Kew, London

I am a very lucky girl! Or is someone looking after me? Or am I making my own luck? Whatever it is, I make sure I count my blessings, never taking them for granted, and the good fortune and happiness seem to keep on rolling whenever I do something connected with my mission.

There are so many good things, great and small, happening around my book Three Peaks in Peru, surely it’s just a matter of time before I get the book deal…

‘Great book proposal, shame about the photo,’ said my friend Philomena. She works in marketing, and had been reviewing the document I’d prepared to go to prospective literary agents and publishers. ‘They’ll love the sales pitch, but you need to get a more glam photo done.’

I looked at the picture – a snap taken in Kew Gardens by my ex-ish husband, of me looking happy but rather windswept (see top left of your screen). It had been fine as an outdoorsy image for our archaeological expedition’s website, but maybe an author should look a bit better groomed.

But good, professional photos don’t come cheap. And I didn’t even have enough money to get a decent haircut for the photo, let alone fork out for the photo shoot itself.

Shortly after that I was walking along Oxford St, pondering this, when a young guy asked me if I wanted a free haircut. Normally I’d have ignored such an offer, as it usually entails a long list of conditions and hidden costs, but on this occasion I paused to find out more. It turned out he was a trainee, and simply wanted a model to practice on.

We went to a smart salon around the corner, and while I was being coiffed, I noticed there was another business in the same building that did makeovers and photo shoots. My hairdresser introduced me to the people at New ID. The receptionist there was an unpublished poet, who could relate to my plight as a struggling artist, and got very excited about my project. They offered me a generous deal on a photo session.

I went back there a couple of days later, and they transformed me – hairdo, makeup and nails. I still looked like me, only better, glossier, definitely more authorial. I was introduced to my photographer, Chris Craske, who has photographed Bob Marley, among others, and by pure coincidence (if I believed in such a thing) used to go to the same school as me in Cambridge.

I’m normally very uncomfortable and very unphotogenic in front of the camera, but Chris worked wonders. And they said the camera never lies.

The people at New ID did a great job to turn such unpromising raw material into a glamourpuss for an afternoon. Just wish I’d had somewhere smart to go that evening – I think my new look was rather wasted on the punters in the Coach & Horses…

This is one of the resulting shots. It’s going to appear on my calendar and website. And hopefully, one day, the book cover!

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