The Sunday Times and The Sunday Telegraph. The same order, week in, week out, every Sunday since we moved here seven years ago.
Or that’s the idea, anyway. But just occasionally the paperboy gets a little confused, and accidentally delivers us something else entirely – a copy of the Woolonga Outback Cryer perhaps, or British Badgers Today.
Today is one such day. There’s a thump on the doormat, and my wife blearily wanders downstairs – only to wander straight back up again carrying neither Sunday Times nor Sunday Telegraph. ‘Your turn to get the papers,’ she says.
I suppose it gets me out of bed and gets the blood flowing, a quick Sunday morning stomp to one of our local corner shops. I’ll pop straight in, offer the obligatory pleasantries, grab the papers and be back for breakfast before you know it.
Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. The lady behind the counter is one of my patients; one of those late-middle-aged, permed, maternal huggers. One who’s solicitude for me far exceeds my solicitude for her (it might be different if she had anything wrong with her). ‘Ooh Dr Peverley, you’re up bright and early? And how have you been?’ And before you know it, inevitably, we’re having a conversation.
Well, here I am, in the corner shop, so I might as well stock up. ‘I’ll have one of those big bars of Dairy Milk please. No, make it two.’ ‘That’s a lot of chocolate!’ she exclaims, with a totally undisguised glance at my waistline. I cringe. ‘Ah, come on Vera. You know I’ve got three lumbering lads living in my house.’ (Who can buy their own bloody chocolate if they want it, I add, sotto voce).
‘Oh yes, Martin is back from Madagascar isn’t he?’ She knows all my sons by name. They’re grown-up now, but she used to track their progress keenly via the annual school photographs on my desk. ‘He was in here yesterday buying tequila and some jelly shots.’ I make a mental note. Jelly shots?
‘I’ll have a bottle of gin, please. That Bombay Sapphire one,’ I add. ‘Ooh, the expensive one this week! Normally you just prefer to go for that cheap stuff.’ I throw a nervous glance towards the people behind me in the queue. ‘Ah ha ha, yes, ha hah, my wife always says it all tastes the same when you put the tonic in!’ I can feel my nose growing longer. I’m racking up mortal sins by the minute. I lean forward and hiss: ‘Just gimme the gin and the chocolate, alright?’
She hands them over with a broad grin. ‘Would you like any more of your cigars, Dr Peverley?’ she shouts, and the queue behind me peers over my shoulder with lively interest.
‘ONCE! ONCE I bought a bloody cigar here! For my goddaughter’s christening! I couldn’t finish it!”
She smiles beatifically as I stomp out. ‘Will we see you again next week?’ she asks eagerly. I offer a silent prayer to the paperboy. ‘Not if I can help it,’ I mutter.