Bike 1,401–1,450

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,401–1,450

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 1401

I really don’t recall much of the journey home, except Stella telling me to slow down at times and reminding me that we had two babies on board. That did cause me to think for a few moments, and also to reflect on the fact that I wasn’t the greatest driver in the world.

At one point Stella was on the mobile phone to Simon, who had been told at the office that one of his kids appeared to be missing. He immediately called the police and the school had been searched and she wasn’t there.

He wasn’t terribly pleased that they all thought her transgender status made her a bit strange, at least in their eyes—in Simon’s view, she was just an ordinary kid who was trying to deal with life and small urinary problem. That she had been sexually abused some years before was in his opinion very much more of a handicap to her and other children than having the wrong sexual organs.

When I heard all this later, I hugged him and thanked him for his defence of our children’s normality. True, Trish is a bit strange, but that’s because she has a brain the size of a small planet, not because she used to be classed as a boy. She is a little girl now in everything but ovaries.

Once we got past Salisbury, a giant bottleneck usually, I felt a little easier—probably because the end of our journey was in sight. Finally, after what seemed like an age we pulled into the drive, nearly hitting the police car which was parked in my usual space. I grabbed Catherine and ran into the house, leaving Stella to bring her baby and the luggage in. I noticed Danny going out to help her.

“Any news?” I demanded waving the female copper away until I’d spoken to Simon. He shook his head.

“Lady Cameron, I’m WPC Brown, I’m a family liaison officer.”

“Congratulations, Simon, look after her, I’m going to the school.”

“That isn’t a good idea, Lady Cameron.”

“In your opinion, perhaps, but that is where I left my daughter this morning and where I will commence my search for her.”

“But, Lady Cameron…”

I grabbed my bag, jumped in my car and powered off to the school. I wasn’t surprised to see police cars there, but the number did catch me unawares. Still if it meant they found her, so much the better.

I demanded to see Sister Maria and after kicking my heels for a good fifteen minutes I was allowed to speak with her.

“I’m so sorry,” she said when I approached her.

“So you should be, I particularly asked you to keep an eye on her because she wasn’t acting her usual self.”

“I know, and I don’t know when she went. She was in registration, but no one seems to remember seeing her after that.”

“You don’t do registration for each class?”

“No, mornings and afternoons, that’s all.”

“So she could have been missing since nine o’clock?”

“I’m afraid so. If anything has happened to her, I don’t what I’ll do.”

“She’s still alive.”

“How can you be sure?”

“As sure as I know that tooth abscess hasn’t healed properly yet, has it?”

“No, it hasn’t.”

I turned round and slapped her face. She looked aghast at me.

“It’ll heal now, pus couldn’t drain.”

“Why, yes, it feels easier. Thank you.”

“You thought I’d hit you for losing Billie?”

“Yes, I’m sorry.”

“If I had, it would have been much harder and you’d be lying on the floor.”

“Oh—I didn’t have you down as a violent person.”

“I’m not, but those of us who aren’t violent usually, have difficulties controlling it once we get started.”

“Oh, I see.”

“I hope you never do, it’s not a pretty sight and I make the angel of death look like an amateur. I’m not proud of it, neither do I regret it. I protect my own whatever happens and whatever it takes.”

“You’ve hurt someone, haven’t you?”

“Yes, and I’d do it again. I need somewhere I can sit quietly, if I can meditate on her energy, I can find her.”

“What, when all these police have failed?”

“With all due respect, and I’m sure they’ve worked jolly hard—I know they do when children are involved—but I do know her and I have that advantage of being able to tune into her.”

“My tooth feels much easier.” I don’t know if she hadn’t listened to what I was saying or she was trying to distract me, but I wasn’t playing.

“Somewhere quiet, if you please.”

“The chapel is quiet, it’s been closed for a couple of weeks because we had a bit of a flood when one of the radiators leaked. It’s a bit cold in there, that’s the only thing.”

It also has all this religious symbolism everywhere, I’ll bet, but I said nothing other than it would do fine. We went in through the priest’s entrance and the robing room at the side of the chapel. It’s a modern lock and makes very little noise.

I followed her into the chapel proper and she put up her hand to stop me and to shut me up. She pointed ahead into the chapel by the altar. I tip-toed up to her and there in front of us was Billie. She was kneeling before the altar and on the floor by her was a kitchen knife.

“Jesus, you have to make me a girl or I want to die. You helped my sister Trish—she used to be Patrick. She cut them off and she survived, because I believe you helped her. You even helped her to have the job done early when she was wounded there and they made her into a proper girl.”

I felt tears run down my face and Sister Maria was silently weeping too.

“I’ve asked you every night to make me into a girl. I’ve prayed and prayed and each morning, when I look, that stupid sausage is still there. Why? Why can’t you perform a miracle for me—I’d do it for you.”

I wanted to intervene, to rush in and hug her to tell her that she was perfect as she was: except I knew she wouldn’t believe me because she wasn’t perfect in her own eyes.

“You’ve given my mummy magical powers to heal people, even sometimes those who are dead. Why couldn’t you give her the power to make me into a girl? Why have I got to wait another seven or eight years just to have this stupid sausage removed. I want it to go—if you make it into a girl’s bits, I’ll love you forever and always do what I can to help you.”

By now, I was having difficulty seeing what she was doing, my eyes were running so much and the lump in my throat was the size of an asteroid.

“Jesus, you’re supposed to be my saviour—save me—or let me be a proper girl in heaven.”

She picked up the knife and despite the lump in my throat I screamed, “No, Billie, don’t.”

She turned round and I was already running towards her.

“Mummy?”

“Darling, please put down the knife.”

“I can’t, Mummy, I have to do this. Jesus will save me—he promised us he would.”

“Sometimes he can’t always do that, my darling, sometimes we have to work through these things ourselves.”

“I am working it for myself, he won’t let me die, Mummy.”

“Please, please don’t do this darling—look, we’ll talk to Stephanie, see if we can do something to hurry things up.”

“They won’t, they have their rules.”

“But the rules said you couldn’t have hormones and you got them, didn’t you. Stephanie is on your side, you know.”

“You grown-ups are always telling me lies.” She was crying, “I was told lies when I had to do those horrible things. I was told I’d like it. It was horrible, and he used to touch me and I felt sick—it was so nasty—he was so nasty. Grown-ups tell me lies. Jesus wouldn’t lie to me.”

“Billie, darling, have I ever lied to you? Have I ever hurt you?”

“No, Mummy, but I gotta do this—I don’ wanna be a boy anymore, I’d rather be a dead girl.”

I’d edged a few yards closer. “You don’t have to be a dead girl, you can be a live one, honestly, I’ll ask Stephanie to see what she can do or where we can go to hurry things on.”

“No, Mummy, I wanna do this now.”

“Can I please at least have one last hug from you before you do this?”

“You’re trying to trick me.”

“I’m not, darling—I love you.”

I stepped forward and she stepped backwards, away from me.

“Please, darling, give me one last hug and then you can do whatever you like.”

“You’re just saying that, you want to grab me and take the knife.”

“You can keep the knife if you want—you can stab me if you want—I don’t care. If you die because of this—I’ll just die too.”

“You can’t die, Mummy, you’re an angel and the others need you. I’m a nothing, not even a boy or a girl—a nothing.”

“You’re not, you’re my daughter, my child and I love you. You are perfect, no matter what you think at this moment, believe me you are perfect.”

“I’m not—I’m an abomination, it says so in the Bible—I’m a sinner.”

“Please stand still, Billie, I don’t like talking to you as you walk round the place.”

“You want to catch me and take the knife.”

I stepped forwards and she stepped back straight into the arms of Sister Maria, who in the panic she stabbed and screamed.

“Oh Jesus, I’m going to see Him,” she gasped and fell down a large red patch spreading over her abdomen.

“Go and get help and don’t you dare run away—hurry,” I said firmly to Billie who seemed shocked.

“I didn’t mean to do it, she frightened me.”

“Run and get help.”

“I can’t, the door is locked, I’ve killed her, haven’t I? I didn’t mean to, Mummy, I didn’t mean to.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1402

I had no keys to get out; Sister Maria was now unconscious and bleeding profusely. She looked awful. What on earth do I do? First principles—try to stop bleeding. The knife was lying on the floor, I kicked it away, and ripped my way into the unconscious nun’s clothing. She had on a pretty cotton petticoat and I tore a strip off it and used it as a pressure pad against the wound, at the same time trying to pour blue light into her.

“Take my phone out of my bag and call the ambulance,” I called to Billie who was curled up like a ball on the carpet in front of the altar, whimpering.

“BILLIE,” I shouted and she stirred, “Get my mobile out and call the ambulance—NOW.”

She looked at me like a zombie; she stood up and promptly fainted. Oh shit with a capital F. The blood flow seemed to be easing, which might be because most of it was already out on the floor or in the nun’s clothing or because my efforts were paying off. Unfortunately, I couldn’t stop to check, call for help or check Billie—and all of this in front of the altar and the crucifix in the middle of it.

I looked up at the tortured figure on the cross and challenged it to help one of its followers. Then I laughed—what was I doing? I didn’t believe in fairy tales, and even if he’d stepped down from the cross and offered to call the ambulance, I wouldn’t have believed it.

However, a few minutes later, an event which could be interpreted as my prayer being answered—or just plain coincidence, which I prefer—a woman cleaner walked in and I called her to help.

“Jesus, mother of God, what’s happened?—You’ve killed her.”

“No I haven’t, but if we don’t get help she could die, please, in my bag use my phone to call for an ambulance.”

“I don’t like to go into another woman’s bag,”

“This is an emergency—please?”

“Oh this is a nice phone, one of them blackcurrants. What do I do?”

“Just dial 999 and ask for the ambulance.”

Eventually, she did and within minutes sirens could be heard approaching. “What happened to this one—you killed two of them?”

“That’s my daughter and she’s fainted.”

Billie sat up and promptly vomited all over herself and her school uniform. It was going to be one of those days.

The paramedics came dashing in, the cleaner managed to get it together enough to let them in and they rushed over to her. “What happened?”

“She got stabbed, the knife is over there.”

“Okay, let’s have a look.” He pulled the pad off the wound and looked at it and then at me. “Okay, where’s the entry wound?”

“Under the pad.”

He removed the pad and asked again, “Where?” I looked and the skin was intact.

He then shook her and she opened her eyes. “Can you hear me?” he said to her loudly.

“No need to shout, help me up.”

“What happened?” he asked her.

“I was doing the flowers when I had a terrific nosebleed and must have fainted. I think I had a knife with me, I didn’t fall on it did I?”

“No ma’am, it’s over here,” he pointed.

“So what happened to your dress?” he asked.

“Nothing, oh Lady Cameron, what are you doing here?” she winked at me.

“I came to see you, headmistress.”

“What’s this about stabbings?” asked the paramedic while his colleague connected her up to an electric sphygmomanometer. He showed his senior colleague. “Your BP is okay. If you’d been stabbed it wouldn’t be, that’s for sure—especially where this lady thought the wound was—that would have been straight into your liver—major bleed.”

They did a quick ECG and that was normal too.

“I can’t figure this out, there’s enough blood here for a major incident, yet you seem fine—I think we ought to take you in for a check up.”

“No, I’m fine, I get the odd funny turn, overdoing it the doc says, I have to see her in the morning, I’ll be okay, really I will.”

“And this knife is yours?”

“Yes, I brought it in here—it’s an old kitchen knife.”

“You’re sure no one tried to attack you?”

“I’m positive. I had a nosebleed, see.” She had certainly had blood come out of her nose but not from a nosebleed.

“Okay, if you get any more symptoms dial triple nine.”

“Sorry, I must have misunderstood the situation,” I said blushing.

“Yeah, it happens. This your kid?”

I nodded.

“What happened to her?”

“She fainted when she saw the blood. Then she was sick—squeamish I suppose.”

His colleague looked her over. “She’s okay, just a bit smelly—any probs get her to the hospital or your doctor. She’s okay now.”

“Thank you, and I’m sorry for what was obviously a wild goose chase.”

“No prob,” he said, did his paperwork and they left.

“Mrs Fitzwalter, could you clean up the mess?—that’ll be all for tonight.”

“Of course, Headmistress, ’ad me all a flutter for a bit.”

“I’ll—um—take my phone back, if you don’t mind.”

“They’re nice, them blackcurrants, in they?”

She put my phone back in my bag and I helped the headmistress stand up, she seemed remarkably calm. I washed my hands in the vestry or whatever they call it, and we wiped some of the sick off Billie who was still whimpering. Then Sister Maria led us back to her house, where she asked me to make some tea while she showered and changed and then got Billie to do the same—she went and got some clothes from the lost property cupboard.

We talked as we drank the tea, and Billie sat quietly on the sofa.

“Thanks for helping me out there,” she said.

“Me helping you? It was either Billie or I who’d have been charged with murder or manslaughter. I think you waking up like that and thinking so clearly, did us more favours.”

“No, Lady Catherine, it is I who must thank you. Okay, the incident was an accident, I tried to grab the knife and frightened her. Then as I slipped away—and I was dying—I saw you fighting to save my life—and the colour of the energy that surrounded you was just beautiful—only God could enable you to do that—I know you don’t believe, but his generosity isn’t limited to those who believe, because sometimes they aren’t worthy of it.”

I went to interrupt but she gestured me to be quiet.

“I don’t know if I died or not, but I saw Our Lord and He told me I was in safe hands—so for that alone, it was worth a little pain. Then I sort of dreamt I saw this wondrous woman, who told me that she was with you. I asked her her name but if she gave it, I’ve forgotten.”

“Shekinah,” I said quietly.

“Yes, of course, Old Testament stuff. She also told me that you were special but you wouldn’t listen to her and that she’d had to organise the excitement today to get your attention, because you don’t listen to her.”

“I think it might just be a bit of shock, making you dream vividly.”

“She said you’d deny it.”

“Well let’s face it, who in their right mind would nearly cause one of my children to kill herself, then stab you and have you nearly die so you could drift in delirium and imagine you saw her—especially when a stamp is only thirty four pence.”

“You’re not taking this seriously, are you?”

“You were unconscious—it was endorphins or low blood pressure—you imagined it.”

“Why can’t you accept what I’m saying, instead of pooh-poohing it?”

“Because I don’t believe it, I’m not belittling your experience—if you think you saw Jesus—good for you.”

“You know the name Shekinah, don’t you?”

“I did lots of Bible study when I was a kid—part of the reason I see it all as gibberish now. All of this stuff is still rattling round my brain somewhere.”

“What if it isn’t?”

“You mean, if it’s real?”

“Yes, because I think it is.”

“It might be for you, but I’m sorry, even if it were; but how could I believe in someone or thing who caused harm to my daughter and to you—nah, they can go to hell for all I care.”

“But it’s your destiny, Cathy.”

“Nonsense, there is no destiny unless you say each one of us will die, that’s all our destiny—and the successful ones will reproduce as well. That’s it.”

“You sound like Dr Dawkins.”

“He plays my tune—I whole heartedly agree with him—opium of the masses and all that.”

“You realise that if you don’t take notice, the Shekinah will do something you can’t ignore?”

“I wouldn’t bet on that.”

“Oh, I’d stake every penny I own on it—it’s sure as eggs is eggs.”

“I have to go,” I rose from the table, “have to get this one to see Dr Cauldwell.”

“Heed what I said, if you ignore her, she’ll make you listen and today’s incident will be like a picnic.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1403

Billie trotted along behind me to the car, then got in behind me and pulled on her seat belt. She said nothing all the way home which suited me fine. I was trying to get my head round the dilemma of being special to some obscure Hebrew goddess. As I did the old epithet, Those whom the gods love, die young, kept slopping about my remaining brain cells. I didn’t feel particularly afraid because I suspect it’s another mythology, and besides how can a mythical entity harm anyone?

Despite my apparent nonchalance, what Sister Maria had said concerned me. I didn’t understand the blue light or from whence it emanated, let alone why it chose me—I mean, special yeah, but no more than the other few thousand transsexuals in this country—are they being threatened by a goddess? I doubt it.

I need to talk to someone who might understand my dilemma without being judgemental and I think I know who. I reassured myself that I was responding responsibly to Maria’s warning, because that’s what it was. I felt silly doing anything other than dismissing it, but what if she was right?

I’d wait and see what this other person thought. We arrived home and Billie went to change into her own clothes while I explained what had happened and put her soiled uniform in the washing machine.

They were all relieved to see her safely home and made a fuss of her, but she wanted to go and lie down—she did promise she wouldn’t run off again or do anything to hurt herself—the incident with her headmistress had shocked her somewhat—she wasn’t the only one.

I explained what had happened and how after apologising to the police for her aberrant behaviour, I had a chat with Sister Maria.

“So the blue light triumphs again?” smiled Simon.

“By itself, no, that required the connivance of Sister Maria who doubtless will go to confession for telling porkies.”

“If she hadn’t, you could have been done for murder.”

“I know, I could have had fourteen years to think about things in between slopping out.”

“How about we all go out for dinner to celebrate the return of the lamb who was lost and my wonderful wife?”

“Who was equally lost—by all means you go, but I’ll stay home with Billie and the babies. I’m really not hungry anyway.”

“Okay, I’ll go and get a Chinese for those of us who are hungry.” He called up the local takeaway, and made his order—then set off to collect it.

I checked on Billie, she was fast asleep, then after showering to remove the debris of the day, I changed into some jeans and a tee shirt and went to phone someone from my study, closing the door after me.

“Cathy, what a lovely surprise—how is married life suiting you?”

“Um—it’s okay I guess, same as before with titles?”

Marguerite laughed at the other end of the phone.

“Have you some time to talk, I need some advice?”

“Um—I could probably manage half an hour—is that okay?”

“That would be splendid, thank you so much.”

“Okay, what could be so important that you need to talk with a priest? Don’t tell me Jesus wants you for a sunbeam, because if you do I shall drive up there and slap you one.”

“Ah no, it’s a bit more complicated than dealing with Iron Age carpenters.”

“Ooh, that was catty.”

“Sorry. Look, let’s get straight to the point—how much do you know about the Shekinah?”

“Old Testament Hebrew goddess/feminine principle/female face of God—how’m I doing?”

“Better than most. Do you believe in her?”

“You mean do I believe she could exist?”

“Something like that yes.”

“It’s possible, God manifests in so many ways.”

“Could it all be something in my head?”

“That’s possible too—there’s a but coming though, isn’t there?”

“Yes, she seems to have invaded the mind of someone else who issued me a stern warning that I needed to listen to her—the Shekinah—or pay the consequences.”

“Very Old Testament.”

“Exactly.”

“What is the Shekinah wanting you to do?”

“That’s it, I don’t know.”

“Have you tried communicating with her?”

“Look the last time I tried communicating with a mythical character, I was seven years old and sending messages up the chimney to Father Christmas.”

“Did it work?”

“No, I got a bloody football not a tea set.”

“Do you accept that the Shekinah might exist?”

“Not really—and would I be talking to myself—like all those poor buggers in church on a Sunday?”

“Thank you very much.”

“Oh sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I see, so you make exceptions for me and my imaginary friend, do you?”

“For you, Marguerite, I’d accept anything and make exception any time.”

“Flattery may work with gods and goddesses but not their foot soldiers.”

“It was intended as a statement of the esteem in which I hold your advice.”

“When in a hole, stop digging.”

“Um—okay.”

“You need to talk with this entity—how you conceive her is less important than the communication, so see her as a goddess or as a part of your higher-self, if you want to be Jungian, about it. But settle down quietly somewhere, meditate and see if you can make contact.”

“What do I say to her if I do make contact?”

“Whatever you like, but no hostilities; that achieves nothing. Be open but no arrogance—scientists act like priests of old—remember I was one, you still are.”

“Arrogant—me? I’m ever so ’umble.”

“Cathy, this could be serious.”

“What, you actually believe this thing exists?”

“Do you believe in the blue light you’ve used to heal people?”

“Isn’t that self evident?”

“Of course, but I needed to start with some base level. The fact that you’ve used it means it exists.”

“Yes.”

“So where does it come from?”

“I have no idea, do you?”

“I have my own ideas but they wouldn’t help this discussion. But consider for a moment that they are a manifestation of the Shekinah, the female principle behind all healing.”

“Hang on, that’s a bit sexist, isn’t it?”

“It might be somewhat stereotyped, but if we take the masculine principle as being primarily destructive and the female one as constructive—as the opposite ends of the spectrum—then most of us sit somewhere between regardless of sex or gender.”

“Okay, so the Shekinah is up towards the female end of the spectrum?”

“She is the opposite end of the spectrum.”

“But if she punishes me or mine because I ignore her, isn’t that hurting rather than healing—and more masculine than feminine?”

“No, because she sees herself as healing you in punishing you. Once you understand what she wants you to do, you will be healed, in her eyes.”

“But I’m not sick.”

“No, but you don’t accept yourself very well, do you?”

“I do—I’m just a bit more critical—because I know what’s going on inside me—motives etcetera, and they aren’t always very nice.”

“Okay, so you’re no Mother Theresa, but then she wasn’t as pure and perfect as they sometimes like to make out.”

“Probably not, but I’m no saint, shall we say I’m closer to the sinner’s end of that spectrum.”

“You’re human—my goodness—that’s quite a discovery.”

“Very funny.”

“Talk with her, allow her to show you what she wants and humour her, she has the wisdom of millennia on her side.”

“Age doesn’t always mean wisdom.”

“No it doesn’t—especially in your case.”

“Hey, that was below the belt.”

“Only because you wear it as a headband.”

“True,” we both sniggered.

“Is that any help? I have to go, I have the mother’s union people about to arrive.”

“It’s always a help to speak with you, Marguerite, thank you so much.”

“You’re welcome—oh, and may the God you don’t believe in, watch over you. God bless you, Cathy.”

“And you, Reverend.”

“The doorbell—the mother’s union have arrived—bye.”

My own doorbell rang as I put the phone down announcing the arrival of Stephanie—I went to wake Billie.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1404

Episode One hundred and seventeen dozen.

Billie was awake, “I’ve been thinking, Mummy.”

“Oh good, all those school fees are paying off.”

“Mummm—mmeee.”

“What were you thinking?” I asked, sitting on the edge of the bed.

“About what happened—I nearly killed Sister Maria.”

“I don’t know about that, I was there.”

“Yes, you saved her didn’t you?”

“I wouldn’t go that far.”

“She’s going to be cross with me when I next go to school, isn’t she?”

“I don’t think so, but it might be nice if we take her some flowers and a letter of apology.”

“Will you help me write it?”

“I tell you what, you do it first and then I’ll help you from there, so do a rough draft first and I’ll help you, okay?”

She sat up and hugged me, “Thank you, Mummy, you’re the best mummy in the world.”

“I think that might be a slight exaggeration, so how about we say the best one in this room—but only until you have some children yourself.”

“But I can’t have children—can I?”

“I didn’t necessarily mean you gave birth, but adopted or fostered some—that’s how I started.”

“And look what you ended up with.”

“I have the loveliest children I could wish for, and I love you all.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

I hugged her and kissed the top of her head, “C’mon we’re keeping Stephanie waiting.”

I left them to it, having sat with them both to explain what had happened at the church and its consequences. Stephanie’s eyes nearly came out on stalks when I mentioned the accidental stabbing.

“So, this woman survived?”

“Yes, of course she did, so you’re not working with a pair of criminals—besides it was an accident and Billie was in a strange place before and throughout the episode in the chapel.”

I left them to it, making some bread for the morning and doing myself a boiled egg for my tea. I love boiled eggs, they were the first solid food I ate after surgery, when I had to cope with clear soup and milkless tea—yuck. Years later I heard someone had drunk Bovril, I wished I had instead of the tea.

I’d made a bowl of cereal for Billie which she ate, and I’d done a quick omelette for Stephanie with some ham and mushrooms. She wolfed it down, then she and I shared a cup of tea, while I breastfed Catherine.

“Watching you do that, I can’t really believe you’re not a natural female.”

“I thought I was the officially deluded one.”

“Yeah, sure—you’re one of the sanest people I know.”

“Could I have that in writing?”

“For a fee, yes.”

Billie went off to play with the others and I shouted, “Ten minutes and then it’s bedtime, see if Gramps will read to you.”

“How is she doing?” I asked Stephanie, closing the kitchen door.

“Okay—today was traumatic but she said she saw some woman standing behind you pouring blue light into you when you were trying to save the nun.”

“She saw it?” I gasped.

“So she said.”

“Today’s incident is quite bizarre, but what would you say if it had been suggested by someone I respect, that it was all designed to make me communicate with the Shekinah?”

“I’d say you were absolutely barking, why? This is the sort of paranoid delusion associated with severe mental illness and some personality disorders of a sociopathic type.”

“I thought you might.”

“You’re definitely a cycle path.” She sniggered and I rolled my eyes.

I explained about the energy—she knew about some of it—but was astonished when I suggested I’d actually brought one or two back from the brink—I didn’t like to say I was raising the dead, she might have Christian qualms about that.

“So, let me get this right, you feel that some ancient Hebrew goddess is channelling this energy into you for you to heal people?”

“Yes, in a nutshell.”

“What does she get out of it?” Stephanie had asked what I’d been thinking for some little while.

“I’m not su—I don’t know,” I shrugged.

Quem Jupiter vult perdere, dementat prius” said Stephanie.

“Something about Jupiter sending madness. It’s a long time since I did any Latin.”

“Those whom God destroys, he first sends mad.”

“Oh, is that a diagnosis?”

“No, it was something that I learned verbatim in my first lecture on psychiatry. From then on I saw it as a challenge to try and stop as many destructions as I could. Sometimes I win, but not always.”

“Do I detect an element of hubris?”

“Possibly, psychiatrists are apparently the group of medics most affected by the God complex.”

“I just thought they were all mad?”

“Perhaps, but as they say it takes one to know one.”

I made us some more tea. Sitting down I glanced at Stephanie’s abdomen. “What are you staring at?” she asked suspiciously.

“Are you seeing anyone at the moment?” I asked her.

“Why, what did you see—cancer?”

“There is something growing there.”

“Oh hell—can you fix it—I mean blue light it, or however you term it?”

“No, I can only help things which are broken.”

She looked at me, “Waddya mean?”

“You’re having a baby.”

“What? How can you tell?”

“I just can.”

“This Shekinah thing?”

I shrugged.

“Can you tell if it’s a boy or a girl?”

“No, only that it’s healthy.” I lied but she wouldn’t thank me for saying.

“Shit—how did you do that?”

“Could you be pregnant?”

“I shouldn’t be, I’m on the pill and he used a condom to be doubly sure.”

“Well, you are.”

“Shit.”

“Stephanie, please don’t abort it, will you?”

“I think that’s for me to decide don’t you?”

“It is, but I have a feeling you need to have this baby.”

“So it can screw up my life?”

“No, look, I’ll help all I can with babysitting and so on.”

“I need to think about it.”

She left a little while later in a sort of daze. I was bit worried for her driving and asked her to let me know she got home safely. Perhaps I shouldn’t have told her, but the energy was insisting I did. Now she’s going to avoid me and what will my kids do when she’s on maternity leave?

Tom had put the younger children to bed and read to them, I checked on Danny and he was lying there staring at the ceiling. “What’s the matter, kiddo?”

“Oh hi, Mum.”

“What’s on your mind?” I asked sitting by the bed.

“Billie told us what happened—pretty frightening.”

“So why does that make you think?”

“Well, is she cracking up?”

“Certainly not.”

“She’s not going to stab one of us is she?”

“No, of course not, she’s fine.”

“She was going to do a Trish, wasn’t she?”

“A Trish?”

“Yeah, chop her goolies off.”

“Was she?”

“So she said.”

“I don’t know.”

“Makes me sweat just thinking ’bout it.”

“Well don’t then.”

“Mum?”

“Yes, Danny?”

“Thanks for being there for us all.”

“Darling, I do my best to be there for you all as much as I can, but we’re a family so we’re all there for each other, not just me.”

“Yeah, course.”

I bent down to peck him on the cheek and he put his arms round my neck and kissed me on the cheek instead. Once more I went downstairs with a glow in my whole being.

“He kissed you again, did he?”

“Who?” I gasped at Si.

“Danny, who else?”

“How d’you know?”

“You have something about you, which I recognise from the last time he did it: either that or you’re ovulating or pregnant.”

“I wish,” I sighed.

“We can go and have another try,” he said his whole face lighting up.

“C’mon then,” I couldn’t turn him down again—well I could have, but I happen to love him.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1405

As we were going to bed the phone rang. I was about to ignore it then thought it could be Stephanie, although she should have been home at least an hour or more ago.

“Hello?” I said, just as Simon hissed me not to answer it.

“Cathy, it’s Steph—sorry it’s so late.”

“That’s okay, problems?”

“I got a pregnancy tester on the way home—you were right.”

“Congratulations.”

“I don’t know if I want to be pregnant, Cathy.”

“Please don’t do anything for a few weeks, until you’ve really thought about it—get some advice from someone you trust.”

“Cathy—you patient, me doctor—remember?”

“No, I’m not very patient at all—and you’re not the doctor in this case.”

“I feel totally shocked—I feel like getting totally pissed out of my head—but I guess that might hurt the little darling, so just in case I keep it—I’d better not.”

“I don’t think it would be a good idea.”

“I feel so alone, Cathy.”

“I’ve been there, not a nice place—what about the father?”

“He’s not with me anymore, we split up last week.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I’m not, he was a total arsehole—now I’m stuck with his fucking child.”

“No, he or she is your child, he or she didn’t do anything to you, so don’t bear a grudge against him or her.”

“Is it a boy or a girl?”

“Wait and see.”

“Do you know?”

“How would I know?”

“Your blue light thingy.”

“It doesn’t tell me everything.”

“You know, you bitch, don’t you?”

“I’m going to bed, Stephanie, perhaps you should go to yours.”

“I think I want rid of it.”

“Don’t rush into anything, you might regret it.”

“I haven’t got time to be a mother.”

“How d’you know until you try it?”

“I need to talk to someone.”

“I’ll be here tomorrow, Steph, try and get some sleep.”

“Yeah, yeah, I know—I’m sleeping for two now.”

“Goodnight, Steph.” I put the phone down and lay down next to Simon who was already in bed.

“Stephanie is pregnant?”

“Yes, I told her tonight and she’s done a test to confirm it—it’s a little boy.”

“I get the impression she’s not over the moon.”

“No, right now she’d love a visit from Mrs Moon.”

“Eh?”

“A period.”

“I thought you could be pregnant and still have periods?”

“Darling, you are well informed.”

“All those Cosmos Stella used to buy.”

“You read Cosmopolitan?”

“Only in the bog.”

“Why do men read in the toilet?”

“Why don’t women? At least you’re on your own.”

“True—unless you have little kids with you or pets—they don’t like you to do anything without them.”

“What, even taking a crap?”

“Yes, haven’t you had a dog or cat follow you into the loo?”

“Dogging me?”

“Or purr-suing you?”

“Neither, in my house we used to shut the door—I mean, how can you take a shit with a dog looking up at you?”

“I don’t know, didn’t have one; we had a cat.”

“Don’t tell me, it wanted to do the crossword in the paper you had with you?”

“I won’t, like I said women don’t usually read in the toilet.”

“So what did the cat want?”

“She used to follow me everywhere.”

“A bit like me?”

“No, she was beautiful.” Oops, what did I just say?

“Thanks, I needed cheering up.”

“I’m sorry, darling, I didn’t mean it like that—cats have a beauty which is unique—so do dormice—and so do people. Your beauty is physical, but it’s deeper than that, you have this inner beauty…”

“Never mind the platitudes, Cathy—get ’em orff.”

“Yeah, okay.”

My heart wasn’t in it tonight though I don’t think Simon noticed. I was thinking more of Stephanie and her problem and also my jealousy. Am I telling her to keep it because I find it ironic that women who can have babies seemed to value their fertility too little—taking it for granted—whereas women like me who would do almost anything to have my own baby—grieve for their loss. I know it went with the territory, but I still feel sad about it.

I made a short trip to the bathroom, weed, washed and slipped back into bed—Simon was asleep, hopefully with a smile on his face. I tossed and turned before falling into a restless slumber.

“So you managed to save the nun?”

“No, madam, it was you who did that, I merely drew your attention to it.”

“We suppose the same with the child called Jemima, and your snobbish Aunt?”

“Yes, madam, I’m aware that I have no powers save that of ordinary women.”

“You don’t even have those—do you?”

“If you mean the ability to create and bear life, no, ma’am.”

“You gave up your right to be fertile in order to play at being a woman?”

“If that’s how you see it, ma’am, I’m not going to argue.”

“That’s exactly how we see it. You failed as a man so now you think being a woman would be easier.”

“If you say so, ma’am.”

“There is dissent in your heart, Catherine, or should we call you, Charlie?”

“I’d prefer Catherine if it’s agreeable to you, ma’am.”

“So you’re hiding your irritation from us—don’t tell me you’re exercising self-control?”

“I’m trying to be respectful, ma’am.”

“Oh how precious—shall we write this in our diary: Catherine Cameron showed a goddess some respect?”

“If it pleases you, ma’am.”

“What would please you, Catherine?”

“To be allowed to raise my children until they’re self-sufficient, and to spend some time with my husband and adoptive father.”

“And were we to grant this, what would you do for us, Catherine?”

“To try and understand and perform whatever the task is that you have for me.”

“It could be more than one?”

“Then, the same would go for those.”

“Why are you suddenly cooperative, Catherine?”

“Because I realise that that’s what I have to do.”

“Say that again, if you please—it’s music to our ears.”

“I’m trying to understand and perform whatever the tasks are that you wish me to perform.”

“Now we are getting somewhere—why humans are so stupid mystifies even us.”

I remained silent, though I suppose she could read my mind anyway, however she wasn’t showing any reaction to what was rushing through it.

“Don’t you crave your own child, fathered by that simpleton you married?”

“He may be a simpleton in your eyes, ma’am, but I happen to love him.”

“How d’you know we didn’t make that happen?”

“I don’t, but if you did, I’m very grateful.”

“But you don’t crave his child?”

“I do, ma’am, but that is secondary to making sure the ones I already have responsibility for, grow up and reach as much of their potential as they can.”

“You are being restrained tonight, Catherine, but then we did give you a baby that was only weeks old.”

“You gave me a baby?”

“Of course, who else?”

“You killed a whole family?”

“Yes—yes, we suppose we did—naughty us.”

“Why?”

“So you could have a baby to rear—we enabled you to breastfeed—so why are you complaining, it was what you wanted, wasn’t it—a baby?”

“Yes, but not at the expense of her whole family—that is…”

“A real tragedy, but someone usually profits from another’s misfortune.”

“Look, bring them back, let them live and raise baby Catherine, how could you kill a child, Daisy was only six?”

“Easily, would you like us to demonstrate on one of your children?”

“No, ma’am, if someone has to die, then take me.”

“Why should we do that? How would you learn a lesson if you were dead?”

“Please, ma’am, don’t harm my children—take me instead, let them live.” I was sobbing my heart out when Simon shook me awake then put his arm round me.

“Hey, what’s the matter?”

“She wanted to take my children,” I sobbed on his shoulder.

“Who did?”

“The Shekinah.”

“It was dream, Cathy—just a bad dream.”

“I tried to be good, but she really annoyed me, then she told me she killed all of Catherine’s family so I could have a baby of my own.”

“C’mon, Babes, it was just a dream—it’s all stuff and nonsense—no one’s gonna hurt you or any of our kids while I’m about.”

There was no point in arguing with him, he wouldn’t understand—this was a female thing—even if in her eyes I wasn’t one—I supposed I must have been enough of one for her to even come to me—not that that is such a good idea. Oh boy—she really put the wind up me.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1406

I didn’t sleep much that night and was awake, probably running on adrenaline when the alarm came on. Simon was up and into the shower while I sat on the bed. I woke the girls and showered with them, one after the other, except Billie—she asked to shower by herself.

After breakfast, I ran the girls to school and took Billie to see Sister Maria who looked very well considering she had died yesterday. She didn’t even have a scar, not the slightest one. Once Billie was reassured she wasn’t in trouble, she settled down to getting back to class and catching up on the stuff she’d missed the day before.

Getting back into my car, my phone rang—it was Stephanie, she was being sick—she was pregnant. I invited her over and she arrived shortly after I got there. It struck me as incongruous that I was counselling a psychiatrist—well, okay, befriending.

She sat and drank water while I relaxed with a cuppa as I fed the little mother-sucker.

“You look so natural, sitting there feeding her.”

“Do I? It’s not hard really.”

“How did you produce the milk?”

“It happened spontaneously.”

“You woke up one day and started lactating?”

“More or less, yes.”

“Fortunate for her.”

“Yes, I suppose it was, although having a whole family wiped out is hardly good fortune, is it?”

“No, I suppose not. Are you going to tell her?”

“Yes, as soon as she can understand, I’ll point out that I’m not her original mother.”

“Just a very good adoptive one.”

“I try to be, never sure if I succeed or fail.”

“Your kids love you to bits—I don’t consider that failure, do you?”

“I suppose not. How d’you feel now?”

“Okay, I suppose—the nausea has gone—though not sure if I can cope with this each day.”

“Have you gone sick today?”

“No, I’m on leave this week, was having a new kitchen floor laid—I had to get out, the smell of the stuff was making me retch.”

“You’ve left strangers in your house?”

“No my cleaning lady is there watching them like a hawk.”

“Cleaning lady? Doesn’t anyone do housework themselves anymore?”

“I do some when she’s off—I don’t have time usually.”

“I suppose not.”

“How’s Billie?”

“Billie is okay, it’s me that was crapping myself last night.”

“Why? What happened?”

“I dreamt of the Shekinah again.”

“And?”

“She told me she killed the wain’s entire family just so I could have my own baby.”

“That’s a pretty big confession, even for a goddess.”

“I just felt sick and she threatened to harm one of mine—I woke up.”

“What if this is simply two parts of you in conflict, throw in a bit of guilt and the sky’s the limit.”

“You mean the whole thing is in my head?”

“That’s the most realistic hypothesis—I mean, gods and goddesses are mythological beings not real ones—like the tooth fairy.”

“The tooth fairy doesn’t go round wiping out entire families, does she?”

“Generally no, but she has been known to get cross with the odd tooth being presented twice.”

“Quite right too.”

“So you think this is all in my unconscious, do you?”

“I’m a psychiatrist, where else would I look for it?”

“What if it’s real?”

“Then I think I’d need to alter my own perspective somewhat.”

“Which is what I’ve been trying to do, avoid confrontation and argument—she’s so arrogant—where’s all the god of love stuff, I mean she’s suppose to be the feminine principle or the feminine side of god.”

“Ah, she’s Old Testament not post Jesus—that’s where the lovey-dovey stuff comes from, and even He didn’t push it that hard. Until then it was good old fashioned, zapping enemies with earthquakes and thunderbolts, or the equally reliable surfeit of H2O.”

“Eh?”

“Biblical floods—deluge of apocalyptic proportions—Sodom and Gomorrah—that kind of thing.”

“Noah’s ark?”

“Yeah, I guess—that’s not your task is it?”

“What, to build an ark?—I hope not, can you see B&Q having so many cubits of gopher wood?—whatever that is.”

“Maybe marine ply will do just as well.”

“I couldn’t make a garden shed let alone a sea-going vessel, besides, something that always puzzled me about the Noah story, was how did he feed the carnivorous animals, and where did he keep the woodworm and death watch beetles?”

“I think it’s an allegory.”

“What? You mean it didn’t happen?” I feigned surprise.

“Of course not.”

“So how come people go looking for the remains of the ark on mountains in Turkey?”

“Why do they go looking for UFOs?”

“Because they’re stupid?”

“No, they’re looking for something to transform their lives, by believing in something out of the mainstream.”

“But if Noah and his ark didn’t happen, people will never find it, will they?”

“Of course they won’t, but some need to prove everything in the Bible is true—whereas most is allegorical or the recording of the mythologies of an earlier oral tradition.”

“So the next time I wake up having a nightmare with some Old Testament goddess threatening my children, do I just tell her to go away she’s an allegory?”

“Um—dealing with entities seemingly in habiting the unconscious is less black and white. I think you just have to say you will cooperate as much as you can in reciprocation for her cooperation.”

“Isn’t that a partnership of equals?”

“Yes, of course it is.”

“Um—goddesses seem to think they are above humanity.”

“If they need you to exist they—”

“Need me to exist?”

“Yes, without believers they are just folk memories or myths in a book.”

“If she did what she said she did, she’s a bit more than a myth in a book.” I made some more tea. “By the way, you won’t be sick anymore.”

“How d’you know?” Stephanie looked surprised.

“I’ve just fixed it—courtesy of our imaginary friend.”

“That’s the bit I have difficulty with—where is this energy coming from?”

“The Shekinah.”

“It can’t, can it, she’s just a fairy tale?”

“You try telling her that when she’s thinking of zapping one of your kids.”

“But she didn’t, did she? What if all this is just some form of guilt being acted out in your head?”

“Guilt?”

“Yes, you couldn’t save Catherine’s family and feel guilty. You have a baby you feel should have been raised by her natural parents, even though you’re doing a good job yourself.”

“I can’t believe that’s right—where does the energy come from?”

“I don’t know, I’m a shrink not a phenomenologist. I mean does it actually exist or is your experience of it some sort of compensation mechanism?”

“But other people have seen and felt it too—what’s that, mass hysteria?”

“No but you can get shared delusions or hallucinations, especially under stress.”

“So I’m deluded?”

“I didn’t say that, Cathy—I’m as much in the dark as you are.”

“Oh, that scar you had on the top of your leg which stopped you wearing a bikini has gone.”

“What d’you mean, it’s gone?”

“It has gone, vanished—is no more—you know the sketches from Monty Python?”

“Sadly, I do.”

“Want some lunch?”

“Okay but then I have to get back and see what they’ve done to my kitchen floor.”

“Fine—I’ll make some soup.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1407

Stephanie excused herself to go to the loo as I poured some stock into a saucepan and began processing vegetables—peeling, chopping or slicing—before being dumped in the now boiling stock. I added some lentils and pasta, some chopped chicken and left it on simmer.

“Has it gone?” I asked.

“Has what gone?”

“The scar on the top of your leg.”

She blushed, “I—um—forgot to look.”

“Steph, I don’t believe you, it’s the main reason you went to the loo.”

She blushed again, “How did you know I had one in the first place?”

“I had a picture in my mind of it shrinking and disappearing—so go and check.”

“No, I can wait.”

“You can wait for what, Dr Cauldwell?” asked Jenny coming into the kitchen.

“Cathy suggested a scar I’ve had since I was sixteen has disappeared.”

“And you haven’t looked?”

“No.”

“She has, Jenny, she just won’t admit it’s gone.”

“Where was it?” asked Jenny.

“On the top of her right thigh—a piece of glass from a blown light bulb stuck in her leg, just missing the femoral artery.”

“How d’you know that?” gasped Stephanie.

“I dunno, do I? It just appears in my head, like watching a newsreel.”

“You saw it happen?”

“I dunno if it was it, but I saw something happen. A bulb exploded and a piece of hot glass ended up embedded in your leg. You had surgery, hence the scar.”

“They had to operate to find the glass. Horrible stuff, had gone quite deep.”

“It’s gone anyway, I hope you eat chicken.”

“Yes thanks, how can you be so sure it’s gone?”

“Easy—I saw it go.”

“Go on,” urged Jenny and she was practically frogmarched to the loo.

She re-emerged a few moments later. “I can’t—um—find it.”

“I hope you’re referring to the scar—because otherwise you might have problems with intimate relations.”

“Trust you to take it that way, Catherine Cameron,” Stephanie shot back.

“Is there any cure for a dirty mind?” asked Jenny.

“Yeah, brainwashing,” I offered—well it seemed to fit.

“Ever since your brain got washed, you haven’t been able to do a thing with it, have you?” Stella entered bearing her baby, behind her waddled Puddin’ who became very bashful and clung to her mother’s skirts which had the unfortunate consequence of lowering them to half-mast.

“Nice knicks, Stell,” I smirked as her skirt slipped down revealing a pair of pink silky panties.

“This b awful child, I’ll murder her before the day is out,” Stella exclaimed, trying to pull up her skirt one-handed. I stepped in and took the baby and she managed to pull it up properly.

“Shit, shit, shit,” said Puddin’ and went off on a trundle round the house.

“Nice vocab, Stel,” said Stephanie smirking.

“You can thank her ladyship for that,” she nodded at me.

“I don’t remember saying it, so when she picked it up—God knows,” I began my defence statement.

“They’re a bit like blotting paper—except a specialised blotter—they pick up exactly the things you don’t want them to hear fastest.”

“Why’s that, Steph?” I asked, checking the soup and cutting some bread.

“I don’t know if any one knows for sure, but it’s probably something to do with reaction the first time they say it. Have you tried to introduce some nicer things?”

“How?” asked Stella.

“Here she comes, watch.” Stephanie waited until Pud was a few yards away when she deliberately dropped her bag saying, “Oh golly gosh.”

Moments later, Pud picked up Sephanie’s bag dropped it, and said, “Golly gosh, silly cow,” and walked out of the room again.

Once we all stopped splitting our sides trying to suppress the laughter, Stella accused me of another faux pas, which I disingenuously tried to explain away as not guilty.

“But I’ve heard you say it,” insisted Stella and Jenny agreed.

“Out-voted, Cathy,” declared Stephanie.

“I demand a recount.”

“Oh no you don’t,” said Stella and Jenny in unison.

“Look: don’t disturb me when I’m stirring my cauldron,” I snapped back as I checked the soup.”

“What is it?” asked Stella who hadn’t seen me make it.

“Cream of eye of newt,” I replied.

“Oh I quite like that, better than wing of bat, can’t stand that one.”

“Can’t do that one—all British bats are protected—Gareth would be on to me in a second, and you’d have to stand bail or look after the kids, Stella.”

“You wouldn’t get sent down for a first offence.”

“No, but I’d have to ask for the court to take a number of previous convictions to be taken into account.”

“That was said with conviction, so the court is prepared to hear the defence in Case number 69, Cameron vs Vagina.” Stephanie said this so quickly it was obviously not new.

“Shouldn’t that be, Regina?” I queried.

“I’ve used that line half a dozen times and no one has noticed the sleight of tongue.”

“That’s our Cathy, all tongue and no action,” quipped Stella

“I thought you said she was the Queen of Fellatio?” challenged Jenny.

“I thought that was an island in the Pacific,” I offered

“Nah—that’s Clitoris,” Stella countered.

“I thought that was a Greek Island?” I threw back at her.

“Is it related to the Islets of Langerhans?” asked Stephanie.

“No it’s more insular—or should that be insulin?” I responded. I’d done quite a bit of physiology as had Stella. We all cracked up except Jenny who looked bewildered.

“Islets of Langerhans are bits of the pancreas which secrete insulin,” Stella enlightened our wage slave.

“Ah,” said Jenny, “Isn’t that where you catch the Eurostar train?”

“No that’s St Pancras station, not pancreas,” corrected Stella.

“I prefer to fly than go through holes in the ground,” stated Stephanie.

“I wondered whose broomstick I saw outside,” Stella was now on a roll.

“Yep, I parked it next to yours,” Stephanie hit back.

“Children, please—lunch is served,” I said loudly and began ladling soup into dishes.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1408

After lunch, Stephanie went back home to see how her kitchen floor was progressing, she promised to call back if she needed to talk. I was still as confused as ever about my experiences in dreamland—were they as Stephanie suggested, merely my different personality components sorting themselves out and dealing with my own guilt and needs about the children? Or was there something else going on? We were no wiser about the source of the energy and the fact that Trish once upset the telly by throwing energy at it showed it could be manifest.

I had a little while before I needed to collect the girls so I contacted the physics department at the university. I eventually got through to a post-grad student who understood that I wanted to measure something if it was possible.

“What are you wanting to measure?”

“Look, this is rather difficult but I need you to take it on trust that what I’m going to tell you happens, and this needs to be done in confidence.”

“Can’t think you’re going to tell me anything new—we do all sorts of tests here every year.”

“Okay, I seem to be able to produce enough energy at will to blow a television.”

“Okay, that’s a bit different, where does the energy come from?”

“That was question two after you got some sort of measure on things.”

“And you’re not wearing man-made fabrics and just building up static?”

“No.”

“Can you call by tomorrow at the department—say ten o’clock?”

“Fine—I have to be available for three to collect my children.”

“Oh it won’t take that long.”

“Fine, I’ll be there. Anything I have to wear in terms of clothing?”

“Have you a cotton tee shirt and shorts?”

“Yes.”

“Bring those or wear them.”

“Okay, see you tomorrow.”

So it was that the following day at noon, I had one very unsure physics post-grad student calling his professor, who appeared half an hour later.

“These are the readings you’re getting?” asked the professor.

“Yes, Professor Harris.”

“They can’t be—it’s not humanly possible—is she wearing some sort of device?”

“She says not, but obviously I can’t search her.”

“You’re not using any sort of medical device?” he asked me.

“Like what?”

“Pacemaker, things like that?”

“No.”

“You haven’t had breast implants or anything?”

“No, but I am breastfeeding a baby.”

“Right, that shouldn’t make any difference.”

I waited for instructions.

They asked me to produce the power while they scanned me. “This machine must be faulty, no one can produce that amount of energy—not in those wavelengths.”

“What’s the problem?”

“The machines are telling us you’re producing microwave energies like the proverbial kitchen machine, only on an industrial scale, but that when Paul (the student) tried to measure its effect against meat, it changed to a higher wavelength and began changing the meat—as if it was being turned back to its live state. That is weird.”

“Could we try it with a live animal—a mouse or something?” asked Paul.

“I’ve got a better idea—Professor, when did you have your prostatectomy done?”

“I beg your pardon,” he looked rather miffed.

“Okay, I scanned your body and it told me you had had surgery there.”

“You scanned my body?”

“Yes.”

“What with?”

“I just visualise it and it shows me where things have happened or are happening. Your prostate still has cancer cells, your femur looks much better since the hip replacement and your heart is doing okay with the latest stents.”

“Is this some sort of hoax?”

“No, I came because I’m trying to understand something.”

“What, reading my medical records?”

“No, I scanned your body.”

“I don’t believe you.”

“Please scan this Paul,” I stepped in front of the machine and concentrated on the professor’s prostate and coronary blood vessels, while holding his hands—partly because I wanted him to stay in front of the machine with me.

“Jesus, my chest is on fire,” said the professor sweating profusely, “I don’t think I can take much more.”

“Nearly finished—so shut up.”

“Fuck, that was cold,” he said stepping back.

“You said you were getting too hot so I changed the energy for sorting your prostate.”

“You sorted it?”

“Yeah, you should find it’s back to normal now as is your bladder and urethra. Your sexual dysfunction should be clear and I suspect your wife will be pleased, but do wait until tomorrow—oh you won’t need the Viagra. Your coronary arteries are clear now, but stick to your diet—low fat oh and plenty of exercise.”

The man looked at me in astonishment. “How long have you been able to do this?”

“A couple of years.”

“But this is amazing—you could save thousands of lives.”

“Um—no—been there done that—why should I sacrifice my life for others when I have children at home who need me.”

“It wouldn’t be a sacrifice, just a clinic for those incurable by other methods.”

“Where does the energy come from?”

“According to our machines from you, the main centres being your heart and forehead. But it is so intense the readings go off the scale.” Paul showed the chart to his professor.

“We need to set up experiments—this is potentially the most exciting event in modern science.”

I began moving towards the door, “Um, I don’t think so.”

“You can’t expect me not to want to study this—it’s potentially so exciting.”

“I can’t do this—it’s too dangerous.”

“We won’t do anything which endangers you—I promise, our machinery is checked regularly.”

“It isn’t your machines that scare me.”

“Surely we don’t scare you?”

“Not personally, but once it gets out my life will be a living hell.”

“We’ll keep your name out of things, Mrs—um—Smith.”

“No, I wanted to know if this energy was measurable—it is. Now before you say anything, please listen carefully. You, Professor Harris, if you say one word of this to anyone will undo all the healing you’ve received and you will die within the year of cancers deriving from the prostate.

“You, young man,” I addressed Paul, “if you say one word, will find that the clot which has been forming in your leg will throw off an embolism and your life will be in danger. At the moment, I have dispersed it—watch what you’re doing next time you play cricket.”

“You’re threatening us,” said the professor angrily.

“Please, you might be clever but you don’t listen. I won’t do anything except leave here. If you break this confidence, you will undo the healing you’ve received and the original consequences will result—what I’ve done is interfere in the natural disease process to reverse it—it only works as long as you cooperate.”

“But this is so big.”

“Professor, science isn’t ready for this yet—neither are you, or you’d listen.”

“What are you?”

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

“Try me,” he said grimly.

“What d’you think I am?”

“Some sort of angel—except I don’t believe in goblins and demons and so on.”

“Maybe you need to change your perspective a little.”

“And as long as we keep quiet about this, the healing will continue?”

“Yes, you will remain healthy from those conditions for several years, both of you. Oh and Paul, don’t think about taking sodium warfarin and then trying it on—you’ll be dead before it can help.”

“I wish I’d never met you,” he spat.

“If you hadn’t, tonight would be your last one. The clot was forming beneath the bruise in your saphenous vein.”

“This is so unfair—the greatest discovery in recent years and we can’t say anything.”

“I didn’t say you couldn’t, I just explained the consequences of what would happen if you did. The energy feels threatened by exposure and returns to its source undoing the healing it gave.”

“That is scary,” he said.

“If I could give you a tip—concentrate on fusion—you’ll get there in the end, and whoever does will probably get a Nobel Prize.”

“Wow—you can foretell the future too?”

“Sometimes; goodbye gentlemen.” I left while they were still floundering. They had some thinking to do, I had loads of my own. I gave one last goodbye to them and the data they’d collected became meaningless—they had no evidence they could use except anecdotal. I, however, had one or two scans generated by the machines—copies of what they’d lost and lots of food for thought.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1409

“You seem rather pensive, tonight,” Simon remarked. I was seated at the kitchen table with a cold cup of tea by the side of me and about which I’d completely forgotten.

I looked at the scum forming on the top of the tea, “Put the kettle on will you, darling?”

I heard him flick the switch and a moment later the water was roaring as it heated to boiling. He took the cold cup and emptied it down the sink, then produced another of my mugs – this one declared, ‘Trainee Genius’, which I might give to Trish when she’s a little older, she doesn’t drink tea or coffee at the moment—at least not very often, whereas I do. I have my own mugs because unlike the others I don’t like drinking from a thick cup or mug, so I have bone china mugs. Okay, so I’m a cup snob—sue me.

Simon sat opposite me with a glass of Guinness. He sipped his drink and I sipped mine luxuriating for a moment in its reviving qualities. “So are you going to tell me?”

“Tell you?”

“What’s been on your mind and where you were all day?”

I sighed, “Okay. I went to the university physics department and confused them.”

“Yeah, and?”

“I asked them to see if they could measure the energy which comes from me when I heal someone.”

“Was that wise?”

“Look, I’m trying to understand it, and I thought if it was measurable, it could tell me something.”

“Was it and did it?”

“They measured it, but perhaps unsurprisingly, it was paradoxical.”

“Paradoxical?”

“Yeah, it changed at different points like microwave energy at one point and then zooming off into ultraviolet wavelengths at another.”

“Were you controlling any of it?”

“A little, they did scans of it and produced these.” I showed him the printouts.

“Is that you behind all this swirling?”

“Yes, they suggested two points of concentration my head and my heart.”

“Hardly surprising is it? I suppose this is it flowing from your hands?”

“I suppose so too, I don’t really know and I don’t think they do either.”

“So is this something new to science?”

“Only insofar as the production site: humans aren’t supposed to be able to do it.”

“Oh I dunno, Mark Cavendish produced a few watts himself this afternoon—he won another stage.”

“Oh bugger, I forgot it was on.”

“There’s probably highlights on the Internet somewhere.”

“Yeah, I’ll look tomorrow.”

“I thought you were interested?”

“I am, but this worries me.”

“Why—so, I married an alien—so?”

“Thanks, Simon, you give me so much support.”

“Why do I feel as if you just told me off while appearing not to?”

“Because I did, dumbo.”

“Ah, that would explain it.”

“Jeez,” I sighed.

“It’s a good job you have voice recognition software on your computer.”

“Why?”

“To start with, as far as I know, computers don’t do irony, and it would be a very confused machine, seeing as you rarely say what you mean.”

“I rarely say what I mean? You’re always telling me off for being too direct with people.”

“That’s different.”

“What is? Now who’s being indirect?”

“You can be too direct with outsiders but frequently talk obliquely to us—here at home.”

“Do I?”

“If you didn’t I’d hardly be raising it as an issue would I?”

“I suppose not.”

“So, are you an alien, then?”

“As much as anyone born in Dumfries and raised in Bristol is.”

“Yeah, I suppose that would have an impact—talk about different environs.”

“I don’t think I want to at the moment.”

“Okay—what about these microwaves—can we save on the electricity bills—have you cook the dinner instead? Am I safe—would I get cooked if you got too passionate in bed?” He shook his head, “Nah, you never get that passionate.”

“You what?”

“You never get that passionate. I do all the passion—you lay there like a wet blanket waiting for someone to hang you on the line.”

“I do not, I’m every bit as passionate as you, and I don’t fart and go to sleep afterwards.”

“No, you fall asleep during.”

“How can anyone fall asleep while having six inches…”

“Seven,” he corrected.

“Seven? Have you been doing exercises?”

“Very funny.”

“No it isn’t, you told me it was six inches long.”

“No I didn’t, it’s seven, always has been—well since I’ve been an adult.”

Of course, I did the worst possible thing, I went and got my sewing basket and a tape measure. “Right let’s sort this now. Here’s seven inches—you aren’t that big, that’s for sure.”

“It’s not going to just stand up for any old measure you know—besides that’s cold and you know as well as I do, cold makes them shrink.”

“If that’s the case how do polar bears, seals and penguins manage to get it on?”

“How do I know, you’re the biologist.”

“True—hmmm—I can’t say I know—don’t get many polar bears in Hampshire.”

“I’ve an idea,” declared Simon, “Let’s go to bed and make mad passionate love and forget about microwaving polar bears with long willies.”

“I wasn’t thinking about such things—but I am now—you are weird, Simon Cameron.”

I’m weird? Take a look in the mirror Watts. At least I’m not a lethal alien.”

“You make me sound like some sort of virus. You’re Scottish born as well.”

“So? I’m a fully paid up porridge eater, not some gone to ground, sleeper variety, like someone we know.”

“Oh yeah, I turn into Robert the Bruce at the stroke of midnight.”

“Ugh—do you? Remind me not to be givin’ you all my passion while you turn into some arachnological-fixated bloke—I mean it could get embarrassing.”

“When I was a dormouse-fixated one, you coped.”

“Cathy, you were never a bloke—okay—well, except for the purposes of me winning this argument.”

“You can’t win an argument—that’s not allowed.”

“Since when?”

“Whenever I wrote down the rules.”

“Rules?”

“Yes, here.” I handed him a sheet of paper with some wording I’d got from a birthday card years ago.

He began to read them aloud. “The boss is always right. In the event of any disagreement, rule one applies.”

I smirked and he frowned.

“That’s a bit heads you win, tails I lose.”

“Just a bit.”

“A bit?”

“All right, a big bit—so what?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1410

So, we finished bantering and went to bed. Simon, my one-track-minded bedmate, had but one thing on his mind, whilst I was still trying to understand what had happened at the university.

Thankfully, they didn’t recognise me—I was without makeup and my hair tied back—so I hope I looked plain and uninteresting. I’d have to remember to wear some smarter clothes and makeup when I went back to my department, so I wouldn’t be remembered as the boring woman with the megawatt output.

As soon as we were in bed, I began to worry that I might be dangerous to my family. What would happen if I did microwave Si while he was on the job? Yeah, I know he’s only half-baked so it wouldn’t make a lot of difference, but seriously, I could kill him.

“C’mon, girl, get ’em off.”

“I’m not really in the mood, Si.”

“You never are these days.”

“I’m sorry too much going on in my head.”

“All that multi-tasking, see, sometimes there are advantages to having only one functioning brain cell.”

“I guess I’m just not that much of a sexual animal—that doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy it but it seems I’m not as interested in it as you.”

“Yeah, seems to be the story of my life—being attracted to women who can live without sex for years at a time.”

“I’m not that bad, am I?”

“No, but one of my previous girlfriends was—I began to think she was in training to be a nun in a closed order.”

“Was she?”

“No, she left uni early because she got herself pregnant by one of the lecturers.”

“Oh, so how come you and—um?—I’m sorry, but I wouldn’t do that to you.”

“I know.”

I felt very guilty. Here was my long suffering hubby, suffering again but it wasn’t really my fault—I just wasn’t that much into sex—well not tonight. Yes, I did get periods of being more interested and they did seem to form a regular pattern but was that wishful thinking and self delusion or was it real and possibly attributable to the hormones?

I sat up and kissed him, he began stroking my nipple and kissed me back. I took the aggressor’s role and pushed him back onto the bed and began working to arouse him—it didn’t take long. Neither did the next bit, and ten minutes later I was washing myself before returning to bed and slipping alongside my sleeping spouse.

I sat and watched him for a short time, I did love him but today I didn’t fancy him or anyone else for that matter. If Johnny Depp or George Clooney had come into the bedroom I’d probably have preferred to talk to them about film-making than wanting to bed them. Next week it could be different, but I doubt it. A few days each month is about all I seem to have and that wasn’t too long ago if I remember.

But then I’ve never been that interested. As a kid I didn’t know who I fancied and for what, I was far more rapt in my own thoughts studying girls because I so badly wanted to be them. There was a girl in our road who used to wear far too much makeup, especially mascara but I so badly wanted to be her. I’m sure she thought I was weird because I used to stare at her—taking in her clothes, the changes in her body as puberty took off—hers not mine—the way she did her makeup and her hair and the clothes she wore.

In hindsight, I can see that she was the town bike, she dressed and acted like a slag but she was a contemporary role model, unlike my mother who seemed to be more chaste than the Virgin Mary. I know they must have done it at least once—because I was born—but I could never imagine my parents actually doing it. They probably did, I was just unaware because their generation tended to be more private than my own about personal matters.

I remember Hawkeye Pearce—yeah, he was nicknamed after the Mash series on TV, I suppose I was lucky I wasn’t called Klinger—anyway, he always bragged as if he was getting it every night and twice on Sundays. However, one day he came to school and something was different about him—he’d lost his swagger a bit but there was a more mature confidence about him—he’d managed to get his leg over at last and the reality was something far more powerful than he realised.

It meant nothing to me then other than as an outsider I could observe more objectively than most of them—a little like the thing with girls—I watched them much more closely than most boys did—yet if one of them had offered to take my virginity, I’d have run a mile, probably two. Lust was something that appeared in my little life much later than my contemporaries from what I could understand at least. Okay, now and again I see someone who does something to me—as Gareth did at the first meeting—but that must have coincided with my little window of desire—a couple of days per month.

Simon’s eyes were moving under his closed eyelids, so I concluded he was dreaming—I wondered if it was about me and what we had just done—or was it about his work or something completely different?

One day we might have machines that can be plugged into the head to show what is going on inside, complete with pictures—though I’m not sure I’d want anyone looking inside my head. I suppose it would finally resolve the old chestnut of what dreams are about and how different men’s and women’s brains really are—probably not very different at all.

I remember reading some research which suggested that we were more alike than we liked to think and differences, apart from being pushed by the psycho-pop people to sell their books, were very small if anything, and that the application to life was the major difference. Women think about babies because they live in that environment traditionally, follow tradition in wanting babies and so on. Boys only thought of football or sex all the time because they were following stereotypes and it was what they assumed all other boys did. They were wrong because at least one boy in my school was thinking more about babies than football—except, I suppose I don’t fulfil the usual criterion for identifying boys and never did.

Of course all these research papers tend to have critics who found the exact opposite in their research. Money was sure that sex and gender behaviour was learned and possibly influenced by things like hormones—but it seems he could have been wrong in at least one case—which implies it must be inherent, genetically programmed. At least that’s what most of us afflicted by contrary gender impulses tend to claim—so who am I to disagree?

I felt my eyes getting tired and my head was nodding, so I cuddled down next to Simon, he of course turned over towards me, so I faced away from him and allowed him to put his arm round me, even though he was fast asleep. His apparent need to protect me even when asleep, gave me a tremendous sense of love for him and I fell asleep thinking about how much I loved him rather than the more difficult experiences of the day.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1411

The girls only had one more day in school whereas Danny had a couple of days next week as well. He had a new found passion—cricket—at which he was quite good, at least he thought so. The final week in his school culminated in a cricket championship between the four houses: apparently each played the others and the two with the most points played each other in the final. He was looking forward to the competition.

The girls however were looking forward to their respective end of term parties and I had to help each one of them take some food and drink to these. Of course they hadn’t told me, so we had to call by Morrisons to get some food and drink for each of them. At least they each got what they wanted to take with them and I did a small amount of shopping too—milk and some bread, that sort of thing.

We were doing quite well for time until we got to the checkout, when some chap in the queue next to ours was taken ill—he collapsed—went down like a stone, smacking his head on the conveyor belt housing as he went.

There was chaos as first aiders and others rushed about getting in each other’s way and I was surprised but pleased that when the paramedics arrived—there was an ambulance getting diesel at the petrol station attached to the supermarket—the man was still alive.

I had to hush the girls from suggesting I help him, although Trish confirmed what I suspected—the light was being drawn from me by the injured man. She could see it; I could feel it as a slightly cool sensation on my forehead and near my heart.

Back in the car, Trish suggested, “It was only you who was keeping that man alive, wasn’t it, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, Trish, I was just feeling concern for him, because he really bashed his head as he fell.”

“Fank goodness our shoppin’ wasn’t on fat conveyor belt, it would have been covered in bwud.”

“Ugh,” declared Livvie, “I don’t think I’d want to eat it after that.”

“Nor me neither,” agreed Billie, while Trish and Mima simply made faces and pretend retching noises. Sometimes the girls are a delight—today wasn’t one of those occasions.

I took them to school and returned home to find Jenny and Stella feeding both babies—Jenny with a bottle and Stella the old fashioned way. Puddin’ was wandering about looking for a socket to insert her fingers into, after she’d wet them—but thankfully, didn’t actually know what a socket looked like, so failed miserably in her attempt to get curly hair and electrocuted all at the same time.

Seeing as the babies were sorting out the two adults, I went to play with Puddin’ and we did dressing up dolls and putting them to bed—we all sleep in our Sunday best, don’t we? This kid is as strange as her mother—mind you, I suppose months in the company of the household nutter, viz. Stella’s sister-in-law, would make any child a bit strange.

I was saved by the rattle of cups and the sound of the kettle boiling which indicated the babies had been topped up and hopefully had had an oil change as well.

“I thought the sound of the teacups would bring you from wherever you were hiding,” teased Stella.

“Natch, but I could see the babies had everything under control, so I went to play with Pud.”

“Where is she?”

“Taking the legs off the dog, I think.”

“She’s what?”

“Well she had the chainsaw and was last seen heading towards Kiki.”

Stella laughed but went to check all the same. Jenny smirked, “Okay, where is she?”

“Asleep on the sofa, why?”

“Stella will kill you.”

“No she won’t, she can’t cope with cooking for more than about three—so I’m safe, but she might kill you as an example to me.”

“Examples of what?” asked Stella giving me an old-fashioned look.

“An example of baroque music,” I said quickly.

“Is that right, Jenny?”

“Oh yes, Stel, it’s right.”

“So what was this example of baroque music, then?”

“Um—I can’t remember what you said now, Cathy—was it—um—the four seasons guy?”

“What, Frankie Valli?” asked Stella.

“I think she meant Vivaldi, Stella.”

“I was going to say,” said my sister-in-law, blushing.

“This is what happens when you eavesdrop on others,” I teased her.

“I wasn’t—I just happened to overhear a bit of your conversation.”

“A likely story—don’t you agree, Jenny?”

“Absolutely, now we can see where Puddin’ gets it from.”

“Just a minute,” said Stella beginning to froth at the knickers, “You leave my babies out of this.”

“Did you find her?” I asked.

“No—where is she?”

“Perhaps the dog killed and ate her.”

“Don’t be silly, Kiki’s a spaniel.”

“So, spaniels can be bad tempered especially towards children.”

“Kiki is soppy with everything, she’s a lot safer with kids than you are.”

“Are you implying that I wouldn’t be safe at the hands of children or t’other way round?”

“How can you be threatened by children?”

“I didn’t say I was—that was you.”

“Cathy Cameron, stop fibbing.”

“I wasn’t.”

“Hey, you two, have you seen this?”

This turned out to be a report of an earthquake off the coast of Portsmouth yesterday.

“Did the earth move for you?” I asked Jenny.

“Can’t say as I’ve noticed.

“Nah, nor me.”

“Obviously the end of the world.”

“Yeah? As long as they do it quietly I won’t mind so much.”

“That sounds a bit defeatist, Cathy.”

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“So, just how did you mean it?”

“I didn’t sleep very well last night—so I possibly don’t care as much as I might after a normal night’s sleep.”

“Oh, I see—I thought you were getting kamikaze in your old age?”

“Divine wind? That would only be if I was planning on blowing myself up.”

“Off,” corrected Stella, “You’d be blowing off.”

“I’ve got to go and collect the girls—enjoy having them under your feet all day for the next umpteen weeks.” With that rejoinder, I set off to fetch my party girls and hoped they hadn’t drunk too much pop—I’d hate to have them sick in the back of the car.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1412

The girls were as fizzy as a bottle of pop and I drove back wondering how I’d manage to keep them busy everyday for the next seven weeks. There are times when I suspect I’m not entirely suited to looking after children.

I needed Simon to get at least a week off, preferably two and we needed to go away for at least part of the time. We’d left it too late to organise passports, so it would have to be in this country—but there are loads of places to go and it’s not as if we’re exactly hard up. A holiday cottage would be nice, but it would mean I’d be on duty every meal time unless we went out for dinner.

Hotels are okay but they tend to be noisy, people drinking and then calling goodnight to each other at two in the morning, or they stand under your window or by your door and talk in hushed loud voices. It’s like being back in my student bedsit.

A house overlooking the sea would be nice, just a change of view and I hope some peace and quiet.

I left my plotting until after the children had gone to bed and Jenny and Stella were talking in the lounge. I was in my study doing some searches on the Internet for houses with sea views and ninety three bedrooms. Actually, we’d need four or five bedrooms but loads of beds. Si and I would need one room and Catherine could come in with us, the girls would need a room, and Julie and Danny would need separate rooms so we needed a minimum of four bedrooms. We’d have to take two cars with some inflatable mattresses because nowhere would have enough beds and bedding for our brood—so we’d take some sleeping bags as well.

Simon came in to see what I was doing. I told him and he was shocked. “Holidays? You mean being locked up with you lot all day and night?”

“We are a family and you are nominally the head of it.”

“Can’t Tom go with you, or Jenny?”

“No, I’d like to give Jenny the time off and Tom deserves a break from us too.”

“Take Stella, I’m sure her girls would enjoy it.”

“I’m sure they would, but I’d like to take you and our children and no one else.”

“I don’t think I can get time off in the near future, things are pretty volatile at the moment.”

“Well take your laptop with you, you can check every day and give necessary instructions.”

“I don’t know, Babes; I wish you’d given me some warning.”

“What d’you think this is?”

“I’m sorry, but it isn’t enough,” he went to walk away and I snarled at him.

“You make me sick, I’m going to bed.”

I closed down my computer and went upstairs leaving him sulking downstairs. I can’t believe he couldn’t get some time off in August or even the first week in September. We could even do now. I could be packed in a day and ready to go the next day.

I was reading when he came up to the bedroom. “Look I’m sorry, Babes, but I just can’t do anything for weeks. I’ve looked at my diary and I’m chock-a-block with appointments. Maybe we should look at half-term.”

“Yeah, maybe or maybe I’ll see if Iain is free.”

“Iain?”

“Iain MacPherson, the actor.”

“What for?”

“To come away on holiday with the kids and me.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“I do, but then you’re far happier in your little office playing the stock market than being with your wife and kids.”

“That’s not fair, I even moved offices to be home quicker.”

“You rarely are though, are you? I think you moved offices to have less of a commute—less wear and tear on you—you don’t come home early that often.”

“I have a very senior position, you know that.”

“Yes, but so do you here—you are a father to seven children—what could be more important than that?”

“I employ about thirty people in my division of the bank, they depend upon me for their livelihoods.”

“And how many of them are having a week or two off during August?”

“I have no idea, I leave that to personnel and my secretary.”

I felt so angry. We never go away. I wanted to slap him, he always puts his job before us unless I complain to Henry and I’m damned if I’m going to this time.

I kept my temper and actually slept reasonably well. I stayed civil with Simon at breakfast although I declined to give him a kiss before he went—my diary was too full.

I spoke with Julie when she came down and she blushed when I mentioned holidays, on a little questioning, she explained she wanted to go with two girlfriends in September. I felt a bit hurt but at least she had a reason and I suppose it would mean that we’d need one less bedroom.

Danny had his cricket tournament next week, so he wouldn’t want to go away until after that. I got the girls up, and after they had breakfast, I took Danny to school leaving the girls with Jenny.

“How would you like to go away for a week’s holiday?” I asked Danny.

“Yeah, where?”

“I don’t know yet, I’ll have to see what I can book—it’ll be this country.”

“We goin’ up to the castle?”

“I hadn’t thought to, I was thinking more Devon or Cornwall.”

“I’d rather go to the castle.”

I fumed silently, am I wanting something unreasonable? It began to feel like it.

“Oh, Mum, there’s a football summer school, in August—any chance I could go to that?”

“Get me details. What if it clashed with dates available for the castle or somewhere else, which would you prefer?”

“Um,” he blushed and I knew he’d prefer kicking a ball round than coming away with his so called family.

We arrived at his school and my Cayenne caused a little excitement—it is still a Porsche. Danny got his cricket bag from the back of the car—it contained his bat and his pads and probably a few other bits and pieces too, including his box: a protector for his dangly bits against fast bowlers and other dangerous animals.

“Is that your mum, Maiden?” asked a boy, also dressed in cricket whites and carrying a similar bag to Danny.

“Yeah, why?”

“Gor, how come someone as beautiful as ’er ’ad something as ugly as you?” He laughed and so did his mates.

“I’ll remember that when I’m bowling,” said Danny quietly.

“Oh I’m scared,” mocked the other boy.

“I’m not,” said Danny with a coldness that worried me but not the boy. I had to leave him to fight his own battles and he seemed reasonably adept at it, but if I were that boy, I wouldn’t want to face my son in ordeal by cricket ball because he sounded as if taking prisoners wasn’t an option.

“Can’t you introduce me, Maiden, I’d love to give ’er a good seein’ to.”

“Fuck off, Clayton—nah you can’t can you, better watch out I might incapacitate your wanking hand—then you’d be in trouble.”

“If you do, Maiden, I’ll make you kiss it better and kiss something else. Yeah, Maiden’s a good name for a fairy like you.”

They wandered out of my earshot still swapping insults. Part of me hoped Danny did manage to bowl something that either caught the boy’s fingers or his groin or even bounced up and hit his elbow—not to do any real damage—just to give him a few minutes agony.

I drove home in a grumpy mood and the day didn’t get any better when Jenny asked if she could take a week off the following week—her bloke had leave. I could hardly refuse her, could I?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1413

Enquiries about the football school at Danny’s school, meant it coincided with the week Jenny would be away, if I took the four girls and the baby, would Stella cope with keeping an eye on Danny in the evenings, making sure he washed his kit and his neck and got a meal?

Si would be home eventually in the evenings and he could help supervise Danny, except with him in charge it would be all fast food or going out to eat. Could they live on pizzas and chips for a week?—I don’t see why not—it might be good training for his stomach if ever he goes away to uni, as half the students live on chips or other junk food for several years.

I felt guilty, though why should I wait for another week or two to take the girls away? If Danny wants to attend this soccer school thing, he’ll have to show some maturity in helping to look after himself. If necessary, I’ll get some ready meals in, which they can just microwave – all the big supermarkets do them and so do Marks & Sparks.

I casually mentioned to Stella that I was thinking of taking the girls away for a few days and she nearly became apoplectic. “I won’t be able to cope on my own with two babies and Simon and Tom.”

“Julie will be home in the evenings and Simon isn’t disabled just clueless. Besides you used to cope when you and he lived together, and you held down a full-time job.”

“Why can’t we come with you?” she asked—she wasn’t going to like the answer.

“Where’s Gareth—he hasn’t been here for a few days?”

“He’s off on a course—they’re making loads redundant—so he’s been lucky to keep his job.”

“How long is his course?”

“Until Friday.”

“So he’ll be home at weekends and evenings as well as the others. He seems a capable type—I’ll bet he can cook a bit.”

“Yeah, but why should he—that’s yours or Jenny’s job, and why can’t she do it—we pay her enough?”

“Stella, I pay Jenny.” Okay, I use Simon’s money. “So she works for me, the fact that she helps you is a bonus, but I still pay her. She has an entitlement to take holidays, she’s chosen the same week I’m going to be away.”

“Huh, abandoning me—I get it.”

“Stella, it’s hardly abandoning you—okay, you have two small children to care for, but that’s all. You’ll have up to four other adults in the house while I’m away and catering for them isn’t exclusively my job anyway. I am trying to help Tom with his survey as well.”

“You wouldn’t need a holiday if you hadn’t done that play thing—that’s what has exhausted you—playing Lady Macbeth.”

“No it hasn’t, besides am I not allowed to do one or two things as well? I haven’t actually been away on holiday since I met you and certainly not since I married Simon.”

“You went up to Scotland, and stayed at the hotel in Southsea—that would count as holidays in anyone’s book.”

“The trip to Scotland was trying to hide from some serious criminals if you remember, and using the hotel in Southsea is usually avoiding someone somewhere else as well—hardly holidays are they?”

“You didn’t cook, clean or do anything else, so I’d call it a holiday.”

I was tempted to respond detailing the little she does regularly, but it would only antagonise her. She seems to think I’ve replaced the role of housekeeper and mother to her, the babies and children and all the other adults as well. It ain’t necessarily so, and I’m just warming to the idea of telling her so in explicit detail.

Just then Jenny walked in, “Why the long faces, ladies?”

“Cathy told me you’re going away the week after next and so is she.”

“Yeah, so?”

“Who’s going to look after the house and feed everybody?” moaned Stella.

“As you’re the only one not working Stella—looks like it’s you. That’ll make a nice change for you, won’t it?”

“I’ve got two babies to look after.”

“They don’t take all day, do they? In Africa, mothers only stop doing heavy physical jobs when they start going into labour.”

“I don’t see what politics has to do with anything.”

“Politics?”

“Yes, Labour.”

“I meant labour as the effort of expelling a child from your womb.”

“Oh, that makes a little more sense, but it’s mainly nonsense.”

“Well, if you were working in Africa, you’d have been back ploughing fields and so on a few hours after giving birth.”

“There is no way I could sit on a hard tractor seat for even a couple of hours.”

“Tractor? Who said anything about a tractor?”

“Well, I assumed they’d be using tractors.”

“Sadly you’d be wrong, most of these people are too poor to afford tractors or the fuel to power them.”

“That’s lack of investment.”

“Subsistence farming isn’t a bowl of cherries.”

“I’m sure it isn’t, but that’s not my fault.”

“You enjoy eating fresh fruit and veg out of season—since this mostly comes from third world countries—it is partly your fault.”

“It most certainly isn’t—you do the shopping—I only eat what you put on my plate.”

“Oh well, Stell,” started Jenny, “now’s the chance to change all that.”

“But I don’t want to change it, do I?”

“Fine, but you could find that come the revolution, you’ll be the first into the tumbrel.”

“Which revolution are we discussing here?”

As they only used tumbrels in one revolution that I’m aware of, Stella is being deliberately obtuse in the hope that someone will save her. From the way Jenny is maintaining a hostile reception to Stella’s whining, she certainly isn’t going to rescue her anytime soon.

The circular argument went nowhere quickly, but as I refused to postpone my holiday—like I do every year—I managed to get out quickly enough to avoid being drawn into the recriminations. I went to start lunch.

I had no sooner put some jacket potatoes into the oven when the phone rang. It was the school, Danny had a suspected broken finger—he was at the QA. Just what I needed—not. If I spend much more time there, I shall ask for my own parking place.

I drove off to get him with Trish and Livvie. When we found him he had his hand swathed in bandages and was looking rather sorry for himself.

“What happened?” I asked.

“That prat Clayton hit out at a slower bowler and I was at silly mid on, I tried to catch him but the ball hit the end of my finger. I felt this intense pain—the X-rays show it’s the end bone in my index finger.”

“Terminal or distal phalange.”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1414

“Can I see your finger?” asked Trish.

“They only just put this bandage on,” protested Danny.

“Oh well, this will take longer then.” Trish grabbed his hand and he pulled it away.

“That bloody well hurt.”

“Well hold still then.”

“Just what are you trying to do?”

“Fix your finger, stupid.”

“Children please don’t start squabbling, life is fraught enough.”

“Let me see your hand.”

“Get stuffed.”

“Mummy, he won’t let me fix his finger.”

“Danny, please humour her.”

“If this hurts you witch, I’m gonna stick your broomstick where the sun don’t shine.”

“Mummy, he’s threatening me.”

“Danny, just let her do it, okay.”

“Aw, Mum, she’s hurting it.”

“I’m not, Mummy, he’s lying.”

I stopped the car and turned round to the back seat. “For God’s sake stop acting like a six-year-old, Danny, and let her fix your stupid finger.” Before he could respond I turned back and rejoined the traffic.

I tried to see what Trish was doing in the rear view mirror, but she was below the level of sight.

“God, that’s hot,” squealed Danny and Trish giggled.

“There it’s done,” declared his younger sister.

“It had better be, ’cos I want to do some bowling tomorrow, especially at Clayton.”

“If you can’t bowl tomorrow, don’t blame me—it’ll be because you’re a wuss.”

“How does it feel?” I asked Danny.

“A bit better—she’s not as good as you.”

“Yet,” protested his sister.

We arrived at home and on entry I asked Stella to examine Don Bradman’s finger. She looked at it, felt it and squeezed it, made him wiggle and curl it. “Nothing wrong with it,” was her conclusion.

“I think you owe your sister an apology, don’t you?” I reminded my son.

He sloped off to find her and tell her. Moments later she was with me telling me what he’d said, then she giggled. “Should I have told him it was you who did most of it?”

“Nah, I’d let him think it was you, he might show you a little more respect in future.” I beckoned her to listen to me carefully. “How would you like to go for a little holiday?”

“Where?” she whispered back.

“I thought Devon or Cornwall.”

“Can’t we go to the castle or up to your house in Bristol?”

“Bristol?”

“Yeah, I like it when we go there.”

I hadn’t actually thought of that, I suppose because it wouldn’t be much of a holiday for me. We could take a run up there tomorrow and check on everything, come back the next day. Is it worth it? All the aggro of packing with tiny wee, and the other girls—just for one night? I suppose we could do two, that would be more interesting.

Trish disappeared and a few minutes later she reappeared with Livvie and Meems and Billie came along moments later. “We all wanna come to Bristol, Mummy.”

“Okay, I’ll see what we can do.”

“Can we see the Great Britain?”

“I’ll see, I thought I’d taken you there?”

“Yeah, but we just did it in technology.”

“I wanna go to the zoo, Mummy,” whined Mima and I was beginning to think I should have stayed in bed.

Danny returned minus his bandage and tossing a cricket ball—four ounces of cork wrapped in leather. He tossed it to me as he walked in. By reflex I caught it, if I’d thought about it, I’d probably have fumbled it and it could have hit one of the girls.

I handed it back to him and told him to put it away in the house. He suggested I should try out for a women’s cricket side as my catch had been a good one. I told him to go and put his ball away before I confiscated it. He made a face at me and ran off.

“That ball could have hit me on the head,” complained Trish.

“But it didn’t, did it?” I responded.

“But it coulda done.”

“But it didn’t, so stop complaining about things which didn’t happen.”

“It woulda hurt, too.”

“Trish, shut up and go and do your homework.”

“I haven’t got any.”

“Okay, I want an essay on why we should visit the SS Great Britain.”

“Bah,” she said and stormed off.

“Meems, I want pictures of at least two animals you might see in the zoo.”

“Can we go shopping, Mummy?” asked Livvie.

“I expect we could.”

“Where all the department stores are.”

“Near Park Street, are you looking for anything?”

“No, I just want to look at some department stores.”

“You could do that in Portsmouth.”

“Nah, I wanna see the Bristol ones.”

“If we have time, we’ll see.”

“Can I see the bike shop, Mummy?” asked Billie.

“Bike shop—there’s several in Bristol.”

“The Specialized one.”

“They’ve got one there have they?”

“Yes, Mummy and I’d like to look at it.”

“I might, too.”

“Mark Cavendish is riding one these days, and he won another stage.”

“The Manx Missile strikes again.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“I’ll have to see if I can find it on the Internet. Find out where the shop is, if it’s too far away from the other things—too bad, if it’s not far, we may well manage to include it.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

The doorbell rang and before I could answer it, one of the girls called to say I had a visitor. I wasn’t expecting anyone so was intrigued to learn who it was. I was astonished to see Mrs Browne-Coward standing at the door.

“Oh, hello, to what do I owe this pleasure?” I said just hiding the twinge of sarcasm I felt it needed.

“Ah, good afternoon, Lady Cameron; could we talk in private?”

“Come through to my study, Danny, make us a pot of tea please.”

“Yeah, okay,” he yelled back from somewhere.

“Come through, Mrs Browne-Coward.” I led her through to my plush new study and invited her to sit on the chintz sofa that stood in the window.

“This is very nice, I love this material,” she said rubbing her hand over the fabric.

“Yes, it’s a Liberty’s design, I got a local company to make up the covers.”

“I love the matching curtains.”

“Yeah, they did them at a discount for ordering the covers from them.”

“It’s quite comfortable, too.”

“I know, I sometimes sit there to read.”

“Very nice—good light too.”

“The window might have something to do with that.”

“Yes, of course—sorry, I wasn’t thinking.”

Danny came in bearing a tray with a pot of tea, some mugs, some milk, sugar and a biscuit tin. I thanked him and he bowed and asked, “Will there be anything else, milady?”

Mrs B-C roared with laughter, and I waited to administer the coup de grace until she stopped laughing.

“No, Fi-Fi, that’ll be all for tonight.”

Danny blushed, looked daggers then sniggered. Mrs B-C nearly wet herself.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1415

“I love the rapport you have with your son, Lady Cameron.”

“He’s a good lad,” I said hoping that Danny was close enough to hear my commendation. I poured us each a mug of tea and we sat and sipped it for a few moments.

I felt like saying, ‘What d’you want?’ but politeness prevented me, I just hoped that she didn’t want me to intercede with the bank, because then I’d have to say no. I left her a few seconds to speak her piece before prompting her.

“I really like this fabric,” she said rubbing her hand over the cushions on the sofa.

“How can I help?” I asked grabbing the brown-cow by the horns.

“Oh yes, there’s some woodland at the back of our garden centre which the owner is talking about clearing and just leaving a screen of trees to hide a slurry pit.”

“I’m not sure what I can do to stop him, especially if he has planning permission.” I felt some sympathy for her, after all the smell would be pretty awful.

“We wondered if there were some dormice there, he wouldn’t be allowed to do it, would he?”

“You want me to do a survey—to see if there are any dormice?”

“Yes, that would be helpful, and if there aren’t any, could we buy some off you and put them in there?”

“I can’t do that, apart from the fact that it would be deception, it wouldn’t be a good idea to just dump dormice anywhere—that would be in breach of my licence.”

“Oh.”

“But I’ll happily come and have a look round the wood and if there are signs of dormice, might be able to insist the council check it first.”

“That would be wonderful, especially if they found any.”

“Someone would then have to commission a full survey, which might be enough to make him site his slurry pit elsewhere. Have you objected on the grounds it could have an adverse affect upon your business?”

“Yes, but the council surveyor bloke said the trees would hide it so we wouldn’t be affected by it.”

“What about the smell?”

“He said the prevailing wind would blow the aroma away from us.”

“I wonder how he’d like it at the bottom of his garden?” I still didn’t like the woman but she did have my sympathy.

“When could you do your survey?”

“At the weekend would be the earliest. I’d need access to walk through the woodland to look for signs of dormice. How big is the wood?”

“A couple of acres, I think. What do I need to do to get you access?”

“Speak to the council and tell them you suspect there might be dormice there. They will then have to organise someone to take a look, they usually ask the mammal group or the university—either usually come to me.”

“That would be brilliant.” She finished her tea and was getting ready to leave when she looked a little embarrassed before she said, “Look, I know we haven’t always seen eye to eye in the past, but I’m grateful for any help you can give us.”

“Speak to the council.”

“Yes, I will.”

My mind was taken from the meeting when we suffered some major damage to the outbuildings with one of those freak whirlwinds—it took the roof off two of them. Admittedly, they were tiled but they were in reasonable repair until a force of nature turned up and turned the tiles to terracotta confetti.

We counted ourselves fortunate that none of the cars were damaged and more importantly, none of my bikes were although some of the tiles belonged to that garage.

Danny helped me drape a tarpaulin over the hole in the roof of my bike workshop and weigh it down with some bits of timber. He scrambled about the place like a monkey, up and down the ladder, but he did the job really well.

He’d come home early from school, his team was in the final of the cricket competition and he’d taken three wickets and made a dozen runs, so he was quite pleased with himself—and I was proud of him too.

I called Maureen to come and survey the damage and organise repairs—the insurance company wouldn’t be too helpful if past experiences were anything to go by and Simon reminded me the whole place was grade II listed, so repairs would have to be very sympathetic to the existing buildings.

Maureen arrived the next day and I left her to do her survey while I expressed some milk for Jenny to feed Catherine, as I was going to watch Danny play in the cricket final—sadly, Simon couldn’t get the time off work, but he promised Danny a new bat if they won.

Two of the girls came to cheer him on, Trish and Livvie—Meems decided to help Jenny and Billie felt it was too much risk given she’d attended the school previously as a boy. I could see her point.

We left Maureen to it with her tape measure and clipboard, plus her digital camera—what did we do before them? Danny looked very pleased with himself, getting three of us to support him, especially as Livvie had borrowed Simon’s posh camera with its telephoto lens and tripod, to take pictures of the competition.

For a seven-year-old she seemed to take quite good photos and Trish was there with her compact camera to take some snaps as well. I was quite pleased the Livvie seemed better at something than her sister and that Trish recognised the fact.

Danny’s house is named after Admiral Nelson, who although he wasn’t a son of Portsmouth, sailed from here and had his flagship preserved for posterity here. The rival house was, Dickens, as in Charles, the author who is one of Portsmouth’s most famous sons.

We settled down in the picnic chairs I’d loaded in the boot of the car to watch the match. The first ball had no sooner been bowled than my mobile went off. I noted the number calling and walked towards the car park to take the call.

“Hello, Cathy.”

“Hi, Pippa, how are you?”

“Okay, looking forward to my holiday in a couple of weeks if Tom doesn’t work me to death first.”

“I’ll have a word if you like.”

“Don’t do that, he’ll double his output.”

“Okay, I won’t.”

“Can you do a preliminary survey of a woodland for dormice?”

“When?”

“ASAP—the council are sitting on some planning application and they’re worried that the owner might decide to clear fell on the premise that he’s going to replant.”

“Tomorrow soon enough?”

“I knew we could count on you, we’ve not got any student’s available who could have done it and the mammal group are unavailable—least their dormouse person is, and the Mammal Society would have asked you anyway.”

“Looks like it’s my destiny—kismet Hardy.”

“Kiss you Hardy? Who d’ya think you are, bloody Nelson?”

“Yes, no—but I’m watching Danny playing cricket for his house, which is Nelson.”

“Oh okay, I’ll tell the council you’ll do it tomorrow.”

“Fine, I’ll get the results through to you and Natural England if there are any suspected—then we’ll have to organise some nest boxes and survey tubes.”

“Both? Thought you did the tubes first and then the nest boxes?”

“Ah, but there’s a paper been done by some people in Devon who’ve shown that dormice use different nesting places at different times.”

“Have we got a copy of that—I don’t recall seeing it?”

“How would I know, I saw it on the Mammal Society’s website. I’m surprised they didn’t ask me to peer review it.”

“Um—that could be my fault—someone phoned ages ago and you were tied up with something—and I told them you weren’t available.”

“Gee thanks.”

“Sorrreee.”

I felt a hand pulling on my jacket, “C’mon, Mummy, Danny’s going to bowl.”

“Gotta go, Pip, Danny’s bowling.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1416

It’s a very long time since I’ve watched cricket match, the format was twenty overs. For the uninitiated, each side gets to bowl twenty overs at each other or a hundred and twenty balls are unleashed—one at a time—duh—during the other team’s innings. They have to try and score as many runs as they can in that time while losing as few wickets as they can.

The object is to score the more runs, so the team with more runs wins. In the event of a tie and if a winner is required, the team with the more wickets left wins. If that doesn’t work, go and toss a coin.

Each team had eleven men, who field or bat. The batsmen have just one life and once given out by the umpire, the next man comes in to bat, which is why it’s called an innings. The bowling side have a bowler and ten fielders one of whom is a wicketkeeper, who stands behind the wicket to catch the balls the batsman misses or lets go.

A run only counts if the two batsmen cross, which then means they have to continue to the other end of the pitch—twenty two yards, and the non-striking batsman then takes strike or faces the bowler, unless it was the last ball of the over. When one batsman is better than the other he might try to retain strike because overs are bowled from alternate ends. A bowler is not allowed to bowl consecutive overs.

There are two boundaries, one which if the ball reaches counts as four runs, or six if it clears it. The batsmen may of course run the four or six runs if for instance the fielding side fumble the ball or drop a catch.

Batsmen are given out if the bowler clean bowls them, i.e. the ball hits the wickets and the bails are dislodged, or the batsman can play onto his wickets, mishitting the ball which travels on to the wickets or stumps.

A batsman may also be caught by any of the fielders including the bowler and wicketkeeper, or stumped by the wicket keeper, if the batsman is outside his crease, a line about a yard in front of the wicket perhaps playing and missing a ball. A batsman may also be run out, failing to get to the crease from a run where the fielding side throw the ball back to the wicket—at either end and the bails are removed with it. Occasionally, batsmen have been known to try to run when it hasn’t been safe and both have been run out being caught halfway down the pitch, the fielding side managing to throw the ball two both ends and remove both sets of bails.

So essentially the contest is between a bowler who is trying to entice a batsman to play at a ball which is unsuitable for some reason, and which he’ll either miss or hit into the air near a fielder who will catch it. In most schoolboy cricket, there is little subtlety, and it’s usually about bowling at the wicket and hoping your opponent doesn’t hit it too hard or skies it—hits up into the air. Unlike baseball, the batsman doesn’t have to run if it’s not safe to do so—the non-striker usually decides to call his colleague to run or not. It’s all good fun, providing you’re not hit by bat or ball—both are hard and hurt, and have caused fatal injuries in the professional game. Hopefully that wasn’t going to happen today.

I got back to my seat as Danny ran in and bowled his first ball which the batsman played at and missed. The second ball he cut to the leg side for two runs to much applause from the Dickens’ supporters. The third ball he stepped aside to do the same thing and the ball cut back and bowled him removing his leg stump. This resulted in many cheers from the Nelson supporters and in Livvie actually getting a picture of the ball hitting the wicket. I was impressed with both of them.

At this point Dickens were ten runs for one wicket off four overs, three balls of which were still to be bowled. The next man in was Clayton and he and Danny exchanged insults. He checked for middle and leg stumps, and in ran Danny, who bowled a perfect Yorker—the ball bounced under the bat as the batsman went to strike and his middle stump was removed. Clayton was furious and threw his bat down declaring he wasn’t ready and it was no ball and so on. The umpire pointed his finger and gave him out—for a duck (no runs).

Danny was now on for a hat trick, three wickets in three balls, however, his next opponent played and missed but survived the delivery.

We all cheered like crazy, calling ’owzat, every time the ball went anywhere near the Dickens’ wickets. Danny took two more wickets in his four overs, which was pretty good, four wickets for ten runs. Dickens were all out for seventy-four runs. There was a short break and the teams switched over, and now Nelson were in to bat.

Danny was batting at number four, which is quite high in the order for a bowler. Unfortunately, he was in before he expected to be as Nelson lost both openers for six runs after only three overs. They needed someone to take the fight back to Dickens and Danny stepped up to the crease to give it his best shot.

Clayton was bowling, so revenge was in his mind. I’d never seen a boy bowl so fast and I’m not sure Danny had either, just managing to duck under the bouncer which would have smashed into his helmet.

The next ball did the same and Danny ducked again. He was safe but there weren’t many runs being hit. Clayton thought he could intimidate his smaller opponent, but while Danny was lighter, his reflexes were faster and the third bouncer from Clayton got the royal treatment—Danny sidestepped and swivelled hitting the ball over the top of the wicket keeper and clearing the boundary got the first six of the day. Clayton was livid, so was I. The umpire shouldn’t have allowed him to bowl three bouncers in a schoolboy game.

In the next over the runs began to come and both Danny and his team mate hit a four. Then it was back to Clayton. He tried a full toss at Danny who responded by hitting it back at him and scoring another four. Clayton then tried bowling differently and each time Danny smashed it to the boundary, by the end of that over, Nelson were over forty runs, twenty-four coming off one over.

Clayton was taken off. Nelson lost another wicket and another before they reached fifty. It was now swinging back in Dickens’ favour, as only Danny was making much impact, he was already on thirty-six.

Dickens’ bowlers seemed to lose their concentration and Nelson got to sixty before losing another wicket, Danny was on forty-eight. They had two more wickets left—it was going to be close.

By the nineteenth over, Nelson were on seventy-four, they needed one more run to win. Clayton came back on again and Danny faced him. He bowled another short ball which bounced up and hit Danny in the face: he fell like a sack of coal. I stood and gasped.

The teachers were running to the fallen boy and Clayton was swaggering about with a huge smile on his face. Trish looked daggers at him and I made her stay with Livvie as I went to see Danny who was now sitting up with a shiner coming up on his left eye.

He rose to his feet a little unsteadily but insisted he batted on—if he’d retired hurt as he should have done—they’d have lost, he and his team mate were now the last remaining batsmen.

Clayton let fly another bouncer and Danny wobbled out of its way. Trish was doing something, muttering and moving her hands. I watched in dread as Clayton fired another cannonball at my son who again managed to get out of its way.

The next ball was on the wicket and Danny just got his bat in the way in time. His eye was swelling and I wasn’t sure how much he could actually see. The last ball of the match, and Clayton bowled a last bouncer—which Danny hit back at him and was about to be caught when Trish waved her hand at Clayton and he moved his hands up to his face and the ball followed them smashing into his nose. He fell down like a lead weight, blood spurting from his nose which was undoubtedly broken.

In the ensuing chaos the two batsmen ran and crossed making it seventy-five runs—Nelson had won. Supporters ran on to the pitch and Danny was lifted onto their shoulders, Clayton was still receiving attention on the ground, although I knew he wasn’t as badly hurt as he was making out.

I spoke to Trish. “What did you do?”

“Meeee, Mummy?”

“Yes you, Missy.”

“Nothing, honest,” she smirked.

“Oh, that’s interestin’,” said Livvie looking at some photos on Simon’s Nikon. I looked to see what was interesting and in a series of three shots, she had Danny hit the ball and one of Clayton going to catch it with a blue flash directly in front of his eyes. The final shot was the ball catching him in the face.

“So you did nothing?” I accused Trish.

“Nothing you can prove,” she blushed.

“There’s a photo there with the evidence,” I said tersely to her.

“Um—I’m afraid not, Mummy, I accidentally deleted it,” Livvie waved the camera.

“Don’t you dare let me catch you using the light for your own advantage again,” I scolded Trish.

“Well the other boy was trying to kill my brother, and he nearly succeeded, so I sent some light to the ball to help him see it. It was still attached to it when Clayton tried to catch it, ’snot my fault he can’t catch.”

I sent a text to Simon to say Danny had won the match, he sent one back sending congrats and to say he’d bought the bat already—having complete confidence in his son. I think Danny would have got the bat anyway, Simon was so pleased they got to the final.

The girls and I thought Danny displayed great courage and spirit so he was our hero anyway, and this time after he was presented with the cup which actually stays in school, he came back to the car with us and he made no complaint about Trish trying to reduce the swelling round his eye.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1417

The day after Danny’s triumph on the cricket pitch, was the last day of his term and coincidentally a Friday. I’d agreed I’d collect him from school as he had stuff to bring home—he didn’t say what, but I assumed it was too much to carry on the bus.

Jenny was starting her holiday the next day and I wasn’t sure what I was going to be doing. Bristol seemed like the best option but somehow so much had happened in the past week or so, even the girls weren’t saying much about going.

I left Catherine with Jenny and Meems and Trish, Livvie and Billie came with me to collect their elder brother. I had reassured Billie that no one would recognise her and as we stood by the car waiting for Danny, whose black eye had receded miraculously to slight bruising, several of her previous classmates walked past without any recognition.

She almost cringed when the first one went past, then I saw her stand more erect and her little buds poked through her thin tee shirt, resembling more or less the other girls of her age group who were emerging from the school. Trish was jealous until I suggested that if she had boobs at seven by fifteen they’d be down to her knees.

We didn’t see Danny’s archenemy come out of the school: apparently we learned later that he was at home nursing a very sore nose. Danny eventually arrived saying goodbye to several of his friends—I had no idea he was so popular. No one recognised Billie; she had half hidden behind me when Danny’s friends came with him to the car.

“Who’s the girl?” one of them whispered not too subtly to him.

“Which one? The old one’s my mum, then there’s Trish, Livvie and Billie.”

“Billie, she’s nice,” whispered the boy.

“Don’t be daft, she’s my sister.”

At this Billie stepped out of the shadows and slapped Danny on the arm, “Pig,” she said rolling her eyes. He simply sniggered and the boy blushed.

“This is Roy, Roy my sister—she likes bikes, takes after Mum.”

“You like bikes, hey maybe we could all go for a ride some time, what sort of bike have you got?”

“I’ve got a road bike,” she said self-consciously.

“What a racer?”

“Yeah—only, I’m not good enough to race.”

“Probably better than my mountain bike—it’s okay, I s’pose, Trek with twenty-four gears and disc brakes, what make is yours?”

“Specialized, like one of my Mum’s bikes.”

“Neat, well I gotta go—see you for a ride sometime?”

“Um—maybe, I’ll have to ask Mum.”

As I was standing not two feet from her, I smirked and then acting all serious, said, “I hope your intentions towards my daughter are honourable?”

He looked at me blankly—what sort of education do these kids get?

“If I let her go for a ride with you, you’ll behave yourself?”

“Oh yes, lady.”

“How did you know my mummy was a lady?” interrupted Trish.

“Eh?” he gave her a look of total astonishment followed by one of contempt, “All girls older than me are ladies,” he didn’t add, ‘dummy’ but it was there by inference.

“My mummy is a lady, Lady Catherine Cameron.”

He looked at her while he processed the data she’d given him. “Oh, I didn’t know that—so how come your name is Maiden?” he asked Danny who blushed.

“I married after Danny was born,” I offered to change the subject.

Roy blushed brightly, “Sorry, Lady Catherine, I—um…”

“It’s okay, Roy, no offence was taken.”

“Twit,” Trish muttered behind me.

Several of the others said they’d like to go for a ride as well, so Danny was charged with setting up a date during the holiday for them all to get together.

The cardboard box he’d been carrying, it transpired, held half a dozen shields and other trophies he’d got for sport, mainly football, but now one for cricket. He also presented me with a letter asking me to allow him to play for a junior cricket team at Southsea—apparently one of the teachers at the school helps to run it and would collect and bring him home after the games and practice sessions.

“This clashes with your football school—so you’ll have to make up your mind which you’d like to play?”

“Oh, does it?—I didn’t know,” Danny shrugged.

“You were fab at the cricket yesterday,” cooed Trish.

“Yeah, pretty, like, cool,” agreed Livvie. This only caused to send the boy’s decision into even greater uncertainty.

“What should I do, Mum?”

“Why don’t you sleep on it after you talk it over with your Dad—he knows more about the football than I do, but I know he used to play cricket.”

“Um—okay.”

I thought it was more appropriate for Simon to deal with that one—although I was happy to buy him extra kit if he needed it. We clambered into the SUV and I drove us to small café which did nice ice creams. Swearing them all to secrecy, I bought us all an ice cream soda with which we toasted our sporting hero, then we ate them and went home.

After dinner, Simon made the most of his new role as sports consultant. I was washing up when I noticed all the children except Puddin’ and the babies were in with him. Danny appeared smirking about something.

“I’m playin’ cricket, Dad convinced me,” then he gave me a cheesy grin and went off out into the garden, followed by the others.

Simon appeared and put the kettle on. “Tea?” he asked me.

“Is the Pope a Catholic?” I replied.

“I thought he was German myself,” he replied.

I shook my head and glared at him.

“I think I quite like my son coming to me to ask for advice.”

“Well you’re the one who bought him a new bat.”

“This is true,” he agreed handing me a mug of tea.

“So what was all the secrecy about?”

“What secrecy?” he tried to look innocent.

“Why were all the children in with you? Or was it a committee meeting?”

“Sort of, I sort of offered them a choice.”

“Choice? Choice of what?”

“It doesn’t concern you—you’re going to Bristol, aren’t you?”

“I doubt it, the girls haven’t mentioned it for days, I think they’ve lost interest.”

“Oh, so you might be available?”

“Available—for what?”

“Ah—there’s the rub.”

“C’mon, Cameron, spit it out.”

“Are you available next Saturday and Sunday?”

“To do what?”

“Never mind, are you available?” his eyes were dancing so I knew he had something other than his arms up his sleeves.

“I s’pose so, I was only going to watch the end of the Tour, see if Cavendish could keep the green jersey by winning the sprint in Paris—but I could tape it.”

“So is that a yes?”

“Yeah, I suppose it is—now what have I agreed to?”

“I wasn’t going to tell you, but seeing as you’ll kill me if I don’t, I better had.”

“Tell me what?”

“We’re all off to Paris on Saturday, so you can see the end of the race in person.”

I was totally stunned.

“The kids don’t have passports?”

“Yes they do, I organised that a couple of weeks ago.”

“You’re not teasing me, are you?” He had promised once before and it fell through, though it wasn’t exactly his fault.

“Nope, the tickets are in my briefcase, we fly from Southampton at midday, and back on Monday morning.”

“Simon, you are bloody wonderful.”

“So you’re pleased?”

“Of course I am—this tea is exactly how I like it,” I said taking a sip and watching him glare at me.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1418

I lay talking with Simon in bed as we cuddled up together. “I can’t wait for next week,” I purred.

“Why—what’s happening next week?”

“Paris, silly.”

“We’re going tomorrow.”

I giggled, he does like to tease me.

“I’m serious—look you’re the TdF fan, when did it start?”

“Third of July.”

“And what’s the date today?”

“Um—twenty-second, I think.”

“And how long does it run for?”

“Three weeks.”

“So what would twenty one added to three make?”

“Oh shit!” I exclaimed.

“I made it twenty-four, myself,” he chuckled.

“You’ve got time to pack—I ordered a minibus to collect us and take us to the airport.”

“No I haven’t.”

“Of course you have.”

“I’m booked to do a dormouse survey tomorrow.”

“Where?”

“In a woodland near the Browne-Coward’s garden centre.”

“Oh, what does that involve?”

“Walking the woodland and looking for nuts or acorns which show signs of dormouse activity.”

“Can I or the children help?”

“You can help pack for me.”

“It’s not one of my better attributes.”

“I’ll do you a list—I’ll do the survey as soon as it’s light.”

“You’re going to make yourself ill, girl.”

“I’ll survive, have you still got that Dictaphone thingy?”

“In my desk, why?”

“I’ll dictate the lists of things you’ll need to pack.”

“Is this going to work?”

“It has to, the girls will pack their own stuff and Danny can do his too.” I jumped out of bed and ran to his desk to find the recording device. I walked up and down the kitchen making lists then, wiped them and started again.

In the end I wrote them down on paper—it was easier. I would pack my own stuff when I got back. Essentially, the baby was the problem—but how could I blame her for anything. Why didn’t I start packing as soon as he said it? Why did I lose a week somewhere? Am I going doolally?

I glanced at the clock—it was one in the morning—I’d been busy for nearly two hours. Geez, where did the time go?

There was no way I’d be ready in time, I sat at the table and wept. I felt a hand on my shoulder and almost leapt out of my skin. I’d fallen asleep at the table. “Come to bed, it’s very late.”

“I can’t, Si, bugger I fell asleep.”

“Look, Dad and Monica are coming to look after the baby tomorrow morning.”

“When did you organise that?”

“After you jumped out of bed.”

“Oh—I can’t let Monica stay here, I need to clean the kitchen and bathroom and tidy the house.”

“Cathy,” he said sharply.

“What?”

“You need to come to bed or I’m going to cancel the whole bloody thing.”

“You can’t.”

“Don’t tell me what I can or cannot do.”

“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that—the kids will be so disappointed.”

“So would I, but I’m not having my wife work herself up into a frenzy.”

“But Cav could get the green jersey.”

“And you could have a total breakdown.”

“I won’t—I’m strong, remember.”

“We all have our breaking points.”

“All right, I’ll come to bed, but I won’t be able to sleep.”

“What were you doing just now?”

“I just closed my eyes to think of something.”

“Do you normally snore while you’re thinking?”

“I wasn’t snoring—was I?”

“What d’ya think woke me up.”

“You lying toad—even if I was snoring you wouldn’t be able to hear me upstairs.”

He put his finger to his lips and pointed to the ceiling, through which the sounds of snoring were emanating—it was Daddy. I clasped my hand over my mouth but began to snigger which made Simon do the same. In a minute or less, I was giggling hysterically and had to run to the loo.

When I came out of the door of the cloakroom, Simon scooped me up and carried me up to bed. I got into bed kissed him, told him I loved him and them made him prove he loved me when I put my cold feet on his leg.

Somehow, I fell asleep, but was up by five and pulling things from my wardrobe. I washed, dressed and suitably clad for walking in woodland, set off in my car. I had my notebook, a hand lens, some plastic pots I’d had tuna pate in and my camera.

I was actually at the woodland and parking in a lay-by at six. The gate of the entrance was locked with a very new and expensive padlock. I don’t think the landowner was entirely friendly.

A quick survey found two areas which would be most promising—they had hazel bushes, some oaks, sycamore and lots of undergrowth below the trees, which dormice love. All that was missing was honeysuckle, and I found some of that as well.

The next bit is boring—you scan the ground for hazelnut shells or acorns which have been eaten by dormice. It’s that easy—mind you finding them isn’t. The whole they make have a smooth edge to them with diagonal tooth marks inside the rim of the hole—hence the hand lens.

By seven I knew there had been dormice in the wood, I’d found a dozen or more shells which met the criterion. Whether there were any here now, is another matter. Then I spotted a dormouse nest in the undergrowth—that made it almost certain we had some here.

My delight and attempts to photograph it were cut short when a shotgun was fired over my head, showering me in bits of shot and I heard a dog barking. I took to my heels and legged it, clearing the gate in a single leap with the dog hard on my tail.

Standing out in the road, I gasped for breath and was still doing so when the farmer arrived. “And just what were you doing—bloody trespasser.” The gun was pointed at me.

“If that gun is loaded I’m calling the police.”

“I have every right to escort you off my land.”

“You shot at me without even challenging me—what sort of moron are you?”

“You call me a moron—I wasn’t doing anything illegal.”

“Neither was I.”

“So what were you doing?”

“Bird-watching.”

“So where’s yer binoculars?”

“In my bag.”

“Let’s see ’em, then?”

“I’ll show you mine if you’ll show me yours.” I have a way with words, which one day is going to get me murdered—it could be today.

“You cheeky bitch, I’ve a good mind to set the dog on you.”

“Fine, carry on. I’m standing on a public highway having been chased here by a man with a gun and a vicious dog, who is threatening to either shoot me or set his dog on me. He’s already fired his shotgun at me from a distance.”

“Who are you talking too?” he looked bemused.

“The police, smile you’re on candid camera.” I took a picture of him snarling at me nearly as nastily as his dog, and the gun was in full view as pointing at me through the gate.

“You’re jokin’?”

“I never joke about guns—I hate them. I’d have your licence handy—you may well lose it. Byeee.”

I walked off towards my car, some fifty yards away still talking to the police when I heard the bang and saw the window of my car shatter. I turned in disbelief and he fired again, I threw myself into the hedgerow and the shot hit my bag as felt bushes in my face.

“Are you all right?” asked the police person.

“He tried to shoot me, hit my rucksack.”

“Get away, there’s an armed response unit on its way.”

“The bastard shot the side window out of my car.”

“Get away—let the uniformed officers deal with it.”

“Get away?—I feel like sticking it up his arse and pulling both triggers.”

“Lady Cameron, please get away, let the uniformed deal with it.” Moments later there was a helicopter flying overhead and I was running up the road as he shot at me again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1419

While the TdF riders would soon be dealing with ordeal by time trial, I was having a trial against time myself. I explained to the officers at the incident what had happened—hell, they had some of it on phone—they record them routinely now, they insisted I went down the station to give a statement.

Was I trespassing? I had been asked to do the survey, so assumed it had been cleared—I was lying of course, but they could check with the council and Natural England—and my future brother-in-law isn’t going to let me down, I hope.

Why hadn’t I told the man what I was doing? He was holding a gun and I was trying to get away. Eventually, I managed to get away after signing a statement. I drove like a demon to get home; it was now after eleven o’clock.

I explained briefly to Simon what had happened and he called the Porsche dealers to come and repair the side window and touch up the paintwork. While he negotiated with Herr Porsche’s men, I threw clothes and shoes into a bag and then dived into the shower.

I chucked combs and brushes into my bag as well as makeup and perfume, rushed downstairs—then back up again as I’d left my watch behind. I was pulling my still damp hair into a ponytail when the taxi arrived—a twelve-seater minibus.

No one had checked how heavy their bags were—I had a camera and netbook in my rucksack as well as a heavy overnight bag. The driver chatted with Simon while I tried to stay awake and calm with a handful of overexcited children, most of whom hadn’t really been on a plane before.

We got caught in traffic to the airport—seemed like everyone had the same idea. Eventually, we got to the dropping-off point, and the driver agreed to come back and collect us on Monday about lunchtime. With a trolley laden with enough luggage to resemble an emergency evacuation of a whole city, we tramped the airport looking for our check in. It was the opposite end and they were calling for late passengers.

Simon got caught for about seventy pounds in excess baggage and we hadn’t left England yet—what about all the life-sized models of the Eiffel tower the kids will want to bring back? Curiously, my main bag was okay, and they gave me an old-fashioned look at the size of my hand luggage.

They were still calling for boarders for our flight, so we had to run to the departure lounge—being rushed through the baggage checks—where Meems couldn’t get her shoes back on, so we ran onto the aircraft with Simon carrying her barefoot and me running after with her shoes and her little bag.

We did get on the plane before it was airborne but it felt as if it was only just. Of course we were scattered all over the place: Meems sat in front of my seat which was an aisle seat, I was next to an enormous lady who smelt of BO and lily of the valley. She was sweating profusely and the pulse in her neck was visible.

Simon was sat opposite Livvie who was behind Trish, and Danny was in front of Simon. I’m sure it’s all as clear as day—very foggy one—still we were only going to be flying for about an hour. The lady next to me was becoming agitated and selfishly, I thought, if she makes a fuss, they’ll send the plane back to Southampton if it takes off at all. We taxied to the runway and the woman was moving about like her knickers were on fire—I even looked to check—if they had been, if her derriere was sweating like her top end, she’d have quenched the flames.

The man on the window side of our row of three seats ignored the woman and I wasn’t sure if they were together or he was ignoring her distress in the hope it went away. If that was the case his strategy was pants.

I tried to think how nice it was that Henry and Monica had been to come and abduct Catherine for a day or two—then realised they were staying at our house to keep Stella company, or Monica would, Henry would be glued to the telly watching the race—he was a keen cyclist—drinking Tom’s booze.

My airborne neighbour began to hyperventilate. “Calm down, it’ll be all right,” I said to her, and laid my hand on hers, which was digging her nails into the armrest.

“Go to hell,” she said and continued her shallow and rapid breathing.

“Have you flown before?” I asked.

“Mind your own fucking business.”

Was obviously showing my superb people skills today, one had tried to kill me and this one was being obnoxious.

“Take slow deep breaths,” I said ignoring her rudeness.

“When I need your help, I’ll fucking ask for it.”

I decided the man next to her was either profoundly deaf or wasn’t with her. The plane began to accelerate down the runway and she began to panic. As we left the ground, she was wrestling to undo her seat belt and shouting.

I tried to calm her down until we levelled off and an airhostess galloped up to see what was going on. She told the woman to behave or the plane would divert back to Southampton. I felt like saying, if it does it will be without the foul-mouthed female sitting next to me—because I’ll drop her into the Channel—she’d probably bounce like one of Barnes-Wallis’s dam-buster bombs and destroy the flood defences on the Thames.

The woman continued to struggle and I got out of my seat to let the airhostess—the trolley-dolly, deal with big Bertha. I was standing talking to Simon trying to scheme how we could open the rear door and drop her out without anyone noticing.

Everyone was looking at her as she swore at the hostess, when Meems got out of her seat and went up to the woman. “Can I sit with you, wady, ’cos I’m scared.”

Watched in horror as Meems calmly got into my seat and the noise stopped, they were holding hands and I know energy was passing from Meems into the woman because she was drawing it from me.

I sat in Meems’ seat, ready if necessary to eviscerate the stupid woman if she so much as sweated on my daughter, but they were sitting together and the woman was reading Mima a story. There were some sighs and gasps as we landed but we got there.

I couldn’t get out of the plane quickly enough and was down the stairs very rapidly to marshal all my troops before we went through immigration. Being EU citizens it was a formality and we were quickly through, the woman walking along with the man who’d been sat with her and both were smiling sweetly at Mima, who held on to my hand tightly.

The jamboree at the baggage reclaim area was like a giant jumble sale, and I held onto the children while Simon collected our mountain of bags, and I was wondering how anyone could have written a musical about it—the baggage area, I mean—you never heard of Carousel?

We found a minibus taxi which took us to an hotel on the Champs Elysees, and through which Simon had arranged seats for us near the finishing line and from where we could also see a huge TV screen. This was absolute magic and I had to kiss him, even though we were still in reception. Just fancy—tomorrow, I get to see the end of the tour and today, we’re going to see the Eiffel tower. Pure magic.

Eiffel Tower

Photo: Eiffel Tower, Paris—Wikimedia.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1420

I couldn’t believe it, we were actually half way up the Eiffel tower, and none of the kids were complaining. We finally got to the viewing platform and the views were breathtaking. I was aware that while we were sauntering round the French capital, a group of cyclists were turning themselves inside out in the time trial races.

In another capital, not a million miles away, many people were in shock and mourning as it became obvious that over ninety people had died in a shooting spree and bomb attack. That and my experience of the morning had reinforced my dislike of guns.

I reflected on the fact that someone had damaged my car and tried to damage me. Part of me wanted to be angry, wanted to shove the gun down his throat and then I reflected on the tragedy in Norway and my anger left me. I looked over at Notre Dame and despite its beauty, I felt less and less inclined to believe in this loving God, who on one hand appears to be omnipotent and in the next minute is impotent—strikes me as hogwash. Mind you, the appearance of some old biddy from the Old Testament in my dreams has frightened me to death a couple of times—just as well that’s all it is—my imagination.

Meems, who’d been holding my hand moments ago had slipped my grasp and I looked round frantically for her among the crowds. Then my eye alighted on the cause of her separation from me. That woman, yeah, the nuisance from the aircraft, was standing about twenty feet from me and looking very pale. ‘Oh pooh, I hope she’s not having a coronary.’ Meems was standing next to her comforting her and she was drawing energy through me.

As I walked over towards them, Trish seemed to be intent on proving gravity by dropping Livvie’s camera and a feather over the side of the tower. I grabbed the camera and gave it back to a relieved Livvie. “That experiment has already been done—no need to repeat it.” Trish pulled a face and pulled her hand back through the netting.

“Are you all right?” Probably the stupidest question in the English language, because we ask it of people who patently aren’t all right. We see someone fall down a flight of stairs—are you all right? Duh. Anyway, what else do you say to a stranger who is looking ill? Nice day? Nah, don’t think so.

“I am terrified of heights,” gasped the woman.

“So I noticed in the aircraft.”

“Oh, I thought you looked familiar.”

“C’mon, Meems, leave the lady alone, we’ve got to go.”

“That’s right, leave a fellow countrywoman alone in a place full of foreigners.”

“Half of the foreigners speak perfect English, and we’re actually the visitors here—it is France—not Battersea.”

“How did you know I came from Battersea—have you been spying on me?”

“Why would I spy on you? I don’t even know you—or didn’t before you made a fool of yourself on the aircraft, and again here—if you don’t like heights, what are you doing up here, if that isn’t a silly question.”

“My therapist said I needed to face my fears.”

“Yeah, well maybe they should be here with you then.”

“They are somewhere; they were on the plane too.”

“What, that bloke who was sat next to you?”

“Yes, he’s a psychologist.”

“Really?”

“Yes, he’s got a PhD.”

“What in, collecting stamps?” I offered this Transactional Analysis joke, but she was oblivious to it.

“No, in psychology—it’s from an Ivy tree university in America.”

“I think you mean Ivy League, Harvard, Stanford and so on.”

“No—definitely Ivy Tree, I’ve seen the certificates.”

“Are you funding the trip?”

“Yes, of course I am.”

“Thought so.”

“Why d’you say that?”

“I suspect he’s a cowboy—check out his footwear next time.”

“But he was in the Yellow Pages.”

“So is my plumber, but he doesn’t know anything about psychology either.”

“What?” she shrieked.

“You want to be cured?”

“Yes of course.”

“Sit up a chimney and rub salt on yourself.”

“I don’t understand.” She looked totally bemused but her colour had improved and I was close to sorting her.

“You won’t, see this feather?” I took the feather Trish was holding.

“Yes, of course I can see it.”

“Close your eyes.”

“I certainly won’t.”

“You will—now stop arguing. Hold out your hand.” She did so and I placed the feather in her hand, which she closed upon it.

“What are you holding?”

“A bird’s feather.”

“That’s what you think—it’s actually an angel’s feather—feel its energy?”

“Goodness, yes—yes I can.”

“Your phobias are cured, safe journey home.” Before she could open her eyes I snaffled all the children into the lift and we descended back to terra firma.

“I thought you didn’t like heights?” Simon asked as we got to the bottom.

“I can’t stand them.”

“What were you talking about to that strange woman—she looked familiar—it was her wasn’t it?”

“Yes it was her; I was asking her if she fancied Cavendish for the green jersey?”

“Yeah, sure you were.”

“Why do you never believe me when I say anything?”

“Dunno, why do I never believe you?”

“C’mon, I’m starving,” I announced walking back to the hotel.

We had a delicious meal, each of us ordering our fancy from an extensive menu—I had fresh tuna steak and it was really good—tastes very different from the tinned stuff, which I also like. The kids all had pizza—which looked better than the stuff back in Pompey—but still resembled inflated cardboard with bits of cheese and meat on. Si had some sort of chicken dish—poussin boots?

The kids were put to bed and Si and I shared a bottle of wine in our room before going to bed, where much to his disgust, the combination of a poor night the day before, stress, fresh air and exercise plus the effect of two glasses of burgundy meant I zonked like a kitten. I think I may even have been purring when I went off.

The next day, Sunday, we had a mooch round the Louvre and saw the glass pyramid. Tom Hanks wasn’t there, however, so I had to make do with Simon. We also did Our Lady (Notre Dame) after the service had finished and then grabbing a baguette for lunch we processed to our seats for the end of the race.

Much of Paris had been closed down for the event—which let’s face it, is the biggest sporting event in the city’s calendar. In fact Le Tour is right up there on a par with the World Cup and Olympics, except it happens every year unlike the rest.

We took our seats and watched the large screen TV as the race drew closer. It was such a dawdle—until they got to the Champs Elysees, where after BMC, Cadel Evans’ team had led to this point, all hell broke loose and we watched the hundred and odd riders flashing past eight times before the final lap.

I was definitely there to cheer on Mark Cavendish, the most successful British rider to compete at the TdF, if he won this stage, he’d have twenty of them under his belt in four years—not bad for a twenty-six year old.

There was a break away by Ben Swift, another Brit, riding for Team Sky, and suddenly it looked as if everything was going wrong for the sprinters as half a dozen others joined him and they got up to forty-two seconds on the peloton.

It looked as if the Manx Missile (Cavendish) wouldn’t be launched until Lars Bak slowed things down in the breakaway group and Swift and the others ran out of steam. Then we wondered if team HTC-Highroad would run down their own rider. Bak pulled out as the main teams launched their sprinters, but it was no contest: HTC’s well-drilled team did what they’d done four times already this tour and at the end of the train was Cavendish. When Mark Renshaw completed the lead out, the Manx Missile fired and not even Sky’s Boasen Hagen could stay with him—Cavendish made it into the history books—the first Brit to win outright, the green jersey—the sprinter’s or points jersey. I was so excited, my throat was sore from shouting, and someone could have abducted all my kids and Simon and I wouldn’t have noticed.

Finally, I looked down at Danny, “People were looking at you, Mummy, you were shouting so loud.”

I blushed, “Sorry, darling, I was so wrapped in the race—did you enjoy it?”

“Yeah, course—I’d quite like to try bike racing.”

“Is this before or after winning the Ashes and the World Cup?”

“In between,” he said and sniggered.

Notre Dame

Photo: Notre Dame de Paris—Wikimedia.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1421

“Can we try and get Cav’s autograph?” asked Danny.

“We can try, dunno if we’ll be able to get anywhere near him.” Danny, Trish and I set off towards the team areas, and although the area was restricted, we spotted Mark Cavendish talking to someone.

I waved my programme at him and called, “Mark, could you do an autograph for my son?”

He gave me a thumbs up but continued talking for a moment, then wandered over and winked at Danny. “Enjoy the race?” he asked.

“Yeah, that was so kewl, I’d like to try racing bikes,” Danny said, totally in awe of the man in the green jersey.

“Well, best thing to do is join a club, see the British Cycling website for your nearest one.” He scribbled his name on my programme and as we walked away we met one or two other riders, including Tommy Voeckler who’d held the yellow jersey for so long. He signed our programme too, so did Geraint Thomas and Alberto Contador.

By now we were in quite a press with the crowd. I was pushed against the barrier and I felt my backpack being moved. I was most concerned for Trish and Danny being crushed against the barriers.

There was a squeal and then a scuffle, I managed to turn round and Danny was holding the arm of someone who had my purse and my passport in his hand. Some big bloke grabbed him—he turned out to be a plain clothes policeman.

He grabbed the thief and pushed him out through the crowd, asking me to accompany them. I grabbed Trish and Danny and we followed.

In quite good English, the copper told me that they’d been watching the gang for sometime but they always managed to move the stolen purses or bags to an accomplice and they’d disappeared before the police could swoop. However, this time, Hawkeye Watts had seen the hand undoing my bag and when he grabbed my purse with one hand, the other pushing me into the barrier, she’d grabbed him by something convenient at her height—his bollocks—no wonder he squealed. Then Danny got in on the act and grabbed his arm before he could move the goods to his accomplice and the police were watching and swooped—arresting him and taking him away.

I didn’t have that much money in my purse but the inconvenience of cancelling cards and of course the loss of my passport could have caused all sorts of problems. The man was Albanian and a gang of several eastern-European nationalities had been operating in the city for some weeks.

Once we got clear of the crowd, I thanked my two game children for their swift action in saving the day. I did, however, caution Trish not to grab just any man by that part as it might be embarrassing, not to mention damaging. After all, when she’s older she may want them to have everything in working order under their kilts. “Nah,” she shook her head, “I’m probably gonna be a thespian.”

I nearly choked trying to stifle a snort, taking her literally, she was already one of the best little actresses I knew—if she meant something else—that was an area I couldn’t help in, but I knew a GP in Salisbury who probably could.

We got back to Simon, Mima, Livvie and Billie who wondered where we’d been. When I explained what had happened he shook his head. “I’ve been to Paris, Rome and Madrid and nothing has ever happened except having a good time—I bring you to Paris once and you get your bag dipped. Trouble follows you about the place, doesn’t it?”

“Huh, I didn’t ask the bloke to try and pinch my stuff, it was only the quick thinking of Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson here, that saved the day and my property.”

“I grabbed his goolies, Daddy.”

“I hope you washed your hands afterwards,” was Simon’s response.

“Not yet, but I will before we have tea.”

“Can we go back to the hotel, I’m starving?” I said to Simon, though it was difficult through all the noise.

“Just keep your purse where you can see it.”

We walked back to the hotel in the Paris sunshine. I should have been reflecting on the racing but instead I was contemplating all the inconvenience that would have been caused had that bloke managed to get pass my stuff on to his accomplice. Trish had seen him, the accomplice, as he made off after giving her a filthy look. I was surprised she hadn’t managed to take a photo—unlike me, by the time I remember how to activate the camera part of my Blackberry, the subject would have been miles away.

Tea was nice, cakes and tea in the garden of the hotel before dinner at seven where I stuffed myself with salmon en croute and some of the most delicious profiteroles I’ve ever tasted.

Simon had steak and the kids a variety of smaller meals. I think Livvie had the French equivalent of fish and chips and Trish had sausages. Billie had a pasta bake and Danny a steak a bit smaller than Simon’s.

The kids went to bed early and we sat and cuddled on the bed before falling asleep ourselves—all that fresh air and excitement.

The next day we took a stroll along the river for a short while before having our taxi take us back to the airport and by lunchtime we were back at Southampton and being collected by our minibus driver. The journey back was uneventful and I suppose everyone felt a bit down after the relatively exotic atmosphere in Paris.

My own recollection will be of the HTC team getting on with what they do so well, deliver Cavendish to the launch point and then let him get on with it. Once that happens, there are few sprinters who can live with him.

Back at home, Danny delighted in showing his programme to Henry, who presented Danny with a copy of Cavendish’s biography, Boy Racer. Danny set off to read it after lunch—we brought it back from the chip shop with us, although the minibus driver wasn’t too keen on the idea. Simon gave him a good tip and he shut up after that.

The babies, according to Monica, had been little angels although they had been amused by Puddin’s vocabulary and they reckoned they could spot several Cathy-isms amongst it. I denied all knowledge of such things which of course just made them argue even louder.

Stella seemed in good form having had her father there for the weekend, never quite sure what she thinks of Monica, whom she occasionally refers to as, ‘the nose’ despite Monica having had surgery on her schnozz some years before.

Catherine almost bounced out of Monica’s arms when she saw me and I got loads of lovely smiles and gurgles when I took her.

So ended my Paris weekend and I have no regrets whatsoever.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1422

I was already in bed when Simon emerged from the bathroom having completed his ablutions—brushing his doodahs and flossing his wotsits—or perhaps it was the other way round—who cares.

He got into bed and looked at the crossword I was doing in the Guardian. I’d had to steal it back from Daddy’s study, where it had probably been since breakfast. I rarely get to see it even though I pay for it, albeit with those token things, so I do get a discount.

“Four across, is passage,” he said and handed me back the newspaper. I looked at the clue and he was probably right, it certainly fit ‘Extract from voyage (7).’

“Um—I think you’re probably right.”

“Probably—probably? Of course I’m right—I always am—it’s just that usually you refuse to acknowledge it.”

“Well I’m acknowledging it now, both with the clue and our weekend. That was fantastic—the kids loved it and so did I. Thank you, darling.” I kissed him on the cheek.

“Is that all I get, a peck on the cheek?”

“Why, what else would you like, my lord and master?” I said coyly and lay down on my back.

“Um—what’s on offer, then?” he said chucking the paper off the bed and tickling my breast through my nightdress.

We kissed and his hand moved lower stroking my leg. “Fortune favours the brave,” he said quietly.

“Only if they have good counsel, preferably Queen’s variety,” I cautioned.

“Yeah, with you about it’s trying to decide what’s brave and what’s suicidal,”

“You make me sound like some sort of hazard.”

“Um—yeah, death-trap variety.”

“Oh wonderful, now I’m a danger to humanity.”

“No, Cathy, just to individuals—that lunatic in Norway was a danger to humanity, can you imagine how crazy he must have been to cold-bloodedly kill seventy-odd people?”

“Si, I don’t mind which we do, discourse or intercourse but not both.”

“Oh right—right, lie back and think of England.”

“Why?”

“Well they beat India, didn’t they?”

“Did they?” I yawned.

“I thought you liked cricket?”

“I do sometimes; I thought you liked sex?”

“Instead of cricket—that’s a tough one, Cathy.”

I closed my eyes and my legs and pretended to be asleep.

“Can I bowl a maiden over?”

“Didn’t know you knew any.”

“It was figurative.”

“Don’t do numbers.”

“That’s not true is it? You crunch numbers for the survey all the time.”

“I’ve got a computer program that does all that—I’m practically innumerate.”

“Huh, the way you were adding up all the points in the sprinter’s competition and working out time differences of the different riders, enumerate may be more applicable than innumerate.”

“So you’ve got my number have you?”

“I think so, missus.”

“Well if you don’t climb this mountain soon, I’m going to deem you out of time and have to disqualify you.”

“But you can’t, I’m at least fifty percent of the field, let alone the peloton.”

“Ah, but I’m the referee,” I poked out my tongue and he began to tickle me. One of the things I cannot deal with is tickling—I hate it so much I’d agree to anything to stop it—I shrieked at him to stop but he continued and I ended up wetting the bed. I couldn’t help it—I lost control—I did try to tell him.

So the upshot was instead of him having his oats, he helped me strip and remake the bed, after which both of us had gone off the idea and he agreed he’d get his oats tomorrow—courtesy of Scott’s Porage.

I thanked him again for taking us to France and after kissing him I turned over and went to sleep—I was exhausted.

I awoke the next morning having a really strange dream. I was in a French hotel—not the one we’d stayed in—and I couldn’t find the toilet. No one I saw could speak English or understand my schoolgirl French and I began to feel close to tears, when I pushed open a door which was a toilet—the gents. I didn’t care, I ran in and squatted down backwards over the urinal and was just about to wee when the radio came on and I managed to stop myself, jumping out of bed and rushing to the bathroom.

At least I didn’t have any dreams about Old Testament goddesses; that really would have finished me off. I showered and went down to make Simon’s porridge—it wasn’t Scott’s it was Jordans’ organic oats or whatever—and he ate them with salt, I prefer mine with sugar. Usually, I don’t bother—I prefer cornflakes—but I had some today as I was making some for my lord and master, it seemed like a good idea.

He sat eating his while I sprinkled sugar on mine and then chopped up a banana and mixed that in as well. “I don’t know how you eat it like that?”

“Likewise,” I quipped back.

“I used to eat it like that when I was a kid, but when I grew up I…”

“Put away childish things,” I offered finishing a mangled quote from St Paul.

“You what?”

“When I became a man, I put away childish things.”

“You’re not a man,” he grumped at me.

“I know I’m not—probably better than any living soul—I was quoting St Paul.”

“What for?”

“Because what you said reminded me of his epistle to the Corinthians—‘When I was a child, I thought like a child,’ and so on.”

“Oh—yeah—’course.” His answer suggested he’d known all along what I was saying which was patently untrue, but I chose not to challenge it. I’d had a lovely weekend and I wasn’t going to spoil it for a silly argument.

He finished his breakfast and kissed me before leaving for work. I was starting to clear up when Daddy appeared. He looked in the pot—there was probably a portion of porridge left. He asked if he could have it and I warmed it up for him, he added salt as well instead of sugar—perhaps I was the odd one out? Don’t answer that—I suppose it could be a man thing—nah, it was a Scottish thing—okay, so I should eat it the same, but I prefer my porridge sweet not savoury—and with real cream—yummy.

I sat talking with Daddy until I heard the patter of tiny hooves—it was Danny. “Catherine’s crying,” he mumbled.

“Well why didn’t you pick her up?”

“I can’t feed her, can I?”

“No, but you could have brought her down to me.”

“Yeah, I s’pose—’cept she’s all wet and smelly.”

“So were you once upon a time—in fact, after you’ve been playing soccer—you still are.” I chuckled at his discomfort so did Daddy.

“Don’t you laugh, too, Gramps, you’ll only encourage her.”

“Och, she needs nae encouragement frae me, dae ye, hen?”

“Probably not, Daddy.”

“I’m awa’ tae ma office—I’m oot th’ nicht.”

“Oh yes, the Dean’s dinner group—okay, have a good time and behave yourself.” Last year he fell asleep during the speeches and landed up with his face in his dessert. I told him he’d get his just desserts—it wasn’t quite how I was expecting it to happen.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1423

Once everyone was up and breakfasted and the major chores started—stripping beds, doing the laundry, cleaning the house and so on—it was pretty well lunchtime. I admit I had bribed the kids: I promised to take them over to the hotel for them to use the swimming pool and maybe an ice cream afterwards.

I had Trish stripping beds, Livvie putting the dirty washing into the machine, Danny was hanging it on the line, and Meems was vacuuming anything that stayed still any length of time—we had to move Stella twice. Stella was really getting into breastfeeding and even Puddin’ got a top up now and again when she felt she had so much milk.

I fed Catherine once or twice a day, but she was eating solids most of the time, and developing teeth or razor sharp gums and a bite like a badger. My nipples frequently felt like someone had pulverised them, hence the fact that I often only fed her once a day. I did try to explain the cause and effect rule—bite me and go without—but she doesn’t appear to be much interested in basic logic—bit like Si.

Lunch came and went and I made them help me clear up which took another half an hour, so by the time we got to the pool, it would be at least an hour since they ate, and it wasn’t a big lunch—just the usual bread and water—they have gruel on Sundays if they’re good. I decided I’d swim with them—well at least be in the pool to try and minimise the risk of one of them drowning. Stella stayed home and agreed to keep an eye on Catherine.

I can’t remember the last time I actually swam—it’s not my favourite form of exercise probably because I’m not too good at it. We drove up to the hotel and after parking the car, we moved through to the leisure part of it, getting nods of recognition from the more senior staff.

Danny went off to the boy’s changing area and the rest of us went off to the girl’s. Billie was a little anxious but the costume I’d bought her had a frill which helped to disguise any little bulges, besides which, the coolness of the water would also shrink things up somewhat.

We girls trooped through to the pool and the kids eased their way into the water, oohing and aahing as the water reached up their bodies. I remember doing it when I was a kid and the others called me a girl then, they just jumped in and splashed me.

I had one eye on the girls who by now were splashing about in the water and the other on the entrance way wondering where Danny was. Usually boys take about ten seconds to change and are waiting for us—not the other way round.

I called the girls to the side and told them to watch out for each other for a few moments because I was going to find out where Danny was. I walked back to the changing rooms and called his name outside the male changing room. There was no response. My heart flipped.

Just then a swimmer came up and was obviously going to change back. “Problems, luv?” he asked.

“My son came in here to change twenty minutes ago and I haven’t seen him since.”

“He’s probably in the pool already.”

“Would you mind looking for me?” I asked him.

“Yeah, course I will, what’s his name?”

“Danny,” I felt quite anxious.

The man went in to the changing room and few moments later came rushing out—I’ve found him, he doesn’t look too special.”

I followed him into the room and he pointed to Danny lying in a heap in a cubicle with a head wound, he was unconscious. “I’ll get help,” he said and rushed off.

I felt for vitals—he was breathing and had a pulse, but he also had a nasty wound on the top of his head. Could he have slipped and brained himself? We might never know, because he may well have no memory of it when he does wake up.

I knelt down beside him and talked with him—it’s a well known fact that unconscious people can sometimes hear what people are saying to them and hopefully my voice would be special to him.

“Hello son, it’s me Cathy, your mum. Help is on its way, so just relax and know that I’m here to look after you and we’ve sent for the experts so we can get you checked out. Just look for the blue light which I’m sending to you in bucketloads.”

I could feel the energy concentrating about his head and I hoped he hadn’t sustained any brain injuries. The male bather returned with a manager whose face fell once she saw who was involved and I’m sure she swore under her breath.

“Lady Cameron, what on earth has happened?”

“You tell me, we girls went to change and waited for him to come and when he didn’t I came to find where he was. This kind gentleman went and found him and has since summoned help.” I nodded to the man and thanked him. He went on to his cubicle to change.

“What d’you think has happened?” asked the young manager.

“I have no idea, he might have slipped and bashed his head or someone might have hit him—except I’d hoped this place was beyond that.”

“Indeed we are, Lady Cameron, I’ll launch an investigation as soon as we get him off to hospital.” With that sirens were heard and a few minutes later two paramedics appeared. They did the vitals bit and a blood pressure and ECG.

“Right old son, we need to get you on the stretcher, this might be a bit uncomfortable, but bear with us.” He nodded to his companion and said, “On three, one two three.” They lifted the boy as if he were a feather and placed one of those neck brace things on him and connected him up to oxygen.

“You his mum?”

“Yes, but I’ve got my girls in the pool, can I sort them out and come on to A&E afterwards?”

“Yeah sure, what’s his name?”

“Danny Maiden.”

“Right, Mrs Maiden, we’ll see you there.”

“I thought your name was Cameron?” said a bemused manager.

“Mine is, his is Maiden,” I said coldly.

“Fine—have you got his stuff?”

She handed me the key which was lying on the floor next to where he’d been. I opened the locker and took his clothing out—his little wallet and his mobile weren’t there and I know he’d brought them. I mentioned this and we both went through his belongings again. The manager agreed they weren’t there. It now began to look as if robbery might explain his injuries.

She disappeared and came back with a bag into which she placed all his belongings. I thanked her and went to find the girls. When I explained that Danny had had an accident, there were groans of dismay. I wasn’t sure if this was because they were worried for their brother or because I was making them leave the pool.

I changed and dressed and then helped Meems while the others sorted themselves. “Wiwl Danny be all-wight?” she asked me.

“I hope so, Meems, but he had a nasty gash in his head.”

“Could you see his brains?” asked Trish in a very matter of fact way.

“No I couldn’t and I’ll thank you to be a bit less gruesome—this is your brother we’re talking about.”

“I’m trying to see him with a gash on his bonce so I can send him healing.”

“Okay, is everyone ready—let’s get to the hospital.” Once in the car and prior to starting it, I called Simon who offered to come as quickly as he could to the hospital. I drove on once again. If I spend any more time here, they’re likely to designate a parking bay for me.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1424

I was delighted to see Ken Nicholls on duty when we eventually arrived in A&E. “Good grief, woman, you’re dangerous to know.”

I shrugged, “You forgot the mad and bad bit.”

“Mad and bad?”

“And dangerous to know, someone described Byron as such, Lady Caroline Lamb, I think but I’m not sure.”

“For a university teacher you’re quite well educated.” He smirked at his own joke.

“How is my boy?” I asked, going straight to the point.

“We’re doing some imaging at the moment—X-rays and a scan. What happened to him?”

“We don’t know, possibly someone hit him.”

“What with—an axe?”

“I don’t know, I went looking for him when he didn’t appear at the pool—we were all going swimming—he was found slumped in a cubicle, and his watch, his phone and wallet are all missing.”

“Robbery—did they need to half kill him?”

I shrugged, “I’d just like to find them to ask them why?”

“And then kill ’em?” he asked matter-of-factly.

“I don’t know what I’d say or do after that.”

“Images coming through, Mr Nicholls,” called a voice from the office.

“Excuse me, work to do—I hope.” He disappeared into his office and reappeared a few moments later.

“That was quick,” I commented.

“Looks pretty straightforward for a neurosurgeon.”

“What d’you mean?”

“He’s got bits of bone in his brain—there is no way I’m going to try and sort that when we have experts down the road in Southampton.”

“Oh, can I see him?”

“When they bring him back from the scanner—sorry, Cathy, it looks pretty serious.”

I stood there looking at him and tears formed in my eyes and began silently running down my face, “You mean he could die?”

“Possibly not that, but there could be significant damage to his brain.”

“Dear God, no.” The tears began to flow in earnest and I heard the kids call, ‘Daddy’.

“Any news?” asked a familiar voice.

“Waiting for the scan results—doesn’t look good.”

“In what way?” asked Simon.

“He could be brain damaged,” I gasped and burst into sobs.

Simon put his arm round me and held me. “Let’s just see what’s what before we start speculating shall we?”

Ken Nicholls went back to his office and returned. “He needs to be seen by a neurosurgeon asap, the scan shows a swelling on the brain—the ambulance is on its way, will you go with it?”

“Of course, Si can you take the girls home?”

He nodded. “All for a fucking phone,” he muttered under his breath. There were tears in his eyes when he looked at me, “If he dies, I’ll track down the bastard who did this and stick that phone down his bloody throat.”

“We don’t know if anyone did it, he might have slipped and banged his head and then been robbed,” I cautioned.

“But that’s murder by neglect.”

“It’s nasty but it isn’t murder.”

“To ignore someone who’s obviously injured and unconscious—needs an ambulance.”

“I know, Si—I called one.”

“I can’t believe some people.” He shook his head.

A trolley with my unconscious son came back into A&E and a pair of paramedics appeared from the other direction. “Taxi for Southampton,” called one of them.

“I’ll see you down there—gimme the keys for the Porsche.” I handed him the keys and kissed him, he hugged me. “He’s gonna be okay—he’s gonna captain England and the MCC yet.”

I hugged him tightly, “Drive carefully,” I urged him.

“I will, say bye to Mummy,” he exhorted the girls.

I sat in the back of the ambulance while it flashed through the late afternoon traffic, sirens and blue lights helping us on our way. I talked to Danny the whole time, sitting next to him while the ambulance bounced and buffeted its way west.

“Are they always as bumpy as this?” I asked the paramedic in the back with us.

“Only when Lewis Hamilton is driving,” he joked but I wasn’t really in the mood for humour—my child could be dying and so far all the energy I was pouring into him didn’t seem to be doing anything.

Suddenly we were there and the two paramedics pulled the gurney out and ran with it into the emergency entrance and I walked round to the public entrance. Once I’d explained who I was, I was taken through to a small ante room and left there on my own—Danny was straight down to theatre for an operation to reduce the pressure on his brain.

I sat and closed my eyes and began praying to a god I didn’t believe in—I didn’t think it would help much, but it gave me something to do.

I found myself meditating and a little while later saw a woman standing before me. “Why have you sent for us?”

“I beg your pardon, I haven’t sent for anyone,” I retorted.

“You have, you have offered up prayers and exhortations to us.”

“Have I? I’m sorry but my son is very seriously ill, if you can help—name your price, if not please leave me alone.”

“I see, you don’t believe in us until you need us—how convenient.”

“Look, Shekiwhateveryou’recalled, either help me or piss off and leave me in peace—I don’t do torment.”

“Why should we help you?”

“Because a child’s life is at stake.”

“Why should that concern us?”

“Because you’re a woman.”

“We are a goddess.”

“That’s still female and females are supposed to care about children.”

“Their own, surely?”

“No, everyone’s children—I’d fight tooth and nail to save anybody’s child.”

“Prove it.”

“Okay—show me what you want to do.”

“In that cubicle is a child with kidney failure who is an almost exact tissue copy to you. Go and offer your kidney.”

“Okay—if you’ll save my child.”

“That wasn’t the bargain—you said you’d fight to save any child—that’s one you could save—prove it.”

“Okay—I will.”

I marched over to the office and told them I was a relative of the child and could they do a quick tissue type. They asked me to leave my name and address and they’d be in touch tomorrow—tissue typing needed specialist staff—they weren’t available now.

I walked back—“I tried,” I said to the woman-thing.

“So did we, we failed too—not a good day.”

“I don’t believe this—you call yourself a goddess, claim all sorts of wondrous abilities yet when the dice are loaded you pull out—you chicken shit.”

It probably isn’t a good policy to antagonise a goddess however pathetic one considers them to be. “We will take your life in exchange for the boy.”

“Go ahead, but he has to be completely recovered.”

“You doubt us?”

“Totally, I wouldn’t trust you as far as I could throw you.”

“For a condemned woman, you seem very defiant.”

“I don’t fear you—so do your worst, you old crone.”

I sat down expecting pain or something to happen. Suddenly there was an enormous blue flash and I fell off the chair. As far as I could tell I was still alive.

“Go and save your son,” the voice reverberated in my head.

“What about the girl with the kidney failure?”

“She’s going to die.”

“No—let her live as well—take me instead.”

“Do not make demands on us.”

“Why not, you do on me?”

“You are here to serve us.”

“I’m sorry but I’m trying to do that, to make your name be associated with the feminine principle—the nurturing and preserving of life. You bring children into the world—you must care about them—if not then I can’t see what sort of female you are.”

“You are prepared to give your life for some stranger’s child?”

“If necessary, yes.”

“You are certain of this price?”

“Just do it.”

There was another blue flash and after I regained my senses, I stood up and was buzzing with energy. Obviously I couldn’t walk round the hospital to see either of the children. So instead I sat and meditated sending the energy right through the place helping all who needed it, but especially my son and that little girl with the kidney failure.

In my imagination I saw myself standing over both the children pouring in the energy and healing their injuries. Anyone who saw it wouldn’t recognise me, they would just see a blue star shining so brightly they wouldn’t be able to look at it for long, but the injuries would heal as they watched—miracles? Yeah, okay, but it’s what I was told to do by higher authority—an embarrassed deity—so who am I to argue?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1425

I sat in the anteroom, exhausted. I heard a commotion in the corridor outside and moments later a man in blue scrubs burst into the room. “Are you the boy’s mother?”

“Oh no, he hasn’t died?” I gasped tears forming and blurring my vision.

“No—no he hasn’t died, but the strangest thing has happened.”

“What d’you mean?”

“We always do our own scans before operating as things can change in the patient since the one at Portsmouth.”

“I don’t understand,” I was confused, if Danny hadn’t died what had happened?

“He was in the MRI scanner and there was this blue flash and the computer on it went off and the machine stopped—like it was hit by a power surge. Of course we needed to get the child out of the machine—suddenly it all started up again and scans his head and there’s no injury.”

“But there was a gash in his head?” I felt quite strange and had to sit down.

“Are you all right, luv?”

“Just felt a bit giddy. So you’re saying he’s healed?”

“As far as we can tell, but how or why I can’t say. It seems the whole hospital was hit by some huge power surge and three patients who should have died have recovered, like some huge miracle has happened.”

“Where’s Danny?” I asked as I collected myself.

“He’s sleeping in the recovery room, I’ve got another waiting who had a sub-arachnoid bleed, she’s walking round asking to go home—she couldn’t even focus her eyes before. What’s happened?”

“How should I know?” I said trying to avoid any suspicion being pointed at me.

“There’s a bloke in orthopaedics waiting to have his leg off, he’s walking better than he did twenty years ago. What has happened?”

“I don’t know—but I presume you’ll be checking up on all these so called miracles?”

“Lady, we have a baby with spina bifida who was awaiting surgery—her back has healed; another baby with meningitis we were expecting to lose at least one limb—she seems to have regenerated the damaged blood vessels. Something wonderful has happened tonight—and I just wish it would do so every night.”

“I’m sure—can I see my son?”

“Sure, we’ll get him sent up to a ward, we’ll keep him in overnight just in case this miracle is short lived or I’m dreaming the whole thing.”

“Could I get a cuppa?”

“I’ll get them to send one up to you—why don’t you go home and get some sleep—you look all in?”

“Yeah, as soon as my husband comes I will.”

I began to feel my eyes closing with tiredness and I was half-scared to fall asleep in case that was when I died. I had made a bargain and was prepared to pay up, except I’d liked to have had the chance to say my goodbyes—especially to Simon. I hope he can cope with the children. Maybe he’ll find someone else to help him—I hope he does.

As sleep overwhelmed me I felt myself mumbling, “Beam me up, Scotty.”

I found myself in a large hall lit by the most amazing light—it seemed like there was a wonderful golden sun sitting right outside the windows—could hardly see anything it was so bright.

“You are here to pay for your impudence,” said the voice in my head.

“I suppose so—I never renege on my word,” I replied.

“Stand before us while the charge is read.” I half expected to see a crocodile waiting to gobble up my heart because it sure wasn’t going to be unblemished. Then I realised it was the wrong mythology—that was Egyptian, this was Old Testament or thereabouts—not that it has much influence on dormice.

I drew myself up to my full height but had to close my eyes to avoid the blinding light. “How do you plead?”

“I did what I had to do to save the lives of two children.”

“Is that guilty or not guilty?”

“I don’t know what the charges are, do I?”

“Just say guilty or not guilty.”

“You’re going to find me guilty anyway, aren’t you?”

“Of course.”

“What happens if I plead not guilty?”

“We’ll weigh your heart to see if you’ve been lying.”

I wasn’t now but I certainly had done in the past. “Okay, guilty.”

“The court accepts your plea, have you anything to say before we carry out the sentence?”

“Only that I love my husband and my family and have done what I thought was necessary as a wife and mother to protect them, and would do so again.”

“You show no remorse?”

“For what? Being a wife and mother—for nurturing my children, even if I couldn’t give birth to them? I consider that to be the essence of being a woman and more especially a mother. I plead guilty for every offence of love I’ve perpetrated and regret for every time I could have and didn’t. Yeah, I’m guilty of being female—do your worst.”

“Catherine, the court has certain sympathies with your position and is aware of your efforts to care for and educate several children who would otherwise have lived poorer lives. You have used the healing energy we gave you, mostly with discretion and with a degree of compassion. You have not used it for personal gain or aggrandisement.”

I waited for the axe to fall—why all this bullshitting?

“We therefore sentence you to life on earth and to continue your task of mother and wife. Be gone and do not upset us in future or we shall not show such mercy again. It is time you show some respect for us—we therefore withhold the healing gift until you show that respect. Be gone from our sight.”

“Babes, are you all right?” I heard Simon’s voice and struggled to open my eyes.

“Um—yeah,” I yawned so he may not have actually understood what I said.

“How’s Danny?”

“Okay—I think.”

“There’s a pile of TV cameras outside, apparently something weird happened earlier—not you, was it?”

“Me? Nah—far too tired to do anything weird.”

“Yeah—I noticed,” he frowned and then smirked when I glared at him.

We went up to the ward and Danny woke briefly smiled at us then went back to sleep. I told him we’d be back tomorrow, he sighed and slept. Simon then walked me back to the car park and his waiting Jaguar.

“Are you all right?” he asked.

“Yeah, except my healing gift has gone.”

“How d’you know?”

“Oh I know, all right.”

“Okay, I only asked.”

He drove past the television vans and the reporters standing in front of the hospital doing their stories.

“Did you have anything to do with all this?” he nodded towards the BBC van.

“What d’you think?”

“I think you did—disasters and miracles seem to happen when you’re about, Babes, so this would be something of an amazing coincidence wouldn’t it.”

“Um, no comment.”

“So what happened to the healing energy?”

“There was a big blue flash and I felt it stop.”

“But you were trying to heal someone?”

“Our son, and a little girl in the renal unit, plus some babies in…” I yawned and felt my head rest against Simon’s shoulder. I was safe now and slept all the way home.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1426

The next day, Danny was released from the hospital and he seemed to have no ill effects from the assault. The police of course were sceptical that one minute he’s at death’s door and the next he’s coming home with no scars.

They did however, agree, after pressure from Simon and the bank, to trace the phone. A raid was scheduled and a couple of men were arrested, one of whom had a history of robbery and mugging with violence, often bashing the victim with a piece of lead pipe. One such piece of piping was found and Simon who’d observed the raid saw one of the suspects hit a policeman and run up the road. Si pursued him in the car, and then jumped out and decked him—holding him until the police arrived.

There was talk of charging Simon with assault until the policeman who’d been knocked down during the attempted escape, spoke up in his favour and there had also been the suspicion that the escaper was carrying a knife.

Eventually, the CCTV at the hotel showed the thug, a man called Alfie Cawston, and his brother Dominic Cawston, in the hotel at the time of the attack on Danny. His wallet and phone were found in their possession and forensics were checking out the piece of lead pipe for any traces of Danny’s DNA on it, because it could well have been the weapon used.

The police were disgusted, a twenty-five year old using a weapon to subdue an eleven-year-old child—had Simon not become involved, then one of the men might well have been found to have received a few bruises from resisting arrest. As it turned out, he got them from doing just that, only via Simon’s large fist.

Danny thought his dad was wonderful, so did I, but I couched it in a concern for his safety and the potential for him being charged with assault—because if he acquired a criminal record he might not be allowed to hold a directorship of the bank—that made him sit up and take notice. When Henry got to find out about it, he was effusive in his praise until I mentioned the potential for an assault charge. He shut up rather quickly too.

The days of the school holidays, weather permitting began to take on a regular pattern. Jenny looked after the baby while took the others out on bikes or running. We didn’t run far and they were fresher afterwards than I was.

We also played football, where Danny and Trish outclassed the rest of us—so each day they got some sort of exercise. Danny used Stella’s bike and Livvie needed a new one, so I bought some second hand ones via Ebay for Livvie and Meems.

With less chunky tyres on Trish’s bike, she seemed to keep up with the others, although I seemed to spend much of my time mending punctures, freeing jammed chains and at one point straightening a wheel after a crash.

I was actually feeling quite a bit fitter after two weeks of exercise—although, I was rising with Simon, doing a half an hour’s riding before the kids got up and I set up the turbo in the garage—but like an exercise bike—it’s brain numbing, unless you have the expensive one with a video screen and you can play in virtual races. They have one at the hotel and it’s good fun, but I wouldn’t justify the cost for a personal one. Mind you, half an hour on the turbo and I’d done the equivalent of ten to fifteen miles distance—on the road, I rarely got near that because of the traffic.

One Saturday morning Billie and Danny asked me to take them for a more challenging ride, so while Si distracted the others, we slipped out on the bikes. We did about ten miles keeping up a constant ten to twelve miles an hour, which for a couple of kids I thought was quite good.

On the return leg of our circuit, I raced off and did another lap while they headed for home—I caught them merely hundreds of yards from home. The next day, a Sunday, we did the same thing and the little twerps hammered home when I went off to do the second lap. They were back before I caught them.

I was determined to improve on my speed and time for that, so I continued my exercising and turbo riding, setting the machine to push me harder—my legs were jelly-like when I got off it and I nearly fell over à la Bridget Jones—remember the part in the first film when she got off the exercise bike and keeled over?

Simon seemed to be enjoying his role as a dad, playing football and cricket with the kids, mainly for Danny’s sake but I noticed that Trish and Billie could play them quite well when they thought no one was watching.

Danny had missed out on the soccer school because of his trip to Paris, but he felt he’d got the better deal, and he was sure he was going to be the first British rider to win every stage in the TdF. As no one has ever done that of any nationality, at least not in recent years, I suspect it might be easier to win the lottery each week.

To win one stage is pretty good going, to win twenty like Mark Cavendish, is outstanding and I think it’s appalling that his remarkable achievements are unlikely to ever get him the BBC Sports Personality of the year, because some knuckle-dragging footballer or half-wit golfer will always beat minority sports like cycling. That professional cyclists are actually amongst the fittest athletes in the world, doesn’t seem to count in the world of the media dominated sports.

Having said that, Sky do sponsor the major British team, so they are putting something into the sport, by sponsoring British Cycling and Team Sky.

On the second week of our regular rides, Billie came to me with a problem. She normally tucks her genitalia back behind her, but of course you can’t do that and sit on a bike saddle without a risk of damage or at least great discomfort.

I tried to suggest that no one would see the little bulge in the front of her cycling shorts because they had a pad in them anyway, but she was still upset by her unwanted bits. In the end, we bought her a small racing shirt—a Team Sky one naturally—except I wasn’t paying for a Pinarello bike for her—which I altered. It was originally far too big for her, and I made it narrower, so it still draped down over her crotch when she was riding. It would have driven me mad, but she pretended she was Victoria Pendleton and the problem was resolved.

Of course, playing lots of sports there had to be some mishaps and it happened when Danny limped home from a cricket match with a broken finger. He assumed I could fix it—but I couldn’t and he was very disappointed in me.

Trish was disgusted that her blue light abilities seemed to have dried up as well, so it seems it was done through me in some way—I don’t know how. Part of me was relieved, it was a great responsibility—though it had come in useful a few times. I resolved not to let any of them go near a swimming pool unless the blue light returned.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1427

“My finger hurts,” said Danny loudly, not to me but rather at me. I ignored it; I was replacing the chain on my Scott and had both hands full.

“Did you hear me, Mum?” he asked directly.

“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with my hearing.”

“Can’t you zap it, like you used to?”

“No.”

“You could fix your bike afterwards, zap that too.”

With a feeling of resignation, I looked up at him—my back appreciated the opportunity to stand upright—which even though I had the bike on the stand, required me to bend over to work on it.

“Danny, I told you all the other day that I have lost the ability to channel the blue light. How long it will last, I have no idea, but I spent the first twenty-odd years without it, so I guess I’ll have to cope for a bit longer. Alas, that means you’ll have to as well—sorry and all that.”

I bent down again lifting the now clean chain back over the sprockets of the chain rings. “Look, it’s gone all black.” He practically poked me in the eye shoving his finger in front of my face.

I stood up once more examined his hand and shook my head, “That’s just bruising, if it’s causing you so much trouble I’ll try and get you into see Dr Smith this evening. I could put it in a sling, then you’d have to rest it but it would mean you couldn’t come riding with us this afternoon.”

“You taking us out riding?”

“No, I’m just sorting this bike because I got fed up with housework.”

“Oh, so you’re not riding?” Obviously irony as well as sarcasm was lost on him.

“Of course I’m riding, why d’you think I’ve just spent twenty minutes cleaning this chainset?”

“Oh great, I’ll tell the others.”

“I thought your finger was so sore you needed a general anaesthetic?”

“Feels better now,” he ran off before I could break any more of his digits.

I had cleaned up three bikes and re-oiled them, I’d also replaced the brake blocks on Billie’s, she said it had felt like she was riding with the brakes on—she was—the back brake had seized. Took me ages to dismantle it clean it, lube it and refit it and then do the brake blocks. At least the cables were okay, so a shot of lube down those as well and I was finished.

I stood up straight and my back told me it didn’t like me bending over for the past two hours. I’ve got a chair in the workshop, which was useful for working on the brake once I’d removed it—then I could sit at the bench—but I couldn’t get on with sitting and working at the workshop stand, to start with, sometimes you need to move around. Oh well, it was all done now and so was I. A cuppa would be priority number one then, think about lunch.

“We goin’ widin’?” asked Meems.

“After lunch, perhaps.”

“Danny said we was.”

“Were.”

“Wot?”

“Danny said we were, not we was.”

“Well ’e did.”

I gave up, I could never win a verbal spar with Meems, she’s from a different planet with entirely different forms of pronunciation and grammar. Either that or she speaks a foreign language and I hadn’t noticed. She’s seen two different speech and language therapists and both were bald by the time they’d finished—I think they went off to work in Afghanistan—it was easier.

I did try zapping her a few times including when she was asleep, the spot on her nose healed but her speech stayed the same. I have a feeling when she’s ready she’ll sort it herself.

She gave me a hug while I waited for the kettle to boil and I stroked the top of her head, “Are you coming out on the bikes with us?”

“Uh huh,” she said nodding. She didn’t always, sometimes she stayed behind with Jenny or Stella and helped with the little ones, but not today.

I drank my tea, Jenny came and had one as well, Stella was out on her own and she’d agreed to babysit the two babies and Puddin’, who’d been watched by Meems and Trish while Livvie and Danny had been playing a computer game.

I did a salad for lunch, hard-boiling some eggs and grating some cheese to go with it. For a treat I opened a pack of crispy bacon which I broke up and mixed with the cheese. I drained off the new potatoes, shoved a knob of butter on them sprinkled some garlic on them and mixed them round in the dish.

Half an hour later, nothing remained of my efforts—a party of very hungry locusts had flitted through and scoffed everything except the patterns on the plates. It was one o’clock and I reckoned we could start riding about half past or quarter to two—give them a chance for their lunch to go down.

I glanced out at the weather as Jenny helped me clear up the dishes, the previously sunny sky was clouding over and it was feeling very heavy and humid. “When is Stella supposed to be back?” I asked her.

“Twelve,” she sighed.

“Nothing new there then?”

“No, she does seem to work on her own time schedule.”

“You’ve noticed?”

“I ought to have, she does this to you or me often enough.”

I shrugged, “She’s family, so what can I do? But if you want to complain, I’ll back you up.”

“Nah, not worth it, she get’s funny sometimes even if she’s in the wrong.”

“Stella is never in the wrong, it’s just that you can’t appreciate the complexity of her argument.”

“Y’wot?”

“Never mind, I’ve forgotten what I said now. Here she comes, or at least it’s her car.”

“Where’s Gareth these days?” Jenny scratched her nose.

“I—um think they’re having some time from each other.”

“He’s dumped her then?”

I shrugged, I didn’t know the answer and I wasn’t going to speculate.

“Pity, she could do with a good secure relationship, I thought he was right one for her, not so sure now.” Jenny was prepared to speculate but I didn’t answer her, Stella came in and went straight up to her room without so much as a murmur.

“Oh, nice of her to say hi,” Jenny quipped.

“She will when she comes back to earth.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I think she’s been to see her therapist, she often takes a bit to unwind after that.”

“Oh—look, d’you want to take the kids and I’ll stay about the place in case she needs some help.”

“I will if you like, but I thought you were looking forward to some fresh air?”

“I’ll go out in the garden with the littlies, tie them down over an ant’s nest if they misbehave.”

“You’ll have to coat them in jam then, we’re out of honey.” I pointed to the cupboard.

“Goodness, Cathy, if anyone heard us talking they’d be sending in a social services squad to take the children off to safety.”

“That’s how I got ’em, still if they did, I’d have more time for riding.”

“You’d miss ’em now, wouldn’t you?”

“Of course I would, I’d have to justify my existence, work for a living that sort of thing, at the moment—I do a bit and leave a bit.”

“You don’t leave much, some days I have a struggle to find enough to make it look like I’m working.”

“That’s kind of you to say, Jen, right, I’ll give Missy Muppet her feed and go and change and take the peloton out for an airing.” Which is what I did; at a couple of minutes after two we mounted our bikes and set off along the cycle path with me keeping a wary eye on the sky.

About half an hour later it became darker, and large blobs of water began descending upon us. None of us had waterproofs—we’d have died from heat exhaustion if we’d been wearing them. There was a flash and a bang and the celestial fireworks went off over head as the rain began to teem down in torrents.

Thank goodness Stella was at home, the déjà vu of how we first met was too strong to forget, and now she could wipe out a whole family.

“Mummy, doan wike funner,” said Meems dropping her bike and running to me for hug.”
Just then, there was another clap and the ground seemed to tremble, a flash and a tree was hit across the road. Suddenly, even Danny was coming closer for a hug, the bikes lying on the path. Another bang and this time even I felt afraid—I think the ground did tremble.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1428

We stood the bikes up on the path, leaning against each other and then just waited for the storm to abate. I felt the wet oozing down inside my shorts and was pretty sure the others must have been in similar positions—uncomfortable.

“I wanna go home, Mummy,” said Meems, now wet through and crying.

“We can’t, Sweetheart, we have to wait for the storm to stop.” Another clap of thunder happened, slightly further away.

“I’m code, Mummy, an’ I’m wet—wanna go home.”

“We can’t leave the bikes, Meems.”

“Stupid bike,” she cussed, “doan wanna wide no moe.”

I think we were all getting a lesson in reality. I stood up and felt my shoes full of water; my feet were cold and I felt thoroughly miserable and I’m an adult—sort of—so what the kids were feeling I could only guess.

“C’mon the rain’s easing, let’s head for home,” I said, showing my leadership qualities.

“I’m all wet, Mummy,” declared Trish, echoed by the others.

“So let’s get home then,” I directed them to get back on their bikes and got loads of grumbles and groans. I clipped into my pedals and my saddle chafed on the wet shorts, my feet felt cold and miserable and all I wanted was a hot shower and cuppa. I set off and they reluctantly followed, I hoped, hearing my caution about brakes with wet rims—they don’t work so well.

There followed a migration of damp velocipedes: the hissing of the wheels accompanied by the whingeing of the riders. We hadn’t gone that far but by the time we’d got home, I began to understand why women sometimes murder their own children. However, trying to explain that I felt as wretched as they were didn’t seem to cut any ice. I’ve done some long rides in my time, sixty mile audaxes and so on, but none felt as long as that day.

Once home, I made them help me wipe down the bikes, which brought more grumbles, but I felt they had to learn the responsibility of looking after their equipment—which they wouldn’t if I did it for them.

Finally, we hit the showers and the hot water was heavenly, in a double sense for me—whenever I have dreamlike visits to heaven or wherever I go, I’m in hot water—just thought I’d share that with you. After warming my chilled marrow, I washed my hair and dried off, patting my hair to damp and then wrapping it in a towel until I was dressed—warm dry clothes—bliss—I began to realise what shipwrecked survivors must have felt like after rescue.

I dried my hair and did it in a French plait, tying it off with a small ribbon, which matched the velour top and corduroy pants I was wearing—a sort of deep pink.

Danny was first down, he was in shorts and tee shirt and I gave him a drink and a chocolate biscuit, he went off to watch something on telly—cricket probably. The girls came down in various combinations of clothing. Billie had a summer dress and leggings, Trish was in jeans and a tee with a hoodie on top, Meems was in a dress and sandals, Livvie, like Billie was in leggings with long sleeved tee and pair of short shorts. They’d done each other’s hair which I only needed to adjust a little. They were fed and watered after which I could sit down and drink the tea Jenny made for me.

“So you pissed off the gods of the weather as well did you?” Stella joked as she sipped her tea.

“Yeah, thankfully Thor’s aim was off a bit today.”

“The sun’s shining now.”

“Good, it’ll help to dry the cycling kit I’ve got in the machine, though my shoes will take days to dry out.”

“What about the children’s shoes?” asked Jenny.

“I’ll leave them by the Aga, they’ll dry over the next day or two—fortunately, they all have more than one pair of play shoes or trainers.”

“The machine is on the final rinse,” observed Jenny, “mind you, you all looked like drowned rats when you came in.” She laughed and Stella looked triumphalist at me.

“Yeah, I didn’t know rats could squeak so loud when they’re drowning,” I smirked.

“I nearly came to look for you,” said Stella, “I usually manage to find you in thunderstorms.”

“Yeah, on passing through me.”

Jenny looked strangely at us, “I’m missing the point here,” she said.

“When we first met, I was on a bike and Stella was in a car. She hit me off the bike and into a hedge.”

“I didn’t, she rode out in front of me in the rain and with no lights on.”

“It was daylight—she simply didn’t see me.”

“Well it was difficult visibility.”

“So you should have been driving more slowly.”

“I was.”

“Yeah—for you that means under mach one.”

“So, the sonic boom should have told you I was coming.”

“I was on a country road, where was I supposed to go.”

“You went into the hedge eventually,” she smirked.

“Upside down, watching my bike bounce from under me.”

“Whoa—sounds like there’s some unfinished business between you two.”

“She scratched the front of my car.”

“Scratched your car—you scratched all of me and the bloody bike.” I was beginning to get angry—we’d never really talked it through and Stella was in wind up mood. I slammed down my mug breaking the handle off it which I flung on the table. “I’ll be in the workshop.” So saying, I stormed out of the kitchen and across the drive to the garage I’d converted into my workshop.

I slammed the door shut behind me, regretting it a little later because it was so warm. I wiped down the bench and greased the vice, rearranged the tools and spares—I keep a stock of tyres and tubes, plus all the bits and pieces I’ve accumulated over the years—half a dozen saddles, spare wheels, chainsets, mudguards—you know the sort of stuff—most people’s garages have a box full of it—I have a garage full along with a dozen or more bikes, some in various stages of dismantling or rebuilding.

“Wotcha doin’ in here, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Tidying up.”

“It was tidy already, wasn’t it—it’s always tidy in here.”

“Has the cricket finished?”

“Dunno—got bored—’s’not the same as watchin’ Danny.”

“I know—gi’s a hug.” She waltzed over and wrapped her arms around my waist.

“Sorry I moaned so much.”

“It’s all right, kiddo, I felt as fed up as everyone else.”

“Did you?”

“Of course I did, I don’t like thunderstorms anymore than you do, and I hate getting wet.”

“That makes me feel better,” she said and snuggled into me.

I held her to me, “The warm shower was nice, wasn’t it?”

“Lovely,” she said hugging me tightly, “Were you scared, Mummy?”

“A bit,” I answered without explaining that I was more scared for them than myself.

“So was I, ’specially when that tree got hit.”

“That was frightening wasn’t it, did you smell the pine afterwards?”

“No—what’s pine?”

“It was a pine tree, and when you burn the wood of the tree it contains tar or resin and it smells—that tree smelt the same as a pine fire.”

“The lightning burned it?”

“Gosh yes, it would boil the sap in a moment—it’s the equivalent of firing a laser into it.” I knew she had some idea of lasers because the school took them to a laboratory where they were using one.

“Wow, it gets that hot?”

“It’ll melt steel, which requires a thousand or two degrees I believe.”

“Crikey, thank goodness it didn’t hit my bike—that would have made me cry.”

If you’d been on it kiddo, it would have made you fry, a communication I didn’t pass on to my daughter.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1429

The sun streamed through the window of my workshop and I watched particles of dust moving in it—to think we’re breathing these things all the time. Trish, snuggled against me once again, her hands round my waist.

“I like being a girl,” she said.

“What prompted you to say that, missy?”

“I dunno—I like cuddling with you—an’ girls can do it easier than boys.”

“That would seem like a lot of fuss to go through just so you could cuddle your mum.”

“Yeah, but it’s worth it.”

“As long as you think so, that’s okay.”

“Oh I do, Mummy. I’d never want to be a boy ever, ever again.”

“It’s okay, Trish, just calm down—no one is expecting you to become one ever again. Besides you’re female legally as well—so you couldn’t become a boy if you wanted to.”

“Do you ever wish you were a boy again, Mummy?”

“I don’t think so, sweetheart, I can’t say I ever think about it.”

“I’m glad you’re a girl too, Mummy.”

“I expect you are, sweetheart—look, I’ve got things to do.”

“Why did you break the cup?”

“I dropped it on the table, it broke.”

“Jenny said you threw it on the table.”

“I did not, I threw the handle but it was already broken then.”

“Are you going to buy a new one?”

“I’ve got plenty in the cupboard, Granny Monica gave me a pile yonks ago.”

“Are you going to choose one, a special one for you?”

“Not this time, Trish, I keep breaking them or they get dishwasher-damaged. If I use different ones all the time, it should reduce the risk of one cup breaking.”

“Yeah, you could break them all,” she laughed.

“I’ll have to take that risk—anyway, let’s lock this up and you can help me choose a cup for today.”

We shut the garage up and headed back to the kitchen. Stella was feeding Fiona. “Can I watch?” asked Trish who was fascinated.

“If you like and your mother doesn’t mind you associating with dangerous drivers.”

“Stella, don’t involve the children—any issues are between you and I.”

She looked angrily at me, then agreed. I owed her quite a lot—in clothing alone—half my wardrobe originated in hers.

“I owe you quite a lot, Stella, you gave me the push I needed to jump-start me; by myself I was going nowhere fast.”

“Dunno—if you hadn’t saved my life at various times I wouldn’t be here now, would I?”

“I don’t think I can answer that on the grounds that if I hadn’t been there, you may not have been at risk in the first place.”

“I hadn’t thought of that—yeah—it’s all your fault,” she looked at me and laughed, waking the snoozing Fiona who began sucking like a vacuum cleaner.

“So are we quits?” I asked.

“Yeah, quits.” We shook on it which once again woke the baby who began turbo suction once again. “’Ere, Fi, don’t suck my nipples off, there’s a good girl.” I laughed, been there done that got the stretch marks—they don’t mention that do they when they talk about breastfeeding?

“Choose a cup, Mummy,” urged Trish.

“I’ll use this one today,” I said picking down a mug with a picture of a black cat on it. “It reminds me of Inky.”

“Can we have a cat, Mummy?”

“I’d be worried about the main road, darling. Cats tend not to have much road sense.”

“A bit like me,” said Stella winking at Trish.

“What’s road sense?”

“It’s knowing when it’s safe to cross a road.”

“I could teach a cat to do that, Mummy—we learned in school, Look left, look right and then left again, looking left and right and listening all the time until you are safely across.”

“You certainly know how to cross the road, but I doubt you could teach a cat—they’re far too independent.”

“I’m sure I could, Mummy.”

“I think I know a bit more about cats, darling, so the answer is no.”

“’Snot fair,” she said and stamped out of the kitchen.

“That was you, twenty or thirty…”

“Can’t be thirty years, I’m only twenty-seven now.”

“I was going to say minutes,” said Stella, who laughed at her own joke and woke up Fiona who started crying—serve her right.

“Are you going to put the banshee to bed?”

“Yes, why?” she tried to comfort the little one who was playing at inconsolable.

“I need to start doing dinner—may I?” I held out my hands for the squealing baby, who Stella handed over to me while sighing.

Rocking her a little over my shoulder and whispering in her ear she went from screaming to listening in about ten seconds, followed by a massive burp and then a series of aftershocks. Two minutes later I handed her back to Stella who stood transfixed.

“How did you do that?” she asked.

“Do what?”

“Get her to shut up?”

“I had a feeling she might have some trapped wind, but by squealing she’d resist me breaking it for her, so I just whispered to her. Did they teach you about arguing—when people get louder, you get quieter—they have to shut up to hear what you’re saying—works with babies too.”

“So I see.” Stella took her off to sleep for an hour or two. “Once I’ve got her settled, d’you need a hand?”

“Yeah, come and help me do the veg and we can chat.” Stella and I hadn’t talked like we used to for ages—one of the changes which comes with children I suppose. She arrived back about ten minutes later. I gave her the broad beans to shell.

“What’s happening with Gareth?”

“I wondered when you’d get round to asking.”

“When are you going to get round to answering—we are concerned you know?”

“Yeah, I know—okay—the truth is—no idea. He hasn’t phoned, written or texted, emailed, used jungle drums or carrier pigeon.” To add emphasis, she sighed then gave a great shrug.

“Oh dear, sorry about that—I’d hoped it was going to work out for you this time, Stel.” We stopped and had an impromptu hug.

“All men are bastards,” she said.

“Some are bigger ones than others.”

“Yeah, like dicks.”

Her comparison confused me for a moment then I felt embarrassed.

“Is Simon okay in that department?”

“I’ve got no complaints,” which was very true—he could have loads but not that I was aware of.

“Gareth was huge…” she offered then snorted, “…for a field mouse.”

“He gave you Fiona,” I tried to defend him a little—he had seen her at her worst and I wasn’t surprised he’d gone.

“Did he? Without blood tests I’m not sure,” she fired back.

“Were you seeing someone else as well then?”

“I had some catching up to do, did a few one-night stands.”

“Oh, Stella, you silly goose—you could have picked up anything from HIV to Hep B, especially with your training, you should have known that.”

“I did know that—okay—okay, it was stupid.”

“What were you trying to prove?”

“Nothin’ in particular—why?”

“I just wondered. I love you, Sis, please don’t mess yourself up again—I don’t have the blue light to sort things anymore.”

“Yeah, so you said—must have upset Shekinah quite a lot.”

“There are no gods, Stella, just our need for something bigger than us and a laziness in moral thinking.”

“Not just fear of death then?”

“Perhaps that as well—those beans ready?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1430

“Are you sure Fiona isn’t Gareth’s?”

“Not sure about any of it—don’t care enough to find out.”

The way Stella spoke she sounded a little depressed but I wasn’t sure. “Have you tried calling him?”

“Why should I? He’s the one who left.”

That appeared to be the facts as I knew them too, however, I felt she could be making more effort, although that could be said of Gareth, as well. Part of me wanted to fix it—but I had to let them make their own choices—it’s just so frustrating. Why is it we can solve other people’s crises but get our own so wrong? Don’t bother sending answers on a post card, I know why—wood for trees syndrome because we’re too close to the problem and, not being emotionally involved means you can make more objective decisions

Apparently most decisions we make are done through emotional mechanisms not logic—you know, you go to buy a new car—the one that is free from vehicle excise duty—very low emissions, has a safety factor off the top of the scale, does a million miles to the litre and then you see one that is dangerous, expensive, top of the range excise duty, horrendous emissions—but you fell in love with it, because it matches an outfit you have, is the same colour as your dog, has the most amazing gadget for telling you what the temperature of the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean is—so you can predict the next El Niño. Some of us would buy the original choice, some of us would be tempted. Personally, I’d want to know if it could seat ninety-five children—so I might not fall for the flash motor—Simon would every time.

“I said, do you want me to slice the carrots?” Stella said poking me.

“Sorry—was far away.”

“Not thinking about Gareth, I hope.”

“No, I was thinking about Si actually—why would I be thinking about Gareth?”

“Because you fancy him.”

“I don’t—I did for five minutes, but you laid claim to him—end of story as far as I’m concerned.”

She stepped back and looked at me strangely—“You’re telling the truth, aren’t you?”

“Why shouldn’t I? I have nothing to hide—he’s very good looking, and seemed to be a very nice chap—but then perhaps I got that wrong.”

“No, he’s a very nice bloke—’cept he buggered off and left me—with his kid.”

“I thought you said you weren’t sure.”

“Oh the one-night stands bit—that was pure fantasy on my part—he’s little Fi’s dad all right.”

“Why make that bit up—about the one-night stands?” I was confused about this but I had an idea why she did it, which turned out to be right.

“Wanted to see what you said?”

“And did I say it?”

“Yeah, but not the way I was expecting.”

“I see, so what were you expecting me to say—Go get it while you can—or, Get thee to a nunnery.”

“More the latter, I guess.”

“Oh, so it was a wind up?”

“Not entirely, I did nearly do it a couple of times—met a couple of absolutely gorgeous guys one night at that new club.”

“New club—I don’t think I know the old ones.”

“Oh yeah, sorry forgot—I’m Cathy recluse, I only live through my husband and children.”

“That’s a bit uncalled for,” I gently protested because part of it might have been true.

“Well look at you, twenty-seven and past it.”

“Past what, exactly?”

“Pulling a good lookin’ bloke—that’s what.”

“I don’t need to Stella—I have the one I want.”

“Oh that’s right, rub it in.”

“It isn’t a case of that, and remember you set that up as well.”

“God, I’ve been good to you.”

“I know that, hence my dislike of not being on good terms with you.”

“In case you miss out on something, you mean?”

“No, not that at all—I’m just grateful that we met—okay it could have been under more positive circumstances—my life changed for the better in leaps and bounds. You were my catalyst.”

“Yeah, I was, wasn’t I?” She beamed and carried on slicing the carrots—until she cut her finger. Stella can do things in the kitchen, she just chooses not to, which is probably just as well most of the time. I made her stand with it under the cold tap until the bleeding stopped.

“That’s bloody typical—I end up in the poo helping you again—you are dangerous to be near.”

“Took you long enough to work that out, didn’t it?”

“Yeah, I’m gullible.”

“That isn’t a word I’d use to describe you, Stella, complex, might be; game-player extraordinaire, certainly.”

“Oh I don’t know, you seem to get what you want from me—look at your wardrobe.”

“What? I haven’t asked for any clothes from you—you usually just chuck ’em at me and say you’ve finished with this or that.”

“Do I? You must hypnotise me or something, I can’t remember any of it at all.”

“Oh come off it—has your finger stopped bleeding yet?”

“Why, feeling guilty are we?”

“No, I want to wash the carrots and you’re in the way.”

“Huh, what a way to be described by my sister and best friend—I’m in the way.” She sounded like she was in a film and about to be murdered by an unfaithful husband or lover—drama queen—didn’t even start to describe her.

“Yeah, get ootta ma way,” I shoved against her with the colander.

“Hey, watch it, hen,” she said in what sounded like a variant on Glaswegian, “or I’ll stick ye.”

“Oh wull ye noo?” I replied using my Lady Macbeth accent.

“Aye, sae I wull,” she riposted.

“Aye, an’ wi’ whose aimy?”

“Och, I dinna need ony help, fa tae dae that.”

“Ye, huh, ye couldnae knock tha skin o a rice pudden.”

“I’ll stick ye, sae I wull.”

“Ye hav’nae ony glue, ye daft gowk.”

“Now you tell me,” she said in normal English.

“Mummy, why were you talking like Gramps?” asked Livvie.

“We were having a bit of fun.”

“It didn’t sound like fun to me, I thought Auntie Stella was going to stab you. I had my finger on my mobile phone ready to dial nine, nine, nine.”

“You can see she’s one of yours, girl,” Stella remarked to me.

“How can you say that, apart from the fact she’s beautiful.”

Stella glared at me, “No, you idiot, as prepared as a girl sprout, and taking things too seriously.”

“Mummy, Auntie Stella’s being horrid to me,” Livvie hugged my waist and was close to tears.

“Don’t take any notice, darling, Auntie Stella’s just teasing you.” I put my arm protectively round her.

“Yeah, I was only joking.”

“I didn’t think it was jolly well funny,” Livvie threw back at her as she stumped out of the kitchen.

“How to win friends and influence people,” I offered.

“Oh thanks, Cathy, and there’s me thinking you didn’t have a sense of humour.”

“I do, it’s just different to yours.”

“So I see.”

“Aye, it’s a sair fecht,” I said mimicking Tom.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1431

By the time Simon came home the silliness had finished and the liver and bacon casserole cooking in the Aga was ready, as were the vegetables Stella had helped me prepare.

“Mummy and Auntie Stella were talking like Gramps does,” said a little voice dobbing us in.

“What d’you mean, Trish, talking like Gramps does?”

“You know, using Scottish words.”

“Scottish words?” asked Simon.

“Yes, they were talking like Scottish people do.”

“Well they are both Scottish, so how would you expect them to talk?”

“Silly, Daddy, Mummy’s from Bristol—I’ve been there, it’s in England.”

“Ah, I see where you’re going wrong, young un—your mother may have come here from Bristol, but she wasn’t born there.”

“Mummy, where were you born—it was Bristol, wasn’t it—Daddy’s wrong, isn’t he?”

Simon was smirking like the cat that got the cream plus the rest of the meal.

“I’m afraid he isn’t, darling , I was born in Dumfries.”

“How d’you spell that?” she asked so I spelled it out for her.

“Dum—fries? Sounds like stupid chips.”

“You missed the M out of chips, Trishy,” suggested my husband.

“There is no M in chips, Daddy—I thought you could spell better than that.”

“Well the joke is dead in the water anyway.”

“My Dum—fries joke, Daddy?”

“No, oh never mind—when’s dinner, have I got time to shower and change?”

“If you’re quick. I can give you fifteen minutes maximum.”

“Okay—that’ll do.” He ran off up the stairs.

Trish laid the table as I checked the meal—it was nearly ready. “Hmm, smells good,” said Simon returning and he gave me a little hug and kiss, “So does the food,” he added.

The meals in this house are far from silent, so when everyone goes quiet, I assume the food is either very good or so bad they’re trying to eat it quickly to kill the taste. Of course Danny eats like a wolf on a starvation diet. Billie used to until we severally pointed out to her that girls don’t shovel it down like there’s no tomorrow.

She actually accepted it when she saw how Trish and Livvie ate, and also how Julie did so—although I’d had to educate two of those three about table manners. Anyway, all of our girls now ate a bit more daintily without being affected.

This brought to mind an experience we had in a quite nice coffee shop in Southsea. I was sitting with two of the girls, I think it might have been Trish and Julie when a woman with two or three teenage girls came in and sat opposite. They were all fashionably dressed and one of the girls was extremely pretty causing Julie to sigh that she wished she looked like her.

We sat and drank our teas or coffees, I don’t remember which when the mother arrived back at their table with drinks and cakes and the very pretty girl took a great mouthful of cake and began to eat it with her mouth wide open—it was like looking at a human cement mixer—and made me feel quite queasy.

The girl was easily fourteen or fifteen possibly even a year older, but clearly no one had taught her to close her mouth when she ate—which is something most people learn by about age seven. It was very disillusioning—so I’m a snob, sue me.

There was fresh fruit for afters—and there were no takers for that, mind you the piggy-wiggies round the table had just about licked their plates clean, so I assumed they’d enjoyed it.

I started to get up to make some drinks when Simon stopped me and nodded at Julie who took the hint and made us teas and other drinks. “That was so filling, I feel absolutely stuffed,” Simon declared, undoing his trouser top button.

“Yeah, that was pretty kewl, Mum,” added Danny. He’d managed to force down second helpings like Simon, and I suspect was probably feeling rather full. Between them, they’d eaten half a loaf plus goodness knows how many potatoes, assorted veg plus the liver and bacon. They used the bread to soak up the gravy which was quite thick and rich—as one tends to get with liver dishes.

I drank the tea which Julie had made for me, and she sat alongside me. “Dunno what’s going on this weekend but we saw loads of old biddies today—the blue rinse brigade—surprised not to see you an’ Auntie Stella there.”

“Very funny.”

Julie obviously thought her joke was, because she snorted at it and sounded like a goat with hay fever—which set Trish off—she got the giggles which rapidly transmitted itself to the others. Simon tried to assert himself which just made things worse.

By the time the kids were excused from the table, it had descended into total chaos and I was glad to let them go so we adults could talk amongst ourselves. None of us knew why Julie’s salon had been so busy with wrinklies, and the best guess was a party of them were staying nearby—they often come to Southsea or Hayling Island just before the season starts or just as it finishes when the prices come down.

“But it’s school holidays,” protested Julie, “the oldies shouldn’t be here now.”

“Why ever not?” I challenged.

“They should be home knitting or stirring their cauldrons.”

“Perhaps they were practicing their broomstick flying skills instead and dropped into your salon.” Stella joined the fray.

“Coulda been,” Julie was forced to concede, “like I said, I was surprised not to see you two with ’em.”

Simon sniggered and we both glared at him. He went off to see what the youngsters were up to and his trousers nearly fell down—he’d forgotten about doing his trousers back up. So we had the last laugh. Once he’d gone it was girl talk until I suggested we needed to sort out the dishes about half an hour later.

Tom arrived home about five to midnight, he was less than sober but did stop singing the Scottish Soldier when I opened the door for him—he couldn’t find his key—it was in his hand.

“Faither, whit are ye up tae—ye’re more plastered than an interior wall,” I used Scots, as English didn’t seem to compute.

“Och, Catherine, dinna be sae hard on an auld man, it’s a sair fecht.” He staggered past me and up the stairs, whereupon Simon followed him up to make sure he didn’t fall down them. “Och ye’re a guid lad, Simon Cameron,” he kept saying as they disappeared up the stairs. I checked him a short while later, he was fast asleep lying across the bed and snoring like a lawn mower. Simon helped me turn him so he was at least up and down the bed not across it, and we left him lying on his side. He slept in his clothes all night because he was daft enough to appear in them the next morning asking me to phone his office to say he was working from home that day. He took an aspirin or two and went back to bed until midday.

Sometimes I wondered exactly what my role was in this house—it seemed at times, that mother was the primary one—for three adults, one sub-adult and six children, plus sorting out Jenny’s troubles at times. She was nominally renting Maria’s old house—which would be Catherine’s one day—but rarely stayed there, although her fellow did much of the time as it was more relaxed than staying at the naval base. It was making a nice start for Catherine’s savings in the rent she paid, so I supposed I shouldn’t grumble.

The house in Southsea was being rented by a senior manager in the bank and he was paying a good monthly rent—subsidised by the bank—so I set up savings accounts for the other children out of that. Quite when I’d tell them what I’d done for them, I wasn’t sure—possibly when they went to university—if they go of course.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1432

“What time is it?” I asked bleary-eyed as Simon was dressing at the foot of the bed.

“Go back to sleep, I’ve got to go up to Town.”

“What for?”

“This Euro-crisis thing—we could lose loads.”

None of this made sense to me, especially how some lily-livered investors or speculators could cause a national currency to fail or lose billions. “I didn’t think you were that linked to Europe.”

“Of course we are, and the States—it’s all one big trough these days and we take turn dipping our snouts.”

“I thought the States was in a mess—haven’t seen the paper for a couple of days—Daddy took it to work.”

“They’ve managed to avoid a default—but it’s a total mess—thanks to those fruit-cakes in the tea-party who have the Republicans by the short and curlies. It’s mad the loonies are running the asylum.”

“Or the tail wagging the dog?” I added, trying to show I was listening.

“Yeah, something like that.”

“Are we going to be all right—I mean if something awful happened to the bank?”

“Yeah, we have some squirreled away which is untouchable and the bank is public liability covered.”

“I’ll have to go back to work if we need it.”

“I think we’ll manage, Babes, but it’s nice of you to offer—must go and do my hunter gatherer bit.”

“You’re not going anywhere without some food inside you.” I started to get out of bed before realising I was naked. “Oops, where’s my nightdress?”

“Oh, Babes, get dressed before I forget what I’m supposed to be doing and do you instead.”

I wiggled my bare bum at him as I picked up my nightie from the floor by the side of the bed. He slapped it and I jumped up. He pulled me round and kissed me, “I love you, girl.”

I held him tight then kissed him passionately—“I love you too, darling.”

“C’mon, breakfast, I’ve got to catch that train or I’ll be late for the board meeting.”

“Well you drive carefully—I don’t want you hurting or killing yourself in that car.”

“If I did, you realise you’d inherit my shares and my place on the board?”

My stomach did a flip—“You what?”

“You heard me.”

“I heard but don’t believe you—what do I know about banking?”

“You’re a fast learner and besides we do have advisers—financial, legal and so on. We do very little without brainstorming even the most bizarre outcome.”

“I’ll bet I was one you hadn’t considered.”

“Not entirely, I discussed it with Dad and Stella before I married you.”

“I should hope so, I talked to Spike and she gave me great advice.”

“Which was?”

“How do I know—I don’t speak dormouse—who d’ya think I am, Dr Doolittle?”

“I’d have thought you did speak it, I mean that bloody thing used to do everything you told it to, including performing tricks.”

“Oh come off it, Si, she does exactly what she wants like all dormice and pretty well all animals except possibly dogs—they’re stupid enough to listen to humans—the most destructive and malicious of all vertebrates—if we were some sort of bug, it would be something like Escherichia coli.”

“I think that might be something of an over-generalisation, Cathy.”

“Breakfast,” I said quietly before dashing down the stairs to make him some toast and coffee and myself tea. I had the kettle on and the bread in the toaster before I glanced at the clock—“Si, it’s only half past four.”

“I did tell you to go back to sleep.”

“Why so early?”

“The meeting is at seven, I have one or two things to do first.”

I kissed him again and buttered his toast offering him the marmalade I’d made a few weeks earlier with the girls. Billie had bottled some of it and Trish and Livvie did the rest. He slathered it thickly on his toast while I poured his coffee. It was just beginning to show a glimmer of daylight—the days were noticeably shortening and I shivered a little at the thought. Then wondered how we’d cope without all his money—I’d done so before I met him, besides I had some of my own and several properties that were paid for, so we’d get by—and I was prepared to work—even stacking shelves in a supermarket if I needed to—after all loads of other decent folk did it and I had in the past when I was a student.

While he was eating, I rushed upstairs and dressed very quickly and offered to take him to the station. He declined so I insisted and he shrugged. I quickly drank half my tea and scoffed a banana. He shook his head and grumbled that I didn’t eat enough.

I took him to the station in my Porsche and reluctantly let him go—I loved him so much—I didn’t want him to go away from me—at the same time I knew he had to go and I was being silly.

It was just after five o’clock when he left me and scampered after the train which was just arriving. I was left without much purpose. It was too early to go back and do things, and too late to go back to bed—besides I was too wide awake now.

On a whim I drove to the flats where I’d spent a very different year in very different accommodation to how I lived now—how things can change. I stopped and gazed at the building, I wondered who had my old room and were the two miscreants still there?—I doubted it—that was three or four years ago—how time flies.

I turned down the road and passed the Patel’s shop—Mr Patel was still there opening up—goodness he worked some hours. I stopped the car and grabbed my bag—I checked I had my purse—I’d buy a few things to say thanks for old time’s sake.

He’s gone back into the shop and had his back to the door as I went in. He turned round but didn’t recognise me. I gathered a few bits and pieces—his prices were significantly more than the supermarket—but so what?

He rang things up on the cash register and just before he got to the end I saw a croissant I fancied—was really awake and hungry. “Could I have that croissant, as well, Mr Patel?”

He looked at me, “I know you, lady, don’t I?”

“I’ve probably changed a bit since we last met.”

“It is, Catherine, is it not?” He stared quite hard at me.

“I knew I couldn’t fool you, Mr Patel.”

“Vait there,” he disappeared into the back of the shop and moments later came back with his wife. “See, it is her.”

“My goodness gracious, it is her—Catherine—vhy have you taken so long to come and see us—come through, Raj, I make us all breakfast.”

“You vant me to close the shop?”

“No, you elephant’s vinky, just come through vhen it’s quiet—come, my dear,” she led me through to the back of the shop and their little sitting room.

In a halting manner—mainly because of the interruptions from customers—I related how things had progressed since I’d last seen them.

“You are married voman with children—my goodness—you don’t vaste time, Catherine.”

“Worse, you realise who I married?”

“No—some tall, dark and handsome and mysterious prince,” she joked.

“He’s tall, dark and handsome but only a viscount.”

“Vhat is viscount?”

“He’s an aristocrat—Lord Simon Cameron.”

“And you are married to him?”

“Yeah, he tricked me into it.”

“He tricked you?”

“Oh he knew all about my past, and I’ve been sorted for three years now.”

“Sorted?” Mrs Patel looked at me in astonishment.

He looked on and sniggered, “She is now voman down below, like you, yes?”

“More or less,” I blushed.

“Ah, now I see—proper voman, now,” she nodded.

“Yeah—no regrets.”

“You’re very pretty lady,” she smiled, “Ve very proud of you.”

“Vhy are you up so early?” asked Mr Patel.

“Simon had a board meeting of the bank in London, I ran him to the station.”

“You are married to Cameron the bank owner?” Mr Patel gasped.

“Yes, sorry I thought you realised that.”

“Oh dear, he’s not our favourite man—let me show you.” He poked about in a small filing cabinet and pulled out a file then handed me a sheaf of letters to look at. The last thing I wanted was to get involved with the bank and its customers, especially a dispute. I glanced at my watch, it wasn’t yet six—I continued reading.

“They’re going to foreclose your business loan?”

He nodded.

“Why—you’ve paid all you owe to the present?”

“Ve vere late two months—I vas ill, and ve forgot.”

“Okay, I can’t promise anything but I’ll talk to Simon and see what we can do.”

“Oh thank you, Catherine, you are such helpful lady.”

I paid for my shopping and drove home. What had I got myself into now?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1433

I wasn’t sure what Simon could do to help—but I was sure he’d listen—how wrong can you get?

“I need to discuss this with you, Si.”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, I’ve had twelve hours of banking money problems.”

“But I said I’d try and help them,” I protested.

“You shouldn’t interfere in things that don’t concern you, should you?”

“But it does, your bank is wrong and causing all sorts of problems for these two old people.”

“It’s not my bank, Cathy, it’s our bank—and I’m sure there’s an explanation. Tell them to go and see their local branch manager, I’m sure he or she will sort it out.”

“They haven’t so far—I’ve seen the correspondence and they’re looking to foreclose.”

“I’m sorry, Cathy, I don’t know you find these lost causes but I am just too tired to talk about anything with the word bank or money in it—end of discussion.”

He did look very tired and just sat on the sofa with Meems and Trish cuddled up to him watching some inane children’s film—what happened to good stories like Little Women and The Railway Children? Now it’s all sci-fi and fantasy, CGI graphics and special effects. There’s too much violence as well—no wonder half the six-year-olds are psychopaths—they’ve been killing things for years on their computer games or watching other people do so on film.

After dinner, roast lamb—Si’s favourite—I tried to butter him up but he fell asleep and stayed that way all night. I left him in the recliner in the sitting room having failed to wake him enough to get him upstairs.

He woke me the next morning—another early start. “Uh—what time is it?”

“About five, why?”

“What are you doing up?”

“Another meeting.”

“What about?”

“They’re trying to get us to buy bonds from Spain and Portugal.”

“I thought they said Italy was the next big risk?”

“I’m not touching anything that madman’s had anything to do with.”

“What, old botox face?”

“Sounds like the one.”

“He’s done very well out of things.”

“People like him always do.”

“So will you buy bonds from Spain and Portugal?”

“Not if I can help it.”

“Why not?”

“There’s enough bad debt about now without us picking up millions of pounds of it.”

“Oh okay—what about the Patels?”

“Who?”

“The old couple with the shop near my old bedsit.”

“What about them?”

“The bank is trying to foreclose their mortgage.”

“Sorry, Babes, it happens.”

“But it’s not fair.”

“Tell ’em to write to the ombudsman—they’re pretty good.”

“That could take months.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I want it sorted now.”

“I could say the same for this economic crisis—I didn’t cause it nor can I cure it, but I could be out of a job because of it.”

“Don’t be silly, darling—you’ll always have a job—you own the bank.”

“I might not if this gets any worse.”

“But yesterday you said we’d be okay.”

“That was yesterday, this is today.”

“Oh—so you won’t help the Patels?”

“Sorry, Babes, got real things to deal with not your next favourite lame-duck story.”

“You don’t mind if I do then?”

“I’ve gotta go—I overslept because someone forgot to bring me up to bed.”

“I couldn’t wake you.”

“Gotta go—see you tonight—something light will be okay.”

“I’ll get you some liquid hydrogen—that should be light enough.”

“Yeah—bye.” He went without even kissing me goodbye—he is worried, I’ve never seen him like this before—still he didn’t say I couldn’t help the Patels. I went into the shower and after dressing in a suit, got the kids up and watched them have breakfast—it’s like feeding time at the zoo—in the chimpanzee enclosure, only without the PG tips.

Next I called the Patels and asked for the branch of High St Bank which they’d dealt with. I told Mr Patel, I’d call him back. A bit later I called the bank and set up a meeting with the manager—he didn’t have anything for weeks—until I said I was Lady Cameron, suddenly he was free at eleven—who said the age of chivalry was dead?

I called the Patels and told them I’d collect them at half past ten. They sounded like headless chickens on the other end of the phone—they’d have to close because they couldn’t get anyone in at that short notice. I did wonder if Trish was busy—but if she sat in for them, by the time we got back, she’d be looking to take over Walmart.

“You’re looking very posh, Mummy?” noticed Livvie.

“I have to go to a meeting—so I hope you’ll all behave yourselves.”

“Where you goin’?” asked Trish coming in on the end of the conversation.

“I’m going to a meeting at a bank.”

“Can I come—you might need some help?”

“That’s very kind of you, sweetheart, but I think I can manage—if we need reinforcements, I’ll be sure to call you.”

“If I’m not too busy by then—see ya,” she said and marched past us, Livvie rolled her eyes and we both sniggered; a little voice called, “I heard that.”

‘Here I am, brain the size of a small planet, parking cars,’ the quote from The Hitchhikers Guide to the Universe came to mind and I smirked again.

“You’re laughing again, Mummy,” noticed Livvie.

“I was thinking of a very funny book which when you’re old enough, I shall loan to you read.”

“Why can’t I read it now? I can read you know.”

“I know, sweetheart, but the jokes are all grown-up ones and you’ll enjoy it more when you’re a bit older.”

“Like when I’m ten?”

“A little older than that, I think.”

“What, like twelve?”

“Probably more like sixteen or seventeen or even older.”

“That’s, like, really old, Mummy—that’s like nearly as old as you.”

I can always count on my children to keep me grounded—before I kill them—grrr.

I set off at ten and collected Mr Patel—his wife was staying in the shop—she was too nervous to come with us. I shrugged, made sure we had the relevant documents and drove to the bank, parking in the staff car park. If I get clamped—heads will roll.

Mr Patel followed me into the bank. I was walking quite quickly despite my heels—working myself up to asserting myself in this meeting. It was five to eleven and we waited; Mr Patel fumbled with his papers and I did some breathing exercises—continuing to breathe, was I thought, a good idea.

Eventually, we were shown into Mr Pilbeam’s office, who shook hands with us—he was all smiles, until I painted the picture of the case I was there to represent. He made loads of excuses and it was only when I suggested if he couldn’t resolve this that I went to see my father-in-law, Mr Pilbeam had a sudden change of heart and within two minutes had redrafted the terms of the loan and credited Mr Patel with everything he’d paid, effectively wiping out the alleged outstanding amount and cancelling the foreclosure. He did, however, point out that he could only do this once—even for me. I smiled graciously, shook his now sweatier hand, and ushered Mr Patel out before he bowed any lower and banged his head on Pilbeam’s desk.

He was effusive in his praise for me and the nice Mr Pilbeam, and insisted on giving me the largest box of chocolates he had in the shop. Oh well, the locusts I live with will make short work of them—I don’t eat many chocs myself—too sweet and too fattening.

Mrs Patel made shrieking noises when her husband told her what had transpired and how wonderful I’d been. Well—we all know that as fact, don’t we. I’m just kinda wunnerful.

Simon apparently didn’t think so—the grapevine had obviously got as far as him and he played merry hell with me—“I told you not to interfere in things that don’t concern you.”

“The bank manager was very helpful, he rescheduled everything quite easily.”

“Cathy, you don’t listen—I asked you not to interfere.”

“No, you told me you wouldn’t—I’m someone different.”

He groaned threw his newspaper up in the air and stormed out of the room. I didn’t think now was the time to show him a questionnaire I’d been sent about married life—oops.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1434

“Are you still mad at me?” I asked him, cuddling against him in bed and rubbing Mr Happy gently with my fingers.

“You’re not going to get round me like you usually do,” he said, but we both knew it was out of his hands and into mine—literally.

“I’m sorry it upset you but they were desperate.”

“If they’d come in and spoken with their local branch I’m sure something could have been arranged which suited them better. We’re not monsters you know.”

“What’s this then,” I giggled and closed my hand.

The trouble with Simon is that he’s easily influenced—especially by little ol’ me. He forgave me—well that was a foregone conclusion, I did have to work a bit for it but so what? In the end everyone was happy—the bank would get their money, the Patels kept their shop and Si—well, I’m not going to tell you everything, am I?

He was asleep in post-orgasmic bliss—I was still awake, washing myself afterwards had woken me up—I’d have quite liked to read but I didn’t want to disturb my lord and master—did I?

Banking is going through a tough time at the moment, and although we won’t go bust, Simon is having to work very hard for his money and that includes making some very difficult decisions—like reducing the workforce and making savings in any area they could.

They still made a profit of over a billion pounds, but that was down on last year and they do have some shareholders, although most of the shares are owned by the family. I wasn’t aware that I was one of the shareholders but apparently I am—just as well their accountant does my tax forms. I’d seen his associate, a nice young woman called Jill White who informed me I was quite a wealthy woman in my own right.

“I know I’ve got several properties and they bring in an income, and I have the salary from the bank, and a little from the university for the survey work I do, what else is there?”

“Your shares.”

“Shares? I don’t have any shares—do I?” If I did it was news to me.

“Yes, the bank made you a gift of them when you married Simon—it’s a strange arrangement, you can’t sell them except back to the bank and that’s at a knock-down price, but you get to keep their income and any dividends.”

“Do I?”

“Yes, the bank gives you more every year on your birthday.”

“Since when?” this was news to me.

“Since you married; it’s something all family members receive.”

“Will my children?”

“Only when they reach twenty-one, until then the bank makes payments to a trust for each of them, and your sister-in-law’s children as well.”

“I knew nothing of this.”

She called up a screen and each of my kids had trust funds of over ten thousand pounds, except Catherine—being so young she had the starter of a couple of thousand.

“And your assets,” she changed the screen and I looked at the figures.

“These are wrong—surely?”

“No—they’re absolutely correct—it updates by the day and the figure n the bottom is the amount of tax you are liable for.” I gasped, that was bigger than I thought I owned.

“I’m paying that much tax?”

“Yes, twenty thousand pounds give or take a little, but that’s on an income of nearly two hundred thousand.”

“Two hundred thousand?”

“Yes, with personal assets of one million two hundred and seven thousand—not including your properties—which of course would be liable to capital gains if you sell any except the one you live in.”

I suddenly felt quite sick. I was sitting on this fortune which was accumulating faster than I could spend it, and this was the first time I could see what Simon and Henry had set up for me.

My parents had left me their house and an accumulated amount of about a hundred thousand pounds—so in my eyes I was quite well off. Simon had offered to invest it for me and had turned that into five times what I gave him, and that was after tax. Our family was paying off the national debt.

“How much have the bank given me?” I asked and she pulled up a different screen, she showed me the shares and what they were worth, the price I’d get back from the bank if I disposed of them—that was nearly half a million—okay, I’d get hammered for tax—but I did nothing for that—except marry Simon, and most days I’d pay for that myself.

“Simon is pretty well a genius at making investment profit—which in this day and age is a great asset—you realise that several US banks have offered him a salary of ten million to go over to them and he turns them down.”

“Simon—my Simon—ten million? Jeez.”

“He’s very old-fashioned in his loyalties to the family firm—without him they’d not do half as well.”

I was shocked—I was married to the financial equivalent of Superman, someone with the Croesus touch, a veritable alchemist—and yet he remained as down to earth as anyone I’d ever met—more than some.

“The way he’s set this up for you—anything you don’t use in your accounts is invested usually in bonds with a guaranteed return. So by not spending too much your account is accumulating—thirty thousand this year—and you won’t be taxed on them until next year because that’s when the interest is due, then your ISAs—they’re stuffed to the maximum—and of course there’s no interest payable on that. At the current rate of enhancement, you should have several million in your account by the time you retire.”

I couldn’t believe it—me, someone who isn’t turned on by money was stinking rich—at least by my standards. I needed to think about things. I thanked Jill, signed my tax return and authorised the payment due by the end of July.

That was two weeks ago, it still disturbed me—millions were starving and I was rolling in it. I spoke with Simon, who of course knew all about it. Part of me felt irritated, he practically knew how much I had in my purse and his income was a secret to me.

He seemed to know that I was holding this small resentment and he told me to guess at how much he earned. I knew the guy from Barclays was the highest paid bank man—apparently, Henry was next, then the bloke from HSBC and then my little Simon. He earned two million pounds last year with a similar amount in bonuses.

I was astonished then angry—it was ridiculous and I told him so. He then explained how many people were involved in helping him spend it. He gave away a fortune to charities and apparently, he’d taken over the ownership of the castle and estates. Henry was wanting to sell them so Simon bought them off him for a peppercorn—it costs him over a million a year to maintain plus any losses the estate makes.

“Why didn’t you tell me about all this?” I asked him when he did tell me.

“Why? You’re worried by it aren’t you?”

“Of course, I mean it’s like film stars and other overpaid types.”

“Cathy, I keep over a hundred people in employment in Scotland.”

“Oh, okay—I’ll shut up then.”

“It all sounds very feudal, but it isn’t—well okay, it is, but it’s a benign sort—I employ two people to make sure the others are well looked after. I make them work, but that keeps them happier and they do produce some income, but there’s a shortfall every year. It’s a drain really and one day we may have to sell it but it’s been in the family since fifteen something, so I’d hate to be the one who betrayed his ancestors—some have gone to great lengths to protect it.”

“Like what?”

“Murder, treason—is that enough?”

“Yeah—don’t tell me any more—I’ll feel haunted the next time I go to Scotland.”

“Like the castle.”

So—here I am—Bonny Prince Simon is zonked and I’m worrying about having too much money, while he’s exhausted trying to keep what assets the bank has increasing enough to keep shareholders happy. Boy, why did I have to inherit a conscience—life would be so much easier without it.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1435

I watched Simon sleep for a while, it was amazing how he could in view of the stressful nature of his work and his neurotic wife, who not only saddles him with more children than he can count, she then accuses him of causing her to have too much money. She’ll have to go if he wants peace of mind rather than a piece of her mind.

I gently stroked his hairy chest—it wasn’t very hairy compared to some of the pictures you see of men who look like a cross between gorillas and bears, but it was enough to remind me of the difference between men and women—my chest was quite small for a biological male—and somehow I’d managed to grow myself quite a pair of breasts, which had grown some more since I’d began breastfeeding baby Catherine. Sometimes when I looked at them in the mirror, it looked like they had large veins in them and I wondered if I could get varicose veins of the boobs?

Simon stirred a little and I kissed him on the cheek, he smiled a big beaming smile before turning over and facing away from me. I snuggled into the back of him and fell asleep smelling his body

I woke some hours later with something tapping against my hand—it was his morning um—I could feel myself blushing—anyway, his erectile tissue midway between his knees and his waist—well, you know what I mean.

“I need a pee,” he said jumping from the bed, “and your hand isn’t going to make that any easier.”

I hadn’t deliberately set out to touch his doodah, my hand just ended up there while we slept. I was still quite tired and couldn’t face the thought of sex first thing in the morning so I got up and began dressing to make his breakfast. He came back into the bedroom—“Wattaya doing?”

“Getting dressed, so I can get you some breakfast.”

“Not yet, I’ve got a day off today—so c’mon back to bed.”

“You’ve got a day off?”

“Yeah, so c’mon back to bed—nudge nudge, wink wink know what I mean, squire?”

I wasn’t going to face a full five minutes of Monty Python sketches, so I went to the bathroom and then sneaked downstairs when he wasn’t looking, and switched the kettle on. I was standing facing the work top with my eyes shut, almost asleep when a pair of hands went round my waist and I nearly jumped out of my skin. I was still shaking when I realised it was Simon and he hugged me as I wept.

“Hey, silly, I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“I know,” I sniffed, but it still upset me.

He sat me at the table and finished making the tea. “What brought this on?” he asked placing a mug of tea in front of me while he sat opposite.

I felt even more stupid—I didn’t know what made me upset—I just was, not having slept very well didn’t help either.

“You sure you’re not coming on?”

I looked blearily at him, some days he made little sense while other days he made none at all. Today seemed like one of the latter. “Coming on what?”

“You know, coming on.”

“On what?” I repeated.

“Your period,” he rolled his eyes skywards as if you silently ask for strength.

“Ha ha, very funny,” I said then burst into tears.

“I didn’t mean it like that.”

“How did you mean it then? You know damn well I can’t have them.”

“Keep your voice down, unless you want the kids up this early.”

“What time is it, then?” I couldn’t see the clock.

“Five.”

“Not again.”

“Not what again?”

“I seem to wake up at five most mornings.”

“Well, c’mon drink your tea and let’s go back to bed—I know a way to make you sleepy.”

“Is that all you men think about, bloody sex?”

“I wasn’t actually thinking about that—I was going to read to you.”

“Read? Read what?”

“This book on hypnosis I found.”

“Hypnosis?”

“Yeah, it’s called something like, How to make every woman love you.

“You haven’t got a book like that, have you?”

“No, but it was worth it to see your face when I said it.”

“Were you going to read to me?”

“Yep, from, A History of British Banking.

“You’re right, it probably would send me to sleep—who’s interested in subjects like that?”

“Um—bankers, economists, historians, general readers—how would I know?”

“So who wrote it, some stuffed-shirt professor while he was stuck up his ivory tower?”

“Yeah—got it in one.”

“Oxford or Cambridge?”

“He went to Edinburgh actually.”

“Oh—big deal.”

“And you’ve met him.”

“Wow—I’m sure I’d remember him if I had.”

“You would.”

“I don’t know any historians.”

“Yes you do.”

“Who?” I challenged him.

“My dad for starters.”

“Yeah, well he’s hardly going to write a book about bloody banking is he?”

“Why not? He’s a banker.”

“He’s too busy banking or whatever you call it when he runs a bank.”

“Chairing? Managing? Leading?”

“Yeah—that sort of stuff.”

“Writing a book?” continued Simon.

“He’d hardly have time would he?”

“He must have done.”

“How d’you know that?”

“Because it’s his book.”

“What, he lent you his copy?”

“No—he wrote the bloody thing—okay.”

“You’re joking?”

“No I’m not—he wrote the book—why d’ya think I’m reading it?”

“Because you’re a banker?”

“You must be joking—it’s as dry as dust a subject as you can find.”

“Oh—so why are you reading it then?”

“He gave me a copy and asked me to let him know what I thought of it.”

“Oh, and what do you think of it?”

“I haven’t actually opened it yet.”

“So you don’t really know if it is that dry, do you?”

“It came with a free bottle of water.”

“Really?”

“No, you daft bitch,” he shook his head—okay, so I’m gullible and a bit dim, especially when I haven’t slept very much.

I yawned and felt like more tears would come but they didn’t until I yawned again my eyes watered and I had to wipe them.

“C’mon, I know just the thing to make you sleep—a good relaxing rub down.”

“I don’t want sex, I already told you that.”

“I wasn’t offering any, I’m still sore from last night,” he said, almost causing me to fall off my chair.

“So what’s in it for you?”

“Pleasing my wife, seeing her relax and sleep—knowing she’s enjoying it.”

“Are you serious?”

“Never more so.”

Now I did feel confused; nevertheless, I did go back upstairs with him and stripped off and he did massage me with lavender oil, which was heavenly—apart from the smell, which isn’t my favourite. He was quite correct, I did fall asleep and didn’t hear him get up to see to the kids.

At eleven o’clock, he brought me up a cup of tea and told me he thought I ought to get up now because he was taking us all out for lunch, and I should look like an aristocrat’s wife, especially as his children were making the effort.

I pinched myself quite hard—damn, I bet that’ll bruise now—but he was still standing there holding the cuppa. I hadn’t dreamt it, including the bit about the book, because that was on the bed and it was by pa-in-law. I must be delirious or crazy.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1436

I took my time showering and doing my hair, then dressing and doing my makeup—he wanted an aristocrat’s wife—I’ll give him one. I arrived downstairs wearing my best bib and tucker and smelling like a million dollars. Actually, I don’t know what a million dollars would smell like, so I improvised and used some Chanel No 5.

Simon was wearing a smart casual corduroy jacket in burgundy with some plain hopsack trousers. His shirt was open, but it was one of his handmade ones, so it always looks delicious.

The girls were in dresses and cardis and Danny was in his best trousers and shirt, with a zip-up jacket. Tom was wearing a suit and Stella and Jenny were also togged up. It seemed like we were all going.

Moments later a minibus—luxury variety turned up and we all piled aboard. “Where are we going?” I asked.

“Wait an’ see,” was all he said, so I sat back and hoped Catherine wouldn’t puke on my best dress. Once we headed into Southsea, I knew or shall we say I was pretty sure where we were going. I wasn’t wrong, and the bus pulled up to the hotel where Simon could safely get staff discount.

We were led to the Green room, which as I’ve mentioned before is a very nice restaurant. The surprise was in being led to the same table at which were already sitting, Henry and Monica—of course the girls abandoned restaurant etiquette and rushed to see them and get a kiss and a hug. Danny followed a little more sedately and those of us carrying babes came last.

We all embraced and kissed. “Henry, Monica, what a lovely surprise,” I said as we seated ourselves with the help of the very attentive waiting staff. Catherine and Puddin’ were put into high chairs.

“My idiot son didn’t tell you I’d arranged this little get together?”

“No, he didn’t.” I looked daggers at Simon who’d pretended it was his idea.

“Are we celebrating something?”

“Yes, I’ve been granted visiting professor status at Edinburgh.”

“Oh wow, congratulations,” I said loudly and he nodded his acceptance of my compliment.

“Visiting prof of what?” asked Stella.

“Banking and banking history—seems like I have two idiot offspring.”

“Does it pay well?” she threw back at him.

“It’s an honorary title and I give one lecture a year.”

“It’s more a question of how much he pays them rather than they pay him,” said Simon trying to get his own back on his father.

“Sounds more like it,” agreed Stella, “Talk about buying degrees and things.”

“I have a degree and a doctoral degree, so I don’t think I have anything to prove.”

“Not in Ancient Babylonian banking methods, you don’t,” quipped Si.

“Is that what your doctoral thesis was in?” I asked Henry.

“A comparison of Babylonian and Mesopotamian banking methods and recording.”

“Gosh, how long did that take to research?”

“Two years—I spent so much time at the British Museum, they thought I was a member of staff.”

“So did you get to read all those clay tablet thingies?” I asked—it was more interesting than reading his book—of that I was pretty sure.

“Not at first, but by the time I finished I was translating them for the museum.”

“Wow, I think that’s amazing, reading something that hasn’t seen the light of day for thousands of years.”

“Yeah, like reading a laundry list,” Simon interjected.

“Most of it is pretty mundane, but it was fascinating to think people all those years ago lived similar lives to us.”

“Yeah, Mercedes Benz did a good line in chariots back then, even had a pocket for carrying your laptop.”

“iPod,” added Stella.

“Excuse my children, a supreme example of what happens when you have a policy of sparing the rod.”

“Huh, the only rod you knew was made of split cane and was used for catching salmon.” Simon was not going to let his father bask in any glory today.

“Talking of salmon, I’ve ordered for everyone—it’s salmon for the main course, with melon starters and lemon and lime sorbet for dessert—nothing too heavy for lunch.”

“Sounds fine by me, Henry,” I tried to keep things civil.

“Creep,” hissed Stella.

“Behave child,” said Henry to his daughter or I’ll disinherit you.”

“You did that last year, Dad,” reminded Simon.

“Did I? Oh okay—I’ve reinstated you—I’ll disinherit you again tonight.”

“Such a loving family,” said Monica sighing deeply.

“They’re only playing,” I replied.

“Playing—so why do they use live ammunition?” she said back.

“It’s perfectly safe, Mon, he’s such a lousy shot he couldn’t hit a cow’s arse with a shovel,” Simon forgot the human tape recorder was present and she began chanting, ‘cow’s arse.’ Simon buried his head in his hands.

“Hello, little girl,” said the waitress to Puddin’.

Her reply wasn’t rocket science to predict—“Cow’s arse,” she said repeatedly and giggled. The waitress laughed and went off to get her some mashed potato and salmon.

“Here’s to Henry and his new professorship,” I said raising my glass of champagne.

“Speech, speech,” called Jenny and Simon groaned not to encourage him.

“As dinner is on its way, I shall keep it short. Thank you to all of you for coming to celebrate this day with me. It’s quite a fillip for the bank and I shall try to uphold the great reputation we hold upon the high street…”

As Henry spoke Simon’s mobile rang and to my annoyance he answered it—getting up and walking from the table just as the melon arrived. He came back looking very serious. “Sorry to interrupt, Dad, the Hackney branch has just been attacked and set on fire.”

“You’re joking?”

“I wish,” he replied.

“Anyone hurt?”

“Not as far as we know.”

“That’s one blessing—sorry folks—looks like Simon and I are needed elsewhere.”

“Shouldn’t you eat something first?” Monica advised.

“I’ll have some sandwiches made up while we wait for the helicopter.”

“Can I come too?” asked Trish.

“Not today, Trish, it might get a bit dangerous.”

“Keep safe,” I wished both of them.

“We will, I’ve got a lecture to deliver yet,” Henry said, leading Simon off towards the kitchen.

“That’s all we needed, these morons attacking a bank—now the police will be forced to do something.” Monica didn’t sound too impressed by the Metropolitan police.

“I think it’s quite difficult, the hooligans seem to be quite mobile and are using these things to plan and communicate.” I showed my Blackberry—apparently the approved mobile phone of the criminal protesting and looting class.

“I hope this won’t spread to Portsmouth,” noted Jenny.

“I think that’s unlikely—it’s mainly big cities that are being stirred up—London, Birmingham and Manchester.”

“And Bristol,” said Tom, reminding everyone he was still there.

“I hope your house is safe, Cathy,” Monica said as she received her melon starter.

“So do I,” I agreed.

“Can we go and see?” Trish never one to miss a trick floated a question.

“I don’t think it’s likely, sweetheart, it’s well away from the city centre and places like the Horsefair or Park Street are more likely targets.

“Would all the money be safe, Gran, I mean if they set fire to the bank?” Livvie had been obviously thinking about the problem for several minutes.”

“Yes, darling, the vault is pretty well bomb and fireproof, though they’d lose some in the ATMs and the trading floor.”

“The machines in the wall and where most of us go to speak to a bank teller or draw money out.”

“Oh,” said Livvie and we heard a helicopter land on the helipad on the roof.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1437

Monica and Tom seemed to be getting on well, despite the absence of the two leading men, the rest of us chatted and the meal was a reasonable success—especially in my eyes—I hadn’t had to plan, shop, cook and clear up afterwards.

Two hours later, Simon and Henry returned—just in time to get the bill. They both looked tired and irritable. Simon sat beside me and ordered a stiff brandy—his father asked for the same.

“How bad is it?” I asked, knowing that he wouldn’t have been able to tell me, but the conversation had to start somewhere.

“Terrible to bloody awful.”

“Nobody’s hurt though?”

“That is about the only saving grace—we owned the whole block the bank was in. There were half a dozen shops, a dozen flats and maisonette plus some garages. They’ve all gone—just a mouldering heap by now.”

“So people’s homes have gone up in smoke?”

“Yeah, our building but our tenants’ homes—all gone.”

“What sort of shops?” asked Stella.

“A pharmacy, an ironmongers, a small Polish food store, a betting shop and a burger joint.” Henry knew his tenants.

“That’s pretty awful, but is it any worse than losing all your personal possessions—your photos, your kid’s toys, your best frock or favourite underwear. Possibly a pet or two—it’s dreadful.”

“Why did they burn it all down, Mummy?” Trish looked perplexed.

“I don’t know, sweetheart, probably a lot of different reasons.”

“Don’t they like you, Daddy, to burn your bank?”

“Probably not, Trish, they see us as undeservingly privileged—born with a silver spoon in our mouths.”

“I wasn’t born with a spoon in my mouth was I, Mummy?”

“No, darling, only Grampa Henry, Daddy and Auntie Stella, could be so described.”

“Wouldn’t it be dangerous for a baby—it could swallow the spoon?” she looked quite concerned.

“It doesn’t mean it literally, Trish, it means born into a wealthy family because in the days when the phrase was coined, ordinary poor people ate with wooden or pewter spoons.”

“What’s putrid?” she asked, “it sounds rotten.”

“Pewter is a metal made from lead and tin, it’s a grey colour.”

“Oh—sounds horrid.”

“No, it isn’t horrid, it’s very old fashioned but in the old days they didn’t have stainless steel and anything else either affected the food or drink or was affected by it, so they came up with pewter which did the trick until something better came along.”

“Poor people couldn’t afford to eat, could they, Mummy?” Livvie was entering the discussion.

“Years ago, even as recently as fifty or sixty years ago, if you were out of work or sick the money you got to help you pay your rent or food bills was very little.” I started a narrative. “Sometimes they received a tiny amount from the parish—the local council or charitable body—or they could even end up in the workhouse.”

“If fey was out of work, how could fey go to a workhouse, Mummy?” Meems was taking an interest.

“The workhouse was a place where people were sent to work for their food and shelter. It was deliberately austere, so the food was little and basic and the work was hard to discourage them from staying.”

“Sounds awful, Mummy,” concluded Livvie.

“Sounds like school,” opined Danny, although his grin showed everyone he was joking.

“You could always come to our school,” smirked Billie and I was delighted that Danny didn’t put her down as he could have done. Instead he just said, “All those nuns?—No thanks.”

“Nun but the brave,” suggested Trish should be the school motto.

“Do they sing out of doors?” asked Simon.

“Sing, Daddy?”

“Yes you know—opera and stuff.” I could see where this was going but Trish couldn’t.

“No—why would they sing opera? Woss opera?”

“I just thought it was convent garden,” beamed Simon right over the heads of the children—the adults groaned.

Trish still looked perplexed. “I don’t get it, Mummy?”

“Daddy was joking—Covent Garden in London is where they do operas.”

“Oh—wossanopera?”

“Opera is a form of musical theatre, frequently sung in Italian. The singers have very trained voices so they can produce amazing vocalisations.”

Trish looked blank.

“They can sing very high notes and things and hold the note.”

She shook her head.

“Gramps has got some—if you ask him nicely he might play some bits for you.”

Daddy nodded and winked. “No Wagner,” I mimed to him and he groaned.

“You wannopera, you gotopera,” Danny handed her his phone—somehow he’d patched into YouTube and she listened to some on his phone.

“Taxi’ll be here in a minute,” said Simon looking at his watch, which drew a close to the proceedings. We bid goodbye to Henry and Monica and they walked with us to reception which meant all the staff became very active, even though we knew they worked at less than half that pace normally. Henry thought it was very funny and suggested the same happens in the bank when they know he’s around.

“How come it doesn’t happen when I visit?” Simon complained.

“It does when I do,” I agreed with Henry.

“Huh—right, I’ll have to sack a few tomorrow—that should get their attention,” Simon asserted.

“It’s Saturday tomorrow, Si.”

“Yeah, we’re open in some branches in the morning—I could go in and read the riot act.”

“I don’t think it’s bank staff who need to be read that,” I considered.

“Well okay, you know what I mean—shake ’em up a bit.” He paused then merrily called out, “Come on kids, the peasants are revolting,” it didn’t go down terribly well with the reception staff and I noticed some black looks from them. However, the next moment the minibus taxi arrived and we all climbed aboard and set off for home.

By the time we arrived home, I had barely enough space to go and change and get the tea ready. Fortunately, only Simon felt hungry, so I warmed up some curry I had in the freezer and did him some rice. It wasn’t the salmon Henry had promised but the way he tucked into it, he didn’t seem to care. The rest of us had egg and cress sandwiches and a sponge cake I’d made the day before—I added some jam and a bit of whipped cream and that was tea. Needless to say, the children quickly demolished the cake after eating two sandwiches each. I didn’t actually get to sample it, but maybe that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing—I’d had too many spuds with the salmon—so cake wasn’t really something I needed to eat.

While the children played or watched television, I asked Simon what would happen with the damaged bank. “We’ll send in a team to secure any money that’s in the vault—it’s only a large safe, so if the fire was that bad it might all be ashes.

“How much would be in there?”

“Fifty thousand give or take a bit.”

“That’s a lot to lose.”

“Not really, if it has burned we’ll get the money back from the Bank Of England, we hand over the lot with what info we have and their forensic team look it over—it’s amazing what they can deduce from the rubbish. Then they pay us what we agree is there—it’s all recorded.”

“I thought your records would have been burned.”

“No—it gets sent immediately to head office by computer.”

“Oh, so you should get most of it back?”

“Yes, what’s more worrying is how many jobs we’ll have to offer to those whose branch no longer exists.”

“Oh—not so good.”

“That’s the worst bit,” he agreed, “and the bit I hate.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1438

Simon was pretty wound up with the destruction of the branch of his bank. He’d thought they tried harder than most to play fair with their customers and this was the reward they got.

“I doubt it was customers who burned it down,” I said when we were in bed. He was lying on his back and I was cuddled into him stroking his chest to relax him.

“Yeah—just those scum bags who looted the shops.”

“I think it might be a mistake to generalise—each one of them might have a different reason for doing it.”

“Yeah, well that’d just give me a different excuse for terminating each of the bastards.”

“Then you’d be as bad as they were—look on the bright side—no one was hurt.”

“Yeah, I suppose you’re right—Mary bloody Poppins.”

“I know something Mary Poppins never did.”

“Yeah, like what?”

“Like this,” I gave him a quick squeeze in the pyjama pants and bit his nipple before rolling over onto my opposite side.

“You bitch,” he squeaked before pinching me on the bum, which caused me to squeal. Our wrestling match ended in something equally tiring but much more enjoyable and I ended up falling asleep very quickly.

The next morning I realised I’d have to change the bed and getting out saw that I already had a bruise on my buttock. Simon spotting my little marker from the previous night offered to kiss it better but instead bit the other cheek—he told me it was Christian to turn the other cheek—before he locked himself in the bathroom, for safety.

It was during my wait to get into the shower that I heard of the tragedy in Birmingham, where three young men had been killed by a driver—possibly deliberately. The news bulletin gave eyewitness accounts and it sounded very like murder—the three victims being part of a group of local residents who were trying to protect local homes and businesses against looters.

When Simon came out of the shower instead of me slapping him for his attack on me, I told him to listen to the radio. “Oh bugger,” was all he said. I left him listening to it while I showered and then fed Catherine before dressing and getting the others up for breakfast.

I offered to go with Simon to see the bank and Jenny and Stella agreed to watch the others with a bit of help from Tom—they were going to help him in the garden—eat all his strawberries, I expect.

So at eight, we set off for Town, Simon with his small brief case and me with my backpack bag and camera. I thought photographs might be useful for the bank to use on its website—before and after—assuming they had some before photos.

We went by train and thence a cab which couldn’t get beyond the end of the road—it was a crime scene after all. However, the police let us enter when Simon told them who he was and I pretended I was part of the damage assessment team—which in some ways I suppose I was.

He was angry and grew angrier as he looked at the fire damage—“They stripped it bare, what did they have to burn the fuckin’ place down for?”

“I don’t know, darling, but it seems that’s what they do.”

“Where were the bloody police?”

“I think that van outside was a police one, so it looks as if they were outnumbered.”

“Well they should have known better—what do I pay all these stupid taxes for if they can’t protect my property and staff?”

“Don’t get upset, it won’t fix anything and just makes me feel sad.” I sniffed.

“Okay, I’m sorry,” he put his arm round me, “I’m just angry, I suppose.”

“I understand, darling, but what’s done is done.” His phone rang and he walked off to talk to one of his staff so I busied myself taking photos. The safe had been removed, so I hoped that was by the police or the bank not the looters—if so, just look for some with nasty hernias or a truck with a remote arm.

“They think the money’s safe,” he put his arm round me again.

“Only think?”

“Yeah, they can’t get the safe open—the lock seems to have been damaged in the fire.”

“So if someone had taken it, they may not have been able to open it either.”

We both laughed at the vision of frustrated bank robbers trying unsuccessfully to open the safe.

“What about oxy-acetylene?” I suggested.

“Could set fire to the money inside or any other documents—house deeds and so on we store for safe keeping.”

“How big is the safe then?”

“Quite big.”

“So how did they move it?”

“With a crane and lorry.”

“And how big is this branch?”

“Small to medium—we have bigger ones in the city and in places like Manchester and even Bristol.”

“Yeah, we need somewhere there to keep our seashells and coconuts.”

“You are crazy, missus.”

“Yeah, comes from living with you.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“Granted.”

“You what?” he stood facing me.

“I thought you’d farted, that’s when you usually say it.”

“Say it?”

“Yeah, pardon.”

He shook his head, “C’mon let’s go before I have an uxorial-induced breakdown.”

“Doesn’t the tube go out there?” I teased.

“Probably. Oh shit, too late.”

“Lord Cameron, Lady Cameron,” a thirty-something man in a striped open necked shirt and corduroy trousers approached us.

“Jonathon,” acknowledged Simon to the stranger—I’d never seen him before.

“Sorry, Cathy, this is Jonathon Elwood our union shop-steward.” I smiled and nodded, though like Simon I felt anything but happy to see him.

“I hope we’re going to be able to offer temporary jobs in other branches to our staff here?”

“Look, Jon, I’ve left that to the management team to look at—I simply came to see how bad the damage was.” Simon was on the defensive and trying to charm his way out of things.

“Of course, I’m aware how compassionate a company we are.”

“We had to make those cuts, Jon, and you know it.”

“We still lost two hundred of my members.”

“If we hadn’t done it, you could have lost a whole lot more—I managed to keep all our branches open, most of the other high street banks have closed some, Lloyds are closing hundreds of branches.”

“Moving the investment HQ to Portsmouth cost a hundred jobs.”

“It saved three million in operating costs and thus two hundred jobs. I can move it back if you like and sack another hundred to pay for it.”

“No thanks, Lord Cameron.”

“We’re just going, good bye.” Simon turned me away from his union rep and we walked away while he was still tongue-tied.

Out of earshot, I spoke, “You sweated blood over those jobs, if he thinks you enjoyed it, he must be some sort of moron.”

“He’s just doing his job, Babes, and I’m trying to do mine.”

“And I love you for it.” I stopped him, stepped in front of him and kissed him.

“Wow, that’s the best bonus I’ve had yet—I wonder if I could get the others to take theirs in kisses?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1439

“While we’re up here, anywhere you want to go?”

“What for?”

“I dunno, new outfit or bag—you know things women come to Town for.”

“In the circumstances, I don’t feel comfortable spending unnecessarily when there are people who’ve lost everything.”

“That happens every day, somewhere.”

“But I don’t see it, Simon. When I do see it, I feel it would be somewhat insensitive.”

“Okay, but I did offer.”

“Yes, and I’m very grateful for it.”

“How about we go and find somewhere nice for lunch?”

I wasn’t too sure about that either, but then I wasn’t in training as an ascetic and I knew he’d be hungry—he always is. “Is there somewhere close by?”

“Not quite, ah good, the cab’s still waiting.” We walked back to it and Simon gave instructions to the driver who drove off down roads I’d never seen before. To be honest, I don’t know London that well. Okay, I can get lost in Oxford Street or Trafalgar Square—I did when I went to watch the Tour de France prologue which went round Hyde Park.

We ended up somewhere in the West End, Soho I think, and he paid off the cabby before escorting me down some steps into an Italian restaurant. Given that I usually only snack at lunch, I suspected that I was going to be tempted to eat too much so I’d be sleepy all afternoon. I decided I’d set my boundary and stick to it, Simon could do what he wanted—he would anyway.

He ordered a full meal for himself, I settled for a bowl of minestrone soup and some ciabatta. I drank water; he downed a half-carafe of Chianti along with his pasta. Neither of us ordered a sweet, although we did have coffee, mine a latte; his a cappuccino. He got the bill and we took another cab to the station and home. I read the Guardian I’d lugged round with me all the way home, Simon fell asleep and snored. As we were in first class—I usually travel standard—passengers gave me evil looks because I couldn’t shut him up. If they think that was bad, they should try sharing a bed with him when he goes into reverse thrust…

I was relieved when we got back to Portsmouth, although I had a little difficulty in rousing him. However, I did achieve it and we walked—or I walked he staggered back to the car park. “You can drive,” he yawned and passed me the keys. Wow, I get to play with his precious Jaguar.

It wasn’t much of a play, we were home in about twelve minutes just as the clock in the hall was striking half past three. Simon sloped off to the sitting room and zonked on the sofa, while I was left to tell the children all about what we’d seen. I was rather glad I’d taken the photographs, they helped save me lots of difficult descriptions.

Meems in particular, had little concept of a building gutted by fire—where you can look up through charred timbers and masonry to the sky above. I took a couple of photos like that—three storeys of destruction—what a mess and what a smell.

They couldn’t understand that there’s quite a bit of soot about the place and that it was still wet from the fire hoses and various foams and things they use to douse the flames. All I could try to say was that the heat was enough to set fire to some of the bricks—which is pretty damn hot.

We then had a discussion on this—none of them believed me. I tried to explain what they were seeing on the computer, that the changes in the colour of the bricks was due to them combusting, but they couldn’t get their heads round that. Wood burns, stone doesn’t.

Then I had a brainwave—I went onto the Internet and showed them a volcano—that’s molten rock—which is often on fire—that spews from the business end of it. If it gets hot enough, rock and ergo, brick will burn. I’d forgotten how challenging teaching could be.

Trish of course then went into overdrive talking about all different sorts of volcano. Danny rolled his eyes and sloped off while the girls sat there and listened politely to their sister while being just the tiniest bit bored—okay, bored rigid. I did manage to shut her up by an offer of ice cream, which caused a stampede into the kitchen.

I called up to Danny who couldn’t hear me because he was blasting music—Fleetwood Mac—my CD—and he was damaging his ears to The Chain which they use for the Formula 1 racing on BBC, which he also likes. Strange creatures men and boys, watching noisy machines whizzing round in circles at two hundred miles an hour and saying they enjoy it. I’d rather watch cycling any day or even cricket.

I put some large potatoes to cook in the slow oven as jacket spuds—Meems saw me and licked her lips—“I wuv jacket ’tatoes,” she said then went off to play with her pram.

Tom told me that he’d enjoyed having a group of locusts destroying his strawberry beds. He’d managed to collect just enough for dessert, the rest had been eaten as soon as they were picked and even those he managed to save had been endangered until he’d brought them indoors and shut them in the fridge. I was half-gearing myself up for tummy aches and diarrhoea—but thankfully none of that happened.

I made up a tuna in mayonnaise with chopped onion and herbs to go in the potatoes and prepared some salad to go with it. The strawberries I used for a cheesecake, which while not my favourite, was enjoyed by the others. I’d have preferred a flan except I didn’t have a spare flan case and was too lazy to make one.

Simon did wake up after I sent the girls to get him, and he sat and yawned his way through dinner, grumbling about the rabbit food which Tom had started, opining that he, ‘wisnae a dormoose an’ whit wis ’rang wi’ chicken curry?’

I told both the men that they weren’t rabbits or dormice because those creatures didn’t carry the same amount of body fat as the men did, even prior to hibernation. I’d been trying to keep Tom’s weight down a little especially after he had that heart attack earlier on, and Simon was just eating too much and exercising too little.

I suppose in all fairness, neither would say anything to me if I were to accumulate an excess of adipose tissue until they wanted to parade me in front of others—then they’d say something. I was actually in reasonable shape through watching what I ate—it certainly wasn’t through cycling or other exercise—although I did do quite a bit of running about after the children, especially in the holidays.

Tom had borrowed the first of the Harry Potter films from the library, so they all went into the sitting room to watch it with him—except he’d be asleep before the second reel. I checked up on them after I’d cleared up and he was fast asleep which made the children giggle and temporarily woke him.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1440

“I don’t think I can do this pregnancy bit,” Stephanie sounded distressed on the phone.

“Why not?”

“The sickness to start with, oh bugger here I go again—ring you bac—ugh.”

“Who was that?” asked Stella.

“Stephanie.”

“Oh is she coming over?”

“Don’t think so.”

“Oh, okay—going to feed the brood.”

“Fine, if you’ve got any over put it in a bottle, will you. Milk can fail.”

“Not me, I’m a real gusher.”

“Save your breath, Cathy, they don’t listen anyway,” I said to myself.

I was drinking a cuppa when the phone rang again, assuming it to be Stephanie, I answered it. “Hello? Stephanie?”

“Mrs Cameron?” asked an Indian-sounding voice and I assumed it was a cold call for future sales.”

“No, this is Tidal View, cat psychology unit—do you have a psychotic cat?”

“Mrs Cameron, this is New Scotland Yard.”

“Oh,” my heart nearly stopped, “What’s wrong?” I racked my small brain trying to think if any of the kids were out and could they be in trouble. I determined they couldn’t—they were all in waiting for the rain to stop. So it had to be Simon—he was in Portsmouth—why would the Metropolitan Police be calling me? It had to be a hoax call.

“Nothing is wrong, we are trying to contact your husband.”

If they were genuine they would know his number. I decided they were a hoax or worse, some sort of scam. I put the phone down. Moments later it rang again—the same voice. “Look if you don’t push off I’ll call the police.”

“Mrs Cameron, I am the police.”

“Well go and catch some criminals then.” I put the phone down again—bloody cheek of these scammers.

I continued ironing the sheets—I didn’t always need to, but I forgot this one was on the line and it got too dry and all creased. The phone rang again and I ignored it, then I heard Stella’s voice.

“Cathy, pick up the bloody phone.”

“Why, is it Stephanie?”

“No, it’s the bloody police.”

“I think that’s a scam.”

“This one isn’t—pick up the bloody phone.”

Bugger, I put down the iron careful not to place it on anything that could be damaged by the heat. Reluctantly I picked up the phone, “Hello,” I said aggressively.

“Mrs Cameron,” said the same voice.

“It’s Lady Cameron, actually.”

“I’m sorry, forgive me, Lady Cameron, I need to contact your husband urgently.”

“Well phone his office, he’s got secretaries there who should be able to find him or take a message.”

“They are not answering.”

“Strange—they’re open—it’s a Monday morning, for God’s sake.” I had better things to do than chat to the plod—and I still wasn’t convinced.

“Do you have a mobile number?”

“Yes.”

“Could I have it, please?”

“No.”

“Please don’t be obstructive, Lady Cameron—I could have you arrested.”

“I’m taping this call, if you’re not who you say you are, I’ll contact the genuine police, if you are then making threats will achieve you nothing except an early retirement.”

“If everyone I talk to today is as awkward as you, an early retirement sounds good.”

“Why are you phoning, you usually send someone round?”

“We are greatly understaffed and overtaxed.”

“I just paid my tax bill and you think you’ve got troubles.”

“I meant taxed as in overstretched—I don’t have time to send officers on wild goose chases.” He began to sound as if he may be real.

“Who did you say you are?”

“I’m Chief Inspector Ranjit Singh.”

“Can you prove that—and I don’t mean that in a trivial way?”

“I could have you arrested, would that convince you?”

“No.”

“Please hurry, Lady Cameron, I am a busy man and have better things to do that play games with you, even if you have a title, too many ordinary people are waiting for me to help them.”

“I can’t give you Simon’s personal phone number, but I will try and contact him to ask him to phone you back if you give me yours.”

“But of course, my number is…” I wrote it down. I was still suspicious. If it was to do with the bank they’d have surely gone through head office which is in the Strand.

I called the local police and asked for a number to Scotland Yard, or more correctly New Scotland Yard, the Irish republicans blew up the old one about a hundred years ago. They needed some reason for answering my query and eventually came back with several numbers for the Met—none were similar to the one Inspector Singh had given me.

I dialled the first one and asked if I could speak to someone in charge. I eventually got a sergeant, who was probably as bored as I was. I explained my situation and he made um noises every so often. “So do you have a Chief Inspector Singh?”

“Dunno, luv, what number did he give you?” I repeated it to him four times. “Don’t sound like one of ours, luv.”

“Well why don’t you call it and tell whoever answers it that impersonating a police officer is a criminal offence?”

“Could do I s’pose, hang on—I’ll put you on ’old if I can remember ’ow t’do it.” I waited while some horrendous rendition of Mozart’s fortieth symphony was butchered over the telephone line. “They rang off, luv—can’t ’elp no more.”

“Sorry if I tired your only functioning brain cell,” I said sarcastically and put the phone down.

I became a little anxious about things but called Jim Beck. “Cathy, how nice to hear from you—what can I do to help?”

I explained my dilemma, he began clicking his computer—“That number is allocated to—oh it’s a holding company—so it definitely ain’t the Yard. You haven’t tried calling Si, have you?”

“Not yet, why?”

“Don’t, they’ve probably got a scanner fairly near and will get his number from your call. I’ve got a number for him, I’ll call him and warn him. Even the landline may not be safe, but don’t use a mobile—they’re so easy to intercept or scan.”

“Thanks, James, I called the police. They were about as much use as a concrete enema.”

“Interesting concept that.”

“What?”

“The plod being useful except for directing traffic.”

“What’s going on, Jim?”

“I have no idea, but I hope you’re going to ask me to find out and offer to pay me for doing so.”

“Usual rates?”

“For you, Cathy, I’d even go straight.”

“Just find out what’s happening and let me know if Simon or anyone else is in any danger.”

“Your wish is my contract, will do.”

“Shouldn’t that be command?”

“In more romantic times perhaps—nowadays, a more commercial approach seems to be the zeitgeist.”

“If I’m paying you, stop chatting me up and get off your arse and do something.”

“Ooh, I like dominant women,” he joked.

“No you don’t—now get to work, or I’ll introduce a penalty clause.”

“As long as David Beckham takes them—I don’t mind.”

“David Beckham, takes the penalties—I think he’s rather nice.”

“He’s got more ink on his body than the front page of the Guardian.”

“So he has.”

“I’m going,” I said and put the phone down—I then wondered about who this latest creep was. He definitely sounded Indian, but that could have been a ruse, if James was right—whoever this person was—or his friends are—they could be quite hi-tech villains. I sat and thought about it—normally, I’d have called Si on his mobile and given them the number accidentally. I was amazed that I’d smelt a rat and didn’t.

The phone rang again. I picked it up and said loudly, “Stop calling me, you creep.”

“Oh, Cathy,” wailed Sephanie’s voice and she burst into tears. Oh bugger.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1441

Stephanie eventually stopped crying and I invited her round—she was on leave apparently. She’d have to cry on my shoulder while I did the ironing—I suppose it would mean I wouldn’t have put water in the iron if she wept all over the laundry. See, Sagittarians are optimists, though quite why she’s coming to see me is confusing—it’s to do with the pregnancy—I’ve never been pregnant, gee whizz. Oh well, I suppose I can make her cups of tea and boil lots of water—no—that’s what they do in all the films when someone’s having a baby—dunno what for—I mean, have you ever tried boiled baby?—Sounds revolting.

By the time she’d got her act together and got to us, I was making lunch—I’d pretty well finished the ironing—being pressed for time—you’re supposed to laugh or groan, don’t care which—I did it quickly, meaning I didn’t do anything which was necessary, like knickers and things. I had one friend who used to iron her bras—I know, well mine usually have that anti-slip stuff on the straps and things and probably wouldn’t like being ironed—let alone the mess you’d get if it melted on the bloody iron—doesn’t bear thinking about.

“Stephanie’s here, Cathy,” called Jenny and she preceded her into the kitchen with an armful of bedding.

“Hi Steph, that’s not more washing is it?”

“Yes, Livvie spilt squash all over her quilt.”

“I only just finished the last lot,” I grumbled.

“That’s it, I’m getting an abortion.” Stephanie turned and walked back towards the front door. I had to run after her then rush back because the croutons I was making were beginning to char rather than brown. She followed me back then smelling the food, she rushed off to the cloakroom. It wasn’t turning out to be a good day—anything but.

Stephanie sat in the sitting room—what else would you do there? Good job we don’t have a drawing room—none of us are any good at art—I’m joking of course, we’re all brilliant, I draw the curtains twice a day. Back to real life—I fed the children and other adults present except Stephanie with soup, bread and croutons. I had some which I gobbled down and Stephanie had some toast and tea. I spent an hour listening to her worries and concerns over the pregnancy and birth, and worse raising a child.

“I thought you were an expert on child behaviour?”

“Other people’s, yes I am.”

“Well won’t yours be similar if not the same?”

“God, I hope not—I deal with psychotic children whose major problem is their neurotic parents, usually but not exclusively mother.”

“That’s put me in my place,” I observed.

“No—it wasn’t you I was meaning—of all the parents I meet, you must be one of the sanest.”

“God help the others then.”

She laughed at me, “You’ve been such a good friend to me, Cathy.”

“I’d have thought it was the other way round—you sort out my kids and I feed you—seems a bargain from my point of view.”

“No, I don’t have many friends, you’re always ready to listen without judgement or even without offering advice. You should train as a therapist.”

“I did, I have my licence.”

“You do, when?”

“Oh for a few years now—the only stipulation is that my clients must all be dormice.”

“You silly fool,” she laughed and her whole countenance brightened up.

“I’d have thought you’d have loads of friends,” I offered.

“Nah, once they discover I’m a psychiatrist they either want free therapy or run away. No you’re about the only woman I can call my friend.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.”

“It’s meant as one.”

“More tea?”

“Please, my tummy feels better now.”

I rose to put the kettle on and the doorbell went, “Someone smelling the teapot, I expect,” I said walking towards the door.

“Good afternoon, I am Chief Inspector Ranjit Singh of Scotland Yard, this is Detective Sergeant Brice.” My stomach flipped. “I’m looking for Lady Cameron.”

“I am she, do you have identification?”

He looked aghast but fished into his breast pocket to show me his warrant card as did his sergeant. It looked all right, but then I’ve hardly examined one before so they could be forgeries.

“Did you phone this morning?”

“Why should I do that?”

“I don’t know, but someone using your name called wanting to speak with my husband, or so he said.”

“And did he?”

“Did he what?”

“Speak with your husband?”

“I have no idea, but if he did it would surprise me.”

“Why is that?”

“Because we rumbled him.” He asked how and I explained about calling the local plod and then his lot. “They’ve never heard of you at the Met HQ.”

“That does not surprise me, dear lady.”

“Don’t tell me, last bastion of imperialism?”

“On the contrary, I find everyone very helpful, perhaps you’re confusing us with the House of Commons or the Foreign and Colonial Office?”

I stood and gold-fished.

“May we come in?” he asked and I let him and his sidekick through the door and into the dining room. “A very lovely house.”

“Thank you, there should be about two million children charging about the place creating mayhem—excuse me a moment.” I went in search of assorted brats and found them all—well the mobile ones—sitting with Stephanie who was reading to them. I returned to the dining room and offered our intrepid detectives tea—I presume they’re intrepid—detectives are supposed to be, aren’t they?

So before any further ado, I made teas for all who seemed to want them, left Stephanie babysitting the whole litter, including Puddin’—her with the expanding vocabulary—and the bigger ones, even Danny—and went to chat with the coppers in the dining room.

I gave the Indian Inspector the number his imposter had offered me and he had his sergeant check it out. They came up with the same result as Jim, only slower. I then asked him why he had come to see me.

“Have you spoken with your husband today?” he replied.

“At breakfast, why?”

“No one has seen him since he left for work—he didn’t arrive there, neither did the safe which was recovered from the bank in Hackney—hence my involvement and not your local force.”

“You’ve checked with his HQ on the Strand?”

“We even spoke personally to Lord Henry Cameron—it seems your husband has disappeared, and we think the coincidence of the safe also disappearing into thin air is too much for pure serendipity.”

“We went up to the site of the rioting and the burnt out buildings—the safe had gone then, and I’m sure Simon spoke to someone to ensure it had arrived where it was supposed to.”

“You are sure of this?”

“No—it’s recollection—I was far more interested in taking photographs and then we were interrupted by some trade union rep for the bank, so we left very shortly afterwards.”

“I see. Do you remember the name of this man?”

“No—but Simon knew him so I assume he was kosher.”

“So he is Jewish?”

“No, I was using it as a slang term—you know—bona fide.”

“Ah, you know Latin?”

“Some, but I’m not implying he was an ancient Roman.”

“No—I understand perfectly.”

“So Simon has just completely vanished—presumed kidnapped?”

“We might assume so, it is possible that he has gone somewhere and forgotten to tell anyone, or been taken ill or had some other mishap, perhaps his car has broken down.”

“If it had he’d have called his office and let me know.”

“You seem to be taking this very calmly, Lady Cameron.”

“Don’t be fooled by appearances—my tummy is churning like a butter factory—it’s happened before but then I got him back.”

“You sound disappointed by his recovery?”

“No—I went and found him and got him back—you lot were worse than quicksand at a beach volleyball tournament.”

“You have a very imaginative turn of phrase.”

“Comes of working with dormice—they have huge vocabularies.”

“Do they now? I didn’t know.”

“Of course they don’t—they’re dumb-fuckers like my idiot husband, what’s he got into now?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1442

The chief inspector was shocked by my outburst—mind you so was I; my language is usually more delicate. “Does your husband know you have such a low opinion of him?”

“I actually have a very high opinion of him.”

“So why were you so rude about him?”

“Why aren’t you out looking for him instead of sitting there drinking tea?”

“Lady Cameron, we had to establish some facts about the case.”

“What facts? There aren’t any other than Simon is apparently missing, are there?”

“Even that needed to be checked out—you seem unmoved by the news, yet you say you love your husband.”

“I’m not going to burst into tears in front of strangers, am I? Now please go and find him and do let me know.”

“There is something you are not telling me, isn’t there?”

“No—I don’t think so—I’m just waiting for you to leave so I can get the Batmobile out and go and look for him.”

“Was is this Batmobile?” asked the senior detective and I had that feeling you get when a throwaway line becomes the subject of a discussion.

“It’s from the film, Batman, sir, it’s the rocket car Batman uses.”

“Who is this Batman?” asked the inspector and I began to wonder if he was the right man for the job.

“He’s a comic book crime fighter, sir, that they’ve made films of, you know, like Superman,” rattled in his minion.

“Superman—I’m aware there is a play by George Bernard Shaw about Man and Superman, or something of that name.”

“No, sir, this is based on an American comic book character.”

“You learn something every day, I shall take my leave, Lady Batwoman.” He gave a little bow and followed his sergeant back to the car, who was still trying to explain who Superman was, I hope they don’t get on to X-men.

As soon as they were gone I called Jim. He had no further news other than he was sure Simon was somewhere in the Portsmouth area. He admitted it was more of a hunch than based on any information. He had tried calling Simon’s Blackberry and there was no answer.

I called Henry. He too had heard nothing other than they were looking for Simon. I then decided to drop my bombshell, which was pure bluff. “Okay, what was in that safe?”

“What d’you mean?”

“Well, no one has possibly kidnapped Simon for a measly fifty grand.”

“You’d be surprised how little needs to be on offer for criminals to do stupid things.”

“I’d be surprised if there is anyone stupid enough to mix it with Special Branch or MI5, which is who would get called out if a leading banker disappears, and is why no one at the Met seems to know him—he is Special Branch, isn’t he, our Inspector Singh?”

“Yes, all right, he is—what of it?”

“I’ll ask again, what’s in that safe apart from money?”

“Documents.”

“Documents? What sort of documents?”

“I can’t tell you that over an unsecured line.”

“You’d sacrifice your son’s life for a piece of paper?”

“You don’t know what you’re talking about, Cathy, I have a meeting to attend, goodbye.” He rang off.

I wondered what sort of documents people leave with banks—house deeds, wills, stocks and shares, anything I suppose that’s small enough to keep in a safe and sufficiently valuable to pay for its storage because none of it is free.

I was washing up the cups while I cogitated and saw Jim’s Porsche come up the drive. Stephanie came out to the kitchen—“Your kids are such good fun, you know.”

“You haven’t been reading to them all this time, have you?” I’d forgotten she was there.

“No, we’ve been playing Monopoly.”

“Did Trish win?”

“Um—yes—why?”

“She always does, she beats Simon, and he’s like a psycho when games have money in them, even toy money.”

“Well she is quite clever, but she says you beat her last time.”

“Only because I cheated.”

“Cathy, that is dreadful—how did you do it?”

“I learned how to roll the dice so I knew which numbers would come up and I avoided her hotels.”

“You can cheat rolling the dice?”

“Yes, look, can you stay a bit longer and help Jenny and Stella with the kids—I have to go out—it’s rather urgent.”

“There’s something wrong, isn’t there?”

“Yes, Simon has disappeared—don’t tell the children.”

“Who’s the stud with the Porsche?”

“He’s gay, Stephanie.”

“Bugger me,” she said.

“He might if you ask him nicely,” I smirked and she gave a look that would kill a fully grown elephant. Fortunately, I’m not an elephant.

I grabbed my bag and jacket and went out to meet Jim by the back door. “Where are we going?” he asked as I walked towards his car.

“The safe contains documents—it’s not the money.”

“The plans for the Olympic stadium, so the rumour goes.”

“Why are those valuable?”

“It includes the data on the security measures—wiring, passwords, number codes—all sorts of things.”

“What are they doing in one of our banks in Hackney of all places?”

“The word is that one of the project managers is a friend of the branch manager who agreed to take them for safekeeping every night.”

I groaned.

“Well it’s better than having them taken from his home, which would be less well protected.”

“Why couldn’t they leave them in the office?”

“They need to check things like security numbers and codes fairly regularly—they change them every day or week or some such routine, using a plan—probably a list of randomly generated numbers.”

I groaned again.

“Oh it gets better—there’s some memory sticks with the whole lot on, plus financial data and names and addresses of all sorts of people.”

“In that safe?”

“So they say.”

“And it just so happens the riot happened outside—what a coincidence?”

“The word is that it was no coincidence—the people with a need to acquire it—got in rent a mob, who stirred up the local shitheads—and a few hours later the bank mysteriously catches fire.”

“Are you telling me the riot was deliberate to get that safe?”

“Yes.”

“So where does Simon fit into all this?”

“That I’m not sure of, I suspect either he knows the code to open the safe or they’ve got him hostage and want the bank to swap the codes for him.”

“They’d never do that? The government would be involved and they never give in to villains or terrorists. What am I saying? That’s my Simon out there. C’mon, Jim, we’ve got to do something.”

“Like what?”

“Go and see the branch manager from Hackney.”

“I thought of that—he’s in protective custody, as are his family.”

“How big is this safe?” I asked, I had no idea.

“It’s about the size of a large wardrobe, about two metres high by a couple wide and deep. It weighs several tons.”

“Who is supposed to have moved it?”

“Oh the firm who did that have been gone over by the plod, good and proper. One of their senior manager’s family was held hostage while they moved the thing, only to lose it en route to the bank. Simon was in overall control of that.”

“No wonder he and Henry flew over the riots and then went up there with me the next day.”

“He was in charge of its removal.”

“Well, I can’t see a bloke with a sack truck pinching it, so it needs a crane and somewhere with either the codes or a good cutting device to get into it and while they’re doing this, the security people would be changing everything at the stadium. It would cease to be useful to an enemy or terrorist.”

“Sorry, stick to dormice, Cathy. The plans are comprehensive, so anyone with the right sort of engineering background could decide just where to explode a bomb or crash a truck or plane to cause maximum damage and mayhem. They might have to change the Olympic venue.”

“They can’t do that, Cavendish just won the pre-Olympic road race.”

“There’s more to life than bike racing, Cathy.”

“You sound like Maddy Peters.”

“Who the hell is Maddy Peters?”

“A girl in a story whose friend is a passionate bike racer.”

“Duh!”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1443

“Sometimes I don’t believe you, Cathy Cameron. Your husband has possibly been abducted and you’re talking about some fictional character.”

“Shush, my kids think she’s real.”

“Who?”

“Maddy Peters.”

“It’s a kid’s book?”

“No, but it’s suitable for children. I’ll bet you’ve read the Harry Potter saga.”

“What’s that got to do with anything, I’m hardly quoting Hermione every five seconds am I?”

“Perhaps it would help if you did.”

He huffed and puffed as he got in the car and started it. “Where to, ma’am?”

“Just wait a moment will you.” I tried to tune into Simon, but the blue light wasn’t there. I was sure he was alive but that was all.”

“This would be a whole lot easier if he had a tracker on his car,” Jim sighed and I turned and kissed him. “What’s that for?”

“He has got a tracker—after mine was stolen, he had them put on all the cars, including Julie’s Smart car.”

“Who’s the tracking agent.”

“Hang on it’s on my phone.” I looked it up, called the company and they ran their software, they gave me the coordinates and Jim put them into his sat nav.

“I’m surprised the police didn’t do this,” he said as he floored the accelerator and we screamed out of the driveway.

“Who’s to say they didn’t?”

“So why interview you?”

“You don’t think they’d leave him dangling out there on his own do you?”

“Hmm, they might have interviewed you to make it look like they were going through the motions—and then strike.”

“This is the police we’re talking about?”

“Hush a second—can you hear it?” Jim silenced me. There was the distinctive drone of a helicopter. “I think he could be following us. Hold on, I’ll do a quick detour.”

Jim suddenly drove the car into a multi-storey car park and we went round and about then out through the exit, which cost me two pounds. In the films they manage to avoid paying without having the roof of their car ripped off.

We came out of a different side of the building—the helicopter was hovering above it. “They’re following us, now are they goodies or baddies?”

“It’s not the copper chopper,” I said having seen that several times.

“So they might be following us by sight, no thermal imaging etcetera. Hmm, hold on tight.”

For the next ten minutes, Jim drove like a madman—I mean the certifiable sort, round roundabouts the wrong way, we jumped two red lights and headed for the dock area.

“Of course, there’s no guarantee than Simon is actually with his car, is there?” he asked out loud.

“He’ll be with it unless forcibly removed from it. The first night he had it he wanted to bring it to bed with him.”

Jim chuckled, “Know the feeling—if I get really fed up—sometimes I just take this out for a spin—occasionally, I’ve been known to sleep in her.”

“You men are nuts—I mean if I fell asleep on my favourite bike—I’d fall off.”

“You mean you prefer your push bike to that piece of German engineering parked in your drive?”

“Yes—why?”

“And you said I was nuts—compared to you, I’m the sanest person I know.”

“I have it on good authority that I am sane too; how many people do you know anyway?”

“Look, missus, while we’re arguing, Simon may be being tortured or being given a truth drug.”

“That won’t work on him,” I said.

“How d’you know—they can’t train you against those.”

“They can, remember he’s a banker, he lies for England.”

“I thought he was Scots?”

“He is, but his father does it for them.”

“Oh,” he smirked, “You’re something else aren’t you?”

“Yeah, a woman, I didn’t think you’d noticed.”

“Yes, very funny—nearly there, and we seem to have lost the helicopter.” He pulled up in a yard belonging to a warehouse and pulled out a tray from under his seat, from which he took an automatic pistol—which he loaded and placed in the back of his trousers, his jacket covering it from behind.

“Do we really need that—you know I don’t like guns.”

“I sincerely hope our friends feel the same way, in which case, I’ll save on the cartridges. The place we want is over there.” He indicated a yard full of shipping containers.

“We haven’t got to search all of those have we?” To my eye it looked as if there were hundreds of them.

“No, only the ones on the bottom.”

“Why those ones?”

“They’re hiding a car in one, remember?”

“True,” I hadn’t thought of that. “D’you think the safe is in the same container?”

“Could be, there’s so much noise going on that you could practically have a brass band practice in one of these and no one would pay any attention.” There was a background noise of machinery and engines of lorries and trucks.

We managed to get past the security man on the gate and began walking up and down the rows of containers. “Oh well, one good thing,” Jim said loudly just above the din.

“What’s that?”

“If it had been Southampton, we could have been here for weeks.”

Southampton is a container port with thousands of the metal boxes stacked several storeys high.

“This used to be part of the naval base until the Luftwaffe found it, seems they could prime some of their bombs—flattened the lot—didn’t find half the people who worked here.”

I shivered despite the fact that it was supposed to be August and summer time.

“What’s the matter with you?” he asked obviously seeing me shiver.

“Dunno—someone walked on my grave.” I’d had a strange chill run right up my spine.

“Hush,” he placed his finger on my lips, then pointed at the container we just passed. He placed a small magnet thing on the side of it and screwed an earphone into his right ear. How he could hear anything with all the noise, goodness only knows but he finally decided that there was nothing in there of interest to us.

“What was all that about?”

“Oh—just playing a hunch, sometimes women are like cats—they sense things—more than men do at least—we’re like blocks of wood in the sensitivity stakes.”

“I had noticed,” I smiled back at him.

“Look out,” he pushed me to one side as shot rang out. He dodged behind a container. “Go back to the car and call the plod, tell them what’s happening and get some reinforcements down here.”

“What about you?” I asked anxiously.

“I’ll try and make sure no one leaves.”

“Don’t scratch Simon or his precious car, will you?”

“Here,” he threw me his keys, “call the plod, but if I come running, get that car ready to go and quick.”

“I’ll put the roof down, shall I?”

“Not yet—it gets dusty if you do that.”

“Okay, I’ll be ready to go and quickly—it’s an adverb.”

“What is?”

“Quickly, it describes how we shall go—which is a verb.”

“Just go,” he said shaking his head. I ran back to the car and dialled nine nine nine. I told the police what was happening and they promised to come as soon as they could. I repeated that we’d been shot at, and they told us it would definitely be today they would call.

Once in the car, I adjusted the seat and mirror and started the engine—it purred into life. I liked this car—but then you knew that anyway—however, it’s not really suitable for half a dozen kids.

I was sitting there watching across to the container yard when I saw movement out of the corner of my eye, someone was walking up behind the car holding something that looked suspiciously like a gun. I waited until he was nearly at me and threw it into reverse, running him down in the process. I drove forwards and jumped out, he was lying on the ground the gun just beyond his grasp. I picked it up and pointed it at him.

“You have a choice, you can tell me where my husband is and also the missing safe or I can shoot you, or if you prefer, I can reverse the car over you and crush you from the feet upwards—yes, I’ll do that—never mind my husband—I’ll find him anyway—but I’ll squash you first.”

I hoped I sounded like a total psycho—he acted like I did, and when I got into the car he screamed at me to stop. I went back a yard first, he was really yelling then. He couldn’t move so the initial impact had hurt him or he was a very good actor.

I got out of the car and walked up to him, still brandishing the gun—I think I was pointing it in the right direction—“Are you going to tell me?”

“Yes, okay.” He paused and I pretended to ease the trigger. A shot rang out and he fell back and shuddered, then blood began pouring from his chest. I jumped and looked at my gun—I hadn’t shot him—oh pooh. Another shot rang out and I could see a man with a rifle standing on a bank of stacked containers. I went to run round the car for cover and a different pop happened and the man with the rifle fell backwards dropping his gun. I got back in the car and turned it round—if Jim came running, he’d have about two milliseconds to get in before I went from nought to sixty in about four seconds—sod global warming.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1444

I sat in the Boxster and waited, I could hear the odd pop of gunfire and finally, sirens. Up above appeared the police helicopter, and the sirens came closer. Jim appeared running like hell, he literally jumped in the car and I floored the gas, almost colliding with a couple of police cars as they sped the other way.

“Why the emergency escape?” I asked him as we slowed down some half a mile from the trouble. More sirens sounded behind us, the police we having a real party. We could still see the helicopter circling over the yard.

“Some of the goons had outflanked me and they weren’t terribly friendly.”

“What happens if they shoot the helicopter down?” I asked aware that they had quite powerful guns.

“It’ll make quite a bang when it hits the deck.”

“Don’t they take evasive action?”

“Probably, the main use is to direct the cops to pick off all the villains.”

“All? How many are there?”

“About four, I think—I got one, so there were five before.”

“Six, I had one down and his friend with the rifle shot him—the one you got.”

“No, I didn’t shoot him, I missed him, I shot one of those who tried to come up behind me.”

“So who shot the guy with the rifle?”

“Someone with another rifle and a very good aim.”

A large black car pulled across in front of us and I had to brake hard to avoid hitting it. Two men jumped out both wearing fatigues like the police have but with no badges on them. “Get out of the car,” they said with menace. We obeyed because the car pulled across behind us tended to mean we weren’t going anywhere.

We were marched across to the large car in front of us, “Ah, Lady Cameron, I knew you were holding back on me.”

“Inspector Singh, how nice, I held nothing back from you, however, you held loads back from me.”

“The privilege of my job, alas.”

“Did you know where Simon was?”

“Not exactly.”

“Have you rescued him yet?”

“It’s a work in progress.”

“No, it’s the plans you want isn’t it?”

“What do you know of plans?”

“Enough.”

“I think I must ask you both to get in the car.”

“I think I must decline, I want to check my husband is all right.” Just then one of the men in fatigues went to grab me, I sidestepped him and kicked him in the chest: he flew backwards landing on his colleague. Jim jumped in the Porsche—the roof was now down and I was only a couple of steps behind him. Somehow he managed to steer it past the two blocking cars and we sped back to the gunfight at the OK corral.

“They let us go, didn’t they?” I said to Jim as he parked the car in a yard across the road.

“Probably, but it explains your sharpshooter.”

“How’s that?”

“They’re paramilitary police.”

“What, like redcaps?”

“No, they’re just military police, these guys are like the police SAS.”

“Oh, so how come they let me deck one of them?”

“Maybe they’re playing us like you do a trout.”

“I thought that was a quintet by Schubert.”

“That education was wasted on you, wasn’t it?”

“Probably, just an ignorant hayseed at heart,” I sighed.

“Yeah, sure you are, a very wealthy hayseed, though.”

“So—I like quality hay.”

“Keep back,” shouted a copper—this one was in uniform with a bulletproof vest on.

“My husband is in there somewhere.”

A copper with lots of bits of metal on his shoulders came up, “And who are you?”

“Catherine Cameron, who are you?”

“Chief Inspector Willis—now please leave! This is an unsecured area.”

“Have you found my husband yet?”

“We haven’t done a search yet, there might still be gunmen there.”

“Can’t your helicopter tell you that?”

“The helicopter had to withdraw.”

“Who are the guys in fatigues running about the place?”

“I have no idea—they’re not police.”

“Oh, I just wondered.”

He spoke into his radio, “Okay begin the sweep.”

“Can we help?”

“Yes by keeping out of the way.”

“He’s ex Commandos and I lived in Bristol for a number of years.”

“Lady, I don’t care if you fought in the Boer War, you’re keeping out of my way or I’ll have you arrested—is that clear?”

“My great grandfather probably fought in the Boer war.”

“I don’t care if your great Aunt Nellie did, stay here or I’ll arrest you.”

“You wouldn’t have arrested my great aunt Nellie—she’d have brained you with her brolly.”

“Okay, you’ve been warned, Catherine Cameron, I’m arrest…”

“Um—there’s a bloke behind you with a gun.”

“This isn’t a panto.”

“No, and he’s not the Jolly Green Giant.”

Jim stepped away his hands in the air and I did the same. “You won’t fool me with that old trick.”

I smiled but kept my arms in the air. When he noticed his officers dropping their weapons and raising their arms he turned round. “Who the hell are you?”

“Okay, copper, all the guns on the ground, now handcuff yourselves together.”

“Put the gun down, sonny, you can’t escape—the area is surrounded.”

“You gonna argue with this?”

“That’s an M60, I doubt your flak jacket would stop those rounds,” Jim offered advice to the inspector. “That’s a big gun.”

I regarded the man carrying it, he was huge about six feet six inches, nearly a foot taller than I, and probably double my weight, but it wasn’t fat—this bloke kept himself in shape.

“I know what it is,” the inspector answered Jim, “Look, you won’t get away, just put the gun down—there’s a good man.”

“Do as I tell you or you’re all dead.” I looked at the gun; he had a small belt of bullets on it, enough to shoot all of us twice over. Why didn’t I go home for a change of knickers—I was beginning to feel I might need them?

“You’re making an awful mistake, put the gun down.” The inspector sounded as if he had a death wish.

“Next thing you say is your farewells—’cos you’re gonna die if you open that big mouth again.”

The colour drained from the policeman’s face and he capitulated and dropped his pistol on the ground. He then handcuffed himself to his colleagues and they handcuffed themselves to a post. They wouldn’t be going anywhere soon. Jim was made to join them, which left little ol’ me.

“Hey, bitch, can you drive?”

“Yes,” I said feeling myself increasingly in need of those spare knickers.

“You’re gonna drive me in that,” he nodded to the big police Range Rover. At least my practice with the Cayenne would stand me in good stead, what really worried me was that they could hardly allow someone to run about the place with a rather large gun and if they took him out, I could cop it as well.

“Okay, bitch, get in the car, I’m gonna be right behind you, with little Tommy here. An’ you,” he indicated the inspector, “tell that chopper to stay away or I’ll shoot it down.” With that gun, he might well be able to do so.

I sat in the car and my knickers felt damp round the gusset—I hoped it was only sweat. “Okay, bitch, drive,” he said getting into the back seat of the car right behind me.

I decided there and then, that no matter how much he apologised later, I’d never invite him to a dinner party.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1445

My whole body felt suddenly very sensitive, perhaps waiting for a bullet through the head or spine. I was very aware of the sunshine streaming through the windows of the car despite the tinting. I was stealing a police car and had a lunatic sitting behind me with a rather large machine gun. There was no way they could let him loose on the streets—he could create mayhem—however, I had a feeling I wouldn’t enjoy how they stopped him. Which meant one thing—I had to stop him first.

I still had a pistol stuck down the rear of my now sweaty trousers and just to emphasis this point a rivulet of salty water ran down my back and under the gun, which I could feel poking into my damp back. I could feel my bra sticking to my chest and under my breasts. My brain was working at a hundred miles a second but there seemed no easy answer—except that whatever happened, my existence in this world was going to end quite shortly.

I wasn’t going to dwell upon it, it stopped me thinking how I could minimise the numbers of other people who might end up sharing my fate. Oh well, everything has to end one day—might as well be today as any other—I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible and known a happiness beyond anything I could have envisaged in my wildest dreams—yeah, today could be a good day to die.

Then I thought about Simon—was he safe? Would anyone else bring my children up as I’d intended to do, and what affect would my demise have upon them and the others in my family? I felt maudlin for a second then decided I was actually angry.

“Drive, bitch,” urged my unwanted companion.

“I have a name, you know,” I spat back.

He laughed out loud, “Like I care.”

“Sod you, I’m not playing this game you muscle-bound lunatic.” I went to get out of the car.

“If you don’t drive this car, I’m gonna shoot all of them and then you.”

“You can’t drive, can you?” I said, and laughed. I felt my life was only seconds from ending and it gave me a sort of bravado.

“Drive, bitch,” he said loudly, “Or I’ll kill you first.”

“Then what’ll you do? It’s a long walk from anywhere to here.”

“You won’t care, you’ll be dead, bitch.”

“If you call me that once more I’m going to get very angry and then you’ll be sorry.”

He roared with laughter and the car shook gently. I could see that the problem with his gun was that it had to be stuck out of a side window, it was too long to manoeuvre in the car.

“Bitch, I am gonna kill you,” He said very menacingly in a monotone.

“Maybe not,” I turned round and pulling the pistol from my trousers pointed at him. His reaction was to laugh, “Call that a gun?” he laughed and with a sudden movement he slapped it out of my hand. “Now you’re gonna die.”

My head was spinning—it certainly looked as if my luck had finally run out. Then he lurched forwards there was a loud bang and he stopped as blood and brains flew everywhere. He slumped backwards onto the seat, I grabbed the pistol and jumped from the car. One of the men in fatigues walked up and took the gun from my unresisting hand. He was carrying a rifle in his other hand. “Thanks for keeping him busy until I could get in a shot.”

The handcuffed coppers were releasing themselves and I stood there hyperventilating, then was violently sick. Two of the police were grumbling about the mess in their car. Someone had just died violently and they were worried about a bit of blood—okay, lots of blood. Bugger—I was covered in it too.

Jim walked over to me and I fell into his arms and began to sob. “It’s okay,” he said comforting me. “You were so brave—I am so proud of you.”

“I wasn’t brave—I couldn’t find the ignition switch,” I sobbed, and he laughed. “It’s not funny,” I protested.

“No, ’course not,” then he laughed again and I laughed as well.

He wiped the blood and goo off my face with a cloth and bottle of water he kept in his car. I agreed to visit the police station later to give a statement, then wandered off to the yard with all the containers. Jim followed me. “He’s not here.”

“How d’you know?”

“They searched it after the shooting finished.”

“How come they didn’t see muscles and his pea shooter?”

“Good point.” We both began walking and calling Simon.

After about quarter of an hour we’d walked to the opposite end of the yard and we began calling again. I felt so despondent, I’d really hoped we’d find him alive and well but as we walked back and fore along the lines of containers I began to think it got less and less likely.

I called, “Simon,” one last time and thought I heard a banging noise. It was probably from the industrial site echoing and Jim was wanting to get me home so he could get himself back to his office and his high-tech gizmos.

I yelled again and once more heard the bumping. It was coming from a container stacked three high and from the top one. I called again and the bumping responded and this time Jim heard it. “How on earth do we get up there?” I asked, because there was no way I could climb it.

“Stay here, I’ll get help.” With that he ran off, I shouted to Simon that we were trying to organise a rescue and he banged back, presumably to say he understood or to hurry up. Jim came running back with two uniformed policemen. They appraised the situation and went off, telling us both to stay there. Jim and I chatted, and called to Simon—there wasn’t much else we could do.

Suddenly a large motor started up and a crane thing started moving towards us making quite a lot of noise. A clamp thing was secured to the two ends of the container—I hoped we had the right one—and while we were moved out of the way—it picked up the large metal box as if it were a tin can and then lowered it down to the ground.

It took a further five or ten minutes as the locks were forced with crowbars and finally the doors were thrown open—inside it seemed to be filled with boxes and for one horrible moment I thought we had got the wrong one and my stomach did somersaults. Then banging emitted from within and we started to lift the boxes out—they were just a facade to hide Simon, who was sitting on the floor of the thing his hands behind his back trussed up with cable ties and his ankles similarly fixed, duct tape was across his mouth.

As soon as I saw him, I dashed in and hugged him, sobbing all over him. I pulled the tape off and he shouted—he wouldn’t need to shave those bits for a few days. “We couldn’t find you,” I sobbed.

“I’m so glad you did, can you get these things off my hands and feet, I’m bursting for a pee?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1446

We got back to the house quite late. Simon was physically well, a little dehydrated and mentally, he seemed to cope with being abducted very well. He’d never felt they were going to harm him, which I found odd as they were carrying guns and had shot someone—and the guy whose brains had stained my jacket—was, I thought, capable of pretty well anything nasty to achieve his ends.

We were all debriefed and Jim somehow managed to evade being asked how he owned a hand gun when they were illegal in private ownership. He also contrived to hide it, so they didn’t get to confiscate it. The one I’d had was taken and I was quite happy for it to go. After all, it wasn’t mine, although its previous owner had no further use for it.

Inspector Singh led the questioning but avoided giving me any answers about who these people were—the bad guys. To me they’d all appeared to be Anglo Saxon sorts, but that didn’t mean they were locals.

The safe had been recovered, but they’d managed to open it and take some of the contents—so the case was still very much live. Simon told me on the way home that they’d taken the memory stick, which wasn’t recovered from any of the bodies, so either they’d passed it on to an accomplice or it was loose in the yard somewhere. The police were out in force looking for it, so I heard. Good to hear my taxes are being well spent.

We snuggled down in bed together and I drifted off to sleep in his arms, waking myself up with a start when I dreamt the bloke with the gun was there. I woke up sweating and feeling quite sick—having to go to the loo to regurgitate my supper.

I got up from the loo, turned and seeing a pair of male legs, screamed my head off. It was Simon of course—in his underpants and tee shirt—looking very sleepy until I screamed. Of course, I felt extremely stupid and asked him why he hadn’t spoken instead of just creeping up behind me. He told me he had spoken but I was too busy barffing to hear him.

Danny came rushing in moments later, and Tom hobbled along—one slipper on, one in his hand. Stella and Jenny either slept though it or stayed where they were. I told Danny I’d had a bad dream about the police thing that day, and he accepted it and went back to bed. Tom went off to make himself a nightcap—to help him sleep—natch. Simon asked if I’d like a drink—I asked for tea, then realised he’d meant a brandy, which I didn’t want.

We ended up down in the kitchen drinking tea at two in the morning, and sharing our feelings about the experiences we’d had. “It’s a good job that copper shot that bloke.”

“Which bloke?”

“The guy in the car with you, with the cannon.”

“Oh him?” I knew exactly which one he’d meant before he added his exaggeration.

“Why?” I asked and prepared myself for a very macho answer.

“If you’d driven that car, they could have done you for theft of police property and you might be in custody now.”

“Would you come and visit me?” I asked coyly.

“That would depend.”

“On what?”

“I’d have to find someone to look after the kids first, wouldn’t I?”

“That’s really sweet of you, to care for the children.” I felt really loving towards him.

“Well, I wouldn’t be able to go out on the town unless we had a babysitter, would I?”

“Especially with two broken legs, darling,” I smiled back at him and he roared with laughter.

“C’mon, let’s go back to bed, it’s getting cold.” He picked up the mugs and dumped them in the sink then put his arm round me.

“You wouldn’t go out on the town would you—I mean if I was in custody?”

“You wouldn’t break my legs would you?” he shot back.

“That man really scared me.” I said snuggling up to him when we’d gotten back to bed.

“Nah, you’d always come out on top.”

“How d’you work that out?”

“You’re a woman, you always get one over on us men.”

“Not always.”

“When did I last come out on top?” he asked and I honestly couldn’t remember.

“If you’re quick, you could come on top now,” I said as seductively as I could, bearing in mind I felt as turned on as a torch without a battery. He didn’t refuse the offer and okay, I enjoyed it more than I thought I was going to. I sighed that I’d have to change the sheets again in the morning but fell asleep quite quickly.

We woke up being invaded by four aliens who left little room in the bed for us, so I got up and went to shower. Trish followed me in. “You have blood on your leg,” she said pointing to a mark near the top of my leg. “Are you having a period?”

“No, that’s—um—from—c’mon let’s shower.” I decided I wasn’t going to tell them things they didn’t need to know. However, a bit later on I overheard Trish talking to Livvie, ‘They had sex last night…’ I walked away blushing as they giggled.

Simon was out talking to Tom in the garden, where they were both admiring Danny’s efforts to keep it both tidy and productive. Danny was weeding, but by the blushes he was showing he was well aware of the conversation and being the subject of it. When he saw me coming out to the garden, Danny picked out a lettuce, wrenched off the root and shook away the soil. “Here we are, Mum,” he said handing me the plant.

“Oh thanks, Dan, you’ve got this patch really looking neat and tidy.”

“I only do what Gramps tells me to do.”

“I ne’er tell’t ye tae pull a lettuce,” teased Tom.

“Leave the poor boy alone, he knew I needed one for lunch.”

“Aye whit’s fa’ lunch, I’m fair starvin’?”

“Lettuce,” I smirked and Danny sniggered—he knows how much Tom hates salad.”

“Aye, weel, I’m awa’ oot fa ma piece.”

“Suit yersel’, hen,” I replied and Simon laughed out loud.

Despite his threats, Tom actually stayed for lunch, which was jacket potato with salad and either tuna or cheese. During the meal, I asked Simon if there was any news about the missing memory stick and he said he hadn’t heard any.

“You need a memory stick, I’ve got a spare one, Mummy,” offered Trish.

“No, darling, this is a special one which was lost yesterday—the police were looking for it when we left them. I wondered if they’d found it.”

“Oh,” she said and looked a bit flat until I thanked her for her offer, and Simon did so as well. She perked up immediately her dad took notice of her. Typical isn’t it, I spend hours doing things for her or with her, and he looks her way once and she nearly falls over in her rush to get his attention. Typical little girl, no wonder men still rule the roost if women will continue that behaviour when they’re adults—jumping through hoops to get attention—drives me nuts.

“Cathy, did you manage to get the marks off my seats afterwards?” Simon asked me.

I blushed, “Um—not yet, darling, haven’t had a moment, I’ll go and check them as soon as we finish lunch.” That was the blood and guts I had on my clothing—him and his precious seats.

“Don’t forget now, will you?”

“Of course I won’t, darling.”

When I checked a little while later there weren’t any marks, it was all dried into my jacket, which was probably ruined but I could hardly complain could I—the marksman had saved my life. I was just locking his car when the police car drove into the drive and Inspector Singh got out of it—just what I needed.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1447

“Good afternoon, Lady Cameron, I trust you are well despite your recent experiences?”

“I’ll live, which is more than one or two other people will.”

“They chose to join the wrong side and to play with guns—it is a dangerous practice.” I hoped he wasn’t going to throw platitudes at me all afternoon, if he was, I’d probably confess to anything from Jack the Ripper to the Kennedy Assassinations just to avoid it.

“How can I help you, Chief Inspector?” Politeness meant I kept it civil even though part of me wanted to ask him to leave and never darken my doorstep again.

“We are still looking for the memory device, which is missing.”

“Yes, I was told that yesterday.”

“Old news,” he sighed, “I am so sorry, but it is important we find it.”

“In case it fell into the wrong hands you mean?”

“Quite so, in fact in the wrong hands, it could be catastrophic.”

“Like terrorists?”

“Exactly so—with so many people in London next year, the casualties could be great.”

“In which case, I hope you find it.”

“Yes, I do to. Do you mind if we ask you some more questions, and your husband also?”

“I’ve got better things to do, but I suppose you’re only doing your job.”

“You are too kind.”

“Tea?”

“That would be much appreciated.”

I sat him in the sitting room and went to make the tea. I called down the garden to Simon that the Inspector would want to see him and he went down to the sitting room to see him, get it over with, I suppose.

I made the tea and took it through—they paused while I gave them each a mug and a plate of biscuits, then I went back to the kitchen to get mine. The girls seemed very quiet, so I looked in the dining room and Trish and Livvie were both looking at something on her laptop. They were watching something very impressive because they oohed and ahed every so often.

I walked across to see what it was—it was impressive, a three dimensional plan of a building, which Trish was moving round to see different aspects and elevations. “Thinking of becoming an architect are you, Trish?”

“Hi, Mummy, ’s good innit?”

“Yes, where did you get it?”

“It was on the top of your bag.”

“What was?”

“The memory stick.”

“What memory stick?”

“This one,” she pointed to said device plugged into a USB port on the side of her machine.

My stomach flipped over, “What else does it have on it?”

She showed me masses of data, about different buildings including the velodrome and schedules, code words and so on. I told her to disconnect it and to erase any which she had on the computer from the flash drive.

She protested but I told her it was important that she should do as I said because the police were in the house and looking for this very thing. She cooperated after that and finally detached the device and handed it to me.

“Come with me, young lady.” I marched her to the sitting room and knocked and entered. I held up the device and said, “I think this is what you’re seeking.” His jaw dropped, “I found her examining it on her laptop—Trish, please explain to the Inspector how you came to find it and loaded it on to your computer.”

“I’m not going to jail, am I?” she said holding tightly on to my hand.

“No, young lady, not if you tell me the truth.”

“It was tucked just inside Mummy’s bag, which she left by the door of her study. I hadn’t seen her use that sort before—it was sixteen gigabytes—an’ I just wanted to see what was on it—honest—I didn’t mean to do anything wrong.”

“Has anyone else seen it?” he asked.

“Only Mummy and Livvie.”

“This is password protected—how did you get into it?” He looked at me as if I was guilty not only of stealing it but in trying to palm my guilt off on to my daughter. He didn’t know Trish.

She explained it was very easy to break the code—she has a program for it which she downloaded over the net—now my jaw dropped. She had to modify it a bit, but she got into it and was watching it when I happened on the two of them.

“You mean to tell me, you decoded the password?”

“Yes and set a better one,” Trish beamed at him.

“Is this possible?” he looked at me in bewilderment.

“She has an IQ of one hundred and sixty.”

“But she is so young.”

“Tell me about it,” I offered back to him.

“I’m seven,” Trish snapped at him, I’m not just a dumb kid, you know.” I nodded in agreement.

“What is the new password?” asked the Inspector.

“The first ten Fibonacci numbers—only in reversed order.”

“What are these Fibonacci numbers?”

“They were invented in India, so you should know, Mr Inspector.”

“Lots of things were invented in India, including curried elephant, but I know nothing about it.”

“Curried elephant—yuck—you’d need a big pot for that, wouldn’t you, Mummy?”

“Don’t worry, darling, I won’t be adding it to the menu any time soon.”

“Good, I’m rather glad—yuck—sounds horrid.”

“The Fib—whatever numbers—you were telling me.”

“Oh those, everyone knows about a Fibonacci sequence, don’t they, Mummy?”

Simon snorted.

“Tell the nice policeman, Daddy.”

Simon looked at me, sighed and began to explain how the sequence formed, each number being the sum of the previous two and so on.”

I gave Trish a piece of paper and she began to write a sequence down—quicker than I would. She explained as she went along and then showed how she’d created her codeword writing it down for the copper. He shook his head, “And she is seven?” I nodded and rolled my eyes in a tell me about it expression. “She is precociously precocious.”

“Something like that.”

“How did you get the memory device, Lady Cameron?”

“I don’t know, in fact, until a few minutes ago I assumed it was lost or in somebody else’s hands, I was quite shocked when I saw the girls playing with the program, which I’ve made her remove from our computer.”

“I am afraid I will have to seize the computer.”

“No,” said Trish.

“I am sorry, young lady, but I have to.”

“No, you can’t.”

“But I can and will.”

“No—if you do—I won’t tell you the other part of the code.”

“What code?” Inspector Singh demanded.

“To open the memory drive.”

“There is more code?”

“Yeah, anyone could work out the Fibonacci sequence—even Mummy.”

“Thank you, darling, last week you told me all I could open was a tin of soup.”

“You annoyed me then.”

“So sorry, I’m sure.”

“What is this other code?”

“If you take my laptop, I won’t tell you.” Trish was bargaining with the police, not that there was anything to stop him taking her computer once she’d spilled the beans.

“If you tell me, I and show me your computer has no parts of these plans on it, then I won’t take it, but I might have one of my men come and see it to make sure it’s okay.”

“He’d better not take it either.”

“I promise he won’t.”

She took him to her computer and he poked and prodded but it was obvious he didn’t know very much about them. He made a call on his mobile and we sat and waited while some technician arrived.

“What is the rest of the code word?”

“I thought your clever dick man was going to find it?”

“Trish, please you are wasting police time and he can arrest you for that,” I said curtly to her.

“It’s easy, take a progressive letter from each of the planets in the solar system, including the sun and moon.”

“That won’t work, sweetheart, the moon and Mars only have four letters.”

“You count them back and fore, M-A-R-S-S-R-A-M,” she spelt out how it would work, and she was seven—bloody hell—did I feel inadequate? The Inspector wrote it all down under her direction. He looked stunned when he’d finished.

As we finished another cup of tea, the technician arrived, accepted a cuppa, set up his computer and checked the flash drive—he was glad he was given the password sequence. “Jesus—who dreamt that up?”

“I did, easy innit?” smiled Trish.

“You’re ’avin’ me on?”

“We are not, Mr Cadbury, she appears to have a very mature brain inside that petite body,” confirmed the Inspector.

Next, Cadbury examined Trish’s computer which had its own password, she challenged him to find it. He conceded defeat, saying he’d never have got past the one on the flash drive if she hadn’t told him. She beamed and said, “It’s easy, it’s—trishs-computer.”

“I put that on,” I gasped.

“See, told you it was easy,” she said matter of factly.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1448

The chief inspector and his computer geek left taking the small flash drive with them, leaving Trish’s computer behind. Simon was tickled by the way she’d run rings round the detective—although she could me as well—with computers at least.

I asked him how much of the money had been recovered from the safe—all of it was so were all the documents, especially the Olympic plans. It was all over at last—thank goodness.

Simon begged to differ, they hadn’t caught Mr Big, nor did they know the reasons for his attempted theft—but to organise riots just to cover up the theft of the safe was a step too far for most criminals. To start with, how did the bad guys know the stuff was in the safe? Though it was reassuring they couldn’t open it without Simon’s help—less so that he had helped them. My vision of him as a hero holding out under torture was way off. He’d agreed almost as soon as they took him—I smelt a rat here—it was all a set up, apparently both he and his car were carrying tracking devices in case one broke down.

It was quite simple, he let himself be kidnapped to determine where the safe was. He let them open the safe—which was the dangerous part—once opened they could have killed him. Thankfully, they didn’t.

So who organised it? Who was the mastermind? I had no idea, I do dormice not criminology. Was I interested? Yes and no—they’d taken my Simon and frightened my children and me for that matter—and cost me whatever Jim’s fees were. So I suppose I was interested.

So that’s why he was so cool and calm when we rescued him—he was expecting it—though not by me—but MI5 or whoever. In which case he ought to get a firmer contract next time because they weren’t much help this time—well okay, they saved my neck from the gorilla with the M60—or the police—not sure who were more frightening.

We ordered pizza which the kids love as you all know, I had mackerel in tomato sauce on toast—at least I got some Omega three oils, all they got was crap with cheese sprinkled on the top—but they were happy and so were Simon and Stella—Jenny had an evening off so I had to look after Catherine myself—no big deal. I wonder if my milk tastes fishy after I’ve been eating it.

I was sitting in the kitchen after dinner feeding the baby, Stella had fed Fiona earlier and was watching some film on telly with the rest of them—oh that came today—the telly. I forgot it in all the excitement of the police and the memory stick. We now have a large plasma screen in the sitting room—for the rugby world cup—and, little does Simon know—The Vuelta Espana. Anyway, they were all in there watching the latest gadget and I was in the kitchen feeding my wain, when Jenny came home earlier than I expected.

She let herself in by the back door, presumably because she hoped no one would see her—except of course I did. “You’re back early,” I called to her but she ignored me and ran upstairs—not a good sign—although she might just need a bathroom.

I waited and burped Catherine—she does some whoppers—then I changed her—perhaps fifteen minutes after Jenny came in. I gave the baby for Simon to hold and made him turn the sound down a little—they’d all be deaf in a week—then went upstairs and knocked on Jenny’s room.

“Yes?”

“Are you all right?”

“Why?”

“I just wondered.”

“Why?”

“Can you open the door?” I refuse to talk through it.

“Um—I’m busy a minute.”

“I’ll wait.” She was moving about inside her room—possibly she had undressed.

“Okay,” she opened it part way, “What d’ya want?” The light was off and she was standing in partial shade.

I pushed past her and switched on the light, “What’s going on?” I demanded.

She sat on the bed her face in her hands, “I finished it with Tony, tonight.”

“I’m sorry, anything I can do to help?”

“No, I just want to go to bed and forget about it.”

“Are you sure?” I was tempted to sit on the bed by her but she still had her face in her hands—was she hiding something?

“If you need some time off…let me know?”

“Thank you, Cathy.” Her face was still buried in her hands. “Has he hit you?”

“I’m all right,” she murmured from her hands.

I pulled her hands away and she turned away from me but not before I could see a bruise over her cheek and her eye swelling. “I’ll get some ice.” I flew down the stairs feeling very angry—there is no need to hit women—unless you’re another woman and then you should know better.

I returned a few minutes later with an ice pack and some paracetamol which I handed to her. She mumbled a thanks and took them. “If you want to talk, don’t hesitate to say, okay?”

“Actually, Cathy, can we talk for a bit?”

“Of course,” I sat on her bedroom chair facing her—she had quite a shiner coming up.

“Me an’ Tony haven’t been gettin’ on too well lately. I think he’s been seein’ a Wren at the base, so the physical side has been lackin’ almost entirely for a month or two.”

“I see.” Even Simon and I get together more often than that.

“An’ I confronted him tonight an’ screamed at him—he like lost it too and hit me.”

“That’s no excuse, you know.”

“I know—an’ I told him.”

“You could go to the police if you wanted to.”

“I seen enough police to last me a lifetime since I lived ’ere with you.”

“Sorry about that, if they sent a car round for something, I expect they don’t need to give an address, they just say—that bloody woman again.”

She laughed.

“So it’s final is it? No chance of mediation?”

“Not after he hit me, no way.”

“Well if you change your mind, let me know.”

“I won’t—I mean you wouldn’t after anyone hit you would you?”

“I’d probably hit them back.”

“Yeah, maybe I should of.”

Her mangling of the English language seemed unimportant; I just hope my kids didn’t pick it up from her. “Rarely does more violence help—usually makes things worse.”

“Yeah, I s’pose.”

“Anyway, if there’s anything I can do, let me know.”

“Thanks, Cathy, you’re the best boss I’ve ever had.”

“How many have you had?”

“Um—two, three if you count the paper-shop I used to work for when I was kid.”

“Maybe I shouldn’t have asked that,” I muttered as I left her to sort herself out.

When we went to bed, all Simon wanted to do was to buy all these HD videos, now we had the telly to see them on, so I actually had to ask him to shut up before I could tell him about Jenny.

“Oh, is she okay?”

“She’s nursing a black eye—the bastard hit her.”

“Did she go to the police?”

“No.”

“She could you know.”

“Yes I know, they treat domestics more seriously now, but only because so many women are crippled or killed in them.”

“Men get killed too, you know—we’re not all primeval swamp creatures—women can be just as vicious—especially the youngsters of today, there are stories everyday of girls beating each other up after they get drunk, or shoving glasses in each other’s faces.”

“Yeah, that’s one element of the blurring of gender roles I don’t like.”

“Cathy, women have always been violent—this sugar and spice stuff is total crap—miner’s wives and fishwives have a long reputation for physical violence as well as verbal abuse.”

“I know—and bullying of girls by girls goes on—they tend to be more covert than boys—boys hit each other or threaten it; girls do it with texts and emails or Facebook.”

“It’s just as bad.”

“Worse—because the bullying only comes to light when the victim kills herself—it’s really virulent.”

I stopped and thought about a story I’d seen in the paper of on the Internet of some fourteen-year-old killing herself by stepping in front of a train because she was bullied by a gang of girls. I was roused from my reverie by the noise of snoring—Simon was fast asleep, I turned over after elbowing him and the noises stopped for a moment.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1449

The next morning at breakfast, Jenny eventually appeared, complete with shiner. The kids were out messing about in the garden and although I sympathised with her position and the embarrassment she carried as a consequence, I felt that had she come down with everyone they could all have asked how she got it and it would have all been done with. Now she would prolong the agony as everyone asked her individually—oh well, her choice. I told her trying to mask it with concealer would look even worse—if she wanted to hide it, get an eye-patch, she’d look like Captain Pugwash, but that’s up to her.

In the end she went out to the garden and spoke to all the children. When she came back in, I asked what she’d said to them. “The truth. I told her I had an argument with my boyfriend and he hit me, consequently he was my ex-boyfriend. They all thought hitting me was unreasonable and supported my ditching him.”

“Good, I’ve taught them something then.”

“About relationships or hitting women?”

“Hitting anyone does not advance your argument and shows a clear lack of logical thought, which is far more powerful than violence. It might not be as gratifying, but more useful.”

“Gratifying?” she looked disconcerted.

“Yeah—what’s that old joke, frustration is the feeling experienced when you are unable to beat the shit out of some arsehole who so richly deserves it.”

“Really, Cathy, you are quite violent, aren’t you?”

“Only by inclination. In practice I control my feelings quite well—well those sort anyway.”

“Have you ever hit anyone then?”

“My boxing skills are very poor, but I’m reasonable at kick-boxing.”

“Wow—could you show me?”

“Stella taught me the basics, but she seems to have stopped doing it since—it’s a good workout and might come in handy.”

“You’ve kicked someone then?”

“It’s helped me a few times—I’m not violent, but I don’t run away if it confronts me.”

“Wow, you’re a real revelation.”

“I thought everyone knew about it.”

“No—can we do some?”

“Later, we have chores to do and children to amuse as well as feed. Perhaps later on.”

Which was what we did—the chores—feeding offspring and amusing them. Finally, when they went off to do something else—burning down the neighbours house or sheep rustling—we changed and went out to the shed with the sandbag hanging there and I showed her a few basic kicks and about balance—I read a lot of this on the Internet—in all martial arts, balance is essential or you end up missing your kicks or being unable to avoid your opponents.

We spent about half an hour and were both dripping with sweat by the time we finished. Jenny thought it was exhausting, but really good. It was the best work out I’d had for a long time—and I expected to be stiff the next morning—I must do it more often as well as cycling.

I showered and got dinner—it’s funny, when I was a poor student, I’d only occasionally buy a chicken and eat it for five or six meals, now it disappears in one. Admittedly, I’m no longer poor nor do I eat it all myself. However, those days are well and truly gone. If I told Julie that I’d made a chicken last a whole week, finishing with chicken and vegetable soup for the last two days, she’d think I was crazy. But then she has more income as a hairdressing apprentice than I did as a graduate student doing my masters. Any spare tended to go on bike stuff or things like computers or mobile phone top-ups. How different that is since Si gave me the Blackberry and paid its contract—not that I abuse his generosity and only use it for necessary things.

Life is so different now—I can’t believe the changes from when I first came to Portsmouth as a feminine youth and now live here as a married woman, a titled married woman, with six children and a baby.

I was lost in my reverie when Jenny came into the kitchen and aimed a mock kick at me. I jumped backwards and knocked the china gravy boat off the worktop and broke it.

“I’m sorry—I was just so full of what you taught me today.”

“Please, let’s get one rule straight—you don’t use it in inappropriate places unless it’s for your defence from physical harm.”

“Okay, I won’t do it again.”

“I know you won’t, because if you do, I’ll either fight back and you could get hurt, or I’ll fire you on the spot—possibly both, depending upon how angry I feel.”

“Oh, it was that stupid?”

“Yes, it was—I’ve broken Tom’s parent’s gravy boat—I’ve got a mess all over the floor and I’m trying to finish this meal.”

“Sorry, I’ll clean up the mess.”

“Make sure you get all the bits, because they can cut the dog’s feet, or anyone else who happens to walk barefoot in here.”

“Yes, boss.”

It reminded me of a boy I knew who always carried a sheath knife with him when we went bird and nature watching. This one day, we felt a little threatened by a gang of kids—all younger than us—he pulled out this knife and began waving it about. Today, that could get him arrested for threatening behaviour, and especially with the way the plod are towards knives—which is understandable given the number of stabbings there are—thank goodness guns aren’t freely available.

I left her clearing up the mess while I checked the stuffing—I’d made my own sage and onion with some stale bread—yes we do have some occasionally—some chopped onion, dried sage and salt and pepper. I also added some chopped dried garlic—it tastes so much more interesting than shop bought stuff.

The dinner was cooked as Tom and Simon came in together—so I left it to them to decide who would carve the meat and who would open the wine. I felt after the past few days I’d deserved a glass of wine. Simon handed the carving knife to Tom and went off armed with the corkscrew in pursuit of a suitable wine for chicken.

I passed Tom the plates and he loaded meat on each one. I added veg and placed them on the table. The gravy jug was that—a jug. Tom asked where the gravy boat was and I explained it had been smashed that afternoon.

Jenny blushed and admitted it was her fault. He looked at her and noticed her black eye. He enquired if it had been acquired at the same time. She told him the truth and he was disgusted with her ex-boyfriend. He also admitted he couldn’t stand the gravy boat and only kept it in the hope that frequent use might end its long life—seems he’d got his wish. I, however, determined to get another, preferably stainless steel tomorrow. I like gravy boats and feel it’s how gravy should be served, not from a Pyrex jug.

I watched her as she and Tom chatted over the dinner table and thought if I’d had access to the blue light, I could have sorted her eye in minutes—oh well, we live and learn.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1450

My intentions were to go shopping for a new gravy boat even though we may not need one for a few days. I hadn’t been shopping for ages other than food shopping so I felt I deserved a few hours out.

Jenny, as an act of penance agreed to look after the children while I went to the city centre and looked for the aforementioned crock. However, as my story seems to show repeatedly, plans and fruition seem often to be separated by this thing called life.

I was just about to leave when my mobile peeped to indicate a new text message. I checked it. ‘How u doin ? Sian’ Instead of replying I called her. “Hi Siân.”

“Cathy, there’s a nice surprise.”

“I was just about to play truant from my infants, what are you up to?”

“Nothing much, it’s my day off.”

“How about we get together—I have some shopping to do—but it shouldn’t take more than a few months.”

“We could do lunch as well.”

“Sounds good to me, hold on while I tell the household slave I’m going to be longer than I originally intended.” I spoke with Jenny who upon learning I was going to Salisbury, said she’d like to have come as well. I pointed out that such onerous labours were the responsibilities of rank and seniority.

“I thought you were going shopping?” she asked looking bemused.

“I am—byeee.” I turned and walked briskly from the house and was down the drive before anyone noticed my car had gone.

The drive to Salisbury was tedious, two sets of road works with traffic lights and then some moron in a four wheel drive had managed to drive it up a rather large oak tree and the police were in attendance.

It really gets my goat, these imbeciles who drive these things and who rarely ever take them off road unless it’s to mount the pavement to run a red light or drop darling Trixie off at private school. They should ban all 4 x 4s unless they’re owned by a farmer. I felt happier with that idea until I remembered I wasn’t driving my little runabout anymore and blushed.

Somehow the traffic in Salisbury was running freely and I had to check I was in the right city—it’s usually a nightmare. I crossed the city and headed for Wilton which is where Siân and Kirsty lived. My sat nav took me pretty well to the door—of the wrong house but I was able to correct the mistake and pulled into their drive.

“So this is where the great and the good of Salisbury reside,” I said to my friends after giving them hugs.

“Nah, neither great nor particularly good,” suggested my friend.

“Just wealthy?” I offered.

Siân riposted, “I’m not married to a banker like someone we know,” and Kirsty sniggered.

“Hey, you two, I didn’t marry him for his money—although I have to admit it comes in handy.”

“Come and have a coffee, Cathy,” said Kirsty going back into the house, however, Siân and I were so into our conversation neither of us heard the invitation, so we both laughed a few minutes later when Kirsty shouted: “Coffee, Cathy, come.”

Siân led me into the house—an old Victorian detached property on three storeys plus a cellar. While Kirsty finished the coffee, Siân gave me the grand tour—it was huge: five bedrooms, three reception, a kitchen, three bathrooms, a cellar comprising a two bedroom self contained apartment which they let to a young couple who worked for the Earl of Pembroke in the nearby Wilton House. It needed some further restoration but it was going to be some house.

We returned to the kitchen and drank the coffee chatting with Kirsty. “So you two rattle round in eight rooms and a kitchen?” I cheekily asked.

“Yes, we both have a study—Siân needs one for her paperwork and I need somewhere to write my sermons and do my pastoral work.”

“Pastural work,” I joked, “You look after sheep and cows do you?”

“Only Siân’s friends,” she snapped back very quickly.

“I suspect you’ve been asked that one before,” I offered as a peace token.

“You guessed right.”

“So how’s life in the cathedral?” I asked trying to switch the subject.

“It’s fine thank you when we’re not overrun with sheep and cows or tourists.”

“And they’re still okay with you two living together?”

“Yes—they don’t exactly ask and I don’t volunteer—the bishop knows but he’s pretty laid back about it—others suspect—but we haven’t made too much of it, so they are just guessing.”

“I’ve never understood why it becomes a religious issue, it’s not as if you’re known adulterers.”

“What?” Siân gasped.

“Well, it doesn’t say in the ten commandments that you can’t marry who you love, just that you mustn’t covet his arse or his wife.”

“I think that reads ass, not arse, Cathy,” Kirsty corrected me sniggering.

“Okay, so that’s adultery and bestiality that’s illegal, what about same sex relationships?”

“That’s mentioned elsewhere in the Old Testament, but its validity in a modern world is questionable.” Kirsty continued, “Culture in Palestine a few hundred years BC would be very different to today’s, they would face very different challenges and issues—so I practice what it says in the New Testament—love thy God and thy neighbour as thyself.”

“If you were living on the Green in Salisbury, next to the cathedral, would God be your neighbour and would you need the first bit in the exhortation?”

“Smart arse,” giggled Siân.

“What, the one I coveted of my neighbour?” I threw back at her.

“Has your neighbour got a nice arse then?” she fired back to me.

“Has she? No—she’s about a hundred and ten, has more hair on her face than Tom, and walks with a limp—she does however have a donkey.”

“I didn’t think you had any neighbours?” Kirsty queried.

“Not immediate neighbours, no, she lives a couple of miles down the road.”

“And she has a donkey?”

“Yes, Siân, she has a donkey.”

“I love donkeys,” she said, “ever since we rode them on Weston beach—d’you remember?”

I hadn’t, “Are you sure it was me?”

“Yes, Cathy, because the woman who ran the donkeys thought you were a girl—remember?”

“No,” I shook my head, this was one bit of memory which had slipped away.

“Right,” Siân took a deep breath, “my parents took us and because it wasn’t that nice we didn’t change into our cozzies but stayed in our ordinary clothes. You however, fell over in the mud—don’t ask me how—and we cleaned you up but the only clean clothes we had were a pair of my shorts and a frilly top, which you borrowed and wore seemingly unselfconsciously. I called you Charlie and she assumed you were a girl—your hair was quite long in those days too.”

“You know I can’t remember any of that—I remember we went to Weston and Clevedon a few times with your parents and even over to Wales a couple of times—but that one is a blank.”

“She’s in denial,” laughed Kirsty.

“No she fell in de-mud,” quipped Siân—hold on, I might still have a photo of it.” She jumped up and ran off upstairs.

“She could be hours,” sighed Kirsty, “What were you shopping for—anything in particular?”

“Yes, Jenny and I managed to break Tom’s ancient gravy boat, I need to look for a replacement.”

“I think we’ve got a spare one here somewhere,” she rose and went to a large cupboard. “This any good?” she placed a porcelain boat and saucer on the table.

I picked it up, “It’s beautiful, Kirsty,” I said as I examined it—“Gosh, it’s Royal Doulton.”

“So, it’s only a crock and it doesn’t go with any of the china we use so if it’s of any use, do have it.”

“Goodness, let me pay you for it?”

“Okay—you can buy me lunch.”

“Are you sure?”

“Absolutely.”

“Deal,” I offered her my hand and we shook on it.

Siân reappeared with an envelope full of ancient photos, “Here—see it is you—wearing my clothes—nothing new there then.” I took the photo and looked at the two figures sat on the donkeys—it looked like two girls. “And this one,” she handed me another, the same two girls were eating ice creams on the pier. I showed them to Kirsty.

“Want me to do some copies?” she asked.

“Yeah, then you can prove to your kids you had a girlhood as well,” suggested Siân.

“Yes please,” I said to Kirsty, and to Siân, “That would be a bit of sleight of hand wouldn’t it?”

“No, you’re dressed as a girl and believe me you acted like a girl most of the time, which why my parents were happy to have you come with us—they knew you’d behave yourself, like any other little girl.”

“Did they actually say that?” I gasped.

“More or less, when I told them you’d become Cathy, my mum replied, ‘hardly a surprise is it?’ and Dad just said, ‘well he was more girl than boy anyway—I hope she’ll be happier.’ Dad always was the laid back one.”

“Pity they couldn’t have said something to my parents,” I mused aloud.

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