Oh God. Not another strangely dressed opera freak with bushy hair burgeoning from a side-part. "Mum, I've told you. I don't need to be fixed up with ..."
"Now come along, darling. Una and Geoffrey have been holding the New Year buffet since you were running round the lawn with no clothes on! Of course you're going to come. And you'll be able to use your new suitcase."
11:45 p.m. Ugh. First day of New Year has been day of horror. Cannot quite believe I am once again starting the year in a single bed in my parents' house. It is too humiliating at my age. I wonder if they'll smell it if I have a fag out of the window. Having skulked at home all day, hoping hangover would clear, I eventually gave up and set off for the Turkey Curry Buffet far too late. When I got to the Alconburys' and rang their entire-tune-of-town-hall-clock-style doorbell I was still in a strange world of my own--nauseous, vile-headed, acidic. I was also suffering from road-rage residue after inadvertently getting on to the M6 instead of the M1 and having to drive halfway to Birmingham before I could find anywhere to turn round. I was so furious I kept jamming my foot down to the floor on the accelerator pedal to give vent to my feelings, which is very dangerous. I watched resignedly as Una Alconbury's form--intriguingly deformed through the ripply glass door--bore down on me in a fuchsia two-piece.
"Bridget! We'd almost given you up for lost! Happy New Year! Just about to start without you."
She seemed to manage to kiss me, get my coat off, hang it over the banister, wipe her lipstick off my cheek and make me feel incredibly guilty all in one movement, while I leaned against the ornament shelf for support.
"Sorry. I got lost."
"Lost? Durr! What are we going to do with you? Come on in!"
She led me through the frosted-glass doors into the lounge, shouting, "She got lost, everyone!"
"Bridget! Happy New Year!" said Geoffrey Alconbury, clad in a yellow diamond-patterned sweater. He did a jokey Bob Hope step then gave me the sort of hug which Boots would send straight to the police station.
"Hahumph," he said, going red in the face and pulling his trousers up by the waistband. "Which junction did you come off at?"
"Junction nineteen, but there was a diversion ..."
"Junction nineteen! Una, she came off at Junction nineteen! You've added an hour to your journey before you even started. Come on, let's get you a drink. How's your love life, anyway?"
Oh God. Why can't married people understand that this is no longer a polite question to ask? We wouldn't rush up to them and roar, "How's your marriage going? Still having sex?" Everyone knows that dating in your thirties is not the happy-go-lucky free-for-all it was when you were twenty-two and that the honest answer is more likely to be, "Actually, last night my married lover appeared wearing suspenders and a darling little Angora crop-top, told me he was gay/a sex addict/a narcotic addict/a commitment phobic and beat me up with a dildo," than, "Super, thanks."
Not being a natural liar, I ended up mumbling shamefacedly to Geoffrey, "Fine," at which point he boomed, "So you still haven't got a feller!"
"Bridget! What are we going to do with you!" said Una. "You career girls! I don't know! Can't put it off forever, you know. Tick-tock-tick-tock."
"Yes. How does a woman manage to get to your age without being married?" roared Brian Enderby (married to Mavis, used to be president of the Rotary in Kettering), waving his sherry in the air. Fortunately my dad rescued me.
"I'm very pleased to see you, Bridget," he said, taking my arm. "Your mother has the entire Northamptonshire constabulary poised to comb the county with toothbrushes for your dismembered remains. Come and demonstrate your presence so I can start enjoying myself. How's the be-wheeled suitcase?"
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