Well, no-one need have known. But this morning, down at the Co-op, ‘MP Spouse Gran’s Sponsored Swim Shame!’
I couldn’t believe my eyes. I couldn’t believe it! I got straight on the phone and asked for that reporter, and they put me through.
‘What the hell did you do that for?’ I said, pacing around outside the shop. ‘For Christ’s sake! I swam up and down that pool as far as I could. Shame? There was no shame! What is this, – character assassination?’
‘I’m sorry, Mrs Forth, I don’t decide what goes on the bill boards.’
‘You don’t? What kind of excuse is that? You must have said something in your article! Obviously! Have you seen what’s written on this bill board? ‘MP Spouse Gran’s Sponsored Swim Shame’, – for god’s sake! What’s the matter with you? I’ve had it just about up to here with bloody interviews. What did you say in the article? I didn’t say you could write anything about me in that article. It was never meant to be about me. What the hell have you said?’
‘Sorry Mrs Forth. You didn’t say that remark you made about your swim was off the record.’
‘Right,’ I said. ‘I want these bill boards taken down. I want someone round here, asap, and I want these taken down.’
I heard her cover the mouthpiece and there was a muffled exchange. Then she came back on, ‘We’ll have someone round as soon as it can be arranged Mrs Forth.’
‘Well bloody make sure you bloody do,’ I said. ‘God’s sakes!’ And I hung up. Then I thought, no, I’ve got a better idea, and I picked the billboard up and carried it into the car park and slung it in the boot of my car.
I sat in the car for a few minutes to calm down, and then I went and bought a paper, to see what Lois Lane had said about me. It came right at the end of the interview with Sophie, – (who, I noticed, has been portrayed as Joan of Arc waving a pair of incontinence pants instead of a sword,) – and it said, ‘Before I left the Forth household I asked Mrs Sally Forth about the progress of the charity work she tried to talk about on Breakfast TV last week. She told me she had just done her sponsored swim, to raise money for the mystery children’s hospital. She said she had swum less than half the prescribed distance, but she wasn’t going to confess, because no-one need know. Oops, Mrs Forth, hope we haven’t dropped you in it!’
It’s the election tomorrow, – did I say? Tomorrow, and we’ll have the result by four o’clock in the afternoon. And afterwards, by God, things are going to change. I’m at everybody’s beck and call around here and I’m getting so much flack it’s ridiculous. I can’t even do a bit of shopping without having insults hurled at me. I swim up and down for bloody ages feeling like a set of sodden bagpipes and this is the thanks I get. Jen just asked me what floats my boat. Well I’m bloody well going to find out, and then I’m going to piss off in the damn thing.
So, I was just in the mood to spend an hour with Lee at school this morning.
‘Hiya miss!’ he said when he saw me, and I sensed trouble.
‘Listen Lee, I don’t want to hear any remarks today about my pyjamas, or my ability to swim, or any other aspect of my personal life which you may have heard mentioned on TV, or in the newspapers. I don’t want to know what you think, and I don’t want to know what your dad thinks. At all. Do you understand?’
‘Good. Because if we can understand each other, we’ll get on just fine this morning, but if we can’t, there will be serious trouble. I mean it Lee. Okay?’
‘I’m just not in the mood for any stupid remarks. Right?’
‘My dad says you probably just need a good rogering.’
I’d had quite enough of Lee by the time I left school at lunch time. Home felt like a refuge, despite an evolving Death Star in an upstairs bedroom, and the prospect of taxidermy lite taking place downstairs in the utility room.
I took a closer look at the paper once I’d made myself a cup of coffee. The heading for the piece on Sophie was ‘Homes Ahoy!’ There was quite a nice photo on the front page of her at work in the care home. Sophie was in her uniform, and she had her arm around a very thin, elderly lady sitting next to her, who was wearing a ‘Mr Forth First!’ t shirt. The shirt had folded and pleated awkwardly across this lady’s narrow and ancient bosom. The only letters remaining in view spelled, improbably, ‘Moist!’
When everyone got back I announced that I would be going to bed early. Tomorrow is going to be a long day. Baz and Chrissy made the meal, Dan and Sophie cleared away afterwards. Whatever tomorrow brings, things will change.
Sally’s Diary is a story told in serial form. To start from the beginning, click here.