“It is a terrible affliction, not being able to sing”

I WANT to lie down and watch the trees stipple sunlight on the world, down in the garden with the moon daisies, on a blanket with my book.

But instead I’m in the car — destination: Cork — with my husband, a mountain bike, petrol-can, jump-leads, and dispiriting agenda:

1. Attend two bizarrely synchronised hospital appointments: Magnetic Resonance Imaging of lower back in Euromedic, 2.10p.m (me), surgical evaluation of cartilage in South Infirmary, 2.40p.m (husband).

2. Retrieve my car from a double yellow line where my daughter has abandoned it because “it wouldn’t start, there’s something wrong with it, but bring a can of petrol just in case — the petrol arrow’s on red”.

3. Collect end-of-term detritus from my son’s college rental.

4. Sort mountain bike.

“We need to work as a team today,” my husband advises, for we are already proving a sorry Darby and Joan double act, and we haven’t even got to Clonakilty yet. Today, I fear, we are definitely less the archetypal mutually devoted couple — and more the Darby and Joan from Noel Coward’s musical refrain, “We’re a dear old couple and we hate one another.”

“Can you find a pen,” he says, crunching gears, “and write ‘tax applied for’ on a piece of paper. Just stick it in the thing where the tax should be.”

“It’s time we revised domestic arrangements,” I say.

“What do you mean?” he says.

“I mean, reallocate worst chores.” I clarify, “we swap. I take taxing and insuring the cars, you take the toilets.”

He turns on the CD player and sings along loudly to “Crucify Me,” by John Blek and the Rats. “It is a terrible affliction, not being able to sing,” I gasp after 30 seconds, when I can no longer bear it, “the most terrible.”

“You did put the petrol can in the back?” he says.

“I did.”

“The green one with ‘petrol’ written on it?”

“We have six petrol cans. All are green. I just took the first one I saw.”

“Check in the back there, will you?”

I lug petrol can into the front. It has ‘2 stroke’ written on it.

“Oh good,” he says, “all set. We can start the strimmer.”

I wind down the window, summon the spirit of the Blitz.

“Crucify me, crucify me, crucify me, crucify me, Lord, crucifaay me till ma daaayin day,” he wails. “Crucify me till ma daaayin — ” breaking off suddenly, he fumbles in his pocket. “Oh, shit,” he says, “I forgot to charge my phone. I’ve only got one bar of battery left.”

It strikes me that all parts of today’s agenda require the use of two mobile phones. Even more than they require the spirit of the Blitz. “How are we going to work as a team without mobile phones?” I inquire, “I mean, the logistics of this trip are…”

“We’ll work the logistics out when we get there,” he says, “I’ll have enough battery for a couple of texts, so just keep your phone on.”

I decide I need to summon a mantra on top of the spirit of the Blitz, but cannot choose between “Life is good, if you don’t weaken”, “Keep calm and carry on”, or “Life’s a bitch and then you die”.

My husband deposits me on the kerb outside Euromedic. “Good luck,” he mouths, swerving back out into the traffic.

As his tail lights disappear, I realise we have forgotten to “work the logistics out when we get there”.

In Euromedic, I am given earphones, through which the radiographer pipes Vivaldi’s Four Seasons while I undergo the MRI. This exerts soporific effect; I fall asleep. On waking, I feel restored and decide after final consideration that “keep calm and carry on” might just suffice.

In the changing cubicle, I check my phone. On it I find one unread message from my husband: “12 people in front of me. Dunno when I’m gonna to be seen. Have to finish guttering when we get home cos John just texted me. He needs his drill back. I’ll need you to hold fascia board on conservatory roof — 20 minutes tops. Walk down to me. Orthopaedics Outpatients. Battery going.”

I text him back: “Life’s a bitch and then you die.”

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