Had to have more photographs taken. This makes me feel as if I was a small girl again when my mother used to stand me in the corner of our living room for photographs. "This is me behind the sofa". "This is me in front of the sofa." "This is me on the sofa" sort of thing. This went on for years - you have to be an only child to fully appreciate how tense a camera can make me.
As an adult though, I have been allowed out from the corner of the living room. Now it is a case of: "This is me in front of Bamburgh Castle." "This is me on the beach" sort of thing. We went to Alnwick Garden. I wore a red and pink flowed silk dress, empire line, three-quarter sleeves and lipstick. I marvelled at the spurting fountains and leant closer to admire them - across from me, the photographer snapped away. When she had got what she wanted, I tripped up the stone steps to the ornamental garden at the top watched by a band of happy pensioners. I smiled in that way you do when you have been making a spectacle of yourself but had been hoping no one had noticed. The girl I was with informed me one of them had come up to her to say: "That's the Duchess of Northumberland isn't it?" She told him I was no such thing. Why did she do that? What harm would it have done? Those pensioners would have had a much better day out if they thought they had seen the Duchess of Northumberland in the flesh.
I actually met the real thing last month. I was invited along as part of a tour for eight people, which was a prize bought by a friend at an auction at a Conservative ball. The staff at the garden are very efficient. When I arrived, they started talking to each other on walkie talkies because they were expecting us. I felt like telling every gardener and guide we met, “Look, I’m not really a Tory you know.” I felt like telling the Duchess that too, because she immediately informed us that the creation of the garden was only possible under a Labour government and could never have been backed by a Conservative government because it would have looked bad.The genuine Conservatives I was with, smiled politely and tried to look non-committal. I had wondered if she would be “frightfully, frightfully” and expect us to curtsey regularly. I just about managed to stop myself calling her “Your Majesty” when she introduced herself. I also had to tamp down those feelings of acute resentment I harbour towards any woman married to a man whose personal fortune is estimated at £300m according to The Sunday Times Rich List. Where do you meet a man with a personal fortune of £300m I want to know. And why didn’t I meet one before my husband-to-be ambled along dragging behind him several mortgages and a walloping great overdraft? She told us that at one point, the Duke had not visited the garden for two years. I wondered whether he plugged his fingers into his ears and sang “La-la-la-la…I can’t hear you…la-la!” when she strikes up about her latest whiz-bang wheeze of an ice-skating rink or an adventure playground. He doesn’t - she said they don’t talk about it. He may be curdled with debt, but at least my husband encourages me to talk about my work – mind you, the conversations don’t end with "…so is it alright if I spend another £10million then?” Anyway, I am thinking of offering myself as a body-double. I will waft round dressed in something floral and pose for pictures with trippers, and she can concentrate on bringing in the extra £28m she needs for the next stage of the garden.