Habits

Habits are not easily put aside, you have to understand that. Regularly, every Wednesday morning they, man and wife, walk into town leaving the jar of Nescafe granules, two cafetières, and the new fan-dangled expresso machine, redundant.

Costa, always Costa. The baristas know the routine, two cappuccinos, two chocolate muffins, and the complaint that ‘It’s not hot enough.’ A paper shake of Demerara sugar makes the experience complete.

A visit to London requires the same coffee franchise sought as soon as they step off the train; the order that the man knows off by heart. So his deviation is a surprise – should they share a cake? Half each. A sensible idea for lunch, prior to the theatre matinée, is booked for an hour hence.

The knife, essential for careful division, was the mistake. Plastic forks were available, would have wrought less damage. The report in the first-aid log made much of the blood loss, less of the lady’s accusations. There was no need, however, for an ambulance despite his protestations. 

Enchantment

I wasn’t invited to the funeral. That I saw the announcement of his death in a newspaper was as odd as that first meeting, drawn to the words, as if emboldened, on the inside pages of a publication left open on a train. Would he want me there to witness his sudden eclipse from all our lives? 

It was enchanted, one evening, twenty years ago. Our eyes met, two strangers amongst the crowd, and a spark ran from one side of the room to the other. There was no escape. As he came across to say; ‘Who are you?’, we knew. We could see straight into each others’ hearts. Caught on the spike of romance, thinking love.  

It could have been, I once thought, if he hadn’t been married. He couldn’t leave her, wouldn’t leave me, and of course, I didn’t push him hard enough, either way. What could we settle for?  Friendship?  An affair?

When she found out, there was the row, the silence, the phone call. I was to blame, the temptress. And then back he’d come. It’s such an old story, repeated over and over from time immemorial. All women know the lethal mix, understand that they will be the evil doer. And yet we fall. 

I knew that I was no different. Kept up the pretence that I would cope. Built up a barrier of cynicism, that I was big and bold enough to play second fiddle. But was I? More secrecy, further degradation to my self-esteem. It is hard to believe, in retrospect, the lengths I went to, a woman wanted when it suited them, and it was them. I’d become the puppet.

Nobody knew me, the woman at the back of the church, for none had met me nor I them. I watched from afar as he was lowered into his grave, a bag of flesh to rot, a string of bones. It was over but as I turned to look over the rows of gravestones and trees to a hedge which borders the cemetery from the sea, he was there, walking back to meet me.

Postcard Stories

A present from a friend last Christmas has provided a lot of fun and given me a great writing stimulus. Jan Carson, in 2015, wrote a short, short story each day on the back of a postcard and sent it to a friend. Postcard stories by Jan Carson Each story is a tiny gem of observation. They might be […]

Idleness and guilt

This has to end! This idleness and guilt. What would Virginia say? Maybe this situation has prevented me visiting an exhibition of her work. I cannot face her disapprobation. You see it comes down to this. I have all the time in world so I watch the birds. Endlessly busy flitting from feeder to feeder, […]

Greenhouse

Real and imaginary, side by side

In a discussion I heard recently – I believe on Radio 4 – an author was asked which writers influenced them and by whom they measured their own work. The response was, yes, that there are those ‘go-to’ authors to whose writing they aspire. That is not to say copy, for, as was said at […]

Romance

A romance is the genre claimed for ‘Mothering Sunday’ by Graham Swift, a novel which I’m reading for the third time prior to discussing at http://thespring.co.uk Book Group this month. Yes, it is a marvellous story of love but never borders on the sickly sweet, happy ending which I’ve always associated with that genre. I’ve avoided […]

Literary fiction – into reality

Literary fiction has been in the news; concern that since the recession it has been particularly badly affected. There are also fears that things could get worse in the post-Brexit world. It is easy to see from the best seller lists that populist, genre fiction, is doing well, particularly promoted on Amazon with sales of […]

We plunder our own lives

Val McDermid spoke these words when interviewing a fellow author on BBC 4 Front Row recently; ‘That’s what we authors do,’ she said, ‘plunder our own lives.’ And I was thrilled to hear her say this. For that is exactly what I do. Initially I was surprised as her novels are psychological thrillers, always featuring […]