Thursday, 28 July 2011

Cor blimey trousers.

“I don’t know whether I’m coming or going?”, I whimpered, listlessly and literally throwing the towel in.
“Now, take a deep breath”, suggested Mags, removing the beach towel from the suitcase “and be systematic”.
“I’ve tried, I really have. I’ve written a list as long as my arm, yet no sooner have I ironed a pile of t-shirts then I remember about Euros. I’m half way to the Post Office and then I remember the after-sun lotion. I go to Boots, only to remember prescriptions that need repeating, so then I run to the surgery and return to the ironing having left all the previous jobs unfinished.”
“You are only going on holiday”, reminded Mags, “You are meant to relax”.
“Relax! Are you having a laugh? I’ve myself and three daughters to wash, iron and pack for; four other men to provide meals for and of one of those men, I have to dance around as he is seriously cross that I am going on holiday in the first place”.
“Nothing new there then Alice”. Nope, my holidaying without him is nothing new. Poor Hubby though, I do feel for him, left alone with big work commitments and three teenage lads to keep in line having been abandoned by a wife who threw caution to the wind and booked, albeit as long ago as January, a weeks holiday in Kefalonia.
“Thing is Mags”, I confided, “I thought I’d have a job lined up by now and so, a week away was not going to be as much extravagance as it seems now”.
“Well ,don’t worry about that”, she said laying her hand on my arm, “that will all work itself out and I have no doubt that by Christmas you will be in gainful employment”. I appreciated her comfort and neatly folded the beach towel and laid it flat at the bottom of one of the suitcases.
“Speaking of gainful employment”, I said, running my finger down my list of To-Dos, “Your god-son is gainfully employed”.
“Really?”, she said, helping fold other items of clothing, “What’s he doing?” Now, having been a grammar school boy with a good brain but, who has spurned the idea of university, one might naturally assume that he would be looking for a full-time and ultimately, prosperous career. This is not so, it would seem.
“Ma and Pa, I have something to tell you”, he had sat us down and looked very grave. Hubby and I swallowed hard. Were we about to become grandparents? I clutched Hubby’s hand. It was clammy. Our son read our minds.
“No guys, it’s not what you think! Jeeze, why do parents only ever have sex on the brain?” I knew that Hubby was about to quip, ‘Perhaps because we never get any’, but I squeezed his hand. Code for, ‘keep your gob shut’.
“What is it you want to talk to us about then darling?”, I asked as gently as was possible in a tone that would engender a confession.
“I don’t want to work in an office ok? I want to work outside. In the fresh air?” We nodded, I think both of us had an understanding of what fresh air meant.
“And I want to work earlier in the day ‘cos it leaves time then in the late afternoon for band practise”. We continued to nod. He looked at us, from one to another and then came out with it.
“So, I’m going to be a bin man”. I wiggled a finger in my ear. Had I heard him properly? A bin man as in, refuse collector? Hubby looked quite calm.
“It’s a tough job son”, he said, “Hard, physical graft. Very early hours, long day, lots of walking. I’m proud of you”.
I was more, how shall I put it, pragmatic?
“Tampons, pads, filthy nappies, dog mess, maggots, bin-juice, stink, seagulls, vomit…” Oh my god. Proud? If he said he’d got into Oxford I’d be proud, or, given his love of his band and was on Top of the Pops, then I’d be proud.
“Top of the Pops isn’t on any more Alice”, said Hubby softly, rubbing my knee.
“I can honestly say that when I wrapped you in a hand crocheted shawl for first time and inhaled your gloriousness, I never once thought to myself, ‘one day this perfect creature will be a bin man”.
“Well, I never saw that one coming” said, Mags, after I’d recounted the story, “So, how is he getting on?”
“It’s only casual labour”, I explained, “But he’s been getting up at five and cycling across Plymouth, hoping that on that day they need an extra pair of safety-gloved hands on their wagon.”
“He’s only a kid Alice; credit where credit is due. Most lads his age are just loafing around doing sod all”. I still can’t bear it. I don’t want him to work that hard.
All afternoon we checked off the list, item by item. I had stopped flapping around like a headless chicken and was very pleased with myself that my list, whilst having initially sent me into a spin, was at least, most comprehensive.
“Dried mixed herbs?” asked Mags.
“Very light to pack”, I explained, “and adds incomparable flavour to any pasta sauce”.
“Had you not considered, that, as you are after all going to a Greek Island, that they may possibly have fresh herbs in abundance?” I hadn’t considered it, no.
“Oh, well, plonk them in anyway.”
At about six, after Mags had left, my son had returned and thrown himself onto his bed before starting his waiting shift and the girls were literally bouncing with excitement, Hubby came home from work. He handed me an envelope. Inside were three, crisp, 20 Euro notes.
“For a Greek salad and some calamari”. I threw my arms around him, who needs Captain Corelli when you are married to Commander Band?

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