Excerpt From “The Man Who Missed The Boat”

This is an excerpt from my new novel in which one of the main characters is brought face to face with the consequences of his actions.

” He stood in the cold outside his former life and home and discovered the reality of what it is to be an exile. To see a world continue, but no longer be a part of it. With all that gone, he knew that he could not just knock on the door. Say he was “only passing” and “Could he have a cup of tea”, Standing there, looking at the small front lawn, he remembered planting it about twelve years before, and even recalling, cruel as the memory now seemed, his wife Ruth coming out to him with tea and with a young Amy, then just two years ,old clinging to her dress. The very picture of an ordered family, now decimated by his lack of will, destroyed by a temptation unimagined in those sweet early years. What had he done?

There were no tears, but only a deepening sadness and that sense of isolation, until at last, he turned on his heel, and set off back to his new lodgings. For now at least, he would find no comfort here, and he must do his best to build a life out of the ruins he created. There is a phrase, largely in disuse, but somehow it surfaced in his mind. He had become ‘Beyond the pale’ whatever that might mean, and climbing back out of it was a journey he had difficulty to contemplating.

The adverts say there is always sunshine, but there is not always sunshine. We feel there must be hope but, for some, there is not always hope, and the world without it is a dark and exposing place. Giles walked his walk more alone in mind and spirit than he had ever been. The wilderness rose up around him, as if by some strange magic, and grappled at his limbs with merciless stamina. There seemed no  destination left with  purpose. The journey home, or whatever that place was called, was one of instinct rather than direction. Free of strategy, and without any emotional bearings he moved because he had no other choice. It was the last thing he had left, and he would just keep moving and praying, because that was all there was, apart from his engrossing solitude.”

Will life get better or worse for Giles. If you are curious, click on the blue image beside this post and find out !

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A Brief Courtship Of Sorts

As a young man, sometime before the war, I lived in a world “Of certain certainties” as some poet said, or may have said. I’ve never been of the bookish persuasion but you get my drift: we dressed for dinner, played cricket, gentlemen versus players, every August on the green, and obeyed conventions in public as if conformity were as natural as breathing. My private thoughts were of a different colour, but when has that not been true. After all, as another poet possibly remarked, “Manners the wild savage doth contain” and aint that the truth by God.

Anyway,  in those times I, unmarried and a recent graduate from Cambridge visited my aunt in Boshom and found myself co-opted onto the cricket team, some young notable having fallen ill, and played, I am forced to admit, with some ability. A  charming girl approached me at the tea after the match and remarked on my bowling in a manner which invited further conversation.

Her name was Araminta I discovered, and she was the daughter of a noted local family. Her manner was bright, engaging and possibly beguiling and I wondered how I could extend our acquaintanceship to later in the evening when I knew a small number of the local “worthies,” among others, would be gathering at my aunts house for “Drinks” which in those days was a way of inviting people to your home without the bother of preparing a meal.

My aunt, who had little about her of note, apart from having attended the funeral of Queen Victoria, an incident which frequently made its way into her conversation, did what many in declining circumstances do, which was stick rigidly to convention, albeit on a reduced scale, so that offering “Drinks” instead of a meal was a way of clinging to the last of her contacts in gentrified circles without, in her case, the expense of providing full-blown hospitality.

Emboldened by Araminta’s  friendliness and forward manner, I asked her if she was “Coming up later” for drinks at my aunt’s, whose name I told her, was Mrs Derringer. Her  face stiffened very subtlely, in the way only those who have been repeatedly  slighted on social grounds would notice, and she said “Sadly I have other plans” before drifting off to talk to another young man I did not know but who had played in the same team as I.

She was a dazzling beauty framed in social caution who, I later discovered, went on to marry a senior civil servant some years older than herself  who “worked tirelessly,” which just means worked, at the Home Office during the war. Later, I was employed by an engineering business in an undistinguished capacity, thus emphasising, much to my aunt’s dismay, how far we had drifted from the county set. I married a women who grew to love me in her own way but who disliked any “fuss” unless, of course, she , herself was making it. I never met Araminta again, but my conversation with her was the closest I got to what many people describe as a romance so the snub I received from her remains fresh to this day. The harshest truths, it seems, are often implied rather than stated.

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Etiquette And The Awkward Moment

I was best man at my oldest friends wedding recently. I calmed him as we stood in church waiting for his beautiful bride to make her appearance. The waiting lasted forever, you know how it is, but at last she appeared, stunning to a fault, and the church organ burst into life with the enthusiasm customarily displayed on such occasions.

It must be added, at this point , that she and I had been lovers for some months before this happy date but we had decided that silence was the kinder alternative to breaking my old chums heart, especially given the size of his trust fund and the fact that both her and my circumstances were significantly more modest in comparison. It had been the custom for years that he pay for holidays, so he could benefit from my social skills and I could share an experience I would otherwise not be able to enjoy, and it was on a trip to St Lucia that the warm bond between the three of us was deepened by an unexpected development.

Carletta, that was her name, and I had not always “clicked,” as it were, but over time, we had warmed to each other  to the point where, when he asked me to look after her for a couple of days when he sprained his ankle, both of us saw this opportunity to deepen our friendship as a gift from heaven, or possibly not from heaven, depending on your moral standpoint.

Like me, her finances did not run to exotic holidays, meals at expensive restaurants or those little items of jewellery with which he often demonstrated his love for her. ” He is the boring  yes no yes” suggested Carletta in her delightful accent, and I tended to agree with her, “But he has a lovely heart and is both loyal and generous” I suggested and she nodded in agreement while rubbing her engagement ring with the middle finger of her right hand. A touching gesture, I thought, made a little incongruous possibly,  by the fact we were both lying semi-naked, having just concluded what I considered to be an enjoyable episode of horizontal gymnastics.

Such was her fervour for me at that moment, that she suggested dumping my dearest friend and gambolling her whole future on my unimpressive career.  She soon saw the sense when I advised caution and so she suggested that a couple of years wedded bliss, with me near her to take the edge of the tedium, followed by a divorce citing “mental cruelty” where I could be a reluctant witness in her favour, might secure our finances, rather than just giving into our romantic instincts and walking off into the sunset and almost certain penury.

I do have a conscience, of course. Who doesn’t ? But while I allow it to comment on my actions I do not offer it a management role and pretty much do as I like.  Nevertheless, I was determined to make the adjustment as painless for him as possible. Carletta and I agreed that, after the wedding night, bedroom Pilates should be kept to a minimum making him more susceptible to the deep-thinking and tender hearted beauties I was determined to place in his company during our customary ” Lad’s night out.”

As the ceremony progressed, things took an unexpected turn when the vicar raised his head to address the congregation and asked, ” Can any man show just cause why these two people may not be lawfully joined together .” There was the customary silence before the groom piped up, “The bride is having sex with my best man.” Silence returned for another half-second or two before pandemonium broke out among the congregation and my best friend planted a decent right hook on the side of my head.

There was no reception.

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After Life

Peter Wells aka Countingducks:

I thought I’d let this post see the light of day as it has been one of my more popular efforts and possibly not seen by my newer follower !

As you can see, its gone a bit wrong, and its re-posted it as though it came from another blog altogether.

This is the kind of technical fumbling and incompetence it has taken four years to develop and its good to provide a new example of that attribute here.

Originally posted on countingducks:

Was that her, it seemed so long ago? Another life lived in another age. A young girl dressed  in white, beside the man she’d known since her birth. The son of her dad’s best friend, who played with her in his childhood, watching her back whilst they grew up in school.Her  wedding ring, unmarked, on  wrinkled hand, sends  memories rising from another time. His face, so warm and young . The sense of being home when he was there. The new born baby nestling in her arms. Him working the shop whilst she stood by his side. An ordinary life from any point of view , free of trophies or the cheering crowds, but,  full of meaning and rich in  small events.

This was her world. Now only  memories . A  glance across a table top. His finger tapping on the dinner plate. The children squabbling over the last chips while he, exhausted, smiled at their…

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Four Years A Blogging

Here is a picture WordPress sent me to mark my fourth anniversary on their site.


As you can see, no expense has been spared in WordPress’s celebration of my entrance to the vintage Bloggers club. To be honest, I wouldn’t have remembered that it was any kind of anniversary at all if this smart illustration had not popped up.

Over the four years lots of things have changed, not least is that a number of valued and treasured followers, and then my publishers have prompted me to write a book and then another book, and until I began this blog, writing a book had never occurred to me.

I have a Blogroll, because one did or must, but most of the people on it seldom if ever visit apart from a few and treasured individuals. It is also true that I have made many other contacts, some of whom are both talented and wonderful and who visit regularly and who are not on my Blogroll because I don’t seem to get round to updating it, and wince at the thought of removing a name from it , even thought they wouldn’t know and never visit now anyway. How stupid is that.

More than anything I realise now how ephemeral blogging is. It is a bit like a cocktail party held at a railway station where people keep a constant eye on the time because they are soon required somewhere else and have so much else to do, but apart from the obviously facile dimension to it, it remains a forum where disparate people of every age and culture join to share and discuss the powerfully intimate and yet general experience of being alive. There is a kind of beauty and music to blogging which transcends the idle chatter and makes me want to reach out to you all and say, “We all share this age together, albeit in different circumstances and cultures and touching your lives, as you have touched mine, has made my existence infinitely richer and I thank you all for it.”


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Celebrate or Criticise May We Ask ?

“Beauty,” as the wife observed “Lies just beyond the next alteration to her wardrobe or figure” and, as she might have added wisely, but didn’t, is often a subjective measurement based on a thousand variables unless you happen to be Plato, of course, who was quite a clever chap and thought of it as some concept based on the idea of “The absolute,” which, strange to say, is possibly what drives my good lady  forward in her search for the perfect outfit.

Her search for the perfect husband stopped with me some years ago, and that jaundiced look around her eyes suggests that she still blames herself for ordering from the menu of life without fully weighing up the choices. I suppose it’s fair to say she is not alone with that feeling.

Anyway, I am straying from my point, if I can remember what it is.  I know it centres on memories of my old friend Charlie who did the “Mystic Shuffle” last month and who enjoyed the send-off a man of his character and social standing deserved I’m afraid. No one turned up for the service apart from myself and some guy who was seeking shelter from the rain. My good lady refused to attend, citing a backlog of ironing, but I suspect she did not wish to be seen in the company of morally worthless individuals, including her husband, whether in or outside the box. ( No thinking required inside the box apparently, but that’s another topic: I must not get distracted. )

Thinking outside the box is my forte, My “Specialité de Maison,” which actually means I often lose the thread of my conversations, wardrobe or anything else which is not firmly attached to my person. Still, where was I. Oh yes.

Charlie, God bless him, because who else would, was a man of colourful character whose egalitarian approach to life was born out by the fact that he managed to offend the vast majority of people he met without regard to race, sex, age, height or fashion sense. However, he had two friends, myself and Sid, (Who missed the funeral because he forgot to use the stairs when going down to the cellar recently, and broke his leg. )  We used to hang around him like those small fish who sit on the backs of sharks enjoying the odd morsel which escapes their host’s attention.

In our cases it was Charlie’s social fauz pas which added spice to our day, and I will miss the drive and sense of purpose he brought to achieving social ruin before his demise. The lack of attendance at his funeral suggests he got as near as anyone does in achieving their life’s goals. Indeed, there was a certain edge to the vicar’s brief eulogy, possibly resulting from that time when our Charlie got a bit “fresh” with the vicar’s wife at some fund raising gig to do with the church roof. On that note, I must say, the church remained dry throughout the service which just goes to show that not all these fund raising efforts are pointless, however poor the catering, but that’s another story.


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A Life Viewed Through Artifacts

You walk where once we walked,  collecting objects with no knowledge of my ownership, and yet in my time I used and sometimes loved each one of them. Each little fork and button, now brushed by your enquiring hand, was felt or viewed with awe or fear or love according to its status and utility by those, like me, who sat among these stones, living out each passing day, caught up in daily urgencies and  questions about our destiny.

My name is Agnetha, and I lived in the space in which you stand; sipped from that cup you hold so carefully and sat on the stone  where you now rest your tools. You wonder how I lived my life. Look to yourself and you will find me there. I knew not what you know and knew much that is now buried among your new certainties, but the touch and breath of life remains unaltered. We also had our postures and a wish to be known, but only on our terms. Is that not always so?

Our Gods receive no worship now, supplanted by new deities. Our customs hidden under dust, now seem quite alien to you, but something in your enquiring mind, and the way you miss your family, reminds me of what we held dear. Preserved in this lover’s sanctuary, in which you walk so  carefully, is our message to posterity.

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