Bike 1,251–1,300

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,251–1,300

by Angharad

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


The Daily Dormouse Part 1251

The tears continued to drip from my face as I held on to Tom’s hand talking to him, trying not to reveal my own fears that he might not make it. I wiped my face on the back of my hand and then went back to trying to help him.

In previous attempts, the power had surged through me, this time it felt different, very gentle as if too much would do more harm than good, or in my semi-paranoid state, that perhaps it was preparing him for something other than recovery, a subject I tried my hardest to push from my mind.

I was aware that Simon came to watch me for a short time, I felt him rather than saw him and for a moment the energy surged—perhaps his own had contributed to mine. I stayed focused for maybe an hour trying to help the energy go where it was most needed. Sometimes I get an impression of what happened to someone or what’s happening within them, with Tom I half-expected to hear the skirl o’ the pipes, as he’d put it, instead there was just a sense of calm, which surprised me.

I felt the energy running down, but then it was five o’clock in the morning and I’d been awake all night, although curiously, I didn’t feel especially tired. As I left, I went to find the nurse, “Is there anywhere I can get a cuppa, tea or coffee, I’m parched.”

“There’s no one in the restaurant at the moment, just some vending machines, but the coffee’s quite drinkable.” Her voice rose in pitch at the end of the sentence, which confirmed she was Aussie. “Say, what was that little blue light you were holding—what was that all about?”

“If I told you, you wouldn’t believe me.”

“Try me.”

“If I tell you, please promise that you’ll keep it to yourself.”

“Why—what’re you gonna tell me? It’s not something illegal, is it?”

“No, you’re a very special lady.”

“Me, you’re joking?”

“I’m not. You can actually see love.”

“What d’ya mean?”

“When I was sitting with Daddy, I was trying to send love into him to help him recover more quickly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t.”

“You’re a healer, aren’t you?”

I shrugged.

“Look, I’ve seen aboriginals do all sorts of strange things including curl up an’ die when there was nothing wrong with them, just ’cos someone told them they would. But I’ve never seen someone producing a blue light like you did, from your hands and your chest.”

“My chest?”

“Yeah, like it was coming straight out of your heart.”

“Maybe it was, I love him to bits.”

“Your father?”

“Yes, he’s a lovely old man, wouldn’t hurt a fly unless he was doing experiments on it.”

“Experiments? I know where he could find a few billion to play with.”

“He’s a professor of biological sciences.”

“Jeez, he’s still working?”

“Yes, it’s what keeps him going. He’s past retirement age but they keep him on because he’s such a well known figure in academia.”

“I know you, don’t I?” she stood back from me, and I hoped she wasn’t going to say the magic words, YouTube, “Have you been on the TV?”

“A while ago.”

“I knew it, don’t tell me—it wasn’t Eastenders, was it? No, something with animals in,” I watched her eyes moving as she did a trans-derivational search—well that’s what they call it in psychology. “Some sort of mouse, cute little buggers, I remember that—dormice.”

“Your memory and recall is very good.”

“Where can I see one round here? They were soooo cute.”

“They’re hibernating at the moment, so nowhere I’m afraid, unless you settle for a stuffed one at the Natural History Museum in South Kensington.”

“No, I want to see one running about.”

“They don’t in daylight unless they’re disturbed, they’re nocturnal.”

“Oh yeah, I remember now, you fell over that log in the dark.”

They’d kept one of my blunders in the film, arguably the whole thing was one big one, but it covered its costs and made a little profit too, mostly for the Beeb, but we won’t talk about that.

“Yes, but please don’t ask to see the bruises.”

She stood there for a moment and I thought I’d said the wrong thing, then her mouth crinkled and she roared with laughter. “You Poms are so funny.” I didn’t reply on the grounds it could have seen as racist, but it was to do with Australians and cricket.

“I’m going to get that coffee and then if it’s all right, I’ll come back and zap him some more, before the day shift starts.”

“They’ll be on at seven.”

“Okay, I’ll be back as soon as I can.”

Simon was snoozing in a chair. I touched his bum and he flew out of the chair ready to hit the culprit, when he saw me, he glowered then he laughed. “I don’t do that when you touch mine,” I said and he shook his head.

“It’s different for girls, they like it.”

“Are you telling me or asking?”

“What’re we doing now?”

“Talking, but I’m going to get a cup of vending machine coffee which has been recommended by Billabong Betty.”

“Who?” The red mark down the side of his face where he’d been leaning on his hand, didn’t help his appearance.

“The Aussie nurse looking after Tom.”

“It’s not Earl’s Court, is it?” he asked, as we walked up to the restaurant.

“Earl’s Court? That’s where they used to do the bike shows and the Daily Mail wotsit, isn’t it?”

“Yeah, the Ideal Home Exhibition.”

“Thought so, in which case no it isn’t Earl’s Court. Why did you ask?”

“It’s where the Aussies used to hang out.”

“Oh—ya learn something every die, Sheila,” I said in a very poor Aussie accent.

“Oh my God, you sound like that woman on the X-Factor,” groaned Simon. This was news, I didn’t know he ever watched it.

“Who, Dannii Minogue?” I smiled.

“No, Cheryl Cole, her with the big hair and the tattoos.”

“But she’s a Geordie, way I,” I tried imitating a Newcastle accent, but the only one I knew was Kevin Whately from Inspector Morse and he had a gentle Geordie accent.

“Exactly. Actually, I like the guy who runs it.”

“Simon Cowell? You have to be joking, I can’t stand him.”

“No, but he’s got a good first name, you have to admit that.”

“I also have to admit for someone with little education and even less talent, he’s made a fortune exploiting the talents of others.”

“He has a talent then.”

“If you say so—here we are, have you got any change?”

“You’re the one carrying a handbag.”

“The Queen carries one but you wouldn’t ask her for loose change now, would you?”

“No I wouldn’t because she’d expect me to pay. One of her ancestors stayed at Stanebury for a whole winter, nearly bankrupted my ancestor.”

“Why, did he eat a lot?”

“He would be accompanied by a retinue of hundreds and they all had to be fed. The various kings of different countries used to go on a royal progress, bankrupting nobles all over the place while saving on their own expenses, but you couldn’t refuse to give them hospitality, that would be sedition or treason, and you could expect what you had to be confiscated by the crown.”

“I’m feeling happier about the Inland Revenue than I’ve ever done,” I said, popping the required coins into the machine to make myself a coffee with milk but not sugar. They didn’t do black coffee, just coffee without milk—crazy isn’t it. I remember a black woman asking for a black coffee at a seminar I was attending and they told her they had non-milk coffee. She pointed to herself and said, ‘What am I—non-milk?’

The Daily Dormouse Part 1252

After my coffee and walk with Simon, I felt a bit more like returning to my duties with Daddy. I hoped things were going as they should, though quite what that means I’m not sure.

The first priority is to get him off the critical list, then back to normal health bearing in mind he is getting on a bit but not old by today’s standards. Once he’s up and running again, we can try and find out what happened and also how much he knows about current events—the death of his friend and the custody of his would-be girlfriend.

It struck me as odd that she was arrested carrying the gemstone back to India—perhaps she was going to return it—let’s give her the benefit until we know otherwise. After all, she’s going to be stuck in an Indian prison, unless she can get bail, and I suspect that’s not a particularly nice place to be, even for a short time.

I left Simon to go back to the car and snooze using a borrowed blanket from the hospital—which he promised to return when I was ready to go. I re-entered the ICU and the Australian nurse welcomed me back.

“What did ya think of the coffee?”

“Not bad, better than some I’ve tasted from vending machines.”

“Yeah, thought you’d like it. You gonna do some more of the blue light stuff?”

“Are you going to keep it a secret?”

“Me, I wouldn’t tell a soul, not even a friendly wombat.”

“Good, because I’ve heard they’re awful gossips.”

“Who are?”

“Wombats—and remember I’m a biologist, so I know about these things.”

“You Poms are crazy.”

“It has been said before, but they couldn’t prove anything.” I smiled and she sniggered.

“Can you come in every night, you certainly cheer things up?”

“Sorry, I’ve got a houseful of kids to look after.”

“What have ya got?”

“What, children wise?” I asked to clarify and she nodded. “The eldest is a girl of seventeen,” her eyes widened at this, “ next is a boy of twelve, then girls of ten, six, six, five and five months.”

“Seventeen? How old were you when you had her—three or four?”

“She’s adopted, so are the others actually—I can’t have my own kids.”

“Jeez, so you adopted seven—what’s that, one for each day of the week?”

“Something like that, when I was younger I used to bring home baby birds that had fallen out of the nest…”

“That’s a bit different to collecting children, jeez, I mean how can you afford to look after seven, I can’t afford one.”

“My husband has a good job.”

“He’d need one, what’s he do—banking?”

“He works for a bank, yes, now I need to get some healing into Daddy.”

“D’ya mind if I watch?”

“I can’t stop you, but please don’t come to close, it distracts me.”

“No, I won’t—it’s fascinating, will you get that light to shine again?”

“I don’t know, it tends to do its own thing, I’m just the conduit.”

“Who likes dormice?”

“Yeah, ’specially on toast.” I winked and walked into the cubicle as she groaned at my horrible joke.

I sat down and took Tom’s hand again. “Hi, Daddy, it’s me, Cathy, I’m back—just went out for a coffee and a wee. Now then focus on the blue light and my voice and I’ll bring you back to health—just follow my instructions and let the healing light do its thing.”

I sat there and again the energy was very slow and gentle—or it was leaving me, but not inside me where it felt as if I would burst into flames at any moment. I felt I had to take a bit more control and instead of being so kind and gentle with him, I began to become more directive and challenging.

“Daddy, why are you blocking me, and don’t say you aren’t. This is me, Cathy, your daughter—let me help you get better, because I need you, the children need you, even Simon needs you but he won’t tell you of course—he’s a bloke, but then I suspect you knew that already.

“Let me tell you a story which I think might help you: Once upon a time there was this lonely young woman who was lost, there were things she needed to do yet she was scared to do them. Then fate intervened, in fact it came crashing into her life in the shape of a Scottish noblewoman who was every bit as crazy as Lady Macbeth albeit in a more likeable manner. Anyway, she encouraged the young woman to take the only course of action that she really could. However, there were all sorts of hazards out there and she was very naïve and green as grass—and she had some awful issues with her parents, one of whom died soon after.

“Someone who’d keep a wary eye out for her and who’d taken her under his wing, shall we call the Magus, because he was a very clever man with a very soft heart and a strong moral sense. He also had amazing insight because he’d once had a daughter with similar problems to this young woman’s, although sadly she, the daughter had tragically died some years ago in a car crash. Anyway, the Magus offered the young woman a job and gave her his full support, finally offering her a room at his own house, becoming a surrogate father.

“When her own father died, the Magus effectively became her adoptive father, and in fact gave her away at her wedding—probably because she wasn’t worth much on the open market—I’m only joking, Daddy. It was very special day for our young heroine made all the more so because her adopted father was there.

“Of course like all headstrong youngsters she rebelled from time to time and they had the odd falling out, yet he allowed her to populate his home with all the waifs and strays she could find, some of whom had problems like the ones she’d had when he first knew her. She knew that above all other things she could always count on his love and support like she could a real parent.

“Things went on for two or three years, and he tolerated most of her impulsiveness, sometimes keeping her in line, sometimes offering wise counsel and sometimes going off in a huff with a single malt. Then one day, it all went wrong. A woman the Magus knew from years before came into his life again and caused a rift between the Magus and his daughter. Because she strongly suspected her motives, the daughter tried to challenge the older woman in front of the whole family. The Magus was very angry, perhaps because he had feelings for this woman, or perhaps because she was a guest in his house and he considered his daughter’s behaviour unacceptable. There was a great row and the daughter and the children left the house that night to take some time to mull over what had happened. She realised that she could be seen as jealous of the older woman and the affection her daddy had for her; thought that wasn’t the reason—she knew there was something the woman wasn’t telling her daddy—but she couldn’t convey that to him. Then he disappeared off the radar completely and she had to employ a private investigator to find him for her. When they did find him he was quite ill, in fact gravely ill and she was devastated.

“She rushed to be by his bedside just to tell him how much she loved him and needed him, and how much his grandchildren loved him and wanted him home to be with them as a family once again. In reality, they needed him for his wisdom and advice, for his love and protection and for dozens of other reasons which would take all night to detail—they did, however, deliberately not include his rendition of the ‘Muckin’ of Geordie’s Byre’ amongst them.” I felt his hand move when I said this as if he wanted to tell me he was laughing inside.

“Now, the daughter and heroine of our story, whom the Magus, because he was such a clever dick, knew to have special powers—I mean she couldn’t jump tall buildings at a single bound sort of powers, but she could help the sick, which he’d seen and experienced himself more than once. However, when she rushed to his bedside to help him, he rebuffed her, even though he’d been asking for her earlier.

“So like any good daughter, she asked her father for his permission to make him better—because like any good daughter or wife, she knows implicitly what’s best for him, even if he disagrees—so in short, she told him to lie back and think of Scotland and let her do her thing or they’d be there until he did.

“The problem is it’s an unfinished story—which the Magus has the power to end happily or with much sadness. It’s really all up to him, he can either make her the happiest woman alive or the saddest and in doing so break the hearts of seven children who hold him in enormous esteem as their adopted granddad.”

“It’s up to you, Daddy, please help me to do this.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1253

I was exhausted when I’d finished trying to get through to Tom and the Aussie nurse told me it was six o’clock. I disappeared, not wanting to involve anyone else in my efforts.

She told me that he seemed to have stabilised somewhat, so whatever I’d done was helping and his kidney function seemed to have improved. She also told me that she would be on duty the next night.

Simon was fast asleep on the back seat of the Cayenne and I woke him up to navigate the London traffic. He looked as bad as I felt when he drove me off in a direction I didn’t recognise.

“Where are we going?” I asked, worrying about the children.

“To get a shower and some breakfast, then you’re going to sleep for a bit.”

“But I need to get back to the children.”

“There are two grown-up women and a nearly grown-up, I think between them they’ll manage, don’t you?”

“I suppose so.”

Suddenly we drove up what seemed like a hill and on to the countryside. I was lost. Then a few moments later he drove in a driveway of which the gates magically opened. Beyond them was a magnificent house with a mature garden, tennis courts and separate garage block, which might have begun life as a stable block. On the driveway was a large Mercedes and a smaller convertible sports model, an SL?

I had a feeling I knew where we were, and it was confirmed a second or two later when Henry stepped out of the door and after hugging and kissing me on the cheek, invited me into his little home.

I was starting to fade rather quickly and he asked the cook to make me up something to eat and drink. She said to Simon, “I expect you’ll have your usual?”

“Natch,” he replied and pointed at me, “Make that two, with tea for my wife.”

“At last we get to see you, Lady Cameron.”

“Sorry, I’m not at my best, Daddy’s in intensive care in Barts and we’ve been there all night.”

“Why don’t you go and shower and breakfast will be ready when you come down?” I couldn’t argue and Simon led me up to the room we were to use. The house was huge, eight bedrooms plus two for servants’ use, each with a bathroom in what had been a dressing room.

Everywhere were signs of wealth and status, paintings of horses and portraits of self-important men and women fighting for space with ornate gilded mirrors, oriental silk fans and various assorted collections of cigarette cards and landscape paintings.

‘Our bedroom’ was huge, twice the size of the one we used in Tom’s house and the bedspread was embroidered silk with matching curtains and even the seats of the chairs and the dressing table stool matched.

“Bathroom’s through there,” Simon pointed at a door and I walked through and that was as big as a bedroom in a modern house. I stripped off and was soon luxuriating in the warm water of a power shower. It invigorated me and for a few minutes I was relaxed and thinking of nothing but the sensual experience of the warm water.

“There’s a robe on the door, use it.” I dried off and donned the towelling robe while he appeared in the bedroom with a pile of clothing.

“Where did that come from?”

“It’s Stella’s, she left it here a year or two ago, something should fit.” I fiddled about not sure about the underwear. “That’s all new,” he said seeing my hesitation.

I slipped on some panties and was about to re use my bra when I couldn’t find it. Realising what I was doing he said, “I’ve taken your dirty stuff for cook to wash for you, it’ll be dry and aired by this evening.”

“I could have washed it and hung over the shower rail.”

“She wants to help and she likes you?”

“How d’you know?”

“She said so.”

“She doesn’t know me,” I said almost in exasperation.

“She saw the film you made.”

“Yeah, but that’s only one part of me.”

“I did try to tell her about the tyrant in knickers but she took your side against me.”

“Sounds like she’s a sound judge of character,” I smirked.

“I’m going to shower, find something that doesn’t look too awful.”

“This is all classic Stella, but I doubt the bra will fit, I’m bigger than her now.”

“Bighead, I brought one of Monica’s too.” He disappeared into the bathroom and I heard water running. When I looked, Monica seemed to be the same bra size that I was. I tried it on and it fitted with some minor adjustments of the straps. Again it was brand new—don’t these people wear something twice?

I found some trousers and pulled them on and they fitted well enough, red silk material, I matched it with a white vee-necked silky top which fitted very well, although it hid the ivory bra underneath.

After donning a pair of knee-high stockings, I slipped my shoes back on. So far they were the only parts of my clothing I’d arrived in. I’d used someone else’s deodorant, soap, shampoo and clothing. I combed my drying hair into a ponytail as Simon emerged from the shower. He towelled himself dry and dressed in presumably the clothing he’d left here—he did visit every so often.

Minutes later we were seated in the morning room, looking out over the garden and tucking into two huge cooked breakfasts. Henry sat with us and had a coffee then excused himself, as someone in the family had to work to support ‘this lot’, he motioned to the house around him.

“Where’s Monica,” I asked Simon.

“In France, she’s been buying properties there—prices are falling there, she renovates them and sells them to Brits and Germans mainly, although the odd Russian is buying them too.”

“Don’t they ever see each other?”

“Oh yeah, Dad flies out there now and again or she comes home, but it’s like we used to be, their work keeps them apart.”

“Hers sounds more romantic than his,” I said buttering some toast.

“She knows her real estate, and she does turn in a reasonable profit, enough to pay for their own place.”

“What, here?”

“No, in France, down in the Midi.”

“How many properties does he own?”

“About six: this, Stanebury, the Midi, Minorca—he’s got a lovely villa near Cuitadella, an apartment in New York and a small place in the Hebrides.”

“How the other half live,” then I realised I was being hypocritical, I had two houses already and Tom had promised me his when he died.

“Other half, you are the other half now—it’s about time you got used to it.”

“Yeah, your other half,” I beamed at him.

He gave me a scornful look then smirked. “Whatever I say you manage to twist or turn round to mean something completely different.”

“Well, I have a different viewpoint and I’m just enlarging yours.”

“See, you’ve done it again.”

“No, you see me as a threat somehow, I haven’t changed anything except the way you see things.”

“More tea?” in came the cook, Mrs Jameson, with a fresh pot of Lady Grey.

“Thank you, Mrs Jameson, but I can’t eat another thing, not without popping these trousers.” I was full to the gunnels.

“Why, Lady Catherine, you’ve hardly eaten a thing.”

“I have so, two eggs, all the bacon, a sausage, some tomatoes and mushrooms.”

“And half a loaf of toast,” added Simon.

“Have another piece of toast, the marmalade’s homemade,” she insisted.

“I couldn’t honestly.” Though I did agree to another cup of my favourite tea.

“I loved your dormouse film, one of the best I’ve seen, Lady Catherine.”

I blushed and thanked her, I wanted to ask her to call me Cathy, but I suspect it wouldn’t have gone down too well, spreading insurrection. I also suspected she’d have thanked me and carried on as she was. However, I insisted on calling her by her name whereas Simon and Henry called her, ‘cook’. I’d never make an aristocrat—too much of an egalitarian.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1254

I phoned home and just caught the girls before they left—everyone was okay and prepared to cope for a day or two while I worked on Gramps. I hoped I was worthy of their faith in me. Simon went off to work in the London office leaving me to the tender mercies of Mrs Jameson.

“I’ve heard tell, Lady Catherine, that you are something of a cook yourself.”

I wasn’t sure if this was a way of challenging me or finding an area of common interest. “I do most of the cooking at home, but that’s more from a default position than desire, although I do enjoy seeing people eat what I produce.”

“Yes, the ultimate compliment, a clean plate,” she smiled. “What sort of things do you cook?”

For the next hour we talked about food and preparing it, she taught me a few good ideas and shortcuts and much to my delight, I was able to show her one or two things. We had coffee and a pastry which she’d made and which was melt in the mouth stuff. She showed me how to make a delicious puff pastry and a rather good filo, which might give me some confidence in making more of my own sweets.

Finally, my tiredness got the better of me and she sent me up to bed to sleep. The bed had been turned back and a nightdress left for me to wear. Despite it being daylight, and quite a bright day at that and the strange room, I fell asleep in moments feeling almost like wossername in Rebecca, ‘Last night I dreamt I went to Manderley again.’

I woke some four hours later, it was nearly four in the afternoon and I mused upon the fact that I’d resisted coming to this house. I didn’t know why, I suppose I felt out of place, perhaps even inferior—I wasn’t a peasant exactly, I knew which knife and fork to use and how to use them—but I felt uncomfortable in these opulent surroundings or thought I would, and I was scared to death of Monica—although she’d only ever come onto me once that day at the hotel, since then she’d left me in peace.

So why had I felt so frightened about coming here? The usual stuff, I didn’t want to be compared to the Cameron women, who’d had the advantage of living this sort of lifestyle since childhood, oh and the fact that they’d been women a bit longer than I. I thought I’d be a proverbial fish out of water, but so far it hasn’t been like that at all. Then, Henry is the only one here, and he’s so lovely he’d put me at my ease as soon as I stepped over the threshold, which is what he did. As a pa-in-law, he’s about as good as it gets.

So was I laying my ghosts? I wasn’t sure because—let’s just say because and leave it at that. I stretched and got up, as I’d showered earlier I had a little wash to freshen up and dressed in the same outfit I’d had on earlier, the red trousers and white top. I did comb my hair out and put it up in a topknot, thankfully, I always carry a few basics—comb and hairgrips with me. I also usually have some mascara and lipstick in my bag, too. I applied them, pinched a little of the perfume from the bottle on the dressing table and went down to see if I could help Mrs Jameson.

Of course she shooed me out of her kitchen, telling me that the master had left specific instructions that I should be treated as a family member, but not allowed to do any work—apparently, Henry felt I worked too hard and needed a little rest.

Mrs Jameson did disclose that Simon had phoned to tell Henry we’d be coming once I finished healing on Tom. Henry also knew from experience my healing powers and declared me a ‘perfect angel.’ Yeah one who can throw a tantrum as far as any other six-year-old when the mood took me, and who can be as spiteful and mean as any other ordinary woman on a bad day.

I’ve never been good at seeing my good points, probably because I was raised to be that way—it led to arrogance and conceit, both dreadful sins; notwithstanding that lack of confidence and self-belief cause all sorts of other problems. At times I could appear confident, for instance when talking to a group, students, prize-giving schoolkids or audiences attending one of my ‘out-takes’ fundraising talks. Then I’d be role-playing, giving them what they expected to see and hear; but it wasn’t me—only my family, and that’s sometimes edited, see the real me—assuming one actually exists. Maybe after all this time, I could end up like something from the Matrix and discover that in reality, I’m a figment of some one’s imagination. Is that the definition of a nightmare—when characters in a dream become more real than the person dreaming them?

Simon came home early, when he did I was sitting in the drawing room reading, or was it drawing in the reading room? No, it was definitely reading—I was reading or should I say, rereading Daphne Du Maurier’s, Rebecca and so far wossername doesn’t have a name other than Mrs de Winter. I suppose it explains why I couldn’t remember it, mind you if Henry had had a housekeeper called Mrs Danvers, I’d have been out of there a bit sharpish.

We ate a delicious chicken pie, with some of Mrs Jameson’s amazing pastry and loads of vegetables. I was too full far too quickly, and cried off a pudding, even though it did look very appetising. Simon and Henry had no such qualms and stuffed themselves. Simon had the excuse that he’d be back to basic cooking again when we left, for which both Henry and Mrs Jameson castigated him. He then asserted he was only joking and he loved his wife’s cooking. I suppose to a starving man, even my cooking seems good—to a lazy one, it also has its commendations.

At ten, Simon took me back to St Bartholemew’s Hospital and I once again talked with the Australian nurse. “G’day,” she welcomed me, I didn’t want to point out it was night-time. “I’ve been doing some research on mysterious healers, apparently there’s one in Portsmouth, who turns up now and again and performs miracles.”

“Where on earth did you see that?”

“In the local paper and it was picked up in the Sun, so it must be true.” She laughed after she said this.

“I’ve lived in Portsmouth for a few years and I’ve never met any super-healers,” I declared trying to put her off the scent.

“Yeah, well they reckon it’s a young woman, who’s attractive and well spoken, so that excludes half the female population, and who always manages to disappear afterwards.”

“Oh yeah, well then, that excludes me, I’ve never perfected changing in a telephone booth.”

“She’s also been described as an angel, and you look suitably angelic to me.”

“Can you see my wings? You should be able to, in order for something my size to get airborne, I’d need wings at least as big as a king condor, probably larger.”

“No, perhaps you’re a walking angel, you know, wings only apply to certain orders.”

“Like Cherubim?”

“Yeah, that sorta thing.”

“Would angels have a sex or gender?”

“Well of course, they’re always female, aren’t they?”

“Um—what about Michael and Gabriel?”

“Probably typos in the Bible, you know miscopying by some monk somewhere who was also a bit misogynistic and miscopied Michelle and Gabrielle.”

Much as I enjoyed her theory, I felt unconvinced by it, not helped by her twinkling eyes and smirks after she’d expounded it. I did however agree that she could watch me work if she kept it in total confidence.

She agreed and to give her something to think about, I told her that if she kept my confidence I’d keep hers, especially with regard to Sonia not knowing about her dabbles with Naomi.

“How on earth d’ya know about that?”

“I just do.”

“C’mon, who told ya? Who blabbed? Not that blabbermouth in Obstetrics and Gynae?”

“No one told me, I just know it, I also know you need to do something about your irregular periods.”

“How d’ya know about them?”

“Let’s just say I do and leave it at that.”

“Have I got ovarian cancer—my mother did?”

I held out my hand and she took it, the next minute she groaned and doubled up, “Jeezuz Aitch Christ,” she said before standing up again. “What the frigging hell was that for?”

“You asked if you had ovarian cancer—the answer is not anymore.”

“What? You cured it?”

“No, I didn’t, the energy did, don’t ask me to explain anything else because I can’t. Oh your polycystic problem has resolved itself, too.”

“Does that mean I can get pregnant?”

“I should think so, but you may need some help with that.”

“Oh yeah, loads of us who don’t do men manage it, so there are other ways and means.”

“I’m sure, just keep it quiet won’t you?”

“Absolutely—I won’t tell a soul.”

“Now, can I see my daddy?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1255

“He is much more stable than he was before you came last night, his blood pressure is good, his blood levels are good, his kidneys and liver seem to be functioning normally—so we don’t understand why he won’t come round.”

“Can I try and work with him again?”

“Of course you can, just give me a shout if you need anything?”

“I will.”

“Oh, and one other thing, thanks for what you did for me. Maybe you really are an angel.”

“Yeah, fallen variety.” After the exchange with Nurse Jolene, I went in to see Daddy. I announced my presence as I walked towards the bed. “Hi, Daddy, isn’t it about time you woke up, you lazy bones?”

I sat alongside him, “I need to get back to the children so we need you to get your bum in gear and sort yourself out and stop this sulking.” I seemed to get no response from this direct approach. I took hold of his hand and began talking to him again.

“There have been some differences between us, but they’re as hairline cracks not chasms, so c’mon and help me heal them. We all need you, Daddy, you’re an integral part of the family, please you must start to come back to us—whatever has happened, it’s in the past and we need to move on.”

I saw his eyes moving under his closed eyelids, it could mean he was thinking about what I said or he might be dreaming, in which case it was like REM sleep. I wanted to know what he was thinking so I could alter my approach as necessary.

I felt the energy flowing between us and as I centred down I began to think myself inside his mind. I felt myself in a place of immense darkness in which was an almost tangible sense of sadness. Where on earth was I?

I focused on a sense of love and in particular, my love for him and his supportive love to me. In my hand I visualised a light which might help me locate him and when I looked, I was holding a lamp in the shape of a heart which emanated a rose-pink light.

I concentrated on sending him love and the lamp began to turn in my hand and shine in one direction, I followed the light, really concentrating on sending him my love, and love is unconditional.

The lamp continued to guide me as I sent my love, and as I walked in the direction offered I thought I could hear someone weeping. I turned down the lamp and walked towards the sobbing. Eventually, I could make out a young man and woman they were talking and it was the man who was weeping.

“Diana, I love ye, he disnae and ye dinna love him—stay wi’ me.”

“You don’t understand do you, Tom, it isn’t about love, it’s about prospects and Godrick has more than you, he’s going to make it big one day, you—you’ll always be weak, putting your scruples before your own desires.”

“That’s hoo I wis taught tae act, wi’ dignity an’ honesty, it’s no a’ aboot money an’ power.”

“Isn’t it, Tom. It is for some of us. You’re a good man, go back to your test tubes and enjoy your poverty, at least it’s honest.” I watched as she walked away from him and I felt my anger rising, she was pure gold digger with no love for anything but herself.

The scene changed in front of me and I saw Tom with a younger woman. “Ye’ve a lang road ahead o’ye, if ye really want tae dae this.”

“It’s what I have to do, Daddy. All I ask is that you love me as much as a girl as you did when I was supposed to be a boy.”

“Yer Ma an’ I ’ll love ye, even if we canna hope tae understand ye or whit ye’re daein’.”

“I don’t understand it myself, Daddy, but then do salmon know why they have a desire to swim up rivers to spawn and probably die?”

“That’s jest thae call o’ nature, it’s pre-programmed intae their heids.”

“This feels like it’s programmed into mine and I have to do it, even if like the salmon, I die at the end of it—at least I tried to be the real me.”

“Och, ye mak’ a bonnie lassie an’ we both love ye, ye ken.”

“I know, Daddy.”

I felt a lump in my throat and then the scene changed before me again. This time an older Tom was with an older woman, “Why did this have to happen?” She sobbed to Tom.

“These things dae, there’s no rhyme or reason tae them, they jest happen.”

“She was all we had, Tom, that, that murderer has taken it all from us because he was drunk, and not a first offence—I’m glad he died, I hope it was in dreadful agony. My darling, my baby—I’ve lost my baby.”

“She wis ma child tae, Cynthia.”

“Yes, but if you hadn’t agreed to help fund her at Oxford, she’d never have gone there and this wouldn’t have happened. If you hadn’t bought her that car—oh my baby, why did she have to die like this?”

“I dinna ken, ma love, I dinna ken.”

I felt tears flowing down my cheeks as I witnessed this pain. It was no one’s fault unless one blames the drunken driver, it was one of those things, but such a destructive thing which obviously hit her very hard.

Next I was watching him sitting at her bedside as she was very ill and then she died he was distraught and I saw him drive out to the downs and park his car. I watched him take a rope from his boot and walk off into an area of scrubby woodland and as he was about to throw the line over a branch and presumably end his pain, I heard screams. He was in his own world and it took him a moment to realise someone was in trouble.

He ran towards the screams and saw a woman standing beside a flooded swallow hole as her child floundered in the middle of it. Tom saw the danger, gave her the end of the rope and told her to wrap it round a tree and hold the end, then he launched himself into the water and holding on to the rope began searching for the child. I watched with bated breath as he surfaced time and time again without the boy, then finally he started dragging himself back to the bank and in his left arm was the unconscious boy. He hauled himself out and began to pump the boy out, then administer mouth to mouth. The boy coughed and finally began breathing again. I felt so proud of him, my Daddy that is, and pleased for the boy and his mother. My Daddy was a hero, but then I knew that anyway.

I saw him standing at the graveside. He was alone and he was telling his wife and daughter about what he nearly did and he promised never to do such a thing again, no matter how bad things got.

Then I saw him arguing with Diana and she pushed him and he fell and bumped his head. Then she tied him up, took his car keys and fled. My distaste for her increased. I didn’t see what they were arguing about and I might never know, but if she came near him again, I’d punch her nose and damned hard.

I found myself sitting in the chair next to his inert body. I focused the energy on his head, there didn’t seem to be anything wrong there, or if there had been it had sorted itself.

“Daddy, I remember you telling me that you promised your Catherine and your wife that you’d never do anything silly to yourself after you saved that little boy from drowning. Isn’t this doing just that? Refusing to wake in the hope that you die? Isn’t that doing yourself harm?

“I thought you were a man of your word, obviously promises made to a grave don’t count in your book, and I’m disappointed. I thought you were made of sterner stuff and I also thought you loved your grandchildren and me a bit more than you obviously do. I shall wait here a few more minutes for you to prove me wrong, but I think I see you now, revelling in self-pity because she betrayed you again. Time to choose, Daddy, but don’t take too long—I need to go to see people who do love me and who do keep their promises, even if they are only children.”

I felt a lump in my throat, I was taking tremendous risks—what if he didn’t respond or called my bluff? I was hoping that he was still a little confused and not his usual razor sharp mind—then again, this was emotional stuff and men don’t do that too well.

I watched him process what I said, his eyes were moving under his eyelids again and once or twice he seemed to frown as if he didn’t like something—possibly my ultimatum.

I looked at my watch, it was after midnight—I’d been here two hours already. How time flies when… I watched him wrestling with his emotions and tears flowed from his still closed eyes. Then I thought I heard him say something. I squeezed his hand and he repeated it. It was barely audible, but what he said was, “Cathy, don’t go.”

I squeezed his hand again, “Welcome back, Daddy, I’m not going anywhere.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1256

I smiled at Daddy, who opening his eyes, blinked at me several times before he could actually see me. “Where am I?” he asked—aware it was a hospital but which one?

“Barts.”

He looked at me for a few moments as if trying to work out how he got there and what exactly, there, was. “St Bartholemew’s?” he uttered, not quite a whisper or a gasp but somewhere between the two. “Whit am I daein’ in London?”

“At the moment occupying an emergency bed, how you got here, we’re not sure, but you were found after Diana phoned the Metropolitan police from India. As far as we can tell you were dehydrated and your kidneys were causing some concern, but they’ve stabilised now, so hopefully they’ll discharge you in a few days.”

“A few days? Och, ye can tak me hame noo, whaurs ma breeks?”

“I don’t know, you’ve only ever been in that gown since I was sent for.”

“I cannae mak sense o’ this, whit’s Diana daein’ in India?”

“Time, I believe, as far as we’ve been able to elicit, she was arrested for carrying some large precious stone, which was nicked from a temple near Mumbai.”

“Aye, but surely she wis returrning it, no removin’ it?”

“That’s for the Indian authorities to sort out.”

“I hae to go and help her, I cannae leave her there alone, until Godrick is freed.”

“I’m afraid Godrick is thought to be dead.”

“Whit? Ye’re jokin’ or ye’d better be.”

“It hasn’t been confirmed as far as I’m aware but it was pretty certain to be his body they found.”

“Och, why did ye hae to wak me up, this world’s no worrth thae effort.”

“Daddy, I didn’t wake you up, you chose to come back because instead of one women of questionable morals waiting for you, there are seven grandchildren plus Puddin’; not to mention, three adults who love you to bits All I did was mention this to you—you chose to wake up.”

“I still need tae help her.”

“Daddy, when you were found you were tied up and unconscious. That doesn’t suggest she wanted you following her.”

“Wis she taking thae gemstone tae free Godrick—I’d prefer tae think she wis.”

“I don’t know, Daddy.”

“I’ll need tae send her some money.”

“Why?”

“Are ye stupid? She’ll need money to get hersel’ a lawyer.”

“I think we’ll need to discuss this in the morning, I’m bushed and you’re still quite frail.”

“I feel weel enough tae go hame. Whaur’s ma car?”

“Last heard of at Heathrow.”

“Whit’s it daein’ there?”

“If it hasn’t been removed by the police, running up an horrendous parking fee.”

“Can ye go an’ fetch it fa me?”

“I’ll arrange to have it sent home if the police have finished with it.”

“An’ jest hoo am I s’posed tae get hame?”

“When the hospital considers it appropriate, I’ll come and collect you.”

“Ye’ve got it all figurred oot?”

“Mostly.”

“Ye’re a scunner, Catherine Cameron.”

“Probably—but you knew that yonks ago and still gave me away at my wedding.”

“Aye, weel, I wuldnae hae got much o’ a price fa ye, wuld I?”

I blinked at him, the penny dropped and I glared. “If we’re talking about price per pound, I suspect I’d get more than you, so I wouldn’t come too much the old soldier, if I were you.”

“Ah, you’re awake, Professor?” Jolene joined us as we duelled.

“Hello hen, Cathy, I thocht ye said we’re in London, not Australasia?”

“You are, Professor, I’m nearly as much of a foreigner as you sound.”

I sniggered at this until Tom glared at me. “Allow me to introduce my daughter, the Lady Catherine Cameron.” Tom spoke in an exaggeratedly proper English accent.

“Lady Catherine?” she looked at me, “Is that for real?”

“’Fraid so.” I shrugged and blushed.

“Jeez, had I known, I’d have been curtseying to ya.” She sniggered as I blushed some more.

“Would you like something to eat or drink, Professor?”

“Och, Cathy, can gi’ me somethin’ when we get hame.”

“You’re not going anywhere tonight, sport.”

“I can discharge, mesel’.”

“If he tries that, have him sectioned,” I quickly quipped.

“I’ve a better idea, we’ll just leave him attached to the machines until the doctor’s seen him tomorrow.”

“I’ll unplug mesel’,” he said defiantly.

“I wouldn’t recommend it—um—are you Lord someone, too?”

“No, just plain Thomas Agnew.”

“Professor is hardly plain in my books, Professor. So, Lady C, you married your title did you?”

“It’s the easiest way to get one—shall I contact the grapevine for you?” I teased knowing full well she wasn’t interested in men.

“Uh—no thanks. Now what about some food, Professor?”

“I don’t suppose ye’ve a haggis an’ some Laphroaig, hae ye? I missed Burrn’s Nicht.”

“Um—no, I was thinking more a piece of toast and a cuppa.” Now it was Jolene’s turn to blush.

“Maybe we could get it piped in for you, Daddy?” I suggested, smirking.

“Aye, ye’re a scunner, alricht.”

Jolene disappeared and returned about twenty minutes later with tea and toast, including a cuppa for me. “Now, keep this quiet or they’ll all be wanting some.”

“As thae grave,” smiled Tom and I shuddered, the way he was headed, he’d be there long before I was ready to let go of him. But then that seemed to be the trend in both our families.

I left him about an hour later, he was tiring and I left him to sleep. He’d taken his medication from Jolene and I was pretty sure he was in capable hands, besides she was quite an attractive woman and he was putty in their hands if they knew how to handle him, and I was pretty sure that despite her sexual preference, she knew how to get what she wanted from men. Hell, I was getting quite good at it, and she’d had much longer to practice than I had.

I got a cab home, and that cost over twenty quid because it was after midnight. When I said Hampstead and guided him towards the heath, I’m sure he thought I was on the game because he almost sneered at me. Then when I directed him to Henry’s house, I was sure he thought I was making a commercial stop, until I saw Simon waiting for me. “Ah, my husband, good, he can pay your outrageous fee,” I snapped as I got out of his cab and hugged Simon, then asked him to get the fare. Simon shook his head and went to settle the bill, saying something like, “I wish you’d put some money in that handbag of yours.”

Once inside, Mrs Jameson plied me with food and drink and Henry with questions about Tom. “I’m afraid I have some more bad news for you to convey to Tom, his girlfriend died earlier this morning, she had a massive heart attack, apparently.”

“I didn’t know she had one,” I quipped.

Henry scowled at me and Simon told me off for not respecting the dead. “I told her to her face that she was a cheating, lying tart, so I’m staying consistent. Daddy is still in hospital because of her.”

“I think it’s probably more because of what he felt about her, than what she did directly.” Henry suggested and I had to concede he had a point. “Most of us aren’t forced to do things against our wills, we agree to do them, even though we know at times that we’re doing the wrong thing.” I nodded at Henry’s point. “I’m afraid it all boils down to, there’s no fool like an old fool, and especially one who remembers things from the past because for a moment you’re that age again and the feelings rise again.”

“You sound as if you’ve been there?” I commented to my pa-in-law.

“Oh yes, just wait until you’re my age, then we can compare notes on our dotage.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1257

Life was hectic for the next four or five days, as I travelled up and down to London daily until Daddy was discharged from hospital. When I collected him, Jolene came in despite it being her rest day and we had a good hug before we parted. “You’re something special, d’ya know that?” she said as we walked from the hospital.

“You’re pretty good yourself, for a Sheila, that is.” My reply made her scowl at me then she laughed.

“Girl power,” she called raising her fist in the air.

“Quite,” I called back and loaded Daddy into my car. The drive home was uneventful, we chatted but I didn’t tell him about Diana. She’d died from a pulmonary embolism arising from an undiagnosed DVT in her leg after her long flight, or so the Foreign Office told Henry. He vaguely knew the couple and in some ways it seemed sad they’d both died, they were Daddy’s friends after all.

The bodies were to be cremated in India and then flown home to be interred at a cemetery near Salisbury. I would offer to take him when the date was known, but I couldn’t shed tears for someone I despised with my every breath.

The children made an awful fuss of their Grampa when they got home from school and he ran out of knees for them to sit on, so they cuddled up tight on the sofa with him.

I left him to cope with it and went to make the evening meal—nothing fancy, a plain roast chicken—for all of us—one about the size of an ostrich. Tomorrow, I would make soup for us and a chicken curry for him, I hoped he’d appreciate it.

Over dinner, the problem of little piggies and big ears cropped up big time. The children had heard me talking with Simon about Diana’s death, although neither of us were aware we were being overheard at the time.

It happened like this. We were finishing dinner—in fact I was clearing the dirty crocks to shove in the dishwasher when Tom declared he was going to email the Foreign Office to push the Indian government to ask for clemency for Diana, given her recently widowed status.

I pretended not to hear him as did Simon and Jenny, Stella was out with Gareth and Puddin’. However, Mima had no such inhibitions. “Oh she’s dead, Gwamps.”

“Whit?” gasped Daddy.

“Wady Diana’s dead, I wistened to Mummy and Daddy talking.”

Daddy looked at me in astonishment and I blushed, “Cathy, whit’s a’ this aboot.”

Feeling betrayed by my own stupidity and embarrassed to hell, I stuttered and stumbled an apology.

“Is this richt?”

I nodded.

“I tak’ it ye were going to tell me?”

“Of course, I just wanted to wait until you were strong enough to cope, I know she was a good friend.”

“Sae ye ken when I’m strong enough, dae ye? Sae ye can lie an’ deceive me, because ye didnae like her.”

Simon shooed the children out of the dining room and Jenny went with them.

“It wasn’t like that, Daddy, you were very ill—you nearly died.”

“Weel mebbe that’d hae been better than learnin’ ma dochter wis a liar.”

“Steady on, Tom, it was my idea not to tell you just yet, not Cathy’s.” Simon was deliberately trying to draw his fire, perhaps hoping that if Tom’s anger calmed I’d then be able to talk to him quietly, instead of this high drama stuff.

“Sae wha gi’s ye thae richt tae mak’ decisions fa me? I no in ma dotage yet, Mister.”

“Daddy, please, can we sit down and discuss this quietly like civilised adults.”

“Mair like a nest o’ vipers,” he spat and stalked off to his study where he slammed the door hard causing some dust to drop from the plaster in the hallway.

“Oops,” said Simon as if he’d just dropped a difficult catch at a village cricket match. “So what do we do now?”

I crumpled on to a dining chair and burst into tears. “That bloody woman is still causing me trouble even though she’s dead.”

Si put his hand on my shoulder, “You do your best for him, he’ll see that one day.”

“One day?” I squealed and sobbed loudly. “I’ve never known him like this, he used to be the kindest man in England. Now he’s so short-tempered.”

“Yes, Babes, but he has just discovered he’d lost the love of his life and thought you were concealing it from him.”

“I was, but for his sake—he nearly died, Si, it was so close, I had to work really hard with him not to die. It’s not as if she was good for him, she was class A bitch, who screwed him up when he was younger, too. I’m glad she’s dead.”

“How d’you know about the ancient history between them?”

“I just do—it was something I saw or thought I saw.”

“With Diana?”

“When I was working on Daddy, I got a glimpse of his early life with her. She left him because Godrick had more chance of making the big time.”

“Did they have any children?”

“Don’t think so, I hope the local cat’s home gets it all rather than the Treasury.”

“Quite,” agreed Simon, “his stock is going to drop significantly.”

“So are you going to sell yours?”

“No, just the opposite, now might be a good time to buy—they were doing some quite exciting things with stem cells.”

“Were they?—I hope they haven’t cloned that bitch, with my luck, they have.”

“Don’t be silly—that only happens in sci-fi stories.”

“No it doesn’t, look at Dolly the sheep, and some woman had her dead dog cloned.”

“It’s illegal in humans.”

“She wasn’t human.”

“Cathy, don’t be silly.”

“She wasn’t, she was a monster—a chimera.”

“Wow, whatever one of those is.”

I wiped my eyes and blew my nose and went back to my chores. A little later Daddy walked back in with Trish, they were holding hands. “Gramps wants to say something, don’t you, Gramps?”

He shuffled a little then red as a tomato he said, “I’m sorry I overreacted, ye were wrong to keep me in thae dark, but I understand you did it for thae best o’ reasons.”

I couldn’t respond, I was lost for words.

“It’s all right, Mummy, Gramps and me discussed it, he understands now.” Six years old and interceding in family disputes, at this rate she’ll be running the UN by the time she’s ten.

“Aye, she’s a bonny lassie,” he put his hand round her shoulder and they went back to his study.

Simon looked at me and we both sniggered. “What d’you think she said to him?” he asked.

“I have no idea, and I’m not sure I want to know.” I had tears running down my face with the stress and then the surreal experience I’d just had.

Simon engulfed me with a monster hug, “With all these women about, there’s never a dull moment in this house is there?”

“Only because you men don’t understand us,” I said wiping my nose in his shirt.

“Ugh, you dirty pig,” he said and as I ran off he chased after me stripping off his shirt as he came, which I suspect he was going to rub on my face or hair.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1258

I felt shattered, lying in Simon’s arms in bed, I reflected on the past few days. It struck me as sad that just one malevolent female had reduced our little paradise into hell in about twenty-four hours. Our compassion was our weakness, our kindness was used against us. She twisted and manipulated, almost sucking me into her game as well as most of the others.

Somehow my hunch had been right, or seemingly so, we might never learn why she was taking the emerald back to India. Was she giving it up or was she keeping it with her and unable to get it through customs? I don’t know if I could fool customs and airport security but I’d have thought that keeping it in something of similar consistency like glass, or amongst glass beads or suchlike might have prevented the X-ray machines detecting it. Then again if they were watching her, they might still have found it.

It was very likely detected before she left Heathrow and the authorities allowed her to convict herself with possession of the stolen stone. Then, did she die from an embolism, or would there have been a public outcry about her arrest? I suspect she’d have lied her arse off to the Indian courts about restoring the stone to its rightful owners having come into possession of it by mistake or misfortune. Of course the devil looks after his own, so maybe she did die naturally. I’ll take Daddy to her memorial service if he wants to go, but I won’t go in the church, I’ll never forgive her for what she so nearly did to us, almost killing Tom and perhaps worse, so nearly destroying this family for the sake of his incorrectly-remembered love. The persons who did love him were Cynthia and Catherine. It’s them he should be remembering and I really do wish I’d known them better than just names on a gravestone.

“You’re very quiet,” said Simon, the Lark Ascending was playing quietly on my MP3.

“Uh? Oh, I was listening to the music.”

“I saw this played live at the Albert Hall when I was kid,” said Si, “our music teacher took us to see Nigel Kennedy play it.”

“I heard it at the Colston Hall in Bristol, in a concert by the BBC Symphony Orchestra, can’t remember who played it now, some Chinese girl, I think—she was very good.”

“Vanessa-Mae,” he said.

“May what?”

“Eh?”

“Vanessa may what?”

“No, that’s her name, Vanessa-Mae, she’s a child prodigy or was, she’s about our age, I think, and she’s British.”

“Yeah, she looks Chinese.”

“She is an oriental mix I think, but is a Brit by all accounts.”

“She sounded British when she spoke,” I conceded.

“She must have been pretty young then?”

“Yeah, I might have been at Sussex then or sixth form, can’t remember—my dad took us, he liked his fiddle music and I must admit I like the Twentieth Century British composers, especially Ralphy boy.”

Ralphy boy? This is only Vaughan-Williams we’re talking about, the man who told Hitler to get stuffed.”

“Did he?” Simon was full of useless information, including this piece.

“Yeah, old Adolf invited him to Germany to receive some award for his music and he turned it down.”

“Good for him, I had a friend at uni who hated him.”

“Which one, Adolf or Ralph?”

“V-W.”

“He was a lovely, if irascible old fart by all accounts.”

“He also destroyed all his manuscripts of the folk music he’d collected, thereby denying an archive the opportunity to keep what is probably lost forever.”

“It would have been his property to with as he liked.”

“I know, Si, but it might have been nice for later researchers to have seen his records of the original songs.”

“Oh well, we all make mistakes, if Hitler had won the war, Ralphy boy might have ended up against the wall.”

“He didn’t though, did he? Did you know Andrew Sachs was a member of the Hitler Youth?” I turned the tables on him, I’d heard him on a radio programme some time ago talking about his origins in Germany.

“What, Manuel?”

“Yep.”

“But he played Dr Watson in the Radio Four Sherlock Holmes?” protested Simon, “he can’t be a foreigner—I mean, Dr Watson is the epitome of an English gentleman.”

“So are you and Henry, and Tom for that matter and yer all Haggis bashers.”

“Hark who’s talking.”

“I are from Brissle, I are.”

“But you were born in Dumfries, so every bit as much a porridge scoffer, as we are.”

“You were born with your mother, but that doesn’t make you female does it?”

“You told me your family was Scots.”

“Oh yeah, Watts is a Scottish name isn’t it?” I knew damn well it was but I do enjoy winding him up. “For that matter, so is Watson. Remember Conan-Doyle was one of your men in skirts too. So he’d have made his narrator a tartan terror.”

“I’m well aware Conan-Doyle was a Scot, but in those days it wasn’t particularly important and he’d have probably referred to himself as English.”

“Oh well, that’s all right then.”

“Stop changing the subject, porridge scoffer.” Simon was trying to hit back.

“I hardly ever eat porridge, and never with salt or bagpipes.”

“Bagpipes?”

“Yeah, if I was Scots, I’d never be able to eat it without salt or bagpipes.”

“I always have sugar on it and cream,” Simon licked his lips, “Dad used to protest; anyway aren’t you being somewhat stereotypical?”

“Well of course all us gender-variant types see things in black and white—you know black stockings and white stilettos.”

“What the hell are you on about?”

“Nothing, why?”

He sat up in bed and looked at me for a moment before saying, “I never did pay you back for snotting on my shirt.”

“I didn’t, it was just tears.”

“So why did you run?”

“Forgotten.”

“I have a way of making you remember.”

“Do you, what are you going to do, shag me into recollection?”

“Now there’s an idea, but first this…” he leant over and began to tickle me. The swine had his leg over both of mine so I couldn’t escape and I very nearly wet myself. His fingers are too rough. I agreed to let him bonk me in the end because he threatened tickle me again.

I suppose I could have refused and wet the bed, then made him sleep in it—nah don’t go there, we Scottish aristocratic sorts don’t do such things, we sit there looking dour while sucking cold porridge off our wooden platters.

Thinking of this nonsense, I started to laugh. “What’s got into you?” asked Simon.

“Apart from you, you mean?”

“Great, making me laugh is hardly conducive to maintaining the wherewithal is it?”

Of course, that made me laugh even more and he fell out of me, making me snigger. “What’s the matter big boy, need me to kiss it better?” Then I thought about what I’d just said and the strange glint in his eye.

Oh pooh, sometimes I should keep my mouth shut—now would be a good time.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1259

The last thing I remember last night was cleaning my teeth again before falling asleep. I completely zonked waking at about the same time as the alarm clock switched on the Today programme on Radio 4.

I listened to the news headlines before opening my eyes. I looked at Simon and he was awake and beaming at me. “You were good last night, Missus.”

I blushed. “This trouble in Egypt looks pretty serious,” I said latching on to the main story of the news bulletin.

“Wanna suck my lollipop?” he said and I immediately went even redder.

“If you tell anyone about last night, it will suddenly become a never repeated act.”

“Why? It’s what wives do for their husbands, lovers and so on.”

“I have to get up and get the girls ready for school.”

“Sure you don’t want a little lick? Just one mind you.”

“Simon, you’re heading for a punch on the nose.”

“Why, it’s only like licking an ice cream?”

“Is it now, and how would you know that?”

Now it was his turn to blush, “Well, that’s what they say, isn’t it?”

“I suspect, they, whoever they actually are, have only ever completed the theory part of the course.”

“Oh—so wasn’t it like, ice cream?” he looked crestfallen.

“Simon, ice cream is cold.”

“Oh yeah, how about baked Alaska?”

“That is meringue, Simon, the ice cream inside it is still cold.”

“Yeah, okay.” He hesitated, “Was it nice for you?”

“Simon, I wish you’d think before you speak.” I went to the bathroom thinking, I need to take my own advice—if I had, I wouldn’t be facing this interrogation now.

I showered and after towelling myself dry slipped on some clothes, he was still lying in bed with a beatific smile on his face. I shook my head. What is it with boys and their toys?

I roused the girls who were all awake and reading. “Are we all going to have a lollipop or ice cream from Daddy, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“You shouldn’t listen to other people’s conversations, it’s rude,” I said ordering them into the shower. Half an hour later, I had four girls dried and dressed as I plaited their nearly dry hair. Billie’s was growing quite quickly, mind you I hadn’t thought too much about it before, when it looked scruffy I used to ask Stella to trim it.

Danny followed us down the stairs shouting something back at Julie as he did. Breakfast was organised chaos or should that be chaotic organisation? Then again everyone got fed and watered, even I had time for a cuppa, some toast and a banana.

“No porridge today?” observed Simon as he came into the kitchen. I could smell my shower gel on him—I must remember to get some more of his, then he won’t use mine. I glared at him and he smiled at me.

I bustled about the kitchen making sure everyone had eaten as much as they should when Julie darted off to go to the salon, taking the sandwich I’d made for her—she loves peanut butter—horrible stuff—but then I don’t have to eat it, and it isn’t exactly arduous to slap on a couple of pieces of wholemeal bread, pop in a bag with some crisps an apple and a chocolate bar. She snatched her lunch box, pecked me on the cheek, “Thanks, Mummy, you’re a star,” she disappeared out to get her scooter and off to work.

Simon had just settled down to eat his cereal—mushy Weetabix, when Trish dropped her bombshell. “May I have a lollipop like you gave to Mummy?”

It’s going to take weeks to get the Weetabix off the fridge and the worktops.

I quietly left the room while he talked his way out of that one. I just had to go to the loo and I couldn’t hold the laughter any longer. I sat weeing, biting on a towel as I felt the tears roll down my cheeks. Poor Simon, he nearly choked to death and all I wanted to do was laugh—it was so funny.
I managed to control myself, wash my face, again, and pop on a bit of lippy and mascara. I used a bright red lipstick and when I went back into the kitchen, I caught Simon alone and pretended to lick something. He went deep beetroot before withdrawing to finish getting dressed for work.

“You don’t usually wear red lipstick, Mummy,” observed Livvie.

“It goes quite well with my red jacket don’t you think?” I had on a red, worsted Laura Ashley jacket.

“I think it wooks sexy, Mummy.” We all knew what Meems thought, quite why she thought it, I wasn’t sure.

“Daddy says you’re sexy, Mummy?” How I missed the cyclist, I’ll never know but Billie’s comment made me momentarily lose it. Did Simon discuss me with the children? I hoped not.

“What d’you mean, darling?” I fired back hopefully as casually as I could make it sound.

“He told us you are the sexiest woman alive.” Billie repeated.

“Did he now?” I’m not sure I like being compared with anyone but at least he was defending me.

“Yeah, there was a thing on the Internet with Rhianna doing her stuff and she’s supposed to be super sexy, we all watched it and Cheryl Cole’s new one and asked Daddy which was sexier? He said you were the sexiest woman alive.”

“I’m not sure you should be watching those sorts of videos, girls—they can give the wrong impression of how to behave.”

“We have competitions in the lunch break to see who can do the sexiest wiggle and walk.” I thanked Livvie for this information and wondered if I should say something to the headmistress. I didn’t want my six- and ten-year-old children to become sex objects—at the same time, providing they were treating it like a game, I couldn’t say too much—it would only make things worse. Life is such a quandary.

I saw them to the school and went back to grab some shopping on the way home. When I arrived at home—delighted that I’d got a three pack of glossy tights for a bargain price—Stella met me at the door.

“What’s the matter?”

“The school rang, can you go and see them, Danny’s been fighting.” Stella shrugged and took the shopping.

“Can you make a new loaf, Stella, I’ll be back as soon as I can.” I walked briskly back to the car and drove straight to Danny’s school.

I spoke to the secretary, “Hello, I’m Danny Maiden’s mother, someone rang home about him having been involved in a fight.”

“Oh yes, he’s at the hospital.”

“What? What happened?” The word knife came to mind and I almost imagined him lying somewhere bleeding profusely.

“I’m not sure, but he got bumped on the nose and we couldn’t stop it bleeding, so one of the teachers took him to the QA.”

“Why was he fighting?”

“I don’t know, Mrs Maiden.”

“Actually, my name is Cameron, not Maiden.”

“Oh, sorry.” She looked at something on her computer, “Oops, we have that down too, sorry about that, Lady Cameron.” She apologised with her mouth but her look was one of why isn’t he in a private school?

“I’m a Guardian reader,” I said and went back into the corridor where I called the QA and spoke to A&E. They’d patched him up and he was either on his way home or back to school. I’d just cancelled that call and about to phone Stella when she rang me.

“He’s home, with two lovely shiners and a very red nose.”

“I’m just going to try and find out what this was all about from the school’s point of view.”

“I see, so if it’s not satisfactory, you gonna send him to the convent, too?”

“I think that may be pushing the envelope a bit too hard.” I rang off and waited to speak with the teacher in charge of the playground who was presumably the one on duty when the fracas happened.

I turned around when I heard the secretary telling someone I was waiting in the corridor and nearly fell over.

“Well, well, Charlie Watts, you have changed,” we recognised each other immediately.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1260

I glanced at the grizzled figure in front of me—surely he’s not still working is he? He was old when I was a kid.

“You don’t recognise me, do you?”

“I know who you are well enough.”

“Oh, you don’t seem too pleased to see me—not still seething about Lady Macbeth are we?”

“You knew damned well I didn’t want to play that part.”

“But you did, and masterfully as well, if I remember correctly. So now you’re playing Lady Bountiful, are you?”

“I’m not playing at anything, I’m a married woman with seven adopted children.”

“I see, not a bad achievement for the little swot I remember from the sixth form at Bristol. I take it you got your degree eventually?”

“Yes, in biology and ecology.”

“Are you working?” he asked and I couldn’t understand why I felt compelled to answer. He had no right to ask these questions and I had every right to tell him where to get off.

“Part-time.”

“Oh,” he seemed a little taken aback by that.

“I teach at a university.”

“You don’t say, well, well.” The bell rang as he spoke and the classrooms emptied for the mid-morning break. “Come with me, Watts,” he jerked his thumb in a direction and began walking towards it. I followed behind fuming.

He led me into a small office and told me to sit. I felt like an errant dog, he went off and returned with two mugs of almost passable coffee. I thanked him and he closed the door.

“What are you calling yourself these days, Watts?”

“Catherine Cameron is my legal married name.”

“Married? So you’re a missus now then?”

“Yes and no.”

“Eh?”

“Mrs Cameron is correct but Lady Cameron is more correct as my husband has a title.”

“Does he know about your little problem?”

“I don’t have a problem.”

“Oh, so being a boy or a man isn’t a problem then?”

“I’m neither, I’m legally female and have married as such, but to answer your prurient curiosity, my husband knows my past and so does his family. Unlike you, they don’t have a problem with it.”

“Who said I had a problem with it?”

“From your insistence on using previous names.”

“I wasn’t aware of your new one.”

“I find that hard to believe, I’ve hardly been living in a nunnery, so there has been quite a bit of media interest over the years.”

“Has there? I didn’t notice.”

“You didn’t see my film on the dormouse?”

“I thought you said you taught in a university?”

“I also make films and run a national survey of mammals.”

“As well as playing mummy to seven kids?”

“Yes, although we do now have someone to help me do that.”

“And you live in that Georgian farmhouse?”

“You took Danny home?”

“Yes, nice kid, pity he’s so easily wound up.”

“What d’you mean?”

“Apparently someone said his brother was now his sister and did she suck his dick, or some equally vacuous and disgusting question. Don’t tell me you’re converting boys to girls—are you?”

“I have a couple of children who were placed with me who were gender variant.”

“They were placed with you?”

“Yes by a local paediatrician and a county court judge.”

“Oh, trust you to pull that off, Watts.”

“My name is Cameron, and it isn’t usual practice to call a woman by her surname.”

“Oh, a faux pas, on my part, so sorry, Lady Bountiful. Yes you were too perfect in Macbeth, swaggering round in skirts and makeup. We all thought you were queer, now we know.”

“From what you’re saying you know very little and understand even less.”

“I know a nancy-boy when I see one.”

“I think I know a bigot when I see one, too.”

“Oh, into name-calling now are we?”

“I think you started it. I have better things to do than justify myself to an ancient scrote like you, Whitehead.”

“That’s Mister Whitehead to you nancy-boy.”

“Sorry, I always thought it was Wanker Whitehead, that’s what we all used to call you, but I suspect that you’re impotent—not helped by the diabetes—tends to do that to you, doesn’t it Whitehead?”

“How d’you know about my diabetes?”

“I know all about you, Whitehead, from the skin cancer you had removed from your scalp—too much sun in the Algarve, wasn’t it? Then the prostate problem, you poor dear. Did the double by-pass make you feel easier?”

“Have you been reading my medical notes?”

“I don’t need to, Whitehead, your body is telling me. Oh, by the way if you have the kidney replacement, you won’t survive it, the aortic aneurysm will pop.”

He slumped into his chair. “How do you know all that?” he was ashen grey.

“I can read your body like a book.”

“Better go and deal with your son’s broken nose then.”

“Oh that healed a few minutes ago.”

“I don’t believe you, you bloody queer.”

“I’m not queer, just slightly extraordinary, ever so slightly. Has the tooth stopped aching?”

He felt his jaw, “Yes, how did you know about that?”

“I just healed it for you.”

“Bullshit, I don’t believe you.”

“Okay, don’t believe me.”

I touched his tummy and he went white and convulsed in pain. When he’d recovered he quietly asked, “What did you do?”

“You don’t deserve it, but I fixed your aneurysm. Go and get your kidney sorted and leave me and mine alone.”

“How can I believe you?”

“See your doctor, but if you mention my name it will revert and will burst slowly and agonisingly.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Fine, but I won’t come to your funeral simply to dance on your grave.”

“Pity, I’m getting buried at sea.”

“Oh well, better see if you can get a deal while you’re still alive then.”

“I always despised you, Watts.”

“Why, because you fancied me as Lady Macbeth, the tent in your trousers was a playground joke, didn’t you notice me paying you lots of attention when you were on yard duty?”

“You bitch.”

“The reason for your hostility is you still fancy me, however, I wouldn’t sleep with you if you were the only person left in the universe. Also my husband is extremely large and strong, he was a rugby wing forward, so can handle himself. I’d only have to mention you made a pass at me and you’d be a nursing home case tomorrow.”

“Get out of here, Watts.”

“Not until you address me by my proper name and tell me the truth.”

“I’ll call the police.”

“Try it, I know most of them by first name.”

“You really are a bitch, a prize one, aren’t you, Lady Cameron?”

“Yes, but then you knew that when you lusted after me as Lady Macbeth, didn’t you?”

“All right, so what if I did—I could still get your boy expelled for fighting.”

“Mister Whitehead, you don’t realise who I am, or who my family are, do you?”

“I don’t care who they are—you can’t touch me.”

“I won’t need to touch you, if I ask the right person your little world disintegrates a few hours later.”

“Now I know you’re lying.”

“Why is there no Mrs Whitehead? You’re secretly gay aren’t you—still lusting after a schoolboy who was really a schoolgirl and who would be no use to you at all. You don’t do women, do you? I’m a woman, Whitehead, these breasts are real and are actually feeding a baby—for which I’m late. I’m female you silly little man. You followed me down here didn’t you? You did know who I was all along. You sad old fool. I don’t need to destroy you, you’ve done it yourself. Get a life while you still have time.”

I looked down upon him, as I was standing and he was slumped over his desk sobbing. I walked away and shut his door feeling quite sick.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1261

I’d more or less rid myself of the sense of being soiled by the time I got home, and walked into Stella, who accosted me. “It was you, wasn’t it?”

“What was?”

“I was about to place an icepack on this poor lad’s nose and the swelling went down and his eyes—black eyes, that is—disappeared back to normal. For a moment I thought I was having a little turn, then I realised what it could be. It was you, wasn’t it?”

“I sent him some healing, yes.”

“About ten thirty?”

“I wasn’t looking at a clock.”

“I knew it, Kiddo, it’s yer bloody mother—can’t leave anything alone. D’you know undertakers are up in arms with her, no one dies anymore, all because of her.”

Danny was sniggering but found time to hug me, “Thanks, Mummy, the pain went quickly, too.”

He was now nearly shoulder height to me, but I hugged him gently. “Perhaps you could tell me what happened?”

“Nothin’ much, some bigger kid insulted Billie an’ me. I told him to shove it and he nutted me.”

“He what?”

“He head-butted me, on the nose—I heard it crack, blood everywhere an’ he walked off laughing.”

“Other kids were stood round with mouths wide open, then Mr Whitehead came rushing over, shoved this clean hanky in my hand and went off after Canard.”

“Who’s Canard?”

He gave an impression of a Glasgow-nod, so it was obvious who Canard was. “Mr Whitehead grabbed him and Canard tried to butt him, but Mr Whitehead saw it coming and shoved his fist in Canard’s face. He sent him home pending expulsion. Then he took me to the hospital, once we’d got a towel to hold under my nose.”

“So Mr Whitehead didn’t do anything funny then?”

“I thought his knuckle sandwich was very funny, Canard didn’t.”

“The hospital X-rayed me, told me it was broken and they couldn’t do anything until the swelling went down. It’s gone down but I don’t think I need to go back, do I?”

“Mr Whitehead is your new deputy head?”

“Yeah, he said he thinks he taught you in Bristol, he said he certainly remembers you wandering around the school in long dresses and high heels when you played Lady Macbeth. He said he has some photos of you, somewhere. He said he thought you had turned out to be quite a stunner.”

“You’re not making this up are you?”

“No, he was really nice and said he’d followed your career with interest, and moved down here when his wife died.”

My stomach flipped. I’d hated the man after his seeming fascination with me in dresses. I’d thought he was gay or worse, perhaps I’d misjudged him? He had been demeaning to start with, was there another reason than being nasty? Like, hiding his fixation. In protecting one of my children, he’d possibly put himself at risk. Now I felt completely confused.

I called the school and made an appointment to see him at four thirty. I asked not to give my name, but that I was a pupil’s mother and I needed to discuss something very private with him. I wasn’t sure what to say, but I needed a full explanation and if necessary to apologise to him.

I was tempted to dress up, but then thought that would be cruel, and in the end stayed in my comfortable jeans and trainers, with a jacket and jumper underneath. Lunch was the next agenda item, especially for wee yin, who had some milk and then some of the soup I’d made. She swallowed that down quickly then we heard rippling noises in her nappy, everyone sniggered so she thought it was funny. Jenny had to leave the table she was laughing so much.

I arranged with Jenny to collect the girls while I went to see Whitehead, Danny asked if he could come too. I wasn’t sure that was a good idea but he insisted, besides we’d found some new handkerchiefs of Simon’s, that I knew he wouldn’t miss. I wrapped them and we did a thank you note for him to give with them.

School was empty except for a couple of Neanderthals who were sitting on a wall by the car park. They caused us no trouble as we walked past them and into the school. We waited outside Whitehead’s office.

He opened his door and before he could say anything I pushed Danny in, “Some hankies, Sir, I think my mum wants to speak with you too.” I saw the teacher nod and then look at me, almost in fear.

I gave Danny the keys and told him to go and sit in the car but not play with anything.

I went into his office and he sat heavily in the chair, “Come to finish the job? Don’t worry, I’ve done my resignation,” he indicated a letter on the desk addressed to the headmaster.

“Mr Whitehead, first I must apologise for some of the insinuations I made this morning and I withdraw them. I didn’t know you had a wife and I’m sorry she passed away.”

He simply sat there with tears streaming down his face. It took him quite some time to gather his thoughts. “Lady Cameron, it is Lady Cameron isn’t it?”

“Just Cathy will do.”

He smiled and wiped his eyes, “You had a bit of a reputation in school as a rebel and for being effeminate, so when they made you play Lady Macbeth, and then to twist the knife, supposedly practice in the clothes, I was concerned for you. I spoke to Pru, my wife, who came and saw you both in the play and walking about in school. She told me then you weren’t a boy but a girl who hadn’t discovered it yet.

“We had little idea of gender identity, so dealing with someone who was probably gender inverted, was beyond me or any of the three or four teachers who felt the school was abusing you. How they got your father to agree, God alone knows.”

“He thought it would cure me by having to dress as a girl for two weeks.”

“He was wrong.”

“Yes, he was wrong.”

“I’m sorry about this morning, I shouldn’t have treated you so badly, no wonder you got cross with me. I knew you’d recognise me, so I had to maintain appearances—why? I don’t know. I couldn’t believe I was actually standing next to a very beautiful woman and I reacted badly. I’m truly sorry.”

Now my eyes felt tearful. I picked up the letter and tore it up. “You can’t resign.”

“Yes I can, Cathy, it’s time to move on and do something with the few years I’ve got left. Phew, it’s warm in here or is it just me?”

“Could be you.”

“Jeez, my back feels on fire.”

I smirked at him.

“It’s you, isn’t it? What are you doing to me?”

“Sorting a few things, you won’t need any of the pills you’re currently taking and your adenoma is healing, sorry that’s the burning sensation.”

He glanced at me, and smiled. “The diabetes was affecting my eyes a bit but I can see you clearer now than ever and you have blossomed into a really beautiful woman, Cathy.”

“That’s because you’re not diabetic anymore.”

“What?”

“Check with the doctor, but don’t tell him anything unless it was that you went to Lourdes or something.”

“But I have to do insulin.”

“I think you’ll find your pancreas will secrete all you want from now on.”

“You’ve cured me?”

“I didn’t, I just asked something to do it for me?”

“Why? After what I said this morning?”

“We can all make mistakes.”

“Well, becoming a woman wasn’t one for you, Cathy Watts. Here, this is for you.” He handed me a folder inside which were a series of photographs of me on stage and wandering about the school.

I blushed, “I didn’t know these even existed.”

“I’ve had them for several years, no one could see a boy there, could they?”

“My hair was a mess.”

“Nonsense, it was the style of the time.”

“I can’t believe this, me with red hair.”

“Not your best option but then adolescent girls do strange things.”

“I don’t know whether to shred these or show the kids.”

“Do they know of your past?”

“Yeah, but they turn a blind eye to it, preferring to go with what they see now.”

“How clever of them.”

“Right, well you have no excuse for not being here on Monday, you’re as fit as a fiddle.”

“I’m so glad we sorted this out, I really am.” He offered me his hand and I took it pulled him closer and pecked him on the cheek.

“Don’t expect that every time you save my children’s lives.”

“I shall,” he said and smiled. “C’mon, let’s get out of this place, I’ve had enough of it.” He picked up his briefcase and ushered me out of his office and then the school. We walked together towards the cars, the two Neanderthals were now off the wall and walking towards us.

“Whitehead, you bastard,” called one of the men.

Mr Whitehead, pushed me towards my car and shouted, “Get out of here.”

I did run but only to tell Danny to call the police and tell them it was an emergency. I turned back towards the two men who were hassling Mr Whitehead. There were lots of angry voices and one of them pushed him. I shouted, “Leave him alone.”

“Back off bitch,” called one of the men and he turned towards me. I went towards him sidestepped him and with a spinning back kick knocked him in the chest and he went down. I pirouetted and caught him under the chin, he fell back and stayed there.

I glanced at the other two, and to my horror, the thug pulled a knife and stabbed Whitehead in the gut, he fell backwards bleeding heavily. The knifeman then came at me.

“Let’s see how good you are against a knife, bitch.”

He kept slashing at me, my major concern being the wounded teacher. I heard my car start and I headed towards it. The next thing I knew, Danny had driven the Cayenne forwards and hit the thug up into the air. He landed with quite a thump.

Thankfully Danny managed to stop the car and switched off the engine. I ran to Mr Whitehead. “Hold on there, I can save you.” I said tears running down my face.

“No thank you, Lady Cameron, I can see my Pru waiting for me. Bury me with her won’t you?”

“Mr Whitehead,” I shrieked and his head lolled to the side. Sirens sounded and moments later, I was helped away from the dead teacher, sobbing heavily.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1262

It took me several days to deal with the murder of Mr Whitehead. Danny was upset, too. Following Trish’s lead he’d filmed the assault on me and the teacher on his phone, including the important fatal blow with the knife. They told me that he was old enough to prosecute for driving the car at one of the attackers but that would be up to a senior officer to decide.

The man who was hit by the car was the father of the boy who’d assaulted Danny, and the man I’d laid out was his brother-in-law. They were charging the one with murder and the other with assault and complicity to murder, or something like that.

About a week later, I had a visit from a Chief Superintendent in full uniform, with a suit from the CPS. The suit, from the prosecution service, said that upon reflection it would serve little purpose to prosecute the boy even though he had driven the car at my assailant with intent, his intent was to protect me from a man with a knife who’d already stabbed one person and seemed intent on stabbing me. He talked legalese and at one point, I thought he had more tents than a summer campsite. It was that intense.

The copper in fancy dress told me that they would expect me to keep the boy under control and that he should concentrate on his schooling and football. I assured them he would, and that if I felt I needed help I would ask them to come and read the riot act to him. The copper nodded and they left. I sighed with relief.

It was short lived. I had just made a cuppa and was engaging in the first sips of the brown nectar when the phone rang—typical. I picked it up. “Hello?” I said almost grumpily.

“Is that, Catherine Cameron?”

“Yes, who’s that?”

“I’m Julian Sangster from Lippiatt, Crachett and Boothe, solicitors and commissioners for oaths.”

“I don’t need a solicitor or an oath commissioned, so what d’you want?”

“Please, dear lady, don’t shoot the messenger.”

“Okay, I’m sorry, but I’m having a trying lifetime.”

“Sorry to hear that, however, we have to ask your permission to release the body to the undertakers.”

Body? Undertakers? Shit—nothing had happened to Simon, Tom or one of the others? Please God. “Body? What body?”

“Mr Whitehead’s.”

“Is this a joke? Mr Whitehead was stabbed in front of me.”

“Oh my goodness, I’m so sorry I didn’t know, but he’s given you as his next of kin.”

“He’s what?”

“He’s named you as his next of kin, so we’d be grateful if you could come in to sign one or two forms for us and okay the funeral arrangements.”

“When?”

“As soon as possible.”

“Where are you?”

“Winston Churchill Avenue, Southsea.”

I glanced at my watch, it was ten past two. “I could possibly make it between four and half past.”

“Yes, that would be fine, please ask for me, Julian Sangster.”

Jenny was off today and Stella was out, so my only hope was Tom. I called him at the university and asked if he could possibly collect the girls from school. He hummed and hawed but agreed in the end. If he couldn’t have done it he’d have said so immediately, he just likes to make me sweat.

I continued with my chores, changing beds and checking on the casserole—I was doing a sausage and liver casserole with strips of streaky smoked bacon laid over the top. The only problem is it’s cooked in a pot the size of a bucket—well having five adults and a thousand kids, you need a big pot—that’s what Simon says when he pokes me in the tummy. He’s got nothing to shout about, at least I can still see my knees, he can barely see his feet.

The casserole was doing okay, so I completed the potatoes and peas and left them for Tom to put on when he got home with the girls, or for Danny when he got home. I left a note on the fridge door, ‘Please put heat on under the vegetables at five pm, Mummy.

I went and showered and changed. I decided I would dress like a businesswoman and wore a suit and blouse with knee-length boots. The suit was a deep lavender colour and the blouse a white cowl neck, the boots were black patent with a comfortable two and a half inch heel.

Despite the traffic, I arrived ten minutes early. I did wonder about walking round for a few minutes, then decided against it. I entered the reception of the solicitors and could see they were probably doing quite well parasitising the elderly residents of Southsea—average age 93 years—or some such figure. As you will gather, I’m not overly disposed to many solicitors who are underworked and overpaid.

The receptionist smiled at me, “Can I help?”

“Yes, I have an appointment with Mr Sangster.”

“Who shall I say it is?”

Why didn’t she consult her diary? Oh well she asked for this, “Lady Cameron.”

She blushed and dialled his office, he was probably playing with himself under a large oak desk. “Mr Sangster, I have Lady Cameron to see you.”

“Lady?” I heard him squeak, “Why wasn’t I told?”

“I don’t know, Mr Sangster.”

“Okay, I’ll be right out.”

“He’ll be right out, Lady Cameron.”

He wasn’t, he took three or four minutes, so he could have been pulling his drawers up, washing his hands, ordering tickets for Wimbledon or a thousand other things. The more off the wall one’s speculations, the quicker the time passes.

“Lady Cameron, how good to meet you in person, do come in,” he offered his fleshy mitt and I shook it lethargically. “Tea or coffee?”

“Some water, would be nice,” I said sitting in a well upholstered chair. I smiled sweetly, he hadn’t offered it which was why I’d asked for it. He rang reception and asked for a glass of water and a coffee for himself.

I regarded him while he called for the drinks. He was mid-thirties, about five ten and not overweight. He wore a Marks and Spencer’s charcoal suit, which fitted him quite well, with a Persil white shirt and gold tie—he could have been a Liberal Democrat MP.

“Could I give you this to read before we begin?” He passed me an envelope in vellum-coloured heavy paper. I opened it with the paper knife he offered me.

There were two pages of neatly-written handwriting in blue-black ink suggesting a fountain pen. It gave an address in Southsea at the top of the letter.

My Dear Catherine,

I hope you don’t mind me calling you that, it is after all your name now. You might not remember me but I taught you English at Bristol Grammar School, and watched you cope with the difficulties you encountered. It must have been hell being the only girl in a boy’s school, but perhaps you didn’t know that then. You must, however, have known that you were different, and so did most of the other pupils and they made you pay for it. I did try to watch over you as much as I could and so did one or two others on the staff, but it was difficult as the headmaster didn’t like you nor did many of the staff.

We none of us knew quite what we were dealing with until you played Lady Macbeth, then the penny dropped, helped by my darling wife Pru’s observation, that you were a girl not a boy. I’m ashamed to say we all thought you might be homosexual, or gay as they say these days. None of us had heard of gender variant and all the other terms they use today.

Having realised what you possibly were, Pru insisted I tried to follow your career from a distance and I used to speak with your father on occasion about your time at Sussex. I was so proud when you got a first, even if it was in Biology instead of English Literature.

Your father told me you were doing a research degree in Portsmouth which was when you decided to deal with your identity problem. He was very angry about it and when I tried to make him see reason, he cut me off. I saw him once after his stroke when you were visiting him as his daughter. He seemed to accept you and I was really pleased, Pru even suggested inviting you over to see us. Given your antipathy towards the school, I didn’t have the heart to face you rejecting me.

When Pru died, she had asked me to keep an eye on you, so I found a job in Portsmouth and managed to look out for one of your adopted children. I found it astonishing that you were able to adopt so many children and even more so when I heard what a good mother you made. Then, maybe Lady Macbeth in real life was a much nicer person than that depicted in Shakespeare.

That you are reading this means I’m with my Pru. Unlike you we have no children nor even nieces and nephews to ask to bury me. I have therefore to ask you to do the job for me. You can refuse, then the faceless parasites of the solicitors will do it for me.

In return, I leave you my estate. A house in Southsea, in the garage is a 1963 Jaguar S-type in very good condition. I believe your husband likes the marque, so might be interested in a real Jaguar. I spent many hours restoring it.

Amongst the bookshelves are quite a few first editions, some modern some not so. There’s a few pounds in the bank, and I detail my savings accounts and so on at the end of this letter. The whole estate depending upon house prices should be worth up to three quarters of a million. Not bad for burying some old fart you didn’t especially like, but who tried to look out for you.

As I said before, the deal is organising my cremation, wherever you like, and interring me with Pru in Bristol. I’ve left the plot number with the solicitor. They also have the keys to my house and will act as executors to save you time. I know they’ll sting me, but that’s solicitors—bastards.

I hope you’re able to put the money to good use—with half a dozen kids, you can probably use all you get. I’m sorry I can no longer follow your career, Lady Dormouse, but I wish you well and hope that all your children will make you as proud of them as I’ve been of you.

Good-bye,

Alexander Whitehead (deceased).

I had to move the letter when my tears began to drip on to the paper.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1263

I folded up the letter and placed it in my bag after dabbing my eyes, hoping the mascara really was waterproof—it’s a bit undermining claiming upper-class status whilst looking like the villain from an early silent film.

“How d’you know Mr Whitehead?”

“He was my English teacher in Bristol for a couple of years.”

“You must have been a special student for him to leave you his estate?”

“I was. I was the only girl in a school of fifteen hundred boys.”

His eyes nearly popped. “Right,” he picked up some papers, pretended to scan them and put them down. “That would make you stand out a bit.”

“Just a bit,” I agreed smiling, and Sangster smirked then sniggered, then chuckled.

“I can’t believe that,” he said shaking his head, “What were your parents thinking of putting you under such pressure.”

“My parents had some very set ideas. The school was a good one and they suggested they would appeal if I was turned down, so they let me in.” This was a slight misinterpretation of what happened. I was initially rejected for some other reason, probably academic, eleven plus result or some such thing, but I think I made the grade ever after—although my results did see-saw a little during the Macbeth episode, although I got a very good mark for English Lit, twenty four out of a twenty five possible score for the question on Lady Macbeth and her character typifying Shakespearean women’s roles.

We had not long before doing the Scottish play, read Twelfth Night, and you can guess who got stuck with reading Viola. So I had a good opportunity to compare the two characters. I also remember the fact of Viola playing Sebastian, which in Shakespeare’s day would have been a boy playing a girl playing a boy, being commented upon by my contemporaries. When Whitehead had mentioned this gender double complexity, one of my classmates said it was even worse with Watts being a girl playing a boy being a girl pretending to be a boy and failing miserably. It got a very loud laugh and I wanted to curl up and die—at the time—now I can see that whoever the loudmouth was, he had it about right.

I also wondered if Whitehead was testing me by seeing if I could play the women’s roles effectively. I had to three times, those two and Portia in Merchant of Venice. We only read the two plays but I was the only one who read the same part consistently throughout. Whitehead would play to the gallery, or appear to. He would ask for volunteers to read different parts, almost every time someone would volunteer to read this part or that if Watts would read Viola, or Portia.

I got exactly the wrong impression from this. I thought he was picking on me—but now I wonder, was he actually giving me free reign to act as a girl in front of a class of testosterone driven Philistines, when only he and I actually knew it? If only he’d told me.

My reverie was terminated by Mr Sangster passing me the will. “As you can see, Lady Cameron, the will was written over a year ago. His main request was to be cremated and his ashes interred with his late wife. Otherwise he leaves everything to you. We’ll need to get a rough estimate for the Inheritance tax people to get probate. That will almost certainly incur some expense I’m afraid, as the property is in Clarendon Road. D’you know it?”

“No, I don’t think I’ve ever been there, where is it?”

“From here, down towards the front.”

“Okay, what do I have to do?”

“Have you some proof of identity—driver’s licence or passport?”

I handed him my licence.

“If I can just photocopy this and get you to sign to say this is you—obviously, I can’t give you a key to a half a million pound house without believing you to be who you said you were.”

I nodded and he went out to reception leaving me to muse again upon the enigma that was Alexander Whitehead. He was so careful in protecting me, I had no idea he was doing it. Then that confrontation at the school when Danny was set upon: was he just worked up after punching a boy and then my arrival caught him off balance? He might have felt defensive when I appeared at the school. Sadly, I shall never know.

“Right, that’s all in order, if you could sign to say that I’ve given you the keys here, oh and you are who you say you are?” I signed two or three times. “As you can see the will is pretty straightforward and if you’re happy we’ll start organising letters of probate. Please don’t remove anything from the property, the valuer will be there tomorrow.”

“What about personal things, diaries, etc?”

“The police have looked through the place so they may already be absent.”

“Why would the police need to search his house—he was the victim not the perpetrator? I saw him murdered, so I know exactly what happened, the same man threatened me and only my son’s quick thinking prevented it.”

“Why, what did he do?”

“He drove my car at him.”

“How old is your son?”

“Twelve.”

“Goodness.”

I waited for him to muse upon the death of his client, whom he would now systematically rob while apparently doing his legal duty.

“Lady Cameron, we’ll be in touch very soon as I suspect there will be other things we’ll need to consult you upon, so if you’d like to view your inheritance, feel free. The car is absolutely splendid. Do you like Jaguars?”

“My husband does, he has one of the sports ones, XK or something. I just like the colour,” I blushed, I wasn’t auditioning for Legally Blonde. We shook hands and I left.

Back in the car, I called home and told Tom where I was. I promised to be home quite soon. I drove to Clarendon Road and then up and down it. My tongue nearly fell out of my dropped jaw. It was a Victorian or Edwardian villa—i.e., four stories including a basement/cellar, and attic rooms.

With shaking knees, I climbed the steps to the front door and undid the mortice and Yale locks, and let myself in. I felt like an intruder, as if I shouldn’t be there—like the owner might return at any time and call the police.

The house was beautifully and sympathetically restored, whether Mr Whitehead had done it or bought it this way or whatever, I don’t know. The rooms were large on the ground floor, and quite big in the basement/cellar.

On the first floor was an even bigger drawing room, plus four smaller rooms, one of which was obviously his study. I glanced about and gasped as I saw a framed photo of Lady Macbeth above the fireplace.

I poked about a bit more and found a whole file on me and information about GID and transgenderism in children. The police must have seen this but didn’t make anything of it, at least not to me.

Then looking over the back of a lovely leather and mahogany desk, I spotted a book. I had to scramble under the desk to retrieve it as it was stuck on top of the skirting board. Possibly the police hadn’t seen this. It looked like his journal and I opened it with shaking hands.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1264

It was a hardbound book with pasteboard covers and a matching cloth strip on the spine and on the corners of the covers. It was about A4 size, and about an inch thick. How had the police missed it or had they seen it and decided it would be irrelevant to their investigation. With bated breath I carefully opened the cover and discovered I had it upside down. I turned it round and started again, this time with irritation.

I sat down and set the book down on the desk and began scanning the pages. The dates went back to 1996, I was thirteen and had been at the school for two years.

April: I get worried about C, I’ve watched him for a couple of years, he’s actually quite clever but tends to get bullied quite a lot—he’s a very pretty and feminine boy—just the sort the thugs like. He is probably tougher than he looks because he doesn’t seem to give in too often. Discussed it with the Head and a couple of other staff, he can’t see the problem and sees C as just another sissy, we have the odd one from time to time, but keeping them alive is another matter.

C has been transferred to my English class. He is very feminine without being effeminate. This kid isn’t a sissy, of that I’m pretty sure. He still gets the odd hiding from the bullies and he isn’t much good at sport. However, he rides a bike regularly and I’ve seen him repairing things on it. Today he had to replace his brake cables, some twit had cut them. He apparently carries a small repair kit in his backpack—one with the Care Bears on—it was substituted for his original while he was in class. He carries it round with him almost as a badge of honour. The head was not impressed when his father phoned the school to complain, the original was quite an expensive one.

The head is grinning like a dog with two tails, he managed to convince C’s father that C had swapped his bag willingly, because he was a swish and it made him feel more girly. I don’t believe it but feel the Head is watching me, because I’ve voiced my concern. Going to try something in my lesson tomorrow.

What have I done? I got the boys to read Shaw’s Major Barbara and asked for a volunteer to read the part. C got volunteered as I expected and a bit lump of a lad volunteered to play ‘her mother’ Lady Britomart. I’d explained the context of the setting of the play and Shaw’s pacifist and socialist leanings. Of course the other lad played it for laughs while C gave it his best shot. He’s 13 and still has a boy’s voice if not a girlish one. His reading was excellent—given some tutoring, he could be very very good at reading aloud, although he does sound like a girl.

This week there was nearly a riot because we weren’t reading the play—go figure. I promised some more next week but they insisted C had to read Major Barbara. He blushed like a tomato and eventually agreed.

If he was a homosexual, would he want to read female parts? I suppose if he was an effeminate one he might, but then it would probably be a pastiche, like drag artists. His isn’t, it’s like he’s a girl—maybe he’s just a late developer. I did manage to stop a fight in the playground, I suspect C would have got the worst of it.

The Head expelled a boy for doing indecent things in the top floor lavatory. I listened to him rant about it in the staff room after, we don’t know who the other boy involved was, but the Head wanted it to be C. I wouldn’t have thought C knows who does what with what—seems very naïve.

C hauled in for questioning over expulsion of boy for indecent acts, his father came as well and was pretty angry about the whole thing. C was told to join the football team selection in the autumn—the others fell about laughing.

I had flicked through several pages and on each page there was some mention of C. I remembered the incident with Gilbert getting himself suspended pending expulsion. He was quite open about being gay and being quite a big lad, wasn’t hassled too much about it.

We all know who the other boy was, Jimmy Budden, who was also gay but was passive to Gilbert’s macho act. Neither knew me particularly, although the younger Budden was in my art set, so I saw him once a week. He was an amazing sketcher and painter and the art teacher, Ol’ Rembrandt actually Mr Robins, saved his bacon a few times because he was so talented. He went off to the Slade eventually, but he was drawing nudes in lifelike ways while we all doing matchstick men.

I remember the brouhaha when the sex scandal broke and Gilbert, who was a sixth former was suspended. They took in the obvious suspects including me for questioning. Old Murray, the Headmaster, called us in one at a time while the Deputy Head, Mr Bone stood at the door. They fired questions at us, I’m sure if they could have used water-boarding, they would have done.

I still remember Murray standing alongside me and insisting I was the other guilty party and to admit to being one of those wretched homos. Despite being extremely frightened, I stood my ground and I admit I cried in fear, but I admitted nothing. That was on a Friday, come the Monday, they had a copper with Murray and I had my father with me. Dad insisted that I wasn’t gay and was always chasing girls outside school.

He’d obviously seen me with Siân Griffiths. He asked me if she was my girlfriend, so I said yes, well she was a friend who was a girl, isn’t that a girlfriend? Murray was spitting feathers apparently afterwards. He wanted rid of me, why? I didn’t do anything, I was terrified of being stuck in detention or given lines because my father played hell with me for letting him down.

I flicked forward in the journal and found it, nicely marked by a photograph of me used on the cover of the programme for Macbeth. Did I mention that before? The local paper agreed to print us a thousand programmes if they could sit in on the dress rehearsal—we had to do a special one a couple of days before to give them time to print the progs.

They took photos of several of the cast, including me. I was the one they used—typical, and they insisted on calling me Charlotte Watts, wouldn’t believe I was a boy, so Charlie became Charlotte. I used to have a programme signed by all the cast until I moved to Sussex and Dad chucked it out. I was signing my autographs as Charlotte Watts—if I couldn’t beat ’em, I joined in.

I looked at the date, it was 1999 and I was coming up sixteen, I stared at the photo, maybe I did look a bit like a girl in those days, after all.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1265

I found myself staring at the small picture in the programme stuck to the pages of the book. I’d seen it often enough, although not recently until the other day when Mr Whitehead gave me that file of pictures. At a glance it was obviously a girl, long hair, wearing a dress and heels—yeah, obviously. That could all have been faked, a wig, anyone can wear a dress and boys can look as delicate as girls up until puberty changes them. The problem was, I was fifteen going on sixteen, I should have had spots and croaky voice, been growing taller and obsessed with sex—but I wasn’t. Puberty had passed me by. I’m still not very tall, nor am I obsessed with sex—so a female puberty in my twenties didn’t do that much for me either—except giving a reasonable pair of boobs and an equally reasonable tush—which Simon loves.

I looked at the picture again, I was holding myself like a girl, and apart from a little bit of help in the bra, my bum did stick out from my narrow waist. Something very wrong happened with my development, and I suppose poses the questions: which caused which i.e. did the lack of testosterone make me a girl or would that have happened anyway? Wasn’t it a very fortunate coincidence as things turned out? To have felt the same as I did and been built like Simon would have had much less happy consequences. I know I should be more grateful for small blessings, but you tend to take how you are for granted.

I was about to turn over the page of the journal to see what Mr Whitehead had written about the play, when my mobile rang. I picked it up, it was home, I noticed the time on my phone—I’d been here an hour.

“Hello,” I wasn’t sure who had dialled, possibly one of the kids.

“Ere ye comin’ hame, these tatties ere bilin’ tae mush, a bit like yer brains, lassie?”

“I love you too, Daddy. Turn the heat off under them, I’ll be home in twenty or so.”

“Aye, weel, ye tak care thae noo, ye drive like a demon, sae be carefu’.”

“Och aye the noo, over and out.”

“Ye cheeky hussie,” he commented back as I switched off my phone. I quickly galloped over the rest of the house, it was nearly as big as Daddy’s and just lovely. I locked up and dashed back to the car and raced home avoiding the speed cameras.

I drove in behind Simon. “Run out of milk?”

“No, got held up,” I called behind me as I ran in.

“Not as in robbery, I hope.”

“Yeah, daylight, this bloody government.”

“Tell me about it,” he said following me through the door.

We were both overwhelmed by a surge of children, which once dealt with meant I could sort out the dinner. Nothing much happened for a while after that, until I was clearing up and Julie found the book.

“What’s this?”

“It’s private,” I called back.

“Is it?” she replied still flicking through it.

“Yes,” I emphasised by snatching it from her.

“Go on, gi’s a look?”

“No, now go and do something useful before I find enough ironing to keep you busy until bedtime.”

“Spoilsport,” she quipped as she left the kitchen.

“What’s so private?” asked Simon sipping his glass of wine.

“It’s Alexander Whitehead’s journal.”

“Who’s he, some explorer?”

“The teacher who was stabbed outside the school.”

“Oh, that Alexander Whitehead; what are you doing with it?”

“I was perusing it earlier.”

“I meant, how did you get it—did he leave it for you in his will or something?”

“Got it in one, Sherlock Holmes has nothing on this boy.” I said patting him on the shoulder. I put the book on the table.

“May I?” he asked and reached for the book when I agreed. “Neat writing.”

He read a few pages, “Who is C?” he looked up at me and I blushed. “Okay, enough of that then.” He closed the book and pushed it towards me.

“It suddenly got boring did it?” I asked feeling almost rejected.

“Cathy, I know who you are and what you are, I also know who you were. I don’t need to be reminded, I just accept you for what you are now—my gorgeous wife.” He pulled me to him and I sat on his lap and we kissed.

“Look, I know you’ve come a long way and overcome many challenges to be you, but I don’t need to know anymore than I do. I love you as you are. Why transgendered people seem to be so obsessed with themselves I don’t know. I mean you don’t get ordinary women writing about what it feels like to be a woman, do you?”

I felt about two inches tall, “I’m sorry, it seems to be part of the problem—we’re probably all neurotic obsessives.”

“But you’re a beautiful woman now, with a family and a career. What more d’you want?”

“I don’t think it’s so much about want—I can’t help it—it’s like a built in self-destruct button. No matter how good I get, I’ll never feel complete or real. I can never be real, can I?”

“What do I need to do to prove to yourself that you are? Get some whacko surgeon in the States to implant a womb and ovaries in you, just so you can have a period?”

“No,” I sobbed, “I’m sorry—I’ll never be good enough for you.” I cried on his shoulder.

“Good enough for me? Jeezus, Cathy, compared to me you’re positively angelic. It’s me who isn’t good enough for you.”

“I love you, Simon Cameron.” I kissed him on the forehead and ran off to my room and threw myself on the bed. I must have cried myself to sleep because the next thing I knew it was dark. I glanced at the clock, it was after midnight. I cleaned my teeth and washed my face then went to bed. Simon hadn’t come to bed, so perhaps he was feeling disgusted with me.

Perhaps we are all obsessed with ourselves as he said, but what do I do about it, I have no idea. It’s not as if I don’t lead a full life with plenty of contact with other people, because I do. Maybe I should see Dr Thomas.

I slipped off to sleep again and was sleepily aware that Simon came to bed about an hour after me. He seems to be able to skip sleep, if I do, I’m a wreck. “Love you,” I muttered as he got into bed.

He leant over and kissed me on the back of my neck sending little buzzes down my spine. “I love you too, Babes.”

“Where have you been?” I grumbled quietly.

“Reading that book you brought home.”

“I thought you weren’t going to.”

“I wasn’t—but I needed to know what was in it that upset you.”

“You read it for that?”

“Yeah, because I care about you. Okay, so I’m a bloke and I don’t do emotion very well, in fact I’m probably an emotional illiterate like most men, but I’m not totally illiterate, so I read it. It was very interesting.”

I rolled over to face him, “So now you know more about me than I do?”

“I wouldn’t say that, but I certainly know more about Alexander Whitehead and his obsession with a beautiful boy-girl. It’s like Death in Venice and the poor old sod ends up dying too.”

“I don’t remember you reading Thomas Mann.”

“I didn’t, I saw the film, same as everyone else—you know, the one ‘abaht the old poof what expires in Venice’.” I didn’t think his Monty Python allusion was quite appropriate but I said nothing.

“Where is the book?”

“In your computer bag.”

“Thanks, I need to sleep now.” I kissed him and rolled over to try and sleep and felt silent tears slipping from my eyes.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1266

When I awoke, my eyelashes were all stuck together and I had difficulty prising them apart. Staggering into the bathroom I weed then bathed my eyes in some warm water. It was still dark, but I didn’t feel like sleeping anymore, so I had an early shower and was dried and dressed before six a.m.

I felt a restlessness in me which felt as if it had been stirring for some weeks but had now become overwhelming and had to be dealt with. I fed the wee yin at my breast and was changing her when Daddy came into the kitchen.

“Ye’re up early, hen.”

“Yeah, couldn’t sleep.”

“Why’s that?”

“I don’t know.”

“Weel, if ye need tae talk?”

“Thanks, Daddy.”

He was making his river mud coffee, when something occurred to me. I’d fed the baby with some solids as well as my breast milk and left her to wriggle about on the changing mat, chewing on a piece of toast crust.

“Daddy, do you ever wish you had this place back to yourself?”

He didn’t answer immediately, he simply dropped his cup of coffee and it smashed all over the floor. He went pale in the face. Then of course we both fussed about picking up the bits and clearing the mess. I made him sit down at the table and poured him another coffee.

“Are you okay now?”

“Aye, I’m fine,” he said quietly and thanked me for the coffee. “Whit brought this on?”

“You were very cross with me when I challenged your friend and didn’t seem to want to stop me leaving that day with the kids—I just wondered if I’d overstayed my welcome?”

“I wis upset, that’s a’—ye’d been unpleasant tae a guest an’ auld friend o’mine, an I didn’t ken hoo tae deal wi’it.”

“But you didn’t stop me leaving, did you?”

“Ye we’re askin’ me tae choose between ye, an’ I couldnae. I’m sorry, lassie, but at that time I didnae ken whit tae dae. On reflection, I see ye were richt a’ alang, but ma pride widnae let me tae acknowledge it. I’m sorry, Cathy—I thocht ye were jealous o’ Diana. I can see noo that ye were tryin’ tae protect a foolish auld galoot frae himsel’.” He had tears in his eyes and my stomach flipped. “If ye want tae leave, I cannae stop ye, nor wid I, but I hope ye don’t.”

“I’ve been left a house in Southsea—even Simon doesn’t know about it yet. I suppose there could be a challenge to the will but that has to happen in six months or it defaults to me and a claimant would have to challenge me through the courts. I just thought if you wanted rid of me, we could think about moving.”

He looked at me defeated. “Ye must decide f’ yersel’, but there’ll always be a hame here f’ ye an’ ma grandchildren. This is really yer hoose noo.”

“Don’t be silly, Daddy, this is very much your house and I wouldn’t dream of doing anything without your agreement.”

“Whit use is a big bar-rn o’ a place like this tae me? If ye hadnae come tae bide here an’ brought thae bairns, I’d probably hae sold it an’ bought a smaller place fa Kiki an’ me.”

“You could still do that if you wanted, it would liberate some cash for you—you could do all sorts with it—travel, buy a luxury car and so on.”

“Och, I’ve seen much o’ thae world an’ it left me feelin’ worse than when I wis in ignorance. I dinna need a luxury car, an’ I could probably afford tae buy ain, anyway. All I want is tae hae my dochter an’ grandchildren wi’ me as long as I can. But if ye want tae go, I cannae stop ye.”

“Let’s get one thing straight, I wasn’t jealous of Diana but I instinctively knew she was holding back on something, besides, she was already married and I didn’t like the idea of you being cited in a divorce case. I also picked up on your thoughts, she messed you up once before, didn’t she?”

“Aye, she did.”

“I just couldn’t stand you making a fool of yourself in front of the children and I had no desire to fight with you.”

“Whit in front o’ thae bairns?”

“At all. I love you, Daddy. Okay we’re a noisy crazy lot, but we do love you and we’re so grateful for your allowing us to live here. I don’t want to fight with you, ever. I love you too much.” Now I was crying again.

He put his arm round me and we hugged and wept together. Finally, he said, “I’m sae sorry fa causing ye sae much pain, I wis totally oot o’ order, an’ I promise no tae dae it again.”

“Apology accepted, Daddy.”

“Noo, whit aboot this hoose in Southsea?”

“It seems I had a guardian angel watching over me—Mr Whitehead—he taught me English in the third form. I thought he hated me as much as the rest of them, but he didn’t. When he explained some of the things that happened, it made sense. He was stabbed…”

“Aye, I ken, outside thae school.”

“That’s right, it seems he left his entire estate to me, including a lovely old villa in Southsea.”

“Och, noo I see whit ye’re on aboot.”

“While I was looking round it yesterday, I found this.” I picked up the journal from my computer bag.

“Whit’s that?” I passed him the book. He glanced through a few pages. “D’ye mind if I borrow this, I’ve a spare ’oor this morn.”

I shrugged, “Don’t show it to the children, will you?”

“Why?”

“I haven’t read it yet, so I don’t know what’s in there and it’s his journal so I don’t know if it was ever intended for anyone else’s eyes.”

“D’ye want tae keep it?”

“No, you take it and I’ll see it later.”

“Whit time hae ye get thae lassies up?”

I glanced at the clock, “Oh shit—C’mon girls and boys, wakey wakey.”

The next three quarters of an hour was pure bedlam as little bodies fought for use of toilets and showers—oh, and some more than small ones too. “Why didn’t you wake me up?” grumbled Simon.

“I did, just now.”

“No, when you got up.”

“You were late to bed.”

“So? I needed to be in early as well.”

“If you’d told me, I’d have woken you at five when I got up, but the alarm comes on at seven.”

“I didn’t hear it.”

“Sorry, Darling, I can’t discuss it now, too much to do—Julie, get your bum in that shower now—you’re going to be late. Trish, stop doing that and put your uniform on properly, Livvie comb your hair please, Mima, do not pick your nose and wipe it in your skirt…”

Simon took Danny to school and I scrambled to get the girls to theirs on time. We just about made it. I was tempted to go back to the Whitehead’s house and look again, but controlled myself and went back home via the supermarket.

On arriving home, Stella was sitting at the table looking very radiant. “You’re looking very happy this morning?” I said as I carried the groceries in.

“Gareth’s asked me to live with him, with Puddin, natch.”

“Natch. Is there something else to tell me?”

She blushed, “He’s asked me to marry him.”

“Oh Stel, that’s wonderful news.” I dropped the shopping and we hugged and jumped up and down together. “That is so good to hear.”

“He asked me last weekend, but you were so wrapped up with the murder of that teacher bloke, and Tom with that Diana woman’s death, that I kept it to myself. I’ve been bursting to tell you an’ Simon.”

“We must have a celebration, how about next weekend?”

“I’ll have to speak with Gareth, but we could do, I suppose.”

“This is brilliant, something to feel good about for a change. I’m so happy for you Stel, he’s a really nice guy.”

“I know.”

I began putting the shopping away while she poured me a cup of tea. I sat down opposite her, yep, she was radiant. Oh well, here goes. “When’s the baby due?” I asked and she dropped her cup.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1267

Somehow Stella’s cup didn’t break and she’d drunk most of her tea, so we didn’t have much mess to clear up.

“How did you know?” She looked suspiciously at me. “I suppose this is all your magical stuff, is it?”

“No, you just look suddenly very well, positively glowing—you therefore had to be pregnant. You’re also holding yourself differently.”

“What if I’m not?”

“Then I’m wrong, I’ll live with it, but I’m pretty sure I’m right.”

“Yeah, you are—bitch—are you happy for me?”

“I am ecstatic for you. Of course I’m jealous as hell, but that’s one of those things.”

“I wish you could have one too, Cathy. You deserve one and you’d make such a good mother.”

“I would, would I? Am I not doing a moderately good job now, then?”

“I didn’t mean it like that, you are a real funny-bunny today, aren’t you?”

“I’m glad to hear it. I’ve got baby C, so I have to be content with my lot, it could be worse. Where are you going to live with Gareth?”

“He’s put an offer on a place near Horndean. His current place is too small for a family, a two-bed cottage. Why, did you think I was going to stay here?”

“Not really, I thought you’d want to be mistress of your own place and escape my tyranny.”

“Did you say, tyranny or tranny?”

“A tranny tyrant, yep, that’s me.”

“What about those photos you were going to show me?”

“Photos?” I queried.

“You got from that teacher bloke, the one who died.”

“Everyone seems to die when I’m about,” I muttered.

“Not everyone, some of us are damned glad you were there.”

I returned with the folder. “Make us some more tea and don’t throw it over my clean kitchen floor, this time.”

“Yes boss, see you are a tyrant?”

“Just get on with it before I imprison your baby.”

“Don’t you dare, she’s far too young to wear stripes, and an orange boiler suit would clash with her colouring.”

“Oh I don’t know, it might just be the making of her, mind you the leg-irons would make her toddling a rather sedentary affair.”

“You leave my baby alone, you’ve got one of your own to torment.”

“This is true.” I took the tea she offered me.

“What about these photos then?”

I sighed and opened the folder. There were dozens of them, “Oh golly, our little raver as a fifteen-year-old—dammit, you had longer hair than I did.”

I glanced at the photo, it was one of me in a mini-dress that Siân gave me, it made me shudder for a moment as I remembered the confusion I felt at that time. I desperately wanted to be an ordinary girl and here I was apparently being one, except everyone knew I wasn’t. The only reason I still had my own teeth at that age was that in attempting to humiliate me, Murray also sent out a clear message that anyone trying to physically or mentally intimidate me would be punished severely. Of course, this didn’t apply to him and to prove the point he humiliated me in front of the whole school.

The day before against my wishes, but with the consent of my father, I was to dress as female for a period of practice and rehearsal of the play, which was a period of some weeks. I was to act like a perfect young lady, or how Murray and Dad thought one should behave, and I was also to continue with my normal school timetable.

If you can imagine how it feels to walk into a classroom every day wearing the clothes of and acting like a girl, when everyone knows you’re not and is sniggering or wisecracking at you at every opportunity—it’s purgatory. I suppose the experience in school helped me cope when I did transition officially. But Murray’s masterstroke of sadism and humiliation, was to make me go up onto the stage in front of the whole school. I still remember it.

I had decided I wasn’t going to let him beat me. He was bigger, stronger and had much more power, but he wasn’t going to destroy me like he thought he would. The original idea was that I would just wear the costume around the place coming up to rehearsals. Then it was decided they’d extend the time. Obviously, that was going to wear out the costume before we got to the play. So it was decided I’d have to wear girls’ clothes—skirts or dresses—and act like one during this period, at least in school.

My father wasn’t entirely happy, but Murray convinced him he’d drive the girl out of me, making me heartily sick of it all and the embarrassment would finish the job. My mother managed to borrow a couple of things for me, a longish skirt and a blouse and some sandals.

I wouldn’t wear them because they clashed, the colour of the blouse and the skirt were awful together. So my friend Siân loaned me a few things. On that first morning, I left home early and went to her house where I dressed in the mini-dress and a pair of knee-high boots. She helped me do my hair, and I wore makeup and painted my nails, borrowed her spare watch and some jewellery—I’d already had my ears pierced—a small handbag and went off with my Care Bears bag.

As soon as I arrived at the school, I was removed from the public gaze before too many could see me—including the Head. So he ignored the efforts of two teachers who were trying to stop him parading me. I knew it was going to be humiliating, so I hit back as best I could.

I was dragged from my ‘holding cell’, one of the changing rooms behind the stage, and thrust out to its front, where instead of standing there blushing and trying to shrivel into a hole in the floor, I strode out like a model, waggled my arse a bit and struck a pose as he laid down the law, before swearing at me in hissed expletives—like an angry snake.

“To help us with our production of Macbeth, Miss Charlotte Watts is attending us for the next month or so.” He was nearly drowned out by wolf whistles. “I expect you to treat her with the courtesy you’d show a young woman guest.” He paused as cries of ‘get ‘em off, Watts,’ and ‘show us yer tits,’ assailed us. “Quiet, you rabble,” he shouted banging the table, “Anyone who is found attempting to intimidate Miss Watts will feel the full force of my anger. He, I mean she, is to be treated as a normal female so you will all observe that nicety, remember this is to help her orientate for the part of Lady Macbeth which will be demanding enough without you ruffians making it harder.” Assembly wound up and he hissed at me, “What the hell are you doing, Watts, you look like a teenage floozy, couldn’t you find a girl’s uniform to wear instead of looking like a pop star’s groupie?”

“Beggin’ your pardon, Mr Murray, this was the best I could do. Are you going to do a knicker inspection like they do at the girl’s school?” I beamed a smile at him although I realised I was challenging the lion in his own cage.

“Watts, you snivelling little fairy, wear something less provocative tomorrow or I’ll get your father to assist you.” This was a real threat and I knew exactly what would happen when I got home. I was taken out and bought a couple of grey pleated skirts and white blouses, some opaque tights and flat shoes, plus a grey cardi in case it turned colder.

I still rebelled, in exactly the same way the girls down the road were doing, rolled the top of my skirt over a couple of times, even if the wind blew in the willows, my tights kept me safe from prying eyes. I also continued to wear enough mascara to blot out the sun if I sneezed and painted my nails, which were false ones anyway and projected beyond my fingers. Can’t think why I’m such an awkward character.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1268

“Oh, is this the famous Lady Macbeth?” asked Stella leafing through the photos.

“Yeah, there’s loads of ’em. I mean who in their right mind wants a picture of a teenage boy dressed up like a girl?”

“Loads of people on the Internet by all accounts—maybe we should market them?”

“Very funny.”

“Oh, one of you in your school uniform,” she passed it over to me. I was in the blouse and skirt with black opaque tights, low-heeled school shoes and my hair tied back in a ponytail. Despite my bright red hair, I wore enough mascara to make my eyes look quite black—Dusty Springfield—eat your heart out.

I was excused PE despite several of the boys complaining, instead I went to Mrs Conway for deportment lessons. I know it sounds odd in a boy’s school, but she was the wife of one of the French teachers and taught dance and movement in a private school on the downs at Clifton. Her day off coincided with my PE class and she had me walking up and down a spare classroom with books on my head; in bare feet, in heels and wiggling my arse like a ballerina with piles. I sat down and stood up—elegantly and so on. It was tedious but it probably helped.

I overheard her talking to her husband—which I shouldn’t have done—but everyone in school should know that walls have ears. “How’s Murray’s pet project coming on?” asked her husband.

“Are you sure this child is a boy, because I’m not.”

“What d’you mean, of course he’s a boy.”

“Well he moves like a girl, I’m just polishing up her act. Give me a couple of months and I could have her strutting her stuff on a catwalk and competing with any model I’ve ever seen.”

“But he’s just a woofter, everyone knows that.”

“Sorry, Ed, but she walks like a girl, she sits like a girl, she even bloody talks like a girl. I’ve worked with boys playing girls before, and I’ve even worked with a couple of gay boys—none of them were like her.”

“She’s a he, Lydia.”

“Look, Ed, if it walks like a girl, talks like a girl and so on, it probably is a ruddy girl.”

“Murray won’t be very pleased.”

“Your headmaster is pursuing a course which I think is very questionable and it looks like it might come back to bite him. I’ve seen her at rehearsal, she is a female, she is Lady Macbeth.”

“Oh, so maybe you should be roughening up her edges rather than smoothing them?”

“I will not. I was asked to help her develop her poise—I’ve done that, such as it was. I’m not having any part of a scheme to humiliate someone because the headmaster doesn’t like their sexuality. Dammit, Ed, I’m sure if they looked hard enough, they’d find she was a girl inside after all.”

Naturally, I was delighted. Of course I was a girl—in my eyes anyway. The problem was I didn’t have the support to make it by myself. I needed to finish school, do uni and find a job where people weren’t so critical of transgender folk. Yeah, give me ten years and I should be ready.

“Cathy, is this Siân?” she pulled out a picture with two girls on it.

“Yes, my partner in crime, apart from my own underwear and tights, I borrowed loads from her. My Dad’s idea was just to turn up at school in skirts. I of course maintained it in the evening and weekends.”

“Because you were enjoying the freedom?”

“I suppose I was, but more because it was really pissing him off. I’d be changed into a very short skirt or dress, doing my homework or helping Mum get dinner and would deliberately saunter about in front of him. He used to get livid but Mum told him it was his own fault and he should have supported me in refusing the school’s request. To make things worse for him, she got me a couple of cheap nighties to wear in bed. Sadly after the play, everything disappeared.”

“I can’t imagine having that much conflict in a family.” Stella looked at me with a sad expression.

“Don’t tell me, but it explains a few things?” I said sarcastically.

“It might if things were ever that simple, but it may explain your anger at times and your determination to do things.”

“My anger? Am I angry then?”

“Sometimes very short-fused. I do understand that you have issues to be angry about but you do go off on one at times.”

“I’m sorry, I’ll have to try and be more aware.”

“What would you say if you ever met Mr Murray again?”

“I don’t know—I might even be too scared to say anything, he was real pig of a man.”

“What did he look like?” I fiddled through the photos and pulled out one with the whole cast on it and the headmaster sat in the middle. “So who played who?”

I tried to remember who was who, then realised there was a list on the back. “This photo was still hanging in one of the corridors when I left there.”

“So? You look like a girl in your uniform and your knees are together, sitting next to your adoring headmaster,” she laughed. “You don’t seem to have so much makeup on in this one?”

“No, he made me take some of it off.”

“This guy looks a bit like Gareth’s next door neighbour. What was his first name?”

“We used to call him Murray mint, for obvious reasons. His first name, was something old fashioned, oh yes Aubrey, Aubrey Murray.”

I looked at Stella who was blushing and speed dialling on her mobile, “Hi, darling, I love you too. Darling, what’s your neighbour’s name?” She paused as he spoke to her, “I had an awful feeling it was.” He must have spoken again, then she answered him, “He was only Cathy’s horrid headmaster.” Another pause, “Okay, darling, see you later—drive safely.”

“Well?”

“He’s a retired teacher and his name is Aubrey Murray.”

“And he lives in Portsmouth?” I felt my whole world crumbling under threat of this man.

“Gosport, yeah, so? You beat him before, you can do it again and this time with half the universe behind you.”

“I’ll never go to Gosport again.”

“You must, you can’t let him beat you, Cathy. You’re an adult now, a female one to boot, with seven children—what have you got to prove to that arsehole?”

“I never want to see him again in my life.”

“He might have changed, Gareth gets on with him very well.”

“Pull the other one, Stel. Leopards like him never ever change their spots.”

“Isn’t that their weakness, Cathy, you have and moved on. Don’t let him spoil your life, girl, you’re bigger than him and certainly stronger.”

“I don’t know, Stella, I don’t know.” I felt quite small and weak.

“But if he was annoying one of your kids, you’d soon sort him out, wouldn’t you?”

“It’s not my kids though, is it?”

“No, this is about Charlie, you owe it to him to be strong, he gave up so much for you to succeed, didn’t he?”

I was now in tears and she was holding my hand and had her other round my shoulder. “I hate that man, Stella,” I sobbed, “I loathe and despise him.”

“Hate him, but don’t let him win, you’ve nearly got him, girl, and this time your whole family is behind you.”

“D’you think he knows who I am?”

“What if he does? He’s an old has-been, you’re the one in the driving seat.”

“I wonder if Mr Whitehead knew he was down here?”

“I don’t know if we’ll ever know that, Cathy, but he’s lived next door to Gareth for a few years and it hasn’t upset you before, so don’t let it happen now. C’mon, as sisters we can overcome anything together.” She drew me into a huge hug and I wept on her shoulder.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1269

I had to go and collect the girls from school and when I arrived back home there were a series of envelopes addressed to each of us on the kitchen table. The girls tore into theirs in a moment, “Auntie Stella’s havin’ a party,” they were dancing round the kitchen squealing. If you can imagine a bottle of well known cola being shaken violently for ten minutes, then released—you’ll get the impression of my kitchen, awash with skirts flapping as they bounced up and down and round and round.

I let them continue for a few moments before calling a halt. “Right, girls, before you all get too excited and wet yourselves, just remember I’m the one who says if you can go or not. So any grief and I might just say no on your behalf.”

“You wouldn’t, like do that, would you, Mummy?” asked an incredulous Livvie.

“If you misbehave, yes.”

“It’s at the hotel, Mummy, we can take swimming stuff,” declared Trish.

I looked at Mima who’d nearly drowned there once before. “It’s awwight, Mummy, I can thwim better now.”

“We’ll see about swimming. Now after you’ve had a drink and a biscuit you can go and change into your playing clothes and you can each write a letter to Auntie Stella telling her how pleased you are for her engagement, and that you’d like to come to her party.”

“What does RSVP mean, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“It means please reply.”

“Yeah, um—rite soon very please,” quipped Livvie.

“Not bad, it’s French, “Respondez s’il vous plaît. It means, reply if you please.”

“What if you don’t please?” asked Trish.

“Then it means you’re not going and also that you’re rather rude, because polite people would respond and say if they couldn’t make it as well as if they could. One of the reasons for doing so is to make it easier to estimate how much food and drink you’ll need.”

“Oh that’s a good idea,” said Billie, “Can I say, I’m starvin’?”

“I always thought you were Billie,” said Trish, who pushed her sister and ran off, with Billie in hot pursuit. I cogitated on the advantages of boarding school or even a zoo—not much difference really—well, there’s probably less sex in the zoo, but that’s about it.

Eventually, they settled down and wrote their notes, which I made them draft and show me before they wrote to Stella.

“Does this mean a new party frock, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“We’ll have to see what you already have, but it could do, or something similar.”

“Oh goody,” she almost sang and went back to tell the others.

While I was organising dinner—a fisherman’s pie—well, they got fed up eating dead shepherds—the phone rang. “Can somebody get that please?” I shouted, being up to my armpits in creamed potatoes.

“Yo, got it,” called Danny, who’d not long emerged from the shower after a football practice. “Mu-u-um, it’s some solicitor on the phone.”

Bugger—I glanced at the clock, it was nearly six, he was working late. “Lady Cameron, the funeral will be next Monday at midday at the crematorium. I trust this is convenient?”

I glanced at the calendar next to the phone and I had nothing down against it, “Yes, that’s fine with me.”

“The wake, if that’s the correct term for it—I somehow think it isn’t but then English is so abused these days—is in the pub down the road, I’ve told them to do tea and sandwiches for up to fifty, is that okay?”

“I have no idea how many would come but I suspect there’ll be a good turnout from the school. Have you spoken to the headmaster?”

“Yes, he’s doing a short eulogy, is there anything you’d like to add?”

“I could say a few words if you wish me to?”

“You are his next of kin, officially, so I think it would it tie things in, the service is going to be a non-religious one as per his instructions.”

“Fine, that makes me feel happier with it.”

“Right then, I hope to see you at the funeral, oh and please no black.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Please don’t wear black, he’s asked for it to be an uplifting experience, so for everyone to wear bright colours.”

“It’s a funeral, people will be sad.”

“I don’t write these things, I just observe clients’ requests.”

“Okay, Mr Sangster, I shall see you on Monday.” I put the phone down, oh great, start of half-term and Stella’s party is on the Sunday. Just wunnerful. I asked Danny if he’d like to go to Mr Whitehead’s funeral and he said he thought he ought to. I agreed.

The rest of the week flew by. The girls and I went through their wardrobes and they each needed some new clothes, so did Danny and alas, so did Julie—her dresses aren’t cheap these days. Leon had been invited to the party, so at least she had someone to dance with later.

I gave her fifty pounds to get a new outfit, any more than that came out of her pocket. She already had more shoes than Imelda Marcos, so she wouldn’t need any of them, and she wore heels which towered above mine. What it is to be a teenager!

On the Saturday, Simon went off with Danny to get some new togs for the party and a new shirt and pants for the funeral. He was beaming as they drove off in the Jaguar, and we all waved them off before climbing into my Cayenne for the girly shopping.

I don’t know about the girls but Trish and Livvie practically dragged me into the changing room with a red sequined dress. I hummed and hawed about it, having the wrong bra on and I had a nice dress already and so forth, but they insisted. So I stripped off my jeans and top and pulled it on. Trish zipped me up—well why struggle when you have a willing helper?

“Wow, Mummy, that is awesome,” she said and Livvie and Billie nodded.

“It’s vewwy sparkwee,” agreed Mima.

I already had some suitable black sparkly shoes and a bag, and I did have a plunge bra to make the most of my not inconsiderable assets. The nice thing was it made my waist look thinner and my hips contrastingly bigger.

“If I buy this, it’s for the evening party and no one says anything about it beforehand—okay?” If I was going to look like the singer for a big band, I wasn’t going to give Simon warning, and besides, I’d have some competition for most outrageous dress from Julie.

We finally got something for the girls at the ninth shop we tried, it meant new shoes and bags too—boy, why didn’t I adopt more boys, they’ve got to be cheaper to run than these little monsters?

The last act was to get a nice little dress for Baby C, which we did in a children’s boutique, so she’d look almost like a blue candyfloss. Jenny was coming and we’d agreed we take turns watching the kids, especially the baby.

The party was to start at three, with access to the hotel’s facilities, the evening would start at seven thirty, with a buffet and dance floor with disco from eight. Henry was standing the bar tab, which I thought was brave of him, although in my case would be very little and as we’d have to take two cars, either Simon or Tom would need to stay sober to get the second car home.

I took some sports clothes, to do an hour’s spinning in the gym on the stationary bikes, have a quick swim and then after getting the kids ready, I’d change myself. We were using the family suite, so had a set of rooms at our disposal, and we could stay overnight if it finished that late. That seemed a better idea, the kids could sleep at the hotel and we could party until we got fed up or until two am if we didn’t.

I packed up the cases and loaded the car. Simon took the Mondeo and loaded that up as well, Tom was going independently as he wanted to come back, ‘tae see tae thae dug.’ Then we set off in convoy towards Southsea and Stella’s engagement party.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1270

Once I established there would be at least two lifeguards on duty all afternoon, I allowed the girls to change into their swimming cossies, Danny had already run off to the changing rooms to change into his. I let him off without any reprimand this time partly because he’s quite a good swimmer and partly because I always seem to be telling him off for something or other. On the whole, they’re all good children but like all children, life is a learning experience and some of their experiences haven’t been exactly nice ones.

The advantage the girls have is that they move like a pack, four for the price of one, which means they are safer together in lots of ways, if noisier—they rarely manage to do anything without loads of giggling and squealing, which even Billie does now without any self-consciousness. Danny, in contrast is alone quite a lot of the time although he can have friends over when he likes and he does meet up with the odd boy from school—although the cold winter didn’t make that any easier.

I saw the children all in the pool and went off with baby Catherine and Jenny to the gym. We sat on adjacent bikes after settling the baby in her lounger seat, where she slept while we sweated.

I don’t particularly like stationary bikes but they are useful at times and I did the equivalent of twenty miles in my hour—and didn’t my legs know it. I wobbled when I got off and nearly fell over just like Bridget Jones does in the film. I went and showered, got myself a drink and went to watch the children in the pool. While I watched them I fed the baby and nodded off to sleep with her doing the same.

I only dozed for about ten or fifteen minutes then cramp in my leg woke me, so much for exercise being good for you? At five o’clock, I got the children out and arranged for them to get showered and casually dressed before we all had a snack. Simon had been lifting weights and was as stiff as I felt from cycling.

At six, I left the baby with Simon and Danny—Tom and Henry were chatting and propping the bar up—and took the girls with me to the beauty salon. I had my hair trimmed, shampooed and set, a facial and manicure. The girls all had a hair tidy-up, and a manicure—I’d already agreed they would only have a light pink nail polish applied, compared to my red talons—remember the dress I was going to wear?

Then we repaired to the suite and began to change into our posh frocks. It was now nearly seven and Stella was in with us while the boys were changing in her room. They hadn’t seen our dresses and we wanted to surprise them.

Stella wore a beautiful off the shoulder, blue lacy affair with a skirt that flared from below the bust and ended on her knee. My own red sparkly thing stopped above the knee, which I wore over my red bra and panties, and some very delicate ten denier tights. I finished it off with a red bracelet and matching necklace.

“Jeez, Cathy, if you show anymore cleavage someone will park their bicycle in it.”

“You can talk, I can see your nipples from here.”

“If you’ve got it, flaunt it.”

“Exactly,” I said applying my lipstick. Of course the girls all had to have some makeup as well, “Julie should be doing this for you,” I suggested, “Where is she?”

“Ta-da,” said a voice and in she walked wearing exactly the same dress as me. “Oh shit.”

“Where’s the other one of the Three Degrees?” asked Stella.

Julie burst into tears and I wasn’t far off it myself. I had told the silly girl I was wearing red. Stella came to the rescue, she had a spare dress in her room which she went and got, “The boys are all watching football, can you believe?”

The replacement dress was absolutely lovely, it was a mixture of pale pink and lavender and showed Julie’s emerging bosom rather nicely. Thankfully, she hadn’t worn a coloured bra so didn’t need to change that, although she had to change her nail and lip colour.

“Why couldn’t you wear the same dress, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Because it isn’t done, sweetheart.”

“But you looked like sisters, we sometimes wear the same things don’t we, I mean, me an’ Livvie.”

“Livvie and I,” I corrected. “When you’re very young it looks cute, when you’re and adult it’s different, and as I was the senior, Julie had to change—besides which, I wouldn’t have got into that dress—my boobs are too big.”

“I hope I have boobs like yours,” said Trish looking longingly at my chest.

“You’ll have some before too much longer.”

“Yeah, like in a million years time.”

“Livvie doesn’t keep on about it, and she’ll have to wait for the same length of time.”

“Livvie’s a proper girl.”

“So are you, now don’t start that all over again. Let’s have a nice evening and not let anything spoil it.”

Stella looked at me, “I’ve told the doorman not to let any police in.”

“Oh thanks, Stella, I have no intention of getting myself arrested tonight.”

Tom came by with his camera and took photos of us all, both as a group and individually. He went back to the boys looking very pleased with himself.

At seven twenty nine, the men came to escort us girls down to the ballroom. Simon had me on his arm and he was desperately trying to conceal his enthusiasm for my dress while holding Trish’s hand as well. I glanced at his trousers and knew he liked my dress.

Henry escorted Billie and Mima, whilst Julie went on the arms of Danny and Leon and of course, our honoured couple led us into the lifts and down to the ballroom.

I don’t know how many people they’d invited but as we all walked in, the rest of us a few yards behind Gareth and Stella, a throng of people burst into spontaneous applause.

Henry made a short speech inviting the guests to share the delight of his family in the engagement of his only daughter, and he also added, he hoped the marriage would be as successful as that of his son and daughter-in-law. There was a round of applause for Henry, which erupted again when he declared a free bar but asked people to drink sensibly as the bar staff would refuse to serve anyone who’d had too much.

After Simon got us both a glass of wine, he put his arm round me and said, “When I saw you in that dress, I nearly messed my underpants.”

“You can get tablets for diarrhoeal relief,” I whispered back.

“That wasn’t what I meant and you know it.”

“So are you pleased to see me or is that a baseball bat in your trousers?” I said sexily to him.

“Oh don’t, Cathy, if I turn round quickly, I’m likely to take one of the children’s eyes out.”

How do you follow that? I took him off to a corner and kissed him hungrily, rubbing my hip against him. He blushed and stumbled off to the gents presumably to wash my lipstick off his mouth and change his underpants?

Stella sidled up behind me and said quietly, “That was rotten, you bitch.”

“Nah, he’ll want me just as badly when we get to bed but he’ll take his time.”

“Doesn’t he always?”

“Sometimes he takes so long he falls asleep.”

“Oh, still I suppose that better than you know—wham, bam, thank you ma’am.”

“Depends on what I’m doing at the time,” I replied casually.

“Eh? Like what?”

“Like taking the roast out of the oven…” She laughed so loudly I thought she was going to burst something aside from my eardrums.

“Cathy, you are a fool…”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1271

The party continued, and after a few bits and pieces from the buffet, the dancing started. Of course Stella and Gareth had to start it and they made a lovely couple gliding round the room. Gareth is quite a good dancer and Stella is no slouch either. Eventually, I let Simon talk me into it and under guidance, we sort of waltzed round without disembowelling any other dancers or me crushing too many of his toes. I was relieved when he let me off to give Julie a turn. I hadn’t even got a chance to sit down when Tom dragged me back onto the dance floor.

Tom’s generation can really dance and he twirled me round the place in a quickstep and slower waltz, I almost felt I knew what I was doing. Henry was dancing with Trish and Livvie and Gareth was giving Julie a twirl. I sat and got my breath back, then Henry insisted I dance with him, and not unexpectedly, he’s a slick mover. We did a couple of turns, and he explained that Monica was looking at a property in Portugal.

“You look absolutely gorgeous in that dress,” he told me escorting me back to the table we had nabbed. On the way back we watched Billie strutting her stuff with Leon to some rock music, least I suppose that’s how Status Quo would describe themselves.

I had a drink of mineral water and a tuna roll before Trish and Mima dragged me back on the dance floor. I wasn’t quite kicking and screaming, but my legs were feeling the exercise I’d had earlier—stupid bikes.

I tried to go back for a sit down, when Livvie joined the gang and I had to dance with her as well. On the way back, Danny grabbed my arm and the look in his eyes meant I couldn’t say no. Another two dances, and my left calf was beginning to want some rest.

He took Billie for a turn and they were really having a go at jiving after watching Stella and Gareth do it. I got Simon to massage my calf as the cramp was returning and I also drank a glass of tonic water to get some quinine into my system.

At ten o’clock, I told the younger children they could have fifteen more minutes and then it was bedtime. They grumbled but I held firm. They got me on the dance floor again and for fifteen minutes I shook it all about with the best of them, giving the younger girls the chance to pretend jive, where they twirl under the arm of their male partner—Billie showed them what to do and they quickly caught on, I just raised my arm, let them dance underneath and kept them upright while they spun and giggled.

It was good fun and I sent them all to thank Stella for inviting them. They all gave her a hug and a kiss and they then did the same to half the people in the room which meant it was nearly half past ten before I managed to steer them away from the party.

The hotel has a baby-sitting service, so Jenny had had quite an easy evening. She did check on baby C and Puddin’ every hour, but the hotel staff are very good. The girls were like a bottle of pop and took quite a while to calm down enough to sleep. They all wanted to take dance lessons and even Danny thought that might be a good idea. If they did, I’d have to do so as well, although I don’t dance very often, but it would be a useful skill. I have done the odd lesson but I can’t say I learned very much. I suppose it depends upon the motivation for leaning and the skill of the teacher. It was something to think about.

I got back down to the party at eleven and on walking back to our table saw Jenny having a good time with some bloke who turned out to be a friend of Gareth’s. The way they were dancing together, neither of them were going to get much sleep.

I finished my drink of tonic water and Simon insisted I dance again—so I did. By now the music was slowing down and he held me very close to him and kissed me on the neck. “You look so sexy in that dress, I’m having difficulty controlling my urges.”

“If you like it that much we could always get one in your size,” I teased before rubbing myself against him.

“Very funny.” He kissed me on the neck again. “You are one sexy woman, Lady Cameron.”

“Why thank you, kind sir. I’ll tell my husband, he tends to neglect me—you know, old married couples and all that.”

“Maybe I could help supplement that, you know, if he’s not seeing to your needs,” Simon whispered.

“I’ll give you the key to my suite, be very quiet when you come in, I have ninety-three children camped about the place.”

“Yes, I saw them earlier, you’ve managed to keep your figure despite so many children.”

“Yes, I developed a good way of doing that.”

“Oh yes, if you told me, I could perhaps pass it on to my wife.”

“I let some other woman have ’em, then borrow them on long-term lease.”

“Sounds very clever, and you get to see what they look like first.”

“Absolutely,” I agreed, “So when d’you wanna go and make babies?”

“I’m so glad you asked me that, you see, my wife doesn’t understand me.”

“Heartless bitch,” I replied, rubbing against him again, “Come with me, I’ll show you a good time.”

“What about your husband?”

“He’s a banker, so he’ll be counting his money.”

“You did say, banker?”

“Yeah, unless he’s an undercover secret agent or something—more like an undercover insurance agent.”

“Never mind, dear lady, after I’ve done with you, he’ll be a distant memory.”

“Who will?”

“Your husband,” said Simon.

“Oh him, yeah wossisname.”

“You appear to have short term memory loss,” he teased.

“Yeah, but that can work to his advantage—I can never remember if we did it or not.”

“That memorable was it?” he sounded a bit hurt and I wondered if I’d over done the pretence.

“What?” I asked feigning total amnesia.

We eventually went off to bed after thanking Stella and Gareth for a lovely night. Julie and Leon, both slightly inebriated, were still hanging on to each other and walking round in circles on the dance floor—staggering might have been more apt.

I did suggest they called it a night and before I could say anything they dashed off towards the lift. Julie was staying in single room next to our suite. Simon didn’t want to intervene—“It’s not as if she could get pregnant, is it?”

“No, but she’s only just seventeen.”

“Yeah, well what d’you expect. C’mon, time’s a-wastin’ and I need a pee.”

“Oh, so that’s what that is, I thought you were excited by me?” I pouted.

“Just give me the friggin’ key before I wet myself,” he said squirming.

I poked about in my handbag, a tiny little thing barely big enough for more than a lipstick. “Oh dear, I can’t seem to find it.”

“Hurry up will you?” he was now dancing his own variation of a highland fling.

Finally, I swiped the card across the lock and he flew through the door nearly falling over a suitcase as he went. I giggled as I closed and locked the door, so he was susceptible to my playing the femme fatal was he? I sexily strutted my way to the bedroom as he came out of the loo.

“Jesus, Cathy, you look sooooooo…” his voice squeaked a little as I scraped my long nails across the front of his trousers—then we shut the bedroom door.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1272

I did not want to wake up or worse still, open my aching eyes. I hadn’t taken my makeup off properly because Si was in such a rush to get to bed—and yes it was a good night—I was still sore and my eyelashes were all stuck together where the mascara had clogged up. My own fault, but that didn’t make it any less nuisance.

Trish and Livvie were poking me and asking me to wake up—how I didn’t blast them verbally or physically, shows how inhibited I am. Why couldn’t they annoy Simon?

“Mummy, Mummmmmmeeeee, can we order breakfast?”

Order breakfast? Just wait and I’ll get up and come down and get it. What are they on about? I prised open my one eye and remembered we weren’t at home, we were in the hotel. I poked Simon none too gently.

“Ow, Cathy, why have you got such sharp elbows?”

“All the better to poke you with.”

“I thought that only applied to eyes and teeth?”

“It was next on the list, but wolf elbows are fairly insignificant compared to women’s.”

“I can believe it.”

“I could of course just bite your leg off, like a wolf would.”

“No thanks.”

“Let me know if you change your mind.”

“I will. Can I go back to sleep now?”

“No, the children have ordered you sushi from the room service menu.”

“Thanks, I’ll have it lat… They what?” He sat bolt upright, “I can’t stand raw fish, unless it’s salmon and has been smoked very carefully over oak chips.”

“The original fish and chips, eh?”

“Quite. Now which of you two ordered me raw fish?” He accused the two girls.

“We didn’t, but we’d like some breakfast, Daddy.”

“That’s your mother’s job—wife,” he poked me, “see to it.”

I staggered out of bed and into the bathroom, where after relieving myself and washing my hands, I managed to unclog my eyelashes and see what was going on about me. Two waifs, still in their pyjamas stood waiting expectantly. “What time is it?”

“Eight o’clock,” said Trish looking at her watch. Livvie grabbed her wrist and examined the watch and nodded. It was half term, and I suppose they had given me an hour’s lie in. I gave each of them a cold wet flannel and told them to go and wash their father. They ran off giggling. I jumped in the shower and locked the bathroom door.

Simon had calmed down by the time I’d finished showering and drying my hair. He’d also ordered breakfast for all the kids plus a full English for himself and a poached egg and toast for me, with lashings of tea.

We departed the hotel at nearly ten when I remembered I had a funeral to attend with Danny. He was in Jenny’s car as we drove home so I asked Trish to call him on his mobile and remind him. He hadn’t forgotten—not completely.

I left Jenny and Stella to organise lunch—Simon had to go to work—Stella showed up just before Danny and I left. Danny wore his school blazer over his new shirt and trousers and looked quite smart. I wore the YSL suit with a white blouse and blue court shoes. I was reminded that I had agreed to say something at the funeral though I hadn’t had time to write anything down—oops, this was going to be an improvisation. Just as well I’d had some practice with a few hundred students.

We drove to the crematorium and parked, it was quarter to twelve. If I’d had some paper I could have thought about something to say and written it down, but it was too late and I’d have to do what I could as I could.

We entered the crematorium and were met by Julian Sangster, “Lady Cameron, how nice to see you again and looking very elegant as always and this is?”

“This is my son, Danny, who actually attended the school where Mr Whitehead taught.”

“So you knew him, then?”

“Yes, sir,” said Danny, shyly.

“And you’re still happy to say something?” Sangster asked me.

“Yes, but only for a couple of minutes.”

“Great—ah, here’s our funeral director, Mr Grace and the master of ceremonies, Mr Baxter.” He introduced me to both as next of kin which I suppose I was technically, but only because the deceased had said so.

“Have you known him long?” asked Mr Baxter who was a humanist funeral organiser.

“He taught me English in the third form.”

“What down here?”

“No, in Bristol.”

“Oh, I thought he taught at a boy’s school.”

“I was the only girl there.”

His eyes widened, “Oh, you learn something new every day.” He looked at his folder, “I’ll do the intros and so on and keep it all to time, we have an ex-colleague to say something about him as a teacher, perhaps you can say something about him on a personal level? Max time I can give you is about four minutes—that okay?”

“Fine.” When I was in school we had to do off the cuff talks on a subject of the teacher’s whim—like boiling an egg or polishing shoes. It wasn’t Whitehead in that class, sadly, it was one of the other English teachers who didn’t like me. I was told to talk for five minutes on doing a manicure on myself. As I’d done this for the Lady Macbeth period, I stood there and told them. I got barracked by some whilst others actually gave me positive feedback, saying I had more guts than they did. So I had some experience of dealing with awkward moments.

The celebration not service, as out MC pointed out, went well—at least I thought so, the colleague was the Headmaster of Danny’s school and he spoke well saying what an excellent and dedicated teacher Whitehead was and how his sacrifice at the school was typical of him.

The celebrant then spoke about death and read some poetry and then something from another text before calling on me. “Our next speaker is Lady Catherine Cameron, who is a former pupil of Alexander Whitehead. Lady Cameron.”

I was acutely aware of my clip-clopping as I walked to the front of the crowd. The place was absolutely packed. Okay, here goes.

“As Mr Baxter said, I’m a former pupil of Mr Whitehead’s but I’m not going to speak about that, save to say he was an honest and courageous man who did what he thought was right even when he was very much on his own against corrupt systems.

“I was there when he was stabbed.” There was a gasp from the congregation. “We’d had a very frank and honest discussion about a misunderstanding that had occurred earlier in the day. We cleared it up and were walking to our cars when we were confronted by the two thugs who killed him.

“He pushed me away and told me to run, he knew they were up to no good and tried to delay them to let me get away. One of them subsequently stabbed him, the other who came after me, I managed to disable with a lucky blow.

“He was man of principle who was prepared to put his life on the line to defend his beliefs. I saw him do this time and time again standing up for the underdog when it wasn’t really in his interests to do so. He is someone for whom I have enormous personal respect, and whose life was cut short standing up to violence and bullying against which he’d campaigned all his life.

“Although the case against the perpetrators is pretty conclusive, it seems wrong that a great man’s life is ended by someone who wasn’t fit to polish his shoes. But then that is perhaps the irony of life, our existence is ultimately futile but during it, those of us who are so minded, try to do some good before we journey to oblivion. Alexander Whitehead,” I said facing the coffin, “thank you for the good you did while you were able, I shall try to follow your example and exhort everyone here to do the same. Thank you.”

I walked back to my seat and put my arm round Danny. “That was great, Mummy,” he said, tears running down his face.

The committal took place and after the coffin disappeared behind the curtain, we were led out through the side door, where people walked past and shook hands with Mr Baxter the funeral director and me—why me?

People formed groups and chatted, many obviously knew each other. The Headmaster came and spoke to me and thanked me for my bit and I did the same to him. Then someone approached me from behind.

“Ah, Watts, I thought it was you—still in skirts then?” I looked into the ice-cold eyes and felt sick.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1273

Danny stood beside me, “Are you talking to my mother, sir?” he asked the man stood before me.

“Excuse me, I must have the wrong person,” he backed away and disappeared into the milling throng.

“Who was that man, Mummy? You looked very worried.”

“Did I, sweetheart? It must be because I feel quite tired after the funeral service.”

“You said just the right thing.”

“Did I, darling?” I spoke almost absently.

“Very nice words, Lady Cameron,” said some old biddy who shook my hands and walked on.

I smiled and thanked her.

“See you at the pub,” said Mr Sangster, “the food is pretty good.” He disappeared presumably off to feed his face then claim expenses for being out of the office.

“Can we get some food, Mummy?”

I didn’t feel like it, but one look into his face and I couldn’t resist. “I suppose we could, we are supposed to be chief mourners.”

We found the car and drove the short distance to the pub, the car park of which was filling up quickly. “D’you think he knew all these people, or they just here for the food, Mummy?”

“I hope he did know them,” I said, but like Danny I wasn’t at all sure. We found our way into their function room and the whole of one wall was filled with food, sandwiches, rolls, sausage rolls, mini quiches, chicken drumsticks and even some salad—then beyond that several puddings—such as trifle.

We busied ourselves with collecting a small plate of food each and then finding a quiet table at which to eat it. We ended up sitting with Julian Sangster and Mr Baxter. “Was your speech an impromptu one?” asked Sangster.

“Was it that bad?” I asked.

“No, on the contrary, it was pretty good and came from the heart—I liked the bit about the futility of life.”

“Yes that was dealt with exquisitely, wasn’t it?” agreed Baxter.

“You’re obviously used to speaking in public?”

“She played Lady Macbeth in school,” boasted Danny, loudly.

“Ah, the mark of the thespian,” said Baxter tucking into a pork pie.

“She isn’t lesbian, she’s normal—she’s married,” Danny looked quite hot and bothered.

“No, thespian—it means an actor or actress.”

“Oh, sorry.” Danny sat down next to me.

“Besides we know your mum is happily married to your dad.”

“I’m relieved to hear that,” said Baxter sagely. “What other parts have you played.”

“Mr Sangster was joking,” I said quietly.

“I was not, this lady did the film on dormice the BBC showed last year.”

“Did she indeed? A wonderful film, which part did you do?”

“She did the lot,” boasted Danny.

“Talking of dormice, have you seen that one on YouTube?”

“The one where it jumps down her front?” Sangster was chuckling loudly as he spoke.

“Yes, that one,” confirmed Baxter.

“I think I’ll get some more food,” I said feeling myself getting hotter and hotter. Why have they always seen that clip on bloody YouTube? I picked up another tuna sandwich and a few crisps. I wasn’t really hungry since that meeting with the Murray look-a-like. Could it have been him? I really thought so for a moment. I cast my eyes round the room, at least he didn’t come over here.

“These are really good, Mummy,” Danny walked back to the table with a huge plateful of food—did he really eat that much? Perhaps I’ve been underfeeding him. Mind you, by the way his clothes look these days, he’s grown about six inches since Christmas.

I picked up a glass of fruit juice and went back to the table. The two men were deep in conversation—“Oh definitely, I can hardly cope with it some weeks. I tell you, Julian, lots of people are wanting something non-religious these days. I did ten last week—and at three hundred a shot, not bad work.”

I hadn’t thought about that element—the money side of it. I suppose if we’d had a priest there, it would have been just as bad, they take their pound of flesh for conducting the service—I suppose if it’s your job, you have too. Being with Simon has made me complacent about money—or is it just because the universe seems to be dumping so much in my lap at present?

“So, more important questions, Roger, are Pompey going to climb back out of the Championship like Newcastle did?”

At the mention of football, my eyes seemed to glaze over and I absently nibbled my sandwich and drank my fruit juice. I was aware that Danny had become involved in the discussion, and why not, football was his passion though I thought he supported Manchester United or was it someone else? I couldn’t remember.

I thought back to the man whose funeral we’d attended. I was actually going to miss him now I knew so much more about him. A hidden diamond, why is it that we learn about these people when it’s too late and not when we could say something in recognition of their contribution to our lives?

I thought back to that person who was killed at the tube station and the contribution he/she had made to every transgendered person in the UK—because of people like that, I could marry Simon and all the rest has happened because of it. I looked at Danny, discussing his love in an animated way with the two men. He was a nice kid, perhaps I could persuade Simon or Daddy to take him to see the football matches now and again. Okay, Portsmouth FC are no Man Utd with all their foreign stars, but it would give him something back for his long suffering patience in a house full of women.

I rose to get some fruit or pudding. While I was making up my mind which to have I heard that voice again. “It is you, Watts, isn’t it?”

“What are you doing here, Murray?”

“Mr Murray to you—you gender bender.”

“Well that’s Lady Cameron, to you, you wrinkled arsewipe.”

“How dare you speak to me, like that?”

“Why shouldn’t I? I’m no longer a child you great bully. You can no longer intimidate me like you used to do. I have escaped from the tyranny of people like you.”

“Have you now? How about I say in a loud voice that you’re a man, Watts? Yes underneath all that makeup and padding, you’re as male as I am.”

“They all know my history, I did a special on the television about it—so your threats are as idle as they were when you tried to intimidate me back in school.”

“Oh are they, well just watch me—gah,” he spat and gasped as Danny poured the trifle over his head. I gasped in astonishment and nearly wet myself.

“And if you come anywhere near my mother again, I’ll make you regret it, you old git.”

Murray made a rapid exit from the pub escorted by Danny all the way to the door.

“What was all that about?” asked Sangster coming up to us.

“Oh it’s some old man who was at the funeral, I think he’s mistaken me for someone else, someone whom he thought was afraid of him.”

“Clearly he was wrong, I say, your son was quick-witted, I thought the fellow was going to get unpleasant, what?”

“Takes after his mother, I expect,” said Baxter, “the look on that fellow’s face when the trifle hit him.”

“Yes, a trifle surprised,” said Sangster and they both laughed.

“Are you all right, Mummy?” asked Danny when he returned to the room.

“I am now, darling—I am now.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1274

“And you say, Danny dumped the whole trifle over his head? I wish I’d been there,” Simon had chuckled several times as we sat drinking a cup of hot chocolate before going to bed.

“Perhaps it’s as well you weren’t, you might have used more force and had the police involved. Because it was a child who assaulted him, if he brought a case it would give the journalists something to play with.”

“Yes, but then your past would be all stirred up again and then the kids would be upset and teased—so maybe it’s better it all happened relatively quietly.”

“I don’t trust him, now he knows I’m down here, it wouldn’t take too long to find me and being retired, he’d have plenty of time to find me.”

“Us, to find us, Babes, if he shows up here, I’ll happily rearrange his face.”

“What would that achieve?”

“It would make me feel better.”

“But not me, and as I’m the injured party, I’d prefer to let things lie.”

“That’s what you did before and look what happened—besides, he lives next door to Gareth—once he finds out Stella’s name is Cameron, it won’t take any time to find you. Maybe you should go for wipe-out?”

“How am I supposed to do that?”

“That book, photocopy some of it, it shows how unpleasant he was and how resistant to his coercion you were. If he goes for publicity, so do we, but he’s the one who’ll end up in court for his abuse of you as a school kid.”

“Would that work after all this time—and my father agreed to it—without realising quite what he was agreeing to.”

“I’ve got a legal eagle I can run it past tomorrow and see what she says.”

“She?” I was quite surprised as most top barristers are men.

“Yes, Hermione Sheridan.”

“Hermione?” I said and burst out laughing. “Who is so unpleasant that they call their daughter, Hermione?”

“It suits her, and she’s a top hole silk—don’t mock her, you could live to regret it.”

“But isn’t the fact that I subsequently became a woman going to spoil our case, that it was no hardship but a gift to play at being a woman in public?”

“I don’t know, at that stage did you know you were really female?”

“In lots of ways, yes and so did Siân, so if she testifies we’re stuck.”

“Not necessarily, if he was forcing you to do it and getting off on the humiliation, which is what Whitehead’s book suggests, then he’s in shite—that’s abuse of children and of his responsibilities as a teacher and a head teacher. Hell, it’s neglect of his position as an adult, and only Whitehead and one or two others spoke out about it? That is so bad. I mean, it wasn’t in nineteen fifty, this was the nineteen nineties. The man is a criminal.”

“Okay, if he starts anything it would be nice to have something to slap him with.”

“I know how I’d like to slap him,” Simon punched his right fist into his left hand.

“Simon, that is only going to get you into trouble, we need to appear squeaky clean and reasonable, he’s the one who has to prove things.”

“He can prove you were a boy—that could cause us loads of grief.”

“That’s the only thing, and it’s old news. I can’t be prosecuted for it, he could.”

“I’ll speak to Hermi tomorrow, but I tell you this, if he upsets the children or they get very teased about this, I’ll destroy him.”

“Simon, you are not to touch him.” I felt that he hadn’t been listening to me.

“I won’t, I’ll just point the debt department at him and tell them to find something, even if it’s only an overdue library book. They can usually find enough to prove he’s been fiddling his tax or something equally prosecutable. Then when he’s dealt with that we hit him with the next thing, or we sue him and suck him dry.”

“I don’t know, I’d much prefer we hold a big stick over him and tell him to behave without having to do too much about it.”

“You told Stella about him?”

“Oh yes, she knows the lot.”

“And she’ll tell Gareth, and he can tell Mr Mint, that he’s just been sucked, or words to that effect—I’m beginning to be glad that he lives next door to Gareth, so we can keep an eye on him.”

“Oh hi, you two, why aren’t you in bed?” asked Stella as she flounced through the kitchen.

“We were talking about Gareth’s neighbour.”

“Oh him, stupid old git, mind you I wish I’d seen Danny sweeten him up a little.” We all sniggered at the thought.

“Does he own his house?” asked Simon.

“Why?”

“Because Simon is looking to make his life interesting,” I explained.

“Oh, bully boy gets bullied, couldn’t happen to a nicer guy. Well I don’t know about you two but I’m going to bed. ’Night.”

“Where’s Pud?” asked Simon after Stella had gone upstairs.

“Julie’s been babysitting for her.”

“Oh, about time she did something useful.”

“She’s learning to be a hairdresser and beautician.”

“Lot of good that’ll do me.”

“You selfish old sod, she’s learning for her sake not yours. I want her to be able to stand on her own two feet when she’s a bit older.”

“I see, so you’re not going to buy her a shop?”

“Meeee? I don’t have that sort of money.”

“But you might try to persuade me into doing it?”

“Simon, you’re a big boy now, you make your own decisions—Mummy is going to bed.” I pecked him on the cheek and went up the stairs to our room.

The next morning, I took the children out for a drive—the weather wasn’t too good but it didn’t rain all the time. We ended up at Bournemouth and had a walk along the front. The sea air was bracing to say the least.

“Mummy, wez Weymuff?”

“Where’s Weymouth?” I checked my translation. “Just along the coast, why?”

“They’s got the ’Lympics there next year.” Mima was pleased with her revelation.

“Yes I know, the sailing and sail-boarding is there.”

“Gosh, is it?” asked Trish oblivious to the fact it hadn’t been news except for all the road works that were going on there.

“Can we go there sometime?” asked Livvie.

“If you like, but you can’t see anything of where the sailing will happen because it’s half a mile out to sea.”

“Can we go to the Olympics?”

“I don’t know sweetheart, it’s very expensive and I’d rather watch Bradley Wiggins bum clad in very tight lycra go round a velodrome than some speck of a boat a mile away if I did go to the Olympics. But Weymouth is a traffic black spot, worse than Bournemouth and this is bad enough. C’mon, let’s get a drink of something and see about sorting dinner.

“Is Danny playing football?” asked Livvie, as if she’d suddenly realised he wasn’t with us?”

“That’s what he told me.”

“What else could he be doing?” asked Trish of her sister.

“I don’t know, do I?” Livvie snapped back.

“Hey you two, no squabbling.”

The both sulked for half the journey back, but when I put some music on, they were soon singing along with it.

“Why didn’t Billie come with us?”

“She was helping Stella take some stuff out to Gareth’s house.” When I’d reminded Stella of her neighbour, she thought it was funny that there’d be another gender bender under his nose and he’d be none the wiser.

I’d been a bit more circumspect but Stella had assured me that she’d take care of her niece as would Gareth, so Billie was in no danger whatsoever. I hoped she was right, but Billie had nagged me to let her go—they were measuring carpets and curtains in the old house to see what was reusable in the new one. I told her to buy new but she said Gareth was into recycling things.

Oh well, I suppose it takes all sorts.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1275

We returned home just before Stella who had squabbled with Gareth. Billie had managed to stay out of it but had felt embarrassed to see two adults going at it hammer and tongs, and they weren’t Simon and I.

“Silly sod, we checked the curtains—most of them were old when the Normans came over. They’re not really suitable for you to alter anyway.”

This was news to me, she hadn’t mentioned me altering curtains before. Rather than add fuel to the fire I just let her rant.

“I mean, we’re like moving him from an ancient thing with tiny little windows and ten foot thick walls, to a relatively modern house with large windows…”

“And paper thin walls?” I suggested.

“Yes—no, the walls are substantial enough,” she stated, but I wasn’t so sure, her voice could probably penetrate the ten foot thick walls of his cottage.

“It’s like a cave,” she continued.

“The new house?” I asked, winding her up.

“No the old one,” she shook her head in disbelief at my apparent stupidity.

“The one with the resident troll next door?”

She looked at me for a moment and the edges of her mouth cracked in a smile, “Yes, exactly.”

“Did you enjoy helping Auntie Stella?” I asked Billie, after Stella had gone to swoon or lie down or something.

“It was okay,” she said, obviously not saying all she could.

“Until they started squabbling?”

“Yes,” then she burst into tears, “It wasn’t at all nice then, Mummy.”

I hugged her and patted her back, “I’m afraid getting married and moving house are both very stressful events, put them together and they make it very, very stressful. So even saintly persons like Auntie Stella and Gareth will be prone to squabble.”

“Saintly? Auntie Stella?” she looked up at me.

“I was being ironic.”

“Does that mean you were joking?”

“Effectively, yes.”

“Jokin’ about what?” asked Trish breezing through.

“That’s between Billie and I.”

“Suit yourself,” she walked by muttering under her breath, “That’s between Billie and I—hah.”

Billie looked at me and we both started giggling. At times, Trish can be very unaware of what she says or does and the affect on others. I remember her once asking me what ironic meant, and when she walked off she was muttering, “Ironic, moronic, Byronic, gin and tonic…” I practically had to stick my shoe in my mouth to stifle my laughter. She absorbs words and facts like a sponge but she does tend to muddle them because she works so quickly. If she could slow her mouth a fraction, she’d be lethal, she is so clever.

“Did they decide to save anything after all?”

“Don’t think so, Mummy. Auntie Stella said you were going to alter curtains for her or make new ones.”

“Did she now?”

“I don’t remember her asking you.”

“Peculiarly enough, neither do I.”

“She takes you for granted, doesn’t she, Mummy.”

“A bit, sometimes.”

“That’s wrong isn’t it?”

“Not always, sometimes when you really know someone, you can pretty well predict what they are going to do or say.”

“Are you and Daddy like that?”

“Sometimes, but if we think we’re being taken for granted we tend to say something.”

“That’s good, isn’t it?”

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad, but that’s what we try to do.”

“That’s what I shall do when I’m a married lady.”

“Oh, so who are you going to marry then?” I pretended to be all conspiratorial.

“There’s this boy like, and I think he fancies me, ’cos he’s always watchin’ when we do sports.”

“Is he watching you, or just young women running about?”

“I don’t know, but he like spoke to me when I had to get the ball back.”

“Oh you were playing football?”

“Yeah—I’m rubbish compared to Trish and Danny but sometimes it’s nice to get out in the fresh air.”

“Which is why I like cycling.”

“Yeah, I do too, can we have a ride at the weekend?”

“Shall we see what the weather is first, and I hate to say it, what everyone else wants to do.”

“I’ll bet Auntie Stella will want you to make the curtains—she said you were a good sewer.”

“How are you spelling that?”

“Sewer?” I nodded. “S-e-w-e-r.”

“That also spells the thing which runs from the toilet.”

“Oh does it?”

“We usually call people who sew, seamstresses or needlewomen, unless they’re men of course but it is less common for men to sew than women. Usually they do embroidery if they do sew.”

“What, men do?”

“Only a few do it, but some of them have been quite famous sea captains or generals.”

“Oh, I wouldn’t have expected men like that to sew, Mummy.”

“You should never judge a book by its cover.”

“Yes I do, if the cover looks crap, I won’t read it.”

“But the saying is that you shouldn’t, because most of the time the cover is drawn by someone other than the author.”

“Yeah, but it gives you an idea of what it’s about, doesn’t it?”

“Perhaps, but the artist’s idea may be different to the author’s or the reader’s.”

“Yeah, it could be.”

“The aphorism…” I watched her eyes glaze over. “The meaning of such a saying is more than just about books. It also applies to people. If you see someone who is all scruffy and dirty you tend to avoid them in case they smell or have some horrible disease.”

“Or are going to rob you?”

“Quite; but they may just be scruffy and dirty because they’ve been working in the garden or allotment, or they might be farmers or cleaning the car.”

“Even if they’re carrying half a dozen bags an’ have a scruffy dog with them?”

Feeling that I might stir up some unfortunate stereotypes, I tried to steer the conversation to pastures new.

“Have you seen Danny yet?”

“No, it’s getting dark, so he can’t still be playin’ football, can he?”

“I doubt it, can you give his mobile a ring and see where he is? I need to get dinner started.”

Billie went off and came back a couple of minutes later. “He’s not answering, Mummy, shall I go and look for him?”

“Don’t go beyond the drive.”

“Yes, Mummy.” She pulled her coat on and went out to look for him.

Danny can be a bit remiss at times, in that he forgets when he’s involved in something to let us know where he is. I wondered if that had happened today. I decided to try myself. I clicked his name on my mobile and it told me his number was unavailable. I was trying not to worry. He was old enough to look after himself in most situations, and could run quite fast for those he couldn’t handle. I returned to making the dinner.

“Where’s my assistant?” asked Stella coming back downstairs.

“She’s gone to look for Danny.”

“They’re quite close those two, aren’t they?”

“Sometimes, not as much as they used to be, but they do care about each other because they were together in the home.”

“D’you know what that cheeky little mare said to me?”

“No, but I suspect my ignorance will be relieved any moment.”

She gave me a funny look, “I said you’d make my new curtains for me, and that cheeky little minx asked if I’d asked you. I mean.”

“And have you?”

“Have I what?”

“Asked me?”

“What for? You’re my sister.” She strutted out of the kitchen before I could think of a reply.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1276

I was still spitting feathers about Stella’s presumptuousness when Billie came in nagging Danny about being late. “You apologise to Mummy, she’s been worried sick about you.”

“I said I was sorry, didn’t I?”

“Not to Mummy, you didn’t.”

“Well I might if you’d just shut your stupid trap for a moment.” Danny turned savagely on his sister and she burst into tears and ran off up the stairs. “Bloody girls, they make you sick—nag, nag, nag.”

“Finished?” I asked him, giving him a withering glare.

“Yes.”

“Good. That bloody girl has been worried about you ever since it began to get dark, she has been standing outside looking for you for over half an hour. And, just for your information, mister, I’m a bloody girl, too.”

He looked away refusing to meet my eyes. “I didn’t ask her to wait for me.”

“So you object to people caring about you, do you?”

“No, ’course not.”

“You can do three things. First, tell me why you’re late; second wash your hands if not your whole self; and finally, you can go and apologise sincerely to Billie for being an insensitive jerk.”

“We went back to Badger’s house and played computer games on his Wii.”

“Why didn’t you phone—you know the rules?”

“The police still have it.”

“Oh, your film of Mr Whitehead’s attack, if you’d told me, we could have asked for them to return it or replace it.”

“Sorry, Mummy.”

“Apology accepted, now go and speak with your sister and get a shower.”

He walked off muttering about his life being ruined by women and I had a hard time not laughing out loud at his comments. I accept he has a majority of the fair sex occupying the house, but there is Simon and Tom as well, so they’re only outnumbered nine to three, and two of those are babies, so he should just accept it. I do try to let him have time with me, and I’ve asked Tom and Simon about football matches—both of them would rather go and watch rugby. I admit, if I had to watch two groups of grown men squabbling over possession of a bit of leather with an inflated bladder inside, I’d rather watch rugby—although those scrums are so boring and they collapse so often. If the referees listened to Brian Moore, who was an international hooker, they would realise that most of the time the two loosehead forwards aren’t binding properly; least I think it was the looseheads, it might be tightheads for all I know.

“What’s for dinner?” asked Trish.

“Fish and chips, why?”

“Oh goody gum drops, I like fish and chips. Are you making them?”

“The fish is baking in the oven, I have a whole pile of garden peas warming in a pan and I’m waiting for Daddy or Gramps to go and get them for us.”

The dice were cast and in answer to them, Simon arrived home first. I asked him to go and get half a ton of chips, he dumped his case nodded and scooping up Trish went off to get them. She was all smiles, ‘Daddy’s girl’. It makes you sick—I spend all day spoiling them all and they fawn all over Simon because they get a ride in his bloody Jaguar. Bloody girls.

The rest of the day went more or less as it should, except Billie whispered something to Simon who nodded and frowned. I wondered what it was all about, but found out a bit later.

“So how’s the new house coming on?” he asked Stella.

“Yeah, ’sokay, I guess.”

“Has Gareth packed much yet?”

“Quite a lot, can’t find anything.”

“They leaving the curtains and carpets?”

“Good God, no. We’re having new.”

“Where from?”

“Oh there’s a big carpet shop not too far away, and they can arrange material for matching curtains—and Cathy can knock us up some curtains, which will save a few quid.”

“So when did Cathy agree to make your curtains?”

“What d’you mean?”

“Have you asked her?”

“What is this all about—have I asked her? She’s my sister, surely I don’t need to ask her.”

“She’s my wife and I ask her if I want her to do something for me.”

“But she’s my sister?”

“Yes and she has seven children to look after.”

“But she has Jenny to help her.”

“Why can’t you get the shop to make them?”

“But Cathy could do it,” Stella protested.

“Jesus, Stella, you just don’t get it do you? Cathy is not making your curtains.” Simon said with a sense of finality.

“Have you asked her?” riposted Stella, who never knows when she’s beaten.

“No, I don’t have to, I’m her lord and master.”

“So how d’you know she doesn’t want to do it?”

“I don’t care if she’s pinin’ for the fjords, she ain’t bloody doin’ it, because I said so. She has too much to do now—remember she’s supposed to be researching for a PhD as well as making films for everyone, running a mammal survey, looking after us as well as the children and the house, with only Jenny’s help. I tell you what, you pay for half a dozen home helps, a secretary, and a researcher while she makes your curtains and I’ll happily let her do it, if she wants.”

“But that would cost thousands.”

“Would it? Oh dear, I wonder what a shop would charge to make them, some even come and measure up for you too.”

“How d’you know that?”

“How d’ya think we got curtains for the cottage?”

“Oh, I thought you bought them from Woollies.”

“Stella, every window was a different size.”

“Who made the curtains then?”

“I’ll see if I still have their address and phone number—but they were quite reasonable.”

“And you still don’t think I should ask Cathy?”

“You can ask her, but I won’t let her do it.”

“You can’t stop her—that’s infringement of her human rights.”

“And expecting her to drop everything and do your bidding, isn’t?”

“No of course not, it’s simply meeting my needs.”

“What about hers?”

“She has you to meet those—maybe you need to give her a good seeing to more often and she’d be more amenable.”

It was as if I was invisible, I was seated at the table along with them and Tom. His face was picture of astonishment as it became increasingly obvious that Stella didn’t have a clue. How she was going to run a household was looking very unclear.

I slipped away from the table and Tom followed me—the two siblings were still at it half an hour later as we sat and drank tea in the lounge.

“Whit planet is she frae?”

“I do wonder at times. It’s like she has some brain disorder and it’s getting worse.”

“D’ye ken, ye micht weel be richt, perhaps we’d better get her heid examined.” We both laughed although we stopped when voices were raised and something got smashed—probably one of my matching cups or a glass—again from a matching set. If Simon threw it, he can pay for its replacement—though I suspect it was Stella, she is the more volatile of the two.

They were still arguing when I went to bed at nearly midnight.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1277

“Did the Red Queen see your argument?” I asked sleepily as Simon got into bed.

“Not really, unless you consider her saying, ‘Orff with her head,’ every couple of minutes, counts as agreement.

“I need to sleep now, darling,” I said and turned over with my back to him, he put his arm round my waist and kissed me on the back of the neck.

When I awoke, it was barely getting light and I’d had a horrible dream of Stella, who’d turned into an ogress, locking me into a tower and saying she wouldn’t release me until I’d made curtains for all the windows in her palace. When I’d finished that, there was some straw and a spinning wheel to make gold, so she could pay for the material. I looked and saw bolts of material and an ancient sewing machine with a treadle. I glanced out through the bars of my cell and saw the palace had hundreds of windows. I shouted after her, “What’s the pension plan like?” which is probably what woke me up and Simon woke too.

“What?” he asked looking at me prising open my eyelids.

“Eh?” I replied.

“You said something about a pension plan.”

“Did I?”

“Yes you did, what was that about?”

“How do I know, I was asleep then, I’m awake now.”

“That figures—wanna shag?”

“Have you been taking lessons in lovemaking from Australians?”

“No, why?”

“Well, the old joke says that’s an Aussie man’s idea of foreplay.”

“Foreplay? Wassat then?” he pretended to look naïve and it made me chuckle which reminded me I needed to wee. Before he could grab me, I slipped out of bed and ran to the bathroom. After the necessary, I striped off my pyjamas—yes pyjamas—real women do wear them, and got in the shower, where a few minutes later my handsome hubby joined me. It’s a very long time since we’ve done that in the shower—washing each other’s hair, what did you think I meant? Oh that, nah it would use up all the hot water, wouldn’t it?

I roused Julie but let the others sleep, they were on half-term holiday, she had to go to work and she grumbled about it all through breakfast. As she left, she said, “D’ya know anythin’ about keratin?”

“Keratin? It’s what skin is made of isn’t it?”

“Yeah, and hair and nails and feathers and ’orse’s ’ooves—I gotta do an essay for college on it.”

“I’m sure you’ll find plenty on the Internet, get Trish to help you.”

“Thassan idea. See ya later.” She pecked me on the cheek and slammed the door. A few minutes later her scooter thing was putt-putting down the drive. I’d forgotten to remind her she had another driving lesson this evening, so I sent her a text. I know she’s seventeen and still needs to have her nose and bum wiped, which Simon complains about. I remind him he’s over thirty and still needs it too. That usually shuts him up for a bit.

He kissed me and then left for work, I could say the Jaguar roared down the drive and I heard its throaty exhaust as it went into the distance—but it would be a lie. It’s a pretty nippy piece of kit, but it doesn’t roar, it has quite a quiet engine.

I was about to get the kids up when Daddy came back with the dog—he’d been walking her as he does most mornings. “Whaur’s a’body?”

“Si and Jules have gone to work and the rest are in bed.”

“I thocht it wis quiet.”

“Like it used to be before I moved in and brought in half the children of Portsmouth to stay with us?”

“Aye, a wee bitty—no, I prefer it like it is th’ noo.”

“Nearly caught you,” I said and sniggered before kissing his grizzled face.

“Ye scunner,” he said drily and poured himself some of his black sludge coffee.

Looking at it I said, “You know, BP were producing stuff like that off the coast of Louisiana,” and smiled sweetly at him.

“Och were they noo, in which case, there widnae be ony survivors, sae I think it micht hae been somethin’ else, mebbe.” His eyes twinkled and he took his coffee through to his study along with my Guardian. How does he always manage to grab the newspaper first?

The next hour was spent dealing with the nutritional requirements of half a dozen children and Stella. Puddin’ came down by herself, Stella had obviously left the gate open, I sat her in her high chair—Puddin’ not Stella—do pay attention, and gave her a piece of the toast I’d just made. She grabbed it and started chewing hungrily upon it.

When Stella did come down, she was frantic. “Okay, who opened the gate on my bedroom door?” she looked accusingly at all of us.

“I’m not sure it was any of us, Stella,” I said protectively.

“Oh so you’re accusing me, are you?” she snapped back.

“No, but I can’t think of any reason why we would.”

“Vandalism doesn’t seem to need a motive.”

“Since when were you a criminologist?”

“Oh that’s right, if you can’t win an argument go off at a tangent.”

“Which is what you’ve just done,” I answered her back.

“Really, you just can’t wait to be rid of us, can you? Well don’t you dare harm my baby—because if you do, I’ll make you sorry.” She snatched Puddin’ out of the high chair and dashed back upstairs.

“Oh,” I said and looked at the mystified faces at the table. “Did anyone open her gate?”

“No, Mummy,” answered several of them.

I made sure they were all okay and went up to Stella’s room. I knocked and went in opening and closing the gate. She didn’t hear me, she was busy shoving clothes in various bags and cases. “What’re you doing?”

“What’s it look like?” she snapped back.

“I can see that, but why?”

“I can’t stand a moment longer in this place.”

“Why is that?”

“I can’t stand being with you—you smart arse—think you know everything about babies and children—but then you’ve had so many yourself, haven’t you? Pregnancy is such a bitch isn’t it?”

“I don’t know about pregnancy but you can be one.”

“Why you…” she flew at me scaring me and Puddin’ who burst into tears. I managed to repulse her slashing nails and she turned and looked at her toddler and said accusingly, “Now look what you’ve done—get out of here.”

I was speechless but thought discretion the better part of valour and left her to it. I was concerned for Puddin’s safety. As I came down, I heard Daddy driving off to the university—so I had no other adults in the house as Jenny was away last night. I was really worried for her little one, who is a sweet wee thing. I could still hear her thumping about upstairs, cursing and opening and closing cupboards and drawers. In desperation I called Gareth.

I quickly explained what was happening and suggested if he could come over it would be a good idea. He agreed and left immediately. I don’t know if he knew of Stella’s history but I was really concerned for her and both her toddler and the unborn she was carrying.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1278

“Why is Auntie Stewwa so cwoss?” asked Mima.

“I think probably because she feels under a lot of stress, she has lots going on in her life and some of it is pretty big stuff, like getting married and having a baby.”

“Did you get stwessed when you got mawwied?”

“Yes I did, but for different reasons.”

“What was different with you getting married?” Trish joined in as the pack circled me.

“Lots, mine was a total surprise—I didn’t know until minutes before we were even getting married.”

“Oh yeah,” Trish smirked, “we all helped Daddy keep the secret, didn’t we?”

“Yes, for the first time ever.” I pretended to be cross with them but they all saw through it.

“Can we all be bridesmaids next time?”

“Next time?” I queried.

“Yes when you get married again.”

“Again—you think I do this twice?”

“Yes, you said—up in Scotland—you promised.” Trish seemed upset now. It looked as if it was going to be one of those days.

“Oh the blessing—yes, of course you can all be bridesmaids.”

Danny cleared his throat deliberately, “All of us?” he asked.

“Well, okay you can be maid of honour if you like,” I replied.

“Yeah, ’course.” He blushed and shook his head. I was going to ask Simon if we could find some sort of role for Danny. The problem was he was too old to be a page boy but too young to be best man, although as it was only a blessing not an actual marriage, perhaps it wouldn’t matter so much.

Now the sixty-four dollar question was, did Stella want my brood as bridesmaids or did my recent squabble with her make that unlikely. I said nothing. If they were getting married in Stanebury, then perhaps we could do two for the price of one? It seemed remote for the way she was acting at the moment. In truth, I wondered if she was heading more for the clinic than the altar. Poor Stella, she doesn’t seem to have much luck.

Sensing my concern, Danny went towards the stairs, “Want me to see if she’s okay?”

I nodded, “Be careful, she can be a bit unpredictable.”

I was almost having visions of Psycho when the private eye gets slashed at the top of the stairs by Anthony Perkins in drag. That was the first time I’d heard the word transvestite, I think. I watched it at a friend’s house we were about eight at the time and I had nightmares for ages afterwards—but I could hardly tell my mother I’d been watching a Hitchcock film, could I?

I’ve never wanted to see it since or the remakes which are poor imitations. I wouldn’t go near the shower for ages either and if the screeching music had started—I’d have died on the spot without any loony with a carving knife. Mind you, I wasn’t too fond of going swimming after seeing Jaws. The closest we got was one day down on the Gower coast, can’t remember which beach and a seal swam past—everyone except me stampeded out of the water. It was the first seal I’d seen in the wild.

The sound of a vehicle came from the drive and Gareth’s Land Rover hove into view. Moments later, I was admitting him through the back door. We had a quick conflab out of earshot of the kids and as we finished Danny came downstairs.

“I think she’s calming down now,” he announced and went off to the lounge.

“Good luck,” I wished Gareth as he went up the stairs.

I waited with bated breath as he disappeared from view and moments later he called me to come and take Puddin’. I rushed up the stairs and took my niece from his arms. “Is she all right?” He nodded and went back into Stella’s room.

Puddin’ was a bit upset by the morning’s events and it took me a while to calm her down. In the end, we all wrapped up and went out into the garden. Jenny arrived at this point and wondered why I had Puddin’. I explained Stella was very stressed and had thrown a wobbly. She nodded and after taking her bag into the house came out and played with the girls. I was pushing baby C in her pram while Puddin’ was sitting on the end of the pram on a pram seat.

We watched Jenny running about the garden with the older girls and laughed at their antics which were accompanied by much squealing, shrieking and laughter. We went back in after about twenty minutes, they were all puffing and panting and red-faced—it is still February.

I made them all drinks and put the kettle on. Jenny took her bag upstairs and called to see if Gareth or Stella wanted a cuppa. Neither replied. She came back down and told me.

Fearing the worst, I rushed up the stairs and forced open the door. They were both lying on the bed, Stella was asleep and Gareth was lying beside her. He waved me away and I retreated quietly closing the door behind me. Perhaps he was better at this than I thought.

I drank the tea Jenny had made and we sat and made small talk at the same time fully aware we were avoiding the elephant in the room. Gareth came down and I shut the door to keep the children out.

“She’s sleeping now—she’ll be okay for a bit,” he reported.

“Thanks, I couldn’t seem to calm her down today, usually I can,” I felt totally useless.

“Nah, that’s okay, she told me all about her problems before—including trying to kill you, and then herself. She told me you’d saved her life at least twice and she loved you like her sister. She asked me to apologise for what she said and did earlier but she was very upset about Puddin’ getting out of the bedroom.”

“You seemed to have a magical way with you,” remarked Jenny.

“Not magical, it’s practice. I worked in a mental hospital when I was at uni. I used to do evenings, weekends and the holidays. I got used to talking psychotics out of killing themselves or each other.”

“Oh well, if ever I get psychotic, send for Gareth, won’t you, Jenny?”

“Will we be able to tell the difference?” she snapped back at me.

“Huh, there’s appreciation for you,” I said in a very poor Welsh accent.

“Look yer butt,” said Gareth in a proper Welsh accent, “arre yew tryin’ to take the piss, like?” Thankfully he winked which let me know he was joking.

“Oh well, it’ll soon be St David’s day.” I observed.

“Indeed it will,” he said, “I hope you’ll all wear your daffodils.”

“Eh?” Jenny looked perplexed.

“National flower of them who couldn’t swim the Severn,” I teased.

He pretended to glare at me. “It could be argued the other way round—that Bristol is full of failed Welshmen.”

“What?” I pretended to be horrified, “that’s like calling a Canuck a Yankee.”

“What’s a Canuck?” asked Jenny thus destroying all the intellectual teasing Gareth and I were doing to each other.

“I’m going to enjoy having you as a sister-in-law,” he smiled, “Better go and check on my patient.”

“You’ll have to watch him, he’s a right charmer,” Jenny observed.

“It might be he, who is at risk from half the females in this house,” I smirked then blushed when I remembered how tongue-tied I’d been the first time he’d come to dinner here.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1279

Gareth came down and said she’d taken a sedative—one that was safe with her pregnancy. She would sleep much of the day, which should help her de-stress somewhat. He also said he had to go back and do some more packing. “You know, she wanted you to come up and advise her on what we should take and what we should leave, it’s a pity you don’t have time, because I’d probably keep the lot.”

“Doesn’t she know what she wants in her new home?” I felt astonished, I thought every woman knew how she wanted her home, even if she couldn’t afford it.

“She doesn’t really have a clue, she’s always lived in other people’s houses and concentrated on herself, but that is built on very shaky ground and it doesn’t take much to cause tremors and then she collapses.”

“But doesn’t she want to learn, to understand what she wants?”

“I guess not, and me? I can live anywhere as long as it’s warm and clean and I have enough space to keep my stuff oh, and a garden, I like to grow things.”

“That figures with a name like Sage.”

“Hey, lots of people see it as in a wise man, not Salvia officinalis.”

“I suspect plenty of women would like to make stuffing with you,” I said this absently, realised what I’d said and blushed profusely.

“With you as the exception?” he smirked.

“’Fraid so, I’m a happily married woman you see.” I smiled with embarrassment.

“And several hungry dormice to support,” he added.

“Exactly.”

“Just as well I’m spoken for as well then, isn’t it?”

“Quite,” I agreed.

“Oh well I’d better get back to my sorting and packing, maybe you could come by sometime soon and give us an opinion.”

“If I bring the wee yin, I could give you a couple of hour’s opinion, if Jenny could hold the fort here.”

“I could find some scratching in the cupboards for them for lunch, I suppose.”

I thanked her and went to pack a few things for baby C. I’d be very pleased when she was potty trained and I could leave all this behind. I brought down a pile of stuff and Gareth took it out to my car. Jenny cornered me, “You’re going to advise him on house decoration?”

“More or less, yes.”

“I hope that lust still isn’t in your eyes when you get there.”

“Be assured, Jenny, I’m happily married. I’d love to screw Gareth, then so would you.” She looked embarrassed, so I was right. “However, I’m not going to because I love my husband more than I lust after Dr Sage. So don’t worry about me, oh, and keep your hands off him as well, he belongs to my sister.”

“I know that, but it’s me ’ormones—gets me into all sorts of trouble they does.” She sounded like Eliza Doolittle and we both laughed, hopefully my warning was enough and she’d do her blouse up a button or two before Gareth came back again.

I followed Gareth to the new house, it was empty and he had a decorator lined up to start work on it in a week’s time. I toured it and gave him my opinion. There was a Portland stone fireplace in the sitting room so I suggested some colours that would go with it. He had books of wallpaper and I suggested three which might work and which of the carpet samples would go as well. I then suggested which curtain material would work too—“This one would pick up the grey in the stone and the flecks in the carpet, but that’s just my idea, perhaps Stella will feel differently.”

“No, that’s a great help, what about furniture?”

“Aren’t you taking some from your cottage?”

“Just my dining suite and my desk and chair, the rest is for the recycling people at the charity place.”

We went online and I chose a pair of sofas for the lounge, a couple of chairs for the dining room, it was quite big for a modern house, and so on and on. I even suggested a bed and couple of chairs for the bedroom, plus stuff for Puddin’s bedroom. I had been there two hours and he had a book full of notes on what I’d said. I felt like some sort of consultant. I also felt very nervous—what if Stella didn’t like it?

His study, he would get the decorator to erect shelves all round the room and some cupboards he could use to store his equipment and stationery. He was really pleased, so was I, the wee yin slept right through it.

We drove over to his old house and I parked behind his car. I was dressed in jeans and cotton shirt with a soft fleece jacket on top. I’d need to feed the baby in the next hour or so, and I had a tub of solid food for her too, for after the breast.

Gareth helped me unload my expedition’s equipment—well it was like that. If you’ve had a young baby you’ll know exactly what I had, even down to the changing mat and my Mothercare baby workbox—like one of the toolboxes I have in my workshop, it’s a grey and pink cantilever box with wipes and creams and so on in it. I take it everywhere I take the baby.

Gareth made us some tea, and I left Catherine in her pram to come round, she seemed very sleepy today and I hoped she wasn’t going down with something, not even Christopher Robin.

We wandered down the garden sipping our tea, Gareth showed me which plants he’d be moving and what he’d intended to do had he stayed here. I wasn’t that interested, now the hedgerow behind him was interesting, it was hawthorn and yes, we had some waxwings plundering the remaining berries. He hadn’t noticed—some ecologist he was.

“Cathy, you need to give up the babies and get back to work, we need people like you stopping indiscriminate development by unscrupulous developers.”

“I’ll be back soon enough, just let me enjoy my kids for a few years will you, especially this one.” I picked her out of the pram and she yawned sleepily and snuggled at my breast. “D’you mind if I feed her?”

“No of course not, d’you want me to leave you to it?”

“Feel free to stay if you want, it doesn’t worry me.” He sat down opposite me, and watched almost in adoration as I undid a couple of buttons and opened my bra and the mother-sucker latched on and suckled hungrily.

We had been at it for about two minutes and my milk was flowing quite nicely when the door burst open and in stormed Aubrey Murray, I was sitting with my back to him when he shouted, “I knew it was you, Watts. Come to spy on me, have you?”

He rounded on me, saw the baby at my breast and stopped dead in his tracks.

“What—what is this? Oh, I’m sorry my dear, I thought you were someone else.”

“Aubrey, I think you’d better go,” Gareth stood up and towered over the older man.

“Yes, so sorry, I thought your friend was someone else.” He shuffled towards the door.

“Aubrey, is it?” I called after him.

“Yes my dear.” He came back into the room.

“You’re dead right about who I was, but wrong about what I was, as you can see.”

His jaw dropped, “But—but this is impossible.”

“Is it? Perhaps it isn’t when you realise you made a rather fundamental mistake some years ago. Now you’ll believe me and stop calling me silly names. I believe you’ve met my daughter, Catherine.”

“Yes, perhaps I do.” He said quietly, his whole universe turned upside down.

“Oh, and I think an apology for past wrongs might be in order.”

“Yes, yes of course.” He paused to clear his throat in which the words were probably sticking. “I’m sorry for my previous misunderstanding of your condition, I hope that now you’ve got it corrected, you’ll be very happy. I—um—think I’d better go.”

Gareth saw him out and came back as my infant vacuum machine started on the second breast. “You enjoyed that didn’t you?”

“Very much. He made my life hell for several years and in many ways I wanted to do the same to him, but I don’t have the time, energy or inclination. He’ll leave me in peace now.”

“If he doesn’t just let me know and we’ll have words and he won’t enjoy it.”

“Gareth, he’s not worth the effort of getting physical.”

“Oh, I won’t touch him, but he doesn’t know that, does he?”

“You are a wicked Welshman.” I said and he flashed me a delightful smile.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1280

Back at home, I had a cuppa to refresh me and then got started on dinner. “Anyone seen Stella?” I asked when I heard footsteps behind me.

“Um—Mummmmy—Auntie Stella’s behind you and she has a knife in her hand,” Trish spoke very quietly. “Please don’t hurt my mummy, Auntie Stella.”

“Shut up you little bitch, unless you wanna be next.”

I stared into the window and saw her reflection, she was about six feet away. I turned quickly and edged away from the sink where I’d been preparing vegetables. “Put the knife down, please, Stella, you’re frightening the children.”

“First Des and now Gareth—you can’t help yourself, can you? You slut.”

“Please put down the knife, Stella, and then we can talk about this amicably and rationally.”

“Rationally? Hah, you are insatiable, you bitch.”

“No I’m not, nor am I unfaithful. I made vows when I married Simon, I intend to keep them.”

“I didn’t hear you vow chastity.”

“I didn’t vow it as an individual matter, but I did vow to love him and forsake all others, which is the same in my book.”

“You don’t expect me to believe you?”

“What you believe is a matter for you, Stella, but I have never been unfaithful to Simon, and I believe he has stayed faithful to me.”

“I wasn’t talking about Simon, I was talking about you and my fiancé. You’ve been away together much of the day after he drugged me so I couldn’t stop your dirty liaison.”

“Put the knife down, Stella.”

“Why should I?”

“Someone could get hurt.”

“If I get my way, someone could get dead.” Stella looked at me with murderous eyes.

She advanced closer and I moved further from the sink. From the corner of my eye I saw Trish move further away still, then while my gaze was on the knife in Stella’s hand, I saw movement and Trish started pelting Stella with potatoes and carrots. One large spud hit her on the head and she turned to threaten Trish. Trish threw another potato and it hit her in the face. Enraged she rushed at Trish and I threw myself on her back and we both crashed into the table, me holding on to her hands, especially the one with the knife as we rolled onto the floor, her on top of me.

Trish came to help and Stella slashed. I saw the look of disbelief on the child’s face then she screamed and collapsed blood pouring from her. In my shock I allowed Stella to escape me and she pulled herself to her feet and began threatening me again with the now bloody knife.

“What have you done you stupid woman?” I screamed at her and rolled over away from her springing to my feet. She slashed, I sidestepped and with a right cross that any boxer would have been proud of, I caught her on the chin and she dropped like a stone.

I rushed over to Trish who was very pale and shocked, her eyes were moving but she wasn’t seeing anything. I screamed for help. Jenny came running, “Get an ambulance and quickly.”

I grabbed a clean tea towel and held it over the wound, she’d lost quite a lot of blood.

“The ambulance is coming,” Jenny said and then followed it with, “What the hell happened?”

“Stella went funny and wanted to stab me, Trish tried to help me and got stabbed as I struggled with her. Tie her up so she can’t hurt anyone else. Call the police.”

Jenny found some string in the kitchen drawer and tied Stella’s hands behind her back. The knife was picked up very carefully to avoid contamination of fingerprints. I continued talking to Trish who was fighting to stay conscious and I’m afraid was losing the battle.

“C’mon, girl, stay with me—you’re going to be all right—trust me, I’m your mother.” I watched as she smiled at me.

“Love you, Mummy,” she said and her eyes rolled up into the tops of the sockets and her head went limp.

Sirens sounded very close and two paramedics rushed into the kitchen.

“Shit—what happened?”

“My daughter has been stabbed.” He looked down at the child in my arms, I was still holding the towel over her lower abdomen and trying to keep her alive.

“What’s with the other one?” he nodded at Stella.

“I hit her, she stabbed my Trish, I decked her. Be careful she’s pregnant.”

More sirens and the room was suddenly filled with police and paramedics.

“Let’s get her to A&E quick—come along, Mum—you too. You’ll have to wait fellas—for a statement I mean. This one is pretty sick.”

He picked up Trish like she was a feather, his hand clamped on her wound and he ran to his van. I was right behind him.

“Can you drive?” he shouted.

“You bet,” I ran to the front and started up the ambulance and pushed the siren lever and drove like the devil to the hospital. I reckon we did it in under eight minutes but time was on hold for me.

I stopped at the A&E entrance and he jumped out of the back carrying Trish and sprinted into the hospital. I picked out the keys of the vehicle and ran after him locking the van as I left.

They stopped me at reception and I was made to sit and catch my breath. “Have a coffee and calm down, you can’t do anything else but wait. She’s gone straight in, she’ll be all right.”

I realised I was covered in blood—none of it my own. I felt very scared and very alone. A nurse came and sat next to me. “I’ve seen you here before, haven’t I?”

“I always seem to be here.”

“What’s your little girl’s name and what happened?”

I told her and she wrote it down.

“Wait here, as soon as we know something, we’ll let you know.”

I sat there in shock. Ken Nicholls appeared. “Okay, Cathy, come through please.”

I jumped to my feet and walked quickly into the office. “She’s got a nasty wound near the bladder, I’ve sent for Mick O’Rourke—we’re going to have to operate and soon. We need your consent to do whatever we have to in her best interest.”

“Of course,” I signed the form. “Is she going to be all right?”

“I hope so,” he shrugged, “Go home get showered and changed and come back and maybe bring some of that magic you have with you. I think she’s going to need it.”

I nodded, asked them to get me a taxi and waited for it to take me home. Once home, I learned that Stella had been taken off to hospital to be checked out, and the police were waiting for me for a statement. I gave one very quickly, showered, dressed and phoned Simon as I was on the way back to the hospital. He called Tom to go straight home and help Jenny, he also called Julie and told her the same. Then he phoned Henry and told him what had happened. Apparently Henry’s shout of anguish was heard on two floors.

I was sitting in the surgical waiting area when Si arrived. He gave me a massive hug and I dissolved in tears. “Has anyone called Gareth?” he asked. I shrugged, I had no idea, it wasn’t a priority of mine. “I’ll be back in a mo’,” he said and went off with his phone in his hand.

He was back a few minutes later. We sat and hugged for a couple of hours and finally when I was feeling faint with tiredness, the two surgeons emerged, still in their scrubs. They looked exhausted.

“Oi’m afraid Oi’ve had to do someting pretty radical,” said O’Rourke. “Da wound was a nasty one, it had transected her penis an’ penetrated her abdomen jus’ missin’ her bladder an’ bowel—quite how, ’tis a miracle. Seein’ as she was such a mess, an’ dere’ll be scarrin’ anyhow, Oi’ve done a vaginoplasty an’ clitoroplasty. Oi’m sorry we didn’t discuss it, but it was necessary. If she ever wants t’ be a boy again, she’s gonna have troubles.”

I hugged him and kissed him on the cheek, “Thank you, I’m sure you’ve done the right thing. Can we see her?”

“Right this way,” said Ken Nicholls, “See if you can do your magic, she’s pretty poorly and far from out of the woods yet. She lost a lot of blood.”

“An’ dis was done boi Stella?” O’Rourke shook his head, “She is some sick woman, so she is.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1281

Trish was lying in a bed with the cot sides up; there was a transfusion of blood slowly helping to overcome the loss of the red stuff which had so recently lain on my kitchen floor.

People in hospital beds always look smaller than they are in ordinary life. Children look very small and helpless and you want to scoop them up in your arms and love them. I so wanted to do that with my darling girl.

Instead, I restrained my impulses and sat down beside her. She had drips in both arms, the one was the blood I’d mentioned earlier, the other was a saline drip which included antibiotics—because it was a wound, and one very close to the bowel.

Apparently her little member was nearly sliced off and was partly responsible for the loss of blood, it cut the artery and one of the veins. There was reasonable doubt that they could save the meatus—the fleshy, erectile tissue, so they decided to make her as near a proper girl as they could. It will mean she will need at least one further op as she grows, because sadly her new organ won’t.

I’m sure Stella didn’t mean to hurt her, and how much hurt there is will remain to be seen. Will she have nightmares of this for many years, or will she be able to move on fairly quickly—who knows? I hope the latter.

What will become of Stella? I don’t know either. I know that she wouldn’t normally do such a thing to anyone and that this paranoia is a manifestation of illness—almost like a paranoid schizophrenia of pregnancy. If it’s the case, it would be wise for her to take steps to prevent its recurrence.

The police are involved and she has likely been carted off to a secure mental unit somewhere, sectioned under the mental health act. I hope this has no long-term ill effects for Trish, bless her lying here like a little doll.

I hold on to the arm not attached to the blood transfusion—I don’t want to affect that if I’m able to produce any energy tonight.

“I’m here, baby girl, Mummy’s here so you’re going to be all right now.” I squeezed her hand and she reacted slightly by squeezing back. “Listen to my voice and look for the light I’m sending to you. Precious, you were hurt in an accident, but you’re going to be all right. Mr O’Rourke, the same surgeon who helped me become a proper woman has done the same for you. My, precious girl, you are now as proper a girl as anyone can make you. You have a little vagina of your own, just like Livvie and Mima and Mummy of course. It’s going to be sore for a few days, but it will heal quickly and leave you feeling wonderful. And I’m going to have all your papers changed over to show your new status—you are now a real girl and no one will be able to tell you weren’t always one.

“I need you follow my voice and the light, feel it healing you and leading you back to me. We are mother and daughter and now have an even closer bond, and I’m sure when you feel better you will be so proud of your new part.

“Auntie Stella isn’t well as I’m sure you realise and I know she didn’t mean to hurt you, so try to forgive her and concentrate on getting well again so you can come home with me as soon as possible.

“I’m going to be quiet now, but I’m still here, sitting with you and waiting for you to wake and tell me you feel a little better. I’m not leaving your side.” I stood up and leaned over the side of the cot and kissed her. I thought I saw the glimmer of a smile—then it was gone.

I sat and clutched her hand, pouring the energy into her, around her and through her. I tried to concentrate on two areas—her healing groin, and her head. I didn’t want her to fear or hate her auntie. I know Stella wouldn’t hurt her, and I know that Trish attacking Stella with the vegetables was an act of desperation; to help me escape or disarm her.

I was aware of a presence with me and looked round to see Dr Sam Rose standing in the doorway watching us. “Hello, Sam,” I said to him.

“Cathy. How is she?”

“She’ll make it, won’t you, sweetheart?”

“I hear she’s jumped the queue for reassignment surgery?”

“Yes, it’s been done and I’m trying to help her come to terms with it. It must be a bit of a shock when you haven’t planned it.”

“Ah, with Trish you never know just how much was planned.”

“What? D’you honestly think she’d measure how close she’d need to come towards Stella, for her to prune her doo-dah yet not kill her?”

“Perhaps not consciously.”

“Sam, I don’t believe it. Anyway, she may possibly hear us, so let’s leave it for now.”

“The colour of that light is absolutely delicious.”

“What light?”

“The one passing from you into Trish—it’s the most exquisite shade of blue—like, a—I don’t quite know how to describe it—um—like a neon royal blue. Gosh it’s wonderful, it’s pulsating from your hand and your chest and surrounding her like the Readybrek kids.” He was referring to an advert on telly from years ago for a porridge-type cereal.

“You can actually see it?” I asked in surprise.

“Yes, why, can’t you?”

“No. I know it’s flowing and I know how fast it’s flowing but I can’t see it.”

“Shame it’s quite beautiful.” He walked up to the bed, “Hello, Trish, it’s Dr Rose, just popped by to see you.”

I watched her eyes moving under the closed lids—so some sort of activity was happening in her brain. Was she awake or dreaming, dealing with the aftermath of an anaesthetic? Who knows?

“Have they brought you in a cuppa?” he asked me.

“No.”

“Would you like one?”

“You know me, Sam, a proper tea pot.”

“I’ll get them to send you one. See you tomorrow, Trish, bye, poppet.”

A nurse brought me through a cup of quite reasonable tea about twenty minutes later. She also took Trish’s vitals and said she was coming on nicely. I drank my tea and went back to trying to help her through the crisis.

I had permission to stay the night and sit with her and about midnight, Simon came by with the breast pump and some bottled water, he also brought in the case I’d packed for Trish and forgotten in my haste and a change of underwear and some soap and a towel for me.

He walked over to the bed and kissed her, “Hi, little girl, how ya doing?”

To his astonishment, her eyes flickered open and she smiled at him, “Daddy,” she said very faintly and then closed her eyes.

Of course that is bloody typical. I sit here all night and she wakes up when he comes past. But then I’m only her mother. I’m only joking really, but it seems to be the way these things happen and the more we do the more it’s taken for granted. Ergo, mothers are taken for granted more than fathers in the average household.

Still holding her hand I actually fell asleep but woke quickly when she said quietly, “Mummy, is that you?”

“Yes, darling, I’m here.”

“No, the angel at the foot of my bed, I thought it was you?”

I felt a cold shudder. “Trish? Trish?” I called but she didn’t answer. I screamed and two nurses rushed in.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1282

I was led away from the room by one of the nurses whilst the other called the crash team. I was weeping and shaking. I was sure she had died, taken away by the angel she thought she saw. Some bloody angel.

I asked to be left somewhere I could sit quietly. I was left in the office. I tried to go inside myself and see if there was something wrong with me. Also, if there was a sacrifice required, then it should be me, not a baby like Trish.

I seemed able to centre myself very quickly and in what seemed no time at all I was moving down inside myself then using the energy I tried to follow where Trish was. To my surprise she appeared to be in some sort of limbo. Down below, doctors were working hard to restart her heart, while her spirit, if that is the word, seemed to be sitting in a garden waiting to be told what to do next.

I had no qualms about what I wanted to happen. I wanted her back with me and the rest of her family. She’d suffered enough, trying to help me fight off an attack by a crazy Stella. I tried to walk into the garden to tell her to go back to her body, all would be well, but I couldn’t—it was like I was watching it all on film—I just couldn’t access her.

I tried to send the light to her and couldn’t achieve it with either her corporeal form or her spirit. I was now becoming desperate. “For God’s sake,” I heard my mouth say and was aware something was surrounding me.

“I’d be grateful if someone could tell me what is going on and how I might save the life of my daughter.”

A voice filled my head, “The child has come to the end of her allotted span.

“Just like that?” I challenged.

Yes.

“How can you do that to a child?”

It is required by the soul to experience such things.

“That is total crap, and you know it.”

For someone who is supposed to be so special, you are ill-informed, disrespectful and rude.

“Yep, I plead guilty to all of those, so how do I save her life?”

Were you not listening?

“Completely, but I still want you to cut the crap and tell me what I want to know.”

Do you have any idea with whom you speak?

“Yeah, someone who’s too tired to show me their face.”

If we show you our face, you will die.

“If it means you let Trish go back to her life, I don’t care—do it.”

Your arrogance does you no service.

“Just get on with it, whoever you are.”

Who do you think we are?

“Like I care? Just get on with it—kill me and let her go.”

But wouldn’t you like to know who removes the life from you?

“Is that going to help Trish?”

It has nothing to do with Trish, this is about you.

“Look if I was crossing the road and was hit by a car and left dying, it wouldn’t matter one iota who was driving the car, would it? The outcome would be the same.”

Would it not matter if it were an accident or done deliberately?

“Only to the coroner.”

You seem to have very little regard for your own existence.

“The value in my life is made entirely of the children and adults I live with. I would gladly risk my life for any of them.”

We see you have already done so on numerous occasions.

“So, choices had to made, it’s no big deal.”

One day your rashness will be your undoing.

“Well, come on, let’s get it over and done with—I insist you release my daughter.” I was aware that time would be passing and the sort of recovery Trish could make would be limited.

You deliberately try to provoke us to do your bidding, foolish human, do you not know it is not the way of things.

“Look, if my request is beyond you let me speak with someone who is capable of such things.”

Now your pride begins to damage your cause and your lack of patience is exasperating to us.”

“Time is running out for my daughter, if she is damaged by your dithering I will not forget or forgive it.”

Ha ha, your foolishness is shown once again. Here there is no time. Your arrogance is pitiful but disrespectful.

“Sorry, but I’m fast coming to the opinion that you are full of shit, now show yourself or get me the head honcho.”

Prepare to die, fool.

I began to surround myself in blue light and began a mantra of my love for my family, especially Trish. I focused on seeing them in my mind’s eye, and saying goodbye to them.

I became aware of something standing before me, but despite my efforts to see it, all I could see was a blindingly brilliant light. I continued seeing my loved ones and covering myself in blue light.

Catherine, take your child and go home. Do not expect us to be so lenient next time you provoke us.” The voice was different and had a familiarity about it.

“Thank you, milady Shekhina, for your generosity and forgiveness.”

We have not forgiven you, Catherine, but you have tasks to perform for us, which your daughter Tricia may help you complete. She too is blessed with our spirit, and has been purified by this experience. You will neither of you have any recollection of this interview. Go now.

“Mrs Cameron, are you all right?”

I felt someone shaking my shoulder, as I emerged from what seemed like a deep sleep, “Eh?”

“Your daughter has come round and is asking for you.”

“Sorry, I must have been more tired than I thought.” I staggered to my feet and lurched off after her, feeling my feet and legs coming back under control as I walked towards her bed.

“Mummmy,” she piped and I rushed to her side and hugged her. “I’m a real girl now,” she gushed.

“You always were sweetheart, but now you have the official badge to prove it.”

She glanced down at her chest, “No I haven’t, Mummy, I still don’t have boobs.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1283

Trish was in hospital for another week, and she had to be told how to dilate. I’d never thought how sick that would seem relating to a six-year-old, but otherwise she’d lose what she had and then later on she’d have to start all over again without the tissue available that she had now, and that was pretty small. Realistically, I anticipated when she was modified later, they’d have to take a part of her colon to make up a vagina—we’d have to wait and see.

In her absence I agreed that she would be allowed to dilate without any of the others intruding. It was a very private thing to do and she had to be allowed time and space to do it.

I visited her every day and usually in the evening had one or more of the children with me. Danny didn’t come, I think the thought of what she’d had done was too much for him. Julie didn’t come either, she was peeved that she got beaten to it by a six year old. Anyway, Trish was coming on quite well and with her laptop in hospital with her, she was quite content moving satellites out of their orbits or whatever six-year-olds do with computers.

Stella was a different matter. Henry had to call in several favours not to have her prosecuted, the police felt it was the right thing to do. They even sent a policewoman to the hospital to ask Trish if she wanted her prosecuted. To her credit, she told them she couldn’t remember anything about it and now had her plumbing problem fixed. The policewoman was confused by this even when Trish told her, “I used to have an outie and now I have an innie which is what I wanted all along.”

It appears the poor policewoman hadn’t been told what her injuries were and what a weird lot we were. In the end, Henry managed to persuade the CPS that prosecution was in nobody’s interest, and I agreed. In return, Henry agreed to try and get Stella to be sterilised after the birth of her second child, as the paranoia seemed linked to the pregnancy.

She was back in the clinic and virtually under twenty-four hour surveillance—otherwise known as suicide watch. She had apparently been horrified to learn what had happened and why she had two damaged teeth and a bruised jaw, where I’d hit her.

I phoned her regularly and tried to talk her up a little, she sounded very depressed. I promised to visit as soon as I could. Trish came home and she called her Auntie to tell her there were no hard feelings—whatever had happened in the hospital that night seemed to stabilise her and she didn’t have a single nightmare or feel at all angry with Stella, nor did she feel afraid of her. Was it the blue light? I didn’t know, and usually I have some memory of what happened.

Trish couldn’t remember either, except she said she dreamt she was in a garden and a nice lady asked her if she’d like to be a real girl and she nodded, but that was all she could remember and it was very vague. I just had a vague recollection of falling asleep and being called to be told she was awake. I’ve never lost my memory like that before—stress I suppose—I mean, what else could it be.

Trish healed remarkably well, even without my helping her, and she mastered dilation very quickly. She would do it my room every day for half an hour. I really did feel for her, a six year old doing something she couldn’t understand for another eight or ten years if not longer. She said it felt nice. I wondered if she was doing it correctly and asked to watch, because my own recollection was far from nice until it stretched and Simon did my dilation for me—that was much nicer. She was doing it properly and she did seem to enjoy it. That worried me a bit—was she going to be addicted to masturbation by the time she was seven?

Two weeks later and she felt strong enough for me to take her with me to see Stella. The baby was beginning to show just a fraction and Stella was really pleased to see Trish and ask her forgiveness.

“I don’t know what I have to forgive, Auntie Stella, I always wanted a front bum and now I have one.”

Stella hugged her and burst into tears and then Trish wept and so did I. I’d offered to bring Puddin’, but Stella didn’t want her to see her mother in such a place. I tried to argue that seeing as she was so small she wouldn’t remember anyway, but Stella wouldn’t allow it.

Then she dropped her bombshell. “I told Gareth that I can’t marry him.”

“Why ever not?” I asked feeling sick.

“I need the support of a family round me, he and the kids wouldn’t be enough. I need you there, Cathy an’ Si and Tom and all your kids—without them I won’t make it.”

“Why don’t you wait and see how you feel when you’re better?”

“I can’t risk it, Cathy, I’m not half the mother you are, but I am enough of one to see I won’t cope on my own.”

“But you could get help, someone like Jenny.”

“I need you lot to be near me.”

“We’re only a phone call away, could be there in half an hour.”

“Are you trying to get rid of me, missus?”

“Damn, you saw through my fiendish plan.” We all laughed although Stella’s eyes were sad despite her laughing mouth.

“D’you mind if I come back to your house?”

Without a moment’s hesitation I agreed she could, although I pointed out that it wasn’t my house, it was Tom’s, but I knew he’d be okay about it. We’d actually discussed it and Tom had had a set of plans drawn up for an extension to the house, it was either that or a house in the gardens. He decided the extension was the better idea and it would include two more rooms downstairs, one of which would be my study and the other a library—we had quite a lot of books between us. It would double as a quiet room or extra study for the kids. Then on the two floors above, there would be three new ensuite bedrooms.

We got planning permission and Tom approached a builder through Maureen. Simon offered to fund the extra building but Tom declined his offer. I argued that we should pay something towards it and in the end we paid half each, or will when it’s finished. The drawings look lovely and the kids are very excited.

Because of the dirt and noise, I got permission to use Mr Whitehead’s house for the month they were tying in the walls of the extension—which meant knocking big holes in the existing walls to get the bricks to bind properly. It frightened the younger children and didn’t do much for my nerves.

Tom and Maureen supervised and it seemed to be going really well. Well was the operative word: they opened the well in the garage and guess what they found? Thankfully, only Maureen and the one builder saw them—the guns that is—and she managed to persuade him to be quiet while she hid them safely. She told Simon when he came home that night. He arranged a more permanent place in a safe he had put in my workshop, which was then disguised as a filing cabinet. The top two drawers worked as normal, but the bottom two were actually a false door which on the click of a secret switch, opened to reveal a reasonably sized safe. It would also be fireproof.

The girls respected Mr Whitehead’s house and we left it as clean if not cleaner than it was originally. I took all my own bedding and so on, and the whole two months we were there, I felt a benign presence with us. Whether it was Alexander or his wife or just my febrile imagination I can’t say, but Trish said something one day about a nice man who seemed to be smiling at her and when she spoke he smiled and disappeared.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1284

Staying at the Whiteheads had meant a doubling of duties for me, insofar as I used to go home to cook, clean and do some laundry. Simon, Tom and Danny ate out at lunchtimes—well Danny had a school meal—or at least that was what I was paying for. Why he insisted on staying with the men, I don’t know, possibly a boy thing, which was why I used to go back and make a couple of day’s meals and leave them in the fridge.

Sometimes I’d still be there when Simon came home, especially on days when Jenny collected the girls. It made the relationship seem odd, but he was staying to look after Danny and keep a quiet eye on Tom, who wasn’t getting any younger.

Maureen of course made the job a priority, which is why it was finished so quickly however, they did have one sticking point—they found some human bones when they were digging the footings of the wall furthest from the house. The police were called as the coroner’s agents, although it was obvious the bones were pretty old.

An osteo-archaeologist was summoned from nearby Bournemouth University, who suggested they were probably pre-Roman. They did a quick exhumation and a further investigation showed some grave goods. They were Bronze Age Beaker people and about three or four thousand years old. It held up the building for about a week.

That week, I had to take the girls with me to see the graves—Danny was in his element and suggested he might like to become an archaeologist once he retired from professional football of course.

I listened to one of the diggers trying to explain to Livvie how long ago three thousand years was—like five hundred times as long as she has been on the planet—but he did reasonable job, he did it counting paces as centuries across the garden.

Trish, naturally, was discussing the finer points of the pottery—she’d looked it up on the Internet the day before—with the dig supervisor from Wessex Archaeology. It was like having Time Team in the garden.

In between all this, I was trying to see Stella once a week at the clinic. She wasn’t happy there but she knew she had to stay there or somewhere similar for the sake of her baby. I didn’t see Gareth or hear from him—he’d apparently been very upset by Stella’s decision and didn’t come to visit her afterwards.

“Let me talk to him,” I pleaded with her.

“No, he deserves better than some loony who might try to kill him.”

“Not once you’ve got your tubes tied.”

“You can’t be certain about that, nor can the doctors. I like him too much to put him at risk.”

“But this one will be his, doesn’t he have a right to see his own son.”

“Son?” she choked, “I don’t want a boy baby, I want another little girl.”

“You should have thought about that when you were busy making him—anyway, I could be wrong, it was just what popped out of my mouth, I wasn’t thinking.”

“Your hunches are usually right, well that just about puts the icing on the cake—how the hell am I supposed to bring up a baby boy?”

“We’ll help, why won’t you let Gareth.”

“I don’t want him to see me like this.”

“Stella, he’s seen all sorts of things working in a hospital or wherever it was he worked as a student.”

“I don’t care, he deserves better so if I keep out of the way he can find someone less of a problem and settle down with them. He won’t need the stress of two small children and a loony wife, will he?”

“Isn’t that for him to decide? How can you possibly know what he thinks if you don’t talk to him?”

“I said no.”

“I know what you said but I feel you’re being unreasonable.”

We argued like this for a good hour and I had a splitting headache when I left. On the way home I phoned Gareth on his mobile.

“Cathy, to what do I owe this honour?”

“I’m calling to see how you are, I’ve just been to see Stella.”

“Oh—how is she?”

“Mostly okay, the pregnancy is going well and the baby is fine—at least that’s what she told me, she had an antenatal exam a few days ago.”

“Oh good.” He sounded awful.

“Look, Gareth, I’m probably speaking out of turn and she’ll blind me when she finds out, but she’s told me she wants to live back at the farmhouse. Tom’s having an extension done.”

“Yeah, I thought as much, I saw the builders there the other day when I went past.”

“If she—no; let me start that again. Would you be willing to live with her there if I can get her to change her mind? I mean live with us, but you’d have a sitting room and a bedroom.”

“I don’t care where I live, Cathy.”

“Just remember it would be a bit of a culture shock moving in with my rabble.”

“That doesn’t worry me too much.”

“The sixty-four dollar question is, do you want to? In other words do you still love her?”

“Yes, I do.”

“Watch where you say things like that, I did and ended up married.”

He laughed down the phone, “How can you keep so cheerful when this sort of thing has happened?”

“I try to see life’s issues as challenging rather than hindrances—just another thing for me to get round, over or through.”

“Am I going to be a distraction for you?” This was the one topic I was trying to avoid thinking about—he knew that I fancied him, and I knew it was reciprocated.

“We could be for each other if we allowed it to be, I think the answer is we don’t allow it to become an issue.”

“Wow—are you always this clear headed?”

“Meeee? No way, except when it comes to dormice and they run rings round me anyway.”

“I always thought that was cats?”

“They do too, but I haven’t had one of those since I was a kid—besides, I could just see Trish trying to rebuild birds and other prey items it brought home.”

“Oh—well that would be different, what’s her surname?”

“Yes.” I replied.

“Yes? That’s a funny name.”

“Eh?” It wasn’t just Stella who was ever so slightly bonkers.

“You said her name was, Yess, or something.”

“No, you asked if her name was Watts and said it was.”

“Oh, see I’m not even living there and we’re talking at cross-purposes. It isn’t going to work is it, Cathy?”

“How d’you know if you don’t try?” I paused and then asked, “Why did you want to know Trish’s name?”

“Your description of her trying to repair dead birds and furry things—I wondered if her name was Frankenstein.”

“No but she has that same intellectual naïvety that the scientist in the story possessed.”

“Intellectual naivety? She’s as sharp as a needle.”

“Intellectually yes, she has amazing cognitive skills but she is only six years old and at times a very young six.”

“Oh, I see—but if she gets her brains from you, you’re anything but emotionally naïve?”

“She doesn’t get anything from me, she’s adopted.”

“Oh but she has the same surname you had, I wondered if you were her—um—no forget it.”

“You wondered if I was her father?”

“I said, forget it.”

“Gareth, my body was in limbo until I started taking hormones a few years ago. I didn’t have a puberty, testosterone passed me by.”

“That’s why you’re such a beautiful woman, you never were a boy were you?”

“Only on paper.”

“Is this going to work, Cathy? I have a horrible feeling that I won’t have the strength to carry it through.”

“Have a think about it, I have to convince Stella it’s what she wants yet, so take your time. I’ll speak to you again.”

“I hope so, Cathy, I do hope so.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1285

“How’s my sister?” asked Simon when I returned from my visit to the clinic.

“A bit down, and I made that worse by telling her I thought she was having a baby boy.”

“What’s wrong with that?”

“Nothing, except she wanted a little girl.”

“She’s got one of them.”

“I’m well aware of that, Simon, Jenny and I have been looking after her since Stella was taken ill.”

“I don’t know what she’s so upset about, besides in this house he’s likely to end up with a sex-change anyway.”

“Exactly what is that supposed to mean?” I snapped back angrily.

“You know…”

“I know what?”

“Well you’ve had one, Trish has had one, there are two more waiting…”

“I see. One minute you’re telling me I’m the only woman for you and the next you’re throwing my surgery in my face. I thought we had decided that since I have legal status as female that we weren’t going to keep going over the past.”

He went absolutely scarlet and stuttered more than Colin Firth as King George VI. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Didn’t you?”

“No, it was a joke.”

“I didn’t find it very funny.”

“No, look, I’m sorry.”

“Simon, please grow up a little will you, you’re not at the rugby club now. Life is stressful enough as it is, having Stella and Gareth here won’t help that too much either.”

“What? I thought they were buying a place.”

“Get with the times, Si; first she called off the engagement and then she said she wanted to come back here.”

“And he’s coming too.”

“Possibly, I don’t know yet, but I’ve asked him to consider it if I can talk Stella round.”

“Oh I see, don’t I get consulted?”

“You were.”

“When?”

“Just now.”

“What? You’re going to have lover boy to live here and I’m not even asked if I mind?”

“He’s Stella’s lover not mine.”

“Well at least he can’t put you up the duff.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“At least he can’t make you pregnant.”

“I know what it meant, I just didn’t think you’d say it, that’s all. We just had a conversation about this and you’re off again about my past. Are these little Freudian slips which mean you’d rather we hadn’t married? Do you regret marrying someone who used to be boy?”

“I’ve read wossisname’s journal, you were never a boy to start with, you were a girl with the wrong plumbing. Second, I married you because I wanted to spend the rest of my life with you because I love you. Third, I don’t want to feel the Des situation all over again. I know you fancy Gareth because you said so, and he’s in your line of work so you have lots in common.”

“Simon Cameron, you’re jealous.”

“I’m not jealous I’m scared.”

“Scared?”

“Scared I could lose you.” His eyes looked very moist.

“Lose me? What about all my children?”

“People do stupid things even when children are involved. Children don’t stop marriages breaking up, do they?”

“If they did, there’d be fewer divorces,” I agreed. “You don’t honestly think I’d put our marriage in jeopardy because of my hormones, do you?”

“I’d hope not, but I don’t understand women at the best of times—as you well know.”

“So I’m a woman again am I?” I hit him below the belt and the expression on his face showed it.

“I’ve never seen you as anything different, and I did say I was sorry for my unfunny joke.”

“Okay. I’ll apologise for that last remark. Simon, you’re a good man, sometimes a bit dim and insensitive, but that happens in men quite often. But I love you for all your inadequacies because you’ve coped with mine, you’ve been happy to adopt all these children most of whom have some problem or other and you’re always ready to help anyone in trouble. So I don’t think there’s much chance of you losing me, do you? In fact I often worry the other way that you might be tempted by someone who could give you children.”

“Why should I want that—get something I’d have to wait years to see if it was nice or not. No, we got to choose our children, and despite their issues, between us we seem to cope and I think they seem to be doing all right on it, don’t you?”

“Yeah, I suppose so,” I gave him a huge hug and he then squeezed me so tight I thought he’d break me in half. “I love you, Simon Cameron, but you’re holding me too tight.”

“If I thought I was losing you, I’d never let you go.”

“If you want some dinner, I think you better had.”

“Oh, that’s different.” He released me immediately and we both laughed.

“What d’you fancy?”

“Hadn’t we better wait until the kids are in bed?” he smirked.

“I should have known better than to ask that shouldn’t I?”

“You did rather set it up,” he was still smirking.

“So what d’you want to eat?”

“Get the kids tidied up and let’s go out to dinner.”

“I can’t, we have two babies here, remember?”

“Can’t we leave them in the car, if we leave the window open?”

“Simon, they’re babies not dogs,” then I realised he was winding me up again.

“Can’t Jenny handle it, if we go out for dinner?”

“Not with seven children, no.”

“Oh, okay, wotyagot?”

“Something quick? I could do salmon steaks and new potatoes with salad in about forty minutes.”

“Have we got any decent wine to go with it?”

“How would I know?” Wine wasn’t my thing.

“Okay, I’ll go and get some while you do dinner, won’t be long.”

He wasn’t either, he was back as Trish was setting the table and I was tossing the salad. My eyes widened when I saw he had half a case of plonk. “What did you get?”

“Three bottles of Chablis and three of Pinot Noir. Which d’you fancy?”

“The white?”

“Okay, Chablis.”

“The rich man’s Chardonnay,” I joked.

“Absolutely—if ya got it, spend it.”

Tom appeared as if by magic once Simon popped the cork on the first bottle, Trish garnered the rest of the brood and we settled down to have a rather nice meal, finished off by some ice cream—for the children, while we had a second glass of wine.

I wasn’t tipsy, really I wasn’t but Trish said something and I burst out laughing and then had a fit of the giggles, which refused to stop and made Simon and Tom cross but had the kids giggling with me in sympathy and Jenny looking t me as if I were mad.

“More wine?” Simon asked as he filled my glass again—that was a mistake, because an hour later I was throwing up my dinner in the cloakroom. I have no tolerance of booze, but I never seem to learn, do I?

Jenny and Julie had to put the girls to bed and apparently Trish was quite dismissive of my lapse into drunkenness, although once Julie explained I had a lot on my plate, she seemed to mitigate her scorn a little. But I did pay for it the next day, I had a head like a bucket that the builders were banging and my tummy was quite queasy. I suppose the simple truth is, I’m not man enough to drink.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1286

My headache and upset tummy lasted for several days and I vowed not to have more than two glasses of anything alcoholic ever again. I’d never had much tolerance of booze, like my mother—two sniffs of a barmaid’s apron and she was anybody’s. Simon was fine and he’d drunk more than I, so had Tom and Jenny and they were fine. I was just one of those easily inebriated sorts—probably find we lack some sort of enzyme or other—or perhaps we descended from another monkey to most people.

The house was nearly finished and I was admiring it. Gareth had come by for lunch one Sunday and he and Simon had gone for a walk before I could tell Simon to ease off him. They came back and Gareth departed very rapidly afterwards.

“What did you say to him?” I demanded of Simon.

“Nothing, why?”

“Why has he dashed off?”

“He remembered he had something to do.”

“So you didn’t say anything negative?”

“Like if you go near my wife I’ll break you in half?”

“You didn’t, did you?”

“Of course not—it was implied—never said.”

“Oh, Si, I wish you hadn’t.”

“Why?”

“Because he’s got enough on his plate at the moment.”

“And you haven’t?”

“I seem to be coping.”

“Some days.”

“What d’ya mean?” I snapped.

“You’ve just snapped my head off for no reason whatsoever.”

“There was a reason.”

“Was there now, I don’t suppose you’d care to share it with me?”

“No, you wouldn’t understand.”

“Why not—don’t tell me because I’m a bloke.”

“Absolutely.”

“Look ’ere, missus, just ’cos I’m a bloke doesn’t mean I’m stupid.” I smirked, it was the wrong thing to do. “I’m going down the pub until you get off your feminist soapbox.” He picked up his coat and strode out of the house. I heard his car start up and I wished he’d have walked.

I went back to the loo and…it looked like I needed some more loperamide. I was due to see Stella again tomorrow, and I couldn’t go if I had to sit on a bedpan all the way.

I took the last of the tablets—would get some more from the supermarket—and made some tea. Jenny came down from looking after the babies and pulled up a chair. I poured her a cup as well.

“Cathy, I might have to leave your employment.”

I wish people wouldn’t say such things when I’m drinking, especially tea—it was all up my nose, over the table and so on. Once I’d stopped coughing and my eyes stopped watering, I could see enough to clear it up.

“Why? Have I done something wrong?”

“No, ’course not, you’re the best employer I’ve ever had.”

“Thank you,” I blushed.

“It’s my lease—the flat I rent—we rent—its lease expires in a couple of months and I think the owner wants it back.”

“I see. Is that the only reason?”

“Yes, honest.”

“So if you could find something equally priced and so on, you’d stay here—working I mean?”

“Yes I would, I love it here.”

“Is your place furnished or unfurnished?”

“Furnished, why?”

“I happen to know of a house available about two streets away from where you live, which I think I might be able to swing for a similar rent.”

“Wow, that’d be brilliant—a house, you say?”

“Yes it’s a house.”

“With a garden an’ all?”

“I think there’s a garden.”

“Don’t you know?”

“Not entirely, oh yes of course there’s a garden.”

“It isn’t yours then?”

“Gosh no. I’ll find out later for you.”

“Thanks, Cathy, that’ll be brill if you can.”

The house belonged to baby C, it was her parent’s house and I asked Maureen to come and see me. I had custodianship of the property but like Des’s place it would go to its rightful heir along with anything beyond maintenance costs if it accrued any rent. The house had been let for a couple of months but had now been empty for nearly a month. Maureen who lived in the same part of town had been keeping an eye on it so I asked her to contact me.

An hour later Maureen phoned. “You wanted me, ma’am.”

There was no point in telling her to call me Cathy, I’d tried several times. “Yes, Maureen, how’s Maria’s house looking?”

“Fine as far as I know, why?”

“Could you check it out, I might have a tenant in a couple of months?”

“Urgent?”

“No, next week or two will do, oh and when is this place supposed to be finished, there hasn’t been a builder near here for a couple of days?”

“Hasn’t there now, there will be tomorrow.”

“Thanks, you must come up to dinner again one Sunday.”

“I’m—um—seeing someone most Sundays, ma’am.”

“Oh that’s brilliant, why not bring them round for coffee or something. I’m so pleased for you.”

“Thank you ma’am, I speak to her about it.”

“You do, and tell her she’s more than welcome.”

“I will.” She rang off and I felt boosted a bit by her news.

The next day, thanks to the pills, my tummy had settled down, if anything I was now constipated—wunnerful. I drove to see Stella and took Puddin’ with me, contrary to her instructions.

There were tearful faces on both sides and despite her annoyance with me, she was delighted to see her daughter, and naturally Puddin’ was pleased to see her mum. We chatted once the emotions had settled down and Puddin’ slept in her pushchair alongside her mum.

I asked her if she’d spoken to Gareth and she hadn’t. “I have.”

“Why?”

“I needed some advice on a conservation matter.”

“A likely story.”

“It’s true, call him and ask him if you don’t believe me.”

“Hmmm.”

“I asked him how he was and he said he was missing you and wanted to see you.”

“Why can’t you leave well alone?”

“Because it isn’t well, you’re not well and he’s unhappy too—all because you’re too proud to let him care for you.”

“That’s not true.”

“Isn’t it? Well call him then and ask him to come and see you.”

“I can’t, I don’t want him to see me like this.”

“Do you mean pregnant or sick?”

“Both, or in this place.”

“Stella, being pregnant is part of life—hell, without it there’d be no new life. As for being ill, he copes with that, he honestly does and this place—it’s not a bad place to visit. At least they give you a cuppa. Here, call him.” I handed her my Blackberry and pressed speed dial. It was ringing by the time she took it.

I sat well away from her eye-line so she’d feel more private. They spoke and she was crying and I suspect he was too. She agreed he could come and see her the next Saturday, which was his first day off.

“That wasn’t so bad, was it?”

“I ought to shove this down your throat, but no it wasn’t so bad. You’d better take her home while she’s asleep or she’ll play hell when you go.”

I agreed, and we hugged and I drove home. Puddin’ woke about halfway home and I stopped gave her a drink and she was as good as gold. The irony, that I was looking after someone else’s baby while paying someone to look after mine wasn’t lost on me, but for the moment it didn’t matter—I was busy.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1287

Simon was still grumpy with me because I’d made him walk to get his car. He’d got so plastered, the landlord of the pub had sent him home by taxi—apparently he was too drunk to argue—Jenny and I had manhandled him into the house and left him to sleep it off on the sofa in the dining room along with a bucket in case he was sick. He wasn’t, he never is—he’d also forgotten what we’d argued about, so I let it lie.

He awoke without a hangover as well, considering how ill I’d felt, I began to wonder if there was any natural justice in this world, because it certainly didn’t feel like it. Then, as they say, the devil looks after his own, or as Tom would say it, thae de’il looks efter his ain. Perhaps the Scots have their own devil (probably an Englishman holding a nine of diamonds playing card).

The two thugs who’d killed Mr Whitehead were charged with murder and bail was refused—the trial was likely to be held later this year or even early next given the waiting list in the courts. They were still pleading not guilty even though we had video of them doing it on Danny’s phone. It was a cowardly attack by anyone’s standard.

The police would let us know when and if we were needed, it was hoped given the overwhelming evidence against them, that they would change their plea to guilty and save everyone a problem. I didn’t anticipate giving evidence with any sense of enjoyment but I’d do it for Mr Whitehead’s sake, he deserved justice if it was possible to get it for him and those two morons needed putting away for a long time.

In between playing housewife and mother, I tried to help Tom with the survey, although this morning, the builders were back and the what with the noise and smell of paint, I couldn’t cope and went off out with the two babies in the pram. Puddin’ was seated on a baby seat on the end of it, with baby C obviously, in the pram. It was a cold but bright day and Jenny came with me.

“So what’s this house like?” she asked.

“I think it’s a two-bedroom, terrace, I’ve only been in it once or twice, but it’s in reasonable condition as I recall.”

“And it isn’t one of yours?”

“Jen, what makes you think I own all these properties?”

“Well you do have several.”

“I have one in Bristol, which was my parent’s house; I have one in Southsea perhaps, but that has to be confirmed.”

“That’s a lovely house.”

“It is nice and I have yet to decide what to do with it.”

“What about the other one at Bristol, down by the river?”

“At Aust? That’s not mine, I’m keeping it in trust for this little madam,” I nodded at Puddin’.”

“Does Stella know?”

“I don’t know, but I’d be obliged if you didn’t tell her just in case.”

“Oh, okay—might I ask why?”

“If you can keep it quiet, I’ll tell you.”

“Oh definitely, cross my heart and all that.”

I shook my head and she smirked. “Des, who was Stella’s late lamented fiancé lived there. For some reason he fancied me and wouldn’t take no for an answer. I was going with Simon, and didn’t want him anyway and eventually he got the message and paired up with Stella.”

“Isn’t history repeating itself with Gareth?”

“What d’you mean?” I asked, playing dumb.

“Oh c’mon, Cathy, you know which way is up, the way he looks at you and your occasional glances at him, it’s you he wants, Stella is very much the consolation prize.”

“No, he loves Stella, he told me.”

“My mother told me the moon was made of green cheese,” she said and smirked.

“You mean it isn’t?” I gasped, trying to deflect her.

“Never mind the nonsense, what about the main event? If Gareth moves in with Stella, are you two going to be able to resist the temptation?”

“Of course we will, you watch far too many soaps—this isn’t Coronation Street or even The Archers you know; this is real life.”

“I think I can differentiate between the two,” she said chuckling.

“Whatever else you might think of me, I happen to actually love Simon very much and don’t intend to threaten that relationship in any way. What I’m suggesting is purely for Stella’s benefit, and I hope is going to be a temporary measure.”

“I think you’re a very lovely and brave lady, but I also think you’re playing with fire.”

“I really can’t think why these two men were attracted to me in the first place. Des probably because I was a challenge, no matter how hard he tried, I always said no. So it then became a test of willpower and he lost. But with Stella available, why would they pick me—me over someone who could give them babies?”

“Because you’re very beautiful and vivacious, and intelligent…”

“And used to be a boy,” I added.

“Cathy, you keep saying that, but we both know you were never a boy, you were a girl with a plumbing problem. I refuse to believe you were ever a boy, you just wore boy’s clothes and called yourself something else.”

“I didn’t call myself anything else, I’ve called myself Catherine since I was five years old, in fact before that, I told them to call me that in nursery school—they sent for my mother.”

“Well then, you never were a boy, so stop pretending, you were just a girl delayed from expressing it and puberty by a few years. Have they checked you for Androgen Insensitivity thingy?”

“No, but they did decide my testes hadn’t descended.”

“You had some then?”

“Very small and underdeveloped, and still in my abdomen.”

“That’s dangerous isn’t it?”

“They can become cancerous, but mine were so small they didn’t bother to remove them until I had surgery.”

“See? You were destined to be a girl all along.”

“That was my excuse, but sometimes I think destiny or pure serendipity, I actually chose to become properly female, or as much as one can—which is something most women don’t have a chance to do.”

“Choose? I suppose not, but don’t delude yourself, your ladyship, you were as certain to grow up a woman as I was.”

“Jenny, that is unfounded speculation, I could have soldiered on as Charlie indefinitely.”

“I don’t believe you; you told me yourself that you were already on the programme to do it, taking hormones and things.”

“Yeah, but it took bumping into Stella to make it happen. I owe her a lot for that bump starting me.”

“Quite literally, I believe.”

“Indeed, she nearly killed me with the car, I was on my bike.”

“So I heard, and you met Simon and fell in love.”

“Not quite, I did fall for him, or on top of him and emptied a glass of red wine over him.”

“See, even gravity was on your side.”

“Actually, I think it was slightly above and behind me and caused me to fall downwards. If it had been on my side I’d have fallen sideways and missed him.”

She looked at me completely confused, obviously working back through what I’d said which was a load of nonsense. “You’re barking,” she finally declared.

“You noticed—took your time, didn’t you?”

“You’re also one of the funniest women I know; you should have become a comedienne.”

“If you saw my PhD stuff, you’d think I was one.” I held out my hand, “Is that rain?” It felt like drizzle.

“Could be, shall we go home, it’s getting colder.”

“C’mon then, let’s move it a bit shall we?” I suggested and we set off back to the house.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1288

Lunch was very quiet—I still missed Stella and I had to admit to myself that Gareth staying here would be quite a challenge to me. It would be another mouth to feed, because I hardly expect Stella to do that when she’s well, let alone recovering from delivering a baby and goodness knows what potential complications.

Simon did tell me that neither he nor Gareth had discussed me in any context, leave alone a ménage à trois for which I had no enthusiasm at all. I do love Simon, but would I be able to resist temptation? I don’t know.

While Jenny muttered long about some bloke she knew I mused about my feelings for Gareth. He’s a nice man who is immensely good looking without being affected by it. He’s clever, sensitive and very good company. He’s—oh bugger, if I carry on with this I’m going to have left my husband by teatime.

He’s forbidden fruit—I’m married to Simon, whom I love dearly. I don’t love Gareth, I just want to shag him or better have him do me. Is that a crime—having desires? Not a crime exactly but it would have enormous knock on effects if I were to do anything and Simon were to find out. Simon would be devastated as would I be if things were reversed.

I mustn’t do it—I have so much more to lose than I gain. The profit would be minutes or hours of pleasure and years of guilt or worse. It isn’t worth it, it really isn’t. I feel like some adolescent who’s suddenly faced with going out with a reliable next door neighbour or the captain of the football team, who is absolutely beautiful with a body to die for, but also holds no future for me. As a school-kid, I could have taken some risks, as a married parent, I can’t.

Is this part of my problem—the lack of an adolescence to work through some of these things? I would have probably dated a few different boys and learnt about dealing with them and also in doing so, learned lots about myself. It’s a nightmare. I must have really pissed off the gods of Karma the last time I was incarnated to have had such an interesting life.

“You haven’t heard one word I said, have you?” Jenny shook my arm.

“Sorry?”

“Cathy, I was telling you this long involved story and you weren’t listening, were you?”

“Only to some of it.”

“You’re thinking about Gareth, aren’t you?”

“No, I was thinking about dinner.”

“That is total rubbish, Cathy Cameron, and you know it.”

I blushed, “What d’you mean?”

“Your face gave you away, you were thinking about very painful stuff but there was also a very pleasurable side to it as well—it had to be Gareth.”

“Gosh, remind me never to play cards with you.”

“I’m very good at reading expressions.”

“So I see, even if they are wrong.”

“Wrong?” she said loudly, “Never, even the dog could have seen through your thoughts—they were so transparent.”

“Really?”

“Really—I was right wasn’t I?”

“Partly—I was also thinking about if only I’d had a girlhood or even adolescence I might understand myself better.”

“I had one and I don’t know much about myself, except I’ve made a few mistakes over the years.”

“Did you learn from them?”

“Once or twice.”

“Oh, I thought that was the whole purpose of growing up, to practice adult skills in a safer environment than adults have. You know, breaking your heart or someone else’s.”

“You read too many women’s mags, Cathy, life isn’t like that, it’s a continuous learning curve which peaks and troughs all the time, sometimes on the same day or even the same moment. A boy can build you up, get what he wants and smash you down the next. He can two time whoever he wants and he’s seen as adventurous, his father pats him on the back and loans him the car, his mother is worried in case he gets someone into trouble, but secretly she’s pleased for him, he might learn to be a better lover than his boring father.

“The girl’s parents feel very differently about it all. They might well like the boy but wish he’d leave their daughter alone or marry her. If he gets her up the duff, they’ll try to force him to marry her—for the sake of the baby, of course.

“The boy will feel confused but exhilarated and be ready to have sex at a moment’s notice—they really do think about it twenty-five hours a day. How often did you think about it when you were a teenager?”

I blushed profusely, “This is going to sound far-fetched, but I sincerely thought I was asexual until I was down here and working through my masters. I was out with Simon…”

“Oh so Simon turned you into a sex-maniac?” she joked.

“I’m trying to be serious.”

“Sorr-eeee,” she looked out at me from enormously long eyelashes—they couldn’t be her own surely?

“I was sitting in Simon’s car—the clutch had gone and we had a breakdown truck arrive and some lad named Kevin, leant in the car and snatched a kiss. Without any other contact, I had an orgasm.” The memory nearly caused another one.

“So your first with a boy? I’ve heard stories of girls having one when they have their boobs touched by a boy—or girl, depending on which way they swing.”

“It was my first, full stop.”

“What, you never pulled little Willie?”

“No.”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, but I don’t know if I believe you.”

“That’s your business, but I’m telling the truth. I knew what I thought I was—a girl—but the sort of girl I was, was a different matter. I’d never thought of girls or boys as sexual partners. Boys were a group of hairy-arsed primates who made gorillas look sophisticated, and who spent most of their time bullying or trying to humiliate me. I couldn’t have fancied them unless I was stupid.”

“Fair comment, given your experience.”

“Girls were someone with whom I identified. I wanted to be pretty and sexy—though quite what that meant exactly, I had no idea. I don’t think I wanted sex with a girl, I wanted to be her, so everyone would know what I really was—a girl.”

“And all this changed with Simon?”

“Yes and no. I mean, Stella—the bitch—amused herself by making me look better than I ever had and throwing me at her brother. Simon had a poor record with girls and by sending him this girly boy, she was really getting at him twice.”

“I can sense a but coming, can’t I?”

“Yes, because we clicked and suddenly I became her protégé. I wanted to tell him because I liked him as nice man. He was generous and easy going, very funny and good company. He had a secret, too.”

“What? He’s not gay or something is he?”

“No, I didn’t know at first who he was, I mean a member of banking royalty and super rich.”

“When did he find out about your plumbing?”

“A long time ago. It threw him for a few days but much to my delight he came back, we talked it through and he said he’d wait until I got myself sorted. He kept his word and here we are.”

“What about Kevin?”

“Oh he flitted through my life with just that one meeting and one kiss and one orgasm.”

“Not a bad average—didn’t you try to find him, to see if it could happen again?”

“You’re joking, he was a bit of rough who technically assaulted me and was gone.”

“Ah, the good ol’ rape fantasy.”

“No—nothing like that, I was sitting there minding my own business, he kissed me and I messed my panties. That was it.”

“You must write your story one day, no one will believe it.”

“Oh yeah, and post it on the Internet I suppose?”

“You could do.”

“No thanks—I’d rather stay unknown and private—besides, who except my psychiatrist would be interest in the minutiae? Oops, gotta get the girls.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1289

This episode is dedicated to the memory of my friend and editor, Gabi Bunton, who is sorely missed.

-+-+-+-

“Lady Cameron, how nice to see you again.” The way Sister Maria was smiling meant she wanted something.

“Good afternoon, Sister Maria.”

“Could I have a quick chat in my office, girls, please play in the yard for a few minutes while I speak with your mother.”

I rolled my eyes to the girls and followed the headmistress into the school. She invited me to sit. “I hope none of my girls have been in trouble have they?”

“No, not at all, in fact they’ve been especially well behaved recently. However, it was something they said, or rather Trish said.”

“She hasn’t said something unfortunate has she? She is inclined to use words she doesn’t comprehend fully and sometimes out of context.”

“You might consider it was unfortunate, but I don’t.”

Now I was curious, what could she have said that was going to have that effect? I soon found out.

“You’ll be aware of this,” she showed me a photocopy of a review of the Scottish play done by my school when I played Lady M. as it appeared in the Evening Post.

“Yes, I remember it from its original publication.”

“It suggests that you were a wonderful Lady Macbeth.”

“It also suggested tips for horse racing—no one with any sense backed them.”

“You are far too modest, Lady Cameron.”

“Surely you didn’t bring me here to comment on my acting skills from ten years ago?”

“Yes and no,” she went on and I thought we might now be coming to the point. “We’re doing the Scottish play, and we need someone who’s done it to help coach one or two of our actors.”

“I can’t do something like that, I’m not a trained actress, what I did, even if I were to remember it, might be quite unsuitable for someone else. Also given the total fiction of Shakespeare’s play compared with what is known about the real Macbeth, and the reasons why he was rather anti-Scottish and the fact that the king was technically Scots, it’s all nonsense. As I’m technically Scots too, I find it rather insulting.”

“I suppose with a name like Cameron, you would have Scottish ancestry, although on your husband’s side.”

“I was born in Dumfries, I think that makes me Scottish, and my maiden name was Watts, if you remember—a Scottish name. I also have to plead too many demands on my time to do anything else—my sister-in-law is unwell at present and I’m having to look after her toddler as well as my own brood. Simon keeps telling me he’s going to have the house remodelled as a giant shoe.”

Sister Maria snorted and then laughed heartily, “You are so funny, Lady Cameron, I wish you were one of my teachers.”

“Please don’t wish that on me, dealing with undergrads was bad enough. No, teaching youngsters is a vocation, teaching at a university is aggravation.”

“Oh, I’d have thought your students come with hearts and minds prepared.”

“They do but it isn’t necessarily in the same direction that we’d like them to go. Their hearts are prepared to fall in love with as many partners as they can, and their minds are prepared to focus on this to the exclusion of their studies.”

“You’re forgetting I’ve seen you at work, you’re a good communicator, very attractive and know what you’re talking about—it’s a winning combination.”

“Attractive to whom, old men with beer bellies and pebble glasses?”

“No, to younger men and as a role model for younger women. After your talk, we had a hundred per cent rise in the number of girls taking biology at A-S Level, who want to be…”

“Television presenters?” I offered.

“Why yes, did I telegraph that conclusion?”

“A bit; however, I think you should point out that being a filmmaker is different to just reading someone else’s script. I wrote and directed it and co-produced it with Alan. I had to do the research for it and sit down and decide what I wanted it to say, which was more than, ‘dormice are cute’ or ‘making this is a dawdle’.”

“I’m well aware of that, however, I’m not sure the girls always appreciate that.”

“I might be prepared to come and tell some of the girls that.”

“I wondered if you might, we have some very high aspirants, I’m sure your advice would be listened to.”

“You trapped me like the professional you are, Sister Maria, and my ego walked straight into it. If you have a whole load of wannabe Lady Macs waiting for my definitive interpretation, I shall scream blue murder and leave.”

“Would I do something like that?” she smiled like an angel, but I knew there was a demon inside her.

“Yes, especially for the benefit of your pupils.”

“My eyes are fine, apart from some myopia.”

“I always thought that was a species of plant.”

“Very funny as always, Lady Cameron.”

“I think I need to get home and get the brood fed and watered for the night.”

“Would moving Dunsinane Wood to Glamis have upset many dormice?”

“It wouldn’t now but we don’t know what things were like in those days, distribution was likely to have been quite different. If I get that question, I shall treat it with the contempt it deserves.”

She looked horrified but I knew she was quite capable of relying on my dislike of public scenes to prevent me reacting too theatrically to any such question.

“Lady Cameron, you astonish me,” she gasped and I gave her an old-fashioned look. Then she sniggered, “As if I would?”

“Nah, you’d rephrase it seeing as I’d heard it already. I may be as daft as a dormouse but I’m nae a’bodie’s foo’ d’ya ken?”

“Aye that I dae, hen,” she said with a much more convincing accent than mine had been.

“Maybe it’s you who should coach your wannabe actresses, though I suspect Lady M would have been more a hielander, than the Lallans we’re using.”

“Very likely, but you see it needs someone with fresh eyes to interpret that fact.”

“Get them to watch Mel Gibson in Braveheart to see how not to do it.”

“What about, Christopher Lambert in Highlander?”

“I don’t remember that one.”

“There can only be one,” she said and pretended to cut my head off.”

“Oh yes, I saw that at the uni film club, with Sean Connery playing a Spaniard or something and sounding like Bond, Jamesh Bond.”

“That’s the one.”

“Mind you he does the same in all his films, he doesn’t so much act as win you onto his side so you’ll believe he’s acting,” I opined, not liking him that much or his alleged violence towards women.

“Isn’t that acting by any other name?”

“Oh very clever, headmistress, brava.”

She took a deep curtsey and smiled. “So can we set a date for your talk on filmmaking and Shakespearean theatre?”

I simply groaned, I’d been out manoeuvred again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1290

In a form of retaliation to Sister Maria, I agreed to do it the following Friday. I hoped it would make it hard work for her to get things ready, but she just nodded and wrote it in her diary. I would come in as the afternoon classes began and take the group until the end of school. I would have a teacher and teaching assistant to help me.

On the way out I asked Trish why she’d shown the press cutting to Sister Maria. Trish’s reply made me feel cross and proud of her. She was proud that her mum had done something to be proud of, and she was proud of me.

I was cross that she should take things to school without my knowledge but proud of her for being proud of me. I’d got the distinct impression she wasn’t too proud of her birth mother. I didn’t tell her I was cross as I got the feeling she’d worked that out for herself and she apologised profusely. I made it clear to all the girls: that they took nothing of anyone else’s to school without asking the owner first. They seemed to get the message.

The next few days went past at a rapid pace. I visited Stella to find that Gareth had been to see her and they were still friends, although she hadn’t agreed to the engagement being reinstated until she felt better and left her prison. I didn’t want her jumping off the roof of the hospital again, so I agreed with everything she said. I’d taken Puddin’ with me and this time she stayed awake and seemed to accept that her mummy couldn’t come home just yet. She’s a lovely kid and is talking a bit. Much of what she says I don’t understand because I don’t have the phrase book, but I can appreciate ‘Annie Affie’ well enough.

She babbled much of the way home and we also listened to the CD she had of nursery songs. If I’d heard, ‘Old McDonald had a farm’, once more I think I might have had to book in with Stella.

I swapped Puddin’ for my baby and fed her, cleaned her and sat drinking a cup of tea while she kicked and rolled about on the changing mat while her bum aired. Her rash had healed nicely with the cream and egg whites—it sounds like a recipe but it wasn’t. On one day I used the nappy cream and on the next I used beaten egg white which you paint on with cotton wool and leave to dry, it protects the skin like an extra layer.

Once she was sorted and my tea drunk, I started on dinner—for a change, I did braised steak with mushrooms, a savoury rice and garden peas. Naturally, I make my own savoury rice, using Basmati and various herbs and spices depending on what I’m cooking with it, and I fry it for a few moments before adding the water and slow boiling it.

It was a Thursday and I was doing my talk tomorrow. I managed to find some of the Macbeth lines on the Internet and printed off a dozen copies—I didn’t think there’d be more than a dozen girls. Some of the lines came back to me but most were faded in the mists of time. I also took some of my original scripts and the director’s schedule for the Dormouse film.

It was late by the time I got to bed and I fell in and slept like a corpse. Trish had to wake me up the next day as the Today programme was being incorporated into my dream. I just managed to get them to school in time, before dashing home still wearing my pyjamas under my jeans and sweatshirt.

During the morning, apart from the essentials of feeding babies and myself, I reread my notes and my teaching notes. I had a schedule and a set of aims and objectives, one of which was not to get caught again by the persuasive Sister Maria.

I dressed smart casual, ate a light lunch, put my notes and laptop into the bag and also the DVD I’d managed to get of Roman Polanski’s 1971 version of the film. I wondered how the girls would react to his naked sleepwalking scene for Lady Macbeth—I was glad that didn’t occur in the play I did, the review would have been quite a bit different.

I arrived at the school as the children were returning for registration and whatever they did then. I took myself to the school secretary expecting her to show me which room we were using, instead she took me to the headmistress.

“Ah, Lady Cameron, so punctual, do follow me—I’ve put you in the hall.”

I was tempted to ask why, then thought that if it turns into a workshop, the space might be useful. I followed along, knowing where it was as I’d spoken there two or three times. I walked into the hall and was met by a round of applause. The whole bloody sixth form was there—about fifty girls. So much for keeping it intimate—I was rewriting my lesson plan as I walked across the room.

I requested a digital projector and while it was being set up, I set up my own stuff, laptop and notes. I noticed that everyone had a copy of the play and one or two were holding copies of my book—the spin off from my film—I suspected they were here for signing.

The headmistress calmed everything down and introduced me. “Girls, you all know Lady Cameron, as a talented speaker, filmmaker and teacher. However, while in school she also played the part of Lady Macbeth, so she has actual experience of playing the part. As you know we’ll be auditioning for the part next week, so listen to what she says about it and about the play in general, it’s a tragedy but full of wonderful symbolism and multilayered plots. Lady Cameron is also going to talk a little about making her film, for those who are interested in that as a career—and as you may already know, she wrote, directed and presented it and co-produced it with her cameraman. So I think she knows quite a bit about making a documentary film. I give you, Lady Catherine Cameron.” There was another round of applause then to my horror she went and sat in with the girls. “I might learn something,” she joked as she took her seat.

I took the floor, “Thank you, headmistress, as always it’s a pleasure to come here and talk with your students. I’d like you all to pick up your chairs and come a little closer, form a sort of horseshoe.” I got them arranged with sufficient space if we did any actual role-plays and so they could all see the film if I ran it. I think the sleepwalking scene is now definitely off.

“As Sister Maria said, I’ve had the dubious privilege of playing the lead female role in the Scottish play. It’s one of the best female roles in all of Shakespeare and there are all sorts of complexities within it. There are also all sorts of analyses of who did what—some films have suggested that Lady M not her husband, actually kills King Duncan, although this doesn’t happen in the play.

“But before we get into all that, let’s have a quick look at making a film…”

I led them through the process and they asked me some intelligent questions including one on costing and sponsorship. I tried to answer them as best I could. We had a short break, I was brought a cuppa and fifteen minutes later we returned to the Tragedy of Macbeth. I pointed out a few bits and pieces of the actual history, that Macbeth had been an honest and just king, who’d been misrepresented by Shakespeare as possibly Richard III had as well.

I had one or two of them—volunteers of course—to do one or two of the speeches then showed them how Polanski had done it on film. Then I was asked to show them how I’d done the sleepwalking scene. I didn’t take my clothes off.

I paced up and down scrubbing at my hands, ‘Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One: two: why then ’tis time to do’t. Hell is murky! Fie, my lord, fie! A soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account? Yet who would have thought the old man to have had so much blood in him?

I tried to speak in a light Scottish lilt, although what the accents were like in the tenth or eleventh century who knows? They liked it and I got a standing ovation—they were such an easy crowd to please.

The bell rang for the end of the day and the headmistress once again took control. “Well, ladies, I don’t know about you but I think that was a brilliant afternoon with a wonderful teacher—I’ve learned loads about making films and doing Shakespeare, and I know who to ask if we can’t fill the lead female role.” The audience cheered at this and I blushed redder than a Wales rugby jersey. “Thank you so much for your erudition and entertainment. Ladies if you please, show your appreciation in the usual way.” They clapped and cheered and the secretary emerged with a huge bouquet of flowers, which the headmistress handed to me. “Thank you so much for your time and skill, I hope we might call upon you again one day to do another workshop. My original intention was to let a dozen or so girls come and work with you—I faced a mutiny, they all wanted to come, it’s easy to see why. Thank you so much.” She clapped and they all did so again.

They were such an appreciative audience that I knew the next time she trapped me, I’d surrender without a fight, because it was a delight to do, or would be if I had more time. Talking of which, I have to collect four girls who’ll be unimpressed if I keep them waiting.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1291

I felt on quite a high after my workshop and the reception it received, and I walked round to the door of the school with the headmistress. I was laden with my handbag, my laptop bag and the bouquet of flowers.

“You’re late,” observed our homegrown genius and the others agreed.

“I came as quickly as I could, I’ve been teaching.”

“You’re still late,” she persisted.

“I don’t see what difference a few minutes makes—it’s only five minutes.”

“You are always telling us we must be punctuate—doesn’t she?” Trish continued and the others agreed.

“I think you mean punctual, young lady, and it’s not very good manners to refer to your mother as, she,” the headmistress took my side and they hadn’t seen her approaching.

“Sorry, Sister Maria, I didn’t see you.”

“I think that’s quite obvious, but I think it’s your mother to whom you need apologise, not me.”

Trish turned a very delicate shade of pink and her eyes moistened a little, “Sorry, Mummy, for being cheeky.”

“That’s okay, I accept your apology.” I bleeped the central locking and the children clambered into the Porsche.

“Didn’t you have a sports car last time you addressed us?”

“Did I—oh yes, it was a borrowed one—this one’s mine.”

The headmistress walked around it—“Very nice, a Porsche Cayenne; does it have a bit of spice to it?”

“Quite a bit, Sister Maria. It’s obviously not as speedy as the Boxster was, but it’s hopefully more serviceable and certainly more comfortable.” I placed my bags and the flowers in the boot and after my goodbyes to the headmistress, climbed in and set off for home.

“Were you teaching here, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“Yes, you all knew I was.”

“I didn’t,” she replied and the others agreed. “We saw the car and wondered where you were.”

“I was doing a workshop on presentation skills with your senior girls.”

“Pwesents?” gasped Mima—“Was you showin’ ’em how to wap vem for Chwistmas?”

“Something like that.”

“I wanna learn, too,” said Billie, “I’m hopeless at wrapping things.”

“I’ll show you nearer Christmas, after you’ve bought each other presents.”

“I know what I’s buyin’ you, Mummy—fwowers.”

“That’s very kind of you, Mima, but we don’t usually wrap flowers, just put a bow round them.”

“Vose was nice fwowers, Mummy.”

“Yes, they gave them to me for running the workshop.”

“Don’t they pay you, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“No, I did it as a favour to Sister Maria.”

“That’s a swizz, Mummy,” declared Trish, showing she’d learned a new word.

“It would be if I hadn’t agreed to do it for nothing, but I had, so it wasn’t.”

I watched in the mirror while Trish worked that one out, then she folded her arms and pouted. “We done geography, done Japan where the sudden army was.”

“You did, not done, geography, and the word you mangled was tsunami, which is, I believe, a Japanese word for a tidal wave.”

“The earthquake was eight point nine of the Vicar scale,” offered Billie excited by the disaster.

“Richter scale, I think it’s called,” I suggested.

“They use it for measuring scientific waves,” she continued.

“Um—seismic waves, Billie.”

“Yeah, whatever, it’s the biggest quake for a hundred years, it’s killed loads of people.”

“According to the news at lunchtime, it was suggesting hundreds perhaps even a thousand or more could have been drowned.”

“We’d be okay,” said Trish, “We can all swim.”

“Not with a car on top of you, or a house. According to Sister Paulinus, she’s named after one of the apostates, the water carries away cars and people and smashes down houses—it’s so strong, it’s God showing His power.”

As Billie said this I nearly ran an old lady over on a zebra crossing. I was seething. “It’s the power of nature, Billie, whether or not there’s a God, no one can do that, it’s just the power of nature. A movement in one of…”

“The earth’s technical plates, isn’t it Mummy?” offered Trish.

“Tectonic plates, yes, darling, and the energy liberated is so powerful it can throw huge waves of seawater thousands of miles, which if they hit land can do tremendous damage.”

“Can’t we stop them, Mummy?” asked Livvie, “I mean we can do all sorts of things these days.”

“No, sweetheart, we can’t, all we can do is give warnings which way the wave is heading.”

“Could we have a big wave?” she continued with a note of concern in her voice.

“We could but it’s not as likely as somewhere like Japan, it sits on the ring of fire—an area of volcanoes and tectonic plate boundaries.”

“Japan has a volcano, Mount Fuji.” Trish actually said something without mincing it.

“I believe it probably has more than one, but certainly Mt Fuji is in Japan.”

“Hoo—bloody—ray, I finally got something right,” said Trish.

“I’d prefer it if you didn’t swear, young lady, it’s most unbecoming.”

“Well Daddy said it,” she protested.

“Daddy’s not a wady, stoopid,”

“I’m not stupid, and I can say lady, properly—so now who’s stupid?” Trish retaliated.

“Mummy, she’s making fun of me,” whined Mima.

“Oh shut up, wittle wady,” called Trish.

“Both of you, please be quiet, I can’t hear myself think.”

They both sat back and sulked the rest of the way home and I had to watch they didn’t actually start again when we got home. They didn’t, Trish went off to play with her computer and Mima changed and went out in the garden with her dolls and the pram.

I was busy doing the vegetables for a veggie lasagne when Trish came out to me. “Mummy?”

“Yes, darling?”

“Look, I found this place on the computer, it’s called Big Closet—‘it’s a friendly place to read transgender fiction’—is that about people like us?”

“Sorry, kiddo, you’re not old enough to visit sites like that—have you taken the child protection thing off again?”

She blushed, “It was stopping me looking up things for homework.”

“What things?”

“The teacher said Henry VIII died from gout, according to the Internet he died from sniffilus one of the venerable diseases you get from…”

“Having sex with an archdeacon,” popped out of my mouth before I could stop it.

“No, Mummy, havin’ sex with a prosecute. Mary Magdalene was one of those, wasn’t she—Oh no—Jesus didn’t die from sniffilus—did he?”

“Um—no dear, he died from crucifixion.” I had to turn away—sniffilus sounds like symptoms from a bad cold.

“Phew—I thought I’d have to tell Sister Maria.”

“I don’t think that’s such a good idea anyway, darling, it could cause her a crisis of conscience—on the other hand, she might have read The Da Vinci Code.

“Is that a book about codes, I like codes.”

“No, it’s a thriller based on a load of hokum, but the film was quite good.”

“Oh, can I read it?”

“When you’re a bit older, it’s a bit grisly in places.”

“Is it about bears, then?”

“No, not as far as I know, it’s about a theory that Jesus and Mary Magdalene had children.”

“Wow, does Sister Maria know?”

“It’s a fiction, Trish, just a story.”

“Like the Gaby stories you read to us?”

“Sort of, only they’re usually happy stories, aren’t they.”

“Not when Gaby’s mum got cancer, or the ones the lady with the funny name writes, her stories are scary.”

“It’s not funny, it’s Welsh, and the only scary thing is her punctuation—now, would you lay the table please?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1292

“They’re now suggesting tens of thousands of people have lost their lives in Japan.” Simon came out to the kitchen after watching the news, “And it looks like they’ve got three power stations in melt down.”

“I’m not surprised at the casualties, I saw the film of the wave breaking over one of the towns—it was compelling, like the video of the World Trade Centre attack—at the same time horrifying. Those poor people.”

“Frightening when nature gets going—and we think we can control it.”

I nearly fell of my chair, this was a banker talking—he only knows there are such things as dormice because (a) his nanny read him, Alice in Wonderland, (b) his wife made a film of them—oh, and he did get shot while out counting them.

“We can’t even control the bank rate,” I offered back to him and he looked aghast at me.

“I had a dormouse come in for a loan the other day,” he said obviously trying to get my attention—I was at my computer.

“Now I know you’re lying,” I quipped.

“Would I lie to you?”

“You just did.”

“How do you know that?”

“They’re still hibernating.”

“Are they? Must have been another sort of mouse then.”

Mus musculus I expect.”

“Nah, it didn’t look very muscular to me.”

“It’s the name for the house mouse.”

“It didn’t seem to want a mortgage, so can’t have been one of those either.”

“Perhaps it was a wood mouse—Apodemus sylvaticus?

“Nah, I would have remembered.”

“Did it have a hairy tail?”

“Yeah, and it said meow.”

“Simon, get to the punch line.”

“The office cat came in with a dead furry thing which caused havoc amongst the girls in the office. Would you believe, I had to come and move it?”

“Almost certainly a house mouse—do you mind if I finish this?”

“Wotcha doin’?”

“Trying to do a quick analysis of the records for January.”

“I don’t know how you find the time,” he observed but didn’t go. I tried to ignore him but he persisted, “How did your talk go?”

“Better than this is.”

“Good, Trish said they gave you some flowers.”

“Seeing as you don’t bother much with doing it these days, I was quite glad to have some.”

“You told me you prefer them in the garden.”

“That was Stella, although I don’t recall her helping much to grow them.”

“That’s Stella for you, more of an end user.” He shrugged, “You’re not doing that very quickly are you?”

I’m surprised I’m not totally bald. “No, I’m easily distracted.”

“I can usually shut it out when I’m doing figure work.”

“I can’t—he keeps coming through the bloody door,” I said abandoning my task and shutting the laptop more noisily than I should have done.

“Are we going to bed then?”

“What? You distract me with news of an international disaster then stand over me while I’m trying to run an analysis—which I don’t find easy at the best of times—and then you want me to come up to bed to satisfy your urges. I’m having a cuppa before I do anything, it might just save your life.”

“Not for me thanks.” He sat down at my computer and switched it on, before I had the tea poured, he’d got into my program and was moving stuff about on the spread sheet. “Right, now that’s tidied up, what d’you want to know?”

“How did you do that so quickly?”

“I spend half my life looking at these things—what d’you want to work out.” I told him and he did it while I drank my tea—I’d been at it for over an hour, he finished it in ten minutes.

“I’m astonished, it usually takes me an hour or more to do.”

“Ah, but how much of that is data inputting?”

“No, an hour after I’ve put all the data in.”

“Why?”

“Because I don’t have your skill with spreadsheets.”

“Okay, next month, you put the data in and I’ll do your analysis.”

I offered him my hand, “Deal,” instead of shaking it he kissed it, then began kissing the palm and then moved up my arm, kissing me up to my elbow before grabbing me into a clinch where he kissed me on the mouth. A few minutes later we went up to bed holding hands and—you don’t want the sordid details.

“Did the cat bring in a dead mouse then?”

“Yeah, only it was last week—I wanted you to move from your computer because I could see you were struggling.”

“Why didn’t you just say so?”

“You’d have accused me of not understanding what you were doing.”

“I wouldn’t have,” I said in disbelief.

“Yes you would, you were just number crunching, so it doesn’t matter if you’re doing numbers of polecats or Euros or even polecats with Euros, it’s just numbers.”

“I know—I just hate maths.”

“It isn’t maths, it’s spreadsheets, maths is about integration or looking at the angle of the curve you produce. This is simple.”

“For you—but then men are better at numbers than women, we’re better at word skills.”

“Only ’cos you never shut up—and the best analyst we have is a woman, so don’t fall back on stereotypes, most of this stuff is because you weren’t taught the basics properly.”

“Probably, but we had a maths teacher who was only interested in the brighter kids.”

“You got a first didn’t you?”

“Only because I slaved at my dissertation for three bloody months—every night I was at it until one or two in the morning, and I’d done the same with my assignments. The fact that I’d been allocated dormice ecology as my subject made it an almost enjoyable slog.”

“I had to do something on the futures market—could have been worse I suppose.”

“Did you have to clean up the dead mouse?”

“No, I sent for the bloody caretaker, that’s his job and because it was his scrawny moggie who caused the ruckus, I thought it was fair enough.”

“I sometimes wonder if I’d like another cat.” I remembered fondly the one we’d had when I was a child.

“You can if you like, I’m sure Tom won’t mind as long as it doesn’t dig up too many of his seed beds.”

“I don’t know, cats seem always drawn to crossing busy roads even when they have acres of ground to hunt in on this side of the road.”

“Yeah, they have no road sense—a bit like the average cyclist. Ouch, was there any need to squeeze me there?” I took my hand from his groin.

“The average cyclist is far less dangerous than the average motorist.”

“Only because they’re using smaller weapons,” he replied.

“They’re also travelling slower and more integrated with their environment, not locked into a metal box with music pounding louder than the blowing exhaust.”

“You’re more a motorist than a cyclist these days.”

“Necessity,” I said quietly.

“Isn’t that the invention of mothers, or something?”

“Or something—like the mother of invention, perhaps?”

“Nah, I prefer my version.”

“Yeah, you would,” I said snuggling down with him and drifting off to sleep.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1293

The next morning was a Saturday, and don’t they seem to come round quickly? I decided we should do something as a family, although Julie would be in work and Tom was intent on supervising Leon in the garden which was coming on a pace. What was most interesting about it was that initially, Leon had found it all a huge chore—well let’s face, teenagers tend to complain about anything and everything; then, much to my delight he seemed to enjoy making things grow and seeing his efforts achieving something.

Tom was also delighted, he was recovering his garden from the primordial forest which had threatened to engulf it—actually, it was returning to scrub, which would then have given way to birch or hazel and then ash and oak in maybe thirty or forty years, which we deem climax woodland, occasionally beech is the dominant species of the native varieties but sycamore can also be involved. In the old days we used to just cut them down as giant weeds and then research showed they were important to dormice if oak isn’t in abundance; because they support quite a good insect population and dormice eat insects as well as nuts and flowers. They can’t cope with green-stuff like leaves because they don’t have a digestive system which deals with it—about the only rodent which doesn’t. You can see why biologists like to study them, they’re so different to most other things notwithstanding their total cuteness.

I asked the kids what they’d like to do but they just bleated on—they’re kids, no? Why do I bother, silly old goat (clue—think about it)? The weather was good so something outdoors would be nice, but not painting the garden fence which Tom had suggested.

Billie wanted to cycle, the other two tween girls wanted to go shopping, and Mima wanted to take her dollies for a walk. Danny was playing football but we could have worked round that.

Baby Catherine didn’t have a view that we could understand, except, ‘Ma-ma-ma-ma,’ which is probably secret code for ‘Unleash the dogs of war,’ or something equally unexpected.

Of the big kids, Simon wanted to watch the rugby, Tom was gardening and I wanted to cycle. I put the suggestions into a hat and Tom pulled one out which we all agreed to do. It was cycling. Of course Simon accused me of cheating until he saw that they weren’t all cycling.

He grumbled when he went off to change so I went to check over the bikes. I had to pump up a few tyres but it didn’t take too long. As I went up the stairs to change the others were all finishing dressing and ready to come down again, except Simon who was muttering while walking about with one sock in his hand.

Danny had cycled to his football match, so we’d all wend our way there too, as the school they were playing at wasn’t very far away; then we’d all ride off to a pub for lunch.

Jenny declined to come with us and so agreed to stay behind and look after the two babies, although Puddin’ was now two years old. Did I not tell you we had a small party and she thoroughly enjoyed opening her prezzies? She likes dolls and soft toys and had them in abundance.

I changed quickly while Si was still wandering about like someone auditioning for the part of the ancient mariner when I asked him what the problem was apart from having lost the draw.

“I can’t find the other stupid sock.”

“Where have you looked?”

“Everywhere.”

“Everywhere?”

“Yes, everywhere—why don’t you listen?”

“I was just checking before I got you to see an optician or a psychiatrist.”

“Why?”

“If you had looked everywhere—that would by definition include your left foot.” As I said this he looked down. He’d put one sock on and then while looking for the other had forgotten. He then found the other one but forgot the first one, so he was wandering about one sock on and the other in his hand. He appeared suitably embarrassed so I wouldn’t tell the kids their father was losing it big time—especially as it might be my turn next week.

I knew where my cycling kit was, and I pulled on a pair of cycling trousers, which one wears sans panties—I always use a very thin panty liner—my sports bra, a vest and long sleeved HTC-Highroad shirt. I tugged on my socks and grabbing my shoes trotted down the stairs moments behind Simon who was still muttering about something.

I tied my hair back and put on my shoes—I use SPDs on all my bikes—these are a form of clipless pedals which are designed to be used with cleats on the bottom of the shoes. Consequently, cycling shoes have very rigid soles. There are several forms of clipless pedal, but the SPD system is made by Shimano and very popular. Although intended for mountain bikes, SPDs are quite popular on road bikes too.

We finally got ourselves sorted out—Mima opting to use the trailer bike on the back of her daddy’s bike—he was moaning because he considered I was the stronger cyclist. The delays caused by Simon’s sock and then the fiddling about with which bike and so on, meant we only just got to the school as the boys were coming out of the showers. Danny was a bit miffed, he got sent off for arguing with the ref, but he did score in the first half—they got beaten two–one.

We followed the cycle path for a mile or so and stopped to admire the view then, went on to the pub, The Crown and Anchor, which were happy to have children in to eat—they also did children’s meals—usually rubbish like sausage, beans and chips but they were happy to eat that while I had a tuna jacket and Simon steak and chips.

They all guessed what I’d order, but I hadn’t had tuna for at least two days—I was getting withdrawal symptoms. I had masses with my spud which seemed to be about the size of a rugby ball. Danny had a jacket too—he was too old and sophisticated to eat kid’s meals—he had a cheese one with baked beans. We all decided he could ride at the back in case his turbo charger cut in, fuelled by the beans.

After lunch, Mima decided that Simon had been telling the truth and asked if she could come behind my bike. I hadn’t towed her for ages and forgot how much hard work it was. We still managed to beat Simon who grumbled about his knee after a while.

Why Simon complained, I don’t know as we were back in time for him to see nearly all the rugby, including the historic win by Italy over France by one point. Wales then beat Ireland by a controversial try, something to do with the wrong ball. I wondered if that meant they were using a football and Simon went into this long explanation of rule nine B or something. I wasn’t really listening so it sailed over my head—did that count as a conversion?

It was nice to see the players and spectators give a minute’s silence to those in Japan who were killed or missing in the tsunami, as Japan plays international rugby, although not as well as most of the other nations.

Danny watched the rugger with Si, while the others did their own thing. I had a shower—a leisurely one—then fed the wee yin, afterwards making tea for everyone else. It had been a reasonably good day, and I sniggered when I remembered Simon looking for his sock and it was on his foot all the time—like the time I spent an hour looking for my sunglasses which were on top of my head all the time. Simon stood and sniggered the whole time as I got progressively more angry—mostly with him for his teasing.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1294

The next morning, a Sunday, I woke before everyone else and decided I’d have a work out. I wore some trackie bottoms, a tee shirt and a sweat top over it, then went out to the garage and spent an energetic half an hour kicking myself stupid at Stella’s hanging bag. I hadn’t done any of this for ages and half an hour was as much as I could stand, using muscles I didn’t normally.

Having got myself all hot and bothered, I went up and showered after drinking a glass of water. Tom was just coming back with Kiki as I went up the stairs. Si woke as I came out of the bathroom and asked what I’d been doing. I told him.

“Other women I know do Pilates or aerobics—my wife?—she does kick-boxing.”

“You’d prefer I wasn’t able to defend myself?”

“No, but you’re just so different to everyone else.”

“I think I know that, Si, I remember coming round after surgery.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“So how did you mean it?”

“Why can’t you join the WI or some other women’s organisation—though I suppose if you did, they’d be radical feminists within a couple of months.”

“I don’t want to join the WI or any other women’s group.”

“No you’d rather be fixing bikes or riding them…”

“Or keeping house; or making meals; taking the kids to school; or doing the mammal survey.”

“Okay, okay, you’ve made your point.”

“No I haven’t. Yes I’d like to be tinkering with bikes or riding them because I actually enjoy it, but believe it or not, I don’t have time.”

“It was your idea to have all the children.”

“It might have been my idea but you agreed to it and besides I don’t regret a moment of it—the best thing I ever did.”

“No, the best thing you ever did was sorting yourself out.”

“In a selfish sense—yes, I suppose you’re right—but giving our children a home is the best thing I ever did. Making them feel valued and loved. I may not be the best mother in town but I try to make up for my inadequacies.”

“Isn’t that for others to judge—such as the children?”

“I suppose so, as far as I know they’re happy enough aren’t they?”

“As much as they can be, I’m sorry I suggested you were different—I should have said you are different—and I’m really glad you are.”

“No you’re not or you wouldn’t have made the comment.”

“I didn’t think it through, the kids are the most important thing, but if you hadn’t sorted yourself first I think you might have struggled a bit with your role as alpha female and earth mother.”

“Alpha female? I never thought about it in those terms, but I suppose I do tend to lead things a bit amongst the women.”

“Amongst the women—ha—you bully or cajole all of us to do your bidding—and d’you know what?”

“I’ve a feeling you’re going to tell me anyway.”

“I am—because of your leadership, we’re all better than we would be without it. So I’m happy to sign up for another tour cap’n.”

At this point, baby C woke up. “I suspect she needs more than leadership.” I picked her out of her cot, “Come along, darling, let’s get some brekkies while Daddy contemplates alpha females in the shower.”

I collected Puddin’ en route and the rest of my feminist corrupted slaves followed us down to the kitchen. Whilst I served breakfast with Danny’s help I did wonder about Simon’s thought processes at times. He knows full well that I’m not really a girly-girl—oh I can do the makeup and frillies as well as the next one and can act the damsel in distress when I need to—that’s just one part of me in the same way as the tomboy cycling fiend is.

None of them define me completely, I am the sum of all of my parts as we all are. One day Simon will understand that we all have complex identities and having a vaginoplasty didn’t meld them all into one.

Mima helped Puddin’ to eat her breakfast, buttering her toast and cutting it into quarters. Trish tried to help baby C eat her cereal, but when the baby got bored and spat a mouthful of porridge over her, she made a tactical withdrawal, controlling her temper very well.

“Stupid ingrate,” she muttered as she walked away, while the rest of us held our breaths in case we burst into laughter and really sent her off on one.

I gave the baby some breast milk and she nodded off while feeding, not an uncommon occurrence. Livvie and Billie cleared the table and loaded the dishwasher, and Danny provided me with a fresh cuppa and some toast. Despite being up early, I hadn’t managed to eat breakfast.

Simon went out to wash the cars and Livvie and Mima went to help, while Trish watched them from the window. “Don’t you want to go and help?” I asked her.

“Not really, cars don’t turn me on at all,” she turned on her heel and went off to play with her computer. I was left standing speechless.

I got on with doing a roast dinner—a leg of pork, which I treated to produce crackling and popped it in the oven. Trish eventually came back and offered to help with the vegetables.

“I don’t think I like babies very much, Mummy.”

“Why’s that, darling?”

“They’re just stupid, pooing everywhere and spitting out food.”

“That’s a bit of a generalisation, sweetheart, they only poo where you let them, in Catherine’s case, that’s in her nappy.”

“Why can’t they do it down the toilet like everyone else?”

“She will, she’s too young to sit up properly and her body isn’t developed enough for her to control her wee or poo.”

“That’s silly.”

“It might be but that’s how humans are, you were once like her.”

“I wasn’t, was I?”

“All babies are. Because we have such complex brains and relatively feeble bodies compared to the other apes, we need time to grow and especially time for our brains to grow. It takes many years.”

“Well, me an’ Livvie are okay.”

“You may well be, but your body and your brain are still growing and will be for at least another ten years.”

“Is that when I’ll need another operation?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart, that’s for the doctors to decide—anyway, we have an appointment to see Dr Rose sometime soon to check your hormone levels.”

“Does that mean I get hormones?—Yay.”

“I don’t know what it means other than we’ll see an expert and he’ll decide what’s needed and what isn’t. Now, what’s the real reason you don’t like babies?”

She looked me in the eye and her bottom lip quivered. “There’s no point is there? I mean, I can’t have any, so why bother?”

At this point she threw herself at me and burst into tears. I hugged her and stroked her neck gently. “Lots of girls can’t have babies for all sorts of reasons. I was one of them, like you, I didn’t think I had a chance of ever being a mother but I think you of all people appreciate that I was very wrong, and now I realise that there are loads of children who need new mothers for whatever reason.”

“I don’t think I can do what you do, Mummy.”

“What is it that I do?”

“Breastfeed babies.”

“You won’t know until you try.”

“I’ve tried an’ it didn’t work.” She howled, burying her face in my chest.

“Of course it didn’t work, you haven’t got the correct equipment yet—you have to have breasts first and then they can give you certain hormones which help them produce milk.”

“When can I start those, Mummy? Can we speak to Dr Rose about it?”

“You can speak to him about it but he won’t consider it…”

“Because I’m too young, I’m always too young.” She ran off out of the kitchen. I let her go for a moment before my conscience got the better of me and I went to find her and calm her down. She was playing with the baby and talking to her, then suddenly her hand moved and the baby screamed.

“Trish—what are you doing?”

She spun round and red-faced she ran off past me, leaving me to deal with the baby who was quite upset. When I examined her, she had a nasty red spot which was either a pinch or bite. I felt like crying too, after all that comforting and explaining to her she came in and hurt her baby sister. Now what do I do?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1295

Just when you think it’s safe to go back into the water… If ever I find out which sicko wished me an interesting life—I’ll ask them why—then kill ’em.

I sat comforting the baby when Simon came in, “What’s the matter with her?” he nodded at the child.

“Trish did something to her.”

“What d’you mean, did something to her?”

“Exactly what I said, Trish was talking or playing with her, then suddenly she squealed because Trish did something—and when I looked, she has this red mark on her arm.”

He came over to see for himself and looked surprised when he saw what I was talking about. “Looks like someone dug their nails in her.”

“Something like that, I suspect.”

“And you actually saw her do it?”

“I saw her playing with Catherine and the baby suddenly cried out in pain. She didn’t see me until I spoke and she ran off presumably to her room.”

“I see, well we’d better nip this in the bud. D’you want me to have a word with her?”

“No, Si, I’ll go and speak with her, but I’d like you to watch Catherine while I do it.”

“How long are you going to be?”

“I don’t know, but I thought I heard Julie about earlier—get her to take over if you need to do something.”

“Okay, go and sort her out.”

I went via the kitchen and put the roasties in with the meat before walking up the stairs to the girls’ room. Trish was lying on her bed crying and talking to herself.

I sat alongside her and started stroking her neck. She began to stop crying and lay breathing quite hard. I was almost holding my breath—the joys of parenthood, here we go. “Trish, what did you do to Catherine?”

She began to cry again and buried her face in her pillow.

“That’s not going to do anyone any good is it? Trying to suffocate yourself in a pillow.”

“I wish I was dead,” she said into the pillow so it was muffled.

“Why is that? I thought you were happy with things—I mean you’ve beaten Julie and Billie to having surgery, and everyone can see you’re a proper girl now. So why would you wish to be dead? I’d have thought you have every reason to be happy.”

“I’m not nice, am I, Mummy?”

“I think you’re asking the wrong question here, I would suggest you ask, did I do something that wasn’t very nice? You’re a lovely little girl, albeit one in a too big a hurry to grow up—and who might consequently miss out on the fun of childhood.”

“What’s the difference?” she asked red-eyed and face-marked by creases in the pillow.

“I love you, Trish, and I think you’re a really nice kid. However, sometimes you do things I wouldn’t consider nice, but there I’m condemning the act not the person. Do you understand?”

“What’s the difference? She repeated herself.

I tried again. “We are not what we do,” I said and thought, pretentious twit. “Look, I know you did something which hurt the baby, I suspect you pinched her,”—very little girl. “That was unprovoked, she didn’t do anything to cause you to do it. So it was an act of unkindness. Normally, I would say you are quite a kind little girl, looking to help others not hurt them—so I would have to say, I thought you to be a kind person.”

She burst into tears and sobbed, “I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“But sometimes, kind people do things which we don’t expect and become unkind. I try not to judge them because I don’t know why they did something out of character. Do you understand?”

She nodded into her pillow but continued to sob.

“So I’m trying to say that I’m judging what you did not you, does that make any sense?”

“Not really,” she said.

“Okay. What you did was wrong—agreed?”

She nodded.

“I don’t like what you did; understand?”

“Yes, Mummy,” muffled by the pillow.

“But I still love you, despite it—do you understand?”

She nodded, but I had my doubts that she really understood.

“On occasion, it can be very difficult to be a mother. Sometimes you have to do things which you don’t like doing and sometimes you have to say things which you don’t like. I think we’re agreed that you did wrong by pinching Catherine, aren’t we?”

She nodded.

“Can you tell me why you pinched her?”

“No,” she sobbed.

“Okay, you know that when you do things which are wrong, there are consequences —usually in the form of punishment. How do you think I should punish you for pinching Catherine?”

“Pinch me,” she said muffled by the pillow.

“No, I don’t want to hurt you, I want you to learn in a more positive way.”

“Smack me?”

“That would be like pinching you, wouldn’t it, which would make me as bad as you in terms of actions, wouldn’t it?”

“I s’pose,” she said with a sigh almost as if to say, ‘Get on with it.’

“So, I’m going to say you can’t use your computer for the rest of the day—or anyone else’s.”

“What?” she gasped, sitting up, “That’s not fair.”

“I think it’s perfectly fair and that’s your punishment.”

“But I only gave her a little pinch.”

“It left a red mark, Trish, it wasn’t a little pinch, and she cried afterwards, you hurt her, and now I’m hurting you in a way which gives you time to reflect upon what you did.”

“But she only cried for a few minutes, I’m like gonna be without my computer for like, hours.”

“If you hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t need to punish you, would I?”

“No—but it seems unfair to me.”

“Trish, everything seems unfair to you at times. You’re a very clever girl, but you need to be aware of other people and their feelings, not just your own.”

“I am—sometimes.”

For a moment I wondered if she could be Asperger’s—something which hadn’t occurred to me before. They say Sir Isaac Newton was clever enough and spiteful enough to have had some form of autism. I wondered if Trish was similarly afflicted. I would ask Sam Rose what he thought, it might explain a few things.

“I’m going to finish getting the dinner ready—you’re welcome to come and help me if you like, but you are not to use a computer until tomorrow morning when you go to school.”

I stood up and turned to face her, she was sitting on the bed looking very sorry for herself. “Can’t I do just a little bit on the ’puter?”

“Tomorrow yes, but not today.”

She pouted but refused eye contact with me. I turned to leave and she suddenly dashed to me and hugged me.

“I’m sorry, Mummy, I really am. I don’t know why I did it. I won’t do it again, I promise.”

“I’m glad to hear that—because if you did, I’d confiscate your computer for a whole week.”

“What?” she gasped in shock, “A whole week?”

“That would give you time to contemplate your folly, wouldn’t it?”

“A whole week?” I heard her saying behind me as I came back down the stairs.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1296

I explained to Simon what I’d said to Trish and he agreed it was a fair punishment, I also spoke to him about my suspicions of Asperger’s. He understood and agreed that I should speak with Sam Rose about it.

Trish did eventually come down and helped me with the dinner, after which she and I cleaned up. I fed Catherine again while she watched enviously, although I said she may well have a chance to do so herself one day, she shook her head and walked off.

I found her sitting on the swing in the garden. “What’s the problem, kiddo?” I asked, pushing her gently on the swing.

“You won’t trust me near the baby again, will you?”

“I don’t know, trust is something you have to earn.”

“What, I have to get a job?”

“No, you goose, but you have to prove to me that you will never ever hurt Catherine or Puddin’ again. You still haven’t told me why you did it.”

“Because she can have babies and I can’t.” I heard rather than saw her trying to stifle the sob, “Because she’s more of a girl than I am.”

I stopped the swing and went round to the front of it. “As far as I am concerned, you are every bit as much a girl as anyone else here, including Catherine, Livvie, Stella, Billie, Julie, Mima and myself. Being female is more than just DNA and gonads, it’s also about self-image and self expression of that image.”

“Woss DNA ’n’ gonoids?”

“DNA is the stuff inside cells which tells them what to do, how to grow and when to die. It’s shaped like a helix, like a spiral staircase and carries information for our genes. Gonads, are the reproductive parts of our body, in typical females, ovaries and in typical males, testes. They secrete hormones and also produce eggs or sperm.”

“So they make us boys or girls?”

“In a purely physical sense, yes. But we’re more than just physical bodies, we have personalities as well, and while that’s influenced by our body, it isn’t exclusively so.”

“Wossat mean, Mummy?”

“Just because you don’t have ovaries, doesn’t mean you can’t be a successful girl or woman.”

“But I want to have babies, too.”

“By the time you’re grown up, you might be able to have someone act as a surrogate mother, and you then have a newborn baby to look after and love, and that might involve breastfeeding, too.”

“That would be so cool, Mummy, being able to do the same as you do with Catherine.”

“I would love to see all my girls with babies if it’s what they want—but not all girls want babies, for all sorts of reasons from plain fear, to not wanting the responsibility, to not wanting to stretch out all their bits.”

Trish laughed, “Stretch out all their bits, yeuch.”

“It can happen, wombs can prolapse, so can colons; some women can become diabetic or put on loads of weight, get varicose veins and back problems—all through having babies.”

“Oh, so I won’t get any of those then?”

“Not from pregnancy, you won’t.”

“Oh—so, maybe I’m lucky not to have gonoids then?”

“Maybe,” I shrugged.

“Hmm, when I grow up, maybe I’ll have a sudden-gate baby, like you said.”

“A surrogate one?”

“Yeah, if that’s the word for using some other woman to have it for me.”

“That’s the one.”

“Hmm,” she said, blew her nose and went back indoors.

I went to tinker with some bikes after Jenny came back and could look after the two wains. I’d just taken the chain off my Scott and was washing it in some cleaner when Trish came to see what I was doing.

“Messing with bikes isn’t very girlish, is it, Mummy?”

“Oh I don’t know, I could have worn a tutu and some high heels.”

“Wossa tutu?”

“A ballerina’s dress that sticks out at the bottom.”

“Your bottom sticks out enough, Mummy,” she sniggered.

“Thanks, Trish, remind me to repay the favour one day.”

“You’d look silly dressed like that.”

“I guess I would, so while some things are more likely to be done by men or boys, there’s nothing to say girls can’t do it as well, nor to stop boys doing things which are traditionally feminine things. While we may not live in a completely free country, it’s free enough for us to exercise some personal choices about things like occupations or hobbies. I’ve tinkered with bikes ever since I was a kid, I’m quite good at it and I enjoy it—which I think gives me the right to do it, don’t you?”

“That looks very messy, Mummy—I think I’ll find something cleaner to do.”

“The chain is the hardest working component on a bike, and hardly anyone treats it properly.” I cleaned it and dried it off, then left it to soak in a very fine oil.

“I’m glad you wear gloves, Mummy, or your hands would be all yucky.”

“Yes, I suppose they would.” I touched the tip of her nose with my finger and she screeched and ran out of the garage.

“Whit’re ye daein’ th’ noo?” asked Tom as he walked in from the garden.

“Cleaning and oiling a chain, why?”

“Whit wis, wee Trishy squawkin’ aboot?”

“Oh I just teased her and touched some oil on the end of her nose.” I smirked and Tom sniggered.

“Aye, she’s a prissy wee thing at times.”

“Where’s Leon?”

“Awa hame, he’s worrked harrd th’ day, we puit in three rows o’ tatties.”

“Oh good, nothing like home-grown ones.”

“Aye, nothin’ like.” He went in as I locked up the workshop.

I followed him and after disposing of my dirty gloves felt myself get all hot when I saw Trish playing with Catherine. Then I saw Jenny supervising and felt myself sigh.

Before starting tea, I checked my e-mails and found that I had one from Erin.

Hi Cathy,

Bad news, Defra have cancelled their support for the harvest mouse film, thanks to cutbacks in public spending.

I’ve sent them a snotty response, asking if they could suggest who might be approached to take over the deficit for the film.

So far, no answer came the stern reply.

Erin

Thank goodness I made the dormouse one while the other lot were in power. I wasn’t too upset about it, I don’t have the same affection for harvest mice, despite their also being cute. It also meant I could concentrate on what I was doing already—the survey and its contribution to my PhD project, not to mention my other projects like getting tea for a bunch of starvers.

“Mu-uu-um, when’s tea gonna be ready?” asked Livvie.

“Soon, perhaps you’d like to help me prepare it?”

“Yeah all right; I s’pose.”

I laid out slices of bread—not home baked but quite good quality from a baker in the High Street—while Livvie put butter and dishes of salad on the table. I opened some cooked meats and put them on plates. Trish appeared and began laying cutlery.

“Is tea ready yet, Mummy?” asked Danny.

“The amount you ate at lunch, I’m surprised you need to eat again this week.” The two girls laughed at my response.

“C’mon, Mum, I’m a growin’ lad.”

“Just watch you don’t start growing sideways, my lad,” I teased him and he rolled his eyes, which made the girls snigger.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1297

Catherine sat in her recliner thing and bounced as she watched us lay the table for tea. I gave her a little piece of bread and butter to nibble on as she watched. Trish, much to my surprise offered to feed her.

“I thought you didn’t like her spitting food all over you?”

“I don’t, but I want to learn how to feed her.”

“If I let you, remember that you’re much older than her, she doesn’t know much of what she’s doing, but you do.”

“I know, Mummy—I’ll be good, I promise.”

“Okay.” I opened a small pot of liquidised food I had in the fridge, and warmed it in a jug of boiling water. About five minutes later I tipped it out into a warm dish and handed it and the spoon to Trish, who’d pulled on one of my aprons—I hardly ever wear them, they look silly with jeans.

I watched as Trish gently and carefully fed her little sister, testing the spoonful of food on the back of her hand to make sure it was warm but not hot. Thankfully, Catherine was hungry and gobbled down the food.

I made a large pot of tea and reboiled the kettle, then called everyone for tea. I put some bread, a slice of meat and one of cheese on my plate along with some salad stuff—mainly watercress and some cherry tomatoes. Then I sat to one side and let Catherine at my breast—she hungrily sucked on my nipple and I sat back and drank the cuppa Jenny had poured me.

She had Puddin’ sat in the high chair eating bits of meat and cheese with soldiers of bread and the way she was tucking in, she was enjoying them.

By the time I’d finished feeding the drowsy baby, all the food, except the bits I’d put on my plate had disappeared: like a swarm of locusts they had eaten everything in sight. Julie took the almost-sleeping baby and changed her for me while I sat and ate my tea.

Then after we’d cleaned up, we played cards, or most of us did. Trish played and nearly beat her granddad at chess. Livvie narrowly beat Billie at Pelmanism, the memory game with cards where you have to pair up cards from a pack laid out on the floor, face down.

Finally, I saw the girls off to bed and read them a story, a chapter from the Maddy Bell, Gaby stories—which they all love. I read them one about the American visitors and the visit to the pop festival.

When we had some peace and quiet, I showed Erin’s email to Simon. “I’ll see how the bank is fixed for sponsorship, and maybe we could encourage the BBC to advance some cash.”

“I don’t know how badly I want to make the film, Si; it’s not as if I don’t have enough to do.”

“Let’s see what the bank says first, we were part-sponsoring it anyway.”

“Oh all right, but don’t push too hard, it is almost nepotism.”

“No it isn’t, it’s encouraging conservation and making people aware of the wonders out there right under their noses, and which without some help, they’d never see.”

His eloquence nearly threw me until I recalled the same description appearing in a critic’s article in the Guardian about my first film.

We went to bed and after cuddling for a while, I drifted off into long and satisfying sleep. I awoke with Trish poking me. “Mummy, may I have a cuddle.”

I drowsily glanced at the clock, it was about five, and I moved towards the middle of the bed and let her climb in. I was tempted to ask her why she was awake but I was too sleepy.

At seven the alarm went off and I came to enough to feel a third body in the bed, then remembered Trish had climbed in earlier.

“Mummy, can I use a computer today?”

“If you behave, yes.”

“I will, and thank you.” She kissed me on the cheek and got out of bed.

“Not now, missy, I called after her and took her into the shower with me. I had a quick glance at her groin as we washed it and it looked as natural as Livvie’s and Mima’s. There was no doubt that Michael O’Rourke was a very talented surgeon.

While Livvie and Mima were even more accepting of Trish and her revised anatomy, Billie had become a little more shy and only entered the bathroom on her own, shutting out her sisters as if she didn’t want her body to be seen. It might have been her age—she is a bit older than the others and therefore on the edge of puberty when children become so self-conscious. She was on androgen blockers to prevent her becoming masculinised, and I suspected before too long would be on a low dose of oestrogens to keep her level with her contemporaries.

While I was doing her hair, I asked her if she had any special friends at school and she said she got on well with another girl called Zoe. I told her if she wanted to invite Zoe over for an evening at a weekend, to feel free. She said she’d think about it.

I was aware I hadn’t made that many friends at school, in fact, I didn’t have a single one from my own school, being something of a pariah. My main friend had been Siân whose help and support during the Lady Macbeth period had been invaluable. Admittedly, I do have a slight problem with authority figures and would have rebelled to some extent against Murray and my dad. She gave me assistance in doing it in ways which surprised them and encouraged me to think laterally when dealing with bullies.

Boys tend to deal with violence with more violence or by withdrawal and ambush. Girls tend to avoid violence mostly, and withdraw, often becoming depressed. I was becoming the latter until Siân helped me to see a better way. She was only months older than I, but in those days she was so much more mature and confident. I must get to see her again sometime soon, perhaps take a day out in Salisbury or even Winchester.

Talking of said capital of Saxon England, when we did that in history—King Alfred, patron saint of burnt cakes, and his resistance to the Danish invaders—one of the boys in my form asked the teacher if Alfred had won because he had extra firepower.

Thinking the boy meant archers, the teacher said he didn’t know. The boy then elaborated to suggest Alfred’s use of Winchester carbines would have given him great advantage and is why he named his capital after the gun. Talk about putting the cart before the horse—it might be of little surprise that the boy in question failed O-level history comprehensively, but was making his name as an inventor of gadgets such as they sell in novelty shops.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1298

“Good morning, Lady Cameron,” smiled Sister Maria as I walked my girls across the car park and towards the school.

“Good morning, Sister Maria.” I smiled back and let the children run on into school. I began to worry as it looked as if she had sought me out.

“I just had to tell you that the sixth form girls thought your afternoon was absolutely brilliant.”

“I’m glad they enjoyed it.” I was pleased to hear that but was half-listening for the second shoe to drop. “Who did you decide on to play Lady Macbeth?”

“Sadly, Judy Dench is unavailable,” she smirked.

“Probably; although she would have guaranteed a sell out at your box office.”

“Undoubtedly.” She shrugged and sighed.

“So which of the girls got the part? There were three or four who tried it during the workshop, each of them was quite good.”

Suddenly the headmistress began to look a bit shifty. “Um—we have a policy of voting amongst the sixth form for the best performer.”

“What, instead of a decision by you or the drama department?”

“Yes, invariably the plays we choose feature a strong female lead if not several, but one can only do Major Barbara so many times, or Anne of Green Gables.

“Yes, I can appreciate your difficulty.”

“Hence the Scottish play.”

“So who won the vote?” I began to feel safer.

“I’m afraid you did.”

“What? But I’m not eligible, besides being too old and too busy.”

“There is no eligibility criterion, your name was nominated and seconded and won by a massive margin.”

“You’ll have to say I declined and give it to the runner up. Look I’m very flattered but even if I were available to do it, I’d be preventing one of your pupils from having the experience.” I felt absolutely boiling so I suspected I must be very red-faced. Talk about an elephant trap, I think I’d fallen down a quarry.

“Why don’t you come through and have a coffee? I’d like to discuss your helping with the production anyway, if you would.”

I was pretty sure this was the lesser jeopardy trap—you accept life imprisonment happily because they aren’t going to execute you. I was dealing with a smooth operator so I’d have to be careful, or I’d end up coaching the student who got the part or something similar.

Sister Maria took my arm and instead of walking to her office we went towards the assembly hall. “I thought you said, coffee.”

“Yes, coffee it is.” We turned just before the hall and out through a side door across a small area of garden and towards a newish block with a single storey part in front of it. “We turn in there, that’s it, the first door,” she said as I pushed against the handle and opened the door.

We went into a very informal lounge area with loads of seats and a smell of coffee. I thought it wasn’t quite messy enough to be a staff room and as I recognised where we were, girls started filing in from two other doors plus the one we’d come through.

“Please sit down, Lady Cameron.” I was ushered to a very comfortable-looking armchair, I took my time looking for restraining straps and cattle prods as I went to the chair.

“How do you take your coffee, Lady C?” asked one of the girls who’d taken part in my workshop.

“White, please, with cold milk.”

I was handed a cup and saucer and offered a biscuit, which I declined.

“I’ll come back in half an hour,” said Sister Maria, “It’s up to you girls to explain to Lady Cameron why you came to your decision. I’ll see you in half an hour, Lady Cameron.” Before I could say anything, she had disappeared and I was at the mercy of fifty or so adolescent females.

I tried to steel myself for ordeal by student. I should be used to it, at the uni I could be teaching a hundred of them and they had no respect for seniority, just knowledge. Here, surely I should be able to cope with this little group—if all else fails; they must be brow-beatable—mustn’t they?

The coffee was very good, I wished we’d had a sixth form common room like this one when I was in school, and it was so clean—where were the graffiti and the posters, the music and work tables?

“So have you made a decision?” asked Sister Maria when she came back thirty minutes later.

“Yes, Sister, Lady Cameron said she’d do it.”

“Oh brilliant—that is really good. I’m so glad, it appears we are indebted you once again.”

“I really don’t know how they got me to agree—I suspect when they threatened to murder all my girls…”

Sister Maria looked aghast and then smirked. “I’ll bet you thought you’d be able to bluster your way through this little lot, didn’t you?”

“I suspect it was actually the other way round, but how did you manage to get Matthew Hines to play Macbeth? The man is in enormous demand being virtually a superstar as well as a damned good actor.”

“Ah—yes, I think we could be guilty of a little insider dealing there.”

“What do you mean?” I was perplexed by her metaphor.

“His niece is one of our sixth form ladies though not here today. You heard he was delighted to hear we were going to ask you to play opposite him?—he loved your dormouse film.”

“That’s a bit different from Shakespeare—I mean, all I had to worry about was fluffing my lines or falling over logs in the dark.”

“Did they not tell you we film every workshop we do here and Mr Hines saw your cameo?—he loved it. He’s also asked his friend Gordon Rashley to co-direct our effort.” When she saw my jaw drop, she smiled, didn’t they tell you that?”

“But he works for the RSC—hang on a moment, I’m out of my depth here.”

“He also saw your effort and liked it.”

“Why?”

“Because it’s good. We are expecting a sell-out every night.”

“Don’t tell me: Spielberg is producing it?”

“No, unfortunately he was busy as was Mr Depp.”

Now if he’d been there—I’d have killed to do the part. “Ladies, I really must fly—just gotta remember where I left my broomstick.” My parting line made them all laugh but I was out-punched by Sister Maria.

“Don’t worry, Lady Cameron, you can borrow mine.” The girls roared and applauded their headmistress—I was well out of my depth dealing with this lot.

Walking back to the main part of the school and the exit, Sister Maria thanked me, telling me she was sure I’d enjoy working with Matthew Hines. I was sure I would as well, but I did remind her of my past history.

“Don’t worry, all they’ll remember is your aptitude for dormouse juggling, when they come to research you.”

That bloody YouTube clip, I’d never live it down, would I? Compared to Spike tiddling in my blouse after disappearing down my cleavage—a sex change is plain boring.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1299

“Um—darling,” I said quietly to Simon after we’d cleared the table, the kids had gone to watch something on the telly, which was the latest must see thing.

“How much?” he said.

“I beg your pardon?” I queried his query, which is probably better than queering his pitch, but no matter.

“How much d’you want?”

“Oh, I see—well if you’re giving it away, it’s Trish’s birthday next week, she’ll be seven the same as Livvie.”

“What are we going to give her?”

“I thought we could buy her a Harrier jump jet if the RAF is selling them off.”

“Yeah okay,” he said, his nose still in the Financial Times.

“How much?”

“I’ve no idea, but I’d have thought five or ten million.”

“Yeah—eh? How much?”

“Why don’t you put that paper away and listen to what I’m saying.”

“Okay,” he folded it up and before he could look at it again, I whisked it away. “Hey, that’s my paper.”

“I’m well aware of that, darling, I got full marks for I-spy when I was a kid.”

“What has that got to do with anything?”

“Not a great deal—now, Trish’s birthday present.”

“What this time?”

“I’ve ordered her a new bicycle.”

“We’re going to need a larger garage.”

“No, when the builders were here I got them to put some brackets on the wall, so the ones not being used can hang up there.”

“And who’s going to lift them up there, you could hurt yourself.”

“You are, who else?”

“What? Geez, I walked into that one didn’t I?”

I smiled sweetly, “I can do my own, they only weigh about fifteen pounds.”

“Amazing what they can do these days—plastic bikes, light as a feather and go like a rocket.”

“That depends upon the engine.”

“Yeah okay, I get the message.”

“Si, if you rode more often you’d do much better.”

“I know, but like you I haven’t got the time.”

“I’ve also got her some clothes and other bits and pieces for the other kids to give her.”

“Okay, how much d’you want?”

“Half?” I suggested trying to keep it fair.

“How much is that?”

“About three hundred for the bike and say another fifty for the other bits.”

“Three fifty?” I nodded, “I’ll do a transfer when I remember it.”

“Okay, no hurry, tomorrow’s fine.”

He glared at me, “If I remember.”

I smiled sweetly, “Oh there is one other thing.”

“How much is that going to cost?”

“You: nothing much, me: loads of time. We might have to increase Jenny’s hours for a few weeks.”

“Why, what have you done now?”

“You know Matthew Hines, the actor?”

“Do I? I can remember Scarlett Johansson and thingamy from wossit, you know the one with large lungs.”

He was trying to wind me up so I ignored him, “Matthew Hines played that copper in that TV special they did a few weeks ago, you know where they fought each other in the swimming pool at the end.”

“I think I’d have remembered better if it had been Scarlett Johansson fighting someone in a swimming pool.”

“I know you saw it because you stayed awake right through it.”

“Is that the one with the terrorists trying to set off a nuclear weapon in Henley on Thames?”

“No—that was Michael Caine—at least I think it was. No this was the one with the serial killer, killing off Asian models, including one Thai ladyboy.”

“I don’t remember at all.”

“He looks a bit like—um—Brian Cox, you know that dishy particle physicist.”

“Who?”

“Professor Brian Cox, the one all the younger women want to shag and the older ones want to mother—then shag.”

“I’m sure I’d remember him for that reason—what’s he done?”

“He did a series on the solar system.”

“Oh that guy, who looks like a PhD student.”

“He looks pretty young but he’s extremely bright as well as sexy.”

“I thought you said you didn’t like physics?”

“I woulda done if he’d been teaching me.”

Simon rolled his eyes, “I think I’ll buy you a chastity belt for your next birthday, you floozie.”

“If you do, I’ll throw out all your Scarlett Johansson DVDs.”

“Okay—we’ll call a truce.”

“If you hide them and try to renegotiate, I’ll declare it null and void.”

“Damn, I had a good place to hide them, too.”

“Anyway, I’m going to be working with Matthew Hines.”

“What’s he doing—a voice over for you?”

“No, he’s playing Macbeth.”

“Yeah—and?”

“I’m playing Lady Macbeth.”

He looked at me with total bemusement. “This is a joke, right?”

“No.”

“A spoof—for Children in Need?”

“No.”

“Macbeth—as in the Scottish play?”

“The one and the same.”

“Why?”

“Probably because you’re too busy to do it,” I threw back at him.

“Not one of the witches?”

“No, I’m playing Lady Macbeth to Matthew Hines, Macbeth.”

“Where?”

“At Trish’s school.”

“Oh well, you had me worried for a moment.”

“How?”

“Well, if it’s with a bunch of schoolgirls all dressed up as Roman soldiers, it should be quite fun.”

“Roman soldiers? Macbeth is tenth century dark ages in Scotland—though I doubt you’ve ever heard of it?”

“The dark ages? Yeah it happens every year from about September through to March, especially up there.”

“Look, Si, this is fairly serious thespian stuff.”

He snorted at that, and I’m sure you could think exactly which word was going through his mind and it wasn’t thespian.

“Gordon Rashley is directing it.”

“The bloke from the RSC?”

“Yes.”

“I saw his Lear at the Barbican, can’t remember who played it, some old git—but the direction was brilliant. How has a tuppenny-ha’penny outfit like that school pulled in names like that? Don’t tell me, Spielberg is producing it?”

“I asked that, no it’s Melvin Cabbage.”

“Melvin Cabbage?”

“Yes, Cubby Broccoli is dead isn’t he?”

He shook his head, “That wouldn’t normally stop you.”

Now it was my turn to glower at him.

“So it’s housewife superstar is it?”

“No, that’s Dame Edna,” a character that I cannot stand.

“Of course, possums.” He chuckled like a demented prawn at his own joke, and believe me, demented prawns—you don’t want to know.

“I’ll buy you some gladioli if you like.”

“Um—I’ll take a rain check on that.” He shook his head, “My wife with all these actors and directors—will you have to wear director’s knickers?” he laughed again.

“I think you mean, directoire knickers, Si, and no I’m not wearing bloomers even for a director.”

“So when does this all happen?”

“I’m awaiting confirmation of dates of the play and rehearsals.”

“I’ll come and watch every rehearsal, sitting with my shotgun across my lap.”

“If you do, I’ll poke it somewhere the sun don’t shine and pull both triggers.”

“You would too, wouldn’t you?”

“I’ll let you ruminate on it.”

“What about all the publicity? You’ll have the national press poking about and they have a couple more brain cells than the local rag.”

“I did mention that to Sister Maria before I agreed to do it.”

“Don’t tell me, she got the Spanish Inquisition to make you do it.”

“Natch.” I shrugged as he went into full Monty Python mode and recited the whole sketch. It’s funny the first few times.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1300

I lay in bed listening to Simon’s heavy breathing—at least he wasn’t snoring yet—reflecting on the day. How had I let myself be talked into reprising my major stage appearance? Was I a secret exhibitionist or just stupid? Was I weak-willed or easily led? I wasn’t a Catholic but I seemed to have an inbuilt sense of guilt and the girls had latched on to it very quickly.

The play was a fundraiser for the school, just as my talk had been. They were a registered charity and apart from looking to improve facilities for the children, they also provided bursaries and scholarships for less-wealthy families. I had some qualms about any religiously-aligned school, but they had been the only place to agree to take Trish, in her fairly newly acquired female role. Now some of that had been confirmed by surgery, she would have little problem fitting in with the other girls, even in the showers—although those were individual cubicles, so it didn’t matter.

The girls had said that Matthew Hines had seen a film of my talk to the students, introducing my clips and so on. He had apparently agreed that he’d play Macbeth if I played his wicked wife. How could he know I’d be any good at it? He’d seen the review in the paper. Did he know of my past? Apparently, Sister Maria had explained that my path to womanhood was a little different, needing an operation to correct a plumbing problem. He apparently shrugged and said I looked and sounded fine, so that was okay as far as he was concerned—apart from that he was happily married to Judy, who was a model—with looks and a figure to die for.

I was relieved at that, and when I showed a picture of the couple to Simon, he stopped talking about Scarlett for a few minutes. With his attention span, such a timeframe is very significant. He was suitably impressed. When I said we’d been invited to dinner the following Saturday evening, to meet the celebrity couple, he went and asked Jenny to make sure she was available.

When I told him it was at a big hotel in Southsea, his eyes nearly popped out. He phoned and reserved the family suite, so we wouldn’t have to drive home afterwards and he could have a drink, and so could I if I wanted. I’m not that worried one way or the other—although I do need my tea on a regular basis.

I lay there and Simon started to snore, so I used one of my bony elbows to poke him in the side and he muttered something and rolled over onto his side. The attempt to start a pig with a pull-cord sound effect stopped immediately. I continued to try to remember how I’d managed to create a mildly Scottish accent last time I’d done the play, then, I remembered.

The school librarian was Scots and although she found my situation bemusing, she agreed to read all my lines into a recorder and I simply copied it. Somewhere at my parents’ house I still had that tape—I was sure I’d seen it not too long ago, but where?

I tossed and turned as I explored the house in my mind, visualising rooms and even individual pieces of furniture. Of course, under my old bed, I had a small box of tapes of all sorts of things, including my singing when I was a kid in the school choir. I actually felt myself blush at that recollection.

I thought I’d nip home one day soon and collect the tape and copy it to my MP3 player and play it as I slept—should produce some interesting dreams—nah, if I remind myself at the beginning that I want to learn these lines in this accent, I’d be sort of half-hypnotising myself and it would make learning them easier—perhaps. Having decided that, at two o’clock, I finally managed to get off to sleep.

It was decided I needed a new outfit for the dinner. Simon agreed, he’d wear his tux and bow tie and I’d wear a smart cocktail-type dress or similar. I don’t know why I was worried about impressing Matthew. Compared to his wife, I was going to look like a bag of lard whatever I wore.

After taking the girls to school, I went to Southampton and began my search for a nice outfit. I found one just before lunch—a latte coffee—I was going to lose a pound or two before Saturday.

I found this absolutely delicious dress—a bit more feminine than I usually do—a print of butterflies and roses on a pale-green chiffon, under which was an emerald green bra-slip. It came to above the knee and was definitely cocktail-type. It was also under two hundred pounds, so after trying it and liking it, I bought it.

Next was a pair of green panties to match the dress, which took me half an hour to find. In the same shop, I purchased a pair of glossy ten denier tights and then went in search of a pair of black sandals and matching evening bag. I finished plundering the shops at two o’clock—twelve hours after I’d managed to get to sleep and had I not had to get back for the girls, I’d have been tempted to take a snooze in the car for half an hour. Instead, I had another coffee and an apple. On the way back to the car I saw the perfect necklace and matching bracelet and earrings—all in silver and green, and just the right shade of green. I bought some new metallic green eyeliner and drove back to Portsmouth and the school.

I have green eyes, not the brilliant green of some redheads, but they are green albeit olive green. Usually I use earthy colours for eye makeup, browns and grey-browns, occasionally I work in a bit of green but it is only occasionally. On Saturday, I would emphasise my green peepers—although, they’d be green with envy at Mrs Zero-dress-size Hines.

When I got home from collecting the girls, I showed them the dress and the shoes and bag, and they all really liked it. They urged me to try it on, so without further ado, I did.

Jenny came by as I was emerging from my bedroom and she beamed a smile at me, “That looks absolutely stunning,” she said and I noted she said that not you. Remind me to sack her on Sunday.

She did rectify her previous faux pas by saying to the girls that she thought I looked really beautiful in the dress. I would wear a pashmina with it to walk down from our suite to the dining room, where Simon had organised a relatively private table.

Of course, the girls were all green with envy at us meeting a film star and his model wife, and I promised to get both of their autographs. Danny particularly wanted a picture of Judy—I didn’t enquire why.

As I changed back into my jeans and sweater, I smiled to myself—it was going to be fun meeting these people but if he was being nice to me, so he could give me the brush off in order to work with a proper actress, I wasn’t too worried. I’d avoid the publicity, which part of me shunned and I’d still have a pleasant evening out with Simon—something we didn’t do half often enough. I also booked into the hair salon at the hotel for a tidy up on the Saturday afternoon. I spoke to Simon about it and he was quite happy for us to go early, as he’d watch the rugby in the hotel. “Scotland are playing Italy, and they might actually win.”

The girls weren’t quite so happy, until I told them I’d got them a film to watch and would organise a pizza for their tea on Saturday. I was disappointed they were so easily bought off. I also decided I’d make it up to them when we had Trish’s birthday party the following week.

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