Once a kiss, twice a wish, three times someone else’s letter

p10 pic

p10 pic - Credit: Archant

I’m getting your cold,” I croaked to my husband.

“Oh no, you poor thing,” he said, sympathetically. “But at least you won’t get it as badly as I did.”

“No, I’m sure I won’t.”

Somehow he picked up on the heavy sarcasm.

“I mean, it won’t go to your chest like mine has,” he explained.

I can’t deny it. It’s been a long time since anything went to my chest.

But the chilly, damp weather has affected my new knee. It’s a bit stiff and uncomfortable despite its impressive bend and nifty stair action. My resident diagnostician (my husband) says its probably condensation – cold metal kneecap, warm vascular flow. If anyone can recommend a knee de-humidifier...

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As I sit here, staying warm, feeling sorry for myself, sniffing, and drinking endless cups of tea (standard advice for colds: “have lots of hot drinks”) I can see my neighbour opposite, perched on scaffolding in the pretty stiff wind, painting her upstairs window ledge.

I’m reminded of Mrs Doyle in the sitcom Father Ted, who regularly shimmied up on to the roof to fix the tiles.

I sniff and catch sight of the letter by the front door. It’s to “Tom and Sarah” at our address. I’ve been feeling guilty about it because it’s been sitting there since mid-January, atop a pile of estate agents’ cards (they all have buyers for our house), pizza offers (never fancied a stuffed crust), plastic bags for my old clothes (I’m wearing them).

Then I get an email from someone in our neighbourhood group about a wrongly-addressed letter they’ve received. Lightbulb moment. I sniff and fire off an email to ask if anyone knows Tom and Sarah. Within minutes I have heard from Tom and Sarah, Tim and Sarah, and the vicar. The first pair look likely candidates; the second couple were pencilled in as first reserves and the vicar kindly pointed me towards the same Tom and Sarah. I delivered the letter under cover of darkness, later that day.

Impressed by my success, another neighbour emailed about then annual Christmas card with a round robin update she receives. It didn’t take long for the people for whom it was intended to respond. In fact they live directly opposite the recipient and were going to pop over and collect it.

It felt just like the old days when women would hang out the washing on Mondays and chat over the garden fence. It was an early form of email.

Among the pile of letters are a number addressed to Mr Withheld. It all started when my husband declined to give his name over the phone to a cold caller and, consequently, he went into the system as “withheld”. This obviously didn’t stop them putting him on a mailing list and selling him on to any number of other organisations that now all write to him: “Dear Mr Withheld,” etc.

It reminds me of the time I was called through for an audition as “Lynne Nicetimer” though in this case, it was my dreadful handwriting that led to the confusion... unless they’d heard about my disco years.

And then we had a letter from our energy supplier. The icy hand of dread gripped my fluttering heart and instantly dried my sinuses.

Oh, and we’re not thinking of changing energy supplier, by the way... I mean it. We’re not. And before you dial my number, I don’t want solar panels on the roof, a wind turbine in the back garden or a hydroelectric dam round the S-bend.

Trembling, I open the missive. Phew. It’s not about a new and even more frightening tariff. The letter reads: “Unfortunately we’ve identified a problem with our IT systems, meaning we collected your direct debit payment... a day earlier than normal. We’re very sorry if this caused you any inconvenience.”

It then goes on to offer reimbursement for any bank charges we may have incurred due to their premature dip into our bank account. I feel I may be due compensation for the palpitations, although they did stop me sniffing, I suppose.

n This week I am 59. My mum and I are relaxed about ageing. “It’s only a number, isn’t it? we agree and then we nod vigorously, sip our tea and dunk our gingernuts.

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