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Licence

15
L

You go for a quick shower but spend ages shaving your uneven face. You put on your white Nehru shirt with your Paul Smith trousers and go down to the living room, searching frantically. "Where's the shit?" you shout. Your wife and daughter – the whole family – start looking for it. It's not in its usual place – not amid the untidy overflow of the shelves in the living room, not on the semi-tidy shelves in the bedroom. It's not in the kitchen. It's not in any coat pocket. There it is: under a cushion on the sofa. It's your teenage daughter who finds it. That's where you put it last night, you idiot! These days you no longer feel embarrassed by your frequent mistakes, believing old age is your licence to carry on making blunders. You keep that licence under your skin, for all to see on your creased face.

You use the shit to open the car and find the satnav. Back in the living room, your genius daughter, who does not have the old-age licence, helps you to tap the address into the GPS. As soon as that's done you shout again, are you ready? Your wife has been ready for a long time, even before you started looking for the shit. She comes down with a large plastic bag and you both say goodbye to your daughter.

You head for Lausanne without needing any gadget. You know the way, so you won't need the satnav until you're inside the city. You don't like the disruptive sound of a disembodied woman's voice screeching at you to turn left or right. In the car your wife is with Eric Clapton and you're with Sofi. Everyone's saying that Sofi's story is a potential bestseller if only you can find a twist at the end. Your thoughts trek to all the points of the compass, but still that twist eludes you. Suddenly, as if you'd discovered the theory of relativity well before Einstein, you shout inside your head, so as not to disturb the intimate moments your wife Nargis is enjoying with Eric: yes, yes, yes, it works! Sofi bumps into Greg, her first boyfriend, her real love who went backpacking to Thailand and disappeared from her life, just one week before her marriage to Simon. Greg has surfaced from nowhere, throwing her into confusion. Sofi is screwed but there's the twist to your bestseller.

Strange things happen in this world. Newton discovered gravity under an apple tree, little Johnny was playing hide-and-seek in the wardrobe when he caught his mother with Uncle Richard, and you discovered the twist in Sofi's story while driving to Lausanne.

You reach the city without incident. The fuel tank is still in a healthy state, you were mindful of the speed cameras, nobody stuck two fingers up at you to complain of your bad driving, and Nargis didn't nag about you being a useless husband.

Now it's time to use it – but it's not there! You've left the shit in the living room. You start cursing yourself. You idiot, you can't even handle the simplest of tasks like reaching a destination. You'll have to turn back because the address is in that shit. Your wife adds curses of her own, but then displays her intelligence. She calls home and tells your daughter that you have forgotten the satnav. Your daughter – your unpaid secretary – is ready to bail you out yet again. Your wife puts the phone on speaker.

"Yes Dad, turn left into avenue Grancy."

"Are you sure?"

"That's what it says on Googlemaps."

"But it wasn't like that in the satnav."

Nargis loses her patience and tells you to shut up and listen to your daughter. You miss the turning after the school, and you have to drive a long way before reaching a U-turn. You ask a passerby for directions, and finally – bingo – you reach James's house, a whole hour late. You press the bell once: no answer. You press the bell again, thinking that James must be busy with his other guests. After the third ring, James appears at the door.

"Hi James, happy birthday!"

"What?" says James in surprise.

"It's your bir-bir-birth — "

"Next week!"

"It says today in my diary."

"No, next Wednesday. You must have put it on the wrong page."

"Not…er … today?"

You look at Nargis; her eyes are two oceans of anger and disappointment. She's wearing her best dress.