Thursday 3 January 2008

Getting back on a bike before I lose my nerve

Weight this morning: 15st 4lbs. Alcohol units consumed yesterday: zero. Days left until death: 1,492 (barring accidents or homicide, obviously). Morale: surprisingly high, in the circumstances. I’ve been writing all day, except when I went out in the snow for a calorie-burning walk with the dog, and I’ve convinced myself that I’m feeling better already for the much healthier lifestyle I’ve been pursuing for, ooh, almost 48 hours.

Amazing numbers of people have been ringing me up to invite me out to lunch. It was only after today’s third call that I finally twigged that they’d all read The Journal and thought “Great – let’s take the fat, drunken bastard out now when he’ll only sting us for a glass of water and a lettuce leaf.” Either that, or they are all in the pay of my Machiavellian rival.

I’m probably the world’s least competitive male. Whenever I have faced a challenge for anything in life, I’ve always been inclined to think that, if it’s so important to the other fellow, he might as well have it. Still, while it goes against my nature, I know I’ve now got to psych myself up and use this ludicrous challenge to shift my disgusting surplus pounds.

Up to now, I had been relying on the prospect of making myself more attractive to women to provide the requisite incentive. However, I have slowly come to realize that the sort of women who find people like me attractive are actually completely unfazed by obesity; while the sort of women I find attractive would never feel the same way about me in a million years, even if I lost half my body weight and dyed my grey hair a fetching shade of Grecian 2000 black.

Nevertheless, I’ve already started thinking that I might have another crack at the old dating game once I’ve got the weight off. Perhaps the Internet is the way forward. I occasionally read the endless small ads in the quality papers and pay a small fortune on a premium rate phone line to ring up and leave a message for a promising sounding advertiser. To date not a single one of them has ever bothered to return my call.

The last time I had a really serious go at finding a life partner was about a decade ago when I joined the books of a dating agency. I knew one person who had gained a lovely wife through the self-same organization, so it seemed superficially promising. It offered a menu of personal introductions and social events. The introductions all proved to be to women who were divorced because they were high-powered careerists, vastly more successful than their ex-husbands and scarcely ever at home. Their PAs would ring with apologies more often than I ever actually got to meet one.

The first social event I attended seemed very promising indeed. I walked into a large private room in a restaurant on the Fulham Road, and made a bee-line for the group of beautiful young women standing chatting to each other in a corner. Halfway there, the owner of the agency intercepted me and re-directed me to the group of short, fat, ugly, balding, old Blokes talking to a similar number of short, fat, ugly, old women wearing wigs. I made periodic efforts to “circulate”, but all to no avail. Anyone who recalls the frat house party in National Lampoon’s Animal House will be able to picture exactly what I mean.

I resolved never to go back to one of these functions, but the woman in charge was very persuasive and assured me that she had lined up my dream woman: we had absolutely everything in common and I was guaranteed to adore her. So I found myself sitting down to dinner opposite a very fierce Jewish lady who can be described in one word: short. Stature, length of hair, manner of speaking: short covers the lot. She provided, at best, one syllable answers to any question I put to her. The horror of the evening is seared so vividly on my memory that I can still recall, word for word, the longest reply she gave me.

It was in answer to the question of where she had gone to university, as I struggled to identify what we were supposed to have in common. She replied: “It was a very long time ago and I really can’t see what that has to do with anything.” Somehow I restrained myself from quipping “Not Oxford or Cambridge, then.”

I finally worked out that we both went to a lot of opera (though our tastes were widely divergent) and were both trustees of musical charities. And that was it.

At the end of the evening, the lady in charge buttonholed me to ask how we had got on. “Well,” I said, “she is undoubtedly the rudest woman I have ever met, completely lacking in even the most elementary social skills”.

“Exactly,” beamed Cheryl the matchmaker. “You have absolutely everything in common.”

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