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  • Philip Bryer

Just Hanging Around

Updated: May 13, 2020

I was dancing around the kitchen the other night. On my own. To the happy sound of The Soggy Bottom Boys and Man of Constant Sorrow.

So, why this solo terpsichore at 7:30 on a Thursday night? Partly, I think, because I don’t smoke anymore. Because if I’d still been on the tabs, I would have puffed away the time, puffed myself closer to my maker while having a gin and tonic. And I don’t drink gin and tonic anymore, well, I don’t touch the gin element, anyway. Hence, while I was hanging around waiting for Mrs Bryer to get ready and come down so we could go out, on this occasion I chose to amuse myself by soft-shoeing it around the terracotta tiles.

monkey hanging from branch

It beats pacing up and down. Although I do that as well. I also visit the utility room window and look out of it in the expectation that the view might have changed a bit in the 3 minutes since I last checked.

The thing is, as soon as I decide to take the sensible option to read a book or watch the director’s cut of Once Upon A Time In America (four-and-a-half-hours of fun with gangsters), no sooner have I settled down, than Sandra shimmers into view, looking suitably gorgeous and questioning why I’m not ready yet.

“I’ll have a quick shower,” I say, having forgotten part of the deal was that I had to get ready too. At last, a couple of shirts later - "you’re not wearing that one are you?" - and we’re ready for the off. Except I haven’t switched on the answerphone, or locked the back door, or got my shoes on yet. “I’ve been busy,” I protest loudly. The bit about dancing round the kitchen to Man of Constant Sorrow, I keep to myself.

We had a family do many years back. This involved us going out for Sunday lunch with Sandra’s ex-husband and his new partner. I'll make no further comment on the prospect, bar that this particular Sunday morning was upon us before we knew it. Sandra was getting suitably glammed up, and I was mooching about, awaiting their arrival. In an idle moment, I put my fag down, set the gin to one side, and picked out one of Sandra’s old rings from a box. A delicate little sparkly thing, it slid onto my little finger quite easily. Trouble was, I couldn’t get it off. Not with tugging, nor soap, not even near-dislocation would make it budge. When Sandra appeared, she spoke those words every husband loves to hear, "What are you doing?"

I held my hand up, wiggling my ring-bound pinkie. She laughed.

"You know where I got that?" she asked.


"Tony gave it to me when we first started going out".

Now, I’m aware that we stray into sitcom territory here, for this is a plot which is surely straight out of Terry and June, but it's all true, I assure you. I got the ring off just as our visitors were coming up the path, and with no thanks to Mrs Bryer either, who was too busy chortling, yes, giving it some proper chortle, at my discomfort.

It was almost as bad as when I killed the waiting time by absent-mindedly painting all of the nails on my left hand with scarlet nail varnish, only for Mrs B to tell me she was out of nail varnish remover.

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