The women were coated and booted and out of the door almost before Anna finished speaking.
“So. What do we have to do about bedrooms? It isn’t hoovering, is it?” Jim asked with some unease.
“Nah. We just have to make some beds and put towels in some bathrooms. After which, I suggest dragging the hounds out for a tramp in the rain.”
“Sounds like a plan to me.”
“Is. I’ll phone Anna just before we set out in case there are further orders.”
“Good thinking. Let’s keep those girls sweet. One angry is bad news, but on the rare occasion I’ve managed to piss both of them off together I’ve been very, very sorry.”
“I’ll bet,” Sam concurred with some feeling. “Anna only has to give me that single raised eyebrow and all my manly courage deserts me.”
“So. Let’s do our duties then. Do we know which rooms?’
“Yeah. We’ll stick them all in the annexe. Then Rod can keep an eye on the boys.”
“He’s used to that. He bloody well invited himself anyway, so we should put him in the shed.”
“Nah. He might touch my lathe.”
Jim roared with laughter, then said.
“You got a lathe? I’m jealous. I’ve always wanted to learn wood turning.”
“Stick with me. I’ll gladly teach you all I know. I’ve got some holly wood and I’ve been making bowls for Anna, but she don’t know yet. I’ll show you later.”
Jim grinned like a schoolboy.
“I’d like that if you’re serious.”
“Oh yeah. I’m serious.”
They cleared up the kitchen and loaded the dishwasher before making beds and folding towels. Then Sam called Anna, and was graciously given permission to take the dogs out – but warned to be back by twelve-thirty if he wanted lunch.
“Will do ma’am.”
He ended the call before she could singe his ears for cheek.
“C’mon Jim. If they are calling twelve-thirty lunch, I reckon they are expecting to be back here about noon. So. If we are back here by quarter to we can gain many, many points by unloading the shopping.”
“You crafty brown-nosing bastard! I’m impressed. Let’s get to it.”
They frogmarched the dogs around a brisk couple of miles and were home with coffee on and dogs wiped before the Range Rover rolled onto the drive.
“You do the cappuccinos. I’ll start unloading,” Jim grinned and sprinted out. The girls came in dripping and giggling, and Sam took their coats before presenting each with a foaming coffee.
“Mmm. You certainly know how to make a girl feel welcome,” Patsy grinned and took a restorative sip.
Sam bowed, and sprinted off to help Jim with the groceries.
“What are those two up to?”
“Oh. It’ll be Sam. He’s an expert at acquiring brownie points. It’s a kind of a game we play. Why?”
“Just wondered if the buggers had been up to no good. Which is unfair. Comes of being the mother of five boys – at least one of whom will be up to no good at any given time.”
The men staggered in laden.
“You weren’t joking about a big shop. Do I need to crawl to the bank manager for a bridging loan?”
“No,” Jim interspersed “you’re okay. We’ll sell one of the brats.”
Then they charged out into the rain again.
“They are having fun together,” Patsy remarked ruminatively. “Which makes Sam the first non-Cracksman Jim has seen fit to befriend. Part of it will be because he’s yours, but it seems to me like they actually like each other. Which is amazing. And very nice.”
“Is. But we have a mountain of groceries to put away. Or I do. Can you get a pan of quick bread dough going for pizzas?”
“Can do. Point me at the ingredients.”
So it was that the kitchen was serene and the four of them were settling down to loaded pizzas not much after the stated twelve-thirty. After a few moments of concentrated greed, Sam spoke.
“Why do I get the feeling you think I’m mad inviting your kids here. They’ve been here before with no terrible outcome.”
“True,” Jim said, “but we never had the twins with us.”
“No,” Sam agreed “you didn’t. But do you reckon they are likely to be troublesome?”
“About bound to,” Anna said wryly. “Matt and Cy have to try their boundaries. And now you are family they won’t hold back.”
“She’s right,” Jim’s grin was half proud and half wary. “Any trouble. Belt ’em.”
Patsy agreed firmly. “Yeah. But if you do, make sure it smarts a bit.”
“Right got that. Two supplementaries. The twins. You almost always seem to refer to them as that, rather than Matt and Cy. I wondered why? Plus. Jamie is invited to Daniel and Paul’s wedding, but not the rest of the tribe?”
“Last first,” Jim grinned. “Daniel is Jamie’s sponsor. Like Rod and Bill.”
“OK. I get that.”
Patsy smiled at him.
“The Twins. That’s a bit more complicated. One: they only answer to their given names to me, their dad, and their grandmothers, but if you yell ‘twins’ they generally tip up. If they ain’t too busy. Two: they are currently joined at the hip – though that may change when sex rears its ugly head – so it’s difficult not to think of them as a single entity. Three: it’s easy and they prefer it. So. You can call them what you like, really. Jim’s Dad calls them ‘that pair of fuckers’, which they like a lot. Take it as a compliment. Grandpa Cracksman calls them ‘Solomon and David’ which makes them just about piss themselves. And Anna….”
“Calls them Dickhead and Shitface, if memory serves.”
She went very pink.
“I might have known you’d remember that.”