The Nancy Drew That Never Was
When I was a kid, all of my friends wanted to be things like dentists and train drivers and stuff. (Note: none of my friends wanted to be dentists or train drivers. I just said that in case one of them reads this, recognises themselves, and then goes off at me for mocking their childhood dream of being a lollipop lady. Whoops.) (There is nothing wrong with being a dentist, train driver, or lollipop lady, by the way. You go on with your bad selves, lollipop ladies of the world.) (I really hate the way I always have to qualify everything I say in case I offend someone who doesn’t realise that it’s supposed to be a joke.) (I’ve written so many parentheses now that I honestly can’t remember what I was talking about. How are you all? What’s your weather like? Can anyone remember why I’m here?)
OK, I’m just going to start this again…
When I was a kid, all of my friends wanted to be things like dentists and train drivers and stuff. Not me, though. I wanted to be a pop star/actress who was also in the British showjumping team, and who solved mysteries in her spare time, like Nancy Drew. And who ran a riding school, which also had kennels, and I kept all of the abandoned animals of the world in them. And the stables were next to a big, glass house, which I lived in and wrote all my Booker prize winning novels from. It was going to be freaking ACE, seriously.
Now, the fact that I couldn’t sing or act for toffee, and was also pretty rubbish at showjumping, to be completely honest, didn’t even enter my mind here, although I DID spend a disproportionate amount of time worrying about how I would juggle the demands of an international showjumping career with the worldwide stadium tours I would be undertaking. And who would run the riding school when I was on location, shooting my next big movie? It was a worry, and I mean it was an ACTUAL worry. I would lie awake at night fretting over the fact that there were no existing showjumping detectives with amazing vocal talents, and that I would have to blaze the trail in this respect. “It’s not fair,” I thought, moodily. “I have to do EVERYTHING by myself.”
Then, of course, was the fear that I hadn’t started early enough with my plans. I’d started riding lessons when I was relatively young, sure, but I was still no closer to actually owning a pony, and I couldn’t carry a note in a bucket. One thing I COULD make a start on, though, was the detective work. I knew that all of the great detectives of our time – Nancy Drew, the Famous Five, Frederick “Fatty” Trotteville of the Five Find-Outers and Dog – had all solved their first mysteries by the time they were in their early teens. I, at ten, was quickly running out of time, so I decided not to bother waiting until I grew up (which was wise, in retrospect, given that I’m STILL waiting for that to happen…) and just become a famous detective right now.
To this end, I acquired a notepad and pen, roped in some unfortunate friends to be my sidekicks, asked my parents if I could use the garden shed as my base (they said no. So, really, it’s their fault that I’m not sitting here with medals hanging off my chest for my services to detective work, seriously), and went out in search of a mystery to solve.
I searched long and hard for this mystery. I would patrol the neighbourhood with my friends, collecting “clues” – to what, I had no idea. The “clues” were things like old cigarette ends, discarded Coke cans and, on one memorable occasion, A FRAGMENT OF AN OLD SHOE. Which proved it, basically. I don’t what what it proved exactly, but I told myself that this motley collection of “clues” (which were by no means just bits of rubbish, so don’t even think it) offered concrete evidence that something was going on.
Sadly for me, I never did work out What Was Going On. Actually, the biggest mystery of my childhood was the one I like to think of as The Mystery of Why There Were No Mysteries. Because really, there weren’t. My life was as un-mysterious as it’s possible for a life to be, which was a source of endless disappointment to me. Nancy Drew couldn’t leave her house (in her snazzy little convertible) without falling over a mystery. The Secret Seven could solve FIVE mysteries, and still be home in time for tea. The Famous Five had more mysteries than they had hot dinners – and the Five had a LOT of hot dinners, let me tell you. But me? Nothing. Not a single light shining from the window of a supposedly-abandoned house. Not a rich young child kidnapped, with a ransom note which only I would be able to decipher. Not even a smuggler, people, seriously. I mean, what do you have to do to find a freaking smuggler in this town, I ask you?
I tell you all of this because at the weekend, it suddenly occurred to me that my younger self would have been absolutely thrilled to know that one day she would live next door to an International Man of Mystery. She would’ve had that case solved: probably by tea-time. And when that International Man of Mystery Next Door suddenly re-appeared after a six-year absence, and started digging up his patio, my younger self would, under no circumstances, have simply stood open-mouthed at the window, shouting, “Terry! Terry! HE’S ACTUALLY DIGGING UP THE BODIES! MY BLOG READERS WERE RIGHT! OMG!”
(I mean, seriously: the mysterious neighbour who you secretly suspect of being a mass murderer turns up one day and starts digging in his garden: you’re going to at least try to find out why, aren’t you?)
But that’s what happened, people. Yes, on Sunday afternoon, Nigel TIMOMND, graced us with his second visit in a month. He came with an accomplice. They were here for several hours, digging. And OK, they weren’t actually digging up the patio. They were just…digging the patio. Presumably to clear some of the weeds that have gathered there in the past, you know, SIX YEARS. Something is obviously UP. Either he’s moving back, or he’s selling up, or he’s renting it out,
or he’s digging up bodies… Any one of these outcomes will be deeply traumatic for me because a) I’m a total freak, seriously and b) I’m a freak who can’t tolerate noise of any kind, and who is used to having no neighbour now. And the thing is, I COULD have tried to find out what he was doing. I could’ve opened the back door, walked out, and been all, “Hey, diddly ho, neighbour! Long time, no see! How’re them bodies cookin’?”
But I didn’t.
Nope, I just stood peering out through the blinds, wondering how much we could sell the house for if someone DOES move in next door, and whether it would be enough to buy that penthouse in Edinburgh I sometimes look at on the Internet when I’m bored.
(Answer: no, it wouldn’t. Also: hahahahaha, AS IF.)
My younger self would be so disappointed.
I’ll just have to hope all the shoes I’ve bought her will be of some comfort….