Sunday, 31 October 2010

Saturday 30th October

                I was looking forward to a fairly quiet day, watching a bit of mindless TV with Ronnie, whizzing round with the vacuum cleaner and catching up on the ironing before I went out to help out at the play again.  So you can imagine I was not best pleased when the OH told me that he’d suggested to the cast that they should come round to our house after the performance tonight for some celebratory drinks and snacks.
                “It’s not a problem, is it?” he wondered idly.  “There’s only about a dozen of them.  Plus maybe the technical folk, a couple of partners.  And the front of house people,” he added hurriedly when he saw the frosty look I was giving him and completely misinterpreting it.
                I try to avoid Tesco at the weekend.  It’s far too close to the ‘outlet mall’ near here and consequently the roads are completely clogged from 10.30 until around 5.  Since the OH dropped his little bombshell at 9.30, I just about had time to check the cupboards for existing levels of snacks, beer and wine before beating the manic roundabout parking that develops.  Fortunately, my route home takes me round the other side of the roundabout, avoiding the queuing hordes so getting home again afterwards wasn’t a problem either.
                “We can put a comfy chair in the kitchen for you, Ronnie, so that you can join in without getting too tired,” I told her during an ad break for Upstairs Downstairs.
                “Ooh, no, it’ll be far too late for me.  I’m still shattered from last night’s excursion, I couldn’t manage two late nights in a row.  I’ll head up to bed if nobody minds.”   I sometimes wonder where Verity gets her party-liking from, because it certainly isn’t her mother.
                So I managed the whizz round with the vacuum and finishing the ironing before heading off to the village hall again.  The play was again excellent; it’s a pity in some ways that they only did two performances of it, because the village hall can only seat 60, so even if there are full houses both nights, which there pretty much were, that’s still only 120 people who’ve seen it.  Seems an awful lot of effort to entertain 120 people, but when they came back afterwards, they all seemed perfectly happy with the arrangement.  They’re not even having a rest – they start rehearsals for the February show tomorrow!

Friday 29th October

                Plans for monitoring Ronnie have been blown out the window.  She was fine last night when I tucked her into bed, having made sure that she’d had all her various pills, but when I popped in first thing this morning, she had fallen out of bed in the night and been unable to get herself back up.  Probably in part because there’s a lot of her to move, but also because she’s getting on a bit now and she’s just out of hospital following some surgery (I didn’t like to ask exactly what the surgery was because I have a suspicion that Ronnie would tell me.  Too much information, as the kids today say).
                So I’ve had to put Plan B into action.  Ronnie has been relocated into our 'spare room' (really, it’s Celeste’s room, so I hope it’s not for too long) and Hedonism has had to go back to Verity’s.  I shall miss having him around – he purrs and sits on my lap in a very loving way, although the OH reckons there’s been fur in some of his meals recently – but I can’t leave Ronnie unaccompanied if she can’t get herself up from a fall.
                What with carrying all of Ronnie’s things round to our house, and escorting Ronnie, and then carting Hedonism and all his things back again, I wasn’t ready to go to the deli to check on biscuit sales until it was nearly lunchtime.  Edith looked at me a little warily.
                “Well,” she said, “they’re selling.  The boxes look pretty an’ all.  But I’m not going to need any more until next Thursday, I reckon.”
                That was disappointing but I tried to hide it by buying a couple of steak and mushroom pies for lunch for me and Ronnie while I was there.   When I got back, Ronnie was still sitting in the armchair where I’d left her.
                “By the way, the phone rang.”  She was able to tell me without letting her eyes leave the TV screen.
                “Who was it?”
                “Oh, it’s not my phone.  I didn’t like to answer.  It might have been personal.”
                Yet again being grateful for the 1471 service, I called Jenny to find out what she wanted.
                “You remember I told you that one of Bunty’s stalwarts was hurt so couldn’t help at the fund-raiser on Wednesday?  Well, she would normally be helping with front of house too, at the local am-dram group’s performances tonight and tomorrow, so we’re a man short.  Interested?  It’s dead easy and you get to see most of the play.”
                I hummed and hahed briefly and then Jenny added the clincher.  “I really hope you do help – I’ve got to tell you what happened at the fundraiser after you left!”  When I left, Jenny had been deep in conversation with a man in uniform, so my appetite was seriously whetted.
                “Okay.  I’ll help.  But could I get a couple of tickets for the rest of the family to see it?”
                Jenny assured me that I could get my family members in for free provided they bought enough raffle tickets.  I wasn’t quite convinced that it would work like that, but decided to take plenty of cash with me anyway.
                The OH was pleasantly surprised that I had organised a theatrical trip so locally for him – walking all the way back to the village hall – and Ronnie was up for it, though she can’t walk that fast, so we set off really quite early and consequently got Ronnie and the OH into the front row.  I was checking tickets and giving out programmes, with a bit of washing-up in the interval, so yes, as Jenny had said, dead easy.  And the play was pretty good.  The OH stayed behind at the end to talk to a couple of the cast that he’s done pub quizzes with, while Ronnie and I set off back home.
                “That’s been so much better,” Ronnie said, as I helped her into bed. 
                I asked her what she meant.
                “Just a nice quiet day.  Nothing too exciting and no spa treatments.  I could do with several of those!”
                So could I, I thought, but I didn’t say anything.  I still had to dash round to Verity’s and feed Hedonism.

Friday, 29 October 2010

Thursday 28th October

I haven’t seen Verity for a while so it was with mixed feelings that I greeted her when she rang the doorbell frantically this morning at 8.30, moments after I had taken another batch of biscuits out of the oven.
“Oh good, you’re up,” she said as she pushed past me and headed into the kitchen.  “Is there any coffee?  Though frankly, gin would be good!”
I raised an eyebrow at this suggestion, but poured her a coffee, still warm from breakfast.  “Are you okay, Verity?” I asked after she had practically drained the mug in one swig. 
“More coffee,” she croaked. 
Clearly, I was going to have to wait for her to be ready to tell me why she had come round so early in the morning for a major fix of a drug she had plenty of at home.  The second mug took a little longer to go down and eventually she took a deep breath and started.
“Firstly, my mother is driving me insane.  She’s supposed to be convalescing for three months, but if I have to put up with her for another day I shall probably kill her.
I refrained from comment.  Mother/daughter relationships are difficult and unique to each couple.   Instead, I nodded sympathetically and waited for her to carry on.
“Secondly, Max has had some sort of accident out in Spain that’s put him in hospital.  Quadbiking, apparently, though he’s never shown any interest in that sort of thing before, and he’s broken some ribs and punctured a lung.  They phoned last night asking about insurance details so I’ve been up half the night trying to find where Max left the policy stuff, and when I did find it, it turns out he’s not covered for dangerous sports.”
“I didn’t think quadbiking was a dangerous sport.”
“Neither did I until the hospital phoned.  But he can’t fly for a least a week so he’s stuck out there learning medical Spanish.  He’s only done business Spanish so far.”
“And restaurant Spanish,” I added, trying to add a little levity into the conversation.
“That’s what I said,” Verity said, an annoyed tone to her voice.  “And that’s not all.  I’m going to have to fly out there to nurse him once he’s discharged from the hospital, and stay there until he’s ready to fly home.  Bloody man!  Why couldn’t he stick to safe extreme sports?”
Given Verity’s mood, I decided not to point out the contradiction in terms and allowed her to rant on.
“And my usual card’s maxed out after trying to take Mum out to spas and things to help use up the time, so I’ve had to go through the files again this morning to find another card that still has some credit on it.  It’s all such a bloody mess!”
At this point, she dissolved into a very atypical sob, so I put my arm around her shoulders, patted her gently and then said, “So what can I do to help?”
She sobbed a bit more, most unlike her, and then, with a sniff worthy of a cocaine addict, said, “I feel bad about this, because you’re already looking after Hedy for me, but can you keep an eye on Mum for me while I’m away?  I don’t even know how long it will be for!”
Now, I’m quite a practical person.  My first order of business was to find a tissue for Verity before she created a salty pool on the breakfast bar, or worse, and while I went on the hunt, I thought about the practicalities.  But really, I was going to say yes, whatever the difficulties; it wasn’t as if we were going away, so I would be around.  It would just be one extra thing to fit into my day.
“But I can’t take her off to spas and so on,” I warned Verity.
“Oh, don’t worry about that, that was more for my benefit than hers,” Verity sniffed.  “I can’t stay around at home all day like you, I need to be out and about.”  Now that her problem had an imminent solution, she became less emotional and more business-like.  “Okay, Mum’s set up for the morning with the TV remote and the phone next to her, and I’ll make sure she’s been to the loo and got a sandwich for lunch before I go to the airport.  So if you can pop in a couple of times a day, that should just about cover it.  I’ll phone you from Spain, when I know a bit more.”
Verity headed off hurriedly and I got back to my biscuits.  Only a little later than planned.  Fortunately, I am now most proficient at making cardboard boxes and would probably get an A* in Origami GCSE if there was one, which there probably is.  Perhaps I should investigate it.
Edith seemed much happier to see me at 9.45 than she had on Tuesday afternoon and took my fragrant little offerings off my hands.  At the moment, we’re splitting the proceeds 50/50, which doesn’t seem quite fair to me, but then I have no other outlet and Edith did say we would review the deal in a couple of weeks.  She’s got my phone number and will phone me when she’s getting low, or I can pop in late tomorrow and see how things are going.
Having freed up my hands, I headed on down to Verity’s to check on Ronnie.  I have a key, so at least she didn’t have to get up.   As Verity had said, Ronnie was well-ensconced in the living room, a DVD control at her fingertips too, halfway through an episode of Poirot.
“Verity bought me the boxed set for Christmas a couple of years ago and I’ve watched them before, but I can never remember who done it,” she told me.  She looked very comfortable.  “I can manage mostly, Verity worries too much,” she confided.  “To be honest, it’s quite a relief that’s she’s gone.  I mean, it’s a pity about Max and all that, but at least it gets her out of my hair.  I don’t think I could’ve survived another spa day.”
Looking at Ronnie enjoying her TV reruns, I could hardly imagine her feeling at home at Champney’s.  She’s quite a large lady who wears velour shell-suits from the 80s for any occasion and her trainers could do with replacing.  Verity should really have taken her clothes shopping but they probably don’t stock Ronnie’s size in the sort of shops Verity prefers.
Before I headed home again, I made Ronnie a hot drink – all that sitting still is very chilling, even with the central heating on full blast – and dropped a note in at the next door neighbour.  They’re all detached homes in that close, but just in case they heard anything untoward, I thought it best they had my number.
I’m going to get a Chinese takeaway for dinner, and take some of it down to Ronnie so that she gets at least one hot meal today.  She may even turn out to be easier to keep an eye on that Hedonism – at least she’s unlikely to get trapped in Jenny’s house!

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Wednesday 27th October

I’ve been out twice today, so it hardly feels as though I’ve been at home.
Firstly, this morning I went to the charity do, armed with my biscuits.  It’s possible that ‘armed’ is inappropriate, as the fundraiser was in support of soldiers and their families, but never mind.  By the time I reached the village hall, things had already kicked off, and as I entered I was greeted quite forcefully by a Penelope Keith sound-alike with steel grey hair and minimal foundation.  She was probably hockey captain when she was at school.
“Jolly decent of you to come, all in a good cause, eh?” she said, shaking my free hand.  “Teas and coffees in that corner, raffle over here and there’s a couple of wandering competitions so keep your eyes peeled.”  She let go of my hand and moved on to the next entrant.  “Jolly decent of you to come,” I heard behind me.  She clearly had her speech all prepared. 
I moved towards the tea and coffee area.  “So, how does this work, then?” I asked the woman behind the table, who was at that moment standing with her back to me, opening another packet of something.  She turned to answer me and I realised it was Jenny.  “Hello there, I didn’t know you were involved in anything like this.”
“Neither did I until yesterday afternoon,” she admitted.  “Bunty phoned in a panic as one of her stalwarts sprained an ankle tripping over a charging pig and has been told to rest her foot.”
“Who’s Bunty?”
“You know, Bunty, she’s the organiser of this do locally, does all the meeting and greeting, draws the raffle and generally keeps morale up.  Bunty’s not her real name, it was a nickname she got when she was married to the Major.  I think she became some sort of regimental mascot when he died, so the name’s stuck even in Civvy Street.”
I looked back at the former hockey captain with new respect and smiled at her conveyor-belt approach to greeting new arrivals.
“Anyway,” Jenny went on, “did you want tea or coffee?  No actual price, just a donation, and then there’s cakes and biscuits at the next table, just help yourself.”
“Coffee, please.  And I’ve brought some biscuits with me anyway, Edith at the deli thought they might be appreciated.”   I opened one of the boxes and Jenny took one, beginning to appreciate it immediately.
“You’d better leave those over there or I shall eat all of them.  Are they some of yours?” she went on, pausing mid-phrase to avoid spraying crumbs into the waiting coffee cups.
I explained the cock-up with the timing at the deli and Jenny shared in my pain but then took another macaroon, before waving them away frantically.  I picked up my coffee, dropped a pound coin into the collecting tin, and abandoned my boxes of biscuits on the table with the other edibles, most of which looked fresh from the Tesco packets.  I was rather pleased with how sophisticated they looked, so perhaps Delyth will be right and it will generate some business.
I bought a couple of raffle tickets and then joined a group of enthusiastic gardeners sitting round a table debating the virtues of organic versus non-organic vegetable growing.
“What’s your opinion?” demanded a retired gentleman who had been previously addressed as Bert.
“I don’t really garden, I’m afraid.  Trim things and tidy up, but that’s about it.”
“Organic, then,” Bert said, rather smugly.  “We outnumber you.”
Daisy, who I recognised from playground waiting years and years ago, wasn’t accepting Bert’s word as final and the argument raged on, but in a very genteel fashion.  But I’m really not a gardener, so once I’d finished my coffee, I went back to attempt a chat with Jenny.
Jenny, however, was busy chatting to a rather lovely-looking squaddie who was here to support the fundraising.  There was some frankly rather outrageous flirting going on, so I took myself off.
“Leaving already?” Bunty asked me as I tried to slip past her.
“Oh, you know how it is, things to do.”  I shrugged in what I hoped was a convincing fashion and seemed to get away with it.
“Well, thank you for coming.  And I believe you brought those scrummy biscuits, too.  Jolly good show.  See you at the fireworks perhaps.”  And she turned again, eager to welcome the next donor to the cause.
I decided not to overdo the baking this afternoon, just in case Edith can’t too many of them tomorrow.  I don’t want her returning loads at the end of the day, that would be just too disheartening.
The OH got back from work a little early, before I’d finished clearing up the kitchen from my baking.
“Oh, I haven’t started tea yet.”
“No matter, put your coat on, we’re going out.  Tickets for the theatre, we’ll grab a bite to eat at that Italian place.”  He’s really quite keen on theatre going, and we haven’t been for a while.  Dinner was paid for with Tesco vouchers and the theatre was a student production that didn’t quite live up to the needs of the play, but it made a nice change to go out.  I shall have to make my biscuit boxes early tomorrow morning, but at least now I’ve more or less perfected my folding technique.

Tuesday 26th October

I am really pissed off, though I’m not sure whether it’s partly at myself for not thinking of it.
Having spent yesterday afternoon assembling my ‘packaging’ all over the dining room table, I spent this morning making biscuits.  I wasn’t sure how many to aim for initially, so I did one lot of each of four recipes – peanut cookies, blueberry macaroons, standard shortbread and some flapjack.  I don’t normally do blueberry biscuits, but I had some blueberries in the fridge that needed to be used, and to be honest, they really did look a rather pretty colour.
Then I needed to wait for them all to cool down, so picked out the boxes for each of them – I decided against the green tissue paper with the blueberry macaroons, though it looked okay with the flapjack – and then finished off the ironing.  Finally, at around 4 o’clock, things had not only cooled down enough to be packed up, but I had successfully matched up lids with bottoms so that each box of six biscuits (or four pieces of flapjack, but they’re slightly larger pieces) and finally summoned up the courage to go round to the deli and see I could come to some arrangement with Edith, the owner.
“They look much better packed up like that,” she said, though not as enthusiastically as I had hoped.
“Good, I’m glad you like it.  So, how does this work?  Do you take a fee for selling them for me, or do you just want to buy them off me and then sell them yourself?”  I had already decided that I would accept 80p per pack, which should cover the cost of ingredients, tissue paper and card, but I wanted to see what Edith would offer.
“Oh no, dear, I can’t take them now!”
“But... but... you said you liked the packaging!”  I couldn’t believe that all my hard work would have gone to waste.
“It’s too late in the day; we close early on a Tuesday so I’m not expecting many more customers today, and we’re closed tomorrow.  Any that you left here now would be well past their best by Thursday.  You need to bring them in first thing in the morning, dear.”
I looked down at my carton of boxes, delicately folded and still oozing the smell of peanuts and cinnamon.  She was right, they wouldn’t be as nice on Thursday.  My business was going to collapse before it had even started.  “But what am I going to do with them?” I wailed.  “I’ve got about eighty biscuits here, and there’s only me and my husband at home.” 
“You could host a coffee morning tomorrow,” Edith suggested.  “Or, if you don’t want to do that, there’s some fundraiser coffee morning tomorrow at the parish hall, maybe they’d appreciate them.  But I really can’t take them now, there’d be no point.  If you do another batch tomorrow and bring them in first thing on Thursday, we can work out a suitable price and percentage then.”
Edith was adamant that she wouldn’t take them so I lugged the carton back home.  Well, I say lugged, it wasn’t really that heavy, I just hadn’t been prepared for it.  Later this evening, I phoned Delyth and told her what had happened.
“Well,” she said, “I can tell you’re a bit disappointed, but there are a couple of positives in this.”
I expressed my disbelief quite vehemently; I was still smarting from having been turned down.
“No, really,” she said.  “Firstly, Edith at the deli thought the packaging looked enough for you to sell them like that, so that’s a good start.”
That was a fair point.  “But I can’t see any other advantage.  I’m just left with a load of biscuits, and most of my friends work, so even if I wanted to host a coffee morning, it’s not really an option.”
Delyth was not to be put off.  “You know that rather cheesy saying about how a stranger is just a friend you haven’t met yet?  Why don’t you go and meet some of your new friends tomorrow, at this charity thing?  Take the biscuits, donate them to charity – which will go down well for starters – and at the same time, you’re doing some advertising.  Which reminds me, I haven’t dropped off those labels yet.  Just put your name and phone number on them, unless you want to call the business something else.  That way, people who try them tomorrow will recognise them at the deli.”
She has a point.  She’s dropping the labels off once she’s finished her dinner and then I can spend the rest of the evening writing them as neatly as possible.  I’m still pissed off, though.