I am crossing Hungerford Bridge with my best friend Nichola. We are intellectually critiquing a film we have just seen.

‘He is seriously buff.’

‘Yes seriously. I think though it might be illegal in some parts of America for us to fancy him.’

We are locked into a discussion on the finer details of Jacob’s twelve pack in New Moon and his delightful penchant for running around half naked for most of the film.

‘But the other members of the pack – what was going on there? I paid £11 for that ticket – for £11 I don’t want to be staring at flabbiness and beer bellies – I want buffness. From anyone who has it in their contract to be topless.’

‘Too right.’

‘I mean you’d think with a multi-million dollar budget and all they’d be able to afford a personal trainer to stand over them with a cattle prod and get them into shape between takes.’

‘Yeah,like ‘Get to the gym now!’

As Nichola shouts this out with accompanying hand movements, like a staff sargeant training army recruits, a homeless women we happen to be passing grabs her blanket and starts running ahead of us calling out ‘sorry,’ over her shoulder. She is in abject terror at the Irish girl yelling at her to get fit.   We frantically try to convince the woman that it wasn’t her we were talking to but she has already bolted to Fitness First.

The irony is that I’m not one to talk about flabbiness or pot bellies and have never been to a gym in my life. Gyms are just concepts to me. Like the space time continuum. I don’t understand either and don’t really want to.  So rather than getting a gym membership I bought a round the world ticket.  I’ve deluded myself that I’m going to eat fruit all day, do yoga on the beach for four hours every day, swim in the sea and voila, I’m thin and beautiful and eighteen again in just three days.

A deep, inner part of me knows that this isn’t going to happen. Mainly because I hate yoga and I can’t swim in the sea because I panic if I can’t see to the bottom and think a shark is going to eat me. I’m not going to be jogging down the beach because I’m going to be lying on it recovering from a hangover and keeping one eye out for rabid monkeys. I intend to eat fruit yes, but also to eat everything else (except meat in India). Eating is probably the single greatest thing about travelling other than the not working.  Also and this is the main point, I have no incentive –  I’m not about to have my arse  displayed on a screen the size of a football pitch and am not being paid millions by the producers of Charlie’s Angels to change up a la Demi Moore.

Given all this, I’ve had to come up with another plan.

I tell Nichola that I’m thinking of not taking the cholera vaccine you can get which gives some protection against stomach bugs.

‘Why?’ She asks.

‘Because then I might get thin.’

‘Remember that when you’re sitting on a loo dying.’

I think back to an email I got yesterday from a friend in India who has spent the last ten days ‘shitting water.’ Maybe she is right. But then again…

As for Lula, she’s definitely taking the cholera vaccine but we are still debating the rabies shot – it’s three injections. Plus the three others she needs for typhoid etc. That’s a lot of Barbies.

‘But,’ I say to John, ‘what if she gets licked by a monkey and doesn’t tell us. It doesn’t need to be a bite. What if, we aren’t there, a monkey comes up and licks her and she forgets to tell us and then the next thing we know she’s showing symptoms? Because you know, when the symptoms show that’s when it’s too late to do anything. It’s fatal.’

That night I have a serious conversation with Lula whilst I’m brushing her hair. ‘So when we’re travelling you mustn’t go near any animals ever. Unless mummy or daddy tell you it’s ok. And if an animal touches you when we’re not there then you must absolutely tell us straight away.’

Lula looks at me and says, ‘But mummy why wouldn’t you be there? Where are you going to be?’

She is a genius. She’s absolutely right. One of us will always be with her, mainly because we can’t afford an au pair, thus we’ll know if she gets licked by a monkey and will have 24 hours to get her to medical assistance.


But then I realise I might not be with her because I’m stuck on a toilet. Ok. We’ll both get the shots.

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