3 May 2014

Mrs Gordon

In the scruffy tenement block of flats in Leith, scene of the scaffolding pole commotion already descried, two floors up a dark and dirty stairwell there lived the Gordon family who, from what I could ascertain, were essentially constructed out of pies, chips and cheap cola.

There were about six children - I never managed a proper headcount - a greasy fat mother and a skinny wiry man who only ever offered me a grunt, never any conversation. Often he would return home, presumably from work, slam shut his door, and immediately just shout out wildly in anger or outrage. We could hear him all up and down the stairwell, but could never really make out any words, or whether he was shouting at his family, or just screaming at life in general. It was an awesome noise to come from such a skinny little man. But there was never any sign of violence, and just a few moments after all this noise Mrs Gordon would often be seen waddling down the stair and across the road to the chip shop, returning with her big bag of pies, chips and cola.

She called me down to help her with a plumbing emergency one day, and I found a flat with essentially no furniture. Just one big sofa, a television, and various mattresses scattered across largely bare floors. There were a couple of rugs, I think, and various young children peered at me suspiciously, like worried kittens, as I tried to help with a leaking pipe. But it was the mice that struck me most. There were mice scampering about, seemingly fearless, running across the mattresses and bedclothes as if it was their place rather than that of the humans. I made some comment about them, to which Mrs Gordon replied, 'Oh I know. They're terrible. I've almost given up trying to catch them.' Then she added, as if it describing some perfectly normal pest control method, 'I manage to get quite a few of them with the vacuum cleaner, but some of the big ones get stuck in the pipe.'

Oh my goodness. And how did she deal with the poor mice that were stuck and struggling halfway up a vacuum pipe, I wonder?

Then there was the hot Summer with another baby on the way, and Mrs Gordon just grew bigger and bigger. Enormously pregnant. Then came the day when I met her on the stair as she struggled upwards, her huge belly jutting out, making it almost impossible for me to pass.

'Ah well, not long now eh?' I offered, cheerily.

She looked at me and frowned, clearly puzzled, then a wave of understanding seemed to come over her.

'I had my baby five weeks ago,' she said, rather coldly.

And I muttered some embarrassed words and vowed never again to assume that a woman might be pregnant, rather than just very fat.


Elephant's Child said...

That is the sort of foot in mouth comment which would haunt me for years. And sometimes wake me sweating in the night.

Andrew MacLaren-Scott said...

I have other and worse ones, actually.