Monday, 25 January 2010

Cold water flat

Next up: 'It's Complicated'. But this time with a friend who is in the process of separating his wife of 28 years. What a pair we are - the leaving and the left.

'Oh that stung,' He said later of the scene where Meryl Street is sitting around the table with her children and the ex-husband arrives looking forlorn to be left out of their happy little group. 'That's going to be me.'

'If you think that's bad, just don't go see Up in the Air,' I cautioned, though I started choking up in the scene where the youngest daughter goes off to college and leaves Meryl (who in the film looks like an unmade bed according to Sharon, at-least-she-didn't-make-her-living-out-of-forgetting-her-underpants, Stone) alone in the kitchen of her beautiful family home. Let's forget that Alex Baldwin looks like he should be starring in Family Guy but God forbid that Meryl Streep doesn't brush her hair.

I'm unashamedly sentimental about chicks flying the nest though I've signed up all my my remaining cuckoos for flying lessons and sent them a list of regional airports to which they might soon flit off. Two down, two to go. However, I still cry over the eldest every time she goes back to Oxford and I can summon tears at will by merely thinking about the youngest, but that's because she's usually just told me to f...  of myself, though her verb doesn't even rhyme with fly.

'At least you'll always have your children around you, I can't say the same about mine,' says my friend as he links my arm and we repair to the local pizza restaurant which is, as you might expect on a Saturday evening, heaving with the sort of young, squirming, families than neither of us have any more. Thank god.

'Well, I won't have them, but I expect they'll still visit me. Not that having them is all that it's cracked up to be. You know, it's not all group hugs, pyjama parties and big cosy family dinners - it's hair choking the drains that nobody can be bothered to pick out, and disappearing knickers from the dryer that you hope, just hope, have ended up in the girls' underwear drawers and not on the loins of the son with the long curly hair.'

He looks unconvinced. And he's right to be. Yes, I can moan as though being paid by the word for it (which I kinda am), but I would still rather be filling my fridge with food I won't get a chance to eat, and appalling the visiting new man with the line of trainers that fills the hallway making it look like he's dating the Nike sponsored version of The Sound of Music, than living alone with my cat.

Not knocking cats, so don't bother writing to tell me how intelligent they are - it's just that having got rid of one lot of indifferent creatures who cast hair and look at me disdainfully when I attempt affection, I am not keen to replace them with another identical creature who also can't flush the loo. Nor do I want to turn into one of those people who talks about their dog as though it had opposable thumbs and a complex inner life, such as the man I met recently who said that 'he and Hector' wanted to take me to dinner. Lest you think that I was contemplating a threesome - Hector is a dachshund. I think Hector might have been the better company, admittedly, as his owner, erm, I mean best friend appeared to be a conspiracy theorist who thought he was doing me a favour by considering me as a possible date given that I was eight years older than him. He also had a lisp, something of a disadvantage for an Italian.

I mean, who is the one who has dinner dates with his dog?  Not me.  I just didn't fancy it.  Or him.

But I digress.

My friend is still looking glum, however as we start saying how it would be the best solution all round if we could only cast a magic wand over our marriages and turn back the clock to pre-broken days (and I say that even though my ex also looks like Alex Baldwin but with less hair) I'm the one who starts weeping just as the burger arrives. He hands me a tissue. I wave it away.  I have my own stash.

'But just think of all the freedom we'll have,' I sniff, eagerly trying to put a positive spin on what just seems horribly lonely. 'I mean, new man, or at least future new man will stop freaking out that he's in bed with Florence Henderson every time it creaks when sex turns into a game of statues - though I think, somehow, that current new man will not be around long enough to reap the benefits.'

'Why not?'

'Well look on the second date he brought designer chocolates. On the third he brought flowers. On the fourth, it was my birthday and he brought expensive champagne and presents. On the fifth it was Christmas and he brought more presents. On the sixth he brought wine and fancy cheese. On the seventh he brought more wine. On the eighth he brought his tool box...'

'That's amazing - his tool box?  I want to date him.'

'I know, how sweet is that - he said he was going to do all my odd jobs.'

'I don't do odd jobs. I don't do presents either. So what's wrong with that?  He sounds lovely.'

'He didn't.  Do the odd jobs, I mean but frankly, I was sooooo gushy at the whole knight in white overalls thing he didn't need to even show me a spanner.  He had to rush off after breakfast.  However, that was the end of the presents.  Last few times he didn't bring anything. Not even the tool box. And the other night, he arrived drunk...'


'Yeah, ah.'

'Will you stop wiping your eyes - people will think we're having an argument.'

'No, they'll think you're dumping me.'

He stands up and smiles and gives me an enormous hug, a kiss on the cheek and tells me in a very loud voice how lovely I am looking.  'I'll be damned if I look as though I'm leaving anyone else ever, ever again,' He hisses.  'I'm fed up being the bad guy.  Have a drink.'

But somehow a diet coke just doesn't have that celebratory, to-hell-with-it-all, ring to it.

I ate carbohydrates instead and went home to plumbing hell where not one, but two bathrooms are out of action due to the fact that nobody scoops anything out of the plug hole.  The central heating is blazing at the temperature of a Caribbean summer because the hot water only works when the thermostat is set to 28 degrees.  All the lights are on.  I tidy up the assorted dirty dishes, close the door of the microwave and wipe up the exploded food from its perimeter.  I scrub the table, fold the laundry,  throw away out of date food and decide to have a bath before I go to bed.  I run the tepid taps in the one remaining bathroom with plumbing and go back downstairs to fiddle with the boiler to see if I can get it to give me lukewarm bubbles without razing the planet.  I can't.  I go into the sitting room to turn off all the lamps and hear the rain battering down outside.  What a downpour, I think, looking out at the dark street which is, I notice - with horror - totally dry.

Damn it, the sound of the deluge is coming from...  I run next door... the kitchen, where water is pouring through the ceiling.

Five saucepans, three tea-towels, six bathtowels and a hole gouged into the plasterboard my eldest son - he of the long curling hair and major cause of current blockages - arrives with his girlfriend (maybe she's the one wearing my knickers, I think - then banish it as just too, too weird to contemplate).

'I hope you don't want to use the kitchen,' I say, wringing out my third towel into the sink.

He looks at me the way you imagine aliens would if they suddenly landed in your house in the midst of a domestic incident, as though water streaming through the roof were somehow a quaint custom that everyone indulged in on a Saturday night. 

'Nah,' he says eventually, and he and his girlfriend disappear upstairs to their bedroom.  It's a testament to my low expectations that I doesn't occur to me that they might have offered to help until after my cold bath the next morning when I leave new man - who arrived, garullous at 1.30 am on his way back from a gig and got arsy with me when I hadn't sufficiently appreciated the effort he had made to come and see me - and went downstairs to make his breakfast.

I clean up all the towels.  Empty flying nest, bring - it - on, I think.  But then later, after new man has left and I've cleared away all the dishes,  miraculous eldest daughter makes me home-made cookies and coffee.

I turn on my laptop and see that New Man has left me to go home and check his internet dating site.

'What do you want - a cup or a mug,' says daughter.

'Oh mug.  Definitely, a mug.'  I say.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Come fly (away) with me...

Another weekend, another cinema, another film.

I'm here with my ex. It's a way of passing time together companionably without actually having to talk - which is what keeps it companionable. He's been in the Middle East for a week and is about to leave for Stockholm, Strasbourg and then Brussels. He spent the period after Christmas in the States. When not in flight or in conference, he spends his time between anonymous hotel rooms and, so my kids tell me, a less-anonymous-than-it-was, one bedroom flat which, when I last visited had nothing but a single bookshelf of Arabic books and a television. Though it was all seductively tidy seen through the eyes of someone who wades through a sea of trainers in the hallway every night, I looked around at the sparse, shonky rental furnishings, the tiny two-seater sofa, the bare dining table and realised just how much he must have wanted to get away from me and the domestic accoutrements of family to have preferred this, which he does. He likes living alone. He likes being able to please himself. He likes not having any demands on his person or his time. And of course, there's the girlfriend who visits now and again, but not often enough that he's never available at the weekends to go to the cinema.

We're watching Up in the Air. The sterile, unencumbered character of Ryan, a man who fires people for a living, and who lives in an efficiency apartment when not - as the title suggest - 'up in the air', aiming to clock up 10 Million frequent flyer miles, makes even George Clooney look tired and in need of a shower.

His wallet bulges with plastic loyalty cards as packs his folded underwear into a his carry-on suitcase, slots his ties into a leather case, sets it on top of his capsule wardrobe, then zips his life up into a case small enough to fit on an overhead locker. Even his fridge is stocked with miniature bottles of hootch.

The last scene features him in a plane, with a voice over saying:

'Tonight, most people will be welcomed home by jumping dogs and squealing kids. Their spouses will ask about their day and tonight they’ll sleep. The stars will wheel forth from their daytime hiding places, crowning their neighbourhood with lights. And one of those lights, slightly brighter than the rest, will be my wingtip, passing over.'


I was so depressed I could hardly get out of my seat and it seemed there was a long, communal sigh from the audience as they scrambled to their feet in the dark, to the crunch of underfoot popcorn.

'So, did anything in that last monologue resonate with you?' I asked the ex as we walked out into the equally dark night.

'Yes, it did a bit,' he said after a pause long enough to fit in a set of golf clubs.

'No jumping dogs, no squealing children, no spouse...' I added, just to rub it in. I've never been one to go for the understatement. 'He's exactly like you, right down to the British Airways Gold Card, except that you chose this life over the alternative.' Salt and wound, I'm thinking - it's never been that much of a surprise that the man would prefer solitude and air pressure to me turning the screws, though actually rubbing salt into a wound that isn't gaping and has healed over is actually just a salt scrub and

'Well, not exactly. I mean I don't have nobody.'

'Erm, you kinda do.'

'No, I don't. I've still got you in a way.'

'No you don't. The pictures once a week isn't 'me'. I'm not waiting for you at home. I don't know where you are or when you come back. You return to an empty flat with nothing in the fridge, and nobody to welcome you. It's not like Natasha is even waiting for you since she doesn't seem to be here most of the time.'

'Well, I've got the kids.'

'The kids are mostly gone and it's not like when they were babies and you lived with us and they would ask "when is daddy coming back", they don't know whether you're in the country or out of it. You've removed yourself and they've got used to it.'

He goes quiet.

I look at him wearily, waiting, wishing he would say something to indicate he feels some sense of our absence.

'Well, I must say, I wouldn't mind his 10 Million frequent flyer miles.' He adds.

And he laughs.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

The Oxford Blues


Snow up to my knees.

My daughter is taking me to have dinner a la Harry Potter in the Gothic dining room of Keble where she currently immerses herself in apocalyptic texts in the School of Divinity. Yes, laugh if you like, but I have a daughter who is going to be a Doctor of Divinity - though just at the moment she's flogging children's books at Waterstones to the navy blue of Oxford.

We're having tea in the newly refurbished Ashmoleum. Outside there's a foot of snow covering the terrace on which a lone classical figure hunches, his shoulders burdened with two white icicled epaulettes. He makes me feel cold just looking at him though the museum is toasty warm and redolent of the smell of damp felt and mothy wool.

A waiter approaches. Professionally French with a comma of black fringe over one eye, he shrugs, leans on one hip and pouts.

'Do you have a menu?' I ask.

'We 'ave tea, coffee, and some cakes,' He says.

'What kind of tea?' (Look I'm pedantic but 'tea' is a generic term.)

Another pout. 'English Breakfast, Peppermint, Camomile...'

I wait.

'...Earl Grey.'

He waits.

'Okay, Earl Grey then. With lemon.'

'What about the cake?' Asks my, she-isn't-on-a-diet, daughter.

'Oh I fink we have carrot and chocolate and somefing...' He says airily and wafts his hand in the general direction of the bar where no cakes seem to be on display. It's odd to think we're in a restaurant as the food seems almost incidental, not to say inconvenient.

She settles for a hot chocolate as does my friend from days of yore who has joined us, and we all pass on the mystery cake.

My friend used to share a house with me. Back then he was a member of the Socialist Workers Party, but perfectly normal beforehand when his hair was not unlike the French waiter's but with a few flecks of grey, and his face, cherubic and cheeky. It's all gone now. But actually it had gone even then since he shaved it off to stubble and got a few earrings when he joined the party. I think that was the entrance fee. We had been great friends back in the bedsit days, but didn't have much in common once he started selling Socialist Worker outside Boots. However divorce is a great reuniter of old friends just as time is a great healer of relationships, as well as a smoother of previous political convictions. His have gone the same way as the stubble. Now he's clean and shiny, with a polished head and a polished face and scant sign of piercings in his ear though you can still see the dimples if you look closely. My specs are so strong I can see craters on the moon. We have no secrets... He even has rosy cheeks which he tries to pass off as a consequence of the cold but I think it's a symptom of middle England myself. He has kids at prep school, and like me, a partner who made him redundant. She was also a Socialist Worker in the late seventies. Now she's in the City.

I stir my tea with its treasure of three slices of lemon smiling up from the bottom of the cup - I wonder if the waiter thinks I'm sour - and look around the room. Eldest daughter is looking at a squirming three year old at the next table with some distaste.

'You know, when I was your age and lived here on Banbury Road, I used to go out with your father on a Sunday and we'd do exactly this - go to a museum, or a film, or to a concert in one of the colleges, and I'd look at all these navy blue people with their cut glass accents and messy, scrunchied hair, in their sensible shoes and with their grubby children called Jeremy and Jemima and want it all with a passion. I wanted to be them. I didn't want to live in a freezing bedsit in North Oxford with a two bar electric fire that was one more than I could afford to run on my pathetic salary, seeing my boyfriend once a week when he managed to drag himself away from London, trailing round the Botanical Gardens and looking through other people's windows in Park Town where there was always a fire burning in the grate and book-lined rooms where someone played the violin. I wanted the violin. I wanted the kids on the back of the bicycle going to the Squirrel School and the chintz skirt and the upholstery to match. I wanted to be conventional and middle class.'

I say this waiting for Rob to shoot me down in flames, but people in combustible houses don't throw napalm.

'And I got it.' I add.

My daughter doesn't react. Her childhood is all she knows. She grew up in violin-land, though in fact we had drums, piano, guitar and recorders but never the violin. We had, and have, the shabby, book-lined rooms that now I'd be delighted to get rid of but the ex refuses to pack his books up and take them to his new flat. We had the tow-headed, grubby children and despite my Scottish speech impediment, I even got some cut glass accents and a notch up the class ladder for me, and a few down for the ex, at ten grand a year London day schools.

Nevertheless, we are still not the most conventional of families. I mean I don't think mummy and daddy Navy-Blue take Jemima and Jeremy to see a Burlesque Striptease for their Christmas treat.

Indeed, my friend took his kids to the Messiah.

But Oxford, where I grew up, got married (twice), fell in love (four times) and lived from the age of 17 to 25 always makes me maudlin. It's like being a ghost and haunting yourself. You meet friends, like the ex Socialist Worker, who is now wearing a cashmere sweater and a blazer (and it's not even red, but powder blue) - or Mimo, who owns Ash-Shami, the Lebanese Restaurant. I saw him in St Giles and stopped and talked to him as though he was still my husband's landlord in Walton Well Road and I was going to see him later in the basement kitchen while I made a salad with newly discovered iceberg restaurant, that twenty-eight years later I wouldn't even consider a vegetable. I see my younger self walking along the Corn Market in a succession of fashion mistakes, with long red hair instead of bottle blonde, carrying half my body weight but heavy with anxieties. And the nostalgia, the regret, the sense of loss for what was falls upon me like the snow that's swirling through the black afternoon and traps me.

I look at the table beyond us. There's a man with silver hair and a matching woman, slim and petite in the ubiquitous navy blue uniform. Another couple in their late middle age sit next to them and there are two daughters, one of whom has a child. I try to work out if the two older women are sisters - they both have the same frame and grey, page-boy styled hair, but I can't be sure. The two men, however, are definitely their well-worn, long-accustomed husbands, and one of them is the father of the girls though I don't know which woman he's married to until she stands up and he helps her on with her coat.

'So, I used to look at the young couples and want their life, but now I look at the older couples, and think - I want that too.' I say, gesturing at the people who are now gathering up their belongings and slotting the baby into a stroller, preparing to leave. 'I want to be sitting here on the weekend with my husband of many years, having just had tea with my grown up children and our friends, or our in laws.'

My daughter looks uncomfortable, as though I'm saying that she, on her own, isn't enough of a pleasure, but it isn't that - it's that I'm longing for a fantasy of the life I thought I had already bought into, and paid all the instalments on, and only had to cash in. And you never compromise in fantasies. I mean, you don't dream of going to bed with someone who looks like George Clooney but shorter and a bit fat round the middle - you dream about George Ruddy Clooney!

My friend looks as glum as I feel. 'I know what you mean. That's what I wanted, what I still want...' He says and looks so sad that I immediately feel I have to dust myself down and get rid of all these chilly reminiscences - we can't both be sitting here, miserable about what was lost. But then, I remember when he wanted Revolution and brown rice and thought that all property was theft. Sometimes, thank goodness, you don't get what you want. And it's no bad thing.

I drain the last of my tea, button up my pink cardie to keep the cold off my cleavage, I tuck my bottle blonde hair into my vintage Dior coat that once belonged to the ex-husband's aunt, and which the daughter and I share (though she wears it as a cross over, and I button it straight), shuffle my feet across the floor until I find my totally unsuitable-for-snow-shoes which I've kicked off, throw round the fake fur stole and pull on the gloves lined with orange fur that is not fake. I check my lipstick and add a dab more red, pick up the zebra patterned pony-skin handbag, link arms with my agnostic Dr of Divinity daughter, and my ex Socialist Worker friend who muffles himself into a sleek black overcoat, and the three of us set off for the slush like The Scarecrow, the Lion and the Tin Man.

Actually, all things considered, it's probably a huge blessing in disguise that I didn't turn out to be navy blue.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

Le Clique

I waved the tickets under the noses of the assembled offspring feeling like Mother of The Year. 'I've got us tickets to Le Clique at the Roundhouse, how great is that?'

Stunned silence and foot shuffling ensued.  It was like watching calves being rounded up for the abattoir.

'How great is that?'  I repeated, eagerly.

Apparently, not that great.

'Ma, it's an erotic circus.  I'm not going to an erotic circus with my mother.' said younger son.

'It's not erotic.  It's Burlesque.'

'What does Burlesque mean?' asked the teenager.

'Erm, sort of risqué ...'

'What does riskay mean?'

'Erotic,' jumped in younger son.

'Not really.'

'Yes it does, one of my friends went with his wife and he said it was an erotic circus and that one woman does a striptease and pulls a hankie out of.. '

'Don't give it away!'

But it was too late.  The teenager's eyes widened with revulsion and refused to go, as did younger son. 'What's wrong with the ruddy Nutcracker or a Carol Concert, like a normal mum?' He retorted.  Eldest son was working, he told me with some relief, which left only the eldest and me, and three spare tickets.

First stop was new man.  Total disinterest.   He was visiting his brother in trendy Macclesfield, that Mecca of frivolity and jewel of whichever part of the North it happens to be in, without a mobile signal or email, and didn't seem keen to cut his three day visit short to frolic with naked women in Camden, or anywhere else in the Greater London vicinity.  He's also been reading my book since Christmas and has only got to page 170 by now and so I think the words 'not' and 'bothered' can safely be married together without even the glue of a 'that'.

'Are you sure?  I haven't seen you for more than a week and it should be fun - it's an erotic circus (oh to hell with it, call a spade a spade, Marion),'  I wheedled.

'Nah, it's been a while since I've seen my brother...'

Alas, I think I have bigger problems than the size of my backside.

Nevertheless eventually I rounded up a few friends and packed into the trunk of Fran's Jag, off we went to the circus.  However - erotic?  Not really.  In fact, except for the woman pulling the hankie out of an unusual place that I would never have thought of, even if I had lost the option of stuffing it up my sleeve having taken off my jacket and tossed it across a stage, it was all pretty tame, old fashioned stuff like acrobatics and juggling served up with innuendo.  There was even a woman with hula hoops and another old guy doing tricks on roller skates - I mean it was hardly Dita von Teese.  I've had more smut on my reading glasses.

It was terrific fun though, especially when Chocolate Gateau, an obese black man with a beard dressed in leopard skin spandex and feathers chose my friend Fran as his target and straddled him in mid-song, then proceeded to rub his face between his large prosthetic breasts (having first handed me his specs).  He took it all in good spirits, though I hesitate to think how either of my sons would have reacted if a cross-dressing baritone had attempted a bit of bump and grind with them in public, not to mention new man.  Ha, if he thinks I'm big!  But at least I don't have facial hair baby.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010



Hurrah - a text!

just checking to see if your phone is actually on silent, Nico

Go on, shame me in front of the whole office.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Stockholm Syndrome

And then the youngest and I went to Florence.  Four days  in a hotel by the Ponte Vecchio doing a mother and daughter bonding break.

You've probably all been to Florence so I won't wax lyrically about standing in the rain under an inadequate umbrella in the long, snaking queue outside the Uffizi, after you've stood for half an hour in another long, snaking queue to pick up tickets that you paid for on the internet (including a (9E booking fee each) so that you wouldn't have to join the other queue for people who didn't prebook which was, admittedly, longer.  But not much.  Neither do I have to tell you that David has hands like spades and looks like he's been taking a lot of steroids judging by his not so dangly bits because you can see him in plaster in the V&A and in replica outside in a piazza for free.  There was also a Maplethorpe exhibition on at the Accademia which since it was called something about 'perfection in beauty' - the subject of youngest's latest art project, she really wanted to see.  I approached it with trepidation wondering if it was going to be a series of explicit photographs of rippled male torsos which it was, but only one contained anything explicit enough that it would frighten the horses, or indeed was in any way reminiscent of a horse and that would leave an impressionable seventeen year old doomed thereafter to be sorely disappointed by all the real life Davids.

So, we did the galleries and the churches and the shops and the restaurants and then came the really fun part:  How long is it since you've been under hotel arrest, sharing a bedroom with a teenager who doesn't particularly like you, held hostage by a boxed set of DVDs that she thoughtfully gave you for Christmas with the ominous title:  Supernatural?  I wouldn't be giving anything away if I told you that the whole premise of the series starring two wet, slightly dim boys hunting demons and ghosts is that their mother was glued to the ceiling of her bedroom and burnt alive by a devil.   Hmm.  Getting the idea, are you?

In episode one, the hot pouting girlfriend of one of the main characters goes the same way (that would be what we call in the business - a spoiler - for those of you who were going to run out and get the whole series) and this is rapidly followed by every single nightmare you've ever had being replayed in 50 minute parts.  Walking scarecrows with hooks for hands, blood drinking psychopaths, Bloody Mary scratching teenage girls' eyes out, Lunatic ghosts in the asylum - you name it, they're all here and all the action always happens at night.  One after the other.  All 11 episodes of the first season.  Hurrah!  Hook me up for a telly marathon!

I was scared stiff.

Daughter, however, relishing every minute of it - calmly playing solitaire with her creepy Tim Burton deck of cards like a knitter at a guillotine matinee, hoping to cram in four slots of gore, haunting and terror, every single night, while I cowered in my bed and thought pretty thoughts, terrified to put the lights out after the DVD.

Since returning home I've had to put the DVD case into a sealed box.  There's still the second series to go.

I'm thinking of leaving the box next to the fridge at home as it's one way to ensure I don't open the door.

The terror diet.

But it worked.  We bonded.  I was so frightened I hardly left her side.

Seasonal Greeting

I can't come to you for Christmas, said Eva, whose husband was having his turn with the kids this year, meaning she was left on her tod - the divorced woman's worst nightmare, and the married woman's idea of heaven.

Why not?

Because you will all be together and I'll have nobody and I just don't want to be reminded that everyone else has a family.

Erm, well we're hardly the ruddy Waltons, I protested, but she was determined to exclude herself.

However, it was true that the ex had forsworn the charms of his scrawny girlfriend to stay in the house with me for the first time since he left - without telling her, of course (sorry Natasha - but do read on for further suprises) - but in the two days running up to the International Festival of Consumption, I managed to argue with all three of my children and none of them were speaking to me so that most of the previous conversation with Eva was conducted in tears.

After staggering home in the snow with a temperature of 103 (the day before the Christmas party I was knocking back shots of Beecham's Cold Relief like Tequila), one of the little darlings announced that I could do my own washing up because it wasn't as if I had been doing anything all day 'sitting on my backside in an office for a couple of hours' (as opposed to sitting on your backside on holiday from college at home all day). Another joined in and queried the fact that I paid any of the bills when I wondered if the lights may, occasionally, be switched off rather than left on all night since Santa didn't actually need to find his way until the eve of the 24th. 'Are you sure you pay the bills, mother - isn't it dad who pays the bills?' And then the third went for the hat trick by shouting at me when I asked him to wait for a second while I finished a conversation with the new man (who I had just discovered was happily surfing - from which I'm naturally and fattily excluded) after I had driven across town and waited in the car for ten minutes to facilitate the purchase of the father's Christmas present.

Joy to the world.

Please, please, do come and join our dysfunctional happy family, everybody-hates-me Christmas, but no - instead she volunteered at a homeless shelter for Crisis at Christmas and I stayed home in the bosum of mine and had my own crisis and I cooked and served the lunch. The ex washed up. I almost forgave him for absent mindedly picking up my hairbrush in my bedroom and using it though I was silently screaming PUT THE RUDDY HAIRBRUSH DOWN - YOU DON'T LIVE HERE ANY MORE.

But never let it be said I'm selfish and don't know how to share. I also gave him my cold just in time for his trip to Colorado and the fragrant girlfriend. Yes - pig flu - it's the gift that keeps on giving.

Unfortunately I also passed in on to the new man. And that was even before he told me I was fat.

I'm very, very generous.

Lords of the Rings

The other annoying fallout of the holiday season when you are eagerly awaiting the darling little knife on glass ping of the iphone telling you that you have a text message is that every other Pedant seems to have acquired one over Christmas. There's an iphone cluster around my desk. It used to just be Orlando and I who reached for our little bundles of wonderfulness every time a bell rang, but now there are seven of us twittering about Apps and e-readers and generally stroking our handsets like Gollum.

And we all seem to have the same ring tone.

I could pretend that mine was on silent, and annoyingly, it would never prove me a liar.

Monday, 4 January 2010


The Christmas tree has been on the kerb since Boxing Day and the decorations returned to the attic for another year. The fridge is emptier than my bank account and the office party at which we threatened to bring the house down at 2, Brydges Place (literally - the assembled staff in a circle like firemen doing high kicks) is as distant a memory as my waistline.

The new man charmingly told me recently that it was taking him a while to get used to a 'larger woman' after his last relationship with a size 0 some seven years my junior which made me feel like a speciality fetish with my own pay per view web site. You can imagine my reply - even though the pithy repost inferred something I have absolutely no intention of ever actually doing again - along with eating, drinking, appearing in public without a one-size fits all burka, and even breathing if the air looks vaguely calorific.

Consequently, however, willpower has been dredged out of the place I wedged it somewhere around 2005 and I have been resolutely ignoring the siren song of the Tartan shortbread, French truffles, chocolate logs, Hobnobs, Quality Street and tamarind flakes (yes, that one is odd, admittedly, but Vanessa went to Burma for her Christmas break and this was all they had in the way of confectionery) that are reclining seductively on the tea trolley only an arm's-length from my desk.

Curves, they're called curves, Mr Kipling. But I'm still not taking the cake.