I met Simon Cowell in Brighton the other day. He was serving at the checkout of a shop where I had bought some kitchen roll (extra absorbent) and bin bags (extra large, for my next trip to Cradle Hill Recycling Centre). Alright, so he had the words ‘alley rats’ tattooed on his neck, and he was wearing a badge bearing the name ‘Kevin’. But these contra-indications didn’t fool me for a moment. I had noticed that it was Mr. Cowell, and Mr. Cowell, in turn, noticed that I had noticed. Neither of us said anything, unless you count his saying ‘That’ll be two pounds, please’, and my saying, ‘There you are. Thank you.’
I suppose it’s only to be expected that I cracked Mr. Cowell’s little game. After all, thirty years in law enforcement does help you notice things. Things like the dirty great boot mark in the centre of the flower bed at a burglary scene; the fridge lobbed over the balcony of a block of flats, intended to cause a few minor scratches to the ‘company car’; the look on someone’s face when you catch them in the act of doing something illegal. But these skills pale into insignificance when you compare them with the observational skills of Mrs. H.
Mrs. H would have made an excellent police officer. Or, if not a police officer, the Head of Surveillance for MI6. She has this almost supernatural ability to ‘notice’ things. I’ve recently been painting the boy’s bedroom. I was pretty proud of the fact that I’d made a reasonable job of it. But then Mrs. H ‘noticed’ that I’d missed some bits, so I gave the room a second coat of paint. And guess what? Yep. Mrs. H ‘noticed’ that a couple of the walls still looked patchy. Coat number three here we come…
If I wash up, she notices the glass I’ve missed; if I hoover or dust, it’s the minute specks I have totally failed to see. When watering the garden, I generally manage to miss at least one pot plant completely. But even this does not escape Mrs H’s notice and I’m soon back out with the watering can.
At first, these incidents were the source of mild amusement.’ Silly me,’ I would exclaim as I once more reached for the duster or dish mop. But after a while I grew concerned. What if my failure to notice things is but the first symptom on a rocky road to forgetfulness, absent-mindedness, or something worse? Did I really not notice that bit of fluff under the sideboard, or did my subconscious urge me simply to ignore it in order to provide Mrs. H with some more target practice because, deep down, I am a masochist? Or conversely, does Mrs. H simply have too much time on her hands, and has decided to become a professional Noticer of Things by way of diversion? I worry that one morning I will find her in the breakfast room, white gloves on and clipboard on standby, ready to carry out the sort of inspection that would make a barrack-room sergeant major look positively idle and sloppy. Heaven help me if she found dust on top of the mirror. The kind of dreadful punishment she might mete out to me doesn't bear thinking about. Whitewashing our supply of firewood, perhaps? Or maybe I'd have to run up Seaford Head with a fifty pound pack? I'd better quieten down. She might read this and I've already given her a couple of ideas...
I’ve started to wonder whether I should attempt to boost my own ‘noticing’ skills. I could start with simple stuff. I could, for example, notice whether a light is on or off, whether we need a fresh carton of milk, whether I’m wearing the grey socks or the black ones. But I fear my efforts would be doomed to failure, and that I would soon be back to my old self - the one who doesn’t know what day it is half the time; the one you, dear bloggy friends, are familiar with. Part of the problem lies in my gender. As a man, my head is constantly full of stuff that has absolutely no bearing on everyday life. Whilst Mrs. H scans the brochures for paint colours for the living room, I imagine what it would be like to be a Red Bull Air Race pilot. Whilst she sensibly tries to choose bedroom furniture, I concoct puns and comedy haikus. Here's one I prepared earlier:
Mum went to Brighton
And all she brought me back was
This lousy T-shirt
So, dear reader, I shall be content to be a bumbling Watson to Mrs H’s Holmes, constantly astonished by her visual acuity; or perhaps a fifty-something Mr. Magoo to her Hawkeye. And I shall, like the frog footman in Alice in Wonderland, 'sit here on and off, for days and days' until I hear those immortal words once more: ‘Chris…I’ve just noticed…’
18 hours ago