Working from Home

 

‘Hello, is that ...um... sorry, am I speaking to... to... Miss Se...?’

’Well, hi, there, cheeky caller. You certainly are, babe. This is Miss Sexy Lexie at your service, just waiting here for your call. You tell Lexie what she can do for you, everything you’re dreaming of, and Lexie’ll soon have you....’

‘Yes, thanks, thanks very much. It’s just ... um ... I saw your piece in the paper, you know, the local one, The Evening ...‘

‘Yes, babe, that was me. Sexy Lexie, here at your service. Just tell Lexie what you’d like and whatever it is, Lexie will ...’

‘Oh, good. Thank you.’

Silence. The rain spattered the window behind his head. It was getting dark

 ‘It’s just ...’ He cleared his throat.  ‘... just that being alone in the house... um... now my wife’s not here, and this lockdown and everything and...’

‘Of course, babe. Lexie understands. Now, your time’s running along a bit, babe, so...’

‘I know. I thought I wouldn’t pay too much this first time. I’d see how things. pan out, kind of thing.’ 

‘Things will be just fine. Now, let’s get started, shall we? I’ll tell you what I’m wearing. Or not wearing is more like it, eh, babe? I’m only in ...’

‘Sorry to interrupt, but would you mind not calling me that?’

‘Calling you what, babe?’

‘Babe.’

‘Oh, oh, sorry. Now, um... where were we?  Right. You’ve got me here, yes? Lovely and luscious, okay? And you take some butter, and you slowly, sensuously...’

‘Could I use  low fat spread?’

‘What?’

‘Only I haven’t got any butter. My daughter threw it out. She says low fat spread’s better for me.’

 ‘Oh. Well, we’ll have chocolate, then, shall we? You slowly, sensuously, spread this lovely,  warm, melting chocolate all over my...’

‘No, sorry, not chocolate. When my daughter calls round, she starts talking about cholesterol, she checks my fridge and cupboards and she throws out all my butter, chocolate, cheese, all the things I ...’

‘That’s a shame, babe. Whoops... sorry. That’s a shame.’

‘It is. Mind you, she’s a good girl,  my daughter. She’ll whisk round with the vac, do a bit of polishing, that sort of thing, before she goes. Leaves it spotless.’

‘I’m sure she does.’

‘Yes, I’m very lucky to have her, really.’

‘You are. Very lucky.’

Another silence, longer this time.

‘Not everyone’s that lucky,’ she said.

‘No, I suppose not. But me and the wife, we were just thrilled when our little girl arrived.’

‘Mm.’

‘Like everyone, I suppose. Everyone’s the same. They have kids, they...’

‘Not everyone.’

‘Oh.’

‘No. There’s some that don’t have anyone dropping in to see them, to do a bit of sorting out, tidying up for them, have a chat. There’s some that just go off to work every day. Day in, day out, year after year after year. No maternity leave for them. No baby showers  and christenings and chatting online to grandchildren in New Zealand. For them it’s just work. Work, work and more work, right up to retirement...’  

‘Mm.’

‘But before retirement comes, there’s a lockdown. And what happens then?’

‘I don’t know. What does happen?’

‘These workers, they get let go. That’s what they call it, letting you go. There’s no furlough for them, and coming back one day, no anything. like that.’

‘Oh dear,’  he said. ‘That’s bad.’

‘It is. But they’ve got to make the best of it. Find something else to do to bring a bit of money in.’

‘Sounds a good idea.’

‘Perhaps they could work from home, they think. That’s what they tell us to do, don’t they? Work from home.’

‘They do.’

‘Perhaps something where they can just sit by the phone and listen to people. And help them, you know, give them whatever they’re thinking about.., That sort of thing.’

‘ Sounds good.’

‘Yes. And, the best of the job is, while they’re listening, they can get on with things, things that need doing. No sitting idle. They can do a bit of knitting, or catch up with the ironing while they listen. Ironing’s very good, very relaxing for everyone concerned. Back and forth... smooth it all out.. .listening... picturing it all. That’s being mindful. And we’re all into mindfulness now, aren’t we?’

‘Oh, yes, we are.’

‘Yes.’

The silence settled again.

‘Well,’ he said. ‘It’s been nice talking to you. But I’d better ring off now and give someone else a chance.’

‘Oh, wait,  I haven’t got any more callers. Not tonight. I’m sorry, I’ve been rattling on. Sorry. Let’s start again. You just lie back and...’

‘No, I’ve got to stop now. Sorry....’

‘Oh, can’t you just... I’m sorry... It’s all my fault. I haven’t been doing this for very long, you see..Actually... a very short time and ... Oh, I’m no good at....’

‘You mustn’t blame yourself, Lexie. You’re very good at the job. Top-hole, in fact. It’s just... it’s Friday, you see, and Ialways watch Gardeners’ World about this time on a Friday. And this week Monty’s going to show us what to do with our brassicas. Got a lot of common sense, Monty Don. I’ve learnt a lot about brassicas from him, cauliflowers, broccoli...’

‘Oh. Oh, I see.’

He looked out of the window again.

‘Rain’s coming on a bit now. Getting heavier.’

‘That’s good,’ she said. We need it. It’s been so dry.’

 ‘Terribly dry. Every  night this week I’ve been down the garden, watering the peas, the spinach ... You’ve got to watch spinach this time of year or you’ll lose the lot.’

‘Oh, I know. Spinach is always tricky. I’ve had a lot of trouble with spinach.  And the beans, the runners. Sometimes I’ve had them halfway op their canes, good as gold, round and round, up and up, and then...’

Then there’s no rain for a fortnight.’

‘Exactly,’ she said.

‘And you’ve been away on holiday or something, you come back, and there they are, your runner  beans, drooping, no good for anything..’

‘You’d never get them up again. Not when they’re in that state.’

‘No, you have to chuck the lot,’ he said.

‘And it’s not only runners. Broad beans are no better. You get aphids.’

‘Fungus.’

‘Weevils.’

‘You pinch out the tops,’ he said, ’and you think it’s all right but...’

 Then there’s no rain ...’

‘So you’ve got to go back to watering, and the fungus starts all over again.’

‘ Yes, broad beans can be difficult, I grant you that. But there’s nothing like beans you’ve grown yourself.’

‘Nothing,’ he said. ‘But broad beans would try the patience of a saint.’

‘I wonder if you’ve tried this variety. I’ve just been flipping through a catalogue I had here with me, you know, to glance through while I was... was...  talking to you, and this one caught my eye.’

‘Oh, what’s that called then?’

‘Well, it’s called Meteor, and you’re halfway there with a name like that, aren’t you? Like a rocket shooting up into the sky, isn’t it? Well, I know meteors come down rather than up, but I picture this one  blazing through the sky, sparks and colours flying up, up, up...’

‘Well, yes. Up and up is what we want in a bean, certainly.’

‘It’s what we want in everything,’ she said. ‘Hang on. They describe this bean as ...Oh, let me get my other glasses, sorry... just a minute... Ah, yes. Meteor. They say it has a good length of pod, a well-filled length of pod and... Well, that’d be sure to simply fly up the way you want it to...’

Silence.

‘Are you still there, caller? Only it’s two minutes to Gardeners’ World and I’ve poured my sherry, and I’m going to watch the programme now and..... Are you all right, caller?’

‘I’m fine,’ he said. ‘Just fine. Never been better.’

‘Never bean better, perhaps.’

‘Oh, yes. Broadly speaking. Broad beanly. Never bean better.’

‘And full of beans, I can hear.’ she said. ‘That’s great, babe. Miss Sexie Lexie aims to please. And here comes Monty now and that little dog behind him. So, goodbye, caller, and see you again one night soon.’­­