Whatever happened to Dick Van Dyke? Of all the great, unanswered questions that snap at my heels, this one has the biggest, doggiest teeth.

So imagine my surprise and delight when, lying on my bed debilitated by a sudden spinal spasm and by an even worse mood, I zap on afternoon TV to see Dick himself on Pebble Mill!

Yes, he's alive and well and currently filming something called, er, Murder Diagnosis.

"Keep tryin' to retire," he chuckles at the presenter, "but do I ever manage it?"

He places a coquettish finger on that long, lean and boyish jaw as Pebble Mill proffers a Mary Poppins clip: Bert the chimney sweep long-legging it over the rooftops of London with his sooty grin and, well, let's call it a Cockney accent.

"Guess who was just on Pebble Mill?" I squeak at Jonathan when he brings me my re-heated yesterday's risotto. "Just guess!"

"Can't imagine - some old lover of yours?" He grinds pepper on to my food like a recalcitrant Italian waiter.

"No, really, the least likely person - someone we thought was dead."

"John Major?"

He seems unimpressed when I tell him it was Dick.

"Are you just going to watch TV all afternoon? Shouldn't you at least be reading or something?"

"But I'm sick. TV is more relaxing for my back." Jonathan goes out for a walk. Good, because Vanessa's on next.

A young woman sits in front of the studio audience, her identity protected by a wig and dark glasses. The effect is sinister, terrorist. Sarah Plans to Marry A Man Who Cheats on Her announces the caption floating across the screen.

Vanessa and the audience get right in there: "What did he do to you, Sarah?" "Why do you stay with him?"

"Well, Vanessa, I used to have a small figure and he liked that, but then with the pregnancy, it just got bigger. He left me five times in three years." Collective exhalation from the audience.

"But why, Sarah?" Vanessa (who doesn't have a small figure) looks genuinely perplexed. "Why did you let him treat you like this?"

"Love is blind, Vanessa" - this in a blinkered monotone, followed by collective tutting from audience.

"So tell us what he did to you next, Sarah."

Sarah hesitates. "He smashed my head through a glass windscreen." Whoosh of pleasure-cum-disgust from audience.

"Well, I think you're a sucker," says one woman, arms folded.

"Haven't you got a brain at all up there?" shouts a young man as though all the foregoing was an affront to him personally.

"I love him," says Sarah simply.

"Aren't you worth more than that? Aren't you? Aren't you?" At these words, the audience claps.

Sarah sticks to her script. "I just love him."

Then Jane. Jane's Husband Slept With Other Women.

"Actually, it wasn't just other women," Jane qualifies ominously. "It was, it was ..."

"Yes?" Vanessa and audience lean forward.

"It was - my sister." Gasps of dark enjoyment.

The phone rings. "Bank of Scotland here, regarding your mortgage application."

"Oh, my husband's actually handling this," I say, one eye on Jane, who balls a tissue in her hand. "Can he call you?"

"It's only a couple of quick questions ..."

"I don't know whether I'll be able to answer them. "Well, let's have a go, shall we?" God, Bank of Scotland's in bossy mode today.

I manage a few questions. "That wasn't too bad, was it?" soothes Bank of Scotland, "Only two you couldn't do - see?"

"Well, two out of four, actually." I ease the Vanessa volume up a tad.

Surprisingly perhaps, Bank of Scotland giggles.

"Two out of four isn't at all bad," she says. "Anyway, if your husband could call - just quote your account number, and if I'm not here, one of my friends" - she gives a breathy little Scottish laugh - "well, of course, I mean colleagues, but I suppose they are friends, really, aren't they - will help."

I put the phone down, genuinely glad that Bank of Scotland counts her colleagues as friends. Meanwhile, Vanessa's over. I'll never know what happened with Jane and her sister.

I hobble down the road to my osteopath, who loosens the spasmy muscles with a big, black Japanese vibrator, then puts my bones where they should be using the lightest touch of fingers on my skull.

We talk about when she should get her baby daughter on to solids. I assure her that all of mine existed on milk alone for months and then tell her how, with my third baby, I used just to chew normal, family food up for him myself and spit it back into the spoon for him to eat.

"Brilliant!" says the osteopath. "So time-saving. And it's probably just the right temperature and you pass on some of your immunities."

"And if you do it as you go along, there's no waste."

"And no washing up Magimixes."

"Of course, you can't do it in public - I never tried it in Peter Jones's coffee shop."

"Well, I think it's brilliant," says the osteopath as she re-aligns my cranium and the magic trickles into my muscles.

And maybe it's my osteopath's touch and the sudden, welcome release from pain, but suddenly everything's pretty obvious.

Obvious that life is good and the bloody, dark months will soon be over, obvious that Dick Van Dyke's mum fed him regurgitated food and that's why he's still going strong, and completely, overwhelmingly obvious that Sarah and Jane should ditch their abusive men and go and work for Bank of Scotland.

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