MAD ABOUT THE BOY: HELEN FIELDING AND SUE MACGREGOR IN CONVERSATION, CECIL SHARPE HOUSE, THURSDAY 10 OCTOBER, IN AID OF PRIMROSE HILL COMMUNITY LIBRARY.
Helen Fielding and Sue MacGregor: two of the greats of their respective fields, but the real star of the evening was Helen’s creation, Bridget Jones, firmly present in the hearts and imaginations of the audience. Clearly Ms Jones had entered the psyche of most of the women in the room, and they adored her, were inspired by her, and in many cases, simply felt they WERE her.
It was the question and answer session that unleashed the Bridget-worship. To fumble the microphone was to have ‘a Bridget moment’. To address Helen herself caused grown women to gush. “I want to thank you for creating Bridget Jones,” breathed one questioner, looking so glossy and eye-lashy that comparing herself to Bridget seemed to be rather modest. “My mother spent all of the nineties telling everyone that I AM Bridget, which is why I never had any boyfriends in my twenties’.
A confessional from another woman, who wanted very much to tell Helen that she had resisted reading about Bridget, year after year, until finding herself at a loose end and reluctantly picking up Bridget Jones’s Diary, only to find herself ‘falling off the sofa with laughter,’ recognising herself and her friends within Bridget’s wincingly funny antics.
Things became heated when the last question had been promised to one woman, but the microphone fell into the hands of the wrong person. “But I’ve got the mike!’ declared the Wrong Person, with a look in her eyes that meant no one was going to try to take it off her. “Would Bridget have had the same experiences in London now as she had in the 1990s”, the Wrong Person wondered, clearly seeing Bridget in her own shoes. Pretty much, yes, was Helen’s answer to that. Email, mobile phones, texting, Facebook and Twitter have all arrived on the scene since the days when Bridget was ‘messaging’ Daniel Cleaver on an office intra-mail system about the existence or otherwise of her skirt. Bridget’s everywoman appeal makes it easy to forget that back in the mid-nineties – twenty years ago – social networks depended on the telephone and its answer-machine. However, Bridget’s close circle of supportive friends would have remained the same, even if these days they would have tweeted each other, rather than picking up the telephone.
Then the Right Person got to ask the final question: how does one write in a comic voice? As an aspiring writer, the Right Person very much wanted to but had tried and so far failed. Sue helped Helen out with that one: you’ve either got it or you haven’t, and Helen very much has it.