A reader of these missive may watch laugh-a-minute soap-operas, the formulaic drama type where normal domestic situations are comedized via a series of improbable happenstance, so that, to the viewer, humourous impossible situations result in utter chaos, usually for the hapless hero, or heroine. I have also enjoyed the odd piece of slapstick, until, that is, I am landed in one.
The drame starts with an innocuous phone call from Red Haired Boffin:
"Hi, I'm coming home. "
I reply, expressing the full expectation that this is, as always, a given. RHB pauses before explaining:
"No. I'm coming home tonight. About 11.00pm, so it will be late, but I cant wait."
"Great", I reply.
"Is that OK? You dont sound very pleased."
"No. Brilliant. That's great. Fine. Wonderful. Can't wait." I sound as if I have just been fired.
"Well, see you later."
"Yeah. Great.Gotta feed the cats. see ya. " I hang up.
The old heart is pounding thunderously in the old chest cavity as if it wants to break free. What I have omitted from our conversation is that in addition to the cats needing sustenance, there is a largish list of jobs to do. Jobs that I had counted on surprising RHB (for the second time in a week) with some pleasurable "fait accomplis" when she returned, on schedule, tomorrow afternoon. Not tonight. And in pursuit of accomplishing said goal, I have rendered the place uninhabitable. THe list of things to do, achievable in twenty hours, looms ominously given that I now have three hours to complete.
Jobs like rehanging all the doors in the place, tidying up the kitchen, finishing the garden, putting all my "stuff" in the loft, completing a wardrobe and installing some shelves. If I had not started and half-finished all these jobs, there would be no problem, but foolishly, I have half started everything. That means I have removed all the internal doors and chopped them up, emptied all the previously unpacked boxes in our upstairs room, scattered the contents to be sorted 'later'. and thrown the boxes out, half cleared out a room ready for shelves so that all the previous contents of the room are now scattered on the landing, disassembled the bedroom completely in preparation for the installation of a wardrobe (I had intended to sleep on the couch downstairs tonight) and half-finished a desk for my future office. Large Mansions is, frankly, a mess, and we face an 11.00pm dealine that looks impossible. As it stands, RHB will come home to a place with nowhere to sleep and no food, nowhere to hang her clothes and nothing to sit on. If she can find the television, she may want to watch a comedy programme.
I say "we" because the cats are thoroughly implicated in this situation. I consulted Tosh and Calli extensively on my plans and they thought them sound. Accordingly, they are put on high alert. Callia is already mad, as previously discussed, and needs no encouragement to run round frantically as I create a blizzard of clothes-hanging, shelf installing, floor clearing, hiding pizza boxes and trying to find duvets. Tosh's attitude is more typically catlike - "Screw her" is the attitude he appears to take.
I had intended to have Nel arrive home to a situation where there were three complete wardrobes and one cabinet for clothes storage, a radical departure from our living arrangements of the past three months which has consited of a bed, one suitcase and a pile of clothes on the floor. The goal was laudable, but as one famous Ploppyshanker said "You cant make an omeltte without making a massive big mess", and I have been planning a huge omelette. Panicking, I start frantically hanging clothes in the first place that comes to hand, especially the incomplete wardrobes. Clothes hanging mutates from a carefully planned operation to a desperate fight against time - party dresses get hung next to cycling gear, hiking gear nestles cheek-by-brow with casual apparel and the remnants of our Goth past, now exclsuively reserved for Halloween means that rubber dresses mix uncomfortably with chic daywear. It is a couturiere's nightmare, but it will have to do.
Next up is the problem of doors. Lack of doors in the Mansion is an issue because cats have a habit of lying just outside of them. The (current) lack of doors does not deter them from this arrangement, it just means they adopt the stealth mode, becoming almost invisible. Navigating the property then becomes akin to navigating a minefield of cats, which insist on being fallen over. The result is usually a broken neck or twisted ankle. Doors mitigate the problem somewhat as the act of opening same cause the cat to run away - therefore no broken neck. It is impossible to hang six doors in the time allowed, so I opt for the timeless student option, borne in Goa, of stapling furniture throws to the doorframes. The result is ugly, and Tosh immediately tests it's worth by lying right outside the bedroom door, causing me to fall over and twist my damaged knee pretty badly. He slinks off, satisfied, looking for another door.
I will have to pass on reporting further progress, as the train is now approaching. The photographs below show the state of play prior to Operation Tidy- Up. All I can say at this stage is "God BLess All who Sail in Her" and if I survive the night, I will report poste-haste on what transpired.
Below is the upper Bedroom, pre tidy up. Three hours till zero hour and counting:
Below is the bedroom. Two hours to zero hour and counting:
Below is my office, featuring newly half-finished desk and some diving/camping equipment ready to be unpacked/stored. The plan was that this would be finished. One hour to Zero Hour and counting.
Below is Nel's office complete with semi-built wardrobe frame. Everything that was neatly stacked in this office is now completely blocking the landing outside. 30 minutes to zero hour and counting faster, it seems.
Below is Calli, earlier this day, supervising Darren the Brickie. Another surprise for Nel was to be a finished front garden. Darren built the wall today and will return tomorrow to do the path, but this was also scheduled to be finished on the return of RHB. Nel's appearance will be a surprise to both of them.