erickawaller.com logo  
erickawaller.com logo
erickawaller.com logo

SO a transgender woman has demanded an apology from B&Q after a hearing a female member of staff say “that’s not a woman, it’s a bloke”.Crystal, 48, said “I was completely insulted in front of all the staff and customers. It was humiliating."

Now, what Crystal is suffering from is a case of hurt feelings. Hurt feelings are becoming a big deal. People seem to think they are life threatening. They are not.

They are merely hurt feelings, a temporary superficial wound which can quickly be healed by taking yourself less seriously and not caring what other people think. Hurt feelings are just that. Nothing happens to you. You don’t wake up the day after being offended with a bad case of syphilis, or gangrene.

They’ve been knocking around for years. Oscar Wilde wasn’t scared of them. He said; “A gentleman is one who never hurts anyone's feelings unintentionally”.Mozart knew the score too, and not just musically. He said “I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”

We were bought up being told sticks and stones would break our bones but words would never hurt us. No one told me it was no longer relevant. When my kids come home from school and tell me someone called them an idiot, I say “don’t worry about it, they are a d*ck”.

Now we have adults saying, “I was offended, and I have rights!"

As the wonderful comedian Steve Hughes said “You want to live in democracy but you don’t want to be offended, how does that work?

It’s become an offensive to be offended. How do you make it a law to offend people? Being offended is subjective. It has everything to do with you as an individual or a collective or a group or a society or a community, your moral conditioning, your religious beliefs. What offends me may not offend you, and you want to make laws about this? “

I find short trousers offensive, but I don’t phone the police up each time I see someone wearing them. Sometimes, if I look in the mirror too early, I find my own face offensive. Once, I had a yeast infection and the doctor me to come back if my discharge became offensive. The world has gone mad!

Being offended is all about how much power you give other people, often complete strangers, to hurt you. Being offended is a choice you make. You can choose to take something personally, or not. We need to stop this nonsense now, before employers are forced to add three days off for potential hurt feelings into contracts and the NHS need a hurt feelings hotline. When I get comments on my column suggesting I go and throw myself off Beachy Head and do the world a favour, I don’t go and do it, and I don’t get offended, because I don’t care.

So, Thames Valley police have been asked to focus on dealing with the numbers of homeless people before the #RoyalWedding by Simon Dudley, the council’s Conservative leader. He urged them to seek action against “aggressive begging and intimidation” and “bags and detritus” accumulating on the streets. He tweeted his appeal to the police while on his skiing holiday.

I imagine him tapping away as he sat before a log fire, his merino wool socks steaming as they dried off from a day ‘hard at it’ on the slopes. Dudley wants Thames Valley police to exercise their powers under the 1824 Vagrancy Act and the 2014 Anti-Social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act – “including implementing criminal behaviour orders for the numerous offenders”.

I’d like being spoiled, selfish, self-important four-letter-word to become a criminal act, but we don’t always get what we want, do we? I know homelessness cannot be solved easily, and I know that just like non-homeless people, no two of us are like, but I’d like to talk about a man named John for a moment.

John lives opposite the jewellery shop RING in meeting house Lane. He always has his nose buried in a book. There is no cap in front of him, he never asks for money. He always has a cup of coffee, which is given to him by a local café, they also let him use their toilet, as just like us non-homeless, coffee goes through him quickly.

I’ve been giving books and my scatty conversation to John for a couple of years. I know he doesn’t drink alcohol, not does he take drugs. Although he has a back condition following a car accident years ago, exacerbated by sitting on hard pavements, he refuses pain killers.
When I last saw him, he told me a friend gave him an old mobile phone and put some credit on it for him. We swapped numbers, so he could text me when he needed a new book.

As we all know, and would horribly un-British of me to mention, the weather has been bloody awful. At night, the lid of the rubbish bin flaps in the wind and sounds like someone knocking at the door. The wind screeches at the windows, branches scraping glass like nails. Safe in my house, storms still scare me, and that’s with three children, the husband and pets piled into one bed for comfort.

So we are in that twilight zone between Christmas and New Year where I never know what the time or date is, find myself wandering around eating cheese and chocolate fingers in my slippers and staying up till 4am watching Peaky Blinders. I wake late and disorientated the next day and do it all again.


Obviously the diet is out the window, but I’ll be hopping back on it in the New Year. Words like ‘dry January’ are already being tossed about by the husband as he makes another ornate botanically infused gin and serves it to himself with a sparkler fizzing.


I’ve taken to spending hours spying on the neighbours. You can always spot those who are having a bad time over Christmas. They load their cars up to do dump runs, and walk dogs who don’t look like they want another walk. They do this in the bleakest of midwinters, where frosty wind makes moan, earth stands hard as iron, and water like a stone. They are that desperate to be away from their family, the greatest gift of all.


We didn’t have any extra family this year, it was just the five of us. The day passed in a blur of wrapping paper, and shouting, not all of it in merriment.

The husband slaved over dinner before serving up three types of stuffing, red cabbage, stewed peas and carrots, two types of potato, cauliflower cheese, creamed leeks, yorkshire puddings as big as saucers, pigs in blankets and bread sauce, nestled under a shelf of turkey.


Obviously, the children had gorged themselves on chocolate all day and so didn’t eat any of it. This led to the husband feeling under appreciated and taken advantage of, which obviously I was having none of. If anyone in this house takes taken advantage of and under-appreciated it’s me, and ‘ain’t nobody stealing momma’s crown’.


This led to me list all the things I do in the house over the sound of him bemoaning all the things he does which no one appreciates. It went downhill from there, as the insults began flying. “All you want to do is play golf games on your iphone” I hollered at him, as the dog slunk over to the table and to lick a turkey leg “You don’t even unload the dishwasher!” he roared back “You just put it back on again! That chopping board has been in there a week!”


“Well you” I seethed, jabbing him with peter pointer “never empty the water or fluff compartments out the tumble drier, even though I made a sign and stuck it on drum to remind you.”


“You signed it from Mrs McTumble! if ever any proof was needed you don’t have enough to do, surely making up names for the appliances supplies it! I know you’ve named the new log burner, haven’t you?”
I vehemently denied doing any such thing, but of course I’ve named the new log burner. She is called Whitney Houston, because, like her, “I wanna feel the heat with somebody”. I like to sing at her as I feed her with kindling and old newspaper, and probably the important papers which the husband claimed I’m always misplacing.

‘Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball,

Where were you while we were getting high?

Someday you will find me, caught beneath the landslide,

In a champagne supernova in the sky.’

- “Champagne Supernova” by Oasis

 

APRIL

She took a deep breath and pushed open the door leading into the maths corridor. The second it closed behind her, she felt the first wave coming on. Her legs suddenly felt too weak to support her, her heart began to race, and her palms sweated. Then it started to get worse…

Her vision blurred, making objects around her seem unreal. She went into a sort of dream mode, like the world was moving in slow motion. Each sound became a drawn-out roar, every movement a graceful dance – all enveloped in a sickening soft focus that April knew all too well. Waves of fear were crashing over her, drowning her.

Unsteady on her feet, she pressed her hand to the cool wall tiles, running the tips of her fingers along the grooves of the grouting as she walked. It grounded her a little and she managed to stay upright. April wanted to run. She had no idea where to, but it was what her gut was telling her to do. She held on to the wall a little tighter.

As she approached full-blown panic, April felt like she was going crazy. Nobody else seemed to be struggling with walking down the corridor. Everyone around her was laughing, pushing and shoving, bending heads close to bitch and gossip. Boys bounced footballs off the walls, the squeak of rubber trainers screeched in her ears.

The bell rang, making her jump and clutch her hand to her chest. Class was about to start, so she made her way there hurriedly.

April found that it helped to break her school day down into manageable units and most classes were sixty minutes. Sixty minutes of not bolting out the door. Sixty minutes of keeping herself from falling apart, whilst pretending that she was just fine.

Sixty minutes that would feel like an eternity.

Checking the exits and calculating the quickest exit route of any room she was in had become second nature to April. It was one of her many coping mechanisms. She already knew the fastest way to get out of any classroom and corridor in the school and she habitually worked them out again each time she sat down for a lesson. By the end of her morning classes each day, April would already be exhausted.

Lunchtime brought its own set of horrors, of course. How far from the door would she have to sit today? How many staring faces would she have to run past if something happened? What if all the stalls in the girls’ toilets (her most reliable refuge) were locked? What if she choked on one of her chips?

It’s best not to eat at all, she thought to herself. Best to skip lunch altogether.

Her best friend Jamie was waiting for her outside the main entrance to the dining hall. Jamie always skipped lunch and spent the money on cigarettes. She was wearing her trademark scowl; her arms were crossed, and she glared at anyone who came too close to her. She was tall, with black hair and a pale face. She looked pretty scary, until you got to know her and then realised she wasn’t scary at all. Well, not that scary.

Jamie spotted April approaching and gave her a half smile, pushed herself off the wall and headed down the corridor next to the dining hall, which led to an exit to the top playground. She was headed for the bike sheds at the back of the playground, her favourite place to smoke. Jamie needed her smoke breaks like April needed her fresh air ones.

As Jamie lit up a Silk Cut, April took in a lung-full of crisp September air…and then another.

“What is the point of Religious Education?” Jamie said, sucking on the end of her cigarette angrily. “It’s an utter waste of time. Thirty-five minutes of my life I can’t ever get back.” April knew this was a rhetorical question and she was not supposed to answer. Jamie wanted to rant, which suited April fine; she just wanted to breathe.

“We don’t even learn anything useful. Just a bunch of religious bollocks, a load of rules to live by. Religion is just a list of stuff you can’t do. What’s the fun in that?”

The end of Jamie’s cigarette glowed red in the gloom of the shed as she puffed away. “We could be learning about stuff that might actually be of benefit to us.” Pause…inhale…exhale… “Even bloody PE is better than RE and I bloody hate PE. Gym knickers, really? What is this, the 1940s?”

April breathed in and out in time with Jamie’s smoking and felt her body starting to relax.

Jamie was too lost in her angry tirade to notice April’s silence. “And why do boys get to wear shorts and we have to wear knickers? Why do boys get to do basketball and we go on trampolines? I’m fifteen, not five.”

April hated the gym knickers too. The girls’ changing rooms were at the end of the English block, two long corridors away from the sports hall. She imagined everyone could see her skinny knees knocking together as she walked. She also hated the trampoline. She felt untethered enough to reality as it was. Trying to turn ‘pikes’ into ‘front flips’ - which literally turned the world upside down - only made her feel worse. There was only one trampoline too, so everyone else had to stand in line watching. April hated people watching her.

“Plus, I had to partner with Claire,” Jamie seethed. Claire was the most popular girl in school and Jamie’s nemesis. They had been friends once at primary school, but when they got to high school, everything had changed overnight. Claire arrived on the first day in a short skirt, with a new haircut and a brand-new attitude. The new attitude went especially well with the brand-new group of girls she had suddenly found to hang out with, and she blew Jamie out, right in front of everyone. Jamie had never gotten over it.

April was secretly grateful to Claire for dropping Jamie; it meant she could have her all to herself. April was quiet, and tended (if not preferred) to blend into the background. She hated drawing attention to herself and found it hard to speak up. This made it hard to make friends.

Jamie had walked into their first maths lesson, thrown herself down into the empty chair next to April and thrust out her hand: “My name is Jamie, ignore what the teachers call me. I hate the Spice Girls, any kind of segregation and Claire Wilks. Especially Claire Wilks. I’m an A student in all subjects and I don’t care if you copy my homework. Wanna be friends?”

April was stunned by Jamie’s forthrightness; she was so confident and self-assured. She was everything April wasn’t.

Jamie seemed so much older than everyone else, like she’d already done this growing up stuff before and had it all worked out. Jamie knew exactly who she was. All April knew was who she wasn’t.

Her brain had scrambled for a response. Back then, even on that first day, she had been frantically trying to work out her exit route when Jamie interrupted. It was almost impossible, because this new school was ten times bigger than her old school and she had no idea where she was, or where the door to the playground was.

Jamie took April’s frantic silence as agreement, and that had been that. She dug into April’s bag, pulled out her schedule, and ran her black painted nail down it. “We have maths together, science together, history, French…” she broke off and said, “Cool. You’re in all the top sets too. Maybe I can copy your homework?” she grinned at April and it made her whole face soften. The frown line faded from between her eyes and her face showed how young she really was. They were the same age after all.

Jamie wore a lot of black mascara, which made her lashes look like spider legs, and she complimented it with a dark plum lipstick. By the end of the day, she would have been made to wash it off three times, by three different teachers. Jamie would wash it off as instructed, before reapplying it all over again for the next class.

April could not help but respect that kind of dedication to rebellion, and she had a brand-new friend.

They worked well together. Jamie was loud and liked talking fast. She was quick, sarcastic and frighteningly bright. She challenged all her teachers on everything, and never made any notes.

April wrote down everything and never participated in class discussions unless she absolutely had to. They were both at the top of the ‘top’ sets. Both were big readers and like April, Jamie had usually already read the books assigned to them in English class, although they tended to have very different views on them.

Jamie forced opinions out of April. She’d tap her on the head and say: “Hello? I know this head works, tell me what you think” and slowly April would put across her interpretation of a poem, or novel.

By being such opposites, they were perfect partners. In science class, Jamie would throw herself into the experiments, casually tossing in more of all the chemicals when the teacher was not looking. She was obsessed with trying to blow things up. April would hastily make notes of all the reactions and try to keep Jamie from setting fire to herself.

Jamie was a supernova - a catastrophic explosion that ejected mass. She was a star that dazzled with her brightness - her words, her energy, her adamant determination to do things her way. She was powerful, and she used that power in everything she did.

April tried to do whatever felt the easiest, whatever might make her disappear. She was her own black hole with a gravitational field so intense that no matter or radiation could escape it. The worst part for April was that she could not escape from herself.

The perfect team: Jamie lit up April’s darkness and somehow, April stopped Jamie from burning out.

“Claire spent the whole lesson talking about how she got it on with Alex at the weekend” Jamie said, stubbing her cigarette out on the wall before flicking it into the corner, where a tiny ember still glowed.

“Like anyone cares. Like she is the first person to have been there. Sheesh, who hasn’t?”

“I haven’t” April said. She hadn’t been anywhere. She didn’t go to parties and she’d never snogged a boy. She was not sure Jamie had either, but she never asked. Jamie would just scoff at her and say something about how she refused to mould herself into a typical teenage girl, who only cared about boys and fashion and what was expected of her by her ‘peers’.

“Why would you want to? An utter waste of time” Jamie said, fishing around in her bag for a mirror to reapply her lipstick. “It’s your choice that you haven’t had a tongue-sandwich yet anyway” she added, rubbing her finger over her teeth to check for lipstick marks. “You could always ask Tom to make an honest woman of you” she said this with her trademark sneer.

April blushed slightly and looked at the floor, littered with cigarette ends and Golden Wonder crisp packets. She decided to turn the conversation back to Claire Wilks and what she said she’d been doing with Alex at the weekend.

Jamie filled her in on the details of some great party they had both missed (she made quote marks with her fingers when she said the word ‘great’), while she inhaled another cigarette. As she finished smoking it to the butt, the bell rang signalling the end of lunch. Jamie was already marching back into school, muttering something about ‘local bikes’.

April squared her shoulders and prepared herself for a double science class. This was a little easier to do than usual as Science was her favourite subject: Physics particularly. She could spend the next two hours experimenting and theorising about the possibilities of the universe, rather than fighting off ever-worsening bouts of anxiety, caused by her broken mind.

As she made her way back into the building a few steps behind her best friend, her mind strayed to thoughts of her other friend, Tom.

How to describe how she felt about Tom? She had been so busy convincing everyone that they were only friends (and that was all that she wanted), she had almost convinced herself. She had to.

There was no way she could be anything more than friends with Tom, even if he wanted to be (which she doubted). If she let him get too close, he would start to see that she was not quite normal. Like in The Terminator – Arnold Schwarzenegger’s murderous robot assassin seems 100% human, until you get a look under his skin…

She could never let him see her crazy side; she needed him too much. Being with Tom was the only time her life didn’t feel surreal. Most of the time she felt like she was floating above everyone else, detached and alone. Tom was her ladder, he helped her climb back down to earth.

She thought back to their walk to school that morning. They’d huddled together to share Tom’s tinny headphones, so they could both listen to Beck’s Odelay. Tom loved music and was always raving about some cool new band he had discovered. When he had realised April’s music collection was non-existent and she didn’t know a thing about Britpop, about any music at all in fact, he had taken it upon himself to educate her.

Each day he had a different cassette in his Walkman for her to listen to. Tom’s enthusiasm for music was infectious. She fell in love with his tapes as hard as she was falling for him (no! Not falling, remember April!). Blur, Suede, Menswear, Sleeper, Ash: so many new names that it made her head spin.

She loved the older stuff he made her listen to as well. The Pixies, The Beatles, The Doors, The Jesus and Mary Chain. He often let her take the tapes home for the night and April would play them over and over. She’d written out the lyrics to her favourite songs and pinned them next to her bed, so she could trace her fingers over them at night and remember Tom singing them quietly under his breath.

“How do you get crazy with a cheese whiz, Tom?” she’d asked him that morning.

“Lord knows, but I want to. I don’t even know what a cheese whiz is, and I still want to.”

“What if it’s a person who knows loads about cheese? Someone who just bores other people by telling them blue cheese and gorgonzola and brie are exposed to mould to help them age properly. I don’t know how crazy I’d want to get with him.”

“God April, you are so hot when you talk about cheese. Would you brie mine?”

Tom turned to look at her as he asked. She noticed, as usual, how greenie-blue his eyes were. Damn you, greenie-blue eyes, she thought to herself.

His gaze was intent, and it almost felt like he was being serious, until he cocked up his left eyebrow and waggled it.

“That depends, can you promise me a gouda time?” She quipped back.

“You’d be amazed at my maturity” he replied.

When she looked up at him he was grinning at her. The lopsided grin which she often pictured to stop herself running out of class screaming ‘Get me away from my broken mind! Run, don’t walk, from my mind!”

The grin which made her stomach flip. She desperately tried to think of a quip, of anything to say. Anything to stop the images of him amazing her with his maturity.

“Cheesus, that was lame” she said eventually and put her headphone back in.

When she was with Tom, teenage banter came easily to her (except when it got flirty). Talking to Tom was like reading her favourite book. She lost herself in him, and everything else faded away. It was just her and him and nothing else. He was like a bubble around her. She knew, if she tripped, Tom would be there to catch her. If her legs gave way, he would break her fall.

Jamie always ribbed April about Tom, even though he and Jamie were great mates. They were April’s pillars, between them she felt almost invincible. April had worried they wouldn’t get on; she and Tom had been friends for a while before Jamie came on the scene. She didn’t ever want to have to swap one for the other.

Tom and April both lived in a tiny village that hung off the end of the town ‘like a third nipple’ as Tom succinctly described it.

They’d seen one another around the local shops and post office a million times growing up but never spoken. He was good-looking, and he played football all the time. She was quiet and read books. Sometimes she’d see him and his dad in the park kicking a ball around and laughing together, while his mum and little sister watched from the swings.

When April’s mum heard that Tom’s dad had died, she sent April round to his house with a homemade Moussaka, some flowers from the garden and their address and phone number scrawled on a piece of ripped-out note paper, the words ‘call me anytime’ underlined twice in black marker. That sort of gesture was just like her mum, but April really hadn’t wanted to go. It was awkward.

She felt nosy and intrusive stood on his doorstep, massive casserole dish in hand.

Tom took ages to come to the door. April was about to give up, leave it by a plant pot and slip away, but then she heard the lock opening.

“Hi,” she said awkwardly, when Tom appeared in the doorway. He looked tired and years older than when she’d last seen him. He stared at her, looking slightly surprised, but didn’t say anything.

“My mum sent you this. It’s Moussaka” her voice was uneven when she spoke.

“Mousse-what-a?” Tom said frowning at her as he ran his hand through his hair and sniffed in the direction of the pot.

“Um, Moussaka” she said again. “It’s Greek. It has aubergines in it.”

At that moment, she remembered a line from Dirty Dancing where Baby says: “I carried a watermelon”, decided that was a far better line than “It has aubergines in it”, and wanted to curl up on the floor with embarrassment.

“Okay…” he said slowly. When he reached to take it out of her hands, and couldn’t right away, she realised she was clutching it tightly to her chest. “You seem unwilling to part with it” he said, smiling slightly. “Is it your favourite? I wouldn’t want to deprive you of it. You can keep it if you want, go and take it down the park and eat it all with your hands. I won’t tell, in fact I’ll lend you a fork if you like,” he was teasing her, and she felt her cheeks heat up.

“NO!” she said in protest, “it’s for you!” she thrust it into his arms roughly and the flowers that had been balanced on top started to slide. She made a move to grab them and shoved them back on top of the dish. Inwardly she’d cursed her mum again. What 14-year-old girl gave a boy flowers?

“I’m sorry” she said, “Mum made me bring it. I was just going to leave the stuff on the doorstep, but her cooking sometimes needs an explanation.” God, why had she said that? She couldn’t seem to help herself. Instead of stopping she said: “Not that you have to eat it, you can just give it to the dog or whatever.” In her head, she was telling herself to shut up, but when she looked at Tom again he was smiling slightly.

“We don’t have a dog,” he said to her. “I’ll eat it though, if you’ve finished cuddling it?” he was smiling widely now.

He had a great smile and April felt her face soften in return. She gave him a small grin: “Ha ha.” Her arms didn’t know what to do now they no longer had the pot to hold - they hung limply at her sides and felt too big for her body. She tried crossing them over her chest, but then thought she probably looked defensive, so she dropped them back down to her sides again, swinging them slightly. Who invented arms, she wondered, and why make them so long?

Tom lifted the casserole lid and peered inside, a waft of garlic and onion filling the air. “Smells good” he said, “seriously good.” He seemed to mean it and April relaxed, her arms shrinking back to their normal length. They stood there staring at one another for a few seconds before she heard Tom’s sister calling him from inside the house.

“I’d better go,” he said. “Thanks, for coming over and the Mouss…um, dinner.”

“Of course!” she said hurriedly, embarrassed she’d kept him waiting when he obviously wanted to get back indoors. She turned and walked away quickly, her cheeks flaming, again.

A week later he appeared at her door with the empty casserole dish. April was so shocked to see him she dropped the book she had been holding. He passed her the pot, which she put on the hall table, then bent down to pick the book up for her. He looked briefly at the front cover before handing it over.

“Just bringing your dish back,” he said, shoving his now empty hands in his back pockets. “You were right, it was delicious.

Even Em ate some and she normally only eats yellow food.” April laughed slightly, and fiddled with the book.

Tom seemed relaxed enough, leaning against the doorframe. He had longish hair that poked out all over his head. He wore faded blue jeans, a stripy red, white and blue t-shirt and scuffed old trainers.

He was tall, April had to tilt her head up slightly to look at him. “Hey, we go to the same school, right?” he asked her. April nodded, surprised he had noticed her. They didn’t have any classes together and rarely passed one another in the hallways.

He was normally surrounded by his friends, a group of loud and brash boys that April tended to shrink away from.

“I think so,” April said.

“Which way do you walk?” Tom asked her suddenly.

“I, um, I go along the canal and then cut up through Bucks Meadow,” she said.

“Do you walk on your own?” he said. “The canal is a bit bleak.” He frowned a bit.

“I don’t mind it.” She quite liked it. It was much quieter than walking the main road into town, where vans beeped at her, buses rushed by and the road ahead stretched out with nowhere to slip away and hide.

The canal path was narrow, but usually empty of other people. She watched the ducks and peered into portholes of the barges moored up in the reeds as she walked.

Tom didn’t say much else after that, he just asked her to thank her mum for him, and told her he would see her later.

The next Monday he was stood by the first lock on the canal. It was right next to the hole in the hedge that had been made by people over the years, as a shortcut off the main road.

“Morning.” Tom was smoking a cigarette which he flicked into the bush as she neared.

“Hi?” she said questioningly, wondering what he was doing there. Had he been waiting for her? Should she stop or carry on walking? Her arms did their growing-long thing again. She hoisted up her backpack to give them something to do, and decided to keep going. When he fell into step beside her, she supposed he had in fact been waiting for her, and the thought made her stomach do a small flip.

She had no idea what to say to him. They were in completely different leagues at school, and though neither of them had a dad anymore, their circumstances were very different. April thought they had nothing in common at all.

Tom didn’t seem to notice April’s awkwardness, he simply pulled out his cassette player and offered her an earphone. “Ever heard of The Charlatans?” he asked. When April shook her head, he thrust the speaker into her hand and said: “You are going to love them, they are like, the Moussaka of music.”

“Are they Greek then?” April asked.

Tom roared with laughter “No, they are from Cheshire, but I’m sure they like aubergines.”

She blushed, as she seemed to do all the time around him, and put the tiny speaker to her ear.

He had appeared by the lock every day since then, and he always waited outside the chapel for her at the end of school.

She never asked him why he walked with her, or why he never hung around with his old football friends anymore and he never told her. He was just there every morning and every afternoon with his trademark cigarette hanging from his lips, and his messy hair all over the place.

He always smiled when he saw her, and asked her about her day. In turn, April started to become less and less shy around him. He seemed to find her funny, and would throw his head back and laugh when she told him stories about Jamie. “I’ve got to meet this chick,” he said. “I just can’t imagine the two of you together.”

A couple of weeks later, April asked Jamie if she wanted to stay at hers for a sleepover. “Finally,” Jamie said good-naturedly “I thought you’d never bloody ask.”

The following Friday afternoon April, Jamie and Tom all walked home together - Jamie firing questions at Tom the whole time.

He batted questions back at her with a speed that made April feel dizzy. She flicked her gaze from Tom to Jamie as they had a furious row about Courtney Love, who Jamie thought was the best female singer in the world and Tom thought was responsible for Kurt Cobain’s death.

April had no idea who Courtney Love was, but sensed she was going to be crucial to their friendship. Jamie and Tom squabbled over the location of a gun, the position Kurt was found in, the last gig he had played and his last public appearance with Courtney. Jamie seemed to have done more homework on the subject than Tom and so of course was winning the argument. Tom seemed to realise this and changed tactics to try to find some more common ground. They both agreed Dave Grohl was ‘amazing’ and the Foo Fighters were ‘awesome’.

When Jamie asked Tom if he could score her some weed, their friendship was sealed, and they became a trio.

A couple of weeks later, Tom met them by the village shop and introduced them to Yuki and that was that, the group was complete.

So the children have broken up from school. I got fined for taking them to New York, which seems ridiculous when all they have done in class for the last two weeks is watch Christmas films and play board games. How is that more educational than seeing the world? Must the local authorities try and make money out of simply everything, and where does this money go? I wonder if I’ve paid for Cuban cigars, rolled on the thighs of a virgin and Cognac at the council’s Christmas dinner and dance.

I’d have preferred to pay my fine to the recycling men. Maybe then they’d finally take my recycling. I have to stand on my street corner in fishnet tights, pole dancing the lamp post just to get their attention these days, and even then, they find a reason not to take my rubbish. I’ll have put a can in with the glass, or not folded the cardboard into tiny origami dinosaurs, or the bin is facing North and it’s ruining their Feng shui.

I am sure people get paid for NOT doing the jobs they are paid to do.

Receptionist’s at Doctors Surgeries must get a bonus for each appointment they don’t make. The people who came to collect my dishwasher managed to not take it away because it was full of water and too heavy to lift. The man delivering the new one managed to wangle out of it because he’d gotten stuck in traffic and was therefore over his allotted driving hours for the day.

Life just gets trickier and trickier. Nothing is as it used to be. Even Star Wars is ruined. I went to see the latest instalment last night and was so upset I reversed into a bollard in the Marina car park. I blame this on the Director of the movie. I wonder if I can sue him and make money out of it.

I need it for the things on my girl’s Christmas lists; ‘Fur real’ tigers that cost £100 each. Apparently, they purr and snore and roll over. We have two dogs and a cat that also do all these things and more, but the kids are not interested in them. They want the fake version. Does this mean I can get rid of the real animals that drive me mad? A pretend dog I can switch off sounds wonderful… Oooh, imagine a ‘Fur real’ husband? Mine purrs and snores and rolls over but I can’t switch him off.