The local hardware converted its top floor into a fancy homeware shop and they also opened a nice cafe, where I took the girls for a treat on their last day of school before the Christmas holidays. As it was due to close soon, the cafe was not very busy. A young waitress welcomed us in and instructed us to sit anywhere in the front. We smiled and nodded but as we walked further into the room, it became quite obvious that we had no idea what she meant by” front”. So here we are, standing in the middle of the room deciding which part of the cafe could be considered front, side or back. In the end, we decided on a nice round table by the window with a big comfortable armchair. “I am sorry, but this area is closed.” A voice behind us said before we could make ourselves comfortable. A brief look at the big yellow cones crossing off the area should have actually already warned me but, as it didn’t, once again I smiled, rigorously avoiding making eye contact with my daughters who were already embarrassed, and lead the way back to the centre of the room to pick another table.
“Can I help you?” another young waiter came to take us out of our misery and we followed her to a cosy corner table with a velvet sofa. We could eventually sit back, relax and enjoy our hot chocolate and cakes…and all this phone free.
Now, whoever is used to teenagers’ company knows that is better not to push the phone-free zone too much and so once we had finished with our cakes I suggested going and having a browse around the shop, with relief of the cafe staff that had already started to clean up the place eager to close as soon as we stepped out the place.
Happy and content with our bellies staffed we are looking at the ridiculously expensive and fairly tacky Christmas decoration when we see one of the waiters from the cafe running into the shop waving and shouting. I and the girls briefly look at each other wondering what may have happened but as it has obviously nothing to do with us we ignore her till I feel someone tapping me on the shoulder: “Miss, you have to pay!”
In a flash of a second, my cheeks go through all the shades of red when I realised I just left the cafe forgetting to pay. I profusely apologise hoping they believe it was a genuine brain fart and pay.
“That was so embarrassing. Can we go now.?” The girls are already marching towards the exit and I follow them still with quite an excess of colour on my cheeks but now laughing at my forgetfulness hoping to share the hilarity of what had just happened with my daughters who, unfortunately, must have instead inherited their father an inexistent sense of humour.
Back to the car, we drive, in meritorious silence, straight to the next town for daughter number two orthodontist appointment. The damn surgery is right at the centre of the Main Street where finding parking is nearly impossible, especially around Christmas time. After a couple of drives around the block, I give up and go to the big parking behind the orthodontist’s building. There you are always guaranteed to find a space and not because it’s great parking, but actually, right because the opposite. It must be the only parking left in the county not working with the parking app and with one of those old ticket machines that only accept coins. In between the three of us, we managed to pout put together 1 Euro, indeed enough if only the stupid machine wouldn’t ask for a minimum payment of 2.50 euros. “And now what do we do?”Daughter number two asks while checking the time as we were getting late for her appointment and, unlike her mother, she is a very very on-time person. “Don’t worry I got this” I confidently say and after rummaging for a few seconds in the glove compartment of the car I find what I was looking for. I wave an old parking ticket, in front of the girls’ puzzled faces, and carefully place it half-hidden under the insurance and tax road disc. “I always keep it in the car for emergencies,” I explain to the girls who are now looking at me like I was some kind of genius. “well well, first we leave without paying, now we counterfeit the parking ticket, what’s next then? “ Daughter number two, who lacks humour but not sarcasm, states. “Well, next we get you to your appointment on time and hopefully without a fine.” Desperate times call for desperate measures.
Here we are again, time to pick the travelling husband’s Christmas present. 23 years together and only twice I managed to surprise him. The travelling husband’s super power is, in fact, to always guess what I want to gift him. But this year his power is going to fail him. This Christmas I have it all figured out. Well, maybe not all, but the husband’s present for sure and he is never gonna guess it. How am I so sure? Because I will buy him a smart watch and he never showed any interest in one of those things, at least with me, but I happened to overhear a conversation he was having with a friend.
After some very discreet investigative work including also checking the browsing history on his Ipad, I knew exactly which watch he set his eyes on. What I did not know was the variety of different models. There is one for every frecking sport on earth. What the heck? Could he not just go for a simple Apple Watch or a Fit Bit? For God’s sake, he is not even a fitness/sporty guy. He goes hunting and plays social tennis once a week, that’s all his fitness routine.
I crossed off the list all the runner, cyclists and surfers models because he doesn’t either run, cycle or surf. I crossed off the list all the too-chunky ones because he doesn’t like big wristwatches. Ultimately I excluded even the solar survivor models because, even if thanks to your new super-powerful watch you survive whatever extreme activities you had challenged yourself with, you are anyway going to die of starvation as after you had paid for the watch, you will have nothing left in your card for your grocery.
So, now I had just three candidates to choose from and feeling nearly accomplished with my mission, I confidently walked into the closest shop that I knew had them in stock. I only had to look at them, and choose. Since they all looked pretty much the same to me, I just picked the latest version, called for the free salesperson and expressed my will to buy. “Very well mam, what size do you want?” This, I had not seen it coming! Not only there are a ridiculous variety of different models but they all come in three sizes! These are not watches, this are evil matryoshka camouflaged as watches whose only purpose is to confuse you and make you feel stupid an d unprepared. But I was not gonna let them win.
I went home, measured the travelling husband’s wrist watch and the following day I went back to the shop, ready to make my purchase. To my disappointment, I learnt that smartwatches are measured differently from the other type of wristwatches. Thankfully Phil came to my rescue, or so I thought. Phil was the watch expert of the day. Phil was also not trying to hide the fact he would have liked to be anywhere else but at work. Phil hated his job and the fact that they made him wear a ridiculous Christmas jumper with Rudolf’s nose lighting up every time he moved, didn’t make it better. “I am sorry mam but all you can see is on display. All the other models are boxed and we can’t open the box.” “But how am I supposed to choose if I don’t see it?” Phil didn’t need to answer me. It was none of his concern. “So am I just supposed to buy blindly?”I Insist. “OH, but then you can return it, once the box is still sealed, of course.” “But if the box is still sealed that means I haven’t opened it yet, and if I haven’t opened it how can I see the watch and decide if it is the right size?” “I am sorry mam, but I don’t do the rules. I know it’s unfair but it is what it is!” After holding myself from screaming at Phil that this was not only unfair but also stupid and he could stick the watch along with his rules and attitude where you all can guess, I say instead that I was going to think about it and left. Actually, I did not leave. I just hid around the corner until some other unfortunate customer engaged Phil, at that point I looked for an other salesperson who was possibly showing a slightly higher interest in his job and his customers.
Here comes Brad. Brad is young, inexperienced and knows absolutely nothing about watches and even less about the shop’s rules but he kindly volunteers to go to the stockroom and bring back to me the watch I wanted in the different sizes. As grateful as someone who just had been gifted a winning-lotto ticket, I made my choice, thanked Brad and informed him that I was going to buy the watch. “Oh, I am sorry but we don’t have it in stock, you will have to order it online and have it delivered here.” “But you just showed it to me. I am still holding it in my hand..” I say totally confused. “Oh, yes but see because I broke the seal, now I can’t sell it, or the guarantee won’t cover in case something is wrong.”
As daughter number one always says: karma is a bitch when you are a bitch!!!! And this certainly was my payback for cheating on Phil. In the end I had to order the present online and after a week of excruciating painful waiting hoping nothing went wrong , I eventually received the email that the travelling husband’s Christmas present was ready for collection. Well, what can I say, It wasn’t a smooth purchase but in the end I made it. The travelling husband’s Christmas present was safe in my hands and it will be a surprise!!!! Except it will be not, …. Guess who I bumped into on my way out of the shop?
Thinking about it rationally this is one of those categories of people we should not give a f..k what they think about us. Honestly, do we really care how a bunch of stinky teenagers with small brains still in development see us? Most likely they don’t even notice our presence because we don’t come out of their phone’s screen. They just want to be fed and not spoken to. That is how they normally choose the house where to hang out: the one with the nicer biscuits and the most willing mother to make them hot chocolate, ideally without talking too much. Like it would matter what you ask them as the answer is always one of the following: yes, no, maybe, I don’t know; when it’s not s all of them together and accompanied by a lost facial expression that makes you wonder if the noise you hear in the background is their neurones running frantically from one side of their brain to the other in the desperate attempt to make sense to your highly engaging question like: do you want sugar in your chocolate? But that is exactly the point: You don’t want your kids’ friends to see you as a housewife who jumped out of the fifties. You don’t want them to come to your house only because you serve them hot chocolate and biscuits and you are crazy enough to host a sleepover with 6/7 of them and make them all pizza from scratch. You want them to like you because you are cool! Easier to say than do, unfortunately, and wearing your last Metallica concert t-shirt is not enough. They don’t even know who Metallica are. But when you invite them over for Halloween strictly requiring them to be in fancy dress and unleashing your vast knowledge of vintage horror movies, then you might have your chance. Horror movies are a classic timeless cross-generation weapon that always works. Of course, popcorn and hot chocolate help but only if you serve them wearing your bat wings rather than your flowery kitchen apron.
This is a nasty category. Very hard to tackle. First of all, they are normally 10/15 years younger than you and you can’t help it but to feel maternal towards them. Suddenly you find yourself addressing them as “dear” or “darling” like you are an old aunt from Essex. That is actually kind of sweet and works with male colleagues, because you are well aware that the battle to impress them aesthetically is lost since the start, unless they have some type of Oedipus complex. The real issue is the female colleagues. With those you need a strategy!
First you need to assess them and all of those ringing just to complain “he” left the office without saying goodbye, and you can hear the noise of the long fake lashes blinking, must be erased . Same story for the secretaries who don’t recognise you and after asking for your name they ask if you have an appointment because “he” is very busy.
Once you made clearance of all those who likes older men, and more specifically your man, then you can focus on the trusty ones, the ones you like and, no shame in saying it, the ones you want them to like you. Now, the thing is , you want them to like you not because you are a cute reminder of aunt Violet from Essex and neither because you are their boss’ wife and they have to like you.You want them to like you because you are cool, fun and nice; so nice that you invite them all over for dinner because food always brings people together.
Unfortunately despite your effort to remove all the copies of Good Housekeeping from the house, like with the kids, the food pleasing strategy has risks. They might see you just like the good old boss (house)wife and that’s not why you spent the entire afternoon chopping, cooking and baking,(even if your sponge cake is very dramatically good as aunt Violet’s). You are you and not only you are fun and cool, you have a young spirit. As young as theirs and that’s when you play your last card to ultimately win them over…forever! “I am going to belly dance classes and loving it”, I casually throw into the conversation with the clear intent of showing off my young open mind. “Oh really?” one colleague did reply amused. What I’m still not sure about is if her amusement was coming from my choice of exercise or from the image of me doing it. Never mind, sometimes ignorance is a bless. “I did too once,” the other colleague added, “we were holidaying in Turkey and they gave us bell belts to tie around our waist, it was very fun and sexy. Do you use the belts?I used to love the sound of the bells while shaking the belly.” I froze for a second thinking how to explain we are just a bunch of middle age women shaking our bellies wearing comfy tracksuits and anti-slippery socks, unless we feel very exotic and opt for leggings and bare feet, but most definitely not wearing bells-belts that, considering the size of most the waistline there, ( teacher included), would weight like hell and dragging us to the floor. “Hmm, no! No belts, it’s more like a course for menopausal women desperate to trim their waistline and exercise their pelvic floor, you know? But we use veils!” Their puzzled expression told me that probably I wasn’t very successful in trying to make my belly dance course sound cool but I was ultimately successful in impressing them…forever!!!
The first Monday morning in three months I didn’t have to go physically to the office and I was already dreaming of it since Sunday night.
I had it all figured out. First, kiss goodbye to the travelling husband; second send off the girls to school with the bus; third, close the front door behind me and sip my coffee still in my dressing gown, waiting for the grocery shopping to be delivered, then work a couple of hours and ultimately walk the dogs to the park. It was going to be like Heaven!!! Except it all went to HELL!
7.00 am, the travelling husband’s driver doesn’t show up and he doesn’t pick up the phone either. While the husband frantically keeps checking between out of the window and his watch, I keep my face down pretending to have a sudden interest in whatever the first page of the newspaper said, (that I couldn’t know because I didn’t have my glasses and couldn’t read a thing). The tension and the panic in the room are now palpable and I can’t avoid the inevitable question any longer: “Do you want me to drive you to the airport?”.
And that was the end of my self-indulging morning.
Back from the airport, I rush the girls out of bed to drive them to school, because of course, they switched off their alarms and fell back asleep while I was stuck in traffic coming back from the airport. One foot out the door, and also the grocery man arrives. I quickly get my shopping in, throw everything on the kitchen counter and drive the girls to school. Once I am back I jumped straight behind my desk, “Just a couple of hours and then we go out, ok?” I say to the dogs who disappointedly look at me before sprawling at my feet under the desk.
1.30 am, those two hours of work became four and I am just about ready to switch everything off and take those poor creatures out when the phone rings. It’s the school, and when the school calls is never good news. Either your child got injured or you forgot to pay the annual “extra voluntary contribution”. Because I am quite organised and precise when it comes to school stuff, I knew already something had happened to one of the girls. Daughter number one fell during her PE class and her shoulder was sore.
After a few seconds of mental swearing, not against the poor child, but against the bad timing and the fucked up morning I was having, I went to the kitchen to at least release the dog in the garden. To my total horror, I also realised I still have my weekly grocery shopping all over the counter. Too bad, sure I did have no time to put it away now, so I quickly stack the milk in the fridge hoping it was not already gone off and left while big years German and the little mad redhead watched me from the window even more confused and disappointed .
Daughter number one is waiting for me in the office with two schoolmates and the secretary who briefly explains what had happened and proudly shows me how she had bandaged the child to keep her arm still on the hips. I thank her, even if I don’t understand why she tied her arm to the hip while the problem is on her shoulder but I indeed appreciate how nicely she had looked after my kid who is now happily chatting away with her friends and looks pretty fine to me …till she gets up and turns around. Then I see it. Her left shoulder blade is all out. It’s sticking out so much that you can use it to hang Christmas decorations. “She might have dislocated her shoulder”, the school secretary says.
“You don’t say! But thankfully you secured her arm still thought.” I think and after thanking her again I drive straight to the closest A&E.
“Her shoulder seems fine to me and she is in no pain. I don’t think there is anything wrong.” The doctor says after barely looking at her.
“I think it’s dislocated, and if you look at it from behind you will see.”I insist.
“No the bone is like that because she has scoliosis.” He sticks to his assumption and turns the child with her back toward him.
“No, she doesn’t! “I firmly say sticking to the facts and with a slight hint of annoyance in my tone.
“Do you know what scoliosis is, mam?” He dares me and continues, ” it’s when the spine is bent, see..” he starts running his finger over her spine with a half-mocking smile like I am an idiot.
“Oh, the spine is perfectly straight!” He eventually exclaims with surprise.
-Who is the idiot now, eh?-
“I told you!!!” I say with no surprise at all but with a full big mocking smile.
“You might be right.” He eventually admits his defeat and asks daughter number one to lift her arm, and just like that, with a loud crack, the bone is back in its place.
X-rays are fine, nothing is broken and all the bones are where they are supposed to be. Two weeks with her arm in a sling around her neck and she should be as good as new.
After dropping the injured child home I go straight to pick up daughter number two from school and finally walk the dogs out.
5.30 pm I eventually have time to store the groceries away and that’s when I realise that those puppy eyes they were looking at me with, were not begging for a walk but for forgiveness.
Four butter croissants, gone; Two blocks of cheese, gone; a bag of mixed nuts, chewed and ripped and all over the floor.No wonder they were not even running that much and were incredibly quiet despite the lack of walk…they were stuffed like turkeys at Christmas! But in fairness what was I expecting….all those goodies were there for the entire day….No one would have resisted!
7.00 pm, I am longing for a glass but I have to drive daughter number two to her banjo class. Thank God the class is only half an hour and by 8.30 pm after scrambling some eggs I can enjoy my cabernet.
9.00 pm I am ready to finally take off the nighty I am still wearing under the jumper and the legging since the unexpected trip to the airport, shower and slip into a clean nighty.
10.00 pm I call it the end of this madly ordinary manic Monday.
I believe that in some past posts I already mentioned that down the hill from us there is a big pink mysterious house. Nobody ever knew what was going on there, until parcels started to disappear and so the neighbourhood did some investigative work. It turned out that the house’s owner moved to Thailand and rented the house to a “smart gentleman” who split it into units and sub-rent it to the government for emergency residencies. Nothing wrong with that, aside from the fact that he is making a fortune illegally but, of course, it’s none of my concerns being that lazy woman who doesn’t pick up fights for a principle. My concern is instead that most of the vanished parcels are mine!!! And it’s not the karma biting back my ass because I am lousy, it’s clear and simple dishonesty.
The house has the same name as our Estate except we are numbered but now that the gentleman in charge had split it into units they are numbered too and so we have duplicate addresses that if didn’t fool for one second the Amazon driver, completely disoriented the poor new young postman. And that my first two parcels were swallowed by the pink house.
It took me a few weeks of official complaining with the post office to get to the bottom of the matter but in the end, the poor new young postman admitted to having delivered my parcels to the wrong house accepting an X as a signature on the receipt. He accepted responsibility for his actions, apologise and went back to the house to get them back but it was too late. Either those who received it were not living there or didn’t remember taking in the parcels. End of the story, nothing I could do about it, except secretly hope that Mr and Mrs X would choke on one of the macaroons my cousin sent me from Lyon while scratching themselves mad because my Italian cashmere jumpers gave them a rush.
Unfortunately, over the summer the duplicate address fouled a navigated courier too and this time was our summer shoes to disappear.
-Your parcel has been delivered to your gate because nobody was home.- More or less this said the email I received from the courier company.
The travelling husband was in the office that day and I was working from his study so I had a clear view of the front of the house, and no van came up. Unless it did while I went on my toilet break. So hoping for this outcome I went out and check the front gate, the side gate, the front gate again and the side again. I went in and checked the gates from inside thinking that maybe the driver just threw the parcels in. I went out again and checked by my neighbours’ gates because maybe the driver left them there. The parcels were nowhere to be seen. And just like that, I knew it !!!
I went back behind my desk to email the courier company back but of course, it was one of those”no replay..” emails.
I then rang the helpline and after 23 minutes of waiting, the operator asked for my order number and candidly told me that my parcels have been safely delivered at my gate!
Trying to stay calm I explained the situation, AGAIN .
“I understand madam, and have you tried to check with your neighbours? Because here it says it was delivered.”
“Of course, I checked with my neighbours what do you think, that I am an idiot? And yes the parcels were delivered but not to me.” No Much success in staying calm, no more!
“I understand your frustration madam, but at the moment there’s nothing we can do. Just leave it with me…”
“What do you mean there is nothing you can do? Your driver got the wrong address, on top of that he didn’t wait for someone to sign for the parcel so call him and tell him to come back because I know where the parcels are…” and so I explain the problem with the duplicate address, but the most simple solution was not doable.
“Helpline my ass!” I mumbled under my breath and hung up.
As I was, still in my dressing gown, slippers and pins in my hair, I stormed down the hill straight to the pink house. No parcels were left at their gate. Someone must have gotten them in. I rang the bell but nobody answered and so I started heavily knocking on the windows till someone came out saying they haven’t seen any parcels and I should not trust couriers because they are all lunatics. Said the one who smelt of weeds at 9 in the morning!!
“You f…..g liars. I know you got my parcels because it’s not the first time and I am f…..g sick of it. I am going to call the guards and your landlord. You all will see ….You m…r f…..s…” I am still not sure what possessed me but I lost it. To be honest, I didn’t even know I could put so many “F” words in the same sentence but I did! And I kept swearing all my way back home.
As soon I closed the front door behind me I saw 4 eyes looking at me half in shock. Daughter number one and two had their windows open and not only saw me marching down the hill, but they also heard everything.
“What was that..?”Daughter number one asked. I blushed in shame but before I could blame it on the hormones (or lack of them), she added: ” It doesn’t matter. You were amazing, outfit apart.”
“I did make you proud, eh?” No more space for shame. It was the revenge of the once lazy woman incapable to get properly angry. I was a woman on a mission to get her shoes back and to make the extra cost of the next-day delivery worth it. But most of all I was a woman desperate to have her sandals to go to a boiling Italy in two days.
I called back the courier company determined to fix the issue. Unfortunately, they were not so determined and kept bouncing me from one operator to another until I had enough and gave them their fair share of “F” words too. The adrenaline was pumping in my veins…I could not stop this anger spree.
The last resource was calling whoever rented the pink house. I remember my neighbours, who got one or two stolen parcels too, saying they had contacted the man directly. I did a bit of digging, got his number and before it could even finish saying “hello” I puked on him all my frustration. He didn’t seem surprised and said that he would ask the house manager to check the surveillance tape for me and would let me know.
As I didn’t have much hope in the guy to call me back, I decided to ring again the courier company trying to get a number for the driver because at that point the easiest thing was for him to go back there and retrieve the parcels but of course, they cannot give the drivers’ number to customers and so I was back to square one.
To my great surprise, the pink house guy did ring me back, but not with good news. He said they didn’t find anything on the cameras and I should think twice before throwing accusations. -Cocky little insolent-
-WHAAAAAT? -I was fuming and so I thought:-What would Wendy do in a situation like this? –
Yes, you heard me, I am talking about that Wendy! Wendy Byrde, the lady who went from desperate suburban housewife to queen of money laundry. Wendy would never let them go away with this and neither would I, but because I don’t own a funeral home and can’t burn bodies as I please as she did, I couldn’t go as far as she would have but I could still use my voice to stop them from bullying and mocking me. I had enough!
“Now, listen to me, if the house manager is that f…..g junky who was smelling of weed this morning at 8.30 I wouldn’t believe a thing of what he says or saw. This is the third f…..g time that happen and I am f…..g sick of being robbed by your f…..g people. I know they have my parcels, the courier told me (big white lie) and this time I am going to call the police.”
And that was the magic word, “police”.
“Hey wait a minute, no need to involve the police here. We can fix it between us.” Said the guy dropping his attitude.
“It’s a bit f….g late now don’t you think? Besides, I already called the police even a couple of nights ago because your people were far too loud in the garden. So you are already under their radar and unless this time you want me to call also the tax inspector and the social services you better bring me back my f….g parcels, one way or another.”
“Hey, chill lady, no need to go that aggressive, listen to me…..”
“No, you listen to me..” And now was my real chance to play Wendy, “Unless you want me as an enemy, and I can assure you you don’t, you better keep your house in order, or else I will turn the entire neighbourhood against you and you don’t want to go down that road, do you?” Wow wow wow, did I really say that?! Yesss!! I did and I could hear the poor guy’s saliva going down his throat loudly and painfully.
“Ok, we have an understanding here. Any complaint you have you ring me and I will keep a closer eye on what’s going on there.”
-Well you better, it’s your house, you moron- I thought but what about my shoes? Frankly, I couldn’t care less what’s going on in there, I JUST WANTED MY SHOES BACK!!! Men, will they ever get the point of things???
Well, apparently, sometimes they do because later that afternoon the courier brought me back my parcels apologising for his mistake. Eventually, I could relax and go back to my good old me.
Being a Wendy is indeed an empowering feeling but it’s also exhausting and time-consuming. Being angry and confrontational left me drained, and I was also starting to feel bad and ashamed for my rudeness too, to be honest. Are there actual people acting like that all the time out there? Jeez, how can they do it? I did it for one day and can’t wait to switch back to me lazy, lousy me.
So here I am, happily wearing my new sandals and dunking biscuits in my coffee when I hear a knock on the door.
“Hi, I just wanted to be sure you got your shoes back.” The man from the pink house in person was at my doorstep sweetly smiling at me.
I “wiggled” my toes showing off my sandals and when eventually I managed to swallow the biscuits I still had in my mouth, I introduced myself (like he didn’t know who I was…) and invited him deeply apologising for my previous behaviour, ” you know I am normally not like that, and I normally don’t use that language either…”
That evening when the travelling husband came home was immediately informed about my performance of the day: ” You should have seen her going down the hill…” one daughter said.
“Yes, I have never seen mum like that. She was awesome! ” The other added, and I must admit that despite still feeling ashamed for the bad example, I also felt kind of proud. -Hey, I can be a proper asshole too, you know…just like your father..-
“Yea, but then she invited the crock in for coffee.” And that was the end of it. I disappointed them again.
What can I say , may be I am just not cut out to be a Wendy!
It appears that, for my family, I can’t get “properly” angry.
According to my mother, that’s due to laziness, and believe me, she might hate gyms, but when it comes to picking a fight over her principles (and she has plenty of them), she is not a lazy woman!!
My daughters, instead, blame it on my lack of coordination. According to them, especially when driving, I am far too slow to react, and so by the time I register the offence I’ve been a victim of, I find my voice to swear and finally push the right spot on the steering wheel to use the horn, It’s far too late. Whoever wronged me has either left or already forgotten what he did to cause my upset, making me look like a total lunatic.
“You should overtake them and show your finger…” Daughter number one once suggested.
“What? Where did you get that? We don’t do that, besides it’s dangerous, your grandmother tried once, and a very angry track driver followed her home.” I replay, not specifying that I was in the car with her, still a child, and that’s probably why I don’t argue much on the road.
“It never happened to papa, and he does it all the time.” God bless kids’ innocence!
“He does not!” I reply fighting for my husband’s decency.
“Oh yes, he does! All the time when we are in Italy .” She replays candidly, “Right C?” and I don’t have to say that daughter number two enthusiastically confirms it.
“He had never done it with me!”I keep fighting for my husband’s honour.
“Because you are never in the car when he does it, and you know what he can do too? ” I am not sure I want to know it, no, but it seems I have no choice, “He can roll down the window and give out to other drivers at the same time!!” WOW, that’s classy!
“Ok, I got it!!!! ” I say defeatedly. Fighting for the travelling husband’s decency is a lost battle, and I have to accept that I can compete with a family of professional anger show off….until the day I can!!!
Stay tuned to hear what happens when Ortensia gets “properly” angry.
First business trip in many many years. Well, what can I say, it was a huge excitement…for me, the rest of the household just survived it. “Will this travelling thing become a regular thing?” Daughter number two asked over the phone while I was away. “No, darling, it’s just a one-off, why?” I naively ask. “Because the house is falling apart without you!” “OH, come on, don’t be catastrophic,” I say laughing and thinking that I am going to be away only for two and a half days; except on my return, I realise what she meant.
The travelling husband, after digesting that this time it is me travelling and he had to stay home, kindly collects me at the airport. Because is on a call and we don’t get to properly greet each other, it’s only when we get to the car and he hands me the keys to drive that I notice that his left middle finger is wrapped in a blood-stained bandage. Eventually, once we arrive home, he got off his call, but” before I can ask what happened to his finger, with a tone expressing all the exhaustion of the last two days he says:” Sorry love, but I had already moved this call twice being off the last two days….” -Off? For two days? Why?- But before I can ask my face had already given me away and he tells me that it was far too much to deal with the cooking, the girls, and the dogs all at the same time and all on his own. He had to take some time off work. Putting aside the urge to reply that it is what I do daily plus I slip into “all that” also 4 hours of work and some housework that a brief look around the house tells me he didn’t do, I ask what happened to his finger. He cleaned the Oven!!! At 11 at night!!!! Now, refrain myself from any reaction was very very hard but I managed and tried my best to sound concerned about his injury I asked for more details.
On Thursday, the men’s tennis night was cancelled and so after he couldn’t take any more junk TV, the travelling husband was suddenly possessed by the urge of cleaning the oven. And why he tells me this he shows me with great pride how sparkling the oven doors are now. Just like new! Unfortunately, the inside of the oven is nothing like the outside because he hooked his middle finger in the rotisserie before he could finish cleaning and, unable to stop the bleeding, he had to run to the hospital. ”Oh jeez, that must have been painful. And the girls? Did they panic?” I ask. “They were fine, CG was already in bed nearly asleep and A, she came with me.” “You left our younger daughter at home alone in the middle of the night and took our eldest with you not knowing how long you would have stayed there? What if something happened to you or if they kept you in? What would she have done?” My tone is now shifting from concerned to pissed off (excuse my french). “I would have sent her home with a taxi.” He answers. “Of course! Stupid for me not to think about the obvious. But why did you bring her in the first place? Not that she could drive you home.” I replay sarcastically. One brief look at the husband’s face and I knew what was coming:” I would have taught her. It’s such a short drive…”. Sure “sarcasm is not a travelling husband’s thing! “She is 16 !!!” The dumb me insists. “Well, she drives the boat already..” He states with his usual factual practicality. I can’t really argue with his twisted logic and so I attack from a different angle: ” What the f…k.!Why in the hell did you clean the oven? Could you not hoovering the floor or do some laundry instead? Maybe clean the bathrooms?” I shout now officially pissed, (and excuse my french again). “Yes maybe, but look at the oven now. It’s like new!” Pride is all over his face until I inform him that are professionals coming to the house to clean the oven inside out for 50 euros. “Oh, I didn’t know that..” I won’t hide I took some pleasure to see his confidence trembling but it doesn’t last long: “Well, anyway we saved 50 quid!”. His pride is back and I want to go for his throat till my attention goes to the fresh drops of blood on the floor.
“I think some of the stitches fell off,” I say, and this time with some genuine concern. “ I don’t have stitches, I didn’t think I need them.” My eyes immediately go to the ridiculously fat bandage on his middle finger now bleeding all over, “What do you mean you thought you didn’t need them? What the doctor said?” “I haven’t seen the doctor, only the nurse who stopped the bleeding and put the bandage on.” “What the nurse said then?” “She said to wait for the doctor.” “So you did talk to the doctor?” I am trying to stay calm and patient now….but it’s sooo hard! “Oh no, I should have waited for at least an hour and a half and as I was not bleeding anymore I left.” Do you know when they say to pick your battles? Well, I suppose this was one of those times you have to do that, and so I just look down at the blood dripping from the bandage and then up to him defeatedly speechless. ” Ah don’t worry, love, I’ll fix it. I just need some piece of hard plastic to press the cut and then I’m sure some paper stitches will do the trick!”He reassures me. -Holy posy! Over 20 years and I have never realised I was married to McGiver!!! If only he would now also mop the blood off the floor.
I know that my excitement for these 20 years of being MRS travelling husband might sound a bit over the top, especially considering there are couples out there who are married for 50/60 years and more, but if we add the two years we were already living together and the total 34 years we have been known each other, does a total of 56 years together. Yessss, I am fully aware that the math is wrong here, but I just want to give you the idea of this being a very special wedding anniversary and a frecking huge achievement. 20 years of sharing domestic spaces, bills, kids, dogs and in-laws ( and believe me, none of us was lucky with their in-laws!). And if that was not enough, we also managed to survive the so-called middle age crisis without HIM running away with some random bimbo met during one of his business trips, or Me following my crazy hormones and planning a murder after finding the umpteenth empty mug on top of the dishwasher instead of inside it.
Back to the anniversary celebrations, I had to choose the venue, or to be precise the food and the wine, because it is essential to get your priorities straight in life, right? I looked up some nice restaurants in Dublin where to go for dinner, checked availability, carefully went through the perfect outfit to wear and just when I was all set to book, daughter number one announced she was leaving for her three days school trip on the day of our anniversary. That meant we had to leave daughter number two on her own, on a school night and while reasonably out of reach. There wasn’t gonna be any date night in town.
“We can go out for lunch.” The travelling husband suggested as we both agreed that dragging our kid along on a date night was not an option. Unfortunately not even going out for lunch was an option because that Wednesday we were both due in the office.
“Let’s go out on Thursday instead”, he suggested then and since it was now obvious that I was the only one to look at this anniversary as something magical, I gave up and accepted. After all, a late date was better than no date.
Once sorted the venue and time, here comes the hardest part: the present. The ones of you who have been reading the blog for a while know that the travelling husband can be a quite peculiar character. But if only it was that, he is a peculiar character who has everything. To be safe, when it comes to his presents, I normally go for hunting or tennis equipment but after I spent three days browsing around the internet looking for accessorises he still doesn’t have, I realised that if he still doesn’t have them, there is a reason: they are shitty and useless. Plus I wanted something special to mark the day. Then I remembered that a few times he mentioned how he would have liked a bench to place beside the BBQ. “A proper man bench. A big comfortable traditional solid wood bench.” I think he said looking at my lovely two seats cast iron bench. After a few days of surfing the web looking for a 5/6 foot wooden bench weather resistant and rainproof that wouldn’t require any maintenance or be covered for winter ( and believe me it was not an easy task), I found the perfect one. Unfortunately, the timing of the delivery was not as perfect. At least it was early and not late and we both did a pretty good damn job trying to ignore the massive package sitting for days in the hallway saying BENCH on his front side. It was not exactly a surprise but he loved it.
If you are now wondering about my present, so was I and because I am a curious monkey I sneakily went to see what he got me…..and I really shouldn’t have to!
In fairness, when he told me that he went shopping with daughter number one I should have known nothing good could come out of it. Not to be mean but the last time she went shopping on her own she came back with a second-hand jacket part of an eighties tracksuit set that every time there is a bit of wind it inflates in the back making her look like a pigeon. And yes the jacket is a kind of stripy pigeon colour. Anyway back to my present, I regretted my curiosity but it was too late and I couldn’t unsee what I had just seen. What I could do, instead, was to use the time that I left before the anniversary to practise my acting skills and look pleasantly surprised when opening my fancy jar of orange and whiskey marmalade.
For the first time in many years, the travelling husband had disappointed me with a present and our special day was not going to be that special at all. I suddenly and depressingly went from looking forward to my 20th anniversary to looking forward to being done and over with it. Except depressing is not my thing and I like celebrations!!! Nobody was taking this anniversary away from me, despite my crap present, and I was not going to celebrate on a day that was not my anniversary!
” I don’t want to go into town on Thursday, it’s not the same, I want to celebrate on the day of our actual anniversary even if it means staying at home with a takeaway curry!” I stormed out. ” And I have the right equipment for a perfect date night.” The travelling husband responded with a big proud smile.
Ok, now I was lost, and my mind maliciously wondered about what he meant. Obviously, he referred to my present sooo….Did he want to cover me in marmalade? Or did he want to surprise me by showing up covered in marmalade himself? I pictured the two options in my head and it didn’t look good! We are far too old and curvy to play 9 1/2 weeks.
Eventually, it was the anniversary day. I got up first went down, fed the dogs, made breakfast and blew some love heart shape balloons. Then, when I heard the husband was coming down, I barely dare to look at the kitchen door fearing to see him showing up wearing nothing but a layer of marmalade. I won’t hide my huge relief when he entered the room fully dressed and holding two presents.
The marmalade jar turned out to be just a distraction, he knew I was going to look for my present. My real present was something else and it was a very special present. Curious to know what it was? It was a waterproof music speaker. I know you might wonder what’s so special about it, but you will agree with me that coming from a man who hates music, turns off the radio when he gets in the car and proudly got to his fifties without ever being at a concert, it is indeed something special. The poor man must have gone through a hell of an ordeal to pick that speaker and make his instead music fanatic wife happy.
Unfortunately for him while his gesture filled my heart with love and gratitude, his present filled our house (no room excluded) with the Iron Maiden, so the question now is: will this marriage survive another 20 years? Well, they say happy wife happy life so we might have some really good chance here, but if it won’t, surely we won’t fight over who is gonna keep the music speaker.
And so it was an ordinary afternoon, and like every ordinary afternoon, I went to collect the girls from school. We got home and I made the fatal question they were waiting to hear back for months, “do you want a snack?”. Since I went back to work full time, in fact, it has been replaced by something sounding more like… ” Sorry girls I have no time . I have to go back to work. Sort yourself out”, with me throwing at them a bag of crisps. Yes I know, shame on me, crisps!!! Anyway, let’s not dwell on it and let’s focus instead on the fact that since I am now working part-time, the after-school snacks routine had resumed. This particular Monday afternoon it was a typical chilly end of summer day and so I thought that a nice cup of cioccolatti would do them good.(*cioccolatti is the word the girls started to use as toddlers, in their unsuccessful attempt to speak Italian, to refer to a beverage that’s nothing but hot milk with some cacao ). Now that they are both in secondary school and they can properly speak Italian we still use the word and they can have it in their bedrooms to not waste any precious time that they could instead profitlessly use on their phones!!! You thought for a minute I was going to say to study, eh? Anyway, let’s not dwell on that either and let’s go back to me, diligently toasting their crumpets and preparing their two mugs of cioccolatti. I put everything on a tray under the vigil eye of big years German who is hoping for something to fall and I start climbing the stairs, closely followed by Gino who, instead, is actively trying to make something fall, except he doesn’t have to make the greatest effort as I end up to do a pretty good job myself.
It all happens in a fraction of a second, I missed the last step and while I fall face down, the tray flies up in the air. The wall, the stairs, the carpet everything is covered in cioccolatti. I looked at the devastation around me, and after an initial impulse to cry and run away, I take a big breath and I assess the damages trying to decide what requires my attention first. The carpet! For sure I don’t want it to get soaked more than it is already, despite the great effort of the dogs to try to lick as much cioccolatti of it as they can.
I send the girls to lock Gino and Kurt in the garden while I get a bucket and some bleach. I kneel down and start scrubbing, and scrubbing, and scrubbing. Half an hour later the carpet was of the exact same brown colour as it was half an hour before, but at least instead of milk, it smelt of bleach, along with my jeans that now have two white circular stains on the knees. I might try to launch a new trend…
Time now to tackle the stairs glass panels, that in the meantime were still dripping cioccolatti. Well, guess what? It’s hard enough to clean them without leaving marks and streaks in normal conditions, after splashing them with warm milk and cocoa is nearly a mission impossible. I washed them and dried them at least 6 times, and then I simply decided that the fact that at least they didn’t smell sour milk anymore had to be enough for me to be satisfied and work on the wall. The wall! The one thing I should have washed first instead of last! A pity I only realised it three days later. Yes, you heard me, it took me three days, a bottle of bleach and one of cherry flavour washing up before I could eventually climb the stairs without having the impression that three sets of twin babies had just thrown up their last meals all over my landing.
And if you may be wonder where the travelling husband was in all this. Well, he was travelling, (eventually, after two years he went back travelling 🥳) and only came back on Friday, right in time to enjoy the cherry aroma our walls are now infused with and admire the new rug on the landing….Now, let’s just hope he won’t lift it !!!