I arrived home to find the kitchen painted Friesian cow style. Black and white patches, each the size of half a calf, littered my vision. Open-mouthed, I gawped awhile. As is appropriate when you leave a perfectly cream kitchen in the morning and come back to cattle-splattered walls.
I found my husband in the sitting room watching Oddballs, a TV show in which the winner is the strangest contestant.
“What’s going on?”
“Trixie asked first. I only said yes because she promised to paint over it in a few days.”
Trixie would win Oddballs given a chance. I knew life would be ‘different’ with her as our lodger. She’d arrived to see the place with bulldog clips in her hair rather than slides — always a dead giveaway if you want to identify someone unusual.
“Couldn’t she have used an ordinary canvas like other, erm… Artists?”
“It’s only for a few days Love. She needs to express herself.”
We left Oddballs, and stood, arm in arm, gazing at the kitchen walls.
“And what do you think she’s trying to say?”
The evening continued along similar lines.
“Where are my pans? I need to make dinner.”
I climbed the stairs to Trixie’s room.
“Seen my pans, Trixie?”
“Oh. Yeah. I’m melting wax in one. Another’s got paint in it. You know? From when I did the kitchen?”
“What! You can’t use my pans for that kind of thing! And where are you melting wax? There are no pans on the stove.”
Trixie waved an outstretched hand, while clutching a crumbling scone, at my ironing board, on which balanced my pan on an upturned iron.
“And why do you want to melt wax, anyway?”
“I’m making candles to sell at the market. Which reminds me, I need old tights to rub a shine on them when they’re out of their casts. Got any? These old socks don’t work very well.”
She held up a pair of my husband’s golfing socks, now covered in cold, waxy white bits.
Later that night, I heard my husband holla. Or maybe it was a scream. I can’t be sure.
“Why didn’t you lock the bathroom door Trixie. And who is that?”
I rushed to the scene and found him pointing at a naked man with dreadlocks sat in the bath with our lodger.
“It’s alright man. Don’t sweat. I’m Grubby.”
I glanced at the brown bath water.
“Yes, I can see that.”
“That’s my name!”
I remembered to cover my eyes — although it was already too late.
“Well, see you both downstairs for a cup of tea, when you’ve finished.”
It turned out Grubby had been chained up a tree, in an attempt to save it from being cut down for three days. And before then, he’d camped in the woods.
“Haven’t you got a home to go to?”
My husband wore a look of desperation.
“Yes. Thought I’d stay here with my Trixie for a few days, though.”
“Fine. While you’re here, you can both paint the kitchen. Cream. Not zebra or parrot. Or blackbird. Cream.”
We don’t have lodgers now. It’s quieter. And when I come home, the house is just as I left it. But we still laugh about those days with Trixie and Grubby.