Chapter 5: A Problem Shared is a Problem Halved.
After several more roofing quotes, a man who had knocked on the wrong door being dragged in by Edith and numerous enquiries as to how they were acquainted; (Lovers? Mother and daughter? Cell-mates?) They managed to secure a promise of a new roof. But there began another problem; how to pay for it.
‘Well, we could ask him if we can pay in instalments’ Edith offered. Her little voice making her sound as if she knew what she was talking about, which she did not.
‘Don’t be ridiculous Edith! This is not the Citizen’s Advice! You can’t just solve everything with payment plans! We will have to accept, that after this, Edith, we will be in…’ Edna loved drawing out points and conversations. ‘FINANCIAL DIFFICULTY!’ Edna’s nostrils flared, she had even stood, and looked out of the window to make her point. Edith’s fingers reached for the neckline of her top, as so often they did.
‘Well, well, we’ll just have to tighten our seatbelts!’
‘What?’ Edna sat down, her lips, with hair covered wrinkles curled around her top set of teeth.
‘You know, tighten our seatbelts,’
‘You know, Edna, ‘tighten your seatbelts’ people say it when they need to save money’
‘You mean ‘tighten our belts’ Edna rolled her eyes at Edith, as so often she did.
‘No, it’s seatbelts, I’ve heard people say it. Anyway’ Edith now launched into a whole list of how the sisters’ could save money, this went on for some time ‘We could even share bathwater!’ Edith ended her list. Every idea Edith came up with, Edna dismissed like a draining old emotional vampire.
‘Well, no, no Edith, ‘ actually, it was Edna who ended Edith’s penny-pinching tirade. ‘We’ll have to think of a way of accumulating an income, although I do think that eating beans on toast for an entire month is not going help, compared to the money you give to your son!’
‘My son? Edna! He’s your nephew!’
‘Well, I don’t like him, never have. He was a smelly child and is now a disagreeable adult’
‘OH!’ Edith ran away from Edna and hid away in the under stairs cupboard. She took out her smartphone, and un-friended Edna on Facebook, knowing this would hit Edna where it hurts. What business was it of hers about Ricky Ricketts and all the money that Edith had given him? Even though, as his own mother, she too detested him with a passion.
Meanwhile, Edna was casing up the joint, for possible money making ideas. People often mock those who watch endless hours of reality television programmes but Edna had learnt a lot from those documentaries about the vacuous, overpriced housewives and the one about the national baking industry. There were also programmes about how to make money. People would find items of antique jewellery, left by scatter-brained dead relatives, and sell them for vast amounts of money. Some would even be lucky enough to chance upon an expensive work of art and travel the world with the BBC to authenticate its provenance. Edna racked her brain. She thought of the picture of the Chinese dragon that Edith had hung on her bedroom wall as a child. She was scared of it then but now kept it in her under the stairs hiding place. Edna was sure it was a print anyway, and she was not about to disturb her sister’s tantrum. Edna let Edith stew as she investigated any traces of leftover wealth in number one, Curmudgeon Avenue.
Meanwhile, Edith had also put her thinking cap on. As the stupid one of the two sisters, however, she decided to sleep on it, having scrolled through, and bored herself with social media, and all the photographs of people she barely knew, quiz’s about which Game of Thrones character you would marry (Edith got Varys (!)), Edith decided to call it a day and go to bed, she fell asleep watching quiz shows on catch-up TV.
The following morning, when the colour of the sky was yet to be noticed, both sisters met in the kitchen for breakfast. Both beaming with an excitement of ideas, after ‘tightening their (seat) belts’ overnight.
‘Edna! I don’t know where it came from, but this morning, I woke up with a great idea! We could win some money on a TV quiz show!’
For many years, Edith harboured the secret ambition of game show participation. She was not even bothered about winning, just the taking part. She dreamed of answering all the questions, flirting and cracking jokes with the presenter, making friends with the other contestants. Yes. Edith’s guilty pleasure was TV quiz shows. She watched all the greats, ‘Mastermind’. ‘Fifteen to one’. ‘Supermarket Sweep’. One day, Edith planned to pluck up the courage and apply to appear on one of them. What better time than now! Now that they needed funds for the roof, funds to get the two of them out of financial difficulty! Now, if Edith was honest that she could apply with her bossy, overbearing sister. Edna, being the dominant of the two sisters made fun of her.
‘Edith, you do realise they won’t let you hide behind the furniture! And anyway, they won’t want you wearing one of Mum’s old nightdresses on television!’
Old nightdress? Edith looked down at her floral ensemble. This was not nightwear! It was what she had chosen to wear today, the day that she was awake and full of enthusiasm. Edna continued her harsh reasoning regarding the grandiose ambition of quiz show winnings, but it fell on deaf ears. Edith was already imagining herself in the performance line of the camera; the quiz show contestants were all lined up announcing themselves on screen.
‘I’m Hilda, I’m a knitting pattern designer from Wakefield. Hi, I’m Veronica, I’m a dog groomer’s receptionist from Kidderminster. Hi, I’m Michael I’m a candlestick maker from Welwyn Garden City…’
‘Edith! EDITH!’ Shouted Edna, frightening Edith out of her daydream. ‘My idea is much more practical, and it is, therefore, the one we are going with…’ Edna smoothed down her mohair jumper over her funny shaped torso. ‘Edith, we are going to get a lodger. A problem shared is a problem halved.’