Much Dithering in Little Botheringham – 1

The new Sunday Serial, ‘Much Dithering in Little Botheringham’ is an everyday tale of village life and vampires, from Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook.

Ginny sat back and read over the list one more time.

The Menopause

Disadvantages 
hot flushes
depression
weight gain
dry skin
dry hair
hair loss in the places that should have hair
hair gain in the places that shouldn’t
vaginal dryness
men don’t notice you in the same way anymore
you can’t have children

Advantages
no more periods (!!)
no more PMS (!!!)
warm in winter
hair less greasy
skin less greasy
fuller figure
female bonding
men don’t notice you in the same way anymore
you can’t have children
becoming a vampire

She smiled and deleted the last line. Yes, it was an advantage, if not the advantage but she couldn’t put that in this piece. 
The title was buoyantly cheerful:

Virginia Creeper is Back! 

It felt good to see that.
Her maiden name was Cropper but from almost as soon as her pithy articles on good living had become popular in the mid-1990s, ‘Virginia Creeper’ was how she had been known. 
Her phone broke the peace of the morning with a tinny rendition of ‘The Ride of the Valkyries’ and she picked it up with reluctance from the white desk and sat back in her chair with a sigh as she answered it. Beyond the rectangle of her laptop’s screen, she could see through the window of her small cottage into the garden where two brownish birds were perched on the bird table, pecking at the wild bird seed she’d put out for them.
“Hello Lucinda, how are you?”
“Wonderful, wonderful. More to the point how are you? Burying yourself away in darkest rural England. It can’t be good for you.”
Ginny watched as a larger, black coloured, bird descended on the bird table and the other two flew off. She wondered idly what sort of birds they all were. Sparrows? Starlings? What colour were sparrows supposed to be anyway?
“I think it’s the best thing I’ve done in the last five years,” she answered honestly. 
“Are you sure it’s not just another phase of your menopausal depression? I worry about you all alone in the middle of nowhere with all that mud and muck and only yokels and bumpkins for company. You could still come back to London, you know. Keep that place as a holiday let or whatever.”
Ginny groaned.
“I’m not coming back, Lucinda. I love it here.”
“Just think what you’re missing, though.”
Ginny thought.
She had worked her way up the greasy pole from local reporter to tabloid features writer. Then when the internet became truly a ‘thing’ she had been one of the first to migrate online and her blog became essential reading for those looking for lifestyle advice – if the lifestyle was one that was both fashionable and organic.
Then it had all fallen apart.
Small things.
Complaining about the heat when others were cuddling up in warm coats.
Losing her temper once too often. Getting over-merry at a social event where there were too many who mattered. Her boyfriend and partner of the last fifteen years walking out after a pointless row.
Then her appearance started to change.
Her hair started thinning, leaving a noticeable bald patch. Her skin became dry and flakey, so each time she undressed a small snowstorm ensued. She found herself staring at her face in the mirror and thinking a stranger was staring back. It had taken waking each morning with a nameless feeling of dread to make her run to her GP, terrified she was in the grip of some awful illness. 
Her GP had been patronising and sanctimonious. It was all perfectly natural, he explained, nothing for her to worry about. She was, the GP revealed, going through the menopause. The GP talked about HRT and Ginny shook her head. There were too many scare stories, she’d even written some of them herself, and in the vulnerable place she was in, taking it seemed too big a step to take.
So she had suffered in silence.
Quite literally.
Everything in her life had ground to a standstill.
Even her cat had moved out and taken up with the man next door.
It had been worse than going through puberty backwards.
She had fled London to avoid everyone she knew. Using almost all her savings to purchase this little cottage and living on the little that remained. One of the reasons she was once more setting finger to keyboard was that steady evaporation of her funds.
“You still there, Ginny? Not done one of you silent withdrawal things again?”
“No. Not even slightly. I was just thinking what I was missing, as you suggested. The endless round of artificial smiles, the false promises, the free samples delivered with cloying fake goodwill and the backstabs and even death threats when I didn’t endorse them. And that’s not to mention the noise, the polluted air, the crushes on the tube and the dreadful traffic. Oh yes, I miss it all so much.”
“Don’t be overdramatic. You know it’s not all like that. There’s the culture, theatre, concerts, first-nights, hobnobbing with all those celebrities – you can’t tell me you don’t miss that?”
“I don’t miss it, Lucinda, not at all. But, FYI, I have decided to revive Virginia Creeper and I have a lot of interest from the broadsheets about me doing a regular feature.”
“Oh?” 
Was that a spike of acid, Ginny heard in the single syllable? If anyone had benefited from Ginny’s premature departure it had been Lucinda. Her lacklustre lifestyle pieces had become more popular in the void left when Ginny herself vanished from the scene.
“I thought you’d be pleased,” Ginny said, able to do false sincerity with the best of them.
“What is your returning piece going to focus on?”
“Oh this and that. I thought I might tell the story of how I got involved with the local Ladies’ Association.”
“Really? That would be so utterly charming.”
The relief in Lucinda’s tone was almost tangible. Ginny had to smile. That was another thing she didn’t miss about her old life, these cold false friendships required by what they all called ‘networking’.
“Oh yes, I think it will be and maybe a piece on the menopause and how it affected me.”
“I’m sure that will go down well with the Millenials,” Lucinda’s voice had taken on a slightly bored lull. Ginny knew what that meant and started counting down from twenty silently in her head.
“I am so pleased to hear you’re getting back into writing though, it will be good to see your name again in the bylines.”
Fifteen…fourteen…
“And of course if ever you do decide to return to civilization you must come and stay with me and Malcolm…”
Eight…seven…
“And of course keep in touch. I dread to think it, but  if I didn’t make these efforts to call you you’d have gone native in that place.”
“Little Botheringham,” Ginny provided helpfully.
Three…two…
“Oh yes. That was it.”
One…
“Well it’s been nice chatting but I have to go. Some of us have busy lives still. Bye for now.”
The line went dead before Ginny could add her own farewell and she put the phone down on her desk. It wasn’t a bad idea actually, telling the story of how she had come to join the Little Botheringham Ladies’ Association…

Part 2 of Much Dithering in Little Botheringham by Jane Jago and E.M. Swift-Hook, will be here next week.

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