My girlfriends all seem focused on food. My Other Single Girlfriend has recently lost quite a bit of weight on the Dukan diet, the one enjoying a near-priceless publicity gift in the wake of rumours that it helped the mother of the bride at our recent royal wedding. Now she has decided that I too must go on the diet and is lobbying Observant Olivia to get me started. OO has done so by booking me to speak at the Hay Festival on Monday at 1pm, so that I don’t slope off to the excellent lunch in the authors restaurant.
OSG is not the only friend who seems determined to get me to cut down. My Judicial Girlfriend sits as a judge at Isleworth Crown Court and recently invited me to have lunch with her and her colleagues and to observe a case. Observing a case is fascinating, free and should be compulsory so that all citizens understand how the judicial process works. The day that I was there a relatively young and extremely good-looking policeman was giving evidence. You know you are getting old when policemen start to look young, but you really know you are getting old when you think they possess film-star qualities.
But lunch looked set to be a bit of a disaster, gastronomically. Not because the food was terrible – it was actually quite nice – but because there wasn’t any of it. It turns out that even if you are a judge, you have to order your lunch in advance, as one does in hospital or many other public-sector eateries, and JG had forgotten to order for me. The court usher was prevailed upon to speak nicely to the kitchen (ushers, I now realise, are Very Influential) and some lunch was hastily rustled up. JG is one of my career role models and is an example of how to come from north-west England with no particular advantage afforded by family or connections, and to have a successful career. She is also very slender, and I wondered whether her failure to order lunch for me was a way of suggesting that I might try to look more like her.
Usually, though, when women are in charge of arranging food for other women, the food is excellent and can be relied upon to appear. This was certainly true at the Conservative Women’s Spring Lunch, which I attended a few days before my date in Isleworth. This year the event, which raises money to help Tory candidates fight marginal seats, was held in the refurbished Savoy. It was chaired by Lorraine Spencer, who looked exquisite in Bruce Oldfield (I know I am not writing in Hello! but I am starting to think that if ever I do lose weight I must go and buy something from Bruce Oldfield. Did anyone see the Countess of Wessex at the royal wedding?) I was about to tuck into my very tasty antipasti when I spied the former executive chairman of a large UK retailer, a guest on Mrs Spencer’s table, who has previously been outed in this column for suggesting that I go on a diet. Was he watching me? I declined the artisan bread on offer. Is there a global conspiracy to get me to lose weight?
My final eating date that week with a woman I admire was a dinner at the Berkeley Hotel, one of many events to celebrate the launch of Lynda Gratton’s book The Shift. The food was excellent, and, even better, she had remembered to order some for me. Also, not only was I mentioned in the book but – and this is a first for me – I have made it into the index! The Shift looks at the future of work, Gratton’s specialist subject, and how people will have to adapt if they want to succeed. I enjoyed the book, not least for the notes on the future of work that she has included at the back. They are entitled “Notes to Children, CEOs and Governments”, and if you are interested in reading them without buying the book you can download them at www.shiftbylyndagratton.com. Like JG, Lorraine Spencer and many other successful women, Professor Gratton is much more slender and glamorous than me. But even this has not made me rush off and start a diet. I am much too focused on food.