The coco pinchard boxset.., p.9
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       The Coco Pinchard Boxset: 5 bestselling romantic comedies in one!, p.9

           Robert Bryndza

  I almost felt sorry for her, as she is always boasting about her son’s big house with its en-suite bathroom. Daniel grew up with an outside toilet.

  Friday 20th March 13.47

  TO: [email protected]

  Daniel has hired himself a solicitor. A guy called Derek Jacobs. The name sounded familiar and then I realised why. Derek Jacobs was the Pantomime Dame in Snow White! He used to practice law before he had a mid-life crisis and went off to drama school.

  Christian has been staying here for most of the week. I did have the rule of no overnight guests but he is so easy to have around. He now lights me a cigarette whenever I come home. Also Rosencrantz is so happy. They spend lots of time cuddling on the sofa in front of old black and white films. Christian has the Powell and Pressburger box set. We all watched A Matter Of Life And Death last night, as the rain tink-tonked on the roof.

  This morning Christian was up before all of us. I came down for breakfast to find him sat at the kitchen table with a sewing machine and bundles of fabric. He is making costumes for Rosencrantz’s first year project, a short play. Christian seems like a keeper.

  Saturday 21st March 14.00

  TO: [email protected]

  This email isn’t divorce related. As per every year, I am reminding you that tomorrow is Mother’s Day. It is no longer my job to buy a card and forge your signature.

  Rosencrantz went to see Ethel yesterday; he said she had crowds of old folks around her bed watching television. It seems a near death experience has made her more sociable.

  Monday 23rd March 10.34

  TO: [email protected], [email protected]

  Daniel and Meryl,

  I have just received an invoice from Bedside Entertainments Ltd. It’s not an NHS service. It is a premium rate service and Ethel put my name down for billing! She has been charging the other patients to watch television. I thought it was odd she was being so sociable, but now I know why. Rosencrantz said her water jug was full to the brim with fifty pence pieces. She had told him it was for charity.

  I’ve scanned in a copy of the bill. How can Bedside Entertainments justify their call tariffs, and charging £4.99 to watch Carry On Up The Khyber? Ridiculous. The TV/phone module has been removed until the bill is settled.

  Tuesday 24th March 08.40

  TO: [email protected]

  I hadn’t heard a peep from Meryl or Daniel about this bill, so I went to Whitechapel in a rage. Ethel looked quite shocked.

  “Where’s the jug?” I said, searching her bedside locker.

  “They’ve confiscated it,” she said, rearranging her nightgown. “I was going to give it to charity.”

  I asked her which charity.

  “Um… The Little Spastics,” she said vaguely. “It was all a mix up with the bill.”

  At the back of her locker, I found her savings book. When I opened it there was only £2,000 left. £18,000 had been transferred out.

  “Where’s your money gone?” I said.

  She looked away.


  She told me she had given it to Daniel to buy his piano.

  “So you’ve lent him money to buy his piano?”

  “He said you were selling it, against his will.”

  I told her that he had suggested selling it and that it’s worth only fifteen grand.

  “What about the other three grand?” said Ethel, sharply.

  I looked at her.

  “The little bastard!” she said.

  I came home to a message from Mr Spencer. Daniel’s pantomime dame/solicitor has agreed the divorce paperwork, giving me the house, and a lump sum payment of £30,000, based on the difference of what the piano sells for. He is expecting me to get £15,000 for it. However, his stupid solicitor/pantomime dame failed to specify in the paperwork how much I actually have to sell it for.

  I have been thinking about how I can pay you back for Mr Spencer’s services. You have always talked about having a piano in your library. How about I sell it to you for, say, 1p? You get a lovely old piano and Daniel has to cough up £29,999.99p! It will teach him a lesson, and the best thing is — it’s legal.

  Wednesday 25th March 15.44

  TO: [email protected]

  I officially filed for divorce today. Chris has invited us over tonight for drinks around his new piano to celebrate. He has given me a shiny penny mounted in a tiny frame. Under it he has written: Here’s to the future.

  Thursday 26th March 09.02

  TO: [email protected]

  Daniel received the paperwork from Mr Spencer, which included the invoice for the 1p piano! He rang up screaming, “Divorce won’t come quick enough, you bitch!” before slamming down the phone.

  Then I went to visit Ethel. She’s not happy with Daniel either. She phoned him after I left the other day, and “Put the fear of God up ‘im.” He wired the money back to her within the hour.

  “I didn’t think you had it in you,” she said.

  There was a hint of admiration in her voice. She said it might have lasted if I had been a cow from day one.

  “I was a cow to my Wilf, and we ‘ad an ‘appy marriage — until he got himself squashed by a bus.”

  Due to an administrative error, her phone bill has been paid by the NHS trust. A copy of the bill was mixed up with her medical notes and they thought Bedside Entertainments was a new kind of rehabilitation therapy. The jug of money was confiscated by Nurse Carol and donated to charity.

  “Guess ‘oo the fat bitch give it to?” said Ethel, lowering her voice. “Miss Tiggywinkle’s bloody Hedgehog Hospital. What are those prickly little bastards gonna do with it?”

  At that point, Nurse Carol came up to take her blood pressure and Ethel said, “’Ello love! It’s me favourite nurse!”

  Saturday 28th March 10.47

  TO: [email protected]

  I was woken at seven this morning by a phone call from the hospital. They said to come and collect your nan, as she had been discharged! When I arrived an hour later, she was sat in the reception in her big fur coat with a scowl.

  She has been declared fit enough to be an outpatient and was thus a “bed blocker”. She has to go for rehabilitation three times a week for the next couple of months. She can’t manage the stairs to the loo, so she is in the living room on a camp bed with one of my lovely never-been-used Jamie Oliver pans. I know I never cook but it hurts me to think of the first, or second thing that pan will contain.

  Are you home tonight? She’s looking forward to seeing you.

  Saturday 28th March 12.01

  TO: [email protected]

  I came out of the bathroom naked this morning as the computer was ringing and Meryl and Tony appeared via Skype.

  “Tony, look away!” ordered Meryl from the screen.

  I screamed and ran into the bedroom. When I came back in a dressing gown, I could hear Meryl yelling at Tony to go and have a cold shower.

  I sat down and tried to compose myself.

  “Coco,” she said. “Do you always walk around naked?”

  “Only when I’m alone,” I said, vowing to tell Rosencrantz to switch off the computer when he is finished.

  “Large bosoms always put Tony at sixes and sevens,” she said, as if it were my fault he saw.

  “You got my messages then?” I said, trying to change the subject.

  “Yes,” she said. “The hospital did phone me this morning but I said you were the closest kin, for her outpatient appointments.”

  “What about nursing homes? Both Ethel and I would rather she is in a nice home.”

  Meryl then told me that Mrs Braun has gone ahead and written to the local authority, effectively blacklisting Ethel in the London area.

  “I can’t be a full-time carer,” I said. “I need to start thinking about working again.”

  “Oh Coco!” she said. “If you were an Indian you wouldn’t think twice about caring for family.”
  “Well, um,” I said, momentarily thrown off.

  “Look,” she said, flashing her Margaret Thatcher smile. “You need to acclimatise yourself to the day, and put your bra on. Let’s just agree what I have said on principle and we can talk more. It’s just short term; that’s what family does, well, at least whilst you still are family.”

  With that, the screen went blank.

  I will find Ethel a home if it kills me. Otherwise, I will kill her.

  Saturday 28th March 16.45

  TO: [email protected]

  The cheapest private nursing home is seven hundred pounds a week!

  “I’m not forking out that,” said Ethel.

  “Me either,” I agreed.

  She then waved a copy of Rosencrantz’s The Stage newspaper, with an article about a new council-funded nursing home for retired theatricals. I am going to write a suitably dramatic email and hope it will land her a place.

  Sunday 29th March 09.00

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear Miss Jeanie Lavelle,

  I have just seen your article in this week’s edition of The Stage. Your nursing home for retired theatrical artistes looks marvellous. I am seeking suitable accommodation for my mother-in-law, Mrs Ethel Pinchard.

  Ethel doesn’t have an Equity card, or any TV/theatre/film/radio experience but I think she would fit in well in the world of elderly show biz. She is very outgoing, opinionated, and prone to over-excitement. As far as her theatrical pedigree is concerned, she was a formidable player on the Catford Karaoke circuit in the late nineties, often winning first prize singing ‘I’m a Pink Toothbrush, You’re a Blue Toothbrush’. She was recently forced to leave her nursing home of five years when it collapsed due to subsidence, losing many of her beloved possessions, and her local authority medical records.

  With best wishes,

  Coco Pinchard

  Sunday 29th March 14.48

  TO: [email protected]

  I didn’t know you had given Christian a key! Nan was dozing in the living room, when he let himself in the front door. He woke her up as he was stuffing your iPod and some CDs into his bag. She thought he was an intruder and whacked him over the head with a Jamie Oliver milk pan full of wee.

  He’s lying down wrapped in a sheepskin rug. His suit is dry clean only, and, being a fashion expert, he has refused all of your father’s clothes. The living room is a no-go area so your nan is draped across a beanbag in the music room. She is kicking off because the portable TV in there doesn’t have Sky. Could you come home please?

  Monday 30th March 12.03

  TO: [email protected]

  There are further ructions between my new house guests. Christian offered to do some Reiki healing on Ethel’s new hip, as an apology. Halfway through, lying face down on the sofa, she broke wind so violently that Christian, who has a hyper-sensitive sense of smell, was taken ill. He is still retching in the bathroom. Rosencrantz is furious.

  Ethel is still laughing and I must admit I had to struggle to keep a straight face. She keeps saying, “It was a ripper, I’ll give him that.”

  Monday 30th March 13.45

  TO: [email protected]

  Please can I put in an order for The Socialist Worker newspaper. My mother-in-law appears to be staying here now.

  Also could I stop my order for Nuts, Loaded, and Zoo. Rosencrantz came out over a year ago and I never got round to cancelling them.


  Coco Pinchard

  Tuesday 31st March 10.00

  TO: [email protected]

  Dear Rosencrantz,

  I know you are under pressure with your play starting on Friday but it doesn’t mean that you can be disrespectful to your nan. Ignoring her this morning was rude. She adores you.

  I am going to ask the doctor about her noxious emissions when I take her for physiotherapy this week. Luckily, it’s sunny and warm outside, so I’ve put her on a chair in the garden. Christian needs the kitchen to finish your costumes.



  Wednesday 1st April 11.01

  TO: [email protected]

  Ethel just came into the kitchen with an article from The Daily Mail. Apparently, scientists have engineered a silent crisp, which makes no noise when eaten.

  “It’ll be a boon,” she said excitedly.

  She asked me to hot foot it to the Tesco Metro on Baker Street and get some for Rosencrantz, as his noisy mouth-manipulation of crisps drives her mad.

  I pointed out that today is April Fool’s day, and that it’s probably a joke article but she refused to believe me saying, “The Daily Mail don’t lie!”

  Then I had a phone call. A strangulated Margaret Thatcher-style voice came on the line. She congratulated me on reaching the top of the waiting list for a local allotment, with three sacks of manure as a welcome gift.

  “Ha ha, Rosencrantz,” I said. “You won’t April Fool me with that stupid voice.” There was silence. Then the voice said it was no joke, that her name was Agatha Balfour, and she was calling from the Augustine and Redhill Allotment Association.

  “You and your husband put your name down for a local Allotment in 1991,” she said. “You’ve just reached the top of the list.”

  I babbled around, apologising and said that I couldn’t even keep a virtual cactus alive on Facebook. She advised me to take it. Allotments are like gold dust and she has been bribed by all and sundry to jiggle the list.

  “Just this morning I turned down tickets to see Leonard Cohen at the O2,” she said. “And I do love Leonard…”

  I asked how much it was.

  “Fifteen pounds.”

  “Is that per week?”

  “No, Mrs Pinchard, per year.” She went on to say that it has unparalleled views of London and a well-equipped shed with furniture. I had a vision of writing in the shed and gazing out at the view. I said I would take it, and apologised for thinking she was an April Fool.

  “Not to worry Mrs Pinchard,” she said. “My son is the same, I’ve spent the morning pulling cling film from all my lavatory pans,” then she rang off.

  She must have a big house.

  Ethel snorted when she heard.

  “You? Gardening? Them poor earth worms.”

  You and Marika can come and help dig in your wellies and I can start writing again. I need to do something apart from drive Ethel to and from the hospital.

  Thursday 2nd April 13.44

  TO: [email protected]

  This afternoon, I took Ethel to see a room in The William Shakespeare Rest Home. The manager, Miss Jeanie Lavelle, had replied enthusiastically, saying a space for Ethel had come available. The far from Shakespearean home is in a yellowing Victorian terrace, on a dirty street in Penge.

  Miss Jeanie, as she asked us to call her, is what you would term a frustrated actress. At the back end of her fifties, heavily made up, dressed in a mini skirt and a tight flowery top with a plunging neckline, which looked as if it was slowly regurgitating her enormous crinkled bosom.

  She greeted us like old friends and led us down a hallway, filled with the smell of old school dinners and disinfectant. We passed pictures of Miss Jeanie showing her acting achievements; posters for long forgotten plays and several stills of her in television shows Prime Suspect, Cracker, and Silent Witness. In all she was pictured on the mortuary slab.

  ““Guess what my casting type is?” she said.

  “Old floozy?” said Ethel, giving her the once over.

  There was an awkward pause, and Miss Jeanie showed us through to the “dayroom”.

  Six elderly actors and actresses were sat in a dingy lounge in high-backed chairs staring listlessly at a television. A film with Oliver Reed and Vanessa Redgrave was playing. If I remember correctly, the film is called The Devils and has been banned since the 1970s due to its story of sex-crazed nuns in seventeenth-century France. Daniel took me to a special
BFI screening of it at the Barbican a few years back; for the art, of course, nothing to do with the huge amount of nudity.

  “The residents are enjoying one of my performances,” said Miss Jeanie, “I played sex-crazed nun number four.”

  Most of the residents were snoring. An elderly gent called out for a commode.

  “Ooh! We’re just in time!” said Miss Jeanie, ignoring him.

  She turned up the volume as a scene began, with nuns ripping off their habits and engaging in an orgy around a statue of Christ. A shiny-faced ginger-haired nun (and you could see she had been an authentic ginger) romped past the camera.

  “There! That’s me!” cried Miss Jeanie grabbing the remote and rewinding. Her pendulous bosoms swung backwards slowly then leapt back to life.

  “Oliver Reed was wonderful,” she said.

  “Have you got Sky?” asked Ethel, disgusted.

  “No, but we have a lovely big box of videocassettes which you would be free to rummage around in,” she said, as if Ethel were five. “Let’s go and see your new home!”

  “They’re all bloody out of it,” hissed Ethel as we went up in a lift.

  The free bed was in a shared room. Miss Jeanie barged into without knocking. A sad-looking old lady was sat in a wheelchair. Miss Jeanie seemed annoyed to find her there, and pushed her out into the corridor.

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