Rachel's sitting on my floor in floods of laughter. "You know Max and Simon?" she says. "Yup." Rachel shares a big doctors' house in Brum with two other women and a gay couple. All very cosy, though they are rarely all in the house at the same time. "Well," she starts to gurgle. I say, "Go on," and she does.

"OK, well, Thursday night I got off about one, and went for a drink." "You have such a stressful life," I say, because that's what hospital staff need to hear. "You deserve it."

"Yeah, well," says Rachel. "It all got a bit out of hand and I didn't get in till about nine. I was completely out of it. Anyway, I crashed" - she imitates a landed fish on the carpet, glassy-eyed - "and I don't remember a thing till about one, when someone knocked on the door. I couldn't move.

"About two, there was another knock, and Elaine called my name. I was still paralysed. Then I heard her say, `She's obviously not back yet. Can you say goodbye to her for me?' She's gone to Lanzarote. And Max went, `Of course. You have a lovely time too.'

"I carried on zizzing. Max and Simon were pottering around and then I heard Simon go, "So we've got the house to ourselves?" I know I should have let them know I was there, but I still couldn't talk. And the next thing I hear is Max going, `Look! You've got to spank me! Now!'

I start to laugh. "Oh my God!" Rachel splutters, "I was frozen. They were going, `Go and get them. They're under the bed,' and I'm just pulling the covers up over my head thinking, `Please, God, don't let this be happening.' I lay there for an hour listening to the sound of paddled flesh and them going, `Aah, God, ow!' and, `You like that, don't you?'" She pauses, mouth open.

"What did you do?" She gurgles again. "I left it about an hour afterwards, then I turned the radio on really loudly and waited for another 20 minutes before I came out. They were in the kitchen, looking horrified. They went, `Rachel! We didn't know you were home!' and I went, `Naah, well, I've only just woken up. Completely out of it, maan.' Stuff like that. I think I overcompensated and they knew something was up."

"So what happened?" "Oh, Lord. They both fled to their bedroom and didn't emerge for the rest of the day. At six I got a cab to the station and came down here. I just hope we'll all have worked out how to handle it by the time I go back."

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