Keeping Up Appearances

You are beside yourself again. Looking out. Looking in. The pads of your fingers astonished to be typing once more. Eager to tell the truth. To dole out advice. To provide inspiration. To say that Alice wandered home on Saturday morning. Thin and purring. On your bed there is a new rose sprinkled flannelette duvet and sheets. It strikes you as too personal to share with another body. Suddenly your bedroom is the warm hug you need at the end of the day. Autumn linens, not yet adorned by the piles of patchwork quilts the winter requires in a room where condensation constantly clouds your view of the world outside your window. This house is falling down.

Your friends have called in: one after the other. One crying for what she has lost. Another astonished by what has come to pass. You talk and drink tea and fight with a wayward puppy and wonder how the skirting boards came to be so chipped. Life seems so messy. On the way to school the dog throws up down the side of the passenger seat, and you pass an old lady standing in her garden in her petticoat, apparently bewildered. This then is what you should dread: bewilderment. The mystery that descends upon the old and disillusioned.

But it is necessary to keep up appearances. You have mopped the porch with hydrangea scented disinfectant strong enough to assault the senses of every visitor and you have dead-headed the roses growing in the basket attached to the pale blue bicycle on your path. This then will reassure those who knock that all is well. That the cat is purring in the window again, prone on a spotty blanket and that the house is scented by the kind of chocolate cake only those who never wish to have thin thighs will take piping hot from the oven and serve with Chantilly cream on an old plate. Though there are those, of course, who will not be fooled.

Kath is on her way. The house must be some semblance of neat, for she is nothing if not neatness personified. You will talk to her about bliss and Blackpool lights. You will light candles and talk about the weekend. About extremes of emotion and late night pizza. About all the things that are keeping you awake at night. About the film you watched last night. A cacophony of beautiful feminist diatribe. About plans to go to Selfridges and buy perfume. Her day and you always so very much, night. About the toothbrush you have just noticed Alfie has chewed to bristly pieces. About your plans for all your tomorrows. You will talk and talk and talk and you will make her tea with sugar that she does not have and she will question why it tastes so good. You love her so.

You are hot. On the way to school the little girl you take insists that she will die of cold if you do not shut the window. But you can't. First thing in the morning, medication makes you temporarily combust and you want to stick your head out the window like a dog, panting for air and freedom and contentment. But middle aged ladies panting cannot be a good look and so you resist and cook inside your fuzzy red jumper, telling Freya she will survive and worrying you will instead give her pneumonia.

Now you brush the kitchen floor. You avoid blinking at your phone every five seconds and play Amy Winehouse so loud it is sure to drive the neighbours already halfway to distraction, on a fast route to rage. They will be issuing you with an ASBO next. You brush the floor and wipe up the persistent slug trails decorating your kitchen tiles. You change Finley's bedlinen and arrange his pillows just the way he likes them. You think bad thoughts. Worry. Eat a stick of Pepperami and a slice of Edam and call it an early lunch. Wonder why it feels so good to be sharing this with a world of strangers who cannot know you but sometimes understand you better than you are capable of understanding yourself.

Your ear hurts. It is time to walk the dog. To keep up appearances and carry on regardless.

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