1. An email, some tears

    I received an email late last night from a woman I don’t know.

    The subject line was “Your Glamour article”.

    I thought, it’s a bit late to still be getting this kind of email. My piece in Glamour magazine came out months ago.

    I thought, I’m really too tired to read this now, it’s past midnight and I have to work in the morning.

    I thought, OK I’ll read it quickly and shuffle off to bed.

    After reading two lines my hand was over my wide open mouth in shock.

    This woman, now 43, had recognised my dad from the photos in the article and told me that she had worked as his secretary when she was nineteen years old. She had met me when I was about 15, she said.

    I thought, no fucking way.

    She said it was strange “working in such a small old fashioned office with real quirky characters - a little like out of a film or book itself”, and mentioned three names. Names I remember. Names I know well.

    I thought, oh my god. I remember his weird, rambling office on Fleet Street, right next to Sir Christopher Wren’s St Bride’s church. He was a solicitor and had his own practice. I remember the tiny, dark rooms. The walls covered in law books so big I could hardly lift them. The massive desk.

    She told me my father was “challenging to work for”, admitted that she had felt “bullied” by him and had “left under a bit of a cloud”. She said all this in a sweet, sad, apologetic way.

    I thought oh my lord. This happened all the time. His staff never lasted long, and once his paranoia took over completely neither did his law practice.

    She went on:

    "But equally your father was a very interesting man … he did indeed treat me like a very much older adult in his conversations, often about his conspiracy theories …"

    Holy fuck, yes. It’s all he talked about a lot of the time.

    "I wonder now how on earth my 19 year old self carried a conversation with him.  He insisted on long expensive lunches and then ask why I hadnt finished any work …"

    Yes. Yes yes yes, I thought. He would love to take his secretaries out for expensive food, he did it a lot, capturing his young, pretty audience in a plush chair in a dimly-lit French or Italian restaurant, ordering fine wine and insisting on his lunch partner trying oysters or foie gras. Holding forth. Trying to impress. He did this with me too, all the time.

    And then:

    "I do remember him talking very often about his children and how proud he was of them."

    I’m not sure what I thought reading that.

    But I burst into tears and cried for a long time.

    She wished me well, expressed sorrow at my troubles with my father and hoped my novel was successful.

    I cried for a long time.