Chapter Twenty-Three


The garage was a cold workshop. No insulation and a little draughty but at least it was dry. Harriet switched on a small oil radiator under the front of her workbench and waited for the waft of warmth to drift up and make itself known. I should get a plug in timer for it, she thought as she walked back up to the house.
It was time to head off to work at the community centre. There will be a lot to do with it being the first day back after the Christmas break. The bike ride to work was uneventful and traffic quiet, and Harriet was glad of that for the time to let her mind wonder. At the community centre she unlocked the shutter and powered it up, her ID card then granted her access through the main door, and indeed would grant her access to all parts of the building. It was a perk that, as a cleaner, Harriet had over most of the other staff. Harriet’s first task was to walk around the building to make sure all was well, and to turn on the taps in the toilets and the kitchen to run water for Legionella safety as she passed them. With everything as she had left it Harriet did a second walk around turning off the taps and making a mental note of any consumables that needed topping up. She could pick those up from the stockroom where the cleaning trolley was parked. Harriet never used the trolley, it seemed much more effort to push around for the few items she needed from it, much easier to just carry a spray bottle and a duster. Harriet did a quick trip around the building spraying and wiping surfaces and handles, and sweeping grit and crumbs onto the floor for later. She then went around with the vacuum cleaner to vacuum the small number of carpeted areas and to clear the crumbs and bits of loose grit and leaves that had been blown in. Then mopping the hard floors and stairs. Harriet was going to spend more time on cleaning on the first day back, but that was compensated by there being no furniture to rearrange as there were no bookings for the first couple of days.
At the end of her two hours, Harriet headed out wishing the few members of staff who were in early a happy new year as she passed.

Back at home Harriet made a cup of tea and took it with her into the pre warmed garage. Her bedside cabinets were now assembled and sanded, and just needed a few coats of finishing oil. Harriet had decided on oiling the cabinets as it was more forgiving then varnish or shellac in a dusty and draughty space. Harriet poured some oil into a paper cup, from the stack of cups she salvaged from the bins at the community centre, and began to brush it onto the cabinets. The first coat was heavy but would soak in quickly. The cup was refilled several times as Harriet worked around the surfaces re-covering any areas that looked dry too soon. When she was satisfied that it could be left she cleaned her brush and left the paper cup on the window sill to dry off. She decided to sharpen her tools, while she waited for the oil to soak in properly, and got out the stones and strop, and began to lay out her edge tools. She had a five litre bottle of water under the bench to save having to go outside to get some, and carefully tipped a cup full into a spray bottle. That would be enough to keep her stones wet for sharpening.

Then Harriet’s phone rang.

“Oh hello Mr Chow, happy new year to you too. How are you?
“I am well too. How is everything going?
“I can? Oh that is wonderful! How soon is soon?
“A couple of weeks? That is fantastic, I have been really looking forward to it.
“Yes, of course. What will I need to do?
“That’s fine, I am sure I can do that.
“Oh, you will? That will save me getting it all.
“Thank you very much, I am looking forward to hearing from you again.”

Harriet dried the sharpening stones and left her tools on the bench to head back up to the house to share the news with Adam. It was raining lightly now, and cold, but Harriet didn’t mind. She felt light footed and happy, and was almost skipping along the path, but checked herself as it was slippery and it would be awful to have a fall now.

“Adam?” Harriet called out, “I just had a call from Mr Chow. I can…
“Oh, sorry. I’ll go and make a brew.” Harriet closed the door on Adam’s study, and retreated to the kitchen. She hummed happily as she filled the kettle and took a couple of mugs out of the cupboard to make tea.

Adam eventually came down to the kitchen and joined Harriet for a cup of tea. “Ahh, tea! Thank you. Sorry Harriet, that was a work call, a client having some problems. What’s happened?”

“Mr Chow called, he says I can have the keys in a couple or so weeks, when the site is cleared up and the scaffolding is down. I just have a few little jobs to do there before I move in properly. The concrete floor needs sealing, the new doors will need handles putting on, a hand rail on the stairs, little things like that. He said I might want to paint the walls, and put flooring down in the studio, but I think I will see what it is like first. He’s supplying the materials so I guess it will be saving him some labour cost on the job for those few things.”

“Oh that is good news, you must be so happy about that. It’s finally coming together for you. When you are settled in we should plan a little ‘workshop warming’ party for you there.”

“Oh yes, that would be fantastic. It might be a couple of weeks or so getting the space sorted out though but that’ll be something to look forward to! It really feels like life is coming together, thanks to you and Amanda.” Harriet thought for a moment about how she was feeling when Amanda was hugging her on Christmas day. “Adam? I was wondering…”

“Yep, I guess you probably were, until you got your bearings and something to aim for.” Adam laughed.

“Haha! No, seriously, different subject, I was wondering…
“Do you think it is too soon to think about dating again? I think I have Marie out of my system, but, I dunno, It would be nice to meet someone but I don’t want to mess up. What do you think, looking at me from the outside?”

“Oh right, well, I suppose it could get a rebound fling out the way if you needed one, before you meet someone more serious, if it would help. Though from what I know of you, you were never really one for that. Marie changed you though, and I guess it depends on how much you have found yourself again. Do you have someone in mind?”

“That’s the thing, I don’t know anyone having been out of the loop for so long. I don’t even know myself any more. I used to know the places to hang out, but I am probably too old for that sort of thing now. There are online dating sites I could try I suppose. It’ll get me back in circulation, see if anyone is even interested.”

“Why wouldn’t they be? Well, here’s a compromise idea. Move into your workshop and get settled first, then if you still feel like it sign up to a dating site then, do one big thing at a time. In the meantime I’ll find out which sites have good privacy settings. How does that sound?”

“Hmmm…. Yeah, good call. The workshop will be more important to get right first without distractions. I’ll just keep my focus on that for a bit longer. Thanks.”


Fran was not long home from work. It had been a strange day, one of the photographers, who had flown in from Switzerland, was wearing a medical mask and latex gloves, and had refused to take them off or shake hands with anyone. Fran didn’t know what to make of that, though she was used to designers and photographers having strange habits. He also arrived, did his job, and then left without having the usual post shoot drink with anyone. She didn’t have time to dwell further on the day as Daisy came home.
“How was work today?” Fran asked.

Daisy closed the front door and pretended to stagger into the living room, fell on to all fours crawling towards the sofa and flopped face down down on a cushion without pausing to take her coat off. “I’m knackered!” She said into the cushion, “I finally did a full round on the trike today! Ugh, you wouldn’t believe how heavy those things get by the end of the round.” Daisy rolled over and sat on the floor, legs out stretched and leaning back on the front of the sofa arm. “I’m sure I was more then a quarter tonne when I unloaded it, so many bottles, and newspapers! Thank God it is a little down hill on the way back to the Centre but I still had to walk back up to get home after.”

“I bet you’ll have amazing legs in a few weeks though!” Fran tried to be positive about it. “I can’t believe how much fitter you have got over the last few months!”

“There is that, I suppose. Legs like Chris Hoy but no knees left. I feel like they have turned to jelly again! Give me a few weeks and I’ll be fine I think. Fancy a cuppa?”

“I’ll get it for you.” Fran said as she got up and went to the kitchen. “Have you heard from Ingrid?” She called back.

“No, I thought she was due back soon anyway.” Daisy got up to take her coat off to hang in the hallway.

“She is, but she texted me earlier. She was talking about that Corona virus thing, all the flights have been stopped from coming or going from China.”

“I know things are getting bad over there, but I didn’t know she was planning on going to China!” Daisy said, confused.

“She’s not, but someone in Germany has it the virus and they are talking about maybe stopping people from travelling. Ingrid is trying to decide if she wants to stay with her parents there or come back here.” Fran brought the teas into the living room. “I didn’t know what to suggest to her. At least no one here has it.”

“Yet!” Daisy added. “The team at work are more concerned about it, they think that it will get here much like bird flu and swine flu did. Did you get a flu jab, by the way? We all did at work. It might help.”

“Yeah, I did, got one at the chemist last week. Seemed silly not to.” Fran paused thoughtfully for a moment. “One of the Swiss chaps today was wearing a mask and gloves and refused to shake hands or drink anything. It seemed a bit extreme. I wonder if he knows something the rest of us don’t.”

“Maybe he’s just paranoid! People can be funny about stuff nowadays.”

They sat in silence for a while sipping tea while Daisy recovered her energy. She thought about work, about her research, about Ingrid in Germany.

“I’m a bit worried about it.” Daisy said, after a while.

“Worried about what?”

“That virus thing. If people are dying from it, and they can’t find a cure….
“It’s quite scary thinking about it. Maybe your Swiss chap has a point!”

“Oh don’t! You’ll have me worried now!” Fran grimaced and gripped her mug of tea tighter towards her chest.

(Chapter 22 here)
(Chapter 24 here)

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