A Question Of Values


Rosie Lotteridge is a woman who, she suggests, “Adds colour to many lives.” My aunt, who was connected to her in some way, something to do with committees I understand, said of her when her name came up in conversation. “At least she is a moral person: I know for a fact that she had been married for over four years before she had her first affair, and that says a lot about character don’t you think?”

Her husband, Rosie’s that is,  who she patronised dreadfully, “Do get us some bubbly Freddie” and “Oh you darling” when he brought in the bottle and glasses before she returned her full attention to her new friend of the moment, seemed unnaturally patient: he worked long hours in his attempt to keep real life from spoiling her delicate absurdities and was extraordinarily forgiving regarding her casual approach to marital or any other conventions: always placing her interests above his own, but then he was just a stockbroker while she was that beauty for whom any man would lose his reputation, or that had certainly been the case.

By the time I came to know her, her “legendary beauty,” could be best seen in old photographs as her current physical appearance owed more to the ruthless passage of time, softened in her case by a comforting friendship with cake. This being the case, lovers had become harder to acquire and Freddie, loyal and punctilious to a fault, was left to protect her vanity without the aid of passing romance which he did, regardless of his personal enjoyment: I never heard him discuss his personal circumstances. Her brother, who sometimes came to visit them was “Talented” and we all know how tiresome that can be.

It was a subtlety of the situation that, in time, he was perceived to be something of a hero: a mixture of that noble knight who protects his charge from any trace of suffering, and a discreet valet who endures the mindless posturing of his charge without complaint: perhaps the greatest gift we can give another is our kindness and he always offered his without reserve. No one ever asked him why he stood for it, and nothing in his demeanour suggested he was anything but content, although a clue to the true cost of his attentions might be found in his early death: I suppose even the most unregarded of plants still require watering.

Not all heroisms are obvious and many heroes don’t see themselves as brave, but in protecting her from herself, he granted that most fragile of characters a period of tranquillity. Some people spend their lives pandering to the vanities of another, and some may also be paid for their endeavours, but in the case of Rosie and Freddy I think the manner in which he conducted himself became his purpose. To those of us who are puzzled by his conduct, may we employ compassion in the face of mystery? It will be interesting to see how she manages on her own?

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Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, Love, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , | 30 Comments

Full Circle


Connections are all we have: I learnt that in my early days when living in a single room, listening to the radio while dreaming of a social life I lacked the money to explore.

You understand everything but life!”  my wife once said but now she’s gone: I find it hard to say she’s died. We met at university, where I was gorging on the classics were wisdom shares it’s anecdotes.  The library was my home and she, the librarian, became my friend and then my wife. She had told me off for sneaking a sandwich in where food was not allowed and then was drawn into a conversation with me by, she later said  “My general oddness!”

Don’t look for praise from those you treasure; it often comes as an afterthought,  but her eyes could never hide her love: in them I found my sanctuary

We had a daughter, called Felicity who grew into a lover of people and animals but then she moved to America, keeping house for her husband and a son I have never seen. Distance is implacable but still we sometimes chat by phone.

Being the man I am, I suffered a financial calamity and was forced to move to a place I did not know but with lodgings I could just afford.

I became that man you do not know, who walks the same streets every day, and drinks coffee in cafes he cannot name, sharing thoughts with the daily news, but each breath I take I think of her, scolding me from dawn to dusk, and hugging me like no one else, as I rest here, dreaming of a social life I lack the money to explore.

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Eight Years A’Blogging


Dear special and appreciated readers.  Eight years ago today, May 6th 2011, I awoke after a sleepless night and penned my first post “Waking Thoughts.”

To those who know me, and those who wish they didn’t, these eight years have been a voyage and a half, but the interest and affection of my readers has been a constant source of emotional nourishment during the journey.  We pass by lives in the blogosphere, hearing people say the profoundest, most personal and intimate things about themselves before they move back into the mists of anonymity, but all the while I have been struck by how common are the struggles so many of us face, even if we express them privately.

I will leave you with a re-print of my “About page” because it says a lot about how special the meeting has been with so many of you.  Bless you all and may the coming blogging years be filled with the contentment and serenity so many of us seek

 

Some come by to read a line or  two, see nothing here and soon move on their way.That I understand . Life is full of glances. But to you, who read  beyond an opening phrase I say this:

Online we meet.. inside.. out:  emotions first, and dreams of course.  Some anecdotes: piecemeal at best. Brief glimpses of a passing life,  written in faltering intimacy.

Reader meet the writer of these words.

Let us imagine , you and I,  standing in some forest glade, or on a sidewalk in some busy town. Feel a  wind rise up, magic in its properties, and watch the scenery round us fall away .Lift the objects gently, one by one, till buildings, trees,and  all but ground are gone. Nothing to see now, just you and I: alone in words with stillness in our hearts.

What would  we see: alien or lover. Confused of spirit or finally at peace. Naked, uneasy or living harmony. Would you see danger, and cautionary tales, or some  stranger on the road, hold out his hand to help you safely home .

Life soon passes, my skin attests to that. Those nimble limbs that ran as if a breath are now at rest on  this, an average day. And you; where are you in this? Still out for love, or running from the cost. Dreaming of spires with bells that chime your name, or dragging  your history down some deserted path. The tragedy that caught you, or the blessing of a charm are present now and written on your face. Mine too is full of complex history

But in this moment, nearly at an end . Let me hope that you who caught my words, and held them briefly  in your thoughts, find the peace to quench your doubts and walk with me towards your chosen path.”

 

 

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Annual Reflections


By tradition I and  a number of chums at “The Last Resort” decided, some years ago, to hold an end of year party on the 28th December in that period identified as being in the social wilderness between Christmas and New Year’s Eve.

There were normally six of us but this year we were reduced to five because Clive had had too much of the “Let’s live life to the max” thing and decided to die in late June. Among his notable career triumphs was a period as the Lord Mayor of our proud and noble town, and so, at his funeral, 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” 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 add his biography to that comforting list of yet-to-be-started masterpieces.

Moving on, 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 now call it, 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, “The year is nearly 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 from last and mentioned winning the “Largest Marrow” prize at the village autumn fair which  came dangerously close to boasting: 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.

Finally 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 age indicates, to me at least, that you’ve missed out on one or two important lessons in life, although I wouldn’t say that to the wife.

“Who to?” Nick asked, a painter of sorts “And still to fulfill his promise” 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” 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 discover by the time you are seventy. 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 tactless and, if life teaches you anything at all, it is that manners are more important in the every-day than meaning, because manners are a matter of survival while meaning is just a subject reserved for prophets, and I was never one of those.

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A Dream Too Far Beyond My Courage


You lived creatively letting art define your life, fearless in your every day, walking the path I would have walked if I had courage in my veins; but I was a percentage man, careful always not to fail. I talked of art but lived by common sense and progressed cautiously toward an unmarked death.

At first you welcomed me: drowning me in kisses and opening yourself up to me in pagan celebration sure that I, like you, was of the chosen few, who recognised the secret beauty of our lives will only be expressed through fearless creativity. How we loved to swap observations, and nestle with each other by the fire and talk of love. I touched your skin and felt each brush of it awake my soul. Your lips, for that short time, were mine to kiss and face to hold: wonder was our chemistry, and through each other we had found love for our eternity.

I lost my nerve at last, and talked of safe professions, a refuge from the fear that those who live to dream will pay a cost until, one day, that love I drank so freely from your eyes shrank to a trickle of regret.

You painted like a girl possessed while I trained for my bar exams and we drifted on complicitly, avoiding the unspoken truth, that you were fearless and I was not. An agent came to see your work, sent there by a man of note, and the rest we know is history. You have created these forty years and I have not, but I read of you in magazines, and sometimes when silence fills my life, I take the portrait you made of me, a young man with a dream to chase, staring out courageously, for that was how you saw me then.

Life becomes your memories and in that place I love you still. I never speak your name out loud, and make no reference to your work but every day I take my walk, past the garden where we sat  as, safe within my silent heart, you pass your fingers through my hair.

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Under The Tree Of Life


I’ve read the words of men, or listened to their thoughts expressed as music. The men who walked where knowledge grows. Who’ve passed beneath the tree of wisdom and had it’s shadow grant them peace: briefly it might be. Look in their eyes and  you will find an element of eternity. You may discover in their company that the present is infinite, and events the actors which provide a change of scenery. In life there are many theories but few real explanations. With time I understood that we will know more than we can say, and understand beyond our powers of expression.

Sometimes on a crowded street or in a café, half hid from view, I might a man or women see, and tell myself, “They’ve been there, at the borders between eternity and the commonplace. Compassion is their constancy, wrapped in the scarf of hard experience. Hopeless though the venture is, they watch the pageant of our passing lives and see it stained by human greed,  recognising, all the while, that knowledge of the timeless kind is often touched by melancholy.”

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A Brush With Privilege


As a young man, sometime before the war, I lived in a world “Of certain certainties” as some poet 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 ain’t that the truth by God.

Anyway,  in those times I, unmarried and a recent graduate from Cambridge visited my aunt in Bosham and found myself co-opted onto the cricket team, some young notable having fallen ill, and played, the truth bids me to admit, with some distinction. A  charming girl, with that unassuming charisma it is hard to ignore, approached me 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 younger daughter of a noted 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 aunt’s 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 of note about her, apart from having attended the funeral of Queen Victoria, an incident which frequently drifted into her conversation, did what many in declining circumstances do;  stick rigidly to convention, albeit on a reduced scale, so that offering “Drinks” instead of a meal was her way of clinging to gentrified circles without, in her case, incurring 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 subtly, 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 who added a brief glamour on my life but marked with social caution who, I later discovered, went on to marry a senior civil servant some years older than herself  who “worked tirelessly,” 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 woman who grew fond of me but viewed me without magic in her eyes. As for Araminta, I never met with her again, but my conversation with her was the closest I got to being part of a romance. The snub she gave still stings me to this day: the harshest truths, it seems, are often implied rather than stated.

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