Reflections On A Bridge


“What’s that about Sid” I heard someone ask. We were sitting in the café, mulling over events or the lack of them, (purpose can drift out of your life with age,) and his name came up. “What about him?” said Terry, and the new guy to the group, Alex I think his name is, said, “I passed him in the rain, just leaning on the bridge watching the water flow below him. “

“I asked him if he was OK and he just said, “I know where I am,” and I thought, “I know where I am.” What’s that’s supposed to mean?” Geoff, sitting opposite me, whose read a book or two in his time piped up and said, “I think it’s a quote from a novel” and we all looked over to him but that’s Geoff. His information comes in disconnected fragments and talking to him is like wandering through an archaeological site without an expert on hand to give context to your finds. Still, that’s not really the point is it?

Some bloke I didn’t know, who was sitting at a close-by table, said “His wife died last week” and there you have it: answered in a phrase. Sid is one of those guys who looked the other way when real life drove by. Why his wife stayed with him I cannot say, but the power to endure was admired back then before the age of planned obsolescence and euthanasia parties. I mean Sid is a good hearted man but basically a mess in a worn-out shirt but he loved his wife. That is the truth in him: her living gave him purpose.

Posted in ageing, creative writing, Humanity, Love, marriage, old age, Peter Wells, Relationships, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 10 Comments

On the Passing Of His Wife


The mourners stood around him eating cakes and sandwiches not made by him. Some catering company he employed to do the work, did the work while he stood near a corner of the room, watching his guests share memories of his wife and stain the carpet with their drink and crumbs. He, who hated fuss above all else, and kept emotions strictly under wraps, nodded as each passing face offered him comfort and support, not realising all he longed for was their silence. Mavis, his wife now deceased, who spelt reflection with the word ‘Abyss’ had filled his life with whims and groundless fears, till her death offered him relief and left him with the chance to dream once more, and sit and watch the natural world and catch his breath.

So thorough was his daily care of her that those around her wondered at his discreet gentleness and diligent support for one who loved hysteria as if it were her only child. In fact, by chance or was it luck, the union had proved fruitless in that way, and wardrobes full of dresses and shoes would be her brief legacy.

He loved her without doubt, but more for herself than him, he always thought, and sought to ease her constant anxieties. Strangely once she knew that she must die, courage came from somewhere in her heart bringing its dignity to her passing. She, who made a fuss of everything, and thought a chipped cup a calamity, faced her death with humour and her spoken thought that, “You’ll be alright,” was her last comment as her husband sat beside her on the bed.

He, who for years had lived within his wife’s concerns, alone at last, could set his dreams alight, or so he thought. He might explore and get to know people he had not yet met, and tread the path to discovery, and taste adventure ungoverned by her fears.

But now alone, and challenged by his imagination, he realised the very door that kept this world beyond his reach, gave him the licence to shape its landscape and possibilities without cost. As he reflected thus, a wave of sadness startling in its suddenness, swept through him as he realised how her concerns had shielded him from himself, and allowed him his whimsies without risk. Nothing, he finally understood, makes a dream more frightening than it becoming possible

Posted in Compassion, Creative Fiction, Fiction, kindness, Peter Wells, Relationships, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 17 Comments

A Tale Of Two Brothers


Isn’t it curious how two very different aspects of the human character can manifest themselves under one roof, from one family and as a result of much the same upbringing. ‘Ducker’ had a brother called Nicholas who, for some years, thought ‘Ali Money’ was some Arab prince who seemed to know a lot of Hollywood stars. To be fair to him, which is never enjoyable , the penny had dropped by the time he took up his residency as the Vicar at St Anthony’s church in Lower Sadworth; a position he filled quite happily, but without note, for the majority of his life. His career was so colourless that we have no difficulty in dropping him from this tale and we won’t be referring to him again. As his brother said to him, “Nicki, the road to hell is paved with great anecdotes, and you don’t have any”

So back to his younger brother ‘Ducker’ who had qualified as an accountant through luck and bribery and now worked in his local town signing off the accounts of the more adventurous local businesses. He was a popular figure at the bar by reason of his colourful stories and the ability to buy a round. His “sage” advice was repeated with abandon.   ”Never make a promise you can’t break”, which he would pass on to any passing ingénue who was lucky enough to cross his path in search of professional glory.

I remember someone asking him how it was he had been so successful with the ladies and yet had no children. He smiled knowingly and winked in that way the world weary pass on their wisdoms. “No forwarding address son”. “Pardon” says the innocent pupil. “Never leave a forwarding address and then they cannot contact you.” Needless to say he was regarded more as a fund of good stories than useful guidance but then the ability to entertain is the new gold in our reflective society don’t you find.

He was one of those people of whom you might say, “Count your fingers before you shake his hand”. His speciality was massaging the figures of local small businesses to prevent any unpleasant conversations about tax. Despite his ‘slack-happy’ approach to deadlines, his ability to overlook a decent percentage of the profits when auditing accounts always kept his glass full at the bar, and a decent car on the drive.

Moving on with reluctance and a man calls up and asks if he can come round for some advice. “Come as soon as you like” says Ducker. It’s one of the curiosities of life that the morally bankrupt enjoy giving advice almost more than anyone else. Anyway, this chap rolls up and settles into the chair opposite Ducker’s desk. He clutches his cup of tea and says. “I have a day job, but I want to start an evening business with my wife offering interior design”. “I’ve been given your name as a person who can set us on the path to a profitable enterprise”. Ducker smiles, which gives him the chance to flash some expensive dentistry, and says. “You’ve stepped in the right door son”. I can give the addresses of quite a few round here who could do with your help.”

“Not me, of course” he said pointing to his purple and orange lamp shaped like a parrot. “As for profits, you make em and we’ll hide them under the overheads if you catch my drift.”. ( More teeth flashmanship) and then he asked. “So what do you do during the day. His young client replies “I work for the Inland Revenue as a tax inspector.”

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, values, vintage-cars | Tagged , , , , , | 13 Comments

Recollecting His Brief Permanence


The doctor’s words  slid across his mind, played with his future and settled on the hand in front of him. His hand. “Three months at most”. The words were not ambiguous. He had a period of mobility, and armed with pain killers could cling to normal routine for a while longer.  Routine, which had been his most loyal companion. His order in an uncertain world: the habits between him and a  fear of the chaos somewhere beyond the horizon.

Eighty- three years old and not much to show. A couple of children. Lovely in their own way but gradually estranged by his lack of  circumstance.  Somewhere in later middle age he had lost his way. He now  assumed the air of nonchalance so essential to survival in an urban landscape. His career was distinguished by a lack of progress.  His character by a failure to grasp the importance of the everyday. To make a  sandwich taste like a banquet was his lasting talent

Like some insect  in the desert he had become adept at whittling out nourishment and emotion from the bleakest scene. Making a feast from a titbit. Treasuring a passing view, but his time was mainly spent in solitude with music as his companion. Friendships cost money, and that was in short supply. “Not to worry”, he thought, “I’ve got  memories”. And so he had. Journeys abroad filled with adventure. Parties where common sense had left the room. Meetings with minds who touched base with life’s eternal questions. Women who moved him with a tender curiosity. Who enjoyed ,with him, moments of suspended reality among the coffee cups, the tousled sheets and the bric a brac of a careless life. In turn, they left him for more certain landscapes, but  without rancour. They had their needs, and he could not fill them.

By and large the place he sat in was full of known and unknown faces typical of a tourist venue. The rusty stalwarts like himself. Same table. Same coffee and a newspaper sat among the passing tourists who talked more loudly than the locals: excited by their new adventures.

Chance and coincidence were all that refreshed him, and there she was, a visitor from another land, another time and just across the shop. He remembered their conversations, lying there in bed. Her red hair, now grey, spilled out across the pillow. “You love life don’t you. You drink it up” . Her words had never left him. “It’s all I have” he replied  and they had laughed.  Now here she was, forty years on and sitting with a family, settled with her grandchildren and the picture of ordered and polite common sense. Across the room their eyes met and hers were warm: familiar but final . A nod is all it takes to share a history. He had three months but now he knew that part of him would live on in others . In their memories. Perhaps that was the right place for him.

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Sir Oswald Clarkson Demonstrates Economy


 Malinslow, a name hard to say correctly after more than three beers, was a town which sought prominence through its annual poetry festival and used to gather a decent supply of the well-to-do, as well as a number of dishevelled brillianteens, to listen to readings of original verse by leading poets at its annual festival: sometimes bards from the States and other continents could be encouraged to attend by promises of large cheques and a decent lunch or two. Not bad for those used to living on the thin air associated with having your head in the clouds searching for a misplaced career.

This year Sir Oswald Clarkson, a coal miner’s son from Lancashire, was the guest of honour and booked to give the final reading of the evening. His seminal work, “Thoughts Toward a Conclusion” once battled it out with steamy romances in the best-selling lists. A man of self-confessed sensibility, Sir Oswald had been brooding of late because his pen had run dry, vocabulary withered and, on the quiet, he was having some difficulty in maintaining the air of mysterious brilliance so necessary in the world of cutting edge creativity. This ‘reading’ was a welcome chance to restore his image.

Although his accent had mulled to the fruity purr of the media classes he maintained a faint Lancastrian edge to underline his status as the son of hard-working folk: no mean feat for someone who had lodged in the plumpier areas of London with a succession of wives over the last thirty years. Indeed, his wives had provided the majority of the means by which he was able to sprinkle bon-mots over various dinner tables with other literati of the period.

So here we were then, with Sir Oswald facing a packed hall in the middle of Malinslow, and peering alternately down on the paper before him and the crowd ahead. The Duke of Brookshire, paid to appear but still a trifle more bored than normal, had given a clichéd but thorough introduction to the bard and had done a reasonable job of raising the hall’s sensibility towards a level of consciousness. Hush settled over the room and faces looked expectantly up at the lectern and the distinguished figure behind it. He raised his head and, peering over his bifocal glasses, began to read…

“Hope”

He then bowed to the audience and sat down. The Master of ceremonies, seated beside him and with a growing sense of bewilderment said “Hope ! ?” “The truth is not long-winded” said the sage and with a pleasing air of mystery, leant down to gather up his bag. After a few moments it dawned on the assembled throng that this was it: the whole enchilada, nine yards, performance, cake, meal or whatever you like to call it. He had chosen his word with care and now it was spoken. The silence lasted for a few more seconds and then a murmur rippled through the hall. A failed dieter, with a temper shorter than some, shouted, “Outrage” while a less aggressive voice from the front of the hall said, “Was that profound?” Others comments were of a quality a polite man cannot repeat, even in print.

Sir Oswald, with commendable calm, a characteristic of the noted seer, paid no attention to the noise and, indeed, seemed about to leave the stage. The Mayor, seeing the occasion collapsing into unrest, waved his arms in desperation. “Short and sweet” said the Duke, his morale rising at last, as the threat of disorder became evident in the hall. Pains across his chest stopped the Mayor in his tracks: he was having one of his panic attacks and he heard his strangled voice as he leaned towards his deputy saying “Stop his cheque. Stop his cheque”. “He only accepted cash” replied the embarrassed official. “Five thousand pounds for a single word,” he thought to himself, “That is poetry indeed.”

Posted in character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, Peter Wells, Reputation, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | 12 Comments

The Cost Of Me


It took about forty years to realise we were complete strangers linked by common genes and history; and that moment of awakening took place after her death. During her life my mother lectured me constantly on my awkward manner, or failure to sit still when young or, when older, not drink more than a glass of wine or do anything which involved breathing, so it seemed to me. Manners where the foundation of her conduct and she regarded “Polite behaviour” as the cornerstone of any social interaction.

Those wild uninhibited beings who ran for the joy of it or danced until the music faded where primitives to her, as was I, and she considered our existence threatened all that was civilised and negotiable in the world around her.

It is said that when we seek a life-partner we look for what we want or desire but later, and often after the point of no return, we realise that what we have been drawn to is the familiar wrapped in a beguiling costume. Are we always attracted to the same situation in different guises, and the same mistakes in different garb, until we find a way of confronting them or merely run out of life-battery during the attempt to do so?

Vanessa seemed like a party girl to me when I first met her and to her, I think, I seemed a kindly influence in an indifferent world. Much too late, some might say, we discovered we were strangers: which became politely intolerable over the ensuing years.

That’s where manners come in: confronted by an uncomfortable truth, you offer it a cup of tea and ask it if its journey has been uneventful. The one thing you do not seek is to engage it in meaningful and personal conversation, because who knows what will happen once that dialogue has begun. We found a way to sit together and exist on a diet of pleasantries and the need for space but I cannot really call it “Living.”

Living is what I did when I met Paula from work, trapped like me in a conventional straight-jacket and dreaming of the moment when she could cast aside convention. We gave each other the strength and courage to celebrate life in our way so, in a moment of reckless abandon, I told my wife I was leaving her and moved in with Paula, who divorced her husband, buoyed up by my impetuous euphoria.

Happiness was ours to drink and life to celebrate each and every day: the liberation was overwhelming, my joy complete. We were children without parents and life became our playground. Gradually we found ourselves somehow without direction, or boundaries apart from that set by exhaustion. Then the newly “free” Paula discovered an appetite for sharing her euphoria with all and anyone she met although less often with me.

That order from which I fled suddenly took on the mystique of Eden but by then Vanessa had met a man better suited to her than I, leaving me free to reflect on the price of my frustrations!

Posted in character, childhood, creative writing, Fiction, Love, marriage, Peter Wells, Relationships, Romance | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

A Sort Of Goodbye


You know that expression, “Live one day at a time:” well there comes a day for some of us, when we are living “One breath at a time”. That’s where Molly was at this moment; not all bad mind you: the bed was nicely made, and the sheets had been ironed to a high standard shortly before use. Appearances, some say, matter, even in the most extreme situations. Molly was sucking in God’s good clean air with some difficulty and praying that she lived long enough to say goodbye to her daughter, from whom she had been long-since estranged, and who was now on her way from the airport to say a poignant farewell.

At last, and after a difficult and exhausting morning struggling for breath and gripping the sheets as waves of nausea and pain travelled across her stomach, her daughter’s face, not seen by her for thirty years, appeared above her: greyer, more lined and weary, but clearly her daughter.

She leaned over Molly’s face and in a clear voice, which was heard by the attending nurse, said, “You’re a Slut and a Liar”. With that she turned on her heel and exited our story leaving Molly in a wave of confusion shortly overtaken by death.

For those of you not acquainted with the procedure, there is a short period after death, when you can look around you, and gaze fondly at the flowers left for you by saddened relatives: in Molly’s case none. After a suitable pause you appear at a crossroads where an attendant angel, complete with clipboard, sends you to the appropriate gate earned by your life history.

She arrived at said gate after a short walk and there was St Peter, sitting in quite a comfortable chair and eating a nice plateful of cheese and crackers: his favourite between-meal snack. “Ah Molly” he said. “How are we? Oh yes, dead. Still, never mind that. No doubt you’re a bit unsettled by your daughter’s parting words”. Molly nodded silently.

“Let’s face it “said St Peter, surprisingly cheery despite the nature of the conversation, and possibly as a result of the excellent cheese. (For those of you with any anxiety on the matter, food in paradise is of a good quality). “Sleeping with your son-in-law while your daughter was out at her job is viewed by some as straying outside the bounds of acceptable behaviour. I have no wish to be judgemental,” he continued “But it’s my job,” said through a mouthful of cracker. “On the bright side, serving soup to the homeless for thirty years in penance has now earned you the right to step through these gates and settle on the third cloud from the left. Well done you”

“Will I ever be forgiven” asks Molly, still at a loss from the bruising encounter. “No” said St Peter, “But you will very soon be forgotten, and that is not a bad result for someone with your character.” Molly was to learn that some people had done enough to enter Paradise, but not enough to prevent others from commenting on their conduct. In her case silence really would be golden!

 

Posted in Affair, character, creative writing, Fiction, humour, morals, Peter Wells | Tagged , , , , , | 20 Comments