Monday morning, and there I was wandering lonely as Wordsworth’s
cloud. I hate Mondays. I mean the weekend is always a bit
of a let down, and it is nearly a week before the next one.
As for that cloud, how your man knew it was lonely beats
me; I mean when did you ever see the odd cloud moping about
the sky on its own? Anyway I wasn’t going to any vales
or hills, worse luck. I was going to Primrose street, to
my work in the cake shop. No prizes for guessing its name.
Yes that’s it, The Primrose Patisserie, which is the
little flight of fancy of Mrs Woods the owner. My friend
Marilyn, who works with me in the shop, says that selling
Paris buns is the nearest old Woody, as she calls her -
but not out loud, has ever been to France.
I wasn’t in the best of form this Monday morning.
Due mainly as per usual, to the attitude my dear husband
Malcolm had adopted, and forcibly expressed towards my English
literature night class. He gave me his views in words which
would certainly be a novelty item at our class. I call him
Mal, but his mother calls him Malcolm, very pointedly, when
she’s with us – says it all really doesn’t
it? He was, to put it mildly, in a mood about my class because
he was asked to stay in one night in the week to look after
our Hugh. Hugh is six and frankly would have been better
at looking after his Da than the other way around. I digress,
as my night class tutor Mr. Bolton often tells me. Actually
I’m always doing it. Troublesome thing this digression.
I was going to say, now that I think about it, Mal has always
been sulky but he’s been much worse for some time
Anyway, in I went for my shift in the cake shop, and as
soon as I put on my lemon nylon overall embroidered with
primroses, which Mrs W describes as ‘so tasteful,’
I landed at the counter. I was then faced with Mrs Purdy,
one of our too regular customers, who gave me her usual
baleful stare. I had a run in with her the week before,
about scones she said were stale and would break your teeth.
I took it that she meant hers which would be a miracle as
she hasn’t got any. I told her, with a smile through
gritted teeth, for the umteenth time in so many years, that
they were freshly baked that morning. I looked pleadingly
at Marilyn meaning would she please, please serve Mrs P
as I was not in the mood to do battle that morning. I thought
it was odd, peculiar - you know what I mean, how Marilyn
dropped her eyes, and muttered something about going into
the storeroom for something. Usually as soon as we see each
other it’s a laugh a minute, and we’ve seen
each other through the best and worst of times.
Well, Purdy was no better or worse than usual. She said
that the buns looked like rubbish, but she would force down
a couple of them with her tea. The scones hadn’t improved
she noticed, but I could give her a dozen anyway. Her sister,
who couldn’t tolerate anything fancy, was visiting
her that afternoon, and was very hard to please. Imagine,
two of them together, I thought to myself. I saw her off
at last, and went in search of Marilyn. She had her hanky
up to her face and told me she had hay fever. I laughed
at her; I mean, when did she ever have hay fever? More like
the remains of Saturday night fever I said. Anyway, I told
her she had better get rid of it before Friday night. It
was my birthday, and I had planned a surprise party for
myself. Well I mean, who else would do it? Mrs Woods had
even donated the cake. Mal said the whole thing was a load
of rubbish and a waste of money, but I think the big four
O is special, if a bit depressing. The party was to be held
in a fancy Hotel, and even wee Hugh was going. He had new
long trousers and a bow tie, and was tickled pink about
his evening out. Marilyn looked at me, and then she said
she was sure it would be a great do. I couldn’t make
her out; she just wasn’t herself, but I let it go,
and we went back to the shop.
By this time, the big fellow Archie who was doing a bit
of decorating around the shop, had arrived. We were having
pale green emulsion everywhere, and primroses stencilled
round the walls. To be truthful, it looked as if somebody
had put butter in a sling and let fly, but who am I to criticize?
I only work here. I think big Archie fancies Marilyn as
he keeps looking back at her, and I’m always afraid
he will fall off his ladder. There has been a great bit
of banter going on too. I decided to help things along,
as he really is a nice bloke, cheerful, pleasant and very
good looking. I know he is on his own, and so is she. His
wife died a few years ago, and Marilyn’s fellow walked
out on her the year before, with a girl who was half his
age. That was a time I’ll never forget. I sat up at
night with her for weeks. Finally she got her head together,
and was back to her old self. There I go again, this digression
thing. Wouldn’t Mr Bolton with his slashing red pen
have a field day? He is very uptight and precise, and I
nearly choked when he said, - “Digression, Mrs Lightbody,
is the outward manifestation of a butterfly brain.”
That got me going, old butterfly brain that’s me,
light by name and light by nature. I saved that up to tell
Mal. He didn’t laugh. Where was I? Oh yes, Marilyn
and Archie. Before I went home I asked Archie if he would
like to come to my party. Well do you know, he jumped at
it, and even offered to bring champagne. I didn’t
refuse it I can tell you. I thought Marilyn would be pleased,
but she just said that it was great, and she’d see
me in the morning.
Well, this has been a day! I still can’t make sense
of it. Wee Hugh was staying at my mothers, so after I read
the note, I rang her and asked her to keep him there. I
told her what was in the note. She didn’t say much,
just that my father would be right over to bring me home.
I said, no, I wanted to think, and that I would come over
on my own. She never liked Mal, and I do remember her calling
him a miserable so and so. She’s like me, loves a
good laugh and right enough Mal never did see the funny
side of things.
I read the note over and over again, and it still didn’t
make sense. Mal and Marilyn were going to England together.
They had been seeing each other for quite a while now. They
were both very sorry for the hurt they were causing, and
would be in touch. It seemed to me that I was hurting more
about Marilyn than Mal. I rang Mrs Woods at the shop and
told her that Marilyn and I wouldn’t be coming into
work. I must have told her why, but I don’t remember.
As soon as I put the phone down - or did I put it down?
I started to cry and I thought that I would never stop.
I cried for the loss of a friend, and a marriage which had
never been very good, for the betrayal, and the end of a
way of life.
I remember a knock at the front door, and when I answered
it I was gathered into the arms of, would you believe it
- of all people, big Archie! I was crying so much that I
could hardly hear him. Then I realized that he was saying
that he had envied that toe-rag husband of mine. He knew
rightly that Marilyn was nothing but a “fly by night”
and nobody’s friend. He was going to take me over
to my mother’s, and that he would call again after
work. In fact if I would only let him he would always take
care of me and Hugh.
I can’t write any more but I have read this bit over
and over again very carefully. No digression here Mr. Bolton.