An Exceptionally Bad Start

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 5424.

Food consumed today:
2 pkts Emmenthal cheese slices
14 cold new potatoes
2 Bloody Marys (count as food as contain Worcester sauce and tomatoes)
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 glacé 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 Christmas.”

“Christmas?”

“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 on navy?”

“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 …”

“Mum …”

“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.”

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