He, she, it

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ARABELLA

Roland's mother has just left, after a long tete-a-tete with my annoying feminist girlfriend Drusilla. I am actually quite peeved. It took over two years' statutory acquaintance before Mrs Buttering invited me to call her Gaynor, an intimacy Drusilla has achieved in only three hours. They were closeted together in the kitchen, racketing with laughter over God knows what. When I went to get a spoon and a carton of ice-cream, Gaynor closed her eyes in imitation of a boa constrictor digesting its dinner, while Drusilla tinkled with quite feminine laughter.

This is completely freaky. Everyone knows that Gaynor's primary function is to marshal anyone of male gender, whether a blood relation or not. And Drusilla will only pick up a man's sock in order to force it down the throat of some weakling in a changing room. She plays mixed-sex football, for Godsakes.

I do hope this is not the onset of a girlish interest in vol-au-vents and table decorations. For all Drusilla's bolshy ideas, swashbuckling tattoos and ill-fitting combat fatigues, I'm actually quite fond of the silly thing. She was tremendously good company at agricultural school, where she enjoyed shouting about "the nation of so-called gentleman bloody farmers" near any hapless retired person in tweeds, or ranting vitriolically about 12th century tax systems while practising round-and-round ploughing in an expensive Massey-Fergusson tractor.

I'd invited her to Sunday lunch in the hope that she would annoy Roland so much, he'd appreciate the considerable advantage of having me as a companion. Recently he's had some ridiculous bee in his bonnet that I should be paying rent, and I was sure he'd forget about it after a bit of hounding from Drusilla. It also seemed an economical way to drive off his ghastly parents, who have been staying for days.

Unfortunately there has been a huge misfiring. Roland misread Drusilla's "furious teenager" persona as "vulnerable and abandoned kitten", and spent the rest of the time pandering to the hardened little flick-knife. Indeed, her popularity is such that the Butterings, en famille, have accepted an invitation to the opening of her new gallery in Lambeth, where each "artwork" has been created by bohemians using their genitals as brushes - ie writhing about on blotting paper having first sat in poster paint. One can imagine how such an opus might liven up the walls of Buttering Mansions, particularly when Drusilla's signature is discovered, verso.

I'm not going: too old hat. Instead, I'll have a really hot bath until I get bored (about two hours), and use a lot of talcum powder without being too careful about not getting it on the carpet. After that, I'll probably wrap myself in at least three completely clean towels, and make a peanut butter and blackcurrant jam sandwich, to be eaten while watching Animal Hospital on television. Roland won't dare complain, now that he believes underarm hair and swearing like a pig-farmer are desirable traits in women.

ROLAND

When Miss Sue Lawley finally gets around to inviting me on Desert Island Discs, I shall use the experience to expatiate on the joys of solitude. The constant stream of house guests over the past week has added to my conviction that other people are, at best, a necessary irritation and, at worst, a mind-numbing, emotion-straining nuisance.

It was, of course, a delight to see my parents, but they could hardly have chosen a worse few days for their visit. I have a seminar to prepare for next week, and I could not get a stroke of work done while they were here. Then, on their last day, an extraordinary creature called Drusilla arrived. Apparently I had forgotten that Arabella had invited her for a brief visit, though I would swear that I had never been told a word of it. Arabella has a way of imparting such vital pieces of information when she is in one room, I am in another, and the taps are on full blast and she is whispering so as not to run the risk of waking next door's cat.

Drusilla is a lesbian, a quality I always find rather sad in a woman. She does not actually wear an "I am a lesbian" badge, but when a girl drives tractors, plays football and does abstract paintings, she hardly needs to. So I treated her with sympathy and kindness. Anyway, she is a friend of Arabella's, and poor Belly seems a bit exhausted after trying to keep up with mummy for the past few days, so I'm doing my best to keep relations cordial, despite Drusilla's obnoxiously hairy armpits and matching language.

All the same, I do not understand what happened this afternoon. Drusilla had arrived, as I understood it, for the opening of some ghastly art show of hers at a seedy gallery near Waterloo. Both the time and place were convenient for my parents' train home, so the plan was for us all to go off together. Then at the last moment, Arabella decided to stay at home and have a bath instead.

In the cab on the way to the gallery, mother bravely ignored Drusilla's impertinence at addressing her by her first name, though I think she would have insisted on a proper formality had she been aware of the nature of the so-called artworks she was about to see. I did not dare ask Drusilla to explain them. The "artists" could hardly have done any worse if they had sat in cans of poster paint and then spread the paint on the canvas using their genitals.

I amused myself by constructing appropriate titles for the paintings and was just looking at "Dog's turd squashed on muddy pavement at sunset" when Drusilla beamed at me and said: "Do you like it? It's one of mine, you know. I call it "Solitude".

That was when I realised why I love Arabella so much. She is the one person I can be totally relaxed about ignoring; the only woman in whose company I can experience the true joy of solitude.

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