I have spent the day expecting to be struck down by a bolt of lightning, which has nothing to do with the cataclysmic thunderstorm unfolding above us and everything to do with the fact that last night, I think I did something really awful.
I have just rented a room from a lovely lady, for a very good rate in a part of town I was desperate to live in. I couldn’t be happier – especially when I discovered dozens of old books on my bookshelf, including a Pablo Neruda anthology and a Spanish translation of Pride and Prejudice, both of which will do far more for my waning efforts at fluency than grammar studies ever will.
My landlady is a grandmotherly age and keeps a spotless house, but I think we’re friends since she let me sit on the end of her huge bed and watch the Colombian X Factor on her plasma screen.
Similarly, the lad who rents the other room is a shy accountant who laughs at my jokes but is generally quiet as a mouse and therefore unlikely to disturb me when I am working.
There is just one potential cloud on this sunny horizon. My new landlady is devoted to the Catholic Church and even though I am definitely a fan of Jesus, I am not particularly fond of God.
Despite this, I’ve respectfully tucked away the prayer cards I found in my room and won’t be touching the portrait of the Virgin Mary, complete with rosary beads, which hangs on my wall.
When I opened the wardrobe to find a poster of Jesus I giggled and left him there, hoping he’ll sleep well at night surrounded by my party dresses and over-priced make-up.
My helpful boyfriend even told me a candle in the living room had been lit in my honour, both as a tribute to a minor Virgin and to ensure my lifelong happiness.
What could possibly go wrong?
Oh dear. I cannot believe I am about to admit to this.
It should have been a normal night. I went to the gym. I came home. I made myself a cup of tea, dug out some biscuits and sat in bed reading my book. Later, I cleaned my teeth and then, for some inexplicable reason, I decided I needed to wash my mug.
When I walked past the lounge, I saw a flickering light and realised with a cold shock of horror that the candle was still lit. Everyone was in bed which meant the responsibility for their lives – and those of everyone else in the apartment block – lay in my hands.
You know I’m a Health and Safety nut. You should also know I spent six years of my life writing about house fires, including the ones that killed people. You may or may not know that Colombians are so cavalier about fire safety, I’ve never even seen a home smoke alarm here, let alone fireproof stairs or a bloody ladder.
I stood there frozen. I thought about going back to bed but knew I would force myself to stay awake all night if we were to run the gauntlet of an alarm-less night beside an unattended candle.
And so, at the risk of forever ruining my own happiness, I blew the candle out. If you see me looking fed up and miserable, that’s why. I can’t speak for the Virgin.