Thursday 21 December

9st 7, disaster (though actually no reason why should not lose weight over Christmas, since it is possibly the one time of year when it is OK not to eat socially on grounds of being too full); cigarettes, 71; calories, 8; alcohol units - merged into more of a river; presents bought, 1 (but for self, so bad); panic attacks, 6 (VG).

For 10 days now have been in a state of permanent hangover and foraging sub-existence without proper meals or hot food. Badly need water but seems better to keep eyes closed and head stationary on pillow so as not to disturb bits of machinery and pheasants in head.

Christmas seems like war. Going down to Oxford Street is hanging over me like going over the top. Would that the Red Cross or Germans would come and find me. Aaargh. It's 10am. Have not done Christmas shopping. Have not sent Christmas cards. Got to go to work. Am never, never going to drink again for the rest of my life. Mmmmmmmm. Could really fancy some chips.

Aaargh - field telephone.

Humph. It was Mum but might as well have been Goebbels trying to rush me into invading Poland. "Darling, I was just ringing to check what time you're arriving on Friday night."

"Mum, I'm not coming home on Friday, I'm coming home on Christmas Eve. Remember all those conversations we've had on the subject? That first one... back in July when it was red hot..."

"Oh don't be silly. You can't sit in the flat on your own all weekend when it's Christmas. What are you going to eat?"

Grrr. I hate this. As if just because you're single you don't have a home or friends or responsibilities or washing to put in and the only possible reason you might have for not being available for entire Christmas fortnight to sleep crammed into odd angles in sleeping bags on teenagers' bedroom floors, peel sprouts all day and "talk nicely" to perverts with the word uncle before their name while they stare freely at your breasts is complete selfishness or sad tragicity, whereas my brother can come and go as he likes with everyone's respect and blessing just because he happens to be able to stomach living with a Stepford-wife-wannabe called Becca.

Anyway. Hah. Victory over Mum spurred me into fetching glass of water. Could feel it flowing like crystal stream into section of head where most required. Though am not sure if water can actually get in your head... Maybe, since hangovers are caused by dehydration, water is drawn into the brain by a form of capillary action. Must put sheets on bed. Wish had some food.

Saturday 23 December

9st 5 (VG); cigarettes, 40 (excellent); alcohol units, 12 (VG); calories, 10.

6pm. So glad decided to stay home.

6.05. Where is everyone? I suppose they are with their boyfriends or families or tiny fluffy children in pyjamas looking at the tree excitedly. Or maybe they are all at a big party except me. Anyway, I'm fine...


7pm. Emergency: Jude is coming round. Her vile boyfriend, Richard, has gone back with his ex-girlfriend.

7.15. Tom rang and is coming round. Jerome has chucked him and gone off with a member of chorus in Cats.

7.17. Simon's girlfriend has gone back to her husband. He is coming round. Thank God I stayed at home like fashionable Diana-esque festive Home Alone Singleton. Am clearly Emissary of Baby Jesus, here to help those Persecuted at Christmas by Herod-wannabes (eg, Vile Richard). That is the kind of person I am - giving love.

7.18. Oh my God. Daniel on the phone saying whole thing with new girlfriend (what new girlfriend?) is sham and now it is Christmas realises it is me he loves. He is coming round. But damn, bloody damn, will not be able to have festive reconciliatory shag as Tom, Jude and Simon will be here moaning.

10pm. Humph. None of them turned up. Vile Richard changed his mind and came back to Jude, as did Jerome with Tom and Simon's girlfriend with him. It was just the emotionally charged spirit of Christmas Past making everyone wobbly about ex-partners. Anyway, now Daniel and I can have wild shag - when he arrives, that is.

2am. Daniel finally rang. Said sorry, it was just Christmas making him feel sentimental about ex-partners. He has changed his mind and is staying with his new girlfriend. I hate Christmas.

Christmas Eve, Northamptonshire

5am. V. confused about what is and is not reality. There is a pillowcase at the bottom of my bed which Mum put there at bedtime, cooing, "Let's see if Santa comes," which is now full of presents. Mum and Dad, who split up last June - she into the arms of Julio the Portuguese tour operator, he into the granny flat at the bottom of the Alconburys' garden - are sleeping in the same bed. In sharp contrast, my brother and his girlfriend, who have been living together for four years, are sleeping in separate rooms. The reason for all this is unclear, but possibly to avoid upsetting granny who is not here. The only thing which connects me to the real world is that once again I am humiliated, spending Christmas Eve alone in my parents' house in a single bed. Maybe Dad is at this moment attempting to mount Mum. Ugh, ugh, no, no. Why did my brain think such a thought?

Christmas Day

Staggered down stairs to be greeted by Mum. "Ah, there you are, darling, what are you going to put on for Christmas Day?"

"Er... this."

"Don't be silly, darling, you can't wear that on Christmas Day. Now are you going to come into the lounge and say hello to Uncle Geoffrey and Auntie Una before you change?" she said in the special bright, breathy isn't-everything-super? voice, which means, "Do what I say or I'll Magimix your face."

"So, come on, Bridget! How's yer love life!" quipped Geoffrey, giving me the sort of hug Boots would send straight to the police station, then going all pink and adjusting his slacks.


"So you still haven't got a chap. Durrr! What are we going to do with you!"

"Stand up straight, darling," hissed Mum.

Dear God, please help me. Let me just go home. I want to watch the telly. I need to know what is happening with Princess Diana. I haven't heard anything about her for two days and feel all weird. I want my own life again. I don't feel like an adult, I feel like a teenage boy who everyone's annoyed with.

"So what are you going to do about babies, Bridget?" said Una.

"Just going up to change!" I said, smiling smarmily at Mum. Rushed up to the bedroom, opened the window and lit up a fag (no one else smokes). Then I noticed Jamie's head sticking out of the window on floor below, also having fag. Two minutes later, the bathroom window opened and an auburn coiffed head stuck out and lit up - it was bloody Mum.

Gift exchange was nightmare. Spent the whole time pretending four copies of the making of Pride and Prejudice book were just one and sitting on the other three whilst cooing over it so as not to hurt anyone's feelings. Always over-compensate for bad presents - yelping with delight, which means I get more horrid gifts each year. Thus Becca - who when I worked in publishing gave me a worsening series of book-shaped clothes brushes, shoe horns and hair ornaments - this year in a complicated marriage between my last job and my new TV career gave me matching book and clapper-board fridge magnets. Una, who thinks I wish no household task to remain ungadgetted, gave me a series of mini-spanners to fit different jar or bottle lids in the kitchen which may become stuck, while Mum, who gives me presents to try and make my life more like hers, gave me a slo-cooker for one person. "All you have to do is brown the meat before you go to work and stick a bit of veg in." (Has she any idea how hard it is some mornings to make a glass of water without vomiting?)

"At least we haven't got to put up with Auntie Fay's presents now she's in Marbella," said Jamie, reading my mind.

"Chuh, yeah. Did you see that phallic onyx statue she bought me last year," I tittered. "I was so embarrassed."

There was a silence as everyone stared at me.

"Um... darling," said Mum, "wasn't that a kitchen-roll holder?"

I could feel myself going bright red.

"Chuh, only Bridget could decide a kitchen-roll holder was a penis," scoffed Jamie. "That's sad old spinsters for you. Watch out, Mum, she'll be telling everyone this is a penis as well," he said, holding up a tube of Smarties.

"I think this gravy's going to need sieving Pam," said Una, coming out of the kitchen. Oh no. Not this.

"I don't think it will, dear," Mum was already spitting murderously through clenched teeth. "Have you tried stirring it?"

"Don't patronise me, Pam," said Una, smiling dangerously. There was a terrified pause. This happens every year with the gravy. Mercifully there was a distraction: a great crash and scream as a figure burst through the french windows. It was Julio - unshaven and clutching a bottle of sherry. He stumbled over to Dad and drew himself up to his full height.

"You sleep with my woman."

"Ah," replied Dad, "Merry Christmas, er... can I get you a sherry? Ah, got one already. Jolly good. Mince pie?"

"You sleep," said Julio dangerously, "with my woman."

"Oh, he's so Latin, hahahaha," said Mum coquettishly while everyone else stared in horror. The only time I've ever seen Julio before was in the coffee bar in Dickens & Jones when he was clean and coiffed beyond all sense and carrying a gentleman's handbag. Now he was wild, drunk, unkempt and frankly just the type I fall for. No wonder Mum seemed more aroused than mortified.

"Julio, you naughty person," she cooed.

At which Julio replied, "You sleep with him," spat on the Chinese carpet and bounded upstairs, pursued by Mum, trilling back at us, "Could you carve, Daddy, please, and get everyone sitting down?"

We all ended up sitting at the table pulling crackers and putting on our paper hats as if it was just a normal Christmas and my mother had not just rushed upstairs after a Portuguese and not come down again. The worst of it was that Mum and Dad's bedroom is just above the dining-room and for a while there was this slight but unmistakable rhythmic creaking noise directly above us. About 20 minutes later Mum appeared with the top of her Country Casuals two-piece on inside-out but otherwise exactly as normal. "I've found some savoury doilies for the bread rolls, Una. Shall I make some more gravy? No trouble!"

I really thought for a while she was going to get away with it, but then as we were clearing away she got overconfident and trilled, "Anyone want to play charades?" There was an almost imperceptible shudder. "I was under the impression," said my father, "that we already were." There was silence apart from a faint rhythmic snoring directly above us.

"Oh, don't be silly, Daddy, what on earth do you mean?" said Mum.

"Your top - Mummy - is inside out," said Dad witheringly.

"Oh, aren't I silly? I got so hot with the turkey I had to go pop some talc on," she battled on.

"Did you `pop some talc' on that filthy wop in my bed?" said Dad. I felt as though my whole world was collapsing around my ears. Then there was a loud banging on the table. It was granny, who had risen shakily to her feet and was thumping with her stick on the Portmeirion butter dish.

"Colin, Pamela," she announced. "I order you, for the honour of this family, to seek a divorce."

"No," I want to scream. "No. Mum and Dad love each other. It's just a phase with Julio. They're going to get back together." Instead of which I stood mute and frozen. Mum burst into tears and rushed off upstairs, and Dad rushed after her. Then there was the sound of more of the broken glass falling out of the french windows as they were opened by an incandescently beautiful youth silhouetted in the winter sunlight, clad from head to toe in leather and holding two crash helmets. I blinked and looked again. It was Matt from the office.

"Bridget," he said, holding out his hand, "I love you. I've come to take you away."

I hesitated. Christmas is a time for families, and one must not put one's own selfish needs and happiness before the tradition of family Christmas. But then there was another crash above us and the end of Dad's log-cutting hatchet appeared through the ceiling. It was that which decided me. I took Matt's hand and picked my way through the broken glass towards the gleaming Harley Davidson parked among the dahlias, turned with - I think - a rather gracious smile and said, "Merry Christmas, everyone."

Next year I am leaving the country on 1 November and not coming back until the daffodils are out.