(Warning to animal haters. BEWARE... This post contains little else.)
Granny has returned to her island; which is cold and grey today but not as cold and grey as the London she left. She is sitting wrapped in her red shawl and with her sheepskin slippers on, accustoming herself once again to adding layers of clothing when coming into the house, rather than going out. Beloved still wears his t-shirt and sandals, regardless. They are quite a sight in the evening, sitting by their stove, Beloved, bare-armed, bare-toed, Granny wrapped in her various forms of sheep's wool...
Ah Beloved. Oh dear. Every time Granny disappears to London she wonders, in trepidation, what will turn up in her absence. One time the driveway had been blocked up by a (still under-used) court for Canarian bowls. Another, there was the beginnings of the (still unlit) bread-oven. When she returned from her hospital adventures last November, among other things her ironing-board had been cut in half and stowed, awkwardly, in a previously useful kitchen cupboard. (The ironing-board got in the way, was Beloved's explanation for it; not a good enough reason in Granny's view. Now it gets in the way in previously useful cupboard.) This time the dark hints coming via telephone led her to hope that what really needed doing - eg sorting out the - her - office, somewhat wrecked by being used as first a chicken then a cat hospital - or finishing off a patio which had stayed half finished for several months - was being done. At last.
But no; patio is as ever, office is as ever. 'Then what?...' she asks; at this moment looks out of the window. 'WHAT IS THAT?' A large shed has appeared against the back wall of her land, just along from the chicken house. A VERY large excrescence of a shed, made out of glaring new wood. The figure of Mr Handsome is to be seen alongside it, doing something,
'That?' says Beloved. 'Oh THAT. That's the stable for the donkey.'
You always said you wanted a donkey,' says Beloved.
'Yes, followed by statement that it was not something to be thought of really, in practical terms....'
'Then why didn't you say so?'
'I DID SAY SO. You never listen.' (Latter statement borne out by equally tiresome - if more short term discovery- that Beloved has arranged that a) Thin German Cosmetic Therapist and b) Mr Handsome might go away on holiday on precisely the two weeks, Granny had earmarked - loudly - for her and Beloved to do so, before she has to go back to London for her reconstructive surgery in May....)
'So what's going to eat then, this donkey?'
'What hay?' (This is an island where nothing grows for up to 6 months. Keeping horses, for instance, is a very expensive business.)
'Oh a donkey will eat anything. We (WE?) can just go out and collect stuff in the truck.'
'What can you do with a donkey, for goodness sake, apart from ride it?' (No thanks.)
'It can pull a donkey-cart.'
'What donkey cart? And what for? - we've got a perfectly good truck.'
'It doesn't use petrol, though. More ecological.'
Granny decides to let this sneaky argument pass. She just says. 'Oh and what's it going to do for company?... donkeys get lonely.'
(She knows this because once a upon a time she used to take her grandchildren to feed a donkey called Canela - meaning 'cinnamon' in French and Spanish both, that lived down the road from a house where they stayed in France. It lived by itself in a field and was not a happy donkey, pathetically grateful for the carrots, apples and attention it received once yearly from Granny's family.)
'We can always get goats to keep it company,' suggests Beloved.
Granny has been imagining a simpler future; one in which she and Beloved, free of responsibilities could go away more, the way retired people do. Many retired people. Or else one in which she has time to write more books noone will publish. Now, instead, she contemplates one spent scouring countryside for donkey food, in betweenwhiles hanging out round a donkey and chatting to it to stop it getting lonely (and to leave no excuse for acquiring goats.) Or else riding round, very slowly and bumpily, in an as yet unacquired donkey-cart while passing tourists take pictures of her as an example of a picturesque local. (Memo; when drawn by donkey always wear big Canarian hat.)
The donkey is not just a myth either. At lunchtime today, by phone, the go-between was heard inquiring of Mr Handsome when Granny and Beloved were coming to see it. Obviously Mr H and Beloved cannot be left alone, Granny thinks. What will they come up with next? (One of the worst things is how offended they get - especially the prickly Mr H - when she queries these adventures; when she suggests, even mildly, that they might have consulted her first. 'I've done all this work'.. etc.)
Meantime Granny is looking for another cat - or cats. Island turns out to be full of middle-aged German women rescuing abandoned dogs and cats. The Beautiful Wimp came from one of the canine versions. Granny was dispatched by lovely Pedro the vet to see a feline ditto this morning; who had nothing suitable but has put her on to a compatriot who happens to live just down the road from Granny and Beloved. She is coming round this evening bearing several young cats for them to choose from. Now that Feline Houdini has departed to catch heavenly ones, the mice are too busy turning this house back into mouse heaven to think of following him; there are signs of them everywhere. If no donkey (she hopes) if no goat (she hopes) a cat, or cats, it has to be.