Bike 1,301–1,350

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,301–1,350

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 1301

I relaxed in the salon chair as the girl washed my hair prior to one of the stylists cutting it. The place was very well appointed and equipped, and I wondered if Julie would like to work here when she was qualified.

A towel was draped over my hair and tucked under it at the back and I was led back to the stylist’s station. The stylist was a Scots girl called Morag, and was, according to the hotel reception staff, ‘the best there is.’

It was two thirty and Simon was busy watching his rugby. I was having Morag fiddle with my hair and tut loudly. She spoke with a very quiet accent as she combed my hair out, and began cutting it.

Once that was done, she donned her rubber gloves and placed a small rubber or plastic hat on my still-wet hair and began picking hairs through it. She had recommended highlights, so who was I to disagree?

I’d booked in under the name, Cathy Watts, which was a legitimate one and I’d done it to prevent my married name influencing anything. I wanted to see how good this stylist was—so far she’d impressed me with her dancing hands and relaxing conversation.

“So what d’you do, Cathy?” she asked me.

“When I’m working, I teach ecology and field biology at Portsmouth uni.”

“That sounds really interesting.”

“It is, but at the moment, I’m a bit tied up with looking after my kids, the youngest is only seven months old.”

“Are you still feeding her?”

“Yes, although she’s taking some solids as well, which she tucks into with relish.”

“What’s her name?”

“Catherine.”

“The same as you?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“Och, don’t be afraid for naming your daughter after yourself, at least she’ll know who you were.”

“I hope so.” I had the unpleasant thought slip into my mind: what would happen to her if I died before she was old enough to remember me? That would be two mothers she’d have lost and a totally terrible thought.

I was rinsed out after about twenty minutes and my hair set in big rollers. I settled for a set rather than a perm, although it would only have been something like a demi-wave and I have enough body in my hair already.

While my hair was air-drying, I was led to another part of the salon, and laid back in a reclining chair while someone did a facial on me. I was so relaxed, that when they did my manicure, I was nearly asleep and offered my hands without any resistance.

I lay there with all sorts of gloop on my face and slices of cucumber carefully placed on my eyelids, and my mind somewhere else. I hoped I didn’t snore too loudly. We’d only had a light lunch so I was half aware my tummy was rumbling, but with the various driers and other things buzzing away in the distance, I hoped no one would hear it.

I felt someone shaking my arm, “Just goin’ to take all this cream off your face now, Cathy.” I think I mumbled something in reply because she removed the cucumber and began wiping the gunk off my skin.

My makeup was then done, although I wasn’t too struck on having skin makeup done—I never use it. My hair was finished and I was more than aware of the feel of stuff on my face. It seemed ironic that they’d used all these cleansers and toners and face masks and so on; then plastered all this crap on my lovely moisturised skin.

Okay, I looked very sophisticated and elegant but I felt like a painted doll, like someone in one of those tranny fantasies—I suppose to some extent I was living one, except I thought of myself as an ordinary woman, who wore a bit of lippy, some mascara and occasionally eyeliner. If I was going somewhere I wanted to make an impression, I’d use blusher to highlight my cheekbones, but otherwise I didn’t bother. I did get my hair cut fairly regularly and I always wore good perfume, and my makeup was quality stuff as well.

Morag finished my hair after removing the rollers and combing me out and brushing it into the style we’d agreed. I’d opted not to have my hair up but to allow it to stay down and free. It was shining really well and the auburn highlights, looked really natural. My hair looked really good, hanging down to my shoulders and beyond, but meeting under my chin in the front.

My fingers now sported a pearlised pink varnish to match my lips and I’d forgotten how long it had been since I’d painted them myself. Something which made me smile to myself was that I used to paint them regularly when I was sitting alone in my bedsit and had to clean them off for the next morning or certainly after a weekend—and now when I could paint them with impunity, I didn’t because I didn’t have time—ironic or what?

I signed the chit, which would go on the room account. “Which room, Mrs Watts?”

“The Belgravia suite,” I had to tell the truth this time.

“Oh, that’s one of the Cameron’s suites—are you staying with them?”

“Yes,” I smiled and blushed.

“Oh, Lord Simon is there at the moment.”

“Yes, he’s my husband.”

“Oh, my goodness, I’m sorry, Lady Cameron—I should have known.”

“No, I deliberately didn’t want any favouritism which was why I used my maiden name.”

“I hope everything has been satisfactory, Lady Cameron?”

“Entirely, and I’m leaving a tip for all of you.”

“Thank you, Lady Cameron.”

“Where’s Lady Cameron?” asked Morag walking up to the desk.

“This is Lady Cameron,” said the receptionist.

“Och, why didnae I ken that—of course, the dormouse lady.” Her accent returned more strongly when she was taken aback. We chatted for a few minutes and I reassured her I wasn’t on any undercover mission to report back to anyone, other than to say I’d been treated very well. She went off to see another client and I left the salon slipping quickly back to the suite because I felt self-conscious with all the makeup on. It almost reminded me of the old days when I’d slip out to post a letter at eleven o’clock at night and hope no one saw me in my skirt and modest heels.

Simon was so engrossed in the rugby, he didn’t even look at me when I went in. I made us some tea and he casually looked at me when he accepted the tea. He looked back at the screen and then back at me. “Crikey, Babes, you look hot.”

“It is warm in here,” I agreed.

“No, hot as in smokin’.”

“I don’t smoke—never have, can’t stand it.”

“No, you look like a totally hot babe, get me?”

“I feel like a painted trollop.”

“No, it looks really sophisticated.”

“I’m not sure I can stand all this stuff on my face for the rest of the day.”

“Yay,” Smon jumped up and bounced about, “We won,” he danced about and I had to move his cup of tea before he knocked it over.

“What, England won?”

“England? Who are they? I was watching Scotland beat Italy.”

“Oh, I thought you supported England,” I said and ducked into the bathroom before he could grab me.

I looked at my painted face in the mirror and pulling out a couple of wet wipes, began to rub the foul stuff off my face. I felt so much better once I cleaned it all off and them wiped my face in my flannel and towel. I stepped back out into the sitting room and he looked up at me.

“What happened to the makeup?”

“It felt horrible.”

“Want me to complain?”

“No, there was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like the feel of it on my face—it felt like a mask.”

“It looked pretty good, I wished I’d got a photo of it.”

“Nah, let’s leave the sophisticated tart look for them who likes it, shall we?” I said kissing him.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1302

I drank the tea I’d made and Simon watched Ireland end the English hopes of a grand-slam, which tickled him no end. “There’ll be some embarrassed faces in the office on Monday,” he chuckled.

“Why?”

“I had three of them goading me all week about how England were going to do the slam. I kept telling ’em that Ireland were going to get it together one of these days, an’ they did.”

“Is that important?”

“Yes, I’ve just taken a hundred quid off each of them.”

“I thought you’d stopped wagering on these things?”

“Nah, it’s only peanuts.”

“I don’t call three hundred pounds, peanuts, Simon. Just because you’re well off doesn’t mean you should waste it.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Si, I’m sorry but I feel this is something that comes between us.”

“Only because you make it an issue.”

“I don’t want the children doing it.”

“As far as I know none of them have a hundred quid have they?”

“Not as far as I know either, unless Trish has sold my car on Ebay again.”

“She hasn’t done that has she?”

“Yeah we had a disagreement about a dress she wanted. I refused to buy it for her and she asked if she could find the money, could she buy it herself. I should have said no, but I agreed. Next thing I know, I have a phone call from some bloke asking if he could see my car.”

“And it was her, was it?”

“Yes, I explained what it was all about and he said if ever she wanted a job, he’d give her one. I told him she was only six and he was astonished.”

“D’you think she could be Aspergers?”

“I doubt it, but I’ve got it down to speak to Sam Rose about it.”

“I thought you were going to see him this week.”

“He’s got flu, so they cancelled—they did offer us an appointment with another doctor, but I like Sam and he knows Trish so well.”

“I agree—besides—why talk to the monkey when you know the organ grinder?”

“I don’t know if the other doctor would have been pleased to hear you refer to him like that.”

“I don’t give a monkey’s.”

“Is that the one with the organ grinder?”

“What one?”

“The monkeys you don’t give?”

“Stella used to do this to me,” he grumbled.

“Do? I haven’t done anything.”

“Yes you have, you’ve taken something I said out of context and used it in an entirely different context.”

“Did I—diddums—does baby want his rattle too?” I asked sarcastically.

“No, baby is rattled enough as it is.” He stared at me, “Your hair is different.”

I nearly fell over. I could have had it dyed bright green and he wouldn’t normally notice, although if Julie did, he would. I don’t know if that means he acts paternally about her or he doesn’t look at me in any great detail anymore. She is turning into quite a stunner.

“Yes, Morag put some highlights in it.”

“It’s nice.” That was the end of the discussion.

We messed about for another half an hour before I went to begin getting ready. I redid my makeup, in my own way, which meant I did use some blusher and the metallic green eyeliner. My lipstick was as Morag had used, and I did darken my brows a little with a blonde coloured eyebrow pencil. For completion, my mascara was black/brown and I used it a little thicker than usual. I was happier with the outcome than I had been coming from the salon.

I carefully dressed in my new outfit and pulled on the tights and shoes. Simon adjusted his green bowtie and scrutinised me. “Okay, you looked like a model when you came from the salon.”

“And now?” I asked.

“You look like the wife of an aristocrat.”

“They sometimes marry models, you know?”

“I’ll settle for my choice every time.”

“I’m glad.”

“I’m glad you’re glad, divorce is a pain.”

“I’d probably settle for a few billion,” I smirked.

“Very funny, d’you think I’m made of money?”

“Yes—next question?”

“Aye, weel jest mind that I’m a canny Scot, the noo.”

“Och, hae ye f’gotten, sae am I?” I said back in what sounded like Morag’s voice. I had found my Lady Macbeth voice.

Simon looked astonished for a moment before saying, “Sae ye are.” He regarded me up and down. “You look positively stunning, my dear.”

“Aye, yer no sae bad yersel’.” I practiced my accent again.

“D’you mind, it’s bad enough having Tom chattering like one of the estate workers.”

“Ye scunner, dinnae talk aboot ma faither like that.”

“Cathy, why are you suddenly chattering like an escapee from a porridge advert?”

“I’m Gruoch, th’ rightful Queen o’ Scotland, wi’ ma laird, Macbeth.”

“Oh right, let me guess which play—um—Julius Caesar?”

“Very funny—put your cummerbund on, it hides your fat tummy a bit.”

He went to his case and extracted the silk item which I fastened behind him. “You don’t think this is a bit over the top do you? I mean, it’s not exactly a formal dinner.”

“Up to you.” I undid it again and he threw it back to his case.

“It gets a bit tight after a good meal.”

“Simon, we both need to get more exercise and you also need to eat less.”

“Huh! Last week you were telling me I was a fine figure of a man.”

“Last week I was randy. This week I’m…”

“Don’t tell me—um—Little Weed?”

“Simon, have you taken complete leave of your senses?”

“Randy Pandy and Little Weed.”

“Andy Pandy was with Lubi-Lou, Little Weed was with Bill and Ben.”

“Oh—how d’you know all this?”

“Because some idiot did a talk on the development of children’s television in the late Twentieth Century while I was a student at Sussex. It was free so I went. Damn, that reminds me when I asked him a question about Bagpuss, he pointed at me and said, “The young lady wearing blue,” and several people laughed.

“What’s funny about that?”

“I was supposed to be a boy at the time.”

“You were never a boy, just a girl with a plumbing problem and we’d better move it or Clint Eastwood and wosserface will be waiting for us.”

I gave myself another squirt of No5 and picked up my bag and pashmina. He held out his arm and with a quick glance at the telly to see Wales had taken the lead in France, he smiled and we set off to meet Matthew and Judy Hines.

On the way down we passed a young couple, he was wearing jeans and an open necked shirt and she was quite pregnant and wearing a pair of jeans which sagged beneath her bulge which protruded showing a fat belly button between them and her skimpy top. They were just checking into their room.

As we walked on, I stopped and gripped Simon’s arm tightly. “That was them.”

“What was?” he asked as unaware as ever.

“That young couple—that was Matthew and Judy.”

“Hold on.” He pulled out his mobile and after checking a number made a call. “Have Mr and Mrs Hines arrived yet?” He nodded. Then looking at me, “It could well be, they were held up and haven’t long arrived, they asked if we could postpone dinner for half an hour?”

“We have a choice?”

“Yes we can go down and have a drink or two, or go back to the suite and watch a bit more of the Six Nations.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1303

We sat and watched more of the first half of the France v Wales rugby match. Wales had an outside chance of winning the championship by winning by more than twenty seven points. The way it was going, they’d need a cricket score to achieve that because France were well into the lead. Simon sighed. “Bloody frogs, the Irish give Wales a chance—admittedly a long-shot one, but a chance nonetheless, and those silly Welshmen give away soft tries.”

At the end of the first half we went back down to the dining room, Simon pretty sure that Wales had blown it and that England would take the championship and France would come second. I wasn’t that bothered either way.

I checked my appearance as we left the room and it was okay. As we walked down to the dining room, I wondered if it was them we’d seen earlier. Was the body beautiful, Mrs Hines, pregnant? If so, how did I feel about that? I tried not to feel anything about it other than positive for them. I could go round with my brain in a sling just because nature didn’t give me a womb and ovaries. I had to make the best of the fact that I had pretty well everything else attributable to female bodies, including some working breasts. Things could be a lot worse.

We went to the bar and Simon ordered a pint of real ale, I had a glass of orange juice. I’m a control freak, I like to be in control of my body and more importantly, my mouth. I would have some wine with dinner so for now, fruit juice was enough.

“Have the Hines come down for dinner yet?” asked Si.

“Not yet, Lord Cameron.”

I glanced at my watch, it was after half eight, if we ate much later I’d be awake all night. I sighed.

“This isn’t good enough,” muttered Simon: he wasn’t used to being kept waiting, except by me and I always had a good excuse. “At last,” he said quietly as Matthew Hines sidled into the bar.

“I’m expecting some guests for dinner,” he said to the barman.

“I believe they’ve been here some time, sir.”

“Ah, yes, um where are they?”

At this point I took the bull by the horns—although I wouldn’t have much more effect if I’d grabbed it by the testicles. “Matthew Hines, I’m Cathy Cameron and this is my husband Simon.”

Hines spun round and smiled, then he looked me up and down, then Simon. “Your video doesn’t do you justice, you are gorgeous. How d’you do?” he shook hands with me and then with Simon. I could feel Simon’s hackles rising.

“Can I get you a drink by way of apology for being so late. Judy’s having a rest, it’s our first and the pregnancy isn’t going as easily as we hoped.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, feeling a need to sympathise with his wife—female solidarity and all that.

Simon accepted another beer—how had he drunk the first one that quickly? I didn’t need one and said so. We were taken to our table and each time the waiting staff came near they spoke to Simon or me.

“D’you come here often? They obviously know you,” said Matthew, noticing after about the fourth such encounter.

“Simon’s bank owns it,” I explained.

“Wow, so what a coincidence and you’re a genuine lord and lady?”

“Simon is, I’m only a lady by marriage,” I confessed.

“Nonsense, you’re a lady by inclination, too,” Simon added, putting an arm round my waist in a signal of ownership. I wasn’t too bothered, Matthew Hines wasn’t quite so debonair and attractive in real life as he was in his films—in fact he was verging on boring.

He talked incessantly about himself and only stopped when a waiter came and whispered in Simon’s ear. He nodded and frowned. I gave him a questioning glance. “Bloody French won,” he sighed.

“How did England do?” asked Matthew and Simon told him with great enjoyment. “Bugger,” he said, “I’ve lost a tenner on that: sodding Irish.” Now the conversation droned on and on about wretched rugby. I sat and read the menu while the two men argued about their favourite game.

We were eventually served and I had melon for starter, Simon had pâté and Matthew broccoli and Stilton soup. They were still talking rugby. I was glad that he and Simon had something in common, but given Matthew’s opening statement that I was gorgeous, it seemed his opinion was short lived.

I actually sent a text to Julie asking if all was okay and had one back and the men didn’t notice. I began to wish I’d brought my headphones, I could have listened to the radio on my Blackberry—it would have been far more entertaining than debating the choice of Flood or Wilkinson for the number ten position. For a moment I thought they were organising a coup, then realised number ten was the outside-half position in rugby.

For my main course I had tuna steak with salad and new potatoes. It was delicious. Simon had some variation on steak and kidney pudding, while Matthew had chicken in a lemon and cashew sauce—must be nuts.

“Are you looking forward to rehearsals?” Matthew asked and I let it wash over my head, assuming it was something else about rugby.

“Babes, Matthew asked you a question,” said Simon nudging me.

“Oh I’m sorry, I was miles away,” or wished I was.

“Are you looking forward to rehearsals?”

“I think I’ll wait and see how we get on at reading it first.”

“I didn’t think you were a pro—so you know the process?” Matthew seemed impressed for some reason. I simply thought that actors sat and read the parts first before doing rehearsals.

“I’m not, I’m a teacher.”

“And dormouse lady.”

“Yeah, I teach dormice—so far haven’t had one fail an exam.”

“How many have sat exams?” asked Matthew looking very sceptical.

“None—of course.” I sounded very superior and dismissed his question.

“Hence none have failed?” Matthew nodded, “I asked for that.”

Simon snorted, “Be careful, she has a wit like a razor.”

“So I see, I shall have to be careful with you, your ladyship.”

I simply beamed an innocent smile hiding my razor sharp teeth.

“Have you thought how you’d like to play Lady M?” asked my fellow thespian.

“Gruoch,” I corrected him.

“Gruoch? That’s her name? I mean her real name?”

“Aye, that’s ma name ma lord, Queen of Scotland.” I spoke in the gentle lilt that I’d heard Morag use.

“My goodness, is that the accent you intend to use?”

“Aye, ma lord.”

“That is just fabulous, I’ll have to get a voice coach in and see what I can do to complement it. Simon, I thought your wife was an amateur actor—I think I have been misled, and very pleasantly so. I think I’m going to enjoy doing this a great deal more than I thought I would.”

“I see, so you were down here on sufferance really?” I felt less and less impressed with Matthew Dickhead Hines.

He blushed, “No, not at all, I said I’d do the play for the school but I expected it to be difficult because of working with school kids and few teachers—think amateur dramatics. I got Gordon to direct it because I felt we needed someone to try and set a certain standard. I suspect, you’re the one who’ll be setting the standards—not us.”

“Have you done the play before?” I asked.

“I haven’t acted it, we did it in school when I was in year ten, I think—but you have, haven’t you?”

“Yes, but it was an am-dram version.”

“The reviews were very good.”

“Of course they were, the critic’s grandson played Macduff.”

“It helps—oh well—it could be great fun.”

“I thought it was supposed to be a tragedy?” offered Simon probably feeling as left out as I did when they were doing rugby to death.

“I would have been a real tragedy if your lovely wife hadn’t agreed to do it with me.”

He was a real smooth talker.

“Is your wife having something to eat—I mean, this evening?” I thought I’d remind him about her in case he forgot.

“She said she’d call room service.”

“Perhaps one of us should go up and check she’s okay?” I suggested.

“I’ve got my mobile or she could page me if necessary,” he said defensively.

“I’d like to meet her anyway,” I virtually insisted.

“Hold on,” he flipped open his wafer thin mobile, “Jude, Lady Cameron would like to pop up and say hello, is that…?” He nodded to the phone—why do we all do it, the caller can’t see us? “Okay, I’ll tell her—feel free to go up, she’d love to meet you.”

With that I made my farewells, probably temporary ones, and set off to the lift—wondering why I was doing this—just curiosity or something far darker, meeting one of the most beautiful women in the world when she’s probably feeling anything but beautiful, and I’m dressed to the nines. Then she is pregnant and I’m not—so let’s leave it at female solidarity—yeah, that’ll do. I pressed the call button on the lift.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1304

When you’re waiting, time drags and everything seems to take so long. Judy was in room 999, the top floor below the penthouse and family suites. Damn this lift, why is it taking so bloody long to come. I prodded the button again and again, wondering if I’d pushed it hard enough in the first place. It lit up but the wretched lift took what felt like minutes to come, disgorging a handful of ancient dowager sorts, all face powder and red lipstick covering their wrinkled visages.

I entered the lift and almost automatically pressed level ten, which requires a passcode to open the door. In moments the lift whooshed me up to level nine and an electronic voice with a tinny American accent said, “Ninth floor.” Surely in Southsea, it should be a plummy, Hime Cineties accent?

The door opened and I followed the signs to room 999. My tummy flipped as I neared the room. I was actually going to be meeting one of the world’s most beautiful women, a supermodel, soon to be mother and what was I? A weirdo who happened to look fairly passable as a female. Dressed to the nines I may be, but she could look better than I wearing nothing more than a bin liner.

My confidence waning, I cursed myself for forcing the issue. Why was I meeting her? Curiosity, so the next time she appears on telly or in a magazine, I can say to the kids—I’ve met her, or better still, I know her.

Taking a deep breath I tapped on the door and voice called, “Come in,” from inside the room—I had no choice now, I pushed the handle down and opened the door.

“Hi, I’m Cathy Cameron,” I said to the woman reclining on the couch, who looked pale and unwell.

“Hi,” she replied, “I’m Judy, ’scuse me not getting up, but I feel like shit.”

“D’you want me to go?” I offered.

“No, do come in, could you get me some more water, my back is hurting so much from this bloody great lump in front.” She smiled weakly and her face lit up—she was a genuinely beautiful woman.

I passed her a bottle of water from the opened carton on the table. I seated myself in a chair so she could lean back and still see me. “Where’s it hurting?” I enquired.

“Lower back, it’s not due for two weeks either.”

“I think that’s only a guideline, anything can happen a couple of weeks either way.”

“Yeah, but first babies are always late in our family.”

“Don’t take that as inevitable, while they are often late—they can come a bit early too.”

“Oh this stupid pain,” she gasped and went white, regaining her composure a couple of seconds later. Almost the whole time her gleaming white teeth were in a forced smile.

“Would you like me to have a look? I can help sometimes.”

“If you want, tell me what you need me to do.”

I pulled my chair up to her, “Take my hand,” I said quietly and she did.

“Ooh,” she said and lay back against the arm of the couch, “Oh, I feel everso…” and she fainted.

I kept hold of her hand and sent the blue energy to do something to help her pain. This can be caused by the body secreting a chemical to enable the ligaments around the symphysis pubis to relax making it safer for the baby once it starts its journey down the birth canal. If this didn’t happen, the baby would be crushed against the bone and the mother would probably be very badly torn from the experience, if she didn’t expire with the baby.

Of course the secretions are generalised like hormones, and other ligaments can also relax, meaning things like those holding your spine together can loosen and nerves get pinched. Alas because of the baby, strong pain killers can’t be used, so the poor expectant mum can have a really hard time. This was what I was sure was happening to Judy.

I felt the energy flowing down my hand and into her body. Her baby, a little girl, was doing fine and was going to be as beautiful as her mum.

“Wow, that is so beautiful, I can see this swirly light whooshing round me.”

“I know, I asked it to reveal itself to you.”

“You did wha…?” she lapsed again and I knew she’d have no memory of this happening. I felt the energy slow and stop and I let her hand go.

“Oh, did I nod off?—I’m so sorry. Oh that pain has gone—oh that is so wonderful.” She opened her eyes and looked at me. “Sorry, you’re, Cathy, aren’t you? You’re doing this play with Matt?”

“Yes, the poor man’s Lady Macbeth, at your service.”

“I thought Matt said you were very good.”

“Ah, but at what?”

“I assumed acting—am I wrong?”

“I’m a university teacher, not an actress.”

“Oh, what d’you teach?”

“Ecology and field biology; although I’ve been seconded to help with the UK mammal survey.”

“I’ve seen you somewhere else haven’t I? You’ve been on the telly?”

“I made a film about dormice last year.”

“That’s it, we loved it—it was really very good.”

“The out-takes were better.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, we left out all the bits where I fell over things in the dark and where Alan got chased by a tawny owl.”

She laughed, “I feel so much better, d’you have this effect on everyone?”

“Not everyone, just people I like.”

“But you don’t even know me?”

“I know when I like someone.”

“I do, too. Have you got any children?”

“I have a houseful, all adopted—I can’t have children.”

“Oh, I’m sorry—not even with all this fertility treatment and in vitro stuff?”

“No, I’ve no breeding bits anymore.”

“Oh—that would make it difficult,” she smiled.

“So, what are you having, a boy or a girl?” I asked, changing the subject to her.

“Matt wants a boy, but I’d like a little girl—my mother says it’s going to be a girl from the way she’s lying, but I’ll wait and see.”

“I’m sure you’ll love him or her to death whenever they arrive.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right.”

“Have you thought about names?”

“Oh don’t,” she sighed and rolled her eyes, “Matt wants Ingrid if it’s a girl and Jonathan if it’s a boy. I’d like Emily and Stephen.”

“I think I prefer your choices.”

“Oh good, can I say that to Matt? I’m sure he’ll be open to your advice.”

“Mine? Goodness, he’ll be the first then. Goodness, look at the time—I’d better go and get Simon away from the bar. Good luck with the delivery, I’m sure it’ll go well.”

“Now I’ve got rid of that pain, I feel much better about everything. I hope the play goes well once you start rehearsals—I shouldn’t say this but Matt hasn’t done much classical stuff, he’s a film actor really. Put him in a car chase or a fight with the villain and he’s in his element, put him on the stage and you might have to help him through it.”

“Is it such a good idea then? I mean he could lose out big time if it flops.”

“He said when he saw your video of the sleepwalking scene, he knew he was working with someone who knew what they were doing.”

“Oh dear.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I was hoping he’d be able to help me—I did this play in school.”

“And got very good reviews—fancy someone saying you were a boy.”

“It was at a boy’s school.”

“Even so, I think most critics can tell male and female apart, don’t you?”

“Probably, I must go, lovely to meet you.” I held out my hand for her to shake.

She did and then looking at me questioningly, she said, “Thank you for helping my back.”

“I didn’t do anything?”

“You have a rare gift.”

I smiled in embarrassment.

“It’s going to be Emily, isn’t it?”

I smiled, “That could be embarrassing for a little boy.”

“But she’s a girl, isn’t she?”

“Fifty fifty chance.”

“Cathy, I trust my intuition.”

“Fine—always follow it, you won’t go far wrong. Now let’s see if I can prise Simon away from the bar.”

“Simon Cameron—the banker?”

“Yes, you know him?”

“Only from the papers—he’s a lord, so’s his dad, so you must be Lady Cameron?”

“That question I can confirm.”

“Gosh—I’m hobnobbing with the rich and famous tonight.”

“You know, that’s what I thought,” I confessed.

“Nah, me? I’m a poor girl from Ealing.”

“One of the most beautiful women in the world, and a supermodel, married to a top film star—poor once maybe, but not now, surely?”

“We do all right, but have a look in the mirror, Cathy. You could make it as a model any day, and certainly as an actress.”

“I’m too short and too busy, not to mention too ungainly to be a model, and the actress bit—we’ll see soon enough won’t we?”

She stood up and we hugged as best we could, given her lump. “You know, I don’t always take to other women, but you’re special and very, very pretty. Make the most of it.”

“I’ll see.” We hugged again and I left to collect Simon and send Matthew back to his wife.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1305

Simon was actually still sober and he and Matt, together with the barman were engaged in a serious discussion about the changing rules of rugby favouring the Southern Hemisphere teams.

I virtually had to drag him away from his discussion, but I suggested rather pointedly that Matthew perhaps ought to go and look after his wife. He eventually got the message and went, and I was able to get Si back to our suite.

“How’s the lovely Mrs Hines?”

“She’s actually very sweet.”

“She’s a real cracker,” he beamed.

“Thanks, Si, that makes me feel very good about myself.”

He blushed, “Oh don’t be like that, Babes, you’re the one I love, and you’re a real cracker, too.”

“Yeah, one with party hats and corny jokes in.”

“Why must you twist everything nice that I say to you?”

“C’mon, Si, you started off by saying how beautiful Judy Hines was and only included me because I complained.”

“Oh—okay, I messed up there, but you are beautiful and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Besides, it was you we chose to go on our dormouse posters.”

As those were an item of contention still, I wasn’t entirely appeased by his argument. It wasn’t him who got pointed at every time he went into the bank—they were still using the posters and leaflets with the photo of me holding Spike.

After talking about more serious things, like Trish’s birthday we finally got to bed and I slept quite well until about five o’clock when I had a weird dream. In it I saw I had been voted one of the most beautiful women in the world, beating the likes of Cheryl Cole and Eva Longoria. Then I saw people pointing at me everywhere I went and men looking at me with lust in their eyes. I began to need to have a bodyguard and I kept wishing to be able to live normally.

I woke myself up crying when someone asked me to do some glamour photos. Simon asked me what the problem was and I told him it was a bad dream. He turned over and went back to sleep but I didn’t. I got up and made myself a cuppa.

I went into the shower and after looking at myself and my naked body for a minute or two in the mirror in the bathroom, I thought I looked in reasonable shape for someone who didn’t have time to exercise enough and who wasn’t too bad looking for a tranny. Then I said to my reflection, “Well this is as good as it’s going to get, so I suppose I’d better be satisfied with it.” My reflection seemed to agree with me, curiously enough.

Washing myself in the shower I reflected on my dream—some of the detail had gone—I was however, aware for the first time, that anyone who is very beautiful and publicly so, becomes a target for every moron going.

Just because people have high profile jobs or work in the public arena, like actresses and models, singers and so on, doesn’t mean they are public property. I read of one woman who had been stalked by two or three creeps for several years. These people seem to think because they’ve seen you on telly and you’ve been ‘in their homes’ that they possess you or have some right to a relationship with you. Goodness, maybe I shouldn’t bother making any more films.

Rapt in my own thoughts and also a towel, I jumped out of my skin when Simon came blundering into the bathroom needing a wee. It was half past six and I got us some breakfast sent up. He jumped in the shower and was out again by the time his full English and my poached eggs on toast arrived.

“What did you think of Matt?” I asked Si as we ate.

“He’s okay, I thought he was a bit of a prat to start with, but that’s his way of keeping people at arm’s length. He’s thrilled to be doing Macbeth with a Scottish noblewoman as his queen.”

I was going to challenge him, until I ran through his logic—I was born in Dumfries, which is in Scotland—so technically, I could be seen as Scots. I married into an old Scottish aristocratic family—so, I suppose technically he’s correct. Oh what the hell—do I care? Absolutely not.

“In fact,” continued Si, “he confessed that he was worried about doing Shakespeare and doing it on stage—he’s essentially a film actor.”

“Judy said as much last night—she suggested that he was looking to me to help him through the process—talk about the blind leading the blind.”

“At least you’ve done it before,” Simon added, slurping down a fried tomato.

“At a very amateur level, in fact if Matthew wasn’t involved and his pal, Gordon Rashley, this would be very amateur too and no one would worry about it.”

“It wouldn’t command the money it’s going to make for the school’s good causes, though, would it?”

“It would have made something—why is everyone obsessed with money all the time? It’s not as if you could eat the stuff?”

“You seem to get through enough of it?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked defensively.

“You seem to be spending more heavily than you did.”

“Everything has gone up, Si. Food, fuel, everything. I’ve also had to buy the kids clothing and then there’s birthdays and so on. Besides, you’re always telling me I don’t spend enough. I actually paid for my own dress, the one I wore last night.”

“Okay, I wasn’t complaining, I was stating a fact. I keep a check on our accounts and you’ve been spending about twenty per cent more for the last couple of months.”

“You have access to my account?” I snapped.

“No, our account—the joint account we have—the bank does obviously have records of your account too, but I’m barred from seeing them. Families are, without written consent from the account holder.”

“Oh, I just wondered.” I didn’t know whether I believed him or not, I was sure that given his position, he could get to see my details without too many problems. It wasn’t as if I had secrets from him, more the fact that bank accounts were supposed to be covered by confidentiality laws, like health information.

“Well I hope you’re satisfied? Look, you know if ever you need more money, all you need to do is say.”

“Yes, I know, darling, but I’m okay at the moment.”

“You know our joint account is fed by an automatic top up from one of my accounts.”

“No—no I didn’t know.”

“It is, it keeps a minimum of seven thousand in there.”

“I don’t think I’d spend that in a supermarket, even one like Sainsbury’s.”

“The most you can spend on a single transaction is about five hundred anyway, which covers most things.”

“Yeah, I can just about fill up my tank for that,” I smirked, joking about the cost of diesel.

“Tell me about it. Our visiting people have doubled their travel costs in the last six months and that’s mostly fuel.”

“You have bank staff who do visits?”

“Yes, most banks do—seeing people who can’t get to us. NatWest do it too, as do most of the major banks—you know, going to see sick people who may be housebound, the elderly and so on.”

“Is this all part of the supposed caring image?”

“We do care,” he said indignantly.

“About their money.”

“We’re a bank, not a charity.”

“Damn, I’m always confusing the two,” I said clicking my fingers. His response was very adult. He threw some toast at me and we ended up having a full on pillow fight until I was so tired that I collapsed onto the bed and he ‘fell’ on top of me and began kissing me.

“We need to have time to play more often,” he told me as he kissed me again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1306

We were late back from the hotel, we fell asleep and just cuddled together. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, just knowing I was with the man I loved and for that moment nothing else mattered.

Unfortunately, we may live in the moment but we have to plan for at least a few hours if not days. We were woken by room service coming to clean the suite—they were so apologetic—yet it was our fault.

Simon assured the Filipina ladies that it was our fault and that he’d give them both a good report if he was asked. They seem to relax after that. We woke ourselves up, gathered up the luggage and set off for home—it was eleven o’clock, we should have left at nine.

Thankfully, back at the ranch; Jenny and Tom had things under control. The girls were helping Jenny do some cleaning and Danny was helping in the garden. I was most impressed with the tidiness of the house and wondered if I’d come to the wrong one.

Maureen was there finishing the decoration of the new rooms. I’d had floor to ceiling book shelves on three walls in the study cum library. It was quite a large room, mostly library but with a large alcove with a window, which was my study area. I had a small desk put in there a phone point and the Wi-Fi broadband was based on a large desktop computer in the library itself.

Some of my books were still in Bristol, some were at the university—or they were when I left them—and some were scattered about the house. It was going to take days to gather and arrange them.

We now had two spare bedrooms with all new carpeting, beds and other furnishings. I expected the girls to bags one, but they didn’t—they liked sharing—although I suppose with the onset of puberty, they’d all get self-conscious and want a room each.

There was a letter waiting for me from the solicitor, the letters of probate had been received and they suggested I did nothing with the Whitehead’s house, except let it furnished. I showed it to Simon, who suggested the same company who oversaw the letting of his cottage. I promised I’d give them a ring to discuss it with them.

I really wasn’t sure what I’d do with the place—sell it I suppose, because Tom’s house was bigger but maybe when the kids were grown up, a smaller place would do. I honestly didn’t know what to do—except I knew I couldn’t do anything by way of disposal for at least six months in case anyone counter-claimed the estate or showed a more recent will.

I had to get his journal back from Tom, too—peculiarly, he hadn’t returned it. Maureen took my attention, wanting to know where to put the wireless laser printer which also doubled as a scanner/copier and fax.

For lunch I managed to cobble together some soup and bread, we’d stopped off at the local supermarket and bought a couple of loaves—just as well, with all of us except Stella there, we actually ate both loaves of bread for lunch with a large pot of soup disappearing with them.

Hunger sated, I set about doing the laundry with help from Billie and Trish. Danny was now back from his gardening jobs and Tom was supervising him with his books, or the ones he wanted to put in the library. He kept some in his own study.

The printer had its own cupboard to stand on at the end of a bench table in the middle of the room. Danny and Livvie were carrying books to and fro while I fed the baby some extra-virgin milk, straight from the breast. She fell asleep three times as she sucked. The little wretch wasn’t really hungry, she just liked being held while at the breast.

Mima was looking after Puddin’, who was busy pushing her little pushchair with her dolly in it—the dolly was actually a soft toy gorilla—Pud thought it was beautiful, as only a mother can.

During a tea break, Tom and Jenny wanted to know how the meeting with the celebrities had gone; I left it to Simon to explain what had happened. He gave the main points in about a minute and a half. I filled in the incidentals over the next twenty minutes.

“So this guy, Matt Hines, is less experienced than you at doing Shakespeare?” asked Maureen to clarify things.

I shrugged, I’d only done one play, so I could hardly say I was experienced, but that was one more than Matthew had done. “Effectively, yeah.”

“And he earns, how much?”

“A few million per picture,” I guessed.

“That’s like these overpaid poofters chasing a ball about a field every Saturday and getting paid millions too. They’re about as much use as an ash tray on a motorbike.” I suspect Maureen doesn’t like football.

“I hope you’re not including Pompey in your generalisations?” I stirred it.

“Not at all, they’re rubbish with a capital C.” Maureen let rip at her local team who played in the Championship a level below the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.

“Capital C?” I queried.

“Crap,” Danny whispered by the side of me.

“Oh, must be a naval term,” I muttered to no one in particular.

I left Trish to sort out the laundry with Jenny, and took Catherine with me to the supermarket; before we left there, I’d practically filled the boot and some of the interior of the car with food running up a bill of nearly two hundred pounds.

While the rest of them were still slogging carrying books and other equipment into the library, I shoved a couple of trays of chicken portions into the oven and began doing loads of vegetables.

Once everything was cooking I made some more tea and eight of us sat down to drink it. Just as well we have a large tea pot.

Seeing the numbers of people we had and were likely to have with Stella and Gareth in a few months, I discussed doing things in the kitchen with Tom, Maureen and Jenny. I suggested we got a range oven with a double oven and at least six rings or hotplates. I also suggested we got a facility for producing boiling water or steam, like they do in coffee shops.

Maureen stood in the middle of the kitchen and suggested where things could go. She also suggested a larger fridge and a separate large freezer. Tom nodded at both our suggestions and Maureen said she’d cost it over the next few days.

I was going to end up with a kitchen like a small restaurant, but that was fine with me as long as I had the space to do all I needed and the facilities to support my activities.

“Will you teach me to cook?” asked Trish and Livvie and Mima joined the clamour. Billie was busy watching the telly so didn’t hear the others. I did have plans for all of them to learn a few basics in all aspects of housekeeping, so they could feed themselves, keep their clothes clean and keep their living space clean and tidy, if they went away from home to university or work.

Julie arrived home and was delighted to see Maureen, they sat and chatted while Trish and I finished the dinner and dished it up. Roast chicken with roast potatoes, carrots in butter, roast beetroot, curly kale and roast onion. I cheated in using a large pack of stuffing mix and some ready-made Yorkshire puddings. No one complained, except that we had no dessert organised—and that was Simon—who was teasing me. One day he’ll get his desserts, just or otherwise.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1307

We were just finishing clearing up after dinner, and Maureen wandered out to the kitchen and said, “Ma’am, could I have a word?”

“Yes of course.”

She looked round and about and said, “In private?”

“Hold on one second.” I went over and closed the kitchen door and dropped the catch. “That’s about as private as we can get.”

“Thank you.”

“Please, do sit down,” I invited Maureen pulling out a chair from the table and sitting on the one next to it. Since her surgery, she’d blossomed tremendously and although she’d never be a beautiful woman because of her size, she was getting by much better than before. I felt anxious for her, what was she going to tell me or ask me?

Maureen sat and began fidgeting, I assumed trying to pick the way she wanted me to tell me whatever was troubling her.

It was so tempting to interfere or interrupt her process because it was uncomfortable to me, however, the small amount of training I had in dealing with student’s personal issues meant that I knew to sit and wait patiently for her to start. If it was very painful then, she might not be able to verbalise it at all.

I was tempted to offer some tea, but that would have provided a distraction and enabled her to avoid the issue which was troubling her.

She looked at me, “It’s difficult, dunno where to begin.”

“Wherever you find it easiest.” I smiled at her and touched her hand.

She smiled back at me, “About fifteen year ago, I was just finishin’ with the navy as a matelot—we had a bit of a get together, like, and I ’ad too much of the oh-be-joyful and woke up in bed with this woman. Apparently, we done it like, an’ she fell for a baby.”

“Lots of babies happen that way, are you sure it was yours?”

“Oh yeah, we ’ad tests done, and he’s mine okay, an’ I paid maintenance and all that for ’im, still am as a matter o’fact.”

“I see, what’s his name?”

“Andrew.”

“Nice name.” I was trying to show I was still with her without leading her.

“Aye, Ma’am, but I ’ad little to do wi’it, other than pay.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“He wants to meet me.”

I had a feeling this was coming. “Do they know about your situation?”

“I dunno, I don’t think so.”

“Ah, I see your problem. Do they live locally?”

“Nah, she moved to Eastbourne.”

“I see, so how can I help?”

“Well you got more experience with kids than me, could you speak to him for me?”

“To explain what you’ve done, you mean?”

“Yeah, and see if’n he still wanna see me.”

“D’you know why he suddenly wants to see you?”

“Not really, though he did say somethin’ about ’is mother moving up north, some bloke she’s with ’as a new job up there.”

“So d’you think he’s looking to live with you?”

“I dunno—I dreads to think why it’s all ’appened.”

“Let’s put the kettle on—I find a cuppa helps me think things through.” I rose from the table and switched on the kettle—it never rains here, we just have the odd tsunami come past and shit all over us. I made the tea and placed a mug of it in front of Maureen and one for myself.

“When is all this going to happen?”

“In a month or there’bouts.”

“Doesn’t give us a lot of time. Have you spoken to his mother?”

“Not recent, like.”

“Might that be the first thing we need to do?”

“I dunno, ’ow she’ll take it?”

“Does she work?”

“I think so—in the local Asda.”

“So what exactly would you like me to do?”

“Speak to ’em for me.”

Nothing too difficult then. “Do you have a phone number?”

She passed me the letter from the boy’s mother. I can’t say even her ex because it was a one night stand. I read it. “I’ll just make a note of the number.” I went to get up for a pen and paper and Maureen told me to keep the original.

I got up and collected the cordless phone. “D’you mind me referring to you by your old name?”

“No, course not.”

I dialled the number given on the letter. The paper was ruled and had been taken from an A4 pad such as those used by students. The writing was legible but immature like I’d expect from a thirteen-year-old girl—the spelling wasn’t very good either.

A male voice answered, “Hello, could I speak to Cilla Bromley?”

“Who is it?” asked the voice.

“Cathy Cameron, I’m Maurice Ferguson’s employer.”

“Yeah, ’ang on,” I heard the voice calling, “Mum—some woman on the phone for you, she’s Dad’s boss.”

I heard a woman’s voice ask, “What does she want?” and the boy replied, “’Ow the ’ell do I know?”

Finally after some noises—presumably caused by the phone being passed over—she spoke to me.

“Mrs Bromley, ’ere, who are you?”

“Hello, Mrs Bromley, I’m Cathy Cameron, Maurice’s employer.”

“I s’pose it’s about my letter, innit?”

“Yes it is.”

“Why can’t he talk to me hisself?”

“Look it’s a bit delicate to deal with over the phone, could I come and see you and we could discuss this in person.”

“Don’t he wanna see ’is kid?”

“That isn’t the issue.”

“Oh all right, when d’you wanna come? I don’t ’ave a lotta time.”

“Would you be available tomorrow?”

“Yeah, could be, what time?”

“I have to take my girls to school, how about eleven?”

“Yeah, that’d be okay, I ’as to go t’work in the evenin’ tomorrow.”

“Right, so I’ll come and see you about eleven tomorrow morning,” I clarified and she agreed.

I looked at Maureen and she looked very worried. “What’ll I do if he thinks I’m a freak?”

“Carry on with your life—if he thinks such things, then it’s his problem not yours.”

“I’ve never been much of a dad to ’im.”

“When did you last see him?”

“About fourteen year ago.”

“So he has little concept of you then?”

“Only what ’is mother’s told ’im.”

That did little to allay my concerns. She didn’t seem one of the sharpest knives in the drawer, but she had managed to get Maureen to support her child, so she wasn’t stupid either.

“Are you going to come with me?”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go—look, come with me and stay in the car, if I think she’s going to freak out, I won’t say you’re with me. If she looks as if she might cope, we could try it.”

“I dunno, I don’t wanna spoil things.”

“How would you do that? You’re a lovely woman with a heart of gold, who could fail to like you?”

“Cilla or Andy?”

“That would be ironic wouldn’t it?”

“Nah, more bloody typical.”

“So, I’ll collect you after I’ve taken the girls to school and then we’ll see if we can sort this out—I’d bring your knitting if I were you—it might take a little while.”

“I’ll bring me laptop and do some costin’s on your kitchen if that’s all right?”

“Fine, I’ll see you about quarter to nine.”

“Thanks, Ma’am.” She left and I sat back down at the table. Simon came in.

“The door was locked, problems?”

“I’ve got to take Maureen to Eastbourne tomorrow.”

“Oh, why’s that?”

“It’s confidential for the moment, hopefully I’ll know more tomorrow.”

“Oh, like that is it?”

“Yep, ’fraid so.” I felt like Sidney Carton as I walked up the stairs that evening, walking up to meet Madam Guillotine to save his friend’s life. “It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done…”

“And a far better rest I go to than I have ever known,” Simon completed the quotation. “Sale of two titties, wrong play innit?”

“You idiot, Simon,” I said laughing and I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1308

As you might imagine, I didn’t sleep that well after Maureen’s revelation and request. What rotten luck for her to get lumbered with a son after one brief encounter, with a woman she didn’t love. In lots of ways I was grateful that I’d had a very sheltered upbringing; although I was reminded of a lecture my father gave me before I went off to university.

“Charles, you’re now a man.” I nearly fell over laughing—I was about as close to being a man, as he was to being a chimpanzee. “So you must be responsible for your actions. We don’t want to hear any stories of you spending all your time in the Students’ Union bar or sleeping with every female who gives you the eye. D’you hear me?”

“Yes, Dad, I’m going there to get a degree—not drunk or laid.”

“No need to be crude about it, young man.”

I didn’t consider I’d been crude—I could have used a few more unsavoury words and really made the vein in his neck throb as he went puce then beetroot.

Looking back, things could have been worse. It was a shame I lost my mum when I was finding myself and wonder how she might have coped. Then would Dad have been different if he hadn’t had the stroke? I like to think he might have been but I’m probably wrong. Then he was—well they both were—victims of their upbringing and that poisonous church they went to.

It’s funny they left it after I went to Portsmouth, so I never got the pleasure of pissing off the vicar by appearing as my true self because the funeral was at another church.

I was awake at six and showered and dressed myself before even Si stirred. Then after drying and styling my hair—it was getting quite long again—I left it down using some mousse to help the ends stay curled under, under my jaw. I kept the makeup simple too, some mascara, blush and lipstick, with some diamond ear studs and a gold chain necklet.

Of course the girls were all questions: why was I wearing makeup and perfume. Livvie has a nose like bloodhound. I kept the explanation simple.

“I have to go to Eastbourne with Maureen about a private matter of hers. End of message.”

“Oh,” sighed Trish, “I wish I could come.”

“Yeah, me too,” Livvie agreed.

“Tough, now stop nagging me and eat your breakfasts.”

I wasn’t hungry but forced a couple of slices of toast down with mashed banana on them; washed down with a good cup of tea.

After dropping off the girls I collected Maureen who was looking very dapper in a cerise-coloured skirt suit. If I thought I hadn’t slept much, Maureen looked very much as if she hadn’t at all. She clambered into the Cayenne with laptop bag and an equally large handbag. My own was small by comparison.

We didn’t talk very much and when I looked across, she was asleep. I turned the radio down to low and kept the speed constant as we sped east along the motorway.

According to Google maps, it’s just over seventy miles and takes a fraction over an hour and three quarters. They were spot on, because an hour and forty minutes later, we were heading into Eastbourne and following the directions I’d downloaded from the Internet the night before, we arrived at the road where Cilla and Andrew lived.

Maureen had roused from her slumbers and was shaking her head, “Why did you let me sleep, ma’am?”

“I don’t think I could have stopped you if I’d tried. How d’you feel?”

“Like me ’ead’s a bucket and some bugger just whacked it with an ’ammer.”

“I know we discussed what you wanted me to tell her, but are you sure you still want me to do this?”

“Why, don’t you want to, ma’am?”

“I’m quite prepared to go in there and tell her anything you’d like me to, including where to get off, if necessary.”

“He is me son.”

“You think? I suspect it’s unlikely, but that’s another matter.”

“He’s the same blood group.”

“Is that all you had tested?”

“We didn’t actually have anything tested, she showed me ’is ’ospital card and it said group O.”

“Half the planet is group O, I’m group O, so was my cat.”

“Eh?”

“All right, the cat wasn’t but loads of people are. That only means he’s human and possibly your son, but I have my doubts.”

“Oh?”

“I suspect she saw you as a soft touch and she was right. How long after your night out was the baby born?”

“Eight months I think.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, pretty sure.”

“Was it a tiny thing, about three pounds?”

“No ’e was about eight pounds.”

“Didn’t you do any biology in school?”

“Not much, why?”

“From conception to birth is about forty weeks not thirty two. You’ve been had, old girl.”

Maureen stared at me and started to laugh, “I ’ave too, by the sound of it. See you females know it all, don’t you?”

“I’m no more female than you are, as you well know. Okay wait here, it’s just coming up to eleven. If you hear screams, send for an ambulance—it may save her.” I left the car and walked down the road a little and into the garden of the house. It was neatly kept and the house looked well maintained—possibly on Maureen’s money.”

I rang the bell and the double glazed door drew open, behind which was a woman of about fortyish. “You must be, Cathy?” she said.

“I am, so you’re, Cilla?”

“Yes, you’d better come in.”

She led me into a nicely furnished room and invited me to sit on a two-seater, leather settee. It was a sort of burgundy colour and went reasonably well with the dark carpet and the frieze around the walls.

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

“No thanks,” I decided this might not take as long as I thought.

She sat opposite me in a matching easy chair. “So Maurice works for you, does he?”

“Yes, part-time.”

“What does he do—the dockyard sacked him didn’t it?”

“He does all sorts of building and engineering jobs for me and my husband’s firm.”

“So he’s doing all right, then?”

“He’s getting by. How is your son?”

“He’s fine, in school of course.”

“Of course.”

“Do you have any children?”

“Yes, I have seven.”

“Seven—how can you afford seven—I can barely afford one?”

“I send them all out to work down the mines and up chimneys.”

She looked at me aghast for a moment then sniggered. “You have quite a sense of humour, don’t you?”

“You may not think so in a moment.”

“Why, what’re you going to do?”

“I’m going to go home and instruct my lawyers to investigate the parentage of your son.”

“What for?”

“Because you’ve been ripping off that poor bugger for fifteen years.”

“I have not, how dare you even suggest it?”

“I can suggest it because it’s true isn’t it? But he was too soft to challenge it. I don’t know who the father is, but it isn’t Maurice Ferguson.”

“Yes it is—I know it is.”

“I know it isn’t.”

“How can you know that? You weren’t there.”

“I didn’t need to be, you picked on the wrong drunken sailor.”

“What’ya mean?”

“Maurice is gay—he couldn’t get it up for you if you sprayed it with starch.”

“He’s not.”

“Also he’s no longer Maurice.”

“What, he’s changed his name?”

“Yes, to Maureen. I think your son is going to have to make other plans, don’t you? And I’m serious about challenging your paternity claims. I have a very good firm of lawyers.”

“You bitch,” she said quietly and stood up in quite an aggressive manner.

“Please sit down, Mrs Bromley, you’re not doing your blood pressure any good at all.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“I know exactly who I am, the Lady Catherine Cameron, but that wasn’t in doubt was it? I have to go now, I suggest you inform your son of your little subterfuge if you haven’t already, and I think a letter to the CSA or whoever acts as the go between in your maintenance arrangements explaining your mistake might be in order. I’ll be instructing my lawyers to do so anyway.” I stood up and walked out of the house, “Good day, Mrs Bromley.”

I left her sitting in her arm chair looking like she’d just stepped on a mine, and walked back to the car.

“Did you tell her?”

“I told her you were now called Maureen and where she could get off.”

“Blimey.”

“I could use a cup of something, let’s go and find a decent coffee shop.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1309

I sipped at the latte coffee while Maureen swallowed her espresso in two gulps then she shuddered. “It might keep me awake, ma’am.”

I smiled; she looked all in. I explained what had happened with Cilla and she looked a little pensive. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“She’s quite a nasty piece of work when she puts her mind to it.”

“Hopefully I’m up to anything she might choose to do.”

“You should outgun her, ma’am.”

“I’m not sure that’s entirely what this may be about.” I picked up my Blackberry and made a call. “James, hi, it’s Cathy, I have some work for you.” I gave him the details and rang off.

“D’you think he’ll find something?”

“Hopefully more than an overdue library book.” I finished my latte.

I called Jenny to collect the girls, she was happy to do so. We spent the rest of the day walking along the prom and then driving back to near Cilla’s house, I wanted to see her son.

Two boys came walking down the road, they were talking and fooling about like boys do, laughing and shoving each other. Then they stopped talking outside the house and one dropped his bag inside the gateway.

“That’s him,” I said, “The smaller of the two, he looks a little foreign—I have grave doubts about him being your son, Maureen, unless your whole body has changed recently. He looks Spanish or Greek, perhaps even something as exotic as Lebanese.”

“He does, doesn’t he?” She shook her head and said quietly, “And to think I took her word for it all these years—the bitch.”

I saw her clenching her fists and I tried to calm her down. “Hitting her will do no good, if you want to get even, we need to do it through the courts. But then if we screw her, it will affect the boy too, and he is a relative innocent in all this.”

“Yeah, I don’t want him to get hurt, he’s only a kid.”

As we were talking a third boy walked down the road and started chatting to the other two. Then a few feet and fists began to fly and in moments the three were scrapping, which was when it happened.

A white van man came down the road, presumably delivering something in his white Ford Transit, when two of the kids ran out into the road between two parked cars. He hit them both. One flew up into the air and landed on a car ten feet away, the other went under the wheels and was dragged up the road.

Maureen and I gasped in total shock. Maureen was about to get out to assist when I pulled her back—“Here, ambulance and police, now.” I shoved my mobile in her hand, then I jumped out of the car and rushed to assist as I could.

The boy who went under the wheels was very badly hurt and frothing blood at his mouth. He’d likely had crush injuries to his chest and was bleeding into his lungs. The other boy, Andrew, was still slumped over the car and was bleeding from his head and leg. He was still breathing.

The third boy who’d precipitated it all had scrammed. The van driver was standing by his van, shaking. People were coming from the houses to see what had happened, including Cilla Bromley.

She screamed when she saw her son, still slumped over the car. “Don’t touch him,” I shouted but it was too late, she ran straight towards him mewing like an angry cat. Suddenly, Maureen stepped in the way and just picked her up and carried her away.

I knelt down at the other boy, he was bleeding from his leg, one of which looked very smashed up, and he was bleeding from his groin as well. I pulled off my jacket and rolled it up under his head, some woman ran over with a blanket and we draped it over him.

I blasted the blue light into him, telling him to stay awake, that help was coming and he’d be okay.

He made a funny face and his whole body slumped, he stopped frothing and lay very still. How d’you do chest compressions with a chest that is so injured? I held my hands over his chest and imagined I was squeezing his heart between my hands. I kept doing it until the police and ambulance arrived simultaneously.

They quickly assessed Andrew Bromley and whisked him off in the first ambulance. The other boy had very little blood pressure—presumably the shock and multiple injuries.

I got out of the professional’s way and let the paramedics defib him and set up a drip. I kept massaging his heart in my mind. Maureen came out with Cilla and asked if we could run her to the hospital.

“Why wouldn’t you let me touch him?” she cried—“Oh it’s you, now I know why—you want him to die, don’t you?”

“On the contrary, Cilla, I want him to live. If you’d so much as touched him, you could have exacerbated any injuries he had.”

“I only wanted to hold him—is that too much to ask?” she almost screeched at me.

“Relax, Cilla, her ladyship knows what’s she’s talking about. She’s saved the other one.”

“What other one?”

“The lad your Andrew was talking to, he went under the wheels of the van.”

“Oh no,” she shrieked and became hysterical. I stopped the car and Maureen slapped her hard once across the face.

“What? You hit me.”

“Yes, shut up, you silly cow, we’re on our way there now—carry on like that and they’ll send you away or have you arrested.”

“I only want to see my boy.” I started up again and I saw her looking at Maureen. “Maurice, is that you?”

“I’m Maureen, Cilla. I always have been, only it took the help of my good friend and employer to give me the strength to go through with it.”

“What—you’ve had a sex-change operation?”

“Yes, Cilla. But without Lady Catherine’s help I’d have killed myself long ago. When I was at absolute rock bottom, she befriended me and gave me a job, which gave me back my self respect. Someone had a belief in me, and it hasn’t wavered one iota.”

“But why?” said Cilla quietly, “Why have your balls cut off?”

“Because they were like a tumour to me, albeit a benign one, except they secreted the poison called testosterone.”

“Is this it?” I turned into the Eastbourne General Hospital and Maureen took Cilla into the A&E department while I looked for a place to park. Bloody hell, three quid for two hours max—what a rip off. I found the required coins and dropped them in the machine and took the parking ticket and placed it on the dashboard of the Cayenne.

I found Cilla and Maureen sitting together in the corner. She was sobbing into a tissue. “What’s happened?”

“He’s gone down for X-rays, they think he’s cracked his sternum and has a possible ruptured spleen, they think he has a good chance,” Maureen reported and I nodded.

“I think the other one arrived while I was parking the car—hold on, the air ambulance is coming.” The noise grew louder as a yellow helicopter alighted in the car park and a stretcher was transferred to it from the ambulance. A doctor got in beside it and it took off again. The noise was deafening as the chopper took to the air and headed presumably to a trauma centre, perhaps even to London.

“The other one?” asked Maureen.

“I think so, he was in a bad way, his heart stopped at least twice, I had a hell of a job to get it going again.”

Cilla looked at me in astonishment.

“Is there someone you can call to be with you? We have to get back to Portsmouth,” I asked Cilla and she shook her head.

“I’ll stay,” said Maureen, “We’ll get a cab back to her place after we know he’s okay.”

“But you haven’t any transport.”

“I’ll find my way home somehow,” Maureen shrugged.

“Give me a ring when you’re ready to come home, I’ll get someone to collect you, even if it’s only the hotel driver.”

“We’ll be all right, won’t we, Cilla?”

She nodded her eyes full of tears, “You always were such a kind man,” she said as Maureen put her arm round the other woman’s shoulder and hugged her. “I’m sorry, I cheated you.” She then proceeded to whimper against Maureen’s ample chest.

I left, feeling very confused. Could we kick a woman when she was down? I doubted it, but I was very concerned for Maureen’s safety—not her physical well being but her emotional one. This must be extremely hard for her and yet she was so compassionate to someone she despised. I felt very humble as I drove out of Eastbourne and back towards the motorway.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1310

Once I was home, I explained the full story to Simon, Jenny and Tom who were all equally appalled at the way Cilla had exploited Maureen, and to some extent at Maureen’s gullibility.

“But to some extent, I’m just as naïve and I saw through it immediately,” I grumbled.

“Because you think like a woman. You were hardly a man long enough to become one,” suggested Simon and Tom agreed.

I disagreed, primarily with the latter part of his statement. In my opinion, I would have been just as female if I hadn’t altered my body, I’d have perhaps got better at hiding it, though I’d have been so unhappy—I might have topped myself by now.

Jenny understood what I was saying but the two men didn’t seem to.

I asked Jenny if she still wanted to rent the house, and she said she did but wouldn’t need it for a while longer as their current landlord had given them a stay of execution. I told her to let me know when she was ready.

Simon offered to go and get Maureen, but I wanted to find out a bit more about this woman, Cilla. So I said I wanted to go with him if Tom and Jenny were happy to put the girls to bed. They said they were, so after feeding Catherine, I was ready to go and phoned Maureen.

“Oh, it’s okay, ma’am, I’ll be staying over until tomorrow. Andrew’s ’ad ’is spleen removed so I thought I’d stay to see ’ow ’e was in the mornin’.”

“You just be careful, you know what happened the last time you supposedly spent a night with that one.”

“Aye, I’m beginning to understand ’ow Joseph felt.”

“Joseph? Who’s he?”

“Married the Virgin Mary.”

I was tempted to ask who she was, but even Maureen would have guessed I was winding her up.

“Oh that one, not Joseph of Arith-metic.”

“Yes, very good, I can see where Trish gets it from.”

I was very much hoist by my own petard, and cut my losses. She promised to call tomorrow morning.

So instead of rushing about the South Coast, I got to spend a quiet night in with my children who asked me to read to them after they finished their homework. Simon had paid for pizza, so I was quite happy to make myself cheese on toast. As I ate it, I told Simon, it was a pizza with a bread base. He laughed saying it was the wrong cheese.

“Whit, nae tuna, are ye ill, lassie?” Daddy asked coming into the kitchen.

“Can you believe I’ve run out?”

He looked at me in disbelief, shook his head and went off to his study; Simon roared with laughter. “You two ought to be on the stage as a double act.”

Once we got the kids to bed, I watched Simon, Jenny and Julie playing cards. I declined the offer, not being much of a card player. It was also interesting to watch the three of them and the ruthlessness they all displayed in trying to win. I only got like that when on a bicycle, like someone else we all know and love.

Simon got quite grumpy when he lost out to Julie, who reminded me of Jodie Foster in the film of Maverick, which I’d seen a while back on telly. I was too lazy to turn it off and ended up watching it and enjoying it.

In bed, I was quite glad that Simon wasn’t feeling amorous as I don’t think I’d have had patience. We chatted for a while, him pretending to be reading a book and me, I was supposedly too tired to do anything but lie there and doze.

“I wonder how Maureen’s getting on,” I mused out loud.

“If she gets pregnant will she be able to claim child support from Cilla?” joked Simon.

“Wouldn’t think she’d need to, the tabloids would be queuing up to buy the story,” I countered. “But it would have a nice sort of natural justice about it, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh I think it’s a wonderful thought,” he chuckled to himself and I felt the bed quivering. He always finds his own jokes funnier than anyone else does. I was tempted to tell him the one I’d heard on the radio the other day.

A man goes to the doctor and says he’s afraid of lapels. The doctor told him he had cholera. It was mildly amusing but he’d have nevertheless been laughing two hours later—he’s a real schoolboy when it comes to humour. Mention poo or farts and he doesn’t hear the rest of the joke, he’s collapsed laughing.

I suddenly noticed the mattress had stopped doing its imitation of an earthquake and when I looked, he was fast asleep with the book balanced on his lap. He was still sitting up but was clearly asleep. I got out of bed walked round and took the book off him and put it on his bedside table. Then I told him to lie down and he did so like one of the kids would. I couldn’t resist it, I kissed him on the cheek and said, “Mummy says goodnight, sweetie-pie.” He just smiled.

I got back into bed and tormented myself for the next half an hour as to whether he was really asleep or taking the proverbial. In the end, I decided I could live with the uncertainty and went to sleep quite quickly.

The next day was Thursday and the day after that was Trish’s birthday. I needed to get in some stuff for the feeding of the five thousand, so as soon as I dropped the girls off to school, I went off to Tesco with a great long list of party stuff.

I escaped there about an hour and a half later and significantly lighter of purse. I was trying to remember how many of her class were coming and did I have enough to make up the goody-bags? At least they were all girls, so it was just a question of girl things, some sweeties, a balloon or two, some joke jewellery, some hand cream and lip balm, a pair of panties with Party Princess written on it in a horrible pink colour and a pair of white ankle socks and some coloured pens or pencils.

The forecast was quite good and Simon agreed to come home and do some party games in the garden while Jenny and I laid out the feast—sandwiches, sausages on sticks and jelly and blancmange that sort of stuff. I probably had enough jelly to agglutinate the river Thames.

It was when I put the bags in the car that Maureen phoned. She asked me what I was doing and I told her.

“Crikey, I forgot all about Trish’s birthday.”

“That’s hardly surprising given what’s happened recently.”

“But I ’ave to buy ’er somethin’.”

“When d’you need me to come and get you?”

“I’ve got a train ticket, so you don’t need to.”

“Oh, all right; how is young Andrew?”

“Not very well, but they think ’e’ll be okay in a day or two—just the shock of the impact.”

“He did rather catch most of the impact, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Have you heard anything about the other boy?”

“’E’s at Stoke Mandeville—they think ’e could lose one leg and may never walk again—’is back was injured.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“What about the driver? He wasn’t exactly speeding was he?”

“I told the police that—it was an accident, pure and simple—the boys ran out and bang.”

“In the twinkling of an eye.”

“I wish I was as poetic as you are, ma’am.”

“Meee? Poetic?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Yeah, okay—when I was about ten or eleven, we had to write a poem about a pet. I wrote one about my cat who was called Inky, because she was black.”

I’d been unable to forget this stupid verse, so I let rip with my recitation skills.

“Inky is my lovely, black cat,
She sits on chair not on the mat.
She likes to eat meat and sometimes it’s fish
We give her to eat in her little pink dish.”

“Oh very good, ma’am, I can see the talent ’asn’t left you. Am I invited to the party tomorrow?”

“Of course you are, Maureen, I know Trish would love to see you.”

“If I get ’ome in time, I’ll call by probably after six.”

“That’d be fine. Oh, how is Cilla coping?”

“She calmed down eventually last night. So she’s more tired than anything.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll see you tomorrow evening if you can make it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1311

I was up early the next morning and quickly showered and dressed, to be down before Trish was up. I placed her new bike, a reasonable hardtail MTB in the lounge along with all the other presents we’d been hiding.

Then I went to wake them—all of them, the girls, Danny, check the two wains, and agitate Julie, who doesn’t like going to bed or getting up—typical teenager. I supervised the girls showering and helped do their hair, although even that they are managing better each month for themselves or each other. My skills are limited, but Julie does occasionally show them something new.

As it was a school day, it was either a ponytail or plaits; Trish opted for plaits and nearly managed to do her own. I pretended I’d forgotten it was her birthday, and ignored her fishing for things as I tied the ribbons on the end of the plaits to match her school uniform.

Eventually she said, “Mummy, have you forgotten it’s my birthday?”

“No, that’s tomorrow, it’s Thursday today.”

“That was yesterday,” she said her hands on her hips.

“I’m sure I know what day it is, so c’mon down for breakfast.” I chased them all downstairs and as she passed the front door, she spotted all the cards I’d placed on the mat—the postman rarely comes before I take them to school.

“Look at all my cards,” she said, waving them in my face, “it is my birthday, silly Mummy.”

“Yes, they’ve come early, now come on, eat your breakfast or I’ll cancel your party tomorrow.”

“It’s today,” she said loudly and stamped off into the kitchen, whereupon she shrieked with delight, nearly shattering my eardrums and the kitchen window.

“You did remember,” she hugged me round the waist and was crying.

“Of course I did,” I put my hand on her shoulder.

“I began to think you’d forgotten,” she said sniffing.

“How could I? You’ve spent half your life reminding me for the past three weeks.”

“Oh yes,” she sniggered, wiping her nose in my jeans—lovely child.

“C’mon eat your breakfast and then you can open your cards and presents.” She nodded, wiped her eyes and nose on the back of her hand and went into the kitchen. We had a verse of Happy Birthday, sung with more enthusiasm than talent by the Cameron quintet, which frightened Catherine, so I had to calm her down.

Jenny arrived and helped with sorting out breakfast and fifteen minutes later, Trish opened her cards, received one each from the other children, a kiss from Simon who’d just come down and a hug and a kiss from me.

Then the presents—Simon took her into the lounge and she was delighted with her new bike. She gave her old one to Puddin’, who was still too small to ride it, but I’d hang it up in the garage for when she could.

Some of her presents were related to the new bike: Danny gave her a puncture repair outfit, Julie gave her a new helmet, Billie gave her a mirror for her handlebars, Livvie gave her a padlock and chain and Mima a front light and Puddin’ gave her a rear light. Finally Catherine gave her a shiny new bell, which I promised to fit for her.

She had loads of other things as well, clothes and CDs, DVDs, makeup and toiletries, she did very well out of everyone, and she didn’t know it yet but Henry and Monica were coming to the party.

Somehow I got them all to school on time. Then I finished my shopping for the party and a few things we needed for the fridge or cupboard. By the time I returned to the house, Jenny had vacuumed through and dusted. We put up Trish’s birthday cards on the fireplace in the dining room and I shifted the bike back to the garage.

I made up the goody-bags while Jenny finished cleaning and we had a cuppa and a biscuit, then we did the laundry—we changed half the beds and washed the linen. An early lunch—I did us tuna jacket spuds with salad. I tidied the kitchen and did the dishes while Jenny reloaded the washing machine and took the clean stuff out to dry on the line—it was a cool but sunny day and looked like good drying weather.

Then, it was jelly and blancmange time which I made and shoved in the fridge to set, next, I did tiny sandwiches with: egg and cress; cheese; tuna and finally, some corned beef. I cooked the sausages and we had fun spearing them on cocktail sticks.

Jenny popped the mini sausage rolls in the oven as I went to get the girls from school and she also began laying up the large dining table.

The three of them were like bottles of pop and I had to speak sharply to them to sit quietly in the back of the car. In an hour’s time all hell would be let loose as a dozen or more six and seven year olds ran amok in an ancient farmhouse.

The girls all rushed up to change—jeans and tops, and Trish wanted to ride her bike. It was possibly mean of me but I told her she had to help me do things for the party. She grumbled but helped put the food out.

The other girls helped too and Danny, for whom I’d made some tuna sandwiches, took his private feast and went upstairs to play on his laptop.

Tom arrived just before the hordes were due, then the door bell seemed to ring continuously for the next half hour as the invasion began. I wondered why I never learn and tell the kids no more parties, but then I didn’t have many as a kid and it’s nice to see Trish totally integrated as a girl.

Stephanie called by and brought presents for all the girls and book for Danny on the history of the FA Cup. She helped supervise the games with Simon, who got home just before they were due to start.

During the height of the games in the garden, Maureen arrived with a present and soon after, Henry and Monica came, absolutely laden with presents for everyone. I got a new watch, then discovered everyone had one too. Monica had smuggled them back through customs.

Trish gave her grandparents a big hug and thanked them for coming. I nodded at Tom, and she rushed over to him and hugged him too. He gave her a lovely silver bracelet.

As there were plenty of adults to supervise the screaming horde, I retired exhausted to the kitchen where Maureen told me what had happened in Eastbourne as we drank a quick cuppa.

“I was a little worried about you being such a softie with that rather streetwise woman.”

“I was perfectly safe, ma’am. She’s moving up to Newcastle in a couple o’months and Andrew’s going with her. She’s got a job in Tesco up there, they’ve transferred ’er from Eastbourne or will do.”

“What about getting your money back?”

“I’ve told ’er she can keep it. Part of me would ’ave liked to ’ave ’ad a kid, but it isn’t to be.”

“There’s half a dozen out there you can borrow anytime you like,” I joked.

“Maybe,” she said, “or I can come over and play with ’em and go home when I’ve ’ad enough.”

“Now why didn’t I think of that?” I joked.

“Because you needed to be a mother and there were children out there who needed motherin’.”

“You could be right there, girl. So is that it for Eastbourne?”

“Not quite, I told Cilla and Andrew that they were welcome to come and visit me anytime they liked if it got too cold up north.”

I stroked her face and pecked her on the cheek, “You’re a real softie, Maureen, but please never change.”

“An’ you’re the nicest employer in the world, ma’am, so don’t you ever change will you?”

“We’ll have to see about that, if it gets out I’ll be inundated with CVs and begging letters…” I grumbled and she just laughed before a group of thirsty girls came swarming into my kitchen demanding drinks.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1312

The rest of the party went as it was supposed to and by half past seven, all the little darlings had been collected by their parents and once again I could breathe a sigh of relief—that no more had been dumped on me.

Trish had been disappointed with Maureen’s present—a pair of socks—until she looked inside and saw a new ten pound note folded there; that made them, very nice socks.

I pointed out to her that just because it was her birthday, she needn’t think everyone had to give her something, or I’d give her a smacked bottom and send her to bed. She knew I wouldn’t hit her but the threat of bed was enough for her behave and she apologised.

It was getting dark, so I wouldn’t let her out on her bike, she’d have to wait until the morning, which unleashed another tantrum so I did send her to bed. She had to make do with reading a book until the others went up.

It was quite a relief to get to bed myself that night. I thanked Simon for his part in organising the party games and he told me he was pleased it had stayed dry—then they could run about in the garden and work off some high spirits.

I confided to him that I was a little worried about Billie. Julie had been promised reassignment surgery after she was eighteen, which meant in a year’s time. Trish had been done—albeit through serendipitous causes, and she, Billie felt unloved and so on.

I could see her point, she was eleven and had another seven years to wait before she’d be eligible—a lifetime to a child. I did point out that she’d probably start hormones next year. All I got back was that there were girls in her class who had booblets already.

It’s very difficult dealing with any sort of neurotic urge, and transgender ones are probably as bad as any. However, scientists seem intent on finding some organic cause for it, the latest I read was about white matter being different in gender variant people to normals. I suspect this is likely to be insignificant in the greater scheme of things, and wonder why they even bother researching it—they’re not going to cure it, other than by allowing the individual to live in the desired role; with or without surgery.

I used to think the difference between transvestites and transsexuals was that transvestites wanted to keep their wedding tackle, but I discovered that it wasn’t so black and white, and not all transsexuals wanted to lose theirs, either.

In my simplistic thinking, I was a female with no boobs and an outie. So I resolved to change that and did. Thus, in my opinion, I’m a non-menstruating female, which is how the law sees me, thanks to the Gender Recognition Act of 2004. So how do these others, the she-males, see themselves—those who don’t want an innie? I’m not counting those who can’t have surgery for whatever reason, just those who don’t want it.

It isn’t some sort of superiority thing either—I’m more female than you because I’ve got a twat—na-na-da-na-na. I suppose it’s all a matter of continua or spectra, which was when I think I fell asleep, thinking that Billie thought she was less a girl than Trish.

I woke up still puzzling over this business of continua, wondering if life would have been easier if I’d been content to dress up in women’s clothes every now and again. Then I realised it wouldn’t have been. I was female, and expressing that as my identity and role was the only way I was going to be satisfied. That I was doing it so completely was such wonderful luck. I glanced across at Simon, who was still in the land of nod. Nothing much seemed to keep him awake, anything seemed to play on my mind. I looked at the clock it wasn’t quite six, but it was light. I wondered why I’d woken then I thought I heard something outside.

I was out of bed and peering out the window in a flash—Trish was dressed and getting her bike out of the garage. I threw on some clothes keeping an eye on what she was doing. She rode up and down the drive for a few minutes, but I knew that wouldn’t satisfy her for long and sure enough she went down the drive and turned onto the cycle path outside. I grabbed my cycling shoes and galloped down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to put them on before clonking across the drive and pulling the Specialized out and jumping on it.

It was colder than I’d realised and I regretted not grabbing a jacket. I sped off in the direction she’d taken and within a couple of minutes I had her in my sights and I accelerated. A combination of fear and anger seemed to spark the adrenalin and I flew along touching thirty miles an hour at one point, then I slowed as I drew level.

“And where d’you think you’re going?” I asked my daughter.

“Oh hello, Mummy—isn’t this fun?”

“And why didn’t you come and ask if you could go out on your bike?”

“You were asleep.”

“How d’you know?”

“I looked in and both you and Daddy were asleep.”

“Don’t you see how dangerous this could be?” I asked as we pedalled along together.

“I shouldn’t get knocked off on a cycle path—should I?”

“No, but you could fall off and hurt yourself.”

“I’ve got my mobile phone with me, Mummy,” replied the smart-arse.

“What if some nasty person had appeared?”

“I’d have ridden off like a rocket.”

“And if they’d been on a bike as well?”

“I’d have pushed them off and run for it.”

“Trish that is nonsense and you know it, I caught you up with no bother at all. If I was a nasty person I could have abducted you or killed you or all sorts of things.”

“I let you catch me up, Mummy, I saw you in my mirror.”

“You couldn’t stop me catching you up, I can ride much faster than you—where are you going?” She suddenly accelerated and rode off the cycle path and down an animal track into some bushes.

I stopped, with narrow tyres on wheels which are probably worth at least a couple of hundred if not more, I stopped and called after her. She didn’t answer. Thankfully, the ground was pretty hard and dry and I tried to follow the bike tracks as I walked as briskly as I could after her.

She’d effectively ridden into a small patch of scrub which gave rise to woodland. The path split into three and each was too hard to register tyre tracks, my heart sank.

“TRISH,” I shouted but apart from the noises of the woodland, a rustling of trees and a few bird songs, there was only the traffic on the road behind me and that was increasing.

“TRISH,” I called again, “TRISH, WHERE ARE YOU? You silly little cow.” I was filled with a mixture of fear and anger again. Logic tended to suggest she was alive and well and enjoying giving me the run-around like the naughty imp she was.

At the same time part of me had every sort of catastrophe that could befall her happening in my mind, from being kidnapped by paedophiles to cycling into a ditch or hitting a low branch. I’ve done both the latter and it bloody well hurts.

I’d gone from worried to frantic in a matter of about three minutes. “TRISH,” I yelled so loudly, they probably heard it on the Isle of Wight. No answer came back.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1313

Worried almost to the point of sickness, I reached for my Blackberry and realised I’d come out in such a rush, I’d left it behind on the bedside table. My heart sank.

I looked at the three tracks in front of me—she could have taken any of them. Surely, she couldn’t know this woodland, could she? If so how? There was the odd bit of dog poo about, perhaps Tom walks Kiki down this way occasionally.

The trees were just starting to burst into life, with buds splitting open to reveal the greenery inside. The grass looked so green as well, which considering how little rain we’d had, surprised me. I was protected somewhat from the wind, but there was a definite chill in the air from the lack of sunshine. I shivered but refused to admit it was because the place felt creepy.

Let’s face it, I’ve spent hundreds of hours in woodland at all times of day and night and have rarely felt spooked before, so I wasn’t going to let my imagination get to me today.

I looked around; the bird song had fallen silent. Okay, this happens when there’s a predator about, especially a sparrow hawk or peregrine. But the sudden quietness did little to bolster my anxiety. I felt a need to fight back.

“If anything has happened to my daughter in these woods, I’ll be back with a chainsaw and clear fell everything here.” The sky seemed to darken and I shrugged—what an ass I was making of myself, to a couple of wood mice and the odd weasel.

I remembered my pursuit, where was Trish and how could I find her? The three paths seemed just as unhelpful as before—which one? I closed my eyes and was almost doing a ‘one potato, two potato…’ when I saw a blue light in my mind’s eye, it led straight ahead. Caring less about my wheels and tyres than the time lag in catching up with Trish, I mounted the bike and began to pedal along the track.

It continued to feel as if every tree hid a pair of eyes who were staring at me with malice, something I’d never experienced before, and the birdsong still stayed silent—that was weird, really weird.

I followed the path which widened out into a glade convinced I was on Trish’s path, although until then I couldn’t risk closing my eyes or I’d have crashed into a tree or fallen over roots. The blue light led me ahead.

The sky darkened some more and suddenly I was aware of the pattering of raindrops—rather large raindrops, and a rumble of thunder rolled overhead, then a flash of lightning—just what I needed. In minutes the path became a morass and I felt the bike slip beneath me and before I could slip a foot clear I was down in the mud feeling its coldness on my legs and squishing up my back.

My anxiety was now one of extreme anger. If Trish was before me now, I wouldn’t smack her bottom, I’d knock her head clean off her little shoulders. I wriggled free of the bike and eventually managed to stand up, which was easier said than done. I was covered in mud and so was the bike. I was surprised there wasn’t steam rising off me—I felt so angry.

I picked up the bike and nearly fell again, before making my way on the soggy grass, walking I hoped somewhere towards the direction of home. Some ten minutes later I recognised where I was, five minute’s walk from home and was rarely more glad to see it.

Back in the yard, I hosed the bike down and then did the same to myself, washing some of the mud off my clothing. I was soaked anyway and I was also very cold. I put the bike into the garage and noticed Trish’s bike back on the stand—the little minx was home, so she did know the way. I felt so angry that if I saw her now, she’d be in real danger from me—I needed to calm down and then kill her—it would be more enjoyable.

I locked the garage and took the key back into the house and placed it where little hands wouldn’t be able to reach it. Then after dumping my shoes and socks in the utility room, I padded barefoot up to my bedroom.

As I walked into the bedroom, Simon snorted and was about to say something when my look cut him dead. I pushed past him into the en suite and slammed the door shut. After disrobing I ran the shower and stepped into it. Once I’d got over the shock of what felt like boiling water on my icy cold skin, I actually began to enjoy its soothing properties.

It took me a good fifteen minutes to rid myself of the mud and associated muck. To my annoyance, I discovered I’d skinned the one knee and hand and had a hole in my tights—they were good ones too. My jacket had a couple of minor tears and a small hole at the elbow, which explained the bruise I had emerging on the same elbow.

I swilled the clothes under the shower and wasn’t surprised at how much mud there had been on them despite the hosing down in the yard. I left them soaking in the bath.

I dried myself and pulled my still damp hair into a ponytail, then re-entered the bedroom and pulled on some panties and a bra. Simon was sitting on the bed.

“Okay, what happened?”

“I saw Trish go off on her bike so I dressed and went off after her. I caught up with her and tried to explain what risk she was running.”

“And, don’t tell me you got attacked by a mud skipper?” he laughed.

“Don’t be so stupid, they only live in Africa.”

“Funny, you bore an uncanny resemblance to one,” he laughed again and I burst into tears.

“It’s not funny,” I sobbed and a few moments I felt him take me in his arms.

“So how come she came home dry and you came home looking like a half-drowned earthworm?”

I wiped my nose on my hand and took a deep breath, “I was trying to reason with her about some of the strange people there might be about if she was on her own and she had an answer for all of it.”

“That’s our Trish, little madam. So then what?”

“She went off road and down into a patch of woodland. Of course the paths are so dry I couldn’t find any trail to follow and just went on guesswork, then the heavens opened and I came off on the muddy path. I had to walk home.”

“Oh dear, have you seen her yet?”

“No, and I don’t want to until I’ve had something to eat and cup of tea—then I shall talk rationally with her.”

“Oh good,” he smiled at me.

“Then I’m going to rip her liver out and eat it.”

“Cathy, calm down—just listen to yourself.”

I burst into tears again. He hugged me some more and then seemed to assert himself.

“I’ll deal with this, you, stay here and don’t move—and I mean it, missus.”

I sat on the bed feeling upset a little later I heard raised voices—or to be more accurate I heard one raised voice. Little footsteps ran up the stairs and I heard a door slam.

Minutes after that, he reappeared with a tray, bearing: two cups, a pot of tea and a plateful of toast, butter and marmalade and some knives. He then proceeded to pour the tea and eat most of the toast.

Typical Simon, he can buy me a box of his favourite sweets or chocs and then help me eat most of them.

“What happened downstairs?” I asked him.

“I told her off, and sent her to her room where she has to stay until she’s twenty-one.”

“So she got off lightly then?”

“I hadn’t finished.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“She has to wear sack cloth and ashes and self-flagellate twice a day with a cat-o’-nine-tails while standing on one leg and singing the Marseillaise.”

“What?” I gasped, spitting tea all over him.

“Thanks, I really wanted my toast pre-dunked,” he sighed, dropping the rather wet slice of charred bread onto the tray.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1314

1314 Battle of Bannockburn (one for the Scots in the readership, of which I’m a half member).

~~~~~

“I’m going to confiscate her bike,” I said and Simon nodded.

“Didn’t you ever ride off on your own?”

“Of course, but I don’t remember doing it at age seven.”

“I’ll bet you did—you’re every bit as wilful as your daughter—and she did prove her point, that she could get away if she needed to.”

“The whole point was she should have asked before she went off on her own.”

“So make it a condition of her riding her bike.”

“What about punishment?”

“What about it? I thought the aim of punishment was to change behaviour?”

“That’s deep for you, Si.”

“Just because I’m not actually counting money every minute of the day doesn’t mean I’m in hibernation mode like one your dormice. Believe it or not, we bankers are sentient beings—it’s only consciences we lack. I can be philosophical, what I can’t be is guilty.”

“So Catholic bankers must have a real problem then?”

“Why?”

“Never mind, Si, you’re obviously not as philosophical as you thought.”

“Oh the guilt stuff—Cathy, you accuse me of being stereotypical, take the mote out of your own eye.”
“Oh my goodness, biblical quotations too, you have hidden depths, Lord Cameron.”

“Probably, but I’d rather explore yours, so how about taking all your clothes off…?”

“Just when I thought—you prove to be as shallow as ever.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I thought you had some depth—but it appears it’s only in shallowness.”

“Cathy, you take everything too seriously.”

“Or could it be that you take everything too flippantly?”

“Yeah it could be, but at least I’m prepared to admit it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh forget it, I’m going downstairs.” He stalked out of the bedroom and leaving the door open I heard him continue down the stairs.

From the distance I could hear a funny mewing sound and when I approached it realised it came from the girl’s bedroom. I stood outside and listened—yes, it was definitely from inside. I turned the handle of the door and went inside.

Lying on the bed, still in her jeans and top and her trainers lay Trish, face in the pillow making various snivelling, sobbing and crying noises. She was unaware I was there. I watched her for a moment, she was still unaware of my presence.

“What are we going to do with you, Patricia Watts?”

She started, then turning round sobbed, “I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“I should think so. You were very silly and apart from worrying me to death, you caused me to fall off my bike in trying to follow you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“So how should I punish you?” I threw the ball into her court just to see how she’d deal with it.

“I don’t know, Mummy.”

“Okay, we’ll discuss that in a minute; first, I want to set some rules—you don’t ride the bike outside the drive without asking Daddy, Gramps, Jenny or myself.”

“What about Auntie Stella?”

“Her as well when she’s home again. If we say you can’t—you have to accept that and not sneak off by yourself. Because if you do—I shall confiscate the bike for a long time, or may even sell it.”

“You can’t, Mummy, that’s my bike.”

“I can and will if the mood takes me, so don’t push your luck, missy. If you want to go for a ride, I’d prefer there were two or three of you together and better still an adult. If I don’t have anything stopping me, I may well come with you—but not if you pull another stunt like this morning—that was so silly, that path could have led anywhere.”

“I knew where it went, Gramps an’ me have walked Kiki there loads of times.”

“Did you get caught in the thunderstorm?”

“No, Mummy, I was home by then.”

“Right, for punishment, I’m going to take your bike and your computer off you for the rest of the weekend.”

“But, Mummy…”

“No buts, if you like I could take them for longer?”

“No, Mummy—I’m sorry.”

“Good because if I catch you breaking your curfew—you will really be in trouble and I’ll withhold your bike and computer indefinitely. D’you understand?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“D’you have any homework to do?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Does it need the computer?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“What is it?”

“History, Mummy.”

“Right, go and do that right away. As soon as you’ve finished, unplug your computer and put it in my bedroom, and it’s to stay there until you come home from school on Monday. Got it?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Trish?”

“Yes, Mummy?”

“Have you had any breakfast?”

“No, Mummy.”

“Go and make yourself some cereal and eat it, then do your homework.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

“Go and do it.” She jumped off the bed and ran downstairs.

I suddenly realised that I had to take her to see Sam on Monday, and I had still to call Stephanie about Billie—I’d forgotten during the party and then the aftermath of this morning’s trauma.

I picked up my Blackberry in the bedroom and rang Stephanie, shutting the bedroom door. To my astonishment she picked it up. I told her of this morning’s shenanigans and she laughed.

“You knew she was wilful, Cathy, you shouldn’t have provoked her.”

“I didn’t, I was just trying to point out the risks she was running.”

“She saw it as a challenge and demonstrated what she might do if danger was to occur.”

“Yes, but someone on a mountain bike might ride her down and in the woodland, especially when it’s in full leaf, no one would see anything.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I think you need to work with her not challenge her on these issues—it just seems to fire her up.”

I told her what I’d decided on as ground rules, which she okayed, just as well because I wasn’t going to change them. Then the question I was dreading asking.

“One last thing, Steph—um—could Trish have Asperger’s?”

“Why d’you ask?”

“I just wondered because she sometimes seems on a different planet and doesn’t always interact emotionally with everyone else.”

“Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Interact emotionally with everyone else?”

“I don’t know, some of the time and with some of the people.”

“Do you have Asperger’s syndrome?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Neither does Trish, as far as I know, but I’ll keep it in mind the next time I see her, which is next week—least according to my diary it is—next Saturday.”

“When are you due to see Billie?”

“Same time—why? She hasn’t got Asperger’s, too?”

“No,” I winced at her rebuff, “I’m a little worried about her because I think she’s thinking she’s less of a girl than Trish and Julie and of course Livvie and Meems and the two babies.”

“Technically, I suppose she is, but you’re worried are you?”

“Yes, she doesn’t have the strength of ego of Trish or even Julie.”

“And you think she’s depressed?”

“Yes.”

“What’s for dinner tomorrow?”

“I have a whole salmon to cook.”

“With watercress sauce?”

“That could be arranged—why, do you fancy your share?”

“Well, if I’ve got to do weekend domiciliary visits, it had better be worth my while, hadn’t it?”

“Yes, I can see that—so do I lay an extra place?”

“Okay you’ve convinced me. What time?”

“Eat at one, d’you want to see Billie before or after?”

“Before, see you about noon tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Steph.”

“That salmon had better be worth it.”

“Oh it will, Dr Cauldwell, it will.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1315

Stephanie was talking with Billie while Trish and I prepared the lunch. The salmon was baked in butter in the slow oven of the Aga. Trish scrubbed the new potatoes and baby carrots while I turned a large bunch of watercress into a creamy greenish coloured sauce. The final elements were frozen garden peas and some mange tout.

The potatoes and carrots were boiled together, and a bit later we boiled the peas and mange tout. Dessert was an apple pie I’d made before she came and which was staying warm in the now turned off oven. The cop out was that it was served with cream rather than me making custard.

The fact that the clocks had gone forward to British Summer Time didn’t help at all, if anything it hindered because I was still up just after seven, which yesterday, would have been six o’clock. So I was stirring the sauce and yawning while I did it.

Trish was busy laying the table in the dining room with the best cutlery. Ever since we’d talked through what had happened and I’d made her see my point of view, she had been determined to collect as many Brownie points as she could, and in some ways it was rather nice doing mother-daughter stuff.

Meems and Livvie were out with Jenny, who’d taken the two little ones out in the pram. Pud would walk for a short distance but would need to be carried or shoved on the pram seat once she got tired. As Jenny was effectively taking everyone but Danny, who was out gardening with Tom—they seemed to be really forging a relationship; and Tom was teaching him all sorts of horticultural tips, which Danny really seemed to enjoy.

They’d put in potatoes and onion sets, beans and even some rows of peas; leeks and cabbage were under glass, but showing in the seed trays, and today, at my request they were planting flowers—I’d asked them for some dahlias, which I love because the more you cut them, the more they flower and I do like some flowers in the house.

When I’d taken the two boys their mid-morning coffee, Tom had asked why Trish wasn’t out on her bike. I’d told him about her trick and he described it as ‘Dead Man’s Wood,’ apparently some bloke had hanged himself near the clearing over unrequited love—his girlfriend had married for money instead of love—people do. It had happened about fifty or sixty years ago and women were then less able to be financially independent—so marrying for security is perfectly understandable and might even have some genetic involvement, insofar as women often choose a partner who is going to be best for their children—so they may fall in love with the dashing Don Juan, but they marry Mr Reliable.

I must read more Reader’s Digest to top up my informal psychology training. I smirked at the thought, it’s like the potted stuff which turns up on the Internet or women’s magazines—by the time sub-editors have murdered it, it has little resemblance to the original paper—and papers like the Daily Wail tend to distort facts in playing to the gallery of the sort of reader it has. I suppose all papers do it in reality, but the tabloids seem far more overt in their bias.

My musings about tabloid journalism were disturbed by Stephanie and Billie emerging from Tom’s study. They were both smiling, so hopefully everything was well. I expected Stephanie to tell me if it wasn’t.

“Hmm, that smells good,” said Stephanie walking towards the kitchen.

“I hope it tastes good, too,” I responded.

“You’re wasted as a scientist, you should be opening a high class eatery for waifs and strays.”

“I thought I’d already done that,” I retorted, “including the odd professional misfit as well.”

“Oi, watch it, girly or I’ll ’ave you sectioned.”

“The rest would be nice.”

“In a mental unit—I doubt you’d get much rest, besides if you’re not crazy going in, stay a few days and you soon will be.” She made a funny face and I snorted with laughter.

Billie went outside to tell the others to come and wash their hands. In her absence I asked Stephanie if everything was all right with her.

“She’s rather low self-esteem, feels a bit of a freak because Trish has fast tracked on getting her surgery, and of course Julie has been on hormones for ages.”

“Anything I can do?”

“Yeah, get this prescription tomorrow.”

I glanced at it, “You’re giving her oestrogen?”

“It’s only a low dosage one and it may help to give her some equilibrium, not to mention self esteem, especially if she thinks her body is changing.”

“Will it?”

“A little, she has issues about the abuse she suffered years ago. I’ll see her every week for a few and see where that takes us.”

“When is Trish likely to need hormones given she’s agonadal?”

“Sometime fairly soon, but it’s not urgent. A year or two type of timescale.”

“As long as that?”

“She is only seven, Cathy, or are you wishing her to be a full grown Lolita by the age of nine?”

“Like I said, she is agonadal, and presumably secreting very few sex hormones of either sort.”

“If you’re worried give her some Burgen bread or plant sterols—you can get them in the health food place.”

“What, without your direct control?”

“Yes, that’s fine—if I start prescribing we’ll have to stop them anyway, these are only very weakly oestrogenic compounds and if we start doing proper hormones they can interfere, so we stop any other source if on estradiol or whatever.”

“Okay, thanks Stephanie, dinner will be a few minutes.”

“I’ll wait in the lounge—oh let me see the new rooms.” I pointed her towards them and she went off exploring.

I carefully cut the salmon and put it on the plates, then arranged the potatoes and vegetables in what I thought was quite an artistic design—for me at any rate. The others came in and after washing dirty paws took their seats at the dining table and Trish and I started serving up, a ladle of watercress sauce over the salmon as we took out the plates.

Judging by the lack of conversation, it went down well and it was only at the end of the meal that people started talking again. Trish collected the plates, which Julie brought out—“That was totally delish, Mummy,” she said as she dumped the plates in the sink.

I got her to carry the cream back in with her as I brought the apple pie from the oven. Stephanie groaned about putting on weight, but no one forced her to have cream on her pie. When I pointed this out to her, she explained that she had everything except willpower.

Some days, I think I know the feeling. I went to make teas and coffees and she followed me out to the kitchen.

“That was a bloody good meal, Cathy, well worth coming for.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it—makes a change from a roast.”

“Absolutely,” she agreed, “If I’d been home, I’d have popped out to the local pub and had roast chicken I expect.”

“Oh well, you had baked fish instead.”

“Yeah, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Want me to see Trish, while I’m here?”

“If you don’t mind—that would be a real help.”

“Okay, if Tom doesn’t want to snooze in his study?”

“No, he’s going back out to finish planting flowers.”

“What, for you?”

“Yes, is it that obvious?”

She nodded and called Trish as she went back to the study.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1316

It transpired that Trish thought I had a downer on her, but when she explained the various ways she’d transgressed and I’d punished her, Stephanie told her that she wished I’d been her mummy, because her mother was a lot tougher than I’d been. She also asked Trish what punishments were like in the children’s home and she admitted they were worse. Finally, she told her that my concerns arose from love and that all of the children were very much loved by Simon, Tom and I, as well as Stella, Henry and Monica. Trish admitted she knew this.

Stephanie told her that she was starting Billie on hormones and that in a couple of years she would look at perhaps putting her on them too. Of course Trish grumbled but Steph told her the facts of life and that she’d already had surgery ten years too early, so not to push her luck. Stephanie informed her that if Trish spoke nicely to her mummy, that aforesaid mummy might be persuaded to buy some hormone like substances which would help her. At this Trish immediately cheered up and agreed to behave. When Stephanie told me this, I knew I had a nice form of control for Trish—toe the line or you won’t get your plant sterol capsule.

The next day, a Monday, I was implored to go and get the various things Stephanie had either prescribed—for Billie—or suggested for Trish. They couldn’t get out of the car quickly enough to send me on my way to the town centre, Livvie and Meems thought it was comical but then they have a readymade supply of oestrogens which will kick in at the appropriate time.

I parked the car and walked into the shopping area, redeeming the prescription at the pharmacy and then popping into Holland and Barrett for some soya-isoflavones for Trish. Then it was more mundane shopping for some new underpants for Simon, why does he like those horrible boxer things? I bought him some Y-fronts ones which should at least offer some support if he has a coughing fit.

I bought myself some new bras after being measured; I discovered I was a thirty four C cup borderline D. There is no way I’m wearing a D cup, at this rate I’ll need a wheelbarrow. I know they’ll shrink when I stop breastfeeding, but Catherine does like her fresh milkshakes. She’s coming along beautifully, eating solids and chewing on the odd crust of bread. Unfortunately, the more teeth she has, the more she has to bite me with—and doesn’t she—little monster. She’s chewed on me so often, I sometimes wonder if there was enough pressure would it spray out like a shower rose? A gruesome thought.

I treated myself to a latte coffee and after a few more bits and pieces round the shops, I grabbed a top which I thought Stella would like and went home. I showed it to Jenny, who agreed about Stella. After lunch, she suggested that she’d collect the girls if I wanted to go and see Stella—I wasn’t going to say no, especially as I had to take Trish to see Sam Rose the next day.

I made us a quick tuna salad with homemade bread, after which I set off for the clinic. It’s a boring drive but I listened to Classic FM on the radio as I went. It’s some weeks since I’d seen her or Gareth. He’d sold his house, renting one while he waited to see how Stella was. He’d only rented the one he had because it had a double garage which was packed to the roof with his furniture.

Stella was looking quite well and the bump was beginning to show quite a bit. I gave her the top and she was really pleased with it. She admitted that she’d been very fed up of late, the pregnancy and being confined was enough to make her so. I understood and asked if she’d like to come out for a ride in the car if the clinic agreed. They did, so I took her out for a ride and we found a little tearoom at which we had tea and cucumber sandwiches—or she did, I had a toasted tea cake with my tea.

I brought her up to date with my brood and she was amused with Trish’s antics. “She’s a bit of a girl, is that one.”

“You’re telling me, she is. She’s a total monster at times and in between, she’s positively angelic. I can’t make her out. She pushes the boundaries all the time like a teenager, but she’s only just seven.”

“Yes but a very precocious seven.”

“I know, but she doesn’t have the breadth of experience to match her book-knowledge. It’s like reading a book on the basics of sailing and then trying to sail across the Atlantic, but of course at her age she can’t see it. At times I’m cast in the role of ancient fuddy-duddy or general killjoy. She’s such a bright spark, so why can’t she see that?”

“Because that would be an emotional thing, understanding often involves more than just cognitive skills, it means balancing it with the right degree of emotion. To do that requires a degree of maturity which is why I find it so difficult—Daddy spoilt me rotten—especially after Mummy left.”

Goodness, am I finally to learn about the first Vicountess Stanebury? I kept completely quiet.

“Daddy was such a womaniser that Mummy threatened to leave him several times. They loved each other but he couldn’t leave other women alone, so finally she did move out. She went and stayed with a woman friend so we had to stay with Daddy—well we were actually away at school, so it was only holidays. I played hell with him, telling him how stupid he was and that he ought to cut it off if he couldn’t control it. I was about nine at the time.”

“Surely you saw her in between, though didn’t you?”

“Yes we did, then she took up with Michael. Naturally we were rather put out, we wanted out parents to be back together again and it wasn’t going to happen, but children won’t see that—emotional maturity—told you I didn’t have any.

“She wanted to marry, Michael but I made such a song and dance about it, she called it off. Daddy was furious with me, but seeing as he was the cause of the trouble, I gave him a load of home truths I wouldn’t have the nerve to say now.”

“How old were you?”

“Ten or eleven.”

“Crikey, I wouldn’t have been able to do it then either—passive resistance was my modus operandi.”

“As with the school play?”

“Absolutely. Did I tell you, I’m going to play Lady M again?”

“No—when is that?”

“Dates are being finalised, Matthew Hines is playing Mac-B.”

“What? The film star?”

“Yes—he’s never done any Shakespeare since he left school.”

“What? So who’s going to teach him dramatic technique?”

“The director or his drama coach—I presume he has one.”

“You lucky cow, what wouldn’t I give to play with Matt Hines?”

“His wife is nice.”

“Yes except she simply exists—which spoils it for millions of women.”

“Don’t be so mean, she’s even more pregnant than you.”

“So where are you doing this ’ere play?”

“At Trish’s school.”

“You’ve got a world famous heart throb to come to Trish’s school to do a play with you?”

“Yeah, in a word.”

“You jammy cow.”

“He’s not such a great catch, but his wife is a lovely person. Anyway, sister mine, I’d better take you back and go and feed the five thousand.”

“Is that how many kids you have now?”

“Some days it does feel like it.” I answered and we both laughed.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1317

Driving home from the clinic, I mused on what Stella had told me about her mother and I think it was Simon who’d said she was deceased. So Henry had spoiled their marriage with his philandering, and she was the aggrieved party, I wondered what had happened to the mother in between turning down Michael’s proposal for marriage and her death. How and why had she died?

I’d wondered about this before only with less detail; now I was really curious. I suppose I could ask Simon although he’d be suspicious after my seeing Stella. But why hadn’t he told me? I’m quite prepared to talk about my own parent’s deaths, even though it’s rather sad for me. Perhaps it’s just too painful for him, or is there something else he’d rather forget?

I began to think where I could find out more about the previous Viscountess—newspaper archives, the Times or Telegraph would have obituaries in their archives which might tell me what happened. My mind was speculating like crazy—it could be something straightforward, such as cancer or an infection, or an accident—or did she die in suspicious circumstances? Murdered by her new lover or while working for MI6? Now it was getting silly.

I arrived back at home unaware of most of my journey so engrossed was I in my latest research project. I was suddenly back at the gateway to the farmhouse—thank goodness I hadn’t had any of the children with me because I’d driven on autopilot for almost the entire journey.

It was five o’clock and I quickly bundled a tray of pork loin steaks into the oven to cook, while I sorted out the vegetables. Trish came to help, although I’d let her use her computer again, she wanted me to ride with her either one evening or at the weekend, so she was still collecting Brownie points.

I had to wait until the next morning to have a chance to look for information, and then after I returned from the school run. Jenny was finishing the laundry and she was looking forward to cuppa and a chat and I was l anticipating my opportunity to browse the net.

I tried desperately to be patient, but she went on and on about nothing—mainly gossip about people I didn’t know or cared even less about—but that didn’t stop her.

In the end I had to stop her by telling her I had work to do on the computer and she took the hint and went off to finish the laundry and hang it on the line. I went on to the Daily Telegraph website and eventually found the archive and called up, Lady Stanebury in their search engine.

There were several, but only one obituary from 1998.

Margaret, Countess of Stanebury, has died at the age of forty one. Who can forget the beautiful model who married Henry Cameron after a whirlwind romance? Her looks and figure meant she was in demand at all the main haute couture fashion houses of Europe and America.

They married in 1980, when she was twenty three, and had two children Simon in 1981 and Stella in 1982. The marriage ended in 1993 with her receiving an undisclosed but substantial settlement from her bank-owning ex-husband.

She married stock-broker Michael Dallimore in 1997 although her happiness was short lived due to his premature death in air crash in which he was piloting the single-engine Cessna. He was a very experienced pilot having served fifteen years on fighters in the RAF.

She suffered with acute depression following her second husband’s death and it is believed she took her own life while in one of her bouts of illness. She leaves two children by her first marriage.

The article contained three pictures of her, two while working for Chanel and Chloe, and her last wearing a Dior outfit that looked absolutely stunning. It was easy to see where Stella had got her good looks, although I suspect her mother was more beautiful by some margin.

This short obituary perhaps explained why Simon never mentioned his mother and why he was upset when Stella tried to kill herself. Does depression run in families? I honestly didn’t know, and let’s face it the poor woman had plenty to be depressed about. Life seems cruel to some people—which I know some interpret as Karma— personally, I don’t buy any of that stuff from any religion.

I suppose one of the risks of marrying someone who has a bit of a reputation for playing around, is that they may continue old habits. Similarly, people who fly light aircraft do risk the ever-present threat of being heavier than air if the engine stops or some other mechanical fault arises.

I felt really sorry for her and wished I’d had the chance to meet her. Do I try and get Simon to talk about it, or do I let sleeping dogs lie? Has he had therapy for it or is he suppressing it all? I have no idea, nor where to start dealing with it.

Whilst I was at the computer, I did a search for her late husband and discovered his obituary which was longer than his widow’s. He was a positive hero, flying Harriers in the Falkland’s War and credited with shooting down two Argentine fighter bombers.

He was involved in an attempt at the world record to set a new height achieved by an aircraft, although the Americans took it back soon after, and he left the RAF to fly commercial aircraft before training as a stockbroker, at which he showed great skill and soon made his fortune.

Ah, here comes the but—at the time of his death, he was being investigated for malpractice involving some very iffy investments running into millions of pounds—and the cause of the crash which killed him was never fully explained by air crash investigators. In the end it was attributed to pilot error—he hit an electricity pylon and his plane exploded in a fireball. What a horrible way to go, whether deliberate or accidental.

At least it proves that the Cameron family had tragedies before they met me, so maybe I’m not the jinx I sometimes think I am.

I closed down the computer and decided that if I got the chance I’d visit Margaret’s grave, once I’d located where it was I would do so. They’d lived somewhere in Surrey according to the obituaries, so that’s probably where she was buried.

It was time for lunch, so I did us a quick mushroom omelette, that is, Jenny and I, then by the time I’d done a few chores, like making a chicken casserole, with dumplings for Simon and Tom, and sorting some books in our new library, it was time to get the girls.

I felt saddened by what I’d discovered of Simon and Stella’s mother’s life and premature death. I felt like I wanted to visit her grave to say I felt sorry for her and to reassure her that I’d look after Simon for better or worse as long as I could. I felt a bond with her despite never having met her. I suppose the bond being Simon and to some degree, Stella.

It just goes to show that people can seem to be having everything going smoothly for them and suddenly it nose dives and crashes in flames. It made me think a little about my own career and how ephemeral it all is. I mean what would I do if Simon cheated on me? Or worse, what would I do if he were to die suddenly? I’d have to keep going, I have more than him depending upon me and I know we’d be secure financially, but there’s much more to life than money.

I was still contemplating these things when I walked across the playground to collect the girls. Trish and Billie had been taking their pills for a whole day—they take one with breakfast each, and I half expect them to be measuring their chests every day for the next umpteen months.

Billie was already wearing a padded bra thing, although her chest was pretty flat just a little puppy fat under the nipples, and Trish had developed a little in the chest department since her DIY orchidectomy some months ago.

Billie’s demeanour had certainly improved in a day or two, and she was quite talkative on the way home. I felt even more pressured because in meeting the girls at the school, I bumped into the headmistress who suggested they were looking for the play to run during the first week of June. Damn, that meant I had lines to learn.

After learning this, I didn’t really listen to the girls as we drove home, I had my own agenda to worry about and was deep in it, when I heard Trish yelling at me. “MUMMEEE.”

I roused myself back to deal with her. “There’s no need to shout, I’m not deaf you know.” They all laughed at this.

“Well, why didn’t you answer, then?”

“Excuse me, but is that any way to speak to your mother?” I chided Trish.

“Well, you weren’t listening.”

“There is no need to be rude, young lady.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Perhaps I wasn’t, there is still no need to be rude to me, is there?”

“No,” I saw her blush in the rear view mirror and mutter, ‘’S’not fair.’

“What did you need to tell me that was so important?” I asked, still watching her in the mirror.

“Can we go to Emily’s party?”

“I don’t know, when is it?”

“Friday.”

“We’ll see, I have to take you to see Dr Rose tomorrow.”

“At the hospital, Mummy?”

“Yes.”

“Oh pooh, I hate going there, seeing Dr Cauldwell at home is much nicer—can’t you invite Dr Rose to dinner or lunch?”

“No I can’t, besides he has to do some blood tests, I think.”

“Oh pooh, pooh, pooh.”

“Trish, don’t be dirty.”

“I hate blood tests, they hurt.” This was being said by someone who tried and nearly succeeded in hacking off their own scrotum and testes.

“Well, if he wants to do some, you will have to comply, won’t you?”

“Oh pooh,” she said and sat back her arms folded.

“You’ll be able to see how much hormone you have from the pills,” suggested Billie, but Trish wasn’t buying it and almost sneered contemptuously at her sister.

“Won’t have taken enough of the bloody stuff by then, will I, you nit?”

“You’ll have taken two or three lots,” Billie continued on her path oblivious to the fate she was courting.

“Two or three lots won’t show, you dimwit, two or three lots of your pills won’t make any difference either, will they, Mummy?”

“I doubt it.”

“See, it takes months not bloody days.” Trish rolled her eyes in despair—to be fair, Billie isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, and Trish does get frustrated at times.

The upshot of this was I had two of them sitting with arms folded and faces distorted by a huge sulk. I wondered if I’d collect a whole set before we got home?

It wasn’t to be, Meems and Livvie chatted away together ignoring their siblings and then Livvie asked me if I’d seen Sister Maria, because she’d asked her to tell me she wanted to see me.

I explained that I had just before I’d seen the girls emerging from their classrooms. Meems then asked if we had any mushrooms. I told her we did, although I then remembered I’d used them all in my casserole. “Why do you want mushrooms?”

“We’re doing decay in science, and mushrooms decay things.”

“They do indeed. I can stop on the way home if you like and get some?”

“Yes please, Mummy.”

“They won’t show you how it all works, but if we have time maybe Trish will allow you to borrow her microscope and you can have a look at their gills and the spores they carry.”

“Gills are on fish, not mushrooms,” said Trish firmly and with superiority.

“Well that’s where you’re wrong, Miss Know-it-all; certain types of fungi have parts which are called gills because they look similar to the gills of some fish, only they’re not involved in respiration.”

“Huh,” she huffed and folded her arms tighter and upped the sullenness of her face.

It was going to be a fun evening if this continued.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1318

Occasionally, it can be useful having a mother who’s a biologist—although the school would know this—I did help Mima do her homework, and probably told her too much about different sorts of fungi.

We looked at some under Trish’s microscope and after joining it up to the computer, we were able to print some pictures off showing some of the microscopic structures of the gills of cultivated mushrooms and some bits and pieces we collected in the garden.

I helped her label her pictures and made sure she had a superficial understanding of how some of the fungi worked and their contribution to recycling dead matter. We also touched on the fact that yeast was essential for making bread, cakes and alcoholic drinks and the less helpful varieties which caused thrush and athlete’s foot.

After I got them all to bed, Billie and Trish had made up their argument as soon as we got home, I sat down with Simon—remember him, he’s the bloke I married—and we chatted. I desperately wanted to talk about his mother but I couldn’t see how I could manage to introduce the subject—until Puddin’ began to cry for some reason and I had to go and sort her out. I think she was possibly teething, so I gave her some Calpol and settled her down again and she went off to sleep—Jenny had the night off.

“I’ll be glad when Stella comes back to reclaim her offspring,” Simon commented.

“Oh c’mon, that little one’s no trouble at all.”

“No, not when Jenny’s here.”

“I’ll bet you weren’t a perfect baby—were you?”

“How do I know, you’ll have to ask Dad but I doubt he’d know much.”

“No—your mother died, didn’t she?” I’d taken the nettle and grasped it.

“Yes, some time ago.”

“You never talk about her.”

“What’s there to say? She’s dead—end of conversation.”

“But you must have memories of her?” I pushed my luck.

“I have a horrible memory of going to her funeral and I’d prefer not to talk about it, okay?”

I’d given him a chance to talk and he didn’t take the opportunity, was that because he didn’t know what I knew. I’d push my luck one more step. “I know about her death, and I’m sorry.”

“What d’you know? Bugger all I expect other than what they stuck in the papers and Dad had to call in quite a few favours to stop the details getting out. Yeah, she killed herself—but can you blame her? Dad was a total bastard ruled by his fucking dick—it was only when he met with Monica and she threatened to separate him from his prized possession if he ever strayed with her, that he stopped cheating.

“My mother went through hell with him, then she started to drink and then got hooked on Valium. I suspect she might have used other things too. Did you get all that too, from Google?”

I blushed and shook my head.

“So I don’t suppose they told you she hanged herself naked in Hyde Park, did they?”

“Oh my God, I am so sorry Simon.” I felt tears roll down my face.

“I thought she’d be really happy with Dallimore, but the cheating swine tried one scam too many and got caught, she lost a couple of million through that and rather than face the music he crashed his stupid plane. No wonder she went crackers.”

I went to hug him but he seemed cold intent on punishing me for reminding him about the whole sordid affair.

“No, you wanted to know—so you can learn that she hired a private detective to follow Dad, he was screwing four different women at the same time plus my mother of course. She was so drunk most of the time, she didn’t even know they’d had sex. She was switched on enough to tell each of the four women about the others and Dad got really cross with her. That was when she left. Wanna hear some more?”

I wept quietly and shook my head.

“Good, I’m going to bed now—I don’t want to talk about her ever again—got it?”

I nodded and watched with tear filled eyes as he left the kitchen and went upstairs. How wrong could I have got it? Not much more than that. That poor woman, now I felt I had to lay some flowers on her grave because I was so saddened by her life with Henry and Michael after it.

I sent James a text. Five minutes later he texted back to say he’d do it.

I slept very badly, I was tormented by my sadness for Margaret and by the fact that I’d upset Simon. I wasn’t sure what I felt about Henry, other than his acceptance of me as his daughter-in-law, I wasn’t at all sure about him being the kindly pa-in-law that he’d appeared to be to me. I suppose he might have changed, especially with Monica holding his short and curlies—she frightens me and I don’t have any; but they say leopards don’t change their spots. So the next time he flirts with me, I may well feel differently about him.

Simon was asleep by the time I got into bed and we slept back to back that night. The next morning he rose early and was gone before I could get myself up to see him off. I hoped this was going to be just a storm in a teacup, but I only had myself to blame—I should have left well alone. My twenty-twenty hindsight is amazing.

I took the girls to school, although Trish stayed with me in the car and we went off to the hospital and the paediatric department for her appointment at half past nine. Parking is a pain and also expensive, but I eventually found a spot and paid the extortionate fee. I remember my father complaining about parking fees some time ago and he was only charged a fraction of what I’d just paid. He grumbled and said, “At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.”

At the time, I thought it was really clever—Dick Turpin was a highwayman—notorious for his ruthlessness. He was a real low-life, beating some old woman’s brains out because she wouldn’t tell him where her money was. He was eventually caught and hanged. But there was a television series where he was the hero and did all sorts of good things against the corrupt establishment. What a travesty, but I thought it was brilliant until I learned the truth about the soulless thug in reality.

I put the parking ticket on the dashboard of the Porsche and we had to run to the clinic, where Dr Rose was running half an hour behind any way. Trish read the Financial Times while I amused myself with the Beano—okay, I’m joking. Trish was reading Wuthering Heights, quite why I didn’t know. I read it when I was about sixteen and it frightened the life out of me—the ghost rapping on the window—yeuch, makes me shudder just thinking about it—but then I was always suggestible.

Just before Sam Rose came out to get us my phone peeped and I had a text from James, just a couple of words—Arundel Cathedral. I had to read it twice, Margaret must have either been Roman Catholic or converted when she married Michael—though as a divorcee, I didn’t think the Catholic church would want anything to do with her. Oh well, if you have the money…

I went into Sam’s consulting room and we shook hands warmly. He also shook hands with Trish and said, “And how are you, young lady?”

“I’m fine thank you, Dr Rose—Mummy has put me on hormones, so I’m fine now thank you.”

He looked at me as if I’d just walked dog poo all over his best carpet. “Hormones?”

“Stephanie said she could have some plant phytogens.”

“I thought I was going to do some blood work today? Not a lot of point if you’ve started her on oestrogens is there, Doctor Cameron?”

“I’m sorry, Sam, I completely forgot about it…” We left Trish reading her book for a few moments while we spoke in the room next door. I explained what had happened and he nodded.

“So you gave in to her?”

“I thought I was just giving her the equivalent of a placebo?”

“All right. Take her home, I’ll see her in two weeks, stop the pills, I need to see what’s going on inside that little body. And you said Stephanie put Billie on Oestradiol?”

I nodded.

“I think I need some words with our little friend.”

“Billie was so down in the dumps, this has completely revitalised her even though she’s taking a very low dose.” I showed him the repeat prescription form.

He shook his head. “I’ll talk with Stephanie, take Einstein home and next time bring both of them in but stop the pills now. I’ll see them both in two weeks.”

“Yes, Dr Rose.” I felt about two inches tall.

“You’re welcome, Lady Cameron,” he said very stiffly.

“I’m sorry, Sam, I feel like a schoolgirl who’s just been told to stand outside the headmaster’s study.”

“Good,” he said, “Next time wear your uniform and be prepared for six of the best.”

“What?” I gasped—had I heard him right?

“That woke you up—didn’t it?” he roared with laughter and I blushed furiously.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1319

I took Trish straight back to school and knew I’d have ructions with both Billie and her when they found out they couldn’t have any pills for two weeks. But that was for later, I had other fish to fry.

I called Jenny and asked her to look after Puddin’ and Catherine because I had to go somewhere. She quite happily agreed, in fact when she’d arrived at the house this morning, she had a faraway look in her eye, so I suspect she had a good seeing to last night, which was more than I’d had—I’d had a cold shoulder, which I probably deserved—my Sagittarian tact had struck again. If all diplomats were like me, wars would have stopped years ago—as we became extinct.

I popped into the nearest supermarket and then after filling the tank with diesel, drove off to the motorway, heading east. Half an hour later I was stuck in traffic on the Chichester bypass and about half an hour after that I was negotiating my way up the hill in Arundel.

I was dressed fairly casually, in light green cord trousers and white top with a fleece gillet in an olive colour. It was a bright day, although the wind had a cool edge to it, so it was a day to keep on the move if you were caught by the wind.

I found the cathedral—it’s a large building and quite striking. However, I wasn’t here to explore architecture or even history, I was doing some detective work, and was glad I’d fortuitously chosen my lace up flatties if I was going to be wandering around a cemetery.

I paid for a couple of hours parking, another rip off, and entered the churchyard. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had a feeling that Catholics who topped themselves weren’t allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, however, I assumed that such things were mere technicalities when it came to wealthy people. After all, they spent years selling absolution to the rich from the mediaeval period onwards, so they were well versed in making accommodations.

There were no graves at the cathedral and while I was wandering round, someone who was doing maintenance asked if he could help. I said I was looking for someone’s grave and he pointed me over towards the London Road and the cemetery at St Mary’s. I looked puzzled and when I explained I was looking for someone who may have been Roman Catholic he told me their cemetery was in Bognor Regis.

Strange town this. I thanked him and wandered over to St Mary’s. Quarter of an hour later and I found what I was looking for a joint grave of Michael Dallimore and his wife, Margaret who died in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Perhaps they weren’t Catholic after all, I’d only assumed it because the cathedral is a Catholic one. James was wrong, but near enough right for me to rectify the error. I walked back to the car and picked the bunch of flowers I’d bought at the supermarket—some yellow roses, for remembrance.

There was a small vase thing at the grave which was marked by a single headstone with both names on it. I nipped the ends off the stalks with my penknife and poured a bottle of water into the vase then placed the flowers in it with a sachet of plant food.

I looked about me and there was no one within hearing range, so I told the grave that they had been remembered by her daughter-in-law who shared her sadness. I had validated her pain as best I could and looking at my watch I realised I had to get back to Portsmouth and collect the girls.

I’d just trudged back to the car and was thinking about grabbing a sandwich somewhere when my mobile rang. It was Simon, and I felt incredibly guilty.

“Where are you?” he asked me.

“I’m looking at some woodland near Chichester, why?”

“Damn, I was hoping we could have had some lunch together. I was a bit angry last night and didn’t have a chance to speak with you this morning—I had an eight o’clock meeting scheduled—I meant to say last night, but your asking questions about my mother put it straight out of my mind.”

“Why can’t we do it tomorrow, at least I’d be prepared for it then instead of surveying woodlands?” I was lying through my teeth and I felt incredibly guilty. If he knew where I was, he’d be furious.

“Let me see, yeah, I could do that—dress up smart and we’ll go somewhere nice.”

“Are you buying?” I asked cheekily.

“Don’t I always?”

“You do seem to like a traditional role in that regard.”

“Okay, I have sucker written all over me.”

“Yes, but you are a very generous one.”

“Aren’t I just? Okay, I’ll have a sandwich, what’s for dinner?”

“What d’you fancy?”

“Apart from you, my angelic wife, who wants to make everyone happy, nothing—you are my sustenance and sufficiency.”

“Are you turning cannibal or something?”

“No, but if I was, you’d be the one I’d want to eat, you always look good enough for me.”

“I’ve got so many oestrogens in me, if you ate me you’d begin changing sex.”

“Maybe I’ll start with the kids then.”

“They’d be less chewy and fatty.”

“That’s very true. Okay, gotta go, see you tonight.”

“All right, darling, I’ll cook something nice.” He rang off and I texted James to tell him he had the wrong church.

He texted back: ‘Oops, was close though. J 

I suppose I should be grateful I wasn’t bombing the area that could have been embarrassing not to mention antisocial. Like the cruise missile that NATO fired on Belgrade hitting the Chinese embassy because they had the wrong map or something.

I spotted a small general stores and they had sandwiches, so I bought a tuna in wholemeal bread one, and a bottle of water—the flowers had drunk my previous one. I ate it as I drove back to Portsmouth making sure I didn’t pass any police cars while waving my bread about—apparently it’s an offence to eat and drive—must be illegal to get crumbs all over the car or something: I mean it can’t be a safety issue, can it? If they were sincere about road safety, they wouldn’t let anyone under twenty-five near a car, and boys should be forty before they’re allowed to drive unless they’ve had the boy racer part of their brains removed.

I got back to the school with about twenty minutes to spare and I spent the time thinking about what we could eat—then it came to me. As soon as the girls were in the car, I drove off to a specialist butcher’s shop I know and bought three pounds of special sausages—pork and leek flavour, then we went to the supermarket and got a large bag of potatoes—King Edwards—and as soon as we got home, I put the sausages in the oven and began peeling several pounds of spuds to do sausage and mash for Simon, it might expiate some of my guilt.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1320

Simon enjoyed his sausages; I didn’t, they nearly choked me being swallowed by the same mouth which had lied to him. I felt ill and had to rise from the table and rush to the loo.

I had lied to him before—hell, my whole life in the beginning was a lie, sometimes I wonder if it is now, pretending to be female, pretending to be a mother, pretending to be a wife and pretending to be a daughter. I was one great big ball of deceit. Not only that but I was encouraging three young pretenders to follow my deceitful example.

I knelt down in front of the pan and vomited until my stomach was dry retching and I felt like shit. I knelt there, hands resting on the top of the porcelain of the bowl, the whole room filled with the stench of vomit, my eyes running and mouth tasting foul.

“Are you all right, Babes?”

“No,” I whimpered and began to cry.

He pushed open the door and squeezed in, “Here, let’s open a window, shall we?” He leant across me and clicked open the fanlight. He lifted me away from the toilet and put the seat and cover down, then pulled the flush. “C’mon, up to bed with you.”

“I’ll be okay in a minute,” I protested.

“I know, because you’ll be in bed.” He took my hand and gently but firmly pulled me out of the door and then led me upstairs to the bedroom. I was snivelling all the time. He sent me to go and brush my teeth and change into my pyjamas—blue and white striped ones like Andy Pandy.

When I was finished, he led me to our bed and made me get in it. “There’s something need to tell you.”

“Never mind, Babes, it’ll keep ‘till the mornin’.”

“No it won’t, Simon; I have to tell you now.”

He sat on the bed beside me and held my hand and nodded for me to proceed.

“I wasn’t doing a woodland survey.” I sobbed, thoroughly ashamed of myself.

“I see, so what were you doing—having an affair?”

“No, I’d never do that to you—you must believe me.”

“But you lied to me, Babes.”

“I know, I couldn’t bring myself to tell you what I was doing.”

“So what were you doing?”

“You’re going to be cross with me.”

“Will I? I’d like to hear what it was that was so important that you couldn’t tell me about it.”

“I wasn’t in Chichester, I was in Arundel.”

“Well that’s hardly a crime is it?”

“I went to lay flowers on Margaret’s grave.”

“After I asked you not to poke about any further?”

“Yes,” I squeaked and sobbed, “I felt so sad for her and had to do something.”

“But you couldn’t tell me?”

I shook my head, “No, I’m sorry.”

“So what d’you think I should do?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know,” I felt tears roll down my face and drip onto my lap.

“Hmmm, I guess you had this coming, here wipe your face.” He handed me a tissue and I did so expecting him to say something awful and to decamp in high dudgeon to the hotel for a few days to punish me.

I wiped my face and for the first time since we’d come into the room, I looked him in the eye. If he was angry, he was hiding it very well.

He pulled me close to him and kissed me. “I should have done that last night, but I was too big a fool to realise it. I did a lot of thinking last night about how I’d been ashamed of my father and my mother—him for being a total dick and her for running off and leaving us. How could a mother do that to her children?—but she did.”

“You can’t judge her like that, Si, you don’t know how ill she might have been.”

“You wouldn’t run off and leave your children behind, would you?”

“I don’t know, Si, we can all do crazy things if we’re in enough pain. It isn’t for me to judge others—I’ve done that in the past and been very wrong.”

“Are you sure you don’t have wings under that pyjama top?”

“What d’you mean?”

Before I could say anything else he pulled my top off me and pushed me back on the bed, “No wings, just these water wings,” he said leaning over and kissing my breasts.

“If you’re going any further, hadn’t you better lock the door?”

He got off the bed and turned the key in the door, then sat on the bed again. “It’s I who should apologise to you. I was out of order last night which was why I wanted to take you to lunch to apologise—hell—I left an orchid in the car.” He jumped up, and after undoing the door ran downstairs. I pulled my top back on and slipped into my slippers and dressing gown and went downstairs.

“What’re you doing down here?” he demanded of me handing me the most exquisite phalaenopsis in cream and mauve colours.

“I need a cuppa, Simon, and this is absolutely beautiful,” I kissed him, “thank you.”

“Back up to bed, I’ll bring you up a cuppa.”

“What about the children, it’s only half past seven?”

“Jenny will sort them, and Tom will help, so off you go—bed, young lady.”

“Can I take my flower with me?”

“If you like.”

I did like and carried my precious cargo up the stairs and placed it on the window sill. There were at least a dozen buds on it and the flowers were so beautiful it was almost painful to behold. I stood looking at it while I waited for Simon and my tea.

He arrived five or ten minutes later and I could have told him there were fourteen buds on my plant because I’d counted them a dozen times. I was really pleased with it but I felt unworthy. I’d upset him and he was apologising for being upset. It didn’t make sense in some ways.

He’d brought up a pot of tea, some cups and some milk. There were also some plain chocolate hobnobs.

“This doesn’t make sense, Si—I upset you and you’re apologising. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?”

“You’ve apologised for deceiving me, I’m apologising for being unnecessarily brusque last night.”

“But it was my fault, I pushed your buttons because I wondered if you needed to talk about it. You obviously didn’t but I didn’t take the hint. It’s I who should apologise for intruding in your grief.”

“Shall I be mother?” he asked pouring the tea.

“You have about as much chance as I do,” I quipped back.

“Now don’t you start that again, you’ve got a lovely bunch of kids and no stretch marks—be grateful for small mercies.”

I accepted the cup and smiled at him, sometimes he could be very funny. We sat and drank the tea and I scoffed two biscuits.

“All that sicking-up, that was just nerves was it?” he asked.

I nodded and felt my eyes fill with tears again.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I lied to you, because I was doing something against your wishes.” I began to feel tears running down my face. “I lied to the person I love—love is based on honesty—I failed you.”

I felt his arm round me, “Don’t be silly, look we both misunderstood each other. You were trying to help me and I felt you were lifting the mats and looking underneath. It hurt and I got angry. Then I thought about it and realised I hadn’t let go of my anger and my grief—I was still a kid, a very angry one. You released it all and took it full in the face. I’m sorry.”

“Oh,” I said almost in astonishment.

“I needed to let it go and move on—now I feel I can, because you made me think about it.”

“I laid some flowers on her grave, told her who I was and that I’d take care of you.”

“Perhaps I need to go and do the same—you know, closure and all that stuff.”

“If you want me to come, I’d be happy to.”

“Yeah, that would be good. Now about these water wings…” he pushed me back on the bed and began pushing his hands up my pyjama top…

The Daily Dormouse Part 1321

I slept that night better than I have for quite some time. I relaxed into Simon’s arms and went out like a light waking at six the next morning. Simon was still asleep when I showered, although he was awake when I returned to the bedroom wrapped in a towel with my hair in a turban.

“Yum, I like what I see,” he said, licking his lips.

“I have just spent the past fifteen minutes washing away your body fluids, if you think you’re going to repeat the exercise, think again, buster,” I replied, towelling my hair from sopping to damp. Of course in moving my arms the bath towel tucked around my breasts came undone and dropped to the floor before I could grab it.

Simon wolf whistled and I blushed. I have no idea how many times he’s seen me starkers but today I found it embarrassing.

“You know, for someone who’s got half a dozen children, you still have quite a body on you?”

“Yeah, last night it was your body,” I quipped back.

“Eh?”

“I have quite a body on me, last night it was your body that was on me.”

“Why do women always take things literally and out of context?”

“I don’t know, why do we?” I shrugged drying under my breasts where the moisture always remains.

“Duh—that’s why I was asking.”

“Was it?” I turned my back on him and began rubbing a moisturiser cream all over my body—it get’s drier since I had surgery. I rubbed an extra amount on the scar where the knife had entered my chest and penetrated my lung. In lots of ways, I was lucky to be alive.

“God, you have a wonderful arse,” he offered from the bed.

I turned round to view it in the mirror, “Do I? I always thought it was a bit big—all that cycling.”

“No, it’s just right,” he slipped out of bed with a tent in his underpants, “Like the rest of you.”

“Go and have a wee before you do yourself an injury,” I said lightly flipping the tent pole.

“Ouch, do you know how much that stings?” he whined, almost running into the loo.

“No,” I answered, and it was true, I didn’t and that wasn’t a case of convenient memory, I just didn’t remember ever getting an erection. Obviously in my case, something didn’t go quite right. I’m happy now that it didn’t because I have more than I ever dreamt I’d have—a husband and family, and a reasonably interesting life—sometimes even a fulfilling one. If someone had told me all this before I went out on the bike that eventful day, I wouldn’t have believed any of it—least of all being married and having children—okay, adopting children. I owe a lot of my happiness to cycling—well that, and a certain homicidal nurse.

I heard the shower running and by the time I was dressed, Simon had washed and dried himself. However, instead of donning his usual white shirt and suit, he pulled on a checked shirt and a pair of corduroy trousers. I glanced at him in surprise.

“Are you not going into the office today?” I asked him.

“No, what are your plans?”

“Nothing that can’t be rescheduled, except taking the girls to school; why?”

He looked at what I was wearing, it was jeans and a tee shirt. “It’s a good job your bum looks good in those.”

“Why? What did you have in mind—but if you want me to change, you’d better say what for?”

“Nah, you’ll be all right I suppose.”

“For what?” I was now feeling irritated by his evasiveness.

“To be introduced to my mother and stepfather.”

“You want to go to Arundel?”

“Yes, strike while the iron’s hot—you said you’d come?”

“I did and I meant it. D’you want me to wear a skirt?”

“Might be nice—you’re always in jeans these days.”

“Okay, I’ll change, can you get the girls up and Danny and Julie.”

He went off to wake the troops and I slipped off my jeans and pulled up a pair of tights in shiny, black, opaque material: over these I pulled up a Cameron tartan ladies kilt, which is primarily bright red, and matched it with a black tee shirt. I slipped on my ankle boots, they only have a two inch heel, so I could walk comfortably in them.

I did my makeup, eyeliner and mascara—I’d do some lipstick after breakfast, and opted for a plain gold bangle and gold coloured watch. I put a gold herringbone necklace on and some gold hoop earrings.

I’d combed my hair into a down job, brushing it under at the ends, so it was like a long bob cut and sprayed myself with some eau de toilette—Chanel No5. I’d wear my red jacket with it and use a black bag to match my boots.

The girls were pleased to have their daddy with them for breakfast but I got cross because they were dithering and breakfast was getting messy and running late. I did manage to get a cuppa but that was about it, and I didn’t see Si eat very much. Finally, I got them ready to leave, brushed my teeth and used a reddish toned lipstick, gave myself a further squirt of Chanel, and shepherded them out to the car.

When Simon came out too, and we had to squeeze them all into the back of the Cayenne, they were curious as to where we were going.

“Where are you going, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Who said I’m going anywhere?”

“You’re wearing makeup and smart clothes,” she countered.

“So, occasionally I like to be a bit smarter when doing my shopping.”

Shopping?” she gasped, “An’ I have to go to dull old school.”

“If I had told you two years ago that you’d be a proper girl and going to a girl’s school, what would you have said?”

“I dunno—probably wouldn’t have believed you.”

“Would you have been excited or pleased?”

“Yes, ’course I would.”

“Well, just be excited and pleased ’cos that’s where you’re going.”

“Duh,” she complained, “That’s no fair, you cheated.”

“Nice bit of Socratic questioning,” commented Simon.

“Was it?” I asked, unaware that it had a name.

“Yeah, by selective questioning you cause the other person to change their statement and hopefully their argument; barristers do it all the time.”

“Perhaps I should have done law, I always fancied myself in a gown and wig.”

“Kinky—eh?” Simon chuckled to himself.

“They wear clothes as well, you nit.”

“Damn,” he said and laughed to himself.

“Is Daddy, alwight?” asked Mima.

“Yes, just his dirty sense of humour, Meems, trying to imagine me wearing very few clothes.”

“Oh, siwwee Daddy.”

“I’m glad you didn’t do law, Babes.”

“Why?”

“Well, when Stella knocked you off your bike that day, you’d have sued the arses off us, wouldn’t you? Then, I’d never have got to meet you except in court.”

“I still could sue you—claiming I was just an ordinary bloke till the accident when I started to think I was a woman.”

“You what?” he gasped and nearly drove my car into the back of a lorry.

I chuckled and smirked at him.

“You were already taking pills before then—your medical records would show it.”

I laughed loudly, “Si, sometimes you are so gullible.”

“Bleh,” he said poking out his tongue at me.

The girls giggled behind us although I’m not sure they understood what we were talking about. Part of me hoped they didn’t.

We dropped them off at school, Simon walking them in with me. Fortunately we didn’t see the headmistress, although I made a mental note to look out my rather crumpled copy of the Scottish play and start learning the lines.

Back in the car, we’d held hands as we walked back, he commented, “Getting into character, are you?”

“Character?”

“The tartan—Lady M—no?”

“If I was, it was purely unconscious—in fact I hadn’t thought any more about it.”

“So why the tartan?”

“I thought it might be nice for me to identify with your family as we’re going to meet your mother.”

“God, I hope we don’t meet her,” he winced, “She’s been dead since ninety eight.”

“I was using the term in a very general sense.”

“Yeah, okay—there’s got to be a florist’s in Arundel, so I’ll stop when we get there and buy a bouquet to put on the grave.”

“Okay,” I sat back and listened to Women’s Hour on Radio Four.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1322

I must have nodded off listening to the radio because I woke up as the car came to a stop and the handbrake was applied. I tried to get my bearings, but all I could see were parked cars.

“This isn’t Arundel, is it?” I asked yawning.

“No, it’s a restaurant—you didn’t have any breakfast and I think you should.”

“I’ll be okay, we can have lunch afterwards.”

“Breakfast—now, or we turn round and go home.”

“Oh okay, just a piece of toast will do, I’m not very hungry.”

We went into the place and took a table in the corner where we could watch the car park and the traffic going past. Simon went off to order and returned a few moments later with a pot of tea, some hot water, two cups and some milk. “The toast is coming, I’m having this,” he pointed to a large cream horn, which looked delicious—maybe I’d spoken too soon about toast.

Ten minutes later, a waitress appeared with two poached eggs on toast. Simon pointed at me and the waitress placed the plate in front of me and handed me the cutlery wrapped in a pink paper napkin.

“I thought I asked for toast.”

“That’s what you’ve got—now shut up and eat it.”

I glowered at him but he just smirked back. I’m going to have to watch this assertive behaviour from him, he might just start to like it. I ate and enjoyed the eggs and the toast, and washed them down with a second cup of tea. Then after a comfort stop—I touched up my lipstick in the ladies—we were back on the road to Arundel.

“Does that feel better?” he asked after I burped.

“Yes, thank you.”

“You shouldn’t skimp on breakfasts you know.”

“Yes, dear,” I replied.

“I mean it, I want you to eat something every day.”

“I already do, this morning was exceptional.”

“Hmm, it had better’ve been.”

I felt like saying to him—“Whatcha gonna do about it?” but resisted the temptation. I would ignore him as usual. I decide what I eat, not him. Actually, I decide what everyone eats, so he’d better behave himself or he’ll be on a strict diet. I really did feel like challenging him, but I let it drop—we had a traumatic time approaching and this Lord and Master stuff might be related to some bravado to deal with that.

We passed through the outskirts of Chichester and I knew we wouldn’t be long getting to Arundel from there. Today the traffic seemed lighter, or perhaps I was just on edge yesterday? I don’t know. Despite worrying what Simon would do when we got to the cemetery, I felt reasonably relaxed and sat back in the chair and burped again. Simon looked at me and sniggered.

“It could be worse,” I said looking straight ahead.

“Ah yes, Wind in the Willows,” he said and sniggered afresh.

I wasn’t going to get into fart jokes with him because he’d become an insufferable schoolboy in seconds. Besides which thinking about flatulence had made me realise that I did actually want to pass wind from a southerly direction—so spent the next ten minutes trying to keep my buttocks clenched without grimacing. Eventually, it slipped out quietly and without any great smell.

“Feel better now?” he asked, still bloody sniggering.

“About what?”

“Letting go an SBD.”

“Letting go—I don’t follow you.”

“You just farted—a Silent But Deadly—didn’t you do the classification of farts when you were in school?”

“No of course not.”

“Far too vulgar for a girly place like Bristol Grammar, eh?”

“Probably,” I looked out the side window pretending that the conversation was of no particular interest to me, although I could feel myself getting hotter.

“Let me see if I can remember them all…”

“Simon, I’d really prefer it if you didn’t.”

“Why, in case you emit any further categories?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I just find the whole subject rather puerile.”

“’Course it is, but Uganda or some other tin-pot state is going to make it illegal to fart in public.”

“I can’t say I know enough about it.”

“Well just remember, another of those places is trying to make homosexual activities punishable by death.”

“I heard about that, there was a real outcry. If I recall, it was being funded and stirred up by some American evangelicals.”

“Evil-jellicles, more like,” he said turning into the main road into Arundel.

I ignored him, letting him deal with his tension.

“You know you could download a cure for being gay from your I-pod? Well, I’m wondering how you could download a cure for proselytes—maybe download a hand grenade and tell ’em to shove it where the sun don’t shine.”

I didn’t actually disagree with him in principle, but I felt I needed to calm him down. “Si, why are you getting uptight about gay issues—you’re not gay, and neither am I?”

“Because, the next target is usually transgenders, and while you might be fireproof, Julie, Billie and Trish aren’t—not yet anyway.”

“Okay, that could be true but I think it’s unlikely. The law is quite good in protecting us now.”

Us? I thought you were cured and female?”

“I didn’t like to say them, when I’d done the same thing myself.”

“Oh, okay—but you’re female now—all legal and above board and so is Trish, as soon as Billie and Julie get themselves replumbed, I’ll get the solicitor to get them re-registered.”

“I didn’t know you’d done Trish—I mean sent in her application?”

“Yeah, and I changed her name to Patricia Cameron on her birth certificate.”

“Does she know?”

“Yeah, ’course she does.”

“I wish you’d told me, darling.” I felt quite cross about this.

“I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“It’s certainly that—I wouldn’t have thought she qualified?”

“Just. I checked with them.”

“She must be about the youngest then?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“There’s a florists, if you stay here you can move the car if necessary.” He left it, engine running, hazard lights flashing, on a set of double yellow lines. I stayed in the passenger seat watching out for traffic wardens—I also let go another of his classified bum burps—probably a—oh, you don’t really want to know that do you—too much information.

Simon came back about ten minutes later with a huge bouquet the bottom of which was tied to form a reservoir of water with several pints of fluid in it. He opened the back door and rested it on the floor behind us.

“You’ll have to guide me,” he said and I directed him towards the cathedral and then round the corner to St Mary’s and the cemetery. I glanced at my watch, it was half past eleven.

We parked on the road outside the cemetery and I could feel my blood pressure rising and my heart hammering inside my chest. I watched Simon, who having switched off the engine, sat staring through the windscreen at nothing in particular.

I was aware of feeling warmer perhaps even approaching hot as we sat there, the sun pouring through the closed windows of the car. I waited and waited for Simon to be ready to do this—he could bail out at any time if he needed, but I had faith in him overcoming his demons. This was his mother’s grave and he’d never seen it, wasn’t even sure where it was. It was a big step for him although I was there to help and support him, he had to do this himself.

I felt a trickle of sweat run down my back and part of me wondered if the tights would be too hot—at this moment—the answer was yes. I could feel my panties sticking to my bum and I wanted to get out of the car and into the coolness of the breeze—but Simon was seemingly frozen in his seat.

I looked at him, I hoped with love and noticed tears running down his face—I swallowed and felt my own eyes moisten up.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1323

I have no idea how long we sat there, Simon sniffing back the tears and me just about holding back my own. I find it easier to endure my own pain than cope with that of my loved ones—and this is the man I love. Watching him struggle was like twisting a knife in my heart.

I was aware that some schools of psychology suggest that men and boys feel emotion more deeply than girls but have little or no mechanism to deal with it; possibly because in Western culture they are expected to soldier on no matter how hurt they feel. Men rarely focus on these sorts of issues and so don’t resolve them—they internalise them and who knows what effect that has in the long term for their health and life expectancy.

Simon was really in pain, struggling to understand what he was feeling and possibly unable to verbalise it and so share it with me, other than by my watching his agony. Who knows what it was dredging up and from what age.

I didn’t want to interrupt or interfere yet I needed, perhaps for my sake as much as his, to let him know that I was there for him and with him. I reached out and simply touched his hand. He looked at me almost as if he’d forgotten I was there, then with his face wet from tears he reached out to me and we embraced as much as we could in the front of the car.

“I’d forgotten how much I missed her,” he said after a few minutes.

“Then take some time to remember,” I counselled, “We can take as long as you need.”

“Thanks,” he sniffed, “I feel completely stupid—I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”

“Never apologise for loving your mother and missing her, at least not to me. I miss mine every day.”

“Do you?” he said holding me away so he could look into my eyes.

“Of course I do, every time I do something wifely for you or mother the children, I think of her—in some ways I seem to have become her.”

“Like mother like daughter, eh?”

“Yeah, in lots of ways.”

“I hope to God I don’t turn out like my father—or that aspect of him.”

“The infidelity bit?”

“Yes—I’d kill myself first.”

“No, darling, that would be my job.”

He looked at me possibly not having heard exactly what I’d said, then a moment later when he’d processed it, he looked at me and chuckled—“I believe you would, too.”

“I hope we never find out, husband o’ mine.”

“Amen to that, missus wife.”

We both laughed and hugged again. “You are so good to me, Cathy—my own little angel.”

“Yeah, fallen variety—phew, it’s getting warm in here—d’you mind if we open the window or door?”

“Oh sorry, Babes, too wrapped in my own misery to notice yours. Let’s go for a walk, eh?”

We exited the car and he wiped his eyes in his hankie, then we wandered down towards the cathedral. It only took us a few minutes but the cooling breeze helped my overheating, and I slipped off my jacket and carried it over my arm.

“C’mon, let’s do it,” said Simon, turning me back to face up the hill towards the cemetery.

“Are you sure? You don’t have to, you know?”

“Yeah, I’m as sure as I ever will be—and with you by my side, I can deal with anything.”

I squeezed his hand and he stopped and kissed me and hugged me in the middle of the street. We continued waking somewhat red faced when someone from a passing car shouted, “Get a room, will ya?”

“Charming,” commented Simon looking back at the fellow.

“Ignore him, darling, maybe he’s never been in love himself.”

“Probably not, with a face like that, his only relationship has been with his left hand,” Simon said as we strolled back to the car. It took me a moment to understand what he’d said. Then I sniggered. “What’re you laughing at?”

“What you just said.”

“Eh—that wasn’t funny, was it?”

“I’ve never heard it put like that before.”

“You did lead a sheltered life—are you sure it wasn’t in a Trappist convent somewhere?”

“I thought Trappists were all men?”

“Okay, a silent order for women then.”

“Given my record on religion, would you not consider that unlikely even taking my previous health issues into account?”

“Why do women always take everything so literally?”

“I wasn’t, was I?”

“I’m not discussing this now, let’s get the flowers, say hi to my ma and get the hell out of here.”

He opened the car and picked out the bouquet, some of the buds were beginning to open because of the warmth in the car. He took my red blazer and went to put it in the car, but I took it back and slipped it back on. “Got to be on my best behaviour in front of my mother-in-law,” I teased.

“Don’t worry about that, had she been alive, she’d have loved you as much as we all do,” he said and I slipped my arm through his.

I steered him to the grave where he paused and looked at the gravestone for a moment or two.

“So that’s where you’ve been hiding all these years,” he said to the stone. “I’ve brought you some flowers.” He placed them beside the stone, next to the roses I’d brought the day before.

“Hi, Mum, this is Cathy, though I understand you’ve already met. She’s a girl in a million and I’m so lucky to have found her and have her agree to marry me. We’ve got loads of children, all as lovely as my darling wife but none as special—well not to me.”

He stared at the gravestone and I saw the tears run down his face again. “I miss you, Mum, I really do. I have to go now.”

He broke free of my arm and almost ran off to the other side of the graveyard. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him walk over to the wall and lean against it his face in his hands. This was really cutting him up.

I stayed at the graveside, giving him some space. “He’s a good man, but like most men has some problems with emotional stuff—but he does try and he does listen, sometimes—and I love him. I don’t know if we’ll ever come back again to see you, but at least you know he loved you. I’ll try and take care of him for you, as much as he’ll let me. Goodbye, Margaret, rest in peace.”

Simon was still standing against the wall with his back to me and the grave. It was all too much for him, confronting his pain and loss—but he’d started the process and although I suspected he had some way to go, it would enable him to integrate it into his present life instead of having it locked away in his memory threatening to break out at any time and overwhelm him.

I walked slowly but purposefully towards him, laying my hand on his shoulder as I reached him, then gently slid it down to his waist and pulled him to me. He put his arm across my shoulders and drew my face to his.

“Thanks for being there,” he said and kissed me. “An’ thanks for being you.”

“I love you, Simon Cameron, did I ever tell you?” I teased.

“No, but it’s a lovely surprise,” he teased back.

“C’mon, let’s go home,” I said quietly and steered him back towards the car.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1324

I drove us back to Portsmouth Simon was completely exhausted and slept for part of the journey. I’d called Tom and asked him to collect the girls, which he grumbled about but agreed to do. I did however tell him he could have a chicken curry take-away and his mood suddenly improved—his usual eatery was being refurbished which he thought was outrageous.

Simon was asleep when I parked outside the Indian takeaway and ordered a pile of curry rice and poppadoms with onion bhajjis and so on. I don’t like Indian food, so decided I’d quickly do myself a tuna jacket potato with some salad while the others were eating.

Which is what happened—Tom grumbled that the curry was too mild, even though I’d got him the hot one, or so I’d thought. The children all tucked into theirs and even Jenny had some. I was the only one who had something different, eating after the others had finished.

Simon had picked up after his meal and went out for a walk with the girls and the dog, Julie was doing something with Jenny’s hair, so it was Tom who stayed with me while I ate. He wanted to know what was going on with Simon and me—we rarely go off together during the week—so I told him we’d gone to visit Simon’s mother’s grave. As a regular visitor to his wife’s grave, he went quiet after that, which was just as well because I wouldn’t have told him any more if he’d asked.

I finished my meal and we chatted while I made and drank some tea, Daddy had a glass of beer having bought a box of cans of McEwan’s. If it had been warmer, I might have joined him, but a cuppa perked me up and I cleared the kitchen dumping all the foil containers from the curries in the bin—sadly, no one seems to recycle it.

Daddy went off to his study and his single malt, and I started to re-familiarise myself with the Scottish play—what had I got myself into this time?

It was after seven when Simon came back with the girls and one tired spaniel. He looked much better and I think he found the company of the children reassuring given the strains of the trip to Arundel.

In bed that night, we just cuddled and for a change, I cuddled into his back and held him while he fell asleep. Of course, I couldn’t help thinking back over what had happened. I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife, suspecting it’s just a con perpetrated by the major religions, although I’d had several experiences I couldn’t explain with people I knew to be dead.

It didn’t exactly worry me, because I’m aware that the mind can play all sorts of tricks on us and we can believe that what was just a dream really happened.

I was in my old home in Bristol and my mother called me. I clomped down the stairs—stilettos tend to make descents a trifle risky. “You and those silly shoes—they’ll make your feet bad one day, my girl, just you wait and see.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“That’s a nice skirt—another new one—I take it? It’s too short of course.”

“I knew you’d say that, you always do.”

“Don’t you talk back to me, young lady, or I’ll get your father to stop your clothing allowance.”

I felt myself getting very warm as she scrutinised my face. “Do you need to wear so much makeup? You’d better go before your father sees you—he’ll make you wash it off—and what have you got on your nails—blue? Blue nail varnish?” She shook her head in disbelief.

I didn’t care, I liked it and it matched my denim outfit, and high heeled boots.

As I was about to leave, I pulled a bunch of flowers from behind my back and her mood softened considerably—nothing like bribery and corruption.

“Will you put flowers on my grave?” she asked nearly knocking me over.

“You’re gonna like, live for years yet, Mummy.”

“Well I hope so, long enough to see you married and my grandchildren growing up.”

I kissed her on the cheek and left.

I woke feeling very strange. I’d remembered the dream in sufficient detail to realise it had never happened unless it was in a parallel universe. To start with, she only met me once as Cathy, yet that was what she’d called me. I did have some blue nail varnish but not at sixteen or seventeen, and I only ever put it on my toes not my fingers.

As for grandchildren, I would never have produced any as a woman unless something magical had happened and that wasn’t going to either. I lay there thinking about my mum, it was true, I thought about her often—especially when I was laying the law down to the children—I didn’t so much think of her as become her—frightening or what?

I went for a wee—too much tea before bed—and walking back to bed I remembered her comment about flowers on her grave. I hadn’t been to see the grave, even when I’d been in Bristol—tomorrow, I’d put that right.

I did eventually go back to sleep and slept through until the morning. I woke feeling tired, hardly surprising given my lack of sleep. Simon, however, woke looking better than he had for a few days. He smiled and hugged me, “Thanks for being there—and for being you.”

I was tempted to go into the old argument about who else could be, but refrained, I was glad I did in the end.

“You know,” he said, “I feel so much better—I know it isn’t over yet, but the void that’s been such a hole in my life has closed somewhat. I have you to thank for that.”

“Not really, darling, I reckon you were ready to take that step, I was merely a catalyst.”

“The best looking one I’ve ever seen,” he smiled at me and rubbed his finger on my cheek. “You are one fine lookin’ woman, Ellie-Mae.”

“Who is Ellie-Mae?” I asked in mock horror.

“I dunno, do I?”

“Well why did you say it then?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“So it was a joke?”

“Yeah, if you like.”

“So I’m not a fine lookin’ woman then?” Not that I felt very good looking—in fact I didn’t even feel pretty enough to be ugly. My eyes were probably bloodshot and had dark circles under them, my tongue would be grey and as furry as mouldy bread and my hair probably looked like I’d been pulled the length of a hedge, through its thickest parts.

Simon looked at me, “One day, little girl, you are going to believe me when I say I love you and I think you’re the most beautiful woman on this planet.”

“I go with the first part, it’s the second which may be taken as a minority opinion or view.”

“What? If you bullshit this well, how come you haven’t got your PhD yet?”

“Sorry?”

“You just said a whole pile of gobbledygook, worthy of any doctoral dissertation.”

“All I said was if you think I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, then you’re in a minority of one—but then they say that love is blind.”

“Yeah so—your point is?”

“I need a wee,” I said and rolled off the bed.

“You always do this to me, push off for a pee when the going gets tough.”

“If I didn’t go now, you might end up drowning in your own bed—my bladder is about to go pop.” I went into the bathroom not hearing whatever it was he called after me.

He pushed into the bathroom with me, “I said, don’t pull the flush—I need one, too.”

“Oh—save water…”

“…bath with a friend,” he completed the silly joke that had been around for years. “How about we shower with a friend?” he asked.

“Which friend did you have in mind?” I asked him with a deadpan face.

“Bloody-hell, come back Stella, all is forgiven.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1325

I suddenly realised that it was a Saturday and that it was two weeks to Easter, which meant the children were now on holiday. That could be a help and a hindrance. Showering with Simon reminded me of how much time we seemed to have before we were knee deep in offspring—sadly none of it ours, except by dint of legal process. However we loved them and I hoped that they loved us.

Jenny was due the day off, because from Monday she was with us full-time the whole holiday. I was going to Bristol and putting some flowers on my parent’s grave whatever happened. I also wanted to check out the house. Although I paid someone for keeping it tidy and mowing the lawns, it wasn’t like seeing it myself.

Danny was playing football, and Simon agreed to go and watch him and take Meems with him, she wanted Puddin’ to go so he agreed to have her too. Julie was working but would help Si when she got home should I be delayed. I took Billie, Livvie and Trish with me and of course Catherine, who got to sit in the front seat as navigator.

By the time we’d had breakfast, and sorted the car seats, packed everything we’d need—like push chair and change of nappies—that sort of stuff, it was nine o’clock.

I kissed Si, Danny and Puddin’ goodbye and off we went. It’s a boring ride but fairly straightforward, and about an hour and a half later we were outside my parent’s house and unloading our stuff, including the large bouquet of flowers I’d purchased on the way up.

I had no choice, they’d all have to come with me to the cemetery as they were too young to leave on their own. However, I decided we’d have lunch first and Trish carried the food for making the sandwiches into the kitchen. I emptied the kettle and refilled it for making my tea—the girls would drink fruit squash.

Trish went to use the cloakroom and moments later, Billie, who’d been watching Catherine, went to do the same—Trish told her to go away. I heard the ruckus and told her to use the upstairs bathroom. She went up and I continued buttering the bread for our sandwiches.

I was just about to start the second round of bread when Billie called me from upstairs. Her tone was urgent, and while I had no idea what could be alarming her, I dropped everything and rushed up the stairs.

She was staring into what had been my parent’s bedroom. “What’s the matter, darling?”

She pointed and my eyes followed the line of her fingers and into the bedroom. In my parent’s bed were a young couple—very young, like fifteenish, the duvet pulled up to their necks—presumably for the same reason any of us do that—we have nothing on underneath. I stared at them for a moment and they blushed—so they were in the wrong and I wasn’t in the wrong house.

I sent Billie to the bathroom and walked into the bedroom, “Just who are you and what are you doing in my parent’s bed?”

“We didn’t know you were coming, we didn’t mean no ’arm, ’onest.” The boy spoke with a broad Bristolian accent, which I’ve more or less translated for you.

“How often have you done this?” I demanded rather than asked.

He blushed and was about to say this was the first time, when his girlfriend nudged him and he confessed, “This is the second time.” His eyes only flittingly met mine and hers didn’t at all.

“I see. Is this true?” I directed at the girl.

“Yes,” she said almost in a whisper, tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks. “I told you we shouldn’ta dunnit,” she accused him.

“I take it one of you must be related to Mrs Hardy,” my caretaker cum cleaner.

“She’s my mum,” said the boy very sheepishly.

“So you must be Josh?”

“Yeah,” he said and nodded.

“And you?” I asked the teen girl.

“Abbie.”

“And how old are you—and the truth, please?”

“Fifteen,” she said the tears flowing down her red face.

“And Josh, how old are you?”

“Fifteen,” he replied in a tone which if it had got any more sheepish would have been bleated to me.

“I believe that means in English law, you are both under the age of consent. That means I have to insist you stop your amorous activities and get yourselves dressed.”

“Are you going to tell my mother?” asked the boy.

“Do you think I should?”

“I dunno.”

“If you came into your parent’s house and found two underage kids bonking like bunnies in your parent’s bed, what would you do?”

He blushed so red I was worried he might spontaneously combust, “I dunno, tell ’em to clear off, I s’pose.”

“I’m within my rights to call the police.”

“Oh please don’t do that, lady,” implored the girl.

Billie reappeared at this point and I sent her down and told the others to stay downstairs.

“You’re acquainted with the police are you?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she looked down at the bed.

“What for?”

“We done some shopliftin’ a couple a months ago.”

“I see. So should I call your parents?”

“They’re not in,” she said quickly.

Josh shrugged, “I cain’t stop ya.”

“True.” I pretended to muse for a few moments although I knew what I was going to say from the beginning. “Perhaps we can come to some sort of deal.” They both looked anxious but in favour of anything that kept their parents and the police out of things.

I looked at them. “We’ll discuss this downstairs, I’d be grateful if you got yourselves dressed and stripped the bed.” With that I shut the door and left them to it.

I was making sandwiches still, when they came down carrying the bedding. “Washing machine is through there,” I pointed to the utility room, “detergent and conditioner are on the top.” They both went through and I heard the washing machine door closed and the water run a few seconds later. They came back out looking very embarrassed in front of my giggling girls, even Catherine was giggling though possibly because the others were.

I marched them into the lounge, shutting out my gaggle of giggling girls, and told them to sit down. “How did you get in?”

Joshed showed me his mother’s key. “I came to mow the lawns.”

“And have you?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay, I think you’d better go and do it now.”

“Are you gonna tell my mum?” he asked.

“I might not if you do a good job in the garden. Have you had lunch?”

“I’m not very ’ungry.”

“That wasn’t what I asked?”

“No, miss.”

“Right, you go and mow the lawns,” I pointed at him. “Abbie, you come and help me do the lunch. Well come on, I’m sure you have other things to do afterwards.” They jumped up when my tone became more imperative.

I sent her to wash her hands, and introduced her to the rest of the squad. She was embarrassed and they were excited. I got Trish to lay the dining table and Abbie I left to wash the salad stuff. I finished the ham sandwiches and made the tea.

We called Josh in after he’d finished the front lawn and I asked him to put his shirt back on and to wash his hands then come to the table. It was excruciating for them to sit there and politely eat and drink while I breast fed Catherine and then had Trish feed her some babyfood.

When the machine finished, I made Abbie hang out the washing on the line while Josh finished the grass. When they were both finished, I pretended to inspect the grass.

“Okay, you can both go. If you give me your solemn word that you won’t do anything like this again, I won’t say anything to your parents. If I catch you at it again, I’ll call the police—not because I’m that upset by what you were doing but because you’re both too young to get saddled with a baby.

“I presume your mother gives you something for cutting the grass?”

“Yes, miss.”

“Okay, here’s another tenner, off you go—oh and Josh—I expect my lawns to be well looked after from now on.”

“Yes, miss.”

Abbie came up to me, “Thanks for not callin’ the police.”

“Go on—get lost, both of you before I change my mind.” They left arm in arm smirking like guilty teenagers always do.

“What were they doin’ upstairs, Mummy?” asked Trish smiling like a demon.

“You know jolly well what they were doing, which is why you asked me—go and put the dishes away and take that smile off your face you little squirt.” She pouted and went back into the kitchen, and I turned away so she couldn’t see me snigger.

I looked at the grass—he’d done a better job than I did when I had to do it. Oh well, a bit of a surprise but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1326

I explained why we’d come to Bristol, to put flowers on the graves of my real parents. The three of them were okay with that, and we set off with the flowers to the cemetery. I parked the car and set off to try and find their graves. Dad had got a headstone done with my mother’s name on it and I know he’d left instructions for what he wanted done when he died.

Fortunately the churchyard wasn’t that big and we found it about ten minutes later, or Billie did, she called us and when we walked over, discovered she had found the correct grave.

Like Simon yesterday, I had bouquet made up with reservoir of water in it, so the flowers would last a few days, depending upon the ravages of the weather. I couldn’t come again to water them, so this was a very temporary gesture.

I managed to prop the flowers up against the headstone and wanted to say loads of things to my parents even though I knew they couldn’t hear me. I felt embarrassed in front of my children. As if they sensed this, they asked if they could look inside the church. I agreed and they ran off giggling and squealing into the distance.

I checked all round me, there was no one else in sight. “Hi Mummy and Daddy, I brought you some flowers, to say I remembered you and the three hooligans who just ran off were three of my children—so you were right, Mummy, I do have lots of children and I teach them in the same way that you taught me how to look after themselves and that I love them very much.

“They’re all damaged or have problems, but I’ve adopted them—so we’re stuck with each other for the foreseeable future. I try to be a good mother to them, as I tried to be a good daughter to you—Daddy would know more about that, but well you know…

“I have to go now, see what my girls are up to, I love you both and you’re still in my thoughts. Goodbye for now.”

I chided myself as I walked back towards the church pushing the sleeping baby in her pushchair—fancy talking to two boxes of bones and decaying flesh as if they could hear me? When you’re dead—that’s it—fin—all over bar the tears of those who are still alive—but you can’t hear them.

There is no afterlife or life eternal or whatever the con-men of religion like to sell us, just nothingness. So why do we worry so much about it? The manner of dying—yes, I can understand that, pain, humiliation and so on—but once you’re dead—it’s all behind you anyway.

Despite the warmth of the day I shivered a little—nah, that’s just my imagination. I strolled round to the church and the girls were playing some sort of tag game in front of it. Laughing and giggling. Just then a figure began walking up the path—the only path—back to the car. It was the priest who’d buried both my parents.

Of course it had to be Trish who ran smack into him and nearly knocked them both flying. I then had to intervene. He was laughing with her and telling her to look where she was running next time. She laughed back.

As I walked towards them, I heard her telling him that her mummy was putting flowers on her mummy and daddy’s grave.

“Oh who was that?” I heard him ask.

“Derek and Fiona Watts,” she replied obviously having read it from the headstone.

He looked up and smiled at me coming towards him. “Hello again,” he said, “Catherine, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Reverend Peabody.” I’d always though pea-brain would be a better name but he was being polite, so I tried to return the courtesy.

“So how are things?”

“Fine thanks, I just popped by to put some flowers on my parent’s grave.”

“Yes, I’m sure they’d appreciate that. Look, I’m just locking up here, why don’t you come back to the vicarage and have a cup of tea and your girls could have a glass of pop.”

Before I could decline, the three of them whipped by Trish all declared for going back with the vicar. It was a fait accompli and I found myself being led past my car and along to the vicarage. I hadn’t been in there for years.

“You’ll have to excuse the mess—my wife’s up at her mother’s for the week—so I have to cope as best I can.”

“Look, if this is too much trouble…” I tried to excuse myself out of it.

“No, I insist, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on—I did enjoy your dormouse programme—your parents would have been so proud of you.”

I was so close to tears, that I could say nothing but mumble and accept the seat he offered me. The girls sat down and before I knew what was happening, they’d switched on the telly and were watching some cartoon show.

He came back with the teas, “Oh,” he said when he saw them watching the television.

“Sorry, I didn’t spot them until it was too late.”

“No problem, here you are girls.” He held out the tray and they each took a glass of lemonade. “Let’s go into the study, and they can watch their cartoons in peace.”

I followed him like a schoolgirl into the headmaster’s study, feeling I shouldn’t be here—this is enemy territory, but he was being so courteous.

I sat and accepted the mug of tea, rejecting the offer of sugar but accepting the milk. I sipped it, and as far as I could tell it wasn’t poisoned. So why was he being so nice?

“I know that we’ve had some differences in the past, I hope that we can overcome them with some Christian fellowship,” he started.

“As you know, Reverend, I’m agnostic so I’m not sure I can accede to your suggestion.”

“Oh,” he said, “How about common decency, does that fit the bill?”

“Yes okay, I can go with that.”

“Fine, don’t worry, I’m not going to preach at you. I saw how you looked after Derek when he was in hospital.”

“He didn’t tell me you went to see him,” I challenged already feeling mildly hostile.

“I asked him not to in case it put you off—you were doing him a lot more good than I could—if I’d made him some soup it would have likely poisoned him than nurtured him. You acted like a real daughter to him, in fact when I saw you together at your mother’s funeral, I could see the affection you both had for each other—despite your efforts to hide it from each other. I urged him to keep in touch with you, because you were his only child.”

I was gobsmacked: this wasn’t how I’d envisioned things at all. I had more a picture of him painting me as some sort of devil-worshipping abhorrent.

“This is all news to me,” I gasped rather than said.

“Things are changing all the time, Catherine, society, the church, the environment—everything changes and we must change to meet the challenges it gives us.”

“But you were so fundamentalist.”

“Only in some ways—I still don’t approve of homosexual priests or women bishops but I have to live in the times we inhabit.”

“But I assumed you’d disapprove of me?”

“Years ago, and without meeting you, I would have done. But I watched you grow up and the tension in you as you discovered science and how that drove you from God. But God works in mysterious ways, in the way He made you question His creation, He must also have made you question your identity.”

I wasn’t going to agree with him, but I wasn’t going to argue either—just drink my tea and go.

“As all things must originate in and from God, we have to accept that some of us are different and have to deal with that as best we can. I recognise you’re happier as Catherine than you were as Charles, and I also saw how well you’d accepted the role of a female when I saw you at the funeral and the way you looked after Derek. He came to see it too and regretted his being hard on you when you were younger.”

“I know we’d come to some sort of truce after he had his stroke, but I was never sure if he was doing it just to keep me onside.”

“No, not one bit—he loved you and came to realise he was wrong. We spent some time talking it over after your mother died.”

“So it was you who got him to contact me about the funeral?”

“He wanted to do it, but was frightened of it in case he messed up and you went off and didn’t speak to him again.”

I felt tears beginning to form.

“He told me he thought he’d seen you at your mother’s bedside but he wasn’t sure because you looked so natural—he somehow expected to see a drag-queen type figure, a caricature of a woman, and you weren’t. But you were still angry with him and he was frightened he’d lose you as well as your mother.”

“I was angry with him—deservedly so—he’d been a real bastard to me.”

“He knew that, and I implored him to seek both yours and God’s forgiveness.”

I wasn’t sure what God had to do with it but maybe I’d erroneously rated Reverend Peabody as a homophobe or transphobe.

“When I saw your film about dormice—I knew it was you because Derek had told me you were a leading expert on them—I was very impressed with your presentation skills and your command of the subject matter. I was also impressed with the way you seemed so totally female, so you had to have made the right decision in that choice of identity.”

“I hope so—’cos it aint gonna grow back,” I said and he frowned then smirked.

“The children called you, Mummy?”

“Yes, Simon and I have adopted a few waifs and strays.”

“Simon—Derek mentioned him—he’s your boyfriend?”

“My husband.”

“Oh yes, that’s permissible now isn’t it—civil partnerships and so on.”

“It isn’t a civil partnership, we’re married as man and wife.”

“Oh, congratulations,” he said covering his initial surprise. “So that makes you Mrs…?”

“Cameron, Lady Catherine Cameron.”

“Lady?” his eyes widened.

“Yes, my husband is Lord Simon Cameron.”

“Goodness—talk about over achieving—double congratulations, I am impressed. I knew you were talented, your school and university career showed that—your Lady Macbeth is still talked about at the Grammar School—but I wouldn’t have thought you manage to land a peer.”

“I didn’t set out to, but his sister became a friend after she knocked me off my bike and introduced me to Simon. We liked each other and the rest is history.”

“I presume he knows about your—um—past?”

“He knew long before we married, but it was his choice to propose to me despite all that, and I accepted because I love him.”

“Yes—well, congratulations again, I hope you’ll be very happy together.”

“We are. I must go, Reverend Peabody, thanks for the tea.” I shook his hand and collected my children before going back to the house to take the bedding off the line and repack the car. Thankfully, Catherine had stayed asleep the whole time—I think breastfeeding her might just have blown his mind.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1327

We stopped for our evening meal at a supermarket café and arrived home about eight, then it was baths and bed for the girls—including Meems, who’d had a nice day out with Simon—he spoils her rotten, I suspect Danny did well out of it too.

“How was your day?” asked Simon as we settled down with a hot drink before we went to bed ourselves.

“Okay—I laid the flowers on the grave after disturbing the son of the woman I pay to keep an eye on the place.”

“Disturbing him? From what?” Simon’s eyes were like tea plates.

“Screwing or about to screw his girlfriend.”

“What, in your house?”

“Yep. I sent him off with a flea in his ear after making him cut the lawns and her washing the bedding. I made them sit and have lunch with me and three giggling girls.”

“Sadist.”

“No, if I were that, I’d have phoned his mum. Instead I embarrassed them and sent them on their way.”

“Anything else?”

“Yes, I ran into the priest who buried my parents and with whom I thought I had loads of issues.”

“You thought you did?”

“Yes, he seemed to have matured since his tub thumping days.”

“Oh good.”

“He’s still a patronising old twat.”

“I thought you said he’d matured?”

“Only a bit, he made me go back to the vicarage for a cup of tea, and then asked me about things.”

“What sort of things?”

“The kids calling me mother and so on. He seemed surprised that I’d got married—where was he when the Gender Recognition Act was passed?”

“On the moon?”

“Yeah, probably. He was also patronising when I explained I’d married an aristocrat.”

“In what way?”

“He suggested it was a double hit, not only to get a man but one with a title.”

“Oh—I suppose he’s right really, I am quite a catch.”

“Any more of that, buster an’ I’ll throw you back overboard.”

“Heartless hussy.”

“That’s me, so how was your day—not that I care of course.”

“Just for that, I shall tell you in excruciating detail.”

“Carry on—wake me when you finish,” I smirked back at him.

“You are the giddy limit, missus.”

“Yeah, so tell me something I don’t know.”

“Okay, I will—Danny scored two goals this morning.”

“Oh brilliant—did they win?”

“No, they lost three-two.”

“But he did his bit by the sound of it.”

“He tried his best and I thought he deserved reward for his effort.”

“What did you buy him?”

“Some new trainers.”

I shook my head, “And what did Meems con you into buying?”

He blushed, “Con me? Ha—I’m a sophisticated banker type—no one gets money out of me…”

“Except your family—especially the girls in it.”

“All right, I’m a generous banker type.”

“They twist you round their little fingers every time.”

“That’s your fault.”

My fault?”

“Yes, you adopt all these bloody waifs and strays, so I have to treat them like my children—which they are now.”

“Okay—guilty as charged—but you can say no to our children, I do all the time. It’s me you’re not allowed to say it to.”

“Ah, I knew there was a caveat somewhere.”

“Yeah, I keep it in the drawer under the bed.”

“But you’re allowed to say no to me?” he asked diffidently.

“Of course.”

“Isn’t that a tad unfair?”

“Yes.”

“Hmm,” he pouted—yes pouted—“Surely that isn’t right?”

“Only for you, I don’t have a problem with it.” How I managed to keep a straight face, I’ll never know. He is absolute rubbish at these mind games.

“Can’t we renegotiate these rules?”

“Why? I’m perfectly happy with them.”

“But I’m not sure I am.”

“Tough—what did you buy, Meems?”

“A shotgun.”

“Single or double barrel?”

“Pump-action.”

“I hope it was in pink.”

“With flowers on it.”

“Good—does it go bang, delicately? You know how girly she is.”

“Oh yes, it goes bangsy-wangsy, ever so delicately.”

“I see, anything else?”

“A pony, an Aston Martin and a private jet.”

“What, no flying lessons?” I chided.

“I thought you were better qualified with broomsticks than I,” he smirked and won the round—the miserable sod. “You walked into that one, didn’t you?”

“Okay, but I nearly had you with the house rules.”

“True—that had me worried for a bit.”

“What did you buy her?”

“A couple of outfits for her dollies.”

“That all?—you got off light.”

“Um—not quite, I also had to cough up for two new dollies, so that was ten outfits altogether.”

Now it was my turn to laugh, “You sucker.”

“I would be if I could get your bra off,” he fired back at me with a sparkle in his eye.

“C’mon then, let’s go to bed.”

Despite being asleep as soon as I’d washed after our acrobatics, I woke up after a dream. I hardly ever dream about my dad, but Mum features a bit more regularly. I suppose she was on my mind after visiting the grave—so I shouldn’t be surprised, should I?

I was remaking the bed after chasing the teenage lovers away putting the now clean linen back on my parent’s bed. My mother came in and thanked me for making the bed. “The flowers are beautiful, thank you so much, Cathy.”

When I looked round she was carrying a huge vase of flowers which she placed on a table by the side of the bed. I’d never seen the table before—not in our house, or Tom’s one, so which part of my febrile imagination that came from, I have no idea.

“Glad you like them, Mummy.”

“You’re such a nice girl, I’m so glad you weren’t a horrible boy.”

“But I was a horrible boy, Mummy,” I corrected.

“Not really, sweetheart, your father thought so and tried to make me support his efforts to turn you into one. Instead I showed you how to bake and sew, keep house and other female skills—what did he show you?—how to mend a puncture.”

“You knew I was girl?”

“Of course I did. You can fool men, even your father, but not your mother.”

“But you let him beat me, even reported me to him when I was doing embroidery—why?”

“I had to, otherwise he might have realised what I was doing. I never thought he’d beat you so hard, I thought he was just going to bawl you out.”

“But he didn’t—he nearly killed me—and I wanted to finish the job.”

“Yes—that was unfortunate—but the gods weren’t going to let you die until you’d fulfilled their mission.”

“Gods? Mission? You still talk in riddles, Mummy.”

“When it’s time all will be revealed.”

“Yeah sure, by Father Christmas I suppose.”

“Don’t be disrespectful, Catherine Watts.”

“It’s Catherine Cameron these days, Mummy, I’m a married woman—remember?”

“Of course you are—because you didn’t invite me to the wedding, I forget.”

“I couldn’t, Mummy, on account of you being dead.”

“Ah, that’s why—it’s all right, sweetheart, I forgive you.”

Talk about weird—I know dreams usually are but this was stranger than normal—if you see what I mean. At least we were amicable in it though it was probably wishful thinking about the housekeeping skills—or was it?

Did she have to teach me about hanging curtains and hemming them and coordinating colour schemes for rooms—for student rooms? I don’t think so. Geez, was it a dream? I shivered and cuddled up to Simon, who muttered something about scarlet. I’ll bet the bugger was dreaming about Scarlett Johanssen—randy sod, just you wait, Simon Cameron—just you wait.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1328

After placing my elbow in Simon’s ribs, he turned over on to his side and stopped muttering. I lay there thinking about my dream. Apart from the fact that I was interacting with a dead person, it was as if things had happened in a parallel universe. Had she been subversively educating me in housekeeping skills?

I remember I helped her make the lounge curtains which were still hanging in the house. In fact, I made half of them while she supervised, wanting me to be able to use a sewing machine. Dad was away playing golf or something. We measured and cut linings, put on the rufflette tape, hemmed and hung them. She even showed me how to measure the window width and curtains so there was enough spare material for them to hang correctly, and the same with nets.

She’d encouraged me to help choose the material so it matched or blended with the colour of the carpet and the suite—that wasn’t difficult, but judging how some people dress, her house was more colour-coordinated than some people’s clothing scheme. Mine have subsequently been integrated, as she taught me.

How many boys can hem their own trousers? I could and did while away at uni, and almost offered to do a colleague’s jeans until I realised what that would say about me. I was the only one of most of my year who actually wore trousers and jeans of the correct length, most of the others bought them too short or frayed the hems by walking on them—mind you, most of the girls were as bad.

What else had she shown me? I would sit and watch as she applied her makeup, and once or twice she let me copy what she’d done—I was about nine at the time and she thought it was amusing—or was it? I never forgot what she taught me and have taught my children the same—well the girls.

When we babysat for the neighbours a few times, she had me bath the baby and dress her and then feed her with a bottle, burp her and so on. My father wasn’t too happy about it but she argued that I might have children of my own and at least I’d have handled a baby. It’s come in handy a few times since.

Whether she was deliberately feeding my feminine side or just passing on her knowledge, I can’t say. The dream might have been pure wishful thinking. I glanced at the clock, it was after five and light—I wasn’t going to sleep anymore, so I slipped out of bed and went down had a cuppa and a slice of toast and got the bike out.

I rode for about an hour including a slow ascent of Portsdown Hill, it doesn’t get any easier when I’m riding regularly, so when I’m not, it’s a real struggle. I stopped at the top and had a drink of water and got my breath back. I watched the sun rising and the world awakening on a Sunday morning. It was going to be unusually warm by the feel of it, although it was still cool with a widespread dew everywhere, the day looked bright and sunny.

I rode back down the hill, hoping that it was too early for much traffic—except the odd dog walker—those people are out at all times of day and night—it seemed very quiet.

I flew down the hill, touching speeds well in excess of forty miles an hour with the adrenalin flowing through my system. You know that if anything happens at that speed you’re going to be badly hurt or killed, so it is exciting and hairy—it’s also exhilarating and I love it.

Nearly back at home, a group of male cyclists overtook me—I didn’t see them until they were on me—so I let them go. I’d done about seventeen miles and my legs had had enough.

I wiped the bike down and locked it away in the garage before going back into the house. Tom was up and seeing me clad in lycra knew exactly what I’d been doing.

“Guid ride, hen?”

“It was okay, but I’ve lost about ten percent of my speed.”

He shrugged, we both knew why, you have to keep exercise up or lose muscle tone. I made some more tea and ate a bowl of cereal while he pulled on his jacket and picked up the dog’s lead. He was having his constitutional and walking the dog—which he did most days whatever the weather. For an oldish man, he was quite fit.

I dashed up and showered which woke Catherine up, so after drying and dressing myself, I took her down and fed her. It wasn’t long before Livvie was down with me and she helped me feed Puddin’, who was also awake. I wondered how Stella was doing—I’d have to try and phone her later.

A little while later, the rest of the brood were up including Simon, who muttered something about a bruise on his ribs which he had no idea of getting. I had to look away and pretend I was sorting one of the children out.

Of course the exception was Julie, who like most teenagers didn’t like going to bed and liked getting out of it even less. She could sleep for England—perhaps they should try that instead of football, they might win. She usually rose about midday on a Sunday, unless she was going somewhere. Though more frequently, she wasn’t because she’d been out half the night. She’d passed her driving test and Simon gave her a little runabout—one of those Smart car things, so she could only have one passenger. It was economical compared to my car or Si’s—mind you he does tend to have a lead foot—and I suspect Daddy’s car as well. His Land Rover was reasonably good but he usually only drove it about town, I couldn’t remember the last time he drove any distance—oh yes I can, that bloody woman who nearly got him killed.

Once breakfast was cleared away, I put the joint of beef in the oven and prepared the veg. I used to parboil the potatoes for roasting, now I whack ’em in the microwave for a quick fix and then dump ’em in the oven. Trish helped me with the veg and then laid the table.

I then asked the girls if they wanted to do some sewing. Meems was very interested and Trish hemmed and hawed but eventually decided she might participate, especially when Livvie agreed it could be fun as well. Billie was very reticent which surprised me a little. Usually sewing is seen as a very girly thing and most transgender kids like to do girly things (unless they want to be boys). When I spoke to her later, she was afraid that she wouldn’t be any good at it, so she wimped out.

Meems had the best idea, Trish and Livvie were halfway there, but needed more practice. I had them cutting out and tacking after we measured a piece of cloth and pinned it. I’d seen something in a shop that I could copy, so we were making little hanging bags for putting knick-knacks in by the side of their beds—a torch or pencils, that sort of thing.

I did it for an hour with them then had to attend to the dinner, which once again Trish came to help—she seemed more interested in food than sewing, and I promised her she could help me make the gravy later on.

She duly did, and we served the rib of roast beef with roast potatoes, carrots, broccoli and swede. For dessert, I did a fruit sponge, which Trish helped me make, with chopped apple baked under a basic sponge, served with single cream. I passed on the sweet, feeling too full after my main course—I think Danny probably ate my share—some days I think he has hollow legs, because he eats like the proverbial equine yet doesn’t seem to gain an ounce let alone pounds.

After clearing up, I fell asleep over the Observer crossword while Simon and Danny messed about with a football in the garden—until they broke some glass in Tom’s greenhouse, which the girls thought was hilarious.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1329

I looked at the two lots of pills locked in the medicine cupboard—Trish’s soya-based plant phtyogens, and Billie’s estradiol. The two girls had been quite upset for me to stop them, after all they’d waited for ever to have them, according to them they had. So it came as no surprise that they cried and sulked when I told them Dr Rose had been upset with me for allowing them to be taken—I wasn’t aware what he wanted blood tests for—to set baselines for a few things including hormones.

I assured them after the blood tests were taken, that they’d be able to continue taking their pills, providing Dr Rose agreed. The proviso was the problem, I had no control or idea what he was likely to say.

It transpired the following week that he was happy for them to start again, except rather than Trish have the phytogens, once he saw what the levels were he might prescribe very low dose oestrogen. This would mean seeing him the week after Easter, during which there were going to be bank holidays galore and some young couple were apparently getting married on the telly. I wish them well but am not sure about exhibitionists, especially from that family.

I had to plan what we’d need to eat over the holiday. The supermarkets are closed on Easter Sunday—and on Christmas Day as well. I don’t have a problem with it, except they don’t shut for other denominational festivals, so why these two pagan ones? Though this one is linked to Passover, but in being linked to phases of the moon, it betrays its origins—Eostre—a fertility goddess, and you wonder why you roll eggs and so on? Each to his own I suppose.

I was irritated when Trish asked if we were going to church at Easter—I had no such plans. When I asked why, she told me the school expected it.

I tried to explain that although I allowed her religious education because it was a condition of the school attendance—and if you remember, no other school wanted to take her—I hadn’t agreed to attendance at religious ceremonies outside school.

If any of my kids decided they believed in something or other, I wouldn’t stop them enrolling in their chosen mythology, however, I wasn’t going to play myself except to allow them to experience a service—at least in Christian churches—I wasn’t sure if the other ones allowed curious bystanders to come and watch.

“So may we go to church on Easter?” she asked.

I felt really uncomfortable in going myself because it would be under false pretences. I knew what went on in Anglican ceremonies—I’d been confirmed, and yet had rejected it since.

“Perhaps Gramps would take you, he goes sometimes,” I thought I’d found a get out, Daddy did go for things like Easter and Christmas and occasionally other times. He was a sort of believer—hedging his bets, perhaps to protect his deceased family—believe in an afterlife and they might just be there waiting for you. I don’t know if he’d had any experiences of unworldly things—I’d had a few as I’ve documented here—although I’m quite happy to suggest they are almost certainly of an internal dialogue mechanism in our own minds—that’s how I understood my various dreams in which my mother appeared. Dreams—nothing more—unless some form of self-delusion is acceptable as a description.

“I’d like you to take us, Mummy.”

“Why?”

“Because you’re my Mummy.”

“But Gramps goes more often than I do, and has some sort of religious belief, I don’t, and I certainly wouldn’t go to a Catholic church.”

“No, that’s okay, you can take me to any church, I don’t mind.”

“Why d’you want to go?”

“I want to see the man change water into the blood of Jesus.”

“Um—it’s wine they do it with, and it’s symbolic not actual.”

She looked confused by my statement. I tried again.

“The priest blesses the bread and wine and it symbolically become the body and blood of Jesus.”

“I thought it was magic—an’ they like turned into blood and skin.”

“No, it’s all symbolic—they give you a tiny little piece of a wafer—like rice paper and in Anglican churches a sip of watered down wine. In Catholic churches, the priest drinks all the wine, I think.”

“What? You eat and drink it?” she sounded horrified.

“Yeah, of course you do.”

“You eat and drink Jesus’s blood and skin?”

“Metaphorically, yes. It’s all symbolic and supposed to be happening on a spiritual plane not the mundane one.”

She looked blankly at me. How come she can get her head round E=mc2 but not this stuff? It’s all hypothetical.

“It’s all about cannonballs,” she said pulling a face. “Yuck—I don’t wanna eat anybody.”

“You don’t actually eat anyone, you just pretend you are.”

“That’s silly.” She was beginning to see where I was coming from.

“No that’s faith, believing in things which defy logic.”

“Wossat mean?”

“It means believing in things which can’t actually be shown.”

“Like electricity?”

That’s right, Trish, pick an easy one—shit.

“Yeah like electricity—you can’t see it, but as soon as I flick this switch you know the light will come on—unless there’s a problem like the bulb has blown. But you know that ninety nine times out of a hundred, the light will come on if you press the switch.”

“Is that the electricity that comes out?”

“No you can’t see it, and I’m not sure we know how it works, but what you see is light produced in old fashioned bulbs by the element glowing hot, so they gave off heat and light. These new ones don’t get so hot.”

“Is that why they’re dimmer?” she asked.

“Um—are they?”

“Gramps says they are, which is why he won’t let you put them in his study.”

We were now going off tangent and I tried to go back to the subject. “Anyway, we know that when we connect a supply of electricity to a light bulb it will produce light almost every time. So we have some circumstantial evidence, and it can be replicated—done anywhere—using the same sort of equipment.”

“I can see it, Mummy, like your blue light.”

Some days I wished I’d stayed in bed. “Um—I’m not sure I understand that—the blue light I mean.”

“But you can replicate it, can’t you?”

“Sometimes, darling, I don’t have control over it, so it isn’t quite the same as flicking a switch.”

“Can you make some blue light now?”

“What for?”

“I dunno—to make me more of a girl.”

“Trish, you’re already as much of a girl as any other or as anyone can make you. The blue light won’t do that.”

“How d’ya know?”

I didn’t—I honestly didn’t.

“I don’t know exactly, I’m just going on past experience.”

“So it could happen?” she asked excitedly.

“I doubt it, darling, because not being a biological female isn’t being sick, it’s just a variation on a norm.”

“Will you try it?”

“I really don’t know if I should,” I didn’t believe any harm could happen but I couldn’t see how any good would either. I felt if anything did, it would just be some form of consolation which would stop her seeing herself as incomplete. I couldn’t see her have a DNA switch or suddenly grow ovaries and so on.

“Will you do it them, Mummy? Make me a proper girl.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1330

“You are a proper girl, darling, legally as well. The only thing you can’t do is have babies, and there are quite a lot of women who can’t do that for a variety of reasons. The female reproductive system is very complex and even if you’d been born a normal girl, you might not have been able to have babies.”

“But I will after you do me, won’t I?”

“I don’t think it works like that, darling. You’re not being a biological female is not a sickness as such. So it very probably won’t work.”

“But it is, Mummy. I don’t have bits—I need to grow them.”

“It won’t happen, sweetheart, because—.”

“Because what, Mummy?”

“Because it wasn’t meant to.”

“I wasn’t meant to be a girl?” I saw tears forming in her eyes.

“Not biologically, so you haven’t got the bits. I’m sorry, darling.”

“No,” she pushed away from me, “Jesus says I can be a real girl if I believe in him.”

“Who told you that?”

“The nuns tell us regularly that if we believe in Jesus and ask him for help, we can do anything.”

Oh bugger, how do I tell her that they were speaking metaphorically?

“Look, sweetheart, we don’t know what makes some people have a different sex in their heads to their physical bodies. Some people are born neither one thing nor the other, but most of us have an identifiable physical sex and a matching view of ourselves as being the same in our heads. But now and again something different happens, and people like you and I are born whose body is one thing and yet their mind is another.”

“I understand, Mummy—but won’t the blue light and Jesus make me a proper girl?”

“I don’t think it works like that, darling, I really don’t.”

“Did the nuns lie to me?”

“I don’t think they lied, I suspect more that they didn’t explain things very well.”

“Silly old bags.”

“Don’t be rude about them, I’m sure they meant well.”

“Do the blue light, Mummy—see if it works.”

“Can I ask you something first, darling?”

“Of course, Mummy.”

“I know that the boy bits you lost won’t grow back because they’ve been removed…”

“You don’t think that could happen, do you? That would be horrible.”

“I just said I don’t think that could happen, but what if the light thought that your mind was sick?”

“My mind, Mummy?”

“Yes, what if the light thought that it was doing the right thing by making you feel like a boy not a girl?”

“Don’t be silly, Mummy, how could that happen?”

“I don’t know, and I’m not saying it would, but just think for a moment—as far as we know, until you did your own bit of surgery and then the doctors sorted you after Auntie Stella accidentally cut you, you had a normal little boy’s body.”

She huffed and folded her arms.

“It was your mind that was a girl’s, not your body. What if instead of doing something to your body, it changed your mind?”

She laughed, “That is silly, Mummy.”

“It would be ironic and awful for you to be a boy stuck in a girl’s body, wouldn’t it?”

She laughed again, but her expression meant she was thinking about what I’d said.

“Would you want to take that risk—becoming a boy who had no willie and no chance of getting one?”

“No,” she shrieked and ran off up the stairs.

I felt rotten—I was scared because I honestly felt that something like it could happen. It was unlikely, but I wasn’t prepared to take that risk with her and I’d outmanoeuvred her. Was I acting in her best interests?

To be honest I didn’t think anything would happen, because it isn’t usually the sort of thing that it deals with, and besides, with the exception of being fertile, she was likely to become a full woman, with a female figure and I suspect attractive face—she was quite a pretty kid already. Why do we always want more than we can have?

I understand her, because I wanted it too, but I know my limitations and I do have the joy of breastfeeding, which I believe she could too when she’s older.

I sat at the kitchen table and putting my arms on the table hid my face in them and sobbed. I was still there when I felt a hand on my shoulder, “What’s the matter, Mummy?”

I looked up through bleary eyes and saw Julie standing beside me. “Hello, sweetheart,” I said trying to pretend I must have fallen asleep.

“Why have you been crying?” she persisted.

“Oh it’s nothing.”

“It must be, you don’t cry for nothing—c’mon, tell Auntie Julie all about it,” she said patronisingly while patting my hand.

“Make some tea, while I clean myself up,” I said and went upstairs. I washed my face in cold water; at least I wasn’t wearing any makeup to smear all over my sleeves. I went to check on Trish, who was lying on her bed reading a book.

“Are you all right, sweetheart?”

“Huh, what d’you care?” she threw back at me like a spear and then pretended to read again.

“I care a great deal about you and all the other children who look to me to look after them.”

“Well you failed, didn’t you?” she got up flung the book on the bed and pushed past me.

“I seem to have failed to teach you any manners, young lady,” I said to her back.

She replied with something which sounded like, duck off. I felt extremely hurt and angry with her but felt powerless to do very much because I was so angry. However, I wasn’t the only one who heard it.

At the bottom of the stairs stood Julie who confronted Trish: “I think you’d better apologise before I wash your dirty mouth with soap and water, squirt.”

Trish made the same reply to her older sister and Julie grabbed her and shook her. “Don’t you speak to me like that, you dirty little scumbag,” she was about to slap her when I shouted to let her go.

Trish stamped on Julie’s foot and ran past her and out into the garden, I got downstairs just in time to see her disappear through the back door.

“God, that bloody hurt,” gasped Julie, “I only came to tell you I’d made your tea. I’ll kill the little bitch if I catch her.”

“No you won’t, I’ll deal with this,” I said forcefully before giving chase up the garden.

I kept telling myself that she is seven years old and abused in previous homes, but I still had an urge to strangle her slowly. I saw her disappear into the orchard and I began to run after her.

“Trish, come back here, this minute,” I shouted closing on her.

“Go to hell,” she shouted back at me turning to face me before running off and straight into an apple tree. It caught her on the face and head with a sickening thud and she bounced back before collapsing onto the grass.

With heart pounding I rushed after her kneeling down beside her watching a contusion form on her forehead and start to bleed into her hair, her eye was swelling and turning a dark red colour and there was blood oozing from her mouth.

Realising that she’d probably bitten her tongue and aware she was still breathing, I turned her on her side to let the blood drain from her mouth so she didn’t choke on it or inhale it.

As I touched her, I felt energy flow into her inert body, and I recognised the irony—she wanted blue light, she got blue light—but not quite as she wanted it.

I felt her coming back to consciousness and she stirred a little, “It’s all right, darling, Mummy’s here,” I cooed to her.

She groaned and touched her face with her hand, the blood leaving her pink-painted nails red.

“Oh, that hurts,” she said.

“I’m sure it does, sweetheart, you ran full pelt into that tree.”

“Did I? Where am I?”

“In the orchard, in Gramps house.”

“Orchard—what orchard? Who are you?” she asked looking at me through her good eye.

“I’m your mummy, Trish, remember?”

“No you’re not, my mother’s got dark hair and my name’s Patrick—so who’s Trish?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1331

“How do you feel, Patrick?”

“My head hurts, and it’s bleeding—I don’t like blood,” she said and was promptly sick, thankfully on to the ground and not over either of us. “My tongue feels funny.”

“I think you probably bit it when you hit the tree.”

“What am I doing here?”

“Come on, kiddo, let’s get you into the house and clean you up.” I lifted her up, yes her, reversion to boyhood could be somewhat problematical. I half-carried her into the kitchen.

“What happened to her?” asked Julie as we entered the kitchen, seeing the blood on Trish’s face and the blackening eye.

“Why am I wearing girl’s clothes?”

“C’moff it, Trish, stop playing games.” Julie thought Trish was fooling about.

“My name is Patrick, and why am I wearing a skirt?”

“It’s a long story, kiddo,” I said and began wiping blood and dirt gently from the wound. “I think we’d better get this checked out at the QA. I don’t like head injuries.”

“Ouch that hurts.”

“I’m sorry about that, darling, but I need to clean you up. Do you need to go to the toilet before we leave for the hospital?”

“Yes, I need to wee.”

“Don’t forget you need to sit down to do it,” called Julie smirking. “What’s her game then?”

“I’m hoping it’s some form of temporary amnesia, caused by a concussion, but I think I’d better get her checked out.”

“Yeah best had, want me to come with you?”

“No, can you help Simon look after the others?”

“Yeah okay.”

Without anyone telling her, Trish had gone to the cloakroom, so was the amnesia wearing off?

“What happened to my dick?” she said when she returned.

“You’re a girl, Trish, they don’t have willies.”

“Look, I know I had one when I woke up this morning—so where is it? And why am I wearing this skirt?”

“Let’s go and get you checked out and I’ll try and explain while we drive.” She got in the car with me and sat holding an ice pack on her head wound.

“Where do you think we are?”

“In your car.”

“I mean which town?”

“I dunno, do I?—you musta kidnapped me.”

“I can assure you I didn’t. Two or three years ago, I was fostering a little girl called Jemima who’d been hurt in a car accident and had been in hospital. She apparently got friendly with a boy called Patrick who preferred to call himself Patricia or Trish and he believed he was a girl.”

“That’s stupid.”

“He had been pushed down some stairs because the boys at the home where he was staying didn’t like him and he’d hurt his back or his head. Anyway he couldn’t walk or wouldn’t walk. Because I’d helped Mima recover from a similar injury, I was asked to have Patricia for a little while to see if I could help her.”

“You said her name was Patrick, like mine.” She gave me an odd look, “That was me, wasn’t it?”

“Yes, d’you remember anything?”

“No.”

“Anyway, to cut a long story short, Trish recovered and wanted to stay with me permanently—so I adopted her. The fact that you have no penis is because you had an accident and it was pretty well severed. Seeing as you lived as a girl and went to a girl’s school, the surgeons thought it best to make you a girl down there. They couldn’t have saved your bits I’m afraid.”

“I don’t believe you, you’re lying.”

“You might call me many things but a liar isn’t one of them.”

I saw she was crying and then she stopped and began to close her eyes, dropping the ice pack. Sleeping after a head injury is a potentially bad sign, so I cranked up our speed and screamed into the A&E parking area nearly hitting an ambulance.

One of the paramedics, a man, came from the ambulance looking like he wanted words with me. Instead I opened the passenger door and got him to help me carry the now unconscious child into the emergency department.

“Not you again?” said Ken Nicholls, until he saw Trish being carried by the paramedic. “What’s the matter with her?”

“She ran into a tree in the garden, she bit her tongue and whacked her head, and fell asleep a few minutes ago in the car coming over here.”

“She’s out cold—okay, X-ray and if necessary a scan—quick, if she’s got a haematoma we’re going to need a neurosurgeon or a helicopter.

“Your magic not working?” he chipped at me.

“I’m not sure, but something I think I ought to tell you, is she came round from the bump saying she was a boy called Patrick.”

“Didn’t Mick do a gender reassignment after she got cut?”

“Yes.”

“Oops—that could be interesting—glad I’m not in your shoes, when she asks where it went.”

“She did and I told her just before she passed out.”

“I think I would too. Gotta go.” He rushed off to deal with his next patient and I phoned Simon and explained where I was.

“Bloody hell, Babes, if you spend any more time there, they’ll be inviting you staff parties.”

He’d heard what had happened from Julie and was as concerned and bemused as the rest of us. We talked briefly about the other children and he agreed to sort them out with Julie and Jenny. I promised to let them know as soon I knew anything. I went and sat in the waiting room.

About twenty minutes later, Sam Rose appeared and walked over to me. “What’s this about Trish thinking she’s a boy?”

I shrugged and told him what had happened. He went off and ten minutes later called me through. “There’s no brain bleed or haematoma, so we’re not quite sure what the problem is—possibly just concussion and shock—her BP is a bit low.”

“Can I see her?”

“Of course—come through—if you’ve got any of that magic stuff with you, feel free to use it.”

I was taken to a cubicle where her little body was lying under a hospital blanket, she was breathing slowly and there was a pulse monitor attached to her finger. Her oxygen levels were low so they’d put a small mask over her nose and mouth. I felt physically sick seeing her there and wondering what was going on in her damaged head.

I sat and took her hand, the nurse slipped out of the curtain and left us alone. “Hello, Trish or Patrick, whichever one of you can hear me.” I squeezed her hand gently and felt her squeeze back. “Okay, it’s Mummy and I’ve come to lead you back to me so I can take you home, assuming you want to come. Wherever you are I want you to look for a blue or white light, which I’m sending to you. When you see it, squeeze my hand again.”

I was powering the energy into her as fast as I could and felt so scared. Head injuries and shock can be killers. I hoped the blue light wouldn’t let us down but she had been pushing her luck with it earlier.

I was jarred from my reverie by her squeezing my hand. “Good girl, now listen to my voice and follow the light and it will lead you back to me, my darling, just follow the light.”

I set to with extra effort, trying to pull down as much light as I could and focused it into her. At one point she began to cry and shouted, “Mummy, I can’t see you.”

“It’s okay, I’m here, sweetheart, Mummy’s here.” I sat on the edge of the bed and held her. “We all love you, Trish, so come on back to us.”

I don’t know how long I held on to her, but I was nodding off to sleep when I heard Sam Rose’s voice. “How’s she doing?”

“Um—” I yawned, “I’m sorry, I nodded off then.”

He examined her and got a pupil response from shining his light in her eyes. Her oxygen level was up and so was her blood pressure, she seemed stable but still not conscious.

“I’m going to admit her.”

“Can I stay?”

“Once we get her settled, but not in the bed with her—the sister will have my guts for garters.”

I sat with her pushing in the blue light until a porter came and took her to the children’s ward, where she was placed in a side room. Once she was settled, I was allowed to sit beside her and talk to her.

It was getting on for midnight, when I heard her voice. “Mummy, where are you?”

“I’m here, Trish,” and I squeezed her hand.

“I can’t see, Mummy, I can’t see.” She sat bolt upright in the bed her eyes wide open. “I can’t see,” she screamed and a nurse ran in.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1332

They gave Trish a sedative, and I was allowed to cuddle her until she fell asleep. Sam Rose appeared a little later and I was invited into his office, a nurse promising to let me know if she woke.

“Cathy, I’m not sure of what’s going on in Trish’s head, and I’ll call her Trish for now, because that’s who I think she really is. The symptoms could be due to the bump on her head, it’s the frontal lobe which would have taken most of the impact unless there was a jolt effect as well, in which case anything could have happened. However, we can see any evidence of brain injury other than the concussion.”

“I’m not sure I follow you, Sam. The amnesia, the blindness—don’t tell me she’s imagining that?”

“The blindness is well documented after head injuries and clears up fairly quickly, unless there is some organic damage to an area of vision, but it didn’t show in the scan. The amnesia was intriguing—she appeared to have forgotten most of her life. Yet remembered before her time in the home and with you.”

“You’re suggesting she imagined it or made it up?”

“No, even little Einstein out there isn’t that clever—if she was sixteen, yes and she’d keep it going until she punished you for whatever imaginary slight you’d given her. So it’s intriguing.”

“It’s funny before this happened we were talking about the healing I do and she wanted me to see if I could change her into a genetic female.”

“That would be a nice trick if you could do it, presumably on yourself first?”

“I don’t think it works like that, and I refused to do it on the grounds that I didn’t think it would work and at the back of my mind I had a what if scenario, which was even less satisfactory.”

“Which was?”

“What if the cause of some people’s transgenderism is an anomaly and the energy recognised it…”

“And turned her back into a boy…Ouch, talk about convoluted—but you said you didn’t heal her?”

“But I did when she ran into the tree—it wasn’t conscious, I just felt it flowing into her.”

“So are you trying to tell me that the energy punished her?”

“I have no idea what happened—except she came to and told me I wasn’t her mother and her name wasn’t Trish it was Patrick.”

“I find the healing something of an irony given your agnosticism.”

“Don’t you think that hasn’t occurred to me?”

“But then good people don’t have to be godly, do they?—think Good Samaritan.”

“Sam, I understand what you’re saying, but I don’t think I compare with a character in a biblical parable.”

“Oh I don’t know, you pick ’em up off the street, feed ’em, clothe and house ’em—all at your own expense, while others walk by—sound familiar?”

“You’re taking it out of context, Sam.”

“Yeah, okay—besides we know you have angelic status—so I’ll ignore the comparison.”

“Saaaam,” I protested and he gave a dirty chuckle.

“Dr Rose, you’re wanted in A&E.”

“Sorry, I have to go—I get to fix the bits the surgeons can’t superglue back together.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“What for? Look, I assume you’re going to hang around a bit longer?”

“I’m going back to my vigil,” I smiled.

“Good—okay, look, I’ve got some food arriving a bit later—I’ll give you a call.”

“I don’t feel particularly hungry,” I didn’t either.

“Good, that’ll leave more for me, I’ll give you a shout later,” and before I could protest he took off down the corridor.

At least he wasn’t frosty towards me—so things are better there. I made my way back to the children’s unit and sat with Trish. She was fast asleep and according to the nurse likely to stay that way for several hours. She loaned me a blanket and a spare pillow and I curled up as best I could in the chair beside my daughter.

Simon called by at nine with a flask of soup—he’d opened a tin of tomato soup and brought in a couple of slices of bread as well, plus an apple and some chocolate. I hugged him and thanked him. Before I could eat any of it, Sam sent for me and he told me to go, he’d watch Trish—“’Bout time I spent some quality time with her.”

I gave him a very old fashioned look and he fell about laughing.

I was directed to Sam’s office where we’d been talking beforehand, when I knocked he called me to enter and laid out on his desk was a set of Chinese takeaway food. At his insistence I tucked into special chicken fried rice and pork and mushrooms, some bean sprouts and water chestnuts—all washed down with a can of ginger beer.

He was just about to start chatting when he was paged again, “Sorry, I have to go.”

“Thanks for my supper, it was delicious, can I clean up for you?”

“No, I’ll do that later, you get back to that little girl.”

I made a toilet stop on the way back and returned to find Simon just finishing the tomato soup and bread. He got peckish.

After he left, I spoke to Trish and told her I was there beside her and she needn’t be afraid. I slept a little but during the wee sma’ ’oors I craved the comfort of my own bed, not the tribute to discomfort, the NHS chair offered—probably intended to stop visitors becoming too comfortable—in which case it worked. In the end I lay on my coat with the blanket over me on the floor—a very hard floor.

“Mummy, where are you?” whimpered a small voice during the night and I banged my head jumping up to comfort her.

“I’m here, sweetheart.” I stroked her hand. “Can you see me?”

“No, Mummy, I think I’m blind.” She began to cry.

“It’s okay, darling, Dr Rose thinks it will pass in a short while,” I said one arm round her the other rubbing the bit of my brain which tried to move a twenty-ton hospital bed.

“How d’you feel, my darling?” I asked her as she calmed down.

“Frightened, if I can’t read again or see you and the others or my laptop—it’ll be awful,” she began to sob again.

“Hush there, sweetheart, Dr Rose usually knows what he’s doing, doesn’t he?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“I mean, he suggested you come to live with me when you wanted to become Trish, didn’t he?”

“Yes, Mummy, an’ I’m so glad I did—I hated being a boy.”

“You never were a boy, Trish, it’s just what other people thought.”

“That’s right, Mummy, a girl with an outie.”

“Not even that now, you’re a real girl.”

“Am I, Mummy, have I got girl bits?”

“I’m sorry, sweetheart, I don’t think so.”

“Oh well, at least I won’t have monthlies, will I—where I feel awful and get all crabby like you do.”

“I don’t get all crabby, young lady.”

“Hee hee,” she sniggered, “Nearly got you going.”

“I’ll shoot you, missy—the lip I get from you lot—honestly, I think I’ll send you all to the cat’s home.”

“Can we have a pussy cat, Mummy?”

“I’ll think about it if you get your sight back, otherwise it would be yet another hazard to fall over.”

“I can see, Mummy.”

“How many fingers have I got up?” I held a finger from each hand in front of her.

“Four.”

“That was a guess.”

“No it wasn’t, Mummy.”

I held up one finger.

“Two, Mummy.”

“You can’t see, can you?”

“I’m sure I will, Mummy, especially if Dr Rose says so.”

I hugged her but I was extremely worried how we’d all cope if her sight didn’t return. That would be a cruel outcome and I’d have to really reconsider what I felt about the blue energy.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1333

I held her until she went back to sleep after which I tried once again to get comfortable on the chair and did fall asleep, at least I assumed I did because I dreamt again.

I was walking through a woodland full of bluebells and birdsong—something I’ve done loads of times and was trying to identify the birdsong when I heard a strange noise—I can’t begin to describe it—but it sounded—like a cross between a rutting red deer stag and a scream.

The birdsong went quiet and I felt my blood run cold—what the hell was it? My only thought was a feral wild boar—and although they usually avoid humans—they can be dangerous, with vicious tusks that could give you a nasty wound.

The noise sounded again and the birds were using little alarm calls to each other and then went silent. I felt rooted to the spot, I wanted to run but my legs wouldn’t move and feet felt like they’d been glued to the ground. I was aware of the perfume of the bluebells.

There was a crashing through the undergrowth and suddenly before me reared a huge bear, grizzly bear size but I’d have assumed from its colour it was a brown bear. I thought it ironic that as a professional zoologist specialising in mammals, it looked as if it was increasingly likely I was going to be eaten by one. Mind you I rarely feel threatened by dormice.

Again, I realised that no human can outrun a bear, nor could I out climb it—in fact, with my poor upper body strength, I was a lousy tree climber. No, it looked as if I was coming to a sticky end.

Suddenly, the spell was broken and I could move. As I said I couldn’t outrun it so I had but one chance to scare it off—yeah okay, it’s like using a pencil to stop a crocodile eating you. Bears have been extinct in England for about fifteen hundred years—so where did this one come from?

I picked up a broken branch and began to shout and bang the branch to make as much noise as possible. Just to reassure me I remembered some fact that a bear can crush your skull with a single bite—which is as bad as a tiger. Good job I was wearing brown trousers.

The bear stopped and looked at me, “What’s your problem?” he asked.

I’ve heard of dancing bears but not talking ones—except in Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights series.

“What are you doing here—this is England and you’re extinct.”

“I see, on what d’you base that observation?” replied the bear.

“I live in England, I haven’t been abroad recently so I assume this is still England and you lot became extinct around the Roman period.”

“This is a dream—my dream—so what are you doing in it?” challenged the bear.

“I thought you were in my dream,” I complained back.

“Typical bloody woman,” he grumbled. “Here I am dying and having a last dream and you wander into it and start making loads of bloody noise.”

“Dying—you’re dying?”

“Yes, one of your species shot me—I got away so he won’t get a token pelt to say he shot me, but I’m lying in my cave breathing my last. I just wanted to remember my youth when I was king of the forest.”

“Perhaps I can help?”

“Yes, stop making a noise to start with.”

“Did he shoot you in the head?”

“Yes, how did you know?”

“I thought so.”

“How did you know?”

“You are a bit stereotypical.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“A bear with a sore head.”

“And you’re a woman with a long tongue.”

“Do you mind if I approach you—I mean you no harm, I’m a scientist and I study woodland animals.”

“Approach if you wish, what did you have in mind?”

“I am also a healer.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’d like to try and heal your wound.”

“This is a dream, woman. My body is miles away from here.”

“Hush, Bruin, stand still and let me look at you.” I walked up to the bear—I could sense an injury near his left eye. I waved my hand in front of it and he didn’t blink. “Please sit down.”

“What for?”

“Because I need to touch your head.”

“Take any liberties and I’ll bite your hand off.”

“I thought this was a dream?”

“Damn, you weren’t supposed to remember that.”

“Look, Rupert, just button it, I need to concentrate and your time is running out.”

“Oh okay,” he sat down and I moved very close to him. My hand was drawn to his eye and I placed my right hand over it, my left I held on his heart. I drew down the light and began chanting something which I didn’t know I knew. Suddenly the woods echoed with the same chant and I felt the power growing. The bear fell down and I was trapped underneath; he was heavy and his breath smelt dreadful.

However, instead of struggling to escape I continued to force the energy into him asking him to get better and at the same time chanting, the noise of which now filled the forest.

I could sense rather than see beings all round me, and it was their chanting I could hear. They were calling ‘Arth’ or bear, I remembered that from my history lessons—King Arth-ur was possibly a warlord called, ‘The Bear’ because he was either huge or had a bear motif as his standard.

The bear gave a great shudder and I thought my skills had failed me as they had with Trish. Then he roared and frightened the life out of me, but I kept my hand over his eye.

He stirred and then stood up; I was left lying on the ground. “Thank you, madam, I seemed to have misjudged you—you do have healing skills.” With that he simply walked away followed by an entourage of all sorts of weird woodland folk of all shapes and sizes.

I lay there for a moment hoping that I had helped to save him and restore his sight. Getting my breath back I was just pulling myself up on my feet when I felt someone standing behind me.

“We are pleased with you.” I recognised the voice—what did she want?

“Why, you usually criticise me?”

“You resisted the urge to try and give the child what she wanted rather than needed.”

“If I could have given my child what she wanted, I would have done.”

“Despite it being against the laws of nature?”

“I’m a full-size example of contravention of the laws of nature, so is she. I’m supposed to be male—nature got it wrong—so I had things changed at least so I can cope with myself.”

“Yes—nature did get it wrong—you should have been female—the female essence is strong in you, and in your damaged child.”

“I suppose trying to help the bear was against the law of nature, too. I assume he was meant to die—horribly from his wound?”

“No, that wasn’t his destiny at all—neither was his encounter with you—but we were greatly impressed your resolve and your resourcefulness—very few would have had the courage to tell a bear with a sore head to sit down while they helped them.”

“So, what are you going to do?”

“I am going to send you back to your task—back to your daughter to heal her.”

“Thank you, milady.”

“At last we get some recognition. One day, Catherine, we won’t accept your impudence.”

“I’m sorry, milady.”

“It’s too late for apologies—go back to your child—and do not fail us in your main task.”

“What is my main task?” I shouted as I felt myself falling and woke up on the floor entangled with that wretched chair and the blanket.

“Are you all right?” asked a nurse as I got up and righted the chair.

“Yes, thank you,” I folded the blanket and dumped it on the chair.

“Fancy a cuppa?”

“Oh yes please.” She was suddenly my favourite nurse.

“I’ll bring it through in about ten minutes.”

I stood beside Trish and she seemed restless. I put one hand on her face by her eyes and the other over her heart, and began chanting, ‘Ursus’, very quietly. I felt the energy flow, I also felt the presence of something very large with me.

The energy was flowing so quickly and so powerfully, I could barely keep my hands still and in place. Suddenly, she pulled my hands away and opening her eyes said, “Mummy, I knew it was you—is that my teddy?”

“No, sweetheart, it’s your guardian spirit.”

“He’s nice—oh he’s leaving.” She sat up, “Why did he have to go?”

“Because he’d done what he had to do, sweetheart, help me to make you better.”

“Did you see him too?”

“Oh yes, darling, I saw him as well.”

“I don’t like this gown very much, Mummy, it’s a horrible colour.”

“You can see again, can you, sweetheart?”

“Yes, Mummy, my headache has gone too.”

The nurse returned, “Oh, she’s awake?”

“Yes, I am thank you,” Trish replied, “Nurse Ursula.”

“You can read my name badge?”

“Yes, I am seven you know.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1334

Trish was checked out by an ophthalmologist who could find nothing wrong with her eyes and thus concluded her temporary blindness was due to concussion or shock. It happens. I stayed with her while he examined her, although he had an unpronounceable name, at least to my mouth. I thanked him and he left.

It was decided as Trish was under Dr Rose, she couldn’t be discharged until he said so. She’d had breakfast on the ward and I ran up to the hospital restaurant and had some toast and a cuppa—I still wasn’t hungry. My mind was running through what I recalled of my dream—I should write them down.

Most peculiar of all was that Trish saw or felt the bear with me when she woke, which I didn’t see but certainly felt. Bears and Old Testament—doesn’t really make any sense does it? Mind you, nothing does about any of this, leastways to me it doesn’t, you might say it doesn’t bear thinking about.

What was with the Bear motif? It made no sense—although one might draw parallels with the Romano-British war lord of Arthur as being some sort of archetype stuck in the back of my brain—all British children learn about King Arthur. I even knew enough to criticise an encyclopaedia which described him as an English king who fought the Saxons.

He was Romano-British, the English postdate the Saxons, and he was reputedly fighting the Saxon invaders and his downfall came from betrayal, at least according to the mythologies which were mostly medieval in origins—so might have been pure fantasies built on oral traditions modified to fit the needs of the day. So the discovery of a nobleman and his wife at Glastonbury Abbey, were seen as politically convenient to be identified as Arthur and Guinevere. What they didn’t say was that this was put about by the King who was essentially Norman French, and the Abbots of Glastonbury who were trying to prove precedence over Canterbury in terms of earliest origins. It’s ironic that they were hundreds of years later than the churches and monasteries of the Celtic church. They were all eventually subsumed by the Church of Rome—who acted as ruthlessly as its military namesake had hundreds of years before. Augustine was no saint but an artful politician.

I still didn’t know what Rupert Bear was doing in my dreams or possibly accompanying me in healing Trish, nor how it fitted with an Old Testament goddess, nor was I that worried about it, it was more curiosity than complaint. Let’s face it we carry the integration of many cultures in our daily lives—we eat foods from abroad, drink teas from Asia, wear clothes from all over, shoes from South America or Vietnam, I drive a German made car—and religion, even that of the Church of Rome is mainly a mixture of paganism, Judaism—which has lots of Egyptian and Canaanite paganism in it, plus a bit of this and that—a real religious cocktail, but it’s proved very successful so far in lasting nearly two thousand years—not bad for something built on sand.

I returned to Trish and awaited the royal progress of the consultant and his entourage—it didn’t happen. Sam Rose popped over before he started his ward rounds and clinics.

“I’m discharging Trish because I think she’s well again, perhaps she needs glasses if she can’t see things as big as trees.” He said this deliberately in her earshot because he knew she’d react.

“I did see it, just not soon enough.”

“Yes, you had a real close-up view of it didn’t you, sweetheart?” I added.

She huffed and folded her arms over her chest in a real little girl sulk. All that was missing was the pout and that came moments later. Sam thought it was hilarious.

“Right, young lady, if you behave I’m going to give this prescription to your mummy and you can start a very low dosage hormone. Her levels are too low according to our resident endocrinologist, so we try another blood test in three months. There’s also one for Billie, so you won’t have to bring her back in either. I’m giving her a testosterone blocker and small dose hormone.”

“What about the ones she’s already got?”

“Scrap those and go with this—I’ve spoken to Stephanie and she’s quite happy with my regime. We don’t normally do this for children as young as this, but these are exceptional individuals and circumstances alter cases.”

“You’re not going to be in any trouble about this are you, Sam?”

“No, I reserve the right to act based upon my own experience and clinical judgement.”

“You do your own thing then?”

“Only when I feel it’s justified—and this is.”

“I owe you a dinner, would you come by for one sometime soon?”

“Okay, give me a ring in a week or two.”

“We’d love you to come, wouldn’t we, Trish?”

“Oh yes, Mummy, Dr Rose is my favourite quack.”

“I beg your pardon, young lady, but I am not a quack doctor.”

Trish blushed and was so embarrassed she didn’t notice him wink at me. “Sorry, Dr Rose, it’s what Daddy calls doctors.”

“Does he now? It’s perhaps as well that he’s too old to see me or I might have something to say about it.”

Suitably embarrassed, she gave him a hug and peck on the cheek and I took her home. The black eye had mysteriously not got any worse and was even fading quite rapidly, as was the cut and bruising on her forehead and scalp. So she only looked as if I beat her about lightly, not seriously.

She received a hero’s welcome upon her return, or should that be heroine? The girls were all fussing her as was Jenny. I sat with Simon who held my hand. Danny came up to me and said quietly, “I’ve missed you, Mummy and I’m glad you’re back home.”

“That’s very kind of you to say so, darling.”

He blushed, looked suitably embarrassed and said, “The food is so much better when you’re home.”

Simon nearly wet himself laughing and I accepted the compliment, albeit in backhanded form.

We were altogether, except for Stella, and Easter was fast approaching. Would Trish ask again for me to take her to church? If so did I swallow my agnostic pride and go with her or ask Tom to take her? I’d wait and see—she had plenty to think about as it was.

I left them all with Simon while I went to buy them little Easter presents. They get enough chocolate as it is, so I went looking for alternative gifts. Danny got a football game for his computer; Billie some new clothes; Meems—a new bed for her dolls; Livvie had a new CD and Trish—well, she got the biggest teddy bear I could find. Puddin’ and Catherine got new soft toys too, Pud got a Tigger from the Pooh stories and Catherine, a new soft doll—which hopefully she wouldn’t eat this time.

I bought Daddy a haggis which I’d cook for him one day soon and Simon got a book he wanted. Jenny I gave a box of chocolates to, and Julie, who was last but not least, got some obscure hairbrush that took me an hour to find. I won’t try to describe it, except it looked like the kind of thing that would be useful for shoving in a drawer and forgetting.

I sent a bouquet of flowers to Stella from all of us and promised to visit soon. What about me? I had my family, what else could I need? Oh okay, some flowers magically appeared on Easter morning along with a large pack of Ferrero Rocher chocs, the originator of which died recently. I hope he died knowing what pleasure he’d given to thousands of men and women over the years—this one especially, I love ’em.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1335

Easter day arrived and along with a bouquet of flowers which mysteriously appeared in the kitchen sink—all I usually find are dirty dishes that the users are too lazy to rinse and stick in the dishwasher—so this made a nice surprise.

The choccies were lovely too, apparently on behalf of all the children—it was a large box, but I knew I’d have to hide them or they simply evaporate. I put them in the fridge, in the salad box covering them with spring greens.

Julie was really pleased with her hairbrush—to me it resembled something between a bottle brush and—um—a lavatory brush? The important thing was that she was pleased with it. A client had given her an Easter egg, so she was quite content to have non-chocolate prezzies.

The youngsters grumbled—they liked their presents but wanted an egg as well. So after breakfast, I told them I’d secreted half a dozen Easter eggs in the garden, but no matter how many they found, they were only allowed to keep one, they had to pass any further ones to one of the others.

Meems found the first one—I reckon Simon told her where to go—he helped me hide them. Next was Danny, who got one from the hole in the wall by the shed. Livvie had one from the apple tree which had decked Trish, and she found a second one for Trish, under my car. At one point Simon had to intervene because Trish said she didn’t see any of the eggs, and Livvie said she must be blind, or words to that effect.

Trish slapped Livvie, who pulled her hair in retaliation—in some ways, I was glad I was dealing with the dinner. I was doing a whole leg of lamb which I basted in lemon, honey with fresh rosemary and mint. I popped it in the low oven of the Aga at eight o’clock and was intending to eat it about one pm.

I microwaved a pile of potatoes and got them ready to make roasties, then began washing carrots and slicing them into sticks to cook in butter in the oven. For green stuff we had spring greens as recently used for camouflaging a certain box of chocolates—and while no one was looking, I ate a couple of chocs.

Once the dinner was underway, I made myself a cuppa and had just sat down to eat it when Jenny came in with the two little ones and poured herself a cup, and next was Simon who was extolling the weather, in particular the sunshine. It was rather nice—presumably nobody had told the weather it was a bank holiday, so all the rain was queuing up to happen on the next weekend when the Royal Wedding was in progress.

While I was too busy to watch it, I felt sorry for Catherine Middleton, if it does rain and I looked forward to seeing pictures of the dress—she wears some nice outfits at times, and I particularly liked the red suit or coat with the black belt that she wore to church a few weeks ago.

I suddenly thought of church, and called Trish. “Did you want to go to church?”

“Dunno,” she said. She was covered in chocolate and assorted garden muck—she looked like a chocolate-flavoured compost heap.

“Well if you’re going, you need to get showered because Gramps will be going in half an hour.”

“I wanted you to take me.”

“I can’t sweetheart, I’m doing the dinner.”

“I could look after that for an hour,” offered Jenny, dropping me right in it.

“C’mon, Mummy, we gotta shower.” Trish practically dragged me up the stairs. I surrendered and we both showered together to save time.

“I look like you now, Mummy,” she waggled her groin at me in a very suggestive manner—at least to me it seemed that way—I suppose to a seven-year-old she was just flaunting what she had, the alopecic form of mine, in miniature.

We hurriedly dried and dressed and I dried and plaited her hair into a French plait with a ribbon to match her dress—in royal blue. I was going to wear trousers until Trish grumbled and I threw on a Laura Ashley dress I’d bought last summer, plus a neutral cardigan and some red court shoes—yes the ones that had got Trish walking when she first came to stay. She called them my magic shoes.

By the time we got to the church, we had two minutes to find a seat and compose ourselves before the service began. It wasn’t a communion, that had been earlier, this was the family service and Trish spotted someone she knew from school who was sat across the aisle from us and they both played peek-a-boo during the interminable sermon, which was on resurrection—oh one in particular but I expect you’d know that anyway.

Despite all my anti-God-botherer stuff, I didn’t spontaneously combust when the shadow of the cross fell on me as they processed around the church. Nor was I struck by lightning, though if the preacher had been it would have livened it up for the rest of us. I don’t know how many elderly people fell asleep but I was fighting hard to stay awake throughout. It must take a real talent to send so many to sleep and this guy seemed to have it in spades—as well as all the other suits. He spoke for twenty minutes—nineteen of which I felt I was losing the will to live. Trish was still playing peek-a-boo with Sascha Freebody, at least that’s who I think she said it was.

Finally, the old buzzard in the pulpit ran out of gibberish to throw at us and we sang a hymn and the prayers finished it off. Once things were over, Trish dragged me over to meet Sascha and her mother, Carol—no not one of the Christmas carols: pay attention, this is Easter.

While the two girls were chatting, Carol Freebody said to me, “I know you from somewhere, don’t I?”

“Do you?”

“Yes, now where was it?”

“I did a talk to the school a couple of months ago.”

“That’s it; it’s Lady Catherine, isn’t it?”

“Officially yes, but most people call me Cathy.”

“Okay, Cathy it is, we only live round the corner, would you like to come for a coffee.”

I looked at Trish and she was urging me to say yes. “I can’t stay long, I’ve got a leg of lamb in the oven.”

“I’ve got to go over the mother-in-law’s, a real joy, if you know what I mean?”

I smirked. I was fortunate that I actually liked Monica, even if she did frighten me to death that first time—and still made me uneasy, even though Simon assures me she won’t pester me now we’re married.

The Freebody’s house was a nice detached Victorian pile literally a hundred yards from the church. It was very comfortably appointed and expensively furnished—it transpired her husband worked for Barclays, as in bank. It obviously paid well judging by the furnishings. She made me a coffee while her husband, Gordon, talked to me—the two girls were upstairs playing in Sascha’s bedroom.

“So what d’you do or are you a stay-at-home wife and mother?”

“I work part-time when I can fit it in.”

“Oh yes, doing what?”

“Coordinating the mammal survey of the UK.”

“Oh yes, who’s that with?”

“The government, the Mammal Society, the RSPB, Woodlands Trust and quite a few other bodies and about thirty different university departments up and down the country.”

“So you actually coordinate it?”

“Most of it, yes. I do have a couple of folk helping me on a semi-regular basis.”

“So are you a scientist?”

“I’m an ecologist or field biologist.”

“Not one of these types who stops building developments because they got the wrong sort of newt?”

“Um—sometimes, why, d’you have a problem with that?”

“Not personally,” he said backing down, “but my bank does, we occasionally lose a packet when the builder or developer goes bust, because of dormice in the attic or something.”

“Cathy’s into dormice, aren’t you?”

I nodded.

“She made a film last year about them—it was on the BBC.”

“That was you?” he practically exploded. “Goodness, yes that was a nice bit of filming.”

“Her husband works for a bank too, dear.”

“Oh? Which one? I’m in banking myself.”

“Yes,” Carol said. “He works for High Street.”

“Oh the family owned one? Must be nice to own your own bank.”

“It has its limitations,” I said finishing my coffee.

“Eh?” he looked puzzled.

“Yes, dear, Cathy is Lady Cameron, her husband is Simon Cameron, Henry’s son.”

“I know who he is,” said Gordon rather sharply.

“I must get back—have to feed the five thousand, though Delia Smith has a recipe with two loaves and five fishes or is it the other way round? C’mon, Trish, let’s go home and sort out the others.”

We left and drove home, I wasn’t sorry to leave her husband—as company he was rather boorish.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1336

I felt very glad to get home after meeting Carol and Gordon. However, en route, Trish asked if she could go and play with Sascha again. I suggested that perhaps she might like to come to us, and Trish asked me when she could phone her to ask.

“I think it might be better to wait a day or two before you do.”

She slumped in her seat and pouted, I just ignored her. We arrived back and were greeted by the remaining offspring who told me that they’d found all the eggs with Simon’s help. Seeing as he helped me hide them, I think tends to indicate either my kids are less observant than I thought, or more devious. I decided not to think about that any further.

Jenny had popped in the roasties and they were done to perfection. I turned up the oven mixed up some Yorkshire pudding batter—I know you’re only supposed to eat it with beef—so, sue me—and popped it in the oven. By the time I’d drained all the veg and removed the meat to rest, the Yorkshire was done.

Tom did the carving as befits the patriarch, Simon opened two bottles of wine and I sighed in despair—he and Tom would probably be asleep the rest of the afternoon. That became prophetic—they did drink too much and then sneak off to snooze. To my annoyance, Jenny had also consumed more than was good for her and she zonked in a chair as well—so I was left to deal with all the children by myself.

Once we’d cleared the table and got the kitchen sorted, I suggested we all go for a walk. Trish asked if she could take her bike, then so did Livvie and Billie. Danny agreed to watch the cyclists and Julie and I with help from Meems pushed the two infants in pushchairs.

Of course the cyclists rushed up and down travelling about four or five times what we did on foot, but they all seemed to be enjoying themselves. The roads were reasonably quiet, presumably people were either at garden centres or the beach. The major ones like the supermarkets have to close on Christmas and Easter day but the smaller places were all open. I bought them all an ice cream and had one myself.

As we strolled eating our ice creams and enjoying the weather, Julie remarked, “This is what it’s all about, isn’t it, Mummy?”

“I don’ know, probably because we do it so little we treat it like novelty, but walking is good for you, especially after a meal—although I don’t think we’re going fast enough to burn many calories.”

“Does that matter, I just feel so chilled out.”

“The effect of the ice cream?” I asked playing dumb, and she looked at me questioningly before she began to laugh. I might not talk in the strange parlance that teens use but I still have a sense of humour even if it has felt sorely tested recently.

Billie came rushing through on her bike, “Mummy, come quickly—there’s been an accident.”

“What sort of accident?” I gasped walking more quickly.

“Come and see.”

“Here, you push Catherine and I’ll use your bike to go ahead.” I don’t know about exercise increasing heart rate, I reckon mine was hammering from the effects of adrenalin—by the time I actually got on the bike, I’d probably secreted about two gallons of it. Of course the bike was too small for me to ride and being a proper road bike, the saddle is adjusted with Allen keys. I just stood on the pedals and fairly flew along the path not knowing what to expect.

When I got to the site of the incident, some youngster—possibly a boy racer—had hit a deer. His car was stoved in quite a lot and he was wandering round in a daze shouting at the poor deer which lay gasping its last, its head supported by Danny who was stroking it and talking gently to it. There were tears in his eyes and the girls were all sobbing.

“Can you help him, Mummy?” asked Trish.

The driver looked over at us and sneered, “I wouldn’t bother, love, he’s a gonner and look what the fucking thing did to my car.”

“Would you mind not swearing in front of my children, they’re not used to such language.”

“Oh fuck you, too then. Stupid fucking deer, shoot the fucking lot.”

“It might be more beneficial for road safety to shoot all young male drivers.”

“Oh yeah, my fault innit—that stupid fucking thing just ran out in front of me. I had no chance.”

“Not at the speed you were going—you wouldn’t. What if a child had run out in front of you—or can’t you see that?”

“Fucking children should be kept under fucking control.”

“I see your vocabulary hasn’t improved since year one, and I agree with you, I think your parents shouldn’t allow you out by yourself.”

“Aw go fuck yourself.”

“Don’t you speak to my mummy like that you loud mouthed, small brained, ignoramus.” Trish stepped into the fray.

While I was swapping insults with the youth, I was sending light to the deer—I didn’t know if it would work on such a badly injured animal, but it was still alive to everyone’s amazement.

“I’d keep this brat under control, missus, unless you want her to meet with an accident.”

I walked up to him and drew Trish away, “If you so much as look nastily at her, I’ll have you arrested before you can blink.”

“You don’t frighten me, darlin’, but I bet you shag all right.”

“You silly little boy,” I spat at him and before I could stop myself I slapped him.

“You bitch,” he went to hit me back and Trish punched him right in his pride and joy. He sank to his knees.

“You leave my mummy alone, you brute,” she said punching him in the eye.

I nearly wet myself, but managed to drag Trish away. By this time Julie had arrived and she knew him.

I told her briefly what had happened, she laughed and stood full square with me. “You dickhead, Docherty, if you didn’t drive so fast Bambi would have missed you.”

“Shut the fuck up, bitch.”

“Come on, let’s see if we can help the deer.” I tried to calm everyone down. The youth was on his mobile again but at least he wasn’t reporting that he’d been decked by a seven-year-old little girl. Mind you, I think that punch had more than a little of Patrick know-how to it.

I knelt with the deer and with Trish and Julie, helped by Danny, Meems and Livvie we had enormous energy going into her—it was a female and likely a pregnant one, so I hoped the fawn was going to recover as well.

“What the fuck are you lot doing—where’s that fucking blue light coming from?”

The deer started to move a little and I felt the energy ramp itself up, ten minutes later, the animal actually rose up and although a bit wobbly, it was actually standing.

Livvie walked to its head and began stroking its nose while talking to it, the snorts which had been short and spasmodic seemed to slow down and become more regular. It licked her on the cheek and she giggled and kissed it on the nose which made it step back a fraction.

I had my hands on its abdomen—I could feel the calf inside moving very slightly—and I asked Trish to help there. She seemed to understand—asking if it had a baby inside. I nodded and she placed her hands on exactly the right place.

I could then move to the animal’s thorax and begin realigning the broken ribs. She winced a bit, as I pushed them back together but Livvie was now blowing on her nose and she just stood there as if in a trance—don’t forget this was a wild animal which had been hurt, so what she was letting us do to her was quite a surprise—to me at any rate, and to bigmouth, who was taking photos with his mobile phone—I hoped the energy would resolve that for us.

It did or some sort of resolution happened when he walked round his car to get another angle, seemingly snagged his leg dropped his phone and a passing car ran over it—crushing it into a thousand pieces. That started his swearing again. He banged on his car and the deer seemed to snap out of her trance and snorted.

“It’s all that stupid fucking deer’s fault,” he declared and walked towards her, he was going to kick her when she spotted it coming and lashed out with her back leg and caught him—guess where. This time he fell down and rolled in apparent agony into a patch of nettles—that didn’t help him one bit.

The deer with a final snort began to walk away and all the children clapped and cheered. By this time our new casualty had managed to get himself to a kneeling position—his bare arms and legs—he was wearing shorts and a tee shirt—were covered in an urticaria or nettle rash—unsurprisingly.

“Help me will you?” he said to me.

“Children, see if you find a dock leaf for this young man.” They didn’t look very hard and were giggling the whole time.

“Did you call for assistance?”

“Yeah, the AA is comin’ but they’re goin’ to take a couple of ’ours—bloody holiday weekends.”

There was blood in the crutch of his shorts which I don’t think he’d seen and I didn’t think he was having a period. Deer have cloven hoofs and they can be quite sharp—ask anyone who has a manicured lawn and lives in the country—they will know—the deer leave footprints called slots because that’s what they look like, two slots and it can destroy a lawn if the ground is soft. If his nuts were soft, he could have slots too.

“God this fuckin’ hurts,” he said holding his groin, then he saw the blood, screamed and passed out. That was when I called the ambulance.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1337

We waited with the injured youth until the ambulance came, followed shortly by the breakdown truck, who towed his car away.

The paramedics couldn’t keep straight faces when I told them what had happened to the bloke.

“He hit this deer, which seemed shocked more than actually hurt.”

“That his car?” the male paramedic pointed to the damaged machine.

“Yes.”

“What sort of deer was it, an elk or something—whatever he hit, he certainly gave a good whack to.”

“All I can say, is we were calming the poor beast down and he walked round behind it effing and blinding, and it kicked out and caught him dead centre of his meat and two veg—which might be a trifle creamed now.”

“He got kicked by the deer he hit?”

“Yes, in one.”

“Poetic justice I suppose.”

“He was fair belting along the road, he passed us at well over sixty miles an hour.”

“Speeds can be hard to estimate. Anyway, thanks for your help—I expect your Bambi will drop dead anytime soon—after that impact.”

They drove off.

“That won’t happen will it?” asked Trish eyes already filling with tears.

“I don’t know, kiddo, we did our best—it’s up to its body and the gods of the woodland.” Why do I say these things.

“Could we ask Jesus to help her?”

“You can if you like, I’m sure it won’t do any harm.”

She scrunched up her eyes and put her hands together, “Jesus, me an’ Livvie want you to help a deer get better—the one we helped after it was hit by a dickhead drivin’ a car. Please make her better an’ let her have her baby. Thanks, Amen.”

Brief and to the point—the Almighty shouldn’t have too much trouble filing that one away. Given that I’d sat through a half hour of total bilge, I reckon God, if He exists, owed me one. If He saved the doe and her fawn, I’d consider us quits.

“Should we go an’ look, she went into that wood over there?” Livvie pointed across a bit of scrub.

“Me an’ Mummy’ll go an’ look,” said Trish.

“We’ll take the others back,” said Julie, “if you want to go and see?”

“C’mon, Mummy, you’re good at tracking animals.”

As she was practically dragging me through the hedge, I agreed and we set off walking as she wheeled her bike alongside me. My major concern was for the fawn she was carrying—although—if she died, there’d be no one to feed it and it would die in any case. Perhaps we should have left well alone and just allowed her to die with her baby. How can you do that in front of a handful of kids—you have to do something and if you have a certain reputation—you have to do what’s expected. I did and it got up—didn’t quite pick up its bed—and walked.

The ground was quite hard, so the only track we had was where she’d trodden down the grass—once we got into the wood, that disappeared. I shrugged to Trish.

“But we gotta find her, Mummy.”

“Trish, if we find her, the chances are the light didn’t work. If we don’t find her it might be that she’ll survive.”

“Oh,” she said looking puzzled. I think she’d been working on the opposite effect.

I recognised the wood as the one I’d lost Trish in before. This time she was staying close. I did find some deer slots on a damp piece of ground and they were fresh but we had no way of knowing if it was our doe. If we’d found bits of matey’s breeding equipment in the prints, we’d have had more idea. I decided to suggest that they were probably our doe’s slots and we could head for home.

Then something stopped us in our tracks, a deer fawn standing by the collapsed mother. It looked as if she’d managed to lick the membrane off the baby’s face so it could breathe, but it seemed as if the effort had been too much.

I walked up slowly to the fawn, which was probably still quite wobbly, and picked it up. Trish dropped her bike and came and held it, while I checked out the mother. She was dead with probably a massive peri-natal haemorrhage, there was loads of blood about.

Trish was crying, what do we do, Mummy?”

“We should leave it, but that’s tantamount to murder.” I picked it up and slung it over my shoulders, Trish picked up her bike and led us back to the house.

I had no idea if it would survive anyway, who knows what injuries the car crash could have caused to it. It seemed to settle down across my shoulders and I lumbered on towards the house.

When we got there, the others had just arrived before us. They were delighted that we’d found the fawn, but sad that the mother had died. Tom came out to see what all the excitement was about. He offered to shoot the fawn but the kids were horrified.

I got an old feeding bottle of Catherine’s, warmed a little cow’s milk and the young animal sucked away for all it was worth. It was a young male and they named it Bambi—what else?

There was room in one of the sheds to lock it up, but we needed to get some straw first. Tom rang someone who turned up an hour later with a couple of bales. We laid it on the shed floor and I put a bucket of fresh water in there as well. I also washed the animal to stimulate it and gave it some more milk.

Kiki was quite intrigued by our guest and she got herself shut in the shed with it. When we looked in after I’d been out to get some full fat milk, they were both curled up together as if they’d adopted each other. Oh well, in this house that seems par for the course.

In some respects, I was glad that Kiki had opted to look after it, she could help to keep it warm that night—she wouldn’t even leave it for her food—we had to take it out to her.

I tried calling a local wildlife sanctuary but they weren’t answering. I’d try again tomorrow, they’d probably have better resources to look after it than we did, and I’d happily give them a reasonable donation to take it in.

The girls thought it was wonderful—I didn’t, it was a wild animal which would probably become imprinted on humans and fall foul to the first one with a gun or a dog that it happened across. I know we’d interfered with nature and that has consequences.

Talking of which, I got back to the house to see a police car parked outside it. I assumed it was regarding the accident. It was.

It transpired that the young man, one Wayne Docherty, had filed charges against me.

“On what grounds?” I asked.

“He said you slapped him, your daughter hit him twice and you did nothing to stop her, and you encouraged a wild animal to attack him. He also blamed you causing him to drop his mobile phone and he accused you and your children of being witches.”

I had difficulty holding back my laughter. “Witches—did he see us on broomsticks or something? I only saw bicycles myself, as did the paramedics—ask them.”

“They said he was unconscious when they arrived, so only had your word for what transpired.”

“He hit a doe because he was speeding. My kids happened on the scene and wanted to help it. It was very shocked and we managed to calm it down, unlike the driver who was angry and very rude to all of us. I asked him to moderate his foul language in front of my children and he made lascivious suggestions to me. I was offended, and yes I slapped him on the face, but not very hard.

“He went to hit me back and my seven-year-old hit him in the groin, then when he bent down she smacked him in the face.

“As far as the deer is concerned, we had her standing up and he walked round behind her and was still swearing like a trooper. He made as if to kick her—he’d just dropped his phone and blamed it on everyone but himself—and she kicked behind her and caught him in the groin—he fell down and rolled into a patch of nettles, but seemed well enough to continue swearing at us—then he saw he was bleeding and passed out—I called for help.”

“I see, quite frankly it’s his word against yours, he can’t prove you injured him considering the deer did most of the damage—thank God we can’t prosecute the deer.”

“You’re too late, she died in the wood after giving birth to a fawn.”

“It might be for the best, did the fawn die too?”

“No, I’ve got it up in the shed—I’m hoping a local wildlife refuge will take it.”

“Okay—they’re not a protected species, but we’ll let the RSPCA know you have it.”

“Fine, but I’m not planning on keeping it, even though my kids want me to.”

“So why did he think you were witches? He said something about blue light.”

“How would I know? Let’s face it, he was speeding had a major collision with a deer and was probably shocked. His behaviour was irrational from the moment we met him—so I suspect it was shock—at least I’m giving him the benefit of the doubt. However, if he pursues this then I shall initiate counter charges of threatening behaviour, driving dangerously—shall I go on?”

“No, I’ll make those points to him and see what he says.”

“You’re, Lady Catherine Cameron, aren’t you?”

“Yes, why?”

“Oh nothing, you have a certain reputation for costing people their pensions.”

“Oh, that’s news to me.”

“Don’t you own a bank or something?”

“I don’t, but my father-in-law does.”

“There’s your answer. The silly fool might try to sue you, but I’ll try and suggest he might end up with major costs against him.”

“I think it highly likely, in fact I’d suggest it has a probability of about point nine recurring.”

“Okay, thanks for your time, but we have to check these things out—an’ I have a mortgage with your bank.”

“Don’t worry, officer, I won’t hold you responsible whatever happens.”

“Thanks.” He left hopefully to talk some sense into the shithead being treated for an acute deer rash of the goolies.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1338

The phone rang and Julie answered it—“It’s for yoohoo,” she said, though quite why she said it that way didn’t enter my consciousness.

“Who is it?”

“Ken Nichols, from the hospital—I think that’s what he said.

“Hello, Ken, Cathy Cameron here.”

“I have a bit of a dilemma on my hands.”

“I’m a bit busy just now.”

“But this involves you.”

“Oh, how is that?”

“I have a young man—well he claims to be a man—I’m not so sure.”

“What d’you mean? Is he some sort of alien?”

“Cathy, this is real life or I’m trying to believe it is.”

“Cut to the chase, Ken.”

“He claims his name is Wayne—um—Rooney—no, that’s the footballer—um Wayne Docherty.”

“The yob who killed the deer.”

“Yes, well he was reported as suffering from a kick to the genitals which were bleeding.”

“Yes, he saw the blood and collapsed. I called an ambulance and he was whisked into hospital.”

“How can I say this—the bleeding was menstrual blood.”

“So Wayne is actually, Waynetta?”

“No—there is a Wayne Docherty—we took his appendix out a couple of years ago—and this one has a scar in the right place.”

“But wouldn’t someone who chopped his tummy up notice if it was a him or a her?”

“Generally, most surgeons are able to distinguish between males and females—they even have training in anatomy.”

“I’m glad to hear that, Ken, what’s it got to do with me?”

“He said up until the moment he got kicked by the deer, he had a penis and testicles.”

“Oh, is he sure?”

“He’s the father of a child.”

“Oh.”

“Did you blue light him?”

“Not that I remember, why?”

“I’ve heard of some sorts of fish who spontaneously change sex, but not humans.”

“There’s your answer then—he’s obviously a rather large cod.”

“He’s talking about suing you?”

“How can he—I didn’t do anything.”

“That’s not all.”

“What isn’t?”

“We scanned him, and he’s pregnant, with a—you’re going to love this—with a baby deer.”

“Oops.”

“Mummy, Bambi is waiting for you to feed him.”

“The bottle’s in the kitchen, sweetheart.”

“No, he’s waiting for you to breastfeed him.”

I thought about the fawn in the shed—there was something strange about it—that’s right, it had a human head on it—I remembered at the time thinking it would have difficulty eating grass and other herbiage—mouth is wrong, but it would be able to suckle a human breast.

“Gotta go, Ken, gotta feed my fawn.”

I was going to feed it when Simon asked, “Where are you going, Cathy?”

“I’ve got to feed the fawn.”

“It’s two in the morning.”

“Yes but my breasts are full.”

“Cathy, you don’t breastfeed deer unless you’re a doe.”

I yawned, “but I just told Ken Nichols I had to.”

“Cathy, you’ve been dreaming.”

I turned and faced him and looked at him. He was lying in bed and I was wearing my pyjamas and my side of the bed was disturbed. Maybe he was right? I had dreamt it all.

“So Ken didn’t just phone me?”

“Why would he?”

“But I could have sworn…”

“Cathy, it was just a dream.”

“But we do have a baby deer in the shed?”

“Yes, you rescued it from a dead mother.”

I remembered the rest of my dream—it was like something out of Dr Who. It had to be a dream—but where had that come from? My trauma with Trish beforehand and now this latest incident, all getting mixed up together. The strangest things seem plausible when you’re dreaming.

“I think I’m finally losing it?”

“Eh?”

“The plot, I’m losing it—perhaps I should book myself in next door to Stella?”

“D’you know what that place costs?”

“I have a wealthy husband.”

“Oh that’s all right then, anyone I know?”

“Nah, he’s a banker—that’s why I need you as a lover.”

“Yeah, only I’ve got a headache, Babes, an’ I have to get up in the morning.”

“Before my husband gets back from counting his money?”

“Something like that.”

“Oh good.”

“What’s good?”

“I feel cold now, so you can keep me warm for a few hours.”

“Come on, in you get.” He lifted up the duvet and I snuggled back under it. I turned on my side and he spooned round me—I enjoyed the feeling of warmth.

“Si?”

“What now?”

“I love you.”

“Yes, dear.”

“Si?”

“Yes, dear.”

“I hate you.”

“Hmm, yes, dear.”

Very soon he was off to sleep again and I lay there wondering what everything meant. Did it all have no real purpose and therefore could it all be like Douglas Adams suggested—number forty two?

Was the dream telling me I was abusing the light by trying to save lost causes? The little fawn in the shed—that seemed a real cause. That was why I had to try and save the mother. Besides, I’m fallible but the light seems to know what it’s doing and only does what it needs to do—least that’s what I think. Could it be otherwise? Nah, the universe knows what it’s doing, it’s just humans who don’t.

Simon woke me when he got up for work—he didn’t mean to, but I suspect I was just at the point in my sleep cycle to hear him and wake.

I made him breakfast and had a cuppa with him before he went off to the office. Then I roused the rest of the rabble. I was up to my armpits in breakfasts for what seemed like fifty kids when Tom came in.

“Cathy, can ye spare me a wee minute.”

“Jenny, can you make sure they don’t eat each other?”

“Dunno—I’ll try,” she laughed and several voices complained about not being cannon balls.

“What’s the matter, Daddy?”

“I think ye’d better see this.”

“What’s happened.”

He led me out into the drive and up to the shed. When he opened the door I knew what he was going to show me. Death has a peculiar odour to it, unless things are putrifying, and then they stink.

I looked into the shed and stretched out stiff as a board was the little deer.

“I cam oot tae get Kiki fa her walk—I’m sorry, hen.” He put his arm round me.

I felt my eyes fill with tears—it felt so wrong—“He was only a baby,” I said before bursting into tears.

“I ken, dear, I ken—it’s nature’s way.”

“But the light, I gave it so much light and love—how could this happen?” I sobbed on his shoulder.

“Who’re we tae question tha Almichty?” he said rubbing my back.

“Oh that’s all bollocks and you know it—all intelligent people know it—they just hang on to fairy tales because they’re too frightened of the truth.” I said it with an edge I immediately regretted.

“An’ whit is thae truth?”

“That we’re just a cosmic accident ruled by the laws of physics. We’re all going to die—there is nothing after.”

“Aye, weel, that’s yer truth, ither folk feel thae hae somethin’ else tae believe.”

“I’m sorry, Daddy—I didn’t men to insult you—I just feel angry.”

“I ken, dear. I’ll get Leon tae cam an gie me help tae bury it.”

“Thanks, Daddy—I’d better go and tell the children. Can we lock it, I don’t want them to come and see it.”

“Why not—death is part o’ life, whether we like it or no—an’ they were fond o’ it, they shuld hae the chance tae say guidbye.”

“I don’t know if I could cope with that.”

“Och send them up, I’ll bide wi’ ’em.”

I kissed him, thanked him again and sniffed my way back to the kitchen to break the sad news. I wasn’t looking forward to it.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1339

I felt really cross with myself—I should have checked on it during the night—it might have needed feeding or—oh I don’t know—but it was my responsibility—and I let it down. So much for working miracles with the magic light—yeah—waste of time, and confirms that there is no benevolence in the system—I mean, how could a benign God let a baby die? Nah, religion is the bullshit of the masses.

I told the children what had happened and explained that there might have been injuries from the car accident that we didn’t know about. At first the news was met by silence, then a few chuckles then tears—and from Trish—anger.

Danny and Billie went up to see the little body and came back with her crying and him with arm round her. Livvie and Julie went to see and they both came back crying. I phoned Leon but he wasn’t there. Finally, Meems and Trish went to see it and burst into tears—then Trish began shouting at the universe, venting her anger and pain. Sometimes I think this girl could be my natural child had I been able to have any.

I tried to calm her down, but she ran off to her bedroom. I took the others back to the house and Jenny helped me console them. I would try and explain to them a bit later. In the meantime I went back up with Tom and offered to help dig the grave in Leon’s absence. Danny had followed me and grabbed a shovel.

I found an old sheet and wrapped the unfortunate animal in it and shut the shed. I sent Tom into the house to rest, he’d done his part—Danny and I would do the rest.

We picked a corner of the orchard which I thought would be suitable and we began digging. It’s a long time since I dug a grave for a pet and forgot what a back breaking task it is. We set to with spades and mattock and an hour later and two aching backs, we had a small pit appearing about two foot deep and four feet long.

I hacked away with the mattock missing perhaps the muscle I’d lost through oestrogen use, I’m sure a few years ago it didn’t seem this difficult to dig holes. We got down another nine to twelve inches and I decided that we’d stop before we ended up in it as well. Danny helped me out of the yard deep hole, which seemed deeper because of the spoil heap surrounding it.

I walked down to the house and said that Danny and I were burying the fawn, did anyone want to come and say goodbye to it. They all wanted to except Trish who was still upstairs—I asked Livvie to go and tell her what was happening, and went back to the shed.

Between us, Danny and I carried the dead weight of the little animal to the pit and we gently laid it down on a bed of the straw and covered it with straw. The children, including Trish came to watch.

I said a few words about the sadness of its short life and that life was sometimes seemingly cruel perhaps because we didn’t understand it. I also said to the children that sometimes things die even though we try our best to stop it happening. I chickened out of saying we would all die someday—too much information.

The children all said goodbye and then helped us fill in the hole and tamp it down afterwards. After this, we planted a small holly tree on the grave to mark it and I left them to take buckets of water up to water it in.

I needed some space and went up to wash away the dust and grime of my burial duties—my back was killing me, not being used to manual labour. I decided to have a bath—a hot one.

I’d no sooner got myself into the water with much ooh-ing and ah-ing—well it was pretty hot—than Trish came into the bathroom and sat on the side of the bath. She dipped her fingers into the water and pulled them out quickly. “That is too hot, Mummy.”

“That’s okay, we can use the water for soup later.”

“Yuck—mummy soup—yuck and double yuck.”

I was tempted to say people receiving communion were doing even worse than that but left it—there was no point in confusing her with my prejudices.

“Why did the baby deer die, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart, these things happen.”

“But we gave it lots of blue light, and that always saves things, doesn’t it?”

“Not always, darling, sometimes it seems as if it was something’s time to die—perhaps it was the fawn’s time.”

“But that’s silly—how can something that was only born yesterday be due to die?”

“Trish, I don’t know why it died—perhaps it was because it had lost its mummy—I have no idea.”

“You should have done a post autumn.”

“I think you mean a post mortem?”

“Do I? Any way you slice it open and see why it died—they do it the telly all the time.”

“Trish, there was no way I was going to slice open that poor little creature—its life had been short and sad enough already—besides, I don’t know what I’d be looking for.”

“Clots and bleeding—ruptured organs.”

“Oh yeah, and how d’you know all this?”

“I watched it on the Discovery channel.”

“Lovely, I’m glad I’m not eating anything.”

“You could have eaten it—it’s venison, isn’t it?”

“There is no way I am going to eat anything which came into this house as a guest for however short a time.”

“Oh all right, but I could have looked for injury for you.”

“Trish, I’ve dissected animals doing biology—it’s more difficult than it looks—and it could be that the birth was caused by the crash and was early—so the baby wasn’t really ready to live outside its mother.”

“It seemed all right to me.”

“Look, I don’t know why it died—could have been a broken heart for all I know—some babies can’t live without their mothers.”

“Well I had to.”

“Yes but you were cared for by others.”

“Not really—not until I came to you.”

“In which case be thankful for what you have. We tried to raise the fawn and we failed. It isn’t important why we failed because I doubt we’ll be trying it again.”

She dipped her hand in the bath again—this time for longer—then she dried it and began taking her clothes off—the next moment, she was squeaking as she jumped into the water with me—the joys of parenthood?

Despite my grumbles it was too hot for her—she stayed so I washed her back for her as she sat between my legs. She washed my legs and feet—I couldn’t even see them as she was in the way.

Finally, we stood up and showered, washing our hair before rinsing ourselves off and drying ourselves. She seemed to have calmed down and when I sent her off to dress, she seemed back to her normal self.

Billie had taken a photo of the fawn on her cell phone camera and uploaded it to her computer. Apart from her fingertip in the top corner, it was a reasonable photo, which Trish cleaned up using Photoshop or whatever program we have to do photos.

It’s embarrassing that I have a seven-year-old who knows more about computers than I do—but that seems to be a fact of life these days.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1340

The next day after the fawn’s burial, we discovered something had been digging about in the area of the grave. Billie discovered it when she went to put some flowers on its grave. It was probably fox—I personally wouldn’t want to eat anything that had been dead and buried—but foxes don’t have the same preferences—anything that smells like food and is small enough to swallow—will be swallowed.

This is one of the reasons why I’d like to bring in a tax for wrappings on fast food—it might stop the arseholes who dump the bags of waste after a drive through takeaway—from buying the crap in the first place, or fund jobs with local councils to clean up the mess afterwards. As you will gather, I find litter offensive and I’d happily bring back flogging for those who do it. Once you’ve seen a couple of scavenging animals or birds, or marine creatures who’ve died in agony from man’s stupidity, it tends to make you wish the perpetrators should suffer as well.

Fast food is generally fried crap—pity it isn’t literally, ’cos that would be a way to get rid of some human waste and make a profit—so only morons and teenagers eat it—the problem is it takes too long to kill ’em—maybe we should add arsenic or some other magical ingredient to help the process?

Yeah, I was having a downer of a day and it was only breakfast time. We laid some hefty stones on the grave and decided that would probably do the job. After cleaning up, I had a lovely day in prospect—buying summer uniforms for growing children.

I left the babies with Jenny, and let Danny go and see his friend on the understanding he would meet us in town. I gave him the bus fare and told him not to spend it on McRubbish. He didn’t—he had a Mars bar for his lunch, or so I found out later.

Meanwhile, I had four girls to get summer dresses for—Billie had none, seeing as this was her first summer in school; Trish, Livvie and Mima all needed two new ones. I bought nine dresses and left Simon’s card feeling quite a bit thinner—he offered to buy them—don’t think he realised how expensive they can be, and only two shops sell them.

Then it was sandals all round, and finally lunch. Of course they all wanted to go into a burger bar—I nearly blew a gasket—so they agreed to have a baguette roll from another franchised place. It was fine and dry and we ate them outside in a small paved area, and washed them down with bottled water. We saved there, we recycled the bottles and filled them at home with tap water—everyone carried their own.

Replete from my tuna salad granary roll, we pushed on to refill the undies drawer, where I bought knickers and socks for everyone. The panties were about the only things they had any choice over and even there it was limited. Regulation knickers for sports, we’d already got.

By the time we caught up with Danny, who needed some more trousers and shirts for school, each of the girls were carrying a number of bags. I gave them the chance to go back to the car and dump it, but they whinged so much about the walk to the car, I changed my mind and made them carry it while we shopped for Danny. His was straightforward and M&S had trousers and shirts in his size, then it was a new pair of shoes.

The only sandals boys will wear are trainer type and they’re not permitted to wear them to school, nor shorts—so they suffer. They are allowed to leave their blazers behind, in my day we had to wear them, so with those and thick trousers we sweltered in hot weather. How I envied the girls in their light summer frocks—mind you they used to complain about them—so we’re never happy, and in cold weather they got cold legs—at least they were allowed to wear boots—in my mum’s day, they were allowed wellingtons but only to wear to and from school—boots were unheard of for children. Nowadays, they can wear trousers in cold weather and seeing some of the clothes kids wear to state schools—they look like scruffy rag bags. Thank goodness, the uniform code at the girl’s school is strict until the sixth form, then they can wear a different uniform.

Back at home the kids disembarked the car to put away their shopping and Danny came back out with me to do the supermarket run. It was unlike him to volunteer, then I discovered he fancied one of the girls—a schoolgirl—who worked part-time there. He was too shy to ask her out himself, but hoped if he kept accidentally meeting her she’d get the message. I had to smile, young love is so difficult—I’d hate to revisit my adolescence—assuming I’ve actually outgrown it now.

She was working on the delicatessen counter, so I created the chance for him to speak with her. “Can you get me a pound of back bacon, two pounds of low fat sausages, a pound of Cheddar and two things of Brie, I also want a pound of the sliced honey roast ham and some sliced turkey breast.”

“I can’t, Mum.”

“Why not?”

“I like, can’t, all right?” he blushed scarlet.

“Okay, I’ll get it and while I’m at it I’ll ask her if she wants to go out with you, okay?”

“Muuum, you can’t,” he was now scarlet heading for crimson.

“Why? If you want to go out with her, ask her—or I’ll do it for you.”

I wasn’t—but he didn’t know that—okay, he should have been able to work out that I wouldn’t because no girl is going to go out with a boy who’s still attached to his mother’s apron strings or lacks the bottle to ask himself.

“So what’s it to be?”

“All right, I get your shopping.”

“Here’s the list—I’ll leave the trolley here for you, I’m off to get some bread.”

I hid behind the aisle and watched him. He was still blushing but she did serve him and after he’d got all my deli stuff, he was still talking to her—oh good. I arrived back with an armful of loaves of different sorts and a bag of bread rolls and dumped them in the trolley.

“Did you get everything, Dan?” I asked sweetly.

“Yesss Mummmm, go away Mum.”

“Oh yes you wanted some dates—didn’t you—I’ll be over on the greengrocery,” I smiled at his discomfort and pretended to walk on unaware of it all.

He caught up with me ten minutes later—“Well, did she bite?”

“No she doesn’t bite, Mum, she’s nice.”

“I meant did she give you her number or a date?”

He blushed—“She did after your unsubtle hint—how could you?”

“It worked, didn’t it?”

“Yes—thankfully, she thought you were funny. I told her you batty as a dormouse.”

“They’re different orders—bats are Chiroptera and dormice Rodentia.”

“I didn’t like mean it, literally.”

“Oh okay, I don’t mind being referred to metaphorically as a crazy dormouse. In fact if that means I’m loveable and cute—I’m quite happy with the analogy.”

He shook his head and blushed some more. “Want to stop for a cuppa?”

“Yeah okay.”

“Do you want to watch the trolley or choose what we have?”

“I’ll get it, you have a sit down with the trolley.”

I gave him a twenty pound note and he came back with a pack of sandwiches, a plate of chips and a cake with his carton of Coke and my tea.

“Not hungry then?” I quipped.

“I didn’t have time for lunch.”

“Whose fault is that?”

“All right, don’t like keep on about it.”

“Danny, it’s important that you eat properly. I hope as well that you’ll be able to eat your dinner after this lot—because if you don’t, I shall take a dim view of it.”

“I will—what is it?”

“Cottage pie.”

“With chips?”

“It already has potato in it, you don’t need chips as well—besides which you’ve just shovelled a plateful down you. No, if it isn’t enough, you’ll have to have bread with it.”

“Yeah, all right.” The next minute his mobile rang and he was texting like mad—no wonder they get problems with their thumbs—his would be worn out by fifteen at the rate they were moving.

I watched his face and he was grinning to himself—I presume the object of his affection had just called him—young love—altogether now—awwww.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1341

“So what’s her name?”

“I’ll tell you if you promise not to embarrass me or her.”

“Would I do a thing like that?”

“Yes.”

“Oh shame on you, Danny. Don’t you trust me?”

“No.” He gave me a hard stare and I smiled sweetly at him.

“We’ve all dated you know.”

“How many years is it since you dated the first time.”

“The first time?” I asked and he nodded. “Hmm let me see, it was so long ago I can’t remember—all I know is that he was an ex-rugby player and his dad owned a bank—apart from that—I can’t remember.”

“What—you didn’t like date as a girl?”

“If you recall my past is a little murkier than yours and such things were much more difficult. I hope that Trish and Billie won’t have the problems I had.”

“But you were quite a looker when you did Lady MacBeth.”

“How d’you know?”

“I seen the photos, remember?”

“Oh those ones, you really think I was okay as a girl, d’you?”

“Oh yeah, I’d have asked you for a date.”

“Oh that’s made my day—my son fancies his mother—come back Oedipus, all is forgiven.”

He blushed—“Except I wasn’t born, was I?”

“Dunno, it’s possible—but no matter—we need to get home—cottage pie to make and if you don’t give it long enough, the walls don’t set and the thatch falls off—c’mon.”

He gave me a funny look before lethargically adding, “Ha ha, very funny, not.”

I wondered if it was too late to send him back to his original parents? Probably, besides, I’m his legal parent so I’m stuck with him unless he marries deli-girl. I thought of a way of getting my own back.

“Unless you tell me her name, I’m going to call her Deli-a.”

“Don’t you dare,” he hissed.

“Bye, Delia,” I called and waved.

He went bright red and said, “Okay, you win, I’ll tell you outside.” Now he was learning. “You’re a bully,” he said sulking.

“I always win, Danny, I’m a woman—it’s what we do.”

“Huh,” he huffed in annoyance.

We left the shop and pushed the trolley towards the car, as we did so a courtesy car pulled up behind us. I knew it was a courtesy car because it said so on the side, something like, ‘ABC car repairers—courtesy car,’ I’m quick like that.

“I shoulda fixed you, bitch, you and your fucking family.”

“Oh dear, you again, I see the lessons in rhetoric were a waste of money.”

“Watch your mouth, bitch.”

“Why, what are you going to do about it, run over another deer?”

With that, he stopped the car blocking the road and jumped out, then remembered his recent injury and limped slightly. “I’m gonna sort you out big time.”

“Smile for the security cameras, won’t you?” I retorted and turned my back. He pushed me quite hard and my head hit the rear door of the car—it hurt, not as much as I portrayed but it needed rubbing.

I was about to appeal to witnesses when Danny stepped between us, and grabbed a loaf of bread from the trolley and threw it to the ignorant youth—who caught it.

“You’re always telling me to use my loaf, aren’t you, Mum?” Then he belted the youth on the jaw taking back the loaf as the youth fell backwards. “Don’t you ever lay a finger on her again.”

A small crowd began collecting and cheered Danny’s chivalrous intervention. I continued loading the shopping into the car. The youth, stood up and threatened Danny who stood and faced him.

“Okay, that’s enough—you in the car,” I said to Danny, stepping between them, “And you, crawl back under whatever stone you emerged from.”

“You bitch—you just lost your defender—big mistake.”

“I can defend myself—now go.”

I saw two security people running towards us—the youth was back to them.

“Not until I’ve rubbed your face in the dirt, bitch.”

“You’ll get hurt, sunshine—now go.”

He ignored my advice pushed me back against my car and swung wildly. I sidestepped and he hit the side window of my car—thankfully, without breaking it—not sure about his hand though because he squeaked a bit.

In case he swung again, I grabbed his arm, stepped sideways, twisted his arm and pushed against his wrist with my thumbs. He squeaked louder and I steered him down on the ground forcing his body down from the shoulder—I was shown it when I was in uni by a girl who taught us some self-defence—I was the only um—honorary girl there.

“Now kiss it,” I indicated the ground.

“No—ouch—you’re breaking my arm.”

“Well do as I say and I’ll let you go.”

The security guards stood and watched without intervening.

“My arm—my arm—you’re hurting it.”

“Kiss the ground and say you’re sorry and then I’ll let you go and you can go home. I did warn you I would defend myself.”

“No—oh—ouch—all right, I’m sorry, okay?” he kissed the ground and I released his arm.

As soon as I did the security guards picked him up and practically threw him into his car threatening to call the police if he didn’t quit the premises.

“Are you all right, madam? We saw that he started it.”

“I’m fine, thanks—maybe the odd bruise.”

“If you want to press charges?”

“What for, he’s only a stupid boy, let him go he’ll grow up one day.”

He drove off in high dudgeon swearing at us as he went—so the guards took his number and said they’d notify the police for his threatening behaviour.

“I told them to let it go, and that I’d felt more frightened handling dormice.”

“Gosh—you’re the dormouse woman—I saw your film.” One of the guards had two functioning brain cells and they fired together. The crowd grew more animated—a celebrity gets attacked in Morrison’s car park by idiot youth. I could see the lurid headlines now and Simon playing hell with me for doing it again—keeping such a low profile—why does it happen to me so regularly? Could it be because I won’t lie down and play dead for these bumptious little toerags?

I walked the trolley back to the trolley park—and get my pound coin back—when there was a squeal of tyres and the courtesy car came screaming at me and the security guards following me.

I jumped and rolled over the bonnet of a car and the two security men managed to jump out of the way between parked cars. People were rushing all over the place as the trolley was hit by the car, ricocheted off a nearby car and flew up into the air, bit so debris scattering everywhere like shrapnel.

I heard Danny scream, “Muuuum,” followed by that awful sound of a metallic bang then a split second later glass breaking and further bangs. Danny came and helped me up—I was glad he wasn’t near when the motorised attack happened.

People were rushing to assist at the crash site—he’d hit a car head-on as it drove into the car park. Danny pulled me to my feet and we limped rather than ran to the crash.

“Go and watch the car, my bag’s in it.” I urged him, he hesitated and I pushed him back towards the car. I trotted on, no one was getting out of the wrecked cars without assistance from the fire service. The youth was sprawled over the steering wheel and there was blood on the windscreen—not a good sign. I leant in the car and switched off the engine. Others were trying to get the elderly couple out of the other car—the air bags had punched them back against the seats and they looked awful.

There was a dreadful smell of petrol and I suggested someone get some fire extinguishers. Sirens were sounding in the distance. I could sense the youth’s life was ebbing away and he was deeply unconscious.

I squeezed through the back window of the car pretending to check his pulse. “Okay, Wayne, this is how it goes—listen carefully, we don’t have much time. I’m going to give you a blue marker—you follow it and you get back to your body—and with luck you live. Ignore it, and you die. It doesn’t matter to me—it’s your choice. The marker is there now—a blue light—follow it if you wish to live—it’s that simple—no hidden traps or agendas, just life. Up to you kid, I wish you no harm, but either way keep away from my kids—or the universe will be too small a place to hide.”

I felt a pulse in his neck slowly beat more firmly, he was bleeding somewhere—oh no—the gear stick was impaled in his groin—no more testosterone, ever. “That’s right, follow the light—I’m here guiding you—c’mon now, keep coming,” I urged him.

The ambulance took the other couple away after popping the air bags. They were quite poorly. The fire brigade examined the car and decided to ask me to stay supporting the boy because they needed to cut off the steering wheel and I pointed at the gear stick.

“Oh shit—bang goes his married life,” said the officer—“Is he still breathing?”

“Barely, I’ll keep encouraging him.”

They passed in an oxygen mask and I clamped it over his nose and mouth, they were quite bloody—the steering wheel had smashed his nose and most of his front teeth—but he was just breathing.

Danny sat in the car—he should have worked out my keys were in my bag, so he could have locked it. He watched from a distance as they cut off the roof of the car and then the side so they could lift him out—with me holding on to him all the while and talking to him.

His pulse was improving all the time—they had a sensor on him.

“This is crazy, Malc,” one of the firemen called to his friend, “This kid is growing stronger not worse.”

They cut off the gear stick, leaving about a foot of it protruding from his bloodied groin. Given his previous injury there—I didn’t have high hopes of any surgeon being able to stick Humpty Dumpty together again.

He was alive when I finally left him to go off in the ambulance. The chief fireman at the scene took me to one side—“Thanks for your help, none of us would have been able to get in the car like that—you kept his airway open.”

I shrugged, “I did what I could.”

“Are you a doctor or nurse?”

“Me? No—just a housewife.”

“I saw the blue stuff.”

“A trick of the light I expect.” I suggested trying to distract him.

“No way, I’ve seen it once before—and I’m quite a bit older than you—it was in Africa when a holy man was summoned to help a young woman who was close to death. He talked her back to life, claiming there was an angel acting with him. Do you have an angel or are you one yourself?”

“Me?”

“We’ve met before—you saved that woman in the river?”

“Meee?—No, I can’t swim that well—sorry, I have to go, my son’s waiting for me in the car.”

“Bring him down the station sometime, ask for Chief Officer Malcolm Crozier—that’s me. We’ll give him a ride in an engine.”

He held out his hand for me to shake and when I did, he smiled—“You are one special lady, aren’t you?”

“No just a h—”

“Housewife, I know—but no housewife I know can deliver that voltage.”

“Your hiatus hernia isn’t going to be a problem again, Malcolm—unless you tell anyone what you saw.”

“My lips are sealed—angel lady.”

I winked and walked away.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1342

“What was all that about?” asked Danny as I walked to the car.

“All what?” I asked.

“The whole thing—why did you stop to help him—he was crazy.”

“He’s someone’s son as well, Danny.”

“But he tried to kill you?”

“Yes, I suspect he did.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know and I doubt he does either.”

“That’s twice he’s met you, and twice he’s gone away in an ambulance.”

“You’re absolutely right—just shows he’s a slow learner.”

“Slow—he’s like, stationary.”

“He will be for a while, this time it wasn’t a doe’s hoof catching him, it was the gear stick stuck in his groin.”

“In his…”Danny looked down at his groin for a moment—“That’s gonna hurt.”

“Very likely.”

“I saw the blue light thing—did you heal him—he didn’t seem too happy last time?”

“I just went to help, if the light decided to come too, I can’t stop it.”

“I woulda done—someone tries to hurt me twice—I’d have walked away.”

“Good job it I was I who went up to the car then.”

“Can we go home now?”

“I’ve left my name and address for the police—I’m surprised they’re not here yet.”

“They probably heard it was you and are waiting for you to go.” He chuckled to himself. “My mum the copper frightener,” he said and laughed louder.

“I don’t think so, they’re probably on their way, or held up somewhere.”

“The crash happened an hour ago,” he said as we negotiated the damage in the car park. “Are you going to order your stuff online?”

“I can’t, Morrisons don’t do it yet.”

“What about the other ones, Tesco and Waitrose—they do, I’ve seen their vans—plus Asda and Sainsbury.”

“Anyone you forgot?”

“Um—Iceland and the Cooperative—I think that’s all.”

“I think so, too.”

For the next few days, as we got back to normal and the children went back to school, I wondered about the young man who’d tried to kill me. I’d tried calling the hospital but they won’t tell anyone anything except family members.

Then after dropping off the girls to school one morning, I called at the hospital—it isn’t normally visiting time but I first had to discover which ward Wayne was on and then see if they’d let me say hello.

As I remembered he’d smashed up his nose and front teeth, I decided not to take him anything to eat—that could be embarrassing for both of us. Instead, knowing his involvement with sporty cars, I took him a couple of magazines on souped-up sporty cars. They were quite expensive, so I hoped they’d be outside his normal price range.

As I walked to the ward, I debated with myself why I should want to see this wretched child, who was barely a man at all—and after his injuries—perhaps going to have difficulties growing into that role.

I decided that I was curious—the fact he was registered as a patient meant he was at least alive—a good start; I’ve had enough visiting of graves recently. I wanted him to have learned from the experience—although he might not even have any memory of it—so that could be difficult. I certainly didn’t want him punished any more than was absolutely necessary—his continual suffering would provide more than enough of that.

I spoke with the ward sister. She accepted my story that I’d assisted in the rescue—stories were abounding of some woman who climbed into the car to keep his airway open. I admitted it was me.

“I’m not sure how much he’ll thank you.”

“I wasn’t expecting any thanks—it’s something people do for each other, isn’t it?”

“Some do, some don’t—Wayne is still undecided. Go and see him—but if he gets too excited, I’ll have to ask you to go.”

“I’ll do my best not to overexcite him,” I promised and walked towards the side room he was in. He was lying in the bed his face bruised black and blue, his one arm in plaster and a cage over his lower abdomen—making it look as if he was lying inside a small tent.

“Hello, Wayne, I’m not sure if you remember me?”

He was using an iPod and he gave me a disgruntled look, pulling out the earphones to hear what I was saying. “No, who are you?”

“D’you recall killing the doe?”

“Yeah, sorta—she got up and walked off.”

“She died and so did her baby.”

“Yeah—well, she ran out in front of me—totalled my fu—my car.”

“They do that I’m afraid, they’ve nearly had me off my bike a few times.”

“You ride a motorbike—what sort?”

“No, a bicycle—I’ve got a few of them.”

“Rubbish I expect—bloody girly bikes with a basket on the front and a bell so you don’t run over kittens.”

“Um—not quite—they’re women’s bikes because—I’m a woman, in case you hadn’t noticed—and they fit better. But I have two carbon fibre race bikes.”

“Yeah—I suppose you’ve had thirty out of them—downhill,” he laughed and showed the missing teeth from his lower jaw.

“Actually, I’ve had more than thirty out of them on the flat—but it’s hard work; downhill, I think I was just shy of sixty—but staying on them at that sort of speed is a bit hairy, never mind stopping them with side-pull brakes.”

“You’ve had sixty out of a bicycle?”

“About fifty eight point something—why?”

“That’s a bit faster than I ever managed on a mountain bike.”

“I’ve seen some of them shift a bit too.”

“Yeah—well I won’t be riding one again—be lucky if I ever drive again.”

“Why?”

“I damaged my back—one of my legs don’t work.”

“Which one?” I asked knowing it was his left one—there was a decidedly cold aspect to his left side.

“The left—good job I’m right handed, my left arm ain’t too clever either. Gonna be in a wheelchair—maybe they’ll let me race those—fuckin’ deer.”

“You didn’t do that in collision with the deer, you did it in collision with another car trying to kill me.”

“Wish I’d killed myself.”

“How old are you, Wayne?”

“Seventeen.”

“Same age as Julie.”

“Yeah, she’s at the same college as me—I’m doing motor fittin’ or was—be no bloody good in a friggin’ wheelchair—will I?”

“Does your right leg work?”

“No—but at least I can feel it—or part of it.”

“Curious—you obviously haven’t severed the nerves entirely, so they may yet settle down and regenerate.”

“The guy from Southampton didn’t think so.”

“They can be wrong.”

“He saw the MRI scans—wasn’t impressed. I’m probably never gonna walk again.”

“When I sat with you in the car…”

“You sat in the car with me?”

“Yes, after you’d crashed, I held your head up to keep your airway open.”

“Wish you ’adn’t bothered, my troubles woulda been over.”

“Not necessarily, but you could have been even worse—if things don’t improve, you might be confined to a wheelchair, if they improve who knows what might happen. If you’d been worse injured, but not fatally so—you might be bed bound or a cabbage—or even a cauliflower—yeah, I think you’d be more of a cauli than a cabbage—a white cabbage, naturally.”

“You think this is funny, d’you?”

“No—I find it tragic that a seventeen-year-old isn’t trying to fight back. Your body is at its prime—use your strength to fight your injuries.”

“You ain’t been in a serious crash then ’ave you?”

“Several—including one caused by some nice person stabbing me in the lung while I was cycling past. I nearly died—so I know that feeling too.”

“Why’d he stab you?”

“Why did you want to run me over?”

“I didn’t—I wanted to scare you—you humiliated me twice, letting your kids hit me.”

“The way I saw it, you did the humiliating by acting like a twit. If I’d wanted to humiliate you, I’d have done so.”

“Yeah—how?”

I jumped and delivered a backwards kick at what would have been chest level. “Like that?”

“Clever dick.”

“Yeah—now, I kept you alive—I wasn’t counting on you festering in a wheelchair.”

“Big deal—who gave you the authority to decide what happened to me? God?”

“No—the goddess, actually—I’m a feminist so have political problems with gods.”

“Bloody stroll on—are you fuckin’ crazy?”

“I must be to give up my time to try and help an ungrateful seventeen-year-old who tried to kill me.”

“I’m sorry—all right.”

“For what, missing me or hitting that other car? You realise they’ll disqualify you from driving for at least a year?”

“Carry on—you’re really cheering me up.”

“Would you like these magazines?” I held them up for him to see.

“Yeah, might as well.”

I threw them on the floor by his bed, “Go and get them then.”

“Aw fuck off, you stupid bitch—maybe I shoulda tried harder.”

“To kill me?”

“Yeah.”

“You can’t—better people than you have tried—they all regretted it.”

“You don’t scare me—bitch.”

“Wayne, I’m not trying to scare you—I’m trying to help you—I kept you alive—you were nearly dead.”

“Shoulda let me go then, shouldn’t ya?”

“Why, so you could spend the rest of your life feeling sorry for yourself. I’m sorry, perhaps I should have done—I thought you were a man—I was wrong—you’re an ill-tempered child.”

“Wouldn’t you be?—I could live another fifty years in a bloody chair.”

“I’d say, another eighty—you’ll make it to ninety seven.”

“You’re fuckin’ nuts.”

“Tell me that in eighty years time.”

“I’ll be dead before then—if I ’ave to do it meself.”

“You haven’t got the bottle, little boy.”

“You bitch, I’ll kill you.”

“C’mon then, you and who else’s army?”

“You bitch—”

“Watch the drip—you’re still attached to the bed by it.”

“What?” He was standing at the side of the bed—puffing and panting—but standing, having just walked three steps.

“You did that on purpose, didn’t you?”

I smiled and nodded. I bent and picked up the magazines and handed them to him. “Sometimes you have to believe the impossible to make it possible.”

“What are you? You and your kids—you had that deer—it walked away.”

“It also died later.”

“Oh so is that it? I’ve taken my last steps?”

“No—when they MRI you again, they’ll find things weren’t as bad as they thought. You’ll walk again—perhaps not as well as you used to—but you could still drive or ride a bike—if you wanted to—well not drive for a year at least.”

“Can ya do anything for this?” He lifted his gown and he had a catheter coming from a what looked like a large stitched wound in his groin—there was no obvious sign of his meat and two veg.

“No—I’m afraid you’ll have to sit to wee.”

“Like a woman—fuckin’ wonderful.”

“I do it, so do most of my children, as does your mother—in fact, half the population does—so why is it a problem?”

“I’m a man.”

“You will be one day—yes.”

“I’ve lost my fuckin’ dick.”

“That isn’t what makes you a man—it just means you can wee standing up—you can get devices for that.”

“How can I get a girl—when I have no dick?”

“Women don’t spend all their lives in penis envy, despite Freud’s efforts to suggest we do. We also spend more time doing the washing and ironing than making love. If you’re a good enough catch in other ways—there are things that can help you with the practical aspects. It beats being in a wheelchair and having a catheter.”

“Tell me about it.”

“Go and ask the sister to remove it.”

“I can’t—” he pointed at the drip stand by the bed and the urine bag attached to his catheter.

I took down the drip and handed to him, and unhitched the bag from the bed—handing him the rack which holds it.

“There ya go—go and ask—it’ll sting for a few hours—but that’s better than not being able to feel anything.”

“Thank you,” he began to weep.

“I’ll come and see you again, one day—life is good—hang on to it.”

“I don’t even know your name.”

“My name is forgiveness.” I walked out of his room hearing the nurses rushing to help him and him shouting at them to let him walk.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1343

It was another bank holiday, this time for the royal wedding. We decided we’d all watch it—that is the girls, Simon, Tom, Jenny and I—Danny decided it was far too girly for him to watch so went off to play football or something with his friends. He went off on his mountain bike.

Breakfast was eaten and cleared up promptly—beds were changed with all hands to the pumps—and they were washed and the linen out on the line to dry before Julie was saying the princes were on their way to the tower—I think she meant abbey—perhaps not.

Julie also has a thing about Harry—she thinks he’s almost normal for a royal—he only has two arms legs and heads—that sort of thing. Trish thinks William is so good looking which Livvie agrees upon, while Meems loves her dad.

It’s hard to think that William is pretty well the same sort of age as moi, so I suppose Kate is too. They just announced he is Duke of Cambridge and on marriage she becomes a duchess. I suppose it gives new meaning when he says after work, he’s going home to his old dutch.

Westminster Abbey is filling up and we’re trying to spot Henry and Monica—they’re there somewhere—who d’ya think they borrowed the money from to put on this bash? I’m also interested to see if they show the member of William’s flight who’s supposed to be changing over from MtF and had been invited as long as she appeared as her alter ego—which says a lot about the newer generation and their acceptance of different people—couldn’t see his father being so accepting.

The two princes look resplendent in their military uniforms with enough gold braid to finance a bombing raid on Libya. William seems a little young to be a full colonel even an honorary one—but I suppose it pleases the Irish regiment he’s representing, Harry has his own uniform—both look quite dashing.

First glimpse of Kate—nah, can’t see the dress properly, will have to wait until she gets to the abbey. I made us all a cuppa and Simon reckons he saw Henry and Monica—typical, turn my back for a moment and a sneaky banker appears and disappears.

Finally we see the dress and it is just exquisite. “She looks as if she hasn’t eaten for at last a month,” observed Jenny, who is a bit plumper. At this point I had to feed our little Kate, who cooed and gurgled so loudly I couldn’t hear the marriage vows. I was a bit miffed that they still ‘give this woman’—we’re not bloody chattels.

Then it was all over and they rode off in their open-topped carriage back to the palace. While we’re waiting for the kiss on the balcony I got some lunch ready and we snacked on fresh bread, various cheeses and salad stuff while waiting for the kiss—then we got two—oh well good for her.

“Are you going to have a dress like that when you get married in Scotland, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“I’m too fat, darling and I’m not going on a diet for six months just to wear a dress.”

“You’re not fat, Mummy.”

“My boobs are bigger, so is my bum, than the Duchess of Cambridge and her waist is much smaller than mine.”

“Who’s fat?” asked Simon looking for a bottle of beer from the fridge.

“I am,” I said loading the washing machine.

“No you’re not, you’re beautiful—where’s the beer, Babes?”

“I think you drank it all and didn’t ask me to get any more.”

“You mean you let it run out and didn’t get anymore?”

“No, you let it run out because you’re the one who drank most of it and the onus is on you to remind me to get it. I rarely drink it.”

“Listen to that, Livvie. She’s neglecting me again—she knows she’s supposed to keep a few bottles in the fridge for me.”

“Hang on a minute,” I said feeling angry, “It isn’t my job, nor will I accept it as my responsibility—you want beer—you go and buy it.”

“I think, Mummy’s right, Daddy,” said Livvie and I put my arm round her.

“That’s right, bloody women always stick together—I’ll go and get some myself then.” Which was exactly what I told him to do in the first place.

The phone rang and Julie dashed out to answer it—“It’s for you, Mummy.”

“Who is it?”

“They didn’t say.”

“You could have asked,” I mumbled as I took the phone from her.

“Mumble, mumble mumble,” retorted Julie as she handed it to me.

“Hello?”

“Is that, Lady Cameron?”

“Cathy Cameron, yes. Who is that?”

“Laura Lawrence.”

“Yes, what d’you want?”

“I’m a freelance journalist and I’d like to do an interview with you.”

“What for?”

“Oh I think you have loads to tell which my readers would be interested in.”

“I disagree—goodbye.”

“Lady Cameron, wait—how come you’ve been nearby when these mysterious healings have occurred.”

“I think you’re confusing me with Jesus—I have nothing to do with any of it.”

“That isn’t what eyewitness accounts state—they talk about a blue light emanating from you into the subject you heal—sometimes even bringing people back from the dead.”

“I think you really are confusing me with the guy from the New Testament, I make films about dormice not go round putting doctors out of business.”

“My eyewitnesses say you did.”

“Then they are clearly mistaken or deluded or lying—I hope you don’t pay them anything unless you file it under fiction or fairy stories.”

“What if I have a photo?”

“I have hundreds of photos—my children, my bicycles, my parents and so on.”

“A photo of you doing it?”

“It could have been photoshopped—can’t believe anything these days,”

“And we have a witness who saw you saving a deer.”

“I don’t know any deer personally, so why would I save one—unless it was in my freezer?”

“Very funny, you should have been a politician, Lady C.”

“No thank you, I failed the medical—had too much integrity.”

“Are you refusing to give me an interview?”

“Because you’re going to publish rot about me anyway?”

“Something like that, so you do have a chance to have input and correct mistakes.”

“I’ll leave that to your lawyers, Ms Lawrence, pick good ones because I will sue asap.”

“Oh we have pretty good ones, I haven’t been beaten so far, Lady Cameron.”

“Oh well let’s see if my petit bourgeois friends can change that a little.”

“I don’t think so, Lady C, so I shall go with my story that you might be some sort of angelic presence who goes around healing humans who are beyond mortal assistance.”

“I think I prefer the one about the woman journalist who was too lazy to do her research properly and went with popular misconceptions instead of what she knew from the first moment to be correct. See you in court.” I placed the phone down and went back to my chores.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1344

“Who was that?” asked Si.

“Some journalist woman who wants to interview me about raising the dead.”

“You’ve haven’t been emptying the graveyards again, have you? I thought you’d promised me you stop it.”

“Nah, it wasn’t me, it was Trish, with her Dr Dee magician’s set.”

“Hey you,” Trish came running up to me, “I haven’t done anything—Mummy’s telling fibs.”

“See, even the children don’t believe you.”

“And I suppose ever since you said you knew Father Christmas, they’re going to believe you, are they?”

“No, I said I’d met one of his reindeer, not the old man himself.”

“The only reindeer you’re likely to have met would be on a Christmas card.”

“They had some at Santa’s grotto once when I was about fifteen.”

“You went to Santa’s grotto when you were fifteen?” I asked in astonishment.

“Yes, we went to embarrass the old guy who was playing Santa—unfortunately, they had two security blokes dressed as elves to deal with such eventualities and they threw us out after we’d paid our fifty pence—and we didn’t get a present either.”

“Aw, diddums.”

Just then the doorbell rang. I glanced at my watch—who the hell was that? Simon seeing my anxious response went to the door. He spoke for a couple of minutes and then shut the door. He handed me a business card.

I glanced at it although I knew what was written on there, it was Laura Lawrence.

“So now she knows where I live,” I sighed.

“Was that a secret?” asked Simon.

“Well not everyone knew it before—still I suppose these people have grapevines…”

“Yes, babes, it’s called twitter—I presume because it’s for twits.”

“Twatter, did you say?”

“No, but I will.”

“All I need now is to be stalked by some idiot journalist.”

“If she’s stalking you, you can take legal measures against her—on the other hand you could take out an injunction or a super injunction.”

“What’s a super injunction?” I suspect I might have heard about them on the radio but I didn’t know what they were.

“It’s an injunction where the subject is unable to even talk about there being an injunction. Anyone who breaks it risks contempt of court.”

“Ooh, get me a pound of those then.”

“The alternative would be to either call a press conference or talk to a journalist you trust.”

“Like Des?”

“If you can talk to him, I will be impressed.”

“I meant like he was before he died.”

“Oh that, yeah, he was a pretty honest operator—especially if you were pretty and female.”

“Well when I met him at first, I think I failed on both counts.”

“I’m not giving you any sympathy for self-pity or deliberate self-effacement/ deprecation. You are female and beautiful—that is final—okay?”

“Hang on, I’m entitled to my own opinion—which being female—you just said I was—is different to yours.”

“You’re entitled to have opinions, it’s expressing them that is the problem.”

“I thought you were an egalitarian.”

“I am—as long as it’s me getting even, not t’other way round.”

“Equal—not even—you nit.”

“Equal and even mean the same.”

“In some contexts but not the one you’re arguing.”

“Cathy, now who is arguing convenience before logic?”

“Me, I do it all the time.”

“Socrates would be upset.”

“He’s been dead for some time.”

“You didn’t manage to speak to him then?”

“Don’t be silly, Simon—he’s been dead for hundreds of years.”

“That doesn’t usually stop you.”

“That is a calumny, Simon Cameron.”

“I thought you got those on your feet when you wore tight shoes.”

“That’s callus you nit.”

“I thought I was being quite sensitive,” Simon shrugged.

“Grrr, “

He looked smug as he laughed at me.

“So what did you tell this woman?” I waved the card.

“I said you were in the cemetery exhuming bodies so you could do your own version of Shawn the Sheep.

“I think you might mean, Sean of the Dead?”

“Might I? Yeah, maybe.”

“Seriously, what did you say?”

“I told her to stop bothering you.”

“Oh—I don’t think it will work.”

He glanced out of the window and followed my gaze. At the end of the drive were several people milling about, some with cameras. “Hmm—you could be right. Okay, what’s plan B?”

“Plan B? I didn’t even have a plan A.”

“That’s women for you.”

“What is?”

“No plan A, B or C.”

“Who said anything about C?”

“You have a plan C?” he asked his eyes widening.

“No.”

“Oh—so do I just wander out there waving a shotgun?”

“Only if you want to be photographed and it used in court against you.”

“Not especially—unless it’s a particularly flattering photo.”

“Vanity—thy name is Simon.”

“Fair—enough,” he said emphasising the fair.

I groaned—“This isn’t funny—neither are your jokes by the way—so what do we do?”

“Starve them out.”

“What like a siege?” I asked.

“Absolutely.”

“Si—it’s them who would be besieging us—we’d be the ones to starve.”

“I never was much good at history.”

“What if I went and spoke to them?”

“They’d have something to write about, but it is likely to be misquoted and misconstrued.”

“There’s someone else coming up the drive,” I noted.

The man rang the doorbell. Simon answered it, I stood just to the side of the door so I could hear what was said without him seeing me.

“May I speak with Lady Cameron?”

“What about?”

“I’d prefer to say that to the good lady.”

“Sorry—she’s unavailable.”

I suddenly had a feeling that this man was desperately ill. It was a set up—he had lung cancer—I suppose if he got better after meeting me, they’d have circumstantial evidence. I wanted to help him but I knew that if I did, I’d be outted to the world. I felt on the horns of a dilemma. I let the energy decide for itself. I stepped forward.

“Lady Cameron?”

“Yes, who are you?”

“I’m Hugh Weston.”

“How can I help, Mr Weston?”

“May I come in?”

“I don’t know—why should I let you?”

“I thought you people would know.”

“Know what?”

“Your powers aren’t as good as I thought.” He looked breathless and began to puff a little. He used an inhaler.

“You have chest problems.”

“I could see that, Cathy,” offered Simon and I wasn’t sure how that might be construed.

“Yes, I have chest problems—I wondered if I might prevail upon you to help me—the doctors can’t.”

“Sorry, I’m not a physician—I’m a scientist.”

“Yes, we all know—you tame dormice for a living, except the one who ran down your jumper.”

“Blouse actually.”

“Whatever.”

“Attention to detail is important in observational science.”

“And yet you didn’t know what was wrong with me?”

“Why should I, I’ve never met you before.”

“The reputation you have—I thought you might.”

“What reputation?” I asked knowing exactly what he meant.

“That you cure people just by talking to them.”

“I don’t—but Professor Charcot did—he was a neurologist at the turn of the last century—trained Freud—specialised in psychosomatic conditions which they used to term hysterical ones in those days.”

“So you won’t help me?”

“I can’t—I told you before, I’m not a physician.”

“Okay, mate, sorry but I’m gonna close this door.” Simon shut the door in the man’s face. We walked into the kitchen. “What’s his problem?”

“He’s got terminal carcinoma of the lung.”

“Could you have helped?”

“I don’t know—I left it up to the energy to decide if it wanted to—I didn’t feel anything moving—so I suspect it didn’t.”

“That’s pretty cynical using a dying man.”

“Now you see what we’re up against.”

“Very clearly,” he said and walked off with the phone in his hand.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1345

“Help is at hand,” Simon told me when he returned from wherever he’d been to phone whoever he called in private.

“Is that an aspiration or a statement of fact?”

“A bit of both, you know me, I like to spread my bets.”

That wasn’t my recollection of things but it seemed picky to argue, so I didn’t. I can actually bite my tongue when required—I just don’t enjoy it.

“How about some tea?” he said, as I instructed the children to all stay in the house. Danny was least pleased. I told him to call his friend and say we had a problem.

A little while later a large Mercedes arrived—not one that I recollected Henry driving—probably because it wasn’t one of Henry’s. I saw the driver get out and walk towards the front door.

“It’s wossisname,” I said pointing at the door.

“It had better be Jason.”

“That’s the one—I thought he was a revenue barrister?”

“He is.”

“So are we in trouble with the Revenue?”

“No, he’s here for a very good reason.”

“A cuppa?”

“He’ll probably have one—better do Earl Grey—it makes us look posher.”

“Simon, you’re an aristocrat—they don’t come much posher.”

“Oh yeah, I keep forgetting.” He roared at his own joke and I opened the door and let Jason Wilson in.

“You grow more lovely each day, Lady Cameron.”

“I’ll bet you say that to every girl you speak to.”

“Damn, you’re not supposed to know that.” He smiled a lovely white smile against a recently tanned skin.

“You took your bloody time,” said Simon joining the party.

“I was on the golf course; I thought I did bloody well.”

They shook hands and then embraced—“This berk was in school with me—did I tell you that, Cathy?”

“Yes, dear, many times. Jason would you like some tea?”

“Have you got some Earl Grey?”

“I have,” I went off to the kitchen to make the tea. When I returned Jason was on the phone to someone.

“You’ve got it?” he was asking someone. I put the tray of teas down and went back to get the biscuits.

“You’ve got your injunction.”

I assumed he was talking to Simon, so I simply stood with a plate of biscuits offering them to him.

“Did you hear that, Cathy?”

“I thought Jason was talking to you.”

“No, dear lady, I’m sort of addressing both of you—ooh, can I take a chocolate one?”

“Jason got Lewis-Armstrong to take a quick application to a judge in chambers; they’re faxing a copy over asap.”

“Louis Armstrong, I thought he was dead?”

“No, Lewis hyphen Armstrong, barrister and chambers-mate to Jason,” Simon elaborated. “We’ve taken out an injunction preventing the press vultures from approaching you or the children, or harassing any of us.”

“Won’t they claim public interest?”

“They have to prove it.”

“I wouldn’t have thought it was that difficult?” I challenged.

“It can be, I won’t go into legal precedents but as you’re an individual with these alleged magical powers and you’ve asked people not to reveal your identity as part of the healing contract—someone has breached that contract or they’re guessing.”

“Oh, which d’you think it is—they claimed to have photos.”

“Photographs are so unreliable these days with all the super-smart software available to mess with them.”

One of the children brought the fax to Simon and he handed it to Jason. He read it over and nodded, then taking it in his hand he walked out of the door and down to the journalistic throng gathering like a pack of hyenas waiting for a lion to weaken so they can tear it apart. Apparently, the largest killers of male lions are hyenas.

Male lions while they are either young or in control of a pride do quite well, but they’re too heavy to hunt for themselves and so either starve to death or get killed by hyenas. Unsurprisingly, lions absolutely hate hyenas and will kill them on sight if they can.

We watched him waving the piece of paper about and one or two looking at it carefully, then they began moving away. The original raiser of the story, Laura Lawrence, stood talking with Jason and the conversation looked quite animated—at least on her part—then she stepped back and slapped him and I thought he was going to fall. She stormed off and Simon rushed out to help his friend.

“What was all that about?” I asked.

“She got a bit excited,” said Jason understating the case.

“A bit—I thought she was going to deck you.”

“When she hit me, I thought so too.” His eye was closing up and changing from tanned skin to Technicolor.

“Let me get some ice,” I said and went to get some from the freezer and a towel. I returned a few minutes later and offered the ice pack to Jason.

“I have no idea why she hit me, we were discussing it quite happily then she started shouting at me and whap—I collect a haymaker.”

“Stupid woman—lost control I expect,” Simon isn’t very good at human theory—just money theory.

“I know why she hit you.”

“Pray do share your feminine insights with us mere mortals.”

At that point I felt like hitting Jason as well but just in case the Argonauts might turn up, I refrained—patronising twat.

“Well, Babes, why did she hit him?”

“She could have slapped you and vented her fury without doing you much harm, as it is she hit you deliberately on the face near the eye, which as we can see bruises very quickly. Now an ice pack helps but won’t get rid of it completely. The blue light could have sorted it in minutes—she was hoping I’d sort out one of our helpers.”

“So this healing thing is true, then?”

“I can’t answer that on the grounds that…”

“We don’t have a fifth amendment, that’s the Wild West.”

“We don’t even have a constitution,” added Simon.

“Be grateful, with one lawyers wouldn’t do so well. Especially those who are asked for opinions before cases.”

“There is a magical healing which sometimes takes place when it feels like it,” I offered as a sort of explanation.

“So you don’t control it?” asked Jason.

“It does its own thing, if it wanted to heal you it would—oh get that tooth seen to, Jason, or it’s going to infect your jaw.”

“How d’you know about my tooth?”

“Let’s just say a little birdy told me.”

“This is weird.”

“I still think that and I’ve been troubled by it for over a year.”

“Troubled—it’s a wonderful gift—isn’t it?”

“When it can be arsed to activate it can work miracles—but—could you imagine how such an individual would survive besieged by those with sickness or other problems. The individual so cursed would have no life of their own.”

“Even so, such a gift and the good it could do…”

“Here we are, you take it and see how long you think like that—it’s a curse, make no bones about it.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1346

After my confrontation with Jason, I went off to see to the children—compared to the convoluted world of adults—dealing with children’s disputes is easy.

I got them all to bed eventually, except for Julie, who is practically an adult anyway. It was nine o’clock and I’d just sent Danny on his way—he watches stuff on the Internet when he goes to bed—I make him leave a full history of sites he’s visited and check them out every so often—so far he’s been good—but then we have it so he or any of the others can’t visit adult sites—I don’t need them and I doubt Simon does either.

We both found it incredible that some professor had been hounded from his job because he suggested that sperm made women relax—yeah, I fall asleep.

Actually what he suggested was that sperm/semen had evolved to get round the defences of women in order to give the man the best chance of fathering her offspring—research showed it had anxiolytic properties in women. He of course suggested we should go to bed and see if a quick seeing-to would make us feel less anxious about this latest press intrusion.

I find it astonishing that no one has raised the old chestnut of Charlie, although I’m extremely grateful that no one has—perhaps transsexuals are old news?

Instead of going to bed early, I got Simon to read Macbeth with me—I’d learned some of the lines but was way behind on the schedule I’d set myself. Why do other people get in my way so much—if I was a real Lady M—I’d have sent a few hit squads out to despatch some of my irritations—no I wouldn’t—I just feel like it.

The next morning, a school day, I got Jenny to take the girls to school and Simon took Danny. I stayed behind with Puddin’ and Catherine. Puddin’ who has seen me feed Catherine many times decided that today, she wanted to breastfeed as well.

At first I said no, but she burst into tears and effectively told me I didn’t love her. I let her sit on my lap to calm down because she was upsetting the baby, and she snuggled into me and latched on to my nipple—it was a fait accompli—and I was glad she’d sucked it dry before Jenny came back.
“Any bother?” I asked Jenny.

“We had a tail, probably photos and so on taken with a zoom lens.”

“They’re such a blessed nuisance, why can’t they leave me in peace.”

“Because you’re so newsworthy.”

“Newsworthy—me? I’m boring—I don’t even speed in the car—not usually.”

“Yeah, you are—look at it from their point of view: You’re a beautiful transsexual woman; married to an aristocrat; with more children than the old woman who lived in a shoe; who makes films about cute furry things; and happens to have the greatest healing gift since the New Testament—that enough?”

“Not sure, give ’em to me again,” I teased and she threw a duster at me.

“Oh and about to play Lady M with a current heart-throb.”

“Shit—and I still don’t know my lines.”

“Shit,” said Puddin’ waddling round the kitchen, “Shit, shit.”

“Be thankful you didn’t say anything worse.”

“Okay—I won’t kill her until dinner, when I’ll roast her over an open fire.”

“Um—suckling baby—yeah—could catch on—what veg would you do?”

“That’s easy, baby potatoes, carrots and peas.”

“Oh yeah—’course—obvious, innit?”

I thought so which was why I said it.

“Wanna do some reading of your part?” offered Jenny.

“That would be brilliant—thanks, kiddo.”

“Let’s have a cuppa and get stuck in,” she said filling the kettle.

“Shit, shit,” said a small person which the other pigmy thought was really funny, so she said it some more. I was now wondering where we could erect a spit and a bonfire.

“…all the perfumes of Arabia…”

“Shit, shit, shit.”

“I’m going to strangle her if this goes on much longer—how am I supposed to concentrate while she’s running round like a foul-mouthed pinball?”

“She did get it from somewhere in the first place.”

“I know, but I’ve learned my lesson and am now a reformed character—the punishment has proved effective—I don’t remember it being a life sentence.”

“No, it wasn’t.”

“Shit, shit,” said Puddin’ walking round the table leg of the kitchen table.

“If she wasn’t my niece, I’d have sent her to play with the crocodiles at the zoo.”

“Charming.”

“Sharmin,” said our toddler, “Sharmin.”

“Well done, you fixed the sticky needle,” I congratulated Jenny.

“Shit, sharmin, shit, shit.”

“I think you hatcheted your counts before they chickened,” said Jenny.

“Yeah, maybe you’re right”—I knew the old joke about the good count and the bad one, and the bad one was after the other’s money. He wouldn’t talk even after torture so the bad count built a guillotine and just as he released the blade onto the good counts neck, the good count changed his mind and was going to say where kept his treasure—sounds like my sort of luck.

We had lunch and I got stuck into some chores while Jenny went to collect the girls. Tom was getting Danny, who would catch a bus to the university for his lift home. I knew that Tom would spoil him rotten, but as they don’t see that much of each other unless they’re gardening, I thought it would be nice for both of them in any case.

I was hanging some washing on the line when I felt I had someone watching me—it’s quite a spooky feeling—and I spun round—there was no one there.

I finished hanging out the second lot of bed linen and turned round to pick up the freshly dried stuff when I looked up and saw Laura Lawrence in the garden.

“I’d really like to talk with you, Lady Cameron.”

“What are you doing here, this is private property, please leave immediately or I’ll call the police.”

“Go ahead—in order to prove trespass there has to be damage.”

“I’ll think of something—now get out of here or I will call them.”

“C’mon, you have these amazing powers—don’t the people have a right to know about it?”

“No—what concern of theirs is it?”

“But you have this wonderful gift?”

“Who says so—only you say so.”

“How could you pass up on curing an old man with lung cancer—don’t tell me you didn’t pick up on it, because I know that you did—but your privacy is more important—you self-righteous types make me sick.”

“Please go.”

“Not until I get my interview.”

“I wouldn’t talk to you if you were the only other person alive on the planet.”

“Okay, Lady Smart-arse, let’s see how well you heal yourself.”

I saw the flash of the sun on the knife blade and threw myself backwards rolling over the grass and springing back onto my feet.

She came at me slashing and swiping.

“Please stop—I’ll talk to you.”

“Too late now—I’ll watch you die if you aren’t the mystery healer, but I’m sure you are—so you’ll heal yourself, won’t you?”

She slashed at me again and I jumped back—I didn’t want to hurt her, or get hurt, but this was getting quite hairy.

“Stand still, dammit,” she said puffing—I was hardly out of breath, so obviously in better shape.

I heard the car enter the drive, she didn’t—she was still intent on doing me harm. I saw Livvie and Trish running into the garden to see me.

“No, go back.” I shouted at them.

“Ha—the oldest trick in the book—didn’t fool me.” She swung the knife at me and one of the girls screamed. That was all I needed—she momentarily looked behind and I kicked the knife from her hand probably breaking her wrist as I did it.

“You bitch—you’ve broken my arm—you’ve broken my bloody arm.”

“Trish, tell Jenny to call the police.”

“You’ve hurt me—you bitch—now fix it.”

“I think you must be joking—I’m not a doctor.”

“But you hurt me—my hand, look at it.”

“Next time it’ll be your face. C’mon back to the house, we’ll wait for the police there.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1347

I let her soak her hand under the cold tap—I certainly wasn’t going to do anything which might be construed as healing her, however vaguely.

The police duly arrived and I explained what had happened and while one of them watched her, I took the other officer to collect the knife as evidence. He bagged it and shook his head.

“Weren’t we here the other day?”

“Um—you might have been,” I blushed.

He shook his head and walked back to the house. They examined her bag to see if there were any other weapons as they couldn’t handcuff her due to her injured wrist.

“Ms Lawrence is asserting you assaulted her for no good reason.” The officer who’d been with her stated, his partner held up the bag with the knife in it.

I quickly made a statement and they left taking Ms Lawrence with them—presumably to a hospital—it looked broken—but given she was trying to slash me with it, I had no regrets.

“What was that lady trying to do to you, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“She was trying to make me prove I can heal people by stabbing me and hoping I’d heal myself.”

“That’s silly,” she said and flounced away, “Bloody silly,” she said and giggled because I didn’t pick her up on it.

“Shit, shit, shit,” said our mobile pygmy and I blushed. Much more of this and I shall book in next door to Stella at the clinic. Sometimes I did wonder if I should see if I could swap the kids for a budgie or something which I could talk to and get some response but without a load of lip.

“That was a pretty dumb thing for that woman to do—coming at you with a knife, she obviously doesn’t know of your reputation as a crime fighter.”

Oh boy—more of the myth of Cathy the wonder being—perhaps I should have stayed home that day Stella hit me off my bike—is this all a dream?—no rephrase that—nightmare might be more apposite.

I suppose there have been good times as well as the struggles, except recently there seems to have been one thing after another. I could do with a holiday, but then I’d have to take the children and it wouldn’t stay much of a holiday for long.

I gave them all a snack and a drink while Jenny made us some tea—then we sat down for five minutes before sorting out the next meal.

Over dinner, Simon asked about the attempted attack in the garden and discussed with Tom about getting some fencing organised to make it harder for people to get in. They decided to speak to Maureen about it—so that means they’ll ask me to speak to Maureen about it.

Does anything happen here unless I do it? Not much by the look of it. I enjoy being the centre of attention but not the only responsible adult in the house given there are three adults as well as me, plus one sub adult perhaps one of them would like to organise things now and again.

“What d’you think about fencing off the house, Cathy?” Simon was dropping it in my lap.

“I suppose it’ll keep the deer out of Daddy’s veggie garden.”

“I meant to protect the children and you of course—not that you seem to need much protection.”

“I’m not sure creating a fortress is going to achieve much.”

“Oh—why not?”

“Because we become prisoners inside it—like those gated communities in the States, they don’t make the problem go away, they just hide it from those rich enough to live there. We don’t need fencing, we need a better, safer world.”

“I don’t disagree with those sentiments, but until we achieve that Utopian aim, how do you feel about getting some fencing?”

“I think it’s a waste of time and money and advertises we have something to protect.”

“Yes, my wife and children,” said Simon with irritation.

“I’m not convinced it would keep out nutters like Lawrence, she was desperate to prove I was her mystery healer.”

“The fact that you happen to be wouldn’t have some bearing on the case?” asked Simon.

“Goodness, I feel like Clark Kent being asked about Superman.”

“You don’t even wear glasses, Mummy,” observed Danny munching on his second portion of lasagne.

“No, my sight is okay.”

“But Clark Kent does, it’s part of his disguise.”

“Oh I see,” I said.

“Pretty rubbish disguise if you ask me,” offered Julie—I think just proving she was still awake.

“Yeah, well it seems to work for him,” Danny was squaring up for an argument with his older sister.

“I think it’s pretty weak, a pair of glasses and a shirt and tie.”

“There’s that lovely scene in the last movie where he spends ages looking for a phone box to change in.”

“Oh that’s right,” I remembered enjoying the Brandon Routh version of Superman when it was shown on telly and pleased that they’d retained John Williams’ Superman March in the title music. It’s so iconic.

“The fact that it’s fiction and pretty absurd fiction means that anything goes,” suggested Simon, making a point which I couldn’t disagree with. “I mean a man who can fly and is indestructible—how is he propelled when he’s flying? Does he jump into the air and does that propel him or has he some sort of motor in his underpants?”

Julie thought that was hilarious.

“I remember seeing some silly article in New Scientist which suggested that if Superman actually had sex with Lois Lane his sperm would shoot straight through her and through the earth into outer space.” Simon was now in his element.

“That’s a thought, doesn’t he have a kid in the Superman Returns film?” Julie was encouraging him.

“Obviously theory and practice are different,” I suggested before clearing the table to load the dishwasher. Trish came to help me.

“People can be disguised very easily—look at Gaby, she combs her hair differently and they all think she’s a boy.”

“The fact that she switches between roles is part of the plot mechanism, darling, because it means that Drew can end up as Gaby even when he doesn’t intend to, it’s almost a comic effect at times.”

“Is there a Gaby comic, then?”

“No, darling, can you fetch the dirty cutlery?” I dismissed her to avoid any further questions.

Simon and Danny took the rest of the children out into the garden to play with a tennis ball; I went out to check my washing and brought it in to air before ironing tomorrow.

While they were busy I did some more reading of my lines for this ’ere play thing and began to worry that I’d never manage to commit it all to memory in time for rehearsals. I should never have allowed myself to be bullied by a bunch of kids—but now I was stuck with it.

I would have to check with Matt or the school to see when rehearsals were scheduled to start—presumably with just sitting and reading it a few times with discussions about how we stage it, stage directions, scenery and all that stuff which can help to create the illusion of mediaeval Scotland.

As if life isn’t busy enough Erin phoned to ask if I’d thought any more about the harvest mouse film—I hadn’t and when I mentioned doing the play, she asked if she could come to watch it and bring a friend with her.

“Who’s your friend?” I asked.

“Toby Rushland,” she said as if I should know him.

“Who’s he when he’s at home?” I asked cheekily.

“Oh nothing, just the biggest impresario in the West End at the moment.”

“Why would he want to see an amateur production of Macbeth?”

“Because I’m your agent, that’s why.”

“If you’re thinking what I think you’re thinking, then you can think again.”

“Successful agents think one step ahead of everyone else,” she said laughed and put her phone down.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1348

“You ever heard of Toby Rushland?” I asked Si.

“Heard of him? I’ve met him.”

“Oh.”

“That sounded ominous—why d’you want to get some cheapo theatre tickets?”

“He’s a friend of Erin, my agent.”

“Yeah, so? He’s quite personable so I’d expect him to have a few women friends, except he’s gay.”

“Gay men fascinate some women.”

“I hope you’re not one of them?”

“Me a fag hag? Nah, but Alan my cameraman is gay, so I don’t have a problem with them.”

“You just wouldn’t want your daughter to marry one?”

“I’d have no objections, perhaps they’d enjoy talking about clothes or comparing knitting patterns.”

Simon rolled his eyes, “Lots of gay men get married—it’s a sort of stealth thing.”

“But these days, what for? I mean there are gay men in parliament and top of industry, even on Radio 4. I mean, there’s Evan Davis on the Today programme—talk about iconic.”

“Yeah, but they’re token aren’t they?”

“No—it’s the women who are token—there’s only one of those on the Today programme as well.”

“Yeah, but there aren’t any male presenters of Woman’s Hour are there?”

“That’s different.”

“No it isn’t, if you have a policy of equality and diversity, why can’t you have men presenting Woman’s Hour?”

“Si, that is taking things too far, besides it wouldn’t be Woman’s Hour then would it?”

“I suppose People’s Hour wouldn’t have quite the same ring about it.”

“It’s partly historic anyway, it’s been going for years when women’s issues weren’t as easily broadcast as they are today, not that they discuss some of the really dark ones anyway.”

“Like what? I thought they did, I mean they’ve dealt with sex change and gay stuff, abortion and female circumcision—surely it doesn’t get much more controversial than that?”

“I didn’t mean Woman’s Hour, I meant radio as a whole—I mean there’s this business of Corrective Rape—it happens in South Africa and the Caribbean.”

“Corrective rape—sounds a bit of an oxymoron to me—how can rape correct anything?—it’s just nasty.” Simon shuddered as he spoke.

“You’re absolutely right—it’s almost a euphemism for hate crime against women, gay men and transgendered people. They get gang banged—by a bunch of morons—I presume—no self-respecting man would do it—I hope—it’s supposed to teach them a lesson, if they survive—they don’t always.”

“Plus, I presume they could get pregnant or catch nasty diseases from these nasty little boys. Rape is a really nasty thing to do—there was a girl in uni who got attacked on a tube platform and raped in front of a group of people by a gang of black youths.”

“Was she black?”

“Yeah, she was really beautiful and such a sparkling personality—it all changed after that—she went into her shell—developed a dependency on painkillers—I think she killed herself eventually. Not one of the bastards watching even called the police.”

“Perhaps they couldn’t get a signal?” I suggested, “Or didn’t have mobiles, people didn’t ten years ago.”

“This was London, Babes, people like their toys there. It’s not a backwater like Bristol where bicycles are still the majority personal transport.”

“Nah, only the wealthy can afford a bike, most have to rely on Shanks’s pony if they can afford boots or shoes.”

“Crikey, you’d be a millionaire then with the collection of footwear you’ve got upstairs.”

“That’s Stella’s fault.”

“How come, they’re in your wardrobe then—if they’re hers?”

“They’re mine.”

“You’re beginning to lose me here; there are over thirty pairs of shoes and boots in your wardrobe and it’s my sister’s fault?”

“If you cast your little mind back to the days when I was rather more shy and awkward about being in public.”

“You mean as a female?”

“Yes,” I blushed, it still embarrassed me to think I wondered if Simon was a cannibal that first evening, especially when he told me I looked good enough to eat.

“Yes, I’m still waiting for the explanation before my single brain cell rolls back into its storage space.” He rolled his eyes again.

“Well, I was relatively new to girldom, especially in public.”

“You’d spent two months dressing like a girl when you did Macbeth.”

“Yeah, but that was covered—I’d been instructed to do it, so no one could tell the school or my parents. When I was in your cottage wearing borrowed clothes and makeup—I was sort of in uncharted waters.”

“I thought you said that Stella made you do it—so weren’t you covered in that sense?”

“She didn’t exactly make me do it, she sorta encouraged me by saying that your clothes wouldn’t fit anyway and so I had to borrow some of hers.”

“So what’s that got to do with half of the British Shoe Corporation’s output in your wardrobe? I’m losing the will to live here.”

“Well, given my inexperience…”

“Get on with it—I’d like to go to bed sometime this week.”

“Stop interrupting then.”

His reply was a sigh but he said nothing.

“Where was I?” He made to tell me but a Paddington hard stare stopped his ideas of mutiny. “Oh yes, I was a bit green about things girly, so Stella was my style guru.”

“So why have you got all the shoes and not her?”

“Oh she’s got quite a few herself.”

“Not as many as you.”

“Probably not—which wardrobe did you look in?”

“Your one, why?”

“Oh ’cos there’s a few more in the wardrobe in the spare room.”

“How many?”

“Not sure,” I blushed.

“How many?” he repeated more loudly.

“Twenty-three pairs.”

“Of shoes?”

“Um—not entirely, there’s four pairs of boots as well.”

“You have fifty-seven pairs of boots and shoes?”

“Fifty-nine if you include my cycling shoes.”

“Jeez-uz—why do you need sixty pairs of footwear?”

“I was trying to tell you, it’s all Stella’s fault.”

“How can it be Stella’s fault that you’re the Imelda Marcos of Portsmouth?”

“I was trying to tell you.”

“Pray do—and while you’re at it tell me why you have sixty and I have half a dozen?”

“Stella was my style guru…”

“We’ve done that bit.”

“Shut up and listen.” I fixed him with another icy stare.

“Carry on—I’m all ears.”

“No you’re not, you’re all belly.”

“Hey, that’s personal, and I’ve been growing it for years—takes a long time to nurture a male pregnancy like mine.”

“You certainly look the part—anyway…”

“You cheeky cow—get on with the facts.”

“I was being factual—you’re getting fat.”

“That’s just trying to distract me—get on with why you have half a million shoes in the house.”

“That is a gross exaggeration, there’s only a quarter of a million.”

“Get on with it—I’ve got to be in work in ten hours.”

“Right, okay—Stella was my style guru and—” he went to get up but I motioned him to sit down again, which he did sighing heavily. “She was my mentor in things female,” he nodded and urged me to continue, “so I tended to do what she suggested unless I absolutely hated her idea—there was the pink skirt which she liked but I hated and refused to wear it.”

“Has the pink skirt got anything to do with the shoe saga?”

“No, of course not, why?”

“Will you please stop detouring yourself and just tell me why all the shoes are Stella’s fault and I can die happy and fulfilled.”

“Oh that—she told me a girl can’t have too many—and who am I to disagree?”

“We have a house full of your shoes because Stella said that?”

“Yes,” I said innocently.

“You don’t expect me to believe that, do you?”

“It’s the truth, cross my heart to lift and separate,” I said drawing a cross on my chest.

“I don’t think that’s the original wording, is it?”

“It is for the Playtex ads, I so wanted a Playtex cross your heart bra when I was a boy.”

Simon shook his head, “You are completely bloody barmy, aren’t you?”

“In agreeing to marry you?—probably.”

“Right—that does it—you’ve been asking for a good tickle all bloody night—and you’re going to get one.”

“No—Simon—no—I need to wee—stop it—stop it or I’ll—see what you made me do?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1349

We lay in bed having just put the light out, “Why were you asking about Toby Rushland?” Simon asked, gently stroking my leg.

“Erin said she was bringing him to see me in Macbeth.”

“What for?”

“How would I know?”

“She’s not expecting you to end up in the West End or on Broadway, is she?”

“With Macbeth—I doubt it very much.

“And given that there are thousands of professionals to do it, why would they want amateurs?”

“Thanks, Si, that’s really helped my self-esteem.”

“You know what I meant.”

“Yeah, I’m rubbish and should leave it to the professionals.”

“Your leg is so smooth—how d’you manage it?”

“I sandpaper them twice a day and then iron out the wrinkles, why?”

“It works, whatever you do.”

“I get them waxed every four or five weeks and rub in loads of cream.”

“Oh, I just had a quick fantasy of you ironing your legs before I got home.”

“Pervert.”

“Now who has issues of self-worth?”

“It wasn’t me having depraved thoughts.”

“Depraved? Would you care to define that for me?”

“Why should I? I’m not getting involved in a contest of semantics—not at this time of night.”

“Would I still be depraved if I tell you what I imagined you were wearing while you were ironing your legs?”

“Probably, but I suspect you’re going to tell me anyway.”

“Good guess—you know those high red shoes you have?”

“The four-inch stilettos?”

“I didn’t measure them, but they’re very thin-heeled.”

“Yeah, they’re four or four and half inches—I can hardly walk in them—what about them?”

“You were wearing them with black stockings and suspenders and bra and panties—a thong.”

“Have you ever worn one of those?”

“No, women wear them not blokes.”

“They do actually—I’ve got a good mind to buy you one so you can feel what it’s like walking round with a thin bit of material pulled up your bum.”

“Very sexy,” he smirked.

“Very bloody uncomfortable—you feel if you coughed violently you’d end up with one slit on your body which would start at the top of your buttocks and end at your belly button.”

“So why do girls wear them?”

“They look good under trousers, no VPL.”

“No V-what?”

“Visible panty line—girls have always worn uncomfortable things because it turns men on—the shoes you mentioned, stockings and suspender belts—nowhere near as comfortable as tights nor as warm.”

“So why do you wear them then?”

Can he really be that thick—I just told him, didn’t I? “Why d’you think I wear them?”

“Because it makes you feel sexy.”

“Maybe, but it also makes you think I’m sexy.”

“I do even when you’re not wearing anything more than a smile.”

“That would probably be a grimace because I was freezing my aspidistra off.”

“You knew what I meant.”

He paused for a few moments obviously thinking about something. “D’you think I’d look sexy in a thong?”

I couldn’t think of much less of a turn on—“Not especially, why?”

“So why would you want me to wear one?”

“So you can see what it’s like wearing the clothing equivalent of a cheese wire.”

“No thanks.”

He paused and I let up on my sarcasm.

“I see some kid wore a skirt to school.”

“I should think thousands of kids wore skirts to school.”

“Yeah but this was boy.”

“So?—it’s a free country.”

“Wouldn’t you have liked to wear a skirt to school at twelve?”

“Depends—why was he wearing it?”

“As a protest.”

“I wore one as a protest but I was older than twelve—it pissed off Murray.”

“You seem to be consistently able to do that simply by continuing to breathe.”

“That’s true—but one needs to have aspirations, or should that be inspirations?”

“Oh very good—you should have been a stand-up comic.”

“Yeah people at uni say that, especially after I’ve been teaching them.”

“Because you’re so sharp and witty?”

“No because I’m so bad at it.”

“Tom seems to think you’re quite good at it.”

“Daddy doesn’t do much of it now—he’s a bit out of touch.”

“He’d be mortified to hear you say that.”

“I’d be even more so to say it to him, but it’s true.”

“You think he should retire?”

“Not entirely, he’s a good administrator—leads a team well, but his teaching methods are not entirely up to date.”

“Does he do any teaching these days, I thought professors were mainly administrators and business managers.”

“Some actively lead research projects.”

“Isn’t he leading the survey?”

“Nominally—much like the queen is head of the army but you wouldn’t expect her to lead troops into battle, would you?”

“She used to be quite a good equestrian.”

“Okay, but I doubt she’d be much use on horseback against a cruise missile or attack helicopter.”

“Cathy, you are so literal at times.”

“Only at times?”

“Okay, most of the time.”

“You had me worried there for a minute.”

“I have to get up in five hours.”

“Well shut up and go to sleep—you’re the one who keeps talking all the time—you won’t find me doing it—Si? Si are you still awake—bloody men.”

I fell asleep dreaming I was a twelve-year-old boy wearing a skirt to school and being ridiculed for it—but being determined to make my point, kept on doing it. Sadly, all that happened was I betrayed my reasons for doing it, so when someone asked why I was wearing a skirt, they were just told I was queer or wanted to be a girl. The point I was trying to make never came up—just my excuse for doing what I wanted—to wear skirts—to be a girl.

I woke up needing a wee, that last cup of tea always gets me. I mused over the dream which seemed to have lasted a long time and wondered about the kid wearing a skirt—did he think of it or did his parents? Was he doing it just to make his point about wearing shorts—he could have done that instead and broken the school rules and got a dozen other boys to do the same—would the school have suspended them all? I doubt it.

Or if he could have got other boys to wear skirts—that would make more impact than just one. Or the school could have come back at him saying that they weren’t going to allow shorts, but boys can wear the regulation skirts in hot weather if so wish—make it official—that would stop him, he’d soon get fed up—not that I care either way.

Or do I? If Danny started wearing skirts as a protest, I’d be worried that there was something in the water round here, because that would make four gender-challenged children in one family. Talk about cluster effects—that would tend to suggest I was to blame as an environmental factor—yet I don’t actively encourage them to be anything other than themselves. I’m quite happy for Danny to experiment in who he is—if he did turn feminine, I’d support him, similarly if he was gay or anything else. However, I think he’s a perfectly normal boy who enjoys doing boy things—whereas the others don’t seem to be that way and neither was I.

I snuggled back down next to Si and hoped that Danny found him a useful role model, because I certainly wasn’t.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1350

Simon was up at six, he had a meeting at half past seven—don’t these people sleep? I did him a light breakfast, and went to shower, rousing the children after I’d finished.

They tend to help each other showering or bathing, except Billie because she still has an outie, so the others, Trish included look like normal girls. I let Billie shower in my bathroom while the girls messed about in the other one.

“Everything all right?” I asked her.

“As much as it’s going to be.”

“What’s the problem?”

“All of you have proper girl bits ’cept Julie an’ me, an’ she’s gettin’ done next year, an’ she’s got tits.”

“Well you’re taking hormones now—that’s more than she was able to do at your age.”

“They’re not doin’ very much are they?”

“You’ve only been taking them for a couple of weeks, give them a chance.”

“They’re only weak ones anyway—I heard Dr Rose say so.”

“They are low dosage. Now let me explain something to you—high dosage doesn’t necessarily mean anything but increased risk when applied to hormones. If you were whacking down ten times as much all it would do is make you feel sick or increase the risk of thrombosis or cancer. It isn’t so much the strength as the time when you start to take it—and that also means you can’t take it too early because it would do horrible things to you like stunting your growth or damaging other parts of you. You’re the right age now to start having some changes happen to your body. You’re already taking something to stop it becoming more masculine so the effects of the hormones will become clear in a few months.”

“Will I have tits then?”

“The start of them—remember, Billie, that they don’t grow overnight—it’s quite complex what happens inside them, it isn’t just fat collecting, they grow lactation cells as well.”

“What does that mean?”

“Milk cells—theoretically, you could breastfeed eventually.”

She smiled, “Like you do with Catherine?”

“In theory, yes—whether you’ll get the chance is another matter—I’ve just been very fortunate.”

“Trish will grow them faster than me, won’t she?”

“I sincerely hope not, if she does she’ll look deformed having breasts at seven or eight.”

“But she’s got the pills too.”

“She has very low dosage ones, because we’re trying to maintain her body with the same sort of amount of hormones she’d have if she were a natural girl—the same as you, actually—we’re doing it the same as if you were a natural girl, because the blockers stop you producing male hormones. So you have the correct amount of hormones for a ten-year-old girl—effectively starting on puberty.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means the hormones are preparing to turn your body into that of a young woman—obviously in a biological female it would be a bit different—periods would start, dependent upon weight and breasts start to grow, hips start to widen and so on. So by the time you’re ready to go for surgery, assuming it’s what you want to do, you’ll have a very female shaped body and will pass as a female very easily. Probably better than I do.”

“Awww, Mummy, you are female—you just can’t have children—anybody who says you’re not is a liar.”

“I am officially now, and you will be one day soon as well.”

“I can’t wait to cut this off,” she pulled at her penis.

“A word of advice—accept it as part of you and love it—it’s got a very important role later on—that’s what becomes your vagina and labia—if you do a Trish and damage it now, you’ll regret it later.”

“What d’ya mean—regret it later?”

“It could mean that you don’t have enough skin for them to create an innie for you.”

“Trish has got one.”

“Trish’s is very small which is okay now, but when she gets to seventeen or eighteen, she’ll need at least one more operation to make it bigger. You having surgery at eighteen, hopefully wouldn’t need to have further operations.”

“I just feel such a fraud, Mummy being a girl with a dick.”

“I think I prefer the term, outie to dick. Dick is something a boy would say.”

“Oh, I hadn’t thought of that.”

“Right, finish showering and I’ll see you downstairs.”

“Okay, Mummy.”

“And remember who you are happens in your mind, it doesn’t necessarily involve your body at all—that only happens when you want others to share what you feel, and that usually happens a bit later than ten or eleven. But we all think of you as a girl because that’s what you are, isn’t it?”

She hugged me, “Yes, Mummy, and thank you.”

“For what, sweetheart.”

“For being my mummy.” She started to sniff and I hugged her tightly.

“Thank you for being my daughter.”

She laughed at this and I left her to finish her ablutions, while I tried to maintain some sort of order at the breakfast table.

We all piled into the Porsche, Danny went with Tom, who had time to drop him off on his way to the university, Jenny stayed behind looking after the little ones. The traffic was as sluggish as ever and at one point I thought we were going to be late.

We were late—but it wasn’t our fault. At the big junction, with traffic lights and built in congestion, we were just coming up to our turn to go through the junction when, a white van who’d been trying to squeeze past me to turn right, forced his way past me as I moved forward. This happened at exactly the same time as a BMW came through the red light to our right.

We moved forward a short distance, the van came through and a moment later the BMW smashed into the side of it—all of it on the junction, blocking the road in two directions. I managed to get across the junction and pulled in, Trish did her emergency call on her mobile while I locked the car and ran back to see if I could help. I had a bad feeling about the man in the van—I think he was very badly injured if not dead.

I was right, there were several people trying to assist, but the poor chap in the van took the impact right on his cab burying him in a pile of twisted metal.

Someone was trying to pull the driver’s door open—it was stoved in and part of what was trapping him. He was groaning and when I looked there was quite a lot of blood about.

I managed to get in through the passenger door which had come open and saw that his leg was haemorrhaging from a gash on it. I picked up his overalls which lay by the side of him and began ripping them into strips, someone saw what I was doing and while I manoeuvred myself so I could reach the wound, the other helper took over our impromptu bandage manufacture. He passed me a wodge of material which I pressed onto the wound and then handed me strips of cloth with which I tried to improvise a pressure bandage.

What I didn’t expect when I touched him was the flow of energy which went from me into him and I almost smelt burning from his wound, as if it was cauterising it. Once I’d got the bandage tight, the bleeding eased off enormously. I could now check his airway.

I clambered beside him, he’d passed out and was kissing the steering wheel while being pressed forwards and sideways by the smashed door and the car the other side of it.

I lifted his head a little because he was making a snoring noise, which to me indicated a blocked airway, he was also going blue at the lips. I sat there, wedged against the door holding his head, and feeling the energy pulsing into him.

I glanced down at the occupant of the BMW and saw to my horror it was a woman, who was being attended to by two men. She seemed to glance up at me, and despite the blood and bruising on her face, she laughed at me—“I can see it, Cathy—you’ve blown your cover—I can see it,” she called through her missing windscreen; and I realised to my horror it was Laura Lawrence.

The emergency services arrived and it was the same fire chief as before, this time a woman fire-fighter took my place, and I was able to get out of the van. The driver was still alive when I left.

I stood and watched them release the driver of the BMW and saw she was covered in a blanket, up over her face. I felt no urging of the energy to touch her and my feeling were very mixed.

I finished my journey, taking the girls to school and apologising to the headmistress in person—she was fine about it suggesting that I did the right thing in trying to save a fellow human’s life.

I described what happened to her and began shaking. She took me to her office and sat me down while sending for some strong tea. In describing what had happened, I realised that Laura Lawrence had deliberately run the red light to hit my car so I’d have to heal my children or even myself.

Instead, she hit the van and saw me helping the driver—whether she saw the blue light or not, I can’t say. She seemed to think she had—but at a price that most of us would consider too high.

When I spoke with the police later and complained about them releasing her on bail, they apparently couldn’t hold her—a newspaper paid for her bail—they had posted a condition that she keep away from my family, my house and place of work, and me.

If she hadn’t died, she could have been arrested for contempt of court or breach of bail conditions, not to mention dangerous driving or even attempted murder/ manslaughter. I learned later, the van driver was alive when he got to hospital but died later from internal bleeding.

Two lives lost for a bit of printed tittle—tattle, what a waste—doubly so, because they didn’t get a story after all.

Comments are closed.