On Sundays in particular, I always seem to end up with mountains of washing. There's washing cascading down the ironing board, dirty socks rolled under the radiator, and piles of T-Shirts behind the door. I was sprawled on the sofa at 11:00am last Sunday, averting my gaze from Liam's dirty jeans (which had been left halfway up the cat's scratching post) all set to watch catch-ups of Glee and repeats of Britain's Got Talent with my mug of tea - nice and cosy in my pyjamas.
Just one more cup of tea, and I'll get going. I plumped the pillow behind my head and narrowed my eyes to focus on the dancing dogs on television running circles around a woman dressed in a gaudy sparkly shirt. The audience roared with laughter. I tried my best to ignore the fluff that was scattered about the carpet, and the piles of washing I could spy wedged behind the bedroom door. But I couldn't help but notice the specks of dust resting on the top of the glass television stand. The little clean-freak in me, suddenly found a voice.
"Right, cat." I spoke aloud to Bess who was looking quizzically at me as I stood up off the sofa, stretching. "I'd best get going."
For a tiny flat, there was a lot to do.
- White machine wash
- Wash up dishes
- Change bedsheets
- Hoover carpets
- Hang washing out to dry
- Shake rugs over balcony
- Water plants
- Dark machine wash
For a holy day of rest, I figured that'd be enough, for now at least. Still in my pyjamas, I set to it, sourcing all the runaway white socks, and thinking of the long, hot shower which awaited me once I was done.
The washing machine was on, humming loudly, making all the teaspoons clatter about, as if they were dancing in the sink. In no time at all, I was quite enjoying ripping the sheets off the bed, and using the pillowcases as a duster on the bedstead.
In the middle of our tiny living room is my rag rug. I'd fallen in love with it after spotting it in a farm shop on the rural trip to Yorkshire that Liam had taken me on for our anniversary. It wasn't expensive and looked as if it had been made with love. The rags were of every colour under the sun, all tied up in knots. I just had to have it. With my new found cleaning enthusiasm, I wrapped up the rug and lugged it through the front door and out onto the open corridor of our block of flats.
It was a windy afternoon, and a gust caught my hair as I stepped outside. The wind chimes rattled against the bricks on the side of the flat and my climbing jasmine plant flew into a frenzy. Taking the corners of the heavy rug, I flopped it over the side of the railings, and picking up some bamboo sticks lying against the drainpipe, I began to beat a couple of months worth of dust over the courtyard below (gingerly hoping none of my neighbours walked past). I could hear the radio blaring out from the kitchen, playing Fleetwood Mac, and I absent mindedly began to beat in time to Go Your Own Way. My recently potted herbs had been blown almost horizontal in the strong winds, and I paused my beating for a moment to bend down and ruffle them back the right way.
And then it happened.
I heard the trees below in the courtyard, their leaves starting a crescendo of shhhhhhhing. The flowerpots clattered over, spinning and sifting soil over my balcony. I squinted my eyes as the wind blew right threw my thin Primark pyjamas, before slamming my front door shut, almost defiantly, with an almighty BANG.
I stood on my balcony with the bamboo stick still in my hand, and stared at the front door wide-eyed, every bit of me willing it to open again. I looked around at all the little herb pots and cursed myself for having so many pots, and not thinking to hide a spare key in one of them.
I guessed it was about 2:30pm. Liam was due home at 7:00pm. I imagined keeping myself occupied with pot plants on my balcony for five hours until he returned with keys. Horrifying. I could probably get away with wandering into town in my pyjamas, perhaps browse around the shops for a bit... But with no shoes on? No. That would definitely look suspicious. I hopped from one foot to the other for a moment, thinking about what to do.
Then I noticed that the top section of the bathroom window was ever so slightly ajar. Our bathroom and kitchen windows are fitted with old mottled glass and framed with metal. The section at the top which opens out onto our open corridor leaves a reasonable sized gap... perhaps just big enough for my head to fit through.
I stood on my tiptoes and pulled out the window as far as it would go. Placing my bare left foot precariously on the metal railings (avoiding the four floored drop below me) I jumped up, placing my right foot on the window sill and held on for grim life.
I didn't pause to think too much about what I might look like to my neighbour in the flat opposite, I just hoped he recognised it was me doing acrobatics in my pyjamas, and not someone strange looking to breaking in.
The gap didn't look quite as generous as it had done earlier. Twisting my head to the side I pushed my head through. The metal sides scraped across my ears, and I saw out of the corner of my eye that moss was growing along one edge. Must remove that later.
I wiggled one arm inside and clung on to the tiled wall to my left. Ah-ha! Nearly in. Just need to push my head through... But my head was jammed stuck. I lifted my left leg and hoisted it up, so my ankle was over the side of the window. Blimey. I bet this doesn't look good from the flats opposite. I tried not to think about how thin (and perhaps see-through) my pyjamas were, or how capable the fifty year-old window was at holding my weight.
The metal was really hurting my ear now. I thought about pushing one last time; either pop my head through and risk getting my bum stuck (but then there was the two metre drop on the inside into the bath tub which I had to manoeuvre), or I could go back the way I came and re-evaluate.
I didn't fancy having to call the fire brigade out to rescue me if I got stuck halfway between my bathroom window and the open corridor in little more than flimsy pyjamas. I would re-evaluate. I had no phone and it didn't bear thinking about who might have to call emergency services.
It was a struggle dislodging my head, but as I leaped (rather elegantly I might add) off the windowsill with a whoop of relief, I noticed a man in the courtyard below, staring up at me in bewilderment.
He was around the age of thirty; tall, dark... and yes, rather handsome. He was presumably sorting out his garage, as he was surrounded by old bike parts, a toddler's tricycle, tins of paint and a large dust sheet.
"I'm locked out." I yelled down to him in explanation. "I'm not breaking in..." I added unnecessarily (but just in case).
He smiled, and I suddenly remembered I was in my pyjamas.
"I have a ladder in here if you want it...?" He offered.
"Well, I've sort of tried getting up there, but the problem was more that I couldn't fit my head
through the window..."
"I see..." He disappeared into his garage for a moment before poking his head around the side and yelling up to me. "Give me one minute, and I'll be up."
I perched on the edge of the old storage box by my front door that I use to keep my potting tools dry, and waited for him. Within a few minutes, I heard the sound of heavy footsteps getting louder as he paced it up to the fourth floor.
"I thought we might have to take the window off." He said as he came around the corner and propped up the ladder before stepping back to assess the size of the window. "Yup. As I thought..." He said, still out of breath from the four flights of steps. "I've got the screwdriver right here."
A job which might have taken me over an hour on my own, was completed in a couple of minutes. He asked me to hold up the one side, then lower the other, and I felt very important as I took the weight of the window, and pretended I knew what I was doing. Finally, Mr Tall Dark And Handsome unscrewed the upper window pane before handing it to me to place carefully on the floor.
Hopping up the steps to the ladder (trying to look demure and dignified in faded, old pyjama bottoms) I clung to the window, hoping that if I did it quickly, I wouldn't flash him - or if I did flash him, it wouldn't be for long.
Deep breath. Then I launched myself through the two foot gap, one leg after the other, landing heavily in the bath.
"You alright?" He called through the window.
My heel had caught the sideboard as I'd fallen into the bath and I'd broken a tile. Never mind. I'll try and pass that one off as wear and tear.
"Yeah! Fine! Thanks!" I called back, rubbing my sore foot and hoping he wouldn't peek through the window to check.
I raced through the flat, almost skipping with joy to be back where the radio was blaring, the cat was crying, and the dust settled smugly on the television. Flipping the latch, I poked my head around the door, to find he was already up the ladder fixing the window back on - no help from me needed.
In no time at all, he had his ladder tucked under one arm, his tool box in his hand, and I was thanking him profusely. My-name-is-Rory-if-you're-ever-locked-out-again lived in flat 42, the block one down from mine. He did mention that such things happen on blustery days and not to worry at all, because I hadn't inconvenienced him in the slightest. I apologised for the pyjamas and waved him goodbye.
As I stood on my balcony for a moment listening to him clatter his ladder down the stairs, I gazed across the courtyard to the flats opposite me. That bloke with the silvery swept back hair who has a fag in his dressing-gown was leaning against his front door, as always - seemingly unfazed by my Sunday spectacle. Welsh David (who flies into fits of rage at the prospect of anyone leaving their odd bits of furniture by the wheelie bins) was no doubt twitching his lace curtains in my direction. I might have had to ask one of them. I shuddered at the thought of Welsh David hoisting me over the window in my pyjamas. As I dragged my beautiful rag rug back into my flat, I'd resolved that Sundays weren't really the day for cleaning, but perhaps a good day to meet the hunkier of my neighbours. Ooh. I'd be the talk of the next Neighbourhood Watch meeting, I just knew it. Let them gossip. I quite liked that.