Escape From The Gilded Wilderness

Looking back, I don’t know why I married my first wife! I was successful, I suppose, but more by luck than strategy: a case of ability meeting opportunity rather than flaws meeting the unstoppable, which is what happened later my career.

I could afford almost anything but happiness, and cared for almost nothing apart from my children and the household pets, working all hours god gave me to maintain the status quo, though normally without awareness of my efforts, or their effect on my wellbeing!

It is the material signs of success which are admired rather than ourselves and so it was that I, lost in the midst of my apparent plentitude, looked for understanding among my fellow man and discovered nothing but clichés in their eyes.

I had the cars, house and servants and so must be happy because others dreamed these were the keys to paradise: they are not.

My wife, imperious, selfish and proud, organised my life as if I was incapable of doing do, but always with the sense that, mysteriously, I had deciphered the holy grail and gained a place in material superiority, which was the address she had sought for her entire life.

After dark, alone in bed with her, I sought a moment of understanding but in vain: she didn’t deal in intimacy but in the concrete demonstrations of ability which were the only language she recognised.

The concept of emotional exhaustion is not often empathised or understood but with her, who loved my circumstances rather than myself, and form more than substance, I discovered I was more alone than I have ever been till maintaining my façade became my sole reason for being.

Inevitably I exhausted my emotional reserves and had a nervous breakdown as the company I started went bankrupt. I became the observer, watching the charade which were my circumstances disintegrate around me.

She left me for another man, of course. Some business rival I had crossed swords with on occasion but otherwise hardly knew: took my children with her, naturally, because that is the modern way, and resumed her pampered lifestyle but with another man

However luck was on my side, though not obviously, and I met a lady, gentle in all things, who loved me for who I was and not what I had and made me whole again: healed my life and offered me stability.

One day, while staying at my lodgings, and enduring the pleasures of a meal I had cooked for her, she pointed at an eighteenth century oil painting, my last possession from that tortured period and a favourite of my children, hanging on my wall, and asked me where that came from.

“I was wealthy once” I explained and she shook her head and said, “Were you ever !” and perhaps she was right, because in her gaze I saw more riches than I had ever known.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | 33 Comments

Temptation And The Ordered Life

Robin understood everything he needed to know about the state of marriage, or so he thought: for him, being a contented man was a matter of policy. He taught as a lecturer at a minor university and expressed his passion for life through the game of ‘real tennis,’ which is a sport known to very few and likely to remain so.

With his wife of twenty-two years, Margaret, who worked diligently as a teacher at their local school, he embraced a routine where risk was not invited and so it might have continued if his book, “The Secret Life Of Bores” had not become an unexpected success and granted him a profile on the campus normally reserved for those who studied more glamorous topics like photography and estate planning.

Within the privacy of his home, he bonded with his wife while watching television dramas and eating snacks. Sometimes after dark, once or twice a month, the two might meet at a mutually agreed address somewhere in the middle of the mattress and share their cautious version of intimacy: variations where enjoyed, of course, but from a predetermined menu free of the unexpected.

It was as if, meeting at a railway station, they might decide to get on their usual train, but spice the journey up on occasion by having a tuna rather than the usual cheese sandwich.

After all, “less is more” as some wise man said, but perhaps he had a headache at the time. So it might have continued until fame cast a new light on the previously ignored Robin, offering up opportunities normally reserved for the rash, and a number of primitive anarchists.

Andrea, to whom he was a personal tutor, had read the book in its entirety, and here before her every Wednesday was the man who penned those magic lines. I met her, but only through his eyes and heard her speak, but with his voice, as he told me “She talks about the book as if we have known each other always” and other verbal celebrations normally voiced by the misguided. Robin was a predictable man, and surely that would protect him, or maybe not?

One day, I understand, as he sat in his room, Andrea walked in for her private seminar wearing a long coat. Her eyes were full of appetite and interest, we understand, and without a word she let the coat fall to the floor revealing that otherwise she was undressed, before advancing on the shocked, or possibly entranced, object of her admiration!

Is there a door somewhere at the back of the imagination which, if unlocked, can free unknown appetites from our subconscious and release those primitive desires enjoyed by mankind long before the formation of the alphabet?

She moved to touch him as if he were a Stradivarius, valued only by the cognoscenti. As his resolve was challenged and will crumbled, he offered up a desperate commentary! “Is euphoria the path to ruin?” A question he may well have answered for him, but only after he leaves the room!

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, marriage, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

An Ambiguous Dream

Thirty years ago we promised that if life took us in separate directions, we would meet at this place, the corner of Trafalgar Square in London if destiny had not joined us in the meantime, and I can tell you it had not.

Still, I am drawn by agreements, pacts or call them what you will so on the date and hour agreed I took my woman of the moment, Katherine, to the spot where we would have met if life was less chaotic.

It was an interesting tale, as Katherine told me, and would have remained so if, out of the corner of my eye, I had not spied a lady in a wheel chair, grey haired and slightly plump but somehow as I remembered her: is not that always so?

I paused in mid-speech and, leaving my date on her own, walked over to that sedentary person and said; “Samantha” and she turned her head to me and said “Yes.” In those eyes was the angel I loved before I discovered complexity, and the memory of my first kiss!

I walked back to my bewildered partner and said brusquely, it must be said, “Let me get you home, I have business here” and I almost pushed her towards the taxi-rank and gave her address to the driver at the head of the queue. We are not always kind or mindful or faithful towards another’s feelings, I am not anyway, and I failed on that day to be civilised, but Samantha was my centre and imperative, and to leave her now could not be embraced: that’s how I felt anyway!

At the time we parted, I loved her as only the young can do, but she was engaged to a man who was shaped to be a hero and served as a pilot in the RAF; a sportsman to boot, and I had nothing to offer her apart from those “insights” writers trade for drinks.

When young, she was in a place where “Insights” have little value, but somehow she loved me despite all that. She called me “Unemployable” and so I was: an “adventurer without budget,” but her beauty, inside and out, made me want to be a normal man, and so I became a journalist with a daily paper but by then she was gone: transported off to another space in the arms of her hero who, I now learned, had died in a motor accident which also left her paralysed.

Here she was, and here I was, almost by coincidence: I as a matter of sentiment, and she because she wanted to connect with her past I presume, but did that matter in the end?

Looking at her, still with elements of that beauty I remembered, I raised her hand to my lips and dreamt that we were both young again and brought together by destiny.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 31 Comments

A Chancer And Three Quarters

I’ve always had a bit of a way with the ladies, nothing said, nothing mentioned but it’s all in the smile isn’t, the body language, the mysteries of chemistry. OK I don’t often get profound but Jennie in the fish and chip shop recently came on the radar.

I am a modest man; don’t push myself in where I’m not wanted but you couldn’t miss the signals: she laughed at every joke, leaned forward and said “You are so amusing Barry, you should be on stage” and other phrases which tempted the Wagstaff ego, that’s my surname by the way, to take a step onto the stage of life and show what he’s made of.

“Keep it simple, keep it light” is the Wagstaff way but I must say I was drawn by her obvious admiration, figure and the lovely way she had of nodding while you expressed opinions to suggest that, all things being considered, we might make a nice “Item”

“But I don’t like you” she said, when I suggested we might shuffle up Romance Alley together. “Be that as it may, destiny is destiny” I said, “And your name is on my dance card!” at which she just turned her head to another customer and pretended I hadn’t spoken.

I get the message, she wishes to be discreet, and discretion is my middle name too, so I winked at her as if the world was our secret and left the shop, sure another opportunity to continue the conversation would present itself in the not too distant future.

A week passed during which she was either not in the shop or I was actually working, which can put a spoke in the wheels of any relationship don’t you find? Free at last, I walked towards the shop and saw her inside doing something by the counter.

As I advanced towards the entrance, she raised her head and spotted me and quick as a burglar at the sound of a police siren, moved to the door which she shut before flipping the sign on the inside to say “Closed”

She gave me a stare which some might call ‘direct’ before walking back towards the counter. You can’t take it away from this girl, she certainly knows how to keep things under wraps, and sadly that includes her figure!

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , | 14 Comments

A Post-Breakfast Conversation

My normal café is closed for essential repairs which I presume means re-vamping their recipe for sausage sandwiches, currently scoring poorly on the flavour scale, and I have been forced slightly “off-piste” in search of emergency catering. I come across Terry, another exile who is returning from his emergency coffee of choice and we say, almost in unison, “Hello, Cold Isn’t it, Bloody Freezing” and other profundities which pepper the conversations of those who are joined in the reckless search for truth.

At the end of the conversation, as I walk away, a man I know better called Reg stops me, and pointing to the receding figure of my ex-conversationalist says, “Friend of yours is he?” “Yes” I reply. “Have you ever eaten with him at any other restaurant or pub than “The Tuck Shop?” (That is the name of our local morning haunt by the way.)

“No” I say. “Has he invited you round to his house to look at his famous collection of dried centipedes, a roast meal or even just a glass of cheap merlot?” “No” I say.

“Do you fancy his wife and dread being caught in a compromising situation with her?” “No” I say, but now with greater emphasis. “Have you ever borrowed money off him without having the slightest intention of repaying it?” “No” I say.

“So he’s not really a friend of yours is he Stan. He’s just a bloke you meet in the street, “and this time I can say “Yes” because, let’s face it, that is the heart and soul of the matter, the very nub, the bitter truth!

You can see I like to get past the commonplace and drill into life’s depths, which might explain why no one invites me to into their home, or wives wink at me in a way which indicates that “Hubby is off to the golf-course this morning and the sofa will be ours to shake for the next two hours!”

In short, I largely slide past social opportunities and return to Jacintha my loyal goldfish who is swimming calmly through her estate, or tank as it is called by the uninitiated, which rests on a table in the living area. I pause to dump my shopping, make another coffee, (you can’t argue with the price of the ones you make at home so damn the quality,) and sit down next to her in my customary manner saying, “Have you ever been invited to another bowl by another goldfish to share their breakfast?”

Jacintha, who uses words carefully, or possibly not at all, flicks her tail and with a movement suggesting disdain drifts over to the far side of her estate. I can see the topic will not “light her fire” or whatever the term is in the world of goldfish and so return to sipping my coffee and nodding frequently to emphasise my enjoyment of home-made pleasures. Now Jacintha returns to my side of the estate and opens and closes her mouth slowly in a way which tells me how much we share the simple joys of life, if not coffee.

So ask me, “Is Jacintha a real friend of mine?” and the answer is “Yes!” We’ve never had a deep conversation but I recognise the wisdom in her firm belief that the world outside her estate, is best left unexplored!

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , | 35 Comments

Dancing With Immortality

Dancing was my refuge, my go-to place. Prompted by the harmonies and rhythms, and sometimes stirred by the lyrics,  I could escape to a world full of magic and expression. On Friday nights I would walk down to the Student Union and onto the dance floor, allowing the sound to transport me to a treasured space:  alone and yet with others I could be without pretence and celebrate my joy of life . I could be anywhere I might dream of and travel the earth without unease: each track taking me further into a blissful euphoria sometimes touched by melancholy.

Lost in my own world and the music, I let my eyes wander across the floor in that disengaged way I used to hide my isolation until I saw a girl dancing on her own in a manner not unlike my own but beautifully expressive and in time with the music: she looked as if she too was celebrating immortality and I was entranced as I had never been.

I won’t bother to tell you she was pretty but she was, and modest in dress and manner so that her movements were private yet deeply expressive. How is that ever so? How was it that she danced alone, and no one breeched her privacy? She was the very essence of the young sublime.

That time came when I must take my leave, and catch the last bus home but she was still dancing as if there was no other life but here. Made brave by the moment I walked up to her in a break between the tracks and said “I have never seen anyone dance as beautifully as you” and she turned her head to me and smiled with a warmth and interest which matched her movements on the floor. Without another word I left the building not wishing, I told myself, to taint the compliment by an expression of self-interest.

Now I have been alone these many years and have lost all hope of finding love but still I search for the Eden I hear in music. Perhaps in her movement and her look I got as near as a man can get to glimpse that paradise. I did not ask her name.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Music, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 18 Comments

Making Things Personal!

“I could do with a larger social life. I could do with any social life,” I used to say to myself until I came up with a solution which ultimately left me with little peace: let me explain.

Every morning I would start the day by making myself tea, pour water in the kettle and assemble cup and tea bag before retrieving the milk from the fridge in readiness for the moment when the kettle started singing and arms whirred into action to create the perfect morning cuppa before reading the news while sitting in my favourite (only) chair.

Suddenly, well not suddenly, an idea seeped into that winelogged area called my brain and I decided to give everything a name and thereby personality. With this in mind, we will return to our tea making exercise and see what a difference a day makes when you are in company.

I walk into the kitchen and shout out “Morning Geoff,” (the kettle) “I’ll just put a splosh of water in you and then you can sing me your favourite tune when its ready!” Geoff doesn’t say anything but we all know he can really let rip when the mood takes him, or if he gets a bit hot around the elements.

That settled, I go to the cupboard (Sid) and take out Karl, my favourite mug which (who) has a picture of a duck on it (him) because everyone in my house loves ducks naturally. “Don’t worry mate,” I say, “I’ll put the milk in first so you don’t get scalded” and Karl makes a sort of clacking noise when he lands on the kitchen table to say thank you: he likes a bit of noise does Karl. Anyway, once Marion Milk has done her bit and returned to the fridge, ( she’s an attractive girl but rather frigid once she gets in my house sad to say ) I take Karl, now filled with precious liquid, and go and settle in Frieda, my favourite chair to talk about life and the coming day.

Credit where credit’s due, all my chums are tolerant and allow me to say anything you like without interrupting me if you ignore Geoff’s piercing singing voice and Karl’s insistent clacking, but then lads can be restless can’t they?

Now for the big stuff! Araminta Shirt, one of my favourites, has volunteered to clothe me today because she knows it’s a teaching day and smartness is required by the college were I offer fragments of  wisdom about subjects I hardly understand ! Other items of clothing, all with different names and outlooks, join her in the task of clothing me: varied in many ways but with a shared loyalty to meeee.

I think I overheard them saying once that clothing me was a chore, and not a privilege, and how they loved to be left in the closet where they could gossip with friends and relax in soothing darkness but I’m sure they still enjoy the odd adventure out on the trail: I like to think so anyway! I could be offended but, let’s be honest, we all love a snooze don’t we!

At last I venture into town, now in good company and immune to the pain of being unknown or ignored by the public at large. Just to let you know, I’ve become pretty close to the post box at the end of the street who asks me constantly if I’ve had a letter yet which is not a bill. “One day Frank, one day” I say because optimism in the face of facts is my “modus operandi;” a term they use in the college where I work.

It seems almost impossible to get a moment to yourself these days!!

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 47 Comments