I breathed a sigh of relief and sipped at my lemon tea. That was Friday morning and I was quite well disposed towards my cousin – pre-wedding nerves and all that. By Saturday afternoon I wanted to disembowel her. The church hall was due to be decorated and a willing army of volunteers had turned up. This was my show and I was determined to run it like a well oiled machine. Janey, Darren and I had already agreed on how the finished result should look. “Classy, discreet and make sure you get rid of the pew polishing rotas from the noticeboard” Janey had said as she headed off for the wedding breakfast rehearsal. Nothing was being left to chance obviously.
Auntie Ivy and Uncle Jim were in charge of sweeping and dusting. Bea was in charge of removing posters etc from the noticeboards any extraneous bits of paper that seem to find their way to church hall walls. Neil, Terry and Dave (team mates of Darren’s) were in charge of putting the chairs and tables out. My husband was currently fielding for the local cricket team in Dulwich but Mac was quite keenly polishing tables for me and telling everyone that “daddy is quite ‘noyed that he won’t be doing cricket next week”. Auntie Daisy was cleaning the kitchen and tutting loudly about the state of the place “little kiddies eat in here you say?” she kept saying as she wafted to and fro with her J-cloth and bleach. I was striding around with my clipboard overseeing things.
All was going well until a whiskered elderly lady appeared at the serving hatch and appeared to be fighting with Daisy. The Whiskered Lady was apoplectic at the fact that we were “desecrating the meeting place of the Church Ladies Committee Room with all of our fripperies”. Neil was, at that time, balanced on a rickety pair of step ladders putting up the “Congratulations Janey and Darren” banner. I had been warned by the vicar that this was Miss Sallinger, a frightful old boot who wasn’t quite the ticket. The vicar had stroked his bushy beard and sighed “Poor old duck – she’s convinced that the Church Ladies still meet. She’s the last of them poor soul, won’t have it that Church Committees are a thing of the past”. She certainly seemed cross. Explanations were futile, even Bea and her legendary tact and compassion failed to come up trumps. “I shall away to find the vicar!” Miss Sallinger stormed as she flounced out of the church hall wafting Tweed and cat pee.
On Sunday morning we headed over to Janey’s new house. They got the keys last week and are gradually moving in, bit by bit. Auntie Ivy had, since Janey and Darren announced their engagement, been collecting various things for Janey’s “bottom drawer”. We moved most of it in this weekend – more lace and silverware than you could shake a stick at. A piercing scream and a loud sickening thud halted us all in our tracks midway through the procession of items moving into the house. Janey was standing over the squashed remains of a rather large rodent with her IKEA wok bent out of shape.
Malcolm the Rat Catcher was summoned to the house and instructed to “find any more of the b*st*rds and kill ‘em”. Malcolm arrived half an hour later via the Yellow Pages and was so mesmerised by Janey’s heaving and not inconsiderable bosom he forgot to charge his call-out fee. No more rats were found but traps were baited and set – Malcolm will return in a fortnight. The happy couple will be on their honeymoon so Yours Truly has been entrusted with the keys.
“Talking of the front door” Janey mused (we weren’t) as she rearranged her spice rack - oregano, sage and black pepper - “I don’t like that colour – I’m going to repaint it now”. And off she went, before ringing David (who has become an authority on local government apparently) to see if she needs “planning permission to paint my front door purpley blue?” Without waiting for an answer, she shot off to B&Q leaving Ivy, Darren and Darren’s mate Neil unrolling rugs and plumping up cushions.
An hour later, there I was with my paintbrush in hand re-painting the front door. Janey was sitting in her sparkling new lounge, feet on a leather pouf, drinking Pimms out of a can and watching the Eastenders omnibus. Something was obviously wrong here but apparently she was “traumatised” by finding the rat and needed “a rest”. The poor rat wasn’t so much traumatised as squashed and was resting for all eternity. I won’t share with you the many jokes about rats and takeway meals – nor will I tell you what I said to David when he rang to suggest I pick up a Chinese on my way home.