Because I am also a trained journalist as well as a PR fluffy I realised that I had to get some control. I didn’t want to see my homemade man come to the same sticky end as Dr Frankenstein’s. No hoards of villagers would ever stand shaking pitchforks and hurling flaming hanks of straw at my creation if I could help it. So I needed to keep character notes and also do some research. I had to find out which celebs were on holiday when and where they were. The trick to keeping flesh on Fab’s bones was to make enough of what I said real when checked out by snooping vixens.
Fortunately Del was always in the know on things UK based because of her resident gossip columnist while another of our pals, Elle, is in TV production and has an American gossip correspondent on her books. Camp and bitchy, he’s perfect for enlisting to the corps.
Elle’s real name’s Liz, shortened to L but hey, she can girdle it with es and ls if she thinks it’s more trendy.
It was Monday morning, I’d mucked out, had a shower and was sitting at the dressing table sorting through make up with St John. I was trying to find the right kohl pencil and St John was ‘helping’. One paw was inside my make up bag trying to retrieve the pencil sharpener, his expression was one of intense concentration. I tried to give him a chin rub and avert a makeup catastrophe but he wasn’t to be distracted.
Picking him up bodily and ignoring his chirrup of indignation I plonked him on the floor, finished the other eye, slipped on my shoes and headed for the door and the day beyond.
The traffic was grinding and the day was already warm. Heat hazed off car bonnets, girls walked to work in skimpy tops and men in shirt-sleeves watched. Every fourth car pounded with a mono-hypnotic base. Mine throbbed with The Today Programme’s grumpy Humphreys.
I nippily reverse parked into BTB’s space, for some reason his car wasn’t there this morning, and strolled into the building.
In the office there was a hush when I walked in. I had done the other eye hadn’t I?
“Hey Logan, seen the papers?” yelled someone or other. The local daily sat on my desk open on the society page. Team gorgeous was there doing the red carpet thing. Later there was a picture of Awful Paula with a manufactured smile gripping the Editor’s arm. In the background was me. Clutching a pint glass, cheeks bulging with olives and trying to wipe some liquid from the front of my dress with a pink scarf. I hoped they were referring to the ‘team gorgeous’ shot but something told me I wouldn’t be getting off that easy. AP looked as though she may have had some pull with the Editor – I swear they had airbrushed out at least three of her chins.
There was a yellow post it note on my computer screen. A team conference at 9.30.
“Ok,” said Julie, “the incontinence pads pitch went well, prostate haven’t come back to us yet and we’ve got a new brief – it’s a generic campaign for lard.”
I twiddled with my pen top and hoped I wouldn’t get picked to help out on the lard pitch. I was selecting the type of underpants Fabio might wear, and thinking that just those and a very slim and very expensive gold watch would be the perfect gear for…
“You didn’t hear what I just said?”
“I just said there were two interviews that needed doing for the Slimbars SlimmerYou magazine. One was for a 50 stone abattoir pig stunner who has lost 25 stone and the other was Keano Reeves. I asked which one you wanted to do.”
“And Kathy volunteered to do Keano. So you’ll be interviewing Chippie Kelstow today at 3pm. Ok everyone, that’s it.”
I grouched out to the car to find it wasn’t in BTB’s space. BTB’s Merc was. It didn’t compute. My Jeep had been nicked and replaced in the time it took for a team briefing on lard.
I looked around the car park. There was the Jeep, not in BTB’s space. Instead it was in the process of being clamped in a space that had the same sort of tree behind it as BTB’s space.
Quick as a flash I took off my cardigan and shoved it under my top and stuck my jacket on over the top. Hobbling to the car and making small swooshing breathy noises I explained that my waters were about to break and needed to get the car out straight away.
“Bloody hell love, time flies dunnit. You looked fine 45 minutes ago when you parked it.”
Using my feminine charms and combining them with £50 saw me on my way in minutes to a standing ovation from the assembled crowd.
Chippie wasn’t charming. He smelt strange and he looked nothing like Keano Reeves. I was angry leaving the office, angry getting in the car, angry leaving the car park, angry getting lost on the way to the abattoir and even angrier when I got a stiletto stuck in the grating of the steps leading up to the portacabin offices where I was to interview Chippie.
But Chippie had slimmed down to 25 stone, learned to Salsa and put it all down to Rosemary Conley, SlimBars and the day he could no longer fit in his bath.
Some of the blue ice encasing my selfish heart melted as I listened to Chippie’s story. He’d never had a girlfriend, was laughed at at school and had always had ambitions to learn to dive. In the water he was one with the elements, he told me, a wistful smile on his chubby face.
I wasn’t sure just how he’d manage slipping into a wetsuit but, hey, if he’d lost 25 stone there was only another 13 to go and he’d be at goal weight. He held my gaze. “I can’t even get flippers to fit,” he said.
I could feel myself welling up. I wanted to offer something, like a made up top babe sister for Fabio who liked cuddly blokes but I wasn’t sure our vision would mesh. I was worried the slaughter man would think I was nuts.
We finished our coffee and I managed not to whinge about missing out on Keano. I didn’t want Chippie to feel in anyway inferior to the ripped, lean, mean millionaire Hollywood hunk.
He walked me casually to the steps of the Portacabin, thumbs tucked into the elasticated waistband of his work trousers and gravely reached out to shake my hand. I resisted with all my might the urge to check the fingers for any bits of CSI-style pig gore and instead gave him a big smile and a hearty shake.
Feeling ultra slim I slipped into the car and drove home listening to James Brown’s ‘This is a man’s world’ on full blast with the roof down. When I got home I would deal with the number one male in my life – St John – then work out a plan for numero duo.
After seeing to the spawn of the devil pony (who tried to nip me twice) I walked inside and shucked off my jodhpur boots before padding through the conservatory and into the kitchen to raid the fridge for a glass of Prosecco. St John was lying replete after a mega tinned tuna supper with ears at a relaxed half mast. I gave him a good scruffing on the way past, plinking his whiskers until he was really annoyed, and then ran upstairs.
Men, pah, they’re so easy, I thought to myself. But they’re not though, are they.
Just then, the phone rang.
Brilliant, I’d been waiting for this, the programmed number came up Awful Paula. I sat and smirked. The answerphone kicked in.
“Hi, we’re either out or busy” I heard my warm and breathy voice ooze “hey, we’ll get back to you….” which was then followed by a shocked little squeak and some vague male/female laughter I’d recorded from a radio advert for women’s razors. It had taken me absolutely ages.
I heard an intake of breath on the other end. ‘Hi, Logan. You there? Could you call me back, it’s pretty important. I wanted to invite you both to Henry’s on Thursday night. Just an intimate thing. Call me, Love you.’
Hmm, well that can just wait.
It was a rainy evening, shower after sun kind of thing, but Jackie had arranged a BBQ for her husband’s birthday. I showered, pulled on jeans and a jumper, socks and boots and, as this was a friends ‘do’, decided to leave Fabio at home. I gave the pillow on one side of the bed a playful punch to give it a head-shaped dint, called, ‘don’t wait up’ and wafted out.
Jackie’s garden was encased in overlapping gazebos. The kids’ paddling pool had been temporarily lodged on the sloping roof of the shed and fairy lights were sprinkled everywhere. If it hadn’t been for the continual deluges it might have been a scene from fairyland.
The men were crowded round the BBQ tussling for control of the tongs while the women sat in gazebo land and drank white wine while their fingers turned blue. Jackie’s auntie Bet was loudly drunk and telling everyone in a theatrical whisper that Arthur hadn’t been the same since he’d had his knees done and wouldn’t leave her alone ‘in the bedroom department’. Given we could all see auntie Bet’s knickers – the legs finished in a short frill at the knee – we had to hand it to Arthur.
Arthur has been ‘walking out’ with auntie Bet for 40 years. Auntie Bet says she wants to keep ‘the allure’ and so hasn’t given into repeated proposals. Arthur says he’s never asked her.
The gazebo roofs were straining under gallons of water by 2am but the party was still zipping along. By now auntie Bet was giving me advice on how to snare a man. “Just keep him wanting more….men don’t buy the cow once they’ve had the milk,” she said knowingly. I couldn’t help thinking that Arthur didn’t seem to be suffering from a calcium deficiency. At least not at the rate he was enthusiastically chasing women almost 40 years his junior. His catch rate was pretty high. I think it was the way he now silently glided on plastic knees.
Auntie Bet yawned, stretched and leant back. She was sitting shed-side and just then, with perfect timing, the paddling pool, now filled to the brim with broiling rainwater, began its relentless and rapid descent from the sloping roof. Within seconds auntie Bet disappeared under an avalanche of Disney plastic and about 30 gallons of rainwater.
Arthur rushed over tenderly with two paper napkins to absolutely ensure her cleavage was dry while others, concerned she may be unable to breathe or was, perhaps, dead, tried to disentangle her from the wreckage of the inflatable pool and half a gazebo awning. This had to be accomplished around Arthur’s ministrations.
Jackie’s husband filmed everything with a huge grin.
Auntie Bet reappeared a little more sober and wearing a gold velour ‘leisure suit’ borrowed from Pat next door half an hour later and hit the brandy….just to warm up.
I got home dazed and fugged from too much rain, too much charcoal smoke and too much auntie Bet by about 3am. St John had forgiven me and decided to give my hair a little added curl by snuggling into my neck and dribbling as he joined me in bed. I sleeked down the fur at the back of his head and tried to pretend it was Fabio’s. Would Fabio have swivelly ears with tufts, would he purr this loudly, would he be this wet a kisser and would he have tuna breath?
For some, unexpected reason that night, I cried softly as I stroked St John. My imaginary boyfriend was a big hit with people I didn’t like, a source of amusement to people I cared about and completely non-existent to those who were ‘nice, but wouldn’t understand’ – eg: Auntie Bet. My imaginary boyfriend functioned just like a real one. Delight and despair in equal portions. I had gone to the party alone, and had left alone. I gave St John a final squeeze and whipped my hand away before he could bite me, then turned over and went to sleep.