'I don't like to talk about it,' he said, looking away.
'Why not?' I was puzzled.
'I saw some …' The man's eyes misted over. '...terrible things out there.'
'Oh…' I thought for a moment. 'Like when you had to put hamsters down and stuff?'
And that was the moment I realised and he realised that I thought he meant he was a veterinary surgeon who worked in Vietnam.
But I don't go away. I clip her lead to her collar and cajole her out of the front door and drag her around the park as if we're rehearsing for a state funeral. Occasionally she breaks in to a lumpen trot, if she sees a stray crisp packet. If other dogs romp around her, keen to sniff, she endures their overtures without responding (think Queen Victoria having a smear). As we walk she flashes me pleading looks, silently begging to be taken home where it's safe and warm and there might be a Jammie Dodger left unattended on a low table.
And no ordinary pressie. I was waggling a pastel candle in a frostedholder, the finest that John Lewis' gift department could muster.
'Ah, a scented candle,' said Matthew as we heard footsteps approach the other side of the door. 'The successor to supermarket flowers as the classic impersonal gift.'
(He doesn't get it. Men don't get candles, like they don't get bunting. Or wanting to murder everybody you know with a pick axe once a month.)
1. Get married
2. Have baby
3. Buy house
I laughed because my friend didn't have a boyfriend at the time.
You know the punchline here, don't you? Yup. By the end of that year, she'd married a nice man (that I introduced her to), got pregnant and was choosing the tiles for the en-suite in her new house.
Yes, my other hat is covered in glitter, despite my misgivings about a world where characters wear tap shoes and croon about the moon in June. I've co-written two musicals, and the third is being staged in London in November. You could come and see it! If you want!
They're a bit different, our musicals. They're funnier and more dramatic than your average specimen, with deeper, richer characters. I write the dialogue, and Matthew supplies the music and the lyrics. Mavis supplies the bored expression and the faint smell of PuppiChunx.
Ifyou're interested in knowing more, visit the website. And say hello if you come along – I'll be the one hyperventilating at the back.