I took my nephew Ashley to the zoo the day his parents divorced.
His mother, my sister, was celebrating her officially-recognised freedom by taking a plane to St Lucia with the photocopier repair man from her office.
I helped Ashley climb up onto the viewing platform so he could stand eye-to-eye with the giraffes. His little face was pink and streaked with snot, and utterly serious.
‘You are very tall indeed,’ he told the animal lumbering towards him, and held out his chubby hand to be sniffed.
I thought of his mother, on the beach by now, strawberry daiquiri in hand, and hugged Ashley to me as we watched the gathering clouds.
I hate celery. I’m annoyed about hating it, since I generally pride myself on being an unfussy eater. But really, what’s the point of it? It’s like corrugated cardboard. It looks as though it should taste of nothing, but in reality it’s revolting, and the worst thing is that its appearance does nothing to warn you of this. It’s the disguise I resent the most. At least porridge, the only other thing I won’t eat, looks like something you don’t want to put in your mouth.
It was the third date. Everyone knows the third date is The One, the pivotal moment. We agreed I would go to his flat and he would cook, and we both pretended I would get a taxi home (my toothbrush and spare pants were, of course, stashed in my bag). The smells from the kitchen were divine. Onions, garlic and white wine. He was cooking risotto, and as I watched him stirring in the butter and cheese at the final stages, generous, indulgent handfuls of parmesan, I thought, I like this guy.
He lit candles. We sat down and tucked in. I smiled at him as I brought the fork to my mouth.
And that’s when I saw it.
You can’t pick celery out of risotto.
I’ve trained myself to eat olives, and raisins. But I won’t do that for celery. Celery doesn’t deserve my time and effort.
I ate the risotto, I felt it was only polite. But there was no fourth date.