31 January 2013


Pinched from Pearl's blog. Thanks to her for showing this amusingly written piece. 

The "Middle Wife" 
by an anonymous 2nd grade teacher 

I've been teaching now for about fifteen years. I have two kids myself, but the best birth story I know is the one I saw in my own second grade classroom a few years back. When I was a kid, I loved show-and-tell. So I always have a few sessions with my students. It helps them get over shyness and usually, show-and-tell is pretty tame. Kids bring in pet turtles, model air planes  pictures of fish they catch, stuff like that. And I never, ever place any boundaries or limitations on them. If they want to lug it in to school and talk about it, they're welcome.

Well, one day this little girl, Erica, a very bright, very outgoing kid, takes her turn and waddles up to the front of the class with a pillow stuffed under her sweater. She holds up a snapshot of an infant. 'This is Luke, my baby brother, and I'm going to tell you about his birthday. ‘First, Mom and Dad made him as a symbol of their love, and then Dad put a seed in my Mom's stomach, and Luke grew in there. He ate for nine months through an umbrella cord.'

She's standing there with her hands on the pillow, and I'm trying not to laugh and wishing I had my camcorder with me. The kids are watching her in amazement. ‘Then, about two Saturdays ago, my Mom starts going, 'Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh!' Erica puts a hand behind her back and groans. 'She walked around the house for, like an hour, Oh, oh, oh!' (Now this kid is doing a hysterical duck walk and groaning.)

'My Dad called the middle wife. She delivers babies, but she doesn't have a sign on the car like the Dominoes man. They got my Mom to lie down in bed like this.' (Then Erica lies down with her back against the wall.) 'And then, pop! My Mom had this bag of water she kept in there in case he got thirsty, and it just blew up and spilled all over the bed, like psshhheew!' (This kid has her legs spread with her little hands miming water flowing away. It was too much!)

'Then the middle wife starts saying 'push, push,' and 'breathe, breathe. They started counting, but never even got past ten. Then, all of a sudden, out comes my brother. He was covered in yucky stuff that they all said it was from Mom's play centre, so there must be a lot of toys inside there. When he got out, the middle wife spanked him for crawling up in there in the first place.'

Then Erica stood up, took a big theatrical bow and returned to her seat.

I'm sure I applauded the loudest. Ever since then, when it's Show-and-tell day, I bring my camcorder, just in case another 'Middle Wife' comes along.

29 January 2013


The rain had cleared the air. It had also erased sightseers from the neighbourhood, trippers who in fair weather exasperated the anglers. Along the river-bank, fishermen wearing sou'westers were surrounded by tackle and other paraphernalia. Brian interrupted his trek to the Broadway to sit on the wet grass and admire the skill of casting. Hunched beneath a decrepit red and yellow golfing umbrella, twirling a blade of grass between his fingers, he wondered what the reward would be at the end of the fishermen's patient wait. He'd heard there was an abundance of Tench but he suspected the men would unload their keep nets and go home empty-handed.
On the far bank, Gerald Tomlin stared at the water as if contemplating imminent death. Brian had never seen him so morose. Concluding that Liz, that hypochondriacal virago, had been nagging him he applauded his own ability to choose agreeable females. Neither Maggie nor Audrey could be classed as neurotics or shrews. Brian would have acknowledged Gerald if he had looked in his direction, but the man kept his eyes firmly fixed on the river, no doubt heavily encumbered by matrimonial anxieties.

Brian pondered on the differences in men's lives until he felt the damp seeping through to his underpants. He shifted the umbrella and stood up and then the most surprising thing happened. The move must have broken the spell, set Gerald's blood circulating; not only did he wave, he also did a spirited mime of rod slinging and reeling. It was a sudden and puzzling change in his demeanour and, as Brian drifted away, he wondered at it, close to believing that Gerald's despondency had been pure imagination.

Brian approached the pub's garden simultaneously with someone opening the door and releasing a remarkable aroma of roasting meat. He found himself hurrying, sniffing the air like a Bisto kid, with an excess of saliva gathering in his mouth. He strode past the stacked white furniture and circled the barbecue, stopping only to dump the umbrella before entering the saloon at high speed. Climbing on a high stool he commented on the capital smell. Peter disclosed that it was roast beef and Yorkshire pudding and went on to say that the smell was making him decidedly peckish.
'Its a good idea to lay on meals,' declared Brian as his appetite soared like an unruly uprising. Noticing a queue forming he hastily enquired if he had to stand in line to order.
'Nah. I'll tell her Ladyship what you want.' Peter took up a notepad. 'Full meal or just the dinner?'
'The works.'
While scribbling the order Peter groused that, with the inception of providing meals to the masses, the character of the pub would doubtless change. 'Like it or not we'll soon have women flocking in for Jane's meals. She's going to do the whole bit, from soup to sweet, nobody'll want to cook when they can get it done for them. From now on, my friend, you can rule out peaceful Sundays.'
'It'll be worth it when you count the takings.'
Uttering a loud 'Harrumph,' Peter scuttled into the back. He could be heard voicing his opinion to Jane that some people ought to get their priorities sorted, and demanding to know if food was likely to rank higher than beer.
Grinning, Brian turned to view the scene around him.

Paddy Finnigan was carping loudly to Fred Smith, who was facing the entrance to the pub's living quarters, plainly hoping to see Jane in one of her revealing numbers. He barely listened to Paddy's tirade concerning his daughter's new boy friend and the way the pair behave in public. He went endlessly on about them cuddling each other with complete disregard for other people's feelings, and more especially Eileen's.

Arnie Trevors gave Paddy a dubious glance as he passed en route to the table where Gerald Tomlin waited, to whom he was transporting a pint of ale along with one for himself. Brian suspected that Gerald must have performed some kind of miracle to be so comfortably accommodated so soon when only ten minutes ago he'd been on the far side of the river, doing an impersonation of a fisherman.
At the table in front, Sam Wilding was engrossed in his newspaper, a half-pint glass in his hand. Every time he took a sip he consulted his watch, often comparing it to the clock on the wall, which suggested to Brian that he was a man with an appointment to keep and that his apparent preoccupation with the headlines was a front. Brian was mulling over who the other party would be at this meeting, when Ron and Bill appeared, their nostrils twitching as they stored dripping umbrellas in the rack.
'I can almost taste it,' Bill stated, snuffling the air as he unzipped his anorak and shook off the hood. 'Is it beef?'
'Aye,' said Peter, doing a fair imitation of a Highlander. 'Succulent slices of Scotland's finest beef in gravy with roast tatties and greens.'
Dropping the coat at his feet, Bill dried his hands on his backside and ran a steel comb through his hair. 'I'll have some, when you’re ready.'
'Don't you want a drink?'
'Pint of draught, and one for Ron.'
As he pulled the pump handle, Peter asked, 'Ellen not cooking, then?'
'She's doing chicken. I can have two dinners today. She won't know.'
Peter placed the first part of the order on a sodden mat. 'Well, I'm not one to blab. Mind, you'll be okay if you jog home.' Looking across the room, he yelled, 'You want yours here, Ronald or in the John?'
Ron Pearce indicated that he would sit next to Bill before resuming his conversation with Arnie and Gerald.
'I've finished jogging,' Bill confessed, idly opening and closing a cigarette packet. 'I didn't care for the way the old ticker pounded after each run. At my age you've got to be cautious.'
'True,' agreed Peter, setting down the second glass. 'And at your age you shouldn't have such a big belly. Take my advice, stick to chicken. Leave the beef to others.'
'Don't you want my custom?'
'I do. It's your wife that bothers me. She'll be round here complaining, then Jane'll have a go and between them I'll be a nervous wreck. No, William, you must do without. It's not worth the aggro.'
Norman Dingle-Jones emerged from the Gents and strolled over to where Bill sat. Catching Peter's eye, he mimed the pouring action from bottle to glass and waited for the brandy to be produced from its hiding place.
'How's your daughter?' Bill asked.
Holding his goblet to the light, Norman replied, 'She should be discharged in a week.'
'That's great.'
Bill dragged out a stool for Ron, who was zigzagging round the tables carrying his mac by the loop as though it was infected. Heaving himself up and lodging his feet on the rail, Ron joined in the discussion. 'I bet she can't wait to get back. I said as much to our Kim the other day. She thought I was bonkers. She said girls don't want to be incarcerated with stick-in-the-mud parents.' He quoted Kim's pronouncement in a singsong voice, then laughed in an attempt to smooth over his tactlessness. 'She was referring to Di and me, naturally, because ... well, we are, I suppose ... dull.'
If challenged, Brian would certainly not have evaluated Diane Pearce as dull. Untidy, yes, and a bit caustic, but never dull.
'Anyway,' Ron said. 'I daresay you'll be glad when your girl's back under your wing.'
'Yes.' Norman spoke halfheartedly and not at all like a doting father. He was apparently unmoved by Ron's gaffe. Brian found that disquieting, knowing how quick-witted Norman usually was and how he loved to retaliate with satirical humour.
'Hey, Ron, who’s that with Arnie?' Bill tilted his head towards the rear of the room.
Ron followed the direction of the tilt. 'You mean Gerald?'
'Blimey, I didn't recognise him.'
'His hair's shorter, that's why. It's a bloody sight better than it was. That hairy mane dangling on his collar was more suited to a teenager. Like your Colin. Now, it suits him, makes him look real trendy.'
'You think so? I hate it. So does Ellen. She's always scolding him for being slovenly.'
'I don't have that problem with Ralph. He's got to have short hair in his job. It wouldn't do for customers to buy meat covered in hair.'
'How was Arnie?' Bill asked.
Ron idly scratched his nose. 'He's not bad. Lonely, I imagine, though he didn't say as much.'
'Funny, them being here together, when neither of them make a habit of coming in.'
Brian was only partially listening. His interest lay in discovering Norman's motive for nursing his brandy in such a doleful silence. Quietly suggesting they sit down, he guided him to a table alongside the one occupied by Arnold.
'Okay, chaps?' queried Brian as he pulled the chair out for Norman.
Gerald nodded, and Arnie said, 'Fine, thanks.'     
'I'll pop round the farm one of the evenings for a chinwag.'
'Right. I'll get some ale in.'
'And leave the gun somewhere safe.'         
Arnie laughed at that.
As if he too was in on the joke, Gerald let loose a resounding guffaw. He stuffed his hands in his trouser pockets and extended his legs. The simple operation provided Brian with the answer to his query: Gerald's grey trousers were wringing wet, right up to his knees. The inexplicable travelling time was now clear: Gerald Tomlin had, quite literally, waded in. Christ, thought Brian, contemplating the cloth that clung to Gerald's legs and was beginning to steam. He must be absolutely bonkers. As he reflected on the man's sanity, Gerald said something which convinced Brian that his assessment was proven.
'Don't look so nonplussed,' Gerald said. 'I picked the shallowest part, by the bridge.'
Totally confounded, Brian settled in the seat opposite Norman. 'Never in all my life ....' he started, but, seeing Norman's miserable countenance, he stopped. Why spend precious time mulling over Gerald Tomlin's mad practices when Norman needed some attention. He swallowed a teacupful of ale, then asked,. 'How is Clarissa?'
Norman's gloomy response was that her ankle was mending. But his shoulders lifted slightly as he pressed on and a shadow swept over his face. 'Tell you the truth, I dread her coming. It's been harmonious at home with her and Kate out of the way. Mo and I, we've been like young playmates with the girls away and, quite honestly, Brian, I do not want it to change. Having no better than a trollop in the house is not conducive to a tranquil existence.
Brian wasn't sure he'd heard right. 'A trollop? What makes you say that, for God's sake?'

'Advertising her wares in skirts shorter than an infant's she looks like a tart, and I suspect that is what she basically is. I guess that was how she came to be knocked down. Daresay the chap couldn't help himself. I have told her often enough, she will be set upon if she's not careful.' Norman seemed to shrink into himself when he said that.
Brian was at a loss to know what to say. It was true that Clarry flaunted her body, the beautifully formed body of which she had a right to be proud, but he couldn't see that this made her into some kind of hussy. He hadn't realised before how burdened Norman was with outdated persuasions. He'd thought his own opinions a bit rigid at times but mostly his attitudes were flexible. He could only imagine that having a daughter changed things in a man, producing an almost irrational paternal protectiveness. A reverse gender possessiveness not experienced by men with lads. As to the remark about Clarry being set upon, Brian thought that was carrying fatherliness too far. In his opinion it was enough to drive Clarry away from his protective arms instead of keeping her safe within them. And yet he would doubtless react the same way if he had sired a stunning daughter. He would probably have imprisoned her like a goldfish in a bowl, safe from marauders and physical foragers.
He thought of young Penny Hancox and wondered, if her father had kept her on tight rein would she have been saved from her ordeal. Her attacker was still at liberty to commit violent acts on other unsuspecting girls, probably stalking the lanes this very minute. Frowning with thoughtfulness, he lowered his eyelids and tried to remember: Wasn't there mention of stalking in Matthew's transcript? Abruptly, to Norman's brow-raising astonishment, Brian slammed down his glass; the beer jetted out like a tidal wave. Fortunately Norman was able to lift his elbow in time and the beer flowed unimpeded to the floor.
'I have to go,' Brian exclaimed, jumping up. 'I've got to check on something.' He sprinted to the door, grabbed his umbrella, swinging it out of the rack so frenziedly the whole unit swayed unsteadily. He rushed out just as Peter shouted: 'Number five. That's you, Brian. Hey, Brian.'

Dropping his mac on top of the hall chest Brian went straight to the Ormolu clock behind which Matthew's paper was located. He scanned through it until he came to the sentence about stalking. Wherever I see you, I'll follow. 'My God!' he cried, 'I was right. He does know her. That means the evil bastard's known to me.'
He paced the rug in front of the fireplace, clouting the side of his head, angry at not spotting the clue sooner. What the hell was the matter with him? God! God! Had he completely lost his marbles? Well, this was the turning point. From hereonin he'd shift himself, do some positive sleuthing for a change. By hook or crook he'd catch the fucker and, when he did, he'd personally rip out his fucking giblets.
First off, he thought, gripping the mantelpiece to assist his concentration, did Audrey get in touch with the phone company? And how in Hades could he find out when she wouldn't talk to him? He could, of course, ring Matthew, and he would if he thought Audrey wouldn't know. He didn't want the lad to be subjected to any harrowing interchanges between his parents. No matter, he'd go it alone, he'd use his own contact.
He crossed to the bureau as the phone rang. He ignored it and fumbled in the drawer for his address book. It wasn't there. He rummaged through the letter compartments and small inner drawers; repeatedly pausing to stare accusingly at the these sections and scratch his scalp in puzzlement. Disregarding the persistent ringing, he opened the two lower drawers but the search was fruitless and he finally came to the conclusion that, for some peculiar reason, he must have taken it to work.
The phone continued to ring. Frustrated and irritated, he snatched up the receiver, bawled down the mouthpiece, 'Yes?'
Startled by the fierceness of his tone, Audrey replaced the receiver without speaking vowing that under no circumstances would she, at any time or on any occasion, dial his number again.

That evening, for the sole purpose of fetching his book, Brian made his way to the station, battling against driving rain and splashing in unseen, opaque puddles. Hurrying along the road, head tucked well inside his umbrella, he failed to see Doris Pinches until his brolly's wayward spoke caught in her brolly's fringe. The two umbrellas were united and no matter how much they tugged to disengage them they remained firmly attached, until, in exasperation and in unison, they threw them to the ground where they rocked upturned like boats at sea.
Doris's hair was plastered on her cheeks. She giggled, albeit timidly. Brian did too, putting on hold the serious business which had brought him here. He retrieved and closed the umbrellas. 'There's no point sheltering,' he said. 'And heaven knows what your mother will say when she sees you.'
'Mother can say what she wants.' Doris held the fawn umbrella at arm's length. 'I wouldn't have missed witnessing the flirting umbrellas for all the world.'
Despite himself, Brian shared in the fun as they stood in the downpour, their drenched locks dripping. Regardless of her protests, he escorted her home and decided to call it a day. The book could wait until tomorrow.

28 January 2013

Monday Mirth

Margie received a bill from the hospital for her recent surgery, and was astonished to see a $1200 fee for the anaesthetist. She called his office to demand an explanation.

'Is this some kind of mistake?' Margie asked when she got the doctor on the phone.

'No, not at all,' the doctor said calmly.

'Well,' said Margie, 'that's awfully costly for knocking someone out.'

'Not at all,' replied the doctor. 'I knock you out for free. The 1200 dollars is for bringing you back around.'

Did you hear about the cat who drank 5 bowls of water
and set a new lap record?

Not only In America but the UK too

.....can a pizza get to your house faster than an ambulance.

......are there handicap parking places in front of a skating rink. drugstores make the sick walk all the way to the back of the store to get their prescriptions while healthy people can buy cigarettes at the front. people order double cheese burgers, large fries, and a diet coke. banks leave both doors open and then chain the pens to the counters. we leave cars worth thousands of dollars in the driveway and put our useless junk in the garage. we use answering machines to screen calls and then have call waiting so we won't miss a call from someone we didn't want to talk to in the first place. we buy hot dogs in packages of ten and buns in packages of eight. we use the word 'politics' to describe the process so well: 'Poli' in Latin meaning 'many' and 'tics' meaning 'bloodsucking creatures'. they have drive-up ATM machines with Braille lettering.

27 January 2013

St John's Ambulance

It was a surprise to have a St John's Ambulance man knocking on the door during the recent winter weather.   He was visiting people to check that they were coping okay in our snowbound area. People in the road I live in are predominantly old folk (koff koff) so it is heartening to know that people care. The cynic in me says the visit was an ideal opportunity to obtain contributions, but deep down I know that without such professional organisations a lot of people would suffer even more.

Years ago, what this guy did was automatically done by neighbours. Now, people are lucky if they even see a neighbour from one week's end to the next. People have their own lives to lead, they don't 'neighbour' anymore, not even to borrow a cup of sugar. It's often a case of I'm alright, Jack! Of course, it depends on the area in which they reside, some districts are more neighbour friendly than others.

The saying goes that only if someone has children or pets do they get to meet others with children or pets. Dog walkers make friends easily, and taking kids to school guarantees bumping into other parents, but if you have neither kids nor dogs the reasons for going outside the four walls are greatly lessened. Imagine what it will be like in the future when even the shops don't get visited, when internet buying becomes the norm.

Before he left, the St John's man gave us a useful leaflet, folded to credit card size, which contains useful information in case of such emergencies as a stroke, heart attack, choking, bleeding, unconsciousness, or if someone has stopped breathing. Methinks I should read thoroughly in case one of the above occurs, I mean it would be awful in one of those situations to waste time reading up on what I had to do!

26 January 2013

Saturday Special

The picture shows an old Jaguar, one of friend’s classic car collection, parked outside a Jacobean-style mansion, but this is about the mansion rather than the car. The wonderful old building is Aston Hall, located quite near where I now live. When I was a mere girl I lived just round the corner from the Hall. It was somewhere to go and play and in later years somewhere to go with the boy friend. Lots of secluded spots in there!

Visible from the Hall, less than 200 yards, is Aston Villa Football stadium where, as a tomboy-style girl, I climbed the wall to watch the game. It was much better than paying to go in, even if it had been allowed.

Designed by John Thorpe, and now a Grade 1 listed building, the construction of Aston Hall commenced in 1618 and was completed in 1635, although Sir Thomas Holte moved in during 1631. The Holte family was quite influential in the area and there is still a Holte Road, Holte Gardens, and the Holte pub in the immediate vicinity.

Aston Hall was severely damaged after an attack by Parliamentary troops in 1643 and some of the damage is still evident. There is a hole in the staircase where a cannonball went through a window, an open door and into the banister. The house remained in the Holte family until 1817 when it was sold to James Watt Junior, son of the industrial pioneer, James Watt. Eventually, in 1858, the house was purchased by a private company for use as a public park and museum. After financial difficulties in 1864 it was bought by Birmingham Corporation and became the first historic country house to pass into municipal ownership.

After further changes in ownership Aston Hall became a community museum managed by Birmingham City Council. It is open to the public during the summer months and at Christmas there is a night-time celebration called Aston Hall by Candlelight. Actors help bring the period alive with mock 17th century festivities and the house is lit by 500 candles. I went to one of the candlelight evenings but that was before actors were brought in. Being young and still impressionable, I found it rather spooky as the flickering lights enhanced the shadows ... giving rise to suspicion that ghosts lurked in the gloom.

25 January 2013

A Memory

Shame to spoil it!
 Every time there is snow I am reminded of my cousin Ann’s first experience of the white stuff. She and her parents lived on the other side of the road from our grandparents, almost opposite, in fact. Ann was just a toddler when she was taken out to see the snow covered garden. She looked at it in amazement and then turned to her mother and excitedly asked ‘Has Grandma got some?’

I used to feel the same excitement whenever I saw virgin snow ... sad to say that feeling is no longer experienced, though I have to confess it is pretty enough to take pictures. Apart from feeding the birds, I have only been out of the house once in almost two weeks and it was beginning to irritate. So this morning I ventured out in the car. However, I'd had enough by the time I reached the shops so I came straight back home. Driving was decidedly dodgy and walking was even worse. Isn't it awful when the weather conditions decide our fate! Oh well, patience is a virtue ... or so they say. Pity I'm running out of it.
The weight of snow pulling the branch down

24 January 2013

A Young Woman's Hero

“After 3 hours, 11 minutes and 2 seconds he crossed the line with his 3l Maserati. His average speed was 158,296 km/h. He was hailed for the unsurpassed achievement: winning world championship for the fifth time.”

Juan Manuel Fangio (uncle of the present Juan Manuel Fangio II) was my hero in the 50’s when motor racing was a passion. I guess that’s why I still enjoy driving. 

When there was a race on a party of us would make the journey to watch it. We booked in advance and always tried to get stand seats opposite the pits where the excitement was. Yes, I know things happen around the track but most times a spectator listens to the commentary over the loudspeaker and it’s only when the cars appear that you get to see that particular part of the race. The scene was fantastic: regulation and emergency pit stops, squealing tyres, the smell of oil, the frenzy as mechanics raced to put things right, and the cheers when their man flew by, not to mention the shouts of joy from the crowd.

One year there was a bit of a do the day following the race. I don’t recall the reason for it but I do remember being given a ride in a Formula 1 car on the actual race track. What was it? Alfa Romeo, Mercedes-Benz, Ferrari or Maserati?  Fangio won world titles driving for all these but it doesn’t follow that my ride was in one of them. One thing for certain is that it was nothing like present day F1 racing cars. Where was it? Goodwood? Silverstone? I wish my memory wasn’t so bad. Still it was in the 1950’s so perhaps I can be forgiven for the memory loss. 

I wasn’t in the car for long (10 minutes, if that) but it was long enough to provide a lifelong memory. Just think: me in an F1 car! Since then I’ve always thought of myself as a bit of a whiz where driving is concerned *laughing*.

You want more? See here.

22 January 2013


Immediately outside Audrey's house, waving her arms in avid demonstration, Gladys was chatting to Carol Benjamin as if she was relating some scandalous international news. At her feet was a black canvas bag and resting against the zip was the gimmicky bottle-green mallard's head which represented the knob of her fold-up umbrella, giving the impression by its half-closed eye of having nested there. Carol was wearing a navy-blue trouser-suit with a salmon pink blouse and as usual looked sublimely ravishing, her black skin positively gleaming in the bright sunlight. Being a head taller than Gladys in high heels gave her the advantage, or disadvantage, of catching the full blast of sun, though disadvantage was probably the operative phrase since she frequently raised a narrow clutch bag and used it as a shield.
Viewing the discourse from the bedroom window, and going by Carol's vibrating shoulders, Audrey guessed that Gladys was relating one of her amusing stories. For a second she contemplated going out to join them. She was, however, half way through an overdue moisturising routine and that was more important than gossiping. The recent suspension of the punctilious night-time rite had resulted in a definite roughness to her skin and she had to do something about it.
Progressively she massaged a white emulsion into her arms, paying particular attention to the elbows that lately resembled pieces of pumice. As she worked she subjectively replayed last night's call, unable any longer to let a day go by without some form of evaluation. Sometimes it took the form of fanciful analysis, sometimes a cataclysmic calculation of her diminishing rationale.
Matthew was bathing when the call came, at exactly eight o'clock. She had at first shrunk from answering, fearful there would be more talk of blood and biting, yet, to her horror, she found she could not ignore it. Now, remembering those stimulating and erotic suggestions she wondered how she managed to control her itchy fingers until Matthew was in bed.
Screwing the lid on the enormous jar of delicately perfumed cream and returning it to the dressing table with other bits of cosmetic potions, she looked again at the two women. Gladys had calmed down. Her arms were now at her sides and she appeared to be speaking in secret whispers … and repeatedly glancing at the house.

Convinced that she was being discussed Audrey lingered behind the curtain, an awakening anger pricking like spines on a cactus. One particularly witty remark made Carol throw back her head and give one of her infectious laughs. As if it was something she'd forgotten, she produced an envelope and handed it to Gladys. It was accepted with a smile. Gladys extracted what looked like a greetings card. After reading the inscription she looked up at Carol. Audrey lip-read the words Thank you. Only then did she recall Gladys's birthday. The card she bought ages ago was still in the glove drawer, unwritten, with the unwrapped present. Quickly retrieving the card, she raced down the stairs to find a pen and some gift-wrap paper.


Carol was about to leave, but her curiosity over the contents of Audrey's package delayed her. While Gladys fiddled with the string, Carol talked about Vera, announcing that she had only just heard and expressing surprise that she hadn't escaped her mother's clutches yonks ago.
Gladys let out a yelp. Torn paper fluttered to the pavement as she scanned the scarf. 'This is grand, Audrey. Thank you. I'll look right affluent with this on. Wait 'til Sam sees it.' She stretched up to kiss Audrey's softened cheek then held out the gift for Carol to see.
The scarf had a silver fringe at each end and was embellished with water-lilies, painted on silk, Chinese-style. Audrey bought it at a craft shop in Redhampton. As soon as she saw it she had known it would make a perfect gift for Gladys. Inside the shop a host of jolly women applied their designs to fabric, paper and tin, humming contentedly as they worked. Although they were all wheelchair-bound their smiles were perpetual. She thought about their beautiful work and was ashamed that she, with all her faculties and intact body, fell short when it came to tackling even mundane things. Good-for-nothing her mother called her and she was good-for-nothing still.
'Are you listening to me?'
Audrey jumped. 'Sorry, Carol. What did you say?'
Carol chuckled. 'I only asked her age and she whispered it as though it was something sinful.'
One by one the cactus spines disintegrated.
'Sixty's nothing these days. I reckon my Alan'll keep me on call way past that age. Until I'm seventy, most likely. He'll never let me think I'm old.' Nudging Audrey's arm, Carol asked, 'Know what I mean?'
Audrey did know. At one time Brian promoted similar feelings; still did, as last night proved. On the two occasions he had positioned himself outside, the reason for policing her domain as yet eluding her. He looked irresistible in the lamplight and she found herself observing him with new eyes. His presence made her feel youthful and dangerously eager, and curiously safe. According to Carol then she was not too old. She wondered, as Carol was wholesomely enriched by a physically satisfying marriage whether she would also consider masturbation to be normal at their age.
'Well, work calls,' Carol said. 'I can't stand chattering all day. Maureen'll be getting fed up.' Seeing Audrey's bewilderment, she giggled and explained, 'She's standing in for a couple of hours. Paddy's doing the decorating and she can't tolerate the smell. Who was I to refuse an offer to mind the shop?'
Gladys folded the scarf and bent to tuck it in her bag. 'I'll walk up with you,' she said, straightening. 'I desperately need to buy sugar. That's why I came by, Aud, to see if you wanted any shopping done.'
'I'm all right, thanks.'
'I'll see you later then.'
'Cheerio,' said Carol as she seized Gladys's arm and waltzed her towards the Green. The expansive shopper swung on its rope handles in her wake. Audrey laughingly urged the yellow-billed duck to hold on and not to be travel sick.
The two disappeared round the corner. Audrey turned to open the gate but hesitated with her hand on the latch when she saw movement in next door's lounge window. Changing direction, she determinedly unfastened their gate and marched in. She knocked several times and, again, got no response. She found it perplexing because she'd been so sure someone was there. As she proceeded up her own garden path she scanned the window but the print curtains hung as straight and undisturbed as they always did.

It was a tearful Bess Coombes who called that afternoon. She made no sound as she emerged from the side entrance, shutting the gate as if afraid to make a noise, then tiptoeing past the kitchen window, employing such stealthy movements that Audrey feared she might run off if she opened the door. However, Bess did completely the opposite. She literally hurled herself through the door and clung to Audrey as if she was anchoring herself to a dependable, rescuing tree. Audrey stroked the blonde hair until the sobbing diminished, unashamedly proud to be chosen as a buttress in the girl’s time of need.
Eventually, Bess eased away to pull a handkerchief from her blazer. 'She didn't tell me. Why didn't she tell me?'
'Shush! She'll be all right. You'll see, she'll be home in no time.'
'But I didn't know she was that unhappy,' she whimpered, 'Something must have happened for her to go without telling me.'
Audrey pulled a tissue from the box on top of the fridge and dabbed the tear trails on Bess's cheek. 'She probably went on the spur of the moment,' she said in an effort to console her. She put the tissue on the draining board and grabbed another. 'It's no good you getting upset. You must be calm in case she rings and needs your help.'
Bess searched Audrey's face. 'Do you think she will? I'd do anything to help.'

Bess brightened significantly when Matthew came in, especially when he winked at her. He sat at the table and patted the adjacent chair, indicating that she should join him. When she did, he laid his hand on hers to pacify her. Her woe was replaced by adulation, not entirely forgotten as the heaving breast and recurrent gulps showed, but Vera's departure had now assumed a fait accompli less powerfully important.
Be careful, Matty, Audrey silently warned as she deposited an oval plate of biscuits.
Her worries were unfounded, of course, seeing that he was used to kids and their problems, knowing instinctively which topics would lessen the sadness. He discussed fashion trends and make-up and disco dancing, and lightly touched on the serious stuff like employment, until Bess's chest stopped its tireless heaving. Audrey, however, was aware that the transition from school to work would be inconceivable without Vera and with this in mind she drafted a mental reminder to repeat her quest to verify the girl's whereabouts. If she was indeed in Blackpool, perhaps Uncle Adrian could check her out. Failing that, she would go herself, for the day, or even a weekend.

21 January 2013

Monday Mirth

An enthusiastic door-to-door vacuum salesman goes to the first house in his new territory. He knocks, a real mean and tough looking lady opens the door, and before she has a chance to say anything, he runs inside and dumps cow patties all over the carpet. 

He says, "Lady, if this vacuum cleaner doesn't do wonders cleaning this up, I'll eat every chunk of it." 

She turns to him with a smirk and says, "You want ketchup on that?" 

The salesman says, "Why do you ask?" 

She says, "We just moved in and we haven't got the electricity turned on yet."

So... this penguin walks into a bar and says to to the barman: "Have you seen my brother?"

And the barman says: "No, what does he look like?"

Two confirmed bachelors were sitting talking. Their conversation drifted from politics to cooking. "I got a cookbook once," said the first, "but I could never do anything with it." 

"Too much fancy cooking in it, eh?" asked the second. 

"You said it. Every one of the recipes began the same way - 'Take a clean dish and...'"

On the trucks of a local plumbing company in NE Pennsylvania: 

“Don’t sleep with a drip. Call your plumber.”