Grass Not So Green - Humorous Short Story

Not Greener Grass:

 

 

Propelled along by the conveyor belt of human traffic, I reached into my large and unfit for purpose handbag and dug about for my oyster card.  I could feel the familiar shapes of my lipstick, mobile and purse but no amount of fumbling around could locate the dammed oyster card.  Deciding that the turnstiles where probably not the best place to stop and have a more detailed look in the said handbag - unless I wanted to incur the wrath of hundreds of miserable, tired commuters by blocking the flow – I pushed my way to the side and in a grubby corner of Oxford Street tube station, I crouched down, chastising my pashmina for flopping onto the grimy ground and rummaged through my bag.  I cursed quite loudly as I thought back to the afternoon when I had decided that tidying out my bag - a procedure usually dreaded - was still preferable to tackling my in-tray, which was depressingly full for a Friday.  Had I left the Oyster card at work?  I was about to give up when, suddenly the grey folder presented itself, poking out of one of the side compartments of the bag: which I decided there and then would have to be retired.  Grabbing it and flicking it open, I earned my reputation as a rude Londoner, forced my way back into the stream and descended underground.

 

Sitting on the tube I flicked off my patent high heel, to note with dismay a gapping hole in my ladderless stocking and a juicy big blister on the back of my foot.  The day was heading downhill fast.  It was February and still very dark at six thirty, so much so that it was actually hard to tell that the tube had now reached above ground beyond Finchley Road Station – would summer ever come?  A vibrating on my lap alerted me to the text which was coming in.  With an enthusiasm born of boredom and a ‘the day cannot get worse attitude’ I read the text from my boyfriend, Marc,

“What R U making for T?”

My personal rev counter immediately entered the red as I read the word “U”!  I had been working late every day that week and I had cooked and yet a certain inconsiderate person was still nagging about food on a Friday night without the thought of doing something about it himself entering his pig headed mind.  Of course because he’s an accountant who pulls the odd all-nighter he likes to perpetuate the myth that he is the most overworked person on the planet.  Jabbing at my mobile keypad, I text him back, “How about fried fresh air and a phantom steak?”

Within seconds the text jingle, which was beginning to sound like fingernails on a chalk board to me, rang out again.  With a deep intake of breath I looked at the screen; my tension immediately evaporated when I saw the text was from my cousin Tammy!

 

Bully Fooked this weekend and next week; one of my staff quit, Julie has sciatica…about to have a migraine…sorry not to have rung this week.  Love Tammy.

 

Tammy and her husband ran a guest house and “bully fooked” was what they called being fully booked and basically rushed off their feet.  I envied Tammy; her guest house was a Tudor-style listed building in a quaint and posh town up North.  I wasn’t quite sure if it was technically ‘up North’, it was North of London at any rate and my sat nav knew the way.  My mind drifted away from the crammed tube of grey, bedraggled commuters and the brick and mortar jungle outside to the patchwork, hilly countryside where somewhere in a cosy lounge with a fire aglow, complimentary liquor chocolates awaited Tammy and Grant’s guests. Tammy’s life seemed about ten worlds from mine: all she had to do was get up, cook a few breakfasts, oversee the tidying of the bedrooms and……and…..I searched through a range of mental pictures, but that was all I could think of – she was basically free for the rest of the day to do her own thing.  What bliss when compared to my life: wrenching myself from under my duvet at the first shrill squeaks of the alarm; gulping down a microwaved instant coffee; throwing on as many layers of clothing as I could find in order to brave the Arctic wind at the train platform; awkwardly eating a digestive biscuit while holding onto the overhead rail as there is only ever standing room on the train and tube; then working for a demanding, unappreciative boss until six.  Lunch hour was never enough time to retie a shoelace and every month the working day seemed to drag on longer.  Tammy and Grant, on the other hand never had to leave their own home, interesting people from all over the globe came in and out of their doors and at the end of the day: it was their own business.  C’est la vie.

 

I slipped the key in my front door, my heart sinking as I anticipated another one of Marc’s sullen, crabby moods – all I needed on a Friday.  I was correct in my assumption, my text had not gone down well and he was in the ‘face as long as a fiddle’ mode.

      “You could have picked something up from Mumbai Blue Marc; it is Friday you know – the night we used to chill out!” I began wearily, as I offloaded several layers of woolly garments.

     “They’re too bloody expensive down there; I thought we agreed to cut back!” he retorted, never missing the chance to remind me that we were seriously in save-mode.

     “I’ve only just gotten home, Marc!  It’s been a tough week for me, is it too much to ask that you shove a jacket potato in the micro – my nephew of three does that!”

     “Listen!” he bellowed enraged, “Cooking is your gig!  We both work hard; in addition, I took the cars for service, reinsured at the best rate going and spent my only lunch hour retaxing the cars this week.  The least you could do is prepare a meal – since a boy of three can do it, it’s hardly a stretch then is it?”

In his typically astute way he had managed to turn my argument back onto me adding some punch.  Feeling chastened I wondered miserably into the kitchen to see what inspiration the fridge could offer me.  Marc stormed off to take a shower.

 

Suddenly I thought of Tammy again, I had not replied to her text.  All of a sudden I was struck by an impetuous wave of rebellion; a wave of what I could only call careless spontaneity.  Bugger this, I thought, Tammy’s short staffed, she needs my help.

 

In minutes I was sitting in my car, the sat nav’ was instructing me to take a left.  I felt exhilarated; I was getting away from it all.  Goodbye London, goodbye Marc, goodbye rush hour commute, I was on my way to help Tammy run her guest house.

 

Two hours later I was sitting in my car in the car park of The Kissing Tree; wondering if I should have let Tammy know that I was coming.  I reached for my mobile and immediately deleted Marc’s undoubtedly enraged texts messages without reading them. 

     “Hi Kara,” greeted Tammy with her normal enthusiasm.

     “Got your text, sorry about your staff problems, how are you coping?”

     “One my staff quit yesterday and the other is crying off with a rather suspicious sounding case of sciatica, personally I think it is more like a classic case of Hyprichonditis (a word which in our family means an allergy to work),” Tammy continued with barely a pause, “Anyway I have been left stranded with guests arriving and loads of rooms to clean, washing, ironing and cooking.  I am dreading this weekend!  And you know Grant…he is more worried about the England Rugby team’s form.”

     “How about I come and give you a hand,” I suggested casually.

     Tammy paused, she seemed shocked, “Would you do that?”

     “For you, of course!”

     “What time can you be here?” blurted out an excited Tammy.

     “Uhm,” I pretended to ponder, “About ten seconds.”

 

I was diligently awake and ready for work at 8 ‘o clock.  Tammy was actually up at six, but I will blame her very comfortable mattress topper and the lack of setting the alarm on the fact that I slept comparatively late.  With my hair tied back into a plain Jane pony, tracksuit on, bright pink tennis socks and no make up, I arrived in the kitchen to find that Tammy was impeccably dressed, wearing earrings and donning full make up.  I guessed that Tammy deemed I was not looking sharp enough to waitress and so I was allocated the job of toast making and re-heating some of Grant’s famous scambled egg and homemade sausages. 

 

Well, mornings at The Kissing Tree, I soon found are like Grand Central Station at rush hour: pretty hectic.  So instead of being offered a brekkie for myself or even a tea, I was offered a caddy of detergents, cloths and a vacuum cleaner and was ordered by Tammy to start work.  I was sensing a previously hidden bossy side to Tammy, who is usually a fun person.  I went into the first bathroom, put the caddy on the floor and began wondering where to start.  With five more rooms to clean and some guests already arriving there was no time to analyse the various sprays and bottles in the caddy and to start pontificating on what to use for which purpose; so I grabbed a pink spray bottle and set to work on cleaning the loo (which I am grateful to say was fairly presentable).  I sprayed some other stuff on the shower and tiles and found that a thick yellow fluid did a good job of the basin.  I must say that after 25 minutes, I was extremely impressed with how shiny everything looked and how fresh it smelled.  I just had the floor left to do, so I looked about for Tammy to enquire what I should clean the bathroom floor with.  Tammy was listening riveted to a guest who was telling her about local attractions she had visited; well riveted or comatose, it’s a fine line.  With no help about, I selected a blue mop-like thing with a small handle and decided to use it in conjunction with some spray stuff.  So with the blue mop like thing (an alien item of household equipment to me) I set about cleaning around the toilet bowl and the rest of the floor.  By that stage it was time for me to polish the wooden dresser, side tables and headboards and dust the TV, clock radio and ridiculous amount of ornaments and paraphernalia in the room.  I must say that when Tammy redecorates she may want to consider minimalism, because there is way too much jazz in those rooms collecting dust!

     I was on my second bathroom when I had time to look at the items in the cleaning caddy more closely, this was when I found out that I had cleaned the toilet with something called ‘Vanish Upholstery Stain and Spot Remover’.  I’d cleaned the shower with a furniture polish spray, the basin with toilet bleach and I still don’t even know what I had used on the floor.  Despite the mix up though, the cleaning products did a remarkable job, evidence that they probably have the same ingredients anyway.

Tammy joined in with the room cleaning after she had checked out the guests and rummaged through the trash can for a receipt which she had thrown away instead of giving it to the guest.  Tammy is very particular about the cleaning, and it is no fluke that her guest house has won numerous awards; however I was finding her pedantic attention to the precise placement of pillows and cushions rather tiring, especially as my back was beginning to ache. In typical family tradition we love to talk and I strongly suspect we were driving her husband Grant mad with our relentless chatter; he quietly retired to the kitchen and turned Sky News up full volume.

 

Interestingly, later that morning I saw that Grant was dusting the dining room tables with the blue mop like thing I had used for the bathroom floor.  Needless to say I did not point out my mistake.

 

By one o’ clock I was exhausted, I was seeing flashing lights and a migraine seemed on the cards.  Jason, Tammy’s son had just gotten out of bed and HIS contribution to the morning chores had been taking the dog for a walk.   I went to lie down instead of joining Tammy and Grant who, despite being arm deep in dirty sheets and dishes all morning were up for a lunch date with friends.   Tammy gave me some powerful migraine tablets she gets over the counter when she goes on holiday to Mexico, a country with a pharmaceutical free-for-all apparently.  I must have drifted off to sleep.  Next thing the door bell goes and I wake up realising that I am meant to be letting guests in.  I raced to the front door in my terry towelling gown, only realising as I got to the door that I was still wearing my pink tennis socks from that morning.  Just as well I don’t get embarrassed easily as I am sure my hair was in a pulled through the bush backwards style.  I don’t think Tammy would have approved of my guest greeting style: she is always dressed head to toe in designer clothes - I would not know the difference, Marc goes into a financial tailspin at the mere mention of a designer brand.  Tammy even cleans the loos dressed in Gucci boots just in case a guest rings the doorbell: presenting the right image is fundamental her PR strategy.  Well all I can say, is just as well it was guests and not the people from the McMillan’s Good Hotel Guide, who rang the bell that Saturday: I can just picture their comments:

 

The Kissing tree is a lovely guest house apart from the strange woman with the Russell Brand hairstyle who opens the door dressed in pink tennis socks and a gown.   

 

The couple said they had a booking, but I could find no record of it, so I asked them which room they wanted and grabbed five bunches of keys hoping one would fit; at some point I did locate the correct key.  They seemed happy with my explanation that I was looking after the guest house for Tammy and nursing myself through a migraine.

 

Tammy and Grant arrived home late in the afternoon and since Jason was ravenous we (Jason and I) were sent off to the village to shop.  Jason lives away at Uni most of the time, and as Tammy says, ‘He only comes home to eat!’  I guess a visit with his folks is a good time to carbo load.  We got to the shop and I asked Jason what his Mum wanted, it was a case of “I don’t know I thought you were listening!”   Well we decided beers and wines would go down well, plus a few veggies.

    A simple and quick bite to eat is NOT the philosophy in the Tammy household.  At 8pm after a day of mayhem, she starts preparing a meal on the scale of preparing for the Olympic games; it’s exhausting just watching.  It was like Nigella Lawson on steroids:  she made a beef stew, with dumplings, mashed potato with wholegrain mustard and spring onions and side breads with dips!  Marc and I would call that a dinner party.  I didn’t exactly complain, I was starving by the time it arrived not having eaten all day.

 

Day two arrived and after applying full make up and earrings to provide some glamour to the chores ahead it was all systems go.  Tammy was once again looking blonde and bombshell-like, full of conviviality and raring to go: can’t say I was feeling the same.  Tammy is eight years older than me and I have always been in awe of her; when I was still a spotty teen grappling with puberty she was married to Grant, a hotel manager and they were managing five star resorts across the globe from exotic Africa to magical Malaysia and billionaires’ Brunei.  To me living in a bog standard terrace in the suburban sprawl; it certainly sounded exotic, magical and splendid.  She had two children and had the knack of making everything she did look easy.  A perfectionist, Tammy had brought a new five star dimension to the guest house concept: Grant’s cordon blue cooking and Tammy’s homemade bread, jams and marmalade helped add a very personal touch. The Kissing Tree was no mere bed and breakfast, it was a luxurious getaway.   A wonderful experience as it is for guests, as the guest cleaner for the week, it was a thorough workout: especially as I had cancelled my gym membership within the first week of January.

Grant is supposed to clear the dining room tables, pack the dishwasher, clean the kitchen, unpack the dishwasher and check the email.  These chores (simple and quite sedate compared to cleaning rooms) take him five times longer than they should as he finds it impossible to tear his eyes away from the TV – his gaze is permanently fixed to either Sky News or Sky Sports.  His other distraction is cigarettes and he has turned the shed into his very own smoking hideaway; this is where you will find him, fag in one hand sending a witty text in to Sky News with the other. 

    Much to Grant’s annoyance their laptop crashed on the Sunday and they were thus unable to receive and confirm email bookings.  I tried to help him restart the thing, but really, that was like Mr Bean trying to fix the space shuttle.  What do I know about computers?  I was not exactly surprised that the Laptop had conked in, to explain:

Tammy and Grant have very little private living area: only the kitchen, which is rather small and their bedroom.  Thus the kitchen doubles as the office.  Their laptop sits on the kitchen surface right in front of the microwave: you have to close the laptop, when you want to open the microwave and food is passed over the laptop as it enters and exits the microwave – I am sure this was EXACTLY what the manufacturer had in mind.  Their paperwork i.e. tax returns, bank statements, bills and diaries sit on top of the microwave (I am sure you will find this under WARNING! DO NOT DO on the first page of the microwave manual!).  Their reservation book, phone books, phone and other stationary are packed against the side of the microwave.  Actually if you want to plug something in or get to the cupboard above the microwave, the papers have to be moved.  So all in all a very ergonomic arrangement.  To add the to kitchen congestion; their chocolate labrador Magnum is always lying on the floor waiting for either food or a tummy rub.

 

After the rooms were done, Tammy suggested we go to the neatest town, for some R and R: retail and more retail.  I found that like Marc, Grant suffers from wallet angina and cash flow cholesterol – he freaks out when Tammy shops (and one can hardly blame him) – so she pretended that she was taking me to sightsee in the country!  When we arrived home, I had to hide her parcels of clothes in my room – Tammy later collected them in the laundry basket so Grant would suspect nothing.  Shopping with Tammy needs a marathon runner’s endurance: Tammy has to try everything on and look in every shop just in case she misses something.   Feeling rather exhausted I was then hauled around the food shops; so that the ingredients for that night’s Olympic foodathon could be purchased.

 

After dinner we all watched Millionaire in the kitchen while washing up.  I would not have imagined that a big fight could break out over a quiz show but it did.  Grant insisted that the answer to some question was obvious, while Pam thought it wasn’t - a heated debate ensued.  Grant has aspirations of going on Millionaire because he fancies himself as a general knowledge whiz; Tammy reckons that someone who thinks Eminem are sugar coated, colourful chocolate buttons has no place on a pub quiz team, never mind a televised one.  At that point colourful and graphic language broke out!  I know that they were both upset, but I could not help laughing: the hurling of insults at increasing decibels was hilarious.  I must say that I can imagine Grant having a hard time with the ‘fastest finger first’ round. During a brief trip back to my room, which was guest room number one, I noticed that I could still hear Tammy and Grant’s argument.  On my return to the kitchen, I asked,

 

“Guys did you ever realise that the guests in room One can hear ever word you say in the kitchen!”.  Well of course they had had no idea, Tammy raced into my room to verify it.  Apparently their rows are a nightly occurrence and are always littered with expletives, so I guess the TV is pretty redundant in room one. 

 

 

Monday, needless to say was a busy morning cleaning rooms again.  I had the stomach churning chore of ringing my boss Mr Dragon, I mean Dargon to explain that I needed a few days compassionate leave due to a family crisis.  Since I was dealing with grisly chores, I decided to fire off a text to Marc to let him know where I was – I was sure he would be missing me, especially at mealtimes.  The heating in Tammy and Grant's room broke down; the repair man estimated £250 and so they decided to just shiver until next winter.  Tammy is planning on entering a TV competition called Deal or No Deal (hosted by Noel Edmonds) in order to boost their finances .  Grant still believes Millionaire is a better bet.  I had never seen DOND, but Tammy watches it every day.  The PC returned from the repair shop, but was still non responsive; well, I guess the PC technician didn't think to test it for radiation. 

 

Tammy was exasperated to find that a shower tile in room six was loose, when she touched it, it fell back revealing a gapping hole . “It’s no use calling the plumber Kar, he says it will take him two days to repair it,” she held up her hands with a look of incredulity on her face, “I have guests arriving, what am I supposed to say to them: enjoy your stay and don’t mind the plumber; he’ll be working on the shower which, by the way, you mustn’t use?”  Tammy sighed dramatically continuing, “Another job for No Nails, I guess!”

     “What’s that?” I asked Tammy who was already speeding towards the larder.

     “Glue.  Sticks anything to anything, it’s a lifesaver.  Everything in this place is held together with No Nails – except our marriage!”  Tammy shot an annoyed look into the kitchen to see what Grant was doing as she ended the sentence. 

 

Still donning suede boots and some rather plush looking hound’s-tooth trousers, Tammy crouched in the shower of room six.  I was not very optimistic for the outcome.  However, within two minutes Tammy had an idea.  Seeming confident about her strategy, Tammy returned to the kitchen for more equipment while I tried in vain to think of how to reattach the tile.  I watched with jaw dropping amazement as Tammy shoved an old Tupperware dish into the gap, squeezed half a tube of No Nails into the hole around the dish and shoved the tile back into place.  With little fuss, she then re-grouted around the tile and dried it with a hair dryer.  Both her ingenuity and par-for-the-course attitude to the whole incident astounded me.

 

At one o' clock Tammy decided that another trip to The Shops was in order.  We managed to get to town by two, but since Tammy had to be at her fortnightly nail appointment by 3pm; we had to do a lightening fast fashion audit, set her favourites aside and then I had to drive her to the nail 'place'.  Rather bizarrely her manicurist operates from an extension to her farmhouse opposite the cow shed.  One has to access the farm via a muddy dirt track; then drive past the stables avoiding all the old ponies wandering around; park at an incline of 45 degrees and then stomp to her backdoor up a mushy, sodden slope.  It is preferable to have the top of the range 4x4 and galoshes to get to the place, and then you need a bath rather than a manicure by the time you get there.  So I dropped Tammy and made my way back to town, with my car looking like I had been on the Paris Dakar Rally. I then had a hour and a half to myself for the first time; well not really, I had to collect and pay for Tammy’s reservations and I decided to shop for cold meats and salads so that I could bypass the foodathon  -  I had heard rumblings that Lasagne was to take place than night.  

 

Anyway, dinnertime was brought forward to 7pm thanks to my efforts with the cold meats.  We were sitting eating at the dining room table and as usual Magnum was going from lap to lap hinting and sniffing for scraps off the plates.  Magnum is a very docile dog; pretty laid back on any canine standards, but very persistent all the same.  Tammy, who is very theatrical and loves to hold the floor with her often hyperbolic tales of her life in five star hotel management, was in the middle of a storey.  I was still eating and Magnum being a good judge of character - as dogs are - had sensed that I am the soft sort who cannot say ‘NO’ and was constantly sniffing at my legs begging for food. Grant who had had a few wines (and a few shots of sherry when no one was looking) kept leaning over and looking under the table saying rather passively, "Magnum, comth away. Magnum thstop that. Magnum leave Kara. Magnum, thath enough now."  Tammy kept pausing her story, with mounting irritation hoping that Grant would eventually shut up - but he continued, "Magnum, Don’t do that, Magnum cometh here."  Eventually it was too much for Tammy; she dramatically thrust down her knife and fork; threw her hands in the air with exaggerated exasperation and screamed,

     "STOP THAT!"  She then proceeded to look under the table and mimic Grant, "Magnum, stop that.  Magnum, come here.  Magnum, dont!  How the bloody hell am I meant to tell a story while you have your head stuck under the table shouting at the bloody dog.  Why don’t the two of you get out!"  I collapsed laughing, it was the most I had laughed for ages and I just could not stop, they were so funny.  Tammy took a while to see the funny side, and she still wanted to tell the rest of that story.

 

On Tuesday, there was no need for an alarm, I was awoken by Tammy shouting in the garden, “Grant call a plumber!  One of the drains must be blocked.  We have guests coming tomorrow for Valentine’s Day; I cannot have the place smelling like a bloody sewage farm!  And Grant, why is there dog doo on the lawn, I told you twice to pick it up!”   I raised myself from my bed to catch a glimpse of Grant who was muttering and shaking his head as he passed my bedroom window; Tammy was hot on his heels.

 

Later that day, there was a knock on the door: it was stiff looking man and a woman with the charm of a Parking Attendant - they were the people from the McMillan Good Hotel Guide doing an inspection.  Grant had to show them around the house, including all the rooms.   Thankfully, I was able to prevent them entering my room; which after giving Tammy a facial and body massage the previous night looked like a cosmetics Armageddon.  My room was also full of Tammy's colourful, laminated shopping parcels which for the sake of their marital health, were being kept there secretly.  

 

After dealing with the plumber who poured a bottle of caustic soda down the drain, Grant had the luck of disappearing to the library for several hours under the pretext of using their PC's to check the email: apparently the queue was terrible.  I have a funny feeling they serve beer at this particular library as well.

 

Food shopping was on the agenda again: I steered Tammy towards the pre prepared food section and urged her to choose some pies.  We took a chicken and mushroom and also a steak and kidney pie; it was more than enough for 4 people.  I was puzzled to notice Tammy throwing feta cheese, philo pastry, bacon and onions into the trolley and assumed it was stuff she needed!  We got back to The Kissing Tree really tired and hungry.  I, personally was looking forward to a quick dinner with some salads from the night before. Next thing I see Tammy frying onions, bacon and the Feta, she had decided to try a recipe sent from her mother in California: ANOTHER PIE!!  So now we had enough food for a dozen people.  However, we were not done yet, Tammy was in cooking overdrive and before the hungry chamber maid could eat, Tammy had to bake a batch of her granola squares and three batches of fruit bread.

 

I was pleasantly surprised when Grant pulled me aside that evening while Tammy was ironing and asked me for some insights into what he could surprise her with for Valentines’ day.  Now why can Marc never do that for me, I thought with a pang of envy.  There Tammy was worrying about No Nails not being able to hold their marriage together – Grant is a well disguised angel I think, AND he can cook.

 

Friday came and the dishwasher conked in; which is not a great start to the day when you have to wash up up greasy, eggy dishes from eighteen Full Englishs.  Tammy was rather tense as Graeme her son, was coming that afternoon with his girlfriend, Rebecca.  Anyway, Tammy was eager for me to meet Rebecca.  I had to tidy up the room I was staying in as some regular guests who were holidaying with their dog had booked that room. The visiting dog was Magnum's best pal, a fellow Labrador called Hutch.   Tammy maintains that it is easier to clean the guest’s rooms than her own and I have to agree; after four days my room already bore my hallmark; with clothes draped over ever available item of furniture and make up decorating every surface. The guests came early and took both Hutch and Magnum off for a walk.  I was allocated a smaller room on the second floor.

 

Graeme and Rebecca arrived at the same time as the dishwasher repairman.  Tammy was about to start food as Graeme is always hungry: they joke he is on four hourly feeds.  Tammy can never have enough food in as far as Graeme is concerned and he arrives prepared with two loaves of bread and a three litre milk to keep the wolf from the door.  By four ‘o clock Tammy was getting worried about Magnum as he had been out with Hutch and Hutch's folks for hours and she was sure he would be hungry. 

 

So, at four ‘o clock on a freezing, damp February Wednesday this was the scene. The dishwasher was pulled out into the middle of the kitchen floor and the repairman was lying on the floor, toolbox at his side trying to fix the machine; Graeme was sitting on the kitchen surface; Rebecca and I were at the other surface perched on bar stools;  Grant had just arrived home with their laptop under his arm, Tammy was frying (or rather burning) some stewing steak and fat was splattering all over; a neighbour had popped in with some home made heart shaped scones for Valentines day and was looking for somewhere to stand to keep out of the way.  I was about to do an Astrology reading for Rebecca about where her relationship with Graeme is going; not the most private environment for a reading I must say, but she was very game none the less.  Although I work in finance, I do Astrology as a hobby.  Graeme really wanted to go for a walk, as ten minutes near his mother was more than his nerves could take; but he also wanted to hear my reading even though he was too macho to admit it, so he was not moving an inch.  I then commenced the reading: with her potential mother and father in law within earshot and a total stranger lying on the floor fixing a dishwasher: Rebecca's whole life and personality was laid bare.  Rebecca was mesmerised and totally gripped; a happy customer.  Tammy was straining to hear every word of the reading, while not missing a development on Deal or No Deal and Graeme was scolding her and telling her not to burn the food.  A spaced out Grant had resorted to a fag in the sanctuary of his shed. 

     Suddenly the door of the kitchen flew open: in burst two ravenous Labradors dragging Hutch's owner with them.  They ran over the repairman and dove head first for the water and food dish: shlurping and gulping water and food down like there is no tomorrow.  Could it have been more chaotic, I wondered; my nerves were frayed and I was flabbergasted at the way Tammy was able to continue her cooking and DOND watching without a hint of fluster.  As Rebecca said to me, “It’s always like this here!”   London was beginning to look like a Tahitian holiday resort compared to this. 

 

By that stage it was five o' clock and time for the repairman to clock off; which was probably why he decided on the stroke of five that the machine was beyond repair.  He said how interesting it had been meeting all of us and that he had enjoyed hearing about Rebecca's private life.  Rebecca remarked that she had actually forgotten  that he was there, she is so used to having the dog lying on the floor that she thought he WAS Magnum.

 

 

    Five was also time for me to clock off; I retreated to my new bedroom which was on the second floor and had a four poster bed with hand painted silk voile curtains.  Lying on the bed, enjoying some silence, I thought to myself that there was something slightly odd about being in a four poster bed alone – a bit like being a singleton in the honeymoon suit.  I surmised that it was the only room Tammy had had available for me.  I was beginning to miss both Marc and the sanctuary of our London flat; an emotion which amused me, considering it was only five days previously that I had fled what I had thought to be a treadmill existence and a diet of stress.  Deciding I needed some fresh air; I raised myself off the bed and walked across to the dormer window. To the left was a beautiful view of Cherry Hill and to the right I could see way down the High Street lined with ancient Cotswold Stone buildings.  The High Street was bustling with shoppers and folks leaving work and way in the distance I could see a man with a bunch of red roses – I was reminded that it was Valentine’s Day.  Feeling suddenly quite lonely, I made my way back down the stairs to immerse myself in whatever mayhem was now ensuing.  Tammy had not mentioned whether her staff would be returning soon and I was beginning to wonder how and when I would be able to escape, especially with the thought of a full guest house and the latest development – a broken dishwasher - in my head.  I was pleased to note that things in the kitchen had quietened down – Grant had his head buried in the laptop, with a pained expression on his face and Graeme and Rebecca had gone for a walk.  Tammy was about to begin ironing and so feeling obliged to keep working, I began on the dishes which were accumulating with speed.   The doorbell rang and Tammy instructed me to answer as she was not only ironing but taking down a recipe from her mother in Sandiago simultaneously – you may be wondering how, but yes, she can do that – multitasking takes on a whole new dimension for those who run guest houses!   I walked through the dining room; I had been at The Kissing Tree for less than a week and yet it seemed like forever, I wondered how Tammy had managed to cope with this life for eight years.  I opened the door ready to do a Tammy style meet and greet.  I could only gasp with shock when I saw Marc standing with a massive bunch of red, long stem Jersey roses.  I had had no idea he even knew where to buy roses, never mind that one gave them on Valentine’s day  - I doubt they teach this at business school.  I was overwhelmed with emotion.  Suddenly the four poster bed made sense – Tammy was playing cupid.  My modern day knight in shining armour, ready to rescue me from the whiff of bacon and eggs; the reek of toilet cleaner; the monotony of bed making and the disturbingly quiet nights and whisk me away to the romantic buzz of traffic; the aroma of smog; the tranquillity of our city flat and the organisation of our hectic London life.

 

With a new perspective on my own life I left the not so green grass of the countryside for the green green grass of home i.e. London.

 

 

 

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