Maureen’s hair is an art form, a talking point, a thing. A great, ribbed dome, a few singed curls escaping round the netting edges, the rest stuffed up into an immense, squashy, off-centre beehive actually filled with bees for all I know. I expect to see them start pouring out in a fury and circling their queen.
‘He’s in the lounge,’ she sniffs, holding the door open and standing aside with a murderously mournful expression, like the proprietor of a dodgy fairground exhibit showing the last punter round before she can lock up and retire to do her hair.
I go on into the sitting room to introduce myself to her husband, Stan; Maureen slams the door shut, slides the bolt to, then shuffles past me heading for the far side, taking care to reach up and stop her hair from slumping completely overboard, and then carefully climbing up onto what I’m guessing is her usual pew, a beaten up old kitchen stool over by the window. When the hair is balanced to her satisfaction, she crosses her legs, repositions her dressing gown, and then divides her attention between the quicks of her nails and my examination of her husband.
Stan is pleased to see me, though. He grips my hand firmly when I go to shake his, draping the other across for good measure, his eyes squeezed shut, his mouth one happy, toothless chasm.
‘Stan!’ he says. ‘Call me Stan! Pleased to meet you!’
‘Put everything back when you’re done,’ says Maureen, the very second I move a cup. ‘There’s a black bag for rubbish in the kitchen. And don’t forget to sign the book.’