Mildred's first port of call was the large London department store. She phoned the Food Hall and asked if they sold diets.
'Well, Miss Maple,' said Jonathan Tanner, the manager. 'Not as such. If you want slimming pills I believe the pharmacy has a large selection, but have you maybe... perhaps... perchance, considered changing some of the items in your regular order to... ahem... low-fat alternatives?'
'Not really. No, I don't think I'll do that. Good day to you,' she said, and hung up.
She picked up her laptop and typed in 'diets'.
London Health Fair - Earl's Court was the first link, and she clicked on it. Too much like hard work to scroll down the page.
Health, Fitness. Weight Loss. And it was on now. This very day and the next and the next. Well, she had plenty of time then. She'd go along the day after tomorrow; work herself up to it. She popped a tube of Pringles.
The day after tomorrow dawned and she ordered a taxi. The cabbie opened the door for her, mumbling something about his suspension as Mildred piled in. Half an hour later she was paying her entrance fee.
She ignored the fitness equipment and the many stands selling organic vegetables and vitamins. For the next three hours she looked at slimming pills and slimming elixirs and vitamin compounds. One phrase surfaced in the small print of each and every one: May aid weight loss as part of a calorie-controlled diet. Mildred snorted in disgust and headed for the exit, intent on tucking into the Black Forest Gateau currently defrosting on her kitchen counter as soon as she arrived home.
She almost missed the tiny little stall by the door. Indeed, she probably only noticed it because it bore a resemblance to a hot-dog stand and she was feeling a little peckish.
Slender Drops - Rapid Weight Loss and no Calorie-Counting, Eat as much as you like. the hand-lettered sign above the cart said. Mildred stopped in her tracks.
'Would Modom care to know more about Slender Drops?' a voice said from beside her. Mildred turned her head and saw a scruffy, sweaty little man leering up at her.
'Is that right, what it says about no calorie counting?' Mildred asked.
'Guaranteed, Modom. No weighing, no measuring, no scanning food labels for RDAs and percentages, no jotting down every last ounce of cheese Modom's eaten in Modom's little notebook---'
'And when it says rapid weight loss, just how rapid is that?'
'Oh, Modom! The more... generous proportions one has, the faster one loses weight. And...' the man grinned, showing a set of teeth that reminded Mildred of a burnt fence, '...Modom's proportions are very generous.'
'Thank you. Do these... drops... have any side effects?'
'All documented side effects are listed in the user manual included in the price,' the man said, producing a volume the thickness of a couple of Bibles from behind the stall. 'Also available on CD, if Modom would find it more convenient...'
'I'll take both,' Mildred growled. 'And two bottles. How much?' she asked, drawing a wad of twenty-pound notes from her handbag.
'One---' he looked at the wad, 'Two hundred and twenty pounds, please,' he said.
Mildred paid and took her purchases. She pushed the exit door. 'Oh!' She turned back to the man. 'They don't taste nasty do they? I have very delicate tastebuds.'
'Modom,' the man said. 'Didn't I say? Slender Drops will not offend Modom's tastebuds. Slender Drops are a unique slimming product. They're eye drops!'