"Oh my days," said Araminta. "Six weeks of school hols and no sign of an adventure. What shall we do?" "I thought I'd be surfing in Polzeath," said Finn disconsolately, "until my parents changed their minds."
"So are they, like, on a staycation this yah?" asked Josh.
"No," said Finn. "Eco-lodge in Bhutan. Without me."
The others murmured in sympathy. All their parents had gone on holiday without them, certain that each of them had fixed up a holiday with other little boys' and girls' families. What a beastly swizz!
"My mummy," said Xerxes, "has left me a week's worth of Daylesford Junior Sustainable Organic Wraps in the fridge. With," he added tearfully, "banana milkshakes."
How could his mummy have forgotten he was lactose-intolerant?
The Secret Seven – Josh, Minty, Silas, Xerxes, Squish, Finn and Binkie the labradoodle – were holding a secret meeting in the old tree house. It used to be a tree-house, until Josh's Daddy converted in into a Prefabricated Garden LoftCube with wi-fi and mini-fridge. The children loved its cosy, old-fashioned atmosphere, its solar panels and 60-inch plasma TV, on which Squish and Silas were playing Call of Duty 5.
"Don't be boring, you two," said Araminta crossly. "We're planning a ripping adventure and you just sit there shooting people in the head with your Xtra-Weapon Sniper Facility. I'm surprised at you, Squish. Girls should have more sense."
"I hate you, Minty," said Squish. She'd been christened Sybil but affected a gender-neutral name because she hated being a girl. At nine, she was a closet separatist lesbian with a passion for Araminta which she sublimated into gunfire.
"Silas," said Finn. "What would you like to do today?"
"I'ma tell you, blud," said Silas, from inside his cavernous hoodie, "I don't wan' no smuggla/secret plans/PC Plod avencha, shee-it. Too much hass-oo. Just wanna cotch in da shed an' talk mad shiz wid ma homies, you get me?"
"Why," asked Josh, "do you talk like that? This is not Brixton. This is Haselmere."
"Oh, bugger off," said Silas. "Is there any ginger beer?"
"I tried to get lashings of it in Tesco Metro," said Josh. "They said the word 'beer' made it age-inappropriate. So we can't have it any more. I was jolly cross."
They looked at each other. Suddenly, there seemed no point in carrying on.