Friday 28 March 2008

Feeling sick and seeing red

My weight is not top of my list of worries today; I imbibed a mere 7.0 units of alcohol at lunch yesterday (probably) and stuck to Diet Coke and water in the evening; there are 1,407 days to go; and the key word for the day is Rufus. Or maybe Rufous, if we want to be pedantic.

The date that appears on top of this entry is not a particularly good guide to when I wrote it; things are currently running seven days late, a delay which might make even National Express East Coast’s director of operations pause to scratch himself thoughtfully. The easy thing to do would be just to skip a week and say “I’ve not been well”, in the way that mediaeval mapmakers thought “Oh sod it” and left blank patches inscribed “Here be dragons” so that no-one would be likely to go and check up on what they’d missed out. But illness would not be the whole truth, and I feel I should stick to my discipline of making some comment on every day that passes (or, in my case, screeches past). After all, it’s worked a treat up to now in maintaining my fragile morale and driving forward a surprisingly successful weight loss campaign. Even though the latter probably hasn’t exactly prospered while I’ve been in London for the last few days.

I started feeling really ill at lunchtime. Halfway through my fishcake, it was, which was a bit of a bugger as I simply couldn’t finish it and the waitress was moved to ask whether it had been all right. I nodded vigorously and said, “It’s not you, it’s me”, for all the world like a man ending a relationship. But they never look like they believe you, do they? Even though, in the present instance, I was eating in a restaurant that is positively legendary for its ability to transform fish and potatoes into something delicious. Visions of an angry, cleaver-wielding chef storming out of the kitchen to confront me sprang ineluctably to mind. At least he could not take his revenge in more traditional ways, as I could not face eating anything else. Mind you, the whiteish sauce drizzled on my guest’s treacle tart did look slightly odd, now I come to think of it.

I was having lunch with my former PA. I had not seen her for five years and she had not aged a day. In fact, she’d got younger as she’d reverted to a hairstyle quite similar to the one she’d favoured when we first met 21 years ago. If only she’d also worn a striped shirt with a turned-up collar, and a single string of pearls, it would have taken me right back. She was a bit peeved because she’d had her hair done specially for the occasion, and her Bishop’s Stortford hairdresser had reacted to the news that she was off to lunch in one of London’s swankier restaurants with a yawn and the words, “Oh yeah, I had lunch there yesterday”.

We exchanged reminiscences of former colleagues, and I was able to shock her with the scarcely believable story of how one of our former clients had managed to burn himself to a crisp by pouring petrol on a bonfire and then wandering off to conduct a lengthy search for some matches to light it with. A strange thing for anyone to do if they possessed even the faintest hint of intelligence. Quite extraordinary behaviour in the former chief executive of an oil and gas company.

Then she got out the pictures of her children. They all had red hair. This seemed most unfair, just on the law of averages, given that their mother is blonde, and I don’t mean “strawberry blonde”, either. What on earth do you say? “Oh well, at least the boys will be able to look forward to going bald, and not many men have that privilege”? Or “They can do wonders with wigs these days, you know” for the little girl? I have the sort of face that always betrays my feelings. I don’t think I acquitted myself very well.

I caught a train north at 6.20 after negotiating a blockade of the platform by a phalanx of ticket inspectors, who were holding everyone up and turning quite a few people away. Their presence must have deterred even more travellers, since the train was remarkably empty, and the last time I caught this particular service it was packed. I wonder where they all went instead?

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