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The ugly truth loomed before me. I have the face of Mars, fissures so deep even the lightest explorer machine would bog down

In the past week I have yo-yoed between self-loathing, melancholia, fear and thoughts so dark that daylight was a blessing.

So, not a good week for a woman living everybody else's dream except her own? No.

The real question, though, is: has living in La France Profonde been the catalyst for all the above? Or is it the sheer process of aging that would produce all of the above wherever I am?

All these things came to a pitch last weekend, halfway up a mountain road with hairpin bends looping out over, it seemed, most of Provence far, far below.

In my car were four other people. One to take over if vertigo ground me to a frozen halt and three who'd obviously come for the laugh. All were under 34. One was a mere 18.

Having terrified them into silence with a couple of growled verses of Oh God Our Help In Ages Past and my brake-brake, slow, sweaty mountain ascent, I felt the need to explain further.

"I used to be fearless," I shouted into the silence. "It's age. You'd think when you know you'll be dead soon, you wouldn't give a toss.

"Instead you see death and danger in every turn. Life is effing terrifying."

They seemed to find that hysterically funny. Mind you, when we finally got to our lunch date, C disappeared to vomit. Later she said it was the excesses of the party we'd attended the night before. I think she's just a very kind girl.

Perhaps I'd have been a little more courageous if I hadn't faced my third full-length mirror in a week, the morning after the night before.

It was bad enough in the lingerie shop in Montauban where, in preparation for this glitzy weekend, I'd tried on new bras to get into old outfits.

The skimpy little La Perlas I arrived with several years ago lie in my drawer, mocking, exotic reminders of who I once was.

The assistant handed me a bondage contraption that reminded me of Samantha Fox at her best.

I briefly considered buying binding bandages, then accepted my fate, cursing the undoubted perfect fit of the monster. (It has to be the wine, for the weight is only six pounds more, even if redistributed in odd saggy blobs.)

The next mirror was in the harsh light of my hotel as I struggled, with bra, into my party outfit. Sod the bulges; it was the face that killed me.

In my two badly-lit bathroom mirrors, aided by myopia, my face is a sun-kissed tribute to daily exposure sans protection. A light touch of moisturiser is all it takes to ready me for my close-up.

The ugly truth loomed before me. Jesus. I have the face of Mars, fissures so deep even the lightest explorer machine would bog down; the wizened visage of the old woman on her mobility wagon in TV show Benidorm.

Downstairs, beautiful younger women, skins protected from bloody daylight by factor 182, were gathering.

My hair, further destroyed by the latest French coiffeuse, was yellow, string-like, not a hint of a shine. Merde and merde again.

Looking down, I saw the unravelled hem of the 15-year-old Armani trousers slowly unfurling. Curse and curse again.

Anyway, down I trudged, remembering at least, the anti-gravity smile and my fags.

The following morning, dressed in my smartest linenee thing over white trousers, I further accepted I no more looked like Charlotte Rampling than does the Krankie "boy".

And worse, I was wheezing and drawing breath with each movement on the terraced steps; a walking testament to the joys of 40 fags a day.

So, in the long drive home, the melancholia hit as the sun descended in front of me.

What have I become, stuck up a hill roasting myself to alligator oblivion half the year; shuttered and moaning the rest?

I don't think I would have gone to seed so fast in a city, where stepping out every day is an essential. City life is a constant series of comparison with others and a warning to draw back when edging into decrepitude.

I poured a large vin - that's got to stop too. Then I opened the computer. Emails of more deaths of colleagues just 10 or so years older.

I could hear the ratchet of the stairway to oblivion cranking me up to the next and final stage, leaving me tottering on the edge.

Well, by the time I got to bed, having accompanied my poor old dog on her unsteady steps outside, I was ready to cross my arms over my chest and have the last rites.

The day was not finished with me yet. Oh sweet God, was that a pain running up my arm? Heart? Was that blood ticking in my neck the start of a stroke?

Ah hell, cramp in both calves; swing legs and feet on to cold tiles; cough, cough with the exertion. Promise God that if I survive I'll go back on the e-cigs and buy suncream.

Exhausted with peering in to the abyss of amputated limbs and oxygen masks, I finally slept.

And here I am asking another question: is this how it is?

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