The day started so positively too - Mac started bouncing around the house from half seven because he was sooooooo excited about getting another rabbit today and joined me with the dogs on Peckham Rye Common. All three whisked around lifting legs and wearing each other out and Mac and I had an interesting discussion about why grass is green. We returned home to sizzling bacon and freshly brewed coffee at 8.30, secure in the knowledge that I had at least 50 minutes before Amelia were due to arrive. Wrong. A tantivy of banging and bell ringing heralded her arrival at just gone 9am "I got an earlier train!" she puffed as she fell into the kitchen, drew her finger along a work surface and peered through into the utility room at my ironing pile all at the same time.
Off to the stables where she spent five minutes sniffling into her hanky that "Mackenzie is such a big boy now, how handsome he looks, just like his grandfather." Very touching thought I, mellowing just a little as I proudly watched my little man on Rufus, a cute little white pony. "Is he going to be able to carry your weight?" she foghorned as my beloved Blue was led out of the stable to greet me. Bless him, he whickered happily and bodysearched me for polos. David shushed her but, as she hadn't got a reaction from me, she cranked up the volume and nastiness "Surely that horse won't be able to carry her weight?" she asked four complete strangers and a stable lad. I know I'm hardly waiflike but come on! I tried not to think mean thoughts but the phrase "bitter old malicious bag" kept going round and round in my mind.
From the stables we went to Pets At Home in Blackheath. Mac made a beeline for the rabbit hutch while I wandered round picking up a few things for the dogs: rawhide bones, some charcoal biscuits and a ball each. This was met with disdain. "Why are you buying yet more things for those dogs? They chew their bones and it marks the carpet, they don't eat the biscuits and you find them months later and yet more balls for me to trip over?" I resisted the temptation to fling my basket at her and turned my attention to my boy who didn't look happy. I asked him what was wrong - there was a surplus of cute little bunnies all gagging for a good home. "I want a chilli, granny said I could but daddy said no." he sulked, hanging over the rabbit hutch, pouting just like I do when I realise I'm all out of Maltesers. Daddy was not looking happy and was shooting his mother what Saskia would call "some serious evils".
He meant, of course, chinchillas. Those cute little, erm, things that pine when they're alone so you have to have two and they do nothing but sleep and occasionally take a chunk out of your finger. Granny had promised him one of those instead of a rabbit. The woman herself was now trying to dig herself out of a hole by enthusing wildly about all the rabbits and how lovely they all were. "Look darling, that one is looking at you!" You had to give her seven out of ten for effort.
Eventually, he chose a rabbit, grey with long floppy ears. There were no staff to be seen so Amelia went into her "in-my-day-the-customer-was-always-right-and-there-were-always-two-shop-staff-to-each-customer" routine until a beleagured youth appeared and hoiked out our rabbit of choice. We then received a lecture on bunny care and I asked one or two leading questions like "How old is the rabbit" meaning "I don't want it carking it in a months time" and "Do rabbits suffer from any congenital illnesses that we should know about?" meaning "Is this bunny likely to suffer with heart disease because I don't want it carking it in a months time". The rabbit was a spring chicken and healthy at its last check up by their own vet.
Along with some treats for the as yet unnamed rabbit, we bought some more straw (I threw out the last lot obviously) and a treat that you put in the freezer for your pet to suck on in hot weather - a bunny lolly, if you like. This set her off again, on and on she went about "faddy things" to take money from "gullible stupid people" (this with a pointed look at me). Just to really pee her off I picked up three bottles of isotonic drink for the dogs at the till and bunged them in my basket.
We then had an argument over who was going to buy the rabbit. David insisted that as she paid for the last one, he'd pay for this one. Leaving them to it, I paid for my shopping and huffed out to the car. David followed with the straw and the rabbit in its carry case. "They're looking at the fish" he said wearily and I suddenly felt awful. Poor David, torn between his mother and his wife. We had a little hug in the car park and got tooted at by a van load of builders who were all jeering and wolf whistling.
Ten minutes later Mac appeared carrying a garish looking box. We had been sitting in the car, relishing the peace and talking to the rabbit. "What has he got now?" David asked, peering into the rearview mirror. "Probably some sort of rabbit assault course that I'll fall arse over tit over when I'm putting the washing out" I said, settling the new addition onto the back seat. "I didn't think it would do any harm" I heard Amelia say as I straightened up. Mac was carrying a "Goldfish Starter Kit! Goldfish not included!". Amelia had the goldfish in a plastic bag. We got home after a frosty journey, Mac alternately talking to Becks the rabbit (sorry, Mr Beckham) and Goldie the goldfish (an "A" for originality).
The dogs converged on me and robbed me of bones, biscuits and balls and disappeared. Becks was introduced to his new home and spent some time hopping around the garden. He certainly seems more lively than Jessica, even before she died. There was a photoshoot at which Becks, like his name-sake, excelled. Goldie was brought out onto the patio and we three sat out there for a while - Amelia set to making a cup of tea "as no-one else is bothering". Mac is going to teach both his new pets tricks he said confidently as we watched Goldie do what goldfish do and Becks posture and pose on the patio. Amelia joined us with tea and those god-awful cakes she insists on making and bringing with her.
Five minutes of silence and then: "you spoil that lad" she said accusingly as Mac and Becks got to know each other on the lawn. I was temporarily speechless and gazed at her like a bemused haddock. "You'll ruin him. All this money he's had spent on him today and does he appreciate it? He'll never understand the value of money if you keep giving into him" and off she went on a rant about the folly of children and how, if I wasn't careful, he'd end up mugging old ladies just to buy a can of cider before he "were much older."
Before I could speak in her pause for breath she glanced at her watch and plonked down her tea cup with a clatter you could hear in Kent. "I suppose I'd better start dinner as you don't seem to be interested in doing it. I've got to eat regularly with my colon." and up she got and into the kitchen where she started assaulting the leg of lamb and demanding to know where my rosemary was. "Call this a herb rack?" she bellowed out of the open window "I've seen more herbs in a Post Office. When did you last really scrub this baking tray, look, there's burnt bits on it."
David groaned at my side and stuffed a whole rock cake into his mouth. I watched Becks lope into his hutch and felt like crawling in after him.