Here is an extract from CATBIN FEVER. Chapter 2, in fact.
Today is the day of the church social outing. We’re visiting the medieval market town of Shrewsbury. God alone knows why. Brenda can’t make it, but I visit her for a morning coffee. She hands me a card with a sad-looking kitten on, and the word ‘sorry’ in gold script. She suggests this might be suitable for the gnome situation. She says she’s bought me a whole box of them. I’m not at all sure about this, but I take the cards so as not to hurt her feelings. While the kettle is boiling, Brenda shows me a picture on her fridge that her goddaughter has done. I don’t say anything, but I do hope she’s been punished for it. At least I know now that Brenda isn’t doing those pictures herself. Originally I had thought it to be some kind of cry for help. Poor Brenda is very put-upon by her goddaughter’s mother. When a person agrees to be a godparent, I’m sure the last thing they expect is to be burdened with a child on a regular basis by its bewildered owner when they should be going to Shrewsbury. Brenda is a saint to put up with it all, she really is.
We have a lovely cup of coffee, but as soon as Brenda pops to the little girls’ room to powder her nose, I tip the remainder of mine down the back of her telly. I’m already regretting this as she returns. I hand her one of the sad kitten cards as I leave for the coach station.
All the usual suspects are waiting as I arrive at the station. I buy myself a puzzle magazine and a juice carton for the journey and make my way to the back of the coach, as I enjoy making gestures to other road users. Having both hands free is a joy when you’re not driving. Almost everyone gestures back. The dual carriageway is like a mobile community. I don’t understand why none of the other ladies ever join in. At one point, Tony the driver asks me to turn round and sit properly, for safety. I stare at him in his rear view mirror as I have my juice, and he eventually decides that what I was doing was safe after all.
Maureen and Bernadette are giggling to each other behind me as we walk from the car park in Shrewsbury. They are very full of themselves because they were on that show on telly once, where people invite each other round for dinner and an argument. Bernadette only did a roast, and I have it on good authority that Maureen got all her pasta dishes from a local restaurant. Bernadette didn’t have it in her own flat, either. She’s in sheltered accommodation. They follow me into the first tea shop I come across, but we don’t share a table. I watch as they order a full cream tea with scones, despite Bernadette having claimed not to be able to digest cream on the programme. She is a liar. This is a stunning revelation. I would have expected this of Maureen, but not Bernadette. I only had her down as lazy before. And perhaps a little loose. I also have scones, but I never said I couldn’t, so there’s nothing wrong in that. The whole time we’re sat in the tea shop, I look daggers at Bernadette and mouth the word ‘liar’. Once or twice I scoop a bit of cream onto my middle finger and show it to her, so she knows what I’m talking about. She knows. She must know. It’s written all over her face. It clearly affects her enjoyment of the scones, and they leave before I do, with their tails between their legs. As I’m waiting at the till to pay, I remember that it was a different woman from Stoke who couldn’t have cream.
I’m back on the coach before anyone else. If they don’t want people to do what I’ve just done in the gallery, then they shouldn’t sell marker pens in the gift shop. Feeling indignant.
Feeling a bit lonely.
I’ve done quite a few puzzles from my book by the time the coach fills up again. I’ve used the windows and the back of the seat in front for workings. I am surrounded by numbers, and feel like a brainy mathematician. This perks me up a bit as the coach moves off.
An hour later, and we are waiting for a relief coach at the services because some of the tyres were flat when everyone came back from their toilet break. I can feel several of the church social ladies staring at me. Maureen and Bernadette are whispering. It’s plain rudeness.
When I eventually get home, her from across the way comes over shouting the odds, looking for her wind chimes. I tell her I don’t have them. I don’t. They’re on her roof, where I threw them. I think she’s some kind of new age hippy, but she certainly doesn’t seem very peaceful. She is some piece of work, coming over here, making nasty insinuations. I wouldn’t put it past her to be doing black magic over there, I really wouldn’t.
Number 35 has even more milk outside her door now. There’s no excuse for it. This is a nice neighbourhood, and some people are just dragging it down.
I’m a bit surprised Brenda hasn’t rung this evening, what with her telly being bust. You would think she’d want the company.
CATBIN FEVER OUT NOW
‘I have momentary aberrations. We all do.’
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