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Robin Flies West

Robin was off to Australia to celebrate her mum's 80th birthday. The cats and I were looking forward to two weeks of eating mice, and sharing our lizards in the bed.

The first thing Robin needed to do was pack a suitcase. Like many things in Robin's life, her suitcase is purple. She claims it matches her hair, and who am I to argue with something that is so demonstrably true?

She opened a few dressing-table drawers at random and tossed a bra, a sock and a knicker into the suitcase. Then she held them in place with a tee shirt and a trouser. Now all she needed was her toilet bag. This was difficult – she had two to choose from. Naturally she chose the wrong one.

"My toothpaste tube is too big to fit into the bag," she complained, brandishing something the size and shape of a small alp.

"Fold it in two," I suggested, and she gave me a purple glare.

"Never mind," I said. "I can easily fix the problem. Pass it over here."

Somewhat dubiously, she gave me her toothpaste tube and I went into the bathroom where I swapped it for a smaller tube that I just happened to have lying around. However when I got back to the bedroom where Robin was busy with her suitcase, I found that it wasn't needed. She'd changed her mind.

"I think I'll use the other toilet bag," she said. "It's bigger."

She began transferring things from the old bag to the new one. "Can I have my original toothpaste tube back, please?"

I retrieved it from the bathroom. "Thanks," said Robin vaguely, as I handed it to her. She was too deeply immersed in the intellectual problem of deciding which items needed transferring and which ones she could do without to pay much attention to me.

"Shampoo?" she pondered. "Yes, I think so." It went into the new bag. "Conditioner? Yes, my hair is in a delicate state at the moment. Toothbrush? I suppose so, since I'm taking the toothpaste. It would be a shame not to use it. Nail clippers? No, I don't need those. Motor bike?"

"Motor bike?" I asked.

"A girl never knows when she'll need her motor bike," said Robin as she retrieved the small plastic model from one toilet bag and placed it carefully in the other.

I left her to her packing and went to watch the television. I had 42 channels to choose from but there was nothing on any of them, and so I watched the blank screen instead. Have you ever noticed how well designed screens are? They are just perfect for watching. I've tried feeling them and smelling them and tasting them and even listening to them, but nothing works nearly as well as watching them.

Robin's plane left at sparrow fart which meant that check in time was at evil-o-clock. The alarm went off at 3.00am.

"Yippee!", said Porgy The Cat, wide awake in an instant, and eager with the anticipation of breakfast. "Yummy, yummy. Feed me now."

"Me too, me too!" Bess was anxious not to be left out.

"Hurry up with those biscuits," growled Harpo, "or I'll bite you in the goolies. Perhaps I'll bite you in the goolies anyway just because I can. I'm fluffier than you are and that counts for a lot; you just can't win against me. I'm wearing knickerbockers and white ankle socks."

With cats criss-crossing dangerously between my naked and moderately fluffy legs, I staggered into the kitchen, put some biscuits down and topped up the water bowls. Then I went to have a shower. As I was drying myself, Porgy wandered into the bathroom for his daily treat. He ambled into the shower stall and slurped up some shampooey water. Then he sat down in a puddle of it and watched me pulling the towel back and forth across my damp skin.

"You look funny without your fur on," he said. "What colour fur are you going to wear today?"

"I think I'll wear black," I said to him, "so that I blend in with the darkness outside."

"Good idea," he replied and he wandered off, his wet bottom gleaming in the light of the energy saver bulb.

"Ahhhhhhh!!!", screamed Robin from the bed, where she was cunningly grabbing a few more moments of illicit sleep. "Porgy sat on my face! He's all wet!"

"Have a shower and wash it off," I suggested. She crawled out of bed and began to ablute.

I got dressed and made myself a cup of coffee. I picked up the biscuits that Harpo had scattered all across the kitchen floor (he's a very messy eater) and put them back in the bowl as a surprise treat for Bess. Robin staggered sleepily from the bathroom to the bedroom to get dressed. "I wish I hadn't packed my motor bike," she said. "I could really use a motor bike just at the moment."

"Can't you make do with the stress turkey that's hiding in the dragon's hollow tree instead?" I asked.

"I suppose I'll have to," she said. "But it's not the same."

Once she was dressed we put the purple case into the car and set off for the airport. It was about 3.45am. The man who lives in the house at the bottom of the street was mowing his lawn, and he waved as we drove past. The roads were full of traffic.

"Where are all these people going to and coming from?" I wondered. "Surely they can't all be catching a plane? If they were all leaving, the country would be empty! Oh wait..."

"I bet none of them have purple cases," said Robin proudly. I'm sure she was right.

"Did you remember to pack a book to read on the plane?" I asked her.

"Yes," she said. "I chose it very carefully. It's a bodice-ripper called Emma And The Persuasion Of Mansfield Northanger. I picked it because it's full of purple prose, but with no sense or sensibility about it at all."

"Any pride?" I asked.

"Only prejudice," she replied.

The airport was full of hustle and bustle and bright lights. I dropped Robin off and gave her a hug. She purpled herself and her suitcase into the terminal building where she checked in and received a boarding pass with a luggage receipt stuck on the back of it. The luggage receipt was about an eighth of an inch wider than the boarding pass, and so it exposed a small sticky strip around the edge that was just ideal for picking up pocket fluff and cat hairs, and for sticking firmly to the pages of a book and tearing them when you used it for a bookmark. I do admire such design perfection – it must have cost the airport authorities a fortune to get it just right.

I left Robin to the tender mercies of the airport administration and I drove off to Woolworths to do the weekly shopping. What else is there to do at that time of the morning?

Woolworths was deserted. The drunks were long gone, sleeping off the beer and wine they'd blearily bought two hours ago. Cashiers with nothing better to do chattered in a desultory fashion, waiting for their shift to end so that they could all go home and sleep the sleep of the just finished work. As I pushed my trolley round the empty aisles, I could feel their suspicious eyes staring at me.

"Oooh look! He's put some vegetables in his trolley! Nobody's ever bought vegetables at 4.30am before. Do think we should ring the police? He must be up to no good."

I wandered past the meat counter and down to the bulk produce area.

"He's chosen some lamb! That proves it. He must be a terrorist. Look! Look! Cashew nuts! What's going on?"

I pushed the trolley past the chiller.

"Oh no! Yoghurt! There's no way he can be an honest man. What is the world coming to?"

I paid for the things in my trolley and took them home. The man in the house at the bottom of the street had finished mowing his lawn and was now pruning his roses. The prunes kept falling off the thorns, and he was swearing at them.

I cooked a lamb korma with the ingredients I'd bought from Woolworths. It had finished simmering by 8.30am, and I put it to one side to cool down. It always tastes better after the ingredients have had several hours to mingle and rot. I would be eating lamb korma for my tea for the next four days. Ah – the joy of homonyms!

Time to put the washing on. Perhaps I should vacuum the carpet or clean the windows. It was still very early, and the rest of day stretched endlessly before me. I was rapidly running out of avoidance tactics. Soon I would have to read a book...

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