I sent Bill a text to warn him. ‘Bill, Sophie was interviewed coming into the house. Local TV crew I think. Likely to be shown this evening. God knows what she’s said. She was ambushed, and I wasn’t quick enough. Sorry Bill. Maybe it will be ok? Xx’
It was an anxious wait until the local evening news on TV. Sophie went out to buy popcorn, Dan invited Chrissy round, Baz sent a message to all his phone contacts telling them to watch. Bill was not going to be home until late, but he and his team were in the brace position.
I summoned up the courage to ask Sophie what she had said, thinking it might be better to be prepared. Depending on what response she gave, I might decide not to watch at all.
‘What did they ask you about, Sophie?’ I said, holding on to the edge of the kitchen table for support.
She was so excited she was barely coherent. ‘Lots of stuff,’ she said. ‘Stuff about sleeping arrangements and other stuff. I’m so excited! I’ve always wanted to be on the telly! I’m just worried my hair won’t look all right. I should have had it tied back. I always have it tied back at work but it came loose on the bus. I kept sort of shaking my head a bit so it wouldn’t flop forward.’
‘Sleeping arrangements?’ My blood ran a little cold.
‘Yeah,’ she said. ‘Sleeping arrangements. But it was a bit windy and my hair kept flopping forwards. I didn’t want to put my hand in front of my face, you know? It might look as if I’m hiding or something? So I just kept shaking my head a bit to keep my hair back. Do you think that’ll look okay?’
I rang Laura to warn her.
‘Did Sophie tell you what she’s said?’ Laura asked me.
‘I can’t get much sense out of her. She’s worried about how her hair is going to look.’
‘Just have to wait and see then,’ said Laura. And then, ‘Mum, do you remember I was going to have a think about what steps I was going to take to make my life more interesting and stop myself becoming bored?’
‘Laura,’ I said, ‘please, – not now. I’m a bit over wrought, waiting for this broadcast. I really don’t think I could cope with any more excitement just now, if you don’t mind.’
‘Okay, that’s fine.’
‘Thanks. I’ll be all ears, once we get over this.’
‘That’s okay. I’ll just say, ‘Bogota’ and leave it at that for now.’
I put the phone down as quickly as I could after that. I might have misheard her. I tried to forget I’d heard the word, ‘Bogota’. It wasn’t difficult. The television was on, the local news was starting, and there was a little introductory piece about the price of housing and how all the generations are having to bunk up together, and one such household being that of …Sophie was passed herself with excitement, ‘It’s me! I’m on next! Shut up everybody! Quiet! Look! That’s me!’
And there she was on the television screen, our very own Sophie walking along the road towards our house, frowning slightly at the man approaching her with a microphone.
‘Sophie Sullivan, am I right in thinking you’re living with the Forth’s at the moment? And if so, would you mind if we asked you a few questions for our viewers? We’re interested to hear about accommodation problems in our area.’
‘Are you from the telly?’
‘That’s right. Sophie, do you consider yourself to be lucky to live with Bill and Sally Forth?’
‘Yeah. Dead lucky.’ Sophie looked straight into the camera lens, and said solemnly, ‘I consider myself dead lucky to be living with the Forths.’
‘Good, er,’ the interview waved slightly to attract her attention away from the lens of the camera, ‘Sophie, some people have said that it’s odd that so many young people are living with the Forth’s. What would you say to them?’
‘Well there’s just me and Baz, and Dan of course, and Chrissy at the moment, and before me there was someone called Gentle Rain, which is a crap name if you ask me. So not that many, really.’
‘There have been unconfirmed reports of licentious behaviour at the Forth household, can you deny that outright?’
‘Mrs Forth said if anyone asked I should just say ‘hello’, or ‘lovely day’, or ‘awful day’.
‘Sophie, there are rumours circulating about parties at the Forth household, with freely available drugs and sex on offer. Is this your experience?’
‘What? Sex? At the Forth’s? Drugs and sex?’ Sophie laughed in astonishment, and had to steady herself against the gate post. ‘Drugs and sex? Mr and Mrs Forth?’ She wiped a tear from her eye. ‘Mr and Mrs Forth don’t have sex.’
‘Oh. So, are you categorically denying these rumours?’
‘Look,’ said Sophie, ‘I probably shouldn’t be telling you this but,’ she motioned the interviewer closer, ‘don’t say anything, but I’m in the bedroom next to Mr and Mrs Forth, and I don’t think they have sex any more. They’re too busy. They talk about stuff, but then I think they go to sleep. I know, ‘cos I hear them snoring. They’re lovely really, but I don’t think they, – you know, – do anything. They talk about elections instead.’
‘Right, well,’ the interviewer gave a little cough to cover some slight embarrassment, ‘it seems these rumours aren’t accurate. So, there are no wild parties at the Forth residence, in your experience?’
‘We had a party at Christmas. Just a family do. That was quite a good party, but no-body got drunk at that. Oh, – except Mrs Forth. She got drunk. But she wasn’t bad. She was able to walk about still, and she wasn’t sick or anything. You’d hardly notice apart from some of the things she was saying, and her dress was a bit wet where she spilled her wine. You know,’ she became reflective, ‘Mrs Forth was my favourite teacher at school. She tried to teach me English for five years.’
‘Really? Five years? Okay, so, Sophie, can you tell us what accommodation you have with the Forth’s? Do you have your own room?’
‘Yes, I’ve got my own room. I don’t have to share. There’s a wash basin in the corner.’ Sophie turned, and again she spoke straight at the camera lens with gravitas. ‘I’m absolutely thrilled to have my own room with the Forth’s. It has a washbasin and everything. It is a dream come true.’
‘Right, er -. Finally, Sophie, can you sum up for us, – why do you like living with the Forths?’
‘Hmm,’ she thought about it, ‘because, I can get to work and back easily, and Baz is in the room upstairs from me, and most days we all have dinner together in the evenings and have a laugh. It’s good to have a laugh over your dinner, don’t you think?’
‘Thank you Sophie.’
‘Oh!’ she said, putting her hand on the interviewer’s arm. ‘I’ve just remembered.’ She rummaged in her bag. ‘Look at this!’ And she pulled out a ‘Mr Forth First!’ t shirt. ‘I got these made.’ She held it up close for the camera, and for a second or two it was all we could see on the screen. Then it was whipped away to reveal Sophie’s beaming face. ‘What do you think of that? Do you want one?’ she asked the interviewer. ‘Seeing as I’ve done this interview?’
‘Yes, thanks Sophie,’ said the interviewer. ‘I’ll take one. Thank you.’
‘Great,’ she said. ‘That’ll be five pounds.’
And we were transferred back to the news room.
Dan switched the sound off when the interview finished. Sophie looked around at us all.
‘Was that okay?’ she said. ‘Did I do all right?’
‘You did really well, Sophie,’ said Dan.
Bill texted, about an hour after the interview was aired. He said, ‘She might actually save the day. Shame about our sex life.’
Sally’s Diary is a story told in serial form. To start from the beginning, click here.