Finally, Cousin Eunice departed, but not until well after three o’clock. She had rung the hotel and they had said her room wouldn’t be ready until four. She came with me to Miss Chatwall’s for I needed fresh milk and bread – if she had any under the circumstances. Her milk isn’t from the Bowdlers so she had a good supply. She also had her January sale, much to Eunice’s amusement.
The remaining Christmas stock was marked down by a miserly ten percent.
“Spoiled for choice,” Eunice said, as she perused the motley sales items – the same old Christmas cards (which will be on sale again next November at full price), the handful of selection boxes and various boxes of Turkish Delight, Newberry Fruits and Dairy Milk.
“Take your time,” Miss C. said, oblivious to the irony in Eunice’s tone.
“How about a deal,” Eunice said and, even though I couldn’t see her face, I could sense the naughty glint on it. “How about if I take the Newberry Fruits and Dairy Milk for a fiver?”
“Sorry, the stock is as marked,” Miss Chatwall said stoutly.
Eunice looked at the fruits and said, “Their sell by date is the end of this month. If you don’t get rid of them soon you’ll have to bin them.”
“They’ll go,” Miss Chatwall said flatly.
“I wonder . . .,” Eunice said and put them back on the counter. “£5.50?”
“Done!” came the reply. She had a satisfied air about her feeling she had scored a victory over Eunice but, in truth, the opposite was true.
As we walked home Eunice asked, “How on earth does the woman stay open?”
“It’s the convenience factor,” I said.
“Who for?” she mused in return.
I made us a sandwich and, while we were having lunch the phone rang. It was Maureen Picklescott.
“I haven’t really seen you much over Christmas,” she said and I was wondering if you would like to bring your cousin for dinner tomorrow.”
I had to explain that she was leaving later that day.
“Oh, what a shame. Never mind, you can come Cleo. It will be nice for you to have a meal made for you.”
I accepted with thanks and told Eunice.
“I won’t get to see that mutt of theirs,” she said. “That’s worth missing.”
Getting everything into Eunice’s pink Fiat proved difficult for, if she had come with everything but the kitchen sink, she had acquired a small utility room of purchases during the holiday which squashed into the small confines with difficulty. There was barely room for her large form in the driving seat. We kissed goodbye and I waved her off down the lane as she chugged laden into the distance and out of sight.
And then I sat and made a cup of Camp. It felt odd to be on my own again after her exuberance. Tomorrow, I shall take my decorations down, for I am not superstitious. It’s been an interesting Christmas and strange to think it is all over, from Eleanor’s ‘Presentation’ to Christmas Day with the Greens. The sun lingered just that little bit longer in the sky this afternoon before I drew the curtains for the days are starting to lengthen again. Poor Sausage came and snuggled on my knee, relieved at Eunice’s absence no doubt, and I sat in the quietness of the room, grateful for the many kindnesses shown over the season and wondering what the year ahead will bring . . . . .