Published: 02/06/2005, Volume II5, No. 5958 Page 31

Martha is assistant director of modernisation at a PCT. At the end of a busy week, she collapses in front of her PC to e-mail Mary, a former colleague, who has escaped Down Under.

Hi Mary

Still in one piece, though no doubt that will change once I have fallen off Ben Nevis during our outward bound weekend. The Ex thinks the whole thing is very amusing. He has been suffering from fitness for some time now in his determination to hang onto lovely Melody, the photocopier fluid sales rep and Britney clone.

'You'll need to get into shape, Martha, ' he said, doing some gratuitous leg stretches. (He wears jogging pants nearly all the time now - real mid-life crisis stuff. ) 'No more chocolate trifle, for a start, ' he added, staring nastily at my post-work treat. I told him to shut up and take the twins swimming.

Teenager was no help either. She sees the world through an anorexic's eyes, though she is by no means an anorexic's shape. 'Mum, you can't do abseiling, ' she said, as I struggled to get my fat trousers on for work. 'You can hardly waddle to the wardrobe.' I looked at myself sideways in the mirror. It is true, I am afraid. If by some happy chance George Clooney wandered into the PCT looking for love with a woman of experience, he may well overlook my charms. I am turning into Ben Nevis. Or perhaps Bev Nevis.

But Jenny, Roger's deputy, was having none of this, although as a larger lady she may not be unbiased. 'Haven't you seen that Dove campaign?' she said, crossly. 'All those wonderful women; all different shapes and sizes. Big is beautiful, Martha. do not let that horrible ex of yours undermine your confidence.' Then something even scarier happened. Roger appeared in the doorway of his office, dressed in a Kung Fu outfit. He even had a bandana. Not a good look for a ginger with male pattern baldness. 'No pressure, but I've worked out a fitness programme before our weekend away, ' said our noble head of modernisation. 'Just nipping outside to do a bit of Tai Chi.' We were gobsmacked, until Jenny handed me a choc doughnut, which we munched in shocked silence.

Love Martha

Next week: jogging's the way forward