You are not unaware of the irony of it. For years you had been cynical about weather forecasting, and then, a couple of years ago, you wished you had believed them when you were caught on a snowbound road during that weather event they called the Beast from the East, and that had been forecast in advance with warnings duly issued. After that, you became rather less cynical, and took them at their word when they said this weekend (and possibly the week after) would be warm and pleasant with just the hint of a breeze.
Well, now default cynicism has been restored. Your new best friends have let you down! It is chilly and squally, and the hint of a breeze is a wuthering wind rattling the windows as it splatters peevish rain on them. Outside it makes puddles in the potholes. Even when you were a child you thought splashing in puddles was a vastly over-rated activity. And you have no Wellington boots with you. You doubt you even have anything vaguely waterproof.
It seemed like a good idea at the time. A change of scene, a chance to unwind and get your thoughts together and chill out and all the other relevant clichés,
So here you sit in the lounge of the Turquoise House, and people passing by might think you were on a window seat, but there is no such luxury here, and you have merely pulled a chair over, as if, on some level, you think that watching the rain will make it go away. Some kind of inversion of the watched kettle principle.
This was not how the house looked on the website. But you can’t say they weren’t honest on Cloud B & B. Or that the owners aren’t. They phoned you to say that they’d repainted the house and it looked a bit different – they hoped you didn’t mind. Well, why should you mind? The one thing that was a bit off-putting was that it was a bit dingy-looking, in need of a bit of exterior TLC, but you told yourself that inside it seemed fine and it was very reasonably priced.
Then you arrived. You knew it was the right place because your Satnav said so and because, anyway, the shape was right, and the location, just before a bend and a couple of minutes past the village church was right. But you still did a double take. You still told yourself that maybe your eyes were tired and your colour vision was a bit out of kilter. They were, but it wasn’t. The house was painted a vivid shade of turquoise. And not only the house. The garden fence, too. The low wall at the front, too. It’s not that you have any especial issues with turquoise. You think it’s a pretty colour. But moderation in all things, as your grandma used to say, and it used to annoy you sometimes when she said it, but now you saw exactly what it meant. There are things that are made to be turquoise, or at any rate, are fine when they are. Rings. Scarves. Post-it-Notes. But not a house. Not a whole house complete with the wall and the fence and the window ledges. Oh, and not forgetting the car. You knew that the Andersons had left their car on the drive. They had told you about it. They were taking the chance to visit their grandchildren in America and having work done on their own home while they were away. The builder’s vans would need to use their drive and they didn’t feel like paying for airport parking – it was much cheaper getting a cab. But there would still be plenty of space for your car. You raised no objections, and had barely given it a thought until you saw the car. That, too, was purple. Do they actually manufacture cars that colour, you wondered, or did you respray it? You entered with a sense of quite disproportionate dread. But to your relief, the interior was much as it had been on the website. Had they decided that it might be a step too far, or had they just not got around to it yet?
You decide to move away from the window. You can live with the rain, but not with the sight of that turquoise fence and that turquoise wall and that turquoise car. You wonder, if it rains hard enough for long enough, if it will make the paint start running. But you know it won’t.
This isn’t going to work, you think. You suppose it should come as no special surprise. Things hadn’t been going well for you, either physically or mentally. You kept getting little things wrong with you, just an aching wrist here, a niggling headache there, and you started worrying about them quite disproportionately. You couldn’t look forward to your work at the publishing house as much as you always used to, and yet you started to fret about losing your job, even though there was not even the remotest indication that it was going to happen. Indeed, the premises were being refurbished (was it catching?) which was the reason you had a week off and decided to give yourself a little holiday. Or at least, a few days in a cottage in the country. You have always had a soft spot for Lincolnshire, with its broad, nuanced skies and fields that seemed to reach to the horizon, and with the beaches that seemed to change in a heartbeat and a footstep from tourist traps with shrieks and beachballs to places that time forgot where sea-kelp and samphire grew, and the waves of the North Sea broke in their eternal rhythms on the shell-strewn shore. You even have a weakness for the little, brash, shabby resort towns and now half-wish you had stayed in one. It would at least be easier to get access to fresh reading matter. At one and the same time you suspect you will spend a lot of time reading, and yet even your old, abiding love of books seems to be letting you down.
You did make a brief sortie out to get a newspaper this morning, and that famous sky wasn’t broad and nuanced at all, but greyscale and low. The shopkeeper, who introduced herself as Mel (you wondered in passing if it stands for Melanie or Melissa or perhaps something else entirely) was friendly and asked if you were staying in the Turquoise House. You admitted that you were. Mel gave a wry smile. “It’s funny how quickly we’ve got used to saying that. It never used to have a name at all. To be frank some of us wondered if they should have asked for planning permission, but in the end nobody made a fuss about it. They’re decent folk, Felix and Daisy, and I don’t suppose it does anyone any actual harm. Funny they started on the cottage though, and not their own regular home – maybe they’ll get round to that, given what they’ve done to the car, and decided their guests should have the benefit first! What do you think of it?”
“It’s – distinctive –“ you said.
Mel chuckled. “You can say that again.” You were vaguely aware that only a few months ago you would have dutifully repeated “It’s distinctive,” and Mel would have chuckled even more appreciatively, and you would have joined in. But somehow you couldn’t be bothered. Your colleagues had noticed that tendency. You’ve never been the office clown, it’s not the way you’re made, but have always had a sense of humour, enjoyed a bit of banter (and not the kind that those who think being offensive is clever and bold dismiss as only banter). You weren’t sure if it was acceptable banter or not when remarks were made about you having a midlife crisis. You wanted your heckles to rise and say (if heckles could speak) WRONG ON BOTH COUNTS. A nasty little voice whispered to you WRONG ON NEITHER COUNT!
What a sorry spectacle you are, Amanda. You are (minor niggles aside) healthy, you are reasonably off, have a job you like (well, that you always used to) and friends who are fond of you and would look out for you, even if they do make cracks about midlife crises. Yet here you sit in the lounge of the Turquoise House, whining about the weather. But at least you have discovered that what that online therapist suggested about taking a backward step and looking at yourself from another’s viewpoint is total bilge. You wanted it to work, because being miserable is over-rated, but feel a certain grim satisfaction that your instincts about it were right all along. And at least the first session was free and eventually they’ll get tired of contacting you with special offers.
You are reluctantly curious about the colour of Daisy and Felix’s main residence, but not enough to go there and brave the builders. If they’re working in the rain. As you know from experience, builders have issues with the rain, sometimes, and in some instances quite understandably, but you never did work out why it meant they couldn’t fix your boiler. Serves you right for not taking out the insurance policy British Gas kept shoving down your throat and thinking it would never happen to you, and then having to find someone local when it did happen to you. Because that is how you are. You may as well admit it. You are an odd mixture of a pessimist and someone who tends to think that real crises won’t happen as long as you don’t think about them. Ignore it and it will go away. It is entirely likely your little aches and pains really are something and nothing, but you also know that if anything became more worrying you would not see a doctor.
Your phone rang – and to your great surprise, it was Daisy. Just to see how you were and if you had settled down in the Turquoise House. Except she didn’t call it the Turquoise House. You are touched that she has made an international call (though how much of that is because you can remember the days when that was totally doable, but still very expensive and sometimes something of a rigmarole – yes, that remark about midlife was not wrong!) but also mildly irritated and have the feeling you are being checked up on. But you don’t tell Daisy she has nothing to worry about and you haven’t trashed the house or taken a blowtorch to the house and the walls and the fence and the car. Which doesn’t mean the thought isn’t appealing. You tactfully avoid any mention of the house’s “transformation” but Daisy, it seems, has no such misgivings. “What do you think of the colour?” she asks. You repeat the remark about it being distinctive. You really can’t think of any other word that is reasonably tactful but not entirely a lie.
“We were in two minds but then we thought, yes, we’ll go for it! It’s a lucky colour, you know, the colour of a positive aura.” You wonder if Daisy is a devotee of Feng Shui, but given both the absence of windchimes and the fact that the Turquoise House is certainly not minimalist (and you are grateful for both!) you doubt it. “But we wanted to give our guests at the holiday home the benefit of it first! Though the car – well, to be frank, we saw it and our old one was on its last legs, or should I say wheels, so we thought it was meant to be.”
You are not entirely sure you like the idea of being a guinea pig in such matters, but you don’t say so. You will be relieved when this conversation is over.
Well, at least it has stopped raining. You were wrong about that Amanda. You thought it was the kind of rain that was in for the whole day, but it has least taken a pause. The temperature has risen a bit, too, and suddenly the room feels stuffy. You go to the front door because you need some fresh air. The sky is still not the broad and nuanced kind that would delight an artist’s heart, indeed, some artists might find it a shade too obvious. But there are fluffy clouds, not exactly “happy little clouds”, but not miserable ones either, and the background, gradually and inexorably expanding is blue. You suppose it is sky blue but it looks suspiciously like – well, turquoise. You have to smile. Si perhaps the forecasters were right after all. It is softer than the turquoise of the house, and yet at the same time, somehow, it is brighter. You are by no means sure you believe in auras, but if you did, you would think yours was changing colour, and that if it is not exactly turquoise, nor is it grey shot through with purple.
Perhaps there’s something in this after all, you think.
But the car was still a step too far.