘So, just to be clear, you want me to put my head on the block?’
‘Yeah, you’ll look amazing!’
As you kneel there you think you might as well say a prayer. ‘Please, God, don’t let them stitch me up.’
When they stop to study the pictures, they are frowning. There’s a small lump in the dress next to your right hip.
And that’s when you realise you have a doggy poo bag in your underpants.
‘Thing is, when I walked the dog this morning I was wearing tracksuit bottoms without a pocket so I tucked the poo bag down the front and it must have gone into my knickers…’
They stare at you in silence.
‘When I say poo bag, it’s not been used, or anything…’
You’re definitely making it worse.
Real Life — one woman’s guide to love, men and other everyday disasters is published by Constable.