Sunday 24 August
I have to get the dictionary out again and look up ‘guarantee’ because the hotel around the corner from us has just put up a new sign with the bold promise, ‘Happiness Guaranteed!’ The dictionary confirms that it means an assurance of a specific outcome. Exactly as I thought (in an admittedly petty-minded way). In my defence, though, I have been meaning to check this for some time now because - irritating pedant that I am - I have been mulling over this charming promise every time I’ve passed the sign, wondering what would happen if, for some reason (arson, marital dispute, whimsy), I decide to walk two hundred yards, check in for an overnight stay at the Great Northern Hotel…and wake up the next morning feeling decidedly unhappy. Should I complain to the management and demand all my money back? Or insist that they fully repair my happiness free of charge? I have spent many satisfactory minutes, (ok, then, hours) speculating about this. Unfortunately, this sort of pedantry seems to take up more and more of my time these days, but at least it distracts me from my usual preoccupation with my fat knees.
Monday 25th August I have spotted another sign for the Great Northern Hotel, promising a ‘Healthy or Hearty Breakfast!’ Natch, this gives me cause for a great deal more reflection. Happy days. See if I care, fat knees! The hotel obviously wishes to imply that, after a night of assured happiness, you can waddle downstairs to the restaurant and go for the hearty breakfast like the unhealthy dollop you are, or virtuously look your waiter in the eye and ask smugly for the healthy option. I am keen to see what other marketing ploys the Great Northern has up its sleeve. I am also very keen to stay there now so that I can hopefully experience the guaranteed happiness and see for myself what their hearty slash healthy breakfasts are like. I might even have both, just to set the cat amongst the pigeons.
Wednesday 27th August Once Mr Young gets an idea in his head, there is no stopping him. He is that (forefinger and thumb a millimetre apart) close to becoming an irresistible force. I, however, am the immovable object so we don’t quite make it to paradox status. Which is just as well, otherwise we would have had an extremely short marriage. First he gets a tiny spark of a concept. This then develops slowly until it gets to the stage where he spends a great deal of time researching the original idea, honing and developing it until he is almost happy with the end result. It usually takes about a fortnight from germination to final blueprint.
One of his most recent projects has been the construction of a home gym in our basement, complete with bench, squat rack and a full set of weights. As the ceiling height is 5’11” in places, this task has taken a great deal of ingenuity as Mr Young is 6’ exactly. However, with the resourceful use of sellotape and bits of string (I’m kidding), he has built a pretty damn amazing structure. He has also put up a mirrored wall so that’s possible to watch yourself gurning while attempting to lift impossibly heavy weights. Note to self: ask Mr Young to install a dimmer switch. Or remove my contact lenses.
Thursday 28th August I have been flossing like a mad thing for 24 hours now because I am due to go the dentist today and I know he will tell me off. And he does, even though I tell him I floss regularly. He looks at me sternly. “How often is regularly?” “Once every six months,” I have to admit. I cannot tell a lie. He hands me my notes back reproachfully. I stop off at Boots on the way home to buy another pack of waxed dental floss, even though the pack I bought six months ago has barely been used. The obedient side of me honestly believes that I will, from this moment on, floss dutifully twice a day, every day. The realistic side of me knows that I will floss for the next two days and then forget until 27th March 2015. It’s both disappointing and soothing to realise that you know yourself so well. Like an old and much loved friend who always manages to let you down.
Friday 29th August Tom and Julia are due back from Japan next Thursday, and Murphy, one the two cats they’ve entrusted to our care for three months, has gone missing. This may well be because of Ruby, who has been squeaking (puppy version of a bark) ferociously at them every time they’ve dared to pass through the kitchen.
After 24 hours, Mr Young and myself are quite anxious. After 36 hours, we are very anxious. We trail round the edges of the fields at the bottom of our road, whistling and calling “Murphy! Murphy?” in a plaintive way. In just the sort of plaintive way that would encourage a sulky, contrary cat to stalk off in the opposite direction. Which is probably what he does, as we can’t find him. We are on the verge of grabbing the black and white cat we spot in the undergrowth and carrying it home in triumph, but Mr Young points out that this isn’t Murphy at all and even though Tom and Julia have been away for three months, they would probably still be able to notice that Murphy had doubled in size, now had black whiskers instead of white, and the patch in the middle of his forehead was missing.
Despondently, we trudge home, compulsively calling “Murphy? Murphy?” every few seconds until I worry that it will become a nervous tic, in a Tourettes sort of way. Then I have the brilliant idea of going to their previous flat, to see if he has decided to drop in to find his old owners, the nice ones that don’t have an irritating puppy. He isn’t there, but I leave my number anyway with the new owner. Five minutes later, I get a call. Apparently Murphy has appeared outside her French window and is glaring in at her. I think she is finding this quite intimidating.
Murphy is now remanded in custody until Tom and Julia get back. He’ll be very glad to see them, as Ruby has now stolen one of his toys as well as some of his food. It’s hard to maintain a feline dignity when you’re being constantly squeaked at.
Saturday 30th August Harriet and Jonny are back from France, full of stories about the wonderful food they had, French markets, restaurants, wine, the frog in the pool (not, as you might think, a derogatory term, but a real, actual swimming frog that made Harriet exit the water in Olympic speed), the fun they had.
Mr Young and I are pleased to see them, and the case of wine they have thoughtfully brought back, but our own stories aren’t nearly as interesting as we’ve barely been out of the house for the ten days since Ruby arrived. Although we too have encountered a frog. In the garden, during one of our endless patrols of the patio in usually unsuccessful attempts to get Ruby to poo outside. Leaves, twigs, pebbles, snails, wasps, slugs, car alarms, slamming doors, and the above-mentioned frog are all far more interesting than the task of emptying her tiny bowels though, and it is always a cause for much celebration when she does perform. Fireworks, balloons, champagne, general carousing, etc. At least this should frighten the frog away, though.
Monday 1st September On the back page of the free magazine that is delivered, there is an advert for a Christmas fayre. This is irritating because a) there’s still nearly four months to go b) why are Christmas fayres always fayres and not fairs? Prithee tell me that, ye eager advertisers.
Tuesday 2nd September Useful tip #1 – If you have dark hair, and your roots are showing, use a mascara brush to temporarily disguise the grey. Useful tip #2 – Do not go out in the rain afterwards.
Thursday 4 September Tom and Julia are due home tonight at 9.30. I have promised them lasagne, but, on reflection, feel that maybe this isn’t a suitable meal to offer two people that have been travelling non-stop for 24 hours, and for whom 9.30 at night actually feels like breakfast time. As a flustered compromise, I make them an apple crumble instead.
Friday 5th September The explorers are safely home, jet-lagged and slightly annoyed that a rucksack has gone missing, but at least they ate my apple crumble.
Saturday 6th September We stroll round the garden during yet another interminable wait for Ruby to stop chasing wasps and perform. The black grapes on the vine growing over the pergola are now very ripe, and hanging in abundance. Mr Young tries one. “They’re really sweet now,” he tells me, then picks another one and holds it out for me to eat. “Ha, see that?” I tell Ruby, who has found a fascinating pebble. “I have a husband who feeds me grapes.” “Yes, but I’m not going to peel it for you as well,” says Mr Young.
I bet the Great Northern Hotel would peel my grapes.