Sunday 2 April

9st 3, cigarettes 10, alcohol units 3, calories 1,878

Yesterday I received two unsettling and unprecedented messages on my answerphone: one from my father announcing he was coming down to London to take me out to lunch today, and not to tell Mum; another from Mum announcing she was bringing a salmon round for lunch today and not to tell Dad.

Recent signs all point to my becoming the tragic victim of a broken home. But today, in denial, I am clutching at straws. Maybe it was just an April Fool. Maybe over-exposure to Noel Edmonds has finally turned them into practical jokers. Perhaps my mother will arrive with a live salmon flipping skittishly on a lead and announce that she is leaving Dad for it. Maybe Dad will appear hanging upside down outside the window dressed as a morris dancer, crash in and start hitting Mum over the head with a sheep's bladder; or suddenly fall face downwards out of the airing cupboard with a plastic knife stuck in his back.

Oh God, I can't have them both arriving here at the same time. It is too Brian Rix for words. In desperation, I pick up the phone and dial my brother's number only to get one of his hilarious answerphone messages: the sound of running water and my brother pretending to be Ground Control in Houston, then a toilet flushing and his pathetic girlfriend tittering in the background. The only thing which can possibly get things back on course is a bloody mary.


Just beforenoon Mum called. "Let him come," she said. "Let him bloody well have his own way as usual." (My Mum does not swear. She says things like "ruddy" and "Oh my godfathers".) "I'll be all right on my bloody own. I'll just clean the house like Germaine sodding Gear and the Invisible Woman." (Could she possibly, conceivably, have been drunk? My Mum has drunk nothing but a single cream sherry on a Sunday night since 1952, when she got slightly tipsy on a pint of cider at Mavis Enderby's 21st.)

"Mum, no. Couldn't we all talk this through together over lunch?" I trilled, as if this were Sleepless in Seattle and lunch was going to end up with Mum and Dad holding hands and me winking cutely at the camera, wearing a luminous rucksack.

"Just you wait," she said darkly. "You'll find out what men are like."

"But Mum, I already ..." I began.

"I'm going out, darling," she said. "I'm going out, to get laid."

At 2 o'clock Dad arrived at the door with a neatly folded copy of the Sunday Telegraph. As he sat down on the sofa, his face suddenly crumpled and big tears started to splosh out of his eyes.

"She's been like this since she went to Albufeira with Una Alconbury and Geoffrey Coles's wife, Audrey," he sobbed, trying to rub the tears off his cheek with his fist. "When she got back she started saying she wanted to be paid for doing the housework, and she'd wasted her life being our slave [Our slave? I knew it. This is all my fault. If I was a better person, Mum would not have stopped loving Dad.] and ... and ..." he collapsed in monster sobs.

"And what, Dad?"

"She said I thought the clitoris was something out of Geoffrey Coles's lepidoptery collection."

Monday 11 April

9st 1, cigarettes 0 (spiritual enrichment removes need to smoke: massive breakthrough), alcohol units 5, calories 2,845.

Though heartbroken by my parents' distress, I have to admit parallel and shameful feelings of smugness over my new role as carer and, though I say it myself, wise counsellor this week. It is so long since I have done anything at all for anyone else that it is a totally new and heady sensation. This is what has been missing in my life. I am having fantasies about becoming a Samaritan or Sunday schoolteacher, making soup for the homeless (or, as my friend Tom suggested, darling little portions of pesto sauce) or even retraining as a doctor.

Maybe going out with a doctor would be better still, both sexually and spiritually fulfilling. I even began to wonder about putting an ad in the lonely hearts column of the Lancet. I could take his messages, tell patients wanting night visits to bugger off, cook him little goat's cheese souffls, then end up in a foul mood with him when I am 60 like Mum.

Yesterday I opened my News of the World and realised that becoming a Sunday schoolteacher might massively improve not so much my spirit as my sexual allure, giving me novelty value, like a stripping nun, or barrister in suspenders. Mind you, THREE IN MP'S BED SCANDAL Sunday schoolteacher Odette Nightingale (why, oh why, aren't I called Nightingale?) seems an odd sort of bird or fish to me. Who, when visiting a male friend of their lover, goes to the bathroom to "tidy up"? Would she have gone on to run the vacuum round, too, if she hadn't become distracted? And who, on emerging from the bathroom to find two men naked in bed, decides the polite thing to do is get inbetween them? And how come (this was Tom's point), when there are so many newspaper pictures of Odette in differently hideous A-line strappy nylon dresses, she is wearing the same pair of beige elasticated sling backs in each one? Hasn't she even heard of the word "accessorise"? As Dad said on the phone (fourth call) at 4am, "If this is what they're teaching them in Sunday School these days, it's no wonder you're mother is acting peculiar."