Quarantime to Read. . . Counting Stars: Discharged


Chapter Four

She doesn’t look, think, or fight like James Bond, but sometimes a mother simply has to do whatever it takes. . .

Discharged

Due to the KDP rules on Amazon, I am not allowed to upload a whole book anywhere other than on the KDP site. I can therefore share chapters with you, but must remove them when read.

 

If you would like to read the whole story, or perhaps buy a copy for a friend, it is available from an Amazon near you. The link is below:

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/Counting-Stars-glimpse-around-corner/dp/0995463212/ref=sr_1_1?dchild=1&keywords=counting+stars+by+anne+e+thompson&qid=1589905723&sr=8-1

To be continued. . .

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QuaranTime to Read. . . The Conclusion


Chapter Twenty-Two

It was Sunday afternoon. Abigail was hiding upstairs with a book, and some chocolate she had found, lying forgotten at the back of the fridge.

Jane had cleared away the remains of lunch and was now snuggled on the sofa with a magazine. She flicked the glossy pages, absorbing colours and moods but not bothering to read the articles. It was one of those deliciously lazy afternoons, where no one could be bothered to do much, and nothing was urgent.

Christopher had spread his train set across the carpet and then gone to find his father. They were working together now, moving in easy silence, constructing the track. Painted trains, one missing a wheel, were pushed in a heap under the table as they joined the pieces to form a route. It stretched from the door to the opposite corner, circling a shoe and curving around a chair. It was decidedly unstable where it climbed to go over a rug and Jane doubted it was structurally sound. She was glad there were no passengers.

She watched Peter’s back as he bent to repair the track. The sun caught his hair, highlighting the few white strands. She knew every curve of his body, every crease of his face. The feel and smell of him were as familiar as her own reflection.

“This is what I want,” she realised, certain now of her decision. “This is secure, safe, familiar. I can be at peace here, with this man. It may not always be exciting but it lets me be who I want to be.”

She knew, deep inside, that her decision had been the right one. She might be ignored sometimes, though was probably not as invisible as she felt. Undoubtedly, they would argue and she would be hurt because Peter was selfish. But maybe everyone was selfish, some were just better at hiding it. Nor did he understand her fully. But he understood enough, and he did try—she knew that now. As she had evaluated their life together, forced herself to be fair, she knew that if she was to keep a tally of wet towels on the floor and late nights on her own, she also had to note the surprise gifts, the phone calls when he was away, the security of a husband who worked hard.

She still remembered their early days together, the thrill of seeing him. That excitement had worn away now, become mundane—but would it last forever with anyone? Surely in time, even the most exciting of lovers would become familiar. At the end of the day, she would be swapping a man with—another man, and they were not really so very different at the core.

As father and son played together, intent on their task and oblivious to her thoughts, Jane felt that her whole life had led up to this point. She was deciding to stay. It was her choice. She thought about the smell of Peter, the warmth of his body, the way they fitted together so perfectly when they snuggled. She thought about the shared experiences, how their eyes could say so much to each other, the times they laughed together. It was a lot to risk, a lot to lose.

Peter looked up, smiling to see her watching.

“I could kill for a cup of tea,” he said.

As Jane filled the kettle, her bag on the table began to vibrate. She scooped out her mobile phone.

One new message from Matthew’ the illuminated screen informed her.

She stood very still, not breathing. The timing was eerie. But she had decided. She was staying; she wasn’t going to mess with what she already had.

She pressed ‘menu’. She scrolled down to ‘messages’, selected ‘clean up messages’ and chose ‘all’. Obediently, the phone wiped all messages from its memory.

“I don’t owe him anything, not even politeness,” thought Jane. “He knew I was married; he knew what he was asking me to gamble, and if he’d really cared, he wouldn’t have asked.”

Slowly, Jane slipped the phone back into her bag. She would miss him, and for a moment, tears stung her eyes, her heart aching for what might have been and the savouring of those last wisps of memory of how he had made her feel.

But she knew she was right, knew that whilst this might not be perfect, it was the better choice. She switched on the kettle and pulled down a purple mug.

Outside, a bird began to sing, and Jane paused, watching as it fluffed its chest and warbled its song.

She did not notice the cat below the bush, preparing to pounce.

***

Chapter Twenty-Three

Jane pulled the shoe off the shelf. White satin, with a tiny bow—it  would suit the dress. As she turned towards the fitting room, she glimpsed her reflection in one of the mirrors. Her hair was looking very grey, she hadn’t had time to colour her roots for ages. Not that it mattered, the hair appointment had been booked weeks ago, tomorrow they would turn it back to the brown of younger days.

The curtain parted, and Abigail stepped forwards. A beautiful, untouchable Abigail. The white lace dress fell to the floor in waves, a fish-tail train sweeping the floor. The bodice fitted her slim frame, a scalloped neckline revealing glimpses of shoulder.

She grinned at Jane and walked forwards. Her stride was not particularly princess-like, more a stomp as she struggled with the excess material. It reminded Jane of the girl she had been, the way her feet used to turn inwards, how her shoes were always scuffed. Unbidden, tears filled her eyes. It felt like yesterday, and now that determined girl was a young woman. But still her daughter, still a little girl in her heart.

“Do you like it?” said Abigail, noticing her mother’s rapid blinks and checking they were for the right reason.

“Yes,” said Jane. It was all she could say for a moment. She took a breath, and held up the shoes. “What about these?”

Abigail wrinkled her nose. “They’re a bit high,” she said.

Jane smiled. “I remember when all you wanted were high heels,” she said. “Do you remember the shopping trip when you were little and you lost your shoes?”

“They were stolen, actually,” said Abigail, smiling too. “Can you unzip me?”

Jane followed her back into the fitting room and helped her daughter out of the wedding gown. It was heavy, and very white, she hoped her hands wouldn’t leave a greasy mark. A shop assistant fluttered around, telling Abigail she looked lovely, no alterations were necessary, did she want to take it today? They would box it for her.

When she was dressed in jeans again, she followed Jane to the racks of shoes and started to look.

“It’s only a couple of weeks away,” said Jane, “you really ought to have sorted shoes by now.”

“I know,” said Abigail, “I thought it would be easy. No one will really see them anyway under the dress, I could wear trainers…”

Suddenly serious, she turned to Jane. “Mum, am I doing the right thing?”

Jane looked at her. “Wearing trainers? No.”

She realised her daughter was serious and stopped. “What do you mean? Are you having second thoughts?” She started to think about the cost, how she would tell Peter, what their friends would say.

Abigail shook her head. “Not about Simon, no—I know I love him and want to be with him. But the whole marriage thing. Lots of people just live together, it feels like a lot of fuss…”

Jane sat down on a plush red sofa. Abigail had wanted a wedding for as long as she could remember. She had loved choosing the stationary and the dress and the venue. This was not about the wedding. She waited.

“I mean,” said Abigail, sitting beside her, “what if I can’t do it? What if I am making promises that I can’t keep? The whole ‘until death us do part’ bit—well, that’s a really long time isn’t it! We might change. I know you and Dad have always been happy, but in a way, that makes it harder. What if I’m not made the same, what if I’m not the ‘til death us do part’ sort?”

Jane reached out and took her daughter’s hand.

“Yes, she said, “it is a really long time. And sometimes you will wonder what the heck you’ve signed up for. But it’s a decision. Really, love is a decision. I don’t think there is one ‘Mr. Right’ who you have to look for until you find him, I expect I could’ve been happy with a whole host of people. But I chose your father. And sometimes it was difficult, sometimes I regretted that decision, but I chose to stay. Feelings change, people change, you have to decide what you want and stick with it. And yes, you will both change. But if you spend enough time together, you will change together. It’s about choosing to move through life as a unit, not two separate people. We can’t control what will happen, our health, the economy, politics. But we can choose whether we will face what comes on our own, or with someone else. You have chosen to be with Simon.” She smiled. “It’s not a bad decision, I think.”

“Did you ever wonder?” said Abigail. “Did you ever regret marrying Dad?”

Jane thought a thousand thoughts.

Then she squeezed her daughter’s hand and smiled.

“More than once! But that’s what I mean about it being a decision. Feelings are very unreliable; they come and go, and come again. Sometimes you have to stick it out, but then the love and happiness come back, and you’re glad you stayed.”

She turned, looked her daughter full in the face.

“Marriage isn’t easy Abigail. But it is worth it. I wouldn’t be without your father for all the world.”

Abigail nodded. “Come on, we’ll be late and he’ll moan.” She bent and kissed Jane’s forehead. “Thanks Mum.”

***

Peter watched as they walked towards him. Abigail was talking, racing ahead, full of decision and purpose. Jane walked next to her, listening. He watched Jane’s walk, how she still walked well, even as she had aged.

“I still love that woman,” he thought to himself, “she is the world to me.”

He thought about all the times he could have walked away, the years when money was tight, when the kids were too demanding, when life just seemed like one long treadmill. And he knew there were other women who would’ve taken her place. Women who smiled a bit too often, were slightly too attentive, suggested drinks after work when no one else would be there. There was even one who had sent him photos of herself, like they had some bond outside of the office. He’d had to put a stop to that, ask for her to be transferred. It was all a bit awkward.

But he’d never considered being unfaithful to Jane. She was his life, his home, the place he escaped to. As he watched her now, with her grey roots and chubby belly, her middle-aged body and lined face, he felt so full of love. It was weird really, watching their kids grow up, Abigail about to be married herself, him thinking about retiring. But Jane was there, the person he had wanted to come home to every day for the last thirty years.

“Funny thing, love,” he thought. “You can’t really explain it, but it really does make for a happier life.”

He stood up as the women approached the table.

“I just hope,” he thought, “that Abi’s as lucky in her marriage.”

I hope you have enjoyed the novel. If you would like to buy a copy for a friend, it is available from an Amazon near you.

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QuaranTime to Read. . . Chapter Twenty


Chapter Twenty

In the safety of the bathroom, Jane opened the envelope and peered inside. There appeared to be a printed leaflet. Frowning, she slid it from the envelope.

“Alcoholics Anonymous” was the title. It was a small printed tract, giving venues and times of their meetings. Someone had printed her name across the top.

“I don’t understand,” she said, confusion replacing her fear. She stood, her heart rate returning to normal, unlocked the door, and went back to the kitchen. She showed the pamphlet to Peter.

“I don’t know why I’ve been sent this,” she said. “It’s got my name on it, so it can’t be a mistake.”

“Probably someone wants you to go and help,” suggested Peter, turning to make the tea.

The door opened and Christopher appeared. He took a hesitant step towards his mother and paused. She rose hurriedly to meet him.

“I feel…” he began. Then was promptly sick all over the floor.

Jane shut her eyes for two seconds, then with a deep breath she moved to carry him upstairs.

***

They carried their coffee outside to some shiny metal chairs and placed it gingerly on a small round table that wobbled. Had they been more practical, thought Jane, they would have fiddled with folded paper and matchboxes until they had a suitable wedge to solve the problem. Instead, they sat carefully, and held their coffees with both hands. The cups were large, more like bowls and were heavy to lift. There was something incongruous about sitting in the middle of a High Street, as though pretending they were in the South of France, with neither the scenery nor the relaxed pace. However, the day was sunny and warm, and it was not an unpleasant place to be.

Jane was almost bursting with her news and she launched into it.

“I met Matthew,” she told Suzie.

“Matthew?” frowned Suzie, “The labourer?”

This irritated Jane. He was not a ‘labourer’, he was a perfectly intelligent human and he was her friend. She found the description demeaning.

“The guy who built our extension, yes. I met him by chance but he suggested that we meet up sometime.”

We being just you, or you and Peter?” asked Suzie.

“Me,” said Jane, “I hardly think Peter would approve. He has his own friends, anyway—all the people at work. His work-colleagues, a whole myriad of people who I have never met and never hear about—his own friends in his own world. Matthew is my friend. I assume I am allowed friends too. If Peter can have his own friends, many of whom will be female, friends who he jokes with, has coffee with, spends time with—a part of life that is separate, almost secret, from us and our marriage—then so can I.”

Suzie balanced her coffee back on the saucer and looked hard at her friend. She was not quite sure what she was being told.

“And where is this going to lead?” said Suzie, “What are you planning will happen?”

“I don’t know,” admitted Jane. She leant forwards and confided in a low voice, “And I don’t care. It’s exciting. It makes me happy just thinking about it.”

She sat back, satisfied. She had been longing to tell Suzie, and so had arranged to meet her for coffee. She was certain her friend, ever fun-loving, would be captivated by the story, and had looked forward to confiding, laughing, making plans together. She was also hoping for a reliable alibi should the need arise.

The two women had been friends for years, meeting at antenatal classes when expecting their sons. It had been an easy friendship, rooted in those early weeks of motherhood when even combing their hair had been a task to remember. They had worried together before labour, wept together through sheer exhaustion after sleepless nights, and shared potty training traumas. The bond was deep. Jane felt that anyone willing to befriend you during those emotionally turbulent months when you resembled a slug and smelt of cheese, was a friend indeed.

“I think,“ she whispered, “that I am possibly going to have an affair.” She waited, smiling.

“Think?” queried Suzie, with narrowed eyes.

“Well,” admitted Jane, “nothing has happened yet.” She replaced her cup on the swaying table and resumed her story.

“You must remember Matthew,” she urged, wondering why her friend wasn’t eating up this delicious piece of news. Suzie nodded, and Jane continued in a rush. “Well, I’ve been thinking about him loads, couldn’t stop. And I really missed him when he left, felt sort of lonely. We’d become friends you see. He’s not just a labourer, he’s intelligent and funny, and we shared—I don’t know—a connection, I guess. We talked a lot—all the time really,” Jane swallowed. “Then I saw him again, at the Summer Fete.” Jane leant forward, lowering her voice, staring into the depths of her cup.

“I think maybe he came specially, looking for me. And we chatted a bit and then he suggested that we meet somewhere. And I think it means that he’s interested in me. That perhaps we could continue the relationship…”

Jane trailed off uncertainly and glanced up.

Suzie’s face was hard. She was silent for a long time, just looking at Jane.

“You’ll be a complete fool if you do!” Suzie said at last. Her voice was quiet, but the intensity shook Jane.

She was shocked. She had been sure that Suzie would share her secret with delight. Suzie was always playful, loved to be outrageous and laughed easily—it was not like her to be strict or moralising. Jane had thought her friend would want to be involved in this game, would share the fun of it, would be on Jane’s side.

Suzie sipped her coffee.

“It’s up to you, I guess,” Suzie said at last. “We are, after all, the generation of choice. We all got an education, we can decide if we want to work, if and when we want children. We all think we’ve got a God-given right to happiness and fulfilment, don’t we?” Suzie sat straighter, as if warming to her theme, deciding to be honest with her friend.

“Well, I for one don’t think we do, not really, not if it means hurting other people. That’s what animals do, not people, not grown-ups.” She took a sip of coffee, allowing herself time to think, to plan her attack.

“Did you love Peter, really love him, when you got married?”

Jane nodded. This was going horribly wrong; she had not intended to be lectured.

“And does he hit you?” asked Suzie, “Abuse the kids? Keep you locked up? Mentally torture you?”

“Well, no,” admitted Jane, “but there is Izzy…”

“Oh bollocks!” declared Suzie. “You don’t know for sure that anything’s going on. That’s just something silly we liked to laugh about—that was a game. This isn’t, not if what you say is true, not if you intend to do something stupid. And until this stud appeared, you were content enough anyway, even if you were unsure about Izzy. If you loved him once, you can again. If you fell out of love, you can fall back in again. Feelings are just fickle, they’re no judge of what’s really going on and they’re not worth trusting. Marriage is lonely sometimes, and boring and tedious. That’s why we make promises at the beginning.

“Are you really willing to just chuck a perfectly okay marriage out the window? For what? A few laughs and better sex once in a while? It’s not just about you anymore.”

Suzie paused, not sure if Jane was listening or just planning a defence. This was important, she wanted to get it right.

“Maybe Peter won’t find out,” Jane said, “I’m hardly going to announce it!”

“Jane, they always find out,” sighed Suzie. “Listen, think hard Jane. Think about the consequences and don’t be stupid, please. You are better than that.

“And say that you did manage to keep it quiet, is that what you really want? Skulking about, never being honest? Always wondering if you’ve been seen, desperately trying to remember lies? And you would end up lying to everyone, not just Peter. You’d have to lie to the kids, your mum, friends.

“And what if it continued, what if you fell in love? Are you going to rip apart your family? You can never be rid of Peter you know; you will share those children for the rest of your life. So you can look forward to arguments over birthdays, Christmases, weddings. The children will be caught in the middle, not wanting to take sides, all confused and insecure and wondering if it’s their fault. Is that what you want?”

“No,” whispered Jane, “but I’ve been so unhappy lately. I feel like I’m invisible.” She swallowed, feeling close to tears. This was horrible. She had thought it would be fun, they’d laugh and plot together. Instead she was being painted as some loose woman, someone nasty. And she wasn’t nasty, she was a good person. But she was so lonely, and she needed something, someone, more. Suzie didn’t understand, she wasn’t listening to what Jane was saying. She hadn’t looked for this, but it had happened, and it made her happy. She had a right to feel happy, she was sure she did. She fiddled with her cup, unable to meet her friend’s eyes.

“Oh Jane! We all feel like that sometimes. But don’t throw away what you’ve got. You and Peter have shared so much, survived the whole baby thing, built your lives together.

“Maybe Peter isn’t happy either,” Suzie suggested, “perhaps you need to talk, sort out what you both want. Have you tried telling him how you feel?”

“Yes,” mumbled Jane, staring at the table, “but he doesn’t hear what I’m saying. He has his own life, his world of work peopled by intelligent interesting attractive people. He dips in and out of our shared life, leaving me there on my own. I am invisible,” she said again.

Suzie could see that Jane was near to tears. She reached over and squeezed her hand.

“Poor old you, you are having a rough time. Marriage isn’t like they tell you when you’re young, is it? It’s about lonely evenings and dirty socks mainly! But it’s also about sharing, and having someone you can rely on. It’s about trust…

“Think carefully Jane,” she said. “Marriage is horrid sometimes, that’s why people talk about working at it. Doesn’t mean it’s not worth it though.

“Anyway,” Suzie added, “aren’t you religious? Can’t you pray about it or something?”

“Sure,” said Jane, feeling irritated now. She wished she’d never said anything, not tried to involve her friend. Perhaps she wasn’t such a good friend after all. Maybe things were only fun if Suzie thought of them. Jane hadn’t noticed that before.

“Okay, enough,” conceded Suzie. “Bit of a lecture that, wasn’t it? I’ll stop. I’m only saying it because I care.”

They talked for a while about safer topics, the fair, holidays, and a new television drama. However, the atmosphere was false and their conversation tense, so they did not order fresh coffee, and soon Jane glanced at her phone and announced it was time that she left.

“That went well,” thought Suzie with an ironic smile as she watched her friend leave. Then her eyes stung with unexpected tears and she began to frantically sort the coffee cups, determined to control her emotions. Jane was her friend; she didn’t want to hurt her. But she couldn’t joke about this, couldn’t just sit back and be party to something destructive.

Suzie knew well the stigma attached to a child of an unfaithful mother. It was not a topic she ever discussed, burying it safely in the past. Her own parents had divorced when she was ten and she and her brother had followed their mother to live with ‘Uncle Steven’. She remembered long nights of silent tears in a bed that smelt foreign, longing to return home. At school she had appeared sullen and uncooperative as she struggled to understand why her parents had split so abruptly, a nagging fear deep within that if she had been better, brighter, less trouble, then maybe both parents would have loved her enough to stay together. No one ever criticised her mother to her face, but she heard the whispered discussions at family gatherings, saw the snide expressions on the faces of her father’s relatives.

Once, just once, did she encounter her father’s rage. As a teenager she had overstayed her curfew and crept home late when she had been staying with her father. As she tiptoed to her room the hallway had been suddenly, cruelly illuminated and her father had faced her, grey eyes flashing in anger.

“Sorry I’m late,” she began, “Gary’s car broke down and…”

She got no further. His hand slapped the side of her face and she fell hard against the wall.

“You’re just like your mother!” he spat and marched to his room.

She had stood, frozen like stone for a long time. The grandfather clock ticked loudly in reprimand, marking each cold minute that passed. Then, like a robot, she went to bed. She washed her face. She cleaned her teeth. She brushed her hair. She changed into a pink nylon nightdress. She lay on her bed, in her father’s house. She never forgot those words.

All through an awkward breakfast, their stilted conversation pretending all was normal, she remembered. As she sat through lessons—history, biology, art—those words seared into her brain. She felt as if she were branded, like cattle headed for market.

“Just like your mother.” “Just like your mother.”

Down long years, those words remained. As an adult she could finally understand her mother’s desperate loneliness, the pain of living with a husband who didn’t restrain his moods, who flared with anger when he was disobeyed. She could also empathise with her father’s feeling of hurt betrayal, the unexpected loss of the woman who he loved. Yet she could never shake off the fear that some gene of unfaithfulness had been passed on to her, was part of her. It made her cling to the man who adored her trustingly, determined to never be: “Just like your mother.”

Now, as Suzie watched Jane leave, she almost wished she too knew how to pray.

“Don’t do it,” her mind pleaded, “Just don’t bloody do it.” She sniffed and stood, extracting a shopping list from her bag. Then she headed towards the supermarket.

***

Jane walked quickly to her car. She felt like a small child who had been reprimanded. She fumbled crossly for her keys.

“She’s just jealous,” she muttered, throwing her bag onto the back seat. “I didn’t ask for her opinion anyway. She doesn’t understand me, or how my life is. It was a mistake telling her, and I won’t make the same mistake again. This is my life, my business, and I can make my own decisions.”

She drove home, glaring at the other cars; ignoring the lump that seemed to be permanently lodged in the lower part of her chest.

To be continued on Thursday.

If you are enjoying the story, you can buy a copy for a friend. Invisible Jane by Anne E. Thompson — available from an Amazon near you. UK link here! 

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QuaranTime to Read. . . Chapter Eighteen


Chapter Eighteen

The following Thursday, Jane took Christopher to the park. It was a beautiful Summer’s day, with a high blue sky and a gentle breeze. She had parked in the small car park near the swings, and now they walked hand-in-hand across the grass. Max was in an ecstasy of sniffing under a wooden bench. The sun glinted off the paint of the large red slide, and she could feel Christopher skipping at her side. Her bag bumped against her hip. She needed to buy white cotton on the way home so that she could reattach buttons to Abigail’s school blouse.

School was not a happy thought at the moment. She had been summarily telephoned following her evening out and told: thank you for volunteering, you are manning the barbecue at the Summer Fair. Burgers! It was bad enough having to cook at home, now she would be burning food for the whole school. She sighed, at least she had nothing to prepare and it was only one day.

She lifted Christopher onto a swing and pulled it back. It was wooden and heavy, with a thick metal chain. She released it, watching it swing free, then braced for its return. Christopher wiggled his legs.

“Higher! Higher!” he chanted.

“That’s enough Chris,” she sighed after a few minutes. “You play on the roundabout; I need to find Max.”

She left her son climbing onto the orange wheel and went in search of the dog. He lumbered over when she called, tail swaying, stick in mouth. She obediently threw the stick a few times, watching her son as he played in the low-fenced enclosure. He too had found a stick and was poking beneath the roundabout. She walked over to where he was.

Red faced and frowning, Christopher was peering under the roundabout, making frantic sweeps with a thin branch.

“I can nearly get it,” he said in frustration.

At last, with one long swoosh of the stick, his prize was dislodged and tumbled over the grass in the sunlight.

“It’s magic!” he cried.

“It’s dirty!” she said.

It was a whiskey bottle, drained empty and flung under the child’s toy with drunken disregard. The golden label sparkled in the sunlight enticingly. Before she could stop him, Christopher had snatched it up.

“Can I keep it?”

“No,” said his mother, “it’s got germs on it. Don’t touch it.”

The boy inspected it closely. No germs could be seen. The glass was very smooth and the lid was made of gold. The label was beautiful, and seemed to have secret writing on it. It was clearly magic. He glanced at his mother. Her face looked cross and he could tell she did not understand the importance of his treasure. He felt his bottom lip begin to quiver.

“Please mummy, it’s mine now.”

Jane looked into the deep pools of his pleading eyes. ‘How am I supposed to not give in?’ she wondered. She knelt down and put an arm around his narrow shoulders. He gazed trustingly at her.

“Chris, it’s not clean,” she began. His eyes began to fill with tears. “Alright, we can take it home and wash it I suppose.”

She removed it from his grasp, deciding it would be easily disposed of later, when he had forgotten about it. She called the dog and clipped on his lead, then told Christopher that they needed to buy cotton before they went home. Not having a hand free to hold his, she sighed, and slipped the bottle into her bag, hoping it was not as dirty as she feared.

They moved to the road and stood waiting as traffic passed. Jane watched the cars impatiently, wanting to go home.

Suddenly, with heart-lurching familiarly, she recognised Matthew’s car. He glided down the road towards her. She searched for his face. He saw her, raised a hand in salute and continued past.

“That was Matfew!” announced Christopher.

“Yes,” said Jane, watching the car until it disappeared.

“Mummy, we can go,” said Christopher, waggling her hand so that she would notice the road was clear. Trance-like, she led him across.

She was a blur of emotion. She had seen him. He had waved. Their contact was not completely severed. Maybe she would see him again one day. Perhaps, now he knew they visited the park sometimes he would drive past again.

Or perhaps not.

She took a deep breath and gave herself a mental shake. This was silly. She was like a teenager with a crush on a celebrity. This obsession was getting out of hand.

“Come along,” she said and led the way to the hardware shop.

***

Leaving the dog tied miserably to the post outside, they entered the gloom of the shop. It smelt of glue and fabric. The floor was grey cement, and the air felt cold after the warmth of outside. Narrow aisles were precariously stacked to the ceiling with a jumble of products.

“Don’t touch anything,” Jane instructed.

She led him past cans of paint, a display of brushes perched above an array of door locks. Helpful signs warned of guard dogs, not to park in front of entrances, and a request to close the gate. Christopher put out a finger and traced their cold letters. They walked around stacked plastic buckets, and passed mops that bent shaggy heads towards them. His finger trailed across rough doormats, and onto shiny saucepans that stood in pyramids above his head. They passed boxes of electrical appliances, which nestled against a display of scissors. Bolts of coloured fabric were piled almost to the ceiling. He reached out and stroked pink fur, then poked a finger through some white lace.

“You’re touching!” his mother hissed, “Fold your arms.”

Jane had stopped beside a rack of coloured cottons. Selecting a reel of white, she guided him back towards the door to pay.

The counter was very high, much taller than his head. Behind it was a tiny man with a white beard. Christopher was fairly sure he was an elf. His mother seemed to have not noticed, and was searching for her purse. He moved behind her. There was an interesting display of tools hanging from the wall. Bright orange handles with comfortable grips, connected to grim looking blades. Saws of various sizes hung like crocodile jaws. He reached out a hand. His mother was busy paying. He pointed a finger and ran it along a blade. He snatched back his hand. Dark red blood oozed through his fist. It stung. He screamed.

“Mummy!”

Jane turned. She heard the cry, turned while pulling her purse from her bag, saw the blood and leapt towards her child. Off balance, her foot caught on the edge of a broom, which began to tumble, bringing another broom with it. She tripped. As she fell, she put out a hand to save herself, pulling a large tin of emulsion to the concrete with her. Jane, brooms, a brush and the tin all fell to the floor with a crash.

For a long second, all was still.

Jane was lying on the floor; Christopher standing above her, his crying suspended; the shopkeeper, watching.

Then they all moved as one. Christopher began to wail and Jane sat up, opening her arms for him. The shopkeeper hurried towards them, full of defensive concern.

“Madam, you really shouldn’t let your little boy touch things,” he clucked anxiously.

Jane ignored him and inspected the wound. It was very minor and had stopped bleeding already. She put his finger in her mouth and sucked to clean the wound. Then she wiped his tears with her fingers and kissed his nose.

“Stop crying, you’re alright,” she said quietly, reassuring him.

“It bit me,” he whispered.

Jane smiled, “You shouldn’t have touched.”

“I do think you should watch him more closely in future,” said the shopkeeper. “This is not a toy shop.”

Jane declined to comment and began to get up off the floor. All was fine—until she put weight on her right ankle. Pain shot up her leg. She sat again quickly, waves of nausea washing over her.

“Are you alright?” asked the man. “You really should have looked where you were going. Luckily, I do not believe anything was damaged, so I won’t have to charge you.”

He picked up a couple of brooms and replaced them on the stand, then retrieved the paint.

“It’s lucky this lid stayed on,” he said. “You would have made no end of mess if that had come off. You can’t rely on that you know. Manufacturers do not guarantee that lids won’t come loose. Paint should always be stored upright you know.”

He paused.

The woman was still sitting on his floor. She did seem rather pale. He did hope she would not faint. It would not be good for business.

“I’m afraid I need you to move,” he said, his voice rising a pitch. “I will have other customers shortly and you are rather in the way.”

‘Customers,’ he thought, ‘who will buy more than a single reel of cotton and who will create a lot less fuss.’

Jane remained on the floor. She really was unsure if she could stand. Her ankle hurt a huge amount and she felt quite ill with pain.

Then, as if she were in some ludicrous farce, the shop door opened and in walked Hilary.

Her gaze swept across the tear stained child, the flustered shopkeeper and Jane, who was sitting on the floor.

“And what happened here?” she asked.

“This woman did not have her child under appropriate control and he handled the merchandise” the man hurried to explain. “Then she did not give due care and attention to her actions and she fell over. Nearly damaging more goods, may I add.”

“I see,” said Hilary. “Jane, can you stand?”

“It hurts,” said Jane, “I don’t know.” She looked at the shopkeeper. “Do you have a stick I could lean on?”

“She could purchase a walking stick,” he informed Hilary, deciding that Jane was best not spoken to and realising the two women were acquainted.

“Right, please fetch one,” the older woman commanded, “and Christopher, please sit on this chair and hold my handbag with both hands.”

Christopher obeyed. He was reassured by her presence, and now she was clearly in charge of the situation he was extremely interested to see what would happen. His finger only hurt a little bit now, the pain eclipsed by the excitement of seeing Jane on the floor. He wondered if Nana would tell her off for getting dirty. He clutched the bulky bag. It was shiny black leather and very full. He longed to peek inside and investigate the contents but felt sure someone would then tell him off. Instead, he held it close to his chest, feeling the hard shapes inside. He found he could make his finger bleed again if he pressed it very hard, and he amused himself creating a line of round red spots across the width of the bag.

The man reappeared with a selection of sticks.

“Which would madam prefer? Lightweight steel or more traditional wood? Or perhaps one with a seat incorporated into the handle?”

Hilary pointed at a wooden stick with a plain curved handle.

“That one is suitable,” she said. She looked at Jane, “You can reimburse me later.” She handed her credit card to the shopkeeper.

They both helped Jane to stand and she tested her weight on the stick. She could walk, but it was painful. Driving would be difficult, so Hilary agreed that she would drive them all home. When she realised that a dog was involved she bought a long length of thick polythene. She then spent several minutes lining the footwell of her car while Jane sat awkwardly in the shop, Christopher standing close.

Jane thanked the shopkeeper uncertainly.

“Yes, he responded, “well, I hope this has been a lesson to you, young lady. One needs to take more care in life if one is not going to be an inconvenience. Perhaps you will take better care of your child in future.”

The child in question gave him an angelic smile, and placed a tenth bloody fingerprint on an unseen white tea towel before following his mother out of the shop.

Hilary had driven round to the shop front, so Jane had to hobble only as far as the curb. She lowered herself into the passenger seat. Christopher climbed in beside her. There was no child seat, which worried Jane, but she decided the journey was short enough to merit risking an adult’s seat belt. She pushed her coat under him, to act as a booster seat. Hilary, sighing loudly, was loading the dog.

They drove to Jane’s house in near silence. At one point she tried to thank her mother-in-law and explain what had happened. Hilary waved a hand dismissively. Jane was unsure if this was at the thanks or the explanation.

When they arrived, Hilary leant across for Jane’s bag.

“Let me take that for you,” she said, “then I can unlock the front door and come back to help you.”

She walked down the path then stood by the door and unzipped the bag. There, at the top, was a bottle. Slowly, Hilary removed it. A whiskey bottle. An empty whiskey bottle. Her daughter-in-law had been at the park—with a bottle of whiskey—and then had fallen over. She looked back at the car. Mother and child were both watching her. With a frown she found the keys and unlocked the door.

“I think this discussion is best kept for another time,” she decided, placing the bag on the hall table. Then she went back to help Jane.

Later, Jane sat on the sofa sipping tea. Hilary had advised her to bind the ankle tightly, cover it with a bag of frozen peas and raise it on a cushion. She had collected Abigail from school and offered to help the following day if necessary.

“I hope it won’t be necessary,” thought Jane, “I feel such an inconvenience when she helps me.”

She smiled at the memory of her unexpected appearance. Then her thoughts wandered to her glimpse of Matthew.

“Of all the moments when he could have passed,” she thought, “it was just as we were crossing. It’s like it was fate, like our paths were meant to cross.” It was a comforting idea and she settled against the cushions. “I wish I could tell him what happened,” she yearned. “He would laugh with me, make me feel better about that horrible man.

“There’s no one to tell,” she realised. “Peter will just tell me I’m silly, and then rush to thank Hilary. Once he’s spoken to her, he’ll be convinced I’m inadequate. They will make me feel like it was my fault, they won’t be sympathetic. He never sides with me against his mother. He won’t defend me to her, he won’t laugh about her with me. I am the outsider.”

A shot of loneliness pierced her and she felt close to tears.

“Oh Matthew, I do miss you,” she thought, “when will I see you again..?”

To be continued on Sunday.

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Secrets Every Mother Should Know


Here is one of my earlier posts. I hope you enjoy it, and will share it. It makes me smile, as all my children are now adults, and parenting is still wonderful and challenging and full of adventure, as I explored in my novel: Ploughing Through Rainbows — have you read it yet? Amazon Link Here!

Mummy Secrets

1.Boys (of all ages) never look in the back of drawers. This is true. They open the drawer about half way, have a quick look and then tell you that what they are seeking is not in there. This can be used to your advantage if, as in my house, they frequently a) misplace their own scissors and b) borrow yours and don’t replace them. If I keep my things at the back of the drawer, even the drawer where they have always been kept, then they don’t find them. Things at the back are safe. Worth remembering.

2.When they ask which child you love best, pick one. I spent years trying to explain that I loved them all equally, that I could never choose which one I loved best, etc etc – they just kept asking. So one day I picked one and gave an outrageous reason:”Bea, because girls are better than boys,” “Jay because he’s the nicest,” “Emm, because he’s clever,” They still asked occasionally (and I did try to switch which one I chose) but it put them off for a long time and always ended the conversation pretty fast.

3.When your children argue with their siblings, always be the most unreasonable. I always wanted my children to be friends with each other, not least because one day I wont be here to care for them and I want them to look out for each other. All children argue with their siblings, that cannot be avoided. However, when there was no clear reason for the dispute, I would try to be much more unreasonable than any of them. Comments like, “Right, that is no television ever again” or “I am banning all chocolate, forever” would so outrage my children that they would mutter darkly about me – together – and forget all about whatever they had been arguing about. After an hour or so they would ‘persuade’ me to modify my punishment to a more sensible one.

4.Forcing your child to eat something will not make them less fussy eaters. I am an adult now, all grown up, but I still feel sick when I smell rhubarb or gooseberries cooking and I am sure it is because I was forced to eat them as a child. I did initially try the same parenting technique with my own children (most of us copy our parents to some extent) but I abandoned it when I found peas thrown out of the window and half a piece of steak blocking the toilet. If my children did not like something, they were not forced to eat it. They did have to taste it every so often, in case their taste-buds had changed, but they were happy to do that because they knew they could choose to not eat it, if they didn’t want to. They are all adults now and they all have a varied diet. You do of course need to ensure that they have a balanced diet. However, if your child does not eat vegetables, fruit is just as healthy.
 Also, occasionally check the ingredients of what your child is eating. If the list is full of stuff you are more likely to find in a chemistry lab than a supermarket, do you really want to feed it to your child?

5.You cannot reason with an angry boy. When girls are angry, the adrenaline stimulates the speech part of their brain and they want to talk. Sometimes for many hours non stop. The opposite happens with a boy. When they are angry, the speech part of their brain shuts down and they are more likely to hit out than discuss. Something to do with testosterone. I don’t understand the biology but I do know that it is true because I have seen it many many times with my sons and my pupils. So, if a boy is angry, do not bother explaining anything until he has calmed down. If he is small, pick him up and put him somewhere safe. If he is big, put yourself somewhere safe (the washroom is a good place. Even an angry boy will not want to risk seeing his mother using the toilet and there is usually a lock on the door.) When he is calm, then you can explain to him why he was wrong, why you behaved as you did, what is an appropriate punishment, etc.

6.You cannot raise a child on your own. We all need help, mothers especially. In an ideal world, a child is raised by two parents and four grandparents and a whole world of friends, teachers, neighbours. Ours is not an ideal world, but whatever your situation, recognise that you have limitations and get help when you need it. Lots has been written about this, about “it takes a whole village to raise a child”, or even films like “About a Boy”. It is true. When you get to the absolute limit of what you can cope with, get help. I am a sometimes praised for how nice my children are and was a successful teacher, but sometimes I couldn’t cope. I recall one evening when I phoned my brother and told him I could not cope with my teenage son. He talked to him for a while (I think they just agreed that women can be very irrational at times! But it didn’t matter, it broke a cycle that I wasn’t coping with.) Don’t let things get beyond what you can cope with, that’s when horrible things happen. If you need help, get help. It is the wise thing to do.

7.When they bring home a crap picture, tell them its crap. If you always praise them they will a) never trust you to be honest and b) always feel the need to do brilliantly. I firmly believe that if you teach your children how to fail well, then they will do well in life. One of my proudest parenting moments was when my daughter lost a race in the school sports event. She was last by a considerable margin and ran the last lap with the hugest grin to huge cheers from the crowd. She was not a sporty child, she knew she was not good at running and that was fine. In other areas she excelled and she knew that my praise was genuine. If I say something is good, they can trust that it is.

8.Treat your children differently. You can treat them equally without having to do exactly the same thing for each child. For example, I can never understand the parents who buy a gift for the other child on a sibling’s birthday. Letting someone else have a turn at the treat is a good learning point, this is life, they will not always be the one who gets the promotion/job/top mark etc. This is the same when choosing a school, clubs etc – see them as individuals especially if they have different talents.

9.Don’t be fooled when your child tells you that you are either the best or the worst mother in the world. You are not. When they are about five and they tell you that you are the best mummy ever, that is very nice. Write it down and hold on to that memory. It wont be too long before they tell you that “all the other mother’s let their children do/have/go to, whatever” and they will reliably inform you that you are the worst mother ever. Brace yourself and ride the storm, taking regular peeks at the diary entry when they told you how wonderful you are and remembering that ALL good mothers are told this at some point. You are their mother, not their friend. They don’t have to like you all the time. You have to make decisions for what is best for them, not what they will necessarily want. Be brave, it is not easy. But you are the best mother that they have, so they will have to get over it. I regularly told my children, “I am not like other mothers.”

10.Do go with your gut feeling and monitor how long your child plays computer games or watches television, or uses their phone. They can stunt creativity and the ability to communicate and keep track of real life. It wont kill your child to be bored sometimes. Or even (horrors) read a book. Decide what works for you. I found that most games, whilst addictive, also needed a certain amount of time for them to be played satisfactorily. So in our house we had ‘computer weeks’. For one week, they could play computer games for as long as they liked (not including homework times, meal times and bed times, which were rigid unless they were ill.) Then, the next week, there was no computer at all. After a couple of days, they adjusted to the lack of life support and actually managed to enjoy something like cooking or reading or playing in the garden.

We never had the tricky decision of how old is old enough to have a phone–because they didn’t exist when my children were little. I don’t really agree with the ‘phones are bad’ lobby, but like everything, it can be abused and parents have a responsibility for teaching their children how to use a phone appropriately. Is having a phone at a meal table a good idea? Or when they should be concentrating on something else? Is it polite to glance at a phone when having a conversation with someone? I recently watched a programme exploring whether phones are addictive (another blog to follow). Since researching this, if I had a child with a phone, I would definitely go to settings and have the screen set to ‘greyscale’.

11.When your child is a teenager, have difficult discussions in public. This was one of the best things that I discovered. So, if I wanted to discuss with my fifteen year old his bed time, the amount of time spent on homework or any other ‘tricky issue’ I would take him out for lunch or even a to nice coffee shop. Somewhere public. Somewhere that having a meltdown would be embarrassing for him. The social pressure helped him keep a lid on whatever anger he would like to vent and we managed to have a few very sane conversations. It was well worth the price tag.

***

It should perhaps be noted, that when I began writing this article I asked my daughter if she could remember any of my parenting strategies. She informed me that:
I regularly told her she was adopted and suggested she could go and find her real parents (she looks EXACTLY like me, so this was never a problem for her.)
If something hurt, I told her it would probably fall off.
I wanted to burn down her primary school.
I made her move traffic cones that were blocking the road when I wanted to drive down it.
I also always told them that even if they did things that were rubbish, I would love them anyway (they liked that one.)

On reflection, I may have been a slightly rubbish mother. However, all my children have grown up to be happy, sane and good company. Maybe being rubbish doesn’t matter too much. God chose you to raise your child, He has confidence that you can do it. I remember reading: you don’t have to be a perfect mother, you only have to be good enough. There is hope for us all. . .

Thank you for reading. Enjoy your day.

Love, Anne x

Anne E. Thompson has written several novels and one non-fiction book. They are available from book shops and Amazon. She writes a weekly blog at: anneethompson.com

My novel explores the fun and problems when parenting adults (being a parent never ends…trust me!) A heart-warming family saga that will make you smile.

A hilarious family saga set on a farm. Being a parent has no end-date, as Susan discovers when her adult sons begin to make unexpected choices in life.
A warm-hearted, feel good novel that will make you smile.

Available from an Amazon near you — why not buy a copy today?

US Amazon link here

UK Amazon link here

Amazon Germany link here

QuaranTime to Read. . . Chapter Sixteen


Chapter Sixteen

What if…a happily married woman falls in love with someone else?

 

 

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Due to the KDP rules on Amazon, I am not allowed to upload a whole book anywhere other than on the KDP site. I can therefore share chapters with you, but must remove them when read.

 

If you would like to read the whole story, or perhaps buy a copy for a friend, it is available from an Amazon near you. The link to my author page is below:

Amazon Link

 

 

A Lockdown Bake-Off


To combat the boredom of lockdown, where almost every day is identical, I suggested we had a bake-off. (This had nothing at all to do with the fact that I hate cooking dinners and thought it would be a good way to involve other people). Everyone agreed (there are five of us) and we decided we would have it at 6:30pm (dinner time, which was a complete coincidence) on Saturday. As everyone involved is an adult, they had to buy their own ingredients, but they could use stuff from the larder if they checked with me first. (I was loath for my bag of flour to be wasted unnecessarily in case it couldn’t be replaced.)

I issued the rules via WhatsApp:

So, to clarify the ‘rules’ for Lockdown Bake-off:

Each individual will serve a dish at 6:30pm on Saturday.

The dish will have 5 portions (or more).

The dish can be prepared in advance, but late entries will be abused.

You may refer to a recipe but you cannot ask for copious amounts of help from another individual so they feel like they may as well have baked it themselves.

You need to buy/check availability of ingredients in advance (like, today!) You can use one hob ring, one oven shelf (unless you cook when no one else is cooking). Any other equipment must be prebooked. (I am prebooking the microwave.) The dish must use at least some raw ingredients (ie, it cannot be a ready-meal or takeaway dish) Please say what your dish is by Friday (so I can see whether I need to cook something else for dinner!) You can cook either sweet or savoury. (I am making smoked salmon blinis with Hollandaise sauce.) If your dish has meat, there must be a veggie alternative. You may not use ingredients that people are allergic to (Quorn or Penbritin) We will all allocate marks for each dish (to be decided but will include taste, presentation, interesting value) The winner will be awarded a prize (Husband to provide).

As the day approached, there was a little manoeuvring amongst the contestants. Bea announced she planned to make Baked Alaska. Husband worried that there might not be space in the freezer (I assured him there was) and then it transpired that it clashed with the dish he planned to make. Bea chose a different dish. Jay kept his dish a secret, and did not appear to buy any ingredients, until the very last minute. As in, the very last minute.

Two hours before, and the tension was palpable. There was an issue with tinned tomatoes having added basil which ruined the taste (they are now in a mug in my fridge). My kitchen looked like a bomb had hit it (not a rare event) and there was a little jostling for room and tension over the allocation of serving plates.

At 6:30, we all sat at the table. Forgot to say Grace due to the excitement. First up were my blinis, which looked better than they tasted, but the hollandaise sauce didn’t curdle, so all was okay. Then we had three main courses. There were veggie tacos, with a kick in the smokey black beans (tasty, and served with freshly made guacamole). Then a spinach tart, with rocket garnish and balsamic glaze—all very professional. Last up was Jay’s goulash, served in ramekin dishes with rocket garnish (stolen) and a hunk of freshly baked bread.

Then it was Husband’s turn. This was worrying, as he doesn’t cook, ever—not since the day I was in labour with child number two many years ago, and he cooked Bea pizza complete with melted polystyrene base attached. He was serving dessert, but we were worried, especially as he disappeared into the garage, then ran to his study with something stuffed up his jumper. We discussed in low voices how to avoid eating his offering if it looked too unhygienic, and pondered as to why it was being prepared in his study. We waited.

Husband returned, carrying a tray of sugar-glazed sundae dishes (I mention the sugar-glaze, as this was the main skill involved). They looked very pretty. We do not actually own any sundae dishes—he had ordered them specially—we now own six. He then brought in a tray of toppings, and a tub of ice-cream. There were crushed Crunchie bars, and mini meringues, and raspberries and strawberries (I checked the fruit had been washed—and which sink it had been washed in). All seemed hygienic, and was, to be fair, very tasty. The only cooking involved was heating the jar of salted caramel sauce in the microwave, but to be honest, that suited everyone.

We then completed the score sheets, added the totals, and awarded the prize of a bottle of Prosecco to Bea (who pointed out that she owned it anyway as it had been a birthday gift—so I guess it’s a good thing no one else won!)

Following the success of this, I am considering suggesting we have a sewing-bee, or a hairdressing competition (they were surprisingly unkeen on this idea!) We could also try a ‘clean-off’ whereby everyone has one room to clean, and then we each judge each other’s efforts. I think this one is my favourite. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Hope you’re managing to have some lockdown fun too.

Take care.
Love, Anne x

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Invisible Jane continues tomorrow. . .

***

Here is the score sheet, in case you want to copy:

Lockdown Bake-Off Score Sheet

Name of dish:
(To be completed by cook)

 

Score (To be completed by other contestants. You must award one dish at least 9 points in each category.)
Marks out of ten to be awarded for:

Is it edible?

1.

2.

3.

4.

Does it look nice?

1.

2.

3.

4.

Does it taste nice?

1.

2.

3.

4.

Is it ‘interesting’?

1.

2.

3.

4.

Is each portion a uniform size?

1.

2.

3.

4.

How much skill was involved in creating the dish?

1.

2.

3.

4.

Would you like to eat this dish again?

1.

2.

3.

4.
Other comments:

Being Positive in a Surreal World


Being Positive

Hello and how has your week been? Things are very odd, aren’t they? I keep reminding myself that this has happened before, with the 1918 Flu epidemic—I just wasn’t around to experience it. We have had epidemics before, and they passed, and one day things will become normal again. ‘Normal’ feels very precious, doesn’t it?

Have you been personally affected by the virus? So far, although I know of friends-of-friends who have had the virus (in various degrees of severity) no one in my immediate circle has caught the virus. Which means it all feels a little surreal, and the main impact on my day to day life is the government directives rather than the actual virus. I have stopped watching the news—other than the headlines, because I find it rather depressing. There are too many discussions about things that are going wrong, the worries that people have. These are very real, and I don’t want to suggest otherwise, but I find I can only cope with so much horrid stuff at once, so I limit what I watch. I certainly ignore any headline with the word ‘could’ in it. Too much dire speculation. In fact, I find the most interesting news are the simple stats, with no commentary at all. I found a good link: worldometers  

Worth bearing in mind when viewing stats, is that normal flu deaths average about 17,000 in the UK each year. So although covid-19 is worse (because everyone needs hospital help at the same time, and hospitals cannot cope) the mere numbers are not as scary as they seem.

However, there is a lot that is rather special. When I was diagnosed with a brain tumour, everything seemed scary/unreal at first. Gradually, God taught me to live in the present, to notice lovely things about ‘now’ and to leave the future to him. I cannot reassure you about the future, because none of us knows what that will hold, but I can tell you some lovely things about the present. I look outside at the spring flowers, the squirrels bouncing around, the chickens wandering round the garden…

Now, one challenge is shopping. I am shopping for my household (currently 5 people) plus my mother, plus random neighbours of my mother who give her their shopping requests. These requests tend to be very specific: ‘4 conference pears but only if they are ripe’. As they are isolated at home, they have no idea how impossible some of these requests are. I expect they think I am rather tardy/stupid when completely the wrong food arrives. So far, they have been too polite to say anything. I wander round the shop in a complete muddle, trying to juggle different lists and remember what I wanted myself.

One mistake was mentioning to Husband that I was having trouble finding tinned tomatoes. Every time he leaves the house now, he manages to return with tins of tomatoes. I have no idea where he’s finding them—some are very odd varieties. I keep telling him we are fine for tomatoes, but it seems to have become lodged in his brain, it’s like one of those nightmares where you open every cupboard, and each one is full of tomatoes. . . or perhaps you don’t have that nightmare?

I do sort of enjoy shopping now. True, it was disorientating at first, when I popped down for milk and there was none, of any kind, in the shops. But now I go expecting to not find things, and it’s a nice surprise when things are back on the shelves. This is due to the supermarket staff, who are being rather wonderful. Let’s face it, I doubt if any of the cashiers and shelf-stockers previously saw their work as a vocation. And yet there they are, risking all the customer germs, dutifully working so we can eat. When I went down today, there were queues outside, and they were allowing people into the shop gradually: one out, one in. What a hassle for them, yet they were incredibly polite and cheerful, trying to keep us all safe. Inside, I could see them wiping down baskets between each customer, washing their hands, doing their best to be as germ-free as possible.

I could of course list all the other wonderful people: the medics, the bus drivers, the teachers—so many people who are risking their own health to keep the country going. Personally, I think it’s rather marvellous.

Have you found it hard to keep track of the days? With everyone working at home, every day is very similar. I find some of the online conference things help, and some of my normal activities are now continuing in a virtual world. You have to be careful to remember when you are on camera though, I have seen a few mistakes (the worst one being a woman who took her phone to the loo and everyone on the conference call could see her!) Most churches have some sort of virtual service, and we sat round last Sunday and watched our old pastor from New Jersey preaching (I think he was in his basement!) Thankfully, he wasn’t wearing his pyjamas, which most people working from home seem to do (or maybe that’s just in my house). If you want to tune in next Sunday, the link is here

We also watched our UK service online. The link is Here

Both pastors are doing their best not to look like they’re making a hostage video! They are mostly succeeding…

One of the best things for me, is the jokes spinning around the internet. I think some of my isolated relatives spend all day sourcing hilarious memes to send. Here are a few of my favourites:

 

There is also lots of useful information among the scaremongering—you just have to check the source. My understanding of how viruses work is growing—did you know that there are different degrees of infection? So, if you have very slight exposure (maybe one person coughs near you on the street) then your level of infection, and therefore your likely illness, will be slight. However, if you mix with several people carrying the virus, you will have a higher rate of infection and therefore be more ill. The correct term is ‘viral load.’ This means even if you are all in the same family, it is worth isolating ill people, to limit the infection (don’t think that because you all have the virus, you should all sit round watching telly together — you can add to each other’s infection.) Interesting huh? It also means our medical staff, who will have lots of exposure to the virus from various sources, are very much at risk, and therefore very deserving of our admiration.

I hope you are finding some happy things among all the chaos. Take care—and wash your hands!

Love, Anne x

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Trying to be ‘Normal’


Trying to be ‘normal’

Yesterday, Bea brought home a friend she wanted us to meet. I knew this was a fairly big deal for her, and so I was very keen that we shouldn’t embarrass her. Usually I consider that I have earned the right to be embarrassing to my children due to suffering through their teenage years when their clothes and hair and general attitudes were often not what I had hoped for when they were 5—but not this time. This time I was keen to be ‘normal’.

Now, I would say that housework is not my forte. Basically, I hate doing it, and although my kitchen is hygienic, you might find dog hairs on the floor and dust on the window sills, so my first task of the day was to tidy the house and wave a duster around a bit. Unfortunately, Husband (always to be relied upon in these situations) had helpfully decided that this was the day he was going to empty the loft of important papers from 20 years ago, and put them into bags ready to be recycled. The whole of his office resembled a rubbish tip. We had an argument (always a good start when guests are due).

I then began to wipe surfaces in the kitchen, when I noticed an unpleasant smell wafting under the utility room door. We have one of the outside cats in there, in a cage, because she has pulled the ligaments in her back legs (fell out of a tree) and the vet said she mustn’t climb or jump, and I have no idea how you stop a cat jumping, so I have put her into the old dog crate, which is big enough for her to walk around in, but has no opportunity for jumping. She is very cross, but the ligaments are healing, so all is good. Except yesterday, she had dirtied her bedding.

I attempt to open cage door and remove dirty bedding without cross cat escaping, and am about to shove dirty bedding into washing machine, when I hear a shout from the garden. Husband is yelling that the cockerels have been fighting.

I have several cockerels, hatched last year. Until now, they have lived fairly peacefully alongside each other. Cockerels will sometimes live for several years in the same flock without incident, provided they have sufficient space and females. However, sometimes you hatch an aggressive bunch, and then you can only keep one. I hurried into the garden.

One of the cockerels was clearly suffering, having been attacked by one of the bigger ones (his brother actually—chickens are pretty nasty creatures). The bird was obviously dying, and in pain, so I quickly killed him. When chickens are dead, the nerves in their bodies continue to function, making them twitch, so it can be hard to know they are completely dead. I didn’t want it to suffer, so to be sure I chopped off the head. (A chicken with no head is definitely dead, though bizarrely they can still run around!)

Looked at time: daughter due at house with friend at any moment. The cockerel had been a big bird, and it seemed wrong to simply throw him away (waste of a life) but there was no time to do anything with him. So, I tied up his legs, and hung him in garage, to deal with him later. Sent Bea a message: “If you give friend a tour of the house, don’t go in garage because there’s a dead chicken hanging from the ceiling!”

Bea replied: “What? You are meant to be trying to be normal! Dead chicken hanging in garage is not normal!”

I felt she had a point.

The rest of the visit went okay, and we liked her friend immensely. I have no idea what the friend thought of us, but hopefully we appeared to be relatively normal.

Thanks for reading. Take care.
Love, Anne x

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anneethompson.com
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