There’s No Place Like Home…

So after a five week trip we were home. I’d looked forward to returning. I always do. I am always eager to see how the garden has junglified, what’s in the post, how everything looks.

After a concentrated and manic unpacking of the van, a small assault on the laundry mountain and a cup of tea we set upon the post. A bundle of foot-stool height letters yielded precisely 4 items as follows:

  • One communication from the bank regarding my granddaughter’s savings account
  • One communication from the bank regarding ‘changes to regulations’
  • One communication from the health service regarding national bowel cancer screening [largely irrelevant for reasons followers of this blog already know]
  • Several, scruffy, hand-delivered communications from ‘Keith-yer-tenant’

The bubble of anticipation that accompanied our return began to ebb. ‘Keith-yer-tenant’ [not his real name any more than Grace Lessageing is mine, although this rendering of it does contain elements of how he announces himself every telephone call he makes to advise us of a problem] and his partner are occupants of a small flat we rent out and have been our tenants for a number of years. During those years their tenancy has weathered some initial teething troubles, such as breeching the tenancy agreement, deciding he would prefer to pay rent weekly rather than monthly and ringing up to request changes of light bulb, help to solve the problem of the bathroom floor being wet after bathing, to express astonishment at learning that soaking in vinegar will clean a shower head and to claim forty nine pence for a tin of soup whose label got wet inside a cupboard.

This time Keith-yer-tenant has opted to punish us for having the audacity to be away by presenting us with receipts for items he has had to replace and inform us that he has deducted the cost of said items from his rent. We were just a little confused by the price of £2.50-which seems somewhat steep for a 13 amp fuse, but then remembered that he must have supplemented the price with some compensation for the shoe leather involved in going to purchase the fuse plus the trauma of having to a] suffer the inconvenience of the malfunction caused by a fuse blowing and b] having to actually replace it.

Still it should be acknowledged that Keith-yer-tenant has made a real effort to solve a problem all by himself, rather than seek assistance from Steve, the handy plumber neighbour we have asked to be on call while we are away. That K-y-t is not over fond of Steve is not something we can address. Steve is charming and accommodating and has changed K-y-t’s light bulbs on several occasions.

K-y-t is by no means the most problematic of renters I’ve encountered. I began by letting rooms in a previous life, when a newly single mum in my forties with a mortgage and a decrepit hovel to renovate. The antics of one or two lodgers are immortalised in my debut novel, ‘The Year of Familiar Strangers’ [available from Amazon].

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How do you Sleep?

                      Sleep is featuring heavily in the news at the moment. It always amazes me that subjects that have been studied and analysed for so long and then put aside can yield new discoveries. Sleep is one of those subjects that people either think nothing about at all or it has become an overwhelming misery and an insuperable, life altering problem. I suppose I am fortunate to be in the former camp, most of the time. I have rarely experienced difficulty in dropping off to sleep, but fall into the category of not being a ‘morning’ person, preferring to stay up later and [particularly in the winter months] dozing until wakefulness becomes an acceptable state.

                    Often, once people become parents and have had to go along with the timetable of their new offspring they continue to rise at intolerable times through habit, even though their progeny have become teenagers and pursuant of a nocturnal lifestyle. My own parents were such paragons, rising early even in retirement. Myself, I regressed to sleeping in whenever I had the opportunity [weekends] as soon as my tots were able to tell the little hand from the big hand. As a proper working person, early mornings were a drudgery and a chore to be endured only with the promise of long lie-ins at weekends-and once the holidays began I’d catch up by sleeping for days and nights, waking only to eat.

                    Enforced sleep deprivation, such as long haul flights in economy or periods of stress induces nasty side effects such as cold sores in me. I get so far into the night and then begin to feel stretched, as if my skin is being pulled taut over my bones. When I retired I began by taking advantage of the situation and sleeping in every morning, until finally I achieved sleep satiation, after which I ‘bottomed out’ at about 8.30am.

                    Now experts are finding ways that sleep patterns influence our lives and seeking applications for such knowledge. Drugs such as cancer treatment are better, apparently, for being administered at night, in order to reduce side effects. The surprise here is that no one thought of it before! But the revelatory discovery that caught my attention was the one about teenagers, who are thought to make more academic progress when their day is moved later, giving them time to sleep in. This would have suited me. I loathed getting up for school and would habitually leave it to the very last moment, scrabbling up without much attention to my appearance [no change there] or to consume any kind of breakfast item, much to my mother’s frustration. She would call after me as I fled to the bus stop, ‘what about breakfast?’ or ‘You haven’t eaten anything’-a routine that was repeated with my own offspring further down the timeline.

                   Awake at night? Now I have the perfect solution-compose a story. I can guarantee you will have forgotten it by the morning.

Happy New Year, Brian Meadon! [part 2]

An exploratory foray into his overnight bag yields little of any use to Brian except for a towel, which he drapes around his shoulders like a cape. He has also brought some pajamas which, whilst the additional layer would be beneficial he feels reluctant to don in case of rescue. After deliberating he decides to bear them in mind as emergency clothing supplies. His feet are by far the most pressing problem, having become totally numb inside his shoes so that he compelled to scrunch his toes up periodically in attempt to regain some feeling. Should he, perhaps break into the bottle of wine he brought along as a contribution to the New Year do? He thinks not, for now; best to keep something in reserve in case, Heaven forbid, the situation worsens.

Another glance at the phone reveals the time to be 8.57pm, and forty five minutes since the last vehicle passed by. Brian realizes with a grimace that his careful calculation of timing in order to arrive not too early and not too late will now be academic. His arrival will now be, at best, late. What will the reception be like if, and when, he arrives? Misgivings flutter through his digestive system like tipsy hens and peck away at his confidence. Rob and Shelley are people he met almost a year ago and spent one week with, when comradeship was enhanced by the thrills and spills of the ski slopes. But they were charming, friendly and fun, seemed to really like having him around, have kept up with emails. The invitation had been issued with genuine warmth and re-issued as a result of his last email enquiry as to whether the party was going ahead.

Brian decides that he can utilize more of his clothing resources if he curls up on the rear seat. The time has come to employ the services of his pajamas-which he acknowledges he only brought as an afterthought, thus freeing up his towel as a foot-wrapping. The achievement of all this takes some time and energy, resulting in the opening of the wine, thankfully of the screw topped variety. He lifts his head up enough to swallow a mouthful and then shudders as a yawn escapes him. He wonders what is happening at the party now and imagines he is there, glass in hand, chatting up a woman, asking her to dance, getting close, feeling the rhythm, moving his feet, becoming warm, hot, sweating, thumping.