My word, you do look queer!

My father loved Stanley Holloway’s monologues, and would recite ‘The Lion And Albert’ at the drop of a hat:

Then Mother said, “Right’s right, young feller;
I think it’s a shame and a sin
For a lion to go and eat Albert
And after we’ve paid to come in!” 

The one I was reminded of today is of a man who thinks he is feeling better after an illness, only to be told by everyone he happens to bump into how very, very bad he looks.

I’ve been very poorly but now I feel prime,
I’ve been out today for the very first time.
I felt like a lad as I walked down the road,
Then I met Old Jones and he said, ‘Well I’m blowed!’
My word, you do look queer!
My word, you do look queer!

Sadly, the meanings of some words do change over time.

Well, I celebrated the 1st of October in style by indulging in one of my quarterly (ish) hospital check-ups, audits or assessments – they call them something different each time. Friends and relations have a nasty habit of sending me good luck texts in advance of these, or putting on that sad, sympathetic face.

‘You’ll be so worried, but I’m sure it will turn out OK’.

‘Don’t let the nerves get to you. Think of something nice while you’re waiting.’

‘I’m keeping my fingers crossed.’

‘Thinking of you… xxx xxx’

By the time you’ve received a whole lot of these anxious, condolence-type good wishes you do begin to wonder if they all know something you don’t. Should you be more worried? Maybe you should be chewing your fingernails or tearing your hair out in little clumps?

Actually, I don’t worry so much about the appointments. The initial diagnostic sequence of events was a bit of a shock to the system, but now it’s just wait around for ages then get told a lot of numbers you don’t entirely understand by a dishevelled, distracted young lady who is reading them off a computer screen, generally indicating that not much has changed since last time you met. Then you go home.

Two things really stress me out, the twenty-two mile drive to the hospital through the morning rush hour, and finding the one remaining space in the hospital car park. I set off at seven this morning for a nine-thirty appointment, having been up since three-thirty feeding and mucking out the cats. Nose to tail traffic. Headlights, more headlights. Rain on the windscreen. Listening to local radio as I drive. The helicopter has spotted long, long queues on the very road I am on, and have no option to get off. By the time I get there my hands are stiff from gripping the steering wheel in fierce concentration. My eyes are beginning to hurt. Since I gave up the TV I haven’t needed to wear my glasses, except for driving.

The reason I opt for the earliest possible appointment is to stand a chance of finding that elusive space. The hospital is huge, reached only via a maze of tiny street lined with pigging little sooty-looking houses, like something out of Dickens. There is nowhere to park in these pigging little streets and indeed every one of them for miles around is double yellow lined, just in case you might be tempted to try. Even early in the morning the queue just to get in to the hospital stretches out into these streets. It stretches round the corner and through the traffic lights and back up the preceding road. The lights change, but nothing can actually move, because of that queue.

And once inside the gates there is another queue, to get to the car park barriers. Above one’s head giant red signs inform you how many spaces there are, theoretically, remaining. These signs bear no relation to the actual number of spaces.

You have to draw up next to the barrier, wind down your window and press a button hoping that a ticket will, eventually, slide out and the In barrier go up. Sometimes it doesn’t slide out. You can be pressing that button every few seconds for five minutes or so. No ticket. This is because the machine believes there are No Spaces Left. Effectively, you are waiting for one person to come out the hospital, amble to their car and leave.

Then suddenly you get your ticket, which you have to grasp between your teeth whilst accelerating madly and fumbling with the button to wind up the window at the same time. If you’re too slow the ghastly yellow thing might come crashing down again – chop the car in half. Or maybe you.

And then when you get in there are no actual spaces only theoretical spaces and cars circling, and circling. And once in it’s like the Hotel California – even if there is no space, you can’t leave. Not without having spent several hours in the hospital first, and then inserting your little cardboard card in another machine, which will not, of course, pay any attention to your bank card when you attempt to ‘contactless’ it…

No, the appointment is the least of my worries.

My uncle took the message and he wrote it on the wall

Canadian sister phones. I thought maybe once her husband had died she would stop phoning me, that I would be cast aside like some moth-eaten fur coat etc etc. This has not happened – just now she phones me at all odd times. Before she could only phone me when he was asleep. And then he would wake up. Always. I could hear the creaking of the bedroom door upstairs in their house, right across the Atlantic. Sometimes I heard it before she heard it. I could hear the change in her tone of voice. The worried note creeping in, the sudden summing up, the hasty goodbye.

She is all at sea without him, and yet, I note, she is surviving. She says she has just spent the two longest evenings of her life, alone in the house. ‘What do single people do in the evenings?’ she asks me. ‘Well, I say, hobbies tend to expand to fill the time available for doing them…’ I am aware that I am paraphrasing someone. ‘What did you do of an evening when he was still alive, and well?’

‘Mostly he was outside in his workshop. If he came inside I might knit while he watched TV.’

I resist saying that this seems to me as much like being alone as being alone. I remember when I was married, all those years ago. Being always alone, even when not.

‘You can call me any time,’ I say. ‘After all, nobody else does. I mean, it’s not like you’re interrupting a huge queue of my fans, all eagerly trying to contact me…’

‘Nobody?’

She sounds shocked. I would have lied, if necessary. I would have told her the above story so that she didn’t feel she was being in any way a nuisance phoning me at all hours, because at the moment I am one of her few fixed points in a radically shifting universe. I am good at making up tales on the spur of the moment. Sometimes I don’t realise they’re tales, till after.

And sometimes I don’t realise they’re true, till after.

So, today I have had a very stressful day. Stress exhausts me, so I tend only ever to schedule one stressful or unpleasant event per day, but today I thought, why not get them all over with at once, for once? So I set off, early, stopping off at the post office in the next village to post Canadian Sister a belated birthday present. Two books. The cost of the airmail is greater than the combined cost of the books. But that was OK, and I managed to get myself out of the tiny car park, with the parking spaces all at the wrong angles.

I went on to the Tip, in Town. I managed to get my car in and not have to sit drumming my fingers on the dash for three-quarters of an hour down the stinky alleyway that leads to it. I managed to heave out the six monstrously heavy black sacks full of used cat litter, pretending to be innocent household waste. I managed to lug four of them, one at a time, up the slippery metal steps to the skip and, with a muscle-wrenching effort, heave them over the rim of the skip. Then – that rare event – one of the men in high-vis yellow came to my rescue, and made off with my two remaining sacks – in the direction of the skip labelled Garden Waste.

‘Did yer want the bags back?’

‘Er, no…’

I knew I should have yelled after him, ‘Excuse me, my man, but I believe you may be under a misapprehension. That is in fact Non-Recyclable Household Waste’ (cat poo).

But I didn’t. I reversed, rather smartly, and exited.

And then I did a rather long and illogical detour to the petrol station, where an elderly idiot with a white moustache rather like the current transient US Secretary of State’s, nearly took my wing-mirror off in his selfish efforts not to let me get to the pump I needed, which was not the same pump he needed.

Ah, I thought, things are reverting to the usual dire pattern. I swore voluminously at him, but from inside my car so that he could see perfectly well that I was swearing voluminously, but we could both, upon exiting our cars, pretend it wasn’t aimed at him.

And then I drove over to visit my mother in the Home. This was number four (?) of Things I Don’t Want To Do Today But Am Going To Do Anyway. But Mum was asleep, with the curtains drawn. All the other residents were up. She looked dreadfully like a corpse so I tiptoed in and checked that she was still breathing. Then I went and found the Nurse – not in the Nurses Station (that was occupied by Someone Who Didn’t Even Work There) but in a cupboard. He said Mum was OK, but had been left to sleep in after one of her night-time rampages. I have never seen one of these rampages, and find them difficult to imagine, but apparently she shouts at other residents, and they shout back. She was never like this. Anything not to draw attention to herself, to stay in the background.

When I get home the Nurse will phone me again to say that after I left she wrestled another resident to the ground (where she happened to be lying) and was having a fight with them.

‘I wonder,’ I said, if it’s all the things they suppress during their lifetimes, when they are them, that suddenly start escaping when this happens?

The Nurse did not seem all that interested in my intellectual speculations.

After the Home I drove down to Ashford, thinking to stock up on black bin sacks in my favourite former supermarket, then drive home. Gridlocked.  When I finally inched my way there – instantly to be blocked in by a giant black-windowed vehicle that was going to make reversing out a nightmare – the woman behind the till tried to explain what was causing the gridlock. It’s the closure of the A2070 she said. I could not remember which of the many road around Ashford the A2070 was and hence, when trying to escape from Ashford some time later, got caught in two further lots of gridlock because I guessed wrong and headed straight for it rather than away from it.

You see that’s the trouble. Road diversions are signposted by men, and usually men who have GPS in their cars. I am a woman, and I do not have GPS. I do not understand Diversion signs and I navigate the sensible way, by Landmarks, not Numbers. If they had put up a sign saying Motorway Junction Absolutely And Completely Closed, well then I wouldn’t have gone that way, would I? I’d have wended my way up the back roads to Smelly Farm Corner and turned right towards The Place Where There Is A Pub I Once Walked Along The Grass Verge To With The Boyfriend With The Pointy Nose. Of course I would have got stuck in another lot of gridlock, but a smaller and more ultimately hopeful lot.

And how are you? my sister asks, eventually. It’s early morning in Alberta. She hasn’t already had a whole day of Utter Ghastliness.

‘Oh… a bit tired, maybe?’

phone tap

Featured Image: London street art by Banksy

 

Les Tricoteuses

Whenever things turn stressful I get the urge to knit. It doesn’t matter what – in fact the simpler the item the better. Mum and Nan were the same. Nan only seemed to stop knitting in order to peel potatoes or mop the lino, and Mum knitted so many blankets made of multi-coloured six inch squares that she ended up trying to give one away to Oxfam. But in spite of its being a particularly splendid one, and in spite of the fact that they had always advertised for blankets made of squares, Oxfam refused it. According to the woman in the shop there had been a change of policy – home-made blankets tended to be of non-standard size and didn’t stack economically in their transportation trucks. She didn’t even smile.

Mum went on knitting, year after year, stacking the useless things in a cupboard. She had given up all pretence of their being replacements for blankets that were wearing out. Woolly blankets never seem to wear out; they just stretch to twice their original length and get bobbly.

I knit in times of stress but I never end up wearing anything I knit – partly because I don’t like the look of it and partly because wool’s far too itchy. I make squares too, but tend to sew them into smaller blankets. The cats appreciate them more than Oxfam did. Every now and then I make one of those little tee-shaped stripy jumpers from the Oxfam pattern, for children in war-torn areas. Basically, you don’t need a pattern for those – you could just make them up.

Presumably knitting is a form of displacement activity. Those painting of Madame Guillotine during the French Revolution…those ladies sitting beneath with clay pipes clenched between rotten teeth, and clackety tricot needles, were maybe not so much heartless as deeply traumatised as the severed heads rolled one by one into the baskets.

knitting guillotine

Technically – she writes, as if she knew as much before she looked it up – displacement behaviour is a behaviour that appears odd/out of context. It usually happens when there is a conflict between excitement/agitation and frustration. A dog meets a high fence, say. He desperately wants to be on the other side of the fence but the fence is too high to jump. Naturally, then, he sits down and scratches his ear or bites the dog next to him. Displacement behaviour is often related to comforting activities, like grooming, scratching, drinking or eating. So, human beings scratch their heads when perplexed and a pair of fighting birds might stop and peck at the ground.

I suppose the classic would be rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic. Did anybody actually do that, I wonder? Was it in the film? I never saw the film. I suppose deckchair-rearranging would only be a displacement activity if you knew the ship had just hit an iceberg. If you were merely up on deck for a little stroll on a bracing afternoon and thought – those deckchairs would be so much better disposed thus – well that would make you a sad, and possibly an obsessive, person but not necessarily one engaged in displacement activity.

I also sharpen pencils; in times of great distress I have been known to sharpen whole boxes of blunt pencils, until my fingers are squashed into strange shapes at the ends, and black with graphite, and the sharpener’s running hot. Or I sit down and write a post for this blog, though it will rarely be about the thing that’s worrying me. That’s likely to come later: emotion recollected in tranquillity as Wordsworth put it. It’s a help to be absorbed in pushing words around for a couple of hours.

Ex was the only person I ever met who dealt with stress by keeping utterly still. Most of the time he would be rushing hither and thither, obsessed by what he was doing, frowning over his easel or his lathe, or his workbench – painting stuff or making stuff. At rare intervals, however, he would take what he referred to as a Lying Fallow Day. This seemed to mean slumping half on and half off of the living-room sofa, his long legs jack-knifed into an inverted V. There he would remain all day staring out of the window at the rose bushes and occasionally farting. It was as if he had deactivated himself.

squares

 

There’s a Moose Loose Aboot This Hoose

Now this is the scary bit. I’ve just watched a bit of Loose Women – an annoying programme for Ladies featuring a selection of twittering Lady presenters with nothing better to do – hugely outclassed and overshadowed by the erudite Janet Street-Porter. Anyway, on this particular bit-of-a-programme the question was: Do you believe in an afterlife?  Janet Street-Porter, surprisingly, did, and explained why. That blonde woman who writes ghost-written romances and used to be married to Peter André appeared not to believe because… I mean, if you die and go to heaven, where can you go? Where is it? I mean, it’s not up there, is it? ‘Cos up there’s the sky.’

Anyway, they showed this film of a boy’s Wake in  the Philippines … well, lets see if I can find it…

[video since removed from YouTube by user]

Well, I had just been watching that and you just wonder – why wasn’t anyone else giving her a hug at this point? Are they all just sitting around filming her and watching her cry? And whether or not the balloon is her dead little boy come back to give her one last cuddle you have to hope, don’t you?

So I suppose I was already in a frame of mind to be spooked, because I looked down and there was Rufus the Younger looking up at me with a dead mouse in his mouth. Not a stuffed mouse – a real mouse. But dead. Which shouldn’t be. Because my cats are indoor cats. They have to be, because the neighbours are prone – or at any rate rumoured, which is enough – to murdering inconvenient cats and depositing them in wheelie bins for the bin-men to take away. I’ve been here around five years and no cat has ever caught a mouse inside my house. There appear to be no mouse holes, and if there is one that has escaped my attention in five or more years, why didn’t I notice all thirteen cats glued to it? No red-blooded cat is going to ignore a hole in the skirting board, not for a second.

I ran through all the possibilities.

Eight of the thirteen had had to be taken to the vets last week to get their injections (for going into a cattery on moving day). Could a mouse somehow have snuck into one of the pet-carriers, journeyed home with the cat (the equivalent of being sealed into the labyrinth with the Minotaur), jumped out once indoors and hidden all this time undetected by thirteen cats?

And yesterday… yesterday I had to go out in the garage. My landline is playing up and I was on my mobile to some boy in a call centre in Scotland. He was insisting on doing tests, over the phone. He told me to find my old handset and an old set of splitters. No hurry, he had all day, he said. Mind how you go there, dearie, don’t fall over anything… I was getting increasingly frantic and irritable. I had found the old handset (not in the garage after all) but no splitters. I had made several trips out into the garage, in the gloaming (as they say in Scotland). There is no light in the garage so I was bumping around among cardboard boxes (neatly stacked to impress male house-viewers) trying to find by touch a set of splitters. Then I remembered putting them out for the ‘small electricals’ collection last week.

So, a lot of stress, no splitters, no further testing possible, landline still up the spout, calls diverted to my mobile indefinitely, £10 on Amazon to order a new, unnecessary set… not a good day yesterday. But could I have brought a mouse in in my frantic searching of the garage in the semi-darkness? Could it somehow have hitched a ride in my pocket? Poor mousie. What a mistake!

I never kill anything, and I’m not afraid of mice. If I’d found one attached to the leg of my jeans or poking out of my pocket I’d have saved it. I’d have fought off flesh-hungry cats till Kingdom Come. But…

how did that mouse get into my house? Suggestions on a postcard, please.

 

Anna Maria’s film – so very bad it’s almost very good, if you know what I mean. Should point out – as she does, that though Anna’s video features her stuffed moose, Zeus (naturally) moose in ‘Scottish’ actually means mouse. The song Hoots Mon, There’s a Moose Loose Aboot this Hoose is by Lord Rockingham’s XI (1958).

Life is what happens while you’re busy making other plans

I had a whole post written in my head last night. Then I fell asleep. Then I woke up. Then distractions started happening.

Woken to the sound of an empty wine bottle shattering in the kitchen. That was the cats. Broken glass, right to the furthest corner. It was the wine bottle I’d been saving for the Open House. The idea was to re-fill it with tap-water (I mean, who’s to know, inside green glass?) and leave it hanging about casually on the worktop like a kind of lifestyle statement. You too could afford bottles of wine, fine cuisine in this kitchen… sunlit interludes on the patio…

Then Little Arf peeing on my hot water bottle. No point in moving a tomcat once he starts peeing – it only makes the situation worse. You just have to reach for the kitchen roll and wait. And wait. And wait. How can one cat even contain that much liquid?

Then an unintelligible answerphone message from Social Services about some appalling Summit Meeting at Council Headquarters re my mother. This will probably be the one where we have to make a The Decision on her behalf about residential care. She is threatening to run away and drown herself rather than go into a home.

Time wasted trying to find out who had called and why then sitting in several long queues with chill-out music being played at me, before being put through to the wrong person. The right person still hasn’t called me back.

An email from my sister telling me she was into the second day of her almost-weekly migraine, and that the mystery meeting was on Friday morning. So the call-back isn’t that important. Printing off a street-map of that town and working out how to get to a distant and unfamiliar building for 10 a.m using a mix of car, train and shanks’ pony.

A phone call to my phone/broadband provider asking them to reinstate now the free answerphone service they had mistakenly disconnected two days ago and promised to reinstate. More sighing and chill-out music.

Then a silly letter from my bank saying they had been unable to action cancellation of two direct debits because they had been unable to locate one of them.

Then a brief trip to the farm shop to buy vegetables. I’ve got to the stage where I dread leaving the house, especially in winter. The temperature’s dropping and in the borders of Scotland (according to the young man at the phone/ broadband call centre) snow is already falling. Going outside the house nowadays is like venturing into an alien spaceship and, when you take off your helmet, not being quite sure the air will be breathable.

I went all the same, because I don’t want to be dealing with agoraphobia on top of everything else, and I’ve decided to live on hotpot from now on. Healthier than porridge and toast. The staff were standing around in wellies and green fleeces, trying to warm their hands on giant mugs of coffee. Not many customers.

One vegetarian hotpot lasts three days. You eat one portion and put the other two in dishes with saucers over the top, in the fridge (saves on Clingfilm). The other two portions, you microwave. No two hotpots are the same, because you can put almost anything in. Vegetables – plus whatever you happen to have left in the cupboard. I even tried brussels sprouts once. That didn’t work. £3 something for vegetables + 3 store cupboard tins = 3 days’ food.

Stopped off at the village shop for tinned soup and a newspaper (in case there were any jobs – there weren’t). The shop seem to have been taken over by another Indian family. Everything’s been moved about on the shelves. Took ages to find the soup. Was served by a man with a single, disastrous, long tooth on the left-hand side of his mouth. No other visible teeth. Surely – surely – false teeth or no teeth at all would be better than that old brown snaggle, that fang

Then Stargate Universe – annoyingly rescheduled from 8pm to 11am weekdays, interrupted by quarrelling cats, purring cats, yoghurt, coffee, washing up – you name it.

Then a call to the estate agent to find out if anyone was interested in my house, at all. Got the girl in the office, who was reassuring in a Calm Down, Dear sort of way.

This was the day I was going to go out for a healthy walk and do some research and make a plan for some sort of e-book. Some sort of money-generating e-book. Fat chance, of course, but that was the plan, in the absence 0f any other ideas.

And now it’s 20 to 2…

 

Of Shoes and Ships and Sealing Wax, of Cabbages and Kings

Well, I’ve had a long and stressful day, made even longer and more stressful by a couple of new telephone handsets in need of charging. Charge handsets for 24 hours before using I can understand. But why are the damn things ringing me every five minutes telling me they are out of range and to check their cables? Out of range of what? And what cables? The phone socket cable? But I’m not supposed to plug you in yet – am I? I mean, you’re charging for 24 hours…

On a good day, I can think my way around a new piece of equipment or think my way through a computer problem. But not all days are good days. This is not a good day. I’m tired. If only they’d stop ringing me up!!! I’m only following BT’s instructions. I shall ignore them. I shall hide them under the laundry basket where, hopefully, no cat will be inspired to pee at them. They peed at the old phone. Hence the new phones.

Cats have been violently sick precisely in the middle of no less two 2016 diaries so far. I just bought a third. My cats never throw up at random: they carefully select either the item I am using most at the moment or the one that will be most fiddly to fix. I’ve just been re-entering birthdays, house viewings, dental appointments, Indian meals…

Anyway… in the middle of the day I met my friends for coffee, which doesn’t happen very often. And we sat in our usual café surrounded by the usual blend of high-pitch, high volume children and solitary old duffers with cloth caps, cups of tea and currant buns. Presumably my friends and I are also in the process of transmogrifying into solitary old duffers. But we’re not there yet.

So we chatted, of shoes and ships and sealing wax and so on and so forth. It’s good to have the sort of conversation, where afterwards you can’t remember much of what was said. Two hours disappear before you know it. Because of course, if you’re bored the exact opposite happens. You find yourself looking at the clock and doing the ‘minus’ thing. As at work. Five o’clock minus four hours, twenty five minutes and forty seconds… Five o’clock minus four hours, forty six minutes and seven seconds…

I know we talked about Magnetic Bottoms. Initially in connection with ovens, ceramic hobs and the workings thereof. But broadening out into speculations as to how Magnetic Bottoms might work if humans were equipped with them. If Bottoms were of opposing poles, for example, strangers would find themselves fastened back to back. Bottoms of like poles would be equally disadvantageous as their owners would find themselves repelled in opposite directions.

This would make travelling on the Underground difficult.

 

My house puts on her Pretty Party Frock

What is that J-cloth doing in the corner of the bath?” I am getting upset over cleaning the bath. It’s at times like this that I realise just how akin to Sheldon Cooper I am. I could be Sheldon Cooper’s granny.

The man is coming to take the photos today – the ones to be uploaded to “a comprehensive range of property portals” along with a fulsome description of the Idyllic (or Eyedilic, as property guru Phil Spencer insists on saying) lifestyle I have enjoyed since moving here, and with what reluctance I will be Moving On To Pastures New. Sunset strolls along the beach with pooch, sharing a glass of wine on a sunlit evening patio and so forth. “You blog?” he said. “Well, could you manage 90 words on your Idyllic Lifestyle? It takes me hours to cook up one of those for the brochure. Better in your own words. People begin to recognise my style.” So I have cooked him up – 357 words, actually. He can précis it down himself.

But today – today a man is coming to take the photographs. In an hour and 15 minutes, to be precise. Except he probably won’t be because estate agents are endlessly late.

The Pretty Party Frock thing. That came from my old headmistress. She would lecture us in Assembly as to the Correct Denier of Stocking to be Worn. Which was 60 Denier Sun Mist, with seams. An uglier and less erotic Stocking could not have been invented than 60 Denier Sun Mist. Thick enough to disguise the un-depilated limb, for sure, but a shade of brown-orange such as no female leg ever was. “30 Denier Seamless Stockings are fine for Evening Wear, Gels. With your Pretty Party Frocks.” Velvet hot-pants were in fashion at the time.

And today, My Colleague Nigel, whoever he is, is coming to Take the Photos. This is where the tables are turned. You see, I quite enjoy browsing through photos on property portals. Some houses are so sparkly and wonderful, it’s depressing. Are they really living, from day to day, in that spotless magnolia box? Do they not have cats that vomit on the carpet just before visitors arrive, or leave smeary pawmarks on the windows? Do they never have damp bath-towels in their bathroom? Does their bed really have fifteen giant cushions in toning shades of fuchsia arranged upon it, geometrically? Where do they put all those cushions before go to bed? Or do they not go to bed in that bed? Maybe they sleep on lilos in the living room, and deflate them at dawn. That way, no unseemly rumpling.

And then you get the others. The ones with fifteen cans of lager on the draining board and wasps everywhere. Every room overflows with uncollected laundry. There are cigarette packets and what may be some sort of apparatus for drug-consumption on the coffee table. The TV is still on. The curtains are still closed. How could you do that? I wonder. How could you allow the Whole Universe to see that you live like a Pig in Poop?

So today is the day I get my come-uppance. Today is the day that my shabby, sad little house has to put on her Party Frock and pretend to be an Ideal Home. Today is the day I could, if not very careful, get found out.

You have to get up at dawn. You have to cover up ugly stuff if you can’t get rid of altogether. It really does come down – as time gets short – to throwing stuff in cupboards. I remind myself that it doesn’t matter whether clutter is stored logically – it just has to be out of sight for half an hour. This goes against all my neurotic, Cooperish instincts. Stuff must either be in plain sight or stored in the logical place – so that I can find it again. If I can’t remember where it is I need to be able to work it out. If my ancient dressing gown, say, or those five hundred bottles of shower gel accumulated from Christmases past, are under the bed, or in the brown wheelie bin out in the back garden (no – that’s where the cats’ play-tunnels are, together with a lot of decomposed brambles) and the peg-bag is under the sink where no peg-bag ought to be – it’s gone for ever.

Oh, stress, stress, stress, stress, stress! I’m so longing for the moment where My Colleague Nigel, with his digital camera and his black plastic clipboard, is waving a cheery goodbye. Slippers on, make self a coffee and sandwich. Unwind. Only three Open Houses and an Opening of Sealed Bids, whatever that involves, to go.