There’s been a new Facebook post about Parking. I’m at Mandy’s house doing a baby play date, mainlining coffee. We haven’t seen each other since Fiona, henceforth known as ‘Parking Nazi’, started making threats on Facebook about nursery teacher, Miss Julie’s car.
Mandy: “Did you say Miss Julie could park on The Patch again?”
Mandy throws her arms wide open. “I bloody love you. (Pause) Read it, read it!”
I stick my teeth out to do my best Fiona impression:
Yet again a nursery teacher from Little Acorns has parked by MY wall on Military property. I have asked the nursery to stop their staff parking here.
Yes, I called again and anyone who has a problem can come and speak to me or my husband, General Jeremy Smith, about it.
Apparently there was a discussion with parents saying it was okay. I assure you it is NOT. I have spoken to the Head of Housing and he is clear that it is illegal and in breach of the rules.
Next time I report this action will be taken. I do not want a ne’er-do-well getting into MY bathroom via an illegally parked car.
Mandy: What the actual f***. ‘My husband General Jeremy’. Well we all know you’re from a housing estate in Wells love, bumped into yer cousin and she’s a bit of a ‘ne’er-do-well’. Uh, I want to punch her in the t*ts. (Pause) Is that anti-feminist?”
Me: “I love Miss Julie and she’s been getting these horrible calls. It’s awful. I mean she’s police checked and looks after our children for god’s sake.”
Mandy: “She’s not a burglar or a terrorist, she’s a bloody nursery teacher!”
There is a knock at the door. We both jump. “Don’t worry, it’s only Maz,” says Mandy.
I open the front door, expecting to see Dr. Maz: Mummy, dentist and Patch Botox specialist, but the vision before me takes my breath away.
Fiona: “Oh. Didn’t expect to see you here.”
Oh sorry didn’t I put it in our joint iCal.
Fiona: “Just wondering if Mandy could let Basil out for a wee? (Pause) Have you seen all this nonsense on Facebook? When I find out who gave permission to that woman to park there…”
Me: “You’ll what?”
Fiona: “Report them to the Military Police.”
Me: “Why?” What I really want to say is ‘I did it. I did it. Take me to the firing squad!’ But then I think about Si’s career. I need to talk to him first.
Fiona: “Why?!” She says her evil eyebrows dancing. “Because if you read the terms of your lease….” I glaze over as she bangs on about Army protocol and calmly take the key with a red fluffy ball attached out of her leather-gloved hand.
She turns to leave and says: “Looking forward to seeing you and Simon on Friday.”
I blanche. Oh my god. Dinner. This week. I’d forgotten. I hoped we’d missed it. But we haven’t. Please let my children be ill! (Nothing serious just a 24 hour bug to see us through).
“Can I bring anything?” I say, trying to sound upbeat.
“Just yourselves and a decent bottle, can bear it when people bring something that’s been doing the rounds. Not that you would.”
Mandy is flicking through a magazine in the kitchen. “Sorry I didn’t come out. I thought if I did, I might lamp her.”
I pass her the key.
Mandy: “Honestly if her husband wasn’t Buck’s boss I’d shove this right up her …”
Me: “I think the General would enjoy it more.”
We watch Fiona from the kitchen window stride across the Close. I phone Si to give him a Parking update. This particular contretemps has been spreading like wildfire across the military network, with husbands and wives reading the Facebook posts and comments with daily relish.
Si’s not on FB so I read him the latest entry. He chuckles. I tell him we’re going for dinner with the Smiths on Friday. He stops laughing.
Si: “How did that happen?”
Me: “She hijacked my iPhone”.
Si: “He is the most boring, pompous man. You’ll have to behave yourself, he’s in my chain of command. No wall dancing; no stroke face…”
Me: “How about you come and look after your children for a bit and then you can tell me what to do? I still hate you, you know.”
Si: “No you don’t, you think I’m essence.”
Me: Bye, bye tosspoticus.
Mandy smiles at me. “Ah, you guys sound in a really good place.”
A text pings through from Simon: <<Tell everyone I give full permission for all nursery teachers to park on the Patch. Any problems call me. XXXX>>
And in that moment I feel a pang of love towards my husband. He finally has my “six” (back) again. And then I remember he left me with the kids in London on my own and my resentment levels return to critical.
“Dinner, eh?” Mandy can’t believe I agreed to it. Except I didn’t. It was more a social hijacking.
“You ever been to their house?
I shake my head. Fiona’s been trying to get me over for the past year but until now the pregnancy and the baby saved me. Until now.
Mandy dangles the key. “Come on, I want to show you something.”
I weakly protest that I’m in enough trouble as it is, that I need to do a mountain of washing before I pick up Sienna from nursery at 12.15 but she’s not listening. She picks up Mia and I scoop up Vita and we sneak over the Close, looking extremely suspicious, past Miss Julie’s Vauxhall, to Fiona’s house. I look up at the windows of the other houses knowing we are being watched. Most spouses are friendly forces but there are a few who watch and stay silent on the Patch Facebook page, never commenting, never committing. These are the most dangerous people of all. Apart. From. Fiona.
The adrenaline is pumping as Mandy unlocks the door. God this is the most exciting thing I’ve done since having’ children. Reading my mind, Mandy says. “We so need to go drinking together. Got to get a date sorted.”
“I need to get this ‘sausage’ on a bottle first.” I say following her into the house with Vita on my hip. I close the door.
Mandy: “I’ve got a baby whisperer number for you. Remind me later.”
Basil the Dachshund comes racing down the stairs and follows us into the kitchen his needle claws making a clatter on the grey linoleum floor.
Mandy: “Hello, widdler. Let’s let you out.” She opens the door into the back garden and Basil darts out doing laps around the unkempt square of browned turf. Dachshunds are like rats on speed, I think, missing my black Labrador, who died a few years ago. Bandit, unlike Basil, was a proper dog.
“Look,” says Mandy beckoning me over to the kitchen utility area where the Smith’s large free-standing fridge is kept. Wow! There it is. In the midst of ABC magnets, Fenella’s artwork and a fridge magnet saying “Pass Me the Prosecco & Watch Me Get Fabulous” is the fabled photo of Fiona in a leather studded jumpsuit holding a whip, her lips stained blood red with lipstick.
Me: “Oh my f***ing god.”
Mandy: “I f***ing know!”
Basil runs back in with a clatter of tiny claws. “All done?” Asks Mandy as the beast proceeds to wee all over the floor and both our shoes. I pop Vita on the standard issue taupe carpet in the hallway to wipe up the urine with some kitchen roll and she proceeds to puke on the carpet at almost the exact time the front door opens and Fiona enters, with a man.
An evil eyebrow shoots up so fast it ruffles her sleek blonde bob.
Fiona: “I’ve been invaded. Baby. Sick. Can’t deal.” She narrows her eyes at me. “I asked Mandy to let the dog out. You didn’t all need to be here.”
Me: “I’m looking after the babies.”
Fiona: “Clearly you are not.”
And that’s when I feel something snaps in my head like a small twig and the tornado starts swirling in my liver. Liver wind = rage.
Fiona: “Vanessa Wilde meet Mr. Anwaz from Housing.”
I shake his hand. And that’s when Mandy dashes past and says, “Basil’s been out. Nappy explosion. Got to go.”
That’s twice she’s dumped me in it today I think cleaning up the baby sick off the carpet, knowing it has to be doubly good because the housing officer is watching. I really need to get out of here so I say the baby is poorly but Fiona thinks Vita looks perfectly well and she’d like me to stay and talk to Mr. Anwaz. I say I would love to but I have to pick up Sienna from nursery but Fiona knows that’s in an hour’s time so I am ushered into the sitting room with only the baby to protect me.
As Fiona makes coffee, Mr. Anwaz makes small talk. “So how long have you been on The Patch?”
Me: “Oh, it must be a year now.”
Mr. Anwaz: “And you like it?”
“Yes, we love it. Such a great community. Wonderful for the children.” I lean forward and whisper. “Listen between you and me I said Miss Julie, the nursery teacher, could park here and all the Mums on the Patch agree, okay?”
“YOU DID WHAT?!” Says Fiona storming in with a two mugs of hot coffee that I imagine she is going to throw over me and the baby. I instinctively bend forward to protect Vita with my body.
When she’s secured the cups on coasters so as not to mark her India Jane furniture I take a breath, try to shrug off the sleep deprivation and my new-found under-confidence as a Mum, and say: “Miss Julie is CRB checked, I trust her with my daughter’s life and she is a family friend.”
Fiona: “Well, that is very disappointing.”
Me: “What do you think, Mr. Anwar?”
Mr. Anwar: “Me? Er, I don’t follow.”
Fiona shoots me a look that could set concrete. “Mr. AnwazZ is here to talk about replacing my curtains.”