“Er Hi Mildred … is everything OK?”
Mildred (if you’re just joining us, Mildred is the B&B owner who’s house we are staying at) is mad. Her nostrils are flaring, her face is red and the full force of her anger is directed at us. Something has happened in our absence and I won’t lie … I’m afraid.
“YOU DON’T LIKE MY HOME??? YOU DON’T LIKE MY CATS??? IT IS NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU!??”
Mildred’s booming voice is becoming increasingly louder and Andy appears to have frozen open-mouthed on the spot. I suspect he’s going to be no help whatsoever as toe-curling situations like this usually send him underground. I grab the bull (Mildred) by the horns.
“OK now calm down and tell me what has happened??” I usher Mildred into her house. I sit her down in her chair and take a seat on the footstool beside her. Andy shuffles in and sits awkwardly on the other armchair. “Why would you think we don’t like your house?”
OK now to be fair we all know that due to the last 48 hours there is quite a bit of truth to what Mildred has just accused us of, but how does she know that? Oh wait … oh Emily you didn’t. I know exactly what is coming next …
“THE LONDON LADY!! SHE CALLED!! SHE SAID YOU DO NOT LIKE MY HOME BECAUSE OF MY MOGGIES AND MY LITTER TRAY!! WELL YOU’LL BE PLEASED TO KNOW I’VE MOVED THE LITTER TRAY AND MY MOGGIES ARE NOW IN THE GARDEN, AND THEY ARE VERY, VERY COLD!!”
I want the earth to swallow me. Rather than finding us somewhere else to stay Emily has called Mildred and just told her to clean away the litter tray. I look at Mildred’s face, she’s not angry at all, she’s just really hurt. I look around at her little home … at her trinkets, at the photograph of her husband, her children, and I feel ashamed. Mildred is twisting her hanky around her fingers, her eyes are glistening and the tall formidable woman we met just a couple of days ago now appears to be much smaller. I take her hand and say “Mildred, we do like your house, and we do like your cats … very much so. I think there has been a mistake. You see, I told the London lady that we may need to find lodging elsewhere simply because Andy is so allergic to cats!” and as if on cue Andy let’s out an almighty sneeze that makes us all jump … I turn back to Mildred “It has nothing to do with your lovely home, you’ve been a fantastic host Mildred, truly.”
Mildred is dabbing her eyes “Really?? you both like it here?” Her voice is small and she smiles.
“Yes of course, very much so Mildred” Andy chimes in, mid nose-blow.
I hesitate before I continue because I know the allergy tablets aren’t having any affect on Andy whatsoever but I know it’s the only thing we can do to soothe the upset we’ve caused …. “but Andy is fine now as he has some allergy tablets so if it’s ok with you we’d love to stay another night or two, if you don’t mind of course?”
Mildred clasps her hand to her bosom “Oh yes! please do, we would love to have you wouldn’t we pussycats?” she calls out to the three shivering cats who are standing motionless outside, staring directly at Andy through the patio glass window. With that she pats my hand and says “You let the moggies in and I’ll make us some warm milk yes?”
“Oh yes please, that would be lovely.”
As Mildred trots off into her little kitchen I open the back door and the three shell-shocked cats stagger into the room. Within a matter of seconds they have arranged themselves snugly around Andy’s form; one on his lap, one wrapped around his feet and the other perched on the back of the armchair attempting to bury it’s face into Andy’s big mop of hair. I look at Andy and feel awful: his eyes are red, his nose is running, but he just smiles. “Ah it’s ok” he says “… it was the right call.”
We spend the rest of the evening holed up in Mildred’s cosy little living room. She tells us about her children, who are all grown and living in various places around the country. Her youngest is still away at university and seldom comes home, but Mildred keeps her room the same regardless. She misses her husband – and chats away to his photograph that sits on the table beside her. She knits for her grandchildren, but since she never actually sees them the vast mountain of knitted goods just keeps growing in the basket beside her. “Oh my kids are just busy, I know … but I have my pussycats, and my guests!” She beams, patting my hand.
We stay with Mildred for another two nights before heading back to the UK where I have a session lined up with a producer I’m just going to call Bushy … it’s also probably time I ‘fessed up to another one of my poisons that had quite an impact on me and my music, in more ways that one.