Castle Pillock 8
The quotes are in for the first stage of the Castle Pillock restoration.
‘CALL AN AMBULANCE! It’s all right, Mum. It’s all right. WHAT’S THE FIRST AID FOR SHOCK? I think we’re beyond the recovery position.’
Given the hole in the finances left by the Scion’s altercation with Revenue and Customs, I am doing a triage exercise. The guttering is priority, obviously, because the crack has turned into a chasm and the inside kitchen windowsill is starting to come away from the wall because damp is seeping through the brickwork. Check. The flat roof on the garage is priority, obviously, because the edge where it joins to the house is knackered and I’m running out of buckets. Check. The garden path is priority, obviously, because we’re not insured if that bit by the front door collapses and buries the postperson. Check. The rewiring is pretty priority because either every light socket in the place will stop working, or we’ll blow up, or we’ll blow up in the dark. Check. The front hedge-to-wall conversion is a personal priority because that bloody afro-hedge is the most public statement of my complete failure as a responsible member of society. Check.
I excavate through layers of junk mail in the porch and find three flyers stating that Estate Agents have endless queues of clients waiting for properties just like mine.
‘Good morning, Silvertongue Properties, i’mlucindahow’syourdaysofargreatandhowcanihelp?’
‘I have a wreck to sell.’
‘No. Seriously. I have a wreck to sell.’
‘Oh, I can guarantee we’ve seen worse! Now where are you? Oh. That wreck.’
That evening I hack my way through to end of the garden and survey the Pillock estate.
When we moved in, the houses on either side were occupied by retired couples who had raised their families there and were now contentedly enjoying autumn years filled with gardens, grandchildren and evening classes. After a peripatetic childhood and a fairly boisterous young adulthood, it seemed to me that I had finally come to rest in this leafy bit of Betjeman’s England, where our kids could safely play out, where I could harvest my own plums and apples, where a knock on the door at Halloween would mean rosy cheeked children in cleverly hand-made costumes and not hulking, growling figures in hoods which themselves had acne. Of course we could only afford the house because it was a wreck then, but we were young(er) and still, I think, in love, and filled with a vision of a paddling-pooled, Sunday barbecued future for our kids. In my teens I sang along with Pleasant Valley Sunday in a voice rich with contempt for suburbia and all its works. Nothing like a few years looking at the arse end of life to convince you that maybe you could learn to tolerate the hum of mowers and the slop of sponges on car bonnets.
I look through the fading light at my crumbling Castle of Dreams. Fuck it, we’ll stay. Stop whingeing, woman. You’re not sitting with your children in an alien country with a wall of razor wire in front of you and weeks and months of terror behind you. Get your pencil and your abacus out and do some sums.
The following evening, on my way home from work, I come across the Scion busking outside Blacks the Outdoor Shop. Apparently the evenings are good times for busking. Less competition and if you stick with it you get the quick drink after work brigade after they’ve had several more than they’d intended. I stop to have a look in the guitar case, which houses a less than impressive scattering of loose change.
The rule is, you don’t interrupt the busker mid song, even if you’re his mother and he owes you seventeen hundred quid. You could put off a potential loose change chucker. So I wait patiently until Bittersweet Symphony strums to a close before observing, ‘Is that it?’
‘Can you mind the guitar while I go for a wee?’
While I wait I wonder if there’s a gap in the market for the BuskerBag, available in male and female versions, perhaps designed with a musical motif and space for a spare plectrum.
‘Um, are you doing anything tomorrow night?’
‘Why? Are you taking me out to dinner?’ I look pointedly at the guitar case.
‘Ha. Ha. Just wondered if you had any plans for the telly.’
‘If it’s the sodding bailiffs again – ‘
‘No, it’s the rugby world cup.’
They have neither telly nor t’internet at the Scion’s shared house. Despite being enthusiastic signers of Change.org petitions on the future of the BBC and the necessity of maintaining funding for same, none of them has ever actually forked out for a TV licence. They did have broadband, but apparently when Fergus left he took it with him.
‘What do you mean, he took it with him?’
‘I don’t know. Fergus left and it stopped.’
‘You don’t think that possibly one or other or all of you now have to start paying the bill?’
‘Yeah. Maybe. Kirsty’s looking into it.’
‘This is the same Kirsty who thinks Joey Essex is the intellectual powerhouse of our times.’
The Scion’s in luck because the Princess has other plans for the following evening. The pub where she works is having a Pirate Day at the weekend (I don’t know. Why not, I suppose.) and all the staff are getting a Rum Masterclass. She gets paid for this.
I have never got the hang of rugby, although many of the men in my life have been rugby fans. My dad, Bugger Lugs, Bugger Lugs’s dad, and now the Scion. I know you have to pass the ball backwards and ‘get it over the frickin’ LINE’ but beyond that, zilch. This evening I learn that you’re not allowed to pick someone up by their legs and drop them on their head, and that in Fiji they really do build men like brick shit houses. The Scion, arranged on the sofa with his laptop, a number of cans, two bags of Doritos and a disapproving cat, directs proceedings with enthusiasm.
‘RUN WITH IT! DON’T RUN WITH IT! GOOD BALL! ONE MORE PUSH LADS, ONE MORE PUSH! GOOD MAUL! CALL THAT A SCRUM! GO! GO! GO! YES! YES! YES!’
‘Good match then?’
‘S’all right. Nothing to get particularly excited about.’
After Sir Clive has delivered his pearls of wisdom, and the Scion has caught up with several days Facebooking, he suddenly delves into his pocket. ‘Oh. Yeah. Nearly forgot.’ A small bundle of used notes lands on the coffee table. It is one and a half fifths of what he owes me. I should say that in addition to the busking, the Scion has spent the summer playing the Sherriff of Nottingham in an interactive show for children at a local stately home. Hours in the sunshine threatening kids with the dungeons if they don’t pay their taxes. I’m not sure Castle Pillock can withstand the tsunami of irony.
‘Thank you very much. When I can I expect the next instalment?’ The Scion is now rehearsing to be the Mad Hatter in another interactive show over October half term. It’s all glamour, this thespian lark.
‘Soon. Ish. Can you lend me a fiver for a taxi?’
Pass me the abacus.