Sunday 1 January  

Sunday 1 January

9st 3 (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.

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 trolley.”

“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.”

Oh God. Not another strangely dressed opera freak with bushy hair burgeoning from a side-parting. “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.”

a) When and why did Mrs. Jones phone Bridget?

b) How did Bridget feel about the call? How did she know that her mother was plotting something?

c) What else do we learn about Bridget and her family from this extract?


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