Cliffhanger – Week 24 of the 52 week short story challenge

Home For Sale Real Estate Sign Isolated on a White Background.

The ‘For Sale’ sign outside her house came as a bit of a shock. She didn’t remember putting it up for sale and she didn’t recall her partner Andy saying anything about it.

Sarah parked her car outside the house, grabbed her bag and files, locked up and went to inspect the sign again. It looked new.  Had the estate agent made a mistake and hammered it into the garden of the wrong house? She looked at the houses either side of hers and shook her head. Surely one of them would have said something; they were on good terms with all their neighbours and putting your house up for sale was the sort of thing you let other people know about. Wasn’t it?

Still puzzled, Sarah let herself in and put the files on the hall table, bag on the floor and keys in the designated bowl. Andy bought the bowl for her; partly out of affection and partly exasperation as they were late for yet another party because she couldn’t find her keys. It was a very pretty bowl. White pottery with a pattern of delicate poppies and cornflowers. It was very feminine in a way that try as she could, Sarah could never achieve.

She didn’t do little dresses with frills, spend hours over her hair and makeup nor squeeze her feet into fashionably high and uncomfortable shoes.  She was aware of the fact that she would never be Andy’s ideal woman, but then for the last twenty years he had been anything other than her ideal man.

‘Andy? Hello?’ She shrugged off her coat and hung it on the neat but characterless coat stand.

‘Up here.’ Came the reply. His voice sounded odd, and she wondered what she had done this time. Taking extra care to put her boots neatly on the shoe rack, Sarah walked slowly up the stripped pine stairs.

He wasn’t in their bedroom. She turned around and walked into the guest bedroom, not that they ever had any guests.

Andy stood behind the bed, which was covered with clothes, toiletries and a very large rucksack that still bore the label of the outdoor pursuits shop Andy loved to frequent. He looked up and gave a slightly guilty smile that made him look even more goat-like than he normally did..

She frowned. ‘Some idiot’s gone and put a For Sale sign up in our front garden. I was just going to ring the estate agents and ask them to remove it. What’s all this Andy? Are we going somewhere?’

‘Er, WE aren’t. I am. The sign isn’t a mistake. I’m putting the house up for sale.’

‘Our house? Why?’

‘My house. My mother’s house originally. I’m going away.’

‘But – but – we’ve lived here for twenty years. Where are you going?’ Sarah sat down on the very edge of the already crowded bed.  She didn’t like the house. She never had, and any attempt to remove the remnants of Andy’s childhood and his mother’s desire for neat, orderly and feminine, had been gently but firmly rebuffed.

‘We aren’t going anywhere Sarah. I’m leaving tonight and I’ve put the house sale in the hands of my solicitors. You can stay here until the house is sold of course but the estate agent thinks that she can get a fairly quick sale.’

Brain whirring as she tried to process Andy’s words, Sarah sat immobile on the bed. Andy continued packing things into the rucksack.  He was an excellent packer she would say that for him. He folded clothes very precisely and knew exactly which of the Velcro edged pockets would be best for the object in his hand.

‘Where are you going Andy? Shouldn’t we have talked about this?’

Patiently, he put down the pair of immaculately ironed shorts that he was rolling into a sausage that would prevent any travel creases.

‘I’m going to Thailand. I’ve worked my notice already and my plane leaves at twenty-hundred hours. I have booked a taxi to take me to the airport. I don’t want any scenes; you know how embarrassing I find them.’

‘Why Thailand? Why now? Are you going alone? Why are you selling the house? Why didn’t you tell me this a month ago when you handed in your notice?’

‘So many questions Sarah. I’ve always wanted to go to Thailand and whenever I raised the subject you made some silly comments about ladyboys and kidnapping. Some idea you got from one of those trashy novels you read I suppose.’

‘But – but – but what am I going to do? I won’t have a home anymore, what will our friends think?’

‘MY friends already know and think that I am making the right decision. We’ve gone stale Sarah.  We were never that compatible in the first place but your untidiness and slapdash ways have been driving me to distraction for years. It was charming at first but now it’s just self-indulgent. My sister will be coming up to pack my belongings and put them in storage while I’m away so I’d be grateful if you could start looking for somewhere else to live so that she has less to go through.’

Sarah hated Andy’s sister Abigail with a passion.  The thought of her rummaging through the house, their house, made her feel incredibly angry.

‘Don’t I have any say in this at all?’ she shouted at him, her hands balled into tight fists that desperately wanted to punch him in the face, to grab hold of that silly ginger goatee beard and tug it till his eyes watered.

‘Ah yes. time for the hysterics. This is why I didn’t tell you before. You really are rather predictable.’

‘I hate you Andy!’ she said vehemently.

‘Good. That makes it a lot easier for me.’ he picked up a neatly typed list and handed it to her. ‘This is an inventory of the contents of the house. Those typed in black belong to me, those in red are yours or things that we bought together that I don’t wish to keep. Abigail, my solicitor and the estate agent all have copies of this letter too.  Would you mind moving off the bed now please? I have to finish my packing.’

Sarah stood up and walked slowly to the door.  She felt numb, unreal. Her instinct was to go into their bedroom, throw herself on the bed and cry extremely loudly. This would have no effect on Andy whatsoever. Passion of any sort was alien to him.

She went into the bedroom nevertheless and got under the duvet. She  rolled over to Andy’s side of the bed and sniffed his pillow hoping that the remaining scent of his hair might break through the wall that was building up around her.

Nothing.

He’d changed the bedding.

Sarah wanted to scream and shout and rave. How dare he! How dare he plot and scheme behind her back in this way. She’d seen no change in his manner over the past month, had she? She rewound her memories and found no major arguments.

Nothing.

She found no major moments of happiness either.

Andy would wake her with a cup of coffee, then he would shower and shave, eat his horribly healthy breakfast and be out of the door before she had even made up her mind as to whether she would shower or have a bath. The choice was usually dictated by how long she had lingered over her coffee and the BBC news.

They had been embroiled in a cold war over the television in their bedroom almost from the start of their relationship. It was Sarah’s television and she needed its cheery morning information to wake her up.  Andy had no time for lingering  and lost no opportunity to express his disdain for her.

The more she thought about it, the more Sarah had to admit that Andy was right. They were going through the motions of a relationship but there was no laughter left, no fun. Just a distant, healthy, athletic landscape gardener and an untidy, disorganised social worker who found her partner’s style of living both reassuring and stifling.

It was warm and comforting under the duvet and, as had always been her habit, Sarah fell into a deep sleep that wiped away all that had happened since she had arrived home.

It was such a deep sleep that she barely registered the affectionate peck on the cheek and the gentle ‘Goodbye’ as the bedroom door clicked shut.

When she woke, the house was quiet, too quiet.  she reached for the remote and turned on the television in time to catch the end of the ten o’clock news.  It wasn’t until she’d finished watching the weather that she remembered Andy.

‘Andy?’ she called, half hoping that he would reply but knowing that he had gone. She rolled out of bed and wondered for a moment why she had been in bed fully clothed in her going-to-meetings suit and vaguely pretty blouse that she had allowed Andy to buy her.

‘Andy?’ she called again and pushed open the guest bedroom door. The bed was bare now, save for another copy of Andy’s inventory list. She pushed it onto the floor in disgust and decided that she was hungry.

Making as much noise as her be-socked feet would let her, Sarah stomped down the stairs in a manner guaranteed to annoy Andy, if he was there.

But there was no response.

The curtains in the lounge were drawn and the sidelights on, the kitchen was similarly put into evening mode by Andy before he left. Thoughtful to the last.

Thoughtful! How could it be thoughtful to abandon your partner of twenty years and sell the house from under her? Sarah pouted as she opened the fridge door looking for immediate food. The shelf containing Andy’s macrobiotic foodstuffs and bottles of water was empty. Her shelf was always more interesting anyway. It certainly was now; Andy had stocked it with the items that he normally found disgusting. Sarah extracted a can of Diet Coke, some sliced cheese and bread.

She made her sandwich and left the knife and chopping board on the worktop. She didn’t even bother with a plate, as twenty years of Andy’s rules flew out of the window. It felt good to be curled up on the sofa, balancing her sandwich and can on the leather arm whilst flicking through the TV channels for something other than wildlife and gardening.

The phone rang and without thinking, Sarah jumped to her feet knocking over the can and spreading breadcrumbs onto the floor. She looked at the phone. Abigail. No thanks. Leaving the answerphone to deal with her much loathed  sister-in-law, Sarah dug her mobile out of her bag and went back into the lounge, stepping over the sticky mess on the floor. She could hear Abigail’s annoyingly sweet voice being patronising over the phone as she left a message guaranteed to patronise and infuriate Sarah.

When in doubt, phone a friend.

‘Jude?’ Sarah could feel her voice cracking already.

‘Hello Honey. No need to explain. I got home from work today to find a type-written note from your ex-beloved explaining why he was running away to Thailand without you and selling the house. Little rat!’

‘Why didn’t you call me Jude?’

‘Your phone was off.’

‘He must have done it before he left. Pig!’

‘He’s gone then?’

‘Yes indeed!’ Sarah tried to inject as much enthusiasm into her response as possible.

‘And I bet you are drinking Diet Coke and eating a sandwich in the lounge without a plate or coaster in sight.’

‘Right again. I’m not sure what to do now though. I spilt my drink on the floor and there are crumbs everywhere.’

‘I’m on my way. Are you still hungry?’

“Yes, this cheese sandwich is disgusting.”

‘Good, what we need is red wine and kebabs.’

‘Won’t Dan mind?

‘No, my darling husband sends his love and hugs and asks that you send me home in one piece tomorrow. I’ll be there in half an hour.’

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Another Planet – Week 21 of the 52 week short story challenge

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‘I thought Millie was coming with you today.’ said  Angela as she sipped her mocha latte with two extra shots of espresso.

Selina tossed back her freshly coiffed blonde hair and flicked an imaginary speck of dust from her designer slacks. She did her best to avoid coffee fads and had a small cup of green tea cooling on the table in front of her.

‘She’s packing. She’s been packing for the past week. Every time I go into her room to talk to her she says that she’s packing.’

Angela pursed her lips. ‘Isn’t she living in halls? They don’t have that much room do they?’

Wincing as another sore point was touched, Selina concentrated her attention on her newly manicured fingernails. She had demanded that the nail technician concentrated on making her nails look as effortlessly natural as possible, and she was almost satisfied with the effect.

‘I’ve seen the university booklet and yes, the rooms are rather basic but at least she has her own en-suite. The kitchen is shared with six other students but I doubt if Millie will be doing any cooking. There is a restaurant in the same block and a laundry but I couldn’t find anything about service washes and cleaners.’

Hiding a grimace behind her coffee mug, Angela couldn’t help wondering if Millie had been totally truthful with her mother about student life.

‘Of course, I wanted her to stay home and attend Chester University. We offered to buy her a little car to make life easier but she was insistent that this was the only university that did the right course for her. It’s going to be so difficult having her living so far away.’

Selina sighed and put on the wounded mother look that she had been perfecting ever since Millie had announced her  plans for the future .

‘What is she going to be studying?’

‘Languages. Apparently this university has an excellent exchange system where she can spend her final year in France or Germany. Not quite the finishing school I would have liked for her but I understand that she could make some impressive contacts for her future career.’

‘Remind me – what does she want to do when she leaves uni?’

‘When she graduates from university Millie is looking to join Michael’s firm – her natural aptitude for languages will make her a valuable asset. Of course the other option was for her to go straight into working at the firm but Michael felt that she could do with getting more qualifications first.’

The expression on Selina’s face led Angela to believe that the decisions about Millie’s future had not been made as calmly as indicated. Angela liked Selina’s husband Michael. He was an easy-going chap who smiled at Selina’s excesses, ran a large and efficient export business, and spent much of his time travelling abroad.

‘When does Millie start? Won’t you be lonely without her?’

‘We are driving up on Saturday.’ Selina sighed and examined her nails again. ‘I wanted to go on Sunday but Millie says she needs time to settle in before lectures start. Why you should want to settle in to a student bedsit when you have a perfectly beautiful suite of rooms at home, I have no idea. I wouldn’t say that Millie is an ungrateful child but I do wonder sometimes if she really appreciates all that Michael and I do for her.’

*******

The packing excuse had worn thin and Millie knew that there was a limit to how many times she could back and repack her designer suitcases. There was an unopened box from Harrods that contained pillows, two duvets,  Egyptian cotton bedding and towels that Millie’s mother had assured her were a beautiful shade of cornflower and very soft. Millie hadn’t bothered to look in the box. She would far rather have gone to Asda or Tesco to get her bedding like the rest of the first year students. Another box contained cooking utensils, pans and crockery. Her father had intervened when Selina had been looking at bone china and Le Creuset. Unlike Selina, he had attended university and was far more practical in his outlook.

Millie loved her father. He understood her and did what he could to protect her from Selina’s extravagance.

‘She does love you sweetheart, she just doesn’t understand why you don’t have the same tastes as her.’

Millie had pulled a face. It was bad enough having your clothes bought for you, but Selina’s taste ran to expensive, elegant clothes that were more suited to a middle-aged woman than an eighteen-year old girl. Unbeknownst to Selina, Millie had been clothes shopping courtesy of a generous allowance from her father, and had arranged for her best friend Julia to put the more appropriate clothing in with her own clothes.

Selina didn’t know about Julia; didn’t know that Millie and Julia were best friends, that they were going to be on the same course together at University or that they were going to be in the same student flat. Millie had known from the first that Selina would not approve of Julia’s burgundy hair, her tattoos and piercings, her love of Steampunk and cosplay.

Michael had met Julia and thoroughly approved of her as a friend who could share freedom with his only child. He had to pull a few strings in order to get them in the same flat, and as he explained to Millie, it was a question of just not telling Selina things rather than blatantly lying about what was happening.

‘What her eye doesn’t see, her mind won’t grieve over.’ One of Michael’s oft-quoted maxims and one which defined the smooth-running of his relationship with his wife.

*****

In order to accommodate Millie’s luggage, as well as Selina’s essentials, Michael had borrowed one of the Range Rovers from work. Selina would rather have arrived in the Rolls, but had to acknowledge that it didn’t have the required storage space. She sat, rather uncomfortably in the passenger seat, whilst Millie sat behind her, in a position to exchange swift grins with her father but protected from her mother’s endless questions by earphones and feigned sleep.

Julia had been texting her all morning, having arrived early and already unpacked. It had been agreed that Millie would let Julia know once Selina had finally left the building. It was so difficult trying to keep her excitement in but Millie had learned over her eighteen years that expressing anything other than mild interest in anything, was guaranteed to get Selina’s hackles up in opposition.

The complaints began as soon as they arrived on campus. Selina peered out of the window and disapproved of the proximity of the student bar. The halls looked rather drab and ordinary. Why wasn’t the car park closer to the entrance? Did they really have to carry Millie’s luggage up two flights of stairs and go through three security doors to get to her flat? Was there no porter to do this? Or at least a lift!

Millie and Michael stayed silent and carried the luggage upstairs whilst Selina appropriated her daughter’s only (and very inferior) office chair and sniffed at the recently bleached en-suite shower room. Refusing her mother’s offer to unpack for her, Millie looked around the little room and exchanged another covert smile with her father.

‘Let’s leave Millie to it darling, there’s a nice little restaurant I’d like to take you to but it will take us a good hour to get there.’

Torn between wanting to continue dominance over her daughter, and the desire to be taken out for a meal by her adoring husband, Selina acquiesced gracefully and after bestowing a vaguely maternal hug, went off to wait in the car.

Michael gave his daughter a much warmer hug; he was going to miss her.

‘I’ve set up a shopping account for you sweetheart, and topped up your allowance. Let me know if you need anything. If you can manage to phone your mother tomorrow, my life will be much calmer.’

‘I know Daddy. I won’t go mad but I may need to buy some ordinary stuff for the kitchen – and maybe bedding – but that can wait till tomorrow.’

‘Buy what you need and donate the other stuff to charity. I can’t see your mother wanting to spend much time in your room or the kitchen. Next time we visit she will undoubtedly want to take you out for a meal – or to shop!’

‘God forbid! Julia says we can trade in some of my clothes at the uni charity shop. Was Mum always like this Daddy?’

Michael felt that it was time to tell a few hidden truths; he hoped that Millie would understand and not judge her mother too harshly. He sat down next to her on the unmade bed.

‘Your Mum isn’t like other people. I knew that when I met her, and I knew that I would have a hard time explaining to you one day. We’ve always been honest with you about the fact that Mum and I couldn’t have children so we adopted you.’

Millie nodded. Not possessing her mother’s genes had never really been an issue.

‘Your mother – came from a different place. She had to learn how to speak, act and dress from books and magazines – quite expensive and high class magazines.’

‘Well that explains quite a few things, but where did she come from Dad?’

‘I don’t really know. I found her wandering on a beach in New Zealand when I was on a business trip. She seemed so vulnerable – and lovely. She had no paperwork, communicated through sign language, just had the clothes she stood up in. I’m afraid that I am responsible for the way she is. I pulled a few strings, got her a passport and brought her back to England. Your Aunt Jane took care of her and that’s where she lived for six months – in a cottage out in the country, reading endless copies of the Tatler and Agatha Christie novels. She learned very quickly, I fell in love with her and we married. You know the rest.’

‘That doesn’t explain about where she really came from though Dad?’

Hastened to his feet by the sound of Selina tooting the car horn, Michael kissed Millie on the top of her head.

‘She isn’t of our world sweetheart. She comes from another planet.’

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Fooling around in April

Time to get back to work  and flex these fingers. My big PC has moved downstairs so that the Scoob can keep me company whilst I tappety-tap away when the muse moves.

Going to try and write something every day in April if possible; an exercise in self-discipline and looking outside the parameters of my own little world.

Needless to say, any beady eyes looking to cause trouble should check out the disclaimer page first and then look to their own consciences – if they have any.

All fiction has its roots in fact,  and however deep those roots go, I believe that is what makes it readable.

 

“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it” Ferris Bueller

Well, it’s taken a while but I’m back and many thanks to Scooby and the V-Toe for holding the fort.  I am freed from  the thraldom of ‘they-who-must-not-be-named’ or TWMNBN, which is still something of a mouthful so I’ll stick with THEM if I really feel the need to mention THEM – which I don’t.

So ner to anyone nosey-poking on my page and expecting to be able to run and tell tales again. Slimeballs.

In my new guise as a freelancer (not quite sure what I’m freelancing at yet but we’ll wait and see)  life has become infinitely more interesting in the past six months but first an update.

The Hub as ever, remains wonderful, supportive, entertaining and has the best-shaped head of any man I know – except for when it gets hit by errant paintballs.

Uni Boy is in his third year and in line for a first; he is going for his Masters next year and is happily ensconced in a little end of terrace house sharing with three lovely women.  The house is immaculately kept (they take their shoes off, and leave each other messages about recycling on the kitchen whiteboard) and as a consequence UB shows something of a reluctance to come and visit home-crap-home. Whilst UB may have a brain the size of a planet, it didn’t stop him washing his passport  a couple of days before he was due to go off to Spain with his friends.  Various plans were mooted but he missed the holiday and had to be content with spending a week in a hotel (paid for by his parents) whilst he was doing hush-hush work for a large chemical company he interned with during the summer.  It was so hush-hush that he couldn’t even tell his mum about it – not that I would have understood – 90% of what UB says goes right over my head but I like to listen anyway.

College Boy isn’t.  He was finding the teaching methods somewhat dull – as in ‘sit there and revise quietly whilst I mug up on the teaching I need to do for the other classes I take that I know nothing about either.’ When the college turned into an academy that concentrated on making money and getting stunning results rather than actually teaching young people, CB was considered to be too risky for them and so he is at home now having a gap year.  Henceforth he will be known therefore as Gap Boy or GB to his friends.  His year hasn’t been too empty however; he organised a trip to Colorado in the summer to attend the wedding of friends he made through one of his shouty internet games.  Using some of his inheritance to travel business class, he dressed up smart and after being compared to Prince Harry (GB has MUCH better hair) was the centre of female attention at the wedding. He also trounced the Yanks at clay-pigeon shooting – left-handed.   The week after his trip, the heavens opened and the wedding venue up in the mountains got washed away.  GB is currently looking for voluntary work so that he can broaden his horizons and stop getting under my feet.

The Scoob has been with us for a year now; he is incredibly loving, cuddly and intelligent – in the house.  Once outside he transforms into protector mode and barks at cars, cyclists, joggers, binmen, postmen (and women), delivery people, some other dogs (random) and some passersby (equally random).  He is very strong and after pulling me over (see previous posts) I am now limited to taking him for garden wees, holding the treat bag when we go out and calling him in a high-pitched (but attractive to dogs) voice.  I still take him for an early morning treasure hunt for treats in the inner courtyard, and as a consequence I am greeted with a loud and very enthusiastic howl of happiness when I come down in the morning.  Lovely for me but not for the rest of the sleeping household, especially guests.

2013 has been a year of extremes; extreme unhappiness and frustration with THEM but extreme joy in renewing friendships from college (34 years ago) and in particular the re-acquaintance with Bezzie Mate (BM) who has lured me out of my self-imposed exile.  I now do trains and buses again; wending my way to BM’s hometown so he can show me his haunts.  In return he has come to visit us and been adopted by the whole family including Scooby, whose adoration makes him wheeze.

There is much to look forward to in the new year; my Lovely Girl is in pod again and moving to a new forever house, we are finally getting a decent kitchen put in and this is the year where I make a concerted effort to write more fruitfully.

Freedom and freelancing have given me the opportunity to spend more time with Hub and my huge and brilliant family, see friends that I have missed and to have my own adventures.  The V-Toe is still sore and causes me to fall over rather a lot but with supportive arms and a walking stick, I get around (round, round, I get around).

Life does move pretty fast but I have every intention of stopping on the way to enjoy it.

Not whingeing but drowning

Hub and I took a week off to celebrate his birthday – not one of those big scary ones yet but I’ve been whimpering about needing a holiday or something and as  our boys have put the mockers on going away anywhere – it has to be something. (College Boy cannot be left alone for any length of time in case he has a wild party and the house ends up looking tidier, and Uni Boy is an expensive investment that has written off any chance of going away – ever).

Saturday was my first day of freedom – a gentle trip to town was mooted to get hub a few extra presents – this idea was quickly demolished by College Boy who insisted that we had to take him to a courier depot to pick up a vital piece of his armoury before 1230.

I made the most of it.  I downloaded ‘Falling and Laughing:The Restoration of Edwyn Collins’ to my Kindle.  It’s a wonderful read that made me cry all the way out to the courier’s at Speke but also proved invaluable research for my latest assignment on psychoneurology.

Then College Boy decided that he would let us take him food shopping.  I am very proud of the fact that he has stuck to a diet and lost at least a stone if not more.  I just wish he wasn’t such a pompous ass about it.  All the way round Asda  he commented in a very knowledgeable but negative way on everything I put in the trolley.

I’ve been eating for a long time now and I know what is good for me, what is bad for me and why I prefer the latter.  I don’t need some self-righteous seventeen year old who but a few short months ago was stuffing his face with Bombay Bad Boys and bacon-flavoured Super-Noodles laced with Tabasco sauce  (Ugh).

Bu the time we got to the tea and coffee aisles I was suicidal.  Then, my lovely hub, who is usually so supportive and a stalwart ally against the onslaught that is College Boy, made a comment about one of my more frivolous purchases. it was a perfectly relevant comment; logical and not in any way unkind but in terms of camels and backs it may just as well have been a whole bale of straw.

I so wanted to be the mother in the advert who throws herself to the ground in the supermarket aisle, screaming and drumming my heels against the floor, but I contained myself and limited my tantrum to some muttered threats and minor curses as I steered my trolley to the freezer section in order to cool down.

Hub tried to make amends.  This included sneaking said frivolous item back into the trolley when he thought I wasn’t looking (ha! some chance).  After College Boy’s initial words of reproach about showing him up in public – yeah Asda is SO full of his friends on a Saturday afternoon – he finally shut up and the rest of the trip continued in an icy silence.

I kept it up till we got home, then College Boy, realising finally that he might have gone too far again, unloaded the shopping and took it indoors whilst hub patted and soothed me back to civilisation again.

I spent most of Sunday sweating over a hot assignment and making arrangements for Uni Boy to pay us a flying visit for lunch the next day to celebrate his Dad’s birthday.  The assignment was in its first draft.  College Boy was shouting happily at his friends on Skype and all was reasonably pleasant.

Hub’s birthday went well.  We had a lovely lunch with Uni Boy and did a bit of birthday shopping.  Came back home and Uni Boy checked my assignment – pronouncing it reasonably scientific  (I had spelled positron emission tomography correctly and knew the difference between fMRI and MRI – I’ll make a pseudoscientist yet).  We took him back to the train and bought Chinese takeaway for us and the College Boy to make things even.  Feeling slightly smug I finished off the assignment and sent it electronically winging its way to me tutor feeling more than a little happy that we had the rest of the week to go to the gym, take my Dad out and ensure that hub spent his birthday money on himself – not on food for the family.

Sod’s law.  The virus goblin struck in the night leaving me with a throat filled with sandpaper and ground glass, a streaming nose and eyes that were blinded by the light.  My efforts to laugh it off as a cold and to carry on (forget the keeping calm stuff) managed to get me through more food shopping and by mid-afternoon we were in a very large camping shop looking for a megadocious sleeping bag for hub.

He is going away with his mates for a paintball weekend in July.  He did this last year in September but without me to keep him warm, got very cold and desolate.  My days of braving the storms under canvas have come and gone – both as a revolting houseparent thirty years ago and as an equally revolting parent when our own boys were younger and more malleable.  This is a body built for decent beds and non-leaking roofs, and whilst I will miss him in July, I’d  rather be here at home than freezing in the Brecon Beacons thanks very much.

We found the sleeping bag anyway; and some waterproof trousers and some very expensive socks.  Like a latterday Goldilocks I spent the time between admiring sock quality and sleeping bag thickness in finding something suitable to perch on before my wobbly legs gave way.  There were camping chairs of all descriptions but they mostly looked insubstantial or were almost impossible to get out of without falling onto your knees and crawling away in a very undignified manner. I eventually found a solid wood table covered in cut-price fleecy tops and shoving them to one side, sat my achy-breaky body down whilst hub deliberated between two almost identical pairs of waterproof trousers.

By the time we got home, I think we had both realised that this wasn’t just a cold and that maybe I should have stayed home in the warm.

The last thirty-six hours have been a blur of TV dozing punctuated by antique show programmes, caffeine, paracetamol, honey and lemon sucky sweets, hot chocolate and rum.  I have tried sleeping in bed at night but this poor old body is fluctuating between gas mark 9 and total freezer; it just wants to sleep fitfully wherever it can and all night is too long for it.  My nose is either snotty or bleeding from sneezing too much and although I sound sexy  – I’d rather have a throat that wasn’t tinder dry and sore.

But I got up at six this morning.  I have made my own hot chocolate and rum (with a slightly heavier hand than my hub’s I feel) and woken the College Boy for his exam.  Today I will throw myself into a shower that is redolent with Olbas Oil and put some slap on this tired visage so that hub and I go out for a drive somewhere.  Maybe to the seaside so that even if I don’t get out of the car, i can at least wind the window down and breathe a bit of fresh air. We won’t manage the gym, and I’m keeping my distance from Dad because I don’t want him to get my germs – some holiday.

I will not be beaten by this bug though.  I’m working Saturday night and then on Sunday – joy of joys – hub and I are off to the Lowry to see Jon Richardson – the only man I know that can make OCD seem sexy.  I won’t sleep through that.