‘Where now?’ said the taxi driver.
‘I’m not sure,’ said Margaret.
‘What’s happening?’ whispered Nellie. ‘What’s going on?’
It’s a good question.
After fourteen months in some form of lockdown, things are changing. Within a couple of days, I’ve gone from not having any face-to-face ‘dates’ in my calendar to adding five meet-ups during July and August.
After all this time being a hermit, it’s a little daunting.
At work, I started a new role in January and have had to learn it remotely, longing for the ability to whisper in a colleague’s ear ‘what’s going on?’ when things got confusing (which is a lot of the time).
But recently, despite having to book a socially-distanced desk through a matrix (rather than pitch up and squeeze between other people wherever there’s a laptop-sized gap as we used to do) some of my colleagues returned to the office.
On that day, our daily team-meeting took place with most of us (provincial members like me) on Teams and four (ones living in or near London) in the office. I felt a pang of nostalgia for the commute, and even Croydon. I thought how nice it will be when I can finally catch up with my work friend in person and go for a cup of tea and debrief, rather than do it over Teams, which really isn’t the same.
I imagine it’s not too many months before I’ll go back too. And while one of the downsides will be that I’ll have to dress properly (rather than wear a smart top and a scruffy pair of leggings because people can only see me from the waist up) I’m hoping by the time I do, I won’t want to whisper ‘what’s going on?’ anymore, because I’ll know.
In my non-work world, despite being a bank holiday weekend, the rain has stopped and the sun has come out. Perhaps since I no longer feel like I’m in an aquarium, my mood has shifted to the positivity that can only happen when a British writer of a certain age can dry three loads of laundry on the line and feel like the work-in-progress is back under some sort of control.
I paused work on it yesterday afternoon just before the above snippet.
Things had taken an unexpected turn because Margaret has fifteen year old Nellie with her when this wasn’t in the original plan. Consequently, I later fell asleep wondering where she ought to tell the taxi driver to take them next, for which I needed to consult a map.
Perhaps in consequence of this uncertainty and/or because of clams in my dinner, I dreamed that I met one of the people I’ve made plans to meet (she knows who she is) and she was running amok: leaping over railway ticket barriers, being rude to officials, demanding food and excursions and generally not being the law-abiding, refined individual she usually is.
(Of course, since I haven’t met her in person in the last fourteen months, this may be her new normal.)
Shaking that dream out of my head when I woke, I got up and worked on the next bit of the work-in-progress until about eleven a.m my time.
It’s 4 p.m. for Margaret and she needs to be somewhere else at 5 p.m. I’d got her to the first stop to offload Nellie and she’s been asked again: ‘What’s going on?’ to which she has to answer ‘I wish I knew.’
I needed to stop there for a bit of thinking time. So in the spirit of the era, and because we needed something for lunch, I went off to cook some nibbles from ‘The Women’s Suffrage Cookery Book’. I don’t know why Margaret’s recipe didn’t get in there, as the ones that did are every bit as vague as hers might be. I had to do a fair amount of guessing of measurements, temperatures and timings with the ‘Egg Patties’ although a little less with ‘Chocolate Macaroons’ but they turned out all right and with a bit of tweaking, I’ll make them again.
Of course, life being what it is, I never got back to the work-in-progress today.
Margaret is still stuck in… (clues below) and she’ll have to wait until tomorrow (my time) to (hopefully) get to her appointment at 5 p.m (her time) and deal with… you’ll have to wait and see.
Whether I can do this before or after work is yet to be seen.
Thankfully for Margaret (and unlike me in my new role) I do know what’s going on in the story. I just need to get Margaret to the point when she does.
WHERE IS MARGARET DROPPING NELLIE? The following paragraph will not be in the final book. But may give you a clue if you know where Connie from the Caster & Fleet series ended up living and where a certain Mr Holmes may have met the woman of his dreams. In 1911 that woman might now be a little older, but after all, what’s age to crime-busting?
‘Who are you waving to?’
‘That’s my friend Connie’s house. She’s a REAL Lady Detective.’
‘Coo! Like that Caster & Fleet who get in the papers?’
‘Funny you should say that. Oh and…’
‘Who you waving at now?’
‘Mrs Holmes – she’s a Lady Detective too.’
‘She looks a bit .. what’s that word … menopausal.’
‘They’re the best sort of detectives. Don’t take any nonsense and if you mess them when they’re having a hot flush, they’re likely to grabble you to the ground and tie your limbs in a reef knot before you can say knife.’
‘I can’t imagine being that old. To be honest, I can’t imagine being as old as you – begging your pardon, doctor – but one day, I want to be that scary.’
‘Good for you, Nellie. You’re a girl after my own heart.’
Words and all photographs bar that of the fox copyright 2021 by Paula Harmon. All rights belong to the author and material may not be copied without the author’s express permission. Fox photograph: Photo 31122236 / Fox © J Vd | Dreamstime.com