So there I was, enjoying an average January day in the shop. My shop. January and February tend to be a bit quieter than the rest of the year so there’s more of a scent of mild relaxation in the air, a little more casualness to proceedings. Mad Jackie came in with one of her young lady friends and changed things.
She kissed me on the cheek and barked at me to return the greeting.
“Both cheeks dear, both cheeks!” Jackie is Scottish, 83 years old and hovers around the five foot two mark in her slippered feet. She enjoys the company of younger people of an artistic and creative bent. What she sees in me, I really could not tell you.
“I’d like to buy you lunch dear,” she told me. “Here, what would you like? Where shall we go?” She’s a bit on the deaf side, so she tends to amplify her voice. Not quite to the level of a bellow, but her diction is clear and the words carry. She may have performed on the stage in her younger days. Her house and garden are a work of art, almost an intimate museum of eccentricity. Her front room, among many other wonderful things, boasts an entire wall consisting of Victorian domestic dioramas set behind a series of glass screens, and a large range of wall cupboards boasting hand painted panels in the style of Edward Burnes-Jones, featuring erotically exotic angels barely covering their parts with wisps of almost mist on a background of 24 carat gold leaf forestry. Painted by her friend Camille, she told me once, presuming that I knew who Camille is. I didn’t then and I still don’t. They’re beautiful though. The whole effect is quite stunning. I love to visit, but I couldn’t live there, the sensory overload would give me the shivers, and Jackie’s voice would deafen me.
“Ah, I’ve just had my lunch Jackie, thanks all the same. I’ll entertain you to lunch here though. Take a seat.” So she did, with her companion, and they ordered some food and drink. Jackie was waving her housekeys at me.
“I’ve locked myself out. I want you to take these dear, and see if you can open my door. If the keys don’t work for you, do whatever you can to get in. I know you will gain entry dear.” She turned to the rest of the shop and repeated her faith in my ability to break into her house. I asked her if she’d tried both locks. She has a deadlock and a Yale. She had. I asked her if she’d tried the locksmiths down by the bridge. They were out, she told me.
“I’ve never been a burglar, Jackie. Why do you think I’ll be able to break in? I hate the sound of breaking glass, especially when I’m lonely. So I’ll not force entry, I’ll tell you that now.” I told her.
“Oh, that’s alright dear,” she said, “you’ll get in. I know you’ll be able to. You see, I have faith in you.” And she resumed her convo with the girl she’d come into the shop with. I was obviously dismissed. Her house is a mere five or six minute walk from the shop, so taking her keys and a can of 3-in-1 lubricant, just in case, I set off along the road. The deadlock was working, but the Yale key was sticking halfway in. As I have found so many times before, resistance was soon breached by a quick squirt of lube and a bit of gentle rocking from side to side accompanied by a few sweetly encouraging words. I took the key out and gave a hefty blast of 3-in-1 into the hole; this gave completely trouble-free access for easy penetration and I gave the key a few confirmatory turns, withdrawals and re-entries. All worked well. Jackie’s cat, a Chocolate Siamese called Jasper on account of his eyes, was sitting on her bottom step, and eyed me suspiciously.
I locked up and returned to the shop with the keys, the lubricant and the good news. As well as a deep sense of relief at not having had to use violence to get into the house. Jackie had finished her snack and her Earl Grey, and insisted on my accompanying her and the girl back to the house. Everybody we passed was told how wonderful, clever and helpful I was. I don’t think anyone believed it much. One woman even laughed in Jackie’s face and cracked a joke about me thinking I’m royalty. Silly bitch. Back at Jackie’s house, the girl slipped upstairs while Jackie made a huge fuss about how clever I was at breaking into her house without smashing a window. She wouldn’t have it that it was simply a bit of grit or dust in the key-chute. She offered me some chocolates from a bowl on the side to say thank you. Her house is maintained at furnace heat, and the kids-size chocolate bars had obviously been sitting in the bowl on the side above the radiator since before Christmas. They looked a bit amoebic en masse, so I politely declined.
“You can’t go empty handed dear,” she said, and forced four Christmas crackers upon me. “There. Take those. You might find a bottle opener in one of them. And take that, too,” she said, handing me a bottle of Pinot Grigio which she must have had waiting in the shadows. Bless her.
Jackie. A queen among women. They don’t make them like her anymore.