The wrong kind of weather, and indeed management, may be the chief cause of delays on our own super-pricey trains, but in New York explanations for late-running trains are a little less prosaic. According to the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the main culprits, after engineering problems, are "fainting dieters". Only in the land of the free and the faddy could an urgent desire to squeeze into your size-0 jeans bring public transport grinding to a halt. The supersized, wedged into seats increasingly designed for baby whales, must be furious.
Those poor Americans! They don't understand. Diets are not something you do, but something you read. Diet books are, in fact, among my favourite literary genres. Not quite on a par with poetry, but certainly up there. On Christmas Day, after clearing up a meal that would have satisfied the most corpulent of our American cousins, I curled up with a plate of mince pies and my latest shiny, pink acquisition: Neris and India's Idiot Proof Diet. I read the Dr Atkins New Diet Revolution in Waterstone's Piccadilly, with a large glass of sauvignon and a bowl of Kettle chips. I read Gillian McKeith's You Are What You Eat in the foyer of a posh hotel in Guildford with a cafetiere of coffee and a plate of chocolate biscuits.
A quick glance at my bookshelves triggers a treasure trove of memories. Fat Attack, Stop the Insanity!, Lighten Up, 6 Ways to Lose a Stone in 6 Weeks - all gave me hours of pleasure, punctuated by tasty treats. Am I fat? No. My thighs, like everyone else's, are currently a testament to enthusiastic consumption of festive food (average weight gain over Christmas is, apparently, 5lbs), but no one could call me porky. Like every other normal-sized woman in the country, I'd love to lose half a stone, but I can't be bothered. I'd really rather read the books.
On Boxing Day, I read French Women for All Seasons, a present from a friend and the sequel to Mireille Giuliano's …