The Annabelle female was giving Melba’s battered and bandaged face some of the most sceptical looks I’d seen since I read a piece in the Daily Mail about how mirrors give you cancer and I caught myself registering my disgust in the bathroom shortly afterwards.

“There is a perfectly simple explanation” I began. She turned her fury on me and, given that it is noble to lay down one’s life for a friend, I passed the conversational baton to Francois Devine to continue.

“My dear girl” he began which, to be fair, changed her mood a little. “Meeting Lola Whitecastle for breakfast was purely a business matter I can assure you.”

“Business? Melba doesn't do business. He’s a waster.”

“He is a telehistorical trainee” I corrected. “He is under our collective wing and is learning the art of telehistorical research. In ten or fifteen years’ time he will emerge from our informative cocoon a fully formed and developed telehistorian, ready to produce the next generation of monographs, papers, articles and – perhaps – take on an apprentice of his own.”

“A waster” she insisted. “He’s never earned a penny in his life and if it wasn’t for his dad owning Bargainsave he’d be eating from bins or servicing sailors behind a pub.”

“What services could Melba possibly offer members of the Royal Navy? He can’t sew, he’s very poor at polishing shoes and the one time he tried to build a hammock he ended up with a catapult that demolished an entire shed with a single goose-down pillow.”

“Whatever. Just tell me who Lola Whitecasle is and what business Melba had having breakfast with her?”

“Lola Whitecastle was the female star of Adventures into Space from series two onwards and latterly appeared in a number of situation comedies, cheap movies and occasionally on stage. She has an enormous private collection of Adventures into Space paperwork that she has never made available to anyone with serious research intentions. She has been offered money for her papers and always turned me – them – down. People have tried to flatter her, bribe her and even burgle her but we – they – have never got anywhere near the holy grail of archive production documentation. But now – at the age of 77 – she’s decided to write her autobiography, or rather has decided to get someone to ghost write her autobiography for her. The winning author will have unlimited and exclusive access to all of Lola Whitecastle’s papers. I think you’ll agree that is a valid reason for having breakfast with her. He was simply pitching his pathetic attempt to become that man. All bootless of course as I shall become Lola Whitecastle’s official biographer and, thanks to my portable document scanner, I will leave her basement with a full set of electronic photostat copies for my own personal collection. I will – yet again – be the king of telehistory.”

I realised too late that I’d gone a bit too far. These pills were messing with my brain and my normal prudence in all things up to and including speech was sadly lacking.

“Dennis Brent is roughly correct in most of what he said” said Francois Devine, stepping in to cover my awkwardness though not in quite the way I would’ve chosen. “Not unlike everything he’s ever written – six out of ten for accuracy sounds about right to me. Perhaps five and a half. Certainty no more than that. Had he any imagination what so ever he might plummet all the way to a four over ten. Thankfully for the rest of us he is unimaginative and reliably uninformed. What he no doubt would’ve said, were he as honest as I am, is that Melba, Dennis Brent and I all put in requests to meet with Lola Whitecastle to discuss becoming her covert co-author and that I put in the best offer and will shortly be granted the exclusive access to her personal papers. Dennis Brent will permitted to buy a copy of the book and get it signed at cost price but that is the closest he will get to Miss Whitecastle’s personal vault.”

“So you’re telling me that Melba met with this woman to try and get a job?”

“Yes. Bootless…”

“Or fruitless…” I chipped in.

“…as that may have been, yes, he was there trying to secure an employment opportunity that would’ve set him amongst the gods.”

“Oh Melby – I’m so proud of you” she squealed and she threw her limbs around him in a most undignified manner.

“How disgraceful” I tutted.

“Young people are disgraceful, don’t you find?” agreed Francois Devine.

“Melba has definitely gone down in my estimations” I continued.

“Even if his father does own Bargainsave” nodded Francois Devine. We paused for a moment and realised what he – and earlier she – had said.

“Your father owns Bargainsave?” we demanded as one. He nodded a bandaged head and we gave him looks – mine said “How could you not have told us we were entitled to additional discounts as a result of knowing a family member?” and Francois Devine’s seemed to say “Why did you not arrange for us to be able to visit the Bendaton branch out of hours to either secure end of the day bargains that were minutes away from passing their best before date or at the start of the day so we could snap up daily deals before the proles were allowed near them?” It was a lot to fit into one expression but Francois Devine does have a colossal face.

“He doesn’t like to mention it – greedy people would ask for discounts or to be able to go in early to shop in peace. We can’t stand people like that” she told us. We nodded in agreement to avoid an awkward situation.

“Tell me, my dear, what is a blob?” asked Francois Devine once the awkwardness had reached a level that mere nods alone could not dampen.

“I think you mean a glob” I corrected.

“I could’ve sworn the girl said blob.”

“No – she distinctly said glob, or at least as distinctly as one with her diction is able.”

“Which was it, dear, blob or glob?” asked Francois Devine.

“Neither – I said blog. Melba’s blog. Don’t you read it?”

“Does one read a blob… blog?” he asked.

“What else would you do with it?”

“Yes – Francois Devine – what else would one do with a blog?” I laughed. I roared long and hard at my colleague’s blunder. I had no idea what a blog was either but if I laughed hard enough no one would ever know that.

“Owing to his unfortunate… um… accident, we never did hear the details of his breakfast with Lola Whitecastle” said Francois Devine firmly, changing the subject with all the deftness of an ice breaker breaking ice on his first day breaking ice on board an ice breaker.

“I’ll get it up on my phone and read it to you” she said pleasantly. She’d clearly had enough of kissing Melba’s plaster face and wanted something to do in order to justify the bus fare she’d spent visiting us.

“My breakfast with Lola Whitecastle” she began. “I’d like to say the most important meeting of my career was an all-conquering success but unfortunately, owing to paper being flammable, old ladies having poor eyesight and the infernal suspiciousness of three star hotel waiters it wasn’t the watershed moment I’d been hoping for. Let me explain…”