My left eye is bloodshot, painful. My contact lens is firmly glued to my eye. Ian, my optician, removes it while I yelp and tears run down my cheek. He sends me to the Western Eye Hospital in Marylebone Road. I'm seen almost immediately. They're wonderfully efficient there. A nurse says, "Cover your right eye and see how many letters you can read on this screen." I stare ahead, say "what screen?", and realise I'm in trouble. The doctor, an impeccably dressed, turbaned Sikh, says I have an ulcerated cornea; the surface of my eye has craters in it. He is scathing about contact lenses. We discuss laser surgery.
"It's brilliant," he says. "People are thrilled with the results. But no one knows the long-term effects and what could happen in 20 years' time."
"No one knows the long-term effects of HRT or marriage," I say.
"True," says the doctor. "But you don't go blind."
I wish these dark glasses didn't look so poseurish, but I'm determined to attend the two-day conference on "Britain between two continents? The UK, the EU and the US". It's organised by the Federal Trust and London Metropolitan University. I'm fascinated by the question of where Britain belongs in the world today. I love the way the English who loathe the idea of Europe say, "Look, I've nothing against the French. We always go there on holiday." They're like men who visit brothels insisting that they really like women.
The conference is riveting. It covers the transatlantic relationship, trends and processes in US policy, US visions of a relationship with Europe, the new international order and "Must Britain choose between the two continents?". Churchill once said that when it came to choosing between Europe and the US, "each time I shall choose the open sea". Yet it seems Britain is a whole lot more deeply integrated into Europe than the British public could ever imagine. I'll never forgive Tony Blair for not educating us about Europe. Well, I'll never forgive him for lots of things. I can't wait for his crusade for the European constitution. As he's let the pro-European forces rot through his inactivity and cowardice, he now has a huge fight on his hands. It will be easier to win a referendum on the constitution than on the euro. But one thing will lead to another.
I wonder how I came to this point in my life where I'm utterly absorbed by things that aren't to do with men. It's odd that now I'm so casual, men constantly ask me out. Maybe I'm so casual about men because of S. He's very fond of me and, quite simply, the best lover I've ever had. Before I went to my mother in Leigh-on-Sea, we saw each other for a couple of nights. Bonnie in New York, who I talk to about such things, calls him my man in the cupboard, because no one knows him. I wonder if I'd make more of an effort if he wasn't there. Leigh-on-Sea and listening to my mother kvetch - about her carers, her incontinence and the fact that everyone is stealing from her - soon makes me forget I ever thought about sex. "Take what you want: I'll be dead soon," she says with that familiar ring of Jewish optimism. She's no longer the beautiful blonde who wore green lizard sling-back shoes, who used to count to 60 when she squeezed her lashes into her eyelash curlers. But maybe there's hope while the vanity lingers on. She snaps when a carer says she needs maxi incontinence pads. "They're for big, fat women," she says. "I'm petite."
Lunch with Barbara Rowlands at City University to grade my students' work. I've been a fellow of City for ten years or so. I love teaching creative writing. Each year I'm amazed and touched at what the postgrads reveal about themselves and their families in the workshops - and how their work improves. I don't ask for intimate revelations. The course is designed to develop their critical faculties and to make them understand what makes good writing. But writers often write about what they know. Or what they're thinking about. This term produced epilepsy, Tourette's syndrome, self-mutilation, incest, Alzheimer's, obsessive-compulsive disorder, estranged parents and some wonderful writing. And tears. Sometimes you get tears. A couple of years ago, when there was a full-time lecturer's job going at City, I applied for the post. I wasn't even invited to attend a first interview. "Well, you wouldn't be," said Barbara. "You don't have a university degree and you don't have a teaching diploma." But I think I could teach anyone to write.
It can't be Easter this week. The box filled with Christmas cards I've kept for messages is still sitting under this desk. I've just picked up 23 calls from Call Minder - about work, asking favours, friends saying a frantic "love you, must catch up". I must do something about 90 unread e-mails. But my eye has healed, my mother has decided she might as well live since her cut and blow-dry, and this week it's Arsenal v Chelsea, Footballers' Wives, Chelsea Arts with Ros Miles, dinner with D and back again to Leigh-on-Sea. I realise I'm such a grown-up these days that I can face Easter with no special plans, no man I especially love - and I don't give a damn. The other night, too tired to buy food after a late deadline, I went to pick up fish and chips near Paddington Station. As I walked back, I realised I was humming to myself. Bugger me, I thought, I'm happy.