A Londoner'sDiary; Andrew O'Hagan on a Shaming Encounter with Hugh Grant and Drinking Whisky in Calcutta with Irvine Welsh

The Evening Standard (London, England), August 11, 2006 | Go to article overview

A Londoner'sDiary; Andrew O'Hagan on a Shaming Encounter with Hugh Grant and Drinking Whisky in Calcutta with Irvine Welsh


Byline: ANDREW O'HAGAN

My girlfriend's birthday present to me this year was a made-to-measure suit, and I'm off to Kilgour in Savile Row for the final fitting. It feels surreal: I didn't own a suit when I first came to London from Glasgow ten years ago - not even an Oxfam number.

I eventually had an interview at a literary magazine in Bloomsbury and borrowed a suit from my friend Alan. It was very green - 'far greener than the afternoon required,' said the rapier-tongued editor - but I imagined I must look very smart. I remember sitting there, holding forth about the limits of postmodernism, when suddenly I looked down and realised I looked exactly like a garden pea. Not lovely, but Care in the Community was all the rage at the time and they gave me the job anyhow.

Since then, my liking for clothes has evolved incrementally - from scouting second-hand shops and buying what my repulsed girlfriend called 'dead people's clothes', to flirting with Topman, to haunting Richard James (where I once greeted Hugh Grant like a long-lost friend before realising, hot with shame, that I knew him from the TV) and so on, to the point where I am standing, smirking appreciatively at myself in front of the mirror, awestruck at the brilliance of the suit's cut. William, the tailor, seems to have made me three inches taller and half a stone thinner. I am, naturally, appalled at the cost of the suit, but I do now see the point. I was worried I wouldn't: after all, how great can a suit be? But this isn't just a suit - well, it is: it's the King of Suits - it's a masterpiece of engineering.

It's plastic surgery for men, really.

Spending half an hour in front of the mirror reminds me that I have to be photographed tomorrow, to go with an interview to publicise my new book. I find this quite difficult: how are you supposed to know what to do with your face? If I try 'serious', there's a danger of my looking simultaneously aggressive and beaky - a weird combo if ever there was: who wants to look like a furious owl? Smiling sounds easy enough, but I know that if the timing's half a second out, the smile can easily be transformed into a bizarre sort of little girl simper. If I think of something lovely, I look like I'm about to weep. If I think of something sad, I look suicidal. Sexy - let's not even go there: there's nothing worse than a writer looking like he finds himself hot. Yes, there is: a writer who looks like he finds you hot. I leave Kilgour having purchased a fringed gold scarf. I don't know what's happening to me.

The photographers turn up in Primrose Hill hungover from a night out in Clerkenwell. …

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