Thank you to Lyndsey Prince 2019 https://ellepeablog.wordpress.com for the illustration.
Chapter 2: A New Hobby For Harold
Edith was in a predicament, Harold did not seem himself, and she could not put her finger on it. Not that she literally wanted to touch him – with her finger… I mean she could not tell if he was feeling down, what with him being continually cheerless. He was moping around Curmudgeon Avenue like a wet lettuce. You would think that Harold would be enjoying the happiest time of his life. Finally finding love and settling down in the aptly named Curmudgeon Avenue (a good name for Harold’s dwelling place, even if I do say so myself). Some people are never satisfied, never happy unless they have something to complain about. Unfortunately, Harold’s grumbling had done nothing for Edith’s self-esteem. Maybe he doesn’t love me? Edith pondered… No! That can’t be right, I’m adorable! … No, there must be something bothering him. Mrs Ali, from the most popular corner shop next door, was relieved at Harold’s downturn; he had stopped singing in the bathroom, mainly because he had stopped showering.
On this particular day, Harold sat at the kitchen table huffing and puffing over the latest copy of what he calls ‘one of Edith’s stupid women’s magazines’, Edith listened in to his disapproval, but after six more overly audible sighs, it was time for Edith to speak:
‘What are you doing reading my magazines?’ She said.
‘These are a waste of money, Edith! I mean, look at this stupid quiz. What hair colour suits you best? What personality type are you? What can you tell about a man by his shoes? Pah!’ Harold, being an authority on, well, everything found it necessary to point out the shortcomings in Edith’s choice of reading matter. It was a good job she loved him with unconditional concern. Otherwise, Edith would remember and bring up this conversation during arguments for years to come.
‘Well, maybe you should find your own thing to read, we did meet in the library.’ Said Edith.
‘The library?’ Harold had forgotten that he had interrupted Edith’s conversation with the librarian remember? It was on the day that he wormed his way into Curmudgeon Avenue.
‘Yes, you said you were writing a book! What happened to it! I thought you were going to be a famous writer, Harold!’ Edith had been sold a dream, so it seemed.
‘Oh, yes, that’s the trouble Edith, tell someone you’re writing a book, and they think you’re going to win the Booker Prize.‘
‘The what prize? Never mind, I think that since you’ve stopped writing letters of complaint, well you’ve lost your purpose, Harold. Everyone needs a purpose. You could start by having a shower and getting dressed’ Edith said, she was absolutely correct, of course, but because Harold was ‘always’ right. Edith was not allowed to be right too. With no litigation claims to dream up, no post to wait in for, there was no point getting dressed.
‘I’m just going to Mrs Ali’s Take a Break comes out today’ Edith said, Harold rolled his eyes. Edith’s visit to the corner shop was not only to replenish her supply of women’s magazines; she would also get her fix of listening in to other people’s conversations. And today, the discussion in the corner shop was something well worth listening to. There she was, as bold as brass, Pauline Foote, Edith’s despised ex-work colleague and Georgina Foote’s mother was stood propping up the shop counter, reading the Bury Times.
‘Oh yes, I’m thinking of entering myself this year’ Edith heard Pauline say.
‘Oh darling, will you be able to manage?’ Mrs Ali said, eyeing up Pauline Foote’s decorative walking stick.
‘Oh, don’t be under any illusion, I used to be Lancashire Girl’s athletic champion’ Said Pauline ‘Track and field.’
‘Ohhhh, very good darling’ said Mrs Ali, she noticed Edith hiding behind the birthday card rack in the corner ‘Hello Edith! Edith, darling! Are you looking for a card? Whose birthday is it?’
‘Edna’s’ Edith blurted out.
‘Oh, do you know her address? She has emailed me, but every time I ask her where she is, she doesn’t answer’ Mrs Ali said, Edith had forgotten that Edna and Mrs Ali were friends. ‘I didn’t think Edna celebrated her birthdays anymore? … You know Pauline, don’t you?’
‘Yes… ‘ Said Edith… Awkward!
‘Hello Edith’ Pauline Foote was one of the most brazen people on this side of Manchester. ‘At least you know where Edna is. I have no idea where my daughter is. Last seen living at your house.’ She sniffed. ‘And as for those kiddies, well they’ve had a birthday each and Christmas without their grandmother. I don’t suppose you’ve heard from her?’ Pauline said, although, Georgina’s children were no longer children, they had just opted to ignore their grandmother, Pauline’s invitations.
‘No, no I haven’t heard from Georgina, Pauline, and as a matter of fact, the rent money disappeared the day that she did.’ Very brave of Edith, although it was as though she had not spoken, because Pauline completely ignored her. She just carried on boasting about how she was going to win this year’s World Black Pudding Throwing Championship in the formidable village of Ramsbottom, with its charm and artisan eateries. Pauline paid for the Pontefract cakes she had chosen but left the half-read newspaper there in front of Mrs Ali. Edith read the advertisement for the black pudding contest.
‘Do you know? Harold has a birthmark on the side of his head; it does remind me of a black pudding.’ Said Edith ‘I’ve got it!’ Edith shouted out ‘Harold can enter the black pudding throwing thingy!’
Pauline rolled her eyes on the way out of the shop, muttering something about Edith ‘Enrolling your fancy man to steal my thunder at the pudding throwing!’ Both Mrs Ali and Edith pictured Pauline throwing black puddings with her moustache and bingo wings.
‘If it’s good enough for Pauline, well then it’s good enough for Harold’ Edith said. Now, how could she convince him?
The following day, Edith left the page open in the Bury Times on the Formica kitchen table.
‘World Black Pudding Throwing Championship in Ramsbottom This Month’
Edith did not have to wait long in her under-the-stairs hiding place, she had timed it quite well. Harold arrived in the kitchen after a lengthy T-shirt choosing session upstairs, his googly eyes were drawn to the advert in the paper. Ricky Ricketts was only interested in the post and had not even noticed his mother creeping around.
‘Seen this, Ricky? World Black Pudding Throwing Championship, wonder what the prize is?’ Harold swallowed and sniffed.
‘You ever lobbed a black pudding, Harold? It’s not the same as throwing a strop’ Ricky Ricketts never had anything nice to say.
‘I’ll have you know, I have an excellent over-arm strategy’ said Harold (oh Lenny and Morgan in your mother’s old house would disagree, Harold, that turd you tried to throw at Psycho Steve is still in their guttering). He was now practising his technique in the kitchen with long swinging arm movements. Ricky was not impressed.
‘Harold, this sounds naff, a load of Rammy snobs hanging around the streets pretending it’s an actual event, it’s like those nutters off the TV who do toe wrestling and worm charming’ Ricky dismissed the idea, just as Edith had predicted … and, only as she had imagined, Harold would not be put off by a nasty little twerp like her own son.
‘Next market day I’m taking your mother up Bury Market. I’m buying some black puddings, and I’ll be practising… Just you watch!’ Harold slurped his tea in haughty defiance.
Edith’s heart sang from underneath the stairs, she had cracked her plan! Harold had a new hobby, black pudding throwing. Ricky sounded like he was enjoying teasing Harold. Perfect, Edith thought. If she put a bit of effort in, she too could be manipulative. Getting Ricky to gently poke fun at Harold is the best way to shame him into doing anything, second to Edna teasing him, but she is not here. And he thinks it is his idea! How marvellous. Edith sat down on the springs of the ercol chair in the cupboard. She heard a rustling sound that turned out to be the painting of the Chinese Dragon she had been looking for! What a good day this turned out to be for Edith.
Join me next week when we find out what the black rubber thing is in Edith’s handbag. Happy reading, Samantha xx
Illustration copyright Lyndsey Prince 2019 https://ellepeablog.wordpress.com/