Bridget Jones’s Diary / Дневник Бриджит Джонс (by Helen Fielding, 2012) - аудиокнига на английском

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Bridget Jones’s Diary / Дневник Бриджит Джонс  (by Helen Fielding, 2012) - аудиокнига на английском

Bridget Jones’s Diary / Дневник Бриджит Джонс (by Helen Fielding, 2012) - аудиокнига на английском

Кого волнует, какие стандарты красоты действуют в мире? Да, практически всех девушек и женщин, которые не смогли обрести душевного умиротворения, которым не удалось добиться личного счастья. Они будут всегда пенять на лишний вес, упорно стараться подогнать параметры собственной фигуры до идеала. Так они надеются стать любимыми, привлечь к себе внимание противоположного пола. С такой проблемой столкнулась и главная героиня. Девушка сколько себя помнит, столько старается добиться худобы. И мечты ее просты и банальны. Она хочет наконец ощутить, что она кому-то нужна. Но вот беда. Все ее начинания, все ее попытки завязать отношения всегда терпят поражение. Она отчаялась, она устала ждать продолжения романа, у которого толком-то и начало не завязывается. Бриджит устала ходить по замкнутому кругу. С кем бы поделиться наболевшим? Только с самой собой. И в этом поможет ей дневник. Он поможет привести мысли в порядок и прийти к правильным выводам о своей неправильной жизни.

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Bridget Jones’s Diary / Дневник Бриджит Джонс (by Helen Fielding, 2012) - аудиокнига на английском
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HELEN FIELDING Bridget Jones's Diary To my Mum, Nellie, for not being like Bridget's Acknowledgements With particular thanks to Charlie Leadbeater for first suggesting the column at the Independent . Thanks too to Gillon Aitken, Richard Coles, Scarlett Curtis, the Fielding family, Piers, Paula and Sam Fletcher, Emma Freud, Georgia Garrett, Sharon Maguire, Jon Turner and Daniel Woods for inspiration and support, and especially, as ever, to Richard Curtis. New Year's Resolutions I WILL NOT Drink more than fourteen alcohol units a week. Smoke. Waste money on: pasta-makers, ice-cream machines or other culinary devices which will never use; books by unreadable literary authors to put impressively on shelves; exotic underwear, since pointless as have no boyfriend. Behave sluttishly around the house, but instead imagine others are watching. Spend more than earn. Allow in-tray to rage out of control. Fall for any of following: alcoholics, workaholics, commitment phobics, people with girlfriends or wives, misogynists, megalomaniacs, chauvinists, emotional fuckwits or freeloaders, perverts. Get annoyed with Mum, Una Alconbury or Perpetua. Get upset over men, but instead be poised and cool ice-queen. Have crushes on men, but instead form relationships based on mature assessment of character. Bitch about anyone behind their backs, but be positive about everyone. Obsess about Daniel Cleaver as pathetic to have a crush on boss in manner of Miss Moneypenny or similar. Sulk about having no boyfriend, but develop inner poise and authority and sense of self as woman of substance, complete without boyfriend, as best way to obtain boyfriend. I WILL Stop smoking. Drink no more than fourteen alcohol units a week. Reduce circumference of thighs by 3 inches (i.e. 1? inches each), using anti-cellulite diet. Purge flat of all extraneous matter Give all clothes which have not worn for two years or more to homeless. Improve career and find new job with potential. Save up money in form of savings. Poss start pension-also. Be more confident. Be more assertive. Make better use of time. Not go out every night but stay in and read books and listen to classical music. Give proportion of earnings to charity. Be kinder and help others more. Eat more pulses. Get up straight away when wake up m mornings. Go to gym three times a week not merely to buy sandwich. Put photographs in photograph albums. Make up compilation 'mood' tapes so can have tapes ready with all favourite romantic/dancing/rousing/feminist etc, tracks assembled instead of turning into drink-sodden DJ-style person with tapes scattered all over floor. Form functional relationship with responsible adult. Learn to programme video. JANUARY. An Exceptionally Bad Start Sunday 1 January 9st 3 (but post-Christmas), alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year's Day),cigarettes 22, calories 5424. Food consumed today: 2 pkts Emmenthal cheese slices 14 cold new potatoes 2 Bloody Marys (count as food as contain Worcester sauce and tomatoes) 1/3 Ciabatta loaf with Brie Coriander leaves 1/2 packet 12 Milk Tray (best to get rid of all Christmas confectionery in one go and make fresh start tomorrow) 13 cocktail sticks securing cheese and pineapple Portion Una Alconbury's turkey curry, peas and bananas Portion Una Alconbury's Raspberry Surprise made with Bourbon biscuits, tinned raspberries, eight gallons of whipped cream, decorated with glace cherries and angelica. Noon. London: my flat. Ugh. The last thing on earth I feel physically, emotionally or mentally equipped to do is drive to Una and Geoffrey Alconbury's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet in Grafton Underwood. Geoffrey and Una Alconbury are my parents' best friends and, as Uncle Geoffrey never tires of reminding me, have known me since I was running round the lawn with no clothes on. My mother rang up at 8.30 in the morning last August Bank Holiday and forced me to promise to go. She approached it via a cunningly circuitous route. 'Oh, hello, darling. I was just ringing to see what you wanted for Christmas.' 'Christmas?, 'Would you like a surprise, darling?' 'No!' I bellowed. 'Sorry. I mean . . . ' 'I wondered if you'd like a set of wheels for your suitcase.' 'But I haven't got a suitcase. 'Why don't I get you a little suitcase with wheels attached. You know, like air hostesses have.' 'I've already got a bag.' 'Oh, darling, you can't go around with that tatty green canvas thing. You look like some sort of Mary Poppins person who's fallen on hard times. Just a little compact case with a pull-out handle. It's amazing how much you can get in. Do you want it in navy on red or red on navy?' 'Mum. It's eight thirty in the morning. It's summer. It's very hot. I don't want an air-hostess bag.' 'Julie Enderby's got one. She says she never uses anything else.' 'Who's Julie Enderby?' 'You know Julie , darling, Mavis Enderby's daughter. Julie! The one that's got that super-dooper job at Arthur Andersen . . . ' 'Mum . . . ' 'Always takes it on her trips . . . ' 'I don't want a little bag with wheels on.' 'I'll tell you what. Why don't Jamie, Daddy and I all club together and get you a proper new big suitcase and a set of wheels?' Exhausted, I held the phone away from my ear, puzzling about where the missionary luggage-Christmas-gift zeal had stemmed from. When I put the phone back she was saying: ' . . . in actual fact, you can get them with a compartment with bottles for your bubble bath and things. The other thing I thought of was a shopping trolley.' 'Is there anything you'd like for Christmas?' I said desperately, blinking in the dazzling Bank Holiday sunlight. 'No, no,' she said airily. 'I've got everything I need. Now, darling,' she suddenly hissed, 'you will be coming to Geoffrey and Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet this year, won't you?' 'Ah. Actually, I . . . I panicked wildly. What could I pretend to be doing? ' . . . think I might have to work on New Year's Day.' 'That doesn't matter. You can drive up after work. Oh, did I mention? Malcolm and Elaine Darcy are coming and bringing Mark with them. Do you remember Mark, darling? He's one of those top-notch barristers. Masses of money. Divorced. It doesn't start till eight.' Oh God. Not another strangely dressed opera freak with bushy hair burgeoning from a side-parting. 'Mum, I've told you. I don't need to be fixed up with . . . ' 'Now come along, darling. Una and Geoffrey have been holding the New Year Buffet since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on! Of course you're going to come. And you'll be able to use your new suitcase.' 11.45 p.m. Ugh. First day of New Year has been day of horror. Cannot quite believe I am once again starting the year in a single bed in my parents' house. It is too humiliating at my age. I wonder if they'll smell it if I have a fag out of the window. Having skulked at home all day, hoping hangover would clear, I eventually gave up and set off for the Turkey Curry Buffet far too late. When I got to the Alconburys' and rang their entire-tune-of-town-hallclock-style doorbell I was still in a strange world of my own – nauseous, vile-headed, acidic. I was also suffering from road-rage residue after inadvertently getting on to the M6 instead of the M1 and having to drive halfway to Birmingham before I could find anywhere to turn round. I was so furious I kept jamming my foot down to the floor on the accelerator pedal to give vent to my feelings, which is very dangerous. I watched resignedly as Una Alconbury's form – intriguingly deformed through the ripply glass door bore down on me in a fuchsia two-piece. 'Bridget! We'd almost given you up for lost! Happy New Year! Just about to start without you.' She seemed to manage to kiss me, get my coat off, hang it over the banister, wipe her lipstick off my cheek and make me feel incredibly guilty all in one movement, while I leaned against the ornament shelf for support. 'Sorry. I got lost.' 'Lost? Durr! What are we going to do with you? Come on in!' She led me through the frosted-glass doors into the lounge, shouting, 'She got lost, everyone!' 'Bridget! Happy New Year! said Geoffrey Alconbury, clad in a yellow diamond-patterned sweater. He did a jokey Bruce Forsyth step then gave me the sort of hug which Boots would send straight to the police station. 'Hahumph,' he said, going red in the face and pulling his trousers up by the waistband. 'Which junction did you come off at?' 'Junction nineteen, but there was a diversion 'Junction nineteen! Una, she came off at Junction nineteen! You've added an hour to your journey before you even started. Come on, let's get you a drink. How's your love-life, anyway?' Oh God . Why can't married people understand that this is no longer a polite question to ask? We wouldn't rush up to them and roar, 'How's your marriage going? Still having sex?' Everyone knows that dating in your thirties is not the happy-go-lucky free-for-all it was when you were twenty-two and that the honest answer is more likely to be, 'Actually, last night my married lover appeared wearing suspenders and a darling little Angora crop-top, told me he was gay/a sex addict/a narcotic addict/a commitment phobic and beat me up with a dildo,' than, 'Super, thanks.' Not being a natural liar, I ended up mumbling shamefacedly to Geoffrey, 'Fine,' at which point he boomed, 'So you still haven't got a feller!' 'Bridget! What are we going to do with you!' said Una. 'You career girls! I don't know! Can't put it off for ever, you know. Tick-tock-tick-tock.' 'Yes. How does a woman manage to get to your age without being married?' roared Brian Enderby (married to Mavis, used to be president of the Rotary in Kettering), waving his sherry in the air. Fortunately my dad rescued me. 'I'm very pleased to see you, Bridget,' he said, taking my arm. 'Your mother has the entire Northamptonshire constabulary poised to comb the county with toothbrushes for your dismembered remains. Come and demonstrate your presence so I can start enjoying myself. How's the be-wheeled suitcase?' 'Big beyond all sense. How are the ear-hair clippers?' 'Oh, marvellously – you know – clippy .' It was all right, I suppose. I would have felt a bit mean if I hadn't turned up, but Mark Darcy. . . Yuk. Every time my mother's rung up for weeks it's been, 'Of course you remember the Darcys, darling. They came over when we were living in Buckingham and you and Mark played in the paddling pool!' or, 'Oh! Did I mention Malcolm and Elaine are bringing Mark with them to Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet? He's just back from America, apparently. Divorced. He's looking for a house in Holland Park. Apparently he had the most terrible time with his wife. Japanese. Very cruel race.' Then next time, as if out of the blue, 'Do you remember Mark Darcy, darling? Malcolm and Elaine's son? He's one of these super-dooper top-notch lawyers. Divorced. Elaine says he works all the time and he's terribly lonely. I think he might be coming to Una's New Year's Day Turkey Curry Buffet, actually.' I don't know why she didn't just come out with it and say, 'Darling, do shag Mark Darcy over the turkey curry, won't you? He's very rich.' 'Come along and meet Mark,' Una Alconbury sing-songed before I'd even had time to get a drink down me. Being set up with a man against your will is one level of humiliation, but being literally dragged into it by Una Alconbury while caring for an acidic hangover, watched by an entire roomful of friends of your parents, is on another plane altogether. The rich, divorced-by-cruel-wife Mark – quite tall – was standing with his back to the room, scrutinizing the contents of the Alconburys' bookshelves: mainly leather-bound series of books about the Third Reich, which Geoffrey sends off for from Reader's Digest. It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. It's like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting 'Cathy' and banging your head against a tree. 'Mark,' said Una, as if she was one of Santa Claus's fairies. 'I've got someone nice for you to meet.' He turned round, revealing that what had seemed from the back like a harmless navy sweater was actually a V-neck diamond-pattern in shades of yellow and blue – as favoured by the more elderly of the nation's sports reporters. As my friend Tom often remarks, it's amazing how much time and money can be saved in the world of dating by close attention to detail. A white sock here, a pair of red braces there, a grey slip-on shoe, a swastika, are as often as not all one needs to tell you there's no point writing down phone numbers and forking out for expensive lunches because it's never going to be a runner. 'Mark, this is Colin and Pam's daughter, Bridget,' said Una, going all pink and fluttery. 'Bridget works in publishing, don't you, Bridget?' 'I do indeed,' I for some reason said, as if I were taking part in a Capital radio phone-in and was about to ask Una if I could 'say hello' to my friends Jude, Sharon and Tom, my brother Jamie, everyone in the office, my mum and dad, and last of all all the people at the Turkey Curry Buffet. 'Well, I'll leave you two young people together, said Una. 'Durr! I expect you're sick to death of us old fuddy-duddies.' 'Not at all,' said Mark Darcy awkwardly with a rather unsuccessful attempt at a smile, at which Una, after rolling her eyes, putting a hand to her bosom and giving a gay tinkling laugh, abandoned us with a toss of her head to a hideous silence. 'I. Um. Are you reading any' ah . . . Have you read any good books lately?' he said. Oh, for God's sake. I racked my brain frantically to think when I last read a proper book. The trouble with working in publishing is that reading in your spare time is a bit like being a dustman and snuffling through the pig bin in the evening. I'm halfway through Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, which Jude lent me, but I didn't think Mark Darcy, though clearly odd, was ready to accept himself as a Martian quite yet. Then I had a brainwave. 'Backlash, actually, by Susan Faludi,' I said triumphantly. Hah! I haven't exactly read it as such, but feel I have as Sharon has been ranting about it so much. Anyway, completely safe option as no way diamond-pattern-jumpered goody-goody would have read five-hundred-page feminist treatise. 'Ah. Really?' he said. 'I read that when it first came out. Didn't you find there was rather a lot of special pleading?' 'Oh, well, not too much . . .' I said wildly, racking my brains for a way to get off the subject. 'Have you been staying with your parents over New Year?' 'Yes,' he said eagerly. 'You too?' 'Yes. No. I was at a party in London last night. Bit hungover, actually.' I gabbled nervously so that Una and Mum wouldn't think I was so useless with men I was failing to talk to even Mark Darcy. 'But then I do think New Year's resolutions can't technically be expected to begin on New Year's Day, don't you? Since, because it's an extension of New Year's Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. Also dieting on New Year's Day isn't a good idea as you can't eat rationally but really need to be free to consume whatever is necessary, moment by moment, in order to ease your hangover. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.' 'Maybe you should get something to eat,' he said, then suddenly bolted off towards the buffet, leaving me standing on my own by the bookshelf while everybody stared at me, thinking, 'So that's why Bridget isn't married. She repulses men.' The worst of it was that Una Alconbury and Mum wouldn't leave it at that. They kept making me walk round with trays of gherkins and glasses of cream sherry in a desperate bid to throw me into Mark Darcy's path yet again. In the end they were so crazed with frustration that the second I got within four feet of him with the gherkins Una threw herself across the room like Will Carling and said, 'Mark, you must take Bridget's telephone number before you go, then you can get in touch when you're in London.' I couldn't stop myself turning bright red. I could feel it climbing up my neck. Now Mark would think I'd put her up to it. 'I'm sure Bridget's life in London is quite full enough already, Mrs Alconbury,' he said. Humph. It's not that I wanted him to take my phone number or anything, but I didn't want him to make it perfectly obvious to everyone that he didn't want to. As I looked down I saw that he was wearing white socks with a yellow bumblebee motif 'Can't I tempt you with a gherkin?' I said, to show I had had a genuine reason for coming over, which was quite definitely gherkin-based rather than phone-number-related. 'Thank you, no,' he said, looking at me with some alarm. 'Sure? Stuffed olive?' I pressed on. 'No, really.' 'Silverskin onion?' I encouraged. 'Beetroot cube?' 'Thank you,' he said desperately, taking an olive. 'Hope you enjoy it,' I said triumphantly. Towards the end I saw him being harangued by his mother and Una, who marched him over towards me and stood just behind while he said stiffly, 'Do you need driving back to London? I'm staying here but I could get my car to take you.' 'What, all on its own?' I said. He blinked at me. 'Durr! Mark has a company car and a driver, silly,' said Una. 'Thank you, that's very kind,, I said. 'But I shall be taking one of my trains in the morning.' 2 a.m. Oh, why am I so unattractive? Why? Even a man who wears bumblebee socks thinks I am horrible. Hate the New Year. Hate everyone. Except Daniel Cleaver. Anyway, have got giant tray-sized bar of Cadbury's Dairy Milk left over from Christmas on dressing table, also amusing joke gin and tonic miniature. Am going to consume them and have fag. Tuesday 3 January 9st 4 (terrifying slide into obesity – why? why?), alcohol units 6 (excellent), cigarettes 23 (v.g.), calories 2472. 9 a.m. Ugh. Cannot face thought of go to work. Only thing which makes it tolerable is thought of seeing Daniel again, but even that is inadvisable since am fat, have spot on chin, and desire only to sit on cushion eating chocolate and watching Xmas specials. It seems wrong and unfair that Christmas, with its stressful and unmanageable financial and emotional challenges, should first be forced upon one wholly against one's will, then rudely snatched away just when one is starting to get into it. Was really beginning to enjoy the feeling that normal service was suspended and it was OK to lie in bed as long as you want, put anything you fancy into your mouth, and drink alcohol whenever it should chance to pass your way, even in the mornings. Now suddenly we are all supposed to snap into self-discipline like lean teenage greyhounds. 10 p.m. Ugh. Perpetua, slightly senior and therefore thinking she is in charge of me, was at her most obnoxious and bossy, going on and on to the point of utter boredom about latest half-million-pound property she is planning to buy with her rich-but-overbred boyfriend, Hugo: 'Yars, yars, well it is north-facing but they've done something frightfully clever with the light.' I looked at her wistfully, her vast, bulbous bottom swathed in a tight red skirt with a bizarre three-quarter-length striped waistcoat strapped across it. What a blessing to be born with such Sloaney arrogance. Perpetua could be the size of a Renault Espace and not give it a thought. How many hours, months, years, have I spent worrying about weight while Perpetua has been happily looking for lamps with porcelain cats as bases around the Fulham Road? She is missing out on a source of happiness, anyway. It is proved by surveys that happiness does not come from love, wealth or power but the pursuit of attainable goals: and what is a diet if not that? On way home in end-of-Christmas denial I bought a packet of cut-price chocolate tree decorations and a ?3.69 bottle of sparkling wine from Norway, Pakistan or similar. I guzzled them by the light of the Christmas tree, together with a couple of mince pies, the last of the Christmas cake and some Stilton, while watching EastEnders, imagining it was a Christmas special. Now, though, I feel ashamed and repulsive. I can actually feel the fat splurging out from my body. Never mind. Sometimes you have to sink to a nadir of toxic fat envelopment in order to emerge, phoenix-like, from the chemical wasteland as a purged and beautiful Michelle Pfeiffer figure. Tomorrow new Spartan health and beauty regime will begin. Mmmm. Daniel Cleaver, though. Love his wicked dissolute air, while being v. successful and clever. He was being v. funny today, telling everyone about his aunt thinking the onyx kitchen-roll holder his mother had given her for Christmas was a model of a penis. Was really v. amusing about it. Also asked me if I got anything nice for Christmas in rather flirty way. Think might wear short black skirt tomorrow. Wednesday 4 January 9st 5 (state of emergency now as if fat has been stored in capsule form over Christmas and is being slowly released under skin), alcohol units 5 (better), cigarettes 20, calories 700 (v.g.) 4 p.m. Office. State of emergency. Jude just rang up from her portable phone in flood of tears, and eventually managed to explain, in a sheep's voice, that she had just had to excuse herself from a board meeting (Jude is Head of Futures at Brightlings) as she was about to burst into tears and was now trapped in the ladies' with Alice Cooper eyes and no make-up bag. Her boyfriend, Vile Richard (self-indulgent commitment phobic), whom she has been seeing on and off for eighteen months, had chucked her for asking him if he wanted to come on holiday with her. Typical, but Jude naturally was blaming it all on herself. 'I'm co-dependent. I asked for too much to satisfy my own neediness rather than need. Oh, if only I could turn back the clock.' I immediately called Sharon and an emergency summit has been scheduled for 6.30 in Cafe Rouge. I hope I can get away without bloody Perpetua kicking up. 11 p.m. Strident evening. Sharon immediately launched into her theory on the Richard situation: 'Emotional fuckwittage', which is spreading like wildfire among men over thirty. As women glide from their twenties to thirties, Shazzer argues, the balance of power subtly shifts. Even the most outrageous minxes lose their nerve, wrestling with the first twinges of existential angst: fears of dying alone and being found three weeks later half-eaten by an Alsatian. Stereotypical notions of shelves, spinning wheels and sexual scrapheaps cons ire to make you feel stupid, no matter how much time you spend thinking about Joanna Lumley and Susan Sarandon. 'And men like Richard,' fumed Sharon, 'play on the chink in the armour to wriggle out of commitment, maturity, honour and the natural progression of things between a man and a woman.' By this time Jude and I were going, 'Shhh, shhh,' out of the corners of our mouths and sinking down into our coats. After all, there is nothing so unattractive to a man as strident feminism. 'How dare he say you were getting too serious by asking to go on holiday with him?' yelled Sharon. 'What is he talking about?' Thinking moonily about Daniel Cleaver, I ventured that not all men are like Richard. At which point Sharon started on a long illustrative list of emotional fuckwittage in progress amongst our friends: one whose boyfriend of thirteen years refuses even to discuss living together; another who went out with a man four times who then chucked her because it was getting too serious; another who was pursued by a bloke for three months with impassioned proposals of marriage, only to find him ducking out three weeks after she succumbed and repeating the whole process with her best friend. 'We women are only vulnerable because we are a pioneer generation daring to refuse to compromise in love and relying on our own economic power. In twenty years' time men won't even dare start with fuckwittage because we will just laugh in their faces,' bellowed Sharon. At this point Alex Walker, who works in Sharon's company, strolled in with a stunning blonde who was about eight times as attractive as him. He ambled over to us to say hi. 'Is this your new girlfriend?' asked Sharon. 'Well. Huh. You know, she thinks she is, but we're not going out, we're just sleeping together. I ought to stop it really, but, well . . .' he said, smugly. 'Oh, that is just such crap, you cowardly, dysfunctional little schmuck. Right. I'm going to talk to that woman,' said Sharon, getting up. Jude and I forcibly restrained her while Alex, looking panic-stricken, rushed back, to continue his fuckwittage unrumbled. Eventually the three of us worked out a strategy for Jude. She must stop beating herself over the head with Women Who Love Too Much and instead think more towards Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, winch will help her to see Richard's behaviour less as a sign that she is co-dependent and loving too much and more in the light of him being like a Martian rubber band which needs to stretch away in order to come back. 'Yes, but does that mean I should call him or not?' said Jude. 'No,' said Sharon just as I was saying, 'Yes.' After Jude had gone because she has to get up at 5.45 to go to the gym and see her personal shopper before work starts at 8.30 (mad) – Sharon and I were suddenly filled with remorse and self-loathing for not advising Jude simply to get rid of Vile Richard because he is vile. But then, as Sharon pointed out, last time we did that they got back together and she told him everything we'd said in a fit of reconcilatory confession and now it is cripplingly embarrassing every time we see him and he thinks we are the Bitch Queens from Hell – which, as Jude points out, is a misapprehension because, although we have discovered our Inner Bitches, we have not yet unlocked them. Thursday 5 January 9st 3 (excellent progress – 21b of fat spontaneously combusted through joy and sexual promise), alcohol units 6 (v.g. for party), cigarettes 12 (continuing good work), calories 1258 (love has eradicated need to pig out). 11 a.m. Office. Oh my God. Daniel Cleaver just sent me a message. Was trying to work on CV without Perpetua noticing (in preparation for improving career) when Message Pending suddenly flashed up on top of screen. Delighted by, well, anything – as always am if is not work – I quickly pressed RMS Execute and nearly jumped out of my skin when I saw Cleave at the bottom of the message. I instantly thought he had been able to tap into the computer and see that I was not getting on with my work. But then I read the message: Message Jones You appear to have forgotten your skirt. As I think is made perfectly clear in your contract of employment, staff are expected to be fully dressed at all times. Cleave Hah! Undeniably flirtatious. Thought for a little while whilst pretending to study tedious-beyond-belief manuscript from lunatic Have never messaged Daniel Cleaver before but brilliant thing about messaging system is you can be really quite cheeky and informal, even to your boss. Also can spend ages practising. This is what sent. Message Cleave Sir, am appalled by message. Whilst skirt could reasonably be described as a little on the skimpy side (thrift being ever our watchword in editorial), consider it gross misrepresentation to describe said skirt as absent, and considering contacting union. Jones Waited in frenzy of excitement for reply. Sure enough Message Pending quickly flashed up. Pressed RMS: Will whoever has thoughtlessly removed the edited script of KAFKA'S MOTORBIKE from my desk PLEASE have the decency to return it immediately. Diane Aargh. After that: zilch. Noon. Oh God. Daniel has not replied. Must be furious. Maybe he was being serious about the skirt. Oh God oh God. Have been seduced by informality of messaging medium into being impertinent to boss. 12.10. Maybe he has not got it yet. If one could get message back. Think will go for walk and see if can somehow go into Daniel's office and erase it. 12.15. Hah. All-explained. He is in meeting with Simon from Marketing. He gave me a look when walked past. Aha. Ahahahaha. Message Pending: Message Jones If walking past office was attempt to demonstrate presence of skirt can only say that it has failed parlously. Skirt is indisputably absent. Is skirt off sick? Cleave Message Pending then flashed up again immediately. Message Jones If skirt is indeed sick, please look into how many days sick leave skirt has taken in previous twelvemonth. Spasmodic nature of recent skirt attendance suggests malingering Cleave Just sending back: Message Cleave Skirt is demonstrably neither sick nor abscent. Appalled by management's blatently sizist attitude to skirt. Obsessive interest in skirt suggests management sick rather than skirt. Jones Hmm. Think will cross last bit out as contains mild accusation of sexual harassment whereas v. much enjoying being sexually harassed by Daniel Cleaver. Aaargh . Perpetua just walked past and started reading over shoulder. Just managed to press Alt Screen in nick of time but big mistake as merely put CV back up on screen. 'Do let me know when you've finished reading, won't you?' said Perpetua, with a nasty smirk. 'I'd hate to feel you were being underused.' The second she was safely back on the phone – 'I mean frankly, Mr Birkett, what is the point in putting three to four bedrooms when it is going to be obvious the second we appear that bedroom four is an airing cupboard?' – I got back to work. This is what I am about to send. Message Cleave Skirt is demonstrably neither sick nor abscent. Appalled by management's blatently sizist attitude to skirt. Considering appeal to industrial tribunal, tabloids, etc. Jones. Oh dear. This was return message. Message Jones Absent, Jones, not abscent. Blatantly, not Blatently. Please attempt to acquire at least perfunctory grasp of spelling. Though by no means trying to suggest language fixed rather than constantly adapting, fluctuating tool of communication (cf Hoenigswald) computer spell check might help. Cleave Was just feeling crestfallen when Daniel walked past with Simon from Marketing and shot a very sexy look at my skirt with one eyebrow raised. Love the lovely computer messaging. Must work on spelling, though. After all, have degree in English. Friday 6 January 5.45 p.m. Could not be more joyous. Computer messaging re: presence or otherwise of skirt continued obsessively all afternoon. Cannot imagine respected boss did stroke of work. Weird scenario with Perpetua (penultimate boss), since knew I was messaging and v. angry, but fact that was messaging ultimate boss gave self conflicting feelings of loyalty – distinctly un-level playing field where anyone with ounce of sense would say ultimate boss should hold sway. Last message read: Message Jones Wish to send bouquet to ailing skirt over weekend. Please supply home contact no asap as cannot, for obvious reasons, rely on given spelling of 'Jones' to search in file. Cleave Yesssss! Yessssss' Daniel Cleaver wants my phone no. Am marvellous. Am irresistible Sex Goddess. Hurrah! Sunday 8 January 9st 2 (v. bloody g. but what is point?), alcohol units 2 (excellent), cigarettes 7, calories 3100 (poor). 2 p.m. Oh God, why am I so unattractive? Cannot believe I convinced myself I was keeping the entire weekend free to work when in fact I was on permanent date-with-Daniel standby. Hideous, wasted two days glaring psychopathically at the phone, and eating things. Why hasn't he ring? Why? What's wrong with me? Why ask for my phone number if he wasn't going to ring, and if he was going to ring surely he would amp; it over the weekend? Must centre myself more. Will ask Jude about appropriate self-help book, possible Eastern-religion-based. 8 p.m. Phone call alert, which turned out to be just Tom, asking if there was any telephonic progress. Tom, who has taken, unflatteringly, to calling himself a hag-fag, has been sweetly supportive about the Daniel crisis. Tom has a theory that homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding: both being accustomed to disappointing their parents and being treated as freaks by society. He indulged me while I obsessed to him about my unattractiveness crisis – precipitated, as I told him, first by bloody Mark Darcy then by bloody Daniel at which point he said, I must say not particularly helpfully, 'Mark Darcy? But isn't he that famous lawyer – the human-rights guy?' Hmmm. Well, anyway. What about my human right not to have to wander round with fearsome unattractiveness hang-up? 11 p.m. It is far too late for Daniel to ring. V. sad and traumatized. Monday 9 January 9st 2, alcohol units 4, cigarettes 29, calories 770 (v.g. but at what price?). Nightmare day in office. Watched the door for Daniel all morning: nothing. By 11.45 a.m. I was seriously alarmed. Should I raise an alert? Then Perpetua suddenly bellowed into the phone: 'Daniel? He's gone to a meeting in Croydon, He'll be in tomorrow.' She banged the phone down and said, 'God, all these bloody girls ringing him up.' Panic stricken, I reached for the Silk Cut. Which girls? What? Somehow I made it through the day, got home, and in a moment of insanity left a message on Daniel's answerphone, saying (oh no, I can't believe I did this), 'Hi, it's Jones here. I was just wondering how you are and if you wanted to meet for the skirt-health summit, like you said.' The second I put the phone down I realized it was an emergency and rang Tom, who calmly said leave it to him: if he made several calls to the machine he could find the code which would let him play back and erase the message. Eventually he thought he'd cracked it, but unfortunately Daniel then answered the phone. Instead of saying, 'Sorry, wrong number,' Tom hung up. So now Daniel not only has the insane message but will think it's me who's rung his answerphone fourteen times this evening and then, when I did get hold of him, banged the phone down. Tuesday 10 January 9st 1, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 6, calories 998 (excellent, v.g. perfect saint-style person). Slunk into the office crippled with embarrassment about the message. I had resolved totally to detach myself from Daniel but then he appeared looking unnervingly sexy and started making everyone laugh so that I went all to pieces. Suddenly, Message Pending flashed up on the top of my computer screen. Message Jones Thanks for your phone call. Cleave. My heart sank. That phone call was suggesting a date. Who replies by saying 'thanks' and leaves it at that unless they but after a little thought, I sent back: Message Cleave Please shut up. I am very busy and important. Jones. And after a few minutes more, he replied. Message Jones Sorry to interrupt, Jones, pressure must be hellish. Over and out. PS. I like your tits in that top. Cleave . . . And we were off. Frantic messaging continued all week, culminating in him suggesting a date for Sunday night and me dizzyingly, euphorically, accepting. Sometimes I look around the office as we all tap away and wonder if anyone is doing any work at all. (Is it just me or is Sunday a bizarre night for a first date? All wrong, like Saturday morning or Monday at 2 p.m.) Sunday 15 January 9st (excellent), alcohol units 0, cigarettes 29 (v.v. bad, esp. in 2 hours), caloriess 3879 (repulsive), negative thoughts 942 (approx. based on av. per minute), minutes spent counting negative thoughts 127 (approx.). 6 p.m. Completely exhausted by entire day of date-preparation. Being a woman is worse than being a farmer there is so much harvesting and crop spraying to be done: legs to be waxed, underarms shaved, eyebrows plucked, feet pumiced, skin exfoliated and moisturized, spots cleansed, roots dyed, eyelashes tinted, nails filed, cellulite massaged, stomach muscles exercised. The whole performance is so highly tuned you only need to neglect it for a few days for the whole thing to go to seed. Sometimes I wonder what I would be like if left to revert to nature – with a full beard and handlebar moustache on each shin, Dennis Healey eyebrows, face a graveyard of dead skin cells, spots erupting, long curly fingernails like Struwelpeter, blind as bat and stupid runt of species as no contact lenses, flabby body flobbering around. Ugh, ugh. Is it any wonder girls have no confidence? 7 p.m. Cannot believe this has happened. On the way to the bathroom, to complete final farming touches, I noticed the answerphone light was flashing: Daniel. 'Look, Jones. I'm really sorry. I think I'm going to have give tonight a miss. I've got a presentation at ten in the morning and a pile of forty-five spreadsheets to get through,' Cannot believe it. Am stood up. Entire waste of whole day's bloody effort and hydroelectric body-generated power. However, one must not live one's life through men but must be complete in oneself as a woman of substance. 9 p.m. Still, he is in top-level job. Maybe be didn't want to ruin first date with underlying work-panic. 11 p.m. Humph. He might have bloody well rung again, though. Is probably out with someone thinner. 5 a.m. What s wrong with me? I'm completely alone. Hate Daniel Cleaver. Am going to have nothing more to do with him. Am going to get weighed. Monday 16 January 9 st 2 (from where? why? why?), alcohol units 0, cigarettes 20, calories 1500, positive thoughts 0. 10.36 a.m. Office. Daniel is still locked in his meeting. Maybe it was a genuine excuse. 1 p.m. Just saw Daniel leaving for lunch. He has not messaged me or anything. V. depressed. Going shopping. 11.50 p.m. Just had dinner with Tom in Harvey Nichols Fifth Floor, who was obsessing about a pretentious-sounding 'freelance film maker' called Jerome. Moaned to him about Daniel, who was in meetings all afternoon and only managed to say, 'Hi, Jones, how's the skirt?' at 4.30. Tom said not to be paranoid, give it time, but I could tell he was not concentrating and only wanted to talk about Jerome as suffused with sex-lust. Tuesday 24 January Heaven-sent day. At 5.30, like a gift from God, Daniel appeared, sat himself on the edge of my desk, with his back to Perpetua, took out his diary and murmured, 'How are you fixed for Friday?' Yessssssi Yessssss! Friday 27 January 9st 3 (but stuffed with Genoan food), alcohol units 8, cigarettes 400 (feels like), calories 875. Huh. Had dream date at an intime little Genoan restaurant near Daniel's flat. 'Um . . . right. I'll get a taxi,' I blurted awkwardly as we stood in the street afterwards. Then he lightly brushed a hair from my forehead, took my cheek in his hand and kissed me, urgently, desperately. After a while he held me hard against him and whispered throatily, 'I don't think you'll be needing that taxi, Jones.' The second we were inside his flat we upon each other like beasts: shoes, jackets, strewn in a trail across the room. 'I don't think this skirt's looking at all well,' he murmured. 'I think it should lie down on the floor.' As he started to undo the zip he whispered, 'This is just a bit of fun, OK? I don't think we should start getting involved.' Then, caveat in place, he carried on with the zip. Had it not been for Sharon and the fuckwittage and the fact I'd just drunk the best part of a bottle of wine, I think I would have sunk powerless into his arms. As it was, I leapt to my feet, pulling up my skirt. 'That is just such crap,' I slurred. 'How dare you be so fraudulently flirtatious, cowardly and dysfunctional? I am not interested in emotional fuckwittage. Goodbye.' It was great. You should have seen his face. But no I am home I am sunk into gloom. I may have been right, but my reward, I know, will be to end up all alone, half-eaten by an Alsatian. FEBRUARY. Valentine's Day Massacre Wednesday 1 February 9 st, alcohol units 9, cigarettes 28 (but will soon give up for Lent so might as well smoke self into disgusted smoking frenzy), calories 3826. Spent the weekend struggling to remain disdainfully buoyant after the Daniel fuckwittage debacle. I kept saying the words, 'Self-respect' and 'Huh' over and over till I was dizzy, trying to barrage out, 'But I lurrrve him.' Smoking was v. bad. Apparently there is a Martin Amis character who is so crazily addicted that he starts wanting a cigarette even when he's smoking one. That's me. It was good ringing up Sharon to boast about being Mrs Iron Knickers but when I rang Tom he saw straight through it and said, 'Oh, my poor darling,' which made me go silent trying not to burst into self-pitying tears. 'You watch,' warned Tom. 'He'll be gagging for it now. Gagging.' 'No, he won't,' I said sadly. 'I've blown it.' On Sunday went for huge, lard-smeared lunch at my parents'. Mother is bright orange and more opinionated than ever having just returned from week in Albufeira with Una Alconbury and Nigel Coles' wife, Audrey. Mum had been to church and suddenly realized in a St Paul-on-road-to-Damascus-type blinding flash that the vicar is gay. 'It's just laziness darling,' was her view on the whole homosexuality issue. 'They simply can't be bothered to relate to the opposite sex. Look at your Tom. I really think if that boy had anything about him he'd be going out with you properly instead of all this ridiculous, "friends" nonsense. 'Mother,' I said. 'Tom has known he was a homosexual since he was ten.' 'Oh, darling! Honestly' You know how people get these silly ideas. You can always talk them out of it.' 'Does that mean if I talked to you really persuasively you'd leave Dad and start an affair with Auntie Audrey?' 'Now you're just being silly, darling,' she said. 'Exactly,' Dad joined in. 'Auntie Audrey looks like a kettle.' 'Oh, for heaven's sake, John,' Mum snapped, which struck me as odd as she doesn't usually snap at Dad. My dad, somewhat bizarrely, insisted on giving my car a full service before I left, even though I assured him there was nothing wrong with it. I rather showed myself up by not remembering how to open the bonnet. 'Have you noticed anything odd about your mother?' he said in a stiff, embarrassed way as he fiddled around with the oil stick, wiping it with rags and plunging it back in a not unworrying manner, if one were a Freudian. Which I am not. 'You mean apart from being bright orange?' I said. 'Well yes, and . . . well, you know, the usual, er qualities. ' 'She did seem unusually aerated about homosexuality.' Oh no, that was just the Vicar's new vestments which set her off this morning. They were a little on the frou-frou side, to tell the truth. He's just come back from a trip to Rome with the Abbot of Dumfries. Dressed from head to toe in rose pink. No, I mean did you notice anything different from usual about Mummy?' I racked my brains. 'I can't say I did, to be honest, other than seeming very sort of blooming and confident.' 'Hmmm,' he said. 'Anyway. Best get off before it gets dark. Send my love to Jude. How's she doing?' Then he hit the bonnet in an off-you-go sort of way but so hard that I had a feeling he might have broken his hand. Thought all would be resolved with Daniel on Monday but he wasn't there. Nor yesterday. Work has become like going to a party in order to get off with someone and finding they haven't turned up. Worried about own ambition, career prospects and moral seriousness as seem to reduce everything to level of scout disco. Eventually managed to worm out of Perpetua that Daniel has gone to New York. He will clearly by now have got off with thin American cool person called Winona who puts out, carries a gun and is everything I am not. On top of everything else, must go to Smug Married dinner party at Magda and Jeremy's tonight. Such occasions always reduce my ego to size of snail, which is not to say am not grateful to be asked. I love Magda and Jeremy. Sometimes I stay at their house, admiring the crisp sheets and many storage jars full of different kinds of pasta, imagining that they are my parents. But when they are together with their married friends I feel as if I have turned into Miss Havisham. 11.45 p.m. Oh God. It was me, four married couples and Jeremy's brother (forget it, red braces and face. Calls girls 'fillies'). 'So, bellowed Cosmo, pouring me a drink. 'How's your love-life?' Oh no. Why do they do this? Why? Maybe the Smug Marrieds only mix with other Smug Marrieds and don't known how to relate to individuals any more. Maybe they really do want to patronize us and make us feel like failed human beings. Or maybe they are in such a sexual rut they're thinking, 'There's a whole other world out there,' and hoping for vicarious thrills by getting us to tell them the roller-coaster details of our sex lives. 'Yes, why aren't you married yet, Bridget?' sneered Woney (babytalk for Fiona, married to Jeremy's friend Cosmo) with a thin veneer of concern whilst stroking her pregnant stomach. Because I don't want to end up like you, you fat, boring, Sloaney milch cow, was what I should have said, or, Because if I had to cook Cosmo's dinner then get into the same bed as him just once, let alone every night, I'd tear off my head and eat it, or, Because actually, Woney, underneath my clothes, my entire body is covered in scales. But I didn't because, ironically enough, I didn't want to hurt her feelings. So I merely simpered apologetically, at which point someone called Alex piped up, 'Well, you know, once you get past a certain age . . . ' 'Exactly . . . All the decent chaps have been snapped up,' said Cosmo, slapping his fat stomach and smirking so that his jowls wobbled. At dinner Magda had placed me, in an incestuous-sex-sandwich sort of way, between Cosmo and Jeremy's crashing bore of a brother. 'You really ought to hurry up and get sprogged up, you know, old girl,' said Cosmo, pouring a quarter of a pint of '82 Pauillac straight down his throat. 'Time's running out.' By this time I'd had a good half-pint of '82 Pauillac myself. 'Is it one in three marriages that end in divorce now or one in two?' I slurred with a pointless attempt at sarcasm. 'Seriously, old girl,' he said, ignoring me. 'Office is full of them, single girls over thirty. Fine physical specimens. Can't get a chap.' 'That's not a problem I have, actually,' I breathed, waving my fag in the air. 'Ooh. Tell us more,' said Woney. So who is it, then?' said Cosmo. 'Getting a bit of a shag, old girl?' said Jeremy. All eyes turned to me, beadily. Mouths open, slavering. 'It's none of your business,' I said hoity-toitily. 'So she hasn't got a man!' crowed Cosmo. 'Oh my Cod, it's eleven o'clock,' shrieked Woney. 'The babysitter!' and they all leapt to their feet and started getting ready to go home. 'God, sorry about that lot. Will you be OK, hon?' whispered Magda, who knew how I was feeling. 'Wanta lift or anything?' said Jeremy's brother, following it up with a belch, 'Actually, I'm going on to a nightclub. I trilled, hurrying out into the street. 'Thanks for a super evening!' Then I got into a taxi and burst into tears. Midnight. Har har. Just called Sharon. 'You should have said "I'm not married because I'm a Singleton, you smug, prematurely ageing, narrow-minded morons,"' Shazzer ranted. "'And because there's more than one bloody way to live: one in four households are single, most of the royal family are single, the nation's young men have been proved by surveys to be completely unmarriageable, and as a result there's a whole generation of single girls like me with their own incomes and homes who have lots of fun and don't need to wash anyone else's socks. We'd be as happy as sandboys if people like you didn't conspire to make us feel stupid just because you're jealous."' 'Singletons!' I shouted happily. 'Hurrah for the Singletons!' Sunday 5 February Still no word from Daniel. Cannot face thought of entire Sunday stretching ahead with everyone else in the world except me in bed with someone giggling and having sex. Worst of it is, only a week and a bit to go till impending Valentine's Day humiliation. No way will I get any cards. Toy with idea of flirting energetically with anyone I think might be induced to send me one, but dismiss as immoral. Will just have to take total indignity on the chin. Hmm. I know. Think I'll go and see Mum and Dad again as am worried about Dad. Then will feel like caring angel or saint. 2 p.m. The last remaining tiny bathmat of security has been pulled from under my feet. Magnanimous offer to pay caring surprise visit met by odd-sounding Dad on end of phone. 'Er . . . I'm not sure, dear. Could you hang on?' I reeled. Part of the arrogance of youth (well, I say 'youth') is the assumption that your parents will drop whatever they are doing and welcome you with open arms the second you decide to turn up. He was back. 'Bridget, look, your mother and I are having some problems. Can we ring you later in the week?' Problems? What problems? I tried to get Dad to explain but got nowhere. What is going on? Is the whole world doomed to emotional trauma? Poor Dad. Am I to be the tragic victim of a broken home now, on top of everything else? Monday 6 February 8st 12 (heavy internal weight completely vanished – mystery), alcohol units I (v.g.), cigarettes 9 (v.g.), calories 1800 (g.). Daniel will be back in the office today. I shall be poised and cool and remember that I am a woman of substance and do not need men in order to be complete, especially not him, Am not going to message him or indeed take any notice of him whatsoever. 9.30 a.m. Humph. Daniel does not seem to be here yet. 9.35 a.m. Still no sign of Daniel. 9.36 a.m. Oh God, oh God. Maybe he's fallen in love in New York and stayed there. 9.47 a.m. Or gone to Las Vegas and got married. 9.50 a.m. Hmmm. think will go inspect make-up in case he does come in. 10.05 a.m. Heart gave great lurch when got back from loos and saw Daniel standing with Simon from Marketing at the photocopier. The last time I saw him he was lying on his sofa looking completely nonplussed while I fastened my skirt and ranted about fuckwittage. Now he was looking all sort of 'I've been away' – fresh faced and healthy-looking. As I passed he looked pointedly at my skirt and gave me a huge grin. 10.30 a.m. Message Pending flashed up on screen. Pressed RMS to pick up message. Message Jones Frigid cow. Cleave. I laughed. I couldn't help myself. When I looked across to his little glass office he was smiling at me in a relieved and fond sort of way. Anyway, am not going to message him back. 10.35 a.m. Seems rude not to reply, though. 10.45 a.m. God, I'm bored. 10.47 a.m . I'll just send him a tiny friendly message, nothing flirtatious, just to restore good relations. 11.00 a.m. Tee hee. Just logged on as Perpetua to give Daniel a fright. Message Cleave It is hard enough as it is, trying to meet your targets without people wasting my team's time with non-essential messages. Perpetua P.S. Bridget's skirt is not feeling at all well and have sent it home. 10 p.m. Daniel and I messaged each other all day. But there is no way I am going to sleep with him. Rang Mum and Dad again tonight but no one answered. V. weird. Thursday 9 February 9st 2 (extra fat presumably caused by winter whale blubber), alcohol units 4, cigarettes 12 (v.g.), calories 2845 (v. cold). 9 p.m. V. much enjoying the Winter Wonderland and reminder that we are at the mercy of the elements, and should not concentrate so hard on being sophisticated or hardworking but on staying warm and watching the telly. This is the third time I have called Mum and Dad this week and got no reply. Maybe The Gables has been cut off by the snow? In desperation, I pick up the phone and dial my brother Jamie's number in Manchester, only to get one of his hilarious answerphone messages: the sound of running water and Jamie pretending to be President Clinton in the White House, then a toilet flushing and his pathetic girlfriend tittering in the background. 9.15 p.m. Just called Mum and Dad three times in a row, letting it ring twenty times each time. Eventually Mum picked it up sounding odd and saying she couldn't talk now but would call me at the weekend. Saturday 11 February 8st 13, alcohol units 4, cigarettes 18, calories 1467(but burnt off by shopping) Just got home from shopping to message from my dad asking if I would meet him for lunch on Sunday. I went hot and cold. My dad does not come up to London to have lunch with me on his own on Sundays. He has roast beef, or salmon and new potatoes, at home with Mum. 'Don't ring back,' the message said. 'I'll just see you tomorrow.' What's going on? I went round the corner, shaking, for some Silk Cut. Got back to find message from Mum. She too is coming to see me for lunch tomorrow, apparently. She'll bring a piece of salmon with her, and will be here about 1 o'clock. Rang Jamie again and got 20 seconds of Bruce Springsteen and then Jamie growling, 'Baby, I was born to run . . . out of time on the answerphone.' Sunday 12 February 8st 13, alcohol units 5, cigarettes 23 (hardly surprising), calories 1647. 11 a.m. Oh God, I can't have them both arriving at the same time. It is too Brian Rix for words. Maybe the whole lunch thing is just a parental practical joke brought on by over-exposure of my parents to Noel Edmonds, popular television and similar. Perhaps my mother will arrive with a live salmon flipping skittishly on a lead and announce that she is leaving Dad for it. Maybe Dad will appear hanging upside-down outside the window dressed as a Morris dancer, crash in and start hitting Mum over the bead with a sheep's bladder; or suddenly fall face downwards out of the airing cupboard with a plastic knife stuck in his back. The only thing which can possibly get everything back on course is a Bloody Mary. It's nearly the afternoon, after all. 12.05 p.m. Mum called. 'Let him come then,' she said. 'Let him bloody well have his own way as usual.' (My mum does not swear. She says things like 'ruddy' and 'Oh my godfathers'.) 'I'll be all right on my bloody own. I'll just clean the house like Germaine sodding Greer and the Invisible Woman.' (Could she possibly, conceivably, have been drunk? My mum has drunk nothing but a single cream sherry on a Sunday night since 1952, when she got slightly tipsy on a pint of cider at Mavis Enderby's twenty-first and has never let herself or anyone else forget it. 'There's nothing worse than a woman drunk, darling.') 'Mum. No. Couldn't we all talk this through together over lunch?' I said, as if this were Sleepless in Seattle and lunch was going to end up with Mum and Dad holding hands and me winking cutely at the camera, wearing a luminous rucksack. 'Just you wait,' she said darkly. 'You'll find out what men are like.' 'But I already . . . ' I began.' 'I'm going out, darling,' she said. I'm going out to get laid.' At 2 o'clock Dad arrived at the door with a neatly folded copy of the Sunday Telegraph. As he sat down on the sofa, his face crumpled and tears began to splosh down his cheeks. 'She's been like this since she went to Albufeira with Una Alconbury and Audrey Coles,' he sobbed, trying to wipe his cheek with his fist. 'When she got back she started saying she wanted to be paid for doing the housework, and she'd wasted her life being our slave.' (Our slave? I knew it. This is all my fault. If I were a better person, Mum would not have stopped loving Dad.) 'She wants me to move out for a while, she says, and . . . and. . . . ' He collapsed in quiet sobs. 'And what, Dad?' 'She said I thought the clitoris was something from Nigel Coles's lepidoptery collection.' Monday 13 February 9st 1, alcohol units 5, cigarettes 0 (spiritual enrichment removes need to smoke – massive breakthrough), calories 2845. Though heartbroken by my parents' distress, I have to admit parallel and shameful feeling of smugness over my new role as carer and, though I say it myself, wise counselor. It is so long since I have done anything at all for anyone else that it is a totally new and heady sensation. This is what has been missing in my life. I am having fantasies about becoming a Samaritan or Sunday school teacher, making soup for the homeless (or, as my friend Tom suggested, darling mini-bruschettas with pesto sauce), or even retraining as a doctor. Maybe going out with a doctor would be better still, both sexually and spiritually fulfilling. I even began to wonder about putting an ad in the lonely hearts column of the Lancet . I could take his messages, tell patients wanting night visits to bugger off, cook him little goat cheese souffles, then end up in a foul mood with him when I am sixty, like Mum. Oh God. Valentine's Day tomorrow. Why? Why? Why is entire world geared to make people not involved in romance feel stupid when everyone knows romance does not work anyway. Look at royal family. Look at Mum and Dad. Valentine's Day purely commercial, cynical enterprise, anyway. Matter of supreme indifference to me. Tuesday 14 February 9st, alcohol units 2 (romantic Valentine's Day treat 2 bottles Becks, on own, huh), cigarettes 12, calories 1545. 8 a.m. Oooh, goody. Valentine's Day. Wonder if the post has come yet. Maybe there will be a card from Daniel. Or a secret admirer. Or some flowers or heart-shaped chocolates. Quite excited, actually. Brief moment of wild joy when discovered bunch of roses in the hallway. Daniel! Rushed down and gleefully picked them up just as the downstairs-flat door opened and Vanessa came out. 'Ooh, they look nice,' she said enviously. 'Who are they from?' 'I don't know!' I said coyly, glancing down at the card. 'Ah . . . I tailed off. 'They're for you.' 'Never mind. Look, this is for you,' said Vanessa, encouragingly. It was an Access bill. Decided to have cappuccino and chocolate croissants on way to work to cheer self up. Do not care about figure. Is no point as no one loves or cares about me. On the way in on the tube you could see who had had Valentine cards and who hadn't. Everyone was looking round trying to catch each other's eye and either smirking or looking away defensively. Got into the office to find Perpetua had a bunch of flowers the size of a sheep on her desk. 'Well, Bridget!' she bellowed so that everyone could hear. 'How many did you get?' I slumped into my seat muttering, 'Shud-urrrrrrrp,' out of the side of my mouth like a humiliated teenager. 'Come on! How many?' I thought she was going to get hold of my earlobe and start twisting it or something. 'The whole thing is ridiculous and meaningless. Complete commercial exploitation.' 'I knew you didn't get any,' crowed Perpetua. It was only then that I noticed Daniel was listening to us across the room and laughing. Wednesday 15 February Unexpected surprise, Was just leaving flat for work when noticed there was a pink envelope on the table – obviously a late Valentine – which said, 'To the Dusky Beauty'. For a moment I was excited, imagining it was for me and suddenly seeing myself as a dark, mysterious object of desire to men out in the street. Then I remembered bloody Vanessa and her slinky dark bob. Humph. 9 p.m. Just got back and card is still there. 10 p.m. Still there. 11.p.m. Unbelievable. The card is still there. Maybe Vanessa hasn't got back yet. Thursday 16 February 8st 12 (weight loss through use of stairs), alcohol units 0 (excellent), cigarettes 5 (excellent), calories 2452 (not vg.), times gone down stairs to check for Valent-ne-type envelope 18 (bad psychologically but v.g. exercise). The card is still there! Obviously it is like eating the last Milk Tray or taking the last slice of cake. We are both too polite to take it. Friday 17 February 8st 12, alcohol units 1 (v.g.) cigarettes 2 (v.g.), calories 3241 (bad but burnt off by stairs), checks on card 12 (obsessive). 9 a.m. Card is still there. 9 p.m. Still there. 9.30 p.m. Still there. Could stand it no longer. Could tell Vanessa was in as cooking smells emanating from flat, so knocked on door. 'I think this must be for you,' I said, holding out the card as she opened the door. 'Oh, I thought it must be for you,' she said. 'Shall we open it?' I said. 'OK.' I handed it to her, she gave it back to me, giggling. I gave it back to her. I love girls. 'Go on,' I said, and she slit open the envelope with the kitchen knife she was holding. It was rather an arty card as if it might have been bought in an art gallery. She pulled a face. 'Means nothing to me she said, holding out the card. Inside it said, 'A piece of ridiculous and meaningless commercial exploitation – for my darling little frigid cow.' I let out a high-pitched noise. 10 p.m. Just called Sharon and recounted whole thing to her. She said I should not allow my head to be turned by a cheap card and should lay off Daniel as he is not a very nice person and no good will come of it. Called Tom for second opinion, particularly on whether I should call Daniel over the weekend. 'Noooooooo!' he yelled. He asked me various probing questions: for example, what Daniel's behaviour had been like over the last few days when, having sent the card, he had had no response from me. I reported that he had seemed flirtier than usual. Tom's prescription was wait till next week and remain aloof. Saturday 18 February 9st, alcohol units 4, cigarettes 6, calories 2746, correct lottery numbers 2 (v,g.). At last I got to the bottom of Mum and Dad. I was beginning to suspect a post-Portuguese-holiday Shirley-Valentine-style scenario and that I would open the Sunday People to see my mother sporting dyed blond hair and a leopard-skin top sitting on a sofa with someone in stone-washed jeans called Gonzales and explaining that, if you really love someone, a forty-six year age gap really doesn't matter. Today she asked me to meet her for lunch at the coffee place in Dickens and Jones and I asked her outright if she was seeing someone else. 'No. There is no one else, she said, staring into the distance with a look of melancholy bravery I swear she has copied from Princess Diana. 'So why are you being so mean to Dad?' I said. 'Darling, it's merely a question of realizing, when your father retired, that I had spent thirty-five years without a break running his home and bringing up his children – ' 'Jamie and I are your children too,' I interjected, hurt. ' – and that as far as he was concerned his lifetime's work was over and mine was still carrying on, which is exactly how I used to feel when You were little and it got to the weekends. You only get one life. I've just made a decision to change things a bit and spend what's left of mine looking after me for a change.' As I went to the till to pay, I was thinking it all over and trying, as a feminist, to see Mum's point of view. Then my eye was caught by a tall, distinguished-looking man with grey hair, a European-style leather jacket and one of those gentleman's handbag things. He was looking into the cafe, tapping his watch and raising his eyebrows, I wheeled round and caught my mother mouthing, 'Won't be a mo,' and nodding towards me apologetically. I didn't say anything to Mum at the time, just said goodbye, then doubled back and followed her to make sure I wasn't imagining things. Sure enough, I eventually found her in the perfume department wandering round with the tall smoothie, spraying her wrists with everything in sight, holding them up to his face and laughing coquettishly. Got home to answerphone message from my brother Jamie. Called him straight away and told him everything. 'Oh, for God's sake Bridge,' he said, roaring with laughter. 'You're so obsessed with sex if you saw Mum taking communion You'd think she was giving the Vicar a blow-job. Get any Valentines this year, did you? 'Actually, yes,' I breathed crossly. At which he burst out laughing again, then said he had to go because he and Becca were off to do Tai Chi in the park. Sunday 19 February 8st 13 (v.g. but purely through worry), alcohol units 2 (but the Lord's Day), cigarettes 7, calories 2100. Called Mum up to confront her about the late-in-life smoothie I saw her with after our lunch. 'Oh, you must mean Julian,' she trilled. This was an immediate giveaway. My parents do not describe their friends by their Christian names. It is always Una Alconbury, Audrey Coles, Brian Enderby: 'You know David Ricketts, darling – married to Anthea Ricketts, who's in the Lifeboat.' It's a gesture to the fact that they know in their hearts I have no idea who Mavis Enderby is, even though they're going to talk about Brian and Mavis Enderby for the next forty minutes as if I've known them intimately since I was four. I knew straight away that Julian would not turn out to be involved in any Lifeboat luncheons, nor would he have a wife who was in any Lifeboats, Rotaries or Friends of St. George's. I sensed also that she had met him in Portugal, before the trouble with Dad, and he might well turn out to be not so much Julian but Julio. I sensed that, let's face it, Julio was the trouble with Dad. I confronted her with this hunch. She denied it. She even came out with some elaborately concocted tale about 'Julian' bumping into her in the Marble Arch Marks and Spencer, making her drop her new Le Creuset terrine dish on her foot and taking her for a coffee in Selfridges from which sprang a firm platonic friendship based entirely on department store coffee shops. Why, when people are leaving their partners because they're having an affair with someone else, do they think it will seem better to pretend there is no one else involved? Do they think it will be less hurtful for their partners to think they just walked out because they couldn't stand them any more and then had the good fortune to meet some tall Omar Sharif-figure with a gentleman's handbag two weeks afterwards while the ex-partner is spending his evenings bursting into tears at the sight of the toothbrush mug? It's like those people who invent a lie as an excuse rather than the truth, even when the truth is better than the lie. I once heard my friend Simon canceling a date with a girl – on whom he was really keen – because he had a spot with a yellow head just to the right of his nose, and because, owing to a laundry crisis he had gone to work in a ludicrous late-seventies jacket, assuming he could pick his normal jacket up from the cleaner's at lunchtime, but the cleaners hadn't done it. He took it into his head, therefore, to tell the girl he couldn't see her because his sister had turned up unexpectedly for the evening and he had to entertain her, adding wildly that he also had to watch some videos for work before the morning; at which point the girl reminded him that he'd told her he didn't have any brothers or sisters and suggested he come and watch the videos at her place while she cooked him supper. However, there were no work videos to take round and watch, so he had to construct a further cobweb of lies. The incident culminated with the girl, convinced he was having an affair with someone else when it was only their second date, chucking him, and Simon spending the evening getting hammered alone with his spot, wearing his seventies jacket. I tried to explain to Mum that she wasn't telling the truth, but she was so suffused with lust that she had lost sight of, well, everything. 'You're really becoming very cynical and suspicious, darling.' she said. 'Julio' – aha! ahahahahahaha! – 'is just a friend. I just need some space .' So, it transpired, in order to oblige, Dad is moving into the Alconburys' dead granny's flat at the bottom of their garden. Tuesday 21 February V. tired. Dad has taken to ringing up several times in the night, just to talk. Wednesday 22 Februar y 9st, alcohol units 2, cigarettes 9, fat units 8 (unexpectedly repulsive notion: never before faced reality of lard splurging from bottom and thighs under skin. Must revert to calorie counting tomorrow). Tom was completely right. I have been so preoccupied with Mum and Dad, and so tired from taking Dad's distraught phone calls, I have hardly been noticing Daniel at all: with the miraculous result that he has been all over me. I made a complete arse of myself today, though. I got in the lift to go out for a sandwich and found Daniel in there with Simon from Marketing, talking about footballers being arrested for throwing matches. 'Have you heard about this, Bridget?' said Daniel. 'Oh yes,' I lied, groping for an opinion. 'Actually, I think it's all rather petty. I know it's a thuggish way to behave, but as long as they didn't actually set light to anyone I don't see what all the fuss is about.' Simon looked at me as if I was mad and Daniel stared for a moment and then burst out laughing. He just laughed and laughed till he and Simon got out and then turned back and said, 'Marry me,' as the doors closed between us. Hmmmm. Thursday 23 February 8st 13 (If only could stay under 9st. and not keep bobbing up and down like drowning corpse – drowning in fat), alcohol units 2, cigarettes 17 (pre-shag nerves – understandable), calories 775 (last-ditch attempt to get down to 8st 7 before tomorrow). 8 p.m. Blimey. Computer messaging somehow whipped itself up to fever pitch. At 6 o'clock I resolutely put my coat on and left, only to meet Daniel getting into my lift on the floor below. There we were, just him and me, caught in a massive electrical-charge field, pulled together irresistibly, like a pair of magnets. Then suddenly the lift stopped and we broke apart, panting, as Simon from Marketing got in wearing a hideous beige raincoat over his fat frame. 'Bridget,' he said smirkily, as I involuntarily straightened my skirt, 'you look as if you've been caught playing with matches.' As I left the building Daniel popped out after me and asked me to have dinner with him tomorrow. Yessss! Midnight. Ugh. Completely exhausted. Surely it is not normal to be revising for a date as if it were a job interview? Suspect Daniel's enormously well read brain may turn out to be something of a nuisance if things develop. Maybe I should have fallen for someone younger and mindless who would cook for me, wash all my clothes and agree with everything I say. Since leaving work I have nearly slipped a disc, wheezing through a step aerobics class, scratched my naked body for seven minutes with a stiff brush; cleaned the flat; filled the fudge, plucked my eyebrows, skimmed the papers and the Ultimate Sex Guide , put the washing in and waxed my own legs, since it was too late to book an appointment. Ended up kneeling on a towel trying to pull off a wax strip firmly stuck to the back of my calf while watching Newsnight in an effort to drum up some interesting opinions about things. My back hurts, my head aches and my legs are bright red and covered in lumps of wax. Wise people will say Daniel should like me just as I am, but I am a child of Cosmopolitan culture, have been traumatized by super-models and too many quizzes and know that neither my personality nor my body is up to it if left to its own devices. I can't take the pressure. I am going to cancel and spend the evening eating doughnuts in a cardigan with egg on it. Saturday 25 February 8st 10 (miracle: sex proved indeed to be best form of exercise), alcohol units 0, cigarettes 0, calories 200 (at last have found the secret of not eating: simply replace food with sex). 6 p.m. Oh joy. Have spent the day in a state I can only describe as shag-drunkenness, mooning about the flat, smiling, picking things up and putting them down again. It was so lovely. The only down points were 1) immediately after it was over Daniel said, 'Damn. I meant to take the car into the Citroen garage,' and 2) when I got up to go to the bathroom he pointed out that I had a pair of tights stuck to the back of my calf. But as the rosy clouds begin to disperse, I begin to feel alarm. What now? No plans were made. Suddenly I realize I am waiting for the phone again. How can it be that the situation between the sexes after a first night remains so agonizingly imbalanced? Feel as if I have just sat an exam and must wait for my results. 11 p.m. Oh God. Why hasn't Daniel rung? Are we going out now, or what? How come my mum can slip easily from one relationship to another and I can't even get the simplest thing off the ground. Maybe their generation is just better at getting on with relationships? Maybe they don't mooch about being all paranoid and diffident. Maybe it helps if you've never read a self-help book in your life. Sunday 26 February 9st, alcohol units 5 (drowning sorrows), cigarettes 23 (fumigating sorrows), calories 3856 (smothering sorrows in fat-duvet). Awake, alone, to find myself imagining my mother in bed with Julio Consumed with repulsion at vision of parental, or rather demi-parental sex; outrage on behalf of father; heady, selfish optimism at example of another thirty years of unbridled passion ahead of me (not unrelated to frequent thoughts of Goldie Hawn and Susan Sarandon); but mainly extreme sense of jealousy of failure and foolishness at being in bed alone on Sunday morning while my mother aged over sixty is probably just about to do it for the second . . . Oh my God. No. I can't bear to think about it. MARCH. Severe Birthday-Related. Thirties Panic Saturday 4 March 9st (what is point of dieting for whole of Feb when end up exactly same weight at start of March as start of Feb? Huh. Am going to stop getting weighed and counting things every day as no sodding point). My mother has become a force I no longer recognize. She burst into my flat this morning as I sat slumped in my dressing gown, sulkily painting my toenails and watching the preamble to the racing. 'Darling, can I leave these here for a few hours?' she trilled, flinging an armful of carrier bags down and heading for my bedroom. Minutes later, in a fit of mild curiosity, I slobbed after her to see what she was doing. She was sitting in front of the mirror in an expensive-looking coffee-colored bra-slip, mascara-ing her eyelashes with her mouth wide open (necessity of open mouth during mascara application great unexplained mystery of nature). 'Don't you think you should get dressed, darling?' She looked stunning: skin clear, hair shining. I caught sight of myself in the mirror. I really should have taken my makeup off last night. One side of my hair was plastered to my head, the other sticking out in a series of peaks and horns. It is as if the hairs on my head have a life of their own, behaving perfectly sensibly all day, then waiting till I drop off to sleep and starting to run and jump about childishly, saying, 'Now what shall we do?' 'You know,' said Mum, dabbing Givenchy II in her cleavage, 'all these years your father's made such a fuss about doing the bills and the taxes – as if that excused him from thirty years of washing-up. Well, the tax return was overdue, so I thought, sod it, I'll do it myself. Obviously I couldn't make head nor tail of it so I rang up the tax office. The man was really quite overbearing with me.

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