SUNDAY afternoon and it's my turn to buy the drinks for our usual catch-up with my friends Christine and Mae.
"Trust me," I exclaim, "I forgot to go to the cashpoint again and had to pay with my credit card."
"I'm the opposite," says Mae, "I'm always forgetting my card. What a time I've had recently."
"Really"?" we ask reluctantly, knowing we are about to hear her unfold a catalogue of disasters.
I pour the wine and, before taking a sip, Mae takes the opportunity to reveal her latest drama.
"A couple of weeks ago while on my way to work my fuel light came on," she says.
"I only had £5 with me, so I put a fiver's worth of petrol in.
"I had a million things on my mind and as I'm driving out of the forecourt, the guy I know in the petrol station waved to me. So I waved back and thought no more of it."
"Oh well, a fiver won't get you far these days," I said, not knowing where this tale was heading.
"Later that night as I was closing my bedroom curtains," Mae continued, "I looked out of the window and saw a police car parked at my gate."
Mae now had our full attention.
"I started shaking like a leaf as I assumed it was bad news."
"And was it?" asked Christine.
"Well," says Mae, "I opened the door and the policeman said in a stern voice, 'Good evening. Can you tell me if the driver of the vehicle parked outside has been to the petrol station today?'
"I was just glad that it wasn't bad news. But then I wondered if the petrol station had been held up.
"I was imagining myself as chief witness on Crimewatch. My mind was racing trying to remember if I'd seen anything suspicious."
"And did you?" I foolishly asked.
Mae continued: "Before the officer had the chance to speak and, thinking I had valuable information, I confidently told him 'Yes officer, I was at the petrol station today.'
"You know Janice, I was so excited. I thought I was going to be on the telly."
"So what did the officer say?" inquires Christine.
Mae imitates the stern voice of the police officer:
"Well, madam. Today at the petrol station after you fuelled your vehicle. Did you pay for it'?"
A gobsmacked Mae answers: "Pay? Em, yes, em I think so."
And then, after quite a pause, the penny drops
"Em no," Mae admitted.
"I put my hands over my mouth and said, so I'm the real culprit?"
"It appears so," replied the officer.
I squirmed imagining how embarrassing that must have been for Mae.
She turned to us and continued: "Anyway I told the officer that it was a genuine mistake and if I was going to nick petrol I would have made sure I had filled the tank and not just stolen £5 worth."
"That's true," I said, although I did think that sometimes she doesn't do herself any favours.
"Well, that wasn't the end of it," said Mae.
"He then asked if I would return the next day to the garage and pay the £5."
"That seems reasonable," said Christine.
"I know," said Mae.
"And I should just have said yes but I joked 'Is there any chance you could arrest me as it'll be less embarrassing than going back to pay?'"
Not amused he replied: "You've got 24 hours … or I'll be back."
Christine shook her head. "OMG! I'd have been mortified."
"But it got worse," continued Mae.
Topping up our glasses of wine, we could only wonder how it could possibly get worse.
"So last week I only had £10 in my purse when my petrol light came on …"
Christine and I are now having a déjà vu moment but couldn't interrupt, even if we wanted to.
"I still felt a bit humiliated about what had happened, so I decided to go to a different petrol station this time," said Mae.
Silently Christine and I nodded in agreement.
"So I put in £10 of petrol, but I forgot I had just bought a birthday card and paper for my friend leaving me with £6.
"I realised immediately what I had done and headed straight to the cash desk to explain the situation to the cashier and told her 'You're never going to believe this'…"
Apparently, Mae explained her dilemma of how she'd come out with £10 and how she'd spent £4 which left her short of cash for the fuel.
Christine and I were now embarrassed. And we hadn't even been there.
"So the girl's reply was 'I've heard it all before. You realise I will need to call the police'."
Mae said: "I was horrified at the very thought and tried pleading with the girl. 'Please. Please. Don't call the police'. I've done this before and they won't believe me again'."
Christine, who almost now choked on her wine at Mae's admission gasped out: "Did you get arrested then?"
"No," said Mae. "The girl held me hostage until someone came and paid the £4.
"She told me the only reason she let me off was that she couldn't be bothered with the paperwork for £4 and that she was sick of idiots like me."
"And to crown it all," exclaimed Mae, "she told me to use another petrol station in future. Can you imagine the cheek of it?"