No, this isn’t an April Fool! No sooner had the Mistlebourne Mag been popped through the letterboxes of the ancient denizens of the village than they were all on the phone to me! Could I take them into Candlebury Market and back on Friday mornings? And perhaps give them a hand getting their shopping to the car? I warned them if it’s a wait and return job, I’d have to charge parking on top, but they were undeterred. Ching ching! Three times £10 round trip equals £30. We’ll probably be there all morning but never mind. It’s galvanised me into a) washing the whole car and b) hoovering the inside. It really is remarkable how much banana skins shrink when they’ve been around for a while.
I am now on my rounds, picking up my three ladies. Muriel and Iris insist on getting in the back, in deference to Lavinia, a rather formidable woman in a camel coat, with thick foundation smeared in the wrong places.
‘Don’t you look smart?’ says Muriel to Lavinia. ‘Doesn’t she look smart?’ she murmurs to Iris.
‘Are we all strapped in?’ I ask cheerily.
Muriel taps Lavinia on the shoulder. ‘You look like you’re off to a Remembrance service.’
‘Well,’ says Lavinia, smoothing down her coat. ‘One’s got to keep making the effort, haven’t you, or you just a.. a... ‘ Her mouth continues to open and shut, but nothing comes out.
‘Atrophy?’ I offer, having so recently been there.
‘Yes atrophy, that’s it. It’s good to have the young around, isn’t it?’ she says to the others. ‘Good to have somebody who’s on the ball!’
I smile. This is going swimmingly. Better not go over 30 as we go through Nether Mistle.
‘You’ve been away, haven’t you?’ Muriel asks Lavinia. ‘Where did you go? Tell us all about it!’
‘Ind... Zm... Kenya. We went to Zimb – Zanz – Namib – Niag – Nairobi, that’s the place, Nairobi. We stayed in this marvellous place but it was a long way away. We got on this rickety old plane and we stayed in this place with – you know – what is it on the floor? You know... s- st- stone, that’s it, stone flooring. Stone everywhere. Stone basin. Stone sideboard. Everything natural, none of this plastic, plastic you have nowadays.'
Muriel and Iris are oohing and aahing in the back. ‘How did you get into the – what do you call it?’ asks Muriel. ‘The thing, you know. The jeep I suppose you would call it.’
‘Vehicle,’ says Lavinia.
‘Yes, vehicle. How did you get into the vehicle?’
‘You get used to it,’ says Lavinia with the air of a battle-worn hero back from the front. ‘You get used to it.’
Oh God! It’s a short step from here to there! Hang on, what’s happening? Am I out of petrol? No. The car’s losing power, just as I turn off the main road for the cut-through to Candlebury. I glide to a halt right in the middle of the side road. Oh God!