In the Sticks: The chicken lorry had the best career

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The Independent Culture
I KEEP seeing the names of people I was at university with popping up in prominent positions. People who didn't have a brain cell at 19 have blossomed into geniuses by 40, with words before their names like Professor and Dame. All I have to offer where it says "title" on forms is "Miss", and even that's a terrible mistake.

I envy their status, but the thought of what they do to get it makes me feel faint. They have workloads that would make an elephant stagger, and internal organs adapted to bathe in a constant wash of adrenalin. My own achievements consist of removing sources of stress from my working life. The only commuting I do is the 30 feet from the Aga to my desk. As a consequence, of course, there is one question that I do face with boring regularity: "Where is the next mortgage payment coming from?" In an effort to find an answer that my bank manager may find more acceptable than "The fairies will bring it", some stress has to be put back into my schedule.

So last Monday was a Big Day. An opportunity to sell my wares to a market so vast that the mortgage may never be an issue again. My preparations were meticulous. I bought a new pair of tights and hit the second-hand clothes shop in Scungeton.

Luckily there's a local gal who buys Armani and is the same size as me. Sadly for her she has some sort of pen fetish so her kit ends up in "Second Time Around" with little marks on the skirt where she sat on a ballpoint. Good news for my Big Day: 500 quids' worth of power-dressing for the price of a month's supply of chook feed.

On Monday at 6am I was ready. At first it all went well. I washed my hair and put my underwear on without a hitch. Even the blue pen on the suit didn't seem to show. Doug was quietly supportive.. He didn't even say what he usually does when I'm dressed up and on my way out: "Don't pull, will you?

But what I hadn't allowed for was Offa, the driver of the big truck that every Monday delivers feed to the 7,000 broiler chickens up the road. Hot for his rashers and eggs in the next village, he drove straight into the front of our car, as Doug drove me to the station to get the 8.51 for Paddington. Offa's truck was barely creased but the front of the car looked like a left over from a giant's origami course.

So it was that in spite of all my best efforts for my Big Day I fell out of a taxi at the venue only just in time to scramble on to the stage. I stood behind the rostrum my hands shaking like the star turn at an AA meeting. All the clever little witticisms had gone from my head. All I could think of was Offa's truck whacking the car like the big fat hand of retribution, serving me right for my shameful years of avoiding a real career.

I can't really remember what it was I did manage to say. All I am sure about is that as I tottered back to the slough of anonymity at the back of the hall my audience were showing signs of the worst of all possible responses. I would disappear from their memories faster than the numbers on their cloakroom tickets.

So when the bank manager rings, he'll find the phone unplugged. It's OK to do that, because when the fairies ring in with a job offer they can do it on an unconnected line.