Some of you may recall that I recently had a bit of a run-in with one of my neighbours. Welcome to the second instalment…
About ten days or so ago I decided to order a copy of this picture as a large canvas print.
It was meant to be for my fab hubby to remind him of our perfect Caribbean holiday, which seems so very, very long ago now. We’re having a bit of a tough time right now, what with dodgy finances and (the FAB Hubby’s) heart surgery and a distinct lack of purpose in life, coupled with an increasing feeling of having been tossed onto the scrapheap of sentience. I don’t want to impose my life complaints on everyone, but these circumstances are not helping my increasingly severe depression and most days I spend staring at my computer screen, trying to find any kind of motivation to get something achieved.
I have occasional spurts when I try to ‘pull myself together’ like a pair of curtains, but these rarely result in much tangible success, although I do keep on trying.
So actually gathering enough *oomph* to select and order this picture was a major happening for me. I was so pleased with myself for achieving something.The picture is particularly sentimental for us as it is of Pebbles Beach, in Carlisle Bay, Barbados, where I learned to swim as a small child. Taking Mark there was one of the first things we did when we got into the hire car – the satnav wasn’t working, but I managed to guide him to the place without too much of a detour, largely based on forty-year-old memories and a keen sense of direction. To be fair, the island is only 14 miles by 21 so it’s pretty easy to navigate around, but I was still chuffed to have found it so easily.
Standing on the exquisite white sand in the most brilliant sunshine, I was suddenly eight years old once more, in my tiger swim-suit (long story !), whiling away my days, collecting precious shells and rolling in the surf on Pebbles Beach. The Aquatic Club bar – ‘Pebble Beach Inn’ as it was known then – also had a swimming pool although it’s gone now, having been redeveloped in the intervening years. Patrick (my bestest of boy-friends) and I spent day after day either in the sea or the pool, only being dragged out to eat or drink something then back in the water we went, like a pair of water babies. It’s a strange misnomer, because there isn’t a single pebble on Pebble Beach – and there never has been as far as I can recall, so it was shells that we collected on the rare occasions that we emerged from the water.
Showing my husband of thirty-six years this precious memory meant that finally we could share it together and this of course called for a stroll along the length of the beach. I snapped the picture from the top of the steps, then he helped me jump down the steps and being a rather rotund shape these days, I tippled forward and he, being the gallant knight that he is, staggered forward to help me, so that I would be spared the indignity of rolling into a ball on the hot sand. He’d been taking his specs off and replacing them with his new sunglasses – another, whole different story – so this process was interrupted during the rockin’ and rollin’ around in the sand.
Fast forward for about an hour as we stroll the entire length of this gorgeous beach and begin our return journey. By now, the heat has gone from the day and the sun is beginning to set -the light is fading exquisitely albeit rapidly, as it does in the Caribbean, being so much closer to the equator and all that. I’m happily snapping away with my new camera at the scenery, the sand, the water, the sky, everything in fact. I turn to take a snap of the FAB Hubby; he’s looking puzzled and just ever-so-slightly panicky.
‘Why’s he fumbling in his shirt pocket?‘ I ask myself. Then I ask him the same question of course, to which his terrified face blurts out ‘I’ve lost my specs!’.
Now, I should probably explain here that FAB H is virtually blind without his specs. Modern technology has reduced the thickness of the glass these days to something that resembles one of those convex coffee-table paper-weights that people have favoured pressed flowers encased in, as keepsakes or whatever. Jam jars are a thing of the past. Well, mostly anyway. The thing is, he genuinely cannot see a thing without them. So this was a BIG deal.
The entire holiday was on the verge of ruin, for without his eyes, how would he see everything? How would we manage? Plus, the damned things had just cost an arm and a couple of legs to ensure he had them in time for the holiday. Usually he has photo-chromic lenses which means he doesn’t need separate sunglasses, so there was considerable cursing of the incompetent optician’s assistant whose fault it was that we were now having to negotiate our holiday of a lifetime, minus the ability to actually see anything, since the actual reading glasses had taken themselves off for a little holiday of their own.
It’s quite a long beach it turns out.
We retraced our steps, trying to remain positive, in spite of the increasingly fading light, turning every grain of sand over with our hands and feet, checking to see where they may have been washed into the sea, for, of course, just to complicate matters a little further, the tide was coming in. Fast.
We’d almost given up as we arrived back at the steps to clamber back into the car.
And then I saw them, quietly, even contemplatively, watching the sunset sitting squarely in the sand, exactly where he’d knocked them out of his pocket when he chivalrously came to my aid earlier.
Lost. And then found again. Just like the beach was.
Now, let’s get back to the present shall we… stop all this lazing around on tropical beaches!
So, I’d ordered this picture to remind him of our wonderful holiday and perhaps to help motivate us both into better frames of mind. I got a great deal and ordered it in a large size – my pictures are meant to be viewed in large formats. This one was about 60cm x 80cm. That’s about 2 feet by about 2 feet 8 inches for those who don’t do decimals.
Thrilled I was.
When I received the email saying it would arrive on Tuesday, I was still feeling thrilled.
On Tuesday I went out of the house for the first time in about … well forever… to go help some friends hang an exhibition in Scarborough hospital. I almost asked my other neighbour to keep an eye out, but she was busy with her three children, so I left it, thinking ‘We’ll be back in good time, it’ll be fine.‘
Famous last thoughts. ‘It’ll be fine.‘ HAH!
Upon returning home the neighbour and her offspring were still in their garden so I asked about the parcel and she told me our other neighbour, the chap from downstairs, the evil one who made me clean his drains out recently, he was the one who’d taken it in. I sent my son round to go pick it up, but there was some confusion about my apparently ambiguous instruction and the long and short of it was that no-one went to get the parcel that evening. I fretted and worried and got antsy and my *long-suffering men* ignored my slightly manic state and pressed on with the heavy responsibility of watching TV (or rather, snoring in front of the telly) and raising hell in some imaginary computer game world. Ahem.
Fast forward again to the next morning, when, as usual we were woken by the sound of the recycling truck and staff collecting the recycling waste. Thinking nothing more than ‘Did you put the bins out?’ I turned over and went back to sleep, whilst the FABH got up and pottered about downstairs for a while.
When I rose, Cleopatra-like, from my slumber a little later on, my first thought was about the picture so I asked if FABH had yet retrieved it and he agreed to put some trousers on and go to collect it. It’s best to not ask about the trousers – just let that one go for now, OK?
He returned, empty handed, reporting that our (despicable) neighbour had no knowledge of any parcel whatsoever.
I was distraught.
I was beside myself with tormented thoughts.
It wasn’t adding up.
How could he not have known about the parcel? What could have happened to it? Where did the UPS chap leave it? Did anyone see what he did with it? These and many more questions began encircling my tiny brain – like the little cartoon birds that used to fly round Sylvester or Tweety Pie’s head when they crashed into something.
I fretted a little more. I envisaged every and any possible scenario regarding my parcel’s fate. Each a more grisly fate than the last.
The FABH of course remained implacable in the face of potential chaos. He phoned the delivery company (UPS) and we had a delightful conversation with a lovely lady called Sarah, who assured me that the records showed that the parcel had been left in a porch around the back. I explained that this property isn’t what it seems and that ‘around the back‘ are two separate, distinct apartments. She sympathised and suggested that the delivery man might call me himself to explain where he left the parcel. We thought this was an excellent idea and readily agreed.
Then we waited.
Only, I’m not really very good at waiting.
The ants in my pants told me to do it.
I went downstairs and around the back and knocked smartly on my (beastly) neighbour’s door. He was on the phone and clearly, visibly, ignoring me. I could see him through his window. Eventually he gesticulated for me to let myself in, which I did. I asked him about the parcel and he flatly denied all knowledge of it.I described it in detail and he shook his head and threw up his hands, asking me what I wanted to DO about it?
I asked for permission to check his outbuildings- an aluminium shed and another, smaller, store-box, but it wasn’t there. I was even more puzzled now and asked him what I was supposed to think when I’d been told that the delivery man had left it in his domain, but it seemed to have simply vanished. As he sagely nodded his head and attempted to stand up to encourage me to leave, he slumped, in a drunken stupor, to the floor. After helping him to the nearby sofa, I took my cue and left. Clearly, I wasn’t getting anywhere there.
Upon my return, the delivery driver, Carl, rang and we discussed the situation with him. He suggested that usually in these cases, the ‘thief’ makes the mistake of putting the packaging into the rubbish bin, to which the FABH calmly stated that it’s unlikely he’d find any rubbish in the bin as today was collection day… and then we both looked at each other in horror as the realisation of what might have happened set in.
With tears (of anger, frustration, utter disbelief and the ultimate pain of loss) rolling down my face, we thanked Carl for agreeing to pop by the next day to check on the location of the parcel and then all we could do was sit and wait. Again.
I am really rubbish at waiting – we’ve already established this – so around six-ish, I went to call on our other (Polish) neighbour to see if perhaps Carl had been mistaken and left it in his kitchen instead. He hadn’t. And it turned out that our Polish friend had actually seen my parcel in the other neighbour’s kitchen.
What can you do when faced with such evidence? Clearly, I live next to an unstable and apparently vindictive man who thinks nothing of stealing our mail. I considered going to the police, as well as our mutual landlord, but persuaded myself these options seemed drastic. I even emailed the council in the hopes that someone might have spotted the brand-newness of my parcel and put it aside perhaps… to no avail of course. I didn’t sleep a wink and when Carl arrived the next day having taken a good look around the neighbour’s property, he agreed that the only thing to do was set everything in motion to replace the picture. He promised to drop the necessary paperwork off early next week and then he left.
Imagine how delighted I was yesterday morning then when Carl arrived with my replacement parcel! He confided that the paperwork hadn’t been required since, upon ‘further investigation’ (I know not what that entailed), my dastardly neighbour had admitted that he’d taken the parcel in and then put it straight into the recycling collection. Part of me still mourns for that lost picture, but at least now it’s sitting where it’s meant to be – above the sofa across the room from the FABH, so he can be re-inspired each time he looks at it.
Lost. Stolen. Recovered. Or at least replaced.
It’s a picture with a story to tell…
Thanks for reading again!
It’s definitely odd. I have never really been a *horsey* person.
Waaaaay back, in my former life as a convent boarding school student (I TOLD you it was a very, very long time ago!) there were several ‘Horsey Girls’ who were contemporaries of mine. They were the ones who went riding at least once or twice a week and who had ponies of their own at home, which was often many miles away. Some of these girls lived on the Yorkshire Wolds, not far from The Grange in fact. Some lived in villages around York. Some were from much further afield, especially if they were Forces Kids. That’s a whole special group that deserve a post of their own, so I’ll save THAT stuff for another time. Today, I’m recalling the Equine Adoration Club.
Wendy was the epitome of this group. Wendy adored horses, drew pictures of them constantly and often communicated with little whinnying noises, occasionally accompanied with a theatrical head shake and nostril flaring or even – if she felt so inclined and your impudence called for this – a good nose snort. I can remember her *trotting* around with two hands in front (I was never sure if she was imagining she was holding reins in this position, which therefore meant she was the rider in this scenario, or that she was imagining herself rearing up and kicking out her front legs wildly like Champion the Wonder Horse) which was probably terribly endearing when she was oh, say five or six years old – possibly even as old as nine maybe. When she was sixteen and still displaying this behaviour, I began to suspect that she may have been slightly unbalanced. But then, in English boarding schools, this kind of eccentric conduct was almost expected and eejits, like myself, who refused to display such idiosyncrasies were perhaps lesser mortals who had to find other ways to make themselves acceptable to the group. A therapists dream, surely!
Wendy wasn’t alone in her equine exaltations. I could name at least a dozen other girls who simply loved horses. Some of them were farmer’s children and their veneration for the animals stemmed from working with them since they were very small. These people I could understand a little at least. Their animals worked hard on their farms and as they lived fairly long lives and we were merely in our teens, it made sense to me that they would have a healthy respect and indeed love for their noble steed.
But that other group, the girls who just *loved* horses, they were unfathomable to me. In my experience, up to this point in my short life, the only horses I had met were either the huge, world-weary cart-horses that the rag-a’bone man, the milk man or the coal man used to wander the streets of my youth, plying their goods and trades, or else they were the wild, angry-eyed dervishes on the big screen, usually ridden (if at all) by equally wild-eyed Cowboys or Injins. Why on earth an ordinary, real person might want to even stand next to one of these creatures was simply beyond my comprehension. Then.
I did try to like horses.
I read Black Beauty when I was about nine years old. I adored reading and this tale of companionship, love, betrayal, sadness and ultimate happiness quickly became one of my most treasured favourites. The fact that it was written from the horse’s point of view gave me such insight into the mind of the animal that I felt I could not be afraid of such a beautiful soul.
I watched National Velvet with the eleven-year-old beauty, Elizabeth Taylor and the ridiculous Mickey Rooney. I became Velvet. I ‘rode’ the arms of the sofa to prove my point. I loved that movie and watched it every time it came back on the telly. I must have seen it three times at least. Which was a lot, back in 1970.
My Nan was obsessed with horse-racing and one of my earliest memories is of watching her tiny, black-and-white, six-inch television screen, housed inside a beautiful walnut-burred cabinet that was taller than me, on Saturday afternoons, when the 3.20 from Kempston or the 2.40 from Chepstow was the focus of attention. I’d watch the diminutive creatures haring around the track, keeping as close to the white rail as possible and, with a sidelong glance at Nan, shout my head off, mimicking her as closely as possible, for ‘Liberace’s Dream’ or ‘Red Rum’ to pass the winning line first. In those days of course, it was in fact nigh on impossible to tell who had actually won the race until it was officially announced, because the screen was so small and it was in black and white, so determining which jockey was wearing which colours was a Fool’s Errand (pun intended!).
Occasionally she would drag me into William Hill’s, the betting shop that stood at the top of Gorsey Bank Road for many years. I’ve seen many interpretations on both the small and big screens of a variety of betting shop interiors, but none of them matched that establishment. An imposing, white-washed building, with room for several fancy cars to be parked outside, this den of iniquity felt like something from the Arabian Nights to me, whenever we entered. There were brightly coloured silks on the walls, probably relating to the jockey’s of course, but to my child’s eye, they were simply declarations of overly ostentatious Turkish Delights. The seats around the edge of the room were plush red suede and there was a CARPET on the floor. For someone who had only ever experienced linoleum, or bare floorboards, this was the height of expensive luxury and it’s a wonder I never became addicted to gambling, such a bounteous and exciting impression this place left on my psyche.
We’d go there so she could wait for the results which would always come through more quickly and she could collect her winnings with her little cackle and then we’d be on our way, usually over the road to the chip shop for a penn’orth of chips, extravagantly in a tray, with gravy.
So, I was familiar, sort of, with race horses and considered them to be wondrous, impressive beasts, capable of providing much entertainment to many around the country. But, I’d never seen a horse up close at all.
That treat was saved for a school fair when I was about ten or eleven. Someone had decided that the children would all *love* pony rides on the day of the event and thus I came across the biggest pony I’d ever seen. He was all legs (four of them mind!) and humongous hooves. I swear that each hoof was as big as my head. He towered above me – I’d learned that they measured horses in hands and he must have been at least a hundred hands (my hands, which were very small, even for my age!) high. And his head! Oh, my, how BIG it was!And how snorty were his huge nostrils? I was picked up by the lad who was handling the pony and thrown onto the saddle on his back.
From this vertiginous vantage point, I felt, briefly, elated to be able to see the entire field, with all the games and stalls and people. This didn’t last though, as the animals haunches moved beneath me I froze with sheer terror as the thought of falling off, down the many miles to the ground, then hitting that floor and having my head kicked and stamped upon by this monstrous beast, which would surely bring me the sweet release of a bloody, violent death fairly quickly at least. I have no idea how I was released from this frightful moment, I just recall my overwhelming sense of relief that I was back on Terra Firma and I vowed never to try this stunt again.
So fear of horses has been my over-riding emotion throughout most of my life.
I didn’t mind taking my children on donkeys because, well, generally speaking, they are MUCH shorter than horses! And I could appreciate the beauty of Equine creatures. Just preferably from a very safe distance.
But recently, living as we do amongst some of the country’s leading stud farms, I’ve come to appreciate horses for what I consider some of their very best qualities.
Horses, particularly ones that are happily grazing in lush fields, with nothing in particular to bother them, are very sociable animals. If you stop by their hedges or gates and look out across the field towards them, they will invariably notice you, pretty quickly. They will pose perfectly for you to snap their best features and show their inner beauty as well as their fine fetlocks, elegant necks, perky ears and magnificent manes.
Then, when they think you’ve captured the perfect shots, they will inevitably wander on over to you and then they do something that many humans are reluctant to do. They look you directly in the eye and they see right into your soul. It can be very unnerving. If they like what they see there, they will come and nuzzle or best of all, they will slightly cock their head to one side and really, truly, they *listen* to you.
You don’t have to use actual verbal noises. Although, if I’m alone I usually talk aloud to them at this point. But you can converse with a horse, even one that doesn’t know you, using just your eyes. They can *know* your life story almost instinctively and all your thoughts, actions and dreams are laid bare for them to peruse. I swear, I saw this horse smile at me last week.
And it’s only taken me forty years to understand what those *Horsey Girls* knew. I’m chalking this up to ‘You live, you learn.’
Now, I have lived.
Ah dear reader… I wonder how many of you can cast your minds back in time. For some of us it may be WAAAAAAAAY back, for others perhaps just a few years. But try if you can to recall the absolute, momentous thrill that surged through your body, from your little dis-believing eyes, right the way down past the pit of your stomach and on into the hairs on your big toes. (Oh, sorry, I should have put a ‘gross-ness warning’ on this post! Consider yourselves warned!)
I am of course referring to the day you opened your very first pay packet.
Actual cash, sitting there, representing the hours of toil, sweat and tears that you undertook in order to have some real, honest-to-God, hard-earned spondoolicks so that you can go and hang out in the record store and actually BUY one of the albums you’d previously had to save for weeks to afford on your old pocket-money gaff.
How many of us wanted to do what my Neanderthol did upon opening his very first pay packet this weekend and smother it all over his face? Go on, admit it… I bet you did it too!
Of course, he’s not going to hang out in some old record store to buy his favourite album (mine was Wishbone Ash’s album… the title of which completely escapes me right now, but it had that haunting track ‘The singing of the Lorelei’ on it). He’s going straight over to the Minecraft store to have a chat with Steve… 🙂
Thanks for reading!