I could see MarcieD’s part-time Actress’ mind turning over and with each second her eyebrows slowly returned to their normal, perfectly plucked, position.
Monday, 17 September 2012
There we were all a-walking down the street, but without the doo-waah-diddys.
Saying that, being between the Amazon and the Jamaican, I did feel like the diddy of the three of us.
MarcieD was wearing some weird blingy track suit type of get up but, somehow getting away with it. Oozing class, she could have walked into the Ritz for afternoon tea and looked perfectly acceptable. If I wore that I’d look like Waynetta Slob-on a bad day, so not fair. Hot Toddy was barely wearing a khaki linen skirt which was considerably shorter than her long, golden, athletic legs. If I could choose a decent pair of legs out of a catalogue they would be the ones. Once again, not fair.
The downside of having a lovely cool house, in summer, is that you are fooled. You think it is perfectly fine to pop on your coat to go out in but then find, after only a block , there it is. Tomato face. You’d think I’d learn, but, no.
So there I was, sandwiched between two stunners, bright red and sweaty and, just to make matters worse, carrying a grey bucket with a fish in it, while they had their designer handbags swinging from their beautifully manicured hands. I sighed and just got on with it. Resigned.
Up until yesterday, Howard, the large Shubunkin, had resided in splendid comfort. Then the tank blew up. Lots of bangs and pops and hisses and then it died. Fortunately, Howard had escaped being fried as he was swimming happily in a bowl while having his sheets changed. Tank cleaned, I mean. The sea may have a bed but the tank didn’t.
A quandary was then to be had. I was running my fish down by not replacing them as they ghost-swam off into the River Styx . Howard was big. Howard needed a big tank. Buying a big tank, with money I didn’t have, was silly for just one fish. With a very heavy heart I rang the Aquatic shop on Hainton Avenue and asked if they could possibly re-home Howard for me. Thankfully they could so now we were taking a fish for a walk. To his new home.
We spread across the width of the pavement, West Side Story fashion, or rather Welhome Road fashion, before cutting the corner off by single-filing it down a passage.
“Good God, MarcieD, what the hell was that for?” My heart was in my mouth and Howard was surfing the waves in his bucket after MarcieD’s screech-laugh-hysterical-very-loud-noise thing.
“Did you see that?” she said, mouth still wide open and lips trembling with laughter. “Oh my goodness. Scared the life out of me.”
I looked down, to check on Howard, mumbling negatives, just as Hot Toddy did exactly the same, louder, if at all possible and Howard, once again, rode the waves.
Hot Toddy and MarcieD were holding on to each other, jumping up and down and nearly weeing themselves laughing. I just tried not to frown.
“What, what what? WOAH!!! Oh my God.” I carefully put the sloshing Howard on the floor and joined in the rugby-team-scored-a-big-score-scrum-hug. “Oh that is hysterical,” I screamed, while holding onto my bladder as best as I could.
We strained, on tip-toes, to look over the garden wall of the passage house and boiiiing, there it was. Up and downing like a thing crazed, was a grinning English Bull Terrier. On a trampoline. It would jump off, run round, run up and onto the small round exercise trampoline and boiiiiiiing, look over the wall. Bounce off and repeat. Constantly. Even more hysterical, as it obviously wasn’t bothering him in the slightest, he had one front leg in plaster with a neon-pink bandage over the top. If dogs had their own Paralympics this 3-legged canine would have got gold in the Gymnastics. No problem.
We must have watched this live version of “You’ve Been Framed” for 10 minutes or more, before reluctantly dragging ourselves away.
With a mix of still giggling and trying not to sob, I handed over Howard to his protector (I hoped), while the three of us struggled but managed to get out what we had just seen.
“Oh that’s just Fred,” said Aquatic Man. “He actually broke his leg trampolining, in the first place. He gets bored though and they can’t stop him. They took it away and he just howled all day so they had to let him carry on. He’s bonkers, won’t touch a ball or a stick. They take him to agility classes once a week. He loves that. Wins everything.” Maybe he does have some Golds after all, we girly-giggled.
Over steaming mugs of builders tea in Yes Chef! Cafe, handily straight across the road from the Aquatic shop, we started to discuss ‘The Grubby Little Letter.’
“Any ideas?” I asked but Hot Toddy and MarcieD just shook their pretty little heads. I sighed. “C’mon girls we’re supposed to be detectives not a bunch of Charlies.” They just gazed angelically, but unhelpfully, at me while slurping their teas.
I took the single sheet of grubby paper out of its grubby envelope and for the hundredth time read the brief but menacing words:
“You’re on our patch. Get off....”
Once again my stomach flipped over. I detest confrontation. I would love to think I could always flourish the perfect riposte, whip it in the air and cut my opponent to shreds, but, in reality, it just does not happen and I burble some rubbish or other and run away as fast as I can.
“Okay, let’s think about this,” I said. “Why is it so mucky? Who would have such filthy fingers? A gardener? A Coalman? I don’t suppose refuse collectors have dirty hands now it’s all wheelie bins and recycle boxes. There’s a rag and bone man comes round on a horse and cart but would he have dirty hands?”
I shoved the letter back in my pocket as the glazed faces told me we wouldn’t get any further with this puzzle just at the moment.
“MarcieD, not sure if you’ll fancy this one and, quite frankly I’m not sure how we’ll make you look anything other than a classy bird anyway. Can you remember ages ago when Hot Toddy was delivering our flyers and that woman from Oxford Street was asking her all the questions about us?”
Before MarcieD had the chance to answer Hot Toddy rather wickedly interjected;
“Yes, she thinks her husband’s getting his ‘ego’ massaged at Nicorette’s Knocking Shop down Grimsby Road. Seems he’s a bit addicted and he’s having a problem giving up. Tracey wants you to pretend to be a Nymph of the Pave and haul him in in your nets. Your fishnets – Hahaha!”
MarcieD glared at me and then at Hot Toddy.
“Why not you, little Miss Hot Hot Hot?” she enquired with eyebrows raised so high they disappeared.
“He knows who I am,” she said. “He gets his papers from my Dad’s shop. Telegraph when he’s with her and Sun when he’s not.”
I could see MarcieD’s part-time Actress’ mind turning over and with each second her eyebrows slowly returned to their normal, perfectly plucked, position.
I could see MarcieD’s part-time Actress’ mind turning over and with each second her eyebrows slowly returned to their normal, perfectly plucked, position.
“I suppose I could think of it as researching a part,” she murmured out loud. “Can I be a high-class call girl?”
“Not on Grimsby Road, outside a Kebab Shop.” I said. “Look, it shouldn’t be for long. We’ll know when he goes out, as Jackie will ring us when he leaves. No way he’ll be able to resist you and as soon as you start to get in the car we’ll take photos and that will be that. Quick, easy and something for your CV.”
So, there we were. The sign was flickering for Nicolette’s Massage Parlour. How they got away with it I have no idea but it had been there for years. Flashing away at the weary traveller as they came into town. Grubby net curtains at the first floor windows floated between the fresh air outside and who knew what inside. A few policemen probably – to account for the longevity.
After a major grump, MarcieD hadn’t washed her hair for 3 days as it was the only way to mask her expensive haircut. We plastered her beautiful face with far too much make up, rubbed if off a bit and smeared it a little, adding a few shadows as we went. God that woman’s looks were hard to dumb down. When we’d finished though she did look a little more Grimsby than Hollywood Red Carpet.
Ally, was a few sizes smaller than MarcieD; flatter and a lot less curvy. We raided her wardrobe and found some far too short, far too tight, clashing clothes. MarcieD had her own fishnets and borrowed some killer heels from Hot Toddy. I was slightly peeved that I had absolutely nothing to offer from my own wardrobe to contribute.
We parked down a side street and waited for the call. Thankfully it wasn’t long in coming and MarcieD shrugged off her coat and slinked out of the car. She was already lost in her character and sashayed, sassily, to the corner. Within 5 minutes 3 cars had slowed to a halt and she’d Pretty-Womaned through their opened passenger windows before they’d hastily driven off. Afterwards, we’d found out she’d told them that she was undercover, on a mission, and they couldn’t accelerate fast enough out of the way.
Here it was, a red Honda en-route to Nicorettes. MarcieD stuck out her chest, which nearly blocked the road, and one hip. Feet planted apart with promise.
Mr Dick, (yes, seriously – you shouldn’t play away from home with a name like that), couldn’t resist the new girl on the block. He had intended to be thrashed a little by Darlia, but Wow, what the hell was this? No doubt she was out to make some money and no doubt he was prepared to give her some.
Just as he got within touching distance, two drunks staggered out of the Kebab Shop and leered at MarcieD. Damn she thought but they just offered her a chip. Realising they were far too gone to be any trouble she smiled lustily at them, but not for their benefit, and took a long chip. They carried on their zig-zag way home while MarcieD popped the long chip into her mouth and sucked it, pulling it out slowly and seductively before swiftly biting the end off. I cursed as I dropped my camera and Hot Toddy nearly peed herself laughing. Shaking as she silently rocked, desperately trying to control herself. I just knew that MarcieD would never, ever, be able to eat chips in front of us again without hysterical suggestiveness.
Darlia peeked out from behind the grubby curtain not sure whether she was relieved not to have to put up with Dick the Dick or cross at the loss of a precious hour’s pay. She pulled her robe tightly around her and, with a big sigh, went off to make a cup of tea.
We got our photographs. MarcieD got an expanded résumé, Mrs. Dick got a good settlement for her divorce and PI GY got handsomely paid. Another case closed. Now we just had to close our own grubby little case and all would be well.
Saturday, 7 July 2012
OOOF – AAARGH – OOOH – OW- OOOOOH
Don’t think I’ll be trying this again in a hurry. I lay there for a moment, flat out on my front, wondering if I could move and desperately trying not to cry with pain and frustration. I knew if I started I’d end up like Alice in a big pool and this was supposed to be beach not sea.
The realization that there may be people about, made me decide to try. Tentatively, I moved my foot. Phew – at least I hadn’t done that pathetic girly thing of twisting my ankle and the other one was okay too.
I was pleased about that as it meant I was less likely to be plucked up by a huge gorilla and be dangled from the top of the Empire State Building. Then again, as I wasn’t Jessica Lange, and I wasn’t in a film, it was fairly unlikely anyway. The air-sea rescue helicopter was circling in the blue sky above me. I wondered whether to wave for help but then got embarrassed at the thought they may have spotted me anyway.
A bit of a wiggle ascertained that my right knee worked but, oh crap, I’d landed on my useless knee that had just got better. NOOOOO, not again.
I had a slight panic then, really wondered how I could get up. Had to. No choice. I could hear voices. Luckily I had gone down on a dune track that was in a bit of a trench with high-ish maron grass either side. At least sand was the best to fall onto. You didn’t tend to get grazed knees on sand – not unless you landed on some sharp shells anyway.
I was hanging on to the three leads for dear life. The dogs looked bemused.
“What the hell are you doing down there?” They would have woofed at me but they knew I didn’t understand dog. Mabel stared at me with her blue eyes and looked upwards. I knew that meant “Get up, you look silly.”
Oh, slight problem. The leads had somehow twisted and tied my wrists together. Great.
A bit like an escapologist, but without the big tank of water, or strait-jacket, and, thankfully, without the audience, as long as I got a move on, I writhed and wriggled onto my good knee and then, sorry Maude, used Maude as a table to push myself up. She nearly crumpled but managed to stay upright and I was relieved that I hadn’t broken her back as well as actually managing to get up.
I had to bend over to un-twizzle the leads as I had kept them short while we walked from the car to the salt-marsh, where I had hoped to let them off for a good run.
A small terrier, not on a lead, and with no owner in sight, had come belting towards us. My three, obviously sensing a tiny dog as a massive threat to us all had gone pack-like and dived towards it. The problem was, I was attached to them and their combined might was far more than mine. They were the Huskies and I was the sledge – Whooooosh, off we all went. Splat, I went.
This was the very reason I didn’t normally take all three out on my own, but today everyone else was busy so I had no choice but to try. Unfortunately it turned out to be a big fail. Fraught and injured I turned round and hobbled, very painfully, back to the car. Luckily I wasn’t back to square one, knee-wise, but I certainly felt like I’d slid down a big snake. Don’t pass Go, don’t collect £200.
Sand had always been somewhat of a saviour to me. When I was still at school, every Saturday morning I would head off to Seaview Riding Stables on my ratty blue RSW 14 bike. Riding hat firmly on and crop in hand. It was inevitable that I always got some clown yelling at me;
“Lost yer ‘orse Luv?”
After dismounting from my bike I would mount my favourite horse, Bluebird. A massive White, as wide and as comfortable as an armchair.
I had a Polo the other day and all the old horsey memories came flooding back. The mingled aromas of steamy horse flesh and breath, manure, sweet hay and mint. The tickling by the bristles on my outstretched palm as he gently slobbered all over me to get his treat. The nuzzling at my pocket for “More please,” while I wiped my slimy hand on my jodhpurs.
My Grandfather had ordered me some jodhpurs from the back of a magazine. I excitedly ripped the packaging open only for the whole of the assembled family to fall about in stitches, clutching their sides in agony, wheezing with laughter. They were the really old-fashioned type with massive stiff, sticky out bits at the top of the legs. To my utter humiliation I was made to put them on and parade about. How anybody survived that performance I do not know. They were utterly hysterical. Needless to say they were sent back and I didn’t have to suffer humiliation in public – thank goodness.
The yard girls would always come round and make you sling one leg forward. They would then furtle about under the saddle to tighten the girth by pulling the double buckles tight before sticking a couple of fingers underneath to check it wasn’t too tight.
One day, I must have been too busy, patting Blackbird, feeding him Polos and twisting my fingers in his silky mane, to notice I had been missed out in the girth checking session.
All was fine as we clip clopped our way down the streets, leaning back in our saddles down the steep hill, before crossing King’s Road. Metal shoes slightly slipping on the cobbles, we filed down Brighton Slip, onto the soft, sandy beach.
Cleethorpes Beach ©Tracey Edges
We’d walk for a bit, then trot for a bit and then the lead group would break ahead from the rest and start cantering. Bluebird was perfect for a canter. His rolling gait and wide back just carried you along through the fresh, salty sea air.
That’s when I suddenly felt a bit odd, wrong even. Oh God – my saddle suddenly slipped to the side. Startled I moved against it and my foot shot straight through my stirrup, which ended up around my knee.
Feeling like I was in slow-motion, I disappeared slowly downwards until I was underneath a cantering horse, hanging on for dear life.
“Help,” I feebly croaked with shock. “HEEEEELLLLLP,” I yelled in fear of my life. Luckily, with Blackbird being a beast of massive proportions. My unfettered leg dangled a foot, or so, above the ground.
Eventually realising my not-terribly-small predicament. The two lead riders yelled for everyone to pull up and steer away from me and then they rode their horses to block Bluebird and slow him down. Not before time – I really don’t think that my white knuckles could have hung on for too much longer.
Just to add insult to injury. Blackbird had a massive pee. How it missed me I don’t really know. Rather needed one myself by that point.
I was thankful that I had forgiving sand to drop down onto and, momentarily, on my back, underneath Blackbird, I saw that he was, indeed, a horse of massive proportions.
“Do you want a wheelbarrow again?” snorted Gangly Ben.
“I most certainly do not,” I snarled down the phone. “Does Ally happen to be with you? I’ve tried her flat and her mobile, but no answer.” That was unusual for Ally as she usually had it either clasped to her ear or was madly texting or changing her online status. She was never hard to pinpoint so this was slightly disconcerting.
“Erm...” said Ben.
“Erm?” I questioned.
“Well she sort of is.”
“What do you mean she sort of is?”
I frowned. Oops. I stopped frowning.
“Well......she’s in, erm....the shower actually.....” he trailed off.
Well, what’s the problem with that? Why are you sounding odd? Oh No! Oh yes! You haven’t, have you? You have. Oh my goodness. Really? Yes! Thank god for that.”
It was about time that Ally and Ben, got around to ‘Doing It’. They were made for each other. I was laughing and Gangly Ben was on his third WHOOP when he went very very quiet.
Ally, wrapped in a big fluffy towel, was glaring at him for sharing. She of the share-everything mentality.
“I’d better go,” he whimpered. “Oh, did you want something?”
“No. No. It’s alright. I’ll see you both tomorrow at, 11-ish?”
“Yeah that’s fine,” he practically whispered. Used to his normal Great Dane like enthusiasm and deep voice. I felt his pain. Trust me to interfere at exactly the wrong moment. Well, it could have been a slightly worse moment, but even so...
I gathered a few bits around me; multiple remotes, a big glass of water and lemon juice, the Radio Times and a pen and crashed out on the sofa. I was just thinking how lovely it was when the girls all jumped on me, rearranged the cushions to suit, took over most of the sofa and snuggled down. Maude yapped softly in her sleep, Lucaya twitched away (probably dreaming of the run she very nearly got) and Mabel snored her head off. It wasn’t long before I joined her.
It is really embarrassing, never mind annoying, to be woken up by someone banging on the window, staring in at you, when you could lay bets that you probably had had your mouth wide open and were unlikely to be looking your glamorous best - not that I ever managed to achieve glamour when awake. Let’s be honest.
By the time that I had shook my head awake, squeezed out from under the hysterically barking dogs, who were happily trampling all over me, and hobbled to the door, the Peeping Tom had gone but there was an envelope sticking through the letterbox.
I like getting letters, as long as they’re not in brown envelopes, as that usually spells trouble. This one was long and white with grubby black marks all over it.
“Oooh, “ I said aloud. “Oh.”
On a single sheet of, also grubby, paper was very badly written:
“You’re on our patch. Get off....”
Saturday, 30 June 2012
The White Hart had filled up and I didn’t want to lose my seat so, after a few self-conscious flappings of my hand, I caught the attention of the barman. With the universal sign for a drink you have to remember to twist your hand backwards and forwards and not go up and down or that would give out a whole different message, entirely, and probably cause you some trouble. After an enthusiastic, hopeful smile he brought me another pint. I do appreciate a bit of helpful service so bought him one too.
Mr. Blackwell and his three partners in crime, had, by this time, knocked back quite a few pints and were, rather usefully, getting louder. Rather un-usefully though they were being really boring and just bitching about what cars the accountancy partners had given themselves as that year’s bonus.
I switched off a little and listened to the sonorous tones drifting over me from the small stage in the back corner. The beautiful singer was of Jamaican descent and her long braided hair tumbled down to her amble bum which was ensconced in the tightest caramel-coloured, cashmere, wrap-dress, imaginable. She looked absolutely stunning and made the stage glow with her presence. When she opened her mouth, all around, melted into the music.
MarcieD was a good friend and I tried to melt into my booth and not attract attention to myself. I couldn’t help mouthing along to my favourite song though – ironically titled “Too Much War.” I wondered if I could get MarcieD on board to be part of the crew on the good ship PIGY. It may be worth an ask as she tended to be available in the daytimes, well afternoons anyway. She’d be no good for surveillance though – no way that MarcieD could ever blend in anywhere.
Just as they were getting too loud and utterly boorish, I heard;
“Come on, then – I’m bored here. Let’s find somewhere a bit livelier...” The implication hung in the air, on a pole. Three out of four were up for it but Mr. Blackwell had decided to stay.
“Miserable sod,” the others jostled him. “All too much for you mate – heh heh?!”
“Just go,” he said, “It’ll all be sorted soon and then I can breathe.”
They carried on waving and jeering and making the universal sign, that wasn’t asking for a drink, as they loudly crashed through the door onto Bethlehem Street in search of non-intellectual activity.
I saw Hot Toddy, quickly knock back what was left of her cocktail and swivel slowly on her stool so she was facing Mr. Blackwell.
“Ooh, you look miserable,” she purred. “I’m just about to have another one. Would you like one to cheer yourself up?” He briefly wondered if she was a prostitute but then received a blast of class and wealth and instantly dismissed that thought.
“Sorry,” he said
“Sorry?” she said. “Sorry for what?”
“Oh, erm nothing,” he spluttered. Realising, with horror, that his thoughts had slipped into his words. “Let me. What would you like?”
Drinks in hand, they got chatting about all and nothing. He was leaning towards her but not in a flirty way. Several drinks down the line and he was feeling the need to unburden. I saw Hot Toddy’s arm go round him and, in one way I was glad that he was getting stuck in but also sad that a lovely woman like Amanda was being treated quite so shabbily. Maybe he needed to change his friends. I couldn’t see the boy wonders being a great influence on anyone really.
Suddenly, Hot Toddy laughed, punched Mr. Blackwell, in a matey way and turned round to me with a massive gleaming white toothy smile and waved me over.
Ooh, that wasn’t what I was expecting, at all.
“Hey!” I smiled quizzically at her, glancing at him out of the corner of my eye. He was also laughing and looking concerned all at the same time.
“Bit of a mix up here,” she said.
“I feel terrible,” he said. “Poor Amanda.” “Oh God I hope she’ll forgive me.”
“What???! I practically screamed with frustration. “WHAT???”
“She means so much to me and we’re so busy I just thought it would be such a lovely surprise. I really didn’t know it would be so hard to lie to her though. It’s doing my head in.”
“WHAT???” I did yell this time. MarcieD glanced over with a bit of a fierce frown but when she saw it was only me and my big mouth, she gave me a big wave instead. I mouthed a silent, this time, “Sorry” in her direction.
Hot Toddy took over the conversation:
“Turns out, this chap here is a great big softie really.” I tried to instantly turn my opinion round of this ‘beast’. Nope, I needed more information first – I’d had to deal with the copious snotty tissues.
“The blonde in the car park. That was Mel Brookes.” No, not the old male version, (American film director, screenwriter, composer, lyricist, comedian, actor, producer), but the English Daytime TV presenter with the addition of an ‘e’ in Brookes. “She was picking up the house keys, while Amanda was at work, so they could do some secret filming for “We’ll Do Your New House Up”, a new programme where they decorate your new house and move you in without you knowing anything about it. Surprise Surprise!”
It was a surprise to me, I didn’t really know what to say for a second.
“What about your Dirty Weekend?” I asked.
“That was with Amanda,” he laughed. To get her out of the way while they did the work and moved us into the new house. I didn’t realise it would take so long to organize. It’s taken months and I hate lying to her. It’s been killing me.”
Houston, we have a problem. What to do about Amanda. I wanted to make her feel better. I knew how miserable she was feeling and didn’t want to prolong her agony for another second. On the other hand, I’d already shown her the footage, I’d taken, of Mel hugging her husband. Oh poo, what a to-do.
MarcieD finished her set and headed over to us. I sheepishly told her our tale of woe, after buying her a sorry-I-yelled-during-your-song drink.
When she finished bouncing her deep laughter, also sonorous, off all the walls, she did have the decency to cringe.
“How long is it for now?”
“Just a few days. I take her away on Friday evening and we come back Sunday teatime. Feels like forever though. How am I going to do this when she thinks I’m cheating on her?” He put his head in his hands, once more and we all dived in to pat him vigorously. Poor chap – in angst and being beaten to death.
“Damage limitation,” said MarcieD. “Tracey, you tell Amanda that he was morally upstanding and Hot Toddy couldn’t make him stick to her at all, however much honey she oozed. You,” she fixed her glare on him,” need to stop worrying, as that’s not helping anything.”
He looked sheepish, then at his feet, then in his drink then at us three.
“You’re right,” he acquiesced. “All this was supposed to be for Amanda and I’ve made it all about me and now I’ve upset her. Oh, God, I really didn’t mean to. I’ll take her a lovely bunch of flowers home.
|Orange Flowers in Silver Vase ©Tracey Edges|
“NO!” said MarcieD. “Do NOT go over the top or she’ll just wonder even more. Just be normally nice. Will you have to communicate any more with the production crew?”
“No. That’s it now. Giving the keys to Mel, was the last thing I really needed to do. We’re completing on the new house on Friday, Amanda thinks it’s all happening on Monday, but the crew will pick up the new house keys then, from the Estate Agents.”
“Good,” I said. “So no more texts, phone calls, nipping out. That will help. Does Amanda know she’s going away?”
“Yes, but she thinks we’re going to her sister’s. Just as a breather before next week. It’s her sister’s birthday on Sunday so that made me able to persuade her. The Television Company have actually paid for a lovely Country House Hotel, that part was going to be the surprise.” He looked crestfallen as it sunk in how dreadfully wrong it had all gone.
“Don’t worry you’ve got Grimsby’s answer to Charlie’s Angels on your side.” We all assumed a pose from the film poster. It was so smooth and slick you’d have thought we’d done it before. Oh, ok, maybe we had. He laughed.
“That’s better,” I smiled at him. “I’ll ring Amanda in a minute tell her the good news re Hot Toddy. We can’t really do anything about the Mel incident, except not mention it. Thank goodness she didn’t recognise her. Work on being as normally nice as you possibly can tonight and tomorrow. When you get to the hotel tomorrow evening you can blame any subterfuge on arranging that ‘romantic’ surprise for her and hopefully she will believe you. Make up something about it being complicated because you had some vouchers, or something, and they kept ringing you to sort it out. That should at least make her wonder if she was wrong. Flowers, and Champagne, in the room, there, may be a good idea though. Oh, and explain all to her sister and have her in on the surprise so she can laugh at any suspicions Amanda may confide to her. I think that’s covered everything. Good luck!”
Sunday teatime Hot Toddy, MarcieD and I were in the semi-circle mass of people surrounding the camera crew filming Amanda and, erm, Mr Blackwell’s house. I hadn’t realised that she hadn’t ever said his name. It was all ‘my husband’, either owning the connection or spitting it out.
Amanda loved the surprise. Even the somewhat dodgy wallpapers used. I think she loved the relief even more. Her sooty eyes, once again stood up to the tears. Thankfully, these were happier ones and thankfully she gave Mel the used tissues.
Mel, ever the consummate professional, managed to keep her didn’t-we-do-well, whiter-than-white smile.
Friday, 29 June 2012
I stared at the ceiling, my mouth swollen and sore. So this is what torture was like then? You lay there helpless, pinned into submission, wanting to take flight but being unable to move. Wings clipped.
Someone grabbed my hand, as I moaned with the latest infliction of pain. The radio in the background suddenly started blaring out that annoying bright and breezy song;
“Enjoy yourself, it's later than you think. Enjoy yourself, while you're still in the pink.”
You’re taking the Mickey, I thought, with disgust.
“EEEEUUURRGHH,” I spluttered as the torture had obviously turned into water-boarding. I should think that there was a time, when if you said that, the first thought was surfing. Still spluttering I was pushed down and held firmly. I wanted to move away from the point of pain but I couldn’t – no wiggle room allowed.
“I’m about to die,” I screamed in my head.
Eventually I was released, they had got their information, and with shaky legs and a scarf clasped to my boxer’s lips, I staggered home, a bit all over the place. It wasn’t far but the soulless journey seemed to take me forever.
I leaned heavily against my front door for a minute or two while I gathered the strength to get my key out of my pocket and unlock the door. Normally, I cringe at the peeling paint and convince myself I will get it repainted before too long. It’s been like that for five years now. I really didn’t care what colour, or state it was in, today though.
Three furry beasts hurled themselves towards me, nearly sending me flying back through the way I had just struggled to come.
“Heeeeellllllppppp,” I whined and muffle-cried-out. “Get down, Mabel, Maude and Lucaya.” It would have been so much easier if I’d just had the one dog called Shep, but no – all was harder and tougher than it had been for John Noakes.
Waiting ©Tracey Edges
Greetings over, I shrugged off my coat and looked in the mirror. “Oh great,” I moaned out loud. “I look like I’ve been chomping on a raw mouse.”
My mouth was caked in blood, my face was deathly white and my hair, which thankfully had been stuffed under my hat, looked like Medusa on a bad-hair-day. I had walked home, in public, past rows of stationary rush hour cars and office workers clip-clopping their prim way home, while looking like a drunk that had been in a fight. “Marvellous,” I said to the dogs. They weren’t bothered about anything bar their bladders though.
I let them out, waited three years while they did the annoying hunt for the perfect spot thing, so much for desperation. Then I did the party trick of trying to get painkillers down me while at the same time pouring water straight out of the side of my mouth. My lips felt like they’d had several cows bottoms implanted in them and were just not doing their job, at all. I don’t know about ‘trout-pout’ I was more like ‘spout-pout’. Absolutely useless.
I just wanted to collapse. Perversely I was nauseous and starving at exactly the same time. I just hoped that I could ride out the former and forget the latter. Later, much later, it’d have to be tomato soup, courtesy of Mr Heinz, and a straw for me.
Heading for the comforting arms of the sofa I noticed the red light flashing on the answer machine. I stopped in my tracks, willing myself to pretend I hadn’t seen it....
“Hello, erm this is Mrs Blackwell, erm, Amanda Blackwell. Wondered if I could, erm, come and talk to you, about, erm,......something. Please could you give me a ring when you get back in. Thank you,” Click, went the end of the message. Great, I thought just as another message started playing. “Sorry, this is Amanda. Amanda Blackwell, that is. I’ve just, erm, erm, left you a message but I don’t, erm, think that I left you my phone number. It’s erm...” Oh God, I really couldn’t stand this any longer, it was worse than the girls on their perfect spot hunt. I grabbed a pen so I wouldn’t have to listen to all that again later. “01472 6670354. If you could ring me, that would be great. Thank you, erm, again, Erm, bye.”
Thankfully, that was it for messages but as my head was pounding a 21-gun salute and I wasn’t exactly able to talk clearly, I called Ally instead.
“Ally, could you please ring this woman for me and find out what she wants,” I mumbled-grumbled the full details to her. “I’ve just had a hell time at the dentist and I need to go and curl up in a corner, somewhere, and die quietly.”
It was never really going to happen that I did anything quietly and I flopped out on the sofa, surrounded by remotes and moaned a lot to the dogs, who at least, took it in turns to cuddle me. I really wished that someone would appear and make scrambled eggs for me. All I wanted, in life at that very moment, was scrambled-didn’t-have –the-strength-to-make-them, eggs. Bugger.
I started to wonder about a new bit-on-the-side business. It could be called; ‘A Little Bit Of What You Fancy’. A bit like a takeaway-delivery service but of comfort foods for when you were on your own, a bit poorly, and needed something simple that you weren’t up to doing yourself. There could be the scrambled eggs type basic menu and a dish of the day ready to dollop into bowls to whizz round to desperate souls. Chilli or stew and dumplings or a good hearty restorative broth.
Amanda Blackwell had big sooty eyes, ringed with eyeliner that made them look even bigger and sootier. Thankfully, she said ‘erm’ a lot less than she did on the telephone. I made us tea, in mugs not pretty vintage cups, and checked to make sure I had the box of tissues out of sight but within reach.
“I think my husband’s having an affair,” she eventually spat out. “He’s on the phone a lot and hangs up when I go into the room, he’s started turning his mobile off in the evenings – I think it’s so I don’t hear him getting messages and he’s always going out for silly things. Like he’s trying to think of some reason to go out. We’re about to move house and I don’t really want to go through with it if he is. That’s why I’m asking you if you can help. We’re supposed to complete next week and I don’t have the time to follow him or anything. Can you?”
Here it was, at last. A proper-job, Private Investigator job. I thought about dressing up to the nines in not very much and doing a bit of sultry enticing into my honey-trap. I then thought on a little and realised that that was probably best left to Hot Toddy, down to the very reason she was called Hot Toddy and I wasn’t called Hot Tracey. Damnit.
Mrs Blackwell was a very brave girl and didn’t need my tissues but did tell me her husband’s basic timetable, as much as she was aware of it. He always left home at 8.15am so that was the best place to start and I was there, on surveillance, when he left home the very next day.
Following someone wasn’t that easy in rush hour and I kept losing him. Luckily I knew where he worked; at a large Accountants based on Europarc. I pulled into the car park just as he was getting out of his car. Just before he got to the entrance he veered off to the left and from where I was parked I was able to see him go around a corner and stop next to a rather statuesque blonde. They hugged and mwah mwah’d and they had a hurried, intense conversation, which unfortunately I couldn’t hear, with lots of arm touching and head shaking and then vigorous nodding. Another hug and they scuttled off in different directions. He into the foyer and she into a rather flash BMW sports car, which was as shiny as her because-I’m-worth-it hair. All of this I recorded, for Mrs Blackwell, on my mobile.
This time I needed to offer tissues for Amanda’s crumpled face and she sat with her head in her hands and sobbed, fairly quietly, for a good five minutes. She then, had a quick wipe and a blow, handed me the used tissue to put in the bin (oh, lovely) and stood up extremely straight, chin in the air. I was very tempted to ask where she got her eye make-up as it hadn’t run at all but thought that this was probably not the best time.
“I need to know more. I don’t want to go flying in with accusations if he was just being nice because her cat had just died, or something. I need proper proof.”
She was prepared to pay us to continue and I was prepared to get proof.
Thursday nights were nights with the boys – allegedly. Thursday happened to be today. I rang Hot Toddy and briefed her on her mission. She said she would dress up to the nines in not very much and I must admit to feeling slightly wistful, but I knew my place in the ranks of sultry so went to hunt in my wardrobe for something smart but a bit more all-encompassing.
There was a newly refurbished pub in Grimsby, The White Hart, and this was where he was supposed to be going. This is where we arranged to go half an hour before, and hope that he would show up. The honey trap was primed and ready and we were determined to get evidence to make his guilt stick to it.
I melted into a booth with a pint of Doom Bar and pretended to be doing things on my mobile and Hot Toddy shimmied onto a bar stool, all clingy red silk and killer heels.
He arrived, looking guilty as sin, and leaned on the bar waiting for whoever was going to be his company for the night. I must admit to having wicked thoughts of him having an Only Fools and Horses moment and falling through the bar. Much to my disappointment though, it didn’t happen.
Two middle-aged men came in but, after getting drinks, got out their iPads and started doing business. A gaggle of giggling women stormed in, drove the barman mad by all wanting different faffy cocktails and then crashed into a booth, filling it with themselves and their massive handbags. Were they over-nighting somewhere? What did they keep in them? Actually looking at them again I realised it was probably a few trowels to layer their make-up on with.
The women had distracted me and, at the bar, he now had three friends with him. Maybe he was just having a night out with the boys and Hot Toddy would have to move in and do her thing. I know she was dying to.
“I can’t do this anymore,” he suddenly wailed. “I just can’t. It isn’t fair.”
“Sssssh, of course you can,” his tall dark friend said. “Hey, it’s worth it. SHE’s worth it.”
“Oh, God, I think Amanda suspects something.”
“Forget that,” said his shorter dark friend. “Just think of that mucky weekend you’ve got planned. You lucky boy you.”
“Crap,” I thought. That didn’t sound good at all. I had it on film as well. Good ol’ trusty mobile. I wondered what else this evening would reveal....”
Tuesday, 26 June 2012
The downpour had ceased, the bandstand was silent once more. The children trotted back to school in a crocodile but the tick-tock of Captain Hook’s clock was not to be heard. The black lab had licked the proffered hand of the cyclist, who then whizzed and whipped to the other side of the park in a second and disappeared from sight. The dogs that were on the beginning of their walks went for sniffs and wees and tried a bit of fruitless squirrel-sighting. The other dogs got off home.
I walked down the passage, from the park to Bargate. It wasn’t too busy, unlike the fume-filled, rush hours where cars and buses snailed nose to tail and the cyclists, eco and smug, got to work quicker, if not always drier.
I passed St. Martin’s prep school and slowed to enjoy its Victorian Gothic splendour – marred somewhat by the big blue vinyl banner proclaiming ‘Small Classes – Big Results’. As a child I always wanted to go here as they wore hats and it all felt very Enid Blyton (to whom I was totally addicted). The banner jarred my sensibilities and I quickened my pace.
Past the college, on my right, and straight on, I eventually got to the top end of Devonshire Avenue. Unfortunately, and typically, Gloria Wright lived right at the bottom of the wide leafy road.
I fiddled with the tall gates. Why wasn’t the catch obvious? Wretched things. I never was very good with locks and keys and the like.
When I was about nineteen, and living in Barton-Upon-Humber, I stayed with my grandparents for the night as I was going out with friends in Cleethorpes. I got a lift down to the seafront and intended to walk back after going to the nightclub on the Pier.
Of course, by the time I left, coherent thought or action was rather out of the window. I swayed my way back in about 25 minutes only to find that my front door key was the wrong one. At least it acted like it was the wrong one.
Now after a while you do need to get rid of all that you recklessly poured down your neck throughout the night. So there I was doing the really-need-to-go-jiffle, swearing at the recalcitrant key that wouldn’t work. The fuddled brain decided banging on the door at 2am wasn’t the best of ideas and the best idea was to walk round to my mother’s house and try to get in her door instead. So off I went.
The key I had for her house wouldn’t work either and I banged loudly on the door to wake her and all the neighbours up. No one stirred. The situation was getting critical so I jiffled, very urgently, down the passage, in the side gate and thanked all the Gods in the Heavens that she still had an outside loo. Oh the relief.
I went back round to the front door to see lights on and my mother wondering where the burglars were.
“Jusss me,” I carefully slurred, trying my best not to sound as ‘gone’ as I actually was. I don’t think I fooled her really.
“Oh for god’s sake, come in. What on earth are you doing?”
“I needed a wee and the key wouldn’t work. Sorry used the outside one but it wouldn’t flush.”
“That’s because it’s going to come out and it’s all disconnected,” she groaned. “Go on, get to bed. I’ll ring Nanny and Granddad in the morning and tell them where you are.”
I’m pleased she did as, in the morning, I felt hideous. I felt worse when we went to look at the loo and I saw the remnants of a broken vase dumped in the bowl. Nasty spikes and shards of glass thrust evilly upwards. That could so have been a rather nasty incident and I paled at the thought as I remembered how I plonked down hard with relief and unsteadiness. I still cringe at the thought of that far far too close incident, today.
Back to today and in Devonshire Avenue it took a whole 5 minutes of struggle before I eventually saw the intercom on the gatepost. It was placed very obviously and may as well have been laughing and waving at me. Damn thing.
“Hello. Is that you, Tracey? Come in Dear....” The gates creaked open before I could confirm it was actually me. The security round here was only as good as its operator so not very actually. I must have a word.
The strong tea was poured, with elegant ceremony, into beautiful vintage cups, nestling into beautiful vintage saucers, which would originally have been bought as beautiful cups and saucers and were still used daily instead of being turned into candle holders.
|Vintage cup and saucer candle ©Tracey Edges|
“Do you think you will be able to help me find Dr Seuss, Dear?” Gloria’s voice wavered and quivered with sadness. “I’ll pay you.”
Just in time I bit back the urge to wave goodbye to any offer of payment. The car tax was due and I needed more dog food, so I just shrugged and looked sheepish and muttered a quick, rather embarrassed “Thank you” instead.
Full of tea and Viennese Whirls, no wonder I have a weight problem when it just seems so rude to refuse, and armed with the daily rituals and itinerary of Dr Seuss I set off, block of his favourite cheese in pocket.
Apart from peering about, calling his name and waving smelly cheese around to tempt him to come out come out from wherever he was I couldn’t do much until I went home and printed some flyers off to distribute and show people. I had a few photos of Dr Seuss enjoying his privileged existence which made me wonder why he’d want to leave. If I couldn’t find him I’d move in in his place. I could do with a spot of pampering. Think Gloria may possibly notice the size differential and the lack of two legs. I could do a mean cat impression though, if I say so myself. It was good enough to confuse my dogs and drive them into a frenzy anyway.
I really prayed for Gloria’s sake, and Dr Seuss’, that he hadn’t been catnapped and was just stuck in a garage or something, hopefully somewhere close enough for me to find him.
I was just walking past St. Martin’s when something caught my ear and I stopped and listened. I was sure I had heard a mewl. Nothing. I waited for a couple of minutes and had just given up and started to walk off when I heard it again. It sounded plaintive and wrong and faint and I felt convinced that it was Dr Seuss. The problem was it was gone leaving time and the gates were closed and it was private property.
No, I couldn’t just leave it. If I got apprehended I would just have to explain that I wasn’t a burglar but a Private Investigator on the trail of a missing cat. Not quite Magnum is it? For a start he gets Hawaii and I get Grimsby <sigh>. The closest I’d ever get to Hawaii would be wearing a grass skirt made out of raffia at Skegness’ Butlin’s when I was 7.
Thankfully, the gate was only closed and not locked. After the customary fiddle with the catch, I crept in, which only made me look instantly suspicious. Down the side was a small, old fashioned wooden bike shed and I thought that the sound had probably come from under there. The racks were built into a wooden platform which sloped towards the front but from the rear there was a gap of about 2 feet (60 cm if you prefer metric). I managed to kneel down, with only a small yelp, and peered underneath.
There was Dr Seuss, caught by his collar, looking rangy and unhappy. Certainly not like the fluffy, contented and replete animal in the photographs. At least he had a bed as, very luckily for him, there was a lost child’s school hat, just where he had got hooked. I wondered if the child had been in trouble for losing it or even get the irony of Dr Seuss being ‘The Cat in the Hat'.
I squirmed and manoeuvred my way slowly towards him, truly thankful that I had refused the go-on-there’s-only-one-left-Dear Viennese Swirl as I could only just squeeze under as it was. I was nearly there. My outstretched hand could just touch him but I wasn’t quite close enough to reach his collar to 1. Unhook it and 2. Be able to grab him before he disappeared again.
Just a little bit more. Oh hell. I had stopped squirming forward. No. Oh please, NO. Unfortunately for me though the answer was clearly YES. Yes my bloody belt had caught on some bloody sticking out bit of wood and I was bloody well stuck under a bloody bike shed with no one bloody likely to come and rescue me for bloody hours.
I looked at Dr Seuss and Dr Seuss looked at me. I’m sure he rolled his eyes so I scowled at him before remembering my no-frown rule.
I then heard a rather scary rustling and snuffling noise. Why the thought of an escapee snake popped into my head just at that moment I do not know but I really, really wish it had stayed away.
I tightly closed my eyes and then quickly opened them after deciding that knowing what I was about to be killed by was probably the better of the limited options available to me.
“Awwwww,” I breathed softly as a little family of baby hedgehogs paraded under the bike shed followed by their mother. Judging by the pile of dried grass and leaves, Dr Seuss and I had inadvertently gate-crashed their home. They didn’t seem all that bothered. Maybe they knew we were both incapacitated and no threat whatsoever.
I remembered the cheese in my pocket, managed to just slide my hand in and brought it out along with my mobile phone – WHEYHEY. Feeling a bit stupid for not thinking about calling for assistance. I rang Ally and felt a bit stupid asking for assistance.
“You’re where? You’re doing what? Good grief, trust you! Okay, I’ll be there in ten.”
Ten minutes was plenty of time to make best of friends with Family Hedgehog and Dr Seuss. Cheese was the great unifier of species – all that was missing was the fondue set and chunks of bread. I have such wild(life) parties.
I may have been rather grubby by the point that Dr Seuss was reunited with a joyously-tearful Gloria, who insisted on generously paying me straightaway, but at least I would now be mobile for the next 6 months and the dogs would eat. Good result all round. PIGY was on its way and had its first paid job under its belt. Ooh do NOT mention belts...