Thinks: Who the hell is she? Better say ‘hello.’
‘I hope we haven’t been disturbing you, digging the pond opposite your house.’
Ah, pond; opposite house; must be somebody from the school.
(I later learned that she was Rebecca, the new headmistress. Seems to me that headmistresses, like policemen, just keep on getting younger.)
So, mystery solved. We subsequently had a moderately interesting conversation about ponds, pond skaters, nature areas, bat boxes, and the New Vic Theatre where I once worked. The real mystery, however, remained. How on earth did she know who I was, let alone where I live?
* * *
And then a little girl came up to me and said ‘Would you like to buy an ice cream?’ She held up a bag containing little chocolate-covered ice cream lollipops on sticks. Now, the real question isn’t whether you actually want an ice cream, is it? The real question is whether you can possibly resist a little girl who is looking up at you, blinking. Being dismembered by wild horses would be preferable, right? Right.
‘How much are they?’
‘OK, a brown one.’
The accompanying grandmother said ‘thank you,’ knowingly. And do you know what was really cute? The kid put the money I'd given her into a little silver pouch hanging off her belt. Sweeter than the jam and cream scone to which I'd just treated myself as a rare indulgence. The god of small things definitely has the best smile.
* * *
And then it was time for role reversal: I saw my landlord and greeted him cordially. I’ve known him for 9½ years and also happen to know that he’ll be 85 next month.
‘Hello, Mr Clowes,’ I said.
The look he returned might be described as ‘vacant.’ He used to call me Mr Beazley, but not any more it seems.
‘Hello,’ he replied.
‘How are you?’
‘Oh, very well. Getting older, of course.’
‘Even I’m getting older.’
‘Well, you know what I always say. It doesn’t matter whether you’re 85, 55 or fifteen months, we’re all ageing at the same rate.’
And with those words of wisdom he walked off in the direction of the car park and was never seen again.
* * *
But then came the interesting piece of intelligence I received from the redoubtable Christine, just after she’d said ‘Well, we all know you’re odd.’ It seems that what people in villages do is talk about you when you’re not listening, so maybe that explains everything.
* * *
(Oh, and the man who wears a toupee appeared to have had a new one. It was very swish and quite unmoved by the persistent wind it must have encountered on the way to the hall. Benefits of modern technology, I expect. Or super glue. I wonder how much they cost.)