Opening one eye, stretching both legs and wriggling my toes, I ventured to pop my nose over the top of my snuggly warm duvet and check the alarm clock.

8:30 a.m, my day off but so much to do.

First on the list was to rectify a particular disastrous home hair colourant from the night before.  It was supposed to have given me golden lights of tumbling blonde with a wisp of soft caramel.  Pulling at a strand that had dropped across my shoulder I could see that the Schwumpff Caress shade No. 23 had actually blessed me with tumbling locks of Rat Brown with hints of British Army Khaki Green.  It was too late to cry now, what was done was done.  

Pulling the duvet up under my chin, I pondered the multi-coloured beret that my Nan had crocheted for me in 1978.  The best I could do would be to stick it on my head for a visit to Sainsbury’s.  Blowing at another strand of hair that had fallen across my face, I buried my head in the pillow to enjoy another five minutes before my toes had to skip across the bedroom to the bathroom.  Turning over, I curled into a ball, closed my eyes and cuddled into Joe for a quick spoons – only for him to snort, cough and then fart loudly.

“Ooops, morning pumpkin, don’t know where that came from…”  Muttered a muffled voice from under the duvet.

“Err from your butt I should think Joe, you are so disgusting!”  I pressed my hand over my nose.

Joe sniffed the air and wafted the duvet.  “Yep Mave, ever the Detective, at this rate you’ll end up in CID.”  he sniggered.

Leaping out of bed, I hit him with my pillow, grabbed my clothes and left him to wallow in his own makings whilst I had a shower.  

Bounding downstairs, two steps at a time and then all three together at the bottom as I lost my footing, I grabbed my coat, plonked Nan’s Bob Marley tea cosy on my head and slammed the front door behind me.  Hopefully Sainsbury’s would be quiet at this time of the morning, as strolling down the aisles in my Nan’s stupid hat with khaki green hair whilst I hunted for a colour corrector and something for breakfast was not my idea of a fun start to the day.

Trundling my newly acquired trolley through the doors, I entered the realms of BOGOFFS, Taste The Difference Meals and …….. damn……

Pensioner Tuesday.

I’d forgotten that all the wrinklies and cantankerous old sods with their walking sticks, zimmer frames and runaway electric scooters, cruised the aisles early on Pensioner Tuesday.  Promising myself a quick tour of the Beauty aisle and then home, I deftly dodged four candidates from the local Derby & Joan Club, swerved their trolleys, braked and manoeuvred into a gentle glide across the foyer.

Ambling along the fruit & veg aisle, happily humming a cheerful tune to keep myself more buoyant than I actually felt, I spotted Ms Ethel Holmes, well known Spinster of our Parish, chunnering away to herself.  She was grimacing and squinting towards me whilst holding a chilled ready meal.  I vaguely remembered her being 90 years old and much celebrated in our local paper for allegedly crocheting some works of art for the troops at Christmas.  Being a spinster, I very much doubted they were willy warmers, but then again, she was nothing if not eccentric.  

Glaring at me, I began to feel quite uncomfortable.  Fearing that it was perhaps my melodic voice that was causing her some distress, I dropped a few octaves and sort of hummed into a nearby basket of sprouts whilst watching her out of the corner of my eye, as a pang of nostalgia suddenly took me back to December 1964.  

A hot flush crept over me.  

Bloody hell, The Reverend Horace Butterworth, what an ogre he’d been. Billowing cassock, three strands of hair and a bumpy purple nose with a permanent dewdrop.  He had glowered at me, wagged a finger and promptly ordered me to lip sync at the school carol concert so as to not upset his congregation.  He had apparently feared that my dulcet tones would create a great wave of clacking false teeth, nose blowing and squealing of hearing aids along the pews, as volumes were adjusted to drown out my contribution.

This episode had subsequently traumatised me for life with the realisation that I didn’t actually sound like Doris Day or Karen Carpenter and that any encouragement my Mum gave me to sing had only ever taken place once she had ensconced me in the outside bog that was housed at the bottom of the garden.

Singing to five squares of newspaper attached to a piece of string and a gargantuan tarantula hanging from the Victorian toilet chain hadn’t been my idea of fun as an 8-year old. 

Musing my lack of talent whilst pretending to count sprouts into a paper bag to avoid her accusing stare, Ethel sidled up to me, clutching her Taste The Difference meal with an air of reverence.  Tugging at my sleeve she leant forward and shoved it right under my nose.

“Excuse me dear, I wonder if you can tell me if this has pips in it, I’ve forgotten my glasses?” she sniffed.

Looking at her, so very sweet and frail and ‘Miss Marple-like’,  I felt a real need to help.  Studying the ingredients I could see it contained peppers and tomatoes

“Umm, yes I think it probably will Miss Holmes, it’s got tomatoes in it.” I handed the packet back to her.

“Oh dear…” she sighed “…they get stuck in my teeth you see.  Are they big pips or little pips?”

Jeez, this wasn’t what I wanted to be doing at 9:15 in the morning with Khaki Green hair and a stupid hat.  I was becoming slightly exasperated but trying hard to be kind, I carried on.

“Well, I think you’ll find they’re the size of normal tomato pips, but they would probably brush out when you clean your teeth, so I wouldn’t worry too much.”   I helpfully offered this pearl of wisdom to allay her concerns but I could see that she wasn’t entirely satisfied with my explanation.

“Yes, but do you think they’ll get stuck or not?  I don’t want to spend all night picking them out, I’ve got me Bingo to go to.”  She grumbled whilst pointing at her teeth.

I wondered how I would explain to her that I was actually a Police Officer with really bad hair and my Nan’s tea cosy for a hat and not, as she seemed to assume, a fully qualified Dentist.  I had an awful vision of her picking pips out of her teeth whilst crossing the numbers from her Bingo card and shouting House whilst spraying what she couldn’t remove over her friends.

Ethel gently took hold of my hand.  “Here you are Dear, see what you think, would the pips stick in these?”

I looked down in horror as she dropped her top set of false teeth into my hand, attached by a string of slobber, half a chewed cashew nut and a stringy bit of tangerine.  Hastily throwing the dentures back at her, I squealed whilst trying to fling the drool from the palm of my hand.  It point blank refused to budge and hung tantalisingly between my outstretched fingers as I inwardly screamed in disgust.

As Ethel turned to replace her errant dentures in her mouth, I took the opportunity to wipe my slobber-ridden hand on the back of her navy blue polyester coat in the pretence that I was ushering her to the checkout.

“……but I’ve only shown you me top set Dear, I get a lot more stuck in me  bottom ones if you want to look” she excitedly suggested whilst digging the heels of her extra wide EE fitting court shoes into the tiles.

“Really Miss Holmes, I think I’d prefer not to….” my patience had reached its limit, “….. just buy the bloody meal for God’s sake, you can always soak your teeth afterwards…… or why not take them out and suck it up!” I spat in desperation.

Ethel dropped her glasses to the end of her nose, shoved her bottom set of dentures back into her mouth and threw the ready meal into her trolley.

“You youngsters, no patience nowadays.  When I was your age I’d have been knocked into the middle of next week giving cheek like that.”

…..and with that she smacked me over the back of the head with a bumper pack of Tena Lady Incontinence Pads, knocking my Bob Marley tea cosy into the freezer where it promptly disappeared between two rather large turkeys leaving my British Army Khaki Green hair, wild and naked for all to see.

Handcuffs, Truncheon & A Primark Thong

(c) 2016 Gina Kirkham