I saw Roger the following morning and paid a deposit for the cottage...he gave me the name of a builder he said would be able to plumb the bathroom in again...it was wrecked...and the same chap could arrange to have it re-wired.
Padraig drove me to the airport and I went home.
Now the fun began. We had a six-bedroomed Georgian house full of people...three adults with learning/behavioural problems...two children with severe physical and learning disabilities and a baby. We always had a baby somewhere about our person...because we lived out in the middle of nowhere, but close enough to the Special School and the Adults Training Centre...we fostered babies whose parents were liable to snatch them...the thinking behind that was they wouldn't be bright enough to find out where we lived...still had a hot-line to the local Police Station though...just in case.
Each adult had a Social Worker and we had a Social Worker for each adult...then the two little girls were the same and the baby usually came with an entire team of gormless girls who sat by the fire and drank all my tea while regaling me with tales of their respective boyfriends...
Everyone had to be found a new home.
You've never heard such a fuss in all your life...it was quite bad enough that we were weighed down with guilt over the whole shebang...deciding to take early retirement was one thing...actually carrying it through was quite another.
One S.W. simply said...'you can't possibly leave...just who else will take on T.' I thought...well we did and he isn't anything like as awful as he was portrayed...you'll just have to look, that's all.
The 'phone simply never stopped ringing with heartfelt pleas for us to change our minds and they'd provide paid help and would we like a holiday perhaps and so it went on.
In the middle of this massive guilt trip came the Health Inspector.
He came to inspect the kitchen...a thoroughly unpleasant and officious young man who told me the 'residents' had to wear white coats before they entered the kitchen...the dogs certainly couldn't go in there and then he spied T's pet Hamster who lived on a corner of the worktop and I thought he was going to have forty fits.
So I took a deep breath and said the whole point about these small homes was that the people who lived in them were treated in every respect as family...G. liked the responsibility of feeding the dogs in the evening...the dogs ate from their bowls on the kitchen floor. T had saved his personal money up to buy the Hamster and it's cage...I kept it in the kitchen so it didn't get lonely...his eyebrows shot up when I said that, but then I was cross and beginning to show it...he told me my clothes were totally unsuitable for cooking in...I always wore long skirts...he tested the temperature in the 'fridge and looked seriously disappointed to find it reached his standard and then one of the cats strolled in...with a mouse hanging out of its mouth.
Precisely at that point, the front door flew open and G and T and K came hurtling through to tell me all about their day and G put the kettle on and K opened the biscuit tin and T pointed out the cat had a mouse in its mouth, loudly, T was a loud sort of a person...and G, who was quite obsessed with trains and train timetables stood right in front of the Health Inspector and began to tell him how to travel from Diss to Norwich...and K burst into floods of tears because she couldn't find any chocolate fingers in the biscuit tin.
He backed away towards the door and said he'd be putting a report in and he'd include the fact that I had an attitude problem...so I said to G...once I'd managed to stop his flow of travelling from Diss to Norwich...would you show the gentleman out G...and G who was very tall and sort of lurched when he walked, grabbed the blokes arm firmly and marched him down the hall to the front door...Bye-Bye he shouted...Come back and see us another day!
I sat down at the kitchen table and T made the tea and poured me a mug and said brightly...We like having visitors don't we? The cat still has that mouse in it's mouth...