It all started when the Webley – Harding’s bought Mona Peering’s old house at number 32. Until then I have to say that apart from the appearance of the odd hanging basket in the summer ‘gentrification’ wasn’t a word you would normally associate with Palmerston Terrace. I mean we’ve all done bits inside our various properties and even my neighbour Beattie’s downstairs gets an annual lick courtesy of Harry Hinton and his extendable ladders. Of course she can moan all she likes that he’s charging her through the nose to change her colour scheme from ‘Frappuccino’ to ‘Café Delight’ but if you ask me beige is still beige no matter what you call it on the tin. So if she never has anything except the smell of paint to show for her troubles then I think she needs to be a little more adventurous when it comes to colour. Although maybe nobody should be as courageous as Lila and Keith Morris have been in their choice of wallpaper for their hall, stairs and landing.
‘I’m not saying there isn’t a time and place for giant cacti,’ said Vera Preston, who’d likened her journey to their upstairs bathroom to an impromptu trip through the Mohave Desert, ’and I know they both love Marty Robbins but this is Biddermouth not the west Texas town of El Paso.’
‘Easy for her to say,’ sniffed Beattie, who whilst no fan of giant cacti herself never missed an opportunity to ask Vera if she’d got the red flocked wallpaper in her lounge from the same place Sanjay Patel had bought his for the ‘All You Can Eat Curry Garden’, or did he have some left over?
Anyway all this paled into insignificance when the skips started turning up outside number 32 only to leave once Tris and Fliss, as they wished to be known, had filled them with an assortment of doors, floorboards, window frames and fireplaces plus an avocado bathroom suite that Vera soon had her beady eye on.
‘Gordon and I will be over there the minute it gets dark,’ she said. Only somebody else must have had the same idea because by the time they’d got the bath into their back yard the toilet and washbasin had gone.
Personally I was surprised Mona’s house needed that much doing to it. Beattie wasn’t.
‘She had fourteen cats,’ she said. ‘It’s a wonder they aren’t having to have the place re-plastered. She never let any of them out you know. Unlike some people I could mention.’
I knew she was only saying this for my benefit as we’d recently had a bit of a falling out over my Mr Mong relieving himself against her Weeping Cherry.
‘That’s why it never flowers,’ she’d said whilst remaining blind to the fact that the main reason for its failing to live up to the picture on the label is because she will insist on pruning it when it’s still in bud. Still she’ll not be told.
Not that the Webley – Hardings looked like the sort of couple to grow Weeping Cherries. When they weren’t wearing face masks and sanding floorboards they were wearing a lot of lycra and jogging off somewhere with their yoga mats and once a perfectly serviceable but ancient gas cooker had been tossed into a skip to make way for a brand new Aga it was fairly obvious they weren’t going to be the type of people we were used to. Mind you Vera had already worked that out for herself when they refused her offer of two neighbourly mugs of tea.
Now we all know she’d only gone over there to be nosey but there was no need to tell her they never drank anything with tannin or lactose was there? And there was certainly no need to look at her as if she was the Antichrist when she declined a kale and sour dough cookie. That said she did manage to get her head in far enough to give us an up-date on the downstairs fireplace.
‘Black lead,’ she said. ‘Apparently they are restoring the place to its Victorian heyday.’
‘You mean they’re going to share a toilet with next door,’ asked Lila? ‘And have no electricity?’
Well we didn’t have to wait too long for an answer to that one because pretty soon Bella Bynge, Lifestyle Editor of Biddermouth Life, had lined the Webley-Harding’s up with a four page spread in her magazine along with some pretty shocking ‘before’ photos that must have been very embarrassing for Mona’s family.
‘You can’t tell me Mona didn’t have a floor in her spare bedroom,’ said Vera, ’otherwise all her cats would have fallen straight through and landed on the cooker.’
Beattie said that wouldn’t have mattered as it only had one jet that worked properly anyway.
‘Well if I was her Nathan I’d sue that magazine for defamation of character,’ added Lila but Beattie thought otherwise.
‘She wasn’t exactly God’s gift to housekeeping. And that’s not just me talking. Anybody will tell you that woman was a stranger to bleach so if you ask me I’d say least said soonest mended.’
I have to say the article was one up on last month where Bella claimed Polly and Ollie had restored their country cottage from little more than a Norman lintel and proudly used old jam jars instead of a proper flower vase. But giving it the headline ‘From a slum to Victorian splendour’ hasn’t gone down too well with the rest of us I can tell you. In fact Lila was all set to write in with some pictures of her hall, stairs and landing but thankfully even she’s had second thoughts about the cacti. Mind you I’m not sure her current yen for a mural of the Grand Canal will look any better even if her Keith does reckon they can fit the whole of the Rialto Bridge on one wall without it having to go round a corner.
To view my books ‘Bell, Book & Handbag’ and ‘Tourist Trouble & other short stories’, ‘A Festive Falling Out’ and ‘Turkey And All The Trimmings’ all featuring Maureen, Beattie and their friends from Biddermouth on Sea please click HERE
All Things Biddermouth stories ©Ian Ashley 2017