And do you know what one of my life’s greatest thrills was? It was the night when Zoe from somewhere-near-Philadelphia said she wanted to get away from her mother, her home, and even America, and could she come over here and live with me for a while. I said something like: ‘May I look forward to late night discussions on deep and meaningful things over a few scotches?’ and she replied ‘Yes yes, you may.’ I went to bed in a rippling haze of contented anticipation that night, but I realised eventually that it wouldn’t work. Having an attractive young American woman living in the house would have been quite an emotional pressure – if you see what I mean – which is why my disappointment was mixed with relief when she announced that she’d got a position in New York instead.
And do you know what one of my most gut-wrenching moments was? It was the time when I got an email one night from the Lady B after she had reluctantly attended an event at the village hall. It said: ‘I kept anticipating your arrival, but somehow I knew you wouldn’t turn up.’ I felt as though I’d just accidentally dropped the cute little puppy onto a bed of sharp nails. (The Lady B never did set foot in my house, by the way, even in the days when we were getting on.)
And the result of such musings leads me to wonder whether I really am quite the misanthropic, reclusive curmudgeon I think I am, or whether life has just pushed me in that direction and I’ve come to believe my own publicity. I don’t suppose I’ll ever know.