My mother in law has just left. Literally, just this minute. I was booting up the PC as she headed down the path, lugging her ginormous suitcase and shouting promises to call me when she got home so I’d know she’d arrived safely. I’ve had more than enough of her, she’s more than flesh and blood can stand and I’m so cross right now I could actually spit. But I won’t.
She’s done nothing in particular to make me cross, she never does, it’s just little things. She arrived on Friday night and promptly started moaning that I hadn’t closed the window in “her” bedroom and so the scent from Jack Next Door’s lawn mowing session was “in the room and will play havoc with my sinuses”. I think their love affair (please God let it only be platonic) is hotting up a tad, lots of lustful (eurgh, no!) looks over the fence on Friday evening while he was raking and she was commenting on my washing.
I’d planned a picnic lunch for Saturday in Dulwich Park which was scuppered by her insistence that it was going to rain “any minute now, best to stay in and plan the evening meal”. David – who doesn’t like picnics at the best of times – looked quite happy with this and suggested we get the barbecue out. Mac was overcome with excitement at this news and even more so when David suggested he and Mac go out “shopping for dinner” – this means Haribo and playing fast and loose on the old behaviour front. I suggested that Amelia go with them but she refused point blank, suggesting that as we weren’t using the oven she could help me clean it. I toyed with the idea of getting Jack Next Door to come over to distract her but didn’t fancy playing gooseberry.
I received my last minute instructions from Marjorie (“two meals a day for Nora and could you feed the fish in our bedroom twice a day and make sure she can’t get in there to fall into the tank”) on the doorstep on Sunday morning and, the minute she left to check she’d packed the boiled sweets, Jane Opposite appeared asking if she could come in with me when I went in to the Stewarts. Actually, I was pleased about that because the wretched animal only eats tuna, pilchards or sardines and I HATE those particular fishy items. We made a date for 5pm and I went back to the living room to find Amelia standing on a ladder (where she got it from I’ll never know) taking down my curtains. “I thought they were looking a bit dingy dear, best to get them in the washing machine” My assertion that they were dry clean only started off a lecture about buying items that couldn’t be put in the washing machine as it was ridiculous and a false economy “all that money when a spot of Daz and a drop of Comfort would see you right”. She scoured every inch of both curtains to find the washing instructions, couldn’t, so deduced that they were in fact suitable for the washing machine. They’ve been washed, they’re dry and four inches shorter than they were. Still, it doesn’t matter apparently because “long length curtains are just so dated”. It was at this point that I stopped caring. She knew my guard was down when she suggested she make a steak and kidney pudding for dinner - “David loves his puds” - and I just said "yeah, whatever".
Jane and I went into the Stewarts house as arranged, me with the intention of not getting mauled and not vomiting in the tuna and she with the intention of snooping. “Bloody hell, that smells rank!” she said as I opened a tin of tuna at arms length, mindful that I shouldn't be splashed with any of the liquid. Nora gazed at me from her position on the draining board – how hygienic, she was practically leaning on Frank’s “Policemen Do It With Their Helmets On” mug.
“OMIGOD!” Jane shrieked from upstairs. Now, I’d just like to put on record that I do not snoop in other peoples houses – not even those belonging to my family (just in case any of you wanted me to pop in and water your begonias) but, come on, I was practically being invited to have a look round. “What?” I yelled as I all but threw the bowl of tuna on Nora’s mat. “OMIGOD!” she shrieked again. All sorts of thoughts crowded my brain. Was this in fact a set up? Had Marjorie gone off to see her daughter leaving Frank naked and tied up upstairs as part of their “discovering each other” routine. They do a lot of that.
I bounded up the stairs just as Jane was backing out of the spare bedroom, a look of horror on her face. “What? What? What?” I demanded, peering round the door and coming face to face with a cross between an Ann Summers warehouse and torture chamber. Jane was flapping her hands in front of her face, her three inch nails threatening to take her nose off. “I mean, it’s gross! Can you imagine Marjorie wearing this?” she said as she braved the room again, holding up a silky wisp of a negligee that was draped over their lovers swing. “Perhaps Frank wears it” I said, which set her off again, shrieking and running round in circles. “Come on, let’s go” I said. “Don’t you have to feed their fish?” she said, raising an eyebrow and reaching out for the door handle.
What else could I do but make a mental note to slip into the house under the cloak of darkness for the rest of the week so that Jane couldn’t partake in any more snooping. I wouldn’t put it past her to make a comment to the Stewarts, something innocuous like “So, all that PVC in your spare room, easy to wipe down is it?”
So far so good. Huge bed (natch) covered in chintz and throw pillows, not quite four poster but with a huge phallic looking headboard. Dressing table covered in perfume and aftershave bottles, mirrored wardrobes (we both automatically looked up to see if the ceiling was mirrored) and a gigantic fish tank with about a dozen or so tropical fish buzzing about. “Hm, just as I imagined” Jane said as she perched on the side of the bed we deduced to be Frank’s: copy of an A-Z, handful of change, manly box of tissues. “Meaning?” I said as I chucked a few fish flakes in willy-nilly. “Well…….” Jane began, standing up and moving round to Marjorie’s side of the bed (a Jilly Cooper, tub of primrose oil hand cream, flowery box of tissues) to join me over at the fish tank. I didn’t hear the end of the sentence because she started making an odd noise. I dusted my hands off and caught sight of the cause of her splutterings.
A box, the kind you can get in Woollies or IKEA or any supermarket, stood open and proudly at the Marjorie’s side of the bed filled with every kind of , ahem, toy you can imagine. And no doubt a few you couldn’t. “Eurgh, eurgh, don’t look at it!” Jane screamed as she dragged me out of the room, falling over Nora as she we both shot out onto the landing. It was a full five minutes before we regained the power of speech, each time we looked at the other we were off again. We’d decided that we’d keep this to ourselves “Can you imagine it?” Jane kept saying as I locked the front door. “I’d rather not actually” I responded and went home to find Amelia dishing up an insipid looking steak and kidney pudding.
Unfortunately I was then gripped with the giggles and could hear double entendres in everything. Amelia’s suggestion that I take two mounds of mash (she serves her mash using an icecream scoop) had me in fits of giggles much to Mac’s amusement.
And when she said “what’s got into her?” I had to leave the table.