The Secret diary of a London private chef


I sit on the warm mahogany toilet seat with my head between by knees and count to ten as a bead of sweat runs down the bridge of my nose and falls in slow motion before detonating on the heated terracotta tiles beneath my damp be-clogged feet. I must stand up. Take control. Ice-cold filtered water cascades into the solid granite Tarn basin and I submerge my face and the panic subsides and my resolve is hardened. It was the gelatine you see. The evil, stupid, temperamental gelatine.

That morning. Early:

My troubles seem so far away. I love Borough Market. This is work as play. I am shopping for food at my favourite place in the world, with other people’s money. My mind races with ideas, ingredients, flavours and textures. My client wants grouse. Of course she does. It is September in Holland Park and the evenings are drawing in. The children are back to school, the gaudy Puglian villa has been shuttered up for the Winter, and her thoughts have turned to indoor tennis, charity boards and entertaining.

I stroke the downy feathers of a hung pheasant and ask Jake, the butcher where and whence they were shot. The grouse are beautiful: speckled and plump. I pack eight into my rucksack and meander through the madding crowds. I feel a sense of superiority and self-importance. I am not like the tourists and the daters and the myriad other bewildered visitors. I am a professional! A Chef! I am here to work! In a karmic flash my rucksack begins to bleed and children point as I blush and stumble down an alleyway to fix. I am immediately stricken with humility and bathos.


I arrive. Georgian pillars bestride the coal-black door. I will pop out later and steal some bay leaves from the pristine trees atop the steps. The house keeper lets me in; She is Filipino and the very arc-angel incarnate. My box of food is hoisted shoulder-ward and she trots down the stairs, her five foot frame bearing the weight that had buckled me, not two minutes previously. I am agog at the kitchen. It glows like burnished silver under moonlight. If a kitchen can be gorgeous, then that is what this must surely be.

The Hostess descends. She is fifty and stunning. An aura of control, spirit and class exudes from every pampered pore. She kisses my cheeks and I am heady. I break eye contact and show her the grouse. She is pleased.


My waitress arrives. She is twenty-two, a trainee surgeon and smarter than I could ever hope to be. She sees me only as old. Such is the decade between your twenties and thirties. Strangely, The Husband chooses this moment to appear. He was going to be a surgeon once. Oh yes. But some chaps in the City made him an offer that he could simply not refuse. He is less interested in my grouse and me. My surgeon/waitress polishes cutlery and bats him away with a charm and tact bequeathed to only the most beautiful and talented.


A terrine of Poulet de Bresse, foie gras and morels looks wonderful on the plate. A final shine with some truffle oil, a pinch of sea salt and away. I am pleased. The mostarda that I sourced specifically for this dish will, I know cut through the richness of the foie gras and offset beautifully the earthiness of the mushrooms. I cook the grouse well. Maybe a touch too pink? Too late. Confidence, Luke. The bones come back clean. I up end my rhubarb jelly moulds and take my poppy seed and honey parfait from the freezer. The jelly collapses. I adjourn to the downstairs wet room.


Think. I heat the jellies in a pan and add some mulled wine spices that I find in a drawer. The Surgeon finds me some shot glasses and thus a new dessert is born. I am summoned to the dining room. The contrast between hot, sharp, spicy rhubarb and cold sweet parfait is the highlight of the meal. They are in raptures and I sidle out sheepishly. Such is the life of a private chef. You make your mistakes, you splash filtered water over your face and you keep calm and carry on. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

It’s barely perceptible. It crosses my face in a flutter of wings and is gone before you knew it was there.

I might be alone, I might be with people. But I know it when it comes because it warms me up, gives me a tingle of optimism, hope and joy. It is a smile. Only a smile. But an involuntary one, a REAL one. I don’t do pointless smiles. I am default, de-mob, grumpy. My face is set in a Neanderthal frown and I rarely expose my teeth because they are gappy and it’s a hangover from self-conscious puberty time. But I have this tiny, enigmatic (I think-it isn’t really) smile that I can’t predict or control that means more than the rictus grins of multitudinous others.

And it mainly happens when I put something nice in my mouth.

There are other times when it happens. Like when I am on a bus after a good meeting and I look around and hear the voices of my city. I think about  a bit of new business, a piece of paid writing and I see the river and smile. Almost inwardly, but my body feels like bursting because I am exactly where I want to be, the right age, the right place, it is all just right for those few seconds. Not for long mind, the walls of optimism come crashing down sharpish, but those lovely moments are mine to keep.

Or when I hear the right song. The one that is missing from my head at that particular moment, the one that makes me remember something that I wish I hadn’t forgotten. Then I smile.

But mainly it is when I put something in my mouth.

And when somebody that you love buys you dinner at the best restaurant in London on the eve of your birthday, you end up smiling more than you ordinarily would. Which is what happened on Wednesday when I was taken by SV to The Ledbury in Notting Hill.

I did the smile a bit earlier though- in The Lonsdale where I was just waiting. I had an hour to kill before our meeting time so I went to the smartest place I could think of, near to The Ledbury. A tall beautiful woman ushered me in to the dark empty space and I just sat at the bar, like an American man. It was empty and there was loud music that I didn’t know. It was nice. And I ordered the perfect drink for me, at that time, in that place- A whisky sour. If I’d ordered something fruity, long or even with loads of crushed ice I would have looked like a dick. Alone in that bar. So I drank my delicious whisky sour and half way down did a smile.

And she arrived, so beautiful I smiled again and then we went to The Ledbury.

And ironically the first thing I had to do was a massive fake smile because the nice French waitress smashed a wine glass all over my place setting and lap. God bless her, she was utterly mortified. She couldn’t have looked more appalled if I had caught her doing unspeakable things to a myopic donkey in front of my nephew in a convent. So I had to do the DON’T WORRY SMILE followed by ‘its fine!  It was probably my fault actually-Shall WE leave?  Are YOU ok? I really couldn’t give a tinkers cuss about such things but, being all English had to KNOW that she knew that.

But that was the last fake one. From then on in, only genuine. You probably want to see pictures now, don’t you, of all the lovely food and listen to  how  ”the apple counter balanced the foie with a tart acidity that one thought could only come from the genus Granny Smith”. But I haven’t taken a photograph for 25 years and there are myriad better food blogs than mine, where you can read about the food at The Ledbury. Here is how the food at The Ledbury made me FEEL. You don’t need to see pictures, they can never truly represent what is on the plate anyway*.

A plate of raw scallops, cut thinly and placed in a circle. Green oil and white ice crystals. It was essentially the best sushi roll ever. So simple- raw fish, seaweed oil and frozen hoerseradish- the seaweed and horseradish, northern European versions of nori and wasabi. And when I made that connection, seconds in, I laughed a litte and it made absolute sense.

Then the most beautiful and delicious of all sea creatures, the mackerel. Charred black skin, cold cucumber, a little raw flesh and shiso- more Asian influence, more deftness of touch and superlative control. I wanted more of this so badly I nearly cried as I dragged my finger across the remaining meagre juices.

Plump foie gras, crispy seared on both sides, melting voluptuous mess within. And the first little glimpse of actual genius. Something new, something wonderful. Christmas pudding puree. OF FUCKING COURSE. Its sweet fruit and spices. Of course it matches foie gras like a glove. But that thought had never popped into my head. Staggering. Beautiful. A new combination making my mind swim.

Then another sense. Smell. Truffle, shaved and pureed. I smelt it coming from behind my head. And it turns you on. Doesn’t it? It smells like animalistic sex on a forest floor and you know that’s what you want. But you eat your moist skate wing and cauliflower and banish such thoughts from your mind and. Smile.

Some post coital Pyrenean milk fed lamb for the Gentleman? Why thank you, don’t mind if I do. Can it be the softest, most intensively flavoured lamb that I have ever tasted please? With sticky reduced braising liquor that is the essence of every lamb that has ever gambolled. Nutty artichokes and crisp skin? Wonderful and I smile again.

Pudding was rubbish.

Cheese was good.

The wine tasting menu was perfect .

The company was breathtaking.

And just writing about the whole thing, this entirely hedonistic experience makes me happy. But I’m not smiling. One day in years to come, I will be driving and I will remember that food, how it felt in my mouth and there and then a smile will break across my face and only I will know the real reason why.

*if you really do want to see pictures of the food then check next week.

Quite a week this. I am a lucky boy.

I say boy. I am thirty four on Thursday and I now spend longer shaving my ear lobes than I do funking up my hair. Such is my life. My shopping lists now invariably consist of Gaviscon and Marks and Spencer’s pants and I have to get up twice in the night to pee.

But, my flying monkeys, I’ve still got it. I can still turn my attention to a session, still rock the party.

No one says ‘rock the party’ do they?

Well I did and I will again Baby. At The Ship in Wandsworth last Saturday with my friends, and then tomorrow I am being taken to The Ledbury by my very beautiful, very out of my league, very much younger than me looking girlfriend.

So, The Ship. The Ship has always been part of the fabric of my London since I moved back here as an adult twelve years ago. I have three distinct Ship epochs. Number one, back in the day, it was a place to spend bank holiday weekends by the river before heading off to Embargos, Crazy Larry’s, Infernos or The Grand. It was more about the location then than about anything else. And that was just fine for me and my sex pest pals. Load up on Lager at The Ship And fill your boots with paralytic totty in the Clapham Grand. Wizard. HELLOOOOO DR GLITZ!

Number two was the mid noughties when we used to book the private room every year without fail for a big all day Christmas Lunch. This was when technically we were more mature. The Ship then was bog standard in terms of food- perfectly functional Christmas Dinner, loads of average wine and indifferent service. One year I wrapped up a raw chicken as a secret Santa present. It was funnier in theory than in execution. Another year my friend Nick met his now wife Tori by swimming across the floor of the bar and doing a Lion impression in her face. It was love at first sight. Those days were characterized by burning out by 8pm with tears, tantrums, puking and not having sex. Good times.

And NOW! It is the third coming of The Ship. I hadn’t been for a couple of years because my ex-girlfriend got custody by dint of living next door, but now I’m back and this time The Ship is becoming something of a phenomena. I don’t want to tread on anyone’s toes because I don’t know the history or inner workings, but I suspect that Oisin Rogers, The Boss, has his sticky finger prints all over its current success. Quicker than most, they have realised the power of social media and particularly Twitter to push their product. And they do it superlatively- at once accessible, informative and professional but with an underlying sense of mischief. They have also realised the importance of the food blogging community and without patronising or sucking up have won almost unanimous favour. This is quite a trick to pull.

My birthday started with an exploratory tweet to @shipwandsworth with the date and the number of people. And then everything just happened- Emma, Oisin and Phil between them were proactive and patient, barely raising an eyebrow with menu requests and fluctuating numbers. The night itself was wonderful. I was hammered. I don’t remember anything after my main course so as usual this is a terrible restaurant review. BUT! The Foie Gras and pistachio terrine was exceptional- smooth foie, contrasting crusty pistachios and tart cherries with a perfectly toasted slice of brioche. Special. Other people raved about the scallops and rosti and my, they looked pearly from where I was slumped.

I had to order the calves liver (I can’t not order calves liver) and it was dense, pink, meaty and flavourful- with wonderful bubble and squeak and gravy. I think I had something with chocolate after that. But by this stage I was being passed shot after shot of tequila with Tabasco. I’m sure it was just swell. And BY THE WAY, £20 a head for three courses! For dinner! Best value in London, friends.

So there you have it, over a decade of being ‘Shipped’, and I love it now more than I ever did. Go there eaters and drinkers of London. I’ll be in the corner, rosy of nose and ruddy of cheek- possibly being held up by Oisin and Dave A and the rest of the merry gang.

Deep breath. Ready?

My name is Luke Mackay and I am thirty three years old. And yesterday I bought my first ever tool. And my second. Should you be kind enough to be interested, my purchased tools of choice were a hammer and a screwdriver (Phillips).

That is at first glance, by most definitions of manliness a pretty shameful admission. I don’t have a tool kit/belt/box or anything tool related. I have never dreamt of owning a power tool and wouldn’t have the first clue what to use it on if I did.

I just spent £250 getting my bike fixed. I did not attempt to fix it myself.

I didn’t learn to drive until my late twenties and could no more fix a car than I could remove a spleen.

I have never put up a shelf, re-wired a room, plastered a wall or stripped an engine.

And I know, I KNOW, that women find this incredibly unattractive- You want Diet Coke guy, stripped to the waist, brandishing his tool willy nilly and building houses and wot not. But do you know what. You can all whistle for it.

Because do you know the last time a girlfriend of mine cooked me an amazing meal? It was never. Do you know the last time a woman ironed my shirt? Never. Darned my socks? Sewed on a button? Arranged some flowers? Never, never, never. When women start caring about historically ‘feminine stuff’. then I’ll start giving a monkeys that I don’t know how to grout a carburettor or whatever it is you do.

I am a manly man, make no mistake- I have a hairy chest and a strong rugby pedigree, I can pick you up, throw you around and defend your honour with my mighty fists of steel, should the occasion arise. But all that practical crap bores the bejesus out of me. I get no satisfaction from it, consider it a total waste of my time and energy and would much rather throw money at the problem and get it done properly. There is nothing more pathetic than a man who refuses to accept that a task is beyond him. I can do all this stuff, anyone can- you just watch the video on you tube or read a book and do it. But it BORES me and I hate it.

I have started writing a book and to do this I need an office, or at the very least a desk. So I bought one on eBay and yesterday it arrived in a very heavy, very flat, very un-desk shaped box. There were three pages of diagrammatic instructions and a little table of things, in picture form that you would need to assemble said desk. The things were as follows: One man, one hammer, one screwdriver, four square metres and forty minutes.

It took this one man four and a half hours not including finding a hardware shop and buying tools. I hated every single minute of it. The instructions were shit, the bits of wood were heavy and unwieldy and I ended up sweating, bleeding, shouting and swearing and now, to show for my labours have only a crappy broken desk and an immoveable splinter.

You should have heard the disappointment in my new girlfriend’s (We’ll call her SV) voice…. ‘Oh don’t tell me that’ she said as if I had punched her nephew and slapped her Mum. And that my friends has prompted this post. That barely disguised dissappointment.

YOU CAN’T HAVE IT ALL LADIES! You can either have my Grandfather who could whittle you a boiler out of one piece of oak but who had the emotional intelligence of Goebbels or you can have me and my kind who will tell you that we love you, be great Dads, knock up a dinner party for your friends. But who, in return will pay a Polish bloke to plaster the nursery. I don’t expect all the feminine crap- I want a strong women with a great career, who earns their own money and can change a plug. I couldn’t give a fig if you can’t cook, knit or crochet. But lets make a deal. I’ll iron my own shirts and say you look beautiful if you don’t treat me with contempt when I don’t want to spend my Sunday afternoon with a chisel in my hand and splinters up my bum.

This London is mine. This London is where I was born, where I grazed my first knee, chased my first girl, whittled my first branch and later, lost my first job. It is where I have cried and where I have laughed and laughed. It’s not just a home, a city or a lifestyle. It is a relationship. Sometimes I hate it; sometimes it lets me down and breaks my heart. I am frustrated daily and infuriated as often but I never go to bed on an argument, we always kiss and we always make up. Sometimes we have a trial separation, I shack up somewhere else and I flirt and maybe I’ll fool around. But it doesn’t mean anything, London. Just some harmless fun and we both know I’ll be Home soon.

A few months ago I saw something horrible. A girl of about my age, climbed up onto the wall of Putney Bridge and she jumped off. Through the mist and the rain into the swirling dark water below. How do you get there? How do you get to that place, that juncture in your tragic life? What pain must she have felt? What despair? How did her London differ so monstrously from mine?

Because my London is vital, alive and in the main optimistic. Hers was dead and empty, a dry husk that offered no protection, no joy and no comfort. Her London killed her.

I am like the Christians who say that earthquakes, cancer and tsunami are all part of God’s plan. You have to take the rough with the smooth in London- the joy and exhilaration with the sheer terror and despair. One begets the other. Without both, London falls, is nothing. So I don’t blame my London for killing that girl, I can’t because if I lose my London faith, I become that dry empty husk. Where you might have God in your heart, I have my city- it is my inheritance, my playground and my life.

You know all the places. Borough Market, Waterloo Bridge at balmy dusk, Richmond Park on a cold, crisp Sunday morning- Soho with its inherent wondrous weirdness. We all know by now about the food scene, so improved, so vibrant and exciting. We have known for centuries about the art, the opera, the theatre and the ballet, but these are not the things that make my London mine. You can read a million blogs about London, about what to do, where to eat and what to see and of course you should. But for me it is something else, something intangible that I can only try to explain with my mere words.

It is a shiver. A tremor of joy that happens infrequently, but is born of security and experience, of knowing that you belong somewhere. And it’s not about St Paul’s or Big Ben, it can hit you on a tube platform or piss-stinking underpass. It is when you catch a glimpse of a cab light at 2 am or proffer directions to a Japanese student. It is enjoying the clichés- embracing the braying sloanes and the be-hijabbed Muslim women, banker wankers and the barrow boy geezers. It’s the kebab shops and the markets, the graffiti, the buskers on the tubes, the evening light and the driving rain. I love the grumpiness and I love the warmth. I love the windows and the lives behind them- a grimy bed sit or a Boltons town house. The stories are what I love. How did they get there? What twists and turns of fate in some far flung country led to that guy, living right there at this moment. Who does he call? Where does he go? And why in the good glory name of fuck did that girl jump off that bridge.

Why did she not aspire? Why did she not hope? What happened in her childhood to prevent her from forming the kind of relationships that should have saved her life? We are meat and water in a bag of skin but some of us walk, some of us run and some of us. Just. Stop. Some of us achieve, some of us get by. And then there are those who don’t suck the marrow from this city, who cry in pain, confusion, panic and angst. And my London blocks out the noise and I go on my merry way. And poor young girls who have nothing left to give or take, jump off Putney Bridge because their London hurt them, hated them and ultimately ended them. Right in front of my own very sheltered and very pampered eyes.

Thank God for that. I’m back. The happy clappy nonsense that I have recently been spouting was but a blip in my otherwise horribilis visage. I am still very much enjoying life blah blah blah, but it is for me at least, comforting to know that I can still conjure up the fury at a moments notice.

Like last night when I took a girl out for dinner.

I dressed up all smart (Jeans and a suit jacket, like Mr Jeremy Clarkson, ladies- HELLO!) and had a shave- (tsk), put my nice shiny brown wedding shoes on and even a bit of that new deodorant stuff . Hot to trot and ready for action.

I know what you’re thinking. You are thinking, ‘Oooh that lucky cow!’ That’s what. And you’d be right. Except that she could do much better. And probably even pull someone who doesn’t hold up Jeremy Clarkson as the epitome of high fashion. But she had to make do with me, initially upbeat and uncharacteristically chipper, but then as the meal progressed becoming more and more quietly, middle classily, enraged. In an ‘Oh yes, yes, everything is quite lovely thank you so much for asking’, kind of way.

I should have known really. We went the ludicrously named ‘Four 0 Nine’ in Clapham. What do you think its address is? Go on. Have a guess. No? Ok. Well…… Its 409 (geddit!) Clapham Road! Isn’t that brilliant! Its ADDRESS is 409 Clapham Road. And they (the loony jokers) have CALLED IT, Four (in letters) 0 (the digit) Nine (in letters) Pfffftt. Terrific, that’s just terrific isn’t it?

It considers itself London’s best kept secret. Which is fine if you are Milk and Honey and are always packed but a bit stupid if you are always empty and have to whore yourself on the internet with desperate offers of eight courses for a pound and such like. And then when you arive you have to press a buzzer and someone says ‘yesssssss’ and you say ‘Um Hello’ and they say ‘Can I help you’ And you and your companion who might or might not be your girlfriend, because you have had lots of dates and are quite keen, but haven’t had that chat yet, so its slightly awkward to discuss any event that might be happening at any time in the near to medium future unless its taken in the wrong way and you are not sure if you should introduce then to your friends for similar reasons. But secretly you are quite excited by it and dress up like Jeremy Clarkson to impress them, are standing there in the cold saying Yes you can help me. Because this is supposed to be a restaurant and I am standing on the pavement outside having an embarrassing conversation with an electric box. And it’s really really cold because I didn’t wear an overcoat to show how tough I am, and if you don’t let me in I am going to punch you in the goolies.

Then they let you in and you get some truly revolting free canapés. Which is so unbearably depressing, because it is aspiring to pretention which is bad in the first place, but then carried out with such laziness, lack of skill and finesse that my heart sank at the thought of what I might have to actually pay for. A blissful grape something or other cocktail reminded me of that grenadine syrup you get in France, but undiluted so that it coats your mouth with unbearable teeth shuddering claggy sweetness. And the food was just average after that. The foie gras parfait was actually excellent, the mackerel under powered and dull. And we didn’t get any wine until I had nearly finished my starter. My main was hake and was fine, but weirdly citronella like. On the plus side it kept the mozzies away. And here’s when I got really annoyed. The not-quite girlfriend ordered the onglet steak- medium rare. She described it as beef sushi. It was slightly shy of bleu. So obviously, instead of sending it back we had to swap main courses. It just wasn’t very good at all. Every thing from the canapés, to the service, to the food and the cocktails was about thirty percent off target and conversely it is about 30 percent more expensive than it should be.

There were maybe 20 diners there whilst we ate. And there were 4 chefs in the kitchen and 4 front of house staff. How do these places survive? And how, when you are doing 20 covers between 4 chefs can you cook a steak so badly. It makes me furious beyond all belief. I did 40 covers and did all the washing up on Tuesday night because I have margins and labour costs to worry about. And each plate of food was better than the dreary fare that we got last night. And I’m sorry- that’s not meant to sound arrogant, it’s just to illustrate that you and I should get angrier with these mid-range local restaurants that are over-staffed, and thus over-priced. The meal for two with service automatically added (obviously) was a hundred quid. Which, I’m sorry, is a lot of money.For just 2 courses, a couple of cocktails and a bottle of wine. A hundred quid- even including the bloody pointless pimped out on the internet offer. Or to put it another way, more expensive than Polpo, Barrafina or any number of wonderful restaurants that don’t take the bleeding piss.

But we had the chat and, I am pleased to report, all is well.

If you would like to send fan mail or congratulatory cards, my address is three 9 three Upper Richmond Road*. Don’t try and let yourself in though. Or I’ll punch YOU in the goolies.

*this is not (quite) my address. I am not mental. It is just a little joke upon which to wrap up proceedings.

This morning at work I was roasting off some beetroot. RIGHT stop THERE. IMMEDIATELY! When did it become allowed and alright and not punishable to say that you were roasting OFF something. Why didn’t you pick up on it immediately and print off this post and shred it and use the bits to stuff a mattress which you let children wee on and then burn? You’re the FOOLS for letting this verbal tosser-age stand. Roasting off some beetroot indeed. And while we are at it. Reduce down the stock. Oh? Reduce down the stock. That’s why my gravy tastes like feet. I was reducing up the bloody stuff. Thanks Gordon.

Right, there is a post here I’m sure about crap cookery writing and I will do it later. But I wanted to talk today about embarrassing situations, because this morning I was actually roasting some beetroot. On the bottom shelf of my large commercial oven. When the beetroot was sufficiently roasted, I bent down to remove the tray. And some things happened to create the perfect storm. My trousers split. I remembered that I was commando. And I was aware that a 19 year old waitress called Camilla was standing directly behind me.

What would you do in that situation? Would you drop the beetroot on the floor, stand up and spin around in one fluid motion and casually rest your bare buttocks on the scaldingly hot commercial oven door behind you? You would? Oh good. Because that’s exactly what I did. Would you then lurch forward, bellowing in agony, crushing newly roast beetroot beneath your size elevens whilst still trying to appear nonchalant? Yeah, me too. Its awfully annoying when that happens isn’t it.

And one time when I was 13 this happened to me.

I was, like every other middle class child in the early nineties on holiday at a french campsite. Probably in the Dordogne. I got a girl. A Scottish one called Ailsa who was a whole 2 years older than me. She had boobs. It was exciting. I said to Ailsa that we should go for a row in the beautiful dusky evening sunshine, down the river that bisected the campsite. She said that would be nice and I stared at her boobs for a bit.

We hired a boat and began our sojourn. I should tell you about my outfit. I had a pair of Farahs, with a flecky silver and metallic weave. I had a dark brown and algae-green paisley print shirt, tassled brogues and the piece de resistance my friends…. A blue leather (leather!) tie.

And off we rowed. Until right at the middle of the campsite, overlooked by various families eating grilled sardines and steak hache from their barbecues, I did a stupid thing. A right proper old-fashioned balls up. Because there was a bridge joining the 2 bisected halves of the campsite. And I put down the oars as we approached and I stood up. And I grabbed the bridge with both of my hands. And the boat and Ailsa kept going and I was left swinging in the summer breeze from the stupid bloody bridge.

I can still hear the laughing.

No of course I didn’t have the upper body development to pull myself up. So I did what all sensible thinking people would do, and let go. I had to crawl up the bank, covered in weeds, blue leather tie haemmorhaging blueness all over my shirt and probably some sort of fresh water fish flapping in my underpants.

Ailsa and her boobs became a distant and unattainable dream after that and I spent the rest of the holiday playing Street Fighter with a Dutch geek called Bo and listening to Nirvana on the cafe Juke Box.

I love embarrassing stories. They make me howl. I invite you to share…….