‘I’m wearing my socks in bed tonight.’ Medders made the announcement loudly, defiantly, almost brashly. Here was a man asserting himself, a man capable of taking his own decisions, a man who cared not a fig for what anyone else thought of him.
‘Fine socks they are too,’ he opined, sitting on the bed and looking down towards his feet at the socks in all their diamond-patterned splendour. ‘Cotton rich, with a hint of lycra, and reinforced soles. Just the job for keeping a man’s toes warm at night if they happen to stick out from under the duvet.’
But here’s the thing: there was no one around to disagree with him. His cocky words had an audience of zero as Medders had the run of the Manor entirely to himself. With Hermione away on a brief break with Her Majesty, the mother-in-law, he was free to wear socks in bed – two pairs of socks if he chose.
No one would mind, no one would protest or suggest that the wearing of socks in bed is unhygienic and desperately un-cool. For seven days only, he could revert to being a bachelor, with all the eccentricity and irregularity that attended the single state.
His only resident companion for the seven days of wifely vacation was The Pooch, who was not in the least concerned at socks in bed or milk cartons on the dinner table or newspapers strewn across the hall. It was all the same to the dog whether the fire was set or the floor swept, as long as he had walkies and a full food bowl.
Medders had secretly been looking forward to the week of living solo ever since the missus announced that she and her mother had booked cheap flights to some sunnier clime. He would have the lads around. He would eat whatever happened to be in the freezer. He would rise early in the mornings and retire late at night – or maybe vice versa.
The eating-out-of-the-freezer resolution provided a diet a haphazard diet. The fish pie was excellent – such a pity there was no one to share it with, no excuse to open that bottle of French white he had put aside to accompany just such a dish.
And the pie, so big that he did not finish it in the one sitting, was not quite as tasty when re-heated the next evening. But it was considerably more appetising than the anonymous frost damaged concoction he served himself the following day. The figures on the label were worn but could they really read 2015?
Whether or not it was seven years since it was put in cold storage, the meat had lost all flavour and took an awful lot of chewing. Not that The Pooch minded at all as his ration of dry dog nuts was supplemented by a dollop of greying, gristly protein in beige sauce.
The notion of having the lads around for a few beers never took flight. Just because he was footloose and fancy free did not mean that his friends could suddenly drop their domestic commitments and revert to pre-marital type. One was locked in combat with a flat-pack wardrobe which was proving nigh impossible to assemble. A second was committed to watching a reality TV series with his missus.
After a third hamstrung mate indicated that he had grandchildren to baby-sit, Medders decided that the slab of cans he had bought in for the occasion would keep until Christmas. At least he could still luxuriate in having free run of home.
He could cook kippers without prompting nose-wrinkled remarks about the lingering smell. He could have black pudding for breakfast without being given a reminder of the dangers of a high cholesterol diet. He could waste a carefree hour tangling with a particularly knotty sudoku.
As long as he remembered to put the bin out on the appointed day and water the house plants and check the mouse traps, he could do pretty much whatever he chose. And he could wear those socks in bed. Indeed he would wear those socks in bed. And no one else need ever know.
It was not that he actually liked wearing socks in bed but, at the end of the lonesome day, it was easier to leave them on. Not that he would admit as much. Even to himself.