Bink was studying for her Cambridge interview.
I ordered dozens of books, costing hundreds of pounds, though I had them all, every single one, back in England: stored in boxes with all our other belongings, or those which hadn’t been destroyed by ecclesiastical mismanagement and deliberate cost-cutting neglect. It echoed the time a few years earlier, when I’d had to buy duplicate copies of numerous texts I had already; though for a different reason.
Anglo-Saxon prose and poetry. Victorian verse. Children’s fairy tales. All laid out on the long dark antique dining table, overlooking the garden leading down to the Findhorn Estuary, so Bink could study and read and write.
I couldn’t do any of work of my own. Every so often I would start a poem. Or outline a children’s story… in which a little girl called Rosie come across a hidden door in Louis’s exquisite garden, which she opens to find all her siblings, and a home for them all to share together again – and her Daddy back! But soon my mind drifted over the mist to the sea and I thought of what we’d loved and lost, and tried not to think of our bleak future.
It was enough to be there for Bink, and help her to the place at Cambridge she was so obviously worthy of.
She needed to talk to the Admissions Tutor of the college she’d applied to. But she hadn’t been able to touch a telephone for years. And this was before hands-free.
I can solve this: of course I can!
I rang the college and left a message. He needn’t know she hadn’t done this herself. Asking the Admissions Tutor to return the call.
Then I set to, cleaning the telephone. Try it. You can do this at home. Imagine... ok, let’s say... your telephone has to perform a surgical operation and needs to be completely sterile. Or maybe you’ve committed a murder with it, and need to remove all forensic evidence. It’s amazing how many packets of wet wipes you can get through, just cleaning one handset. All the nooks and crannies you’ve never had to notice before. The lines in the plastic where earpiece joins handle joins mouthpiece. Right down inside that tiny little crack there. The little holes you speak into, twisting a wet wipe into a tiny screw to clean down inside.
And then you have to dry it. Reams and reams and miles of loo paper. An entire roll, piling up into an enormous snowman in front of you in discarded lengths. Though you can then gather it all up and put it in the loo to be used there in the normal way. As long as it’s not Bink’s loo, obviously.
Half a day’s work, easily.
Parts of a telephone you don’t know exist, until you have OCD. Or someone you love has.
It is arguably the most infectious of mental illnesses. After this, you wouldn’t touch the telephone again, would you? You’d contaminate it, and have to start all over again...
I then had to insist Bink spent the entire day within arm’s reach of the room where the telephone was plugged in.
I mean, suppose she wandered off, and the Admissions Tutor chose that moment to get in touch?
Ring ring. Ring ring.
“Bink! BINK! BINNNKKKK!!!!”
“I’m on the loo.”
Ring ring. Ring ring.
If I ignore it, he might not ring again for another day, and we’ll be stuck in this room for yet another twenty four hours, not knowing when he might ring back... or even whether it was him.
If I answer it... I’d have to start the cleaning process all over again. Bink won’t be able to take the call once I’ve touched the telephone, will she?
What’s that you say? Why not just be straightforward, and tell the Tutor the truth?
Oh yeah. That’s a good idea.
“Um. Right. You see. It’s like this…
“Ok, my daughter – who is hoping to be given a place at your extremely competitive college in an extremely competitive subject in your extremely competitive university – is too loony to touch a telephone. As one is. You know. Doesn’t mean she’s stupid. Just means she’s. Well, there we are. Anyway, may I take a message for her, please?”
Or shall I just take that as a ‘No’?