Archive of ‘There goes the neighbourhood’ category
(Celebration, Florida, 2012. Has nothing to do with this post.)
On Monday morning, Terry, Rubin and I were woken by the sound of an opera singer warming up her vocal chords in the office, which is just a few short metres from our bedroom. She sang a single, er, “trill”, (OK, not musical, no idea what it’s called: one of those long, warbly notes that you hold on to for a while, going up the scale?)… and then was silent.
Simultaneously, the three of us raised our heads and looked at each other in confusion.
“Did that sound like an opera singer to you?” Terry asked.
“YES. THANK GOD you heard it too,” I replied. “I was scared to mention it, in case it was just me, and you accused me of being crazy again, like you did on Thursday night.”
(On Thursday night, I woke Terry up by shouting the word “TRENDY!” in my sleep. Under questioning (and while I was still asleep), I revealed that I’d been “trying to think of a word to describe my hair.” Obviously I didn’t think too hard before shouting out a word that doesn’t even remotely describe my hair, but look, I was SLEEPING, OK? I was probably dreaming I was someone else. I do that a lot. But anyway: the opera singer!)
We knew the opera singing hadn’t come from either of us, and we couldn’t blame Rubin, either (which is what we normally do when something happens in the house that we can’t explain), because he was right there at our feet, having snuck into the bedroom at some point during the night, and been granted access to the bed by one or the other of us, but probably me. Oh yeah, and also because he’s a dog. And seriously, his singing is terrible.
(Oh, and it wasn’t coming from either of our phones either, because they were also in the room with us. And also not opera singers.)
Nevertheless, the fact remained: an opera singer had sung. All three of us had heard her. And she had sung in our office, which, honestly, was kind of strange, especially when you consider the complete absence of opera singers in our household on any given day.
We were pretty sure the singer had sung from inside the house. The sound had been much louder and clearer than someone shouting in the street, for instance, and I’m able to speak with some authority on this subject, because our house is within walking distance of a pub, and we’re regularly woken from our peaceful, trendy-hair-filled slumbers by the sound of The Others stumbling home and standing shouting – and sometimes fighting – in the street beneath our window. Just last week, in fact, we were treated to a 30-minute show by an Other who came out of the woods and stood shouting angrily into his cellphone, just a stone’s throw from our house. It’s a good job we didn’t actually HAVE any stones to throw, is all I’m saying.(Joking!) (Not!) (No, really, joking: don’t throw stones, kids!)
So, we KNOW what people shouting/singing/fighting in the street sounds like (We also know what someone driving a mini motorcycle up and down said street for five hours solid sounds like, but that’s a whole other story. ), and we knew this wasn’t it.
So WHAT WAS IT?
Um, honestly? I have no idea. None at all. If I had to guess, I’d say the house has probably been built on the site of an old opera house, which burned to the ground under mysterious circumstances, and now the unlucky prima donnas who once trod its boards are stuck helplessly between this world and the next. I think that’s the most likely explanation, but I watch a LOT of horror movies, so maybe just disregard that. It could also be something to do with Nigel, The International Man Who is Considerably Less Mysterious Than He Used to Be Next Door, who has now been AWOL again for several months. It could be connected to The Voice. Or there COULD be a completely rational explanation. I hope not, though. Rational explanations are always SUCH an anti-climax, aren’t they?
Ah, well, it could be worse. I mean, we could be haunted by the spirit of Justin Beiber or something. That really WOULD be weird. Especially considering he’s not even dead.
I am out running.
It’s a bright, sunny afternoon – one of those near-mythical crisp days which make me almost understand why people love autumn. I’m jogging along, listening to music through my headphones, totally lost in my own little world, when all of a sudden, two things happen almost simultaneously:
First, I feel something hit my shoulder and fall to the ground at my feet.
Almost immediately afterwards, a girl of maybe 10 or 11 (I’m terrible at guessing people’s ages, so let’s just go with old enough to know better) runs up from behind me and gets right up into my face, laughing and jeering at me, all the while pointing at whatever it is that just hit me.
What DID just hit me?
I look down, and see a small, plastic object. It is bright yellow, and about the length of one of my fingers: I have no idea what it is, exactly, but even although it hasn’t harmed me in any way, the fact that someone has deliberately THROWN SOMETHING at me, and is now laughing in my face – and RIGHT in my face, too – is enough to bring out that famous temper we redheads are always being told we have.
(Because we are all the same, us redheads. All exactly the same. It’s almost like we’re one person. Amazing, isn’t it?)
I’d already stopped in my tracks when the mystery missile hit me: now I pull my headphones out of my ears and confront Jeering Girl, who is still standing there laughing, like this is the most! hilarious! thing! ever!
“Did you throw that at me?” I ask calmly, pointing to the mystery object.
Instantly, Jeering Girl’s expression changes. She is utterly shocked to be addressed like this. She obviously thought she would throw something, hit me with it, laugh in my face and then we’d all be on our way, like nothing happened.
She is wrong.
“It wasn’t me!” she tells me, smirking. “It was one of them!”
I turn. Sure enough, standing behind me are two other kids: another girl, around the same age as Jeering Girl, and a boy who looks a little bit older, so maybe about 12 or so. He is holding a gun.
A GUN, people.
“OMG!” I think. “I’ve been shot!” But whodunnit?
Obviously Gun-Totin’ Boy would be the prime suspect in this crime, but he’s having none of it. Neither is Other Girl.
“It wasn’t me!” they exclaim simultaneously. “It was one of them!”
And then they all point at each other, in a move so perfectly executed it was almost like they’d practised it. It was like Spartacus, but with cowards.
“Look,” I tell them, “I don’t care who did it. You’re all idiots for throwing things at people in the street. Do you realise how much trouble that could get you into?”
(Yes, I know: shouldn’t have called them idiots. Bad of me. Realised that the second the words were out of my mouth. Felt pretty stupid. But still, was annoyed. And also: had just been shot in the street! And seriously: our town isn’t exactly Disney. It really IS pretty stupid to deliberately try to provoke passers-by, and it was clear from the behaviour of these kids that this wasn’t just a case of them “playing” and me getting hit by accident – they were deliberately trying to provoke me. If they’d picked someone else, a lecture might’ve been the LEAST of their worries…)
“Shut it, gingernut,” said Jeering Girl.
It was at that point I realised I was fighting a losing battle. I mean, “gingernut”, seriously? It’s a long time since my hair has been used as the insult of choice, I’ll tell you that. Why, I can’t even remember the last time someone slowed down and yelled “ginger” out of their car window at me, for instance. Perhaps I am losing my touch?
(Aside: I’ve always wondered what the correct response is to someone who shouts “GINGER!” at me out of a slow-moving vehicle. Should I yell back “Brunette!” or “Baldy guy!” or something? What IS the etiquette for this kind of thing, anyway?)
These kids may have proven themselves capable of a) shooting a moving target and b) correctly identifying my hair colour, but I suspect my short but (I thought) eloquent speech on Why We Do Not Harass People In the Street or Use Their Genetic Makeup as a Stick to Beat Them With was pretty much lost on them. I suspect this because the whole time I was making this speech, they were still calling me “ginger”.
I made the speech anyway. I did it for ALL the redheads. I did it because… well, because I might be crazy (I think they called me that too, actually, now I come to think of it?) but I just think it’s important not to harass people, you know? And when I was done, my three assailants looked at me, in silent hatred.
“They’re just little girls,” Older Boy managed eventually, conveniently forgetting that HE was the one holding the smoking gun at the time. And, of course, he was right. They’re just little girls. But one day they’ll be older girls, and then they’ll be women, and they’ll be the kind of women who think it’s perfectly OK to throw things at strangers, or call people names, because no one ever told them any different. That makes me sad.
And that, my friends, is the strange story of how I was shot in the street that one time. It’s the kind of thing that could only happen to me: or, OK, to anyone else who happened to be running past at that particular time. (I’m actually quite surprised it’s taken this long for something like this to happen. I’m used to people – both children and adults – stopping in their tracks to stare at me with open hostility as I run past them, but I’ve heard some absolute horror stories from other runners, so I have a feeling I’ve gotten off pretty lightly.) Someone else might have been called “fat” or “ugly” or some other equally offensive term: I got called “gingernut” because, as I am all too often reminded, to some people, red hair is just as bad as those other things, and just as cutting an insult.
Unfortunately for my three assailants, their insult of choice failed to have the desired effect. I didn’t rush home and cry into my pillow, or hack off the offending hair with a carving knife or anything like that, because, well, they were the children in this little story, not me.
I did, however, renew my determination to move house at some point in the next year. It’s never a good sign when the neighbourhood kid are armed, is it?
[Silent Sunday: photos with no words]
Just a few photos to round off the week…
We discovered this little “abandoned” railway station a couple of weeks ago while we were out walking with my parents, and I made a mental note to come back and take some photos. It’s not technically “abandoned” (it just looks it) - it’s the home of a little tourist railway that runs along the river to the weir you just see in the background of the photo above. And it was all Autumnal and pretty, so even although my nose was redder than Rudolph’s by the time we left, it was still worth a quick visit.
“Ooh! A spooky gate! With an old creepy house ruined house behind it! I wonder what’s inside?”
(Shoe Challenge # 51, for Shoeperwoman.com)
Remember those sheep I became friends with this summer? Well, they weren’t the only surprise this town had in store for me. In fact, just a few days later, I was out running again, and I ran all the way back to the Stone Age:
So, a few days after my misadventure with the sheep, I headed back to the scene of the crime: only this time, I took reinforcements, in the shape of Terry and Rubin.
By this point, I had found out a bit more about my woolly friends, and had discovered that I had not, as I’d thought at the time, broken some important countryside law by getting up close and not-particularly-personal with them. No, it turns out this is part of a visitor centre where people can take their kids to learn about farming, and farmyard animals, and stuff like that. It’s known locally as “The Farm”, and, you know, you can say what you like about the place I live, but there’s no shortage of imagination here, there really isn’t.
Of course, as soon as I found out I was actually ALLOWED to be in a field with sheep, I wanted to go back. And I wanted to take Terry and Rubin with me. (Don’t worry: Rubin was kept tightly leashed at all times, and we made sure that dogs were allowed in the area before talking him there. They are, but even if they weren’t, I’m pretty sure the biggest danger would’ve been the sheep mistaking him for One of Their Own and trying to reclaim him. Anyway!) So, off we set, and soon we arrived at a pen containing four sheep (only some of the animals are allowed to wander free, the rest are in enclosures): three white ones and one black sheep. “I know how you feel, mate” I quipped, hilariously, stopping to have a look at them.
As soon as I stopped, however, the black sheep and I locked eyes:
And I’m guessing I must have been a sheep in a former life (which is TOTALLY the kind of thing that would happen to me, incidentally. Why couldn’t I have been a princess or something?), because the next thing I knew, that sheep was trotting towards me, and thrusting its head through the fence to be petted. Well, who was I to resist? I don’t remember ever petting a sheep before (although, again, it seems like exactly the kind of thing I would do), so I patted its head for a minute, and then headed off to join Terry and Rubin, who were standing some distance away, looking bored. (And, in Rubin’s case, looking like a sheep.)
The sheep came with me.
I broke into a jog. So did the sheep.
When I reached the end of its enclosure, my sheep friend was forced to stop, but it clearly wasn’t happy about it, because it stood there with its woolly body pressed against the fence, staring balefully after me. “Would you look at that!” I said to Terry. “Sheep love me! I’m a Sheep Whisperer!”
And you know what? I totally AM a sheep whisperer. Because a few days later? I went back, during my morning run. And this time I managed to “whisper” two more sheep. Here is one of them:
The fourth sheep, however, remains elusive. I think it’s playing hard to get:
I’ll get it, though. I will draw it to me with my, um, animal magnetism. (Do you see what I did there?) The Sheep Whisperer will not fail! I will collect the full set! And once I have collected the full set I will…well, actually, I have no idea what happens then. Maybe they give you a free set of mugs, or a special badge or something?
Now that I’ve gone all Dr Doolittle, I visit the sheep every so often, during the course of my run. I think of them as my friends. (THIS IS WHY I DON’T GOT NO HUMAN FRIENDS!) I also no longer eat lamb.
Oh yeah: and I write about sheep now. This is what it’s come to. THIS is how bad my summer was. God, I need a break.
(Also: I haven’t even BEGUN to tell you about the cows…)
On Tuesday, Terry and I decided it was time to re-introduce Rubin to the outside world, by resuming his daily walk, which we’d temporarily halted after The Episode, thinking it might be best to try and keep him quiet for a couple of days (and ignoring the fact that Rubin was anything BUT “quiet” during this time). So we drove to a local park we’ve taken to visiting lately, and, of course, halfway there it started to rain.
“It might stop,” Terry said optimistically, so we drove on, and parked up next to the children’s play area of this park, which was empty but for one lone figure hanging out in a “bus shelter” style seating area, presumably in order to shelter from the rain, which had now turned into a downpour. We were just about to give up and go home when the figure in the shelter stood up. Terry just had time to utter the words, “Wow, that guy’s DRUNK!”, when the man abruptly fell over, going down like a tree being felled.
Now, from the way the guy had stood up, not to mention the manner in which he’d fallen, it was very, very obvious that his problem was what’s colloquially known around here as “the bevvy”, as opposed to anything more immediately life-threatening. Still, he was a human being falling over in a public place, so Terry and I were more than a little surprised when a couple of dog walkers, who’d appeared just in time to see him fall, passed close by the man’s prostrate form without so much as stopping to check he was OK.
Then two more people did exactly the same thing.
Terry had just started to open his car door to go and help, when the man on the ground tried to sit up. I say “tried”: I have honestly never seen anyone quite as drunk as this in my entire life (and bear in mind, I was a student in Edinburgh for four years). He literally couldn’t stand, much less walk, so after crouching on the ground for a couple of minutes, during which we wondered what on earth to do (we weren’t sure how someone as drunk as this would react to an offer of assistance), he begun to crawl on hands and knees back towards his shelter. Only he couldn’t even crawl: he had to basically drag himself the few feet to the shelter, and, once there, he tried once again to stand up… and fell flat on his face into the mud.
At this point I must confess I started to wonder if we were on one of those TV shows where they secretly film you reacting to outrageous situations, because these falls were like textbook slapstick comedy: the kind of falls only a very, very drunk person, who can’t feel the ground hit him, would do. And having admitted to that, I’m also going to admit to a couple of other unpleasant truths about my initial reaction to all of this:
1. My first instinct was to snigger a little: drunk people are, after all, sometimes mildly amusing to watch.
2. My second instinct was to roll my eyes and engage in a little bit of tut-tutting. “It’s only three o’clock,” I said, self-righteously. “And it’s a children’s play park! Won’t someone think of the chhhiiiillldren?!”
Of course, there were no children in evidence at the time. There was, however, a very drunk adult who, having fallen face-first into the mud, had apparently given up on the idea of movement, and perhaps life, and was just lying there, motionless. Wordlessly, Terry got out of the car, and ran through the now-torrential rain to try and help him, while I sat there and wondered what the hell we were supposed to do now. We were in a totally deserted park, with the nearest house being a good half-mile away. Given that the man couldn’t even CRAWL, it seemed unlikely that Terry and I would be able to get him to our car (which was parked at some distance from the shelter), and even assuming that we could, I wasn’t at all confident that he’d get through the journey home (wherever that was) without throwing up all over us, which would’ve been exactly the kind of thing that happens to us.
Oh, and obviously neither of us had our phones with us. OF COURSE NOT.
Well, I sat in the passenger seat and watched through the pouring rain as Terry approached the man, and helped him back onto his bench. I waited. And waited. And waited. Terry and the man appeared to be deep in conversation: in fact, it all looked very cordial, which made me wonder just what on earth was going on. WAS the guy drunk? Was Terry trying to help him? Or were they just talking about, I don’t know, football, or some other kind of MAN thing? Who knew. (Clue: not me.) By now it was raining in that kind of way that will soak through your clothes in seconds. Not exactly relishing the thought of being soaked through in seconds, I didn’t want to get out of the car to find out what was happening, but I didn’t really want to just drive off for help and leave Terry in a deserted area with a drunk guy either, so I decided to sit tight.
Finally, Terry returned and slid into the driver’s seat.
“Give me your phone,” he said. Er, DUH. “This is me you’re talking to,” I reminded him. “Obviously I’ve left my phone at home, where it can be of no possible use to anyone.” Terry opened up the glove box and searched through it in vain. “WHY DO WE NEVER HAVE PHONES WITH US?!” he said in frustration, before abruptly getting out of the car and running back to his new friend without so much as telling me what was going on. Or giving me time to present him with my “I will take the car and get help,” plan.
With no other plan of action suggesting itself to me, I sat where I was, and watched as Terry once again approached the shelter and was greeted like an old friend by the man inside it. I watched them sit and talk, and then I watched the man lean forward and embrace Terry, several times. They appeared to be getting on like a house on fire. They also appeared to be drinking from a bottle of vodka: or at least, one of them did, and it’ll come as no surprise to you to discover that it was not Terry. Every few minutes, the rain seemed to get heavier. Finally, just when I thought it couldn’t possibly get any worse… it got worse. And that was the moment Terry chose to leave the shelter, and return to the car.
“Yeah, he’s drunk,” he announced, getting in. “Are you absolutely SURE you don’t have your phone with you?”
I started to roll my eyes in response to this, but at that moment my rolling eye caught a welcome sight: a police car, heading towards us. “Wow, how did you do that without a phone?” I asked Terry, impressed.
He hadn’t. It seems that one of the people who’d simply walked past the man without stopping had, at least, had the decency to call the police and tell them where to find him. Terry got back out of the car again (by this point he was soaked through anyway) and had a quick word with them, before leaving them to get on with it.
“That was so sad,” he said, when he finally got back. It turned out the man was an alcoholic whose partner had kicked him out, and who’d been sleeping rough for three days. He’d told Terry that dozens of people had just walked right by him before we’d turned up, and not one person had stopped to ask if he was OK. Not one. ”I think you’re the nicest person I’ve ever met,” he told Terry, tearfully. “In fact, I think you must be an angel.”
As Terry’s wife, I obviously have to agree with that assessment (maybe not the “angel” part: let’s not get carried away here.). I have to agree with Terry, too, though: it wasn’t comical, or even something to be sneered at - it was all just very, very sad. I hope the man managed to get some help.
EDIT: I just noticed that an awful lot of emails from readers have somehow ended up in my spam folder – huge apologies if you’ve emailed me and I haven’t replied: I’ve dug a few out of the spam folder tonight and will reply to them as soon as I can, but I suspect some older emails may have been lost, so if you think yours could be one of them, please re-send, and accept my apologies!
Also, I’ve had loads of emails and comments now about the links at the top of the page not working – again, I’m really sorry that this has been an issue for some of you: Terry has been really busy with work lately and hasn’t had time to look at it, but he will get to it as soon as he can!
So, on Friday night Terry and I are getting ready for bed. I come out of the bathroom, only to find Terry standing at the bedroom window, scanning the street, and sniffing the air like a bloodhound. “Someone in the street’s having a party,” he told me, with an anxious look in his eyes. “But it’s OK! There’s no music! Just… shouting.”
Now, as regular readers will know, I have no tolerance whatsoever for noise, especially when I’m trying to sleep, hence Terry’s anxiety. “Christ,” he was probably thinking, “I’m going to have to listen to her rant about this for hours now. And then I’ll probably have to read her ranting about it again on her stupid blog.” He was only partly right, though, because I actually handled the news better than you would think. You see, I was absolutely exhausted. And while a thumping baseline would have driven me straight to Insanity City, I figured a bit of shouting was nothing I couldn’t block out with my earplugs.
But I was wrong.
Not twenty minutes later, Terry was back at the window. Because it wasn’t some neighbours having a party. No, it was a marauding gang of teenagers, moving up and down the street in a pack. And they were drunk. As skunks. (Why do people say that, by the way? DO skunks drink a lot? Because you never seem to see them buying booze?) You know the sound a crowd at a football match makes? It was like that, only worse. There were about twenty of them, and they’d obviously decided that the Best! Thing! Ever! to do on a Friday night would be to stand around my street, shouting at the tops of their voices.
This went on for at least an hour. The crowd would move from one end of the street to the other, always making sure to stay within our earshot. Then they’d move into the forest opposite the house – also within our earshot – and we’d think they were leaving, only for them all to crowd back out again five minutes later, like, “SURPRISE! It’s us, your drunken teenage friends!” They were so loud that there was no way to block out the sound. All we could do was lie there and listen to the screaming, and you know what? After the first forty minutes, some of the screaming was coming from ME.
Midnight turned to 1am, and still the pack was in action in the street. Terry was still pacing at the window. I was curled up in a ball on the bed, rocking back and forth and muttering, “Why, God, why? Why are you doing this to me? All I wanted was some sleeeeep!” Eventually, Terry snapped. “I’m going out there!” he announced, throwing off his dressing gown dramatically. “NOOOOOO!” I shrieked in horror. “They’re teenagers! They’ll kill you! And also… you’re not wearing anything under your dressing gown!”
Terry was adamant that he could face up to 20 teenagers, and they’d be so terrified they all run straight home to mummy. I was adamant that this would not be happening. So Terry did the next best thing. Throwing open the window, he leaned out and shouted at the top of his voice:
“HEY! YOU LOT! WOULD YOU SHUT THE $%&^^& UP!”
And… nothing. Because the gang were making so much noise themselves that Terry was totally drowned out. He had no choice but to slink back to bed defeated and join me in wondering what we could possibly have done in a past life to justify being tortured like this. Eventually, though, after another twenty minutes or so of yelling, the teenagers melted away into the night. Silence reigned. Except it didn’t, because no sooner had we settled down to FINALLY get to sleep, but:
Rubin had slept soundly throughout the shouting (he sleeps on the other side of the house), but apparently now the silence had awakened him. And was annoying him. We gave it a few minutes to see if he’d settle down.
Another few minutes, in case he was just jerkin’ us.
With a deep sigh, Terry got up and went to see if Rubin needed to go out. Rubin, however, had other plans. Skillfully evading Terry, he ran at top speed through to the bedroom, and hid under the bed. And he would. not. come. out. Normally the words, “Do you want to go out?” are enough to send Rubin careering downstairs, to slam his body against the back door in excitement. Not this time. No, this time Rubin didn’t WANT to go out. This time, Rubin wanted to sleep in The Big Basket. And he was gonna. Accepting defeat on this issue, and also accepting that it was now approaching 2am, Terry coaxed him out from underneath the bed, and placed him on top of it, where Rubin proceeded to get absolutely hysterical with excitement. “OMG, AMBER!” he seemed to say. “OMG! TERRY! SO EXCITING! SO! EXCITING!”
Usually if Rubin is permitted to sleep in The Big Basket, he will settle down after a minute or so and go straight to sleep. Not this time. This time the hysteria went on, and on, and on, with Rubin trying to lick both our faces repeatedly, and lying down only to jump straight back up and start up the hysteria again. Eventually, however, he found a area of the bed that was to his liking (it was the area my legs normally occupy, but by then I’d have let him sleep on my head if it meant actually getting some sleep), and we all FINALLY settled down to sleep.
Silence reigned for five minutes.
Then Rubin stood up, jumped off the bed and came to place his paws on the edge of it, next to my face. “I need to go out, now,” he said. AAARRGH!
By this point, a headache had settled itself behind my right eye, and was steadily drilling into my brain. There was no way I was budging. “Terry,” I said. “I don’t feel well. I have a really sore head. I think it’s a brain tumour. Also, Rubin needs to go out.”
So poor Terry got up once more and opened the bedroom door. “Come on then, Rubin,” he said resignedly. “Let’s go out.”
“Let’s not,” said Rubin. “Let’s hide under the bed again!”
And he did.
Terry tried to bribe him with everything, but nope, Rubin was not for moving. “Leave him,” I muttered, my hand clamped over my throbbing head. “Just let him sleep there if he wants. He’ll make a nest out of my dressing gown and he’ll be fine. And we’ll get some sleep.”
Terry got back into bed. Silence descended. I was just drifting off to sleep, when:
“HIIIIIIIIIIII!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” Rubin was back at the side of the bed, his face thrust into mine. “LET’S PLAY!” said Rubin. “PLAY! PLAY! PLAY!” I reached out to pick him up and place him on the bed…
… and he ran and hid underneath it.
I decided to ignore this move and let him sleep there if he wanted. He’d only been sleeping (or doing whatever else he was doing under there) for a few minutes, however, when he suddenly let out a high pitched shriek: the kind of noise dogs make if something has hurt them. This was the third such shriek Rubin had made that day: first, while on his walk and rummaging through undergrowth, he had jumped back and yelped. Then later, while jumping onto the couch, he’d done it again. Both times, I’d examined him, but been unable to find out what was wrong, or why he’d yelped, and he’d seemed perfectly fine, so I’d forgotten about it. And now he’d yelped again.
Well, I reached down and picked him up (And he HAD made a nest out of my dressing gown, by the way) and got him onto the bed. Terry checked him over, but couldn’t find anything wrong with him, so we let him lie down at the bottom of the bed and - wonder of wonders! – this time he actually went to sleep! Aaaaah! Peace!
3am came. I was WIDE AWAKE. My head felt like someone was drilling through my eye. And my brain WOULD NOT STOP TALKING TO ME.
“Hi, Amber!” my brain said. “‘S’up? I was just thinking… that was some strange behaviour from Rubin tonight, wasn’t it? He doesn’t normally act like that at bedtime, does he? And you know, he was kinda quiet tonight, don’t you think? Like, when you and Terry were watching TV, and dogs came on, he only got up to stare at the screen a few times. The rest of the time he just lay there with his nose between his paws. He looked a bit depressed to me, actually. And what was with all of the yelping? Seems like something is wrong with him. I bet something is wrong with him! OMG! What could it be! It sounds like something REALLY SERIOUS!”
By now I was even more wide awake. I nudged Rubin’s sleeping form with my toe, which he happened to be lying on at the time. He didn’t move. I nudged him again. Nothing. Oh my God! He was dead! He was surely dead! I raised my foot up in the air, with his body draped over it, and… Rubin woke up and stared at me like I was a lunatic. “PLAY?” he said. Whoops. I lowered him, and tried to settle down.
“Hi, Amber!” said my brain. “I wouldn’t be convinced by that little performance, by the way. I mean, can YOU see him breathing?”
I raised myself up on my elbow and looked at Rubin. Sure enough, his sides weren’t moving. I leaned closer.
“HE. IS. FINE.” hissed Terry, from beside me. “For God’ sake, go to sleep.”
So I lay back down, but by now my head was absolutely THROBBING. The room was stuffy, and Rubin was lying on my legs, so I got up and opened the window. When I came back to the bed, Rubin was lying in my space, so I squeezed myself into the small area he’d left me, and lay down.
“Hi Amber!” said my brain. “SO! Wonder what the sore head’s all about? Pretty painful, no? Remember that migraine you had last week? That was the second one this month. Been a long time since you had two migraines in a month. Probably not ACTUALLY a migraine, then. Probably a brain tumour. Actually? DEFINITELY a brain tumour.”
“Shut up, brain,” I said. “Is not a brain tumour. Have spoken to doctor about migraines. He said not tumour, just crazy.”
Twenty minutes passed, during which Terry and Rubin sunk into blissful, deep sleeps, and I almost fell off my small corner of the bed.
“HI!” said my brain. “You know how you have that appointment with the optician tomorrow? For your contact lens checkup? Well, two things about that: 1) when he shines those lights into your eyes, he is totally going to see a tumour lurking behind one. Probably the right one. 2) Man, you’re going to feel like CRAP tomorrow if you don’t get some sleep. Look! It’s light outside!”
And it WAS light outside. And I DID feel like crap. I guess I must have slept at some point, because when I woke up, Rubin was next to my head, and I don’t remember how he got there, but it was one of those nights where I felt like I just lay awake ALL NIGHT. When I finally decided to give sleep up as a bad job and got up, my headache was even worse than it had been the night before. It took two large coffees, two paracetamol and two ibuprofen to get me out the door. I went to my optician’s appointment, and discovered that I did NOT have a brain tumour. Or not one that was detectable to an eye doctor, anyway, although it’s amazing he could see ANYTHING in my eyes given how bloodshot they were.
As for Rubin… well, Rubin had some other surprises in store for us that day, but that, my friends, is another story for another time…
[To be continued...]
So, I decided to start running outdoors again. Yeah, I know: been there, done that, got the washed-out Nike t-shirt (actually it’s a tank top, but whatever) to prove it.
If you’ve been reading this blog since God was a teenager, however, you’ll know that I don’t tend to have much luck with running outdoors. Or even just being outdoors. In fact, it wouldn’t be wrong to say my last experiment in this area was a complete and utter failure. You see, I was afeared. I was scared in that way that I think most women are when they find themselves out in the middle of nowhere, on their own and with no-one to hear them scream should something bad happen. “What if someone tries to kill me?” I would think, as I plodded up some lonely woodland trail or other. “I bet they wouldn’t find my body for YEARS out here!” And so the fear drove me away from those pretty woodland trails and towards the streets near my house, around which I would circle endlessly, passing the same, suburban scenes over and over and over again, seeing the same people multiple times, and getting the same looks of shocked disbelief from them every single time. (If someone’s running in this town, it normally means the police are after them…)
This got very boring, very quickly. Eventually, it got SO boring that I headed back to the gym, and the treadmill. At least people don’t stop what they’re doing to stare at you on the treadmill, you know? Well, not ALL the time, anyway.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind the treadmill. It’s my “thinking” time. And sometimes it’s my “not thinking” time, where I just put on some good music and let my mind go blank. Or blanker than usual. Other times, though, it’s my “Damn, but this is BORING!” time, and when that started to be the case more often than not, my mind once again turned towards the idea of running outdoors.
This time would be different, I thought. This time I would not be afraid. I would run where I wanted to run, and I would ignore the incredulous stares. It would be ace!
So, one fine day in July (it was literally the ONE fine day in July, seriously), I pulled on my running shoes and headed out into the great outdoors. What could go wrong, I thought? I had a phone with GPS on it. If I got lost, all I had to do was pull up a map, and I’d be found. (Also, it’s a PHONE. That you can use to speak to people on). And if someone tried to kill me, why, I was a RUNNER! I would RUN AWAY. Fast. Or I would poke them in the eye with my keys. It would be fine!
And actually, it was fine. Our town didn’t really exist before the 1960s. It was one of the “new towns” that were built in Scotland around then, and it has a very 1960s look to it: lots of concrete, buildings like boxes, strange bits of “street art” that have long-since become so thickly coated with graffiti that they’ve actually started to look better than they originally did, in that grim, urban kind of way. There is, however, also a river, and the area around the river is rather lovely. Lots of woodland trails that make you feel like you’re out in the country, even although you’re smack-dab in the centre of town, water rushing, birds chirping, flowers, er, flowering… I even saw a group of bunnies, people, and what could be better than that? (Oh, and every now and then, dotted in amongst the foliage, will be some graffiti-coated concrete edifice from the 60s. It’s awesome, seriously.)
Well, I finished my run, and I LOVED it. I actually don’t know this town very well, or not on foot, anyway. In the car, I could take you anywhere, but I’ve never really walked around it, which is a shame, because there are so many little interesting footpaths and trails that it was like a little adventure. I was converted. I was going to be running outside ALL THE TIME from now on, I decided. It would be my “thing”. I would be Fearless Adventurer Amber! I couldn’t wait!
A couple of days later, then, I set out again, with the adventuring. Once again, I headed to the river, and I was having a fine old time. So I ran on. And on. And on. It was great. The trees! The river! More bunnies! And then, in the middle of nowhere, under a random bridge… a tramp! Um, OK. I stopped at this point. The Fear returned. It seemed obvious to me that this man would try and kill me. I mean, why else would you be hanging out under a bridge in the middle of nowhere, if not to kill the next random runner girl that went past? Well, no problem, I thought, I would just double back a bit, and pick up the trail further along the river.
You can see where I’m going with this, can’t you? And I’m glad YOU can, because I certainly couldn’t see where I going. Leaving my country trail, you see, I found myself in a network of streets. This town is full of such networks. You get into them, and you can wander around for weeks, until someone stumbles across your poor, emaciated form and takes you in. Ironically enough, I knew exactly where I was. It was a part of town I’ve been to many times in the car, and a couple of times on foot, although on those occasions I was with Terry, who is a native of the town and knows its many secrets.
So I knew where I was: I just didn’t know how to get from there to where I wanted to be. Not on foot, anyway. If I’d had my car there, I could have driven straight home. That route, however, would take me along busy main roads, and wasn’t one I really wanted to take on foot, so I turned and plunged back into the woods, determined to work it out. Well, I ran and I ran. I ran for about a mile, and then the path I was on returned me abruptly to the same street I’d started from, having apparently taken me in a large loop. I turned around and set off again, this time taking a different route… which took me to slightly further along the same street I started from. Hmm.
Once again, I set off into the woods. There are lots of different routes through these woods, I discovered. You set off down one track, only to find it splitting into three more tracks a little way along it, with no clue where each of them leads. If only I’d been prepared, like the Famous Five, and brought a ball of string to unwind as I went, I might have had even the slightest clue where I was going, but alas, no. I knew I’d gone wrong again, when I encountered these:
What was disturbing about this was that I took this photo with my phone camera, which means I was just as close to those sheep as it looks. I was in a field with sheep! Sheep were in a field with me! This was ALL KINDS OF WRONG, and by now I was starting to get a little annoyed, mostly because it was getting close to lunchtime, and if I didn’t get home soon, I’d miss Neighbours. That right there tells you all you need to know, really, doesn’t it?
Well, I turned round and I retraced my weary steps. Arriving back, once again, at the street I’d started from, I encountered a woman in a car, who slowed down and asked me directions to the mall. “If I knew where I was, I might be able to tell you,” I said, which was actually a total LIE, because I am absolutely useless when it comes to giving people directions. I couldn’t direct you from my front door to the bottom of the driveway. I can’t read maps, either, which was why I now realised that when I’d come up with the whole “I can’t possibly get lost because I have Google maps on my phone” thing, I’d obviously been smoking crack:
The map, then, was no good to me, and time was a-wastin’, so I decided to admit defeat, call Terry and ask him to come and get me. This would be humiliating, sure: I mean, I was “lost” in a place I knew well, and which I could have driven home from in a matter of minutes, but I figured walking back along that route would be a) dangerous and b) time-consuming, so I sucked it up, got my phone back out…
… and it had no credit on it. OF COURSE NOT.
This has long been a bone of contention between Terry and I. When I got my iPhone, you see, Terry insisted we go for a Pay-as-You-Go tariff, his reasoning being that as I never, ever phone anyone anyway, it would be a waste of money to pay a monthly fee for it. “You could put £10 worth of credit on the phone and it would last you all year,” said Terry, little knowing that I would burn through three times that amount in the space of ten minutes at Gran Canaria airport just a few short months later.
We argued about this for a while. My fear was that, with Pay-as-You-Go, I would always run out of credit at the exact moment I most needed it. It was inevitable, I said. AND WHO WAS RIGHT ABOUT THAT, TERRY, HUH? HUH?
So I had no credit. I couldn’t phone Terry, or, indeed anyone else. And I had no money. Of COURSE NOT. Because when you go running in the middle of nowhere, you don’t take anything with you that could conceivably be of any use, do you?
So I sent Terry an email. The phone allowed me to do this, luckily. (Actually, the more I think about it, the more grateful I am that emergency calls are free on these things. Because if they weren’t, and I got into an ACTUAL emergency, I’d have to send the police an email saying, “Help! Am being attacked!” And, knowing me, because I really detest text speak, and can never bring myself to use it, I would type it all out totally correctly, and then spell-check it before hitting send.) Unluckily, however, Terry is not like me, and doesn’t spend all day hovering over his email like a giant bat. So it took him ten minutes to read my message, during which I had decided to embark upon the long road home, using the only route I knew would definitely take me there, and not send me back to the sheep.
Now, imagine you get an email from your wife saying that she is lost, and needs your help. What do you do? Do you call her, say? OF COURSE NOT. You simply send her an email in response, and you do this because YOU DO NOT KNOW HER PHONE NUMBER.
No, Terry and I do not know each other’s phone numbers. In fairness, we don’t really need to, because we have them programmed into our phones. This is of no use to Terry whatsoever, though, because when he got my email, his phone battery was dead. OF COURSE IT was. Terry’s phone is almost always dead, and when it’s not dead? It’s lost. He’s not big on the whole cellphone thing, either, you see.
Just to recap, then: my phone has no credit, his has no battery life. He doesn’t have my phone number, I don’t have a brain. WE FAIL. At everything. GOD.
To bring this lengthy story to an end, though, I emailed Terry my number, he called me, and a few minutes later, came to my rescue. And all the way home, he pointed out the routes I COULD have taken. Which is really the story of my life.
(I now take spare change with me when I go running. Terry keeps his phone charged, and I always have credit on my phone. Not all of these statements are true…)