My One True Love

When I opened the door there was Jennifer, my lifetime’s love and all she said was “I made such a mistake back then,” and looking at her, all I saw was the love of my life, worshipped in eternity who I met at university and who passed me by as being too unworldly for her tastes.

In her eyes I saw the magic which always held me : the blend of arrogance and fear which draws men to their undoing.  I have been married to a woman who has tolerated my failings, as I have hers, for many years, and together we are blessed. but she was never the object of my dreams

“Who is that” shouted out my loyal one, and I lied “Just some salesman” as I indicated to my lover with my hands that I would be with her in five minutes.

Sure enough, shortly afterwards I shouted out I was off for my coffee which I enjoy every Saturday: for the first time in thirty-five years, my heart was filled with turmoil and deceit.

 There she was at the end of the road, arms outstretched and waiting for my embrace: seeking for that reservoir of understanding I offered her so freely in my student years. Yes I did return that embrace: I could not help myself, and immediately she sought my hand with hers as we walked off to the park but I am not unknown in this area and reticence saved me.

My wife is not my dream but she is my friend, my dearest friend: my most precious friend and in the eyes of this woman, who I sought to make my own in those days when the world was mine to conquer, I saw nothing but hunger and chaos. Stepping back I said, “I will always love you Jennifer but we made our choices and I was not yours” before turning on my heels and returning home.

As I opened the door my wife was standing at the foot of the stairs saying, “That was a quick one”  but her eyes asked more questions than her words. Betrayal, I realised, need only last a moment to cast a shadow for eternity.

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Reaching An Understanding

Our courtship was built on a meeting in Hawaii where we were both on holiday, and we discovered we both lived in the same city. “Is this fate?” she asked, and I just nodded my head and leant to kiss her: our first kiss. I called her my ‘Guardian Angel,’ sent to save me from myself, and she sort of laughed in that indulgent way people do when they think you get them.

Sunsets, starlight, euphoria: those things have got a lot to answer for, because that is not where marriages find out if they will work, but none the less that is where we decided we were made for each other and we got married, just at the end of our vacation and a day before we were due to fly back to London.

She was the answer to my prayers I told myself. A beautiful girl, but homely and able to laugh at herself, but with just that edge of magic which keeps you guessing and lets you swallow the hook so deep that when she tugs the rod you feel the pull from the centre of your being and the miracle is, she doesn’t even know she’s fishing. I found out later that she does it anyway, to any man she meets, but perhaps the extra magic of the Island made her think this was the deal: the moment in her life when she discovered herself: it was for me and I have the certificate to prove it. A fact I reflected on when she began to talk about herself.

“As a young girl” she said, “I learnt about terror. I mean really learnt. The knowledge you are at the mercy of something pitiless and dark for whom your cries are the icing on the cake. “My uncle would threaten me but never touch me, so there was nothing to see if anyone asked, but his look alone could burn deep within my soul,” and what man couldn’t be moved by her outpourings.” It seemed a bit indistinct, but her tears were real enough and of course I went and put my arms round her and she looked up at me and said, “You make me feel safe” and who wouldn’t melt under that statement; except later on I learnt she had a way with creating dramas and didn’t actually have an uncle: three aunts and a vivid imagination but no uncle.

Those people who can be anyone you want to meet are the most dangerous people you can discover because they don’t know who they are themselves, but they know you are a stage on which they must play a part. She could do lots of things well, but not for themselves but just because they made the current “Her” more convincing.

I kept her this side of sane by taking everything she told me to be real and the truth, and thus I never threatened her, and in protecting her found I must love her because without someone like me she really would be lost. She was, in more ways than I can ever describe, my own creation, and protecting her fragile entity became my whole life’s work. 

She was loyal in her way and always seemed well-meaning. None of us are entirely real are we? We are all partly a figment of someone’s imagination and sometimes of our own. I think my darling just took that to extremes and I rescued her. I think that’s what it was.

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That Moment !

I’m an “In between engagements” kind of guy who has taken many jobs to keep the world from taking too much interest in his lack of circumstance. I am still seeking my calling, my destiny, the true expression of myself while passing the time by becoming friends with many occupations which some describe as “An insult to your abilities” without truly defining what those abilities might be.

A turn of phrase perhaps, and one or two observations about the frailty of the ego which draw occasional interest from people who have led a more directed life than I. So it was with Jane, a noted business guru who I met while I was cleaning her room as part of my job as a staff member at a conference hotel in Switzerland. She surprised me by coming into her room when I presumed professional duties would have demanded her attention elsewhere.

She seemed on edge and anxious to engage someone, anyone, me it seemed, in conversation and we got to talking, crazily, intimately, as if we were equals, and I had no idea what was on her mind but in this room, and alone in this space, your last phrase or observation was all you were judged by and, somehow, in that sphere, I garnered her respect. “When you end your shift come back to me” she implored, and I said I could not, but she said, if I wanted to I would find a way and to look at her, competent and fragile, strong yet challenged  by endless doubts, I found myself too weak to refuse. 

Perhaps this was the start of something; some preordained connection touched by angels. At the very least my head was turned so, three hours later, there I was at her door, and she was opening it dressed in very little and already offering up a glass of wine.

We kissed of course, crazily, as if some force larger than ourselves had made us puppets and briefly I was swept up in some  magical existence. Later, exhausted from our physical activities we faced each other across the bed, and now she was naked in that careless way which says “We have no secrets now” but of course we always do. I remember my father, perhaps unwisely, saying to me while he was staring out of the window and holding a large whisky in his hand, not his first, “If a women is good at sex she’s often bad at life: approach with caution” and his words came back to haunt me as I raised my eyes to hers and saw that almost drunk sense of euphoria found in those who think destiny has raised a chalice to their lips.

Having paid for my attention with herself she told me about her life: her controlling parents who wanted her always to excel, her husband, “That useless lump,” who worked as a “Life coach” on some disregarded magazine and then the woes and regrets with which she’d packed her life until she seemed almost sobbing with anguish and dispair. “You are so wise” she said, “Why do you live like this?” and sadly she was not the first to make that observation, but I nodded and said, “Every life is perplexing when you get too close to it” and so we talked on and she shared her private chaos until, scared at last, I said I’d better be off or my wife would wonder where I was: perhaps that was a reckless thing to say.

In an instant she became another woman: one who looked at me with arrogant distaste. “Another married player are we! Another cheat!?” Suddenly her voice was full of venom, perhaps forgetting that she herself was married. I dressed as quickly as I could and hurried down the corridor and then the staff stairways but still there was Jennifer, the senior house-keeper, smirking in her usual unsettling manner and saying, “The manager wants to see you,” and I knew that once again I had been the source of my own undoing.

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A Strategic Romance


The Duke of Mildshire could look back on a traceable ancestry of over four hundred years, populated by those who lived largely free of financial and moral constraints:  rich in statesman of varying moral profiles. Owing to a remorseless stream of what the Duke called “bad luck” and others referred to as reckless behaviour the circumstances of the current bearer of the title were markedly different to those of his ancestors. Now residing at Flat 3, 25 Whiteley Crescent, which he usually referred to as his castle, the current nobleman was the distinguished leaseholder of a local fish and chip shop, by-line, “ Every meal served with distinction, ” which Frederick Norman Octavius de Launston, twelfth Duke of Mildshire, or Freddie as he was known during working hours, toiled at during his day.

At night, as he laid his weary head on the pillow, which had been washed within living memory, he dreamt of being free of the drudgery that he felt ill- suited a man of his  background. Gym-averse, and with the figure to prove it, our tired nobleman wracked his brains for ways to escape what he secretly described as “a living nightmare.” 

He felt sure he might be able to indulge in what he niftily described as “Reverse Russian bride dating,” by which he meant securing the attention, if not affection, of a lady of East European origin who wished to live in a world of takeaway restaurants and hair salons offering a pleasing range of outdated magazines: needless to say her father would have made a vulgar pile of money in the gas industry or  some other noble enterprise.

Barely was the thought formed than a surge of what some people  call “energy” coursed through his system: regardless of the hour, he sprang out of bed and switched on his laptop. Within minutes his eyes were grazing through a field rich in grinning female faces of East European ancestry. Petroska Bulgin, who boasted that she liked to “make cakes the good” caught his eye. He sent her a message “Dear Petroska, I read of your enthusiasm for baking with pleasure. I am involved in the food industry and feel your skills would lie very happily with mine.” The whiff of double entendre in the word “lie” gave a pleasing edge to his message, he considered, and he signed it Freddie, Duke of Mildshire.

Freddie prided himself  he could look  beyond  any surface blemish  to the inner  bank statement  and Petroska seemed  similarly  inspired  by his circumstances:  affections  swiftly  deepened  to the point  where a need to meet became imperative.   Freddie managed to refer casually to his need to repaint “ The Castle” by which  we know  he  meant Flat 3, 25 Whiteley Crescent. 

Both parties raved about the spiritual beauty of the other, and how hard it must be for someone of such purity to survive in the brutalising world they both had to endure. When Petroska asked him how far his castle was from the nearest hair salon, complete with  outdated magazines, he realised he had seriously engaged her interests. On her part, his enquiry about the number of gas pipelines controlled by her father displayed, she considered, a pleasing and caring side to his character.

At last the time arrived  when  she decided that she must fly over and see her soulmate in person and enjoy  a quick  tour  round his estate . Clearly this was a slightly disturbing prospect to our adventurous nobleman but possibly his first challenge was to smarten up the fish and chip van to a standard more suited to the transport of a would-be Duchess. Regarding his residence. our  wily Duke told  his  “besotted one” that the castle was being redecorated and they  would  be forced to stay at  a  country hotel within walking distance of a local hair salon: that seemed to please her.

He thought briefly of hiring a car for  the  duration of her visit but fish sales had been ebbing recently and he was not sure the business could stand the extravagance. Still, he was determined nothing would get between him and a lifetime’s supply of free energy. ” Fortune  favours  the knave ” he said,  quoting  from his as yet unwritten Book Of Dark Wisdoms  with a gusto  which would have made  his ancestors  proud: others might nod their heads at this unsettling profundity.

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Working On My Social Connections

I am a naturally exuberant character: I treat the world as my village, and will talk to almost anybody but even I have soul searing moments! Can you imagine standing in front of the bathroom mirror, looking at your reflection then drowning in a moment of self-knowledge as the tears flow silently down your cheeks. You clutch your toothbrush ever tighter, fighting to control your sobs. At last you feel a hand on your arm and you hear your wife say, “What is the matter dearest?”

You turn to face her, and look into her eyes, seeking some relief from the awful truth which cannot be spoken but which is forcing itself to be heard. At last you hear an almost disembodied voice utter the words. “I cannot make puff-pastry.” “Sorry” says the wife, temporarily thrown off-balance. as you continue, “ I will never sit before the oven and see my creation rise above the baking tray in glorious mountains of taste heaven.”

Something like a shadow passes over her face, and without speech you can read her thoughts. “There are over three billion men on this planet, but somehow I had to marry you.”

Fair enough, each corner of our lives may not be covered in glory but we all have our moments. Later, walking along a beach bathed in sunlight I wish I might be one of those men for whom the whole place stands still: even the beach ball freezing in mid-flight as across the golden expanse of this holiday paradise you hear the thoughts of women folk murmuring, “He’s hot, ripped, shaped” or whatever their expression might be. Sadly with my body cased in nothing but my knee-length Harris tweed bathing trunks and a small sombrero, the only description I can hear of my physique is “He’s melted” which might indicate my stomach flows down in gentle undulations towards, and finally over my belt, but, do we mind ; no, because I recognise my wrist is still in spectacular condition.

This thought was with me as I walked over the sand to the café where the athletes among us size up the menu to decide which cake might go better with their latte. Being exuberant, as I said, I will talk to anyone, so I smiled at the man sitting opposite me at the table, and scowling at me, he began to speak.
“I hate all people”, he says.

“Everyone?” I ask.

” Yes, White, Black, Green, Orange: everyone.” That seems to cover most people on the planet and one or two other solar systems so I look for spiritual sunlight elsewhere. “What about music then?” and I pause to take a bite of my delicious almond and apricot coated pastry. “ I hate music,” he said.

Interesting point of view so I ask him, “Do you hate every note?” and he pauses before replying, “I don’t mind middle C.” Ok, it’s not a world of riches but it’s a start: I tuck into the experience.

“So are we allowed to change the volume? You know, one note, but louder, then softer and then suddenly louder again to keep the listener guessing:” I give a brief vocal rendition to make the point clearer to him.

That look I remembered from the morning bathroom conversation passes over his face and I know he’s thinking “There are over seven billion people on the planet but I’m sitting here with this idiot, and where did he get that hat”. Desperate to claw myself back into his good books I ask him if he is getting any wrist action?

For reasons known only to himself, he leaves the table without finishing his coffee.

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Etiquette And The Modern World

There are individuals whose sensibilities and reluctance to cause offense can seriously damage their chances of making the best of any situation. I am reminded of an event in history when the Kingdom of Postonia got embroiled in an unfortunate war with its larger neighbour over some awkward misunderstanding concerning the reliability of railway timetables.

As sometimes happens during conflicts, the two armies were assembled, and by some odd chance, the Postonian Army, much smaller than the opposing forces, arrived at the battlefield very early in the morning while the enemy was still asleep. An opportunistic Colonel whispered in the ear of his commanding officer, “Let’s attack them now, while they are still asleep: they won’t know what’s hit them,” “I don’t think so”, said the general. “It would be uncouth, at best, to attack an enemy before they have a chance to wash and put on their uniforms.”

Needless to say, the Colonel was stunned by his commanding officer’s response, and sure enough, their army was destroyed in the ensuing melee: Postonia vanished from the history books. The General, ever helpful by all accounts, with a developing reputation in the world of Orchids, was stabbed to death by an enemy soldier as he asked him if he realised his jacket was not buttoned up correctly !

Moving forward to the driven modern job market, we drift into an interview room where a gifted university graduate is seeking his first position at a pharmaceutical company. “OK tell me Geoffrey, what qualities do you feel you can bring to this post” the candidate is asked. There is a brief pause before he replies. “I don’t think it’s really for me to say sir.”
“Pardon”, says the startled interviewer. “This is an interview dammit. You’re meant to put your best foot forward”. “I quite understand”, says poor Geoffrey, ” And I have no wish to offend,but I wouldn’t like to unfairly influence you one way or the other”. Needless to say, regardless of his excellent qualifications, he fails to get the job.

Of course, care must be taken not to veer too far in the other direction. Back to the interview and Geoffrey is asked, “What qualities do you feel you can bring to this post”. Geoffrey leans forward and says, “Shut it Mister. I start on Monday, and don’t fob me off with a desk at the back of the office”.

Apparently he conducts the rest of his interview in the company of security guards while being guided to a new position on the pavement, or sidewalk depending on the location of your exit.

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Paradise With A Guilty Secret

The world will not applaud us, that I understand, but two days ago before you left for America, emigrating with your ever-promoted husband, we snatched a last moment together: your hair on my shoulders, eyes locked with mine; finding comfort in a moment we were powerless to expand and all that was and is left for us.

You are the wife of my employer; a man defined by his successful search for glory and power while we both sought for what we could not afford and dreamt of travelling landscapes we would never see. In each other’s eyes we sought the immortal power of understanding, albeit uncertainly. Beauty is not always apparent to the man seeking the neat solution but to me you were the heart of it’s being: an unacknowledged angel trapped in expediency.

So often we pass the most important moments of our lives thinking them incidental but your gaze and the love within it showed me an understanding and kindness which gave added value to my being.Nothing moves humanity at large more than the powerless loving the powerless and in your gaze I discovered that truth to be eternal.

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That Last Chance Class

You know that practised smile, the air-hostess smile so beloved in the world of the antiseptic greeting? Miss Laura had it and could look on you and then move away before you could ask if her manner was sincere, or meant just for you, or a mere reflection of your longing, but luck was not on her side the day I joined her dancing class.

I was lonely and desperate, and for some years I had lived as a recluse, through force of circumstance rather than desire. One evening, an advert in the local newspaper caught my eye and here I was holding Miss Laura in my arms, and seeing her eyes, warm and nurturing, then wary, then alarmed as she looked up at me. I could almost hear her refined and polished instincts whirring into action as she sought a way to extricate herself from the arms of this odd creature without creating a scene.

I hung on to her a bit too long and her eyes, with that gentle seriousness I had seen before in other girls, made the unspoken suggestion that I was threatening to embarrass myself and her until, like some piece of refuse caught briefly by an overhanging branch, I was released from my hypnosis and freed her from my grasp.

As I let her go, her eyes hardened as if to say, “I do not waste my warmth on men like you” and to be honest there was a guarded, careful quality about her which was at odds with her apparently social and generalised manner.

I had been a wealthy man in my time, and used to employ a modesty of character combined with an expensive wardrobe to attract those whose company I might enjoy. Up to my mid-forties I had been considered sensible, balanced and particular, until a certain Maria Gratzia, who boasted among other things, that she was a distant descendant of Lucretia Borgia, caught my eye: which outlandish claim was given some credence by her subsequent conduct.

What she had against men, or mankind in general, or just me, I cannot truly say, but once I lost myself in her, she married me, took half my wealth, my reputation and my peace of mind before leaving me to find consolation in uneasy solitude brought on by shame and balmed by any drink I could acquire.

We all have unsavoury, grubby aspects to our character do we not, and she managed to fillet out mine and make it general knowledge to excuse her own conduct, which it did; leaving me, now a pariah, to steal into the obscure seclusion from which I had failed to free myself for close on a decade. At last, the longing to be absolved, touched and recognised gradually possessed me until I had made this unbalanced attempt to renew my social life.

I was like a man dying of thirst who stumbles into some fine restaurant and gulps and slurps from a carafe of wine without ceremony, revolting the diners with his display of unpolished appetite, as was my brief and awkward dance with Miss Laura until she saw the hunger in my eyes. After a while recognition overlayed the hauteur and she said, “Mr Longestine, please do not come back here again,” and I left as quickly as I could. Secrets laid bare can haunt us all our lives.

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The Perfect Partner

It is said that when we seek a life-partner we look for what we want or desire but later, and often after the point of no return, we realise that what we have been drawn to is the familiar wrapped in a beguiling costume. Are we always attracted to the same situation in different guises, and the same mistakes in different garb, until we find a way of confronting them or merely run out of life-battery during the attempt to do so?

When I first met her, Vanessa seemed like a party girl to me and possibly to her I seemed a kindly influence in an indifferent world. Much too late, some might say, we discovered we were strangers: who became politely intolerable to each other over the ensuing years.

That’s where manners come in: confronted by an uncomfortable truth, you offer it a cup of tea and ask it if its journey has been uneventful. The one thing you do not seek is to engage it in meaningful and personal conversation, because who knows what will happen once that dialogue begins. We found a way to sit together and exist on a diet of pleasantries and the need for space but I cannot really call it “Living.”

Living is what I did when I met Paula from work: trapped like me in a conventional straight-jacket and dreaming of the moment when she could cast aside convention. We gave each other the strength and courage to celebrate life in our way so, in a moment of reckless abandon, I told my wife I was leaving her and moved in with Paula, who divorced her husband, buoyed up by my impetuous euphoria.

Happiness was ours to drink and life to celebrate each and every day: the liberation was overwhelming and my joy complete. We were children without parents and life became our playground. Gradually we found ourselves somehow without direction, or boundaries apart from that set by exhaustion. Then the newly “free” Paula discovered an appetite for sharing her euphoria with all and anyone she met although less often with me.

That order from which I fled suddenly took on the mystique of Eden but by then Vanessa had met a man better suited to her than I ever was, leaving me free to reflect on the price of my frustrations!

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Bunter Macingtosh Flirts With An Executive Lifestyle

When a letter arrived, addressed to Mr B.J. Macintosh from L.J.Lemmings Ltd, digital security experts, who boast that even their luncheon menu is encrypted, inviting me to be interviewed for a position in their Cyber Security department I was baffled. I had not applied for a job with that enterprise, but obviously someone in that company’s HR department, with the inside track on undiscovered abilities, had discovered a seam of talent in the Macingtosh persona unknown to its owner, or anyone else for that matter.

Those of you cursed with an unnecessary familiarity with my life might know that appearance means everything to me so I set off wearing my only suit, and with a copy of the “Undercover News” folded discreetly under my arm.

Once settled in the dimly lit interview room a chap whose face was modestly hidden by a screen asked me a series of questions: here is our conversation!

“Do you hold a GCIH certificate?” he asked me. “No” I said!
“Do you hold a CISSP certificate then?” he continued. “No” I replied.

Appearing to be somewhere between unsettled and irritated he continued, “Are you familiar with the requirements for a CISSP-ISSAP qualification?”

“Always happy to rise to the challenge,” I replied, “Does it have anything to do with catering?” patting my generous waistline and adding that it was an area of expertise where no qualifications were required at the domestic level!

“No” he replied, and asked me why I was there, to which I replied that I was invited. “There has clearly been an administrative error: before you leave please be aware that all conversations in this place are subject to the Official Secrets Act.”

“Is there an Unofficial Secrets Act?” I enquired because it is the Macintosh way to search for knowledge at every turn.

“Kindly leave!” he responded and, as if to add urgency to his words, a gentleman appeared at my side whose possible love of catering was clearly combined with an unsettling interest in the local gym.

“Are there any other positions you would like me to apply for” I asked. “No” he said.

Not wishing to be rude to the department’s catering facilities, I asked if I should finish my coffee first, but a firm hand on my shoulder suggested such courtesies were not required.

Despite my wish to reach out to the passing world I could see there was little likelihood I would be invited back for lunch so with a cheery wave I said. “Onwards and downwards,” which is the Macintosh way.

“Very likely” said my host as he lowered his eyes to his paperwork!

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