Mother… And The Londoners

Blog star mother – aka student landlady extraordinaire – hasn’t been caught on camera for some time.

But here she is… rhapsodising about meeting two new London students straight off the Megabus for an unscheduled guided tour of Preston – and recalling the time her and my father stumbled across some alternative characters at Camden Lock…

<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/127398789″>Mother&#8230; and The Londoners</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/user33278695″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Trunky Want A Bun?

A peculiar email from our old nosy neighbours snooping Susan and deflated Dick landed in my inbox today.

Our favourite curtain twitchers (details here) may have moved out six months ago but it’s reassuring/ slightly frightening to know that they’re still keeping tabs on the comings and goings of our apartment block – from their new abode several miles away!

Hi Katy,

Thought I would send best wishes for 2015, particularly for happy relationships with your neighbours.

I had a brief phone conversation with Bea (Apt 2) recently, who told me about the party in our old apartment: held by son of new owners, with police being called, she thought. She also thought the police had been back looking for the previous woman tenant of no. 4, but she was a bit vague about it.

Here in new apartment: all quiet, reliable and pleasant neighbours, all owner-occupiers with one exception – and that tenant sleeps here during the week only, and we have never seen him since our arrival in July!

Best wishes,

Susan and Dick

I re-read the email and am still completely baffled as to its purpose.

Is it that they merely want to boast about the serenity of their new domicile?

Do they want me to tell them how hellish it is living here, in order to justify their move?

Or are they simply hoping I will provide them with insider information about their erstwhile neighbours – to feed their insatiable appetite for gossip?

Answers on a postcard please…

* Trunky want a bun? – possibly my favourite-ever phrase to describe a nosy person (trunky being an elephant sniffing out a bun).

My Mother… Bosses The Students

Now that my blog star mother is on the road to recovery after her soap opera-style stint in hospital, I thought I would share some previously unseen footage of her doing what she does best: namely bossing students around.

As landlady of a house she rents out to students, my mother is convinced that all of them are utterly simple (see previous blog here) and so every year they get her Simpletons’ Guide To Independent Living.

Back in September, she gave one poor, beleaguered student the full house induction, including (in no particular order): which cupboard they should store their tinned beans in, which washing machine cycle to wash their togs on, how not to set the house alarm (whatever you do, don’t press ‘yes’!) and – bizarrely – where to find a starter motor for the fluorescent tube light in the kitchen.

Here she is at her most brilliant, bonkers best.

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/113854597″>My Mother… And The Students</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33278695″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

My Mother… and The British Gas Debacle Part II

It seems that my mother has become an unwitting video star after waxing lyrical about her fiasco with her British Gas bill (here) and chewing the fat with my uncle Stephen over his pyromaniac neighbour (here).

So here’s an update on my mother’s British Gas saga (amongst other trivialities!):

<p><a href=”http://vimeo.com/109387621″>My Mother… And The British Gas Debacle Part II</a> from <a href=”http://vimeo.com/user33278695″>Palmersan</a&gt; on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

 

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

I never thought I’d type these words but I miss our nosy neighbours Susan and Dick. Every time I pass their apartment, I have a little pang of sadness that I won’t be able to feast on their moans and groans any more.

In a small tribute to Dick, I trotted across the road and half-heartedly picked a few blackberries off the neighbouring property. Dour Dick loved that bramble bush. He even carried his step-ladder down the road to reach the higher branches.

Although Dick’s long gone, I’m half-expecting to see him back at the blackberries in the next few weeks. He was never one to miss out on some free fruit.

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I’d like to say that SuDick’s departure was a ceremonial affair but in reality they just kind of sloped off quietly. Susan sent me a final email with her special ‘Welcome Pack’ attached (DON’T make any noise after 11pm but DO close the gate to the bin compound), should I wish to continue her tradition of passing it on to any new neighbours. (I think she saw me as a potential protege. I can’t think why!).

She gave me a final round-up of local goings on: ‘Apartment 6 is laying down new carpets as I write,’ she said. ‘Apartment 5 has a new owner; I think they might be retired.’ etc etc.

The woman who has replaced SuDick is very peculiar indeed. She’s straight out of Hollywood Housewives: heavily made-up, with big anxious eyes, hair permanently in rollers and constantly spring cleaning in a pair of marigolds. Her name is Diane. She looks like a Diane.

I had to knock on her door the other night to see if she’d taken collection of a parcel I was waiting for. Knowing that she spends most of her days dusting her apartment by the entrance gate, I told the parcel people to deliver it her flat.

I knocked on the door and waited.

There was a lot of clattering and eventually the door creaked open. Two huge doleful eyes peered back at me, marigolds donned and feather duster poised.

‘I was just wondering if you happened to take delivery of a parcel for me,’ I said, cheerfully.

‘Oh, I’m in a terrible mess here,’ she cried. ‘I did see a parcel man at the gate but I don’t think he could get in so he just drove off.’

Knowing that my parcel was only a few feet from her but she did nothing to help was very annoying indeed.

I decided ‘Marigolds’ was clinically unhinged so I left her to her dusting. On their second attempt, I asked the delivery people to try Apartment 8 instead.

Apartment 8 houses an inert tenant, who claims to be a solicitor but actually spends most of her days sitting on her balcony, chewing the fat. She seemed the perfect candidate for a daytime parcel delivery.

When I got back the following evening there was a message from the courier saying that Apartment 8 HAD taken collection of my parcel. Bingo!

I expected the woman at Apartment 8 to sign for the parcel and then leave it outside our front door. But there was no sign of it and she appeared to be out for the night.

When I got back the following evening, there was still no parcel. I found this weird.

‘Wouldn’t you sign for the parcel and then go and put it outside our flat?’ I said to the husband. ‘It’s odd that she just took it with no further communication.

‘In fact, how does SHE know that WE know that she’s even got it?

‘She’s effectively taken our parcel hostage!’

I went round and knocked on her door.

‘Do you have a parcel for me?’ I said.

She looked blankly for a moment, despite the fact my huge parcel was taking up most of her entrance hall.

‘Oh, that parcel,’ she said breezily. ‘Yes, it’s here.’

‘Thank you,’ I said.

The reason that I wanted the parcel fairly urgently is that it housed a new bathroom cabinet for my old rental flat down the road.

My latest tenant has moved out so I’ve been busy sorting the flat out. This loosely involves: the bi-annual chore of re-oiling my real wood worktops (note to anyone thinking about getting real wood worktops – DON’T DO IT), lovingly touching up my Farrow and Ball walls, ordering a new Brabantia bin (along with the aforementioned bathroom cabinet), and having all the carpets shampooed.

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I even went as far as buying a vase, a big bunch of flowers, and leaving a ‘welcome to your new home’ card for my new tenants.

They moved in last Saturday and I’ve heard nothing since.

‘Don’t you think it’s weird that they just moved in and never acknowledged the flowers and the card?’ I said to the husband.

‘Aren’t people strange?!’

A couple of days later, I drove round with the husband and sent him into the communal entrance to the flat to leave the bathroom cabinet outside the door (ready for the handyman to fix it to the wall at some point this week, the husband being unfortunately incapable of such high-level manual tasks).

While the husband was lugging the parcel up the stairs, I peered up at the window trying to work out whether my flowers were still in the cellophane in the vase, as I had left them – or not. I toyed with getting the binoculars out of the glove compartment – SuDick-style – but decided that might be a bit much.

The husband re-appeared and climbed in the passenger seat.

‘All done,’ he said.

‘Did you put your ear to the door to see if they’re actually in there?’ I said.

‘Why would I do that?’ said the husband. ‘That would be the behaviour of a mental person.’

‘To check that they’re in there!’ I said. ‘TO CHECK THEY GOT THE FLOWERS.’

Broken Flowers

Who needs Coronation Street when you can enjoy a real-life soap opera at Caffè Nero?

Last week, I popped in for my usual latte to find Nero’s perma-fixture Porridge-Loving Pensioner remonstrating angrily with a scantily-clad woman, before throwing a bunch of flowers at her and stomping off.

Let me backtrack slightly.

Porridge-Loving Pensioner first appeared on the Nero scene about a year ago, pitching up at 7.30am, scoffing mounds of porridge all day and gazing mournfully out of the window, before departing at closing time by taxi.

He oscillates between being a curmudgeonly octogenarian, who guards his seat in the corner like a rattle snake, to acting out a scene from Wether’s Originals, handing out sweets to the kids and generously splashing out on coffees and milkshakes to all and sundry.

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More recently though, he’s regressed to being a bit of an awkward old bugger. Fellow Nero stalwart and Mallorca-mad retiree Malcolm recently brought him a suit and told him he needed to ‘smarten himself up’. I’m not sure he liked it.

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And when I chatted to another retiree-at-large, Peter, he told me he’s been giving Porridge-Loving Pensioner a wide berth.

“I’ve got enough dependents as it is,’ said Peter, who was recently widowed from his sweetheart Brenda but still takes care of his mother. ‘Take it from me once you open the door, it just opens wider.’

‘Legs always talks to him,’ he went on.

“Who’s ‘Legs’?’ I asked.

‘You don’t know Legs?’ exclaimed Peter. ‘She’s always in here. Beautiful girl, got a degree in sport or something. ALWAYS wears shorts.’

‘Of course, Malcolm always makes a beeline for her!’

‘I bet!’ I said.

I’d never come across Legs before but when I walked in and saw Porridge-Loving Pensioner in a heated debate with a girl in very short shorts, I just knew it had to be Legs.

I’ve had to remove her face for reasons of anonymity (but you can see how she gets her namesake).

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It transpired that Legs had got Too Involved with Porridge-Loving Pensioner – to the point of actually driving him to his hospital appointment the day before. Porridge-Loving Pensioner then wanted her to drive him more places.

When she said she couldn’t, Porridge-Loving Pensioner got very angry indeed.

Peter was right: when you open the door, it does get wider.

The argument ended with Legs giving the flowers back to Porridge-Loving Pensioner and marching out.

When Malcolm and Peter arrived for their morning coffee, I quickly filled them in. Porridge-Loving Pensioner was stomping around furiously in the background.

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‘I can’t believe Legs actually drove him to the hospital,’ I said.

‘She’s a very pretty girl but I wished she’d get dressed when she came in,’ muttered Peter.

‘If you’ve got it flaunt it by all means, but there is a stopping point.’

Suddenly, Porridge-Loving Pensioner appeared, brandishing the wilting flowers.

‘These are for you,’ he said, looming over me and grabbing my cheek. ‘I wondered if you’d take me to the hospital.’

I looked at the hand-me-down flowers and then took a look at his letter. The appointment was for September 1.

That was quite a while off. But my experience of old people is they gradually become obsessed by hospital appointments. Their lives revolve around them.

‘I can’t take you because I’m at work that day,’ I said, quite truthfully. ‘I’m sorry.’

‘The best thing to do,’ I added firmly. ‘Is to call the hospital and ask them to send a car for you. They often do a chaperone service.’

Porridge-Loving Pensioner threw the flowers down and shuffled off.

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Malcolm and Peter looked aghast.

‘You handled that very well,’ said Peter.

It was only after the furore had settled down that we noticed Porridge-Loving Pensioner was finally wearing Malcolm’s suit! Malcolm confessed he’d been giving him a selection of shirts too.

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‘What he really wants is company,’ I said.

‘We all do,’ said Peter. ‘We all want someone to talk to. The Italians have a name for it.’

‘Enjoy life while you can,’ added Malcolm. ‘One day, all you’ll have is memories.’

‘It’s true,’ said Peter sadly. ‘But when you’ve lost someone, the wound is so great that even memories can’t fill it.’

Chasing Papers

Saturday mornings are about sipping extra-hot lattes, the occasional trip to the gym, and chewing the fat with the husband. But more than anything, Saturday mornings are about reading the Guardian Weekend magazine.

I love the Guardian Weekend magazine. I love the fashion pages; I love the weekly photograph competition; I love Sali Hughes’s beauty advice; I love the Let’s Move To… section; I used to LOVE Jon Ronson’s column (before he was succeeded by the dour Tim Dowling); I’m less interested in the gardening pages but you can’t have it all. I never miss a copy.

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This Saturday morning, I went to buy my Guardian as usual from the Co-Op and they didn’t have any! While I was in there, a woman came in and said she’d been to two shops in the area and no-one had the Guardian.

What was this? A national shortage of the Guardian? I decided not to panic at this point. We were going into town that afternoon and I figured I’d be able to secure a copy from there.

We parked up and on a whim decided to go to Everyman (‘posh’ cinema where you can recline on sofas, neck bottles of wine and tuck into the stingiest box of over-priced popcorn you’ll ever see). We watched Blue Ruin (gruesome, pointless plot, the husband loved it).

‘I must get the Guardian on the way home,’ I said to the husband, as we headed for a bite to eat (Nandos, natch).

I’d read somewhere that there was an interview with Diane Kruger in this week’s Guardian. I’m a bit obsessed with Diane Kruger. She’s just very, very cool and also dates Joshua Jackson, my favourite ever Dawson Creek character (who I once met at a film premiere when I had a cool job but then acted very, very uncool in asking for a photo with him. Sigh.).

Pulling up at home at 10pm, I suddenly realised I’d forgotten to track down a copy of the Guardian.

It was late and I was worried that the already depleted national supplies might make the mission almost impossible. But it made me even more determined.

‘I’m going to look for a Guardian,’ I said to the husband, grabbing the car keys off him and jumping in the car seat.

The husband simply shook his head in a ‘my-wife-is-deranged’ manner.

I drove to Tesco petrol station. No Guardian. Another Co-Op. No Guardian. Sainsburys Local. No Guardian but wait… What was that behind the counter? A great big bundle of the buggers. Bingo!

‘Please can I have one of those Guardians?’ I said to the shop assistant, pointing to them.

The officious shop guy shook his head.

‘I’m afraid it’s too late,’ he said. ‘They’ve been counted and tied up to be sent back.’

‘Is there no chance you could just sell me one?’ I said. ‘I’ll even pay double!

He shook his head in a way that said, ‘it’s-completely-out-of-my-hands-I-don’t-make-the-rules’.

I decided to go for a new tack.

‘Forget the paper itself,’ I said. ‘I just want the magazine bit.’

‘I’m not allowed to,’ said officious shop guy. ‘If there’s one missing, they will phone up tomorrow and want to know where it is.’

‘You’re not seriously telling me that the Guardian are going to call you up tomorrow, on a Bank Holiday Sunday, demanding to know where one of their missing magazines is,’ I cried, a bit hysterically.

‘The magazine bits go missing ALL THE TIME. In London, they just leave leftover papers dumped outside shops!’

Behind me in the queue, was a gaunt Scottish man, eyeing me with disdain.

‘Listen love, why didn’t you just buy one earlier?’ gaunt Scottish man said peevishly.

‘I tried! But due to unforeseen circumstances I was unable to acquire one,’ I said through gritted teeth.

He bared his teeth in an ugly smile.

‘Good luck with your newspaper,’ he sneered, scooping up his four-pack as he exited.

Officious sales guy and I had reach deadlock. We eyed each other determinedly, the huge pile of Guardians sat on the counter between us.

But I had come this far. I wasn’t going to give up.

Officious agreed to go in to the office and phone the nearby Sainsburys Local to say if they had any Guardians left and, if so, whether they had already bundled them up to be sent back – like he had.

As he begrudgingly trudged into the back room, I did something bad. In the full glare of the CCTV camera, I grabbed hold of one of the magazines sticking out of the bundle. I tugged and tugged and it came free!

Heart racing, I snatched the magazine and fled the shop, leapt into my car and bombed off at speed, half-expecting officious shop guy to give chase.

As I put some distance between us and my heart began to regain its normal rhythm, I checked my rear view mirror for flashing blue lights. The cops weren’t onto me – yet. I felt an overwhelming sense of victory.

‘This is how Winona Ryder felt,’ I thought. ‘She steals purely for the buzz’.

Back at home, I clambered into bed, turned on the light, and picked up my stolen Guardian Weekend magazine with a contented sigh.

And then I saw the front cover: ‘Diane Keaton: I Slept With A Peg On My Nose’.

Keaton?!

Not Kruger, after all.