Trudy Tyler is WFH

A conversation with Gideon had inspired me to seize the day

The arrival of Trudy’s ex-husband at her door one night made her want to take the initiative, exactly when Glenn the postman arrived. By Christine Manby

Sunday 16 May 2021 21:30 BST
(Illustration by Tom Ford)

On Friday morning I had my second vaccination. I timed it carefully, hoping to get a day’s work done before I got the shivers or sweats that the regulars on the local WhatsApp group have been reporting. I got away lightly with the first dose, experiencing nothing more than a dead arm that took me back to my school days when a punch in the bicep was how you knew somebody liked you.

The atmosphere at the vaccine centre was jolly. The administrators’ desk was cluttered with gifts left by happy clients, in the manner of offerings at a shrine. There were three large boxes of Lindor. Jab done, I followed the arrows to the seating area where a young volunteer shuttled between telling new arrivals they would need to wait for “at least 10 minutes” and haranguing people who had been occupying a seat for longer than four. “You’ve been here six minutes? Go go go!” She was squirting their chair with anti-bac before they could stand up.

Stepping out into the sunshine, I found I wasn’t filled with the feeling of relief I’d felt after the first time I visited the vaccination centre. Back then, it felt like the start of the road to freedom. Now it felt like the beginning of an annual ritual that would become much less jolly once the volunteers had gone. I diverted home via Sainsbury’s and bought two choux buns to cheer myself up.

I felt fine all day but by six in the evening I took the pre-emptive decision to get into my pyjamas anyway. I also took the precaution of setting up a snack station on my bedside table in case this was going to be like the time when I had the real flu and genuinely could not get up for three days.

My phone rang as I was settling in. It was my ex-husband Gideon. I let him go to voicemail. He rang again. I let him go to voicemail again. He texted: “Are you at home? I’m outside your house.”

What? Pulling on my antique dressing gown (not antique in a vintage way, just old), I opened the door to find my ex-husband and a wheelie case.

“What are you doing here?”

“Melanie’s kicked me out. She’s been having an emotional affair with the estate agent who showed her the Dorset B’n’B she wants to buy. Can I stay with you?”

“Seriously? Technically, we’re still not supposed to have people inside our houses unless they’re from our bubble.”

“That rule ends on Monday,” said Gideon. “Nobody cares now anyway.”

I noticed Brenda’s curtains twitching across the road.

“Besides, technically, you are allowed to move residences in a lockdown if your relationship breaks down. Please, Trudes. I’ve got nowhere else to go.”

“I’ve just had my second jab. I feel terrible,” I lied.

“I can look after you,” he said, brightening up. “I can make you chicken soup. You love my chicken soup.”

“You mean Heinz’s chicken soup,” I reminded him.

I let him in. I didn’t have the energy to argue and now that Brenda had clocked Gids on my doorstep, I would have to answer questions anyway. Might as well be shot for a sheep, as they say.

“I’m going to bed,” I told him. “I haven’t changed the sheets on the spare bed since 2020 but needless to say nobody’s been in there. Help yourself to anything in the fridge. Especially the jackfruit. You can have all the jackfruit you want.”

Gids was already in the fridge. He pulled out a portion of Anything But The Kale’s Jackfruit Tikka Masala.

“This looks tasty,” he said. He’d learn.

“So she’s going ahead with plan B’n’B,” I said. “What about your career as a spy?”

“I didn’t get through the final round,” said Gideon. “James Bond would have a hard time getting through the doors of MI5 these days.”

“Hmmm,” I said. “Perhaps it’s for the best. I understand spying is quite dull now. Lots of desk work. Hardly any opportunities to rock a dinner jacket and drink martinis on expenses.”

“Trudy, why did you leave me?” he asked then.

“Er, I left you because you’d started seeing your second wife. But you know that we were broken long before that. We loved each other but we should never have tried to live together. You know how my clutter used to drive you mad. And I hated the way that your idea of ‘cleaning up’ after I made dinner consisted of throwing everything into the sink to ‘soak’ and leaving it there until I got fed up and scrubbed the pans myself.”

“But they’re such little things.”

“It is the little things,” I said sadly.

We sat up until midnight as he detailed the little things about Melanie. I was Team Melanie on most counts so I suggested that he shouldn’t be too quick to write their marriage off.

“Lockdown has been difficult for everyone. You can understand why her head was turned by someone who validated her dream – albeit for a commission. Perhaps you should suggest a holiday? Anywhere but Dorset?”

Gideon went to the spare bedroom in contemplative mood.

The following day, he brought me a cup of tea first thing. It was nice to have someone to bring me a cup of tea in the morning. I’d missed that. But all the same, I was very glad to hear that Gideon’s wife had experienced a change of heart overnight. The estate agent had allowed her to be gazumped on her dream Dorset guest house.

While I was clearing up the breakfast things and marvelling that my arm didn’t hurt anywhere near as much as it had after vaccine one, Glenn the postman knocked. My goddaughter, Caroline, had copied me in on a dossier for Boris Johnson himself regarding “gunboat diplomacy”. She recommended more of it.

“Oh Glenn,” I said. “I still owe you a drink. Sometime soon?”

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The previous night’s conversation with Gideon had inspired me to seize the day. Unfortunately, just then, Gideon came downstairs with his bag.

“Don’t worry about it,” said Glenn. “It was just a drink. You don’t owe me anything.”

Glenn gave Gideon a wary smile before he continued on his rounds. Two minutes later and Gideon would have been long gone and I might have arranged a night out. No good deed goes unpunished.

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