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.

Contemporary art

There are three things which mark out our local arts centre; our contemporary take on the world of art, our good relationship with the local police, and an open minded approach to taking in unusual artefacts.

The World War II grenades were brought in by an old soldier, inactive but his pride and joy; memorabilia of his wartime experience. It coincided with the anniversary of some battle or other so regarded as appropriate. To be safe the police were called in to verify his claim, health and safety being key to all businesses nowadays.

The police constable examined the objects, a fine piece of history, no longer able to do any damage, he observed. To prove his point, as a cup of tea and cake were being brought over to thank him for his help, he pulled out one of the pins.

As he was well-known to the staff it has made it extra special that his remains adorn one of the walls in the gallery. A fine memorial to an error of judgement. And it has certainly put the Centre on the map.