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The Yank has fitted in nicely: she drinks like a fish

There’s a strange light outside. It hangs high up in the sky, is impossible to look at directly and is making everything bright. When one turns the lights on in the Hovel, they make no difference. I ring round a few friends and do a little poking about on the internet. It turns out this light is called “the sun”, is a fiery globe of burning gas, a continuous fusion bomb about 93 million miles away and the ultimate source of all heat and light on the planet.

As I presume you are reading this magazine somewhere in Britain and not in the Bahamas, you will have noticed that the past few weeks have been spent under a pall of gloom and rain that has been collectively lowering the spirits to most alarming levels. And, this being a nation of shrewd and canny observers, the irony that the south-east also happens to be operating under a hosepipe ban has not escaped us. Who stole spring?

Drink up

In The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Peter, Susan, Edmund and Lucy find it is too wet to play outside, they roam around the Professor’s country house playing hide and seek until Lucy discovers, in a wardrobe, an entrance to another world. Unfortunately the Hovel does not have any such wardrobes and so the Yank and I have been reduced to drinking heavily and bickering about what we’re going to watch on the telly.

Have I not mentioned the Yank? She is the new Hovel-mate, here on a kind of swap arrangement with Laurie Penny, who is in New York prospecting for news. (The Yank herself is, with pleasing symmetry, a New Yorker.)

“Can’t you call me anything else?” she asks. No, I tell her; you appeared in this column once before as the Yank, on the grounds that you are American and a bit of a loudmouth – in the nicest way, of course – and once a nickname has been granted on this page, it is set in stone and not even the edict of God can change it.

At least, what with the Yank being an old friend, I knew what to expect. A master of sarcasm and the Marge Simpson-like extended grunt of disapproval, the Yank fits nicely into the Hovelly scheme of things. Sometimes a bit too nicely. Comparisons with la Penny are instructive. The Yank, for a start, does not shirk when it comes to the washing up. Many times I have staggered down to the kitchen in the morning to discover that last night’s plates and glasses have been washed up.

She might even have done the bin once or twice. This is not exactly the most onerous of jobs, as it involves little more than taking the laden bin liner (funny how that sounds like an anagram of “Osama Bin Laden”, yet isn’t) out of the bin, putting a few more things in it, tying it up, and then leaving it outside the front door, whence an anally retentive and houseproud Westminster Council will pick it up in the early evening. But it is a job that even the most self-sufficient and empowered woman finds reluctant to do if there is a man within shouting distance.

On the other hand, the Yank does not share Laurie’s near-teetotalism. Not by a country mile, she doesn’t. One goes to the local Majestic for one’s half-dozen bottles of electric soup and the next morning one finds that only one, if that, remains. (I hasten to add that this five-or-six-a-night consumption happens when there’s at least one other guest in the Hovel. Not even the Yank and I can get through three bottles each a night.)

One also finds, sometimes, the Yank still asleep on the sofa. Reluctant to move her at bedtime, I save her from hypothermia by putting the furry fake tigerskin blanket over her at night. (“It’ll help you get laid,” my mother said to me when she gave it to me as an unusual present the Christmas before last. I never really wanted to hear those words from her, but they did turn out to be true.)

So long, Mousey

The only problem with her is her attitude to Mousey. She has installed a device that plugs into a socket and emits whatever the mouse equivalent of a Jedward B-side is – that is, an ultrasonic scream designed to clear a room – with the result that we seem to be rodent-free. This is fine by me – I had long since wearied of Mousey’s impertinence. But she since revealed that though she loathed mice, she was fine with cockroaches.

Well, I suppose you can take the girl out of New York, but you can’t take New York out of the girl. My fear is that she will, somehow, conjure New York roaches out of thin air simply by sympathetic presence. But now the sun is out!

I no longer have to watch or hear The Voice! The pub beckons. Lord, let this weather hold.

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 07 May 2012 issue of the New Statesman, The Science Issue