A Gap In The Love Chain

Bernard Monkfish, not blessed in name or nature, was the product of a father whose imagination was exercised with little awareness of its effect on others, hence his son had become a nervous and wary adult, which is the point at which we join him in his life.

Here he is, sitting in a café with a white coffee in front of him, peering at the view outside the window. Hope and opportunity pass by us all the time, and offer us the chance to change our lives. Bernard was one of those people who could sit on a mountainside built on good fortune, and see nothing there. He was a gap in the love chain, silence in the world of music and the block in a writer’s imagination.

Only in one area did he display a pleasing quirkiness and sense of community eccentricity: that was in the Lower Saddleworth Jousting and Knightly Courtesies club, of which he was club secretary and a long serving member. Following a Saturday morning cutting some shapes on the village green, he was now in a café with his morning coffee, pleasingly unaware that being a man in a full suite of armour, and with the sun glinting off his visor, behind which his glasses were in danger of steaming up, might present him  as slightly unusual figure to the locals.

The problem he had, which he had not yet communicated, was that the visor had become jammed during that morning’s high-jinks, and he did not have the nerve to ask the café owner for a straw small enough to slip through the tiny apertures insisted on by the health and safety committee so that the knight,  thus encased ,could continue to breath.

Just when all seemed lost, and the coffee was about to cool below those temperatures generally recognised as offering the most pleasure to the informed sipper, a glamorous blond sat down in front of him and said, “My knight in shining armour. How are you darling?” Bernard may have returned her smile, but we have no way of knowing that. Still, unusually forward for a man with his social caution, he said, “My Visor’s stuck. “

“What’s that my darling, my little chickadee, my bold warrior” she said and Bernard repeated the information. Without further commentary she removed a nail file from her well-equipped handbag, fiddled around with the visor for a few seconds until, sure enough, it opened to reveal the face of Bernard, complete with pale moustache and steamed-up glasses. “You’ve got lovely eyes” she said and started laughing, while Bernard quickly attacked the coffee now within a half-degree of being ruined.

“Are you married?” she asked and Bernard shook his head. “Are you living with anyone; in a serious relationship; or the victim of any weird impulses? Bernard kept shaking his head. The women, later revealed to be called Beatrice  smiled, and said. “A Knight in shining armour and still available: lucky me. You can buy me lunch”

Thus it was that Bernard, the unluckiest of men, got pinned against the wall by good fortune and offered a fresh start in life. She, it transpired, was his missing link, and they were married within three months. To see the pair of them setting off to local Jousting events suitably attired, and with a small can of emergency oil in her maiden’s handbag, was to see how happiness can bloom in the most unlikely circumstance, and those who see life without hope  can still be saved by chance.

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Bloggers Being Helpful


Alright, I’m loath to mention it, but that book I keep going on about, the book pictured  on the right side of this post is a constant source of worry to me. In the olden days, I understand, some fella or fellarine had a book published, and then there was a short interlude while they examined the boat timetables, and soon after that they were on the banks of the River Seine drinking cocktails and swapping edgy observations with those who, it would be discovered, were among the great artistic figures of their age. Now things are slightly different.

Your book is published and, sure enough, as if you had dropped a brick into a hen-coop, there is some squawking and fluttering of wings but very soon, if you are not careful, a deathly silence can settle over your world once more, and those extra copies you ordered by mistake remain the largest living testament to your outpouring. There is an antidote to this malaise, and it is called ‘Marketing’: just getting out there and spreading the word,  which can be harder than you think. Still, I saw on other Blogs that nifty folk had put a link to their book up on the side of their Blog and I said to myself, “Could I do that?”  and of course the answer was “No”.

Up pops one Julie Angelos Lama, whose Blog http://julieangelos.com I have been following since shortly after the birth of the typewriter or certainly very early in Blogging History. She has been a steady and encouraging friend, who firstly pushed and prompted me to write a book and then, when I was bleating somewhere about not being able to work with ‘Links:/ linky things.com  sent me a very patient email with simple  1- 2- 3 steps to get the whole thing working and , “Hey Presto” there it is.  As well as her, other Blogging chums have produced very positive and helpful reviews, all of which can be seen on Amazon, or via that FB button which I got up there through Julie’s help some months ago.

Disregarding the book or any precise event, the help that people can give you, and the way they might reach out and support you when you are in difficulties, or doing something new is both inspiring and amazing. Anyone who thinks the friends you make via Blogging are not part of your living and supportive community should see my face when I see evidence of good wishes and how helpful people can be. In a modern and complex world it reinforces the simple power of community.

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Ghost Of A Love Affair

” Love me but do not own me: Celebrate but don’t possess me” I see her smiling as she said it;  the last words I heard spoken by her face to face. Off on an adventure, never to return, crushed by a lorry in some freak accident, and silenced for my eternity. A girl who made being fearless possible in my life: who faced down any challenge but intimacy.

I dared to love her but not to use the word.  To thank the stars this girl, who lived for wilderness and open ended questions,  had used me as her anchor and her reference point: “Conclusions” she told me, “Are only for the elderly,”   and yet she would always return to me: we all have contradictions and perhaps I was hers. She would live in any moment, in any life, as long as she was free to leave it:  now she had , and I was left to live without her interest.

“If you want to understand something, never try to own it:”  That was her mantra, She, who loved the wilderness above all things , loved me because  I left her free to wander through it, but without her noise and cheery exhuberance, the stillness that I dwelt in, the place she called her sanctuary, had now become a silence, experienced without mercy.

“Oh Charlie” she had told me, “I stood among the elephants, and they just let me, and we watched the sun rising together, species joined with species,  can you imagine such a moment” and I could, because the image was printed in her eyes, bright with life and joy, but fearful of possession: That was my gift. To love her, but just for who she was and in the moment only. I, an ordinary man from normal points of view,  was made extraordinary by her presence, and won her trust by not seeking to control her.

That face remained with me  fifty years later, as all around me life sought to find my measure, but they will not find me here. I am living in her sunshine, and in those eyes which still smile at me from  a treasured photo. Now eighty-seven, and long past the time when people take an interest, I sometimes  catch the excitement when she returned, and smile to myself, and to the puzzlement of strangers: become a man who nods to himself, and, without warning, when lost in reverie, talks out loud to a girl he loves, as she walks through his memory.


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I Joined A Gym

Oh yes, I did: on my own and without coaching or the use of a map. In the northern hemisphere at least, it is that time of year when we face up to ourselves and say,

” YOU, Yes You. That slouchy plumpy guy sneaking in a helping of cake while watching a television programme on installing bathroom cabinets in the sure knowledge that you will never install one in your life. Stand up, look in that dust-protected mirror and say to yourself, “No more, not on my watch. I will be the best I can be as soon as I know what that is. I will read more challenging books, learn to enjoy lettuce without any dressing and, most of all, go to this new gym on a regular basis.”

The guy who runs it, sadly, looks as if he knows what fitness is, and looking at me, is sure I do not possess it. He has machines and weights of every shape and pain threshold but no coffee shop; no cake counter; no soft music to ease the shock associated with facing up to your failings: progress will be painful, but unavoidable.

Why unavoidable, one of the most chilling words in the English language ?   Because I actually meet the owner nearly everyday and it is one thing to slide quietly away from your resolutions towards the comforting world of bar music and salted peanuts,  and quite another to be seen to do so. In future, if I falter on the path to fitness, I know I will have to explain my conduct to him, and he will join that army of acquaintances who look at me reproachfully as I walk over yet another ‘line is the sand’  while  distracted by some engrossing article on the sports pages of my daily paper,

I have recently published a series of photographs  located via that FB page portal seen beside this post  to help publicize the book I have had published recently, the name of which currently escapes me, but I am sure it will return, along with photographs of me smiling, but guarded by less chins and bearing that weight of responsibility recently assumed by me with a smile, certainly, but less chins: I look forward to that day!

Posted in blog, character, community, creative writing, dieting, Fiction, fitness, Health, humour, Life, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

Reflections in a Prison Cell

His life had been built on manners more or less, and some abilities, diffidently expressed, and a detailed crafted sense of what was right. He had a love of music, overriding in its intensity, because he knew that music never lies: that in its impersonal thrall he was free to leave his hiding place and sense a life lit up by love or loss and untouched by that engorging terror which loitered in his recollections.  Sometimes, or more often than that with advancing years, away from public scrutiny, or in the depths of his solitary night, those memories of childhood cruelty when he, exposed and defenceless, endured the articulate punishments focused on a young boy by those who were meant to love and protect him, rose up in unsettling detail and mocked his frailties.

In the intervening years until now, he had buried that terror beneath layers of courtesy till those who thought they knew him intimately could only say, “Oh no, not Harry, he is the gentlest of men,” and so he was, on every normal day, until some fool had barged into him, swore at him  and then ridiculed him  to his entourage as if he were at fault

Out of his depths, unannounced and primitive, the anger came, but now armed by his adult fists and he struck out and hit the head of this man he did not know. The man  fell back with force and hit the wall and then the ground, unconscious and soon  dead: freak accident perhaps, but still he was the guilty party.

Even his wife was shocked by the event. “He’s never even killed a spider” she said to the policeman, who did not comment, and he had not. Over the years, ten, then twenty and now thirty years at least, he’d distanced himself from those memories which rose up after dark and taunted him for being just a victim: a man who never spoke out against this treatment, or those who poured it out for him in such chilling measure.

Those holiday snaps he looked at just last week, of some family, his they said, all sitting on the beach and smiling for the camera because you do, almost regardless of your mood, and eating ice-creams, a rare treat indeed, and hardly knowing anything at all, except that to be invisible is your last chance of survival, tugged at his hidden memories. And so he had become, invisible all these years, and hardly been seen beneath his cloak of courtesies and well-crafted opinions, and that well of compassion which always nourished his sympathy for the underdog.

All that was real, of course, but so was this: faced in adult years, by the blind indifference proferred by some arrogant stranger, he had lashed out at last, for reasons he could not explain, and was now the villain of the piece. He, who had never sought justice for the crimes which scarred his life, would feel the full weight of ‘Justice’ in the coming days. The thought of that irony brought him his first smile of the day. “What will be will be” came to mind: he had thought that all his life’

Some of our greatest inheritances, he reflected might come from the cruelties experienced by us when young. How, far from the camera’s lens, for which we smile and laugh with those we might call family or friends, we keep our real emotions to ourselves and sometimes from ourselves.  The primitive exhibition of power shown by some children, to those more defenceless than themselves builds up a library of pain. He had drawn on that most destructively and was a the guilty party here  beyond a doubt. Sentencing him would be easier than understanding him, and that remained no one’s problem but his own.

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After The Funeral

The mourners stood around him eating cakes and sandwiches not made by him. Some catering company he employed to do the work, did the work while he stood near a corner of the room, watching his guests share mourning and their memories  and stain the carpet with their drink and crumbs. He, who hated fuss above all else, and kept emotions strictly under wraps nodded at each face that passed offering him comfort and support, unsuspecting as they did, that all he longed for was his solitary thoughts, in which he he’d sought refuge all these years, while Mavis, his  wife now deceased, who spelt reflection with the word ‘Abyss’ filled his life with whims and groundless fears, till her death offered him relief and left him with the chance to dream once more, and sit and watch the natural world and catch his breath.

So thorough was his daily care of her, that those around her wondered at his quiet gentleness and diligent support for one who loved hysteria as if it was her only child. In fact, by chance or was it luck, the union had proved fruitless in that way, and wardrobes full of dresses and her shoes would be her unenduring memorial. He loved her without doubt, but more for herself than him, and always sought to ease her remorseless anxieties. Strangely once she knew that she must die, courage came from somewhere in her frame and brought a dignity to her passing. She, who made a fuss of everything, and thought a chipped cup a calamity, faced her death with humour and her spoken thought that, “You’ll be alright,”  was her comfort as her husband sat beside her on the bed.

He, who for years had lived within his wife’s concerns, alone at last, could set his dreams alight, or so he thought. He might explore and get to know people he had not yet met and tread the path to discovery, and taste adventure ungoverned by her fears.

But now alone, and challenged by his imagination, he realised the very door that kept this world beyond his reach, gave him the licence to  shape it’s landscape and possibilities without cost.  As he reflected thus, a wave of sadness startling in its suddenness, swept through him as he finally realised how her concerns had shielded him from himself, and allowed him his whimsies without risk. Nothing, he finally understood, makes a dream more  frightening  than it becoming possible.

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Supporting A Football Team

I am a man of stolid loyalties, which mark my life from everything to do with  morning routine through to lunchtime sandwich fillings and sports interests. Since the dawn of my maturity, I have supported the same football team, and in the last twenty years that has been an easy thing to do. Now, teams who previously came to our home ground for their annual humiliation, or had to pretend to be “good sports” when we won the championship again, are beating us using the postman and a guy who popped in to service the radiators because their actual strikers prefer going to the gym where they are more likely to get a real work-out.

I am a man who delights in being modest, and welcomes that in other people. That is not a modest thing to say, as we know,  and now I have got my comeuppance . The old, glory-rich manager retired at the end of the last season, after putting another championship cup in the broom cupboard as his display shelves had run out of space. He personally selected his replacement, and then sat back in the stands, I initially presumed, to marvel at the triumphs of his successor.

As news of his appointment spread, the papers were full of talk about “A safe pair of hands” or “Look what he achieved with no budget, put a hundred million in the petrol tank and watch that guy fly into the stratosphere.” Now, seven months later, we are regarded as an easy ‘three pointer’ by any team which plays us, and the humiliation is complete by my reckoning although others, no doubt, hope it has a long way to go.

I am a man who has, in lots of ways, experienced the effects of changing fortune and circumstance so, apart from writhing with embarrassment when the team which allowed me to achieve my advance-level pass in gloatmanship now leaves opponents grounds in a plain van, I feel considerable sympathy for the manager, so recently feted, who’s suffering from insults has only been limited by the finite vocabulary of his detractors.  I have some experience of this, and its not as much fun as people think.

In clouds above our heads deceased supporters are clubbing together to rent a thunderbolt with which they mean to extricate the poor guy from his current post and remove him to a place were the fires are self- renewing. In the land of the living’ pints are drunk and supporters quietly share their pain, and shake their head over some new disaster.  When I was eight I received a school report which disturbed my mother. It read, “Time is running out for Wells: must learn to take life seriously”  Clearly the man had an eye for character. If we meet in cloud-land on some future day, I shall ask him what his school report is for our current manager, poor guy, and listen to him sharpening his pitiless quill.

Veterans of my Blog may notice that some of my sentences are over-long. I apologise but must confess that these sports-day humiliations are dismantling me rivet by rivet, and it’s starting to show in the sentence structure. “We’ll support you ever morwer. Keep your head down and get out the doorwer” etc

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