29 March I’m feeling apprehensive; today is the day of my hearing test. A lot is at stake here. An audiological altercation has been developing slowly over the last few months and has been causing a certain amount of friction between myself and Mr Young. My version (obviously the true one) is that he has been increasingly mumbling and/or turning his head away when he speaks to me, whereas Mr Young maintains that he has been talking in a perfectly normal voice. He says this with one of those very slightly patronising smirks that can make one tighten one’s grip on a vegetable knife. There is no middle ground that I can see here; either Mr Young is right (no) and I am going deaf, or I am right (yes) and he has developed a habit of mumbling and turning his head away. So I have taken action and booked myself a free hearing test at Boots.
I’m shown into a sound-proofed booth and instructed to press a button every time I hear a high-pitched squeal. It’s a bit like being on one of those old television game shows when the audience knows what’s going on and you don’t but you grin like a fool anyway because there’s a good chance you could win a holiday in the Bahamas. Or a fridge freezer. I don’t think there’s any chance of a fridge freezer today, however. I suppose the nearest I might get is a voucher towards some money off a hearing aid. The audiologist smiles reassuringly at me. I assume the test has started as I can hear some squeaking sounds; I’m not entirely sure, however, so I panic and just randomly press the button and smile back at her. I’ve no idea how I’ve done when I come out of the booth, but the audiologist is impressed. “Your hearing is perfect,” she says. “Really?” I say. “Oh yes,” she says. “Just about perfect,” then she spoils it by patting my knee and adding “for your age.” Nonetheless, this is great news. It means I win. Mr Young does mumble, clearly. He has obviously also been turning his head away when he speaks. This may be because familiarity breeds indifference – if not outright contempt – or perhaps he is doing it deliberately to make me paranoid about my hearing. This may be because he is three years younger than me and therefore still in his forties, whereas I am now eligible for Saga Holidays – something which is the cause of frequent hilarity. To him. But I win and so I can now quite legitimately shout “Speak up!” at him and tell him not to mumble whenever I don’t quite catch what he says. I can also command him to look at me whenever he speaks to me. I think this will be suitable retribution. 30 March I do something horrendously painful to my back while ironing and immediately make an appointment with my chiropractor. He explains to me in great detail, with the aid of diagrams, long words and gestures (only the glove puppets are missing), that my lumbo-thingosorus (I paraphrase, so please don’t use this terminology to your own chiropractor should you experience a similar laundry-based injury) has locked into position on the right side. “But I was only ironing,” I say, and demonstrate, (slightly unnecessary, as I’d be very surprised if my ironing didn’t look exactly like everyone else’s. Interpretive ironing, as far as I know, is not a thing.) “Aha,” he says meaningfully, “so you were only ironing,” and shows me another diagram of a pelvis. “Let me demonstrate,” he says, and turns me round (in my humiliating open-backed gown) to dig his thumbs into the base of my spine. “You see?” he asks. “You see how my left thumb goes down when you raise your left leg, and my right thumb goes up when you raise your right leg?” (I do.) “This is because your right lumbo-thingosorus is not moving.” (I am still paraphrasing, remember.) I have to lie on the couch while he pretends that he is not going to crack my spine painfully first to one side and then the other and I pretend that I am not going to yell like a cowardly girl when he does so. But, of course, he does because he is a chiropractor and I do because I am a cowardly girl. And, let’s not forget, I have done something to my lumbo-thingosorus. I wonder if I can cite this as an excuse not to do any more ironing. My back does feel almost instantly better, but Mr Young’s double cuffs can be very tricky on occasion and could easily trigger another attack. 4 April I am very excited, but trying hard not to be. Mother’s Day is always one of those Will They? Won’t They? occasions. In other words, have my children taken notice of my heavily dropped hints or not? Has Mr Young obeyed my commands to call them on a daily basis and tell them not to forget to send their mother a card and that either flowers or chocolates will do? (It doesn’t have to be both. I’m not demanding. Well, actually I am, but not unduly so. I’ve put in the hours over the years.) Harriet is still in the Gambia, so it would be unfair to expect a card to have winged (wung?) its way over from Africa in time to celebrate the Wonderfulness That Is Me on my special day. Tom is a good son, but his track record is not great; he is definitely lagging behind in the Children Who Remember Mother’s Day stakes. Lucy, however, has invited me up to Nottingham and has booked a special MD table for a special MD meal. I am aglow (what a lovely word that is) with pride and would tell the person next to me on the train how fortunate I am to have a child so willing to celebrate the Wonderfulness That Is Me, except there is no one actually sitting next to me. Perhaps they are too daunted by my aglowness.
We have a lovely lunch, and quite a lot of wine, and we barely have time to go back to her flat so that she can lend me her Soprano’s Cookbook (more on this to follow next time…. gosh, a cliffhanger mid-sentence! How exciting!) before my train leaves and I travel back to Peterborough in an aglowness that has been intensified by the liberal addition of Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and chocolate tart. When I arrive home, there are flowers waiting for me; Harriet remembered to organise them before she left for the Gambia a fortnight ago. I am even happier. The Wonderfulness That Is Me has been acknowledged to my satisfaction. “Well, isn’t that lovely?” I ask Mr Young. He mumbles something which I can't quite hear, but I let it pass.
I am too aglow to care. 6 April Tom has remembered Mother’s Day after all. “What’s your favourite chocolate?” he asks, looking pleased with himself. “Oooh, I love plain chocolate,” I say. “Oh,” he says, looking slightly crestfallen. “Well, what’s your second favourite chocolate?” “Milk?” I say hopefully. “Oh,” he says again. “But I do really like white chocolate too,” I say hastily. “I thought white was your favourite,” he says sadly, “but I think I must have been thinking of myself instead.” Women everywhere will recognise this familiar pattern of behaviour in their menfolk, who constantly labour under the mistaken belief that their own favourite things are also the favourite things of the women in their life, no matter how many times they are told that this is definitely not the case. All the same, I wish I’d pretended I liked white chocolate best. 8 April Mr Young and I go to see Blood Brothers at the Broadway Theatre. Mr Young is very partial to this sort of thing while I, quite frankly, would rather eat my own foot than watch a musical. I know, I know, I am in the shameful minority and quite willing to accept that I have no taste as I am the only person I know who doesn’t enjoy musicals. But I can’t help it. I love a good play and I love listening to good music, but combining the two seems to me to be the worst of both worlds. Whereas this very same combination can bring a lump to Mr Young’s throat and a tear to his eye. Everyone around me laughs enthusiastically at the funny bits and then sighs noisily at the sad bits.
The music just seems far too loud to me. Damn my perfect hearing, I think. 9 April We have friends round for supper. I am just getting coffee out of the cupboard when someone says, “Oooh, I went to see Blood Brothers this week. It was brilliant. I cried so much at the end.” I stay behind the cupboard door. “Well, what a coincidence! So did we!” Mr Young says. “Didn’t we?” I remain behind the cupboard door. “I said didn’t we?” Mr Young calls again. Then he says, “She’s hiding behind the cupboard door because she hated it.” “I didn’t hate it,” I say, still behind the cupboard door and in a social quandary. “It just wasn’t my favourite thing.” “She did! She hated it!” Mr Young crows. I have to come out from behind the cupboard. I’ve been there for a suspiciously long time and our guests are looking genuinely perplexed; whether at my lack of cultural taste or at my sudden reappearance, I’m not quite sure.
I can only think of one thing to say. “Well, you see, it’s just that my hearing isn’t so great these days,” I say. “I’m getting on a bit now, you know. Actually, I had to have a hearing test this week.” Everyone (all younger than me) nods understandingly and tactfully changes the subject. I note that Mr Young looks pleased with himself.
But I shall have the last laugh. There’s a big pile of shirts to iron, all with very tricky cuffs, and my stiff lumbo-thingosorus means that someone else will have to do them while I’m leafing through my Saga Holiday brochures. If that doesn’t make him mumble, I don’t know what will.