On my desk as I write I am looking longingly at an invitation to a reception next week to celebrate her being awarded France’s highest award: the Legion d’Honneur. I say longingly because I don’t think I’ll be able to go. Rupert and I are taking a break on the Atlantic Coast to celebrate our tenth wedding anniversary and I don’t think his idea of fun is carting up to Paris with a sore knee.
There are apparently several people who don’t think Ines deserves this award. They say she is a clothes-horse. Nothing but a model. I don’t agree. I first met her when I was writing my book about French women. To me she has always epitomsied what makes French women so, well, French. She is thin, elegant, haughty and smokes. What amazed me when I met her though was how lovely she is. Not just beautiful, but genuinely nice.
“I treat everyone like my best friend,” she told me, and she has. She had no reason to be nice to me, heaven knows my book was hardly going to make or break her, but since that first meeting three years ago whenever I have asked her for a favour or a contact she has helped, whenever I have sent her one of my books she has written to thank me. She even thanked me for writing when her husband died suddenly a couple of years ago, leaving her and her two daughters shocked and alone.
If treating some random English hack who comes to interview you as your best friend isn’t reason enough to give someone a Legion d’Honneur, I don’t know what is. And Ines certainly deserves it just as much, if not more, than other recipients like Richard Jenrette (who he? some American investment banker apparently), Vladimir Putin and Celine Dion.
Copyright: Helena Frith Powell 2008