Margaret Henderson Smith Margaret Henderson Smith
Margaret Henderson Smith
‘Too clever by half!’

I wake up. I make a decision. Today I will glam up. Nothing over the top of course. Just a more attractive jumper. Plain, dark blue, fitted with a deep V-neck so I can wear a pretty top underneath. Don’t get me wrong! It’s got nothing to do with those cars. No, I’m just not up for sitting alongside my better-half in one of those. No! If I glam up a bit. Just a bit and suggest we do the garages, I might conceivably find a silver Mercedes to get up and close to. But it’s got to be a silver Mercedes. Exactly like Mr. Sanderson’s. I know just what I want. I’ve read the brochure inside out This is some fantastic car! Like his boat really, but we’ll leave buying one of those for another time!

Now, I’ve got to tell you how disappointed I am though. So disappointed our car passed its MOT. Wouldn’t you know! It could have obliged and failed. We could have ditched it. Bought another! I’d have saved my better-half the bother of looking around. No! I’d have found him one straight away. I’ve been on the look out for ages. Ever since Harriet first stepped into his. Still! There’s a glimmer of hope on the horizon! But for now I must stop dreaming. I must get on with the day.

I find my jumper, inside out. I’d put it away inside out. I’m in a hurry. I struggle to pull the sleeves through to the right side. Oh no! It’s covered in white bits! White bits, would you believe! A snow storm of them. White bits everywhere! I’m shaking it. I’m shaking this now spotty newly collaged jumper furiously.

‘What on earth are you doing?’ I’m met with my better-half.

‘Don’t ask!’ I declare.

‘Not again! Why don’t you check it instead of just throwing it all in? You’ll never learn! No logic!’

I don’t want to learn. I don’t want to be logical. My better-half is blessed with too much logic. He’s too clever by half! Who wants to spend time rummaging in pockets and up sleeves for tissues? Not me! I’d rather be writing! I’m putting it on. I’m brushing the bits off as I go. I must get on with the day.

I’m looking out of the window. It’s that big black cloud again. It’s pouring down! We’re waiting for the delivery van. The weekly shop. It arrives. The poor man rings the doorbell. He’s soaked but cheerful. ‘Magic,’ he says as I’m thanking him. My better-half doesn’t think so. He’s looking at the line of heaving carrier bags sitting the length of the hall. Soaking wet carrier bags.

‘All yours,’ he says. Then he disappears.

I’m shoving all this stuff into the freezer. Into the fridge. Into the cupboards. I’m in a hurry. I don’t want to be here. Here in the kitchen. In the kitchen doing this. I want to be on my computer. I’ve got shopping to finish. I’m crashing along. Down to the last item. The last item in the last carrier bag. Flour! Memories! I’m momentarily distracted. I’m balancing this large unwieldy bag high on one hand whilst trying to rummage space in the wall-cupboard with the other. I can feel it going. Oh no, I can feel it going! Bang onto the worktop. Bang onto the floor! Split bag. Flour everywhere! I’m covered! I look like I’ve escaped from one of those filled with water magic Christmas glass snow shakers. I close the kitchen door. I must hide all this from my better-half. I hear the back door open. He’s in!

‘What on earth are you doing now?’ he says.

I’m trying to explain. ‘That’s the carrier bag. It was the last thing in that. I was just trying to put it away.’

He’s looking inside. He’s running his hand along the inside of the bottom. It’s covered in flour.

‘The bag was already split,’ he declares. Didn’t you notice?’

‘No! We’re not all as observant as you! Too clever by half!’ I say.

He’s laughing as he walks away. I clear it up. I’m in a bad mood! My attempts to glam up have been finally sabotaged by a bag of flour. I decide there’s absolutely nothing ‘magic’ about today!

I’m getting changed. I’m changing into last night’s evening jumper because it’s there. And we might just get to go out. Get to do those garages!

Last night we were round at rosy apples’ house. Rosy apples’ house with a fire half-way up the chimney. It was something else. Roaring away on driftwood from the beach. No chocolate brown Labrador jumping at the window tonight. I feel bad! This dog can’t join the party. Because of me. This dog’s in the kitchen because of me. This gorgeous dog is not a problem. When it’s not near me, of course. It’s exuberance is more than scary. Much more than scary! I haven’t yet got the hang of this dog’s way of greeting humans!

It was little apple’s fourth birthday. She was having a party to celebrate. Wining and dining again! It’s caught on. Rosy apples’ mummy was also serving not just food. We were all up for More & Seconds! Didn’t need asking twice! We’re sitting there. All of a sudden middle apple is stretching up. Reaching across me for two long dangling legs scaling the book shelves. This one’s trying to catch up with her buddy. She pulls them both down. Oh no! More of those Double-D dolls! I suggest she gets them dressed for fear of them catching cold. She’s not listening. She’s doing a Christmas present reckie.

‘I hope you’ve got my doll and the car and a long dress for her?’ she’s saying. ‘If ever two dolls need long dresses, it’s these two,’ I’m thinking. She dumps these naked, rigid creatures on my lap. ‘It’s a priority!’ I decide to myself. ‘It’s vests and knickers for these girls tomorrow!’

We are chatting, laughing, enjoying the evening. We are looking out at the black night sky. We see headlights on the sand. Rosy apples’ daddy tells us they’re bringing the lifeboat in. It’s exciting! Romantic! It reminds me of Harriet. I’m thinking how much I want my readers to let Harriet take them into her dreams. Take them through the answers to all the questions. Take them every step of the emotional way right to the very end. From the comfort of their sofa over Christmas I want them to discover if it ever works out for Harriet. I want them to read ‘Ne Obliviscaris’.

Time quickly steals away this pleasant evening. We are leaving. They are all patting the dog. The dog on the other side of the kitchen gate. On the other side of the gate because of me. I need to join in. I need to brave this lively dog. Its head is back. Its eyes are crossing backwards towards its ears. I hover. I go for it. I see yards of pink tongue lolloping from its mouth. I freeze. It licks me. We are friends! I savour this new experience as we cross the road to the car. As I watch my better-half trying to open the boot. He’s turning the key. It’s swivelling round. He’s delving under the dashboard. The car’s shaking and clattering. He’s coming back. 

‘The dog licked me!’ I’m telling him.

‘Huh!’ he says. ‘Electronics!’

I pretend to sympathise. I’m secretly delighted! I’m asking myself how can we cope with a hammering, noisy boot-lid? A boot-lid in perpetual motion. A boot-lid that will only open from somewhere obscure. From somewhere obscure under the dashboard.

‘We definitely need a new car.’ I suggest. ‘We need a silver Mercedes.’

‘Oh no we don’t!’ My better-half retorts. ‘We’ve more than likely got a house move to contend with!’

I pretend I haven’t heard. I’m thinking the more things that go wrong with this, the better!

Back to today. I’m online hiding from my better-half. I’m scrolling down. I’m trying to find underwear for these offending dolls. They must sell it somewhere! I’m deviating. I’ve got other things to do. I can feel the day falling apart. I’ve got my better-half’s Christmas present list in front of me. I go to the website. I decide it’s got to be the most boring website in the world. I’m reading the list. I’m looking at the pictures. I can’t tell one from the other. I’m struggling. Struggling hard to get it right. I suggested a telescope, a new camera, a notebook, a laptop even. But no! What am I battling to find? Motorbike bits! That’s what he wants. He’s given me a list the length of the road. My mind is elsewhere. My mind is still searching for doll’s clothes. I envisage having to get that spooky sewing machine out. I’ll be sewing away on Christmas Eve. No! I’m just not prepared to give more of these lacking in essential garments Doule-D dolls out as presents on Christmas Day unless they’re respectable through and through!

I’m deviating. I’m back to the list. I keep putting things like wires and screws and nuts and bolts and gaskets and sumps and washers into the basket. This is the dullest virtual basket I’m ever having the misfortune to fill. Now if I were looking for diamonds that would be different!

I’m finished! At last I’m finished. I go to the checkout. I part with my details. No personal questions from this guy! This guy’s online store might be dull but at least he’s blessed with good manners. I proceed with confidence. It’s closure! I’m reading a ‘Thank you for your custom, you will receive a confirmation email shortly,’ notice.

The phone rings. It’s our other set of nearest and dearest rellies. These two are also clever and talented but it doesn’t end there. Not with these two. They are also the bravest of the brave! I can’t compete! My dearest relly-in-law is incredibly brave in her own right. But the problem is her better-half. He’s my elder-sibling-relly. He  bagged all the brave genes first. Oh he managed to save a few for my middle-sibling-relly. She got some, but I didn’t get any. They’d all been bagged by the time I came along. Not one left for me! Not even one! I don’t do brave. Brave isn’t part of my life! As you’ve already discovered.

My better-half arrives. I relate the call.

‘We’ve been invited over for lunch before Christmas.’

‘Oh jolly good!’ he says.

 I’m looking at him. his hands are full of boring bits.

‘But they live in a nice house. In a nice part. We can’t go driving through one of the smartest villages in England with a noisy, shuddering boot lid. It might spring open and stay open. Just how bad would that look? No! We need a Mercedes. We need a silver Mercedes to go there!’

He’s not up for this conversation. Not up for it at all. Like the last time I tried. I was trying to put him off our icy cold steering wheel. ‘I’m sure they’re heated in Mercedes’ cars.’ I told him. I ended up buying him a pair of black leather driving gloves!

No, he’s definitely not listening.

‘They couldn’t design their way out of a paper bag!’ he’s saying. He shows me the bits. He’s holding up something black and cylindrical. He’s pointing to broken ends where broken-off bits should be.

‘A silver Mercedes, then?’ I ask. He looks at me. He’s not smiling.

‘You can forget that! I’m fixing it!’

Sometimes he’s just too clever by half!

He goes down. I’m just not making headway with this one. I need to reduce my cognitive dissonance. I need to fill the gap between what I want and what I won’t get. I move on to diamonds. A diamond just in case I lose the other one. I’ve cheered up! I’m on my favourite auction. I’m scrolling down. This is fun! I’m looking at the prices. He’ll be wishing he’d gone for the car. I’m pinged an email. It’s that motorbike place again. ‘Please pay with paypal. But I don’t want to pay with paypal. I’ve given my details. I’ve given all my details. They know which card I’ve used. I don’t want to be bossed about by another online store.

I can’t be doing with it. I go back to diamonds. I’m looking for something cheaper. A lot cheaper! I brave the listings. I get right down to the bottom and move onto international sellers. I spot some. I spot some from America. Wow! I can hardly believe it! I’m scrolling and reading. Scrolling and reading all things complicated. ‘Buyer responsible for all taxes and import duty.’ Oh gosh! I don’t want to get into trouble. Scary words. I google them in. I can’t find anything for people like me. It’s all about imports and exports. I return to my favourite auction. I trawl the small print. Oh no! I see something about Pokemon. I see something scary about buying Pokemon in certain circumstances. There are very severe penalties. Oh no! It’s definitely not my day! I’m terrified! I’ve got a santa sack full of the things in all shapes and sizes. All shapes and sizes sitting in the loft. I’m zooming back to my ‘Bought’ category. I check them out. They’re all from the UK. I’ve been spared. I retain my freedom!

Now I’m wobbling! I’m really wobbling about diamonds! I’m back to the States. I’m emailing some questions. I must get this right. I’ve already had cause to quiver once in my life. I’ll tell you about it.

I’ve still not reached The Big 40, but I’m hurtling towards it. Faster than is good for me. Anyway I’ll lay the blame there. It’s a week-day. Nearest and dearest rellies have called in. I’m thinking of lunch. I’m thinking of fish and chips. We all agree. I get in the car. I reach the end of the road. I look across the fields to the hills. It’s looking a bit black over there. I look to my right, then turn left. I’m driving along the road towards the shop. It’s not far away. I’m in sight of the shop. I’m just coming towards the traffic lights at the crossroads. I can see the chip-shop on the corner. It’s busy. It looks full. Suddenly I’m overtaken. Suddenly I’m flagged down. Suddenly I’m quivering. Suddenly I’m face to face with authority.

‘Do you know why I’ve stopped you?’ he’s asking.

I’m wobbling like a jelly behind the steering wheel. I’m quivering and wobbling so much the words will hardly come out.

‘It’s because it’s started raining and I’ve only just put my windscreen wipers on,’ I plead.

‘No! It’s because you pulled out of that side road too quickly. Didn’t you see me coming?’

I’m promising to be more careful. He gets back into his car and drives off. I want to go home. I want to go home but I’m past the point of no return. I’m past the point of no return and I’ve got guests. I get to the lights. They are on red. I’m utterly and totally concentrating on my driving. I don’t see that all the people in the chip-shop have now pressed their noses to the glass. I don’t see them grinning away. No, not until I’m carefully parked and walking towards the door. I’ve got my head down. I’m going in. This is my local chippy and they know me. I’m going in to a blaze of publicity. The inevitable happens! They’re asking the  question. ‘Why were you stopped? We saw you!’ Their amusement is as long as the queue and I’m the last one in it!

Back to today. I’m thinking how important it is to stay on the right side of the law. I can still feel the quivers. I must wait for my email replies before I can even contemplate this diamond. Before I can even mention it to my better-half. I’m pinged two prompt replies. Two succinct, polite, very nice prompt replies from our American cousins. Now that’s enough to make a girl sparkle! Never mind the diamonds! I read them more closely. I think I’m going to have to ‘Never mind the diamonds’ in any case. The legal side of it’s all up to me!

I look at my watch. I can hardly believe it! I’ve wasted another day with so much to do. It’s time to introduce the oven to a mouth-watering ready-meal. Well. there’s no time to be cooking so near to Christmas! I go down to the fridge. I’m rummaging around all of the shopping. All of this morning’s shopping to find this instant delight. It’s not anywhere. Nowhere to be seen. Nothing for dinner!

My better-half’s been out. He comes in.

‘It’s OK. It’s working now. I’ve managed to sort it for the moment.’

I congratulate him with disappointed enthusiasm. His black leather driving gloves are sprawled on the table.

‘You forgot to take those,’ I say.

‘Oh I can’t be doing with them,’ he answers. ‘What’s for dinner?’

‘Well, it looks as though it didn’t arrive.’

 ’Didn’t arrive! What do you mean, didn’t arrive?’

‘It looks like they missed it from the list. I can’t find it. They couldn’t have sent it.’ I try to explain.

He’s looking at me. He’s looking at me all glammed up in last night’s jumper.

‘I thought we were up for something special tonight,’ he’s saying. ‘It’s no good getting all glammed up and no evening meal! You’re just  going to have to get fish and chips, aren’t you?’

Fish and chips! Driving out for fish and chips in the rain. Oh no! I’m not doing that again! I’m not risking that again! I’m just beginning to feel the onset of that bad mood. That bad mood’s coming back. I’m thinking of the garages we didn’t get to. The top of the range cars I didn’t get to lean against. There’s no glimmer of hope on the horizon.

‘I didn’t get glammed up for you. I’ve made a new friend. He’s gorgeous! He’s got dark brown hair and lovely brown eyes.’

‘Oh yes! And I suppose he drives a silver Mercedes, too!’ He’s laughing as he walks towards the door.

‘Oh go and buy him a bone!’ He says.

I can’t help but smile and hug him. He’s too clever by half my better-half.

He’s gone. Gone for the fish and chips. Gone and left his gloves behind. He doesn’t want them. I’m weighing them up. I’m thinking about those dolls. There’s at least four pairs of substantial long-legged knickers in those!


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  1. Just wanted to say HI. I found your blog a few days ago on Technorati and have been reading it over the past few days.

    Comment by Mike Harmon — December 6, 2009 @ 8:35 pm

  2. Hi,
    Many thanks for your comment. I’m pleased you’ve found it entertaining enough to have continued reading!

    Comment by margaret — January 7, 2010 @ 2:53 pm

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