Wednesday, 3 May 2017

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.

The Boiler Man.

There's a man in the house looking at the boiler. I've long held a suspicion that the boiler isn't right, possibly even contravening important rules pertaining to boilers: namely that they don't give off gases that kill people. I make a cup of tea with four sugars for the boiler man, while he takes a look.

"Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear," says the boiler man, as I descend the cellar steps with his mug of sugar water with some tea in it. "I don't even have to look this up in the instruction manual, I can see it's wrong from the off."

"Which bit?" I ask.

"This piping," he says. 

The boiler man picks up the instruction manual and flicks through it. "Yep," he says, "as I suspected. Condensation can build up in the u-bend and send carbon monoxide back along the pipe. It could kill you. You say your builders did this; were they Polish by any chance?"

Our builders were Polish but I don't answer this question.

"Maybe that's why the last plumber put a carbon monoxide alarm on top and left in a hurry without issuing a safety certificate?" I say.

"Could be," says the boiler man. "You need a new boiler, Elizabeth, and ideally it should be on an outside wall."

I frown. I'm not happy about having to pay for a new boiler, or relocating it, or the boiler man, who I've only just met, giving me a creepy look and using my first name. 

The boiler man starts to wander around the cellar. "Why not here?" he says. "On this wall behind the TV would be good, then you don't have flue it up through the kitchen."

I stare at the boiler man. Seriously? Mount a boiler on a wall behind a TV? Is he mad?

"Er, no." I say.

"Well, you might want to ask your husband what he thinks about it, Elizabeth," says the boiler man, giving me another creepy look.

"Er, no," I say again. "I'm not putting a boiler on the wall behind the television."

The boiler man moves his head ever so slightly so it's turned away from me and then softly, just under his breath, but not so softly that I can't hear him, says the most extraordinary thing. He says: "well, if you were my wife I'd bend you over and make you do what I say." Then he turns back to face me and smiles and carries on talking about the boiler. Honest to God.

I'm so taken aback by this I can hardly believe it happened. But it did. Now I feel extremely uneasy about the boiler man, who is well over six foot-tall and built like a brick shit house, as they say where I come from, and it occurs to me that I'm alone in the house with him. I look at my watch, then I remember it doesn't work and I only wear it because it's pretty and hand painted.

"Well, er, I need to get on with making supper," I stutter, "it's getting late, I have three sons, boys, coming home, quite soon."

I go upstairs to the kitchen and the boiler man follows me.

"The other thing you might want to consider is one of these eco Nest controls," he says from behind me.

I begin cutting an onion.

"Yes, okay," I say, not looking up from the onion. "If you leave the pamphlet over there on the table I'll take a look later. You'll want to get back to your van. The parking attendants are ruthless round here."

"Yeah," he says. "Get your husband to have a read of it, although there might be no point as I can see who wears the trousers in this house."

The front door slams and someone calls out, "Hello!"

"That's my son," I say. 

The Massage.

It's Sunday afternoon and I have an appointment for a massage at a place on Balham High Road because of my dodgy right hip. My Pilates teacher suggested it, and recommended someone.

I tell one of my sons I'm going. "I'll be out for an hour or so," I say. "I'm having a massage with Anita Boos."

"You need some booze?" He says, which makes me laugh.

"Well, I do," I say, "and that might solve the problem, but that's not what I said. Anita Boos is the name of the masseuse."

I'm not used to having a massage. I gave up on them years ago because they're always disappointing, and expensive, and too hard, or too soft, or I feel too cold or too hot, actually I always feel too cold. Then there's that business of having to take your clothes off in front of a stranger and not knowing which bits to take off. And then there's that tinkly music, or the sound of waves lapping against shingle, which makes me want to pee. Or I lie there not relaxing because I'm thinking about how the sound recordist must have put the microphone on the shingle and then crept away and then edited out the sound of him/her creeping away later. And what did he/she do in the meantime? Did he/she go off for a sandwich? Fish and chips?

But when I get to the place, the consulting room is warm, the music is so low I can't hear it, I have clear instructions about which clothes to take off, and the massage is perfect, that is to say it is agony and ecstasy by turns.

Anita Boos thinks all the swimming I do plus dancing all night long at two different parties recently has over-tightened my muscles and in particular the ones in my right hip because my pelvis is slightly rotated, apparently. "Have you had a slip or a fall?" asks Anita. 

"Not recently," I say, "but I fell when I was skiing a few years ago."

"Sounds likely," she says.

I walk home from the massage feeling lightheaded and weirded out, as my boys say, then I fall asleep on the sofa and when I wake up the day is nearly gone and I can't move. My limbs feel like jelly, and on fire. It's like I've done a spin in a tumble drier, on Cupboard Dry. Instead of standing up in the normal manner I have to roll myself onto the floor first. One of my sons walks into the living room to find me in a crumpled heap on the floorboards.

"What the fuck happened to you?" says the son.

"I need some booze," I say.

Love E x


P.S.  I have tickets for One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest at the BFI. They're for Eldest and me but he goes back to university sooner than I thought so I ask a friend to come with me instead.

"I've heard of that," she says, "it's an old movie, isn't it."

"It is," I say.

"A musical," she says.

"Not quite," I say.

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