My eternally-un-named friend has problems with her knees and a doctor last week suggested to her that one thing she could do is sit on a table high enough to swing her legs backwards and forwards for periods.
But how can she do this? Chairs are too low – her feet obviously touch the ground and preclude the free-swinging of her legs. And my dining table is not quite high enough and either has obstructing leaves when the sides are down or is not strong enough to sit and swing her legs on when the table is fully-up.
So she decided to buy a 29-inch high, 24-inch wide old-fashioned school desk on eBay.
Thus I found myself driving to Milton Keynes last night to collect it after my jury service. No great problem, as I am a great admirer of Milton Keynes. One thing I like is that all the main roads are on a grid system and are both named and numbered. They have numbers like H3 or V4 (H for Horizontal on the grid; V for Vertical).
It is a very logical place, Milton Keynes.
The old-fashioned school desk was being sold by a couple who told us they were “downsizing” and had to get rid of belongings.
While the man and I put the school desk in the back of my car, my eternally-un-named friend chatted to the woman.
As we drove away, my eternally un-named friend laughed to me: “You have no idea!”
“About what?” I asked.
“About the conversation I just had with that woman,” she explained. “It was her desk. I asked her How long have you had it? and she said Oh, not for long… I used it for classroom re-enactments.
“I thought she must mean theatre, because I know they sell wartime suitcases on eBay for re-enactments of children being evacuated to the countryside during the War. I was thinking Does she do plays? because I know people go round to schools doing re-enactments of Charles I’s beheading or whatever.
“But then I thought That’s a bit odd. People go round schools doing re-enactments, but why would you go round schools doing re-enactments of schools?
“If I’d said Do you mean theatre? and she’d said Oh yes, I put on these plays about the 1950s at school and there’s this play wot I wrote I would have thought that was normal.
“But, when I said to her Do you mean theatre? she looked at me oddly and told me Oh, some people like doing punishments and then – I don’t know if she was toning it down by then – she said Some people like writing out lines. But people don’t… surely… well, I don’t know? Do they? Do people write out lines? My encounters with people who… who… with…”
“Bank managers wearing short trousers,” I said, trying to be helpful.
“I don’t know…” said my eternally-un-named friend. “I’ve gone into mental meltdown… What on earth is everyone up to?… It’s like the Daleks in the wrong force field.”
“Daleks in the wrong force field.?” I asked.
“You know,” she said, “when they’ve seized up because they’ve met stairs or something… You were over there chatting to that guy and I was chatting to her thinking What are these people up to here in Milton Keynes? They assume everyone knows about re-enactments.”
“They weren’t boring,” I said, “but they seemed very ordinary. They were ordinary people in an ordinary house in an ordinary street in an ordinary area of an ordinary town.”
“Well,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “not an ordinary town. It now turns out everyone we’ve met here is very proud of Milton Keynes. Everyone is all very happy living in Milton Keynes – They were very happy working in that new Waitrose supermarket at V10 and H7. But there’s a vague part of me thinking they’re all leading a Stepford Wives type of existence. I’m not quite sure. They’re all quite jolly.”
“Perhaps it’s the schoolroom re-enactments that keep them young at heart,” I suggested, trying to be helpful.
“Well,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “she also said We’re moving soon and I’m giving up a lot, but he’s giving up even more – as if I knew what that meant… I have no idea what the hell she was on about. I have no idea if they were father or daughter or what was going on there.”
When we got the desk home, my eternally-un-named friend enthused: “It’s a lovely colour! And all for under a tenner!”
“Are there any stains you can see?” I asked. “Blood or otherwise.”
“I feel like I’ve rescued it,” she replied, ignoring the question.
“A poor innocent desk,” I said.