“Help!” screams my daughter’s text. “I’ve just discovered a live mouse in my car!”
I ring back. (Honestly, I don’t understand why so many under-forties text instead of ringing. It makes it so much easier to make arrangements if you can actually talk rather than play social media ping pong!)
“It just jumped up onto the passenger seat and stared at me,” says my daughter. “It was actually eating what looked like a crumb. Have you been feeding the children in the car again, Mum?”
Oh oh. One of the first rules when I started this “job” was not to let little Rose and George eat while I am driving in case they choke. Fair enough. But I have to confess that when I collect Rose from nursery at the end of the day, she’s always peckish.
So I have taken to bringing along some cheese cubes and the odd biscuit for her to have before we set off for home. And of course, George has to have something too when he sees his sister munching. “Nack, nack!” he’ll yell. (My grandson has yet to master the ‘s’ in snack.)
And now it seems a mouse has heard about their feasts.
“Open the passenger door,” I suggest.
“I did and it ran outside,” says my daughter with an audible shudder. “But I found all kinds of sweet wrappers in the back. You know you’re not meant to give them chocolate, Mum.”
There’s only one answer…
I don’t. At least, not that often. There’s only one answer and that’s to get the car vacuumed at the garage after my granny days and also dispose of any evidence. I don’t think I’d make a very good criminal even if I do write thrillers!
Meanwhile, this week has been particularly busy as my daughter had to do two extra afternoons at work so I was needed for the children. This works out quite well as I could still write in the morning and then cycle round.
But what can I do with them? It’s still raining after goodness knows how many days. That’s when I get my idea.
“What are you taking with you?” asks my husband, eyeing my bulging granny bag.
Actually, they’re some hyacinth bulbs which I bought three months ago and fully intended to plant immediately. But I put them somewhere safe and only came across them when I was tidying up. Does anyone else do things like that?
I’ve also got some old plastic plant pots from our shed which needs tidying (there just isn’t any spare time!) “Look,” I say to my grandchildren when I arrive at their house. “We can decorate them!”
We have a glorious afternoon, getting paint everywhere. “Oops!” says Rose as she accidentally smears red on the wall. Luckily it comes off.
By now, we are all getting a bit stir-crazy with cabin fever thanks to the rain. Amazingly, it suddenly stops so we go outside and play jumping in the puddles. I’ve forgotten how much fun this is! Then the rain starts again.
“Oh my goodness,” I say. “What’s that noise? It sounds like a fire engine.”
It is too. George’s sit-on fire engine appears to have started on its own accord in the kitchen. The noise is making my head ring. “How do I turn it off?” I say, trying to make myself heard over the noise.
“Like this, Gan Gan,” says Rose. Thank goodness someone round here knows how things work.
The following day, when our pots are dry, we plant the bulbs.
“Will the high-sunths be ready by tomorrow?” asks Rose.
“Not exactly,” I tell her. “They need a bit longer to grow. But with any luck, we’ll be able to see them by Christmas. They’ll smell beautiful!”
She sniffs the soil doubtfully. “But I want to smell them now!”
Patience is not an easy lesson to learn when you are nearly four…
In fact, I’m not sure I’ve got the hang of it myself, even though I’m nearly 64! (This week, actually, but don’t tell anyone.)
The following day, I make a six hour journey each way to see my elderly father. Normally I do this overnight but there just isn’t time this week. Sadly, his eyesight is failing now and he finds it hard to read. However, I download his favourite newspaper onto his iPad. It comes out in large print and his face lights up. “I can see it!”
Life can be so ironic, can’t it? His father (my grandfather who died before I was born), was a sailor who loved to read during those long hours at sea. He passed his love of the written word down to my father, who then taught me to read (as did my mother). I did the same with my children and now they have encouraged little Rose and George who both adore stories. It’s a wonderful pattern to continue. In fact, I swear that even the dog reads the newspaper over our shoulders at breakfast!
Then comes the day we’ve all been waiting for…
I send a text to a dear friend whose children went to the same playgroup as mine some twenty-five years ago.
My husband is having a hip operation today with a virgin and a surgeon.
I should say here that I’ve recently discovered voice texting. You press the microphone symbol on our phone and speak the message instead of typing.
But sometimes the words come out wrong. What I really meant was that my husband is having a hip operation today with a robot and a surgeon.
“It’s amazing what they can do nowadays,” replies the friend.
I’m not taking him into hospital myself as it’s a granny day. I did suggest that we all took him in but this didn’t go down very well with the patient.
“I’m worried that the children might pick something up,” he says.
I’m not entirely sure about that. After all, children get infections from all kinds of places. How else are they meant to build up their immunity?
Personally I think the real reason my husband would rather go in without us is a) our neighbour has offered to give him a lift in his extremely roomy, flash car and b) he will feel calmer without George racing all over the corridors, which is what has happened on previous appointments!
Mind you, I’m convinced that George did all the other patients a favour by cheering them up with his cheeky little smile. After all, they send dogs into hospitals to improve patient’s spirits. So why not unleash a load of two and three-year-olds?
Having said that, he says adieu to George with a touch of poignancy. (I’ve already dropped off Rose at nursery.)
“Bye-bye, Grandad,” says George as my husband bends down to give him a kiss on his cheek.
I feel a bit sick. This will be the third major operation my husband has had this year. Still, it’s the least serious. After all, hip operations are two a penny nowadays. Indeed, as I keep telling my other half, it’s very “hip” to have one.
Later, over lunch, George seems to sense that I’m nervous
He reaches out from his highchair to tug my hair and pull my face towards him. Then he kisses me on the cheek. My heart does a little flip of love.
Four hours later, the hospital rings. My husband is in recovery. The operation seems to have gone well. Phew!
I drive in to visit. But en route I hear a squeak in the back. It sounds suspiciously like a mouse…
I Looked Away by Jane Corry is published by Penguin Viking. To buy, go to https://amzn.to/2Lq2rew and https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Looked-Away/23635139