Music And Memories

Every day at ten past two, following a sandwich and a cup of tea; the particular filling might change from week to week; (It’s never an easy thing to define your preference is it), Saul Patrick Brownlow, played Handel’s Water Music in its entirety. Just under forty-two years old, and redundant from his job as a procurement manager with a firm of stationary suppliers, he could no longer afford to go out on non-productive journeys, or on holiday, or anywhere at all if his financial reserves were not to be dented by undisciplined activity.

Through the music, heard while sitting in his chair, his senses left their ordered prison and opened up his heart like magic. The familiar notes and phrases, like trusted friends, transported him through episodes and adventures his circumstances would otherwise not allow. Through music he might journey where he liked, and kiss his ex-wife once again, or see her tear streaked face close to his as she exclaimed, “It’s all been a mistake. I love you” and always he forgave her and opened up his arms in tender reconciliation.

Thorough to the point of exhaustion, and particular in every aspect of his work he might have been, but his exasperated employers had, in their turn, “Been forced to let him go” because, as he became more detailed and particular in researching each contract without regard to time, his “In-tray” threatened to overwhelm his desk. His doctor said he was suffering from anxiety, and so he might have been, who can say, but whatever ailed him proved too much for the company and then his wife, who asked him to leave the family home. Beside him on the table lay the unsigned divorce papers because to lose his wife would caste him into wilderness, and thoughts of such a place must not be engaged.

Once the music drew to a close he sat motionless in his chair watching the gathering winter dusk cast the furniture into shadow. After a while he walked to the window and, regardless of the temperature, opened them up and lit a cigarette. He did not inhale but let the smoke rise up from it, the sight of which brought him a curious tranquillity.

Perhaps it recalled him to a happier time when a boy walking through the park one afternoon, caught a tennis ball lobbed in error from a court, allowing him to engage in conversation with a girl who grew to love him for a time: “A miracle of sorts” he had always said. As he stood there watching the street below, a knock on his door recalled him from his memories. Puzzled he went to see who it might be. Sandra, stood outside, his very wife, and as he looked at her, measured in his politeness although not calm, she said, “What am I going to do with you?” and he said “Take me home.”

Posted in Anxiety, character, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 6 Comments

Perhaps The Wrong Approach

I am a man with a faltering faith in the story of his own destiny, but like a salmon following its instincts, I attempt the waterfall of life because that is the basic expectation. Apart from working, I get through my day by a system of manners and an acceptance of my lot which some people call “character” and others “fatalism,” depending on their point of view. All good and bad, you know the score, and so it would have continued if something like connection had not lifted its skirt and flashed a beguiling glimpse of thigh at a man parched of every nuance of intimacy.

The conversation was innocuous enough: we both liked the same kind of bread, and she was the cashier at the shop where I purchased it. “Life on this planet would cease to be as we know it if they stopped making this bread” I told her, and, amazingly she replied, “I know. I love it too, the seeds the texture, that maltiness.” Astonished by this shared passion I continued, “Even without butter it speaks to me. Just the texture and those seeds: yes. It’s so amazing,” Again she agreed.

I am past my prime, and just beginning to discover what chronic ill health means when mixed with declining vigour but a primal longing surfaced from inside me and, noticing she had no wedding ring, I asked her, “Are you married or involved in a long term relationship involving catering and moments of intimacy?” Her face changed colour somewhat, and became slightly “Arch” if you follow me. Clearly I had stepped outside that circle of generalities which define the conversational norm for casual acquaintances.

I’d had a sense of manners once. Perhaps my mother taught it to me, or I’d picked it up from foreign films. I remember a Polish film about a man who is dying from a stab wound in his back, and spends his final moments holding the door open to the Out-Patients department at the local hospital saying “After you” to some lady suffering from a sprained wrist: “After you” turns out to be his final words. The film was in sub-titles and with music which made little sense to me but you get the idea. I am that man who lacks a sense of proportion, and nothing works for me in terms of “Just being yourself,” but I learnt that, as a last resort, being polite prevents you from being barred from that club called “Casual Connections,” where I spend a lot of my social life.

“Being polite” was my last card in the pack, but this unknown lady, who shared a sense of the pleasure you could gain from a single slice of bread offered up the promise of a new dawn and hinted that something deeper was still possible. Suddenly I was saying. “Are you married or co-habiting with a fellow human being, or possibly a hamster or a cat, with whom you share wardrobe space and a similar taste in television programmes?” Alright I agree the “Hamster or cat” bit might have been a little bit “Out there”, but that’s what comes from being a failed lawyer among other things, and attempting to “Define your differentia” which is a baffling academic concept.

By now she was backing away from the till, and saying “One pound ninety-eight,” which was the price of this hallowed product. I said nothing more to her but offered up the correct change. At that point the manager, possibly seeing her discomfort, walked over and said, looking at her, “Is everything alright here,” and I said, “Fine, I was just reminding her that we didn’t know each other.” before turning to leave the shop. I wonder if they sell this bread anywhere else.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Life, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

A Lifetime’s Introduction.

“What’s your name” I asked all those years ago and you said “Sheila” which I soon turned into “Shells:” we seemed to know each other which was odd, given that we were both eighteen and had never met before. In the hurly burly of life, that was our “Jackpot” moment and so we grew to share things when life went right or wrong: sometimes the sun filled every room as when our first child was born, and at other times we felt so crushed by anxieties that we thought awareness was the door to torture; but in each other’s eyes and hearts we always found our centre and that spring of life which stops the water we drank from becoming stagnant.

Seventy- four years old, and married for most of them, we’ve faced all sorts of struggles but never without each other. Nothing was harder than losing our eldest son when he was only twenty-four, in some stupid motor accident, not even his fault, but experience teaches you things happen, and life is not always merciful or fair. You are left to deal with what must be dealt with or fall victim to your own emotions and circumstances: the choice is yours, or with us was always ours, but that was our blessing: to share all things with each other.

We came through it, mindful that our two remaining children needed the sunlight that loving parents bring if they are to blossom in their turn, and they did I like to think, although there was that cupboard we could no longer open, and that old pleasure of sitting there at Christmas playing films of our children’s early years ceased to be a pleasure and then an event: we both understood.

All in all we had little to complain of in the larger scheme of things because, without meaning to, and more by luck than talent, we got the main thing right: the building of a home with someone who shares your sense of what is real and makes you laugh regardless of the facts. Through joy and sorrow we always had each other, and that made us wealthy in that special way which brings rhythm to discordant lives. The point of all this is that here we are but you are no longer present. I hold your hand, as I always have, but life is no longer in it. You taught me everything there is to know except how to live without you.

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Life, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 15 Comments

Launching My Political Career

Recently there have been signs that the population at large is experiencing a significant level of “Disconnect” from the media, chattering and political classes. People watch the infighting between one politician and another and shake their heads before returning to the crossword of the day or, as a last resort, paying some attention to their paid occupations.

I spotted an opportunity provided by this vacuum of interest and decided to put myself forward as a candidate for Mayor of my local city, which position includes a salary and use of an overlarge chauffeur driven car. The only flaw I could see in this bold enterprise was, apart from myself and my goldfish Jessica, no one knew who I was, but I had a plan which would get me past that difficulty. Our city is largely a Labour stronghold, and the party candidate for Mayor, the papers told us, was a certain Allen Whitelaw. Fair enough, good name and a respectable party. The candidate would be advertised on the ballot paper as A. Whitelaw (Lab).

I strolled down to the local registry office and changed my name from C. Duck to Alfred Whitelaw. As we know, on a strictly alphabetical basis, Alfred comes before Allen in the list, and as we would have the same surname I would come just before him in ballot listing. I then formed a party called “Labouring Furniture Party” which would be entered as (Lab) on the ballot papers.

The heart of life is that few people are as interested in their jobs as they are in discovering what’s on offer for the evening meal, or if that nice person who smiled at you in the accounts department was just being polite or expressing a possible moment of connection between their life and yours. As for the person or persons unknown to me but charged with processing the paperwork for those putting themselves forward for the office of Mayor, little is of interest to them so long as the prospective candidate has washed recently enough not to introduce body odour into the surprisingly small cubicle where they spend their day.

Name changed and candidature for office registered, I decided to go back home, open up a packet of chocolate biscuits and await the election results. These were some weeks away, but with no spare funds for leaflets, energy for door knocking or interest in policy it seemed pointless to attempt any further engagement with the disinterested electorate until the night when the results would be announced.

Following an unusually low turnout of fifty-seven percent, and after several recounts, I was elected to the office of Mayor by a majority of three votes more than the bewildered Allen Whitelaw. I remember the other candidates staring at me and wondering who I was, while I concentrated on the free coffee and sandwiches. Once the formalities were complete my official car drove up to the town hall to transport me back to my lodgings.

The weekend papers covered the results, obviously, and there was considerable outrage expressed over the fact that some scruff from the outskirts of town, with no credentials or previous political involvements, should have achieved high office through, as one paper termed it, “A Devious Sleight Of Hand.” I’m not one to duck a compliment, so I will not argue with that description of my conduct. “Can This Be Legal?” screamed a Fleet Street heavyweight newspaper, possibly relieved to have the attention diverted from its own scurrilous phone tapping antics. In short, few if anybody apart from me and Jessica, saw anything positive in the result but that changed as soon as I walked into the offices on Monday morning.

I informed all staff that no desks were to be manned on a Friday afternoon, at which time all employees should present themselves at the local ten-pin bowling alley where the words “Spin” and “Curve” could be examined in a non-political context. Within days, staff were telling the baffled members of the press that I was “A breath of fresh air” and “Just what was needed to put this city on the map.”

“Parking fines cancelled” and “Free custard powder for old-age pensioners” got some positive coverage and I wondered how I could continue this policy of generosity and understanding to one and all, thus almost guaranteeing my successful election for a second term.

Some say this level of spending is unsustainable but I plan to take a leaf out of central government’s books and take out “Gilts” or loans against council assets, sure in the knowledge that any difficulties generated by this internationally favoured policy will only surface sometime after I have retired from politics.

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

A Timely Proposal

Things went slightly wrong at the wake for Geoff Weasley, and there are rumours I may have had something to do with it. His wife, or should we now be saying widow, Catherine, is a more than attractive women with a sympathetic and normally sunny outlook on life although, following her husband’s death in a car accident she’s seems a little out of sorts.

Well, putting my cards on the table, I am happy to state that I’ve got quite a “thing” for Catherine, always have had, and it affected me to see her “Off her game” if you follow me so I decided to pitch in and see if I could do something to raise her morale by offering her a future with promise in it. I walked up to her and said, “How many days have you scheduled in for the mourning process.”

To be fair, she looked a bit startled and said in her turn, “What’s it to you?” and I said, “I am going to propose to you as soon as the mourning period is over, and I was just wondering how long that would be.” People can be a little unpredictable but taking that into account I was still surprised when she burst into tears and then her brother, who was standing by her side when I started the conversation, went a bit red in the face and said, “You stupid B^&*^&d” and grabbed my arm in a manner bordering on aggressive.

Of course, with Catherine crying, people came over and someone asked, “What’s upset her” and my possible future brother-in-law said, “This stupid P%^$k just asked my sister to marry him” which in turn was heard by most of the room on account of the fact that he saw the need to shout rather than speak, which I thought was unnecessary.
Catherine seemed even more upset by his remark and her behaviour was becoming hysterical which made everyone in the room gather round us.

I’m one of those pedantic sorts who likes to keep his facts polished and in the right order so, in order to clarify the matter, I said, “I did not propose to her. I merely asked how long she would be in mourning so I could schedule in my marriage proposal at the correct time.”

Frank, who runs the pub where the event was held, came over and his face had also gone red. “That’s it. You’re banned.” He said, “I don’t want to see you in here again” which I thought a bit extreme unless, of course, he also has a bit of a thing for Catherine and didn’t like to see a rival coming up on the fence within yards of the finishing line so to speak.

Just to emphasise that I was the front-runner, I told him, “We’d be quite likely to hold our reception here as long as you manage to mind your P’s and Q’s” which I thought pretty conciliatory in the circumstances, because we all like a bit of extra business, but suddenly there was a lot of jostling and I found myself outside the pub door, which was firmly shut in my face leaving me unable to continue the conversation.

Perhaps I’ll have to start going to church again now, because I know she is a regular attendee and the vicar is already married which cuts back the serious opposition, although there is a time and place for everything and I’m not sure proposing to her in church would be the right thing. What do you think?

Posted in character, courting, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Romance | Tagged , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Indiscrete Memories

Her face was like a map of the forgotten world or maybe just a nightmare, lined, creased and tired, but there was a quality of defiance about it which drew you to a second look. Those smoker’s eyes, I knew, were full of memories and insights, good and bad, blessed or wrapped in regrets and moments of euphoria created from a fabric of the finest chaos: drink, I suspected, was her refuge and her jailor.

I met her at a literary conference where the great and good rose and spoke on marketing and I, somewhat at a loss, had gone to see if I could finally get a sense of creative direction. She, it appeared, had been the first secretary of the main speaker some twenty years before and had been invited to attend the conference by him out of a longstanding loyalty. The guru had his wife and eldest daughter with him and everything was clearly above board, but she was knowing in that chaotic way “the lost” can be when they look in your eyes.

“Buy me a drink” she said, standing slightly closer to me than was necessary. “I’m slightly rushed” I said, looking around me as if there were people I should meet, but of course, she knew I was just avoiding her. She’d been there a thousand times in many situations, but still she snarled, “Be off pretty boy,” which clearly I was not. At a loss now, and not wishing to be rude I said, “Just the one then” and placed a protective hand on her back as if I was wise enough to guide her. She looked up then and her face came alight which was somehow more disturbing: too much happiness, too much warmth: you know the thing.

Drink in hand and pointing at the principle speaker she said, “He was gorgeous when he was young, lovely, and he still sends me Christmas cards if he’s got my address.” Clearly a decent man but then, in his youth, when she was working for him, she implied he had not yet learnt the distinction between wise actions and those which offer brief excitement.

As she started to unravel her past before me the great man in question came over and said, in his apologetic way, “Can I borrow this gentleman for a moment” and with that he whisked me over to the far side of the room. “Best not to get too involved there if you catch my drift” and I nodded my assent. “She needs someone to look after her though” I said and he nodded in his turn.

She was one of those people you invite into your life at your own peril and clearly she knew more about our guru than he would like to be known by others but, despite that, there was a loyalty between them. The connection was her most precious memory, a source of pride to her as was his constant, if discrete, compassion. Perhaps, in her turn, she “saw” him before others knew he was there, and he would always remember that.

Posted in character, Creative Fiction, creative writing, Fiction, Peter Wells, Reputation | Tagged , , , , | 17 Comments

Eggs Deluxe

I have decided to grab my career by the throat and teach it another language. Luckily, or sadly, depending on your level of cynicism, a great aunt died recently after a tragic skiing accident at the age of eighty-five. Well, more accurately she was hit by a lorry which slide off the snow covered road and ran into her while she was walking through her garden.

Every cloud has a silver lining and she left me a certain amount of the sweet stuff, otherwise known as money. I have decided to leave my job in the samples department at Webster’s Designer Fabrics, (“Your home is our gallery”) as I’m now free to live my lifelong dream and open up my own restaurant. The name of the restaurant will be “Eggs” because that is what I will be serving. You can have them poached, boiled, scrambled or fried on brown or white bread, but if the dish you require doesn’t largely come from a chicken, as opposed to being made from it, and involve shelling an egg or two, don’t bother to ask for it in my dining area.

I consider it a brilliant idea, a view shared by my hamster George who went into a frenzy of wheel spinning when I gave him the news. In a normal restaurant, people dawdle over the menu, wondering whether to plump for the fried avocado in a plum and radish jus or settle for the safety of a steak, medium rare, blue or any other colour they can think of and with a portion of low-fat chips. The waiter/waitress then spends a lot of time shuffling from one leg to another while you change your mind, go back to your original choice and then ask if they have any crab on the menu, which a simple look at the sheet in your hands, otherwise known as said menu would reveal they didn’t. This all has a severe impact on the time to taste ratio, and stops the till ringing.

At my restaurant every dish will come in at a frolic under ten pounds, but seem good value for money on account of the small salad set to the side of the egg, giving the whole plate the “Nouvelle cuisine” aura so popular with fine diners. To add a whiff of sophistication the waiter always asks if you would like your “oeufs” rare or well-done. After all, subtlety is everything in the world of excellence, even within a limited menu.

In its early days and, owing to financial restraints, I will keep the role of “Front of house,” Waiter and cook to myself, thus keeping overheads to a minimum. Florence, Jessie, Caroline and Frieda, my pet chickens, will be clucking away in the yard at the back of the eatery, ensuring the principle ingredients are as fresh as can be: Let us picture the scene.

A smooth dater with a lady in tow enters my currently empty restaurant and peers at the cleverly lit interior. “Have we booked sir?” I ask, smiling and displaying a reasonable number of freshly brushed teeth. “No.” says the candid gentleman.
“I think we can cram you in, if you’ve finished eating by eight” I say, displaying more teeth and raising a well-groomed eyebrow. The smart couple are guided to the table by the window and settle themselves down as I hand out the menu. “The gent looks at it, and says, “Fried for me and lightly poached for the lady I think,” giving her a brief nod to indicate that she has been fully engaged in his decision. I pretend to write down their order before walking over to the kitchen door and shouting out. “One Feried egg for the gent and a lightly poached number for the lady.” I pause to grin comfortingly at my guests and then walk into the kitchen ready to cook the required meal. As they wait patiently in the restaurant area , Grieg’s “Death of Ace” plays gently in the background leading a certain solemnity to that moment when I subject Frieda’s gentle offerings to the brutal experience of the frying pan. A short period of mourning follows.

Soon I am back at their table, grinning in my friendly way and saying, “One fried and one lightly poached was it sir?” before placing the eggs in front of them. Extra parsley has been supplied, along with the salad, to indicate they are already one of my favourite clients. These little touches, as we know, mark the distinctive line between success and failure in a new business. With any luck I should be off to the Bentley showroom in time for Christmas. How do they like their eggs I wonder?

Posted in character, Creative Fiction, Fiction, Fine Dining, humour, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , , , | 16 Comments