An Evening to Remember
Under the dryer, with her hair rolled and skewered to her head, Alison Stockman turned down the offer of magazines to read, and instead opened her handbag, took out the notepad with its attached pencil, and went through, for perhaps the fourteenth time, her List.
She was not a natural list-maker, being a fairly haphazard sort of person, and a cheerfully lighthearted housekeeper who frequently ran out of essentials like bread and butter and washing-up liquid, but still retained the ability to manage - for a day or so at any rate -by sheer improvisation, and the deep-seated conviction that it didn't much matter anyway.
It wasn't that she didn't sometimes make lists, it was because she made them on the spur of the moment, using any small scrap of paper that came to hand. Backs of envelopes, cheque stubs, old bills. This added a certain mystery to life. Lampshade. How much? she would find, scrawled on a receipt for coal delivered six months previously, and would spend several engrossed moments trying to recall what on earth this missive could have meant. Which lampshade? And how much had it cost?
Ever since they had moved out of London and into the country, she had been slowly trying to furnish and decorate their new house, but there never seemed to be enough time or money to spare - two small children used up almost all of these commodities - and there were still rooms with the wrong sort of wallpaper, or no carpets, or lamps without lampshades.
This list, however, was different. This list was for tomorrow night, and so important was it that she had specially bought the little pad with pencil attached; and had written down, with the greatest concentration, every single thing that had to be bought, cooked, polished, cleaned, washed, ironed, or peeled.
Vacuum dining room, polish silver. She ticked that one off. Lay table. She ticked that as well. She had done it this morning while Larry was at playschool and Janey napping in her cot. 'Won't the glasses get dusty?' Henry had asked when she had told him her plans, but Alison assured him that they wouldn't, and anyway the meal would be eaten by candlelight, so if the glasses were dusty Mr and Mrs Fairhurst probably wouldn't be able to see far enough to notice. Besides, whoever had heard of a dusty wineglass?
Order fillet of beef. That got a tick as well. Peel potatoes. Another tick; they were in a bowl of water in the larder along with a small piece of coal. Take prawns out of freezer. That was tomorrow morning. Make mayonnaise. Shred lettuce. Peel mushrooms. Make Mother's lemon souffle. Buy cream. She ticked off Buy cream, but the rest would have to wait until tomorrow.
She wrote, Do flowers. That meant picking the first shy daffodils that were beginning to bloom in the garden and arranging them with sprigs of flowering currant, which, hopefully, would not make the whole house smell of dirty cats.
She wrote, Wash the best coffee cups. These were a wedding present, and were kept in a corner cupboard in the sitting room. They would, without doubt, be dusty, even if the wineglasses weren't.
She wrote, Have a bath.
This was essential, even if she had it at two o'clock tomorrow afternoon. Preferably after she had brought in the coal and filled the log basket.
She wrote, Mend chair. This was one of the dining-room chairs, six little ballon-backs which Alison had bought at an auction sale. They had green velvet seats,
edged with gold braid, but Larry's cat, called, brilliantly, Catkin, had used the chair as a useful claw-sharpener, and the braid had come unstuck and drooped, unkempt as a sagging petticoat. She would find the glue and a few tacks and put it together again. It didn't matter if it wasn't very well done. Just so that it didn't show.
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