Diary

Did you feel that? The earth shook. There it goes again: a palpable tremor, probably a 3 or 4 on the Richter scale. The mini-quakes are being caused by several hundred thousand very fat Americans simultaneously jumping for joy, and they have been leaping around that way since last week's announcement of a new drug that has made fat mice painfully thin. The very idea of melting fat, no need to exercise beyond forking a slice of banana cream pie, just a quick fix of mouse magic and adieu avoirdupois! All America rejoiceth. Praise the Lord and pass the crisps and salsa!

My old mum just rang from the States and she tells me that the svelte mice knocked OJ Simpson right off prime time last week, in spite of the fact that the drug has not even been tested on human beings and probably never will be.

Reports are that the fat mice used in the slimming experiments had a genetic predisposition to obesity: an "ob gene". Now, I travel a lot and generally travel rough, so I've seen more vermin in my time than most nice girls ever will. Of all the mice I've run into - field mice, house mice, tame white mice, chirpy London mice, Irish mice (often pink), enigmatic Oriental mice - I have never, ever, not once, seen a fat mouse.

So before we throw will-power out of the window behind chastity, patience, thrift and other defunct virtues, we need to know a whole lot more about those tubby rodents. Like, we should be told precisely what cruel and unnatural things the brutes in white coats did to the poor little buggers that made them too fat to waddle. Then, whatever it was, all those Americans can stop doing it to themselves.

On Sunday, my old mate and Soho neighbour Jeffrey Bernard asked me out for a lunchtime drink. Jeff has been in a wheelchair for some time now, having lost his right leg after an accident, the longest accident on record: nearly 60 years of accidental boozing and heavy smoking. I had never pushed a wheelchair before. It was scary, reminiscent of the first time I took my son out in his pram, only much more perilous.

For a start, the wheelchair is unexpectedly sensitive, it registers every bump. And there is no seatbelt, so Jeff, who was never a very big man and is now a leg's weight less, threatened to pitch forward at every crack in the pavement. The balance of the chair is wonky, or so it seemed to me. Kerbs have to be descended backwards and then the whole contraption turned around nose first into traffic, as if it were a pram or pushchair.

None of the husky lads (or lasses) sunning their bald pates and nipple rings outside the cafes of Old Compton Street offered to give me a hand getting the wheelchair over rough spots. At least, when we finally arrived at the Coach and Horses, it was cool and empty inside, just the pair of us and a few other old regulars: everyone of no note whatsoever was drinking al fresco.

"They're going to let children into pubs soon, I hear," someone said.

"What kind of depraved 13-year-old would want to go into a pub?" asked the friendly barman.

"I did," said Jeff.

The talk drifted, as pub talk always will, to absent friends: one with cirrhosis, another with emphysema, a third recovering from cancer of the larynx. Meanwhile, I was sticking dutifully to disgusting designer water and allowed myself a large vodka only after one of the regulars assured me he was not over the limit and would be well able to wheel Jeff's chair home.

Just a few hours ago, someone I know in this neighbourhood told me about the death a little while ago of a regular from the pub. I can't name her because she wouldn't have wanted me to; I didn't visit her in hospital for the same reason. Irascibility is not uncommon among regulars, you know, nor among pretty women whose looks faded faster than their expectations. Indeed, she was irascible. And even though her shit-list could have peopled a middle-sized town, I think I was probably near the top of it. She did not merely dislike me; she hated me. I miss her, and I will continue to miss her. Hatred is something, isn't it? I mean, it's better than nothing. It requires passion and it stays in the heart quite like love.

The last time mother rang from the States, I started to complain to her about problems with my computer. And then, recollecting that she is, after all, 86 and understandably technophobic, I apologised. "Don't worry, dear," she said. "You go right ahead. I understand you. I understand you imperfectly well."

The same mother not long ago told me that in her retirement community in Princeton there lives a former prostitute, now in her seventies but still trading her ply, as it were. "Aural sex," said mother. "The old men talk: she listens."

"What dreadful hot weather we have! It keeps one in a continual state of Inelegance."

I wish I'd said that. But then, I wish I'd said practically everything Jane Austen said first. "A continual state of Inelegance ..." The English are an aestivating people, I think, meant by nature to sleep through the summer as bears hibernate in winter. At the first hot breeze, Londoners grow negligent in general, and especially about what they wear, if indeed they bother to wear anything much at all. Thirty years ago this week, when I had just arrived here, I was riding on top of the No 19 bus one hot morning, and as we were pulling up to Hyde Park Corner, a big tree brushed my window. Hanging in its branches I saw a tightly furled black umbrella and a bowler hat, articles of male apparel lay on the grass and a few paces away from the trunk of the tree was a middle-aged man. He stood with his head back and his pale arms stretched wide as if to embrace the sun; he was up to his bare backside in high, dry summer grass. I looked around at my fellow passengers. A young woman across the aisle winked at me; the rest of them were paying him not the slightest bit of attention.

It was in that moment I knew, don't ask me why, that London was my spiritual home.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
John Rees-Evans is standing for Ukip in Cardiff South and Penarth
news
Arts and Entertainment
Bianca Miller and Katie Bulmer-Cooke are scrutinised by Lord Sugar's aide Nick Hewer on The Apprentice final
tvBut Bianca Miller has taken on board his comments over pricing
Life and Style
Approaching sale shopping in a smart way means that you’ll get the most out of your money
life + styleSales shopping tips and tricks from the experts
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
News
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
News
in picturesWounded and mangy husky puppy rescued from dump
Sport
David Silva, Andy Carroll, Arsene Wenger and Radamel Falcao
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£20000 - £21000 per annum: The Jenrick Group: This high quality manufacturer o...

The Jenrick Group: Electrical Maintenance Engineer

£30000 - £35000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Electrical ...

Recruitment Genius: Photo Booth Host

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This company offers London's best photo booth ...

Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers



£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Domestic Gas Service Engineers ...

Day In a Page

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'