For a while, it seemed as if the only words my beloved would ever say again were ‘chicken Kievs’.
Two hours of operating a strimmer to clear the undergrowth from the electric fencing around my field had left the builder boyfriend either deaf or so hungry he could only think about his favourite meal.
Every question I asked elicited the same two words, until I thought the best thing was to get him home and feed him chicken Kievs. So I hurried to the One Stop and swept every pack they had off the shelves.
He sat down at the table looking peculiar and ate his way through four breaded chicken breasts laced with garlic butter, one after the other. Then he looked up and started to converse normally.
I regard myself as fortunate that whatever goes wrong with my other half I can usually put him right by serving him a cheap convenience meal.
A few days later, however, there weren’t enough chicken Kievs in the world…
He was driving down Esher High Street on his way to pick me up when out of nowhere a police car pulled out of the traffic queue on the opposite side of the road and sped down the road on the wrong side, forcing the brand new Range Rover in front of him to slam on its brakes, and he shot straight into the back of it.
Nothing he could have done would have made his battered old Hilux stop in anywhere near the time the state-of-the-art Range Rover achieved. He tried to steer into the grass verge and took off the Range Rover’s entire left back side.
According to the appalled witnesses who stopped to help, the police car then slowed down momentarily as the officers inside surveyed the wreckage, before speeding off into the distance.
The driver of the Range Rover got out almost in tears. He was a dealership employee delivering the brand-new car to its owner. He and the builder boyfriend came swiftly to the conclusion that this was neither of their faults. A car careering towards them on the wrong side of the road — never mind what kind of car — had caused the accident. They resolved to phone this in to the insurance companies and took the witnesses’ details.
When the builder boyfriend rang me and told me all this, he was horribly optimistic that it was all so clear cut it would obviously be sorted out quite quickly and amicably. I told him to manage his expectations.
‘B-b-b-b-b-b-but…’ the BB stammered, indignantly.
‘Yes, well, it’s always possible it will all get sorted and we can always live in hope,’ I said. ‘But after all the years I’ve been in the catastrophe business, I can tell you what I expect to happen. And it’s going to require you to stay calm. This is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.’
My mind had already played the tape forward and I told him about the Independent Police Complaints Commission. But he wasn’t listening.
He made his phone calls to the insurance company and the dealership and when the manager there was supportive he became even more recklessly optimistic. And then he called the police. Oh dear.
I heard him explain the accident and the fact that it involved one of their cars. And I heard him very politely asking them how they wished to proceed. And then I went and hid upstairs and listened to the rest of it from a safe distance, because I’ve still got a headache from putting my neck out.
After a pause, all I could hear was: ‘Now you listen to me, mate! Don’t you tell me I should be able to stop even if a police car is coming towards me at 100 mph! What do you mean you don’t know of any car in your force that was on that road at that time of the day? What if a car that wasn’t a police car had caused an accident and fled, would you want to know about that? Oh you take accusations against your officers very seriously, do you? Well, that’s good, because I want them taken seriously!
‘No no no! You listen! I’m the one who’s sat here on Friday night with his truck in pieces having to deal with insurance companies. I’m the one worrying about how I’m getting to work next week…’
He came off the phone with his hair standing on end. ‘I can’t believe it. They’re questioning whether there was a police car there at all!’
‘Look at it from their point of view,’ I sighed. ‘They’ve got to investigate the possibility that a hundred people on Esher High Street during rush hour had matching spontaneous hallucinations. They wouldn’t be doing their job otherwise.’