In 1993 I began to notice the byline of a young freelance writer called Ruth Picardie, writes Hilly Janes. Her pieces were stylish, cultured, knowing and very witty - just what we wanted on the feature pages of the Independent.
In October that year both colleagues and readers started to enjoy her presence on the paper on a very regular basis. She wrote funny self-deprecating first-person pieces; acerbic but never vitriolic commentary on the lastest fashion fads and cultural trends; interviews with writers, film and book reviews. When she became a mother, pregnancy, childbirth, parenthood all became the raw material that Ruth could hone into pieces that made you laugh, weep, groan and rage. And almost invariably to impossibly tight deadlines.
Not long after Ruth arrived she was asked at very short notice to stand in for Miles Kington - a challenge that even the most experienced journalists might shy away from. But Ruth, still only 29, faced the task with aplomb and enthusiasm - producing a series of brilliantly funny sketches on the mixed pleasures of a family Christmas.
By November 1994 she was on the staff as an assistant features editor, while continuing to write. She left the paper in July 1995 to have her twins, but a few months later was writing again, as a freelance, and in summer 1996 she again became a regular contributor until this summer she became to ill to write.
Her last piece was to be about Daisy and Tom, the new children's store recently opened by Tim Waterstone. She would interview Waterstone and then visit the shop to do some fly-on-the-wall colour writing. The interview she managed, but she never made it to the shop.