The French ambassador has Voltaire's eyes and wit; he pins a medal to my lapel, just missing my bra strap

Well, it is one of those weeks that remind me of my adolescence - all novelty and glamour, but full of terrifying feelings in my stomach, the discomfort of novelty and the rage of inadequacy in the face of praise and fun. I thought I was well over these feelings, but I'm not. Monday night is the London Evening Standard Awards. I was nominated as best actress for Medea and on the day I wake with exam terrors. What will I say if I win? Shall I thank my parents? No, I'm beyond that . . . shall I thank the Abbey Theatre in Dublin? No, it seems so far away. In the event, when I accept my award, I forget to thank Deborah Warner, the director, then stopped the applause, and made a pig's ear of it.


Filming in Ireland this autumn, I found myself endlessly discussing the horror of 11 September with some Americans there. One, a psychotherapist, suggested that filming was a kind of psychosis. "On the contrary," I replied, I thought it a kind of "sanity", the potential for a Utopia, gentle and privileged, calm, full of purpose and function . . . which explains why people are so intrigued by the process. It also explains why, when filming comes to an end, everyone is full of grief as the difficulty of normal life takes over. I asked the psychotherapist what he had found fundamental in his experience of psychotherapy, and he said he had found that, in the end, people are "a little worse than they think they are".


Wednesday. I grandly sit for my portrait in the morning. Victoria Russell won last year's BP Portrait Award and has been commissioned to paint me. We have been collaborating for a while. Most of our sessions have been photographic, and sometimes she just does some studies of my head while I ramble aloud or silently. She has piles of developed film, and I weed out the ones I really hate. I am trying not to let vanity rule. I agreed to this partly, I think, because of the sense that most of the work I do has no life beyond the moment.


Lunch with Deborah Warner, who also won an Evening Standard Award - for best director for Medea. She was at the Opera House, remounting The Turn of the Screw. It took ages to find a parking spot. We both had award lag, and had to have a sort of catching up with our souls. Then off to Sally Potter, the film-maker, for an afternoon rehearsal. Sally has written a film in verse, which is such a brave thing to do. We will shoot it in December in Paris. It's the story of a couple's parting. I find Sally inspirational, as she just gets on with her work and lives the rigorous, disciplined ritual of a writer - unlike me, who is forever getting distracted.


I go to the Barbican to hear Lief Ove Andsnes playing Schubert and Schumann. He is a colt of a boy, who walked on to the stage like a reluctant rugby player and sat at the piano as if it were a desk that was not quite the right height. He then turned the whole evening on its head by playing Bach as his encore. He is a genius of a man.


Thursday. Struggle all day with a monologue that the BBC has commissioned. It's far too long and the bits I like are unnecessary to the plot, and I feel the plot only exists to enhance the writing. I am desperate to avoid writing, and do any chore to postpone beginning: emptying bins never seemed so attractive; the reading of the Ham & High seems unmissable. I have chosen the character of the fencing master from The Rake's Progress and have updated him to an out-of-work stage fighter who is obsessed with Shakespeare. The thought of Shakespeare reminds me of performing his sonnets in Vienna, Salzburg and Berlin with Marianne Hoppe, an extraordinary German actress now in her nineties. Hoppe was a country girl starlet and friend to the Nazi powers in the Thirties. Even in her eighties, she had a sort of earthy sexiness, emphasised by mannerisms and phrases picked up from American GIs after the war.


Sunday. Off to the Cotswolds to look at a cottage that might help me not have weeks like this one. I might read, write and think over the winter. The air is so clear once you hit the sweep of Oxfordshire - oh how lucky are those who live there!


Monday. To the French ambassador's house in Kensington Gardens to receive the honour of Officier des arts et des lettres from the French government. The ambassador has Voltaire's eyes and wit, and the charm of Charles Aznavour. He makes a speech in the dazzle of the drawing room, packed with guests. Marina Warner is being honoured, and Deborah Warner and I - and we stand like a harem at his side. A man in livery steps forward with the medal on a red cushion and the ambassador pins it on to our lapels (in my case, narrowly escaping my bra strap). I lean over to Marina and say it reminds me of my First Holy Communion, but the ambassador's elegant kissing of the cheeks is more reminiscent of the viceroy in Ireland. Later I mingle with the guests - Edmund White is there. He's been honoured for his biography of Genet. Sally Potter was there, and told me she has found a good Armenian actor for our film. Then, treat of treats, I'm off to the River Cafe for dinner with Alan Rickman to discuss the merits of Harry Potter, and English eccentrics. I suppose we'd be regarded as such. I feel I have had all my Christmases in one . . . now I need some peace.

This article first appeared in the 10 December 2001 issue of the New Statesman, The New Statesman Special Report - The great Koran con trick