Jonquil Skidmore arrived to give Carlo his first English lesson in a state of palpable excitement and champing at the bit to get started. "EFL is such fun, Mr Lupin!", she said. "I've got some great roleplay exercises for Carlo. They make learning new words so easy."
"French Without Tears", I said.
"No, no, we need to get his English up to speed first", she replied, missing my allusion by as wide a margin as she had so far missed matrimony.
I said I hoped she wouldn't mind if I remained in the drawing room during the lesson as I had some household accounts to work on.
"Not at all, Mr Lupin, watch and learn", she said, rather arrogantly.
Sheafs of paper and flashcards tied up with pink ribbon were produced from an ancient music case and the first exercise got under way. It involved a visit to the doctor's surgery with Jonquil playing the doctor and Carlo the patient. For some reason this made me uneasy. I also felt that, in view of what happened last year, a Visit To Argos might have had more practical value.
They hadn't got much beyond 'What seems to be the problem?' when the doorbell rang.
It was Lee. I said he could come in and wait until the lesson was over so long as he was quiet.
"Whatever", he said.
Lee nodded at Jonquil and said "Alright?".
I felt obliged to make a more formal introduction and said: "This is Miss Skidmore."
Jonquil stood up, flashed her terrifying teeth and extended her hand. "I don't think I've had the pleasure", she said.
"Bet you haven't", Lee muttered, rather indelicately.
But instead of shaking hands he bent his knees, lowered himself to the floor in a skateboarding posture and then launched himself into the air, landing with a thud on the chaise longue.
The Stuart crystal rattled in the cabinet and Jonquil emitted a stifled squeal before quickly sitting down.
Instead of adopting his usual supine position, Lee lay on his side in a foetal position hugging a cushion to his chest and staring intently at Jonquil and Carlo.
I could tell that Jonquil was finding this unnerving but she persevered with the interrogation of her patient.
After a few minutes, Lee said "Willie, why are they playing doctors and nurses?"
"We are not", said Jonquil, "it's roleplay."
"Sounds more like foreplay to me", said Lee.
Jonquil's face reddened to an almost perfect match for her mohair sweater.
I told Lee that unless he kept quiet he would have to go and sit in the kitchen.
Jonquil was now so flustered that she muddled up her flashcards and we heard Carlo requesting 'a quick trim, square at the back.'
Teleported dizzyingly back to the doctor's surgery but sporting a smart new imaginary haircut, Carlo was complaining of a rash and Jonquil was prescribing some cream.
Before I could banish Lee to the kitchen, Jonquil had gathered her things and said that was more than enough for the first lesson. "Is that boy here often?" she said to me in the hall.
"Most afternoons", I lied.
"Oh dear, I'm at the school in the mornings so I'll have to let you know when I've checked my diary."
I went to the kitchen and fetched a can of lager for Lee. As I approached the drawing room I heard Carlo giggling. When I entered I saw Lee tugging at Carlo's trousers and saying in a high-pitched voice: "The doctor's going to rub some cream on that nasty rash".
"What's going on?" I said.
"It's roleplay", said Lee.
"Looks more like foreplay to me", I said and handed Lee a lager.
"Has Crazy Horse gone?", Lee asked.
"If you mean Miss Skidmore, yes. She's cantered off into the sunset. I believe she has a pressing appointment with a Mr Chopin."
I feel deeply ashamed of myself.