Hubble bubble and a little bit of knee trouble


18 March

No amount of steam, smog from a selection of scented candles, plus some artfully placed artificial plants from Ikea can disguise the fact that our bathroom is on its last...plinth.

The sealant has come so far away from the wall that it's possible to wave down through the yawning gap to whoever is cooking in the kitchen below, and all the taps wilfully ignore any attempt to be turned off, trickling away mutinously. They do this no matter how many times I shout at them that we are on a water meter here, thank you very much!

Once upon a time, the tiles were, I believe, white, until Harry decided to liven them up with impossible-to-remove paint in a decorative pattern at dado rail height. The colour, of course, was Moody Teenage Black, which bled into the grout. I spent a week breaking both my fingernails and my spirit trying to remove this, and we now have a dado rail height pattern in Grunge Grey, with Dirty Grey grout. Serves me right, really.

But I digress. And not for the first time. I have been hinting for ages to Mr Young that the bathroom needs re-doing, while he watches my lips move and thinks about the new guitar he wants to buy, so today I lure him upstairs (no, it’s not that; seriously, it’s really not that) and bully him into the bathroom.

“So, how much will it cost, do you think, and can you do it?” I say. No point in beating about the bath mat.

“I’ll have to design it first,” he points out. “I’ll get my tape measure.”

A very good sign. The Fetching of the Tape Measure is Step No. 1 in any Mr Young Project.

He works out that we can’t, as we thought, have both a bath and a shower. We can have one or the other. Or a shath/bower, or whatever the showers-over-baths are called. Mr Young is keen on this idea, as he is a practical man (aren't they all?) but I don’t like these, and have to put my foot down.

“Surely we can think creatively? We could put the shower here? What about a bunk bath? The toilet over there?” I suggest helpfully.

Mr Young gives me his patented Patronising Smile and explains, at great length, how plumbing works.

“Are you sure you don’t want a bath with a shower?” he asks again. "It's the most practical solution."

“No, I really, really don’t. I’m worried I might fall over.”

He looks at me oddly. “But why? You don’t fall over when you stand up in the bath now.”

This is true, and I can’t explain why I'm convinced I might fall over in the shath/bower. It is just something I believe will almost certainly happen.

Fortunately, Mr Young knows me well enough not to pursue this, although I can see he is dying to list all the reasons why I wouldn't fall over, one of which no doubt involves buying a rubber mat with suckers on the bottom.

I don't have to explain that this does not tie in with my vision of a softly lit room, Jo Malone scented mists suspended in the air like fragrant veils, gleaming taps inviting one's fingers to caress their handles and release the water held within, virginal sealant that would not dream of liberating itself from the sleek new tiles that are most definitely not Grungy Grey.

So we are getting a bath.

Not a shower.

And it’s going to happen because Mr Young has now written down the measurements and designed it, and it’s all in his Project Book.

This is always Step No. 2.

Mr Young is very reliable.

20 March

I’ve hit on a very effective way of checking my writing; every time I finish a chapter, I read it aloud and record it on my iPhone, then play it back.

On the plus side, my new book is going really well – however, I’ve realised that I’m never going to be in demand as an audiobook narrator.

I thought I’d have a go at doing different accents for male and female characters’ dialogue.

Oddly, my Cockney Vince, and sixteen-year-old Brighton schoolgirl Serena, sound almost identical, even though I thought I’d made a pretty good attempt at a gravel-toned Tom Hardy type and an arrogant teenager.

Ivy – the middle-aged housewife – has my voice of course, which, disappointingly, sounds a bit nasal.

Also, I didn’t realise how much I gabble, and from time to time, it even sounds as if I am eating, which is mysterious.

I always thought I sounded authoritative. A sort of Helen Mirren, or Juliet Stevenson type.

Clearly no second career will be beckoning. Unless anyone particularly wants their book read by someone who sounds as if they are eating a ham sandwich?

21 March

Very pleased with the way I have adjusted to driving my new car, which is twice the size of my old car. That’s not really an exaggeration; most cars are twice the size of Fiat 500s. I could probably get my old car in the glove box of my new car.

I know Mr Young was sceptical about whether I’d be able to park this one, as I did have a few…issues…when parking the tiny, weeny 500.

So he's given me a mini-tutorial. And I must say, it has been a revelation to me that it’s possible to use wing mirrors for parking. Does the rest of the world know about this? Why was I taught to do the craning-neck-over-shoulder manoeuvre which never worked properly, when this ingenious method has been at my disposal for so many years?

Mr Young has shown me, in my new big car, exactly what to do, and I am now tentatively reversing into parking spaces all over Peterborough – sometimes even when there are already cars parked either side!

I have also discovered, once parked between the white lines, that if the steering wheel is perfectly level, this means the wheels are straight too! Again, I’m not sure if the rest of the world is aware of this or not, but it’s a little tip I’m going to pass on whenever possible.

I parked absolutely perfectly, between two cars, in Waitrose the other day, and stood back to admire my handiwork. If only I’d brought a ruler to check that it was equidistant between the white lines; must remember to pop one in the glove compartment.

I took a photograph, anyway, to show Mr Young. I was a bit disappointed that no one came up and congratulated me, but I expect I shall be just as blasé as my fellow shoppers in a few weeks' time.

With my newfound confidence, I’m even wondering whether to take the plunge and start hooting back when someone cuts me up at a roundabout now, raising my own middle finger in retaliation, instead of just ignoring them as I usually do.

We reverse-parkers shouldn’t take abuse meekly from fellow motorists.

Anyway, I’ll have my ruler should things turn ugly.

23 March

Couch to 5k; it doesn’t quite mean leaping up from the sofa halfway through Masterchef and sprinting until you’ve reached your visible horizon, as I know we’re all aware.

That’s just silly.

By now, everyone knows this is shorthand for a method for very unfit people to gradually, gradually, oh so slowly, start running bit by bit, until they eventually, eventually, become fit enough to run about 5k.

I think I’ll have a go. I’ve been meaning to for ages, but it’s either been raining/too cold/I’ve been ironing/I’ve had to wash my hair…

Today, I have to walk five minutes, run for one minute, walk for two minutes, run for one minute, etc…then walk for five minutes. All for a total of thirty minutes.

It’s easy.

24 March

So easy, I don’t bother with a rest day, just do it again.

25 March

And again today.

26 March

I have a rest day today.

27 March

But I start Week Two today, instead of waiting, because it’s all been so easy. Now I’m running for one and a half minutes at a time.

So easy.

28 March

I can’t sleep because my knee is so sore and achy. I wake Mr Young up to tell him how much pain I’m in. He’s fairly sympathetic.

I’ve Googled it; now I’m doing the RICE thing. Rest, ice, compression, elevate. And lots of painkillers. Mr Young is very helpful, and fairly sympathetic.

31 March

We decide to go to Boots to buy a knee brace for the compression part, as my knee is still very painful. The brace looks a bit like a piece of body armour that the non-zombies wear in the Walking Dead; certainly, nothing would be able to get through to my flesh once I’m wearing it.

After paying at the till, I’m reading the instructions on the box and walking through the store when I trip over a yellow cone that says Hazard: Wet Floor.

Mr Young chokes back laughter and even the girl behind me at the checkout makes a muffled noise that I’m pretty sure is the sound of her hand being clapped over her mouth to hide a snigger as I wince and rub my painful knee.

Like I say, fairly sympathetic.

1 April

The family descend on my father, who, amazingly, has offered to cook Easter Sunday lunch for ten of us. In his late eighties, he has provided a magnificent spread of roast beef, parsnips, Brussel sprouts, carrots, Yorkshire puddings, roast potatoes, gravy, and home-made banoffee pie. I hide my shop-bought cheesecake at the back of the fridge.

Everyone is very sympathetic when they see the knee brace strapped round my leg and I explain what happened.

Then my father comes out of the kitchen.

“What have you done?” he says.

“I thought I’d start running, but I did a bit too much, too soon,” I say.

“Why?” he says.

“To get fit,” I say, weakly.

“Silly girl,” he says, striding briskly back into the kitchen.

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