Saturday, 31 October 2009

Flat shoes that make you feel very, very small

I walked to work from Holland Park this morning as part of my new 'don't sit on the bus and fret uselessly about your mistakes' regime. So instead of sitting on the top deck chewing over them, uselessly, like a toothless crone with a toffee (which come to think of it, would be more of a sucking the misery metaphor) I marched through Notting Hill Gate and into Kensington Gardens and fretted uselessly while walking.

Well it made a change.

Worrying has a different quality when you walk than it does when you're immobilised beside the Pinky and Perky sounds of other people's iPods. You are still visited by regret but somehow it doesn't settle in and take root, or curl round your guts and squeeze in the same way as it does when you're stuck in traffic. Rather it flits around them like a socialite at a party. You replay all your mistakes with the sour benefit of hindsight but your finger is always on the pause button able to skip the sadness forward, frame by frame. If only there was a rewind and you could get a different outcome, or better still a delete.

I tried to concentrate on the early morning joggers instead of cringing over recent trailers for my series of unfortunate events, but with limited success. They all look a darn sight more miserable than me. What happened to the supposed endorphins? And it's so ungainly... You have the arm slappers who look like they have St Vitus Dance; the little mermaids who put their feet down so gingerly it's as though every step is agony; the trudgers who seem to be running through quicksand; the trotters, the panters, the pack carriers, those swaddled in jumpers and sleeveless puffa jacket so that they can hardly move at all and, unfortunately, the semi-naked who move a little bit too much, too visibly. There are also an awful lot of women who haven't heard of sports' bras and whose bosoms bounce around like toddlers on a sugar rush. I can see this is added value to the health giving properties of exercise from the men's point of view given that one of the stumblers actually stopped and watched a red faced, lumpen girl skip while her female personal trainer, flat-chested and clingfilmed into thermal spandex, stood by with that blank-eyed look that women get when when they're watching their toddlers bounce around on a sugar rush. Or was that just my particular brand of mothering?

I just wanted to run (yes actually - me - run) up to the poor woman and scream 'Strap Them Down'. They'll be at your knees by the time you're thirty. But I didn't. I just walked briskly and sedately past the poor, flushed pudding with her boobs wobbling crazily and cross-eyed around on her chest as the sun came up like a big blob of Fanta on the misty horizon, and went back to my reverie.

Then a woman came towards me wearing red ear muffs and grinned at me conspiratorily. I wondered why. Do I look like I have kindship with the ear-muff wearing sorority? And then I realised it was because she was knee deep in the confetti of leaves, childishly kicking them around her heels as she ploughed through the piles. Crunch, crunch, crunch.

Well it certainly seemed to have cheered her up, so I thought I'd give it a try myself. In I went in the ballet slippers. The best thing that came out of the recently curtailed relationship with the short, nay Lilliputian, man (our so called mini-break was aptly named - after three days together we had bored each other into catatonia. And I don't mean the defunct band.) was that I now have a whole wardrobe of flat footwear that is actually comfortable. So things to be happy about No 1 - now that we've faced the lack of music I can - hurrah, finally wear heels again. He used to say he quite fancied the whole Dudley Moore thing, but he was so dainty I feared I would look like I was taking my son out for tea on a school exeat.

Crunch, crunch, crunch (but me this time).

Actually, I didn't feel cheery I just felt silly. Sheepishly, I stopped crunching and came out onto the path again, with little flecks of leaves clinging to my tights so that it looked as though I had some sort of seasonal psoraisis. A man nearby was leaning on the signposted map of the park with his head in his arms in a gesture of despair. 'Oh come on laddie, it's not that bad,' I thought, wondering if I should go and see if he was okay. And then I realised. He was only stretching.

Friday, 23 October 2009

Carnal Knowledge

So, as I said. I feel old. Especially at the pub quiz where we know such things as all the words to 'Don't You Love Me Baby?' by the Human League but not anything that happened after 1985 so that the young team of recently qualified teachers are snapping at our heels on all questions of popular 'culture'. It's quite pleasing, then, when a couple of boys who've been rock climbing at the Sport's Centre at the end of the road drop in and are absolutely pants.

'You guys are geniuses,' gushes one of them who looks to be about twelve and resembles something between an Ewok and a cute Disney character. The other is wearing one of the dreaded Noel Fielding jumpers (see Buzzed passim). Why? I ask again and again... They are scratchy and ugly. What's wrong with a nice Merino wool job from Uniqulo lads?

They're marking our answer sheets, and indeed, despite the fact that none of us can recite Nirvana lyrics we are doing pretty well tonight and look like being a shoo-in for the warm champagne.

'Seriously, guys, you're amazing.' He slaps my shoulder with the back of his hand for emphasis as he passes back our scores. Not the ingratiating gesture you might imagine.

He's also Australian and talks in initialisms. FFS.

'How old are you?' He asks later as we are sharing out the warm fizz (believe me a little goes a long, long way - Jesus could have fed the multitude with this stuff).


'How old are you? Seriously, tell me. '

'None of your f'ing business.' I snap, hotly. I can initalise quite well myself, thank you very much.

'Come on, I'm thirty. I bet you don't believe me. You don't, do you? But I am. Honest.'

I shrug. I can't honestly say it's been something that has been troubling me over the last two hours unlike, say, the height of a basketball net (10 ft apparently) or which fingernail grows the fastest (the middle - and I show it to you as you marvel at the intellectual shallows we wallow in on Thursday evenings - it's the suburbs folks. It's that or sleeping with your sister.)

'So tell me, how old are you?'

'Old enough to be your mother.'

'F*** you,' he says, and slaps me again. This time with the flat of his hand and my shoulder recoils.

'Erm, possibly not,' I say. But I'm female and past forty and though I should be old enough to know better, when flattery comes knocking I open the door and let it walk right in. 'I have four kids, one of whom isn't much younger than you.'

'F*** you!' He squeals the last word like a girl. 'You can't possibly have.'

I admit that I do and tell him their ages, wincing as he slaps me again. Is this some sort of weird courtship ritual the young have - swear at you and physically assault you?

'So, tell me, how old are you. It doesn't matter. I'd say you were, what 44?'

I know he's bullshitting me, but what can I do but squirm?

'Yeah, in a previous life. So you can stop the guessathon. Why, do you have a thing about older women?'

'F*** you, no, I just think you're hot. I saw you sitting there and though, she's hot, FFS.'

I am. I'm wearing my PVC shirt and I'm probably having a hot flush.

'No (the little squeal again), seriously, you're f***ing really, really hot. I'm just worried that you're taken.'

'Taken?' What? Like by aliens?

'Yeah, taken. Are you married?'


'So what's that then?'

I brace myself for another slap but this time he reaches for my hand and taps my ring finger on which there is a large blue aquamarine.

'It's a ring.'

'Duh,' He slaps my hand as though I've just reached for the last cake. 'But is it an engagement ring?'


'So are you taken? I'm just really worried that you're taken.'

I laugh at the notion of anyone taking me anywhere other than Sainsbury's.

'What are you doing this weekend?'

I open my mouth to tell him that I'm cooking lunch for sixteen people as it's my son's 21st birthday but for some reason the words stick in my mouth like condensed milk on a spoon and vanity will just not let me spit them out. 'Nothing,' I mumble when my powers of further invention fail me.

'SFA?' He volunteers.


'SFA. Sweet f...

I nod hurriedly. Got it.

'I don't believe that, not for a second. Look at you. You're so f***ing hot, you must have some guy lined up.'

I am, in fact doing SFA for most of the weekend, birthday catering notwithstanding. Worcester is going to the Rugby and has stood me down until next Saturday. Ex husband is keeping a low profile lest he be invited to wash up. Eva is in Amsterdam. Nel is going to Nigeria (excessive, just to avoid a Friday night curry with me, but there you go, or rather there she goes.) I am momentarily dazzled by the enthusiastic flattery of this young, smiling, perfectly toothed chap, despite the fact that he parts his hair above his right ear in a huge tsunami of jet black spikes and has his trousers hanging off his arse like a babygrow.

'Give me your number. I'm also doing SFA this weekend. Come and have dinner with me. I'll take you out. I want to see you again. As soon as possible. ' He smiles and narrows his eyes like a trainee Jack Nicholson. I can't help but laugh at the sheer nerve of him. He's already had a crack at Sally and Karen. I should feel insulted that I was the final assault but I'm quite enjoying the patter. I've been married to men who've been less complimentary.

The quiz is long over. There's a free drink question. The quizmaster looks like Marc Almond and is wearing green polythene boots. He asks what the initals DP mean in porn. Nobody wants to answer. We usually don't have quite this sort of unsavory general knowlege - Abba hits, yes. Flags of the world, certainly. Porn? Absolutely not. But up shoots the chirpy Australian's hand. He gets it right. I told you he was good at initials. It's an expertise I would rather he had kept hidden.

He grabs his bicycle helmet and asks me to go outside with him. I cling to Rick like the aforementioned condensed milk but a darn sight less sweet. I seem to have momentarily stepped into a parallel universe where I am 17 again but this time round boys fancy me.

Rick gives me a lift the three hundred yards up the road to my house. 'That little guy was really chatting me up. I've never heard anything like it. He's got guts, I'll say that for him.'

'What was he saying?' He asks.

I repeat some of the conversation. 'I loved it. I just kept thinking, it's too ruddy late now laddie. I'm too old. Where were you when I was twenty?'

Rick, whose idea of a compliment is 'do you have any Tabasco?' when you've just offered him some of your pot roast, looks thoughtful.

'We'll he probably wasn't even born yet, was he?' He says.

And darn it. He's right.

I'm old. FFS.

glamorous Pedantic women. Lest you think I exaggerate

There is a point to this story but it may take some time to reveal itself...

Spot the Connection:
Commercial Chief of the Pedants and Jim 'Vic Reeves' Moir at book launch.

I couldn't bring myself to talk too much about the Vic Reeves Book Launch as, although it's tremendous fun to go out on an office soiree, frankly it's also a tad depressing stepping out with the all-female cast of Reservoir Dogs full of young blonde glamorous things
dressed in black, when you're bringing up the rear feeling like Steve Buscemi in a frock.

'Like the hat,' says Fran in a voice that hints otherwise when I arrive in my anti-frizz headware - aka a striped Beanie that once belonged to my younger son.

I feel oooooooooold. Sod it, I am old. It doesn't get any easier when you arrive at Paul Smith in Floral Street where the launch is being held and you are surrounded be skinny things in expensive clothes that you can't afford. And yes there are canapes, which just about makes up for it, but when you notice you are the only person eating them it takes the pleasure out of it a little bit. Meanwhile, everyone is scanning the room for slebs. I can't see anybody I recognise but then I don't get out much.

'That man's really staring at you?' says Sachna (slim, glamorous, young and - just for a change - brunette).

'No he isn't.'

'Yes he is. Maybe he thinks he knows you.'

'He doesn't. Believe me, he doesn't.' He's probably just wondering why the hell somebody brought their mother along. I pop another quail's egg into my mouth and decide to brave the rain rather than the Groucho where everyone else seems to be going for the after party, and I join the queue for the cloakroom.

I'm just rescuing my umbrella from a pool of water by the front door when one of the twenty-something twigs on the door informs me that there are goodie bags at the other exit.

Ooooh. How lovely. Pressies. When I was a restaurant critic it was one of the perks of the job - going to restaurant openings and leaving with freebie samples of chocolate and wine. I trot eagerly round to the exit and am given a glossy Paul Smith bag - probably the one and only time in my life I will own one.

I restrain myself from rifling through it in the street and wait until I am a sedate, but dripping, passenger on the tube, trying to look like one of those women who drop into Paul Smith for a clean blouse on the way home from work. There are a couple of catalogues full of expensive clothes and - wow - a cellophane wrapped box of what looks like... be still my beta-blocked heart - perfume. I am flushed with delight of the sort not usually felt for anything non comestible and reach into the bag to take out the very large package with excited fingers.

And then I see:



I mean, not one to look a gift bag in the mouth, and with all due respect and thanks to Paul Smith for the freebie, is it not bad enough to feel like a geriatric Liz McDonald lookalike without being given male cologne?

Was it the beanie hat that gave me away or just the tranny make-up?

I took it quite personally. Until I discovered that everyone got the same stuff and I wasn't singled out as a cross dresser.

Or at least that's what I'm telling myself.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

for those who need a few pointers

Taking the cloth...


Quarter to eight, Kemble station in the middle of Wiltshire or Gloucestershire, or Somewhereshire conveniently near Worcester's office which, confusingly, is about an hour's drive from Worcester. Confused? Me too. I just get in the car and eventually am dropped off like a hurriedly kissed parcel at this funny little station in a rural backwater where I huddle in the draughty cold until a train arrives that I can afford to ride.

The platform is oily with rain and deserted when I arrive so I huddle in the waiting room which contains two leather benches and an old man with a flat combover that falls over his eyes like a salute. He's wearing a Mustard cord jacket with leather patches and a Rupert the Bear style scarf. His name, I soon discover, is Godfrey. A tall woman with a worn face and aristocratic messy hair strides in like she's just walked off the hockey field in an over 70s match. She sits next to me and picks up a copy of Metro. We all three sit in a shivering silence broken only by the ticking of the clock, as slowly the station fills up with suits.

Then, as though there's been an invisible signal, Hockey Grandma lowers her newspaper and addresses Godfrey as if he had just that second arrived and not been sitting in silence for the last fifteen minutes crossing and uncrossing his legs.

'How are you Godfrey?'

'Well, Araminta, and you?' (Okay, yes I admit it, her name wasn't Araminta, but it should have been. And actually he wasn't called Godfrey either but I don't want to reveal his real name lest he is a retired high court judge and he sues me.)

'I haven't seen you for ages, have I? Mmm, not since, let me see, Richard's seventy fifth birthday party, was it?'

'Actually, no. I didn't go.'

'Rally. You didn't? How peculiah. I'm sure we've met somewhere recently. I know, it was at that concert. You did go to the concert, didn't you.'

'That's right, yes,'

'I thought I'd seen you there in the audience.'

'No, actually, I was playing. On stage.'

'Ah, of course you were. Mmm, now I remembah. You played American Pie. Lovely. It's such an anthem, isn't it.'

'Fraid so. I don't know what people are doing for anthems these days. The young don't have songs like this any more. Have you heard Jules Holland recently?'

'Jules who?'

'Dismal, short fellow, plays the piano late at night on the television...'

'Ah no. I rarely watch television.'

'Well you're not missing anything. Frightful. Simply frightful.'

The two fall silent.

'Playing much tennis these days?' She asks, eventually, when it's clear the subject of music has been exhausted. She speaks like Hyacinth Bucket with a slight tremble to her voice on the high notes, of which there are many trilling through her sentences.

'Not as often as I would like. I'm on the reserve list so they call on me when someone else drops out.'

'Well Arthur isn't playing any more, not since he had his triple bypass. You should get a regular game now.'

'I'm not always free. I have my book club every other Tuesday.'

'Oh Book Clubs!' She shudders like a horse being confronted by a particularly high jump. 'I don't want to discuss books in any sort of formal arrangement. Can't think of anything more horrid. I already read quite enough without being forced to plod through some awful book that someone else has chosen.'

'Quite right. We've read some stinkers, absolute stinkers. Can't think how any of them get published. The last book was frightful rubbish.' I strain my ears to hear the name of the offensive book but he doesn't mention it.

'Have you seen Arthur and Trudy lately?'

'No, I can't bear their hideous Pope dinners. Some of those medieval Popes were frightful so we do rather sweep those events under the table and give the Pope dinners a miss. Especially with Charles being Catholic. He does rather dread the whole thing.'

I'm transfixed at the idea of a Pope dinner. What on earth do they do? Dress up in purple? My mind flits helplessly back to Bergamo where I stood longingly in front of a shop window filled with religious paraphenalia with white Papal vestments as a centrepiece (Roman Catholics should probably stop reading this blog about now) toying with the idea of getting Worcester to buy them. He merely smiled nervously and backed away from the window. Darn it. But Pope dinners. Amazing. Maybe living in the country wouldn't be such a bad thing after all, I think.

'How's Caroline by the way?' Godfrey has changed the subject before I get too carried away.

'A bit creaky, but not bad considering she's thirteen now.'

Thirteen? I'm perplexed until I realise that Godfrey has just asked after Araminta's dog. My perspective on country life takes a swift nose dive.

'I rarely come to the station this early but it's terribly social isn't it?' Says Godfrey.

'Mm, yes, terribly social.'

'Indeed. People say it's terribly social but I hadn't realised just how social.'

'I usually take the earlier train, but that's not quite as social.'


'Well we really must see each other some time,' Godfrey harumphs.

'Quite, well yes, no doubt we will. We'll run into one another somewhere.' Araminta is not going to commit herself.

'Give my regards to Charles,' says Godfrey then takes his leave, striding off to the far end of the platform to await the delayed 9.18 to Paddington where he has announced he likes to sit in the quiet carriage. So he can work.

I watch him leave rather sadly, wondering if I could follow him and get more details about the dress code for the Pope dinners.


You see, I have just the book for it.

published by McSweeney's this month and distributed by Pedantic Press
Get your copy today and let me know when the dinner is...

Wednesday, 21 October 2009


After the show, Phill gave me some 'singer's tea' which he says is good for the voice, something he will need to safeguard as he's about to star as Edna in Hairspray next week, complete with heels and prosthetic breasts.

It was rather nice. I gave him a few bars of Barbara Dixon's another suitcase, another hall, as I sipped it.

'Yeah, Marion. I said it was singer's tea. I didn't say it could make you able to sing.'

Point taken.

The Buzz

At Buzzcocks, the only person in the audience balancing a book on my knee as I wait for the show to start taping.

Phill walks on to the stage with Noel Fielding to whoops and cheers and the lights go down, as does Spooner, into my handbag with my mobile phone. Noel is wearing an Icelandic jumper in a colour of terrier grey which must, surely, be as uncomfortable as it looks. I do know this to be true as I once, not only owned a sweater of a similar type, but actually knitted one as a stop smoking remedy a couple of decades ago.

It kept my hands busy.

The one I knitted, however, was a vivid blue with red and white patterns draped around the yolk and it was given as a present to my then fiance. Poor soul. You would think he would have seen the writing in the yarn. It was almost Grimmlike - you know - as in one of those fairy stories where the heroine has to weave a cloak out of nettles and throw it over the neck of the wild swan to turn him back into a prince, except that in my case it entrapped the previously footloose and fancy free prince and turned him into a domesticated old turkey for twenty five years until he managed to completely unravel himself. There's a picture of him gamely wearing it, looking terrified, overstuffed and startled, exactly like Colin Firth in the Bridget Jones Christmas Party scene, except shorter. Worcester better watch out if I ever appear brandishing a pair of knitting needles.

Anyway, I digress. Roll the camera back to Noel Fielding hunched on stage like a mangy dog with eyeliner surely sweating under the studio lights. I can't understand why a) he's wearing it, and b) he isn't scratching himself with a silver high-heeled hind leg. The guests appear. I'm so not a hip and happening person (a fact to which, had you not already guessed, the previous sentence would have alerted you) and I so I don't really know any of them. One is a blonde with hair falling over her face and a lot of black eye make up, and another is a comedian I haven't heard of. The third is a member of Spinal Tap and also does the voices for, amongst others, Mr Burns in The Simpsons so I have, at least, heard him, if not of him. He is also possibly the closest person to my age in the whole theatre (well Phill is 47 so not quite the only person). The final guest is Jameliah, and I had to Google the spelling of her name so it's safe to say I have only the vaguest idea of her importance in the musical universe. Claudia Winkleman, possibly my least favourite television presenter, is centre stage in the chair. I haven't liked her ever since I appeared on a dismal regional show she presented with George Fake Tan Hamilton III. It was, readers ( or let's be realistic here, reader), a high moment in television broadcasting history for all three of us. Claudia is also sporting the panda-eyed, my husband beats me, look. There seems to be something of a theme going on here.

The show kicks off. Or at least stumbles off at random tangents that have absolutely nothing to do with the questions. Jamelia tells us about filming with Vinnie Jones in Hungary. The chap from Spinal Tap speaks in the voice of Mr Burns but otherwise struggles to be either funny or witty or even, apparently, alive. Little Boots, the floppy haired, black-eyed Blonde hides her personality under her fringe and says nothing. Jamelia is gorgeous, adorably quirky and irreverent, Phill is as Phillish witty as ever and Noel looks like someone who should be sitting on the street holding an upside down sign asking for spare change. The biggest surprise, however, is Claudia who, though I hate to say it, is actually quite likeable. And then finally, it's the line-up.

This is the part of the show I don't get. Why on earth would you want to trot yourself onto a stage holding a number to remind a world that has forgotten you, just how forgettable you truly are, while three smart-arse gits on a panel game sit and make personal jibes about your appearance? Is any 'new single' really worth the humiliation? Apparently so, since they churn it out week after week.

This time it's a rapper. Or something with black guys in hoodies. What do I know, I'm fifty ffs? They show the video and on come the mugs. I can immediately tell it's No 3 because he looks nervous and sullen while the others just look sullen. Claudia asks Noel's team to chose and Jamelia excuses herself. 'I'm going to have to sit this one out,' she says. 'As I actually know him.'

'Have you worked with him before?' Asks Claudia, cheerily.

'No, he tried to sell a story on me to the papers.' Says Jamelia.

Gulp. Audience-wide sharp intake of breath.

'Yeah, but I mean, I like to think there's some justice in the world because all these years later and look, I'm on the panel and he's in the line up.' She snaps her fingers.

Ah. Can't you just see the panic in the producer's eyes at this point as they realise that of all the people with new singles in all the world they have inadvertently chosen the one wannabe artist who has tried to sell a story to the press about one of the panelists.

Televisual gold.

We're publishing Sod's Law by Sam Leith at Pedantic next month. This would be one for the book.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Post Mortem

On the way back from the airport we're driving up the M5 congratulating ourselves on how well our weekend went.

'...especially considering that for all you know, you could have gone away with an axe murderer.' Worcester says, laughing.

'So, is this the way you drive home from work every day?' I ask.

'Yes, and that's where they found that body of the woman in the plastic bag,' he adds as we swish past a police crime scene where they have set up a couple of porta-cabins surrounded by yellow tape.

There is a very, very long pause.

Full disclosure

This is modern life:

More than twenty-five years later than almost everyone else I know, I have finally entered the world of the Bridget Jones mini-break, except that I am playing the part of Bridget after Mr Darcy has left to pursue other interests from his small bachelor flat in Shepherd's bush.

So this is how I come to find myself sipping coffee on the terrace of a lakeside cafe in Bellagio opposite a man who is not my husband with the prefix ex, but who is instead, I suddenly realise, almost a total stranger of whom I do indeed have extensive biblical knowledge, but otherwise know almost nothing about. We've been seeing each other for almost six months but since we live a hundred miles apart and only manage to meet up every few weeks, we have not, until now, spent longer than 48 hours in each other's company.

As the waiter takes our order we are now on hour 36 and will soon enter uncharted territory.

What will we say to each other? Will there be awkward silences? Chance, I see him thinking, would be a fine thing, as I babble on like I'm being paid by the word. I've been on my best behaviour for months, and even that hasn't softened him much. How will I keep it up? He's a self-confessed control freak and has already spoken ominously about itineraries and timetables. Is his idea of fun to recite great chunks of the guide book to me while we are standing in a public square? (Indeed it is, but since I don't have my glasses on and can't see the print - while not exactly John Donne in the bath - this is nevertheless an endearing quality.) Should I hide my aversion to heights (possibly before we've climbed a bell tower with no handrail that teeters on top of a medieval hillside town)? What happens if we quarrel? What if he's a member of the National Front. Or the Countryside Alliance?

'So where do you stand on hunting?' he suddenly asks as I stir sugar into my coffee in a vain attempt to sweeten my tongue.

Someone should really write a user's handbook for previously owned men so that subsequent partners know how to negotiate the time when you are vertical and ambulatory instead of merely amatory, and what topics can be safely discussed when polite conversation is required. It would also help to know such things as a love of blood sports, well in advance.

He's wearing a quilted jacket, stout shoes and a scarf wound round his neck like he's been styled for the Boden Catalogue. Everything I'm wearing is stout. I'm in jeans and a long, large, knitted coat into which I've tucked a pashmina that I've draped over my head hijab style. I keep catching sight of myself in shop windows and thinking I look like a Muslim matron with an aversion to the cold. And it is cold. There's an icy wind blowing off Lake Como, despite the cloudless blue sky that dutifully accessorises the Mediterranean scenery, and white caps tip the jagged waves.

We smile at each other, huddled into our respective sensible coats and he reaches across the table and takes my hand. 'I want to give you my sister's telephone number,' he says, confidingly, and the smile that has been beaming from my face all weekend, widens. This is surely one of the milestones of grown-up courtship. Forget meeting the parents (who are in any case often dead) or the children (you have to meet them because otherwise you don't get to set foot in the bedroom since they are usually blocking the entrance playing Grand Theft Auto) - it's the being invited to befriend the siblings that bestows on one the public seal of approval. I've already met and immediately liked the sister, so much so that I made an early request that I should be allowed to keep her if we break up, so I'm delighted to be invited to take her telephone number. Maybe he's going to suggest I get in touch with her and meet her for coffee one of these days.

'Yes, you really ought to have it,' He adds.

I get out my mobile. 'Why?' I ask cheerfully, seeing family get-togethers and Sunday lunches and tennis parties stretching off into the future (I can't play tennis, but nevertheless)...

'Just in case something happens to me.' He answers. 'I woke in the night and it occurred to me that if I had a heart attack and pegged it you wouldn't know who to contact.'

Ah, romantic, middle-aged love, or what? And so we sit there with our respective phones keying in the numbers of people to contact in case of an emergency. I give him my ex husband's cell phone.

'There's so much we don't know about each other,' he says, by way of explanation.

'That's true, ' I agree and look up at the yellow stucco of the hotel on the shores of the lake next to the cafe where we are seated, whose balconies overhang the the terrace. 'For instance, do you see the Hotel Metropole, just over there?' I ask.

'Yes?' His eyes turn dutifully upwards following mine to the the third balcony on the second floor.

'That's where I stayed for my honeymoon.'

Monday, 5 October 2009

Something about the fact that I was the only person in the whole of the Globe theatre on a cold, wet Autumn evening to be sitting outdoors feeling too warm to wear a coat should have alerted me to the fact that I was ill.