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TEN DAYS ago, The Man With Three Girlfriends arrived. You could see he was under stress. He spent three days in the detox unit and that was just for the alcohol. But when he finally came over to join us you couldn't have met a more self-destructively nice fellow. Every woman he touches turns to girlfriend.

"You see, Ben," The Man With Three Girlfriends agonised one lunchtime, "Helen - that's the one in Derbyshire - wants to come and visit me this weekend. My problem is, that's the only weekend Marie can come over from Paris. To make matters worse, Doreen - that's the one on Canvey Island - wants to bring some of my things down here then. I can't put her off. She's been really kind. But Marie's pregnant..."

This did indeed seem like my worst nightmare.

"The thing, is, I really fancy Helen," the MWTG went on. "I tried to knock it on the head but we bumped into each other at a party in Oxford and went off for three days in Devon. We can't keep our hands off each other. When I got home, Doreen was there. For some reason I gave her a key. We made love. I really love Doreen, you know. She looks after me ... But Marie is having my child after all. That's so fantastic! I've got a duty to Marie."

Eroticism, love and duty on exclusive and parallel tracks ... Christ Almighty, I said to myself. "Pity they can't all be the same woman," I said to the MWTG, however.

"Yes! Yes!" The Man With Three Girlfriends shouted and gripped my arm so that everybody looked at us as if we'd achieved simultaneous orgasm before pudding had even arrived. "Wouldn't that be great!" Then his crest fell.

"I know Doreen's been speaking to Marie about the weekend," he went on. "They're both trying to be friends with each other. Doreen knows Marie's pregnant. But neither of them know I'm still seeing Helen. That's because I thought I wasn't seeing her either. Helen knows about Doreen and Marie. She doesn't seem to mind about it. And actually that pisses me off a bit," the MWTG admitted in a nice way.

I tried thinking about girls for a bit, but the MWTG was inclining more to boiling in oil than rumination.

"The point is, I don't want to let any of them down," the MWTG said, rather startlingly in the circumstances. "Doreen and I are real friends. I really fancy Helen. And Marie's having my baby." The Man With Three Girlfriends chewed his fingernails.

"Why don't you ring them all up," I said, "and tell them all that this weekend isn't convenient?" The MWTG lost about 10 years.

"Yes!" he said radiantly. "Of course."