“Enjoy your fish. I love you.”, said the shy bloke behind the fish counter in Waitrose on Monday afternoon, as he handed me two sea bream which he had descaled and filleted for me. A bargain: two bonny fresh fish for seven quid, and on a Monday. Some fishermen must have been busy on Sunday. Billy had asked for mackerel, but there were only flaccid specimens on the fish counter. These bream were beauties.
My mind was saying “What?!?!”, as my mouth was saying the, “Thank you very much, good afternoon.”, already formed by my brain in the automatic pleasantries department, which is all you should really need for interchanges at the fish department in Waitrose.
I must be going a bit deaf. I had misunderstood what he said earlier after I had asked him to gut them. I thought he had said, “Do you want the heads off?”. I didn’t really, but I said yes please, and stood and waited. Then he turned to serve somebody else. After a minute of noticing that I had not gone away, he turned. “Come back in ten minutes”, he said, again.
I didn’t really have ten minutes. I had just popped in to Waitrose to buy fish for tonight’s dinner, and heat pads for mum. I already had the heat pads in my basket, Mum was waiting in the car and Billy had phoned to say he couldn’t get into Mum’s house as the locks were changed.
I mooched around, not buying anything else.
I went straight from the fish counter to the check-out, in a slight state of shock. At the check out the young, bearded, assistant was very friendly. He was seated so low in the check out it seemed quite awkward for him to work. He was possibly in a wheelchair. “Are you enjoying your shopping?”
“Yes thank you”
“I hope you have a fantastic evening!”
“Thank you, and y…..”
“No, really, I really hope you enjoy yourself tonight! Have a great time, whatever you’re doing!”
I wonder if Waitrose have an incentive scheme going to make their customers feel loved.
Or if there is a bet going on.
Or maybe bullying is endemic in the Waitrose staff room.
“Right you, fish counter guy, if you don’t say “I love you” to the customer, whoever it is, who buys those two bream, your head is going down the toilet! Get me? Right?”
Or maybe I need a hearing test.
Back at home, Billy couldn’t get in because the locksmith had put a new lock on the front door that day. Thanks to the well-meant interference of the pharmacist at Tolworth Hospital, who wanted to lighten mum’s pharmaceutical load in order to help her mobilise, and despite my protestations that paranoia would follow, Mum’s amitriptilene prescription has been reduced by a third. I wonder how the pharmacist sleeps. Probably better than me. My sleep is disturbed by Mum’s disturbed sleep. Just over a month later and Mum’s paranoia is soaring about like the clouds in these wild winds, and she wanted the locks changed to stop “The Bag” from getting in. Any little thing that she can assign to “The Bag”, such as lights being left on or off, phones not being where she thought she had left them, and a bit of toilet paper left on the seat……
“Did you leave toilet paper draped across the seat?”
“That feckin’ Bag.”
“Did you see that brown car going past?”
“It goes past. That’s her fecking car. Up and down, up and down, all day.”
And then there’s the dog.
“Why is the dog asleep? Tell me that. You tell me that.”.
“He’s old Mum. He’s 12. He’s tired. You nod off sometimes.”
“Drugged. He’s drugged I’m telling you.”.
There is no reasoning with her. She really believes there is a woman who gets in the house, through locked doors, past security cameras, and puts toilet paper across the seat. And she is clever, too this woman, too clever for me. She hides behind doors, in the shadows.
Unfortunately this all reached a crisis at the weekend, when my sister, who has not stayed the night to visit mum or give me any respite all year, and visits once in three weeks, visited with her husband and son on Saturday, and she stayed on Saturday night. She had a torrid time. She sent me an email about it.
And they hate Mum’s dog. They have threatened mum with having him put down in the past. They have their own dog, who Kerry was introduced to as a pup. Kerry just wanted to tear this little golden retriever to bits. It was nothing personal. He just hates all other dogs. And cats. A cat followed the postman up to the door the other day. I had Kerry by the collar when I opened the door. The cat didn’t hang about.
“How did they treat the dog this weekend mum?”, I ask a few days later, when it’s all over.
“Oh she was alright to Kerry. Nice to him. He didn’t take any notice of him at all that I saw.”
“Change the locks.”.
I know the locksmith quite well now. This Monday is the second time he has been, quite needlessly, to fit a new lock to the front door. This time she decided she didn’t want the lock I had asked him to order on Friday, as per her instructions. No, she didn’t want that one. She sat there in the hall, jaw set, frowning. Did we think she was stupid? No way would she have said she wanted that one. So he fitted a cheaper one, to her current specification. To make it up to him, I let him change the lock to the back gate as well. One hundred and fifty five quid, and I gave him a fiver for a drink.
While he was fitting the back gate lock, the dog was a bit sick.
“Nice old dog.”, said the locksmith, fondling the good ear.
After our friend Scott the locksmith had left, I took Mum for her audiology appointment. She is in quite a lot of pain presently, and it’s hard physical work to get her in and out of the house and the car, and there is an element of jeopardy as she broaches the threshold. Will she fall and damage herself further on the stone step.
At the doctors the lift is out of order and he comes down to us. A Korean doctor; young, tall, muscular, attractive, and puzzled as to why we are seeing him for an audiology appointment. This appointment should have been made with the nurse. Ah, who knew, when I phoned up and asked the receptionist for a hearing test, that there would be a cock up.
So, back to the car, on to Waitrose, and then, loved by the man behind the fish counter, and prepared for a wonderful evening by the checkout assistant, back to Mum’s, alert for the possibility that Kerry might have peed on the kitchen floor as he does not like being left.
We went in the back door into the kitchen. Billy went in first, then mum, who needs the loo for the filled up catheter.
There was an overpowering smell of awful in the kitchen.
“Watch it Mum”, shouted Bill, as he lightly jumped over a huge yellow puddle of urine and what looked like regurgitated cat food, and made his way to the front room and put the telly on.
“Christ!” I said.
“He’s been feckin’ drugged.”, said Mum. “I told you. She’s feckin’ drugged him.”
Got mum a pot to empty the catheter in because I couldn’t get her over the mess. Then I cleaned up. Kitchen rolls. Bleach. Steaming water. Mop and bucket.
Billy came back in the kitchen.
“That looked like cat food.”
“How’s Kerry?”, I ask. “Thanks for your help!”
“Alright. Asleep. When will dinner be ready?”
“Drugged, feckin’ drugged. Poisoned! I’m telling you!”
Dinner was ready in forty minutes. Baked bream, on the bone. Lemony garlicky cream sauce. Portobello mushrooms with herby garlic butter. Rice. Delicious.
Kerry was euthanased by the vet on Thursday evening. RIP.