A Choice Of Direction


You lived creatively letting art define your life, fearless in your every day, walking the path I should 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, and drowned me with your kisses, opening yourself to me in pagan celebration sure that I, like you, was of the chosen few, who recognised the secret of life will only be discovered creatively. 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 to be a prayer. Your lips, for that short time, were mine to kiss and face to hold: wonder was our chemistry, and gold the colour which framed our life, for we had found 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 of 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 in that garden where we sat, innocent of encroaching truth, I sit, as so I often did, and feel your hand move through my hair.

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The Price Of Bread


I am a man holding onto a faith in the story of his own destiny, so like a salmon following its instincts, I attempt the waterfall of life because that is our duty I understand!Apart from working, I get through my day, accepting my lot and looking for light in any situation: 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 and 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 and a limited budget 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  she became slightly “Arch” if you follow me. Clearly I had stepped outside that circle of generalities which define the conversational norms for casual acquaintances.

I’d had a sense of manners once: perhaps my mother had taught it to me, or I’d picked it up from watching 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 to the Out-Patients department open at the local hospital saying “After you” to some lady suffering from a sprained wrist: “After you” turned 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 learnt that, as a last resort, being polite prevents you from being barred from that club called “Casual Connections,” where I’d spent most 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 cohabiting 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. 

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.

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A Step Too Far


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?

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A Question Of Circumstances


Her stare challenged everything in sight: late twenties and a shaper of events, the answer to many situations lay filed in her experiences: she feared little but some aspects of emotion, and looked on those she knew as reference points. Unmarried and unattached, six years spent with a school-time love now consigned to memory, she had determined, if nothing else, that life was a matter of furnishings and dress.

All her friends were relatives, and home a concept more than place: protected by ability and a career of some significance she had moved to a new property. She had not met the owners yet, and there was no reason she would do so.

Thus the knock on her door was unexpected, and opened more from habit than intent to reveal a boy of around six looking up at her with an enquiring face. “Do you play the piano miss” he asked as if she already knew his name, and before she could control herself, she said “Yes” because music was a dormant passion in her life. “We’ve just got one from my gran, she’s dead” he told her by way of explanation, adding “Come and see”

Why she did we cannot say but there was an openness about him she could not bruise so she followed him to the flat below where , sure enough, a battered upright stood against the wall, lid raised and keyboard in full view. His mother poked her head round the kitchen door, a bit older than herself but not by much, and clearly on a different path and warm.

Both looked at her expectantly, uneasily it must be said, as she sat down and played one of her own compositions, written before her father lost his way and her parental home became a mausoleum. The boy started dancing by her stool and his mother said, “That’s really good” and so it may have been, but written in another time, when flowers bloomed and angels still wore white.

“What do you do?” the mother asked, and she replied, “I am a retail analyst for a large department store.” The mother was impressed, though in a baffled way. “But what about the music?” she asked and the young boy said, “Play some more,” but she replied, “I must get on, I’m sure you understand” and the mother said “Of course” and the boy just shook his head, for he was from that gentle place where flowers bloom and angels still wore white.

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The Perfect Break


You could call it a meeting of minds: a moment when two souls found in each other’s company that a complex world could become simple, but that was all it was and everything. It was a holiday romance, a trick of circumstance where a lady taking a solitary vacation, “She needed a break to catch her breath,” and I, a cynical journalist who was trying to regain belief, collided through my enduring clumsiness: I spilled my coffee on her dress.

Away from there, we both had busy lives, lived out on different continents, and yet for much of the holiday “Paradise” seemed all there was. Nothing is permanent is it? Not in any life, moment or transient sense of tranquillity but for this brief time the everyday withdrew, granting us a glimpse of untouched majesties.

After our last evening meal and a couple of soothing drinks, as had become our habit, we moved to the front of the boat, stretching out beside each other so we could stare up at the sky and the amazing blanket of stars visible above us: everything was pristine, clear and deep. Like the sea beneath us, the sky above seemed infinite, and we, like innocents, lay beneath its stillness. News had ceased to matter and only the gentle rocking of the boat spoke of a moving world.

Beyond the reach of gossip we lay wrapped in this velvet and wondrous infinity and she moved and touched my hand. She shone for me then and I dared to think she might love me more openly: soon the warmth coaxed us to sleep awhile on the deck: our fingers played together like children, talking in unwritten code. It was the nearest I would get to being at peace with myself and my circumstance.

We were two people, freed to explore the whimsies of life in a place known only to ourselves, without anxiety and shielded from daily concerns by bonds of unspoken intensity. Silence was ours to treasure, only broken when she said “Do you have a photograph of yourself?” and I said “No” “OK. Let me take one then” she said and lifting up her camera.

Against the rules I asked her “Nothing to worry about is there. Nothing I can help you with,” and she said “No.” We drank some more in silence, tonic water mainly, she didn’t much like alcohol, and then she said. “Off to bed.”

“Before you go” I said, “May I take your picture; sometime in the future I might want company.” Some light came on within her as she waited for me to capture her image, then we went our separate ways. It was a romance built on the denial of intimacy, and yet for all that, as my head lay on the pillow, I fell into that special sleep which only happiness bestows. Even now she remains the spring of the simplest and most noble emotions I ever experienced.

Shortly after breakfast with the ship now moored in harbour, and as we finished a snack of toast and eggs a waiter arrived to say her taxi was waiting. She rose to leave: I knew she disliked drama and suppressed it as much as possible, though her eyes said everything, and so, as she stepped back from the table, she smiled and said, “Don’t break anything” which was our secret joke. She walked off then, as if it were the start of a normal day: I never saw or heard from her again. Did I mention she was married?

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A Pause in Blogging


Because our thoughts are with the Queen, so sadly missed I will not be publishing a blog for the next two weeks. I know our thoughts are with her and her family and among the many among us who mourn her passing

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Ukraine


One of my current endeavours is to volunteer, teaching Ukrainian refugees English and through this I have got to know the stories of quite a few of them. This was made more graphic last Wednesday as they celebrated their Independence day at the Hub where their classes are held.

Amazingly and impressively they had put together a moving concert of songs and piano recitals revealing talents and abilities not seen by us before as they worked to develop their language skills. This was followed by a feast of Ukrainian dishes before which your disciplined blogger cast aside any thoughts of dietary control.  

It was a wonder to watch their performances and the flow of tears evident among the packed audience: mine among them, and to recall the stories of the various harrowing journeys many of them had made on their way to the quiet town where I live.

We often hide the extraordinary within the ordinary but witnessing the dignity and wish to give their children a normal life among those who had been seperated from their husbands and loved one’s was humbling indeed. They all suffer from one man’s demented megalonamia and I wish I could see some end to the uncertainty which they endure each day. To witness their strength of character and patriotic pride in the face of such uncertainties is humbling indeed. They will be forever in my heart.

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In Search Of Improvement


Those friendships we enjoyed, so casually, in a life, not overburdened with demands, allowed us room to celebrate with ease, a freedom we now find embalmed in photographs, and  some remaining artefacts. Me grinning with a new caught fish, the harbour as it once was, when fishing was the only industry, and tourists, rare beings indeed, who wandered past, and viewed us as if we were actors in a play

Now, these same tourists are the staple of the town and the fleet which was its heartbeat is replaced with pleasure craft:  those huts where skilled men sat and mended nets, became cafe’s laid out to catch your eye, and tease a coin or two for absent-minded snacks.

Time and change have no sentiment, allowing man to alter, as he sees fit, the rituals and ways which, in the past, were thought to be the bed-rock of a character.  In old men sitting by the harbour, I see a commentary on change: a certain melancholy not entirely wrought by age, and wonder, as I watch them, how much we understand, as we lay their rituals gradually to rest, obsessed as we are by the desire to improve.

With growing urgency we seek the new, and dream of a life free of germs and doubt, but these men who ploughed the oceans for their food knew back at home Eden was underfoot, long before we, who followed them, trampled over their Paradise in search for some new Camelot

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The Perfect Flaw


You would love her if she wished, but not for an eternity. Anger was her closest friend, and nothing bored her more, she cried, than “Weak kneed praise from slack jawed men.” Unstable at the best of times, she could act a thousand roles as long as, she always said, “The curtain falls before I’m bored.”

Love in all its travesties riled her to breaking point; cursed with more than average looks, and that allure which chaos brings, she chose to mock at ordered lives, and “Try and spice things up a bit.”  Swept through events with spendthrift haste, guzzling at experience. “Bills are not my thing” she said, ” But you can pay them if you wish. ”

She understood stability, and the fantasies of sober men, and teased them with coquettish skill; tugged their hearts with reckless angst. Eased them from their marriage beds, then laughed at their stupidity. Your attention was all she sought but only as a passing whim.  “Loyalty is the gift of fools” her glib remark to some poor man, finessed by her perceptive guile into paying for a holiday, “Unaccompanied if you please. Talent needs its solitude” and so the poor chump slid away, muttering about “The greater good,” only to find, when she returned that some new guy with polished teeth, who had the keys to Hollywood, was taking her beyond his reach, but kindly in her awkward way, she did not leave without a thought, but sent back a signed photograph, “Taken by a man of note.”

You may love her if you wish, but do not make a point of it. Already bored in infancy, she sought for nothing you could give. Diversion was her sanctuary and leaving you her one true gift.

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A Matter Of Philosophy


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 creative writing, faith, Fiction, Humanity, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , | 12 Comments