Crazy Yank was just one of many of Lilac’s male suitors dressed up in a platonic façade. Another was called Howard who I never met but heard inevitably disagreeable things about; he seemed to boss Lilac about, telling her she was late when he knew she was working long hours and certainly didn’t seem to tickle her funny bone either. Of course, there was Henry’s younger drum teacher (Lilac remains 49 years old all her life) but that was all hush-hush drinks at the pub and a reckless option in her mind. There was Big James, younger in his early forties and good friends with Crazy Yank, who’d inevitably ‘just be passing’ on his motorbike from Ealing.
At the time, my joint favourite contender with Crazy Yank was his antithesis: Tennis Mike. Despite Crazy Yank playing a great deal of tennis, Tennis Mike had good contacts within the Lawn Tennis Association. He’d spoil Lilac with the best Wimbledon tickets you could get your hands on and steak au poivre and champagne dinners. Meanwhile, Crazy Yank would whisk Lilac away for daytime and late-night drinking along the Chiswick High Road.
Lilac would typically go with the flow, enjoying herself and maintaining that both Crazy Yank and Mike were ‘just friends’ and that they wanted to be just friends with her. This was just the start of getting to know a woman who, to this day, never fails to amuse me. A woman who one day, felt hungry and burnt croissants so they looked like charcoaled elephant turds on a baking tray. Another day, she got home telling me how famished she was and I went out to the kitchen to find her eating quail eggs knocked back with a couple shots of vodka.
But Lilac isn’t always so chilled out. Unlike Henry. And that became a problem when I was living there. One night in particular, 10 GCSEs meant watching Skins and crafting me a Best of Zero 7 for Henry. And for Lilac? It meant shouting.
‘Henry, what are you doing? This has to stop. You’ve got your GCSEs, Henry. Do you know what this means? Do you know how hard I work for you to go to this school?’
Henry, as usual at his mother’s outbursts, would say nothing. I sat there, looking at the carpet, shouting inside for him to say something.
‘Saskia, please don’t encourage this behaviour. He’s got his exams soon. They’re very important.’
I looked at Lilac to say something but nothing came out. Lilac was staring at Henry who was still watching Skins.
‘Henry! Are you bloody listening to me?’
Henry got up from his armchair, slung his satchel over his shoulders and stomped up the stairs. She followed him up two flights of stairs to his attic room, shouting on the verge of tears.
I switched off the TV, turned off both lights and crept up the stairs to my room.
Soon after that, it was time for Lilac and I to have ‘a chat’.