It seems that Sylvie and Larry had always had a somewhat tempestuous relationship. They had always argued, shouted and swore at each other. Then eventually, they would make up, they would go off on holiday together and then things would seem OK for a while.
Gradually, it seemed to worsen and they appeared resentful of each other, they argued more, wouldn’t speak to each other, and tension constantly hung in the air. Sylvie would talk disparagingly about Larry, openly using terms such as, “He’s a fat, lazy B*****d!”, often when he was within earshot.
For a long time Larry didn’t work due to his arthritis and his sickness benefit didn’t amount to much. This obviously impacted on the upkeep of the home. “He’s about as much use as a chocolate f*****g teapot, ” would commonly be heard whenever Sylvie was annoyed or had a another bill to pay.
Larry would occasionally attempt some sort of DIY, but invariably, it didn’t get completed or would even make things worse. Time and time again I can recall Sylvie’s shouting and swearing, adding “F*****g typical of him, going to ‘work wonders and shit bleeding cucumbers’, he reckoned. Look at the bleeding mess he’s left again; worse that when he f*****g well started!
As tense as things were at these times, Sylvie’s many phrases and the way they just spilled out of her, would always have us all laughing. However angry Sylvie was, she would delight in our amused responses, continuing to swear and come out with more of her sayings, laughing to herself along the way.
Over time, and so slowly I didn’t notice it then, things were changing. Looking back, it seems that things were slowly winding down within the house. Sylvie’s son Christian and his friend, the lodger, were long gone, and Lily, who was now in her mid to late twenties, was living her own life more and more. Her life working in the nightclubs, her social life and her many love affairs were gradually taking over. The monopoly that Sylvie seemed to have had on her previously was evaporating.
The dog grooming was still going on but on a much lesser scale, and the dog breeding and boarding had all but ceased. The financial impact was obvious in many ways, but none of it occurred to me at the time.
Over the years, slowly and gradually, everything started to descend. The house started to become jaded; the investment put into it ten years previously was worn away with time. The carpets became faded and worn, the decor dated and aged, cupboards falling apart and windows old and rotting.
The house was permeated with the smell of dogs. Years of grooming, breeding and caring for them, had caused the odour to become ingrained into the wallpaper, the furniture and the carpets. As well as the dog aroma, was the ever present whiff in air of the Larry’s cigarettes and pipe tobacco, which had also caused yellow staining to the walls and ceilings of the main living rooms.
Any jobs that needed tackling were immense in labour or finance. It seems that there simply wasn’t the money, the capability or the inclination any more.