Bike 1,351–1,400

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,351–1,400

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 1351

Later that evening, the fire chief, Malcolm Crozier knocked the door—I was pleased he’d left his axe in the van. “Lady Cameron, how nice to meet you again.”

“To what to I ascribe this honour, Mr Crozier?”

“I came to bring you these,” he produced a lovely bunch of irises.

“Do come in,” I led him into the kitchen, “we have half a dozen rooms, but this is the one which will give us the greatest peace.”

I offered him tea or coffee and he opted for the latter, “The offer for your lad remains, bring him down to the station and we’ll show him over the place.”

“Thanks but if I bring him, the others will want to come as well or feel left out.”

“How many have you got—children, I mean?”

“From the top down—Julie, Danny—you saw, Billie, Trish, Livvie, Mima, Catherine and my niece, Puddin’.”

“Golly—they all yours, you don’t seem old enough?”

“Appearances can be deceptive, but yes they’re all mine by adoption, except Pud, she’s my niece.”

“Pud?”

“Short for Puddin’ her nick name, her real name is Desiree, but she doesn’t come to that. Fortunately, she and Catherine are in bed, the others will be going soon.” I made him some coffee and as I handed it to him Trish ambled in.

“I’ve done that search for you, Mummy, found it on Google with a bit of fiddling.”

“This, Mr Crozier, is Trish.”

She hadn’t noticed him. “Oh, sorry, how d’ya do,” she said holding out a tiny hand for the huge mitt of the fire chief to shake. “They’re nice, Mummy.”

“Yes, Mr Crozier brought them for me—would you like to put them in some water for me, you know where that tall vase is, don’t you?”

“Yes, Mummy,” she wandered into the pantry where there were some vases on the floor. We both watched as she selected one, filled it at the sink and began arranging the irises in it.

“She looks remarkably like you.”

“She has two arms, legs and one head, so yeah, we have similarities.”

“She has your magic as well, doesn’t she?”

“Does she—I don’t think there’s any such thing as magic.”

“Your healing gift.”

“Curse might be more appropriate, and it doesn’t always work.”

“No, the poor chap in the van and the woman in the BMW, neither made it I hear.”

“That’s what I heard.”

“What happened there, she jumped a red light?”

“She did that all right, but I suspect it was a deliberate attempt to injure one of us and she hit the van by mistake.”

“Why would she do that?”

“She was investigating the healing phenomenon and I refused to agree to anything. She sent all sorts of people here, including one with terminal lung cancer.”

“For you to heal?”

“She hoped I would, but I refused to play and the energy did the same. It’s funny, at the accident it was pouring into the chap in the van, but switched off as soon as we went near her body.”

“Maybe it was too late for her?”

“Could have been, or perhaps it can choose who it helps—not that it made much difference to the van driver.”

“It has to me, I’ve had no bother with my hernia thing ever since you sorted it—that’s what the flowers are for, to say thank you.”

“There we are, Mummy, all arranged. They’re called irises aren’t they?”

“Thank you, darling, yes they are.”

“Did you know there are over two hundred and fifty species of iris and that they’re named after the Greek rainbow goddess?”

“I didn’t know there were that many species, I did know about the Greek goddess.”

“I didn’t know any of that, Trish,” confessed Crozier, and Trish swelled with pride. “How old are you?”

“I’m seven, everyone seems to think that seven-year-old girls shouldn’t know anything except how many outfits there are for Barbie—I did know, of course, but I’ve forgotten it because there are more important things to know. Did you know they’ve proved Einstein was right about gravitational shift?”

“No I didn’t, but I’m somehow not surprised you know, young lady—are you going to do physics when you grow up?”

“I don’t know yet, I am only seven and I probably won’t have to decide before I’m eight. If I did physics—I’d like to go to Cambridge, but I don’t think they’d have me until I was at least ten.”

“I think it might be a bit later than that, sweetheart,” I tried to keep this on a relatively mundane level before Mr Crozier thought he’d wandered into the Addams Family.

“I might wait until I’m eleven, but if they won’t have me, I’ll contact Havard.”

“Can you tell the others, ten more minutes and then it’s bedtime?”

“Okay, Mummy, bye Mr Crozier—that’s a bishop’s stick thing, isn’t it, a crozier?”

“Yes, it is, Trish, only they usually spell it with an S not a Z.”

“I think you’ll find you can spell it with either—I’ll go and tell the others, bye Mr Bishop,” she laughed and ran away.

“She is one bright cookie,” observed Mr Crozier, making the understatement of the century.

“She’s bright and she knows it, fortunately, one of her sisters is nearly as clever, otherwise she’d run roughshod over the others. She was showing off just now, but she has an IQ off the scale—at times it’s frightening.”

“I’ll bet.”

“She can already do more on computers than I ever learned, she’s not quite so clever with practical things—she could tell you the theory of fixing a puncture in a bike tyre, but she’d have no idea of how to actually turn that into practice.”

“Remind me not to go cycling with her.”

“It’s Mummy who’s the fastest, not me—Livvie asked if she could have some milk?” Trish came back to presumably astonish and astound the poor fire chief.

“Well you can pour her a glass, I’m talking with Mr Crozier.”

“Okay, Mummy, may I have one as well?”

“Yes, dear.”

“And Meems?”

“You know she can.”

“She didn’t ask for one, shall I pour her one anyway?”

“Might as well, she’ll want one as soon as she sees you with one.”

“What about Billie?” asked Trish.

“What about Billie?”

“Shall I pour her one, too? One too?” she laughed at her own joke and Crozier smirked—he was a definite fan.

“Hurry up, or you’ll be going to bed without it.”

“Oh yes, great slave driver,” she said sarcastically and bowed very low.

“I mean it, you cheeky little madam, get a move on.”

“Okay, Mummy.” Then as she sidled past Crozier she said, “She loves me really,” then walked down the hallway giggling.

“Little monster,” I sighed.

Mr Crozier chuckled, “I can appreciate she’s a bit of a challenge.”

“On a bad day we sometimes use worse descriptions than that.”

“Babes, have we got any—oh, hello—sorry, didn’t realise we had company.”

“Mr Crozier, this is my husband, Simon Cameron.”

They shook hands and seemed to get on very well, very quickly. Crozier repeated his offer of bringing Danny down to the fire station. Simon was quickly enthused—he’s just a boy in long trousers—unlike that kid wearing the skirt for his protest.

“I’ll definitely bring him down on Saturday, after his football match—it’s the last one of the season.”

They shook hands vigorously as if testing each other’s strength of grip. I was glad it wasn’t my little paw being squeezed to death.

“Seems a nice enough bloke,” commented Simon as we saw off our visitor.

“Very nice, I’ve met him two or three times.”

“Oh yes, said Simon trying to embarrass me—and it works every time, I blushed like mad and he tittered watching me—the sadist.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1352

On Saturday, Simon and Trish went off to watch Danny play football, while Bille, Livvie and Meems came with me to go to the university to have a check on the dormice—yeah, remember them? Little—um—mouse-like critters—actually, they’re not mice, different family—okay they’re rodents, I’ll give you that.

The weather had been unusually warm so they were waking early and we were monitoring what they were eating. Remember they’re mainly nocturnal, so we record what we put out and what’s left the next day—that way we get to discover what their favourite food is.

I cleared out the old stuff while the girls stood round and watched, then I collected up the items from the list—dried fruit, dried meal worms, fresh apple and some flowers from sycamore trees. The latter were supplied as branches with leaves and buds attached. It’s quite interesting that in the UK sycamore has been viewed as a pest species—one expert on trees describing it as the country’s biggest species of weed but we dormicers—think differently when it was realised how important the sycamore was to their ecology in the absence of oak.

Oak is the most important species of tree to many species of insect and other animals—some of the others because it feeds so many insects, so provides a dining table for parasites and predators. The dormice are in the latter category—they eat insects amongst other things, but they can’t digest cellulose, so can’t eat leaves—they can however eat some of the flowers of trees, including sycamore when available. We forget that trees and grasses are flowering plants, albeit mostly wind pollinated—hence the amount of hay-fever (allergic rhinitis) during their flowering times.

It took about an hour to sort out all the dormice, and then we checked each of the nest boxes—they were all fine, and for once Mima managed not to frighten half of them to death.

On the way home we did a bit of supermarket shopping and each of the girls got a chocolate bar to shut them up—okay, I know it’s bribery—but it works. That finished, we got back and after a quick cuppa, I set to with making lunch—it was FA cup final day and Simon and Danny were set it watch it, despite Tom teasing them that it was a game, ‘f’ Jessies.’ Danny was annoyed until he remembered Si had played rugby not football and realised that his Gramps was joking.

His game was supposed to finish by half past eleven and I anticipated about an hour and a half for them to get to the fire station and have a look at a fire engine and so on. I wasn’t particularly interested in such things—unless they had them pulled by bicycle—so left it to the boys and Trish to enjoy. Meems was a bit miffed that her daddy had taken Trish instead but when I mentioned looking at fire engines she shrugged and went back to her dolls.

Livvie and Billie were playing some board game, snakes and ladders I think and Jenny was out with the two little ones—she’d left a note. It was breezy but not bad at all. At one point I had thought to attend the CTC AGM seeing as it was on Portland, but I didn’t have time although I am a member—mainly for their third party insurance and legal advice, which is free to all full members, I’m also a member of British Cycling, just to support the work they do with developing younger riders.

I was doing omelettes for lunch and it was now one o’clock and my stomach was rumbling, they should have been home about now. I sent Simon a text. He replied for us to carry on without them, he’d get them something out if necessary.

I huffed and asked Livvie to lay the table for the rest of us. I’d just started beating eggs when Jenny arrived with two sleeping little people—fresh air often does that to them—and she nodded when I asked if she wanted an omelette.

I’d made a quick green salad to go with it and some bread and butter. I did plain omelettes but everyone ate them with gusto—including me, I was hungry not having had more than a slice of toast for breakfast.

The three miscreants eventually turned up about three o’clock bearing bags of fish and chips—I was furious—I was intending to do fish for dinner. Simon shrugged and settled down with a tray on his lap, a bottle of beer and the football on the telly. Danny followed suit with a bottle of pop instead. Trish, however, sat down at the table and told me what had happened in their morning.

“It was good, Mummy, Danny’s team won two one—he didn’t score any but he set up the goal for another boy to score.” I was delighted to hear that he could be such a team player, although he had proved that at home in other ways.

“What about the fire station, darling, what was that like?”

“That was fab, Mummy, we sat in a fire engine and got to make the blue lights flash—they’re not allowed to sound the sirens unless they’re out on a job. But they showed us how they connect the hoses and how they dry them after use—that’s what the towers are for on the side of the fire stations.”

I nodded—I knew this already, except when I was a kid I thought someone sat up there all the time watching out for people’s houses catching fire.

“They were checking out a turntable ladder, an’ we got a ride in it—it goes so high, Mummy, we could see over the roof of the fire station.”

“You went up in the ladder?” I was shocked, seven years old and enjoying it—I’d have been terrified—I can’t stand heights—rephrase that—I don’t like heights. I’ll go up ladders and things but I don’t feel comfortable—occasionally even a bit dizzy.

“Yeah—it was excitin’.” I’ll bet it was, mind you I’ll have a word with Simon when we are alone. “A fireman let me move the levers an’ things while he watched.

“You went up with a fireman in the platform?”

“Oh yeah, Daddy couldn’t work something like that unless I showed him what to do—he can’t do the washin’ machine or the video.”

This was quite true, mind you I wasn’t that clever with the video either—but I could work the washing machine and the other domestic appliances. As for recording or playing things on the video—I usually asked one of the kids to put it on for me—they have more time and expertise and so far haven’t twigged.

“Then, neither can you, can you, Mummy?”

“How d’you think you get clean clothes if I can’t work the washing machine?”

“No, silly Mummy, the video—I’ll show you again later if you want.”

“No thanks, poppet, I’ll do it some other time.” Damn, she knew—so what?—so why am I blushing? Maybe I should send her off to play with some NATO satellites on her computer—she’s under the age of criminal responsibility—nah, I’ll get her to have a game of snakes and ladders—I might just manage to win at that.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1353

On the Sunday morning, I answered the door at nine o’clock in the morning to representatives of the local constabulary—a uniformed sergeant and woman constable. Not having been in the kitchen I didn’t see them arrive, and the fact that Danny had said some friends might call for him to go off on a bike ride together, I put two and two together and came up with five. In fact, I’d called him to say that the doorbell was probably his friends—except, I’d thought it was too early for teens to be up.

“Lady Cameron?”

“Yes,” I replied feeling my tummy turn over—no one in the family was out, so it couldn’t be them coming to notify me of bad news—unless they were charging me with something I’d no idea about.

“Do you mind if we come in and speak to you?”

“No, except I hope it won’t take too long—I have a Sunday lunch to make.”

“We should be gone long before that,” replied the sergeant.

I admitted them just as Danny came down the stairs; he stopped dead in his tracks when he saw the burly sergeant. Then he went into the kitchen to make his breakfast while I led the police into my study area, which afforded some privacy.

“Is that your boy?” asked the sergeant.

“Yes—why?”

“He looks just like Daniel Maiden, a right little tearaway he was, broke all my greenhouse windows—got put into care—probably turn into a right little toerag—they usually do.”

“Do they, Sergeant? You seem to have a poor opinion of children who have family issues.” I kept it polite but I felt like slapping him one.

“We spend too much time validating the poor criminal, ’oo just ’cos ’e ’ad a row with ’is ma, is forgiven for bashing some old ladies’ brains in so ’e could ’ave some money to spend underage drinkin’ or sniffin’ glue.”

“I’m sure that isn’t why you have come to see me, Sergeant?”

“No, ma’am, it’s about the accident the other day—the fatal one.”

I’d begun to think that was probably the reason. Normally, I’d have offered teas or coffees, but not to this oik, the sooner he was out of here the better—then I had another thought. If I made tea or coffee, I could warn Danny to go and hide.

“Would you care for some tea or coffee?” I asked smiling sweetly, except I felt like poisoning it.

“That’d be very welcome, ma’am,” he said looking at his colleague and she nodded.

“Coffees?” they both agreed. I went off to the kitchen to make them. I caught Danny eating his breakfast and told him to make himself scarce as the plod had recognised him. He went pale and nodded his understanding.

I made three coffees and took them back with some biscuits and milk and sugar. We sat drinking the coffee in silence, punctuated by the sergeant eating three digestive biscuits while neither his colleague nor I had any. Eventually he stopped stuffing his face and looking round the room said, “Nice place you ’ave ’ere, lotsa books—you read ’em all?”

“There two thousand books here, it’s our library—my father is a professor at the university, and I teach there too. But we also have some of the children’s books here too.”

“Lotsa books on science, I see.”

“Um—yes, we’re scientists—biologists.”

“I see—not witches then?”

“I beg your pardon?” This guy was a total cretin.

“Well, you see—the dead woman—a Ms Laura Lawrence—suggested in her notes that you were some sort of sorceress.”

“On what grounds?”

“She suggested that you had some sort of magical powers which manifested as a blue light and that you did things like raising animals and people from the dead.”

I burst out laughing, although it wasn’t what I wanted to do—but assaulting a police officer is a serious offence.

“You find that funny?”

“Wouldn’t you?” I threw back at him.

“Not really, seeing as you don’t ’ave a licence from the ’Ome Office for experiments in resurrecting animals—you ’ave one for studyin’ dormice.”

“Which is what I do, Sergeant. I don’t know where she got the idea from but she seemed obsessed with it and I believe the accident was caused by her trying to injure my children or me, so I’d have to demonstrate this magical power I’m supposed to have. If that was the case, how come I couldn’t help save the van driver or her?”

“Per’aps you chose not to?” he asserted.

“More likely, she was barking up the wrong tree,” I suggested, “Or just plain barking.”

“Per’aps—then again, ’ow d’you explain this?” he opened the file he was carrying and it showed a very poor photo of the children and I trying to save the injured doe.”

“We were simply trying to help an injured animal—it died—so did the fawn it was carrying—so where’s the magical power there?”

“I believe I can see a blue light comin’ from your ’ands.”

“How do I know this hasn’t been photo-shopped or enhanced?”

“Our lab boys suggest it wasn’t.”

“Then I have no explanation—and I’m not sure where this is leading—because as far as I’m aware helping an injured animal or person at the scene of a road traffic accident is not an offence—whereas leaving such a scene is.”

“’Ow do I know you aren’t experimentin’ on this deer?”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I thought my question was clear—were you experimentin’ on this deer?”

Is this bloke for real? “I told you what we were doing, trying to help an injured animal, because it was distressing for my children to see and hear some boy racer stamping about the place swearing because he’d stupidly broken his favourite toy and fatally injured a pregnant doe.”

“But the blue light is clear—so were you experimentin’ with some sort of device we can’t see—an’ is that boy, Danny Maiden?”

“Sergeant before I make a call to your senior officer and have you recalled for rudeness and wasting my time—I’ll confess to you. Yes, I had a device—it was actually onboard the space ship which is hovering just out of the picture—we’re all aliens—like you all seem to be morons—and I really think we came to the wrong planet because we seem beset by these large ape-like creatures who differ from other primates in having larger brains—but with seemingly fewer functioning cognitive abilities.”

“Are you insinuatin’ somethin’?” he snapped angrily, too stupid to see what I was saying, yet his colleague was smirking when he wasn’t looking at her.

“No—you’re the one making the assertions which are total nonsense—I’ve already made a statement about the accident involving Laura Lawrence. If you have any further questions you can speak to my lawyers. I’d be obliged if you’d leave now before you waste any more of my time.

“As for the allusions to Wicca—I’m not nor ever have been involved in Wicca, which I believe is a recognised form of religious belief, much of what is reported about it seems total tabloid nonsense.

“I should add, that if all the evidence you have of me raising the dead is a rather poor photo from someone’s mobile phone—then I suggest you find something more useful to do on Sunday mornings—I would also suggest you go down to the QA and arrest the A&E staff and crash team—because they do raise people from the dead, quite regularly—but the only magic in use is their medical skill and a defibrillator.”

I showed them the door and was still shaking with anger when Simon appeared—“I heard some of that—loved the, ‘Beam me up snotty’ bit. ‘We have a space ship hovering just out of picture—ha—that was brilliant—hoovering would be more appropriate with you, but he wouldn’t know that.”

“If he comes near me again, I’ll have him sacked and his pension as damages—how dare he?” I seethed.

“Um—I hate to say it, but he was doing his job as he sees it.”

“And I gave him my best Columbian.”

“I hope that was coffee not snow.”

“Of course it was coffee—snow? What the hell are you on about?”

“My wife the woman of the world—cocaine, little lady—it comes from Columbia, don’tcha know? Some master criminal, you are.”

“Oh yeah, course.” I blushed and felt rather stupid myself.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1354

“So what’s this about you breaking all the windows in his greenhouse?” I asked Danny after the fat controller and his female sidekick had gone.

“He wasn’t a sergeant then, just a big-headed copper.”

“Never mind the character reference, what happened?”

“A friend of mine used to live next door to him, PC Plod as we used to call him, his real name is Polder, but it sounds like plod if you say it quick.”

“Okay—so what happened?”

“We were playing football in the garden when the ball went over the fence and hit the greenhouse. I got the job of going to get it even though I didn’t kick it. He caught me and smacked me across the head—he was like a looney.”

“He actually hit you?

“Yeah; he hit me then picked up the ball and threw it at me smashing more of the glass. By the time he’d finished the whole greenhouse was trashed including the plants inside. He called some of his friends and had me arrested. I got sent to the children’s home because he said my mum couldn’t cope.”

“What did your mother think of all this?” I would have fought tooth and nail to prove his relative innocence.

“She let them take me—she moved a month later—ran off with some bloke from a baker’s shop—she sent me a letter.”

“Oh, Danny, I’m so sorry.”

“I dunno where she is now—could be anywhere.”

“Has she never been back in touch?”

“Not since the letter—she told me I was a bad lot, taking after my dad—I never knew him, so I can’t say.”

“Would you like us to try and find her?”

“What for? I don’t ever want to see her again—she let them take me—she didn’t believe me, her son—she believed that pig.”

“I’m sorry, son.” I opened my arms and he almost fell into them sobbing against my shoulder. Trish walked in and was about to say how she’d started World War 3 or something equally irrelevant but about turned when she saw me hugging the sobbing boy. She set up a court of enquiry later, but I’d plead the fifth—Beethoven’s that is—symphony of course—ha ha ha ha, ha ha ha ha.

“You’ve been much more like a mother to me than she ever was,” he sobbed—“I’m really glad I live with you.”

“I’m glad you do too.”

We hugged and the doorbell rang again. “Go on upstairs, if that’s your friends, I’ll tell them you bumped your nose.”

“Thanks, Mum—mee,” he winked and ran up the stairs.

“It’s the police again,” announced Trish, “Mrs Plod says Mr Plod left his pen here.”

“Well I cleared the table and I didn’t see it.” I announced but invited the lone WPC into my study again.

“He didn’t leave it, I took it, I knew he’d send me to get it back and I wanted to apologise for his attitude.”

“Oh—got time for another cuppa?”

“N—yes, why not—he can wait.”

I made some more coffee and we chatted. Mrs Plod, turned out to be one Jayne—with a Y—Parsons. She’d been a police officer for two years and usually enjoyed her job until she’d had to partner Sergeant Polder. They had loads of complaints but he had friends in high places and always managed to avoid the censure he deserved.

I asked why she hadn’t reported him, she told me she’d lose her job and felt it was more important to do it and help people than it was to make a kamikaze attack on Polder and lose it.

I could see her point. I didn’t push her because I felt she was already taking risks to come and see me again.

“Is there anything I could do to help sort him out?”

“It would be nice if you could—but he seems pretty well fireproof.”

“No one is entirely fireproof, it simply requires adding more accelerant to the blaze.”

Trish came running into the room and I stepped in front of her tipping the tray of coffee all over the policewoman. She hopped about ripping off her stab-proof waistcoat and I saw the wire I thought something was trying to tell me about.

Trish ran off crying and I put the tray down and switched on my MP3 player as I did so I excused myself to go after Trish to calm her down, apologising profusely to the young copper as I went.

I returned with towels five minutes later and after helping her dry off, I produced fresh coffee. We sat and talked.

“So what’s your take on this blue energy stuff and the accident—I’ve never heard anything so preposterous in all my life?” I said stating my own public opinion.

“I like to keep an open mind—who knows what happens—but I did like your spaceship comment—that really annoyed him.”

“Yes, it was quite good—but then brute force and ignorance are rarely comparable to intellect are they?”

“No, ma’am.”

“So he has to use deceit and guile, doesn’t he—involving other people—isn’t that right?”

“I don’t know, ma’am.”

“Yes you do—let me demonstrate.” I switched on my MP3 player and after my voice faded, hers was heard to say—“I think I’ve got under her radar, Sarge, I think she trusts me.”

“I take it you were filming or recording me?” I asked as she blushed.

“I think I’d better go,” she stood up and practically ran out of the room.

What she didn’t know was I’d also videoed the whole thing—not intentionally—I’d switched on the camera because I was going to practice some lines from the Scottish play and I wanted to see how I fared. I had the whole thing on a camera facing her.

I called Jason—he was quite intrigued to hear what I’d done and asked for a copy. I emailed him one and he said he’d get back to me—he had a friend in the Independent Police Complaints Authority.

I was increasingly glad I’d met Jason, even if he was supposed to be a revenue barrister and was exceedingly wealthy.

He called me back a short while later and said he thought we had enough material to seriously embarrass the department which enabled such bigots to operate. I wished him luck.

“What’s luck go to do with it?” he asked irritably and I had to hold my tongue not to sing the Tina Turner hit back down the phone.

After talking with Jason, I briefed Tom and Simon and a bit later also spoke with Jenny, warning them not to talk to any policemen or women about the accident—actually, it wasn’t an accident, other than she hit the van by accident when she was aiming at me.

Simon immediately went off to talk with Henry and invite him to an evening meal where I would do the roast dinner—roast leg of pork—good job it was a big joint of meat or I wouldn’t have had enough. Henry apparently accepted the invitation rather too eagerly for my liking—but he was a better friend than foe, so my criticism was unimportant.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1355

My afternoon was spent roasting a leg of pork with all the trimmings—well I didn’t do it personally—I think the blue light would be somewhat pushed to do that—besides which, it could be embarrassing if it got up and ran away squealing when Tom was trying to carve it.

I did a nice variety of vegetables, carrots, mushrooms, roast potatoes, broccoli and some roast tomatoes—I love them, except they can get very hot and burn your mouth.

By the time Henry arrived, the pork skin was forming a lovely crackling—for those who don’t know this calorie laden delight—crackling is the skin of pork cooked until it becomes crunchy-chewy. It’s quite sweet tasting which should warn you there’s a bit of fat in it and it probably furs up your arteries all the way to your eyeballs—but it’s still delicious.

Simon opened a couple of bottles of rose for a change—and I decided I’d have a glass with my dinner. I was busy in the kitchen about to dish up when Monica waltzed in and pinched me on the bum. I thought it was Simon or one of the kids and about to shout at them when I realised my mistake. I blushed and she roared—“Gotcha,” she said loudly. I said nothing because I’d probably do little for my supposed reputation as a lady.

She helped me carry through the food to the dining room, where Tom carved and Si poured wine. It was a pretty good meal, I have to say and we had to wait half an hour for dessert, not because it wasn’t ready—I made an apple pie with cream—but no one had any room to eat it for half an hour—we were, to a man—stuffed—actually to a woman and kid too.

The pie served as a light supper an hour later, giving Simon and Henry, assisted by Tom a chance to plot revenge on the plod—sounds a like an old B-horror movie—Lady Cameron and the Revenge of the Plod.

Next thing I know, the doorbell is ringing and Tom is admitting Jason—just as well I didn’t want any pie—he ate my piece. It struck me as amusing that I was the target of the police mendacity and they were in cabal—not exactly excluding me but nor were they inviting me to join. Oh well, revenge must be a boy thing. I hoped that the police would now bugger off and leave me in peace—or I really do point Trish in the right direction and say, EXTERMINATE. She’d probably find some secret satellite with laser weapons on it and…

Danny went up to his room to watch some football on his laptop, Trish and Livvie were playing chess—Livvie, isn’t as good as Trish, but she holds her own by doing things Trish isn’t expecting. It doesn’t always work but Trish hates losing so much that one win against her ten, really gets her going. I think I need to have a word with her quite soon—I may ask Stephanie for some advice.

I played snakes and ladders with Billie and Meems and lost. Twice I got to ninety-eight and hit the snake that takes you back to about twenty-something. Grrr, was I cross.

When I’d lost, I was able to make teas or coffees—Jenny looked after the two littlies and Puddin’ managed to force down about a hundredweight of pureed roast pork dinner—with apple sauce. She looked as if she enjoyed it—going to poo about ten minutes later.

It was taking in the teas and coffees to the war cabinet—yes, I know, very stereotyped—me tea girl, them powerful men—hah, very funny. They were actually finishing the wine and telling dirty jokes.

“So, how are we going to deal with this wayward plod then?” I asked.

“We’re still working on that, my dear,” said Henry leading for the defence.

“So I see—well, much as I appreciate your efforts, I’m off duty as tea girl from now—so if you want anything else, you’ll have to ask Simon to get it—he does know where the kitchen is.”

“Where’s Julie, Babes?” Simon asked me.

“She went out before dinner—she has a date.”

“Is that wise—I mean, she’s not quite as perfect as you yet, is she?”

“You’ll have to ask her that—she’s seventeen—so above the age of consent.”

“She’s hardly going to do anything in a Smart car is she?”

“Don’t underrate her or her physical flexibility—she does do a yoga class.” She doesn’t but he didn’t know that and he went a lovely shade of pink—actually I think I might like my hall carpet that colour when we change it.

I watched Dr Who on the Internet with Danny, who’d come down for a cuddle sat with me—the girls had created some board game and were noisily playing it in the sitting room, the boys were in the dining room and we were in my study—Danny and I that is, cuddled up together on the leather sofa—yeah, it’s new—Simon bought it for me as an Easter prezzie.

After it finished—the Dr Who programme, I asked Danny how he felt now.

“I’m okay now thanks, Mum—I do appreciate you, you know.” He put his arm round me and hugged me then pecked me on the cheek.

“Thank you, son,” I said and hugged and kissed him back.

“Some of my mates think it’s awesome that my mother is starring in a play with a Hollywood film star. They all want tickets—when can we get them, Mum?”

I winced—at his age I’d have been horrified if my mother had been doing such a thing—I probably still would—am I an embarrassment to my kids? I tested the water.

“You don’t think it’s embarrassing for you for me to be doing this?”

“Eh? Can you run that past me again?”

“You don’t find it embarrassing that I’m doing this play?”

“No way—it’s ace. When you did the Dormouse film, half the kids in the sixth form asked if you were married.”

Now I was embarrassed—sixth form totty—whatever next?

“D’you wanna cuppa?” asked Danny.

“Ooh, that would be nice—I’ll have to chase the girls up to bed and feed Catherine. I could feel some milk oozing into my bra pads.

So, I got the girls to bed, drank my tea—it always tastes nicer when someone else makes it—fed the baby and changed her and put her down for the night and was on the verge of sending Danny up to bed when Julie came home—in high dudgeon.

“Wassamatta, Sis?” asked Danny from the foot of the stairs.

“Sodding plod—they reckon I was speeding—I wasn’t, I was at least five miles an hour under the limit—it’s a set up because you beat them at their own game earlier—now they’re going to persecute me.”

Simon came out to see what all the fuss was about and looked very determined. “A dish best taken cold,” was all he said but it gave me the shivers all the same.

“Any dinner left, Mummy, I’m starvin’?”

“I saved you one, but I’d have thought it was a bit late to eat now.”

“Watch me,” she said taking the plated meal from the fridge and shoved it in the microwave.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1356

“How was your date?” I asked, sitting with Julie while she ate her belated meal.

“Okay I guess—but he’s only got one thing on his mind.”

“I hope you said no,” I blushed as I offered this advice.

“Course I said no—I can’t stand bloody football.”

I began to think we were talking at cross purposes and there was no way I could say this without making myself look an idiot obsessed with sex.

“Which team does he support?” I asked trying to get into her conversation.

“Man United, what else?”

“It could have been Portsmouth.”

“Who? Mum you’re a saddo if you support them.”

“No I don’t but they did win the FA cup a few years ago.”

“Yeah—then got relegated—some success story that is.”

“Did they? I don’t actually follow football, only what I hear on the radio.”

“Yeah, well unless you do—don’t lecture me for not doing it either—stupid game.”

“Danny likes it, and your dad enjoys watching some of it.”

“Yeah well, it’s a boy thing—isn’t it?”

“I think that’s how Trish sees it, even though she’s actually quite good at it.”

“Trish is good at every-bloody-thing, especially stirring.”

“I wish you girls would be a bit kinder on each other—you are supposed to be sisters, albeit adopted ones—but we treat you all the same.”

“Yeah, I know—sorry, Mummy—but I can’t forget how she has corrected me with great enjoyment, especially in front of others—the little psycho.”

“All seven-year-olds are like that—they don’t appreciate the difficulties of others or the embarrassment they cause.”

“No, but I did.”

“She said she was sorry.”

“Only ’cos you made her.”

“She has some difficulties being so clever.”

“Yeah, but you and Gramps are clever—yet you are a nice person.”

“Am I? Sometimes, I suppose I am. She is far cleverer than I ever was.”

“Is she? She’s more intellectual, but you have practical skills she lacks—she can tell you how the gears work on a bike but she couldn’t fix ’em—you could.”

“Depending on what had broken, maybe.”

“Go on, you’re a whizz with bikes.”

“What are you after?”

“Nothin’, honest—well okay, can you phone work for me tomorrow and say I’m sick?”

“Sick of work?”

“Ye—no, need the day off.”

“Why can’t you take leave?”

“She wouldn’t let me—I have to give two weeks’ notice for holidays.”

“So you’re asking me to tell a deliberate lie so you can skive off?”

“Sorta.”

“No—I don’t deal in deceit, however well intentioned.”

“It’s only a little fib, Mum.”

“Why do you need the day off?”

“Me an’ Stan wanna go over to the Isle of Wight for the day.”

“Stan? Who is Stan?”

“He’s Ben’s boss.”

“Who is Ben?”

“John’s brother—why?”

“You went out with, Alan—didn’t you?”

“Oh that’s right live in the past.”

“You told me you were going out with Alan.”

“That was yesterday.”

“But it was he you went out with?”

“Yeah, sorta.”

“Who did you go out with then?”

“I was gonna meet up with Alan at the pub but I got a call from Robbie, so I didn’t go to the original pub…”

“Where you’d have met Alan…”

“Yeah—see—I knew you’d get it eventually.”

“No I don’t—you went out to meet Alan, get derailed by Robbie and so on—where does Stan come from?”

“Rochdale originally, I think…”

“No—tonight.”

“Oh, it was his fiftieth birthday an’ we got dancin’ an’ he likes the same things I do.”

“He is old enough to be your grandfather.”

“No he isn’t—besides he’s got a new car.”

“So have you.”

“Yeah—I know, but…”

“But nothing—now look here, Julie, I have enough worries about you dating boys without you dating old men.”

“Fifty isn’t old.”

“It’s halfway to a hundred—that old enough for you?”

“Yeah—okay.”

“What does a fifty-year-old want with a dolly-bird anyway—apart from one thing?”

“Yeah, well he can’t ’ave that, can ’e?” She stood up and flounced away from the table.

“Whether he can or not is irrelevant—I’m not indulging some sick old man’s perversions and telling lies.”

“Perversions? You’re being silly now?” she said, walking back to the table.

“Am I? What’s he want with a schoolgirl, then?”

“I’m not a schoolgirl.”

“No—you could still be sitting A-levels, that’s schoolgirl to me.”

“I’m seventeen; I know what I’m doing.”

“Sure you do—like dating a paedophile.”

“He isn’t one of them.”

“How do you know—what d’you know about him, other than he’s fifty and has a new car. What does he do for a living?”

“He gave me a leaflet on that—let me show you.”

She handed me a leaflet with a cross on the front of it. I opened it—it was for a church and at the bottom was the name, The Rev Stanley Myers.

I nearly fell over—“He’s a priest?”

“Yeah—is he?” she snatched back the leaflet. “Oh bollocks—oh that’s wunnerful—he’s looking to recruit teenagers to come to his Teen Faith camp on the Isle of Wight.”

“Jesus wants me for a sunbeam,” I smirked at her.

“You’re so freakin’ clever aren’t you, just like that weaselly brat.”

“If you mean Trish, her resemblance to any mustelid is purely coincidental.”

“Whatever one of those is.”

“The badger family, weasels, stoats, otters et cetera.”

“Can’t you forget you’re a bloody biologist for two seconds—this guy is coming to collect me tomorrow at ten.”

“No problem—you’ll be in work—won’t you?” I smiled.

“But—yeah, okay—will you tell him…?”

“Where to get off? With pleasure.”

“Pooh—I’m going to bed.” She pecked me on the cheek and went off up the stairs.

“What was all that about?” asked Simon, keeping well out of the way.

“She only wanted me to call her work tomorrow and say she was sick so she could go out with this guy.” I handed him the leaflet.

“You’re joking,” he said as he scanned the leaflet. Then he went over to my computer and began a search for this parish church, St Trinity. “There isn’t one, there’s something funny about this, Cathy.”

“I thought it was an offence to pretend to be a priest?” I offered for what use it was.

“I think it’s an offence to pretend to be anything for the purposes of deception—and luring young women tends to have one sort of conclusion.”

I went quite cold. “What should we do?” I asked, letting him take the lead.

“I hate to say it but, I think we should call the police.”

“Oh great—that could prove interesting.”

“Call Andy Bond—you have his number don’t you? At least we know he’s legit.”

“It’s eleven o’clock.”

“Okay, call him first thing tomorrow—and I mean first thing—if that guy is coming here at ten, I’d like the boys in blue to meet him rather than Julie.”

“Okay, I’ll call them first thing—unless you do it, Si?” I batted my eyelashes at him.

“Give me the leaflet—then,” he responded and sighed.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1357

Simon’s an early riser by anybody’s standards, so I wasn’t surprised that by the time I’d got my act together and roused the girls for school, he’d made an appointment for Andy Bond to call round.

Si had also asked Jim Beck to check out both Myers and the Teen Faith camp on the Isle of Wight, or Vectis, as the Romans called it.

“Look, I can’t stop but Andy Bond is calling by and Jim Beck will phone your mobile if he picks up anything.” With that Simon picked up his briefcase and after kissing all the girls and getting loads back in return, he pecked me on the cheek and was gone.

Julie came down just after he left, she was yawning and I knew from changing her linen the other day that she was reading when she went to bed. “Must be a good book,” I teased.

“Actually it is, can’t put it down,” she yawned. “Becoming Nancy,” she got out before she yawned again, “Can’t think of the author’s name.”

“What’s it about?” I asked briefly, passing toast to Trish and Livvie.

“Oh it’s a coming of age thing about a teenage boy in London in the nineteen seventies.”

“A teenage boy, and it’s called what?”

“Yeah, okay it’s what caught my eye—he’s chosen to play the part of Nancy in Oliver—they’re doing the musical in his school.”

“A teenage boy playing Nancy? Is he transgender?”

“I think he’s more gay or bi than transgender—you can read it afterwards if you like.”

“Okay, when you finish—better get a move on or you’ll be late.”

She looked at the clock, took the piece of toast I was about to give Danny and walked towards the door. “See ya later,” she called as she went.

I got Jenny to take the girls to school while I waited for Andy Bond to call—she was delighted—I let her take my Cayenne. She was also back before our friendly PC arrived.

Over a cup of decent coffee, I showed the leaflet that Julie had been given. Andy looked at it and called into the station on his mobile—“They’re going to check it out for me—shouldn’t take long at all.”

“I just thought it was odd, some fifty year old bloke dancing with dolly birds like Julie.”

“It does happen, especially if they’re paying for drinks—but a priest—sounds a bit strange, maybe even suspicious. What did he look like?”

“I have no idea, hang on, I’ll ring her—she can tell you over the phone.” I picked up the cordless handset and dialled Julie’s salon. A moment later a voice answered and I said, “Hi, it’s Cathy Cameron, could I speak with Julie a moment?”

“She’s not here, we assumed she must have gone sick—is she all right?”

“Um—I don’t know—she could have a doctor’s appointment—okay thanks.” I rang off before they could ask where she was again. Where the hell was she?

I dialled her mobile number. It was switched off. Wonderful.

“Problems?” asked Andy Bond.

“I don’t know—she’s not in work and she should be. She’s not got her phone switched on which is unusual.”

“You don’t think she went to this thing, do you?” he asked. Just then his phone beeped and he answered it. “Okay, thanks.”

I looked at him his expression was serious, “There is no such parish as St Trinity, and no registered priest named Stanley Myers. There is no Teen Faith festival on the IoW either.”

“Oh shit.” My stomach flipped and I felt sick.

“We don’t know where Julie went—she might have gone off with this guy, she might just as easily broken down and be waiting for the AA or RAC, or played hooky with work. It’s all conjecture so we can’t put out an APB without knowing some more.”

“She’s got a two hour start on us, and we don’t know if she went over on the ferry or what—oh, Andy, why are teenagers so bloody stupid?”

“If they weren’t, they’d have to challenge things when they were older and that would probably be even more catastrophic.”

“But you hear these stories of them being picked up by all sorts of weirdos, and some of them get assaulted or even murdered. I’m really worried.”

“I’ll continue to make enquiries, if she calls or turns up let me know—have you got her car number?”

I had the logbook—what a misnomer that is—it’s a sheet of paper these days—in my filing cabinet, along with the documents for all the other cars. I wrote it down for Andy and he promised to be in touch if he heard anything.

He’d only been gone a few moments when Jim Beck rang. “Hi, Cathy, Simon asked me to make some enquiries.”

“Yes, I asked him to call you.”

“Turned up a perfect blank on everything except one.”

“Which one?”

“The faith camp bit—it was used about ten years ago and three teenage girls went missing—they were never found.”

“Julie is missing—or at least she didn’t turn up for work this morning.”

“Okay—I’ll keep digging, any chance you could fax me a copy of the leaflet?”

“I have a photocopy, the police have the original.” I was pleased I’d had the presence of mind to make a copy. “I’ll send you an email attachment.”

“Fine, you have my email addy?”

“Yes, I’ll do it straight away.”

“If she turns up or contacts you, let me know—listen to how she speaks if she does call you—anything unusual or irregular in her manner, let me and the police know immediately.”

“Oh God, Jim, you’re making me feel worse,” I complained now having my worry factor begin to go through the roof—and we live in a three story house, four if you count the cellar. I think I was probably running on adrenalin and stress hormone.

I put the phone down from him and my mobile peeped indicating a text. I rushed to it.

‘Soz Mum, gon 2 IoW. Dont B X wiv me. C U l8r. Ju xx.’

Jenny came in, “Bad news?”

I showed her the text.

“Is there something wrong?” I explained what had happened and she looked as worried as I felt. “Silly cow,” she said and shook her head.

I called the police and told them about the text, dictating it to them and then telling them why I knew she hadn’t sent it.

“How d’you know it wasn’t her?” asked the woman who was taking the message.

“She never signs her name Ju, she always signs it J. Also she always calls me mummy not mum, even by text.”

“Okay, I’ll get this message to Andy Bond—d’you know which network and her mobile number?” I told her this and she rang off. I called Jim and told him the same.

I could hear him on his computer in the background and I hoped he wasn’t playing some computer game while he spoke with me. “Here we go, Vodaphone—yep, as I thought, her phone is on the Isle of Wight, but that doesn’t mean she is. Incidentally, Stanley Myers is the guy who wrote the music for the Deer Hunter.”

“So he claims, I know someone who suggests they wrote it a couple of years before hand.”

“Okay, I suspect you want me to look for Julie rather than prove Myers is a plagiarist?”

“I think so—yes, of course I do.”

“Okay, usual terms—I’ll bill Simon, seeing as he asked me.”

“I don’t care who you bill, Jim, just get her back and safely.”

“I’ll see what I can do.”

Jenny stood there with a fresh cuppa in her hand, “Here, I think you need this,” she said passing me the mug of tea.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1358

“If her phone is on the Isle of Wight and a text was sent to me, it must be from someone who knows enough about her to send it—I mean it could be that she has Home marked on her address book—but even so, if a casual thief had it, why would they call me?” I mused, my Sherlock Holmes impression was never that successful—couldn’t stand pipes.

“So you think the bad guys sent it?” Jenny asked sipping her tea.

“I suspect so.”

“Which would mean they have her also—oh, Jenny; I’m really worried for her.” I felt like crying and we hugged.

“Why would anyone want to take her?” sniffed Jenny.

“I don’t know,” I said my eyes moistening, “the last time it was for ransom.”

“It’s happened before then?” gasped Jenny.

“Yes, twice.”

“Twice? My God.”

“We did think about having a tracker implanted in all of the children, but we decided it would be a breach of trust on our part.”

“I’ll bet you wished you had, now?”

“I dunno, Julie would have played hell with me if we had.”

“Cathy, she’s been kidnapped or abducted or taken.”

“Yes, I know.”

The doorbell rang—I ran to it hoping it was Julie—it wasn’t, it was a man in a suit who reeked of tobacco and police. “I’m Detective Superintendent Carlyle, this is Detective Sergeant Hughes,” he introduced the woman with him. “It appears you have an abduction if the text wasn’t from her.”

“You’d better come in,” I held open the door.

I took them into the kitchen and Jenny set about making fresh tea while they questioned me about the circumstances leading up to Julie’s disappearance.

“So this is the fourth time she’s been taken—becomin’ a bit of a habit, isn’t it?”

“Fourth time?” Jenny gasped.

“Yes, including the time her birth father seized her.”

“I’d forgotten about that.” I must be losing my marbles.

“We did try to check them out—the Kemps—but they no longer live at the previous address.”

“Oh, they didn’t notify Julie as far as I know—or she didn’t say.”

“Did she have any contact with them?”

“Not that I know about—you know she’s transgendered?” I said quietly.

“Yes, Lady Cameron, it seems since you arrived the population of transgendered people in Portsmouth has doubled.”

“I beg your pardon?” I blushed.

“It don’t make no difference to us, people are people and we’re here to protect you all.”

There were a number of things I could have said but I decided I needed his help and the resources he could bring to bear on the case. At least he’d done some homework, which was almost encouraging.

“At the moment, we’re checkin’ the ferry registers, see if her car went across as well as the phone. There may also be some CCTV cameras which could help. We’re lookin’ into that too.”

“Thank you, I appreciate it.”

“It’s what we do,” he said gruffly. “Now did she describe this man at all?”

“Not really, just said he was fifty and celebrating his birthday and he invited her to his camp on the Isle of Wight. We deduced from the leaflet that he was priest of some sort called Myers. Though we couldn’t find any mention of his parish anywhere.”

“It doesn’t exist—neither does Stanley Myers—it’s an alias. This is the leaflet you gave my officer?”

He held up a clear plastic file in which was the leaflet Julie had shown us. I nodded.

“Sadly, any fingerprints or DNA are so contaminated we can’t identify them, so we’ll have to find her and work backwards.”

“Is there anyone she could have gone to stay with?” asked the woman detective.

“Not that I can think of—she’d only have had to ask, and we’d have let her go—so she wouldn’t need to disappear.”

The woman’s mobile chirped and she excused herself to take the call. I continued answering some quite pointed questions from her boss.

“And she had no reason to run away—no rows or arguments?”

“No—not recently—she’s a teenager and we do have differences of opinion, usually over clothing.”

“Got a daughter myself, Lady Cameron, know the feeling.” I’d have though he’d have smiled when he said this but he stayed poker faced.

“Sir, could I have a word?” she said finishing her call. They excused themselves and went outside where he lit up a cigarette and puffed away as they talked.

“He’d hardly win prizes in the personality stakes would he?” said Jenny and we both smirked.

“I don’t really care if he can find her safe and sound and bring her back to me.”

“Yeah, I guess so.”

My mobile pinged and I answered it while the two coppers were still talking or he was still smoking.

“Hi, Cathy, my sources tell me the plod have found her car on the IoW.”

“So d’you think that’s where she is?” I asked Jim.

“Not necessarily, but we’ll let them look—they can do it faster than we can. I’ve got one or two other lines of enquiry open.”

“Jim, her parents have moved from their previous house—you couldn’t find them as well, could you? I mean if anything happens to her, we’ll have to let them know.”

I gave him the old address and he rang off. I boiled the kettle again and the police returned.

“Are you sure she doesn’t know anyone on the Isle of Wight?”

“No, I can’t be sure, but she’s never mentioned anyone—why?” I asked knowing why the question was asked.

“We’ve found her car—she has no relatives or anything there?”

“Not as far as I know.” I answered.

“Could I have a look at her room?” asked DS Hughes and Jenny showed her up to it.

It was at this point that Puddin’ woke up and yelled the place down waking Catherine. I excused myself from the policeman and went to try and sort them out. Puddin’ was wet—I changed her and gave her a drink and a biscuit. Catherine, I took down to the kitchen and began to breastfeed her. The Super’s eyes nearly came out on stalks.

“I didn’t know you could do that—I mean bein’—um—you know?”

“Being what, Superintendent?”

He actually blushed and I began to think he might be human after all. “According to our records, you’re transgendered.”

“Am I now?—according to my birth certificate—I’m female.”

“So—can you get pills to be able to do that—you know feed a baby?”

“Why, do you want to get some? It’s a wonderful sensation, knowing that you’re nourishing a little body, and it beats bottled milk.”

He blushed again. “Okay, I’ll amend our records.”

“I haven’t taken anything to enable me to feed her as far as I know.” I excused myself, sat her in her high chair and warmed a pot of pureed food for her. I offered to let the huge policeman feed her but he declined the offer. I was just finishing when Jenny and the other detective came down.

“Nothing up there, sir, so if she’s got a liaison, she’s kept it quiet.” She watched me extract Catherine from the chair and change her on the kitchen table having laid a changing mat across it. “Is she yours?”

“D’you think I’d be doing this if she wasn’t?”

“You have a niece, who’s still a baby.”

“Shit, shit, shit,” said our little robot strolling through.

I nodded at her—“Walking Dictaphone, only problem, she only records things you wished she hadn’t heard.”

The woman detective laughed. “I’ve got one of six, still have to watch what we say.”

“Tell me about it—I have one of five and two of seven.”

“How many have you got then?”

“Including Julie—seven, plus the toddler, who’s my sister-in-law’s.”

“Crikey, it’s like an orphanage.”

“In a word, yes, only all my kids have two parents plus grandparents who love them.”

“We’re going back to HQ now; contact us immediately if you hear from the kidnappers. There’ll be a liaison officer making contact shortly.” He picked up his notes popped them into his case and they left.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1359

My mobile tinkled again, it was Jim, “Can’t find anything on the occupants of that house—they seem to have disappeared off the face of the earth.”

“Does that strike you as strange?”

“Unusual rather than strange, people do leave areas for whatever reason. I couldn’t find any family to contact either. Sorry—drawn a blank.”

“Okay, let me know if you hear anything else, won’t you?”

“For you—Cathy—anything.”

“I hope you’re more convincing when you’re lying to suspects and so on?”

“Oh, Cathy, I’m mortally wounded—my heart is broken, never to be repaired…”

“Cut the crap, even if it is romantic crap.”

“Oh, all right—you drive a hard bargain.”

“No that comes later when we negotiate your bill.”

“There’s no answer to that.”

“Good—now get back to work, you scurvy knave.”

“Are you sure you haven’t got a video phone?”

“I hope you’re not sitting there in your underpants, Jim Beck?”

“No, I’m completely naked, working my mouse hands free.”

“A hands free mouse—oh you dirty sod—ugh—too much information.” I put down the phone while he was still roaring with laughter.

“What was all that about?” asked Jenny.

“Don’t ask.”

“I have to now—don’t I? It sounded rude.”

“It was disgusting, Jim Beck was trying to make me believe he was working his mouse with his—um—willie.”

She looked at me for a moment while she presumably visualised it. “That is awful, yuck. It’s also very um—have you got his phone number?”

“Behave yourself, for all you know he’s got his mouse pad, tucked under his legs.”

“Even so, how he does right click could be interesting to watch.” Jenny blushed and sniggered like a school girl.

“That is—a point, I wonder if he does exhibitions?”

“Why, is he an exhibitionist?”

“A bit of an understatement—ego the size of Australia.”

“Wow, nearly as big as yours, Cathy,” she teased stepping back from me.

“Yep, mine’s the size of the Indian sub-continent.”

“Oh,” she said smirking, “I was thinking more in terms of Asia, full stop.”

“Just for that, you can watch the wains while I go somewhere.”

“I thought you were supposed to stay here—in case Julie phones.”

“If she does, and I think it highly unlikely, ask her where she is and send the police round, then call me and send an ambulance.”

“An ambulance?”

“Yes, because whoever has got her will need it.”

“Oh—now don’t do anything daft, Cathy.”

“Daft, it won’t be—criminal it might. If I’m not back by three—go and get the girls will you?”

“Why, where are you going?”

I tapped my nose, “In my horoscope it said—‘travel overseas is in prospect’—see ya later.”

I drove down towards the dockyard area of the town and twenty minutes after leaving home was parking on yellow lines outside the Kemp’s old house. I rang the doorbell unsure if anyone would be there. I rang twice again and no answer came although I thought I saw movement from inside.

I moved to the next door neighbour and rapped on their front door, an old lady came to answer it. “Hello, I’m sorry to disturb you…”

“I’m not votin’ for you.”

“No, that’s okay—I’m not here after votes.”

“I don’t wanna buy nothin’ neither.”

“I’m not selling anything.”

“Waddyawant then?”

If she wasn’t at least a hundred and twenty, I’d smack her in the gob, however, I resisted the temptation and spoke instead. “I’m trying to find the Kemps—they used to live next door.”

“What d’ya want them for?”

“I owe them some money and wanted to pay it back.” I lied but so what.

“I wouldn’t bother—they won half a million on the lottery—pissed off to the Isle of Wight, Shanklin I think—the likes of you an’ me in’t good enough now.”

“The Isle of Wight?”

“Yeah—Shanklin, I think.” It seemed curious how everything seemed to lead back to the IoW. “If they do come back, who should I say called?”

“Tell them my name is Nemesis.”

“Funny name, are you a foreigner?”

“Yes, I’m Scots.”

“That explains it then—bloody foreigners,” she spat retreating back to her front door which was slammed in my face.

Maybe I should have said I was from Bristol? I went to the other side of the Kemp’s house but there was no answer there. A door opened across the street, “You lookin’ for Brad an’ Shirl?”

I walked across to the overweight middle aged man, who was attired in a string vest, trousers held up with an old necktie, and unlaced boots. “Yes, I am—do you have an address for them?” I smiled sweetly at him.

“You said you owed him money—zat right?”

“Yes.”

“’Ow much?”

“I’m afraid that’s between Brad and I.”

“Yer lyin’ tart, you’ve bin sent to collect from ’im, ’aven’t yer?”

“Okay, so you got me sussed—you got his address?”

“I might ’ave—wossit worth?”

“Fifty.”

“’Undred—make it a ’undred.”

“I could just arrest you.” I bluffed.

“You’re no copper—they don’t ride round in Porsche’s and wear designer jeans.”

“Would you like to come and talk down at the station?” I was on rocky ground here—impersonating a police officer is punishable by imprisonment.

I went to reach behind me, “Okay, lady—Beachview Road, Shanklin.”

“Wise decision, Mister—um?”

“Waite, Percy Waite.”

“Thank you, Mr Waite, don’t break the law now will you?”

I walked off pretending to talk into a walkie-talkie as I went to the car. Then it was down to the ferry and the Isle of Wight fast ferry.

The temperature was getting cooler as the stiff westerly breeze intensified and litter and leaves blew about as I approached the ferry. I was half tempted to take the hydrofoil and go as a foot passenger, but then decided some sort of car was going to be useful, especially as my recollection of public transport on the island wasn’t too brilliant.

While I waited, I called up the map service on my Blackberry and sorted a route to Beachview Road. From the ferry terminal at Ryde, it would take me probably twenty minutes. It wasn’t a very long road but it could take me some time to knock on all the doors—but if that’s what it takes—then that’s what I’ll do.

The ferry ride was choppy—I was very glad it wasn’t any longer than it was—I’m usually a good sailor—perhaps I’m just anxious about Julie—and could have something to do with the fact that it’s half past two and I haven’t eaten at all today.

I pulled into a cafe, which surprisingly had a car space outside it with no yellow lines and ordered a coffee and cheese sandwich. The bread was white and the coffee was dreadful—and for a fiver—poor value. However, I didn’t have time to find an Egon Ronay recommended place, so I ate and drank the awful fare—feeling more sick than I had beforehand.

With school traffic, it took me twenty-five minutes to find Beachview Road, it was on a slight hill. I parked the car unsure that Julie was even alive, let alone here. Then I felt sick and had to jump out of the car and vomit in the street—wonderful. Thankfully, I didn’t get any on my clothes—bloody cheese sandwich.

I got back into the car and drank some of the bottled water I always carry. I felt like shit warmed up. I locked the car and just sat there for a moment with my window open and my eyes closed.

“Get out of the car—and do it slow, like,” a man’s voice spoke quietly but with menace and I saw the glint of a knife blade.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1360

I swallowed and opened the door slowly. As I exited the car, I was met by two men, one significantly older than the other. The younger one, probably in his late thirties was the one with the knife. The other jumped into my car and reversed it up a drive. We followed the man with the knife pushing me in the back all the time.

Part of me wanted to mess my pants, part of me wanted to kick his arse and another part of me wanted see that Julie was safe. I went with the latter. As we went into the garden, I was sick again, throwing up all over a rockery and the man laughed seeing it as nerves or fear—he was wrong, it was that sandwich or the boat trip.

I was led into a garden shed and my bag was thrown in after me—they had taken my phone—and the door was locked. Wonderful, there was just a glimmer of light round the edge of the door and that was it. My little torch was on my key ring which was still in the car. Great stuff. No one knows I’m here that could help me, and I feel lousy—could do with a drink—probably need a pee and I haven’t even got somewhere to sit down.

After a few minutes my eyes adjusted a bit and I could see big things in the shed. It was a wooden one. I could see several large items like a mower and large tools like a spade and fork. There were pots of some sort—probably paint.

The shed was warm and stuffy and quite well built. It wasn’t one of those you get from B&Q which fall down a week later, but a hand built on with concrete posts and planking. If I broke out of here, it would make so much noise that they would hear me long before I got away.

I searched in my bag, was it there or had they found it?—no they hadn’t. I grasped it in my hand and fiddled with it feeling for the right application—got it. Then I turned to the door and felt for the hinges and started trying to undo them with my Swiss Army knife. It felt like hours and I was getting very hot and bothered before I managed to start undoing one of them, but it began to move and I knew I had a chance.

I had no idea how long I’d been there, it was getting dark when I got the final one loosened. The door was now held on precariously, my hands were sore and my back and feet were none too comfortable either. I had been standing for ages.

I heard footsteps and the rattle of the key when I kicked hard at the hinged side of the door, it met with some resistance which yelled and ‘oofed’ at the same time. I was none too pleased about being shut in the shed with no food or water so when the man picked himself up from the driveway and came running at me, the blade glinting, I swung the spade and knocked it from his hand, following this up by ramming the handle into his chest as he came through.

He bounced back off it, clutching his chest, which was when I smacked him on the jaw with the handle and he went down like a sack of coal. He was wearing a belt, so I undid it and tied his hands behind him, pulled his trousers down effectively binding his ankles, gagged him with his shirt and dumped him behind the shed—he was quite heavy and I had to stop and rest for a moment.

I crept up to my car which was parked under some bushes—it wasn’t locked and the keys were still in it. On the floor of the front passenger side lay my Blackberry. I reached in for it and also took the car keys. I left the car unlocked, then made my way down the garden and dialled triple nine. It took a few moments to talk to someone who could help me, I explained briefly where I was and that there was probably at least one hostage and that I had felled one of the kidnappers.

I switched off before they told me to sit and wait—my kid was in there and if her parents—those scum bags—I’d save from death had hurt her, I was going to hurt them and sod the consequences. I was working up to a full-blown paddy.

I switched off my phone and crept up to the house. It was dark outside and the curtains were drawn—bugger—how am I supposed to form a plan when I don’t know who’s where and with whom. Think about it—I’m busy.

None of the windows I could see into were illuminated, so I had to assume the two or three rooms with curtains pulled had to be the occupied ones. I went in via the back door, shutting it as quietly as I could, but a man’s voice called, “Is that you, Kev?”

I slipped through the kitchen and into the hallway. The door the voice had come from was now between me and the kitchen and I hid flat to the wall beyond it.

“Kev—you all right?”

I held myself against the wall, my heart hammering in my chest as exertion and adrenalin sped it up.

“Kev?” The voice sounded more anxious, then the door opened and the older man walked out carrying a gun. Shit, that made it a different ball game. He turned to the kitchen as we heard a helicopter fly over quite low—reinforcements. I threw myself at him, knocking him into the kitchen, yelling as he went.

He rolled over and kicked me away, the sole of his shoe catching the shoulder of my leather jacket. It pushed me backwards and I rolled into the room he’d just vacated. At this point sirens sounded outside and he decided to run for it instead of trying to bargain with his hostages.

I heard the kitchen door slam behind him and the helicopter began hovering. I turned to look at the room and there looking most uncomfortable were Shirley and Bradley Kemp—tied up and sitting in chairs. They were both gagged.

I pulled down his gag, “Are there more than two of them?”

“Yes,” he gasped as he recognised me—I suspected I looked like the wild woman of Borneo after hours in his shed.

“Where is he?”

“Not here—went off with Julie.”

“The bastard has Julie?”

“Yes.”

“D’you know where he went?”

“No.”

I released the gag on Shirley, “D’you know where he took her?”

“He said something about a caravan to his friend.”

“Where though?—there must be thousands on the island.”

“You’re not the police—are you?”

“It’s Lady Cameron, Shirl,” correctly diagnosed Brad.

“What?”

“I can tie you up again if it feels more comfortable?” I offered as a load of burly coppers rushed in waving guns. I do not enjoy being pushed to the floor and having my hands roughly tied behind me with cable tie.

When I tried to speak I was kicked and told to stay quiet.

Eventually, Bradley Kemp managed to convince them I wasn’t one of the bad guys and they let me go and helped me up, cutting off the cable ties. “Next time you kick someone, make sure they can’t retaliate,” I suggested, kneeing the copper in his family jewels which made his colleague laugh. He went to hit me back and I ducked and kicked him in the chest and he went flying over a chair.

“Okay that’s enough. Hawkins get outside—you, Missy, be careful or I’ll charge you with assaulting a police officer.”

They took statements from each of us and I was allowed to go, cautioned that I should go straight home or else.

I wondered what or else was, so decided I might find out. I walked out to my car and I felt a huge thump in my back which knocked the wind out of me and pitched me forward onto the drive, where I just managed to turn into a forward roll and spun onto the grass.

“Right, you bitch, you asked for this.” Standing in front of me as I rose from the grass was the copper with the damaged ego and liking for brutality.

“We’re even now—stop before you get hurt,” I pleaded, but all he did was laugh and came at me, swinging his baton. Oh shit, no time to think, just react.

He charged at me as I rose, both his hands on the yard-long stick. I let him come on to me, grabbed his stick, fell backwards and stomach threw him over the top of me. I heard him thump on the grass and he groaned.

I rolled and staggered to my feet. He crawled to his and staggered to stand, which was when my flying drop kick caught his chest and knocked him backwards. He lay on the grass groaning. I went back into the house and began complaining about police brutality—the officer in charge came out but the offender had scarpered.

I asked about the one behind the shed—he’d been taken off to hospital. I walked stiffly to my car and drove out of the drive. Once clear, I found a pub, parked and went in and ordered a coffee and brandy. After downing both I called home and reported what had happened to Simon, who told me to book into a hotel and he’d come and get me.

I felt a little better for the drink and the opportunity to use a loo. I bought a bottle of water and went back to the car. I was having a sip of it when the passenger door opened and an irate policeman holding a revolver pointed it at me, “It’s payback time, bitch.”

“Put the gun down,” I said, noting I’d parked the car in reverse gear.

“When I’ve shot you—I will.”

“Not much of a gunman, are you?”

“What?”

“You left the safety on.”

He looked down, I pressed the starter and the car leapt backwards knocking him with the door, into the doorframe and ultimately under the front wheel. He screamed and I grabbed the keys and ran from the car into the pub.

A couple of men came out and helped me remove the injured copper from under the car, and the ambulance was sent for. I left a message saying I would speak to the police a little later but I had something to do. I handed the gun to the landlord and asked him to surrender it to the police, as it belonged to them.

I drove to a piece of waste ground and parked up, drinking some more water, wondering where Julie was and how I could help her. I sat and closed my eyes asking her to let me know where she was. I felt a warmth in my solar plexus and I knew what to do.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1361

Looking back over that evening, the motto, life is full of surprises, doesn’t go anywhere describing what happened.

I decided that I would follow my intuition and let it lead me to Julie. That was the first mistake. If you recall, I was sure that I had a bearing on her, just like I had on previous occasions: follow the light she was sending out, use mine to tune into her and strengthen the signal and there we go.

Um—not quite, I drove off into the island heading towards Sandown where I spotted a caravan park. Aha, I thought, here we go. It wasn’t a very big park only forty or fifty vans on it and I drove carefully round the site trying to get a fix. I drove round twice and got a tingle from one caravan which looked a bit more dilapidated than most. It suited my suspicions, so I parked and walked over to it. The curtains were drawn over the dirty windows, and I had no idea how many could be in there with Julie, but it certainly felt as if she was in there.

I tried the door handle gently—it was unlocked—not another set up? I looked around for some sort of weapon, something small but heavy or sharp—I spotted a small gardening trowel and seized it—if I hit someone with that, it would hurt them more than punching them, especially if I hit them on joints—wrists, elbows, knees or backs of hands.

I gently eased open the door and the sight that greeted me was shocking. Firstly, a small terrier dog came bounding at me wagging his tail and growling—a woman’s voice told him to behave, then called for help.

The dog nipped at my ankles so my heel accidentally caught it under the chin. It squealed and shot off out of the caravan. I threw open the partially closed door and there lying in a mess of food and broken china lay an elderly woman.

“Please help me,” she implored. I’d come to the wrong caravan.

She was smothered in gravy and the remains of her dinner that the dog hadn’t eaten for her, and had a nasty contusion on her forehead where she’d bashed her face against a table.

I quickly checked her out—she had a suspected broken femur, a broken dinner plate and gravy on the knee—a job for the paramedics. I called for the ambulance.

“Where’s Joss?”

“Who’s Joss?” I asked.

“My dog, you let him out.”

“I didn’t so much let him out as he escaped after biting me.”

“Well go and find him,” she said.

“I think I’d better stay with you until the ambulance gets here.”

“I’m all right, get my bloody dog seeing as you lost him.”

“Who’s going to mind him if they take you to hospital?”

“My son.”

“Have you got a number for him?”

“He’s working.”

“I think this might be considered an emergency—you’ve broken your hip, I think.” I knew, I also knew she had a developing thrombosis and was about half an hour from death. One of these days I shall get some sort of handle on this energy and get it to do what I want, not t’other way round.

“I’ll be all right, just find my bloody dog.”

“I don’t think he’ll come for me,”—no, the ruddy thing went for me not came to me.

“Well I’m not moving until you find him.”

“I think you’ll have to go to hospital.”

“Not until you find my Joss.”

“Can I call your son and tell him what’s happened?”

“He’s in work, I told you once.”

“What sort of job does he do?”

“He’s a policeman.”

My eye alighted on a photograph of a man in uniform—“Is this him?” I held up the photo.

“’Course it is, how many son’s d’ya think I’ve got.”

“Oh,” I said looking at it carefully.

“Oh what?” she demanded.

“He’s a nice looking chap, very smart in his uniform,” I wonder if they might be on the same ward, he was last seen under my car while trying to kill me. Small world innit?

“You’re right, I’ll go and call Joss.” I did and the bloody thing came flying up the steps nearly knocking me off them. He then sat on his owner and growled at me.

“He doesn’t like you.”

The feeling was mutual, “He can probably tell I’m not a dog person.”

“People who don’t like animals are strange—something lacking in them.”

The only thing missing in me was a small dangly bit, otherwise as far as I knew, I was more or less intact. “I like animals, we have a spaniel at home but I prefer dormice.”

“You prefer a dormouse to a spannel, what are you a weirdo? Bad as the bloody woman a while back, spent a whole hour boring the arse off us with her bloody dormice—she looked as weird as you.”

“With all due respect, I’m not the one camping in their dinner, so if I look strange, consider your position.”

“Cheeky cow, get me up then—’ere Joss have a King Edward,” she threw the little monster a small potato and he caught and swallowed it in one movement. He then sat on top of her again and growled some more at me.

“His table manners are as bad as yours,” I said blushing as I realised what had slipped out.

“Only ’cos my teeth don’t fit proper,” with that she took her dentures out of her mouth, whereupon I volunteered to go and look for the ambulance. My stomach was queasy enough without looking at her choppers. As I turned to leave, the dog was licking said dentures.

A blue light came flashing into the driveway and I waved to them, they drove up next to the caravan. I told them what I suspected and warned them of the dog—and not to let it out. Then as soon as they went in the van, I ran to my car and drove off at speed.

Clear of the site, I could afford a little chuckle—I wasn’t certain it was her son who’d tried to kill me, but it certainly looked quite a lot like him—perhaps he has an evil twin? Yeah—sure.

“What do I do now? The blue light let me down. I was on a hill overlooking the Channel and to my left I could see the twinkling lights of Sandown, and there were several blue twinkling lights and they were travelling at speed—towards what looked like another caravan site. I sped off towards them.

I pulled into the caravan park only to be stopped by a policeman—“You can’t come in here, madam.”

“Why not?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

“That’s the armed response unit,” I pointed at a large 4×4.

“I can’t say, madam.”

Next moment the helicopter is hovering over a particular van, the searchlight beaming down on it and people are being led away from nearby vans.

“What’s going on?” asked an angry old lady.

“It’s for your own safety, madam,” said a young woman PC.

“I’ll catch my death out here,” she protested.

One man was refusing to go with the police evacuation, which is what I assumed it was. The copper who’d been stopping me was called by his friend to help, so I parked my car and ran off in the confusion.

I was a little worried, if there were armed police about, I was probably in danger of being shot by so called friendly fire from some gung-ho copper who was unable to control his trigger finger and his bowels at the same time.

I walked—well trotted—in a large arc round the van which they seemed to be surrounding. “Let the girl go,” shouted a copper with a microphone.

“Piss off, copper. If you come anywhere near me, I’ll kill her.”

This might be the right place at last—can’t be too many hostage sieges taking place on the Island at this particular moment—though with my luck at present—I might be wrong.

I watched the stand-off going on for half an hour and was beginning to get cold. I walked to a new vantage point which was when I saw a solution. There was some building work going on and inside a makeshift fence—one of those freestanding wire ones they mount on concrete feet to hold them up—was a small digger with a remote arm on it.

I managed with difficulty to wrench part of the fence open and pulled it wide open, then I went up to the digger and found it was unlocked. Two minutes later I started it up and began to drive it towards the van in question. On the way I worked out which levers worked which bits and I lifted the shovel as high as it would go, then drove to the back of the van and in two small manoeuvres had ripped off half the back of it.

A man came dashing out with two policemen and a dog in hot pursuit. I meanwhile had jumped off the digger and run into the van to find Julie tied up and lying on a bed thing in the lounge.

“Armed police,” came the shouts as two great lummocks came rushing in.

“Piss off,” I said and continued untying her.

“Not you again,” said the officer in command, “Can’t you just wait five minutes?”

Julie, freed at last burst into tears and hugged me, “Mummy—I knew you’d come—I’ve been sending out the light ever since they brought me here.”

“Um—yes—I think I might be having a small problem with reception,” I said as she hugged me again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1362

They allowed me to take her to the local hospital where she was checked out while I found a cup of NHS tea—actually as vending machines go, it wasn’t that bad—then I heard the old woman’s voice coming from one of the cubicles.

“I’m all right—or I was ’til those stupid ambulance people let my Joss out—I told ’em not to—but they wouldn’t bloody listen.”

There was a doctor or nurse remonstrating with her and I moseyed up to reception. “Did you have an emergency admission of a police officer with a broken ankle a little earlier?”

“I can’t possibly tell you that.”

“If you did—I think you’ll find it’s her son—he might be able to calm her down a little.”

“I see, thank you.”

I went and sat down until Julie appeared a little later. She was smirking and the doctor who came out with her was blushing. “He wanted to do a swab—see if I’d been sexually assaulted—he got a little surprise,” she hissed at me.

“So would anyone who tried it on.”

“Is that before or after you got ’em?”

“Does it matter?”

“Nah—s’pose not.”

“You’re Julie’s foster mother?” asked the flustered physician.

“Adoptive mother, yes.”

“So you’re aware of her unusual—um—arrangement—um down below.”

“I think so, but is it so unusual?—I mean half the earth’s population has something similar, I believe. I suspect you probably have something similar.”

“Yes, but I’m not purporting to be female.”

“Neither is my daughter, she is female—she just has a plumbing problem.” Julie smiled as I said this. “I’d have thought that most doctors would cope with this sort of thing these days—I mean it’s hardly unusual is it? The Daily Mail carries stories about it most days.”

“I thought you read the Guardian, Mummy,” teased Julie.

“No, I just look at the pictures.” Even the doctor smiled at this.

“Don’t believe her, she lectures dormice,” said Julie.

“I wasn’t aware they were included in the education system,” replied the doctor.

“I think she means I sometimes teach about dormice.”

“Dormice—cute little critters.”

“You’ve seen one?”

“No, but there was film on telly last year about them.”

“On the BBC?” asked Julie.

“Probably—I don’t remember any adverts.”

“That was my mum,” beamed Jules.

“What was?”

“The film—she made it, wrote it, presented it—the works.”

“You don’t say—good lord. It was really good.”

“I’m not gonna sit ’ere a moment longer.”

“She still here?” the doctor rolled his eyes and went to help.

Julie gave me a huge hug and a smacker on the cheek. “I love you, Mummy.”

“I love you too, darling.”

“Can we go now?”

“Yes, but only as far as the police station—we have to make statements.”

“Oh pooh,” she pouted.

I phoned Simon and he met us at the police station with Jason. “I don’t need a tax lawyer, Si.”

“He used to do criminal law before that—he’s very clever.”

We both made statements and submitted and signed them. In walked Superintendent Carlyle. “Lady Cameron, give me one good reason why I shouldn’t charge you with criminal damage, interfering in police business, failing to stop at the scene of an accident, assaulting a police officer—shall I continue?”

“If you do we’ll go for a charge of police brutality, attempted murder, intimidation, attempting to pervert the course of justice, making mendacious statements. Shall I continue?” asked Jason.

“Touché,” agreed the Super.

“We won’t press charges, if you don’t,” offered Jason—“Providing that officer resigns from the armed response unit.”

“I think we can work towards that sort of accommodation,” the Super held his hand out and Jason shook it.

“Can somebody actually tell me what’s going on?” I asked, feeling rather tired.

“Basically, the two men—both now in custody—or will be when they discharge the one you disabled, Lady Cameron—conspired with a third one to kidnap and ransom the child of Bradley and Shirley Kemp once they found out the Kemps had won a large amount on the lottery.

“They found out she lived with you, and kidnapped her getting into her car at your house.”

“What? You’re joking.”

“Abduction and false imprisonment is no joking matter, Lady Cameron.

“It was only later they found out who her adoptive mother was and then the plan changed to kidnap you in the hope that the bank would pay a large ransom to get you back.”

“So I became a target?”

“Oh, Mummy, I so wanted you to come and rescue me, I didn’t think for one moment that they wanted you to do that—I’m sorry.”

“So you became the sprat to my mackerel.”

“I’m no prat.”

“I said, sprat, Julie.”

“I’m not one of those neither.”

“So you keep telling me.”

“Bah,” she walked towards the door.

“Can we go?”

“Of course you can—you were never under arrest.”

“Oh good.”

Simon had booked us into a hotel near Cowes—there were some in the field down the road. We now had three vehicles on the island and would need to get them home. The police released Julie’s Smart car and she followed me to the hotel—I simply followed Simon.

Then after a light meal, we had a drink—mine was a glass of wine—and a chat before retiring. I was bushed, but it made me smile that they didn’t realise Julie’s original gender.

“Would you have paid a ransom for me?” I asked Si.

“Nope.”

“Am I not worth it?”

“We don’t pay ransoms—simple as that—no British bank will.”

“Not even for your wife?” I was horrified.

“Especially not for wives or mothers-in-law.”

“You just made that last bit up—didn’t you?”

“Okay—but it’s true that we stopped doing insurance on their broomsticks because they had too many flying accidents.”

“You daft bugger,” I gave him a kiss and suddenly my fatigue lifted enough for us to make mad passionate love. We won’t be able to stay at that hotel again, especially go into that lounge again… We did wait until we got up to our room, Julie had already gone to bed—Jason had driven back to the ferry—he had a big case in London the next day.

“I can’t believe that old woman was the copper’s mother,” Simon chuckled—and I loved your description of broken leg, broken china and gravy on the knee.”

“Well, that’s what I saw.”

“And that stupid dog.”

“Who’s looking after that, I wonder?” Not that I cared very much.

“RSPCA—I suppose,” he said yawning. “It actually sat on top of her and growled at you?”

“Yes.”

“Then how you rescued Julie from the caravan.”

“It was more of a mobile home thing—look, I had to suggest we might pay for repairs.”

“What? You stupid fool—you never admit liability—what were you doing?”

“Rescuing my daughter.”

“No, stupid, admitting liability.”

“I think they might have had video footage of me doing it—taking a vehicle without consent and so on…

The Daily Dormouse Part 1363

The next morning, I had no idea where I was when I woke up—it took me a moment to remember last night. Part of it made me smile to myself and part made me cringe—had I really borrowed a small JCB thing and part demolished a house?

I suppose the important thing is that Jules is okay, though I’m not altogether sure how it all came to pass. If I understood it correctly—and there has to be a reasonable element of doubt that I do—she was kidnapped because her birth parents now had money. Then, along I come and they realise I’m worth more for ransom than she is and I get nabbed. Only they wouldn’t have got anything for me because Simon would have refused to pay. I must remember that rule if ever he gets ransomed.

So has Julie settled things with her parents? I hope so—they are her birth parents after all said and done, and they seem to be a bit more forgiving of her and possibly me too. They didn’t try to kill me when I released them, and it does take a bit more effort for her to go and see them—so being teenager she won’t—unless they offer money.

What am I worrying about? If she buries the hatchet with them and they accept her for who she is—that’s a result, and better than I could have hoped for. I don’t own my kids—just borrow them until they can make their own lives in the hope that they’ll still want us to be part of them. If they don’t, you have to take it on the chin.

At least we shouldn’t have the adopted child syndrome where they suddenly find out twenty years later and go berserk. All of mine know they’re adopted and all of them asked us to do it, except Catherine and she’ll be told about her mum and dad and sister as soon as she’s old enough to understand. I probably won’t tell her about her mother’s death—unless I suggest she just pined away—which is really what she did. I still find it so sad that it chokes me up.

Simon stirred and I asked him what time breakfast was. He didn’t know. So I stretched and got up. The booklet on the small table said from seven thirty to eight thirty. It was seven, so I went and weed and showered—in that order, but not together.

Simon went in the shower afterwards and I dressed—putting the same knickers back on—oh well—needs must. I had rinsed them last night and left them over the hot water pipe—they were nearly dry—okay, damp—but warm and damp.

Simon looked at his underpants—I’d washed those too—and he grumbled as he pulled them up his legs. They might have been a bit damper than mine—but hey, that’s the perk of doing the washing—I got the hot water pipe—his were over the shower rail.

I remembered then what a woman ex-soldier told me, wash ’em, wring ’em and wrap ’em. This is done in a towel and then you sleep with them next to you—your body heat is supposed to dry them enough for them to be wearable the next day. I always forget when I actually have the chance to do it.

While Simon dressed I knocked on Julie’s door—she was drying her hair and called me to come in—I couldn’t because she hadn’t unlocked the door. A moment later she pulled it open and we hugged. Of course she had her full warpaint on—she carries it with her in a handbag the size of a steamer trunk. I on the other hand, don’t.

A few minutes later we all trooped down to breakfast where Simon ordered a full English, and Jules and I made do with cereal and toast.

“You should eat one, you’re paying for it,” Simon exhorted.

“No, Si, you’re paying for it—if I ate one—I’d be paying for it the rest of the day.”

Anyway we chatted while we breakfasted or should that be broke fast? I asked Julie if she’d spoken to her parents, and she replied she had but only briefly. She was pleased they’d moved on but I was her mum now and that was that.

“What about me?” grumbled Si, dripping egg on his shirt and cussing.

“No, you can’t be my mum, unless you get a certain operation done.” She smirked and Simon swallowed hard. Then we all laughed, and he got tomato on his trousers. I told him he should have stuck with the cereal and toast. He suggested his wife would get his shirt washed and his trousers dry cleaned because she’d be so grateful for him paying for the hotel room so they could have a naughty night away.

At this, Julie, who was drinking tea at the time, laughed and sprayed tea all over his handmade shirt. He was not a happy bunny and I nearly choked on a piece of toast laughing. I suspect that hotel will say they’re full next time we try to book.

Simon settled the bill, and left immediately afterwards before he got anymore food on his clothes. He was dashing home, then off to work. Julie had phoned her boss and told her what had happened—they told her to take the day off—or so she said.

The local paper, which is supposed to be an evening one, was out by breakfast and its headline was of police rescue of a kidnapped girl. It was a total distortion of the facts but so what—if it kept the police happy—the less notice I get the better I like it.

“I’d like to call by Brad and Shirley, make sure they’re okay if that’s all right?” I said as we got into the cars.

“Do we have to?”

“You don’t, except they’d be very hurt by your absence.”

“Oh bugger, all right.”

So that’s what we did. They were still shocked from their ordeal and I probably made that worse by turning up with Julie. But it was worth it to see her mum and her dad give her a hug. We had a quick coffee with them and then set off for home, with her promising to go and see them, and me promising to remind her.

“You’re a very lucky girl, having two lots of parents who are fond of you,” said Shirley and I nearly fainted with shock. Julie agreed but I sensed she wanted to get away pronto.

She led back to the ferry and we’d only got about mile down the road and she pulled her car over and burst into tears. I pulled in behind her and beckoned her to come into the Cayenne. She did and we cuddled for probably half an hour.

“Why did they have to change? I was coping all right hating them and shutting them out of my life.”

“People can and do change—and we of all people must accept that.”

“I do—no I don’t—I don’t need them anymore—I’ve got you and Daddy and the others—you’re my family now, not them.”

“That has to be your decision—but don’t do anything too hasty or irrevocable—everything might feel different in a few days.”

“I dunno, they were like so mean to me—an’ he tried to kill me—it was you and your love that saved me.”

“I don’t know—maybe it was my impatience that caused it to happen—if I’d waited, then the outcome might have come about without anyone being hurt.”

“But that’s not you, Mummy, you are impatient.”

“Oh—it’s that obvious is it?” I sighed.

“Only because you love us—that’s why.”

We both had tears in our eyes and we hugged—a police car pulled in behind us.

“Is everything all right, ladies?”

“It is now,” I said and he smiled at us.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1364

I’m not sure how we got home—I know it was by car, and frighteningly, I drove one of them—but here we are, lunchtime and back at the ranch, so to speak. The two little ones were fine and I thanked Jenny for her care. She then had the afternoon off whilst I sort of took over and Julie went to lie down for an hour. She was looking peaky after her ordeal and I must admit I didn’t feel that special myself, not helped by some nasty bruises on my side. Still, the perpetrator of those would have worse bruises himself where the car door and frame hit him and then the wheel went over his leg—teach him to try and carjack me.

I had a couple of pounds of mince in the freezer and plenty of pasta so dinner was going to be spag bol, and that enabled me to concentrate on a dessert—I made some rhubarb puree and plonked some crumble on top, with which we’d have single cream.

I collected the girls and they were delighted to see me, making a real fuss when I met them outside school. I took them back via the ice cream shop—it isn’t actually an ice cream shop per se—but it sells ice creams amongst other things, and we all had one while I told them that Julie was safe and at home.

“What’s for dinner, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Spaghetti bolognaise,” I replied and they all shouted hurrah—I got a distinct impression they approved.

When we got home, Puddin’ was walking about still sounding like a potty, though we ignored her in that regard. Danny gave me a huge hug and asked me about demolishing a mobile home—which the girls overheard so I deferred to Julie who entranced them with her embroidered version on my act of vandalism. I escaped to the kitchen and got on with the meal.

While I was there I saw the black BMW of Superintendent Carlyle come into the drive. My anxiety levels rose as he walked towards the door. I let him in and we went to the kitchen and I shut the door—a sign to the family to keep out—usually it’s open.

“We’re charging the three men with abduction and false imprisonment. You were also taken and locked in the shed, weren’t you?”

“Yes, for a few hours, why?”

“The chap you took out, is claiming you assaulted him.”

“If you’d been locked in a dark garden shed, wouldn’t you be aggressive?”

“He did have a broken nose as well as concussion.”

“So?”

“He’s talking about wanting you charged.”

“I see—I hope you’ve got him on several counts of abduction and false imprisonment?”

“Four so far, but I thought I’d better warn you—he said you hit him with a spade.”

“Gardening can be very dangerous, especially in the dark, I can only imagine he fell over a root or something and bumped himself on something like a spade. He didn’t mention the knife he was carrying?”

“No, funny that—he said you were hiding in the shed and jumped out on him.”

“If you examine the door you’ll see where I took about two hours to undo the door hinges.”

“We have—don’t worry, your story checks out.”

“What about your silly colleague?”

“Hawkins?” he asked and I nodded. “He’s been suspended—he’ll certainly lose his firearms certificate—if not his job—there’s an investigation ongoing into his conduct.”

“I can’t understand why he set about me like that, it was obvious I wasn’t a bad guy.”

“He’s apparently been under a lot of stress with his mother—but then you met his mother, didn’t you—rescued her as well as your daughter. I’ve been looking into your record…”

I looked alarmed at this.

“I don’t mean criminal record, just a list of things you’ve been involved in—it’s impressive—film making, crime fighting, teaching mother of how many?”

“Seven plus Stella’s toddler.”

“Like I said, I’m impressed—I hope none of your girls follow in your footsteps though—they might not be so lucky.”

“What d’you mean?” I asked wondering if he was referring to avoiding being charged for something.

“You seem pretty well unkillable—even a stab wound to the lung didn’t stop you—most people die.”

“Oh well, trust me to be the odd one out.”

“I’m pleased that you are, Lady Cameron—I don’t like murder investigations, at least two lives are messed up, plus those of the families of the victim and perp.”

“Yes, I know when Julie has been in trouble before I’ve wondered how I’d cope if anything had happened to her. It must be a nightmare.”

“It is—policing is a pretty shitty job at times—then you see the families of young men and women who are bereaved because of someone’s deliberate action and you know someone has to help them by catching the perp.”

“I had a visit from a Sergeant Polder a week or so ago—he gives you all a bad name.”

“Oh, what happened?”

“He was trying to get me to confess that I’d used black magic or some other such nonsense on an injured doe, which subsequently died as did her prematurely born fawn.”

“And did you?”

“Did I use black magic? Don’t be absurd—we were trying to assist a badly injured animal—no magic just compassion.”

“Sergeant Polder has a bit of a reputation for looking for crimes where there aren’t any—he’s also a bit of a religious nut—wanting to charge someone because they refused to swear an oath on the Bible. Were you wanting to make an issue of this visit?”

“No, just to make you aware of his visit and the absurdity of his accusations—he actually accused me of resurrecting dead animals—by some arcane method.”

“I take it you don’t?”

“Oh don’t you start,” I groaned and he smirked.

“If he comes again without good reason, let me know, I’ll mention that most coppers who have dealings with you seem to retire early.”

“Does that include you?”

“Me? Nah—too stupid to accuse you of anything.”

“I see—I hope that remains the case—the accusatorial element.”

“I can’t see why it shouldn’t—mind you, if I hear stories of dead animals walking out of butcher’s shops and you were in the vicinity—I’ll be back.” He teased me then roared with laughter.

“Thanks for the warning, guv,” I hissed and he laughed again.

“I’d better go you need to feed that army of children you have.”

I glanced at the clock, “Goodness yes, they’ll be knocking on the door in a moment asking for their dinner.”

As if on cue, “Is dinner going to be much longer, Mummy, I’m starving,” Trish’s dulcet tones came through the door.

I saw the Superintendent off and switched the heat on under the mince and the water for the pasta. Trish came in—“How much longer, Mummy?”

“Not long—go and change and tell the others to do the same, I don’t want sauce all over your school clothes.”

“Sister Matilda is always saying I have too much sauce—but I don’t have hardly any on my dinner—honest, Mummy.”

I laughed at her and shook my head—Sister Matilda was absolutely spot on.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1365

It was over a week since Julie had been abducted and apart from one or two nightmares, she seemed to be coping very well. She was seeing Stephanie twice a week and I was pleased how well she was doing.

The one thing which had made me smile when she told me was why she didn’t really feel threatened by the kidnappers. “I knew you’d come and rescue me, I kept sending out the light and I knew you’d come—you never let us down, Mummy.”

When someone has that level of confidence is it fair to point out the flaws in their logic—yeah, I found her but only because the police did the seeking, and the blue light I homed in on came in the form of the flashing lights on top of the police cars.

Now it was I who was feeling afraid—we started rehearsals for this play next week and I wasn’t sure I could do it. I didn’t want to do it in the first place but I couldn’t see any way of backing out without letting others down—something that was drilled into me as a kid—don’t let others down.

Okay, it’s for a good cause—the hardship fund for the school—this is where they give bursaries to children whose parents couldn’t otherwise afford to send them there. To me that was a good cause. I might not agree with their religion but I couldn’t fault their charitableness—to me that’s what Christianity should be about, not all this politics about gay bishops and women priests.

I sat looking at the text for Macbeth and my brain just seemed to freeze—Is this a script I see before me?—the words meaning nothing to my frozen brain. I went to make a cuppa—Jenny was out with the two little ones to give me space to practice my lines—or even learn them. Some hope.

I felt that I was doing this for everyone else—and I’d given my word—so I had to do it, but what was I doing for me? Very little. I was minded of one of the early Gaby books—Trish has them all—and Drew decides to give up being Gaby because he felt he was doing for everyone else or to avoid saying no to everyone.

In the stories everyone sees him as weak or easily led which means much the same thing—but he’s not—he’s archetypally female although he can’t see it—he wants to please and is prepared to surrender his own goals for those of others except when on a bicycle—that brings him like some portal into another world where he is a prince or his alter ego, a princess—his mother is the queen.

In the later books he discovers that he’s as much female as male—and his body is following a female phenotype—so it gets even harder to appear as male and his family and his schoolmates in Germany only see the girl—he even gets elected as the wine princess—once again he agrees to do it because he wants to please those who ask him to, and besides which he doesn’t want the agro that telling the truth would create—he’d embarrass everyone, including his family. Only British Cycling seem to see him as male—and his opponents within the team see him as effete—although the powers that be know he isn’t.

I quickly reviewed my life—I did what I wanted to with help from Stella and the other Camerons once they were in on my secret. I also had help from Tom and the university.

The children were wished on me, but once they were here, I wanted them so badly. It fulfilled something so deep inside me that I only glimpse it now and again—I needed to be a parent—and to experience that as a mother. So, I can’t have my own children—but the universe came up with the next best—children who needed a mother. We met each other’s needs. The second thing I really wanted and it happened.

I suppose somewhere I have to accept that I wanted Simon once I’d fallen for him and realised that he had coped with my strange route to womanhood—many men wouldn’t or couldn’t—but he did.

Not only that but he decided he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me and asked me to be his wife. How could I refuse? The icing—well—starting life as a boy and ending up as Lady Cameron—not bad for a failed boy is it?

Finally, I get to play with dormice—something I love doing even though I don’t do it much at present. I do enough to keep my licence going, which reminds me, I must do a survey sometime—possibly take Danny with me—he’d enjoy that—it’s too much hard walking for the others. As I coordinate the surveys, I can write myself in to do one—next weekend I think—Simon can babysit.

I heard the front door close and Puddin’ toddled in, “Annicaffi,” she calls me or variations on this general theme. Thank goodness she hasn’t copied the others and called me mummy that would probably drive Stella over the edge.

I rang her yesterday, she’s doing okay—the baby is due in about a month. Gareth goes to see her every week and he still wants to marry her—silly bugger—but that’s love for you.

I must admit, part of me could quite easily have had an affair with him, he is so dishy—but fortunately, the part of me which controls my moral thinking stopped me. How could I have even contemplated having sex with him because I lusted after his body? Easily—but in doing so would have destroyed a marriage and possibly the person I love, not to mention what it would have done to the children. I’m grateful on that occasion my commonsense prevailed and I did what others wanted and expected of me not what my libido was screaming at me to do.

I suppose it’s all about balance—some of the time I get it right, sometimes I don’t. The balance is about understanding what’s really important—not for the next few minutes or even days or weeks—but for the rest of one’s life. All those decisions I’ve made which affect me long term, I seem to have got mostly right—although Gareth was the one thing that nearly derailed me—and he could be coming here to live.

Life is challenging—if he does come to live here as my brother-in-law—that’s okay. At least I hope it is—time will show one way or the other. So far he’s been supportive of keeping me at arm’s length—will his resolve fade and more importantly, will mine?

I went back to my Shakespeare—after what I was facing, Macbeth seemed a doddle—and having cleared my mind—it allowed me to focus and I got stuck in for the next hour.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1366

“How’s it going?” asked Jenny.

“The play?”

“Yes, what else?—you’re sat there with the script in front of you—unless it’s secretly Cycling Weekly—but I thought that had larger pages.”

“No it’s not—but that reminds me, I have a pile of them to put into recycling.”

“Okay, I’ll remind you—what about this lot?” she pointed at a different pile of paper.

“No—don’t ever chuck out any professional journals—that’s the Mammal Society stuff. One of them has an article by me in there as well.”

“Don’t you keep a copy on your computer?”

“Of course I do—I save them to a memory stick as well.”

“So why are you keeping all these things then?”

“Because there are several papers I want to have for reference.”

“Can’t you get a scanner—it would save loads of room.”

“I don’t want to scan them—I prefer to keep the originals—okay?”

“Keeps your tits on—I was only trying to tidy the place up.”

I walked over to a bottom bookshelf and picked up the plastic magazine holder, put the magazines in and shoved it back on the shelf. “Satisfied?” I snapped.

She gave me a dirty look and flounced out of the room. There’s something very female about flouncing, isn’t there. I mean men don’t do it—they storm out, whereas we flounce. Mind you, I haven’t done it for ages—can’t remember when even—it would have to be Simon as the provocation.

Geez, I just remembered flouncing when I was supposedly a boy—actually, I did several times when I was little but when I was a student I did it at home the night before Dad gave me that hiding.

He’d been niggling at me all evening, about my lack of masculinity. It didn’t worry me because I was building up to going to see the GP for a referral to a gender clinic. I can’t quite remember what he said but I said something in return which annoyed him, and flounced out of the room slamming the door and then rushing up to my room—where I locked the door. He came banging on it but I refused to talk to him let alone open the door. The next night—he beat the crap out of me.

I thought I’d better go and see Jenny and talk her down from whatever ceiling she was standing on. I went in search of her and she was talking to the two little ones.

“She doesn’t appreciate me—your mother—I work all sorts of silly hours and all I get is my head snapped off. I can’t take it any more—it would be safer working in Afghanistan than here.”

I eased out into the kitchen and made a pot of tea, then poured two cups and walked into the dining room. She was still talking to the baby who was gurgling back at her and trying to say the odd word—when she saw me, the baby that is, she started, “Ma ma ma ma,” which she shrieked at me then laughed.

“Oh, Cathy, I didn’t see you there.”

“Thought you might like a cuppa and a chat. Now, what’s bothering you?”

“I’m just tired I suppose—those few days with Julie wore me out and all I did was watch a few children—you were the one being kidnapped and so on.”

“Have the weekend off.”

“But it’s a bank holiday?”

“Yeah, could you come back Monday night?”

“I suppose so. Yeah—course I could—yeah, that’d be good—could go and see me mum.”

“Where does she live?”

“In Kent, near Canterbury.”

“D’you want to borrow the Mondeo?”

“Really?”

“Yeah—though you’ll have to put the juice in.”

“That would be so helpful—I could take her to do a big shop with a car, fill her freezer, you know?”

“Yes, I know.”

“That would be brill, Cathy.”

“That’s okay—we rarely appreciate those we respect the most—I’m just trying to show that appreciation for all the hard work you put in.”

“Simon does pay me you know—and above the going rate.”

“I’m sure he must think you’re worth it—I know I do. Now, excuse me, I have another date with Macbeth.”

“Yeah—d’you want me to collect the girls?”

“That would be a help—yes thanks.”

“See I respect you as my boss.”

“Okay—enough of this preening—back to work, slave,” I clapped my hands and Catherine’s bottom lip trembled and she burst into tears. Oh great, just what I needed—why couldn’t I have settled for a kitten instead of all these bloody children?

I picked her up and cuddled her, then began to hum a tune and danced about the room—she started to giggle and jabber at me. I carried on and she gave an enormous burp which seemed to originate somewhere down near her toes and rumble all the way to the outside world.

“I beg your pardon,” I said and she giggled again. “Your manners leave a bit to be desired, missy,”—more giggling. Then she burped again and giggled like a demented hyena. “What have you been giving her—lager?” I asked Jenny.

“No—we did have a bit of pop while we were out—but she only had a tiny bit—this one drank most of it,” she indicated Puddin’ who had just come into the room with the remote control for the DVD player. The player is in the sitting room. It doesn’t worry me, I can’t work the bloody thing anyway—I have to get Trish to set to for me if I want to record anything. All the kids can do it, but Trish is a whiz with things electronic—can you have a seven-year-old geek?

Having calmed down Krakatoa to a few aftershocks, I handed her back to Jenny and returned to the bard. I sat there musing—if I combed my hair straight back and grew a little beard would it be a bard hair day? Answers on a postcard to…

“I’m going to collect the girls—can you watch the two littlies?”

“Yeah—I’ve just about had it anyway—“To be or not to be, that is the question.”

“To be what—oh it’s in Macbeth is it?” she asked pulling on her jacket.

I nearly did a Homer Simpson, but decided it would be insulting to her—she’s here because she’s good with children and supporting prima donnas like me. I don’t pay her for her knowledge of English literature—though she could probably go on Mastermind with her specialised subject—The House at Pooh Corner. Mine would have to be The Gaby Stories, I’ve read them umpteen times—although Trish remembers them better than I do, or maybe the Sherlock Holmes stories—I love them too.

When I went to check on the babies, they were both fast asleep—I checked they were still breathing—they were—thank goodness. I went away with my heart aflutter and my tummy doing somersaults—phew.

I’d just got back to the kitchen when Danny sloped in, dropped his bag and made straight for the fridge and pulled out a four pint bottle of milk and began drinking it from the bottle.

“I think that would be better from a glass, don’t you?” I said from behind him.

He jumped and sprayed the fridge with milk, blushing profusely. “Mum?” he said turning round.

“Oh dear—looks like someone has some cleaning up to do—doesn’t it?”

“Okay—I’ll get a cloth,” he sighed and went off to the cupboard.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1367

The weekend went by quite quickly—Monday, the bank holiday being the hardest bit—it rained much of the day which was as dark as late evening, until the evening when the sun shone. Crazy—we have weeks of dry weather—then along comes a bank holiday and it rains. It last rained on the previous bank holiday—do I suspect a pattern here?

Simon came out of the sitting room chortling. “What are you laughing at?”

“The cricket,” he beamed.

“Something funny happen?”

“Sort of,” he smirked, “It was in Cardiff, right?”

I nodded, I knew that much.

“Well, it rains a load in Wales, dunnit?”

“In Mid and North Wales—all the mountains.”

“Oh c’mon, it pees down in Wales all the time—hence all the wellie jokes and sheep jokes.”

“I’ve been to Wales quite a lot—remember I lived in Bristol?”

“Yeah so?”

“I didn’t ever see a sheep in wellies.”

“You take things too literally, Cathy.”

“Well there’s a load of sheep in Scotland too.”

“Yeah, I know all voting for independence…”

“I didn’t think they’d voted on that yet?”

“They haven’t—but they voted in the Nationalists didn’t they?”

“Did they?” I hadn’t noticed—I might be Scots by birth—but politics in Portsmouth bore me rigid, so what’s happening the other end of the country is a bit remote.

“Geez, Cathy, get with it.”

“Okay, tell you what you give breakfast to the children every morning and I’ll sit and read the Guardian.”

“Very funny.”

Didn’t think so, but then we often don’t laugh at the same things—especially his jokes. “So what’s all this got to do with a cricket match?”

“England won.”

“Who were they playing?”

“Bloody hell, Cathy—don’t you read the paper or listen to the radio?”

“Usually I listen to the radio in the car—but it didn’t say anything about cricket—and the only sport I read about is cycling—you know that.”

“Well—it was headed for an almost certain draw—time lost through rain—then the English bowlers struck, a couple of quick wickets and they collapsed: bowled out for eighty four runs or something like that.”

“Is that good—bowling them out for eighty four?” I knew perfectly well it was—I had to play cricket in school—they used to put me in the outfield where I’d spend more time picking flowers than fielding.

“They hit four hundred in their first innings.”

“Oh did they?” I yawned, this was like watching paint dry.

“I can see you’re really interested,” he turned and went back to his television.

“What was all that about?” asked Jenny.

“A lack of interest on my part.”

“In what?”

“Test cricket.”

“Oh—say no more.”

“I mean if he’d wanted to discuss the case of Contador and the clembutarol and whether he should have been allowed to ride the Giro, I’d have been happy to talk about it.”

“You lot are seriously crazy—d’you know that?”

“Seriously—nah, we’re just gifted amateurs.”

“What’s a contador anyway—is it some sort of ferry?”

“No, Contador is a Spanish cyclist who’s won the Tour twice and the Giro twice, and may have been a naughty boy.”

“Like in drugs?”

“Substances yes—it’s all due to be sorted by the Court for Arbitration in Sport, or some such august body—except it looks as if he’s going to be allowed to ride the TdF before—they postponed it—the hearing.”

“Wow that is such riveting news, Cathy, I’ll have trouble sleeping tonight because of it.”

I glowered back—seems like I got some of my own medicine back. I didn’t ask her what she thought of independence for Scotland—she’s probably never heard of it.

“Did you watch Dr Who?” I asked her starting to make the dinner.

“That’s a kid’s programme isn’t it?”

“It used to be—it’s wasted on them now and far too scary—I mean, with computer graphics—they had faces which melted…”

“I don’t think I want to know anymore, thank you, Cathy.”

“But—he zapped the bogus Amy Pond…”

“So?”

“So what did you do over the weekend?”

“I met up with my mother—remember you let me borrow the car?”

“Oh yes, do tell me all about it”—I asked as I laid the salmon pieces on the baking tray.

“She’s okay, I suppose—took her shopping, that’s about it, really.”

“You spent a weekend with your mother and that’s all you did—or all you want to tell me about?”

“No big secret—she’s got dementia…”

“Oh, Jenny, I am sorry.”

“It’s okay—my sister usually looks after her, but she needed a weekend off and the usual place which takes her for respite care was full—so I went down and looked after her instead.”

“Not much of a break then?”

“It was nice to see her—sort of—she’ll have forgotten by now that I was ever there.”

“Did you get any photos taken—that could help her to remember?”

“No, didn’t think—it was all a bit rushed.”

“Does your sister live with her?”

“Yeah, so she’s like on twenty-four seven duty.”

“She’s obviously very capable—I have difficulty dealing with healthy children on those terms.”

“I couldn’t—so I send her some money every week to pay off my guilt.”

“You send her money?”

“Yeah—all she gets is attendance allowance—which isn’t very much—not for what she does.”

“So how much would it cost to put your mum in a home for a couple of weeks to allow your sister a proper break?”

“They give her a bit of respite through the council or NHS not sure which.”

“But they couldn’t help this weekend?”

“No.”

“Okay—go and tell her to organise two weeks off for herself and I’ll pay up to a couple of thousand to put your mum in a home for respite for two weeks.”

“You can’t do that,” Jenny stood there looking shocked.

“I just did—go and phone her—perhaps rather than tell her, ask her if she’d like to.”

“That’s so generous, Cathy, but I can’t let you do that.”

“I could always deduct if from your pay if you’d prefer?”

“Um—I don’t think so.”

“So go and ask her.”

“I can’t—I can’t let you do it.”

“Why not? I think the law generally allows me to spend it as I see fit.”

“It’s a lovely gesture, but it’s too much.”

“It isn’t a gesture—go and phone her and ask her or give me her number and I’ll do it.”

“No—it’s too much—far too much.”

“I thought I was your boss?”

“You are.”

“So why are you ignoring a request from me?”

“Because—I am.”

“That’s a fairly weak excuse.”

“Look, it’s my family and we solve our own problems.”

I hadn’t realised I was stepping on toes—it was just one of those spur of the moment things—looks like I got it wrong again.

“Okay, the offer stands until I go to bed—you think it over. I’m not imposing on you or your sister, I’m just trying to assist in the one way I can. If you choose to reject my offer—especially without consulting your sister—that’s your affair, but I think she should at least be involved in the decision.”

“I hate you,” she said, “clever dick,” picking up the phone. I shrugged popping the tray of fish into the Aga.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1368

“We both think it’s a very generous offer,” said Jenny returning to the kitchen.

“But—no thanks?” I replied filling the bread making machine.

“Yes.” She blushed and looked away from me.

“That’s your prerogative; I hope I didn’t embarrass either of you, because it wasn’t meant that way.”

“Not really, but we’d like to solve our own problems.”

“That’s okay—I understand.” My first effort as Lady Bountiful and I cocked up—pity because I thought it was a good cause.

“Valerie said thanks anyway.”

“That’s your sister, I take it?”

“Yeah. I’ll go and check on the babies.” She disappeared and I was left alone with my thoughts and a bread machine—they’re not the best thing with which to have a conversation.

Simon appeared a short while later; he came into the kitchen and sniffed—“That all smells very interesting—what is it?”

“Bread, salmon and jacket potatoes.”

“That salad looks nice too.”

“The kids will complain—they always do with salad.”

“Will you make some of your salad dressing?”

I almost fell over. “I didn’t think you liked my salad dressing.”

“Yes I do, I love almost everything you make—food wise at least.”

Since when? Hmm—he’s not taking the piss is he?

“Okay—I’ll make some if you’ll assure me you’ll eat it?”

“Absolutely—now gi’s a kiss.” He copped a feel while he was at it—but then he is my hubby. “I love your tits,” he said rubbing them both until my nipples showed through my top.

“D’you mind?”

“Not at all,” he smirked back continuing to play with my mammaries.

“Well I do—to start with, tits are little birds which belong to the Paridae or titmice family.”

“Don’t go all scientist on me, I know what tits are—and these are some of the best I’ve ever seen.” He continued rubbing them.

“They are breasts—not tits.”

“You say potato an’ I say potater…” he began singing. I pushed his hands away.

“I’m I interrupting something?” said Jenny standing in the doorway.

“No, not at all—Simon was just going up to change—into somebody nice.”

“Tits,” he said and walked up the stairs.

“Tits, tits, tits,” said Puddin’ giggling as she wandered though the kitchen.

“That’s all I bloody need,” I said smacking my palm on my forehead.

“Bloody tits,” said Puddin’ walking back through the kitchen. At this rate I was going to kill two of them before bedtime.

Jenny was almost hysterical with laughter.

“Don’t laugh, you only encourage the little monster—pygmy voice recorder.”

Puddin’ was giggling as she walked down the hall—“Shit, tits,” she said and giggled.

“You realise I could use a hundred thousand words from the English language and the only ones she’d pick up are the rude ones. If this continues, I’m going to end up in the next bed to Stella.”

“Why not send Puddin’ there—tell them she’s got Tourette’s syndrome.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I replied to Jenny’s joke.

We both laughed, before she informed me that Catherine might find better use of my milk than having it dribble through my top. I glanced down at the spreading wet patch on my breast—Simon—I’ll murder him.

I went and found the little one and she clamped on to my breast as soon as I picked her up. She was hungry and sucked me dry in record time. I sat her in her high chair and warmed up some pureed dinner, which she wolfed down—almost howling afterwards—just my luck, one with Tourette’s and the other with lycanthrope.

“What are you smirking about?” asked Simon reappearing in his polo shirt and jeans.

“I wasn’t smirking, I was thinking.”

“About something funny—I saw the grin on your face.”

“It wasn’t funny, it was ironic possibly sad.”

“Oh—so are you going to share it with me?”

“Not really, why?”

“Oh—I thought married couples weren’t supposed to have secrets from each other.”

“That was obviously decided by a man.”

“Yeah, probably—men are more honest.”

“They are too.” I actually agreed with him.

He noticed, “Geez, Cathy you actually agreed with me, how weird is that?”

“It’s not weird at all—men are more honest—I agree.”

“Well, well—can I put it in my diary?”

“Not so fast, Kimmosabi.”

“Why not, Tonto?”

“Well we may agree on one level but for very different reasons.”

“Okay, I’ll risk it—why d’you think men are more honest?”

“Does it matter?” I asked not really wanting to get embroiled in the battle of the sexes.

“Yes of course it does, doesn’t it, Jenny?”

“Does what?”

“Cathy and I both think men are more honest than women—would you agree?”

She paused for a moment—“Not entirely, the thick ones are—and that probably includes seventy five per cent…”

I was sniggering now and Simon was frowning.

“That’s a bit stereotyped isn’t it?”

“Yeah, probably, why did you ask?” she threw back at him.

“I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t,” he excused himself and we both fell about laughing.

“Are you avenged now for your milky tee shirt?” Jenny asked.

“Yeah—I suppose so—better go and change and serve dinner.”

She sniffed, “The aromas are wonderful,” she sniffed again.

“Not sure about the salmon,” I challenged.

“Okay—but the bread is divine—are we having fresh bread with dinner.”

“I wasn’t going to—it’s intended for breakfast…”

“Go on—we could do another for then.”

“Oh all right,” I rolled my eyes, “You can take it out of the machine while I go and change.”

After dinner, which seemed to cause the entire loaf to disappear—most of it down Simon’s or Tom’s gullets—Jenny and I cleared up—I know, more stereotyping—but the kids were doing their homework and Simon was watching something on the box.

We sat and drank a cuppa before anything else. We’d just finished it when Trish came in—in tears.

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” I asked picking her up and sitting her on my lap.

“Jodi Wigmore sent me a text telling me I smelt like a pig.”

“That’s not very nice—and you don’t smell like a pig at all.” I sniffed her. “You smell of Dove soap and peach shampoo. Has she ever smelt a pig?”

“How do I know?” she shrugged.

“Why did she send you a message like that?”

“Because I told her she was wrong.”

Ah—little miss clever clogs syndrome. “Wrong?” I queried.

“She said Sydney was the capital of Australia—an’ it’s not, it’s Canberra.”

“That’s correct, now how did you tell her?”

“She answered the question from Sister Aquinas an’ I stood up and said she was stupid because everyone knows it’s Canberra.”

“Ah—that might be your problem then—not everyone knew—including Jodi. It’s quite a common mistake—people often say New York is the capital of America.”

“That’s Washington,” she beamed and clapped.

“What’s the capital of Germany?”

“Um—Berlin?” she said looking just a little doubtful.

“Good girl, now how about Syria?”

“Um—I don’t know,” she blushed.

“It’s Damascus—but you see, you don’t know everything—so be careful how you show your cleverness. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep your light hidden under the bushel.”

“We did that story in Bible studies—the one about the man hiding his light under a brush-still.”

Jenny got up quickly and cleared the cups—the rat—leaving me to deal with another of Trish’s mispronunciations. Maybe I need to get her ears checked?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1369

I’d forgotten why Matthew Hines was so popular with cinema goers—he’s actually quite good looking. We were sitting in the church hall attached to the school drinking instant coffee.

“Good to see you again, Cathy.”

“And you too, Matt, how’s Judy?”

“She’s fine—she sends her love.”

“Please say hi from me to her, won’t you?”

“Sure.” He sipped his coffee, “Learned all your lines?” he asked.

“Of course,” I lied, but I was well into completing them, “You have I expect, being the professional.”

“Um—not quite, sometimes I think I’d like to be a steward or something—with no lines. I mean, I haven’t tried to learn Shakespeare since I was at school—and then the only reason I did, was to avoid detention. I can do, ‘To be or not to be,’ but I haven’t got that far yet.”

“Right, people, can we get seated and start the first read through?” Gordon Rashley began to assert his authority as director. “Cue Banquo and Macbeth—witches get ready—from the top…”

Gee whizz that man is a slave driver, I’d listened to my MP3 almost up until we started and I tuned into Morag’s accent, which I was using as Gruoch—Lady Macbeth to you. I hoped Gordon would be impressed—he wisnae, tha scunner.

He told me that we’d just concentrate on getting the lines out and then look at how we might tweak them. “After all, darling, if you’re the only one talking like a Scot, the others are going to look pretty stupid.”

I hadn’t thought of it like that—and with half a dozen sixth formers involved—it could be difficult.

The timetable—a couple of days of readings—then we move to rehearsals—with or without scripts—which is when the detail starts to get added, along with movement and props/sets.

Crikey, sets? I thought we were doing a bit of a Shakespearean thing—minimal everything—apparently not—some scenery firm from Pinewood or Elstree had offered its services, free, gratis and for nowt. Can’t wait for the DVD to come out—sheesh—this is getting heavy.

We read the play twice right through—I wasn’t enjoying it very much—Gordon kept picking on me, or so it seemed. When we stopped for lunch, I sat chatting with Matthew.

“So how is baby Emily?”

“Grows more beautiful every day,” he said in a voice which showed he was smitten with her. “Pity the little tyke doesn’t sleep at night—just wants to party.”

“Yeah—know the feeling—but at least it’s not your chest she’ll be trying to suck off your body.”

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” he mused, “that sounds like the voice of experience.”

“I wasn’t always a D cup.”

He fixed his gaze on my chest—“Pity,” he sighed and went back to his lunch.

Thirty-six D—geez, when I was about fifteen, if you’d told me I’d be breastfeeding and with ’normous knockers, I’d have laughed at you while hoping it was true. Now it is true, it’s a total pain. Men never look at my face—unless they’re gay or old—and women snort—I’ve still got a reasonably small waist—twenty-four inches to be exact, and a thirty-six hips. Simon teases me, saying I’ve got a D cup arse as well, but he likes to fondle it well enough in bed. Mind you, I don’t object.

“Simon and I wondered if you’d like to come over for dinner one night, with Judy of course.”

“Don’t see why not—have to confer with the boss of course. D’you have any date in mind?”

“Next Saturday?”

“Can’t think of any reason why not, but I don’t have my diary with me—I’ll get back to you tomorrow if that’s okay?”

“Fine, I just thought it might be nice to see Judy again, and little Emily.”

“Oh, we gotta bring the baby then?”

“It’s not compulsory—but that’s up to Judy.”

“Yeah, okay.”

We did more reading in the afternoon session—Gordon really is a slave driver, but Matt got more of his spleen after lunch. The girls playing the witches were very good, though if I hear, ‘Bubble bubble,’ once more I think I’ll scream. Mind you, they probably think the same about my stuff.

Lady Macbeth is one of the best female characters in Shakespeare—some suggest he didn’t like women too much, but I suspect he was just being a bloke—albeit a very clever one—assuming he did actually write them—but I won’t open that particular can of worms.

I was exhausted by the time we finished at four, and I’d had to phone Jenny to collect the girls—I could hardly say I wanted to finish now, could I? I’m supposed to be the female lead—which has a certain irony still as it did when I was fifteen or sixteen. Anyway, no one seems to have rumbled me from that viewpoint—though the tabloids might when we get started—or am I just old news?

They didn’t do too much when I did the TV programme—you know the dormouse film—in fact they were describing me as sexy—not exactly the most endearing term for an academic—but better than dowdy or ugly, I suppose.

“Mummy, can we do a ride?” Trish seemed to be the spokesperson while Billie stood behind nodding.

“When, darling?” I asked hoping it wasn’t Saturday evening.

“Now—before dinner.”

“Now? I’ve got to get dinner, sweetheart, it doesn’t make itself.”

“Daddy’s bringing in pizzas.”

“Since when?”

“He said so this morning, and I checked with him this afters, since we got home.”

“And he still is?”

“Oh yes, ’cos I asked him to get lots of ham and cheese on mine.”

“Oh, okay—I’d better get changed and you lot had better do so too.”

Danny opted to come as well, so it was only Livvie and Meems of the riding fraternity who declined—and Jenny had Meems helping her feed Catherine whilst Livvie looked after Puddin’—yeah little potty mouth.

We all set off on mountain bikes and went up the cycle path then back through the woods where I’d lost Trish that day, and subsequently where the deer had died. There was nothing of a carcass left behind—nature had cleaned up in its own inimitable fashion—for which I was grateful.

Mind you a dead badger smelt as high as a British Rail pork pie, when we sped past it. It felt quite good to be off-roading again, I did do a little when I was younger, although to get the best out of it on a rough track full sus might be helpful.

I did a couple of bunny hops—I was wearing cycling shoes with SPDs, the others were riding with ordinary pedals—having said that, Danny matched me for jumps, and Trish had to try and keep up with us, although she didn’t like jumping very much.

I called Danny to stop, I’d thought she was right behind us. I leant against a tree, my feet still stuck to my pedals, straining to turn round and call her. We waited a couple of minutes and she still hadn’t arrived. I went from warm and sweaty to cold and shivering in a millisecond—something must have happened. Oh shit.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1370

Danny came back a few yards to where I was standing holding my bike—I’d dismounted and was ready to turn round and go back the way we’d come.

“D’you want me to go back and look for her?” he asked.

“What happened to Billie—she was with us wasn’t she?”

“Oh crikey, she was.”

“So that’s two missing. Hold on,” I took out my mobile but I couldn’t get a signal. Damn. “C’mon, let’s go and find them.”

I began to shout for them as we headed back but as yet there was no response. About ten minutes later I spotted the bikes—both leaning against a tree. It didn’t look like a kidnap or an accident.

I started walking through the bushes and shouted their names. “Shush,” was the response I got back.

Billie appeared with a finger pressed against her lips and motioned me to follow. I leant my bike against theirs and locked all of them. I followed, intrigued by the need to keep quiet. Trish was standing behind a tree and had been watching something.

I walked up to her and asked what she was watching. “A woodpecker, look,” she said and at that moment a male great spotted woodpecker flew up to the hole halfway up an old ash tree.

He disappeared inside, then moments later he reappeared and flew off again. We waited and about ten minutes later he returned and hopped into the nest.

“How did you spot him?”

“He was drumming on that dead tree behind,” said Trish aged seven and already a better birdwatcher than I. Okay, humble pie time.

“I thought you were lost, sweetheart, next time tell me—all right?”

“But I’d have missed the woodpecker then, Mum.”

Danny came to see and the woodpecker flew back to the drumming spot and gave us a quick riff—Ringo Starr is probably slightly better and has a bigger beak.

“Pity we didn’t have any binoculars with us,” I mused. I’ve got some little ones we could have brought—oh well, next time. At least Billie had the nous to stay with her, so I must be thankful for small mercies.

We all stood and watched our solo drummer, though another not far away was replying—it shows how the idea for native drums came about. Deeper notes travel further—something to do with wave size—hence if you want to listen to radio while abroad, you have to switch to long wave and then find it with your tuner. It can be a real pain.

We watched as a sparrow hawk flashed by chasing a pigeon of some sort, we couldn’t see if it did or not but the pigeon was really motoring. I suppose I would if my life depended upon it.

Every year we get pigeon fanciers wanting the government to do something about peregrines. Apparently, they eat too many of the stupid pie-gons. It always makes me smile—peregrines love pigeons—to death, so by boosting their numbers, the pigeons that is—it makes them irresistible for peregrines.

I suppose that’s little consolation for someone’s pet, which might be quite valuable, ending up being fed to baby peregrines. If it is some consolation, the peregrines usually pick out the slowest or most brightly marked—frequently the amounts of white of them. It makes sense, the hunters do what brings in the best rate of return for least effort—like the rest of us.

If you’re soaring a thousand or more feet above the prey items flying below, then you need something on which to focus. Peregrine stoops have been measured to pretty high speeds—the hunter, usually it’s the male if they have young—closes his wings and just drops reaching speeds over forty miles an hour, and he opens his talons as he hits his prey—who is probably killed immediately with the shock of it.

He may or may not bind to his prey—if he doesn’t he catches it as it falls, then takes it off to a plucking post. He then supplies the young and their mum with fresh meat. Peregrines are almost exclusively bird eaters, and despite their horrible habits are amazing aerobats—their flying skills and speed are phenomenal—which is why one spotted by a flock of birds causes total panic. It would be like a lioness walking down a crowded street of shoppers.

While we stood watching the woodpecker, movement below caught my eye. A stoat was dragging a dead bunny along, which seemed twice its size, reminding me that these pint-sized assassins are amazingly strong compared to their prey.

The girls were upset by the recently deceased lagomorph but I tried to point out that Mrs Stoat needed to feed her babies and there were more rabbits than stoats—the food chain guarantees that or stoats start starving to death in numbers.

“How can something that small kill something bigger?” asked Trish, “I mean rabbits have big teeth, Deborah Wilkins had a nasty bite from her bunny; so why can’t they bite the stoat and kill it?”

“I don’t know, especially as buck rabbits will fight each other in the breeding season. I suspect it’s because the stoat is faster and stronger, with razor sharp teeth. It also knows where to strike—usually the neck. They also say that the rabbit becomes paralysed with fear—I don’t know, I’ve not seen one actually catch its prey, but they are really quick and agile. Even weasels will kill rabbits and they’re only half the size of stoats.”

“Wow,” said Danny, “Maybe I need to do some nature watching.”

“So you can see how they do it?”

“Yeah—why not?”

“I don’t think I’d be entirely happy for you to come out nature watching by yourself.” I made a mental note to mention that I wanted him to come with me the next time I checked our dormouse boxes. At least now I knew he’d enjoy it. Sadly, so would Trish, but she’s too young.

The show over, we unlocked the bikes and set off towards the house. Was Trish going to follow in my footsteps? I had no idea—if she did, she’d have the potential to do far more interesting research because she’s cleverer—and she clearly has good observational skills already—but would she get bored—field biology is rather repetitive: walking the territory, doing the counts and crunching the numbers over a long period. Perhaps it suits me because I’m not too clever? Don’t answer that.

We returned home elated with our ride and interaction with nature, the girls had enjoyed it and Danny made me wonder if it could be an area for him to think about either as a career or a hobby. Sometimes you can cope with doing a mediocre job if it funds the things you enjoy doing—I know loads of good amateur racing cyclists do jobs they don’t especially care for but which allow them time to train and race.

After the girls had gone indoors, I called Danny back to help me with the bikes.

“I’m going to be doing a dormouse survey in a week or so’s time—would you like to come with me?”

“What? That’d be soooo kewl, Mum—mee.”

“Don’t tell the others, they’re slightly too young to cope with all the walking and scrambling through undergrowth.”

“No way—that’s brill, Mummy, absolutely brill.” He ran off indoors with more of a spring in his step than he had before. Would that everyone were so easily pleased, I sighed to myself.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1371

“See ya tomorrow,” said Matt as we both departed the hall we were using to rehearse.

“It’s Saturday tomorrow.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m otherwise committed tomorrow.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’m doing other things tomorrow.”

“You can’t.”

“Who can’t—I can’t hack this all weekend as well as Monday to Friday.”

“So what are you doin’ that’s so damned important?”

“Taking my son somewhere.”

“Like where?”

“Mind your own business,” I huffed back at him.

“Pardon me for breathing,” he said, affronted.

“I hope it’s something important to cancel all this,” he waved his arm around the room.

“My family are my universe—this is a diversion.” I pushed past him and climbed into the Porsche.

“English aristocrats,” he sneered at me.

“Scots, actually, hen,” I said in my Gruoch voice, slammed the door and drove off.

“Are there ye are,” said Tom.

“Aye an’ whit of it?” I was still in character.

“Are ye taking thae piss, hen?”

“Dinna be sae daft, faither,” then I realised what I’d said. He was standing there gobsmacked which for someone who talks for a living, is quite an achievement. “I’m sorry, daddy, I’m still in character.”

“Is that hoo ye’re daein’ Lady Macbeth?”

“Och, weel I thocht I’d use a wee gentle accent, like thae hi’landers dae, but it got a wee bittie mixed wi’ Lallans.”

“Aye, jest a wee bittie.” He laughed and we hugged and I kissed his cheek.

Jenny was away tonight, so I had to deal with the two littlies as well as the larger offspring. Simon had agreed to babysit tomorrow while Danny and I went hunting dormeece. It still meant I had to feed Catherine—who wanted to fall asleep at my breast—and Puddin’ who was playing up something chronic. Much more of this and I’ll post her to Stella in a large Jiffy bag.

We left home at just after eight, I’d been up since six to feed the two pests and sort out my equipment—not a lot, the requisite heavy duty clear plastic bag, and a smaller one for weighing any meeces we find. Then my little balance—a spring balance some call them, it’s like pen with a rule on it and a pointer and a clip thing on the bottom. It weighs in grams and we note the weight of any meece we catch in the nest boxes, and the nest box number—some seem more used than others. We have about hundred to check on two sites.

We will have a bit of help, half a dozen students—three of whom have licences to handle or disturb dormice. I put mine by my equipment—we’re supposed to carry them when working with the animals—it stops any argument.

We loaded the crate of stuff—I usually take some Longworth traps with me, for live trapping—we usually bait some with grain and few dried meal worms, shove a bit of hay or straw in the back and lay them when we start at the site, then check them before we go. I have a shrew licence as well as the dormouse one, which means we can actually catch them—though it’s usually by accident.

Shrews are tiny creatures but ferocious predators of insects, small vertebrates and earthworms. They are phenomenally active and need to eat every couple of hours—they eat most of their own weight each day—so they need to be busy. They’re smaller than mice and aren’t rodents.

So to catch them you need a licence—seems crazy given the ubiquity of the common shrew—cats kill them by the truckload—but some of the other ones are quite rare, including the Scilly shrew, which only occurs on the islands off Cornwall.

I digress, the law says we need a licence—so I have one—so we can trap them. When we do catch them it adds to our mapping of them, but they occur in most places including large gardens—we have loads of them at home in the field edges and the orchard.

With regard to trapping them, if you don’t bait the traps with things like meal worms or cat food, they could starve to death if the traps are left for more than a couple of hours—so we don’t leave them very long and we do leave food in them—thereby complying with the recommendations of the Mammal Society.

Moving on to this particular morning, we arrived at the first woodland site and I opened the gate—I have a key if you remember—and we drove down the path, parking about three or four hundred yards further on.

Then we sat and drank some coffee from my flask while we waited for the others. Only four arrived—two couldn’t make it for some reason—I’d be having words with them, as I was still supervising their field work/project work. However, we had four licence holders for dormeece, including me, and my solo for shrews.

We baited six Longworth traps and set them with bits of fluorescent tape tied to bushes next to them. After this we collected all the bits we’d need to carry out the survey and dumping them in my rucksack, we set off up into the woodland.

Danny was really pleased with himself as we established ourselves as three teams of two—he and I would be one of them. We agreed which sets of boxes we’d check and went off to do so.

I’ve probably described the boxes before—they’re like nest boxes for birds only you have the hole on the tree side of the box, as the dormouse will scramble up or down the tree to enter it. The lid is held on by a piece of wire, and the box is wired to the tree for easy removal.

To examine the box—you either block the hole with a piece of cloth, some herbage or your hand—next, you open the lid and if you see movement you have something. If there’s nesting material inside you could have a dormouse or something else—occasionally birds nest in them—or it could be a wood mouse or even a weasel—both can bite, dormice rarely do and usually only after provocation like sticking microchips in them. They can also go into shock after that too—so I don’t actually like doing it. On the two sites we’re examining today, we don’t have any microchipped animals yet—it might happen later if we have the money, because it’s the best way of identifying them for all sorts of data.

Once you think you have an inhabitant in the box, you take it off the tree, still covering the hole and place the whole thing in the big bag. Then you take the lid off and poke around gently—you get to tell if there’s likely to be anything in it and dormice nests are unique because they take green leaves into the nest regularly to help maintain a moisture balance—clever eh? So if you see greenstuff in the nesting material—you’ve had a dormouse stay there at some point—see it’s not rocket science—but it does require common sense.

Dormouse Box

We found three dormice in the boxes we did—and Danny helped me weigh them—I actually did the handling—though I did promise if he came again—he could try handling them.

One of the students had a wood mouse in one of their boxes, they’re a damned nuisance—once they’ve been in a box, dormice won’t go near it again.

The second site was much as above—we had two more adult dormice which Danny weighed and we recorded. We’d probably tramped a couple of miles up and down the woodland—it’s on an incline with a quarry at one part—so you have to be careful.

“Did you enjoy it?” I asked Danny as we drove home.

“Yeah—it was well kewl—better than football.”

Was that true or was it just said for my benefit? I smiled as we drove home.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1372

“That vole was really kewl, Mum,” said Danny. He was talking of the poor unfortunate critter that blundered into one of the Longworth traps. He was probably a bit frightened, the vole that is, but it didn’t stop him eating all the grain we left inside.

Anyway after deciding what it was we released it under a bush and collected up the stuff and came home.

The weather had a got a bit warmer and I was sorely tempted to go for a bike ride when Jenny got back. Simon had babysat with Tom’s help and I couldn’t impose on him any longer.

The girls gave us good welcome when we returned, a little later than I intended and I was praising their daddy for his sterling work when Meems let slip that Pippa had been there.

“Pippa’s been here?” I queried.

Simon blushed and said, “Yeah, she called by, she said she was sorry she missed you.”

“Gramps asked her to come,” Trish announced betraying Simon and Tom.

“So what has Daddy been doing?” I asked Trish. Simon hurriedly left the room.

“Reading your paper and watching the telly.”

“So Pippa looked after you while I was out?”

“More or less, she had to deal with the babies, but she made us a drink and we played some games out in the garden.”

“Did Daddy come and play games with you?”

“No, he was watching telly.”

“Did he pay, Pippa?”

“No, Mummy, Gramps did that.”

It seemed strange that Tom suddenly had to go out just after I arrived back. That was okay, I could wait.

“See ya later,” called Si and moments later he got in his car and drove off.

“Have you all had lunch?”

“No,” said Danny more emphatically than usual.

“Yes, Pippa did us some soup—from tins—not as nice as your homemade but it was okay.”

“Okay—I’m doing some poached eggs on toast for Danny and I, anyone else want one?” I’d bought a couple of dozen free range eggs on the way home and was quite looking forward to eating a couple.

“Wouldn’t mind one, Mummy—it won’t make me fat will it?” Trish looked at me for answers.

“The way you run round, kiddo—I doubt it.”

In the end all three of the girls had a single egg with a slice of toast. My thoughts of riding disappeared as did my intentions of writing up the records from the survey—I had my notebook so it would keep—and I’d escaped my parental duties for a few hours—so this was payback.

I fed Catherine as I sipped a cup of tea, she was like a giant milk drinking leech, the way she hovered my breasts dry. She had some scrambled egg and a piece of bread which I chopped up into small bits. She has some teeth as my nipples will testify.

I left the kids to their own devices while I cleaned up the kitchen—thank goodness for my dishwashing machine. I was about to sit down and drink a fresh cuppa when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Cathy?”

“Yes, is that Sam?”

“It is, look could I ask you a huge favour?”

“I would think so, provided it doesn’t mean fostering anymore children?”

“I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty, I have with me a young mum who has a child, a bio male, who likes to be a girl.”

“Yeah—what d’you want me to do about it?”

“Could she come and see you for a chat?”

“What now?”

“Yes—she’s at her wits end.”

“How old is her—um—child?” I hesitated over the term I could use without wishing to show any sort of prejudice.

“Five—I think—yes, five.”

“Does she know how to find us?”

“I can give her directions.”

“Do Google maps.”

“Yeah of course; I can’t cope with this new technology.”

“Sam, you’re not that old and much cleverer than I am, and I cope”—as long as we don’t mention video recorders.

“Okay, I’ve got your place on screen—you’ve an awful lot of land there.”

“Yes, it used to be a farm.”

“I’ll send her then.”

“Oh, Sam?”

“Yes?”

“Tell her she’ll have to take us as she finds us—I’ve been out dormousing all morning with Danny—so haven’t done any tidying today.”

“She’s coming to talk with you not do a house inspection.” He put the phone down and I stood up and felt like screaming; why me? The next few minutes were spent rushing upstairs and changing out of muddy jeans and sweatshirt.

I had a quick wash and checked my hair—it was tidyish, rather than my usual standard. I combed it through, picking up the bits of leaf and twig that fell out—it happens when you’re fighting the undergrowth to get to nest boxes—biology ain’t for wimps. Tying my hair back into a ponytail which I then pinned up with a clip, I pulled on a fresh blouse and pair of trousers—ones cut off at mid calf, slipped on my trainer sandals and my watch, plus a bangle on my right wrist—a squirt of smellies and some lipstick and it was downstairs to have a quick tidy up.

I marshalled the troops—“We have someone coming to see me in a few minutes. They’re bringing their kid with them—so I might need you to let them play with you. I want you all on your best behaviour. Right, help me tidy up, please.”

Even Puddin’ helped tidy up—she put Billie’s slippers in the bin—I know, if they phone up and say that Stella’s gone into labour, I’ll strangle them all and shoot myself.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen but I was quite warm from rushing round the place with the vacuum when the doorbell rang. Danny was outside cleaning our boots and the girls were all hiding, waiting to see who was visiting.

A young woman, about my age I suppose, was waiting at the door when I opened it. “Mrs Cameron?” she asked.

“Cathy, yes—do come in.”

“I’m Gina Herring, and this is Carl.”

I looked down at a small fair haired child of five who was wearing a pair of boy’s shorts and tee shirt with Sponge-Bob on it. On his feet were open toed sandals. In contrast, his mother wore a very nice cotton sundress which made me feel scruffy, and on her feet she wore three inch high wedge sandals which complemented the dress beautifully. The car she’d arrived in was a newish Peugeot—so money wasn’t a problem.

Carl sat on the floor by his mum as we settled down in my study. “Would Carl like to play with my girls?” I asked.

“He’s a bit shy.”

“They’ll be gentle with him.” I called Livvie and Trish and he reluctantly went off with them. Now I felt his mum could talk more easily.

“Dr Rose said you have experience of dealing with a gender dysphoric child.”

“Yes, though I’m not sure I’m an expert in the matter.”

“You’ve got to have more idea than I do—Carl just keeps wanting to play with dolls and wear girl’s clothes.”

“So why don’t you let him—he may well grow out of it?”

“Well it’s embarrassing—what are my parents going to say, or the neighbours?”

“How important is that? More than the health and well being of your child?”

“Um—no, of course not—but my husband doesn’t like it either.”

“What about you—you’ve told me about all these other people—what d’you think about it all?”

“I—um—don’t know.”

Oh boy, this could take some time. “Let’s have a cuppa shall we?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1373

Gina Herring sat nervously sipping her tea. “What don’t you know?” I asked her.

“I—um—love little Carl, but I don’t know if I can cope with him wanting to be a girl.”

“What’s there to cope with?”

“The embarrassment.”

“Yours or his?”

“Mine I suppose, how do I face the neighbours? What do I tell my parents, and my husband—he thinks it’s dreadful—I just don’t know what to do?”

“Have you been in touch with Mermaids?”

“Dr Rose gave me a website address—did you use them?”

“I didn’t need to, I just accepted what they wanted to do, Simon and Daddy and the others came on board just as quickly.”

“How did you manage that?”

“I didn’t—we all love the children, so when it happened we accepted it in the same way we would have done if they’d had red hair or been black-skinned or anything else which they have no control over.”

“I guess they don’t.”

“Look, gender identity is so important, it’s probably determined between the second and fourth years of life, and ever after their experiences either confirm or reject what they feel.

“What’s total irrational is that if a girl starts acting like a boy, it’s seen as okay—if a boy starts acting like a girl—he’s some sort of freak. Why? We are all human beings, so why does it matter if we’re men or women, black or white or anything else—I’ll tell you why—because we live in a patriarchy, that’s why.” I got off my feminist soap box.

“You didn’t find it strange that your son wanted to dress like a girl?”

“No, I like to dress as one—don’t you?”

“Yes, but we’re females—so it’s okay.”

“What’s wrong with a boy dressing as a girl—I’m wearing trousers, I’ll bet you do too.”

“Of course I do, but for a boy to wear skirts and call himself Carla, is wrong.”

“It is to you, it obviously isn’t to her.” I emphasised the pronoun.

“But it’s he not she.”

“Not in her eyes. You’re seeing the world through your eyes—so you’ll never understand—you have to try and see it through hers.”

I went and got a copy of the French film, Ma vie en Rose, which is a beautiful film and shows as well as anything I’ve seen, the world through the eyes of a transgendered child. The little boy who plays the lead is wonderful. I handed it to Gina—“Watch this with your husband—it might help.”

“Is it a documentary?”

“No it’s a feature film, but it’s beautifully done—have some tissues with you.”

“Is it sad?”

“Not really, it’s just so beautiful you’ll want to cry—I did.”

“Thank you.”

She sipped another cuppa, “So you think I’ve just got to be brave for Carl’s sake.”

“You have to be brave for Carla’s sake, and to carry the others through. Speak with Mermaids, they’re good and Dr Rose can give you the name of a good children’s psychiatrist.”

“Psychiatrist?” she gasped, “He’s not mentally ill is he?”

“No, if she is transgendered, then she’s not mentally ill, but could become so if she’s not allowed to express it—depressed and so on. It isn’t an illness it’s a variation on the norm, like left-handedness.”

“You won’t be ostracised because you write with the other hand, will you? So how can you compare the two, they’re hardly the same are they? People don’t laugh at you because you’re left-handed.”

“People soon stop laughing if you take no notice.”

“How can I deal with him going to school?”

“Send her to a girl’s school.”

“They’re hardly likely to accept a boy in skirts, are they?”

“If you see her as a boy in skirts, then how can you expect others to see her any other? If you can’t be bothered—why should anyone else?”

A tear rolled down her face. “How did you deal with it?”

“I never saw her as a boy in skirts, I saw her as a girl with a plumbing problem.”

“You’re a very special mum, aren’t you?” she said and I think she meant it in a positive way.

“No more than you—I was able to deal with it—so will you and for the same reason—we love our children and we do what we have to do for them to be happy.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. If I can be of any further help.” I handed her my mobile number, “Feel free to call if you need to talk.”

“Mummy can we have a drink?” called Trish.

“Yes, can you do it?”

“Of course I can, Mummy, I am seven you know.” She popped her head round the door—“Oh, sorry—can I give Carla one, as well?”

Gina nodded and Trish laughed and ran off. “Why is she calling him Carla?”

“She doesn’t have the inhibitions you have, besides she likes being a girl and thinks everyone else should too.”

“So which one of yours is gender variant?”

“You tell me.” I stood up and walked towards the kitchen beckoning her to follow. Trish was pouring squash into plastic beakers and Livvie was filling them from the filter jug of cold water. Meems was holding the biscuit tin and Carla was wearing one of Meems’ dresses, which fit quite well, she also had painted toenails and fingernails and loads of bangles on her arm. Looks like the girls have been playing with a life size Barbie doll.

“There you are, Carla,” said Livvie handing out the beakers, and the little painted fingers accepted it.

“Thank you, Livvie,” said the child who turned round and seeing us standing there squealed and dropped the beaker, “Mummy,” she shrieked and began to cry.

“Baby,” said Gina and picked up her child, both were now crying.

“Bugger,” said Trish and went to get a cloth.

“I didn’t know you were there, Mummy,” sobbed Carla.

“I’m sorry I frightened you, baby,” Gina sobbed back.

“I’ve been playing with the other girls—it was so nice. I’m sorry I dropped my cup, Lady.”

“It’s Mrs Cameron,” corrected his mother.

“Actu—lee, it’s Lady Cameron,” corrected Trish cleaning up the spilt drink with the floor mop, “And my daddy’s Lord Cameron.”

“Is this right—you’re Lady Cameron?”

“I’m afraid so, though we tend to downplay it most of the time.”

“I saw you mentioned in the local paper—you’re an actress aren’t you?”

“No—I’m a biologist.”

“They said you were starring in some play with Matthew Hines, the film star.”

“He’s agreed to help out to raise money for my daughter’s school.”

“But you’re acting too?”

“Yes, but I’m not an actress—I’m a teacher.” Though in some respects it’s the same thing, trying to hold the attention of your audience to entertain or inform them.

“C’mon, Carl, better get you changed back to go home.”

“Do I have to, Mummy?”

“Yes, you need to give the little girl her dress back.”

“That’s okay, it’s one of my owd ones,” said Meems, and I nodded in agreement.

Livvie appeared a few moments later with Carla’s boy stuff in a plastic carrier bag.

“His father’s going to kill us,” said Gina pulling a face. “You sure I can cope with this?”

“D’you love her?”

She nodded and a tear escaped her eye, “Yes,” she croaked.

“Then you’ll cope.”

“Thank you, um—Lady Cam…”

“It’s Cathy—and call me if you need to talk.”

“Can I go to a girl’s school like Trish and Mima do, Mummy?”

“I don’t know s—girl, one thing at a time eh?”

I walked them to the car.

“I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

“If what you do is done with love, and real love not the imaginary or selfish sort—how can you do wrong. Follow your heart, it won’t lead you far wrong.”

“I’ll try,” she said getting into the car. “Thanks, Cathy.”

I smiled and surrounded by four girls and Danny waved her and her daughter off. I had grave doubts that it would work out for little Carla, but I bathed her in blue light as she got in the car and I hoped it would help.

—–

Trailer for Ma vie en Rose
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0b0F8HAJgI

The Daily Dormouse Part 1374

A moment after she left Simon drove in. “Who was that?” he asked me.

“A young mother Sam Rose asked me to speak with.”

“Why?”

“She has a gender dysphoric child.”

“I suppose I should have guessed—so what were you doing trying to cure him with—blue light?” he laughed at his unfunny joke.

“You’ve been drinking,” I accused.

“Only one,” he laughed, “Been down the rugger club, watched the Baa-baas beat Wales.”

“For what you did today, if you were my child I’d have grounded you for months.”

“Just as well I’m not then, ’scuse me,” he stumbled round me and into the house.

“And he’s just driven a car—stupid overgrown schoolboy.”

He fell asleep in the chair and whilst part of me wanted to murder him, another part loved him to bits. I felt the same towards Tom, who avoided me until bedtime. It suddenly occurred to me that they were both scared of me—not literally—but of what I’d say to them about their selfish and negligent behaviour. So, I said nothing.

For the whole weekend they expected me to say something and I didn’t and wouldn’t until they relaxed and then I’d let them have it.

We discussed the recent visitor I’d had and I was glad we had because on Monday morning we had a different visitor—Geoffrey Herring. He didn’t even give me a chance to say hello, he poked me in the chest and demanded to know what I’d done to his son.

“If you touch me again, Mr Herring, you’ll regret it.”

“Oh will I now, what’re you going to do, shout at me?”

To find out he went to poke me again and I stepped back, grabbed his wrist and yanked his arm up behind him in a hammer lock. Least I think that’s what you call it. He was pleading for me to let him go and I asked him politely if he was going to behave, or did he want me to either break his arm or dislocate his shoulder? He promised to behave.

“You’re nothing but a thug,” he said rubbing his arm.

“You’re little more than a bully, but not all women are afraid of you.”

“I’ve a good mind to call the police.”

“Do that and I’ll tell them about the way you hit your wife last night and for cruelty and abuse to your son because he’s transgendered.”

I watched the colour drain from his face. It was an intuitive guess but all the time I felt I had his number and bits of his life seemed to come into my mind.

“Look, I won’t involve the police but stay away from my wife and my son.”

“Who’s Richard Venning?” I asked him.

“Who?” he looked astonished.

“He’s the boy who called you a faggot in front of the whole school isn’t he?”

Geoffrey Herring went absolutely white.

“How old were you? About twelve?”

“Twelve and a half, if you must know, and it was a schoolboy crush. I grew out of it very quickly.”

“He called you a sissy, didn’t he?”

“He called me loads of names—look, how d’you know about all this and have you told Gina?”

“Does it matter, Mr dead straight Herring?”

“Look it’s in the past and I’d prefer it stayed there.”

I felt his overbearing manner was receding faster than his hairline. “If you’re prepared to talk like an adult about this, then come in, if not please leave now or I’ll call my husband, and he’s less reasonable than I am.”

He pulled out a clean white handkerchief and waved it, and I nearly snorted; instead I stepped back and allowed him into the house.

Jenny came back from the school run and I asked her to make us some tea, which he nodded as acceptable. I led him through to my study. I have photos of each of the children, plus a family photograph of us all together.

“Are all these your children?”

“Yes.”

“Crikey, you look too young to have children this old.”

“I’ve worn well.”

“You have indeed. My wife says you’re married to an aristocrat?”

“I am.”

“And you have experience of a gender-bender child?”

“I prefer gender different or transgender, which your child is.”

“How can you know that?”

“I know many things—I know your father died from prostate cancer and you’re terrified you have the same disease.”

“How the bloody hell, d’you know that?”

“Relax, Geoffrey, you don’t have it and won’t get it.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because I can.”

“Are you some sort of mystic? Crystal ball and all that?”

“No, I teach biology and read minds.”

“You read minds?” he laughed.

“Yes, how d’you think I know about your past?”

“I don’t know.”

“You told me—I read it from your mind.”

“Oh yeah—what am I thinking now?”

“Oh you’re just thinking insults and trying to block me, which, given your puerile mindset doesn’t surprise me one bit, but you are trying to remember to phone your wife to remind her to call the plumber to have your shower fixed, which is a Dolphin one, but it’s years old.”

“Geezuz—you can read my thoughts, can’t you—what are you—a witch?”

“Oh dear, you do suffer from preconceived ideas, don’t you? What have I got to do to convince you that I’m actually on your child’s side, which being a responsible if misguided parent, so are you.”

He sat and worked out what I’d just said and shrugged.

“Is your shoulder still sore?” from my manhandling.

He nodded.

“Okay—does it hurt now?”

He stood up and moved his shoulder around. “No, it feels fine now.”

“Right—so I can perform a few tricks—your daughter.”

“My er—son, I think you mean.”

“Your child is a girl—if you want her to be happy, you need to help her to achieve that end. If you don’t, you’ll lose her and she’ll eventually transition, but she won’t be anywhere near as successful because she’ll be fully grown in a male body. She’ll despise you for the rest of your life—is that what you want? Oh, and Gina will eventually leave you because of your intransigence and you’ll end up living in a bedsit on your own. If that’s what you want—mess up three lives—carry on.”

“It isn’t, I want us all to be happy—I love Gina and Carl.”

“Prove it.”

“How can I do that?”

Some people are born thick and some have thickness thrust upon them—I wasn’t sure which applied to him. “I just told you—get professional assessment for Carla’s gender problem and help her to transition. It’s what your wife wants to do, really, but she’s scared of hurting you.”

“Oh.” He suddenly burst into tears and his white flag was used for its original purpose—I hope he didn’t want to shake it about with all those bogies on it. I waited for him to compose himself.

“Better now?”

“Not really, I’m really struggling with this.”

“I know, most men would—especially those who aren’t as secure in their masculinity as they might be—and that’s quite a lot.”

“Can’t you use your magic to cure him?”

“What, sort out her plumbing problem?”

He looked questioningly at me. “No, sort out her gender thing.”

“No, it’s not within my gift.”

“Your powers are limited then?”

“Yes—but you won’t remember any of this—you’ll go home and reflect unconsciously on what has been said and how you know what you need to do to help your daughter. It isn’t negotiable—it’s fact—she is transgender—which when you reflect upon how feminine she’s always been—you’ll recognise that somehow her body is wrong for her mind and you’ll help her to correct that incongruence.”

“I need to go home—I don’t feel too well.”

“Off you go, Geoffrey, take care—oh and stay off the fags—bladder cancer isn’t nice.”

“Is that how I’m going to die?”

“Only if you keep smoking—if you stop now, you’ll live a long active life. The choice is yours.”

“Thank you, I’m sorry I poked you and called you names.”

“Apology accepted—now go and look after your wife and daughter.”

“I will—thank you.”

“What was all that about?” asked Jenny, bringing Catherine to feed from me.

“I have no idea—I can’t remember what we talked about—dunno what came over me.”

“A blue light I think, the room was positively glowing with it.”

“Was it? Come on, sweetheart,” I held out my arms for my baby and she shrieked with laughter as I held her and then lifted her to my breast.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1375

As I fed the little mother-sucker I initially felt concerned that I couldn’t seem to remember anything about what had happened previously. I asked Jenny, who was feeding Puddin’ some cold rice pud—homemade of course.

“You know, I think I must be losing it because I can’t remember anything about the person who visited us.”

“Visited you, they didn’t come to see me.”

“Who were they then?”

“Seriously?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m a complete blank.”

“Remember the woman Sam Rose sent you?”

“Yeah, with Carla.”

“Yeah—I think that was what the girls said the kid’s name was; anyway, the mystery visitor was her dad.”

“Carla’s dad?”

“Well yes, I can’t think her grandfather would bother coming to see you.”

“Why not? I often appeal to old farts, apparently.”

Jenny glared at me, “So d’you remember now?”

“Not really, what happened?”

“How do I know? I wasn’t there—I brought you some tea and watched the kiddiwinks—oh there was loads of blue light about—saw the flashes through the window.”

“This is bizarre. I wonder if I made any notes.” I unhooked Catherine from her personal milk tanker—she was going to sleep again and after putting her in the high chair, went into my study cum library area.

I checked the desk but couldn’t see anything, although the orchid on my desk was new—I had an ancient thing which had died the death and I was going to chuck—it was there earlier, Jenny must have replaced it with this one.

I went back to the kitchen where Catherine was giving Jenny a hard time with her rice pudding. “C’mon, open the gates and let the stagecoach in,” she was saying to Catherine. The amount down her front—the baby, that is—rather implied she didn’t want it.

“Leave it, Jen, she isn’t going to eat it, little sausage.” Of course she heard my voice and spun her head round to see me and got an earful of rice. Her bottom lip puckered and she was about to cry when I laughed, so after a moment, she laughed too. “Oh by the way, thanks for the orchid—it’s lovely.”

“What orchid?”

“The one you put on my desk to replace the manky one that was there.”

“I didn’t put an orchid on your desk let alone remove one.”

“Must be the bloke then, I’ll have to write and thank him.”

“He didn’t look like the sort to come bearing gifts.”

“So how did it get there then?”

“The blue light?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Jenny—it heals people not dead plants.”

“I thought it went where it was needed.”

“Within reason, yeah—so it would hardly be dealing with off-colour orchids—would it?”

“How do I know—you’re the one it comes to.”

“Unfortunately.”

“C’mon, Cathy, it’s saved a few lives with your help.”

“I didn’t do very much and I know even less—it’s like what I have to say is put in my mouth.”

“That include the last sentence?”

“Eh?”

“Was that put into your mouth as well?”

“Was what?”

“Oh f’gedit—what’re we having for lunch?”

“I have forgotten it,” I joked.

“Forgotten what we’re having for lunch?”

I rolled my eyes, “You told me to forget someth… Oh never mind. I thought I’d do something with eggs.”

“Well get crackin’ then,” she roared with laughter. “I’ve always wanted to say that to someone.”

“If I’d known that I’d have considered you lacking in ambition—mind you, saving mankind and finding a solution to the Middle East crisis was probably a bit OTT.”

“I didn’t say that, did I?”

“Now who can’t remember?”

“I do remember—you asked me what ambition I felt had not been achieved, an’ I said, havin’ my own family and career-wise to possibly have my own nursery.”

“You didn’t, you said to get this job and as much money as I can con out of you lot.”

“I didn’t,” Jenny said blushing and I fell about laughing.

“Go and scramble some eggs,” she said to me and took Puddin’ off to see if she wanted to wee—she doesn’t say, she just dances about and suddenly she’s done it in her panties.

I glanced at Catherine, she was fast asleep in her high chair—rice pudding in her hair and all down the front of her—mucky pup.

I made scrambled eggs on toast with tomato slices, we both ate them and drank some tea, then I took the baby and changed her after bathing her. She grumbled a bit but she let me do it. Mind you, I am somewhat larger and more aggressive…

The phone rang and Jenny got it, “It’s for you-hoo,” she shouted.

“You sounded like a cuckoo then; no, make that a wood pigeon.”

She walked back to the kitchen calling coo-coo. She’ll have to go.

“Hello, Cathy Cameron.”

“Ah, Lady Cameron, what did you do or say to my Geoff, he’s like a new man. He’s gone out with Carla to buy her a doll—can you believe it?”

As I couldn’t recall what had happened, I might believe anything or nothing. “Oh that’s good,” I said trying to remember if it was or not.

“Good—it’s brilliant—you told me to go with my heart and what I felt was best for Carla—you must have told him the same and it’s really hit the spot.”

“Yes I did,” did I?

“Thank you so much, I’m so glad that Dr Rose asked you to see me.”

“You’re welcome, he’s probably going to need some encouragement so make sure you give him lots—he needs your love as well as Carla.”

“I know that and it’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Oh, they’re coming back, gotta go.” The phone line went dead and I replaced the handset.

I felt even more puzzled—had I surrendered to the light or just forgotten? Did the light take me over—I sound like one of those fraudulent medium types—is there anybody there?”

I went and collected the girls and saw the headmistress. “How are the rehearsals going?”

“Okay, I suppose. We start again tomorrow, then next week it’s dress rehearsal and the week after the real thing. I cannot believe I allowed a bunch of kids persuade me into doing it.”

“Perhaps you always wanted to reprise it—as a real woman, not a schoolgirl.”

“If it was it was pretty deep in my unconscious mind because I didn’t know it.”

She laughed, “Well it’s not every day you get a chance to work with a Hollywood heart-throb, is it?”

“No, thank goodness.”

“You don’t sound too impressed?”

“Shall we say I know him better in some respects than you do.”

“Undoubtedly—you sound disappointed?”

“Maybe I am—we all have feet of clay, it’s just so disappointing to discover it in others.”

“Oh, I don’t know, you seem to have escaped the clay-foot syndrome.”

“Nah, mine’s just been baked into china—so it’s fancy clay.

“You are so funny sometimes, Lady Cameron, oh by the by, could you ask Trish not to keep correcting Sister Ignatius about the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt—she said they didn’t have aeroplanes in those days.”

It wouldn’t be a normal week if she hadn’t corrected at least one teacher—reminds me a bit of someone—though I lost the habit after some of my contemporaries left me battered and bruised in the playground one break time. So possibly ignorance isn’t such bliss if they were so cross?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1376

“You must learn to submit to us.”

I’ve never submitted to anyone, not even when they’ve half-punched my lights out, so doing so to this weird woman thing didn’t even occur to me.

“Sorry, but every feminist principle inside me says no.”

The woman—I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and she can do the same to me—had a wry sort of expression on her face.

“Pah—modern women,” she scorned, “We gave you freedom of thought and this is how you repay us.”

I thought I’d better keep polite as she seems to think she’s important. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I was unaware you’d given me anything.”

“Unaware—that’s an understatement of epic proportion—I shall however explain a little of the gifts we have endowed upon you. The healing, which you complain about all the time, has if you recall saved at least four members of your family—still, we can always take it away and let them die next time.”

I felt a little worried, if she was the one who did that—then if I piss her off—she might just put the others in jeopardy just to put me in my place while I watch helplessly as they suffer. No, I’d better keep on her good side—just in case, whoever she is.

“You said, gifts, ma’am…”

“Yes what of it?”

“The healing I was aware of, what else have you given me?”

Her expression was one of anger and I began to wonder if I might disappear in a puff of smoke. However, a moment later it changed and she looked at me calmly. “What have we not given you? The gift of beautiful countenance—although you have always railed against it—you have a beauty which men find attractive—some even to the point of loving you—which shows their stupidity.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, that I appear ungrateful, but I was under the impression I’d been born a man and had changed things myself.”

She laughed at me, “Born a man—don’t be ridiculous—however, to punish you for old sins, we decided to give you a sense of never feeling complete or entirely adequate—what better way than to make you into a male in one aspect but female in every other.”

“You mean you made me transsexual?”

“If that is how you cope with it—you were of female mind with male organs,” she laughed cruelly at me. Psychotic or what? “It will hopefully teach your soul a lesson.”

Definitely psychotic whatever she was. “Ma’am, I have no recollection of those old sins?” I was trying to work out what I got wrong before.

“You need none to work this life out—I should concentrate on what you’ve done to offend us in this life—for which you will be punished.”

“I am sorry if I have offended you and ask for forgiveness.”

“You foolish child—it is not we who punish you—you punish yourself—for it is written so. It was your soul which made you a chimera—a mixture of two spirits, which asked our indulgence to heal past injuries.”

Now I was completely lost.

“Amongst our indulgence was the ability to heal those who need such help, most of whom you will recognise but not always. The healing will take the form of love—not of the wishy-washy human form, but of the highest—the love of the gods themselves. Each time you impart some of this divine favour upon a fellow suffering soul—you will heal a small part of your own fractured soul—unless you try to impose your will upon the fates and preserve one whose soul should not receive it.”

Had I done so? Then I realised I had several times—my children and occasionally someone else—especially children. In which case, I have to accept the consequences of my actions. “Madam, I will not regret those times when I have acted out of love and I accept the consequences they bring. In giving me a female heart in this body, in granting me the gift of motherhood by proxy, I will risk everything I have to protect those I love and am charged by natural law to do so.”

“Your courage is nearly as great as your impudence—but it amuses us as we can see how such twisted loyalties occur. Very well, your impudence to challenge us will be overlooked this time but do not make a habit of it.”

“Thank you, milady, being in human form, I am bound to show a mother’s protective instincts towards her offspring and those she takes on as such. Natural law means I am bound to this fact as long as I am bound to this body.”

“Such arrogance could mean a separation from that body earlier than you might have thought.”

“It isn’t arrogance, milady, it’s what human love is about—to take risks at times and view those one loves as worthy of whatever sacrifice is required.”

“You deign to suggest we are not aware of this sentimentalism that humans call love?”

“Madam, it might seem sentimentalism and weakness to you—but it is the highest form of devotion and altruism we humans are capable of expressing—it’s what lifts us above other species and up towards the divine itself.”

“What about devotion to us—is that not of the highest form—not the sentimentalism to which you aspire?”

“Milady, in loving my children and others, am I not showing my devotion to you and the gifts you bestowed upon me?” I tried some lateral thinking.

“We are not convinced but will allow you to have time to consider your position.”

“Thank you, milady, before you discharge me, might I ask you explain what other gifts you bestowed upon me?” Might I work out what this is all about if she tells me?

“The ability to succour your children including infants…” So that’s how I came to feed baby Catherine.

“…the ability to understand the thoughts of those you heal, and to see their future or possible future, where you might advise them but not control them. They have free will too, and the right to destroy themselves as they wish.”

“Why was I not aware of any of this myself—until my daughter showed me?” Trish had shown me her ability to see the blue light—everyone else could see it but me.

“You tried to ignore or reject our gifts; it was therefore decided to make you ignorant until someone you trusted could show you the error of your ways. Arrogance does not become you, my daughter.”

“I am once again penitent before you and crave your forgiveness.”

“It is not our place to forgive—you will do that to yourself or not as the case might be. Return to your world and do our bidding.”

I looked at the clock: it was nearly two, pitch dark and I felt cold. I snuggled against Simon who stirred a little then went back to pretending he was racing motorbikes round Silverstone—somehow his snoring reassured me unlike the dream I’d had.

I didn’t remember eating any cheese before I came to bed but that was one well weird dream. I don’t know where this character comes from—my unconscious I suppose—but whatever I do seems to piss her off.

I heard Catherine whimpering and went to see what was wrong with her. She was bathed in a blue light and the whimper became a cooing. I stood transfixed as the light seemed to transport her from her cot into my arms. I held on to her tightly and she snuggled against my breast and tried to feed through my pyjama top. I lifted it up and she locked on to my nipple and began to suck.

For a moment I thought I recalled something from my dream and I sat in her room and let her feed. I must have picked her up while half-asleep—babies don’t just fly through the air—I must be more tired than I thought.

As she suckled at my breast I felt a sense of love as strongly as I’d ever felt it—as if loving this little baggage and sharing my love with her—brought me love as well, and from somewhere beyond us. Whoa, I’m getting all silly—there is nothing beyond us and this moment—nothing at all.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1377

Despite my dream and subsequent nocturnal emission—breastfeeding—what did you think I meant?—I woke feeling as rested as I had for some time. I turned over to see what time it was and saw a face staring at me, I gasped and jumped.

It was only Trish who also jumped. I sat up in bed and laughed and she chuckled too. “Come and have a cuddle for two minutes, then we have to get up.”

She didn’t need much bidding and in half a second she was in the bed with me spooned around her little body. She isn’t very big for her age and I suspect she may stay small partly because she’s agonadal and her body was designed to react to male hormones not female ones. It might prove to her advantage in the end as small girls don’t attract as much attention as tall ones, but she’s going to be quite pretty anyway.

“What made you come into bed with me?”

“I remembered how we used to do it, so I thought I’d come again.”

“Is that the only reason?”

“Um—” That she hesitated made me think it wasn’t.

“C’mon, you can’t fib to me—I’m your mother.”

“Um—I had a funny dream.”

“Tell me about it,” I encouraged.

“You were in it…”

“Was I? Is that what made it funny?”

“No, it was the other woman.”

“What woman was this?”

“I don’t know, she seemed to change all the time—she’d be young and then old, she’d be beautiful and then old and ugly…it was really odd.”

“You said I was in it?”

“Yes you were arguing with the odd woman and she kept telling you off.”

“Was either of us surrounded in light?”

“Um—you were surrounded in white light and she was in blue. How did you know, Mummy?”

“I—uh—didn’t know, it was a guess.”

“It felt so real, an’ at one point I felt quite scared of her—as if she was going to try and take me away from you.”

“Not while I’m there, sweetheart.”

“I felt you were arguing for me—an’ I felt a bit better then, but I was scared to go back to sleep in case she got me.”

“Hey, don’t cry—no one’s going to hurt you while I’m around.”

“It was still scary, Mummy.”

“Scary Mummy,” mumbled Simon, “She scares the pants off me.”

“Silly Daddy,” said Trish—we were at least agreed on one thing.

“Who was she, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“But you were calling her by some name.”

“But that was in a dream, darling—I wasn’t there, you just imagined I was.” I was telling lies like they were second nature, but anything else would be even more confusing.

“You called her, Shekah or something.”

“How do you know?”

“I just thought myself back into my dream.”

“Shekinah, perhaps?”

“Yes, that was it, Sheknah.”

“No, darling, Shekinah.”

“Who is she?”

“In Hebrew mythology, the female face of God—in other words the essence of the female spirit.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not entirely sure, sweetheart, except part of me seems to think she’s the originator of the blue light—except I don’t believe in gods and goddesses—they disappeared when science began to stop believing in magic and became rationally based.” I realised I just talked over her head.

“Does that mean she gives you the blue light?”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

“So she’s a nice lady really?”

I agreed even if I wasn’t at all sure about it all—she hadn’t been especially nice to me—well okay, I looked naturally female and I was able to breastfeed.

“That’s okay then, if she comes in my dreams again, I know she’s okay an’ I won’t be scared. I’ll be like you.”

I wasn’t sure if that was an entirely good idea, but I couldn’t say anything could I? Why had she chosen me—I’m not Jewish, as far as I know? And besides, I always seem to be in hot water and she spends half her time telling me off or threatening to terminate one or other of my children.

I remember originally she told me that the essence of female was strong in me—then she gave me a right earful. More or less the same last night—which makes me feel it’s just my unconscious trying to reassure me that I imagined it all—justifying what I’ve done to my body and so on and possibly even trying to boost my low self esteem as a female.

“Look, Mummy, she’s here again—only I don’t feel scared any more—hello, Mrs Sheknah.”

I looked at where she was pointing and to my horror I saw the woman again—what did she want now?

Simon turned over and muttered, “What woman? You’re both imagining things.”

“Fear not, your husband cannot see me—only female spirits can hear or see me.”

I felt like asking, ‘What d’ya want?’

Her response came into my mind as if she’d read mine and replied in similar fashion. Then I could hear Trish’s thought. ‘Why did you want to take me away from my mummy?’

‘I thought you might want to come with me.’

‘You were going to hurt me—so I didn’t want come with you—I wanted to stay with my mummy, she’s a nice lady.’

‘Very well, Patricia, I promise I will not try to take you away again until it is your time.’

‘Does that mean I can have periods?’

‘No it means when you are old and ready to join me.’

‘You mean, like when I die?’

‘Yes—but it’s a long way away.’

‘Is it for my Mummy, too—a long way away?’

‘Long enough.’

She smiled at us and faded from view.

The alarm on the clock went off and Messrs Naughty and Humphrys were disturbing our peace.

Trish and I went to the bathroom together and got in the shower. “Did we really see that, Mummy—the strange woman—I mean?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart. There is such a thing as mass hallucination—where people think they’ve seen something.”

“Masaluciation?” she repeated wrongly.

“Never mind, just enjoy the warm water and know you’re alive.”

After drying myself and Trish, I roused the others and got them up for breakfast. Later on I took them to school and on to the hall for rehearsals—I wished now I hadn’t been suckered into this—mind you I suspect Matt feels the same—he was like a bear with a sore wotsit. He even reduced me to tears at one point shouting at me—the director bawled him out and he went off on a huge sulk.

The truth is, stage acting is different to appearing in films, there the editors can do something to alter your performance—on stage, you only have yourself and your fellow cast members—it’s kinda scary—especially when the cast is Matt or a bunch of school kids.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1378

The next day, we read through the play with some movements and scenery. Matthew is absolutely useless. They have different coloured tapes on the floor, and the guy who plays Macduff is great—he’s a local rep player as are a few more of the main parts—Banquo for instance. Be difficult for a sixteen-year-old girl to pretend to be a battle-hardened warrior, even with some muck on her face.

At lunchtime, Matthew disappeared, Gordon announced he had a migraine—I thought you needed a brain first? So many film actors started their careers on the stage, learning the business from the bottom up—then go on to make their fortunes in film or West End productions, sometimes even get to Broad Street.

So suddenly, we have his understudy—a sixteen year old girl called Heidi Hurplestrumpf—I know, I don’t believe it either. However, she was the same size as I which is smaller than all the men—didn’t know Macb was a pygmy did you. She is also as blonde as they come—naturally blonde with practically no eyebrows, they’re so fair—mine don’t show much unless I use makeup, but hers were invisible except when very close to—oh and she had the bluest eyes I think I’ve ever seen—like reflections of the sky. She was very pretty and skinny as a rake except for her breasts—they were large by comparison and it’s very difficult trying to call someone, ‘my lord’, when their chest comes to you several seconds before the rest of their body.

But like a true amateur, I soldiered on—nah, that’s Macb and Banquo—at least until he has him murdered—me I’m the power behind the throne—Lady Machiavelli at your service.

We got the moves for the first two acts sorted and some of the scenery and props were used. They’d be transferred to the school’s hall a couple of days before we started, and that would include having the stage marked up and so on. It was all getting very stressful.

Finally, the next day we got a message that Matthew had glandular fever—good old Barr-Epstein—and would be withdrawing from the event, he was very sorry and all that… He was probably the only one—although we couldn’t work with a schoolgirl playing the chief villain when all the main cast were adults. It looked as if the curse of the Scottish play had struck again.

We carried on until lunchtime when some were in favour of calling the whole thing off, without mention of potatoes or tomatoes. Then as I was finishing my lunch and wrestling with the Guardian crossword, I was aware of someone’s shadow over my newspaper.

I looked up and standing in front of me was Iain McPherson—wow—think Colin Firth with a Scots accent. “Is this the rehearsal room?” he asked in a very slight brogue.

“It is, can I help?” I stood up—now this guy could act Matthew Hines off any screen or stage.

“I’m looking for Gordon Rashley.”

I’ll come and help you, let’s start in my bedroom—“He popped out for a moment—shouldn’t be long.”

“Aye, okay—I’ll wait.”

“Would you like a cuppa?” I pointed to our meagre canteen facilities.

“Aye, that would be nice.” As soon as he spoke my tummy did somersaults and I floated to the kettle and boiled it—two minutes later I had two mugs of tea and he was adding to my solutions of the crossword.

“I just love crosswords,” he said slightly burring his Rs—no listen carefully, I roll mine, he’s a bloke—oh forget it.

“I like Araucaria puzzles,” I said which given that the compiler was Enigmatist didn’t mean very much at all.

“Aye, he’s very guid, he’s an elderly clergyman.”

“Yes, I know—they did a feature on him on his eightieth birthday.”

“Och, course they did—I remember now.”

“Iain, you old devil, good to see you,” Gordon called as he entered the hall.

“Aye, you said to be here at two—I wis, whaur were you?”

“Ah dear boy, hush hush stuff—have you read the part?”

“Read it, I’ve played it twice and Macduff once, I think I know it reasonably well—who’s ma leading lady?”

“You’ve been talking with her, a real lady, might I introduce, Lady Catherine Cameron, Iain McPherson.”

“I’m sorry, Lady Catherine, I had no idea—I’ve not worked with you before have I? No, I’d ha’ remembered.”

“You wouldn’t have worked with me unless you did university teaching.”

“Ye’re a teacher?” he looked perplexed. “Gordon, ye telt me this wis mainly pro actors wi’ some school kids helping the secondary parts.”

“I think you’ll find that Lady C makes a good Lady M.”

“I hope so, I didn’t realise I wis riskin’ ma career for t’ do ye a favour.”

“The risk is small, I assure you. Okay everyone, can we start another read through—this is Iain McPherson who’s taking over from Matthew.”

Iain waved to acknowledge the applause—I wasn’t quite so pleased with him though, he had an ego bigger than mine. Oh well, on with the show.

Two hours later and I was exhausted—Iain was wonderful and he was full of apologies for me—he realised I’d overheard his grumbles. He was happy with my Hieland/Lallans mixture and his own accent grew a little in response.

“Ye must let me tak’ ye tae dinner tae mak’ up f’ ma rudeness earlier.”

“I can’t, Iain, I’ve got children to sort out—but I’d be delighted for you to come round to my house—mind you I’ve been out since breakfast, so you’ll have to take us as you find us.”

“I can’t put ye through all that, ye need tae be wi’ yer family an’ yer bairns.”

“I insist, besides Simon, my husband, is a fan of yours—he loved your part in Richard III, and The Merchant.”

“God, that wis three or four years ago.”

“He’s also seen one or two of your films—Ivanhoe was brilliant, and so was that thriller you did with Helen Mirren.”

“Och she’s wonderfu’, the complete actress—though, ye’re nae bad yersel’,” he said winking at me.

“Gosh, look at the time—I’ve got to dash, eight o’clock then?”

“Aye, if ye’re sure.”

“I absolutely insist, besides when my eldest daughter hears you’re coming she’ll probably cancel her plans for the next fortnight.”

He laughed, “Ye canna be auld enough tae hae a dochter mair than seven or eight.”

“She’s seventeen, and very beautiful.”

“She taks after her mither.”

I blushed and dashed off home, stopping at the supermarket to grab a chicken and some cream. Then it was home, change and cut up the chook and whack it in the oven with a few herbs and spices for a coq au vin—okay, hardly original but it’s fairly quick—or my version is.

The younger children were fed and watered and told they would be going to bed early as we had a guest, whom they could meet but then they had to disappear. I let them have extra chocolate ice cream as bribery to comply—the alternative was to lock them in the cellar—nah, they’d probably drink all Tom’s wine.

“Don’t leave your coat there, sweetheart, hang it up please.” I gently chivvied Julie when she came in.

“What’s for tea—I’m starvin’?”

“Iain McPherson,” I said smugly.

“What we gettin’ a leg each?”

“I wish,” I sighed.

“C’mon, Mummy, I gotta be out at eight.”

“You don’t want to meet him, then?”

“Meet who?”

“Iain McPherson.”

“’Course I do, but stop teasin’ me.”

“He is coming to dinner—Matthew’s dropped out, he’s taken over as Macbeth.”

“You what? A Hollywood superstar is comin’ to dinner an’ you didn’t warn me?”

“I only found out myself at six o’clock—so are you stopping or going out?”

“Go out? Bugger that—what shall I wear?” She started walking round in circles.

“Smart casual—you’re not trying to impress—he’s ten or fifteen years older than you.”

“Yeah, so?—Oh he prefers older women, does he?” She poked out her tongue and ran upstairs before I swipe her one.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1379

Once the food was organised, I ran upstairs to change—I’d worn a skirt to rehearsals because I’d be wearing one during the play, however, I wanted to wear something different to dinner and opted for some smart slacks with short sleeved top both in black—they make you look thinner. The top had some lace around a deep vee neck—if you’ve got it flaunt it.

Simon came in and said, “You look nice tonight, Babes, any reason why?”

“Just to be attractive to my hardworking husband, oh and Iain McPherson.”

“We gonna watch a film after then?”

“I hadn’t thought to, why?”

“Well he’s a film actor, isn’t he?”

“He’s also a Shakespearean actor of some renown.”

“I know, I’ve seen him on stage—but I thought he did the same as Tony Hopkins and all the others do and push off to Hollywood.”

“Chasing the money?” I suggested.

“Yeah.”

“A bit like bankers?”

“Yeah—I s’pose—hey, you wotchit.”

I sniggered at Simon, I catch him every time.

“This all right, Mummy?” asked Julie wearing a top which had less material than a handkerchief.

Before I could say anything, Simon launched forth, “You’re not going out like that, my girl.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So, why are both of you dressed up like floozies?”

I burst out laughing but Julie got quite angry—“I can wear what I like in my own home, can’t I? Seeing you sitting about in a pair of shorts with your belly hanging over the top is far worse than me showing my assets. Bloody caveman.”

Not the best way to deal with Simon, so before he exploded I sent her up to put on a longer skirt and steered him to the dining room to select some wine to go with dinner.

“What the hell is going on? You’re both acting like there’s something special happening.”

“We’re having a dinner party.”

“Gee. Thanks for the advance notice.”

“I only decided at six o’clock.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s when I invited our guest.”

“Guest, what guest?”

“Iain McPherson, how many times have I got to tell you, now go and change into something casual but tidy.”

“I’ll bet Tom’s not changed.”

“In which case he’ll get no dinner.”

“Is this all richt, Cathy?” asked Tom looking tidier than when he went to work this morning.

“Fine, Daddy.”

“Go on—hurry up,” I pushed Si towards the staircase.

“I don’t believe it,” he said sounding like Victor Meldrew, but he ascended the stairs. Moments later, Julie appeared wearing a different skirt but it was the same length; I glowered at her but did nothing else. She poked her tongue at me.

“That’s most unbecoming in a young lady,” scolded Tom and she blushed.

“Sorry, Gramps, do I look all right?”

She did a twirl and he held her at arm’s length and said, “Ye look, braw, lassie.” She gave him a hug and pecked him on the cheek.

“You wouldn’t mind reading the girls a story, would you, Daddy?”

“Aye, all richt,” he went up the stairs, still quite sprightly for an older man.

Jenny came down, also wearing a plunge top and short skirt, I hope she realises we’ve got soup for starters.

At five minutes to eight, the door bell rang and I let Simon answer the door. I listened to voices in the hallway then chuckles. “Cathy, there’s a copper—sorry—a police officer here, something about you speeding?”

“I haven’t been speeding,” I protested, well no more than usual, and walked out to the hallway. Standing there was Iain and Si, both laughing like schoolboys, but Iain was holding a bottle of wine and bouquet of flowers.

“Any more from you, husband, and I’ll send you to sit on the naughty boy’s step. Hello Iain, you found us all right, then?”

“I take it that’s a rhetorical question, or I’m some sort of hologram.”

“You look pretty solid to me,” said Simon clapping him on the shoulder, “Come on in and meet the rest of the family.”

“Oh wow,” said Julie as she was introduced.

“You don’t look old enough to have such a beautiful and grown up daughter,” said Iain turning on the charm.

“Oh she’s my adopted mum, she’s only a few years older really, so ignore the grey hairs and bags under her eyes.”

“If I have grey hairs and bags under my eyes it’s worrying about you, missy, that’s caused them.”

“Ladies, please, there’s enough of me to go round and I’m happily married—I hope, this time—I’ll have you know.”

“This is Jenny, my nursery nurse and housekeeper.”

“I can’t believe I’m meeting you in person, oh my God,” she rushed off to the loo and I thought I heard sounds of retching.

Finally, Tom appeared, “Thae lassies ’re lyin’ doon noo.”

“Iain, this is my adopted Daddy, Professor Tom Agnew—he’s also my boss, so be careful what you say to him.”

They immediately lapsed into broad Scots shaking each other’s arm off and chattering away like a bubbling cauldron. I went to sort the soup, calling Julie and Jenny to help.

“Oh, Cathy, these’re fa ye,” called Iain and I went back to accept them.

“Thank you, kind sir,” and I pecked him on the cheek. I took them out to the kitchen and plonked them in some water—they’d have to wait, Trish could do them tomorrow, she likes flower arranging.

The three waitresses arrived carrying two soup dishes and laid them on the table, we sat where we usually do and that meant Julie was next to Iain on one side and Tom was on the other.

The meal was a success insofar as everyone enjoyed it, but Iain and Tom blethered practically the whole time—they came from the same area of Scotland and both had gone to Edinburgh University—Iain read philosophy and political science. Somehow I felt very ignorant. I watched Simon muscle in on the conversation and even he developed a slight Scottish accent—or revived his own one. I’d never heard him talking like that before.

Julie tried several times to interrupt or join, and while they were polite, they ignored her. I cleared the table and Jenny, who’d given up trying to get attention, helped me carry the dirty dishes out to the dishwasher.

“My one chance to meet a dreamboat like him and he’d rather talk about football or rugby—are they all like that?”

“My experience is limited, but it’s one hundred per cent like that, I’m afraid.”

“Gee whiz, what a waste.”

She looked at me and we both started to laugh. At this point, Julie arrived and I set her to making the coffee.

“Ha,” she said loudly, “if I went in there naked they wouldn’t bloody notice—bloody football.”

“I think they might all notice one little thing—and it would spoil the illusion,” I suggested not thinking for one minute that she’d actually do it, but just in case—she can be a bit unpredictable and I never offer a dare—she’d do it.

Jenny looked puzzled for a moment, then smirked, “Oh that, I forgot you weren’t a native female—you certainly look the part now, me girl.”

We took the coffee through to the dining room where it seemed much quieter—the reason became obvious, there standing before the table was Trish in her Hello Kitty pyjamas. She was talking philosophy with Iain.

“And why are you down here, young lady?” I asked pretending to be a stern mother.

“I was discussing Aristotle with Iain, why? Oh yes, Catherine is cryin’, thought you oughta know.”

“She may want a feed, Cathy,” suggested Jenny, “Shall I go and get her?”

“Better had,” I picked up my coffee and turned to go to the kitchen, “You, missy, bed in two minutes or else.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1380

“She wants a feed,” said Jenny bringing down the latest addition to the family.

“She’s beautiful, jes’ like her ma,” Iain pronounced, little knowing that if it was the case it would be by pure coincidence as I wasn’t her birth mother.

“She’s not mine, Iain, she was left to me as her guardian and I subsequently adopted her. Her mother unfortunately died as did her elder sister and father.

“Oh, I’m sorry—it’s just she looks like you.”

“It’s pure coincidence that we each have one head, two arms and two legs—so yes she looks like me, but then she also looks like you.”

He laughed and the wain began to pucker her lower lip and I had to speak to her and tickle her to cheer her up. “I’d better go and feed her.”

“If ye want tae dae it here, I’ve nae objections—in fact, I think it’s rather nice.”

“Okay then, c’mon little mother sucker,” Iain laughed again but this time Catherine’s attention was firmly fixed on my nipples and sucking them inside out.

Jenny made some tea at my request and I sat drinking it with Iain while the others had a glass of wine. Of course, the baby fell asleep at the breast as she tends to and when I woke her she gave a tremendous burp which I think probably originated somewhere down by her toenails and grew as it travelled up her legs and body. By the time it got to her mouth, Cambridge University probably picked it up on their seismometers.

It made everyone chuckle including the baby herself. She followed with a smaller encore then resumed chewing and sucking my boob—the sucking’s okay but the chewing—she has a few teeth—not so good. Yep, this baby sucks.

“How old is she?” asked Iain.

Simon looked aghast, he had no idea.

“She’ll be a year in August.” I put her down and she pulled herself into a standing position, then promptly sat down with a bump. I made a joke of it and she giggled, doing it again another twice before she crawled over to Iain and pulling herself up his leg said, “Dad a, da da.” He roared with laughter and she sat down and went to Simon who picked her up.

“Hoo many children hae ye got?”

“Including Stella’s daughter who’s staying with us for the moment, eight.”

“Is it?” sighed Simon, “I lost count a while ago.”

“Hey, I’m not really a child,” protested Julie.

“You are until you’re eighteen, kiddo,” I reminded her.

“Yeah, but I could join the army and die for my country.”

“I don’t know if they recruit hairdressers.”

“Are ye a hairdresser, then?” Iain turned his attention to Julie who flirted openly.

“Well, I’m still trainin’ but yeah, I am.”

“Can ye dae plaits an’ things?”

“Yeah, course.”

“I’ll need tae ask yer ma, but it would be useful to hae a hairdresser at thae rehearsals frae thae weekend.”

“We’re not working through the weekend, are we?” I was horrified.

“Aye—in the hall, sae the lightin’ guys can set things up.”

Typical, he’s been here five minutes and he already knows more about the set up than I do. It transpired that Saturday and Sunday were full dress rehearsals and the run for the play had been extended from Monday through to Friday. I was really beginning to think I should have said no at the outset—I can’t pull out now, it’s too late—oh pooh.

I was daydreaming and when I came back to the conversation; Simon, Tom and Iain were discussing costumes and battle dress in particular. Then they got on to armour and things like the collection in the Tower of London—it is impressive, especially Henry VIII’s stuff.

“Yeah. But they were smaller in those days, mostly anyway,” suggested Simon.

“They weren’t ten thousand years ago.”

“What weren’t?”

“People, there was a thing on the BBC that we got smaller since we started farming ten thousand years ago—something to do with restricted diet—lack of niacin or something.”

“Are you trying to tell me that my ancestors were bigger than I am?” asked Simon.

“I’m only repeating what I heard on the radio—they were taller, more muscular and had bigger brains.”

“So, you’re implying that not only are we more feeble, we’re more feeble-minded, too?”

“No, because they suggested that with evolution, our brains didn’t need to be so big, rather like computers have become smaller but equally if not more powerful.”

“Oh yeah, so you reckon a caveman could cope with consolidating investment accounts and predicting which commodities would rise?”

“No more so than you could track herds or caribou and kill and skin them.”

“I reckon I could—I shot a deer once—they were culling some for herd management, and the ghillie and I butchered it and skinned it—Dad used to have it up at the castle, dunno what’s happened to it since.”

“Jings, thae biggest thin’ I ever shot wis a pigeon that wis eatin’ ma peas.”

“Whit aboot ye, Cathy, hae ye shot anythin’?”

“I don’t like guns.” I distracted them—I’d actually shot men dead with a gun and a bow and arrow. The latter, Simon was relating.

“…she’s a dab hand with a bow an’ arrow, shot a couple a guys who were trying to break in—they had guns too.”

“Guid grief, ye didnae, did ye?”

“Can we talk about something else?” I sniffed the baby, “I think, I’ll go and change her.”

“See if you can get a bottle of claret for her,” called Simon. I ignored him, my response—he would not have enjoyed. I thought about her parents and that day at Maria’s house with Trish when we found her. That was truly awful. Then I thought about the number of people I’d harmed because they were threatening me or worse, trying to hurt me or mine. I shuddered—what life demands of us sometimes.

I changed her and she barely stirred, however the fact that she was mobile meant going back to using the gates at the top and bottom of the stairs—mind you, perhaps we should have for Puddin’ anyway, except that little minx has worked out either how to open them or get round them. I can see we’ll have to watch her.

After depositing her back to her cot and checking on Puddin’, who was fast asleep, as were the other girls, I saw Danny’s light was still on—he was reading. I poked my head round his door—“Okay, kiddo?”

“Yeah, s’pose I’d better put the light off, hadn’t I?”

“How long till the end of the chapter?”

He scrambled to turn over pages. “Two more.”

“Okay, finish the chapter and then bed.” I bent down and pecked him on the cheek and much to my surprise he gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek. He isn’t very demonstrative, so this was a real bonus. I blushed and ruffled his hair, “Goodnight, sweetheart.”

“Night, Mum,” he called back.

I wandered back downstairs and by now Julie and Jenny had elbowed their way into the conversation, I slipped into the kitchen and sat down with a glass of water and closed my eyes—I felt exhausted.

So, we had a leading A-list celebrity in the dining room laughing and joking with my family—and he’s as nice as his publicity claims he is—but, tonight I can top that, I had a kiss from a young man who’s very shy behind all the bravado—and that was worth a thousand celebrities. I felt a warm glow enfold me and I think I might even have nodded off to sleep because Simon called me to see Iain off. He gave me a kiss too, as he left and thanked me for my hospitality. I blushed. Julie and Jenny got a kiss too—but none were as special as that unexpected one I got earlier—that was very special.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1381

“What are you looking so smug about?” Simon asked as I came out of the bathroom and donned my nightdress.

“Nothing, why?”

“I suppose it’s having Iain here, is it?”

“Iain? Oh, McPherson—no—I’ll be seeing him every day for the next week or so—by that time I’ll probably be sick of the sight of him—he certainly will of me.”

“Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.”

“Look, it’s nothing, okay—just a conversation I had with Danny—it’s nothing.”

“C’mon, spill the beans, Watts—tell Uncle Simon—I am his adopted father.”

I got into bed and said, “It really is nothing.”

“So, most of your conversation are but it doesn’t usually stop you telling me things.”

“You cheeky sod, just because I don’t spend all day shafting the public to pay my obscene bonuses, it doesn’t mean I’m a nothing.”

“I was joking, all right—sorry—I didn’t mean it, really I didn’t.”

“Danny gave me a hug and kiss when I wished him goodnight—that’s all.” I turned over and faced away from Simon. He put his arm round me but I didn’t acknowledge it.

Danny did?”

“Yes, Danny.”

“Okay—I can see why you were pleased with yourself. What brought that on?”

“I didn’t stop to ask—it would have spoilt the moment.”

“Probably for the better.” He fell silent for a while. “Be interesting to see if he does it again.”

“Maybe.”

“What d’you mean?”

“It would depend upon the circumstances—tonight he was winding down ready to sleep—it might be weeks or months before I see him like that again.”

“You could always go and tuck him in.”

“That would be contriving things then, this was spontaneous. I’d rather wait a couple of years for another like tonight than manipulate him into doing it every night because it was expected.”

“Yeah, okay—you’ve made your point.”

“Of all the kids, except Julie, I see least of him because he does a lot of his stuff out of the house—I don’t know his friends or what he gets up to—other than so far no one has reported him to us or the school for anything. He doesn’t confide in me—well not much anyway—he has a good relationship with Tom—he loves the garden and seems to enjoy his time with Tom: but he doesn’t spend much time with me.”

“Because you’re his mother and he’s a boy—a normal boy, not a mummy’s boy—so I wouldn’t expect him to say much to you unless he had to.”

“I admit I find it difficult to get along with boys—too many negatives from my past, I suppose.”

“They’d pull your pigtails, would they?”

“Sure—actually—I had my ponytail pulled a few times.”

“Oh yes, you had very long hair didn’t you?”

“For a supposed boy child, yes.”

“I think we can ignore that classification—don’t you?—not many boys I know have some of these,” he began stroking my breast.

I woke up a little tender—just as well I wasn’t cycling anywhere today. I showered and got the girls up and called Danny and Julie. She came down clutching her head—I didn’t ask her to have more wine. In fact, if I’d been there I might well have stopped her. One day she’ll learn—having said that loads of twenty-somethings tend to suggest I could be wrong.

I sorted the younger children while Julie just had coffee and some paracetamol. The kids all thought it was hilarious and Jenny wasn’t very sympathetic either—poor Julie. She did go into work although she would be asking for Saturday off to help with the hairdressing at the play—we got her a pair of tickets for her boss to soften the blow.

At the rehearsals I felt like the amateur I was. Iain was so dashing as Macbeth—the thane of Cawdor, whose ambitious wife brought a good man down. At least in the Shakespearean version, which we now know was very wrong. But even in his day, Shakespeare’s that is, the corridors of power were filled with ruthless types who’d have murdered their grannies for a shot at the throne—and it’s hardly better now, and probably never will be. Humans are not nice creatures—big brains, bigger egos and decreasing consciences means there’s always someone who’s prepared to risk all for a big enough prize—just look at the international football organisation—about as straight as a wiggly line.

Anyway, Iain was so good, once or twice I just stood there watching him, in awe. Then, a funny thing happened—I became Lady M—no, not literally, but suddenly, instead of being on the outside looking in watching them all acting so well, I joined them. A similar thing happened in school—except I was so frightened there for different reasons—here it was because I didn’t want to be the weak link in the chain.

I jumped in with both feet, feeling a sense of confidence because I knew they’d help me—they were professionals—I was at best an entertaining educator—these guys were real actors. It was so different to Matthew’s efforts, but they were so supportive of the girls who had relatively minor roles and me.

At first I suspected some degree of hostility and I suspect there was a little resentment—who was I? Some local nob’s wife, film maker and teacher—hardly qualifications for getting probably the best women’s part in all of Shakespeare and to act opposite a giant of the theatre—up there with Brannagh and Patrick Stewart. So what the hell was I doing there? Then it all clicked and when we ended the second act, Iain came over to me and said, “Weel done, Cathy, ye’re getting there—dinna worry aboot thae rest o’ ’em, they eat and shit, just like ye dae.”

I got better, I think, yet it all got harder—I found it drained me emotionally all the conspiratorial angst which drives my character to regret, madness and finally—suicide—albeit off stage.

At five o’clock, Gordon came up to me and told me that I was one of the best Lady Macbeths he’d ever directed. I nearly threw up, I was so gobsmacked. What I didn’t realise was there were four little faces watching me rehearse, and they’d been sat quietly with Sister Maria, who admitted afterwards she was drawn by the opportunity to watch some real actors at work. Personally, I suspect she was just as much in love with Iain as all the other women.

Iain spotted Trish and pointed to her then waved her over to us, she was followed by her sisters. “Hello again, young lady, who are all these?”

“My sisters, Billie, Livvie and Mima.”

He spoke to each one of them and took their hand and kissed it which resulted in lots of blushes and embarrassed giggles. I called over Sister Maria, whom I introduced to Iain and she got her hand kissed as well. That nearly had her exploding with embarrassment and the girls wetting themselves with laughter.

“This is the lady to whom all this is due,” I said once things returned to normal, “She’s the one who’s cajoled and threatened to get this thing off the ground, and it’s her fault you’re saddled with an amateur like me.”

“A very gifted an’ beautiful amateur—if Macbeth’s missus wis half as beautiful as ye, he’d hae killed half o’ Scotland f’ a smile frae ye.”

“No, my mummy wouldn’t let anyone be killed—she’d make them better, wouldn’t you, Mummy?” Trish interrupted and her sisters agreed noisily.

“I was fwightened, Mummy,” said Mima, holding on to my long dress.

“It’s all right, Meems, it’s only pretend—no one gets hurt and we all enjoy what we’re doing.”

“I don’t wike it.”

“Okay, sweetheart, I’ll get changed and we’ll go home.”

“D’ya think his character demonstrates the baser man that Plato wrote about?” Trish asked Iain loudly and he looked at me and winked, I shook my head, she was something else, that girl.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1382

“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?” I asked Jenny.

“Yeah, course I am, the girls an’ Danny’ll help me sort out the littlies.”

“Okay,” I turned to leave with Julie who had managed to persuade me to let her dye my hair auburn and add two extensions to the plaits she’d given me. It looked as if I had hair right down to my bum—which is much longer than the just below shoulder length it is naturally. “You’ve got my mobile number, if you need me.”

“I won’t, Tom and Simon are about somewhere—we’ll manage between us.”

“Well don’t let them get away with doing nothing, because they will if they can.”

“Don’t worry—now go; you’ll be late.”

We waved and drove off towards the school hall—this was the full dress rehearsal, today and tomorrow plus checking the lighting and acoustics. I’ve spoken in the hall before but that was with a microphone—now we’d just have to project—okay, I’m a teacher, so I can project my voice, but in a soft Scottish accent—I suppose I’ll just have to see.

Jenny wanted to see the play, and we’d got her tickets for Friday night—it had been extended to Saturday because of demand—it was pretty well a sell out when they heard Matt was doing it, since they heard Iain was replacing him, we even had several serious critics demanding tickets as well as the clamour of new customers.

Julie and I arrived at the school having hardly swapped a word, she was worrying about her limited hairdressing skills and I was worrying about everything, not least fluffing my lines or generally screwing up. I know professionals do, so what chance an amateur like me? We entered the hall and I needed to rush to the loo—although I’d only had a slice of toast and a cuppa.

“Okay?” Iain met me returning from the loo.

“Yeah, just a bit of nerves.”

“Look, young lady, I’ve heard increasingly about your exploits—you’re a regular wonder woman—compared to what you’ve done, this should be a doddle. Remember it’s only a rehearsal—you’re allowed to make mistakes—and some more tomorrow—it’s not until Monday we go live.”

“Oh don’t remind me,” I shot back into the loos and this time ejected my breakfast. I tried to calm myself by remembering Yul Brynner was sick practically every time he appeared on stage—I’ll rephrase that—he was sick before he went on stage, not actually on stage—oh look out here I go again.

“Mummy, are you in there?” Julie was calling through the door, I was kneeling in front of the toilet pan having been calling huey for the last minute or two. My eyes were running and my mouth tasted foul.

“I’ll be out in a moment,” I said back, using some toilet paper to wipe my face. I stood on wobbly legs and managed to open the cubicle door.

“You all right?” she asked.

“I think so, why?”

“You look awful.”

“Thanks, you sure know how to make someone feel better,” I gently rebuffed her.

“Sorry, but you do—d’you want some water?”

“Please,” I took the bottle she offered me.

I took her arm and we walked out to the hall and sat quietly in the chairs of the front row. The day after tomorrow, these same chairs will be occupied by the bums of schoolgirls as they have assembly.

I gazed up on to the stage, the scenery was really clever and the lighting made it look quite realistic. We had a proper scenery painter with us and he was showing the girls who were helping him how to do it properly.

The blasted heath looked quite eerie and with the carbon dioxide machine it produced swirls of mist which twirled across the stage. The fire and cauldron of the witches looked quite menacing—although it was all electric flames flickering in small bulbs on the sides of the cauldron, with a red flickering one underneath.

The three girls who were the witches used latex masks which were truly horrible to look at and they all cackled like stereotypical witches.

“Feel better?” asked a male voice.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Good—it’s all part of the theatre experience—just think, on Monday you’ll be flying on the buzz you get from the live audience—real adrenalin trip.”

“Thanks, Gordon, that’s just what I needed to hear.”

He laughed, “You’ll be okay—just remember what it was like that day when it all clicked into place—remember how powerful you felt—wowing an audience? That’s what it’s all about—never mind the high art, leave that to critics—just land the thing and walk away safely—that’s all you have to do.”

I liked his landing an aircraft analogy, yes, I’d walk away from this head held high and probably fall over the first thing I encountered because I didn’t see it.

“Right, people,” called Gordon, “We start in three minutes, cast on stage or the wings, stage crew, lighting to your positions if you please.”

“C’mon, Mummy, break a leg,” Julie helped me up.

“I feel as if I’ve broken them already as well as swallowed cyanide.”

“C’mon, drama queen,” she teased.

“Hark who’s talking,” I riposted.

In the wings, or actually, a small room behind the stage, my makeup was done by another professional and it was far thicker than anything I’d have done—I looked gross in the mirror, but I expected from the floor, I’d look as I was supposed to. Looking in the mirror, only a lack of false eyelashes prevented me looking like a drag queen—it was ’orrible.

Everything went quiet and we knew the rehearsal had begun.

Julie became my dresser as well as hairdresser; I had two changes, the normal robes of a twelfth century noblewoman and the nightclothes for the sleepwalking scene.

Somehow, we all got through it and felt emboldened by the experience—or at least I did, however, I was still very pleased to remove the costume and the stage makeup and get back into my normal clothing and persona.

“You did all right, darling,” said Gordon, winking at me, “a couple of things to work on, but we’ll do that tomorrow.”

I was exhausted and Julie looked quite tired too. “I think I’m looking forward to a nice soak in the bath with a glass of decent wine,” I suggested.

“Hmm, that sounds rather nice, Mummy, I might try it too—just make sure you don’t get your plaits wet.”

“Oh bugger, can’t you undo them?”

“Course—they looked really good and the others were muttering how authentic they made you look.”

“I hope that doesn’t mean I looked ancient?” I accused, pretending to be terribly hurt.

“No, of course not, Mummy, people thought you were my sister.”

“What you, Cinderella, me ugly sister?” I teased again.

“Don’t be silly,” she smirked, “You’re nearly as beautiful as me.”

“Ha, that’s some recommendation—talk about back handed compliment.”

Julie just sat there laughing.

“Self approbation is no recommendation.” I quoted one of my mother’s sayings.

“Huh, if you gorrit, flaunt it,” she said and laughed loudly again.

We got home and after making a fuss of everyone, I’d just run my bath and taken the wine up to drink while soaking and the phone rang. I sipped the wine and ignored the ringing.

I’d literally just sat in the warm water and swooshed it up over my shoulders before lying back in the bath, when the door was knocked. “Babes?”

“Oh, Si, I’m trying to have a quick bath—I told you.” I’d actually asked him to keep the children from disturbing me for half an hour—then I’d cook us all a decent meal.

“Yeah I know, Babes, but this is kind of important.”

I felt like screaming—what could be so important? I refrained, however, and he came in. “It’s Stella.”

“What about her?” I asked although I had a horrible feeling I knew the answer already.

“She’s gone into labour and she’s asking for you.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1383

At the instant that Simon told me Stella had gone into labour I wanted to rush to help her and simultaneously pretend I hadn’t heard anything, drink my wine and soak. Simon however, wasn’t going to let me adopt plan B.

“What’re you gonna do?”

Sit here and sulk? Sadly it didn’t seem to be an option. “Is there any problem anticipated?” I called back.

“I dunno do I? I leave that sort of thing to you women,” he replied in a typical male cop-out.

“I mean, does she actually need me there?”

“The woman who called is her midwife, she seemed to imply that it was a good idea.”

I could just slash my wrists I suppose—one day the Cameron clan will be able to stand on their own two feet—presumably after I’m gone—but for the moment, it seems I have to mother them all.

“Okay, give me ten minutes and I’ll get out.” The last thing I needed was to drive to the clinic—or would it be the local hospital? I’m quite tired and feel more like drinking the wine and falling asleep in the bath.

I slooshed the water over my body again, wiped myself all over—especially in those nooks and crannies that we women have—and taking the shower, rinsed myself off, taking care to keep my hair dry. I pulled the plug and drew the bath towel round me. One day I’ll do what I want instead of everyone else, however, I had a vague recollection of a promise to be with her when she birthed. I hoped Gareth would be there—had she sent for him?

I dried myself, dabbed on some cream in places where my skin rubs or gets dry, shook some talc under my boobs and in the creases of my hips and groin, deodorant, some clean knickers and a bra and I emerged from the bathroom deciding what to wear for the long drive to the clinic. It had turned cooler but the clinic or hospital would be warmer—possibly too warm. I pulled on a skirt and top with some casual shoes which I could wear all night if I had to. I pushed my arms into the short sleeves of the thin cardigan and after looking at the ridiculous length of the hair pieces—called Julie to come and detach them. She did so very reluctantly.

Of course the red hair made me look different, and I used some reddish lipstick—I looked even more different—slightly more sophisticated? I wasn’t sure, maybe it was just older. Great—just what I needed.

“D’you want me to come as well?” asked virtually everyone from Simon down. Trish asked, so did Julie and even Meems.

However, I decided to go on my own, I’d fill up the tank of my juggernaut and get off as fast as I could. I told Simon to look after the kids, I told the kids to look after Simon. I told Julie to help Jenny with the little ones, and asked Tom to keep an eye on all of them. Danny, I asked to cope with all the muddle: he winked at me and smiled.

I took a bag with me just in case I needed to stay somewhere overnight, a book to read—grabbed my phone, car keys and the sandwich I’d just made—then Danny carried my bag to the car for me.

“You don’t ’arf look different with red hair,” he observed placing the bag in the boot of the car.

“Is that better or worse?” I asked.

“Dunno—different—not like my mother. Yeah, quite fanciable, I s’pose.” I don’t know which of us blushed the deeper. Oh well, debating the pros and cons of my son’s Oedipus complex with myself should help the journey.

At least it was still light and I got onto the motorway and chugged towards the clinic. Because they do all sorts of treatment there, it isn’t just for wealthy depressives, the baby would be born there—unless there was need for ICU, in which case it’s an ambulance job to the nearest NHS hospital with a spare bed.

I listened to the radio in the car although much of it was autopilot as I mused about being fanciable to my son. It was a nice feeling but also disturbing because it reminded me that he was fast arriving at the age when he’d be out chasing girls and trying to get past first base. I could understand how his hormones could drive him but at the same time hoped he’d exercise restraint—there are enough gymslip mums and schoolboy dads about now without him adding to the statistics.

I also wondered about how soon we’d need to discuss sending Julie for assessment for surgery; then here was Livvie—she would soon be starting her monthly—which would require some help—from me, a woman who’s never had one—oh well, something new to try.

I wondered about Billie—how she was coping with her transition—it seems quite well, at least I don’t hear any negatives and I’m sure something would feed back to me via Trish, Livvie or Meems. Meems seems to be doing okay at school—she’s quite bright, too—or is it that I’m a bit dim and they all seem bright to me? Except poor Billie—if she stays with the role, one can only hope she finds someone who can encourage her to use her mind a bit more—I seem to have failed and I’m paying a fortune to a school who aren’t exactly achieving miracles either—I might have to turn the pressure up—I do them favours—how about some reciprocation?

Crikey, I was at the clinic already—I was fortunate that nothing had happened which required me to actually think about what I was doing rather than think about my family. I parked and went to reception.

I had to wait for several minutes for someone to answer the bell. It was now dark and a heavy drizzle was falling, the sort that sticks to your hair and clothes. Finally, some woman arrived and I had to explain who I was and why I was there. I’d speak to the manager later—sometimes having a title does help.

“We’re a bit short staffed this week,” she said, but all I was thinking was that it’s a failure of management to provide sufficient cover, especially for the rates Henry was paying. She led me to their maternity clinic and I waited while she went to find someone in charge.

“You must be Cathy?” asked a well-built thirty-something woman in a white tunic with coloured braid—light blue—around the cuffs and pockets.

“Yes.”

“Glad you could come, Stella’s through here.”

I followed my nameless guide into a private room where Stella was with another midwife who was urging her to take deep breaths and push. Stella looked totally fed up and quite tired.

“Hiya,” I said trying to sound bright and breezy even though I felt knackered myself.

“Not another frigging midwife,” I heard her mutter to herself.

“No, I’m your cheer squad.”

She looked over to me and squealed, “Cathy.”

“Crikey, you sound like Heathcliff on a bad day.” I walked over to her and we hugged as best we could.

I sat down and we held hands. “Everyone sends their love, especially Puddin’.” She squeezed my hand. “Where’s Gareth?”

“He’s had to go to a meeting, he’s hoping to get back as soon as he can. It’s good to see you—make it come, will you?”

“Make what come?” I acted stupid.

“The baby—I know it’s another girl—but make her come—please.”

“These things can’t be rushed you know—besides you have two midwives who know far more about delivering babies than I do.”

The two midwives consulted in the corner of the room where neither of us could hear what they said—it alarmed both of us especially when the one seemed to go off in haste.

“Do we have a problem?” I asked the remaining one.

“I think the baby’s turned.”

“Isn’t it supposed to do that?”

“Um—turned the wrong way.”

“You mean breech?”

“Um—could be.” She blushed—I thought they were supposed to check that before the labour started, when it becomes obvious that the baby is getting ready to come and the head engages.

“Does that mean a Caesar?” I asked. Stella seemed to have taken a snooze.

“Could be.”

“Can’t you turn her round.”

“Not at this stage.”

“I thought it was usually boys who were breech?”

“It is.”

I laid my hand on Stella’s bloated belly and immediately I aware that the baby was in trouble—and I said so.

She got the foetal heart monitor and it became obvious to her that I was right. She looked very embarrassed and concerned. “The doctor’s on his way.”

“It’s going to be too late—can’t you do the delivery.”

“I can’t do a caesarean section—no—I’m a midwife not an obstetrician.”

“Okay, I’ll try and keep the baby alive, you get a theatre organised.” I focused the light onto Stella’s tummy and to the neonate inside it. “C’mon, little girl, hang on in there—the doctor’s on his way.”

“What’s that blue light?”

“Are you still here?—Piss off and organise things—now.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1384

After I’d asserted myself to the midwife, who ran off like a scalded cat, I told Stella to sleep—reinforcing the suggestion I sent her through the energy. She would need her energy for whatever was to happen—good or bad.

I became increasingly worried about the baby—if only I could get my hands in there and turn her round—yeah sure. I stood at the business end of the bed and imagined I could see inside the womb—I was still sending love to the baby to try and keep her alive and calm—birth is traumatic when it goes well—if it doesn’t it must be awful for all concerned.

I could see the baby, the cord wrapped round it but not dangerously so. I then imagined my hands inside the womb, moving her. She felt as slippery as a bar of soap as I tried to concentrate more and more on lifting her slightly and twisting her round. It was all so tight in there and was like trying to put a film in a camera inside a hot-water bottle.

I could feel trickles of sweat running down my back and I’ll bet my bra was damp as well, slowly but surely I struggled to turn the baby round, using my imagination and the blue energy—it almost felt like keyhole surgery.

I was also trying to keep intrusion at bay, so those who were coming to see us would suddenly remember they needed to do something first like go to the loo. It’s an old magical trick which I saw in a book years ago—by someone called Crowley or something, can’t remember now.

I managed finally to grab hold of the baby’s legs and bending them at the knee, folded her over and turned her so her head could engage—this usually happens hours if not a day or so before—so why they hadn’t realised it, goodness only knows.

“Okay, Stella—start to push,” I said quietly and she did so although she was still sleeping.

I imagined the blue light like a lubricant easing the muscles of the birth canal and greasing the way for the baby to slip out. I also relaxed the intruder control and one of the midwives came bursting in.

“How is she?”

“She’s doing fine and so’s the baby—she’s coming—look.”

“She’s not breech,” she gasped, “c’mon, Stella, push.”

I went back to sit by the exhausted mother, “Okay, girl, wakey-wakey, let her come, she’s beautiful, just let her come. Minutes later, a beautiful little girl popped into the world, just as the doctor arrived. He looked irritated at being called out for a wild goose chase and began to tear a strip off the midwives.

“Hang on, doctor, the fees my family is paying here, why weren’t you here from the beginning?”

“I had another engagement,” he sneered.

“In which case I presume you’ll refund that part of the account—the one for your services which weren’t rendered.”

“I’ll have you know I’ve just driven twenty miles to get here.”

“I’ve driven three times that, and seemed to be here in time whereas you weren’t.”

“Just who d’you think you are?”

“More than a match for you, sunshine, oh and make sure you take some antacid or that fillet steak you had is going to rebound all night—it was the pepper sauce, doesn’t do your ulcer any good—oh, but then you didn’t know you had one did you? Peptic, I believe they call them—and lay off the booze or you’ll lose your licence—driving and possibly your medical one—it’s certain if I complain, my barrister will eat you and you medical defence team.”

He looked suddenly pale. “Peptic, you said?”

“Absolutely.”

“How do you know?” he asked, looking quite ill.

“You don’t really want to know that do you?”

He looked at me very anxiously—“Am I going to be all right?”

“If you get it sorted and stop your affair—it’s the stress of your wife finding out that’s the problem.”

“How the fuck do you know about that?”

“About Michelle, although you call her Pussy-cat, don’t you?”

“Have you been spying on me?”

“No, you’ve told me all this.”

“Don’t be ridiculous?”

“Maybe you should ask Cherry?”

“You leave my wife out of this.”

“Like you have—don’t you think she suspects already? Only staying with you because she loves you as do your kids—Sally and Laura, isn’t it?”

“Stop this, d’you hear?”

“Is any of it untrue?”

“All of it.”

“Fine—sue me then—and we’ll see. Of course, I’ll demand huge compensation for your slander and you’ll have to pay legal fees too, half a million or more—you’d be ruined in all senses. A proven liar, adulterer and general arsehole as well as being bankrupted.”

“I have to go.” He staggered out of the door and I suspect went home—I hope there aren’t any police about because he’d had more than the limit.

The two midwives had wiped the baby, weighed and measured her and Stella was laying there holding her as the little one yawned and slept in her arms.

“You certainly tore a strip of him, Cathy,” offered one of the midwives.

“What was said stays in this room or the scans of the breech birth will come to see daylight and you will find yourself in hot water with your professional body.”

“Yeah—no problem—how did you turn her—because you did, didn’t you?” asked the senior midwife.

“I simply asked her to stand on her head and she did.”

“You’re joking.”

“Of course I am, I used a magnet—all babies are magnetic—didn’t you know?”

“Now I know you’re joking,” she laughed, “How did you do it?”

“With difficulty. Now, how about a nice cup of tea?”

They scurried off and we were left in peace.

“Thanks, Cathy.”

“I did it for my niece, not my awful sister-in-law.”

“It was her that said it,” smirked Stella.

“Bit of a deep voice for a baby.”

“Yeah—she has, hasn’t she—she is okay, healthy I mean?”

“Of course, I don’t deliver damaged packages, do I?”

“No.”

“What are you going to call her?” I asked.

“We like Fiona and Catrin.”

“Crikey, a real Celtic mix.”

“Well, it’s Gareth’s grandmother’s name, and Fiona is my gran’s name.”

“Fiona? Um—is that okay, Fiona?” I asked the baby who yawned.

“Well, if we have any more Catherines, we won’t know who’s who?” said Stella.

“I thought Catrin was Welsh for Catherine? We had a girl at Sussex who was from Carmarthen who was called Catrin.”

“Damn, Gareth said you’d work it out.”

“So—it’s different enough, and I feel very flattered.”

“Hi, ladies,” in walked the proud father—“oh, she’s come—can I hold her?” Stella held her up for him to take carefully. “I’m sorry I missed your entrance, little one.”

“I think it was just as well, Cathy had trouble sorting out the mistakes they made here. Oh and she guessed—about the names.”

Gareth looked at me suspiciously.

“I’m deeply flattered and I love it. Oh, and before I forget, congratulations to the new mum and dad.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1385

I finally got a little cuddle of the baby, and thankfully she stayed asleep—what I’d have done if she’d smelt milk—I hate to think. However, it did remind me to head home to sort out my own little bundle of joy.

I made my goodbyes and set off for home—it was nearly two on a Sunday morning, Father’s day—oh pooh. What with the play and everything, I’d completely forgotten, and nowhere is open at this time of night, dammit.

As I drove back I called in at the motorway services—I managed to find a card which all the kids could sign, and picked up a different one for me to give to Tom. He was instrumental in helping me make my transition, and he’s nice old chap who has been like a father to me at times. I also know that while he won’t expect one, if he doesn’t get one he’ll be very disappointed.

I also managed to get a stack of car stuff—albeit at rip off prices—for Simon, from the kids: a chamois; a tyre pressure gauge; some car polish and a Jaguar key fob. About thirty pounds lighter I got back in the car and drove home—I got to bed at four—knowing I needed to be up again in three or four hours.

Simon grunted in his sleep when I slipped into bed but smiled when I pecked him on the cheek. Minutes later he had his arm round me and I felt his warm body behind me. My head was still buzzing from the drive and forgetting to buy some proper Father’s day stuff, so sleep was the one thing I couldn’t do. I even tried asking the blue light to help me relax but nothing happened.

I must have gone off in the end because I woke up feeling like you know what—it’s brown and sticky and doesn’t smell of chocolate. Trish was poking me and telling me it was father’s day in a very loud whisper—Si would have had to have been in coma or deaf not to hear it. In fact I think I heard him chortle.

“Mummmeee, wake up—it’s Father’s Day—and we haven’t got anything for Daddy.”

Do I care? At this instant no—in fact I was thinking if I killed him quickly I wouldn’t have to bother with Father’s bloody day. Then something inside me suggested that might be a trifle unwise, so I did wonder if I could pretend that I thought it was still Saturday—except I was rehearsing yesterday. Oh pooh—oh yes, the plastic bag in the kitchen—assorted motorist’s bits—sounds like I carved up some drivers, literally.

I fell out of bed and staggered into the bathroom for a wee with Trish pulling on my nightdress the whole time. “Let go, will you, I’ll wee on it,” I snapped at her and she stepped back sharply.

“I was only trying to warn you it was Father’s Day,” she said holding back the tears; she cries very easily if I’m at all sharp with her—hormones, perhaps?

“I know, darling, I know.” I offered her a hug and she threw herself at me. “Mummy’s very tired, I didn’t get to bed very early—but you have another girl cousin, Fiona Catrin.”

“Oh that is sooo nice, Mummy, is she coming to live with us?”

“Soon.”

“How soon?”

“I don’t know—look, I told you I was tired, c’mon let’s get some breakfast.”

As we went down, the other girls joined us and I had a kitchen full of girls when we arrived. I got them all to sign the card for both Si and Tom. Then Trish got the job of running up stairs to get Danny and Julie to sign them. While she was doing that I looked out some little fancy gift bags and we loaded all the car stuff into separate bags. They all now had a present to give Simon. Trish was back with the card and Danny staggered down after her. He stopped to give me a kiss on the cheek as he stumbled half-asleep into the kitchen. I could get to like this.

I made them eat before they—well the girls—went rushing up the stairs to jump on Simon, who if he had any sense would lock himself in the bathroom—but knowing he hasn’t, he’d get jumped on.

I ate a quick bowl of cereal and some fruit, drank my tea and after feeding Catherine and Puddin’, went up for a shower and the hope it would wake me up. By the time I was dressed and downstairs, Tom was back from his dog walk—we gave him his card and the bottle of single malt I keep hidden for such occasions—I’d need to replace it. He was suitably pleased and although he thanked the children, he winked at me, and I got peck on the cheek as well.

Julie came down grumbling about the time on a Sunday and I reminded her that she was helping with the play. She’d forgotten, so did my plaits before getting her breakfast—then at ten, we left to do another day of rehearsals.

Just before we left, Simon appeared and thanked me for my input to his presents—he was really pleased with them. He kissed me and the girls all jumped on him again. Jenny came down looking very sleepy—she’d apparently waited up for me until nearly three, watching some film of which she couldn’t even remember the title, but it had some famous actor in.

At the school, I struggled to stay awake and in the end, Gordon picked on me and I burst into tears—Julie gave him what for and told him why I was so tired. He came over and apologised and made me go and have a snooze in my car.

I was gone for about an hour after which I felt much better—then with a coffee and a biscuit, I was a bit more like my normal self. We did bits out of sequence before lunch, then stopped for a meal which Iain had apparently ordered from a local catering service—it was delicious, lots of fresh rolls, fruit and salad. It will come as a total surprise that I had a tuna-filled brown bread roll, with some salad and then a piece of fruit—washed down with a bottle of still water and a cuppa.

We’d rehearsed the sleepwalking scene just before and Gordon had made me work hard at it—we did it three times before he was happy and I was on my knees—Judy Dench, I am not.

Then after lunch, we ran through the whole thing again and I was dreading it—the sleepwalking scene—but at the end Gordon applauded me and told me I was now doing it better than ever—probably still pretty awful but I was beyond caring—home and sleep—in that order was all I was thinking.

On the drive back, Julie told me how brilliant I was in the sleepwalking scene—I told her to watch Dame Judy on YouTube and she’d change her mind, she pooh-poohed the suggestion.

I dragged my weary body into the house and Simon told me that he and Tom had arranged for us all to eat out for dinner—so to get myself tidied up. I’d have willingly gone without food just to sleep—but I knew they’d be disappointed if I didn’t go. I also thought I’d have to drive, but they’d organised a minibus for us all. Maybe I could catch forty winks on that?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1386

I didn’t quite fall asleep face down in my dinner, but I did nod off while waiting for it. Thankfully, Jenny and Julie dealt with the two little ones, I put my elbows on the table rested my head on my forearms and zonked.

In the end I didn’t eat anything, Simon moved me on the chair to the end of the table and they left me to sleep while they ate and drank, so he told me later. I was an object of amusement—nothing new there—of the other restaurant users, but none of the staff had the authority to ask me to leave—in some ways, It might have been better if I had—I could have gone home and slept in a bed; instead of which I lay with my head on the table giving me a lovely mark across my cheek and a headache.

I was woken to get in the minibus to go home and woke up during the journey. I did wonder if it would prevent me sleeping that night, but it didn’t. I had some tea and a slice of toast and went to bed. I was something of a wet blanket for the boys’ Father’s Day celebration—but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

The next day was the first of the play’s actual run and Julie finished work early to help with the makeup and hair. She’d done mine at home before we left: hair that is. I did my own makeup and felt like swallowing some insecticide to sort out the butterflies that were flitting round my digestive system.

I sat sucking a peppermint and feeling sick. To say I felt nervous would be an understatement. It was rumoured that the mayor, the local MP and lots of other worthies were amongst the two hundred plus audience. Given they were sitting on hard wooden chairs—they must be keen.

Finally it was time for the off and some pipe music warned the punters that we were starting. I stayed in the ‘green room’ back stage until I was needed. My stomach was more active than a gymnast on ecstasy—however, I managed not to be sick.

Then I was on stage, and I couldn’t see anything beyond the lights at the front of the stage—I went on to autopilot and did what had been schooled into me over the past umpteen weeks.

At the interval—given so the punters could allow their bums to wake up—and allowing us to have a cuppa or something stronger if we wanted. I settled for tea although I was buzzing like a wasp in a bottle.

My sleepwalking scene went reasonably well—I remembered all the lines and the stage directions. Although there were others on stage at the time—two sixth form girls playing ladies in waiting—I felt very alone and with the lights lowered, I could see a mass of people but no faces. I tried to pretend they were all dormice but it did unnerve me for a second or two.

I did my scream offstage for the suicide and went off to have a drink of water—I was soaked in sweat—I hoped they could dry clean the costumes or after a couple of shows, we are going to smell authentic.

I’d managed to keep my accent throughout—reminding myself that I was a native Scot—well I was born there if you remember, and my ancestors were Scottish, so I felt validated. I listened to the shouting and the clash of the steel of the swords—it was carefully choreographed to look dangerous but it was reasonably safe and the blades wouldn’t cut butter. If you remember, Macbeth runs off stage pursued by Macduff who returns with his head. Instead of the cheapo cabbage in a sack job, we had a fake head which looked sufficiently like Iain to do the trick.

The play ended and the lesser players lined up, then the likes of Banquo and Macduff, finally, Iain and I strode to the front—he bowed and I dropped a deep curtsey first to the house, then to him and he reciprocated with a deep bow to me. We then reprised the bow/curtsey to the house. The noise of the applause was deafening and when Gordon came up on stage and joined us in a bow, the noise grew louder again.

The curtains closed and Julie came rushing over to hug me—“You were brill, Mummy—absolutely wicked.” She hugged me again.

Iain came over and kissed me. “Are you sure you’re not a pro?”

“A pro-ecologist, yeah; actor—no; if I was, why was a shitting myself for two hours?”

“A real pro—but the buzz is good isn’t it, that only comes from a live audience,” he added. “Right, get changed, we’re off to the pub.”

“D’you mind if I don’t, I’m shattered,” I whined and Julie flashed me a dirty look.

“Come on ladies, over to the pub—hurry please first drink is on me,” said Gordon. He kissed me and said, “You were very good, my dear, very good. Buy the paper tomorrow, the critic liked it.”

“How d’you know?” I asked.

“He said so, oh, that Billington bloke was here from the Guardian, he looked contented too.”

I agreed to go for one drink—I was driving—so I made it a soft one. Julie had a buck’s fizz. There were toasts to the actors and to the director and to Sister Maria, who came over to me afterwards and thanked me.

“We took a thousand pounds tonight, and that’s profit. We have five more to go, so we should clear six thousand by the weekend. We’re also squeezing in another fifty seats because the demand for tickets is astonishing—we were sold out in minutes—it’s like a Take That concert.”

“I suspect people pay a bit more for one of their tickets,” I suggested.

“Yes, well more fool them, you’re infinitely better value than a pop group.”

“Dunno,” interrupted Julie, “I wouldn’t mind seeing Robbie an’ the boys live—better than this ol’ trout,” she laughed and stepped back before I could slap her, almost knocking someone’s drink out of their hand.

“Crikey, I have to that another five times?” I gasped—I was loving it really, my head and body were still buzzing—I’d never get to sleep tonight.

“That’s what it’s all about, Cathy, raising money for our hardship fund.”

“Yeah, I know—I expect I’ll manage to last the week.”

Gordon and Iain approached me, “We have a chance of putting this on at the Mayflower, next week—they’re short of a programme, some tenor has cancelled with laryngitis. Are you up for it?”

“I’ll have to think about it—um.”

“Look, Cathy, they need an answer tonight—think of the experience of doing it at a proper theatre—and for the girls—it’ll be an amazing experience. They’ll pay expenses—that’s all I’m afraid—they’ll only have a few days to market it. Go on, live dangerously,” he exhorted.

“Yeah, go for it, Mummy.”

“Which night is it?”

“Saturday, so you won’t be teaching.”

I looked at Julie and she was nodding vigorously.

“I must be a complete idiot, but okay, I’ll do it.”

“Yes,” said Julie pumping the air and Iain nodded and winked.

“I’m glad ye said yes, we’d hae had tae cancel wi’oot a Lady Mac.”

“You mean if I’d said no, it wouldn’t happen?”

“Absolutely.”

Jeez, I held the fate of the whole cast and crew in my decision—had I known, I’d probably have had to run to the loo and been sick.

We drove home, both of us still buzzing—Julie was part of the team and enjoyed it.

“Whose car is that?” she pointed to the Land Rover in the drive.

“Gareth’s,” I said and my tummy churned.

“Does that mean Auntie Stella’s home with Fiona?” she asked gleefully.

“We’ll find out in a moment,” I replied, parking next to it.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1387

I don’t know why I had a foreboding about Gareth’s car being in the driveway, it wasn’t like it is when I have intuitions from the blue light and I can see illnesses like they were big labels on people, this was just a sense of dread based on absolutely nothing. Perhaps I was simply thinking that I can’t cope with a dependent Stella and neonate at the moment—I’m just too busy—and I have a life as well as everyone else.

We went in and Julie immediately started flirting with Gareth. No wonder she gets into hot water so regularly—if it’s wearing trousers make a play for it. Mind you, Gareth looked too tired to be taking much notice of her.

“Cathy,” he said and we hugged.

“Nice to see you, Gareth,” I said then asked, “everything’s okay, isn’t it?”

“The baby and Stella are both fine and they want to discharge her in the next day or so.”

Ah, so that’s what he’s here for. “So what’s the plan?” I asked deliberately not taking control as I usually do.

“Well that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Make some tea, will you, sweetheart?” I asked the still buzzing Julie. I sat down at the kitchen table and bade him do the same, “What did you have in mind?”

“Ideally, I like her to come with me to the new house, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.”

“So what does she want to do?” I knew exactly what he was going to say, but I waited to hear him say it.

“She wants to come back here, she said you said she could.”

“It’s not my house, Gareth, it’s actually Daddy’s.” Tom looked over at me and rolled his eyes. “But okay, I tend to be the general manager.” Gareth blushed as if he felt I was playing with him—maybe I was—but not because of who he was and my previous feelings for him and my fear of them reappearing in the future—simply because I was becoming tired of being everybody’s mother and making everything better for everyone. In fact I was becoming tired full stop.

“Well could she?”

“Of course she can and we’ll all help her as we can, but things are pretty busy at the moment—I’m tied up with this play, so Jenny is busy with the kids and Julie’s working and helping with the play.”

“I appreciate that, and I’ll help her myself as much as I can.” He was desperate the poor man.

I took the tea Julie proffered and Gareth accepted a cup as well. “Drink your tea and I’ll show you what’s available, see if you think it’ll be okay.” I felt like someone letting a flat or house. I knew it would be okay, I designed it for her—bedroom with en suite and a small sitting room, plus another bedroom if it was necessary, which I hoped it wasn’t. I must also remind Stella to take the pill or use some other form of contraception because I’m not looking after a third baby—I’ll kick her out first. I mean it’s not as if she doesn’t know what causes them—she was nurse specialist in GUM, and I don’t mean the pink stuff kids use for blowing bubbles.

We did the grand tour; there was even a double bed in there with a couple of wardrobes and chests of drawers. In the sitting room, there was a small three-piece suite and a television. I deliberately didn’t include any sort of kitchen—it’s not a separate flat, it’s just a small suite of rooms, which could all go back to bedrooms or bedroom and small study or storeroom.

“I think that’d be perfect—at least to get her used to the idea of looking after the baby herself—I don’t know why she’s so nervous of being on her own.”

“She’s had a few problems in the past and I can see that she’d like help to be near if she needed it—but she has to learn to look after this baby.”

“She told me she looked after the first one, Desiree, isn’t it?”

“That’s all she did, when it suited her and we’ve been looking after Pud for the last umpteen months—the poor lamb’s going to be very confused about who is her mum—Stella, Jenny or me.”

“I’ll encourage her to look after both of them—why did you call her Pud?”

“Puddin’, it was our nickname for the bulge and it stuck—I suppose it’s mildly better than sprog.”

“Sounds like a military term?” he mused.

“Probably is, though none of us has had anything much to do with the army or the other services. I think Si might have been in the cadet force at school.”

“I was in that, myself—waste of time if you ask me—we only joined to play with guns and get a ride in a tank—as far as I remember no one joined up afterwards—unless they failed their A-levels.”

“You went to a public school, then?”

“Yeah, only a minor one—Sherborne.”

“I don’t know, didn’t Jeremy Irons go there?”

“Yeah, name me another famous pupil.”

“Um—Gareth Sage.”

“Hush,” he said, “I don’t want fans knocking on the door when I’m in work.”

No, they’re already inside waiting for you. “Julie isn’t going to be a problem, is she—she’s at that age and not having had many boyfriends she does tend to practice her flirting skills.”

“No—she’s a very pretty kid—but the last word is applicable I think, besides, I’ve given a commitment to Stella and I tend to stick by my word.”

“Absolutely,” that’s telling me, I thought—not that it worried me, but I’d have to stop wandering about the place starkers on a Sunday morning—only joking, it would frighten the children and probably cause Tom to have another MI—sorry, myocardial infarct—heart attack to you.

“How’s the play going?” he asked, changing the subject while I fiddled with a curtain that wouldn’t hang properly.

“Yeah, it’s okay—bit different from teaching.”

“Is it?—I’ve seen you teach—it was performance art par excellence.”

“When have you seen me teach?” I was astonished.

“I’ve seen you present a film on dormice—that was teaching.”

“That was performing,” I countered, “it was more entertainment than education.”

“Sure it was, that’s why the numbers of young women wanting to do ecology courses increased overnight.”

“So you haven’t seen me teach?”

“I saw you do your talk at Sussex.”

“That was performance too.”

“How many did you speak to?” he asked.

“Enough to know that they were well entertained.”

“I beg to differ—you taught quite a lot of ecological principles just setting the scene.”

“Sure, they’re all going to walk to work and switch lights off, are they?”

“Why can’t you accept a compliment when it’s offered?”

I felt my face reddening and the room getting warmer. “Okay, so I’m a brilliant teacher—hardly qualifies me to play Shakespeare does it?”

“You didn’t listen to one word I said, I told you that you have amazing communication skills—one way ones at least,” I felt my sense of shame rise. “Actors and teachers, good ones anyway, are able to communicate on all levels, some so subtle you don’t even realise they’re doing it.”

“Yeah, okay, they’re pushing your buttons without you realising it—politicians do the same—now I hope you’re not going to suggest I do politics.”

He laughed, “Not at all, you are so defensive, Cathy, you need to lighten up and accept yourself as an exceptional, even special person.”

“Not you as well,” I groaned.

“I know Stella thinks so, who else has said it?”

“Anyone who’s had contact with my healing—so quite a few; but Tom is always telling me I’m special—I think he’s going gaga.”

“See, defensiveness again. Now listen—you are special, even without the healing—you have this ability to win people’s confidence and trust because of your communication skills—you naturally talk to their inner being—so don’t flip me off, okay?”

I shook my head and decided I wanted to go to bed, on my own and stay there for a couple of weeks if not longer—perhaps I could persuade Henry to buy a remote island somewhere—not too cold—where I could spend the next hundred years studying the ecology of woodlice or something really meaningful. Yeah, take my favourite eight records, the Bible, Complete works of Shakespeare plus the complete Gaby stories and my luxury item—a bicycle wouldn’t be allowed, so it would have to be um—I felt myself blushing—a solar powered—um, rabbit—and I don’t mean the furry kind.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1388

I saw Gareth off, he was going home to start packing stuff that he’d need to bring here if he was staying with Stella—just what I needed, a couple more mouths to feed. As soon as he’d gone I went to bed so by the time Simon came up I was fast asleep.

At breakfast he muttered something about conjugals and I found I’d gone deaf—didn’t hear a word of it, funny that. He went off in a huff to work while the kids hid from him—they all appeared to breakfast as soon as he’d gone. They do this sometimes when one of us is in a grumpy mood—I’d prefer they challenged me—Julie does sometimes and so does Danny, the younger ones avoid me and grumble.

Gareth had promised to let me know when Stella and he would be moving in, but I anticipated anytime in the next few days. I went shopping after dropping the kids off and filled the fridge and freezer just in case. If the family continued to grow at this rate, I think we’d just as well sell all the cars and buy a double-decker bus.

Back at the ranch, once the shopping was put away Jenny kept an eye on the little ones while I made up a bed in the new wing, for our new parents—well Gareth was new to it, you could tell by the fact his eyes weren’t bloodshot yet. You know there’s twenty-four hours in a day when the baby keeps you awake for all of them.

I also wondered who Puddin’ thought was her mum, Stella, Jenny or me. She called me, Anny-Affy, Jenny was Ennie, and her mum was—absent. I kept showing her a photo of Stella but perhaps she was too young to take it on board—a chance for Stella to build some bridges and some mother-daughter bonding. If Puddin’ loses out to baby Fiona, I shall give Stella a piece of my mind. I don’t think Pud is losing out on much in terms of love and affection, we all give her loads, even the younger girls—Meems loves her—she’s like a large size dress up doll.

I got the bedroom ready, then we had lunch—while that was digesting, I fed baby Kate and Puddin’ watched me licking her lips—at two she would still be breastfed by some mothers. My baby went off to sleep and as I felt there was still some milk there, I gave Pud a little suck—she clung on to me like a limpet and fell asleep at my breast.

Jenny came back from loading the dishwasher and smirked at me, bra undone, with child’s head under my jumper. “She’s either hiding, sleeping or been having a crafty slurp.”

“If you make some tea, I’ll tell you which.” I sat there while Jenny provided some fluid to replace my recent depletion. I felt myself chuckling, I’ve told you what Pud calls me, well she calls Simon, Daddy—because everyone else under twenty does. It used to drive him crazy and we had some real arguments over it because he thought I was setting him up, but I wasn’t, she refused to call him Uncle Si, and persisted with Daddy. He doesn’t say anything now—she won—but babies do unless you assert yourself physically—and that’s illegal. Sometimes I think the law was drawn up by babies—I mean, fancy it being illegal to send ’em chimneys or down the mines, or even to the workhouse—all Charles Dickens’ fault, him and Charles Kingsley, and Lord Shaftesbury—they’ll abolish slavery next.

I woke Puddin’ up and she sleepily walked over to the sofa in the dining room and curled up going back to sleep. She isn’t a lot of bother really, so does it matter who she calls mummy? It might later on when she’s trying to act like a grown up and needs to be told a few of the facts of life—although some of it she’ll learn by osmosis, like we all do.

I got on with producing a dinner for everyone—a pasta bake with chicken and a side salad. It would keep hot for late-comers but be ready for the kids to eat before Julie and I went off to the play.

And so it came to pass, at the eighteenth hour of the day, with stomachs modestly replete, Julie and I set forth to perform the Scottish play and entertain the masses—hopefully at the same time, or simultaneously, whichever comes first.

I did my makeup while my personal assistant come hairdresser, added to my tresses. This was one part of the acting game I hated—the greasepaint—that Leichner moment.

The play itself went quite well, though there were one or two fluffed lines, except no one but an expert would have noticed—let’s face it, unless you know the entire play by heart, you’re not going to miss the odd line which has either been fluffed or forgotten—unless it throws the actor delivering the next one and who waits in vain for his cue. Iain was word perfect, but some of the so-called pros did a few fluffs tonight.

The sixth form girls were also word perfect—as for me—yeah I was too—I think. Gordon kissed me at the end and told me that the sleepwalking scene was even better tonight. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing—if I get too confident I could mess it up—so I chose to ignore him, except I couldn’t—his compliment had got through and I was bemused and embarrassed at the same time.

“Guid ’un again tonicht,” said Iain putting his arm around me and pecking me on the cheek—“you know, I’ve worked with loads worse leading ladies who called themselves pros. Was never sure if it meant professional or referred to their alternative occupation when things were slack.”

I sniggered, let’s face it, actresses were often seen as fulfilling both roles during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—and still are by some folk.

I returned to the ladies’ changing room and was taking the gloop off my face—as soon as I could get the blowlamp working—when there was a knock at the door. One of the youngsters who was already decent, went to answer it.

“It’s for you, Cathy,” she said smirking.

“Oh, okay—thanks.” I wiped off the makeup and then rubbed my face over with a wet wipe and a tissue. Julie had detached my extensions and I combed my hair into a ponytail and shoved on a black scrunchie.

I got up from the stool I’d been sitting on and went to the door, I had the shock of my life—Gareth and Stella were standing there and she shoved a huge bouquet into my hands. “That was bloody brilliant,” suggested Gareth.

“Aye, it were okay like,” said Stella in a broad Yorkshire accent—I knew watching Emmerdale could be life changing.

“Aye, ’appen,” I replied.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1389

“What on earth are you two doing here?” I asked after saying thanks for the assorted flora.

“Like watching a play, ya know,” Stella opted for a mid-west accent—least I think it was.

“Yes, it was very good—you should watch it sometime.” Gareth obviously didn’t have his brain plugged in.

“That might be a bit tricky, Gareth.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I played the part of one of the witches, good makeup, wasn’t it?”

“Very funny—but you’ll be able to watch it—some guy was videoing it.”

“Eh?”

“Yeah, didn’t you see him? Proper camera; not one of these shove in your pocket things.”

“No I didn’t,” I wondered if the others knew about this, like Sister Maria or Gordon?

“I wonder if the school’s going to sell them?” he added.

“What, some corny DVD with everyone in the audience coughing and spluttering over the voices of the cast?”

“No, he had a remote mike on the stage, you must have seen it?”

“I didn’t.” I suppose it will find its way on to YouTube, or bits of it will.

“Anyway—where’s the baby?”

“Jenny’s looking after her, she’s got a bottle of feed, so should be all right.”

“Was it wise to come out and sit on a hard seat so soon after sprogging?”

“I brought my own cushion,” she smiled, “and yes it was—it was good, a cut above the usual school production.”

“With Iain in it, it had to be—that’s a no brainer,” I retorted.

“Yeah, but the leading lady was okay too, obviously another professional,” teased Stella.

“Obviously—but professional what?”

“That would be telling,” she smirked.

“Thanks, Sis—I love you too.”

“We’d better get back, we’re staying at your place tonight an’ Gar’ll move the stuff down during the weekend.”

“I’ll catch up with you later.” We hugged and they both went home. I went in search of Gordon.

“Did you know someone filmed tonight’s performance?” I asked him.

“It would have been difficult for him to do it without my knowing seeing as I was standing a few feet away from him.”

“Does Iain know?”

“Of course, he agreed to it—didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t and I don’t feel too happy about it.”

“You’ll need to talk with the headmistress woman, she organised it—reckoned they could sell a couple of hundred copies at a tenner a time—two grand—all for a good cause.”

“That’s as maybe, I’d should have liked to have been asked at the outset.”

“Why, were you likely to say no?”

I shook my head, no.

“Well then—principles—people who run colleges aren’t they?” he sniggered at his atrocious pun.

I’d have words with Sister Maria tomorrow, I fumed as I collected Julie and she sat next to my indignation all the way home.

“Huh, if I’d known you were such a sulk, I’d have begged a ride back with Auntie Stella.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“If I’d known you were going to sulk all the way home, I’da like come back with Gareth and Auntie Stella.”

“Sulk? I’m not sulking—I was just thinking.”

“Thinkin’?”

“Thinking about what I’d say to Sister Maria tomorrow.”

“We live in there,” she snapped and pointed behind us.

“Oops, okay, now you distracted me.”

I did?” she complained.

“Of course,” I did a quick turn via a gateway and she put her hands in front of her face.

“Jeezuz H Christ, if I drove like that you’d take my car off me,” Julie gasped.

“Quite right too,” I snapped, “You’ve got to be an advanced hazard to do that properly, and you need a four-wheeled drive. When you’ve got kids of your own and a Chelsea tractor, then you can do things like that.”

“Where am I gonna get kids from?”

“Steal ’em like I did.”

“I thought you inherited most of us…”

“Yeah, or found you put out with the rubbish…”

“Ouch,” she said, and I turned into our drive and parked the car.

We were both more intent on seeing the baby than squabbling, so we were quiet entering the house.

Little Fiona was sleeping in her carrycot while Stella and Simon chatted with Gareth working on his laptop and Jenny making tea. “I thought I saw you pull up, so I put the kettle on.”

“Oh well done,” I said, accepting the mug of nectar.

“Cor, in’t she small?” declared Julie looking at the baby, “look at her tiny fingers,” she added with the baby clinging onto her larger digit with her grip reflex.

“She did come from a rather small place,” said Stella smirking.

“Wasn’t yer gob, then?” said Simon.

“Huh,” she replied.

“I’d heard you gave a cough and she fell off,” he continued, “or something like that.”

“She wouldn’t be here at all if Cathy hadn’t arrived,” Stella asserted.

I blushed and said nothing.

“Apart from Jenny and Gareth, none of us’d be here without Cathy,” Simon sighed.

“Aye, weel I’m awa’ tae ma pit, guid nicht.” Tom pecked me on the cheek and then did the same to Stella and Julie. “Guid t’ hae ye back,” he told Stella.

“I’m not sure if Cathy feels the same,” she said looking at me.

“’Course she does, don’cha, Mummy.”

“Of course, sweetheart,” I lied. It felt more like a commune or kibbutz than a family.

Later in bed, Simon was lying beside me gently stroking my tummy. “You’re not really happy that Stella’s back, are you?”

“That depends upon whether she looks after her kids or delegates to us again. I don’t see why we should pay Jenny to look after her kids.”

“Since she’s been ill, she’s got quite lazy—she used to be quite busy before.”

“You mean when she was working?”

“Yeah, she used to help keep the place clean and did some of the cooking.”

“When there was just the two of you?”

“Yeah, I s’pose, it was okay in the cottage.”

“Do you regret me appearing on the scene?” I asked quite academically.

“What? Don’t be silly, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. Living in the cottage was nice while it lasted, but this is infinitely better,” his hand strayed up to my breast.

“Living with all the waifs and strays we seem to have accumulated—are you sure you’re okay with all that?”

He stopped stroking my breast, “What d’you mean? D’you think I regret having all the children?”

“Yeah, sometimes I think you do.”

He paused then replied, “If I do, and it’s a big if, then it’s only because they take your time away from me—but that’s kids for you.”

“You don’t resent that they’re other people’s children, and that I can’t give you any of our own?”

“You keep bringing this up—what’s triggered it this time?—Of course, Stella and the new baby. No I don’t care one bit and I wish you’d let go of it too. No one’s perfect, well ’cept maybe me of course, so stop worrying about your imaginary defects—it’s you I fell in love with and that was with or without a uterus or whatever they call ’em.”

He rose up, leant across me and kissed me very tenderly, “Hey, what’re you crying for?”

“Because I love you so much,” I sobbed.

Women, I’ll never understand ’em,” he sighed and kissed me again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1390

I slept that night with Simon’s arm around me, all night I think. He certainly groaned when he moved it on rising the next morning. I offered to kiss it better, but he rubbed it a bit and then went into the shower.

I showered afterwards then woke the children. Jenny was down first, much to my surprise, so the kettle was boiling by the time I got downstairs. I noticed Billie was becoming more private in her toilet, while the other three often went into the bathroom, the bath and sometimes the shower together. However, the hormones were beginning to take effect and I noticed she looked a little broader in the beam and had little nubs growing on her chest.

I did offer to let her have a bedroom to herself, but she said she still enjoyed the company of the other girls at bedtime. I had a feeling she’d soon change her mind as she became more self-conscious as puberty, albeit an artificial one, takes effect.

Danny almost fell down the stairs he was so sleepy, and when he began sneezing, I suspected he was getting hay fever or allergic rhinitis. His eyes looked watery and he sneezed loads of times before he left.

I offered to phone the doctor and get a prescription for him which he thanked me for doing. As I wanted to speak with Sister Maria, I’d have to make the call when I got back home. I was just leaving when Stella appeared like the wreck of the Hesperus. I think she’d slept even less than I had and Gareth didn’t look much better.

At the school, I sought out the headmistress only to be told she was at a meeting and wasn’t expected until the afternoon. My head buzzing with frustration, I drove home collecting some extra milk and bread on the way—these days I rarely had time to make the latter, so when I did it was treated like a delicacy and disappeared in one sitting.

I got home and after phoning the doctor’s—a prescription would be sent to our nearest pharmacy to collect after lunch—I settled down with a cuppa to feed Catherine. She’d already had her breakfast so this was a top up. Stella sat opposite me with Fiona fixed to her chest.

“D’you actually enjoy this?” she asked me.

“Yes, don’t you?”

“No—I’m not even sure if the poor little thing is getting any.”

“Well express it and then bottle-feed her,” I suggested.

“No thanks—that’s even more uncomfortable.”

Wait till she’s got teeth, Stella, then you’ll know uncomfortable. “Your milk has come in?” I asked.

“That’s what they said at the clinic.”

I probably produced enough to feed both children, but I wasn’t going to offer because I knew Stella would take advantage of me again. “Is she putting on weight?”

“No, she’s lost a fraction, but they often do.”

Puddin’ appeared, doing her party piece, “Shit, shit ,shit,” she said walking through and Stella looked horrified, Gareth nearly choked on his coffee, I simply shrugged—but she was still getting a reaction so she’d continue doing it.

“Where did she hear that?”

“I have no idea, but you know what they’re like, human blotting paper.”

“Sounds like you, Cathy, it’s one of your favourite utterances.”

At this point Gareth suddenly remembered he had something urgent to do on his computer. I let him go—coward.

There were lots of things I could have said by way of response; I chose to ignore them all and Stella’s comment. “She does it every now and again, we ignore it but she does tend to give visitors a shock.”

“Oh so she sees us as visitors?” Stella fired back a sarcastic reply.

“Yes, she hasn’t seen you for a while, and she barely knows Gareth.”

“She called me Mummy earlier.”

“I’m glad she did, she usually calls me Annie-Affie.” I didn’t ask if Stella had prompted the appellation, ‘Come to Mummy,’ sort of thing.

“This little bugger, keeps going to sleep,” said Stella and her elder child walked through saying, “Bugger, bugger, bugger.”

“Where did she hear that?”

“Just now, from her mother’s lips if I’m not mistaken.”

“She wouldn’t have picked it up that quickly—surely?”

“You’d be surprised, just don’t swear.”

“Of course you’re such an expert on babies,” she said rising from her chair and taking Fiona back to her room.

“I’m no expert, Stella, unless you’re comparing me to you,” I muttered under my breath.

“Oh, where did Stella go?” asked Jenny bringing the washing down from the bathrooms, “I was hoping for a little cuddle.”

“She’s gone off for a sulk because I deigned to suggest she’d overheard Stella using the B word.”

“Has she done the S one yet?”

“She has.”

“That’s you, isn’t it?”

“Probably,” no point in denying it—still it’s a pity we’re such a load of devil worshippers—because it would be amusing to see how the vicar would deal with her foul mouth. If she went round saying, cock-a-doodle—do, would she be fowl mouthed? I snorted at my own silliness. Unfortunately, Stella had just returned and she thought I’d laughed at her.

“What’s so funny?” she demanded.

There was no way I was going to tell her—so I told her something else—“I was thinking about seeing you at the play last night.”

“I wasn’t aware either I or it were particularly funny.”

“You weren’t, it was more that I didn’t expect to see you.”

“That was one of the reasons why we did it.”

“Give me a heart attack, you mean?”

“That’s right; take it the wrong way, like you always do.”

“Stella, I was making light of it—it was a lovely surprise.”

“I hear what your mouth is saying—your eyes are saying something different.”

“Are they? I hadn’t noticed, I wasn’t aware they could say anything.”

“Ah there’s our difference—I’ve studied gesture and body language,” she trilled.

Fat lot of good it’s done her, so it’s either all hogwash—you know H. Potter, esquire’s school—only joking—or she did the wrong course. I chose not to say anything, but an expert in non-verbals like Stella, would get my message loud and clear—Piss off.

Puddin’ walked in, “Come to Mummy, darling,” cooed Stella opening her arms for a hug and the little monster walked over to me and began to climb up onto my lap.

“Me wuv Annie-Affie.”

If looks could kill, both Pud and I would be either dead or on life support. “You are the giddy limit, Catherine Watts—fancy stealing your own sister’s baby—haven’t you got enough of your own yet; or is this some sort of fetish?”

“I beg your pardon?” I said sharply.

“You know what I mean, you collect other people’s children because you can’t have your own—just leave mine out of it.”

I was incandescent, the nerve of the woman—to bite the hand that feeds her in my own home. She’s been ill—she isn’t aware of what she’s saying—but one more jibe and she walks or leaves on a stretcher.

“Annie-Affie, doan wike, nasty wady.” Puddin’ was holding on to my leg.

“That does it, you brat—I’m your mother—you foolish child—I’m your bloody mother.”

“No wike you, bloody wady, go way.”

I nearly choked.

“That’s right—typical of you, isn’t it—poisoning little minds.”

“That’s not right, Stella, Cathy shows her your photo quite regularly and reminds her that you’re her mother,” Jenny interrupted the argument.

“You would say that, wouldn’t you, you’re on her payroll.” Stella slammed into Jenny, who wasn’t having any of it.

“It might be Cathy and Simon who pay me, but I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking after your child—so don’t try it on with me—I’m not some unbalanced lunatic.”

Stella was almost apoplectic; she made a funny noise and practically ran from the room.

“Did I say the wrong thing?” asked Jenny.

“I—um—think you might have.”

“Tough,” she walked off to finish the laundry.

“Me fwighten,” said Puddin’ pulling at my leg. I bent down and picked her up and cuddled her hoping Stella had calmed down before she saw us.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1391

“Stella is very upset,” said Gareth. I was sitting at the kitchen table comforting Puddin’ who had also been upset.

“I know she’s had a hard time, but she as good as accused me of stealing her child, which isn’t true.”

“Of course it isn’t, she’s grateful for all you’ve done for her and Desiree.”

“Who Desiwee, Annie-Affy?”

“Oh, she’s a lovely little girl, who likes to sit on my knee and give me cuddles.”

She giggled and hugged me, planting a sloppy kiss on my cheek. “I wuv you, Annie-Affy.”

“I love you too, Desiree.”

She giggled.

“However, she’s in no fit state to look after two kids—at least at the moment—possibly not even one.”

“Look, I’m hoping she’ll come out of this post-natal stuff.”

“She needs to see someone—she’s sick.”

“I think it’s associated with the birth. She’s resting now, and I have to get back to the office for a couple of hours. If I bring the baby down, can you or Jenny keep an eye on her?”

“I should think so, I’ll try and keep one on her mother, too—but if I get any silliness, then it’s off to the funny farm again.”

“You wouldn’t do that, would you—can’t you just call me?”

“She’s tried to kill me twice and herself, three times I think. I can’t risk any of the children—it’s police and a doctor.”

“Oh—she told me she got angry with you once, and that she tried to kill herself once.”

“Maybe I’m overreacting, but when someone tries to stab you with a knife, I assume they’re not thinking of my wellbeing. The last time, Trish got cut—she saved my life in distracting Stella.”

“Oh—I didn’t know that.” He went rather pale, poor man not sure if he knows what he’s taking on. “I—um—had better go.”

“The baby?” I reminded him.

“Oh yeah, sorry.” He ran upstairs and brought the carrycot down. “Stella’s sleeping.” He thanked me and left.

I began to wonder what we’d all bitten off—probably more than we could chew. I loved Stella, she’d been this wonderful, generous and funny woman who’d done so much for me when she first knew me—apart from trying to kill me that first day—okay, that was an accident and she could have driven on—but she didn’t.

She is my sister-in-law, and Simon is very fond of her. Perhaps I needed to involve Henry and Monica. I wonder if he knows she’s here at the moment.

I sent him a text to call me asap. Ten minutes later I had a text back, he’d call about one in the afternoon. I set about making some bread and soup—which we hadn’t had for a couple of weeks—I had some leeks, so did leek and potato soup and fresh bread.

The soup was simmering away and the bread baking—the smells were wonderful—when Fiona woke, she was hungry. I checked the fridge—I had two bottles of breast milk in there. I left the baby in the carrycot and ran up to see how Stella was. She was still sleeping—I hoped she hadn’t done anything silly with pills—and threw some blue light over her—she seemed to be genuinely asleep. I left her and went down to warm the milk.

By the time I got down, Jenny was picking Fiona out of the carrycot. “She’s hungry, I expect,” she decided.

“Yeah, Stella’s still asleep—but I’m concerned if she sees us giving my milk, she’ll think we’re trying to poison her baby.”

“I’ll go and wake her if you want,” offered Jenny, “I’m not afraid of her feelings.”

“No, you warm one of the bottles, I’ll go and speak with her.” I trotted back up the stairs.

“Stella, Fiona is crying for food—would you like me to feed her?”

“Huh?” came a sleepy reply.

“Fiona is crying for food, would you like to come and feed her or would you like me to?”

“You do it,” she said and turned over back to sleep.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, yeah,” and she seemed to go back to sleep.

I went down and Jenny was just about to warm the bottle. “Never mind that, I’ll feed her.” I took her and sat down—a couple of moments later she was locked on to my nipple—sucking for all she was worth. “This kid is starving,” I said to Jenny.

Being small, she only took one breast load, so Catherine had some from my other breast while Jenny did a cleanup and nappy change on her cousin. Puddin’ seemed left out so she had a bottle of ordinary milk and sat in the high chair and drank it by herself.

Puddin’ is quite bright, she’s dry mostly in the day—she wears these training panties and she will come and tell us she wants to go. When she does she gets to put different coloured stars on her chart. If she wets, she obviously doesn’t get one, but we do change her.

By the time we’d finished all three littlies the bread was done and the soup only needed whizzing with my hand-blender—a wonderful bit of kit. I went up to call Stella who was awake and silently weeping.

“Fancy some leek and potato and fresh bread?” I asked her.

“I’m a dreadful woman, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, absolutely terrible—so, you coming for some soup?”

“If anything should happen to me, will you look after my two babies?”

“Nothing’s going to happen—unless you starve to death—c’mon, off your arse and have some soup—I’ve just made it.”

“Will you, please, Cathy—please say you will.”

“D’you think I’d say no? Let’s face it, Gareth is lovely and he’s bright, but he hasn’t got a clue—has he?”

“No,” she smirked, “neither has Simon, has he?”

“He has a clue—but that’s about it—when Catherine was very small, I left him in charge while I went somewhere; when I came back Mima was telling him what to do with the nappy.”

“Mima—she’s barely more than a baby herself,” she chuckled.

“Absolutely, but she’d changed her dollies and watched me, so she knew what to do. Trish had to show him how use the washing machine.”

“Men,” she said and rolled her eyes.

“They have their uses,” I commented back—I’d be lost without Simon—well okay, satnav might prove the answer.

“I s’pose,” she agreed. The tears started again, “I’m sorry—what I said—I didn’t mean it—about you—I mean.”

“I know.” I sat on the bed and we hugged and she sobbed on the table.

“I love you really,” she said, “You’re so special to us.”

“I love you too, Sis, I’ve learned a lot from you.”

“What have I taught you?”

“More than you’ll ever know—and, you did launch me into womanhood.”

“Oh that—yeah quite literally.” She laughed and wept at the same time.

“Let’s get some food.” I rose from the bed and held my hand out to her.

“Did you feed Fiona?”

“Yeah, she was starving.”

“I don’t think my boobs are working properly.”

“Okay, let’s get someone out to advise you—or take you to see a health visitor.”

“This is crazy—I’m the one who has babies and can’t feed them, you can’t have them but can feed ’em—the world is upside down.”

“I don’t try to understand it—just go with the flow—and my tummy is rumbling—c’mon—food—now, missus.”

“There you go again, only been a woman for a couple of years and you are a missus—I’ve been one all my life and I’m still unmarried. Ironic or what?”

“Well you know me—competitive—food, before I fade away.”

“Let me just wash a moment.”

I waited, unsure of how safe I thought she was, not so much in harming others; more herself. I wondered if I ought to pull out of this play—family come before external things—and she is my family.

“You going to be much longer?” I called through the door. There was no answer. “Stella—are you all right? STELLA—open this door.”

“What’s the problem?” she asked opening it and walking out.

“I wondered if you’d been taken ill—you weren’t answering me,” now it was I who was sobbing.

“I couldn’t hear you with the cistern filling—you surely didn’t think?”

“I’m sorry,” I sniffed, “With what you said earlier about taking care of your babies.”

“Yeah—okay—I didn’t mean it like that.”

I blushed absolute scarlet, “I’m sorry.”

She hugged me, “You’re a good woman, St Catherine, don’t let anyone tell you different.”

“Yeah, course—just stay away from wheels.”

“Very good—now where’s this soup?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1392

It struck me as ironic that each night we did the play I’d be committing suicide—albeit off stage without turning a hair—yet I was terrified Stella might try again—and succeed. Not only would it be a tragedy for all concerned but I’d be stuck with two more children—at this rate, I’d have more than the local Catholic priest.

It’s not that I’d resent any more children, but I can barely cope now and that’s with help, but I think they’d be better off with their natural mother, even if she is a trifle eccentric—see, takes one to know one. But I admit I’m barking.

The bread was still warm while we ate it with the soup, butter melted on it—except I don’t use butter—okay, the others did, I prefer my bread dry with soup—fewer calories too.

“Right, I have to collect a prescription for Danny when I collect the girls. I think we ought to speak to the doctor about your problems with breastfeeding,” I announced.

“Maybe I’ll give it a few more days,” suggested Stella.

“Yeah, and maybe I’ll go and phone up now.”

“Look, it’ll probably sort itself.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Well then I’ll see the doc.”

“What’s Fiona going to have meantime?”

“You’re always saying you have some to spare.”

“She won’t be getting all the antibodies from you that she should, and I’m not sure I want to be a wet nurse.”

“Just a day or two.”

“I’ll do it today, if your milk isn’t flowing tomorrow, then we speak to the doctor whether you like it or not.”

“Why not the day after?”

“Because the way you’re heading you won’t produce any at all.”

“How come you produced it, lactation is supposed to come after birth?”

“I really don’t know—it started spontaneously—and I have been born for a little while now.”

“Not you, you idiot, your baby.”

“Oh that,” I winked at her and we both fell about laughing. Jenny sat opposite and shook her head—not sure if it was in disapproval or disbelief.

“You’re like two schoolgirls,” she scolded.

“Yep, guilty as charged,” I held my hands up.

“Book ’em Danno,” said Stella and we both fell about laughing again. I don’t know why because I’m not really old enough to remember Hawaii Five O, but I was probably just relieving nervous tension.

Fiona started to cry and before Stella could rush off, I made her sit and try to feed her baby. I knew the baby knew what to do, and theoretically so does Stella, slip off your bra and pop ’em on your nipple—real skilled work.

“Nothing’s happening,” she said despairingly. In my case it wasn’t true, I could feel myself leaking into my bra pad—oh joy.

I made her try for ten minutes before I took the baby and she clamped on like a locking wheel nut. I’m sure she’s part Dyson, because the suck on her would pull your socks off.

“I can’t believe, I have to rely on my sister-in-law to feed my baby—perhaps I’m not meant to have them?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said with a quiet determination—I didn’t want to accept Fiona—“There is no meant to or meant not to unless it’s genetic, all the rest of this karma or fate or whatever stupid name you want to give it—it’s all male cow poo.”

“Male cow poo?” asked Jenny before the penny dropped. Stella was already laughing and then she laughed at Jenny’s face while the penny was dropping.

“Why couldn’t you just say, bullshit?” she said quietly aware that the human blotter was about somewhere.

“For the same reason you almost whispered it.”

“You two should be on the stage—oh you already are,” said Stella pointing at me.

“I am,” I said, “I’m starring in the Scottish Play which is being performed by the Royal St Claire’s Shakespeare Company—although it is strangely deficient in one liners. You can only use, ‘Out damn spot,’ so many times before it becomes clichéd.”

I finished feeding Fiona and then gave Catherine a turn. I insisted Stella changed Fi’s nappy and asked Jenny to do Catherine, as I had to go and collect the girls. In fact I was a little late leaving by the time I’d repacked my boobs in my bra and changed the pads

It was only when I saw Sister Maria that I remembered I had a bone to pick with her. “When did you decide to video the play?”

“Oh weeks ago, one of our girls’ dad is a video-film maker, does events and functions, and he offered his services free. Once I let it be known we were doing the video, I had fifty immediate orders plus another fifty since. We might actually need more than the hundred if it carries on, especially once they knew you were in it.”

“Me? It’s Iain McPherson they want to see not a dormouse maid.”

“Lady Cameron, you’d be surprised how much support you have within the school and the parent’s group. If you stood as a school governor, you’d win by a landslide.”

“Remind me not to stand—but back to the video—why weren’t we informed before? I only found out by accident.”

She blushed, “I’m so sorry, I thought I’d spoken to all the principals. What can I say? If you object—I’ll have to withdraw them.”

Tempted though I was, I realised that it was all in aid of raising money and besides my halo would have slipped. “No, but next time, ask me first if you would.”

“Next time I’ll be more organised.”

How did I walk into that—I don’t even need her to accost me, I surrender before she even asks. If I have anything to do with it, there won’t be a next time. I managed to distract her and collected the girls who squabbled all the way home.

I didn’t know what it was about but I’d read the riot act before we left the end of the road the school is in. I then had four sulking schoolgirls for most of the journey before World War Three erupted again as we approached the house.

Once I’d parked I was able to get to the bottom of it. Someone had taken someone else’s Pepper Pig—I told them that their response was excessive given the trivial nature of the problem. I think I went over the top a little when I compared it to the annexation of Poland during the Second World War. They all looked blankly at me—don’t they teach them modern history anymore?—mind you I did do it for O-levels.

Of course, Trish will go off and research it and tell me where I got things wrong, which I usually do and probably have. However, four long faces trekked into the house and demanded drinks and biscuits.

I gave Danny his prescription—his eyes looked really sore and he was sneezing like crazy. I’d saved them some soup and bread and they fell upon it like a swarm of giggling and sneezing locusts—never heard a locust sneeze?—you haven’t lived.

The rest of us had cottage pie, which Jenny popped in the oven as I went out to get the girls. It was okay with a few vegetables, although Simon couldn’t understand why I didn’t want any peas with mine.

I expressed some milk for Fiona and left it in the fridge, both Stella and Jenny knew about it, then Julie and I went off to do the play—just a normal day in the life of a Hollywood superstar.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1393

“Can we stay for the party on Saturday? It is our last performance.”

“We still have the following Saturday to do at Southampton.”

“Yeah, but that’s different, this has been good fun and all the cast are really nice.”

“Can I tell you on Saturday, this is in total confidence, okay?” I asked and Julie nodded, “I’m worried about Stella.”

“She seems all right to me.”

“I’ve known her longer than you have.”

“Well yes, you’re older than I am.”

“Thanks for the character assassination job, remind me to return the compliment.”

Julie smirked back at me and I glowered but needing to keep my eyes on the road as we drove home after another performance meant I couldn’t really look at her other than rapid glances.

“You were quite good again tonight,” she offered perhaps as a peace offering.

“Quite good, darling? It was without doubt the most insightful performance of Lady Macbeth since Judy Dench did it with the RSC.” I repeated the comment of one of the audience who came back stage to talk with us. I wasn’t too happy about it because it meant I had to talk with them rather than push off home as I’d planned.

Gordon had been delighted by the write-ups in the local press, they mainly referred to Iain, unsurprisingly, but then he is a classical actor who does stints with the RSC. Other members of the cast were also mentioned. I got one mention as, ‘putting in a workmanlike performance.’ That was fine, I wasn’t a professional and that I wasn’t singled out for some negative criticism suited me fine.

Then we’d been shown the one from the Guardian, it wasn’t Mr Billington but one of his colleagues. It was generally very positive and then said, ‘That Lady Cathy Cameron, who plays Lady Macbeth, is in fact a Scottish noble woman and Iain McPherson, a fellow Scot and king of the Shakespearean theatre, shows that these two have a natural advantage when it comes to portraying the Scottish throne, albeit in disarray—tartan through and through with their soft highland accents belying the granite hearts beneath. A very creditable performance all round.’

Wow, that was a good on’, no wonder Gordon had been so pleased to show it to us. He was building us up for the solo performance in Southampton, not that it was necessary. To me, it just meant I’d need to do a bottle of milk for Fiona if Stella hadn’t sorted the problem before then.

I wondered if I should have tried asking the light to help sort her problem, but for some reason it didn’t seem to want to know—I hoped that didn’t mean I was going to end up feeding two babies for months to come. No way, I’d phone the doctor tomorrow—I’d end up with boobs down round my knees—like a human dairy cow.

I shuddered at the thought of this and had visions of nipples big enough to connect a hose pipe to. “Are you okay, Mummy?” asked Julie as I parked the car—at least I hadn’t gone past the house this time.

After a cuppa, I fed the two wains and went to bed only to wake with a horrible dream in which I fed countless babies and had to walk round with my boobs in a wheelbarrow: they were so big.

Still shuddering from my dream, I went to the bathroom and pulled up my nightie to check that they weren’t growing any bigger which was when Simon came in. “What’re you doing?” he asked sleepily, his eyes squinting in the light.

“Nothing,” I felt myself turning very red.

“They’re still there, are they?”

“Are what still there?”

“Your boobs—I thought you were counting them?”

“Um—no—I was looking to see if they were red, because the one was itching a bit.”

“Oh, I wondered if they’d grown or shrunk or something.”

I blushed again, fortunately he didn’t pick up on it as his eyes were closed as he peed—no wonder he misses so often. I was about to say something when I thought better of it.

“Aren’t you going to wash your hands?” I asked him as he went to go back to bed.

“What for? I’ll have to go again when I get up—I’ll do it then.”

I was speechless, but again said nothing—well you can’t when you’re speechless can you? Perhaps those who say I was never a boy were correct, I always washed my hands, probably because I didn’t like to handle it. I assume when I was about thirteen, I was probably the only one in my class who wasn’t pulling it every night while fantasising about some local totty or some pop queen. I didn’t really get erections, I don’t remember wet dreams or any of the things boys used to talk about—not that they talked much to me in any case—I was the class weirdo—but good to know for English or Biology—last to call when it came to games.

I went back to bed—Simon and his dirty paws were already asleep. I lay there reminiscing about school, and how I managed to survive it and get good enough grades to go to Sussex.

I must have been stronger than I thought—the class wimp and girlyboy—who not only survived their jibes and occasional physical attacks but grew to become myself despite it. Did it make me stronger? It did later on, when I had grown my hair and they made me play Lady Macbeth. How my life seems to revolve about that play—this has to be the last time. I won’t do it again, no matter who asks me—this is my life and that’s my decision.

I must have gone to sleep because I awoke when the alarm went off and I was dreaming of a boy from school, Graham Dennis, we used to call him, ‘Dennis the menace.’ He was a real menace to me, always calling me names and assaulting me when he felt my very existence provoked him. I refused to cry—no matter how hard he hit me—at least while he was still about. I often ran home crying afterwards. I wonder what he’s doing now.

My dream went from my mind as I roused the children, fed them and got them to school. Somehow, Stella had avoided seeing the doctor and muggins was still feeding her baby. I was too busy to chase her up on it—did ask her to do it, but she tends to forget things—possibly a consequence of her illness.

We did attend the party on the Saturday, I had a soft drink and wanted to leave, Julie was promised a lift home by one of the young actors. I warned her not to get involved in anything stupid and she rolled her eyes at me. I came home and went to bed. She rolled in about three o’clock—I was still awake, worrying about her.

The next week seemed to fly by, and suddenly Julie and I were parking the car at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton and heading to the stage door. We did a rehearsal—good job we did—what a difference on a proper stage. But that wasn’t the main surprise for me—the assistant theatre manager was Graham Dennis, who suddenly couldn’t do enough for me and the other women in the cast including Julie.

I was so tempted to set him up—it was him all right, Bristol accent and a scar on his right eyebrow—I was partly responsible for that—he went to head butt me, I ducked and he caught his stupid head on the corner of a wall—I think. All I remember was him running off crying and bleeding. I got into trouble for that because the headmaster believed his story and not mine. How I’d love to get my own back—but I’m a different person now—different enough for him not to recognise me at any rate.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1394

Julie and I were eating our sandwiches in between rehearsals, she of course looked older than I did: she was as always made up and dressed in jeggings and little boots, the jeggings were so tight, I told her you could read the washing instructions on her thong through them. By comparison, I was casually dressed in polo shirt, jeans and trainers with no makeup, just a hint of perfume.

“See the tall bloke with the straggly beard?” I said to her.

“Yeah, bit of a creep in-’e?”

“I was in school with him.”

“Y’wot?”

“I was in school with him, his name’s Graham Dennis and he was a dreadful bully. He doesn’t recognise me, and I’m happy to keep it that way.”

“Did he beat you up?”

“Not exactly, but he tormented me and hit me a few times. See the scar in his eyebrow?”

“Yeah,” she nodded sneaking crafty glance.

“He did that trying to head butt me—he missed and hit a wall or something, can’t remember now.”

“He’s spent half the day looking at your bum or mine.”

“Yours is on display somewhat.”

“So? If ya got it, flaunt it.”

“Just be careful you don’t show more than you intend.”

“Yes, granny.”

I slapped her playfully and we continued our lunch.

“Is everything all right, ladies?” It was the menace.

“Yes, thank you,” I replied.

“Yeah, s’okay,” Julie smiled at him, “That scar on your eyebrow, I’ll bet there’s an interesting story behind it?” She smiled some more while I went into a fully fledged cringe—talk about direct.

“What, this?” he asked pointing at his eyebrow, she nodded. “We ’ad a right bloody pooftah in school, always comin’ on to the other boys. He come on to me one day, an’ I like told him to pee off, an’ he hit me wiv a brick or somefin’, don’t remember now.”

“If you don’t like gay men what are you doing in theatre, it’s full of them?”

“I deal wiv ’em professionally, that’s all—don’t ’ave to like ’em, do I? Nah, prefer girls any day—like you two loverly ladies.”

I avoided his gaze; Julie batted her eyelashes and smiled. He didn’t see it but it was malign smile—she was planning something. I’d tell her not to bother, it wasn’t worth it.”

However, fate was to lend a hand in the payback business. Dennis was helping to adjust a light on stage and something went wrong and there was flash, he yelled and fell about ten or twelve feet onto the stage, yards from where I was standing. The lights went out—presumably from some sort of short circuit, so we only saw what happened by the lights of the auditorium—a sort of twilight.

I rushed over to him—not being aware of who had fallen—when I saw it was him, I wasn’t sure what to think. I went through my first aid training—and discovered he wasn’t breathing and there was no pulse. I shouted for someone to call the paramedics, then began CPR.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to actually put my mouth near his, then the irony of it made me smirk. I did sixty compressions and then two breaths. Julie came to help. She took over the compressions, which we did to, Nellie the elephant.

You’re blue lighting him—after what he did to you?”

“Long time ago—doesn’t pay to hold grudges.” I gave two blows and she continued pumping his chest.

“Huh, I wouldn’t.” She couldn’t see that she was also giving him healing energy. The lights came back on and we had a small crowd about us. Another stage crew member took over the compressions, and I let the theatre manager take over my task—my knees were stiff from kneeling on the hard floor.
The paramedics came in and defibbed him, then he was loaded onto a stretcher and rushed off to Southampton General, a huge place as I remember from my visits there.

“Thank you, ladies, your prompt action might have saved his life,” offered Rex Lentill, the manager—yeah that was his name.

“Are we proceeding with the play?” asked Gordon.

“They stopped one in New York with Daniel Radcliff in it the other week, ’cos one of the stage crew died,” said the actor playing Banquo.

“He’s not dead, though is he?”

“Health and safety will be all over you like a rash on Monday,” commented Banquo.

“Yes, but we’ve already had to cancel one concert, to cancel tonight would be a real problem,” Mr Legume, I mean, Lentill pleaded.

“As Cathy seems to have been the one most involved with the rescue, how does she feel? Do we go on with the show or cancel?” Gordon threw the ball in my court.

“I came here to do a play, if we can still do it, then I suggest we do.” Everyone agreed and we did another rehearsal—only with a difference—one of the witches went sick and Julie had to fill in for her at rehearsal and then in the performance.

To say she revelled in it would be an understatement—she had great fun cackling with the best of them. The performance went quite well, the witches got a great hand from the audience especially when it was revealed at the end that Julie had stepped in at the last moment to save the play.

Iain, as always got loads of applause, and I didn’t do too badly, getting a bouquet of flowers at the curtain calls, and Julie got one as well for her quick study of the part. She was actually as good as the girl who’d gone home, so perhaps she’d missed her vocation.

Before we left, we heard that Dennis was critical but stabilised. Iain came up before Julie and I went through the stage door—“Whit did ye dae ta him?”

“What?” I asked wondering what he was on about.

“Thae laddie that fell, whit did ye dae tae him, an’ whit wis that blue light ye had?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Iain, I just did basic first aid and life support.”

“Aye, ma name’s Faither Christmas, he wis deid, wisna he?”

“I don’t know, I’m not qualified to say.”

“Ye saved his life, ye ken?”

“Nah, the paramedics did that with their defib machine, we only kept his heart primed to start again if it had stopped in the first place.”

“Weel, they widnae defib a beating heart, wid they?”

“I’m not paramedic, Iain, so I can’t answer it.”

“An’ yon blue light?”

“Must have been a reflection from the safety lights,” I fudged.

“Ye dinna expect me tae believe that, dae ye?”

I shrugged, “It’s been a real privilege working with you, Iain, thanks for being so supportive of my feeble efforts.”

“If that wis feeble, ye’d act me off thae stage if ye were on full strength.” His eyes were dancing as he spoke and I chuckled with him. We hugged and he kissed me on the cheek and did the same with Julie—after which we did leave. The others were going on to a party but I wanted to get home—it was late enough, and I was tired. Julie whinged a bit but she conceded an early night might be quite useful, especially as she could tell everyone at home how she saved the day.

“D’you think the blue light caused him to fall?” she asked as we headed along the M27.

“No, that was simple bad luck—moist hands or something—he was shocked and fell.”

“But there was a blue flash when he fell,” she persisted.

“The light doesn’t attempt to do retribution—that’s judgemental and beneath it, it should be beneath you too.”

“Oh it is,” she smirked, “I always sit on my retribution, looks cute in these—doncha think?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1395

It was by pure chance that I had to go to the Mammal Society’s office in Southampton the following Tuesday for a meeting about the survey, I’d also bought them some Longworth traps, which they loan out to people doing survey work, and for which they were very grateful. The meeting went very well and was over in an hour, so I was left with time on my hands and no great incentive to go shopping by myself.

I did go for lunch and while I was eating wondered how Graham Dennis was progressing. Had the blue light done enough with the aid of the paramedics to keep him alive? I suddenly had the urge to go and see him and I mean urge, although compulsion might be a better word. It isn’t often I get these urges, so I thought I’d better check it out.

I found my way to the hospital—seems half my life is spent in hospitals—maybe I should have done medicine—nah, I love dormice more than people, far more rewarding to work with.

To my great delight, I managed to find a parking space and then even more amazingly, when I asked in reception, they knew which ward he was on. I went up to see if I could visit him.

The sister on his ward had been to see the play that Saturday and spent several minutes telling me how wonderful Iain McPherson had been. “So which part did you play?” she asked putting me in my place.

“Did you notice a red headed woman on the stage at all?”

“Yes, Lady Macbeth, but she was much older than you.” Oh joy.

“Um—no—that was me.” She looked at me as if I were lying to her; so I gave her a quick recital in my Highland accent of some lines from the play.

“Good gracious, it was you.”

“Um—yes—it was, I knew I’d never fool you.” Where do they get these people?

“It’s funny, because you look like some woman who did a programme on dormice a while ago, but I’m sure her hair was a different colour.”

Doh. “Yes, that was me in my more usual job, mammal ecologist at Portsmouth University.”

“Oh, well dear, don’t give up the day job, will you.”

“Might I see Mr Dennis?”

She looked at the clock, “It’s not officially visiting time yet.”

“Yes, but I have to get back for a meeting, the school is trying to get Iain back to do another play.”

“He was in Portsmouth?”

“Yes, we did the play all week a couple of weeks ago.”

“I wish I’d known—I think he’s lovely.”

“He’s a really nice chap when you get to know him better.”

“Huh, I suppose that means you slept with him?”

I nearly fell over. “Why would I want to sleep with him, he’s very nice but so is Cliff Richard and I wouldn’t want to sleep with him either.”

“But you might be trying to get him to come to Portsmouth again?” She was obviously a real fan—no wonder he drives a car with dark windows—she’d be stalking him.

“Yes, he said he’d work with me again,” I lied, never intending to do anything on the stage ever again.

“Hurry up then, Mr Dennis is the last bed on the left.”

I thanked her, blushed because I was lying my head off, and walked briskly into the ward. Graham Dennis was reading the Daily Mail—how surprising—not; so he didn’t see me approach.

“Hello, Graham,” I said walking up to his bed.

He looked up and for a moment had no idea who I was—well he had had quite a shock when he fell. “Um—I know you don’t I?”

“Yes, I was in the Scottish play on Saturday when you had your accident.”

“Oh yes, you played Lady Macbeth, and had a pretty daughter.”

“That’s me; I helped administer first aid until the paramedics could get there.”

“Oh, thank you for that, I don’t remember much about it.”

“That’s hardly surprising is it—you had an electric shock and then an awful fall—it’s a miracle you’re still alive.”

“Yeah, it is—all I remember about it is I saw this blue flash and everything went black, then I heard a voice calling me—but the funny thing was it was a boy from school, a right woofter he was.”

“Who was that?”

“They used to call him Charlotte, like I said a real fairy cake.”

“So why would he be calling you?”

“I dunno—but it felt like I was slipping away and he was trying to keep me here—dunno why he would, I hated his guts an’ he knew it.”

“You were slipping away and he was trying to keep you here?”

“Yeah. Like I was dyin’ or somethin’ and he stopped me.”

“That doesn’t sound like an act of hatred to me, it sound more like one of charity.”

“Yeah, an’ why would he help me?”

“Because you bullied him, you mean?”

“Yeah—no, I didn’t do anythin’ like that.”

“Yes you did, Graham, and you know it.”

“How would you know?”

“He was my brother.”

“Oh—I didn’t think ’e ’ad a sister, ’specially one as pretty as you.”

“Sounds like you didn’t know him very much at all, does it?”

“I know he was a right girly-boy.”

“Because he seemed feminine to you, that’s grounds for bullying him?”

“Yeah, I mean I didn’t want him near me—makes me feel ill.”

“But he tried to avoid you, it was you who sought him, to tease and bully.”

“No I didn’t—you’re lying—you weren’t even there.”

“Oh yes I was, Graham, I was there every time you tried to hurt him. I was there when you tried to head butt him and he ducked and you butted the wall.”

He looked at me, “But you can’t have been—that was just ’im an’ me.”

“Was it? I was there.”

“What?” He stared at me trying to understand what I was saying. “But that means you…?”

“That’s right, Graham, it was me you bullied and it was I who saved your miserable life.”

“But—but—you’re a woman?” he looked totally bewildered.

“I was when you last bullied me—same role, too—Lady Macbeth—remember, you tried to hit me when I was walking to school and that woman stopped you, thinking you were about to hit a girl.”

“Bloody ’ell.”

“You would have hit a girl, I was a girl, I am a woman—and I still found time to save your miserable life—though why, defeats me. I’m going now, you’ll make a full recovery, I ensured that when you fell.”

“How could you do that?”

“The blue flash, want to see another one?” I snapped my fingers and there was a bright blue flash in front of him.

“Jesus—how did you do that?”

“Easy—another one?” I snapped my fingers.

“You knocked me off that gantry?”

“No, that was the light acting independently, but I stopped it killing you.”

“What d’you mean, you stopped it killing me?”

“The blue light works through me, but I don’t always control it, it sometimes does its own thing. Blasting you off that lighting gantry was nothing to do with me, it decided it had a score to settle.”

“What are you, some sort of witch?”

“No—just a woman, we all have special powers which men rarely see or understand, mine is healing.”

“Yeah? If you’re so clever heal my damaged back.”

“Okay.” I nodded at him and he gave this sudden jolt.

“My back—it’s on fire.” He lay back on the bed gasping for breath.

“Has it stopped—the burning?”

“Yeah.”

“Get up and walk.”

“I can’t can I?”

“Get up and walk,” I instructed him.

Reluctantly he did. “Jesus, I can walk,” he said loudly. Mind you so could the other patients in that end of the ward. I slipped away in the chaos that followed.

That night on the television, the local news carried a story of a group of quite sick patients who mysteriously recovered after a visit by a woman that no one could remember seeing.

Julie and Trish watched it with me. “How did you manage that?” they asked me.

“I knew the light had acted judgementally and I had to put things right, so I did. I simply asked the light to obscure my identity and help me leave without any questions. It got the whole ward walking about and somehow induced amnesia in the staff.”

“You told me the light couldn’t do that—punish people,” accused Julie.

“I was wrong, it was wrong—so I made it right again. It won’t do so again.”

“How d’you know, Mummy?”

“Let’s just say I know.”

“Does that mean we won’t be able to use it to get revenge?” asked Julie looking rather disappointed.

“I’m afraid so.”

“Oh bugger—that would ha’ been like, wicked.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1396

“How did you make it stop being naughty, Mummy?” Trish asked about the energy.

“I considered that its seeming desire for revenge was an unconscious message from me, inviting it to attack him.”

“Were you thinking of it when it happened, Mum; I thought you were busy with the play?” Julie asked quite a pertinent question.

“I don’t think it happened like that. When he was telling lies about me from our schooldays, I felt very angry with him, and said to myself, ‘I’d like to take him down a peg.’ The light did so literally, it waited until he climbed up somewhere from whence it could take him down.”

“So it fused the whole box—c’moff it, Mum, it’s not that powerful.”

“Oh yes it is,” declared little Einstein, who was balancing a ball of energy on her hand.

“How d’ya do that?” Julie’s eyeballs were nearly out on stalks.

“Watch,” Trish flung the energy at the television and the fuse promptly blew in the plug.

“I hope you haven’t broken it,” I said, wondering where we had a three amp fuse.

“I don’t think so, but it proves it can break things and fuses.” Trish was going to be a ruthless researcher if she went into science.

“Where did you get it from?” Julie was interrogating her little sister.

“From Mummy, where d’ya think.”

“How?”

“I just took it from her, she’s surrounded by it all the time.”

“Surrounded by what?” I asked, pulling out the plug and unscrewing the top.

“The healing energy.”

“Can you see it?” I asked Trish.

She nodded.

“Can you see it now?” Julie was peering at me very strangely.

Trish nodded again.

I looked—I couldn’t see it.

“Where are you looking?” Julie peered at me.

“It’s like a very thin light all round her—go and put your hand next to her.”

Julie did as she was told, “Coo, I can feel something,” she had her hand nearly touching me, “It’s, like, buzzing.”

“It’s coming up your arm,” Trish chuckled.

“D’you mind? I’m trying to fix the television before Isaac Newton zaps it again.” There was a blue flash and Julie ended up lying on her back.

“What happened there?” I looked at Trish.

“When you got cross—a big lump of energy flew off you and hit Julie.”

“Are you all right, sweetheart?” I asked of my supine daughter.

“Yeah—wow, it was like an electric shock—I like saw this, like, blue flash and I was lying on the floor.”

“I think I might still have a small problem with controlling it,” I sighed.

“Wow, I wish I could do that.”

“You’d be decidedly dangerous,” I scolded her.

“Yeah, so? ’S better than a knife like some people use.”

“Yeah, a built-in taser.”

“Can’t you two see how awful this could be? If I’d been really angry with Julie or even that bloke the other night—I could have killed him or Julie.”

“Can I try?” said Trish.

“NO,” I said loudly and the blue flash threw her across the room, her fall only being broken by the fact that she hit the sofa, from which she bounced giggling.

I ran out of the room and up to my bedroom where I locked the door. If I stayed away from everyone, maybe no one would get hurt. I had visions of my students being thrown about the lecture theatre if they annoyed me, or cars catching fire or swerving off the road because I shouted at the driver for cutting me off.

I lay weeping on the bed—I couldn’t bear the idea that I might actually hurt someone with something that was designed to heal. I suppose I felt like those scientists, Nobel, Oppenheimer and so on who developed ideas which became weapons and thus killers.

I know it’s not the idea—it’s the use it’s put to which matters. I seemed to be unconsciously hurting people simply by being cross with them. I was still responsible, how could I change things?

I drifted off to sleep, at least I think I did. I was lying on the bed and some strange woman walked up to me and touched me.

“You are finally learning the truth about our gift to you, Catherine.”

“I am?” I asked in astonishment, “I am—so what is the truth?”

“That is for you to learn, for if we reveal it to you, you will learn nothing and therefore not progress.”

“Why do you always talk in riddles? Why not take your gift and shove it? I’m tired of your silly games.”

“Your impudence does you no favours, Catherine.”

“Neither does your gift, apparently.”

“You challenge our wisdom?”

“Wisdom—hah—if you chose me, it seems signally lacking.”

“We did not choose you, you chose yourself and your path.”

“Yeah, like anyone with half a brain is going to choose to be transgendered and all the complications it causes.”

“You seem to have risen above them and coped very well, we are pleased with much of your progress.”

“Progress? What progress? You make it sound like I’m playing some sort of game of snakes and ladders—it might be a game to you, but this is my life you are pissing on, and I wish you’d stop and just let me get on with living it and raising my family.”

“You seem to miss the point, Catherine, life is a series of challenges from which you grow, mentally, physically and spiritually.”

“Yeah, well I’ve grown enough.”

“You never cease growing, Catherine, it’s what the human condition is all about.”

“Sure, only because you insist on it—like some payback because Prometheus took the knowledge of fire from the Olympian gods. Oh I suppose you’re still pissed at Eve and her apple?”

“That is beneath even you, Catherine, you know perfectly well the Garden of Eden refers to a combination of folk memory of the hunter gatherer society and pure allegory. Humans haven’t fallen, they never quite rose to fly, except with your primitive technology.”

“How about I give you some of the blue light treatment, throw you into a wall?”

“Then you would die, horribly.”

“Fine, at least I wouldn’t hurt anyone who matters to me.”

“Your attachment to your family is touching if erroneous, and we are not going to be able to overlook much more of your insubordination without imposing consequences.”

“I don’t want to play this game anymore, take it away and go yourself with it.”

“You are so close to understanding—yet so far.”

“Let me wake up and be rid of you.”

“Be rid of us? Perhaps you’ve not made as much progress as we’d hoped.”

“Go away and leave me in peace,” I heard myself shouting and woke myself up.

“Are you all right, Mummy?” called Trish through the locked door.

“Oh—I fell asleep, I’m perfectly okay.”

I went and opened the door and she threw herself at me. “We were so worried.”

“About what?”

“About you, silly, Mummy. You were upset and we were worried.”

“Can you still see the blue light round me?”

“No, it’s gone.”

“Thank God for that,” I said grimacing at my own failure to avoid such loaded clichés.

“Can you still do the healing?”

“Who cares?” I felt quite relieved.

“You haven’t mended Auntie Stella yet or got her able to produce milk.”

“I don’t think I can, sweetheart—I can’t perform miracles, you know.”

“You can—I’ve seen you do it.”

“Yeah sure, I changed five loaves and two fishes into wine—still tasted of bread and fish mark you.” I laughed at my own cleverness.

Trish rolled her eyes—“You shouldn’t mock like that, it’s blasphemy.”

“Yeah, so what?” I didn’t care one way or the other.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1397

I sat with Trish for a while until I recovered my composure enough to face the others.

“Why don’t you believe in God, Mummy?” she asked me.

“I don’t know if you’d understand my answer, sweetheart, and I’m not patronising you, it’s simply that you haven’t enough life experience to understand where I’m coming from.”

“I’ll do my best, Mummy.”

“I know you will.” I paused while I tried to express what I assumed would be a very complex argument. In the end I said, “Okay, the essence is, there is no scientifically testable evidence for the existence of God. There is no logical basis for the existence of God. The only people who believe are those who are making an emotional statement, it isn’t based on rationale, it’s based on faith—and that may or may not have formed because of an emotional experience.

“I’m not knocking other people’s experience or even their belief—that’s up to them, but there is nothing there which presses my buttons, so I have to go with my disbelief or agnosticism. I don’t know—which is the difference between me and believers. They claim to know—I claim not to know.”

“So if you’d met God or Jesus or someone, you’d believe?”

“Um—probably not.”

“Why not, wouldn’t that prove it for you?”

“No, because the mind can play tricks on us. Many people who claim visions and such were probably having some sort of emotional experience already, and their minds might have brought in whatever they experienced to make them feel better—a delusional experience, or even a dream. But we each have different standards of proof. Mine happens to require scientific standards of evidence, most people don’t.”

“Don’t scientists believe in God, then?”

“Oh yeah, loads do, Gramps does—but I don’t. I had bad experiences when I was younger through religion, so maybe my view is a trifle jaundiced. If you want to believe—you carry on, but don’t expect me to change because of it—I won’t without evidence.”

She looked perplexed. “I love you, Mummy, and I think you’re very clever. Sister Maria is also very clever, but she believes in God.”

“Which as I said is her prerogative, that she does doesn’t mean she’s right, neither does it mean she’s wrong any more than it proves my argument one way or the other. I mean do you believe in Father Christmas?”

“Only if it means I get lots of presents,” she chuckled.

“Well yes, I can see that as reasoning however ill-founded it is. But that’s the same reason some people believe in God.”

“So they get lots of presents?” she looked bewildered.

“Of a sort—first, it means they’re not alone, they have their god; second, they believe in some form of life after death despite there being no evidence to support it. So, worship your god and you get to heaven instead of hell where all the unbelievers go.”

“Yes, you don’t want to go to hell, do you, Mummy?”

“I don’t believe there is a heaven or hell, so how can I go to them?”

“What if you’re wrong?”

“What if I’m right? What happens to all the people who believed in heaven and find there isn’t one?”

“They’ll be very disappointed, won’t they?”

“No, they’ll be very dead.”

“But they’ll know won’t they?”

“I er doubt it, because brain function ceases quite quickly once you die.”

“But what about all those people’s experiences an’ Jesus told ’em he’d give them everlasting life an’ things?”

“If that’s your evidence, it wouldn’t last for long. There is no evidence there ever was a Jesus.”

“But everyone knows he lived.”

“Same as Father Christmas—you ever seen him?”

“Um, no.” She paused, “What about the Gospels? They saw Jesus.”

“No they didn’t, they were written years afterwards, some longer after than others.”

“What about St Peter, he met Jesus.”

“And he wrote a Gospel—he was an uneducated fisherman—probably couldn’t read or write.”

“Maybe God helped him.”

“Maybe he didn’t.”

“I don’t like arguing with you, Mummy, you’re too clever.”

“No, I’m more experienced. Like I said earlier, you either believe or you don’t. You could bring the Pope in here and he wouldn’t be able to convince me in a million years. He’d be able to convince me that he believed, but I doubt he’d find anything acceptable to me.”

“I don’t know what to think, Mummy.”

“It doesn’t matter, sweetheart, what matters is how you live. There are lots of people who have a religion and act like monsters, and there are some who act like saints. The same goes for we unbelievers too, some of us are nice some aren’t.

“If believing helps you to live responsibly, and to care about others—then it’s good. If it means you act irresponsibly or judgementally, then that isn’t good. So, I think it’s how you live that matters—not if there is or isn’t a God, unless that belief helps you to live responsibly.”

“Um—I don’t know what to think.”

“Just listen and read things as you go along and try and understand your experiences as informing how you live, and possibly what you believe. It’s a free country, so if you do or don’t believe is acceptable—it wasn’t always so, and isn’t in some countries today. Then again, some countries banned religion as well, which is also wrong. We should be free to choose what we believe, in the same way we should be free to choose who we are and what gender represents that best—or even none at all.”

“How can people be no gender, Mummy, aren’t we all boys or girls?”

“No, some of us are uncomfortable in both the established genders, they don’t feel themselves to be male or female rather they feel they are neither.”

“That’s weird, Mummy.”

“For you, but they might feel the same about you embracing femaleness.”

“But I am, female.”

“I know, sweetheart, I know—what I’m trying to say, is there are some people who don’t agree with you and prefer to remain genderless.”

“I don’t like that.”

“I’m not very comfortable with it either, but in order to claim acceptance we have to accept others providing they accept us. It’s being responsible for what you feel and consequently what you think, say or do. And if the most that some genderless person does is to make me think about things which are outside my comfort zone, then I have to accept them and deal with my discomfort.”

“I don’t want to think about that, Mummy, it’s too unpleasant.”

“But you see, years ago people were made to be male or female, it’s still the predominant system, but it isn’t enough to encompass all the various groups we have now. Some probably have greater validity than others, but we have to at least accept them if we want to be recognised ourselves.”

“But you look like a lady.”

“So can a drag artist, but he’s still a man, not a woman.”

“You breastfeed.”

“I believe that can be arranged for men to do as well with the right hormones.”

“Did you have hormones, then?”

“Not really, no; it sort of just happened to me—psychosomatic, I expect.”

“Unless God did it.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t think I’m very happy with that argument.”

“Maybe it was the blue light, so you can make Auntie Stella’s boobs work, too.”

“I don’t think it’s that easy, Trish. Goodness, look at the time—I think I’d better dash out and get some fish and chips.”

“Oh yes please, Mummy, I love them.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1398

Fish and chips over, and the washing up in the machine, I chatted with the girls as they did their homework, helping them as I could—usually not. Billie continues to struggle with her English—they make them write stuff longhand to avoid use of spell checkers. Her writing is quite juvenile given she’s three years older than Trish and Livvie, her writing looks very similar, large and rounded. Mind you, I’ve had twenty-odd-year-old students who wrote the same way and while legible it often unfortunately carried an immaturity of thinking as well.

My own scrawl was upright but small, with none of those affected Is dotted with hearts or feathery tails to my Gs and Ys, nor does it lean backwards, and only occasionally forwards, when I write quickly.

I looked over Billie’s essay for her and spotted three mistakes in the first sentence. I corrected them and explained where she’d gone wrong—including that awful one, I could of done something rather than, I could have…

We worked for an hour and the finished product was passable, at least the spelling was now correct and the use of punctuation more correct as well. She hardly used any save two full stops and one comma in a piece of about five hundred words.

At first she thought I was just picking on her, but we went into my study and I explained the basics of punctuation in giving sense to a sentence or emphasising a point. Eventually she realised I was trying to help her and she asked if I could help her do her English homework again. We hugged and I promised I would.

I then got her to show me her other stuff. It was equally difficult to read and the teachers had written snotty comments about punctuation. We looked at History and Geography. Her ideas were fine but were lost in translation to the written word. I told her I was going to get a tutor for her during the holidays. The response was a long face.

I told her that Danny was going to do some as well, he didn’t know it yet, but I would have someone coach both of them in English. Two reasons why: they’re probably better at it than I, and strangers often have more power than familiar figures.

I’d seen a name mentioned in the local paper when I’d read my reviews of the play, so had phoned the woman and she sent me her details—a genuine English teacher, with ten years of experience in coaching and classroom teaching. Her rates were quite reasonable too. I hired her to commence when the holidays started.

Billie, after a little sulk, was okay: she accepted her fate because she could see how it would help her in the long run and even to some extent in the short term too. Danny was an entirely different kettle of fish.

“Coaching in English—no way, Mum. I do enough during the year, I’m not doing it in the holidays too.”

“I’m afraid you do as I want, and in this case, it’s coaching in English.”

“But I don’t need no coaching.”

“That means you do.”

“No it doesn’t.”

“It’s a double negative, so it means you will do the opposite to what you thought you would.”

“No it don’t.”

“No it doesn’t, is the correct phrase—yours was incorrect.”

“Football coaching, okay; English—what a waste of time and effort.”

“Show me your English exercise book,” I insisted. He pretended he’d left it in school but we found it when we looked through his pile of schoolbooks for the second time—he’d looked the first time by himself.

His writing was slightly better than Billie’s but his spelling and sentence construction was woeful. I wondered at one point if he split one more infinitive, he could boldly go to the Starship Enterprise and I’d pay for the rocket.

We sat down and I asked him what he was going to do as a career—assuming he wasn’t good enough to turn professional as a soccer player, notwithstanding—he wanted to be a games’ teacher.

“Does your games’ teacher teach anything else besides sport and PE?”

“Don’t think so.”

“They usually do, even if it’s only sport theory.”

“Nah, he does sport science an’ geography.”

“Geography?”

“Yeah—you know, capital of America is New York, that sort of thing.”

“Would you care to reflect on what you just said?”

“No, why?”

“Well Washington was the capital of the United States when I was in school and I suspect geography is a bit more complex than simply not knowing your state capitals.”

“I was only jokin’, I just wanted to see if you was awake.”

“Were awake, and I was. What’s the capital of Australia?”

“Um—Sydney?” he blushed when I looked aghast at him.

“That’s the capital of New South Wales, Canberra is the federal capital.”

“Ask me another one, I knew that really.”

“Okay, let’s look a bit closer to home, what’s the county town of Wiltshire?”

“Wiltshire? Um—Salisbury?”

“Try Devizes,” I suggested, “What about Dorset, that’s an easy one?”

“I don’t know, bloody Bournemouth, I suppose.”

“It’s Dorchester; and Hampshire is?”

By now he was getting very cross. “I don’t give a shit what it is.”

“You might if you lived in Winchester.”

“I don’t do I, so there.” He stamped off upstairs and I was left feeling very frustrated and worried for his future. He was good at football but possibly not that good and one bad tackle could end his career in an instant.

I let him go; he had to recognise his own failings before he would do anything to change them. His end of term exams would show some areas of concern, assuming I actually got to see his report. This being a parent is hard work.

I put the girls to bed and read to them, Billie was a little quiet compared to the others and was last out from the bathroom, waiting until the others had finished before she started to wash and clean her teeth.

I had to read them from Horrible Histories which would have terrified me as a child, especially one of Mima’s age, but they all seemed to love it. So much for my judgement.

I spoke with Simon about my concerns for Billie and Danny. His response was that he was rubbish at Geography at school, but he survived. If he needed to go anywhere he’d look it up in an atlas—he’d even found Hell when told to go there—it’s in Iceland.

“There’s Hel in Poland.”

“Well that’s next to Iceland.”

“Since when?” I challenged.

“Told you I was rubbish at geography.”

“So it would seem.”

“Okay, miss clever dick, I know clitoris isn’t a Greek island,” he smirked running his hand over my thigh.

“Ooh,” I jumped, taken by surprise of his change of subject.

“An’ my sense of spatial awareness is excellent too, because I know this fits somewhere as well,” he placed my hand on his swelling groin.

As if on cue, as he touched my nipple Catherine woke up crying and he nearly wept himself when I went to sort her. Oh well, his anatomy is better than his geography but he’s still finding it difficult to get where he wants when he wants it. That kept me sniggering while I fed Catherine and changed her—by then he was asleep and I gently removed the book from his lap and slipped into bed.

I know general knowledge is something which changes from time to time, but I did wonder about the so called dumbing-down effect which some writers in quality newspapers mention, and which comes up as a topic on Radio 4 regularly, where it seems half the twelve-year-olds in England and Wales haven’t heard of Mozart, Dickens or Nelson—what chance my collection of Vaughan Williams CDs?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1399

Simon woke up where he left off the night before—trying to fit a round peg in a certain hole. Perhaps I should feel pleased that he fancies me at all rather than try to avoid it at times. It was six in the morning and I hadn’t got to bed much before one. So I was still quite sleepy. However, I let him have his wicked way, which could be a nice way of being woken up except I kept expecting three or four faces to rush in and suggest that Simon was trying to hurt me—or judging by the noises he was making—might think I was hurting him. I wasn’t of course—as far as I know—as he seemed to think it was his birthday and Christmas rolled into one, I doubted it.

I must admit when I wake I’m usually more interested in getting the kids ready and off to school, or making sure they get their breakfast at weekends. Now I was standing in the shower trying to cool something down—goodness it was smarting.

I dried off, gave it a dose of antiseptic cream and popped a panty-liner in my panties—could be where the name comes from—and got myself dressed. I pulled on a skirt; trousers could be a bit uncomfortable after our gymnastics—and went down to see Simon off to his office.

He mentioned something about the Hindhead tunnel being opened soon and being able to get to London up the A3 a bit more easily. I laughed, the better the road the more traffic it attracts so within a short time any progress is lost. Besides, he doesn’t go to London that often these days, which was the whole point of shifting the office to Portsmouth.

I kissed him goodbye and he went to work while I went to rouse the children. Billie sat in bed waiting for the other girls to use the bathroom, which they do as a pack. Trish was fairly integrated before, even with her dangly bits whereas Billie has never made such progress, perhaps because she’s a little older and a bit more gauche, and unfortunately, very much more self conscious—the beginnings of adolescence?

While her younger siblings washed and messed about in the bathroom, I spoke with her. “Is everything okay—I mean apart from what we discussed last night?”

“S’okay,” she replied but I didn’t believe her.

“You used to go into the bathroom with the others, what’s changed?” I was pretty sure what the answer was but it would be useful to confirm it, then Stephanie can get stuck into it at their next session.

“Nothing.”

“Are you saying that’s an answer, there’s nothing changed or that because nothing has changed, that is the problem?”

“Yeah, bit of both.”

“I see—well just remember that surgical techniques are progressing all the time, so in some ways the longer you wait for it, the better the results should be. The other thing is the hormones will have had greater effect so your body will look that much more female so the surgery will be less of a worry by then.”

“I’m sick of waiting, I wish I had Trish’s courage to deal with things.”

“Not a good idea because it could result in you all being removed from my keeping.”

“Why—you’re our mother?”

Yes but if I can’t seem to care for you in a manner the authorities deem is suitable, they could remove you all from my care.”

“Why, Mummy?”

“Because they’d think I was colluding in your mishap.”

“But that’s silly.”

“I’m afraid the way officialdom’s mind works is probably different to the rest of us.”

“That’s even sillier.”

“So it might seem to you and me, but it’s how things happen. They would probably be thinking they were acting in your best interests. They don’t mess about with child protection issues because of the way the press have crucified them when children have been harmed. Once, they might overlook it, twice they’d be here in numbers to put the rest of us under a microscope.”

“But why?”

“Look, I have three of you who are transgender, that in itself is unusual verging on next to impossible. They’d consider what the common factor was—and that could easily be seen as me. I was transgender, so I attract or make my children so, for whatever ridiculous reason they could manufacture.”

“But the only reason we’re here is because no one else would listen to us.”

“That wouldn’t necessarily stop them putting two and two together and making five.”

“But I’d tell them, so would the others.”

“Do you think they’d listen?”

“I’d make them.”

“And just how would you do that?”

“Somehow—I would, Mummy.”

“I don’t doubt your sincerity, but I feel it would fall upon deaf ears. Some people in social services have been determined to get me because they were wrong about helping you children. They didn’t believe there could be that many transgender children in one place, unless I was making you so. In your case because you didn’t tell them initially, it would look worse than in Trish’s case because she said so before she ever met me.”

“Whatever I do is wrong—I hate myself—I wish I was dead.”

I pulled her into a cuddle. “You mustn’t say things like that. It’s my fault for not supporting you enough—you’ve done nothing wrong. Please don’t do anything to yourself—it would break my heart.”

We were both weeping when the others came back to their room. I couldn’t ask them to leave—all their clothes were in the room.

“Woss wong?” asked Mima who was already looking tearful in sympathy.

“It’s nothing—please let Billie and I deal with this a moment. Get your school clothes and dress in my room.”

“Wassamatter, Billie?” asked Trish.

“Please take your school clothes and go,” I said more firmly and they all muttered and grumbled before doing as I asked.

“See—they know I’m different—you’d all be better off without me.”

“Billie, how upset have I got to get to get through to you—we all love you—we all think of you as a delightful young lady—please don’t spoil it for yourself—hang in there a little longer.”

“I don’t know.”

“Please promise me you won’t do anything without coming to tell me first.”

“But you’ll stop me?”

“Not necessarily—if you can convince me it’s for the best—I won’t. I might even join you.”

“What will the others do then—without you?”

“I don’t know, but I expect they’d survive.”

“What if they didn’t?”

“It would be up to Daddy to find them another mummy, wouldn’t it?”

“But there’d never be anyone like you, Mummy.”

“I could say the same to you.”

“That’s silly.”

“No it isn’t—each of you is different—unique. You have some similarities—we all do. But you also have this uniqueness—we’d all miss you so much—that I don’t know if I could bear it—so I might as well come with you.”

“But then you’d go to hell, too.”

“I’ve been there before, kiddo, it has no fears for me.”

“I didn’t think you believed in it?”

“I don’t, but if you do and feel you’ll go there, I’ll come too to help you.”

“I don’t deserve a mummy like you.”

“No, kiddo, you have that the wrong way round, It’s I who’ve failed you and therefore don’t deserve children like you. You are perfect—all my children are.”

We hugged and cried together for a bit longer before she got up and went into the shower. I crossed my fingers, wiped my face and went to see to the others. As soon as I got them in school I’d phone Stephanie and if necessary pull Billie out of classes to see her.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1400

Special xiv Centennial edition, with free throwaway plot and characters.

New improved edition with the magic ingredient male cow poo.

Buy while stocks and pillory last. Special discount for bulk purchasers and callers with guns.

~~~~~~~

I’d barely got home from speaking with Sister Maria about my concerns for Billie when the phone rang.

“Charlie?” asked a male voice.

“Sorry, you must have the wrong number, there’s no Charlie here,” as I said this a cold shiver ran through me.

“Don’t hang up—sorry I can’t remember what you call yourself these days. Lady something isn’t it?”

“Who is this?” I wasn’t far from slamming the phone down.

“It’s your Uncle Arthur.”

“Yes?” I said while thinking, what does he want?

“Look, I know you and Doreen didn’t exactly hit it off…”

“You could say that as the understatement of the twenty-first century.”

“Look, she’s seriously ill.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” actually I didn’t give a toss but I tried not to upset him, he sounded as if he was having difficulties coping.

“Thank you. I don’t know quite how to phrase this, she’s asking to see you as her only neph—um—niece.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“She has kidney disease—which has caused her kidneys to fail. She could die—I’m so worried, Char—sorry, I can’t remember your name.”

“Catherine.”

“Yes, of course, Catherine, could you come and see her before she dies?”

Just what I needed—not—a trip to Swindon.

“If I do, I’ll have to bring my baby with me and also Stella’s little one—I’m breastfeeding both of them.” That should shut him up for a moment.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that, it sounded like you said you were breastfeeding a baby?”

“I am, but there’s two of them.”

“But you’re a bo—um—not equipped to do that—are you?”

“Yes I am.”

“Oh—the things they can do these days—your baby, did you say?”

“Yes, my baby.”

“Congratulations—we—um didn’t—um think, I mean know you were pregnant.”

“It’s not as if we’re a close family, Uncle Arthur.”

“No, I suppose not—could you come and see her?”

“Is that really a good idea, if I scared the life out of her last time we met, how’s seeing her going to help?”

“I don’t know—um—Catherine, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. Look can I call you back—I’ve just got in from the school run.”

“School run?”

“Yes, taking my girls to school.”

“How many children have you got?”

“Seven, I think at the last count—they won’t sit still, so counting is difficult.”

“Seven? Good lord—how do you cope?”

“We manage.”

“Goodness—yes, I can see why you’ll have to call me back.”

“Exactly, I’ll need to speak with my hubby, see if he can come home early to help in my absence.”

“I see. Are you really Lady something or other, or is that just a wind up?”

“Well, I’m married to a man who’s called Lord Simon Cameron.”

“Yes, but that’s just one of those civil partner things isn’t it?”

“No, that’s not allowable between a man and a woman at the moment, so we settled for a normal wedding.” He must be reeling from all this, poor chap—but I’m enjoying it.

“Not allowed between a man and woman, but you’re…”

“A boy with boobs who’s breastfeeding her baby.”

“I’m sorry, this is difficult to take in.”

“But you met Simon a while back, remember you called when you were in Southsea.”

“Of course we did, and you were Catherine, yes—no, I don’t really remember.”

“I’ll call you back, Uncle Arthur.”

“I’m going to the hospital this afternoon.”

“I’ll call back very soon, promise.”

“Okay then, Char—I mean Catherine—this is all too much for me.”

“Yes, I can appreciate that. Take care, I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“Who was that?” asked Stella as I staggered into the kitchen.

“My Uncle Arthur, you may remember they came by a while ago, they were at my Dad’s funeral.”

“Oh, what did he want?” she asked.

“My Auntie Doreen is very poorly with kidney failure.”

“Oh, you going to blue light her?”

“I don’t know—I hadn’t got that far. I think I need a cuppa and a think.”

“Where does she live?”

“Swindon.”

“Oh, the land of roundabouts.”

“Yep, you can get dizzy simply by driving round the place.”

“You’d better express some for these two, if you’re going off for the day.”

“I thought that if you came with me, we could take the little suckers with us.”

“Dunno—you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Which part?”

“All of it.”

“Probably not, but it’s the best I can do.”

“What about the other kids?”

“Shit, I was supposed to call Stephanie about Billie—it’ll have to be tomorrow now.”

“What’s wrong with Billie?”

“She was talking with a very deep depression yesterday, sounded almost suicidal.”

“Oh, so which one is your priority? Billie or Auntie Do?”

“I’ll see if Simon can get home a bit early, he could help with Billie until we got back.”

“Simon? Does he know which one is Billie?”

“That was very catty, Stella, your brother is actually quite a good parent when he wants to be.”

“Want, being the operative word,” said Stella dismissing her brother.

“I’ll call him.” I did just that and he agreed to come home early to help Jenny.

When I told Jenny, she shrugged—“I expect we’ll manage.”

“Are you sure?” I felt very guilty.

“Yeah, Tom will be here too, so between us—besides, Danny is very good with Billie and Julie will be home just after six.”

“Okay, I’ll call Uncle Arthur and say we’re on our way.” I returned his call and agreed we’d come up right away.

It wasn’t quite like that, we had to sort a whole pile of things for the babies, then sort out baby seats and so on. After this we had to sort the babies—feed and change them—we got off an hour later.

We made good progress and stopped between Salisbury and Marlborough for a snack before continuing onto Swindon. There we went to see Uncle Arthur and he was in a state.

I left Stella with the babies at my aunt and uncle’s house then took Uncle Arthur to the new hospital, The Great Western Hospital.

“Who’s this?” asked Auntie Doreen.

“Your—um—niece—um—Cha—I mean, Catherine,” spluttered my uncle.

“Do we have a niece?” she challenged him, “I thought it was a scrawny nephew, but then he always looked more like a girl than a boy. You’re not my nephew are you?”

“No, Auntie Doreen, I’m your niece.”

“Are you sure, girl?”

“She’s got a baby,” explained Uncle Arthur, making everything as clear as mud.

“Yes, but she could be the father,” accused Doreen.

“She’s come a long way, Do, an’ remember, she’s Lady Catherine.”

“Oh lord, I feel awful.” With that she closed her eyes and died—well she would have done if I hadn’t been there. Instead I took her hand, sent Uncle A for the nurse and spoke to my aunt.

“Look here, you can’t die just yet you silly old cow, so listen carefully—I know you can hear me. Look for the blue light, it’ll appear like a blue sun—follow it, and don’t disappoint me, because the alternative you will not like—I promise.”

I flooded her with blue light—how can I do that for people I don’t even like very much?—the Hyacinth Bucket of the family—and poor Uncle A even looks a bit like the bloke who plays her husband.

The kidneys were quite badly damaged, the nephrons and glomerulus were in a bit of a state and I’d just about sorted them when the nurse arrived with Uncle Arthur.

“Hello, Mrs Porter—can you hear me?” she said loudly at the same time shaking her arm.

“Of course I can hear you, I’m not deaf just resting my eyes.”

The nurse gave Uncle A a real glare before she walked stiffly away.

“We thought you’d gone, thank God you didn’t. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Do,” Uncle A was virtually in tears.

“You’d have to go and live with your favourite niece, wouldn’t you?” she threw back at him. Now I realised why I had to be there. I also knew she’d make a full recovery which she certainly shouldn’t have done, but no one twigged I’d been involved—except perhaps Auntie Do, who I swore to secrecy—threatening her with a total relapse which would take months of agony to kill her. It was pure male cow poo, but she didn’t know that.

I left my aunt and uncle at the hospital and drove back to Stella and the babies.

“The strangest thing has happened,” she said.

“Not Billie?”

“No, don’t be silly, Cathy, I mean about me—I started gushing full cream about twenty minutes ago. I’ve fed them both and I’m still dripping.”

I began to laugh, had Trish been doing anything I wondered or was it just her milk came through, or even did the blue light fix her while I was doing Auntie Do? I suppose we’ll never know—Stella doesn’t.

We had just loaded everything and two babies in the car when my mobile rang.

“Cathy?”

“What’s the problem, Jenny?”

“Did you take Billie to school this morning?”

“Of course, I even saw the headmistress about her, why?”

“She wasn’t there when I went to collect them and the others didn’t see her at lunch.”

A cold shiver ran up my spine and settled in the pit of my stomach. “We’re on our way, have you called the police?”

“Yes, nothing so far.”

I chucked my Blackberry into my bag and jumped into the car.

“What’s up?” asked Stella.

“Billie’s missing.”

“Oh no,” she gasped, “What are you going to do?”

“Get home asap,” I said slamming my foot to the floor leaving tyre marks behind us.

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