DJ Taylor: There was a rumour that plausible fantasist Miranda Fairey was working in Hollywood

 

It was at the University of Exeter in the late 1990s that Miranda Fairey's chief peculiarity first declared itself.

The occasion was a meeting of the Students' Union committee charged with the job of identifying guest speakers for the coming term, halfway through which a small, pale girl with frizzed-up hair and rather large eyes murmured that although she hesitated to push herself forward and was sure that other people had lots of splendid ideas themselves, she was rather a friend of Stephen Fry and would be happy to pass on any invitation the committee might wish to extend.

Naturally, this proposal was received with great enthusiasm, and Miranda went off to write her letter. In the event, the visit never came off – "Stephen" was away filming, or writing one of his books, or… or something, but he wrote a wonderful reply excusing himself, or at least Miranda said that he did.

After this, nothing much was heard from Miranda until the day of the graduation ceremony, when the black-gowned members of the departing horde began to compare their destinies. Amid the stream of aspiring accountants and marketing trainees, Miranda's voice struck a resonant note. No less a post awaited her, it turned out, than that of PA to Robbie Williams.

In fact, Miranda was next discovered a year later waitressing on the South Bank. "Robbie" hadn't worked out, she meekly explained, for reasons she didn't really care to go into: somebody – it was difficult to establish who – had behaved in "a very unprofessional way".

After that came a long silence, followed by the astonishing rumour that she was working in Hollywood as a stylist. By this stage, the old Exeter crowd was growing faintly sceptical – somebody swore that her passport for the early 2000s contained not a single stamp – but it is a fact that one of the countless under-strappers mentioned in the credits of Pirates of the Caribbean II was a certain "M Fairey".

Few of her old friends have set eyes on Miranda for nearly a decade now, but the university alumni newsletter still offers occasional updates: of the romantic novel she wrote – published under a pseudonym, naturally – that is about to be turned into a film, and the charity bike ride across the Sahara she undertook with Daniel Radcliffe.

A nice girl, is the general verdict, but you should never believe anything she tells you.

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