Saturday 16 August 2008

The great weight loss illusion

Clueless; 10 units of alcohol yesterday if there were, as I suspect, two in each of the Mojitos I sucked greedily down my neck before dinner; 1,268; Kensington Gore.

The day started as it clearly meant to go on, when a defective shower head led to me completely flooding the bathroom while attempting my morning ablutions. Then, because I had refused to allow the hotel receptionist to authorize a sum for “extras” on my credit card when checking in, I was compelled to stump up in advance before we were allowed into breakfast. This was a total rip-off for those like the LTCB who only wanted a high-carb Continental snack in preparation for their morning run, but something of a bargain for those prepared to pay the measly £2.50 supplement for access to the full English self-service counter. Particularly if they adopted the same determined approach as the American gentleman in the line in front of me, who appeared to be a member of the Village People (not the Red Indian), and who carefully constructed on his plate a towering pile of food which looked uncannily like the mountain modelled out of trash in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

We (the LTCB and I, not the man from the Village People, who almost certainly went back for seconds) then went out to the shops in Kensington High Street. Here I did something I had not done for more than 20 years, and long ago swore I would never do again on the grounds of both age and obesity. I bought a pair of blue jeans. Albeit only after I had bought a pair of black jeans to get my mind adjusted to the concept. I also acquired various other things which the LTCB thought would improve my image, including a new belt, polo shirt, cotton sweater, T-shirt and two jackets. Under cover of this spree, the LTCB treated herself to a new Little Black Dress. The shop manager spotted me hanging around outside the ladies’ changing rooms and naturally identified me as an elderly pervert who needed to be moved swiftly along; but luckily the LTCB emerged to request assistance in doing up a zip as I was explaining that I was just waiting for my girlfriend, lending a bit of credence to my implausible story. She needed my help to unzip the dress, too, but bought it in spite of this evident technical failing. I reflected that this at least seemed to augur well for the future of our relationship, as she will never be able to wear the thing if she dumps me.

Unless she finds another man who is capable of pulling a zip. Damn. I had not thought it through, yet again.

I had gone to some trouble to find the LTCB a suitable six mile running route on the roads around the hotel, using a website set up by masochists who enjoy doing that sort of thing. But she seemed very nervous about actually setting off on it, because of her notoriously poor sense of direction. I decided that I could not muster any convincing argument against that, so she went off to simulate a six mile run on the treadmill in the hotel’s health club instead. I meanwhile went for a nostalgic walk around the Kensington streets I remembered from my days living in Cromwell Road in the 1980s, looking for a surviving old-fashioned pub. I eventually found one with a beer garden, where I had a nice pint of Black Sheep and a glass full of Bombay mix (packets are so passé, darling, haven’t you heard?)

I returned to the hotel just as our room was being cleaned, shortly after which an inspector with a clipboard called to check that everything was in order. I drew his attention to the defective shower head and he promised to send someone up to sort it out. With impressive promptness, a man with a spanner turned up to fix it approximately ten seconds after the LTCB had returned from her gym session and removed all her clothes with a view to having a shower. It is the nearest I have ever been to participating in a classic porn film scenario, albeit probably only as a spectator. But the plot did not develop as convention demands; the LTCB swiftly and decently wrapped herself in a large towel and the man used his spanner to fix the shower then buggered off, enabling the LTCB to make full use of the en suite facilities without occasioning a further Biblical inundation.

We had a very late lunch – or a very early supper – in a Lebanese restaurant on Kensington Church Street, then headed to the Royal Albert Hall for this evening’s Prom. By some massive cultural oversight, I had only ever set foot in the Albert Hall once before, and that was for the briefest of visits many years ago, to apologize to my disgruntled hosts for the fact that I felt too ill to sit through that night’s Prom. So this was my first real exposure to the place and I must say that it will be absolutely lovely when it is finished, and they have equipped it with some decent bars and an adequate number of lavatories. Oh, and completely reconfigured it so that the acoustics are a bit less disappointing.

The Prom was a performance of Belshazzar, one of Handel’s flops. It would be fair to say that one did not come out of it humming any of the tunes, but it was perfectly good listening and the story of the evil Babylonian king and his defeat by the Persian hero Cyrus could hardly have been more appropriate for the LTCB. The chorus sounded absolutely magnificent and it is always a treat to see Sir Charles Mackerras, still waving his arms around to good effect at almost 82. It was also was interesting to discover that Scary Spice is now playing double bass in the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment. Zig a zig ah, as they say.

After the show we walked with our kind hosts to a pub which felt like it was several miles away, but which they claimed was the nearest to the Albert Hall. Given that the only customers who were not holding Proms programmes were members of the orchestra or chorus, I guess they were probably telling the truth. It emerged in the course of our conversation that our hosts are getting married. To each other, which is handy given that they have just bought a house together. The announcement was dropped into the conversation so casually that I missed it and had to ask for the tape to be rewound so that I could hear it again. They both looked touchingly happy and, for the first time in years, I was able to greet an announcement of this sort with genuine, heartfelt pleasure, untainted by the smallest pang of jealousy. I have the LTCB to thank for that, as for much else. Not least the fact that wearing some clothes which actually fit me, for the first time in months, helps to convey the impression that I am continuing to lose a great deal of weight, when in fact I have done no such thing since the day I met her.

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