SUNDAY 1 JANUARY
129 lbs. (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
Food consumed today:
2 pkts Emmenthal cheese slices
14 cold new potatoes
2 Bloody Marys (count as food as contain Worcester sauce and
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
"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
"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 ..."
"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 cart."
"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-part. "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
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-hall-clock-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
"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 Bob Hope 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,
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 forever, you know.
"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
"Big beyond all sense. How are the ear-hair clippers?"
"Oh, marvelously--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 singsonged 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
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-patterned in shades
of yellow and blue--as favored 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 gray
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 Cohn and Pam's daughter, Bridget," said Una, going
all pink and fluttery. "Bridget works in publishing, don't you,
"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
"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
"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 gabbed 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 toward 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.
"Silverskin onion?" I encouraged. "Beetroot cube?"
"Thank you," he said desperately, taking an olive.
"Hope you enjoy it," I said triumphantly.
Toward the end I saw him being harangued by his mother and Una, who
marched him over toward 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
TUESDAY 3 JANUARY
130 lbs. (terrifying slide into obesity--why? why?), alcohol units 6
(excellent), cigarettes 23 (v.g.), calories 2472.
9 a.m. Ugh. Cannot face thought of going 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
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 [pounds sterling] 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
131 lbs. (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 makeup 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 conspire to make you
feel stupid, no matter how much time you spend thinking about Goldie
Hawn and Susan Sarandon.
"And men like Richard," fumed Sharon, "play on the chink in the
armor to wriggle out of commitment, maturity, honor 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 in 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 toward Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus,
which will help her to see Richard's behavior less as a sign that she
is codependent 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
"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 suddenly were 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
reconciliatory 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.
Copyright © 1996 Helen Fielding.
All rights reserved.