She blames me, and it was foolish of me, I suppose, to say last week that I was off to the Dordogne with Isabelle. When we got back, it struck me that I'd had the industrial cleaners in. Then, since mine is the only flat in London which looks better after it's been burgled, I realised that I'd been turned over once again.
It had been a mistake to go to the Dordogne anyway, of course - not that I did. I went to Ibiza (for reasons which I'll come to shortly), but I shouldn't have taken Isabelle - delightful though she is - away at all. Nor would I have done, had we not attended a dinner party for 31-year- olds shortly before we left.
It's a tricky age, 31. The men, all of whom had huge heads shaped like traffic cones and who spoke in angry, articulate bursts while smoking six cigarettes at once, were OK, more or less, but the women - those not in stable relationships, at least - seemed to be at sixes and sevens.
I sat next to a very nice one, called Claudia, I think, who was sharp and funny, but whose personal life was up the spout. Indeed, she seemed concerned that she'd missed the bus. Well, not missed it, exactly; rather, was confused as to which bus to catch.
'There was this man at a meeting,' she said.
'A meeting? You're in business?'
'No, no. A meeting. He was in recovery, too.'
'We were sharing, right? Anyway, he seemed a possible, so we went for a walk in the park. In no time, I was feeling quite keen, so I asked him back to my place. I made us a cup of tea, and we sort of hovered and then do you know what he said? He said: 'What are you reading?' And do you know what I said? I said: 'Actually, I'm between books at the moment'.'
'Oh dear. And then he left?'
'No. And then we snogged.'
I was quite surprised. I had thought people only snogged in old films. James Bond used to snog. He grappled fully clothed with guest artistes from the Continent whom one never heard of again. It was a shock to discover that these days, in real life, 31-year-olds snogged with one another.
'And then you, er, you know, you . . .'
'No,' she said. 'Then he remarked that in his spare time he was a metal detector. I kicked him out, of course. You never know what people are up to, do you?'
She looked immensely sad, and I decided on the spot that Isabelle and I would, after all, go away. One knew exactly what Isabelle was up to, what she wanted - and that was a consequence, no doubt, of her having read too deeply, and at an impressionable age, in the great works of English literature instead of viewing after the watershed, tuned, by preference, to Channel 4. What Isabelle wanted, you may remember, was that I should be Comus, a pagan god, or so I gathered; that I should draw her into a world of chaos and sensation, feed her magic mushrooms, or something of the sort, and treat her with ignorant disdain.
That was OK. Against the 31- year-olds, neither of us had a life to lose (Isabelle is only 24); nothing was at stake, except our self- respect. And I was qualified. I'd been to Winchester, had, at the age of 13 and in the holidays, persuaded my parents to take me to the Folies Bergeres, then visiting London. I'd smuggled the souvenir programme back to Winchester and had gazed at it in private, from then on confusing relationships with vaguely illicit displays of nudity for cash down - a confusion very much reinforced when the souvenir programme was confiscated and I was thrashed for immorality.
I could bring to the liaison the dark guilt, the ashamed edge of hatred and fear which Isabelle desired. We would go away, Isabelle and I; not to the Dordogne, however, but to Ibiza, where I'd pose
her on bar stools next to fat men in thongs and blank-eyed girls wearing the confused expressions of outpatients in denial. Her proud, three-day-eventer's carriage, the thighs, the cornflower blue eyes, would juxtapose thrillingly in that defeated milieu.
And that's what I did, though not for long. I'd forgotten that I loved my baby still, that her ghost would haunt me at every turn: at her favourite fish restaurant in the old town, frowning with seriousness as her little hands wrestled with a langouste; later, dancing on summer legs towards the wall of sound coming from Amnesia and Ku.
I apologised to Isabelle, insisted that we return to London after just one day - where I found that I'd been burgled. Everything had gone: not just the trivial stuff - developments, outlines, correspondence with Mr Alway about a complaint against me to the PCC - but memorabilia from my days as a Wykehamist, the adult material, home-made videos and so forth, which Abbey From The Eighties is afraid may crop up in a tabloid.
I know what you'd have done: you'd have ignored the police and gone straight to Frankie Fraser. Well, that's what I did, too - and very cross he was.
'That's bang out of order,' he said. 'I'll put the word around that my pal Button's been burgled. The stuff will be returned within a week.'
'Even the videos?' I said.
'Even other people's videos,' he said.
We shall see.Reuse content