Jayne Webb

No wonder I am always late!

Lockdown life has given me more than enough time to tackle the big issue in my life, namely why is my face getting so wrinkly? Ok, I am nearly 55, so I have to accept the odd crease, but having spent hours, and I mean hours, studying the complexions of every woman in her fifties who posts on Instagram, I have come to the conclusion my crevices are pretty deep.

It was not until last year that I actually realised that I had any wrinkles at all. My eyesight got so bad that I could not apply mascara without wearing my glasses. Having poked my eye out too many times with the mascara wand I decided to invest in a large magnifying mirror. Big mistake, in one quick glance I had aged 30 years. In fact, the sight was so depressing that I keep the mirror draped with a face cloth when I am not using it.

Over recent weeks I have studied the scientific reasons for facial ageing in great detail. I am not talking about lightweight beauty blogs; I am talking serious heavyweight clinical research trials. Here is an excerpt of what I have been deciphering:

The unique molecular structure of collagen renders it largely resistant to nonspecific proteolytic attack. The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) are a group of enzymes responsible for degradation of collagen. 

Anyway, the long and short of all my research is that sun is the problem. My problem is that I actually feel better and look better with a suntan. Brown cellulite always looks better than white, and an espresso coloured wobble is better than a cappuccino wobble any day. As I have never been into the faff of spray tanning or self-oranging I have relied on UV radiation way too much. My research also identified the chemicals which can help to slow down the ageing process. The main once being retinol. Coincidentally just before lockdown I had a retinol acid face peel. When I went to the salon, I had to sign a disclaimer saying that if, after 3 days, my face looked like I had been in a house fire, I wouldn’t sue. I had the acid painted on and drove home stinging like hell. A few days later my face was meant to peel off, leaving a new younger face underneath. By then we were in lockdown, which was perfect timing. Unfortunately, my face didn’t peel, it didn’t even flake. I emailed the clinic to express my dissatisfaction and, after much toing and froing, they decided that my face hadn’t peeled off because I applied so many strong chemicals to it on a daily basis, that sadly there wasn’t a youthful one underneath. 

I have got a new Super Beauty Regime now, and one which requires a spreadsheet to keep track of. Not only are there 3 chemicals to be applied at night, and 2 in the morning, I have to do an acid peel and exfoliate once a week. I can disappear into the bathroom to take my makeup off, and I have missed the whole of the 10 0’clock News before I reappear. Husband leant over to kiss me the other night, as I got into bed. Oh dear, that was a glycolic peel night. Two seconds later he said that kissing my cheek was like sucking on half a lemon, and his lips were killing him. I said he should feel sorry for me, my pillowcase had usually dissolved by the morning.

I just hope after lockdown, when I am back at work, I will have the energy to keep going with this comprehensive skincare regime, or maybe I will have more important and meaningful things to occupy my thoughts? Perhaps that’s a better idea…

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If Coronavirus had struck 30 years ago it would have found a very different world from the one today. I was in my mid 20s then, mobile phones were the size of bricks and computers were the size of packing cases. I remember getting my first mobile phone, a huge Motorola with a short rubber aerial, and I thought it was the coolest things since eyelash curlers. Admittedly it weighed about 2 kg, and needed its own backpack, but it was a MOBILE phone! I had a sales job, and I remember strutting around with my Filofax in one hand and giant Motorola in the other, wearing jackets with shoulder pads on steroids. 

The problem is that I have not kept up with the expediential rate of technology advancement. I wish I still had a mobile phone with big buttons, a green screen and no battery life. Life was so much simpler then. I am an absolute technology Luddite. Even now I cannot locate Netflix on a Smart TV, I can barely post on Instagram, I am clueless on Snapchat, and I use about 10% of the functions of my MacBook. I do see the enormous benefits of tech but a big part of me loathes it. Every day it seems there is some new App which everyone assures me is really simple, but I manage to cock up. 

I had my first Zoom meeting the other day, and was looking forward to it. Unfortunately, I appeared on screen labelled as ‘Ellen’, my daughter, as I was on her account. I had no idea how to change this, so I had to answer to the name of ‘Ellen’ for 45 minutes. I say 45 minutes, but it was actually quite a bit less than that. Our WIFI was buffering so much I kept on disappearing from view, which at least meant I could make a few coffees whilst waiting to re-enter the Zoom Room. I made a ‘Mrs Angry’ call to our broadband supplier afterwards who said we had 19 devices connected to our router and no wonder I was buffering. One hour later I was the proud, but poor, owner of a new Super Router and a fancy system which bounces WIFI around our house at lightning speed and could probably do Gatwick Airport as well.

When Son re-tunes the TV in 30 seconds, flicks between laptop screens at lightning speed and texts quicker than I can speak, I feel terribly old, without even looking in the mirror. We have a very nice washing machine and microwave, but I swear that I have never used more than 1 setting on either. I have washed everything on a ‘30 Minute Quick Wash’ for the past 5 years and heated food on ‘High’ to make it hot.  What else do I need these techno-filled appliances to do? Unless the washing machine can do the ironing and the microwave can chop the veg and cook dinner, I am not going to have a nervous breakdown even looking at the instruction manuals. Uploading a blog is hard enough…

Jayne smiling in the kitchen holding her Miniature Schnauzer in front of a dog birthday cake

Over the past few years Britain has become obsessed with baking. However, this has come at a time when I thought my baking days were over. When the kids were young, I spent hours if not days, making novelty birthday cakes. In my cake career I made horses, dogs, footballs, dinosaurs, Telly Tubbies, lawnmowers (that year was a challenge) to name but a few. Whilst the end results were ok it took me a further two days to scrape the fondant icing off every kitchen surface and get the food colouring off my nails. In my kids’ school nipping into Tesco‘s and buying a cartoon cake was not an option. I would have been expelled from the Parents Association for doing that. One morning on the way to school my daughter reminded me that I should have baked a cake for the charity sale at break time. I ended up screeching into a Marks and Spencer’s petrol station, buying a Victoria sandwich, dashing home, messing the icing up a bit, grating some chocolate on it, and sprinting into the school hall with the words, ‘sorry this is a bit late, but it is very fresh.’ After that I took early gateau retirement.

Novelty birthday cake with a lawnmower and grass made of icing
Yep, I really did have to make a lawnmower in 2002…

That was until lockdown, when it seems that the world and his wife are making cakes. Insta is literally on fire with all those ovens set at 160°C. It is not just lumpy fruit cakes either, there are high gloss chocolate cakes, apricot roulades and coconut and lime sponges etc, etc. For the first few weeks of lockdown I reassured myself that there was as much chance of buying flour as seeing Victoria Beckham smile. Flour joined pasta and toilet rolls on the endangered species list. 

This week I was sauntering down the baking aisle as I do most days, shopping for the old folk, when I noticed that right in front of me was a solitary bag of SELF RAISING FLOUR. I felt obliged to buy it, and since then I have joined the Baking Brigade. I have produced apple and cinnamon, coffee and walnut, and raspberry and white chocolate cakes so far this week, and it is only Friday. It’s one thing using baking as incarceration therapy, but someone has to consume the results, as well as licking the cake mix out of the bowl. I actually try not to eat them, instead I keep on ‘neatening up’ the corners with a cake slice. If it is not a large slice on a small plate, then surely it has 0 calories? The problem is that by lunchtime the 20 cm sponge has been ‘neatened’ to the size of a cupcake, and I am loosening my belt by one notch.

On Tuesday it was Zac, the Schnauzer’s birthday. Usually, on this special day, he gets a few extra dog treats and a pat on the head. This year, in a lockdown delirium, I made him a dog-friendly birthday cake, full of carrots and peanut butter, which he greatly appreciated. Unfortunately, that evening my son helped himself to a large slice of the canine patisserie when he had the Midnight Munchies. I didn’t realise this until the next morning, when he came down and said, ‘Mum that last cake you made wasn’t up to your usual standard.’ I was about to burst out laughing when I realised that he had grown two pointy ears and a small tail. Perhaps I am not the only one going Barking Mad?

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Ok, I am exaggerating a bit…

You cannot open a magazine these days without people exalting the value of exercise for people over 50. Before COVID Days I went to the gym twice a week and did Pilates but, since lockdown, my regime has gone to pot, as have any previously toned areas of my torso.

I have several female friends who rise early and bounce up and down with Joe Wicks online before breakfast. They swear that he really sets them up for the day and puts a smile on their faces. I do look at Joe Wicks first thing in the morning, he has a super Instagram page, but the thought of squinting at him on my laptop, whilst trying to keep up with his manic manoeuvres, just leaves me cold. The closest I have got to him was when I flicked through one of his cookery books in Sainsbury’s the other day. Likewise, my wonderful Pilates teacher is Zooming her classes, but there is no way I could adopt the required positions whilst looking at a 3cm digital version of her, without my glasses falling off.

This sorry state of affairs has led me to take up running again. I use ‘running’ in the loosest possible sense of the word. It is more like a brisk walk with exaggerated arm movements. I admit I have taken up running numerous times in the past, and still the only good thing about it is getting back home and collapsing on the kitchen floor. However, I know that a 5K run burns up the exact number of calories in a Double Decker, so at least I can demolish one of my daily bars of chocolate guilt-free.

Several years ago, I ran the New York Marathon by accident. I really wanted to go shopping in New York and I knew there was no way Husband would agree to this. I, therefore, stupidly agreed that I would run the Marathon with him, as long as I could have a shopping day there. I staggered round the course in a staggeringly slow 6 hours and 4 minutes but was too knackered to go shopping the next day. When I got home, I told one of my design clients, who was a keen rambler, how long it had taken me. She smugly pointed out that SHE could have walked it faster. I just smiled politely but made sure I chose particularly tasteless cushions to finish off her sitting room. 

So, I am back to running 3 times a week and I loathe every second. For the first mile I mutter to myself ‘Why am I doing this? Why the Hell am I doing this??’ After the second mile I cheer up realising that I am over halfway. The third, and final, mile of my route involves running the length of Lingfield High Street and past supermarkets and takeaways where people might see me. For this stage I attempt a Bolt-style sprint which I try to keep up until I can turn into my road and collapse. Then comes the best bit of the run…It is over for another day.

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When the UK went into lockdown on 23rd March I decided that I really had to remain positive and make the most of this time to learn some new skills, and get on with all those household projects that I had always meant to do, but never got round to.  I also suggested to the rest of my locked down family that they, likewise, should use this time profitably by learning to touch type or learn a new language.  I created an extensive list of proficiencies to acquire including meditation, knitting and bread making as well as writing my blog, of course. I even went so far as to design a timetable of my daily activities: 

As you can see, I had organised pretty much every hour of the day, and I knew that if I kept to this, I was going to come out of lockdown as a fitter, more well-rounded and infinitely calmer individual.  I actually spent a lot of time putting all of the tasks in the correct Excel boxes and considering how much time each would take.  I even laminated this timetable and stuck it on my office wall where it has remained to this day.  

The big problem is that I have achieved Bugger all, apart from getting up and going to bed daily. The exercise class never happened, the house looks like a squat, breakfast has been a croissant at 12 noon (with my fifth coffee) and lunch, a Twix around 4 pm.  I only bother to peel myself out of my PJs if I have some shopping to do for the Oldies.  There is just so much to look at on Insta these days.  Reading all the motivational memes, ‘liking’ the NHS and looking at pictures of stunning homemade cakes takes me at least 3 hours every day.  I haven’t even listened to a Ted Talk, although I do now have the app on my phone.  Likewise, the Headspace meditation app is installed, and enthusiastically reminds me every day that it has been a while since I checked in.  Yes, it has been a while, i.e. since the distant day I paid £49.99 for a year’s subscription. I did actually try a Retinol face mask one night, but it burnt my face off within 5 minutes, and I spent the rest of the night whimpering under my duvet.

When everyone finally emerges from lockdown, toned, bilingual and wearing fabulously crocheted ponchos they have made, I will be wobbling out in my floral PJs with a bag full of chocolate bar wrappers and a handful of half written blogs.  Failing that, I am going to have to do a ‘Crash Course on Everything’ over the next few weeks…

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Doing a ‘George Clooney’

Of course, the biggest stress when leaving the house in these COVID Days is observing the 2 Metre Rule. I had never before given much thought to exactly what 2 metres looks like in real terms, so I decided that the best way to estimate this was to picture it as George Clooney lying down. This image has, however, got me into trouble.  This morning I was outside Boots Chemists and there was a long queue. I was so busy swerving around trying to give everyone a ‘George Clooney’ that I completely overshot the door to the chemists, and ended up trying to get into the adjacent (and closed) dry cleaners.  As I knew I had a bit of an audience watching my blunder I had to mutter ‘Oh Crikey! I can’t believe they are shut,’ as I turned and back tracked to join the queue.  

In fact, all social norms have been turned on their heads.  Pre-lockdown, you shook hands in a meeting, and patted, hugged or kissed your mates. Now these salutations would be seen as just the worst and rudest thing you could possibly do.  Treating your friends like lepers is actually PC these days. Whilst out on a jog (or rather a fast walk) yesterday I was stumped.  On one pavement I had a lady with 2 children on tricycles and on the other I had 3 dog walkers with dogs.  This left me no alternative but to run straight down the middle of the main road just to keep a ‘George Clooney’ on either side.  I duly received nods of appreciation all round for my swift actions.  Two months ago, this would have been seen as barking mad and downright rude.  On the issue of barking, I was walking the dogs in the park the other day and as usual my waggy housemates bounded up to say ‘Hello’ to another dog.  The owner started screaming ‘GET YOUR DOGS AWAY, GET THEM AWAY! CORONAVIRUS!’  Honestly, anyone would think I had set 2 Pit Bull Terriers on her pooch. The problem is my dogs don’t know the ‘George Clooney Rule’ and if they did, I suspect their fantasy bitch would be a lot shorter than 2 metres when lying down. 

Of course, other things you must not do in public are cough or sneeze. Even a slight clearing of the throat will lead people to believe you have the ‘C’ Word.  A sneeze is basically the new equivalent of letting out wind from your bottom half. You must try and conceal it at all times. I have found the only way to do this is to pull your jumper over your head at the critical moment. OK, it does mean that you are revealing a naked torso and a faded M&S bra to the world, but that is way less shocking than THE SNEEZE. If you are a guy, and reveal a faded M&S bra to the world, that is a different issue…

What really worries me is what is going to happen when we do finally go back to normal.  Will we ever kiss, pat and hug again, or will we just bow at each other from a distance? Will we all be ‘Turning Japanese’ as the song goes? 

Anti-social distancing

Ok, I admit it, I haven’t spent every single day since Lockdown started in my pyjamas, watching TV and eating chocolate.  I have actually got a little voluntary job.  My Mum lives in a retirement village where 91 elderly residents are in total Lockdown for 3 months.  As a result, there are a lot of folks who need food shopping doing and prescriptions collecting.  I am that person.  This means that most days I have to extract myself from my leisurewear and brave the outside world.  I have been known to queue outside Sainsbury’s three times in one day.  What strikes me most about this is how differently people interpret the whole ‘social distancing’ concept.  Hours and hours of standing in carparks has actually made me one of the world’s leading specialists on this topic.  On the whole people can be divided into three groups:

  • The ‘I don’t give a toss about all this’ Group

These are generally males, under the age of 25.  They stand as close as they can to you, so you can feel their breathe on your neck, they usually come in gangs, wear baseball caps and pyjama bottoms, and play with their mobile phones incessantly

  • The ‘I am aware and doing the right thing’ Group

These have bothered to get fully dressed. The women have a little touch of lip gloss and mascara on, as this supermarket trip is a ‘big day out’, and they studiously keep to the 2 metre rule, whilst clutching their selection of sturdy shopping bags and a neat shopping list

  • The ‘Come anywhere near me and I will kill you before COVID’ Group

These are usually 60+ women, with pearl earrings, who have not let their grey hair grown out, they probably play bridge in normal circumstances, and are wearing full PPE.  If you get within 6 metres of them, or merely sniff in their direction, you will probably get a look to kill. However, it is difficult to make out what their facial features are doing underneath the ski googles and face masks.  

Once you have finally made it into the store and are elated to find yourself in the fruit and veg aisle, Group 1 handle every carrot and tomato before selecting, whereas Group 3 wait until there is absolutely NO ONE else in the vicinity, before dashing to grab produce only in pre-packed bags. Should you meet one of this Group head on, you must either reverse and go down the next aisle, or sprint past, with your face turned to the side, whilst shouting ‘Sorry! Sorry!’ Anything less apologetic would mean that you would never be able to a join a bridge club (or WI) within a 50-mile radius of here.  

One thing I have noticed about shopping for old people is that they all eat the same things; digestive biscuits, tinned mackerel and marmalade. At least it has solved my lifelong question of ‘who actually eats tinned mackerel?’  Last week one lady also specified ‘9 soft toilet rolls – peach colour please.’ This dear clearly has no idea what is going on in the outside world. I have seen stabbings over a 4-pack of Tesco Value Toilet Tissue. Probably my most exciting shop was for Elsa who requested ‘two 1 litre bottles of Jameson Whisky and a large pack of salted peanuts.’  Now that is an oldie who knows how to survive Lockdown… 

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No, this isn’t an old photo…

I usually get excited about Easter.  It is like a mini Christmas without the presents. It is a time when all of the Family get together under one roof for a few days, we tacitly agree not to wind each other up, and we enjoy nice food and good company. The problem is everyone is still here.  Don’t get me wrong, I do dearly love my Family, but I do now realise why young men between the ages of 18-21 must go on to Further Education.  Their mothers quite simply cannot tolerate them being at home for prolonged periods.  It is seriously damaging to their health.  During the university holidays I put up with Son rising from bed at about the time we are having lunch, doing absolutely sod all all day, apart from hogging the TV remote then shooting little men on a screen all night.  Unfortunately, I cannot tolerate it for more than a few weeks.  I have read that domestic abuse cases have risen steeply since the start of Lockdown, and I am trying desperately hard not to become another statistic.  

The other problem with having Son, Daughter and Daughter’s Boyfriend living here is the amount of food that they manage to consume within 24 hours.  Having stood in the Sainsbury’s queue for 45 minutes, avoided everyone in the store, unpacked all the shopping and breathed a sigh of relief that the ‘Food Battle’ is temporarily over, I am utterly dismayed when they eat the whole damn lot in 24 hours. Do people really need 5 meals and snacks a day?  At the start of Lockdown, I loaded the fridge with nice ‘holiday’ foods – smoked salmon, boiled ham, good cheeses, and wine and beer, to make the whole experience more tolerable. Now, having realised the rate of food consumption, I am spending my days stalking Aldi to find the cheapest possible edible foodstuffs.

As well as two BBQs the Family decided it would be great to have a turkey for Easter Sunday, like a ‘Mini Christmas Lunch’. I duly cornered a bird at the local butcher’s and Husband queued for 1 1/2hours to collect it.  I hadn’t specified a weight and was horrified when he staggered in with nearly 17lbs of turkey.  It was so large we had to re-design the fridge to fit it in. On Sunday I spent the whole day cooking the damn beast, complete with home-made stuffing, bread sauce and posh gravy etc. Moreover, I could barely lift it in and out of the oven without doing some bicep curls to warm up first. I have now realised why Christmas is in December. I am normally cooking this special meal in a festive jumper and reindeer ears, not dripping in sweat in a kitchen reaching 35 degrees, whilst wearing my pyjamas. I noticed that the rest of the family were sunbathing and sipping Prosecco, when I intermittently dashed into a shady part of the garden to cool myself off.  By the time I served up I was in my 3rdpair of pyjamas of the day and trying to work out whether it was my menopausal hot flushes that were wreaking havoc, or the fat roast bird sitting on the table.  Whilst everyone was exclaiming ‘Mum! This is delicious’, I just wanted to lie naked in a cool room with a family-sized Lindt Easter Egg and HELLO! magazine.  Thank Christ Easter comes but once a year…

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A Pair! The most exciting minute of my day…

Well, it is day 17 of Lockdown and I am pleased to confirm that all 5 adults currently living here are still well and have not sustained any injuries caused by me, or any other residing family members.  I think we have all decided, independently, that the best way to get through this incarceration is to bite our lips when we get totally hacked off with each other, and to regularly socially isolate ourselves, whilst self-distancing.  For me this means spring cleaning the loft or the shed… AGAIN. Husband has an excellent excuse; he still has a Proper Job and so he can retreat, justifiably, to his ‘office’ for 8 hours a day. 

24-year-old daughter has changed beyond all recognition in the past 2 weeks.  This London-loving party animal, who adores nothing more than a glass of Prosecco and a pair of high heels, has taken to doing jigsaw puzzles and going running.  Moreover, I have actually seen her without full make-up for more than 2 days on the trot. Obviously, she is not posting anything on social media at the moment, as doing that without a flawless face and couture is totally out of the question.  Son, 21, is growing facial hair, which he is terribly proud of.  By the time he returns to university in September it might actually look like a proper beard.  He currently looks like a younger Ed Sheeran.  I have never worked out why men grow ginger beards when their hair isn’t even ginger.  I am pleased this is normal, as I really don’t want Husband requesting a paternity test in the midst of Lockdown.  Husband in the meantime, who never goes for more than 4 weeks without a ‘Good Haircut’ is starting to look like an aging rock star.  I did suggest he could rock a Mullet, but it didn’t go down too well.  If he too decides to grow a beard, we will have our very own Father Christmas by June.  Even the poor Schnauzer Zac, who goes to the poodle parlour every 6 weeks is starting to look like Bob Marley, shame he can’t sing.   I am, meanwhile, watching numerous YouTube videos on ‘how to touch up grey roots,’ and I have already ordered a tinting brush and mixing bowl in readiness.  I don’t mind being released from Lockdown wearing my pyjamas, but I am not emerging with a blonde mop that starts halfway down my head, that would really let my secret out the bag.

So, what else have I been up to?  Well, I have been pairing odd socks! I know there are numerous theories on why two socks go into the washing machine and only one comes out, but none of them are terribly convincing.  We have a large plastic bag of odd socks and every week a few more solitary souls are added to the collection.  Sorting them out has been on my list of ‘Things to do when there is absolutelynothing else to do,’ for at least 2 years.  Fortunately, up until this point in my life, I have never been that desperate for entertainment.  Well, yesterday that day came; I tipped the bag out and spend two joyful hours reuniting socks with their lost partners.  Every time I got a pair matched a wave of excitement came over me and I let out a resounding ‘Yes.’ God, it hasn’t taken long for my datum to change on what constitutes an exciting afternoon.  If I still think this is fun in a year’s time, can someone please shoot me? 

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Jayne is sat on her front doorstep surrounded by lots of parcels – she has done a lot of online shopping!

One of my favourite pastimes is, and always has been, online shopping.  In fact, I can’t remember the last time I ventured into a clothes shop. Why drive to a shopping centre, pay for parking, and spend hours trundling around the fashion department of John Lewis when it is all there online in the comfort of your own home?  I can scan the entire fashion offering of John Lewis in 30 minutes and it would take me a good few hours on the shop floor. I also have a phobia of changing rooms. There is just too much faff.  You have 27 items over your arm, and you are told that you can only take 5 in at a time.  This means that after every 5 failed frock tries you have to wrap yourself, in your undies, in the changing room curtain whilst shouting ‘Please can I have another 5?’  Besides, the lighting and mirrors in the cubicles have been cruelly designed to make you look at your worst from every angle.  You can go in feeling quite body-confident and come out vowing to take up HIIT training and eat spinach.  No, these days are long gone for me.  I much prefer to get a lorry load of garments delivered, so I can try them on in the safety of my own bedroom whilst watching ‘MasterChef,’ and with the lighting sufficiently dimmed to soften flesh folds and cellulite.

This hobby/addiction has always amused me, but in these Corona Days it is vital.  The problem is that Husband is now working from home, and so, for the first time, he is aware of just how MANY deliveries are left in the porch every day.  Yesterday he went for a run and actually couldn’t get in through the front door on his return.  Sadly, Ian from myHermes, Steve from DPD and Joe from UPS are not chatting these days. They just ring the bell and ‘drop’. We did have such a social thing going. Last month Husband and I were in Costa Coffee when this gorgeous, lean, stubbly, young man bounded in, saw me and said ‘Hi Jayne, how are the dogs? See you next week!’ before winking and heading to the counter.  To which Husband said, ‘Who the Hell is he?’  He seemed both relieved and terrified when I explained that he was the UPS delivery driver; relieved that he was just the delivery driver and terrified that I had enough deliveries to be his best friend.  My little game really is out in the open now.  I do hasten to add that I do return 97% of all the clothes I order, which means I am also very friendly with the lovely Rahul in the Post Office…

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