You know when your internet provider, trying to embarrass you, asks what you've been trying to download that may be leading to these slow speeds?
I always answer:
'An album of Peruvian Nose Flute favourites beamed indirect from the server up the left peak of the Nevado Huascaran.'
'The complete collection of Joan Hickson as Miss Marple - minus the Four Fifty From Paddington because of the mistake with the plot - dubbed into Seychellois Creole for me to learn the lingo. I'm off to perform for the Saudi Prince on the Baie Lazare Mahe Island again and only ever want to pray in the cathedral dedicated to Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception in the native language.'
'Pissage, Fistage and Bummage Volume Six: Beechy Head Volleyball Man Slags.'
I've been able to vary this last example since meeting the hoorahly fun Topco Toyz reps at SexpoUK. I know fully well that the woman in the holiday let next door is making that one-part moan to two-parts giddy singing noise at her dog, but I told the smarmy onsite Wifi engineer this morning that, as we all share the internet here, and I saw the woman from next door with a Topco Toyz bag on Sunday, it must be the remote control app component of her Twerking Butt toy that's currently using up all the Wifi and curtailing my enjoyment of Songs of Praise.
'My i-player keeps freezing in the middle of Aled Jones reading the usual letter from Margery Grimeyfrontdoorstep from Wigan, writing that her poor neighbour Barmy Helen thinks that the twin red lights on the immersion heater are the eyes of Satan looking out at her, and can someone recommend a cardinal or failing that an archbishop to come and exorcise Helen's airing cupboard? And, now, here's "Onward, Christian Soldiers" with close ups of people who look like total twats when they sing.'
Sorry, my point was: the woman feeding her dog: making extra cash from house and/or pet sitting. Which I started doing through word of mouth. From Lady Davies, to Lady Ward, to Lady Cave, I got passed around Aldeburgh like house sitter herpes. Then I registered with Mrs Parksley's Home Care and House Sitter Agency.
'Oh, no, dear,' Mrs Parksley said in strong lancashire. 'I don't just take details over a telephone. Yes, I know I've seen you in the recital you did for Joanna Robinson at Leiston Abbey in aid of NADFAS - and I suspect we even pressed the flesh over a plate of finger food with a glass of Sauvignon clipped to the side - but I need to get whatever professional whiff there may be to get off you in person. And I'll be needing your feet to be beneath my desk to that. Please bring anything you have to show you're viable vis-a-vis security and at least one reference from a past client. Yes, tomorrow lateish afternoon would be fine. Coming by coach? I don't know how anyone can manage with those stood-up coffin loos they have on National Express...'
Walking frames, crepe bandages and commodes were encroaching on Mrs Parksley's office. Her bun was severe, her eyes tired but kindly, slightly watery from (I suspected) such shrill notes of Deep Heat. She seemed intent, during our interview, on showing off as much as possible of her midnight blue knitted stomach, and from all angles.
I handed Mrs Parksley the thank you letter I had received from the security minister for my after dinner sing in the presence of Her Majesty, proof that I had recently passed stringent security checks, and the references from Lady Cave and a Dutch archivist which made me sound like the lovechild of an east facing Buddha and Mrs Beeton. She warned me that most of the paper work she got across the desk for her agency went straight into her OMDB file - Over My Dead Body, as she gleefully clarified.
'Right, first off. I neither expect nor quite like a paragon. I had someone considered themselves a past expert in the house sitting line register with me last year. Fuller-figured woman in a red Goofy sweatshirt under dungarees and what we used to call bovver boots. She said how she would ensure the house owner got back to the beds being made up with hospital corners to the sheets - never liked those, myself: like sliding your weary lower limbs into cotton calipers - and to various items of nursery-supper food in the freezer ready. And vases of flowers. I thought before I stopped her as - I told her - time was marching, she'd be telling me next how she reglazed the conservatory, repointed chimneys and laid under-carpet heating. I mean, really, it's house sitting. Keep abreast of the security, pet and cleanliness requirements, don't pry, plump cushions prior to owners' return. Not a paragon, please, just conscientious.'
She took a typewritten sheet of paper from her desk drawer and consulted it.
'You go round with the owner and a pen and paper or whatever new-fangled typing apparatus you may favour and you get the lowdown. Which parts of the house you're permitted to use, which not. Which windows you can open, which you keep closed. Same goes for doors. If you're successful today and sharp as you walk round, I won't say who this is, you'll notice one of my regular clients has her indoor wisteria blue-tac'd onto that atrium it isn't actually training itself up it.'
She did a vaudevillian double-take at me across the desk.
'And next you get them to give you the security system lowdown. Make them, if need be. Warn them that white vans have been seen parked in the vicinity. Frighten the buggers! They'll often say how they wouldn't put you to the trouble of setting the burglar alarm for everywhere at night; or if you were only going down to the chip shop or the recycling or the end of the road to the half of Welsh dresser the Wilkinsons put out with an honesty box: stuff for sale they've grown, or bric a brac, eggs they've risked life and limb scooping out from under that psychotic chicken they've got. Please reassure my clients always that you won't, thank you, render their home insurance null and void by being lax.' She was waving her stomach at me. 'For the sake of getting these things as they should be, you can be standing for all I care on the patch of carpet in front of the grandfather clock where the sensor can't find you, with the Pekinese in your arms, gibbering to yourself 'As much as that?' because you've seen items galore from all over the house on that night's Antiques Roadshow!'
She gave me a 'think on' upward glancing point of the finger.
'And talking now of your clutching that Peke - pets. Some of my old ladies in particular have a routine with their pets that's like the Kama Sutra got at by the Amish. Complicated, involved but without base muckiness. Whatever time it gets up with its owner, it gets up with you. Whatever time it gets fed, watered, walked, fussed, stroked, whatever, it gets whatever it may be with you. If it has a special spoon for serving its food, then you use its special spoon for said special food. A Dorothy L Sayers spoon for Arden Grange Adult Dog Pork and Rice is what Sarah Parke's labrador has, for one of many examples. And you give it any drugs. And, of late, grated carrot. It's the new black for a pooch's innards. Mrs Fry read about it. And they've all now got the grater attachment for the Magimix from the back of the kitchen cupboard; and I've noticed a number of the dogs' doings along Church Walk have a bizarre orange street-lamp tinge to them of late. We are, of course, mainly talking dogs, cats; it's that kind of a catchment; less frequently rabbits or chickens. There has been a horse. Which had to be watched for mange forming under its blanket. And Margaret Temple's youngest tried a snake. It headed down the toilet, into the brass pipes, and never came back up again. Oh, talking of pipes - the question of musical instruments. It's an addendum to my notes here, look!'
She showed me, too briefly.
'There might in one or two houses I can think of be some ivories you might have a tinkle on. You never know, you see, you might be lucky and get music. And tinkle away if you have permission. Or bow. Or pluck. But I'd say for hygiene's sake not to get involved with a tongue in a mouthpiece scenario, whatever permission you may or may not get direct.'
She looked at me, sideways on, mouth a disgusted moue.
'And, talking specifically, that lovely singing training you've had you might feel going to be waste if you get a booking for Mrs Fry. She'll expect you to sing "Oh, what a Beautiful Morning" as an upper and Brahms's "Lullaby" as a downer to Martin, her dachshund.'
Her forbearing smile slipped into that disgusted moue again.
'Oh, to forewarn, if your top notes meet with the dachshund's approval,you'll get a flash of Maybelline Peach Glow lipstick willy.'
She nodded briskly at me.
'So, think on!'