Verity Red is having third thoughts…

Why is she staring out of her bedroom window and wondering – Is this really happening?

Why is she trapped in a cold, pitch dark room. With a voice in her head saying – Is this really happening?

Why is she sitting in a dirty, depressing, uninhabited house and saying to herself – Is this really happening?

Why is she watching the news and thinking –

Scroll down for extracts and illustrations…

Wednesday 5th December

2.03 p.m. SHOCK! HORROR! It’s gone completely black! I can’t see a thing! I’m trapped! Where’s the door?Need to find the handle!…. Can’t find the handle! Where is the handle?…. Where is it?!… I’m shaking. Must calm down. Must calm down…. Deep breaths. Must not panic. Must not panic. Must… Not.. Panic.

2.04 p.m. PANIC! PANIC! I can’t breathe! This tiny toilet cubicle is SO claustrophobic. I want to beat my hands on the door and shout – ‘HELP!’ But think it would be pointless, there’s an outer room with the wash-hand basin, then a corridor with all the doors shut. No-one will hear me. And there’s noone in the waiting area nearby. Ben is searching for a parking space. He could be ages, we are in London! And I’ll feel silly anyway……… This blackness so suffocating….. Where is the handle?…. Ah. Got it. Didn’t expect it to be so low down. It feels stiff. Am I sliding it the wrong way?……… Phew! At last, I’m out. But outer room is pitch black too. God, I hate these automatic lights. It’s so long since I’ve been to the clinic, I forgot about them. Vaguely recall, last time I switched the light on when I entered the ladies’ room here……. Where is the light switch? Where is the light switch? Is it on the inside of the room? Can’t…. find….. light…. switch. Must retrieve handbag. Where’s my handbag?… Where is it?…. Where is it?…. Must be next to the toilet. Somehow hold toilet door open and at same time feel around toilet for handbag. Have touched something soft and damp on the floor….. Ugh….. Horrible!

Thursday 10th January

ME: Look at the label on this can of lentil and vegetable soup. I thought it had a warning on the front, a heart warning. And that it was thickened with rough-chopped root vegetables and split ends!

BEN: Ah, it’s hearty and warming, thickened with rough-chopped vegetables and split lentils. Is painting by numbers making your eyes extra tired?

ME: I must admit it’s more tiring than I thought it would be. I’d forgotten just how much concentration it takes to paint, and I didn’t think I’d become fatigued so quickly. BUT it does make time fly and I’ll get there in the end.

BEN: In the split end?

ME: Yes dear. It’ll feel like a HUGE achievement.

Thursday 7th February

11.37 a.m. Clothes scream – wash me!…. Plants weep – I’m thirsty!…. The stair carpet shouts – hoover me!

11.38 a.m. I recall mum used to say, ‘No peace for the wicked’ (in her lilting Irish voice). I must be very wicked for not doing enough housework.

11.39 a.m. I will not have peas with dinner tonight – no peas for the wicked.

11.40 a.m. I curl up under the bed covers. So tired. Is this really happening?

Sunday 1st September

10.02 a.m. I sleepily watched a tiny, fluffy white feather float dreamily down from the heavenly blue September sky – as if falling from the warm wing of a passing angel. A white butterfly appeared from out of the blue and fluttered around it. They danced together for a while to the rhythm of the cool morning breeze – Mother Nature’s waltz. Then disappeared from view like lovers deeply in love, wanting to be alone together, and gaze lovingly into each other’s eyes. And kiss with gentle butterfly kisses. Forever.

Wednesday 4th September

12.49 p.m. I sit. Very, very still. I’m playing statues. Just like the squirrels do on our our fence when they sense a big, hairy feline with lots of claws and teeth is nearby. I don’t turn my head or make the slightest movement. Just blink. And slowly turn my eyes sideways to watch one of our squirrels spring sprightly onto the bird table next to me. I turn my head very slowly, very slightly, and delight in watching her stuff her little grey, whiskery face with as many peanuts as she can, till her cheeks bulge. Then she bounces away along the fence to find the next place to bury her stash – beautiful, bushy tail twitching…. little paws galloping at super-speed.… hurry… hurry… Autumn is on it’s way… boing!… boing!… boing!

Tuesday 2nd June

BEN: We’ve got a Tesco delivery arriving soon.

ME: I’ve had my M.E. eyeballs in. When you printed out the shopping list for me to see if I wanted to add anything, I read Farmhouse Wholemeal Loaf, as Famous Wholemeal Loaf. Fair Trade bananas as Fairytale bananas. Reduced fat hummus as reduced fat humans. Then, Meat Free Pasties as Meat Free Parasites. Where it said, Updated Order Confirmation, I read this as Update and Order Your Coffin!… I’m wondering if the pandemic is getting to me a little. Reading an advert for an insurance company that said they guarantee to pay every claim, I read this as, We quarantine to pay every claim. And in TV Weekly I read the film Look Who’s Talking as Lockdown Talking.

Saturday 7th November

ME: Can’t you just see us cosy under blankets, riding on a sleigh pulled by reindeer.

BEN: Singing Jingle Bells (laughing).

ME: Of course! And there’s places to stop off and drink hot berry juice, and eat freshly baked ginger cookies. And look at this beautiful photo of the setting sun, making the snowy scenery magical and sparkly – don’t you just want to be there right now!

BEN: No, not really. After the stress of the journey and finding the accommodation isn’t what was advertised, and there’s hardly any vegetarian food, and you get upset because reindeer is on the menu, and you want to take a husky dog home with you because he looks too old and tired to be pulling a sledge and he takes a liking to you – we might wish we had stayed at home in the warm, instead of shivering in our boots with frozen toes. And you do catch a chill very easily, you’re not getting any younger dear. You do feel the cold more than ever. You will need at least two cardies over your thermals and woolly jumper under a thick, heavy jacket. With all the weight you will hardly be able to move, which will make you fatigued. And cold air will make your asthma flare up.

ME: Thank you. That’s my wonderful winter wonderland holiday daydream over!….. But you are right.