Julia, warned that the rented camper van may need water, decides to check under the bonnet. A round reservoir sits above the radiator. She takes off the cap but can’t see in.

At this point, her customary good sense deserts her. She dips her little finger into the reservoir. It is too short to reach the water level so, on an even rasher impulse she sticks her index finger in.

Two things happen at once. Her fingertip reaches water, very hot water. At the same time her knuckle wedges in the opening so that she can’t get her finger out. She bends it as far as she can to get the tip out of the hot water, but that makes it even more impossible to extract the whole thing. She is bent over the front of the van, attached to it permanently, so it seems, by one finger.

Breathe slowly, she tells herself, keep calm.

She eases her finger straight again but that forces the tip back into the hot water.

Why is the water so hot? The car has been sitting with the engine off for an hour or more. But it was smelling hot when they pulled up. That’s why she decided to check.

She yanks again at her finger, but the pain is excruciating. She thinks she might faint.

She needs to cool the finger down to stop the swelling.

‘Anne,’ she calls. ‘Can you bring a bottle of water?’

Anne appears cheerily round the side of the car, holding out a bottle.

‘Is the level down?’

‘It’s not that. My finger is stuck.’

Anne gapes at her. ‘You put your finger in the radiator?’

Julia grimaces. ‘Can you pour some of that water over my hand to cool it down?’

Anne does as Julia asks, but is distracted by the approach of two friendly campers. Unaware of how firmly Julia is stuck, she goes to speak to the strangers, and finds that they have interesting things to say about the forest and the landscape.

Julia watches the three of them chatting in the middle of the carpark and grinds her teeth. With a determined twist and yank she pulls her finger free, leaving a strip of skin behind. She retreats to the water’s edge to soak her poor hand in the salt water.

Eventually order is restored, one band aid to stop the knuckle bleeding and a second to protect the burnt fingertip. Anne is suitably apologetic about having abandoned Julia in her hour of need, and Julia is able to admit that the hurt is mainly to her pride.

‘That must be the most totally ignominious accident I’ve ever had.’

‘Not accident.’ Anne can’t resist. ‘Self-inflicted.’

Julia groans. ‘Okay. I concede. I hope you aren’t going to gloat.’

Anne looks suitably self-righteous. ‘Me? Gloat?’

‘Or tell anyone?’

‘Not a word.’ She pokes the fire thoughtfully. ‘And I suppose you don’t want me to say anything about lesbians and fingertips?’


‘Okay, okay. My lips are sealed.’