Conversations with wonka.., p.1
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       Conversations with Wonka - Part Seven, p.1

          
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Conversations with Wonka - Part Seven
Conversations with Wonka - Part Seven

  Copyright 2016 Madeleine Masterson

  At the end of the lesson I stood and cried with the lad who was also having a bad time of it; he had expressed this by self-harming with a ruler, whilst I stared at him in my own inner anguish.

  ‘I can’t possibly go back,’ I whined at Wonka who was carefully eating Bertie’s new dietary biscuits.

  ‘Don’t be ridiculous.’ He advised in between mouthfuls.

  It had been the usual set up with me as chief lion tamer and clown and the interval where you all get to talk and shout and let loose. Hang on! That was the entire lesson. Thinking myself ahead of the game, thanks to a kindly supply teacher who had gladly showed me a chemistry practical demonstration (about chromo something or other) I had approached the last lesson, double lesson, with confidence. In an ideal world I would have banished three quarters of the class, ending up with the five or six young students eager to simply copy down whatever was foxing them on the big screen.

  Cast adrift, with the anxiety of all the other disastrous cover lessons behind me, I went through the measly options. Wonka’s advice was for him pretty strict.

  ‘Go back!’ he continued, ‘and show them what you’re made of.’

  Since the heart breaking time of Tinkers, Wonka had advanced his position barely vacated really, to that of Top Dog; swiping at Ruggles from behind the kitchen door and treating Bertie, who lurked massively in the Narnia cupboard, to constant checks. Bertie had grown large (I blamed myself, naturally – a life without guilt? come on) and was now on a very expensive diet.

  ‘And, whatever you do,’ Wonka was still on the theme, ‘don’t engage with it!’ he warned, busy engaging with Bertie who hissed and disappeared into his igloo, also in the Narnia cupboard.

  ‘Stop it Wonka!’ How was I supposed to reflect, learn from and move on? You recall my past attempts to do this, glazed in front of my latest box set, crying in front of my GP, mouth open at the dentist, or, chatting to Jung in the kitchen. My imaginary Jung had seeped away, first by chipping away at his rocks out back perhaps having a new and fascinating insight as his chisel dug into the granite (or was it marble?) and then I think he must have headed for his beloved lake. That left me with dwindling options and I had found myself up in the spare room chatting to the boys.

  ‘Who are you talking to?’ Wonka would shout up the stairs to me, worried I had let in a pesky Viking. It was my two great uncles, both wearing their army uniforms with pride and both dying for their Country in the First World War. Their photos were perched either side of my Grandad’s Napoleon hat clock. Percy was on the left, and George was on the right. Their advice was always spot on.

  They had been retrieved from hundreds of other family photos during my time of research into Mother’s stormy past. We had flipped from Liverpool to Bermuda, back to England and Norwich then over to Dublin; it all seemed to come to a halt in Dover, in her recounting of it all. I had scraps of paper buried under scraps of paper with little notes on: Maison Dieu was one such note, the place of Mother’s birth. This was all to do with George and nothing to do with Percy who was of good Suffolk stock, and therefore a steady and straightforward adviser. I always had George down as more of a lad, and more up for some risk taking. As it was I padded upstairs for this and that and would pause before my home made shrine, to tell of my latest.

  ‘I did everything I could.’ I mumbled over to them, as I placed the wet washing on the airer, which for the sake of lack of space, stood proudly in the back bedroom. Would that machine never spin properly? I had taken against it from Day one, deciding that my choice of colour, granite was wrong – washing machines should be white – the knob to point out which wash you wanted was so stiff it needed a wrench to shift it, and the door lock was having a laugh. There was nothing in the complex manual to give me vital clues either, like having to physically adjust it to spin after a full wash. Like all machines that are detested and loathed, it refused to breakdown, and even after I called the chap out (a procedure worthy of a full on anxiety attack) he simply replaced the door after successfully selling me a carton of tablets. I had them still, mouldering under the sink, instead of cleansing said machine.

  The boys knew my mind only too well, and were aware that lapses like this one, about the rubbish washing machine were simply a distraction from the real problem.

  Percy would fix me with a stoical look and I knew he would have marched into the classroom and maybe lit up a woodbine and then had them all aghast at his stories of the trenches. George would have taken up with the ladies and enthralled the lads with his bravado. What would I fall back on? Trudging back downstairs I saw I had a missed call on my mobile, and prayed it was not from the Agency.

  ‘You’ve a missed call.’ Wonka was keen to have me back at it.

  ‘I know.’ And I was not.

  But we both knew the outcome.

  Weeks later and I was still alive, plus with a bit of hope as I had a weekend away with three old friends lined up. Lists were part of the big build up to any holiday, but for the life of me I could not read what I had scribbled on this one. Was it food? Or an item of clothing, or, a message to tell me I must pack something or I would regret it. Like a cryptic crossword, albeit with the answer as a clue, I would stop and pause by it daily.

  ‘It’s Chocolate Limes!’ I shouted at Wonka, who had not helped me at all, jeering at my scribble and putting me off the scent with things like, ‘its dreamies or more indoor biscuits!’ There were cat biscuits for every occasion and I often stood in a daze in front of the display. Other people, I had noted on my rare visits to the outside community, just bought one packet or one of those sacks; they were not expensive and their cats all looked full of beans. Was I missing a trick?

  Hours later, having hauled enough cat food indoors to keep us going through a Noah-like flood, I made another list. Alright I was only going to be away for three days tops, but goodness me, I could not go without three quarters of my wardrobe and the beginnings of a chemist shop.

  ‘You won’t wear that.’ Wonka immediately laid on a dress he quite rightly judged I would not wear. But I might do, and if it wasn’t crammed into the bag, I would want it. The one thing I must avoid is regret, and thoughts of what if I was on a desert island, or what if I was really poor instead of pretending (credit cards allowed you to live for years under this illusion) were shoved aside. If I needed it, it was coming too.

  In an act of saving grace, the Agency had turned me into an Invigilator. When Wonka had finished rolling on the floor and choking, I reassured him thus:

  ‘This role was made for me! Strolling up and down, handing out pens or dark looks accordingly….and respected too!’

  The hard facts were not quite so romantic. Escorting cheeky adolescents to the toilets and swapping a worn out calculator, oh and reading lips. Mouthing over to me from the other side of the gym that the lad in the middle with his hand up wanted a ? kbgspspgh…… or a oibyss;

  By the time I had zoomed in on them, it was to find the emergency was all about a rubber. The worst thing that could happen was squeaky shoes. They would not squeak though until the start of the exam was announced and all you could hear was your tummy gurgling. Wearing my best sandals, which didn’t know how to squeak solved this one, and one day my memory would come up with where the student was sitting in a room full of over 200 like them, and I would go straight to them with the said rubber. Instead I circled anxiously looking for a student who was looking at me.

  Lastly, equipped with the right shoes and a failsafe for where I must return to, I needed to step up with my hearing. Wonka had warned me about
this one.

  ‘What?’

  ‘And perhaps think about some ear drops’ he mumbled to me.

  Otherwise the holiday approached and my ‘to do’ lists were on it. We were to all meet up at a nearby holiday complex, visited by me on several occasions to partake of their swimming pool, and given a huge tick of approval. Strangely I had not known that this holiday village had sprung up from the ruins of an old Butlins camp, and the site of my very first holiday. When I found out, it brought back treasured golden memories; the brightness and joy of those remembered days spurred me on.

  Wonka hardly bothered to look up as I busily recounted the fascination of those times, the bucket and spade made of that multi-coloured rubber, the long train journey and the excitement of looking out of the train window and seeing the sea. We had all of us come up from Cambridge, so rather like now, the journey was part of the holiday. Oh, happy times! The golden haze of this probably helped me ignore the underlying tensions of my friendships, the pending reunion. And things like the vast differences between my shaky lifestyle and theirs.

  The boys stared out at me, from either side of the clock, as I sat on the edge of my new office chair for a breather.
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