I dreamt I had a dachshund called Miranda last night. I also had a little red sports car – what Miranda loved more than anything was to spread-eagle herself against the passenger-side window while I sped along country roads, and then she would jump onto my lap which made it difficult to turn the steering wheel…but how we laughed. (Yes, she laughed too. It was a dream, after all.) It was one of those dreams that makes you feel very depressed when you wake up. No Miranda. No little red sports car. Just Mr Young asking me why I was cackling in my sleep.
I googled images of dachshunds this morning, and saw a picture which looked exactly like my fantasy dog. I feel it’s a sign and I'm now obliged to get a little dachshund and call her Miranda so that I can live my dream. I can’t possibly compromise – Archie and Mr Young’s car won’t do. A five-stone English bull terrier spread-eagled against the passenger side window of a Mitsubishi Outlander and then hurling himself into Mr Young’s lap? I think not. Archie would give himself a hernia. Mr Young too, I expect. Oh, how I miss Miranda.
Mr Young has been reading a lifestyle magazine – never a good thing. He’s so impressionable. As a result, he has now decided to colour coordinate the bookshelf in the sitting room. “Seriously, it looks really good in the picture,” he enthuses. “Does it?” I ask, hoping that he will detect the misgiving in my voice. He doesn’t, of course, because he is a man and subtlety is not a trait that men are familiar with. Give them some obviousness to spot, though, and they can grasp it immediately. They’re so pleased with themselves that it’s worth it just to see the happy smile on their dear little faces and watch them run up and down with their little bit of obviousness clasped between their teeth. “Yes!” he says. “It looks good.” “No, but does it really? Really, really, really?” I ask again, dispensing with the subtlety this time. “Really?” “Well, I tell you what,” he says, “’I’ll do it and then you can decide – if you don’t like it, I can just jumble them all up again.”
Gripped with a colour-coordinating fever, he takes all the books off our floor-to-ceiling five shelves, stacks them all up on the floor, sorts them out, and then re-arranges them. I have to admit, it is quite an impressive display. It’s now white at the top, descending through yellow, orange, red, blue, green, purple, down to black at the bottom. “What do you think?” he asks proudly. “I’m not sure,” I say, because I’m not. It’s a little too contrived. I like my books to look haphazard, as if they’d been taken down, read, and then put back in a careless sort of way that implies the reader is too eager to pull out their next choice to bother too much about the position of the last one. (Although I think it’s probably me that creates this haphazardness.) “Well, I think it looks good,” he says. I decide to leave it for the time being. Hopefully, no one will notice. Lucy comes in and immediately says, “Wow! You’ve colour-coordinated all the books! That looks brilliant!” The look on Mr Young’s face is so smug I want to punch him. He doesn’t have to say I told you so. The words are floating in a self-satisfied little bubble above his head which takes off and irritatingly bobs about the room. But I’m a magnanimous sort of person. Every dog must have its day. And Mr Young deserves the occasional five minutes of glory.
Mr Young and I are off to Cambridge today. We’re going on the train, because we are planning to have a decadent, long lunch and uncharacteristically spoil ourselves at one of our favourite places, D’Arry’s. I say uncharacteristically because it’s definitely a step up from our usual stroll through town to Prezzo for a Caesar salad and a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. We arrive at the restaurant a little early; we were also planning a leisurely stroll through the city from the station, but it’s raining and blustery in a decidedly non-decadent way, so we have to take a taxi. To kill a bit of time, we go into a nearby music shop and buy a grand piano, a guitar and a drum kit. Well, when I say buy, I mean we speak to the saleswoman very earnestly about payment terms, play chopsticks on the grand piano, exclaim over the bounciness of the bass drum, admire the curvy bit on the top of the guitar. Then we take her card and say we’ll be in touch. I hope she doesn’t think it was a wasted twenty minutes. I don’t, anyway. I feel quite wealthy and artistic for at least twenty minutes. It’s a good way to start a decadent lunch.
In the afternoon, we aren’t able to have a leisurely stroll around the city as it’s still raining and blustery, and – as Mr Young is considerably taller than me – our umbrella isn’t keeping me dry. It’s keeping him dry, but there is a good six inch gap underneath its shelter which means I am getting wet. And blown about by all the blusteriness. Luckily, I have a big scarf in my bag, which I drape over my head in a stylishly casual way. I can see that I’m getting some admiring looks. (At least I can when the scarf isn’t blowing across my face.) “You look ridiculous,” says Mr Young, who is striding ahead under the protection of his big umbrella. “No, I don’t,” I say. “It’s very stylish.” “No, it’s not,” he says. “It’s ridiculous.” “Not as ridiculous as a colour-coordinated bookshelf,” I mutter, but the blusteriness carries my voice away and he doesn’t hear.
While we are waiting for the train home, I nip to the Ladies. (I’m not sure why we always ‘nip’ to the Ladies, because we never do. ‘Nip’ implies a speedy visit, as if we dash in and out. Ha! There’s never any ‘nipping’ involved when you have to stand in a queue for five minutes, watching your fellow ‘nippers’ inadequately dry their hands on electric hand driers and bravely put their lipstick on, pretending there aren’t five pairs of eyes watching them and thinking Ooh, pink frosted? Really? Not a good look at your age, love.)
My cubicle, when I finally reach it, is, to my huge surprise, lined on three walls by reflective stainless steel. Very reflective. From floor to ceiling. It’s not a feature I’ve come across before in a public toilet and is disconcerting to say the least. To say the most, in truth. Infuriatingly, it’s exactly the sort of all-round reflective image that I always wish they had in changing rooms – softly lit and slightly distorted, so that you look slimmer and more attractive than you really are. Even, as in this case, if you are performing something you wouldn’t usually choose to watch yourself performing.
I can’t work out what purpose this all-round reflection can possibly serve. Unless it’s to allow you to check that your skirt isn’t tucked into your knickers when you leave, which would be very useful if you’re one of those people who are in the habit of carelessly rearranging their clothing, maybe because you’re in a hurry to re-apply your frosted pink lipstick or to half-dry your hands under a listless puff of warm air. In that case, it’s a thoughtful gesture. Good old British Rail. See, they do care about their customers.
I walk up to the post office to send off a parcel, and pass the children’s old primary school on the way. It’s home time, so the mothers are waiting outside, and children are running out, excitedly waving books, ‘robots’ made out of toilet roll tubes and straws, and paintings of unflattering blobs doubtlessly labelled “mummy” (at least, mine used to. I’ve still got a drawing Harriet made of me, with a big round face that took up the entire paper and two tiny eyes in the middle. I pretended to be pleased, of course, but I immediately went on a serious diet).
It makes me feel so nostalgic for those simple days, when all they had to worry about was whether they had peanut butter or ham sandwiches for lunch, and if I’d remembered to wash their PE kit. Then I asked myself; would I really want to go through again all the agonies of waiting to find out if they’d got into the secondary school/university/job of their choice? If they’d passed their GCSEs/A levels/degree course? If they’d pass their driving test?
I guess not. But I do miss the simplicity of those days. Just like I miss my dachshund Miranda and my little red sports car. And, come to think of it, my non-colour coordinated bookshelves.