Gathering Political Unease

I love Blogging, always have, and hopefully will continue to do so, and I talk about a lot of stuff, mostly personally based, and make up stories because that is my pleasure, but very recently as events have unfolded in Gaza and Ukraine, I have asked myself if trilling on about sandwiches or the extraordinary behaviour of some bank clerk is a proper use of my imagination.

Because I am who I am, I tend to research topics with an almost unhealthy thoroughness, and try and get behind the key characters involved. We remember don’t we, in a sense, what the movement was like towards the beginning of the First World War, and how the character of those in positions of power was regarded as significant. How the Kaiser strutted and British King, largely powerless within his own country, raised his eyebrows at the uncouth behaviour of his cousin. How the Russian Czar fell under the influence of possibly malignant individuals and the Austrian Emperor struggled to retain his threatened Empire,  but the causes of that war run much deeper  as we know.

There was a growling of political and social tectonic plates as powerful forces for change affected the landscape, and these figures in power had an influence, certainly, but there was a larger story of which they were not so aware, lost as they were in the vanities of their own situation.

Today as leaders of countries intimately involved in the troubled world I see around me, posture and make guarded speeches about what other parties and countries should be doing, while largely retaining a distance of approach so as to “not raise the international temperature” I nod sadly as the sound of those tectonic plates growls ever louder.

“Love is the answer, and you know that for sure” John Lennon sang in the sixties, but it is a lesson which we forget or continue to ignore, as hundreds of deaths in Gaza demonstrate. At the same time firing large numbers of rockets into Israel without effect , Thank God, does nothing but undermine the Palestinian case which would be made more powerful if some Ghandi like figure appeared to emphasise the humanitarian tragedy we see in the middle east.

The fight in Ukraine may be depicted as caused by the wounded pride of Putin, whose nose was put out by the drift of that country towards Europe, considered by him  as the last straw, and further evidence of the European Union and the United States interfering in the Russian sphere of influence. but also has deeper causes found in the changing social and political landscape of his own and the surrounding countries.

In both cases it is the families grieving lost loved ones and the sense of personal and private loss and bewilderment in the face of such events,  which distress me most. Long after these current events fade from the news to be replaced by a gripping story about the personal conduct of someone in power,  families will continue mourning, and live with the loss of people without national power but who were central to their own precious lives. Unless their grief gives us pause for thought, new and more horrific events may dwarf the horrors from which I am recoiling.

All in all, the ‘key’ figures may or may not have an influence on events and, for various reasons rooted in national and strategic interests, numbers of them have been surprisingly silent on both issues, but in terms of religions and national identities there is a level of conflict, endurance and hatred in the world today which would have shocked John Lennon if he were still alive.

I will not write of this again, but I told myself, I cannot have a pen and a Blog and say nothing  and still respect myself. Normal service will be resumed in my next post.

Posted in character, community, creative writing, faith, Life, Middle East, Peter Wells, Ukraine | Tagged , , , , , , , | 16 Comments

No Parties Please at Bramley Home for the Elderly

My name is Stanley Castle, which is the name I prefer, although the familiar, “We’re all friends now” people insist on calling me “Stan.” I am a man who relishes order and formalities and excessive familiarity unsettles me: it has always done so. I live at the Bramley Home for the Elderly ,by-line,  “We Bring Compassion to Understanding” where the levels of absent-minded neglect, and even cruelty, remind me of my childhood. Life may indeed go full circle, and so, emotionally, I am back where I started as a burden too far for staff whose minds are on other things and who wish to be in other places. Thus it is that the cruellest among the nurses are baffled that I smile at their conduct, which brings back fond memories of my mother, a haughty, fastidious lady who aspired to an aristocratic heritage founded on some baseless rumour later laid to rest; as I shall be in due course.

I sit now, silent among a circle of feces, watching or staring at the television and discover the clock to be the most animated presence in the room. Sometimes there is a flurry of activity and some relative comes in to visit someone else and says something like “ How’s it going Gran?” as if all  the residents are having fun, and  have just finished a meal of oysters and  champagne. No one comes to party here in the Waiting Room for Death but that truth remains unspoken ” We don’t want to cause too much emotion among these fading souls.” The lunch recently served under the title “Shepherd’s pie with peas” may have contained  nutrients, but flavour had been exiled to make way for them.

Do I sound bitter? Who cares, bitterness is free, and I won’t last long enough to suffer the consequences of the emotion so I make a point of glaring at anyone lucky enough to have a visitor and make them feel as uncomfortable as possible. It has not made me friends, but it has given me the energy that anger brings, and that is something I will treasure until I cease to breath and they can fold me up and put me out of harm’s way until the disposal van removes me from their sight. It was not always so.

Posted in character, community, creative writing, humour, Life, Love, old age, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

A Dating Club for ‘Losers’

Rick Slider, whose boast to his mother was that he was always behaved honourably if there was no alternative, and that the only thing which made an act ‘appalling in the face of nature’ was it’s discovery by others, was travelling on the London underground when he ended up sitting next to some fat badly dressed guy of indeterminate middle age who appeared to be reading the dating column of a national newspaper.

Being the man he was, Rick peered over his shoulder at the article where this poor gentleman was seeking some relief from a life  marked by “Bedsitter Blues” and a meals of baked beans eaten while watching TV shows about the ‘Festival of the Silent Choir’ and other obscure documentaries,

“Stunningly sexy women who loves exotic holidays, over-achievement and men who leave an irresponsible carbon footprint seeks “ripped” younger man for a life of hedonism and carefree excess. An appetite for unnecessary shopping would be an advantage”  Slider looked up from the paper to the face of the man seated beside him; puffy, bean-fatted and lost, and wondered why he would waste his time reading such advertisements.

Suddenly the idea of a “Losers Dating Club” came to mind. Candidates must be in excess of forty-five and preferably with at least one marriage behind them not ended by anything noble like widowhood. Loss of hair and a chronic weight problem would be preferable and a reasonable degree of anxiety and job insecurity would be considered as a distinct advantage.

The idea was callous, shallow and disturbingly prejudiced and thus had all the hallmarks of an enterprise bound for success in the new “Stuff you I’m having fun” urban world.  Those unfocussed drifting folk, without clear agenda or ambition, who failed to get the attention of the gym-hardened holiday-equipped modern ‘carbon-burner’ sent in their profiles. Soon, our warm-hearted entrepreneur was toasting another commercial success on a Caribbean island with some soft lovely who was trying to take him for all he was worth, while he indulged in obtaining a thorough biological inventory of her assets and inclinations without regard to her future welfare. The gods wished them well, and there were signs that the two of them could have found happiness together, if they either of them had known what it was.

Leaving them to their sun-burn and shallowness we will visit Limpet on Sea where Nathanial Sogg was swaping stories of his unfocused life with Sandra Full. Not forced to pretend they were  more competent  than they really were, or indicate a fulfilment they never experienced,  both parties relaxed and experienced one of those rare periods of enjoyment with a member of the opposite sex, unrelated to catering or the process of reproduction.

Date followed date and soon she was burning his dinner while he played his guitar without regard to talent or musicality. He crunched his way through her onion soup, ( left too long on the cooker while she was looking for a photo she wanted to share ) and out of nowhere proposals were offered and accepted.

Yes, they really did live happily ever after in a pleasingly undistinguished dwelling far removed from the world of fashion or contemporary architecture. It just goes to show that even the most callous of people can bring happiness to others by accident, if not design.



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The Sportalist

Geoff Dunkin put down his drink long enough to say, “He should have moved to the right, tucked his left elbow in and then swung the racket through the ball. That would have put a spin on it and he’d of won the point.” Now that his advice was “out there” for the world , and all those with him in his house at 16 Doncaster Road, namely his wife and their cat Mollie, to acknowledge and admire, he felt free to raise his hand again with a slight swinging action involving an extention of his elbow towards the window so he could take another slurp  of soothing ale.

With a figure modelled on the concept of a peanut with small legs, his advice on tennis court strategy was not the most sought after in his district or, to be honest, his own home where, as in many  established domestic households, he employed the tactic of ‘speaking aloud in case anyone was listening.’

Before we reach out across the page and internet to console our heroic sports strategist I must tell you that this was a sublime period in his life when both the Wimbledon tennis championship and World Cup were on at the same time. Better than that, three of his mates were coming over later to watch the football and tuck into Majorie’s famous sausage rolls.

Now they were all crammed into the small collection of ill-chosen chairs and one of them said of Marjorie’s snacks, “She makes the sausages herself,”  “The Queen of detail” says another, and Majorie can feel both put upon and admired at one and the same time along with a million domestic underdogs. “She slammed that flavour right in the back of the net and dunked ketchup on it” said a third, and Geoff smiles at the implied compliment to his team selection in the home department.

In the kitchen Marjorie was getting through her chores, or hiding from the conversation, depending on your viewpoint, and didn’t hear the praise heaped on her. In truth, her mind was on other matters just now, as her lover would be back in town in two days, and she was wondering what excuse she could come up with to go and spend some time with him. He had no interest in sport, or cycling or anything apart from her when he was with her, and his presence in her life made the complacent observations of her husband just about bearable. Her only wish was that “Barry” could earn enough to get her out of this life and into a place where she was loved and noticed.

Geoff, basking in the admiration of his mates regarding his astute observations and the quality of his wife’s cooking glanced over at her photograph on the table by the TV. “If anyone knew how to keep a women happy it was him” he thought. Perhaps he ought to write a book about it?

Posted in character, community, cooking, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Life, Love, Peter Wells, Relationships, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

A Promising Date

 Ruth was getting ready for her date with Herman, but her heart was not singing. She knew in moments of honesty that she had rung Herman to annoy another man, and not from any real desire to see him or get to know him romantically or for any reason at all, come to think of it.

Like many of us, she was too proud to admit her mistakes when they affected someone else, so, sure enough, she smiled warmly when she answered the door to him, saying, “Herman, come in, come in, how lovely to see you” and offered him her cheek to kiss.

It was clear that he had been cheered, and possibly emboldened by her call, and felt a romance with her was actually possible. In truth, he had tossed and turned restlessly at the prospect of the date and the teasing prospect of being loved again. The thought had made him smile, because, if he was honest with himself, always an unsettling experience, it was more than possible that his first wife had married him more on the grounds of common sense than emotion. He would not dwell on that, but let his imagination focus again on Ruth and her pleasing and sophisticated manner. She seemed, as they say, to be ‘well out of his league,’ but then she had rung him, and that must mean something. What it actually meant was that she was hurt and irritated with the other man: a fact she  would not recognise

Once at the restaurant they sipped their drinks and studied the menu, then Herman’s hand moved over hers as it rested on the table. That symbol of gentle connection did not settle her. She looked up at his bland and pale face and saw the cautious and possibly clumsy agenda in his eyes.

“Let’s not get carried away, Herman” she said.

“Sorry,” he replied, and the hand was withdrawn.

She could act as she wanted, but after all, it was she who had rung him, and that must mean something he thought. More certain of his purpose now, he was sure the evening and atmosphere would provide him with another chance to establish their new connection. He was famous for his patient pursuit of goals. For her part, Ruth was looking increasingly at the evening as a test of endurance.

Clearly, the man, as she now thought of him, had forgotten their talk at their last meeting and was embarking on a flight of fancy which could only cause embarrassment. It was important to nip that error in the bud, so she did what most people do: nothing. The food was delicious, the music played by the orchestra in the restaurant was both skilful and unchallenging, the atmosphere at the table tentative and unsettling. No one had the courage to say the ‘date’ was clearly based on misunderstanding mixed with pride. They ploughed on through the expensively provided courses towards coffee and release or, in his imagination, a promise of some sweet union which might drag him from his path of isolation.

In the corner of the restaurant, near the band, was a small area set aside for dancing. Already, in this expensive place, Ruth observed some middle-aged guy with balding head dancing with a girl clearly young enough to be his daughter and wondered what their relationship was. Looking at him, and then back again at Herman, she felt the whole evening to be tragic, possibly even sordid. How stupid she could be?

It seemed a place to her, where men clearly used their money to gain the favour of ladies who would otherwise pay them no attention. The food, produced with diligent thoroughness and some attention to flavour did nothing for her. The sweet, tempting love songs from the band floated over her head unnoticed, and all she could long for was the chance to return to her own dwelling, unmolested or desired. Anything she wanted in her life was not in this room or in his company.

“More wine,” he said, and his eyes shone with brilliant anticipation.

For his part, he could not fail to notice her uncertainly and uncomfortable demeanour. He could not say why, but the image excited him. He mistook her nerves for frailty and anticipation, and did not realise she was suffering from a mixture of boredom and claustrophobia.

“Where would you like to go after the meal?” he said.

“Home,” she replied, and seeing his eyes light up added, “On my own.”

Finally, some sense of her mood seemed to enter his consciousness, and he settled back in his chair. The expensive merlot, now free of that undertone of celebration, tasted inconsequential in his mouth. He would not be ordering another bottle.

“Have I misunderstood something?” he asked her.

“Yes, I think you have. I rang you because I was angry with somebody else, and not because I especially wanted to see you. I don’t want to hurt you, but I don’t want to give you the wrong impression either.”

No one can fault her candour, but candour seldom goes rewarded. On this occasion, Herman sat back in his chair and looked at this woman, who now clearly wished to exit his life with a gathering urgency.

He smiled and said, with a hint of iciness, “Glad to be of service. Shall I get the bill?”

Ruth just nodded. The evening suddenly seemed to have become unpleasant, and she couldn’t wait to get away. “This is awkward,” she said. “I think I’ll leave you with it and get a taxi home. Thank you for a lovely meal.”

The surprise announcement and offhand use of cliché did little to settle Herman’s battered confidence, and he said nothing as she collected her bag and left the restaurant. The waiter, when he arrived, managed to neither raise an eyebrow, smirk, nor say anything clever, which was impressive given the fact that the first thing he did when he got to the kitchen was say, “That old codger at table 15 has been dumped. The lady just got up and left him to settle the bill. It was brilliant.” It was moments like these which added drama and relief to his day.

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Whats In A Name

It was my father who told me once, that if you wanted to enjoy a sensible conversation with my mother it was important to catch her attention before noon. As he said, “She does not object to swallowing but will not suffer the drudgery of chewing too early in the day” by which he meant all her nutrients, up to that hour, were taken in liquid form and were normally stiffened with a decent supply of Vodka: her conduct became increasingly ‘random’ as the day progressed, possibly helping her express her “Inner Calling,” as a Conceptual Artist: no I don’t know what that means either.

I tell you this because it makes some things clearer. My mother, in lucid moments, and perhaps more vocally in her,  “Charismatic Interludes” was a fanatical fan of Winston Churchill. When I also mention that she went to the town hall at three-thirty in the afternoon to register my name, following a celebratory luncheon with some of the town’s finest, you may now understand why my first name is “Winsome,” which is probably as near as she could get to her intended target after a bottle and a half of the sacred fluid.

“Winsome Green”  does not carry the weight  our famous statesman enjoyed, but it still raised eyebrows in a variety of venues as I progressed towards adulthood.  My mother’s brittle and inflexible grasp on what she considered to be “the facts” meant that no one, including my father, had the nerve to suggest she had made an error.

Being a  “Conceptual Artist” meant she was called on to behaved oddly, and strike up strange and often embarrassing poses in the most regrettable of places and circumstances, sometimes using what we might call “A minimalist wardrobe” if I am to continue the artistic theme: she was arrested for her art on a number of occasions by men in blue who insensitively called her moments of “Interpretive Brilliance” , “Drunk and Disorderly Conduct.” I’m not sure if this calling ever involved the transfer of monies into her bank account, but, to quote her; “Uninspired realities should not influence the life of the Gifted,” amongst whom she deluded herself.

My father, who used to refer to his marriage to my mother as being like “Trying to hang on to a barrage balloon in a gale” left her when I was fourteen  and ran or rode off with a traffic warden after a brief courtship originating, most unusually, in a disagreement over parking bays. However odd that sounds, I can tell you that they are still together and show every sign of being a devoted couple. When I asked my father what the secret of his happy marriage to his second wife was, he replied, possibly unkindly, “Relief at ending the first:” Some people may understand his point of view.

Needless to say, following his departure, my remaining childhood was spent in exploring the opportunities for under-achievement in various schools and colleges before I entered my working life as a trainee bicycle engineer.

None of this is relevant except, following my interesting childhood, I met up with a girl who was a cycling enthusiast and, for undisclosed reasons, she appears to love me. Indeed she told me once that what drew her to me was “I could take all the love she had to give” which tells you quite a lot about her character and my history I suspect.

I am pleased to announce that we are now expecting our first child, but must also tell you that my mother is coming over for a celebratory luncheon to discuss possible names for the unborn infant. I shall be attempting to keep her away from the town-hall during any official ceremonies. Her new hero is Roald Dahl: try saying that after a bottle or two of some challenging fluid. “What was that name again!?”

Posted in character, childhood, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Life, Peter Wells, Relationships, Talent, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 24 Comments

Discovering Talent and The Artistic Dream

Very early on in my muddled career, I worked in what is called “The A & R Department” of a record company: that is the department which received all the tapes from would-be recording stars. There was at least a sack of tapes a day, so your chances of being listened to were remote. If you were heard, and the song did not grab our attention in the first two bars, it was the bin for you, and no letter saying “We are sorry we cannot pay you more attention at this time but we were already bored by the fourth note.”

On the back of this, with a friend, I started a side-line professionally recording  songs for hopeful artists, using ourselves and session musicians we knew: all great stuff and loads of fun.  What struck me, even then, was the amount of amazing talent out there, and that there was far too much of it for the record companies to deal with, or the public to absorb. Naturally, a greater number of the people who sent in material were horrendously self-deluded, and a sound-proof shower would have been the best place for them to express their dream.

Now I have joined that throng as a “published writer.”  ( Short pause to do a bit of modest bowing here before I realise no one is watching ). Once again, although in a slightly different situation, I am in a place where those who dream of being heard may write at will, and be self- published if they so wish. As with my previous experience, I am astonished by the numbers of people sharing this dream and reports that about 300,000 books are published or self- published a year. ( This figure may be wrong because I am too lazy to check it). To be successful in these circumstances takes talent, marketing and a possible smile from Uncle Miracle.

Over the years, especially when I was younger, I came across many people who wanted to be ‘Artists’ without really appreciating what they were saying. Examine the life of many famous artists and you will see a history riven with chaos, sadness, difficulties, poverty and isolation; mental if not physical. It is the perspective they often gain from being outsiders, which drives them  to seek for sense or balance in a world-view unvisited by common experience, and discovered through misfortune or their own recklessness. A circumstance which drives them to look where others have no wish to, and to seek for understanding in places shunned by their more circumspect neighbours.

Great art seldom comes from a long successful career, marriage and retirement in a seaside cottage. It is more often the last gasp of those left only with the need to understand the world from a perspective none of us would choose. When people say, “I want to be an Artist” I always reply “Be careful what you wish for”. Van Gough, Herman Melville and John Keats, got little recognition from their work during their lives, and day to day might well have settled for that sense of peace enjoyed by their less-reflective neighbour. For those who need cheering up, study the life of Edgar Allan Poe who wrote brilliantly, drank copiously, lost his wife early and struggled for money constantly before dying unknown at the age of forty. Of course, if you want to be an entertainer, that is quite another matter.

Posted in character, creative writing, Environment, faith, Life, Peter Wells, poetry, Talent, Uncategorized, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 39 Comments