William Donaldson's Week: Mrs Mouse was my ex from hell

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The Independent Online
SHE'S red hot, my temporary literary agent. I expect yours just lets you stew. Cat Ledger rings me up with exciting commissions. Actually, no, she doesn't. Rather, she lures me into the office by saying that she wants to discuss my work.

She did this on Monday, and I fell for it completely. Alarm bells failed to go off even when she was uncharacteristically solicitous once I'd got there, offering me a cup of coffee and saying that the no- smoking rule could be waived on this occasion.

Then, for half an hour, she fielded calls from young clients in the fast lane, thereafter negotiating smart deals on their behalf. This usually irritates me. But on Monday I waited patiently, calmed by the prospect of the deep analysis of work in progress - not that there was any work in progress, since I'm a full-time watchdog now, producing fly-on-the-wall programmes for independent television in association with the postman.

'Right,' she said. 'Now there's something you can do for me.'

'Thank heavens for that,' I said.

Paul Mango, one of her most brilliant young writers, she said, had been commissioned by GQ magazine to assemble a piece called 'Exes from Hell', in which a dozen or so people would recount acts of startling vengeance taken against them by former partners.

'I'm afraid it's only pounds 50,' she said, 'but I will be able to take you out to lunch.'

I pointed out, rather ungraciously, that her 10 per cent commission wouldn't buy us a very good lunch.

'You misunderstand me,' she said. 'Since I'll be writing the piece, I'll cop the pounds 50. You'll merely be supplying the anecdote.'

That seemed fair. 'Okay,' I said. 'After Mrs Mouse and I separated . . .'

'I'm not ready yet,' she said.

She instructed the switchboard not to put any calls through and swivelled into position in front of her computer. 'Right,' she said. 'Away you go.'

'Okay. I'm in Ibiza. There's this glass-bottomed boat. Mrs Mouse drops out of the sky . . .'

'Hang on]' she said. 'I want some of those sentences of yours.'

This was beginning to look like hard work but, speaking at dictation speed and deploying sentences, I told her how, after I'd been dumped by Mrs Mouse in London I moved to Ibiza, where I was lucky enough to find a very nice apartment in the old town. Then I bought a glass-bottomed boat which traded in the north of the island and thus obliged me to leave my apartment empty throughout the season.

Business was bad. I slept rough, surviving on scraps of food left by tourists on the beach, and when summer was over I gave the boat to the capitano in lieu of wages.

Then, with my worldly possessions (an old blanket and a plastic knife and fork) in a suitcase, I trudged 20 kilometres back to Ibiza town, kept going by the prospect of a hot bath and my first decent night's sleep for five months.

Here, I discovered that Mrs Mouse had installed herself (and her American toyboy) in my absence in my apartment.

'Get out,' she said.

I pleaded with her, without losing dignity, I hope. 'I just want a bath,' I said. 'And a good night's sleep.'

'You're contemptible,' she said. 'Get out.'

She threw my suitcase out of the window, hitting an old peasant lady on the head.

To make Mrs Mouse look silly, I slept under her window for the next three nights, but then I thought 'Stuff this' and returned to London, where I was befriended by a kind girl who had once been my secretary.

Ledger looked at me in astonishment. 'Oh dear,' she said. 'You've got the wrong end of the stick again. The ex from hell is meant to be the other person. I feel sorry for Mrs Mouse.'

OK, so Ledger's a tough nut and I now put my case to Fiona Mulvaney, the epitome of grace and courtesy. (The truth is I stick with Ledger in the hope of one day becoming a client of Miss Mulvaney's)

'I agree for once with my assistant,' said Miss Mulvaney. 'Haunting Mrs Mouse when she thought she was shot of you] What a nightmare you must have been.'

I wasn't having that. 'Look,' I said, 'Mrs Mouse followed me back to London with her toyboy and terrorised the kind girl who had befriended me. She rang the girl's mother and criticised her morals, broke into her flat, smashed the coffee table and gave the cats nervous breakdowns. I managed to wrestle her down outside, where she ran around screaming that my benefactor was no better than she should be.'

'What did you do then?' asked Miss Mulvaney.

'I moved back in with Mrs Mouse, of course. She was distraught and I wanted to comfort her.'

'Quite right, too,' said Miss Mulvaney. 'Your behaviour had been despicable.'

That made everything all right again. I'd recovered Miss Mulvaney's good opinion in the nick of time.

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