Tuesday, 24 September 2013


'I'd like to hear your take on my mad neighbour,' announces Dan from his hands-free in the car.

'Mm?' I slacken my pace. Dan doesn't like wind interference or heavy breathing.

'She's taken to giving farm tours, towing visitors round behind the tractor. She's put a sofa in the wagon and they sit there, drinking wine and admiring her Portland rams.'

'Sounds rather fun.' I flop down on a park bench overlooking the Serpentine. Pigeons are flapping around a toddler, intercepting the chunks of bread he's throwing to the unlucky ducks.

'So then this Bentley appeared in her drive, and it was still there the next morning. The next day there was an Aston Martin - still there the next morning - then the next day, a Ferrari. There's been a constant stream of them. All there the following morning. So then she comes up to me today and says, "I'm going away on holiday, if you see a man in a white Range Rover hanging around, he's one of my Gentleman Callers and you can tell him he's not welcome here any more, because he's not."' Dan lets out an exuberant belly laugh. 'So what do you think, Lize? What can it all mean? Is she a prostitute?' He says it with an endearing touch of naivety, suggesting one who expects to be laughingly given a logical alternative explanation.

'Of course she is!' I snap my fingers and glare at Dolly, who is sniffing around the toddler's buggy, hoovering up stray breadcrumbs.

'Really? "Gentleman Callers!" What else can it mean?'

'Nothing. She's definitely a prozzie. Although she probably doesn't refer to herself as such. She probably calls herself a high-class ... farm hand.'

'Farm hand!' guffaws Dan.

'But what I'd like to know is how come they've all got such posh cars. I've never met anyone like that around Candlebury.'

'I presume she's signed up to ivegotanincrediblyexpensivecar.com. I did go on match.com to see if I could find her, but it's full of fairly average people, isn't it?'

'Yees,' I agree absent-mindedly. My mind has sped into fifth gear. Ivegotanincrediblyexpensivecar.com!  Maybe this is the answer to my dire straits.

'I did somehow end up on Rate My Prostitute once,' Dan continues conversationally, 'and I was interested to note that what makes a good prostitute is off-street parking and a nice cup of tea.'

'Well that's the answer to why she's so popular! She probably pulls them in with a picture of her drive. "Come and indulge in a lavish forecourt..."'

'"...and a nice cup of Earl Grey!"'

Bang go my chances of being a high-class call-girl, though. No forecourt. It's impossible to park round here after 6.30pm.

Hmmm. Will just check out ivegotanincrediblyexpensivecar.com. Oops. Google Chrome couldn't find it. Well, that was too much to hope for. Google 'dating site for rich people with posh cars.' Here we are! www.millionairematch.com. With a big red button saying, FIND A MILLIONAIRE NOW! Click.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

New school blues

Lily has moved seamlessly from her St Trinian's country prep school for 100 horse-fancying, rara-skirted girls with names like Cecilia and Tatiana, to a London comprehensive for 1,400 black-suited Jaydens and Kayas.

I, conversely, have been on the back foot since the beginning of term, owing to a) the unfeasibly early mornings after a blissful year of lie-ins, and b) leaving it to the last minute to get her school uniform. The nice jackets had run out at M&S Marble Arch when we got there at 3pm the day before school commenced, forcing us to go to the dreaded official outfitter, whose official jacket combines the stiffness of cardboard with the type of manmade fibre that sparks fly off if you get too close.

The chummy assistant handed Lily an official ready-tied tie that fastens round the back with Velcro.

'Oh God,' I muttered. 'Don't they have real ties these days?'

'Don't want any peanutting,' cackled the assistant.


'Few incidents,' she nodded knowingly at me, miming a tie-tightening throttle. 'Not many, mind, but two or three, back in the old days.' She pulled open a drawer. 'Not as bad as these,' she added, holding up a clip-on tie for another school where even quick-release Velcro is clearly not enough.

Oh lord. This isn't Candlebury.

Since then, Lily has taken up her newfound independence with a hitherto unknown burst of self-motivation, which involves setting her alarm for 6.30am, stomping downstairs at 7.10am (at which point I rouse myself and stumble down in my dressing gown to act like the dutiful mother), standing up to eat a quick bowl of Special K Red Berries while stuffing books into her backpack, before heading out across the park to team up with pals in order to walk back across the park to catch the bus to school.

'The thing is, Lily,' I venture on day 2, 'it's not very ergonomical, this little journey of yours.'


'The way you go to school. You're walking two sides of a triangle across the park and back. If you walked straight to the bus stop you could shave 20 minutes off your journey and spend another 20 minutes in bed.'

She gives me one of her steely withering looks, picks up her door key and heads out without so much as a 'bye, Mum'.

On day 3, Lily glares up at me as I appear on the stairs. 'You don't have to get up every morning,' she says. I shudder. My mother was already down, table laid, bacon and tomatoes sizzling in the pan, when I was Lily's age.

On day 5, as I attempt to hug her unyielding little body goodbye, Lily says, 'Do we have to go through this every morning?'

Oh God. I am officially redundant.