Twelfth Night

Christmas; a lacing of bulbs strung across our front door was how it began. Lovely it was, everyone said. Why wouldn’t we add more? Fashion and the prevalence of flashing coloured, white or copper lights cheap as chips, inspired us. Wound round trees and bushes, festooned in the climbing rose, tripping down the path to light the way to our house. The candy sticks were a tad vulgar perhaps, similarly the blow up snowman not in the best of taste. Our pièce de resistance though was a golden sleigh pulled by reindeer, the flashing synced to mimic the movement of a jostled red Santa and the galloping quartet. A triumph we believed. To celebrate Christmas, a window of gladness in the dark of winter. Our display the best in the town.

It wasn’t our fault that we missed the date, 6th January, 12th night. How were we to know that it would bring bad luck to the whole street, the demons of the holly and ivy trapped to create havoc. A power outage lasting seven days.

An Epiphany

Epiphany, the 6th of January, is when the wondrous was revealed to the wise men. A time I’d always hoped might be the same for me. Not a messiah as such but at least a rush of knowledge, a fact tossed down from above to enlighten my life, open up a whole new world.
In some ways you could say it has, though it’s hard to view it like that just yet. Some might think I should have seen it coming, the signs, such as they were, though easily spotted in retrospect. The little presents given for no reason and which might have accounted for the drop in our bank balance. The study of maps and stars which I thought was a great new hobby. The talk of going on a long journey which might be exciting. The restlessness which I put down to what they call a midlife crisis. Then with Christmas over it was as if he was counting the days.
Twelve days after, all was revealed. Tony was going off with the minx next door.

New Year’s Eve

Was it possible that I accept? New Year’s Eve, taxis exorbitant and unreliable. More than one glass of wine not worth the risk. Police hovering the early hours for lax unlawful drivers. Too wet to walk home.
The woman wore a deep blue velvet top, swathed at the neck, folds folding into folds. ‘Enjoy yourself,’ she said, ‘we’ll give you a lift home.’ It was tempting. The soft crevices of the garment offered multiple silken cradles, hidden nests, soothing and safe, to waft me through darkened streets.
Her husband topped up her glass; ‘Champagne, the best tipple!’ His cheeks bristled beard, his mouth and eyes in retreat amongst this prolific whiskery. To me he said; ’Drink up, we’ll be passing your door!’
For the rest of the evening water stood for wine. One wife’s cushioned niches inviting, but would her husband’s hands would be firmly on the vehicle’s wheel?

To blog or not to blog?

A friend recently wrote an email questioning the purpose of blogging, who it served and whether to do so had any worth. Hum? Blog. A web log, I have just learned, was first introduced as an online journal in the late 1990s, thus the origin of the word ‘blog. Joe Bloggs, on the other hand, […]

Outmanoeuvred

She came at us out of the sun. The weatherbeaten cheeks, a fine filigree of red and purple capillaries pulled to the surface by cold winds on rugged walks, perfectly matched the hat and scarf. Blocking our path, in full force she came upon us. Her stout coat and boots servicing her advance. She had us in her sights, a captivating smile, picking us off one by one.
We knew her, each from a different point in our lives, we had to stop. Two stroke conversations of weather and health ensued. Her squadron zooming in and out around us, leaflet delivery their urgent task. The message was in print, no need to accost, get involved in political chat.
For us, there was no escape, though I was soon vanquished, not of her constituency.
My friend, unfortunately, the prefect target. There was nowhere to duck or dive. For each shot he tried a riposte. I watched in horror. This was an unequal battle, polite rebuff, outmanoeuvred by dogmatic fortitude. Every vote counts.

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 […]