The visit from the accident assessor appointed by the insurance company sent me on a cleaning spree involving industrial quantities of bleach.
I spent the hours preceding his arrival subjecting every corner of my flat to a thorough going-over. Then I lit scented candles and brewed fresh coffee.
‘What am I doing?’ I muttered dementedly as I grabbed the dog and deposited her in the bath 20 minutes before he was due. Cydney was happy enough. There’s nothing she likes better than lapping warm water from a shower spray while skidding up and down a bath tub.
‘Got to get you nice and clean,’ I said, as I emptied half a bottle of fiendishly expensive organic, fair trade, ‘no tears’ baby shampoo over her wiggling body. ‘Naturally pure for relaxed babies,’ said the label. Since when did we want our babies to be relaxed? It didn’t seem to be having a relaxing effect on the spaniel, in any case.
Cydney leapt out of the tub and span around the flat shaking water everywhere so I had to do the floors again. ‘Really — what am I doing?’ I muttered, as I moved the candles round, then decided to hide them behind a picture frame because I didn’t want it to look as if I was trying to set the scene for romance in a bid to bribe the man from Aviva.
I was considering a quick attack on the grouting with the toothbrush and cider vinegar when he knocked at the door.
Cydney hurtled down the hallway barking like Cerberus guarding the gates of hell.
‘Cydney! Be nice…’ I opened the door to find an enormously tall man looking worried on the doormat. Cydney launched upwards and threw herself into his arms. ‘I’m so sorry. She doesn’t bite, although she might lick you to death — ha ha! Seriously, she won’t lick you to death.’ I don’t think the accident assessor did irony.
I served coffee as he fired up an improbably large laptop. ‘How would you describe the people in the other vehicle?’ he said, as he began to take my statement.
‘Well, I don’t want to be rude,’ I said, giving him a look.
‘Be as rude as you like,’ he said, staring blankly at his computer screen. He must get bored of stock answers. Even so, I didn’t want to say something that might get me sued for slander on top of everything else.
‘He was, er, darkish and medium height. She was, er, slightly overweight with, er, dirty blonde hair. That’s a technical term, the colour charts actually say dirty blonde. My mother’s a hairdresser.’
‘Fine,’ he said, typing it all in.
‘No wait, better say dark blonde. You never know. I don’t want her to accuse me of accusing her of not washing. Even though she probably…well, never mind.’
He went back and deleted. ‘What did the driver do when he got out of his vehicle?’
‘He handed me a bit of paper with his details on it.’
The assessor looked up, showing a hint of expression for the first time. ‘He did, did he? Hmmm. Very interesting.’
‘Yes, this builds a picture. So, he handed you the piece of paper before looking at the back of his car to check for damage?’
‘Yes,’ I said. Then after a few seconds: ‘Oh, I see what you mean.’
He smiled, with a hint of swagger. ‘Would you say,’ he said, almost raising his eyebrows, ‘that he got out of his car and handed you his details before he could possibly have had time to find a pen and paper and write them down?’
‘Yes! Yes, I would! Of course! It’s all making sense now.’
It struck me that I ought to run some other anomalies in my life past the accident assessor. Maybe he could make sense of a few other things. If I told him all about the Porsche-driving ex-boyfriend he might be able to tell me what that was all about.
‘So,’ he would probably conclude, ‘he told you he wanted to get married and have children and then gave you a diamond ring to wear on your right hand? You’re sure about that, are you? He specifically instructed you not to wear it on your engagement finger? Hmm, interesting.’
Unfortunately, there wasn’t time. The interview took three hours. Dusk was falling by the time I had described everything. I even acted out the woman’s funny little dance in the road when she ‘discovered’ she would be disabled for the rest of her days because of the impact of a Peugeot 206 hitting the people carrier she was travelling in at 3mph.
The accident assessor revealed he would probably have to interview her next. I bet she doesn’t expend any bleach getting ready.
This article first appeared in the print edition of The Spectator magazine, dated January 21, 2012