19 March I spend the afternoon trudging along behind Harriet who is shopping for a month-long trip to the Gambia. (When I was a student, a night out was a couple of hours in a Wimpy Bar and a holiday was a soggy weekend at a YMCA in a village with no vowels in its name.) She needs to buy a mosquito net, suncream, a denim miniskirt, flipflops, and a new bikini. I need to buy some toenail clippers and deodorant for Mr Young. I can’t help feeling on occasion that a glamorous lifestyle has passed me by.
20 March I am sitting on the bedroom floor, putting my shoes on, when Mr Young comes in. He squats down in front of me, apparently intending to ask me something, but instead slowly topples over onto his side and lies curled up in a fetal position. “Did you just try and squat and then fall over?” I ask him after a few seconds of deliberately not laughing. “Yes,” he says. “Embarrassing, isn’t it?” “Well, we can pretend you meant to do it that way,” I say. “Yes, that’s a good idea,” he says. “I think I shall call this squailing, a sort of sideways version of squatting that I’ve invented.” He has clearly forgotten what he wants to ask me and it doesn’t seem opportune to remind him.
I leave him squailing on the floor.
In the afternoon, we go into Boots to buy Mr Young some reading glasses. He says he wants me to help him choose some and it’s a good job I’m there, because the ones he takes a fancy to make him look like Buggles. “Oh, but these are much nicer,” I say, showing him a respectable wire-rimmed pair. “Yeess,” he says slowly, but I can tell where his heart lies. While he peers at himself in the mirror, trying on pair after pair with his Trying On Glasses expression (a vaguely frowny pout which I assume is his version of looking intellectual), I notice a big poster saying Free Hearing Test! It features an elderly man and a young girl, both laughing eagerly at the camera. (I’m not sure of the reason for this excessive mirth; are they laughing because they’ve both had a free hearing test and are thrilled at the money they’ve saved? Or are they laughing at the sheer generosity of kind-hearted Boots, who are prepared to donate the time of their trained staff? Maybe they are just laughing at people like me, who rather suspect that it’s about time they took advantage of a free hearing test instead of accusing people of muttering.) I leave Mr Young pouting sternly at his reflection and go over to the counter. “Is this where I book the free hearing test?” I ask the receptionist. “Yes,” she says. “What?” “Yes!” she says loudly. Sometimes my sense of humour is far too sophisticated.
I book my completely free test – I’m impressed, actually; fifteen minutes of expert testing and advice – and put it in my diary. Mr Young has narrowed his choice down to two. “Which ones?” he asks, pouting at me in first one pair, then the other. He looks damned handsome in both of them, to be honest, so we end up choosing the cheapest pair. “I’ve just booked a free hearing test,” I tell him. “What?” he says. But I’m not falling for that one. You can’t kid a kidder.
22 March I have a hair appointment with Paul who, after my father, my husband and my son, is the most important man in my life. In fact, as the other three can’t get rid of my grey roots, I guess he is unofficially the most important man in my life. “Have you been cutting your own fringe again?” he asks me suspiciously. “Only a little bit,” I lie. (I’ve actually cut more than a few inches off here and there. I tend to do this when I can’t be bothered to brush it properly.) He tuts sternly and shakes his head.
We chat about our usual things and then, for some reason, we start to discuss Catholicism, then religion and faith, then death, and we are just about to segue neatly into the meaning of life when we realise that everyone around us has stopped talking. “Well, that’s a bit deep,” says Stephen, who is blowdrying a blonde bob next to me. “We’re hairdressers, you know. We’re not allowed to talk about sex, religion or politics.” Paul looks embarrassed. “Sorry, I wasn’t thinking.” Hurriedly, we talk about holidays for a while, and then Stephen announces that on average we all swallow eight spiders a year in our sleep and everything goes back to normal again.
When I get home, my hair glossy and bouncy in a way that it won’t be again for another six weeks, I see that Johnnie Boden has been writing to me again. Honestly, the man can’t leave me alone! He emails me every day, sends me catalogues and cards, leaflets in my Amazon packages, and now he has even written a newspaper that turned up on my doormat last week. I am getting completely overburdened by Boden. I wonder if I should write back to Johnnie and tell him that he is in danger of being responsible for an entirely new word; Overboden (verb); to overwhelm with middle-class clothing catalogues. But I guess he would feel duty-bound to respond and so the whole cycle would repeat itself and I would only have myself to blame.
23 March I get an early call from an unknown number. “Hello? Is this Peggy Young?” “No,” I say suspiciously. “Is this Mrs Young?” “Yes,” I admit cautiously. “This is Boots – you have a hearing test booked this morning.” “Yes,” I concede. “I’m sorry, but we will have to re-arrange the test – we’ve had a flood and we’re having to reschedule everyone’s appointments.” “Oh, that’s no problem,” I say. “What a nuisance for you!” “Pardon?” “I said that must be a nuisance for you..” “Sorry, you’ll have to speak up, Mrs Young.”
Now, it could have just been a bad line, or maybe you can kid a kidder, after all.
I’ll drop Johnnie a line. He’ll know.