|Vintage cup and saucer candle ©Tracey Edges|
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.
“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...