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Authors: Alan Sillitoe

Alligator playground

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Alligator PlaygroundAlan Sillitoe

A collection of short stories

Bibliographical Note

A Respectable Womanpublished inIllustrated London NewsandParis TransContinental

Beggarlandpublished inWoman and Home

Ron Delph and his Fight with King Arthurpublished byClarion Books

Ivypublished inGrant’s Bank MagazineandOrion River Review, USA

A Matter of Teethpublished inYou Magazine

Table of Contents

Cover Page

Title Page

Bibliographical Note

Alligator Playground

ONE

TWO

THREE

FOUR

FIVE

A Respectable Woman

Beggarland

Ron Delph and His Fight with King Arthur

Ivy

Holiday

A Matter of Teeth

Battlefields

Call Me Sailor

Alan Sillitoe

By the Same Author

Copyright

About the Publisher

Alligator PlaygroundONE

FACING EACH OTHERacross the table they took care their eyes wouldn’t meet, experienced enough to know that the ley lines of mutual attraction ought not to be played with irresponsibly. When one gaze caught the other the light in both went out, each pretending to show interest only in the remaining half-dozen at the lunch party.

Diana was surprised to note so much detail in a surreptitious glance. A photographer would never achieve the same intensity as her intuition, would at most highlight a face like that of a prisoner of war – static, bewildered, plain – whereas the reality her eyes took in would reinforce her memory, and become part of a floppy disc in the snug case of her brain.

He had the sort of face she would like to deal with in her sparetime painting, but rather than get out her sketch pad she knew that safety lay in listening to Charlotte, whose cigarette ash powdered into her barely touched soup. ‘This Tory government’s simply got to go.’

‘But how?’ Norman Bakewell’s mischievous call set Charlotte diatribing about housing, education, unemployment, the National Health Service and privatisation. Diana decided to look worried, better to fix on Charlotte’s obsessions than be yanked into another ocular contest with the fit man across the table.

Charlotte was a life-long left-winger, grappling such unregenerate views to her bosom as if her existence depended on them which, Diana thought, it probably did, in that she was kept from chewingivy in the woods, or headmistressing the local coven. She was about fifty, and a little over five feet tall. Grey and meagre hair hung a few inches down her face, but what made the coarse features interesting were lips shaped in the tiniest of bows – a perfect little bow – so perfect yet so out of place in such a grim visage as to give the effect of benign though implacable intolerance. She wore a brown sackcloth garment resembling a gymslip, and no one, except perhaps Henry her husband, had seen her in anything else, as if she had a full wardrobe and took out a clean one every few hours.

The present meal – always called that, never dinner or lunch – was served on a long table in the living-kitchen. No cloth, of course, but the place-mats were distinctive to Charlotte’s house, each depicting an episode in the struggles of the working class. Diana’s showed ‘The Taking of the Winter Palace’ and, as far as she saw on another quick eye-shot, the man opposite, whom she’d heard called Tom, was eating off ‘The Massacre of Peterloo’. The novelist Norman Bakewell, sitting next to her, had ‘The Last Stand of the Paris Commune’, and Emmy Brites, across to the left, lifted her plate and with her big blue eyes tried to make sense of ‘The Death of Rosa Luxemburg’. Jo Hesborn had been given ‘The Strike of the East End Match Girls’, while Charlotte, as always, ate her meal off ‘The Lord Mayor of London Slaying Wat Tyler’.

Diana was saying something to Charlotte, Tom noted. Every clandestine flash never lessened the attraction of what he saw. The workman type overalls of the best thin cloth buckled over a well cut shirt of pale grey seemed a mite old fashioned, but the way the front came across her bosom made her look absolutely delectable. The face attracted him no less, high cheekbones, and a slightly forward mouth due to her teeth, giving an impression of mischief and availability, which he knew better than to assume was so. Her almond shaped eyes produced a heat in him not experienced since first meeting his wife. A large-stoned ring, not on her marriagefinger, could mean anything these days. Fair hair, in a neat line across her forehead, was tied behind. He circled back to her face as if to puzzle out why it was so compelling, then gave up so that he could enjoy it.

Norman Bakewell lit a cigar and puffed so busily between courses that Barbara Whissendine got the full nimbus of his smoke, as if she was the enemy from whom he needed to conceal the industrial capacity of his output as a writer. ‘Don’t they make you sick?’ she asked.

‘Not so far, my love,’ he said. ‘I smoke about seventy a week, and do you know, I was thinking the other day that if you put them end to end for length it’d make over six hundred yards, and since I’ve been puffing like billy-ho for forty years I’ve travelled nearly fourteen miles, which is just about right in my slow moving life.’

‘I suppose you worked that out when you had writer’s block?’ Barbara, a rawboned steely-eyed literary agent who hadn’t got him on her books for the simple reason that she wouldn’t go to bed with such a toad in a million years, felt able to slam him all she liked. ‘Doesn’t your wife worry that smoking will kill you?’

‘Wife?’ His roar stopped all other talk. ‘What’s one of them?’

‘It sounds as if she henpecked you.’

Was it the downing of another glass of wine that reddened his face? ‘Did you say henpecked?’

‘Stop it, Norman.’ Charlotte collected the plates, and took the roast meat out of the oven. She knew him as one of those déclassé working-class men who, thinking he had nothing to blame his parents for, or being too sentimental to know where to begin, had reduced one middle-class wife after another to suicidal misery.

‘Henpecked?’ he crowed. ‘You don’t know one half. I got carpet bombed from morning till night. Then she came out of the potting shed, thank God, and went off with a woman.’

Jo Hesborn adjusted her collar and tie. ‘I can’t say I’d blame her for that.’

‘The trouble was, she came back.’

Barbara angled away. ‘And you let her?’

He paused. ‘Wanted to get my own back, didn’t I?’

‘You mean you picked up with a man?’ Jo laughed.

Light from the afternoon sun flashed on his glasses. ‘I didn’t wear my heart on my sleeve like a patch of snot, or cry into my blotting paper. I had an affair with a girl who was too young to think of becoming a lesbian.’

‘So why isn’t your wife with you now?’ Barbara did her best to smile, and wiped the failure away with a napkin. ‘I’m sure she’d love hearing the same old patter.’

Gazing tenderly, he took her hand in his, till she snatched it free. ‘I’m glad I didn’t bring her, or we’d both been fighting over you, darling. She’s finally hopped it, I’m glad to say. Greater love hath no man than this, that he hand over his wife to the tender mercies of a woman.’

Jo Hesborn picked up her empty glass. ‘You bastard! You walking gasometer!’

The missile shattered against his forehead, but he stayed calm, not only as if such an event happened every other day, but as if his existence would be without meaning if it didn’t take place now and again. Even so, the grin barely lit the middle of his pallid face, thin lips suddenly with more curves in them.

He swabbed the flood, reddening Charlotte’s best linen, and patted Jo’s wrist as if he had injured her. ‘I don’t know why you did that. You ought to be grateful for somebody like me. I’ve probably turned more women into lesbians than any man in London. I thought somebody like you would appreciate the fact.’

Jo was disgruntled at her failure to obliterate – or at least kill – him. ‘Thanks for nothing, scum.’

‘I confess,’ Norman said, fully recovered, ‘that I’m looking foranother girlfriend, though I can’t see myself handing her over to you after I’ve done with her. Every likely looking candidate I come across gets a written questionnaire, in any case, so’s there’ll be no misunderstanding. For instance, I want to know whether or not she smokes. I wouldn’t like her to live longer than me and burn all my letters and notebooks, though I expect we’d be separated long before that. I want to know if she’s married. I don’t want to get a dagger in my back from her squash-playing husband. Can she drive? Then I can get drunk at parties and she can take me home. Is she a dab hand at a word processor? That’s essential, because I’m bloody hopeless with them. Does she have a sense of humour? She’d certainly need one. Are both her parents dead? Mine are, so it’s only fair hers are too. Does she have children? I don’t want any of those puking little bastards competing for attention. In any case, little Crispin with the heavenly curls might grow up to be a yobbo and kick me in for hitting his mother. Does she have a job? – preferably with TV or in films, so that she can get my novels put on. Then, of course, will she keep thinking I’m a genius when she hears me fart in bed at night? Does she have a centrally heated flat in the middle of London? I’ve taken a shine to Pimlico. And does she have a cottage in Dorset, with no neighbours to hear the screams when we start quarrelling and I give her a good hiding? And oh yes – God-Almighty, I nearly forgot – can she unravel the mysteries of VAT? A positive response to such queries might result in a satisfactory relationship for a month or two, but in the meantime,’ he ended, with little-boy wistfulness, ‘I’ll go for any halfway personable woman who takes pity on me. Until the paragon turns up, of course, when I’d throw her aside like an old floorcloth.’

Diana noted the admiration on Tom’s face at how Bakewell had ignored the cut from Jo’s glass, and now his awe at such a horrid screed. Her face was warm with hatred, and she wanted to say something that would wither all men to pitiable stumps, thoughCharlotte came in before her: ‘Norman, I shan’t buy your next novel if you don’t behave to my guests.’

He swabbed his forehead again rather than quarrel with his hostess, and said mildly: ‘You’ll regret it, if you don’t. It’s calledThe Lovers of Burnt Oak. Bound to get onto the short list for the Windrush Prize.’ He manufactured an expression of repentance. ‘I’m sorry, though. I was feeling a bit on the dark side of bilious when I flopped out of bed this morning.’ He apologised to Barbara, who responded with silence, so he looked around for another victim. ‘Anybody want to talk about modern English literature?’

He lit a cigar when no one did. He was drunk, and Diana hoped everyone would ignore him, but he was malevolent and wouldn’t let them. ‘I’ll tell you about the new novel I’m writing.’ He looked at Tom, whose firm had beaten all competitors to get him on its list during an auction at the Groucho Club. ‘The hero’s a publisher,’ he said, beady-eyeing Tom as if to damage him for having bought him like a slave at the market, and hoping that what he was going to say would turn into a prophecy. ‘Well, his wife has a relationship – dare I call it, Jo? – with a woman. The husband’s quite happy because it takes her attention from a little bit of business he’s got on, also with a woman. Even so, the wife carries on in so shameless a way that at times he feels humiliated, but puts her affair in cold storage, as it were, to be dealt with in the future. Well, our hero publisher and his wife have a grown-up son, who he’s always suspected to be the result of an early affair of his wife’s, though we’ll let that pass. This son has an affair with the daughter of the woman his wife is passionately involved with. Are you following me? A real alligator playground, because listen: both affairs tail off, you might say, but as time goes on the husband feels slighted and his thoughts stray towards revenge. A few years later he has a relationship with the woman’s daughter that his son has by now finished with, and little by little he blasts her life, as only a swine like him can, to such an extent that she does herself in. The motherthen lives unhappily ever after, as a played-out harridan.’

‘You’re sheer fucking evil,’ Jo cried, after the silence. ‘I should have pushed this carving knife into your guts.’

‘It’s a very moral tale,’ he huffed. ‘I was hoping you’d see something of that sort in it.’ He began to cry, head forward over the ashtray, and Diana felt a shameful urge to comfort him.

Jo stood, pushing her chair away. ‘The gas-oven’s the only place for a snotchops like you.’

They walked with their coffee through the French windows onto a large well-shaved lawn, the grass dry enough for those who couldn’t find places on the scattered park bench seats. The softened thump of a cricket ball sounded from the vicarage garden next door as Diana went towards the lilac bushes followed by Jo Hesborn.

Jo worked on lay-out forHome and Country. Her grey eyes sparked from behind the smallest of half-moon spectacles which, Diana thought, might be made of plain glass. Her hair was between fair and dark, the androgynous body dressed in a white silk shirt and tie, and checked trousers. She smoked a black papered cigarette from a holder made of bone.

Diana had heard she was a friend of Charlotte’s because she had ‘impeccable working-class credentials’. It was also put about that as a lesbian she had slept with most of the media women in London, who thought it less of a risk to tangle with the working class through her than get involved with an obese plumber or building worker. Diana considered such slander drummed up by a male chauvinist slob who thought it was witty, because she found Jo likeable, plain and straightforward, and envied her for making the only possible protest against Norman Bakewell. After saying so, she asked: ‘Who was that bloke sitting opposite me? Do you know him?’

She spoke with a modified Northumbrian accent. ‘He used to be a writer.’

‘Why is he here, though?’

‘Oh, he did a reportage, for a magazine Charlotte brought out in the eighties calledThe New Oppressed. She thought his piece was wonderful – social realism stuff straight from the front line, to use Charlotte’s words, far better than Orwell ever wrote, she said, who she’d always thought a traitor to the working class.

‘Tom lived among no-hopers and winos for a month, hung around DHSS offices, talked to kids on housing estates who loved nicking expensive cars and driving them on wasteland to burn. It was a long piece, went through three issues, but the magazine didn’t last long. Even Tom’s brilliant piece couldn’t save it. The chattering classes weren’t all that interested, and the unemployed couldn’t afford it with their giros. They’d have laughed about it, anyway.

‘Tom said that even before finishing it he decided that all he’d met were unhelpable, or just having a marvellous time burning and looting, for which he couldn’t blame them. I’m sure he’s never said as much to Charlotte, which is why she still likes him. Then he went into publishing, and now he’s on the way to becoming a millionaire, or so it’s whispered in the trade.’

‘What about his love life?’

Jo laughed. ‘Don’t ask! When he was slumming among the deadbeats he fell in love with a young married woman he got talking to in the DHSS queue. Or maybe he fell for another at the same time, knowing him. Anyway, it all went wrong. She saw through him, I suppose. Then he went down like a ton of bricks for this hardbitten tart from the North called Angela, a coalminer’s daughter, who worked at his firm. He married her. Got what he deserved, I suppose.’

‘Is he happy?’ Diana wanted to know.

Jo scoffed. ‘No man can be happy, not even if you got him up in heaven and made him God. I don’t know why you’re so interested in him, though. Come and have a drink with me sometime, at my place in St John’s Wood. I’ve always got some Bolly in thefridge. We’ll have a meal afterwards, then try the Swallow Club for a dance. You’ll love it there.’

Diana felt a sudden frisson, but put the hand gently away from her waist, in spite of the steady light in Jo’s grey eyes, which she found hard to resist. She wasn’t ready for that kind of eating, though might give it a try one day – or night – just as almost every woman wanted to have a baby once in her life. ‘It’s a bit far to get to from the BBC.’

‘If ever you feel like it, let me know.’ Wasting no time, she strode between rose bushes and across the lawn to blonde and secretive Emmy Brites, said to be writing her first novel, and whose peach coloured cheeks turned vermilion when the hand went forward.

Languid, dark and late thirtyish, Tom, when chatting at a party (except to a woman) looked continually over the man’s shoulder to see who it might be useful to meet next. He did it without shame, on the understanding that since who he was talking to would know what was in his mind, and was probably doing the same anyway, he could leave without either being embarrassed. He also assumed that those under his scrutiny were talking about him, which was sometimes the case. Glad that Diana had given that lesbian the pushoff, he walked across to talk to her, as she had hoped he would.

He leaned on the arbour post. ‘I had a lot to say to you, and now I’ve forgotten it all. At the table I thought the block would vanish as soon as we were face to face.’

‘And won’t it?’

‘I’ve never felt such an electric connection in my whole life. It was absolutely amazing. It’s still there, even more now that you’re close and there’s nothing between us.’

Fair, for a beginning, especially since he could have been stealing her words. Maybe that was how he had become a millionaire, though these days you could be fab-rich one week and living in Cardboard City the next. ‘I thought it was wonderful, the way Jo Hesborn dealt with that emotional cripple.’

‘Norman? I suppose he did ask for it. But maybe it’s rather admirable, the way he lives like an open wound.’

‘Sewer, more like.’ His envy of Bakewell foxed her for a second, because she hated his misogynistic novels, and didn’t think him worth any talk at all. ‘How come you know Charlotte?’

Such a laugh made it hard to know what he thought, as he leaned close and lowered his voice. ‘I like her. She’s one of the old sort, totally misguided. She can’t go to Russia since Perestroika because the planes don’t run on time, and she might get mugged. It was the only country she felt safe in, but now she sticks to this old rectory, though she hates the place. Complains all the time to poor old Henry, so that she can seem the calm and all wise earthy hostess to everyone else.’

‘I wouldn’t like to beyourwife.’ Yet she thought she might, for an hour or two.

Even the overalls didn’t hide her figure, the lovely fruity breasts, body going in at the waist and coming out to delectable hips. ‘I’ll curb my tongue, but if you ask me whether I’d like to be married to you the answer’s yes, any time of the week.’

‘You sound like the perfect husband. I hope your wife thinks you are.’

‘In my experience, only the fatally flawed try to be perfect. I just saw you, and knew we had to talk.’

It was the moment to move on to someone else, easy enough to do. She’d always told herself never to have any truck with a married man, but he had given her no reason to walk away, and she didn’t care to think of one. ‘I’d love to live in a house like this, on such a marvellous day at least.’

‘I’d die here,’ he said. ‘What’s wrong with London?’

‘Oh, not much, I agree. But I wake up in the morning plagued by pneumatic drills, or car alarms going off, or a burglar alarm, or a police car screaming to get to the station before the tea gets cold. Then there’s the awful smell, and the traffic.’

Charlotte stood at the door. ‘Who’s going to volunteer for washing up? I only need two.’ She thought it educational to make her guests work after a meal. ‘When it’s done we can go on a nice long walk to the river.’

Tom saw a way to imprison her in talk for the next half-hour. ‘Let’s do it.’

She used cardboard plates at her flat, and squashed them in the bin afterwards, but was happy to say yes. They put their hands up, like children at school, she thought, then went into the house, applauded by the others.

‘Do you know how to get there?’ The thatched cottages and front gardens were so neat she imagined people trying for the best kept village of the year. Even the gravestones looked polished and scoured, surrounding the stark grey church whose sinister tower must be visible for miles.

‘We turn left along here.’ He put a hand on her naked elbow, as if she needed guiding. The others would be left behind, and she liked being near him, though neither could think of much to say after their chatter at the sink. Skylarks and swifts played Battle of Britain in the blue, and the heat wafted an odour of tall wheat from either side of the track.

‘I’ve done this walk quite a few times.’ She wondered who with as they turned down a lane of birch trees, treading over hardrimmed tractor ruts. ‘There’s a keeper’s cottage at the end, then nothing between there and the river.’

Except a band of dark wood. The way opened onto sloping fields of yellow rape, which also patched the rising land across the valley. They stood a moment to enjoy the view. ‘I hear Elgar’s music when I get to this spot,’ he said.

Poppies were worried by wasps of gold and black, and a small aeroplane lazied up from the coast. ‘I see what you mean.’

He put an arm around her. ‘The “Introduction and Allegro”,what else?’ – and kissed her, a slow easing of the tongue into her mouth. Her body burned with the heat of the day, and there was sweat on her upper lip. The kiss was brief, could have lasted longer it was so delicious. She held his hand as they walked, breath quickened and not altogether from exertion. A rabbit zig-zagged out of their way. ‘I know a short cut through the wood.’

Thistles and stubble slowed them down, then she detoured trying to avoid tall nettles, but they brushed her thin overalls and the vague tingle of stings came through, increasing her desire for him. ‘Won’t we be seen from the keeper’s cottage?’

He waited for her to catch up. ‘I expect he’s too busy with Lady C. – if you see what I mean.’

They clambered over a ruinous stile, Tom scuffing a chocolatelooking stag beetle from a beam before handing her across. Unnecessary, but it was fun to let him think he could help. The way down levelled under foliage of clustering elms, brambles and small bushes almost covering the track. He stopped at a clearing.

Collared doves warbled, flapping at the disturbance. There was nothing to be said, hadn’t been since eyeing each other across the table, her hands as forward as his as she drew him down, seeing his glazed eyes and still lips, and sweat on him also. An aroma of damp undergrowth played around the cool wood as she undid the straps of her overalls, and pulled at the buttons of her shirt. The crack of a twig sounded from some animal, or a disturbed branch, and she hoped there’d be no unseen audience.

She had never made love in a wood, while he obviously had, and she wondered at the unfamiliar air so cool to her nakedness. When he took off his shirt and trousers she could hardly bear to wait. The heat went back into her, and they seemed a thousand miles from the nearest human. He knew what he was doing, in ways she hadn’t thought of before, but passion took care of them in any case.

Unexpectedly discovered love put them into a state of indolent stupefaction. She hoped there would be no wet patch on her overalls for the others to notice when they got to the river. His instinct was good, for he passed her a newly ironed handkerchief from his back pocket. ‘Use this.’

‘You came prepared.’

‘Be unforgivable if I didn’t.’ He never felt better than after a good long fuck, and hoped she did too, complimenting himself that it hadn’t been for want of plying the old skill if she didn’t. ‘The idea of sadness after sex must have been a liberal middle-class invention, like socialism or anti-smoking, or not eating meat. Anything to stop people enjoying life.’ Gratified at her laughter, he lit a cigarette. ‘This is the first weekend I’ve had off in months. I get up at six, and am never in bed before midnight.’

‘It certainly keeps you fit,’ she said languidly.

He flicked his ash towards a butterfly. ‘I spend an hour at the gym every day. Otherwise, I’d seize up.’

‘You certainly didn’t get anywhere near it then.’ She wanted to sleep in a big white bed with him, but stood to smooth the aches in her hips.

He straightened his collar. ‘We’d better go, I suppose, or they’ll wonder where we’ve got to.’

He wasn’t there when she next went to Charlotte’s, and she had almost grovelled to get invited. She had to push aside foul Norman Bakewell, who ragged her all through a lunch that would only have been good if you were peasant-hungry. He taunted her at Tom’s absence, as if his wormy novelist’s mind guessed every detail of their encounter.

Walking towards the wood made the distance seem twice as long. She was depressed and chilled in the damp glade, rain trickling from the foliage. The half-hour with Tom had been so perfect, she might have known it was too good to recall. Her mac was like wetmuslin on getting back to the house. Luckily, Norman Bakewell was asleep in the lounge, though sending up vinous fumes and the stink of foul cigars.

Home dead beat from work, she picked up the phone to hear Tom’s unmistakably nasal tone. ‘It’s been a long time, far too long, but can I come and see you?’

A month had gone by, and while knowing his number she had waited rather than do him the honour. The stab of wishing they had never met came now and again, but their idyllic summer’s day would return in smell and touch, visual detail flooding in so that the innermost part of her belly yearned.

‘When?’ she asked.

‘Now.’

He came out of the lift wearing Reeboks, jeans, and a Gap shirt. A copy ofThe Big Issueshowed from one pocket of his blue cashmere overcoat, and a bottle of White Horse stuck its neck out of the other.

‘I’m serious.’ He sat by her on the couch, a drink cupped in his free hand. ‘I can’t ever forget you. I love you, and want to see you all I can. The trouble is, I’ve been rushing here there and everywhere these last weeks, and couldn’t find a minute to get in touch.’

She was glad, having been too often on the point of ringing him. ‘Is your wife away tonight?’

‘Nothing like that. I’m working late. I always am.’

She sipped whisky and Evian, and fought away laughter at noting that Evian backwards spelled ‘naive’. She felt mischievous. ‘Doesshehave a lover?’

‘She could, for all I know.’

‘Would you mind?’

He laughed. ‘I’d kill him, maybe.’

‘Supposeheplayed squash as well? But would your wife kill you?’

‘I’d expect her to try, even if only to prove she loved me, or because I’d made the elementary mistake of letting her find out. It’s never an accident when someone does. There’s malice in it, you can bet. If you really care for each other – I mean, beyond love – you make sure the other never knows. Carelessness in that situation is sheer stupidity, maybe even hatred, or to get revenge.’

Men are all the same, she thought, though she’d never had a lover with the wit to speak so openly, which threw her so much off balance that she could only join in, and give up wondering what he meant by caring for somebody beyond love. ‘What about those who have affairs by mutual agreement?’

He followed her into the kitchen. ‘It ends in disaster, which must have been what they wanted.’

She put two pizzas in the microwave. ‘Hungry?’

‘Starving,’ as befitted, she thought, someone who spoke in such a way. ‘You seem to have had plenty of experience.’

‘It’s all speculation. Or intelligent observation, if you like.’ He leaned across and kissed her. ‘Most of it comes from reading Norman Bakewell.’

‘I do hope not,’ she said into his ear.

Her parents had sold their house in France two years ago, and bought a flat in Sevenoaks. Having too much furniture from that rambling old mill, they had given her a double bed, and because they or their guests had slept on it Diana was put off when sporting with her lovers. Another thing was it took up too much room: all right to stretch out on in summer, but hard to warm with her own heat in winter. With Tom as a lover she didn’t care who had humped on it before.

A call of once a month was hardly sufficient to serve someone like her. She wanted to have an affair, and this was more like a treat from heaven whenever he cornered a spare hour. Time that dragged into a month had a ball and chain to its feet, though as soon asshe heard the bell it was as if he had called only days ago. Out of chagrin she would greet him as if he were a stranger, forcing him into his most charming mode to get them back into high romantic style. Not until after the meal and bottle of wine, when she was lying naked on the bed, and he was leaning over in a very satisfactory state, did this feeling come about.

After they had made love she said: ‘I’d like a phone number, in case there’s a need to get in touch with you.’

‘You have the office one already.’

‘The home number, if you don’t mind.’

‘I’m hardly ever there. It would be a million to one if I were to answer it. And I shouldn’t like Angela to.’

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