THREE’S A CROWD by KATE BLACKADDER is out. This delightful collection of some of Kate Blackadder’s previously published magazine stories is a snip for your kindle at £1.99, and in paperback for those of you who enjoy flicking back and forward, very soon at £4.99.
Kate is much published by People’s Friend and Woman’s Weekly so the anthology contains some stories from those publications. Indeed People’s Friend think so highly of Kate’s talent, she hosts their award winning short story workshops around the country. There’s also work from Woman’s Day.
A little taster to whet the appetite? How about this delightful story of birthday mayhem.
Hide-and-Seek for Astronauts
Last year, Julie hired a fire engine.
The year before, she had an igloo built in the garden – in June. The year before that she took ten four-year-olds on a steam train.
Now she had begun to talk about Ben’s next birthday party although he wouldn’t be seven for another two months. He was obsessed with space so I asked if she’d booked a supersonic trip around the galaxy with a stop for moon burgers.
‘Very funny. Haven’t finalised the details yet. Just keep the eighteenth free.’
When Julie and I were kids, our birthday parties were a few friends round to play in the garden and a home-made cake with candles half-burnt from their previous outing. I don’t remember either of us ever getting new candles, but we didn’t care.
‘It’s different now, Karen.’ Julie was dismissive when I reminded her. ‘Anyway, you don’t have children.’
I may not have children of my own but as an infant teacher I see more than enough of them. Julie was right. It is different now. We thought that life didn’t get any better than playing hide-and-seek and looking forward to a big piece of Gran’s jammy sponge. But that all came free, more or less – now birthday parties seemed to be about spending money and not just keeping up with the Joneses but leap-frogging over them.
Julie had become an expert leap-frogger, and spending money was one of her favourite occupations. As was trying to persuade me to spend my hard-earned.
‘Why don’t we go shopping for some new clothes for you?’ she asked me. We were sitting having a Saturday morning cappuccino. It was just ten o’clock but she was carrying several shiny carrier bags from one of the designer shops in the precinct.
‘What for? They’ll just get poster paint and sticky finger marks all over them.’
‘You don’t teach all the time. Matthew suggested … ’
‘Matthew suggested what?’
‘Julie.’ I gave her the look I give P1 when they’re particularly fractious and she capitulated.
‘We were watching one of those makeover programmes and he said why didn’t I put you forward?’
‘As if! I’m not going to parade in my underwear, or worse, for all the world to see. What would Gran have said?’
What Gran would have said to such an event was beyond our imagination, and we dissolved into giggles.
‘I can’t see you doing it,’ Julie conceded. ‘But you could do with a new look.’
I wasn’t offended. Julie meant well and we had this conversation, or variations on it, regularly.
‘I really can’t be bothered,’ I said. ‘You do the glam bit for both of us.’
To be fair, I knew that Julie would be happy to pass her cast-offs on to me and I would have been happy to take them. It was unfortunate that I, the older sister whose hand-me-downs Julie was forced to wear as a child, was three inches shorter than her and a completely different shape.
Julie was still thinking about Gran.
‘We hardly had any clothes that weren’t second-hand or home-made,’ she went on. ‘Remember the paper pattern she kept making those pinafore dresses from? The same one she’d used for our mum. And those scratchy jumpers?’ She pulled a face.
I didn’t tell her that I still had the moss green chunky polo neck Gran knitted for me when I was fourteen, and that I wore it on winter nights when I got in from school.
‘She tried to teach us to sew and knit but that was a lost cause.’ Julie finished her coffee and patted her red lips with a napkin. ‘Sure you don’t want me to come shopping with you?’
I was sure.
But when I was getting ready for bed, Matthew’s suggestion came back to me. I looked at the nubbly tweed skirt I’d just flung on the chair. I’d had it for five years but it was still perfectly serviceable. The top I was taking off was in a shade of blue I didn’t particularly like but it had been on a half-price rail.
I didn’t envy Julie her designer lifestyle. Fun for a day maybe but what a palaver. Sometimes I wondered what Gran, with her one ancient lipstick and her three-times-a-year perm, would think of Julie’s manicures and facials and whatnots, not to mention her built-in wardrobes and her forests of shoe-trees.
The nubbly skirt went on again on Monday with a top, mustard this time, from the same sale rail. Even I could see that the colour didn’t suit me; the face that stared back at me looked to be the last stages of yellow fever.
Maybe I should make more of an effort.
Everything seemed to go wrong that morning. When I was gulping down some cereal my cat, Scatty, jumped on the table and knocked over the milk carton. The traffic, even in the bus lane, was worse than usual. P1 was playing up and my fiercest looks did nothing to quell them.
And when I had a break in the staff room at lunch-time there came a hysterical call on my mobile from Julie saying she was at the school gate and did I have a minute.
I hurried outside.
Find out what’s happened in:
THREE’S A CROWD from amazon here