I have been working on ‘Pictures in the Sky’ this week and trying to get the balance right between the humorous and more serious elements of the story.
Michelle, the main character, is the sort of person who frequently says things like; ‘I don't bloody believe it...’ while gritting her teeth and holding her head in her hands in dismay. Whatever it is she 'can't bloody believe,' will most likely be something to have a good laugh about over a glass of Prosecco with the girls, one day, but not just yet. However, her character has to be believable. I don't want to give her too many ridiculous situations to cope with.
Last Thursday, I was toying with getting rid of one scene in which Michelle was having a 'bit of trouble' with some workmen and her new drive. It was based on a much worse real-life experience of my own, which I can now laugh about; well, as long as I don`t look at the crooked, sunken corner of my drive. For Michelle though, I wasn't sure whether it might be one catastrophe too many.
That's when fate stepped in to help me out. I`d been relying on my trusty Beechams powders to get me to work with a bad cold all week, but I`d had to cancelled our ball room dancing that night. All I wanted to do was crawl into bed with some Night Nurse, which my colleagues said would knock me out. I texted my mother to offer her and Tom our tickets as they hadn't got any. I expected something along the lines of, ‘Ooo that's great. Thanks!’ in reply. No chance.
‘We are at the GP's surgery. Waiting for an ambulance. Tom has damaged his hip. The replaced one.'
And so began a two-day shenanigan. Like many people of his generation, Tom doesn't like to bother anyone. By the time Mam had persuaded him to see a doctor, he couldn't walk and was in excruciating pain. The GP gave him morphine, which didn't work, and phoned for an ambulance. By the time they got to A&E, Tom's mobile battery was almost flat and Mam wasn't answering her mobile. I had awful visions of him undergoing a second hip replacement and coming out with one leg half the length of the other one. It's funny how a lack of information can make you imagine the worst isn't it? I didn't dare go to the hospital myself in case I gave him pneumonia and finished him off.
While I awaited news, I kept looking over, wistfully, at my box of Night Nurse, but I didn't dare take any in case we had to rush through to the hospital in the middle of the night. At 11.30 pm we got the news that Tom's hip was okay but they were keeping him in. Right, time to crack open the Night Nurse
It was 8.30 am the following morning when I woke up, after a really good sleep. The Day Nurse kicked in pretty quickly too and I was soon pretty hyper. Naturally, I couldn't get through to my mother for an update and nor could the rest of the family. Panic and guilt started to set in. Tom must have taken a turn for the worse while I was selfishly sleeping.
Eventually, I got through on the landline. A stranger on the other end told me that she had their phone and house keys. Palpitations started to bang off my rib cage. Who had them? What had happened to Tom? Was she a burglar? Where was my mother?
The voice turned out to belong to my parents' new neighbour. Apparently my mother had gone to the hospital with Tom's tablets and the neighbour was going to let a repair man in to fix a wonky door on the new fitted bedroom units. Why on earth a virtual stranger had unrestricted access to their entire belongings when there were three close relatives living locally and not at work that day, is a question I have not managed to get a satisfactory answer to. It felt a bit like the time I saw someone driving their car away down the back lane with keys taken from inside the house while they were inside watching Coronation Street.
I had arranged to go out for lunch with my daughter and her mother-in-law but we rapidly changed the venue to her house. She lives a few doors away from her grandparents and I needed an excuse to 'pop in' and get the keys. A quick stop at Tesco and two carrier bags of food later, I pulled up at Mam's house, just in time to meet the repair man and the neighbour, whose can of Fosters was balanced on Mam's wall. To be fair, the lady was very nice.
Once ensconced in the house, with the phone and keys, I relaxed a little. The food was collected by my daughter and I settled onto the sofa to watch the TV while the repair man fixed the wonky door. I sat starving for the next 3 hours in front of a blank TV screen, which I could not, for the life of me, switch on.
All attempts to contact Mam for instructions proved futile and, as I soon discovered, only served to set off that irritating ringtone on her mobile. How would I know, you might ask? Because it was charging up in the corner of the lounge. Of course it was.
My text suggesting we eat at Nana's house was vehemently rejected. Something to do with being, ‘Not my fault and nigh time Nana stopped trusting random strangers... exacerbating my IBS... causing undue anxiety... keys... cars... roofs...'
By the time Mam returned, the Day Nurse was wearing off and my head was thumping. Apparently the doctors weren't much further forward with a diagnosis, but at least Tom was now on an orthopaedic ward.
The repair man had almost finished and I wondered whether there was any food left. I really fancied one of the custard slices. My mobile rang. It was Audi.
‘I am phoning you to be upfront and honest,’ said Ayden, the young salesman. What? ‘You can`t pick up your new car tomorrow, I have ordered the wrong one. I ticked the wrong box. Would you take a different spec with three doors? Or the same model in a different colour?’
‘Absolutely not!’ What the Hell…..? It had taken me years to be able to just say afford to pay an arm and a leg for my dream car.......... a brand new Audi A1 sport back, 5-door, in a beautiful scuba blue. ‘No way.’ Was he for real?
‘I can re-order it and offer you a courtesy car,’ came the rather blasé reply.
‘I can't park a courtesy car at work, it's electronic eye recognition and set up to recognise my new registration from Monday morning.’
‘Well, can't you change it with work?’
‘No, not on a Friday afternoon. I start at 7.30 am on Monday, I live 10 miles away and I don't live on a public transport route. My old car is getting picked up next week and is uninsured from tomorrow anyway.’
I had wandered into the conservatory by this point and could hear pigeons dropping stones on the roof. Apparently they do that deliberately to tease Mam and Tom's dog.
‘Shall I order another car for you? It's my fault and I want to be up-front about it. I don't know if, or when, a new one will be available though.'
As I sat in the conservatory, with stones stotting off the roof, I actually said the words, ‘It bloody well beggars belief...’ And that's why I have decided not to cut the scene with Michelle and her drive. Some people might think that Michelle has an unrealistic amount of ridiculous things happen to her, but I don't think so. She seems fairly normal to me...