From Alida Baxter, Don't hang up, Sophie -- It's God:
From Alida Baxter, Up To My Neck:
"Well, I can't drive," I explained hurriedly. All round the room there was an audible intaking of breath. I felt like a bit of dust when it sees the mouth of the vacuum cleaner. "I know I'll have to learn," I rushed on, "but the German test is so terrifying ..."
It was too late. The unbelievable had happened. All unwitting, the ladies had let a pedestrian into their midst. They moved closed together and self-consciously took up other topics. No one said "Some of my best friends walk", not even the woman who'd brought me and was now hiding behind a potted plant. She hadn't known I'd let her down so hideously and she was far sweeter to me than I deserved, because she never took me to a coffee party again. [...]
Eschewing lifts and being offered them less often, I learned the bus time-table and, much later, the times at which the buses actually ran. -- [p.33-34]
If I phoned up the girl whose house faced ours across the barrage of trees, saying that I'd just put the kettle on and would she like to come over, the panic alert I created was so cruelly shattering I had to stop doing it. From the living-room I could see her galloping out into the garden to lop off all her most beautiful blooms or, when the beds were bare, falling into the car in her stockinged feet and screaming off into town to get an emergency bouquet out of a dispensing machine.
No matter how sudden or informal the invitation, you'd be more likely to turn up stark naked than minus a cluster of something or other, and once arrived you'd be pole-axed, in the nicest possible way. At an hour when all that was happening in London was the dithering clatter of bone china cups against translucent saucers as men of note revived themselves with Earl Grey and a chocolate wholewheat biccy, I would sink down into a womb-like chair and try to select something familiar from a choice of forty liqueurs, none less that 102 degrees proof. Clinging grimly to remnant scraps of the subjuntive mood, I would then offer my hostess conversational gems of decreasing worth before being ushered to an exquisitely arranged table and fed Wind Beuteln, Sandkuchen, Quarktorte and tea. And when, bloated with calories and so aflood with liquid that I could feel it lapping my tonsils, I managed to lever myself up and over to an armchair again, I was immediately plied with champagne cocktails lest the alcohol level in my blood should go down. The first time my husband came home and found me prostrate on the bathroom floor after a tea-party, his comments were unrepeatable, even by me. He had yet to learn that when it came to German hospitality, the female variety was deadlier than the male.
"It came apart in my hands," was my aunt's particular watchword, and my mother's speciality was clocks, of which at one point we had five. After a short exposure to my parent, three didn't go at all and the fourth only went on its face, so if you wanted it to tell you the time you had to snatch it up and slam it down again before it could get peeved and stop. No matter how quick you were, it always managed to lose a minute during the course of the transaction. But emotionally draining as these vagaries were, their possessor was a miracle of modern convenience compared to the last of the clutch, which didn't work unless it was under water. How my mother discovered this strange predilection she would never admit. I used to get home late from some unseemly debauch or other and find the bathroom echoing with submarine ticking, and the first time I saw the alarm lying there staring up at me when I bent to wash my face I swore I'd never drink again. Whoever said 3:00 a.m. represents mankind's lowest ebb must have been another nut who kept his clock in the washbasin.
But such formative experiences were unknown to my husband. [...]
In fact I only ever heard of one domestic mishap in his old home and that was when his grandmother dropped her hearing aid into the glass containing her false teeth. Whether the thing drowned or was nagged to extinction remained an enigma, along with the reasons for the unique moment of laissez-aller, but the results were far worse for innocent bystanders than for my mother-in-law. She found to her delight that she couldn't hear when anybody was trying to interrupt her, and it was months before she bothered to get the aid fixed. -- [p.84-85]
"Why d'you buy that?" my husband had grumbled, exploring the fridge one evening [...] "Neither of us likes it."
"I just fancied it," I said weakly, "for a change." I couldn't face explaining the blackbirds' passion for Camembert at that time of night. It took all my willpower not to cry out when the wandering devourer came upon the new currant loaf and ate more than half; that was the finches miffed for a week, that was. It was a vast relief when the wanderer went to bed before he descried the almond biscuits, because the squirrels could be nasty, when roused.
The point about slightly odd behaviour is that nobody minds as long as they don't notice it. If you've got an idiosyncrasy, keep it to yourself and you won't be bothered.
From Amazing Grace by Alida Baxter:
Mercy was convinced that freezing vegetables was sinful; she wasn't sure what happened to squash and tomatoes, or whether egg-plants had souls. [p. 117]
[...] Twatchel threw down his document case, it hit a couch cushion and up flew a billow of dust.
They had passed through a hall so minute it had gone quite unnoticed, and were standing in what might loosely have been called a living room. [...]
The room was not only dirty, it was very cold. She wandered past the the couch on which Clootie was seated, and absentmindedly let her hand slip over a chair. The chair-back felt furry. She looked down at her hand and saw it now bore a black smear.
[...] To the side of the dining-area was an archway into a kitchen. She stood in the archway and, not just because of the temperature, froze. On every work-top there were papers. Papers and papers and papers and papers. On the floor were several sacks full of empty load-wrappers and cookie cartons. But she was thirsty, and Twatchel had offered her nothing to drink. She teetered into the kitchen -- the tiles were so gluey they nearly pulled her shoes off -- and reached out tentatively for the door of the refrigerator. She tried to open it And had to try harder. The door was stuck shut with something. When she got it open she saw it might have been spilled honey, or possibly yoghurt, or perhaps peanut butter. There was a choice. But there was nothing to drink.
There was an oven, though, and she was inquisitive. The oven appeared to have had something in it, once. When she unjammed the door, she saw that what it had had inside were cooking instructions. A nice-looking booklet, a but charred round the edges, but apart from that. ...
From the kitchen she could see down into the backyard -- thought the murky panes, just. Paving, being attacked by the lank grass. Lounging chairs and a table were dug in at angles. On the table was a tall jug and several glasses, and whatever was in the jug was the same colour as the stain on the living-room wall.
[...] At the end of the stretch of corridor was a bit of space with three more doors, and these were wider. A bathroom -- the mirror was opaque. She walked over to the basin, and it had a thick coating of mousey hair. So had the vanity surround. So, when she pulled back the shower curtain, had the bath tub. [...]
Whatever the drink was, she took it from him, and followed him dumbly back to the living-room. Too stricken even to worry about her new coffee co-ordinates, she sank down on a stack of magazines as far from Twatchel as possible. [...]
She sipped the drink -- it was very sweet indeed -- and found a few inches to leave the glass on, on the almost invisible low table beside her.
"Aw --" An anxious sound. Twatchel was watching, looking fussed and awkward. "Aw -- would you mind using a coaster? There's one there, see? Under the picture? We glasses depreciate the furniture."
Stiff-fingered, she lifted the glass again, seeking the coaster. Her drink had left a round basin in the grey dust.
For both of them
Twatchel hunched back home to a war zone in which the only objects recognisable were his pictures, removed from amongst the other litter, graded according to size and resting against an unfamiliar, light-coloured wall.
He rushed to them, posters and prints, his document case thumping in anguish. "Those!" he screamed at her, "were there!" -- waving a wild, undiscriminating, dramatic finger, "to remind me to have them framed!"
Grace merely looked at him. She was as filthy as the main room had been that morning, and even in the freezing air-conditioning her hotel coverall was soaked through with sweat. The monogram rose and fell on her breast pocket. "To remind thee," she repeated at last, as from a distance. "They were all around the place like that, in all of the rooms, just to remind thee."
"But thou hasn't had them framed. One of them's got a ticket on it -- a present from Mother, Christmas, sixty-eight."
"Aw -- I'd have gotten around to it! I'm a busy man! Now they're all stacked like that, how am I supposed to remember!"
She went away from him. He heard her in the bathroom. He heard her in the kitchen. He heard her in the recesses of the apartment. He heard the spare-room door close. And when he entered his own bedroom later he saw that she'd taken a squeeze bottle of chocolate flavoured dessert topping (it was still there, standing by the base-board) and written, "Remember to have thy pictures framed" in letters four feet high across a wall.
It was the last exchange they ever had about tidying or cleaning. Neither of them referred to the subject again.