Little Emily walked down to see me straight from her yomp across the moors yesterday morning. She knocked at the back door, I opened it, and there she stood - and stood – and stood - not even a hello. She just stood there looking at me, sad-eyed and droopy-mouthed, holding out a pretty little cloth bag tied at the top with a blue ribbon. I asked her what what was wrong and she looked down, slowly, and so did I and the hems of her skirts were BOGGING with BOG. She handed me the little cloth bag then raised her skirts a bit to show me her little boots but I could hardly SEE her little boots because they were covered in BOG. WET, CLUMPY, STINKY STINKING BOG.
‘Go away! You’re not coming in here like that!’
‘I stepped in a bog.’
‘Fuck off. You stink!’
‘Please, Dotty! If I return with another frock ruined Charlotte will die of apoplexy. Help me!’
‘Oh for fuck’s sake. Wait there. Don’t move ONE INCH.’
I didn’t want her to stay wet in case she got ill again and died so I ran upstairs and grabbed some clothes and a pair of trainers from my wardrobe, then ran back downstairs. She was still at the back door.
‘Here,’ I said. ‘Go and get changed in the shed and I’ll put your clothes in the washer.’ I gave her the bundle of clothes and the trainers and off she went down the garden.
Five minutes later her shout nearly split my ears open.
I went to the back door. ‘WHAT?’
‘YOU HAVE GIVEN ME BREECHES!’
‘THEY’RE COMBAT PANTS. PUT THEM ON.’
‘NO! I REFUSE!’
‘WELL YOU’LL HAVE TO GO HOME THEN.’
Silence. I went back in to move my collection of Persil Non-Bio Washing Powder Tablets boxes from where they live in front of the washer, then I went to the back door again to shout on her to hurry up, our Cumberland sausages were getting cold. She came out of the shed, ran up the garden as quick as you like, dropped her boggy little boots on the path, and shoved me out of the way to get into the house.
‘Woah, Neddy! Slow down!’
‘Was I seen? Did anyone see me?’
‘No. Give me your clothes and I’ll steep them in the sink. They’re not going in the washer like that. You can handwash them first, when we’ve had our breakfast.’
‘I will do it now. This – attire - is unseemly. Vulgar and unbecoming.’
‘They suit you. They go with your blouse.’ And they did, she looked nice in them.
I sat at the kitchen table and scoffed my Cumberland sausage sandwiches down my neck at double speed because I was ALMOST put off by the disgusting BOG STINK that got worse and worse the more she scrubbed at her skirt hems. I finished in record time.
Watching her wring out the skirts with her little hands made me shudder – if she could squeeze that much water out of a skirt imagine what she could do to a neck. The skirts were cotton but I wasn’t going to chance them on a hot wash in case they shrank or the dye in the top skirt ran into the white underskirts. I’m not stupid, I know how to do a washing. So I bunged them in and turned on the washer while little Emily sat and had her breakfast (2 more sandwiches than her last total), and we were talking (well, she was) about how fashions have become horrendous since her day, when there were four quiet knocks at the back door.
Kumblant. I’d forgotten he was coming.
Little Emily just looked at me (she was doing a lot of looking at me yesterday) and carried on eating her breakfast. She knows I don’t answer the door if I don’t know who it is. I looked at the back door. I couldn’t leave him there, he’d come for his breakfast and if he didn’t have his Cumberland sausages to fill him up, god knows who he might eat.
I ran to the door and opened it before little Emily had chance to run off and hide. She squealed and a spray of chewed-up Cumberland sausage sandwich flew out of her mouth.
‘Hello, Kumblant,’ I said.
‘Come in. This is little Emily. LITTLE EMILY! This is Kumblant.’
She might be a lot of things but she isn’t rude or bad mannered, in fact manners are EVERYTHING to her. She wiped the corners of her mouth with her little hanky, took a deep breath to compose herself, and stood up. I could see she was mortified by being caught wearing trousers and I did feel a bit sorry for her because I suppose to her it was like standing naked in front of a stranger. But she wasn’t naked, she was wearing my good combat pants, and she’d plastered on a nice smile for Kumblant so when they’d finished their introductory pleasantries I told them both to sit down while I got Kumblant’s breakfast ready.
Kumblant has lovely manners too. He waited for little Emily to sit before he climbed up onto his own chair. Then he said to me, ‘I clean stink boots before knock. You go out?’
‘No, they’re not mine, they’re little Emily’s.’
She looked at him (look, look, look) and said, ‘You have cleaned my boots?’
‘Thank you, Kumblant, you have my eternal gratitude; I did not relish the thought of the task. Dotty, where is the bag I gave you?’
Eh? Oh yes, the pretty little cloth bag. I got it from on top of the bread bin where I’d put it and gave it to her. She untied the blue ribbon and held the bag out to Kumblant.
‘May I offer you a bonbon?’
‘What is bonbon?’
‘A confection, sweet and delicious. I, myself, made them.’
He took one. He put it in his mouth and closed his eyes and chomped away. When he’d finished he opened his eyes and said,’ Is like Angel smile in Kumblant’s mouth.’
Little Emily’s eyes lit up and she beamed a great big smile at him. ‘Have another,’ she said.
And he did.
When he’d had his breakfast, Kumblant gave me a massive box of workman’s earplugs he had in his road cleaning cart outside, and the next part of his story for me to post. And that was that, we had a very nice morning and when they’d gone I had a nice afternoon reading my book because little Emily’s dress was fine and unshrunk and she went off home in clean clothes and clean boots, and Kumblant went off to work in the knowledge that he wasn’t going to eat anyone because he’d not only had his Cumberland sausage sandwiches, he had a bag of bonbons to keep him going if he got peckish. And little Emily is going to make him some more.
I like it when my friends get along with each other. I might have another go at doing a little party one day.