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Excerpt for Joanna And The Piano by , available in its entirety at Smashwords















JOANNA AND THE PIANO



GAVIN THOMSON



MMXVIII













© GAVIN THOMSON 2018

Published by Gavin Thomson at Smashwords

SMASHWORDS EDITION LICENSE NOTES

This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to other people. If you would like to share this book with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this book and did not purchase it, or it was not purchased for your enjoyment only, then please return to Smashwords or your favourite retailer and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of this author.

  1. Joanna Jaws: Take One!

  2. Not the nine o’clock news, but nearly!

  3. The end of the world is nigh or just a storm in a teacup!

  4. What to pack, what not to pack and what can be packed by the packers!

  5. As one door closes, another door opens!

  6. Camp beds and candles!

  7. Wi-Fi Daddy, I need Wi-Fi!

  8. Why have one when you can have two!

  9. That’s grand!

  10. Guten tag!

  11. Wax on, wax off!

  12. Your carriage awaits, Ma’am!

  13. Close your eyes and open your ears!

  14. Now concentrate, there’s a test at the end!

  15. The greenhouse. Or is it the treblehouse!

  16. Finally, lesson number nine!

  17. Now what did Herr Mozhoven say!

  18. Listen for your number to be called!

  19. We’ll all get along if we all pull together!

  20. What’s in a name!

  21. A midnight swim with geese!

  22. Encore! Encore!

  23. On your marks, get set…BAKE!

  24. His master’s voice!

  25. Walk on Ludwig!

  26. If music be the food of love, play on!

  27. And they call it puppy love!

  28. It’s a hard-knock life!

  29. Pride before a fall!

  30. Not just a pretty face and a dirty neck!

  31. Coming out!

  32. Eeny, meeny, miny, moe!

  33. Dogs are big scaredy-cats!

  34. Dressed to impress!

  35. Great balls of chocolate!

  36. Back to school!



About the author

Books by Gavin Thomson

Connect with Gavin Thomson

1

Joanna Jaws: Take One!

"Hi. My name's Joanna, and I'm ten years old, and I'm a girl…uh, uh, that's dumb, start again!" exclaims Joanna. She stops record and deletes the video, before ridiculing herself. “Of course, they know I’m a girl - they can see that on the video, stupid! And how many boys do they know called Joanna!”

Joanna practises again in her bedroom mirror until she feels confident she’s perfected the bubbly and sassy persona, all vloggers possess. She brushes her hair for the ninth time and applies a little more make-up from the dressing-up set she received in last year’s Santa sack - red blusher and a little blue lipstick! Funky!

She checks the bedroom door is shut and takes her position in front of her computer again - purposefully placed to include her eclectic mix of wall posters behind and where the light seems to give the best natural ambience which she fervently hopes will replicate other videos that regularly entertain and captivate.

Joanna thinks to herself, how funny it is - usually, when asked to do anything in front of anybody, she's generally overcome with shyness and reluctance. But given this apparent anonymity, even though the audience could reach millions, it feels like a chat with her friends in the school playground.

How positively liberating is that!?

Joanna Jaws: Take Two,” she says out loud for final motivation, before pressing record again.

Jaws isn’t her surname, but she likes the alliteration - the suggestion of talking and having something biting to say…somehow it sounds so much more memorable and edgy than a video blog by Joanna Pulton!

"Hi. My name's Joanna, and I'm ten years old. I live in the best city in the world - Landan!” she begins, adopting a slightly American and chatty undertone, “Welcome to my life - the life of a typical ten-year-old girl who wants to be your friend. As you can see, I have long straight brown hair, although my Mother, whose name is Trish, says its more auburn than brown, whatever auburn is! My eyes are hazelnut brown…” describes Joanna as she leans into the tiny peephole camera to give everyone an enlarged close-up, “…although in some lights and depending on what I’m wearing, they can appear green!

My right eye is slightly smaller than my left. I have brown eyebrows and eyelashes, and my cheeks are slightly freckled," continues Joanna as she pulls back again. "My mother says I have inherited my skin colour from my grandmother, Grandma Mo, her mother - she's from Jamaica in The Caribbean - who married my grandfather, Grandpa Jo - an Englishman from North London, who fell in love with her in the days when it’s frowned upon for different ethnic groups to marry. Can you believe it!?" exclaims Joanna as she pulls a face to mock this absurdity and shakes her head fiercely to emphasise her disapproval. "Anyway, my mother says I still have to be careful in the sun as everyone must practise safe sun - skin damage is skin damage, whatever your skin colour,” preaches Joanna as she mimics her mother with a fake adult voice and finger-pointing, before breaking into a huge smile. “Yes, I wear braces - train tracks top and bottom. Something to do with a crossbite, a slight underbite and teeth crowding! I love and hate them. I love them because I get to miss some school every six weeks…I get to choose what colour wire holders - now blue and I know I'm going to have beautiful teeth at the end of it all…but I hate them because I can't eat certain things like oranges, nuts or chewy sweets and cleaning is a real nightmare. I don't just have one brush, but several, to work in between and behind the wires and not just twice a day, but after every meal!" relays Joanna, licking her lips and sweeping her tongue across her braces in a similar manner to a nose cleaning cow. "But enough about my braces! It's not like I'm the only person in the world to wear braces and even if I were, it's not that exciting!" admits Joanna as she makes a fake yawn and pats her mouth several times in self-mocking. "What else can I tell you about me? I'm 133 centimetres tall. That's four foot four. Not big and not small. Pretty average. I weigh 31 kilograms. That's five stone 2 pounds. Again, not light and not heavy. Pretty average. I'm left-handed. My shoe size is 4, although my right foot is slightly longer than my left. I take a G fitting, which means my feet are quite wide and sometimes I can’t have the shoes I want because my parents don’t want me to get bunions…like my Grandma Mo. Apparently, it’s a real pain!” says Joanna, losing focus for a second and averting her eyes to the side, to reach over and grab her fancy-framed family photo. “This is me with my Mum and Dad,” she says, proudly pointing at the recent photo taken by a stranger as they stand outside Il Duomo during this summer’s Tuscan holiday. “My Dad’s called Roger - he’s an engineer and my Mum’s called Trish as I said earlier - she’s a housewife, but used to be in publishing. She keeps trying to write her first novel, but never gets around to it!" quotes Joanna, with hand-gestured quote marks, more resembling rabbit shadow puppets than grammatical intonation! “My Dad keeps pulling her leg…something about pigs flying and hell freezing over! Maybe one day I'll introduce them to you in person, but perhaps not…I wouldn't want to subject anyone to my Dad's terrible jokes or my Mum's nagging - Joanna, clean your room - Joanna, don’t leave your shoes at the bottom of the stairs - Joanna, don’t slurp your tea!” again mimics Joanna, wagging the same finger and putting on the same fake adult voice. "I don't have any brothers or sisters. I think my Mum and Dad wanted another child, but there were complications. We don't talk about it. Anyway, I like being the centre of attention and being spoiled, although sometimes it would be nice to have a little brother to tease and poke fun...Girl-Power!” smirks Joanna as she tries to impersonate Mr Universe if the universe were made up of puny ten-year-old girls! “So, that’s pretty much an introduction into me. I hope you enjoyed it. Next time on Joanna Jaws, I’m going to talk about my likes and dislikes. Should be fun! So, keep smiling. ‘Till next time. Stinky boy, boy!”

And with that, Joanna taps the stop button, saves the video to a desktop file named Top Secret, uploads it to her video channel, tweets, snaps and sends out notifications to all her friends. “I wonder how many likes I’ll get,” she whispers to herself. “I hope it’s more than Becky Winston!”

2

Not the nine o’clock news, but nearly!

“Jo…anna,” calls Joanna’s Mum, Trish. “Please, come down. I need to talk to you.”

“Yes, please, come down,” echoes Joanna’s Dad, Roger. “We have something important to talk to you about.”

Joanna tuts and rolls her eyes at her friend, Jenny. “Sorry, Jen!” apologises Joanna, “Gotta go. I’ll call you back in five. Don’t do any more on our scheme ‘till I get back.”

“No problem,” replies Jenny, “I’ve gotta go, too. My Nan’s just arrived.”

And with that, both girls tap the stop button and watch their images disappear. Their computers become inanimate again - put to sleep as if given a chance to recoup, gather more energy and prepare for the next dramatic interlude…it’s hard work keeping up with the imagination and discovery of the modern ten-year-old!

Joanna tears downstairs, sliding her hands down the familiar bannister, now well-worn through constant rubbing and reassurance - through the hall, pulling her fingers along the wall as if she’s gliding through long grass in a summer-soiled meadow and into the kitchen. Trish and Roger are sitting at the breakfast bar, sipping coffee and surrounded by streams of papers, strewn haphazardly before them.

"What's up?" asks Joanna as she hoists herself onto the chrome and black stool, barely able to reach the foot rail. Instead, feet dangling like door chimes in a cool autumn breeze.

“Well, you know how Daddy was made redundant recently,” begins Trish.

“More of a restructure than redundant,” defends Roger, keen to be consistent and appear needed rather than discarded.

“Exactly, Daddy,” agrees Trish, “I mean, when Daddy’s firm restructured and no longer needed his division…”

Joanna glazes over at this point. Adult semantics and nuances pass her by and fly over her head like low-flying paper planes. All she knows is that her Dad lost his job and he’s been at home on gardening leave for the last three months, and what a misnomer that is because she hasn’t as much seen him mow the lawn, let alone tend to the constant demands of weeds!

She daydreams how weeds should be called strongs and how some are quite pretty

“…well, Daddy has some great news,” continues Trish as she raises a smile and directs her eyes to Roger, giving him a nod like a play’s prompter, supplying the lines to a frozen actor, “…haven’t you, Daddy?”

“Yes, Darling,” grins Roger as his eyes widen and a smile begins to beam, revealing shining white teeth that sparkle on his face and illuminate his demeanour. “Daddy’s got a new job!”

“That’s brilliant, Daddy!” praises Joanna as she jumps from her stool and throws her arms around his waist, squeezing as tightly as she can and mimicking his hugs whenever she does anything wonderful or praiseworthy.

“Thank you, Sweetheart,” replies Roger, delighted with such a warm response and stroking her hair with his enormous hands that seem to engulf her head like a swimmer’s hat, “however, there is something else…”

Joanna relaxes her hold and steps back, staring into her father’s eyes with a look of uncertainty. She’s old enough to realise that whenever a sentence begins with, however, it more than likely results in a negative remark rather than a positive one!

“…my new job is in a different part of the country,” continues Roger.

“Yes, dear,” adds Trish, “and unfortunately it’s not a straightforward commute.”

Joanna is confused. She has no perspective of commuting length or distance - anything longer than ten minutes feels like a lifetime. People don’t joke about kids moaning are we there yet? For no reason!

“Mummy and I have been doing a lot of thinking,” adds Roger, “and weighing everything up…”

“…what with you ready to start big school, soon,” assists Trish, “and now being as good a time as any…”

“…for us to move to a new house,” finally blurts Roger, breathing out heavily, as if a huge weight is lifted from him. “To make a fresh start!”

Joanna is speechless. Like her computer upstairs, her brain is listening, digesting and taking time to compute what this means.

“Living here in the city,” adds Trish, “means our house is worth a lot of money which goes a lot further in the countryside…”

“…so, we’ve found this amazing manor house in the country,” enthuses Roger, “with lots of grounds and a lake…”

“…it’s a bit run down and needs work,” admits Trish, “but it will make a fantastic home, Darling. Somewhere we can all be very happy.”

Joanna has been silent long enough.

“I don’t want to move,” shouts Joanna, annoyed her parents haven’t asked her and presented her with a fait accompli. “I’m happy here. This is my home. It’s where I was born and where I grew up. It’s where all my friends are.”

"You'll make new friends," replies Roger, thinking this will make sense to a ten-year-old. Instead, it acted like a red rag to a bull.

“I won’t!” screams Joanna, now with tears cascading down her cheeks, as if sent by her brain to extinguish the fire in her mouth. “I hate you. I hate you!” further screams Joanna, trying to use her stare to inflict pain on both her parents, before running out of the kitchen as a last act of defiance. “I hate you!”

“But, Darling…” says Roger, saddened.

“Leave her,” calms Trish, placing her hand on his arm and pressing, as if trying to stop the bleeding from his wound. “She’s angry, but she’ll come around.”

“We should’ve spoken about this before…” annoys Roger, “…involved her in the process somehow.”

“But everything was in the air,” reasons Trish. “We only found out today. It would’ve been more confusing to juggle with her emotions on a possibility that might never happen.”

“But I think we forget she’s growing up,” realises Roger. “She’s not a little girl anymore. She’s bright and confronting her own issues, and on the brink of becoming a young woman.”

“But she’s just a child, Roger,” replies Trish, “and sometimes children just need to be children and not have to carry the burdens of adult life or emotions they’re not equipped to rationalise or reason.”

“She’s an only child, Trish,” replies Roger. “She can’t help but be more mature and part of our world. I think we’ve underestimated her.”

“She’ll be fine, Roger,” reassures Trish. “Her strength is being an only child. Her ability to know herself and be happy on her own - not as a loner, but happy spending time on her own…in her own world.”

“I just want her to be happy,” nods Roger, looking to Trish for a similar response.

“She will be…she is,” replies Trish, reaching over to kiss Roger on the cheek and add a mother’s intuition. “If we’re happy, then she’ll be happy. It’s just part and parcel of making big, life-changing decisionsand being parents!”

“I hope so,” sighs Roger, sipping the last of his coffee - now aptly cold, as he collects and collates the strewn papers into one neat pile. “I do hope so.”

3

The end of the world is nigh or just a storm in a teacup!

“C’mon Jenny, pick up!” annoys Joanna as she wipes her last few tears on Snonkey, “Why do five minutes never mean five minutes!”

Snonkey is Joanna’s faithful and much-loved, stuffed snow-white donkey, has been with her since her second birthday and fell in love with him, the minute she laid eyes on him. She can’t remember for sure but thinks he was a present from her Aunty Vie - short for Viola, her Mum’s sister.

Those were the days when Joanna’s other best friends were her left and right thumbs! Most children favour the left or right, but Joanna wasn’t fussy - whichever smelled or tasted the best, went straight into her mouth like a cork being wedged into a vintage wine, only to be uncorked at meal or snack times, when the substitute seemed a fair swap!

To call Snonkey snow-white is a far stretch. After eight years of hard-hugging, head-resting, floor-dragging, machine-washing, sun-drying, mouth-sucking and wool-twizzling, he’s more of a mid-tone grey - the sort of grey not too dissimilar to a freezing February winter’s day! Snonkey’s red scarf, however - made from silk, has survived the test of time and remains distinctively red, albeit frayed and shortened in length.

Snonkey may be a bit loose at the seams, but in true Bagpussian spirit, Joanna loved him!

Joanna waits patiently, outstretched on her bed, front down and lower legs swaying in the air like boughs in the wind - perhaps more like that of a desperate-for-the-loo, leg shaker!

The familiar computer tring breaks the silence. It’s Jenny. Finally!

“You’re not going to believe what’s just happened, Jenny,” begins Joanna without any attempt at hello or, how are you? “My world has been turned upside down…worse than that, my world has ended!”

“Slow down, Joanna,” replies Jenny, finishing a mouthful of crisps before hard-straw-sipping, as only ten-year-olds hard-straw-sip, the last few drops of her juice carton. “What do you mean your world has ended?”

“We’re moving, Jenny!” simply states Joanna, “Leaving the city for the country. A fresh start my Dad calls it. The time’s right my Mum says. Not a single question or concern for what I might have to say about it. I hate them, Jenny. How can they do this to me? They must really hate me.”

Jenny suddenly realises the impact on her too - her best friend is leaving her, deserting her. It isn’t right. How can Joanna’s parents do this to them? Tears begin to fall, fuelled by an enormous well of emotion. They have been friends since the first day of reception class when she consoled Joanna after Teddy Fordman bit her arm and pushed her over in the sandpit!

“You can’t go, Joanna,” selfishly responds Jenny, trying hard not to show emotion. “I won’t let it happen. There must be something we can do - some way we can get your parents to change their mind.”

"They won't change their minds," concedes Joanna. "My Dad just got a new job, and we have to move to be close to it."

"Perhaps we can run away," suggests Jenny, "or hide in my shed at the bottom of my garden. No one will ever find us there, and we can get my brother to bring us food in secret!"

Honk-honk sounds Joanna’s computer. It’s the sound she programmed to denote a new email. A little box appears in the bottom right corner, highlighting one new message: Message from Daddy: with attachment.

“Hang on a sec, Jenny,” replies Joanna as she finger-scrolls the miniature mousepad with one hand and finger-clicks to open the email with the other. “I’ve got an email from my Dad. I’ll send it to you so we can both look at it at the same time…one sec…there. It’s gone.”

“Got it,” eagerly responds Jenny, “I’m opening it now.”

Both their screens divide into segments - the left majority, displays the email while the top right, presents a respective rectangular view of each other, both containing yet another smaller rectangle showing the view as seen by the other! There isn't a hint of amazement or questioning of how this is achieved, but an expectation of this as the norm - two ten-year-olds communicating from their bedrooms like this is how it's always been!

Joanna reads the message aloud. “Dearest Joanna, I'm sorry if this is a shock to you. It wasn't our intention to upset you or exclude you. It just happened so fast, and we did what we thought best for us all. Perhaps the attached will get you excited and don't ever think you're leaving everything behind. Your friends will always be very welcome, and we will, of course, be coming back to catch up with friends. How can we not, when your Aunty Vie still lives here! Love Daddy. X times a million.

“Shall we open the attachment?” asks Jenny, not wanting to presume or further upset Joanna.

“Let’s go for it,” advises Joanna, “…it’s probably one of his stupid jokes he finds on the internet!”

It isn’t. It’s an estate agency brochure, describing and portraying Joanna’s new home!

“O.M.G!” shrills Jenny, “This is a palace!”

Joanna is speechless. She repeatedly clicks the right arrow of the onscreen brochure, flabbergasted by each unfurling image. Yes, it’s a little run down as her Mum says and yes, it needs work, but it’s annoyingly amazing!

As Joanna comes to the end of the picture show, she clicks back to the beginning and reads the summary description aloud. Originally an Elizabethan manor house, owned by Sir Francis Drake’s sister and brother-in-law, Fortuna House was significantly extended in the eighteenth-century by Henry and Liza Bucket, the family who made their fortune patenting a metal construction ‘bucket’, the name of which carries through to this day and whose revolutionary design was responsible for changing the face of modern agriculture and building construction. Grade II listed and boasting many of these original and unchanged features, Fortuna House has four large reception rooms, two further studies, large kitchen with scullery, utility and wine cellar, hallway leading to an impressive double stairway to the first floor. Four en-suite double bedrooms and rear staircase leading to top floor. Four further bedrooms are sharing two family-sized bathrooms. Storage rooms. Land includes two acres of formal gardens and paddock. Stables. Lake with a boathouse. Orangery. Long sweeping drive. Although in need of modernisation, Fortuna House must be viewed. Its charm comes in buckets!

“Your world definitely hasn’t ended, Joanna!” remarks Jenny, tinged with a mixture of excitement and envy. “This is your very own castle…and you’re the princess!”

“But I don’t want to move!” replies Joanna, still upset with her parents.

“Your parents can’t hate you, Joanna!” says Jenny, trying to convince Joanna, “This is beyond beyond!”

“I feel terrible,” worries Joanna. “I repeatedly told my parents how I hated them, especially my Dad. How will they forgive me?”

"Of course, they'll forgive you, Joanna," consoles Jenny, "…they love you and know you don't mean it. My Mum would say it’s just another storm in a teacup in the life of a ten-year-old!

Thanks, Jenny, you’re a great friend,” finishes Joanna, feeling sheepish and embarrassed at her earlier outburst. “I better go and apologise. See you tomorrow?”

“You betcha!” replies Jenny. “Just try and stop me.”

4

What to pack, what not to pack and what can be packed by the packers!

“Joanna, please go and start packing,” asks Trish as she enters the living room, clutching or rather struggling with a large brown cardboard box, labelled Trish’s Toiletries! "We're moving tomorrow, and we have to be out by nine before the moving company arrives."

"Yes, yes, Mummy," replies Joanna, not listening. She thinks this will buy her more time to watch the latest must-see, can’t be missed, best show e-ver! “I’m on it.”

“Seriously, Joanna. I mean now. Turn that rubbish off and start packing!” snaps Trish, losing patience and realising her underestimation for how long it takes to box, tape and label a decade of family life. “You only have your room to do. That’s all.”

Joanna tuts and rolls her eyes. This is her typical response when asked to do anything she doesn’t want to do! Her Dad jokes about it being a disease and how he knew one girl that kept rolling her eyes so often that one day they rolled all the way back in her head and never rolled back again and that’s where the expression inward-looking comes!

Joanna knows she can’t put off packing any longer, so turns off the TV and makes her way upstairs. She passes her Dad on the landing - he’s wearing his DIY clothes! Other Dads she knows, have a pair of fancy overalls, ordinarily blue, or look perfectly primed with cool jeans, rugged lumberjack shirt and a tool-filled, brown suede tool-belt, but not her Dad! Roger wears clothes that have seen better days and should have made their way to the bin - old smart shirts, torn under the arms, now paint speckled and fingerprinted…ancient jeans with inevitable rips in the bottom area and smelly trainers with loose flapping soles that make a funny slapping noise as he walks!

“Lovin’ the look, Daddy!” jokes Joanna, “Very gangsta’ grime!”

“I didn’t realise I lived with the DIY fashion police!” retorts Roger.

“You don’t!” replies Joanna, “Otherwise I’d arrest you, put you in jail and throw away the key!”

“You know how to hit a man where it hurts,” jokes Roger, holding his right hand to his shot heart and fake-staggering backwards. “I’ve put three boxes in your room. Please, get on with it - it takes longer than you think.”

Joanna closes her door and spends the first five minutes choosing the right packing music and deciding on speakers or headphones. “Speakers - no risk of entanglement!”

“Right, what first?” poses Joanna as she surveys her room like an owl - feet rooted to the ground, but head revolving almost full circle. “The bookcase!”

Book after book, is stacked carefully into the first box - some hard and square, some soft and rectangular, but most novel-sized and a mixture of both hard and soft covered. Joanna is a keen reader. “This is tiring!” slows Joanna as she sighs a deep sigh, “And so boring!”

Barely ten minutes have passed when soft-limbed scooping and random chucking replace her initial enthusiasm and order! "I think I deserve a rest. Ooh, I like this song!" and with that, Joanna sits cross-legged on the floor and loses herself in pop music.

The door opens. Trish stands there, simmering like a kettle about to boil. “Is this all you’ve done in an hour?” she remarks, “C’mon. I don’t want to be packing all night!”

“I’m tired,” complains Joanna, looking at her mother with please help me eyes. “It’s too difficult!”

“Alright, Darling,” replies Trish, remembering there are certain things ten-year-olds don’t do very well - cleaning up after themselves? Certainly not, looking for things and now it would seem - packing! “Let’s do it together. You know what they say, Joanna - more hands make less work!”

Joanna loves doing things with her Mum or Dad. Everything seems so much easier, and somehow her opinions suddenly seem to matter.

“What are we doing with these?” asks Trish, wading through a pile of school artworks, “Keep or chuck?”

Joanna sits, sporting a pink dress-up wig and acting as judge and jury on each picture her Mum holds up. She uses their acid test - Picasso or Pollock? If she can’t imagine either artist painting it - chuck, if she can - keep! Some calls are close and require Trish’s second opinion, but it’s amazing how many end up in the bin!

They sort Joanna’s clothes into winter and summer and put any unwanted items in a box, clearly marked Charity. Trish boxed Joanna’s baby and toddler clothes many years before, so this exercise turns out to be remarkably quick and thankfully easy!

As much as they try to cull Joanna’s vast collection of cuddly toys, both realise this is a decision best made a few more years down the line. Not because Snonkey needs his friends, but each one represents something special!

Trish comes across her special cuddly toy - the one she had as a child, the one she nicknamed Nappy. "Goodness me, Joanna!" exclaims Trish as she gathers Nappy in her arms and sits at the end of Joanna's bed to rest for a moment, "This takes me back. I remember when I first got her," she begins, beckoning Joanna to sit next to her, which she does, grabbing Snonkey. "Her name was Molly, and she wore this ridiculous outfit, which I despised. One day, I took it off and threw it in the bin - without Grandma or Grandpa knowing…and put a nappy on her! I remember it being a super hot summer and all I seemed to wear was just a nappy…”

“…was this at school?” leg-pulls Joanna.

“Nooo, silly, I was only two, going on three!” replies Trish, suddenly realising, Joanna is making a joke, “But I also called her Nappy because she has eyes that close when you lay her down…see…and I wouldn’t go to sleep or take a nappy without my Nappy! Seems so stupid now.”

“I don’t think so, Mummy,” says Joanna, “she’s part of you.”

“Like you are part of me,” replies Trish, hugging Joanna and placing her chin on Joanna’s head.

“Like Snonkey’s part of me,” adds Joanna, hugging Snonkey, “and this house.”

“And now our new house,” adds Trish, “or rather our new home, the new home we can build together - as a family…the new home where we can create lifelong memories, together.”

“As a family,” replies Joanna as she squeezes tighter, “…create lifelong memories, together...as a family.”

“Exactly, Joanna!” reassures Trish - some of which she aims at Joanna and the rest she aims at herself, “New starts are scary and daunting for everyone - even your Daddy and I are scared!”

5

As one door closes, another door opens!

“Please, put your seatbelt on, Joanna,” instructs Roger as he turns the key in the ignition. “Remember, it’s the law!”

“Do I have to?” moans Joanna, as she grapples with her bed pillow, “I want to lie down and fall asleep.”

"You have to fasten your seatbelt, Darling," reaffirms Trish. "We don't want you flying through the windscreen if we have an accident. Why don't you prop your pillow against the door and snuggle into it that way? I'm sure you'll fall asleep as soon as we start moving. It looks like Snonkey's already dozed off!"

“It’s so annoying!” complains Joanna, as she does as she’s told and prepares herself for upright sleeping. “How long is it again?”

“It’s a six-hour drive!” replies Roger, “But we’ll stop every two hours for a break. Let me put the back-of-seat television on for you. That should help pass the time when you’re not sleeping.”

“Thanks, Daddy!” yawns Joanna, “You’re the best!”

Roger puts on his seatbelt and checks his mirrors. He can barely see out of the rear window with all the boxed essentials, including, of course, Regina, Joanna’s female Rex rabbit.

“Quick check please, Trish,” asks Roger.

“Good idea, Roger,” replies Trish, as she looks at her list. “New address to the movers?”

“Check,” nods Roger with a wry smile. “Wouldn’t that be a disaster!”

“Estate agents primed with keys and cleaning instructions?” reads Trish.

“Check,” nods Roger.

“Gas and electric meter readings?” reads Trish.

"Check, check," nods Roger, again with a wry smile, impressed at their excellent teamwork.

“Post diverted?” reads Trish.

“Check,” nods Roger.

“Keys to our new home?” reads Trish.

“We pick them up from the agents when we arrive,” confirms Roger.

“Then we’re good to go!” informs Trish, “This is it. Goodbye old home. We won’t forget you!”

“Yes, goodbye old home!” adds Roger, “Thank you for all the good times!”

“Bye-bye, old home!” pipes up Joanna, “I’m gonna miss you.”

Joanna put on a brave face - still sad and annoyed to be leaving, upset at saying goodbye to lifelong friends, nervous and apprehensive of what lies ahead. Butterflies ferociously flutter in her tummy whenever she thinks about it!

“Anyone need a pee?” enquires Roger, noting a shake of heads, “And did everyone remember to pack a sense of humour?” he quips, this time noting a nod of heads, “Right. We’re off!”

And with that, Roger indicates right and drives out of the gate for the last time - their old house fading into the distance like end credits of a film. It’s not long before they hit the motorway and join the monotony of high-speed driving. Old house? What old house!?

“Can we play the car game?” asks Joanna as she awakes from forty winks - stretching her arms and shaking her head like a snow globe being whisked into life.

“I’ll be blue,” selects Roger.

“I’ll be red,” chooses Trish.

“Ohh, I wanted to be red,” complains Joanna.

“OK, you be red,” surrenders Trish, “and I’ll be white.”

“You can’t be white or black or silver,” instructs Roger, “it’s an unfair advantage.”

“Sorry, Sir!” jests Trish with a salute, “Then I’ll be yellow.”

“One!” shouts Roger as he spies a blue car in his rear-view mirror.

“It doesn’t count, Daddy!” protests Joanna, “It has to be cars on the other side - cars coming towards us.”

“I can’t believe how such a simple game can be so complicated!” observes Trish, shaking her head in disbelief before her competitive side takes over. “One…two…three!”

“No, Mummy!” again protests Joanna, “We haven’t said start!

“Oh, very well,” concedes Trish. “Start…one…two…three!”

The game is played with intensity for about half an hour before a cloud of lethargy descends - Joanna snuggles into her pillow and falls asleep again, aided by the hypnotical repetition of white stripes and cat’s eyes. Trish checks her emails and sends a response text to her sister, telling her where to find the box of groceries they left for her. Roger stays focused, occasionally indicating to overtake, overtaking, then shifting back in the middle lane.

“Pit stop!” declares Roger as he sees the one-mile sign for services, “Petrol, pee and a pot of tea!”

“I’m dying for a coffee,” declares Trish, “I’ve normally had four by now!”

“Joanna, wake up, darling,” murmurs Roger, “we’re at the first stop.”

Having visited the service station toilets, which is always an experience - joining the steady stream of strangers and sharing the most basic of human bodily functions, they sit at a café table next to the window. They choose the window because it appears to offer an interesting view. Instead, it presents them with a vehicular regiment of all shapes and sizes, and all makes and models - a cross-section of modern-day motoring, squeezed into an acre of tarmac!

"I can't drink anymore," states Joanna as she pushed away her hot chocolate, having sucked all the cream off the top and demolished all the accompanying marshmallows.

“You’ve barely touched it!” scolds Roger, “I knew this would happen. It happens every time!”

“Eyes bigger than her stomach,” adds Trish, sipping her white americano and relishing every moment. “I told you, Roger. She should’ve shared your tea.”

“Do you want to swap?” Roger asks Joanna, “Your hot chocolate for my second cup of tea?”

“Thanks, Daddy,” replies Joanna, turning Roger’s tea into a cup of milk with a hint of tea and thrusting a straw into it. “Hot chocolate’s too sweet for me!”

The middle section of the journey passes pretty much as the first. Instead of the car game, they play three rounds of the alphabet game, each in turn, naming animals, then first names, then countries, complaining when someone takes too long and debating whether Snonkey is an acceptable first name. A further forty winks for Trish and Joanna, while Roger listens to his preferred radio channel of indie rockdéjà vu experiences at the next service station, seemingly with the same layout, the same shops, the same cafes and even the same visitors!

“We’re into the final stretch,” announces Roger, leaving the motorway - the backdrop changing dramatically and cars diminishing like competitors failing to finish the race. “We’ll be there in half an hour. Let’s have a sing-song to pass the time.”

After the worst rendition of Sweet Caroline, an attempt at a Justin Bieber song and three choruses of Ging Gang Goolie, they arrive at the estate agents. Roger returns, smile beaming with a noticeable spring in his step and dangling the keys in front of his face like a pendulum clock. Joanna can sense the underlying excitement and anticipation. Although Roger and Trish have seen the house before, it wasn’t theirs. It is now!

Five minutes later, they turn into the impressive, Fortuna House with its plaque and pillared gateway. They drive slowly, creeping up the drive as if trying not to wake this sleeping beauty. Roger stops halfway. There is silence. No one saying anything, just staring - staring at their new home, each imagining themselves inside and the times they’re going to have. Roger turns to Trish and then around to Joanna. Serious contemplation turns into smiles. Smiles then turn into grins until they all break into the biggest fit of giggles!

“C’mon, girls!” laughs Roger, “Let’s go and see our new home.”

6

Camp beds and candles!

“The key won’t turn,” complains Roger, as he slips it into the large white painted door. “I hope the agents gave me the right one!”

“Here, let me try,” offers Trish as she takes the key, examines the Fortuna House label and tries again. “There you go!” she cries, after a little teasing.

“How did you do that?” asks Roger, looking both puzzled and beaten.

"A woman's knack!" boasts Trish, rubbing her lapel with inturned nails and smiling, "Some of us have got it, and some of us haven't!"

The door swings open and they take their first steps across the threshold. There's a definite musty smell - the smell of a place sitting unoccupied for too long. Joanna learns later that the previous owner - a lady in her nineties, passed away some twelve months previously and she hadn't done any maintenance or renovations since her husband passed away, some thirty years before that. The lady's children, who didn't want to keep the house because it had too many memories, removed most of her possessions, but some sporadically remain like sheet covered ghosts.

“Let’s open some windows,” suggests Trish, keen to inject some fresh air. “That’s better,” she declares, opening two sash windows either side of the front door. “Can’t beat a bit of country air!”

“So much for our checklist, Trish!” complains Roger, flicking the hall switch up and down several times, as if each time, the lights will magically turn on. “We forgot to get the electricity turned on!”

“I suppose that means the gas, too?” realises Trish, “…and the telephone?”

“I’m not worried about the telephone,” replies Roger, speed dialling the estate agents from his mobile. “Yes, hi! Mr Pulton here. Just picked up the keys for Fortuna HouseYes, everything’s fine, thank you, except all the utilities are still disconnected. They were supposed to be put on today, but there was a problem, you say…” repeats Roger, aloud, so that Trish can keep up, “…definitely tomorrow morning, you say…Yes, we should be able to manage this evening…it all adds to the excitement as we’re planning to camp tonight! Yes, yesthe movers arrive first thing tomorrow with all our belongings. Thank you for your help. Bye.”

Roger and Trish shake heads at each other but remain upbeat for Joanna’s sake. “Let’s not let it spoil the moment,” rallies Roger, opening the living room door. “Something had to drop - things were going too well!”

“Wow!” exclaims Joanna, moving from room to room, running upstairs on one staircase and downstairs on the other and then revisiting everywhere to make sure she hasn’t missed anything, “Wow, wow, wow!”

“The kitchen needs a good clean, but it’s got everything here until we replace it,” reasons Trish. “Let me put the kettle on,” she offers, grabbing the kettle from the essentials box, brought in from the car.”

“It won’t suit you!” jests Roger.

“Oh, Daddy,” sighs Joanna, “not that old joke!”

“Yes, Roger,” adds Trish with a slow shake of the head, “perhaps it’s time to leave the old jokes in the old house and work on some new ones!” she further adds, blowing him a kiss. “Now I’m being stupid - I forgot there’s no electricity!”

“And the wood-burning stove has been converted to gas!” adds Roger, opening the stove fuel door, “I’ll get the camping stove.”

“Why don’t you get the camp beds set up while you’re at it and sort out Regina,” suggests Trish. “I’ll nip to the shops, grab some candles and bring us back a pizza.”

“I’ll come with you,” offers Joanna, “and help you choose the pizza!”

When Trish and Joanna arrive back, Roger has erected three beds in the drawing room, all window-facing and positioned to see the sunset sparkling on the lake. He also found some candles in one of the cupboards.

“This is beautiful, Roger…” commends Trish, “…verging on romantic!”

“I love candles,” declares Joanna. “They give a special flickering light that makes the room move and seem alive!”

“That’s a clever way of describing it, Joanna,” compliments Roger as he rubs his stomach. “Now, what pizza did you get?”

“We got a large one with half and half,” informs Joanna, “half pepperoni for Mummy and me and half meat feast with extra mushrooms for you!”

“So not mush-room for any other toppings!” quips Roger, now realising his awful puns must stop.

“I’m ignoring that, Daddy!” replies Joanna, “Because you’re such a fun guy! Get it? Fungi, fun-guy! ...I’ll get our coats!”

The three of them perch on their camp beds and chomp through the pizza before getting ready for bed and nestling into their sleeping bags. Roger positions his torch close to hand after extinguishing the candles and akin to The Waltons, they lie, looking out across the lake and chat.

“What a long day,” starts Roger, “I’m beat!”

“Tomorrow’s going to be just as long, if not longer!” points out Trish.

“But then we’ll have our stuff,” adds Joanna, “and our comfy beds!”

“I like your thinking!” agrees Trish, “…not sure how much sleep I’m going to get on this bed!”

"This reminds me of the time your Grandad took your Grandma, your Uncle and I camping, Joanna," reminisces Roger. "He bought this four-person tent, two put-you-up beds and two mats. Now, this all sounds fine, but being the novices, we were, we pitched the tent on a slight gradient. Grandma and Grandad, who of course had the put-you-ups, were fine as they lay with their heads up the slope. Your Uncle Sean and I, however, had the mats and were told to sleep with our heads furthest away…something about snoring and keeping Grandma awakewhich happens to be completely wrong - it’s Grandma who can snore for England, as it turns out! Anyway, the next morning, we awake very early, after an awful night's sleep. All the blood has rushed to our heads, and words can't describe the pain, Sean and I were feeling. Pins and needles felt more like nails and screws! It was a good thirty minutes before we regained the feeling in our feet! Needless to say - we never went camping again!”

“I hate pins and needles!” replies Joanna, “…that and hiccups!”

“That story reminds me of a time I went on holiday with an old boyfriend,” begins Trish.

“Not Daddy?” asks Joanna, suddenly super-interested and intrigued.

“No, not Daddy!” replies Trish, “A guy called Luke.”

“Here we go!” adds Roger, sounding slightly jealous, “Cool Hand Luke!

"Anyway," ignores Trish, "we ended up camping for one night in a French campsite. That, in itself, is no story, but we turned up with the tiniest of tents and a small gas stove, but nothing else. We paid the fees and found our site, only to be surrounded by families with large caravans, outdoor fridges, huge TVs with satellite dishes, dining tables and chairs and even some with table tennis! Our tent looked pathetic, pitched in this huge area, rather like an old city cottage, defiantly standing as skyscrapers are built around. Anyway, I managed to sweet talk a saucepan from someone, and we cooked pasta, straining it in a fork-pierced plastic bag while those about us tucked into BBQ steak and oven-baked accompaniments. It was hilarious!"

“What happened to Luke?” enquires Joanna, with a hint of mischief.

“Oh, we drifted apart,” replies Trish, “and then I met your Daddy!”

“So, what do we think about our new home?” poses Roger, looking to change the subject.

“It’s brilliant, Daddy!” replies Joanna, “I can’t wait to explore further and get my room sorted.”

“I think we’re going to be very happy here,” adds Trish, “once we get the utilities switched on!”

“I think so, too,” agrees Roger, rolling onto his side. “Night-night.”

“Yes, night all,” replies Trish, sounding a huge yawn.

“Night, Daddy, night, Mummy,” adds Joanna, “see you in the morning.”

7

Wi-Fi Daddy, I need Wi-Fi!

“Wakey, wakey, Joanna,” Roger whispers loudly. “Look outside on the lawn!”

“Ahh! Bunny rabbits!” admires Joanna fondly, rubbing sleep and focusing her eyes like a zooming in and out camera lens. “Regina’s gonna be in rabbit heaven!”

“I wish that were true,” informs Roger, again whispering, so as not to wake Trish, “but sometimes, wild rabbits carry diseases that kill pet rabbits, so we have to be extra careful. Either way, it’s lovely watching them bobbing up from their warren and hopping around in the early morning dew. Shall we go and make a cup of tea to surprise Mummy?”

“I’m awake!” exclaims Trish with eyes shut. “I’ve been awake since four o’clock!”

The three of them stand at the windows, tea in hand and pyjama-clad - counting rabbits. It’s seven-fifteen. The sun is trying to shine through the trees and rhododendrons but will have to wait a few more hours to jump over and be seen properly.

There’s a knock at the door!

“We’re a little early, Mr Pulton,” apologises the green overalled man, standing at the door, “but we thought it might suit you for us to make an early start…”

“Goodness!” exclaims Roger, standing in his pyjamas and feeling self-conscious, “Absolutely! Excuse me for not being dressed, but we weren’t expecting you for another hour.”

Really sorry about that…but that’s terrific!” replies the green overalled man, turning around to give his three bacon-butty-eating colleagues the thumbs up. “The sooner we get started, the sooner we’ll be out of your hair!”

Roger quickly dresses, while Trish and Joanna prepare four strong teas - three with two sugars and one with three!

The green overalled man agrees on names for each room, writing big black marker, using brown cardboard corresponding labels and sticking them outside each room with teeth-torn packing tape. “It makes life a lot easier, Mr Pulton,” lectures the green overalled man, whom Roger now refers to as John.

“I like it, John,” replies Roger, also a stickler for systems and efficiency. “Easier for us all!”

Tea-fuelled, the movers begin bringing boxes and depositing them with military-like precision - sometimes two supporting each end and shuffling, crablike, sometimes three, with one man offering extra middle support, but mostly individually, resembling a line of ants, carrying fragmented leaves along the jungle floor…over logs, around trees and back to the nest. Trish and Joanna can’t make tea quickly enough, while Roger makes jokes about hollow legs, which the movers have obviously heard many times, judging by their less than enthusiastic responses!

There’s another knock at the door - already open, Roger turns to see an orange overalled man standing with a toolbox in hand. “Electricity board, Sir,” the man announces with slight hesitation, given the day-late service.

“Fantastic!” replies Roger as a blue overalled man hovers behind the orange overalled man. “You must be from the Gas board?”

“That’s right, Sir,” replies the blue overalled man, “and I’ve just seen the telephone company pull up.”

“You’re like buses!” jokes Roger as he spies a red overalled woman, making her way to the front door, also with a toolbox in hand. "You wait for one, and then three come along at the same time!"

Roger gives Trish the thumbs up and signals another three teas. It’s not long before the house is a hive of activity - a colour-coded scene of crisscrossing and near misses! Then nothing. It’s lunchtime.

Green overalls congregate outside, laughing and swapping stories, as they unclick sturdy lunch boxes and devour the contents in seconds. Red, blue and orange overalls stay by their work, calmly sitting on closed toolboxes, pouring cups of flask coffee and slowly nibbling home-made sandwiches - red has made tuna with cucumber on a brown roll, blue has made ham with cheese and pickle on thick white bread, orange has made egg with tomato on brown seeded bread.

Meanwhile, Roger, Trish and Joanna have takeaway pizza…again! Not last night’s leftovers, but Trish picked up more when she popped out for extra milk, sugar and…tea!

“We can see the light at the end of the tunnel!” says John as he passes Roger, Trish and Joanna, sitting outside on kitchen chairs - pizza boxes scattered at their feet. “Just the beds, fridge and freezer, sofas and tables and we’re done. About an hour and a half, I’d say.”

“Wonderful!” exclaims Trish, cuddling Joanna.

“Cool bananas!” adds Joanna, giving John the thumbs up and making him giggle at the thought of bananas being cool!

There’s a noticeable change in pace after lunch - before lunch, there was a sense of urgency, after lunch, it’s as if someone’s pressed the slow-motion button! Everybody’s blood is more interested in digesting food, as limbs move like slowly cranking steam-driven machinery, overcoming gravity and inertia.

Joanna gets excited as two green overalls mountaineer her bed upstairs and into her bedroom. She turns to Roger. “Can I go and unpack and start settling in?” she asks, grasping two hands together, prayer-like. “Pleeease, Daddy!”

“Very well, Darling,” replies Roger, recognising Joanna’s contribution, although highly appreciated, is waning. “That sounds like a good idea.”

As Joanna races upstairs, she sees the orange and blue overall-wearing men shake Roger’s hand, issue him with a list of completed works and leave, before hearing him shout, “Hey, Trish, we have lift off!” as he bounds into the kitchen, turning on lights, rubbing his hands and saying, “let’s kick this stove into life!”

Joanna begins moving a few things around and unpacking a box of desk items, but just as packing had been tiring and boring, so, it now appears, is unpacking! It’s not long before Joanna loses interest and looks for something else to do. “I know,” she thinks to herself, grabbing her computer from the box, plugging it in and mentally commenting on the antique sockets, “I’ll call Jenny.”

The computer trings, trying to make contact before displaying call failed. Joanna tries again, but with the same result. “There’s no Wi-Fi!” she exclaims, “Surely the red overalled woman has finished by now?”

Joanna runs downstairs, taking care not to trip or disturb the green-overall men as they finish moving in the last few items. She sees her Dad talking with the red overalled woman - the woman who stands between her and Jenny! “When will the Wi-Fi be ready, Daddy?” asks Joanna, appearing slightly rude as she interrupts the conversation.

“It appears we may have to wait up to ten days!” relays Roger with frustration in his voice.

"I'm sorry, Pet!" apologises the red overalled woman, whom Joanna can see by a lapel badge, is called Beth. "I was explaining to your Dad. There has never been Wi-Fi here, and the telephone cable needs to be replaced with an up-to-date, high speed, fibre-optic cable."

“No Wi-Fi!” cries Joanna, “Ten days you say?” she further cries, “But I need Wi-Fi! I need Wi-Fi to talk to my friends!”

“I’m really sorry, Pet!” apologises Beth again, “I wish I could do something, but I can’t!”

8

Why have one when you can have two!

“Pass the cornflakes please, Joanna,” asks Trish as she sits down, having grabbed a spoon and bowl from the cupboard, “I fancy a bowl this morning.”

“I’m hurt!” jests Roger from behind his newspaper - Trish and Joanna looking at each other with confused gazes…before he lowers his newspaper and adds, “You fancy a bowl and not me!”

Audible sighs fill the room, and Roger raises his newspaper to hide behind completely. "I'm wasted here!" he blurts, "Let's see if there are any jobs advertised for unappreciated comedians!"

It’s been a week since they arrived - still no Wi-Fi and cardboard boxes still litter the house like chess pieces, diminishing daily like chess pawns taken by an opposing knight or bishop. Roger has four more weeks before he starts his new job and Joanna has four more weeks before she starts her new school. Every day is task-filled from dusk ‘til dawn.

“Have you thought any more about what you want to do in your room, Joanna?” quizzes Trish as she chews noisily another spoon of cornflakes. “Perhaps we can make a start on it today, while Daddy finishes tiling our en-suite bathroom.”

“I’m going to get Jim to do that,” responds Roger, folding the newspaper and grabbing his mug of tea. “Perhaps I can help Joanna, while you finish the curtains for the living room.”

Jim is a hired hand - a local tradesmana jack-of-all-trades, Roger describes him. Someone they have employed for six months to help restore and renovate this otherwise, overly daunting project. Jim lives in an old hunting lodge within the grounds of Fortuna House - he starts at nine and finishes at five, six days a week.

“Sounds like a good plan,” replies Trish, scooping the last mouthful of milk, before pushing away her bowl and spoon. “Happy with that, Joanna?”

“Sure,” replies Joanna, munching on marmite and peanut butter toast and eating everything except the crusts, “I know what I want my theme to be. I’ve planned it here,” adds Joanna, opening her notebook, labelled Joanna Jaws and turning to the double-page spread, entitled My Room! “I’m thinking everything pure white, pink feature wall, bronze accessories and black highlights!”

Roger and Trish look at each other as if they’ve discovered the next interior design superstar, both slightly agog!

Usually, Joanna would use her computer and make a PowerPoint presentation, but since there’s no Wi-Fi, she’s had to resort to good old-fashioned hand-creations. This method has grown on her because she gets to feel tangible things rather than just look!

This is my inspiration,” continues Joanna, unfolding a magazine cutout, “and this is the pink swatch…” she adds, showing a pencil-crossed princess pink from one of the paint swatch books, Trish picked up the day before, “…and these are some of the things I’d like,” she further adds, showing a collage of different magazine cutouts, “…this bronze wall clock, this bronze bedside table lamp and this wall mirror, which we could spray with bronze spray paint. Some blackboards, which we could make ourselves, a black floor rug and a black bedrug!”

“I like a girl who knows her own mind,” applauds Trish. “Like mother like daughter!”

“I think it’s very tasteful, Darling,” compliments Roger, “and pretty easy to achieve. We’ll nip to the paint shop straight after breakfast and then make a start.”

Joanna’s smile beams from ear to ear - she’s slightly stunned by the positive response!


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