Last night I was driven to hide in the airing cupboard by certain people who shall not be named (but you know who you are, don’t you?). They all scared me silly – niceness is disconcerting at the best of times but when it’s forced on a hermit willy-nilly from all directions, well, it was either the airing cupboard or total collapse and a trip to Ward 13. BUT – (and don’t all you Perpetrators of Niceness misinterpret what I’m going to say next as forgiveness or anything) – my time in the airing cupboard turned out to be one of the best times of my life and one of the worst. I’ve only just come out (well, not exactly this minute – I went for a wee and a wash and a Cumberland sausage sandwich or four before I switched on my laptop).
It started off like it usually does. I gathered what I needed (pills, brick, water, blanket, some Cumberland sausages, and a couple of little drams of Laudanum to help me sleep) and went in. My airing cupboard is larger than the average airing cupboard, in fact it used to be one of my spare bedrooms but after my children left home I stored all my new towels, sheets, duvet sets, etc in there (I like to collect nice towels and bedding) so you could say the room decided for itself that it needed a change (and why shouldn’t it?). It’s bigger than a normal airing cupboard but it isn’t Narnia so I can only fit so much in there, and the space I have to make my little bed in IS little, probably a lot smaller than the space in an Uncollector’s airing cupboard. I made my little bed on the bit of floor left in the middle of the stacks. Cosy and warm. I began the shaping of my new brick and spent about an hour or two on that (handy that I was in the airing cupboard, my towels were right there ready to mop up the blood – actually, wait a minute, I just need to check I didn’t use my white ones).
Okay, they were blue.
When I’d finished with my brick I felt round for my torch but it wasn’t there. I know NOW that I forgot it, but I didn’t know it then and all sorts of things started going through my head, terrible things, horrible things about monsters and demons hiding in the stacks, about giant woodlice and moths crawling out to get me, about the airing cupboard being Narnia after all and Queen Jadis had nicked my torch and was going to come back and turn me into a giant snowball. At that I panicked, full blown panic. I thrashed my arms about a bit. And my legs. I think it was my right big toe that clipped the stack of eiderdowns and started the TOPPLE (I’ve put that in big and bold because it was a BIG MEGA TOPPLE). Everything came down on me, all of it, even the stacks that were wedged to the ceiling, I was underneath the whole lot. I panicked some more. I was stuck, I couldn’t get out. I got ready to die and I just knew that when I was found I would be nothing but a dried husk of a Dotty and everything in the airing cupboard would have soaked up all my bodily fluids and CSI Yorkshire would have some nice new towels and posh duvet sets after they’d extracted me out of them and they’d given them a good wash (I hoped they’d use Persil Non-Bio because I’m allergic to other washing powders). I wondered who’d come for me at the FINAL SECOND, Death, or one of his minions, Death’s mini-me, – and if Death really IS a Hoodie I’d be even more afraid than I already was because if he was anything like the Hoodies in my area he wouldn’t just carry a sickle he’d have a five inch shank and a semi-automatic and he’d call me nasty names and say ‘innit’ a lot and then he’d mug me for my phone before he took me away to Deathland (but my phone was in the drawer where I’d put it so phew! he wouldn’t get that). As all this was going through my head I started to feel dizzy and see stars and I knew it was TIME, the life was seeping out of me, goodbye World you were a shitty place but you had some nice scenery, I’d really miss the sun coming up over Ilkley Moor at dawn on a clear winter’s morn.
Darkness fell and I don’t know what happened then because I was dead (well, obviously I wasn’t DEAD dead, but you know what I mean, I thought I was). I woke up and it was still dark so naturally I assumed I’d been transported out of the airing cupboard to Hell (in case you’re wondering, it wasn’t red, or hot, and there were no flames or screaming wraiths). My head hurt like fuck. I wondered if I’d been right all along and Death HAD mugged me for my phone and while he was at it had given me a bash round the head with his rock-hard boney fist. I put my hand out in front of me to see if it was still there. I wiggled my fingers. I couldn’t see them but what I did see, what slowly took shape right there in front of me, was the most wondrous, heart-lifting thing ever, the best thing I could ever, ever, ever have seen, and if I live until my dying day I shall never forget the sight of my Granny Euphemia standing where my left thumb should have been, her hair still curly and white, her lovely toothless face still crumpled like a squished-up peach, her favourite torn slippers still flapping at the front, her woolly brown dress, her pink cardigan, and her kitchen apron with a big picture of Michelangelo’s David on it. I couldn’t believe it, I thought I was hallucinating that I’d been taken to Heaven not Hell because my Granny Euphemia was the loveliest, kindest, goodest person that ever lived and died and there was no way she would have ended up in Hell. Euphemia Agnes Headbanger nee de la O’McDuff, – our ancestors were French Calvinists, Irish potato faminists, and Scottish barbarians (ginger Picts) – married to my Granda, Angus McHeadbanger – (dear dead Daddy dropped the Mc when he moved to England but I’ll tell you about that another time when I can think of him without keening).
‘Is that you, Dotty, hen?’ Granny Euphemia said.
Tears were pouring down my face and I was so choked with happiness I could hardly speak. But I did. ‘Yes, Granny Euphemia. It’s me,’ I said.
‘My, my, you’ve got awfy fat, lassie. Whit have you been eating?’
‘Cumberland sausages. They’re my favourite.’
‘Sausages? Do you ken whit they put in them?’
‘They’re no worse than haggis, Granny.’
‘Am I fat, hen? Am I? Tell me now, is there one spare inch of flesh on me? I’ve been eating haggis for nigh on eighty years and I’ve still got the figure that caught your Grandfaither.’
‘But you’ve been dead for twenty years, you’re bound to lose weight.’
‘Have I? Deid, am I? Ach, well, it comes tae us all in the end. Come here and gie me a cuddle, hen.’
I still couldn’t move. I tried to but one arm and both my legs were trapped. ‘I can’t, I’m stuck. Will you help me, please, Granny Euphemia?’
‘No. If you werenae so fat you’d have sprung up out of there in no time. You need tae stop eating yon sausages.’
‘For fuck’s sake, Granny Euphemia, just shift that bag of towels and I’ll be able to move my foot to kick my way out.’
‘No I will not. Ach, whit happened tae you, Dotty, hen? You were such a nice wee lassie. I should’ve gone tae see wee Lottie instead, she widnae speak tae her Granny like that.’
Typical fucking Lottie, I can’t even have a reunion with my long-dead Granny without her butting in on it. ‘I’m sorry for swearing. Please help me up, Granny Euphemia.’
She peered at me lying there, stuck. It seemed like ages before she spoke again. ‘I’ll help you up if you dae something for me,’ she said. ‘Promise me you’ll change your ways. Swearing and eating sausages, they have tae stop. And have you seen the state of your hoose, you dirty wee pig? It’s bogging. Clean it and keep cleaning it every day. I cannae believe you’ve let it get tae that. Where dae you keep your scrubbing brush and carbolic?’
‘Under the sink.’
‘Right, I’m away tae make a start then.’
And poof, she went, disappeared, gone. I lay there thinking about what she’d said. She was right, I had to make some changes, I do swear too much and the house could do with a bit of a tidy. Cutting out Cumberland sausages though – I’d have to see about that one, I’d give it a try, for Granny Euphemia. I hadn’t promised her I’d give them up though, she didn’t give me chance to before she fucked off to find the scrubbing brush and soap, so I thought that if I can’t manage without them at least I’m not going back on my word to her.
I got out of the airing cupboard at 3.03pm this afternoon. I don’t know how, it’s all a bit of a haze after Granny Euphemia disappeared, but if I remember rightly my lovely Ian Somerhalder came and lifted everything off me and stacked it all up neatly again. As I’ve already said, I had a wash and a wee and a pile of Cumberland sausage sandwiches as soon as I came out. And I’m going to have some MORE Cumberland sausage sandwiches now for my tea because you know what, Granny Euphemia is nowhere to be seen, she didn’t TOUCH the scrubbing brush or the soap and everything in the house is just as I left it last night. So, Granny Euphemia, even though seeing you made me the happiest Dotty in the world, you can go and sit and swivel on the scrubbing brush you old slacker, I bet you didn’t even look for it, I bet you just pissed off down the pub to get sozzled, didn’t you, so if it’s all right for you to say one thing and do another it’s all right for me too. I WILL stop swearing like I said I would, and I’ll clean my house BY MYSELF (seeing as you haven’t done ANYTHING at all) but as for giving up my Cumberland sausages, Hell will freeze over before that happens.
Right, I’m off to make my tea before it gets any later. I’m starving.