A Rugger's Boxing Day in London
‘Was it really?’
‘We lot’ll say: a two-day turnaround interval on your end? Why, for a precedent you’d have to go all the way back to the primeval autumn months of ought-five.’
‘Hang about-stroke-before we go any further: didn’t I stipulate towards the end of the last one that you lot were to keep completely mum for the full juration of this one?’
‘Yeah. And since you’re apparently in the mood for a pube crab-picking contest, let us remind you that we lot never agreed to the stipulation.’
‘Even-fucking-not so, seeing as how we never seconded your second “Agreed?”’
‘Fuck me with a rolled-up solicitor’s contract if you ain’t right. Well, so much the better for me, who thus finds himself mercifully unhoist with his own defectively-engineered Jean-Luc.’
‘Whateverthefuck a Jean-Luc is.’
‘Well, obviously, it’s malapropising slang for petard via Jean-Luc Picard.’
[YL, aside, amongst yourselves]: ‘Talk about your textbook example of a bloke with too much time on his Lesters.’
‘I heard that!’
‘Like we fucking shiv a git. Look, we get the picture: you’re pretty much saying it’s lucky for you that we ain’t trespassing after all. But why?’
‘Well, because, no sooner had I delivered the coup-de-Royal-Mail to the last post by hitting ye olde “publish-post” button with the forediggit of one hand, than I had occasion to smite me forrid in rabid cuntsternation with the hams of the other, upon its occurring to me that in promising to you lot that I’d skip over the Welsh-Xmas-centered episode and press on to the Herbert Hancockian-cum-Proctologitexan one, I had completely forgotten about yet another episode, a chronologically intervening one, that I’d best apprise you lot of; lest, in my having occasion—if only for cuntinuity’s sake—to breathe reference to it some moons hence, you lot’d then have occasion to kvetch at me for having—as you lot’d have seen it—deliberately served you the toasted stale bookends of a salt-beef sayngwich and kept the fresh savoury filling thereof for me own private chowdownerly enjoyment.’
‘And what savoury filling of an episode might this be?’
‘None other than the episode centring on my folks’ immejiate post-Xmas visitation of YFCT in London.’
‘Oh, yeah, of course. Now that you mention it, we do seem to recollect that as early as last summer you were already on the verge of shitting your knickers over that whole bidness—we mean, of who was to visit who and when and where come Xmastime.'
'Indeed, you lot do recollect aright.'
'So ultimately it all came out in the wash (i.e., of your soiled knickers)?'
'In the end, yeah--and, TBT, pretty well flush with the beginning, at least as far as the initial calendrical-stroke-cartographical partitioning of the holiday went. Cos Mum and Dad proved so far from putting up any kind of a stonewalling fuss in resistance to my initial, ever-so-tentative, eggshell minefield- traversing suggestion that for Esmeralda's sake I might be obliged to celebrate Xmas proper at the Houghington homestead, as positively to, welcome it, as they say, with open arms. "By all means," ejaculated they [actually Dad, but Mum was clearly on board] with gusto: "Go to Wales, troll the ancient yuletide carol jolly fellowship with the Houghingtons. Good heavens! It's only fitting and proper that you should meet them before we do." TBT, I was a bit disappointed despite meself in the ease--nay, the perverse triumphalism--of their acquiescence. TBT, it made me feel as though I'd just been downgraded and transmogrified from their unique, irreplaceable, face cheek-pinchworthy filial pride-'n'- joy into some dodgy, anonymous, infinitely-fungible pimp to their phantom future daughter-in-law, grandparents-in-law and grandchildren. But I lumped it in my stride--as I had no choice but to do--as I did their counter-suggestion to celebrate a second Xmas with me (and Esmeralda, natch) in London starting on eve of the day of my return from Wales--viz., Boxing Day, the 26th. And as it is on this 26th day of December last that the episode in queue commences, I am thus brought full circle back to the question of whether you lot are in the market for a retailing of this selfsame episode.'
'Well, that all depends.'
'Depends upon what?'
'Well, odd as this might sound, upon what you mean by that queer turner phrase "my folks".'
'Well, cos most folks--skewed us--cunts who turn that phrase think of it as a sort of phoney downmarket synonym for "my parents": it's like they're fucking embarrassed about the fact that they know what a telly or a marmite jar is, or that they didn't spend the better part of their yoof gelding bulls and sitting round a campfire with their folks swapping tales about the death of kings and whatnot. Such that if, on the one hand, you happen to be just such a typical "my-folks"-turning cunt, why, then, we'll have no further lorry with you or with your inevitably-ensuing account of your ever-so-decorous, 10-quid schlongtail ching-chinging chinwag with Esmeralda and mum-n-dad down at Enchai--'
'--That's Emchai, thank you very much--'
'--No, thank you very much for allowing us to rest the weary plates of our case upon the basis of that there anorakishly poshile correction. Don't you mind us; we'll be on our way in a jiffy--'
'--Hang about: before you set off, please at least humour me by showing your other "if" hand.'
'Fair-stroke-shaw 'nuff: "If, on the other hand, by means of 'my folks' you meant to conjure up, quite against the grain of the current idiom, some sort of Beverley-Hillbillies-esque image of a jalopified 1930s Studebaker crammed to the bonnet-gills with every living family member to the third remove, churning up in its slipstream a whirlwind of dust--together with the occasional live, desperately flight-seeking chicken--as it sputters its grudging, 35-m.p.h. way into town along the ancient High Road; and if--and only if--the actual visitation finished up being worthy of the conjured image, why, then--and only then--we'll think it worth our while to hear you out."'
'Right. As it so happens, I was aiming to conjure up that very counter-image; and at the same time, assuming that you lot would be charitable enough to mutate the necessary mutandi in adjustment to the peculiarities of our epoch and my own familial circumstances; thatistersay, to allow a bonnet gill-less 1980s Mini to stand in for a 1930s Studebaker, to allow Mum, Dad, Sid and Aunt Agatha to stand in for Jed, Grandma, Sally Mae (sic?), Jethro, &c; and, lastly, if not leastly, to do without the whole chicken-jettisoning module, inasmuch as no chickens were to be either had or desired by any of the parties concerned.'
'Never mind the chickens; and fuck our reservations through the cardboard innards of a loo-roll.'
'Really? But I thought you said-'
'--Yeah, and so we did do, but we were bluffing. Do you really meantersay that not only your mum and dad but also your younger brother and great aunt swooped down upon you on mass, right after Xmas?'
'Yes, I do do.'
'Well, then, firstoff, how did you attend to their lodging--you being, after all, the tenant of a humble maisonette, with naught but a single, queen-sized futon
in the front room for the accommodation of visitors?'
'That's a well-appointed question, if I do say so meself (and clearly such a ceremonious formula of modesty is in order here, given that you lot are, after all, the exclusive progeny of me own 'umble gourdita). And in answer to it all I can say is, "By the skin of me teeth-stroke-seat of me slacks"; in view of the pair of facts that 1) I had assumed the lot of them had booked a suite at some north-Londinian branch of the Hilton or Holiday Inn; b) that they had assumed there'd be plenty of room chaise mwah, and hence had not arsed themselves to book any such suite in any such hotel; the twin facts in queue having arisen out of a certain three-year-old cultural disconnect between Mum-'n'-Dad and myself--more specifically between my already fairly London-savvy self of '04 and their contemporary, totally London-unsavvy selves. You see, in phoning into them the report of my shifting of residence from a Whitechapel studio into a Barnet maisonette (neither genre of lodging, incidentally, being known in Diss), I had inadvertently rather overplayed the extent of the proper real-estateal upgrade involved therein; thatistersay, I had alluded merely to the imponderable quality-of-life differential between the tatty one-room flat I was moving out of and the proper two-storey house I was moving into, and never dreamt of mentioning that my practical net gain in total square-metreage could be encompassed by the combined footprints of a coupla telephone kiosks. And, given the reportorial context, why should I have so dreamt? After all, my main concern then (in '04) had been to reassure them that all those years of inculcating in me the nondenominational McGyverian work-ethic were continuing to yield dividends, as per schedule; that, having landed a proper professional job thanks to my certification in accountancy, I was accordingly moving into digs worthy of the holder of such a properly professional position. I mean, I can hardly be blamed for not having (then) been arsed to piece together the whole rosary or Smartie roll or breadcrumb trail of twos that might, in the very-best-casest of scenarios, have led me to an arithmetical destination only vaguely resembling the catastrophe that I was to be confronted by, eventually, in '06. TBS, a moment's Stella-uncontaminated reflection might (then) have yielded up the realisation that in Mum and Dad's provincial okies the word house needs must have signified by default a dwelling of the classic three up-three down type exemplified by the McGyver semi-homestead in Diss (as against the gnomishly anticlassical 1.5 up-two down dwelling I was actually moving into); along with the further realisation that Mum and Dad were in all probability unaware of the universally-recognised prohibition, amongst non-home-owning Londinians of a certain age, against the lodging of one's visiting senior relatives under one's own canopy; that they were IAPU of the fact that amongst my set that sort of thing was simply not done. And from this pair of realisations my counterfactually-teetotalling self might have conceivably derived the third one that I was in for a woild of hoit-cum-embarrassment should the two of 'em (i.e., Mum and Dad, not the realisations) ever deign or dare to pay me an overnight visit; that I would then be faced with the decidedly awkward choice between, on the one hand, kipping out in my proper boudoireal domain whilst relegating them to the futon (and thereby pretty much securing meself a butchers-dozen-or-so thousand frequent-flyer miles on the old parental-guilt red-eye) and, on the other hand, ceding the overnight usufruct of the bedroom to them (and thereby potentially broaching the tip of a mighty iceberg of weekend parental expeditions to the West End, in service of which my humble-stroke-hallowed maisonette would be routinely commandeered as a convenient pied-à-terre). But to have derived from this trio of realisations the fourther that M&D should some day concoct, on the basis of their unenlightened, 15th century cartographic-style misconceptions about the layout of me flat (skewed me, house) in tandem with their barbaric provincial notions of filial hospitality, a visitation scheme whose realisation would virtually necessitate an infringement of my borough council's fire codes--why, that would have demanded a well-nigh godlike, super-Holmesian presence of mind-cum-power of deduction (not to mention a well-nigh schizophrenic, super-Hughesian degree of paranoia).'
'We catch your drift, counterfactual-wise. But how did this collision of mutual misassumptions ultimately pan out, actual-wise?'
'Slowly and painfully, TBS, and attended-by-the-most-acute-degree-of-embarrassment-on-the part-of-everyone-concernedly. Cos, you see, I, having envisaged the whole visitation from a purely aesthetic parents'-okie povey (i.e., as a purely mechanical demonstration of the fruits of the aforementioned nondemoninational work ethic), set about giving the four of them the tour of the place in an attitchude of coolly disinnersted pride worthy of an estate agent who knows full well that in 20 minutes' time he'll be ushering his potential clients out the front door and immejiately thereafter luxuriantly abandoning himself to the solitudinal mercies of his own schlong-'n'-fist; little knowing that each of them was, for his or her part-stroke-in contrast, receiving it in an attichude of hotly innersted greed worthy of a newly-enrostered doss house-stroke-orphanage inmate who knows full well that within 20 minutes' time he's got to lay claim to a patch of turf or else abandon himself to the sodomitical mercies of his fellow inmates. TBS, though, I managed to pass the entire ground-floorular module of the tour in blissful oblivion of this discrepancy between their expectations and mine; in view of the of the fact that the overall layout of this ground floor--comprising as it did (albeit in miniature) the usual complement of two-up-two-down-ial amenities (i.e., front room-cum-kitchen-cum-shitter-cum-dining room-stroke-breakfast nook)--bade fair that the first floor would likewise comprise, at minimum, the usual round of 2U-2-Dee-ial amenities; viz. a second shitter flanked by a pair of ample bedrooms. It was only, TBS, upon flinging open the door of the first-floor front room ('Behold: the study!' I exclaimed, in my most resonantly triumphal basso) and revealing its complete furnitureal contents as a computer desk and bookshelf--the one separated from the other by a mere sausage-dog's-breadth of floorspace--that I began to sense the rising of visitorial hackles, and to suss out the efficient cause of their rising. Not that any of them said anything--quite the contrary: it was in virtue of their opting for total silence, in preference to the usual inconseuqential round of congratulations, that I managed to twig that what they really wanted to say was 'Hang about. If this here study is the front room of the first floor, then where's the first-floor front bedroom?'
‘And last but not least: the one and only bedroom.’
No sooner had I flung open the door leading into this final chamber of me own private Bluebeard’s Castle, than Sid broke ranks with the rest of the party and made a beeline straight for the bed, upon whose surface he immejiately, in flying-squirrel fashion, pitched the full length of his prone, spreadeagled person; and thence proceeded, first, to immerse his phiz in the recesses of one of the two pillows (by way--at least I so retrospectively conjecture--of blindfolding himself against all purely spectacular aesthetic considerations); next to scissor his arms and legs, to the chune of a butcher's-quarter-dozen cycles, along the full breadth of their (and the bed's) compass, like some sort of live-action arse-view of the classic Da Vincian human diagram; next, to deliver a few spirited pelvic thrusts into the dead centre of the mattress; and, finally, to rear himself up into a sedentary posture, with both heels resting squarely atop the valance and both hands splayed squarely splayed atop his knees, before delivering himself of the following rhetorical query:
'Do you really meantersay you actually sleep on this thing, Nige?'
'Most nights I manage to do, yes.'
'Cor, even with that sprung spring in the mid-left side? It's practically poking through the fabric.'
'I know and what can I say? I guess after the first five or so years I just got used to it.'
'And what about your lady friend, eh? I dare say she ain't got used to it yet.'
'Indeed not: so far she hasn't even got acquainted with it.'
'What the pit?! Not putting out, is she?'
At this point, I'm sorely tempted to clock the little fucker--that's right, even in the presence of Mum, Dad, Aunt A., and me own shirt buttons. And so I would have done, had not the riposte that occurred to me just then seemed a whit less effectual as means of rejuicing him to the proverbial tiny grease spot on the carpet: 'Nothing to do with that, Sid. It has to do, rather, with the fact that, being a fairly chivalrous sort of bloke [actually, I've never up till now fancied meself even an unfairly chivalrous sort of bloke--just, I suppose, as a twice-weekly showerer doesn't fancy himself even an unfairly personal-hygienically fastidious sort of bloke till he runs into a twice-yearly one], I always yield the right side to her.'
I await the ensuing distillation and precipitation of Sid's person. But it is not forthcoming. Instead, he presses on, AFF:
'Even so, Nige, there's bound to be a bit of crossover--you know, when she's coming to daddy; or, cuntrariwise, when you're coming to mummy.'
Anyone marginally less thick than Sid would be right on the verge, at this point, of discovering an especially embarrassing state secret of the Ruggerswelt: namely that it’s not Esmeralda but I who’ve been refusing to put out all this time, who’s played the old stereotypically feminine ‘not tonight, dear, I have a headache’ card on each and every upstairs, shay-mwah centred occasion when her friskiness has threatened to gain the upper hand. Mind you, it’d take a considerably less viscose intellect than Sid’s to pierce through the usual prosaic explanations of such masculine demurrals to the true cause of this particular set of ’em—namely, a paradoxically blokish fear that the least soup-son of a copular chinwag on the subject of the well-wornness of me mattress will inevitably catalyse some sort of Esmeralda-initiated (albeit largely Rugger-funded) bachelor-maisonette makeover project bottoming out (albeit not culminating) in an all-day, mid five figure-receipted shopping spree at the Wembley IKEA. But, anyway, as I was saying, Sid’s obviously too thick even to make a plough-dent in the topsoil of prosaic untruth, as I can tell by the ‘gotcha’-free guilelessness with which he’s apparently reveling in the naked tit-‘n’-bummish burlesqueness of the image conjured up by his rhetorically moronic ‘come to daddy-stroke-mummy’ switcheroo. Now abstracted from the present sitch, and viewed as disinnerstedly as my congenitally Sidophobic povey would have permitted, this spectacle of unregenerate gormlessness on his part would have elicited nothing on mine but a pronounced tension of me left supercilial muscle and a slight relaxation of me duodenal schphincter. But, alas! (or, perchance, thank Cor!), concreted into the selfsame present sitch is my dread at being misprised as a fellow who can’t get it up; a misprision of a sort that’s perforce-stroke-especially psychically detumescing to one of me relatively tender penile years (inasmuch as behind its dreadful shadow lurks the still more dreadful one of not wanting to get it up in the first place). Such that the realisation that Sid's light years away from arriving at such a misprision is enough to make me hug him, as I in fact do do, as if in disinnersted appreciation of his rhetorical genius ('Come to mummy, indeed! You always did have a flair for the vernacular, Siddy boy'), thereby bringing the whole filial set-piece to a close just in time to hear Dad's verdict on the maisonette, delivered, AFF, by way of accompaniment to a parabolic head-pan spanning the lower door-jamb and the wainscotting of the opposite wall:
'Worse than I expected, infinitely worse. But it'll have to do. Right, then: you, Martha and Auntie, will share the bed up here--'
'--I'm not sure the bed'll be up to their specifications,' cuts in Sid.
'Very well,' sniffs Dad. 'I suppose chivalry must take a back seat to professional expertise: Auntie and Martha, then, will share the fold-a-bed [i.e., the futon] downstairs, whilst you and I, Sidney, will bunk up here.'
'But what about me?' I mechanically (i.e., one-hundred-percent unsuspiciously and unresentfully) enquire.
‘What about you?’ Dad poses this inevitable counter-question in such a disarmingly innocent attichude of utter nonplussed-ness (in other words, at a complete right angle to the industrially-standardised rhetorical grain of the thing), that I am obliged to make a few in-flight, seat-of-the-knickers tonal adjustments to my pre-posally-framed ultra-stroppy—nay, well-nigh-filially impious—rejoinder:
‘I mean, where am I—who am, after all the sole leaseholder of this domicile, the lordling of the manorette as it were--going to sleep? Mind you [here’s where the adjustments start kicking in], I’ll be chipperly sporting enough to kip out on a pair of chairs in the breakfast nook if need be, but it’d be nice to know I’d been accounted for in the manifest of your stayover.’
‘Why, but you have been, Nigel.’
‘Are you quite sure about that, Dad?’
‘Sure as Shaw, Nige. That is, unless…[smiting his forrid in cuntsternation]…of course! How stupid of me not to have considered the possibility. And how tactful of you, Nige, to have thus far opted out of explicitly alluding to the actuality that it has seemingly turned out to be. I particularly approve of your judicious application of the menial “I”.’
‘Sorry, Dad, but, grateful as I am for the kudos, I haven’t the faintest idea of what you’re getting at.’
‘What your father appears to be getting at,’ chimed in Mum, ‘is that he believes that you and Esmeralda are already officially living together; that she hasn’t a place to call her own apart from this one; and that by “I” you’ve all along meant “we”: you and her. Am I right about any portion of this,
‘I couldn’t have précis'd the lot of it better myself, Martha.’
[YFCT, in the full flaming flush of rekindled (and one-hundred-per cent cuntishly duly disingenuous) filial impiety:] 'Well what the fu--erm, hell, has any of that got to do with where I'm poster kip tonight?'
[Mum again:] 'We'll get round to answering that question once you've answered this one: Is Esmeralda living with you, on a full-time and exclusive basis, or not?'
'Course she isn't. [Christ! It was all I could do to keep me hands clear of me top shirt-button.] As if you lot wouldn't have been the first to know if she was.'
[Mum again]: 'As if we wouldn't have been indeed [cutting Dad a sidewise slice of the old stink-eye], Stanley. Well, Nigel [cutting me a frontwise slice of the faux-smarmy glad-eye]: you're a bright lad. I trust that by now, on the basis of your answer to my question, you'll have twigged the answer to your question on your own, and that I needn't spell it out for you?'
'I dunno know, Mum. I'm not so sure I'm half as bright as you think I am. In fact, I might be so thick as to infer on that selfsame basis, and in the absence of a judicious application of your primary-pedagogical expertise, that I can look forward--should I so choose--to kipping out here tonight on me blissful lonesome, in me own bed, in the company of no living organism larger than a dust mite, upstairs or down.'[Dad, through a positively barometer-imploding scowl:] 'That'll do, Nigel. Now: clearly there's been some sort of...I daren't dignify the present perfect state of affairs by calling it a "misunderstanding"...so perhaps we'd do well enough to leave it unnamed and press on as best we can towards consigning it to an auspicious oblivion. I don't suppose you happen to have a local phone directory on the premises and at least fairly ready to hand?'
‘Don’t bother answering him one way or the other, Nigel,’ says Mum, even as I’m still summoning up the pneumatic resources needful for telling Dad that yes, I think there’s a dusty old ’03 edition on top of the fridge, if he’ll give a minute to fetch it: ‘A London telephone directory’s hardly going to be of any use for looking up the number of a Cambridgeshire hotel.’
‘So, you’re planning on scaling your stay-over down to a daytrip, are you?’
‘Yes, if you’re planning on barring your front door to us tonight.’
You could have said she was calling my bluff, if it weren’t for the fact that I’d pretty much had me full hand of assorted deuces and threes fanned with the pip-side facing outwards all along; such that the volume of pride I have to swallow before answering her AFF could have been measured in microlitres:
‘Cor, what kind of a son do you think I am, Mum? Of course you lot are welcome to stay. And of course I’m sure Esmeralda’ll let me stay with her. It’s just that knowing her—Christ, knowing anyone in the same situation—there’s bound to be at least a wee bit of friction to be smoothed out before she says yes, and that friction is bound to carry over into your first meeting with her, and I’d really rather like to avoid that if I can.’
‘Well, then, you should have thought of avoiding it weeks ago, when we worked out this little arrangement, by asking her then. Not that I can even remotely fathom why you should have needed to do.’
‘What? You think she should have read me mind—or rather, your mind, cos mine was never crossed by any thoughts along the lines in queue—and volunteered to let me stay over?’
‘At the very least. And it wouldn’t have been a question of reading anybody’s mind; but, rather, of merely having the barest smattering of finishing-school etiquette. Don’t you see, Nigel ? It’s simply commonsensically decent tit-for-tat: we agreed to give up spending Christmas with you—no mean sacrifice on our part in view of your father’s and my advancing age and dolorous genetic histories—so that you would be free to spend the holiday with your sweetheart and her family. In return, she should have been prepared to accommodate us, during our post-Christmas visit, to the fullest extent of her hospitalitative powers.’
'You mean, I take it, even to the extent of offering to put you lot up in her place?'
'Even thereto. From what you've told me, I gather hers is by far the bigger of the two residences.'
'You see now, I trust, why I blushed at the thought of availing myself of the Em-word. Clearly none of us--neither I myself; nor you, Martha; nor you, Nigel; nor, indeed (sorry, son), Esmeralda--has handled this matter of our accommodation in a W. G. Grace-worthy, sportsmanlike fashion. And now that our unsportingness is out in the open, like so many hectares of dirty laundry, and my efforts to, erm, as it were, keep the friction within the family have come to naught, it seems to me, Nigel, that the least painful of all courses of action would consist in your lumping it, as per your mother's suggestion, and begging Esmeralda's hospitality for just this one night. Should she be so, erm, ungracious as to refuse; why, then, we'll just have to high-tail it back to Norfolk and hope for more glasnost all around on the Christmas-planning front next year.'
'But speaking of keeping it all within the family, Dad: supposing I were to kip out here tonight, on the aforementioned pair o' chairs; and that we kept my hosting of you lot a secret from Esmeralda--such that, come the end of the night, we'd pretend to part company; I making me usual rumbles about "needing to get back to the old barn" and you lot (with a knowing wink or four) making your one-off rumbles about "needing to get back to the hotel"?'
'In that case, Nigel, your arithmetical lodging puzzle would be solved; inasmuch as you would have, at the very least, one less warm body [meaning his, natch] to accommodate.'
'Oh, of course, Dad. I was just testing you.'
'I should hope so. Well, son: I assume you would rather prefer to make this telephonic supplication in private?'
'All other things being equal, yeah.'
'Why, then, with your permission, Martha...'
[Mum, sunnily sportingly enough, ATC:] '...Granted...'
'...we'll be retiring downstairs for the nonce.'
'I'm ever so grateful for your patience. And please do--mind you, I'm sure I shan't keep you waiting for more than a minute--but make please do make yourselves at home. There's plenty of...[I fermata'd over a mental inventory of the fridge's meagre contents (more fallout of my telepathic deficiencies), viz: a butcher's half-dozen bottles of Hoegaarden, a half a loaf of Esmeralda's accursed organic whole-grain bread and a half a jar of her twice-accursed Marmite]...reading material on the coffee-table.'
So the four of them pack off downstairs; and I, with hand, heart and schlong of equally heavy specific gravities, lift up the receiver of me bedside blower, and punch in the diggits of Esmeralda's land-line. I am answered by a butcher's half-dozen ring tones segueing into her v-mail greeting; and so, with doubled heaviness on the part of all three members, I ring off and dial up her mobile. The ambient din of unintelligible human voices and equally unintelligible unhuman percussive effects that greets me oriole well in advance of her lackadaisical 'Hullo' attests cuntsternatingly (if unsurprisingly) enough to the fact that she is in some sort of public place; and, hence, utterly unprepared for any sort of condensation of the day's agenda.
'Where are you?' I demand with a well-nigh-cuntish and yet circumstantially called-for brusqueness.
'I'm at Sainsbury's. We're running low on dog food. Also, I was thinking it might be nice to pick up some little something or other for your folks, for when you lot swing by later. Any ideas?'
'Not at the moment [In fact, at the moment a bottle or two of Beaujolais sounds like a down-to-the ground-suiting idea, but the brusque genius of the chinwag forbids my suggesting it]. Look, the point of it is: they're here.'
'Here as in at your place, of course?'
'Well, then: everything's proceeding as scheduled. You lot are due at my place at noon, which gives them a full two hours to check into their hotel and freshen up--'
'--Ah, yes, but that's just it, you see: there's no hotel to be checked into; or, to put it another way, the hotel in question is located at ### Woodside Avenue, and they've already checked into it.'
[A butcher's two-dozen seconds of presumptively stunned silence; or, rather, presumptively stunned Sainsburyian din.]
'Well I never! I'm sure if the shoe were on the other foot, my parents would never dream of tenting in my house.'
'I'm sure they wouldn't do. But your parents are, after all, sometime outer-boroughial Londoners: they've at least sweated out enough standing-room-only genital-to-genital tube and bus journeys to appreciate the fact that what we crave most of all here in the capital, within our own domiciles, is elbow room; whereas my parents are genu-wine authentic rural provincials, the sort of ilk who positively look forward to rounding out their day in a sardine-tin of sweaty human bodies, seeing as how they've spent the preceding better part of it segregated from their fellow blokes and blokesses by a hundred or so cat-lengths.'
'Whatever you say, Nigel. The upshot of it is they're staying with you, and that's that?'
'More or less, yeah.'
'I was rather hoping for a simple, "Yeah", minus the "more or less".'
'Sorry to disappoint you on that score, darling; but in all fairness, you know the layout of the place as well as I do--thatistersay, you know that upstairs I've got the bed, which comfortably holds two; and that downstairs I've got the futon, which, in its unfolded state, slightly uncomfortably holds another two--'
'--Such that, being the fifth man out, you'll have no place to sleep?'
'Even so, I'm afraid.'
'Such that you'd like to stay at my place tonight whilst relegating your own to the status of a McGyver family beach house?'
'Well, I'm not sure I'd have phrased it in those terms--after all, they're a fairly well-behaved bunch, my lot--but essentially, yeah.'
'Well, speaking strictly on my own behalf, I think it's a perfectly capital idea. But you might want to run it by Lucy first.'
'Yeah, I mean in view of the fact that, seeing as how this is a Tuesday, she must be rather looking forward to spending the night at Uncle Nigel's in loo of Auntie Esmeralda's.'
Here, it suddenly struck me, like a B out of the B, what this whole S&D about needing to seek Esmeralda's 'hospititial permission' had been all about all along: namely, the safeguarding of Esmeralda's and my shared Lucy-sitting routine--which wasn't atoll tersay that I'd been consciously guilty of any sort of imposition on Mum and Dad, but rather and merely tersay that my unconscious, ever solicitous of me psychic and schpinctral integrity, and well aware of Mum and Dad's total ignorance of the existence of my implacably harsh second mistress (i.e., Lucy), had, if only for the juration of my interview with them, apparently seen fit to shift the burden of my server-side anxieties to the table and bedside of my infinitely more placable first one (i.e., Esmeralda).
Normally I shy away from these sorts of medicine-mannish explorations and explanations of me so-called inner life, but in this case I couldn’t help deferring to the professional testimony of no less eminent an authority than me own schphinter itself; which, having been as quiescent as 1989's Mt. Pinatubo throughout the recent intergenerational showdown, now began twitching and shuddering with a degree of seismic intensity I’d not registered down under since the last North London Derby.
Anyway-stroke-and so, by way of allaying these tremors via such meagre succor as wishful thinking could provide, I said, ‘We might try varying the routine—you know, just as a sort of one-off, tentative experiment.’
‘Have you been stricken with amnesia, Nigel? You know full well we’ve already tried this “experiment” two times, and I think your aggregated four-figure homicide-scene clean-up bill attests eloquently enough to the negativity of both outcomes.’
‘Well, the third time’s a charm, as they say. And besides: as you just reminded me, the last two trials took place on my turf, not on yours.’
‘And so should the third do! No offence, Nigel, but I’ve got a much heftier sum invested in my home furnishings than you’ve got in yours. Wherever Lucy is to stay tonight, it can’t be here.’
‘All right, all right, darling: say bien-effing-entendu. I trust I needn’t forewarn you that this non-automotive fiat of yours will inevitably eventuate in one of three scenarios—’
‘—yes, I know, and each of them as unthinkably horrible in its own way as the other two.’
‘Nice to know we’re at least both on the same page of the old Necranomicon. Well, we’ll be seeing you then, at your place--within the hour, I expect.’
‘Hang about, Nige. Before we ring off, oughtn’t we to decide which of three scenarios we’re going to plump for?’
‘Ought to do love, but unfortunately can’t.’
‘Right: can’t. Must immejiately answer…[grunt] most pressing … [pant] call of nature. Bye.’
Ten minutes later and a quarter-stone lighter, I'm practically moon-walking (in a strict, non-Jacksonian astronautical sense) downstairs and into the front room. And so salutary is the effect of my late purging of me lower intestine on me upper (i.e., cranial) one that I can take in the scene that greets me upon my arrival--viz., that of Aunt Agatha snoring, and sprawled out upon the armchair in a most unladylike posture; Sid sprawled out wide-awake on the futon in a most ungentlemanly posture, with head schlonged back and gob fastened round the neck of his fourth Hoegaarden; Mum most demurely and stroppily huddled against opposite corner of the 'ton, and pretending to pore over an item in the aforementioned coffee-tabular catalogue; and Dad definitively out of sight--in an attichude of cue cummer-worthy circumspection that would have been unthinkable 11 minutes earlier. Indeed, so Freud is me sang, so slack me lower lip, so fully present me presence of mind, that I manage to blow off and bypass Mum's immejiately subsequent initiation of her pre-fabbed book slamming shut-'n'-scowling ploy, along with Sid's simultaneous initiation of his equally pre-fabbed 'What's this piss you're drinking nowadays?'-bellowing ploy, with a curtly benign nod-'n'-grin, and, without missing a scheduled footfall, to press straight on into the kitchen, where--as I myself have only just emerged from the loo--their absent Generalissimo and Chief of Operations is presumably to be found.
And there I do indeed find him stationed arse-forwards at the wee sliver of counter-space separating the cooker from the sink, and adding the so-called finishing touches to what can only be, on the evidence of the squat telltale brown jar vying for slivular-territorial supremacy with the equally telltale brown loaf, a whole-grain marmite sandwich.
'Oh, Dad,' I can't help ejaculating in uncuntained cuntsternation, 'how could you?''How could I do what, Nigel?' he retorts, whilst fumblingly extracting the sandwich-qua-hot potato from its well-nigh forensically delineated counter-spatial stencil, and immejiately before swivelling round to face me in a disarmingly defensive hands-up posture (butter-knife in one hand and sayngwich in the other).
'How could you raid the fridge like this?'
'Raid the fridge?' he repeats with upraised chin and narrowed okies, as if to say, Lookee here, sonny boy: I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it (and don't you forget that I am armed, albeit after an admittedly merely symbolic fashion).
'Well,' I reply, with downcast chin and okies, as if to say, My innards are at your sword's mercy, my paternal liege, '"raid" is perhaps not quite the right word for it--cos after all, it goes without saying, Dad, that you were, are and always will be welcome to help yourself to the contents of me fridge. In any case, it's not the raiding--erm, the self-helping--as such that concerns me, but rather the integrity of your appetite.'
'Of my appetite?' he repeats again, as I re-make patently-disapproving okie contact with his by-now gormless, two-bites'-full jawing phiz, as if to say, The shoe of parental admonition rather seems to have found its perverse way on to the filial foot, no?
'I mean, of course, your appetite for lunch with Esmeralda, two hours from now at most.'
'Of course. Sorry, Nige,' he says, making almost as if--but not quite actually--to lay the sandwich aside, 'but I do get rather peckish after these long drives; and in all fairness you were rather longer about your telephonic business than we'd expected you'd be.'
'Yeah, I know; and for that I apologise.'
'I trust that the length of the conversation doesn't betoken any, erm, lingering discord betwixt the two of you?'
'No: noneatoll, in fact.'
‘So, between the two of you have in fact established that we’ll be staying over here, and that you’ll be staying over there, with no residual hard feelings on her end that can’t be appeased by the crate of Beaujolais I’ve got stowed in the boot of the Mini.’
‘Let’s just say that we’ve come to an arrangement according to whose terms, firstly, your tendering of the crate of Beaujolais will be entirely gratuitous—albeit, I’m sure, graciously and gratefully accepted; and, secondly, the brunt of the imposition will be evenly shared, one shoulder apiece, by Esmeralda and meself, come what may.’
‘I don’t like the sound of that second clause of yours.’
‘No, of course you don’t; and I didn’t expect you would do—it is, after all, cun…erm, devilishly evasive and ambiguous. I was, however, at least hoping—which is more than I can do in connexion with the rest of the family—that you’d take my word for it when I swore—as I am in fact swearing now—that whatever configuration the lodging arrangement assumes tonight, Esmeralda and I both will have bent over backwards to make you lot as content as we can do; in other words, that no preemption of my filial judies by my boyfriendial ones will have entered into it.’
‘Well, of course I take your word for it, Nige; but I still can’t quite grasp the necessity for the whateverishness of the whole thing.’
‘Trust me, Dad: you will be able to and shall do, within 20 seconds of our arrival at Esmeralda’s place.’
‘And how am I—Good heavens!-talk of an injudicious use of the menial I!—are we to stave off the inquisitive promptings of the mob for the intervening [glances at watch] two-hundred-and-eighty plus seconds?’
‘Why, by the grace of our paired slack lower lips, of course.’(Note well, DGR--skewed me, YL--my judicious use of the squireal or golf-caddial 'our', and its smooth dovetailing with the attainment of my objective of employing Dad as my de facto official spokesbloke.)
Anyway, and unsurprisingly, no sooner have we made our appearance in the front room, than the trio of familial malcontents descends upon us with a fury and flurry worthy of a press corps clustered round the foot of the portable exit staircase at some old-school 1960s presidential or papal airport-tarmac touchdown; all of them simultaneously demanding to know, in their various registers of voice and profanity, 'What the **** is going on?', 'Where the **** are we going to be sleeping tonight?' &c.
'Now, now,' Dad addresses the mob from within their midst in a paradoxically soothing megaphonic register (whilst I withdraw to the higher ground of the entryway, and stand there silently frowning, and with arms folded across me tits, as though [and only as though] I fancied myself some whelp of a consul stroppily yielding to the superior rhetorical prowess of a grizzled senatorial back-bencher), 'there's neither cause nor justification for worrying about any of that; not when we're already 20 minutes late for our next appointment.'
The truth of the matter is that by a conservative estimate we're running 20 minutes early vis-a-vis this selfsame appointment; but so immmejiately palpable is the brilliant clamor-quelling effectuality of Dad's voiced supposition to the inverse, that it hardly occurs to me to communicate this truth to him via any sort of physiognomical semaphore; indeed, it fully occurs to me to reaffirm and authenticate his mis-supposition by the surest of physiognomical indicators, namely a steadily-impatient foot-tattoo.
‘Observe, if you will,' Dad continues, 'with what admirable stoicism Nigel comports himself, knowing though he does that at this very moment Esmeralda is crying her eyes out over an oven-trayful of crêpes suzettes and crab imperials that a quarter of an hour hence will be fit fodder only for the dustbin.’
In like proportion as I appreciate and indeed admire the tactical rationality of Dad’s fabrication of this lachrymose scenario—thatistersay, inasmuch as the scenario is guaranteed to exert an immejiate sympathetic influence on the ductile glands of Mum and Auntie A—I resent and contemn its strategic gormlessness—thatistersay, inasmuch as it’s guaranteed to arouse expectations that are guaranteed not to be borne out, inas-further-much as Esmeralda and I have long since established that for the full juration of their sojourn, our gastro-hospitial judies to my kinsmen will be discharged solely in public, on the premises of our favourite restaurateurs. Not that it’s all surprising that Dad should conjecture otherwise, in view of the well-nigh hamster-worthy paedophagic tenor of conjecturage on his-’n’-hizzin’s end today; but by that same toke-in, he should have known well enough to keep this one to himself, in the light of the batting average of these conjectures so far today—he should have known, innuvvawahds, to put a full stop on his speech at ‘we’re running late for a meeting’, leaving the detail work, such as it might have been (according to demand [ideally zero]), to YFCT. And then to add the deliberate knee-in-the-balls of outright falsehood to the mere inadvertent wrist-in-the-large-of-the-back of indiscretion, to scrawl in the names of specific dishes on to what would otherwise have been the menuial equivalent of a blank cheque, potentially redeemable, if need have been (Cor help us!), out of the Esmeraldan treasury-stroke-storehouse of organic inedibles—why that verged on sociopathy or sadism. Such that, indeed, had there been no ladies present, the FR of my maisonette would have been graced by the honour of serving as the venue for the first-ever father-son McGyverian shirtfest. As things stand, though, the grotesque, front-doorward-tending convulsions of one of these two ladies—namely, Auntie A—preempt even the realisation of the old post-Exeunt omnes apart from First Lord and Second-Lord-ian type scenario—i.e., one ideally suited to the sentence ‘We’ll settle this later, pops,’--that I was hoping to participate in in the meantime. The most I can do H&N by way of punishing him (if only in the short run, seeing as how in the long run it's [at least apparently] as much in his interest as in mine to dilate this whole Point-A-to-Point-B-ial bidness) is to capitalise on his ignorance of the local geography by giving him preposterously digressive driving directions from my navigator's perch in the front-left seat of the Mini. I allow these to carry us only as far afield of our proper destination the Dollis Road roundabout (lest we should properly lose our way, and this phoney late arrival transmogrify into a proper one), before muttering an apology for having neglected to mention 'that turn-off on to Fursby Avenue (one does, I'm afraid, rather tend to slip into automatic pilot mode doesn't one, after having taken the same route so many hundreds of times--thousands of 'em actually)' and negotiating a quick eastward-bound loop back on to Nether Street, which carries us bum-flush with Ballard's Lane a mere decimetre two south of Esmeralda's place, whithin eyeshot of which we arrive--alas!--ungreeted by the kerbside profile of E's puce VW Jetta.
Of course, there is ample additional time to be bought in the form, course and sequel of our search for a non-zone-restricted parking space of our own; which I do my best to drag out as long as I can by dint of a ‘you’ll never fit into that spot’ here and an ‘I think that was a handicap-only spot there’; but in the end, I’m obliged to lump the fact that fact that, apparently owing to some holiday-injuiced exodus from the capital, there’s an uncharacteristic abundance of unoccupied kerbage in Esmeralda’s corner of South Finchley, such that between the three of them--the searching, the parking, and the return hoof trek to Esmeralda’s—we’re still left sitting for a decidedly uncomfortable butcher’s-dozen minutes on the front porch and steps of her house, with our hands on our chins and our chins on our knees, like a quintet of Dust Bowl refugees.
Dad looks at me as if he’s about to ask me something, then abruptly turns away as if in embarrassment at the bloody obviousness of the answer.
He thereby voids the field for Sid to ask what is in all probability that very same something, viz. ‘Ain’t you got a key, druths?’
‘Christ, Sid, do you think any of us’d be sitting here now if I did have one?’
(Sid, well-nigh-unprecedentedly chastened:) ‘No, ’course not. Sorry druths.’
Not that Sid’s opinion of what I would be doing if I had got a key can do anything to alter the bipartite fact that I have indeed got a key in me trouser-pocket and all of us are indeed now sitting here. Mind you, if the craved object had been anything other than a key (and yet, pair-a-Docs-ically, capable of doing judy for one), I dare say we wouldn’t have been. Cos not only are keys rather less painfully concealed in one’s trousers than hard-ons or crowbars or Boeing 747s; they’re also practically as easy to misplace and inadvertently disown than 5p coins or Oyster Cards, hence particularly tempting allurements to the perpetration of the very genre of cuntishness I was presently guilty of. Such that, supposing the intrafamilial tension grew unbearable, I could always, for mock no-stone-left-unturned-dom’s sake, do a digital tally of my key-ring, and in mock-bemusement-cum-cuntsternation exclaim, ‘Strike me pinkie! I have got a key after all’; and none of them would have felt himself within his rights to call bullshit on me, what with each of them having made the same belated discovery countless times before in his or her own life.
'But why,' you lot interject, 'did you succumb to the temptation to cuntishness in the first place? Surely it wasn't out of the super-cuntish, well-nigh dead horse-felching motive of driving home to them a sense of their hospitial presumptuousnesss via a state of transitory homelessness?'
'Well, I can't deny that the satisfaction of such a cuntishly petty sadistic craving factored into the whole duplicitous equation, but at arse-stroke in the main, I had their own best interests at heart; inasmuch as I reckoned that the more helplessly wretched a collective figure they cut in her okies at the outset, the greater the so-called leverage or bargaining power I would have at my disposal, on their behalf, in the long run.'
'Christ, druths, you don’t half put yourself out for a whole lotta nuffink.’
‘You mean, I take it, why don’t I just get a new mattress?’
‘Well, believe you me, Sid: if new mattresses grew on trees—and, more to the point, if one of those trees happened to grow in me own front garden—I’d have plucked meself a replacement a long time ago. But seeing as how the purchasing of one actually requires a considerable capital outlay—'
‘—Outlay, schmoutlay, druths. Surely you can’t have forgotten that your one and only sibling is a member of the guild, so to speak—’
‘—Of course I haven’t forgotten, Sid; only I thought it a bit presumptuous to try to capitalise on your guild-insiderhood by way of any nepotistic trump-cardial manouevres—’
‘—far from it, druths: if anything I’m insulted that you haven’t thought of playing the fraternal trump card till now. I’ll have you know that I can set you up with a showroom-fresh bed, frame and all for a mere—get this—400 quid.’
With these words, I bade simultaneous tearful farewell to my long-cherished dream of seeing the inner walls of me own grave sooner than those of the Wembley IKEA (Great title for a stocking-stuffer book, incidentally, nest pah?: Ten Million Things to Do Your Effing Best Not to See Before You Die?) and sneerful welcome to an unsavoury fantasy
‘As agreed, Mr Punterfelcher, minus my flat commission of a hundred, there’s 300 quid for you…’ ‘…You did check, I trust, check the blue book value beforehand, McGyver?’ ‘Oh, yes, indeedy sir, I’m nuffink if not thorough: 185 quid 50.’ ‘With used mattress or new?’ ‘New. Cor, that just reminds me…’ ‘What, McGyver?’ [With sly smirk, whilst mentally recapping last night’s “testing session” with Suzy Mc Floozy]: ‘Looks like I netted you an extra 35 quid or thereabouts, boss.’
By now, Esmeralda has doubtless sussed out that Mum is, as they say (and put it very, very politely), one tough customer--i.e., that she's not making this bit up about what her husband said about these non-existent crêpes, that she pretty much knows that he was doubltess making that bit up, and that she's perfectly willing, and indeed, eager, to make a complete arse or scoundrel out of either of them (Esmeralda or Dad) for the mere sake of offsetting her own candour and high-mindedness in the most, erm, shrewishly abstract and rarified fashion.
There's a half a minute or so of knocking about in the kitchen (a pot-lid clang here, an oven or fridge-door thwack there) followed by an equal interval of dead silence, followed in turn by, well, more silence--along with a stink-bomb assault on our sense of smell whose ferocity, pungency, intensity, acridity or what have you almost defies comparison. I say almost, cos there are in fact exactly two items in my personal stink collection that this one lines up with like a watermark, No. 13102005C, "Innards of Burning Bendy Bus" and No. 24051989A, "***** ******** *********" (I leave the identification of the second one as an exercise for my super-longterm readers).
Dad alone seems pleased. 'That smell,' he avers with closed okie-lids, raised chin, and fluttering 'strils, 'is enough to make my mouth water.'
At last, the smell starts to fade and Esmeralda plods back in, looking suspiciously--what with her frazzled hair, sooty face-cheeks, and rolled-up jumper sleeves--not altogether unlike the survivor of an explosion from an old Warner Brothers cartoon.
'Sorry,' she says sheepesquely, 'but the crêpes are off.'
'And so?' asks Mum.
'And so what?' asks Esmeralda, with a sort of 'I-know-this-is-a-stupid-and-cuntishly-impertinent-question-,-but-for- Chrissakes-you've-got-to-give-me-more-to-work-with-than-that, milady'-esque expression on her phiz.
'And so what about the main course?' Mum asks.
'They were the main course,' says Esmeralda with a sort of 'Sorry-but-you've-given-me-a-bit-too-much to work with, thank you very much'-esque selfsame thingy in the selfsame spot.
'Don't be ridiculous, my dear. Crêpes suzettes as a main course? I've never heard of such a thing, on either side of the sleeve.'
'Oh, really? Then you've obviously not been tuning in to The Jackbooted Viscountess very religiously of late.''Of late? Good heavens, girl, I've never heard of her, nor, I dare say, of nine-tenths of any other TV chefs you'd care to name. No, dear: for me, English cuisine begins and ends with Eliza Acton. I don't suppose you've ever heard of her?'
[E, ever so icily:] 'No, I'm afraid I haven't done.'
'Well, she was born in 1799: that'll give you an idearrof how far back I'm coming from, won't it do?'
'Yes, indeed: far back enough, I'd wager, not to know the difference between a crêpe suzette and a tampon d'anisette, let alone what to serve it with.'
'Look, if you want to get blousy about it, girl...'
[E, clutching at the collar of her jumper with both fists]: 'Can't say as I don't want to do, madam...'
'Oh, come now, Martha. This is all most unguestworthy. Clearly the heterodoxy of the original bill of fare gives us no grounds for demanding a more orthodox one in substitution for it, now that it has been so unceremoniously withdrawn from us by an, erm, by a freak of nature, so to speak.'
‘Don’t mind if I do. This jumper’s headed straight for the skip anyway, largely thanks to you.’
‘Thanks to me? My dear girl, what on earth is that supposed to mean?’
‘It means, mums, whatever you want it to mean.’
‘Oh, I’d hardly call it a merely theoretical possibility, Stanley. You’d be surprised what can be done inside a half an hour with a dollop or two of salad cream, a couple of eggs and an aubergine—to list just one improbable combination of ingredients—especially with the help of an extra pair of hands.’
I swear the two of them were within an inch-stroke-minute of tearing each other’s eyes out, when who should come to the rescue (albeit in an indirect fashion) but—mind you, you lot’ll never guess--
‘—I reckon we will do: it was Lucy, right?
‘Even so. How ever did you guess?’
‘Why by ye olde fucking P of E, of course. You and your Dad, let’s face it, are the chip and block of henpeckedness; Sid’s a cunt of too many stripes (e.g., sadistic, mama’s-boyish, cowardly) to intervene, which leaves only Lucy.’
‘Aren’t you forgetting Aunt Agatha?’
‘Fuck us with ****** if we ain’t. But can you honestly blame us? She has been rather underutilized in this here post, to say the least.’
‘Well, with all due respect (to whom I can’t really say), that’s rather more her fault than mine. I can only work with what these interlopers into my lifeworld give me.’
Mind you lot, this here turd is quite literally and unfiguratively the first notice that any of them have ever been given that either of us owns a pet of any species, let alone of so high maintenance a one as your old Canis familiaris.
‘Really? You meantersay she didn’t come bounding up to the front window yapping her wee voicebox out the instant you Norridgians turned up on the front steps?’
‘Indeed she didn’t do’
‘Well then, surely then she must at least have had a friendly dental-cum-salivary go at the first trouser cuff to clear the front doorway.’
‘Nor that, I’m afraid.’
‘Cor, this all sounds quite a bit out of character, from what we know about her, and about them sausage dogs in general.’
‘Well, I can’t vouch for sausage dogs in general, seeing as how Lucy's the only one I've ever so much as shaken paws with. All I know is it that it was completely in character for her, as you lot would doubtless know too, if any of my previous blogospheric sallies had had occasion to allude to any of the butcher's-dozen-odd previous Lucian regressions to the pre-housebroken phase that I'd had occasion to clean up after. You see, immejiately upon any of these regressions, it's her policy, knowing full well as she does do that she's broken the rules, to slink off to the remotest corner of the house--indeed to the most secluded and un-get-attable cranny thereof--and to pretty much just stay there, in blithe hermetic disregard of the usual jinglings and slammings heralding our arrival at and entry into the premises. The idea behind the manoeuvre seems to be that regardless of how soon we stumble or tread upon the unwelcome turd, our worry about her whereabouts and well-being will eventually get the upper hand of our outrage.’