Bert has been away for a couple of nights. He's been to a concert in Dublin and is due back today. I have been doing his morning and evening chores and looking after Pearlie. That's not a big deal except, I could not help noticing, that tending the animals is far more rewarding than tending to Pearlie. They seem pleased to see me in the morning, they relish their food with gusto and they appear happy to be alive.
Pearlie? Not so much. The first thing I do for her is put on the kettle for morning tea and a refill of her hot water bottle. Then I fix up her fire. I take a lot of care over this, my aim being to start a cheery blaze immediately. When Bert starts her fire he stirs up the ashes, throws a log on and hopes for the best. If it goes, great, if it doesn't he starts again. While I'm doing the fire I can feel her eyes on my back, glaring balefully at me. Should I look over my shoulder she will be glaring balefully. She only speaks if she wants something else done. Truly you would think I was setting the fire around her ankles in order to murder her. When I bring in her tea and bread she looks at it with disgust as if it were rank poison. The only thing that gives her a glimmer of pleasure is the hot water bottle. And this is a woman who has enjoyed a cosy warm bed, the central heating on for two hours and a gas fire before getting her cheery blaze and rubber jar.
The truth is she's always glum and she is especially glum when the darling son is away. I'll be glad to see him back. Tomorrow morning it will be him going it to see the oul' doll with the face like a fur hatchet. It will be at least an hour later than I go to her and the fire-starting will be haphazard enough. Her first word to him will be some sort of a whinge and he'll laugh it off. But I suspect that inside herself, behind the baleful looks and the whiney voice, she will be just as pleased as a Pearlie can be.