‘How am I looking?’
‘Great. Perfect for your size.’
I help Marion off the scales and she sits back down again.
‘I hate weighing myself. Always have.’
‘I know what you mean. I try to avoid it.’
I use the chart to figure out Marion’s BMI, and write that down.
‘I took our dog Lola to the vet’s the other day,’ I tell her. ‘To my shame, the vet said she was over-weight and had to go on a diet.’
‘Really? Poor thing.’
‘I know. She gets loads of exercise, but I think we’ve been a bit slack with portion control and the odd treat and it soon builds up. She doesn’t look overweight, but I suppose they’re right. For a lurcher she’s started to lose that pinched-up waist, and apparently when you run your fingers down her sides you’re supposed to feel the ribs with just a little pressure. With Lola you have to press a bit.’
‘Dogs have always got a good appetite. Jasmine was like that. She’d give me such a tragic look, like she hadn’t eaten for a week, even though I’d only put the bowl down five minutes ago. I miss her terribly. The house feels too big with just me.’
‘What sort of dog was Jasmine?’
‘An afghan. And smart? She could have finished the crossword if she could have figured out a way to hold a pen. Every morning we’d go out for a lovely long walk and we’d come back past Graham’s the corner shop. Jasmine sit! I’d tell her, and straight away she’d plonk herself down, tidy as you like. And when I came out again, that’s exactly where she’d be, never mind anything else. That’s her up there.’
She points to the mantelpiece, and a row of three silver-framed photos.
I’m not wearing my glasses, but I can make them out well enough: an early, formal, three quarter profile, black and white shot of Marion as a young woman, short bobbed hair, long, serious face, hands in lap; another one of Marion, a few years later, at a music festival in the sixties, maybe, certainly more relaxed, with frizzed-out hair, kohl-rimmed eyes, and then a more recent one of Marion, Reactolite lenses, white polo shirt, red-faced smile, playing deck quoits on a cruise ship.
‘Where?’ I ask her.
‘There. Second one in.’
I get off the sofa and take a closer look.
‘How am I looking?’