‘I see you’ve got the posters up then?’ said the little lodger as she came home from work. She’s got the idea now that she is living with a person who could best be described as eccentric. But she seems to really like it. She seems to find all aspects of living with me thoroughly entertaining. She was the only applicant who saw the value in the deal I was offering: bed, board, bills and unlimited horse-riding on the pony Gracie.
She loves Gracie, and Gracie loves her. She canters off up the field with the lodger looking horribly unstable and I shout ‘Sit up! Pull her up!’ And she pulls and Gracie stops like an angel.
She says she is thoroughly enjoying herself. She says she doesn’t mind the manic landlady. Nor the bits of the property still hanging off or missing. Nor the ex-builder boyfriend coming and going like a bull in a china shop, half-fixing things.
And neither does she seem to mind me spreading my research over the entire dining room table and sitting there on my laptop with my hair standing on end all day every day, muttering to myself like Mel Gibson in Conspiracy Theory.
She goes out in the morning saying ‘Bye’ as I’m tapping and she comes back in the evening saying ‘Hi’ as I’m tapping. She’s lucky if she gets a hello but it doesn’t seem to bother her.
On the evening after I got involved in the seized horses, as all hell was breaking loose, she suddenly called up from the kitchen to say dinner was ready. I trotted down, matted hair standing at right angles, to find her standing at the stove with a delicious meal of chicken stir-fry all ready for me.
‘Bless you!’ I said, putting my arms round her. ‘That’s all right!’ she said, and she did a little skippy dance thing she does when she’s pleased. I still can’t quite believe I went online and found the sweetest, most adorable twenty-something in Britain and also surely the only woman in the northern, eastern and western hemispheres who would enjoy living with me.
So the other day I went the whole hog, knowing she wouldn’t mind. I pinned a time-line of events above the dining room table where I’m sitting at my laptop. It’s just one piece of paper. It’s not like it’s an entire wall plastered with jagged newspaper cuttings.
In the window are simply some perfectly normal hand-printed posters calling on people to oppose threatened development on the green belt, on the farmland vacated by the seized horses. Fine, it looks mental.
You remember the movie? Here’s a reminder of the trailer to refresh your memory. Cue voiceover: ‘Jerry Fletcher has theories…’ Cut to Mel Gibson with hair standing on end saying: ‘The whole Vietnam war was fought over a bet and Howard Hughes lost to Aristotle Onassis.’ Cue voiceover: ‘Some would call his theories crazy…’ Cut to Julia Roberts, hotshot lawyer, looking amused: ‘You’re telling me that Nasa is going to kill the president of the United States with an earthquake?’
Actually, that bit of the movie is probably looking less crazy now. But anyway, continue movie trailer with deep baritone voiceover, sounding creepier: ‘Now one of his theories is true, only he doesn’t know which one…’ Mel, in a beanie hat: ‘I must have hit a nerve with one of those articles.’
Cue footage of secret service men in cars and helicopters hunting Mel down, Mel running panic-stricken along busy streets in and out of traffic, special forces abseiling down buildings, things exploding, Mel torching buildings, Mel panting while hurriedly saying goodbye to the only person trying to help by telling them to ‘kiss me for luck’. God knows who will kiss me for luck. I suppose the sometime builder b will have to do it.
He thinks all my theories are true. Satellite companies not letting you cancel by having phone lines where press two to cancel plays recorded Muzak and never, ever gets you through; mobile phone providers who absolutely will not give you the right price for the contract you want unless you serve notice you are terminating and request a PAC code to prove it; insurance firms that secretly turn a blind eye to fraudulent whiplash claims so they can put their premiums up no matter how careful we are about driving; secret left-wing conservationist plots to stop walkers from accessing common land where there are rare birds by charging for car parking during the day then allowing free access at night to doggers so the place is littered with condoms by morning and no one wants to go there…
Look, it’s not like I’m going around in a beanie. I’m wearing a very nice fur-trimmed designer pompom hat.