Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Why is everyone having more fun than me?

It's now just over two years since I walked out of my police station for the last time, and into 'retirement'. A good deal of choppy water has passed under the bridge since then, I can tell you. Protracted negotiations to buy the house of our desires, a family bereavement, the death of a close friend, a couple of job interviews that didn't result in a job, a shed load of work on the house to get it shipshape, and the seemingly endless search for a bottle of Briannas blue cheese dressing. The latter was eventually run to ground in Waitrose, Eastbourne, by the way.

One of the most difficult aspects of retirement for me is, potentially, being under Mrs. H's feet all day. When I had a full time job I'd sail off to work, leaving her at home to do whatever it was she did was working. Now, of course, I'm there all day, leaving teacups unwashed next to the sink, messing up the sofas by sitting on them, and basically just getting in the way and making the place look untidy by my mere presence. But I've found a novel way of combating this. I just go out of my way to find things to do around the house. Only small things, mind; a bit of painting here, some wallpapering there, a set of door handles to replace, a new mirror to put up. If there's nothing to do, I'll stride around the house with a purposeful air, toolbox in hand, whistling some tuneless ditty as I pretend to tighten screws or tap recalcitrant nails back into the floorboards. Mrs. H. thinks I'm doing something useful, I get to survey my dominion; we're both happy. Inevitably, however, there are times when even someone as inventive as I can run out of imaginary jobs. On days like these, Mrs. H. will signify that it is her wish to go Shopping. With a capital S. I recently had one such day. And I started it by making a child cry.

Mrs. H. and I had compiled a list of the things we needed. A new roller blind for the breakfast room; a light switch for the living room; a couple of pots of paint to replace the stuff I've been using this week. So, off we wended to Eastbourne, to an emporium of household accoutrements entitled Dunelm Mill. The first couple of aisles were taken up with bed linen - sheets, duvet covers, pillow cases. Curiously, pillow cases are divided into two distinct types; 'Oxford' and 'Housewife'. I have often idly wondered, just before dropping off to sleep at night, why this should be so. Were 'Oxford' pillowcases designed in Oxford? Did they originate in the colleges of that seat of learning in the fourteenth century? Or is there some other, more sinister explanation? And why 'Housewife'? Isn't that rather a pejorative term in these more enlightened days? Shouldn't they be called 'Non-gender Specific Homemaker' pillow cases? I said as much to Mrs. H. She told me to button it.

I left Mrs. H. to browse the linen aisles whilst I made a whistle-stop tour of the entire ten acre site that composed the rest of the store. Despite the size of this emporium, I had no fears that I would have any difficulty finding Mrs. H. thereafter. I was confident that I would find her exactly where I had left her, minutely examining the Egyptian cotton valances with the painstaking thoroughness of a forensic scientist. And I was proved right. When I eventually persuaded her away from the Percale duvet covers (whatever they might be) we hied us to the portion of the shop that sells inexpensive art. Now, I'm not sure why this is, but why does inexpensive art these days seem to consist mainly of black and white photographs of the Eiffel Tower and the Manhattan skyline? How relevant would these be if you lived in a house in Eastbourne? I wonder what Parisians and New Yorkers have on their walls? A monochrome picture of Eastbourne Pier, perhaps? Or maybe a print of Beachy Head lighthouse? Somehow I think not.

As I mused this great muse, I found we had wandered into Faux Flower Land. A vast array of pretend petunias, fake foxgloves and imitation irises bloomed all around us and, through the false foliage, I saw a shopping trolley containing a small child. This solemn child was watching me intently, as young children are wont to do, so, dear bloggy friend, I did what I am wont to do, and smiled. A sudden change came over the child. He burst instantly into a flood of bitter tears. His mother rushed to comfort him, wiping away his copious tears and asking him what was wrong. I said, 'I think that might be my fault. I smiled at him.' Well, of course, she laughed politely, and said something about the possibility he was 'coming down' with chickenpox, having recently attended a party with another child who had been subsequently struck down by said affliction. But secretly, I think she would have wanted to snatch up a bunch of those imitation blooms, and beat me about the head with them. I'm fairly sure the child would have laughed at that.

Mrs. H. eventually made a few purchases and we went home. Whilst she was pottering about the garden, I decided to log into the Hey! Everyone Here's Having More Fun Than You! microblogging site, otherwise known as Twitter. Now, we've spoken about Twitter before, so you know how it works. Sometimes, I vouchsafe my innermost thoughts to my 'followers' in 140 characters or less; at other times, I just see what everyone else is saying and doing. And this is when I discover they're having more fun than me. 'They' always seem to have just signed a book deal (every other person on Twitter describes him/herself as an author, artist, illustrator or similar), just that minute arranged a holiday in Tahiti (leaving in two hours!), be hanging out in an exclusive caviar and champagne bar in Knightsbridge, or are trying to get everyone to sign up to some noble cause (Free the Temperance Seven!) when the rest of us non-academic, stop-at-home non-caviar-consuming sans-champagne apolitical herberts just want to play word games involving the deletion of the word 'love' and insertion of the word 'bum' into the titles of as many 1960s songs as we can remember...

I think I need a little lie down. I'm hoping the next post will be entitled 'Why I'm having more fun than everyone else'.