Liz Jones’s Diary: ‘In which I dream of a normal Christmas’

I’ve just had an email from Riverford, reminding me to book my Christmas organic food delivery. I start to click boxes. Vegan mince pies, though I hate mince pies. A case of champagne, though I can’t drink. And I start to imagine what Christmas must be like if you’re normal. You’re probably pushing two trolleys around Tesco, sweating. I just typed ‘swearing’ by mistake, but you’re probably doing that, too. You’ve ordered a giant tree for your giant children even though not one of them will look up from their screens to ‘aah’ at it. You’ve probably made a cake of sorts. I’m like Carrie Bradshaw. I use my oven to store shoes.

Abbey Lossing at handsomefrank.com

As I click on the words ‘organic veg box’ – though I know the teeny parsnips and carrots will all, like me, go unused and shrivel up – I’ve been wondering why I’m not married to someone like the writer Paul Morley. He’s the right age. We have our love of music in common. Or Liam Neeson; I rent his films the moment they are released, just to spend time with him. Or just a rich man with a big house. Why did I wind up married to a man who has just written a piece in a newspaper about how awful it is to date weight-obsessed women that has the lines, ‘Sometimes they wanted me to exercise with them, which didn’t help because I’ve generally been fitter than them, so being outdone in the yoga class only made them more frustrated.’ And, ‘I was always able to get dates, even when I was chunky.’ The introduction to the piece notes dryly the writer is ‘currently single’.

‘Oh dear,’ was all I could think of to comment on Twitter. But, seriously, what was I thinking? Why did I settle for someone so obviously not good enough for me? Why did I date down? He cannot be better at yoga than anyone; he’s like an expensive mattress: he doesn’t fold. He also wrote that women who worry about their weight aren’t comfortable about their bodies during sex, which is a turn-off. I imagine being cheated on isn’t great for their self-esteem either. It’s the lack of self-awareness that bothers me most. Like the time I asked an ex – he’s old, penniless; this isn’t a criticism, just a fact, as so am I – if he had been faithful to me, even though we had split up. ‘Of course,’ he said. ‘Sex without love is meaningless.’ He was not having sex by choice? Chance would be a fine thing!

Then I think, if I had married a man good enough for me, I would probably have had children instead of border collies, which makes me wonder, how do women rustle up the energy to cook, every night? Think of the scribbles on walls, the screaming! How would you fit in three seasons of Succession, the new Sally Rooney, a job, sex, oily baths and sleep? I was once close to a mum with one child and no job, and she had never seen a Bond film and had no idea who Hillary Clinton is.

I texted my ex, to ask why he hadn’t commented on my ex-husband’s ‘journalism’. ‘I’ve not read it. You sound upset. Can you not see the irony?’

No, I can’t, actually. My ex-husband wrote that I’m a sexual predator and OCD about my cats. Only the last bit is true.

But I must be doing something wrong. Every person who was ever close to me* is now at war or has cut ties. My gay best friend. The woman who gave a reading at my wedding, whom I gifted an Alaïa skirt as ‘it’s way too big for me’.** My ex-husband. My sister. The only person from my past still on my side is my London cleaner H. She says I’m ‘an angel’ and my ex-husband isn’t ‘safe’: East End speak for moral. After his piece that may well have accused me of being Harvey Weinstein (actually, I do think I’m going bald) came out she phoned him to tell him off; she didn’t say, ‘Can you not see the irony?’ Cleaners know the bones of you, better than anyone. Better, surely, than any man with whom you’ve shared your vagina…

*Apart from Sue Needleman, whom I’ve known since we were 18. Whenever we meet for dinner she always pretends to go to the loo so she can pay the bill

**I can be bitchy with the best of ’em

Liz’s debut novel, 8½ Stone, is available as an audiobook on Amazon, Audible and Apple Books. Coming soon to Spotify.