CH TWO 21
The sun is shining on this Saturday morning. The Stewart children are up and about, the boys out on their bikes and the girls preening themselves for their shopping trip with Dawn and Mavis. Scotty is in happy mood after a good night’s sleep, a rare event in his world and only possible because he was driving a tipper all the previous day. Even Ken couldn’t have expected him to drive to Gateshead and back after a day’s work. He opens the back door from the kitchen at exactly the moment that Mavis arrives, a furious scowl on her face. ‘Good morning mother-in-law,’ he beams, ‘lovely day.’
Mavis grunts something inaudible and bustles past him on her way to the living room where Dawn is applying a thick coat of lipstick to her freshly made up face. ‘You wouldn’t credit it, would you,’ puffs the older woman, ‘I taxed my car yesterday and some git has stolen the disc. We’ll have to walk into town; I don’t dare drive without a tax disc in the window. It makes you livid, doesn’t it, and I know I locked the car properly so how did they get in? I’ll have to get a replacement and that’ll cost. Honestly I’m thinking of gluing the next one to the windscreen.’
Scotty grins to himself as he creeps out and scurries down the path. He is only gone a few minutes and is not missed. Back in the kitchen he calls out does anybody want a cup of tea, to which a positive reply comes from Mavis. ‘I need something to pep me up,’ she grumbles, still chuntering about her lost tax disc. Scotty makes the tea and brings it on a tray. ‘Are you sure it hasn’t just fallen on the floor or something?’ he asks innocently. ‘Of course I’m sure,’ scoffs Mavis, ‘I did look you know.’ To make matters worse, Scotty offers to help her look again but this suggestion is met with a very rude remark and he retreats to the shed to finish his little project.
The women finally complete their war paint applications and step into the sunshine. Janet leads the way and happens to notice; in passing that there is a tax disc in her Nan’s windscreen after all. ‘How the devil did that get there?’ asks Mavis, rubbing her brow with a gloved hand, ‘I swear it wasn’t there when I drove round.’ Dawn shrugs; ‘well it is now, so we won’t have to walk after all. I can do without it in my condition.’
They get into the car, Mavis inspects the tax disc, which has not been tampered with in any way, and she is mystified. Maybe she is losing her marbles with all the stress.
Scotty is sitting at his work bench adding the finishing touches to his new tax disc. He needed to use the one from Mavis’s car as a template so borrowed it the night before after she had gone home. He has made an excellent job with his compass, pencil, watercolour paints and black marker pen and is going round the edge piercing the paper with a darning needle which is exactly the right size to make the perforation marks. Once this is completed he tears off the excess paper and fills in the details of Frank’s car, which he is using all the time since his own one gave up the ghost.
He makes sure the coast is clear before fitting the disc into the holder on the car windscreen, and then he stands back and admires his handy work. He hasn’t actually taxed a car in years as he feels that the motorist already pays far too much in Government taxation. He sees this defiance as another little triumph for the Common Man.
Dawn is not feeling so good and is reluctant to leave the car. ‘You’re not starting are you mum?’ asks Janet, a note of panic in her voice. ‘No, I just feel heavy and worn out,’ Dawn reassures her, ‘I’ll be alright if we go slowly.’ The girls help their mother from the car and walk along one each side of her, afraid she may fall over. Mavis follows behind, checking her shopping list for the umpteenth time and sure she has forgotten something. ‘Look, there’s Carol Tobin,’ she whispers as the younger woman waddles towards them. She and Dawn make a good pair of bookends as they stop to exchange pleasantries. ‘They told me yesterday that its twins,’ says Carol, ‘it took them long enough to find out; no wonder I’m so huge. We’re due about the same time aren’t we?’ Dawn confirms this, saying she has another five weeks to go. ‘They say there are eight sets of twins all due around the same time as us. I reckon it’s something to do with that chemical factory. It stinks something rotten when the air is damp. What with that and the oil refinery you can’t get a breath of fresh air some days.’ Dawn agrees there could be something in that theory; it is very unusual for so many sets of twins to come along at once.
They part company and reach the first shop on their list. Dawn leans heavily on the shop trolley for support as they tour the new supermarket filling up with groceries for the week. The girls have only been hanging around for their pocket money and skip off to the clothes shops once they have secured it. They happily spend the rest of the morning trying on clothes they can’t afford to buy, ending up with a cheap pair of jeans each which are bound to shrink if they dare wash them.
Dawn and Mavis finish buying only necessary supplies and head for home, where Dawn leaves her mother to deal with the shopping while she puts her feet up. She is pleased to see that Scotty is mowing the grass, piling up the tangled mass of cuttings in a heap at the end of the garden. It is looking tidier but the smell of the first mowing is making her nauseous so she gives a faint wave and smile before ducking indoors.
By the time his task is complete Scotty judges it is safe to go indoors where he finds that Mavis has cleared away the groceries, washed up the breakfast things and made a pot of tea. ‘Lovely,’ he greets her, ‘just in time for a cuppa. Did you buy any of the Hobnob things I like? ’ Mavis points to the plate on the table where the new treats are laid out to tempt him and he grabs a handful with his tea before nipping back into the garden to enjoy his snack in the sunlight. His thoughts turn to his friend, who is definitely not sitting in the sunshine somewhere drinking tea and eating Hobnob biscuits.