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White spirit hots up last summer leave

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: September 01, 2012

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And there endeth another summer leave. Although, as is always the case, not without a little domestic drama thrown in as a timely reminder to Hubby, demonstrating how much nicer it is to be alone in a cabin, than at home, surrounded by chaos and confusion.

His last day, the bank holiday, had already been pretty full on. Uncle Dave had fancied a day off and Hubby and I, having spent three whole weeks together, were, how to put a fine point on it, threaders with each other, and so, I volunteered to chef at Uncle Dave's restaurant.

The little ones were out with a godmother celebrating the Red-Head's eighth birthday a couple of days early. No one else was at home. So, where Hubby could have, had he so desired, bought a paper, put his feet up and chilled out in the peace and quiet of our very expensive house, which he reminds me daily, he solely, pays for. I was very much surprised that he wanted to come with me to work.

"It's a good idea Alice," he said very seriously, "I mean, I've been thinking". My heart sank. I hate it when Hubby thinks. He doesn't do it that often and when he does, it's never about what I wish he'd think about, eg, eight year olds' birthday party venues, appropriate presents, school uniform, new school shoes.

"Really?" I asked, tentatively, "About what exactly?"

"Well, as this is my last ever summer leave." Gulp. I nodded, trying desperately to turn my frown upside down. Hubby went on: "I've been thinking about what will become of us all this time next year, when I've left the Navy. It is a very worrying time Alice. You seem incapable of holding down a job, one daughter will be off to university, the other two are still far too young to send out to work and, as you know our mortgage etc is pretty indefatigable."

I still couldn't see what this had to do with my working at the restaurant. Hubby soon put me right.

"I was thinking that perhaps, well you never know, but maybe one day, one far off day in the future, that maybe…"

I was jangling my keys, "Cut to the chase," I urged him impatiently.

"I was thinking that maybe we could run a cafe together."

"You and me?" I looked at him askance. "You and me work together all day? Like Richard and Judy?"

He looked a bit hurt. Perhaps this wasn't the reaction he was hoping for.

"Look, come with me now and we'll discuss it later." Much later, after the customers had been fed by me and waited on by Hubby and we'd washed the dishes and cleaned the kitchen, we sat down wearily and rather quietly drank our coffees.

"That wasn't so bad," Hubby said. Hmm. That was just a trial though and he wasn't too familiar with the set-up. In real life he's bossier. A natural leader. I couldn't tolerate him ordering me around. There are too many things in a professional kitchen I could accidentally kill him with.

"We would have to take it in turns you know?" I suggested, "One week I would do the cooking, and you front of house and vice versa." I couldn't be Leading Hand to his Petty Officer caterer. Ever.

"Anyway, all of this is hypothetical. I need a real job after I leave the Navy, Alice. We can't keep the house, two cars and all of that stuff on the profits of a few lattes and a couple of slices of battenburg."

Later that evening, the 17-year-old, having returned from whence she had been, was called upon to babysit, as, deluged by punters escaping the summer deluge, I was flat out in the kitchen and even with a delightful waitress to hand, could not cope with the sauces, stroganoffs, pastas, steaks, ribs, squid and scampi on my chits. The washing up was piling up like something Mickey Mouse had to deal with in the Sorcerer's Apprentice. Alas Merlin could not be called upon to help, but Hubby could. He arrived minutes later and stayed at the sink for two hours. An old colleague of Hubby's, who served in the same ship as him moons ago and who'd been eating at the restaurant, popped his head into the kitchen.

"Been a while since you've been under puns pot washing, Shipmate! Number nines eh? Heads next?"

Hubby found this hilarious – "Spud tanky tomorrow," he replied. Whatever.

I let him go home when the waitress and I had broken the back of the service. As I walked through the front door later, there was a very, very strong smell in the kitchen. Like Brasso.

"Have you been shining your medals?" I called out. Hubby walked in.

"No, the cat's knocked a tin of white spirit off the top of and behind the fridge freezer." I must have looked quizzically at him.

"It's where I kept my paintbrushes", he replied by way of an explanation.

"But the stuff might have run down as far as the washing machine and tumble dryer. It gets really hot there. It's highly flammable. It might explode."

"It won't explode". But it might and I only had his services for another couple of hours. Ergo, the fridge freezer was hauled out; one cat went berserk, upsetting even more white spirit and a jar of Sharwood's Hoi Sin sauce on Hubby's head before it smashed into a glassy, black, sticky, goo. The three cats and two dogs, frightened by Hubby's loud cursing run through the goo and through the house.

"Run a cafe with you?" Hubby raged, rubbing his head and struggling to stand up in the mess, "Not on your nelly!"

"That's rum coming from someone who can't even cover things in clingfilm. Not even white spirit. The battenburg wouldn't stand a chance!" And there, to reiterate, endeth the last summer leave.

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