Mad Dogs and Englishwomen

It’s so hot here at the moment, it’s…

Outside my gate I bump into the woman next door. She is gazing down my driveway at the side of her garage which now has obscene, fungus-like, coffee-coloured excrescences growing from it. Oh my God, she says. Look what he’s done. Her Significant Other was attempting to fill the gaps in the corrugated iron roof of her garage yesterday, with that stuff they fill houses with. I could hear him cough, cough, coughing. This morning I sneaked out and tried to pick some of the solidified fungus globules off my driveway. I felt that I might have wandered into an old episode of Doctor Who.

I’ll have to come round some time and tidy that up, she says. She won’t.

Maybe it’ll weather, I say. It won’t.

Yes, she says. In the winter it might go a bit black. Thank you for taking in the new phone for me, by the way.  It wasn’t supposed to be here till lunchtime. Thought I’d got time to go out and come back. I dropped my other one in the sea.

Phones seem to be attracted to water, I say. They don’t, but it’s something to say.

I walk up the hill to post some letters. Up at the post box I bump into She-of-the-illegal-Scotsman, except the Scotsman isn’t with her – he’s out selling solar panels – Big Puppy is. Big Puppy’s stubby black and grey-speckled fur glistens in the heat. She mists him with water every few minutes from one of those plant-spray bottles.

Well, he will insist on going out at the same time every day. Big Puppy’s tongue lolls out as he stands by the post-box in full one o’clock sun and I find myself singing (not aloud, of course) Mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun… Even got the Noel Coward intonations.

‘Ow did the caring job go?

It didn’t… really.

Nah, she says, didn’t think it would. You need to be a Certain Type and you’re not. Used to do The Dying, myself. It wasn’t at all pretty sometimes but I got on well with The Dying. This I can imagine.

I used to say to her You can have as much hot chocolate and digestive biscuits as you like, missus, but only if you start getting your jim-jams on. Moved quick enough after that, she did. Liked them digestives. Well, I better move on. He’s baking up.

I imagine Big Puppy encased in tinfoil and stretched out on a barbecue. Poor Big Puppy. He’s a nice old dog.

Yes, you carry on.

It’s shadier down by the sea.

I drop my letters into the box. I can tell from the sound they make that the box is empty. People round here don’t write that many letters. If it wasn’t for me I expect they’d have rooted up the little post-box long ago and then I’d have had to trudge all the way down to the Shop. It was going rusty when I discovered it. Now they’ve had to repaint it.

Dust has turned my beach shoes brown. The soles are thin for this terrain. I can feel the stones and brickbats of our unmade road through them. Have to pick a careful course.

Post Lady sails down the hill in a Postman Pat van, being driven by a post man. She flashes us a big grin and waves. Post Lady is the only other person round here who knows my name, apart from the immediate neighbours. Gets it off the letters, of course, but it’s nice of her to make the effort. I wonder whereabouts she lives and whether the Post Office drop her off at the bottom of the village first thing in the morning and collect her from its far-flung upper reaches in the early afternoon, and whether she has to wander around in between times with her heavy sack and no refreshments, and always at the back of her mind Will they ever come back for me? But she doesn’t look the type to worry about people ever coming back for her.

That would be me.

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