When the hairdresser theorises about styles in the context of 'recession', it's time to take a good look in the mirror and embrace follicular change. My protests about having a naturally well-shaped hairline sounded meek and defensive.

With my trimmed barnet I hotfooted it to Benfleet to see Clare, Bob and the gang. Here is Clare, young babe clamped to chest, sipping a well-earned prosecco. Upon picking me up at the station, knowing how curmudgeonly I have become, Clare advised there were more children present than I had been expecting. It was useful to steel myself for an unholy racket, but it was genuinely lovely to hang out and read Mr Men books. Jenna came from Chester with two of her three while her husband Matt stayed behind with Ethan. Three year old Erin, Jenna's youngest and the biggest tyke of all, used my seated position on the sofa repeatedly as a slide. It was a comical moment when she complained about damaging her 'front bum' through over-zealous sliding.

Clare and Bob prepared pulled pork, which was devoured. Later pizzas were washed down with beer and the slumping on the sofa continued.

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