“Are you sure you can’t come to the Pub?” asks Short Tony.

There is a note of desperation in his voice, like me talking to some girls. I feel truly sorry for him, but my mother and father are visiting and I have no window of opportunity in which to fit in enjoying myself.

“Well I’m going on my own then,” he mutters darkly.

Later, I am sitting in the living room with my family. There is loud shrieking from next door.

My father emerges from behind the Times crossword, blinking like a woodland creature interrupted from its hibernation by Jehovah’s Witnesses.

“Sounds like they’re having fun?” he comments, above the howl of shrill feminist laughter.

“It is the Village Book Group,” I explain. “They are meeting at Short Tony’s place tonight. Talking about books and things.”


I send Short Tony a text message, on the telephone. “DO NOT RETURN FOR FORESEEABLE FUTURE”. It takes me ages to write ‘foreseeable’, but that is the sort of neighbour that I am.