Sir Oswald Clarkson Demonstrates Economy


 Malinslow, a name hard to say correctly after more than three beers, was a town which sought prominence through its annual poetry festival and used to gather a decent supply of the well-to-do, as well as a number of dishevelled brillianteens, to listen to readings of original verse by leading poets at its annual festival: sometimes bards from the States and other continents could be encouraged to attend by promises of large cheques and a decent lunch or two. Not bad for those used to living on the thin air associated with having your head in the clouds searching for a misplaced career.

This year Sir Oswald Clarkson, a coal miner’s son from Lancashire, was the guest of honour and booked to give the final reading of the evening. His seminal work, “Thoughts Toward a Conclusion” once battled it out with steamy romances in the best-selling lists. A man of self-confessed sensibility, Sir Oswald had been brooding of late because his pen had run dry, vocabulary withered and, on the quiet, he was having some difficulty in maintaining the air of mysterious brilliance so necessary in the world of cutting edge creativity. This ‘reading’ was a welcome chance to restore his image.

Although his accent had mulled to the fruity purr of the media classes he maintained a faint Lancastrian edge to underline his status as the son of hard-working folk: no mean feat for someone who had lodged in the plumpier areas of London with a succession of wives over the last thirty years. Indeed, his wives had provided the majority of the means by which he was able to sprinkle bon-mots over various dinner tables with other literati of the period.

So here we were then, with Sir Oswald facing a packed hall in the middle of Malinslow, and peering alternately down on the paper before him and the crowd ahead. The Duke of Brookshire, paid to appear but still a trifle more bored than normal, had given a clichéd but thorough introduction to the bard and had done a reasonable job of raising the hall’s sensibility towards a level of consciousness. Hush settled over the room and faces looked expectantly up at the lectern and the distinguished figure behind it. He raised his head and, peering over his bifocal glasses, began to read…

“Hope”

He then bowed to the audience and sat down. The Master of ceremonies, seated beside him and with a growing sense of bewilderment said “Hope ! ?” “The truth is not long-winded” said the sage and with a pleasing air of mystery, leant down to gather up his bag. After a few moments it dawned on the assembled throng that this was it: the whole enchilada, nine yards, performance, cake, meal or whatever you like to call it. He had chosen his word with care and now it was spoken. The silence lasted for a few more seconds and then a murmur rippled through the hall. A failed dieter, with a temper shorter than some, shouted, “Outrage” while a less aggressive voice from the front of the hall said, “Was that profound?” Others comments were of a quality a polite man cannot repeat, even in print.

Sir Oswald, with commendable calm, a characteristic of the noted seer, paid no attention to the noise and, indeed, seemed about to leave the stage. The Mayor, seeing the occasion collapsing into unrest, waved his arms in desperation. “Short and sweet” said the Duke, his morale rising at last, as the threat of disorder became evident in the hall. Pains across his chest stopped the Mayor in his tracks: he was having one of his panic attacks and he heard his strangled voice as he leaned towards his deputy saying “Stop his cheque. Stop his cheque”. “He only accepted cash” replied the embarrassed official. “Five thousand pounds for a single word,” he thought to himself, “That is poetry indeed.”

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Reputation, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Cost Of Me


It took about forty years to realise we were complete strangers linked by common genes and history; and that moment of awakening took place after her death. During her life my mother lectured me constantly on my awkward manner, or failure to sit still when young or, when older, not drink more than a glass of wine or do anything which involved breathing, so it seemed to me. Manners where the foundation of her conduct and she regarded “Polite behaviour” as the cornerstone of any social interaction.

Those wild uninhibited beings who ran for the joy of it or danced until the music faded where primitives to her, as was I, and she considered our existence threatened all that was civilised and negotiable in the world around her.

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?

Vanessa seemed like a party girl to me when I first met her and to her, I think, I seemed a kindly influence in an indifferent world. Much too late, some might say, we discovered we were strangers: which became politely intolerable 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 has begun. 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, 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, leaving me free to reflect on the price of my frustrations!

Posted in character, childhood, creative writing, Fiction, Love, marriage, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

A Sort Of Goodbye


You know that expression, “Live one day at a time:” well there comes a day for some of us, when we are living “One breath at a time”. That’s where Molly was at this moment; not all bad mind you: the bed was nicely made, and the sheets had been ironed to a high standard shortly before use. Appearances, some say, matter, even in the most extreme situations. Molly was sucking in God’s good clean air with some difficulty and praying that she lived long enough to say goodbye to her daughter, from whom she had been long-since estranged, and who was now on her way from the airport to say a poignant farewell.

At last, and after a difficult and exhausting morning struggling for breath and gripping the sheets as waves of nausea and pain travelled across her stomach, her daughter’s face, not seen by her for thirty years, appeared above her: greyer, more lined and weary, but clearly her daughter.

She leaned over Molly’s face and in a clear voice, which was heard by the attending nurse, said, “You’re a Slut and a Liar”. With that she turned on her heel and exited our story leaving Molly in a wave of confusion shortly overtaken by death.

For those of you not acquainted with the procedure, there is a short period after death, when you can look around you, and gaze fondly at the flowers left for you by saddened relatives: in Molly’s case none. After a suitable pause you appear at a crossroads where an attendant angel, complete with clipboard, sends you to the appropriate gate earned by your life history.

She arrived at said gate after a short walk and there was St Peter, sitting in quite a comfortable chair and eating a nice plateful of cheese and crackers: his favourite between-meal snack. “Ah Molly” he said. “How are we? Oh yes, dead. Still, never mind that. No doubt you’re a bit unsettled by your daughter’s parting words”. Molly nodded silently.

“Let’s face it “said St Peter, surprisingly cheery despite the nature of the conversation, and possibly as a result of the excellent cheese. (For those of you with any anxiety on the matter, food in paradise is of a good quality). “Sleeping with your son-in-law while your daughter was out at her job is viewed by some as straying outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour. I have no wish to be judgemental,” he continued “But it’s my job,” said through a mouthful of cracker. “On the bright side, serving soup to the homeless for thirty years in penance has now earned you the right to step through these gates and settle on the third cloud from the left. Well done you”

“Will I ever be forgiven” asks Molly, still at a loss from the bruising encounter. “No” said St Peter, “But you will very soon be forgotten, and that is not a bad result for someone with your character.” Molly was to learn that some people had done enough to enter Paradise, but not enough to prevent others from commenting on their conduct. In her case silence really would be golden!

 

Posted in Affair, character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, morals, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments

Undiscovered Love Affair


I never met you, knew you, or had your love but then I did. The image of the girl who would walk up to me in life, as if it were some railway station and laugh, smile and warm your heart in my embrace faded slowly from my hopes.

That image of your soft brown hair and loving eyes and cosy coat keeping you all warm, and with that scarf of yours peeping from your collar, and those brown shoes you loved, because your dad had bought them never materialised and so I made do with adding tales of disaster to a life apparently lived to amuse those more caring of themselves than I.

I dreamed of our conversations, and the way you’d smile when I did something silly, and how you’d know me like no other and make each moment with you like a prayer. I looked for you in places when young: confident that soon our paths would cross in some gallery or long since vanished bookshop, and then less frequently because the hope you’d match your step with mine faded with time and advancing years.

You would not love me now, raddled as I am by disappointment, and choices sculpted out of desperation rather than good judgement: the victim of my own chaotic search for perfection, rummaging through careers, and eating romance as if it were a chocolate: wasting my innocence on the fruitless quest to find you and build some idyll: passing my life in the search for the perfect moment.

Now, with my last sip of innocence, I reflect on my growing sense of obsolescence, part of a world disengaging from its rhythms in the blind search for improvement.

Posted in creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

Breakfast with Honor


She dreamed of a life where commissioners opened lift doors in hotels so she could travel to a suite far above real life. Once ensconced, she would feed on canapes and sip from something cool and refined, not always alcohol, reflecting on the disordered world below.

She inherited her beauty from her mother, a courtesan by disrepute, who visited her infrequently and was rumoured to enjoy minor-royal connections. She spent her childhood with a relative of sorts, who warned her regularly that giving into appetites would lead her down her parent’s ruinous path. Her father, apparently well-connected though nothing could be proved, stayed in her mother’s life for the length of an assignation, leaving his daughter with some features but no parental care.

I met her on a train as she journeyed to the university sited in my town and then my life. I was chaste in my courtship and caring in my manner, I like to think, and for a time that seemed enough for her. She sought kindness and a tolerance for dreams, and I offered her that with open heart. I was slightly older than her by thirteen years, and safely wrapped in a dead-end job, but in those early days that seemed of little consequence.

She did not live with me but “In halls:” a posh way of describing university lodgings. For a term we met frequently and I was pleased to show her the city she now called home. We dined out on fish and chips and talked of adventure over polystyrene cups but she seemed happy and trusting which, I think, was new to her. I was happy, soundly so, and towards the end of her first term she stayed with me and in my arms: I cannot forget.

In the morning I fed her egg and toast and she sat in bed, the picture of a contented girl, drinking coffee from a mug and balancing my tray upon her knees. To make the one you love content is a great prize I discovered, and I dreamed it would be my mine for all eternity.

At term’s end she was to set off by train again, and I saw her on her way, holding her bag. When we arrived at the station there was a man or boy there, depending on your viewpoint, who “Just happened to be going in the same direction as her, and would she like to travel to her home by car?”

She looked uneasy to be fair, and glanced at me requesting my approval. I, innocent by discipline, agreed of course, because we trust in those we love do we not? There can be no other way.

You will not be surprised to know that journey took her away from me indefinitely. Blessed by the looks her mother gave her, and gulled by the fortune the young man enjoyed, she drove past her home to a hotel somewhere in London, where a commissioner opened the door to the lift so she could travel to the suite she dreamt was hers by right while surrendering to her paramour. She sent me the letter demanded by good manners, in which she explained that she would love me always but could not live in suburbia and I offered nothing more.

It is not polite to be unduly bitter so I settled for sadness and lived with it indefinitely. Twenty years later, to channel my regrets, I wrote her story in a book and some kind publisher issued my tale under the title “Breakfast With Honor” because Honor was her name. For reasons no one can explain, the book achieved a level of success which placed me in a bookshop in London signing copies for a straggle of customers as they passed by my desk.

She was older now, of course, but to my eyes the same: married she said, but not currently, and mother to a daughter. She said she would wait for me by the door and, as she walked away, I asked myself. “Can you raise the cup of hope and drink the same dream twice?” Time will provide the answer.

Posted in character, Creative Fiction, creative writing, Fiction, kindness, Love, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 16 Comments

A Lesson in Self-Control By The Rev Nigel Windstay


The Rev Nigel Windstay was a busy chap and liked to keep his fingers in as many pies as possible: not all of them cooked by his wife. When she got particularly annoyed he would suggest she attend one of his Anger Management Classes which he ran at the village hall: she never did.

Many things irritate me; badly made toast, politicians with poorly chosen ties, politicians with no ties, politicians. Alright, you can see the list is never-ending and finally the Empress of the Living Room, otherwise known as Mavis, suggested I go to one of the vicar’s “Anger management classes” to see if I could learn to control my harrumphing, spluttering and general failure to be a good sport in the face of life’s whimsical irritations. I agreed under protest, and the threat of sanctions including no breakfast on a Saturday morning.

The Vicar was not one of my favourite people. Not in any hard and fast way but his syrapy all-round goodness of manner, if not character, was a feature I found it hard to enjoy. I’m not sure he had ever forgotten my scoffing a pork pie on the quiet during one of his sermons. His subsequent sickening display of forgiveness and understanding was enough to waken the mass- murderer in the laziest of souls.

So there I was, sitting in the class, trying to keep my mind entertained by reminiscing over recent football results when the Rev slithered up to my chair and said, “Just breath deeply”. “Sorry Reverend”, said I, clinging to politeness. “Breath deeply and let your mind fill with the blue of the sky”. “It’s full of football results” I said, trying to keep him up to speed on my recent mental development. “Soar like a bird; let the moment flow through you” he continued and he seemed to be grinning at me with a quality of slack-jawed vacancy which would have tried the patience of a corpse. “Let the sky lift your heart and let it float above the clouds” he continued, determined to show no mercy to this most reluctant recruit.

I would have soared but there seemed to be a sudden constriction in my throat and a faint thundering noise between my ears as the warbling twit continued to coo nonsense at me. I’m not one for psycho – babble but this passive-aggressive mind control claptrap sometimes needs a ‘short sharp shock’ in the way of a swift uppercut to the voice projection equipment.

I thought of discussing this strategy with the Vicar, when my fist, taking pre-emptive action, moved smoothly, but at some speed, to the side of his face. Ok, the rest of my body tried to apologise but the general commotion suggested that my words were having no effect. His Serene Eminence, the Reverend Nigel Windstay, stifled all conversation by clamping his teeth on the bicep region of the offending arm. His eyes, normally a pallid blue were now boiling over with emotions not seen since the bribery scandal at the local beauty contest in 2008. He appeared to morph into a deep sea fish thing, and rational dialogue was no longer on the menu. Odd whimpering noises escaped from the side of his mouth and he was batting my chest with his well-manicured hands. My arm, thinly protected by a once clean shirt, was enduring recordable levels of discomfort, which I tried to mitigate by grabbing his throat with my other hand.

By now I was aware of people trying to pull us apart, and of number of new visitors to the class, all dressed in blue and with a passion for blowing whistles. A quantity of water was emptied over our heads by a helpful member of the flower arranging class, normally located in the next room.

Both of us were invited to spend a night in the cells, followed by a visit to the Magistrates Court. It would have been rude to refuse. On my return from the Court, which involved transferring a significant amount from my bank account into the local council coffers, I arrived back at our small home. My wife was reading the local paper. It was hard to miss the headlines. “Fight Breaks Out in Anger Management Class. Vicar on Remand. ”

“No chance of a cooked breakfast then! I queried but silence was her only answer.

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On The Passing Of My Aunt


In every family and in every community there will always be iconic figures and in my family “Missie” or Aunt Sylvia, to use her formal name, gave us a towering example of how to navigate the oceans of life regardless of the weather. I asked myself recently, “Was she happy?” and the answer must be that, whether she was or not happy in any particular moment, she never complained or muttered about life or her situation. She had no breath saved for complaining but always sought some reason to be positive or forward thinking regardless of her current circumstances. This was the heart of her inspirational standing in my family.

Towards the end of her life, she died at one hundred years of age, she was in hospital suffering from an infection. When I rang her she said, “Entertainment is low, but there are seagulls dancing, Dancing on the grass” and then she chuckled at the wonder of it all. She was not really interested in a conversation about her health but only in the view going forward, and that is her lesson to us all.

She was just over one hundred years old when she died. At the age of twenty three she was in Vienna when Hitler’s troops moved into the city near the start of the war in which her loved then fiancé died in a submarine. She was a more than gifted pianist, trained at the Royal College of Music but most of all she was a gutsy, uncrushable walker of life, mother of four children by my Uncle, a much-loved character himself, and always she was armed by a deep faith in her god and the beauty of awareness. I shall miss her dearly: she brought music to all that knew her.

Posted in character, faith, Humanity, Life, old age, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 29 Comments