Long blog today because it’s been such a busy and eventful week and I have plenty to tell you! Last Sunday was my one day off in a run of five days and it was spent doing housework, shopping, laundry and catching up on social media. Monday and Tuesday were dead days at work, where I sat twiddling my thumbs, thinking of all the stuff I could be doing at home, and panicking about the ridiculously high target I’d been given for the week.
Driving home at six on Tuesday, my mind was running over all the things I had planned for my days off and as I turned off the roundabout onto the main road running past my street, I was surprised to find people standing on the pavement waving me down and indicating that I shouldn’t turn. Slowing down, I looked and saw stuff scattered across the entrance to my road. A complete speaker system in pieces, lamps, broken glass everywhere, a gaming chair lying upside down, and to my utter astonishment, a washing machine upside down in the middle of the road.
Shocked, I pulled over to the side of the road and wound down my window – what’s going on? – I asked a woman standing there.
Some idiot is throwing things out of a window in the block of flats, she replied. My husband is on the phone with the police.
Instantly, I knew which idiot she was talking about. The same idiot who causes all the noise and disturbance. The same idiot who threw pots of paint out of the window last year all over the street and the house opposite. And the same idiot who was roaming up and down the street in the middle of the night with a knife and inviting us to – come out and play…
I surveyed the mess. No way was I driving my car over that lot, it would rip my tyres to shreds. But there was nowhere else to park. The council, in their infinite wisdom, took away all the parking spaces on the main road and installed a cordoned-off cycle lane that no cyclist ever uses, so I couldn’t even park there for a while. There was nothing for it, I was going to have to pay to park in the car park at the top of my road.
Seriously annoyed now, I mean how many times must this selfish and dangerous individual pull stunts like this before something is done about him, I drove a little further and turned around, then headed back the way I had come and went into the car park.
I parked at the barricade which divides the car park from my street and got out of my car, wondering how much the charges were and if I even had any change in my purse. As I was standing there watching, a large corner sofa unit appeared on the balcony of the flat where the idiot lived and I watched in complete disbelief as he struggled to force it through the window, clearly intending to send that down to join all the rest of the detritus already lying in the road.
Bloody hell! I said out loud and a couple walking up the road looked at me.
Crazy, isn’t it, they said. We were walking past and felt the wind from the washing machine as it flew past us!
I live on this road, I said. He’s done stuff like this before. Once he was out with a knife in the middle of the night threatening to play with us.
Why on earth is he still living there? They exclaimed in horror.
Apparently, he must kill someone before the council and the police will do anything about it.
Crazy! They said again, shaking their heads in disbelief.
So, because of him I can’t even park outside my home but must pay to park in the car park.
No, you don’t, they told me. It’s free after three on a Tuesday.
Oh, brilliant, at least that’s something.
I walked into my road and joined many of my neighbours who were huddled together, watching the drama unfold and talking about this latest episode of the bloody soap opera that life on my previously peaceful road has become.
The police arrived, went to turn into the road, saw the debris and thought better of it so hitched up onto the pavement. They piled into the flats and even though we watched for ages we saw no sign of them coming out.
A couple of men whom I was told were friends of the idiot came out of the flats and started piling all the detritus onto the pavement. I hoped they would sweep up all the broken glass and twisted metal fragments as well. I didn’t want to leave my car in the car park for too long. At night, boy racers roar around it pretending to be real men and cars left there have been damaged.
Eventually, I went inside and told Miss F what had happened, she immediately went to look out of the window, wondering how on earth anyone could lift a washing machine, let alone get it through a window and over a high balcony railing.
What about if it had landed on someone, she asked. Or landed on someone’s car. What about if it had landed on ours? Well, that would have been a serious financial hardship for us. I presume a full-size washing machine landing on top of a tiny Nissan Micra would have destroyed it beyond all hope of repair. I am also assuming the idiot doesn’t have insurance. I know my insurance company would only offer me scrap metal value for the car which I’ve been told would be less than £100. On top of that, I would have to pay the policy excess of £100, my premiums would increase, and I would be without a car with no money to buy another one.
All because some braindead inconsiderate idiot likes to get off his face on drink and drugs and throw things out of a second-floor window.
Surely, they must do something about him now. Enough is enough, he is too dangerous to allow him to remain in that flat. At the very least relocate him to a ground floor one so if the urge to throw all his possessions out of the window strikes him again at least he’s not going to flatten someone with a washing machine!
Wednesday, my first day off in a run of four, and I had phone calls to make. The first was to the doctor’s surgery. Miss F had been told she needed an up-to-date tetanus jab as she would be working with wild animals that bite, claw, and scratch. I got through all the various corona related messages and was told to hang on and my call would be answered soon. I hung on. And hung on… And hung on… and hung on… For the first ten minutes they kept telling me how important my call was to them but how very, very busy they were. Then the phone started ringing. It rang and rang and rang. I sat there for thirty-three more minutes listening to it ring, drinking the coffee I had thankfully thought to make, catching up on social media, making a post, then reading a book on my kindle.
Eventually, the phone was answered. I explained what I needed to know. It was fairly simple. Did Miss F have a valid tetanus jab? Yes or no. The receptionist didn’t know. She would have to check with the doctor. She would call me back.
The opticians were next. Miss F was wondering if she could fit in an appointment before she went. She couldn’t, so I booked her in for the October half-term holiday. That only took five minutes. Then I had to phone the Child Maintenance Agency. They had sent me a letter that was so elegantly subtle I couldn’t make head nor tail of it. This time, I hung on for forty minutes before my call was answered.
I needed to phone a building society that I have a small savings account for Miss F with. I wanted to close the account and have a cheque sent to me in her name for all that it contained so it could be paid into her account. This call made all the others pale into insignificance as they made me wait a whopping sixty-two minutes before they answered!
And that was the whole morning gone. I was fed up, hungry, thirsty, and needed to pee. I had two more calls to make but lacked the emotional and mental strength to make them. My phone was almost completely out of charge as well. I gave up for the day and had some lunch.
In the afternoon, I went uptown with Miss F. She had some money to pay into her bank and I needed to find something to wear to a party I am going to Saturday evening. It’s a friend’s birthday party and has a theme of the 1970s with an emphasis on happy and relaxed.
A new retro shop had opened in town so I wanted to forage in there to see if I could find anything suitable. It spanned three floors and was packed with vintage clothing and bric-a-brac. Surely, I thought, I must find something here. It was an odd and eclectic mixture but as Miss F and I sorted through the racks and racks of clothing I noticed an alarming trend. Everything was in size stupidly tiny.
Now, I’m far from obese but neither am I stupidly tiny, so I was beginning to despair as anything suitable we saw and pulled off the rack to look at turned out to be a size 8 or even a 6 – mate, I wasn’t a size 6 even when I was six! Whilst rummaging through, I saw an interesting flash of black lace and pulled out a simply gorgeous classic black lace dress. Cut in a 1950s style, it had capped sleeves, a plunging neckline, a tiny, fitted bodice, and a swishy swirly skirt in layers of black lace and silk petticoat.
Look at this, I said to Miss F and pulled it off the rack. She looked and her eyes lit up.
It’s lovely, she agreed.
Try it on, I urged, passing it to her. It will fit you perfectly, and you’re going to need some pretty clothes for all the balls, proms, and formal events there’ll be at university.
Very reluctantly, she took the dress and vanished into a changing room, and I waited long minutes until she emerged, clutching the dress possessively over her arm.
Well? Does it fit you?
Like a glove, she muttered.
Do you love it?
I’ll buy it for you.
You don’t have to.
I want to, I declared, and that was that.
Holding onto the dress we wandered down into the basement where I at last found a chiffon overblouse cut in a 1970s style and so psychedelically patterned it made my eyes water just looking at it. Trailing back up to the changing room, I tried it on. To my relief, it fitted and looked okay. The remit had been relaxed and comfortable. Well, I figured team this blouse with my black, slightly flared jeans, my bright green Rocket Dog sneakers, a red vest top underneath, wooden beads, and a headscarf, I’d be suitably relaxed, and I’d certainly be comfortable.
We went to pay, and I was surprised to find that Miss F’s beautiful black dress was only £20, whereas my blouse which, to be honest, I could probably have found in a charity shop for £2.50 if I’d had the time to go and look, was a whopping £22.
The rest of Wednesday afternoon was spent stocking Miss F up with new underwear and a few other things she needed for university, then home, and dinner.
Thursday – the day of the big dress rehearsal of packing the car. Over the past two years, we have been gradually buying things that Miss F will need for university. These items were stowed away under beds, in cupboards, in wardrobes, and on shelves and to be honest, I think we’d forgotten what half the stuff was. The plan was to locate everything and bring it all down to the dining room. There was a lot. An awful lot. My heart sank as I surveyed it all piled up.
As you can see from the pictures below, it’s an impressive amount and this didn’t include any of Miss F’s clothes, her PS4, or my overnight bag. (Sorry about the blurriness of these pictures. It was a video and I tried to screenshot stills from it which is never a good idea).
Was it possible to fit all of this into the back of my Nissan Micra? Looking at it, the immediate answer was not a cat’s chance in hell, but it needed to be sorted and packed smaller wherever possible. We began to filter it through into the lounge. If anything was in an unnecessarily bulky package it was opened and made smaller. Anything that had space to put things inside was utilised, any duplications or things deemed not needed were found and put to one side. It took a long time, but eventually, everything was packed as efficiently as possible.
The pile was a lot smaller but still considerable. Would it fit in the car though? There was only one way to find out. We started packing the car as tightly as possible. We hadn’t even got half of the stuff in before we realised the impossibility of the task. It wasn’t going to fit. It was time to consider plan B because there was a plan B – in life, you should always have a plan B.
Miss F went online to find the website of a local vehicle hire company only five minutes away from us. Did they have any small vans available for the 8th and 9th of September? Yes, they did. We booked one. We can collect it at 8am and must return it by 6pm the next day.
The good thing is, we know we’ll be able to get everything in the van, but I will admit right here and now that the prospect of driving it is scaring me witless. I’ve never driven a van before, so there’s that, and, more to the point, it’s a manual and for the last twenty years I’ve driven nothing but automatics! It’s worrying me to the point that I keep waking in the night trying to remember the order of the pedals and how to change gear! It wouldn’t be so bad if I had time and somewhere quiet to practice, but we’ll have to leave straight away so I’ll be on some of the fastest and most congested motorways in the country.
I mean, I’m sure I’ll be fine. Driving a manual is like riding a bike, right? Surely, it’ll all come flooding back as soon as I get in the van. Won’t it? I hope it does. It must because it’s not like I have a lot of choice.
And that was Thursday. By the time we’d got everything out of the car and back upstairs into the office it was almost dinner time, and we were both on the verge of collapse with aching, shaking legs and sore backs.
Friday, and I had to drive Miss F out to her former place of employment to pick up her last tips at midday. I’d arranged to swing by Tesco on the way back to pick up our weekly shop and then I had two of my local author friends coming for coffee and cake at 1pm. No problem, I thought, plenty of time. What I hadn’t allowed for was how much traffic would be on the road at midday on a Friday and how many vehicles would be trying to get in and out of Tesco.
One of my friends can only drink peppermint tea, so I’d put it on the list as it’s not something I drink very often. As we pulled up to the collection spot, I saw which assistant was on that day and let out a groan of disbelief.
Oh no, not him. He talks too much.
Mum! Miss F was shocked. Don’t say things like that, it’s rude.
But you don’t know what he’s like, I whined.
It doesn’t matter, don’t be so horrible.
Suitably chastised, I fell into a sullen silence as we pulled up and I got out of the car.
Hello, he began, his eyes lighting up when he saw me, then told his little minion my name because obviously he’s memorised it, and he began talking.
What he was talking about, I couldn’t tell you, because I’m afraid I tuned out. It’s all such utter small talk, you see, and none of it sticks. The little minion handed me my printed-out list.
There are three substitutions, he said.
Oh, please don’t let it be the peppermint tea, I prayed.
They’ve swapped your apple juice for exotic juice – that was for Miss F, so I handed her the juice through the open window, she examined it, pulled a face, and handed it back. The little minion looked devastated and took back the box.
The second substitution – please don’t let it be the peppermint tea – is that they’ve swapped your cucumber for a cucumber.
Umm, okay, that’s fine I suppose. The little minion looked relieved.
And the last one – please, please don’t be the peppermint tea – is they’ve swapped your peppermint tea for lemon and ginger tea – I bloody well knew it – Is that okay?
Was it okay? I had no idea. I only knew my friend had requested peppermint tea. I knew she had various intolerances and allergies and for all I knew, peppermint tea might be the only hot beverage she could drink.
No, it’s not okay, I said. I have a friend round this afternoon, and she has intolerances, peppermint tea is all she can drink.
Would you like me to go to the store and see if I can get some for you?
Would you? That would be amazing, thank you.
The little minion nodded eagerly and bounced off towards the store delighted to be doing something to help and muttering that he’d look for apple juice whilst he was there, and I continued throwing our shopping into the boot very aware of time ticking by.
Meanwhile, the talking boy had been rumbling away non-stop in the background to Miss F through the open window and I tuned back in to hear him exclaim – it wasn’t marbled, so what could I do?
Huh? What wasn’t marbled? His patio. His hall floor. His latest sculpture masterpiece. What? Perhaps some medieval cathedral he’d recently visited had disappointed with its lack of a suitably impressive floor.
He turned his attention to me and desperately I looked over to where another car had pulled up to the collection point and was patiently waiting.
Oh look, I said. Someone needs your attention, so I won’t keep you, we’ll wait in the car for your colleague to get back with the rest of our shopping. Lovely chatting, bye. And I jumped in the car and slammed the door on his disappointed face.
Miss F was busy rolling her window up as I got in.
Never, she snarled through gritted teeth, ever leave me alone with that man again! He wouldn’t stop talking at me! I was seriously tempted to off myself, or him. He wouldn’t shut up!
Now you know what I meant, I told her. He drones on and on and it’s all about nothing.
The tone of his voice never varies, she said. Even though I didn’t respond to him or even look at him, he just kept on talking and talking.
What wasn’t marbled? I had to know.
His steak the last time he went out to eat, so he sent it back.
Ah, I see.
To our vast relief, we then saw the little minion jogging back with a bottle of apple juice and, joy of joys, a box of peppermint teabags! Yay. We roared home, it was almost twenty to one by now and, as usual, I was fighting a losing battle with time.
Reaching home, we hauled in the shopping, and I left Miss F putting it away as I dashed outside and wiped down the table, put cushions on the seats, and switched on the water feature. Coming back in, I ripped a comb through my hair, slapped on eyeliner and lipstick, and set out tea, coffee, and cake, as the doorbell went and the first of my friends arrived.
It was a lovely afternoon. We sat in the garden even though the weather was a little overcast, but it was dry, and frankly, this summer, it’s the best you can hope for. After they left at about five-ish, Miss F emerged to see what was happening about dinner and we decided we fancied pizza, so I slipped my shoes on and walked to Waitrose to grab our favourite from there – caramelized onion, feta, and goat’s cheese.
Walking back the sun finally broke through the cloud cover and turning into my street I found many of my neighbours gathered in the road, drinks in hand, chatting. The Friday happy hour is a weekly thing, but I don’t usually attend because I’m either at work, just getting home from work and in no mood to be sociable, cooking dinner, or trying to write my blog, and I’m never able to drink because I’m always having to collect Miss F from work later that evening.
I was greeted with cheers as I appeared clutching a big pizza.
Go and get a drink and join us, I was ordered, and I realised that this week I could. I dumped the pizza in the fridge, poured a glass of wine, sent Miss F a message where I was going and why (she had disappeared into her room for a nap before dinner), then went out for a drink and a chat. Five minutes later, Miss F came out, clutching a tin of cider. Everyone was pleased to see her and interested to hear all about her university and her plans.
We were out there for about forty minutes or so, before coming in to cook pizza and drink wine and watch TV. Friday evening as it should be.
And now it’s Saturday and the week has gone full circle. Today has been taken up so far with laundry and writing my blog and getting ready for the party tonight. I offered to make cheese and pineapple hedgehogs – an absolute must for any self-respecting 1970s party – and I think they turned out pretty good even though I made a mistake and used a grapefruit instead of a melon, so they are more like baby hedgehogs.
I must work tomorrow which is a big shame. I would usually drive my car there loaded down with food, drink, presents, a coat, and sensible shoes, leave my car there and either walk or get a taxi home, then wander back the next day to collect it. But of course, with needing to leave for work early the next morning that’s not possible. I had resigned myself to walking and hoped the hedgehogs would survive the trip, but luckily, I’ve been offered a lift so that’s all right.
So, I’d better go and get ready because I don’t want to make my lift wait. Have a wonderful week wherever you are and whatever you’re doing. It’s Miss F’s last full week at home which I still can’t wrap my head around, so no doubt it will be a busy one and I will tell you all about it in the next blog.