Bike 701–750

Wuthering Dormice

(aka Easy As Falling Off A Bike)

Parts 701–750

by Angharad

This is an authorised compilation of Angharad’s story, with some minor reformatting of the synopsis areas and ending comments to make it work as a continuous story.

I have retained her beginnings and endings except where they were repetitive.

It has also received a UK spell checking and very minor editing.

I hope you enjoy not having to download a large number of parts individually.

Holly H. Hart

If you wish to make a comment please go to the original part by part posting on BigCloset TopShelf.


Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 701

The next day came and went ever so quickly, my fingers were still strapped up but were less swollen, although moving them was painful. The cuts and grazes were slowly healing as well and I wasn’t quite so sore. I don’t know if it was shock, but I seemed to be very tired all the time, although I did do most of my own chores. I found a large rubber glove so was even able to do things like washing the girls’ hair.

Suddenly it was down to me to visit Daisy again, and I tried to dress up a little so as not to look such a vagabond as last time. I even managed a bit of makeup and did my hair in more of a style than just a ponytail. I took her in a few more bits and pieces, like some hand cream and some cologne. I also got her a soft and fluffy pussycat thing, it was only small and looked more like it had a permanent hissy fit, but it was the sort of thing that appealed to young girls.

“Hello, Daisy, how are you today?”

“My back hurts and I can hardly feel my feet.”

“Oh dear, that doesn’t sound too good.”

“Can you sit and read to me, Auntie Cathy, I haven’t been able to do any since you were here last.”

“Of course I will, sweetheart.” She held out her hand again and I clasped it in my injured hand.

“How are your fingers?” she asked, presumably feeling the strapping.

“A little better, thank you.” I held her hand and concentrated on finding my place in the story. I could feel my fingers tingling, but they had been injured so it didn’t concern me.

“Your hand is making mine tingle, it feels like needles and pins.”

“Pins and needles is the usual expression. Shall I let go?”

“No, it’s really funny, the tingling is going down my back all the way to my toes. Ooh, it’s making my feet jump.” I watched down the bed and her feet were moving under the sheets, then her leg jumped and so did the other. “That feels really funny,” said Daisy.

I wondered if something was happening again. “Can you see anything at our hands, Daisy?”

“No, why?”

“I just wondered if there was a blue light anywhere?”

“Oh that, yeah, it’s always with you, shouldn’t it be?”

“I don’t know, Daisy, I can’t see it.”

“Can’t you? How funny, I can. Oh, it’s moving down my arm, my arm feels quite cold—it’s really strange, like my arm was in the fridge. Hey, that coldness is moving down my back now it’s in my legs. Are you an angel or something?”

“Not that I’m aware of, I’ve never noticed wings when in the bath or shower and I’m sure my girls would if I had them.”

“I feel really strange, please don’t go…” she seemed to pass out and I pushed the nurse call button.

“Yes? We’re awfully busy, just had an emergency in, what’s the problem?” asked a very harassed-looking staff nurse.

“Daisy just seemed to go off while she was talking to me.”

The nurse gave her a quick exam, “I think she’s just fallen asleep. Where’s that blue light shining from? Gosh it’s bright.”

“Dunno,” I feigned ignorance.

“Okay, it isn’t disturbing her, I’ll come back later.” She practically ran down the ward.

I continued holding on to Daisy’s hand and after about half an hour my fingers got incredibly warm, verging on uncomfortably hot. Then it stopped, the heat, I mean. I could move them normally and there was no pain. I was obviously asleep and dreaming.

Daisy, came around or woke up. “Hi, Auntie Cathy, what was I saying?”

“You were complaining about your feet tingling.”

“My feet are fine, look,” she pulled her legs up and out of the bedclothes. “See?”

“They look good to me, young lady.”

“I need to go for a wee, I’ll be right back.” Before I could stop her, she hopped out of bed and walked to the bathroom. I sat there in total astonishment. I was terrified to say anything to her in case she fell.

I walked over to the bathroom to walk her back, but she didn’t appear to need it. “How does the back feel?”

“It’s okay, a bit stiff, weren’t you going to read to me?” So I did.

The ward sister brought me another cuppa and a glass of milk for Daisy, who sat up and drank it herself. The sister nearly dropped my tea. She looked at me and nodded to a part of the ward near her office. I went as I was bid.

“What have you done to her?”

“I didn’t do anything.”

“Someone told me they saw her walk to the bathroom, is that true?”

“Um, yes.” I blushed.

“How the hell did she do that, she had a contusion on her spinal cord. There was a large swelling pressing down on it, she couldn’t move her legs, let alone walk.”

“Maybe it just shrank , you know, spontaneously?”

“Shrank, my arse.”

I glanced at her derrière, “That would be a miracle, sister,” I replied and she snorted.

“Lady Catherine Cameron, what on earth do you keep doing to my patients?”

“I haven’t done anything except sit with her.”

“Maybe we need you to sit with some of the others.”

“I’m not sure their parents would approve of me.”

She shook her head, “I’m going to have the surgeon down here tomorrow to check her over and hopefully we’ll get her in the scanner sometime before lunch. I’d like to see how the injury is progressing, and she had fractures in her legs, too. How the hell did she walk?”

“How do I know, I didn’t do anything.”

The sister looked at my back, then felt my shoulder blades, “Nah, there’s no wings there.”

“What do you think I am? A giant fly?”

“No, maybe one of those mysterious creatures who come with wings. Sent from someone above.”

“What, on the next floor?” I asked and left to drink my tea.

“I saw my mummy, Auntie Cathy.”

“When?” I hoped this didn’t mean her mother had croaked.

“When I was asleep, I floated on this blue light and it took me to her, she was lying in bed attached to all these machines and her head was all bandaged. I told her she was going to be all right, and she opened her eyes and winked at me and said, yes, she would but it would take a bit longer yet. She was doing things as fast as she could, but it would take some time.”

“I told you that the other day,” I agreed.

“See, I knew Jesus would help me.”

“I told you he couldn’t resist a request from such a lovely girl.”

“He’s come through you, hasn’t he? In Sunday school, we heard about angels doing God’s work. You’ve helped me and are now helping Mummy.”

“I wish it was as simple as that, Daisy, I’d love nothing better than to go and see your mummy and make her completely better.”

“I’m going to tell Daddy to ask you to.”

“I think your daddy has enough to worry about, without raising his hopes, don’t you?”

“But I saw her and I know she is going to get better again, she said so.”

“Then I’m sure you’re right, but let’s not worry your daddy, just let nature do what it does, and let her heal slowly but surely.”

“Why don’t you want to help my mummy?”

“I do, sweetheart, that’s why I’m here. I am sure that the thing which is helping your mummy the most is the time your daddy can spend with her. He’s the one who’s performing the magic, not me.”

“I don’t believe you, Auntie Cathy.”

“I’m sorry, but that’s what I think.” I left soon afterwards, wondering if her progress would be maintained or would she be back to square one the next day? Life can be very cruel and I hoped it wasn’t going to be so with her.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 702

My fingers were much better and the next morning I was back to my chores properly. I’d taken the girls to school and got back to do some stuff with Mima. After I played with her, we made some cakes, I did a mix for the bread maker and had just switched it on and likewise with the kettle—Stella was coming for a cuppa as soon as she’d bathed Puddin’—when the phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Lady Catherine?”

“Yes, who wants her?”

“It’s Sister East on the children’s unit.”

“Hello Sister, what can I do for you?” I felt a shudder of uncertainty flow through me; what if Daisy had relapsed or was worse, especially after walking yesterday. I was filled with dread.

“Could you come in and meet with Mr Matthews, say at 1.45pm today?”

“Who is he?” not her solicitor, I hope.

“The orthopaedic surgeon, who’s been looking after Daisy.”

“She hasn’t relapsed has she?”

“No, on the contrary, we can’t get her to stay in bed.”

“So what does the surgeon want?”

“To meet you, that’s all.”

“If I spot a stake with faggots of wood all around it, I’m doing a runner.”

“Stake? Oh as in burning at? No, I don’t think so. Mr Matthews is quite down to earth.”

“If you can assure me that it’s not going to get unpleasant, I’ll come.”

“Daisy’s father is going to be here too.”

“Maybe, I’ll just give it a miss then, too many cooks—oh, is that the time, I have to go, I’ve got a bun in the oven…” I plunged the phone down quickly and went back to make the tea.

“What’s the matter, you look worried?” asked Stella pouring me a cuppa.

“That was the hospital, they want me to meet the surgeon to talk about what happened yesterday.”

“What did happen yesterday? You’ve been rather quiet about it ever since you got home.”

“Nothing much.”

“If that was the case, you’d hardly be afraid of going back there today, would you?”

“I’m not afraid, I just don’t want to crowd the place, if Daisy’s dad is going to be there too.”

“Don’t make excuses, what happened yesterday?”

“Nothing, I read to Daisy and she fell asleep. I was my usual boring self.”

“And they want you to speak with the surgeon? What are you leaving out? Spill the beans, Cathy?”

“Nothing, except she woke up and got out of bed to go to the loo.”

“She did what?”

“I just told you what she did.”

“But she had spinal problems and fractures to both legs! Didn’t she?”

“Perhaps they looked at the wrong X-rays? Wouldn’t be the first time.”

“Sure, and all the symptoms she’s had, like loss of function and sensation.”

“Could be shock, and now she’s over it.”

“Pull the other one, Cathy, it’s got bells on.”

“Well, I can’t see that I have anything to contribute to the discussion.”

“That’s up to you, but it could also be one of the most exciting events in modern medicine, a genuine miracle worker.”

“Stop it, that’s why I don’t want to go. I’m not some freak, there has to be a rational explanation for all of it.”

“Yeah, the New Testament is full of explanations.”

“Don’t start the G word stuff, I want nothing to do with ancient superstitions.”

“Ironic, isn’t it?” said Stella sipping her tea and taking a biscuit.

“What is?”

“That the very person least comfortable with this miraculous ability to heal, should be the one who seems to have it.”

“Are you implying something?”

“No, I’m merely making an observation, that’s all.”

I could smell something burning, “Ahhh, the cakes.” I jumped up and pulled them out of the oven. I’d caught them just in time. If they’d burnt, Mima would have been really upset.

The phone rang again, “Can you answer it?” I pleaded with Stella.

She nodded and went to get it, a moment later she called, “Are you in to Dr Rose?”

I was tempted to say, “no” but that would have been churlish. I took the phone from her. “Hello, Sam.”

“Cathy, look please hear me out before you put the phone down.”

“I don’t want to discuss Daisy with anyone, I don’t know what happened, so I can’t help, end of story.”

“Cathy, don’t you dare put the phone down. None of us know what happened with Daisy, nor why her mother came around after being in a coma for four days, at exactly the moment Daisy claims she travelled on a beam of blue light generated by you, to see her mother.”

“It’s coincidence, that’s all.”

“Some coincidence, Cathy.”

“Okay, synchronicity—isn’t that what Jung called it?”

“What about the fact that this child had fractures, albeit hairline ones in both femurs, and a spinal lesion that they were too frightened to try and reduce with surgery, even though it was likely to paralyse her below the waist.”

“Spontaneous healing, happens all the time. I told her she could be a bridesmaid, and she developed the means to do it.”

“Are you trying to tell me it was psychosomatic?”

“How do I know, I’m a biologist not a physician?”

“Why are you so afraid of me?”

“I’m not, Sam, I’d come and talk with you anytime, but I don’t know what happened, it had nothing to do with me.”

“In which case, you have nothing to feel embarrassed about, do you?”

“Look, I don’t feel embarrassed, at the same time, Paul is going to be clutching at any straws he can find for Maria to get better. I don’t want to be one of those straws. It’s too much responsibility, I can’t guarantee anything.”

“Who said we expected it of you?”

“No one, but I can’t control what happened, it just happens when it feels like it.”

“Do you know two other kids, who should have died, survived the night. Not only that but they seem to be improving.”

“See, maybe it’s just the place, or perhaps you lot are doing your job better than you think.”

“It happened while you were there, the crises seemed to pass and the two children seemed to suddenly make progress.”

“It has to be coincidence.”

“Probably, but it seems one helluva coincidence.”

“Look, keep it rational, Sam. It has to have a rational explanation.”

“Sure, so come on in and let’s discuss it?”

“I don’t think so, Sam, I can’t afford to let Daisy down, she seems to expect me to cure her mother—I can’t, I’m a biologist, Sam, that’s all—I’m not Jesus or any other supposed miracle worker.”

“Cathy, okay, I’ll level with you—we have a child admitted an hour ago, she is critical, we can’t do a thing for her, except to make her comfortable, we think she is going to die. Will you come in and sit with her, just for a few minutes?”

“Why me, Sam, I can’t do anything?” I felt tears pouring down my cheeks, “What if she dies? Is it my fault?”

“Of course not, but somehow her mother got to hear of what happened yesterday and has begged me to get you to come to see her daughter.”

“But, I’m not special, Sam, I can’t do anything.”

“You can give her mother hope, which is more than we can.”

“Is false hope worse than that?”

“Maybe you don’t do anything, maybe you’re simply a catalyst, but whatever, this child has just hours to live, can you walk away from a dying four year old, when you might have been able to help?”

I felt dreadful, my heart was breaking but my head wanted nothing to do with it. “Sam, if I come, this once, promise me you’ll never ask me to do it again?”

“Okay, I promise. No one expects you to do anything except to come and try to work your magic.”

“I don’t do anything, Sam, how often do I have to tell you?”

“Thank you, Cathy, thank you so much.”

“I’m on my way.”

“Is this a good idea?” asked Stella.

“No, it’s a bloody stupid one, but maybe if this kid dies they’ll leave me in peace?”

“But she won’t will she?”

“How do I know?”

“But you do, don’t you?”

“Don’t ask silly questions?”

“You do know, don’t you?”

“All right, I do know. She’s already recovering, okay, her aorta is healing and the multiple fractures are reducing, especially the ones in her skull.”

“How the hell do you know that?”

“I can see her, her name is Susan Green.”

“What?”

“God, my head hurts, I’m going to be sick…” I just made it to the cloakroom where I threw up and everything went black.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 703

“This wasn’t how I expected to see you, Cathy.”

“What? Where am I?” I was looking at Sam Rose, who was standing at the end of an examination couch. It looked rather like a cubicle in A&E.

“In hospital having been brought in by ambulance. Apparently you collapsed in the downstairs loo and she couldn’t get you out.”

“Oh. I feel okay now, so if you could call me a cab?”

“That little girl, I mentioned…”

“Susan Green, what about her?”

“I don’t remember telling you her name?”

“Does it matter?”

“Only insofar as I would have breached a confidentiality rule.”

“Her skull was improving as was her aorta.”

“How do you know that?”

“I just do.”

“Sadly, your magic wasn’t enough.”

“What do you mean? I thought her major problems were resolved and she’d be on the mend.”

“Her heart stopped, about the same time you collapsed. We weren’t able to start it again, despite having a crash team here in minutes.”

“A crash team?” I wondered what all that was about, was she involved in a car smash?

“Yeah, a team of specialist doctors and nurses who deal with cardiac arrests. They have a very good record.”

“But not this time?”

“Sadly, not.”

“So this proves what I’ve been saying all along.”

“What does?”

“I’m not in control of this, it’s too hit and miss and perhaps someone will believe me now?”

“Au contraire, Cathy, we still have miracles which we can’t explain and they seem to coincide with your presence here, or with a patient’s miraculous recovery.”

“I’m here because I was too ill to protest. I’m sorry, I can’t meet Paul and Daisy, nor am I going to Southampton. I don’t do miracles, it is nothing to do with me and I’d like to go home now, if I may?”

“Mr Matthews and the others are waiting, it won’t take long; do come.”

“No. I’m not well and want to go home.”

“As you wish, but the others will be disappointed.”

“Sam, I’m not going to react to moral blackmail, I did what I could to save that little girl—which wasn’t much—I’m not a messiah, whether you believe in them or not, personally I don’t; nor am I a miracle worker or prophet or anything else. I’m a field biologist and filmmaker and occasional teacher—nothing else, no matter what others might think.”

“I’m just looking at the evidence—”

“—Bugger the evidence. According to the evidence, I was classified as a boy, clearly that was wrong.”

“Yes, what’s that got to do with it?”

“According to your evidence, you see me as some sort of miracle healer. It’s wrong, too.”

“But…”

“No buts, Sam, I’m going home. It isn’t a gift, it’s a curse and I’m having nothing more to do with it.”

“I see, I can understand where you’re coming from.”

“Can you? Can you really? I’ve been labelled a freak once in life already. It’s taken me a long time to resolve it, but it’s been worth it. I’m not going to save humanity—not that I could anyway—most humans are like lemmings, they don’t know which way is up. I have three children of whom I am inordinately fond and they don’t need to live with someone they call mummy, who is also seen as a weirdo. I done that, been there and probably have the indelible scars to prove it.”

“But you could do so much, Cathy?”

“Yeah, so do laboratory specimens. I’m going to do what I want for a change, I’m going home to look after my children and the others in my family. I’m going to make films about cute furry things because it might help those lemmings—the real ones—and their human counterparts from completely screwing up this planet. If it doesn’t, at least I’ll have tried.”

“Aren’t people more important than cute furry things?”

“Not if they continue destroying this beautiful planet. Without it none of us will survive.”

“I realise that, Cathy, even my myopic view of things can see that, but I’m skewed to preserving human life first.”

“Sam, you’re a doctor, and a fine one. You carry on and save all the children you can, it’s a perfectly laudable ambition. While I shall continue giving them a world in which to grow where the wonders of the universe are there for them to discover and understand. In a civilised world, the two aims would be compatible.”

“A civilised world? No change there then?”

“One day, we have to build towards things, to dream they will one day happen, the alternative is unthinkable.”

“You won’t change your mind, then?”

“Please ask them to call me a cab.”

“Okay.” He shrugged his shoulders and walked away. I know I had disappointed him, but I have a right to life as well and so do my loved ones. I have work to do, raising my children and looking after Simon and Tom and to some extent, Stella and Puddin’. I shall send love to those in need, but never again will I try to single-handedly save someone, except in a conventional sense. I’m walking away from this curse, well away.

I got the taxi home and avoided everyone. I wrote a letter to Daisy, saying that I was unwell and therefore unable to come and see her again. However, I would keep my promise and she was welcome to be one of my bridesmaids.

I knew her response would be angry, that I’d abandoned her and that she no longer wanted to be a bridesmaid. I would feel upset at her upset. Despite that, her mother would recover very quickly as she already had. I know I acted as some sort of catalyst, but no longer, I have retired as a wonder worker.

Those who condemn me, have every right to do so, except, they should imagine themselves in my place, then ask themselves, who comes first? The answer has to be, one’s own children.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 704

I spent an uncomfortable night alone in our bed. Simon was so concerned about me, he slept on the couch downstairs to avoid disturbing me. I so wanted to feel his arm around me, but he thought he was doing the right thing and I did eventually sleep.

Sometime, it felt like the middle of the night, except it might have been light, I heard the door crack open and loud whispered voices discussed me. Then the door shut about four times—they couldn’t seem to get the catch to click. I felt a surge of warmth in me, nothing to do with magical lights, simply an emotional response to being cared about.

I dropped off to sleep again, and Stella woke me with a cuppa. It was after ten and I was horrified. I enquired about the children and was told that they had finished school and were out playing in the drive and garden, on their bikes.

“How do you feel?” she asked me.

“Lousy. In my body, I feel okay, in my heart I feel angry with myself. I let a little girl die and let down another.”

“Did you? I wouldn’t have thought you did either of those things.”

“The little girl died when I blacked out.”

“Well you could hardly have controlled that, could you?”

“I should have done. I could have done. I should go and see Sam and offer to help him.”

“Do what?”

“Well duh—make his patients get better—what else?”

“Make your children’s lives harder, and your own impossible.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know damn well what I mean. If you’re setting yourself up as some modern day miracle worker or Jesus figure, you’re going to threaten their lives and destroy your own.”

“Modern day Jesus figure?”

“You know what I mean, he was a lot better equipped to cope with it all than you are, and he still got killed over it. I don’t want to see that happen to you.”

“Thanks for your concern, but if I have a gift, shouldn’t I share it with everyone?”

“I see, so if you won the lottery would you share that with everyone?”

“Depend on how much it was, I mean a tenner wouldn’t go far would it?”

“Even if you won twenty or thirty million, it wouldn’t go very far, it wouldn’t even enable a pound to everyone in the country, barely thirty pence. Not worth having, is it?”

“When you put it like that no, but what about if I had twenty or thirty million and I was able to help one or two individuals: you know, like buy a house or create jobs?”

“That’s much more feasible and realistic. You can’t help everyone, it isn’t possible and besides, not everyone wants help. Some prefer to mess up their own lives without the intrusion of some super geek.”

“Super geek? I beg your pardon.”

“Granted. How, are you going to sit there all day or are you going to interact with your own children instead of those of complete strangers?”

“I feel I ought to go and see Daisy and apologise.”

“What, for being ill?”

“No, for agreeing to see her every other day.”

“That was a bit ambitious too, it took no account of your own needs or those of your family, I mean what happens if I’m taken ill, who’d look after Puddin’ for me?”

“Trish and Meems, they do quite a good job.”

“They do, but I think I’d prefer another woman did it, not her children. Anyway, I thought you’d written a letter to her—Daisy, that is.”

“No, I tore it up. I’ll go and see her and take the two older girls with me. She’d like that.”

To cut a long story short, we had lunch—for me, brunch, and I tidied up the older pair and we went to see Daisy. Except, we didn’t see Daisy. We got to the ward and I went to her bed and it wasn’t hers any more. I found a nurse and with anxiety dripping off me like sweat, I asked her where Daisy was. Given my failure yesterday, I was terrified she’d had some sort of relapse.

“She went ’ome with ’er dad yesterday—well, they couldn’t find anything wrong with ’er, so they ’ad to let ’er go.”

“Oh, did you hear how her mother was?”

“Improvin’ by all accounts, apparently some witch cast a spell on them both and they were saved, but she couldn’t save a very sick little girl, she died.”

“So, some witch was it?”

“So they say, I wasn’t ’ere yesterday, was I, so ’ow do I know?”

“Okay, we’ll be off then.” I gathered two very disappointed girls to me and we left.

“Did that nurse call you a witch, Mummy?”

“Not directly, she assumed I was one or what she’d been told about me, made me one.”

“You’re not a witch, are you?” asked Livvie looking less than certain.

“What do you think, Livvie?”

“Umm—no, I don’t think you are.”

“What about you Trish? Do you think I’m a wicked witch?”

“Sometimes,” she said after some deliberation. “I mean, like when you don’t let me eat chocolate or play on my bike.”

“That’s usually when you’re about to go to bed, Trish.”

“Oh alright, I can’t think of anything.”

“Maybe it’s because there isn’t anything to think of?”

“Nah, I’m just tired,” she said dismissively.

“Gee thanks, Trish, you wait, I’ll turn you into a toad when you’re not looking.”

“Don’t worry, Trish, I’ll take you to the garden pond.”

“Thanks, Livvie, ’cept I doan wanna be turned into a frog.”

“I said, toad, young lady.”

“All right then, toad, they’re all the bloody same.”

I nearly choked on my surprise. “They are not the same and I’ll thank you to not use such language, young lady.”

She blushed and said, “Sorry, Mummy. I thought froads and togs, oops, I mean trogs and foads, I mean those green hoppity things. I thought they were all the same.”

“They’re not, darling. Frogs and toads are both amphibians…”

“That’s what I meant, ambivalent?”

“No, darling, amphibians.”

“Ambiphians.”

“No, am-phib-ians.”

“Am-phib-ians,” she repeated, “yeah, smelly wet things what hop.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 705

So far I haven’t met up with Daisy again, so quite how I invite her to become a bridesmaid, I don’t know, but I did promise, so I’ll do my best. I was tempted to contact Southampton, but decided against it. Maybe my being ill was the universe giving me a chance to avoid being sucked into the short-lived career as a miracle worker. I’m sure it would have ended in tears, and while I believe I have every right to be happy as myself and live my life for me, I also have responsibilities which have to dovetail into the larger picture. Yes, I can do things like studying dormice or making films, but I also have to make sure my girls are cared for and protected. Sometimes parenthood seems almost as much fun as finding dormice.

Today, it wasn’t so much fun. I had planned to take the girls to Southsea and it was wet and windy. I know, they were likely to get wet anyway, in fact part of the reason for going was for them to get wet—but in the sea wet, not soaked to the skin through rain wet.

I did consider taking them to the hotel that Henry owns, they have a swimming pool, we’ve been there before, but I don’t like to take advantage. Silly it might be, but that was how I was brought up, to pay my way.

Stella was feeding Puddin’ while I made a cuppa. The three girls were doing some painting on some strips of old wall paper I’d found. They were quite enjoying themselves and I must admit I felt fairly content despite the colder, wetter weather, evidence of which was lashing against the windows.

“Look at it, bloody weather,” said Stella, “when I was a kid, we used to spend hours on the beach.”

“What, Southsea?”

“No, in Gran Canaria. We had an apartment there.”

“I used to spend time at Weston Super Mare.”

“I always thought that was some sort of racehorse—super mare, get it?”

“I got it the first time, Stella, it means over or above the sea.”

“As opposed to under it, I suppose,” was her riposte.

“No but there are other Westons, like Weston Zoyland.”

“Weston Zoyland? You’re joking?”

“No, it’s near Sedgemoor, you know where Monmouth’s men were defeated by the turncoat John Churchill.”

“No I didn’t, turncoat?”

“Yes, he was sent by James the second to repel William of Orange, instead he changed sides.”

“Typical, don’t tell me he got a knighthood for it.”

“They made him Duke of Marlborough, for that and bashing the French a couple of times.”

“Churchill, no relation to Winston?”

“Yes an ancestor of; he was another one who changed sides.”

“What joined the Nazis?”

“No, he started off as a Liberal and went over to the Tories.”

“Big deal. He did a great job in the war.”

“Not in the first one he didn’t, he possibly precipitated the Gallipoli massacre.”

“How did he do that?”

“He was First Sea Lord or something, anyway he screwed up big time and the Brits and the Aussies got stuffed.”

“Anything else I should know, as you seem intent on giving me a history lesson?”

“He had the troops fire on striking Welsh miners, during the General Strike.”

“What as Sea Lord?”

“No, he was Home Secretary then.”

“For a biologist, you’re quite good at history, aren’t you?”

“Bits of, why?”

“It was just an observation, nothing sinister.”

“Didn’t you do any history at school?”

“Of course I did, but I didn’t like it and certainly didn’t retain any of it. Besides in our history, the family that is, it’s an advantage to forget. Daddy knows it all, but most of it is about being on the winning side, so Churchill wouldn’t have been too out of place amongst my ancestors.”

“What like at Culloden?”

“I think we supported both sides until the battle, but as it became obvious the redcoats were going to win it, my ancestor made sure he was on good terms with Butcher Cumberland. He did well out of it, doubling the size of the estate in two years.”

“I suppose success in politics is about reading the wind, knowing which way it’s blowing and marching with it. As a political inept, I’d probably stick to my guns and get blown away.”

“Cathy, having principles won’t make you any empires, but it might gain you some friends…”

“Or sisters-in-law?”

“Or friends who also happen to be your sister.”

“I like that idea.”

“It’s more than an idea, it’s a fact. In this family we seem to become parents or siblings or even children by choice. Your girls decided they wanted you as their mother, Tom chose you as his daughter, and I chose you as my sister.”

“I hope you’re not implying that Simon chose me as his sister too?”

“God, I hope not. Nah, that’s where reality kicks in, he can’t be your brother and your husband, and as I want him to be the latter, it’ll have to do.”

“Do I get a say in this?”

“No, you do as you’re told, doesn’t she girls?”

“Yessss,” they called back, “Look Auntie Stella, I’ve done a picture of a snowman.”

“It isn’t that cold, Trish,” I suggested.

“I know, Mummy, but I spilt some white paint, so I changed my sailing boat into a snowplough, and the clouds became a snowman.”

She held up her picture, which looked a bit too abstract for my taste. Livvie held up her’s, “Mine’s a picture of a tree.” We scoured the greens and browns and possibly could see something that resembled a tree.

“I’s doing a fwog,” said Meems, and showed us some big black and red object.

“It’s a poison arrow frog is it, Meems?” I suggested thinking she’d been watching some natural history film.

“No, iss a garden fwog.”

“New species I expect,” said Stella, “Scott’s fire frog, or something similar, isn’t it, Mima?”

“Yes, Annie Stewwa.”

“See, I’m a budding genius and you didn’t notice.”

“Yeah sure,” I was distracted by my thoughts.

“What’re you thinking about, Cathy?”

“My bike.”

“Has Simon sorted it?”

“Nearly, but I was thinking that two years ago, about this time, it was in a bike shop because a certain young nurse had knocked me off it.”

“What? Was that in July?”

“Yes, I’ve got a receipt upstairs somewhere.”

“Is it two years?”

“Yes, seems longer, doesn’t it?”

“In some ways yes, in others, no. Goodness, is it only two years? Crikey, you have changed a bit in that time, haven’t you? Sort of grown into the role?”

“With a little help from my sister and friends.”

“Here’s to the next two years,” she said and raised her tea cup to me.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 706

“Do you know it’s two years?” I said to Simon.

“What since we had sex?” he replied his hand moving upwards from my tummy towards my breast. I didn’t say anything in response, treating it with the contempt it deserved. “I didn’t think it was quite that long, though it felt like it,” his one-track mind was still in good working order.

“Since your loving sister knocked me off my bike, and you fell for me in such a big way.”

“If I remember correctly, it was you who fell for me—or rather, on top of me. That shirt was ruined by the way.”

“I’ll buy you another,” I cooed.

“I’ll give you the address of my tailors in Savile Row, they made those shirts for me.”

“Why can’t you buy them in Marks & Spencers like normal people do?”

“I’ve bought undies in there, what more do you want, blood?”

“They don’t do blood, Simon.”

“I was speaking rhetorically.”

“You do that a lot.”

“Do what?”

“Talk through your rectum, you did say rectally, didn’t you?”

“You cheeky mare,” he said and started to tickle me. After some giggling and wrestling, all in and all out varieties, we did make love. Afterwards, he was lying with me when he said, “Dunno what I saw in you two years ago.”

“I know what I saw in you,” I smirked.

“You did, what was that, then?”

“Someone who was clumsy around women and who had no confidence except in a silly bravado sort of way. You’ve changed since.”

“It’s funny, because, I do know what I saw in you—potential. Here was this gauche, painfully shy, and nervous young woman, that I wanted to protect and nurture, and look what happened to her.”

“What was that?” I asked.

“She turned into a confident and beautiful woman.”

“Thank you,” I kissed him. “You’ve changed too.”

“Yes, I’ve got my jarmies on now.”

“No, you fool,” I slapped him playfully, “I mean you’ve changed since we first met.”

“I had to, you poured red wine over my other stuff, if you remember?”

“Simon, I’m trying to be sensible.”

“Oh, okay,” he lay quietly.

“You were always very generous and kind, and thankfully, that has remained. I don’t only mean with your money, sometimes that would be the easy option, but instead you give your time. You have with the girls and with me, and I’m grateful. You were very brave to take on someone with my particular problems, especially as it could have rebounded so badly on you. Furthermore, you convinced your family to accept me for what I wanted to be rather than for whom I currently was. That was so generous and so brave.”

“Yeah it was, wasn’t it—can I remind you of all this next time you’re having a go at me?”

“If you like.” I kissed him again. “I love you, Simon Cameron.”

“I think you were brave too, it takes a lot of courage to do what you did.”

“What, agree to marry you?”

“Yeah, that and have your bits modified—I couldn’t do it.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Si. I’ve got one sister, it’s men we’re short of around here.”

“I didn’t mean it like that, you silly bugger. I meant, for most men losing those bits would be almost like losing their lives. Some might actually feel they’d prefer to die.”

“Ah, fundamental mistake, Si. I’m not man, nor ever was I except in a legal sense. So I wasn’t losing anything, I was getting rid of something I didn’t want in the first place. It wasn’t a loss, it was riddance of an excrescence.”

“Okay, let’s not dwell on that, it’s making me sweat already.” I chuckled, and he poked me. “It’s all right for you and your excrescences, but for us pukka blokes, it’s tantamount to the ultimate humiliation and pain.”

I kissed him, “Okay, let’s move on to modern times—still wanna marry me?”

“You askin’?”

“Yeah, I’m askin’, why?”

“Why do I want to marry you?”

“No, you numpty, you’ve spoilt the film quotations now.”

“Which one is that, then?”

“Oh I don’t know, do I? Probably Clint Eastwood, he’s the only one who could get away with such awful dialogue.”

“What, the good, the bad and the mayor of Carmel?”

“Yeah, something like that, it’s not Cartmel, is it?” I asked.

“No, that’s up in Cumbria, I’ve been to the races there, nice priory there.”

“I don’t know Cumbria very well, only bits of the Lake District.”

“Where d’you think all that is?”

“Oh, must go again some time.”

“Next time we go up to Stanebury, we could call through there, maybe spend a day or two.”

“That would be nice—um—I’m not that sure I’m in a big hurry to go to Scotland again.”

“Why not?”

“Well, there was rather a lot of violence if you remember?”

“Yeah, but that’s been resolved now.”

“Has it? I hope so. I mean I wasn’t even called to an inquest.”

“I think the authorities took care of that. Dad embarrassed them, and besides, most of the damage was done by a group of commandos if I recall correctly.”

“I dunno, and I’m not sure I want to know.”

“I’ll check with Dad sometime, but I think all that was sorted.”

“I don’t think I’d want to go up there again unless it was.”

“So does that mean you would otherwise?” I could hear some enthusiasm in his voice.

“Dunno, can’t say I’m that happy in castles, prefer small houses.”

“This place isn’t exactly small, is it? Not with six bedrooms.”

“No, I suppose not, but then there are a few of us in here.”

“True, and with Puddin’ and Trish eventually needing their own rooms, it ain’t gonna be big enough.”

“Goodness, I hadn’t thought of it like that.” How come I’d never considered it? Maybe I was just too much in the moment and not forward-looking enough towards the future.

“Anyway, that’s some time off and it’s rather late.”

“Crikey, Si, it’s after one, I’ll be knackered in the morning.”

“Well go to bloody sleep then and stop talking.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 707

The next day, I was consoling myself over the fact that Brad Wiggins was in third place in the TdF, and that bloody Contador looked as if he was going to win it again. Okay, so Contador is a good cyclist, but he has all the personality of paper bag.

The girls were out playing in the drive, those bikes were certainly getting a lot of use, even Mima now had one although she was going to need stabiliser wheels for some time. Stella had fed and watered Puddin’ who was presumably sleeping; Stella told me she was going to have a soak in the bath and I was up-to-date on my chores, hence my investigation of the TdF placings. I sort of catch up the next day, when I can. Today was a rest day, the last one before they go for Paris.

I went back over the past few days, Cavendish had had the green jersey and let it go to Hushovd, then Cervelo had complained in one of the sprints and Cav had been disqualified and lost the points for that stage—all because the sneaky Norwegian had tried to go on the blind side. Sodding French commissaires had decided that Cav had infringed, when it was obvious to all but bloody myopic frogs that the barriers were at fault, not the blessed Cav. I hope the bugger wins the final stage now—it won’t bring back the green jersey, that Norwegian git has that now unless he crashes heavily and has to retire or fails a drug test. Despite my disgruntlement with all things Scandinavian, I wasn’t going to wish anything bad on the sneaky toad. Maybe young Cavendish will learn it’s more than just about speed and power, winning the green jersey, that is.

I was musing on what we’d have for lunch when the phone rang. “Hello?”

“Hi, Babes,” Simon seemed in good spirits.

“I was just thinking about you, big boy,” I smarmed to him. It was a lie but he’d feel good all day for those few kind words, just like a puppy.

“Oh, that’s nice, Babes, I think about you all the time.” He lies as badly as I do, oh well, at least we’re all square in the deception stakes. “Guess what?”

“What?” that was easy enough.

“No, guess what?” he repeated.

“I just did, Simon, give me a clue, it’s not mastermind.”

“Okay, what do you get out of a fire?”

That was clear as mud, “Um, coal?”

“No, try again.”

“I don’t know, Simon, um…charcoal.”

“No, Babes, think current.”

“Current? What like an electric fire?”

“No, you dozy bimbo,” he sounded frustrated, it might have been obvious to him but not me, but he was not going to get away with calling me a dozy bimbo.

“I’m not going to play if you’re going to resort to name calling, and I resent being called dozy or bimbo.”

“Okay, I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it anyway—honest, I didn’t.”

“Well I don’t bloody well know what else you get from a fire, unless it’s ashes.”

“Bull’s-eye,” he said emphatically.

“You don’t get bull’s-eyes in fires, they’re on dart boards and things.”

“No, give me strength, you were on target, the answer was ashes.”

“Oh, I’m glad I managed to get my dozy bimbo brain to give you the right answer.”

“Leave it off, Babes, just get yourself and all the others tarted up for dinner tonight.”

“Hang on, what about the children, we can’t just leave them behind.”

“No, we take ’em with us, and Stella and Tom.”

“What’s the occasion?”

“The Ashes.”

“Oh, the cricket.”

“Yep, spot on again, we won the latest match which puts us one up in the series.”

“And that’s grounds for going to dinner?” I wasn’t too convinced.

“No but taking a grand off an Aussie broker is.”

“You’ve lost me, Simon; please start at the beginning.”

“I bet this Aussie, we’d win at Lords.”

“Well, I suppose it was home advantage,” I said trying to sound as if I knew what he was talking about.

“Nah, we hadn’t won there for seventy odd years in an Ashes match.”

“So wasn’t that a risky bet, and a thousand pounds is a lot of money.”

“It wasn’t a thousand then, it started as a tenner and got bigger.”

“Like a hundredfold bigger, that was a lot of money, Simon, please don’t do it again.”

“It’s okay, Babes, I won’t give him a chance to win it back, I’ll have spent some of it on a dinner treat for everyone.”

“I don’t know, Simon, what if he wins the next one?”

“I won’t play again, it was a one-off.” I knew damn well, he couldn’t walk away from it if the other chap insisted he have a chance to get his money back, next I know it’ll be, ‘double or quits’ and Simon will lose and have a face like a fiddle for a week.

“I think you ought to save that money just in case he wins the next round.”

“Just get yourself all beautiful for seven.”

“But seven is far too late for the kids.”

“Give ’em a sarnie to keep ’em going.”

“I will not, they’ll have a proper meal at teatime and I think you should consider doing this another night when we have a sitter in, or get Stella to do it for us.”

“But I want to take everyone out.”

“Well do it for lunch, then.” There was no way I was going to have three kids eating supper at nine in the evening and playing up because they were tired or full of wind.

“Aw, Babes, it’s not the same, striking while the iron is hot.”

“Sorry, that’s my best answer.” It was too short notice and ill considered, I hoped it was implicit because I wasn’t going to explain it.

“Huh, I bet you’d go out if Mark bloody Cavendish or wossisname Wiggins won the Tour de France.”

“That’s more unlikely than England winning the Ashes. Having said that, Wiggo is in third place at the moment.”

“Is he? Well done him, what about that Armstrong bloke? How’s he doing?”

“Second to Contador.”

“Not bad for an old man, eh?”

“Very good, except the Spaniard will win it.”

“Ah, that’s why you’re crabby, ’cos a Spaniard’s gonna win the Tour.”

“No, it’s what was expected, I just think they seem to have a high propensity for boosting red blood cells and things.”

“You don’t think he’s doping, do you?”

“I doubt it, but several of his countrymen are in trouble at the moment.”

“What, on the Tour?”

“No other races.”

“Anyway, what about this here lunch?”

“Can we can discuss it with the others later?”

“Oh, all right—see you later, then.” He rang off.

“What was that all about?” asked Stella. I explained what had transpired and she shrugged. “Simple Simon—Idiot—lunch is a much better idea, all I have to do is convince him to take us to a restaurant that does scallops.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 708

That evening after the bairns were abed, as Tom would say, we discussed celebrating Simon’s winnings. Tom agreed with me that England could still lose the series and thus the Ashes and the Aussie broker seek redress from Simon.

Si insisted that he wouldn’t accept the bet, but none of us believed him, he shrugged and muttered something about bad dogs and hanging. Simon is a lovely man, generous, kind and patient. He is also susceptible to peer pressure—how do I know? I’ve used it to guide him to do what I wanted. If the Australian broker does the same to him, and I think it quite possible, then he’ll bet and go for double or quits or whatever threshold the Aussie suggests. I was almost in favour of suggesting he give the money back on the quiet, of course and say he’d made his point. I’m sure the Aussie would have thought him crazy, but decent—which is about right.

I did try that night, but Simon proved harder to convince than I expected and he refused to give the money back. The downside is that his love life is on hold until he apologises. All is fair in love and war, so they say.

The next day, Simon was a bit huffy before he left for work. I pretended not to notice, rather to see how he was when he came back tonight. The weather was uninspiring, breezy with frequent showers. Question: What’s the difference between an English summer and winter? Answer: The rain is warmer in the former. The only good thing about it was that I dislike barbecues, I prefer my food cooked. I’m not wild about eating outdoors either, if I’d been meant to eat insects, I’d probably have been built like a swift or a shrew. Simon might consider the latter isn’t so far from the truth.

We made cakes and bread. It actually took longer to clean up the kitchen than it did to do the baking, but that’s the joy of children. Stella sat and laughed much of the time, feeding Puddin’ who gurgled and giggled at the antics of her ‘cousins’.

Lunch was some of the new bread with cheese and salad. Then we went on to ice the cakes. If Michelangelo had problems with the Sistine Chapel, he should have tried supervising three little uns icing cakes. Meems had the job of spreading hundreds and thousands on the icing. These are little tiny coloured bits of sugar candy. She spread a few hundred thousand on the first cake and had run out by the third.

Trish was icing the fairy cakes, using a spoon and a knife. Drop a blob of icing on the cake, spread with cold knife with wet blade—easy peasy—sadly not. She forgot to wet the knife several times, and Livvie who kept reminding her had the cup of water thrown over her. So did Meem’s cakes.

I went ballistic, I’d only gone to take Stella a cuppa when the mayhem arose and couldn’t believe the mess when I got back to the kitchen. Meems was crying, so was Livvie and so was Trish. The latter was sent to her room to cool off, then the other two helped me clean up.

I helped them ice the Victoria sandwich we’d made, Livvie iced it while Meems cut chocolate buttons in half and made a pattern with them. After this, I put on a DVD and they went to watch it. I went up to speak with Trish.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, “she said when I went into their bedroom.

“I should think so, you spoiled everyone’s fun.”

She sat sobbing on the edge of the bed and nodded. I let her stew for a moment, then gave her a hug. When she’d stopped crying I asked her a question. “Why did you flip like that, usually you are quite calm, and normally you wouldn’t forget to wet the knife?”

“I don’t know, Mummy.”

“Is anything worrying you?”

She shook her head, no.

“Is it having Livvie here?”

“No, Mummy, I like having Livvie here.”

“Then what is it? Do you not feel well?”

“I dunno, Mummy.”

I held her while she cried. I cooed to her and stroked her neck and back. Maybe it was just a bit of boredom or something similar? Could it be the strain of living as a girl? Was she reconsidering?

“Are you still happy as a girl?”

“Of course I am, Mummy.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yes, why?”

“Well because if you’d changed your mind, we wouldn’t mind at all. All we want is for you to be happy.”

“No, I like being a girl, did you think I didn’t?”

“No, but I was just checking. I want you to be happy, and while I accept we can’t all be happy all of the time, I wanted to make sure you were reasonably so.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

“What for, sweetheart?”

“For caring about me.” Now it was me who was weeping, bloody five year olds, they get me every time. I hugged her and in trying to avert my eyes and slow down the tears, I glanced around the room. My gaze fell on the calendar. Then it all fell into place.

“What will you wear tomorrow?”

“For what?” she asked.

“To go and see the doctor.”

“Do I have to go?”

“Yes. I’ll come with you, you know that.”

“I know,” she said glumly.

“Dr Rose has promised that it won’t be anything like last time. He said it was a nice man, who has some experience of GID children.”

“I know, you said before, but I don’t know if I want to go.”

“Trish, you tell me that you want to be a girl, and as much of a girl as you can be.”

“I do, Mummy, I want to be a proper girl like Livvie and Meems.”

“And I promised to help you achieve that as much as we could, didn’t I?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“To do so, we have to jump through the hoops.”

“What does that mean, Mummy?”

“Sorry, I assumed you’d know. It means we have to do what they want so we get what we want. It’s from the days of performing animals in circuses and so on. The animal wanted the titbit from the trainer, so was prepared to jump through hoops to get it.”

“Oh, I see, so the doctor is like a lion tamer?”

“In your case—quite possibly.” She did a mock roar and we both laughed.

“Is he going to make me a girl, Mummy?” she asked after a little while.

“Not tomorrow, he isn’t. He’ll want to assess you and then over a period of time, he’ll probably give you medicine to stop you becoming more boyish. That could go on for years, then if he’s satisfied it’s in your interest, he will either prescribe hormones or refer you on to someone else who will. Those will be the drugs which make you grow into a teenage girl and eventually a woman. Finally, you might have surgery to alter your bits to resemble a female’s.”

“Will you help me, Mummy?”

“I will on one condition.”

“What’s that, Mummy?”

“That you tell me honestly, that it’s what you really want, and more importantly, if it ceases to be what you want. Do you understand?”

“It is what I want, Mummy, it really, really is.”

“Okay, but if one day it isn’t, and that you want to revert back or stay as you are, or anything else, promise me you’ll tell me.”

“I will, Mummy, I promise.”

“Then I promise, with all my heart to help you.”

“I love you, Mummy.”

“I love you too, sweetheart.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 709

Trish and I were sitting waiting to be called to see Dr Dorian Henshelwood. We were a few minutes early and instead of reading we were playing ‘I spy’. I’m sure everyone has played it before with children, you see something, give them the first letter and they have to guess what the object is. In a hospital waiting room, that’s limited, so to make it more interesting, the guess had to be used in a sentence.

Trish gave me one beginning with the letter ‘R’. I looked around, and decided I’d have a guess. “I think the word is receptionist; um…I know, the receptionist came out of her house and only discovered she had no knickers on, when she sat on her bicycle.” Trish roared with laughter, getting an old fashioned look from our knickerless receptionist.

“No, that’s the wrong word.” She sat smiling smugly.

“Oh, okay, let me see.” I glanced around the room, “Um, right. The word is red, yeah, I’ve got it, the receptionist left her red knickers at home in case she had to cross a field which had a bull in it.”

“No, Mummy,” she was giggling like a loony and both of us were drawing all sorts of looks from patients and staff alike.

“I give up,” I said.

“Roundabout,” she pointed at a toy carousel thing a little girl was playing with in front of the toy cupboard.

“Clever clogs, now it’s my turn…” before I could get my revenge, a voice called for “Patricia Watts.” We looked at each other and jumped up together.

Standing in front of the door of his room was a kindly looking man with a bushy beard, which was pepper and salt coloured and pair of twinkling blue eyes which flashed under his equally bushy eyebrows and pair of silver framed spectacles.

He held the door open while we entered the room. He indicated a sofa opposite a single chair, with a table alongside it. He shut the door and offering his hand said, “Dorian Henshelwood.” He shook my hand and then Trish’s.

“Cathy Watts and this young lady is Trish.”

“Trish, okay, Trish it is.” He made a note on a file. We all sat down and he looked at both of us. “That’s a very nice dress, Trish, did you choose it?”

“Yes, doctor.”

“You have good taste, do you choose all your clothes?”

“Not all of them, sometimes Mummy does, and school uniform, we don’t have a choice.”

“Oh dear, what’s so dreadful about the school uniform?”

“Nothing I s’pose, ’cept you never get to choose, ’cept between the dress and the skirt ‘n’ blouse.”

“Well, when I went to school, I had to wear charcoal grey trousers, a black blazer, white shirt and school tie. I didn’t have the option of a summer uniform, so what do you think about that?”

“I think girls are luckier than boys. Did the girls in your school have a summer and winter uniform?”

“Yes, they did. I think you’re jolly well right, they did have more choice and were luckier. So you don’t fancy wearing trousers and a shirt and tie?”

Trish shook her head, “Ugh, no thank you. I don’t mind wearing trousers when I’m riding my bike, or playing, but I’d rather wear skirts or dresses to school.”

“I see, fair enough. But you do wear trousers, sometimes then?”

“Yeah, sometimes.”

“Do you like them, I mean to wear?”

“They’re okay, when it was cold in the winter, we went sledging, and we needed trousers for that. My sister Mima, she wore some too.”

“So people didn’t think you were a boy in trousers, then?”

Trish looked at him, and then blushing furiously, said, “No, why should they? I’m a girl.” She gripped my hand tightly. I was trying not to influence anything she said, and I thought they were both doing well.

“Well only because, boys traditionally wear trousers and girls wear skirts. What about a kilt? Boys can wear those.”

“Both my gramps wear kilts sometimes, one has a castle up in Scotland.”

“Indeed,” the twinkling eyes shifted a little, he clearly didn’t believe this.

“It has pointy towers like a fairy castle, and he says when Mima and me visit, we are fairy princesses.”

“You like your gramps, then?”

“Yes, we live with the other one, he’s a professor at the university. Mummy works there too, when she isn’t on television.” He looked at me in puzzlement.

“Your mummy is on television?”

“Yes, she made a film on dormice and is going to make one on harvest mice. She’s an expert on mice, she has a pet dormouse called Spike. I like to hold Spike, she is soft and furry with a long furry tail, she once ran down Mummy’s blouse and weed herself. It’s on the computer, it’s very funny.” She started to laugh and he smiled too. He looked at me, I was blushing furiously, and the eyes sparkled again. He wasn’t sure how much of this to take, but he hadn’t asked me for confirmation—yet.

“So what does the other gramps, do?” he asked Trish.

“That one was Grampa Tom, he’s the professor. Grampa Henry, he’s the one with the castle, and he owns a bank and big hotel in Southsea.”

“A bank, what sort of bank?”

“A bank where we keep our money, Gramps is very honest, so you could keep yours there if you want, I’ll ask him to do it for you, if you want.” I was blushing and smirking at the same time.

“Your grampas sound very nice men, do you think so?”

“Yes, they spoil all three of us, me, Mima and Livvie. Livvie is my latest sister, she’s only been with us for a few weeks. Her daddy killed her mummy and then killed himself and asked my mummy to look after her.”

“Goodness, your new sister?”

“Yes, Mummy can’t have babies, so she fosters us, but we all want to be adopted by her and Daddy after they get married. They’re going to get married up in the castle, aren’t you Mummy and we’re gonna be bridesmaids and wear posh frocks and have our hairs done with flowers in it, aren’t we Mummy?”

I smiled, trying not to say anything, but I felt I had to answer her this time. “The arrangements haven’t been finalised yet, but you will be a bridesmaid, with Meems and Livvie.”

“See, I told you, I gonna wear my hair up like a big girl,” she scooped her hair and lifted it above her head. “I think it’ll be nice.”

“I’m sure it will, Trish, I’m sure it will.” He paused and I wondered when he was going to start asking her some awkward questions or historical ones. They started. “Can I ask you, when you knew you were really a girl?”

“When I was about two, I wanted to wear dresses and play with dollies and my first mummy used to beat me and shout at me.”

“Why did she do that?”

“I don’t know, I think it was because she hated me, but my new mummy says that all mummies really love their children, and she might have beaten me because she loved me and didn’t want me to be different. That’s right isn’t it, Mummy?” I smiled my reply back to her.

“Do you think your first mummy loved you?”

“She wanted me to be a boy, but I didn’t want to. I knew I was a girl, so she put me in a home and I haven’t seen her since.”

“Do you miss her?”

“No, I love my new mummy, she’s nice and she said she’d help me to be a lady like her, she’s going to be Lady Catherine when she marries Daddy, he’s a lord, only they say laird, up in Scotland.”

“Do they? Goodness, for a young lady you know an awful lot, don’t you?”

“Yes, because I like to read a lot, me and Livvie read loads, and we’re trying to teach Meems to read too, but she’s only three an’ a half.”

“So, what happened in the home?”

“I used to get bullied, but I kept telling them I was a girl ’cept one boy used to bash me up. He pushed me down the stairs and I hurt my head. I had to come to hospital because I was unconscious and I couldn’t walk.

“Meems had been hit by a car and couldn’t walk, but Mummy makes miracles happen, and she cured Meems, then when Dr Rose asked her to cure me, she did too. Then I asked the judge if I could live with her, and he said yes.”

“So, this mummy cured you and let you be a girl?”

“Yes, that’s what I said, didn’t I? Weren’t you listening?”

“Oh yes, it’s riveting stuff, I was just sorting it out in my own head. I’m a bit slower than you.”

“Well try and keep up,” the cheeky maggot sniped at him.

“I’ll endeavour to do so.” He’d made copious notes, and then he asked if he could speak with me. Trish happily acceded to his request, and I filled him in some of the finer points. “An interesting young lady,” he said as he shook her hand again as we left, his eyes twinkling once more.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 710

The rest of the day following the interview with Dr Henshelwood, went as normal. Trish had to cope with the teasing about being shrunk by her shrink. She took it in good part and it stopped without my intervention. Dinner was a quiet affair, with Simon still muttering about ‘bloody Australians’. I would have it out with him later.

I had just cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher when the phone rang. I wasn’t expecting any calls so when I heard Stella say—“No, but I’ll get her for you”—I was a little anxious answering the phone.

“Hello, Cathy Watts.”

“Hello, Cathy, it’s Sam Rose.”

“Oh hi, Sam,” I wondered what he wanted but I decided to wait until he told me. I hoped it wasn’t to try some further healing on another hopeless case.

“I had lunch with Dorian, he’s most impressed with Trish, he said she’s five going on fifteen but without the nasty aspects of teenagers.”

“Yes, if I believed in reincarnation, she’d be worthy of further investigation, because sometimes it seems she’s been here before.”

“I know what you mean.”

“Mind you, my newest acquisition, Olivia, is quite as bright.”

“Maybe you attract these bright young things.”

“If you believe that Sam, then I’ll have you drummed out of the Humanist Society.”

“Already, vot a kvetch, you are,” he said in an accent straight out of ‘Fiddler on the Roof.’

“That is so corny, Sam, I’m surprised you aren’t off to ‘pick a pocket or two.’

“Hush, don’t want to threaten the day job,” he laughed again. This man had one of the kindest but dirtiest laughs I’d ever heard. I’m sure it wouldn’t be out of place in a rugby club after a match, or on the ward joking with some patient or their family.

“Okay, I won’t say anything if you don’t.”

“Nah, keep it shtum.”

“Trish was quite taken with your lunch partner.”

“He was most amused when she told him to get up to speed.”

“Oh goodness, yes, I was terrified that he’d say something to her.”

“No, he thoroughly enjoyed it. “

“I thought she was verging on cheekiness.”

“No, he saw it as her impatience to make him understand, so when he played a bit slow, she chided him.”

“But isn’t that disrespect?”

“No, he was testing her.”

“She passed, I hope.”

“Undoubtedly, he was most impressed with her mother as well.”

“But her mother wasn’t there, and Trish was quite scathing about her.”

“I think he meant her current mother,” Sam said.

“Oh, me?”

“For an intelligent woman, you can be so thick, Cathy.”

“How dare you? I’m a recognised genius.”

“Genius or genus?”

“It might be the latter, Homo nutscutoffus.” There were choking sounds from the other end of the line.

“Cathy, that was rotten of you, I’d just taken a mouthful of red wine, and we have light coloured carpets.”

“Sorry,” I felt myself blushing.

“Don’t apologise, it was very funny. I haven’t told Dorian anything of your history.”

“Is it relevant?”

“Only indirectly, it could influence Trish in wanting to emulate you.”

“I’ve told her that she needs to make up her mind slowly, and that there are no right or wrong answers. Whatever she does is right for her, providing it’s her decision.”

“Absolutely. I wish I could nurture that attitude in all my mothers and some fathers. It would make life so much easier.”

“I don’t see how one can consider anything else.”

“Ah but that’s because your IQ is up in the genus levels.”

“Ha ha.”

“Oh, I might have meant genius.”

“Nah, you were right the first time; besides, I’d rather be loved than brilliant.”

“I think you have at least two if not three young ladies who think you are the best thing since sliced bread.”

“Do you mind? We have home baked bread here.”

“Oh God, a gluten snob.”

“Ha, it’s not just bread we eat well on, I could say apart from the processed food, everything is natural, home cooked comestibles.

“Apart from the processed food?”

“Yeah, you know baked beans, spaghetti hoops, chicken nuggets, fish fingers, burgers and pizza.”

“I know what processed food is, I treat complications from it regularly, especially in our obesity clinic.”

“The way mine have been running around the last few days, obesity is not something I’m expecting just now.”

“You sounded Scottish, then.”

“Me, nah, I’m from Brissle.”

“Well that’s what it sounded like.”

“Mind you, I do share a house with three haggis bashers.”

“Are you always so racist?”

“No, only with Scottish relatives and Jewish paediatricians.”

“That’s all right then.”

“I’m going to have to go, Sam, sorry but I have to turn out a loaf from the machine.”

“Oh, quickly before you dash off, you couldn’t come and see a little boy with cancer, could you?”

“Sam, I thought we’d agreed about all this.”

“Yes of course, I’m sorry, it’s just nothing else is working and he’s going to die.”

“Die—how quickly?”

“In a couple of days, the chemo didn’t work. His parents are with him day and night.”

“Is the ward open now?”

“Officially no…”

“But you could get me in?”

“It’s nine o’clock, Cathy.”

“Yeah, give me half an hour.”

“You are wonderful.”

“He’s still probably going to die, but at least it won’t be on my conscience.”

“You are still wonderful.”

“Yeah, whatever, but this is the last one.”

“Of course, it will be.”

“I mean it, Sam. Next time the answer is no.”

“I know, thanks.”

“He’s still likely to die.”

“Anything you can do will be appreciated.”

I put down the phone and after telling Simon and Tom where I was going, and dealing with their protests, I grabbed my jacket and bag and set off for the hospital.

It was just getting dark when I got to the ward where the young lad was. Sam was waiting for me. “I’ll introduce you to his parents.” He took my hand and kissed it, “I really do appreciate this, Cathy. You really are his last hope.”

“So much for modern medicine and science.”

“I’ve never worried how we do it, as long as we get the results, so if chanting Hebrew words to the moon, did the trick, I’d do it.”

“It would have to be God names, wouldn’t it?”

“How do you know that?”

“Let’s say I know, and leave it at that.”

“Mr and Mrs Martin, this is the lady I mentioned to you. A real lady, Lady Catherine.”

“I’m just plain Cathy, and I’m not promising anything, except to bring some love and hope.”

“Maureen and Ted, anything you can do for Charlie, we appreciate. Thanks for coming.” He hugged me and then his wife did. I felt my eyes moisten and I was shown into a little side room where an emaciated little form lay sleeping, the breathing shallow and troubled.

“The disease has affected…”

“Hush, Sam, I don’t need to know.” I walked up to the child, and stroked his head, he was very warm and his forehead was slightly moist. He was connected to a dextrose drip. His cheeks were sunken and I felt a sense of despair and that of false hope to his parents.

“Do you mind if I just sit with him alone for a few minutes?” I asked as gently as I could.

The Martins looked at each other and shrugged. “How about you come into the sister’s office and we find you a cuppa?” suggested Sam and they half consented.

“I’ll call if anything happens,” I said and they nodded and went with Sam while I seated myself alongside the child and taking his hand in both of mine, spoke quietly to him.

“Hello, Charlie, I’m Cathy. I used to be a Charlie once upon a time, so I feel we have a bit of a bond. I’m going to use that bond to help you. I want you to concentrate on a bright blue light which is forming in front of you. I want you to give yourself to this light and let it enter your body. You’ll feel no pain, just perhaps a slight coldness. As it enters your body, the parts of you which have been sick will start to heal. It will take several days I expect to work completely, but in a short time you will feel stronger and more relaxed. Then you will grow stronger and better with every passing moment. In a short time you will sleep normally and feel better for it. The light will watch over you and protect you, relax into it and let it do its work. Tomorrow, after a night’s sleep, you will feel much better and be able to talk with your mum and dad, and that will make them feel better too. Now, just sleep and let the blue light do its work. Relax into it and sleep.”

I held his hand while imagining a huge ball of light in the room, its intensity was almost blinding but I kept at it. The child’s hand went from hot, to cold and for a moment I wondered if the worst had happened. However, I kept faith in the process and was rewarded by his breathing begin to sound deeper and slower—he was asleep. I sighed, and went back to calling up the light.

I don’t know how long I was at it, when Sam spoke quietly. “Cathy, the Martins are coming back, you’ve been here an hour.”

“Uh, oh, sorry, I was miles away. He’ll be all right till the morning.”

“How do you know?” asked Sam.

“Trust me. I’ll come back after I’ve taken my two to school. I can save this one, Sam, I feel it in my bones.”

“You might be the only one who can, but don’t make yourself ill. What shall I tell his parents?”

“I’ll speak to them, but no promises—okay?”

“Okay, I’ll get them.” He came back a few seconds later.

They went straight to their son, “He looks so peaceful,” said Maureen.

“His temperature is down and his pulse is slower.” Sam examined the child and shook his head, “he was burning up earlier, we thought he had an infection but it wasn’t showing up in the tests.”

“It was the chemo, he’ll sleep tonight. I’ll come back tomorrow, if I may?”

“Cathy, how can we thank you?” Maureen hugged me and Ted was standing behind her his hand on her shoulder as she did so.

“Get some rest yourselves, Charlie will still be here in the morning. He needs sleep as much as anything and so do you. I’ll come back tomorrow morning. I can’t promise anything, except to try for you.”

“He looks better than he has for the past two days,” said Ted, “please come and see him tomorrow, and thank you so much.”

“Whatever happens tomorrow, or in the subsequent days, please tell no one of my part in it. I have to ask this or I can’t help you.”

“Whatever you say, Cathy, isn’t that right Ted?”

“Anything if you can save our son.”

“I make no promises, but I shall do what I can. Sam, can we avoid any more drugs except painkillers, and he won’t really need those?”

“Sure, the drip is okay, isn’t it? It’s more to hydrate than anything.”

“The drip is fine. I’m going home now to check on my three. I’ll be back tomorrow. Good night, please rest, all of you, tomorrow could be a very long day and you’ll need all the energy you’ve got.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 711

“But you can’t just spend hours at this kid’s bedside, no matter how sorry you feel for him.”

“Simon, I’m an independently mobile, autonomous unit otherwise known as a woman, I can do whatever I want.”

“What about your own children?”

“My own children aren’t suffering as a consequence.”

“What if I forbid it?”

“What if you what?” I’d heard him perfectly, I just couldn’t believe he’d have the gall to say it, and certainly not again.

“I’m not happy with it.”

“I’m hardly ecstatic, but I have a feeling that I can save this kid.”

“And if you do? What then? You’ll have the rest of the unfortunates of this world beating a path to your door. Do think carefully about this, Cathy.”

“I told the parents that if they breathe a word he’ll die.”

“Cathy, don’t be so stupid, how could you threaten them like that?”

“I’ll send you round to kill him.”

“Do your own dirty work. Besides, if you give healing, isn’t it a gift? You can hardly give conditions or try to take it back.”

“I suppose you’re right. I’ll just tell them that I have given them an enormous gift. If they blab, then they will have treated me very badly and it will guarantee that I never share it again.”

“You said that before.”

“I mean it this time.”

“I get very worried about you, girl.”

“I love it when you’re concerned,” I said sucking up to him. It was pure badness, taking the piss and turning the tables on him—the number of times he’s said to me, ‘You’re lovely when you’re angry’, this was payback.

“Why?”

“Because you become all kind and affectionate.”

His whole posture changed, “I can be affectionate any time, you know me.” He sounded like the cat who’d got the cream.

“Yes I do know you, Simon,” I kissed him on the cheek and turned over, “and if you dare to patronise me again, you’ll live to regret it, even if it won’t be for long. Night.”

“Cathy, the great healer and teaser. No wonder women get themselves attacked, winding up men to expect something and then not delivering.” I suspect he muttered to himself for several minutes, I was shattered and had loads to do the next day. Thankfully I slept quite quickly.

He’d gone when I awoke the next morning. I suppose I’d annoyed him twice now. Oh well, he’d get over it. I went to the loo and stuck to the mirror was a note.

‘Just in case you think I was off in a huff, I’m not. You’re a cruel c*ck teaser and I ought to smack your arse. Take care of yourself, don’t give all your energy away. Despite all my shortcomings, I still love you. S xxx’

Aww, he does try, time to get the girls up. They were hard work this morning, I don’t know if they were sleepy or what but they took twice as long as they needed to, to do everything. By the time they were dressed and breakfasted, I was seething. It seemed as if they were intent on making me late.

Tom took the two older girls with him, they were going to clean out some of the dormouse cages under the supervision of the technicians. Usually this meant they’d just get in the way, but as the university was free of students in the general sense, there was time to allow them to get in the way, and who knows, maybe one of them will be the next big thing in biology.

Sitting at the bedside, I heard from the parents that Charlie had opened his eyes for a few moments, smiled at them, then lapsed back into his sleep. They left me to sit with him, and I started my healing.

When they found me, I was apparently collapsed over him, still holding on to his hand. Sam Rose sent me home by taxi and told me to rest. I was shattered and went to bed. Meems came up for a cuddle with me but I don’t remember much until I was wakened by Stella at lunchtime.

“Cathy, wakey wakey, Tom has suggested we meet him for lunch, usual place.”

“What time is it?”

“Nearly midday, oh Sam Rose phoned, he said the boy had come round and was talking to his parents. He is amazed and very grateful for your help, but he told me to tell you, that you are not to return until you feel fit again. What happened?”

“I don’t know, I got the energy flowing then suddenly, I seemed to bonk, you know like they do in bike racing, just ran out of energy and next thing I know, Sam is waking me up.”

“Did you sleep?”

“I don’t know, if I did, it didn’t do me any good, I felt so tired.”

“Perhaps he just sucked too much energy out of you? Very sick people do that to nursing staff, like vampires sucking out their life force.”

“Actually, that was what it felt like. Damn, I need to go and get the car from the hospital.”

“Sam got one of the porters to bring it back for you. It’s outside.”

“I must thank him. He’s such a nice man.”

“Yeah I know, but his niceness nearly did for you.”

“What do you mean?”

“If he hadn’t found you, I reckon that boy would have sucked all your life force.”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Stella. It’s a child, how could a child be stronger than a full-grown woman?”

“Where did he have the cancer?”

“I didn’t ask, I didn’t want to know, but I have a feeling it was a brain tumour.”

“A healthy brain consumes loads of energy, so a sick one—the sky’s the limit.”

“So how come when I’m thinking lots, I don’t lose weight?”

“I suspect it’s because you only think you’re thinking, in real life, you’re not.”

“I’ll have to think about it.” She left me more to get dressed than to think about things. I hoped the boy, Charlie, was now on the mend, but I doubted it. I got myself dressed casually and then checked Meems while Stella dressed Puddin’.

Tom met us at the restaurant. I had a tuna jacket with salad and the girls had the children’s menu—fish fingers and chips and peas. It looked horrible, but they seemed to enjoy it.

“Why can’t we have peas like this, Mummy?” Trish was pointing at peas which were such a bright emerald green, it hurt to look at them.

“I prefer fresh vegetables, Trish, those are processed or frozen,” and dyed to hell and back.

“I don’t care, I like them.”

“So do I, Mummy,” said Livvie, so Meems was bound to agree. She did.

“Okay, I’ll get you a tin of peas for tomorrow, you can have them with your cornflakes.”

“Uch! I don’t want them for breakfast,” Trish scorned me.

“You said you wanted them, what’s wrong with having them for breakfast?”

“You don’t eat them for breakfast.”

“Why not?”

“You just don’t. Would you eat them for breakfast, Mummy?”

“I wouldn’t eat them for lunch or supper either.”

“They are nice, but not for brekkies.”

“That’s my best offer.” I was bluffing but they hadn’t worked that out yet.

“Okay, I won’t bother then.”

“You can have peas when they’re fresh and you can help me shell them.”

“Okay, Mummy.” Dissention over.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 712

“So how did you get on with the dormice?” I asked the girls on the way home.

“They were all asleep, so we didn’t see any.”

“Didn’t Neal or Gloria get some out for you to see?”

“No, but we did see all the babies.” Livvie was quite excited, it was her first dormouse.

“How many did they have?”

“Ten, Mummy, they were all fast asleep in a special nest box with a glass top.” I knew it well—I’d designed it. “They are so cuddly, Mummy, can we have some?”

“They’re not pets, Livvie, they’re wild animals. I mean you can’t have pet foxes or badgers,” I sighed: they’d be wanting one of those next.

“Ooh, yes please,” gasped the two elder children.

“I don’t think your mummy meant it quite like that,” Stella said, seeing where it was going.

“I could take you out to a farm on the downs where we might see badgers and foxes. Come to think of it, that might not be a bad idea. The only problem is it can get a bit late as they don’t come out until dusk.”

“I’ll be alright,” said Trish, Livvie agreed and Meems, who looked a bit puzzled, said she’d like to see them too, but couldn’t we get them to come and see us?

I explained about wild animals and that we weren’t guaranteed to see anything. I also explained they’d have to sit or stand very quietly or they would scare them away. Meems seemed to think that to have anything frightened of her was funny.

Puddin’ woke up in the car and was sick; thankfully Stella caught most of it, but I had to pull over for her to do running repairs and wipe her hands. The two girls got out of the car and just by chance in a field not more than a hundred yards away I saw a deer. Nobody else had seen it and the breeze was blowing away from it towards us, so it hadn’t heard us either.

“Keep quiet,” I hissed, “there’s a deer over in that field.”

“Where, where? Lemme see, I can’t see it.”

“No, because you didn’t do what I told you to do, and that was to keep quiet. Your squealing frightened it off.”

“That was her,” said two children pointing at each other.

“It was both of you, and I’m sorry but until you learn to be quiet, the only wildlife you’ll be seeing is flowers or trees.”

“’Snot fair,” they both grumbled. I felt like strangling them.

“Okay, if you can both be completely quiet until we get home, then I might reconsider. Do you think you can manage to do that?” They both nodded and pretended to zip up their mouths.

It was about fifteen minutes before we got home, driving past the spy school and the golf course. The spy school is where they train the next generation of James Bonds, and which no one knows about—officially, it’s a just a government training place, but we all know who and what they’re training. David Shayler the renegade MI6 agent who was arrested in France and then brought back here after he tried to publish a book, spilled the beans. Sadly, he’s now living in a squat and calling himself Delores, a reincarnation of Jesus or something. Looks like either the interrogation techniques or the stress of it all has had an effect upon him.

Neither of the girls—the school variety—had said anything. I even tried to tempt them. “Shall we stop for an ice cream, girls?” They nodded but said not a word. We didn’t, driving home instead, where they both sighed and chattered nineteen to the dozen. I could see where they got the idea of a chimps’ tea party now.

It went quiet while they were eating their ice creams, even Puddin’ had a taste of that. While they were eating, I found the number for Badger Hill Farm, and rang them. They were doing the badger watch, but it didn’t start until eight and they didn’t recommend it for under eight year olds, it being too late. I did promise to control them—the kids not the badgers—but they were adamant. I went back to break the bad news.

They weren’t too pleased, but accepted that I wasn’t trying to deceive them. They played for the rest of the afternoon while I prepared the dinner: some fresh salmon. I’d got us some steaks and was baking them when Tom arrived.

I kissed him on the cheek, “Thanks for lunch, Daddy, it was very kind of you.”

“Ach, it was nothin’ an’ the wains were sae guid.”

“They were good coming home, I promised to see if I could take them badger watching if they stayed quiet in the car. They did, but the farm I was going to take them to has an age limit, and they’re too young.”

“Whit? We’ve got badgers in the field beyond the garages.”

“What? I’ve never seen them.”

“Aye, well that’s pretty obvious: some field biologist you are.”

“I’ve never been in that field, it’s fenced off.”

“Aye, tae keep yon dug oot o’ it; she’ll roll in their droppin’s gi’n the chance. So she will.”

I laughed, badger poo is very smelly. Not to put too fine a point on it, it absolutely stinks, and is magnetic to dogs, who seem unable to prevent themselves rolling in it. Afterwards, it seems they need steam cleaning to get rid of the aroma. No wonder it was fenced off, to keep Kiki out of the badger latrines. Yes, latrines, they have special areas where they do their biz. They’re relatively clean animals, changing their bedding, and even airing it after it’s been underground in the sett for a while.

Badger setts can be quite large excavations, with several exits and entrances, and the colony can also be quite numerous. They’re protected animals although some farmers have killed them because they’re accused of being vector animals in bovine tubercular disease. However, culling hasn’t worked as it only encourages animals from outside the cleared area to migrate and spread any disease even more. There is also some argument about whether or not the badgers are as guilty as farmers think, or whether much of it is down to poor animal husbandry. I’d hate to see a big cull, I think it would be a huge mistake.

Tom disappeared as I was sorting dinner. He reappeared some fifteen minutes later, covered in dust and almost needing a shower before he could come to the table.

“Where have you been, Daddy? I’ve been ready to dish up for ages.”

“In the garage.”

“In the garage, what for?”

“I’ve been upstairs.”

“I didn’t know there was an upstairs.”

“Observant aren’t ye?”

“Wash your hands and sit down, I’m putting it on the table. Girls, dinner’s ready.”

Over dinner he explained that the garages had originally been small barns, and that they had storage areas up above the areas where cars had lately been kept or in one, my bikes and accessories. The upstairs was reached by a loft-style ladder, and there was a window through which one could see the field. We’d need some seats, but it wouldn’t take long to organise.

After dinner, I made the girls help me clear the table while Tom took some folding chairs up to the loft for them to sit on. After loading the dishwasher, we all trooped over and up the ladder. I reminded the girls that we’d all have to stay very quiet or the badgers wouldn’t come out.

Somehow, they stayed quiet enough for the best part of an hour—then we caught sight of movement and we were able to look down on three or four badger cubs, who played and squealed together for about fifteen minutes before their mother called them away with her.

For those who’ve never seen badger cubs play, it’s very boisterous. The noises they make are like giant guinea pigs, so if you could imagine bowling balls that ‘oink’, that’s about the size of it. They charge into each other like dodgem cars, squealing and tumbling. Because it’s done with such abandon, like kittens, it is very funny to watch. The two elder girls were covering their mouths to mute their laughter, and Meems was shaking with laughter on my lap as we followed the cavortings of our unwitting entertainment.

Once the badger family had moved off to dig for worms or whatever, we took the girls back to the house for bed. “Thank you, Daddy, that was brilliant,” I said giving him a peck on the cheek.

“Yes, thank you Gramps,” echoed the two schoolgirls. Meems was now asleep in my arms and getting heavier by the minute. Maybe it did me good to be reminded that I wasn’t the only authority on mammals in the house, and that local knowledge is very useful if not essential for most things.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 713

Simon was late home, he’d been at a meeting in London all day. He looked shattered. I warmed up his meal, which he ate with a glass of wine. I joined him in the latter and with Tom’s help, finished the bottle.

“You look tired,” I said, stroking his face.

“Tired, I’m totally knackered. The sodding train was late, and the guys from the other bank were not impressed. The meeting started fifteen minutes before I could get there. Next time, I’ll stay over the night before.”

“Did the meeting go well?” I didn’t really want to know, I don’t understand finance and banking, sometimes I’m not sure Simon does either, but I’m interested in him and wanted to show it.

“It was damned hard work. Americans always treat us as if we’re third world, either that or they’re trying to stiff us.”

“From what I understand of the causes of the recession, it seems as if they did the latter and the former isn’t too far away.”

“Yeah, well they hadn’t got us, and they still haven’t.”

“Oh well that’s a relief.”

“Not quite.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ve been trying to set a deal with a US bank to joint finance a deal in China.”

“In China?”

“Yeah, China.”

“Oh, if it’s making stuff for the Olympics, you’re too late.”

“Ha ha, very funny, not. No it’s actually about developing a western type supermarket chain.”

“Ha so, Tesco.”

“Velly funny.” He wasn’t laughing.

“What are you doing with supermarkets? I thought you were into banking.”

“There is money to be made over there. They aspire to live like we do in the west.”

“What with obesity and unhappiness? Some aspiration.”

“Look, I’m telling you what I’m involved in, as you did ask.”

“I’m sorry, I’m just frightened for you.”

“Why? We set up deals like this all the time.”

“I didn’t know, I thought you bought and sold things?”

“I do, that’s what this is all about. It’s my idea, we get the Yanks on board, then when it’s up and running we either sell out to a Chinese company or we sell our share to the Americans for a profit.”

“Is it safe?”

“Safe? What sort of question is that?”

“I thought a reasonable one?”

“Investment is a risk, even lending to government is a risk. Doing something with the Chinese is a bigger risk than with the Americans, because we can go after them through the courts if they default, but usually they don’t.”

“Always a first time,” escaped my lips and I blushed. “Sorry, I didn’t mean that.”

“It’s true, they’re also worrying about us, although we’ve never let them down before either.”

“Is the recession happening in China?”

“Not like over here, they still have growth, enough to make it a worthwhile risk.”

“It’s a communist country, isn’t that a risk?”

“We’re starting in Hong Kong, then Shanghai, they seem to be more capitalist than we are. If they take off there, then it’s time to work towards expansion on paper and sell it off in practice.”

“If it takes off, is that the time to sell?”

“Yes, we’ll make a billion or so by then, so it’s worth it.”

“A billion?”

“Yes, a thousand million, although we’re talking dollars, so about two thirds of a billion in real money.”

“In how long?”

“Five years at best more likely ten.”

“That’s a minimal return of a hundred million a year.”

“Yep, good innit?”

“Just so they can get heart disease and diabetes?”

“Yep.”

“How can anyone be covetous of how we live in the west?”

“They want a nice house and a car. I mean the government is now encouraging them to have two children. They want their kids to go to university and earn loads, like we want our kids to do.”

“I want ours to be fulfilled and happy, Simon.”

“Yeah, well making loads a dosh makes you feel that way.”

“How come you’re asking the US not another European bank?”

“Tried that, they’re not interested, but this big US bank was. They have dealings with that huge supermarket chain over there, and we have fingers in pies over here, so it’s not entirely unknown territory.”

“What are they going to call it, Mollison’s or Sainsbellies?”

“Cathy, behave.”

“Velly solly,” I offered blushing and giggling. The wine was definitely having an effect.

“Up to bed I think, oh how’s the kid in hospital?”

“Doing okay, as far as I know.”

“Good, you couldn’t send some blue light to our American friends could you?”

“I thought you said the deal was done?”

“Not yet, we have to get their board’s go ahead and then we have to sweet-talk the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Chinese commercial attaché. So a bit more to do yet.”

“A bit?”

“Yeah, it could take another year to set up.”

“Will you have to go to China?”

“Dunno, Dad might do it, why?”

“I wonder if they have dormice there?”

“If they do, they’ll probably be lightly sauted like cats and dogs.”

“Oh God, how horrible.”

“How’s the tour going?”

“Tour? What tour?”

“De France, what else?”

“Oh yeah, sorry. Contador is going to win it but Wiggo is doing okay, and Cavendish has five wins now. He’s also favourite for Sunday’s run into Paris, if it goes to a bunch sprint.”

“What about Armstrong? How’s Lancie boy doing?”

“He’s doing really well given his lay off and his age. He was second or third, but they have the Ventoux tomorrow.”

“Right, surely it’s only nutters who ride up bloody mountains for the hell of it?”

“No, they’re the ones who ride down them off-road, sensible people stick to the roads. The downhillers, are like kamikaze cyclists. They have a big course up in Scotland.”

“You’re not thinking of trying it are you?”

“Well, it can’t be any more dangerous than setting up companies in China, can it?”

“Cathy, before I try to make sense of that, can we go to bed and make mad, passionate love all night?”

“You up to it?” I asked.

“No, but I’m trying go to sleep feeling that at least one person said yes to something I wanted to do.”

“Yes,” I said and kissed him.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 714

The girls rediscovered the makeup sets I’d bought them, so they spent much of the day practicing, painting and removing said paint. I did offer to get them a blowlamp, which once I’d explained what it was, they ran off screaming and giggling.

Eventually after they’d been upstairs for some time, they all trooped down wearing my shoes and one of my dresses, wrapped in beads and bracelets and scarves and painted more than the Forth Bridge.

Simon and I were watching the TdF on Eurosport—the struggles up Ventoux—and when he saw the sight for sore eyes which presented itself, he snorted so much he had to wipe his nose. I glanced across at what had made him laugh, and nearly wet myself—we had been invaded by three minor hookers.

Let me describe the scene: Trish was wearing a red dress of mine, which she’d belted around the waist hitching up much of the skirts into a bundle around her middle. It was a sleeveless affair under which she wore a red bra, and red shoes. She had on red lipstick—mine, I suspected—red painted nails and red high heeled shoes. Around her neck were red beads.

Livvie was wearing a blue two-piece, the skirt presumably wound up under her arms, the top reaching down to her knees. She was wearing enough makeup to make a tart blush, and some of my black high-heeled shoes. In her hair she had a floral hair decoration.

Meems was almost hidden in one of my tops, a long thing which came down to her ankles. She had some beads to match the grey top. The shoes were my navy ones, the lipstick red and garish, and her nails matched. Around her waist was one of my scarves, and she had blue eye shadow smeared over much of her upper face.

Simon dashed off to get his camera, and we took portraits of each of them and then a collective one. They could be used later on to blackmail them in front of boyfriends.

After showing Tom and Stella, we emailed some of the photos to Henry and Monica. Then it was time to clean them up. That took me an hour, and the easiest thing was to dump them all in the bath and after using a cleanser, let them wash that off with their flannels. All the clothes were chucked in the washing machine, along with their play clothes, and I finished off washing their hair.

Dried and dressed, we spent ages getting the nail varnish off. I promised to buy them each some in a pink colour—real stuff, not the kiddie play variety, but to earn it they would have to behave tomorrow. I wanted to see if Cav could win in Paris.

The rest of the day was unworthy of mention, except Livvie had some sort of bad dream and woke us up. It wasn’t about her parents, something about a giant black dog chasing her. I calmed her down, but she ended up in bed with us. We were only sleeping, so it was no big deal.

The next day, the other two invaded the bed and we had wriggles and giggles before they forced us to get up. Then it was breakfast and wash and dress and quickly into town. We chose their nail varnishes, a pale pink pearlised type, each one slightly different to the other two. I told them I would show them how to do it properly, if they behaved themselves and that included leaving my wardrobe alone.

The return journey included a visit to the supermarket and we stocked up for the weekend, for a change I bought a turkey and decided we’d probably get four or five meals from it. A pile of assorted vegetables, all fresh they seemed to have forgotten about emerald green mushy peas, especially when I bought some proper peas in pods, as well as some mange tout.

Then after paying a king’s ransom for the trolley load of shopping, we filled up the tank and drove home. Fuel prices seemed to be yo-yoing up and down, this week they were down, last week they were up. Crazy, but the price war some of the supermarkets were fighting was a great help.

After lunch, I showed the girls how to paint their nails—they did each others, then they did Stella and me. Not satisfied with that, Simon and Tom had to have theirs done as well. I would tease them later, saying we had no remover.

Finally, Simon and I were able to sit and watch the end of the Tour, with Cavendish taking a sixth sprint finish, way out ahead of the others. Columbia seemed to have it off to a fine art, and no one else really had a chance, especially when Garmin screwed up and blocked the other teams.

Contador won as expected, Armstrong did well to get third after Schleck, and Wiggo was fourth. Seeing as no one gave him a chance of finishing in the top twenty, he did really well. Despite his six stage wins Cavendish was about a hundred and thirty fifth. That’s ten stages in two years. The man is a phenomenon, a rocket propelled one.

I yearned to get out on my remaining bike, but when we looked out it was starting to rain. Tomorrow is another day, maybe then. Simon had forgotten about the insurance claim for my bike, he’d submitted it, and would pester them on Monday, or his secretary would on his behalf. I wasn’t sure if they’d manage to get me a new Scott, or if I might settle for another make, possibly a Felt.

The turkey had been in the oven for about four hours when we finally ate a roast turkey dinner. Assured we wouldn’t have to sing carols, Simon came to the table bringing a bottle of wine, while Tom carved the bird and Kiki stood around whimpering and waiting for charitable donations—all of which would be gratefully received.

After the clean up, we played some board games with the girls, each of them partnering an adult and playing as teams. I got Meems as my partner and we lost. Simon and Trish won, and their prize—first pick of the ice cream. Then it was bed and a quick story–some more of Maddy Bell’s Gaby stories.

In bed, Simon said, “You were getting twitchy watching the Tour, weren’t you?”

“Twitchy? What do you mean, twitchy?”

“You wanted to get out on your bike, didn’t you?”

“Yeah, sort of, except it rained anyway and I have other responsibilities which tend to come first.”

“Tomorrow, when I get home, why don’t you go then or if it’s raining get your turbo out in the garage?”

“It’s not the same.”

“It keeps you fit for when you do get out on a real bike.”

“I suppose it helps, it’s just so bloody boring, staring at the garage door while pedalling myself to a standstill. At least out on the road, you get to play with the traffic.”

“After all your experiences with traffic in one form or another, how can you want to interact with it on a blessed bicycle?”

“Because I’m a cyclist, it’s part of being me.”

“As much as being a woman is?”

“What an odd question? If I say, I’m a woman cyclist, does that answer it.”

“I suppose so. If I said you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?”

“Gee whiz, Simon, you are so corny.”

“Is that your answer?”

I rubbed my body against his and felt movement in his pyjama trousers. “Are you carrying a banana in your trousers or are you pleased to see me?” I accepted his kiss as a reasonable answer.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 715

“Did you used to wear your mother’s clothes and shoes like the girls did today?”

I don’t know why, but I felt myself blushing. “It was more difficult with my mum.”

“Why?”

“She was fanatically tidy, everything was in its place, if I moved anything, she knew. I used to walk around in her shoes when she was out, but I didn’t dare try much else. She wasn’t out that much when I wasn’t in school.”

“So you didn’t have the fun that they did, this afternoon?”

“Not really, didn’t get the chance.”

“I find that sad. Maybe we should give you the chance to dress up one of these days.”

“I can wait until we get married.”

“Oh yeah, that’ll be a bit of a dress up occasion for you, won’t it?”

“It’s not a priority Simon, I just feel so busy all the time. I’ve been doing some of the survey admin for Tom, when the kids have been playing in the drive. I don’t seem to have enough hours to do what I need to do, let alone what I’d like to do.”

“Why not have someone in then, to help with the cleaning?”

“I’m not terribly happy with the idea, it feels almost as if it judges me and finds me lacking, so we have to get in a proper woman to sort it out.” I felt my eyes fill and in moments I was sniffing and then sobbing.

“Oh, you silly thing, how have you failed? You do wonders with this place. Stella’s a proper woman as you put it, and she couldn’t cope as well as you do. In fact if she got her finger out, she could probably help you more than she does.”

“Leave Stella alone, she’s doing all right and looks after Puddin’ very well—too much pressure on her and she could relapse and then where would we be?” I sniffed and he squeezed me with the arm he had around me.

“Get someone in, I’ll pay for it. Make sure she’s beautiful and available, then if you’re too busy, I can bonk the maid.” He was teasing me, but somehow it wasn’t feeling like a joke. Maybe I should marry him then at least I’d get a settlement if he ran off with the cleaner. On the other hand, if I employed some lady of mature outlook and experience, he’d be less tempted.

What am I thinking of? If Simon had been interested in other women, he could have had them by the sack load, he must be one of the most eligible bachelors in the land after Princes William and Harry. So why don’t I feel ecstatically happy he picked me instead of some graduate of Roedean or Cheltenham Ladies College?

I am in some ways, I fell in love with him, even though he can be a complete ass, and I believe he loves me, too. He can be the most generous, caring man on the planet and the most awkward, selfish oaf: a typical bloke, really. So, shouldn’t I be waltzing him down the aisle post haste? His family would like it, so would Tom and the girls, I think. So why aren’t I in agreement with them? I sometimes wonder if I have some sort of sabotage element inside me which inhibits me from letting go, makes me feel guilty when I’m having fun, and perhaps most importantly, makes me feel as if I don’t deserve to have fun or to be this lucky. In some ways my parents could have a lot to answer for.

How does that Philip Larkin poem go? Oh yes:

‘They fuck you up, your mum and dad,
They do not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.’

Yes, that’s me all right, well and truly fucked up. I felt so sick of being me, why can’t I escape me? Even in changing my body and killing off Charlie, he’s still here inside every cell of me, guaranteeing that I’ll never be really happy.

“What’s the matter, Babes?” Simon rubbed my arm.

“I was just thinking.”

“It’s these big brains of yours,” he said rubbing my chest.

“My what?”

“These extra frontal lobes that women have,” he stroked my breasts gently and I could feel my nipples growing.

“I thought men’s brains were down here,” I tweaked him somewhere which would be off limits under Queensberry rules. He squeaked suitably and asked me to be careful, I still had a firm grip on his assets.

“So how about we do a trade, I’ll rub your bits gently and you do the same for me?” he asked.

“Did you say, bits?” I asked in clarification.

“I did actually, and it wasn’t rhyming slang.”

“What’s in it for me?” I asked feigning ignorance and making him work for his pleasures.

“There could be lots of things,” he stroked me again and my nipples betrayed me once more. Then he sucked me through my nightdress, which nearly drove me to distraction. “Why did you go off into a little trance when the wedding was mentioned?”

“I didn’t realise that I had.” It was a total lie, but I could hardly tell him the truth, he’ll think I’m barmy.

“Oh, but you did, and I watched tears roll down your face into the pillow.”

“I didn’t, did I?”

“Yes, I don’t make these things up, I’m not clever enough. So what’s the give? Don’t you want to marry me?”

“Of course I do, more than anything.”

“So why don’t we do it then? Give that priest lady a call tomorrow and set it up.”

“You can’t do it as if you were making arrangements to have a carpet fitted.”

“Why not?”

“It involves so many people, it can take months to organise.”

“The official one could, we could do a quickie one if you want.”

“Your family would never forgive me.”

“They’d forgive you anything, it’s me they keep nagging and if I lost you to someone else, Dad would disown me.”

“Don’t be silly, he wouldn’t do a thing like that—would he?”

“Probably not, I’d sue him, but it’s how he’d feel.”

“Why, when you could marry so many more eligible young women who might bear you children.”

“That’s what I say—ouch!” my hand slipped and pulled on a bit of his anatomy; “Of course, he says he wants you as his daughter-in-law because he’s very fond of you and the girls, and he’s convinced you’d be an asset to the family.”

“Henry is really sweet.”

“Yes, I know—I take after him, you know.”

“Are you sure he’s your dad, I mean you’re not some sort of changeling, are you?” I was winding him up to change the subject and stop him prying into my innermost thoughts.

“Nah, you’re the changeling, remember?”

“How could I forget?” I sighed, this wasn’t working. “Simon, make mad passionate love to me until I beg for mercy.”

“Um, remember I have to be up for work in about seven hours.” He can be so romantic.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 716

“I’m bored,” said Trish looking out of the window at the teeming rain.

“So’m I,” Livvie added, “let’s ask Mummy if we can play on the computer.”

I shuddered as I overheard their conversation. My laptop was on its last legs and I needed a new one. If I found the time to buy one, I’d still need to transfer all sorts of stuff across to it. I fancied a Macintosh, but wasn’t sure how easily I’d be able to swap data on it. Once that was done, they could play with my computer.

“Mummy, can we play on the computer?” asked Livvie walking into the kitchen where I was doing some ironing.

“Not at the moment,” I carried on pressing Meem’s dress.

“Why not?”

I hoped we wouldn’t get into one of these power play arguments, but it looked like we were. “Because I need it myself, and I can’t afford for you lot to lose any of my data.”

“I promise we won’t.”

“Livvie, it isn’t that I don’t want you to have access to a computer, but I can’t allow you to use Grampa’s one nor mine for the moment.”

“Can we buy one, can we spend some of my money from Daddy’s will?” It was something I hadn’t thought of. I finished ironing the dress and went and looked up the phone number. I came back smiling from the phone call.

“Livvie, there is apparently a computer amongst your father’s belongings which they think is nearly new and they will arrange to have sent down by courier for tomorrow.”

“So I have to wait, that’s not fair.”

“If they’d allowed you to spend money, it might have taken a few days to get one.”

“Why can’t we go to the shop and buy one?”

“Because we don’t need to, there is one coming tomorrow at sometime, so you’ll have to be patient. Remember patience is a virtue.”

“’S’not fair.”

“I’m still bored,” sighed Trish again.

“I know, we’ll play a game, shall we?”

“Yes please, Mummy,” said Trish.

“Right, let’s pretend this is a hotel and you three are chamber maids.”

“What’s a chamber maid?”

“Like a chamber pot only with fewer brains,” said Stella as she walked past.

“What’s a chamber pot?”

One of these days, I shall strangle Stella—slowly. “Chamber maids are the ladies who clean and tidy hotel rooms for the guests.”

“Can’t I be the lady on the desk, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“No, because this is a game with a prize.”

“What’s the prize, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“An ice cream after lunch, which only the winner will get.”

“I wanna ’n’ice cream,” called Meems coming out behind the other two.

“Right, put on one of these aprons,” I gave one to each of them. “Now, the competition is to see if you can tidy your room better than the others. I’ll come up and judge them before lunch and the winner gets the ice cream.”

“C’mon,” called Trish and belted up the stairs, closely followed by Livvie and Meems.

“That is child exploitation, turning slavery into a competition.”

“Go and feed your child before I make you tidy your room.”

“You and who else’s army?” she teased. The phone rang and we both jumped. Stella went to answer it. “I don’t know, I’ll see if she wants to talk to you.”

“Who’s that?” I hissed to her.

“Dr Rose,” she hissed back.

“Tell him I can’t help any more of his kids, I’m sorry.”

“She said she can’t help any more of your children, she’s exhausted… what?… Oh my God… okay, I’ll get her.” She passed me the phone. “It’s not about his patients it’s about you.”

“What are you on about?” I took the handset with a piece of pique. “Yes, Sam?”

“Have you seen the local paper?”

“No, I take the Guardian, why?”

“The front page story, someone has blabbed.” I felt myself go cold, has someone revealed my history? Then the realisation hit me, that’s old news, the hospital is the new stuff. “You still there, Cathy?”

“Yes, blabbed about what?”

“Your miracles.”

“Oh shit!”

“They don’t know who it is yet, but that is likely to be only a matter of time.”

“I knew I shouldn’t have trusted those two.”

“It wasn’t them, it’s someone else. I’ve spoken to them and they haven’t spoken to any papers, it has to be someone else.”

“Yeah, but if they spoke to friends or family, one of them could be the informant.” I always knew it would be a risk but had hoped they would understand.

“I’ll speak to them again, they have promised not to say anything.”

Promises are very ephemeral things, and like mayflies, tend to have short life spans once money becomes mentioned. Many of us would sell our friends and family if the amount was big enough. I hoped I wouldn’t be one of them.

“Thanks for the warning, Sam. That was going to be the last one, it definitely is now, tell them they’ve cooked the golden goose.”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, I really am. We’ve put it out around the hospital that anyone who mentions anything about this will be facing a disciplinary for breach of confidentiality, which is not only a dismissible offence, it could result in a criminal prosecution and subsequent striking off any professional register the offender might belong to, such as nursing or physio.”

“Stable door, Sam.”

“I know, but I’m trying to stop any further leaks, a bit like the boy with his fingers in the dyke.”

“I wouldn’t have a thought any self-respecting dyke would allow a male child anywhere near them.”

“What?” he paused for a moment, “Oh yeah, very funny, Cathy, I’ve got to go. Maybe we can do dinner one evening.”

“Did Charlie survive?”

“Survive, he is positively thriving.”

“Good, I’m glad.” I put down the phone, I suppose I need to prepare for a siege again. I get so tired of all this, so bloody tired…

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 717

“Was that about what I think it was about?” asked Stella.

“Probably, but seeing as I don’t speak the same form of gobbledygook as you, I’m not entirely sure.”

“You need to lighten up, Cathy.”

“Lighten up? I could have half the press hordes from northern Europe here in minutes and you tell me to lighten up?”

“Because you raised the dead?”

“Something like that.”

“Aren’t they gonna just do that whenever anything unusual happens in Portsmouth, in the future?”

“Why?”

“Well, they do tend to end up here with monotonous regularity.”

“I suppose they do. What should I do, Stella?”

“Why ask me, I can’t make up my mind whether to put Pud in a dress or a grow-bag.”

“A babygro, surely?” I queried.

“So that’s where I’ve been going wrong; no wonder she looks like a tomato.”

“Thanks for trying to distract me, but we really need to do something about the coming storm.”

“Gi’s the phone,” she took it and dialled. “Houston, we have a prarl’m.” I gathered she was talking to Henry and the conversation moved so quickly I had little chance of following it.

I went off to see how the girls were doing, and called them down. Their bedrooms looked very tidy. I sent Simon a text. ‘Press know about the healing. Lol, C xxx’

“Okay, in an hour then.” Stella handed me back the phone. “The cavalry are on their way. Good you’ve got the girls, get packing.”

“Packing?”

“Yeah, for the hotel, if that gets too hot, we’ll shoot up to either London or Scotland.”

“Scotland, oh yes, Mummy, can we go to Scotland, Livvie hasn’t seen the castle has she?”

“Girls, please don’t interrupt grown-ups’ conversations.”

“Sorry, Mummy.”

“Who winned the competishun?” asked Meems.

“What competition, Meems?”

“De one for de ice cweam.”

“Ice cream? Oh yes, oh that was a three-way draw, you all won.”

“Daddy has booked us into their suite, he said to let Tom and Simon stay at the house and see off the invaders.”

“Oh they’ll love that, I should have said no.”

“You’d have a little boy’s life on your conscience if you had.”

“I guess so. Come on girls; let’s get packing.” I led them upstairs. “Goodness these rooms are tidy,” they were too. Five minutes later, they were a mess but I was on the way to packing a second case. I got them to collect some of their favourite toys, they each wanted to take a bike. Wonderful!

I ran into my room and packed two cases very quickly throwing in some cycling stuff as well as my swimsuit. Then down to the garage and a few minutes later, the bike rack was on the car and the cases were in the boot of my car. I tied on the Specialized with bungee cords and the girls bikes on top of it. Handbag, coats and computer went inside the car. I gave Kiki some food and water and let her out into the garden for a few minutes. Then I locked her in the kitchen.

I helped Stella pack her car, we got Pud down in the carrycot and secured on the back seat. Then loading the girls in mine, we locked up the house and set off for Southsea.

My phone beeped. I asked Trish who was sitting in the front with me to see what it was. She knows how to send a text better than I do. She read it to me:

‘Get to S-sea. See U there later. S xxx.’ It proved that at least he spoke with his father occasionally.

Within the hour we were parked in the hotel’s underground car park and my bike was safely being stored in a safe room in the car park, as were the girls’ bikes. Then our procession was led up to the Cameron suite by the manager and a train of porters.

“You honour us with your presence, ladies.”

“No one is to know we’re here, do you understand?” said Stella, sternly.

“Your father already knows, Lady Stella.”

“I mean outside the family.”

“Of course. The suite is ready, have you eaten?”

“Food, bugger—no we haven’t.”

“Would you care to use the restaurant or dine upstairs?”

“Upstairs please,” I agreed.

“I’ll have the menu sent up.” A few moments later we were up in the suite and unpacking. The suite was essentially a sitting/dining room with four bedrooms, all with en suite bathrooms. The three girls were put in one, Stella and Puddin’ were in another and I bagged the third. If necessary, Tom could stay here as well, and Kiki would be allowed in too. The joys of owning the place.

We ordered light meals, in our case omelettes with salad. The girls watched the telly in their room for a while and I asked Stella if we could take advantage of the facilities.

She was gobsmacked. “Of course you can, which one did you have in mind?”

“The pool,” I whispered.

“Yeah, no prob. Let me get the babysitting service organised and I’ll come with you.” So that was how an hour later, we were splashing about in the quite nice-sized indoor pool. We were practically the only users which surprised me. An old chap swam lengths, up and down at an even pace. I presumed he had a target in mind, but it seemed a boring way to keep fit. I had the girls swimming a little, Trish and Meems had been here before and were telling Livvie that their Gramps owned it. She couldn’t believe it. “Wait until you see the castle, if we go up to Scotland, that’s brill,” Trish boasted.

They splashed about together and one of the instructors came to teach them somewhat better than I could. While he did that, I did a few lengths, realising after the first how unfit I was. I did alternating relays of breaststroke and front crawl, then one of backstroke, until I swam into the old chap. We both laughed until I realised who it was.

“Sir Reginald?”

“How do you know me, young lady?”

“We met at a dinner some time ago. You know my in-laws, Henry and Monica Cameron.”

“Catherine?”

“You have a good memory, Sir Reginald.”

“And you a beautiful face, Lady Catherine.”

“Cathy, please.”

“You must have dinner with us, are you staying here?”

“Yes for a day or two. That’s my adopted family over there with the swimming instructor.”

“You’ve adopted three girls?”

“I’m fostering them, but I’d love to adopt them.”

“I know just the man to help you there, the Director of Social Services is my son-in-law. He’s coming to dinner tonight, you must come and meet him. I presume your other half will be here by then?”

“I’m not sure, Sir Reginald.”

“Oh for goodness sake, if you’re Cathy, I’m Reg, okay?”

“Yes, Reg.”

“I must go,” he took my hand and kissed it, “See you tonight, at eight in the Green Room.” Before I could decline, he’d dived under the water and was swimming faster than I could for the ladder and the exit.

“What was all that about?” asked Stella.

“That was Sir Reginald Butterworth.”

“Oh yeah, who’s he?”

“A friend of your dad.”

“Yeah, hardly surprising here is it? It’s full of his cronies.”

“His son-in-law is Director of Social Services.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Adoption and getting a green light…” I said.

“Ah, now it makes sense. Bring an evening dress?”

“No, I wasn’t expecting to need one.”

“Good job I brought two then isn’t it?” Stella smirked and splashed me as she swam away towards the ladder.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 718

“I’ll see you back up in the room,” Stella waved to the girls and left to go and change.

“Mummeeeeeeee,” squealed three voices and the echoes and reverberations within the pool area were deafening. They all seemed to have a bell on each tooth. That was an expression my mother used to say, I thought of her for a moment and of myself filling out a swimming cozzie, I don’t know if she’d have been proud or ashamed of me.

The instructor withdrew discreetly and I helped the three little catfish out of the pool, then we all went to a cubicle to change. I towel dried them all, then dressed them and then they waited while I did the same myself. Back to our room and we all showered and I repeated the process of drying, this time using a hair drier on all our hair.

I explained that I had to go out to dinner this evening, and then had to deal with the complaints and tears. When I explained that it might help with any future intentions of adoption, they were less against my departure.

Stella appeared with a green silk creation, which fitted me perfectly. She was disgusted—“Fits you better than me, you bitch,” she said pretending to storm off much to the amusement of our audience. Then we all fell about laughing.

“That dress is really pretty, Mummy,” said Trish, “it feels so silky,” she stroked the dress, “umm it’s nice.”

“It feels silky because it is silk, Shantung silk,” said Stella.

“That looks lovely on you, Stella,” I said and meant it. She had on a beautiful turquoise mid calf length dress. Her eyes danced and she did a twirl to reveal it was scooped very low at the back.

“You both wook vewy pwetty,” said Mima and we both bobbed her a curtsey, which made her giggle.

I changed back into jeans and tee shirt and Stella trimmed my hair and shoved a few rollers in it to hold the ends under when it was brushed out. We sent for some food for the girls: they wanted pizza and ice cream for pudding.

At seven, they sat around watching us get ready, doing our makeup and combing out our hair. Trish had a go at doing something with Mima’s hair and then Livvie had a go at putting rollers in Trish’s hair. Stella showed her how to do it, and she caught on more quickly than I would have done.

Finally, we pulled on the dresses and thankfully I had a small bag and some tidy black shoes with me. We rang for the baby-sitter and while she was on her way, we got them all into their pyjamas.

We left after the girl had arrived, and after making them promise to behave. We also told the girls and the babysitter, that they had to be in bed as soon as the DVD they were watching finished. They all grumbled—the girls that is—but agreed. Stella showed the young woman where Puddin’s bottle was and the warmer and we made our way to the lift.

“It feels quite good to be eating here again,” Stella said as we waited for the lift.

“I don’t know, I’ll be on tenterhooks until we get back. I don’t like leaving the girls with strangers.”

“Cathy, the girls they use have been trained, they know where you will be; you can be back up here in minutes, and they have all been vetted by the CRB.”

“CR—who?” I spluttered.

“The Criminal Records Bureau.”

“Of course, I’d forgotten.”

“Here’s our lift.” The doors opened and we stepped in to be taken down to the ground floor and the Green Dining Room. A short walk and we were into the room and being escorted to the appropriate table by a waiter in smart white shirt and black trousers and waistcoat.

“Ah, Cathy and Lady Stella, was that you at the pool earlier?” Our host welcomed us, we received pecks on the cheek and then were introduced to Lady Rowena.

“We met before, I remember thinking how attractive you were then, young lady, you’ve blossomed even more since then.” Lady Rowena made me blush. “And Lady Stella, beautiful as always, nice to see you again.” We embraced in turn and air kissed.

“This is my son-in-law, Robert, and his wife our daughter, Ellen.” We shook hands and took our seats at the table. The evening was rather good after Stella insisted we stop the titles bit and just use first names. Everyone agreed and it made conversation much easier. The food was excellent, although I felt too nervous to have much appetite which possibly wasn’t a bad thing, I felt I could do with losing some weight.

It turned out that Robert was into the TdF so we spent some time discussing it and he told me he’d just heard that one of the stage winners had failed a doping test. He couldn’t remember who it was, except it was some Spanish rider and they’d found EPO in his sample from a test before the tour. I grumbled that most of the dopers seemed to be Spanish or Italian and he agreed. As we were sat opposite each other, the others had to humour us at times, especially when we got a trifle excited in our discussion and people from an adjacent table seemed to be listening, much to Rowena’s discomfort.

After finishing the food part, we were relaxing with a glass of wine and coffee was being poured, when Reg raised the subject of my children. Robert listened politely before telling his father-in-law he couldn’t get involved. However, he did explain what I had to do with the two local children, in applying for an adoption order. He wasn’t sure about the situation with Livvie, because of the Scottish element of the case. Stella seemed to think that Henry would be able to find out for us.

On the way back up in the lift, Stella seemed to think it was all very positive.

“How can you say that, Stella? The man wasn’t able to help, which I understand, it would be unprofessional.”

“He won’t get involved, but he also won’t be an obstacle. He as good as said he thought you were a very brave woman and probably would make an excellent mother. The court stuff too, seemed to impress him.”

“I don’t know, Stella, we’ll have to wait and see. Anyway, thanks for the loan of the dress, I’ll get it cleaned for you.”

“Why? What have you spilt down it?”

“Oh, um beetroot, red wine, egg, gravy, more red wine—can’t remember anything else.”

“Cathy, you’re a liar, I can see the dress which looks so much better on you, so you’d better keep it.”

“I can’t, it’s a Stella McCartney dress.”

“So? It looks better on you than it would on her.”

“But it cost a fortune?”

“That was last week. It’s second hand now, so only worth a few pence. Just don’t tell anyone you got it from me or from a charity shop.”

We relieved the babysitter, who was sitting reading some book in what looked like Polish. I tipped her, but she refused it. “Take it, you’ve earned it.” I pushed the tenner into her hand.

“Please, just tell manager, I do good job, okay.”

“I won’t unless you take this, I pushed it back into her hand.”

“I not supposed to take tips or gratuities.”

“I’m not supposed to leave my children with complete strangers.”

“Thank you so much,” she said and pocketed the money.

“Thank you,” I said and saw her out of the room.

I kissed Stella goodnight, went to my own bedroom and took off the dress and my undies and slipped into my own jammies, then took off my makeup and cleaned my teeth. In two minutes I was in bed, just in time for Simon to call.

The phone made me jump about a foot off the mattress and I grabbed it to stop it waking the girls.

“Hi, Babes, sorry I couldn’t get there; still Tom and I had a curry delivered from that new Indian restaurant, it was good stuff.”

“Has anyone been from the press?”

“Not yet, but the grapevine tells me they were prowling around the university.”

“Why?”

“You tell me.” We chatted a bit longer and then I yawned and told him I needed my beauty sleep. He laughed and we said goodnight. It was after midnight when I eventually put down the Guardian crossword and switched off the light.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 719

I dreamt I was being cuddled by the sexiest man alive, I didn’t know who he was, except he was so handsome, and he held me and touched me in all the right spots. He was going to make love to me with such skill and tenderness and I was going to have the most earth shattering orgasm, it was going to blow me away. I felt his body on the bed, all around me…hang on…then a tap on my shoulder and a voice said, “Mummy, can we go swimmin’ again today?”

The moment, the most exquisite moment of my entire life was completely lost to three vermin who were bouncing around my queen-sized bed. I opened my eyes and glared at them for a moment. There was momentarily, murder in my heart.

“We love you, Mummy,” said Trish’s voice and my heart melted losing the malice it had awoken with. The dream was fading already, the love of these children would last much longer.

“I love you too, sweetheart.” I pulled myself up into a sitting position. It was seven o’clock, I could have done with another hour’s sleep, but that is one of the joys of children—or at least of parenting them—they wake up early until they become teenagers, then they become nocturnal, and sleep most of the day. I wasn’t looking forward to having three teenagers, assuming the system let me keep them until then—maybe, if they were obnoxious, I could give them back then? I viewed them with a jaundiced eye, nah, I was stuck with them.

“Can we go swimmin’ again?” I looked at Livvie.

“We’ll see, let’s organise some breakfast. Shall we eat up here or go down to the dining room?”

Trish wanted to eat up here, the other two wanted the dining room. We went down to the dining room. I had some cereal and fruit and a couple of poached eggs on toast, which together with a cuppa or two meant I was ready for most things.

The girls were able to try different cereals and fruit. They had never eaten mango, so they had a little piece and declared it nice. They weren’t so sure about kiwifruit, I did point out they had eaten it at home, but they’d forgotten. It was too sharp and gritty. They seemed to like lychees but not grapefruit.

After doing a taster of most of the fruit, they had some toast and Livvie had an egg too. Trish and Meems were full of melon and mango. I suppose breakfast took half to three quarters of an hour to get back to our room, where Stella was eating cereal and toast as we entered.

“Oh good, seconds,” said Trish, winking at me.

“Get yer own,” said Stella uncharacteristically brusque.

“I’ve had mine thank you, some of us get up early enough to do so.”

Trish was heading for deep water and an iceberg, so I grabbed her and walked her off to our room. “So what’s on the menu for today?”

“I don’t know, Mummy, you’re the mummy, you decide, I’m only a child.”

“I reckon you’re a leprechaun or some such similar critter.”

“I am not, I’m a little girl, so there.”

“Pity, it would easier to adopt a leprechaun, they’re not covered by all this child protection legislation.”

“I could pretend I was a leprechaun.”

“Can you say? Top o’ de mornin’ to ya. I did one of my awful renditions of a stereotypical Oirish accent, straight out of an American soap.

She actually did and sounded more authentic than I had. These children never failed to astonish and amaze me with their skills and perceptions. However, I decided that we would go for a walk in Southsea, where I was relatively unknown and get some fresh air.

Stella opted to stay in with the baby, just in case there was swine flu about. Her logic struck me as flawed. If it was about and one of us caught it, she’d catch it from us, and presumably so would the baby.

I expressed this to her and she said she’d ordered face masks and rubber gloves. I suppose it would make her feel at home. She must be missing her career. I took the plunge and asked her.

“What? Missing all those whingeing old farts? I thought you did renal stuff?”

“Yeah I did, and while we saw some younger patients, most were ancient and we were playing the part of one of God’s waiting rooms. Remember, most younger people have healthy kidneys, but they can be affected by smoking and diabetes—anyone who smokes these days should be warned that they may not get NHS treatment again, unless they give it up.”

“I see, you’re on the fascist wing of the party are you?”

“No, I think it’s common sense, why treat people who smoke and drink too much when their diseases could be seen as arising from their stupid lifestyles. Shooting is too good for them.”

“It may be, but who are you to lay down the law?” I challenged.

“I’m me, Stella Cameron, nurse specialist and general good egg.”

“Some people might see things a bit differently.”

“Let them, you’re different, you’re an academic whose opinion I value.”

“Hardly, I haven’t done much of it lately, have I? Is it worth worrying about?”

“I don’t know, Cathy, perhaps, but then I’m the worst one to ask, am I not? Mine’s gone down the Swanney, and I don’t give a monkey’s.”

“You don’t miss your nursing?”

“No why?”

“I’d have thought you would. I mean training all that time and then dropping it.”

“Well life changes people, maybe not as dramatically as it did you, but I’m different from the woman who knocked another woman off her bike in a thunderstorm.”

“I hope not too different,” I felt nostalgic for the old days before children got under my feet and tied me down or tripped me up. Planning had to be done on a daily basis, it was too fluid to do any other. Like today, I had no idea what we’d do until we looked out of the window and saw it wasn’t actually raining. This had been a damned awful summer so far. Two scorching weeks in June and since then, cool, brisk breezes and rain most days.

I decided they could swim after lunch—at least an hour afterwards, if they were happy to let me have a bike ride. They all said, ‘aye’. Actually they didn’t, they didn’t know such words as aye and nay, and gainsayers. So my attempt to simulate a parliamentary vote was wasted on their youth. “The ayes have it,” I said, like they do in Parliament.

“What’s wrong with my eyes? What do they have, Mummy?” Trish was becoming hypochondriac, looks like it has rubbed off from Stella. They say doctors and nurses are the worst patients, perhaps they are also the worst hypochondriacs?

I left the kids in the hands of Stella, who left Puddin’ in the hands of the hotel nanny. Stella and the girls went swimming while I pedalled around Southsea. The traffic was appalling, as befits a seaside town in the summer, or what we are led to believe is summer. They’re playing cricket—actually they weren’t today, it rained somewhat in Birmingham—they called it off for the day when some old man with a long beard was seen collecting two of all the animals he could find… Still if all the other matches are abandoned or washed out, England win back the Ashes. Not the best way to do it, and for any Aussie captain to be the one who lost the Ashes, must be miserable. I suppose he’d have to fall on his bat or something similar.

It began to rain as I was heading back to the hotel complex. I wondered if it was all to do with global warming or just some natural phenomenon. I suppose we just don’t know.

I stowed the bike in the underground garage and locked it away, and was leisurely ambling back to my room for a shower when one of the hotel porters came rushing up to me. “Lady Catherine, come quick, it’s your little girl…” and ran off gesturing at me to follow.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 720

Walking in cycling shoes is difficult, running is doubly so, I clomped down the corridors after the porter towards the sports area of the hotel complex. What had happened? I felt sick in the pit of my stomach. I continued running.

We dashed into a room marked Private, inside two paramedics were bent over someone. “MIMA,” I screamed and they turned to look at me. Someone tried to grab me, but I wriggled free. She lay still on the couch and her lips were blue. “NO!” I screamed again. I pushed past the paramedics and kneeling beside her, pulled her lifeless body into mine. Tears flowed down my face and the assembled group gave me some space with her.

I looked up at the paramedics and they shook their heads. She was naked under the blanket. She wasn’t dead, she couldn’t be. I wouldn’t let her be. I had to save her.

I laid her flat and began breathing into her mouth. One of the paramedics went to pull me away, and I slapped him, “Fuck off, I know what I’m doing.” I went back to my artificial respiration. I poured love and the blue energy into her, breathing the light into her lifeless lungs and then slight pressure on her heart, moving the energy around her static heart.

They watched as I cried and worked. I heard Stella stop someone from interrupting me. “But she’s dead,” said a male voice.

“Just watch a moment,” said Stella behind me.

I kept working for several minutes, and I heard someone expressing dissent behind me, when Mima coughed and water leaked from her mouth, I turned her on her side and she vomited up more water and coughed.

“Get the oxygen and fast,” shouted a voice.

Mima’s eyes flickered open, “Mummy,” she said quietly and her eyes closed. I continued pushing the energy into her until the paramedics dragged me off to administer the oxygen and put on a heart monitor. “Clear the way, she might make it.” They rushed off with her on the stretcher towards their ambulance.

“She’ll make it, alright,” said Stella, “Well done, Cathy.” She put her hand on my shoulder and I felt the room start to spin. “Hang on, help me,” called Stella and hands helped me to a chair.

I stood up and made it to the sink where I was so sick, I couldn’t believe it. After that I felt better. A maid arrived with some jeans and shoes for me, plus my handbag, and I quickly changed and we ran to my car.

“You up to this?” asked Stella, as we got in my car.

“Try stopping me.” The tyres screeched as we flew out of the car park, nearly knocking over some bloke walking his dog. After that I drove like a sedate maniac, I threw the keys to Stella and asked her to park the car—I know, Stella in my car—but I wanted to be with Meems. I ran into Accident and Emergency at the new Queen Alex hospital, and asked for my daughter.

A nurse came out to me and said she was in a treatment room and they were assessing her. I would have to wait. It’s not something I do easily when things are going well, when the situation is critical, I can’t even sit still let alone relax.

Stella came into the waiting room. “I’ve paid for four hours.”

“Thanks.”

“Here,” she handed me my bag, “don’t thank me, I had to use your money, I haven’t got my bag.”

“Call Simon and Tom, tell them where we are.” I spotted Sam Rose coming out of one of the cubicles.

“Cathy,” he waved, “Come over here.” I walked quickly to him. “She’s alive, but she’s very poorly. I’m going to have her sent up to the ward, you can go and see her.” He held open the curtain and I dashed into the room.

Meems was on a gurney, with a blanket over her and a drip in her arm. She was attached to oxygen and a machine measuring her heartbeat and blood pressure. I sat alongside her and held her hand.

“Remember the light you saw me use, the blue or white light. Feel it surrounding you, feel it coming from me and into you. It’s my love for you, so let it enter your body and relax and heal you. You had a bad shock, but you’re going to get better very quickly. Now sleep and wake soon feeling better and back to normal.”

“Excuse me, madam, I’ve come to take her up to the ward.” The hospital porter and a nurse took my baby out of the room and down a corridor. I wanted to go with her but Sam Rose stopped me.

“Come and have a sit down and a cup of tea, you look all in. Even miracle workers need to rest, you know.” I let him steer me into a room and he asked someone to bring some teas. Stella came in a few moments later.

“Tom is going to the hotel to watch the other two, Simon is on his way here. Dad is on his way to the hotel, too. Heads are gonna roll.”

“What happened?” I asked as I sipped the tea a nurse handed me.

“I’m not sure. One minute Mima was playing on her own in the shallow end while the instructor chap was teaching Trish and Livvie to swim. Next minute, some big lads are larking about and one of them fell in. I think he fell on Mima, she just disappeared. The lifeguard dived in when he spotted her on the bottom and they sent for the ambulance, but they couldn’t revive her. We were waiting to see what happened next when you arrived and here we are.”

“What happened to the fool who fell on her?”

“I don’t know, but I suspect Daddy will have him arrested.”

“Part of me wants to kill him, the fool. Part of me wants to forgive him providing he doesn’t do anything like it again.”

“It was suggested they were two soldiers on leave from Afghanistan.”

“In which case, I’ll forgive them. They tend to have a short enough life span as it is.”

“He also thinks he killed her, Cathy.”

“Let him stew for a bit, he might yet be right.”

“She’s up on the children’s ward,” said Sam, “I’ll get someone to take you up.”

“Thanks.” I hugged him. “She is going to be alright, isn’t she?”

“You know more than I do, I had two paramedics telling me they’d just seen someone raise the dead. I told them, children can go into a suspended animation when they are shocked. I hope he believed me. He saw the light, Cathy, so be prepared for some questions at some point.”

“If it means that Mima survives, I don’t care what happens to me, I’ll deal with it.”

“You know where I am, I’ll be up to see her in a little while, I’ve another child to see to.”

“Thanks, Sam, you’re a good man.”

“So you keep telling me, but what about you? You are so far off the scale of goodness, you must be somewhere above the saints by now.”

“I didn’t think Jews had saints?”

“We don’t, just the odd prophet, okay, you must be up with them then.”

“Move over Elijah, here I come,” I said and winked at him. He laughed and went to see his other patient.

I was sitting with Mima, still half in my cycling kit and half dressed when Simon arrived. I held on to her hand and talked to her. “Hi, Babes, how is she?”

I put my finger to my lips and took him away from the bed. “She’s quite poorly but everything seems to be working. I’m going to stay with her tonight.”

“Is that a good idea?” he asked.

“You going to stop me?”

“No, but the hospital might?”

“I don’t think so, this is the ward where I helped that boy. The sister has already told me I can sit with her.”

“Is there anything I can do?”

“Give me a hug and a kiss and send in some clean clothes for me. I’ve been out riding and was coming back into the hotel when I was told Mima was sick.”

“What happened?”

“Stella knows more than I do. Talk with her, but can you put some more time on my car?”

“We have a special ticket for that, Lady Catherine,” said the sister as she passed to empty a papier mache receiver in the sluice.

“I’ll get to the bottom of it, and I’ll send up some food for you.” He hugged and kissed me again and left with Stella. I settled down in the chair, holding Mima’s hand and praying that she wasn’t brain damaged.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 721

It was a long night. I slept fitfully draped over Mima’s bed, feeling almost as if I was involved in a psychic tug of war with something which wanted my child’s soul almost as much as I did.

A long time ago, I read some books by Andrew Collins in which he described questing, which was mix of New Age occultism and teenage excitement as they pursued various treasures. While most of the detail has gone long with the books, I did remember him doing something he called a triangle or cone of light. In this he drew down a cone of white light which he swirled around himself and the area he was concerned with, and then whooshed it back up into the sky, effectively sterilising the area of any psychic influences for a while.

I had no idea if this would work, it was all nineteen sixties nonsense. However, I decided it was worth a try, only I did my own version of it. I simply imagined the whole of Mima’s room filling with an intense white light. The temperature dropped and I pulled my jacket around me, and held on tightly to my child. Then I fell asleep.

Somewhere about six in the morning, a nurse came in to check for Mima’s vitals. She appeared to be sleeping normally and her pulse and blood pressure were good. They were going to do a brain scan later to ascertain if the anoxic state had caused any brain trauma. I was still worried. The nurse told me she thought Mima was doing very well considering her injuries. She left after cheering me a little and then brought me a cup of tea and a biscuit. I thanked her profusely.

I was sitting holding Mima’s hand when Sam Rose arrived at about seven. “You have an early start,” I commented.

“You have one of my favourite patients here, Lady C. I wanted to see how she was.”

“I’m told, doing okay.”

“Let’s see?” he checked the charts. “Um, so far so good.” He took out a torch and lifting an eyelid he shone the beam into her eye. She grumbled and pushed his hand away, remaining asleep. “Ooh, that’s encouraging,” he said enthusiastically, “I think we can call that a positive response.” He did the same with the other eye and she turned over away from the light.

“Is she sleeping or comatose?” I asked.

“If she is comatose, it’s a very light one. It all looks very encouraging. Talk to her see if she’ll wake for you.”

I took her hand and held it, stroking her face with my other hand. “Wakey, wakey, sleepy head. Mima, it’s Mummy, would you like some breakfast?”

“No, me’s tired,” she whispered and turned over to sleep again.

“Amazing. I think she’s going to get over this, although we’re not out of the woods yet and I’d still like to scan her. You’ll need to be there, because of the noise it makes.”

“I’d like to be there anyway.”

“Of course. Look you can’t do anything else, so why not pop up to the cafeteria and I’ll buy you some breakfast?”

“Sam, that’s the best offer I’ve had all day.”

“Better make the most of it, remember, we Jews are supposed to be a trifle parsimonious.”

“No more so than any other group of people I’ve met.”

“Damn, so you’re going to take me up on it—hmm, if I get you a white coat, I wonder if we’ll get staff discount?”

“You silly bugger,” I said to him and we both laughed. On the way out of the ward, the nurse in charge handed me a small overnight bag. I checked inside and it had a change of clothing, Simon had dropped it in for me. The note attached said he hadn’t liked to disturb me as I was sleeping. I blushed.

“Look, you go and change in the loos down the corridor and I’ll order you a breakfast for ten minutes.” He pointed down the corridor, “Toilets thataway.”

After a quick wash and change of clothes, I felt much better. My hair could do with a wash but otherwise I felt clean. I left the bag with my dirty laundry in it at the nurses’ station. Then walked briskly up to the cafeteria where a plate of bacon and egg awaited me. With some toast it tasted so good. Sam was just finishing his. “I thought you weren’t supposed to eat bacon?” I said accusingly.

“I think that only refers to orthodox, we liberal types eat anything that smells so enticing.”

“Isn’t it unclean?”

“Yeah but, if it’s cooked properly, it’s clean enough for me.”

I was tempted to tease him some more, then remembered he’d generously paid for mine, so I kept shtum. It was delicious, with tomato and mushrooms I ate as if I hadn’t for days. I suppose on reflection I hadn’t eaten for about sixteen hours, and had barfed my lunch at the swimming pool. I tried not to think about that and kept eating. I washed it down with some coffee, deciding the caffeine might keep me awake.

Some chap came up and called Sam, who excused himself as I buttered my fourth piece of toast. I was drinking my coffee when he came back with the other man, who I could see was another doctor. They both sat down beside me. I felt some tension in the air. “Is Mima all right?”

“Yes, she’s fine,” said Sam, “if she wasn’t they’d have bleeped me.” He hesitated.

“What’s the matter, Sam? What are you after?”

“It’s not Sam, it’s me who is asking a favour,” said the other man, who looked about thirty fivish.”

“This is Grant Chesters, our resident neurosurgeon, gets on most people’s nerves. This is Lady Catherine Cameron, occasional miracle worker.”

“Lady Catherine, I want to ask you a very big favour.”

“What?” I asked suspiciously, knowing what was likely to be happening.

“Downstairs in ICU, I have a person who was badly beaten up last night. They are on a life support machine. I don’t have much hope of them recovering, and suspect persistent vegetative state, although we’d wait a few days before diagnosing that.”

“What?”

“Brain dead,” supplied Sam.

“Oh, I’m sorry. I don’t know what you want, but I don’t think I’d like to be a brain donor.”

He looked at me, then his face broke into a wide grin and he laughed out loud. Sam was also chortling. “I don’t think I want you to do that,” said Mr Chesters.

“Why were they beaten up?”

“They were coming home and passed a group of drunken teenagers.”

“And that was why?”

“Okay, I didn’t want to influence you against them. I’d like you to see if you can do your magic on this poor individual.”

“But?” I queried.

“She, yes, she, is a gender bender. You know, actually male but living as female, you know what I mean.”

Before I could say anything, Sam intervened, “Cathy has a GID foster child, so she knows about it.”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, some people find it difficult.”

“Yes, I’m sure, but I’m not one of them.”

“The other thing is that this person looks a total mess, where they kicked and punched her into oblivion. It’s not very pretty.”

“You should see me first thing in the morning,” I joked and they both laughed. “What do you want me to do?”

“Whenever you’re ready?” Grant Chesters said and he led me down to ICU. I put on gown, hat and overshoes, then followed him into the cubicle. Mess was an understatement. I saw the name Cheryl above the bed, but the monstrosity lying in the bed was enough to make anyone sick. The head was swollen and black and blue with grazed and lacerated areas around the mouth and eyes. There were dressings on the worst affected areas but it was truly dreadful to behold.

“How can someone do this to another human being?” I asked.

“I don’t know, but I do know that drink was probably involved.”

“Yes, but I had a couple of glasses of wine the other night, I didn’t want to go and beat someone up.”

“Cathy, if I might call you that? You’re a normal person with reasonable levels of control and presumably some attachment to the society in which you live, your family and so on. The guys who did this, don’t. They have no self-control, so are usually piss heads, and they don’t care about the life of this person. They see someone who is vulnerable and upon whom they can project their inadequacies and it becomes violent very quickly.”

“Is her name, Cheryl?” I asked.

“No, that’s her nurse, her name is Brittany.”

“As in Spears?”

“Yes, not very original but…”

“Yeah okay, what do you want me to do?”

“The grapevine told me that you saved a kid here the other week with a brain tumour, then yesterday we had stories of a dead child being resuscitated after that shouldn’t have been possible.”

“My foster daughter.”

“Yes, I know. Can you help with this poor unfortunate?”

“I’ll try.”

“Thank you. What do you need from us?”

“Some peace and quiet and a cuppa in an hour or so.”

“You got it, anything else?”

“Yes no sugar in the tea, and if they take Mima down for a scan, I’ll need to be there.”

“Of course, I take it you have milk?”

“In the tea, please.”

I settled down and introduced myself. “Hi, Brittany, I’m Cathy and I’ve come to help you. I know you can hear me so I want you to listen to my voice and use it to help you come back from the void in which you find yourself. Follow my voice and as you do you’ll see a light, follow it, float towards it and that’s where I’ll be, waiting for you. Oh and you’ll probably have a bit of a headache, but I’ll help you with that too.”

I touched her on the forehead and held her hand. I kept talking, my eyes shut as I visualised the light coming down and entering her body and especially her head and face. I tried to imagine her face before the gang tried to rearrange it and projected that on her. I don’t know how long I was there but a female voice said, “Oh my God, get the surgeon quickly, and the sound of a cup and saucer being put down rapidly.

I opened my eyes and got used to the lights, footsteps came rushing in and I became aware of a machine bleeping that hadn’t been doing so before. “Jesus, Joseph and Mary,” said Grant Chesters as he ran into the room dressed in his greens—his theatre garb. “I don’t believe it.”

I looked to see what they didn’t believe and it shook me too. Brittany’s head was normal sized and much of the bruising had eased. Chesters, shone a light into both of her eyes, “Jesus, we’ve got a reflex, she’s alive.”

“We’ve got other vitals, Mr Chesters,” said the nurse.

“I’ve never seen anything like it, it’s—a—miracle, there is no other word to describe it.”

I felt knackered and drank the tea, whether or not it was for me. “Please don’t say anything about this to anyone,” I pleaded.

“I don’t believe it, you can do more in an hour than I could in ten in the theatre.”

“This is the last one I do. I can’t cope with what it does to me, and what the press are likely to do if they find out. I have three children. I want to protect them.”

“Of course, I’m not sure what we put in the notes but, I’ll not breathe a word of your identity. Neither will the others, will you?” he demanded of the nurses. They both said, no.

“I have to go and see Mima.” I got up to leave, “I still can’t understand why anyone should want to hurt anyone else for fun.”

“Nor me,” said the nurse, “but one of the bastards who did it, ran off when the police arrived and was hit by a bus. He’s in a similar state in the next room. I don’t suppose you’d like to share a miracle with him? Personally, I’d switch off his machine now, given the chance.”

I paused at the doorway.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 722

I regarded the supine figure lying on the bed with wires and tubes attached to every available orifice. He didn’t look very old, probably about sixteen, the little of him I could see. It wasn’t my job to pass judgement on my fellows—that was for judges and juries. I knew I could help him, but why should I, especially as the person in the other room could be me? But it wasn’t me, thank goodness.

I was standing in the doorway when a nurse called me, “Lady Cameron, they want you up in the children’s unit.” All thoughts of helping the unfortunate youth were lost as I rushed back to Mima, hoping that nothing dreadful had happened.

“What’s happened?” I gasped as I got back onto the ward, feeling sick as well as breathless.

“Nothing, but they’re taking your little un down to imaging.” With that the nurse pushed the bed out of its place and down the ward.

“Can I help?” I asked walking alongside.

“Yeah, if you like.” I steered one side of the bed with the nurse pushing the other. As we walked down to the lift, she said, “I heard the paramedics pronounced her dead.”

“Who?”

“Your little girl.”

“Well they made a mistake, didn’t they?”

“I also heard you brought her back from the dead.”

“Just ill-founded rumours, I’d ignore them.”

“But you saved the life of a boy a couple of weeks ago, didn’t you?”

“Me? Nah, how could I save anyone’s life, most I can do is basic first aid. I leave patient care to you professionals. I’m a biologist not a physician.”

“There’s a rumour goin’ around that you’ve saved the life of that weirdo the gang beat up last night.”

“I’m a biologist, don’t do weird. What weirdo was that then?”

“You know, the he-she, they brought in last night, brain dead or whatever from a kicking by a group of thugs.”

“Oh, the transgendered person?”

“Yeah, the weirdo.”

“I have a five year old child who is transgendered, I’m not sure I like this conversation.”

“Oops, sorrreee,” she blushed and looked away, “I’ve got nothin’ against ’em, just I think it’s a bit weird a bloke wantin’ to be a woman.”

“Why? Didn’t you want to be one? I know I did.”

“Yeah, but it’s natural innit, for you an’ me, I mean—but he’s like a bloke, and that don’t seem natchral, do it?”

“It might seem natural for her, I know it does for my little girl, she has never considered she was a boy and now she’s living as a girl, she has never been so happy.”

“I’m glad she’s happy, your daughter and that, but I still find it weird.”

“It’s only weird because we pay so much attention to what’s male and female; after all, we’re all people. Also we have so many stereotypical images pushed down our throats by the media—you have to look like this—to be successful, usually a six zero, stick insect with oversized boobs and a collagen enhanced pout.”

“Yeah, I know what ya mean, but you’ve got a nice figure, do the gym a lot, do ya?”

“No time for such things, I do have a bike I ride but not often enough and the last time I did, this happened,” I pointed at the bed.

“Oh, bad luck.”

The lift door opened and we pushed the bed along the corridor to a door marked Department of Diagnostic Imaging. We went through the double doors and the nurse scurried off to report our arrival.

A young woman in a red and white uniform came out and said to me, “Are you the mum?”

“Yes, what do want me to do?”

“Have you seen one of these MRI machines?”

“Yes.”

“Is your little girl conscious?”

“Sort of.”

She gave me an old-fashioned look. “Okay, can you tell her we’re going to put her into the machine, she’ll feel the little trolley move so we can scan her in the best position. Can you ask her to stay absolutely still, oh, and it’s very noisy but there is nothing to be afraid of.”

“May I stay with her?” I asked, “to keep her calm.”

“There’s some very powerful electromagnetic waves given off by the machine, and the noise is even worse standing near it.”

“I’ll take the risk.”

“I don’t know if I can allow it, it goes against all our health and safety policies.”

“I’m sure it does.”

“So I have to say no.”

“In which case, I don’t think I can allow you put my child through your machine.”

“But the doctor thinks it’s necessary.”

“So ask him if I can stay, he said I could.”

“I’m afraid he has no jurisdiction down here.”

“What if she moves?”

“We start again and again if necessary.”

“By which time she could be very upset.”

“She could.”

“So either I stay or we don’t do it.”

“We don’t do it, then. I’m sorry.”

“That’s fine, c’mon, Meems,” I bent down and lifted her off the bed and carried her out of the department and back up to the ward. “Wake up, sweetheart, I need you to talk to me.”

“Mummy, me’s tired.”

“Okay, sweetheart, I’m afraid we left your bed behind.” She yawned and I rubbed her back. “I love you so much, sweetheart.”

“I wuv you too, Mummy.” She rubbed her eyes and opened them. “Where are we, Mummy?”

“In the hospital.”

“I had some nasty dweams.”

“Yes, darling, but you’re safe now. I’m here.”

“I know, Mummy. Me’s saved now.”

“I don’t know about saved, this isn’t a bank, it’s a hospital. Let’s find out if I can take you home. Can you walk?”

“Walk home, Mummy?”

“No, silly, just along here into the ward.” I put her down and held her hand.

“Cathy, thank God we found you,” said Sam, “Oh, Jemima, you feel better?”

“Yes, Dr Wose, Mummy wants to take me home.”

“What happened with the scanner?”

“They wouldn’t let me stay with her.”

“But I gave specific instructions…”

“They don’t comply with health and safety.”

“Bugger that. Let me give her an examination and maybe you can go home.” He took us off to a side room and checked all he could with great tenderness. He asked her if she had any feeling of sickness or headaches and she shook her head vigorously—“Well young lady, if you had, that would have hurt a bit. So I guess you can go home.”

“Hooway,” said Mima and danced around, then she kissed him and held her arms up for me to carry her.

“How was your other patient?” he asked me as we went back onto the ward.

“Doing okay, they’ll be okay, I think.”

“How do you do it?” He nodded towards Mima, “It baffles me, but I’m glad you do.”

“I was going to do some with the lad in the next cubicle, one of the attackers, he got hit by a bus or something.”

“There’s a rumour going around that he didn’t make it.”

“Didn’t make what?” I gasped knowing full well what the idiom meant.

“I think you know what I mean.”

“But I was going to try and help him,” I felt disappointed in myself and yet I’d chosen my priorities fairly, I thought. My children had to come first or I was failing as a mother, and that was my primary role here.

“I think fate intervened, sometimes even the best intentioned tzidkanit can be disappointed.

“A what?”

“Miracle worker,” he smiled at me, “take her home Saint Catherine.”

“What?” I exclaimed.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 723

Before I left the hospital, I carried Mima with me to see the person in ICU. I wasn’t sure if this was a good or a bad thing, but curiosity got the better of me. Meems, as ever, was long-suffering and although I knew she wanted to go home, I had to see this ‘woman’ again.

I spoke with the nurse who remembered me, and she led me to see Brittany—who much to my amazement was reclining on the bed and awake. The bruising on her face was now multicoloured, but the swelling had stayed down and she looked up at me carrying my Meems.

“Hello, come to gawp?”

“Why should I do that?”

“Don’t you be howwible to my mummy,” scolded Meems.

“Don’t I know you?” asked Brittany, in a voice which was needing some speech therapy, it was still quite deep.

“We’ve met, once before,” I replied.

“Where? Sorry my memory isn’t too good since my attack.”

“I’m not surprised, and it isn’t important.”

“But I know you, don’t I? I just can’t think from where?”

“Like I said, it isn’t important.”

“Mummy, why is there a bwue wight going fwom you to that wady?”

“Is there? I hadn’t noticed.”

“My God, there is too!” exclaimed Brittany. “The blue light, that guided me from my darkness—that’s you, isn’t it? Now I recognise the voice, you led me back to life—it is you, isn’t it?”

“Not really, I just talked to you; you did all the work.” I felt myself blushing and I also wondered how I could turn this ruddy light off.

“I was sinking into a sort of nothingness,” Brittany explained, “it felt like I was in a blackness just floating around, not knowing which way was up or down. I could have been floating or sinking—I really didn’t know. I felt helpless and scared and lost. I thought it felt like death or purgatory, or how I imagined those things. Do you know?”

“I think I understand,” I said, although my experience had been different.

“Then I heard this voice, at first it sounded as if it was a long way away or if it was coming through water. But I listened to it very hard. She—it was definitely a woman—promised she would send a blue or white light to guide me back. I homed in on her voice—your voice—and a little later I saw a blue light in the distance and I pulled myself towards it. It was you, wasn’t it?”

“Maybe. I spoke to you last night, but who knows what or who it was?” I wished now that I hadn’t come in, this was embarrassing.

“I thought it was an angel sent to rescue me. She said her name—um, my memory—oh yes, it was Cathy, she called herself Cathy.”

“That’s my Mummy’s name,” shrieked Meems.

“It was you, you are an angel, aren’t you?”

“No, I’m definitely a human, with feet of clay. I just like to help people now and again. Mr Chesters asked me to come and talk with you, which is all I did. I’m glad it worked, I must get Madam here, home. She had an accident and has just been discharged.”

“What you came to help me, when your own child was sick?”

“I knew she was on the mend by then, and sleeping.”

“Mummy got me fwom some vewy nasty dweams. She told me not to be afwaid and to fowwow, the wight. I’m betta now.”

“Your mummy is a very special lady. She saved my life.”

“Yeah,” sighed Mima, “she does is aww the time. She is a wady, too, Wady Cathewine, my daddy is a waud. He calls me his pwincess.”

“I’m honoured milady. How can I thank you?” Brittany blushed. I held out my hand to say goodbye and she clasped it in both of hers, threatening to pull out her drip. “Wow, the energy coming off your hand, it’s like an electric shock.” She released my hand.

“See, it’s I who’ve shocked you, not the other way round.” I smiled at her and said goodbye, Meems waved and we left to go home.

Sam interrupted his ward round to come to see us off. He spotted us when I went back for my bag—I’d left it on the ward. He walked us down to the car, carrying Meems as I humped the bag along behind him.

“Thanks, Cathy, I’ll never be able to thank you enough for all the good you’ve done here.”

“What, helping my own daughter, and that person last night. Remember there were two I couldn’t or didn’t help. I’m not special.”

“Yes you are.”

“Oh yes you called me a zenith or something.”

“A Tzidkanit—a special person, with special powers which originate from their innate goodness. A saint or even a human sort of angel.”

“That wady said Mummy was a angew?”

“Who was that?” he asked.

“The wady in the bed.”

“Oh, the one in ICU?”

“Yes, Brittany,” I said and winced. Sam winced too.

“Why do people pick names like that?” he asked

“It’s a free country, Sam, we can call ourselves what we like—even Catherine.”

“Okay, you convinced me.”

“That’s it now, Sam, I can’t do any more blue light stuff. I’m exhausted and I don’t feel able to do it again. I know I said it before, but this time, I mean it. No more.”

“Okay, Cathy, I accept what you say. But thanks for those you did help, especially one little character.” He looked at Mima, who opened her arms and hugged him. “Off you go, take this little mite home.”

“Goodbye, Sam,” I said hugging him.

“Shalom, my Tzidkanit.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 724

Home for the time being was the Camerons’ suite at the Southsea hotel they owned. We were very lucky in being able to use it and I was very grateful to Henry for his generosity. I’d sent a text to Simon to say I was on my way back to the hotel with Mima. He sent me a reply that he’d call by this evening.

When we got up to the suite, Meems and I greeted my other two ‘orphans’ and Stella and Puddin’. They wanted to hear all about things and Mima regaled them for several minutes about me protecting her in her bad dweams and finally rescuing her from same. All three of them had now seen the blue light in action, which was more than I could. I asked them if they could see it now? Their response was negative. I wondered who else could see it? I mean, was it going to have people noticing in the street? ‘Oh look out there’s a pedestrian ambulance’ or ‘she been at the woad again?’ I wanted to laugh, what if they were all imagining it? Maybe I was the only sane one—now that really was frightening.

Mima and I went for a little rest, she came and cuddled up with me and we were soon in the land of nod, but not the one Enoch reputedly went to. See? My Bible study was good for something, if only making pseudo-intellectual jokes.

I woke after a nasty dream of being like the Pied Piper, only I was leading all these sick people who were following my blue haze. It got nasty when I found myself in a cul-de-sac and they surrounded me and took all my energy, leaving me exhausted on the ground once they’d all got what they wanted. Were people that selfish? I think we all know the answer to that one.

I crept off the bed to make a cuppa, Stella was feeding Puddin’ and the two girls were playing some board game thing. “Who looked after the girls when you came to hospital with me?”

“Anna, the Polish girl who babysat while we were out the other night.”

“I must thank her, hell I need to get some more money.”

“There’s a bank in the hotel.”

“Is there? I’ve never noticed it.”

“It’s only a little thing near the hairdresser and the other shops.”

“This place is like a cruise liner.”

“Better: you don’t get seasick.”

“I don’t anyway,” I boasted.

“Big head,” she said poking out her tongue which Puddin’ tried to grab. So while her daughter tried to lengthen her organ of taste, I made us some tea. She thanked me for her cup and told me about what she’d heard on the telly. “It said something about an angel walking amongst us.”

“Yeah, what’s that got to do with me, besides I thought they had wings.”

“Maybe that’s only the higher ranking ones,” she joked.

“Or ones with pilots’ licences.”

“Exactly, anyway I’ve ordered an Echo.”

“That scandal sheet?”

“’Tis not, if it isn’t in the Echo, it doesn’t exist,” Stella teased. Usually it was she who complained about the poor editorial standard and even worse reportage. Then while we were drinking our tea, the said fount of all knowledge arrived, courtesy of a young porter who can’t have long left school, or was on his summer holidays.

“There, it must be true,” she turned around the paper and the headline was: ‘An Angel Walks Among Us.’

“What’s it about anyway, someone who returned someone’s lost handkerchief?”

“Here, look for yourself, I’m going to put Pud down for a nap. Wave night night to Auntie Cathy.”

I took the proffered example of the fourth estate and read the front page story.

‘Over the past three weeks, the sick and dying of Portsmouth have been visited by an angel in the guise of an attractive—some say beautiful—young woman. Our well-spoken, heavenly visitor has been reported as bringing back to life two children and a woman who was attacked by a gang of thugs as she walked home from her evening class. One of the thugs who was in collision with a bus trying to evade arrest, was not revived by our heavenly helper.

‘A spokesperson for the hospital said, “As far as she was concerned, the patients had recovered through dint of the excellent medical and nursing care at the hospital and by good fortune. These things always seem miraculous, but are as likely to be though hard work as Divine intervention.”

‘A spokesperson for the ambulance service told us that two persons were conveyed to the hospital in non-responsive states and were suspected of being critically ill with little chance of recovery. One of them did, which they find astonishing, but less so than they did when two of their paramedics attempted to resuscitate a little girl who was presumed to have drowned and pronounced dead at the scene and whose body was snatched by a beautiful woman who claimed to be her mother and proceeded to resuscitate the “dead” girl. The child has since made a full recovery. The ‘mother’ disappeared shortly afterwards. Is this the same angel?

‘Two weeks ago a child was given hours to live with a malignant brain tumour. The woman was seen to sit up with him all night and the next day he was discharged to go home, apparently cured. If this isn’t a miracle, what is? And we’ve had three so far in two weeks. Who is this mystery angel and where did she come from? The hospital, if they do know anything, are saying nothing.’

“What a load of codswallop,” I said throwing down the paper in disgust.

Stella came back and picked it up and read it. “Ho ho, you’re famous again. A heavenly visitor? Ha ha, my arse.”

“I’ve never thought your bum was that funny, Stella,” I joked.

“What?” she snapped back.

“Your bum, it isn’t that funny?” I repeated.

“I have no idea what you are talking about.” She dismissed me and went back to reading the paper and squealing with laughter every so often. “This is funnier than the cartoons,” she laughed. She was probably correct, unfortunately. “If we got you a pilot’s licence do you think you’d sprout wings?”

“If you cackle any louder, Stella, they’ll be getting this place exorcised.”

“That’s okay, we’ll ask the resident angel to do it for us,” she laughed loudly at her own joke—very distasteful.

Before I was subject to much more teasing Simon arrived. We hugged and kissed and the girls mobbed him, waking up Mima, who joined the welcoming committee.

After things calmed down, he offered to take us all to dinner. “Here?” asked Stella.

“Can do if you like,” he said, “it means we can have a drink or two.”

“You can’t if you’re driving home,” I said loudly.

“I can if I stay overnight,” he countered.

“That’s different. We’ll have to organise a sitter for the girls,” I suggested.

“Get that Polish girl again,” enthused Stella, “She’s very good.”

“Oh, I must get some money as well, some time.”

“What for?” Simon looked perplexed.

“To give a little something to the sitter.”

“No, it’s all in the charges.”

“I like to give a personal gift as well.”

“We’re paying twice for it then,” he grumbled.

“Tough, that’s what I’m going to do. Ask them to send her up, Stella.”

“We’re taking the kids with us,” Simon said as if we should have read his mind. If we had, it wouldn’t have taken very long.

“What about Puddin’?” Stella asked, looking at the carrycot.

“Can’t she come too?” was Simon’s answer.

“I don’t think so,” rebutted Stella.

“Okay, get the Polish girl then.” Which they did.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 725

The meal was excellent and much to my surprise and relief, the three girls behaved—if not impeccably—then well. I wasn’t that hungry—got to keep my weight down if I’m going to be flying soon. What a joke the whole of that stuff is—I mean, I think I am the only sane one. At the same time I can’t quite explain what happens, must be something to do with electromagnetics. I must act as a conductor of some sort—yeah, that has to be it. Quite how it knows what to do? Okay, so that’s a bit trickier, but then nerve impulses know where to go. I know, it obviously flows along some sort of power gradient, from high to low. That’s it, people who are very sick are very low powered and I come along like a battery charger and boost them, and it coincidentally makes them better, and death being the ultimate in low charges—providing things aren’t too far gone, with autolysis and so on happening, the energy starts it up again. Problem solved. About as divine as a bar magnet.

“What are you looking so smug about?” asked Stella as we walked back to the suite.

“I’ve figured out how this healing thing works…” I set about explaining it to her.

“So why can’t everyone do it, then?” she asked.

“They probably can, they just don’t know it,” I responded.

“I think the average doctor saying to patients, “You’re okay now, pick up yer bed and walk, is going to go down well. It’ll certainly save the NHS billions on more conventional treatments. You’ll probably get a knighthood.”

“Gee thanks.”

“Yeah Dame Lady Catherine, or would it be Dame Catherine, Lady Cameron?”

“I’m not marrying a bloody dame, with my luck it’d be Widow Twanky.” Simon always managed to add intellectual lift to our discussions.

“Si, Dame is the equivalent of a knighthood for a woman. I mean look at Helen Mirren and Judi Dench, or even Ellen McArthur the yachtswoman,” suggested Stella.

“Or Dame Edna,” Simon beamed back.

“If you want to go out with a drag queen that’s fine,” snapped Stella.

“Can we change the subject?” I felt it was getting too close to something I was happier to forget.

“Hang on, she’s not getting away with that,” argued Simon, “I’m not some sort of poofter, you know, fancying trannies.”

“Erm,” I coughed, “little piggies…” I nodded at the girls. Simon gave me a quizzical look then the penny dropped.

“Oh yeah, sorry about that. I forget, about you, I mean; besides, you’re different.”

“Yeah, that’s the problem.” I took Mima’s hand and we walked on with Trish and Livvie skipping along ahead of us.

“See what you’ve done now?” hissed Stella at her brother.

“Me? You started it,” he snapped back. We left them bickering in the corridor.

As we got through the door of the lift, Mima said, “Mummy, what’s a pooter?”

“A what?”

“Daddy said he’s not a pooter?” she asked innocently.

“Oh it’s a device for catching small insects and spiders,” I answered quickly, “it’s like a tube with a chamber in the middle with a piece of gauze or something across it, and you suck the insect into the tube, the gauze stopping it being sucked into your mouth and probably swallowed.”

“Eeeeewch,” was her reply agreed by the other two if their faces were to be believed.

“That is gross, Mummy, you suck up insects with your mouth—yuck.” Trish made a disgusted face and pretended to be sick.

“Do you mind, Trish, I’ve just eaten,” I chided her and all three of them giggled. It seems girls can be just as disgusting as boys—at times anyway. When we got back to the suite, I switched on my laptop and showed them a pooter on the internet and how it worked.

“I want one of them,” joked Trish, “I can catch fleas with it.”

“Cooties,” laughed Livvie.

“What’s cooties, Mummy?” asked Mima.

“Head lice.” More eeewwwchs accompanied my definition.

“What’s a wice?” asked Mima ignorant of the term.

“A head louse, Pediculus humanus capitis is an insect which infests part of your body and sucks your blood. It lays eggs which are usually attached to hair, and those are called nits. More than one louse are called lice. Head lice obviously live in your head hair.”

Three squealing children ran into Stella’s rooms and when Anna asked them what was the matter, they replied they were running away from cooties.

“What are cooties, Lady Catherine?” she asked as I came in. I sighed and hoped she had a good sense of humour. I left her scratching her head—it tends to have that effect—and called the children back to our rooms. Simon and Stella had finished their argument and were talking about something else.

My mobile rang and I picked it up, expecting it to be Tom or possibly Henry, but it was Sam. I went into the bedroom to escape the noise from the kids and squabbling siblings. “Hello, Sam, I hope this is a social call.”

“Hi, Cathy, yes and no.”

“What d’you mean, yes and no? I’m not saving anyone else, I told you that was the last one, and I’m not doing any tests either.”

“It’s not about that, Cathy, well not directly.”

“So what’s it about?”

“I’ll come straight to the point, it looks like someone has blabbed to a tabloid.”

“What about?” My mind, or what passes for one, had gone completely blank.

“What d’you think, your healing. We think they told them who you were as well.”

“What? Who was it?”

“A porter, we think.”

“Can you discipline him?”

“He’s resigned—walked out, so we think he’s been paid a large sum of money.”

“What do we do now?”

“Stay well away from here,” Sam suggested the obvious.

“I was going to, don’t worry. I’m not staying at home but I’ll call Tom and warn him. Thanks for telling me.”

“Sorry it’s not better news,” apologised Sam.

I called Tom and advised him of the new development. He sighed and simply said, “It’s a sair fecht, aye, a sair fecht.” Simon when I told him said something more rude and I was rather glad the children were talking to Stella at the time.

Tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 726

Despite my worries about the press, Simon’s presence in the bed seemed to help me sleep. He also read the girls a story when we put them to bed. We chatted with Stella, who seemed to think running up to Scotland was an option.

“Not with all those midges,” was Simon’s comment, before he poured himself another glass of wine.

“That’s only on the moors,” said Stella pooh-poohing him.

“Like hell, those little buggers get everywhere, they’re even more pervasive than one of the kids, and they’d get through ten foot thick walls if they wanted something.”

“My Puddin’ wouldn’t, she’s very refained,” Stella did her Miss Jean Brodie impersonation.

“We should be too young to know the context of your parody,” I offered our budding actress.

“We are, but we’ve seen, not the light exactly, more the DVD.”

“For you that’s very good,” Simon congratulated his sister.

“For you, that’s an even rarer event than hen’s teeth,” she shot back.

“You do more bitching than a pack of dogs,” was his response.

“Ha, you’re the bum sniffer…”

“Children, could we please have a ceasefire here?” I intervened, “We have a potential common enemy to deal with, so I think wasting our energy on petty squabbles is pointless.”

“That’s right, take his side,” Stella complained.

“I am not taking sides, but I don’t need this just now. I need support not bickering. I’m sorry, but I think you understand my feelings.”

“Sorrreee,” Stella looked a bit sheepish. “I’m off to bed, as I have my own early morning alarm clock.”

“What’s she on about, she doesn’t know what early mornings are?” grumbled Simon.

“Puddin’, is what she meant.”

“Oh, yeah, okay.”

“I’m going to bed, Si; night night.” I kissed him and went on to bed. To my surprise he appeared a few moments later. “I thought you had a glass of wine to finish?”

“Nah, besides I shouldn’t drink too much with my liver.”

“Your liver—oh, yes, the paracetamol.”

“Well I thought I’d lost you,” he blushed.

“If that had worked, I’d have lost you,” I pointed out to him.

“Yeah, well that’s better than me losing you.”

“Isn’t it something of the same?”

“God no. If I die first, I don’t have to cope with the grief of losing you.” He undressed and went in the bathroom.

It stopped me in my tracks, dying was something other people did, not Simon or me or the rest of the family. Besides, with the blue light stuff, maybe it wasn’t inevitable any more. Yeah, sure. We all have our time, what was it Shakespeare said, “our exits and our entrances,” or words to that effect?

He came back and we cuddled down together. We only cuddled, I was too tense to do anything else and he simply held me until I fell asleep. Sometimes Simon could be the most wonderful and caring man on the planet, at others he was a total idiot, as the Irish say, ‘an eejut’.

I woke up because he’d got out of bed, “Lovely morning,” he said when he noticed me stirring.

“Is it?” I asked, it looked dark and dreary to me.

“I was being facetious,” he replied, “it is foul, with several ‘Fs’ before it.”

“Oh,” I said and turned over away from the window.

“Cathy, it’s eight o’clock, do you want breakfast up here, or are we going down to the dining room?”

“Yeah,” I said and tried desperately to go back to sleep.

“Yeah what?” he asked making me almost jump.

“Yeah thank you,” I said, old conditioning dies hard.

“Thank you? Are you barmy or something?”

“Okay, please then, just shut up, I’m still tired,” I snapped at him.

“Babes, it’s time to get up, it’s after eight o’clock.”

“Why didn’t the alarm go off then?”

“Because you switched it off last night.”

“Did I?” I must be more tired than I thought. I was, I was completely and utterly knackered.

“Want me to take the girls down to breakfast?” He was being very nice, but I was too tired to wonder why.

“’Kay,” I almost yawned at him. That’s all I remember until the three aliens came in and woke me an hour later. I felt even worse, I always do when I sleep on, and I knew this, so why do I do it? Tiredness or stupidity? Let’s say the jury’s still out on that one.

“Me had cornfwakes and owange juice.”

“I had some yoghurt on my Rice Crispies,” I heard Trish’s voice say.

“I had loads of fruit like Mummy does.” Livvie joined the debate. It was no good, they weren’t going to get back in their spaceship and leave, I had to wake up and deal with them.

Simon had brought me up a bowl of fruit and some cereal. I dragged myself out of bed and sat at the small table we had. It struck me as odd, he did most of the drinking, so how come I felt like I had the hangover?

“I feel absolutely great,” he announced, “better than I’ve felt in ages.”

“Maybe Cathy’s blue light rebuilt your liver?” Stella came into the dining area.

“Hey, that could be it?” He seemed to return to his Tigger mode, bouncing all over the place. I think sometimes it used less energy to see him as Eeyore, “the angel has walked among us again. Ouch, that hurt,” he rubbed his arm where my spoon hit him.

After showering, I felt almost up to Neanderthal levels of development, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, I hoped it wasn’t swine flu. “You look all in, girl,” said Stella.

“I feel it, I feel awful.”

“Go back to bed then, we’ll look after the girls.”

“I don’t understand it, I was okay yesterday.”

“Yeah, but big bruv has been stealing your energy all night.”

“But we’ve slept together for the last year and it hasn’t happened before.”

“Ah but that was before you were saving the world.”

“Was it? I don’t think so.”

“Just go back to bed and get some rest.” Stella almost frogmarched me to bed. I undressed and got back between the covers. “See you in a couple of hours.”

I heard her speak, but I was too tired to reply and already half-asleep.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 727

I felt quite poorly; I alternated between feeling too hot and freezing. So I think I shivered or sweated depending on how my body felt. At one point, I felt as if everything was a big dream, that I was lying in a hedgerow having been knocked off my bike, the rain was lashing down on me and everything since that point had been my febrile imagination.

I even thought I saw the driver glancing down at me, though she did nothing to help me. Then she walked away, leaving me to my fate. I don’t remember much else.

I woke being prodded and my face being wiped with a cool cloth. “Hello, Cathy, remember me?”

“Dr Smith?” I think it was him—my GP. ‘What’s he doing out dealing with a road collision?’

“I’m pretty sure you’ve got yourself a virus; you have a temperature and whilst I don’t think it’s swine flu, all I can do is give you something to cool you down. I can’t give you paracetamol, but I’ve left a script with Stella. Keep taking lots of fluids and rest. I’ll call by in a couple of days if you’re no better. ’Bye.”

I think I croaked a reply, my throat felt really sore. He’d looked in my mouth with his little torch, and felt my neck. I’d heard him say it wasn’t mononucleosis. I didn’t know what it was, but I felt awful.

Threads of a conversation were coming through to me. I wasn’t sure who it was talking but I assumed it was Stella and my doctor. “…Been through a lot recently…driven herself too hard…worried about the children and those she couldn’t save…yeah, she’s the mystery healer…but don’t tell anyone…just rest…stay here…”

Rest? Ha! I couldn’t do anything else, even if I tried. I was aware of others coming into the room but couldn’t be bothered to see who. Stella kept saying to me, “Cathy, you’ve got to drink,” and she’d prod me and make me swallow a few drops. I hadn’t been to the loo for ages and decided I needed to go. I staggered out of bed and across to the bathroom—thank God for en suites, because I would never have found it otherwise.

Three anxious little faces watched me lurch across to the bathroom. They all beamed at me as I came out. “Do you feel better, Mummy?” I think it was Trish who spoke.

“A little,” I lied. I actually thought I was dying for a while. Viruses—possibly the simplest life form there is, and here I am, the zenith of mammalian evolution, absolutely floored by it. “Better not come too close, in case you catch it,” I said and decided my throat felt a little easier.

“The doctor said we wouldn’t catch it, Mummy.” Trish was going to argue—great, just what I needed.

“Okay, you know better than I do, be it on your own head if you catch it.” Livvie and Mima stepped back a pace, Trish walked into the room and after helping me back into bed—she made me change my nightdress first, the other was soaking with sweat—she made me drink some of the water by my bedside. “Ugh—what’s in this?”

“Echinacea,” called Stella’s voice, “it’s supposed to help with virus infections.”

“I haven’t a blessed cold, I’m dying.”

“No you’re not, you’ve got a wee virus infection, that’s all.” Stella wasn’t going to listen to me.

“If all I have is a wee virus, why was the doctor here?”

“He’s the one who diagnosed it.”

“Shows how much he knows, then,” I pouted and sulked as I lay back in the bed. Trish got on the bed and gave me a hug. I hugged her back, “Thank you sweetheart, that made me feel much better.”

“Oh good, Mummy. Would you like me to read to you?”

“That would be wonderful, I’m sure it would make me feel better.”

“I wanna read, too,” squawked Livvie.

“Me wanna sit with Mummy, too.”

I suppose they did their best. But listening to children reading while someone is practicing panel beating inside one’s head, isn’t conducive to relaxation. I tried, I really did to stay awake, but I couldn’t. In drifting away I heard someone complain and Stella tell them, “Well, you fall asleep when we read to you every night.” It became acceptable after that. To be honest, I couldn’t have cared one way or the other.

The three adults, Stella, Tom and Simon gave me tremendous support over the next couple of days. I slept much of the time, but they individually or collectively looked after the children.

I learned afterwards that Tom closed up the house and he and Kiki came to stay with us in the hotel for a few days. He had a room on the same floor. When I saw the dog, I thought I was home again. I think I was disappointed when I realised I was still in the hotel.

This whole thing lasted four bloody days, which was longer than the third test match. I didn’t have the energy to ask Simon if he’d given the man his money back. I just hoped he wasn’t betting on the outcome of the whole series. Simon can be wonderful—he can also be a total cretin, and a stubborn one at that.

I was finally allowed up and dressed. I had a shower and dressed myself. The sun was shining and I’d have loved to be out on my bike or with the kids. Sadly, after washing and dressing, I was knackered or fair wabbit as Tom would say.

The girls made a fuss of me and I tried to eat but I wasn’t hungry. “Starve a cold and feed a fever,” said Stella, quoting some old wives’ tale.

“I thought it was the other way around,” I argued, but she doesn’t brook dissent and made me eat soup. It was quite good, although I reckon I’ve made better ones. I felt sick afterwards, but that was mainly wind. I was glad she didn’t try to burp me.

The doctor, through Stella, had organised a blood test. She took the blood and I must admit I hardly felt it—her nursing had some uses. I had a raised white blood cell count—there’s a surprise, I have an infection. They still didn’t know what it was—oh joy.

At least I could read the paper and kept abreast of the Echo’s crusade to find the mystery healer woman. As far as I knew, they weren’t even warm. They suggested all the clues they had and in adding them up, made a number in excess of the chocolate bars, I suspected Stella or Simon had ordered which were shared by the girls and occasionally given to me.

‘New information suggests the Healing Angel has left the city of Portsmouth and gone back to her home planet—so says local psychic, Edmund Murgatroyd: “She’s been put off by all the nastiness and greed she found here, so she’s gone back to her home planet near the star Alpha Centauri. This was revealed to me in a conversation with her superior Kloff Sidberm. Her real name is Maugrim Glossburn, and she is an intergalactic trouble shooter.’

The article cheered me up no end. I doubted they’d stop looking for me, but given my own poor health at the moment, I can’t see there being too many episodes of miracle healing involving yours truly. Where do they get these people, the local loony bin?

No one else seemed to catch my bugs, so we decided it was stress, so even Wonder Woman can have an off-day or three. I didn’t want a repeat bout, I might not survive it, so I agreed to all of Stella’s demands—rest, drink plenty of water—rest some more—eat as much as I can—keep my spirits up by the girls reading me stories

Oh well I might just survive a bit longer, I was quite relieved to discover it wasn’t all just a dream and I wasn’t actually expiring by the roadside while Stella called her brother to collect the body.


Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 728

The next morning I felt somewhat better and managed to wake up and go out to the sitting room the same time as everyone else. Admittedly, I was clad in nightie and dressing gown and looked like the wreck of the Hesperus on a bad day.

The girls were laying the table with Stella supervising and Tom handing out the bowls and cutlery. “Well, well, look who’s here,” he said and beamed at me.

“Morning, Daddy, girls, Stella.”

“Mummy, Mummy,” came from three smiling faces and each one demanded a hug and a kiss. The kiss was on the top of the head, so unlikely to pass on my virus, although I didn’t think it was infectious any more anyway.

I helped dish out the cereals and pour milk and then had to sit down because I felt dizzy. Stella handed me a cup of coffee. I was about to protest when she looked sternly at me, I was half awaiting her to say, “Drink that, it’ll put hairs on yer chest.” In which case I’d have declined the offer.

I suggested that I was a bit weak after being in bed for a few days. Tom agreed and the girls looked anxious. “What does dizzy mean, Mummy?” asked Mima.

“It’s a strange feeling, like the room is spinning around and you think you might fall over. It can also make you want to be sick.” All three of them then made disgusted noises.

“Maybe we should get your BP tested,” suggested Stella.

“I thought that was petrol,” was my reply.

“No, you twit, blood pressure.”

“Oh, I had that tested by the doctor the other day, didn’t I?”

“Not as far as I know, you didn’t.” Well I assumed she was with him the whole time.

“Oh, okay, I will next time I see him.”

“No you won’t, I have one in my room somewhere.”

“One what?”

“A sphygmo.”

“A sphygmo?” repeated Trish, “what’s that?”

“A sphygmomanometer is a device for measuring blood pressure,” Stella was on her professional territory.

“What’s that?” asked Trish.

“Well, we all need blood to be pumped all round our bodies, including to our heads. If there isn’t enough pressure, it doesn’t reach up to our heads when we’re standing up and we faint. If it’s too high in pressure we could have a haemorrhage somewhere such as a stroke.”

“A stroke?” Livvie wasn’t familiar with the term.

“A cerebral vascular accident—a bleed in the brain. If you have a bleed somewhere, the tissues beyond it don’t get any oxygen or nutrition and they start to die. If it happens in the brain, we call it a stroke, CVA, TIA if it’s a small one or a hemiplegia if it paralyses half of the body.”

“Stella, can we skip the medical lecture, I feel bad enough without thinking I’ve had a stroke.”

“Cathy, you haven’t, if anything you fainted when you bent over after your blood pressure dropped from bed rest. It drops when you lie down.”

Mima got off the chair and looked under mine. “What are you doing, Meems?” I asked.

“Looking for the thing you dwopped.” Stella and Tom had to turn away and even then I could see their shoulders quaking with laughter.

I ate a slice of toast after Stella threatened to force-feed me. She does have a way of encouraging one to eat; and when she rolled up her sleeves, I began to think she could be serious.

I was sent to sit on the couch in the lounge while two girls fought over who should read to me first. Meems stayed out of that one, coming and cuddling up with me instead. Livvie won the battle of the readers but shortly after she started, I drifted off to sleep. She was heartbroken, if only I could have stayed awake a little longer. I didn’t really go off to sleep properly, I was aware of little fingers running up and down my leg—least that’s what it felt like.

“Why does Mummy have smoov wegs, Daddy got haiwy ones?”

“Mummy’s a lady, only boys and men have hairy legs,” Livvie’s voice said.

“Have you gotted haiwy wegs, Gwamps?”

“Aye, but they’re nae as hairy as they used tae be.”

“Why?”

“I’m an auld man and they get less as ye get aulder.”

“Me doan want haiwy wegs,” exclaimed Mima who burst into tears to emphasise the point. It was at this stage I woke up and comforted her. I have discovered that things which one expects to frighten kids don’t, and things they should laugh at, frightens them—go figure.

I felt better for my little nap, and I allowed three little girls to haul me through and into the shower—after divesting me of my night attire. They all stood outside the bathroom while I showered and then escorted me to the bedroom while I dressed.

“Me can see, Mummy’s boobs,” giggled Mima.

“A lady wouldn’t be looking,” I threw back, but it was lost on her although I had a bra on before anyone else could see them. Personally I thought they were rather nice extensions of my personality—or as Simon put it, showed I was quite pneumatic. I didn’t think they were that big but…

I dressed in jeans and a top; the top was red to give me some colour, and I dried my hair and pulled it into a ponytail. The next hour was spent playing with the girl’s hair; Meems had a ponytail, Trish a single plait and Livvie two pigtails. Trish read to us while I did the other two’s hair and Livvie while I did Trish’s plait. It was nice but I really didn’t feel up to much and listening to a child droning on, wasn’t made any easier by my fatigue. I was aware of the term post-viral fatigue, now I knew what it felt like. I could have slept on a clothesline.

I’m sure that as they get older their reading will improve. They manage to get their tongues around most words, but it’s read in a monotone. I know, they’re only five and these things take years to mature. Anyhow, I wasn’t up to improving them today. I let them get on with it.

I helped Stella serve a Salade Niçoise for lunch, I hoped I might be able to taste the tuna in it. If smothered in Branston pickle, it was half-edible. The children ate theirs and said they enjoyed it, so that was okay. I ended up on the sofa again and this time I really went off to sleep, waking at teatime when a cold jar of something was touched against my face. Simon was back and had ordered a meal to be sent up for later on. I was so ecstatic I nearly slept through his announcement, except he had touched a bottle of wine to my face, which made me jump and open my eyes. The girls thought it was very funny.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 729

The meal Simon had ordered was excellent, certainly better than the salad. I’d said nothing to Simon about that in case one of the chefs was executed or something. I had to be so careful there, the family held so much power—it must have been almost like an old-fashioned Lord of the Manor or even King, a word could destroy someone’s life or livelihood.

My taste buds weren’t quite back to normal, but the trout Simon had ordered was done to perfection, and the waiter who brought it offered to remove the bones, which we all accepted. How is it whenever I try to do it, I leave half of them behind?

The girls had small parcels of salmon instead of trout, and they wolfed them down in a most unladylike manner. I spoke with them about it afterwards, and they promised to eat more gracefully in future. However, the double ice cream sundaes they had as sweets were swallowed even quicker.

“That was nice,” said a well-stuffed Livvie.

“Hmm it was, thank you, Daddy,” agreed Trish. Mima said nothing but got off her chair and grabbing Simon, gave him a smacker on his cheek.

“Careful,” he said, “you’ll make my girlfriend jealous.”

I simply pouted at him before adding, “You should be so lucky,” and went back to talking with Stella about Puddin’—the baby not the dessert.

We sat talking at the table for a while, the girls asking and receiving permission to leave the table to go and watch some DVD Stella had organised. I was starting to feel the conversation was becoming distant and I’d not actually had any wine, and the next thing I knew, Simon was stroking my cheek. “Uh, what?” I jolted myself upright.

“You, my lady, were nodding off.”

“I was?” I looked at him, he smiled at me and I nodded, “I was.” A short time later I was undressed and in bed. I was asleep before the children went to theirs. I didn’t hear Simon come to bed, but I woke early about four or five, I couldn’t see the clock or my watch. I lay there for a while realising how tired this illness had made me. At the same time, I wanted to go home, back to Tom’s house or even Bristol. Yes, maybe I could do that, it has to be easier than going to Scotland and I’d like a chat sometime with Marguerite about one or two things.

I don’t know how long I was awake and lost in my own thoughts when I noticed Simon looking at me. “Good morning,” he said and I smiled back at him. “You were miles away, weren’t you?”

“Yes, sorry. How long have you been awake?”

“At least ten minutes.”

“Sorry.”

“Don’t apologise, I enjoyed the view.”

“What?”

“Watching the most beautiful woman in the world, who has captured my heart and soul, just being beautiful.”

“Simon, you are an old romantic, but even I am not persuaded by that sort of flannel.”

“I was telling the truth, but it’s only my opinion, of course.”

“I believe you think you were, for which thank you, kind Sir.” I leaned over and kissed him.

“I believe I was, too,” he put his arms around me and pulled me on top of him. He kissed me gently and with love. “Technically, there may be more beautiful women or ones with better figures, or with more seductive skills…”

“What’s wrong with mine?” I pouted at him.

“Nothing, you didn’t let me finish…”

“Sorry…”

“See, you’re interrupting again.”

“Sorry.”

He placed a finger against my lips and I kissed it. “What I was trying to say is that, in my opinion, you are the most beautiful woman in all the world, and the one I love.”

“Can, I speak now?” I asked, trying to hide the tear I felt filling my eyes. I lay with my head resting on his chest, and could feel his chin on the top of my head.

“Yes,” he said and I could feel his jaw move against the crown of my head and his chest resonated with his voice.

“I quite like you, too.” Then I snorted, which spoiled the whole moment and we both began to laugh. I also had to wipe my nose, which the errant tears had caused to… I know, too much detail.

“I want to go home,” I said after we’d lain for some time in silence, me just listening to his heart beating.

“Is that wise, the press could still find you?”

“I mean, Bristol. I could take the girls, maybe even take Stella as well. Between us we’d cope.”

“I don’t know, you looked very tired last night.”

“I’ll get stronger with each day.”

“I expect you will, but that doesn’t mean I’m either happy or approving of it.”

“I’m still an independent; you know. I haven’t succumbed to ‘love, honour and obey’, just yet.”

“I shall insist upon it,” he said but the laughter in his voice said otherwise.

“So shall I, but on your part.”

“Like hell,” he asserted and rolled me off him and then he climbed on top of me. “I think I need to show someone who is boss here.”

“Get off, Simon, you’re too heavy.”

“Once you give obeisance, I will.”

“Bollocks,” I said and tightened my grip on his, “I think this puts me in a position to negotiate,” I said as twisted my wrist.

“You be careful what you’re doing down there.” His eyes watered a little.

“Never underestimate the power of women,” I said smiling.

“Just let go, will you?”

“When I hear the magic word.”

“What? Abracadabra?”

“No, you twit, the one which empowers me to make my own decisions and do as I wish.”

“What word is that?” he looked perplexed and I was pulling a little harder on my prize.

“Yes.”

“Yes?” he repeated.

“Okay, yes dear, or darling or what is it you usually call me, oh yes, Babes. Yes Babes, will do.”

“Yes Babes, just let go will you, it’s starting to hurt a bit.”

“Well, just think that all that wrinkly skin will have had a good stretch today.” I released my grip and he rolled off me, breathing heavily and looking down inside his pyjama trousers.

I got out of bed and went towards the bathroom, singing quietly, “I am strong, I am invincible, I am woman.” *

*I am Woman, Helen Reddy.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 730

After I returned from my shower, and Simon went in for his, it appeared I’d been forgiven for stretching his credibility. In actual fact, I hadn’t done anything to hurt him at all, most of it was in his head, and the fact that once I’d grabbed his nadgers, he pulled away thereby tormenting himself. I just held on to my prize.

Anyway, he isn’t singing soprano, so I presume he’s okay.

Breakfast became a big discussion, which was as heated as Tom’s porridge. I declared my desire to go up to Bristol for a few days. The girls were quite happy and Stella considered it as a possibility—new shops, and Bath isn’t far away—to come with me.

Simon thought I should stay where I was—bored out of my tiny brain—in the hotel. Tom mentioned Stanebury. Natch, the girls, at least the two who’ve been there were full of stories of the castle. Stella wasn’t too sure, it’s a long journey and she had memories of the fairly recent past. For the same reasons I was dead against it. Although I’d tried to put it out of my mind, I did some awful things in Scotland, and had awful things threatened against me and mine. I felt myself getting hot and bothered as Simon agreed with Tom, and offered to call Henry to see if it was possible.

“Don’t bother,” I said angrily. “I’m still an adult as far as I know, and single. I shall make my own decisions.”

“That isn’t in dispute,” Simon tried to rationalise, “it’s where you’ll be safest from the paparazzi.”

“Si, you weren’t there, you don’t know what we faced and what I never want to be reminded of again.”

“Fine, but the girls don’t seem to be similarly affected, are you girls?” Simon looked at them and they had no idea of what he meant. “You’re not scared to go to Grampa Henry’s castle?”

“Nooooo,” they chanted.

“Okay, fine, you take them and I’ll go and have a quiet time in Bristol mowing my lawn and washing the curtains. I’m sure it needs to be done.” Stella gave me a surprised look. It obviously wasn’t on her agenda.

“How can I take them, I’m working,” Simon used the excuse which men had used since time immemorial.

“Get a week off, then.”

“I can’t, not just like that.”

“Fine well don’t tell me what to do unless you can do better.” I rose from the table throwing my napkin down as I did so.

“Whit’s got into her?” I heard Tom ask as I walked from the room. No doubt Simon was going to say I had PMS or something similar. I went to the bedroom and began packing, I was going to Bristol and so were my three girls.

I had put most of our stuff in bags when Stella came in, “Oh, what are you doing?”

“What’s it look like?”

“You’re going then?”

“No, I just enjoy shoving things in bags, don’t come to close you may get packed.”

“Sarcasm doesn’t become you, Angel Woman.”

“Neither does male chauvinism, or acceding to it.”

“Oh, big bruv?”

“Yes, that fits him perfectly, big brother 1984 and all that. Don’t tell me you’re the thought police?”

“No, I just came to see where you were.”

“Feel free to come with me if you like, or even to come along afterwards.”

“Simon and Tom are not going to like this.”

“Tough, they don’t have a realistic alternative.”

“I take it Stanebury is too traumatic?”

“Stella, people died up there, some of them at my hands. Believe it or not, I actually prefer to live in peace and help people not kill them.”

“I realise that…”

“But what?”

“I beg your pardon?” she looked at me with a puzzled expression.

“There was a but coming, after you realised something.”

“Was there? Oh yeah, I know you had a torrid time up there but what you did you had to do. The authorities haven’t even asked you attend an inquest, have they?”

“Only because Henry hushed everything up.”

“He’s quite good at that?” She agreed.

I went into the girl’s room and began packing their stuff. Stella wandered off back to the dining room. A few minutes later, she reappeared. “One of Tom’s neighbours has just phoned him to ask why there was a crowd of people with cameras and video equipment outside his house.”

“What did he say?”

“He said you were recruiting for your next film.”

“Yeah sure, at this rate I’ll never get round to it.”

“So it’s Bristol then?”

“Looks like.”

“What if they track you down there?”

“I don’t know.”

“Nor me, so I’d better come, too.”

“Oh thanks, Stella,” we hugged.

“You didn’t think I’d abandon my little sis, did you?”

“Not unless the shops in Bath were open.”

“Damn, you read my mind didn’t you?”

“Yep, didn’t take long,” I snorted.

“You cheeky cow, Cathy Watts.”

“Best get a moo-ve on if you’re coming with me.”

“I’ll follow you up in my own car.

“Okay, I have to pack the bikes up anyway.” I walked out to the dining room. “Girls go and pack up your toys, please.”

“So you’re going then?” Simon looked irritated.

“Was it ever in doubt?”

“Dunno,” Simon shrugged. “You realise that I’m not in favour.”

“Simon, get real. You neither own nor control me. I’m a free spirit, and until you recognise that, I’ll not wear your wedding ring, no matter how much I love you.”

“I do recognise that, I’ve always allowed you to do anything you really wanted to.”

“You allowed me? You arrogant Scottish turnip, I do what I want, when I want and with whom I want. When you realise what that actually means, give me a ring—until then, keep oot’a ma way!” I pushed past him and out of the suite.

“Bloody hell,” I heard Simon say, “the bitch.”

“I think you asked for that,” said Stella’s voice as the door slammed shut behind me. I walked briskly down to the lifts, trying not to cry. Simon had really hurt me, but he must never know just how much.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 731

We arrived at my house in Bristol after a pit stop for fuel and some groceries, we’d need milk and bread and some fruit and veg, some meat, fish, drinks, pasta, rice, yoghurts, biscuits, chocolate, ice cream and toilet rolls. Just a small shop, I nearly fell over when the bill came to over fifty pounds although we got discount on the fuel, so it sort of worked out not too bad.

Then, while the girls played out in the garden, I unloaded the car—stowing food in the kitchen and bikes in the garage. Least, I think that’s what I did: if I find a bike in the fridge, I’ll know where to look for the food. I laughed out loud as I recalled a old joke, about the old lady who got on the bus and her friend said to her, “Why have you got a suppository in your ear?”

“Damn,” said the old lady, “but now I know where I put my hearing aid.” Well I thought it was funny. I shut the garage door and locked it. The car was locked and after going through it, the front door was shut and I could finally make a cuppa and relax for a few moments.

No sooner had I done so than two of the girls came in demanding drinks. They were red as beetroot and puffing—“Goodness, two red Indians,” I said, “How,” I held my palm upwards and vertical.

“How what, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“It’s what red Indians say.”

“What is?”

“How?” I repeated.

“But, how what, Mummy?” said a frustrated, red-faced five year old.

“You got the drinks yet, Trish?” called Livvie from the garden.

“Mummy, thinks we’s wed Indians,” said Mima loudly.

“Red Indians?” called the voice from the garden and moments later Livvie came in, equally red-faced.

“How,” I said and raised my hand again.

“How,” said Livvie and mimicked me.

“Who,” said Trish and raised her hand—then she burst out laughing and said giggling, “I’m a pink Indian, we say, who.”

“Twit hoo,” Mima joined in the insanity and pretended to flit about like an owl with a haemorrhoids. Then the other two became members of the owl clan and whooped about the kitchen until I yelled, “QUIET,” and shooed them out to the garden. I then made them a drink each and closed the back door to sit and drink my tea.

After lunchtime, Stella arrived with Puddin’ and I helped her unload, Stella that is rather than Pud—she’d already unloaded by the smell emanating from her lower regions. Stella took her off to change for a less smelly model while I made her a sandwich and some more tea.

“That feels better,” Stella rubbed her tummy, “what’s next, Watts?”

“How,” said Trish.

“How what?” asked Stella.

“Not what—how, it’s what red Indians say, Auntie Stella.”

“Of course, I suppose you’re big chief—sorry, big squaw, Itchy Knickers.” Well Trish’s face was a picture, shock, disbelief then it collapsed in laughter. She absolutely roared, of course Stella then had to name the other two. Meems became little squaw, Drinking Chocolate, and Livvie, big squaw, Wunda Bra.

I had to wipe the tea off my top and jeans, where I’d snorted it all over myself. Stella had kept a straight face throughout, or until the tribe went back out in the garden. Once Puddin’ had been put down for a snooze, we went out to see if the three squalls had blown over the neighbours or scalped anyone. They hadn’t and were beginning to show signs of boredom. Spotting some long bamboo sticks, which must have in the garden for several years, I had an idea. I went into the garage and brought out an old tarpaulin Daddy had bought for something or other, and a ball of garden twine. Then after tying a few sticks together, and draping the tarp and threading some string though the holes in it, I cobbled together a makeshift tepee.

It was just big enough for the three of them to sit inside and hide from everyone, and once I found an old piece of carpet for them to sit on, the tribe spent the rest of the afternoon playing cards and board games in their new abode.

Stella was very impressed. “Obviously Girl Guide material,” she chuckled.

“Woulda been except I kinda failed the medical.”

“Oh gawd, of course, sorry; I keep forgetting.”

“I wish I could,” I sighed and began peeling potatoes for the evening meal.

“Don’t you, I mean, don’t you ever forget?” Stella sounded quite concerned and surprised.

“Oh yeah, I mean, I’m not thinking—I used to be a boy, all the time. It’s just that I didn’t have a girlhood, so when I think back to the years before I met you, my history is—well you know…”

“Why don’t you go and play with the other hell raisers, go and capture some of those lost years?”

“Thanks for the thought, Stel, but I think I’m too old to participate myself except vicariously. I shall have my girlhood watching these three growing up, and make sure that one of them doesn’t have the same inadequacies of personal history that I had.”

“You mean you want Trish to have some girlhood memories?”

“Exactly that.”

“Which is why Sam Rose got her billeted with you.”

“Yes, even I’m bright enough to work that out. In some ways, I hope it will fill some of the void, but I hope I’m grown up enough to make sure I don’t detract from her experience and enjoyment of it, in fulfilling my own needs.”

Stella hugged me, “Oh, Cathy, I really feel for you, a beautiful woman without a past, we’ll have to create one for you.”

“I think I’ll manage a bit longer, Stella, kind though your offer is, I’d like to keep my feet on the ground and my head firmly attached to them via my body. Living with my little delusions is quite enough for me, especially now the legal system humours us.”

She stood back and looked at me, “Delusions, legal system humouring you? What are you on about?”

“Can’t you work it out?”

“Are you trying to tell me that your appearing and living as a female is a delusion?”

“Sort of, I mean, it is and it isn’t.”

“Explain, please?”

“Oh it’s all old hat. Silk purse and sow’s ear syndrome.”

“Answer me honestly—do you think you made a mistake in changing over?”

“Good God, no.” How could she ask that, I was shocked.

“So what are you on about then? You’re a beautiful woman, who is looking after three lovely kids and engaged to one of the most eligible bachelors in the country. What is your problem?”

“I don’t know,” I dropped the potato peeler in the sink and ran through into the lounge where I collapsed onto the sofa and began to howl. A few minutes later, I felt Stella squeeze my shoulder.

“It’s okay, you are a beautiful woman—believe me, I’ve seen quite a few in my time, and you could stand up there with the best of them. Try and let go of the past, Cathy, enjoy the present and plan for the future. The past has gone, it’s nothing more than a few memories and those are only a few tiny electric charges between nerve cells. It doesn’t exist, just be yourself—the woman we all love and whom I’m so proud to call my sister.” She hugged me and I wept some more, this time in embarrassment. How could I be so ungrateful when I was probably one of the luckiest women alive—yes, woman. Stella was right, I needed to move on and enjoy what I had and plan for what I wanted, and with whom.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 732

“Potatoes,” I sniffed wiping my eyes and nose.

“Potatoes?” Stella queried.

“Yes, I need to get them on to cook.”

“Come on then, I’ll carry on doing them, you go and wash your face before the girls see you’ve been crying.” I came back down ten minutes later and she was putting the spuds on to boil.

“Thanks for doing that,” I said, she seemed to have mellowed since she had Puddin’, sadly I didn’t have the same opportunity, although I did have the three girls who had transformed my life.

“You’re welcome, what are you doing with them?”

“I’ve got some salad stuff and cooked ham, I thought I’d do new potatoes with butter.”

“Very good for the figure and cholesterol,” she said smiling.

“Stella, your figure has come back really well.”

“Yeah, well yours has never been away, s’not fair that you can eat what you like and stay slim, except where you want a bit of meat.”

“I’ve had to go up pretty well a whole cup size.”

“So? I haven’t heard Simon complaining. Nor you for that matter.”

“I didn’t say I was complaining,” I laughed thrusting my chest out at her.

“Put ’em away, Cathy, there’ll be enough fat on the cooked ham.” I decided that discretion was the better part of valour, and stopped my retort before it left my mouth.

I prepared the rest of the dinner while the spuds boiled, I felt quite at home in this kitchen nowadays, it was over a year since my mother had died and she’d only recently had it all refurbished. I know I could have had it done again, but I didn’t feel a need to stamp my name all over it, after all, I was the sole owner of it now.

“What happened to Des’ house, I wonder?” asked Stella.

“Um, you mean you didn’t hear?”

“No, I suppose he died before he changed his will. I was a bit disappointed that he hadn’t, and of course he didn’t know about Puddin’, did he?”

“I think Puddin’ will get something from it, when she’s older.”

“How do you know that?”

“A little birdie told me.”

“Who?”

“I can’t tell you that, it was given to me in confidence, but I was told that he’d left it for the children of the family.”

“I don’t believe you, your nose is growing…”

Even though I knew that was absurd I felt it all the same. “No it isn’t,” I threw back.

“You are lying, Cathy Watts.” She paused and then gave me a long hard look, “He left it to you, didn’t he?”

I went red and hot and spluttered, “I—I—can explain.”

“Judas,” she said and stormed off up to her room.

I felt my eyes fill with tears, I had meant to tell her yonks ago, but just how do you tell someone that the man they are intending to marry, says he loves you more? As Stella was in such a vulnerable state, I could hardly say anything, could I, nor was there a good time to break it—then it was all too late.

I went upstairs and knocked on her room, “Go away,” she called back.

“Stella, please I need to talk to you.”

“Go away, I have nothing to say to you.”

I pushed open the door, she was sitting on the bed her head in her hands. “I want you to listen and then if you still feel angry with me, that’s fair enough.”

“I don’t want to listen…” she sobbed, “I feel betrayed…”

“You weren’t, Des had a crush on me from day one. Why I don’t know?”

“You were prettier than me…”

“No I’m not. Anyway, he did and try as he would I wouldn’t accept his advances and for some reason that seemed to make me different.”

Different—ha, that’s a bloody laugh, isn’t it. Of course you’re different, you’re a bloody boy.”

Her comment cut through me like an arrow and I felt a combination of sick and hurt. “Yeah, that’s what I am, a bloody boy. Thanks for stating your real opinion of me, instead of all that bullshit earlier.” I walked out of her room closing the door behind me and went to my own room. I felt numb, it was worse than feeling hurt or angry. It felt as if the pain was so great that my body and mind couldn’t cope with it at all and so completely dissociated from any sensation. My immediate thought was to kill myself and be done with all this nonsense—how can anyone change sex, it’s absurd, not to mention impossible—how could I delude myself? Worse, how could I allow Trish to make the same stupid mistake?

I looked at my watch, it was nearly six, the girls needed feeding—well two girls and a boy. I washed my face yet again and went down to feed them.

“Are you okay, Mummy?” Trish asked.

What I wanted to say was—No, I’m bloody well not all right and don’t call me mummy, I’m not your bloody mother. What I actually vocalised was, “I’m all right, sweetheart, just got a bit of a headache.”

“Can we help make you better?”

“I think you already have, sweetheart. Wash your hands and you can lay the table.”

“Okay, Mummy, I know where it’s all kept.” She went off to the cloakroom to wash her paws.

“You bin cwyin’, Mummy?” said Meems as she hugged my leg, it was like having a sex-starved dog at times.

“Only with my headache, and that’s passing now.”

“I’s gwad, Mummy.”

“Yeah, so am I, darling. Come on, you can help me wash some lettuce.” I made her wash her hands too, and left her drowning an Iceberg.

“What can I do, Mummy?” Livvie presented herself.

“After you’ve washed your hands you can get some drinks for the three of you.” Which is what she did.

“Shall I lay a place for you and Auntie Stella, Mummy?” called Trish.

“Not just yet, sweetheart, we may eat later, she was feeling a bit off-colour as well.”

“Oh dear, poor Auntie Stella,” Trish quipped. I looked at her, she was as girlish as the other two, not exaggeratedly so. She looked and acted like a girl. Part of me remembered my rant to myself from earlier, provoked by Stella’s nastiness, yet it seemed so inappropriate. This child was a girl, pure and simple—despite what her biology might say, she was as much a girl as the other two. She also looked to me for protection, the world was going to be a mean and nasty place for someone who was different, and I had given my word to support her as much as I could as long as she was dependent upon me. I couldn’t go back on that, that would be dishonourable and a betrayal of trust on so many levels—it would have been unforgivable, in fact, unthinkable.

I had responsibilities which I had to honour, why should these three mites be disadvantaged because of a stupid spat between two silly women. Yes women. I cared not what Stella said, I was a woman—I accept, a somewhat vulnerable one, but her brother loved me, well until a day ago, and my children needed me, and they loved me without conditions. And as the tears streamed down my face, I knew I loved them too, as their foster mum.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 733

After their ice cream, the girls went out to play for a final hour. My parent’s house is in a cul-de-sac, so on the promise that they don’t leave it, they were free to ride their bikes around the road—on the pavement.

I made myself a sandwich and ate it with a cuppa. After this I made one for Stella and took it up on a tray with a small pot of tea. I knocked on her door, she didn’t answer so I went in. She was standing looking through the window at the girls as they played in the road beneath.

“I brought you a sandwich and some tea.” I placed the tray down on the top of a chest of drawers.

“I’m sorry I called you a boy,” she continued looking out of the window.

“You were upset.”

“Yes I was, but that was below the belt,” she turned to face me, “and still you feed me.”

“You’re a guest in my house.”

“I thought we were family—sisters?”

“Yes we are, but this is my house and oh Stella, I’m sorry I hadn’t told about the will before, but you weren’t well enough and then you had the baby and I just forgot. I really am sorry, and I hope it isn’t going to be a barrier between us, because if it is…I’ll give it to the local cat’s home or something.”

“You’ll do no such thing,” she snapped at me, then her look softened and she held out her arms—“Dear Cathy, I was hurt that Des loved you more than me and that he took me because he couldn’t have you.”

“I don’t think that’s true, Stella. If you remember he liked you at school.”

“Only because I let him have what he wanted. He was a love rat and I’m pleased you held out from him, you did more than I could.”

“You were a lovesick adolescent then, Stella. At least I was an adult when he tried it on.”

“An adult with six months experience of being a woman. Not bad going for a learner.”

“Ah, but with your tutelage, I learned very quickly.” I beamed a smile at her and she chuckled.

“Ironic, that I seemed to be able to teach you things I couldn’t do myself.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I taught you how to be able to say no, it seems I couldn’t and the consequences are behind you.” She was referring to Puddin’ who was gurgling in her carrycot in the corner behind me.

“She is beautiful, Stella and I’m insanely jealous of you.”

“But you have three lovely children, albeit pre-packed ones—although one will have some difficulties with life—but then you are an expert in that area.”

“I’m an expert in counting dormice, that’s it. I’m an amateur in looking after children, I’m making this up as I go along.”

“After I had insulted you—I really wanted to share my hurt with you, and questioning your sex always works, I’m sorry, but I was angry—I watched the girls playing in the garden and the road. They really are happy and well looked after, something only a mother could do. You’re that mother, so what I said was wrong, to be a mother you have to be a woman, to be a woman you have to be female. Quod Erat Demonstrandum.”

“I’m not sure of the logic of your argument, but I’ll accept your conclusion, because you’re my sister—my big sister, and I accept your word. I hope we can start again and try to work together on things.”

“I’m not upset that Des left you all his worldly goods, that was between him and you, it was your not telling me that was the hurtful thing. Then you explained why you hadn’t and I understand. At least, I think I understand.”

“I’ve let the cottage, and the rent is going into a fund which maintains the building and the surplus goes into trust fund for Puddin’, which she’ll get when she’s twenty five. The rental is five hundred a month, half of which is profit and goes into the fund. I pay a neighbour to keep an eye on it and to pop in and clean it as necessary. I do the same here, which is why it doesn’t look like Miss Haversham’s house.”

“Oh my God, what a thought. I just saw myself sat in a house wearing a wedding dress and waiting for Des, knowing he isn’t going to come, Ooh, someone walked over my grave.” She shuddered and went back to staring out the window. “Trish is every bit as much a girl as the other two, just as her proud foster mother is.” We hugged again and she sat and ate her sandwich.

After she’d finished and dabbed the crumbs from her mouth, “Thank you, Cathy, that was probably more than I deserve, but it was delicious.” I sat opposite her nursing Puddin’ who had cried to be picked up. She seemed happy to be in my arms and gurgled at me, grabbing at my earrings and ponytail. “You’re a natural mum, aren’t you? I have to work at it. You are so lucky that it comes so easy to you.”

I blushed and Puddin’ continued to coo and laugh in my arms. I tapped her back and bounced her very gently and up came a huge b-u-r-r-r-p. She laughed again at her own cleverness. “I thought she might have a bit of wind.”

“How did you know that? I’m her mother and I didn’t know it.”

“Dunno, she was making funny little noises and frowning every now and again—so it had to be teething or wind. I felt her gums, the first teeth are nearly there, but I didn’t think it was them—so it had to be wind.”

“Her first teeth? Show me,” Stella came over and I showed her how to feel Puddin’s gums. “Oh yes, I forgot all about those.”

“I reckon in a few days she’d have reminded you.” I passed the baby the teething ring I’d bought her weeks ago. She put it in her mouth and chewed on it.

“See, Pud, we’re lucky to have an expert on hand to tell us what to do.” Puddin’ chuckled at her mother and dribbled down the front of me. Just what I always wanted.

I handed the baby back to Stella, “Here we go, back to Mummy, I have to get my three street urchins in and bathed before bed.”

Accepting the baby back, Stella looked me in the eye and said, “Thanks for being so understanding and not thinking too badly of me for what I said.”

“Stella, if it wasn’t for you, I might not be here now with you and four wonderful children—I might be still in a bed-sitter wearing two or three creased and badly-laundered outfits, when I thought nobody would see me and still struggling to hide the me who was inside. I owe you a great deal.”

“Just listen to her, Puddy, this is the woman who has saved my life several times, and yours and most of the rest of the planet, and she says she owes me? I think she’s well in credit, don’t you?” Puddin’ chuckled at her mother’s question. “See, she agrees.”

Afterwards I rounded up the strays and dumped them in the bath, they take no notice of Trish’s anomaly, more interested in who had the rubber duck or the fish or the little boat. Those bath toys did cause some outbursts. Then a little snack, tooth cleaning and hair brushing and bed with a story.

At times it was chore, but in reality I loved story time, because it was special to me and the girls. Tonight, I made one up rather than read one, about Spike the dormouse and the day she rescued her babies when they were threatened by a nosy grass snake. Even if I say so myself, it turned out rather well and they seemed to hang on every word. Of course I made it a happy ending and they finally went off to sleep after giving me a kiss and a hug about nine o’clock.

Stella had fed and changed Puddin’ by this time and she had been put down for the night, so we shared a glass of wine and chatted. “I wonder what would have happened if it hadn’t rained that day?” she said.

“I don’t know, Stella, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have been chatting here with my big sister.”

“I don’t know, maybe it was your fate to be where you are now, so if I’d missed you the first time, we’d have had to rerun it until I did hit you.”

“Stella, at that rate most of Hampshire would have been flooded with a downpour like that every day.”

She laughed at my picture of the county après le deluge, “You know, I’m glad I did.”

“So am I, sister, so am I.” We drank to our shared fates and looked forward to the next day.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 734

The next day was Monday, and Stella and I decided to go shopping; the weather forecast was very mixed, and although temperatures on the Continent were soaring, they weren’t doing so here. Having said that, it wasn’t exactly cold, just miserable.

Between us we got the girls and ourselves ready to hit the shops of Brissle a little after nine. To do this we’d been slogging since just after seven. Puddin’ had been sick all over the first choice of clothes, then she pooed herself just as we were about to leave. I had to wash all my three’s hair—it must have been slightly damp when they went to bed—because it was standing up all over the place.

Finally, I got into the shower and the hot water went off, leaving me squealing like a banshee then afterwards, shivering because I needed to shower and wash my hair. It would certainly have put me off sex as hypothermia is wont to do. As Simon wasn’t in the vicinity, it was hardly an issue in any case.

The trip through the Bristol traffic jam was a real chore. Next time we’ll wait until well after nine and avoid it. We drove to the out of town shopping centre at Cribbs Causeway and spent most of the day there. It showered on and off all day, so we were hardly missing out on a trip to the beach.

I kept the girls quiet by allowing them to have one new item of clothing each but they had to decide what they wanted and it had to be no more than twenty five pounds. Then Stella spoiled things by saying she’d add another twenty five so they could have two items up to twenty five each or one for fifty.

She bought loads of stuff for Puddin’ and finally Trish decided she wanted the pink trainers she’d seen way back. They were going to use up her fifty pounds, but she seemed content with that. I promised we’d get them on the way back to the car.

Stella bought herself a new top and skirt in Monsoon which was delightful—a mix of pastel colours swirling around like huge paisley patterns. Meems wanted some boots, so we got her some and change from twenty five, so she was allowed a second go. Livvie wanted a dress and some leggings to go under it, she already had some boots she could wear with the outfit or some ballet type shoes.

I bought some red patent ballet shoes to wear with my own footless tights and coming out of the shoe shop Meems saw some shorts she liked, so we got those.

We had lunch at McDonalds, by popular request. We all had the chicken salad thing and some milk shakes. I know it’s all crap, but I think this was the first time I’d allowed the girls to visit one since they’d been with me. They thought it was wonderful, Stella and I were trying not to take too much notice and at least they had a high chair so Puddin’ had her bottle and a jar of baby-goo.

She’s been eating pureed food recently en route to having solids in the next week or two. I suggested doing some stuff in the blender for her; Stella wasn’t sure, leaving it to 57 varieties instead. I tasted a bit on my finger, it was tasteless. I know they have to avoid salt and so on, but it was just mustard coloured goo. In a short time it would probably be filling her nappy apparently without having changed colour but having a definite niff compared to the jar.

We did a few more shops, including one that does artists and craft materials, and I bought three sets of cross-stitch. I was going to teach the girls to sew while they were off school. The one I got for Mima was very basic, the other two had an animal or a bird. Livvie opted for a panda, while Trish decided she’d do one of a robin—European variety, whether it was of the British subspecies Erithacus rubecula melophilus, was anybody’s guess.

As I was paying for these items and one or two other things, I mused on an article I’d seen fairly recently which now classified the European robin as a member of the flycatchers, not the chat like thrushes, which was always where it had been situated before. Seeing one catching flies on the wing, I could easily believe it was correct, but then I’ve seen sparrows do the same, especially when the ants are swarming.

I presume this happens everywhere, if the temperature in summer gets to the right sort of levels, then ants will leave their nests as winged creatures and mate on the wing, the males I believe die off and the females go off to found their own colonies as queens. Huge numbers of them get eaten by birds and other insectivorous creatures, either when flying or when they land.

When you look up at the sky and see dozens of birds darting to and fro, it’s a very good sign that ants are swarming. The same weather lets spiders balloon. Several species do this, essentially what they do is let out a line of silk when they’re standing somewhere fairly exposed, and once the wind takes it, they let go and air currents carry them for miles. Loads of them get eaten by birds as well. Ballooning explains how you can find money spiders crawling about in your hair, it only works with small spiders, so a full sized garden spider ain’t gonna get off the ground, and if it did and landed on you, you’d soon notice.

Flying insects can be a right pain when cycling, and I nearly always wear some form of eye protection on the bike, because a moderate sized fly or beetle hitting you in the eye, could cause serious damage. I’ve also had butterflies caught up in my helmet, and on one hot day when riding with the zipper of my cycling shirt well open, had to clear out dead flies from my cleavage—only tiny little things, but I know, too much information. I won’t say why I try to keep my mouth shut while riding…

Back to the car and off towards home, as I was parking a small van arrived and a woman got out carrying a bunch of flowers, a rather large one. “Excuse me, are you Lady Cameron?”

“We both are,” I said indicating Stella and myself.

“Oh shit, ’ang on,” she went back to her van and got the clipboard. “Lady Cafferine Cameron.”

“That’s me.”

“’Ere,” she said handing me the bouquet, “Didn’t know we ’ad any nobs livin’ round ’ere. Learn somefin’ new every day.”

“Indeed you do,” I agreed, hoping she wouldn’t hear the sniggering from three minors who were getting out of the car with their treasures.

“Simon?” asked Stella as she picked up Puddin’ and some of her shopping.

I opened the card and said, “No, no it isn’t, it’s from Tom.” I showed her the card, which read:

‘Cathy dearest, I hope you’ll forgive my faux pas last week, when I suggested the trip to Scotland. On reflection, you were quite right to object and go home for a few days. I hope the weather and the shopping is favourable. I’ve sent the girls some money, hope it arrives safely. Do let me know. Daddy xxx.’

“Awww, he’s such a nice man,” said Stella when she read the card, “better than that fathead of a brother of mine.”

“I’m surprised he hasn’t been in touch,” I said, gathering up armloads of shopping, having put the flowers by the front door.

“He’s still licking his ego, I suspect if he was as supple as a dog or cat, he’d be licking something else in your absence.”

“Ugggh, Stella you are quite disgusting at times.”

“Well you know the old joke, why does a dog lick his, ahem, you know whats? Because he can.”

“Yes, Stella, I fell out of my pram laughing at that old one.”

“Land on your head, did you?—could explain a few things.” She roared with laughter at her own joke, also safe in the assurance that as she was carrying Puddin’ I wouldn’t thump her.

“When can we start sewing, Mummy?” Trish asked.

“Can I unload the car first?” I called back feeling that letting them carry all their stuff wasn’t necessarily the best option.

“I’m gonna try my clothes on,” said Livvie and rushed up to the bedroom.

“So’s me,” Mima dragged her bags up the stairs after her new sister.

“Aww, I wanna do some sewing, Mummy.”

I looked at my watch it was four o’clock. “I need a cuppa before I do anything. Then it’ll be time to get dinner, so I’d say after dinner might be a good time to ask. Why don’t you try your new trainers on?”

“I wore them out of the shop, Mummy,” she sighed.

I looked down at her feet, “Oh, so you did,” I said blushing.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 735

After dinner, the girls helped me arrange the flowers from Tom, we needed a couple of vases. Seeing them again reminded me of my mother—she loved flowers. Dad used to buy them quite often. I felt myself choke up a bit and distracted myself by offering the girls a biscuit.

I heard my mobile peep to suggest a text message had arrived. Leaving the girls I went to answer it. ‘Ok U win I srrnda, wl ordr sac clof n ashs. S xxx’

Won what? I mused. I wasn’t aware we were in some sort of competition unless he saw my distance as a punishment for his insensitivity. He was wrong as usual; nothing new there then—I’d left to avoid the intrusive reporters of the tabloid press. In some ways I was astonished they hadn’t traced me here. Anyway, the healing angel stuff was over, so hopefully they lose interest very quickly—they had the attention span of a dormouse, I know I’ve measured it—a little known paper which never got finished or submitted. I still have the data somewhere.

I called Tom and thanked him for the flooers, he was pleased they’d arrived. When I asked why he’d sent them to me as Lady C, he said he thought I was talking to the priest. That reminded me, I had promised myself I would if she were available.

“What has me talking to Marguerite got to do with calling me Lady Cameron?”

“Weel, I thoucht ye’d be talkin’ aboot yer big day, hen.”

After I translated, “I haven’t even thought about it. I might consider it in 2012 when the Olympics are on and thus distracting the press.”

“Och, ye’ll no want tae wait that lang.”

“Why not? I’m too busy to give it the time it needs to do properly.”

“Whit aboot yer lassies? They’d love tae be bridesmaids.”

“I’m not getting married for their sakes, when I do it, it’ll be for Simon and me. That we’ll have a better chance of adoption is secondary.”

“Sorry, but I dinna believe ye.”

That’s your problem, Daddy dearest, “I have to go, Daddy, talk to you soon, bye.” I was not going to be railroaded into marriage by anyone, especially someone who should know better.

I called Simon. “Hi, Babes, did you like my text?”

“Not particularly.”

“Why?”

“I didn’t understand it.”

“Geez, Cathy, I thought I was the dumb one.”

“You are, but what’s that got to do with my incomprehension of your text?”

“That bad, huh?”

“You’ve lost me, Simon.”

“Your understanding of my text.”

“I didn’t understand it. Since when have we been in competition?”

“We’re not.”

“So how could I win?”

“The argument, Babes, the argument.”

“Which one was this?”

“Cathy, have you lost your short term memory? Remember, you flounced off from the hotel because I agreed with Tom that you could take the girls up to Stanebury.”

“I did not flounce anywhere, I have never flounced anywhere.”

“What about that time when we were with Tim?”

I couldn’t remember, so I agreed to give him one flounce, but that was all. “Okay, apart from that, when have I ever flounced?”

“Yeah, okay, so it was a one-off.”

“Thank you. Now if you care to remember I said that I was going to come home and bring the girls with me. I had made up my mind before you two tried to make me change it.”

“Okay, so like I said, you won the argument.”

“Simon, there was no argument. I refused to discuss it, that isn’t an argument.”

“Are we leading up to the Monty Python argument sketch?”

“No we are not. I am trying to be serious and you are talking about Monty Python, for goodness sake, Simon, grow up will you?”

“Back to the sack cloth and ashes then…”

“When you have something sensible to say, give me a call. You know where I am.” I switched off the phone. “Bloody men, arrgh!” I felt better after the squeal.

“Is you alwight, Mummy?”

“Yes, darling, why?”

“You squeamed.”

“It was more of a squeal, but I’m fine, just dealing with an idiot blockhead.”

“What’s a bwockhead, Mummy?”

“Someone whose head is as thick as a block—a stupid person.”

“Who was da stupid people?”

“Your daddy, my Simon.”

“Daddy, not a bwockhead, he’s a nice man.”

“I know sweetheart, that’s what makes it even more painful. He can be the sweetest man on the planet, and also the dumbest. That’s men for you, I certainly don’t understand them.”

“What did he do this time?” asked Stella as she came down from dealing with Puddin’.

I showed her the text. “I called him and told him I didn’t understand and he accused me of flouncing off from Southsea.”

“I suppose flounce does mean to move off angrily, but I always associate it with petulance, in which case he does it more than you.”

“Oh, I thought I was the petulant one,” I sighed.

“We don’t have any pets, Mummy.”

“Pets, Mima?”

“You said you had a pet, Mummy.”

I looked at Stella and she turned away to avoid laughing.

“No I used a word that sounded like pet, but it doesn’t mean a dog or cat.”

“Siwwy, Mummy,” she said and flounced off.

“Now that was flouncing,” Stella and I said together and laughed.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 736

I phoned Marguerite that evening, and much to my delight she was in and actually remembered who I was. I hadn’t spoken to her for more than a year, so it was rather nice to talk again.

“I’m astonished that you remember me,” I said glowing.

“To be brutally honest, Cathy, I don’t have that many transsexual aristocrats to confuse you with.”

“I suppose not.”

“Sorry to disillusion you, but I’d rather be honest, though honesty in your mind would mean I was still selling deception and fairy tales, wouldn’t it?”

“Depends on your motives, in your case I’d give you the benefit of the doubt.”

“Where’s the fearless scientist I met last time? That answer was based on pure emotion, because you don’t want to upset me in case I refuse to marry you, or is that why you’re calling you’ve already got someone else to do it?”

“No I’d still very much like you to do it, but that isn’t why I’m calling.”

=+=+=+=

The next morning I arrived at the vicarage with Trish and Livvie, they were introduced to Marguerite’s children and happily went off to play together in the garden. I had a change of clothing with us in the car if it became necessary. Marguerite and I wandered down to the church.

“What was it you wanted to discuss?” she asked me as we settled in the seats at the back of the church.

“Do you believe people can heal each other?” I asked her.

“Of course, doctors and nurses plus loads of other health professionals do it all the time.”

“No I meant heal, not treat.”

“Sort of spiritual healing?”

“Yeah, but I’m not spiritual, am I?”

“You do talk yourself down, don’t you?” She paused and looked at me, “You have the gift, don’t you?”

“I think so, no, yes I do, but I think curse could be a better descriptor.”

“Oh, and why is that?”

“Well to start with, look at the guy you worship, didn’t do him a lot of good did it?”

“I take it you mean Jesus?”

“Yes.”

“He was cursed insofar as he was prophesied to die.”

“We’re all going to die, Marguerite.”

“Ah, but some will live again through the efforts of the Master.”

“Sorry, I don’t believe that.”

“That’s your prerogative.”

“Yes I know, and sometimes I feel a fraud asking you to marry me because of it.”

“At least you’re an honest agnostic, Cathy, many aren’t and so far we only have got as far as outline planning permission; I’m still waiting to meet Simon and get some more detail—such as a date and where you want to marry.”

“I’ll get back to you on that, Marguerite, but for the moment I’d like to talk about this healing business.”

“Okay, so who have you healed?”

“Several people, ranging from one of the girls you see with me, to my sister-in-law to be, premature child and two very sick people, plus one I couldn’t save.”

“Why do you think you healed them, was this a conscious thing?”

“Not at first, I healed two of the girls I look after, my foster children—I didn’t realise it was me, they just got better. Then when I went to see Stella’s baby, she had post-natal depression, big time; others said she perked up when I went to see her, which I thought was just her feeling better for someone loving her.”

“Which I’m sure is also true,” Marguerite said, nodding to emphasise the point.

“Yeah, well that’s what I thought until one day I had Trish with me, and she saw a blue light moving from me to the baby.”

“Okay, so is she an imaginative child?”

“Yes, but she’s also extremely honest, so if she said she saw it, she saw it.”

“I see, continue.”

“Well the baby got better, then others seemed to get better if I was near and a doctor asked me to try on a child who was going to die.”

“His medicine wasn’t good enough, so he called on our agnostic saint?”

“He’d done all he could and it still wasn’t working. I owed him dozens of favours, so I agreed to help. Instead of dying, the child went home a day or two later, apparently well.”

“You mentioned one who didn’t.”

“Yes, I knew what was wrong with him before the doctors told me, and I thought I’d done what was required, sadly it wasn’t and he died. It was quite a shock.”

“Yes, maybe it happened to stop you becoming arrogant or even complacent about your gift.”

“I hadn’t thought of it like that, but why not punish me, not some poor kid who wasn’t involved except as a victim.”

“It might have been his time to go.”

“You don’t honestly believe all that sort of stuff, do you?”

“Stranger things have happened.”

I gave her an old-fashioned look, that was a cop out if ever there was one. “Since then, I’ve given it my all when I try to heal.”

“Why was that, there’s something you’re not telling me?”

“Okay, one of my foster kids, the youngest one, Mima, drowned and was pronounced dead at the scene by the paramedics. I refused to accept it and just blasted her with energy and love, and did CPR. She revived.”

“I’m really glad, so you raise the dead as well?”

“No, I don’t think so, I believe that small children can survive for periods without oxygen, they go into a sort of torpor from which they can be resuscitated.”

“You don’t think the paramedics could know more about this than you?”

“Usually yes, but not that day. I knew I had to save her.”

“And you pushed love and healing into her?”

“Yes.”

“There’s your answer, love is a wonderful power, it can do many wonderful things, including save lives.”

“Okay, so that might be the answer there, what about the others? I didn’t love them.”

“Didn’t you? Didn’t Jesus tell us to love one another as ourselves?”

“Probably, but it seems wasted on Christians.”

“Nothing is wasted which comes from God.”

“I think I might disagree with that statement.”

“Your prerogative.”

I explained my theory of healing which she accepted as a possible explanation of the method, not the reason. “What do you mean, reason?”

“So you whack electromagnetic energy into a sick body through some sort of energy gradient, and they get better? That’s the how, what’s the why?”

“I dunno, because it’s what I want to happen?”

“Ah, so it’s all an ego trip is it?”

“No, that isn’t what I mean. If I have control of the power, then don’t I decide on who to use it?”

“Cathy, I hate to say it but you’re beginning to sound god-like, and I don’t like it very much.”

“I didn’t mean it to come out like that. I’m sorry.”

“That’s okay, I didn’t for a moment think you’d meant it that way. Look if this mysterious power is so good, would you give me a demonstration of it.”

“What do you mean?”

“I have someone who is much in need of it and even if it doesn’t restore her to health, if it works at all, could help to ease her passing.”

“I don’t know, I mean…”

“Come and meet her and see what you think, if you don’t want to do it, that’s fine.” She took my hand and led me out of the church and towards the village. “I was promised a miracle, maybe you’re it.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 737

“Marguerite, what do you mean, you were promised a miracle?”

We walked on through the churchyard, and down the road perhaps fifty yards when she turned into a garden path leading up to a thatched cottage. The thatch was beginning to need replacing and the garden had seen better days. I suspected it might be occupied by someone elderly. “A few weeks ago, I had a dream,” she said pausing in the gateway of the cottage. “I was being challenged on my right to continue my incumbency here by a panel of churchwardens. They were saying that I was too liberal and easy going and that they wanted to replace me with a happy-clappy evangelical priest.”

“I can’t believe that, this place looks far too sleepy for one of those.”

“Well, this was a dream and I asked for a few moments to pray before I responded. They were astonished but agreed. I went into a side room and prayed asking for help. A voice inside my head told me to fight my corner harder and that if they needed proof of my suitability, a sign would be provided. You are that sign.”

“Hang on a minute, this sounds like some deep internal conflict you have, so don’t confuse it with outer realities. And don’t expect too much for Gladys.”

“How do you know her name?” she challenged.

“You told me,” I wasn’t sure if she had or not.

“I most certainly didn’t. In fact I wasn’t going to tell you until I introduced you.”

“Must have been a guess then, I’m not sure I can do much for her breast cancer, though.”

Marguerite’s eyes widened, “How did you know it was breast cancer?”

“I don’t, it was just a guess.”

“Cathy, I don’t know what to say, but I feel more confident about this than I did before.”

“You realise, it’s the lesion in her lung which is the dangerous one.”

“What lesion?”

“She has a secondary in her lung.”

“I don’t think the doctors have spotted that.”

“They think that eighty seven is too old to bother, except to keep her comfortable.”

“I haven’t told you her age, Cathy, you really are special. I hope you can help her.”

“How do you know I’m not from the devil?”

“Because I know you.”

“That is a purely emotional judgement. You only know what I told you. I could be anything or anyone. I might not even be transsexual, that might be just a story I sold you to make myself seem more vulnerable and get through your defences, then today I come for the coup de grace and steal someone’s soul.”

“Cathy, you’re frightening me.”

“Where’s your faith now?”

“My faith is strong, but I don’t think I like your sense of humour.”

“Show me the lady. If I agree to help her, assuming whatever it is that comes through me, manifests itself, don’t ask me to do it again. I don’t ever intend to do this again.”

“That’s your business, Cathy, but not using a gift given by God…”

“I don’t believe all that, any more than I believe in a devil, it’s all myth and nonsense. The only evil on this planet comes from the hearts of men.”

“Shall we go in?” Marguerite stepped over the threshold and into the house. I followed her in. It was dark in the front hallway, and she led me through a door on the right. Inside a room which had wainscoting halfway up its walls and thus didn’t help the light situation—the windows were tiny and the walls several feet thick.

“Hello, Bernard, I’ve brought someone to see Gladys. How is she today?”

“Not good, she’s getting a little chest pain.”

“What on breathing?” asked Marguerite.

“Yeah, I s’pose it’s the breast hurting.”

“Could be I suppose,” Marguerite agreed, then added, “have they checked her lungs?”

“Not as far as I knows, why?”

“I wondered if it could be coming from there, that’s all.” Marguerite introduced me.

I felt a sense of urgency in seeing the woman. “I have to get back Marguerite, can we meet Gladys?”

“Course, you know where she is, I’ll put the kettle on,” said Bernard and he went out to the kitchen.

I steered Marguerite into the bedroom which had once been a dining room. She tried to make me go into another room as if testing me, but I knew where she was. I could smell the cancer—I’d never done so before, but I’ve heard tell it has a peculiar odour.

“Gladys this is…”

“I know who it is,” she croaked, “I’m ready to go.”

“Go where?” asked Marguerite.

“To die, to meet my maker. Why else did you bring the angel of death with you?”

“Gladys, this is Cathy Watts, soon to be Lady Cameron when she marries Lord Simon Cameron. Why on earth did you think she was someone coming to harm you? In fact it’s quite the opposite she’s come to…”

“Please, Marguerite, just be quiet, I’d like to concentrate if I may.”

Sorry, was whispered back and I glared at her. After my withering stare, I turned my gaze upon Gladys. She was very old and in poor health, I didn’t think I’d be able to do much for her.

“I’m Cathy,” I said reaching out my hand to her.

“Pleased to meet you, your ladyship.”

“Let’s not dwell on ceremony,” I said and she took my hand. Hers was icy and I felt a cold jolt through my whole body. Then a rush of energy down my arm, which got very hot then cold. The old lady gasped and closed her eyes. For a moment I thought she was dead.

The energy continued pulsing down my arm. For a moment I felt a tightness in my chest and difficulty in breathing, then it got very warm in the room and the pain in my chest went. Her hand slipped out of mine and fell onto her lap.

I stepped back. “Is she going to be okay?” asked Marguerite.

“I don’t honestly know.” I shrugged and turned to leave.

“I’ll be fine,” came a voice from the bed. “I’m going to die, I know that. I’ve got lung cancer haven’t I, Cathy?”

“I think so. I’m sorry.”

“That’s all right, you showed me something I never thought I’d see.” The old lady seemed brighter than when we’d entered the room. “I saw heaven, and it was a beautiful garden with birds singing and flowers in bloom. I saw the sun shining and children were playing, the one I lost, she was stillborn is now a little girl, we called her Emily, she was dancing around a maypole and said she’d wait for me. Thank you, my dear for showing me this, now I’m no longer afeared of dying. In fact, I’m quite looking forward to it and maybe I won’t be a useless old woman, no more.”

“But…but, Cathy…I brought Cathy here to heal you,” stuttered Marguerite, “What’s gone wrong?”

“Nothin’ my dear,” said the old lady, “I’ve had me time, Marguerite, “and now I’m quite happy to go with my Emily. It don’t scare me no more. I mean if a baby ain’t scared, how can I be?” she smiled serenely. “I told you she was the angel of death, but what a nice gift she brung me. Thank you, my dear.” She beamed at me and laying back complained at how tired she was.

We took our leave before Bernard could bring through the tea. I just wanted out, the whole experience left me feeling—I don’t know—but it felt sordid. “Sorry, you didn’t get your miracle,” I said as we walked briskly back to the vicarage.

“Didn’t I? Are you the angel of death?”

“Me? No, just some poor confused aristocrat’s girlfriend, and struggling foster mother.”

“You knew she wasn’t going to get any better, didn’t you?”

“The house reeked of death and cancer. He’s got it too, but he doesn’t know it, in the colon. He’ll be with her and their little girl, within six months.”

“Cathy, I must tell him.”

“You can’t, he’s too busy looking after her, and besides it’s too late. Make him an invalid and she’ll end up in the hospital for her last days, let him care for her, it will help him deal with his grief. He won’t suffer with his illness and it will be very brief.”

“How do you know this?”

“I don’t, well, okay, I do, but I can’t tell you how or why.”

“It’s fascinating, if a little frightening.”

“Who’s Pattie?”

“My youngest, why? Oh God, Cathy, what’s wrong with her?”

“She had a blemish on the side of her face.”

“Had, she still has, a port-wine stain, she’s very conscious of it.”

“Had. I must collect my two and go.”

We walked—well I walked, Marguerite ran and practically smashed the door down. She called urgently for Pattie, who appeared and her mother grabbed her and examined her face. She screamed and hugged the child to her. My two appeared to see what had happened. I beckoned them and they got their backpacks and we stole away.

“Why did that lady scream, Mummy?” Trish asked.

“I think she got something she wanted but wasn’t expecting.”

“Oh, was that to do with your blue light, I thought I saw some?”

“Maybe, sweetheart, just maybe.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 738

“How did it go? Do I have to buy a new hat?” Stella asked on our arrival back at my house.

“New hat? What on earth for? You rarely wear hats,” I was completely at a loss to understand what she was talking about.

“For your wedding—have you set a date?”

“Weddings? Dates? No I went to talk to her about the healing business.”

“Oh. Okay, what did she make of it?”

“She was disappointingly traditionalist and even tried to suggest that she had been told of a sign she would receive. I was apparently that sign.”

“That must be a disappointment.”

“What must?”

“Expecting a sign and you turn up.” She sniggered at her own joke.

“She as good as asked for a demonstration.”

“She did what?” Stella looked shocked.

“She took me to meet an elderly couple. She’s got advanced breast cancer with secondaries in the lung and he’s got an undiagnosed colon cancer. He knows nothing about it, she now knows everything and is preparing to die.”

“You told her?” Stella looked even more shocked.

“No, we held hands and she sort of went into a trance and saw what she needed to see to enable her to die without fear.”

“I think I might like some of that.”

“Stella, you should live for at least another fifty or sixty years.”

“Okay, give me some of it then.”

“I would most likely be dead myself. All these oestrogens by then will have had some effect upon my physiology.”

“I think they’ve had a remarkable effect already, one of which I know Simon heartily approves.”

“I mean less desirable ones, like cancer or heart disease or something like that.”

“You can always stop taking them in your fifties, and have a sort of menopause.”

“No thanks, I’ll take my chances and keep my boobs.”

“You could always get implants.”

“What hormone ones?”

“That wasn’t what I meant, although you could do that, I was meaning breast implants.”

“Not at the moment, thank you. I prefer the organic ones, you know, grow your own variety.”

“But surely if you decided which size of implant you had, wouldn’t that be, pick your own?”

“Stella, that was dreadful.”

“Yeah, but it made you laugh, didn’t it.” I had to agree it had, especially as she had witnessed said chortle. “So what else happened?”

“Not a lot, as we were walking back to the house, I asked her if her daughter had a problem.”

“And?”

“She had a mark on her face, a port-wine stain.”

“A haemangioma you mean?”

“Do I? If you say so; anyway, I knew that it had cleared.”

“Wow, she’ll love you.”

“Why, did I do something wrong?”

“No way, au contraire it will save her loads of embarrassment in later life. Why did you do that and not save the old couple? Was it easier?”

“Stella, I have no control of what the energy does. I’m just a facilitator, I get it there, it does its own thing. I didn’t even meet the girl, let alone notice she had a red mark on her face. I had nothing to do with the old couple, except actually meet them. I took them the energy, they or it decided how it would work out, not me.”

“So maybe it happened, the child thing, I mean, just to give Marguerite her sign, quite a distinct one.”

“Yeah, that was all I could think.” I agreed and put the kettle on.

“Maybe she influenced it?”

“Could be, it wasn’t me, not consciously at any rate, although, I would certainly have sympathies with any child with a red mark on their face.”

“Especially a little girl, you mean, as the mother of three girls?”

“Maybe, I don’t know—I mean I wouldn’t want to see a boy with a mark on his face either.”

“But isn’t it more important for a girl to be seen as pretty or beautiful and flawless than a boy?” Stella was getting very stereotyped.

“No, what about Trish and me?”

“Oh, I was counting you two as females.”

“Okay, what about Simon? Wouldn’t he find it embarrassing to have to deal with a facial anomaly or blemish?”

“He wouldn’t be half as embarrassed as I would,” Stella almost cringed.

“I think he would and it would sadly reduce his success in the marriage stakes.”

“Not as much as yours or mine, we’d be much more affected.”

“What about seeing the inner beauty? Isn’t that what it’s all supposed to be about? You encouraged Simon to do so with me when he first found out.”

“That was different, your anomaly was correctable.”

“Oh come on, Stella, mine was an anomaly, it was ten levels above a mere mark on the face.”

“I don’t think so, it wasn’t obvious without looking under the wraps.”

“Okay, so I could disguise it, but it had legal implications not to mention those of provision of heirs and so on.”

“The issue of issue?” she said laughing.

“Stella, I’m trying to be serious.”

“Sorry, Cathy, I find all of this a wee bit tedious.”

“What the healing stuff?”

“No, this examining to the nth degree anything to do with your femaleness or lack of it. You’re female now, accept it and move on. You making tea or what?”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 739

We’d eaten and I was loading the dishwasher when the phone rang. I called to Stella to answer it, but she had her hands full with Puddin’ and so Trish took the call.

“I’ll see if she can come to the phone, hold on please.” I’d just pressed the switch when she said to me, “That lady we saw this morning is on the phone. She’d like to talk to you.”

“Okay, thank you, sweetheart,” I took the phone. “Hello, Cathy Watts.”

“Hello, Cathy, I’m glad you all got back in one piece.”

“Thanks for that, how’s Pattie?”

“That was what I wanted to talk about.”

A sudden chill swept through me, she wasn’t marked again or worse, was she? “Oh, please carry on.”

“You left so suddenly, I didn’t get a chance to thank you.”

“I did nothing.”

“So you keep saying. I know it was God’s work…”

“I’m not convinced of that either.”

“So you keep saying, as well.”

“Sorry to sound repetitive but it’s what I believe—science not superstition.”

“I’m a scientist too, if you remember, but I can’t explain what has happened in scientific terms. So I use those of my faith, and to my mind that means I have to describe it in terms of a minor miracle. I’d have preferred you had healed my two parishioners, but you gave me the sign that I so badly needed and Pattie is overjoyed.”

“I don’t believe in miracles either, Marguerite, they’re just natural events we can’t explain.”

“So how do you suggest I describe my child losing a facial mark which has tormented her all her life, and which current medical science couldn’t remove?”

“I can’t tell how it worked, why it worked or where it worked. I don’t know, but I don’t think any gods were involved any more than I believe I can actually control it. I seem to act like an aerial for it and it happens around me.”

“So you channel it?”

“That implies some element of control or more mumbo-jumbo, I don’t channel anything, I’m just a conduction device, the energy seems to recognise what it has to do and does it. It’s almost self-focusing.”

“That’s the hand of God directing it?”

“I can’t accept that, as you well know, why couldn’t it just be an energy gradient thing, it works for some things?”

“Are you trying to tell me that it sought my daughter out because she had a low energy store?”

“Why not?”

“Why did it come to her and not to the elderly couple?”

“I don’t know, you wanted a sign, maybe it came through your focus, not mine?”

“How could I have done that?”

“I don’t know if you did or not, but it works as well as your God theory.”

“I don’t accept that, Cathy. My faith shows me a mechanism which would work perfectly every time.”

“If that was the case, why do bad things happen? Where’s your God then? Where was he when my mother died or my father had his stroke? He isn’t there, Marguerite and nothing you say is likely to convince me otherwise. Unless of course we get a real miracle like the US Republican party voting for healthcare reform or NATO and the Taliban in peace talks about developing an infrastructure in Afghanistan. Now that would make me reassess things.”

“God can’t be everywhere…”

“Oh, sorry, I thought he was ubiquitous and omnipotent in your model.”

“He showed himself as vulnerable in Jesus.”

“He’d have a got a lot more followers if he’d zapped the Romans a couple of times.”

“He gave us free will, and His only Son as a sacrifice for our sins.”

“Please, Marguerite, you know as well as I do that there is no evidence to support any of that.”

“It’s written in the Holy Scriptures.”

“So is Sara conceiving when she was about seventy and going full term without any problems.”

“Women of that age conceive nowadays and deliver babies.”

“Only with in vitro assistance and professional help with the delivery.”

“They had midwives and physicians in those days.”

“Most of whom believed in magic and superstition.”

“Do you have evidence of that?” she challenged me; miffed I suppose from my challenge on her earlier.

“Yes, the Egyptian Book of the Dead and various other magical books they’ve found and translated.”

“They’ve found ancient texts describing the resurrection as well.”

“Funny that half of them don’t get into the Bible, isn’t it. Gospel of Thomas, Mary Magdalene, Book of Enoch…”

“They were left out by the Early Christian Fathers, with good reason.”

“What, they didn’t meet their political view of Christianity; what about Hypatia, the philosopher and teacher in Alexandria who was killed by a Christian mob?”

“Isn’t the evidence there a bit sticky?”

“No more than the Bible, and we know she existed from contemporary accounts. There aren’t any for Jesus, are there?”

“I’m sure there are, we just haven’t found them.”

“Sure. Look I’m sorry Marguerite, I’m not trying to undermine your beliefs, but I suspect our opinions are irreconcilable.”

“It would look that way. Does this mean you no longer want me to marry you?”

“Not necessarily, but I suspect you might not want to on account of my unbeliever status.”

“Oh might I, now? If that was the case, I’d marry very few people.”

“Don’t most of them keep it quiet and pretend at least until they’ve signed the register.”

“Usually yes, that’s where you’re so refreshing, Cathy, you’re honest to a fault. Whilst I know you’d hate to be described as Christian, in behaviour, you are one of the most Christian people I know.”

“I think you’re mixing me up with someone else—I have to go, the girls are calling me for something. Bye.” I put the phone down before she could elaborate on my character—my refutation could have upset her, and I might still want to be wed in that church.

“Mummy, come quickly Livvie’s fallen off her bike…”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 740

I followed Trish out into the road where Livvie was lying on the ground and crying quite loudly. “Grab the bike,” I told Trish and bent down to pick up the distressed child. “C’mon, sweetheart, let’s get you inside.” I hugged her to me and did a quick assessment as I carried her home. She’d skinned her knee and probably an elbow. The hand which held on to me had some grazed knuckles. Hopefully it was all just superficial damage and would be a bit sore for a day or two. I’ve fallen off bikes myself, most recently with the help of the Subaru, it bloody hurts.

She sobbed until I got her indoors and Stella came to see what the fuss was about. I bathed the wounds with clean, cold water and sprayed some povidone iodine powder on them. It was cold but it doesn’t sting and is a useful topical antiseptic. She dried her eyes and I checked her out for any deeper damage, she limped about a bit, but that wasn’t due to broken bones and she walked nearly normally when I suggested some ice creams.

“I’ve got all this to come,” sighed Stella.

“Yep,” I smiled back to her, “it’s such good fun.”

“They ought to come with puncture repair kits,” she mused as I cleared up the mess from my first aiding.

“Why? Bikes don’t.”

“Nah, I suppose not, even if they did, I wouldn’t be able to fix them.”

“What?”

“I can’t fix a puncture.” She shrugged and drove her hands into her trouser pockets.

“Want me to show you?” I offered.

“Why? I’ve got you and Simon to do it, if ever I ride a bike again.”

“It would be a pity not to ride that bike of yours, it’s very nice.”

“Not really my thing, is it?”

“I don’t know, you seemed to enjoy it when we rode around the downs.”

“Oh yeah, it was such good fun, you nearly bled to death and Simon was in danger of being prosecuted for trying to make someone swallow his bike.”

“I think he had grounds for feeling a tad upset about things.”

“Cathy, always dependable for the understatement of the century.” She sniggered at me. “Where’s the walking wounded?”

“Watching the telly by the sound of it.” I nodded towards the lounge. “I think I’d rather make programmes than watch them.”

“Watch out Attenborough, Watts is coming.” Stella nearly fell over laughing.

“He was very complimentary about my dormouse effort,” I beamed.

“Well he’d have to be wouldn’t he, I mean as the elder statesman of natural history broadcasting, it behoves him to say nice things about his competitors.”

“I suppose so, but he was quite specific about enjoying my producing and writing the programme as much as my presentation skills.”

“Yeah, okay, you’ve shown the write-up several times.” Stella rolled her eyes, “If she isn’t questioning her femininity, she’s bragging about her presentation skills. There’s no half measures with you is there?”

“Nope, I’m a Sagittarian, what you see is what you get.”

“So why the questioning?”

“About what?”

“Geez, Cathy, I just said it, about your womanliness, what else?”

“Sorry, I don’t follow.” I felt extremely stupid as what she’d said passed me by completely.

“What you see et cetera. If that was the case, why is there any questioning? You are quite pretty with a super body and a pleasant voice. So why the continual self-flagellation?”

“I can still see signs of Charlie.”

“Where? I can’t because he doesn’t exist, he was the product of your father’s imagination, a wrapping with which he managed to imprison Cathy. But you broke free, the wrapping, viz. Charlie, disappeared and you grew from that day onwards. You might not have had a female childhood in the accepted sense, but no one would know it.”

“I do,” I shrugged.

“Cathy, it’s just memories. We can’t change the past, just how we react to it. You need to move on, I keep telling you this. Marry my idiot brother, adopt those three cupcakes in there, and live happily ever after supporting good causes and making the odd nature film.”

“What do you mean supporting good causes?”

“Geez, Cathy, I mean throwing the odd garden party or going to the occasional ball, being a patron of ‘Save the dormouse’ or whatever. You know, the usual stuff. Charities like having someone with a title on their letter heading, alongside a war hero and business mogul. It makes them feel legit and thus able to screw the public more easily. I mean, STD with fluffy bunnies and a pretty patron will be a runaway star.”

“STD? Runaway star? Isn’t that mixing metaphors, somewhat? What has sexually transmitted disease got to do with stars running? Stars shine not run.”

“Social diseases these days, in the same way it’s a GUM clinic not a VD or STD clinic, even though they do the same thing, give it a quick butchers and whack in the penicillin, usually somewhere it hurts a bit and they might be more careful in future. STD in my reference was Save The Dormouse, you dozy cow. I mean, syphilis is hardly fluffy bunnies, is it?”

“No, I suppose that would be myxomatosis,” I mused.

“What would?” Stella gave me a funny look.

“What fluffy bunnies get.”

“I was being facetious, it was a light-hearted reference to one of those bloody furry things you like running around inside your bra.”

“I beg your pardon, the things inside my bra are not furry.” I knew perfectly well what she was on about, I thought I’d do a quick wind up as she’d just had me. It was payback time.

“Cathy, I can’t believe you are this thick.” She made a gesture of distance between thumb and forefinger of a couple of inches.

“Is that meant to mean cup size?” I continued acting stupid. I cupped my own breasts, “No, they’re definitely bigger than that, see?” I joggled them.

She realised she’d been had and was about to hit me when I was saved by the bell; the telephone bell—well it’s more of a warble really. “Come back and fight you coward,” she called after me as I went out to the hallway.

“Hello?”

“Hi, Babes.”

“Simon?”

“Very funny, who else?”

“I wondered if I’d recognise your voice it’s so long since I heard it.”

“You coulda called me?”

“I didn’t know where you’d be getting your Savile Row sackcloth and ashes.”

“Very funny.”

“So to what do I ascribe this honour?”

“What?”

“This phone call.”

“I’m your fiancé, remember? Partner in crime and so on.”

“I just couldn’t place you, now I’ve got it, the man who ran into my car at the supermarket.”

“Someone hasn’t have they?”

“Have they, what?”

“Run into your car.”

“No, why?”

“Cathy, stop being obtuse, it ain’t funny. You’ve made your point, I’m sorry but I haven’t had a chance to call before.”

“Okay, I’ll stop teasing you and you can tell me what you’ve been doing.”

“I’ve been to Washington.”

“As in USA or Tyne and Wear.”

“As in President Obama.”

“Oh the Irish guy, yeah, so. I don’t suppose you got to meet him, did you?”

“Actually, yes I did.”

“What? You went to the States and met him without me on your arm?”

“Before you pop a blood vessel, Babes, it was a rush trip with some boring old farts from the Treasury.”

“You could have told me.”

“No I couldn’t, it was totally hush-hush.”

“What even from your wife?”

“You’re not my wife yet, are you?”

“No, and I pissed off the priest a bit.”

“What, Margaret?”

“Marguerite not Margaret.”

“I was close, anyway what did you do?”

“I went to talk with her about this healing business.”

“And?”

“She wanted a demonstration.”

“Well she’s a scientist, isn’t she?”

“That wasn’t why she wanted me to do some. Anyway, I told her what I thought of her superstitious ideas.”

“Cathy, can’t you keep quiet for once, you’ll never make a diplomat.”

“She still says she’ll marry us, I think.”

I could visualise him shaking his head as I spoke with him. “What are we going to do with you?”

“Dunno, what would you like to do?”

“Better get you married off to some rich arsehole double quick.”

“Why’s that?”

“I might be meeting the Prez again and he expects me to bring my wife. It’ll be a ball at the Whitehouse near Christmas.”

“You are joking,” I screeched down the phone. “I haven’t got anything to wear, his wife is going to make me look like something from Oxfam, she is so elegant.”

“So are you.”

“I am not, Simon, oh my God, what do I do?”

“Cathy, I said Christmas, we have to get married first. Better speak to your tame friend Margaret.”

“Marguerite,” I screeched down the phone.

“Whatever,” he said, “just do it.”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 741

“What’s all the fuss about?” Stella asked, coming from the kitchen.

“Simon has met President Obama.”

“You’re joking?”

“No, he’s been in Washington for a couple of days. There’s going to be a ball around Christmas time and he wants to take me, but we have to be married.”

“That’s utter bilge,” Stella said sharply. It took me by surprise.

“What is?” I asked almost apologetically.

“That you have to be married to go to a ball at the Whitehouse.”

“You don’t?”

“No, but it’s easier if you are, if only so you would then be Lady Cameron officially not Cathy Watts.”

“So why did he tell me I had to be married?”

“Search me, why does my idiot brother do anything? Who’s going to look after your brood while you’re gallivanting around the world? Don’t look at me, a few hours maybe, not a week or so.”

“We could take them with us, I’m sure top hotels have babysitting services.”

“That’ll cost you.”

“No, it’ll cost Simon.”

She laughed and said, “You’re learning at last.”

“Well, Simon told me a deliberate fib.”

“Don’t you ever tell him any?”

“Of course, but mine are acceptable fibs.”

“Acceptable to whom?”

“To me, who else?”

“Sounds a trifle one-sided to me.”

“You should know, Stella, you taught me all I know.”

She laughed again, “Nah, I just uncovered a whole pile of deviousness just waiting to grow.”

“It’s me ’ormones, vat’s wot it is,” I said in the worst cockney accent since Dick Van Dyke. Stella nearly wet herself laughing.

“You sound like nothing on earth—no—correction, you sound like a poor American actress playing Eliza Doolittle.”

“I ’ates you, guv’nor,” I said portraying the same dreadful abortion of a cockney sparra.

“So what are you going to do?”

“Tomorrow, I shall call Marguerite and ask to make an appointment for a quickie wedding. I wonder if she can do it?”

“You’d be better off with a register office, wouldn’t you? They’re used to doing quickies.”

“But I wanted a church wedding, even if it was only Simon and me and a witness or two.”

“Why?”

“To make my vows somewhere sacred.”

“Before a God you don’t believe exists?”

I blushed, “Um, did the kettle boil?”

“Never mind changing the subject, you want to do a church wedding although you don’t believe, is that about it?”

I blushed even more, “Yes,” I said in a very quiet voice.

“Why?”

“I don’t know.” I felt a tear form in my eyes and dribble down my cheek. “When I was a kid,” I sniffed, “I always had a fantasy of walking down the aisle in a white dress with a bouquet of white roses and lilies of the valley, on the arm of my father.” The tears came more freely now.

“Oh, Cathy, don’t cry. I didn’t mean to sound—mean.” She wrapped me in a monster hug.

“Why is my Mummy cwyin’?” asked a little voice and I heard Stella trying to shoo her away. Then I felt her hugging my leg, like a lovesick puppy. I rubbed my hand in her hair.

“I’m okay, darling, I just had a sad thought, but it’s gone now.”

“What sad thought?” she asked.

“It’s gone now, darling, so I can’t remember. Ladies do this now and again.”

She looked at me as if I was barmy, which isn’t too far from the truth. “You okay? Weally okay?”

“Yes, darling, I’m fine now, thank you for your concern.”

“It’s alwight,” she said and shrugged, then went back to watch the telly with her sisters. Stella released me from her bear hug and went off to the kitchen while I went to the cloakroom to splash some cold water on my eyes.

By the time I got to the kitchen, Stella was pouring hot water on teabags and I sat myself at the table, letting her complete the job. When she’d finished and we were sitting with a mug of the magic fluid before us, she asked, “Do you really want a white wedding with all the trimmings?”

“I don’t know what I want, if the truth be told. Part of me wants the Cinderella thing, doesn’t every little boy?”

“I have no idea, but lots of girls do.”

“Yeah, but I was a boy.”

“Only by virtue of wearing trousers and having short hair, I doubt it fooled anyone then either.”

“Okay, some saw through the sham, except my dad. I actually have a vague memory of asking him if he’d walk me down the aisle when I got married. He got cross with me and my mother gave me a lecture on the differences between boys and girls.”

“How old were you?”

“Nineteen.” I kept a poker face.

“How old? You idiot,” she slapped me on the arm.

“I was about six and had stood with my mother outside our local church as the bride came out; she looked beautiful.”

“All brides do. You will.”

“Oh God, Stella, I hope so.”

“You realise that it takes months to organise a white wedding?”

“Yeah, it was a pipe dream, wasn’t it? No more real than my early fantasies.”

“No, it could be done, but to start with you need a church and priest available when you are. Then there’s the dress, even if you got one off the peg it would need altering and could take weeks. Flowers, catering, honeymoon—it’s quite a lot to organise, Cathy.”

“Yeah, too much. Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.”

“I said it could be done.” Stella looked me straight in the eye, “but we’d need to get on to it immediately.”

“I can’t ring Marguerite back now, can I?”

“Why not? Go and see if her if necessary.”

“What about the girls?”

“I’ll look after them for an hour or two.”

“But, I can’t, I mean it’s Sunday tomorrow.”

“So?”

“She’ll be doing her sermon or something.”

“She owes you, Cathy.”

“What for?”

“Cleaning up her daughter’s face. Strike now while she remembers.”

“I don’t know, Stel, it’s quite a big undertaking I’m asking her.”

“No, the undertaking is done by undertakers, she does the committals.”

“What?” I gasped not having clue what she was talking about.

“She buries or burns ’em, the funeral director does the undertaking.”

“What’s that got to do with weddings?”

“It’s a stage or two later, that’s all,” she smirked, “now, dial.” She handed me the cordless phone.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 742

It took me an hour before I rang Marguerite—I spoke to her husband, she was out at a meeting and wouldn’t be back before quite late. He offered to take a message but I said I’d call again. He told me that she wouldn’t be available until Monday.

So for the moment that was that. I managed to get Stella to shut up about it and not reveal anything to the children. The last thing I needed was three excited children asking unanswerable questions—I mean Trish and Livvie do anyway, simply because they’re cleverer than I am, and Mima does because she’s from a different planet—her sense of reality is quite different to mine at times.

Stella looked a bit deflated, so I presume she was looking forward to talking about wedding things. Maybe I was too, but I had some reservations. I also asked her to keep quiet about Simon meeting with Mr Obama. Mind you, if he’d met with George Dubya, I’d have insisted she keep it quiet or banished her from my house forever.

Simon sent me a text saying that England were going to win the ashes, I just hoped he hadn’t been betting with that Aussie bloke again. After the girls were asleep Stella insisted on talking weddings. I think I might have preferred talking about welding, she was so excited and asked me about the sort of dress I fancied. I actually didn’t know what I wanted, insofar as I couldn’t describe it, but if I saw the pattern or a made up dress, I would know instantly.

“What was the dress like in your childhood fantasy?”

“I can’t remember, Stella, it was fifteen or twenty years ago.” I did remember, but I wasn’t going to reveal it to her—but the whole thing was embroidered with a particular pattern of rosebuds. Goodness, I hadn’t thought about it for so many years, I suspect my tastes might have changed a little since then.

I turned in about midnight, my head was spinning as Stella wasn’t going to stop chattering about having to organise this or that. I went to bed and I couldn’t get off to sleep at all. I wasn’t sure if I was excited or frightened—yes frightened, of what, I wasn’t at all sure. Stella certainly hadn’t helped with her chatter and overwhelming enthusiasm. She positively gushed. Maybe I would have done in her place and was organising her wedding. For the moment I wanted to be miles away from it. Before I eventually nodded off, I let my mind drift off to going to Washington and I dreamt quite vividly.

Simon introduced me to Mr Obama, I was wearing my wedding dress and the President found that amusing. I tried to explain that it had only been worn once and we were on an economy drive—wasn’t it posh enough for him? It cost thirty five pounds after all.

He asked if I was the one who’d had the sex change? I blushed and retaliated by saying I’d have voted for Hillary. He found that amusing, so did Simon, who didn’t seem to be defending my reputation very well. I mean, shouldn’t he have called him out for a duel or something?

“I have to say, Charlie, you look pretty good for a boy in a dress. If I was gay, I might just go for you.”

“Why thank you Mr President, if I were a boy, I’m sure you would go for me.” Then three huge men in suits came rushing in and dragged me off to a—dungeon? (Well it is a dream.)

“How dare you insult the President, the penalty for a fag like you, is to have your dick cut off.” I burst out laughing, he looked at me in disgust. “What you laughing at fag?”

“If you can find one, you can cut it off for all I care.” Then he got a small sharp knife and slashed at my dress, my wedding dress! I kicked out at him and caught him in his family jewels, so he slashed my dress again, ripped it up above my waist and yanked off my knickers. My suspender belt and the blue garter were still in place. I glanced down and still laughing caught sight of something that shouldn’t be there.

“NO,” I screamed and I saw the knife flash and maniacal laughter filled my ears.

I woke up in a bath of sweat. It was so real, yet it was also ridiculous. Would my history be of any interest to the US government, especially its security services? They would probably be aware of it, it was hardly a secret—but what if it got out to the press over there? British journalists are bad enough. The US press is even more sewer-like than ours, and with seemingly fewer regulations.

I could see it now, anti-Democrat papers could run with the story, especially if they managed a photo of me with el Presidente. The headlines would be unbelievable, ‘Is this the sort of President we want, one who consorts with transsexuals?’ My head was pounding, and I got up to get myself a drink of water and some form of painkiller, an aspirin or something.

In real life, I know Simon would be telling me to face it all down, as far as he was concerned I was as female as any other woman. The last thing he’d have done was allowed anyone to take me away like that, even in front of the most powerful man in the world. He’d have at least protested, at worst thumped someone, even li’l ole Barack himself. Mind you, I couldn’t see such a surreal event as that in my dream happening, except in a dream.

However, I was still trembling a little as I went downstairs and instead of a glass of water, I made myself some tea. I’d just poured myself a cup when Stella came down. “Bad dream?” she asked.

“Yeah, how d’you know?”

“I heard you shout.”

“Did I? Sorry if it woke you up.”

“If you pour me a cup, I’ll try and forgive you.” I did as she asked, dumping the wet teabag in the kitchen bin. She sipped her tea and sighed appreciatively. “So what happened in the dream?”

“I can’t remember.”

“That bad, eh?”

“Dunno, can’t remember any of it.”

“About the wedding?”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“I thought you couldn’t remember anything, so how d’you know it wasn’t?”

“I’m sure I’d have remembered that.”

“Maybe, so it had to be Washington. What happened?”

“How do you know that?”

“Elementary, my dear Watson.”

“Don’t bother, I suppose it’s obvious really?”

“Yep, so what happened?” I related my strange dream and she sniggered then after further thought, told me she could see why I was upset by it. “But if you moved on, it would have even less relevance.”

“It has none now to my life as it is, but the US press might be looking for dirty linen type stories and mine would be right up their street—Grub St.”

“Shouldn’t that be, Grubby Street?” asked Stella.

“Probably, I hate it that of all the things that I’ve done, only one is of any real interest to the press.”

“What, the healing light?”

“Stella, don’t be silly.”

“I’m not, it’s a bit better than a boy called Sue, or Cathy or whatever.”

“I am not called Sue or Whatever.”

“Nor are you now or I suspect, ever have been, a boy. So move on and forget it.”

“How can I forget it?”

“Easy, just say it ain’t relevant no more, and fergit it gal.”

“Oh yeah, it’s as easy as falling off a bike, I suppose.”

“Not in my case, I fall off for a pastime.”

“Stella, your riding was fine, just a bit slow, and we could work on that.”

“Over your dead body,” she quipped back.

“You are so supportive,” I offered.

“Yeah, like a wonderbra.”

“Or a jockstrap.” I sniggered as I threw this at her.

“Bitch,” she cussed back. Then after a moment’s pause she said, “Why don’t you want to marry Simon?” and I dropped a half-full mug of tea.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 743

We spent the next quarter of an hour picking up small shards of porcelain china from the kitchen floor and wiping up the tea—which seemed to have developed the same sort of motive force as a tsunami; and spread all over the kitchen floor except the measure which splattered all over me.

“Want another one?” asked Stella, and I nodded yes, before dashing upstairs to change my pyjamas. They were pink silk with dormice printed all over them, Simon had found someone on the internet to make the fabric and then the jammies. I slipped on a tee-shirt nightdress and rushed back downstairs to soak my precious night wear and try to remove the stain.

I re-seated myself at the table while my pyjamas soaked in a biological wash solution. The bucket was filled with tepid water so as not to fix the stains, and I’d have a better idea in the morning if it had worked. Morning?—ha, it was morning now, if we sat up much later it would be light again.

“You didn’t answer my question,” Stella pressed on from my interruption.

“Which one was that?” I feigned ignorance.

“Why you don’t want to marry Simon?”

“I didn’t say that, did I?”

“Not in so many words, but actions speak louder than words.”

“My dropping the cup, you mean?”

“Quite a coincidence don’t you think,” she was getting too good at this interrogation business.

“Do I?” I feigned ignorance again. “Maybe I just let it slip because I was tired.”

“You don’t look tired.”

“Stella, I am exhausted.”

“Okay, but you hide it well.”

“Except I get clumsier than normal and drop things.”

“You still haven’t told me why you aren’t marrying Simon?”

“Haven’t had time.”

“It only takes about half an hour,” she countered.

“What does?”

“Getting married.”

“Eh?”

“A marriage ceremony takes about half an hour unless you pad it out with hymns and readings.”

“Oh that, again.”

“You haven’t answered my question.”

“Who said I didn’t want to marry Simon?”

“I did,” she said blushing slightly but looking me straight in the eye.

“Well, you’re wrong, so there.” I turned and fled the field of battle and locked myself in my bedroom. Stella knocked on my door a few minutes later but I ignored her and eventually cried myself into a dreamless sleep.

I woke to hear a knocking on the door, I was exhausted and my eyes were sore and my eyelashes all stuck together. “Mummy, let me in, pwease.” I dragged myself off the bed and opened the door. “Mummy, me was fwightened you’d weft us.”

“Left you? Oh my darling, I wouldn’t do such a thing to you.”

“But you doa was wocked.”

“I’m sorry, my poppet, I didn’t realise I’d locked it. I wasn’t trying to keep you out.” Okay, I was lying or partly, it wasn’t Meems I was trying to keep out.

“Can we have some bweakfuss?”

“Of course, come along, sweetheart.” I held out my hand and she gripped it tightly as we went downstairs where her two sisters were waiting.

“Mummy,” they both squealed excitedly and hugged me. I wanted to burst into tears of shame, how could I even think about shutting them out of my life. But that was what I had done, even though I hadn’t meant to. I didn’t even want to shut Stella out of my life, just her questioning. I couldn’t handle her questions.

“Okay, my babies, let’s have some breakfast.” I poured out bowls of cereal, made toast and cups of squash. I made some tea and ate a piece of toast, then I made some fresh tea and toast and took it up to Stella.

“Uh,” she said looking at me with bleary eyes. “What time is it?”

“About ten.”

“Oh, goodness, I need to feed Puddin’. I thought you weren’t talking to me?”

“Stella, you’re my sister, how could I not talk to you.”

“Uh?” she said accepting the tray, “Thanks.” I left before she could switch her brain on.

Today, I was going to take things easy. I had a chicken to cook for lunch and I needed to do some washing, but the weather looked fine, in fact, the sun might even be shining. Oh to be riding my bike, but other things took priority, three of them sitting at the table and eating toast and jam.

“What shall we do today?” I asked them.

“Can we go to the zoo, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“I’ve taken you there before, haven’t I?”

“Yes, but I’d like to go again.” The other two agreed with Trish so I agreed we could go there after lunch.

“Can’t we go earlier, Mummy, we’ll miss out seeing it all otherwise.” Stella came down as Trish was pleading with me.

“What’s the problem?” she asked.

“They want to go to the zoo, and I have a chicken to cook.”

“Can’t you set the oven on the timer to switch off at a certain time?”

“I think so, I’ve never actually tried it, other than to switch the oven on at a certain time.”

“Well do that, we’ll have the chicken at tea time.”

“I suppose I could, I hadn’t thought of doing that. Yeah okay, we’ll do that.”

I prepared the chicken and the potatoes to roast, then did the carrots and cabbage and put them in water in the saucepans, they wouldn’t take too long to cook when we got back. I set the timer on the oven and sent the girls upstairs to get showered and dressed. Once that was done we made sandwiches and drinks loaded up the cooler bag with the food and drinks and off we went.

Puddin’ slept most of the time in her buggy with a parasol keeping the sun off her. The breeze at times felt cold but the sun was warm—increasingly so as we went into the afternoon. The girls tried to visit every section, laughing at the monkeys and squealing at the snakes.

They conned us into paying for a ride on a camel and Stella and I waited with the baby while they wandered off and came back. “It’s years since I went to a zoo,” Stella said wistfully, “I was frightened because Daddy said he was going to sell us to the monkey house. I wouldn’t go in there; I screamed the place down.”

“My father threatened to feed me to the lions, because I was such a wuss. Mummy persuaded him that they probably wouldn’t eat me, I was too wet. It was years before I understood what that meant.”

“I think they might have been surprised when you turned the tables on the pussy-cats.”

“Stella, you have more confidence in me than I do.”

“Ah, sometimes the onlooker sees more of the game. Look out here comes the camel express and our three adventurers,” she said pointing behind me.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 744

“Daddy’s takin’ us to the zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow, zoo tomorrow…” I began to sing Julie Felix’s popular song, which I’d seen her do live at a folk concert.

“You sound a bit happier than you did last night,” remarked Stella.

“Don’t remind me,” I said, and the anxiety I’d felt returned; so did my three children. They came rushing up to me and hugged me and then hugged Stella. Puddin’ gurgled at them and Mima leant over and kissed her, which made her giggle. This set Meems off and that in turn seemed to affect Trish and Livvie, so we had a gaggle of gigglers—or should that be a giggle of gagglers?

At least they were happy and we wandered around a bit more. I heard two men high fiving and dancing around together as we walked towards the car park. It seems that England had just beaten the Australians to regain the Ashes. The Aussies will probably win them back at the next opportunity and besides from what I saw in the news, it was hardly a massive margin of victory, England had only won two matches to the Aussies one. Seeing as the weather had saved England once, and some time wasting had saved them a second time: I think jubilation was something that should be muted. But then as a woman and a cyclist, what did I know? I knew the England women had won their Ashes more convincingly.

We got home to the smell of roast chicken and I boiled up the vegetables very quickly, so within half an hour we were eating. Puddin’ gobbled down some of the dinner which I put through the blender for her. I was sure it would be just as good for her as the commercial stuff. She certainly scoffed it fast enough and gave a huge burp at the end which made the three gigglers, live up to their reputation and eponym.

They watched telly while I washed up, or rinsed things up and put them in the dishwasher. Stella changed Puddin’ and after she’d played a little while, she was put down after a bottle and seemed to go off to sleep quite quickly.
At half seven, I made the girls wash and change into their pyjamas and after they had a drink of milk and cleaned their teeth, I told them a story about the dormouse that roared. It was one that I made up as I went along and it seemed to hit the mark. They all squealed when I made a snarling noise, can’t think why? I suppose that’s what little girls do. At times I forget how old Livvie and Trish are, they are only five years old, it’s just that they are so knowing for little ones.

They went off to sleep without too much bother, all that fresh air and running about had obviously tired them. I was exhausted myself, the poor sleep of the night before didn’t help and a dread that Stella was going to start on me again, seemed to suck all the energy out of me.

We sat in the lounge with a glass of wine each. There was nothing on the telly that I fancied, so we sat supposedly reading or in my case trying to do The Observer crossword. I wasn’t getting very far, my mind kept switching into my wedding with Simon or the dread of it. Part of me wanted it, part of me didn’t.

“A penny for them,” said Stella, who it appeared had been watching me rather than reading her book.

“What?” I replied looking completely confused at what she’d said because I heard her speak rather than what she’d said.

“I said, a penny for them.”

“Did you? Oh.” I went back to looking at my crossword and the three clues I’d got. Either the compilers were getting cleverer or I was getting more stupid. I suspected it was the latter.

“Well, spill the beans old girl.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“What were you thinking about?”

“I dunno, the crossword I s’pose.”

“I doubt it, I was watching you and your eyes went all around the room. You looked wistful at one point then almost sad, then you smiled then you looked determined as if you’d decided on something, but even so, you looked unsure of your decision. Is that about right?”

“Geez, Stella, that is phenomenal.”

“What, so spot on?”

“No, absolutely wrong.” I roared with laughter and she narrowed her eyes before laughing as well.

“It wasn’t, you’re a lying toad, Cathy Watts.”

“It was,” I insisted, but she was right on both counts, I was lying.

“You were worrying about marrying Simon, then you decided you weren’t going to, didn’t you?”

“Rubbish, look we talked about this yesterday, I don’t feel like it tonight.”

“Fine, but I still think I’m right, aren’t I?”

“If that’s what you think, Stella, that’s fine, it’s also wrong.”

“I’ll live with that, but I reckon you’re lying.”

“Right, I’ll say this once and I am not going to discuss it. I am not going to marry Simon until I’m ready for it and if that means I don’t get to meet the Prez, I personally don’t give a shit. I’m going to bed. Good bloody night.” I went to throw down my paper instead I took it with me. If I couldn’t sleep it might come in useful.

Ten minutes later, I was sitting in bed with the crossword. Stella knocked and entered. “I’m not going to discuss it with you,” I huffed.

“That’s fine, when will you tell Simon?”

“Tomorrow.”

“He’s going to be disappointed.”

“He’ll live.”

“The girls will be devastated.”

“No they won’t, they knew nothing about it anyway. Besides, I didn’t say I wouldn’t ever marry him, just when I’m ready.”

“Like when you were going to transition?”

“I did, didn’t I?”

“Yeah, only because I gave you a shove and you fancied Simon.”

“I didn’t fancy him in those days.”

“Ha ha, Cathy, the look in your eyes within days of going out with him. I could see it.”

“If you are so clear sighted, how come you knocked me off my bike in the first place?”

“Ha very funny, Cathy. You’re scared of getting married, aren’t you?”

“No I’m not, I’ve done worse things and survived.”

“Your nose grows like Pinocchio’s when you lie.”

“Go to bed, Stella, and leave me in peace.”

“Why not admit you’re frightened of it?”

“Why should I? Especially when it’s not true.”

“It’s perfectly okay for a girl to be worried about her wedding plans.”

“I’m not making plans, so forget it, okay?”

“If you run away from it now, it’ll be even harder in a year or so.”

“I’ll get wed when I’m ready for it and not before. All you’re going to do is make me more determined to avoid it.”

“Oh well, poor wee Simon will hae tae wait, poor wee lamb.” She said this in a very exaggerated Scots accent.

“Aye he will, now tak’ yer poor wee body oot a ma room, an’ piss off.” I replied back in as bad an accent as she’d used. She laughed at me and left.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 745

Stella closed my bedroom door, laughing as she went. I lay there frustrated and angry. Didn’t I have some say in when I got married and to whom? Okay, so the second part of the question was answered, it would be Simon—but the when—wasn’t that something we’d agree upon and do, not just rush into it? I mean, it’s not like I’m pregnant! I snorted at that—wishful thinking aside—what did we have to rush for? Absolutely nothing.

I picked up the crossword again, and although my eyes were scanning the clues, I wasn’t really reading them. My mind was elsewhere—I began to wish my body was, too.

It was nearly midnight when I called Simon. “Have I woken you?”

“No, Babes, I was reading.”

“A nice book I hope?”

“Fat chance—got a meeting tomorrow, reading the reports for it. What about you?”

“I was trying to do the The Observer crossword, but I can’t concentrate.”

“Missing me that much, eh?” he chortled down the phone.

“In some ways. I took the girls to the zoo today.”

“Manage to get a good price for them?”

“The going rate, why?”

“What’s that these days?”

“Two Mars bar wrappers and a bottle of coke.”

“I’d have held out for three wrappers.”

“I couldn’t, they wanted them for feeding the lions.”

“Oh! Oh well, I suppose you did relatively well.”

“I don’t have many relatives these days, Si.”

“Not surprised if you feed ’em to lions.”

“That’s a new departure, started today.”

“Oh, that’s different.”

“Glad you agree.”

“I always agree with you, Cathy.”

If you know what’s good for you, “I’m glad to hear that, Si.”

“Did I need to spell it out, Babes?”

“Sometimes.”

“Oh, okay, I have—satisfied?”

“Of course.”

“Did you speak to Margaret?”

“No, she was busy.”

“Busy, she only works one day a week.”

“I think it’s more than that, darling.”

“Darling eh? What are you after?”

“Nothing—oh, and by the way, I’m not rushing into organising a wedding.”

“Fine—what do you mean, not rushing?”

“Exactly that. I’m not prepared to rush into a marriage ceremony just to go and meet Obama.”

“You don’t have to.”

“So no amount of pressure will make me.”

“You don’t have to.”

“I’m going to do it when I’m good and ready.”

“Fine.”

“And not until, so any pressure to do it before Christmas…”

“Fine.”

“…will result in me taking longer to make up my mind.”

“Yeah, okay. I might have to go to China, anyway.”

“I’m not listening, Simon, so you can’t persuade me.”

“I’m not trying to persuade you.”

“I’m not listening.”

“Cathy, will you stop bleating and listen for one second.”

“What?”

“Shut up, woman.”

“Why? You’re not going to persuade me.”

“I’m not trying to.”

“That’s just a ploy to trick me.”

“Cathy, listen, will you?”

“I’m not going to let you persuade me.”

“CATHY, SHUT UP!”

“There’s no need to shout at me.”

“It’s the only way to get through to you some days.”

“What?”

“Shut up and listen, will you?”

“But you…”

“I’m trying to tell you there isn’t likely to be a Washington trip.”

“Oh, how come?”

“It looks like I’ll have to go to China and Vietnam.”

“What happened to Washington?”

“Dad’s going instead, I’ve got to go and see some Chinese and Asian clients.”

“That’s not fair, is it?”

“Yes, it could bring in a few million in investments.”

“Can’t you do it over the internet?”

“No, I have to meet them. I’ll probably see some clients in the Middle East on the way back, then I’ll be able to get a few days off and perhaps we can get away for a weekend.”

“Oh that sounds nice, can I tell the girls?”

“I meant for a honeymoon.”

“You what?” I felt myself shake.

“Only joking,” he laughed.

“You pig.”

“Oink oink,” he laughed down the phone.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 746

“Do you, Simon Cameron take this…this…thing, to be your lawful wedded…thing, I suppose?”

I could almost see myself standing beside Simon, he was wearing full dress kilt and jacket, with sporran and sgian dubh. I was wearing that wedding dress, the one from my childhood fantasy and the priest, it wasn’t Marguerite, but some bloke who was referring to me as if I was—well some sort of freak.

I felt tearful and angry. Simon seemed to be ignoring his jibes. I was to be his bride, his bride thing according to this horrible priest. “Is she going to be Lady Cameron, after this farce?” asked the priest.

“Why, does it bother you?” asked Simon.

“Yeah, it’s hardly a woman is it?”

“Yes I am,” I practically screamed and with that I drew the dagger from Simon’s sock and plunged it into the chest of the priest, who promptly exploded, leaving red jelly dripping everywhere.

“You could have waited until he’d finished,” said Simon sighing.

“You could have protested at his disrespect to me,” I protested to my nearly husband.

“Why? I was going to kill him as soon as he’d finished.”

“You say the sweetest things, darling,” I said and kissed him.

“Only to you, Babes.” He licked some of the red jelly from his finger, “Hey, this is really quite good, red curate jelly,” he said, and we all laughed.

I was still laughing when I woke up, although the wetness around my eyes and down my cheeks meant that I’d been crying. I sat up in bed, it was two o’clock; these dreams were beginning to annoy me as well as tire me with loss of sleep. I would call Dr Thomas in the morning and see if she could fit me in to talk this stuff through.

I sat there trying to rationalise what was happening in my subconscious. As far as I was concerned, I was female and engaged to be married to Simon, who happily saw me as female too. Legally, I was female and thus able to marry Simon, albeit after declaring my status to any priest who has the right to refuse to marry me if it offends their religious beliefs. I suppose that was a get out for any of the very conservative types who are generally homophobic as well, and see me as a gay man—yeah, a gay man with a vagina and breasts—like they all have (but only in Iran).

So I was female, a woman and other words of the same meaning. So what was the problem? I didn’t know, hence my need to speak with Dr Thomas. Would she be able to find out and deal with it?

I tried to think back—was it something in my childhood that was the problem? If it was it would have been my parents or their repressive religious beliefs, which I eventually managed to overcome, in my father’s case at least. My Mum died before I could really talk it through with her. I remembered her describing Stella and me as angels as she died. Even that was ironic—her ungodly child—an angel. I felt a tear drip down my cheek, was that the problem? An unresolved issue with my mother?

I tried to recall the two or three occasions when I’d had very real dreams, which had felt like I was awake and actually experiencing them; lucid dreaming they call it.

In one she had predicted I would be a mother to several children. Maybe she had got that bit right. In the other she had shown me the box of treasure under the bedroom floor. That was definitely provable. So had I actually resolved things with my dead mother? God knows. I mean when you’re dead, you’re dead—finito—end of story; aren’t you?

If one wasn’t, would my mother have a problem with me? Could be, I mean having me bonking in her previous bedroom with Simon, might be a bit much for any restless spirit. But then, if she accepted me as female, as her daughter, who else would I be making love to? Unless I was gay, and I think that might have been one twist too many for my mother.

Daddy seemed to cope with the idea of me and Simon being together; he gave us his blessings and he held on until I got there, when he died. I think although he was a prize bastard early on, his stroke changed him—in my case, for the better. I actually think he almost approved of Simon and me together; he said he liked Simon and he seemed to approve when I said I loved Simon. Maybe, he actually did make the quantum leap and understand in the end. I hope so.

So where else could there be a problem? I didn’t know. The Camerons were firmly behind and very supportive of our relationship, and I liked all of them, especially Stella and Henry.

They were happy to accept the children as their own grandchildren too, as was Tom, who had been an absolute tower of strength ever since this had all started. I remembered back when I came out to him: I’d been beaten up by my father and had tried to finish the job with pills, ending up in hospital instead of a wooden box as I’d planned.

He apparently knew Dr Thomas and when he found out one of his students had tried to meet God, he came to see me and bumped into her while he was in the hospital. She told him to ask me to give permission for him to talk with her.

I was lying there, feeling quite poorly and feeling very stupid in a private hospital room, plugged into a drip and wishing that I’d died. There was a knock at the door and in walked my Prof. The last person I wanted to see.

“Hello, Charlie, I brought you some sweeties and a bottle of fruit juice.”

“Thank you, Professor, it’s very kind of you.”

“Who did this to ye?” he gestured to the bruises on my face and limbs.

“Never mind, it’s not important.”

“Why did they do it?”

“You don’t want to know, besides it would probably mean an end to my degree.”

“I most certainly do want to know, and why should it stop yer studies?”

“I’d prefer not to discuss it, if you don’t mind.”

“Sure, that’s yer privilege. Can I guess at the problem?”

“I’m not promising to tell you.”

“Okay, are ye gay, is that it?”

“Not really.”

“It’s something like that though isn’t it? Ye’re sma’ and quite feminine for a man, and there’s something quite female about ye. Are ye intersex or even transsexual?”

“Okay, if it’ll stop the questions, yes I’m transsexual, so now you can throw me off your course.”

“Throw ye off my course, whit fer?”

“Because I want to be a woman?”

“So? I don’t recall it being a requirement of the course that ye have tae be a man, so if ye’re mair comfortable as a lassie, let me know when and I’ll dae all I can tae help ye.”

“Really?”

“Aye, why not, I dinna hae a problem wi’ye.”

“Professor Agnew, thank you so much.” I burst into tears and he actually hugged me.

“Ye’ll mak a bonny wee lassie, so ye will.” Then he spoke with Dr Thomas and she put me on hormones quite soon afterwards. Of course like everything in my life it all went pear shaped. I suppose I’d still be plucking up the courage to make the changeover except I ran into Stella and the rest is history.

When I then bumped into Tom while still dressed more or less as a girl, he recognised me and it sort of went on from there. Story of my life—just when it seems as if there is absolutely nothing to live for, something happens and shows me that it isn’t true. If I was a theist romantic, I’d suggest I had a guardian angel, but I know that’s puerile—I’m a scientist, and it’s just good fortune that things worked out the way they did, they could just as easily have gone the other way, and I’d be beyond all this pain—then again, I’d have missed out on so many good things, like Simon, the children, Tom, Stella and my film.

Feeling a bit better, I lay back down and went to sleep.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 747

The next morning, after getting the girls ready and giving them breakfast, I called Dr Thomas’s secretary. She was on holiday until next week and her appointments were full for a week or so after that. I left a message asking the secretary to say that I had rung and left my mobile number, and asked if there was a cancellation to let me know. I wasn’t too hopeful.

Then I called Marguerite, she was busy and would call me back. Sometimes I wonder if the world is trying to tell me something. I went and drank some tea and made some toast—I wasn’t very hungry.

I had barely finished swallowing the charred bread when the ’phone rang. I dashed out to it—it was someone called Chas trying to sell me life insurance; they had a special offer…I slammed down the phone. These cold callers were a real pain. The next one, I would tell in no uncertain terms—to go forth and multiply—or old English words to that effect.

The ’phone rang again as I put it back on the charger—“Cathy, you asked me to call you back.”

I explained what I wanted or felt I needed, and she invited me to go that afternoon to see her. She offered to have the older girls again, but I passed on that, I would ask Stella, and if necessary bribe her or the girls to free myself for the two hours I deemed necessary to drive there and back and an hour to speak with Marguerite.

Stella was okay about watching them, but we’d be shopping tomorrow—I could live with that—and the girls would if they were promised something tomorrow. I feel I’m probably making a rod for my own back here, but maybe we could arrange it so they got stuff for school or nursery. Mima was going to nursery school as soon as we got home. I decided I needed an hour or two to myself at least a couple of times a week, preferably before I went to bed. I also felt it was useful for Meems to get to know more children. She seemed okay about it, so I was going to action it when we got home or as soon as possible afterwards.

After lunch, I set off to see Marguerite. Did I tell you her church was dedicated to Mary Magdalene? Maybe she specialised in fallen women, in which case I may be in luck.

“You’ve been feeling anxious about getting married?”

“Yes, it’s all wrapped up in issues of self-worth and my status.”

“I thought that was female now you’ve had surgery, isn’t it?”

“It is—legally too; I’ve done the Gender panel thing and been approved and my birth certificate has been changed.”

“So why do you have a problem?”

“I don’t know.”

“Have you gone off the idea of marriage?”

“Maybe, but only in the short term. I still want to marry Simon at some point.”

“Why? If it isn’t a short-term goal, why bother at all? What’s the advantage?”

“Not feeling deceitful when people call me Lady Cameron.”

“Is that all?”

“No, it would improve the chances of adopting my foster children.”

“Would it? As single people can adopt, I don’t see any advantage, besides you had a tame judge allocate the children to you, didn’t you?”

“Yes, but I’m aware another could overturn it?”

“Why would they?”

“Some people in social services are out to get me.”

“Is that true or paranoia?”

“Either or both, I upset them when the judge found in my favour.”

“You did or the judge did?”

“They seem to think I bought him off, which I didn’t, he was a man of integrity.”

“Isn’t attempted bribery of a judge a serious offence?”

“I should think so, or at least hope so.”

“Me too. So what advantage is there in being married?”

“It’s a demonstration of commitment to each other.” I was floundering a little, I mean, I thought priests were supposed to encourage marriage.

“That’s about the best reason you’ve given me so far.”

“I mean, I love him what more do you need?”

“Nothing, that’s grounds enough, but remember marriage is an institution—you have to be mad to enter into it.”

“You may be right there, Marguerite. Maybe I’m crazy.”

“If you are, it’s most other people who are sane and that is even more frightening.”

“Can I withdraw that statement on the grounds that I agree with yours wholeheartedly.”

“I believe sanity is a continuum, we’re all on moveable parts of it, sometimes we’re okay, sometimes we’re crazy. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

“That sounds like Alice in Wonderland.” I wasn’t sure but thought I must be close.

Through The Looking Glass, actually.”

“I thought it sounded like Lewis Carroll.”

“Yes, quite distinctive in style. So what are you going to do?”

“About what?”

“Getting married.”

“Oh that—I don’t know.” I blushed; it was true I could think of nothing which made me want to dash into church with Simon and do the deed. At the same time, I couldn’t think of anything which made me not want to do it, either. It felt like an impasse.

“My rule of thumb, Cathy, is when in doubt, don’t.”

“Yeah, a very useful one—but I know as soon as I leave here, I’ll wish I’d asked you for dates.”

“I didn’t think I was your type, Cathy, but it’s very flattering all the same.”

What was she on about? I looked as I felt, completely baffled.

“You said you wished you’d asked me for dates.”

“I don’t like dates or figs.” I knew that was off on the wrong tangent but felt it was as valid as her joke.

“That’s a pity, so you don’t give a fig?”

“Marguerite, can we bring this back down to the mundane and sane levels from which it seems to have escaped?”

“Please do.”

“When is the best time next year to get married?”

“When you’re both sure about it and we’re all mutually free to do the deed.”

“The year after then?” I said winking at her. She sat po-faced for a moment before poking out her tongue at me and we both fell about laughing.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 748

When I got home, after dinner, story time and beddy-byes for little girls, I called Simon. I said loudly, “Good Morning Vietnam,” and I could hear him wince at the other end.

“I haven’t gone yet,” he sighed.

“I’m practising,” I laughed back at him.

“Oh, at what, becoming an audio hazard or a foghorn?”

“Gee thanks, Si, I was trying to cheer you up.”

“I wasn’t aware I was down until you phoned.”

“Hmm, does that mean you weren’t aware before…oh sod it… do you want me to ring off?”

“Not at all, so how has your day been?”

“I went to see Marguerite, the priest lady or should that be lady priest?”

“The one you want to marry you?”

“She’s already married, but I’d like her to marry us.”

“Wouldn’t that be bigamy?”

“If she married both of us, is there such an offence as trigamy?”

“Only in correct usage of the English language. It sounds like something Euclid did.”

“I suppose he’d have an angle on it,” I snapped back trying to prove I knew an ancient Greek or two as well.

“Good old Isosceles,” said Simon.

“That’s a type of triangle, isn’t it?”

“Well it would be with Margaret…”

“Marguerite,” I interjected.

“Okay, with Marguerite, you an’ me; or on the other hand, Marg—a—whatever, her hubby an’ you.”

“I couldn’t handle a triangle,” I sighed, “preferred the castanets.”

“I thought that’s what they did to tom cats, or is it fishermen?”

“Yep, Spanish fishermen, dey cast-a-nets, ole. I’ve never seen tom cats do it, but they could I suppose, some look quite intelligent and fairly dextrous.”

“Cathy, what are you talking about? Dextrous moggies? Does that mean they’re on drips or something?”

“Drips? Oh dextrose? Very good Simon, for a drip that was clever.”

“Hoy, I resemble that.”

“Yes, I know,” I sniggered down the phone.

“So, tell me what happened with wossername?”

“Who? Isosceles?”

“No the woman vicar, or is she a rectum?”

“I beg your pudding?”

“Rector—that’s the word, made an arse of myself didn’t I?”

“Simon, have you been snorting something?”

“How’d ya guess? Couldn’t get coke had to use Pepsi, it’s messy and the straw hurts up one’s nose.” At this I fell about laughing and nearly dropped the phone.

“There we are, that’s what a loony looks like,” said Stella as she walked past carrying Puddin’.

“Just look in the mirror, missus,” I called back.

“I’m not a missus,” complained Simon.

“Not you, I was talking at your father’s other idiot offspring.”

“Oh Stella, how did I guess that—hang on, waddyamean, other idiot offspring?”

“Oh did I say that?” I sniggered, this conversation was getting sillier.

“Yes you bloody well did.”

“Oh well, if you say so, I must have done.”

“I’m waiting,” he said.

“Doesn’t your father pay you enough?”

“What?”

“Well if you’re having to wait on tables in the evenings, he can’t be.”

“I’m saving for my first divorce, it’ll be a bitch, I’m sure of it; smart aleck woman will give me hell. So I need all the money I can get.”

How could I top that one? Not without it getting very silly. “You could always talk to her nicely, I hear she’s a sucker for sweet nothings.”

“If she divorces me, it won’t be sweet nothings she’ll be after.”

“Haven’t you got to get married first?”

“Someone told me it’s cheaper if you do it before the wedding.”

“It probably is.”

“So what did you talk about with thingamajig?”

“Oh this and that, the cost of postage in Timbuktu, you know, like you do?”

“What is the cost of postage in Timbuktu?”

“Neither of us knew, so we missed an opportunity to learn something.”

“Yes, I can see that, anything else?”

“The importance of Christianity in Genghis Khan’s foreign policy statements.”

“I thought he was a Mongol?”

“I hope you’re not implying he had Down’s syndrome?”

“I’m not, I’m merely stating that he wasn’t Christian, so its importance was minimal.”

“Yes, that’s what we discovered, you are so clever, Simon.”

“Cathy, why are you taking the urine?”

“What do you mean?” I had difficulty speaking I was laughing so much.

“You know damn well what I mean.”

“Okay,” I said getting hiccups from laughing.

“Have you been drinking, woman?”

“Me, how dare you? I’m a good girl I am.”

“Since when?”

“I had confession today.”

“Confession—of what?”

“That I didn’t want to marry you—just yet.”

“And?”

“That was it, Marguerite said she was busy for the next ten years and to come back then.”

“She didn’t, did she?”

“No, course not.”

“So what did she say?”

“Come back when we’re ready.”

“Really?”

“Do you think I’d joke about something that important?”

“Duh!”

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 749

Simon told me that he’d try to steal a weekend away from work. I pointed out that most people didn’t work seven-day weeks and he reminded me that most people didn’t earn as much as him, either. Point taken, but the money was secondary to me, I think it was to him as well, but it was the family business and had been for two hundred years, so he didn’t want to be the one who lost it.

I decided that I didn’t want to be in a family business, nor would I let the girls if I could possibly help it, although I could see Livvie and Trish enjoying the challenges and the rewards. Meems, I wasn’t so sure about. She hadn’t shown an aptitude for much except her dollies—maybe she was going to be mother, or a nurse or even a teacher. All of them were necessary, especially the first one, although we spend much time deriding it or undervaluing it as a role. If houses hadn’t been allowed to become so expensive, maybe more mothers could stay at home for a few years and look after their children. As it is, usually the only ones who do are those caught in the benefit trap and they’re usually single parent families. I felt really sorry for that much maligned group.

Stella had put Puddin’ down for the night and we had a glass of wine together. She’d heard some of my conversation with Si and concluded we were both mad.

“So you haven’t set a date?” she asked sipping her wine and savouring the taste.

“Not yet, haven’t actually decided to marry him yet.”

She waggled her ring finger to remind me I’d accepted his ring. “What was all that for then?”

“You told me to take whatever he offered, remember?”

“Oh yeah, I remember telling you to keep the ring. God, that was years ago.”

“Only a couple at most, probably much less than that.”

“Was it, doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself?”

“If you say so. He’s hoping he might be able to get home one of these weekends.”

“You’d see more of him if he was in the Royal Navy.”

“Oh yes and those sexy uniforms,” I joked, “just imagine him bringing his aircraft carrier into Portsmouth, with all those men and women in uniform.”

“Oh yeah, they have women on ships now don’t they?”

“Yes they do, although I suspect it possibly causes more trouble than it’s worth.”

“Possibly, imagine it, a handful of women and all those men. Hmm, maybe I’ll join the navy.” She giggled and the blush on her skin suggested the wine was more than relaxing her.

“All those men—ugh, no thanks, I can’t cope with just the one.”

“Cathy, where’s your spirit of adventure?”

“Alive and well and waiting for a bike ride.”

“It’s shopping tomorrow, so you can’t go then.”

“I know, don’t rub it in.”

“What are you going to buy the girls?”

“Not sure, they’ll need new shoes and at forty or fifty quid a pair, I won’t need much else to have spent my allocation for the day.”

“Really?”

“Yeah, remember I have school fees to pay for Trish, and although Livvie gets an allowance, or I do on her behalf, she needs more than it pays.”

“Tell ’em to pay more.”

“They told me how much they would pay and that was that, anything over that, I have to find or not spend.”

“Do you get an allowance for child benefit?”

“Yes, I get that for the three of them, but it would hardly feed them and certainly wouldn’t pay for school fees—not that it’s meant for that.”

“No, but surely the council ought to pay something, I mean, they couldn’t fit Trish in one of their schools, could they?”

“I can’t be bothered to ask, Stella, there’d be all sorts of reasons why they couldn’t and they’d offer me something miles away in a rundown area, and given Trish’s little problem, it would raise all sorts of issues I’d rather not revisit. Besides, she likes it at the convent, they seem to like her and Livvie goes there too, so it isn’t much of a contest really, is it?”

“When you put it like that, I suppose not, are you going to send Meems there too?”

“I’m going to take her there for the nursery, I’d forgotten they had one but when I looked on their website, I rediscovered it. So next year she can start the school like the other two.”

“How much is that going to cost?”

“Loads, but I’m hoping it’s worth it. I can’t send one to a private school and the others elsewhere, can I?”

“If you joined the navy, maybe they’d pay?” Stella giggled at what was hardly a joke, mind you she was on her third glass to my first one.

“No point in your joining, they don’t do the rum ration anymore.”

“Shame, maybe I could get them to reinstate it?” She yawned. “I think I need to go to bed while I can still climb your stairs.”

“I think maybe you’re right, Stella. Off you go then while I lock up, batten down the hatches and splice the main-brace me ’earties.”

“Arr, Jim lad,” she said getting unsteadily to her feet, before falling over. “Oops, haven’t got my sea-legs, forgot to pack them, ha ha,” she laughed at her silly joke and I had to help her up and then push her upstairs and help her into bed. “Next time, I’ll wait till I get to bed before I drink.”

I got her a bucket and put it by the side of the bed—just in case. Then I cleaned up, locked up and went to bed myself. The wine helped me to sleep and I probably did dream, but I can’t recall any of them.

I woke up when the aliens came in and talked in their giggle language. They also have cold feet, but at the moment that’s all the field notes I have on them. Before long, John Humphrys was spit roasting a politician and it was time to get up.

We’d done all we had to by nine thirty and we were in my car and heading for a car park near Park Street. Sadly, you can’t park on Park Street, so I used a multi-storey car park with exorbitant charges. I hadn’t been here for ages, I suspected I wouldn’t be back very soon again.

We did a couple of department stores and then at a shoe shop I bought all three of mine Startrite shoes, in a Mary Jane style, which they all loved. I won’t discuss the cost, even Stella raised an eyebrow.

In Debenhams, she bought them all new dresses. Meems chose a pink one with frills around the bodice, the hem and the sleeves. Livvie had a navy blue corduroy one with some ties under the bodice, that tied behind. The hem was flounced in matching corduroy. Trish opted for a red dress with long sleeves, and a pattern of umbrellas in different colours all over it.

We had lunch at one of the stores and then wandered back to the car, even Stella had had enough by then. She’d bought several dresses and tights for Puddin’ and a skirt and top for herself. Me? Well I bought some more blank CDs and a new memory stick—I know I could have got them on the Internet probably cheaper, but then if bought everything on the net, we wouldn’t have any high streets left at all.

Wuthering Dormice (aka Bike) Part 750

The rest of the week passed with us either doing things indoors because it was raining or doing things out of doors because it was sunny but with a cool fresh breeze. This had not been one of the more memorable summers.

On the Friday, Dr Thomas called and I chatted with her over the phone for a couple of minutes. As Monday was a bank holiday, she arranged to see me on Tuesday. I told Stella and she agreed we should go home tonight. Despite the poor forecast, we knew the roads would be crazy, although hopefully, we would be travelling against much of the traffic flow, which would be attempting to get in the South West and also perhaps some of the beaches of Dorset and Hampshire/Isle of Wight.

Some of the day was filled with packing up both the cars and the house. We left after tea and a normal two-hour ride took over three, the girls were asleep in the back of my car. Stella was right behind me as we drove into Tom’s drive and home.

I put the girls up to bed while Tom and Stella unloaded the cars, then it was time for a cuppa and a chinwag. While Stella sorted Puddin’, I spoke of my uncertainties for marriage with Tom. He agreed that I should wait until I had resolved them a little more.

Then he asked what they were. I had some difficulty in explaining them to him. He again reinforced the same things Stella had about my status and my transition. He told me he only saw me as female and a very beautiful one. I thanked him and tried to explain that I had nearly twenty years of conditioning to undo and reset.

“I hope it’s no gonna tak’ anither twenty years?”

“So do I, Daddy. I’m going to see Dr Thomas next week so I hope she can help me speed it up somewhat. It just so much baggage to dump about my past identity and how I struggled to suppress who I really was in order to avoid beatings from my peers or my dad.”

“That shoodnae hae happen’d, if ye’d been ma daughter frae the outset, it widnae hae happen’d.”

“I know, Daddy, and I do appreciate your support and wise counsel.”

“Och ye blether tae much.”

“It’s true, if you tell me I’m attractive—then I believe you, if anyone else does I wonder what they’re after.”

“Attractive? Ye’re beautiful, how many times dae I hae tae telt ye?”

“I believe that’s what you think, it’s just I think a bit differently.”

“Ach, ye’re jes milkin’ me fer compliments.”

“If that’s what you think, Daddy, you don’t understand me at all.” I rose from the table and despite his calling me back, went up to my room. I didn’t want to talk about it anymore. Can nobody see what I see? Do they all see what they want to? Am I the only one who can part the curtain and see behind the façade?

I went and checked the girls, they were all sharing one room now which at the moment they enjoyed. Give them a year or two and they’ll all want to have one of their own. Such is the process of maturation. At the moment, Trish isn’t too worried about hiding her little problem from the other two, they know about it and accept it as her little anomaly. In a year or two she’ll be too self-conscious and hide it with extreme efficiency. Soon she’ll need to have some sort of testosterone blocker or she’ll start to become boyish. Why that didn’t happen to me, I’ve never quite understood, partial androgen insensitivity, or too few male hormones? I don’t really know, but it helps me to validate my decision to become female, or as much as I could.

I removed the little make up I’d worn and brushed my teeth. I combed my hair and donned my pyjamas. I sat on the bed and pulled the documents out of the file.

In my hand were a blue sheet of paper from the Gender Recognition Panel, and my amended birth certificate. I looked at them, over and over – it said quite clearly I was officially female. I scanned the letter from the Registrar General’s office and the other one from the tax office. I read and reread them, but they gave me no sudden insight. I was stuck as female—a position I had no quarrel with, it was my intended position, an ambition from as far back as I could remember. So what wasn’t computing here? What couldn’t I understand? Was I so stupid? I assumed I must be.

Two pieces of paper made me female—in a legal sense. It was laughable. Two breasts and a vagina made me female—or did they? There are biological females who have that and all the other bits that go with them who don’t feel female, so what does constitute being female? It isn’t biology or genetics, well not for everyone, although they obviously suffice for the majority. So what is it? It’s an idea, a nerve impulse, and obsession that nags away at you until you surrender. If you don’t, it will keep on until you do or it destroys you—like a mania.

It isn’t an illness, mental or otherwise; not even a delusion. It’s a statement or declaration of self—of identity—of self image—of social role—of personal belief—of personal comfort. In other words: I felt myself to be; saw myself as; interacted as; believed myself to be; and felt more comfortable as—female.

This wasn’t something I could say about being called a boy or a man—a description, I could never feel applied to me or with which I was comfortable. In fact it was the exact opposite, so what was the problem?

I was a classic GID, so why didn’t I just get with it and rejoice like I did after my op, when I felt I had finally come of age. The problem is who is the I?

My head was spinning. Was I subconsciously afraid to lose Charlie? If I was then I wouldn’t know would I, it being a subconscious thing—however, on a conscious level, I wasn’t. It was just a name, a superficial thing, it’s something I was baptised with but I gave that no credence…hang on.

I was baptised as Charlie and I was going to be married as Cathy. Was this the thing which had eluded my self-analysis? Surely not, I had no belief in the Almighty, so wouldn’t a bit of mumbo-jumbo when I was months old have little if any significance for me? I really didn’t know. Add to it, that the marriage we were—correction—I was seeking to have, was in a church—was there some significance in that, other than it was more traditional than in a register office?

My head really was spinning now and I replaced my precious bits of paper into their folder and put them away. I went to bed but couldn’t sleep, something seemed to be nagging at me yet I couldn’t bring it to my consciousness, to confront it. It was like some cockroach which as soon as you put the light on disappeared, so you couldn’t kill it. Also like a cockroach, it was well suited to survival and nearly indestructible. Nuclear war could destroy all humans, flies and cockroaches will survive—says a lot about mankind and his dominion over the animal kingdom.

I tried simply lying on the bed and doing various meditations—doing favourite bike rides or walks in tremendous detail to distract myself—it didn’t, my frenzied mind came back to fry itself again, I could almost feel synapses overheating and circuits blowing—okay, neural pathways—brain circuits.

At two I gave up and went to make some tea; I crept downstairs to avoid waking anyone—or so I thought. I was sitting at the kitchen table, feeling like my eyes had been rolled in uncrushed rock salt, sipping my tea, when Tom strolled in. “I couldnae sleep,” he said and sat himself down opposite me.

“Why not?”

“Och, I wis upset efter talkin’ tae ye.”

“Oh, Daddy, don’t be so silly. It was me who was at fault not you. I have something I need to work through and so far I’m not doing very well. I feel in a strange place, so I apologise if I was a bit off with you, I didn’t mean to be—I just couldn’t cope with being probed or even supported—I needed to be on my own.”

“Is that why ye’re no gettin’ married?”

“What, because I need to be on my own?”

“Aye weel, ye’ve barely had any space to yersel’ hae ye? First it wis Simon an’ Stella, then me, then yon lassies. Why don’t ye tak’ yersel awa’ fer a few days?”

“I don’t know—I can’t now, I have to look after the girls.”

“We’d manage, like we did when ye were ill.”

“We didn’t have three then and a baby.”

“Weel think on it, ma offer stands.”

“Thank you, Daddy, I don’t deserve anyone as special as you.”

“Will ye quit yon unworthy stuff? Ye’re as worthy as anyone.”

“Okay—I’ll try.”

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