Best-laid plans don’t only go awry for mice and menÉ
The very worst thing you can do when you have a knotty problem is to wake up in the middle of the night to think it through. If an apple had dropped on Isaac Newton’s head in the small hours, he wouldn’t have discovered gravity – he’d have decided to make himself a nice crumble.
Yet here I am at 4am, Mr Dear snoring gently beside me. I have woken up with my head full of the Clare-andBen problem, that being (and regular readers might care to make a quick cuppa at this point) that they are a nice, young couple, both volunteers at our charity shop, who are having doubts about their feelings for each other.
By one of those coincidences that magazine columnists pounce upon with pathetic gratitude, both have been presented with attractive alternatives. Both are now wondering whether the other is really Mr/Mrs Right. Both confided separately in me, and I made the rash error of promising to help. (At this point, we might safely welcome back regular readers.)
As I say, the oddest things occur to you in the small hours. And what occurs to me is that Mr Dear’s suggestion about Jeeves and Wooster, which I dismissed at the time, might be at least worth considering. Jeeves, he said, was always helping Bertie Wooster’s friends with their romantic problems. Why not see if one of his ideas might work?
Here, then, is the sort of plan we are talking about:
1 Bertie once advised lovelorn friend Bingo Little, who wished to impress Honoria Glossop, that Honoria’s little brother should be pushed into a lake. Bertie would do the pushing while Bingo, hidden in bushes, would emerge quite suddenly, rescue the boy and be smothered in grateful kisses. (Unfortunately, Bingo was distracted at the crucial moment by an attractive young newcomer.)
2 Gussie Fink-Nottle wanted to propose to Madeline Bassett (although goodness knows why – she always struck me as wetter than the wet-fish counter at a Lake District supermarket on a wet Wednesday) but couldn’t bring himself to pop the question. So Jeeves added alcohol to teetotal Gussie’s orange juice to give him Dutch courage. Unfortunately, Bertie had had the same idea, and Gussie, completely plastered, made a right chump of himself.
3 Bertie once advised his friend Tuppy Glossop, who was going through a sticky patch with Bertie’s cousin Angela Travers, to push aside his dinner to give the impression that he was pining.
There were more: gifts of water spaniels to robust country girls; joining the Bolsheviks to impress the daughter of a political campaigner; puncturing hot-water bottles in the dead of night – but all of these plans are, of course, completely unsuitable for applying to modern romance.
‘Pushing Clare into a lake might work,
Pushing Clare into a lake might work, I suppose (and to understand quite why I suppose this, you need to be reading this at 4am) but the only really suitable stretch of water is the park’s paddling pool. Persuading Clare to stand at the edge would be tricky enough, but once I’d shoved her in the water she’d merely climb back out complaining that her ankles were a bit damp…
By 7.30am, order – or what passes for it in the depths of my imagination – has been restored. ‘It will have to be Plan B,’ I announce.
‘Did you say tea?’ asks Mr Dear drowsily. ‘Mmggh, yrrrh, OK. You stay there and I’ll fetch us both a cup.’
‘No, not tea – Plan B. I’m going to tell Ben to buck his ideas up.’
‘Oh,’ says Mr D wearily. ‘That.’
The action now shifts to the park, where Ben and I are sitting on a bench, eating sandwiches. (The editor always likes it when I introduce a bit of glamour.) ‘I expect you’re wondering,’ I begin, ‘why I suggested here.’
‘Yes, I was wondering,’ says Ben. ‘I mean, it’s a bit cold. Aren’t you cold?’
‘I brought you here,’ I carry on, ‘because I want to ask you something.’
‘If you want help with your phone again, you could just have asked me in the shop.’
‘It’s nothing to do with my phone…’ ‘Actually, while we’re away from everybody else,’ says Ben, putting down his beef-and-horseradish, ‘there’s something I want to ask you. You were so kind when I was talking about Clare the other day, and, you know, it’s not the sort of thing I can easily talk to my parents about.’
‘I’m sure that’s not true, but anything I can do to help.’
‘Well, Rosie, it’s like this.’ He takes a deep breath. ‘Obviously, I’m really upset about it, but Clare is, I think, seeing someone else.’
Bang goes Plan
B! The question is, what’s Plan C?