I think it’s gradually dawning upon me that I’m not going back to work. I’ve dreamt of being retired since I was sixteen, and I’m certainly not complaining, although I suppose that in all of the things we find attractive, a fundamental part is having something less attractive (or mundane) to compare it with. I’m doing a writing course with the Live Theatre, and whilst I was still at work, sneaking off to watch Chekhov’s Three Sisters on the sly was a marvellous thing to do. I’ve been watching it again today (as part of my course) but try as I might National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation persists in creeping up and presenting itself as being something more interesting.
Anyway. We’ve been spending some of my retirement lump sum on the house. We love our home, and indeed our neighbours too, and feel that we don’t want to move on anywhere, not even down to Ryton. Our two up two down in Greenside is where our hearts belong. We have many tearing down plans for the future, but for now, we’re concentrating on less radical space saving schemes – fitted wardrobes. I wrote recently about Betta Homes refusing to pop along because they declined to deal with me on my own. Understandable I suppose, Heather certainly thinks so, because after all I am incredibly stupid, nevertheless, in the end our money went to a company who don’t have this inconvenient regulation.
Fundamental to the progression of our shiny and new domestic arrangements has been the need to have a clear out. Heather surveyed the contents of our now discarded stand alone wardrobes, and issued me with a ten minute lecture. I won’t bore you with all of it, but here are the key points.
- Why do I need to keep that jumper which I wouldn’t be seen dead in, just because Mum knitted it?
- I have shelf after shelf of rubbish, none of which [served] any useful purpose, so why not just grit my teeth and throw it out?
- Do I really have to hang on to a 1968 Blue Peter album which hasn’t been opened since 1968?
- 1969 Blue Peter annual, as above
- Osmond Book of Happiness – ditto to above and above.
“You really are going to have to be ruthless you know, you collect tat which we can’t get moved for, I expect to see some changes, especially now you’ve retired and you’ve got all day to sort it out.”
I gave her comments some consideration, and realised that she did indeed have a reasonable point. Three quarters of the rubbish was mine, so if Heather was determined to do something about her accumulated jumble, I must throw every endeavour into supporting my hard-working other half. After all, it is she who struggles to put bread on the table each day, whilst I languish in my onesie velcrosed to Jeremy Kyle, so, on Wednesday of last week, I reluctantly left Jeremy to his own devices, and spent the entire day driving to the tip and back. How thrilled my beloved would be, I thought excitedly, when she arrived home to find a wardrobe now devoid of anything belonging to me. An eighth of it had been transferred to our new fitted thing, and the remainder was in the landfill.
Heather cast an approving eye and appeared to be suitably pleased.
“Now it’s your turn,” I told her.
“Yes, I will do it now.”
“Good for you, I will go downstairs and start your tea.”
Ten minutes later she was in the kitchen beside me.
“Sorry, did you want a coffee? I was busy doing the veg. Get back to your sorting out and I’ll make it for you now and bring it up directly.”
“No I’m done.”
“What already? Will I help you into the car with it?”
“No there’s no need I can manage.”
She produced a near empty bin liner and triumphantly dumped it by the back door while I went upstairs to carry out an inspection. Here are before and after shots of the cupboard so ruthlessly decimated, they look like one of those spot the difference puzzles. I don’t know what you think, but it seems to me that there’s been precious little ruthlessness going on.
Not wanting to introduce any tea time discord, I let it slide, because I have the advantage of being able to take Heather’s transgressions to my blog. By the time she gets around to reading this several of her friends will have been here before her, and they’ll have taken my side.
Last Friday night Heather announced that she was going to spend part of the weekend baking a cake, a Christmas cake to be exact. I was a little surprised to say the least, indeed I couldn’t have been more surprised if I’d awoken the following morning and found my head stapled to the carpet. Ask Heather to do anything in the kitchen, and she will look at you just as she might stare at the captain of a cruise liner if she was a passenger on his ship and he was requesting that she man the gauges for a couple of hours. On Saturday morning she attended Morrison’s, all on her own, to buy the necessary ingredients (I couldn’t go too because I had Iceland delivering). She left clutching the list I’d written out, her face contorted with the effort of trying to memorise additional verbal instructions. True, I received a couple of panicky phone calls hot from the flour aisle , but even so, credit where it’s due, it was pretty much a solo expedition.
Sunday afternoon found Heather in the kitchen pouring over several A4 bits of paper spread out over the counter. She looked like a general planning a military campaign.
“It says I have to lightly beat the eggs, how do I do that? Have we an electric whisk?”
“Just use a fork, that’ll be good enough.”
“Right, then I have to blend it in with the brown sugar, I wonder where the black treacle comes into it…. Err, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?”
“Into the living room.”
“To watch the football.”
A look of abject panic spread over her countenance.
“You mean you’re leaving me?”
“Not literally, I will just be in there, but tell you what; I’ll leave the door open so that you’ll still be able to see me.”
A few hours later she lifted a delicious smelling Christmas cake from the oven. I hovered expectantly; “It’s not for eating, it’s just for looking at.”
This brings me on to my mother who has a penchant for moaning. A constant theme of late has been that she misses going to the cinema.
“The one thing I really want to do, the only thing I really want to do, is to go to the picture house. I went with your Dad every week when we were first married, though he would only see films with happy endings. It must be fifteen years since I was last there, and it really is all I want to do. If only I could go to a picture house.” Wistful sigh upon sigh.
I thought about taking her to see A Walk in the Woods because I loved the book, however the film received abysmal reviews. Then Lady in the Van caught my eye. Mum has read it, and she loves Alan Bennett. Perfect! I rang her last Sunday and suggested we go on Monday afternoon.
“What this Monday?”
“You mean Monday tomorrow?”
“It’s a bit short notice.”
“Why, have you something on tomorrow?”
“No, it’s just too short notice.”
Tuesday was also too short notice, so we settled on Wednesday afternoon. Alan Bennett wrote that it was impossible to carry out any favour or service for the Lady in the Van without thoughts of strangulation. I empathise entirely.
We parked in the yellow car park, which was too cold, freezing in fact. Mum declared that the shopping mall was too noisy, she couldn’t hear a word anyone said, and the bright lights rendered a visual inspection of anything absolutely impossible, and furthermore, it was too hot.
“Do you want a cup of tea to take into the pictures?” I wanted to know.
“No, but I would like an ice cream.”
“I’ll get you one then.”
“The trouble is, taking ice creams in will be a bit difficult.”
“Mum, they are ice creams, not baby ferrets.”
“They might melt and run all over everything.”
“What, ferrets or ice creams?”
“Don’t you back chat me.”
“Mum, the question is, do you want an ice cream or do you not?”
“Yes alright then.”
“But it has to be a cone.”
As she was in her wheel chair I asked her just to hold on to them (ice creams not ferrets) while I guided her into the auditorium. “Oh dear, these are so cold, my hands are dropping off with the cold. I’m amazed I have any hands left. I’m never going to be able to enjoy the film with hands this cold.”
Once inside, we discovered that the pleasant young man at the ticket desk had allocated us two ginormous armchairs, with space to put the wheelchair in the middle. Mum climbed into one of the specially selected chairs, and I sank down into the one beside her. “This is so hard, so uncomfortable, I’ve never been in anything so uncomfortable, it’s making my neck funny.”
“Your neck would be even more funny without a head.”
“What did you say?”
“Were you back chatting me again?”
“No. Wouldn’t dream.”
She muttered a few further sentences, most of which I couldn’t catch, but the gist of it all was that I will never be too old to encounter a clip about the lug.
By the way, she enjoyed the film and wants to see it again. I will pay one thousand pounds to the person willing to accompany her.