Ronnie has tuned the radio in Celeste’s room to Radio 2 (I assume it was Ronnie, because I can’t believe it would have been Celeste) and is usually cheerfully singing along with all the old songs first thing in the morning; today she came banging on our bedroom door just a couple of minutes after 7.30.
“Quick, switch the telly on!” she insisted.
Rather than asking for an explanation, I complied, blearily getting the news channel on instead of the cheesy American adverts that replaced the cheesy American sitcoms I’d been watching last night. The cameras were on what looked like a war-zone, buildings destroyed and empty window-frames left standing in the wreckage.
“What’s been going on?”
“There’s been an explosion in Salford!” Ronnie seemed unduly excited for 7.30 in the morning.
“Well, that’s where I live!”
Being a softy Shire lass, my knowledge of geography north of Watford Gap is pretty limited; I knew that Verity had collected her mum from Manchester, but hadn’t realised that Salford can under some circumstances be equated with said city.
“I need to see if it’s my street. It’s difficult to tell on those tiny little pictures. I’d better telephone Shirley, she’ll know what’s going on.”
Two minutes later, Ronnie appeared to be better informed than the BBC as Shirley did indeed know what was going on, three streets away from where she and Ronnie lived, where a gas explosion had devastated four houses and shattered glass in a number of others. Ronnie was quite excited, close enough that she would have bragging rights, far enough away that all her windows were undamaged. It made her quite bubbly for the rest of the day.
The OH was feeling a bit snuffly, so he stayed home and spread a jigsaw out on the kitchen table. “No point sharing my germs with the rest of the office,” he said. Man flu strikes again.
Personally I’d rather he didn’t share his germs with us either, and since Ronnie is supposed to be convalescing, I decided to take her away from the infection zone and go shopping.
“No fancy shops, I hope,” she said. “I can’t be doing with those fancy shops that Verity likes. I wonder if Shirley needs a food parcel. The Spar might have been damaged and she won’t be able to do her shopping there until it’s all fixed.”
I convinced Ronnie that Salford would probably have a couple of other supermarkets and we went into town to browse around a couple of charity shops. It’s a little disappointing that so many independent shops in town have been closed, only to be replaced by charity shops. I suppose it’s like they say at the village post office, use it or lose it.
The combination of the early morning excitement and Ronnie’s generally low level of fitness meant that before long we needed to sample the delights of a cafe. This is something I would love to have in the village – not a Starbucks or anything like that, they’d be far too expensive and would expect people to drink up and move on. What I would like is a small independent where you could linger over a coffee and small piece of cake, get change from a fiver, and chat to other people from the village who came in for the same thing. However, in town the independent places struggle to compete. At least two have closed down in the last five years. Ronnie and I settled for something that was a franchise but was slightly less megalomaniacal than the usual brands, grabbed coffees and cakes and found a table by the window that meant we could people-watch in companionable silence. Every now and then Ronnie would comment on the excessively fashionable attire of some of the young people walking past, or the youthfulness of the mothers with pushchairs, but otherwise it was a very quiet 45 minutes. Eventually I remembered that there was a limit on the parking and we headed off again.
By the time we got home, the OH had decided to cook himself some lunch and had the oven on ready for oven chips. “I was going to do an omelette with the chips,” he said, as if that excused them. “Oh, there was a phone call for you. Edie someone, from the deli. You haven’t been ordering specialist hams or something, have you?”
It was still quite bright out this afternoon so after lunch, which was omelette and chips for all of us and then the last of the blueberry macaroons, I put a jacket on and headed round to the deli.
“Oh, good, you got my message. The chap seemed rather vague so I wasn’t sure if he was writing it down or not.”
I assured Edith that the chap was just a bit poorly and was normally not vague at all and asked what the message had been.
“He wrote some of it down, then,” she tutted. “Men! Anyway, your biscuits. I wanted to settle up with you for the batch from last week, and also ask if you can do a slightly larger order this week – say, 20 boxes?”
I was a little surprised at the increase, but Edith was certain.
“They sold okay last week, but it was half-term and the kids will have been doing their own baking. Now they’re back at school, the mums’ll want some home-made looking stuff for the lunch-boxes.”
Edith is not as daft as she looks. While she was getting my share of the sale of biscuits from last week (14 boxes, so a massive £7!), someone came into the deli, asking about some more of “those delicious biscuits”. It was Monica, she of the Rottweilers. Edith shook her head apologetically but, with a conspiratorial look in my direction, added, “We’ll have some more in on Thursday, if that’s any good.”
“Excellent. I’ll be back on Thursday,” Monica said, and left without making any other purchases.
“Better make that 24 boxes on Thursday,” Edith said to me as she counted out my seven pound coins.
I spent part of the evening making up the boxes. At 50% of the proceeds, I’m hardly going to get rich. But that wasn’t really why I was doing it.