In 1991, the redoubtable Betty Kenward decided to retire after 47 years of editing "Jennifer's Diary" and I was invited to replace her as Harpers & Queen's social editor. I had misgivings about it but my friends reassured me. "It's a unique and extraordinary job", they chorused, "You'll be paid to go to parties, you'll fly first class round the world, you'll meet fascinating people, you'll have beautiful clothes and your diary will be kept in the British Museum."
Well, that did it. I imagined myself couture-clad, whisking hither and yon, capturing for my readers the defining moments of the last years of the 20th century. I ignored the misgivings and accepted the job. I shouldn't have. I was hopelessly ill-equipped to write a social diary because I've got a wilful memory and I'm particularly unreliable at recalling names and recognising faces. Given that my father often failed to recognise his own close relations, and like him I can't spell, I suppose I may have inherited some form of dyslexia, or Debrettsia in this particular case.
I probably puzzled a lot of people during my social editor stint, either by greeting them warmly when I didn't know them or by ignoring them when I did. By dint of extreme measures, the 10 or so pages of my Jennifer's Diary appeared each month but there were some close calls. One ludicrous incident involved Terry Wogan and an invitation to talk about the diary, live on his TV chat show. The interview bowled along until the final question. "Well Sue", he twinkled, "here you are, all dressed up in a long gown and diamonds" - I was - "Where are you off to tonight then?" I stared blankly back at him. Where indeed? I'd completely forgotten. Terry, the old pro, got me off the hook but it was a bad moment.Reuse content