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Charmian Hughes Headshot

From Huhne to Eternity

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We've all done stupid things, even me!

I once ate a packet of crisps in a pub which I hadn't bought on the premises. I wasn't caught but if I had been, would I have got my husband to pretend he had purchased the crisps? Especially if he was the one who would have been less inconvenienced standing outside in the rain while I finished my pint in the cosy warm? Probably not, but in our days of instant internet information - when our innermost workings can become known - would Disraeli, Churchill or Keir Hardie withstand the moral metal detector of the modern age?

The Jesuits say 'Give me the boy at seven and I will give you the man'.

Chris Huhne wasn't seven when I first met him, he was 11.

It was 1965, I was nine and my family had just moved to London. Chris and his arty lively clever family lived in our new road. When his mother took her children to the Mermaid theatre to see some mime, she took me along too - my first ever theatre visit -and I saw my first comedy film, Peter Sellers' Two Way Stretch, with them as well. While my own mother said I was strange, Mrs Paul Huhne said I was interesting. She and her family were beacons of light and fun in the lonely claustrophobic urban catastrophe that I knew only as South Kensington.

Like all boys, Chris was an annoying squirt who was sometimes allowed to play 'Julip Horses' with me, his sister and our friend Jessamy. Then one summer hols, now 14 and back from my convent boarding school, I dropped round to his house to find him disconcertingly yet excitingly transformed. It was a different species that opened the familiar door; deep voiced, with shining layered black hair and eyes as brown and round and alive as my guinea pig Truffles'. What's more, he now sported a black beret, broke spontaneously into French at will, had unpredictable fits of piano playing mid-conversation and had become a Communist. And these were only some of his mesmerising accomplishments!

I was an instant devotee. Not only was he fantastic but he was also the only proper boy I knew. It's true, he did seem to have lots of girlfriends, but the fact that I was not one of them was definitely a good sign. According to ancient teenage wisdom it meant I was much more special to him. How he must be struggling with his feelings, I imagined!

I wrote lots of poems about him. He was a snowman, an iceberg, an ostrich in the snow. I was a weary Antarctica waiting to be melted. 'Don't try to melt me' both of us seemed to be saying, although I was doing all the saying for both of us.

After months of 'dropping in' on his family at every opportunity, - never had our fat Labrador been so well exercised - my chance at last came! He was alone, without his usual coterie, and visibly moved by the Progressive Underground LP droning in the background, he snogged me. It was my first ever kiss, but I don't think he guessed, even when he growled "open your mouth" and I did, just like I did at the dentist.

I wish I could remember fully the bliss of that kiss, but the inner struggle and tension, caused by my history of nervous flatulence, dominated the experience. Luckily the Huhnes had a very elderly cat that took the flak that afternoon. You could say she was setting a precedent.

For me, that snog was enough for the time being and I spent weeks analysing it. By the time I was ready for another one, Chris had got off with my best friend and confidante Toni, but she was soon dumped with the cruel words "you are worse than bourgeois, you are petite bourgeois".

I secretly vowed to never be petite bourgeois, and thanks to my friendship with Chris and his family, I never was.

For more tales from my five-year diary 1970-74, visit my site

There will be more End of The World stories at Charmian's show Charmageddon And 'Odd One In', a new show for the 2013 Edinburgh Festival.

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