October 04 2010
Fiona Stewart’s divorce was sorted. After a court battle that had lined the Savile Row pockets of a raft of lawyers, the 45-year-old mother of two had agreed a settlement that allowed her to keep the family’s five-bedroom Wandsworth house, have school fees paid and receive an income that enabled her to shop, lunch and holiday. In fact, it was enough money to allow her to be gently bored.
She would begin her day multitasking in bed – reading the Daily Mail, watching TV and gassing to her girlfriends on the phone. Then, after a long bath and an hour “brushing up”, she would lunch somewhere in Chelsea with those same girlfriends. She spent the afternoon either shopping or at her health club enjoying treatments, while her evenings were mostly frittered away in front of the television with a magazine, a ready-meal (her favourite was low-cal tomato risotto) and a bottle of pinot grigio.
This monotonous, lotus-eating life was suddenly given a fillip when she decided to sell up and move to a bijou residence near Sloane Square. The (very) junior estate agent who came to the house to measure up was a dishy 20-something who, Fiona thought, looked like a callow Nigel Havers and had, as she later assured her girlfriends, given her “the glad eye”. The next day Nigel – for that was his name – rang to confirm the sales particulars of the house and then, hesitantly, asked her if she would like to go out for a drink. Fiona said yes rather too quickly.
On the following Thursday Nigel picked her up at her house. She had spent the previous days worrying about what to wear and eventually decided on a pink shift dress that made her look, she thought, less like mutton dressed as lamb and more a size-16 Sarah Jessica Parker, only with shorter hair and a smaller nose.
Drinks turned into dinner and Nigel, unlike her boorish former husband who would carry on a drunken monologue about the City, listened attentively, laughed at her small jokes and gave her a sweet kiss goodnight. She was smitten. She told her chums that it was true love and that the age difference didn’t matter as they had so much in common.
It was soon after the second date that Fiona decided that 45 was the new 25. She changed her morning routine and took up jogging while listening to the latest Mark Ronson collaboration on her iPod. She gave up her lunchtime pudding, spent more of the afternoon in the gym (as opposed to the spa) and even abstained from her evening wine.
By now she and Nigel were an item. She bought him presents, including a new Fiat 500 car, took him out to dinner and whisked him away for exotic weekends on which she frequently joked that she felt quite the Mrs Robinson to his Benjamin Braddock. He, in return, would occasionally take her to his local wine bar to meet his mates – some of whom were in the estate agency business, while others included his statuesque, flame-haired sister, who looked nothing like him. In fact, the dissimilarity was the cause of frequent, rather knowing giggles among his friends.
Fiona’s girlfriends were by now giving voice to their worries that she was being taken for a ride and that her “toy boy” was after just one thing – money. Fiona accused them of pathetic jealousy, and distanced herself from them.
As the weeks went by she happily dropped more dress sizes and was now a size 10 for the first time since she was a student surviving on Pot Noodles. She gave credit to Nigel alone for her new-found state of bliss.
The day the removal men arrived to take Fiona to Sloane Square, Nigel was all smiles and attentiveness. As they drove off, Fiona turned for one last glance at the old family home and, through the tears, saw what could only be the new owner, keys in hand, approaching the Wandsworth house. She was an Amazonian redhead. Of course, the latter still looked nothing like her “brother”, but Fiona finally recognised a stitch-up when she saw one.