The Bravest Man I Knew And A Beer


“Was he the last man alive,” I asked myself. He who’d walked another life than mine; climbed mountains I would never see but whose eyes lit up with understanding when I talked. You do not have to be young to be lost, and living on the edge of approval, sited somewhere near exile, was a fate we had in common. I was twenty four and he “just over eighty” as he’d said for several years.

He was difficult by all accounts, and refusing to be wrapped in his obituary: we shared a horror of the commonplace as seen from Chaos Road. His morals were doubtful, his career had been patchy, but he was exuberant and a celebrator of the smallest episode.

He was there by force of circumstances and I, because I lacked vocation, but our bond was to “Grab the moment and let the morrow damn you if it can. “

“Drink and smoke forever, and dance till your legs betray you, and never let the buggers see you beg for a reprieve.” Such was his advice to me, barely comprehensible, but his defiance of the fates was born on every breath. His eyes were full of mischief and his hands were never disciplined but he still knew the urgency of wanting “a good night out.” His mind was free to travel, his memories were infinite and in our wish to be “free of it,” we shared a common bond.

“Take me away with you. Let me see the moors once more, sit in a bar and share a smoke with friends” he pleaded, and so one night I stole him from his old peoples home, sneaking out during a shift change, and climbed into my wreck of a car, “Nearly as old as me” he said, smiling at the thought.

For one night only, we sat and smoked and drank where no one would know us, as if we’d discovered home. I was not and never have been, “Romantically gifted” but he told me, “If you find a woman who’ll love you, discover her every day. Eighteen or eighty, or somewhere in between, will not matter in the slightest. Their eyes will be the pool in which you swim and their happiness the point of every day,” and as he said it, I felt him shut down for a moment.

His Annie was seventy-two when she died, he told me, and chided him each and every day for all that she celebrated him, and in the central well of values he loved her without question, and missed her presence always. “She’s a corker ain’t she” he said holding up her photograph, taken on their fiftieth wedding anniversary outside some city pub, and she was smiling up at him and her look was saying, “What will I do with you?” but she’d made an odd man happy which is a hard thing to do.

I got sacked the next day and barred from seeing him because common sense will stand no reckless acts but I will raise a glass to him forever: the bravest man I knew.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Love, old age, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance, values | Tagged , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

The Search For Profundity


Ignatius Plotsky was a poet in waiting, a painter in search of a canvas and writer of some obscurity whose insights were sited somewhere beyond the land of meaning.

Following a few drinks at the bar, and spotting a young lady who, as Shakespeare might have said, “Ticked all the boxes” he wandered up to her and, pushing his fringe aside in a practised gesture of world weariness said, “Faze in to the far out” while looking as deeply into her eyes as good manners would allow.

Her mind was filled more with the image of Maserati’s than poetry so we can forgive her, or anyone else to be fair, for failing to understand what he meant. Indeed he didn’t know himself but it had a certain cadence don’t you think? It flowed with obscure confidence, a silent volume possibly, or am I allowing myself to fall into the trap of meaningless profundities set by our pre-illustrious hero.

Whatever his failings or mine, his interest in the fair maiden was sincere, and seeing that her eyes did not fill with wonder he quickly added, “Perhaps we can discuss life and the apparel of the dilettanti over a meal at “La Gala,” an expensive restaurant of note in central London.

Here was her problem. He clearly had the conversational magic of a route guidance system, but La Scala was a seriously exclusive eaterie available only to the “More money than taste” clique, of which young Ignatius was a proud member. Brief images of a sun drenched Maserati speeding across the Alps toward Monte Carlo, with her in the passenger seat and music playing just loud enough to drown out his voice, moved through her imagination as she replied, “That would be lovely darling.”

She called everyone “Darling” in truth, but he was not to know that, and so felt flattered by this obvious sign of interest. “Let us move on with languid haste towards the chariots of yore” he said quoting a line from the poem he had been “slaving” over the previous evening. Her mind, filled with expensive cars and drawing room trinkets, hardly noticed he was talking nonsense and gave him one of her deeper smiles which looked straight past his soul towards his bank account.

Curiously after both had exhausted all attempts to impress the other, somewhere before the dessert course arrived, they discovered a mutual love of dogs and potted plants. Successful marriages, as Ignatius might have said, “Are often based on a lesser hue.”

Posted in character, courting, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Relationships | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments

The Price Of Jewellery


Mark Flatterby, a man in his late fifties, lived moderately, surrounding himself with colleagues, friends of largely respectably character apart from myself, a wife and two children. All good on the Flatterby front then until a certain Maureen Cartwright turned up to work as an intern in his department. She was a student at the local university, yet seemed to have a character unsuited to scholarly pursuits.

What is of interest is that she had a flighty way with her and a manner of ducking her head to the left and smiling at you as if she and you had discovered a special connection. She had a “look” which I understand could slip the moorings of the most grounded man.

It seems the solid dependable Mark had taken young Maureen out to lunch to discuss her future, after purchasing a significantly expensive diamond and ruby necklace which he said would remind her of the glorious times they had shared during the course of her summer job, which in reality meant no more than the odd coffee in the canteen and quick remarks shared by the water fountain. Needless to say, she accepted the necklace without hesitation and took to wearing it at work and rewarding her gallant superior with more coy head movements and a small helping of shy and bashful simpering.

The necklace was followed by a matching bracelet because, as Mark had told her, it seemed a bit half-hearted not to give her the whole set, and so it might have continued had his wife not allowed her eyes to stray across her dull husbands credit card statement where she spotted two items amounting to four and a half thousand pounds with the name Buttermere jewellery against them. Not having received any surprise gifts in the last thirty-four years her suspicions were aroused.

Following a short conversation on his return from work he could be seen leaving the house, suitcase packed, and with his ears still ringing from his wife’s choicer observations about his character, also including “incidents” from their distant past, kept in her mental “trophy cabinet” where records of his previous crimes were preserved in undimmed glory.

That’s where I enter the story: after a phone call outlining the situation, I had gone to the bar of the Railway Hotel, sited in the town centre, to find Mark holding up a glass of wine, clearly not his first, and smiling at me with a mixture of hope and resignation.

“Come with me Nige” said Mark and his vocal chords slid around the “G” demonstrating it was no longer safe for him to drive. “Where are we going?” I asked and he told me, “I‘ve burnt my boats and now I must propose to Maureen.” He had decided to throw himself at the mercy of Adventure; a goddess of uncertain character it seems. “Is that wise?” I said but he told me that he had discovered his inner fire: love had called from the shadows and he must visit her and other nonsense believed by those who think fate might save us from our character.

A ring had been purchased, at Buttermere Jewellers of course, and we were set to travel to Maureen’s home, with me providing the gallant romantic with a steady supply of Dutch courage. When we arrived I settled discreetly out of sight but near enough to hear the speech we had rehearsed on our brief dream-filled journey.

After peeking indiscreetly round the corner I saw a guy open the door. He was built like a rugby player come boxer, who it quickly transpired was her current fiancé: he made his displeasure felt by means of a short but pointed demonstration of fist flexibility, after which Mark and I returned to his new abode.

Not all was lost, because Mrs Flatterby always believed that if you are going to marry a fool, you might as well stick with the fool you know. Apparently, love can survive the impact of an occasional reckless impulse and I am pleased to say that, following further purchases of jewellery and a “surprise” holiday for two in the Caribbean, he was allowed back inside the marital home, whilst this most grievous and recent crime took pride of place in his good ladies trophy cabinet, ready to be exhibited at the first sign of a transgression: let us hope that never happens

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Love, marriage, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , , , | 36 Comments

The Non-Committal Scandal


There is an envelope with her final letter. There is a man to whom it was addressed. There is a world which does not seek his memories, or family to thank him for his time.

Karen Black who took his heart at the end of their affair; who chose prudence over self-discovery, he always thought, left him when her husband moved abroad. She talked of loving him forever but would not pay the price. He watched her leave and take their secret with her, but thereafter he always lived alone. “I cannot live with copies” he once said, when a colleague asked him why he never married: that was fifty years ago. Now in his dotage and living in a care home he hides within his memories: an enigma to all around him.

His thoughts are suddenly interrupted by the matron standing by him, “There’s a lady to see you” she exclaims, looking as surprised as he clearly is himself. A woman in an expensive coat steps forward and in her hand is a photograph which she offers up to him.

“My name is Sarah Parsons, I am Karen Black’s daughter and she wanted you to have this” is her opening remark. With that she sits down and looks at him intently saying, “My mum told me all about it after my father was gone, and I promised I would find you when she passed away.”

Looking at her closely, he can see a trace of likeness, or certainly he wants to, though her face does not have that softness which Karen saved for him. Instead there is an anger, “Just what you would expect then,” he thinks but keeps that to himself.

“Thank you very much” he says, taking the photograph and hoping she would leave, but now there is vitriol and it’s pouring over him. “Better come away ” says the Matron taking her by the arm. “You’re a bastard old or not” the lady shouts, and everyone can hear her. Everyone discovers he’s got “history” just like them.

Posted in Affair, character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Life, Love, morals, old age, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , | 13 Comments

To Whom It May Concern


She was a prisoner like me, wrapped in invisible chains wrought out of bills, greed and indecision: both the writer and victim of her life history, for none of which she accepted any responsibility. She had a beauty which cuts through complacency, and a smile which unlocks the heart of almost any man. I was “almost any man” I found out later as she walked into my life bringing no answers with her.

I knew that when I first met her, but then I was much the same as her, trapped in a world of my own making but marked by shrinking opportunity. She drank a bit and smoked with rare defiance so even though I did not smoke myself I took to carrying a lighter so our eyes could meet over its flame. I think she knew I liked her and I think she knew we were the same, but I had little to offer her then, and was added to her list of tame admirers.

I met her in the company of friends, and she saw in me a quality of perception cloaked in a lack of social standing. On a whim she conferred her intimacies on me for one night only, though I dreamed she would love me always. She briefly thought I was her bus ride out of hell which I was not but, regardless, she has now left this earth forever.

How do I remain here now without the hope of seeing her? I’ve been “aware” for far too long already, walking among the civilised half-dead, living their customs and showing courtesy to all, but I am tired of that now. The powers of womanhood or manhood are extraordinary but we have sought to make everything ordinary and safe and harnessed, starting with ourselves, so that primitive magic I saw in her eyes is seldom visible elsewhere.

She is gone and the world I walk through is floundering without her: hiding behind its timetables and furniture and dreams of cultured conduct and looking for answers everywhere but in its heart. She is gone yet I am here with nothing to contemplate but my ongoing chaos, and man’s unfounded dreams of order.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Love, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

David Bowie And Thoughts On Life


As we all know, unless we are hiding in a cave somewhere pretending to be a pot of jam, David Bowie died recently. He was not, to be honest, my favourite musician of all time but I love some of his music and he was an undeniably talented man who interacted with the world around him almost until his last breath: something I admire deeply. He reminds me of the urgent, telling words of Dylan Thomas,

“Do not go gentle into that good night,

Old age should burn and rave at close of day;

Rage, rage against the dying of the light.”

On many levels,  Bowie was a deeply private and unknowable character and his cremation pretty much took place in secret, and in as unmarked a manner as he could manage, but his desire to understand, create and communicate through music was undimmed almost until his last breath. He reminded me of something I wrote a couple of years ago, ( Who Inspires You Sept 2013 ) which a nice person drew my attention to recently: I repeat it here-

“I want to know what everything is, and nothing is; the beauty of a note and the silence which surrounds it. I like to know and understand myself, and those whom I meet, or nearly meet. I am conscious that I will not always be conscious: that my curiosity is unlimited but my time is finite, and I cannot waste a moment of it in acquiring things which will not make me richer in a way I value. 

The amusing thing is many would consider me as living in la la land, where poetry is a secret form of currency, and music a mode of transport which might carry me to lands and vistas invisible to the naked eye: to where angels might dwell and we begin to forgive and truly understand the love which passes all understanding. I can live with the opinions of the “many”, but I cannot live without my imagination.”

One of the great temptations of life is to lose sight of the beauty of the whole, or the mystery of an instant amidst the mass of worries, jealousies and insecurities which crowd in on the average day, including mine, but while I have a breath to draw I will, whatever my circumstances, raise my eyes in wonder to the horizon and marvel at the miracle of consciousness.

 

Posted in Art, character, Creative Fiction, David Bowie, faith, Humanity, Life, Peter Wells, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | 37 Comments

End Of Year Party,


Irritated by the unremitting optimism of New Year’s Eve parties, I and a number of chums at “The Blue Swan” decided, some years ago, to hold an end of year party instead, held on the 30th December in that period otherwise identified as being the social wilderness between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

There were only six of us normally, and this year we are reduced to five because Clive had had too much of the “Live life to the max” thing and decided to die in late June of this year. Among his notable career triumphs was a period as the Lord Mayor of our proud and noble town, and so the church was full of people who felt they should have known him, together with his wife and children who, it must be said, had seldom seemed happier in the time I had known them, but that may be another story.

It’s a bit too soon after his “passing” or “shuffling” or whatever the euphemism of the moment is to write the cutting edge biography of a man of whom it might be said that “He never knowingly bought a round of drinks,” so we will leave his biography in the comforting anteroom of truth.

Moving on, and the five remaining stalwarts of the club were finally assembled, pints in hand, and Geoff, the most pompous among the throng, took it upon himself, as always, to be “Chair” as we call it now, and went round the table from left to right asking us all for our best memory of the year, “retrospectively speaking” as a journalist might say.

The first person called upon, Sam Hislop, or “Jammy” as he was known, placed his drink on the table, looked towards the door, possibly to check if any passing sage or bookmaker were about to enter the premises, and said, “It’s over: that’s about the best thing I can say” and raised his glass to his lips taking a soothing sip of that nectar which blunts our awareness of the every-day.

Our custom was not to cross-examine each other on our statements so a short period of nodding, slurping and pursing of the lips followed. I was second and mentioned winning the “Largest Marrow” prize at the village autumn fair which got more nodding, slurping and lip pursing from the group, but this time, I must be honest, I think it was because my statement came dangerously near to boasting or “Crowing,” both of which were not welcome in our fraternity, but it had been a couple of decades since I’d had anything to crow about so I just threw caution to the winds.

On we went, making our revelations or observations or recollections: I like to get my words right but I can’t quite “Nail” the description here. Now we came to Colin, who used to be a “Copper” or police officer to the uninitiated, and was the quietest member of the group, although not the least observant, which I suppose goes with the territory.

“Getting engaged” he said, and this was a bit different, because none of us were under seventy and getting engaged at that time of life indicates, to me at least, that you’ve missed life’s important lessons and more besides, although I wouldn’t say that to the wife.

“Who to?” Nick asked, a painter of sorts “And still to reach his best” as he always said. “Jane” said Colin which raised a few eyebrows because Jane was the widow of the recently departed Clive, and therefore known to us all.

You could sense a stiffening of the atmosphere because friendship has its code’s, and not fancying the wives of men in your circle is one of the first rules of social stability.

“I wanted to be with her her” he explained, which raised more eyebrows and then I said, “That was quick,” trying to lighten the mood, because I was always “The joker in the pack” and he replied, “Not really, we’ve been lovers for thirty years and I just wanted to make an honest woman of her” which is fair, I guess: him being a policeman after all.

Of course, his answer raised more questions than it answered, but that’s life I suppose, which is something you know if you’re seventy or over. Apart from a gulp or two, nothing further was said: it’s always the same with important questions don’t you find?

I mean my wife was “Second choice” if truth be told, but I’d never say that to her face would I, because that would be rude and, if life teaches you anything at all, it is that manners mean more in the every-day than meaning, because manners are a matter of survival while meaning is a subject reserved for prophets, and I was never one of those.

Posted in Affair, character, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Peter Wells, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments