Jessica Farrington felt reassured by the fig and cedar room spray she had just spritzed, in three short bursts, above her head. She was resting on the kitchen sofa, recovering from an inner ear infection, a blight she was certain she had picked up from the centre aisle of a nearby discount supermarket. Of course, she would not normally have risked visiting such place, but, two weeks ago, a WhatsApp from Mrs Dunne had forced her into an exceedingly difficult position. The message had contained a photo of Tommy’s Autumn Leaves Poem, decorated with Beech and Field Maple, followed by a “P.S. Lidl almost giving away the laminating pouches.”Notably, the message had been sent too late for respectable shoppers to book an online delivery in time for the homework deadline; her only consolation was that she had managed to secure the last 6 boxes at an exceptionally good price.
Unfortunately, the reward for her sacrifice had been an enervating bout of labyrinthitis.
Jessica did not like being ill and the debilitating motion sickness that seemed to accompany this particular affliction, meant that she could do very little to satiate her frustration. As she was now, unable to look at a screen without feeling giddy and sick, her email had to remain a draft in her head until such time as she could type and send it to the Environmental Health Office, and get that ghastly excuse-for-a-retail-establishment closed down.
She put the room spray back down on the coffee table, next to the other essentials - a blister pack of Nature’s Own Ultra-Zinc and Magnesium, the last few drops of her Autumn Collection Hydrating and Plumping Serum, a cuticle pen and a Reporter’s notebook headed TBD ‘To Be Done’ – and contemplated her ongoing commitment to the local community. This time last year, she had been in the throes of organising the Christmas Fair at St Margaret’s, an undertaking which had proved to be worthwhile, earning her grateful thanks from the School Governors and a mention in the Minutes of their end of year meeting.
This year however, to comply with current COVID-19 safety guidelines, the festive fundraising was quite different. The PTA, chaired once again by herself, had voted to produce a ‘2020 Memories’ Photobook, depicting acts of charity and kindness, new skills and innovative home learning, personal achievements, annotated snapshots of ‘how we all pulled together and coped with a difficult year’, that sort of thing. Grandparents loved it and would pay a fortune to see what they had missed. Jessica had volunteered to collate the pictures and messages via email and assemble them into a book which would be sold to families and friends of the school for profit; it was a task she felt compelled to supervise. After all, one of her many strengths was a tidy phone; she dropped the photos from it onto her laptop every week and filed them according to merit, ranging from Facebook through to any which needed to be deleted. Her impeccably organised photo directory contained hundreds of inspirational images that could only enhance and increase the value of the finished product.
Her husband entered the kitchen. She picked up the room spray and spritzed three more calming bursts. He must have heard the dishwasher bleep; it physically pained her to watch him unload it. Despite having an Information Technology Management Degree from the University of South Wales, he still seemed incapable of adhering to unequivocal instructions on how things should be done. As he lowered the door and pulled out the top rack, she already knew that the divots in the base of her hi-ball tumblers would be filled with gritty residue where he didn’t slant them properly to rinse and the polka dots, lovingly applied with hand cut sponges on to her Emma Bridgewater Pasta Dishes, would be murky and dull, just because he couldn’t remember that Finish “All-In-One” meant exactly that and it wasn’t necessary to top up the salt every time he switched the bloody thing on! She felt particularly unwell this morning but, unlike her plates, at least she would recover.
“You have an email from Bonusprint”
He was changing the subject before she had the strength to reiterate the dishwasher loading protocol.
“It said they are very busy and you need to allow extra time for your order”
That was all Jessica needed. Mrs Hobbs had taken payment for 65 copies of the book and Mrs Forster, who had offered to deliver them on her dog walks, was expecting them to arrive at her home address by the end of next week. Fortunately though, the hard work was done and all the files were in a format ready to upload from a single album; the pictures had been generously improved by the Photoshop Farrington Makeover, and any that she hadn’t been able to edit or crop sufficiently, she had kindly supplemented with copies of similar shots from her own collection. If only Mrs Hollingsworth had used her initiative and gone to the water’s edge to take that photo of her daughter learning to swim; the ‘feeble effort’ she had sent in was so blurred by condensation, no doubt on the window she had pressed her phone against, that the image was beyond repair. Luckily, Jessica had a swimming pool photo that would do instead. This summer, Tarquin had achieved his target of 0.9m on the height chart and been allowed to take his first dive from the top board at The Upper Widdershin Lido. Even luckier than that, was she had managed to capture the event first time as he was reluctant to jump of his own accord and getting quite heavy to carry up the ladder.
She had no choice. She picked up the Reporter’s notebook and jotted down some instructions, so her husband could place the order this afternoon; she had been looking forward to selecting and placing each photo independently but, with the new time constraints and the slow progress of her recovery, she would have to make do with the limitations of the Bonusprint ‘autofill’ software and her husband’s dubious intellect.
She was stirred by the comforting ‘pock’ of a Nespresso Roma pod; she had slept for nearly two hours.
“Have you placed the Photobook order yet?”
“All Done” he replied
He handed her a double shot of coffee and replaced the Reporter’s Notebook on the table. She enquired immediately why the top sheet of paper had been folded and three quarters of the page torn off. He went to the fridge and took out the last salted caramel from the Hotel Chocolat Smooth and Mellow Collection before explaining that a horseradish label had inexplicably been stuck to the bottom of his mug and that this, in turn, had re-bonded to the notepad when he had momentarily used it as a coaster.
Jessica’s pulse quickened.
“Was this before or after you placed the order? Where are my instructions?”
He ate the chocolate before pointing out that the name of the photo album was still intact on the notepad and it had been easy to find on her laptop.
O God. He hadn’t. Please say he hadn’t:
“Yes”, he said rather sarcastically “TBD - To Be Done”.
“You uploaded the pictures from TBD in my photo directory?”
Yes, why don’t you trust me? It’s still written down, right there.”
She knew it was too late; she could already see the photo of herself in Torquay in August - muffin top, manky face mask, mizzle and marguerita, enlarged and emblazoned on the front cover of 65 copies of ‘2020 Memories’ currently in production and heading directly to distribution:
This PC/Pictures/2020/TBD contained photos “To Be Deleted”