It is a blazingly hot summer day. The sky is the deep blue you only usually see in photographs, with a few carefully placed clouds drifting here and there. Tall green trees pose as artfully as models and tanned people wander along the street with their sunglasses on their heads, sipping from cups of iced coffee. The whole thing looks distressingly like reality has morphed into a Starbucks advert.
Amanda and I have spent the morning wandering around the city centre sneering at clothes, and now we are looking for somewhere to have a cup of tea.
"What about in - ow! Don't grab my arm!"
"We can't go in here."
"We can't. Keep walking."
We walk a little further.
"I demand an explanation."
"Did you see that boy behind the counter with the red curly hair?"
"One night I got drunk - "
"Oh, I think I already see where this is going - "
" - and I accidentally fucked him. And then he kept calling me and texting and saying what a nice time he had, and I never returned his calls because he was horrible and he kept calling me - "
"Wait a minute. You don't accidentally fuck someone. What do you mean, accidentally? You don't just like trip over -"
"What do you know about it?"
" - trip over and fall on his dick - "
"When was the last time you even had sex on purpose?"
" - do you? This was nothing to do with you, was it?"
Amanda is silent for a few seconds.
"He took advantage of me being a slut," she eventually remarks.
I decide to let this statement lie.
"And then he came up to me, do you remember that guy Frank I was going out with?"
"The one with the things stuck in his head?"
"That's right, the one with the recording studio. We were having a drink and that guy walks up and starts going blah blah trying to pull me and he is really posh and has a rah accent and Frank started taking the piss out of him."
"So - let me get this straight. You got drunk and shagged him; he really liked you; you never called him back; and then when he saw you in a bar and tried to talk to you, your boyfriend with inch-long spikes embedded in his forehead took the piss out of him for being posh."
"Yep. Really added insult to injury. So we can't go in there."
"No. No, I see that now."
We continue wandering down the road.
"We could go in here."
"Amanda, there's 50 million ladygirls in there, all sitting around having ironic afternoon tea or something, and I just can't handle it today. And they charge you £3 for a coffee."
("Ladygirls" is a word Amanda and I have made up to describe the current plague of middle-class professional women who think baking cakes is a lifestyle choice rather than a cheap way to make something nice to eat, snap up lovely 50s dresses we can't afford and then walk around wearing them with no style, listen to indie bands they have been told are edgy by the Guardian and call each other things like "gorgeous lady")
We move on.
I am thinking about something. Eventually I say:
"That's the difference between you and me - you meet a man you fancy and you go off and have wild adventures, lick champagne off each other, take class A drugs, have multiple orgasms and then never speak to each other again. I meet a man I like, and we stand about looking awkwardly at our shoes and nothing happens because I'm too shy, or he's not interested, or because it just somehow - doesn't happen - and then we say "bye" in an affectedly casual way and never speak to each other again."
"So what you are saying is that both of us have a trail of men we found attractive, who we failed to form relationships with, and are now no longer speaking to. It's for slightly different reasons, true, but the outcome's the same - romantically speaking, we're both non-starters. Darwin would write us off."
"At least you actually get some romance."
"There was nothing romantic about that man. I meant "romantic" to differentiate a type of encounter."
"At least you actually get some sex."
"It may surprise you to learn this, Alice, but there is some sex that I would actually rather not have had - LOOK AT THAT DRESS!"
We both press up against the window of a shop in a way which - from inside - is probably reminiscent of the scene in Aliens when the facehugger you think is dead suddenly sucks up against the glass of its aquarium.
The dress is, indeed, beautiful. It's cream, with elbow length sleeves and thin pink stripes running vertically. In this era of frills, florals and little-girl bows, there is not an ounce of fuss about it. It is pure tailored class. It is a dress to be reckoned with, a dress which would silence rooms on the right woman. Who is, obviously, either me or Amanda.
It is £135.
"A ladygirl will own that by tomorrow," says Amanda sadly.
"And she'll wear it with a granny cardigan and brogues," I say. "To dress it down."