I blame Bridget Jones

Bridget got me into this mess, and I’ve been waiting 14 years for her to get me out of it, writes Clémence Sebag.

This is what thirty-something looks like: a father ploughing through business contacts for an “eligible bachelor”, a grandmother muttering “you young people do it all later, dear”, and a younger sibling telling you to get a grip. Someone did this to me: I blame Bridget Jones.

Bridget got me into this mess. And I’ve been waiting 14 years for her to get me out of it. None too soon, the third book in the Bridget saga is coming out just in time for Christmas. And if anyone can "bridge" the generation gap (read: lower my family’s expectations), forty-something Bridget should do it. I’m getting the lot of them a copy. I’m not just buying a book, I’m buying myself another decade.

This is what Bridget did: she ignored Mr Right, fell for Mr Now, and somehow ended up with both of them fighting over her. Naturally, after the last “emotional fuckwit/commitment phobic” I fully expect his unpopular friend Mr Good Guy to be along any minute. I blame Bridget.

Like Bridget I wanted to write when I grew up. Like Bridget I am still waiting for one of these two things to happen. Could it be because channelling our writing self involves finding the perfect writer’s outfit – fishing out that nude bra from the dirty laundry to go under that sheer top, doing the laundry, ironing said sheer top, until, well, it’s “Chardonnay time”? I brame Blidget.

Teetering on The Edge of Reason, terrified to topple over into the age of reason, I wonder: is it time to grow out of shared houses where my first thought in the morning is “who stole my milk?” All the while laughing at those trying to suck me into the ‘breast milk vs. powdered milk’ debate. I blame Bridget.

As an entitled twenty-something I never considered the possibility that I’d still be drunk-falling out of taxis Bridget-style in my thirties. Or that I would feel the sting of “jellyfishers” who take the party out of dinner, “smug marrieds” who bring Oscar Wilde’s “True friends stab you in the front” axiom to mind as they pat pregnant bumps and aim a sententious “tick-tock” in the general direction of the only “singleton” left at the table – who, me?

Even Helen Fielding blames Bridget: “Bridget has allowed [...] women to think it's all right just to be all right [...] and sort of muddle through the complicated, overstuffed world that we live in”.  

Bridget works in insidious ways: the thirty-something landscape is here and it seems ageing gracefully will have to be left for another decade. But want to know a secret? Being a creative wannabe/adult-in-the-making/“singleton” is fun. Messy is fun. I choose Bridget’s brand of trying really hard and failing even harder.

Want to know another secret? When Fielding says Bridget, c’est moi, it’s all an elaborate cover-up. Bridget is future me. And now I want my intellectual property and my merchandising rights. Besides, I am curious to find out how life pans out as a forty-something. With Bridget still Mad About The Boy I’m preparing for another decade of “How’s your love life?” So am I a single mum? Do I make it as a journalist? Have I quit smoking? Am I fat? Either way, I know we still have Chardonnay.

Renée Zellweger in the 2001 film version of "Bridget Jones's Diary".
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Listening to recordings from the Antarctic, I felt I could hear the earth groan

The Science Hour on the BBC World Service.

A weekend of listening to the radio news ­revealed nothing but sounds of the sucker-punched going through their pockets in a panic and repeating, “I thought you had the keys.” So, never was talk of “a perfectly flat area of just whiteness” more alluring. The oldest Antarctic ice yet recorded was recently found. “For millions of years,” the presenter Roland Pease assured listeners  (25 June, 9am), “snow has been falling, snow on snow, all the while trapping bubbles of air and other chemical traces of climate . . . insights into the ice ages and warm periods of the past.” How was this ice located? “The finding part is pretty easy – you just go there and start shovelling, and ice comes up,” the lead geologist, Jaakko Putkonen, said.

There it was, buried under a layer of dirt “in barren wastelands” high in the middle of Antarctica. An “incredibly mountainous and remote and . . . quite hideous region, really”, Pease said, though it was sounding pretty good to me. The world dissolved into a single, depthless tone. Then Pease mentioned the surprising fizzing of this ancient ice – trapped air bubbles whooshing as they melt. Which is perhaps the thing you least expect about ice regions and ice caps and glaciers: the cacophony. Thuds and moans. Air that folds and refolds like the waving of gigantic flags. Iced water sleeping-dragonishly slurping and turning.

On Friday Greenpeace posted a video of the pianist Ludovico Einaudi giving a haunting performance on a floating platform to mark an imminent meeting of the OSPAR Commission, as it decided on a proposal to safeguard 10 per cent of the Arctic Ocean. Einaudi looked occasionally stunned by the groaning around him. A passing glacier popped and boomed like the armies of Mordor, ice calving from its side, causing mini-tsunamis. When last year I spent some time at the remote Eqi Glacier in Greenland, close to the ice cap, local people certainly spoke of the ice as if it were living: “It’s quiet today,” delivered as though gazing at the fractious contents of a Moses basket.

“This huge cake of ice, basically flat”, Putkonen said, perhaps longing for a moment of deep-space silence, for peaceful detachment. He wasn’t the only one being forced to reappraise a landscape very differently.

Antonia Quirke is an author and journalist. She is a presenter on The Film Programme and Pick of the Week (Radio 4) and Film 2015 and The One Show (BBC 1). She writes a column on radio for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 30 June 2016 issue of the New Statesman, The Brexit lies