Friday, 4 February 2011

A Greek God's Odyssey, And The Start Of What May Prove To Be A Seven Year Itch

Well, The Boss and Vicky are back. Which is about as bad as it sounds, although I do try to be friendly. Initially.

"How was the hotel?" I say. "As luxurious as it looked on the website?"

When there is no answer, I wonder if I failed to speak the words aloud - until I catch a glimpse of Greg's face. There's a certain amount of disgusted eye-rolling going on.

"Are we fully-booked for surgery, Gregory?" says The Boss.

"Not sure, Andrew," says Greg. "Molly has the list - as usual, since she's the one who always accompanies you."

Andrew holds out his hand in my direction until I take the hint and put the surgery folder into it. He pauses for a moment as he scans the list of names - mainly the usual suspects, as per bloody usual - and then he turns to Greg, and says,

"Well, she must have other things to be getting on with, so you can do it instead, can't you?"

If Nan had heard that, she'd have said something about she being the cat's mother but, as she isn't, I decide it's probably safer not to mention it. Not that anyone's listening to me anyway. Vicky's checking out her fingernails, The Boss is tapping his foot, and Greg looks absolutely furious.

"No, Andrew, I can't," he says. "I'm accompanying Mr Young to his Housing Benefit appeal. As his Mackechnie's friend."

"Mackenzie's," I say, but no-one reacts at all. I'm rapidly approaching the verge of an existential crisis. I turn my back, pinch myself hard, and discover it hurts - which is vaguely reassuring. So at least I know I do exist - probably.

There's a stand-off occurring when I turn back to face the others: The Boss is scowling hard at Greg, who is studiously ignoring him. After what feels like hours, Andrew re-arranges his features and looks at Vicky. I've seen less imploring Spaniels.

"You'll do it, won't you, Vicks?" he says.

Vicky just shakes her head and carries on inspecting her nails, so eventually Andrew glares in my direction, gestures for me to follow him, and off we go to the Friday torture chamber. I'm a lucky, lucky woman.

Two hours later, after a series of demented enquiries from almost every nutter on our books, there's light at the end of the tunnel. We've just begun the very last appointment - with a Mrs Boswell whom I've never met before - when The Boss' mobile rings for a pre-scheduled radio interview.

He makes his excuses to Mrs B and leaves me to it, which takes rather longer than expected. And proves to be a whole lot more bizarre, even by normal surgery standards. And a bit itchier, too.

When I finally show Mrs Boswell out, she almost bumps into Greg, who's just coming in through the front door. He stops me before I start to climb the stairs.

"Where's Andrew?" he says. "Did he speak to you at all during surgery? Bloody idiot makes me so cross when he behaves like that. Makes me feel awkward too."

"He had to go and do that interview with Radio Northwick just before the end," I say. "Not that it made much difference seeing as he was hardly talking anyway. Left me with a really weird last case, though. That woman you just passed in the doorway."

"What did she want?" says Greg, so I tell him. When I've finished, his face lights up, and he says,

"Right, Mol. Payback time. Just keep quiet and follow my lead."

I can't bear to think about what's going to happen next, but all is calm when we first enter the office. Andrew's lying on the sofa in the Oprah Room, sipping a coffee, while Vicky sits next to him, gazing at him as if he was a Greek God.

Which he isn't, unless Greek Gods look half-asleep and are in the habit of kicking off their shoes to reveal an enormous hole in one of their socks.

"Bloody hell," he says. "You took your time, Greg."

"I was talking to Molly about that last case," says Greg. "Very tricky to handle. I hope you took precautions, Andrew?"

The Boss sits up a bit straighter and says,

"Precautions? What the hell are you talking about? Of course I didn't take precautions. Against what?"

Greg looks at me, then shakes his head and sighs.

"Bed bugs," he says. "Mrs Boswell's house is infested with them. Crawling. Whole family's covered in bites."

Andrew goes pale, while Vicky laughs.

"Don't be silly," she says. "No-one gets bed bugs these days. They're like... totally last century. Aren't they?"

She probably means that they were around when I was born, but I rise above the provocation. It's quite easy, actually, as I'm starting to enjoy myself now.

"That's what Molly and I thought,"  says Greg. "But Mol's already phoned Northwick Council and they've confirmed it. They've burned all Mrs Boswell's clothes and soft furnishings but that hasn't solved the problem - so they're going to have to burn her furniture next."

"Well, how the hell did she get bed bugs in the first place?" says Andrew.

"Bedding," says Greg, before pausing in an virtuoso example of perfect comic timing. "Hotel bedding, wasn't it, Mol?"

It wasn't, but I don't admit that. I just nod - several times, for emphasis.

"Shit," says Vicky. "Oh, my God."

"Well, I wouldn't worry about it too much," I say. "What's done is done. Oh, and Andrew, here's your jacket."

"Where was it?" he says, forgetting that he's not talking to me.

"You left it on a chair," I say. "Mrs Boswell was sitting on it. Catch!"

Even a Greek God couldn't have jumped higher than The Boss. Or moved away any faster. He knocks Vicky flying as he tries to put as much distance between himself and his jacket as he can. It's the highlight of the year so far.

Greg and I are still laughing about it when we close the office - in between bouts of panic and furious scratching, of course. For once, David Cameron's right when he says we're all in it together.

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