I am God of large numbers, honest

I HAD been oblivious to the problem until my husband growled last week:

"You constantly exaggerate everything you say. I haven't heard you tell one straight story in five years." I wept for 46 hours and then walked to Mount Ararat, where I sat in the ruins of the Ark and considered his comments. Maybe I do exaggerate.

I remember telling schoolfriends that my dad was nine feet tall but then, all kids say things like that. On the other hand, last week, drunk, and at the age of 26, I did claim that my record shelves were 50 feet high, which suggests the problem has become catastrophically inflated over the years.

As with everything up to and including the death of Christ, it's my parents fault. Their hippy ideals had, by 1986, boiled down to writing us a school sick note on sunny days, in order to take us for chips in Bridgnorth. I can only presume that it was while we were eating orange batter on the banks of the Severn that everyone else was taught that words and numbers are fixed, inflexible things. I cannot fully convey how very much I consider that not to be the case. Take, for example, the word "couple". Until last year, I thought that "couple" meant "a few". When asking for "a couple" of apples, I would have expected anything between six and 20. I thought it mere coincidence that I always got two.

I can't get it into my head that "five" just means five, and there is no leeway in the matter. I prefer to use numbers in a more impressionistic way. If I toddle off to bed at 3am, it'd feel so late and I'd feel so yawny that I'd automatically tell people I went to bed at 6.30am. It wouldn't be a lie. By zazzing the numbers up a bit, I have conveyed that it was late and yawny without having to say "It was late and I was yawny". In fact, save the odd pound;1,000 accounting blip here and there, I think I'm just about ready to declare that terminal exaggeration is the best and indeed only way to count, and that I am the Van Gogh - nay, God - of numbers.

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