Guinea Pigs and Pastry

14 July Mr Young and Jonny are finally off on their Arsenal tour today. Harriet and I are going to Primark in Oxford Street, then we’re all going out for lunch. I can tell that deep down, Mr Young is a volcano of suppressed excitement, although he is playing it very cool. I envy his ability to play it cool. He is a master of composure. Which is probably why I feel the need to overcompensate; I am thus the mistress of enthusiasm. (On second thoughts, no. This could just sound like a really unsuccessful dominatrix.) While they head off to the Emirates Stadium, Harriet and I gird our loins, grit our teeth and synchronise watches. The art of Primark shopping is this; you grab a bag, scan the rails, spend no longer than 30 seconds in each area, stuff everything you quite like the look of into your bag, finish at the jewellery section where you grab a necklace and matching earrings for no other reason than the fact that they are only £2.50, then find a quiet corner and do the Primark Prune. This is vital and will immediately reduce your potential purchases by two-thirds. You unavoidably end up keeping the jewellery (because they are only £2.50) and (mysteriously) a pair of mismatched stilettos, but this is standard practice in any Primark shop and generally considered to be retail collateral damage. We are in, and out, in an hour. A new world record for us both. Flushed with self-satisfaction, we head off to the Prezzo at Marble Arch where Mr Young has instructed us to meet him and Jonny at 1 pm. They show us their photos and tell us all about the Arsenal tour, which is only interesting for about 30 seconds, so my attention can’t help wandering round the room. (What can I say? My attention span is nomadic. Set it up with a gypsy caravan and you’d never hear from it again, apart from the occasional postcard.) “Look at that couple over there,” I say. “Isn’t that sweet? They’re obviously in love.” He is leaning across the table, gazing at her. They are holding hands. Then he smiles and runs his fingers through her long, lustrous hair. “Either that,” says Mr Young, “or she’s out on a date with her nit nurse.” You see? This is so typical of him. Affecting deliberate indifference yet again. But it’s not working right now. Not when he’s showing me a picture of himself standing in front of a huge Arsenal logo with both thumbs up and a very big smile. Looking anything but deliberately indifferent.

18 July Yet another strange dream. A nightmare, in fact. This time, my pet guinea pig (which I don’t actually have) is on fire. My poor little imaginary guinea pig is running about in its hutch in a terrible state, engulfed by flames. Fortunately, my dream ends just as the guinea pig escapes and runs across the lawn, no longer on fire, but with a streak of hairless pink skin along its back. Google tells me that dreaming about a guinea pig means I need to be more responsible and attentive. Clearly, my pet catching fire means I definitely need to be more attentive. Maybe I was too busy playing with my dream dachshund Miranda (see previous post) to notice the potential fire hazard in my dream guinea pig’s hutch. Pull yourself together, Penny! If you can’t look after your pets, you don’t deserve to have them. Didn’t I say exactly the same thing to my own children about their hamsters/goldfish? Tom once had a pet worm that he kept in a jam jar filled with soil. He called it Sleepy because it didn’t move very much. We didn’t like to tell him that it didn’t move very much because it was dead. Sometimes children just have to learn life’s hard lessons for themselves.

25 July As I hate changing rooms so much (their objective and mine are diametrically opposed; mine is to look as glamorous, attractive and slim as possible, whilst theirs is to turn me into a squat, gurning troll. Sadly, they always succeed), I always buy my clothes online. I find a maxi dress in the John Lewis website sale, which looks perfect for our week in Majorca. Even better, it’s greatly reduced and has good reviews that include words like ‘wonderful’, ‘versatile’, ‘so flattering’. I am very hopeful about this dress, which arrives speedily. I plan to mention the ‘speedily’ part in my own review of the wonderful, versatile, flattering dress… It turns out to be the perfect example of something not living up to expectations. It looks so dreadful, in fact, that I long for the good old days of the badly-lit changing rooms with their malicious widening mirrors. I think with fond nostalgia of the moments when I merely looked like a squat, gurning troll. Now, I am a hideously garish, squat, gurning troll. Even worse – Ha! Who would have thought that this story could now continue with an Even Worse? And yet it does; the horror goes on – I cannot get the dress off, once it’s on. Claustrophobia knocks at my bedroom door. “Calm down, Penny,” I have to tell myself, then immediately remind myself not to take deep breaths. “There must be a zip somewhere that you haven’t noticed.” Of course. A logical explanation. I laugh out loud at my own foolishness. Except there isn’t a zip. I struggle some more, but can only pull the bodice of the dress up to eye level, so that my arms are now pinned against my ears. I really start to panic now. Claustrophobia has stopped politely knocking, and is now pounding at the door with one of those police battering rams. I shuffle into the bathroom and push the door closed with my hip, just in case Mr Young comes in, sees my predicament and laughs as hard as he did when I once walked into a set of French doors and nearly broke my nose I decide to cut my way out of it with Mr Young’s nail scissors, but I can’t manoeuvre my arms enough to reach them. Eventually, (obviously, otherwise I’d still be sitting on the bathroom floor, weeping, with my arms wedged above my head and wouldn't be writing this), I somehow manage to free myself. I wonder whether all those other women lied; were they actually also stuck in their own bathrooms, trying to reach the nail scissors and just too ashamed to write ‘squat’ and ‘troll’? It just goes to show. Never trust a woman.

30 July Lucy’s make-up collection puts mine to shame. Hers comes in sleek glossy packaging and looks as if it might actually do what it promises. Mine comes in containers that have lost their tops, are cracked and covered in grubby fingerprints (my own, to my shame). Mine has long since lost all hope of ever achieving what it once promised. Lucy always looks sleek and glossy, much like her make-up collection. I fear I probably look worn, dented and possibly covered in grubby fingerprints (again, mine; note to self – always wash hands after eating peanut butter sandwiches). I love, nay covet, Lucy’s make-up collection. Sometimes when she’s out, I sneak into her room and stroke its sleek glossy packaging. I want to be Lucy when I grow up.

2 August Tom’s been home for two weeks, and is due to go back to Bristol tomorrow. So he's cooking me and Lucy a farewell meal. Mr Young, sadly, is away and so the three of us gamely eat his share of chicken fajitas, salsa, sour cream, cheese and biscuits. (It’s a tough job, but someone’s….etc.) Tom is actually a very good cook now. I have taught him everything I know, but he’s sensibly found this lacking and has gone on to learn how to do it all properly. His mashed potato, for example, has a secret ingredient that he has revealed to only a select few (and no, it’s not potatoes). His scrambled eggs, too, have a secret ingredient (no, again, it’s not eggs! Making a joke twice doesn’t mean it’s even funnier the second time round!). Annoyingly, these secret ingredients really do improve both these dishes. However, I am still mistress of the Bakewell Tart. Although the last time I made it was with a new recipe, and I wasn’t happy with the pastry which was far too short and impossible to roll out. “It’s delicious!” said Mr Young enthusiastically. “This pastry is perfect!” “It’s not perfect,” I said. “It’s far too short. It’s all crumbly.” “But that’s how I like it!” he said. “Crumbly!” So I might as well just give him a pile of crumbs sprinkled with almonds and jam. That should keep him happy. Come to think of it, pastry is something else that can find the chink in the armour of Mr Young’s deliberate indifference. Pastry and Arsenal. This will be my evil plan then. To find a football team made out of pastry.

4 August Me and Mr Young are looking for a new DVD series to take on holiday. We’ve been looking on Amazon, but are also planning to saunter into town and see what we can find. “We’ll go to HMD,” I say. “Do I mean HMD? Is that right?” “It’s HMV,” he says. “I think you must have been thinking of WMD.” “WMD?” I say. “Isn’t that an oil?” “No, that’s WD40,” he says. We are also planning to visit H&M and BHS, so things might get tricky. Or TMGT.

My novel is nearly finished, which is scary because I will soon have to publish it as a Kindle book ( I’m far too old to spend the next ten years sending it round to every single publisher to be rejected. I don’t like rejection. I’m a lover of acceptance. A LOA, that’s me) and this means that instead of confidently telling everyone (including myself) that it’s going to be a brilliant book, it might actually turn out to be a not very good book. Sigh. Things are always so much better in your dreams. (Apart from scorched guinea pigs, of course). So it will soon be a real, live, virtual novel (well, of course I’m aware that it’s a contradiction in terms! It was ironic!). And that’s very, very scary. VVS.

5 August Our local athlete, Louis Smith, has just won a silver medal in the Pommel Horse event! And Andy Murray has won the gold! Against Roger Federer! I can’t believe I am actually watching the Olympics! And getting so excited about every single event! And using so many exclamation marks! OMG!!!