Saturday, 5pm Everyone is sitting squashed around the tiny kitchen table ignoring Simon (who is still dressed in cycling kit). We eat our roast chicken, the grown ups in morose silence, Sienna saying: ‘I don’t like sweet potato’ over and over again, punctuated by the intermittent splatter of food hitting the grey linoleum floor, courtesy of Baby Vita.
My father, Roge, isn’t talking to Si because he didn’t help him escape the My Little Pony sleeping bag. (‘He just walked past me’), Granny isn’t talking to him because Fiona saw her without any makeup on and the ridiculous head bandage. (She is now fully made up, her hair set like the Queen with only a Peppa Pig plaster, hidden under a curl, covering the puncture wound.)
Sienna isn’t talking to Simon because he never plays with her, Vita’s not talking to him because she’s 7 months old and I… I will never speak to him again for being a JUDAS. He threw me under the Fiona bus – ‘I don’t know anything about the parking arrangements, you’ll have to speak to Nessa’ and now he will pay.
I want him to go back to Wiltshire tonight and take my parents with him but I’m doing another ‘Wilde Challenge’ for the Acre Magazine on Monday and I need Granny to come with me because I still can’t get Vita on the bottle – so where my boobs go, so must she. This time I’m ferreting in Kent, which I’m not looking forward to at all, given what happened when we went bell ringing.
Simon puts his hand on my knee under the table. I throw it off. “No! I will never forgive you.”
Granny pipes up. “Don’t be rotten to him. Simon’s very good and helps you a lot. I wish I’d had help from your father when you were small,” she looks at Roge accusingly.
Roge: “I was away with work.”
“By design,” says Granny. “They’re all the same,” she adds sagely.
“The bike ride’s been in the iCal for months.” Protests Simon.
He’s itching to know what I said to Fiona but I won’t tell him. “We had a few words, I gave her a house plant in a Tuscan pot and it’s sorted,” I say.
Si: “Not the baby spider plants? (pause) And what about the chair Granny broke?”
Granny: “Throne. It was riddled with woodworm.”
Me: “She didn’t mention it and neither did I.”
“Granny broke a chair?” Says Sienna blowing a mouthful of peas across the table at Grandpa.
My phone beeps. “Miss Julie’s back.” I say jumping up; Si is scolding Sienna for spitting peas as another text message comes through from Miss Julie: <<Help!>>
Me: “Quick, she needs us.”
I shove my Uggs on and Si and I rush to the door. Maybe she needs help getting her son, Matthew, into the car? “Sometimes the wheelchair is hard to collapse,” I say to Si.
But it’s not that. After a lovely day with her two boys (7 & 8) at the Science Museum, Miss Julie is being questioned by a brace of uniformed police officers, standing by their neon cop car, which is blocking the close. Fiona is nowhere to be seen, but it’s got her fingerprints all over it. Miss Julie is ashen.
Miss Julie: “I only parked here this morning. Look, I won’t park here again…”
“What’s going on?” I say storming out.
Mandy is standing in her doorway with her little ones and hubby, Buck, still in pervy lycra and weirdo shoes too. The children point excitedly at the police car.
Met Policeman: “There’s just been a couple of complaints, a suspicious vehicle has been left here over the weekend.”
Me: “It’s not suspicious, it’s a Vauxhall.”
Met Policeman “I can see there’s been a mix up and, after speaking to Miss Love here, I’m happy we’ve resolved the issue.”
Another man steps forward as the Met officer jumps in his Audi, driving away in a flash of silent blue lights. “I’m from the RMP. I also have some questions.”
Miss Julie: “RM What?”
RMP Officer: “Royal Military Police,” he says showing his ID. Miss Julie starts to well-up.
“This has gone far enough,” I say and Miss Julie breaks down.
Her boys call from inside the car, “Mum? Mum! Can we go now?”
“Not now, Matthew. I’ve had that Fiona woman calling and threatening me at the nursery; that her husband’s The General, that she’ll have me arrested and now you’re here. It’s too much because she (pointing aggressively at me) said I could park here to save me a few quid, but honestly I wish I’da just paid cos I really could do without this hassle.”
Me: “You can’t blame me. I was just trying to help. It’s the Parking Nazi. Everyone knows she’s nuts…”
Simon steps in. “I’ll handle this. (To me) Go and look after the children.”
I look at him in disbelief. “What the actual…? You told Fiona you knew nothing about this so why don’t you go and look after the children?”
“What’s happening?” calls Granny from the door.
“Nothing!” We both reply in unison.
Granny: “Need any help?”
“No.” We say again firmly.
“The last thing we need is your mother involved.” Granny is already putting her Kurt Geiger orthopaedics on.
Me: “Alright!” I walk over to corral Granny and prevent her from getting close to the scene; I wave for Miss Julie to follow.
Miss Julie, my parents, the children and I all crowd around the kitchen sink to watch through the window. Si, Buck and the RMP chap are laughing, hands on hips, thumbs in stab vest, looking very macho – well, as macho as you can in powder-blue lyrca and plastic cycling shoes.
I provide a running commentary. Me (as the men): “Ahhahha. The little women have got involved, dealing with things they don’t understand, but luckily we’re here to save the day.”
Miss Julie: “Honestly, I am so stressed out by this.”
Me: “Let’s go and get the boys from the car.”
Miss Julie: “No don’t! They’ve got iPads.”
Mandy rushes in with her two tots. “The General and his Rottweiller’s back!” Sienna is thrilled to see Arthur. “Police! Nee-nor, nee-nor!” she says pointing through the window.
Arthur: “I went in the police car, Sienna.”
Mandy: “No you didn’t. They talk such b****cks.”
Granny and Roge look rather surprised, even though they’ve met Mandy before. “Hello Mandy. Hello” Everyone exchanges pleasantries. Mandy gives Miss Julie a hug and we all continue to peer through the kitchen window. The General is now talking to the RMP officer, pointing at the Miss Julie’s Vauxhall.
Me (as The General): “This criminal has blocked me in.”
Me (RMP Officer): “Nursery teacher.”
Mandy (as Fiona): “She’s not meant to park here. She’s not a resident. It’s in breach of their lease.” She says pointing in the direction of our house. I lock eyes with Fiona through the the kitchen window, she evil stare burns my retina, argh! I duck down below the sink.
And then I suddenly I remember THE WALL. And in a haze of adrenaline, I march outside with my game changing information.
Fiona: And here’s the lady who’s caused all the trouble.”
Me: “I gave you a pot plant. (To the RMP officer) Forget about the parking, surely that’s criminal damage?” I say pointing at the smashed up wall.
Granny is standing in the doorway again looking helpless with a screaming Vita in her arms and, in all the excitement, I have a massive let down of milk. Circles start to form on my pink RL shirt (TK Maxx £18), the RMP officer is mesmerized by the growing globes, but manages to snap himself back into professional mode. I cross my arms in a look of defiance to hide my milk wheels, but bringing my arms together across my swollen mammaries has squeezed them together and now a map of the Americas is emerging on my shirt.
“Did you knock down the wall, General?” Says the RMP officer curtly. Si, Buck and I nod slowly. Fiona is about to go ballistic, but the General quickly reigns her in whispering in her ear, probably something pervy like ‘you can walk over me in your red stilettos later, you sexy hussy, but let me handle this now.’
General: “Yes, I did it in order to move my car.”
RMP Officer: “Well you need to put it back or I’ll have to take action.”
The General puffs himself up and takes charge. “Okay officer, I understand your position. Major Kettle, Sergeant Warren rebuild this wall by Tuesday 18:00.”
“Yes Sir,” they say with sarcasm.
The RMP officer is satisfied and he walks back to his gold Astra, the General and Fiona return to their house and Si and Buck stride over to our house in clatter of plastic shoes and chaffing lycra, incandescent with rage. I overtake them to change my soaking shirt.
Inside they update the troops and I, now in my trusty polyester flamingo shirt, feed a hungry Vita.
Buck: “He’s only ordered US to rebuild HIS wall. Who does he think he is? Donald Trump and we’re the bloody Mexicans?”
Si: “This is where we live. I will not have that bastard pulling rank here.”
Buck: “I’m not doing it. He can shove his wall up his arse.” says Brummie Buck.
Miss Julie: “I’ll rebuild it. I feel terrible, it’s all my fault.”
“No one does anything,” says Si. “And you must continue parking here, Miss Julie.”
Miss Julie: “I really don’t want to. I just wanna go home.”
Si: “No, sit down, Miss Julie. You are our guest and I’ve had enough of all these third rate senior officers throwing their weight around when they’ve been NOWHERE and the only contact they’ve seen is a Daily Disposable Lense. F*** him! He is not going to win.”
There is a rustle and a thud as something is slipped through the letterbox. Simon exits and returns opening a letter. He wafts it in front of me. It’s an estimate for the repair of the antique ‘throne’ from a Chelsea antique shop.
£575 + VAT.
I show Granny. She promptly tears it up and puts it in the bin. “It’s not worth 10. Woodworm-eaten thing. I should counter claim for my back and head injuries.” She gently touches her Peppa Pig plaster with her fingertips.
Marvellous. So it’s war all round then. In fact it’s MUTINY.
And all because I innocently let a nursery teacher park her car on The Patch and I didn’t get Blagorodna to babysit. Brilliant.