Monday 26 November I am definitely an old person. I know this because my main pastime at home nowadays is wandering about and switching off unnecessary lights. Sometimes necessary lights too, if I’m in a particularly thrifty mood. I also check radiators to see if they need bleeding (not that I know what that even means; I just feel them, nod, and say to myself, mmm, that needs bleeding, then go away and forget about it.)
I am also very concerned about the amount of water wastage that goes on. I turn the tap off in between wetting my toothbrush and rinsing out my mouth, and make sure I only put the minimum amount of water in the kettle.
Memories are flooding (deliberate water wastage pun) back about my father doing exactly the same when I was growing up. Ironically, his irate lectures actually had the opposite effect because I was a rebellious teenager at the time and therefore made sure I turned on as many unnecessary lights as possible. Because when you’re a rebellious and angst-ridden teenager, you need to be illuminated by maximum wattage in order to draw full attention to just how depressed and misunderstood you really are. You also need to fill the bath so full that it overflows and drips through the ceiling onto the upturned face of your furious father, and you must also leave the water running while you wash your face with stuff that’s supposed to get rid of teenage spots and doesn’t work because you spend all your time (when not turning on lights and taps) eating greasy food and chocolate. Mr Young, I’ve begun to notice, leaves the water running for far too long when he brushes his teeth. He also takes rather a long time in the shower.
I think he might be going through a rebellious phase.
Wednesday 28 November Yes, I’m definitely an old person. To my horror, I heard myself asking Tom – in an appallingly coy fashion – when I might be able to look forward to my first grandchild. At least I managed to stop myself from using the phrase the patter of tiny feet. (Which is a ridiculous term, anyway. Children never patter. They thunder about like carthorses. Even the tiny ones. Thunder about, break things, cry a lot, and then switch on lots of unnecessary lights as soon as they’re tall enough to reach the switches.) Tom and Julia look aghast, and so they should. “But I’m only 24,” Julia says, with marked unease. I tell myself to be quiet, but unfortunately I’m not listening. “Oh, I was only 26 when I had Lucy,” I say, as if this has any relevance at all. Everyone changes the subject and I can’t get another word in, which is a good thing. Goodness only knows what I might say next. Probably something about corn plasters or the price of suet. So I go and feel a few radiators, which may or may not need bleeding.
Thursday 29 November Great excitement. Primark has opened in Queensgate. The city, unfathomably, seems to be under the impression that it is open for ONE DAY ONLY and so the entire population has gathered inside the centre, spreading to outside the centre, and the queue probably stretches all the way down the A1 to Cambridge, which actually has a Primark all of its own so at least those at the end of the queue can visit that branch instead when they get fed up with waiting. Security guards are policing the queue with machine guns and megaphones (I made that up. Or did I….? Who can be sure in these days of extreme retail therapy. Which is a bit like extreme sports but involving more shopping bags.) I am excited too. I am looking forward to being able to buy cheap tights and socks and maybe even the occasional t-shirt. Anything more distinctive will be out of the question as from now on, no one in Peterborough will ever be saying to each other That’s a lovely dress, where did you get it? because we’ll all either be wearing it ourselves or have seen in on a Primark rail for only £9.99.
I would go in myself, as it really might be open for one day only which would jolly well teach me a lesson – and that lesson would be teaching me not to be so smug and superior, and would probably involve quite a lot of homework, and possibly even detention – but unless I manage to do a bit of crowd surfing, or some sort of complicated manoeuvre involving high wires and pulleys, there is absolutely no way I would be able to fight my way through the throng.
Poor old H&M and River Island are looking very empty. I have a feeling that the few customers who can be seen wandering about unenthusiastically inside might be staff members who’ve been instructed to dress as civilians for the day so that their stores don’t look completely bereft. There might even be a price war. I guess the machine guns and megaphones would definitely come in handy then.
Friday 30 November Mr Young texts me to say he has been to Primark and bought some jeans and trousers which, apparently, are rather good. I am staggered. Mr Young hates shopping for clothes. He particularly hates crowded shops full of women and cheap clothes. “Wasn’t it busy?” I ask him. “Well, yes,” he says. “I spent most of the time queuing at the checkouts. Behind some very large women who looked quite menacing.” This too is very unlike Mr Young. He hates queuing at checkouts in clothes shops probably more than he hates shopping for clothes. But when I walk past later, Primark looks almost empty, so I go in and buy some socks and tights which are so cheap they might as well have a minus sign on the price tag. In the household section they have a really rather nice selection of Blankies*.
*A Blankie is my sister Rachel’s word for the fleecy blanket thing she nestles under on her sofa on Saturday nights when she watches Strictly Come Dancing. In fact, I think she and Joe have their own respective Blankies. Naturally, I scoffed at these when she produced them during our visit the other week. “Blankie,” I mocked. “Honestly. Blankie,” injecting as much scorn as I could into the word. (Since then, I’ve noticed that she has renamed them ‘throws’. Bless.)
However, now that I see a whole shelf full of Blankies in Primark, I can’t help thinking how cosy they look, and how warm and comfortable Mr Young and I would be if we had a Blankie each to curl up under whilst watching Masterchef. I casually mention the Blankies to Mr Young (you see, it’s all right for me to call it a Blankie, because I am doing it sardonically. You can get away with a lot with sardonicism and a judicious use of verbal italics). “Perhaps we could even get one for Archie,” he says. Perhaps we could. Perhaps we could become a three-Blankie household. Huddled under our fleecy layers in the gloom, ever alert for a dripping tap or an unbled radiator, or a faint ray of an unnecessary light, dreaming of the day when the house will tremble beneath the thunder of tiny feet. Primark is going to make such a difference to our lives.
Saturday 1 December
Our doorbell has completely given up, after many years of erratic service. It’s down to one half-hearted ping which can only be heard if you happen to be standing right next to the door. The doorbell – along with the stair carpet – was the first thing we were going to change when we moved into the house ten years ago. And, as is usually the case, these are the only things that we’ve never got around to changing. Rooms have been redecorated, the kitchen refitted, walls knocked down, new furniture installed, but the doorbell and the stair carpet have stayed, stalwart reminders of good intentions never realised.
The original decision to replace the doorbell was because of its whimsical tendency to suddenly change its chime. And it had an extensive selection of tunes. Out of the blue, it would decide to swap from When the Saints Go Marching In to Yellow Rose of Texas or Home On The Range, and sometimes even an unexpected and short-lived O Come All Ye Faithful (which tended to pop up at Easter time).
Not only were these chimes loud and flamboyant, but they went on for quite a long time. So long, in fact, that you’d usually opened the door, had a chat with the postman, signed for your parcel, closed the door and put the kettle on before it finished. But now we have a standard ding-dong, thanks to Mr Young and B&Q. Just a boring old ding-dong. I suppose the stair carpet, in all its hideous gaudiness, will be the next to go. So we’ll be a ding-dong household with a tasteful carpet.
It’s all a bit sad, really. But at least we’ll have our Blankies to make up for it.