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Thursday, 18 June 2009

trouble in paradise (scones and sniping)

The gentle thrum of middlesummer rain assaults my ears, but rests my hayfever. Without my eyes to scratch out I’m at a bit of a loose end. I tell myself I would be weeding were I able to be. Silver linings in strange places.

The day before, Mrs Northern Posh had cleverly arranged for the sun to shine while 8 sundry ladies took tea in her most pleasant garden. We twittered over the geraniums, the roses, the pergola – a lovely Farrow and Ball blue – matching cushions were admired, as was the vine snaking up the house: incipient grapes perfect in miniature.
F10 wants us to grow a vine. I nearly bought one recently. He got quite cross with me. “NO! From a seed,” he said, “It’s got to be. Otherwise it’s cheating and what’s the point.“ He never cheats, of course. Mrs NP was silent on her own vine’s cultivation or quite how it looked so gaudy and good.

The Sexy Nurse kicked off, patting her cleavage, her clothes more off than on as is her wont. Since no men were present she had to import one conversationally and was soon in cheerful flow discussing her rather young gardener.
“But, tell me, Milla,” she said, “foxgloves ARE biennial, yes?”
“Yes-ish,” I said. “Yes in that they are, but they tend to come back every year. At least mine do.”
“And mine!” inserted Mrs NP swiftly, vying for the biggest gardening show-off spot. An authoritative arm waved towards the corner.
“Bugger,” said the Sexy Nurse. “Bloody gardener doesn’t know what he’s doing after all. He’s only gone and pulled the whole bloody lot out. I’ll have to speak to him!” She wriggled happily at the prospect and closed her eyes, slipping into a pleasure zone. Then, “The Post Office is having an Open Day, did you know?” she said suddenly, “Did you get your invites?”

Since the bizarre opening hours of the Post Office occasion us unfathomable hours of amusement, the fact that it was opting to have an Open Day was funnier than it could possibly seem to anyone else.

“What could they possibly do?” asked Mrs Northern Posh with a sinking heart, the enterprise doomed from afar, “Say, here’s the washing powder … bread over there … queue for a stamp here? It’ll be just like any other day.”
“Apart from that the Post Office bit will definitely be shut because it’s on a Sunday,” I said, “not merely probably be shut. Or just shut the minute you walk in. Anyway, no-one will go. It’ll be a disaster. Tragic.”

We discussed an Oldster in the village who nicks inserts from the Sunday papers from the Post Office. How low can you go? Down to the bottom shelf it seems. He slides them into his tartan trolley (a speciality of our village: I think it breeds them, spawning them and leaving them by immaculate gooseberry bushes) but is yet to be caught absolutely red handed.
It transpired that only the Sexy Nurse had actually received an invitation. “I’ll go!” she said, “It’ll be an outing. I’ll bring my own baps,” she chortled, slapping her cleavage again.

Mrs Sensible rummaged in her capacious bag for some sun block. Without a child there to boss about, she picked on one of us, “Mrs Gossip, you’re so fair, do you think you ought to borrow my hat?”
Mrs Gossip assured her that she never burnt, as it happened; she was lucky enough to have lovely skin which went straight to beautiful brown. Or words to that effect. She, too, closed her eyes and beamed at the sun.

It seemed that whatever people said warranted an eye shutting and closed-eyed session staring at the sun. I was quite tempted myself, but feared I would never wake up, that death would take me, and I’d have to be manhandled through the little back door and down the bumpy path at the front and stuffed all unseemly into the Sexy Nurse’s boot. God knows what my corpse would find there. Handcuffs and things. PVC.

Mrs Dull said “no” to a chocolate brownie. Her “no,” accompanied by the steady hand of a traffic policeman held in mid air, suggested that excess calories were the joy of the devil; it was an “oh no!” She further annoyed Mrs NP by wanting only half a slice of lemon drizzle cake. To have more would be very gross. While the rest of us greedily licked our fingers and slurped at things, Mrs NP had to upsticks from the wobbly chair a hostess must occupy to fetch a knife to halve a slice.

Meanwhile Mrs ExecutiveMum (normally found running a small country but on day release from the shackles of her desk), set to lamenting that she had discovered, by foolishly fiddling around on Excel (one could have guessed it would end in tears, never trouble trouble …), that they (by which she means she) had spent £8,000 on presents last year. Again. Problems, problems. Déjà vu was unpleasant for she thought she’d cleaned up her spending habit. Seems not. Either that or she’s really crap at Excel and had done all that work only to bring up last year’s figures again. Possible. I could have suggested it; I also toyed with mentioning that scooping up 4 iPods at the airport as “stocking fillers” for her daughters and godchildren might be one area to trim in the coming months. But I stilled my busy mouth, a bit because I couldn’t be bothered, a bit because I probably know less about Excel than even her but mainly because I’m trying to curb myself from leaping in with pointless solutions or dangerous prattle: step away from a failing dialogue or awkward silence, it is not your responsibility, quit digging, stop lying; keep your mouth shut.

“You’re quiet, Milla,” Mrs Gossip said, her hopes of a little interjection of disbelief at £8K on presents! dashed.
“Just happy listening to everyone else,” I said, spoiling things further.
“T12 not picked for the cricket on Sunday?” she asked.
“Bad ankle,” I said.
“Oh,” she said, disappointed.

Mrs ExecutiveMum tried to re-gain ground with the poverty stricken proles with whom she was stuck for the afternoon by confessing that all her clothes (that day) were from Tesco. Of all places!
“Nice,” everyone said, nodding.
“Yes, their shoes are horrid, though,” said Mrs Gossip.
“My shoes are from there, too!”
We all laughed. Kindly, of course. The iPods, latent guests, slipped into the past. Mrs EM relaxed: so this was what all this At Home Mom stuff was about. Weird.

Everyone moved their chairs about, metal scraping on the terrace, to avoid the very sun we had all been so very ardent to park ourselves in. Mrs Sensible fetched the parasol and I don’t know who screamed the loudest, her or the emerging-with-a-knife Mrs Northern Posh (who favours control freakery with regard to things like manhandling defunct garden equipment) when the thing cracked open and a million woodlice tumbled free. She all but went arse over tit over the badminton net guy ropelet thing which we had all been warned to avoid on our way through, occasioning a desperate squeal audible unto heaven.

Half a piece of lemon drizzle cake was off the agenda, a side order of woodlice not appealing to Mrs Dull. “Protein?” I thought but didn't say.
The Sexy Nurse had another fumble with her cleavage, this time with an excuse and a shriek.
I sneezed one of a million sneezes that afternoon.
Greenflies died floating deaths in our glasses of warming water.
Bloody summer.
It was a lovely couple of hours.
“This is nice,” I said, and meant it. Mrs NP looked a little ragged round the edges.

The news on TV featured piracy in Somalia. The camera scanned an exquisite beach. The voiceover breathily assured us that the ship in the distance, which actually looked quite nice, was a pirate ship. Very beautiful people swarmed in a sort of prison, the bars a distressed blue, of which Mrs NP would whole-heartedly have approved. All the clothes looked so lovely, so clean: random wild patterns matching in saturated colour. We were told that a rather lovely looking chap in a fetching pink top was a pirate. No Pugwash he, rather he resembled an escapee from some urban fashion shot.
The setting was very brochure; but not of somewhere you should consider going. Not if you wanted to come back.
Clearly always some sort of trouble in paradise. Here, there and everywhere. Just a different scale of pest.

32 comments:

Preseli Mags said...

Pure vintage Milla. Brilliant post. I am crying with laughter here. The woodlice in the parasol and the annoying bint who wouldn't eat cake (I HATE people who won't eat cake!) As for the Post Office sending "invites", why doesn't anyone send "invitations" any more? Are people allergic to "-ations". I'm going to read it all again now.

Cait O'Connor said...

Wonderful Milla, just the thing to start my day before I go out and carry on the war with the elder (the plant not M). I had a respite yesterday cos of the rain. I sympathise with your hay fever Milla, fellow sufferer here. Enjoyed Rotwatch too, set me up for the day, my blood now running well.

Fennie said...

I do so love your writing Milla. I do hope you are making a collection of these stories. They are really so good and brilliantly observed. What you write about is the daily life of most of us and yet who could wring the oceans of comedy that you manage?
Sorry - that sounds ridiculously sycophantic - but it's well meant!
Can we have more please!

Carol and Chris said...

Absolute class!!! God, that made me laugh!!

Why on earth is the Post Office having an open day? LOL I am really struggling to think of anything more utterly ridiculous!! Unless there is going to be wine of course...(yeah, I can pretty much be bribed to go anywhere if there is wine involved!!)

Sorry, she spent HOW MUCH on presents last year?? I am most impressed at your tightlippedness!! I am, erm, not known for having such tact and diplomacy and I think words would have been uttered before I could help myself!!

Tis always funny to see someone who is very controlled lose it when there are bugs about!! (That doesn't that make me a bad person does it?)

C x

Edward said...

Absolutely one of your best. Laugh out loud funny; particularly like the clever way you segue from the idyllic to "Bloody summer".

Mud in the City said...

Classic post - when's the book coming out? And I'm sure the woodlice woudl have been organic - very River Cottage.

ChrisH said...

I'm so glad you went so you could amuse the rest of us, but me, I'd have leapt over the badminton net and made a quick getaway. Brownie points to you for demonstrating self-restraint!

Potty Mummy said...

God, I'm SURROUNDED by people who won't eat cake. It's depressing - but it won't be so bad now because I will be able to privately call them Mrs Dull and laugh secretly, remembering your post...

CuntryLife said...

One for the book Milla. Marvellous stuff. Am writing under pen name due to neighbour paranoia. Of course this means you have no idea who this is. Hey ho!

Milla said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Milla said...

Ooo-la-la, an unidentifiable has snuck in. Not sure of your tone, honey, fess up, there's a love. If you know me, e-mail me (there's a link on my profile page if you don't know me well enough to know my e-mail).
If you were there then I would be truly interested to know which one you think you are. Because I'm still not sure which one I am. Mrs Dull, I fear.

Exmoorjane said...

God this sounds truly terrifying!
I'm with you and Mags on the people who don't eat cake. What the puck is the matter with them? Lemon drizzle too.
Think I'd have choked on mine at the present outlay and the foxglove gardener......good response to the cricket - atagirl.

CAMILLA said...

Hi Milla,

Oh my, what a fab post, absolutely brilliant writing.

Can't be doing with any who refuses to eat cake.... Huge sympathies with hayfever, sufferer here too, running eyes, blowy nose.

You are never Mrs Dull, far from it, stay exactly as you are Milla honey, FAB GIRL.!!

xxx

Expat mum said...

What you need is a netty pot. I'm sure they sell them in England, but basically you pour saline water up one nostril and it comes down the other. I tell you, you can almost feel the difference instantly. I'm not saying it will clear up your allergies altogether, but it really helps.
One word of caution, if you pour the water too quickly up one nostril, it's a bit like jumping in a pool when the water goes up your nose. Not pleasant, but passes quickly.
Look it up on the Internet.
Fab post BTW.

Mark said...

Very funny - enjoyed this very much.

Around My Kitchen Table said...

First time I've visited your blog. I will definitely be back for a longer trawl! I live in a village too and your posting had me laughing out loud!

Pipany said...

Anither excellent post Milla. Really made me laugh. Glad your comment problem is sorted. Far too brilliant at writing to not be in the public sphere (unlike moi who is far too tired to make much sense affraid) x

Angel Bluestocking said...

So sorry to hear you've been spooked by someone. I can't see it now so not sure the comment or context. All I will say is that you MUST NOT, MUST NOT restrict your blogs/make them private or whatever. Ditto everyone elses comments.

This blog is a classic Milla piece - sharp, perseptive, bitter sweet and REAL - you always manage to capture the 'everyday' and mundane and make it magical and funny. I've always told you you should be writing BBC sitcoms. And think of Catherine Tate, Little Britain etc...they are so clever because they sail very close but pull it off completely. JUST LIKE YOU!

One of my favourite writers is Kate Long. You remind me of her a lot with your work. Or is it that she reminds me of YOU...

Way to go Milla. Don't let one little thing (which may, or may not be completely innocent put you off.) They can't get you m'dear. You have too many fans.

xx

Angel Bluestocking said...

Above is scattered with grammatical errors and I've spelt perceptive wrong. But I didn't want to delete it and spook you!
xx

Pondside said...

What a perfect summer tea party post. Did you know htat all those women have summer houses near me? I'm sure of it.
Can't stand people who won't eat home made cake - store bought I can pass up, but not home made.
I had an interview with a Mrs Cleavage this week but dare not blog about it - suffice to say that there was much self-carressing, leg crossing and breast squishing - odd, odd, odd.

Milla said...

thank you to everyone for your delightful comments.
My mystery commenter has revealed herself to me and is mortified to have caused concern. She is herself being dragged through the courts by someone who, she says, puts the c*nt in country. Hence the name. Was too dim to make the connection and went into a panic. She wasn't being sarky, it wasn't Mrs Gossip or Mrs DUll (my real fear!) it was someone far too sharp to be loitering around my blog.

Coding Mamma (Tasha) said...

Very amusing. Am trying to work out which village this is, though it sounds like so many around these parts.

Jennysmith said...

Super post! Have you thought of a career as a writer? So much delicious detail. I got really lost in it. xxx

Dave Pie-n-Mash said...

This is hilarious. I can picture Dawn French and Jennifer Saunders playing all the parts!

elizabethm said...

Great post as ever. glad you are no longer spooked. What is is with these people who won't eat cake? Eat cake and give up carrots.

Calico Kate said...

Great writing Milla.
CKx

Zoë said...

Bit shocked reading some of these comments.

I don't eat cake

Sad to learn that people would hate me for it.

::shrugs::

LittleBrownDog said...

Fan-blady-tastic, Milla. Very Alan Bennett (but perhaps a bit better, if you ask me...) It sounds just like Wisteria Lane, Cotswold-style. Wish I'd have been there (except there would be no half slices of anything - woodlice or no woodlice...)

Millennium Housewife said...

Fab post Milla, found you at Powder Room MH

HER ON THE HILL said...

So did Sexy Nurse have woodlice down her cleavage?

I once bought my whole summer wardrobe from Tesco - I was enticed by an advert with Naomi Campbell in it and I thought 'well, if it's good enough for her, it's good enough for me!' Failed to factor in the height, limbs and colour of skin, but hey ho, I got compliments enough in my Tesco linen and I was EXTREMELY proud to tell everyone. Far more prestigious than bloody Chanel. Anyone can look good in that!

Brilliantly observed and relayed, Milla, as ever.
x

Ps: caught a bit of that pirate prog too - just the bit where the pirate had a towel over his head I think. Missed the nice beaches. Shame. Husband currently in Nigeria. Well dodgy. Will he come back, I ask myself?

clareybabble said...

Everybody should eat cake...but maybe not with a side of woodlice! Great post, had me in stitches :D

FairSailor said...

One of your best, Milla. I really don't know how you do it. I think I snorted, lucky noone was here to hear it.