Sunday, 23 September 2012


Hubby, in an effort to curb his propensity for becoming ever more grumpy and grouchy has been looking for a distraction. I think running a marathon would be too much of a challenge for him, ditto another woman. “You’ve got to be joking”, he guffawed, when I suggested it might at least put on a smile on his miserable, bloody face, “Don’t get me wrong, the sex I’m sure, would be a welcome departure from my normal life, but hope springs eternal and well, one woman is quite enough”. And then he muttered almost imperceptibly, “Oh yes, one is quite enough”. I was not surprised therefore to find him last Saturday morning outside the back door with a large stick and a stanley knife. “New hobby?” I asked him, putting the kettle on. “Mm-hm”, he replied, his face the picture of concentration. “And apart from making a lot of mess, what exactly are you doing?” He was using the knife to strip the stick of its bark and all the bits were flying through the air and onto my kitchen mat. “Whittling”, was the answer. “Oh-kay”, I pondered out loud, “Whittling what exactly?” “Staffs, canes, walking sticks, that sort of thing”, Hubby said, holding up the stick proudly as though it would suddenly transform into a thing of such magnificence that Moses, that celebrated staff handler would have been privileged to have parted any sea with it, turn it into a snake or indeed use it to invoke any number of nasty plagues onto unsuspecting Egyptians. “Have you read up on it then? Do you know how to whittle, if that is indeed the verb?” “I know I need a ferrule Alice”. And that was the end of that. I went back into the kitchen and was immediately irritated by the fact that, as Hubby had left the back door wide open to allow the dogs the choice to stay in the garden to watch, or alternatively, admire his crafting from the kitchen, the consequences were that the wind and the dogs’ promenading meant that there was an ever increasing amount of wood shavings and long strips of bark decorating not just the mat, but the whole kitchen floor. Attempting the impossible, I tried to hide my irritation and attacked the detritus with a dustpan and brush and a rictus smile on my face. “Why the face?” asked Hubby. “Because of this”, I replied, uncoiling a snake-skin length of bark that had found its way under my kitchen work top, “I’m shutting this door. Do you want to stay in, or go outside?” I asked the retriever. He replied by looking up at me from under very expressive eyebrows and ski-daddling to be with his master. Hubby was in the garden all morning. Some staffs were more successful than others and some had sling-shot style tops to them. For resting one’s thumb. Apparently. He is a tall man and by virtue of the occupational hazard of his height, the walking sticks that he has produced are a reflection of his stature. “Who exactly are you hoping to give this to?”, I asked, when at the end of the day, he asked me to admire and stroke his staff, “Goliath?” Less than a week later and I was to eat my words. The phone rang mid-morning, just as I was about to whip the Dyson around. “Alice. Come quickly” said Mags, “There’s an intruder in the house. I’m terrified. Let yourself in with the spare key” and she put the phone down. I picked up my kagoule, my keys and Hubby’s staff, threw everything in the car and drove to Mags’s. “Where is the noise coming from?”, I asked her, rushing in. Poor Mags was cowering in her hall way. She lives in a bloody big house. The stairs climb up and up. “Up there”, she gesticulated. “Let’s go”, I said and, brandishing my staff in front of me with the vehemence of a provoked American brandishing a pitchfork on a witch hunt, up the stairs I went. “I’m just behind you”, said Mags, herself wielding a torch – of the Maglite variety and not of the witch hunt notoriety. “What is that for?”, I whispered, “It’s the middle of the day!”. “To conk him out”, she said reassuringly. So, like Cagney and Lacey up the stairs we proceeded, pausing every few steps if we thought we heard something. Eventually, we got to the top of the second landing and sure enough, behind the door of the room dedicated to her mother-in-law’s visits, came frenetic banging. “Mary, Joseph and all the Saints”, said Mags crossing herself. “Are you sure that your mother in law isn’t in there?” I asked, quietly. “Quite sure Alice. She’s in hospital. Open heart surgery”. “Maybe she didn’t make it. Maybe it’s her ghost”. “Not her heart surgery for God’s sake. She volunteers on the ward! WRVS!” “Oh”. I swallowed hard and, with Hubby’s staff held out in front me and Mags bringing up the rear with her superbright LED Maglite that could have blinded a rapist/murderer/burglar let alone wield one unconscious, we burst into the room. Cue instant squawking, fluttering, flying and shrieking as two terrified middle aged women and one equally horrified hen, ran around the spare room, clucking and cursing. “How on earth did she get up here?” asked Mags after she’d regained her composure and the trust of her spotted leghorn. “I cannot begin to imagine”, I replied, my heart still thumping in my chest. Believe me, there are few things more terrifying in life than an airborne, stricken chicken, flying for one’s head, spurs first. “Come on Dotty Lotty”, said Mags soothingly, stroking her chicken, “Let’s get you some corn”. And she left me there, perched on the end of Nana’s bed, clutching Hubby’s work of art. “I will fear no evil”, I found myself saying, “Thy staff and Thy rod, comfort me". 17th May 2012

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