‘Have you thought about moving these sofas around?’ asked the builder boyfriend. ‘No,’ I said. ‘They’re identical. There’s no point.’ ‘They’re not identical. One is a sofa bed and slightly bigger. It would fit better if they were the other way around.’ ‘Please leave them,’ I said. ‘I like them the way they are.’
‘But the bigger one doesn’t fit in the window. It should be where the smaller one is. That would make it so much better. Don’t you want it to be better?’
No, I don’t. That’s the whole point. I don’t want things to get better, I just want them to stay the same.
I’m the sort of conservative who wants things never to change, even, or especially, if that means them not getting better. Deep down, I think this is because I suspect that when something ‘gets better’ it actually gets a lot worse.
As such, when people offer to upgrade my package, or send me a better model — of anything, even if it’s free — I say no, thank you, I prefer to keep the old one.
When BT rings to offer me super-fast fibre-optic broadband, I say absolutely not, I’m very pleased with the rubbish slow broadband. Because I know in my heart that the fibre-optic broadband will somehow manage to make my life worse, under the guise of making it better.
I tried to explain all this to the builder boyfriend but he didn’t look convinced. He’s one of those damned eternal optimists who thinks he can make everything better.
I knew he was going to make the sofas fit better in spite of me, but I assumed I would notice him doing it. I didn’t.
What happened was that weeks after the sofa conversation my young cousin arrived to stay and because I have a friend in the spare room the cousin had to sleep on the sofa bed.
On the first night, I started to take the cushions off the sofa in the window to convert it. But as I reached for the flap covering the lever under the seat that usually triggers the thing springing into action I realised the flap wasn’t there.
After clawing around for ages looking for the flap I didn’t think, ‘I know what’s happened. The builder boyfriend has somehow managed to rearrange the furniture when I wasn’t looking and so the sofa bed is no longer this sofa it’s the other sofa.’
No. I thought, ‘Oh, my god, I’ve gone mad and lost the sofa bed. Holy smoke, I always thought I might go tonto in the end and now it’s happened. Possibly I’ve imagined ever having a sofa bed and all the times people used it. And all the times I slept on it, to escape the sound of the neighbours in the flat upstairs having noisy sex, which obviously I just imagined. Maybe I’ve imagined everything. I mean, what do I actually know for certain?’
And I started clawing at the place where the flap should have been. My young cousin looked on in horror as I tore at the fabric, my panic fuelled by an urgency to find the sofa bed and thus prove I was who I thought I was. But the flap wasn’t there.
And so, within three and a half minutes of apparently losing the sofa bed, I thought, ‘I knew it. Lambeth Council can’t really exist, it’s not feasible. Of course there aren’t left-wing loonies who hire parking firms from Nashville, Tennessee to police the streets of south London on commission and issue tickets to residents who have valid permits but who have parked with one wheel slightly touching the white line. I mean, how could I not have realised I imagined it. I’m the loony!’
‘I’m so sorry,’ I told my cousin, straightening up amid the cushions flung everywhere. ‘This used to be a sofa bed but somehow or other it’s stopped being one…but actually no, that’s ridiculous, the sofa bed has got to be in here somewhere… it’s in here, I tell you, I’m not going mad, there’s a bed in here…this is a sofa bed, this is not a sofa, this is a sofa bed!’ ‘Really, I can just sleep on the sofa,’ said the cousin, petrified,
‘But it’s not a sofa, it’s a sofa bed! You do believe me, don’t you? Please, say you believe me.’
‘I-I believe you,’ said the cousin.
Sweating, hair standing on end, I suddenly realised. Hang on a minute. He said...that sofa...too big...needs moving...but how...?
The thing was, now I looked at it, it did fit really nicely now.
‘You’ve got to stop making my life better when I’m not looking,’ I told the builder boyfriend the next day.
‘I’ll do my best.’
‘No, don’t do your best. Please.’
Real Life — One woman’s guide to love, men and other everyday disasters is published by Constable.