The day is Saturday. The scene is a town somewhere in Essex. Noreen Scragshot stands before a department store window. She takes her mobile from her bag and taps a name:
“Hi Trix: it’s Noreen – you all right, mate?
Who? Paul? Yeah, well, he texted me. His signal’s real bad down there.
Your headache, and that?
Lovely! Trix? Guess where I am?
I am. I’m outside Browngrow’s! You should see the red halter tops they got in the window – you know, them ones with the glittery bits like the one Cassiopeia nearly wore at Baz’s party? Get down here, mate!
Oh yeah, I forgot the funeral! So, so sorry. She was a lovely woman, lovely. We’ll miss her. So who’s got the terrible twins – David?
He’s with you. So who….
Wally? Trix, love, was that wise?
Yeah, I know he gets on with them. All the same….
Margie organised everything, didn’t she? Bless her! Did they give her a good send-off?
They didn’t! Seriously?
Yeah, I know she was in the corps de ballet once, but I’m not sure a tutu is….
No, well if Margie said it was alright, I suppose.
Not a bad figure for a woman of ninety-seven. David said that?
No, well, I supp-o-se. Here, Trix, I hope you stayed off the bevvies at the reception, mate; you know what you’re like.
NO! Really? Well, that’s Angelina for you.
She fell in the…. Trix, are we sure a chocolate fountain is entirely proper for a funeral?
Yes, I know. Margie organised it. Here, speak of the devil. Listen, mate, I’ve got Wally on ‘call waiting’. I’ll say ta-ra, yeah? Speak to you soon…”
Noreen bids an unwilling goodbye to the halter tops and turns for West Street and home. She takes Walter Bollomy’s call.
“Hello Wals. How are you getting on?
Oh, I know. Trix never disciplines them, Wal. No naughty step, see?
Yeah, I know she lives in a bungalow. Little tip, darlin’. They love to play hide and seek.
Get them going on that and it shuts ’em up for ages.
You’re breaking up, Wals. Something about ‘lots of boxes’?
Oh, he’s gone.”
At the pedestrian crossing Noreen calls Paul Bagstart.
Yeah, I got your text. You’re not coming tonight – why, mate? I’ve done the pancakes, and I done my special avocado fondant dip, and everything.
Trix isn’t coming, Paul. She’s got a funeral, hasn’t she?
What do you mean, you’ll be knackered? I’m knackered, doing all that catering. Cheers, Paul. Thanks a lot, mate.
Yeah, you get lost, an’ all!”
Noreen cuts Paul off. The crossing lights change. Watching her ‘phone, Noreen collides with an elderly pedestrian.
“Here, Mrs! You want to look where you’re going!”
Walter Bollomy’s name flashes.
She opens Walter’s call.
Line’s still bad.
Hide and seek. Yeah.
Nope, lost you. He’s gone.”
Noreen calls Charles Windrush
“Hey Chas? It’s Noreen.
Blimey, you’re breathin’ ‘eavy an’ all. What’s going on? I was on to Paul just now and he sounded like he’d been pushin’ that Porsche of his. Yeah, (chuckles) again. He never gets that out of breath normally – not watching football, and that.
You aren’t? Both of you?
Yeah, I know you’re the only one with a roof rack. What’s that got to do with anything?
Oh, you were helping Jack move house! Of course! I forgot it was this week. How are you getting on?
All done. What, so now you’ve got to get over to Wally’s? For the footy, I suppose.
Listen, Trix is trying to call me back. I’ll see you soon, yeah?”
Trixie Ballerdash’s name is flashing. Noreen answers.
“Trix! All right, mate?
Aww! You got her home, then?
She’s collapsed where?
Let her sleep, mate, it’s the only way.
Why’s Paul complaining?
Let me get that right; he can step over her but he can’t close the door.
Yeah, s’pose that is one door he’d need to close, isn’t it?
Just tell him to get on with it, mate. Angie won’t know a thing.
Yeah. Listen, Trix, get over to Wally’s place and get the twins back.
I know, mate, I know. It’s just, well, it’s just Wally, isn’t it? He worries me, he does.
Well, Okay. See ya!”
Walter Bollomy’s name is flashing
“Wally, what is it darlin’?
Wal, it’s no good; I can’t hear you.
Hide and seek, yeah. Listen, Trix is on her way over….oh, bugger!
Look, Wal, there’s no signal, yeah? Text me, darlin’.
No, TEXT me. Tee, ee, ex…. Wal?
Noreen closes the line with a sigh. She turns into the road which will lead her away from the town centre and up High Tower Hill. The walk home is a pleasant enough stroll through avenues lined with larches – a matter of twenty minutes to Neverlands Crescent where she resides, or thirty minutes on six-inch heels. She will soon be within sight of the two bright orange pillars that frame her front door. Jack Lopghast’s name flashes on her ‘phone.
I was just thinking of you! I said to myself, Jack’s moving house today: I must call him and see how he….
Yeah, how did you get on?
All gone smoothly? That Paul’s a real broad pair of shoulders, isn’t he? I wouldn’t say no to an Argentine Tango or two with him, Jack, I don’t mind admitting.
Ooo you dirty sod! What d’you mean, he couldn’t raise so much as a laugh? Yeah, he said he was knackered.
You both are? Well, it’s moving, isn’t it – all the stress and that.
Chas has buggered off?
He’s left you and Paul to do all the shifting in? That’s not like Chas, Jack, now is it?
Yeah, I know he’s the only one with a roof rack. Let me tell you sweetheart, the way he drives, you’re lucky you haven’t got a houseful of matchwood.
Yeah. Listen, sweetheart, where was he going?
He had to what?
Oh, gawd, I’ve got Trix on the other line. I’ll get back to you, yeah?”
Noreen closes the call, and answers Trixie’s tone.
Calm down, mate! What is it?
Stop sobbing, I can’t hear what you’re saying, yeah?
Slow down, mate – take a nice deep breath.
Oh my god!
You’ve lost one of the twins? Which one’s missing?
Daisy. Daisy’s missing. You’ve been right through Wally’s house and you can’t find her, yeah?
You called out for her?
What about little Robbo – doesn’t he know where she is?
They were playing Hide and Seek and Daisy was hiding. No, so he wouldn’t know,would he?
No, I’m not bein’ stupid, Trix. No, I’m not a plank – you got no reason to call me that. What did Wally say?
You’re getting emotional, Trix. Calm down, mate.
Here! What are you accusin’ me of?
No, I don’t care what Wally said, he’s a bleedin’ liar! Hide and Seek was definitely not my idea!
No Trix, it’s no good blaming me. I told you Wally was a bad choice, now, didn’t I? You’ll have to call the police, mate.
You have; that’s good.
Yes, you go.
He’s licking Angelina? Oh, the chocolate…
Sorry. Sorry Trix! Chas just went flying past me in that van of his. He’s a maniac, that man! You look after yourself, Trix love. I’ll get onto Wals and see what I can find out.”
Noreen taps Jack Lopghast’s name on her ‘phone.
“Jack, sweetheart, it’s Noreen again. Sorry to cut us off, love, but Trix is in a right tiz.
Yeah, she’s lost one of her little monsters.
No, of course it’ll be all right, we ain’t got no paedo-tricians round here, nor nothing. She’s just panicking, as usual. Anyway, you were saying about Chas buggering off and leaving you and Paul to finish? Funny thing, Jack sweetheart, Chas just passed me tearing down the ‘ill in his van.
Yeah. Yeah, he did have something banging around on the roof rack, now you mention it.
‘At least you know the excuse was genuine’ – what do you mean?
An old cupboard out the back of Wal’s place – it’s been there for months, has it?
No, I don’t remember it. Mind, I haven’t been round his for months, now I think of it. Anyway, you told Wally to get it shifted because it made his garden look like a scrap yard?
Chas promised him he’d take it down the tip for him this afternoon, did he?
Wal told him he’d leave the back gate unlocked so he could nip in and pick it up, yeah?
That’d be what he had on the roof rack then, just now, when I saw him, wouldn’t it?
Jack, sweetheart, I’m going to ring off now.
Yeah. I think I’d better give Trixie a call…”
Obviously, ‘Essex Woman’ is a wicked stereotype. All Essex women are not married to footballers, showy, vulgar, insensitive or dense. But the stereotype is much more fun, innit?
© Frederick Anderson 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from the author is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Frederick Anderson with specific direction to the original content.