Thursday, 13 January 2011

You Couldn't Make It Up. Though I Bloody Well Wish I Was.

Oh, dear God. Northwick is far too small and incestuous. No wonder everyone's slept with everyone else. (Though I really hope that only applies to my generation, and not to my children's.)

Mum phones me at work in the morning to ask if I want to meet her for lunch today. I don't particularly, as she's bound to ask me how Dad is, but I agree anyway. Sometimes good manners is such a curse.

I leave work in plenty of time and I'm on my way to the cafe when I spot Miss Chambers standing outside it, so I duck into the nearest doorway and hide. I'd like to retain at least a vestige of my hearing, so I'm not prepared to encounter her voluntarily, not even if it does make me late for an appointment.

I wait for about five minutes, risking the occasional peek around the wall, until I see Miss C start to walk away, thankfully in the opposite direction from where I'm standing.

It's only when I step out from my hiding place that I see that the person she has been talking to is my mother. My mother! How the hell did that happen?

I rush towards Mum, and hustle her into the cafe.

"Be careful, dear," she says. "Mind my broken wrist."

"You're lucky that's all that's wrong with you, if you will go talking to any old nutter you meet in the street," I say. "You need to be much more careful, especially given my job. Though I can't understand how that woman knew you were related to me."

"What woman?" says Mum. "Oh, do you mean Carol? Carol Chambers?"

Oh, good God. It's worse than I thought. They're on first-name terms, and my mother is being groomed by our most nightmare constituent. Probably to punish me for hanging up whenever the screaming starts.

"Yes, Miss Bloody Chambers," I say. "Though I probably shouldn't even confirm her name to you. Constituent confidentiality and all that."

Mum looks at me as if I am the madwoman. There is no justice.

"What are you talking about, Molly?" she says. "Constituent? Do you know Carol, then?"

This whole thing is becoming too surreal for words. Of course I know Miss Chambers, though I wish I bloody didn't. And, anyway, the big question is how she knows Mum, so I ask exactly that.

"She's my new cleaner,"  says Mum. "I had to get one when I broke my wrist. And Carol came with excellent references."

I bet she did. Probably written by a bunch of fellow mentalists. (I can tell I'm losing the plot because I've started thinking in teenage-speak. Politically-incorrect teenage-speak.)

"Well, you'll have to tell her you've changed your mind," I say.

"Don't be silly, Molly. She knows I haven't," says Mum. "She started yesterday and she did a fantastic job. She seems quite obsessional about cleaning, actually."

"And not just about that," I say, under my breath. "Not by a very long chalk."

Then I look at my poor, unsuspecting mother and can't think what to say next, so I pour the tea instead.

"You look awfully pale," says Mum. "Are you feeling all right?"

"No," I say. "I'm not. I can't tell you why, but you have to get rid of that woman. Pronto. Especially before she spots all the family photos."

"Don't be so dramatic, dear," says Mum. "You're getting carried away. And anyway, Carol's already seen them. She said you looked familiar, now I come to think of it."

I think Greg might be right that these are panic attacks and not hot flushes. I just hope he can think of a way to make them stop - because I'm buggered if I can.

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