Cal Howman was born and brought up in Chester, now living back there after 20 years on the west coast of Cumbria. Retired Company Pensions Manager, married to Rob. Favourite things include northern Spain, sea swimming, yoga, good food and wine eaten outside with good friends and listening to a wide variety of music.
What A Bloody Cheek!
Annie surveyed her surroundings. If she had been asked earlier in the day, to describe what she expected her Friday afternoon surroundings to be like, nothing she could see now would have featured in that description. Without doubt, these were most certainly, most definitely, not the surroundings she would have described. Friday afternoon, she thought. The start of the weekend, the end of the week, and what a week it had been.
Monday had started usually enough with a bi-weekly doorstep delivery of Premier Range semi-skimmed milk in a two litres plastic bottle. Annie had the same two thoughts she always had as she carried the milk into the kitchen. What does Premier Range actually mean in this context, do the cows get a better class of field to chow in? More fields to “range” over? Perhaps the first, hence premier, to “range” said fields? She understood organic, at least she believed she did, but Premier Range milk? Really? She vowed to check it out on line or phone the dairy that delivered it, just as she had vowed to do so last week and the week before, whilst knowing all the time that she would not. Her second thought regarding the milk was about the guilt she felt by not paying the extra pennies and having it delivered in glass bottles to reduce the use of plastic. It was far more likely she thought that she would get around to arranging this, but she also knew that even far more likely was not very likely at all. That didn’t make her a bad person though did it?
Annie never ate breakfast, she needed to be up and about for a few hours before she felt like eating, but she relished her two large cups of milky coffee in the mornings. Her husband Keith needed to eat as soon as he was up and he preferred tea without milk mostly. He would occasionally have a coffee with what he described as a noisette of milk. That would be a splash then Annie would always reply to him. Annie and Keith lived in a Victorian end of terrace house with three floors and a cellar. They loved the location, slightly urban, but not suburban and definitely not rural. Just a 15 minute walk from the centre of the city they were just around the corner from an excellent high street of artisan shops that people travelled miles to frequent. A proper fish mongers, butchers, deli, independent cafes and hair salons, even an herbalist shop with a very knowledgeable lady owner, where you could have an allergy test done. Not to mention a Michelin starred bistro. And there was a Waitrose just a 10 minute walk away. They had done rural to death over their 35 years together. Living in the middle of nowhere as they had done for 11 years was lovely at the time, but they both appreciated and enjoyed the convenience of local shops, restaurants and pubs. At least they had enjoyed those things and she was determined they would again when lockdown ended.
During lockdown, Annie had taken to enjoying her first coffee standing in the bay window of their first-floor bedroom, watching the lockdown world pass by and this Monday was no different. As she sipped her coffee, she watched a woman approaching with a golden labrador on a lead over on the opposite side of the road. The woman had on a beautifully tailored, wool coat and both she and the dog made a smart pair. Annie made a mental note to make more of an effort next time she left the house. The pair were directly opposite Annie when the dog began to crouch and do what dogs do. Annie stood very still, clasping her cup of coffee, waiting to see what would happen next. She breathed a light sigh of relief when the woman produced a poo bag from her smart coat pocket and scooped the poop. She took a satisfied sip of her coffee and then nearly chocked on it as the woman glanced up and down the street and tossed the full bag over the low garden wall into the garden of Annie’s neighbour Jill. Annie rattled her knuckles on the bay window in an attempt to attract the woman’s attention, but the woman was off down the street and around the corner out of sight before Annie had even stopped knocking. What a bloody cheek!
On Tuesday Annie was savouring her first cup of coffee in the bay window of her bedroom, and with mild annoyance was mentally recalling the events of the morning before. Never judge a book by its cover she was thinking when a car pulled over, stopping on the double yellow lines near the corner of the street. Even though the car was perhaps 15 or 20 meters away, she could hear or was it feel the thumping bass of very loud music that had arrived with the car. That is a dangerous place to stop Annie thought. What does the driver think the double yellow lines are there for? She watched as the driver got out of the battered shed of a car, opened his boot and removed three large black plastic bags of, well what? He then deposited them between the bench and the post box that occupied the curve of the corner, got back into his car and drove off. And that was that, not even a chance to rattle on the window. What a bloody cheek!
Wednesday arrived and Annie decided to stand in the bay window of the living room where the view was similar, but more different than you might expect. The high garden wall to the left blocked much of the view of the pavement and the beautiful Acer did something similar on the right. She enjoyed her coffee without drama and headed into the kitchen feeling upbeat. She could hear the washing machine declaring that it had fulfilled its duty, so collected the pegs to hang out the washing. Keith was outside in the yard holding an unfamiliar small shovel and looking puzzled. He gestured to Annie to come to him. She threw the washing over the line and went to him. They were having a wall extended and new gates and the builders’ merchant had dropped off a big sack of sand the day before. Keith showed Annie the shovel, which he’d found leaning against the sack and then pulled away the cover on the sack to reveal that a fair quantity of sand had gone missing. It didn’t take an Einstein to work out what had happened. Without any discussion, Annie went out into the alley way and walked across to Dennis, who was working on some brickwork of his own with a labourer he was employing. Holding the shovel out she asked Dennis if it was his to which he replied it was. She asked Dennis if he had been helping himself to the sand, to which he replied with a grin he had, but only a tiny bit. She then told Dennis that it would have been neighbourly if he had asked first to which he replied with a grin, he wasn’t sure who the sand belonged to. She couldn’t decide later if she regretted not telling him what she had thought at the time, which was, so not only a thief, but a liar too. What a bloody cheek!
On Thursday Annie collected the milk from the doorstep. Having had her usual two thoughts, she decided to stick with her choice of living room bay window, but soon regretted it. A very scruffy young man with an enormous rucksack on his back appeared, opened the garden gate and made his way up the path. Before the doorbell rang, she’d stepped away from the window, made up her mind there was no way she was answering and called to Keith that there was a man at the front door. From the safety of the living room Annie could hear the two voices, but not quite hear what was actually being said. Eventually Annie did hear Keith saying thank you but no, thanks once again no, as he firmly shut the door. She could also hear the raised voice of the man being far less polite as be backed down the path. Keith said the man had claimed to be from a charity which rehabilitated veterans and that he had wanted Keith to buy some cleaning products. Keith had very politely pointed out that we were in the middle of a pandemic and therefore he didn’t think it was wise for the lad to be going door to door and also didn’t think it was wise to buy any products from him. He thanked him as he closed the door possibly a little prematurely Keith said, but he had sensed that the lad was getting agitated. Not wrong there Keith, said Annie. Not judging by the obscenities he was shouting at you as he went. What a bloody cheek!
Annie woke up on Friday morning and Keith informed her that it had been pouring with rain all night, but had now stopped. Annie always enjoyed Keith’s morning weather reports, it was almost a tradition to the start of their day. She contemplated which bay window to choose. Perhaps she should play it safe and choose the third floor which didn’t have a bay, but never the less provided a verdant view into the canopy of trees across the way. Yes, that might be a safer bet. Safer still might be to read the paper in a comfy chair like Keith.
Annie surveyed her surroundings once more, but was still unable to ratify what she saw with what she felt should be. She knew she had plumped for the third floor and that she had very much enjoyed a blissful hour with her coffee and the canopy. She knew she had set off back down stairs with her empty coffee cup. Then there was Keith’s voice way off in the distance and something about steep stairs, flip flops, hospitals in a pandemic and then.
”Mrs Ford, Mrs Ford, Annie! Can you hear me Annie? My name’s Lizzie. You’ve had a nasty fall on the stairs at home and you’re here in A&E. We need to get you sorted Annie. You’re going to need an x-ray on your wrist and definitely some stitches to your face. Your coffee cup broke as you fell and has left a nasty gash to your face. Can you hear me Annie? You have a bloody cheek!”
This month (March 2021) I am introducing an opportunity for members to showcase their writing by publishing longer stories than the monthly challenges permit or, poetry that falls outside of the brief. Also, you might have ideas for social commentary or journalistic articles that you want to showcase, all material will be considered including pieces written in your native language.
The showcase aims to provide a window into the writing of the author and encourage feedback in the form of constructive comments. It is difficult in any forum to have your hard work and ideas examined by strangers but we can only grow and develop our storytelling skills if we are open to critique and dialogue.
I invite either, already published or written works as well as new pieces or ideas that you might want feedback on. Ideally, the length should not exceed 3000 words but there is a possibility to serialise longer works if appropriate. With this in mind please drop me a message or comment below if you would like to be included.