Archive for the ‘Bike Archive’ Category

Bike 1,401–1,450

Wednesday, August 24th, 2011

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.

Bike 1,351–1,400

Sunday, July 17th, 2011

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,351–1,400

by Angharad

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


The Daily Dormouse Part 1351

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Pud?”

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

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

“This, Mr Crozier, is Trish.”

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

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

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

“She looks remarkably like you.”

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

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

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

“Your healing gift.”

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

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

“That’s what I heard.”

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

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

“Why would she do that?”

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

“For you to heal?”

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

“Maybe it was too late for her?”

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

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

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

“Thank you, darling, yes they are.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I’ll bet.”

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

“Remind me not to go cycling with her.”

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

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

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

“Yes, dear.”

“And Meems?”

“You know she can.”

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

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

“What about Billie?” asked Trish.

“What about Billie?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Little monster,” I sighed.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1352

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1353

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

“Lady Cameron?”

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

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

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

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

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

“Is that your boy?” asked the sergeant.

“Yes—why?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Lotsa books on science, I see.”

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

“I see—not witches then?”

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

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

“On what grounds?”

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

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

“You find that funny?”

“Wouldn’t you?” I threw back at him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Our lab boys suggest it wasn’t.”

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

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

“I beg your pardon?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“And I gave him my best Columbian.”

“I hope that was coffee not snow.”

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1354

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

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

“Never mind the character reference, what happened?”

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

“Okay—so what happened?”

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

“He actually hit you?

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

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

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

“Oh, Danny, I’m so sorry.”

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

“Has she never been back in touch?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m glad you do too.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh—got time for another cuppa?”

“N—yes, why not—he can wait.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, ma’am.”

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

“I don’t know, ma’am.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1355

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Eh? Can you run that past me again?”

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

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

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

“D’you wanna cuppa?” asked Danny.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1356

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Man United, what else?”

“It could have been Portsmouth.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“No, but I did.”

“She said she was sorry.”

“Only ’cos you made her.”

“She has some difficulties being so clever.”

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

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

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

“Depending on what had broken, maybe.”

“Go on, you’re a whizz with bikes.”

“What are you after?”

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

“Sick of work?”

“Ye—no, need the day off.”

“Why can’t you take leave?”

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

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

“Sorta.”

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

“It’s only a little fib, Mum.”

“Why do you need the day off?”

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

“Stan? Who is Stan?”

“He’s Ben’s boss.”

“Who is Ben?”

“John’s brother—why?”

“You went out with, Alan—didn’t you?”

“Oh that’s right live in the past.”

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

“That was yesterday.”

“But it was he you went out with?”

“Yeah, sorta.”

“Who did you go out with then?”

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

“Where you’d have met Alan…”

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

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

“Rochdale originally, I think…”

“No—tonight.”

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

“He is old enough to be your grandfather.”

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

“So have you.”

“Yeah—I know, but…”

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

“Fifty isn’t old.”

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

“Yeah—okay.”

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

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

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

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

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

“I’m not a schoolgirl.”

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

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

“Sure you do—like dating a paedophile.”

“He isn’t one of them.”

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

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

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

I nearly fell over—“He’s a priest?”

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

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

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

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

“Whatever one of those is.”

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

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

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

“But—yeah, okay—will you tell him…?”

“Where to get off? With pleasure.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh great—that could prove interesting.”

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

“It’s eleven o’clock.”

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1357

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Problems?” asked Andy Bond.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, I asked him to call you.”

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

“Which one?”

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

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

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

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

“Fine, you have my email addy?”

“Yes, I’ll do it straight away.”

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

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

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

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

Jenny came in, “Bad news?”

I showed her the text.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“I think so—yes, of course I do.”

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

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

“I’ll see what I can do.”

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1358

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

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

“I suspect so.”

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

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

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

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

“Yes, twice.”

“Twice? My God.”

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

“I’ll bet you wished you had, now?”

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

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

“Yes, I know.”

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

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

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

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

“Fourth time?” Jenny gasped.

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

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

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

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

“Did she have any contact with them?”

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

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

“I beg your pardon?” I blushed.

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

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

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

“Thank you, I appreciate it.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yeah, I guess so.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Not as far as I know.” I answered.

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

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

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

“Being what, Superintendent?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“How many have you got then?”

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

“Crikey, it’s like an orphanage.”

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1359

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

“Does that strike you as strange?”

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

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

“For you—Cathy—anything.”

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

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

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

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

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

“There’s no answer to that.”

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

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

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

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

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

“What was all that about?” asked Jenny.

“Don’t ask.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why, is he an exhibitionist?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“An ambulance?”

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

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

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

“Why, where are you going?”

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

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

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

“I’m not votin’ for you.”

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

“I don’t wanna buy nothin’ neither.”

“I’m not selling anything.”

“Waddyawant then?”

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

“What d’ya want them for?”

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

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

“The Isle of Wight?”

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

“Tell them my name is Nemesis.”

“Funny name, are you a foreigner?”

“Yes, I’m Scots.”

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

“’Ow much?”

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

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

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

“I might ’ave—wossit worth?”

“Fifty.”

“’Undred—make it a ’undred.”

“I could just arrest you.” I bluffed.

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

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

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

“Wise decision, Mister—um?”

“Waite, Percy Waite.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1360

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Kev—you all right?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where is he?”

“Not here—went off with Julie.”

“The bastard has Julie?”

“Yes.”

“D’you know where he went?”

“No.”

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

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

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

“You’re not the police—are you?”

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

“What?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“When I’ve shot you—I will.”

“Not much of a gunman, are you?”

“What?”

“You left the safety on.”

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1361

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Where’s Joss?”

“Who’s Joss?” I asked.

“My dog, you let him out.”

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

“Well go and find him,” she said.

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

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

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

“My son.”

“Have you got a number for him?”

“He’s working.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Not until you find my Joss.”

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

“He’s in work, I told you once.”

“What sort of job does he do?”

“He’s a policeman.”

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

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

“Oh,” I said looking at it carefully.

“Oh what?” she demanded.

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

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

“He doesn’t like you.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Why not?”

“I’m not at liberty to say.”

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

“I can’t say, madam.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1362

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

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

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

“I can’t possibly tell you that.”

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

“I see, thank you.”

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

“So would anyone who tried it on.”

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

“Does it matter?”

“Nah—s’pose not.”

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

“Adoptive mother, yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Dormice—cute little critters.”

“You’ve seen one?”

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

“On the BBC?” asked Julie.

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

“That was my mum,” beamed Jules.

“What was?”

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

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

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

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

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

“I love you too, darling.”

“Can we go now?”

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

“Oh pooh,” she pouted.

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

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

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

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

“Touché,” agreed the Super.

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

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

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

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

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

“What? You’re joking.”

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

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

“So I became a target?”

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

“So you became the sprat to my mackerel.”

“I’m no prat.”

“I said, sprat, Julie.”

“I’m not one of those neither.”

“So you keep telling me.”

“Bah,” she walked towards the door.

“Can we go?”

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

“Oh good.”

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

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

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

“Nope.”

“Am I not worth it?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Well, that’s what I saw.”

“And that stupid dog.”

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

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

“Yes.”

“Then how you rescued Julie from the caravan.”

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

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

“Rescuing my daughter.”

“No, stupid, admitting liability.”

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1363

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Do we have to?”

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

“Oh bugger, all right.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Is everything all right, ladies?”

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1364

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes, for a few hours, why?”

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

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

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

“So?”

“He’s talking about wanting you charged.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

“What about your silly colleague?”

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

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

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

I looked alarmed at this.

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

“Seven plus Stella’s toddler.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, what happened?”

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

“And did you?”

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

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

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

“I take it you don’t?”

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

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

“Does that include you?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1365

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1366

“How’s it going?” asked Jenny.

“The play?”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Oh, Cathy, I didn’t see you there.”

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

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

“Have the weekend off.”

“But it’s a bank holiday?”

“Yeah, could you come back Monday night?”

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

“Where does she live?”

“In Kent, near Canterbury.”

“D’you want to borrow the Mondeo?”

“Really?”

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

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

“Yes, I know.”

“That would be brill, Cathy.”

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

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

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

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

“That would be a help—yes thanks.”

“See I respect you as my boss.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1367

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

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

“The cricket,” he beamed.

“Something funny happen?”

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

I nodded, I knew that much.

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

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

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

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

“Yeah so?”

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

“You take things too literally, Cathy.”

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

“Yeah, I know all voting for independence…”

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

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

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

“Geez, Cathy, get with it.”

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

“Very funny.”

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

“England won.”

“Who were they playing?”

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

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

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

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

“They hit four hundred in their first innings.”

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

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

“What was all that about?” asked Jenny.

“A lack of interest on my part.”

“In what?”

“Test cricket.”

“Oh—say no more.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Like in drugs?”

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

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

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

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

“That’s a kid’s programme isn’t it?”

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

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

“But—he zapped the bogus Amy Pond…”

“So?”

“So what did you do over the weekend?”

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

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

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

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

“No big secret—she’s got dementia…”

“Oh, Jenny, I am sorry.”

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

“Not much of a break then?”

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

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

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

“Does your sister live with her?”

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

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

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

“You send her money?”

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

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

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

“But they couldn’t help this weekend?”

“No.”

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

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

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

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

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

“Um—I don’t think so.”

“So go and ask her.”

“I can’t—I can’t let you do it.”

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

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

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

“No—it’s too much—far too much.”

“I thought I was your boss?”

“You are.”

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

“Because—I am.”

“That’s a fairly weak excuse.”

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

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

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

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

The Daily Dormouse Part 1368

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

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

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

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

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

“That’s okay—I understand.” My first effort as Lady Bountiful and I cocked up—pity because I thought it was a good cause.

“Valerie said thanks anyway.”

“That’s your sister, I take it?”

“Yeah. I’ll go and check on the babies.” She disappeared and I was left alone with my thoughts and a bread machine—they’re not the best thing with which to have a conversation.

Simon appeared a short while later; he came into the kitchen and sniffed—“That all smells very interesting—what is it?”

“Bread, salmon and jacket potatoes.”

“That salad looks nice too.”

“The kids will complain—they always do with salad.”

“Will you make some of your salad dressing?”

I almost fell over. “I didn’t think you liked my salad dressing.”

“Yes I do, I love almost everything you make—food wise at least.”

Since when? Hmm—he’s not taking the piss is he?

“Okay—I’ll make some if you’ll assure me you’ll eat it?”

“Absolutely—now gi’s a kiss.” He copped a feel while he was at it—but then he is my hubby. “I love your tits,” he said rubbing them both until my nipples showed through my top.

“D’you mind?”

“Not at all,” he smirked back continuing to play with my mammaries.

“Well I do—to start with, tits are little birds which belong to the Paridae or titmice family.”

“Don’t go all scientist on me, I know what tits are—and these are some of the best I’ve ever seen.” He continued rubbing them.

“They are breasts—not tits.”

“You say potato an’ I say potater…” he began singing. I pushed his hands away.

“I’m I interrupting something?” said Jenny standing in the doorway.

“No, not at all—Simon was just going up to change—into somebody nice.”

“Tits,” he said and walked up the stairs.

“Tits, tits, tits,” said Puddin’ giggling as she wandered though the kitchen.

“That’s all I bloody need,” I said smacking my palm on my forehead.

“Bloody tits,” said Puddin’ walking back through the kitchen. At this rate I was going to kill two of them before bedtime.

Jenny was almost hysterical with laughter.

“Don’t laugh, you only encourage the little monster—pygmy voice recorder.”

Puddin’ was giggling as she walked down the hall—“Shit, tits,” she said and giggled.

“You realise I could use a hundred thousand words from the English language and the only ones she’d pick up are the rude ones. If this continues, I’m going to end up in the next bed to Stella.”

“Why not send Puddin’ there—tell them she’s got Tourette’s syndrome.”

“Don’t tempt me,” I replied to Jenny’s joke.

We both laughed, before she informed me that Catherine might find better use of my milk than having it dribble through my top. I glanced down at the spreading wet patch on my breast—Simon—I’ll murder him.

I went and found the little one and she clamped on to my breast as soon as I picked her up. She was hungry and sucked me dry in record time. I sat her in her high chair and warmed up some pureed dinner, which she wolfed down—almost howling afterwards—just my luck, one with Tourette’s and the other with lycanthrope.

“What are you smirking about?” asked Simon reappearing in his polo shirt and jeans.

“I wasn’t smirking, I was thinking.”

“About something funny—I saw the grin on your face.”

“It wasn’t funny, it was ironic possibly sad.”

“Oh—so are you going to share it with me?”

“Not really, why?”

“Oh—I thought married couples weren’t supposed to have secrets from each other.”

“That was obviously decided by a man.”

“Yeah, probably—men are more honest.”

“They are too.” I actually agreed with him.

He noticed, “Geez, Cathy you actually agreed with me, how weird is that?”

“It’s not weird at all—men are more honest—I agree.”

“Well, well—can I put it in my diary?”

“Not so fast, Kimmosabi.”

“Why not, Tonto?”

“Well we may agree on one level but for very different reasons.”

“Okay, I’ll risk it—why d’you think men are more honest?”

“Does it matter?” I asked not really wanting to get embroiled in the battle of the sexes.

“Yes of course it does, doesn’t it, Jenny?”

“Does what?”

“Cathy and I both think men are more honest than women—would you agree?”

She paused for a moment—“Not entirely, the thick ones are—and that probably includes seventy five per cent…”

I was sniggering now and Simon was frowning.

“That’s a bit stereotyped isn’t it?”

“Yeah, probably, why did you ask?” she threw back at him.

“I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t,” he excused himself and we both fell about laughing.

“Are you avenged now for your milky tee shirt?” Jenny asked.

“Yeah—I suppose so—better go and change and serve dinner.”

She sniffed, “The aromas are wonderful,” she sniffed again.

“Not sure about the salmon,” I challenged.

“Okay—but the bread is divine—are we having fresh bread with dinner.”

“I wasn’t going to—it’s intended for breakfast…”

“Go on—we could do another for then.”

“Oh all right,” I rolled my eyes, “You can take it out of the machine while I go and change.”

After dinner, which seemed to cause the entire loaf to disappear—most of it down Simon’s or Tom’s gullets—Jenny and I cleared up—I know, more stereotyping—but the kids were doing their homework and Simon was watching something on the box.

We sat and drank a cuppa before anything else. We’d just finished it when Trish came in—in tears.

“What’s the matter, sweetheart?” I asked picking her up and sitting her on my lap.

“Jodi Wigmore sent me a text telling me I smelt like a pig.”

“That’s not very nice—and you don’t smell like a pig at all.” I sniffed her. “You smell of Dove soap and peach shampoo. Has she ever smelt a pig?”

“How do I know?” she shrugged.

“Why did she send you a message like that?”

“Because I told her she was wrong.”

Ah—little miss clever clogs syndrome. “Wrong?” I queried.

“She said Sydney was the capital of Australia—an’ it’s not, it’s Canberra.”

“That’s correct, now how did you tell her?”

“She answered the question from Sister Aquinas an’ I stood up and said she was stupid because everyone knows it’s Canberra.”

“Ah—that might be your problem then—not everyone knew—including Jodi. It’s quite a common mistake—people often say New York is the capital of America.”

“That’s Washington,” she beamed and clapped.

“What’s the capital of Germany?”

“Um—Berlin?” she said looking just a little doubtful.

“Good girl, now how about Syria?”

“Um—I don’t know,” she blushed.

“It’s Damascus—but you see, you don’t know everything—so be careful how you show your cleverness. Sometimes it’s a good idea to keep your light hidden under the bushel.”

“We did that story in Bible studies—the one about the man hiding his light under a brush-still.”

Jenny got up quickly and cleared the cups—the rat—leaving me to deal with another of Trish’s mispronunciations. Maybe I need to get her ears checked?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1369

I’d forgotten why Matthew Hines was so popular with cinema goers—he’s actually quite good looking. We were sitting in the church hall attached to the school drinking instant coffee.

“Good to see you again, Cathy.”

“And you too, Matt, how’s Judy?”

“She’s fine—she sends her love.”

“Please say hi from me to her, won’t you?”

“Sure.” He sipped his coffee, “Learned all your lines?” he asked.

“Of course,” I lied, but I was well into completing them, “You have I expect, being the professional.”

“Um—not quite, sometimes I think I’d like to be a steward or something—with no lines. I mean, I haven’t tried to learn Shakespeare since I was at school—and then the only reason I did, was to avoid detention. I can do, ‘To be or not to be,’ but I haven’t got that far yet.”

“Right, people, can we get seated and start the first read through?” Gordon Rashley began to assert his authority as director. “Cue Banquo and Macbeth—witches get ready—from the top…”

Gee whizz that man is a slave driver, I’d listened to my MP3 almost up until we started and I tuned into Morag’s accent, which I was using as Gruoch—Lady Macbeth to you. I hoped Gordon would be impressed—he wisnae, tha scunner.

He told me that we’d just concentrate on getting the lines out and then look at how we might tweak them. “After all, darling, if you’re the only one talking like a Scot, the others are going to look pretty stupid.”

I hadn’t thought of it like that—and with half a dozen sixth formers involved—it could be difficult.

The timetable—a couple of days of readings—then we move to rehearsals—with or without scripts—which is when the detail starts to get added, along with movement and props/sets.

Crikey, sets? I thought we were doing a bit of a Shakespearean thing—minimal everything—apparently not—some scenery firm from Pinewood or Elstree had offered its services, free, gratis and for nowt. Can’t wait for the DVD to come out—sheesh—this is getting heavy.

We read the play twice right through—I wasn’t enjoying it very much—Gordon kept picking on me, or so it seemed. When we stopped for lunch, I sat chatting with Matthew.

“So how is baby Emily?”

“Grows more beautiful every day,” he said in a voice which showed he was smitten with her. “Pity the little tyke doesn’t sleep at night—just wants to party.”

“Yeah—know the feeling—but at least it’s not your chest she’ll be trying to suck off your body.”

“I hadn’t thought of it like that,” he mused, “that sounds like the voice of experience.”

“I wasn’t always a D cup.”

He fixed his gaze on my chest—“Pity,” he sighed and went back to his lunch.

Thirty-six D—geez, when I was about fifteen, if you’d told me I’d be breastfeeding and with ’normous knockers, I’d have laughed at you while hoping it was true. Now it is true, it’s a total pain. Men never look at my face—unless they’re gay or old—and women snort—I’ve still got a reasonably small waist—twenty-four inches to be exact, and a thirty-six hips. Simon teases me, saying I’ve got a D cup arse as well, but he likes to fondle it well enough in bed. Mind you, I don’t object.

“Simon and I wondered if you’d like to come over for dinner one night, with Judy of course.”

“Don’t see why not—have to confer with the boss of course. D’you have any date in mind?”

“Next Saturday?”

“Can’t think of any reason why not, but I don’t have my diary with me—I’ll get back to you tomorrow if that’s okay?”

“Fine, I just thought it might be nice to see Judy again, and little Emily.”

“Oh, we gotta bring the baby then?”

“It’s not compulsory—but that’s up to Judy.”

“Yeah, okay.”

We did more reading in the afternoon session—Gordon really is a slave driver, but Matt got more of his spleen after lunch. The girls playing the witches were very good, though if I hear, ‘Bubble bubble,’ once more I think I’ll scream. Mind you, they probably think the same about my stuff.

Lady Macbeth is one of the best female characters in Shakespeare—some suggest he didn’t like women too much, but I suspect he was just being a bloke—albeit a very clever one—assuming he did actually write them—but I won’t open that particular can of worms.

I was exhausted by the time we finished at four, and I’d had to phone Jenny to collect the girls—I could hardly say I wanted to finish now, could I? I’m supposed to be the female lead—which has a certain irony still as it did when I was fifteen or sixteen. Anyway, no one seems to have rumbled me from that viewpoint—though the tabloids might when we get started—or am I just old news?

They didn’t do too much when I did the TV programme—you know the dormouse film—in fact they were describing me as sexy—not exactly the most endearing term for an academic—but better than dowdy or ugly, I suppose.

“Mummy, can we do a ride?” Trish seemed to be the spokesperson while Billie stood behind nodding.

“When, darling?” I asked hoping it wasn’t Saturday evening.

“Now—before dinner.”

“Now? I’ve got to get dinner, sweetheart, it doesn’t make itself.”

“Daddy’s bringing in pizzas.”

“Since when?”

“He said so this morning, and I checked with him this afters, since we got home.”

“And he still is?”

“Oh yes, ’cos I asked him to get lots of ham and cheese on mine.”

“Oh, okay—I’d better get changed and you lot had better do so too.”

Danny opted to come as well, so it was only Livvie and Meems of the riding fraternity who declined—and Jenny had Meems helping her feed Catherine whilst Livvie looked after Puddin’—yeah little potty mouth.

We all set off on mountain bikes and went up the cycle path then back through the woods where I’d lost Trish that day, and subsequently where the deer had died. There was nothing of a carcass left behind—nature had cleaned up in its own inimitable fashion—for which I was grateful.

Mind you a dead badger smelt as high as a British Rail pork pie, when we sped past it. It felt quite good to be off-roading again, I did do a little when I was younger, although to get the best out of it on a rough track full sus might be helpful.

I did a couple of bunny hops—I was wearing cycling shoes with SPDs, the others were riding with ordinary pedals—having said that, Danny matched me for jumps, and Trish had to try and keep up with us, although she didn’t like jumping very much.

I called Danny to stop, I’d thought she was right behind us. I leant against a tree, my feet still stuck to my pedals, straining to turn round and call her. We waited a couple of minutes and she still hadn’t arrived. I went from warm and sweaty to cold and shivering in a millisecond—something must have happened. Oh shit.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1370

Danny came back a few yards to where I was standing holding my bike—I’d dismounted and was ready to turn round and go back the way we’d come.

“D’you want me to go back and look for her?” he asked.

“What happened to Billie—she was with us wasn’t she?”

“Oh crikey, she was.”

“So that’s two missing. Hold on,” I took out my mobile but I couldn’t get a signal. Damn. “C’mon, let’s go and find them.”

I began to shout for them as we headed back but as yet there was no response. About ten minutes later I spotted the bikes—both leaning against a tree. It didn’t look like a kidnap or an accident.

I started walking through the bushes and shouted their names. “Shush,” was the response I got back.

Billie appeared with a finger pressed against her lips and motioned me to follow. I leant my bike against theirs and locked all of them. I followed, intrigued by the need to keep quiet. Trish was standing behind a tree and had been watching something.

I walked up to her and asked what she was watching. “A woodpecker, look,” she said and at that moment a male great spotted woodpecker flew up to the hole halfway up an old ash tree.

He disappeared inside, then moments later he reappeared and flew off again. We waited and about ten minutes later he returned and hopped into the nest.

“How did you spot him?”

“He was drumming on that dead tree behind,” said Trish aged seven and already a better birdwatcher than I. Okay, humble pie time.

“I thought you were lost, sweetheart, next time tell me—all right?”

“But I’d have missed the woodpecker then, Mum.”

Danny came to see and the woodpecker flew back to the drumming spot and gave us a quick riff—Ringo Starr is probably slightly better and has a bigger beak.

“Pity we didn’t have any binoculars with us,” I mused. I’ve got some little ones we could have brought—oh well, next time. At least Billie had the nous to stay with her, so I must be thankful for small mercies.

We all stood and watched our solo drummer, though another not far away was replying—it shows how the idea for native drums came about. Deeper notes travel further—something to do with wave size—hence if you want to listen to radio while abroad, you have to switch to long wave and then find it with your tuner. It can be a real pain.

We watched as a sparrow hawk flashed by chasing a pigeon of some sort, we couldn’t see if it did or not but the pigeon was really motoring. I suppose I would if my life depended upon it.

Every year we get pigeon fanciers wanting the government to do something about peregrines. Apparently, they eat too many of the stupid pie-gons. It always makes me smile—peregrines love pigeons—to death, so by boosting their numbers, the pigeons that is—it makes them irresistible for peregrines.

I suppose that’s little consolation for someone’s pet, which might be quite valuable, ending up being fed to baby peregrines. If it is some consolation, the peregrines usually pick out the slowest or most brightly marked—frequently the amounts of white of them. It makes sense, the hunters do what brings in the best rate of return for least effort—like the rest of us.

If you’re soaring a thousand or more feet above the prey items flying below, then you need something on which to focus. Peregrine stoops have been measured to pretty high speeds—the hunter, usually it’s the male if they have young—closes his wings and just drops reaching speeds over forty miles an hour, and he opens his talons as he hits his prey—who is probably killed immediately with the shock of it.

He may or may not bind to his prey—if he doesn’t he catches it as it falls, then takes it off to a plucking post. He then supplies the young and their mum with fresh meat. Peregrines are almost exclusively bird eaters, and despite their horrible habits are amazing aerobats—their flying skills and speed are phenomenal—which is why one spotted by a flock of birds causes total panic. It would be like a lioness walking down a crowded street of shoppers.

While we stood watching the woodpecker, movement below caught my eye. A stoat was dragging a dead bunny along, which seemed twice its size, reminding me that these pint-sized assassins are amazingly strong compared to their prey.

The girls were upset by the recently deceased lagomorph but I tried to point out that Mrs Stoat needed to feed her babies and there were more rabbits than stoats—the food chain guarantees that or stoats start starving to death in numbers.

“How can something that small kill something bigger?” asked Trish, “I mean rabbits have big teeth, Deborah Wilkins had a nasty bite from her bunny; so why can’t they bite the stoat and kill it?”

“I don’t know, especially as buck rabbits will fight each other in the breeding season. I suspect it’s because the stoat is faster and stronger, with razor sharp teeth. It also knows where to strike—usually the neck. They also say that the rabbit becomes paralysed with fear—I don’t know, I’ve not seen one actually catch its prey, but they are really quick and agile. Even weasels will kill rabbits and they’re only half the size of stoats.”

“Wow,” said Danny, “Maybe I need to do some nature watching.”

“So you can see how they do it?”

“Yeah—why not?”

“I don’t think I’d be entirely happy for you to come out nature watching by yourself.” I made a mental note to mention that I wanted him to come with me the next time I checked our dormouse boxes. At least now I knew he’d enjoy it. Sadly, so would Trish, but she’s too young.

The show over, we unlocked the bikes and set off towards the house. Was Trish going to follow in my footsteps? I had no idea—if she did, she’d have the potential to do far more interesting research because she’s cleverer—and she clearly has good observational skills already—but would she get bored—field biology is rather repetitive: walking the territory, doing the counts and crunching the numbers over a long period. Perhaps it suits me because I’m not too clever? Don’t answer that.

We returned home elated with our ride and interaction with nature, the girls had enjoyed it and Danny made me wonder if it could be an area for him to think about either as a career or a hobby. Sometimes you can cope with doing a mediocre job if it funds the things you enjoy doing—I know loads of good amateur racing cyclists do jobs they don’t especially care for but which allow them time to train and race.

After the girls had gone indoors, I called Danny back to help me with the bikes.

“I’m going to be doing a dormouse survey in a week or so’s time—would you like to come with me?”

“What? That’d be soooo kewl, Mum—mee.”

“Don’t tell the others, they’re slightly too young to cope with all the walking and scrambling through undergrowth.”

“No way—that’s brill, Mummy, absolutely brill.” He ran off indoors with more of a spring in his step than he had before. Would that everyone were so easily pleased, I sighed to myself.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1371

“See ya tomorrow,” said Matt as we both departed the hall we were using to rehearse.

“It’s Saturday tomorrow.”

“Yeah, so?”

“I’m otherwise committed tomorrow.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I’m doing other things tomorrow.”

“You can’t.”

“Who can’t—I can’t hack this all weekend as well as Monday to Friday.”

“So what are you doin’ that’s so damned important?”

“Taking my son somewhere.”

“Like where?”

“Mind your own business,” I huffed back at him.

“Pardon me for breathing,” he said, affronted.

“I hope it’s something important to cancel all this,” he waved his arm around the room.

“My family are my universe—this is a diversion.” I pushed past him and climbed into the Porsche.

“English aristocrats,” he sneered at me.

“Scots, actually, hen,” I said in my Gruoch voice, slammed the door and drove off.

“Are there ye are,” said Tom.

“Aye an’ whit of it?” I was still in character.

“Are ye taking thae piss, hen?”

“Dinna be sae daft, faither,” then I realised what I’d said. He was standing there gobsmacked which for someone who talks for a living, is quite an achievement. “I’m sorry, daddy, I’m still in character.”

“Is that hoo ye’re daein’ Lady Macbeth?”

“Och, weel I thocht I’d use a wee gentle accent, like thae hi’landers dae, but it got a wee bittie mixed wi’ Lallans.”

“Aye, jest a wee bittie.” He laughed and we hugged and I kissed his cheek.

Jenny was away tonight, so I had to deal with the two littlies as well as the larger offspring. Simon had agreed to babysit tomorrow while Danny and I went hunting dormeece. It still meant I had to feed Catherine—who wanted to fall asleep at my breast—and Puddin’ who was playing up something chronic. Much more of this and I’ll post her to Stella in a large Jiffy bag.

We left home at just after eight, I’d been up since six to feed the two pests and sort out my equipment—not a lot, the requisite heavy duty clear plastic bag, and a smaller one for weighing any meeces we find. Then my little balance—a spring balance some call them, it’s like pen with a rule on it and a pointer and a clip thing on the bottom. It weighs in grams and we note the weight of any meece we catch in the nest boxes, and the nest box number—some seem more used than others. We have about hundred to check on two sites.

We will have a bit of help, half a dozen students—three of whom have licences to handle or disturb dormice. I put mine by my equipment—we’re supposed to carry them when working with the animals—it stops any argument.

We loaded the crate of stuff—I usually take some Longworth traps with me, for live trapping—we usually bait some with grain and few dried meal worms, shove a bit of hay or straw in the back and lay them when we start at the site, then check them before we go. I have a shrew licence as well as the dormouse one, which means we can actually catch them—though it’s usually by accident.

Shrews are tiny creatures but ferocious predators of insects, small vertebrates and earthworms. They are phenomenally active and need to eat every couple of hours—they eat most of their own weight each day—so they need to be busy. They’re smaller than mice and aren’t rodents.

So to catch them you need a licence—seems crazy given the ubiquity of the common shrew—cats kill them by the truckload—but some of the other ones are quite rare, including the Scilly shrew, which only occurs on the islands off Cornwall.

I digress, the law says we need a licence—so I have one—so we can trap them. When we do catch them it adds to our mapping of them, but they occur in most places including large gardens—we have loads of them at home in the field edges and the orchard.

With regard to trapping them, if you don’t bait the traps with things like meal worms or cat food, they could starve to death if the traps are left for more than a couple of hours—so we don’t leave them very long and we do leave food in them—thereby complying with the recommendations of the Mammal Society.

Moving on to this particular morning, we arrived at the first woodland site and I opened the gate—I have a key if you remember—and we drove down the path, parking about three or four hundred yards further on.

Then we sat and drank some coffee from my flask while we waited for the others. Only four arrived—two couldn’t make it for some reason—I’d be having words with them, as I was still supervising their field work/project work. However, we had four licence holders for dormeece, including me, and my solo for shrews.

We baited six Longworth traps and set them with bits of fluorescent tape tied to bushes next to them. After this we collected all the bits we’d need to carry out the survey and dumping them in my rucksack, we set off up into the woodland.

Danny was really pleased with himself as we established ourselves as three teams of two—he and I would be one of them. We agreed which sets of boxes we’d check and went off to do so.

I’ve probably described the boxes before—they’re like nest boxes for birds only you have the hole on the tree side of the box, as the dormouse will scramble up or down the tree to enter it. The lid is held on by a piece of wire, and the box is wired to the tree for easy removal.

To examine the box—you either block the hole with a piece of cloth, some herbage or your hand—next, you open the lid and if you see movement you have something. If there’s nesting material inside you could have a dormouse or something else—occasionally birds nest in them—or it could be a wood mouse or even a weasel—both can bite, dormice rarely do and usually only after provocation like sticking microchips in them. They can also go into shock after that too—so I don’t actually like doing it. On the two sites we’re examining today, we don’t have any microchipped animals yet—it might happen later if we have the money, because it’s the best way of identifying them for all sorts of data.

Once you think you have an inhabitant in the box, you take it off the tree, still covering the hole and place the whole thing in the big bag. Then you take the lid off and poke around gently—you get to tell if there’s likely to be anything in it and dormice nests are unique because they take green leaves into the nest regularly to help maintain a moisture balance—clever eh? So if you see greenstuff in the nesting material—you’ve had a dormouse stay there at some point—see it’s not rocket science—but it does require common sense.

Dormouse Box

We found three dormice in the boxes we did—and Danny helped me weigh them—I actually did the handling—though I did promise if he came again—he could try handling them.

One of the students had a wood mouse in one of their boxes, they’re a damned nuisance—once they’ve been in a box, dormice won’t go near it again.

The second site was much as above—we had two more adult dormice which Danny weighed and we recorded. We’d probably tramped a couple of miles up and down the woodland—it’s on an incline with a quarry at one part—so you have to be careful.

“Did you enjoy it?” I asked Danny as we drove home.

“Yeah—it was well kewl—better than football.”

Was that true or was it just said for my benefit? I smiled as we drove home.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1372

“That vole was really kewl, Mum,” said Danny. He was talking of the poor unfortunate critter that blundered into one of the Longworth traps. He was probably a bit frightened, the vole that is, but it didn’t stop him eating all the grain we left inside.

Anyway after deciding what it was we released it under a bush and collected up the stuff and came home.

The weather had a got a bit warmer and I was sorely tempted to go for a bike ride when Jenny got back. Simon had babysat with Tom’s help and I couldn’t impose on him any longer.

The girls gave us good welcome when we returned, a little later than I intended and I was praising their daddy for his sterling work when Meems let slip that Pippa had been there.

“Pippa’s been here?” I queried.

Simon blushed and said, “Yeah, she called by, she said she was sorry she missed you.”

“Gramps asked her to come,” Trish announced betraying Simon and Tom.

“So what has Daddy been doing?” I asked Trish. Simon hurriedly left the room.

“Reading your paper and watching the telly.”

“So Pippa looked after you while I was out?”

“More or less, she had to deal with the babies, but she made us a drink and we played some games out in the garden.”

“Did Daddy come and play games with you?”

“No, he was watching telly.”

“Did he pay, Pippa?”

“No, Mummy, Gramps did that.”

It seemed strange that Tom suddenly had to go out just after I arrived back. That was okay, I could wait.

“See ya later,” called Si and moments later he got in his car and drove off.

“Have you all had lunch?”

“No,” said Danny more emphatically than usual.

“Yes, Pippa did us some soup—from tins—not as nice as your homemade but it was okay.”

“Okay—I’m doing some poached eggs on toast for Danny and I, anyone else want one?” I’d bought a couple of dozen free range eggs on the way home and was quite looking forward to eating a couple.

“Wouldn’t mind one, Mummy—it won’t make me fat will it?” Trish looked at me for answers.

“The way you run round, kiddo—I doubt it.”

In the end all three of the girls had a single egg with a slice of toast. My thoughts of riding disappeared as did my intentions of writing up the records from the survey—I had my notebook so it would keep—and I’d escaped my parental duties for a few hours—so this was payback.

I fed Catherine as I sipped a cup of tea, she was like a giant milk drinking leech, the way she hovered my breasts dry. She had some scrambled egg and a piece of bread which I chopped up into small bits. She has some teeth as my nipples will testify.

I left the kids to their own devices while I cleaned up the kitchen—thank goodness for my dishwashing machine. I was about to sit down and drink a fresh cuppa when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Cathy?”

“Yes, is that Sam?”

“It is, look could I ask you a huge favour?”

“I would think so, provided it doesn’t mean fostering anymore children?”

“I’ll get down to the nitty-gritty, I have with me a young mum who has a child, a bio male, who likes to be a girl.”

“Yeah—what d’you want me to do about it?”

“Could she come and see you for a chat?”

“What now?”

“Yes—she’s at her wits end.”

“How old is her—um—child?” I hesitated over the term I could use without wishing to show any sort of prejudice.

“Five—I think—yes, five.”

“Does she know how to find us?”

“I can give her directions.”

“Do Google maps.”

“Yeah of course; I can’t cope with this new technology.”

“Sam, you’re not that old and much cleverer than I am, and I cope”—as long as we don’t mention video recorders.

“Okay, I’ve got your place on screen—you’ve an awful lot of land there.”

“Yes, it used to be a farm.”

“I’ll send her then.”

“Oh, Sam?”

“Yes?”

“Tell her she’ll have to take us as she finds us—I’ve been out dormousing all morning with Danny—so haven’t done any tidying today.”

“She’s coming to talk with you not do a house inspection.” He put the phone down and I stood up and felt like screaming; why me? The next few minutes were spent rushing upstairs and changing out of muddy jeans and sweatshirt.

I had a quick wash and checked my hair—it was tidyish, rather than my usual standard. I combed it through, picking up the bits of leaf and twig that fell out—it happens when you’re fighting the undergrowth to get to nest boxes—biology ain’t for wimps. Tying my hair back into a ponytail which I then pinned up with a clip, I pulled on a fresh blouse and pair of trousers—ones cut off at mid calf, slipped on my trainer sandals and my watch, plus a bangle on my right wrist—a squirt of smellies and some lipstick and it was downstairs to have a quick tidy up.

I marshalled the troops—“We have someone coming to see me in a few minutes. They’re bringing their kid with them—so I might need you to let them play with you. I want you all on your best behaviour. Right, help me tidy up, please.”

Even Puddin’ helped tidy up—she put Billie’s slippers in the bin—I know, if they phone up and say that Stella’s gone into labour, I’ll strangle them all and shoot myself.

Thankfully, that didn’t happen but I was quite warm from rushing round the place with the vacuum when the doorbell rang. Danny was outside cleaning our boots and the girls were all hiding, waiting to see who was visiting.

A young woman, about my age I suppose, was waiting at the door when I opened it. “Mrs Cameron?” she asked.

“Cathy, yes—do come in.”

“I’m Gina Herring, and this is Carl.”

I looked down at a small fair haired child of five who was wearing a pair of boy’s shorts and tee shirt with Sponge-Bob on it. On his feet were open toed sandals. In contrast, his mother wore a very nice cotton sundress which made me feel scruffy, and on her feet she wore three inch high wedge sandals which complemented the dress beautifully. The car she’d arrived in was a newish Peugeot—so money wasn’t a problem.

Carl sat on the floor by his mum as we settled down in my study. “Would Carl like to play with my girls?” I asked.

“He’s a bit shy.”

“They’ll be gentle with him.” I called Livvie and Trish and he reluctantly went off with them. Now I felt his mum could talk more easily.

“Dr Rose said you have experience of dealing with a gender dysphoric child.”

“Yes, though I’m not sure I’m an expert in the matter.”

“You’ve got to have more idea than I do—Carl just keeps wanting to play with dolls and wear girl’s clothes.”

“So why don’t you let him—he may well grow out of it?”

“Well it’s embarrassing—what are my parents going to say, or the neighbours?”

“How important is that? More than the health and well being of your child?”

“Um—no, of course not—but my husband doesn’t like it either.”

“What about you—you’ve told me about all these other people—what d’you think about it all?”

“I—um—don’t know.”

Oh boy, this could take some time. “Let’s have a cuppa shall we?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1373

Gina Herring sat nervously sipping her tea. “What don’t you know?” I asked her.

“I—um—love little Carl, but I don’t know if I can cope with him wanting to be a girl.”

“What’s there to cope with?”

“The embarrassment.”

“Yours or his?”

“Mine I suppose, how do I face the neighbours? What do I tell my parents, and my husband—he thinks it’s dreadful—I just don’t know what to do?”

“Have you been in touch with Mermaids?”

“Dr Rose gave me a website address—did you use them?”

“I didn’t need to, I just accepted what they wanted to do, Simon and Daddy and the others came on board just as quickly.”

“How did you manage that?”

“I didn’t—we all love the children, so when it happened we accepted it in the same way we would have done if they’d had red hair or been black-skinned or anything else which they have no control over.”

“I guess they don’t.”

“Look, gender identity is so important, it’s probably determined between the second and fourth years of life, and ever after their experiences either confirm or reject what they feel.

“What’s total irrational is that if a girl starts acting like a boy, it’s seen as okay—if a boy starts acting like a girl—he’s some sort of freak. Why? We are all human beings, so why does it matter if we’re men or women, black or white or anything else—I’ll tell you why—because we live in a patriarchy, that’s why.” I got off my feminist soap box.

“You didn’t find it strange that your son wanted to dress like a girl?”

“No, I like to dress as one—don’t you?”

“Yes, but we’re females—so it’s okay.”

“What’s wrong with a boy dressing as a girl—I’m wearing trousers, I’ll bet you do too.”

“Of course I do, but for a boy to wear skirts and call himself Carla, is wrong.”

“It is to you, it obviously isn’t to her.” I emphasised the pronoun.

“But it’s he not she.”

“Not in her eyes. You’re seeing the world through your eyes—so you’ll never understand—you have to try and see it through hers.”

I went and got a copy of the French film, Ma vie en Rose, which is a beautiful film and shows as well as anything I’ve seen, the world through the eyes of a transgendered child. The little boy who plays the lead is wonderful. I handed it to Gina—“Watch this with your husband—it might help.”

“Is it a documentary?”

“No it’s a feature film, but it’s beautifully done—have some tissues with you.”

“Is it sad?”

“Not really, it’s just so beautiful you’ll want to cry—I did.”

“Thank you.”

She sipped another cuppa, “So you think I’ve just got to be brave for Carl’s sake.”

“You have to be brave for Carla’s sake, and to carry the others through. Speak with Mermaids, they’re good and Dr Rose can give you the name of a good children’s psychiatrist.”

“Psychiatrist?” she gasped, “He’s not mentally ill is he?”

“No, if she is transgendered, then she’s not mentally ill, but could become so if she’s not allowed to express it—depressed and so on. It isn’t an illness it’s a variation on the norm, like left-handedness.”

“You won’t be ostracised because you write with the other hand, will you? So how can you compare the two, they’re hardly the same are they? People don’t laugh at you because you’re left-handed.”

“People soon stop laughing if you take no notice.”

“How can I deal with him going to school?”

“Send her to a girl’s school.”

“They’re hardly likely to accept a boy in skirts, are they?”

“If you see her as a boy in skirts, then how can you expect others to see her any other? If you can’t be bothered—why should anyone else?”

A tear rolled down her face. “How did you deal with it?”

“I never saw her as a boy in skirts, I saw her as a girl with a plumbing problem.”

“You’re a very special mum, aren’t you?” she said and I think she meant it in a positive way.

“No more than you—I was able to deal with it—so will you and for the same reason—we love our children and we do what we have to do for them to be happy.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. If I can be of any further help.” I handed her my mobile number, “Feel free to call if you need to talk.”

“Mummy can we have a drink?” called Trish.

“Yes, can you do it?”

“Of course I can, Mummy, I am seven you know.” She popped her head round the door—“Oh, sorry—can I give Carla one, as well?”

Gina nodded and Trish laughed and ran off. “Why is she calling him Carla?”

“She doesn’t have the inhibitions you have, besides she likes being a girl and thinks everyone else should too.”

“So which one of yours is gender variant?”

“You tell me.” I stood up and walked towards the kitchen beckoning her to follow. Trish was pouring squash into plastic beakers and Livvie was filling them from the filter jug of cold water. Meems was holding the biscuit tin and Carla was wearing one of Meems’ dresses, which fit quite well, she also had painted toenails and fingernails and loads of bangles on her arm. Looks like the girls have been playing with a life size Barbie doll.

“There you are, Carla,” said Livvie handing out the beakers, and the little painted fingers accepted it.

“Thank you, Livvie,” said the child who turned round and seeing us standing there squealed and dropped the beaker, “Mummy,” she shrieked and began to cry.

“Baby,” said Gina and picked up her child, both were now crying.

“Bugger,” said Trish and went to get a cloth.

“I didn’t know you were there, Mummy,” sobbed Carla.

“I’m sorry I frightened you, baby,” Gina sobbed back.

“I’ve been playing with the other girls—it was so nice. I’m sorry I dropped my cup, Lady.”

“It’s Mrs Cameron,” corrected his mother.

“Actu—lee, it’s Lady Cameron,” corrected Trish cleaning up the spilt drink with the floor mop, “And my daddy’s Lord Cameron.”

“Is this right—you’re Lady Cameron?”

“I’m afraid so, though we tend to downplay it most of the time.”

“I saw you mentioned in the local paper—you’re an actress aren’t you?”

“No—I’m a biologist.”

“They said you were starring in some play with Matthew Hines, the film star.”

“He’s agreed to help out to raise money for my daughter’s school.”

“But you’re acting too?”

“Yes, but I’m not an actress—I’m a teacher.” Though in some respects it’s the same thing, trying to hold the attention of your audience to entertain or inform them.

“C’mon, Carl, better get you changed back to go home.”

“Do I have to, Mummy?”

“Yes, you need to give the little girl her dress back.”

“That’s okay, it’s one of my owd ones,” said Meems, and I nodded in agreement.

Livvie appeared a few moments later with Carla’s boy stuff in a plastic carrier bag.

“His father’s going to kill us,” said Gina pulling a face. “You sure I can cope with this?”

“D’you love her?”

She nodded and a tear escaped her eye, “Yes,” she croaked.

“Then you’ll cope.”

“Thank you, um—Lady Cam…”

“It’s Cathy—and call me if you need to talk.”

“Can I go to a girl’s school like Trish and Mima do, Mummy?”

“I don’t know s—girl, one thing at a time eh?”

I walked them to the car.

“I hope I’m doing the right thing.”

“If what you do is done with love, and real love not the imaginary or selfish sort—how can you do wrong. Follow your heart, it won’t lead you far wrong.”

“I’ll try,” she said getting into the car. “Thanks, Cathy.”

I smiled and surrounded by four girls and Danny waved her and her daughter off. I had grave doubts that it would work out for little Carla, but I bathed her in blue light as she got in the car and I hoped it would help.

—–

Trailer for Ma vie en Rose
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g0b0F8HAJgI

The Daily Dormouse Part 1374

A moment after she left Simon drove in. “Who was that?” he asked me.

“A young mother Sam Rose asked me to speak with.”

“Why?”

“She has a gender dysphoric child.”

“I suppose I should have guessed—so what were you doing trying to cure him with—blue light?” he laughed at his unfunny joke.

“You’ve been drinking,” I accused.

“Only one,” he laughed, “Been down the rugger club, watched the Baa-baas beat Wales.”

“For what you did today, if you were my child I’d have grounded you for months.”

“Just as well I’m not then, ’scuse me,” he stumbled round me and into the house.

“And he’s just driven a car—stupid overgrown schoolboy.”

He fell asleep in the chair and whilst part of me wanted to murder him, another part loved him to bits. I felt the same towards Tom, who avoided me until bedtime. It suddenly occurred to me that they were both scared of me—not literally—but of what I’d say to them about their selfish and negligent behaviour. So, I said nothing.

For the whole weekend they expected me to say something and I didn’t and wouldn’t until they relaxed and then I’d let them have it.

We discussed the recent visitor I’d had and I was glad we had because on Monday morning we had a different visitor—Geoffrey Herring. He didn’t even give me a chance to say hello, he poked me in the chest and demanded to know what I’d done to his son.

“If you touch me again, Mr Herring, you’ll regret it.”

“Oh will I now, what’re you going to do, shout at me?”

To find out he went to poke me again and I stepped back, grabbed his wrist and yanked his arm up behind him in a hammer lock. Least I think that’s what you call it. He was pleading for me to let him go and I asked him politely if he was going to behave, or did he want me to either break his arm or dislocate his shoulder? He promised to behave.

“You’re nothing but a thug,” he said rubbing his arm.

“You’re little more than a bully, but not all women are afraid of you.”

“I’ve a good mind to call the police.”

“Do that and I’ll tell them about the way you hit your wife last night and for cruelty and abuse to your son because he’s transgendered.”

I watched the colour drain from his face. It was an intuitive guess but all the time I felt I had his number and bits of his life seemed to come into my mind.

“Look, I won’t involve the police but stay away from my wife and my son.”

“Who’s Richard Venning?” I asked him.

“Who?” he looked astonished.

“He’s the boy who called you a faggot in front of the whole school isn’t he?”

Geoffrey Herring went absolutely white.

“How old were you? About twelve?”

“Twelve and a half, if you must know, and it was a schoolboy crush. I grew out of it very quickly.”

“He called you a sissy, didn’t he?”

“He called me loads of names—look, how d’you know about all this and have you told Gina?”

“Does it matter, Mr dead straight Herring?”

“Look it’s in the past and I’d prefer it stayed there.”

I felt his overbearing manner was receding faster than his hairline. “If you’re prepared to talk like an adult about this, then come in, if not please leave now or I’ll call my husband, and he’s less reasonable than I am.”

He pulled out a clean white handkerchief and waved it, and I nearly snorted; instead I stepped back and allowed him into the house.

Jenny came back from the school run and I asked her to make us some tea, which he nodded as acceptable. I led him through to my study. I have photos of each of the children, plus a family photograph of us all together.

“Are all these your children?”

“Yes.”

“Crikey, you look too young to have children this old.”

“I’ve worn well.”

“You have indeed. My wife says you’re married to an aristocrat?”

“I am.”

“And you have experience of a gender-bender child?”

“I prefer gender different or transgender, which your child is.”

“How can you know that?”

“I know many things—I know your father died from prostate cancer and you’re terrified you have the same disease.”

“How the bloody hell, d’you know that?”

“Relax, Geoffrey, you don’t have it and won’t get it.”

“How can you say that?”

“Because I can.”

“Are you some sort of mystic? Crystal ball and all that?”

“No, I teach biology and read minds.”

“You read minds?” he laughed.

“Yes, how d’you think I know about your past?”

“I don’t know.”

“You told me—I read it from your mind.”

“Oh yeah—what am I thinking now?”

“Oh you’re just thinking insults and trying to block me, which, given your puerile mindset doesn’t surprise me one bit, but you are trying to remember to phone your wife to remind her to call the plumber to have your shower fixed, which is a Dolphin one, but it’s years old.”

“Geezuz—you can read my thoughts, can’t you—what are you—a witch?”

“Oh dear, you do suffer from preconceived ideas, don’t you? What have I got to do to convince you that I’m actually on your child’s side, which being a responsible if misguided parent, so are you.”

He sat and worked out what I’d just said and shrugged.

“Is your shoulder still sore?” from my manhandling.

He nodded.

“Okay—does it hurt now?”

He stood up and moved his shoulder around. “No, it feels fine now.”

“Right—so I can perform a few tricks—your daughter.”

“My er—son, I think you mean.”

“Your child is a girl—if you want her to be happy, you need to help her to achieve that end. If you don’t, you’ll lose her and she’ll eventually transition, but she won’t be anywhere near as successful because she’ll be fully grown in a male body. She’ll despise you for the rest of your life—is that what you want? Oh, and Gina will eventually leave you because of your intransigence and you’ll end up living in a bedsit on your own. If that’s what you want—mess up three lives—carry on.”

“It isn’t, I want us all to be happy—I love Gina and Carl.”

“Prove it.”

“How can I do that?”

Some people are born thick and some have thickness thrust upon them—I wasn’t sure which applied to him. “I just told you—get professional assessment for Carla’s gender problem and help her to transition. It’s what your wife wants to do, really, but she’s scared of hurting you.”

“Oh.” He suddenly burst into tears and his white flag was used for its original purpose—I hope he didn’t want to shake it about with all those bogies on it. I waited for him to compose himself.

“Better now?”

“Not really, I’m really struggling with this.”

“I know, most men would—especially those who aren’t as secure in their masculinity as they might be—and that’s quite a lot.”

“Can’t you use your magic to cure him?”

“What, sort out her plumbing problem?”

He looked questioningly at me. “No, sort out her gender thing.”

“No, it’s not within my gift.”

“Your powers are limited then?”

“Yes—but you won’t remember any of this—you’ll go home and reflect unconsciously on what has been said and how you know what you need to do to help your daughter. It isn’t negotiable—it’s fact—she is transgender—which when you reflect upon how feminine she’s always been—you’ll recognise that somehow her body is wrong for her mind and you’ll help her to correct that incongruence.”

“I need to go home—I don’t feel too well.”

“Off you go, Geoffrey, take care—oh and stay off the fags—bladder cancer isn’t nice.”

“Is that how I’m going to die?”

“Only if you keep smoking—if you stop now, you’ll live a long active life. The choice is yours.”

“Thank you, I’m sorry I poked you and called you names.”

“Apology accepted—now go and look after your wife and daughter.”

“I will—thank you.”

“What was all that about?” asked Jenny, bringing Catherine to feed from me.

“I have no idea—I can’t remember what we talked about—dunno what came over me.”

“A blue light I think, the room was positively glowing with it.”

“Was it? Come on, sweetheart,” I held out my arms for my baby and she shrieked with laughter as I held her and then lifted her to my breast.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1375

As I fed the little mother-sucker I initially felt concerned that I couldn’t seem to remember anything about what had happened previously. I asked Jenny, who was feeding Puddin’ some cold rice pud—homemade of course.

“You know, I think I must be losing it because I can’t remember anything about the person who visited us.”

“Visited you, they didn’t come to see me.”

“Who were they then?”

“Seriously?” she asked.

“Yeah, I’m a complete blank.”

“Remember the woman Sam Rose sent you?”

“Yeah, with Carla.”

“Yeah—I think that was what the girls said the kid’s name was; anyway, the mystery visitor was her dad.”

“Carla’s dad?”

“Well yes, I can’t think her grandfather would bother coming to see you.”

“Why not? I often appeal to old farts, apparently.”

Jenny glared at me, “So d’you remember now?”

“Not really, what happened?”

“How do I know? I wasn’t there—I brought you some tea and watched the kiddiwinks—oh there was loads of blue light about—saw the flashes through the window.”

“This is bizarre. I wonder if I made any notes.” I unhooked Catherine from her personal milk tanker—she was going to sleep again and after putting her in the high chair, went into my study cum library area.

I checked the desk but couldn’t see anything, although the orchid on my desk was new—I had an ancient thing which had died the death and I was going to chuck—it was there earlier, Jenny must have replaced it with this one.

I went back to the kitchen where Catherine was giving Jenny a hard time with her rice pudding. “C’mon, open the gates and let the stagecoach in,” she was saying to Catherine. The amount down her front—the baby, that is—rather implied she didn’t want it.

“Leave it, Jen, she isn’t going to eat it, little sausage.” Of course she heard my voice and spun her head round to see me and got an earful of rice. Her bottom lip puckered and she was about to cry when I laughed, so after a moment, she laughed too. “Oh by the way, thanks for the orchid—it’s lovely.”

“What orchid?”

“The one you put on my desk to replace the manky one that was there.”

“I didn’t put an orchid on your desk let alone remove one.”

“Must be the bloke then, I’ll have to write and thank him.”

“He didn’t look like the sort to come bearing gifts.”

“So how did it get there then?”

“The blue light?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, Jenny—it heals people not dead plants.”

“I thought it went where it was needed.”

“Within reason, yeah—so it would hardly be dealing with off-colour orchids—would it?”

“How do I know—you’re the one it comes to.”

“Unfortunately.”

“C’mon, Cathy, it’s saved a few lives with your help.”

“I didn’t do very much and I know even less—it’s like what I have to say is put in my mouth.”

“That include the last sentence?”

“Eh?”

“Was that put into your mouth as well?”

“Was what?”

“Oh f’gedit—what’re we having for lunch?”

“I have forgotten it,” I joked.

“Forgotten what we’re having for lunch?”

I rolled my eyes, “You told me to forget someth… Oh never mind. I thought I’d do something with eggs.”

“Well get crackin’ then,” she roared with laughter. “I’ve always wanted to say that to someone.”

“If I’d known that I’d have considered you lacking in ambition—mind you, saving mankind and finding a solution to the Middle East crisis was probably a bit OTT.”

“I didn’t say that, did I?”

“Now who can’t remember?”

“I do remember—you asked me what ambition I felt had not been achieved, an’ I said, havin’ my own family and career-wise to possibly have my own nursery.”

“You didn’t, you said to get this job and as much money as I can con out of you lot.”

“I didn’t,” Jenny said blushing and I fell about laughing.

“Go and scramble some eggs,” she said to me and took Puddin’ off to see if she wanted to wee—she doesn’t say, she just dances about and suddenly she’s done it in her panties.

I glanced at Catherine, she was fast asleep in her high chair—rice pudding in her hair and all down the front of her—mucky pup.

I made scrambled eggs on toast with tomato slices, we both ate them and drank some tea, then I took the baby and changed her after bathing her. She grumbled a bit but she let me do it. Mind you, I am somewhat larger and more aggressive…

The phone rang and Jenny got it, “It’s for you-hoo,” she shouted.

“You sounded like a cuckoo then; no, make that a wood pigeon.”

She walked back to the kitchen calling coo-coo. She’ll have to go.

“Hello, Cathy Cameron.”

“Ah, Lady Cameron, what did you do or say to my Geoff, he’s like a new man. He’s gone out with Carla to buy her a doll—can you believe it?”

As I couldn’t recall what had happened, I might believe anything or nothing. “Oh that’s good,” I said trying to remember if it was or not.

“Good—it’s brilliant—you told me to go with my heart and what I felt was best for Carla—you must have told him the same and it’s really hit the spot.”

“Yes I did,” did I?

“Thank you so much, I’m so glad that Dr Rose asked you to see me.”

“You’re welcome, he’s probably going to need some encouragement so make sure you give him lots—he needs your love as well as Carla.”

“I know that and it’s exactly what I’m trying to do. Oh, they’re coming back, gotta go.” The phone line went dead and I replaced the handset.

I felt even more puzzled—had I surrendered to the light or just forgotten? Did the light take me over—I sound like one of those fraudulent medium types—is there anybody there?”

I went and collected the girls and saw the headmistress. “How are the rehearsals going?”

“Okay, I suppose. We start again tomorrow, then next week it’s dress rehearsal and the week after the real thing. I cannot believe I allowed a bunch of kids persuade me into doing it.”

“Perhaps you always wanted to reprise it—as a real woman, not a schoolgirl.”

“If it was it was pretty deep in my unconscious mind because I didn’t know it.”

She laughed, “Well it’s not every day you get a chance to work with a Hollywood heart-throb, is it?”

“No, thank goodness.”

“You don’t sound too impressed?”

“Shall we say I know him better in some respects than you do.”

“Undoubtedly—you sound disappointed?”

“Maybe I am—we all have feet of clay, it’s just so disappointing to discover it in others.”

“Oh, I don’t know, you seem to have escaped the clay-foot syndrome.”

“Nah, mine’s just been baked into china—so it’s fancy clay.

“You are so funny sometimes, Lady Cameron, oh by the by, could you ask Trish not to keep correcting Sister Ignatius about the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt—she said they didn’t have aeroplanes in those days.”

It wouldn’t be a normal week if she hadn’t corrected at least one teacher—reminds me a bit of someone—though I lost the habit after some of my contemporaries left me battered and bruised in the playground one break time. So possibly ignorance isn’t such bliss if they were so cross?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1376

“You must learn to submit to us.”

I’ve never submitted to anyone, not even when they’ve half-punched my lights out, so doing so to this weird woman thing didn’t even occur to me.

“Sorry, but every feminist principle inside me says no.”

The woman—I’ll give her the benefit of the doubt and she can do the same to me—had a wry sort of expression on her face.

“Pah—modern women,” she scorned, “We gave you freedom of thought and this is how you repay us.”

I thought I’d better keep polite as she seems to think she’s important. “I’m sorry, ma’am, but I was unaware you’d given me anything.”

“Unaware—that’s an understatement of epic proportion—I shall however explain a little of the gifts we have endowed upon you. The healing, which you complain about all the time, has if you recall saved at least four members of your family—still, we can always take it away and let them die next time.”

I felt a little worried, if she was the one who did that—then if I piss her off—she might just put the others in jeopardy just to put me in my place while I watch helplessly as they suffer. No, I’d better keep on her good side—just in case, whoever she is.

“You said, gifts, ma’am…”

“Yes what of it?”

“The healing I was aware of, what else have you given me?”

Her expression was one of anger and I began to wonder if I might disappear in a puff of smoke. However, a moment later it changed and she looked at me calmly. “What have we not given you? The gift of beautiful countenance—although you have always railed against it—you have a beauty which men find attractive—some even to the point of loving you—which shows their stupidity.”

“I’m sorry, ma’am, that I appear ungrateful, but I was under the impression I’d been born a man and had changed things myself.”

She laughed at me, “Born a man—don’t be ridiculous—however, to punish you for old sins, we decided to give you a sense of never feeling complete or entirely adequate—what better way than to make you into a male in one aspect but female in every other.”

“You mean you made me transsexual?”

“If that is how you cope with it—you were of female mind with male organs,” she laughed cruelly at me. Psychotic or what? “It will hopefully teach your soul a lesson.”

Definitely psychotic whatever she was. “Ma’am, I have no recollection of those old sins?” I was trying to work out what I got wrong before.

“You need none to work this life out—I should concentrate on what you’ve done to offend us in this life—for which you will be punished.”

“I am sorry if I have offended you and ask for forgiveness.”

“You foolish child—it is not we who punish you—you punish yourself—for it is written so. It was your soul which made you a chimera—a mixture of two spirits, which asked our indulgence to heal past injuries.”

Now I was completely lost.

“Amongst our indulgence was the ability to heal those who need such help, most of whom you will recognise but not always. The healing will take the form of love—not of the wishy-washy human form, but of the highest—the love of the gods themselves. Each time you impart some of this divine favour upon a fellow suffering soul—you will heal a small part of your own fractured soul—unless you try to impose your will upon the fates and preserve one whose soul should not receive it.”

Had I done so? Then I realised I had several times—my children and occasionally someone else—especially children. In which case, I have to accept the consequences of my actions. “Madam, I will not regret those times when I have acted out of love and I accept the consequences they bring. In giving me a female heart in this body, in granting me the gift of motherhood by proxy, I will risk everything I have to protect those I love and am charged by natural law to do so.”

“Your courage is nearly as great as your impudence—but it amuses us as we can see how such twisted loyalties occur. Very well, your impudence to challenge us will be overlooked this time but do not make a habit of it.”

“Thank you, milady, being in human form, I am bound to show a mother’s protective instincts towards her offspring and those she takes on as such. Natural law means I am bound to this fact as long as I am bound to this body.”

“Such arrogance could mean a separation from that body earlier than you might have thought.”

“It isn’t arrogance, milady, it’s what human love is about—to take risks at times and view those one loves as worthy of whatever sacrifice is required.”

“You deign to suggest we are not aware of this sentimentalism that humans call love?”

“Madam, it might seem sentimentalism and weakness to you—but it is the highest form of devotion and altruism we humans are capable of expressing—it’s what lifts us above other species and up towards the divine itself.”

“What about devotion to us—is that not of the highest form—not the sentimentalism to which you aspire?”

“Milady, in loving my children and others, am I not showing my devotion to you and the gifts you bestowed upon me?” I tried some lateral thinking.

“We are not convinced but will allow you to have time to consider your position.”

“Thank you, milady, before you discharge me, might I ask you explain what other gifts you bestowed upon me?” Might I work out what this is all about if she tells me?

“The ability to succour your children including infants…” So that’s how I came to feed baby Catherine.

“…the ability to understand the thoughts of those you heal, and to see their future or possible future, where you might advise them but not control them. They have free will too, and the right to destroy themselves as they wish.”

“Why was I not aware of any of this myself—until my daughter showed me?” Trish had shown me her ability to see the blue light—everyone else could see it but me.

“You tried to ignore or reject our gifts; it was therefore decided to make you ignorant until someone you trusted could show you the error of your ways. Arrogance does not become you, my daughter.”

“I am once again penitent before you and crave your forgiveness.”

“It is not our place to forgive—you will do that to yourself or not as the case might be. Return to your world and do our bidding.”

I looked at the clock: it was nearly two, pitch dark and I felt cold. I snuggled against Simon who stirred a little then went back to pretending he was racing motorbikes round Silverstone—somehow his snoring reassured me unlike the dream I’d had.

I didn’t remember eating any cheese before I came to bed but that was one well weird dream. I don’t know where this character comes from—my unconscious I suppose—but whatever I do seems to piss her off.

I heard Catherine whimpering and went to see what was wrong with her. She was bathed in a blue light and the whimper became a cooing. I stood transfixed as the light seemed to transport her from her cot into my arms. I held on to her tightly and she snuggled against my breast and tried to feed through my pyjama top. I lifted it up and she locked on to my nipple and began to suck.

For a moment I thought I recalled something from my dream and I sat in her room and let her feed. I must have picked her up while half-asleep—babies don’t just fly through the air—I must be more tired than I thought.

As she suckled at my breast I felt a sense of love as strongly as I’d ever felt it—as if loving this little baggage and sharing my love with her—brought me love as well, and from somewhere beyond us. Whoa, I’m getting all silly—there is nothing beyond us and this moment—nothing at all.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1377

Despite my dream and subsequent nocturnal emission—breastfeeding—what did you think I meant?—I woke feeling as rested as I had for some time. I turned over to see what time it was and saw a face staring at me, I gasped and jumped.

It was only Trish who also jumped. I sat up in bed and laughed and she chuckled too. “Come and have a cuddle for two minutes, then we have to get up.”

She didn’t need much bidding and in half a second she was in the bed with me spooned around her little body. She isn’t very big for her age and I suspect she may stay small partly because she’s agonadal and her body was designed to react to male hormones not female ones. It might prove to her advantage in the end as small girls don’t attract as much attention as tall ones, but she’s going to be quite pretty anyway.

“What made you come into bed with me?”

“I remembered how we used to do it, so I thought I’d come again.”

“Is that the only reason?”

“Um—” That she hesitated made me think it wasn’t.

“C’mon, you can’t fib to me—I’m your mother.”

“Um—I had a funny dream.”

“Tell me about it,” I encouraged.

“You were in it…”

“Was I? Is that what made it funny?”

“No, it was the other woman.”

“What woman was this?”

“I don’t know, she seemed to change all the time—she’d be young and then old, she’d be beautiful and then old and ugly…it was really odd.”

“You said I was in it?”

“Yes you were arguing with the odd woman and she kept telling you off.”

“Was either of us surrounded in light?”

“Um—you were surrounded in white light and she was in blue. How did you know, Mummy?”

“I—uh—didn’t know, it was a guess.”

“It felt so real, an’ at one point I felt quite scared of her—as if she was going to try and take me away from you.”

“Not while I’m there, sweetheart.”

“I felt you were arguing for me—an’ I felt a bit better then, but I was scared to go back to sleep in case she got me.”

“Hey, don’t cry—no one’s going to hurt you while I’m around.”

“It was still scary, Mummy.”

“Scary Mummy,” mumbled Simon, “She scares the pants off me.”

“Silly Daddy,” said Trish—we were at least agreed on one thing.

“Who was she, Mummy?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart.”

“But you were calling her by some name.”

“But that was in a dream, darling—I wasn’t there, you just imagined I was.” I was telling lies like they were second nature, but anything else would be even more confusing.

“You called her, Shekah or something.”

“How do you know?”

“I just thought myself back into my dream.”

“Shekinah, perhaps?”

“Yes, that was it, Sheknah.”

“No, darling, Shekinah.”

“Who is she?”

“In Hebrew mythology, the female face of God—in other words the essence of the female spirit.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not entirely sure, sweetheart, except part of me seems to think she’s the originator of the blue light—except I don’t believe in gods and goddesses—they disappeared when science began to stop believing in magic and became rationally based.” I realised I just talked over her head.

“Does that mean she gives you the blue light?”

“Yeah, I suppose so.”

“So she’s a nice lady really?”

I agreed even if I wasn’t at all sure about it all—she hadn’t been especially nice to me—well okay, I looked naturally female and I was able to breastfeed.

“That’s okay then, if she comes in my dreams again, I know she’s okay an’ I won’t be scared. I’ll be like you.”

I wasn’t sure if that was an entirely good idea, but I couldn’t say anything could I? Why had she chosen me—I’m not Jewish, as far as I know? And besides, I always seem to be in hot water and she spends half her time telling me off or threatening to terminate one or other of my children.

I remember originally she told me that the essence of female was strong in me—then she gave me a right earful. More or less the same last night—which makes me feel it’s just my unconscious trying to reassure me that I imagined it all—justifying what I’ve done to my body and so on and possibly even trying to boost my low self esteem as a female.

“Look, Mummy, she’s here again—only I don’t feel scared any more—hello, Mrs Sheknah.”

I looked at where she was pointing and to my horror I saw the woman again—what did she want now?

Simon turned over and muttered, “What woman? You’re both imagining things.”

“Fear not, your husband cannot see me—only female spirits can hear or see me.”

I felt like asking, ‘What d’ya want?’

Her response came into my mind as if she’d read mine and replied in similar fashion. Then I could hear Trish’s thought. ‘Why did you want to take me away from my mummy?’

‘I thought you might want to come with me.’

‘You were going to hurt me—so I didn’t want come with you—I wanted to stay with my mummy, she’s a nice lady.’

‘Very well, Patricia, I promise I will not try to take you away again until it is your time.’

‘Does that mean I can have periods?’

‘No it means when you are old and ready to join me.’

‘You mean, like when I die?’

‘Yes—but it’s a long way away.’

‘Is it for my Mummy, too—a long way away?’

‘Long enough.’

She smiled at us and faded from view.

The alarm on the clock went off and Messrs Naughty and Humphrys were disturbing our peace.

Trish and I went to the bathroom together and got in the shower. “Did we really see that, Mummy—the strange woman—I mean?”

“I don’t know, sweetheart. There is such a thing as mass hallucination—where people think they’ve seen something.”

“Masaluciation?” she repeated wrongly.

“Never mind, just enjoy the warm water and know you’re alive.”

After drying myself and Trish, I roused the others and got them up for breakfast. Later on I took them to school and on to the hall for rehearsals—I wished now I hadn’t been suckered into this—mind you I suspect Matt feels the same—he was like a bear with a sore wotsit. He even reduced me to tears at one point shouting at me—the director bawled him out and he went off on a huge sulk.

The truth is, stage acting is different to appearing in films, there the editors can do something to alter your performance—on stage, you only have yourself and your fellow cast members—it’s kinda scary—especially when the cast is Matt or a bunch of school kids.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1378

The next day, we read through the play with some movements and scenery. Matthew is absolutely useless. They have different coloured tapes on the floor, and the guy who plays Macduff is great—he’s a local rep player as are a few more of the main parts—Banquo for instance. Be difficult for a sixteen-year-old girl to pretend to be a battle-hardened warrior, even with some muck on her face.

At lunchtime, Matthew disappeared, Gordon announced he had a migraine—I thought you needed a brain first? So many film actors started their careers on the stage, learning the business from the bottom up—then go on to make their fortunes in film or West End productions, sometimes even get to Broad Street.

So suddenly, we have his understudy—a sixteen year old girl called Heidi Hurplestrumpf—I know, I don’t believe it either. However, she was the same size as I which is smaller than all the men—didn’t know Macb was a pygmy did you. She is also as blonde as they come—naturally blonde with practically no eyebrows, they’re so fair—mine don’t show much unless I use makeup, but hers were invisible except when very close to—oh and she had the bluest eyes I think I’ve ever seen—like reflections of the sky. She was very pretty and skinny as a rake except for her breasts—they were large by comparison and it’s very difficult trying to call someone, ‘my lord’, when their chest comes to you several seconds before the rest of their body.

But like a true amateur, I soldiered on—nah, that’s Macb and Banquo—at least until he has him murdered—me I’m the power behind the throne—Lady Machiavelli at your service.

We got the moves for the first two acts sorted and some of the scenery and props were used. They’d be transferred to the school’s hall a couple of days before we started, and that would include having the stage marked up and so on. It was all getting very stressful.

Finally, the next day we got a message that Matthew had glandular fever—good old Barr-Epstein—and would be withdrawing from the event, he was very sorry and all that… He was probably the only one—although we couldn’t work with a schoolgirl playing the chief villain when all the main cast were adults. It looked as if the curse of the Scottish play had struck again.

We carried on until lunchtime when some were in favour of calling the whole thing off, without mention of potatoes or tomatoes. Then as I was finishing my lunch and wrestling with the Guardian crossword, I was aware of someone’s shadow over my newspaper.

I looked up and standing in front of me was Iain McPherson—wow—think Colin Firth with a Scots accent. “Is this the rehearsal room?” he asked in a very slight brogue.

“It is, can I help?” I stood up—now this guy could act Matthew Hines off any screen or stage.

“I’m looking for Gordon Rashley.”

I’ll come and help you, let’s start in my bedroom—“He popped out for a moment—shouldn’t be long.”

“Aye, okay—I’ll wait.”

“Would you like a cuppa?” I pointed to our meagre canteen facilities.

“Aye, that would be nice.” As soon as he spoke my tummy did somersaults and I floated to the kettle and boiled it—two minutes later I had two mugs of tea and he was adding to my solutions of the crossword.

“I just love crosswords,” he said slightly burring his Rs—no listen carefully, I roll mine, he’s a bloke—oh forget it.

“I like Araucaria puzzles,” I said which given that the compiler was Enigmatist didn’t mean very much at all.

“Aye, he’s very guid, he’s an elderly clergyman.”

“Yes, I know—they did a feature on him on his eightieth birthday.”

“Och, course they did—I remember now.”

“Iain, you old devil, good to see you,” Gordon called as he entered the hall.

“Aye, you said to be here at two—I wis, whaur were you?”

“Ah dear boy, hush hush stuff—have you read the part?”

“Read it, I’ve played it twice and Macduff once, I think I know it reasonably well—who’s ma leading lady?”

“You’ve been talking with her, a real lady, might I introduce, Lady Catherine Cameron, Iain McPherson.”

“I’m sorry, Lady Catherine, I had no idea—I’ve not worked with you before have I? No, I’d ha’ remembered.”

“You wouldn’t have worked with me unless you did university teaching.”

“Ye’re a teacher?” he looked perplexed. “Gordon, ye telt me this wis mainly pro actors wi’ some school kids helping the secondary parts.”

“I think you’ll find that Lady C makes a good Lady M.”

“I hope so, I didn’t realise I wis riskin’ ma career for t’ do ye a favour.”

“The risk is small, I assure you. Okay everyone, can we start another read through—this is Iain McPherson who’s taking over from Matthew.”

Iain waved to acknowledge the applause—I wasn’t quite so pleased with him though, he had an ego bigger than mine. Oh well, on with the show.

Two hours later and I was exhausted—Iain was wonderful and he was full of apologies for me—he realised I’d overheard his grumbles. He was happy with my Hieland/Lallans mixture and his own accent grew a little in response.

“Ye must let me tak’ ye tae dinner tae mak’ up f’ ma rudeness earlier.”

“I can’t, Iain, I’ve got children to sort out—but I’d be delighted for you to come round to my house—mind you I’ve been out since breakfast, so you’ll have to take us as you find us.”

“I can’t put ye through all that, ye need tae be wi’ yer family an’ yer bairns.”

“I insist, besides Simon, my husband, is a fan of yours—he loved your part in Richard III, and The Merchant.”

“God, that wis three or four years ago.”

“He’s also seen one or two of your films—Ivanhoe was brilliant, and so was that thriller you did with Helen Mirren.”

“Och she’s wonderfu’, the complete actress—though, ye’re nae bad yersel’,” he said winking at me.

“Gosh, look at the time—I’ve got to dash, eight o’clock then?”

“Aye, if ye’re sure.”

“I absolutely insist, besides when my eldest daughter hears you’re coming she’ll probably cancel her plans for the next fortnight.”

He laughed, “Ye canna be auld enough tae hae a dochter mair than seven or eight.”

“She’s seventeen, and very beautiful.”

“She taks after her mither.”

I blushed and dashed off home, stopping at the supermarket to grab a chicken and some cream. Then it was home, change and cut up the chook and whack it in the oven with a few herbs and spices for a coq au vin—okay, hardly original but it’s fairly quick—or my version is.

The younger children were fed and watered and told they would be going to bed early as we had a guest, whom they could meet but then they had to disappear. I let them have extra chocolate ice cream as bribery to comply—the alternative was to lock them in the cellar—nah, they’d probably drink all Tom’s wine.

“Don’t leave your coat there, sweetheart, hang it up please.” I gently chivvied Julie when she came in.

“What’s for tea—I’m starvin’?”

“Iain McPherson,” I said smugly.

“What we gettin’ a leg each?”

“I wish,” I sighed.

“C’mon, Mummy, I gotta be out at eight.”

“You don’t want to meet him, then?”

“Meet who?”

“Iain McPherson.”

“’Course I do, but stop teasin’ me.”

“He is coming to dinner—Matthew’s dropped out, he’s taken over as Macbeth.”

“You what? A Hollywood superstar is comin’ to dinner an’ you didn’t warn me?”

“I only found out myself at six o’clock—so are you stopping or going out?”

“Go out? Bugger that—what shall I wear?” She started walking round in circles.

“Smart casual—you’re not trying to impress—he’s ten or fifteen years older than you.”

“Yeah, so?—Oh he prefers older women, does he?” She poked out her tongue and ran upstairs before I swipe her one.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1379

Once the food was organised, I ran upstairs to change—I’d worn a skirt to rehearsals because I’d be wearing one during the play, however, I wanted to wear something different to dinner and opted for some smart slacks with short sleeved top both in black—they make you look thinner. The top had some lace around a deep vee neck—if you’ve got it flaunt it.

Simon came in and said, “You look nice tonight, Babes, any reason why?”

“Just to be attractive to my hardworking husband, oh and Iain McPherson.”

“We gonna watch a film after then?”

“I hadn’t thought to, why?”

“Well he’s a film actor, isn’t he?”

“He’s also a Shakespearean actor of some renown.”

“I know, I’ve seen him on stage—but I thought he did the same as Tony Hopkins and all the others do and push off to Hollywood.”

“Chasing the money?” I suggested.

“Yeah.”

“A bit like bankers?”

“Yeah—I s’pose—hey, you wotchit.”

I sniggered at Simon, I catch him every time.

“This all right, Mummy?” asked Julie wearing a top which had less material than a handkerchief.

Before I could say anything, Simon launched forth, “You’re not going out like that, my girl.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“So, why are both of you dressed up like floozies?”

I burst out laughing but Julie got quite angry—“I can wear what I like in my own home, can’t I? Seeing you sitting about in a pair of shorts with your belly hanging over the top is far worse than me showing my assets. Bloody caveman.”

Not the best way to deal with Simon, so before he exploded I sent her up to put on a longer skirt and steered him to the dining room to select some wine to go with dinner.

“What the hell is going on? You’re both acting like there’s something special happening.”

“We’re having a dinner party.”

“Gee. Thanks for the advance notice.”

“I only decided at six o’clock.”

“Why?”

“Because that’s when I invited our guest.”

“Guest, what guest?”

“Iain McPherson, how many times have I got to tell you, now go and change into something casual but tidy.”

“I’ll bet Tom’s not changed.”

“In which case he’ll get no dinner.”

“Is this all richt, Cathy?” asked Tom looking tidier than when he went to work this morning.

“Fine, Daddy.”

“Go on—hurry up,” I pushed Si towards the staircase.

“I don’t believe it,” he said sounding like Victor Meldrew, but he ascended the stairs. Moments later, Julie appeared wearing a different skirt but it was the same length; I glowered at her but did nothing else. She poked her tongue at me.

“That’s most unbecoming in a young lady,” scolded Tom and she blushed.

“Sorry, Gramps, do I look all right?”

She did a twirl and he held her at arm’s length and said, “Ye look, braw, lassie.” She gave him a hug and pecked him on the cheek.

“You wouldn’t mind reading the girls a story, would you, Daddy?”

“Aye, all richt,” he went up the stairs, still quite sprightly for an older man.

Jenny came down, also wearing a plunge top and short skirt, I hope she realises we’ve got soup for starters.

At five minutes to eight, the door bell rang and I let Simon answer the door. I listened to voices in the hallway then chuckles. “Cathy, there’s a copper—sorry—a police officer here, something about you speeding?”

“I haven’t been speeding,” I protested, well no more than usual, and walked out to the hallway. Standing there was Iain and Si, both laughing like schoolboys, but Iain was holding a bottle of wine and bouquet of flowers.

“Any more from you, husband, and I’ll send you to sit on the naughty boy’s step. Hello Iain, you found us all right, then?”

“I take it that’s a rhetorical question, or I’m some sort of hologram.”

“You look pretty solid to me,” said Simon clapping him on the shoulder, “Come on in and meet the rest of the family.”

“Oh wow,” said Julie as she was introduced.

“You don’t look old enough to have such a beautiful and grown up daughter,” said Iain turning on the charm.

“Oh she’s my adopted mum, she’s only a few years older really, so ignore the grey hairs and bags under her eyes.”

“If I have grey hairs and bags under my eyes it’s worrying about you, missy, that’s caused them.”

“Ladies, please, there’s enough of me to go round and I’m happily married—I hope, this time—I’ll have you know.”

“This is Jenny, my nursery nurse and housekeeper.”

“I can’t believe I’m meeting you in person, oh my God,” she rushed off to the loo and I thought I heard sounds of retching.

Finally, Tom appeared, “Thae lassies ’re lyin’ doon noo.”

“Iain, this is my adopted Daddy, Professor Tom Agnew—he’s also my boss, so be careful what you say to him.”

They immediately lapsed into broad Scots shaking each other’s arm off and chattering away like a bubbling cauldron. I went to sort the soup, calling Julie and Jenny to help.

“Oh, Cathy, these’re fa ye,” called Iain and I went back to accept them.

“Thank you, kind sir,” and I pecked him on the cheek. I took them out to the kitchen and plonked them in some water—they’d have to wait, Trish could do them tomorrow, she likes flower arranging.

The three waitresses arrived carrying two soup dishes and laid them on the table, we sat where we usually do and that meant Julie was next to Iain on one side and Tom was on the other.

The meal was a success insofar as everyone enjoyed it, but Iain and Tom blethered practically the whole time—they came from the same area of Scotland and both had gone to Edinburgh University—Iain read philosophy and political science. Somehow I felt very ignorant. I watched Simon muscle in on the conversation and even he developed a slight Scottish accent—or revived his own one. I’d never heard him talking like that before.

Julie tried several times to interrupt or join, and while they were polite, they ignored her. I cleared the table and Jenny, who’d given up trying to get attention, helped me carry the dirty dishes out to the dishwasher.

“My one chance to meet a dreamboat like him and he’d rather talk about football or rugby—are they all like that?”

“My experience is limited, but it’s one hundred per cent like that, I’m afraid.”

“Gee whiz, what a waste.”

She looked at me and we both started to laugh. At this point, Julie arrived and I set her to making the coffee.

“Ha,” she said loudly, “if I went in there naked they wouldn’t bloody notice—bloody football.”

“I think they might all notice one little thing—and it would spoil the illusion,” I suggested not thinking for one minute that she’d actually do it, but just in case—she can be a bit unpredictable and I never offer a dare—she’d do it.

Jenny looked puzzled for a moment, then smirked, “Oh that, I forgot you weren’t a native female—you certainly look the part now, me girl.”

We took the coffee through to the dining room where it seemed much quieter—the reason became obvious, there standing before the table was Trish in her Hello Kitty pyjamas. She was talking philosophy with Iain.

“And why are you down here, young lady?” I asked pretending to be a stern mother.

“I was discussing Aristotle with Iain, why? Oh yes, Catherine is cryin’, thought you oughta know.”

“She may want a feed, Cathy,” suggested Jenny, “Shall I go and get her?”

“Better had,” I picked up my coffee and turned to go to the kitchen, “You, missy, bed in two minutes or else.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1380

“She wants a feed,” said Jenny bringing down the latest addition to the family.

“She’s beautiful, jes’ like her ma,” Iain pronounced, little knowing that if it was the case it would be by pure coincidence as I wasn’t her birth mother.

“She’s not mine, Iain, she was left to me as her guardian and I subsequently adopted her. Her mother unfortunately died as did her elder sister and father.

“Oh, I’m sorry—it’s just she looks like you.”

“It’s pure coincidence that we each have one head, two arms and two legs—so yes she looks like me, but then she also looks like you.”

He laughed and the wain began to pucker her lower lip and I had to speak to her and tickle her to cheer her up. “I’d better go and feed her.”

“If ye want tae dae it here, I’ve nae objections—in fact, I think it’s rather nice.”

“Okay then, c’mon little mother sucker,” Iain laughed again but this time Catherine’s attention was firmly fixed on my nipples and sucking them inside out.

Jenny made some tea at my request and I sat drinking it with Iain while the others had a glass of wine. Of course, the baby fell asleep at the breast as she tends to and when I woke her she gave a tremendous burp which I think probably originated somewhere down by her toenails and grew as it travelled up her legs and body. By the time it got to her mouth, Cambridge University probably picked it up on their seismometers.

It made everyone chuckle including the baby herself. She followed with a smaller encore then resumed chewing and sucking my boob—the sucking’s okay but the chewing—she has a few teeth—not so good. Yep, this baby sucks.

“How old is she?” asked Iain.

Simon looked aghast, he had no idea.

“She’ll be a year in August.” I put her down and she pulled herself into a standing position, then promptly sat down with a bump. I made a joke of it and she giggled, doing it again another twice before she crawled over to Iain and pulling herself up his leg said, “Dad a, da da.” He roared with laughter and she sat down and went to Simon who picked her up.

“Hoo many children hae ye got?”

“Including Stella’s daughter who’s staying with us for the moment, eight.”

“Is it?” sighed Simon, “I lost count a while ago.”

“Hey, I’m not really a child,” protested Julie.

“You are until you’re eighteen, kiddo,” I reminded her.

“Yeah, but I could join the army and die for my country.”

“I don’t know if they recruit hairdressers.”

“Are ye a hairdresser, then?” Iain turned his attention to Julie who flirted openly.

“Well, I’m still trainin’ but yeah, I am.”

“Can ye dae plaits an’ things?”

“Yeah, course.”

“I’ll need tae ask yer ma, but it would be useful to hae a hairdresser at thae rehearsals frae thae weekend.”

“We’re not working through the weekend, are we?” I was horrified.

“Aye—in the hall, sae the lightin’ guys can set things up.”

Typical, he’s been here five minutes and he already knows more about the set up than I do. It transpired that Saturday and Sunday were full dress rehearsals and the run for the play had been extended from Monday through to Friday. I was really beginning to think I should have said no at the outset—I can’t pull out now, it’s too late—oh pooh.

I was daydreaming and when I came back to the conversation; Simon, Tom and Iain were discussing costumes and battle dress in particular. Then they got on to armour and things like the collection in the Tower of London—it is impressive, especially Henry VIII’s stuff.

“Yeah. But they were smaller in those days, mostly anyway,” suggested Simon.

“They weren’t ten thousand years ago.”

“What weren’t?”

“People, there was a thing on the BBC that we got smaller since we started farming ten thousand years ago—something to do with restricted diet—lack of niacin or something.”

“Are you trying to tell me that my ancestors were bigger than I am?” asked Simon.

“I’m only repeating what I heard on the radio—they were taller, more muscular and had bigger brains.”

“So, you’re implying that not only are we more feeble, we’re more feeble-minded, too?”

“No, because they suggested that with evolution, our brains didn’t need to be so big, rather like computers have become smaller but equally if not more powerful.”

“Oh yeah, so you reckon a caveman could cope with consolidating investment accounts and predicting which commodities would rise?”

“No more so than you could track herds or caribou and kill and skin them.”

“I reckon I could—I shot a deer once—they were culling some for herd management, and the ghillie and I butchered it and skinned it—Dad used to have it up at the castle, dunno what’s happened to it since.”

“Jings, thae biggest thin’ I ever shot wis a pigeon that wis eatin’ ma peas.”

“Whit aboot ye, Cathy, hae ye shot anythin’?”

“I don’t like guns.” I distracted them—I’d actually shot men dead with a gun and a bow and arrow. The latter, Simon was relating.

“…she’s a dab hand with a bow an’ arrow, shot a couple a guys who were trying to break in—they had guns too.”

“Guid grief, ye didnae, did ye?”

“Can we talk about something else?” I sniffed the baby, “I think, I’ll go and change her.”

“See if you can get a bottle of claret for her,” called Simon. I ignored him, my response—he would not have enjoyed. I thought about her parents and that day at Maria’s house with Trish when we found her. That was truly awful. Then I thought about the number of people I’d harmed because they were threatening me or worse, trying to hurt me or mine. I shuddered—what life demands of us sometimes.

I changed her and she barely stirred, however the fact that she was mobile meant going back to using the gates at the top and bottom of the stairs—mind you, perhaps we should have for Puddin’ anyway, except that little minx has worked out either how to open them or get round them. I can see we’ll have to watch her.

After depositing her back to her cot and checking on Puddin’, who was fast asleep, as were the other girls, I saw Danny’s light was still on—he was reading. I poked my head round his door—“Okay, kiddo?”

“Yeah, s’pose I’d better put the light off, hadn’t I?”

“How long till the end of the chapter?”

He scrambled to turn over pages. “Two more.”

“Okay, finish the chapter and then bed.” I bent down and pecked him on the cheek and much to my surprise he gave me a hug and kissed me on the cheek. He isn’t very demonstrative, so this was a real bonus. I blushed and ruffled his hair, “Goodnight, sweetheart.”

“Night, Mum,” he called back.

I wandered back downstairs and by now Julie and Jenny had elbowed their way into the conversation, I slipped into the kitchen and sat down with a glass of water and closed my eyes—I felt exhausted.

So, we had a leading A-list celebrity in the dining room laughing and joking with my family—and he’s as nice as his publicity claims he is—but, tonight I can top that, I had a kiss from a young man who’s very shy behind all the bravado—and that was worth a thousand celebrities. I felt a warm glow enfold me and I think I might even have nodded off to sleep because Simon called me to see Iain off. He gave me a kiss too, as he left and thanked me for my hospitality. I blushed. Julie and Jenny got a kiss too—but none were as special as that unexpected one I got earlier—that was very special.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1381

“What are you looking so smug about?” Simon asked as I came out of the bathroom and donned my nightdress.

“Nothing, why?”

“I suppose it’s having Iain here, is it?”

“Iain? Oh, McPherson—no—I’ll be seeing him every day for the next week or so—by that time I’ll probably be sick of the sight of him—he certainly will of me.”

“Hmmm, curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.”

“Look, it’s nothing, okay—just a conversation I had with Danny—it’s nothing.”

“C’mon, spill the beans, Watts—tell Uncle Simon—I am his adopted father.”

I got into bed and said, “It really is nothing.”

“So, most of your conversation are but it doesn’t usually stop you telling me things.”

“You cheeky sod, just because I don’t spend all day shafting the public to pay my obscene bonuses, it doesn’t mean I’m a nothing.”

“I was joking, all right—sorry—I didn’t mean it, really I didn’t.”

“Danny gave me a hug and kiss when I wished him goodnight—that’s all.” I turned over and faced away from Simon. He put his arm round me but I didn’t acknowledge it.

Danny did?”

“Yes, Danny.”

“Okay—I can see why you were pleased with yourself. What brought that on?”

“I didn’t stop to ask—it would have spoilt the moment.”

“Probably for the better.” He fell silent for a while. “Be interesting to see if he does it again.”

“Maybe.”

“What d’you mean?”

“It would depend upon the circumstances—tonight he was winding down ready to sleep—it might be weeks or months before I see him like that again.”

“You could always go and tuck him in.”

“That would be contriving things then, this was spontaneous. I’d rather wait a couple of years for another like tonight than manipulate him into doing it every night because it was expected.”

“Yeah, okay—you’ve made your point.”

“Of all the kids, except Julie, I see least of him because he does a lot of his stuff out of the house—I don’t know his friends or what he gets up to—other than so far no one has reported him to us or the school for anything. He doesn’t confide in me—well not much anyway—he has a good relationship with Tom—he loves the garden and seems to enjoy his time with Tom: but he doesn’t spend much time with me.”

“Because you’re his mother and he’s a boy—a normal boy, not a mummy’s boy—so I wouldn’t expect him to say much to you unless he had to.”

“I admit I find it difficult to get along with boys—too many negatives from my past, I suppose.”

“They’d pull your pigtails, would they?”

“Sure—actually—I had my ponytail pulled a few times.”

“Oh yes, you had very long hair didn’t you?”

“For a supposed boy child, yes.”

“I think we can ignore that classification—don’t you?—not many boys I know have some of these,” he began stroking my breast.

I woke up a little tender—just as well I wasn’t cycling anywhere today. I showered and got the girls up and called Danny and Julie. She came down clutching her head—I didn’t ask her to have more wine. In fact, if I’d been there I might well have stopped her. One day she’ll learn—having said that loads of twenty-somethings tend to suggest I could be wrong.

I sorted the younger children while Julie just had coffee and some paracetamol. The kids all thought it was hilarious and Jenny wasn’t very sympathetic either—poor Julie. She did go into work although she would be asking for Saturday off to help with the hairdressing at the play—we got her a pair of tickets for her boss to soften the blow.

At the rehearsals I felt like the amateur I was. Iain was so dashing as Macbeth—the thane of Cawdor, whose ambitious wife brought a good man down. At least in the Shakespearean version, which we now know was very wrong. But even in his day, Shakespeare’s that is, the corridors of power were filled with ruthless types who’d have murdered their grannies for a shot at the throne—and it’s hardly better now, and probably never will be. Humans are not nice creatures—big brains, bigger egos and decreasing consciences means there’s always someone who’s prepared to risk all for a big enough prize—just look at the international football organisation—about as straight as a wiggly line.

Anyway, Iain was so good, once or twice I just stood there watching him, in awe. Then, a funny thing happened—I became Lady M—no, not literally, but suddenly, instead of being on the outside looking in watching them all acting so well, I joined them. A similar thing happened in school—except I was so frightened there for different reasons—here it was because I didn’t want to be the weak link in the chain.

I jumped in with both feet, feeling a sense of confidence because I knew they’d help me—they were professionals—I was at best an entertaining educator—these guys were real actors. It was so different to Matthew’s efforts, but they were so supportive of the girls who had relatively minor roles and me.

At first I suspected some degree of hostility and I suspect there was a little resentment—who was I? Some local nob’s wife, film maker and teacher—hardly qualifications for getting probably the best women’s part in all of Shakespeare and to act opposite a giant of the theatre—up there with Brannagh and Patrick Stewart. So what the hell was I doing there? Then it all clicked and when we ended the second act, Iain came over to me and said, “Weel done, Cathy, ye’re getting there—dinna worry aboot thae rest o’ ’em, they eat and shit, just like ye dae.”

I got better, I think, yet it all got harder—I found it drained me emotionally all the conspiratorial angst which drives my character to regret, madness and finally—suicide—albeit off stage.

At five o’clock, Gordon came up to me and told me that I was one of the best Lady Macbeths he’d ever directed. I nearly threw up, I was so gobsmacked. What I didn’t realise was there were four little faces watching me rehearse, and they’d been sat quietly with Sister Maria, who admitted afterwards she was drawn by the opportunity to watch some real actors at work. Personally, I suspect she was just as much in love with Iain as all the other women.

Iain spotted Trish and pointed to her then waved her over to us, she was followed by her sisters. “Hello again, young lady, who are all these?”

“My sisters, Billie, Livvie and Mima.”

He spoke to each one of them and took their hand and kissed it which resulted in lots of blushes and embarrassed giggles. I called over Sister Maria, whom I introduced to Iain and she got her hand kissed as well. That nearly had her exploding with embarrassment and the girls wetting themselves with laughter.

“This is the lady to whom all this is due,” I said once things returned to normal, “She’s the one who’s cajoled and threatened to get this thing off the ground, and it’s her fault you’re saddled with an amateur like me.”

“A very gifted an’ beautiful amateur—if Macbeth’s missus wis half as beautiful as ye, he’d hae killed half o’ Scotland f’ a smile frae ye.”

“No, my mummy wouldn’t let anyone be killed—she’d make them better, wouldn’t you, Mummy?” Trish interrupted and her sisters agreed noisily.

“I was fwightened, Mummy,” said Mima, holding on to my long dress.

“It’s all right, Meems, it’s only pretend—no one gets hurt and we all enjoy what we’re doing.”

“I don’t wike it.”

“Okay, sweetheart, I’ll get changed and we’ll go home.”

“D’ya think his character demonstrates the baser man that Plato wrote about?” Trish asked Iain loudly and he looked at me and winked, I shook my head, she was something else, that girl.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1382

“Are you sure you’re going to be all right?” I asked Jenny.

“Yeah, course I am, the girls an’ Danny’ll help me sort out the littlies.”

“Okay,” I turned to leave with Julie who had managed to persuade me to let her dye my hair auburn and add two extensions to the plaits she’d given me. It looked as if I had hair right down to my bum—which is much longer than the just below shoulder length it is naturally. “You’ve got my mobile number, if you need me.”

“I won’t, Tom and Simon are about somewhere—we’ll manage between us.”

“Well don’t let them get away with doing nothing, because they will if they can.”

“Don’t worry—now go; you’ll be late.”

We waved and drove off towards the school hall—this was the full dress rehearsal, today and tomorrow plus checking the lighting and acoustics. I’ve spoken in the hall before but that was with a microphone—now we’d just have to project—okay, I’m a teacher, so I can project my voice, but in a soft Scottish accent—I suppose I’ll just have to see.

Jenny wanted to see the play, and we’d got her tickets for Friday night—it had been extended to Saturday because of demand—it was pretty well a sell out when they heard Matt was doing it, since they heard Iain was replacing him, we even had several serious critics demanding tickets as well as the clamour of new customers.

Julie and I arrived at the school having hardly swapped a word, she was worrying about her limited hairdressing skills and I was worrying about everything, not least fluffing my lines or generally screwing up. I know professionals do, so what chance an amateur like me? We entered the hall and I needed to rush to the loo—although I’d only had a slice of toast and a cuppa.

“Okay?” Iain met me returning from the loo.

“Yeah, just a bit of nerves.”

“Look, young lady, I’ve heard increasingly about your exploits—you’re a regular wonder woman—compared to what you’ve done, this should be a doddle. Remember it’s only a rehearsal—you’re allowed to make mistakes—and some more tomorrow—it’s not until Monday we go live.”

“Oh don’t remind me,” I shot back into the loos and this time ejected my breakfast. I tried to calm myself by remembering Yul Brynner was sick practically every time he appeared on stage—I’ll rephrase that—he was sick before he went on stage, not actually on stage—oh look out here I go again.

“Mummy, are you in there?” Julie was calling through the door, I was kneeling in front of the toilet pan having been calling huey for the last minute or two. My eyes were running and my mouth tasted foul.

“I’ll be out in a moment,” I said back, using some toilet paper to wipe my face. I stood on wobbly legs and managed to open the cubicle door.

“You all right?” she asked.

“I think so, why?”

“You look awful.”

“Thanks, you sure know how to make someone feel better,” I gently rebuffed her.

“Sorry, but you do—d’you want some water?”

“Please,” I took the bottle she offered me.

I took her arm and we walked out to the hall and sat quietly in the chairs of the front row. The day after tomorrow, these same chairs will be occupied by the bums of schoolgirls as they have assembly.

I gazed up on to the stage, the scenery was really clever and the lighting made it look quite realistic. We had a proper scenery painter with us and he was showing the girls who were helping him how to do it properly.

The blasted heath looked quite eerie and with the carbon dioxide machine it produced swirls of mist which twirled across the stage. The fire and cauldron of the witches looked quite menacing—although it was all electric flames flickering in small bulbs on the sides of the cauldron, with a red flickering one underneath.

The three girls who were the witches used latex masks which were truly horrible to look at and they all cackled like stereotypical witches.

“Feel better?” asked a male voice.

“Yes, thank you.”

“Good—it’s all part of the theatre experience—just think, on Monday you’ll be flying on the buzz you get from the live audience—real adrenalin trip.”

“Thanks, Gordon, that’s just what I needed to hear.”

He laughed, “You’ll be okay—just remember what it was like that day when it all clicked into place—remember how powerful you felt—wowing an audience? That’s what it’s all about—never mind the high art, leave that to critics—just land the thing and walk away safely—that’s all you have to do.”

I liked his landing an aircraft analogy, yes, I’d walk away from this head held high and probably fall over the first thing I encountered because I didn’t see it.

“Right, people,” called Gordon, “We start in three minutes, cast on stage or the wings, stage crew, lighting to your positions if you please.”

“C’mon, Mummy, break a leg,” Julie helped me up.

“I feel as if I’ve broken them already as well as swallowed cyanide.”

“C’mon, drama queen,” she teased.

“Hark who’s talking,” I riposted.

In the wings, or actually, a small room behind the stage, my makeup was done by another professional and it was far thicker than anything I’d have done—I looked gross in the mirror, but I expected from the floor, I’d look as I was supposed to. Looking in the mirror, only a lack of false eyelashes prevented me looking like a drag queen—it was ’orrible.

Everything went quiet and we knew the rehearsal had begun.

Julie became my dresser as well as hairdresser; I had two changes, the normal robes of a twelfth century noblewoman and the nightclothes for the sleepwalking scene.

Somehow, we all got through it and felt emboldened by the experience—or at least I did, however, I was still very pleased to remove the costume and the stage makeup and get back into my normal clothing and persona.

“You did all right, darling,” said Gordon, winking at me, “a couple of things to work on, but we’ll do that tomorrow.”

I was exhausted and Julie looked quite tired too. “I think I’m looking forward to a nice soak in the bath with a glass of decent wine,” I suggested.

“Hmm, that sounds rather nice, Mummy, I might try it too—just make sure you don’t get your plaits wet.”

“Oh bugger, can’t you undo them?”

“Course—they looked really good and the others were muttering how authentic they made you look.”

“I hope that doesn’t mean I looked ancient?” I accused, pretending to be terribly hurt.

“No, of course not, Mummy, people thought you were my sister.”

“What you, Cinderella, me ugly sister?” I teased again.

“Don’t be silly,” she smirked, “You’re nearly as beautiful as me.”

“Ha, that’s some recommendation—talk about back handed compliment.”

Julie just sat there laughing.

“Self approbation is no recommendation.” I quoted one of my mother’s sayings.

“Huh, if you gorrit, flaunt it,” she said and laughed loudly again.

We got home and after making a fuss of everyone, I’d just run my bath and taken the wine up to drink while soaking and the phone rang. I sipped the wine and ignored the ringing.

I’d literally just sat in the warm water and swooshed it up over my shoulders before lying back in the bath, when the door was knocked. “Babes?”

“Oh, Si, I’m trying to have a quick bath—I told you.” I’d actually asked him to keep the children from disturbing me for half an hour—then I’d cook us all a decent meal.

“Yeah I know, Babes, but this is kind of important.”

I felt like screaming—what could be so important? I refrained, however, and he came in. “It’s Stella.”

“What about her?” I asked although I had a horrible feeling I knew the answer already.

“She’s gone into labour and she’s asking for you.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1383

At the instant that Simon told me Stella had gone into labour I wanted to rush to help her and simultaneously pretend I hadn’t heard anything, drink my wine and soak. Simon however, wasn’t going to let me adopt plan B.

“What’re you gonna do?”

Sit here and sulk? Sadly it didn’t seem to be an option. “Is there any problem anticipated?” I called back.

“I dunno do I? I leave that sort of thing to you women,” he replied in a typical male cop-out.

“I mean, does she actually need me there?”

“The woman who called is her midwife, she seemed to imply that it was a good idea.”

I could just slash my wrists I suppose—one day the Cameron clan will be able to stand on their own two feet—presumably after I’m gone—but for the moment, it seems I have to mother them all.

“Okay, give me ten minutes and I’ll get out.” The last thing I needed was to drive to the clinic—or would it be the local hospital? I’m quite tired and feel more like drinking the wine and falling asleep in the bath.

I slooshed the water over my body again, wiped myself all over—especially in those nooks and crannies that we women have—and taking the shower, rinsed myself off, taking care to keep my hair dry. I pulled the plug and drew the bath towel round me. One day I’ll do what I want instead of everyone else, however, I had a vague recollection of a promise to be with her when she birthed. I hoped Gareth would be there—had she sent for him?

I dried myself, dabbed on some cream in places where my skin rubs or gets dry, shook some talc under my boobs and in the creases of my hips and groin, deodorant, some clean knickers and a bra and I emerged from the bathroom deciding what to wear for the long drive to the clinic. It had turned cooler but the clinic or hospital would be warmer—possibly too warm. I pulled on a skirt and top with some casual shoes which I could wear all night if I had to. I pushed my arms into the short sleeves of the thin cardigan and after looking at the ridiculous length of the hair pieces—called Julie to come and detach them. She did so very reluctantly.

Of course the red hair made me look different, and I used some reddish lipstick—I looked even more different—slightly more sophisticated? I wasn’t sure, maybe it was just older. Great—just what I needed.

“D’you want me to come as well?” asked virtually everyone from Simon down. Trish asked, so did Julie and even Meems.

However, I decided to go on my own, I’d fill up the tank of my juggernaut and get off as fast as I could. I told Simon to look after the kids, I told the kids to look after Simon. I told Julie to help Jenny with the little ones, and asked Tom to keep an eye on all of them. Danny, I asked to cope with all the muddle: he winked at me and smiled.

I took a bag with me just in case I needed to stay somewhere overnight, a book to read—grabbed my phone, car keys and the sandwich I’d just made—then Danny carried my bag to the car for me.

“You don’t ’arf look different with red hair,” he observed placing the bag in the boot of the car.

“Is that better or worse?” I asked.

“Dunno—different—not like my mother. Yeah, quite fanciable, I s’pose.” I don’t know which of us blushed the deeper. Oh well, debating the pros and cons of my son’s Oedipus complex with myself should help the journey.

At least it was still light and I got onto the motorway and chugged towards the clinic. Because they do all sorts of treatment there, it isn’t just for wealthy depressives, the baby would be born there—unless there was need for ICU, in which case it’s an ambulance job to the nearest NHS hospital with a spare bed.

I listened to the radio in the car although much of it was autopilot as I mused about being fanciable to my son. It was a nice feeling but also disturbing because it reminded me that he was fast arriving at the age when he’d be out chasing girls and trying to get past first base. I could understand how his hormones could drive him but at the same time hoped he’d exercise restraint—there are enough gymslip mums and schoolboy dads about now without him adding to the statistics.

I also wondered about how soon we’d need to discuss sending Julie for assessment for surgery; then here was Livvie—she would soon be starting her monthly—which would require some help—from me, a woman who’s never had one—oh well, something new to try.

I wondered about Billie—how she was coping with her transition—it seems quite well, at least I don’t hear any negatives and I’m sure something would feed back to me via Trish, Livvie or Meems. Meems seems to be doing okay at school—she’s quite bright, too—or is it that I’m a bit dim and they all seem bright to me? Except poor Billie—if she stays with the role, one can only hope she finds someone who can encourage her to use her mind a bit more—I seem to have failed and I’m paying a fortune to a school who aren’t exactly achieving miracles either—I might have to turn the pressure up—I do them favours—how about some reciprocation?

Crikey, I was at the clinic already—I was fortunate that nothing had happened which required me to actually think about what I was doing rather than think about my family. I parked and went to reception.

I had to wait for several minutes for someone to answer the bell. It was now dark and a heavy drizzle was falling, the sort that sticks to your hair and clothes. Finally, some woman arrived and I had to explain who I was and why I was there. I’d speak to the manager later—sometimes having a title does help.

“We’re a bit short staffed this week,” she said, but all I was thinking was that it’s a failure of management to provide sufficient cover, especially for the rates Henry was paying. She led me to their maternity clinic and I waited while she went to find someone in charge.

“You must be Cathy?” asked a well-built thirty-something woman in a white tunic with coloured braid—light blue—around the cuffs and pockets.

“Yes.”

“Glad you could come, Stella’s through here.”

I followed my nameless guide into a private room where Stella was with another midwife who was urging her to take deep breaths and push. Stella looked totally fed up and quite tired.

“Hiya,” I said trying to sound bright and breezy even though I felt knackered myself.

“Not another frigging midwife,” I heard her mutter to herself.

“No, I’m your cheer squad.”

She looked over to me and squealed, “Cathy.”

“Crikey, you sound like Heathcliff on a bad day.” I walked over to her and we hugged as best we could.

I sat down and we held hands. “Everyone sends their love, especially Puddin’.” She squeezed my hand. “Where’s Gareth?”

“He’s had to go to a meeting, he’s hoping to get back as soon as he can. It’s good to see you—make it come, will you?”

“Make what come?” I acted stupid.

“The baby—I know it’s another girl—but make her come—please.”

“These things can’t be rushed you know—besides you have two midwives who know far more about delivering babies than I do.”

The two midwives consulted in the corner of the room where neither of us could hear what they said—it alarmed both of us especially when the one seemed to go off in haste.

“Do we have a problem?” I asked the remaining one.

“I think the baby’s turned.”

“Isn’t it supposed to do that?”

“Um—turned the wrong way.”

“You mean breech?”

“Um—could be.” She blushed—I thought they were supposed to check that before the labour started, when it becomes obvious that the baby is getting ready to come and the head engages.

“Does that mean a Caesar?” I asked. Stella seemed to have taken a snooze.

“Could be.”

“Can’t you turn her round.”

“Not at this stage.”

“I thought it was usually boys who were breech?”

“It is.”

I laid my hand on Stella’s bloated belly and immediately I aware that the baby was in trouble—and I said so.

She got the foetal heart monitor and it became obvious to her that I was right. She looked very embarrassed and concerned. “The doctor’s on his way.”

“It’s going to be too late—can’t you do the delivery.”

“I can’t do a caesarean section—no—I’m a midwife not an obstetrician.”

“Okay, I’ll try and keep the baby alive, you get a theatre organised.” I focused the light onto Stella’s tummy and to the neonate inside it. “C’mon, little girl, hang on in there—the doctor’s on his way.”

“What’s that blue light?”

“Are you still here?—Piss off and organise things—now.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1384

After I’d asserted myself to the midwife, who ran off like a scalded cat, I told Stella to sleep—reinforcing the suggestion I sent her through the energy. She would need her energy for whatever was to happen—good or bad.

I became increasingly worried about the baby—if only I could get my hands in there and turn her round—yeah sure. I stood at the business end of the bed and imagined I could see inside the womb—I was still sending love to the baby to try and keep her alive and calm—birth is traumatic when it goes well—if it doesn’t it must be awful for all concerned.

I could see the baby, the cord wrapped round it but not dangerously so. I then imagined my hands inside the womb, moving her. She felt as slippery as a bar of soap as I tried to concentrate more and more on lifting her slightly and twisting her round. It was all so tight in there and was like trying to put a film in a camera inside a hot-water bottle.

I could feel trickles of sweat running down my back and I’ll bet my bra was damp as well, slowly but surely I struggled to turn the baby round, using my imagination and the blue energy—it almost felt like keyhole surgery.

I was also trying to keep intrusion at bay, so those who were coming to see us would suddenly remember they needed to do something first like go to the loo. It’s an old magical trick which I saw in a book years ago—by someone called Crowley or something, can’t remember now.

I managed finally to grab hold of the baby’s legs and bending them at the knee, folded her over and turned her so her head could engage—this usually happens hours if not a day or so before—so why they hadn’t realised it, goodness only knows.

“Okay, Stella—start to push,” I said quietly and she did so although she was still sleeping.

I imagined the blue light like a lubricant easing the muscles of the birth canal and greasing the way for the baby to slip out. I also relaxed the intruder control and one of the midwives came bursting in.

“How is she?”

“She’s doing fine and so’s the baby—she’s coming—look.”

“She’s not breech,” she gasped, “c’mon, Stella, push.”

I went back to sit by the exhausted mother, “Okay, girl, wakey-wakey, let her come, she’s beautiful, just let her come. Minutes later, a beautiful little girl popped into the world, just as the doctor arrived. He looked irritated at being called out for a wild goose chase and began to tear a strip off the midwives.

“Hang on, doctor, the fees my family is paying here, why weren’t you here from the beginning?”

“I had another engagement,” he sneered.

“In which case I presume you’ll refund that part of the account—the one for your services which weren’t rendered.”

“I’ll have you know I’ve just driven twenty miles to get here.”

“I’ve driven three times that, and seemed to be here in time whereas you weren’t.”

“Just who d’you think you are?”

“More than a match for you, sunshine, oh and make sure you take some antacid or that fillet steak you had is going to rebound all night—it was the pepper sauce, doesn’t do your ulcer any good—oh, but then you didn’t know you had one did you? Peptic, I believe they call them—and lay off the booze or you’ll lose your licence—driving and possibly your medical one—it’s certain if I complain, my barrister will eat you and you medical defence team.”

He looked suddenly pale. “Peptic, you said?”

“Absolutely.”

“How do you know?” he asked, looking quite ill.

“You don’t really want to know that do you?”

He looked at me very anxiously—“Am I going to be all right?”

“If you get it sorted and stop your affair—it’s the stress of your wife finding out that’s the problem.”

“How the fuck do you know about that?”

“About Michelle, although you call her Pussy-cat, don’t you?”

“Have you been spying on me?”

“No, you’ve told me all this.”

“Don’t be ridiculous?”

“Maybe you should ask Cherry?”

“You leave my wife out of this.”

“Like you have—don’t you think she suspects already? Only staying with you because she loves you as do your kids—Sally and Laura, isn’t it?”

“Stop this, d’you hear?”

“Is any of it untrue?”

“All of it.”

“Fine—sue me then—and we’ll see. Of course, I’ll demand huge compensation for your slander and you’ll have to pay legal fees too, half a million or more—you’d be ruined in all senses. A proven liar, adulterer and general arsehole as well as being bankrupted.”

“I have to go.” He staggered out of the door and I suspect went home—I hope there aren’t any police about because he’d had more than the limit.

The two midwives had wiped the baby, weighed and measured her and Stella was laying there holding her as the little one yawned and slept in her arms.

“You certainly tore a strip of him, Cathy,” offered one of the midwives.

“What was said stays in this room or the scans of the breech birth will come to see daylight and you will find yourself in hot water with your professional body.”

“Yeah—no problem—how did you turn her—because you did, didn’t you?” asked the senior midwife.

“I simply asked her to stand on her head and she did.”

“You’re joking.”

“Of course I am, I used a magnet—all babies are magnetic—didn’t you know?”

“Now I know you’re joking,” she laughed, “How did you do it?”

“With difficulty. Now, how about a nice cup of tea?”

They scurried off and we were left in peace.

“Thanks, Cathy.”

“I did it for my niece, not my awful sister-in-law.”

“It was her that said it,” smirked Stella.

“Bit of a deep voice for a baby.”

“Yeah—she has, hasn’t she—she is okay, healthy I mean?”

“Of course, I don’t deliver damaged packages, do I?”

“No.”

“What are you going to call her?” I asked.

“We like Fiona and Catrin.”

“Crikey, a real Celtic mix.”

“Well, it’s Gareth’s grandmother’s name, and Fiona is my gran’s name.”

“Fiona? Um—is that okay, Fiona?” I asked the baby who yawned.

“Well, if we have any more Catherines, we won’t know who’s who?” said Stella.

“I thought Catrin was Welsh for Catherine? We had a girl at Sussex who was from Carmarthen who was called Catrin.”

“Damn, Gareth said you’d work it out.”

“So—it’s different enough, and I feel very flattered.”

“Hi, ladies,” in walked the proud father—“oh, she’s come—can I hold her?” Stella held her up for him to take carefully. “I’m sorry I missed your entrance, little one.”

“I think it was just as well, Cathy had trouble sorting out the mistakes they made here. Oh and she guessed—about the names.”

Gareth looked at me suspiciously.

“I’m deeply flattered and I love it. Oh, and before I forget, congratulations to the new mum and dad.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1385

I finally got a little cuddle of the baby, and thankfully she stayed asleep—what I’d have done if she’d smelt milk—I hate to think. However, it did remind me to head home to sort out my own little bundle of joy.

I made my goodbyes and set off for home—it was nearly two on a Sunday morning, Father’s day—oh pooh. What with the play and everything, I’d completely forgotten, and nowhere is open at this time of night, dammit.

As I drove back I called in at the motorway services—I managed to find a card which all the kids could sign, and picked up a different one for me to give to Tom. He was instrumental in helping me make my transition, and he’s nice old chap who has been like a father to me at times. I also know that while he won’t expect one, if he doesn’t get one he’ll be very disappointed.

I also managed to get a stack of car stuff—albeit at rip off prices—for Simon, from the kids: a chamois; a tyre pressure gauge; some car polish and a Jaguar key fob. About thirty pounds lighter I got back in the car and drove home—I got to bed at four—knowing I needed to be up again in three or four hours.

Simon grunted in his sleep when I slipped into bed but smiled when I pecked him on the cheek. Minutes later he had his arm round me and I felt his warm body behind me. My head was still buzzing from the drive and forgetting to buy some proper Father’s day stuff, so sleep was the one thing I couldn’t do. I even tried asking the blue light to help me relax but nothing happened.

I must have gone off in the end because I woke up feeling like you know what—it’s brown and sticky and doesn’t smell of chocolate. Trish was poking me and telling me it was father’s day in a very loud whisper—Si would have had to have been in coma or deaf not to hear it. In fact I think I heard him chortle.

“Mummmeee, wake up—it’s Father’s Day—and we haven’t got anything for Daddy.”

Do I care? At this instant no—in fact I was thinking if I killed him quickly I wouldn’t have to bother with Father’s bloody day. Then something inside me suggested that might be a trifle unwise, so I did wonder if I could pretend that I thought it was still Saturday—except I was rehearsing yesterday. Oh pooh—oh yes, the plastic bag in the kitchen—assorted motorist’s bits—sounds like I carved up some drivers, literally.

I fell out of bed and staggered into the bathroom for a wee with Trish pulling on my nightdress the whole time. “Let go, will you, I’ll wee on it,” I snapped at her and she stepped back sharply.

“I was only trying to warn you it was Father’s Day,” she said holding back the tears; she cries very easily if I’m at all sharp with her—hormones, perhaps?

“I know, darling, I know.” I offered her a hug and she threw herself at me. “Mummy’s very tired, I didn’t get to bed very early—but you have another girl cousin, Fiona Catrin.”

“Oh that is sooo nice, Mummy, is she coming to live with us?”

“Soon.”

“How soon?”

“I don’t know—look, I told you I was tired, c’mon let’s get some breakfast.”

As we went down, the other girls joined us and I had a kitchen full of girls when we arrived. I got them all to sign the card for both Si and Tom. Then Trish got the job of running up stairs to get Danny and Julie to sign them. While she was doing that I looked out some little fancy gift bags and we loaded all the car stuff into separate bags. They all now had a present to give Simon. Trish was back with the card and Danny staggered down after her. He stopped to give me a kiss on the cheek as he stumbled half-asleep into the kitchen. I could get to like this.

I made them eat before they—well the girls—went rushing up the stairs to jump on Simon, who if he had any sense would lock himself in the bathroom—but knowing he hasn’t, he’d get jumped on.

I ate a quick bowl of cereal and some fruit, drank my tea and after feeding Catherine and Puddin’, went up for a shower and the hope it would wake me up. By the time I was dressed and downstairs, Tom was back from his dog walk—we gave him his card and the bottle of single malt I keep hidden for such occasions—I’d need to replace it. He was suitably pleased and although he thanked the children, he winked at me, and I got peck on the cheek as well.

Julie came down grumbling about the time on a Sunday and I reminded her that she was helping with the play. She’d forgotten, so did my plaits before getting her breakfast—then at ten, we left to do another day of rehearsals.

Just before we left, Simon appeared and thanked me for my input to his presents—he was really pleased with them. He kissed me and the girls all jumped on him again. Jenny came down looking very sleepy—she’d apparently waited up for me until nearly three, watching some film of which she couldn’t even remember the title, but it had some famous actor in.

At the school, I struggled to stay awake and in the end, Gordon picked on me and I burst into tears—Julie gave him what for and told him why I was so tired. He came over and apologised and made me go and have a snooze in my car.

I was gone for about an hour after which I felt much better—then with a coffee and a biscuit, I was a bit more like my normal self. We did bits out of sequence before lunch, then stopped for a meal which Iain had apparently ordered from a local catering service—it was delicious, lots of fresh rolls, fruit and salad. It will come as a total surprise that I had a tuna-filled brown bread roll, with some salad and then a piece of fruit—washed down with a bottle of still water and a cuppa.

We’d rehearsed the sleepwalking scene just before and Gordon had made me work hard at it—we did it three times before he was happy and I was on my knees—Judy Dench, I am not.

Then after lunch, we ran through the whole thing again and I was dreading it—the sleepwalking scene—but at the end Gordon applauded me and told me I was now doing it better than ever—probably still pretty awful but I was beyond caring—home and sleep—in that order was all I was thinking.

On the drive back, Julie told me how brilliant I was in the sleepwalking scene—I told her to watch Dame Judy on YouTube and she’d change her mind, she pooh-poohed the suggestion.

I dragged my weary body into the house and Simon told me that he and Tom had arranged for us all to eat out for dinner—so to get myself tidied up. I’d have willingly gone without food just to sleep—but I knew they’d be disappointed if I didn’t go. I also thought I’d have to drive, but they’d organised a minibus for us all. Maybe I could catch forty winks on that?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1386

I didn’t quite fall asleep face down in my dinner, but I did nod off while waiting for it. Thankfully, Jenny and Julie dealt with the two little ones, I put my elbows on the table rested my head on my forearms and zonked.

In the end I didn’t eat anything, Simon moved me on the chair to the end of the table and they left me to sleep while they ate and drank, so he told me later. I was an object of amusement—nothing new there—of the other restaurant users, but none of the staff had the authority to ask me to leave—in some ways, It might have been better if I had—I could have gone home and slept in a bed; instead of which I lay with my head on the table giving me a lovely mark across my cheek and a headache.

I was woken to get in the minibus to go home and woke up during the journey. I did wonder if it would prevent me sleeping that night, but it didn’t. I had some tea and a slice of toast and went to bed. I was something of a wet blanket for the boys’ Father’s Day celebration—but frankly my dear, I don’t give a damn.

The next day was the first of the play’s actual run and Julie finished work early to help with the makeup and hair. She’d done mine at home before we left: hair that is. I did my own makeup and felt like swallowing some insecticide to sort out the butterflies that were flitting round my digestive system.

I sat sucking a peppermint and feeling sick. To say I felt nervous would be an understatement. It was rumoured that the mayor, the local MP and lots of other worthies were amongst the two hundred plus audience. Given they were sitting on hard wooden chairs—they must be keen.

Finally it was time for the off and some pipe music warned the punters that we were starting. I stayed in the ‘green room’ back stage until I was needed. My stomach was more active than a gymnast on ecstasy—however, I managed not to be sick.

Then I was on stage, and I couldn’t see anything beyond the lights at the front of the stage—I went on to autopilot and did what had been schooled into me over the past umpteen weeks.

At the interval—given so the punters could allow their bums to wake up—and allowing us to have a cuppa or something stronger if we wanted. I settled for tea although I was buzzing like a wasp in a bottle.

My sleepwalking scene went reasonably well—I remembered all the lines and the stage directions. Although there were others on stage at the time—two sixth form girls playing ladies in waiting—I felt very alone and with the lights lowered, I could see a mass of people but no faces. I tried to pretend they were all dormice but it did unnerve me for a second or two.

I did my scream offstage for the suicide and went off to have a drink of water—I was soaked in sweat—I hoped they could dry clean the costumes or after a couple of shows, we are going to smell authentic.

I’d managed to keep my accent throughout—reminding myself that I was a native Scot—well I was born there if you remember, and my ancestors were Scottish, so I felt validated. I listened to the shouting and the clash of the steel of the swords—it was carefully choreographed to look dangerous but it was reasonably safe and the blades wouldn’t cut butter. If you remember, Macbeth runs off stage pursued by Macduff who returns with his head. Instead of the cheapo cabbage in a sack job, we had a fake head which looked sufficiently like Iain to do the trick.

The play ended and the lesser players lined up, then the likes of Banquo and Macduff, finally, Iain and I strode to the front—he bowed and I dropped a deep curtsey first to the house, then to him and he reciprocated with a deep bow to me. We then reprised the bow/curtsey to the house. The noise of the applause was deafening and when Gordon came up on stage and joined us in a bow, the noise grew louder again.

The curtains closed and Julie came rushing over to hug me—“You were brill, Mummy—absolutely wicked.” She hugged me again.

Iain came over and kissed me. “Are you sure you’re not a pro?”

“A pro-ecologist, yeah; actor—no; if I was, why was a shitting myself for two hours?”

“A real pro—but the buzz is good isn’t it, that only comes from a live audience,” he added. “Right, get changed, we’re off to the pub.”

“D’you mind if I don’t, I’m shattered,” I whined and Julie flashed me a dirty look.

“Come on ladies, over to the pub—hurry please first drink is on me,” said Gordon. He kissed me and said, “You were very good, my dear, very good. Buy the paper tomorrow, the critic liked it.”

“How d’you know?” I asked.

“He said so, oh, that Billington bloke was here from the Guardian, he looked contented too.”

I agreed to go for one drink—I was driving—so I made it a soft one. Julie had a buck’s fizz. There were toasts to the actors and to the director and to Sister Maria, who came over to me afterwards and thanked me.

“We took a thousand pounds tonight, and that’s profit. We have five more to go, so we should clear six thousand by the weekend. We’re also squeezing in another fifty seats because the demand for tickets is astonishing—we were sold out in minutes—it’s like a Take That concert.”

“I suspect people pay a bit more for one of their tickets,” I suggested.

“Yes, well more fool them, you’re infinitely better value than a pop group.”

“Dunno,” interrupted Julie, “I wouldn’t mind seeing Robbie an’ the boys live—better than this ol’ trout,” she laughed and stepped back before I could slap her, almost knocking someone’s drink out of their hand.

“Crikey, I have to that another five times?” I gasped—I was loving it really, my head and body were still buzzing—I’d never get to sleep tonight.

“That’s what it’s all about, Cathy, raising money for our hardship fund.”

“Yeah, I know—I expect I’ll manage to last the week.”

Gordon and Iain approached me, “We have a chance of putting this on at the Mayflower, next week—they’re short of a programme, some tenor has cancelled with laryngitis. Are you up for it?”

“I’ll have to think about it—um.”

“Look, Cathy, they need an answer tonight—think of the experience of doing it at a proper theatre—and for the girls—it’ll be an amazing experience. They’ll pay expenses—that’s all I’m afraid—they’ll only have a few days to market it. Go on, live dangerously,” he exhorted.

“Yeah, go for it, Mummy.”

“Which night is it?”

“Saturday, so you won’t be teaching.”

I looked at Julie and she was nodding vigorously.

“I must be a complete idiot, but okay, I’ll do it.”

“Yes,” said Julie pumping the air and Iain nodded and winked.

“I’m glad ye said yes, we’d hae had tae cancel wi’oot a Lady Mac.”

“You mean if I’d said no, it wouldn’t happen?”

“Absolutely.”

Jeez, I held the fate of the whole cast and crew in my decision—had I known, I’d probably have had to run to the loo and been sick.

We drove home, both of us still buzzing—Julie was part of the team and enjoyed it.

“Whose car is that?” she pointed to the Land Rover in the drive.

“Gareth’s,” I said and my tummy churned.

“Does that mean Auntie Stella’s home with Fiona?” she asked gleefully.

“We’ll find out in a moment,” I replied, parking next to it.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1387

I don’t know why I had a foreboding about Gareth’s car being in the driveway, it wasn’t like it is when I have intuitions from the blue light and I can see illnesses like they were big labels on people, this was just a sense of dread based on absolutely nothing. Perhaps I was simply thinking that I can’t cope with a dependent Stella and neonate at the moment—I’m just too busy—and I have a life as well as everyone else.

We went in and Julie immediately started flirting with Gareth. No wonder she gets into hot water so regularly—if it’s wearing trousers make a play for it. Mind you, Gareth looked too tired to be taking much notice of her.

“Cathy,” he said and we hugged.

“Nice to see you, Gareth,” I said then asked, “everything’s okay, isn’t it?”

“The baby and Stella are both fine and they want to discharge her in the next day or so.”

Ah, so that’s what he’s here for. “So what’s the plan?” I asked deliberately not taking control as I usually do.

“Well that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“Make some tea, will you, sweetheart?” I asked the still buzzing Julie. I sat down at the kitchen table and bade him do the same, “What did you have in mind?”

“Ideally, I like her to come with me to the new house, but that isn’t going to happen anytime soon.”

“So what does she want to do?” I knew exactly what he was going to say, but I waited to hear him say it.

“She wants to come back here, she said you said she could.”

“It’s not my house, Gareth, it’s actually Daddy’s.” Tom looked over at me and rolled his eyes. “But okay, I tend to be the general manager.” Gareth blushed as if he felt I was playing with him—maybe I was—but not because of who he was and my previous feelings for him and my fear of them reappearing in the future—simply because I was becoming tired of being everybody’s mother and making everything better for everyone. In fact I was becoming tired full stop.

“Well could she?”

“Of course she can and we’ll all help her as we can, but things are pretty busy at the moment—I’m tied up with this play, so Jenny is busy with the kids and Julie’s working and helping with the play.”

“I appreciate that, and I’ll help her myself as much as I can.” He was desperate the poor man.

I took the tea Julie proffered and Gareth accepted a cup as well. “Drink your tea and I’ll show you what’s available, see if you think it’ll be okay.” I felt like someone letting a flat or house. I knew it would be okay, I designed it for her—bedroom with en suite and a small sitting room, plus another bedroom if it was necessary, which I hoped it wasn’t. I must also remind Stella to take the pill or use some other form of contraception because I’m not looking after a third baby—I’ll kick her out first. I mean it’s not as if she doesn’t know what causes them—she was nurse specialist in GUM, and I don’t mean the pink stuff kids use for blowing bubbles.

We did the grand tour; there was even a double bed in there with a couple of wardrobes and chests of drawers. In the sitting room, there was a small three-piece suite and a television. I deliberately didn’t include any sort of kitchen—it’s not a separate flat, it’s just a small suite of rooms, which could all go back to bedrooms or bedroom and small study or storeroom.

“I think that’d be perfect—at least to get her used to the idea of looking after the baby herself—I don’t know why she’s so nervous of being on her own.”

“She’s had a few problems in the past and I can see that she’d like help to be near if she needed it—but she has to learn to look after this baby.”

“She told me she looked after the first one, Desiree, isn’t it?”

“That’s all she did, when it suited her and we’ve been looking after Pud for the last umpteen months—the poor lamb’s going to be very confused about who is her mum—Stella, Jenny or me.”

“I’ll encourage her to look after both of them—why did you call her Pud?”

“Puddin’, it was our nickname for the bulge and it stuck—I suppose it’s mildly better than sprog.”

“Sounds like a military term?” he mused.

“Probably is, though none of us has had anything much to do with the army or the other services. I think Si might have been in the cadet force at school.”

“I was in that, myself—waste of time if you ask me—we only joined to play with guns and get a ride in a tank—as far as I remember no one joined up afterwards—unless they failed their A-levels.”

“You went to a public school, then?”

“Yeah, only a minor one—Sherborne.”

“I don’t know, didn’t Jeremy Irons go there?”

“Yeah, name me another famous pupil.”

“Um—Gareth Sage.”

“Hush,” he said, “I don’t want fans knocking on the door when I’m in work.”

No, they’re already inside waiting for you. “Julie isn’t going to be a problem, is she—she’s at that age and not having had many boyfriends she does tend to practice her flirting skills.”

“No—she’s a very pretty kid—but the last word is applicable I think, besides, I’ve given a commitment to Stella and I tend to stick by my word.”

“Absolutely,” that’s telling me, I thought—not that it worried me, but I’d have to stop wandering about the place starkers on a Sunday morning—only joking, it would frighten the children and probably cause Tom to have another MI—sorry, myocardial infarct—heart attack to you.

“How’s the play going?” he asked, changing the subject while I fiddled with a curtain that wouldn’t hang properly.

“Yeah, it’s okay—bit different from teaching.”

“Is it?—I’ve seen you teach—it was performance art par excellence.”

“When have you seen me teach?” I was astonished.

“I’ve seen you present a film on dormice—that was teaching.”

“That was performing,” I countered, “it was more entertainment than education.”

“Sure it was, that’s why the numbers of young women wanting to do ecology courses increased overnight.”

“So you haven’t seen me teach?”

“I saw you do your talk at Sussex.”

“That was performance too.”

“How many did you speak to?” he asked.

“Enough to know that they were well entertained.”

“I beg to differ—you taught quite a lot of ecological principles just setting the scene.”

“Sure, they’re all going to walk to work and switch lights off, are they?”

“Why can’t you accept a compliment when it’s offered?”

I felt my face reddening and the room getting warmer. “Okay, so I’m a brilliant teacher—hardly qualifies me to play Shakespeare does it?”

“You didn’t listen to one word I said, I told you that you have amazing communication skills—one way ones at least,” I felt my sense of shame rise. “Actors and teachers, good ones anyway, are able to communicate on all levels, some so subtle you don’t even realise they’re doing it.”

“Yeah, okay, they’re pushing your buttons without you realising it—politicians do the same—now I hope you’re not going to suggest I do politics.”

He laughed, “Not at all, you are so defensive, Cathy, you need to lighten up and accept yourself as an exceptional, even special person.”

“Not you as well,” I groaned.

“I know Stella thinks so, who else has said it?”

“Anyone who’s had contact with my healing—so quite a few; but Tom is always telling me I’m special—I think he’s going gaga.”

“See, defensiveness again. Now listen—you are special, even without the healing—you have this ability to win people’s confidence and trust because of your communication skills—you naturally talk to their inner being—so don’t flip me off, okay?”

I shook my head and decided I wanted to go to bed, on my own and stay there for a couple of weeks if not longer—perhaps I could persuade Henry to buy a remote island somewhere—not too cold—where I could spend the next hundred years studying the ecology of woodlice or something really meaningful. Yeah, take my favourite eight records, the Bible, Complete works of Shakespeare plus the complete Gaby stories and my luxury item—a bicycle wouldn’t be allowed, so it would have to be um—I felt myself blushing—a solar powered—um, rabbit—and I don’t mean the furry kind.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1388

I saw Gareth off, he was going home to start packing stuff that he’d need to bring here if he was staying with Stella—just what I needed, a couple more mouths to feed. As soon as he’d gone I went to bed so by the time Simon came up I was fast asleep.

At breakfast he muttered something about conjugals and I found I’d gone deaf—didn’t hear a word of it, funny that. He went off in a huff to work while the kids hid from him—they all appeared to breakfast as soon as he’d gone. They do this sometimes when one of us is in a grumpy mood—I’d prefer they challenged me—Julie does sometimes and so does Danny, the younger ones avoid me and grumble.

Gareth had promised to let me know when Stella and he would be moving in, but I anticipated anytime in the next few days. I went shopping after dropping the kids off and filled the fridge and freezer just in case. If the family continued to grow at this rate, I think we’d just as well sell all the cars and buy a double-decker bus.

Back at the ranch, once the shopping was put away Jenny kept an eye on the little ones while I made up a bed in the new wing, for our new parents—well Gareth was new to it, you could tell by the fact his eyes weren’t bloodshot yet. You know there’s twenty-four hours in a day when the baby keeps you awake for all of them.

I also wondered who Puddin’ thought was her mum, Stella, Jenny or me. She called me, Anny-Affy, Jenny was Ennie, and her mum was—absent. I kept showing her a photo of Stella but perhaps she was too young to take it on board—a chance for Stella to build some bridges and some mother-daughter bonding. If Puddin’ loses out to baby Fiona, I shall give Stella a piece of my mind. I don’t think Pud is losing out on much in terms of love and affection, we all give her loads, even the younger girls—Meems loves her—she’s like a large size dress up doll.

I got the bedroom ready, then we had lunch—while that was digesting, I fed baby Kate and Puddin’ watched me licking her lips—at two she would still be breastfed by some mothers. My baby went off to sleep and as I felt there was still some milk there, I gave Pud a little suck—she clung on to me like a limpet and fell asleep at my breast.

Jenny came back from loading the dishwasher and smirked at me, bra undone, with child’s head under my jumper. “She’s either hiding, sleeping or been having a crafty slurp.”

“If you make some tea, I’ll tell you which.” I sat there while Jenny provided some fluid to replace my recent depletion. I felt myself chuckling, I’ve told you what Pud calls me, well she calls Simon, Daddy—because everyone else under twenty does. It used to drive him crazy and we had some real arguments over it because he thought I was setting him up, but I wasn’t, she refused to call him Uncle Si, and persisted with Daddy. He doesn’t say anything now—she won—but babies do unless you assert yourself physically—and that’s illegal. Sometimes I think the law was drawn up by babies—I mean, fancy it being illegal to send ’em chimneys or down the mines, or even to the workhouse—all Charles Dickens’ fault, him and Charles Kingsley, and Lord Shaftesbury—they’ll abolish slavery next.

I woke Puddin’ up and she sleepily walked over to the sofa in the dining room and curled up going back to sleep. She isn’t a lot of bother really, so does it matter who she calls mummy? It might later on when she’s trying to act like a grown up and needs to be told a few of the facts of life—although some of it she’ll learn by osmosis, like we all do.

I got on with producing a dinner for everyone—a pasta bake with chicken and a side salad. It would keep hot for late-comers but be ready for the kids to eat before Julie and I went off to the play.

And so it came to pass, at the eighteenth hour of the day, with stomachs modestly replete, Julie and I set forth to perform the Scottish play and entertain the masses—hopefully at the same time, or simultaneously, whichever comes first.

I did my makeup while my personal assistant come hairdresser, added to my tresses. This was one part of the acting game I hated—the greasepaint—that Leichner moment.

The play itself went quite well, though there were one or two fluffed lines, except no one but an expert would have noticed—let’s face it, unless you know the entire play by heart, you’re not going to miss the odd line which has either been fluffed or forgotten—unless it throws the actor delivering the next one and who waits in vain for his cue. Iain was word perfect, but some of the so-called pros did a few fluffs tonight.

The sixth form girls were also word perfect—as for me—yeah I was too—I think. Gordon kissed me at the end and told me that the sleepwalking scene was even better tonight. I wasn’t sure if that was a good or a bad thing—if I get too confident I could mess it up—so I chose to ignore him, except I couldn’t—his compliment had got through and I was bemused and embarrassed at the same time.

“Guid ’un again tonicht,” said Iain putting his arm around me and pecking me on the cheek—“you know, I’ve worked with loads worse leading ladies who called themselves pros. Was never sure if it meant professional or referred to their alternative occupation when things were slack.”

I sniggered, let’s face it, actresses were often seen as fulfilling both roles during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries—and still are by some folk.

I returned to the ladies’ changing room and was taking the gloop off my face—as soon as I could get the blowlamp working—when there was a knock at the door. One of the youngsters who was already decent, went to answer it.

“It’s for you, Cathy,” she said smirking.

“Oh, okay—thanks.” I wiped off the makeup and then rubbed my face over with a wet wipe and a tissue. Julie had detached my extensions and I combed my hair into a ponytail and shoved on a black scrunchie.

I got up from the stool I’d been sitting on and went to the door, I had the shock of my life—Gareth and Stella were standing there and she shoved a huge bouquet into my hands. “That was bloody brilliant,” suggested Gareth.

“Aye, it were okay like,” said Stella in a broad Yorkshire accent—I knew watching Emmerdale could be life changing.

“Aye, ’appen,” I replied.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1389

“What on earth are you two doing here?” I asked after saying thanks for the assorted flora.

“Like watching a play, ya know,” Stella opted for a mid-west accent—least I think it was.

“Yes, it was very good—you should watch it sometime.” Gareth obviously didn’t have his brain plugged in.

“That might be a bit tricky, Gareth.”

“Why?” he asked.

“I played the part of one of the witches, good makeup, wasn’t it?”

“Very funny—but you’ll be able to watch it—some guy was videoing it.”

“Eh?”

“Yeah, didn’t you see him? Proper camera; not one of these shove in your pocket things.”

“No I didn’t,” I wondered if the others knew about this, like Sister Maria or Gordon?

“I wonder if the school’s going to sell them?” he added.

“What, some corny DVD with everyone in the audience coughing and spluttering over the voices of the cast?”

“No, he had a remote mike on the stage, you must have seen it?”

“I didn’t.” I suppose it will find its way on to YouTube, or bits of it will.

“Anyway—where’s the baby?”

“Jenny’s looking after her, she’s got a bottle of feed, so should be all right.”

“Was it wise to come out and sit on a hard seat so soon after sprogging?”

“I brought my own cushion,” she smiled, “and yes it was—it was good, a cut above the usual school production.”

“With Iain in it, it had to be—that’s a no brainer,” I retorted.

“Yeah, but the leading lady was okay too, obviously another professional,” teased Stella.

“Obviously—but professional what?”

“That would be telling,” she smirked.

“Thanks, Sis—I love you too.”

“We’d better get back, we’re staying at your place tonight an’ Gar’ll move the stuff down during the weekend.”

“I’ll catch up with you later.” We hugged and they both went home. I went in search of Gordon.

“Did you know someone filmed tonight’s performance?” I asked him.

“It would have been difficult for him to do it without my knowing seeing as I was standing a few feet away from him.”

“Does Iain know?”

“Of course, he agreed to it—didn’t you?”

“No, I didn’t and I don’t feel too happy about it.”

“You’ll need to talk with the headmistress woman, she organised it—reckoned they could sell a couple of hundred copies at a tenner a time—two grand—all for a good cause.”

“That’s as maybe, I’d should have liked to have been asked at the outset.”

“Why, were you likely to say no?”

I shook my head, no.

“Well then—principles—people who run colleges aren’t they?” he sniggered at his atrocious pun.

I’d have words with Sister Maria tomorrow, I fumed as I collected Julie and she sat next to my indignation all the way home.

“Huh, if I’d known you were such a sulk, I’d have begged a ride back with Auntie Stella.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“If I’d known you were going to sulk all the way home, I’da like come back with Gareth and Auntie Stella.”

“Sulk? I’m not sulking—I was just thinking.”

“Thinkin’?”

“Thinking about what I’d say to Sister Maria tomorrow.”

“We live in there,” she snapped and pointed behind us.

“Oops, okay, now you distracted me.”

I did?” she complained.

“Of course,” I did a quick turn via a gateway and she put her hands in front of her face.

“Jeezuz H Christ, if I drove like that you’d take my car off me,” Julie gasped.

“Quite right too,” I snapped, “You’ve got to be an advanced hazard to do that properly, and you need a four-wheeled drive. When you’ve got kids of your own and a Chelsea tractor, then you can do things like that.”

“Where am I gonna get kids from?”

“Steal ’em like I did.”

“I thought you inherited most of us…”

“Yeah, or found you put out with the rubbish…”

“Ouch,” she said, and I turned into our drive and parked the car.

We were both more intent on seeing the baby than squabbling, so we were quiet entering the house.

Little Fiona was sleeping in her carrycot while Stella and Simon chatted with Gareth working on his laptop and Jenny making tea. “I thought I saw you pull up, so I put the kettle on.”

“Oh well done,” I said, accepting the mug of nectar.

“Cor, in’t she small?” declared Julie looking at the baby, “look at her tiny fingers,” she added with the baby clinging onto her larger digit with her grip reflex.

“She did come from a rather small place,” said Stella smirking.

“Wasn’t yer gob, then?” said Simon.

“Huh,” she replied.

“I’d heard you gave a cough and she fell off,” he continued, “or something like that.”

“She wouldn’t be here at all if Cathy hadn’t arrived,” Stella asserted.

I blushed and said nothing.

“Apart from Jenny and Gareth, none of us’d be here without Cathy,” Simon sighed.

“Aye, weel I’m awa’ tae ma pit, guid nicht.” Tom pecked me on the cheek and then did the same to Stella and Julie. “Guid t’ hae ye back,” he told Stella.

“I’m not sure if Cathy feels the same,” she said looking at me.

“’Course she does, don’cha, Mummy.”

“Of course, sweetheart,” I lied. It felt more like a commune or kibbutz than a family.

Later in bed, Simon was lying beside me gently stroking my tummy. “You’re not really happy that Stella’s back, are you?”

“That depends upon whether she looks after her kids or delegates to us again. I don’t see why we should pay Jenny to look after her kids.”

“Since she’s been ill, she’s got quite lazy—she used to be quite busy before.”

“You mean when she was working?”

“Yeah, she used to help keep the place clean and did some of the cooking.”

“When there was just the two of you?”

“Yeah, I s’pose, it was okay in the cottage.”

“Do you regret me appearing on the scene?” I asked quite academically.

“What? Don’t be silly, you’re the best thing that ever happened to me. Living in the cottage was nice while it lasted, but this is infinitely better,” his hand strayed up to my breast.

“Living with all the waifs and strays we seem to have accumulated—are you sure you’re okay with all that?”

He stopped stroking my breast, “What d’you mean? D’you think I regret having all the children?”

“Yeah, sometimes I think you do.”

He paused then replied, “If I do, and it’s a big if, then it’s only because they take your time away from me—but that’s kids for you.”

“You don’t resent that they’re other people’s children, and that I can’t give you any of our own?”

“You keep bringing this up—what’s triggered it this time?—Of course, Stella and the new baby. No I don’t care one bit and I wish you’d let go of it too. No one’s perfect, well ’cept maybe me of course, so stop worrying about your imaginary defects—it’s you I fell in love with and that was with or without a uterus or whatever they call ’em.”

He rose up, leant across me and kissed me very tenderly, “Hey, what’re you crying for?”

“Because I love you so much,” I sobbed.

Women, I’ll never understand ’em,” he sighed and kissed me again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1390

I slept that night with Simon’s arm around me, all night I think. He certainly groaned when he moved it on rising the next morning. I offered to kiss it better, but he rubbed it a bit and then went into the shower.

I showered afterwards then woke the children. Jenny was down first, much to my surprise, so the kettle was boiling by the time I got downstairs. I noticed Billie was becoming more private in her toilet, while the other three often went into the bathroom, the bath and sometimes the shower together. However, the hormones were beginning to take effect and I noticed she looked a little broader in the beam and had little nubs growing on her chest.

I did offer to let her have a bedroom to herself, but she said she still enjoyed the company of the other girls at bedtime. I had a feeling she’d soon change her mind as she became more self-conscious as puberty, albeit an artificial one, takes effect.

Danny almost fell down the stairs he was so sleepy, and when he began sneezing, I suspected he was getting hay fever or allergic rhinitis. His eyes looked watery and he sneezed loads of times before he left.

I offered to phone the doctor and get a prescription for him which he thanked me for doing. As I wanted to speak with Sister Maria, I’d have to make the call when I got back home. I was just leaving when Stella appeared like the wreck of the Hesperus. I think she’d slept even less than I had and Gareth didn’t look much better.

At the school, I sought out the headmistress only to be told she was at a meeting and wasn’t expected until the afternoon. My head buzzing with frustration, I drove home collecting some extra milk and bread on the way—these days I rarely had time to make the latter, so when I did it was treated like a delicacy and disappeared in one sitting.

I got home and after phoning the doctor’s—a prescription would be sent to our nearest pharmacy to collect after lunch—I settled down with a cuppa to feed Catherine. She’d already had her breakfast so this was a top up. Stella sat opposite me with Fiona fixed to her chest.

“D’you actually enjoy this?” she asked me.

“Yes, don’t you?”

“No—I’m not even sure if the poor little thing is getting any.”

“Well express it and then bottle-feed her,” I suggested.

“No thanks—that’s even more uncomfortable.”

Wait till she’s got teeth, Stella, then you’ll know uncomfortable. “Your milk has come in?” I asked.

“That’s what they said at the clinic.”

I probably produced enough to feed both children, but I wasn’t going to offer because I knew Stella would take advantage of me again. “Is she putting on weight?”

“No, she’s lost a fraction, but they often do.”

Puddin’ appeared, doing her party piece, “Shit, shit ,shit,” she said walking through and Stella looked horrified, Gareth nearly choked on his coffee, I simply shrugged—but she was still getting a reaction so she’d continue doing it.

“Where did she hear that?”

“I have no idea, but you know what they’re like, human blotting paper.”

“Sounds like you, Cathy, it’s one of your favourite utterances.”

At this point Gareth suddenly remembered he had something urgent to do on his computer. I let him go—coward.

There were lots of things I could have said by way of response; I chose to ignore them all and Stella’s comment. “She does it every now and again, we ignore it but she does tend to give visitors a shock.”

“Oh so she sees us as visitors?” Stella fired back a sarcastic reply.

“Yes, she hasn’t seen you for a while, and she barely knows Gareth.”

“She called me Mummy earlier.”

“I’m glad she did, she usually calls me Annie-Affie.” I didn’t ask if Stella had prompted the appellation, ‘Come to Mummy,’ sort of thing.

“This little bugger, keeps going to sleep,” said Stella and her elder child walked through saying, “Bugger, bugger, bugger.”

“Where did she hear that?”

“Just now, from her mother’s lips if I’m not mistaken.”

“She wouldn’t have picked it up that quickly—surely?”

“You’d be surprised, just don’t swear.”

“Of course you’re such an expert on babies,” she said rising from her chair and taking Fiona back to her room.

“I’m no expert, Stella, unless you’re comparing me to you,” I muttered under my breath.

“Oh, where did Stella go?” asked Jenny bringing the washing down from the bathrooms, “I was hoping for a little cuddle.”

“She’s gone off for a sulk because I deigned to suggest she’d overheard Stella using the B word.”

“Has she done the S one yet?”

“She has.”

“That’s you, isn’t it?”

“Probably,” no point in denying it—still it’s a pity we’re such a load of devil worshippers—because it would be amusing to see how the vicar would deal with her foul mouth. If she went round saying, cock-a-doodle—do, would she be fowl mouthed? I snorted at my own silliness. Unfortunately, Stella had just returned and she thought I’d laughed at her.

“What’s so funny?” she demanded.

There was no way I was going to tell her—so I told her something else—“I was thinking about seeing you at the play last night.”

“I wasn’t aware either I or it were particularly funny.”

“You weren’t, it was more that I didn’t expect to see you.”

“That was one of the reasons why we did it.”

“Give me a heart attack, you mean?”

“That’s right; take it the wrong way, like you always do.”

“Stella, I was making light of it—it was a lovely surprise.”

“I hear what your mouth is saying—your eyes are saying something different.”

“Are they? I hadn’t noticed, I wasn’t aware they could say anything.”

“Ah there’s our difference—I’ve studied gesture and body language,” she trilled.

Fat lot of good it’s done her, so it’s either all hogwash—you know H. Potter, esquire’s school—only joking—or she did the wrong course. I chose not to say anything, but an expert in non-verbals like Stella, would get my message loud and clear—Piss off.

Puddin’ walked in, “Come to Mummy, darling,” cooed Stella opening her arms for a hug and the little monster walked over to me and began to climb up onto my lap.

“Me wuv Annie-Affie.”

If looks could kill, both Pud and I would be either dead or on life support. “You are the giddy limit, Catherine Watts—fancy stealing your own sister’s baby—haven’t you got enough of your own yet; or is this some sort of fetish?”

“I beg your pardon?” I said sharply.

“You know what I mean, you collect other people’s children because you can’t have your own—just leave mine out of it.”

I was incandescent, the nerve of the woman—to bite the hand that feeds her in my own home. She’s been ill—she isn’t aware of what she’s saying—but one more jibe and she walks or leaves on a stretcher.

“Annie-Affie, doan wike, nasty wady.” Puddin’ was holding on to my leg.

“That does it, you brat—I’m your mother—you foolish child—I’m your bloody mother.”

“No wike you, bloody wady, go way.”

I nearly choked.

“That’s right—typical of you, isn’t it—poisoning little minds.”

“That’s not right, Stella, Cathy shows her your photo quite regularly and reminds her that you’re her mother,” Jenny interrupted the argument.

“You would say that, wouldn’t you, you’re on her payroll.” Stella slammed into Jenny, who wasn’t having any of it.

“It might be Cathy and Simon who pay me, but I’ve spent quite a lot of time looking after your child—so don’t try it on with me—I’m not some unbalanced lunatic.”

Stella was almost apoplectic; she made a funny noise and practically ran from the room.

“Did I say the wrong thing?” asked Jenny.

“I—um—think you might have.”

“Tough,” she walked off to finish the laundry.

“Me fwighten,” said Puddin’ pulling at my leg. I bent down and picked her up and cuddled her hoping Stella had calmed down before she saw us.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1391

“Stella is very upset,” said Gareth. I was sitting at the kitchen table comforting Puddin’ who had also been upset.

“I know she’s had a hard time, but she as good as accused me of stealing her child, which isn’t true.”

“Of course it isn’t, she’s grateful for all you’ve done for her and Desiree.”

“Who Desiwee, Annie-Affy?”

“Oh, she’s a lovely little girl, who likes to sit on my knee and give me cuddles.”

She giggled and hugged me, planting a sloppy kiss on my cheek. “I wuv you, Annie-Affy.”

“I love you too, Desiree.”

She giggled.

“However, she’s in no fit state to look after two kids—at least at the moment—possibly not even one.”

“Look, I’m hoping she’ll come out of this post-natal stuff.”

“She needs to see someone—she’s sick.”

“I think it’s associated with the birth. She’s resting now, and I have to get back to the office for a couple of hours. If I bring the baby down, can you or Jenny keep an eye on her?”

“I should think so, I’ll try and keep one on her mother, too—but if I get any silliness, then it’s off to the funny farm again.”

“You wouldn’t do that, would you—can’t you just call me?”

“She’s tried to kill me twice and herself, three times I think. I can’t risk any of the children—it’s police and a doctor.”

“Oh—she told me she got angry with you once, and that she tried to kill herself once.”

“Maybe I’m overreacting, but when someone tries to stab you with a knife, I assume they’re not thinking of my wellbeing. The last time, Trish got cut—she saved my life in distracting Stella.”

“Oh—I didn’t know that.” He went rather pale, poor man not sure if he knows what he’s taking on. “I—um—had better go.”

“The baby?” I reminded him.

“Oh yeah, sorry.” He ran upstairs and brought the carrycot down. “Stella’s sleeping.” He thanked me and left.

I began to wonder what we’d all bitten off—probably more than we could chew. I loved Stella, she’d been this wonderful, generous and funny woman who’d done so much for me when she first knew me—apart from trying to kill me that first day—okay, that was an accident and she could have driven on—but she didn’t.

She is my sister-in-law, and Simon is very fond of her. Perhaps I needed to involve Henry and Monica. I wonder if he knows she’s here at the moment.

I sent him a text to call me asap. Ten minutes later I had a text back, he’d call about one in the afternoon. I set about making some bread and soup—which we hadn’t had for a couple of weeks—I had some leeks, so did leek and potato soup and fresh bread.

The soup was simmering away and the bread baking—the smells were wonderful—when Fiona woke, she was hungry. I checked the fridge—I had two bottles of breast milk in there. I left the baby in the carrycot and ran up to see how Stella was. She was still sleeping—I hoped she hadn’t done anything silly with pills—and threw some blue light over her—she seemed to be genuinely asleep. I left her and went down to warm the milk.

By the time I got down, Jenny was picking Fiona out of the carrycot. “She’s hungry, I expect,” she decided.

“Yeah, Stella’s still asleep—but I’m concerned if she sees us giving my milk, she’ll think we’re trying to poison her baby.”

“I’ll go and wake her if you want,” offered Jenny, “I’m not afraid of her feelings.”

“No, you warm one of the bottles, I’ll go and speak with her.” I trotted back up the stairs.

“Stella, Fiona is crying for food—would you like me to feed her?”

“Huh?” came a sleepy reply.

“Fiona is crying for food, would you like to come and feed her or would you like me to?”

“You do it,” she said and turned over back to sleep.

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, yeah,” and she seemed to go back to sleep.

I went down and Jenny was just about to warm the bottle. “Never mind that, I’ll feed her.” I took her and sat down—a couple of moments later she was locked on to my nipple—sucking for all she was worth. “This kid is starving,” I said to Jenny.

Being small, she only took one breast load, so Catherine had some from my other breast while Jenny did a cleanup and nappy change on her cousin. Puddin’ seemed left out so she had a bottle of ordinary milk and sat in the high chair and drank it by herself.

Puddin’ is quite bright, she’s dry mostly in the day—she wears these training panties and she will come and tell us she wants to go. When she does she gets to put different coloured stars on her chart. If she wets, she obviously doesn’t get one, but we do change her.

By the time we’d finished all three littlies the bread was done and the soup only needed whizzing with my hand-blender—a wonderful bit of kit. I went up to call Stella who was awake and silently weeping.

“Fancy some leek and potato and fresh bread?” I asked her.

“I’m a dreadful woman, aren’t I?”

“Yeah, absolutely terrible—so, you coming for some soup?”

“If anything should happen to me, will you look after my two babies?”

“Nothing’s going to happen—unless you starve to death—c’mon, off your arse and have some soup—I’ve just made it.”

“Will you, please, Cathy—please say you will.”

“D’you think I’d say no? Let’s face it, Gareth is lovely and he’s bright, but he hasn’t got a clue—has he?”

“No,” she smirked, “neither has Simon, has he?”

“He has a clue—but that’s about it—when Catherine was very small, I left him in charge while I went somewhere; when I came back Mima was telling him what to do with the nappy.”

“Mima—she’s barely more than a baby herself,” she chuckled.

“Absolutely, but she’d changed her dollies and watched me, so she knew what to do. Trish had to show him how use the washing machine.”

“Men,” she said and rolled her eyes.

“They have their uses,” I commented back—I’d be lost without Simon—well okay, satnav might prove the answer.

“I s’pose,” she agreed. The tears started again, “I’m sorry—what I said—I didn’t mean it—about you—I mean.”

“I know.” I sat on the bed and we hugged and she sobbed on the table.

“I love you really,” she said, “You’re so special to us.”

“I love you too, Sis, I’ve learned a lot from you.”

“What have I taught you?”

“More than you’ll ever know—and, you did launch me into womanhood.”

“Oh that—yeah quite literally.” She laughed and wept at the same time.

“Let’s get some food.” I rose from the bed and held my hand out to her.

“Did you feed Fiona?”

“Yeah, she was starving.”

“I don’t think my boobs are working properly.”

“Okay, let’s get someone out to advise you—or take you to see a health visitor.”

“This is crazy—I’m the one who has babies and can’t feed them, you can’t have them but can feed ’em—the world is upside down.”

“I don’t try to understand it—just go with the flow—and my tummy is rumbling—c’mon—food—now, missus.”

“There you go again, only been a woman for a couple of years and you are a missus—I’ve been one all my life and I’m still unmarried. Ironic or what?”

“Well you know me—competitive—food, before I fade away.”

“Let me just wash a moment.”

I waited, unsure of how safe I thought she was, not so much in harming others; more herself. I wondered if I ought to pull out of this play—family come before external things—and she is my family.

“You going to be much longer?” I called through the door. There was no answer. “Stella—are you all right? STELLA—open this door.”

“What’s the problem?” she asked opening it and walking out.

“I wondered if you’d been taken ill—you weren’t answering me,” now it was I who was sobbing.

“I couldn’t hear you with the cistern filling—you surely didn’t think?”

“I’m sorry,” I sniffed, “With what you said earlier about taking care of your babies.”

“Yeah—okay—I didn’t mean it like that.”

I blushed absolute scarlet, “I’m sorry.”

She hugged me, “You’re a good woman, St Catherine, don’t let anyone tell you different.”

“Yeah, course—just stay away from wheels.”

“Very good—now where’s this soup?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1392

It struck me as ironic that each night we did the play I’d be committing suicide—albeit off stage without turning a hair—yet I was terrified Stella might try again—and succeed. Not only would it be a tragedy for all concerned but I’d be stuck with two more children—at this rate, I’d have more than the local Catholic priest.

It’s not that I’d resent any more children, but I can barely cope now and that’s with help, but I think they’d be better off with their natural mother, even if she is a trifle eccentric—see, takes one to know one. But I admit I’m barking.

The bread was still warm while we ate it with the soup, butter melted on it—except I don’t use butter—okay, the others did, I prefer my bread dry with soup—fewer calories too.

“Right, I have to collect a prescription for Danny when I collect the girls. I think we ought to speak to the doctor about your problems with breastfeeding,” I announced.

“Maybe I’ll give it a few more days,” suggested Stella.

“Yeah, and maybe I’ll go and phone up now.”

“Look, it’ll probably sort itself.”

“And if it doesn’t?”

“Well then I’ll see the doc.”

“What’s Fiona going to have meantime?”

“You’re always saying you have some to spare.”

“She won’t be getting all the antibodies from you that she should, and I’m not sure I want to be a wet nurse.”

“Just a day or two.”

“I’ll do it today, if your milk isn’t flowing tomorrow, then we speak to the doctor whether you like it or not.”

“Why not the day after?”

“Because the way you’re heading you won’t produce any at all.”

“How come you produced it, lactation is supposed to come after birth?”

“I really don’t know—it started spontaneously—and I have been born for a little while now.”

“Not you, you idiot, your baby.”

“Oh that,” I winked at her and we both fell about laughing. Jenny sat opposite and shook her head—not sure if it was in disapproval or disbelief.

“You’re like two schoolgirls,” she scolded.

“Yep, guilty as charged,” I held my hands up.

“Book ’em Danno,” said Stella and we both fell about laughing again. I don’t know why because I’m not really old enough to remember Hawaii Five O, but I was probably just relieving nervous tension.

Fiona started to cry and before Stella could rush off, I made her sit and try to feed her baby. I knew the baby knew what to do, and theoretically so does Stella, slip off your bra and pop ’em on your nipple—real skilled work.

“Nothing’s happening,” she said despairingly. In my case it wasn’t true, I could feel myself leaking into my bra pad—oh joy.

I made her try for ten minutes before I took the baby and she clamped on like a locking wheel nut. I’m sure she’s part Dyson, because the suck on her would pull your socks off.

“I can’t believe, I have to rely on my sister-in-law to feed my baby—perhaps I’m not meant to have them?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” I said with a quiet determination—I didn’t want to accept Fiona—“There is no meant to or meant not to unless it’s genetic, all the rest of this karma or fate or whatever stupid name you want to give it—it’s all male cow poo.”

“Male cow poo?” asked Jenny before the penny dropped. Stella was already laughing and then she laughed at Jenny’s face while the penny was dropping.

“Why couldn’t you just say, bullshit?” she said quietly aware that the human blotter was about somewhere.

“For the same reason you almost whispered it.”

“You two should be on the stage—oh you already are,” said Stella pointing at me.

“I am,” I said, “I’m starring in the Scottish Play which is being performed by the Royal St Claire’s Shakespeare Company—although it is strangely deficient in one liners. You can only use, ‘Out damn spot,’ so many times before it becomes clichéd.”

I finished feeding Fiona and then gave Catherine a turn. I insisted Stella changed Fi’s nappy and asked Jenny to do Catherine, as I had to go and collect the girls. In fact I was a little late leaving by the time I’d repacked my boobs in my bra and changed the pads

It was only when I saw Sister Maria that I remembered I had a bone to pick with her. “When did you decide to video the play?”

“Oh weeks ago, one of our girls’ dad is a video-film maker, does events and functions, and he offered his services free. Once I let it be known we were doing the video, I had fifty immediate orders plus another fifty since. We might actually need more than the hundred if it carries on, especially once they knew you were in it.”

“Me? It’s Iain McPherson they want to see not a dormouse maid.”

“Lady Cameron, you’d be surprised how much support you have within the school and the parent’s group. If you stood as a school governor, you’d win by a landslide.”

“Remind me not to stand—but back to the video—why weren’t we informed before? I only found out by accident.”

She blushed, “I’m so sorry, I thought I’d spoken to all the principals. What can I say? If you object—I’ll have to withdraw them.”

Tempted though I was, I realised that it was all in aid of raising money and besides my halo would have slipped. “No, but next time, ask me first if you would.”

“Next time I’ll be more organised.”

How did I walk into that—I don’t even need her to accost me, I surrender before she even asks. If I have anything to do with it, there won’t be a next time. I managed to distract her and collected the girls who squabbled all the way home.

I didn’t know what it was about but I’d read the riot act before we left the end of the road the school is in. I then had four sulking schoolgirls for most of the journey before World War Three erupted again as we approached the house.

Once I’d parked I was able to get to the bottom of it. Someone had taken someone else’s Pepper Pig—I told them that their response was excessive given the trivial nature of the problem. I think I went over the top a little when I compared it to the annexation of Poland during the Second World War. They all looked blankly at me—don’t they teach them modern history anymore?—mind you I did do it for O-levels.

Of course, Trish will go off and research it and tell me where I got things wrong, which I usually do and probably have. However, four long faces trekked into the house and demanded drinks and biscuits.

I gave Danny his prescription—his eyes looked really sore and he was sneezing like crazy. I’d saved them some soup and bread and they fell upon it like a swarm of giggling and sneezing locusts—never heard a locust sneeze?—you haven’t lived.

The rest of us had cottage pie, which Jenny popped in the oven as I went out to get the girls. It was okay with a few vegetables, although Simon couldn’t understand why I didn’t want any peas with mine.

I expressed some milk for Fiona and left it in the fridge, both Stella and Jenny knew about it, then Julie and I went off to do the play—just a normal day in the life of a Hollywood superstar.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1393

“Can we stay for the party on Saturday? It is our last performance.”

“We still have the following Saturday to do at Southampton.”

“Yeah, but that’s different, this has been good fun and all the cast are really nice.”

“Can I tell you on Saturday, this is in total confidence, okay?” I asked and Julie nodded, “I’m worried about Stella.”

“She seems all right to me.”

“I’ve known her longer than you have.”

“Well yes, you’re older than I am.”

“Thanks for the character assassination job, remind me to return the compliment.”

Julie smirked back at me and I glowered but needing to keep my eyes on the road as we drove home after another performance meant I couldn’t really look at her other than rapid glances.

“You were quite good again tonight,” she offered perhaps as a peace offering.

“Quite good, darling? It was without doubt the most insightful performance of Lady Macbeth since Judy Dench did it with the RSC.” I repeated the comment of one of the audience who came back stage to talk with us. I wasn’t too happy about it because it meant I had to talk with them rather than push off home as I’d planned.

Gordon had been delighted by the write-ups in the local press, they mainly referred to Iain, unsurprisingly, but then he is a classical actor who does stints with the RSC. Other members of the cast were also mentioned. I got one mention as, ‘putting in a workmanlike performance.’ That was fine, I wasn’t a professional and that I wasn’t singled out for some negative criticism suited me fine.

Then we’d been shown the one from the Guardian, it wasn’t Mr Billington but one of his colleagues. It was generally very positive and then said, ‘That Lady Cathy Cameron, who plays Lady Macbeth, is in fact a Scottish noble woman and Iain McPherson, a fellow Scot and king of the Shakespearean theatre, shows that these two have a natural advantage when it comes to portraying the Scottish throne, albeit in disarray—tartan through and through with their soft highland accents belying the granite hearts beneath. A very creditable performance all round.’

Wow, that was a good on’, no wonder Gordon had been so pleased to show it to us. He was building us up for the solo performance in Southampton, not that it was necessary. To me, it just meant I’d need to do a bottle of milk for Fiona if Stella hadn’t sorted the problem before then.

I wondered if I should have tried asking the light to help sort her problem, but for some reason it didn’t seem to want to know—I hoped that didn’t mean I was going to end up feeding two babies for months to come. No way, I’d phone the doctor tomorrow—I’d end up with boobs down round my knees—like a human dairy cow.

I shuddered at the thought of this and had visions of nipples big enough to connect a hose pipe to. “Are you okay, Mummy?” asked Julie as I parked the car—at least I hadn’t gone past the house this time.

After a cuppa, I fed the two wains and went to bed only to wake with a horrible dream in which I fed countless babies and had to walk round with my boobs in a wheelbarrow: they were so big.

Still shuddering from my dream, I went to the bathroom and pulled up my nightie to check that they weren’t growing any bigger which was when Simon came in. “What’re you doing?” he asked sleepily, his eyes squinting in the light.

“Nothing,” I felt myself turning very red.

“They’re still there, are they?”

“Are what still there?”

“Your boobs—I thought you were counting them?”

“Um—no—I was looking to see if they were red, because the one was itching a bit.”

“Oh, I wondered if they’d grown or shrunk or something.”

I blushed again, fortunately he didn’t pick up on it as his eyes were closed as he peed—no wonder he misses so often. I was about to say something when I thought better of it.

“Aren’t you going to wash your hands?” I asked him as he went to go back to bed.

“What for? I’ll have to go again when I get up—I’ll do it then.”

I was speechless, but again said nothing—well you can’t when you’re speechless can you? Perhaps those who say I was never a boy were correct, I always washed my hands, probably because I didn’t like to handle it. I assume when I was about thirteen, I was probably the only one in my class who wasn’t pulling it every night while fantasising about some local totty or some pop queen. I didn’t really get erections, I don’t remember wet dreams or any of the things boys used to talk about—not that they talked much to me in any case—I was the class weirdo—but good to know for English or Biology—last to call when it came to games.

I went back to bed—Simon and his dirty paws were already asleep. I lay there reminiscing about school, and how I managed to survive it and get good enough grades to go to Sussex.

I must have been stronger than I thought—the class wimp and girlyboy—who not only survived their jibes and occasional physical attacks but grew to become myself despite it. Did it make me stronger? It did later on, when I had grown my hair and they made me play Lady Macbeth. How my life seems to revolve about that play—this has to be the last time. I won’t do it again, no matter who asks me—this is my life and that’s my decision.

I must have gone to sleep because I awoke when the alarm went off and I was dreaming of a boy from school, Graham Dennis, we used to call him, ‘Dennis the menace.’ He was a real menace to me, always calling me names and assaulting me when he felt my very existence provoked him. I refused to cry—no matter how hard he hit me—at least while he was still about. I often ran home crying afterwards. I wonder what he’s doing now.

My dream went from my mind as I roused the children, fed them and got them to school. Somehow, Stella had avoided seeing the doctor and muggins was still feeding her baby. I was too busy to chase her up on it—did ask her to do it, but she tends to forget things—possibly a consequence of her illness.

We did attend the party on the Saturday, I had a soft drink and wanted to leave, Julie was promised a lift home by one of the young actors. I warned her not to get involved in anything stupid and she rolled her eyes at me. I came home and went to bed. She rolled in about three o’clock—I was still awake, worrying about her.

The next week seemed to fly by, and suddenly Julie and I were parking the car at the Mayflower Theatre in Southampton and heading to the stage door. We did a rehearsal—good job we did—what a difference on a proper stage. But that wasn’t the main surprise for me—the assistant theatre manager was Graham Dennis, who suddenly couldn’t do enough for me and the other women in the cast including Julie.

I was so tempted to set him up—it was him all right, Bristol accent and a scar on his right eyebrow—I was partly responsible for that—he went to head butt me, I ducked and he caught his stupid head on the corner of a wall—I think. All I remember was him running off crying and bleeding. I got into trouble for that because the headmaster believed his story and not mine. How I’d love to get my own back—but I’m a different person now—different enough for him not to recognise me at any rate.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1394

Julie and I were eating our sandwiches in between rehearsals, she of course looked older than I did: she was as always made up and dressed in jeggings and little boots, the jeggings were so tight, I told her you could read the washing instructions on her thong through them. By comparison, I was casually dressed in polo shirt, jeans and trainers with no makeup, just a hint of perfume.

“See the tall bloke with the straggly beard?” I said to her.

“Yeah, bit of a creep in-’e?”

“I was in school with him.”

“Y’wot?”

“I was in school with him, his name’s Graham Dennis and he was a dreadful bully. He doesn’t recognise me, and I’m happy to keep it that way.”

“Did he beat you up?”

“Not exactly, but he tormented me and hit me a few times. See the scar in his eyebrow?”

“Yeah,” she nodded sneaking crafty glance.

“He did that trying to head butt me—he missed and hit a wall or something, can’t remember now.”

“He’s spent half the day looking at your bum or mine.”

“Yours is on display somewhat.”

“So? If ya got it, flaunt it.”

“Just be careful you don’t show more than you intend.”

“Yes, granny.”

I slapped her playfully and we continued our lunch.

“Is everything all right, ladies?” It was the menace.

“Yes, thank you,” I replied.

“Yeah, s’okay,” Julie smiled at him, “That scar on your eyebrow, I’ll bet there’s an interesting story behind it?” She smiled some more while I went into a fully fledged cringe—talk about direct.

“What, this?” he asked pointing at his eyebrow, she nodded. “We ’ad a right bloody pooftah in school, always comin’ on to the other boys. He come on to me one day, an’ I like told him to pee off, an’ he hit me wiv a brick or somefin’, don’t remember now.”

“If you don’t like gay men what are you doing in theatre, it’s full of them?”

“I deal wiv ’em professionally, that’s all—don’t ’ave to like ’em, do I? Nah, prefer girls any day—like you two loverly ladies.”

I avoided his gaze; Julie batted her eyelashes and smiled. He didn’t see it but it was malign smile—she was planning something. I’d tell her not to bother, it wasn’t worth it.”

However, fate was to lend a hand in the payback business. Dennis was helping to adjust a light on stage and something went wrong and there was flash, he yelled and fell about ten or twelve feet onto the stage, yards from where I was standing. The lights went out—presumably from some sort of short circuit, so we only saw what happened by the lights of the auditorium—a sort of twilight.

I rushed over to him—not being aware of who had fallen—when I saw it was him, I wasn’t sure what to think. I went through my first aid training—and discovered he wasn’t breathing and there was no pulse. I shouted for someone to call the paramedics, then began CPR.

I wasn’t sure I wanted to actually put my mouth near his, then the irony of it made me smirk. I did sixty compressions and then two breaths. Julie came to help. She took over the compressions, which we did to, Nellie the elephant.

You’re blue lighting him—after what he did to you?”

“Long time ago—doesn’t pay to hold grudges.” I gave two blows and she continued pumping his chest.

“Huh, I wouldn’t.” She couldn’t see that she was also giving him healing energy. The lights came back on and we had a small crowd about us. Another stage crew member took over the compressions, and I let the theatre manager take over my task—my knees were stiff from kneeling on the hard floor.
The paramedics came in and defibbed him, then he was loaded onto a stretcher and rushed off to Southampton General, a huge place as I remember from my visits there.

“Thank you, ladies, your prompt action might have saved his life,” offered Rex Lentill, the manager—yeah that was his name.

“Are we proceeding with the play?” asked Gordon.

“They stopped one in New York with Daniel Radcliff in it the other week, ’cos one of the stage crew died,” said the actor playing Banquo.

“He’s not dead, though is he?”

“Health and safety will be all over you like a rash on Monday,” commented Banquo.

“Yes, but we’ve already had to cancel one concert, to cancel tonight would be a real problem,” Mr Legume, I mean, Lentill pleaded.

“As Cathy seems to have been the one most involved with the rescue, how does she feel? Do we go on with the show or cancel?” Gordon threw the ball in my court.

“I came here to do a play, if we can still do it, then I suggest we do.” Everyone agreed and we did another rehearsal—only with a difference—one of the witches went sick and Julie had to fill in for her at rehearsal and then in the performance.

To say she revelled in it would be an understatement—she had great fun cackling with the best of them. The performance went quite well, the witches got a great hand from the audience especially when it was revealed at the end that Julie had stepped in at the last moment to save the play.

Iain, as always got loads of applause, and I didn’t do too badly, getting a bouquet of flowers at the curtain calls, and Julie got one as well for her quick study of the part. She was actually as good as the girl who’d gone home, so perhaps she’d missed her vocation.

Before we left, we heard that Dennis was critical but stabilised. Iain came up before Julie and I went through the stage door—“Whit did ye dae ta him?”

“What?” I asked wondering what he was on about.

“Thae laddie that fell, whit did ye dae tae him, an’ whit wis that blue light ye had?”

“I have no idea what you’re talking about, Iain, I just did basic first aid and life support.”

“Aye, ma name’s Faither Christmas, he wis deid, wisna he?”

“I don’t know, I’m not qualified to say.”

“Ye saved his life, ye ken?”

“Nah, the paramedics did that with their defib machine, we only kept his heart primed to start again if it had stopped in the first place.”

“Weel, they widnae defib a beating heart, wid they?”

“I’m not paramedic, Iain, so I can’t answer it.”

“An’ yon blue light?”

“Must have been a reflection from the safety lights,” I fudged.

“Ye dinna expect me tae believe that, dae ye?”

I shrugged, “It’s been a real privilege working with you, Iain, thanks for being so supportive of my feeble efforts.”

“If that wis feeble, ye’d act me off thae stage if ye were on full strength.” His eyes were dancing as he spoke and I chuckled with him. We hugged and he kissed me on the cheek and did the same with Julie—after which we did leave. The others were going on to a party but I wanted to get home—it was late enough, and I was tired. Julie whinged a bit but she conceded an early night might be quite useful, especially as she could tell everyone at home how she saved the day.

“D’you think the blue light caused him to fall?” she asked as we headed along the M27.

“No, that was simple bad luck—moist hands or something—he was shocked and fell.”

“But there was a blue flash when he fell,” she persisted.

“The light doesn’t attempt to do retribution—that’s judgemental and beneath it, it should be beneath you too.”

“Oh it is,” she smirked, “I always sit on my retribution, looks cute in these—doncha think?”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1395

It was by pure chance that I had to go to the Mammal Society’s office in Southampton the following Tuesday for a meeting about the survey, I’d also bought them some Longworth traps, which they loan out to people doing survey work, and for which they were very grateful. The meeting went very well and was over in an hour, so I was left with time on my hands and no great incentive to go shopping by myself.

I did go for lunch and while I was eating wondered how Graham Dennis was progressing. Had the blue light done enough with the aid of the paramedics to keep him alive? I suddenly had the urge to go and see him and I mean urge, although compulsion might be a better word. It isn’t often I get these urges, so I thought I’d better check it out.

I found my way to the hospital—seems half my life is spent in hospitals—maybe I should have done medicine—nah, I love dormice more than people, far more rewarding to work with.

To my great delight, I managed to find a parking space and then even more amazingly, when I asked in reception, they knew which ward he was on. I went up to see if I could visit him.

The sister on his ward had been to see the play that Saturday and spent several minutes telling me how wonderful Iain McPherson had been. “So which part did you play?” she asked putting me in my place.

“Did you notice a red headed woman on the stage at all?”

“Yes, Lady Macbeth, but she was much older than you.” Oh joy.

“Um—no—that was me.” She looked at me as if I were lying to her; so I gave her a quick recital in my Highland accent of some lines from the play.

“Good gracious, it was you.”

“Um—yes—it was, I knew I’d never fool you.” Where do they get these people?

“It’s funny, because you look like some woman who did a programme on dormice a while ago, but I’m sure her hair was a different colour.”

Doh. “Yes, that was me in my more usual job, mammal ecologist at Portsmouth University.”

“Oh, well dear, don’t give up the day job, will you.”

“Might I see Mr Dennis?”

She looked at the clock, “It’s not officially visiting time yet.”

“Yes, but I have to get back for a meeting, the school is trying to get Iain back to do another play.”

“He was in Portsmouth?”

“Yes, we did the play all week a couple of weeks ago.”

“I wish I’d known—I think he’s lovely.”

“He’s a really nice chap when you get to know him better.”

“Huh, I suppose that means you slept with him?”

I nearly fell over. “Why would I want to sleep with him, he’s very nice but so is Cliff Richard and I wouldn’t want to sleep with him either.”

“But you might be trying to get him to come to Portsmouth again?” She was obviously a real fan—no wonder he drives a car with dark windows—she’d be stalking him.

“Yes, he said he’d work with me again,” I lied, never intending to do anything on the stage ever again.

“Hurry up then, Mr Dennis is the last bed on the left.”

I thanked her, blushed because I was lying my head off, and walked briskly into the ward. Graham Dennis was reading the Daily Mail—how surprising—not; so he didn’t see me approach.

“Hello, Graham,” I said walking up to his bed.

He looked up and for a moment had no idea who I was—well he had had quite a shock when he fell. “Um—I know you don’t I?”

“Yes, I was in the Scottish play on Saturday when you had your accident.”

“Oh yes, you played Lady Macbeth, and had a pretty daughter.”

“That’s me; I helped administer first aid until the paramedics could get there.”

“Oh, thank you for that, I don’t remember much about it.”

“That’s hardly surprising is it—you had an electric shock and then an awful fall—it’s a miracle you’re still alive.”

“Yeah, it is—all I remember about it is I saw this blue flash and everything went black, then I heard a voice calling me—but the funny thing was it was a boy from school, a right woofter he was.”

“Who was that?”

“They used to call him Charlotte, like I said a real fairy cake.”

“So why would he be calling you?”

“I dunno—but it felt like I was slipping away and he was trying to keep me here—dunno why he would, I hated his guts an’ he knew it.”

“You were slipping away and he was trying to keep you here?”

“Yeah. Like I was dyin’ or somethin’ and he stopped me.”

“That doesn’t sound like an act of hatred to me, it sound more like one of charity.”

“Yeah, an’ why would he help me?”

“Because you bullied him, you mean?”

“Yeah—no, I didn’t do anythin’ like that.”

“Yes you did, Graham, and you know it.”

“How would you know?”

“He was my brother.”

“Oh—I didn’t think ’e ’ad a sister, ’specially one as pretty as you.”

“Sounds like you didn’t know him very much at all, does it?”

“I know he was a right girly-boy.”

“Because he seemed feminine to you, that’s grounds for bullying him?”

“Yeah, I mean I didn’t want him near me—makes me feel ill.”

“But he tried to avoid you, it was you who sought him, to tease and bully.”

“No I didn’t—you’re lying—you weren’t even there.”

“Oh yes I was, Graham, I was there every time you tried to hurt him. I was there when you tried to head butt him and he ducked and you butted the wall.”

He looked at me, “But you can’t have been—that was just ’im an’ me.”

“Was it? I was there.”

“What?” He stared at me trying to understand what I was saying. “But that means you…?”

“That’s right, Graham, it was me you bullied and it was I who saved your miserable life.”

“But—but—you’re a woman?” he looked totally bewildered.

“I was when you last bullied me—same role, too—Lady Macbeth—remember, you tried to hit me when I was walking to school and that woman stopped you, thinking you were about to hit a girl.”

“Bloody ’ell.”

“You would have hit a girl, I was a girl, I am a woman—and I still found time to save your miserable life—though why, defeats me. I’m going now, you’ll make a full recovery, I ensured that when you fell.”

“How could you do that?”

“The blue flash, want to see another one?” I snapped my fingers and there was a bright blue flash in front of him.

“Jesus—how did you do that?”

“Easy—another one?” I snapped my fingers.

“You knocked me off that gantry?”

“No, that was the light acting independently, but I stopped it killing you.”

“What d’you mean, you stopped it killing me?”

“The blue light works through me, but I don’t always control it, it sometimes does its own thing. Blasting you off that lighting gantry was nothing to do with me, it decided it had a score to settle.”

“What are you, some sort of witch?”

“No—just a woman, we all have special powers which men rarely see or understand, mine is healing.”

“Yeah? If you’re so clever heal my damaged back.”

“Okay.” I nodded at him and he gave this sudden jolt.

“My back—it’s on fire.” He lay back on the bed gasping for breath.

“Has it stopped—the burning?”

“Yeah.”

“Get up and walk.”

“I can’t can I?”

“Get up and walk,” I instructed him.

Reluctantly he did. “Jesus, I can walk,” he said loudly. Mind you so could the other patients in that end of the ward. I slipped away in the chaos that followed.

That night on the television, the local news carried a story of a group of quite sick patients who mysteriously recovered after a visit by a woman that no one could remember seeing.

Julie and Trish watched it with me. “How did you manage that?” they asked me.

“I knew the light had acted judgementally and I had to put things right, so I did. I simply asked the light to obscure my identity and help me leave without any questions. It got the whole ward walking about and somehow induced amnesia in the staff.”

“You told me the light couldn’t do that—punish people,” accused Julie.

“I was wrong, it was wrong—so I made it right again. It won’t do so again.”

“How d’you know, Mummy?”

“Let’s just say I know.”

“Does that mean we won’t be able to use it to get revenge?” asked Julie looking rather disappointed.

“I’m afraid so.”

“Oh bugger—that would ha’ been like, wicked.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1396

“How did you make it stop being naughty, Mummy?” Trish asked about the energy.

“I considered that its seeming desire for revenge was an unconscious message from me, inviting it to attack him.”

“Were you thinking of it when it happened, Mum; I thought you were busy with the play?” Julie asked quite a pertinent question.

“I don’t think it happened like that. When he was telling lies about me from our schooldays, I felt very angry with him, and said to myself, ‘I’d like to take him down a peg.’ The light did so literally, it waited until he climbed up somewhere from whence it could take him down.”

“So it fused the whole box—c’moff it, Mum, it’s not that powerful.”

“Oh yes it is,” declared little Einstein, who was balancing a ball of energy on her hand.

“How d’ya do that?” Julie’s eyeballs were nearly out on stalks.

“Watch,” Trish flung the energy at the television and the fuse promptly blew in the plug.

“I hope you haven’t broken it,” I said, wondering where we had a three amp fuse.

“I don’t think so, but it proves it can break things and fuses.” Trish was going to be a ruthless researcher if she went into science.

“Where did you get it from?” Julie was interrogating her little sister.

“From Mummy, where d’ya think.”

“How?”

“I just took it from her, she’s surrounded by it all the time.”

“Surrounded by what?” I asked, pulling out the plug and unscrewing the top.

“The healing energy.”

“Can you see it?” I asked Trish.

She nodded.

“Can you see it now?” Julie was peering at me very strangely.

Trish nodded again.

I looked—I couldn’t see it.

“Where are you looking?” Julie peered at me.

“It’s like a very thin light all round her—go and put your hand next to her.”

Julie did as she was told, “Coo, I can feel something,” she had her hand nearly touching me, “It’s, like, buzzing.”

“It’s coming up your arm,” Trish chuckled.

“D’you mind? I’m trying to fix the television before Isaac Newton zaps it again.” There was a blue flash and Julie ended up lying on her back.

“What happened there?” I looked at Trish.

“When you got cross—a big lump of energy flew off you and hit Julie.”

“Are you all right, sweetheart?” I asked of my supine daughter.

“Yeah—wow, it was like an electric shock—I like saw this, like, blue flash and I was lying on the floor.”

“I think I might still have a small problem with controlling it,” I sighed.

“Wow, I wish I could do that.”

“You’d be decidedly dangerous,” I scolded her.

“Yeah, so? ’S better than a knife like some people use.”

“Yeah, a built-in taser.”

“Can’t you two see how awful this could be? If I’d been really angry with Julie or even that bloke the other night—I could have killed him or Julie.”

“Can I try?” said Trish.

“NO,” I said loudly and the blue flash threw her across the room, her fall only being broken by the fact that she hit the sofa, from which she bounced giggling.

I ran out of the room and up to my bedroom where I locked the door. If I stayed away from everyone, maybe no one would get hurt. I had visions of my students being thrown about the lecture theatre if they annoyed me, or cars catching fire or swerving off the road because I shouted at the driver for cutting me off.

I lay weeping on the bed—I couldn’t bear the idea that I might actually hurt someone with something that was designed to heal. I suppose I felt like those scientists, Nobel, Oppenheimer and so on who developed ideas which became weapons and thus killers.

I know it’s not the idea—it’s the use it’s put to which matters. I seemed to be unconsciously hurting people simply by being cross with them. I was still responsible, how could I change things?

I drifted off to sleep, at least I think I did. I was lying on the bed and some strange woman walked up to me and touched me.

“You are finally learning the truth about our gift to you, Catherine.”

“I am?” I asked in astonishment, “I am—so what is the truth?”

“That is for you to learn, for if we reveal it to you, you will learn nothing and therefore not progress.”

“Why do you always talk in riddles? Why not take your gift and shove it? I’m tired of your silly games.”

“Your impudence does you no favours, Catherine.”

“Neither does your gift, apparently.”

“You challenge our wisdom?”

“Wisdom—hah—if you chose me, it seems signally lacking.”

“We did not choose you, you chose yourself and your path.”

“Yeah, like anyone with half a brain is going to choose to be transgendered and all the complications it causes.”

“You seem to have risen above them and coped very well, we are pleased with much of your progress.”

“Progress? What progress? You make it sound like I’m playing some sort of game of snakes and ladders—it might be a game to you, but this is my life you are pissing on, and I wish you’d stop and just let me get on with living it and raising my family.”

“You seem to miss the point, Catherine, life is a series of challenges from which you grow, mentally, physically and spiritually.”

“Yeah, well I’ve grown enough.”

“You never cease growing, Catherine, it’s what the human condition is all about.”

“Sure, only because you insist on it—like some payback because Prometheus took the knowledge of fire from the Olympian gods. Oh I suppose you’re still pissed at Eve and her apple?”

“That is beneath even you, Catherine, you know perfectly well the Garden of Eden refers to a combination of folk memory of the hunter gatherer society and pure allegory. Humans haven’t fallen, they never quite rose to fly, except with your primitive technology.”

“How about I give you some of the blue light treatment, throw you into a wall?”

“Then you would die, horribly.”

“Fine, at least I wouldn’t hurt anyone who matters to me.”

“Your attachment to your family is touching if erroneous, and we are not going to be able to overlook much more of your insubordination without imposing consequences.”

“I don’t want to play this game anymore, take it away and go yourself with it.”

“You are so close to understanding—yet so far.”

“Let me wake up and be rid of you.”

“Be rid of us? Perhaps you’ve not made as much progress as we’d hoped.”

“Go away and leave me in peace,” I heard myself shouting and woke myself up.

“Are you all right, Mummy?” called Trish through the locked door.

“Oh—I fell asleep, I’m perfectly okay.”

I went and opened the door and she threw herself at me. “We were so worried.”

“About what?”

“About you, silly, Mummy. You were upset and we were worried.”

“Can you still see the blue light round me?”

“No, it’s gone.”

“Thank God for that,” I said grimacing at my own failure to avoid such loaded clichés.

“Can you still do the healing?”

“Who cares?” I felt quite relieved.

“You haven’t mended Auntie Stella yet or got her able to produce milk.”

“I don’t think I can, sweetheart—I can’t perform miracles, you know.”

“You can—I’ve seen you do it.”

“Yeah sure, I changed five loaves and two fishes into wine—still tasted of bread and fish mark you.” I laughed at my own cleverness.

Trish rolled her eyes—“You shouldn’t mock like that, it’s blasphemy.”

“Yeah, so what?” I didn’t care one way or the other.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1397

I sat with Trish for a while until I recovered my composure enough to face the others.

“Why don’t you believe in God, Mummy?” she asked me.

“I don’t know if you’d understand my answer, sweetheart, and I’m not patronising you, it’s simply that you haven’t enough life experience to understand where I’m coming from.”

“I’ll do my best, Mummy.”

“I know you will.” I paused while I tried to express what I assumed would be a very complex argument. In the end I said, “Okay, the essence is, there is no scientifically testable evidence for the existence of God. There is no logical basis for the existence of God. The only people who believe are those who are making an emotional statement, it isn’t based on rationale, it’s based on faith—and that may or may not have formed because of an emotional experience.

“I’m not knocking other people’s experience or even their belief—that’s up to them, but there is nothing there which presses my buttons, so I have to go with my disbelief or agnosticism. I don’t know—which is the difference between me and believers. They claim to know—I claim not to know.”

“So if you’d met God or Jesus or someone, you’d believe?”

“Um—probably not.”

“Why not, wouldn’t that prove it for you?”

“No, because the mind can play tricks on us. Many people who claim visions and such were probably having some sort of emotional experience already, and their minds might have brought in whatever they experienced to make them feel better—a delusional experience, or even a dream. But we each have different standards of proof. Mine happens to require scientific standards of evidence, most people don’t.”

“Don’t scientists believe in God, then?”

“Oh yeah, loads do, Gramps does—but I don’t. I had bad experiences when I was younger through religion, so maybe my view is a trifle jaundiced. If you want to believe—you carry on, but don’t expect me to change because of it—I won’t without evidence.”

She looked perplexed. “I love you, Mummy, and I think you’re very clever. Sister Maria is also very clever, but she believes in God.”

“Which as I said is her prerogative, that she does doesn’t mean she’s right, neither does it mean she’s wrong any more than it proves my argument one way or the other. I mean do you believe in Father Christmas?”

“Only if it means I get lots of presents,” she chuckled.

“Well yes, I can see that as reasoning however ill-founded it is. But that’s the same reason some people believe in God.”

“So they get lots of presents?” she looked bewildered.

“Of a sort—first, it means they’re not alone, they have their god; second, they believe in some form of life after death despite there being no evidence to support it. So, worship your god and you get to heaven instead of hell where all the unbelievers go.”

“Yes, you don’t want to go to hell, do you, Mummy?”

“I don’t believe there is a heaven or hell, so how can I go to them?”

“What if you’re wrong?”

“What if I’m right? What happens to all the people who believed in heaven and find there isn’t one?”

“They’ll be very disappointed, won’t they?”

“No, they’ll be very dead.”

“But they’ll know won’t they?”

“I er doubt it, because brain function ceases quite quickly once you die.”

“But what about all those people’s experiences an’ Jesus told ’em he’d give them everlasting life an’ things?”

“If that’s your evidence, it wouldn’t last for long. There is no evidence there ever was a Jesus.”

“But everyone knows he lived.”

“Same as Father Christmas—you ever seen him?”

“Um, no.” She paused, “What about the Gospels? They saw Jesus.”

“No they didn’t, they were written years afterwards, some longer after than others.”

“What about St Peter, he met Jesus.”

“And he wrote a Gospel—he was an uneducated fisherman—probably couldn’t read or write.”

“Maybe God helped him.”

“Maybe he didn’t.”

“I don’t like arguing with you, Mummy, you’re too clever.”

“No, I’m more experienced. Like I said earlier, you either believe or you don’t. You could bring the Pope in here and he wouldn’t be able to convince me in a million years. He’d be able to convince me that he believed, but I doubt he’d find anything acceptable to me.”

“I don’t know what to think, Mummy.”

“It doesn’t matter, sweetheart, what matters is how you live. There are lots of people who have a religion and act like monsters, and there are some who act like saints. The same goes for we unbelievers too, some of us are nice some aren’t.

“If believing helps you to live responsibly, and to care about others—then it’s good. If it means you act irresponsibly or judgementally, then that isn’t good. So, I think it’s how you live that matters—not if there is or isn’t a God, unless that belief helps you to live responsibly.”

“Um—I don’t know what to think.”

“Just listen and read things as you go along and try and understand your experiences as informing how you live, and possibly what you believe. It’s a free country, so if you do or don’t believe is acceptable—it wasn’t always so, and isn’t in some countries today. Then again, some countries banned religion as well, which is also wrong. We should be free to choose what we believe, in the same way we should be free to choose who we are and what gender represents that best—or even none at all.”

“How can people be no gender, Mummy, aren’t we all boys or girls?”

“No, some of us are uncomfortable in both the established genders, they don’t feel themselves to be male or female rather they feel they are neither.”

“That’s weird, Mummy.”

“For you, but they might feel the same about you embracing femaleness.”

“But I am, female.”

“I know, sweetheart, I know—what I’m trying to say, is there are some people who don’t agree with you and prefer to remain genderless.”

“I don’t like that.”

“I’m not very comfortable with it either, but in order to claim acceptance we have to accept others providing they accept us. It’s being responsible for what you feel and consequently what you think, say or do. And if the most that some genderless person does is to make me think about things which are outside my comfort zone, then I have to accept them and deal with my discomfort.”

“I don’t want to think about that, Mummy, it’s too unpleasant.”

“But you see, years ago people were made to be male or female, it’s still the predominant system, but it isn’t enough to encompass all the various groups we have now. Some probably have greater validity than others, but we have to at least accept them if we want to be recognised ourselves.”

“But you look like a lady.”

“So can a drag artist, but he’s still a man, not a woman.”

“You breastfeed.”

“I believe that can be arranged for men to do as well with the right hormones.”

“Did you have hormones, then?”

“Not really, no; it sort of just happened to me—psychosomatic, I expect.”

“Unless God did it.”

“Perhaps, but I don’t think I’m very happy with that argument.”

“Maybe it was the blue light, so you can make Auntie Stella’s boobs work, too.”

“I don’t think it’s that easy, Trish. Goodness, look at the time—I think I’d better dash out and get some fish and chips.”

“Oh yes please, Mummy, I love them.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1398

Fish and chips over, and the washing up in the machine, I chatted with the girls as they did their homework, helping them as I could—usually not. Billie continues to struggle with her English—they make them write stuff longhand to avoid use of spell checkers. Her writing is quite juvenile given she’s three years older than Trish and Livvie, her writing looks very similar, large and rounded. Mind you, I’ve had twenty-odd-year-old students who wrote the same way and while legible it often unfortunately carried an immaturity of thinking as well.

My own scrawl was upright but small, with none of those affected Is dotted with hearts or feathery tails to my Gs and Ys, nor does it lean backwards, and only occasionally forwards, when I write quickly.

I looked over Billie’s essay for her and spotted three mistakes in the first sentence. I corrected them and explained where she’d gone wrong—including that awful one, I could of done something rather than, I could have…

We worked for an hour and the finished product was passable, at least the spelling was now correct and the use of punctuation more correct as well. She hardly used any save two full stops and one comma in a piece of about five hundred words.

At first she thought I was just picking on her, but we went into my study and I explained the basics of punctuation in giving sense to a sentence or emphasising a point. Eventually she realised I was trying to help her and she asked if I could help her do her English homework again. We hugged and I promised I would.

I then got her to show me her other stuff. It was equally difficult to read and the teachers had written snotty comments about punctuation. We looked at History and Geography. Her ideas were fine but were lost in translation to the written word. I told her I was going to get a tutor for her during the holidays. The response was a long face.

I told her that Danny was going to do some as well, he didn’t know it yet, but I would have someone coach both of them in English. Two reasons why: they’re probably better at it than I, and strangers often have more power than familiar figures.

I’d seen a name mentioned in the local paper when I’d read my reviews of the play, so had phoned the woman and she sent me her details—a genuine English teacher, with ten years of experience in coaching and classroom teaching. Her rates were quite reasonable too. I hired her to commence when the holidays started.

Billie, after a little sulk, was okay: she accepted her fate because she could see how it would help her in the long run and even to some extent in the short term too. Danny was an entirely different kettle of fish.

“Coaching in English—no way, Mum. I do enough during the year, I’m not doing it in the holidays too.”

“I’m afraid you do as I want, and in this case, it’s coaching in English.”

“But I don’t need no coaching.”

“That means you do.”

“No it doesn’t.”

“It’s a double negative, so it means you will do the opposite to what you thought you would.”

“No it don’t.”

“No it doesn’t, is the correct phrase—yours was incorrect.”

“Football coaching, okay; English—what a waste of time and effort.”

“Show me your English exercise book,” I insisted. He pretended he’d left it in school but we found it when we looked through his pile of schoolbooks for the second time—he’d looked the first time by himself.

His writing was slightly better than Billie’s but his spelling and sentence construction was woeful. I wondered at one point if he split one more infinitive, he could boldly go to the Starship Enterprise and I’d pay for the rocket.

We sat down and I asked him what he was going to do as a career—assuming he wasn’t good enough to turn professional as a soccer player, notwithstanding—he wanted to be a games’ teacher.

“Does your games’ teacher teach anything else besides sport and PE?”

“Don’t think so.”

“They usually do, even if it’s only sport theory.”

“Nah, he does sport science an’ geography.”

“Geography?”

“Yeah—you know, capital of America is New York, that sort of thing.”

“Would you care to reflect on what you just said?”

“No, why?”

“Well Washington was the capital of the United States when I was in school and I suspect geography is a bit more complex than simply not knowing your state capitals.”

“I was only jokin’, I just wanted to see if you was awake.”

“Were awake, and I was. What’s the capital of Australia?”

“Um—Sydney?” he blushed when I looked aghast at him.

“That’s the capital of New South Wales, Canberra is the federal capital.”

“Ask me another one, I knew that really.”

“Okay, let’s look a bit closer to home, what’s the county town of Wiltshire?”

“Wiltshire? Um—Salisbury?”

“Try Devizes,” I suggested, “What about Dorset, that’s an easy one?”

“I don’t know, bloody Bournemouth, I suppose.”

“It’s Dorchester; and Hampshire is?”

By now he was getting very cross. “I don’t give a shit what it is.”

“You might if you lived in Winchester.”

“I don’t do I, so there.” He stamped off upstairs and I was left feeling very frustrated and worried for his future. He was good at football but possibly not that good and one bad tackle could end his career in an instant.

I let him go; he had to recognise his own failings before he would do anything to change them. His end of term exams would show some areas of concern, assuming I actually got to see his report. This being a parent is hard work.

I put the girls to bed and read to them, Billie was a little quiet compared to the others and was last out from the bathroom, waiting until the others had finished before she started to wash and clean her teeth.

I had to read them from Horrible Histories which would have terrified me as a child, especially one of Mima’s age, but they all seemed to love it. So much for my judgement.

I spoke with Simon about my concerns for Billie and Danny. His response was that he was rubbish at Geography at school, but he survived. If he needed to go anywhere he’d look it up in an atlas—he’d even found Hell when told to go there—it’s in Iceland.

“There’s Hel in Poland.”

“Well that’s next to Iceland.”

“Since when?” I challenged.

“Told you I was rubbish at geography.”

“So it would seem.”

“Okay, miss clever dick, I know clitoris isn’t a Greek island,” he smirked running his hand over my thigh.

“Ooh,” I jumped, taken by surprise of his change of subject.

“An’ my sense of spatial awareness is excellent too, because I know this fits somewhere as well,” he placed my hand on his swelling groin.

As if on cue, as he touched my nipple Catherine woke up crying and he nearly wept himself when I went to sort her. Oh well, his anatomy is better than his geography but he’s still finding it difficult to get where he wants when he wants it. That kept me sniggering while I fed Catherine and changed her—by then he was asleep and I gently removed the book from his lap and slipped into bed.

I know general knowledge is something which changes from time to time, but I did wonder about the so called dumbing-down effect which some writers in quality newspapers mention, and which comes up as a topic on Radio 4 regularly, where it seems half the twelve-year-olds in England and Wales haven’t heard of Mozart, Dickens or Nelson—what chance my collection of Vaughan Williams CDs?

The Daily Dormouse Part 1399

Simon woke up where he left off the night before—trying to fit a round peg in a certain hole. Perhaps I should feel pleased that he fancies me at all rather than try to avoid it at times. It was six in the morning and I hadn’t got to bed much before one. So I was still quite sleepy. However, I let him have his wicked way, which could be a nice way of being woken up except I kept expecting three or four faces to rush in and suggest that Simon was trying to hurt me—or judging by the noises he was making—might think I was hurting him. I wasn’t of course—as far as I know—as he seemed to think it was his birthday and Christmas rolled into one, I doubted it.

I must admit when I wake I’m usually more interested in getting the kids ready and off to school, or making sure they get their breakfast at weekends. Now I was standing in the shower trying to cool something down—goodness it was smarting.

I dried off, gave it a dose of antiseptic cream and popped a panty-liner in my panties—could be where the name comes from—and got myself dressed. I pulled on a skirt; trousers could be a bit uncomfortable after our gymnastics—and went down to see Simon off to his office.

He mentioned something about the Hindhead tunnel being opened soon and being able to get to London up the A3 a bit more easily. I laughed, the better the road the more traffic it attracts so within a short time any progress is lost. Besides, he doesn’t go to London that often these days, which was the whole point of shifting the office to Portsmouth.

I kissed him goodbye and he went to work while I went to rouse the children. Billie sat in bed waiting for the other girls to use the bathroom, which they do as a pack. Trish was fairly integrated before, even with her dangly bits whereas Billie has never made such progress, perhaps because she’s a little older and a bit more gauche, and unfortunately, very much more self conscious—the beginnings of adolescence?

While her younger siblings washed and messed about in the bathroom, I spoke with her. “Is everything okay—I mean apart from what we discussed last night?”

“S’okay,” she replied but I didn’t believe her.

“You used to go into the bathroom with the others, what’s changed?” I was pretty sure what the answer was but it would be useful to confirm it, then Stephanie can get stuck into it at their next session.

“Nothing.”

“Are you saying that’s an answer, there’s nothing changed or that because nothing has changed, that is the problem?”

“Yeah, bit of both.”

“I see—well just remember that surgical techniques are progressing all the time, so in some ways the longer you wait for it, the better the results should be. The other thing is the hormones will have had greater effect so your body will look that much more female so the surgery will be less of a worry by then.”

“I’m sick of waiting, I wish I had Trish’s courage to deal with things.”

“Not a good idea because it could result in you all being removed from my keeping.”

“Why—you’re our mother?”

Yes but if I can’t seem to care for you in a manner the authorities deem is suitable, they could remove you all from my care.”

“Why, Mummy?”

“Because they’d think I was colluding in your mishap.”

“But that’s silly.”

“I’m afraid the way officialdom’s mind works is probably different to the rest of us.”

“That’s even sillier.”

“So it might seem to you and me, but it’s how things happen. They would probably be thinking they were acting in your best interests. They don’t mess about with child protection issues because of the way the press have crucified them when children have been harmed. Once, they might overlook it, twice they’d be here in numbers to put the rest of us under a microscope.”

“But why?”

“Look, I have three of you who are transgender, that in itself is unusual verging on next to impossible. They’d consider what the common factor was—and that could easily be seen as me. I was transgender, so I attract or make my children so, for whatever ridiculous reason they could manufacture.”

“But the only reason we’re here is because no one else would listen to us.”

“That wouldn’t necessarily stop them putting two and two together and making five.”

“But I’d tell them, so would the others.”

“Do you think they’d listen?”

“I’d make them.”

“And just how would you do that?”

“Somehow—I would, Mummy.”

“I don’t doubt your sincerity, but I feel it would fall upon deaf ears. Some people in social services have been determined to get me because they were wrong about helping you children. They didn’t believe there could be that many transgender children in one place, unless I was making you so. In your case because you didn’t tell them initially, it would look worse than in Trish’s case because she said so before she ever met me.”

“Whatever I do is wrong—I hate myself—I wish I was dead.”

I pulled her into a cuddle. “You mustn’t say things like that. It’s my fault for not supporting you enough—you’ve done nothing wrong. Please don’t do anything to yourself—it would break my heart.”

We were both weeping when the others came back to their room. I couldn’t ask them to leave—all their clothes were in the room.

“Woss wong?” asked Mima who was already looking tearful in sympathy.

“It’s nothing—please let Billie and I deal with this a moment. Get your school clothes and dress in my room.”

“Wassamatter, Billie?” asked Trish.

“Please take your school clothes and go,” I said more firmly and they all muttered and grumbled before doing as I asked.

“See—they know I’m different—you’d all be better off without me.”

“Billie, how upset have I got to get to get through to you—we all love you—we all think of you as a delightful young lady—please don’t spoil it for yourself—hang in there a little longer.”

“I don’t know.”

“Please promise me you won’t do anything without coming to tell me first.”

“But you’ll stop me?”

“Not necessarily—if you can convince me it’s for the best—I won’t. I might even join you.”

“What will the others do then—without you?”

“I don’t know, but I expect they’d survive.”

“What if they didn’t?”

“It would be up to Daddy to find them another mummy, wouldn’t it?”

“But there’d never be anyone like you, Mummy.”

“I could say the same to you.”

“That’s silly.”

“No it isn’t—each of you is different—unique. You have some similarities—we all do. But you also have this uniqueness—we’d all miss you so much—that I don’t know if I could bear it—so I might as well come with you.”

“But then you’d go to hell, too.”

“I’ve been there before, kiddo, it has no fears for me.”

“I didn’t think you believed in it?”

“I don’t, but if you do and feel you’ll go there, I’ll come too to help you.”

“I don’t deserve a mummy like you.”

“No, kiddo, you have that the wrong way round, It’s I who’ve failed you and therefore don’t deserve children like you. You are perfect—all my children are.”

We hugged and cried together for a bit longer before she got up and went into the shower. I crossed my fingers, wiped my face and went to see to the others. As soon as I got them in school I’d phone Stephanie and if necessary pull Billie out of classes to see her.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1400

Special xiv Centennial edition, with free throwaway plot and characters.

New improved edition with the magic ingredient male cow poo.

Buy while stocks and pillory last. Special discount for bulk purchasers and callers with guns.

~~~~~~~

I’d barely got home from speaking with Sister Maria about my concerns for Billie when the phone rang.

“Charlie?” asked a male voice.

“Sorry, you must have the wrong number, there’s no Charlie here,” as I said this a cold shiver ran through me.

“Don’t hang up—sorry I can’t remember what you call yourself these days. Lady something isn’t it?”

“Who is this?” I wasn’t far from slamming the phone down.

“It’s your Uncle Arthur.”

“Yes?” I said while thinking, what does he want?

“Look, I know you and Doreen didn’t exactly hit it off…”

“You could say that as the understatement of the twenty-first century.”

“Look, she’s seriously ill.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that,” actually I didn’t give a toss but I tried not to upset him, he sounded as if he was having difficulties coping.

“Thank you. I don’t know quite how to phrase this, she’s asking to see you as her only neph—um—niece.”

“What’s the matter with her?”

“She has kidney disease—which has caused her kidneys to fail. She could die—I’m so worried, Char—sorry, I can’t remember your name.”

“Catherine.”

“Yes, of course, Catherine, could you come and see her before she dies?”

Just what I needed—not—a trip to Swindon.

“If I do, I’ll have to bring my baby with me and also Stella’s little one—I’m breastfeeding both of them.” That should shut him up for a moment.

“I’m sorry, could you repeat that, it sounded like you said you were breastfeeding a baby?”

“I am, but there’s two of them.”

“But you’re a bo—um—not equipped to do that—are you?”

“Yes I am.”

“Oh—the things they can do these days—your baby, did you say?”

“Yes, my baby.”

“Congratulations—we—um didn’t—um think, I mean know you were pregnant.”

“It’s not as if we’re a close family, Uncle Arthur.”

“No, I suppose not—could you come and see her?”

“Is that really a good idea, if I scared the life out of her last time we met, how’s seeing her going to help?”

“I don’t know—um—Catherine, wasn’t it?”

“Yes. Look can I call you back—I’ve just got in from the school run.”

“School run?”

“Yes, taking my girls to school.”

“How many children have you got?”

“Seven, I think at the last count—they won’t sit still, so counting is difficult.”

“Seven? Good lord—how do you cope?”

“We manage.”

“Goodness—yes, I can see why you’ll have to call me back.”

“Exactly, I’ll need to speak with my hubby, see if he can come home early to help in my absence.”

“I see. Are you really Lady something or other, or is that just a wind up?”

“Well, I’m married to a man who’s called Lord Simon Cameron.”

“Yes, but that’s just one of those civil partner things isn’t it?”

“No, that’s not allowable between a man and a woman at the moment, so we settled for a normal wedding.” He must be reeling from all this, poor chap—but I’m enjoying it.

“Not allowed between a man and woman, but you’re…”

“A boy with boobs who’s breastfeeding her baby.”

“I’m sorry, this is difficult to take in.”

“But you met Simon a while back, remember you called when you were in Southsea.”

“Of course we did, and you were Catherine, yes—no, I don’t really remember.”

“I’ll call you back, Uncle Arthur.”

“I’m going to the hospital this afternoon.”

“I’ll call back very soon, promise.”

“Okay then, Char—I mean Catherine—this is all too much for me.”

“Yes, I can appreciate that. Take care, I’ll call you back as soon as I can.”

“Who was that?” asked Stella as I staggered into the kitchen.

“My Uncle Arthur, you may remember they came by a while ago, they were at my Dad’s funeral.”

“Oh, what did he want?” she asked.

“My Auntie Doreen is very poorly with kidney failure.”

“Oh, you going to blue light her?”

“I don’t know—I hadn’t got that far. I think I need a cuppa and a think.”

“Where does she live?”

“Swindon.”

“Oh, the land of roundabouts.”

“Yep, you can get dizzy simply by driving round the place.”

“You’d better express some for these two, if you’re going off for the day.”

“I thought that if you came with me, we could take the little suckers with us.”

“Dunno—you sure that’s a good idea?”

“Which part?”

“All of it.”

“Probably not, but it’s the best I can do.”

“What about the other kids?”

“Shit, I was supposed to call Stephanie about Billie—it’ll have to be tomorrow now.”

“What’s wrong with Billie?”

“She was talking with a very deep depression yesterday, sounded almost suicidal.”

“Oh, so which one is your priority? Billie or Auntie Do?”

“I’ll see if Simon can get home a bit early, he could help with Billie until we got back.”

“Simon? Does he know which one is Billie?”

“That was very catty, Stella, your brother is actually quite a good parent when he wants to be.”

“Want, being the operative word,” said Stella dismissing her brother.

“I’ll call him.” I did just that and he agreed to come home early to help Jenny.

When I told Jenny, she shrugged—“I expect we’ll manage.”

“Are you sure?” I felt very guilty.

“Yeah, Tom will be here too, so between us—besides, Danny is very good with Billie and Julie will be home just after six.”

“Okay, I’ll call Uncle Arthur and say we’re on our way.” I returned his call and agreed we’d come up right away.

It wasn’t quite like that, we had to sort a whole pile of things for the babies, then sort out baby seats and so on. After this we had to sort the babies—feed and change them—we got off an hour later.

We made good progress and stopped between Salisbury and Marlborough for a snack before continuing onto Swindon. There we went to see Uncle Arthur and he was in a state.

I left Stella with the babies at my aunt and uncle’s house then took Uncle Arthur to the new hospital, The Great Western Hospital.

“Who’s this?” asked Auntie Doreen.

“Your—um—niece—um—Cha—I mean, Catherine,” spluttered my uncle.

“Do we have a niece?” she challenged him, “I thought it was a scrawny nephew, but then he always looked more like a girl than a boy. You’re not my nephew are you?”

“No, Auntie Doreen, I’m your niece.”

“Are you sure, girl?”

“She’s got a baby,” explained Uncle Arthur, making everything as clear as mud.

“Yes, but she could be the father,” accused Doreen.

“She’s come a long way, Do, an’ remember, she’s Lady Catherine.”

“Oh lord, I feel awful.” With that she closed her eyes and died—well she would have done if I hadn’t been there. Instead I took her hand, sent Uncle A for the nurse and spoke to my aunt.

“Look here, you can’t die just yet you silly old cow, so listen carefully—I know you can hear me. Look for the blue light, it’ll appear like a blue sun—follow it, and don’t disappoint me, because the alternative you will not like—I promise.”

I flooded her with blue light—how can I do that for people I don’t even like very much?—the Hyacinth Bucket of the family—and poor Uncle A even looks a bit like the bloke who plays her husband.

The kidneys were quite badly damaged, the nephrons and glomerulus were in a bit of a state and I’d just about sorted them when the nurse arrived with Uncle Arthur.

“Hello, Mrs Porter—can you hear me?” she said loudly at the same time shaking her arm.

“Of course I can hear you, I’m not deaf just resting my eyes.”

The nurse gave Uncle A a real glare before she walked stiffly away.

“We thought you’d gone, thank God you didn’t. I don’t know what I’d do without you, Do,” Uncle A was virtually in tears.

“You’d have to go and live with your favourite niece, wouldn’t you?” she threw back at him. Now I realised why I had to be there. I also knew she’d make a full recovery which she certainly shouldn’t have done, but no one twigged I’d been involved—except perhaps Auntie Do, who I swore to secrecy—threatening her with a total relapse which would take months of agony to kill her. It was pure male cow poo, but she didn’t know that.

I left my aunt and uncle at the hospital and drove back to Stella and the babies.

“The strangest thing has happened,” she said.

“Not Billie?”

“No, don’t be silly, Cathy, I mean about me—I started gushing full cream about twenty minutes ago. I’ve fed them both and I’m still dripping.”

I began to laugh, had Trish been doing anything I wondered or was it just her milk came through, or even did the blue light fix her while I was doing Auntie Do? I suppose we’ll never know—Stella doesn’t.

We had just loaded everything and two babies in the car when my mobile rang.

“Cathy?”

“What’s the problem, Jenny?”

“Did you take Billie to school this morning?”

“Of course, I even saw the headmistress about her, why?”

“She wasn’t there when I went to collect them and the others didn’t see her at lunch.”

A cold shiver ran up my spine and settled in the pit of my stomach. “We’re on our way, have you called the police?”

“Yes, nothing so far.”

I chucked my Blackberry into my bag and jumped into the car.

“What’s up?” asked Stella.

“Billie’s missing.”

“Oh no,” she gasped, “What are you going to do?”

“Get home asap,” I said slamming my foot to the floor leaving tyre marks behind us.

Bike 1,301–1,350

Friday, May 13th, 2011

The Daily

Dormouse

(aka Bike)

Parts 1,301–1,350

by Angharad

If you wish to make a comment please go to the original part by part posting on BigCloset TopShelf.


The Daily Dormouse Part 1301

I relaxed in the salon chair as the girl washed my hair prior to one of the stylists cutting it. The place was very well appointed and equipped, and I wondered if Julie would like to work here when she was qualified.

A towel was draped over my hair and tucked under it at the back and I was led back to the stylist’s station. The stylist was a Scots girl called Morag, and was, according to the hotel reception staff, ‘the best there is.’

It was two thirty and Simon was busy watching his rugby. I was having Morag fiddle with my hair and tut loudly. She spoke with a very quiet accent as she combed my hair out, and began cutting it.

Once that was done, she donned her rubber gloves and placed a small rubber or plastic hat on my still-wet hair and began picking hairs through it. She had recommended highlights, so who was I to disagree?

I’d booked in under the name, Cathy Watts, which was a legitimate one and I’d done it to prevent my married name influencing anything. I wanted to see how good this stylist was—so far she’d impressed me with her dancing hands and relaxing conversation.

“So what d’you do, Cathy?” she asked me.

“When I’m working, I teach ecology and field biology at Portsmouth uni.”

“That sounds really interesting.”

“It is, but at the moment, I’m a bit tied up with looking after my kids, the youngest is only seven months old.”

“Are you still feeding her?”

“Yes, although she’s taking some solids as well, which she tucks into with relish.”

“What’s her name?”

“Catherine.”

“The same as you?”

“Yes, I’m afraid so.”

“Och, don’t be afraid for naming your daughter after yourself, at least she’ll know who you were.”

“I hope so.” I had the unpleasant thought slip into my mind: what would happen to her if I died before she was old enough to remember me? That would be two mothers she’d have lost and a totally terrible thought.

I was rinsed out after about twenty minutes and my hair set in big rollers. I settled for a set rather than a perm, although it would only have been something like a demi-wave and I have enough body in my hair already.

While my hair was air-drying, I was led to another part of the salon, and laid back in a reclining chair while someone did a facial on me. I was so relaxed, that when they did my manicure, I was nearly asleep and offered my hands without any resistance.

I lay there with all sorts of gloop on my face and slices of cucumber carefully placed on my eyelids, and my mind somewhere else. I hoped I didn’t snore too loudly. We’d only had a light lunch so I was half aware my tummy was rumbling, but with the various driers and other things buzzing away in the distance, I hoped no one would hear it.

I felt someone shaking my arm, “Just goin’ to take all this cream off your face now, Cathy.” I think I mumbled something in reply because she removed the cucumber and began wiping the gunk off my skin.

My makeup was then done, although I wasn’t too struck on having skin makeup done—I never use it. My hair was finished and I was more than aware of the feel of stuff on my face. It seemed ironic that they’d used all these cleansers and toners and face masks and so on; then plastered all this crap on my lovely moisturised skin.

Okay, I looked very sophisticated and elegant but I felt like a painted doll, like someone in one of those tranny fantasies—I suppose to some extent I was living one, except I thought of myself as an ordinary woman, who wore a bit of lippy, some mascara and occasionally eyeliner. If I was going somewhere I wanted to make an impression, I’d use blusher to highlight my cheekbones, but otherwise I didn’t bother. I did get my hair cut fairly regularly and I always wore good perfume, and my makeup was quality stuff as well.

Morag finished my hair after removing the rollers and combing me out and brushing it into the style we’d agreed. I’d opted not to have my hair up but to allow it to stay down and free. It was shining really well and the auburn highlights, looked really natural. My hair looked really good, hanging down to my shoulders and beyond, but meeting under my chin in the front.

My fingers now sported a pearlised pink varnish to match my lips and I’d forgotten how long it had been since I’d painted them myself. Something which made me smile to myself was that I used to paint them regularly when I was sitting alone in my bedsit and had to clean them off for the next morning or certainly after a weekend—and now when I could paint them with impunity, I didn’t because I didn’t have time—ironic or what?

I signed the chit, which would go on the room account. “Which room, Mrs Watts?”

“The Belgravia suite,” I had to tell the truth this time.

“Oh, that’s one of the Cameron’s suites—are you staying with them?”

“Yes,” I smiled and blushed.

“Oh, Lord Simon is there at the moment.”

“Yes, he’s my husband.”

“Oh, my goodness, I’m sorry, Lady Cameron—I should have known.”

“No, I deliberately didn’t want any favouritism which was why I used my maiden name.”

“I hope everything has been satisfactory, Lady Cameron?”

“Entirely, and I’m leaving a tip for all of you.”

“Thank you, Lady Cameron.”

“Where’s Lady Cameron?” asked Morag walking up to the desk.

“This is Lady Cameron,” said the receptionist.

“Och, why didnae I ken that—of course, the dormouse lady.” Her accent returned more strongly when she was taken aback. We chatted for a few minutes and I reassured her I wasn’t on any undercover mission to report back to anyone, other than to say I’d been treated very well. She went off to see another client and I left the salon slipping quickly back to the suite because I felt self-conscious with all the makeup on. It almost reminded me of the old days when I’d slip out to post a letter at eleven o’clock at night and hope no one saw me in my skirt and modest heels.

Simon was so engrossed in the rugby, he didn’t even look at me when I went in. I made us some tea and he casually looked at me when he accepted the tea. He looked back at the screen and then back at me. “Crikey, Babes, you look hot.”

“It is warm in here,” I agreed.

“No, hot as in smokin’.”

“I don’t smoke—never have, can’t stand it.”

“No, you look like a totally hot babe, get me?”

“I feel like a painted trollop.”

“No, it looks really sophisticated.”

“I’m not sure I can stand all this stuff on my face for the rest of the day.”

“Yay,” Smon jumped up and bounced about, “We won,” he danced about and I had to move his cup of tea before he knocked it over.

“What, England won?”

“England? Who are they? I was watching Scotland beat Italy.”

“Oh, I thought you supported England,” I said and ducked into the bathroom before he could grab me.

I looked at my painted face in the mirror and pulling out a couple of wet wipes, began to rub the foul stuff off my face. I felt so much better once I cleaned it all off and them wiped my face in my flannel and towel. I stepped back out into the sitting room and he looked up at me.

“What happened to the makeup?”

“It felt horrible.”

“Want me to complain?”

“No, there was nothing wrong with it, I just didn’t like the feel of it on my face—it felt like a mask.”

“It looked pretty good, I wished I’d got a photo of it.”

“Nah, let’s leave the sophisticated tart look for them who likes it, shall we?” I said kissing him.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1302

I drank the tea I’d made and Simon watched Ireland end the English hopes of a grand-slam, which tickled him no end. “There’ll be some embarrassed faces in the office on Monday,” he chuckled.

“Why?”

“I had three of them goading me all week about how England were going to do the slam. I kept telling ’em that Ireland were going to get it together one of these days, an’ they did.”

“Is that important?”

“Yes, I’ve just taken a hundred quid off each of them.”

“I thought you’d stopped wagering on these things?”

“Nah, it’s only peanuts.”

“I don’t call three hundred pounds, peanuts, Simon. Just because you’re well off doesn’t mean you should waste it.”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Si, I’m sorry but I feel this is something that comes between us.”

“Only because you make it an issue.”

“I don’t want the children doing it.”

“As far as I know none of them have a hundred quid have they?”

“Not as far as I know either, unless Trish has sold my car on Ebay again.”

“She hasn’t done that has she?”

“Yeah we had a disagreement about a dress she wanted. I refused to buy it for her and she asked if she could find the money, could she buy it herself. I should have said no, but I agreed. Next thing I know, I have a phone call from some bloke asking if he could see my car.”

“And it was her, was it?”

“Yes, I explained what it was all about and he said if ever she wanted a job, he’d give her one. I told him she was only six and he was astonished.”

“D’you think she could be Aspergers?”

“I doubt it, but I’ve got it down to speak to Sam Rose about it.”

“I thought you were going to see him this week.”

“He’s got flu, so they cancelled—they did offer us an appointment with another doctor, but I like Sam and he knows Trish so well.”

“I agree—besides—why talk to the monkey when you know the organ grinder?”

“I don’t know if the other doctor would have been pleased to hear you refer to him like that.”

“I don’t give a monkey’s.”

“Is that the one with the organ grinder?”

“What one?”

“The monkeys you don’t give?”

“Stella used to do this to me,” he grumbled.

“Do? I haven’t done anything.”

“Yes you have, you’ve taken something I said out of context and used it in an entirely different context.”

“Did I—diddums—does baby want his rattle too?” I asked sarcastically.

“No, baby is rattled enough as it is.” He stared at me, “Your hair is different.”

I nearly fell over. I could have had it dyed bright green and he wouldn’t normally notice, although if Julie did, he would. I don’t know if that means he acts paternally about her or he doesn’t look at me in any great detail anymore. She is turning into quite a stunner.

“Yes, Morag put some highlights in it.”

“It’s nice.” That was the end of the discussion.

We messed about for another half an hour before I went to begin getting ready. I redid my makeup, in my own way, which meant I did use some blusher and the metallic green eyeliner. My lipstick was as Morag had used, and I did darken my brows a little with a blonde coloured eyebrow pencil. For completion, my mascara was black/brown and I used it a little thicker than usual. I was happier with the outcome than I had been coming from the salon.

I carefully dressed in my new outfit and pulled on the tights and shoes. Simon adjusted his green bowtie and scrutinised me. “Okay, you looked like a model when you came from the salon.”

“And now?” I asked.

“You look like the wife of an aristocrat.”

“They sometimes marry models, you know?”

“I’ll settle for my choice every time.”

“I’m glad.”

“I’m glad you’re glad, divorce is a pain.”

“I’d probably settle for a few billion,” I smirked.

“Very funny, d’you think I’m made of money?”

“Yes—next question?”

“Aye, weel jest mind that I’m a canny Scot, the noo.”

“Och, hae ye f’gotten, sae am I?” I said back in what sounded like Morag’s voice. I had found my Lady Macbeth voice.

Simon looked astonished for a moment before saying, “Sae ye are.” He regarded me up and down. “You look positively stunning, my dear.”

“Aye, yer no sae bad yersel’.” I practiced my accent again.

“D’you mind, it’s bad enough having Tom chattering like one of the estate workers.”

“Ye scunner, dinnae talk aboot ma faither like that.”

“Cathy, why are you suddenly chattering like an escapee from a porridge advert?”

“I’m Gruoch, th’ rightful Queen o’ Scotland, wi’ ma laird, Macbeth.”

“Oh right, let me guess which play—um—Julius Caesar?”

“Very funny—put your cummerbund on, it hides your fat tummy a bit.”

He went to his case and extracted the silk item which I fastened behind him. “You don’t think this is a bit over the top do you? I mean, it’s not exactly a formal dinner.”

“Up to you.” I undid it again and he threw it back to his case.

“It gets a bit tight after a good meal.”

“Simon, we both need to get more exercise and you also need to eat less.”

“Huh! Last week you were telling me I was a fine figure of a man.”

“Last week I was randy. This week I’m…”

“Don’t tell me—um—Little Weed?”

“Simon, have you taken complete leave of your senses?”

“Randy Pandy and Little Weed.”

“Andy Pandy was with Lubi-Lou, Little Weed was with Bill and Ben.”

“Oh—how d’you know all this?”

“Because some idiot did a talk on the development of children’s television in the late Twentieth Century while I was a student at Sussex. It was free so I went. Damn, that reminds me when I asked him a question about Bagpuss, he pointed at me and said, “The young lady wearing blue,” and several people laughed.

“What’s funny about that?”

“I was supposed to be a boy at the time.”

“You were never a boy, just a girl with a plumbing problem and we’d better move it or Clint Eastwood and wosserface will be waiting for us.”

I gave myself another squirt of No5 and picked up my bag and pashmina. He held out his arm and with a quick glance at the telly to see Wales had taken the lead in France, he smiled and we set off to meet Matthew and Judy Hines.

On the way down we passed a young couple, he was wearing jeans and an open necked shirt and she was quite pregnant and wearing a pair of jeans which sagged beneath her bulge which protruded showing a fat belly button between them and her skimpy top. They were just checking into their room.

As we walked on, I stopped and gripped Simon’s arm tightly. “That was them.”

“What was?” he asked as unaware as ever.

“That young couple—that was Matthew and Judy.”

“Hold on.” He pulled out his mobile and after checking a number made a call. “Have Mr and Mrs Hines arrived yet?” He nodded. Then looking at me, “It could well be, they were held up and haven’t long arrived, they asked if we could postpone dinner for half an hour?”

“We have a choice?”

“Yes we can go down and have a drink or two, or go back to the suite and watch a bit more of the Six Nations.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1303

We sat and watched more of the first half of the France v Wales rugby match. Wales had an outside chance of winning the championship by winning by more than twenty seven points. The way it was going, they’d need a cricket score to achieve that because France were well into the lead. Simon sighed. “Bloody frogs, the Irish give Wales a chance—admittedly a long-shot one, but a chance nonetheless, and those silly Welshmen give away soft tries.”

At the end of the first half we went back down to the dining room, Simon pretty sure that Wales had blown it and that England would take the championship and France would come second. I wasn’t that bothered either way.

I checked my appearance as we left the room and it was okay. As we walked down to the dining room, I wondered if it was them we’d seen earlier. Was the body beautiful, Mrs Hines, pregnant? If so, how did I feel about that? I tried not to feel anything about it other than positive for them. I could go round with my brain in a sling just because nature didn’t give me a womb and ovaries. I had to make the best of the fact that I had pretty well everything else attributable to female bodies, including some working breasts. Things could be a lot worse.

We went to the bar and Simon ordered a pint of real ale, I had a glass of orange juice. I’m a control freak, I like to be in control of my body and more importantly, my mouth. I would have some wine with dinner so for now, fruit juice was enough.

“Have the Hines come down for dinner yet?” asked Si.

“Not yet, Lord Cameron.”

I glanced at my watch, it was after half eight, if we ate much later I’d be awake all night. I sighed.

“This isn’t good enough,” muttered Simon: he wasn’t used to being kept waiting, except by me and I always had a good excuse. “At last,” he said quietly as Matthew Hines sidled into the bar.

“I’m expecting some guests for dinner,” he said to the barman.

“I believe they’ve been here some time, sir.”

“Ah, yes, um where are they?”

At this point I took the bull by the horns—although I wouldn’t have much more effect if I’d grabbed it by the testicles. “Matthew Hines, I’m Cathy Cameron and this is my husband Simon.”

Hines spun round and smiled, then he looked me up and down, then Simon. “Your video doesn’t do you justice, you are gorgeous. How d’you do?” he shook hands with me and then with Simon. I could feel Simon’s hackles rising.

“Can I get you a drink by way of apology for being so late. Judy’s having a rest, it’s our first and the pregnancy isn’t going as easily as we hoped.”

“Oh, I’m sorry,” I said, feeling a need to sympathise with his wife—female solidarity and all that.

Simon accepted another beer—how had he drunk the first one that quickly? I didn’t need one and said so. We were taken to our table and each time the waiting staff came near they spoke to Simon or me.

“D’you come here often? They obviously know you,” said Matthew, noticing after about the fourth such encounter.

“Simon’s bank owns it,” I explained.

“Wow, so what a coincidence and you’re a genuine lord and lady?”

“Simon is, I’m only a lady by marriage,” I confessed.

“Nonsense, you’re a lady by inclination, too,” Simon added, putting an arm round my waist in a signal of ownership. I wasn’t too bothered, Matthew Hines wasn’t quite so debonair and attractive in real life as he was in his films—in fact he was verging on boring.

He talked incessantly about himself and only stopped when a waiter came and whispered in Simon’s ear. He nodded and frowned. I gave him a questioning glance. “Bloody French won,” he sighed.

“How did England do?” asked Matthew and Simon told him with great enjoyment. “Bugger,” he said, “I’ve lost a tenner on that: sodding Irish.” Now the conversation droned on and on about wretched rugby. I sat and read the menu while the two men argued about their favourite game.

We were eventually served and I had melon for starter, Simon had pâté and Matthew broccoli and Stilton soup. They were still talking rugby. I was glad that he and Simon had something in common, but given Matthew’s opening statement that I was gorgeous, it seemed his opinion was short lived.

I actually sent a text to Julie asking if all was okay and had one back and the men didn’t notice. I began to wish I’d brought my headphones, I could have listened to the radio on my Blackberry—it would have been far more entertaining than debating the choice of Flood or Wilkinson for the number ten position. For a moment I thought they were organising a coup, then realised number ten was the outside-half position in rugby.

For my main course I had tuna steak with salad and new potatoes. It was delicious. Simon had some variation on steak and kidney pudding, while Matthew had chicken in a lemon and cashew sauce—must be nuts.

“Are you looking forward to rehearsals?” Matthew asked and I let it wash over my head, assuming it was something else about rugby.

“Babes, Matthew asked you a question,” said Simon nudging me.

“Oh I’m sorry, I was miles away,” or wished I was.

“Are you looking forward to rehearsals?”

“I think I’ll wait and see how we get on at reading it first.”

“I didn’t think you were a pro—so you know the process?” Matthew seemed impressed for some reason. I simply thought that actors sat and read the parts first before doing rehearsals.

“I’m not, I’m a teacher.”

“And dormouse lady.”

“Yeah, I teach dormice—so far haven’t had one fail an exam.”

“How many have sat exams?” asked Matthew looking very sceptical.

“None—of course.” I sounded very superior and dismissed his question.

“Hence none have failed?” Matthew nodded, “I asked for that.”

Simon snorted, “Be careful, she has a wit like a razor.”

“So I see, I shall have to be careful with you, your ladyship.”

I simply beamed an innocent smile hiding my razor sharp teeth.

“Have you thought how you’d like to play Lady M?” asked my fellow thespian.

“Gruoch,” I corrected him.

“Gruoch? That’s her name? I mean her real name?”

“Aye, that’s ma name ma lord, Queen of Scotland.” I spoke in the gentle lilt that I’d heard Morag use.

“My goodness, is that the accent you intend to use?”

“Aye, ma lord.”

“That is just fabulous, I’ll have to get a voice coach in and see what I can do to complement it. Simon, I thought your wife was an amateur actor—I think I have been misled, and very pleasantly so. I think I’m going to enjoy doing this a great deal more than I thought I would.”

“I see, so you were down here on sufferance really?” I felt less and less impressed with Matthew Dickhead Hines.

He blushed, “No, not at all, I said I’d do the play for the school but I expected it to be difficult because of working with school kids and few teachers—think amateur dramatics. I got Gordon to direct it because I felt we needed someone to try and set a certain standard. I suspect, you’re the one who’ll be setting the standards—not us.”

“Have you done the play before?” I asked.

“I haven’t acted it, we did it in school when I was in year ten, I think—but you have, haven’t you?”

“Yes, but it was an am-dram version.”

“The reviews were very good.”

“Of course they were, the critic’s grandson played Macduff.”

“It helps—oh well—it could be great fun.”

“I thought it was supposed to be a tragedy?” offered Simon probably feeling as left out as I did when they were doing rugby to death.

“I would have been a real tragedy if your lovely wife hadn’t agreed to do it with me.”

He was a real smooth talker.

“Is your wife having something to eat—I mean, this evening?” I thought I’d remind him about her in case he forgot.

“She said she’d call room service.”

“Perhaps one of us should go up and check she’s okay?” I suggested.

“I’ve got my mobile or she could page me if necessary,” he said defensively.

“I’d like to meet her anyway,” I virtually insisted.

“Hold on,” he flipped open his wafer thin mobile, “Jude, Lady Cameron would like to pop up and say hello, is that…?” He nodded to the phone—why do we all do it, the caller can’t see us? “Okay, I’ll tell her—feel free to go up, she’d love to meet you.”

With that I made my farewells, probably temporary ones, and set off to the lift—wondering why I was doing this—just curiosity or something far darker, meeting one of the most beautiful women in the world when she’s probably feeling anything but beautiful, and I’m dressed to the nines. Then she is pregnant and I’m not—so let’s leave it at female solidarity—yeah, that’ll do. I pressed the call button on the lift.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1304

When you’re waiting, time drags and everything seems to take so long. Judy was in room 999, the top floor below the penthouse and family suites. Damn this lift, why is it taking so bloody long to come. I prodded the button again and again, wondering if I’d pushed it hard enough in the first place. It lit up but the wretched lift took what felt like minutes to come, disgorging a handful of ancient dowager sorts, all face powder and red lipstick covering their wrinkled visages.

I entered the lift and almost automatically pressed level ten, which requires a passcode to open the door. In moments the lift whooshed me up to level nine and an electronic voice with a tinny American accent said, “Ninth floor.” Surely in Southsea, it should be a plummy, Hime Cineties accent?

The door opened and I followed the signs to room 999. My tummy flipped as I neared the room. I was actually going to be meeting one of the world’s most beautiful women, a supermodel, soon to be mother and what was I? A weirdo who happened to look fairly passable as a female. Dressed to the nines I may be, but she could look better than I wearing nothing more than a bin liner.

My confidence waning, I cursed myself for forcing the issue. Why was I meeting her? Curiosity, so the next time she appears on telly or in a magazine, I can say to the kids—I’ve met her, or better still, I know her.

Taking a deep breath I tapped on the door and voice called, “Come in,” from inside the room—I had no choice now, I pushed the handle down and opened the door.

“Hi, I’m Cathy Cameron,” I said to the woman reclining on the couch, who looked pale and unwell.

“Hi,” she replied, “I’m Judy, ’scuse me not getting up, but I feel like shit.”

“D’you want me to go?” I offered.

“No, do come in, could you get me some more water, my back is hurting so much from this bloody great lump in front.” She smiled weakly and her face lit up—she was a genuinely beautiful woman.

I passed her a bottle of water from the opened carton on the table. I seated myself in a chair so she could lean back and still see me. “Where’s it hurting?” I enquired.

“Lower back, it’s not due for two weeks either.”

“I think that’s only a guideline, anything can happen a couple of weeks either way.”

“Yeah, but first babies are always late in our family.”

“Don’t take that as inevitable, while they are often late—they can come a bit early too.”

“Oh this stupid pain,” she gasped and went white, regaining her composure a couple of seconds later. Almost the whole time her gleaming white teeth were in a forced smile.

“Would you like me to have a look? I can help sometimes.”

“If you want, tell me what you need me to do.”

I pulled my chair up to her, “Take my hand,” I said quietly and she did.

“Ooh,” she said and lay back against the arm of the couch, “Oh, I feel everso…” and she fainted.

I kept hold of her hand and sent the blue energy to do something to help her pain. This can be caused by the body secreting a chemical to enable the ligaments around the symphysis pubis to relax making it safer for the baby once it starts its journey down the birth canal. If this didn’t happen, the baby would be crushed against the bone and the mother would probably be very badly torn from the experience, if she didn’t expire with the baby.

Of course the secretions are generalised like hormones, and other ligaments can also relax, meaning things like those holding your spine together can loosen and nerves get pinched. Alas because of the baby, strong pain killers can’t be used, so the poor expectant mum can have a really hard time. This was what I was sure was happening to Judy.

I felt the energy flowing down my hand and into her body. Her baby, a little girl, was doing fine and was going to be as beautiful as her mum.

“Wow, that is so beautiful, I can see this swirly light whooshing round me.”

“I know, I asked it to reveal itself to you.”

“You did wha…?” she lapsed again and I knew she’d have no memory of this happening. I felt the energy slow and stop and I let her hand go.

“Oh, did I nod off?—I’m so sorry. Oh that pain has gone—oh that is so wonderful.” She opened her eyes and looked at me. “Sorry, you’re, Cathy, aren’t you? You’re doing this play with Matt?”

“Yes, the poor man’s Lady Macbeth, at your service.”

“I thought Matt said you were very good.”

“Ah, but at what?”

“I assumed acting—am I wrong?”

“I’m a university teacher, not an actress.”

“Oh, what d’you teach?”

“Ecology and field biology; although I’ve been seconded to help with the UK mammal survey.”

“I’ve seen you somewhere else haven’t I? You’ve been on the telly?”

“I made a film about dormice last year.”

“That’s it, we loved it—it was really very good.”

“The out-takes were better.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah, we left out all the bits where I fell over things in the dark and where Alan got chased by a tawny owl.”

She laughed, “I feel so much better, d’you have this effect on everyone?”

“Not everyone, just people I like.”

“But you don’t even know me?”

“I know when I like someone.”

“I do, too. Have you got any children?”

“I have a houseful, all adopted—I can’t have children.”

“Oh, I’m sorry—not even with all this fertility treatment and in vitro stuff?”

“No, I’ve no breeding bits anymore.”

“Oh—that would make it difficult,” she smiled.

“So, what are you having, a boy or a girl?” I asked, changing the subject to her.

“Matt wants a boy, but I’d like a little girl—my mother says it’s going to be a girl from the way she’s lying, but I’ll wait and see.”

“I’m sure you’ll love him or her to death whenever they arrive.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right.”

“Have you thought about names?”

“Oh don’t,” she sighed and rolled her eyes, “Matt wants Ingrid if it’s a girl and Jonathan if it’s a boy. I’d like Emily and Stephen.”

“I think I prefer your choices.”

“Oh good, can I say that to Matt? I’m sure he’ll be open to your advice.”

“Mine? Goodness, he’ll be the first then. Goodness, look at the time—I’d better go and get Simon away from the bar. Good luck with the delivery, I’m sure it’ll go well.”

“Now I’ve got rid of that pain, I feel much better about everything. I hope the play goes well once you start rehearsals—I shouldn’t say this but Matt hasn’t done much classical stuff, he’s a film actor really. Put him in a car chase or a fight with the villain and he’s in his element, put him on the stage and you might have to help him through it.”

“Is it such a good idea then? I mean he could lose out big time if it flops.”

“He said when he saw your video of the sleepwalking scene, he knew he was working with someone who knew what they were doing.”

“Oh dear.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I was hoping he’d be able to help me—I did this play in school.”

“And got very good reviews—fancy someone saying you were a boy.”

“It was at a boy’s school.”

“Even so, I think most critics can tell male and female apart, don’t you?”

“Probably, I must go, lovely to meet you.” I held out my hand for her to shake.

She did and then looking at me questioningly, she said, “Thank you for helping my back.”

“I didn’t do anything?”

“You have a rare gift.”

I smiled in embarrassment.

“It’s going to be Emily, isn’t it?”

I smiled, “That could be embarrassing for a little boy.”

“But she’s a girl, isn’t she?”

“Fifty fifty chance.”

“Cathy, I trust my intuition.”

“Fine—always follow it, you won’t go far wrong. Now let’s see if I can prise Simon away from the bar.”

“Simon Cameron—the banker?”

“Yes, you know him?”

“Only from the papers—he’s a lord, so’s his dad, so you must be Lady Cameron?”

“That question I can confirm.”

“Gosh—I’m hobnobbing with the rich and famous tonight.”

“You know, that’s what I thought,” I confessed.

“Nah, me? I’m a poor girl from Ealing.”

“One of the most beautiful women in the world, and a supermodel, married to a top film star—poor once maybe, but not now, surely?”

“We do all right, but have a look in the mirror, Cathy. You could make it as a model any day, and certainly as an actress.”

“I’m too short and too busy, not to mention too ungainly to be a model, and the actress bit—we’ll see soon enough won’t we?”

She stood up and we hugged as best we could, given her lump. “You know, I don’t always take to other women, but you’re special and very, very pretty. Make the most of it.”

“I’ll see.” We hugged again and I left to collect Simon and send Matthew back to his wife.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1305

Simon was actually still sober and he and Matt, together with the barman were engaged in a serious discussion about the changing rules of rugby favouring the Southern Hemisphere teams.

I virtually had to drag him away from his discussion, but I suggested rather pointedly that Matthew perhaps ought to go and look after his wife. He eventually got the message and went, and I was able to get Si back to our suite.

“How’s the lovely Mrs Hines?”

“She’s actually very sweet.”

“She’s a real cracker,” he beamed.

“Thanks, Si, that makes me feel very good about myself.”

He blushed, “Oh don’t be like that, Babes, you’re the one I love, and you’re a real cracker, too.”

“Yeah, one with party hats and corny jokes in.”

“Why must you twist everything nice that I say to you?”

“C’mon, Si, you started off by saying how beautiful Judy Hines was and only included me because I complained.”

“Oh—okay, I messed up there, but you are beautiful and I’m not the only one who thinks so. Besides, it was you we chose to go on our dormouse posters.”

As those were an item of contention still, I wasn’t entirely appeased by his argument. It wasn’t him who got pointed at every time he went into the bank—they were still using the posters and leaflets with the photo of me holding Spike.

After talking about more serious things, like Trish’s birthday we finally got to bed and I slept quite well until about five o’clock when I had a weird dream. In it I saw I had been voted one of the most beautiful women in the world, beating the likes of Cheryl Cole and Eva Longoria. Then I saw people pointing at me everywhere I went and men looking at me with lust in their eyes. I began to need to have a bodyguard and I kept wishing to be able to live normally.

I woke myself up crying when someone asked me to do some glamour photos. Simon asked me what the problem was and I told him it was a bad dream. He turned over and went back to sleep but I didn’t. I got up and made myself a cuppa.

I went into the shower and after looking at myself and my naked body for a minute or two in the mirror in the bathroom, I thought I looked in reasonable shape for someone who didn’t have time to exercise enough and who wasn’t too bad looking for a tranny. Then I said to my reflection, “Well this is as good as it’s going to get, so I suppose I’d better be satisfied with it.” My reflection seemed to agree with me, curiously enough.

Washing myself in the shower I reflected on my dream—some of the detail had gone—I was however, aware for the first time, that anyone who is very beautiful and publicly so, becomes a target for every moron going.

Just because people have high profile jobs or work in the public arena, like actresses and models, singers and so on, doesn’t mean they are public property. I read of one woman who had been stalked by two or three creeps for several years. These people seem to think because they’ve seen you on telly and you’ve been ‘in their homes’ that they possess you or have some right to a relationship with you. Goodness, maybe I shouldn’t bother making any more films.

Rapt in my own thoughts and also a towel, I jumped out of my skin when Simon came blundering into the bathroom needing a wee. It was half past six and I got us some breakfast sent up. He jumped in the shower and was out again by the time his full English and my poached eggs on toast arrived.

“What did you think of Matt?” I asked Si as we ate.

“He’s okay, I thought he was a bit of a prat to start with, but that’s his way of keeping people at arm’s length. He’s thrilled to be doing Macbeth with a Scottish noblewoman as his queen.”

I was going to challenge him, until I ran through his logic—I was born in Dumfries, which is in Scotland—so technically, I could be seen as Scots. I married into an old Scottish aristocratic family—so, I suppose technically he’s correct. Oh what the hell—do I care? Absolutely not.

“In fact,” continued Si, “he confessed that he was worried about doing Shakespeare and doing it on stage—he’s essentially a film actor.”

“Judy said as much last night—she suggested that he was looking to me to help him through the process—talk about the blind leading the blind.”

“At least you’ve done it before,” Simon added, slurping down a fried tomato.

“At a very amateur level, in fact if Matthew wasn’t involved and his pal, Gordon Rashley, this would be very amateur too and no one would worry about it.”

“It wouldn’t command the money it’s going to make for the school’s good causes, though, would it?”

“It would have made something—why is everyone obsessed with money all the time? It’s not as if you could eat the stuff?”

“You seem to get through enough of it?”

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked defensively.

“You seem to be spending more heavily than you did.”

“Everything has gone up, Si. Food, fuel, everything. I’ve also had to buy the kids clothing and then there’s birthdays and so on. Besides, you’re always telling me I don’t spend enough. I actually paid for my own dress, the one I wore last night.”

“Okay, I wasn’t complaining, I was stating a fact. I keep a check on our accounts and you’ve been spending about twenty per cent more for the last couple of months.”

“You have access to my account?” I snapped.

“No, our account—the joint account we have—the bank does obviously have records of your account too, but I’m barred from seeing them. Families are, without written consent from the account holder.”

“Oh, I just wondered.” I didn’t know whether I believed him or not, I was sure that given his position, he could get to see my details without too many problems. It wasn’t as if I had secrets from him, more the fact that bank accounts were supposed to be covered by confidentiality laws, like health information.

“Well I hope you’re satisfied? Look, you know if ever you need more money, all you need to do is say.”

“Yes, I know, darling, but I’m okay at the moment.”

“You know our joint account is fed by an automatic top up from one of my accounts.”

“No—no I didn’t know.”

“It is, it keeps a minimum of seven thousand in there.”

“I don’t think I’d spend that in a supermarket, even one like Sainsbury’s.”

“The most you can spend on a single transaction is about five hundred anyway, which covers most things.”

“Yeah, I can just about fill up my tank for that,” I smirked, joking about the cost of diesel.

“Tell me about it. Our visiting people have doubled their travel costs in the last six months and that’s mostly fuel.”

“You have bank staff who do visits?”

“Yes, most banks do—seeing people who can’t get to us. NatWest do it too, as do most of the major banks—you know, going to see sick people who may be housebound, the elderly and so on.”

“Is this all part of the supposed caring image?”

“We do care,” he said indignantly.

“About their money.”

“We’re a bank, not a charity.”

“Damn, I’m always confusing the two,” I said clicking my fingers. His response was very adult. He threw some toast at me and we ended up having a full on pillow fight until I was so tired that I collapsed onto the bed and he ‘fell’ on top of me and began kissing me.

“We need to have time to play more often,” he told me as he kissed me again.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1306

We were late back from the hotel, we fell asleep and just cuddled together. It was one of the happiest moments of my life, just knowing I was with the man I loved and for that moment nothing else mattered.

Unfortunately, we may live in the moment but we have to plan for at least a few hours if not days. We were woken by room service coming to clean the suite—they were so apologetic—yet it was our fault.

Simon assured the Filipina ladies that it was our fault and that he’d give them both a good report if he was asked. They seem to relax after that. We woke ourselves up, gathered up the luggage and set off for home—it was eleven o’clock, we should have left at nine.

Thankfully, back at the ranch; Jenny and Tom had things under control. The girls were helping Jenny do some cleaning and Danny was helping in the garden. I was most impressed with the tidiness of the house and wondered if I’d come to the wrong one.

Maureen was there finishing the decoration of the new rooms. I’d had floor to ceiling book shelves on three walls in the study cum library. It was quite a large room, mostly library but with a large alcove with a window, which was my study area. I had a small desk put in there a phone point and the Wi-Fi broadband was based on a large desktop computer in the library itself.

Some of my books were still in Bristol, some were at the university—or they were when I left them—and some were scattered about the house. It was going to take days to gather and arrange them.

We now had two spare bedrooms with all new carpeting, beds and other furnishings. I expected the girls to bags one, but they didn’t—they liked sharing—although I suppose with the onset of puberty, they’d all get self-conscious and want a room each.

There was a letter waiting for me from the solicitor, the letters of probate had been received and they suggested I did nothing with the Whitehead’s house, except let it furnished. I showed it to Simon, who suggested the same company who oversaw the letting of his cottage. I promised I’d give them a ring to discuss it with them.

I really wasn’t sure what I’d do with the place—sell it I suppose, because Tom’s house was bigger but maybe when the kids were grown up, a smaller place would do. I honestly didn’t know what to do—except I knew I couldn’t do anything by way of disposal for at least six months in case anyone counter-claimed the estate or showed a more recent will.

I had to get his journal back from Tom, too—peculiarly, he hadn’t returned it. Maureen took my attention, wanting to know where to put the wireless laser printer which also doubled as a scanner/copier and fax.

For lunch I managed to cobble together some soup and bread, we’d stopped off at the local supermarket and bought a couple of loaves—just as well, with all of us except Stella there, we actually ate both loaves of bread for lunch with a large pot of soup disappearing with them.

Hunger sated, I set about doing the laundry with help from Billie and Trish. Danny was now back from his gardening jobs and Tom was supervising him with his books, or the ones he wanted to put in the library. He kept some in his own study.

The printer had its own cupboard to stand on at the end of a bench table in the middle of the room. Danny and Livvie were carrying books to and fro while I fed the baby some extra-virgin milk, straight from the breast. She fell asleep three times as she sucked. The little wretch wasn’t really hungry, she just liked being held while at the breast.

Mima was looking after Puddin’, who was busy pushing her little pushchair with her dolly in it—the dolly was actually a soft toy gorilla—Pud thought it was beautiful, as only a mother can.

During a tea break, Tom and Jenny wanted to know how the meeting with the celebrities had gone; I left it to Simon to explain what had happened. He gave the main points in about a minute and a half. I filled in the incidentals over the next twenty minutes.

“So this guy, Matt Hines, is less experienced than you at doing Shakespeare?” asked Maureen to clarify things.

I shrugged, I’d only done one play, so I could hardly say I was experienced, but that was one more than Matthew had done. “Effectively, yeah.”

“And he earns, how much?”

“A few million per picture,” I guessed.

“That’s like these overpaid poofters chasing a ball about a field every Saturday and getting paid millions too. They’re about as much use as an ash tray on a motorbike.” I suspect Maureen doesn’t like football.

“I hope you’re not including Pompey in your generalisations?” I stirred it.

“Not at all, they’re rubbish with a capital C.” Maureen let rip at her local team who played in the Championship a level below the likes of Manchester United and Arsenal.

“Capital C?” I queried.

“Crap,” Danny whispered by the side of me.

“Oh, must be a naval term,” I muttered to no one in particular.

I left Trish to sort out the laundry with Jenny, and took Catherine with me to the supermarket; before we left there, I’d practically filled the boot and some of the interior of the car with food running up a bill of nearly two hundred pounds.

While the rest of them were still slogging carrying books and other equipment into the library, I shoved a couple of trays of chicken portions into the oven and began doing loads of vegetables.

Once everything was cooking I made some more tea and eight of us sat down to drink it. Just as well we have a large tea pot.

Seeing the numbers of people we had and were likely to have with Stella and Gareth in a few months, I discussed doing things in the kitchen with Tom, Maureen and Jenny. I suggested we got a range oven with a double oven and at least six rings or hotplates. I also suggested we got a facility for producing boiling water or steam, like they do in coffee shops.

Maureen stood in the middle of the kitchen and suggested where things could go. She also suggested a larger fridge and a separate large freezer. Tom nodded at both our suggestions and Maureen said she’d cost it over the next few days.

I was going to end up with a kitchen like a small restaurant, but that was fine with me as long as I had the space to do all I needed and the facilities to support my activities.

“Will you teach me to cook?” asked Trish and Livvie and Mima joined the clamour. Billie was busy watching the telly so didn’t hear the others. I did have plans for all of them to learn a few basics in all aspects of housekeeping, so they could feed themselves, keep their clothes clean and keep their living space clean and tidy, if they went away from home to university or work.

Julie arrived home and was delighted to see Maureen, they sat and chatted while Trish and I finished the dinner and dished it up. Roast chicken with roast potatoes, carrots in butter, roast beetroot, curly kale and roast onion. I cheated in using a large pack of stuffing mix and some ready-made Yorkshire puddings. No one complained, except that we had no dessert organised—and that was Simon—who was teasing me. One day he’ll get his desserts, just or otherwise.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1307

We were just finishing clearing up after dinner, and Maureen wandered out to the kitchen and said, “Ma’am, could I have a word?”

“Yes of course.”

She looked round and about and said, “In private?”

“Hold on one second.” I went over and closed the kitchen door and dropped the catch. “That’s about as private as we can get.”

“Thank you.”

“Please, do sit down,” I invited Maureen pulling out a chair from the table and sitting on the one next to it. Since her surgery, she’d blossomed tremendously and although she’d never be a beautiful woman because of her size, she was getting by much better than before. I felt anxious for her, what was she going to tell me or ask me?

Maureen sat and began fidgeting, I assumed trying to pick the way she wanted me to tell me whatever was troubling her.

It was so tempting to interfere or interrupt her process because it was uncomfortable to me, however, the small amount of training I had in dealing with student’s personal issues meant that I knew to sit and wait patiently for her to start. If it was very painful then, she might not be able to verbalise it at all.

I was tempted to offer some tea, but that would have provided a distraction and enabled her to avoid the issue which was troubling her.

She looked at me, “It’s difficult, dunno where to begin.”

“Wherever you find it easiest.” I smiled at her and touched her hand.

She smiled back at me, “About fifteen year ago, I was just finishin’ with the navy as a matelot—we had a bit of a get together, like, and I ’ad too much of the oh-be-joyful and woke up in bed with this woman. Apparently, we done it like, an’ she fell for a baby.”

“Lots of babies happen that way, are you sure it was yours?”

“Oh yeah, we ’ad tests done, and he’s mine okay, an’ I paid maintenance and all that for ’im, still am as a matter o’fact.”

“I see, what’s his name?”

“Andrew.”

“Nice name.” I was trying to show I was still with her without leading her.

“Aye, Ma’am, but I ’ad little to do wi’it, other than pay.”

“So what’s the problem?”

“He wants to meet me.”

I had a feeling this was coming. “Do they know about your situation?”

“I dunno, I don’t think so.”

“Ah, I see your problem. Do they live locally?”

“Nah, she moved to Eastbourne.”

“I see, so how can I help?”

“Well you got more experience with kids than me, could you speak to him for me?”

“To explain what you’ve done, you mean?”

“Yeah, and see if’n he still wanna see me.”

“D’you know why he suddenly wants to see you?”

“Not really, though he did say somethin’ about ’is mother moving up north, some bloke she’s with ’as a new job up there.”

“So d’you think he’s looking to live with you?”

“I dunno—I dreads to think why it’s all ’appened.”

“Let’s put the kettle on—I find a cuppa helps me think things through.” I rose from the table and switched on the kettle—it never rains here, we just have the odd tsunami come past and shit all over us. I made the tea and placed a mug of it in front of Maureen and one for myself.

“When is all this going to happen?”

“In a month or there’bouts.”

“Doesn’t give us a lot of time. Have you spoken to his mother?”

“Not recent, like.”

“Might that be the first thing we need to do?”

“I dunno, ’ow she’ll take it?”

“Does she work?”

“I think so—in the local Asda.”

“So what exactly would you like me to do?”

“Speak to ’em for me.”

Nothing too difficult then. “Do you have a phone number?”

She passed me the letter from the boy’s mother. I can’t say even her ex because it was a one night stand. I read it. “I’ll just make a note of the number.” I went to get up for a pen and paper and Maureen told me to keep the original.

I got up and collected the cordless phone. “D’you mind me referring to you by your old name?”

“No, course not.”

I dialled the number given on the letter. The paper was ruled and had been taken from an A4 pad such as those used by students. The writing was legible but immature like I’d expect from a thirteen-year-old girl—the spelling wasn’t very good either.

A male voice answered, “Hello, could I speak to Cilla Bromley?”

“Who is it?” asked the voice.

“Cathy Cameron, I’m Maurice Ferguson’s employer.”

“Yeah, ’ang on,” I heard the voice calling, “Mum—some woman on the phone for you, she’s Dad’s boss.”

I heard a woman’s voice ask, “What does she want?” and the boy replied, “’Ow the ’ell do I know?”

Finally after some noises—presumably caused by the phone being passed over—she spoke to me.

“Mrs Bromley, ’ere, who are you?”

“Hello, Mrs Bromley, I’m Cathy Cameron, Maurice’s employer.”

“I s’pose it’s about my letter, innit?”

“Yes it is.”

“Why can’t he talk to me hisself?”

“Look it’s a bit delicate to deal with over the phone, could I come and see you and we could discuss this in person.”

“Don’t he wanna see ’is kid?”

“That isn’t the issue.”

“Oh all right, when d’you wanna come? I don’t ’ave a lotta time.”

“Would you be available tomorrow?”

“Yeah, could be, what time?”

“I have to take my girls to school, how about eleven?”

“Yeah, that’d be okay, I ’as to go t’work in the evenin’ tomorrow.”

“Right, so I’ll come and see you about eleven tomorrow morning,” I clarified and she agreed.

I looked at Maureen and she looked very worried. “What’ll I do if he thinks I’m a freak?”

“Carry on with your life—if he thinks such things, then it’s his problem not yours.”

“I’ve never been much of a dad to ’im.”

“When did you last see him?”

“About fourteen year ago.”

“So he has little concept of you then?”

“Only what ’is mother’s told ’im.”

That did little to allay my concerns. She didn’t seem one of the sharpest knives in the drawer, but she had managed to get Maureen to support her child, so she wasn’t stupid either.

“Are you going to come with me?”

“Is that a good idea?”

“I don’t know, I’m making this up as I go—look, come with me and stay in the car, if I think she’s going to freak out, I won’t say you’re with me. If she looks as if she might cope, we could try it.”

“I dunno, I don’t wanna spoil things.”

“How would you do that? You’re a lovely woman with a heart of gold, who could fail to like you?”

“Cilla or Andy?”

“That would be ironic wouldn’t it?”

“Nah, more bloody typical.”

“So, I’ll collect you after I’ve taken the girls to school and then we’ll see if we can sort this out—I’d bring your knitting if I were you—it might take a little while.”

“I’ll bring me laptop and do some costin’s on your kitchen if that’s all right?”

“Fine, I’ll see you about quarter to nine.”

“Thanks, Ma’am.” She left and I sat back down at the table. Simon came in.

“The door was locked, problems?”

“I’ve got to take Maureen to Eastbourne tomorrow.”

“Oh, why’s that?”

“It’s confidential for the moment, hopefully I’ll know more tomorrow.”

“Oh, like that is it?”

“Yep, ’fraid so.” I felt like Sidney Carton as I walked up the stairs that evening, walking up to meet Madam Guillotine to save his friend’s life. “It’s a far, far better thing I do than I have ever done…”

“And a far better rest I go to than I have ever known,” Simon completed the quotation. “Sale of two titties, wrong play innit?”

“You idiot, Simon,” I said laughing and I put my arms around his neck and kissed him.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1308

As you might imagine, I didn’t sleep that well after Maureen’s revelation and request. What rotten luck for her to get lumbered with a son after one brief encounter, with a woman she didn’t love. In lots of ways I was grateful that I’d had a very sheltered upbringing; although I was reminded of a lecture my father gave me before I went off to university.

“Charles, you’re now a man.” I nearly fell over laughing—I was about as close to being a man, as he was to being a chimpanzee. “So you must be responsible for your actions. We don’t want to hear any stories of you spending all your time in the Students’ Union bar or sleeping with every female who gives you the eye. D’you hear me?”

“Yes, Dad, I’m going there to get a degree—not drunk or laid.”

“No need to be crude about it, young man.”

I didn’t consider I’d been crude—I could have used a few more unsavoury words and really made the vein in his neck throb as he went puce then beetroot.

Looking back, things could have been worse. It was a shame I lost my mum when I was finding myself and wonder how she might have coped. Then would Dad have been different if he hadn’t had the stroke? I like to think he might have been but I’m probably wrong. Then he was—well they both were—victims of their upbringing and that poisonous church they went to.

It’s funny they left it after I went to Portsmouth, so I never got the pleasure of pissing off the vicar by appearing as my true self because the funeral was at another church.

I was awake at six and showered and dressed myself before even Si stirred. Then after drying and styling my hair—it was getting quite long again—I left it down using some mousse to help the ends stay curled under, under my jaw. I kept the makeup simple too, some mascara, blush and lipstick, with some diamond ear studs and a gold chain necklet.

Of course the girls were all questions: why was I wearing makeup and perfume. Livvie has a nose like bloodhound. I kept the explanation simple.

“I have to go to Eastbourne with Maureen about a private matter of hers. End of message.”

“Oh,” sighed Trish, “I wish I could come.”

“Yeah, me too,” Livvie agreed.

“Tough, now stop nagging me and eat your breakfasts.”

I wasn’t hungry but forced a couple of slices of toast down with mashed banana on them; washed down with a good cup of tea.

After dropping off the girls I collected Maureen who was looking very dapper in a cerise-coloured skirt suit. If I thought I hadn’t slept much, Maureen looked very much as if she hadn’t at all. She clambered into the Cayenne with laptop bag and an equally large handbag. My own was small by comparison.

We didn’t talk very much and when I looked across, she was asleep. I turned the radio down to low and kept the speed constant as we sped east along the motorway.

According to Google maps, it’s just over seventy miles and takes a fraction over an hour and three quarters. They were spot on, because an hour and forty minutes later, we were heading into Eastbourne and following the directions I’d downloaded from the Internet the night before, we arrived at the road where Cilla and Andrew lived.

Maureen had roused from her slumbers and was shaking her head, “Why did you let me sleep, ma’am?”

“I don’t think I could have stopped you if I’d tried. How d’you feel?”

“Like me ’ead’s a bucket and some bugger just whacked it with an ’ammer.”

“I know we discussed what you wanted me to tell her, but are you sure you still want me to do this?”

“Why, don’t you want to, ma’am?”

“I’m quite prepared to go in there and tell her anything you’d like me to, including where to get off, if necessary.”

“He is me son.”

“You think? I suspect it’s unlikely, but that’s another matter.”

“He’s the same blood group.”

“Is that all you had tested?”

“We didn’t actually have anything tested, she showed me ’is ’ospital card and it said group O.”

“Half the planet is group O, I’m group O, so was my cat.”

“Eh?”

“All right, the cat wasn’t but loads of people are. That only means he’s human and possibly your son, but I have my doubts.”

“Oh?”

“I suspect she saw you as a soft touch and she was right. How long after your night out was the baby born?”

“Eight months I think.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah, pretty sure.”

“Was it a tiny thing, about three pounds?”

“No ’e was about eight pounds.”

“Didn’t you do any biology in school?”

“Not much, why?”

“From conception to birth is about forty weeks not thirty two. You’ve been had, old girl.”

Maureen stared at me and started to laugh, “I ’ave too, by the sound of it. See you females know it all, don’t you?”

“I’m no more female than you are, as you well know. Okay wait here, it’s just coming up to eleven. If you hear screams, send for an ambulance—it may save her.” I left the car and walked down the road a little and into the garden of the house. It was neatly kept and the house looked well maintained—possibly on Maureen’s money.”

I rang the bell and the double glazed door drew open, behind which was a woman of about fortyish. “You must be, Cathy?” she said.

“I am, so you’re, Cilla?”

“Yes, you’d better come in.”

She led me into a nicely furnished room and invited me to sit on a two-seater, leather settee. It was a sort of burgundy colour and went reasonably well with the dark carpet and the frieze around the walls.

“Would you like a cup of tea?”

“No thanks,” I decided this might not take as long as I thought.

She sat opposite me in a matching easy chair. “So Maurice works for you, does he?”

“Yes, part-time.”

“What does he do—the dockyard sacked him didn’t it?”

“He does all sorts of building and engineering jobs for me and my husband’s firm.”

“So he’s doing all right, then?”

“He’s getting by. How is your son?”

“He’s fine, in school of course.”

“Of course.”

“Do you have any children?”

“Yes, I have seven.”

“Seven—how can you afford seven—I can barely afford one?”

“I send them all out to work down the mines and up chimneys.”

She looked at me aghast for a moment then sniggered. “You have quite a sense of humour, don’t you?”

“You may not think so in a moment.”

“Why, what’re you going to do?”

“I’m going to go home and instruct my lawyers to investigate the parentage of your son.”

“What for?”

“Because you’ve been ripping off that poor bugger for fifteen years.”

“I have not, how dare you even suggest it?”

“I can suggest it because it’s true isn’t it? But he was too soft to challenge it. I don’t know who the father is, but it isn’t Maurice Ferguson.”

“Yes it is—I know it is.”

“I know it isn’t.”

“How can you know that? You weren’t there.”

“I didn’t need to be, you picked on the wrong drunken sailor.”

“What’ya mean?”

“Maurice is gay—he couldn’t get it up for you if you sprayed it with starch.”

“He’s not.”

“Also he’s no longer Maurice.”

“What, he’s changed his name?”

“Yes, to Maureen. I think your son is going to have to make other plans, don’t you? And I’m serious about challenging your paternity claims. I have a very good firm of lawyers.”

“You bitch,” she said quietly and stood up in quite an aggressive manner.

“Please sit down, Mrs Bromley, you’re not doing your blood pressure any good at all.”

“Who do you think you are?”

“I know exactly who I am, the Lady Catherine Cameron, but that wasn’t in doubt was it? I have to go now, I suggest you inform your son of your little subterfuge if you haven’t already, and I think a letter to the CSA or whoever acts as the go between in your maintenance arrangements explaining your mistake might be in order. I’ll be instructing my lawyers to do so anyway.” I stood up and walked out of the house, “Good day, Mrs Bromley.”

I left her sitting in her arm chair looking like she’d just stepped on a mine, and walked back to the car.

“Did you tell her?”

“I told her you were now called Maureen and where she could get off.”

“Blimey.”

“I could use a cup of something, let’s go and find a decent coffee shop.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1309

I sipped at the latte coffee while Maureen swallowed her espresso in two gulps then she shuddered. “It might keep me awake, ma’am.”

I smiled; she looked all in. I explained what had happened with Cilla and she looked a little pensive. “Is there something you’re not telling me?”

“She’s quite a nasty piece of work when she puts her mind to it.”

“Hopefully I’m up to anything she might choose to do.”

“You should outgun her, ma’am.”

“I’m not sure that’s entirely what this may be about.” I picked up my Blackberry and made a call. “James, hi, it’s Cathy, I have some work for you.” I gave him the details and rang off.

“D’you think he’ll find something?”

“Hopefully more than an overdue library book.” I finished my latte.

I called Jenny to collect the girls, she was happy to do so. We spent the rest of the day walking along the prom and then driving back to near Cilla’s house, I wanted to see her son.

Two boys came walking down the road, they were talking and fooling about like boys do, laughing and shoving each other. Then they stopped talking outside the house and one dropped his bag inside the gateway.

“That’s him,” I said, “The smaller of the two, he looks a little foreign—I have grave doubts about him being your son, Maureen, unless your whole body has changed recently. He looks Spanish or Greek, perhaps even something as exotic as Lebanese.”

“He does, doesn’t he?” She shook her head and said quietly, “And to think I took her word for it all these years—the bitch.”

I saw her clenching her fists and I tried to calm her down. “Hitting her will do no good, if you want to get even, we need to do it through the courts. But then if we screw her, it will affect the boy too, and he is a relative innocent in all this.”

“Yeah, I don’t want him to get hurt, he’s only a kid.”

As we were talking a third boy walked down the road and started chatting to the other two. Then a few feet and fists began to fly and in moments the three were scrapping, which was when it happened.

A white van man came down the road, presumably delivering something in his white Ford Transit, when two of the kids ran out into the road between two parked cars. He hit them both. One flew up into the air and landed on a car ten feet away, the other went under the wheels and was dragged up the road.

Maureen and I gasped in total shock. Maureen was about to get out to assist when I pulled her back—“Here, ambulance and police, now.” I shoved my mobile in her hand, then I jumped out of the car and rushed to assist as I could.

The boy who went under the wheels was very badly hurt and frothing blood at his mouth. He’d likely had crush injuries to his chest and was bleeding into his lungs. The other boy, Andrew, was still slumped over the car and was bleeding from his head and leg. He was still breathing.

The third boy who’d precipitated it all had scrammed. The van driver was standing by his van, shaking. People were coming from the houses to see what had happened, including Cilla Bromley.

She screamed when she saw her son, still slumped over the car. “Don’t touch him,” I shouted but it was too late, she ran straight towards him mewing like an angry cat. Suddenly, Maureen stepped in the way and just picked her up and carried her away.

I knelt down at the other boy, he was bleeding from his leg, one of which looked very smashed up, and he was bleeding from his groin as well. I pulled off my jacket and rolled it up under his head, some woman ran over with a blanket and we draped it over him.

I blasted the blue light into him, telling him to stay awake, that help was coming and he’d be okay.

He made a funny face and his whole body slumped, he stopped frothing and lay very still. How d’you do chest compressions with a chest that is so injured? I held my hands over his chest and imagined I was squeezing his heart between my hands. I kept doing it until the police and ambulance arrived simultaneously.

They quickly assessed Andrew Bromley and whisked him off in the first ambulance. The other boy had very little blood pressure—presumably the shock and multiple injuries.

I got out of the professional’s way and let the paramedics defib him and set up a drip. I kept massaging his heart in my mind. Maureen came out with Cilla and asked if we could run her to the hospital.

“Why wouldn’t you let me touch him?” she cried—“Oh it’s you, now I know why—you want him to die, don’t you?”

“On the contrary, Cilla, I want him to live. If you’d so much as touched him, you could have exacerbated any injuries he had.”

“I only wanted to hold him—is that too much to ask?” she almost screeched at me.

“Relax, Cilla, her ladyship knows what’s she’s talking about. She’s saved the other one.”

“What other one?”

“The lad your Andrew was talking to, he went under the wheels of the van.”

“Oh no,” she shrieked and became hysterical. I stopped the car and Maureen slapped her hard once across the face.

“What? You hit me.”

“Yes, shut up, you silly cow, we’re on our way there now—carry on like that and they’ll send you away or have you arrested.”

“I only want to see my boy.” I started up again and I saw her looking at Maureen. “Maurice, is that you?”

“I’m Maureen, Cilla. I always have been, only it took the help of my good friend and employer to give me the strength to go through with it.”

“What—you’ve had a sex-change operation?”

“Yes, Cilla. But without Lady Catherine’s help I’d have killed myself long ago. When I was at absolute rock bottom, she befriended me and gave me a job, which gave me back my self respect. Someone had a belief in me, and it hasn’t wavered one iota.”

“But why?” said Cilla quietly, “Why have your balls cut off?”

“Because they were like a tumour to me, albeit a benign one, except they secreted the poison called testosterone.”

“Is this it?” I turned into the Eastbourne General Hospital and Maureen took Cilla into the A&E department while I looked for a place to park. Bloody hell, three quid for two hours max—what a rip off. I found the required coins and dropped them in the machine and took the parking ticket and placed it on the dashboard of the Cayenne.

I found Cilla and Maureen sitting together in the corner. She was sobbing into a tissue. “What’s happened?”

“He’s gone down for X-rays, they think he’s cracked his sternum and has a possible ruptured spleen, they think he has a good chance,” Maureen reported and I nodded.

“I think the other one arrived while I was parking the car—hold on, the air ambulance is coming.” The noise grew louder as a yellow helicopter alighted in the car park and a stretcher was transferred to it from the ambulance. A doctor got in beside it and it took off again. The noise was deafening as the chopper took to the air and headed presumably to a trauma centre, perhaps even to London.

“The other one?” asked Maureen.

“I think so, he was in a bad way, his heart stopped at least twice, I had a hell of a job to get it going again.”

Cilla looked at me in astonishment.

“Is there someone you can call to be with you? We have to get back to Portsmouth,” I asked Cilla and she shook her head.

“I’ll stay,” said Maureen, “We’ll get a cab back to her place after we know he’s okay.”

“But you haven’t any transport.”

“I’ll find my way home somehow,” Maureen shrugged.

“Give me a ring when you’re ready to come home, I’ll get someone to collect you, even if it’s only the hotel driver.”

“We’ll be all right, won’t we, Cilla?”

She nodded her eyes full of tears, “You always were such a kind man,” she said as Maureen put her arm round the other woman’s shoulder and hugged her. “I’m sorry, I cheated you.” She then proceeded to whimper against Maureen’s ample chest.

I left, feeling very confused. Could we kick a woman when she was down? I doubted it, but I was very concerned for Maureen’s safety—not her physical well being but her emotional one. This must be extremely hard for her and yet she was so compassionate to someone she despised. I felt very humble as I drove out of Eastbourne and back towards the motorway.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1310

Once I was home, I explained the full story to Simon, Jenny and Tom who were all equally appalled at the way Cilla had exploited Maureen, and to some extent at Maureen’s gullibility.

“But to some extent, I’m just as naïve and I saw through it immediately,” I grumbled.

“Because you think like a woman. You were hardly a man long enough to become one,” suggested Simon and Tom agreed.

I disagreed, primarily with the latter part of his statement. In my opinion, I would have been just as female if I hadn’t altered my body, I’d have perhaps got better at hiding it, though I’d have been so unhappy—I might have topped myself by now.

Jenny understood what I was saying but the two men didn’t seem to.

I asked Jenny if she still wanted to rent the house, and she said she did but wouldn’t need it for a while longer as their current landlord had given them a stay of execution. I told her to let me know when she was ready.

Simon offered to go and get Maureen, but I wanted to find out a bit more about this woman, Cilla. So I said I wanted to go with him if Tom and Jenny were happy to put the girls to bed. They said they were, so after feeding Catherine, I was ready to go and phoned Maureen.

“Oh, it’s okay, ma’am, I’ll be staying over until tomorrow. Andrew’s ’ad ’is spleen removed so I thought I’d stay to see ’ow ’e was in the mornin’.”

“You just be careful, you know what happened the last time you supposedly spent a night with that one.”

“Aye, I’m beginning to understand ’ow Joseph felt.”

“Joseph? Who’s he?”

“Married the Virgin Mary.”

I was tempted to ask who she was, but even Maureen would have guessed I was winding her up.

“Oh that one, not Joseph of Arith-metic.”

“Yes, very good, I can see where Trish gets it from.”

I was very much hoist by my own petard, and cut my losses. She promised to call tomorrow morning.

So instead of rushing about the South Coast, I got to spend a quiet night in with my children who asked me to read to them after they finished their homework. Simon had paid for pizza, so I was quite happy to make myself cheese on toast. As I ate it, I told Simon, it was a pizza with a bread base. He laughed saying it was the wrong cheese.

“Whit, nae tuna, are ye ill, lassie?” Daddy asked coming into the kitchen.

“Can you believe I’ve run out?”

He looked at me in disbelief, shook his head and went off to his study; Simon roared with laughter. “You two ought to be on the stage as a double act.”

Once we got the kids to bed, I watched Simon, Jenny and Julie playing cards. I declined the offer, not being much of a card player. It was also interesting to watch the three of them and the ruthlessness they all displayed in trying to win. I only got like that when on a bicycle, like someone else we all know and love.

Simon got quite grumpy when he lost out to Julie, who reminded me of Jodie Foster in the film of Maverick, which I’d seen a while back on telly. I was too lazy to turn it off and ended up watching it and enjoying it.

In bed, I was quite glad that Simon wasn’t feeling amorous as I don’t think I’d have had patience. We chatted for a while, him pretending to be reading a book and me, I was supposedly too tired to do anything but lie there and doze.

“I wonder how Maureen’s getting on,” I mused out loud.

“If she gets pregnant will she be able to claim child support from Cilla?” joked Simon.

“Wouldn’t think she’d need to, the tabloids would be queuing up to buy the story,” I countered. “But it would have a nice sort of natural justice about it, wouldn’t it?”

“Oh I think it’s a wonderful thought,” he chuckled to himself and I felt the bed quivering. He always finds his own jokes funnier than anyone else does. I was tempted to tell him the one I’d heard on the radio the other day.

A man goes to the doctor and says he’s afraid of lapels. The doctor told him he had cholera. It was mildly amusing but he’d have nevertheless been laughing two hours later—he’s a real schoolboy when it comes to humour. Mention poo or farts and he doesn’t hear the rest of the joke, he’s collapsed laughing.

I suddenly noticed the mattress had stopped doing its imitation of an earthquake and when I looked, he was fast asleep with the book balanced on his lap. He was still sitting up but was clearly asleep. I got out of bed walked round and took the book off him and put it on his bedside table. Then I told him to lie down and he did so like one of the kids would. I couldn’t resist it, I kissed him on the cheek and said, “Mummy says goodnight, sweetie-pie.” He just smiled.

I got back into bed and tormented myself for the next half an hour as to whether he was really asleep or taking the proverbial. In the end, I decided I could live with the uncertainty and went to sleep quite quickly.

The next day was Thursday and the day after that was Trish’s birthday. I needed to get in some stuff for the feeding of the five thousand, so as soon as I dropped the girls off to school, I went off to Tesco with a great long list of party stuff.

I escaped there about an hour and a half later and significantly lighter of purse. I was trying to remember how many of her class were coming and did I have enough to make up the goody-bags? At least they were all girls, so it was just a question of girl things, some sweeties, a balloon or two, some joke jewellery, some hand cream and lip balm, a pair of panties with Party Princess written on it in a horrible pink colour and a pair of white ankle socks and some coloured pens or pencils.

The forecast was quite good and Simon agreed to come home and do some party games in the garden while Jenny and I laid out the feast—sandwiches, sausages on sticks and jelly and blancmange that sort of stuff. I probably had enough jelly to agglutinate the river Thames.

It was when I put the bags in the car that Maureen phoned. She asked me what I was doing and I told her.

“Crikey, I forgot all about Trish’s birthday.”

“That’s hardly surprising given what’s happened recently.”

“But I ’ave to buy ’er somethin’.”

“When d’you need me to come and get you?”

“I’ve got a train ticket, so you don’t need to.”

“Oh, all right; how is young Andrew?”

“Not very well, but they think ’e’ll be okay in a day or two—just the shock of the impact.”

“He did rather catch most of the impact, didn’t he?”

“Yes.”

“Have you heard anything about the other boy?”

“’E’s at Stoke Mandeville—they think ’e could lose one leg and may never walk again—’is back was injured.”

“I was afraid of that.”

“What about the driver? He wasn’t exactly speeding was he?”

“I told the police that—it was an accident, pure and simple—the boys ran out and bang.”

“In the twinkling of an eye.”

“I wish I was as poetic as you are, ma’am.”

“Meee? Poetic?”

“Yes ma’am.”

“Yeah, okay—when I was about ten or eleven, we had to write a poem about a pet. I wrote one about my cat who was called Inky, because she was black.”

I’d been unable to forget this stupid verse, so I let rip with my recitation skills.

“Inky is my lovely, black cat,
She sits on chair not on the mat.
She likes to eat meat and sometimes it’s fish
We give her to eat in her little pink dish.”

“Oh very good, ma’am, I can see the talent ’asn’t left you. Am I invited to the party tomorrow?”

“Of course you are, Maureen, I know Trish would love to see you.”

“If I get ’ome in time, I’ll call by probably after six.”

“That’d be fine. Oh, how is Cilla coping?”

“She calmed down eventually last night. So she’s more tired than anything.”

“Oh, okay, I’ll see you tomorrow evening if you can make it.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1311

I was up early the next morning and quickly showered and dressed, to be down before Trish was up. I placed her new bike, a reasonable hardtail MTB in the lounge along with all the other presents we’d been hiding.

Then I went to wake them—all of them, the girls, Danny, check the two wains, and agitate Julie, who doesn’t like going to bed or getting up—typical teenager. I supervised the girls showering and helped do their hair, although even that they are managing better each month for themselves or each other. My skills are limited, but Julie does occasionally show them something new.

As it was a school day, it was either a ponytail or plaits; Trish opted for plaits and nearly managed to do her own. I pretended I’d forgotten it was her birthday, and ignored her fishing for things as I tied the ribbons on the end of the plaits to match her school uniform.

Eventually she said, “Mummy, have you forgotten it’s my birthday?”

“No, that’s tomorrow, it’s Thursday today.”

“That was yesterday,” she said her hands on her hips.

“I’m sure I know what day it is, so c’mon down for breakfast.” I chased them all downstairs and as she passed the front door, she spotted all the cards I’d placed on the mat—the postman rarely comes before I take them to school.

“Look at all my cards,” she said, waving them in my face, “it is my birthday, silly Mummy.”

“Yes, they’ve come early, now come on, eat your breakfast or I’ll cancel your party tomorrow.”

“It’s today,” she said loudly and stamped off into the kitchen, whereupon she shrieked with delight, nearly shattering my eardrums and the kitchen window.

“You did remember,” she hugged me round the waist and was crying.

“Of course I did,” I put my hand on her shoulder.

“I began to think you’d forgotten,” she said sniffing.

“How could I? You’ve spent half your life reminding me for the past three weeks.”

“Oh yes,” she sniggered, wiping her nose in my jeans—lovely child.

“C’mon eat your breakfast and then you can open your cards and presents.” She nodded, wiped her eyes and nose on the back of her hand and went into the kitchen. We had a verse of Happy Birthday, sung with more enthusiasm than talent by the Cameron quintet, which frightened Catherine, so I had to calm her down.

Jenny arrived and helped with sorting out breakfast and fifteen minutes later, Trish opened her cards, received one each from the other children, a kiss from Simon who’d just come down and a hug and a kiss from me.

Then the presents—Simon took her into the lounge and she was delighted with her new bike. She gave her old one to Puddin’, who was still too small to ride it, but I’d hang it up in the garage for when she could.

Some of her presents were related to the new bike: Danny gave her a puncture repair outfit, Julie gave her a new helmet, Billie gave her a mirror for her handlebars, Livvie gave her a padlock and chain and Mima a front light and Puddin’ gave her a rear light. Finally Catherine gave her a shiny new bell, which I promised to fit for her.

She had loads of other things as well, clothes and CDs, DVDs, makeup and toiletries, she did very well out of everyone, and she didn’t know it yet but Henry and Monica were coming to the party.

Somehow I got them all to school on time. Then I finished my shopping for the party and a few things we needed for the fridge or cupboard. By the time I returned to the house, Jenny had vacuumed through and dusted. We put up Trish’s birthday cards on the fireplace in the dining room and I shifted the bike back to the garage.

I made up the goody-bags while Jenny finished cleaning and we had a cuppa and a biscuit, then we did the laundry—we changed half the beds and washed the linen. An early lunch—I did us tuna jacket spuds with salad. I tidied the kitchen and did the dishes while Jenny reloaded the washing machine and took the clean stuff out to dry on the line—it was a cool but sunny day and looked like good drying weather.

Then, it was jelly and blancmange time which I made and shoved in the fridge to set, next, I did tiny sandwiches with: egg and cress; cheese; tuna and finally, some corned beef. I cooked the sausages and we had fun spearing them on cocktail sticks.

Jenny popped the mini sausage rolls in the oven as I went to get the girls from school and she also began laying up the large dining table.

The three of them were like bottles of pop and I had to speak sharply to them to sit quietly in the back of the car. In an hour’s time all hell would be let loose as a dozen or more six and seven year olds ran amok in an ancient farmhouse.

The girls all rushed up to change—jeans and tops, and Trish wanted to ride her bike. It was possibly mean of me but I told her she had to help me do things for the party. She grumbled but helped put the food out.

The other girls helped too and Danny, for whom I’d made some tuna sandwiches, took his private feast and went upstairs to play on his laptop.

Tom arrived just before the hordes were due, then the door bell seemed to ring continuously for the next half hour as the invasion began. I wondered why I never learn and tell the kids no more parties, but then I didn’t have many as a kid and it’s nice to see Trish totally integrated as a girl.

Stephanie called by and brought presents for all the girls and book for Danny on the history of the FA Cup. She helped supervise the games with Simon, who got home just before they were due to start.

During the height of the games in the garden, Maureen arrived with a present and soon after, Henry and Monica came, absolutely laden with presents for everyone. I got a new watch, then discovered everyone had one too. Monica had smuggled them back through customs.

Trish gave her grandparents a big hug and thanked them for coming. I nodded at Tom, and she rushed over to him and hugged him too. He gave her a lovely silver bracelet.

As there were plenty of adults to supervise the screaming horde, I retired exhausted to the kitchen where Maureen told me what had happened in Eastbourne as we drank a quick cuppa.

“I was a little worried about you being such a softie with that rather streetwise woman.”

“I was perfectly safe, ma’am. She’s moving up to Newcastle in a couple o’months and Andrew’s going with her. She’s got a job in Tesco up there, they’ve transferred ’er from Eastbourne or will do.”

“What about getting your money back?”

“I’ve told ’er she can keep it. Part of me would ’ave liked to ’ave ’ad a kid, but it isn’t to be.”

“There’s half a dozen out there you can borrow anytime you like,” I joked.

“Maybe,” she said, “or I can come over and play with ’em and go home when I’ve ’ad enough.”

“Now why didn’t I think of that?” I joked.

“Because you needed to be a mother and there were children out there who needed motherin’.”

“You could be right there, girl. So is that it for Eastbourne?”

“Not quite, I told Cilla and Andrew that they were welcome to come and visit me anytime they liked if it got too cold up north.”

I stroked her face and pecked her on the cheek, “You’re a real softie, Maureen, but please never change.”

“An’ you’re the nicest employer in the world, ma’am, so don’t you ever change will you?”

“We’ll have to see about that, if it gets out I’ll be inundated with CVs and begging letters…” I grumbled and she just laughed before a group of thirsty girls came swarming into my kitchen demanding drinks.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1312

The rest of the party went as it was supposed to and by half past seven, all the little darlings had been collected by their parents and once again I could breathe a sigh of relief—that no more had been dumped on me.

Trish had been disappointed with Maureen’s present—a pair of socks—until she looked inside and saw a new ten pound note folded there; that made them, very nice socks.

I pointed out to her that just because it was her birthday, she needn’t think everyone had to give her something, or I’d give her a smacked bottom and send her to bed. She knew I wouldn’t hit her but the threat of bed was enough for her behave and she apologised.

It was getting dark, so I wouldn’t let her out on her bike, she’d have to wait until the morning, which unleashed another tantrum so I did send her to bed. She had to make do with reading a book until the others went up.

It was quite a relief to get to bed myself that night. I thanked Simon for his part in organising the party games and he told me he was pleased it had stayed dry—then they could run about in the garden and work off some high spirits.

I confided to him that I was a little worried about Billie. Julie had been promised reassignment surgery after she was eighteen, which meant in a year’s time. Trish had been done—albeit through serendipitous causes, and she, Billie felt unloved and so on.

I could see her point, she was eleven and had another seven years to wait before she’d be eligible—a lifetime to a child. I did point out that she’d probably start hormones next year. All I got back was that there were girls in her class who had booblets already.

It’s very difficult dealing with any sort of neurotic urge, and transgender ones are probably as bad as any. However, scientists seem intent on finding some organic cause for it, the latest I read was about white matter being different in gender variant people to normals. I suspect this is likely to be insignificant in the greater scheme of things, and wonder why they even bother researching it—they’re not going to cure it, other than by allowing the individual to live in the desired role; with or without surgery.

I used to think the difference between transvestites and transsexuals was that transvestites wanted to keep their wedding tackle, but I discovered that it wasn’t so black and white, and not all transsexuals wanted to lose theirs, either.

In my simplistic thinking, I was a female with no boobs and an outie. So I resolved to change that and did. Thus, in my opinion, I’m a non-menstruating female, which is how the law sees me, thanks to the Gender Recognition Act of 2004. So how do these others, the she-males, see themselves—those who don’t want an innie? I’m not counting those who can’t have surgery for whatever reason, just those who don’t want it.

It isn’t some sort of superiority thing either—I’m more female than you because I’ve got a twat—na-na-da-na-na. I suppose it’s all a matter of continua or spectra, which was when I think I fell asleep, thinking that Billie thought she was less a girl than Trish.

I woke up still puzzling over this business of continua, wondering if life would have been easier if I’d been content to dress up in women’s clothes every now and again. Then I realised it wouldn’t have been. I was female, and expressing that as my identity and role was the only way I was going to be satisfied. That I was doing it so completely was such wonderful luck. I glanced across at Simon, who was still in the land of nod. Nothing much seemed to keep him awake, anything seemed to play on my mind. I looked at the clock it wasn’t quite six, but it was light. I wondered why I’d woken then I thought I heard something outside.

I was out of bed and peering out the window in a flash—Trish was dressed and getting her bike out of the garage. I threw on some clothes keeping an eye on what she was doing. She rode up and down the drive for a few minutes, but I knew that wouldn’t satisfy her for long and sure enough she went down the drive and turned onto the cycle path outside. I grabbed my cycling shoes and galloped down the stairs, stopping at the bottom to put them on before clonking across the drive and pulling the Specialized out and jumping on it.

It was colder than I’d realised and I regretted not grabbing a jacket. I sped off in the direction she’d taken and within a couple of minutes I had her in my sights and I accelerated. A combination of fear and anger seemed to spark the adrenalin and I flew along touching thirty miles an hour at one point, then I slowed as I drew level.

“And where d’you think you’re going?” I asked my daughter.

“Oh hello, Mummy—isn’t this fun?”

“And why didn’t you come and ask if you could go out on your bike?”

“You were asleep.”

“How d’you know?”

“I looked in and both you and Daddy were asleep.”

“Don’t you see how dangerous this could be?” I asked as we pedalled along together.

“I shouldn’t get knocked off on a cycle path—should I?”

“No, but you could fall off and hurt yourself.”

“I’ve got my mobile phone with me, Mummy,” replied the smart-arse.

“What if some nasty person had appeared?”

“I’d have ridden off like a rocket.”

“And if they’d been on a bike as well?”

“I’d have pushed them off and run for it.”

“Trish that is nonsense and you know it, I caught you up with no bother at all. If I was a nasty person I could have abducted you or killed you or all sorts of things.”

“I let you catch me up, Mummy, I saw you in my mirror.”

“You couldn’t stop me catching you up, I can ride much faster than you—where are you going?” She suddenly accelerated and rode off the cycle path and down an animal track into some bushes.

I stopped, with narrow tyres on wheels which are probably worth at least a couple of hundred if not more, I stopped and called after her. She didn’t answer. Thankfully, the ground was pretty hard and dry and I tried to follow the bike tracks as I walked as briskly as I could after her.

She’d effectively ridden into a small patch of scrub which gave rise to woodland. The path split into three and each was too hard to register tyre tracks, my heart sank.

“TRISH,” I shouted but apart from the noises of the woodland, a rustling of trees and a few bird songs, there was only the traffic on the road behind me and that was increasing.

“TRISH,” I called again, “TRISH, WHERE ARE YOU? You silly little cow.” I was filled with a mixture of fear and anger again. Logic tended to suggest she was alive and well and enjoying giving me the run-around like the naughty imp she was.

At the same time part of me had every sort of catastrophe that could befall her happening in my mind, from being kidnapped by paedophiles to cycling into a ditch or hitting a low branch. I’ve done both the latter and it bloody well hurts.

I’d gone from worried to frantic in a matter of about three minutes. “TRISH,” I yelled so loudly, they probably heard it on the Isle of Wight. No answer came back.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1313

Worried almost to the point of sickness, I reached for my Blackberry and realised I’d come out in such a rush, I’d left it behind on the bedside table. My heart sank.

I looked at the three tracks in front of me—she could have taken any of them. Surely, she couldn’t know this woodland, could she? If so how? There was the odd bit of dog poo about, perhaps Tom walks Kiki down this way occasionally.

The trees were just starting to burst into life, with buds splitting open to reveal the greenery inside. The grass looked so green as well, which considering how little rain we’d had, surprised me. I was protected somewhat from the wind, but there was a definite chill in the air from the lack of sunshine. I shivered but refused to admit it was because the place felt creepy.

Let’s face it, I’ve spent hundreds of hours in woodland at all times of day and night and have rarely felt spooked before, so I wasn’t going to let my imagination get to me today.

I looked around; the bird song had fallen silent. Okay, this happens when there’s a predator about, especially a sparrow hawk or peregrine. But the sudden quietness did little to bolster my anxiety. I felt a need to fight back.

“If anything has happened to my daughter in these woods, I’ll be back with a chainsaw and clear fell everything here.” The sky seemed to darken and I shrugged—what an ass I was making of myself, to a couple of wood mice and the odd weasel.

I remembered my pursuit, where was Trish and how could I find her? The three paths seemed just as unhelpful as before—which one? I closed my eyes and was almost doing a ‘one potato, two potato…’ when I saw a blue light in my mind’s eye, it led straight ahead. Caring less about my wheels and tyres than the time lag in catching up with Trish, I mounted the bike and began to pedal along the track.

It continued to feel as if every tree hid a pair of eyes who were staring at me with malice, something I’d never experienced before, and the birdsong still stayed silent—that was weird, really weird.

I followed the path which widened out into a glade convinced I was on Trish’s path, although until then I couldn’t risk closing my eyes or I’d have crashed into a tree or fallen over roots. The blue light led me ahead.

The sky darkened some more and suddenly I was aware of the pattering of raindrops—rather large raindrops, and a rumble of thunder rolled overhead, then a flash of lightning—just what I needed. In minutes the path became a morass and I felt the bike slip beneath me and before I could slip a foot clear I was down in the mud feeling its coldness on my legs and squishing up my back.

My anxiety was now one of extreme anger. If Trish was before me now, I wouldn’t smack her bottom, I’d knock her head clean off her little shoulders. I wriggled free of the bike and eventually managed to stand up, which was easier said than done. I was covered in mud and so was the bike. I was surprised there wasn’t steam rising off me—I felt so angry.

I picked up the bike and nearly fell again, before making my way on the soggy grass, walking I hoped somewhere towards the direction of home. Some ten minutes later I recognised where I was, five minute’s walk from home and was rarely more glad to see it.

Back in the yard, I hosed the bike down and then did the same to myself, washing some of the mud off my clothing. I was soaked anyway and I was also very cold. I put the bike into the garage and noticed Trish’s bike back on the stand—the little minx was home, so she did know the way. I felt so angry that if I saw her now, she’d be in real danger from me—I needed to calm down and then kill her—it would be more enjoyable.

I locked the garage and took the key back into the house and placed it where little hands wouldn’t be able to reach it. Then after dumping my shoes and socks in the utility room, I padded barefoot up to my bedroom.

As I walked into the bedroom, Simon snorted and was about to say something when my look cut him dead. I pushed past him into the en suite and slammed the door shut. After disrobing I ran the shower and stepped into it. Once I’d got over the shock of what felt like boiling water on my icy cold skin, I actually began to enjoy its soothing properties.

It took me a good fifteen minutes to rid myself of the mud and associated muck. To my annoyance, I discovered I’d skinned the one knee and hand and had a hole in my tights—they were good ones too. My jacket had a couple of minor tears and a small hole at the elbow, which explained the bruise I had emerging on the same elbow.

I swilled the clothes under the shower and wasn’t surprised at how much mud there had been on them despite the hosing down in the yard. I left them soaking in the bath.

I dried myself and pulled my still damp hair into a ponytail, then re-entered the bedroom and pulled on some panties and a bra. Simon was sitting on the bed.

“Okay, what happened?”

“I saw Trish go off on her bike so I dressed and went off after her. I caught up with her and tried to explain what risk she was running.”

“And, don’t tell me you got attacked by a mud skipper?” he laughed.

“Don’t be so stupid, they only live in Africa.”

“Funny, you bore an uncanny resemblance to one,” he laughed again and I burst into tears.

“It’s not funny,” I sobbed and a few moments I felt him take me in his arms.

“So how come she came home dry and you came home looking like a half-drowned earthworm?”

I wiped my nose on my hand and took a deep breath, “I was trying to reason with her about some of the strange people there might be about if she was on her own and she had an answer for all of it.”

“That’s our Trish, little madam. So then what?”

“She went off road and down into a patch of woodland. Of course the paths are so dry I couldn’t find any trail to follow and just went on guesswork, then the heavens opened and I came off on the muddy path. I had to walk home.”

“Oh dear, have you seen her yet?”

“No, and I don’t want to until I’ve had something to eat and cup of tea—then I shall talk rationally with her.”

“Oh good,” he smiled at me.

“Then I’m going to rip her liver out and eat it.”

“Cathy, calm down—just listen to yourself.”

I burst into tears again. He hugged me some more and then seemed to assert himself.

“I’ll deal with this, you, stay here and don’t move—and I mean it, missus.”

I sat on the bed feeling upset a little later I heard raised voices—or to be more accurate I heard one raised voice. Little footsteps ran up the stairs and I heard a door slam.

Minutes after that, he reappeared with a tray, bearing: two cups, a pot of tea and a plateful of toast, butter and marmalade and some knives. He then proceeded to pour the tea and eat most of the toast.

Typical Simon, he can buy me a box of his favourite sweets or chocs and then help me eat most of them.

“What happened downstairs?” I asked him.

“I told her off, and sent her to her room where she has to stay until she’s twenty-one.”

“So she got off lightly then?”

“I hadn’t finished.”

“Oh, sorry.”

“She has to wear sack cloth and ashes and self-flagellate twice a day with a cat-o’-nine-tails while standing on one leg and singing the Marseillaise.”

“What?” I gasped, spitting tea all over him.

“Thanks, I really wanted my toast pre-dunked,” he sighed, dropping the rather wet slice of charred bread onto the tray.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1314

1314 Battle of Bannockburn (one for the Scots in the readership, of which I’m a half member).

~~~~~

“I’m going to confiscate her bike,” I said and Simon nodded.

“Didn’t you ever ride off on your own?”

“Of course, but I don’t remember doing it at age seven.”

“I’ll bet you did—you’re every bit as wilful as your daughter—and she did prove her point, that she could get away if she needed to.”

“The whole point was she should have asked before she went off on her own.”

“So make it a condition of her riding her bike.”

“What about punishment?”

“What about it? I thought the aim of punishment was to change behaviour?”

“That’s deep for you, Si.”

“Just because I’m not actually counting money every minute of the day doesn’t mean I’m in hibernation mode like one your dormice. Believe it or not, we bankers are sentient beings—it’s only consciences we lack. I can be philosophical, what I can’t be is guilty.”

“So Catholic bankers must have a real problem then?”

“Why?”

“Never mind, Si, you’re obviously not as philosophical as you thought.”

“Oh the guilt stuff—Cathy, you accuse me of being stereotypical, take the mote out of your own eye.”
“Oh my goodness, biblical quotations too, you have hidden depths, Lord Cameron.”

“Probably, but I’d rather explore yours, so how about taking all your clothes off…?”

“Just when I thought—you prove to be as shallow as ever.”

“What d’you mean?”

“I thought you had some depth—but it appears it’s only in shallowness.”

“Cathy, you take everything too seriously.”

“Or could it be that you take everything too flippantly?”

“Yeah it could be, but at least I’m prepared to admit it.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Oh forget it, I’m going downstairs.” He stalked out of the bedroom and leaving the door open I heard him continue down the stairs.

From the distance I could hear a funny mewing sound and when I approached it realised it came from the girl’s bedroom. I stood outside and listened—yes, it was definitely from inside. I turned the handle of the door and went inside.

Lying on the bed, still in her jeans and top and her trainers lay Trish, face in the pillow making various snivelling, sobbing and crying noises. She was unaware I was there. I watched her for a moment, she was still unaware of my presence.

“What are we going to do with you, Patricia Watts?”

She started, then turning round sobbed, “I’m sorry, Mummy.”

“I should think so. You were very silly and apart from worrying me to death, you caused me to fall off my bike in trying to follow you.”

“I’m sorry.”

“So how should I punish you?” I threw the ball into her court just to see how she’d deal with it.

“I don’t know, Mummy.”

“Okay, we’ll discuss that in a minute; first, I want to set some rules—you don’t ride the bike outside the drive without asking Daddy, Gramps, Jenny or myself.”

“What about Auntie Stella?”

“Her as well when she’s home again. If we say you can’t—you have to accept that and not sneak off by yourself. Because if you do—I shall confiscate the bike for a long time, or may even sell it.”

“You can’t, Mummy, that’s my bike.”

“I can and will if the mood takes me, so don’t push your luck, missy. If you want to go for a ride, I’d prefer there were two or three of you together and better still an adult. If I don’t have anything stopping me, I may well come with you—but not if you pull another stunt like this morning—that was so silly, that path could have led anywhere.”

“I knew where it went, Gramps an’ me have walked Kiki there loads of times.”

“Did you get caught in the thunderstorm?”

“No, Mummy, I was home by then.”

“Right, for punishment, I’m going to take your bike and your computer off you for the rest of the weekend.”

“But, Mummy…”

“No buts, if you like I could take them for longer?”

“No, Mummy—I’m sorry.”

“Good because if I catch you breaking your curfew—you will really be in trouble and I’ll withhold your bike and computer indefinitely. D’you understand?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“D’you have any homework to do?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Does it need the computer?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“What is it?”

“History, Mummy.”

“Right, go and do that right away. As soon as you’ve finished, unplug your computer and put it in my bedroom, and it’s to stay there until you come home from school on Monday. Got it?”

“Yes, Mummy.”

“Trish?”

“Yes, Mummy?”

“Have you had any breakfast?”

“No, Mummy.”

“Go and make yourself some cereal and eat it, then do your homework.”

“Thank you, Mummy.”

“Go and do it.” She jumped off the bed and ran downstairs.

I suddenly realised that I had to take her to see Sam on Monday, and I had still to call Stephanie about Billie—I’d forgotten during the party and then the aftermath of this morning’s trauma.

I picked up my Blackberry in the bedroom and rang Stephanie, shutting the bedroom door. To my astonishment she picked it up. I told her of this morning’s shenanigans and she laughed.

“You knew she was wilful, Cathy, you shouldn’t have provoked her.”

“I didn’t, I was just trying to point out the risks she was running.”

“She saw it as a challenge and demonstrated what she might do if danger was to occur.”

“Yes, but someone on a mountain bike might ride her down and in the woodland, especially when it’s in full leaf, no one would see anything.”

“I appreciate your concern, but I think you need to work with her not challenge her on these issues—it just seems to fire her up.”

I told her what I’d decided on as ground rules, which she okayed, just as well because I wasn’t going to change them. Then the question I was dreading asking.

“One last thing, Steph—um—could Trish have Asperger’s?”

“Why d’you ask?”

“I just wondered because she sometimes seems on a different planet and doesn’t always interact emotionally with everyone else.”

“Do you?”

“Do I what?”

“Interact emotionally with everyone else?”

“I don’t know, some of the time and with some of the people.”

“Do you have Asperger’s syndrome?”

“Not as far as I know.”

“Neither does Trish, as far as I know, but I’ll keep it in mind the next time I see her, which is next week—least according to my diary it is—next Saturday.”

“When are you due to see Billie?”

“Same time—why? She hasn’t got Asperger’s, too?”

“No,” I winced at her rebuff, “I’m a little worried about her because I think she’s thinking she’s less of a girl than Trish and Julie and of course Livvie and Meems and the two babies.”

“Technically, I suppose she is, but you’re worried are you?”

“Yes, she doesn’t have the strength of ego of Trish or even Julie.”

“And you think she’s depressed?”

“Yes.”

“What’s for dinner tomorrow?”

“I have a whole salmon to cook.”

“With watercress sauce?”

“That could be arranged—why, do you fancy your share?”

“Well, if I’ve got to do weekend domiciliary visits, it had better be worth my while, hadn’t it?”

“Yes, I can see that—so do I lay an extra place?”

“Okay you’ve convinced me. What time?”

“Eat at one, d’you want to see Billie before or after?”

“Before, see you about noon tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Steph.”

“That salmon had better be worth it.”

“Oh it will, Dr Cauldwell, it will.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1315

Stephanie was talking with Billie while Trish and I prepared the lunch. The salmon was baked in butter in the slow oven of the Aga. Trish scrubbed the new potatoes and baby carrots while I turned a large bunch of watercress into a creamy greenish coloured sauce. The final elements were frozen garden peas and some mange tout.

The potatoes and carrots were boiled together, and a bit later we boiled the peas and mange tout. Dessert was an apple pie I’d made before she came and which was staying warm in the now turned off oven. The cop out was that it was served with cream rather than me making custard.

The fact that the clocks had gone forward to British Summer Time didn’t help at all, if anything it hindered because I was still up just after seven, which yesterday, would have been six o’clock. So I was stirring the sauce and yawning while I did it.

Trish was busy laying the table in the dining room with the best cutlery. Ever since we’d talked through what had happened and I’d made her see my point of view, she had been determined to collect as many Brownie points as she could, and in some ways it was rather nice doing mother-daughter stuff.

Meems and Livvie were out with Jenny, who’d taken the two little ones out in the pram. Pud would walk for a short distance but would need to be carried or shoved on the pram seat once she got tired. As Jenny was effectively taking everyone but Danny, who was out gardening with Tom—they seemed to be really forging a relationship; and Tom was teaching him all sorts of horticultural tips, which Danny really seemed to enjoy.

They’d put in potatoes and onion sets, beans and even some rows of peas; leeks and cabbage were under glass, but showing in the seed trays, and today, at my request they were planting flowers—I’d asked them for some dahlias, which I love because the more you cut them, the more they flower and I do like some flowers in the house.

When I’d taken the two boys their mid-morning coffee, Tom had asked why Trish wasn’t out on her bike. I’d told him about her trick and he described it as ‘Dead Man’s Wood,’ apparently some bloke had hanged himself near the clearing over unrequited love—his girlfriend had married for money instead of love—people do. It had happened about fifty or sixty years ago and women were then less able to be financially independent—so marrying for security is perfectly understandable and might even have some genetic involvement, insofar as women often choose a partner who is going to be best for their children—so they may fall in love with the dashing Don Juan, but they marry Mr Reliable.

I must read more Reader’s Digest to top up my informal psychology training. I smirked at the thought, it’s like the potted stuff which turns up on the Internet or women’s magazines—by the time sub-editors have murdered it, it has little resemblance to the original paper—and papers like the Daily Wail tend to distort facts in playing to the gallery of the sort of reader it has. I suppose all papers do it in reality, but the tabloids seem far more overt in their bias.

My musings about tabloid journalism were disturbed by Stephanie and Billie emerging from Tom’s study. They were both smiling, so hopefully everything was well. I expected Stephanie to tell me if it wasn’t.

“Hmm, that smells good,” said Stephanie walking towards the kitchen.

“I hope it tastes good, too,” I responded.

“You’re wasted as a scientist, you should be opening a high class eatery for waifs and strays.”

“I thought I’d already done that,” I retorted, “including the odd professional misfit as well.”

“Oi, watch it, girly or I’ll ’ave you sectioned.”

“The rest would be nice.”

“In a mental unit—I doubt you’d get much rest, besides if you’re not crazy going in, stay a few days and you soon will be.” She made a funny face and I snorted with laughter.

Billie went outside to tell the others to come and wash their hands. In her absence I asked Stephanie if everything was all right with her.

“She’s rather low self-esteem, feels a bit of a freak because Trish has fast tracked on getting her surgery, and of course Julie has been on hormones for ages.”

“Anything I can do?”

“Yeah, get this prescription tomorrow.”

I glanced at it, “You’re giving her oestrogen?”

“It’s only a low dosage one and it may help to give her some equilibrium, not to mention self esteem, especially if she thinks her body is changing.”

“Will it?”

“A little, she has issues about the abuse she suffered years ago. I’ll see her every week for a few and see where that takes us.”

“When is Trish likely to need hormones given she’s agonadal?”

“Sometime fairly soon, but it’s not urgent. A year or two type of timescale.”

“As long as that?”

“She is only seven, Cathy, or are you wishing her to be a full grown Lolita by the age of nine?”

“Like I said, she is agonadal, and presumably secreting very few sex hormones of either sort.”

“If you’re worried give her some Burgen bread or plant sterols—you can get them in the health food place.”

“What, without your direct control?”

“Yes, that’s fine—if I start prescribing we’ll have to stop them anyway, these are only very weakly oestrogenic compounds and if we start doing proper hormones they can interfere, so we stop any other source if on estradiol or whatever.”

“Okay, thanks Stephanie, dinner will be a few minutes.”

“I’ll wait in the lounge—oh let me see the new rooms.” I pointed her towards them and she went off exploring.

I carefully cut the salmon and put it on the plates, then arranged the potatoes and vegetables in what I thought was quite an artistic design—for me at any rate. The others came in and after washing dirty paws took their seats at the dining table and Trish and I started serving up, a ladle of watercress sauce over the salmon as we took out the plates.

Judging by the lack of conversation, it went down well and it was only at the end of the meal that people started talking again. Trish collected the plates, which Julie brought out—“That was totally delish, Mummy,” she said as she dumped the plates in the sink.

I got her to carry the cream back in with her as I brought the apple pie from the oven. Stephanie groaned about putting on weight, but no one forced her to have cream on her pie. When I pointed this out to her, she explained that she had everything except willpower.

Some days, I think I know the feeling. I went to make teas and coffees and she followed me out to the kitchen.

“That was a bloody good meal, Cathy, well worth coming for.”

“I’m glad you enjoyed it—makes a change from a roast.”

“Absolutely,” she agreed, “If I’d been home, I’d have popped out to the local pub and had roast chicken I expect.”

“Oh well, you had baked fish instead.”

“Yeah, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Want me to see Trish, while I’m here?”

“If you don’t mind—that would be a real help.”

“Okay, if Tom doesn’t want to snooze in his study?”

“No, he’s going back out to finish planting flowers.”

“What, for you?”

“Yes, is it that obvious?”

She nodded and called Trish as she went back to the study.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1316

It transpired that Trish thought I had a downer on her, but when she explained the various ways she’d transgressed and I’d punished her, Stephanie told her that she wished I’d been her mummy, because her mother was a lot tougher than I’d been. She also asked Trish what punishments were like in the children’s home and she admitted they were worse. Finally, she told her that my concerns arose from love and that all of the children were very much loved by Simon, Tom and I, as well as Stella, Henry and Monica. Trish admitted she knew this.

Stephanie told her that she was starting Billie on hormones and that in a couple of years she would look at perhaps putting her on them too. Of course Trish grumbled but Steph told her the facts of life and that she’d already had surgery ten years too early, so not to push her luck. Stephanie informed her that if Trish spoke nicely to her mummy, that aforesaid mummy might be persuaded to buy some hormone like substances which would help her. At this Trish immediately cheered up and agreed to behave. When Stephanie told me this, I knew I had a nice form of control for Trish—toe the line or you won’t get your plant sterol capsule.

The next day, a Monday, I was implored to go and get the various things Stephanie had either prescribed—for Billie—or suggested for Trish. They couldn’t get out of the car quickly enough to send me on my way to the town centre, Livvie and Meems thought it was comical but then they have a readymade supply of oestrogens which will kick in at the appropriate time.

I parked the car and walked into the shopping area, redeeming the prescription at the pharmacy and then popping into Holland and Barrett for some soya-isoflavones for Trish. Then it was more mundane shopping for some new underpants for Simon, why does he like those horrible boxer things? I bought him some Y-fronts ones which should at least offer some support if he has a coughing fit.

I bought myself some new bras after being measured; I discovered I was a thirty four C cup borderline D. There is no way I’m wearing a D cup, at this rate I’ll need a wheelbarrow. I know they’ll shrink when I stop breastfeeding, but Catherine does like her fresh milkshakes. She’s coming along beautifully, eating solids and chewing on the odd crust of bread. Unfortunately, the more teeth she has, the more she has to bite me with—and doesn’t she—little monster. She’s chewed on me so often, I sometimes wonder if there was enough pressure would it spray out like a shower rose? A gruesome thought.

I treated myself to a latte coffee and after a few more bits and pieces round the shops, I grabbed a top which I thought Stella would like and went home. I showed it to Jenny, who agreed about Stella. After lunch, she suggested that she’d collect the girls if I wanted to go and see Stella—I wasn’t going to say no, especially as I had to take Trish to see Sam Rose the next day.

I made us a quick tuna salad with homemade bread, after which I set off for the clinic. It’s a boring drive but I listened to Classic FM on the radio as I went. It’s some weeks since I’d seen her or Gareth. He’d sold his house, renting one while he waited to see how Stella was. He’d only rented the one he had because it had a double garage which was packed to the roof with his furniture.

Stella was looking quite well and the bump was beginning to show quite a bit. I gave her the top and she was really pleased with it. She admitted that she’d been very fed up of late, the pregnancy and being confined was enough to make her so. I understood and asked if she’d like to come out for a ride in the car if the clinic agreed. They did, so I took her out for a ride and we found a little tearoom at which we had tea and cucumber sandwiches—or she did, I had a toasted tea cake with my tea.

I brought her up to date with my brood and she was amused with Trish’s antics. “She’s a bit of a girl, is that one.”

“You’re telling me, she is. She’s a total monster at times and in between, she’s positively angelic. I can’t make her out. She pushes the boundaries all the time like a teenager, but she’s only just seven.”

“Yes but a very precocious seven.”

“I know, but she doesn’t have the breadth of experience to match her book-knowledge. It’s like reading a book on the basics of sailing and then trying to sail across the Atlantic, but of course at her age she can’t see it. At times I’m cast in the role of ancient fuddy-duddy or general killjoy. She’s such a bright spark, so why can’t she see that?”

“Because that would be an emotional thing, understanding often involves more than just cognitive skills, it means balancing it with the right degree of emotion. To do that requires a degree of maturity which is why I find it so difficult—Daddy spoilt me rotten—especially after Mummy left.”

Goodness, am I finally to learn about the first Vicountess Stanebury? I kept completely quiet.

“Daddy was such a womaniser that Mummy threatened to leave him several times. They loved each other but he couldn’t leave other women alone, so finally she did move out. She went and stayed with a woman friend so we had to stay with Daddy—well we were actually away at school, so it was only holidays. I played hell with him, telling him how stupid he was and that he ought to cut it off if he couldn’t control it. I was about nine at the time.”

“Surely you saw her in between, though didn’t you?”

“Yes we did, then she took up with Michael. Naturally we were rather put out, we wanted out parents to be back together again and it wasn’t going to happen, but children won’t see that—emotional maturity—told you I didn’t have any.

“She wanted to marry, Michael but I made such a song and dance about it, she called it off. Daddy was furious with me, but seeing as he was the cause of the trouble, I gave him a load of home truths I wouldn’t have the nerve to say now.”

“How old were you?”

“Ten or eleven.”

“Crikey, I wouldn’t have been able to do it then either—passive resistance was my modus operandi.”

“As with the school play?”

“Absolutely. Did I tell you, I’m going to play Lady M again?”

“No—when is that?”

“Dates are being finalised, Matthew Hines is playing Mac-B.”

“What? The film star?”

“Yes—he’s never done any Shakespeare since he left school.”

“What? So who’s going to teach him dramatic technique?”

“The director or his drama coach—I presume he has one.”

“You lucky cow, what wouldn’t I give to play with Matt Hines?”

“His wife is nice.”

“Yes except she simply exists—which spoils it for millions of women.”

“Don’t be so mean, she’s even more pregnant than you.”

“So where are you doing this ’ere play?”

“At Trish’s school.”

“You’ve got a world famous heart throb to come to Trish’s school to do a play with you?”

“Yeah, in a word.”

“You jammy cow.”

“He’s not such a great catch, but his wife is a lovely person. Anyway, sister mine, I’d better take you back and go and feed the five thousand.”

“Is that how many kids you have now?”

“Some days it does feel like it.” I answered and we both laughed.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1317

Driving home from the clinic, I mused on what Stella had told me about her mother and I think it was Simon who’d said she was deceased. So Henry had spoiled their marriage with his philandering, and she was the aggrieved party, I wondered what had happened to the mother in between turning down Michael’s proposal for marriage and her death. How and why had she died?

I’d wondered about this before only with less detail; now I was really curious. I suppose I could ask Simon although he’d be suspicious after my seeing Stella. But why hadn’t he told me? I’m quite prepared to talk about my own parent’s deaths, even though it’s rather sad for me. Perhaps it’s just too painful for him, or is there something else he’d rather forget?

I began to think where I could find out more about the previous Viscountess—newspaper archives, the Times or Telegraph would have obituaries in their archives which might tell me what happened. My mind was speculating like crazy—it could be something straightforward, such as cancer or an infection, or an accident—or did she die in suspicious circumstances? Murdered by her new lover or while working for MI6? Now it was getting silly.

I arrived back at home unaware of most of my journey so engrossed was I in my latest research project. I was suddenly back at the gateway to the farmhouse—thank goodness I hadn’t had any of the children with me because I’d driven on autopilot for almost the entire journey.

It was five o’clock and I quickly bundled a tray of pork loin steaks into the oven to cook, while I sorted out the vegetables. Trish came to help, although I’d let her use her computer again, she wanted me to ride with her either one evening or at the weekend, so she was still collecting Brownie points.

I had to wait until the next morning to have a chance to look for information, and then after I returned from the school run. Jenny was finishing the laundry and she was looking forward to cuppa and a chat and I was l anticipating my opportunity to browse the net.

I tried desperately to be patient, but she went on and on about nothing—mainly gossip about people I didn’t know or cared even less about—but that didn’t stop her.

In the end I had to stop her by telling her I had work to do on the computer and she took the hint and went off to finish the laundry and hang it on the line. I went on to the Daily Telegraph website and eventually found the archive and called up, Lady Stanebury in their search engine.

There were several, but only one obituary from 1998.

Margaret, Countess of Stanebury, has died at the age of forty one. Who can forget the beautiful model who married Henry Cameron after a whirlwind romance? Her looks and figure meant she was in demand at all the main haute couture fashion houses of Europe and America.

They married in 1980, when she was twenty three, and had two children Simon in 1981 and Stella in 1982. The marriage ended in 1993 with her receiving an undisclosed but substantial settlement from her bank-owning ex-husband.

She married stock-broker Michael Dallimore in 1997 although her happiness was short lived due to his premature death in air crash in which he was piloting the single-engine Cessna. He was a very experienced pilot having served fifteen years on fighters in the RAF.

She suffered with acute depression following her second husband’s death and it is believed she took her own life while in one of her bouts of illness. She leaves two children by her first marriage.

The article contained three pictures of her, two while working for Chanel and Chloe, and her last wearing a Dior outfit that looked absolutely stunning. It was easy to see where Stella had got her good looks, although I suspect her mother was more beautiful by some margin.

This short obituary perhaps explained why Simon never mentioned his mother and why he was upset when Stella tried to kill herself. Does depression run in families? I honestly didn’t know, and let’s face it the poor woman had plenty to be depressed about. Life seems cruel to some people—which I know some interpret as Karma— personally, I don’t buy any of that stuff from any religion.

I suppose one of the risks of marrying someone who has a bit of a reputation for playing around, is that they may continue old habits. Similarly, people who fly light aircraft do risk the ever-present threat of being heavier than air if the engine stops or some other mechanical fault arises.

I felt really sorry for her and wished I’d had the chance to meet her. Do I try and get Simon to talk about it, or do I let sleeping dogs lie? Has he had therapy for it or is he suppressing it all? I have no idea, nor where to start dealing with it.

Whilst I was at the computer, I did a search for her late husband and discovered his obituary which was longer than his widow’s. He was a positive hero, flying Harriers in the Falkland’s War and credited with shooting down two Argentine fighter bombers.

He was involved in an attempt at the world record to set a new height achieved by an aircraft, although the Americans took it back soon after, and he left the RAF to fly commercial aircraft before training as a stockbroker, at which he showed great skill and soon made his fortune.

Ah, here comes the but—at the time of his death, he was being investigated for malpractice involving some very iffy investments running into millions of pounds—and the cause of the crash which killed him was never fully explained by air crash investigators. In the end it was attributed to pilot error—he hit an electricity pylon and his plane exploded in a fireball. What a horrible way to go, whether deliberate or accidental.

At least it proves that the Cameron family had tragedies before they met me, so maybe I’m not the jinx I sometimes think I am.

I closed down the computer and decided that if I got the chance I’d visit Margaret’s grave, once I’d located where it was I would do so. They’d lived somewhere in Surrey according to the obituaries, so that’s probably where she was buried.

It was time for lunch, so I did us a quick mushroom omelette, that is, Jenny and I, then by the time I’d done a few chores, like making a chicken casserole, with dumplings for Simon and Tom, and sorting some books in our new library, it was time to get the girls.

I felt saddened by what I’d discovered of Simon and Stella’s mother’s life and premature death. I felt like I wanted to visit her grave to say I felt sorry for her and to reassure her that I’d look after Simon for better or worse as long as I could. I felt a bond with her despite never having met her. I suppose the bond being Simon and to some degree, Stella.

It just goes to show that people can seem to be having everything going smoothly for them and suddenly it nose dives and crashes in flames. It made me think a little about my own career and how ephemeral it all is. I mean what would I do if Simon cheated on me? Or worse, what would I do if he were to die suddenly? I’d have to keep going, I have more than him depending upon me and I know we’d be secure financially, but there’s much more to life than money.

I was still contemplating these things when I walked across the playground to collect the girls. Trish and Billie had been taking their pills for a whole day—they take one with breakfast each, and I half expect them to be measuring their chests every day for the next umpteen months.

Billie was already wearing a padded bra thing, although her chest was pretty flat just a little puppy fat under the nipples, and Trish had developed a little in the chest department since her DIY orchidectomy some months ago.

Billie’s demeanour had certainly improved in a day or two, and she was quite talkative on the way home. I felt even more pressured because in meeting the girls at the school, I bumped into the headmistress who suggested they were looking for the play to run during the first week of June. Damn, that meant I had lines to learn.

After learning this, I didn’t really listen to the girls as we drove home, I had my own agenda to worry about and was deep in it, when I heard Trish yelling at me. “MUMMEEE.”

I roused myself back to deal with her. “There’s no need to shout, I’m not deaf you know.” They all laughed at this.

“Well, why didn’t you answer, then?”

“Excuse me, but is that any way to speak to your mother?” I chided Trish.

“Well, you weren’t listening.”

“There is no need to be rude, young lady.”

“You weren’t listening.”

“Perhaps I wasn’t, there is still no need to be rude to me, is there?”

“No,” I saw her blush in the rear view mirror and mutter, ‘’S’not fair.’

“What did you need to tell me that was so important?” I asked, still watching her in the mirror.

“Can we go to Emily’s party?”

“I don’t know, when is it?”

“Friday.”

“We’ll see, I have to take you to see Dr Rose tomorrow.”

“At the hospital, Mummy?”

“Yes.”

“Oh pooh, I hate going there, seeing Dr Cauldwell at home is much nicer—can’t you invite Dr Rose to dinner or lunch?”

“No I can’t, besides he has to do some blood tests, I think.”

“Oh pooh, pooh, pooh.”

“Trish, don’t be dirty.”

“I hate blood tests, they hurt.” This was being said by someone who tried and nearly succeeded in hacking off their own scrotum and testes.

“Well, if he wants to do some, you will have to comply, won’t you?”

“Oh pooh,” she said and sat back her arms folded.

“You’ll be able to see how much hormone you have from the pills,” suggested Billie, but Trish wasn’t buying it and almost sneered contemptuously at her sister.

“Won’t have taken enough of the bloody stuff by then, will I, you nit?”

“You’ll have taken two or three lots,” Billie continued on her path oblivious to the fate she was courting.

“Two or three lots won’t show, you dimwit, two or three lots of your pills won’t make any difference either, will they, Mummy?”

“I doubt it.”

“See, it takes months not bloody days.” Trish rolled her eyes in despair—to be fair, Billie isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, and Trish does get frustrated at times.

The upshot of this was I had two of them sitting with arms folded and faces distorted by a huge sulk. I wondered if I’d collect a whole set before we got home?

It wasn’t to be, Meems and Livvie chatted away together ignoring their siblings and then Livvie asked me if I’d seen Sister Maria, because she’d asked her to tell me she wanted to see me.

I explained that I had just before I’d seen the girls emerging from their classrooms. Meems then asked if we had any mushrooms. I told her we did, although I then remembered I’d used them all in my casserole. “Why do you want mushrooms?”

“We’re doing decay in science, and mushrooms decay things.”

“They do indeed. I can stop on the way home if you like and get some?”

“Yes please, Mummy.”

“They won’t show you how it all works, but if we have time maybe Trish will allow you to borrow her microscope and you can have a look at their gills and the spores they carry.”

“Gills are on fish, not mushrooms,” said Trish firmly and with superiority.

“Well that’s where you’re wrong, Miss Know-it-all; certain types of fungi have parts which are called gills because they look similar to the gills of some fish, only they’re not involved in respiration.”

“Huh,” she huffed and folded her arms tighter and upped the sullenness of her face.

It was going to be a fun evening if this continued.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1318

Occasionally, it can be useful having a mother who’s a biologist—although the school would know this—I did help Mima do her homework, and probably told her too much about different sorts of fungi.

We looked at some under Trish’s microscope and after joining it up to the computer, we were able to print some pictures off showing some of the microscopic structures of the gills of cultivated mushrooms and some bits and pieces we collected in the garden.

I helped her label her pictures and made sure she had a superficial understanding of how some of the fungi worked and their contribution to recycling dead matter. We also touched on the fact that yeast was essential for making bread, cakes and alcoholic drinks and the less helpful varieties which caused thrush and athlete’s foot.

After I got them all to bed, Billie and Trish had made up their argument as soon as we got home, I sat down with Simon—remember him, he’s the bloke I married—and we chatted. I desperately wanted to talk about his mother but I couldn’t see how I could manage to introduce the subject—until Puddin’ began to cry for some reason and I had to go and sort her out. I think she was possibly teething, so I gave her some Calpol and settled her down again and she went off to sleep—Jenny had the night off.

“I’ll be glad when Stella comes back to reclaim her offspring,” Simon commented.

“Oh c’mon, that little one’s no trouble at all.”

“No, not when Jenny’s here.”

“I’ll bet you weren’t a perfect baby—were you?”

“How do I know, you’ll have to ask Dad but I doubt he’d know much.”

“No—your mother died, didn’t she?” I’d taken the nettle and grasped it.

“Yes, some time ago.”

“You never talk about her.”

“What’s there to say? She’s dead—end of conversation.”

“But you must have memories of her?” I pushed my luck.

“I have a horrible memory of going to her funeral and I’d prefer not to talk about it, okay?”

I’d given him a chance to talk and he didn’t take the opportunity, was that because he didn’t know what I knew. I’d push my luck one more step. “I know about her death, and I’m sorry.”

“What d’you know? Bugger all I expect other than what they stuck in the papers and Dad had to call in quite a few favours to stop the details getting out. Yeah, she killed herself—but can you blame her? Dad was a total bastard ruled by his fucking dick—it was only when he met with Monica and she threatened to separate him from his prized possession if he ever strayed with her, that he stopped cheating.

“My mother went through hell with him, then she started to drink and then got hooked on Valium. I suspect she might have used other things too. Did you get all that too, from Google?”

I blushed and shook my head.

“So I don’t suppose they told you she hanged herself naked in Hyde Park, did they?”

“Oh my God, I am so sorry Simon.” I felt tears roll down my face.

“I thought she’d be really happy with Dallimore, but the cheating swine tried one scam too many and got caught, she lost a couple of million through that and rather than face the music he crashed his stupid plane. No wonder she went crackers.”

I went to hug him but he seemed cold intent on punishing me for reminding him about the whole sordid affair.

“No, you wanted to know—so you can learn that she hired a private detective to follow Dad, he was screwing four different women at the same time plus my mother of course. She was so drunk most of the time, she didn’t even know they’d had sex. She was switched on enough to tell each of the four women about the others and Dad got really cross with her. That was when she left. Wanna hear some more?”

I wept quietly and shook my head.

“Good, I’m going to bed now—I don’t want to talk about her ever again—got it?”

I nodded and watched with tear filled eyes as he left the kitchen and went upstairs. How wrong could I have got it? Not much more than that. That poor woman, now I felt I had to lay some flowers on her grave because I was so saddened by her life with Henry and Michael after it.

I sent James a text. Five minutes later he texted back to say he’d do it.

I slept very badly, I was tormented by my sadness for Margaret and by the fact that I’d upset Simon. I wasn’t sure what I felt about Henry, other than his acceptance of me as his daughter-in-law, I wasn’t at all sure about him being the kindly pa-in-law that he’d appeared to be to me. I suppose he might have changed, especially with Monica holding his short and curlies—she frightens me and I don’t have any; but they say leopards don’t change their spots. So the next time he flirts with me, I may well feel differently about him.

Simon was asleep by the time I got into bed and we slept back to back that night. The next morning he rose early and was gone before I could get myself up to see him off. I hoped this was going to be just a storm in a teacup, but I only had myself to blame—I should have left well alone. My twenty-twenty hindsight is amazing.

I took the girls to school, although Trish stayed with me in the car and we went off to the hospital and the paediatric department for her appointment at half past nine. Parking is a pain and also expensive, but I eventually found a spot and paid the extortionate fee. I remember my father complaining about parking fees some time ago and he was only charged a fraction of what I’d just paid. He grumbled and said, “At least Dick Turpin had the decency to wear a mask.”

At the time, I thought it was really clever—Dick Turpin was a highwayman—notorious for his ruthlessness. He was a real low-life, beating some old woman’s brains out because she wouldn’t tell him where her money was. He was eventually caught and hanged. But there was a television series where he was the hero and did all sorts of good things against the corrupt establishment. What a travesty, but I thought it was brilliant until I learned the truth about the soulless thug in reality.

I put the parking ticket on the dashboard of the Porsche and we had to run to the clinic, where Dr Rose was running half an hour behind any way. Trish read the Financial Times while I amused myself with the Beano—okay, I’m joking. Trish was reading Wuthering Heights, quite why I didn’t know. I read it when I was about sixteen and it frightened the life out of me—the ghost rapping on the window—yeuch, makes me shudder just thinking about it—but then I was always suggestible.

Just before Sam Rose came out to get us my phone peeped and I had a text from James, just a couple of words—Arundel Cathedral. I had to read it twice, Margaret must have either been Roman Catholic or converted when she married Michael—though as a divorcee, I didn’t think the Catholic church would want anything to do with her. Oh well, if you have the money…

I went into Sam’s consulting room and we shook hands warmly. He also shook hands with Trish and said, “And how are you, young lady?”

“I’m fine thank you, Dr Rose—Mummy has put me on hormones, so I’m fine now thank you.”

He looked at me as if I’d just walked dog poo all over his best carpet. “Hormones?”

“Stephanie said she could have some plant phytogens.”

“I thought I was going to do some blood work today? Not a lot of point if you’ve started her on oestrogens is there, Doctor Cameron?”

“I’m sorry, Sam, I completely forgot about it…” We left Trish reading her book for a few moments while we spoke in the room next door. I explained what had happened and he nodded.

“So you gave in to her?”

“I thought I was just giving her the equivalent of a placebo?”

“All right. Take her home, I’ll see her in two weeks, stop the pills, I need to see what’s going on inside that little body. And you said Stephanie put Billie on Oestradiol?”

I nodded.

“I think I need some words with our little friend.”

“Billie was so down in the dumps, this has completely revitalised her even though she’s taking a very low dose.” I showed him the repeat prescription form.

He shook his head. “I’ll talk with Stephanie, take Einstein home and next time bring both of them in but stop the pills now. I’ll see them both in two weeks.”

“Yes, Dr Rose.” I felt about two inches tall.

“You’re welcome, Lady Cameron,” he said very stiffly.

“I’m sorry, Sam, I feel like a schoolgirl who’s just been told to stand outside the headmaster’s study.”

“Good,” he said, “Next time wear your uniform and be prepared for six of the best.”

“What?” I gasped—had I heard him right?

“That woke you up—didn’t it?” he roared with laughter and I blushed furiously.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1319

I took Trish straight back to school and knew I’d have ructions with both Billie and her when they found out they couldn’t have any pills for two weeks. But that was for later, I had other fish to fry.

I called Jenny and asked her to look after Puddin’ and Catherine because I had to go somewhere. She quite happily agreed, in fact when she’d arrived at the house this morning, she had a faraway look in her eye, so I suspect she had a good seeing to last night, which was more than I’d had—I’d had a cold shoulder, which I probably deserved—my Sagittarian tact had struck again. If all diplomats were like me, wars would have stopped years ago—as we became extinct.

I popped into the nearest supermarket and then after filling the tank with diesel, drove off to the motorway, heading east. Half an hour later I was stuck in traffic on the Chichester bypass and about half an hour after that I was negotiating my way up the hill in Arundel.

I was dressed fairly casually, in light green cord trousers and white top with a fleece gillet in an olive colour. It was a bright day, although the wind had a cool edge to it, so it was a day to keep on the move if you were caught by the wind.

I found the cathedral—it’s a large building and quite striking. However, I wasn’t here to explore architecture or even history, I was doing some detective work, and was glad I’d fortuitously chosen my lace up flatties if I was going to be wandering around a cemetery.

I paid for a couple of hours parking, another rip off, and entered the churchyard. Somewhere in the back of my mind I had a feeling that Catholics who topped themselves weren’t allowed to be buried in consecrated ground, however, I assumed that such things were mere technicalities when it came to wealthy people. After all, they spent years selling absolution to the rich from the mediaeval period onwards, so they were well versed in making accommodations.

There were no graves at the cathedral and while I was wandering round, someone who was doing maintenance asked if he could help. I said I was looking for someone’s grave and he pointed me over towards the London Road and the cemetery at St Mary’s. I looked puzzled and when I explained I was looking for someone who may have been Roman Catholic he told me their cemetery was in Bognor Regis.

Strange town this. I thanked him and wandered over to St Mary’s. Quarter of an hour later and I found what I was looking for a joint grave of Michael Dallimore and his wife, Margaret who died in 1997 and 1998 respectively. Perhaps they weren’t Catholic after all, I’d only assumed it because the cathedral is a Catholic one. James was wrong, but near enough right for me to rectify the error. I walked back to the car and picked the bunch of flowers I’d bought at the supermarket—some yellow roses, for remembrance.

There was a small vase thing at the grave which was marked by a single headstone with both names on it. I nipped the ends off the stalks with my penknife and poured a bottle of water into the vase then placed the flowers in it with a sachet of plant food.

I looked about me and there was no one within hearing range, so I told the grave that they had been remembered by her daughter-in-law who shared her sadness. I had validated her pain as best I could and looking at my watch I realised I had to get back to Portsmouth and collect the girls.

I’d just trudged back to the car and was thinking about grabbing a sandwich somewhere when my mobile rang. It was Simon, and I felt incredibly guilty.

“Where are you?” he asked me.

“I’m looking at some woodland near Chichester, why?”

“Damn, I was hoping we could have had some lunch together. I was a bit angry last night and didn’t have a chance to speak with you this morning—I had an eight o’clock meeting scheduled—I meant to say last night, but your asking questions about my mother put it straight out of my mind.”

“Why can’t we do it tomorrow, at least I’d be prepared for it then instead of surveying woodlands?” I was lying through my teeth and I felt incredibly guilty. If he knew where I was, he’d be furious.

“Let me see, yeah, I could do that—dress up smart and we’ll go somewhere nice.”

“Are you buying?” I asked cheekily.

“Don’t I always?”

“You do seem to like a traditional role in that regard.”

“Okay, I have sucker written all over me.”

“Yes, but you are a very generous one.”

“Aren’t I just? Okay, I’ll have a sandwich, what’s for dinner?”

“What d’you fancy?”

“Apart from you, my angelic wife, who wants to make everyone happy, nothing—you are my sustenance and sufficiency.”

“Are you turning cannibal or something?”

“No, but if I was, you’d be the one I’d want to eat, you always look good enough for me.”

“I’ve got so many oestrogens in me, if you ate me you’d begin changing sex.”

“Maybe I’ll start with the kids then.”

“They’d be less chewy and fatty.”

“That’s very true. Okay, gotta go, see you tonight.”

“All right, darling, I’ll cook something nice.” He rang off and I texted James to tell him he had the wrong church.

He texted back: ‘Oops, was close though. J 

I suppose I should be grateful I wasn’t bombing the area that could have been embarrassing not to mention antisocial. Like the cruise missile that NATO fired on Belgrade hitting the Chinese embassy because they had the wrong map or something.

I spotted a small general stores and they had sandwiches, so I bought a tuna in wholemeal bread one, and a bottle of water—the flowers had drunk my previous one. I ate it as I drove back to Portsmouth making sure I didn’t pass any police cars while waving my bread about—apparently it’s an offence to eat and drive—must be illegal to get crumbs all over the car or something: I mean it can’t be a safety issue, can it? If they were sincere about road safety, they wouldn’t let anyone under twenty-five near a car, and boys should be forty before they’re allowed to drive unless they’ve had the boy racer part of their brains removed.

I got back to the school with about twenty minutes to spare and I spent the time thinking about what we could eat—then it came to me. As soon as the girls were in the car, I drove off to a specialist butcher’s shop I know and bought three pounds of special sausages—pork and leek flavour, then we went to the supermarket and got a large bag of potatoes—King Edwards—and as soon as we got home, I put the sausages in the oven and began peeling several pounds of spuds to do sausage and mash for Simon, it might expiate some of my guilt.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1320

Simon enjoyed his sausages; I didn’t, they nearly choked me being swallowed by the same mouth which had lied to him. I felt ill and had to rise from the table and rush to the loo.

I had lied to him before—hell, my whole life in the beginning was a lie, sometimes I wonder if it is now, pretending to be female, pretending to be a mother, pretending to be a wife and pretending to be a daughter. I was one great big ball of deceit. Not only that but I was encouraging three young pretenders to follow my deceitful example.

I knelt down in front of the pan and vomited until my stomach was dry retching and I felt like shit. I knelt there, hands resting on the top of the porcelain of the bowl, the whole room filled with the stench of vomit, my eyes running and mouth tasting foul.

“Are you all right, Babes?”

“No,” I whimpered and began to cry.

He pushed open the door and squeezed in, “Here, let’s open a window, shall we?” He leant across me and clicked open the fanlight. He lifted me away from the toilet and put the seat and cover down, then pulled the flush. “C’mon, up to bed with you.”

“I’ll be okay in a minute,” I protested.

“I know, because you’ll be in bed.” He took my hand and gently but firmly pulled me out of the door and then led me upstairs to the bedroom. I was snivelling all the time. He sent me to go and brush my teeth and change into my pyjamas—blue and white striped ones like Andy Pandy.

When I was finished, he led me to our bed and made me get in it. “There’s something need to tell you.”

“Never mind, Babes, it’ll keep ‘till the mornin’.”

“No it won’t, Simon; I have to tell you now.”

He sat on the bed beside me and held my hand and nodded for me to proceed.

“I wasn’t doing a woodland survey.” I sobbed, thoroughly ashamed of myself.

“I see, so what were you doing—having an affair?”

“No, I’d never do that to you—you must believe me.”

“But you lied to me, Babes.”

“I know, I couldn’t bring myself to tell you what I was doing.”

“So what were you doing?”

“You’re going to be cross with me.”

“Will I? I’d like to hear what it was that was so important that you couldn’t tell me about it.”

“I wasn’t in Chichester, I was in Arundel.”

“Well that’s hardly a crime is it?”

“I went to lay flowers on Margaret’s grave.”

“After I asked you not to poke about any further?”

“Yes,” I squeaked and sobbed, “I felt so sad for her and had to do something.”

“But you couldn’t tell me?”

I shook my head, “No, I’m sorry.”

“So what d’you think I should do?”

I shrugged, “I don’t know,” I felt tears roll down my face and drip onto my lap.

“Hmmm, I guess you had this coming, here wipe your face.” He handed me a tissue and I did so expecting him to say something awful and to decamp in high dudgeon to the hotel for a few days to punish me.

I wiped my face and for the first time since we’d come into the room, I looked him in the eye. If he was angry, he was hiding it very well.

He pulled me close to him and kissed me. “I should have done that last night, but I was too big a fool to realise it. I did a lot of thinking last night about how I’d been ashamed of my father and my mother—him for being a total dick and her for running off and leaving us. How could a mother do that to her children?—but she did.”

“You can’t judge her like that, Si, you don’t know how ill she might have been.”

“You wouldn’t run off and leave your children behind, would you?”

“I don’t know, Si, we can all do crazy things if we’re in enough pain. It isn’t for me to judge others—I’ve done that in the past and been very wrong.”

“Are you sure you don’t have wings under that pyjama top?”

“What d’you mean?”

Before I could say anything else he pulled my top off me and pushed me back on the bed, “No wings, just these water wings,” he said leaning over and kissing my breasts.

“If you’re going any further, hadn’t you better lock the door?”

He got off the bed and turned the key in the door, then sat on the bed again. “It’s I who should apologise to you. I was out of order last night which was why I wanted to take you to lunch to apologise—hell—I left an orchid in the car.” He jumped up, and after undoing the door ran downstairs. I pulled my top back on and slipped into my slippers and dressing gown and went downstairs.

“What’re you doing down here?” he demanded of me handing me the most exquisite phalaenopsis in cream and mauve colours.

“I need a cuppa, Simon, and this is absolutely beautiful,” I kissed him, “thank you.”

“Back up to bed, I’ll bring you up a cuppa.”

“What about the children, it’s only half past seven?”

“Jenny will sort them, and Tom will help, so off you go—bed, young lady.”

“Can I take my flower with me?”

“If you like.”

I did like and carried my precious cargo up the stairs and placed it on the window sill. There were at least a dozen buds on it and the flowers were so beautiful it was almost painful to behold. I stood looking at it while I waited for Simon and my tea.

He arrived five or ten minutes later and I could have told him there were fourteen buds on my plant because I’d counted them a dozen times. I was really pleased with it but I felt unworthy. I’d upset him and he was apologising for being upset. It didn’t make sense in some ways.

He’d brought up a pot of tea, some cups and some milk. There were also some plain chocolate hobnobs.

“This doesn’t make sense, Si—I upset you and you’re apologising. Shouldn’t it be the other way round?”

“You’ve apologised for deceiving me, I’m apologising for being unnecessarily brusque last night.”

“But it was my fault, I pushed your buttons because I wondered if you needed to talk about it. You obviously didn’t but I didn’t take the hint. It’s I who should apologise for intruding in your grief.”

“Shall I be mother?” he asked pouring the tea.

“You have about as much chance as I do,” I quipped back.

“Now don’t you start that again, you’ve got a lovely bunch of kids and no stretch marks—be grateful for small mercies.”

I accepted the cup and smiled at him, sometimes he could be very funny. We sat and drank the tea and I scoffed two biscuits.

“All that sicking-up, that was just nerves was it?” he asked.

I nodded and felt my eyes fill with tears again.

“Why?” he asked.

“Because I lied to you, because I was doing something against your wishes.” I began to feel tears running down my face. “I lied to the person I love—love is based on honesty—I failed you.”

I felt his arm round me, “Don’t be silly, look we both misunderstood each other. You were trying to help me and I felt you were lifting the mats and looking underneath. It hurt and I got angry. Then I thought about it and realised I hadn’t let go of my anger and my grief—I was still a kid, a very angry one. You released it all and took it full in the face. I’m sorry.”

“Oh,” I said almost in astonishment.

“I needed to let it go and move on—now I feel I can, because you made me think about it.”

“I laid some flowers on her grave, told her who I was and that I’d take care of you.”

“Perhaps I need to go and do the same—you know, closure and all that stuff.”

“If you want me to come, I’d be happy to.”

“Yeah, that would be good. Now about these water wings…” he pushed me back on the bed and began pushing his hands up my pyjama top…

The Daily Dormouse Part 1321

I slept that night better than I have for quite some time. I relaxed into Simon’s arms and went out like a light waking at six the next morning. Simon was still asleep when I showered, although he was awake when I returned to the bedroom wrapped in a towel with my hair in a turban.

“Yum, I like what I see,” he said, licking his lips.

“I have just spent the past fifteen minutes washing away your body fluids, if you think you’re going to repeat the exercise, think again, buster,” I replied, towelling my hair from sopping to damp. Of course in moving my arms the bath towel tucked around my breasts came undone and dropped to the floor before I could grab it.

Simon wolf whistled and I blushed. I have no idea how many times he’s seen me starkers but today I found it embarrassing.

“You know, for someone who’s got half a dozen children, you still have quite a body on you?”

“Yeah, last night it was your body,” I quipped back.

“Eh?”

“I have quite a body on me, last night it was your body that was on me.”

“Why do women always take things literally and out of context?”

“I don’t know, why do we?” I shrugged drying under my breasts where the moisture always remains.

“Duh—that’s why I was asking.”

“Was it?” I turned my back on him and began rubbing a moisturiser cream all over my body—it get’s drier since I had surgery. I rubbed an extra amount on the scar where the knife had entered my chest and penetrated my lung. In lots of ways, I was lucky to be alive.

“God, you have a wonderful arse,” he offered from the bed.

I turned round to view it in the mirror, “Do I? I always thought it was a bit big—all that cycling.”

“No, it’s just right,” he slipped out of bed with a tent in his underpants, “Like the rest of you.”

“Go and have a wee before you do yourself an injury,” I said lightly flipping the tent pole.

“Ouch, do you know how much that stings?” he whined, almost running into the loo.

“No,” I answered, and it was true, I didn’t and that wasn’t a case of convenient memory, I just didn’t remember ever getting an erection. Obviously in my case, something didn’t go quite right. I’m happy now that it didn’t because I have more than I ever dreamt I’d have—a husband and family, and a reasonably interesting life—sometimes even a fulfilling one. If someone had told me all this before I went out on the bike that eventful day, I wouldn’t have believed any of it—least of all being married and having children—okay, adopting children. I owe a lot of my happiness to cycling—well that, and a certain homicidal nurse.

I heard the shower running and by the time I was dressed, Simon had washed and dried himself. However, instead of donning his usual white shirt and suit, he pulled on a checked shirt and a pair of corduroy trousers. I glanced at him in surprise.

“Are you not going into the office today?” I asked him.

“No, what are your plans?”

“Nothing that can’t be rescheduled, except taking the girls to school; why?”

He looked at what I was wearing, it was jeans and a tee shirt. “It’s a good job your bum looks good in those.”

“Why? What did you have in mind—but if you want me to change, you’d better say what for?”

“Nah, you’ll be all right I suppose.”

“For what?” I was now feeling irritated by his evasiveness.

“To be introduced to my mother and stepfather.”

“You want to go to Arundel?”

“Yes, strike while the iron’s hot—you said you’d come?”

“I did and I meant it. D’you want me to wear a skirt?”

“Might be nice—you’re always in jeans these days.”

“Okay, I’ll change, can you get the girls up and Danny and Julie.”

He went off to wake the troops and I slipped off my jeans and pulled up a pair of tights in shiny, black, opaque material: over these I pulled up a Cameron tartan ladies kilt, which is primarily bright red, and matched it with a black tee shirt. I slipped on my ankle boots, they only have a two inch heel, so I could walk comfortably in them.

I did my makeup, eyeliner and mascara—I’d do some lipstick after breakfast, and opted for a plain gold bangle and gold coloured watch. I put a gold herringbone necklace on and some gold hoop earrings.

I’d combed my hair into a down job, brushing it under at the ends, so it was like a long bob cut and sprayed myself with some eau de toilette—Chanel No5. I’d wear my red jacket with it and use a black bag to match my boots.

The girls were pleased to have their daddy with them for breakfast but I got cross because they were dithering and breakfast was getting messy and running late. I did manage to get a cuppa but that was about it, and I didn’t see Si eat very much. Finally, I got them ready to leave, brushed my teeth and used a reddish toned lipstick, gave myself a further squirt of Chanel, and shepherded them out to the car.

When Simon came out too, and we had to squeeze them all into the back of the Cayenne, they were curious as to where we were going.

“Where are you going, Mummy?” asked Trish.

“Who said I’m going anywhere?”

“You’re wearing makeup and smart clothes,” she countered.

“So, occasionally I like to be a bit smarter when doing my shopping.”

Shopping?” she gasped, “An’ I have to go to dull old school.”

“If I had told you two years ago that you’d be a proper girl and going to a girl’s school, what would you have said?”

“I dunno—probably wouldn’t have believed you.”

“Would you have been excited or pleased?”

“Yes, ’course I would.”

“Well, just be excited and pleased ’cos that’s where you’re going.”

“Duh,” she complained, “That’s no fair, you cheated.”

“Nice bit of Socratic questioning,” commented Simon.

“Was it?” I asked, unaware that it had a name.

“Yeah, by selective questioning you cause the other person to change their statement and hopefully their argument; barristers do it all the time.”

“Perhaps I should have done law, I always fancied myself in a gown and wig.”

“Kinky—eh?” Simon chuckled to himself.

“They wear clothes as well, you nit.”

“Damn,” he said and laughed to himself.

“Is Daddy, alwight?” asked Mima.

“Yes, just his dirty sense of humour, Meems, trying to imagine me wearing very few clothes.”

“Oh, siwwee Daddy.”

“I’m glad you didn’t do law, Babes.”

“Why?”

“Well, when Stella knocked you off your bike that day, you’d have sued the arses off us, wouldn’t you? Then, I’d never have got to meet you except in court.”

“I still could sue you—claiming I was just an ordinary bloke till the accident when I started to think I was a woman.”

“You what?” he gasped and nearly drove my car into the back of a lorry.

I chuckled and smirked at him.

“You were already taking pills before then—your medical records would show it.”

I laughed loudly, “Si, sometimes you are so gullible.”

“Bleh,” he said poking out his tongue at me.

The girls giggled behind us although I’m not sure they understood what we were talking about. Part of me hoped they didn’t.

We dropped them off at school, Simon walking them in with me. Fortunately we didn’t see the headmistress, although I made a mental note to look out my rather crumpled copy of the Scottish play and start learning the lines.

Back in the car, we’d held hands as we walked back, he commented, “Getting into character, are you?”

“Character?”

“The tartan—Lady M—no?”

“If I was, it was purely unconscious—in fact I hadn’t thought any more about it.”

“So why the tartan?”

“I thought it might be nice for me to identify with your family as we’re going to meet your mother.”

“God, I hope we don’t meet her,” he winced, “She’s been dead since ninety eight.”

“I was using the term in a very general sense.”

“Yeah, okay—there’s got to be a florist’s in Arundel, so I’ll stop when we get there and buy a bouquet to put on the grave.”

“Okay,” I sat back and listened to Women’s Hour on Radio Four.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1322

I must have nodded off listening to the radio because I woke up as the car came to a stop and the handbrake was applied. I tried to get my bearings, but all I could see were parked cars.

“This isn’t Arundel, is it?” I asked yawning.

“No, it’s a restaurant—you didn’t have any breakfast and I think you should.”

“I’ll be okay, we can have lunch afterwards.”

“Breakfast—now, or we turn round and go home.”

“Oh okay, just a piece of toast will do, I’m not very hungry.”

We went into the place and took a table in the corner where we could watch the car park and the traffic going past. Simon went off to order and returned a few moments later with a pot of tea, some hot water, two cups and some milk. “The toast is coming, I’m having this,” he pointed to a large cream horn, which looked delicious—maybe I’d spoken too soon about toast.

Ten minutes later, a waitress appeared with two poached eggs on toast. Simon pointed at me and the waitress placed the plate in front of me and handed me the cutlery wrapped in a pink paper napkin.

“I thought I asked for toast.”

“That’s what you’ve got—now shut up and eat it.”

I glowered at him but he just smirked back. I’m going to have to watch this assertive behaviour from him, he might just start to like it. I ate and enjoyed the eggs and the toast, and washed them down with a second cup of tea. Then after a comfort stop—I touched up my lipstick in the ladies—we were back on the road to Arundel.

“Does that feel better?” he asked after I burped.

“Yes, thank you.”

“You shouldn’t skimp on breakfasts you know.”

“Yes, dear,” I replied.

“I mean it, I want you to eat something every day.”

“I already do, this morning was exceptional.”

“Hmm, it had better’ve been.”

I felt like saying to him—“Whatcha gonna do about it?” but resisted the temptation. I would ignore him as usual. I decide what I eat, not him. Actually, I decide what everyone eats, so he’d better behave himself or he’ll be on a strict diet. I really did feel like challenging him, but I let it drop—we had a traumatic time approaching and this Lord and Master stuff might be related to some bravado to deal with that.

We passed through the outskirts of Chichester and I knew we wouldn’t be long getting to Arundel from there. Today the traffic seemed lighter, or perhaps I was just on edge yesterday? I don’t know. Despite worrying what Simon would do when we got to the cemetery, I felt reasonably relaxed and sat back in the chair and burped again. Simon looked at me and sniggered.

“It could be worse,” I said looking straight ahead.

“Ah yes, Wind in the Willows,” he said and sniggered afresh.

I wasn’t going to get into fart jokes with him because he’d become an insufferable schoolboy in seconds. Besides which thinking about flatulence had made me realise that I did actually want to pass wind from a southerly direction—so spent the next ten minutes trying to keep my buttocks clenched without grimacing. Eventually, it slipped out quietly and without any great smell.

“Feel better now?” he asked, still bloody sniggering.

“About what?”

“Letting go an SBD.”

“Letting go—I don’t follow you.”

“You just farted—a Silent But Deadly—didn’t you do the classification of farts when you were in school?”

“No of course not.”

“Far too vulgar for a girly place like Bristol Grammar, eh?”

“Probably,” I looked out the side window pretending that the conversation was of no particular interest to me, although I could feel myself getting hotter.

“Let me see if I can remember them all…”

“Simon, I’d really prefer it if you didn’t.”

“Why, in case you emit any further categories?”

“Don’t be ridiculous, I just find the whole subject rather puerile.”

“’Course it is, but Uganda or some other tin-pot state is going to make it illegal to fart in public.”

“I can’t say I know enough about it.”

“Well just remember, another of those places is trying to make homosexual activities punishable by death.”

“I heard about that, there was a real outcry. If I recall, it was being funded and stirred up by some American evangelicals.”

“Evil-jellicles, more like,” he said turning into the main road into Arundel.

I ignored him, letting him deal with his tension.

“You know you could download a cure for being gay from your I-pod? Well, I’m wondering how you could download a cure for proselytes—maybe download a hand grenade and tell ’em to shove it where the sun don’t shine.”

I didn’t actually disagree with him in principle, but I felt I needed to calm him down. “Si, why are you getting uptight about gay issues—you’re not gay, and neither am I?”

“Because, the next target is usually transgenders, and while you might be fireproof, Julie, Billie and Trish aren’t—not yet anyway.”

“Okay, that could be true but I think it’s unlikely. The law is quite good in protecting us now.”

Us? I thought you were cured and female?”

“I didn’t like to say them, when I’d done the same thing myself.”

“Oh, okay—but you’re female now—all legal and above board and so is Trish, as soon as Billie and Julie get themselves replumbed, I’ll get the solicitor to get them re-registered.”

“I didn’t know you’d done Trish—I mean sent in her application?”

“Yeah, and I changed her name to Patricia Cameron on her birth certificate.”

“Does she know?”

“Yeah, ’course she does.”

“I wish you’d told me, darling.” I felt quite cross about this.

“I wanted it to be a surprise.”

“It’s certainly that—I wouldn’t have thought she qualified?”

“Just. I checked with them.”

“She must be about the youngest then?”

“I didn’t ask.”

“There’s a florists, if you stay here you can move the car if necessary.” He left it, engine running, hazard lights flashing, on a set of double yellow lines. I stayed in the passenger seat watching out for traffic wardens—I also let go another of his classified bum burps—probably a—oh, you don’t really want to know that do you—too much information.

Simon came back about ten minutes later with a huge bouquet the bottom of which was tied to form a reservoir of water with several pints of fluid in it. He opened the back door and rested it on the floor behind us.

“You’ll have to guide me,” he said and I directed him towards the cathedral and then round the corner to St Mary’s and the cemetery. I glanced at my watch, it was half past eleven.

We parked on the road outside the cemetery and I could feel my blood pressure rising and my heart hammering inside my chest. I watched Simon, who having switched off the engine, sat staring through the windscreen at nothing in particular.

I was aware of feeling warmer perhaps even approaching hot as we sat there, the sun pouring through the closed windows of the car. I waited and waited for Simon to be ready to do this—he could bail out at any time if he needed, but I had faith in him overcoming his demons. This was his mother’s grave and he’d never seen it, wasn’t even sure where it was. It was a big step for him although I was there to help and support him, he had to do this himself.

I felt a trickle of sweat run down my back and part of me wondered if the tights would be too hot—at this moment—the answer was yes. I could feel my panties sticking to my bum and I wanted to get out of the car and into the coolness of the breeze—but Simon was seemingly frozen in his seat.

I looked at him, I hoped with love and noticed tears running down his face—I swallowed and felt my own eyes moisten up.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1323

I have no idea how long we sat there, Simon sniffing back the tears and me just about holding back my own. I find it easier to endure my own pain than cope with that of my loved ones—and this is the man I love. Watching him struggle was like twisting a knife in my heart.

I was aware that some schools of psychology suggest that men and boys feel emotion more deeply than girls but have little or no mechanism to deal with it; possibly because in Western culture they are expected to soldier on no matter how hurt they feel. Men rarely focus on these sorts of issues and so don’t resolve them—they internalise them and who knows what effect that has in the long term for their health and life expectancy.

Simon was really in pain, struggling to understand what he was feeling and possibly unable to verbalise it and so share it with me, other than by my watching his agony. Who knows what it was dredging up and from what age.

I didn’t want to interrupt or interfere yet I needed, perhaps for my sake as much as his, to let him know that I was there for him and with him. I reached out and simply touched his hand. He looked at me almost as if he’d forgotten I was there, then with his face wet from tears he reached out to me and we embraced as much as we could in the front of the car.

“I’d forgotten how much I missed her,” he said after a few minutes.

“Then take some time to remember,” I counselled, “We can take as long as you need.”

“Thanks,” he sniffed, “I feel completely stupid—I’m sorry I’m such a mess.”

“Never apologise for loving your mother and missing her, at least not to me. I miss mine every day.”

“Do you?” he said holding me away so he could look into my eyes.

“Of course I do, every time I do something wifely for you or mother the children, I think of her—in some ways I seem to have become her.”

“Like mother like daughter, eh?”

“Yeah, in lots of ways.”

“I hope to God I don’t turn out like my father—or that aspect of him.”

“The infidelity bit?”

“Yes—I’d kill myself first.”

“No, darling, that would be my job.”

He looked at me possibly not having heard exactly what I’d said, then a moment later when he’d processed it, he looked at me and chuckled—“I believe you would, too.”

“I hope we never find out, husband o’ mine.”

“Amen to that, missus wife.”

We both laughed and hugged again. “You are so good to me, Cathy—my own little angel.”

“Yeah, fallen variety—phew, it’s getting warm in here—d’you mind if we open the window or door?”

“Oh sorry, Babes, too wrapped in my own misery to notice yours. Let’s go for a walk, eh?”

We exited the car and he wiped his eyes in his hankie, then we wandered down towards the cathedral. It only took us a few minutes but the cooling breeze helped my overheating, and I slipped off my jacket and carried it over my arm.

“C’mon, let’s do it,” said Simon, turning me back to face up the hill towards the cemetery.

“Are you sure? You don’t have to, you know?”

“Yeah, I’m as sure as I ever will be—and with you by my side, I can deal with anything.”

I squeezed his hand and he stopped and kissed me and hugged me in the middle of the street. We continued waking somewhat red faced when someone from a passing car shouted, “Get a room, will ya?”

“Charming,” commented Simon looking back at the fellow.

“Ignore him, darling, maybe he’s never been in love himself.”

“Probably not, with a face like that, his only relationship has been with his left hand,” Simon said as we strolled back to the car. It took me a moment to understand what he’d said. Then I sniggered. “What’re you laughing at?”

“What you just said.”

“Eh—that wasn’t funny, was it?”

“I’ve never heard it put like that before.”

“You did lead a sheltered life—are you sure it wasn’t in a Trappist convent somewhere?”

“I thought Trappists were all men?”

“Okay, a silent order for women then.”

“Given my record on religion, would you not consider that unlikely even taking my previous health issues into account?”

“Why do women always take everything so literally?”

“I wasn’t, was I?”

“I’m not discussing this now, let’s get the flowers, say hi to my ma and get the hell out of here.”

He opened the car and picked out the bouquet, some of the buds were beginning to open because of the warmth in the car. He took my red blazer and went to put it in the car, but I took it back and slipped it back on. “Got to be on my best behaviour in front of my mother-in-law,” I teased.

“Don’t worry about that, had she been alive, she’d have loved you as much as we all do,” he said and I slipped my arm through his.

I steered him to the grave where he paused and looked at the gravestone for a moment or two.

“So that’s where you’ve been hiding all these years,” he said to the stone. “I’ve brought you some flowers.” He placed them beside the stone, next to the roses I’d brought the day before.

“Hi, Mum, this is Cathy, though I understand you’ve already met. She’s a girl in a million and I’m so lucky to have found her and have her agree to marry me. We’ve got loads of children, all as lovely as my darling wife but none as special—well not to me.”

He stared at the gravestone and I saw the tears run down his face again. “I miss you, Mum, I really do. I have to go now.”

He broke free of my arm and almost ran off to the other side of the graveyard. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him walk over to the wall and lean against it his face in his hands. This was really cutting him up.

I stayed at the graveside, giving him some space. “He’s a good man, but like most men has some problems with emotional stuff—but he does try and he does listen, sometimes—and I love him. I don’t know if we’ll ever come back again to see you, but at least you know he loved you. I’ll try and take care of him for you, as much as he’ll let me. Goodbye, Margaret, rest in peace.”

Simon was still standing against the wall with his back to me and the grave. It was all too much for him, confronting his pain and loss—but he’d started the process and although I suspected he had some way to go, it would enable him to integrate it into his present life instead of having it locked away in his memory threatening to break out at any time and overwhelm him.

I walked slowly but purposefully towards him, laying my hand on his shoulder as I reached him, then gently slid it down to his waist and pulled him to me. He put his arm across my shoulders and drew my face to his.

“Thanks for being there,” he said and kissed me. “An’ thanks for being you.”

“I love you, Simon Cameron, did I ever tell you?” I teased.

“No, but it’s a lovely surprise,” he teased back.

“C’mon, let’s go home,” I said quietly and steered him back towards the car.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1324

I drove us back to Portsmouth Simon was completely exhausted and slept for part of the journey. I’d called Tom and asked him to collect the girls, which he grumbled about but agreed to do. I did however tell him he could have a chicken curry take-away and his mood suddenly improved—his usual eatery was being refurbished which he thought was outrageous.

Simon was asleep when I parked outside the Indian takeaway and ordered a pile of curry rice and poppadoms with onion bhajjis and so on. I don’t like Indian food, so decided I’d quickly do myself a tuna jacket potato with some salad while the others were eating.

Which is what happened—Tom grumbled that the curry was too mild, even though I’d got him the hot one, or so I’d thought. The children all tucked into theirs and even Jenny had some. I was the only one who had something different, eating after the others had finished.

Simon had picked up after his meal and went out for a walk with the girls and the dog, Julie was doing something with Jenny’s hair, so it was Tom who stayed with me while I ate. He wanted to know what was going on with Simon and me—we rarely go off together during the week—so I told him we’d gone to visit Simon’s mother’s grave. As a regular visitor to his wife’s grave, he went quiet after that, which was just as well because I wouldn’t have told him any more if he’d asked.

I finished my meal and we chatted while I made and drank some tea, Daddy had a glass of beer having bought a box of cans of McEwan’s. If it had been warmer, I might have joined him, but a cuppa perked me up and I cleared the kitchen dumping all the foil containers from the curries in the bin—sadly, no one seems to recycle it.

Daddy went off to his study and his single malt, and I started to re-familiarise myself with the Scottish play—what had I got myself into this time?

It was after seven when Simon came back with the girls and one tired spaniel. He looked much better and I think he found the company of the children reassuring given the strains of the trip to Arundel.

In bed that night, we just cuddled and for a change, I cuddled into his back and held him while he fell asleep. Of course, I couldn’t help thinking back over what had happened. I don’t believe in any sort of afterlife, suspecting it’s just a con perpetrated by the major religions, although I’d had several experiences I couldn’t explain with people I knew to be dead.

It didn’t exactly worry me, because I’m aware that the mind can play all sorts of tricks on us and we can believe that what was just a dream really happened.

I was in my old home in Bristol and my mother called me. I clomped down the stairs—stilettos tend to make descents a trifle risky. “You and those silly shoes—they’ll make your feet bad one day, my girl, just you wait and see.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“That’s a nice skirt—another new one—I take it? It’s too short of course.”

“I knew you’d say that, you always do.”

“Don’t you talk back to me, young lady, or I’ll get your father to stop your clothing allowance.”

I felt myself getting very warm as she scrutinised my face. “Do you need to wear so much makeup? You’d better go before your father sees you—he’ll make you wash it off—and what have you got on your nails—blue? Blue nail varnish?” She shook her head in disbelief.

I didn’t care, I liked it and it matched my denim outfit, and high heeled boots.

As I was about to leave, I pulled a bunch of flowers from behind my back and her mood softened considerably—nothing like bribery and corruption.

“Will you put flowers on my grave?” she asked nearly knocking me over.

“You’re gonna like, live for years yet, Mummy.”

“Well I hope so, long enough to see you married and my grandchildren growing up.”

I kissed her on the cheek and left.

I woke feeling very strange. I’d remembered the dream in sufficient detail to realise it had never happened unless it was in a parallel universe. To start with, she only met me once as Cathy, yet that was what she’d called me. I did have some blue nail varnish but not at sixteen or seventeen, and I only ever put it on my toes not my fingers.

As for grandchildren, I would never have produced any as a woman unless something magical had happened and that wasn’t going to either. I lay there thinking about my mum, it was true, I thought about her often—especially when I was laying the law down to the children—I didn’t so much think of her as become her—frightening or what?

I went for a wee—too much tea before bed—and walking back to bed I remembered her comment about flowers on her grave. I hadn’t been to see the grave, even when I’d been in Bristol—tomorrow, I’d put that right.

I did eventually go back to sleep and slept through until the morning. I woke feeling tired, hardly surprising given my lack of sleep. Simon, however, woke looking better than he had for a few days. He smiled and hugged me, “Thanks for being there—and for being you.”

I was tempted to go into the old argument about who else could be, but refrained, I was glad I did in the end.

“You know,” he said, “I feel so much better—I know it isn’t over yet, but the void that’s been such a hole in my life has closed somewhat. I have you to thank for that.”

“Not really, darling, I reckon you were ready to take that step, I was merely a catalyst.”

“The best looking one I’ve ever seen,” he smiled at me and rubbed his finger on my cheek. “You are one fine lookin’ woman, Ellie-Mae.”

“Who is Ellie-Mae?” I asked in mock horror.

“I dunno, do I?”

“Well why did you say it then?”

“It seemed like a good idea at the time.”

“So it was a joke?”

“Yeah, if you like.”

“So I’m not a fine lookin’ woman then?” Not that I felt very good looking—in fact I didn’t even feel pretty enough to be ugly. My eyes were probably bloodshot and had dark circles under them, my tongue would be grey and as furry as mouldy bread and my hair probably looked like I’d been pulled the length of a hedge, through its thickest parts.

Simon looked at me, “One day, little girl, you are going to believe me when I say I love you and I think you’re the most beautiful woman on this planet.”

“I go with the first part, it’s the second which may be taken as a minority opinion or view.”

“What? If you bullshit this well, how come you haven’t got your PhD yet?”

“Sorry?”

“You just said a whole pile of gobbledygook, worthy of any doctoral dissertation.”

“All I said was if you think I’m the most beautiful woman in the world, then you’re in a minority of one—but then they say that love is blind.”

“Yeah so—your point is?”

“I need a wee,” I said and rolled off the bed.

“You always do this to me, push off for a pee when the going gets tough.”

“If I didn’t go now, you might end up drowning in your own bed—my bladder is about to go pop.” I went into the bathroom not hearing whatever it was he called after me.

He pushed into the bathroom with me, “I said, don’t pull the flush—I need one, too.”

“Oh—save water…”

“…bath with a friend,” he completed the silly joke that had been around for years. “How about we shower with a friend?” he asked.

“Which friend did you have in mind?” I asked him with a deadpan face.

“Bloody-hell, come back Stella, all is forgiven.”

The Daily Dormouse Part 1325

I suddenly realised that it was a Saturday and that it was two weeks to Easter, which meant the children were now on holiday. That could be a help and a hindrance. Showering with Simon reminded me of how much time we seemed to have before we were knee deep in offspring—sadly none of it ours, except by dint of legal process. However we loved them and I hoped that they loved us.

Jenny was due the day off, because from Monday she was with us full-time the whole holiday. I was going to Bristol and putting some flowers on my parent’s grave whatever happened. I also wanted to check out the house. Although I paid someone for keeping it tidy and mowing the lawns, it wasn’t like seeing it myself.

Danny was playing football, and Simon agreed to go and watch him and take Meems with him, she wanted Puddin’ to go so he agreed to have her too. Julie was working but would help Si when she got home should I be delayed. I took Billie, Livvie and Trish with me and of course Catherine, who got to sit in the front seat as navigator.

By the time we’d had breakfast, and sorted the car seats, packed everything we’d need—like push chair and change of nappies—that sort of stuff, it was nine o’clock.

I kissed Si, Danny and Puddin’ goodbye and off we went. It’s a boring ride but fairly straightforward, and about an hour and a half later we were outside my parent’s house and unloading our stuff, including the large bouquet of flowers I’d purchased on the way up.

I had no choice, they’d all have to come with me to the cemetery as they were too young to leave on their own. However, I decided we’d have lunch first and Trish carried the food for making the sandwiches into the kitchen. I emptied the kettle and refilled it for making my tea—the girls would drink fruit squash.

Trish went to use the cloakroom and moments later, Billie, who’d been watching Catherine, went to do the same—Trish told her to go away. I heard the ruckus and told her to use the upstairs bathroom. She went up and I continued buttering the bread for our sandwiches.

I was just about to start the second round of bread when Billie called me from upstairs. Her tone was urgent, and while I had no idea what could be alarming her, I dropped everything and rushed up the stairs.

She was staring into what had been my parent’s bedroom. “What’s the matter, darling?”

She pointed and my eyes followed the line of her fingers and into the bedroom. In my parent’s bed were a young couple—very young, like fifteenish, the duvet pulled up to their necks—presumably for the same reason any of us do that—we have nothing on underneath. I stared at them for a moment and they blushed—so they were in the wrong and I wasn’t in the wrong house.

I sent Billie to the bathroom and walked into the bedroom, “Just who are you and what are you doing in my parent’s bed?”

“We didn’t know you were coming, we didn’t mean no ’arm, ’onest.” The boy spoke with a broad Bristolian accent, which I’ve more or less translated for you.

“How often have you done this?” I demanded rather than asked.

He blushed and was about to say this was the first time, when his girlfriend nudged him and he confessed, “This is the second time.” His eyes only flittingly met mine and hers didn’t at all.

“I see. Is this true?” I directed at the girl.

“Yes,” she said almost in a whisper, tears beginning to trickle down her cheeks. “I told you we shouldn’ta dunnit,” she accused him.

“I take it one of you must be related to Mrs Hardy,” my caretaker cum cleaner.

“She’s my mum,” said the boy very sheepishly.

“So you must be Josh?”

“Yeah,” he said and nodded.

“And you?” I asked the teen girl.

“Abbie.”

“And how old are you—and the truth, please?”

“Fifteen,” she said the tears flowing down her red face.

“And Josh, how old are you?”

“Fifteen,” he replied in a tone which if it had got any more sheepish would have been bleated to me.

“I believe that means in English law, you are both under the age of consent. That means I have to insist you stop your amorous activities and get yourselves dressed.”

“Are you going to tell my mother?” asked the boy.

“Do you think I should?”

“I dunno.”

“If you came into your parent’s house and found two underage kids bonking like bunnies in your parent’s bed, what would you do?”

He blushed so red I was worried he might spontaneously combust, “I dunno, tell ’em to clear off, I s’pose.”

“I’m within my rights to call the police.”

“Oh please don’t do that, lady,” implored the girl.

Billie reappeared at this point and I sent her down and told the others to stay downstairs.

“You’re acquainted with the police are you?” I asked her.

“Yeah,” she looked down at the bed.

“What for?”

“We done some shopliftin’ a couple a months ago.”

“I see. So should I call your parents?”

“They’re not in,” she said quickly.

Josh shrugged, “I cain’t stop ya.”

“True.” I pretended to muse for a few moments although I knew what I was going to say from the beginning. “Perhaps we can come to some sort of deal.” They both looked anxious but in favour of anything that kept their parents and the police out of things.

I looked at them. “We’ll discuss this downstairs, I’d be grateful if you got yourselves dressed and stripped the bed.” With that I shut the door and left them to it.

I was making sandwiches still, when they came down carrying the bedding. “Washing machine is through there,” I pointed to the utility room, “detergent and conditioner are on the top.” They both went through and I heard the washing machine door closed and the water run a few seconds later. They came back out looking very embarrassed in front of my giggling girls, even Catherine was giggling though possibly because the others were.

I marched them into the lounge, shutting out my gaggle of giggling girls, and told them to sit down. “How did you get in?”

Joshed showed me his mother’s key. “I came to mow the lawns.”

“And have you?”

“Not yet.”

“Okay, I think you’d better go and do it now.”

“Are you gonna tell my mum?” he asked.

“I might not if you do a good job in the garden. Have you had lunch?”

“I’m not very ’ungry.”

“That wasn’t what I asked?”

“No, miss.”

“Right, you go and mow the lawns,” I pointed at him. “Abbie, you come and help me do the lunch. Well come on, I’m sure you have other things to do afterwards.” They jumped up when my tone became more imperative.

I sent her to wash her hands, and introduced her to the rest of the squad. She was embarrassed and they were excited. I got Trish to lay the dining table and Abbie I left to wash the salad stuff. I finished the ham sandwiches and made the tea.

We called Josh in after he’d finished the front lawn and I asked him to put his shirt back on and to wash his hands then come to the table. It was excruciating for them to sit there and politely eat and drink while I breast fed Catherine and then had Trish feed her some babyfood.

When the machine finished, I made Abbie hang out the washing on the line while Josh finished the grass. When they were both finished, I pretended to inspect the grass.

“Okay, you can both go. If you give me your solemn word that you won’t do anything like this again, I won’t say anything to your parents. If I catch you at it again, I’ll call the police—not because I’m that upset by what you were doing but because you’re both too young to get saddled with a baby.

“I presume your mother gives you something for cutting the grass?”

“Yes, miss.”

“Okay, here’s another tenner, off you go—oh and Josh—I expect my lawns to be well looked after from now on.”

“Yes, miss.”

Abbie came up to me, “Thanks for not callin’ the police.”

“Go on—get lost, both of you before I change my mind.” They left arm in arm smirking like guilty teenagers always do.

“What were they doin’ upstairs, Mummy?” asked Trish smiling like a demon.

“You know jolly well what they were doing, which is why you asked me—go and put the dishes away and take that smile off your face you little squirt.” She pouted and went back into the kitchen, and I turned away so she couldn’t see me snigger.

I looked at the grass—he’d done a better job than I did when I had to do it. Oh well, a bit of a surprise but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.

The Daily Dormouse Part 1326

I explained why we’d come to Bristol, to put flowers on the graves of my real parents. The three of them were okay with that, and we set off with the flowers to the cemetery. I parked the car and set off to try and find their graves. Dad had got a headstone done with my mother’s name on it and I know he’d left instructions for what he wanted done when he died.

Fortunately the churchyard wasn’t that big and we found it about ten minutes later, or Billie did, she called us and when we walked over, discovered she had found the correct grave.

Like Simon yesterday, I had bouquet made up with reservoir of water in it, so the flowers would last a few days, depending upon the ravages of the weather. I couldn’t come again to water them, so this was a very temporary gesture.

I managed to prop the flowers up against the headstone and wanted to say loads of things to my parents even though I knew they couldn’t hear me. I felt embarrassed in front of my children. As if they sensed this, they asked if they could look inside the church. I agreed and they ran off giggling and squealing into the distance.

I checked all round me, there was no one else in sight. “Hi Mummy and Daddy, I brought you some flowers, to say I remembered you and the three hooligans who just ran off were three of my children—so you were right, Mummy, I do have lots of children and I teach them in the same way that you taught me how to look after themselves and that I love them very much.

“They’re all damaged or have problems, but I’ve adopted them—so we’re stuck with each other for the foreseeable future. I try to be a good mother to them, as I tried to be a good daughter to you—Daddy would know more about that, but well you know…

“I have to go now, see what my girls are up to, I love you both and you’re still in my thoughts. Goodbye for now.”

I chided myself as I walked back towards the church pushing the sleeping baby in her pushchair—fancy talking to two boxes of bones and decaying flesh as if they could hear me? When you’re dead—that’s it—fin—all over bar the tears of those who are still alive—but you can’t hear them.

There is no afterlife or life eternal or whatever the con-men of religion like to sell us, just nothingness. So why do we worry so much about it? The manner of dying—yes, I can understand that, pain, humiliation and so on—but once you’re dead—it’s all behind you anyway.

Despite the warmth of the day I shivered a little—nah, that’s just my imagination. I strolled round to the church and the girls were playing some sort of tag game in front of it. Laughing and giggling. Just then a figure began walking up the path—the only path—back to the car. It was the priest who’d buried both my parents.

Of course it had to be Trish who ran smack into him and nearly knocked them both flying. I then had to intervene. He was laughing with her and telling her to look where she was running next time. She laughed back.

As I walked towards them, I heard her telling him that her mummy was putting flowers on her mummy and daddy’s grave.

“Oh who was that?” I heard him ask.

“Derek and Fiona Watts,” she replied obviously having read it from the headstone.

He looked up and smiled at me coming towards him. “Hello again,” he said, “Catherine, isn’t it?”

“Yes, Reverend Peabody.” I’d always though pea-brain would be a better name but he was being polite, so I tried to return the courtesy.

“So how are things?”

“Fine thanks, I just popped by to put some flowers on my parent’s grave.”

“Yes, I’m sure they’d appreciate that. Look, I’m just locking up here, why don’t you come back to the vicarage and have a cup of tea and your girls could have a glass of pop.”

Before I could decline, the three of them whipped by Trish all declared for going back with the vicar. It was a fait accompli and I found myself being led past my car and along to the vicarage. I hadn’t been in there for years.

“You’ll have to excuse the mess—my wife’s up at her mother’s for the week—so I have to cope as best I can.”

“Look, if this is too much trouble…” I tried to excuse myself out of it.

“No, I insist, I’d love to hear how you’re getting on—I did enjoy your dormouse programme—your parents would have been so proud of you.”

I was so close to tears, that I could say nothing but mumble and accept the seat he offered me. The girls sat down and before I knew what was happening, they’d switched on the telly and were watching some cartoon show.

He came back with the teas, “Oh,” he said when he saw them watching the television.

“Sorry, I didn’t spot them until it was too late.”

“No problem, here you are girls.” He held out the tray and they each took a glass of lemonade. “Let’s go into the study, and they can watch their cartoons in peace.”

I followed him like a schoolgirl into the headmaster’s study, feeling I shouldn’t be here—this is enemy territory, but he was being so courteous.

I sat and accepted the mug of tea, rejecting the offer of sugar but accepting the milk. I sipped it, and as far as I could tell it wasn’t poisoned. So why was he being so nice?

“I know that we’ve had some differences in the past, I hope that we can overcome them with some Christian fellowship,” he started.

“As you know, Reverend, I’m agnostic so I’m not sure I can accede to your suggestion.”

“Oh,” he said, “How about common decency, does that fit the bill?”

“Yes okay, I can go with that.”

“Fine, don’t worry, I’m not going to preach at you. I saw how you looked after Derek when he was in hospital.”

“He didn’t tell me you went to see him,” I challenged already feeling mildly hostile.

“I asked him not to in case it put you off—you were doing him a lot more good than I could—if I’d made him some soup it would have likely poisoned him than nurtured him. You acted like a real daughter to him, in fact when I saw you together at your mother’s funeral, I could see the affection you both had for each other—despite your efforts to hide it from each other. I urged him to keep in touch with you, because you were his only child.”

I was gobsmacked: this wasn’t how I’d envisioned things at all. I had more a picture of him painting me as some sort of devil-worshipping abhorrent.

“This is all news to me,” I gasped rather than said.

“Things are changing all the time, Catherine, society, the church, the environment—everything changes and we must change to meet the challenges it gives us.”

“But you were so fundamentalist.”

“Only in some ways—I still don’t approve of homosexual priests or women bishops but I have to live in the times we inhabit.”

“But I assumed you’d disapprove of me?”

“Years ago, and without meeting you, I would have done. But I watched you grow up and the tension in you as you discovered science and how that drove you from God. But God works in mysterious ways, in the way He made you question His creation, He must also have made you question your identity.”

I wasn’t going to agree with him, but I wasn’t going to argue either—just drink my tea and go.

“As all things must originate in and from God, we have to accept that some of us are different and have to deal with that as best we can. I recognise you’re happier as Catherine than you were as Charles, and I also saw how well you’d accepted the role of a female when I saw you at the funeral and the way you looked after Derek. He came to see it too and regretted his being hard on you when you were younger.”

“I know we’d come to some sort of truce after he had his stroke, but I was never sure if he was doing it just to keep me onside.”

“No, not one bit—he loved you and came to realise he was wrong. We spent some time talking it over after your mother died.”

“So it was you who got him to contact me about the funeral?”

“He wanted to do it, but was frightened of it in case he messed up and you went off and didn’t speak to him again.”

I felt tears beginning to form.

“He told me he thought he’d seen you at your mother’s bedside but he wasn’t sure because you looked so natural—he somehow expected to see a drag-queen type figure, a caricature of a woman, and you weren’t. But you were still angry with him and he was frightened he’d lose you as well as your mother.”

“I was angry with him—deservedly so—he’d been a real bastard to me.”

“He knew that, and I implored him to seek both yours and God’s forgiveness.”

I wasn’t sure what God had to do with it but maybe I’d erroneously rated Reverend Peabody as a homophobe or transphobe.

“When I saw your film about dormice—I knew it was you because Derek had told me you were a leading expert on them—I was very impressed with your presentation skills and your command of the subject matter. I was also impressed with the way you seemed so totally female, so you had to have made the right decision in that choice of identity.”

“I hope so—’cos it aint gonna grow back,” I said and he frowned then smirked.

“The children called you, Mummy?”

“Yes, Simon and I have adopted a few waifs and strays.”

“Simon—Derek mentioned him—he’s your boyfriend?”

“My husband.”

“Oh yes, that’s permissible now isn’t it—civil partnerships and so on.”

“It isn’t a civil partnership, we’re married as man and wife.”

“Oh, congratulations,” he said covering his initial surprise. “So that makes you Mrs…?”

“Cameron, Lady Catherine Cameron.”

“Lady?” his eyes widened.

“Yes, my husband is Lord Simon Cameron.”

“Goodness—talk about over achieving—double congratulations, I am impressed. I knew you were talented, your school and university career showed that—your Lady Macbeth is still talked about at the Grammar School—but I wouldn’t have thought you manage to land a peer.”

“I didn’t set out to, but his sister became a friend after she knocked me off my bike and introduced me to Simon. We liked each other and the rest is history.”

“I presume he knows about your—um—past?”

“He knew long before we married, but it was his choice to propose to me despite all that, and I accepted because I love him.”

“Yes—well, congratulations again, I hope you’ll be very happy together.”

“We are. I must go, Reverend Peabody, thanks for the tea.” I shook his hand and collected my children before going back to the