'Maybe I'm secretly turning into Lola,' says Jonathan. 'I'll be confiding in you about contraception and having the house massaged next'

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"This house - there's something wrong," Lola whispers as we stack the dishwasher after dinner. "Don't laugh - I'm thinking of getting a Feng Shui person round."

"You mean where they tell you where your bed should point and all that?" Intrigued, I glance around Lola and Simon's seemingly harmonious jade- painted kitchen. "And you're supposed to sleep with your head pointing north or something and not have a TV in the bedroom, aren't you?"

"Mm, well it's all to do with unblocking the Chi - you know, kind of acupuncture for the house." Lola pours in the detergent, flips the lid, slams the dishwasher shut and leans against it as it judders into life. "It's like there's something unbalanced, almost something hidden here. I don't know - I can just feel it. Am I crazy?"

"Not if you feel it," I tell her, because it is - and has been since 1979 - our job in life to reassure each other.

"She's going to what?" Two-and-a-half hours later and Jonathan - naked and electric-brushing his teeth - explodes a mouthful of toothpaste all over the bathroom mirror.

"Get one of these Feng Shui people to balance the house, get the vibes right. It's a new thing." I roll into bed, zap on the TV. A crowd of fleshy, fair-haired young women in pink pyjamas giggle in a brightly-lit studio.

"And if the vibes are wrong? What then?" Jonathan runs the cold tap.

I shrug: "It's an ancient art, apparently. You're not supposed to have a TV in the bedroom for one thing. Electro-magnetic force-fields."

He snorts, gets into bed, starts bashing pillows around. "The only force- field you've got to worry about around here is him" - Angus, our puny, elderly, long-haired black and white cat jumps up on the duvet and starts punching his claws in and out of the fabric. I push him off.

"What's that over there?" An oblong-shaped thing has appeared, wrapped in tissue paper, on the chest of drawers.

"Our new butter dish," Jonathan reaches over, drops it in my lap. I unwrap a rectangular pot with lid, spattered with cobalt cows and brown stars. "You don't like it?"

"It's not that. I just thought we were trying to save money?"

"It's only a butter dish."

"Everything's 'only' a something. Why's it OK for you to buy things but not OK for me, too?"

"Because you're a spendthrift." Jonathan cuddles Angus and channel-hops with gusto. A black and white man walks down a black and white corridor with a gun. Sneaky music. Then back to the pink pyjama girls. "And the old butter dish is horrible."

"It's whatever suits you, really, isn't it?" I tell him. "Your word is law. Butter dishes are suddenly a necessity and my best friend's a crank. Lola was vegetarian long before you even thought of it - when you were still drooling over slices of dead animal and laughing at her, remember?"

"Hey, maybe I'm secretly turning into Lola," Jonathan says soberly. "I'll be confiding in you about contraception and having the house massaged next."

"Lola's very sensitive to her surroundings," I say primly. "And we don't always talk about sex."

At university, Lola and I shared a house with a crowd of boys. Her room was at the top on the second floor, mine on the first. One evening, we were all sitting around downstairs listening to Lou Reed and Frank Zappa and she went up to get something from her room. When she came back, her face looked grey, strained. "Don't laugh," she said, "I've just seen something."

I knew Lola well enough to be scared. The "ghost" had appeared to her on the back of the landing outside my room. "Just a fuzzy white person," she told us. "A foot or so above the ground, like a cliche movie ghost. It seemed to see me, then took a step away and disappeared. I felt as though I'd disturbed it."

"Male or female?" asked one of the boys.

"Both, neither, I couldn't tell."

That night, we all went to bed late, told a lot of ghost jokes and left the landing light on. Lola saw no more apparitions. Months later, we learnt that the house had been bombed in the war, the back blown off it and someone killed, probably in the very bedroom where Lola saw her ghost.

"Bet that spooky fix kept you both going for ages," laughs Jonathan. "Did you get that house massaged?"

"You'll never understand why I believe Lola absolutely about these things," I tell him with dignity. "There's something down to earth and true and good and real about her."

"There's something down to earth and true and good and real about Angus," says Jonathan, twiddling the cat's ludicrous, wispy ears. "But you don't like him."

"I do like him," I protest. "It's just since his lump..." Angus has a small, benign, fluid-filled cyst on his side. It once achieved the proportions of a quail's egg and burst all over our duvet. Since then I've found it harder to cuddle up to him.

"Bet Lola would still love an animal with a cyst," says Jonathan.

"She probably would," I agree. "When I met her she wore wellingtons and bred ducks. It's almost three o'clock. Why are we arguing?"

"We're not arguing."

Next morning, Jonathan goes down to make me breakfast. I lie in bed, patting Angus gingerly on the head, inhaling toast and coffee smells. Then there's a loud crash. Jonathan has snagged the new butter dish in his dressing-gown cord, pulled it off the counter, caught the dish, missed the lid.

I can almost feel the house smirking.

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