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Saturday, 14 December 2013

Party time

Some people are so quiet and unassuming you'd hardly know they're around. Others are negative and downbeat, so it feels like someone's just left the room when they come in.

Then there's Susan.

"Have we been formally introduced?" she says, when I enquire, at lunchtime by the fire in the Ubiquitous Chip, if she plans to celebrate the gigantic funding award she has just secured for the charity she manages. 

"Don't you remember my 50th birthday celebrations?" she adds.

"Just about," I say. "There are gaps. It's like the 1960s. If you can remember them clearly you weren't there. I do recall they lasted a year, there were several fatalities and there's a couple of acres of Scotland where crops will never grow again."

"You're exaggerating," she says. "As always. Nobody died. A few cuts and bruises was the worst anybody got. Couple of sprained ankles. Nothing serious."

"I heard two of your relatives needed liver transplants," I say.

"They're fine now," she says.

"What about the guy whose knee went septic from the crocodile bite?" I say.

"He recovered and they saved his leg," she says.

"Didn't your sister need surgery to get a radioactive lobster out of her nose?"

"Yeah, but you know what Marion's like. I told her not to swim in the sea beside the nuclear power station."

"So what are you planning to do with all that money," I say.

"It'll be fantastic," she says. "We're going to buy a van and hire a driver. We'll open another charity shop in the next town and employ a web expert to beef up our social media presence. 

"We'll give out household goods to vulnerable families and more clothes to babies and toddlers. It means we can help loads more mums, dads and kids. That's what we're all about."

"It sounds great," I say. "I'm really pleased for you. Honest. Just a bit scared is all. But I've bought a flak jacket on eBay and a small bomb-shelter kit from Ikea. I'm trying to figure out the instructions now."

"So you'll be fine?" she says. 

"I'll be fine," I say. "When do the celebrations start?"

"Any day now," she says. "The funders have put an embargo on us, because they want to announce it themselves."

"Will we get a four-minute warning?" I say.

"Listen pal, you got me all wrong," she says. "There's absolutely no need for anybody to be scared about this. I am the shy, retiring type."

"I know," I say. "And I'm a duck-billed platypus."

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