Saturday 18 April 2015
It has been a hard week.
At about 09:30 I set off for Naomi’s house. Blacktail crosses Acacia Grove at a walking pace, and enters the front garden of the house before Mrs PM’s house. The Merkur saloon that belongs to Mrs PM’s son is again parked alongside her house; is she unwell?
I trim the hedge by the upper end of Naomi’s front path; then I knock on her door. She has just got up. Her breakfast today consists of a banana, but as usual she eats only half of it; I eat the other half, which she would normally throw away. She reminds me that I have done this once before — though IIRC that was during an afternoon visit.
We speak about Sooty, Naomi’s cat years ago, which she and Henry could not induce to take its medication — part-way through the course of treatment, the cat would no longer open its jaws. It also hated having eardrops administered. Sooty eventually died of a tumour, which I think is what the medication was for.
Naomi talks about when she was taking care of her mother, and how tiring and stressful she found it. I respond that as you get older, your energy and stamina decline. After the Deceased Lady died in 2005, I kept an eye on the Old Man, while still living mainly in Suburbia Somnolenta. (Naomi’s knowledge of this may have been sketchy until now.) “I did that between 2005 and 2010. Could I do the same between 2015 and 2020? I doubt it very much.”
I depart for Sandbanks at about 12:00. When I arrive at the chip-shop, it is full. A woman in her 50s is standing a few foot outboard of the door and to its right; she tells me that she is waiting for someone — presumably someone inside.
One customer at the counter is one of the old ladies with a walking-stick, but she is not the oldest of those old ladies. Only Cushioned Girl is behind the counter. From the rear of the shop comes a cheery but apologetic female voice: “I need that back door open again.” I don’t think the voice belongs to Young Girl, but she comes through from the rear and joins Cushioned Girl at the counter: the latter is at the left-hand side, and Young Girl at the right. It is Young Girl who serves me.
Only one person enters the shop after me: an attractive dark-haired woman in her late 20s or early 30s. She seems vaguely familiar — have I seen her on the school-run?
Tubby Woman is doing the cooking, with Balding Boy in attendance. He is wearing a white T-shirt, and he is doing something at the right-hand side of the kitchen. Another woman, dressed in an apron with vertical red-and-white stripes like the two women who are serving, is in the little room at the back. Was she the one who spoke earlier?
My package of fish and chips is hot in my hand as I carry it downslope towards where my car is parked.
As I drive past the garage at the top of the hill, a silver Escargot that has approached from the opposite direction is turning right at the fork in the road. The Escargot is travelling at a good pace.
When I reach the Old Man’s house, Mr CJ is on his back garden. The door of the CJs’ shed is open. As before I set off for Naomi’s, the CJs have washing on their clothes-lines.
The fish and chips are not as hot as I expected from the heat the package was giving off earlier. The batter is thin, but it is fairly crisp — especially at one end of the fish. Portions are good, but the chips don’t have as much taste as usual.
At 13:20 I see Blacktail again: (s)he walks diagonally across the Old Man’s driveway, and out — the gates are open.
Alongside the middle of the Old Man’s front lawn, a silver car like Mrs CM’s is parked nose uphill; but when I go out five minutes later to close the gates of the driveway, I find that the car is not Mrs CM’s. Three hours later, the car has gone.
It is sunny all afternoon.
I have decided on a name for the Ports’ baby girl.
All week, even after speaking with Mrs JG about Vinnie, I have been half-expecting to see him working in his front garden, or trimming his hedges.