Don't you just hate it when your doctor looks at whatever it is and starts the textbook spiel? Looking at the thing on my ankle he launched into all the stuff about raised edges and whatever and ended up quoting some medical term that was as good as meaningless to me.
"What was that?"
He said it again, and went on:
"It's a fungal infection, bit like ringworm, except ringworm isn't a worm, it's a fungus. I'll give you some cream for it."
And that was it, I'd certainly not exceeded my allotted five minutes this time. Actually I think it's eight minutes. And I was a bit pissed too. Fungus? I know I'm getting on a bit, but it might have the decency to at least wait until I'm dead.
I walked out through to the waiting room, a long narrow room with seats either side which had probably been the backyard of the house that now housed the practice, and had been covered to provide more room. The fact that it is narrow is relevant because it meant I had to negotiate my way past someone who was standing talking to someone seated. As I approached I realised that the person standing was female, slim and strangely attractive. Why strangely? Well she had a completely shaven head which was covered in a tattoo. Other than that there was little remarkable about her, small gold hoops in neat ears, a thin but attractive face with large blue eyes, scooped neck tee shirt covering a small chest, jeans covering narrow hips and a small 'bubble butt', and ... boots. Ho hum. All this I got with a quick glance as I asked her to excuse me and stepped past. I got a fleeting smile and a 'sorry', in return.
I have to say that she stuck in my mind, I suppose it was the tattoo really. Well, yes, of course it was. I saw her about a few times over the next month or two, I don't go into town often, in fact I'm a bit of a recluse since my wife died, so apart from essential shopping and very occasional doctor's visits I never go there. Oh, I do go into the newsagents when I'm down there because there are a couple of cuddly young blondes who run it, so I get the odd magazine from there, others I subscribe to and the postie delivers. I live about four miles out of town in a bungalow set on a couple of acres with a barn which I use as a workshop and various other outbuildings, and I always ride my bike down the old railway track when I do go to town. I'm not sure how this stands with the councils' bye laws, as if I cared, which say walking and cycling are allowed, but my bike is electric. Anyway, I always slow down for walkers, although with some of the old dears being deaf it can sometimes give them a bit of a start, but at least I have a bell. I've called it a town, but to many it would be little more than a village by the sea. It has a population of about fifteen hundred but this quadruples in summer when hordes of holiday makers descend on it and make it into a sort of Wolverhamton-on-Sea.
On one of the occasions when I saw this woman she was sitting on a seat by the bus stop, so presumably waiting for a bus. As I walked past I paused, caught her attention and told her that I was very taken with her tattoo, and that I thought it was very attractive. And I really thought it was; a riot of colourful flowers and foliage. I'm not sure what she initially thought, but she realised after looking at me for a second or two that I was sincere and her face lit up with a smile.
She said, "Why thank you kind sir,"
She spoke with the lilt of the local accent which I have to say I find very sexy.
I replied that it was my pleasure and walked on to where I had parked my bike outside the newsagent's and pedalled off home. Yes, you do have to pedal an electric bike, just not so hard.
I am retired, and have been for a while so my time is my own, but since I only have the basic old age pension, despite low outgoings a little extra income is welcome, and so I produce stuff which I sell at local craft fairs and shows which produces the cash to buy a few luxuries. For luxury read wine. Beer I can make myself, and a better pint than most breweries, but producing good wine is difficult. I could, of course, buy beer too, but most of the local craft brewers use American hops, not to my taste at all, what's wrong with goldings and fuggles I'd like to know. So apart from running the kitchen garden for my vegetables, I like to spend my time either in my workshop, or my studio, producing the things that the hordes buy and which in turn buy my luxuries. What I don't like doing is housework. With this in mind I decided that I could afford to have someone come in, say, once a week to do the household chores; nothing too onerous, just vacuuming and dusting and a bit of tidying.
Having made the decision I wrote out a postcard and rode my bike down to the town so that I could put it in the newsagents. One of the cuddly blondes took the card and said she'd put in in the window. I was nearly home when my phone rang. It was a lady, obviously local, the accent remember, and could she come and see me. We agreed a time just after lunch. I started to give directions but she said not to worry she knew where I was. Fine, I continued home and had lunch.
At exactly the appointed time the doorbell rang and I opened the door to find none other than my tattooed lady standing on the door step. I was somewhat surprised, but of course didn't show it. She was dressed exactly the same as when I had first seen her, indeed I had never seen her in anything else, and seeing her face full on I decided that it was perhaps not as thin as I had at first thought and whilst I would not call her beautiful, she was very good looking.
"You look surprised to see me," were her opening words.
"No, no," I replied, or rather lied, "I was surprised to find someone I know. Well, not know, you understand but..."
She smiled. "Probably best to stop digging right there," she said.
I had a feeling that we were going to get along just fine.
I introduced myself.
"Popsie," she said.
I talked her through all the things I wanted done and there seemed to be no problem. Tuesdays would be fine, we agreed a price, in cash, because although nothing was said I'd guessed that she was on the social and a few bob extra would be good, and with the new rules if I actually employed her I'd have to arrange a pension for her. So we were both happy.
Tuesday bang on nine the doorbell rang, and as instructed she came in, I'd already unlocked the door, not that there is any need to lock it around here, but my late wife always insisted upon it and old habits die hard.
"Good morning," I greeted her, "I've made some coffee."
She smiled, "thank you."
She took her coffee, sipped, and made appreciative noises; I'm very fussy about my coffee, not that I'm a connoisseur and certainly not a snob but I've narrowed my favourite down to a Monsooned Malabar although I do have to make a seventy mile trip to the nearest Waitrose to get it, but why drink anything you don't like? We made some small talk for a minute or two and then she set to work. I decided to leave her to it and took myself and my coffee off to my studio.
I popped down mid-morning for more coffee and found her hard at it.
I returned just before lunch to find Popsie sitting on a stool in the kitchen reading a magazine.
"I think I've done everything," she said, and proceeded to give me a blow by blow account of everything she had done.
"That's wonderful," I told her and handed her the agreed amount.
And that's how things went on for several weeks.
We had got into the habit of having a mid-morning coffee together and chatting, though I found out little about her, then one week when I was busy in the workshop she brought me out a mug. I was at the time just finishing off a piece of wood turning and she stood, coffee in hand watching me.
"That's fantastic," she said. "I'd love to have a go, d'you think I could?"
"I don't see why not. I don't want to take that off the lathe yet, but we could do it another time, when are you free?"
She laughed, "I'm free any time," she said. "Except Tuesday mornings."
And that was how it started. I have to admit that I liked having her about, she was bright and intelligent, picked things up very quickly and was easy on the eye. My eye anyway, and I was smitten. She was, of course, much younger than me, I reckoned about twenty five years, so I had no idea how to proceed any further, or even if I should. In fact I didn't want to open up what might be a can of worms because although I had the impression that the feelings were mutual there was something else I couldn't put my finger on, and I didn't want to lose her. I did show her how to use one tool on the lathe by putting my arms around her and my hands on hers, and I have to say she felt very good, she even pressed back into me for a moment, but then pulled away. She was spending several days a week with me and learning a great deal, getting better all the time and very soon what she was producing was perfectly saleable.
Just before the holiday season got underway she came in very subdued.
"What's up?" I asked.
She burst into tears. "I've been told I've got to leave my flat, they want it for holidays. I've got nowhere to go."
I took her in my arms and gave her a hug.
"No friends? Family?"
She shook her head. "No one who'll have me. And I can't even ask you, because you've only got one bedroom."
True, when we refurbished the bungalow because it was so small we decided to make it perfect for us, and we didn't sleep separately.
Fresh tears whilst I thought about the possibility that she might like to share and then dismissed it as the ramblings of a dirty old man.
"Tell you what," I said as a sudden thought struck me. "How would a static caravan do?"
"In holiday season, don't be silly."
"I'm not, there's one here."
"Up behind the other shed."
Now I should just give a few words about the lie of the land. Although the bungalow is quite close to the road it is approached up a long drive which is parallel to the road and crosses the bottom of the adjacent field. The ground rises steeply behind the bungalow, flattens slightly where the barn is, then goes on up, but not too steeply. There is another shed and then behind that is the static caravan, not very visible because of a lot of planting. We put it there when we first moved whilst I was working on the bungalow, and then we had let it for holidays for a while but it hadn't been occupied for some time. Nevertheless it was in good condition, dry and snug.
I released her from the hug, took a piece of paper from a big roll of absorbent blue paper that I use for cleaning, and dried her eyes, and then took her by the hand a showed her the way to the caravan. I explained all the foregoing to her and then we went inside. She was like a dog with two tails.
"Can I really stay here? I mean aren't you going to let it?"
"Well, I am going to let it."
I suddenly had my arms full of woman, a full on kiss ensued, including a tonsil examination which I was really enjoying, and then she drew back.
"I'm sorry, I shouldn't have done that."
"I didn't mind at all."
She looked at me somewhat sadly.
"No, you don't understand."
"Okay, but if you want to explain any time..."
"When can I move in?"
"I've got to fill the heating and hot water system, but other than that it should be ready to go. Needs a bit of a spring clean, though."
"I can do that, no problem," she replied, with a big grin.
"No time like the present. Do you have much to move? I can collect it in the van."
At this time I was still driving, although to be honest I shouldn't have been, my eyesight was quite good, but very restricted and the way I put it is that I don't know what I don't see, but I couldn't get to craft fairs if I didn't.
She moved in that afternoon having spent the morning doing a full clean whilst I sorted out what I needed to get done.
So there we were, she did her usual Tuesday morning, the rest of the time she spent mostly with me, cheerful, laughing and joking, and everything seemed close to perfect. It was a delight to see frilly things on the washing line again, and yes I am a cad, 34A, I checked while she was down town. Now, I know most blokes don't seem to regard a woman as female if she has less than a double D, but experience tells me that these are floppy bunnies and usually end up hiding in the lady's armpits, and let's be honest, more than a handful is a waste. So 34A seemed pretty good to me. Particularly as they were Popsie's. Now, there was an odd thing. Even after she had been living in the static for some time I never saw any post for her, so no name, just Popsie. It didn't worry me, but it did intrigue me.
By the time we were close to the first craft fair of the summer we had a good stock of bits and pieces ready and I suggested that she should come and help me sell them.
"No, no I couldn't."
"Oh come on, you've made half of it."
"No, someone would see me and I'd be an embarrassment to you."
"You most certainly wouldn't."
But then I thought, well, if she is still drawing benefits then someone might report her, and whilst there really wasn't anything that she was doing that was illegal it would still cause problems.
"Well," I said, "what if no one recognised you?"
"With this headful of tattoo, you are surely joking."
"Come with me," I said, grabbing her by the hand.
I pulled her into my bedroom with a certain amount of protest, not, I was pleased to think, with too much protest. I plonked her down on the dressing table stool with her back to the mirror.
"What are you up to?"
I reached into one of the drawers and pulled out a wig that my wife had worn in her younger days, I knew it was there because she never threw anything away. I spread it out with my hands and placed it on her head.
"Shush! Sit still!"
Taking a comb I adjusted the hair around her face, then reached into the makeup drawer and took out eye liner, a few deft strokes, blusher, just a dab, and then lipstick. Popsie had quite full lips, not, I suspected, entirely natural, and when I had finished even I didn't recognise her.
"Close your eyes."
She closed her eyes.
She slowly turned on the stool.
"Is that really me?"