It's over when the fat lady shows her pins

The Mona Lisa doesn't have legs, I know, but if she had I bet they would be fat

Ah, the perfidy of men - young men especially, one young Frenchman in particular. Remember Jean Jacques the student from Pau of whom I wrote earlier this summer? He left France heartbroken after a tragic love affair with Mimi from Cambodia, exchanging a promising medical career for a bedsit in Uxbridge and an uncertain future as a French tutor. The episode concluded with JJ flying to Tokyo six months later where, retaining his partiality for Oriental maidens, he was to be married to one Akiko, whom he had met in the National Gallery on the penultimate day of her package tour to London.

Ah, the perfidy of men - young men especially, one young Frenchman in particular. Remember Jean Jacques the student from Pau of whom I wrote earlier this summer? He left France heartbroken after a tragic love affair with Mimi from Cambodia, exchanging a promising medical career for a bedsit in Uxbridge and an uncertain future as a French tutor. The episode concluded with JJ flying to Tokyo six months later where, retaining his partiality for Oriental maidens, he was to be married to one Akiko, whom he had met in the National Gallery on the penultimate day of her package tour to London.

Naturally when he told me of his intentions - he came every Monday morning for an hour's conversation; he talked, I listened - I advised caution. None, I told him (or at least I think I told him, my French is sketchy) believes in good old-fashioned romance more passionately than I; but a snatched conversation on a bench in front of Monet's Water Lilies was not a sound foundation on which to build a lifelong union.

" Mais c'etait un coup de foudre," cried JJ. Maybe, I said, but love at first sight only works if you have time to get to know each other. But he did know her, he said, they wrote to each other every day, laying bare their souls. She kept his letters under her pillow and read them every night, though by now they were almost illegible, so smudged was the ink with her tears. "Why was she crying?" I said. "With joy," replied JJ smugly.

In the end I relented. I gave him my blessing, a reference, a copy of A Tale of Two Cities and a farewell kiss. That was in July. In the middle of August I had a postcard from Tokyo of cherry trees. Japan was interesting, wrote JJ, he was looking for a job. At the end of August I had another postcard from Tokyo of a long winding road disappearing into hills. "My life is like this road," it said. "Back in September."

OK what happened? I asked the prodigal last Monday. "What do you mean?" he said sheepishly. "You know perfectly well what I mean. Why have you come back?" JJ said pompously that he realised that he could never care for Oriental culture in the same way he cared for European culture. But I cut him short. "Who's talking about culture?" I said, "What happened to Akiko?" He said she was very young, she was a lovely girl and they were very good friends, but... "But what?"

And then it all came tumbling out. Akiko, it turned out, was fat. Fat? But that was impossible. Japanese girls aren't fat. They are dainty creatures with delicate bones. Ninety-nine per cent of them were, agreed JJ bitterly, but Akiko played volleyball and her legs were so sturdy that standing on the Metro in the rush hour she didn't have to strap-hang, she just stood full square on her powerful pins.

There is nothing more hurtful to a woman, believe me, than to be told that she has fat legs. Chubby cheeks, pudgy arms, even a big bum are preferable to that pitiless description "fat legs". Why are legs more important to men than faces? Faces are expressive, they smile, they frown, they weep tears of joy over love letters. Legs don't do anything much other than keep you upright on the Metro. Artists paint faces - look at Mona Lisa. She doesn't have legs, I know, but if she had, I bet they'd be fat.

But surely when he first saw her and fell in love at first sight he must have noticed her legs? "Yes, yes, I know what you are saying," said JJ. "But she was wearing cunning clothes and her face was very pretty, although," he added wistfully, "not as pretty as some of the girls I saw in Tokyo. There was one in particular called Teruko who..." "Stop," I told him, I didn't want to know. What about Akiko, what about all those letters under her pillow smudged with joyful tears? JJ said Akiko was fine. She was coming to England to study in October. So was Teruko.

Love is not a many-splendoured thing. It is a balancing act. On balance I don't think I need French lessons any more - or, if I do, I'll get them from a strait-laced mademoiselle with fat legs.

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