seething and writhing) but, this being Exmoor, our choices were limited and we’d had to settle for The King’s Speech (good in a sensible worthy BBC kind of way). Absolutely no writhing; not even a miniscule seethe.
‘Actually, talking of sucking, we did get some echinacea lollipops. They made a change.’
A large Alsatian barred the entrance to the pub but if it were meant to be intimidating, it failed dismally. Rachel has the largest dog you can get before they morph into ponies while it’s only small dogs that intimidate me. We fussed it and walked in.
‘It’s getting ridiculous, this money business,’ said Rachel as we huddled by the fire. I nodded gloomily and stuck my straw in our shared mineral water.
‘There must be a way we can make money.’
‘Well, the Man Pets didn’t work.’
Her puppy is called Beatrice – the SP’s real name is Dante. Rachel thought it was the obvious love match, despite the extreme difference in size.
‘The SP is a dog of great ingenuity – he’d find a way.’
‘Not without testicles he wouldn’t,’ she countered. ‘You were precipitate.’
I couldn’t argue that one. ‘Well, it would have cheapened their relationship anyhow. It’s a beautiful, spiritual thing.’
‘Whatever. So that’s out. You’ve tried self-help books; I’ve tried websites and welly socks. You refused to countenance children’s parties [I did]; I can’t face accountancy. We need to think outside the box.’ She stroked the Alsatian absent-mindedly then grabbed his thick studded collar.
‘Got it!’ she said, rather too loudly, making the poor dog jump. ‘That's it! We set up a dungeon.’
‘I beg your pardon.’
‘Oh don’t play the innocent. You went to bondage clubs in London.’
‘Only because my gay male best friend dragged me along cos he was too scared to go alone.’
‘Well, okay, I did like my silver rubber dress and the spiky heels. And the people were very funny - and rather sweet.’
‘There you go. I’ve got these friends who live outside London and they’ve got a dungeon and they make a killing from it. We’ve got barns.... Or, maybe it would be better in town. Hmm, you’ve got the Haunted Cellar...’
‘What? The one with the ghost?’
‘No,’ she shook her head in irritation. ‘It's no good. Not because of the ghost. The ceiling’s too low and it wouldn’t take the load.’
Rachel did engineering at university; I could see calculations flitting through her head.
‘But, hey, you have got the perfect room actually...’
‘Perfect for what?’
‘Stringing them up.’
‘WHAT? The Oak Room?’
‘Exactly. Of course James would have to be boarding and you’d need to call Adrian down for the actual stringing up bit.’
I now had this image of plump middle-aged men in latex dangling from the Oak Room rafters, like a series of mournful bats.
I snorted into the mineral water. Not just at the image of my husband in leather shorts but at the idea of him calmly wandering down from his study and doing a casual bit of winching, while I put on the kettle. ‘Tea, dear?’
‘What’s the etiquette though?’ I was getting quite intrigued now. ‘I mean, would you meet them at the door in character or would you be all polite and “D'you fancy a scone?” first?’
‘Damn, I don’t know. We need to do research. And we need a name.’
‘Hmmm. “The Dulverton Dungeon for Discriminating Degradation” – it has a ring.’
More gales of laughter and we suddenly realised the pub had gone very quiet. Startled stares surrounded us. The Alsatian sat with its tail firmly between its legs. If it could have removed its collar, I think it would.
PS - since discussing the finer points of this on Twitter with People Who Know, we have decided against the plan. Who knew? Honestly, who knew?