I lay face down on the floorboards at the foot of my bed and studied the press up diagram in Anthony Van Starbuck’s book. It seemed to suggest I should put my hands palms down and push myself up to roughly a 30 degree angle before returning my torso to the ground. I put my hands where indicated and pushed. Nothing happened. I lifted my spectacles up and studied the pictures more closely. Was I missing a vital step? It appeared not. I lowered my spectacles again and had another go. I gave it everything I’d got but my chest never left the floor. Perspiring and with sore hands I cursed the publishers for sloppily letting the book be released with pages obviously missing. I turned over – both the page and my person – and looked closely at the sit up diagram at the head of the next section. This looked much easier. All I had to do was lie down and then lift myself back up to a sitting position. Aside from certain moral objections to sitting on the floor (I am neither poor nor a radical and would not wish to be mistaken for either) I couldn’t see any reason why this wouldn’t be an outstanding success. I lowered myself backwards, only banging my head slightly when my attention waivered for a moment, and pulled myself back up using only my stomach muscles. Or rather, I tried to. I am not a biologist and my doctorate is not a medical one but even I know that the stomach is a bag where food is kept before unmentionable things happen to it. It is not, repeat not, a muscle. Mr Van Starbuck was living in cloud cuckoo land. I closed the book and decided exercise was not for me. A good mental workout had always proved enough and I didn’t see that dining with a woman was any reason to change that.

“Dennis Brent” called Francois Devine, snapping his fingers to get my attention. I looked over to him – we’re back in the present day now and stuck in our hospital beds – “you appeared to have become a little vague. You have dribbled on your pyjamas and were making some extremely disturbing grunting noises while you dozed. If I were a charitable man I’d say you were dreaming about completing a series of press-ups or sit-ups but we both know exercise is an anathema to you so I’m afraid I had to conclude you were being disgusting. I found the experience rather distressing and I shall expect an apology by return of post.

“Then you shall have one” I said sulkily. “Unless you dream about getting a letter of apology in the meantime – in which case kindly let me know and save me the cost of a second class stamp.”

“Consider it done” he replied. We beamed at each other but not with our usual enthusiasm. He was getting on my nerves and we both knew it.

“With Melba still residing in Coventry and the Annabelle female having gone off to have her hair done or whatever it is ladies do when they’re not in the company of gentlemen, I feel it is time to resolve the Lola Whitecastle issue once and for all by my telling you what happened when I took her out for a luncheon meeting.”

“I’d be extremely interested to hear that, Francois Devine, as thus far I’ve only heard her rather scathing comments about it while we were dining together” I told him.

“Firstly, that was quite rude and I shall expect a post script to be added to your ongoing note of apology and secondly, that cannot be true. I had a splendid lunch and I fail to see how Whitecastle can have felt otherwise.”

“We shall see” I said wittily and I gave him leave to continue.

“Well, the day started on a bright note as my breakfast was superb. I do so enjoy breakfast – especially if little birds join me on the terrace and help themselves to any crumbs I may accidentally drop. Woe betide anything that tries to take from my plates – I do an especially tasty robin casserole owing to a lifetime of practice – but any crumbs too small for my gentleman’s fingers to pick up are fair game for the little fellows.”

I yawned loudly. This felt like it was going to be a long and boring story. Though it did explain how Francois Devine came to be perhaps the only chef in England to make a sparrow sorbet.

“After hearing some rather unsettling noises coming from your bedroom, Dennis Brent, not unlike the ones you just made come to think of it, I telephoned the restaurant to make sure the booking was in my name and that they were prepared for me. That done, I spent an extremely interesting couple of hours proof reading my monograph critically documenting and analysing each pair of trousers worn onscreen by Jon Pertwee during his five years on Doctor Who which I am confident will shake up the costume branch of telehistorical research like no other. Snetterton in particular will be seething long before I reach Story TTT and may well be spitting blood by the end. His cosy little bubble is about to be ripped wide open.”

“Mmm” I said non committally. “Much as I disagree with everything I’ve ever heard you say about Pertwee’s trousers, I do relish the opportunity to see Snetterton get in one of his tempers. He may well be the second funniest angry telehistorian I’ve ever seen behind Smasher.”

“Yes? What do you want, Dennis Brent?” said a voice from the door way. We looked over.

“Oh, hello Smasher” we said together, going through our ritual yet again. He too had been in the wars and was in the next room along, nursing a broken collarbone and a badly bruised coccyx. He banged his one functioning hand against the wall, knocking a clock off its nail causing it to break into twenty pieces on the floor.

“I thought I’d pop next door and tell you chaps I’m absolutely FURIOUS.”