Thursday, 28 January 2010
When I was working full time and running a home and bringing up my four children as well as looking in on my Mum & Dad and having my elderly stroke-patient Auntie three times a week (...sound familiar ladies...?) as well as acting as roadie/manager for our number three son's rock-band, I was in bed late (...rock venues are open 'til the early hours...) and up early (...four kids to get up, washed, uniformed, breakfasted, homeworked, packed-lunched and to school) so Nic, on some shifts, would telephone me at 7:00am to make sure I'd not slept through the alarm.
He telephoned one morning, full of the joys of spring with the announcement "...Come on you lazy lump, out of that pit.! The sun's shining, the birds are singing and all is well with the world...!" the answer to which was a very groggy and querilous "...but I only went to bed at half past two - I've only been asleep a couple of hours..."
"...now don't give me that, you were in bed early last night, I was there remember..."
"...no, honestly, I've only just gone to sleep...I'm too tired to get up yet...."
And then the realization struck. My hapless OH had rung my mother at 7:00 am, an hour she hadn't experienced for very many years except in the aftermath of a party.......
Ya have to chuckle, doncha...?
Saturday, 16 January 2010
My OH has always worked shifts, but my Mum could never get the hang of this and she’d phone at all the wrong times for different things.
On night, he was in bed early as he was on early shift the following day and he was just drifting off when the phone went. I happened to be on the landing at the time so I shot in and picked up the phone from beside the bed , hoping he could ignore what I knew was going to be a call from my daft Mum.
“I’m doing a wordsearch puzzle and I just can’t get it. Can you just go through these answers and say if they’re right or not?”
”Okay, but be quick – Nic’s in bed and he’s on earlies in the morning.”
So she went through all the clues and she’d got them all right except for one.
“So does that help?” I asked, sincerely hoping it had.
“Actually, no, it’s made it worse, if anything. The shaded letters don’t make any sense to me, no matter how I juggle them.”
“Well we’ve established the answers are correct. What letters have you got?”
“ O L O X O X B”
Try as I might, the only thing I could get from that was ‘OXBOLOX’ which to my knowledge went straight to video……
Of course by now, Nic’s and I are wide awake trying to conjecture what was going on up on my Mum’s planet..
“Be prepared to go straight to your Mum’s as soon as I get home tomorrow – I want to see this puzzle!” announced my bog-eyed hubby.
So we went straight round, with all the kids, the next day at 4:00pm.
“Let’s see this puzzle Mum, “ said my OH.
“Oh there’s a good prize and if I win it, I’ll give it to you,” says Mum, “it’s no good to me, it’s the Guinness book of science.”
As usual the telly was blaring, so I motioned for her to turn it down which, grudgingly, she did.
“Why don’t you want it?” my OH stupidly asked.
“Oh I have those…” she waved hr arm expansively in the direction of the ancient book-case in the corner of the room. Upon it, in their customary place, as they had been for all of my life, were the ‘Book of Knowledge’ encyclopaedias. “I‘ve got everything I need from those books…”
“….except film-names…” I heard my eldest quip ‘soto voce’.
“… go on, ask me something..!” she insisted.
No-one spoke, not wanting to be the one to cause the mayhem that was bound to follow.
Nic must have been feeling either brave or foolhardy whan he muttered “Okay, who discovered Australia?”
The room went silent. “Ooooh I know this, just give me a minute….”
A few ‘ooh’s and ‘aaahs’ later is was clear she was struggling so I whispered “Captain Cook.” close to her ear, although everyone but her knew I’d done it.
“…that’s it, I’ve remembered! CAPTAIN HOOK!” and she beamed a big triumphant smile.
No-one could burst her bubble, so, rocking with suppressed giggles (kids too) we tried to be polite.
“I know all about religion too!” she continued. “Jesus wasn’t the first Christian you know …”
This was wandering into dangerous territory. There was only so much laughter a person can suppress without having some sort of an epiphany….
“…when I was working and I travelled a lot there was always, in the drawer in the hotel rooms, this book written by a man called Gideon. I used to read it!” and she nodded to emphasize the fact.
Dad, seeing the hot water she was getting us into, tried to change the subject and brought up the subject of politics. In hindsight, possibly not the best subject at the time.
Nic & Dad bantered points of view about the Irish Question and Dad brought up my Mum’s sister who lived in America who used to pay ‘Irish Money’ and the debate was did that go towards the IRA for terrorism. Despite the subject matter, this banter wasn’t being taken entirely seriously as it was only meant to distract, which it did as Mum had gone back to watching ‘Hector’s House’ – funny in itself as it was a kiddies programme.
Then Dad said “There’s your Jean ….”
Mum instantly sat up, turned round and peered out of the window to the garden. “Where?”
Hubby and I just looked at each other and recognised matching panic in each other’s eyes….
How we managed to make our excuses and leave is beyond me! I only remember driving about 100 yards down the road and having to stop because I couldn’t see for the tears of laughter.
Oh, and the movie title from the original puzzle? It was BATMAN!My daft as a brush mother had not read the instructions properly. You were meant to shuffle the answers around on the grid until the title appeared in the greyed out boxes………..
The wind howled and whistled down the chimney and under the doors of the dilapidated cottage.
Philomena Geraghty shivered in front of the coal fire she’d built, wishing she’d had gas-fires put in like her nephew was always urging her to do. But it was so expensive. At least it seemed so to her, the quotes he’d got for her and those, he’d said, were from a friend too.
He was so thoughtful, her Mark. Always thinking of her and the ways in which he could improve her comfort, although she didn’t know what she would do with a jacuzzi and had told him so. He’d said it would be good for her bad back and was a snip at £300.00.
Philomena sighed. He’d be around later to see her, she’d ask him then if his friend could still get those gas-fires cheap. She had to say, things were much dearer than when she was a girl.
She remembered this coal fire being put in when the old blacklead range was removed. To be honest, she had preferred the range. It was always warm and cosy and her mother kept it `banked up’, which she had tried to do innumerable times with this miserable coal-fire, without much success.
She got up and made herself a cup of tea in the kitchen. She had a new hob and oven, which Mark had insisted she bought for herself. He’d noticed a smell of gas escaping from her old oven and nagged her until she let his friend bring the new hob and oven. She’d also had to buy some new kitchen units to fit the oven and hob into. The extra matching units didn’t cost much more and Mark said it would be better to have a proper job done - much more hygienic.
She filled her new white jug kettle and settled it back on its base. She was thinking how different it was to her old kettle, which she’d boiled up on the old stove.
When Mark arrived, he was doubtful if his friend could still get the fires as cheap as they’d been, but used the mobile phone he’d convinced her he needed so she could always contact him in the event of an emergency, to ring his friend about them.
It turned out they would be £100 more than the originals but were a much better fire and would be installed that evening. What’s more, his friend would bring a couple of fire-surrounds too. Cheap, naturally.
That evening, when the fires and surrounds were installed, she sat in front of one enjoying the warmth. She’d spent a lot of money on the cottage recently, although she still had enough of a nest egg to live on for the rest of her life. And now she was warm too.
The bathroom and kitchen were both done, the new gas-fires installed in all the rooms, although she’d considered putting them in the bedrooms an extravagance, Mark had pointed out that she had to keep her bedroom aired otherwise she’d catch pneumonia and at her age “we don’t want that do we?”.
She thought how lucky she was that Mark looked after her. She thought perhaps she should change her will.
Leaving him this draughty old cottage and leaving the rest of her estate to the cat’s home was something she had decided on when he was a child because he’d seemed such a money-minded boy then. She’d made him aware of the fact that he’d get no cash from an early age and it had seemed to work. To a degree.
He still came to see her every day and was careful of and concerned for her health and wellbeing. Only last night he’d suggested new windows and doors to make the old cottage less draughty and she thought she would do them because, apparently, they were more secure too, having special locks on them and they were made of plastic, so she wouldn’t have to pay anyone to paint them anymore.
Yes, she would have them done. Mark’s friend said they’d be fitted in a day and the money saved in heating and maintenance would offset their considerable expense.
Two weeks later the windows arrived, but unfortunately too late for Philomena, who had fallen down the stairs one evening just after Mark had left the cottage, to lie unconscious o the lobby floor until the next day when he couldn’t raise a response on her phone.
She died on her way to hospital murmuring something about a will but whatever it was would have to remain undone forever.
Two months late, Mark rubbed his hands in glee as he walked down the path to his new home. The windows would be installed today.
Oh, but he was such a crafty fellow! He had always known the old girl would leave him the cottage, but no money with which to resurrect it from dereliction and so had embarked upon a programme of improvements whilst she was still alive. He didn’t really begrudge the kitties the remainder - he didn’t think there’d be much left! And good old Alfie, getting all the stuff dirt cheap and providing extortionately inflated billheads.
If he’d paid the gas board to install the fires it would have cost nearly as much as the receipt Alfie had provided for Auntie Phil!
The windows were in by teatime and the new upvc front door looked really good. Not only that, but it was instantly warmer, the howling gale from under the door having been stopped and the draughts from the elderly windows now having been eliminated.
He was very pleased with himself. The window fitters had done a very tidy job and he wouldn’t even have to re-decorate yet.
He ate his tea in the now warm kitchen and then settled down on his sofa in front of the new gas fire and new television with a large glass of Auntie Phil’s vintage brandy. Not that Auntie Phil liked brandy - she didn’t actually drink, but he had told her it was ‘medicinal’ and she should keep it in for emergencies. It would appear she’d never had one as the bottle was unopened.
He chuckled with self-satisfaction. It was warm and comfortable sitting in his cottage, on his sofa, drinking his brandy. He was feeling distinctly drowsy and thought he’d have a little nap, sleep off the good food and drink that Auntie had kindly provided. He could do whatever he wanted to do now. He could come and go as he pleased, not like the bedsit.
It was three days later they found him. Carbon monoxide poisoning. Due to his death following hard on the heels of his Aunt’s the authorities mounted a detailed investigation into the cause of death. In the course of the investigation, the cottage was checked over.
“Bloody stupid people. Fancy letting just anyone fit gas fires,” Detective Inspector Bob Walls said to his colleague, ”and the fires are faulty too. No doubt some villain sold them to the old duck, probably at an exorbitant price, and fitted them incorrectly too. Shame her nephew didn’t notice. I believe he was devoted to his Aunt and she left him this place. Poor bugger!”
D.I. Walls ran his finger over the seal of one of the new windows.
“It might not even have been fatal had the nephew not installed these new draughtproof windows. No ventilation see? The receipts we found were fakes, so we don’t even know who supplied and fitted the gas-fires.”
“So there’s no-one else in the frame then, Guv?” O’Rourke asked.
“A beneficiary you mean?” Walls sniggered, “ Not unless you count forty-odd moggies at the cat’s home. That’s where it reverts to on the nephew’s demise!”
Carl waited patiently, looking for the fair head of the child he was waiting for.
He’d been waiting here each play and home time for weeks, trying to psyche himself up for what he knew he had to do. He knew it was wrong but still, he had to do it, couldn’t not do it.
Still no sign of the little girl with the golden hair. Carl bit his nails. What if she wasn’t in school today? He’d have to come back tomorrow if that was the case. One more day wouldn’t make any difference to him.
Carl made his way home to the squalid bedsit he rented. Well, he wouldn’t be here for long. He wasn’t anywhere for long and as soon as he got her, he’d be on the move again, preferably somewhere far away.
The black and white portable t.v he’d picked up in a junk shop had quite a good picture and he had no difficulty at all in recognising himself on the news magazine programme that was on. He didn’t look like that now, however. A bottle of hair-dye, a razor and a pair of glasses seeing to that. He looked years older with his pate shaved and the glasses on, his remaining hair dyed grey.
He hoped his trip to the school the next afternoon would produce a more satisfactory result than today’s He didn’t know how long it would be safe to be around here.
Carl switched off the t.v. and stretched out on the grubby bed. He might as well read one of his collection of special books. There was nothing on t.v. and it was better he stayed away from the pub - it would be dangerous for him to risk drinking even a little too much in his present frame of mind – he might do something rash. He knew where she lived, he had followed her home once and it wasn’t that far away from this place.
He exhausted his supply of reading material and fell asleep on top of the covers until the cold, grey light of dawn intruded between his eyelids.
He rose and drank coffee and ate some toast. He couldn’t face anything more substantial before a snatch. He would eat later, after he’d done what he had to do.
He dwelt on what he was going to do today and felt a strange but familiar mix of excitement and nerves. He felt almost sick. He was always very nervous beforehand but this time it was worse than usual.
He thought maybe it was time for him to give it up. It did seem to be starting to get to him a little too much, the looking over his shoulder all the time, the nervous tic at the sight of a police uniform. But he knew also, how good it would feel once he had the girl. Nothing could erase or beat that elation, but nothing.
She wouldn’t be too much trouble to bundle into the car, she was quite a small girl for her age and he was quite confident there would be no problem on that score, provided he could find a nice quiet spot with no witnesses. Of course, once she was in his car, he’d be home and dry.
He spent the day making preparations, packing his few things into his holdall. He’d leave the t.v. for the next tenant, it might draw attention if he was spotted carrying it and he planned the route to his next stop.
He’d have to be careful to clean the flat thoroughly – including the t.v – and to remove all traces of the girl from the car afterwards, otherwise a police spot-check could cause him serious problems.
The girl came out of school a little late today, which suited his purposes as there were fewer people around.
He saw her take leave of her friend, who went off in the opposite direction, and heard the call their goodbyes.
“’night Jane,” he’d heard her call to her friend.
“See you tomorrow Tess,” the dark girl had called back.
Carl smiled. He liked the name Tess. His gran’s name was Therese, but his granddad had always shortened it to Tess.
Following her in the car was easy, although he’d get rid of that at the first opportunity too, just in case it was seen. He was sick of driving bangers, but you couldn’t afford to dump a good car.
He saw his opportunity ahead. There was a pillar-box on a deserted part of the road, so he parked up, leaving the engine running and the passenger door open. He intended standing by the post-box with some envelopes in his hand, so he’d look like he was posting letters and when she walked by, he’d grab her, put the pad of chloroform over her face and bundle her in. It would take seconds. He’d done similar enough times now to have it off to a fine art.
It went exactly to plan, except he thought he’d been spotted by an old woman looking out of her window but she wouldn’t have seen much even had she been looking, so smoothly it went.
It took about two and a half hours to reach their destination. Time for the final and, to him, best part of it. He stopped the car in a clearing in a wood and got out. He got out and went to the passenger side where he opened the door and lifted out the still sleeping form of the child. He carried her deeper into the wood where there was another car waiting. a woman stood anxiously smoking a cigarette. As soon as she saw them she stubbed out the cigarette and hurried towards them.
“You got her!” Excitement sparkled in her eyes, “I didn’t think you’d do it!”
“It took a while, but yes, as you see, I got her. I just hope your husband never finds either of us. I think he’ll be quite peeved when he finds his daughter gone!” Carl looked at the sleeping child, taking in the bruised legs and a fading yellow mark on the girl’s forehead. “He’s still hitting her then.”
“Not any more,” Tess’s mother took her daughter into her arms and kissed her tenderly on the bruised forehead, “ No, not any more.”
“Where will you go?” Carl asked.
“Oh, don’t worry. I’ve got it all planned out. We’ve got tickets on a ferry to Ireland in an hour. He’ll not find us. What about you?”
“I think I just completed my last case of abduction. I can’t do it forever and my face is getting known now too. I was on telly last night! Not much good for a so-called private detective!” They both laughed nervously.
“We’d better go. We’ll miss the ferry.”
“She’s a beautiful child. I hope you find peace in Ireland.”
“Thank you again Carl. You’ve been a good friend to us. If you ever come to Ireland, come and see us.”
Carl looked at her with longing. “How will I find you Cathy? You don’t know where you’re going yourself.”
She shifted the child’s weight on to her other shoulder and said slowly, “You could always come with us.”
Carl grinned a slow grin. “I’ve always had a soft spot for the Irish....."
Not that he had anything against door-to-door salesmen, or Gobowen for that matter, but his mum used to cook and clean for him, and she didn’t now.
He sat in his armchair in front of the T.V with an open can of beans and sausage and a spoon .
Well, he liked cold beans. And it saved on the washing up.
The game-show on the telly was even more inane than he remembered.
He didn’t usually watch T.V - he’d usually had more interesting things to do with his ex than watch T.V. - and he hadn’t seen this show for years. Now her remembered why. It was awful. Except for those “Lolly Dollies”, those gorgeous girls who posed and pirouetted throughout the show, handing bundles of fake cash around. He had the sound turned off.Their legs were just as long and their outfits just as skimpy without it.
“Wouldn’t mind an evening in with that one!” Ray lusted to himself. Being on his own didn’t suit his constitution at all. He wondered how priests managed.
Then his thoughts wandered to the new lass who’d started at his factory the week before.
Ray hadn’t managed to speak to her yet, partly because until two days ago he’d been half of a pair and Patsy would have killed him stone dead, and partly because the opportunity hadn’t yet arisen. He resolved to create an opportunity the next day.
As it turned out, he was out of luck.
“You’re jokin’ mate!” Tommy Stiffin laughed out loud, “you and young Shelly? No chance mate! She’s right partic’lar.”
“Just because she blew you out doesn’t make her particular, Tommy. It just means she isn’t into bestiality. She probably prefers someone who can trace their family tree back to the apes, instead of forward to them.”
“Aye, well, you can laugh, Raymond mate, but she’s way out of your league.”
“She’s not been out with any of the lads off the shopfloor,” young Martin piped up, “an’ rumour has it that she even blew out the M.D. hisself!”
“Well that puts the top-hat on it!” Tommy shrugged. “If Mr.All Teeth and Tan can’t get into her knickers, then you’ve no chance Raymond lad. Tenner says so.”
At that, Ray’s ears pricked up. Next to a pretty girl, he couldn’t resist a bet.
“You are on Tom. Tenner says I’ll have her knickers off by the end of the month.”
“...the end of the month...?”
“...well, it was you who said she had class!” Ray grinned.
A fortnight later and Ray was rubbing his hands with glee. He’d managed to talk to her two days after the bet was placed but hadn’t wanted to frighten her off by rushing things and so had gone very easy with her.
He’d given her the `broken-hearted and off women’ routine and she’d swallowed it hook, line and sinker. What’s more she’d opened up to him to a surprising extent.
He should have guessed it by her appearance really. Tall, red-gold hair, huge hazel eyes and endless, shapely legs. She’d told him she was interested in modelling. She’d done quite a bit of it by the sounds of it, but truth to tell, he hadn’t really listened to her droning on.
Her body was superb, but what a voice! She had the most boring monotone he’d ever heard, but that was okay. You didn’t listen to the wind in the chimney when you had your poker in the hearth!
“Well Raymond,” a big hand smacked him on the shoulder. “You won that tenner yet? Time is running by, you know.”
“Very soon Tom lad,” Ray’s tone was confident, “very soon indeed! She’s taking me with her on a modelling session and it sounds very promising!” Ray winked and smiled a mischievous smile.
“Cor!” Young Martin was impressed. “I’ve read about them modelling sessions in the Sunday Star an’ they can get quite steamy! Gaggin’ for it, them model girls!”
Suddenly noticing the way both older men were looking at him, Martin put his tongue away, stopped drooling and continued, “or so I’ve read , anyway.”
Tommy shook his head, “I have to hand it to you Raymond, I never thought you’d get even this far with yon lass. But you still haven’t won the bet.”
“There’s always tomorrow night though, Tom. There’s always tomorrow night.”
Ray had arranged to meet Shelly outside the hall where the modelling session was booked. No point in travelling halfway across town to pick her up.
When he got to the address, he was surprised to find a modest community centre type hall. But he supposed they rented out rooms to anyone for a fee and this seemed to borne out by a swarm of young bumble-bees in tap shoes who nearly had him off his feet on their way into a dress rehearsal.
He waited outside for ten minutes and was about to give up and leave when a bus pulled up at the stop and disgorged the object of his lust. At least, he thought it was Shelly.
She was wearing old jeans and a sloppy-joe jumper, complete with paint splashes, a pair of wire-rimmed glasses and not a scrap of make-up. Her hair was pulled back into a scrunch and she was carrying a huge vanity case.
Ah well, he supposed she had all her stuff in the case, but he didn’t see any clothes or costumes and the bag wasn’t big enough for those.
His mind lit up! Perhaps it was nude modelling! Yes, he’d read all about that! The girls wore their loosest, sloppiest clothes so not to leave unwanted marks on their delicate skin. His grin was as wide as a sunrise!
“Oh hullo Ray,” Shelly’s monotone belied her smile. She seemed glad to see him. I’m sorry I’m a bit late, a bus was off, so I missed my connection.”
“That’s okay. Better late than never.”
“That’s what I like about you Ray, you’re so easy-going. There’s no pressure from you. Honest, some of the blokes I meet have only one thing on their mind. It’s nice just to relax and be myself for a change.”
They made their way to a small room down one of the passages and Ray was taken aback when there were about eight or nine other people there too.
“Come on Ray,” urged Shelly, “grab that table close to the front. You might even want to join in you know. A lot of people don’t know they’re artistic until they try.”
Ray was beginning to wonder what kind of orgy he’d let himself in for . “Oh no. I don’t think...”
“Go on! I’d bet you’d be really good. You’ve such sensitive fingers, I bet you’d get the best out of the models.”
Shelly heaved her case up on to the table and started emptying the contents.
Brushes, palettes of colour, small boxes of shredded paper poking out of them.
I can see you’ve nothing with you so you can borrow anything of mine you need and you can always buy stuff from Bryan very cheaply...”
By this time Ray was totally confused.
“I modelled this last week and Bryan said it was very good for an amateur.
Ray was looking down on a small, half-painted metal figure of a dragon being assailed by even smaller man-like creatures.
“I haven’t quite got the hang of the Orcs yet, but Bryan says my modelling has great potential.”
Ray knew just how the dragon felt.