Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Death by Labour-Saving Device

  The last thing I remember ever talking to my Nan Silcox about was cheese. 
  'I was in Sainsburys in Ystrad, Iestyn, and you wouldn't believe what there was.  Ready prepared baking potatoes with the cheese already grated on.  Now, I know that people are rushing in from work sometimes, too tired to cook, but you'd have to be clinically dead to need a ready prepared baking potato with the cheese grated on for you.  Just lazy that is.'
  She put a stop to Letty, who lived next to her in Gelligaergwellt Avenue, getting lazy.  
   ‘Just come round to have a look in your kitchen cupboards, Letty,' she said one day in the late eighties.
   ‘Anything specific you’re looking for, Gwlad, or just general nosing, is it?’
  'General nosing, Letty.’
  ‘Oh, right.’
  ‘Letty, there are tea bags in here.'
  ‘Can’t be’.
  ‘There are’.
  ‘Can’t be’.
  ‘There are, Letty’.
  ‘You sure?’
  ‘Clear as day.’
  ‘Where, exactly, Gwladys?’
  ‘Cupboard above the draining board.’
  ‘Never!’
  ‘Yes, Letty.  Behind the tinned evap.’
  ‘Oh, those tea bags, you mean. The just for life-or-death emergency ones’.
  ‘And what was the life-or-death emergency, Letty, you’ve kept quiet (not like you at all) about?’
  Letty walked right into that one. ‘Haven’t been as yet’.   
  ‘Then why are these tea bags open?’
  ‘They came like that, Gwladys. Seconds down at Carrefours. Haven’t used any’.
  Nan counted them.  ‘There’s only seventy nine.  No number eighty.’
  ‘Oh, now,’ said Letty. ‘Just for myself the once, it didn’t seem worth the effort to be in the kitchen, right, then have to come back in here to fetch the footstool, take it back out there, put it flush to the sink to climb on and chuck the old tea leaves out on the roses - ’
   ‘Well, there we are for a start. We’ll have Mark dig up the roses and replant them, so you won't be able to reach them with a thresh of the teapot and will have to make the effort to go down at least past the laundry carousel. Doctor Clem did say you must have more exercise.’
   ‘...and get out the caddy and find the strainer and set out the tray, just for the one person, me all alone, that there was.’
   ‘Letty, what did I tell you about our Don getting distorted with depression and having to be sectioned?’
   ‘You said the writing was on the wall the day he bought the potato peeler, Gwladys.'
  ‘Yes, because that’s how it starts. Potato peelers and tea bags today, tomorrow a moistened sponge on your work table because you're forgoing self-licking your Green Shield Stamps by tongue.  Then down Argos for a microwave. And the next thing we’ll have is me, that has your spare key, thinking I haven’t seen you at bingo for a couple of Thursdays, or heard you singing "O, Fy Iesi Bendegedig" while you hang out your dishcloths, and I’ll let myself in to find you dead for a fortnight in that armchair, stinking cos you didn’t have a bath the day you died in case you had already had one and just forgot, the remains of a microwave Chicken Biriani in your lap, surrounded like Tutankhamen in his pyramid with the stuff you sent off for from the Innovations Catalogue. Death by labour-saving device, Letty. Now, fetch me your nail scissors.’
  And she oversaw Letty decanting the contents of the seventy-nine tea bags into her Souvenir Of Barry Island caddy.
  'You're not singing, Letty.'
  'O, fy Iesi Bendegedig...'

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