Gordon had become quite obsessed by the contents of his new neighbour’s washing line.
He had been quietly delighted when the widowed Mrs. Willoughby moved next door. A well padded Amazon of a woman, rounded in all the right places, and some of the wrong ones too she was just his type. Her clothes complemented her generous proportions with just the right amount of discreet suggestiveness and she was not afraid to display a cleavage the depth of the Grand Canyon that you could lose your spectacles into if you weren’t careful. Gordon was entranced .
The day he first saw her come out to her washing line, Gordon unashamedly watched from behind his net curtains, admiring her buxom figure as she nimbly bent and stretched from basket to line, every muscle that could ripple, rippling. Finally, bracing her legs she hauled up the heavy line to the top of the pole with an ease that took his breath away. He was still breathing erratically when his eyes drifted to the items she had just pegged out.
His initial thought was that they were peculiarly designed pillow cases. Double bolsters or some such; four of them in rather lurid shades of pink, apricot, puce and a rather vomitous green,. Then with a double take, he realised exactly what they were. Wet billowing monsters with gaping knee holes and heavy duty fabric gathered by strong elastic at the waist – they were inflated by the wind to such elephantine proportions that the line poles seemed to cringe. <Mrs. Willoughby’s knickers.
How could such a lady wear such mortifications next to her flesh? Gordon despaired. He felt so bad he had to sit down and have a nip of brandy. Then he had another cautious look at the washing line. All was not quite lost. He actually
approved her all-encompassing nightdresses. However suggestive of Bedouin tents, they did at least create a delightful speculation of what might lay underneath; and her fitted nylon petticoats gave every indication of sensuously clinging to her voluptuous curves. As for the brassieres – well, he was quite aware that dimensions like hers required functional structural support and the double cups, solid as ceramic bowls, were commensurate with the quantity of Mrs. Willoughby they had to encompass and he found them … fascinating. It was only the knickers that appalled.
Unfortunately the interest of the neighbours in Mrs. Willoughby’s washing line was also soon aroused. One day the wind whipped a pair of the pink monstrosities into No. 20, and got wrapped round their satellite dish. They were eventually liberated by the milkman. And the lady at No. 6, a keen photographer, took several pictures of Mrs. Willoughby’s multicoloured bloomers and reportedly won a prize in a national competition.
Then Brendan Makepiece from over the back, recently relieved of the latest of his ASBOS, who’d stolen an airgun for himself for his birthday, used her Monday wash for target practice. Brendan swore he was only aiming at the black cat from No. 8, which enraged Nos. 12 and 14 who suspected that their own cats had also been shot at, and before long the whole neighbourhood was involved in a brawl over Mrs. Willoughby‘s back fence and the police were brought in.
Consequently, Brendan got another ASBO and Mrs. Willoughby, through no fault of her own, found herself at war with the entire dysfunctional Makepiece extended family, not speaking to No. 20 who claimed their reception had never been the same since the day of the flying pink knickers , and offended by the man from No. 8 who kindly mended her line but unfortunately made a remark about needing a
stronger cable if she was going to hang so many heavy garments on it.
But still she grimly and apparently unaware, hung out her intimate items to dry, and now it included several pairs of gargantuan drawers peppered with shotgun holes. People came by specially to have a look. She was the talk of the Retirement Club. She became famous for her smalls, or rather, as the milkman put it, her biggies.
Gordon, did not like her to be the centre of gossip in this way. He wanted to ask her to the Retirement Club Christmas dinner, but he didn’t want to be known as the man who was walking out with the lady with bullet holes in her drawers. If only she would dry them indoors. Or better still, buy herself some more fashionable ones. Surely there was some way Mrs. Willoughby could be made to realise that her underwear simply did not do her justice? Then he had an idea.
One day he took himself on the bus up to Bluewater and bravely searched out the lingerie shops. He knew Mrs. Willoughby’s size, because the milkman had had a look at the label in the pair he found outside the post office, and of course, told everyone.. Gordon was enchanted to be shown the variety of delectable items available in larger sizes by young assistants who apparently almost believed his story that he was buying for his sister who was laid up with a bad back.
At home he admired his purchases. It didn’t matter that they were frankly enormous. There were lacy ones and transparent ones; . There were beribboned ones, and ones with suspenders, and with bits cut out of them in strategic places. There were black (oh joy) and scarlet (oh double joy) of purest silk, there were high leg cut aways and French style briefs, and there were … thongs.
Now all he had to do was make Mrs. Willoughby aware that such deliciously provocative underwear was perfect for her. He knew exactly what to do.
He sat for a long time fingering each item as he waited for the neighbours to put off their lights and go to bed. And then he went out silently into the night.
The next day shouting from outside awakened him.
He rushed to the window and looked out. Oh, magnificat! What a dazzling display he had pegged out the night before on Mrs. Willoughby’s washing line. No bloomers the size of barrage balloons but a long line of tantalisingly intimate garments quivering sensuously in the breeze – panties and briefs in all colours and shapes and sizes – and … thongs.
Then he saw what the shouting was about; half a dozen of the Makepieces and the families from Nos. 8, 10 , 12 and 14 were hanging over their respective fences both accusing each other and denying responsibility at the same time whilst the lady from No. 6 dashed around in her dressing gown taking photographs. Mrs. Willoughby herself was staring stunned up at her washing line (much, he thought, as Edmund Hillary must have looked when he first saw the view from the top of Everest). As the noise escalated, there was the sound of sirens, and four police officers charged through the back gate with truncheons drawn, followed by the milkman, clutching two pints of milk and a vanilla yoghurt.
Gordon was devastated . He had planned to chat with Mrs. Willoughby alone over the fence to share a discreet chuckle at the contents of her line .. perhaps a roguish wink or two to make her aware that he felt such items were not only acceptable, but delightful necessities for the lady of his choice. He hadn’t been prepared for this mass invasion, and neither it seemed was she, for suddenly, as one of the police officers dragged Brendan Makepiece over the garden fence by the scruff of his Hoodie, she burst into floods of tears.
Gordon’s heart nearly broke. Tears! And here he was still in his pyjamas unable to put his plan into action.
But what really shocked him was seeing the milkman put his arm round Mrs. Willoughby’s quivering shoulders in a way that suggested prior intimacy, and draw her away from the brawling neighbours and back into her house. Gordon could only watch with total
disbelief as the place he had wanted for himself was usurped – by the milkman.
Later the milkman came out and took everything off the line. Gordon did not miss the small smirk of satisfaction on his face as he tucked a thong or two into his back pocket. And then he cut the washing line. Next day, a tumbler drier was delivered from Comet, and Mrs. Willoughby’s washing never again saw the light of day.
Gordon by then had become totally disenchanted . Mrs. Willoughby was obviously not the lady of discrimination and taste that he had thought especially if she preferred the milkman to Gordon.
Besides, for the last few days, he had had something else on his mind.
His neighbour on the other side was a fashionable young mother called Julie; With 2 young children, her daily washing line was a mixture of items, children’s clothes and skimpy blouses and nighties as well as towels and linen all strung out together.
But Gordon had discovered, quite by accident of course, when he was inadvertently standing on a chair so that he could see down into her garden with his binoculars – that there were NEVER any of her knickers on the line.
This bothered him. A slim thing like that. Poured into those tight jeans and those short skirts in cold weather like this: and no knickers? This needed looking into.