VG Lee
Thursday, 10 January 2013

Goodbye comfort (and joy)...

VG Lee was very happy being a chocaholic draped in elasticated slacks and sloppy slippers. Until she paid a visit to a thin friend…

The day started so pleasantly. The sun shone for the first time in weeks. I’d been asked round for coffee by my friend Deirdre, to discuss removing every supporting wall in her house and transforming her Victorian terrace into a loft-style apartment.

I dressed with care. Over the last year I’d gained a little extra weight. Not much. Well, quite a bit, actually. I’d gone up by two sizes – hardly noticeable with clever accessorising – a voluminous scarf, eye-catching jewellery, bright colours, low (or no) lighting.

For Christmas, along with much of the population, I’d been given a pair of slippers. These were ‘no ordinary slippers’, they were the slipper equivalent to the original duffel coat: camel coloured and sporting an impressive toggle. I love them. They’re so comfortable. I wear them – correction, I wore them all the time.

I’d teamed my slippers with a pair of chocolate-brown, roomy, fleece trousers, concealing the bulk of the tie-waist under my orange gardening pullover. (Not actually mine. Left on my wall last autumn by a chap from Ted-next-door’s bonsai club.) On my head I wore my late aunt’s Great Gatsby cap in tangerine-coloured cable knit, with a matching fringed scarf.

I checked myself in the full-length mirror. I was a pleasing riot of orange and brown.

I look just like a Chocolate Orange, I thought approvingly. It had been several weeks since I’d eaten one of those; I would look out for them in the supermarket at the weekend. I added earrings that resembled dangling Maltesers.

Hmm, not bad at all. I ignored the fact that, these days, my reflection overlapped the mirror by about three inches on either side. On my way out, I popped a bar of chocolate, to have with my coffee, into my bag – Deirdre never has chocolate, or cake, in her house.

Several people glanced admiringly at me as I walked the mile to her house. Two small dogs seemed to like my slippers and an Alsatian had a fondness for my pullover and tried to make off with the sleeve.

‘He’s taken to you,’ his owner said.

‘Bless him,’ I replied, laughingly. ‘If you could just disentangle my wrist from between his jaws.’

Before I could even press Deirdre’s bell, her front door flew open. She looked distraught.

‘Whatever’s the matter?’ I asked. ‘I could see you from the upstairs window.’ Her tone was accusatory.

‘You’re wearing carpet slippers.’

‘These are no ordinary slippers, Deirdre,’ I quipped, not for the first time.

She grabbed my arm and almost lifted me over the step and into her hall. ‘Deirdre,’ I remonstrated. ‘I was coming in anyway.’

I tried to extricate my arm, but she hung on, manhandling me into the kitchen as if I was a burglar she’d apprehended.

‘Sit there.’ She pushed me into a rattan chair. ‘This has got to stop.’

‘You said come at eleven.’ I laid my bar of chocolate on the table.

‘And that is going in the bin,’ she said. We both lunged for the chocolate, but Deirdre, being slimmer and unencumbered by large pullover and scarf, reached it first. She stood rather like the Statue of Liberty, chocolate bar held high in the air, and said, ‘Understand me.’ In my entire life nobody had ever said those two words and in such a grave tone. ‘You never wear slippers outside the confines of your house again!’

‘But they look like shoes,’ I bleated. ‘They look nothing like shoes.’

She dropped the chocolate into her gleaming chrome bin before turning to study me. Her gaze travelled upwards, coming to a despairing stop at my knitted hat.

‘Have you looked in a mirror recently?’ she asked.

I nodded. ‘About 15 minutes ago.’ As I walked back up my path, Ted shot out of his house.

‘Cup of tea?’ he called out. ‘I’m making a start on the Battenburg fingers and we’ve got some chocolate peppermint creams to get through.’

‘No thanks, Ted. I’m on a diet.’

There was a rearrangement of Ted’s beard as he sulkily pushed out his lower lip.

‘You’re no fun,’ he said, and went back indoors.

I, too, went indoors and exchanged my slipper-shoes for slipper-socks. I looked in the full-length mirror. Suddenly, it no longer seemed a good thing to look like a Chocolate Orange. Deirdre had spelt it out. I was addicted to chocolate.

‘Must I be addicted?’ I’d wailed. ‘Couldn’t we settle for “very fond of”?’

‘Unhealthily fond of.’

‘I think I’d rather be addicted.’ Deirdre is right, of course. Hand me a family-sized bar of chocolate and my eyes fill with grateful tears. I am incapable of then coolly declaring, ‘How thoughtful. I’ll have a piece later with my after-dinner coffee.’

‘Delicious,’ I’ll say with glee. ‘You won’t mind if I tuck in while you’re telling me about your slipped disc, collapsing chimney breast, traumatic trial-separation?’

And I will tuck in till all that is left is the wrapping, which I’ll then go over with a moistened index finger in search of any last chocolatey crumb.

Deirdre rang later to see how I was coping.

I said, ‘I’ve given every bit of chocolate to Ted and now I feel as if life isn’t worth living.’

‘That will pass,’ she said soothingly. ‘In a few months’ time you’ll be able to wear clothes that actually suit you. Orange and brown do you no favours. No more tie-waists or baggy jumpers. You’ll be able to wear figure- enhancing clothes.’

I could tell from the tone of her voice that she was admiring her own svelte figure in the mirror above her telephone table.

‘But I like comfortable clothes. I think I look quite jaunty in them,’ I said.

‘Since when has looking jaunty been cited as the style du jour?’

‘Jaunty implies a cheerful, gamefor- anything type of woman.’

‘I rest my case,’ Deirdre said.

I heard a familiar sound. A rustling of silver paper. I said,

‘Deirdre, are you eating my bar of chocolate?’

VG Lee’s latest novel, Always You, Edina, is published by Ward Wood Publishing, priced £6.99:

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"AS a general rule, one’s stern duty in life seems to be to avoid the things in life that are pleasant, especially in the matter of diet."

The Lady. Living Well. 16th August, 1928
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