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Monday, 11 February 2013


I pointedly don't look at her and she doesn't look at me, as we drive past the biggest windfarm in Britain. But we both know what one of us is trying hard not to say.

That's the thing about old friends. They can tell when to shut up. Sometimes.

"I make it two," I say.

"I knew it!" says Rachel, who is smart, scientific and wears blue jeans. "You just couldn't do it, could you? The sun's shining. The birds are singing. We're heading to what should have been a nice lunch. And then you go and spoil it all by saying something stupid like 'I make it two'.

"And you can't even count," she adds. "I can see at least a dozen without turning my head."

"Impressive," I tell her. "Twelve windmills whirling in the breeze from a total of 200 sprouting from every square metre, as far as the eye can see. Three hundred million quid to build a windfarm that generates enough electricity to soft-boil a quail's egg."

"They are not windmills," she says, her hands reaching yearningly for my neck. "They're wind turbines. A windmill makes flour. These things make electricity."

"Or rather they don't," I say. "Because the wind's not the right speed. Or they're pointing in the wrong direction. Or they just can't be arsed. So they stand there idly in the sunshine, stark monuments to human stupidity and commercial greed, arrayed in redundant rows, polluting the landscape and killing the birds. I hate them."

"I'd never have known," she says. "You only mention it every time we drive this road."

True enough, I reflect, as we speed on in silence and I wonder how to retrieve the companionable feeling we'd been enjoying since emerging from a meeting at which we'd done a presentational Torvill and Dean that got us the job.

"I'm sorry," I try.

More silence. I glance sideways. Lips pressed, arms folded.

"What are you sorry for?" she says eventually.

"Being right" won't work. "Upsetting you" is patronising. "Calling them windmills," I say.

"That's it?" she says.

"Well no. I'm sorry I ruined the mood. I was enjoying it too. Can we get it back?"

"It'll cost you."

"How much?"

"You have to promise to say absolutely nothing about the next four things that annoy you."

"What if they all come at once?" I plead. "What if we pass a coachload of liberal democrats driven by Noel Edmonds that has furry dice dangling from the mirror and a picture of Tony Blair in the back window?"

"In that case you can shout at it," she says. "But only for three seconds."

"You drive a hard bargain," I tell her. "It's a deal."

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