Saturday, 31 March 2012

Comfort Blanket.

“Bye-ee. Au revoir. Bon voyage”, I yelled and waved until our very dear friends became only specs on the horizon and then finally, disappeared. I fumbled in the pocket of my duffel coat and found a very old bit of kitchen towel with which to blow my nose.
“There, there” said Hubby, thumping me oh, so sensitively on my back, “they’ll be back one day”.
The kitchen towel was useless; there was nothing for it other than to use my sleeve.
“I know, I know”, I snivelled, “But it’s the end of another era. I hate goodbyes and change and…”
“Yes, yes, I know Alice. You’ve carped on about nothing but change for weeks now”. I shut up.
We went inside and I hung up my coat and, sighing I took down the flag of the United Arab Emirates that I’d bought on eBay as a sort of salute to our friends’ new life in Abu Dhabi and folded it neatly away.
Hubby brought me a cup of tea and a pear and cinnamon cup cake. I’ve become a bit of a convert to baking.
“Would you consider taking a posting in Abu Dhabi?”, I asked, my tongue licking at the icing with the ferocity one might use to extract the soft fondancy from the inside a Creme Egg. It was distracting if nothing else.
“If I weren’t married to you Alice, then yes, perhaps”.
I looked up, a blob of icing on the end of my tongue.
“Gee, Fangs”, I mumbled.
“Seriously Alice. Do you honestly think you’d last an afternoon in an Islamic country, even one that is professed to be a little more relaxed and dare I say, more liberal that its neighbouring Emirates”.
“What on earth do you mean?”, I said, most affronted.
“Sweetheart, there are many reasons why I love you: your demureness is not one of those reasons”.
“What are you trying to say? That I’d flout laws and customs and deliberately try to offend my neighbours?”
“Not deliberately, no”.
“For God’s sake!”, I yelled.
“See?” said Hubby infuriatingly, “That’s exactly what I mean. Something would happen or someone would say something you don’t agree with and we’d be in big trouble”.
“You are making me sound like a crazy, loose cannon that is a liability to polite society”.
“No Alice. That is not what I’m saying. What I am trying to say is that I have actually looked into it. The package is very attractive. Tax free earnings, private schooling for the kids etc. etc, but the rules are endless and you’re a member of Amnesty for crying out loud and certain things would make it impossible for you to ignore”.
“Like what?”, I barked.
“Being locked up for being gay for instance and, did you know, that there are penalties for unmarried women who give birth in the UAE?”
“You’re joking? Oh my God, that’s barbaric. Even in the 50s era of Call the Midwife they’d have turned a blind eye to that, or at least only raised their finely tweezed eyebrows. I’d have to…” and my voice trailed off. The penny dropped. We won’t be going to live in the United Arab Emirates any time soon.
My heart still feels heavy though. It’s awful saying farewell to friends, even if they do bequeath you a bicycle and washing machine when they go. What the hell I’m to do with a hostess trolley though God alone knows.
“I thought you’d love it” said Hubby as he lugged it from the boot the week before.
“Why? Why on earth would you think I’d love a hostess trolley that only someone with the social aspirations of Margot Ledbetter could possibly covet?”
“It might come in handy” said Hubby with a finality that I wasn’t going to argue with and, since then, it has been hidden in the corner of the hallway, used as a dumping ground for winter coats and book bags.
The objects handed to us didn’t stop at white goods and 1970s dinner party accoutrements; indeed they extended to livestock and now, apart from five children, three cats, two dead goldfish that have yet to be removed from their orb and a golden retriever, I am now the foster mother to a rather charming cross bred Yorkshire terrier type dog, but, as he was found on the roadside in Italy over 12 years ago then the possibility of him having any Yorkshire provenance is slim indeed.
I patted the little feller, who seems to look continually expectant. Not in a pregnant way. Obviously. But in a ‘my master will be back any moment now’ way and every time the doorbell rings, he scurries to the door and yaps at it. Once I opened the door to receive a parcel from the postman.
“Your dog alright?” he asked me quizzically.
“Er, fine”, I replied, “why?”
“Have you had him neutered recently?”
“Er, no, why?”
“His voice has gone terribly high”. I let the little dog peep around the door frame.
“Oh!”, laughed the postman, “I see” and off he went, chuckling. Did he honestly think that golden retrievers become like castrati after they’re neutered and bark in a higher register?
The dog looked at me now from under his fluffy little fringe as if wanting an explanation.
“It’s unsettling isn’t it mate?”, I said to him, “But, we have to take it on the chin. Your master has left and my Commander will be the next to go. It’s called the ebb and flow of life”. He seemed to understand because he flopped down on the rug with a very world weary sigh and, pulling a recently abandoned fleece blanket over his head with his little teeth, hid under it. His actions spoke louder than words. It is his refuge, his comfort blanket. The alchemy of cake batter has become mine. Pulling a blanket over my head seems preferable though. One can become invisible and there is far less washing up to do.

No comments: