‘Emma, today you are the Queen of Liberation,’ said Philippe Gouillaud, Elysee correspondent for Le Figaro, as we waited outside the palace, I had arrived late and the ministers were already spilling out of the doors. ‘T’es tres belle dans Libe,’ said Ludo, as he rushed past me to take a photo of Villepin. Everyone it seemed has seen the photograph. Tucked away on page 12, the prime minister was pictured with Chirac and Sarkozy. Lurking in the background was a not particularly flattering but unmistakeable picture of me.
‘Behind three great men, stands one great woman,’ texted Els, a friend from Brussels. Fame at last!
Once the Elysee has emptied, we crossed the road to Hotel Marigny, where we waited for Cope to give his weekly post-cabinet press conference. When he’d finished going through the agenda, he started taking questions. I had been asked to check out a potential dispute with the European Commission over its proposals for a common EU energy policy and I put my hand up without my much thought.
‘Did this issue come up?’ I asked him.
‘No,’ he replied. ‘But I am not sure what you are talking about. Can you be more specific?’
‘Um,’ I said, the microphone suddenly feeling very heavy in my hand. I opened my mouth slowly, weighing up whether my brain was going to recall enough of the article I had quickly skimmed through before leaving the office in time. I let out a little laugh. My brain was not cooperating. ‘It’s something I was requested to ask,’ I said playing for a little time. ‘It concerns an article in Le Figaro.’ Still nothing. ‘And,’ I said slowly. ‘I have to admit I can’t remember the details. Does anyone have a copy they could lend me to help me out?’
The room broke out in laughter. Though everyone found it funny, my colleagues were sympathetic. Cope’s spokeswoman rushed towards me and within seconds I had a copy of the newspaper in my hand, allowing me to carry on with my questioning. But Cope wasn’t having any of it.
‘I can’t believe it,’ he said. ‘I’ve been waiting five years to get one over on a journalist like that.’ Though my cheeks were glowing a little, I managed to laugh along with everyone else.
Once the press conference was over, he stopped for a chat.
‘What was that all about – asking a question you didn’t know anything about?’ he teased me.
My fellow journalists quickly stepped in to help out.
‘It’s often like that at a news agency – you get asked about many things,’ said one.
‘If only journalists knew what they were talking about each time they asked a question,’ said another.
‘The problem is my head,’ I told Cope. ‘It’s not big enough to remember everything that is swimming about in it.’
‘It’s not that your head is not big enough,,’ he replied. ‘It’s that you don’t have a big head. No French person would admit to not knowing what they were talking about like that.’