Her romantic travails were a hoot first time round

In our first extract Bridget meets handsome, divorced Mark Darcey at the dreaded annual Turkey Curry Buffet – but is far more interested in exchanging flirty messages with her dastardly (but very attractive) boss, Daniel Cleaver… 

Sunday 1 January

9st 3 (but post-Christmas), alcohol units 14 (but effectively covers 2 days as 4 hours of party was on New Year’s Day), calories 5,424.

11.45pm Ugh. First day of New Year has been day of horror. Having skulked at home all day, hoping hangover would clear, I eventually gave up and set off for the Turkey Curry Buffet far too late. 

When I got to the Alconburys’ and rang their entire-tune-of-town-hall- clock-style doorbell I was still in a strange world of my own — nauseous, vile-headed, acidic.

‘Bridget! Happy New Year! Just about to start without you.’

In our first extract Bridget meets handsome, divorced Mark Darcey at the dreaded annual Turkey Curry Buffet

Una Alconbury led me through the frosted-glass doors into the lounge. ‘Bridget! Happy New Year!’ said Geoffrey Alconbury. He did a jokey Bruce Forsyth step then gave me the sort of hug which Boots would send straight to the police station. ‘How’s your love-life, anyway?’

Oh God. Why can’t married people understand that this is no longer a polite question to ask? We wouldn’t rush up to them and roar, ‘How’s your marriage going? Still having sex?’

‘Bridget! What are we going to do with you!’ said Una. ‘You career girls! I don’t know! Can’t put it off for ever, you know. Tick-tock tick-tock.’

Fees for this will be donated to the NHS

Fees for this will be donated to the NHS

It was all right, I suppose. I would have felt a bit mean if I hadn’t turned up, but Mark Darcy . . . Yuk. Every time my mother’s rung up for weeks it’s been, ‘Do you remember Mark Darcy, darling? Malcolm and Elaine’s son? He’s one of these super-dooper top-notch lawyers. Divorced. ‘

I don’t know why she didn’t just come out with it and say, ‘Darling, do shag Mark Darcy over the turkey curry, won’t you? He’s very rich.’

‘Come along and meet Mark,’ Una Alconbury sing-songed before I’d even had time to get a drink down me.

The rich, divorced-by-cruel-wife Mark — quite tall — was standing with his back to the room, scrutinizing the contents of the Alconburys’ bookshelves. It struck me as pretty ridiculous to be called Mr Darcy and to stand on your own looking snooty at a party. 

It’s like being called Heathcliff and insisting on spending the entire evening in the garden, shouting ‘Cathy’ and banging your head against a tree.

He turned round, revealing that what had seemed from the back like a harmless navy sweater was actually a V-neck diamond-pattern in shades of yellow and blue — as favoured by the more elderly of the nation’s sports reporters.

‘Mark, this is Bridget,’ said Una, going all pink and fluttery. ‘Well, I’ll leave you two young people together.’

‘Have you been staying with your parents over New Year?’ I asked.

‘Yes,’ he said. ‘You too?’

‘No. I was at a party in London last night. Bit hungover, actually. But then I do think New Year’s resolutions can’t technically be expected to begin on New Year’s Day, don’t you? 

Since, because it’s an extension of New Year’s Eve, smokers are already on a smoking roll and cannot be expected to stop abruptly on the stroke of midnight with so much nicotine in the system. I think it would be much more sensible if resolutions began generally on January the second.’

‘Maybe you should get something to eat,’ he said, then suddenly bolted off towards the buffet, leaving me standing on my own while everybody stared at me, thinking, ‘So that’s why Bridget isn’t married. She repulses men.’

2am Oh, why am I so unattractive? Why? Hate the New Year. Hate everyone. Except Daniel Cleaver.

Tuesday 3 January 

9st 4 (terrifying slide into obesity — why? why?), alcohol units 6 (excellent), calories 2,472.

9am Ugh. Cannot face thought of going to work. Only thing which makes it tolerable is thought of seeing Daniel again, but even that is inadvisable since am fat, have spot on chin, and desire only to sit on cushion eating chocolate and watching Xmas specials.

10pm Ugh. Perpetua, slightly senior and therefore thinking she is in charge of me, was at her most obnoxious and bossy, going on and on to the point of utter boredom about latest half-million-pound property she is planning to buy with her rich-but-overbred boyfriend, Hugo: ‘Yars, yars, well it is north-facing but they’ve done something frightfully clever with the light.’

Stars James Callis, Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones's Diary

Stars James Callis, Sally Phillips, Shirley Henderson and Renée Zellweger in Bridget Jones’s Diary

Mmmm. Daniel Cleaver, though. Love his wicked dissolute air, while being v. successful and clever. 

He was being v. funny today, telling everyone about his aunt thinking the onyx kitchen-roll holder his mother had given her for Christmas was a model of a penis. Was really v. amusing about it. 

Also asked me if I got anything nice for Christmas in rather flirty way. Think might wear short black skirt tomorrow.

Wednesday 4 January 

9st 5 (state of emergency now as if fat has been stored in capsule form over Christmas and is being slowly released under skin), alcohol units 5 (better), calories 700 (v.g.).

4pm Office. State of emergency. Jude just rang up from her portable phone in floods of tears, and eventually managed to explain, in a sheep’s voice, that she had just had to excuse herself from a board meeting (Jude is Head of Futures at Brightlings) as she was about to burst into tears and was now trapped in the ladies’ with Alice Cooper eyes and no make-up bag.

Her boyfriend, Vile Richard, whom she has been seeing on and off for eighteen months, had chucked her for asking him if he wanted to come on holiday with her.

I immediately called Sharon and an emergency summit has been scheduled for 6.30 in Café Rouge.

11pm Strident evening. Sharon immediately launched into her theory on the Richard situation: ‘Emotional f***wittage’, which is spreading like wildfire among men over 30.

As women glide from their twenties to thirties, Shazzer argues, the balance of power subtly shifts. 

Even the most outrageous minxes lose their nerve, wrestling with the first twinges of existential angst: stereotypical notions of shelves, spinning wheels and sexual scrapheaps conspire to make you feel stupid, no matter how much time you spend thinking about Joanna Lumley and Susan Sarandon.

Pictured: Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones's Diary

Pictured: Renee Zellweger and Hugh Grant in Bridget Jones’s Diary 

‘And men like Richard,’ fumed Sharon, ‘play on the chink in the armour to wriggle out of commitment, maturity, honour and the natural progression of things between a man and a woman.’ ‘Yes, but does that mean I should call him or not?’ said Jude.

‘No,’ said Sharon, just as I was saying, ‘Yes.’

Thursday 5 January 

9st 3 (excellent progress — 2lb of fat spontaneously combusted through joy and sexual promise), alcohol units 6 (v.g. for party), calories 1,258 (love has eradicated need to pig out).

11am Office. Oh my God. Daniel Cleaver just sent me a message.

Yesssss! Yessssss! Daniel Cleaver wants my phone no.

Sunday 8 January 

9st 2 (v. bloody g. but what is point?), alcohol units 2 (excellent), calories 3,100 (poor).

2pm Oh God, why am I so unattractive? Cannot believe I convinced myself I was keeping the entire weekend free to work when in fact I was on permanent date-with-Daniel standby. 

Hideous, wasted two days glaring psychopathically at the phone, and eating things. Must centre myself more. Will ask Jude about appropriate self-help book, possibly Eastern-religion-based.

8pm Phone call alert, which turned out to be just Tom, asking if there was any telephonic progress. Tom, who has taken, unflatteringly, to calling himself a hag-fag, has been sweetly supportive about the Daniel crisis.

Tom has a theory that homosexuals and single women in their thirties have natural bonding: both being accustomed to disappointing their parents and being treated as freaks by society.

He indulged me while I obsessed to him about my unattractiveness crisis — precipitated, as I told him, first by bloody Mark Darcy then by bloody Daniel at which point he said, I must say not particularly helpfully, ‘Mark Darcy? But isn’t he that famous lawyer — the human-rights guy?’

Hmmm. Well, anyway. What about my human right not to have to wander round with fearsome unattractiveness hang-up?

11pm It is far too late for Daniel to ring. V. sad and traumatized.

Tuesday 24 January 

Heaven-sent day. At 5.30, like a gift from God, Daniel appeared, sat himself on the edge of my desk, took out his diary and murmured, ‘How are you fixed for Friday?’

Yessssss! Yessssss!

Friday 27 January 

9st 3 (but stuffed with Genoan food), alcohol units 8), calories 875.

Huh. Had dream date at an intimate little Genoan restaurant near Daniel’s flat.

‘Um . . . right. I’ll get a taxi,’ I blurted awkwardly as we stood in the street afterwards. Then he lightly brushed a hair from my forehead, took my cheek in his hand and kissed me, urgently, desperately. After a while he held me hard against him and whispered throatily, ‘I don’t think you’ll be needing that taxi, Jones.’

The second we were inside his flat we fell upon each other like beasts: shoes, jackets, strewn in a trail across the room.

‘I don’t think this skirt’s looking at all well,’ he murmured. ‘I think it should lie down on the floor.’ As he started to undo the zip he whispered, ‘This is just a bit of fun, OK? I don’t think we should start getting involved.’ Then, caveat in place, he carried on with the zip.

Had it not been for Sharon and the f***wittage and the fact I’d just drunk the best part of a bottle of wine, I think I’d have sunk powerless into his arms. As it was, I leapt to my feet, pulling up my skirt.

‘That is just such crap,’ I slurred. ‘How dare you be so fraudulently flirtatious, cowardly and dysfunctional? I am not interested in emotional f***wittage. Goodbye.’

It was great. You should have seen his face. But now I am home I am sunk into gloom. I may have been right, but my reward, I know, will be to end up all alone, half-eaten by an Alsatian.

Saturday 11 February 

8st 13, alcohol units 4, calories 1,467 (but burnt off by shopping).

Just got home from shopping to message from my dad asking if I would meet him for lunch on Sunday. I went hot and cold. My dad does not come to have lunch with me on his own on Sundays. He has roast beef, or salmon and new potatoes, at home with Mum.

‘Don’t ring back,’ the message said. ‘I’ll just see you tomorrow.’

What’s going on? I went round the corner, shaking, for some Silk Cut. Got back to find message from Mum. She too is coming to see me for lunch tomorrow, apparently. She’ll bring a piece of salmon, and will be here about 1 o’clock.

Sunday 12 February 

8st 13, alcohol units 5, calories 1,647.

11am Oh God, I can’t have them both arriving at the same time. It is too Brian Rix for words. Maybe the whole lunch thing is just a parental practical joke brought on by over-exposure of my parents to Noel Edmonds, popular television and similar.

Perhaps my mother will arrive with a live salmon flipping skittishly on a lead and announce that she is leaving Dad for it.

12.05pm Mum called. ‘Let him come, then,’ 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 Greer and the Invisible Woman.’

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 crumpled and tears began to splosh down his cheeks. 

‘She’s been like this since she went to Albufeira with Una Alconbury and Audrey Coles,’ he sobbed, trying to wipe 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. She wants me to move out for a while, she says, and . . . and . . .’ He collapsed in quiet sobs.

‘And what, Dad?’

‘She said I thought the clitoris was something from Nigel Coles’s lepidoptery collection.’

Saturday 18 February 

9st, alcohol units 4, calories 2,746, correct lottery numbers 2 (v.g.).

Today Mum asked me to meet her for lunch. ‘So why are you being so mean to Dad?’ I said.

‘Darling, it’s merely a question of realizing, when your father retired, that I had spent 35 years without a break running his home and bringing up his children —’

‘Jamie and I are your children too,’ I interjected, hurt.

‘— and that as far as he was concerned his lifetime’s work was over and mine was still carrying on. You only get one life. I’ve just made a decision to change things a bit and spend what’s left of mine looking after me.’

As I went to the till to pay, I was thinking it all over and trying, as a feminist, to see Mum’s point of view. 

Then my eye was caught by a tall, distinguished-looking man with grey hair, a European-style leather jacket and one of those gentleman’s handbag things. He was looking into the cafe, tapping his watch and raising his eyebrows. 

I wheeled round and caught my mother mouthing, ‘Won’t be a mo,’ and nodding towards me apologetically.

I didn’t say anything to Mum at the time, just said goodbye, then doubled back and followed her to make sure I wasn’t imagining things. 

Sure enough, I eventually found her in the perfume department wandering round with the tall smoothie, spraying her wrists with everything in sight, holding them up to his face and laughing coquettishly.

Sunday 19 February 

8st 13 (v.g. but purely through worry), alcohol units 2 (but the Lord’s Day), calories 2,100.

Called Mum up to confront her about the late-in-life smoothie I saw her with after our lunch.

‘Oh, you must mean Julian,’ she trilled.

This was an immediate giveaway. My parents do not describe their friends by their Christian names. 

It is always Una Alconbury, Audrey Coles, Brian Enderby: ‘You know David Ricketts, darling – married to Anthea Ricketts, who’s in the Lifeboat.’ I sensed also that she had met him in Portugal, before the trouble with Dad, and he might well turn out to be not so much Julian but Julio. I sensed that, let’s face it, Julio was the trouble with Dad.

I confronted her with this hunch. She denied it. ‘You’re really becoming very cynical and suspicious, darling,’ she said. ‘Julio’ — aha! ahahahahahaha! — ‘is just a friend. I just need some space.’

So in order to oblige, Dad is moving into the Alconburys’ dead granny’s flat at the bottom of their garden.

Tuesday 21 February 

V. tired. Dad has taken to ringing up several times in the night, just to talk.

Wednesday 22 February 

9st, alcohol units 2, fat units 8 (unexpectedly repulsive notion: never before faced reality of lard splurging from bottom and thighs under skin. Must revert to calorie- counting tomorrow).

I have been so preoccupied with Mum and Dad, and so tired from taking Dad’s distraught phone calls, I have hardly been noticing Daniel at all: with the miraculous result that he has been all over me. 

I made a complete arse of myself today, though. I got in the lift to go out for a sandwich and found Daniel in there with Simon from Marketing, talking about footballers being arrested for throwing matches. ‘Have you heard about this, Bridget?’ said Daniel.

‘Oh yes,’ I lied, groping for an opinion. ‘Actually, I think it’s all rather petty. I know it’s a thuggish way to behave, but as long as they didn’t actually set light to anyone I don’t see what all the fuss is about.’

Simon looked at me as if I was mad and Daniel stared for a moment and then burst out laughing. He just laughed and laughed till he and Simon got out and then turned back and said, ‘Marry me,’ as the doors closed between us. Hmmmm.

Extracted from Bridget Jones’s Diary (And Other Writing): 25th Anniversary Edition by Helen Fielding, to be published by Picador on February 4, £14.99. © 2021 Helen Fielding. 

To order a copy for £13.19 go to books or call 020 3308 9193. Free UK delivery on orders over £15. 

Promotional price valid until 14/02/2021. Helen Fielding and the Daily Mail are donating fees to the Calderdale and Huddersfield NHS charity

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