Saturday, 30 June 2012

PIGY 8 – The Wrap-Dress, The Boors and Mel Brookes

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

PIGY 7 – The Torture Session, Mrs Blackwell and The Small Dilemma

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

PIGY 6 – The Crocodile, Dr Seuss and The Tricky Position

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...

Sunday, 24 June 2012

PIGY 5 – The Dicks and the Traceys, The Mannequin and The Bandstand

This was the first time we’d all been together and introductions needed to be made between myself and Ally Grace, my right-hand woe-man (actually she was generally rather cheerful), her not-boyfriend - Gangly Ben (with the deep voice), his friend, who was a girl friend (but not girlfriend), Susie Todd, aka Hot Toddy (even I found myself thinking PHRAW! when she walked into a room), and my Mother, June Hopkins, bit past it and accident prone who kindly let me inherit both of those negative traits.

We were all assembled in my front sitting room/Home Gallery. Look, if people can have home cinema rooms I can have a home Gallery room. After having to begrudgingly give up my proper Gallery studio at Grimsby’s Abbey Walk Gallery, I needed to hang my work somewhere so may as well hang it nicely in case anyone ever wanted to see it.

Halfway through my first hanging session some very nice people from the Grimsby Institute came and took rather a lot of paintings to exhibit in their Gallery Restaurant. That was rather a relief as I managed to fill the walls with what was left over, anyway.

So here we were, with notepads on knees and pens at the ready to have our first brainstorming session.

“Firstly, I’d like to thank everyone for coming today,” I said professionally, “Basically we need to generate some leads that will provide more income than a box of cupcakes. As scrumptious as they are I don’t know of any utilities barter system that will accept cupcakes as part payment. Apart from the small fact that we no longer actually have any left to barter with.” I felt those last couple of sentences were unlikely to be repeated in many boardrooms across the country and didn’t sound very professional at all, really.

“Ally. What are you scribbling away at?”

“I’m taking the minutes,” she said professionally.

“I wouldn’t bother,” I deflated her perky enthusiasm with 3 words. “The way we drivel on they will probably have to be called ‘hours’ rather than ‘minutes. Look what you’ve already got – a moan about cupcake-income.”

Ally put down her pen and looked like she was having to hang onto her bottom lip. I was quite surprised as it usually slips out more than easily.

I had placed what was left of our lovely new flyers on the coffee table and wondered aloud if we would have any comeback from the ones that Hot Toddy had already delivered when out on her paper round.

“There’s a woman down Oxford Street, Cleethorpes, that seemed rather interested. She asked lots of questions about the agency. I tried to make us sound better than we actually are,” she said proudly. Before realising what she had actually said and stuttered and fluttered various words of apology, mostly aimed in my direction.

“Great, Thanks, Susie,” I forced a forced grin below my frown. Do you know, it’s actually rather hard to both frown and grin at the same time. It seems to be an either/or situation. (I bet you’ve just tried that – haven’t you? Haven’t you? And you looked really silly doing it. Hope there was no one in the room/train/bus/office with you. Ha!)
I know Susie had been insulting with the best of intentions and, let’s face it, I could hardly disagree but it did make me think.

“Maybe we need a Team Corporate Identity. A Macintosh, with a collar large enough to turn up to hide behind and a Trilby Hat,” I was always partial to a big coat and a good hat, or two.

“Maybe we should just have T-shirts printed with ‘I’m a PI’ on them,” Ben said deeply and darkly.

“Okay, I see your point,” I acquiesced. “I agree I’m more of a Tracey that’s a dick than a Dick Tracey.” Get’s a tad confusing around here as there is a Grimsby band called DickTracey Duo as well, (I’ll leave you to work out their respective names and how many of them there are). So, probably best to avoid that even if the original police detective was missing the e out of Tracy. No one can spell my name with the e anyway so... Hmm... I’ll stop there – even I’m getting confused...

“I’ve got a paying job for us,” My Mother piped up. Everyone’s ears perked up. “My friend, down Devonshire Avenue, has lost her cat.” Everyone’s ears instantly fell down, shoulders and chins too.” Seriously, she’s worried sick about him as he’s old and needs medicine every day and he’s never been gone 3 days before. She’s really upset.”

I don’t think one person in this room could resist a sob animal story – especially one that didn’t involve payment in cupcakes.

“Give me her details then,” I said. “I’ll go round after we’ve finished here and distribute some flyers at the same time. At least it is in Grimsby so I can walk.”

Yes, I CAN WALK. It’s taken a while but the nightmare of the wheelbarrow incident had made me determined to get the cronky knee better and I was rattling with supplements-of-hope, had got through loads of TV programmes, while resting and then gently exercised in-between the glut of US Sci-Fi and UK house makeovers. Determination had won the day and I was relatively mobile, at long last. 

For a floor-sprawler (why use a sofa when there’s a floor to lay about on), not being able to kneel was annoying but for now I’ll happily take being able to walk and drive. Two out of three aint bad – just ask Meatloaf. The singer, not the food. You wouldn’t get much of an answer from the food. Actually, you probably wouldn’t get much of an answer from the singer unless you knew him personally.

It was a beautiful day, in-between the heavy downpours that is. I chose an opportune in-between moment to leave the house and slowly wend my way to Devonshire Avenue.

I popped a couple of leaflets into houses on Abbey Road but didn’t bother putting one in the Co-op Funeral Parlour (No it wasn’t because I thought they wouldn’t need our services, and yes, it was because I was scared of zombies and one dead body in a week was my lifetime’s quota as far as I was concerned. If you can’t exactly admire me for my bravery, at least try to for my honesty).

I turned into Abbey Park Road next (Far too many Abbeys round here – utterly confusing). I did a few houses and then looked up.

In the landing window of one house there is always a mannequin. The same mannequin but the clothes change. I love to see what it has on. Some things are annually rotated. There is the Santa outfit, the bunny girl ears for Easter and the summer dress with the big floppy 1970’s sun hat with the massive brim. During the Diamond Jubilee celebrations the Union Jack flag dress came out and I think it will probably stay on while England play football in Europe and the Olympics are in London. Patriotism is ‘in’ this year and one’s mannequin should celebrate too.

They didn’t have a street party down there but if they did I expect she would have had pride of place at the head of the table. I’m sure she’d love to escape her window, once in a while. 

The house sold and she disappeared for a disappointing while but she returned. I wonder if the new people had complaints and pleading and, if so, by whom? Judging by some of the outfits she’s been there a while. I wonder how many owners of the house have tried to resist but ended up displaying her anyway. Maybe she has persuasive ways in the manner of a spooky Tales of The Unexpected.

I carried on, having a lovely look at the beautiful big houses, mainly Victorian but all full of character and, at least, oozing faded elegance. Two looked like they were both about to slide into a big hole between them as they both leaned alarmingly towards each other. I prayed that they had been under-pinned. I should imagine that both houses had drawer problems. In my cottage in Cornwall nothing was straight, not a square room in sight and as for level floors...well... I had to resort to big blobs of Blu Tack to keep the filing cabinet drawers closed and the castors had to be angled so the whole didn’t roll across the room.

By the time I had reached People’s Park it had started to drizzle. I shoved a few flyers in the houses on Park Drive but the heavens then opened and I ran like hell, well, walked as fast as I could anyway, for the bandstand. I was not the only one.

In a fairly confined space (how does a whole band actually fit on here?), there was a party of very small schoolchildren plus 5 teachers, fussing about, putting hoods up and picking up dropped mittens, opening rustling packets of crisps and wiping noses.

Four separate dog owners were pressed, equidistantly, up against the railings while their respective dogs strained on their leads to get to the other dogs; either for bottom sniffs or snarls of dominance. 

"Watercolour Walk"                           ©Tracey Edges

A cyclist had entered the mix, complete with his bike. Bit thoughtless considering the lack of space. Probably thinking about not getting a wet bottom. 

The boisterous, but friendly, solid chunk of black lab thrust his shiny black nose right into the cyclist’s balls. He swore and clutched and the teachers glared. The lab’s owner got the giggles and the cyclist glared at everyone. The children started laughing and all of a sudden the bandstand was full of happy vocal music. After a bit of sensitive rubbing even the cyclist saw the funny side and joined in.

To celebrate the camaraderie-in-adversity, an intense rainbow split the dark blue-grey sky in half and the children started chanting Richard Of York Gained Battle In Vain, over and over.

It was certainly one of those moments.

Friday, 22 June 2012

PIGY 4 – The Return Visit, A Few Bruises and the Swimming Lesson

I was beginning to wonder why I just didn't move to Cleethorpes and have done with it.

Maybe P I G Y should have been called P I C L P S, after all, as I didn’t seem to be spending much time in Grimsby – apart from living there. Hmm – ok – I was there quite a lot of the time then and P I C L P S  was a bit of a mouthful stuffed with candy floss, a sugar dummy and a couple of doughnuts.

Needing to get around a bit I succumbed to the painful luxury of diesel consumption and parking machine feeding and took down the car keys, off the hook.

The dogs looked hopefully at their leads. Six big eyes pleaded “Beach...beach...beach...” but I couldn’t take them as it was far too hot to leave them in the car. I heard Maude loudly protesting as I drove away. I stopped out of sight but as soon as I was out of sight she stopped.

I picked up Ally, who was looking slightly hooker-ish in a short skirt and peeking out tummy button, posing on the corner by People’s Park.

“You looked slightly hooker-ish,” I said.
“You’re only jealous,” she said.
“I know,” I said and stuck my bottom lip out.

As I slowly drove along Alexandra Road, I looked up at Ron Gilbert’s drab flat. It didn’t look any different to the other day when we’d called round on our fruitless mission to introduce ourselves. The paint still peeled, the windows still needed a clean and the aroma was of tired, over-fried oil. It was so pungent it curled and wisped its way across the road and in through the open car window.

“If we have time, shall we have another go to see if he’s in? Doesn’t look like he is though,” Ally suggested.

“He could be lying on the floor, in his underpants and socks, with a big bag of Doritos, reading Dostoyevsky as far as we can tell from here,” I retorted.
“True,” she said and stuck her bottom lip out.

We nipped to the Boating Lake and said a quick hello to Jaime, in the Discovery Centre, where she said:
“Have a lovely, but monumentally huge and very pink cupcake oozing with calories.”
“No no,” we said
“Go on, go on,” she said
“Okaaay, okaaay. Yum yum,” we mumbled through exquisite crumbs and swirled icing.

While still wiping our mouths, our tops and broggling down our respective cleavages, with the odd yelp of pleasure when one or other of us found a piece of cake-treasure, we walked alongside the boating lake. Geese, ducks, coots and swans all parted to let us through, how polite of them, and we tried our best not to slip on the lethal white poo that plastered the pathways. I didn’t think that was very polite of them. Surely they could have gone and used a bush, as there were plenty about.

We found the poo-free bush-residence of George and his family and then, in the nearest part of the lake, the family themselves. It looked like it was swimming-lesson time. I wondered what they got for successfully accomplishing a lap or two. I shouldn’t think it was an oval, frog sew-on badge. I gave them all some seed and hoped they’d all done well enough to warrant the reward.

My Mother, had reached that age where she didn’t just fall over – no she had the far more dramatic, ‘HAD A FALL’ with its more dramatic guilt-inducing-overtones of; I could have broken something.../be in hospital now.../died... and I wouldn’t have done that if you visited me more than once a fortnight....Have you built that luxury Granny-annexe for me yet?

I made us all mugs of tea while she showed us her multifarious bruises. I’m sure going to the cinema would have been more visually gratifying, but unfortunately we had driven straight past the multiplex and came here instead. It was all played out in super Technicolor though.
Varying shades of yellow, red and blue snazzed up the mass of black on various body parts, which she insisted on revealing while we tried to pretend to sympathetically look and not too visibly shake with horror and disgust. You needed to be of stern stuff to come round here.

“Ooh June, they are really nasty,” Ally gurned sympathetically. It was always handy to know that Ally could pull a good face when the need arose. I speed-walked into the kitchen.
“Anyone for biscuits?” I yelled, usefully.

By the time I returned, snail-walking in this direction, all sleeves had been pulled down, trouser legs unfurled and tops smoothed down too. God, was I relieved. I was so relieved I ate 3 chocolate digestives I didn’t even want.

We were once again at the top of the rickety wooden stairs, peering through the grimy kitchen window of Ron Gilbert’s flat. We had steeled ourselves for the flying missile cat but this time she just sat in the middle of the kitchen floor, mewling plaintively and staring up at us with sad, big, green, eyes.

I think that we both felt that something was amiss and frowned at each other, wondering what to do next.

We had asked around a bit, both in this vicinity and among people we knew, but they had either never heard of him or not seen him for while.

“Go on – try the handle,” Ally suggested as she stood back and angled herself behind me.

“Thanks for that, Ally,” I snarled and frowned a bit more. I stopped frowning and hastily rubbed between my eyes. I may not think much to Botox or anything else that some people felt compelled to squeeze into themselves but it didn’t mean I actually wanted the Grand Canyon to appear on my forehead either. Really must remember not to frown.

It was a little stiff but the unlocked handle went down and I slowly opened the door a crack.
“Jesus Christ what the hell is that stink?” I cried, as I backed swiftly up and nearly sent Ally flying off the steps with my oversized arse.

“God knows,” she gasped as she clung onto the rail, desperately trying to find a pocket of seemingly elusive, fresh sea air to suck in.

The problem with hot weather is that you don’t tend to have useful items, like scarves, with you, so we both had to hitch up our tops to cover our noses. In Ally’s case that meant that barely (appropriate word that) anything else was covered now either and made the tummy button look seem almost demure. Thankfully my top was decently long so I wasn’t at risk at scarring the cat for life.

Bracing ourselves we tiptoed in. I had the urge to kick the door hard and jump in pretending I had a gun at arm’s length, prancing about from side to side looking for possible assailants. However, tip-toeing it was – more like giant church mice than Dempsey and Makepeace.

The door led straight into the unkempt kitchen and I looked for the source of the revolting smell. I presumed it was hot weather, un-emptied bin but it was a very sweet and sickly smell like nothing I’d ever smelled before. My tummy turned like it was going down a helter skelter without me.

The cat mewled and rubbed itself around our ankles before disappearing through the slightly open doorway to what I presumed must be the sitting room. Continuing in creeping slowly mode, we crept slowly towards the door. I pushed it open not at all expecting to see what lay on the other side.

It was a long, narrow, knocked-through room with the far end window framing an expansive, beautiful view of the pier Gardens, the Pier itself and the Humber Estuary. This side of the window was considerably less beautiful. 

Cleethorpes Pier                                                                          ©Tracey Edges

The room was full. Packed high with boxes of varying sizes, some shoe boxes and some appliance boxes and all sizes that came between. Scattered among them were hundreds of cheap whisky bottles. Gilbert certainly went for quantity over quality. Keeping up with the box theme were loads of used pizza boxes with green furry remnants of takeaways past clinging to them for dear multiplying life.

The mess spoke volumes to the sad, post pier-incident life of Gilbert and I very much doubted his tendency to read Dostoyevsky, but the interior design was certainly a crime that deserved a punishment.

Where was he though? He wasn’t in the small bedroom, which only contained a single, un-made bed as a relief against the same box and bottle accessorizing. Seriously – if you are going for a theme at least arrange it artistically.

The tiny, rhymes with grimy, shower-room was also empty except for a stub of deodorant stick, a sliver of cracked soap, a grey flannel and a toothbrush with splayed out brush. No toothpaste though.

“Tracey, come here, NOW!” Ally’s voice quivered from the sitting room. A few strides and I was there, next to her; also, looking down at the foot sticking out from the Candy Automatic Washing Machine box. It was ratty and old and frayed. The box that is, not the foot. Although I did feel that the description was possibly not that far removed from the reality of Gilbert, himself.

“Oh, shit!” I cried, forgetting to hold my top over my nose. The sweet stench of rotting body shot up my overly sensitive olfactory orifice just as Ally threw up. That did it – I also threw up and the two of us, rather noisily, heaved into a Weetabix outer. Why we were conscious of not making a mess I have no idea – too bloody polite for our own good. We even managed to puke as politely as possible.

Once our stomachs stopped behaving like we’d been on the Waltzers for three hours, being spun relentlessly by the obligatory manic, inevitably spotty, ego-enhanced, youth, I scooped up the cat and we backed out of the room and through the kitchen – just in case he’d turned into a zombie and would follow us if we turned our backs to him. Once outside, with the entrance door closed I gave Ally the too skinny cat and got my mobile out.

The police came speedily with blue lights ablaze and sirens screeching – presumably in case Gilbert had turned into that zombie and was going to try to escape.

It was supposed that the likely cause of death was nutritional self-abuse. The diet of whisky and pizza not being the best overall, for longevity. Why all the boxes? That was a mystery that even Scooby-Doo was unlikely to be able to solve.

PIGY had found its first missing person/body and, to be a teeny bit selfish about it, now had the monopoly on Investigations in Grimsby and Cleethorpes. We tried not to celebrate (as that would be very wrong) but did raise our nerve-quelling pints of Willy’s Best to poor old Gilbert and hoped that he was getting reacquainted with his prostitute lover, with the presumably ghostly-wobbly neck, wherever he had ended up.

Ally introduced the cat to Capt. PUGwash and, after a bit of power-circling, they snuggled together in his bed and instantly became best of friends. Out of respect for Gilbert and his lover, as well as Ally’s navel, the cat was affectionately named Hooker.