Friday, 12 August 2011


   Life has continued through this section of the so-called summer in much the same way: people returning tanned from their holidays while others drop off keys for the purposes of feeding pets while they’re away, and Verity still isn’t back.  I sent her an email but she is either off-line or too busy/embarrassed to reply.  I’ve been hoping it’s embarrassment stopping her, but I’ve a growing suspicion that she’s just having too much fun to answer.
   Being in a village, we’ve followed the news from the various cities with mixed horror and fear for friends and relatives who live within a twenty mile radius of the trouble-spots.  While Celeste is in Spain, I know not to worry about her, but I had to phone George on Monday because he moves around so much, he could be anywhere.  The phone rang for a while before he answered, filling my heart with trepidation, but when he did finally reply, it was clear from the background noise that it was just because he hadn’t heard it ring above the racket.
   “Are you okay?” I asked.  Straight to the point, me.
   “Oh, hello, Mum.  Of course, why wouldn’t I be?”
   “It’s just...”  I started to feel foolish, but a mother’s instinct rules all.  “I wondered, with all the news, where you were?”  Even as I said it, I knew it sounded rather lame, but we mothers just can’t help ourselves, can we?  All those stories about how you never stop worrying about your children, from before they’ve left the womb to whenever, they’re true.
  “What news?  I’m up at the Fringe, in Edinburgh.  It’s brilliant, some great shows.  Not really paying much attention to the news.  Yeah, yeah, it’s okay, just my mum, angsting about nothing I expect.”  The latter was clearly to whoever was next to him, wherever he was.  “Listen, Mum, the show’s about to start, so I’ll call you, okay?”  And he hung up.
  He won’t call me, of course.  I’ll call him.  In a week or so.  Don’t want to disappoint him.
  You might have thought that being in a village we wouldn’t be directly affected.  You’d be right about the ‘directly’ part of that, but indirectly there have been knock-on effects.  As I was coming back from the supermarket yesterday (it was open, I paid for my goods), I saw Joe walking along the lane, on my side of the road with his back to me, so technically on the wrong side of the road.  He’s quite distinctive even from behind, with wavy blond hair below the collar and lacy cuffs (something to do with getting into the feel of the period he’s writing about), so I tooted and pulled up next to him, winding the window down.
   “Hello, Joe.  Do you want a lift?”
   It was almost as though he hadn’t noticed I was there until I spoke.  He looked in at me gloomily.  “No, thanks.  Needed some air.”
    I don’t respond well to gloom, I’m never sure whether to commiserate or not, so instead I tend to ignore it.  “Do you realise you’re walking on the wrong side of the road?  You should be facing oncoming traffic when there’s no pavement.  It’s in the Highway Code.” Well, at least it was, back when I was first riding a bicycle.  It’s probably changed now, but it made good common sense.  However, it didn’t faze Joe.
   “Am I? Never mind.  Alison’s back.”
  From some of our chats over morning coffee, I had already sensed that this would not be a good thing when it happened, so now his gloom was explained.  “I thought she was in New York, or Washington or somewhere, monitoring the American financial mess.”
  “They decided that the financial implications of the riots were more important, plus she’s quite photogenic for the pictures of ‘brave reporter stands among the disenfranchised’ so they brought her back to the UK.  She’s not very pleased.  She’d got tickets to see Cate Blanchett in some Checkhov play, a box even, so she’s stamping around the house and shouting down the phone.”
   “Oh.  Sorry.”  There wasn’t a lot else I could say.
   “I can still hear her from my study, with the door shut and the music turned up loud.  I thought these old houses were supposed to have thick walls.”
   Our conversation – well, Joe’s venting – was interrupted by someone hooting me from behind, and I was rather blocking the road, so I fast-forwarded to the end.  “Look, I know it’s not the same, but you can write in our house.  The kids are both away at the moment and I have stuff to do.  Just bring your laptop up, or your paper and pen, or whatever you use to write with.  In fact, jump in and I’ll take you to Reed House now and you can pick up what you need.”
  For the first time in the conversation, Joe’s face lost some of its darkness.  “That would be brilliant.  Thanks!”  He smiled and got into the car.
  Writing would appear to be more complicated than I thought.  We have collected: a laptop, a flip-chart board, a large white board covered in notes (“Take care not to wipe any of that off” as we loaded it into the car) and a box of books relating to Burke’s Peerage and Debrett’s, as far as I could tell.  I have now installed Joe in Celeste’s room – it’s tidier than George’s – and he is doing whatever it is he does.  He stayed until 5pm yesterday and then re-appeared at 8.30 this morning.  But in some ways it’s like having a child at home again who needs to be looked after, so I’m quite enjoying the tip-toeing round the house and making milk and cookies for elevensies.

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