You knew where you were with War Pigeons


4 September Where is the logical place to buy reliably sensible black work trousers? I’ll give you a clue – it begins with M, ends in S and has an & in the middle. Lucy is officially living back at home now, and starting work on Monday, so we are going on a shopping trip to buy her work wardrobe. She takes four different pairs – two different sizes in two different lengths – into the changing room while I settle back into the large and extremely squashy leather sofa and congratulate myself. It’s all going very well. Buying sensible trousers in good old reliable M&S. However, the Regular turn out to be very Irregular. “These are far too short, aren’t they?” she asks, coming out of the changing room. As I am practically at floor level, thanks to the extremely squashy sofa, it’s difficult to judge, so – as I don’t seem to be able to rise unaided – I get a couple of M&S assistants to heave me up for an appraisal. She’s right. Lucy’s not a tall girl, but the hemlines are hovering somewhere around her ankles. It’s not a good look for a professional woman. (She would, however, be in with a chance for first prize at a Mr Bean fancy dress party.) The Longs are way too Long, on the other hand. The trouser bottoms puddle on the floor around her feet. We try on a different style in the Long. These are now too Short. Although not as Short as the Regular in this style, which are even shorter than the other Regular. Lucy and I are getting hot and bothered. “Oh dear,” laughs the assistant as she heaves a fellow shopper up from the extremely squashy sofa which I'm beginning to find quite sinister. It's beginning to resemble a Venus Flytrap snapping shut around an unsuspecting insect and entirely possible that someone might still be trapped in there; “this is always happening with the sizes.” I am outraged. What has happened to reliable M&S? Where did it all go wrong? “It’s because they’re made in different factories, and they’re all given a certain amount of leeway,” she says. “But surely ‘leeway’ doesn’t mean up to three inches, does it?” I say. “Well, yes,” she says. “I’m afraid it does. Terrible, isn’t it? Drives us mad.” She laughs again.

Madness. We go to Next. The first pair Lucy tries on is perfect. And cheaper.

And no sofas, I note.

Coincidentally, Mr Young is also shopping this weekend. For jeans.

I just loiter around outside the changing rooms, looking at boring men’s clothes and, when I get bored with looking at boring men’s clothes – which takes three seconds – I look at all the other men’s feet under the curtains in the changing cubicles. This is surprisingly addictive, so I’m not going to tell you where we are because I don’t want to be responsible for causing gangs of women to hang around suspiciously outside these same changing cubicles, watching men’s hairy ankles and feet in socks turn to the left, back to the centre, then to the right. Sometimes a full 360 degree turn.

One pair of feet rose up onto tiptoes and then just one foot stayed on the floor. I really wanted to see who these feet belonged to but Mr Young came out and ushered me away. He’s such a spoilsport.

5 September Tom challenges me to a game of chess. This will make a stimulating change from pretending not to watch Keeping Up With The Kardashians and Britain & Ireland’s Top Model with Lucy, I think. It’s a long time since I’ve played and I’ve forgotten what a poor player I’ve always been. In typical poor-player style, I immediately give this away by asking him which way round the King and Queen go, what the castle is called and forgetting several times whether I’m black or white. It isn’t my finest hour. In fact, come to think of it, I don’t remember having had any finest hours for quite some time now. Perhaps I’ve never had one. It’s more than likely. The Kardashians don’t seem to be having many finest hours either, though, which gives me some comfort.

6 September Johnny Boden has written to me personally (yes me! I know it’s to me, because he says Dear Penny) to very kindly offer me a 10% discount off his new clothing line. What a thoughtful man he is. Always thinking of others. Unfortunately, even with his generous offer, I can’t afford any of Johnny’s clothes right now as I am saving up for some chess lessons.

8 September As Mr Young and I are now middle-aged, we are legally required to carry out DIY tasks on a regular basis.

Our latest project is the top floor bathroom; there is wallpaper hanging off the walls, a missing bath panel and more than a few mysterious stains (although, let’s be honest, perhaps not that mysterious in a bathroom). In a rush of enthusiasm, Mr Young decides that he will build a new cabinet for the basin and do a bit of tongue and groove. Obviously, I don’t want to dampen (does that qualify as a bathroom pun? Oh, come on, be generous) his enthusiasm, and I'm taken aback by the latter. “Don’t worry about it,” he says breezily on the way to B&Q, “”I’ve done loads of tongue and groove in my time.” This is news to me. I fear that Mr Young might have A Past and wonder if this exercise is how he plans to pay for the renovation work. Then he modestly elaborates. “I’ve done a bathroom before,” he says. “And a stair wall.” I'm relieved, although I now have a new concern. Tongue and groove - if I understand it correctly - does not sound attractive. I'm dubious. “Have you got a portfolio of your work?” I ask him. “Yes, but it’s secret,” he says. “What’s the point of a portfolio if it’s secret?” I say. “Ah,” he says mysteriously and pretends to concentrate on the traffic at the roundabout. Sometimes Mr Young starts a conversation and has no idea how to finish it. He’s such an amateur. You should always have the punchline ready when you start a conversation. Even if it’s just shouting “So there!” and running out of the room.

9 September Lucy is doing her own laundry, so I offer to help her make her bed up. We are about to put the bottom sheet on when I notice that the corner is damp. In fact, the whole sheet is damp. Not just damp, either, but wet. “You can’t put this on!” I say, horrified. “It’s soaking!” “No it’s not,” she says. “It’s just a bit damp.” “It’s practically dripping on the floor!” I say. Now, I’m not one to be melodramatic (lie) but this is quite true. The sheet, the duvet cover and both pillow cases aren’t dry at all. “You can’t sleep on wet sheets!” I say. (I seem to be using an awful lot of exclamation marks, but sometimes it’s unavoidable, isn’t it? Sometimes a conversation just cries out for an exclamation mark, doesn't it? And what’s wrong with that? Nothing, I say! Let’s hear it for exclamation marks!) “Why?” she says. “Because…because you’ll catch a cold,” I say. (I have to admit that I’ve no idea if this is true, or if I’ve just made it up. I think I heard it somewhere, but maybe it’s just an old wives tale. But, as I am officially an old wife, I’m allowed to say it.) “So there!” I say and run out of the room. I put the sopping wet bed clothes over the bannisters where they drip steadily onto the carpet throughout the night. (They didn’t really. I just made that up for comic effect. I can, because this is my diary and I can say what I like. So there!)(Runs out of the room.)

12 September Breaking news….tonight I’ve found out something very shocking regarding Mr Young. Apparently, he’s a fully-fledged Trekkie. Casually, oh so casually, he suggests we watch Star Trek: Nemesis. As usual with practically every film we see together, I can’t follow the plot at all. I’m far too busy wondering where William Shatner is. Mr Young, on the other hand, is a mine of information, explaining the difference between the Romulans and the Remans, why the Enterprise doesn’t have a cloaking device and why the man in all the white makeup has a miniature beaming-up thingy in his arm. I’m still trying to work out why the cloned version of Patrick Stewart looks nothing like the real Patrick Stewart when Mr Young says something about War Pigeons. This sounds interesting. How archaic, I think. All that technology and they still use such an unlikely form of communication. “No, not war pigeons…WARP ENGINES!” says Mr Young. He’s getting irritated.

I stop asking questions and go back to thinking about William Shatner. Now that was proper Star Trek, if you ask me. Good old reliable Star Trek. You knew where you were, in those days. Boldly going where no man had been before. Which, obviously, wasn’t to B&Q to buy tongue and groove.

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