Pillow Talk

Someone wished me a ‘happy New Year’ yesterday. I think they may have missed the cut-off point for this.

It’s a terribly British problem but when exactly is it socially appropriate to stop saying ‘happy New Year!’? It feels like we’ve been shrouded in grey skies, beset by biting winds and plagued by slippery pavements for weeks.

Aside from sodden Uggs (aka Sluggs), January’s biggest fashion problem is Hat Hair. Hat Hair occurs when you leave the house wearing an on-trend woollen hat, only to arrive at your destination, remove said hat – and then realise that your hair is plastered to your head and flatter than a pancake.

As I type, I’m currently battling the dilemma of whether to remove my hat and expose the inevitable Hat Hair or keep it safely hiding my flattened tresses. Outside, this bushy beast passed for something relatively fashionable; now that I’m wearing it indoors – sans coat – it looks like a giant toilet brush.

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It’s so cold that I’ve become obsessed with ridiculously hot baths. It’s not even that our apartment, aka the Holiday Home, is even that cold (the heating’s been on for four years because the husband and I never did work out how to turn it off); I’ve just got The Perma-Chill Within. I literally cannot function at home without clambering straight into a scalding bath to warm my cold bones.

But the ultimate weapon against The Perma-Chill Within is the hot water bottle. Anyone who doesn’t use the trusty bottie is seriously missing a trick.

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Simply fill it up from the kettle (ignore the naysayers who warn against this), pop it under the duvet and it will heat the bed all night (White Company cashmere cover optional). I’ve even been known to leave the house with one strapped to my back. I’m now just  one step away from the ultimate statement of slobbiness: the slanket.

In other mundane/ inane news, my cleaner (she of the bizarre presents; details here) has finally returned from her extended break in Poland. Thank the Lord. (Yes, I have a cleaner. I’m far too important educating the next generation to iron my own smalls).

However, I fear she might have taken leave of her senses. Evidence as follows…

ME: Hi! Bit of a strange question but do you know what you did with the pillowcases that were on our bed? I wanted to wash them but I can find only the sheets…

CLEANER: So sorry Katy! I will ask my friend. She clean the bed today. She not answer her mobile. Oh I am so very sorry about this. I don’t check her today very carefully.

ME: Don’t worry. I’m sure they’ll turn up!

CLEANER: She still not answer her phone. I can come and sort this out now because I don’t feel so good about this.

ME: It’s fine. I was just a bit puzzled. Please don’t worry.

CLEANER: I come to house now to sort this out.

ME: There’s no need to do that. It’s fine!

CLEANER: I am so sorry! Maybe she put the left this cases on the pillow and she put new cases on top?

ME: Hi! You’re right – she has. I’ve found them!

CLEANER: Oh my good! I am so very sorry. Next time I do the beds. So so sorry Katy!!! I am really sorry!

ME: Please don’t worry. Have a great weekend.

CLEANER: Thank you. I am one more time SO SO SORRY!!!!

Reading these messages, you probably now think that I keep the kowtowing cleaner locked in a cupboard and occasionally beat her with a mop.

But honestly I couldn’t be a better employer: I always make sure I’m out when she comes, eat and drink her strange Polish gifts out of guilt, and have given her jobs with at least eight other friends. I even clean up for the cleaner. Who does that?

Following The Curious Incident of the Vanishing Pillowcases, by way of apology she presented me with a fine bottle of… Zubrowka Bison Grass.

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I’m not sure exactly what it is but I can only assume from the picture that it’s a highly potent Polish vodka, mixing the blood of a bull with the semen of an ox.

Thank God for Dry January.

In Da Club

Playground of the rich, metropolis of the future, and home – it seems – to half the population of Essex… Welcome to Dubai.

Where there’s sun and money, the C-list schlebs will follow. Fame-hungry Abbey Clancy’s on the beach over yonder straddling a camel and posing for the paps, and pearly-toothed Mark Wright (whoever he is) is busy filling his boots at the free hotel buffet.

Basically, our hotel has become the setting for an entire episode of TOWIE.

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Getting some winter sun comes at a high price. Surrounded by cranes, skyscrapers and garish opulence, the husband put it like this: ‘It’s basically Disneyland in the desert. But instead of Mickey Mouse on the prowl you’ve got fake sheikhs on the take.’

Seriously though, we are very happy here sipping ruinously-expensive cocktails, lapping up the rays and reading our books, save for an annoying man next to us whose mobile appears to be surgically attached to his ear. His latest call was to Carl Cox.

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‘Alright Coxy,’ he bleated in a Jonathan Ross voice. I was surprised he could speak at all given the mouthfuls of food he was shovelling in in a most slovenly manner. (Seriously, eating lunch on your sunbed – is there no decorum left?) ‘I’ve told them it’s £150,000 for a four-hour set. They’re getting back to me.’

Hot on the heels of bumping into some parents from school (‘What are the chances?’), the husband then decided that there might be someone he knows reclining on the sun lounger behind us.

‘Take a long look at him and report back,’ said the husband, in hushed tones.

‘Thinning grey hair, rather challenged around the waistline, looks just like the old dude off Ray Donovan,’ I said, covertly peering from behind my shades.

‘Thats him!’ said the husband. ‘Let’s hide.’

There’s been a lot of talk from the husband of what to do on New Year’s Eve.

If it was up to me, I’d be tucked up watching the final episode of Homeland in my new cashmere bed socks, perhaps taking an occasional glance at the fireworks through the window.

This option, however, has been vetoed by the husband, who appears to have succumbed to the age-old pressure of What To Do On New Year’s Eve.

This might mean we are forced to spend an obscene amount of money on a set menu in one of Dubai’s fine eateries. Naturally, I’m doing everything in my power to stop this.

Our hotel, which lurks in the shadow of the Dubai Mall – a great sprawling behemoth of consumerism – has published a handy guide on what to do for New Year’s Eve.

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Every restaurant in the vicinity has a minimum entry fee and, worse still, you have to be there by 4pm at the latest! That’s eight hours of wining and dining before the chords of Auld Lang Syne even strike up. I was having palpatations just thinking about it.

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I idly flicked through the booklet. Carluccios had a set menu for AED 625 (about £125), TGI Fridays were charging a staggering £300, Fortnum and Mason were a snip at around £200, and Starbucks were charging £100.

Wait… Starbucks?! Home to overpriced wishy-washy coffee. What could possibly be on this £100 set menu? Stale blueberry muffin for starters, anaemic mozzarella panini for the main, and one of those sickly caramel waffles for dessert – all washed down with a tepid milky latte?

Luckily, fate has intervened… in the form of The Club. The Club is a newly-discovered lounge in our hotel which serves up FREE afternoon tea, FREE snacks 24-7, and FREE food and drinks by night.

Note the emphasis on free. In a city where you have to sell a kidney to buy a gin and tonic, this is quite remarkable.

The husband and I made our first trip to The Club last night and enjoyed champagne cocktails and chilled glasses of Sauvignon – all on the house.

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All around us people were hungrily slurping their free drinks and tucking into the rather sizeable buffet. A man in scruffy tracksuit bottoms and a t-shirt shuffled past, plate piled high.

‘Look at that,’ I whispered. ‘These people aren’t even bothering to change out of their slobs. They’re just here for the free food and drink!’

‘That’s Mark Wright from TOWIE,’ said the husband, who to my knowledge has never watched an episode of reality TV in his life.

‘He’s really big news’.

As if on cue, a gaggle of tipsy women raised their Cosmpolitons and chorused, ‘Hi Mark’ in unison as he passed.

‘Never heard of him,’ I said.

‘Here’s the plan,’ I told the sceptical husband. ‘We come to The Club for New Year’s Eve. We’ll gorge on the buffet, quaff the champers and watch the fireworks from the balcony. And best of all, it won’t cost us a penny!’

‘There’s just one problem,’ said the husband.

‘I’ve already booked Starbucks.’

Trunky Want A Bun?

A peculiar email from our old nosy neighbours snooping Susan and deflated Dick landed in my inbox today.

Our favourite curtain twitchers (details here) may have moved out six months ago but it’s reassuring/ slightly frightening to know that they’re still keeping tabs on the comings and goings of our apartment block – from their new abode several miles away!

Hi Katy,

Thought I would send best wishes for 2015, particularly for happy relationships with your neighbours.

I had a brief phone conversation with Bea (Apt 2) recently, who told me about the party in our old apartment: held by son of new owners, with police being called, she thought. She also thought the police had been back looking for the previous woman tenant of no. 4, but she was a bit vague about it.

Here in new apartment: all quiet, reliable and pleasant neighbours, all owner-occupiers with one exception – and that tenant sleeps here during the week only, and we have never seen him since our arrival in July!

Best wishes,

Susan and Dick

I re-read the email and am still completely baffled as to its purpose.

Is it that they merely want to boast about the serenity of their new domicile?

Do they want me to tell them how hellish it is living here, in order to justify their move?

Or are they simply hoping I will provide them with insider information about their erstwhile neighbours – to feed their insatiable appetite for gossip?

Answers on a postcard please…

* Trunky want a bun? – possibly my favourite-ever phrase to describe a nosy person (trunky being an elephant sniffing out a bun).

Getting Shady With The Ladies

It’s Saturday morning and the perfect chance to catch up with Peter, my weepy 70-year-old coffee shop pal who’s looking for love.

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Peter’s love life is now so complicated that even I’m struggling to keep up. Despite claiming to be a one-woman man (he was devoted to beloved Brenda for 50 years), he seems to have at least five women now on the go. That’s a lot of irons in the fire.

Here’s our Graham with a quick reminder: there’s ‘Gates’ – a woman who lives near by (who opens her gates as a signal that he’s allowed in for a bottle of Lidl Prosecco), there’s a nurse he’s got his eye on in Nero (she has nice legs, old Pete doesn’t miss a trick), a council woman he tried to ask out but rebuffed him (he won’t ask again!); another widower with an interest in ballroom dancing (‘work in progress’).

But the woman who has really stolen his heart is a local business woman, who is so affectionate she practically ‘mauls’ him. Problem is, this business woman already has a partner. Peter’s head tells him to ‘get out now’, but his heart’s telling him otherwise.

I’m worried this won’t end well for emotionally-fragile Pete.

To further complicate matters, it turns out Peter has a love rival: Shady Kevin. Shady Kevin is another fixture on the Nero scene: a perma-tanned, grizzle-haired property developer with an eye for the ladies. He might be generously described as a silver fox but I think he looks shifty – and Peter agrees.

‘I may be in the kindergarten when it comes to women but when it comes to men I’m all there,’ said Peter. ‘There’s a saying we had in the car business: ‘no-one can lift my leg’.

‘I don’t trust Shady Kevin one bit. He sits in the corner watching my every move.’

‘If he was a horse, I wouldn’t ride him and if he was a dog, I’d have him muzzled!’

Malcolm, on the other hand, seems to be getting a bit bothersome in his old age. A hand-written letter arrived from him at my workplace, thanking me for the olive oil I bought him in Mallorca back in August. I’m a little alarmed by this, as I don’t recall telling him where I worked.

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Luckily, the heat’s off because Peter tells me that Malcolm’s developed a small fixation with a woman called Bridget (stern-looking school m’am with bobbed hair; takes no prisoners). However, Bridget has a crush on ‘Colin Firth’ (a married father-of-two with Hollywood looks, who makes her heart ‘beat furiously’). Introduce Shady Kevin into this mix, who apparently fancies Bridget…  and poor Malcolm doesn’t stand a chance.

And if this wasn’t enough characters to add to this ever-evolving soap opera, let me introduce you to one more: Leery Len.

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Leery Len is part of the late afternoon Nero crew (a whole new group of oddities, separate to the morning pensioner parade we’ve come to love and know). Leery Len is one of those highly-irritating people, who talks in a really loud voice so that every conversation is like one big stage show for those unfortunate enough to be around him.

This boombastic bozo meets with his friend religiously at 5pm every evening and spends a lot of time complaining bitterly about his perpetually-complicated love life, namely ‘idiotic’ women who don’t return his calls.

He also makes loud, border-line misogynist comments about women in his vicinity such as, ‘My oh my, she’s stunning and look at her legs!’

Occasionally, he bellows silly statements across to me such as, ‘I don’t know how you cope with that machine (my laptop) – I once signed up to email and got hundreds of the blasted things!’ and, ‘Do you think I should join Facebook? What’s the difference between Facebook and Twitter?’

Have you ever tried to explain the difference between Facebook and Twitter to a technologically-challenged buffoon? It’s harder than you think.

One final new Nero character who deserves a mention is Note Woman. Note Woman apparently delivers hand-written notes to people sat drinking their coffee. The notes are all steeped in paranoia, saying things like, ‘Do not trust the man you are talking to.’

I haven’t actually met Note Woman yet; she might even be an urban myth.

But I’m already looking forward to the day a crazed-looking pensioner sidles over and drops a note in my lap saying: ‘Do not trust that shifty man in the corner with the grey hair and suspicious tan….

‘Get him MUZZLED.’

My Mother… Bosses The Students

Now that my blog star mother is on the road to recovery after her soap opera-style stint in hospital, I thought I would share some previously unseen footage of her doing what she does best: namely bossing students around.

As landlady of a house she rents out to students, my mother is convinced that all of them are utterly simple (see previous blog here) and so every year they get her Simpletons’ Guide To Independent Living.

Back in September, she gave one poor, beleaguered student the full house induction, including (in no particular order): which cupboard they should store their tinned beans in, which washing machine cycle to wash their togs on, how not to set the house alarm (whatever you do, don’t press ‘yes’!) and – bizarrely – where to find a starter motor for the fluorescent tube light in the kitchen.

Here she is at her most brilliant, bonkers best.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/113854597″>My Mother… And The Students</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33278695″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

What’s Up, Doc?

My mum has escaped from hospital. I say ‘escaped’ because it turns out getting discharged from hospital isn’t too dissimilar to applying for parole from prison.

First, you have to be assessed by a team of various people to check that you are fit to leave. Then you have to pass… The Stair Test.

The Stair Test is probably the biggest hurdle between being a hospital inmate and getting dispatched back into the big wide world. It involves two physiotherapists assisting you to a flight of stairs and then cutting you loose. If you can make it to the top unaided, you walk free; if you don’t, it’s back to bed with cold custard for one.

Luckily, my mother was already braced for this Krypton Factor-style physical challenge. The poor Scottish woman in the bed opposite (the one who was left stuck in the shower last week despite her cries for help) failed The Stair Test miserably and returned back to the ward with her tail between her legs. She also made the mistake of telling the nurses that she only had a bathroom upstairs. Schoolboy error!

My mother was so determined to get out of hospital, and away from Mad Margaret (another patient who had imaginary telephone conversations using the handheld device that moves the bed up and down), that she mustered up every ounce of her strength to reach that top step.

Now that she is convalescing on the sofa at home, she looks back on her hospital stay as ‘being to hell and back’.

Still, I think the nurses might miss my mum a bit. Each time I visited, she seemed to be living a real-life episode of Holby City. She was able to give a detailed explanation of all the other patients’ various woes and life stories. She was on first name terms with the doctors, nurses waved at her as they passed, cleaners chuckled.

As she was exiting the hospital, someone bore down on my mother clutching a questionnaire asking whether she would recommend the hospital to friends and family.

‘I was speechless,’ said my mother. ‘I told them I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy!’

‘It is a bit weird that they’re asking you to rate the hospital like a hotel,’ I said. ‘No-one goes into hospital by choice. Next, they’ll be on Tripadvisor!’

My father now seems to be occupying his days roaming around supermarkets, looking for things to cook for my mum, who is on a very strict diet.

He has also identified that B&Q have mobility scooters, should she fancy a day out when she’s feeling a bit stronger. Given that my parents are on B&Q Preston’s top 100 customers list, this is a distinct possibility.

My father was despatched to buy a white loaf (white bread for her no-fibre diet) from Booths.

Booths, if you haven’t heard of it, is like the Waitrose of Lancashire. Started in Blackpool in 1847, they have stores dotted around the county and have even reached as far as Ilkley in Yorkshire. It’s generally full of slow-moving, silver-haired trolley pushers who base their whole day around one supermarket visit.

Anyway, my father did manage to procure the white loaf. But unfortunately he somehow missed the huge label emblazoned across it that read, ‘now with all the fibre of wholemeal bread’ – much to my mum’s dismay.

In the midst of all this activity, it emerged that my parents’ rabbit of 8 years was taking its last breaths in the garage.

My father was so flustered about the rabbit’s imminent passing that he decided to drive 10 miles to a garden centre that he knew had cardboard boxes – to buy one to bury her in.

I offered to go to Booths and rectify the bread situation.

When I got back, the whole family – sister included – were assembled in the lounge, dabbing moist eyes with tissues. It was very sad.

‘What’s happened?’ I said.

‘Your dad thinks the rabbit’s dead but he’s only 95 per cent sure,’ said my mother wearily.

‘We’re all waiting for you to go and check on it,’ she added.

‘I’m not checking,’ I said. ‘I can’t cope with dead or dying animals.’

My sister and father weren’t keen on re-entering the garage either.

‘Shall I phone Mr Cummings from next door? He could come and have a look,’ suggested my sister.

‘I’ve heard of some odd things but phoning your next door neighbour to come and write a death certificate for your pet rabbit is pretty weird,’ I said.

‘I am sure the rabbit’s dead,’ said my father. ‘She felt stiff and cold. And I’m certain she had stopped breathing.’

‘Well, you need to get her in the box before rigor mortis sets in,’ said my mother. ‘Otherwise, she won’t fit in the box; her legs will be sticking out!’

My father disappeared for while. When he returned the rabbit was now in the box and he was now ’99 per cent sure’ she was dead.

I peeped in the garage. I could see a box with some white fluff sticking out, surrounded by 200 cooking apples. It didn’t appear to be moving.

‘Let’s leave her in state for now,’ said my father, who I suspect would do anything to put off having to spend the afternoon digging a grave. ‘We’ll bury her tomorrow.’

‘You’d better phone Uncle Stephen and tell him to come to the funeral,’ said my mother, gravely.

‘Will Uncle Stephen even be bothered about the rabbit?’ I said.

‘I think so,’ she said. ‘He used to bring the tops of his Brussel sprouts. The rabbit loved them.’

‘Maybe Stephen could say a few words about the rabbit and his sprouts at the eulogy,’ pondered my father.

‘Tell him to bring a spade too.’

Hospital Dramas

There’s something strangely reassuring that while my mum is holed up in Critical Care following a seven-hour operation, my father remains insistent on avoiding hospital parking fees by parking on a remote residential street at least half a mile away – simply because it is free.

My father never believes in paying for parking anywhere: a habit so firmly entrenched that even though my mother is lost somewhere in the cavernous corridors of Preston Royal Infirmary, he refuses to part with a few pounds for the convenience of the car park.

Lost in the hospital might sound a little dramatic but after an anxious wait all day, I phoned to see whether my mum had come out of theatre. There was a long pause and a bit of tapping on a keyboard. It seemed that she had left the admissions ward at 7am that morning but had yet to arrive in Critical Care, according to the computer. She was currently unaccounted for.

An hour later, I phoned back only to be told that the computer still said ‘no’.

At 7pm, with my father pacing around the lounge and fielding calls from feeble Great Uncle Keith, I phoned again and she was STILL lost in hospital No Man’s Land.

‘We don’t even need to come and see her,’ I told the nurse a little desperately. ‘I just want to know if she’s had the operation and if she’s STILL ALIVE.’

At 8pm, my father and I decided to go down in person. After parking in father’s aforementioned free parking spot, we set off on foot to the Critical Care visitor waiting room, swiftly renamed The Waiting Room of Doom. It was packed to the gills with desperate relatives but not a single member of staff in sight.

I had begun to imagine my mother languishing on a bed in a corridor somewhere, or stuffed in a store cupboard having to drink water from a vase. I was already penning my letter to the Daily Mail.

After what seemed like hours, someone eventually arrived and confirmed that my mum had finally arrived at the Critical Care ward, following a bed shortage. Relieved, we followed the nurse down the corridor.

We had been told that she might look terrible and would be covered in tubes. But as we rounded the corner, she was propped up in bed and looked remarkably well, all considering.

‘I feel like I’ve been run over by a double-decker bus,’ she croaked.

‘Everyone keeps telling my how well I look but I feel terrible. The nurses said I look like I’ve just stepped out of a hair salon!’

‘I have to laugh otherwise I’d cry.’

I took a closer look at her hair. It did – incredibly – look like she had just stepped out of a hair salon.

A doctor came over, ‘What is your date of birth and full address?’ he asked.

‘Ah,’ said my mother. ‘You’re doing this to check whether I’m compos mentis.’

She rattled off her particulars and for added effect said, ‘The current Prime Minister is David Cameron.’

‘What are your dislikes?’ said the doctor.

There was a long pause while both my parents pondered this.

‘She doesn’t like tinned tomatoes,’ said my father eventually. ‘And she doesn’t like going out to sea in the boat.’

My mother nodded in agreement.

Inevitably, now that my mum has been moved onto a ward, she has been put next to the most delirious woman in the whole hospital.

Mad Margaret doesn’t actually believe she is a patient; she thinks she’s a visitor. This means that she refuses to stay in her bed but wanders round ‘visiting’ other patients, including my poor mother. At one point she tried to climb on top of her. She is also perpetually preoccupied by when everyone’s birthday is.

‘She’s completely doolally,’ whispered my mother. ‘The best thing to do is keep smiling and be firm with her.’

Another patient – across from my mother – had a terrible experience in the shower this morning. Apparently, she was helped to the shower by a nurse who plonked her on the shower seat and then abandoned her.

Despite her cries for help and pulling the emergency cord, she was stuck in the shower for up to an hour! She’s still in a state of shock.

‘I’m just going to have a shower when I get home,’ whispered my mother, who is currently too poorly to move from her bed. ‘It’s just not worth the risk; I might never make it out.’

‘I couldn’t make it even to the door,’ she went on. ‘Just getting into the chair feels like I’ve climbed Mount Everest and run a marathon.’

So far, my mother’s visitors have been restricted to immediate family but now that Uncle Stephen is back from Benidorm, he’s planning a visit on Monday. Uncle Stephen, I’m reliably informed, absolutely loves hospital visiting.

My mum’s friend Valerie might also come but she can only turn left in her car so she would have to map out an anti-clockwise route if she were ever to make it.

In the meantime, I’ve been staying with my father which has been an enlightening experience in itself. In the garage, I found literally hundreds of cooking apples, which my father is insistent he is planning on eating, despite my incredulity.

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There’s also several boxes of onions from Uncle Stephen, who has taken to growing them again, now that his pyromaniac neighbour has finally been wheeled off by the men in white coats and can no longer set fire to his vegetables.

As a treat, the husband and I took my Dad to Nando’s which he rather liked although he insists on mistakenly calling it Nachos. We also had a coffee in Starbucks.

When we got to the hospital, my mother said: ‘How was Stardrops and Nachos?’

My father was about to answer, when his mobile rang shrilly. A look of horror crossed both my parents’ faces.

‘You can’t bring mobiles in here,’ cried my mother. ‘They’ll interfere with the machinery!’

My mother went on to say that the doctor had been round that morning and asked if she wanted any morphine.

‘Morphine?!” said my mother, horrified. ‘No thank you. That’s what drug addicts have!’

‘I definitely don’t want morphine,’ she recounted to us after. ‘I might get hooked on it.’

‘I don’t think you can get addicted,’ said my father, in all seriousness. ‘You haven’t got a dealer.’

Space Rage

Just when I thought things had settled down at our apartment block, I’ve found myself in a Cold War over parking with Slovenly Sonia, the lazy new tenant at Apartment 8.

There’s an unofficial parking space by the side of our apartment and while it’s always been offered up on a ‘first come, first served basis’ the husband and I have been getting first dibs on it for the last few years (bar the occasional wrangle with Belligerent Bill from Apt 2).

We parked there so often, in fact, that we had begun to think of it as our own private parking spot.

This was before Sonia and her cream Mini arrived. She descended on our apartments a couple of months ago and now hogs the space ALL of the time. This is largely because a. she doesn’t appear to ever be at work and b. she never seems to leave her apartment.

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Another resident apparently asked Sonia if she could please park in her allocated spot down the hill and leave the spare spaces for those who had two cars. Slovenly Son refused, muttering something about the car park ‘being a mess’.

After a few weeks of seeing her cream Mini parked there, I began to get rather resentful. Sometimes, when I walked past, I had an irrational urge to kick the car – or in wilder moments I imagined beating it with a tree branch (a la mad Basil Fawlty in the opening episode of Fawlty Towers).

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Then one evening, on sighting the cream Mini smugly nestled in its usual spot, I decided enough was enough.

I grabbed a Post-it note, scribbled, ‘Why can’t you just park in your own space and stop hogging this one?’, hared back out and slapped it on her windscreen.

The next day there was an ‘all residents’ email from Sonia herself.

‘Hi, whoever put the post it note on my car … Could you have the decency to contact me direct …. Tenant or owner we all have the same rights ….the space is directly at the side of my apartment and it is an unallocated space and I was informed it is whoever gets there first? If I am in that spot and my space is empty I don’t have a problem with anyone parking in my spot… But I have plantar fascititus so find it easier on my foot to park at the top.

Thank you and kind regard.’

Plantar fascitius?? I hastily Googled this condition and discovered that it’s basically a sore foot usually suffered by people who wear poorly-fitting shoes or lead a sedentary lifestyle.

‘Sounds about right,’ I huffed to the husband.

Plantar fascitius is quite similar to Policeman’s Heel, which I rather like the sound of (the name, not the condition).

Later that week, I actually saw slipshod Sonia heading out on foot. I gave her a cheery wave: the kind of cheery neighbourly wave that I hoped said, ‘Hello friendly neighbour; it wasn’t me that put a passive aggressive Post-It note on your window!’.

It didn’t escape my notice that she was wearing a pair of high heels and appeared to be clopping along at ease. Surely a true plantar fascititus sufferer should be in a sensible pair of Clarks brogues? Policeman’s Heel, my ass!

The next day, I returned home to find the much-maligned space vacant and cream Mini nowhere to be seen.

I was then caught in a dilemma. Do I make the most of Slovenly Sonia’s absence and snap the space up while I can? Or, in taking the space, am I effectively advertising, ‘I’m the person who put the Post-It note on your car. I’m the friendly neighbour who’s not so friendly after all!’

I spent so long dilly-dallying that wranglesome Sonia arrived home and zoomed straight in. I’d lost out again!

A week has now passed since the Post-It note and I’m determined to reclaim the space. It’s simply a matter of lying in wait for her next trip out.

Once I’ve secured the spot, it’s going to be difficult to give it up again. I might have to leave my car in situ and take public transport for a few days.

‘You can spout all the fancy foot conditions you like at me, Sonia,’ I thought, grimly.

But one thing’s for sure, I’m going to reclaim that space. I’m in this for the long run.

Love’s Labour’s Lost

The over-60s social scene at Caffè Nero continues to provide hours of entertainment and guess who’s in the thick of it…

Former regular Porridge-Loving Pensioner, once part of the fixtures and fittings, is now long gone, last seen shuffling off towards the local boozer.

Following ‘flowersgate‘ (in which he threw a bunch of flowers at Legs for refusing to take him to the hospital), there was another awkward showdown over some suits and shirts Malcolm had brought in for him (apparently Malcolm wanted some money for them but PLP kept making excuses). He hasn’t been sighted since.

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And Legs (scantily-clad nemesis vying for the attentions of Peter, Malcolm et al.) is STILL wearing shorts despite an average autumn temperature of 8 degrees.
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But coffee-shop staple Linda, formerly lampooned as a miserly retiree, is now my NBF!

Peter told me that Linda is a very shrewd antique dealer, who doesn’t take any prisoners. From what I’ve seen, I’d be inclined to agree. She used to regard me with suspicion as I chewed the fat with Peter and Malcolm.

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Then one day, I ended up in a three-way conversation with Linda and Peter and she seemed to grudgingly accept me.

Later, Peter told me that po-faced Linda is a naturally suspicious person but he said that now I’d cracked the ice, I’d be accepted.

‘Her bark is worse than he bite,’ he said.

He wasn’t wrong. The next day, Linda came charging over to me in a harried fashion, muttering something about her new iPad not working. I’m not sure what she wanted me to do so I smiled sympathetically as she patted me arm before charging off.

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The following week a most extraordinary offer from the former miserly: she quite randomly offered me a pair of shoes!

Apparently, she had bought some beautiful brogues many years ago that she couldn’t wear due to a problem with her foot and wondered if I’d like them.

I had to break the news to her that I have freakishly large feet (details here) so I wouldn’t be able to shoehorn my trotters into them. On news of this, she simply patted me on the arm again and charged off.

After his intense interest in our trip to Mallorca this summer, Malcolm went a bit quiet for a while. Peter told me that someone had insinuated to poor Malcolm that he was a bit of a pest. He had naturally upset him and he’d been sipping his cappuccino in solitude.

That all changed this week when Malcolm shuffled over in his fedora and asked if he could sit with me. We had a bit of a chat about his days in the Air Force in Egypt.

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Malcolm has a wife who is virtually house-bound. His trip to Caffè Nero is his only trip out of the house all day.

‘If I didn’t have this, I might go potty,’ he said.

‘There was a woman with grey hair who I used to see every day heading to the Co-Op,’ he mused.

‘She told me that she only reasons she went shopping every day was that it was the only human contact she would have.

‘It’s not much fun getting old,’ he added, gazing contemplatively out of the window.

Fellow oldie Peter continues to regale me with tales of grief from deceased wife Brenda (there was a bit more sobbing the other day) while juggling the complexities of dating. The old devil has a potential three women on the go!

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According to Peter, the dating rules aren’t much different for the over-60s than they are for teenagers. There’s a lot of text games going on.

One woman, I’ve nicknamed ‘Gates’,  is game-playing to the extreme. Peter has to drive past her house in the evening and if the gates are open, he’s allowed in. If the gates are shut, it’s a Marks and Spencer’s meal for one back at home.

Peter keeps assuring me that he doesn’t want a replacement for Brenda, just some company. ‘Il companionata‘, as they say.

‘Linda says when it comes to dating, I’m not even in the junior school; I’m still in kindergarten,’ he said, wistfully.

But it seems Gates locked Peter out too many times because he’s now interested in someone else altogether – who he met right here in Caffè Nero.

‘My heart’s now elsewhere,’ said Peter, who only appears to converse in metaphors. ‘I never imagined anything after Brenda but lightning has struck and it’s like a bolt.

‘It’s a very complicated situation,’ he went on. ‘You’d think it would get easier in my twilight years but there’s a lot of emotional baggage.’

‘Don’t get in too deep,’ I said sagely.

‘It’s too late,’ lamented Peter. ‘My nostrils are only just out of the water.’

My Mother… and The British Gas Debacle Part II

It seems that my mother has become an unwitting video star after waxing lyrical about her fiasco with her British Gas bill (here) and chewing the fat with my uncle Stephen over his pyromaniac neighbour (here).

So here’s an update on my mother’s British Gas saga (amongst other trivialities!):

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109387621″>My Mother… And The British Gas Debacle Part II</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33278695″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>