No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses!

BOOK: No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses!
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No! I Don't Need Reading Glasses!

First published in Great Britain in 2013 by

Quercus
55 Baker Street
7th Floor, South Block
London W1U 8EW

Copyright © 2013 Virginia Ironside

The moral right of Virginia Ironside to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library

HB ISBN 978 1 78087 858 4
TPB ISBN 978 1 78206 077 2
EBOOK ISBN 978 1 78087 859 1

This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, organisations, places and events are either the product of the authors' imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events or locales is entirely coincidental.

You can find this and many other great books at:
www.quercusbooks.co.uk

Also by Virginia Ironside

No! I Don't Want to Join a Bookclub
The Virginia Monologues
Janey and Me
You'll Get Over It – the Rage of Bereavement
Goodbye, Dear Friend - Coping With The Death Of A Pet
Problems! Problems! Confessions of an agony aunt
How To Have A Baby And Stay Sane
Made For Each Other
Distant Sunset
Chelsea Bird

Children's Books

The Huge Bag Of Worries
Phantom of Burlap Hall
SpaceBoy At Burlap Hall
Vampire Master
Poltergeist of Burlap Hall
The Human Zoo
Roseanne And The Magic Mirror

For Denis Whyte

J
ANUARY
1 January

Oh gawd. Woke up with the most terrible hangover, panting for water, heart beating, sweating … very unlike me. Haven't had one like this since the sixties. (And now I remember it, I didn't feel too hot after my retirement party, either, at the school, but that was because the booze was provided by the science master who had prided himself on Making His Own Beer.)

Managed to crawl out of bed and have a cup of coffee and a piece of toast, and overcome with great desire to have five fried eggs, but even though I've had two, nothing makes a lot of difference. It being New Year's Day, a strange silence has descended over London, which makes me feel as if I am the heroine in a very bad film in which I'm the only person alive in a world which has been struck by a strange kind of sleeping sickness. Looked out of my window to the street below and there is absolutely no one about. Hardly any cars,
either. Everyone's away I suppose. And when I looked out of the bedroom window – nothing there either. Well, there isn't usually anyone around at the back, of course, and I would be most surprised to see anybody mooching around my lawn on New Year's Day, or any day come to that, but there isn't even the sound of a distant chainsaw or screaming baby or the pounding thump of a far-off radio.

Must say the garden looks particularly squalid. I suppose the viburnum will be out soon, but it can't be soon enough. The garden's one of those long thin affairs, with grass in the middle and overgrown with bushes and trees at the sides. Last summer it looked as lush as a tropical rain forest, but nothing looks good on New Year's Day. It's just a grey swamp of mud and desolation, with the odd fat pigeon standing around wondering if he should make the huge effort of taking off to escape the claws and jaws of Pouncer, my cat, and Pouncer sitting there equally weary and bloated, wondering if he can be bothered to get himself into his wiggling position to make a move on the pigeon.

I shall go back to bed. With any luck I'll wake up fizzing with life and full of beans. With even more luck I'll sleep until next week, when life will be back to normal.

3 January

The world is slowly waking up, and so am I. I've decided to do something I haven't done since I was about ten. Make a list of New Year's resolutions. So here goes.

  1. Never drink again, and certainly never mix champagne, red wine and rum punches. (I've only just begun to recover. The old brain cells are starting to return to life, like the bubbles at the bottom of a pan of boiling water.)
  2. Have a facelift.
  3. Try acupuncture to see if makes any difference to my increasing stiffness. I'm starting to walk around like one of those little wooden Dutch dolls that were so popular in Victorian times.
  4. Sort out the entire house room by room, chucking things out. I have far too much
    stuff
    .
  5. Write a diary. (Which I've already started doing.)
  6. Start painting again.

Penny, my great friend who lives round the corner, suggested I should make ‘travelling more' one of my resolutions, but I'm old enough to know now that travelling doesn't get you anywhere, if that doesn't sound ridiculous. I've often thought that going away would do me good and ‘get me out of myself', so I've packed my suitcase and rushed off to Timbuktu, say, and when I've got there I've opened my suitcase and out has popped the same old self I wanted to get away from.

So, frankly, I'd rather stay at home.

It may seem odd to put ‘Have a facelift' so high on my list, but at the New Year's Eve party a creepy old man (I say ‘old' – he was probably my age) came up to me and said in
what he thought was a seductive and flattering voice, ‘You remind me of a Burmese princess' and I realised exactly why I'd reminded him of a Burmese princess, and it wasn't because I looked gorgeous, Eastern and sultry. No, the seductive slit-eyed look had been achieved only because my eyelids droop over my eyes so much.

And why am I starting a diary again? I did write one when I was sixty, but it fizzled out after a year for the simple reason I was ludicrously happy. And if one's tiptop happy, why write a diary? It would be so boring. Imagine: ‘Monday: great day. Tuesday: Sun was out, felt marvellous. Wednesday: Saw Penny, she is really nice. Thursday: gave a great dollop of cash to charity and felt a warm glow. Friday: ‘How lucky I am to be alive!' and so on.

Anyway, when you're full of beans, there's no time for writing a diary because you're so busy doing jolly things like arranging suppers with friends, putting bulbs in pots for Christmas and tucking them away under the stairs, chortling at reruns of Laurel and Hardy on YouTube, repainting the spare room, thinking about sorting out all your photographs from ages ago into neat albums (notice I just say ‘thinking about') or simply sitting with a loved one doing … well, not very much. When you're with someone, it's not having them around to do things with that's nice. It's having them around to do
nothing
with.

And nothing was what I did a lot of with my darling Archie for quite a while after I'd rediscovered the old love of my life at the grand old age of sixty. He was a man I'd
been crazy about ever since I was a teenager, but who I'd lost touch with when we'd both married different people. Once our marriages were over – I was divorced from David and Archie's wife had died – we found each other again. And though the cuddly nights together were gorgeous, we also spent a lot of time just mooching about. We'd often go for walks near his vast Victorian pile in a remote corner of Devon, tramping through the parkland, into the fields and round the farms nearby, in complete silence. Not that awful kind of seething-with-resentment silence, the sort of silence after which one person says, nervously, ‘What's the matter?' and the other person answers, ‘Nothing!' in a loud and furious voice – thank God those days are over! – but an easy, companionable silence.

Sometimes we'd chat a bit and joke, and make plans for the future or ruminate over the past – I'd tell him about the ghastly times I'd had with David (now one of my bestest friends) and the ghastly times David had had with me, and he'd tell me about life with his late wife Philippa with a mixture of such pain and affection in his voice that I couldn't be jealous. (How could I, when she'd made Archie's life so happy?)

Sometimes we'd talk about my son Jack, his wife Chrissie and my adored and adorable grandson Gene – and we'd shared the joy of the marriage of his daughter Sylvie to Harry, her childhood sweetheart.

Now, right from the start Archie and I had decided we would never live together. Both of us were savvy enough to
realise that it would have been a dreadful idea, particularly as, since I'd got divorced, I'd learned to be happy on my own. (Oddly, this is something it's very difficult to unlearn. Once you've got used to being in command of the remote control, and sitting in the driving seat of the car and deciding what to have for supper and how far apart to space the plates when stacking the dishwasher and at what point you think the dishwasher is full enough for a wash, and how thinly to chop up the carrots and where to buy the fish and when to turn out the light in bed and making all those decisions that are so important in life, it's hard to relinquish control and share.)

BOOK: No! I Don’t Need Reading Glasses!
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