Chapter Thirty-One

The recycling collector and Harriet are back at the workshop door. The collector has picked up the recycling box. Monty Dog is still interested in the box.


The following week Harriet was cheerfully looking forward to recycling day. She had it all planned out, she would have a morning shower and make sure she was fresh and presentable, and then put the recycling box outside and spend a little time in the garden with Monty Dog just innocently playing until the recycling women turned up. Then she could say hello properly and see if she is as nice to know in person as she is to look at. Harriet really didn’t want another bad relationship and was hoping she was now wiser to the signs. Still, either way, it was good to dream, if only for a moment.
The morning didn’t quite work out the way Harriet expected. She had put the box outside and let Monty have a quick wee before his breakfast, and while he was eating Harriet went to have a shower. If the recycling collection was early then at least it would be taken. Afterwards Harriet took Monty back outside and threw a stick for him, but instead of playing Monty decided it was time to empty his bowels. “Monty! Of all the moments…” Harriet muttered as she waited for Monty to finish so she could clean up. And just as she was scooping up the poop into a bag a pair of feet in work boots walked up. “Oh hello there, I was just out with Monty and…” Harriet looked up and saw a man in a reflective yellow coat. “Umm… ahh… it wasn’t you last week, was it.” she said, slightly disappointed.

“Err, no, I was on leave.” The man replied. “They must have got someone in to cover. You were saying?”

“Oh, err, nothing. Nothing, really. I was just out with my dog.” Harriet wished she hadn’t said anything at all.

The recycling collector waved at Monty. “Hello there dog!”

“Err, yes, he’s called Monty, Monty Dog.” Harriet took a deep breath. “So you’re the regular chap then?”

“Yep, wish I was still on hols though.” He laughed.

“Err, hols, yes…” Harriet looked away, feeling a little awkward.

“Righto,” the collector said, walking over to pick up the recycling box. “I’ll get this sorted and emptied, and on to the next one. Bye!” And he headed out taking the recycling box out to his vehicle.

“Err, bye!” Harriet went to put the bag of poo in the bin and then went back inside the workshop calling “Monty! Here boy!” and cringed behind the closed door. “Doh, I’m an idiot! How embarrassing! He’s gonna think I like him or something!”


Harriet tried not to dwell on the problem as she went to do some woodwork. But later that afternoon the first of the Guy Faulk’s night fireworks began to go off. Just a few whizz bangs in residential gardens, probably entertaining younger children before their bed times. Monty felt they were far from entertaining and at the first bang began to whimper and then ran upstairs to claw at the door to the bedroom.

“Hey, hey, Monty.” Harriet raced after him. “What’s the matter? It is just some fireworks, nothing to worry about.” Harriet opened the door to let him go where he wanted. Monty ran to his bed and tried to tunnel under it whining and trembling. “Oh Monty!” Harriet sat on the floor and reached out to comfort him. He calmed down with her touch but every whizz and bang set him off again. “Come on little one, lay on your bed, you’ll be ok. Just give me a moment.” Harriet went down to the workshop and grabbed her ear defenders. Back up in the bedroom she put the ear defenders onto Monty, carefully tucking his ears into them. He was still distressed by the bangs but with the noise muted he was easier to keep calm. Harriet sat with him on his bed and gently stroked him to help sooth and calm him. “Oh you poor thing. It must be horrible with all that noise and not knowing what it all is.”
A lull in the early evening allowed Harriet and Monty a few hours respite until it all started up again. Harriet spent the rest of the evening comforting Monty on his bed until well after midnight. And even then he was reluctant to stay out long for his last walk in the garden.

Then next day Harriet was tired and grateful to start her weekend a day early. She yawned and decided to write off her Friday. It had been a stressful night, random fireworks going off into the early hours upsetting Monty, and keeping them both awake. The weekend was just as likely to be full of fireworks so Harriet really wasn’t looking forward to it. Following a quick phone call to the Vet’s Surgery for some advice Harriet used a blanket to set up a covered den over Monty’s bed and got out a radio to provide some consistent background sounds to mask the fireworks. The Vet suggested something relaxing like Radio 3 or Classic FM at a good level of volume, and for Harriet to not react to the fireworks so that Monty isn’t triggered to reinforce any flight or flight response from her own stress.
It wasn’t perfect but it did make the weekend a little easier to cope with. It was a relief that there were no more fireworks on Sunday and both she and Monty were able to relax that day.

Later in the week Harriet decided it was probably best to avoid the recycling collector and just leave the box outside quietly. As she heard the distant rattle of the recycling truck Harriet hid with Monty in the bedroom. “Shhh, Monty, hopefully nobody will know we’re in!” She felt silly just saying that. Where else would she be? She took a quick peek out of the window as the recycling collector arrived. “It’s still him, I wonder how many holidays he gets to take in a year?” The collector paused in the middle of the garden and looked around. “He’s stopped. What’s he looking for?” Harriet whispered to Monty. “The box is right there! Is he looking for me, or you, Monty? I can’t hide every Thursday morning, can I?” Harriet sighed but kept on peeping over the window ledge. “It’s oh kay, Monty, he has the box and is on his way out. Once he’s gone you can go outside.” Harriet slumped against the bedroom wall, Arrgh, am I reading way too much into this? Maybe I have completely mis-read everything. Maybe that’s what lockdown does to you. “Oh kay, Monty, he’s done now, we’ll give it a minute and then get the box back.” This is silly. I am making such a fool of myself cooped up in here.


Steve, having taken his enforced break, was glad to be back at work. Daisy was off this week, and Tom the next. The rota was a little mixed up meaning every one had a chance to swap around for a while along the lines of ‘a change is as good as a rest’. Phil also like to ensure that no one was stuck in a rut, hogging the nicer rounds, or always getting the heavier collections. It also meant that cover within the team would generally be easier to arrange as there would be no unfamiliar routes for any of them.
But today Steve was back on one of his regular rounds driving Beryl with the volunteer. Steve decided to stop Beryl at the end of a cobbled road where the volunteer could collect from a number of houses on the list while he walked up to pick up from a solitary address. He never liked driving Beryl up the cobbles for all the rattling and banging it caused her for just the one recycling box, and when ever there was someone else in the cab with him he would choose to walk there instead. He was sure Beryl appreciated it too.

As Steve walked into the courtyard outside the workshop he hesitated for a moment as he noticed the dog was loose, and then noticed a woman crouched just where he stood cleaning up a dog poo.

“Oh hello there, I was just out with Monty and…” She said, and then looking up at him she looked confused. “Umm… ahh… it wasn’t you last week, was it.”

Steve pondered for a moment. “Err, no, I was on leave. They must have got someone in to cover. You were saying?”

“Oh, err, nothing. Nothing, really. I was just out with my dog.” She looked a little sheepish as she stood there hiding the little black bag of dog poo behind her back.

Steve wondered why she didn’t just put it in the bin instead of standing there with it, then the dog came over to have a sniff. “Hello there dog!”. Steve stayed slightly back. He wasn’t afraid of dogs but he didn’t want to get too familiar before he knew what was making everything feel awkward.

“Err, yes, he’s called Monty, Monty Dog.” The woman said. Then she looked at him with her head cocked over and asked “So you’re the regular chap then?”.

Why is she asking that? Steve wondered. Who did the round last week and what happened? “Yep, wish I was still on hols though.” That wasn’t true, Steve was happy to be back at work where there was something to do, but it seemed like the sort of thing one should say in response without soliciting any more conversation about it.

“Err, hols, yes…” The woman looked away, thoughtful and shuffling her feet. She was still hiding the bag of dog poo behind her back.

This little interaction was getting even more awkward. Steve wished he had remembered to bring a spare empty box with him to decant the recycling into. He would have to bring this one back. “Righto,” he said quickly “I’ll get this sorted and emptied, and on to the next one. Bye!” He picked up the box and left quickly.

“Err, bye!” She said. “Monty! Here boy!” She called, and took the dog back inside.

Steve was relieved at that. He wasn’t sure what was happening or what he had missed last week but was happy to just return the empty box without any further awkwardness.

Back at the Centre Steve joined the others for lunch. “Who did this round for me last week?”

“Umm, I think it was Daisy. Why?” Linda asked.

“Was everything ok?”

“I dunno, I wasn’t in, but Tom said Daisy was acting a bit funny.”

“Funny how?”

“Dunno, ask Tom when you see him. Or Ann, I think she was in as well. I’ve lost track with the rota change.”

“Lunch, lunch, lunch, lunch!” Ann was punctuating each exaggerated step as she arrived pushing the trike to its parking spot. “Geez, I’m hungry today!”

“Hey Ann,” Steve said, “Was Daisy ok last Thursday?”

“Yeah, why?”

“Oh, just wondering. Strange collection at that new workshop place near Therry Station. I finally met the person who lives there. It seemed like she was expecting to see someone and it wasn’t me, that’s all. She was asking if I was the regular person. I just wanted to check if it was a good thing or a bad thing to look out for.”

“Ahh, well, Daisy was grinning like a loon over lunch but wouldn’t say anything so if it was that I reckon it must have been a good thing. Tom was teasing her a bit saying she met a man. Maybe she made a friend.”

Ahh, cool, I’ll have a chat with Daisy next week, see if there is anything to be aware of.”


Daisy was taking her week off work. Phil had insisted on it. He was right, his team needed a break even though there was nothing to do, no holiday to go on, no adventures to have before returning to the job in hand. But it was the rest and a break from routine that everyone needed, boringly idle or not.
At least that was what it would probably for the others. Daisy had her research to keep her busy most of the week as she had the information copied from the Theraton Historical Society website to work though. Having been through the horrendously badly presented website with Fran, Daisy had found that there was a lot of really useful information but it was so inaccessible and not searchable that it was practically useless where it was. Daisy was still working on breaking up the massively long body of text that Fran had copied into a document for her, and adding her own subject headers and indexing. Doing that on her laptop just meant more cutting and pasting of each subject area into its own document and putting into a folder, but it did also mean there were a lot of open tabs as paragraphs were cut and moved to a more sensible place. Daisy reflected that once upon a time she might have been doing this with printed paper and post it notes creating little stacks all over the floor. But also if that were the case this would have been a properly edited book that might have been a bit dry to read but at least useful with a content list and index.

Every now and again Daisy went back to the website to see if there was anything else she had missed, and also to try and save some of the historic images and photographs that didn’t copy over with the text. It was while she was doing that that she found some of the photographs had an attempt at crediting copyright to an ‘Esther Robertson-Sutherland – Curator of the Theraton Historical Society’, and an email contact. Daisy decided to get in touch. The email address was a very old one and Daisy wasn’t sure if the service provider still operated. The last time Daisy had seen that company name was probably on a compact disc taped to a junk mail flyer over twenty years ago. She didn’t think anyone used those except as coasters. Anyway, no harm in trying it anyway.

<To: Esther.Robertson-Sutherland
<Subject: Theraton Historical Society Query
Dear Esther,
I hope you don’t mind me contacting you. I recently found your website as I am doing some research into the town. Could I ask your permission to use some of the information and images in my own research, please? I am only researching for my own interest, and possibly for a future college course, and would be happy to keep you informed of which areas I am interested in using.

Also I have found that there is a lot of very useful information on your site but it is very hard to read and search though. I was wondering if you had any thoughts about making it a bit more accessible. I don’t know much about computing and websites but I know how it could be improved a bit. I could help if you didn’t mind.
Thank you,
Daisy Bell

She clicked send and anticipated an ‘undeliverable’ bounce back message. She then closed her laptop and stretched and straightened her back.

“Fran? Fancy a cuppa?”

Fran looked up from her magazine. “Yeah, sure. Want me to make it?”

“Nah, I’ll go, I could do with stretching my legs a bit now. How’s it going?”

“I’m torn! A bit of me wants to go all Barbie and recreate my childhood, but I think it would be more challenging if I was to do something historic in a conventional, smaller, scale. I quite like that one I’ve seen online, the shop keeper during the war, but then it would have to be historically accurate and history is your thing and I didn’t want to copy. Maybe I could go the other way and make it futuristic, but I don’t know.”

“Maybe you need to see what sort of dolls house shows up first and go with it.” Daisy suggested as she went to the kitchen. “Or you could make one. I can bring you back a cardboard box to start with!”.

“That is always an option. I have been watching a video where the woman is making her house out of cardboard and Polyfiller. They look really good but might be a bit too arty for me. I’ve never made anything creative like that, I might be rubbish at it.”

“Well, how about if I bring some good cardboard back one day and you can have a play. If it is rubbish I can just take it back in the recycling. Want a biscuit?”

“Oh why not, and same for the biscuit too.”

Daisy came back in with the teas and a packet of chocolate digestives tucked under her arm. “Is there anything else you need?”

“Bacon sandwich?”

“No. I mean to go with the cardboard.” Daisy put the teas down and opened the packet of biscuits. “I was thinking sticky tape or glue and stuff. We have some old cans of paint at the Centre, I can see if there are any suitable colours to get you started once you know what you are doing.”

“Oh, yeah, right. Glue and sticky tape would be a good start, and maybe some big scissors and one of them craft knives. Nothing expensive, I don’t want to spend any more then I have to. I can see what they have at the minimart. Do they sell things like that? It’s been so long I can’t remember where to buy stuff from!” Fran held her hands up in fists as if she was gripping prison bars.

“Ha, you’re not alone in that. Even though I am out most days, aside from work and getting the shopping we forgot to order, I don’t visit any shops either! I can tell you where the best bins are though, but that’s not helping.” Daisy laughed. “You know, it is good being off work for a bit. I thought I’d be bored, I know you have been, but it is nice not having to go in for a few days.”

“Do you miss being at work? I do, but I’ve also got used to not needing to. I don’t know how I’ll feel when I have to be back out every day. It’s all weird now.”

“Well…” Daisy started, “I am sorta keen to get back to work. Not that I am trying to get away from you or anything. But…” She took a moment. “but I… Well you know you were joking about me and women?”

“You’ve met someone!” Fran interrupted with an excited look on her face.

“Argghhh, no, well, maybe. Oh I don’t know. I just met her. Once. On her door step. And she was interesting. Apparently she was there again outside, yesterday when Steve was on. He texted me to check if everything was oh kay as she seemed to have been looking out for me.”

“Oooh, you have a stalker!” Fran joked. “Or a fan. Maybe she recognised you from your modelling days.”

“Oh don’t. I am nervous enough as it is. Anyway, looking though her recycling…”

“No, I’m wrong, you’re the stalker!” Fran laughed. “Looking though people recycling to find out about them! What did you find?”

“Behave!” Daisy sighed. “I wasn’t ‘looking’ looking, I just noticed a machinery catalogue with her name on, and no catalogues or magazines or anything else that I might have been in. She didn’t look like she was much into clothes, or make up and stuff.”

“So what’s she like? Come on, I’ve been locked in for months I want to know everything!”

Daisy explained that there was nothing to tell really, except that she was only interested in finding out how she felt about how she was feeling, regardless of anything else that may or may not happen. And that she wouldn’t see her again unless she swapped shifts with Steve. And she might have completely the wrong idea anyway.

(Chapter 30 here)
(Chapter 32 here)

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