Lounge Socks, Labradoodles and The Lady Vanishes

It’s funny the roundabout way ideas are born.

As you know, I’m a worrier. The prison warders have returned from France, in the dead of night as always, whispering into the parking space next to mine. They are deadly accurate about this, always: the rear bumper of their vehicle exactly lined up with the little brick tower-thingy that separates their rectangle of manicured front lawn from my anthill-y wasteland.

Immediately I started worrying. After six months without neighbours it’s unnerving suddenly to have them again, to hear them clumping up and down the stairs and creaking in and out of their front door, their TV to be heard through the wall, their labradoodle playing with that ridiculous whistling rubber toy out on the decking again. As I lay my head upon the pillow to sleep I hear a toothbrush clinking into a glass in their bathroom – a sound from before.

They were talking of selling up and moving permanently to their newly-built villa in France. They have been moving furniture and belongings down there in instalments, in the whispering vehicle, which is large, and windowless. If it wasn’t so new and shiny I would suspect it of being a repurposed paddy wagon. Ex and My Replacement had something similar when they moved, except theirs was a repurposed Post Office delivery van, and not shiny.

And I was thinking, what if this is it and they have come back to put their house on the market? What if a For Sale sign is just about to go up? And what if it sells to the Nightmare Neighbour From Hell?

And I mean, I’m bound to get him/them, aren’t I? The man using a chainsaw to do DIY at three in the morning, the teenagers playing heavy metal super-loud all day long, the shrieking woman in the garden, the dumpers of garden waste over the fence, the barking Alsatian, maybe a whole puppy farm…

What shall I do, when that happens? (Note the when, not if.)

It occurred to me that I would have to go out – all day and every day, probably. Either that or maybe I could keep a diary of when it was noisiest and just go out then. When I came back, and if the racket was still going on, I could immediately stuff the MP3 thingies in my ears in the hope of drowning them out with Mozart

And then it occurred to me that, whatever the next-door situation was, I ought to Get Out More. I mean, it’s all very well staying indoors all day, wiggling your toes and admiring your new Lounge Socks with the non-slip little globules on the soles, feeding stale bread to the sparrows or doing load after load of tumble-drying – but is that a life?

It also occurred to me that if I didn’t Go To Places now, when was I going to Go to them? How many years of Go-ability had I got left? I remembered my mother, when she was eighty and just before she started to go wafty, staring down at her wrinkled, liver-spotted hands in puzzlement. How did I get to be eighty? She asked me.

I don’t want to be asking How did I get to be eighty? At least, not till I’ve Got Out More.

So I am making a list of places to Get Out to. For financial and multi-cat reasons they would need to be within a day’s travel, even if a long day, and would have to be worth writing/posting about.

And then it occurred to me, why don’t I start another blog and link it to this one, which I think you can do though I can’t remember how? A blog of my travels – as yet at the highly putative pencil scrawl stage.

Now, what shall I call this hypothetical blog of my putative, pencilled travels?

And before long I was making another list:

La Femme Disparue (oh goodness, not more suspect French )… The Invisible Woman (sounds like something in bandages)… The Lady Vanishes… ?

The lady vanishes

I did try to run away once. I ran away to the Recreation Ground and sat beneath some horse chestnut trees in the rain. From beneath these same chestnut trees, some years later, I was to remove a conker and grow it in a pot for my Brownies gardener’s badge. We measured it with a knitting needle. Basically, I think Mum grew it. I lost interest in things pretty quick.

Anyway, I sat under these horse chestnuts in the rain and a woman came and spoke to me, and then she went away again. And I wondered why Mum hadn’t come looking for me. She must be beside herself by now.

I waited a lot longer. She still didn’t come. It kept on raining. Eventually, being five or six or so, and having no idea what to do next, I went home. There didn’t seem to be much of a reaction one way or another. Didn’t bother to run away again.

Occasionally I have wondered – if I did run away – supposing I’d done something dreadful, or someone had accused me of doing something dreadful although in fact I hadn’t done the dreadful thing – where would I go? Of course, nowadays the disappearing act would have to involve twelve cats. I couldn’t run away and leave them.

I looked up a website – it seems to be full of these really serious men who practice something called prepping. I had been under the impression prepping was for nuclear apocalypse or similar, but these seem to be prepping for all manner of desperate scenarios, including having broken out of prison or having murdered someone, to avoid going into prison.

There’s all sorts of suggestions. I could dye my hair red and shave off my beard, or grow one if I didn’t have one. Both of those are no-no’s. I’m allergic to hair dye and the beard bit, well… testosterone deficit. I could bulk out my face with cotton-wool. Really, it doesn’t need bulking out any more.

(This reminds me of a sales event I perforce attended last Friday during which, as a species of bonding exercise, a man salesperson and a lady salesperson tried to outdo one another in the matter of stuffing their cheeks with marshmallows. The lady salesperson won, if you call looking grotesque and having to vomit soggy marshmallows into a bin sack in front of everyone afterwards winning. The man salesperson didn’t try very hard.)

I should – apparently – ask to stay the night with someone I used to be close to but have rather lost contact with, like an occasional sex partner, who would be unaware of any current… murders or whatever. Close to, Huh! Occasional sex partner, Huh!

One chap was quite specific. He would, he said, travel to Central Bosnia, where he has in-laws. He would go to a place called Gore Turbe, close to Travnik… This is all very well but, didn’t he just tell everyone where to look?

So maybe I ought to keep my secret destination to myself. In any case, it seems to me there’s an easy enough way to be invisible. Travel to a strange town, with your worldly goods in a shopping bag rather than a suitcase. Be over fifty and female. Sit around in a shopping mall or occupy the corner of a park bench. Shuffle anywhere crowded or even anywhere not – down a windswept street, on a station platform – and pause occasionally to shift that heavy bag onto the other shoulder. Sit by the window in a coffee shop, watching the rain and wearing a preoccupied look.

Don’t worry, no one will see you.

passport

NaPoWriMo 8/4/16: In the Memorial Gardens

She was meant to meet him here, once, possibly.

She’s lost his face but recalls that he sang, and was thin.

Such is remembrance, such is memory.

 

Or was it some other garden or century?

Too early for wasps, but the chestnuts are in their green.

She was meant to meet him here, once, possibly.

 

Too early for wasps, too old for virginity.

Soon the paths will be white with feather-down.

Such is remembrance, such is memory.

 

The blackbird prospects for worms with a beady eye.

How pleasant to see, how nice to be or have been.

She was meant to meet him here, once, possibly.

 

A bird in the hand is worth two in the chestnut tree.

How odd to be old when you feel like seventeen.

Such is remembrance, such is memory.

 

A sparrow that feeds from your hand can be company,

And many’s the song to be heard from singers unseen.

She was meant to meet him here, once, possibly.

Such is remembrance, such is memory.

 

Mutton dressed up as lamb

Time and again the ash-blonde woman wandered

Along the gangway to the duty-free,

Cigarette poised just so, her sway exactly

Matching the salty swagger of the sea.

 

Mutton dressed up as lamb, my mother whispered,

And when she turned I saw that it was so;

Beneath the makeup and the white-gold halo

The face was bony, skin pulled tight and dry.

 

Funny how you always seem to notice

The same ones coming back as going there.

She’d found herself a friend, some sort of salesman,

With braces, rolled up sleeves and slicked-back hair.

 

She cried as though the very world was ending

(She would be drunk, of course, they always are)

The man in braces all the while pretending

He wasn’t with her. Later, though, I wondered

 

How it comes to be, that a woman of a certain age

And uncertain pedigree

Should howl like a dog in a very public place

While friends and strangers

Simply turn away.

 

nuance