Tag Archives: women’s writing

Number 69- Mr Loverman

Number 69- Mr Loverman.

Dave reckons its all about the detail, those little things that make all the difference and that’s why he’s leaning over the ironing board, ironing the sheets.

There is nothing more luxurious than crisp, ironed Egyptian cotton sheets and Dave reckons that even if the girl is too pissed, too tired to notice, at some subliminal level, the whole message of care and attention to detail is absorbed, helps make a night with Mr Loverman just that little bit more special.

Dave is an expert on the little details;
Food can be ready made, but it’s the presentation that matters.
You can ply a girl with booze, but you need to be a bit subtle, cocktails are good for that, plenty of alcohol, but such innocent tastes.
Candles, candles are a big part of it, all girls look better in candlelight and , complete bonus, candle light covers any cleaning failure and these days, he reckons that he looks better by candlelight too.
Cleaning, see above, but somethings have to be done properly.
Fluffy towels in bathroom
Decent duvet on top of those ironed sheets
Books on the bedside table, books are very reassuring
Sitting room needs a little artistic arrangement, needs to look as if he’s just interrupted a quiet night in to let tonight’s girl in, so, open book on the coffee table, half finished mug of tea, sometimes he goes the whole hog and makes it herbal tea, something eclectic musically and, he’s learnt this the hard way, TV both turned off and most importantly, channel changed so that when a girl sits on the remote it doesn’t blast into life with Russian housewives porn.
He’s pulled out the cushions, covered the sofa with them, put flowers, simple, non showy blooms, definitely not garage flowers, in a plain glass vase and sprayed air freshener.
He’s even dug out those photos he found in a charity shop, a family, someone’s family, Christmas and beaches and big dogs and a wedding and had framed, placed casually around. He knows that girls cannot resist picking things up, cannot resist asking questions, cannot resist making assumptions about a man who used to own a black Labrador.
The table is set, plain white China, big plates, will make the meal look smaller, reassure the girl that she hasn’t eaten much.
Dave doesn’t understand the girls and food. It’s simple he thinks, eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, job done.
But, over the years and years that he has ironed sheets and sliced tomatoes and laid tables, he has never, ever fed a girl who just ate. He has become adept at walking that tightrope between providing food that’s effectively calorie free, whilst still always having a chocolate based pudding and offering at least one dish that has to be eaten with fingers and, and this is the big one, he mustn’t offer any food that risks the girl feeling fat.
Girls that feel fat, feel greedy, feel that they have let themselves down tend to make an exit, cite early starts at work, a sudden headache, a childcare problem. They have made themselves feel unattractive and cannot bear to see themselves naked even in between fine cotton sheets.

Dave isn’t against fat girls, plain girls, even downright ugly shockers.
These girls are often enthusiastic lovers, as long as he keep the lights low enough to not shake their confidence and makes sure he gets the booze level right.
For him and the girl.

Dave is pretty much an equal opportunities Mr Loverman, he has, to date, and personally he feels he has a lot more special nights in him, slept with ;
Escapees from their own hen nights
A girl he found at a bus stop
And of course the usual bevy of girls he has found, chased, captured and rewarded with a night with The Loverman.

Dave reckons he could run an evening class in getting girls, Dave reckons he’s a zen master at it, Dave reckons, that if he had a superpower, it would be this, he is a shagging superhero.

Dave has an almost 95% success rate, which must put him up there with the super stud muffins and yeah, he does know that knowing your pulling and follow through rate in % is not a thing to share with any of the girls. On balance, probably worse than the whole porn channel thing.

Dave has rules though, not rules he always keeps to, more guidelines really, suggestions, ways of avoiding complications.
These rules, if they are rules, can be summed up in one simple sentence
“ No mad birds”

Although sometimes he has to admit that you can’t always tell until it’s too late and other times, well, you have to take what’s on offer.
But generally, he avoids the actual card carrying mad, anyone who believes in astrology, girls who want him to call them women, girls who want him to call them at all
, girls who have texting habits, or crack habits or who want to take him home, introduce him to their mothers.

Dave can find a girl anywhere, doesn’t need to haunt pubs or clubs or stupidly expensive cafes, although he’s happy to use these for straightforward hunting, but what Dave likes is going off piste, going off road, taking the lane that doesn’t seem to lead anywhere useful.

So far this year, Dave has met, chased and caught girls he first saw in a queue at the dry cleaners, standing having a a smoke outside their offices, waiting for the Pilates class at the gym and he is secretly quite proud of this one, a girl who he found waiting for the family car to pick her up on the way to a funeral, in fairness to his sense of propriety, it wasn’t a funeral of a close family member.
Dave has a routine, bit of banter, couple of glasses of wine or beer or cider and then the dinner date for 2 days after this,the initial,preliminary sorte.
It gives him a chance to apply rule 1 – no mad birds and most importantly,to set him up as a really nice guy, after all, they’ve been for a drink or 7 with him and then, when most girls are expecting the heavy come on, he goes all Deliah on them and starts talking puddings.

If the spirit moves him and sometimes it does and some times it doesn’t, he will fit in another interim date, the only rule is that the timing has to be odd,the venue off kilter, so, yes to breakfast in a bagel café
Yes to duck feeding and a mini picnic after work
Yes to coffee at a farmers market
And never more than 90 minutes, 90 minutes of his total attention,eye contact, phone ostentatiously switched off and plenty of questions.
Dave isn’t actually that bothered about the answers, but he knows that girls,all,girls love talking about themselves and it saves him having to think of anything to say himself.
He sends 1 text per day to the soon to be wined and dined girl de jour and keeps an eye on the number he gets back.
He can still invoke the mad girls rule if the texting response gets too enthusiastic, too needy, too much.

And then it is D day, dinner day and there he is, sheet ironing and walking purposely around the conveniently local marks and Spencer’s.

He knows, he always knows how the evening will be end, sometimes there are small surprises.
The girl who arrives with a pair of fur lined handcuffs.
The girl who brings a friend.
The girl who cries into his chest, afterwards.

And at some point, late at night, the girl will sleep, neatly or untidily, quietly or with astonishing noise and he will be awake, staring at the ceiling, wondering when she will wake and when she will leave.

He is already thinking about the next girl, the one he has already spotted,already spoken to,already pencilled in to eat here in 4 or 5 days.

He extricates himself neatly, with polished practice from this girl,the one currently in his bed, the one who will wonder what happened, what went wrong.

She will never know and he will, within days, sometimes even hours, have forgotten her name although he often remembers the ex girls, the past girls by what he made for dinner.

Number 98- there ain’t a lock that can keep me out.

Number 98- There ain’t a lock that can keep me out”

That’s the 10th he thinks, he’s made it into double figures.
It is, he supposes some sort of achievement, perhaps this house could be on TV, next to Britains most haunted,Britians most noisy neighbours,Britains celebrity cribs. This house, number 98, Britains most burgled, although the has to admit, he’s not really sure if it is actually the most burgled, it just feels like that, but, then again it would, to him, it’s his house and yesterday , his house had been broken into for the 10th time.

He’s got the routine down pat now, no insurance company to call anymore, they stopped covering him after break in number 6, the locksmith on speed dial and a courtesy call to the local cop shop. He likes to keep them Informed, doesn’t want them to think that he thinks that the police are useless, although of course, that’s exactly what he thinks, but he knows how despondent the local beat officer gets, how powerless the nice woman from crime prevention feels, so he makes sure to ring them, tell them that this time he is sure that they will catch the bad guys, restore his property, make everything ok.

He sweeps up the smashed glass from the kitchen door, wraps the glass up carefully in newspaper before he places it in the bin and takes a first glance around, takes stock of what’s gone this time.

The ten pound note he habitually leaves in the centre of the table has gone, of course. It’s the idea of the crime prevention officer, it’s meant to satisfy the casual thief, stop them pulling out every drawer and cupboard and sometimes it works, but not this time.

Today’s burglar has opened every drawer in the sideboard , dumped the contents onto the carpet, pulled the sofa cushions off, looking for something more exciting than the TV remote for a TV that doesn’t live here anymore , a half eaten packet of chocolate toffees and a dog brush.
But, he has found the iPod and rejected it, ground his heel onto it and left the remains,smashed, bent and unusuable , the sad detritus of a robbery hardly worth the effort of climbing over the garden wall and breaking glass so that he could get into the kitchen.

Henry used to get angry, used to rant about the scum that used his house as some sort of walk in freebie shop. He used to be scared, invested in bigger and stronger locks, even bought a dog, considered a burglar alarm and then he stopped being able to afford insurance, stopped being able to replace the stereos, the TVs, the lap tops and the microwaves.

At first he missed the things that had filled his home, missed the familiar TV programmes, missed listening to the news as he made his coffee, buttered his morning toast, missed his little dance moves when he ran the Hoover around and then he missed the hoover when it went too.
He struggled to fill the time, worried about missing out on stuff, wondered if there were great world events happening out there that he no longer easily access.

And then something happened, gradually he found that he no longer found himself pacing around the small, neat sitting room, not sure of how to navigate the time between eating, washing up and bed time.

He started to potter around the small back yard, not gardening exactly, but planting a few bulbs, a couple of climbers and then he bought a bird feeder and watched in amazement when even in the middle of this city, birds found his offerings of peanuts and sunflower seeds. He began to recognise regular visitors, the robin who took on all comers, regardless of size, the homing pigeon, hopelessly lost, gone feral, but still a cut above the truly wild street pigeons and still tame enough to sit on the garden fence when Henry came outside to replenish the feeders and seed holders and water saucers.

Henry is not a bird watcher, he has no interest in going anywhere else to look at birds, he can only just name the most common urban birds and even then he suspects that he gets it wrong sometimes.
He is he decides, a bird feeder, a jovial mine host. He makes sure that the dishes are regularly topped up, he offers a selection of tasty snacks and is vigilant, removes stale seeds, chases off any of the local cats who show too great an interest in whats going on.

He has acquired an ancient battery powered radio, but forgets to replace the batteries often enough, so the speech has slowed down, become sub audible. Generally now, he doesn’t bother to turn it on.

And there is the library. It surprises him that he is a member and of course, he could buy books, he has never had any reading matter taken even by the most inept of his burglars, 1 to 10, but,he likes the temporary nature of borrowing books and the routine of his Wednesday evening visit, late night opening, to the local library.

He has become braver in his choices in the last year. He’s stepped out of the shallows of detective fiction and Terry Pratchett , paddled into science fiction and is now wading,a little anxiously, hoping that he’s not going out of his depth, into books that have won proper competitions and even been talked about on the news and he knows this because burglar number 9 went a bit freestyle and attempted to break into his car as well, but clearly disgusted or simply depressed by the absence of CD player or in car entertainment centre, had only the most half hearted go at digging out the car radio and its this that Henry uses to get a news fix on the way to work and on occasions, if the programme is especially riveting, will continue to sit in parked neatly in front of his house until it ends.

He sighs as he throws away the battered iPad, the gift of a colleague who wanted to make it better for him. He has actually stopped listening to it sometime ago, found the headphones irritating and had meant to return it to his workmate, but burglar number 10 has put paid to that.

He casts an experienced eye over the back door, the robber has made a hash of the actual lock, which is impressive given that the key was actually still in the lock on the inside of the door.
The door will still open and close, but unless he gets the lock mechanism fixed, he won’t be able to lock it again.

He pauses then,actually pauses and straightens up from his angled inspection of the damaged door.

He opens the door, he closes the door, he opens the door, he closes the door and then he reaches across the work surface and picks up the back door key.
He can’t quite bring himself to make an heroic gesture, the bird table is full of evening feeders and he doesn’t want to alarm them by throwing the key into the tangle of shrubs.
So, he tosses it into the cupboard under the sink and then walks quickly, purposefully to the coat hooks by the front door, reaches into the bowl where he habitually drops his car keys, wallet and lose change.

The front door key is there, as it should be, he picks it up,feels its familiar weight in his palm and then opens the front door and puts the key neatly under the door mat.

Later, returning from the library, The Life of Pi and Atonement in his bag for life. He opens the front door by simply turning the handle and feels a little frisson of freedom.

Number 51- horses are not the only signifiers of difference – part 1


Number 51 – Horses are not the only signifiers of difference.

Some days, when the alarm jolts her awake at 4:45, her first reaction is one of shock,a disbelief that sleep is over for another 18 hours.

From long experience, she knows that the only way forward is speed and decisiveness. It is much, much worse if she waits or God forbid, allows herself to hit the snooze button.

A deep breath and then kick the duvet back, dislodge the dogs and out of bed into the unheated bedroom.

She puts her jeans straight on, on top of her pyjama bottoms, no loss of precious body heat and then hooded top, baggy jumper and jacket.
Her gloves and hat are downstairs next to the car keys.

The dogs have already raced downstairs to wait at the kitchen door quivering with excitement as they stand there, ready for breakfast.

She checks her watch, 4.53 and puts the kettle on, makes a cuppa and drinks it standing at the back door assessing the weather before she collects up the dogs and leaving her cup half full drags them around the block.

She rarely sees anyone else, it is too early for anyone to yet be on their way to work and fate too late for even the most hardcore party animals.

The dogs know how these morning walks go and are business like,keep their sniffing and snuffling to a minimum and 10 minutes later they are back home.

She grabs work bag, packed lunch, her work clothes on hangers and her after work stuff and by 5.20 she is in the car, glad that there was no frost last night and so no window scrapping and rubbing to freeze her hands even before she has started.

She reckons that she could do this drive in her sleep and probably has done, only coming properly awake when a car pulls out unexpectedly.

At this time of the year,the whole drive is in darkness, only the world service in the radio to break the silence all around her. Over the years she has listened to hours of the world service and has absorbed all manner of strange facts. She tries to keep them to herself, but occasional one pops out, usually followed by a silence from her work colleagues and a metaphorical step backwards from them, another layer of distance.

The stables are completely dark, she uses her phone as a pitiful torch to unlock the chain around the gate and even before she parks she can hear them greeting her or at least greeting the arrival of breakfast and morning.

The horses are all looking over their stable doors.
Alice whinnies whickers, an oddly small noise from such a large animal.
Oliver starts to kick the door, panicking that today will be the day that he is left hungry and alone and the pony, the pony simply stares as he does every morning as if her arrival is simply an unexpected surprise.

She has the morning routine down pat, feed, put on rugs suitable for the weather and then the trudge to the field, hideous in wet weather when the mud threatens to suck the boots from her feet.
She once found herself wondering how long she would lie her undiscovered if she did actually fall and drown in mud that comes above her knees.
The answer was frightening and that thought,along with a whole mental box of thoughts to be ignored, has been put to one side, pushed down into her own figurative mud and left to drown there.

The stable work is reassuringly routine, she sets herself little competitions, like to shave time off her personal records and on the best days, where nothing goes wrong, she has a precious 10 minutes before she needs to head off to work and then she stands looking out towards the field and as night turns into early morning, she watches the horses become visible and smokes a single cigarette.

She needs to get the time of her arrival at work exactly right, too early and the night security man will have to let her in and will see her in all her hay, mud and straw covered glory, too late though and there is a danger of bumping into early bird colleagues before she has sneaked into the workplace gym showers and transformed into her daytime self.

Her cubicle is anonymous,no photos of family, partners, smiling faces on holiday beaches. She doesn’t have any of those and over the years she has learnt that photos of the horses,of events they have done, even a rosette or two simply set her even further apart. So, she has compromised on a photo of the dogs and a mug with a thelwell pony cartoon.

She has worked in offices ever since she left school, happy enough with the routine, the regular start and finish times, the 60 minute lunch break and the work that she leaves at the door even before she reaches the door.
She is told that she lacks ambition, but works hard, is rarely off and is happy to allow her co workers to have holidays to fit around families, Christmas and school terms. So, she stays here for the moment.
There will come a time, there always comes a time when she needs to leave and then she will gone with as little fuss as she arrived and within weeks,sometimes days, nobody there will quite be able to remember her name properly. She may leave the mug behind but she will carefully remove the dogs photograph.


Number 17- the seige house.


Number 17 – “ He kept her locked in there for weeks, the Police had to kick the doors in”

For weeks afterwards, the neighbours would pause when they walked past, look up at the windows and remember what they were doing when it all kicked off.
Every street, at least every street with a bad end, too many rentals and cars that have seen better days, has a house like number 16.
Tenants come and go, the paintwork becomes that little bit more flaky, cracked window panes replaced at first by neatly cut pieces of cardboard and later, when the latest group of tenants care even less, replaced by bits of fabric stuffed into the holes.
The front garden is a graveyard for dead washing machines and old fashioned televisions, with a dressing of leaking bin bags and half a bicycle, front wheel missing,the frame leaning forlornly against a doorless fridge.
Number 16 causes distress to its immediate neighbours, it is at the wrong end of the street, belongs at the bad end, would fit there, be amongst its own type.
But, here at the good end, the nice end of the street, it sticks out, lowers the tone, but does fulfil one important function.

It gives everyone something to moan about. You could even argue, that in its own shabby, chaotic way, it contributes to community cohesiveness.
It is the thing that everyone, whatever their opinion of decking, outdoor Christmas lights or garden gnomes ( even when used ironically) agrees on.

The house should not be here or if it has to be here, than someone needs to do something about it and now, after all that fuss and bother, it would be, all the residents at the better end of the street agree, much nicer if the house could be done up and sold to someone, well, someone more like them and then the subject gets changed and nobody, at the nice end of the street, talks too,much about the siege day.

The people at the rough end, the dodgy end, the call a spade an F- ing shovel end of the street haven’t held back since siege day itself.
On the day, they were out in force, camera phones held up high to capture every grimace, every scream, every moment as it happened, now, live , breaking news.

And when it went official and the real news people turned up, they were quick off the mark, trying to do deals with their own grainy filming, offering interviews, shortcuts through the alleyways to get closer to siege house .
It was their moment in the sun, their time to go viral, maybe even make the proper news and no-body was going to take it away.

The people who live in the middle houses,were, as usual, torn.
They wanted to be out there,mug of tea in hand, shamelessly gawping at the action, but, yet again, they agonised, not wanting to be too closely aligned with the bad houses.
So, they found, as they often did,a compromise.
Front doors open, tasks, legitimate tasks discovered that required them to be in and out, bin bags, gardening tools in hand, even a quick wipe of the front room window. They didn’t make eye contact with each other and most definitely looked away when the children from the bad end of the street, driven almost mad with excitement and the lack of anyone dragging them up the street to school, ran down the road, getting as close as they could to the siege house itself and taking careful aim with invisible automatic weapons.
Call of duty come to life on a damp Wednesday morning.

At the good end of the street, where all the action was actually happening, doors remained firmly closed, blinds drawn down, children peeled away for the Windows and sent up stairs to get dressed, to get ready for the trip to school, as and when the police decided to open up the street and let the natural course of the day continue.

And there was a lot going on, a lot to watch, a lot to hear.
The police formed a neat line around the crumbling garden wall, facing out, they looked blank, faces carefully neutral, ignoring the offers of tea and fags from the women who moved down the street,attempting to get a better view of all the goings on.

All the windows in number 17 were smashed, thin cheap, badly fitting curtains flapped in the winter breeze. The broken glass glittered on the pavement and for days after the whole thing was over, the residents of the better end of the street found shards of glass scattered up and down their end of the road.

And from the upstairs window music blared out, impossibly, madly loud, the bass turned up so that house itself seemed to shake and listening to it made the onlookers teeth and heads ache.
“No women, no cry” on an endless loop, each time the track finished the needle roughly picked up and smashed down again.

And behind the heavy bass, another noise, high pitched, ragged, a woman,crying, no keening in fear and distress
“ for fucks sake, let me go” her voice is blurred with drink or drugs or just plain terror.

Nobody is quite sure who she is, this woman whose voice is filling the street.
The tenants at number 17 come and go, a moveable feast of too thin women wearing too tight jeans, hair always pulled back hard across their skulls, cigarette in hand, the hand not holding onto a toddler or a semi house trained staffie or a cheap folding buggy.

The police stiffen, a more important police officer has arrived, a phone clamped to one ear as she clutches a megaphone to her chest with the other hand.
She is clearly receiving orders and when she finishes the phone conversation, she stands directly in front of number 17 and speaks into the megaphone.
“ Darren” she calls, voice carefully controlled, tone modulated to lessen anxiety, encourage communication
“ Darren” she says again and the name is repeated by those watching.
Darren is known to them, a small man, thin, quiet. A man who keeps his head down, looks at the pavement, avoids eye contact with the neighbours at the better end of the street and doesn’t join the street drinkers at the other end of the street either.

There is no response from the house, the music continues, the woman’s wailing over The Wailers and just the click and buzz of cameras and the local news channel anchor woman practising her piece to camera, but no male voice, no Darren, nothing.

There is a pause, the Police look at the more important policewoman and wait and nothing happens and then everything happens all at once.
The bedroom window flies open and the woman, mouth open but no sound coming out, not any more , begins her trajectory towards the hard pavement and at the same moment there is a terrible crash from somewhere inside the house and the police who have done nothing for hours move towards the front door.
It’s flimsy, cheap UPVC, doesn’t take much kicking in, a firm push would have done it, but it is kicked in with lots of shouting and male voices and a counterpoint of women, the women in the street screaming as the body, falling in slow motion hits the pavement and because this is real life and not Hollywood and the fall is only a few feet and she is so drunk that she falls softly, she’s immediately sitting up, her left arm at an awkward angle, but her voice unimpaired and she’s letting rip with a stream of cursing that sends the people from the middle houses scurrying indoors, their faces red.
A trail of bin liners, secateurs and bottles of windowlene left where they are dropped.

Even the women from the bad end of the street are impressed with the variety and depth of her cursing, the children,still enacting their video games pause for a moment, absorb the choicest for later use and then go back to shooting up the Police from a sensible distance.

There is a pause after the para medics have carefully and cautiously gathered up the woman, who continues to swear even when she is finally pushed firmly into the ambulance and then the Police walk out of the house, Darren dwarfed in the middle of a pond, If not a sea of blue.
He is crying,making no attempt to mop up or cover up the snot and tears on his grubby face.

The police are surprisingly gentle with him, they walk him to the nearest police car and then he is gone and all that is left is the crowd, standing, not sure what to do next.

After a while, the police go away too, all the police cars, the police van and even the local radio station news van simply drive away and so the people wander off too.

There is a sense of disappointment, of things not quite working out as they should have.
Kettles are switched on, phones put away and the day goes back to being the day it should have been.

Number 72- I is a big dog, I is


Number 72- I is a big dog, I is.

Gretchen is trying to look out of the front window, she balances on her back legs, leans her chin on to the book case, but she is still to small, too short. She is reduced to jumping up and down, getting brief, partial glimpses of the garden and the cat that is sitting on the front wall, staring in at her house.
Gretchen is struggling to bark and jump, her flattened face and squashed nose make this challenging and even to her own ears her bark is tiny, yappy, not very impressive at all.
“Yip, yip, yip”.
The cat lifts his head and stares at Gretchen as desperately trying to bounce higher, to get nearer , to look bigger, she overbalances and performs a prefect back summersault, taking a whole shelf of books with her.
The cat doesn’t even blink and returns to his quiet contemplation of the empty street.
And then the crash of books and a vase that had been left,forgotten in the great puppy proofing of 2015, half hidden by books on the middle shelf and has finally succumbed to the curse of the dog.
There is a pause, a chance for Gretchen to adopt her saddest face, ears drooping, sitting on her haunches, head bowed and then….
“ Gretchen “ the voice is loud, followed by the thump of feet on the stairs and then a pause, a taking stock of the damage, pause. Gretchen sits quietly, doesn’t move a muscle, waits with her head held low.
At 9 months old,she has discovered that this is the most effective way to head off disaster.
Look sorry
Look cute
Make the sad noise
And if all else fails, roll onto your back and show off your baby pink belly.
She is about to start this manoeuvre when she is scooped up, squeezed against a shoulder and kissed.
This is a surprise to her, loud bangs, crashes and the smashing of breakables is usually followed by the angry voice and an exile to the crate in the kitchen, but today the girl has seen the smug faced cat on the wall. She holds the dog up to the window and laughs
“ too small” she croons “ too small to even scare of that little cat”.
Gretchen wriggles in frustration, she is not too small, it is the world that is too big, the world that operates at a scale unfriendly to a French bulldog. On the inside she feels huge, a wolf of a dog, the kind of dog that struts across the park, smaller dogs scattering before her.
Gretchens reality at the dog park is something quite different, the walk preparation starts with an outfit being chosen. She has an extensive wardrobe, coats, jumpers, even a darling little tank top and matching skirt and then a lead and collar chosen to match the clothing, a quick squirt of lavender scented dog parfum and then off they head. Gretchen pulls in her eagerness to get there, but remembers her manners and is patient when the girl stops to allow the many admirers to pat and cuddle her.
The park is full of smells, scents that call out to her, that are so vivid, so heavy with information that she hardly knows where to start.
She bounces with excitement as finally the lead is removed and she is set free and with that she is across the park, mouth open in joy.
On the park she doesn’t feel small at all, she feels herself to be all dog, the wolf within let lose as she races from trees to long grass and into the patches of undergrowth where the scents are most delicious.
Here, Gretchen is the perfect size to squeeze under bushes, into the spaces between the benches where foolish picnickers leave the tastiest morsels of sandwiches and can, if she breathes in and nobody’s paying attention, slide underneath the toddler climbing castle and forage for chocolate buttons and dropped crisps.
On the park Gretchen fills the spaces perfectly, rises above the girl’s attempts to make her small, to keep her cute, to negate the dog inside. On the park, Gretchen leads a pack of dogs exploring the skate park, encourages them to turn deaf ears to owners too timid to challenge the hoodies and the emos who have ownership of the skate space and the burnt out bench.
It’s Gretchen who discovers the carrier bag momentarily ignored by the father rescuing his over ambitious five year old from the big kids climbing frame and tears it open, sharp tiny teeth tearing at the wrapped cooked chicken and its Gretchen who gets the lions share, holding her corner even from the sheep dog from across the road.
Finally, Gretchen is recaptured, her lead clipped on and still yapping her excitement, they return home and as they enter the house, she feels herself shrink, diminish, becomes all to aware of her size in a house where everything is too big.
Gretchen tries to look out into the front garden, tries to monitor the cat situation, but without the bookcase to balance on,she is even smaller and can only get brief,momentary glimpses of the wall as she leaps up and down.
There are two cats now, both seem completely unimpressed by the tiny barking dog jumping up and down to see out of the window.

number 1- the hairdressers husband.

Number 1 – The hairdresser’s husband.

And yes, they have see the charming French film and yes, they would, if they knew any one was writing about them, get the almost filmic reference in the title.

He is the hairdressers husband, happy to accept this label,not threatened when people don’t know his name, comfortable enough in his skin for his absent identity not to be an issue.
As it happens, he’s a teacher. In a secondary school. A teacher of humanities, which to his ears is a great improvement than being a teacher of geography.
Which is what he really is.
Their house is one of the nicest on the street, three storeys, extended kitchen, hallway and lots of carefully restored period bits and bobs.
The hairdresser gets bored with colour quickly, likes to redecorate every couple of years, stay on trend, update with quirky accessories.
The hairdressers husband is beginning to find all this change, the constant painting and stripping and waxing and shopping just a little exhausting.
He hasn’t mentioned the niggle in his left knee, the way his shoulder aches at night,keeps him awake, makes him grumpy in the mornings.
The hairdressers husband will be 49 next birthday, she will be 33, so, he doesn’t mention the knee, the fact that the optician has upgraded his prescription twice in the last year, he doesn’t mention that he’s started to read those viagra emails more carefully, has filed away a couple of web addresses that might come in useful.
One day.
The hairdressers husband has begun to hate bars which play loud music, bars that serve chips in witty containers, bars which have ironic 1970s wallpaper or 80s black and chrome furniture.
He hates the fact that his history, his own history,the wallpaper his mother hung in their lounge, the madly uncomfortable low slung leather deck chair which he saved up for are not just quirky, vintage,but objects that he has owned,touched, looked at so often that he stopped even seeing them,certainly never expected to see them featured in magazines, displayed as icons, statements of design.
The hairdressers husband does not feel vintage,but he does feel almost 49.
The hairdressers husband also hates;
Men in skinny jeans
Men in Uggs
Men with beards so luxuriant that it seems quite possible that their owners have actually slept for 100 years and woken unshaven after a century.
The hairdressers husband does not hate being 49, but he does hate being 49 whilst the hairdresser is barely 32.
He has rejoined the gym,but this time it’s different, he stays away from the free weights section,avoids the mirrors and discovers that his kindred spirits, his people are not the 30somethings with their buff chests, their tight butts, their extravagant hair dos, instead he hangs out with the slightly older than him women, basks in their covert approving glances, measuring eyes running up and down his body.
The hairdressers husband also hates;
Artisan bread
Farmers markets and organic veg boxes, although a box arrives on the doorstep every Friday.
Sometimes when the hairdresser is busy with a wedding or a local fashion shoot, she is a very successful hairdresser, he finds himself in a proper greasy spoon café, ordering fried bread and cheap sausages and streaky, fatty bacon and eating it with a guilty relish.
The hairdressers husband hates festivals and mud and witty wellingtons and bands so horribly knowing, so arch that they seem almost too fay to manage the weight of their guitars.
He has retuned the car stereo to Gold FM and sings along to his favourite tracks on the way to school.
He likes that, the right song can put him in a good mood for the whole day.
He does not hate the hairdresser,he loves the hairdresser, loves her wild enthusiasms, her emotional investment in the lame dog dancers on Strictly.
He loves her energy, even when it leaves him exhausted, physically and mentally drained, but game for anything, giving it his best shot.
He loves her soft, buttery skin, her flat stomach, pert breasts, the tattooed bluebirds on her left shoulder.
He loves to look at her, especially when she doesn’t know that he is looking, best of all when she is sleeping and he, feeling every month of his almost 49 years is awake before the dawn, takes comfort in her body spooning into his.
The hairdressers husband is so full of hate that he is terrified that the hairdresser will find out,that the hate will begin to leak out, pull his features downwards, finish off the job that gravity has begun,make his face become that of his own father.
The hairdressers husband hates this most of all, hates that he is becoming as 49 creeps nearer and nearer, that he is becoming his own father.
He hates and fears that moment , which he knows will come, must come when one day, the hairdresser will look at him and see his own father staring adoringly at her.

He looks at his watch, 4.45, the hairdresser will be home soon,an explosion of bags and flowers and still talking on her phone, but stopping for long enough to blow him a kiss, pull a silly face, leave a trail of shoes and coat and scarf and oversized earrings from the front door to the kettle.
The hairdressers husband smiles, fights back the wave of hatred which threatens to engulf him and reminds himself that he is still only 48, only 48.

Intemission 1

Well reader, what a week it’s been.
You’ve really been through the wringer and no mistake.
Lovelorn carpenters.
Inner city vampires.
A hint of witching and warlockery.
Cats who know far more than they’re letting on.
Desperate deaths.
And of course,the joy of stuff.
But dear reader, I can understand if you’re feeling a little blue, a little under the weather, not totally tickety boo.
So, it’s time for an intermission, a taking stock, refuelling and gathering ourselves.
Because and make no mistake, if you’ve found it hard going, spare a thought for the poor writer, burrowing deep into what lies below on this so ordinary street.
Let’s take a break.
Watch the red velvet curtains drop elegantly over the screen, the lights come up and in a neat and nubile row, blondes stand, pert breasted, hair teased into elaborate confections of hair spray and Kirkby grips and each has a tray hanging from her neck, piled high with literate snacks.
Tiny cups of strong black coffee
Untipped French cigarettes.
And while you sip and nibble, blow perfect smoke rings and feel no urge at all to check your mobile device, let’s review what we have learnt.
Truth,the truth of this street is slippery, hard to get a handle on and as yet you have no trust in me and why after all should you?
what’s going on here you mutter, turn the page impatiently, looking for citation, footnotes, references that are readily, easily checkable.
Be patient, take my hand and learn to look beneath, learn to leap, remember Mrs Henderson and take that flying, lying jump into what happens next.
The curtains are about to go up on act 2, the blondes have glided away, leaving nothing but a hint of midnight in Paris and a half smoked Chesterfield.
So, what can we expect now?
More stories/storeys of ordinary people in this so ordinary street…

The siege at number 90.
A short history of parallel parking by the woman who lives at 47.
The cats will be back, of course.
The gardener who discovered a worm hole in the worlds smallest maze.
Decorating hints from number 19.

Refreshed ???

Let’s go.