The Wonder of Wetherspoons

Christmas and Culture in Margate

We spent Christmas with Team H in Margate and as Team AK were also coming down we volunteered to stay at the Premier Inn.

Premier Inn is a British hotel chain and the UK’s largest hotel brand, with more than 72,000 rooms and 800 hotels.

On our various trips and breaks we do stay at blogworthy bed and breakfasts and hotels of character and weirdness, but Premier Inns are a good choice if the location is handy. You know what to expect; the rooms are big enough, the beds comfortable and everything is purple. The Margate Premier Inn is by the railway station, looks out to sea and the walk to the home of Team H takes us within view of many cultural landmarks.

1.jpg
We have stayed a good few times and never had a room with a sea view, this time we did, but the view was blocked by the air conditioning unit on top of the Brewer’s Fayre pub and restaurant below. But the winter afternoon was drawing in and it was time to check in with the rest of the family, then back to the sea front for another family tradition – dinner at Wetherspoons.

3
J D Wetherspoon plc is a pub company in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Founded in 1979 by Tim Martin, the company operates nearly 900 pubs and a growing number of Wetherspoon hotels. The company is known for converting unconventional yet attractive premises into pubs.

Another chain where you know what to expect, Tim is obviously a chap who, unlike most politicians, cottoned on to what people want. Cheap pub food, refillable coffee cups, meals served from morning till night and a relaxed place where you can take your granny or your grandchild. As you order at the bar, or with your smart phone, you can wander in and out for a handy loo visit or perhaps hang out all day. The added bonus for writers is that you can watch all sorts of people and for photographers many of the branches are in amazing buildings rescued from neglect. Another interesting fact; it is claimed that every Wetherspoon has a different pattern of carpet, inspired by the location and specially woven; you can even buy a book about them.

11

The Margate Wetherspoon has just been refurbished and now boasts comfy booths where you can charge up your various electronic gadgets. The walls are adorned with framed snippets of the town’s history. It is called The Mechanical Elephant, recalling the creature that used to give rides along the promenade in the 1950’s. This little bit of history inspired my short story ‘Thanephant an Elephantasy’ which was included in Thanet Writers’ anthology ‘Shoal’.

On Christmas Eve morning it was time to return to Wetherspoons for breakfast, but first another cultural landmark. At this end of the main sands is the Victorian Nayland Rock shelter. In the late Autumn of 1921, the bank clerk poet T.S. Eliot came to Margate on doctor’s orders to convalesce. He was in a fragile state physically and mentally and took a tram to sit on the seafront every day. While looking out at the expanse of grey water, watching children playing and war veterans exercising on the beach, he drafted part of The Waste Land.

13.jpg
“On Margate Sands/ I can connect/ Nothing with nothing/”
I have to confess I haven’t read The Wasteland, but I have just downloaded it onto my Kindle for 99pence.

22

Margate is on the Isle of Thanet, a real island until a few hundred years ago. It is on the east coast of Kent, but actually faces north across the Thames Estuary, so the sea can be grey on a grey day. The first day trippers used to come by steamer down the Thames.
On Christmas Eve morning the sun had come out and on the beach we saw the new attraction, a recreated bathing machine; the steam arising from the roof gives a clue to its secret, it is actually a sauna. I was almost envious of the chap emerging from the sea to clamber inside.

10

Near the Mechanical Elephant is Dreamland. Amusements have been on this site since 1880, it was first called Dreamland in 1920 when the Grade 2 listed Scenic Railway wooden rollercoaster was opened. After going into decline early this century and being closed down there was a public campaign to restore the park and it re-opened in June 2015.

6

Dreamland’s morale has been greatly boosted by the opening of the Turner Contemporary Gallery in 2011, bringing a big buzz to the town. Cheap property prices and a fast train route to London have brought artists and fresh blood into the town – DFLs Down From London. The gallery is built on the spot by the harbour where the painter JMW Turner’s landlady had her boarding house.

7
At the end of last year the Turner Prize took place in Margate, the four artists exhibited at the gallery and the award ceremony was held in the Hall-by-the-Sea in Dreamland. It was an unprecedented event as the prize was shared between the four artists.

25

Our Christmas break finished with a family breakfast at Brewer’s Fayre. If you are staying at Premiere Inn and want breakfast this is where you go, sneaking in a secret door at the back…

Brewers Fayre is a licensed pub restaurant chain, with 161 locations across the UK, known for serving traditional British pub food and for their Sunday Carvery.

There are several advantages to be enjoyed, refillable coffee cups, up to two children under fifteen can eat for free at the breakfast buffet and there is a soft play area where your toddler can end up well beyond reach and stuck there forever unless you persuade him to come down in the slide tube. If your child is a strapping fourteen year old they will be too big for soft play, but can eat twice as much as the adults for free!

23

Where do you like to stay when you are away? How many doctors these days advise their patients to go on holiday to convalesce and write?

Part of my novel ‘At The Seaside Nobody Hears You Scream’ is set in Margate.

The Game of Life – Final Rounds.

When my mother planned her funeral five years ago she could never have imagined the service at her local church would be streamed live across the world. Covid has changed how we deal with death, before and after. Mum had outlived my father by twenty four years, at 94 she was happy and ready to go. She was the same age as The Queen and David Attenborough, who are still hale and hearty, but that’s the game of life.

I wrote my first Game of Life blog in November 2018; here is part of what I wrote.

We have to leave Summertown, the days of being recycled teenagers are over. There is a very real possibility that Cyberspouse will be outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh and my mother.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2018/11/07/the-game-of-life/

Cyberspouse outlived my mother by just over a month, he has been outlived by the Duke of Edinburgh. In this Covid world those with terminal illnesses are among the many who have been isolating and shielded at home, not to cheat death, but to have it on their terms. Cyberspouse achieved his aim of never going near a hospital again; happy sleeping a lot and just doing what he felt like doing. For most of those six months we were on our own, though with various medical teams at the other end of the phone. You can read about our life in lockdown here.

https://tidalscribe.wordpress.com/2020/05/20/the-game-of-life-covid-19-edition/

 Covid restrictions eased in August and we soon needed to make up our own rules so family could come and help. It was only in the last fortnight that the district nurses and Marie Curie nurses parachuted in; they were marvellous and worthy of their own blog.

There has been plenty of dark humour along the way. Cyberspouse was always adamant he did not want a funeral, very handy as traditional funerals are difficult or impossible with Covid.

Anyone dealing with cancer or illness reading this, don’t let it scare you; every case is different. Friends much older than us, sending sympathy cards, have had cancer and other dices with death years ago… open heart surgeries, body parts removed and they are still here, that’s the game of life.

Colin Campbell Gogerty 24th January 1952 – 2nd September 2020

Coming soon – The Game of Death 2020

Friday Flash Fiction – Flat Earth Society

Vanden came back a hero, nobody had flown that high into upper space before. Even as he negotiated the precarious landing he was planning his next take off; he had to discover more, find out if his amazing theory was correct. But would the high council even believe him, let alone invest in another skyblast and a three person expedition. First he must address The Academy, his safe return did not in itself prove anything and it would take a while for his team of experts to interpret the telescopic recordings.

The ageing president spoke to the learned gathering first. ‘The fact that Space Chief Marshall Vanden has returned is proof indeed that upper space is finite, otherwise he would surely have been propelled further and further into infinity, never to return.’

‘Your honour,’ the vice president stood and bowed, a tight smile on her face ‘our rocketgalleons are programmed for reversal after 35% of crew sustainable capacity has been used, but the magnetron telescope saw far yonder with no sign of an ending.’ She nodded to Vanden to speak before the president could utter more foolish words.

‘Your honour, our ancestors thought our earth was finite, they feared to climb any mountain lest they topple over the other side into hell. Then a few brave women climbed the highest peak and what was on the other side, but more land stretching endlessly in every direction. Each generation has travelled, hunting, roaming, farming, multiplying so that their children in turn set forth to find new land. There is always new land and always will be, we are not a table top held up by a giant, but an infinite earth that I saw from upper space; our land has no edges, no corners, no curves, just beautiful undulations and landscapes of every hue. And what of the depth? How far down have we mined for the precious elements we need for our cities and our galleons? If it were possible I believe we could excavate down and down and never reach rock bottom. And so it is with upper space, infinite in height as the earth is infinite in depth.’

There was a cheer from at least half the gathered assembly and a young man stood up. ‘Should not the mind of Academecians be as infinite as creation? How high must be the mega stars that give us heat and light. Vanden has not even approached them, otherwise his rocketgalleon would have melted.’

Another voice called out cynically ‘Stars, did you count how many or shall you tell us there is an infinite number?’

‘They are infinite, but stars are not all that is beyond our reach. The magnetron detected reflected light from orbs, orbs of rock and land; I believe above us is a universe so different that the impossible is possible. Round earths with an atmosphere surrounding them, the same as the mighty layer of air that blankets us and perhaps…’

No one was agreeing now, everyone was on their feet exclaiming, gesticulating, but Vanden was determined to finish what he had to say.

‘…perhaps on these round earths there might be life, even intelligent life like us.’

Now there was uproar, the vice president pleaded for silence, it behove the dignity of The Academy to let the president answer.

‘Now we know for sure that the mind of our poor brother, our esteemed Space Chief Marshall, has sadly been affected and if he is not insane he surely speaks blasphemy. How could there be life on a ball of earth… people? They would surely fall off. There is but one earth that has no end, one body of air we breath and high above us the stars that warm us and nothing else.’

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Summer 2020- Pot Luck- #FlashFiction – Friday Flash Fiction 575 – Bonfire by Janet Gogerty

Today is my second week being a guest at Sally Cronin’s Smorgasbord where she is sharing bloggers’ posts from earlier this year. Here is a pre Covid flash fiction…

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives… and I will be picking two posts from the blogs of those participating from the first six months of 2020. If you don’t mind me rifling through your archives… just let me know in the comments or you can find out the full scope: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

This is the second post from author Janet Gogerty and this week I have selected a flash fiction piece from January 2020 when Brexit was looming and we thought that was all we had to worry about.. until March came rollicking in….

Friday Flash Fiction 575 – Bonfire by Janet Gogerty

I walked down the hill to Tuckton Village and passed boarded up shops; as I rounded the bend I saw the guards at the bridge over the River Stour turning people away; it was true…

View original post 882 more words

Smorgasbord Posts from Your Archives – Summer 2020- Pot Luck- #Travel – Au Revoir or Adieu? by Janet Gogerty

Sally Cronin is sharing recent posts from other bloggers – read how I saw Covid earlier this year!

Smorgasbord Blog Magazine

Welcome to the current series of Posts from Your Archives… and I will be picking two posts from the blogs of those participating from the first six months of 2020. If you don’t mind me rifling through your archives… just let me know in the comments or you can find out the full scope: Posts from Your Archives – Pot Luck – 2020

This is the first postfrom author Janet Gogerty and this week a post from Janet’s archives in February of this year.. which, six months later is still very current.

Travel – Au Revoir or Adieu?

Whether you jet set on business or love going on cruises, you can’t have failed to notice there are more hazards to travel lately. Your cruise ship may weigh anchor and keep all the passengers hostage – in quarantine because of Coronavirus, which we now have to call Covid19, though…

View original post 998 more words

Sunday Short Story – 575 – School Uniform

Freddy was glad he wasn’t Scottish; Scottish children had to go back to school in August, but when he heard his parents talking about school uniform he felt those butterflies in his stomach. September was coming too soon and the Prime Minister said everyone had to go back to school now. When he heard his parents talking to the other grownups at the barbeque he hoped maybe it wouldn’t happen.

Can’t see how it will work, bubbles, ridiculous…

Bubbles, were stupid. When they went to see Grandma and Grandad in their bubble, he thought they would be floating in a gigantic rainbow bubble and he would push and be sucked in with a loud pop. When they got to their house and went round to the back garden for a picnic, there was no bubble; Grandma and Granddad were just sitting in their house waving through the patio door. Freddy wasn’t even allowed to go indoors and play with Daddy’s old Lego. What would a school bubble look like? Perhaps they would blow bubbles instead of doing work.

On Sunday morning Freddy’s bubbly thoughts popped when he realised Mummy was talking to him.

‘Hurry up and finish your breakfast, we want to get to the shops as soon as they open, Marks and Spencer for your uniform, then Clarks to have your feet measured.’

‘I don’t want to go to the shops, it’s too windy.’

‘But you like having your feet measured on that magic machine.’

‘It’s not magic and I don’t need new shoes.’

On the way to the shops he sat in the back seat of the car while Mummy and Daddy argued in the front seat, like they usually did.

‘Sunday, who goes shopping for school clothes on a Sunday?’ said Daddy.

‘No one, it will be lovely and quiet.’

‘I don’t believe it, the car park’s full.’

‘We shouldn’t have left it to the last minute, we’re never going to get all Freddy’s stuff for school.’

Freddy’s spirits soared, he couldn’t go to school if he didn’t have his uniform and PE stuff.

‘I don’t mind if I can’t go to school.’

‘Don’t worry, even if you have to go to school in your pyjamas you are going’ laughed Daddy.

Pyjamas… Freddy imagined himself sitting in the classroom with his Lego pyjamas on and everybody laughing, especially …

‘Come on, jump out, we’ll park here and walk down the road to the shopping centre’ said Daddy.

Oh no, look at that queue for Clarks’ said Mummy ‘and for Marks, well we’ll just have to be patient, oh there’s Sarah, look Freddy, Annabel’s here with her Mummy and Daddy.’

Freddy felt shy, Annabel looked different, then she smiled as the grown ups started chatting, standing carefully apart. Freddy smiled back, but couldn’t think of anything to say.

Annabel’s mummy had plenty to say.

‘How is it going to work? One child coughs and the whole class gets sent home? Or you get to school and they take Freddy’s temperature and say too high, he has to go home…’

Freddy’s smile got bigger as Annabel started laughing, then whispering, creeping nearer.

‘Freddy, when we get to school, let’s do coughing.’

He remembered what his parents were always saying when they had that hot weather. Stop running around getting too hot. All he had to do was run around and cough a lot and everybody would get sent home from school…

Silly Saturday – Word Blitz Worries

My name is Tidalscribe and I am a Word Blitz Addict.

Of course that is not my real name, we don’t give our real names at the Word Blitz Support Group. I might be able to wean myself off this demonic word game; after all, there was the time I was obsessed with Quiz Planet – perhaps no one wanted to play with me any more, that’s how I came off it. But Word Blitz is stopping me writing or reading blogs and if I pick up my phone or go on the computer and find nobody has played their round, that it is not yet my turn to play again, I am filled with irrational rage disappointment, I need a round before I can check my emails or write a flash fiction.

‘Word Blitz is an action-packed word game where you can face off against your friends and other players. Form words from letters randomly arranged on the playing field. Play every word you can find and get the most points! Don’t forget the bonus fields to step your points up a notch!’

I don’t actually understand the tactics or the scoring and I certainly have no idea who I am playing with; the whole world or friends I actually know in real life, the ones that got me trapped in the first place. I am too busy trying to make words out of sixteen letters, before the time runs out, to have a battle plan. Using X seems to be good, so does having SEX.

The best thing about playing the game on your phone is the annoying ping it makes every time you get a word, delightfully irritating for anyone nearby. But alas, they get their revenge by interrupting you. Word Blitz requires your full attention and there is no time for interaction with human beings or pets. If you are playing against me, the reason for my bad score is not poor brain power or lack of hand eye coordination, but inconsiderate ringing of the doorbell or house phone or inconsiderate inane utterings of humans or dogs.

Do any of you out there need help. Word Blitz is not the only mind pandemic. There are people who have been playing the same scrabble game on line for years, unable to stop…

Friday Flash Fiction – 700 – Bookshelves

Vivienne waved goodbye to her daughter’s family with relief, the sun shone on her front garden once more now their campervan was gone. Peace in her little road did not last long as a large white van pulled up outside her front gate. What on earth had her son ordered this time? Yesterday it was a big bag of clothes and a large box of books from Amazon, she had not realised James was so fashion conscious and intellectual. A skinny young chap was hefting a huge box from the back of the van, fortunately James appeared at the front door and rushed out onto the front path.

Can you make sure the front door stays open Mother?’

Vivienne wedged open the door then retreated upstairs to the sanctuary of her front bedroom and gazed out of the window in amusement at the two men’s body language. Customers were not supposed to help, but stay a safe distance; now the delivery driver was taking a picture of the box on the garden path as proof of delivery, he hadn’t made it as far as the front door. As she turned away from the window she noticed the ironing board was propped against her wardrobe and her sewing machine was stuck on top of the chest of drawers. It was bad enough having a divorced son in his forties taking over her sewing room as a bedroom, now he was throwing her stuff out.

There was banging and huffing coming from the landing as the box made it to the top of the stairs, followed by James.

‘I’ll have to unpack it on the landing, make sure all the bits are there.’

‘What on earth is it and where is it going?’

‘In my bedroom, so it won’t affect you. It’s a stylish bookcase.’

‘For all your new books? At least they won’t be cluttering up the living room… have you joined The Open University?’

‘I have already got a degree Mother, remember. I might even read them, but the main task is to get them ready for my television appearance tomorrow. Cassie and I will be on Breakfast Television as representatives of MPJ and important businesses in general.’

Television really, oh I must phone…’

NO, no, it might be only a brief clip, but they will probably replay it all day.’

‘So is Cassie coming here?’

‘No, it’s all remote television now, Cassie will be in her living room with the vivarium and her interesting plants as background. She’s going to talk about MPJ helping the homeless, while I discuss the challenges of getting people back to work versus encouraging them to work from home, with the added bonus of the homeless staying in redundant office buildings.’

‘Well that won’t work, I was just reading in The Big Issue that converting office blocks into totally unsuitable homes is not the way forward.’

‘Perhaps you could get the BBC to interview you… in the meantime I have to create a new aesthetic for my office and the right image for me.’

Vivienne retreated to the garden to inspect the damage done by the grandchildren. From upstairs came much banging and swearing. When that was over James appeared with a cup of tea for her.

‘Where’s that nice photo of the twins, the one in the brass frame?’

‘I thought you had seen enough of Justin and Jacintha this week?’

He laughed. ‘I have, but they would look good on the bookshelf and what about that unusual ornament you brought back from Greece and the Buddha your friend gave you?’

On Friday morning Vivienne was up early, sitting in the living room with a cup of tea; she had crept around, not daring to make a sound in case broadcasting had started upstairs. It was a few moments before she realised it was James talking; she did not recognize her back bedroom sewing room at all. ‘The Office’ had sophistication and character. James should have been a set designer and he himself looked very suave, she felt rather proud. She had no idea what he was talking about, but perhaps the presenters and other viewers would.

Unmasked

After months of indecision and confusion from our leaders we are finally wearing facemasks – a bit. On public transport and for customers in shops it’s official, though without much hope of enforcement. Staying at home as a full time carer, the only shop I have been to is the tiny Boots’ pharmacy attached to our doctors’ surgery. Actually lots of people aren’t going to real shops; busy working couples who have been doing on line shopping for years and the ‘vulnerable’ who have discovered on line shopping and don’t trust anything the government says.

At our little chemist the staff have always worn masks and only let one person in at a time, so it feels safe, with the added benefit of privacy for discussing personal medical stuff. But I miss the jolly days crammed in with bored toddlers and having a joke with bored adults as we all waited and wondered who would hit the jackpot and get their prescription next or at all. And of course listening in to other people’s strange medical problems or listening in to the medical problems of strange people…

In Covid times we wait outside, not too many people, but with plenty of opportunity for confusion. You may think someone is pushing in, but they are making their way to the outer door of the surgery to ring the bell and report to the all powerful receptionist, who tells them to wait outside until summoned on their mobile phone; leaving them with the dilemma of which queue to stand in. The rest of us are either queueing to go in to the pharmacy or have already been in but have to wait for our prescriptions.

On my first visit with official mask wearing I got a tickly cough ( NOT a Covid cough ) as soon as I got inside – what to do? Rip off mask and take a sip out of my water bottle? NO, not allowed to touch mask let alone remove it.

One of the regular staff is always friendly and helpful, but a good while ago he was away and when he came back had lost his voice, reduced to a whisper, that was okay without a mask… I had no idea if he could hear my mask voice properly; I was there to collect new prescriptions, with either no idea what they were called or how to pronounce them and also to explain that as we were having a regular medicine in liquid form could we cancel the repeat prescription for the capsules… He checked the computer screen and the bag of medicines and the forms, but he may as well have been speaking in Martian. I understood only his last whispered words Address, post code – for a moment I thought the mask would make me forget my own address, but I managed that bit and just hoped what was in the heavy bag was all the correct stuff.

As I was leaving I did feel, in my stuffy mask, on a hot day, looking forward to taking it off as soon as I got round the corner…  I did feel at last I was part of the Covid Community.

As I was leaving, another staff member came out to give a lady her prescription and asked her address, the woman instinctively pulled down her mask to say her address…

Silly Saturday – Careless Carers

Since the start of the pandemic many people have found themselves being carers for the first time; isolated with granny, uncle’s paid carers not able to visit or caring for Covid survivors in the family. Happily most people seem to have risen to the challenge, but it takes real skill to become a Careless Carer.

Some of you may have become carers without even realising it…

HOW TO RECOGNISE IF YOU ARE A CARER

You are a carer if you are busy gardening and a cup of coffee does not appear at the back door.

You are a carer if you yell DOORBELL! And nobody goes to answer the front door.

Ditto if you yell PHONE! And nobody goes to pick up the landline or the mobile phone left upstairs.

WHAT WILL A NORMAL DAY BE LIKE FOR A CARELESS CARER?

Take water, the wrong tablets and a cup of tea to the special person, who will remind you they always have coffee in the morning. Tell them you will be back in ten minutes to help them shower.

Now it’s time for you to have a quick cuppa ready for a busy day – take your time and check all the social media on your phone, share some Facebook Covid jokes, go in the garden and take a few pictures for Instagram, phone friend to tell them how busy you are… forget to turn shower on to warm up…

It’s important to answer the phone promptly, it could be a medical person to ask how things are and tell you no one can come to visit. Or it could be a friend and now is your chance to be properly careless, have a good chat, maybe they are lonely, fed up or hating working from home, discuss last night’s drama on television. Can you believe the time and you haven’t even got breakfast ready yet… then you remember you left your caree in the shower!

Ask the precious one what they would like for breakfast, even though it’s nearly lunchtime and forget what they said by the time you get in the kitchen.

Forgetting is a key attribute of the Careless Carer and the opportunities are infinite;

Forget to turn on the radio or television

Forget to turn off the radio or television

Forget to open/close curtains, windows, doors.

Forget to bring or put within reach glasses, newspaper, book, TV controls, mobile phone, ipad and the cup of coffee you forgot to make an hour ago.

Good luck.

Friday Flash Fiction – 700 -Two Months To Live

If Sonya had known her ex husband would survive a good deal longer than two months she would never have let him come back. If Sonya had known a pandemic would come along and trap him in isolation with her, two weeks after he moved in, she would never have let him over the front door step.

When he had phoned her early in March and told her he only had two months to live, she was shocked. Sonya hadn’t seen him for years, didn’t even know his second wife had booted him out and kept the house. It seemed a Christian, a human thing to do; she imagined the alternative, the father of her children found in two years time, mummified in his dreadful bedsit. To care for him in his last weeks would bring closure to both the good years and the bad. One of her daughters said she was insane and on no account must she let him anywhere near her home. The other daughter said of course she must help him, he was her father after all and she would soon be back from Thailand to help. The kindly daughter was still in Thailand and the sensible daughter still in New York.

At first he did a few DIY jobs, they Facetimed the girls together and he made a good job of settling his few possessions in the back bedroom and making it homely. He assured her various medical teams and charities were on his case and all she would have to do was a bit of cooking.

Then he got his letter from the Prime Minister telling him he was very vulnerable and must not leave his house. Her house Sonya pointed out to him. The letter reminded him how frail he was and he couldn’t even help wash the dishes. His medical support teams could not visit because of Covid 19 and he no longer qualified for help from the charities as he was no longer homeless.

A new routine was soon established, as if they had always been carer and invalid in the midst of a pandemic. Sonya was heartily grateful for her rescue dog, the perfect excuse to get out of the house for exercise and a chance to have socially distanced chats with neighbours and other dog walkers. Vivienne down the road she had hardly known before, but now she and the dog would pause by the front gate when Vivienne was in the garden and discuss on line shopping. The other woman would complain about her divorced son who had moved back in and Sonya would regale her with the latest domestic dramas.

Her ex husband had his good points, well she vaguely recalled he did in the early years of their marriage, sense of humour, carefree attitude to life. That young man was long gone and his most irritating features were enhanced by illness. The husband who had once been glued to the television with football, war movies and endless crime dramas involving noisy car chases and shootings, now complained about the noise if she listened to Jeremy Vine on the radio and griped that the television was doing his head in if she tried to watch Celebrity Chef.

When he received another letter from the Prime Minister saying he could go out and about on the first of August, he showed a rare spark of life and decided it would be good for him to come out with Sonya and the dog. This was how she found herself today, plodding wearily back down their road, trying to hang on to the dog’s lead and being told to mind the bumps as she pushed his wheelchair. She had not seen Vivienne lately, only to be expected as Vivienne’s daughter and family were staying. A large camper van was parked outside her friend’s house and the door suddenly swung open as they passed, just missing the wheelchair. Two children tumbled down the steps and flew through the garden gate to the front door, yelling to be let in.

 ‘Bloody children, bloody camper vans’ said Sonya’s ex husband in a loud voice, just as Vivienne opened her front door and waved to her friend.