If I’d had any curtains I’d have flung them open to gaze at the view of the hills… only I hadn’t. No curtains I mean. I had no furniture, no clean clothes (and no wardrobe to put them in) and, most pressing at eight in the morning, no kettle. I had nothing at all. Well of course actually I did… but they just didn’t happen to be with me at this precise moment.
I’d read an article recently that claimed truly organised people always pack for contingencies. I, it was now clear, was not one of those people. Moving house can be trying, apparently and “so be prepared for the unforeseen.” Trying? Unforeseen? How about an accident with the removal van leaving me to spend the first night in my new home with nothing? Silly me. If only I’d packed for contingencies. I did note, however, that with or without curtains the view of the hills was spectacular. And uplifting. Which proved fortuitous as I would need all the lifting-up I could get to cope with what was to be a very trying day.
“Bound to be breakages” says the removal man with the goatee, humping my two-seater sofa through to the siting room where I’m surrounded by boxes.
“It’s unavoidable” he says cheerfully “Have to replace the lot I shouldn’t wonder.”
Think positive thoughts I tell myself, determined to persevere with my resolve that a fresh start in a new home should be coupled with a fresh attitude. One of optimism and serenity and… and… other New Zen-like qualities (I’m uncertain on the exact philosophy, I admit.) Just wave the stress away I think and vaguely flap my hands about in the direction of the front door. Goatee takes this as an indicator that I’ve changed my mind about the location of the sofa and sighing heavily backs it out in to the hall.
“I was wondering when you’d make an appearance” says a well-modulated voice that carries, as later in the morning I take a breather in the front garden. A tall lean woman somewhere in her seventies, exquisitely made-up with a fine boned face wearing three long ropes of pearls and a cream drop waisted dress straight out of the 1920’s, regards me over the garden fence.
“You were?” I say “Well… here I am”
“Yes” she says after a considerable pause and eying my dishevelled appearance “Here you are”
She proffers a hand on which flashes a square cut diamond ring of considerable size that looks like the real thing to me. But then what would I know?
“I’m Rose” she says.
I introduce myself and explain about the removal van.
“Leave them to it and come with me” she commands and minutes later I find myself trotting alongside her up the High Street. Rose walks briskly in a pair of old deck-shoes that appear somewhat incongruous with the 1920’s dress. Not to mention the pearls.
“Instant fortification is what you need” she says crisply entering a coffee-shop where she is greeted warmly and ushered to a table by the window.
“It’s not yet twelve or I would have offered you a glass of champagne. I find champagne helps”
“Helps what?” I ask
“Well everything of course! So… why are you here?”
“You asked me” I say
She raises a perfectly arched eyebrow “I mean here. In a country town on your own. You are on your own I take it?”
Her gaze flickers over my dusty jeans and shirt. I nod.
“Thought so” she says as if my outfit explained everything. Which perhaps it did.
“That’s a fabulous dress” I remark.
“I wore it in a production of No, No Nanette”
Ah, an actress, I think.
“And don’t change the subject” she continues.
“Um …. well a new chapter, fresh start…that sort of thing” I trail off.
“I see” she says darkly. “A reinvention. I’ve had a number of those. Each highly eventful but then what part of my life hasn’t been?”
A definite challenge and although I am curious I decide not to give her the satisfaction of seeing this and so instead I tell her about the New Me.
“What was so wrong with the Old You?” asks Rose.
“The state of mind I’m aiming for is one of serenity,” I explain. “It’s all the rage…mindfulness that sort of thing”
“Oh, dear” she says, “that is a shame”
“Well I’ve never heard of a truly serene person ever having any fun, have you?”
She has a point I think.
Later amongst the boxes I discover the extent of breakages. There are many. I focus on my breathing.
“Told you” says Goatee with satisfaction “Enjoy your first night in your new home”
“Thanks but it’s actually my second” I snap, any trace of serenity having finally done a disappearing act.
I’m about to close the front door when Rose appears with her re-cycling.
“I’ve abandoned Zen” I call “Or at least it appears, for the moment, to have abandoned me”
“Such a relief” she replies, “I can forgive much in a neighbour but I do draw the line at being bored.”
She shoots me a knowing smile “Ready for that glass of champagne now?”
TO BE CONTINUED