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John E.

Flannery

Toby’s Little Eden and Other Stories


Copyright © John E. Flannery 2010

ISBN

Paperback First Printing via Lulu.com

The right of John E. Flannery to be identified as the


author of this work has been asserted by him in
accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents
Act, 1988

John.Flannery@btinternet.com
For my Mum, Dad and Family.
Contents

The Ghostwriter

Something To Do

Toby’s Little Eden

Found Wanting

Carlington Park G.C.


The Ghostwriter
With part of me I always want merely to dream, to wait to be descended upon, to
be possessed and used. I have never met any professional writer who wasn’t
haunted by this myth.

John Braine, How to Write a Novel.

Graham Greene: Novelists are like mediums.

The energy that once fed his creativity is going elsewhere; it’s feeding someone else.
Nick Middleton chose to live in York Terrace near Regent’s Park because it neatly
separates two facets of London. To the north is the temperate, muffled contentment of
Regent’s Park, to the south the pounding, unavoidable idiocy of central London. When
his writing is going badly he slips out of the stream of London life and the idiocy
overpowers him. He strives to live in the zone between emasculated observation and the
feelings of euphoric, solitary power that fill him when he finishes a novel that smells like
another bestseller. After three huge international bestsellers and two blockbuster film
spin-offs his life is dominated by routines that keep him squarely between the prize in the
north and the punishment south.
It is sometimes said that genius is ten per cent inspiration and ninety per cent
perspiration. Nick is perspiring heavily. He hasn’t written a coherent sentence on his
word processor for a week. The trick he used when he was ‘blocked’ last time isn’t
working. The stream of consciousness nonsense stares back at him from the screen. Nick
knows more or less where his hero wants to go but the character’s ‘voice’ is muddled and
stilted. Nick’s thrillers are well known for their tight plotting. He immerses himself in
monastic-cum-scholastic research and plotting for months before he even begins the
dialogue. An important aspect of Nick’s self-image is that he is a machine writer; he hits
his daily word quotas and publishing deadlines almost effortlessly. But now Nick can’t
even produce nonsense off the top of his head. He thumps the table.
“Come on, come on…come on!”
The glass of Jack Daniels bounces and spills. His large glass of whiskey at the end
of his writing session is a ritualistic treat for him. He picks up the glass and savours the
JD’s aroma. He desperately needs a drink but discipline is very important to him. Nick
doesn’t have to do this. He is more than financially secure for the rest of his life. In fact
he instructed his accountant to inform him when security was achieved. Nick got drunk
for a week and a half. With no partner, friends or close family around he got away with it.
Nick’s study is spotless and lined with books. He goes over to his favourite shelf
and surveys the line of James Bond first editions. The Bond classics look a little fragile
but the content within gives them a solidity that Nick envies. Even the titles suggest
robustness. Beside them is a shelf of Nick’s author copies. He takes in the slightly
mustiness of the old books and their well earned decay. After reading Goldfinger for a
while he returns to the writing desk with an author copy. He is striving for the solidity of
the classics. Nick is well aware of, and accepts, the literary canon but he resents the
unassailability of it. The canon can both inspire and crush the spirit a writer. He gets a
brief spurt of pleasure from the snappiness of his book’s pristine pages and uncracked
spine as he flicks through it. A phrase comes into his mind: ‘Another turkey…another
turkey.’ His last novel wasn’t well received by the public or the critics. The one before
that was similar. It relied heavily on an autobiographical context based on Nick’s
previous life as a regional political journalist. One critic called it an ‘implausible vanity
project.’ That hurt. Quite early in his writing career, Nick developed the theory that
novelists have only three genuinely good books in them; the rest are pot-boilers or vanity
works:
“Three strikes and you’re out, mate.”
Nick suspects that his normally smooth support team, his agent, editor, and
publisher, are panicking and thinking along the same lines: Nick Middleton has lost his
touch for good. He doesn’t feel sorry for his team. They’ve probably been looking for the
new Nick Middleton since they found the old one. Because Nick subscribes to the
publishing magazine The Bookseller he is well aware of the up and coming competition
in his genre. One is particularly hot at the moment and has recently sold the film rights to
his latest novel for a high six figure sum.
Nick goes to the bathroom. As he urinates his eye catches one of the framed
rejection letters on the wall. His first novel was rejected by twelve publishers. He scans
the letters until his eye meets the framed royalty statement for a huge amount of
American sales that were achieved by his third book. He takes down one of the rejections
and decides to put it on his writing desk.
The nonsense Nick types to help him through his block is deleted. Nick stares at
the rejection letter. Even though his writing session has an hour to go he downs the
whiskey in one. The whiskey kick on the back of his throat fades but another sensation
hits him. He is getting goose bumps and a tingling, shivery feeling in his legs. He looks
behind him to check that the window is closed. It is. This lasts for a couple of minutes
and then feeling disappears. It felt like something had entered the study and went right
through him.
“Jesus, what was that?”
Nick’s walk around Regent’s Park takes him past the fake mountain in London Zoo. He
sees the opening in the mountain and bison pops its head out and stares imperiously at the
rest of London. Nick pauses to watch it. The animal stands so still for so long that Nick
thinks it has gone into a coma.
I need an action plan. First things first; ducks. He makes his way to the lake in the
park where he feeds the ducks. He does this when he is pissed off or a little bit lonely. It
is a chilly autumn day so there aren’t many people tending to the ducks. There is only a
Swedish girl with her son reaching over the bridge’s rail and dropping bread. The little
boy loses patience with the large gathering of ducks and geese quacking and honking
below and throws in a whole loaf. The girl chastises the boy and looks up at Nick. He’s
wearing jeans and a ‘journalist’s’ fawn raincoat. She vaguely recognises him but doesn’t
think much of it. Nick is a duck feeding expert. His socialistic impulse is to make sure
that all the ducks get some bread and not just the aggressive ones that dominate the
scrum. He squeezes a big clump of bread into a ball and throws it long into the lake so
that the ducks on the periphery of things get some food. Some of the dominant swans dart
out to get some but the little ducks get it before they arrive.
Nick is on the phone to his editor.
“Fiona, it’s Nick…I’m blocked.”
How long?”
Three weeks.”
Okay, don’t panic. We’ve got some slack built into the publishing schedule. It’s a
spring publication date. How much text have you produced?”
“About three quarters of the first draft. Fiona…there’s nothing there.” Fiona
glances up at her Editorial Assistant, Daisy. They are both sensing that something is
wrong. Fiona has lost some of her colour.
“Have you tried the trick that worked last time?” said Fiona.
“Yeah, the free associating isn’t working. I’m just churning out reams of
rubbish.”
“Okay, give it a week and ring me back. We’ll go from there.”
It’s a beautiful, crisp morning. Nick looks out over Regent’s park but he isn’t
seeing it. His brain is buzzing with frustration. He can’t comprehend beauty. Only his
empty head matters. He has started his word processor but it just hums in the background;
a soundtrack to creative inertia. Nick is sweating profusely. He sniffs his armpit and he
recoils from the rank odour. He hasn’t bathed or shaved for a week. He goes to his desk
and opens the package of fan mail that his publisher has forwarded to him. He flicks
through them and picks out the brown envelope with a typed address and northern
postmark. He gets this anonymous one every now and again. Part of him enjoys it. It
keeps his feet on the ground. He is aware that he lives in a bestseller-induced fantasy. He
starts reading with a smile:
‘Fuck off cunt Middleton. You’ve lost it you fucking loser. You’re a dead man.
When is your next piece of shit coming out? MI5 and the CIA won’t help you this time
cunt.’
Nick laughs. He skims down the page, past the usual conspiracy theory, to the
grand finale:
‘You’re writing shit now and you always will. I’m going to beat the shit out of
you fucker. Try writing shit with two broken arms you cunt.’
A cup of tea is in order. Nick suspects that the culprit is a mate who worked with
him when he was a journalist. Sometimes the grammar and punctuation are too polished
for somebody who is disturbed. When Nick was a young journalist he got a few death
threats so they don’t really bother him. Nick reads a letter that is flattering. A new reader
who isn’t psychotic, excellent. Nick puts on Radio 3 and listens to some classical music.
He lets the Mozart flow over him. The shivery feeling slowly envelopes him. This has
happened a few times now. It’s not the music that’s causing the goose bumps. Nick calls
it being “buzzed”. He thinks it is some sort of weird reaction to the writer’s block. Nick
abandons the writing session and replies to the complimentary fan letters.

It’s Saturday evening. Nick decides to indulge himself in a Saturday night bender. He
pours himself a large Bell’s whiskey. He lies on the sofa and begins reading a couple of
political biographies. He immerses himself in the lives of the Labour politicians Hugh
Dalton and Tony Crosland. Beethoven’s sixth ‘Pastoral’ symphony is playing in the
background.
At around nine o’clock Nick starts getting restless and edgy. Staggering slightly
he goes to his study he takes in the view of the park. There are rain drops on the window
pane. Swaying gently he suddenly becomes fascinated by the glow of the street lights and
the pattern of car headlamps as they swoop past. A surge of confidence passes through
him. This is what I’m bloody well here for. He starts up the computer and fires up
Microsoft Word. The last sentence he wrote three weeks age sits there goading him. After
a few minutes analysing his plot he goes and switches on the television. He’s desperate
for a break in the silence. He doesn’t really want to watch anything. The noisy Saturday
evening programmes of his youth are now far, far away from Nick. He looks around at
the modernist opulence that now surrounds him; he’s content for a second then the
craving to fill the void with text overpowers him. He has a big belt of liquid confidence
and goes back to the study. In almost a blind panic he starts churning out text; rubbishy
text. He is drunk in charge of a word processor. Nick writes for ten minutes and doesn’t
have a clue what is coming out of his soused brain. Bang, bang, bang at the keyboard
keys. Nothing to stop him; nothing in the world. The world that has been very good to
Nick Middleton. Now totally pissed, Nick prints out the three pages he has written. A
very happy Nick takes almost quarter of an hour to do this simple task because he keeps
going backwards and forwards between the study and the telly. He’s now watching a
video tape of Citizen Kane. He slumps on the sofa and falls asleep.

It’s eight o’clock on Sunday morning. Beethoven is in the background unheard. Nick is
rousing himself from sleep. He’s still on the sofa and the telly is still on. He has dreamt
about throwing up so he scans the room to check that he hasn’t actually done it. He is still
a little bit drunk and he walks very gingerly to the kitchen for some water. His head
reacts badly to the change in altitude; a slap on the wrist from his aching body. He
remembers that Dylan Thomas once urinated in the wardrobe of the people who had put
him up for the night.
“Jesus.”
As he walks past the study he notices that the word processor is still running. Nick
pauses. For a few seconds he feels like throwing up the water over his computer. But he
recovers, burps out some whiskey fumes, and picks up the copies of the text he produced
last night. He can’t remember a single word of it:
‘Come on! I can piss this stuff out. Invidious corruption. Destruction, destruction.
Change the point of view? Come on and fucking change it! You’re not doing your bit,
fool.’
Nick has got the gist of it. He flicks over to the last page. The tone changes near
the end. It’s even weirder stuff:
‘Having trouble, loser? Three strikes and you’re out. Let me fill your void.
Whoop it up. Shid up…shid up. Shit your pants loser. Fuckshit. Fizzer. Finish Drood.’
“This is ouija-board shit!” Nick shakes his head but he stops quickly because it
makes his head throb.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell” Nick’s northern accent becomes more pronounced when he is tired
or under pressure. It goes back to his childhood when his mother would tell him to speak
“properly”.
‘Don’t finish your big flappy turkey! CONQUEST. I have him. I HAVE him.
Bucker boodle on the mister Floogle. Great artist. Shire-Horse bollocks! You’re a bit of a
cunt…but who isn’t? Let’s make some great art! AND you’re a fucking shirt-lifter. Bent
as a nine bob note. We invented Christmas you fucker.’
Nick has had enough and he screws up the text and chucks it in the waste paper
basket. He decides to go out for some Sunday papers before the shop gets busy. He
sometimes gets the News of the World as well as the Independent on Sunday just to get an
idea of what’s happening in the ‘real’ world.
When Nick puts his hand out for the change; it shakes badly. The newsagent
looks at the bedraggled Nick.
“Are you alright, Mr. Middleton?” he said.
“Yeah, I’m okay.” He doesn’t sound very convincing. His voice is a little croaky.
When he leaves the shop the newsagent’s wife shakes her head.
“He must be suffering for his art,” she said.
Nick decides to walk around for a bit to clear his head. He walks past the
University of Westminster and Madame Tussauds’. He nips down one of the side streets.
The West End is very quiet. Nick stops to read the headlines. He just puts his head down
and walks. As he passes one of the office blocks on Marylebone Road he notices the
stone plaque on the wall of the foyer. It commemorates the fact that Charles Dickens had
once lived there. Nick peers into the deserted reception of the oil company that now lives
there. A phrase hits Nick’s frazzled mind: Finish Drood, finish Drood. He has read a
biography of Dickens so he knows about Dickens’s unfinished novel The Mystery of
Edwin Drood. He died before he could finish it. Drood. Edwin Drood. A distinguished
looking man with a big pile of newspapers under his arm walks past Nick and stares at
him. A multi-millionaire scruff he thinks. But Nick is oblivious. Coffee. Loads of coffee.
He makes his way home, head down.
2

It might seem absurd that somebody who is financially secure and has probably done
their best work should drive themselves beyond their limits but there is clearly a comfort
zone where success envelops them. They may be behaving like people who are afraid of
losing their job and are trying to impress the Boss. An author’s immediate ‘bosses’ are
editors and publishers but the real bosses are the reading public. Using Dickens, for
example, there seems to be creative energy that is almost independent of the writer’s
“self”. If somebody is severely mentally and physically sick, as Dickens was near the end
of his life, then where is the prose coming from? You would need to use ideas from the
occult to explain it. Graham Greene once said that writers are like mediums and Anthony
Powell has also hinted at this. A week passes. No prose. Just heavy solo drinking that
culminates in bouts of automatic writing. The content is always similar to the first
whiskey splurge on that Saturday night: nonsense, obscenities and bitter home truths. But
the real disturbing refrain is the exhortation to ‘Finish Drood.’ Nick is sinking into
despair. He writes a letter to his editor and publisher. He abandons his work in progress.
They seem to take the news fairly well. Perhaps they weren’t too sorry as his last few
books hadn’t been very successful. Nick’s agent hears about the problem and rings Nick.
He advises Nick to have a long holiday in the Caribbean.
Nick stares out at the morning rush-hour on the Outer Circle of Regent’s Park.
The pattern of events is quite soothing to him. There is the accountant who Nick calls
“The Atomic clock” because he passes at exactly the same time every morning. There is
also the old man from York Terrace who walks his Golden Labrador and savours his first
cigar of the day.
Nick doesn’t bother switching on his word processor in the morning. He’s sensing
that the block he’s suffering and the automatic writing are feeding off each other. He
must solve the automatic writing problem if he wants to break the blockage. The reams of
writing rest on his desk. Nick’s struggling to combine the hard evidence that somebody,
Probably Dickens, is contacting him from the spirit world and the hard journalistic
cynicism that he developed over the years. He is a non-Believer so the idea of a spirit
world alone is hard to bear on its own. He decides to break out of the social isolation and
visit his only close relative, his mother. She lives in Lytham and St Anne’s, up the Fylde
coast from Blackpool, in a bungalow he bought for her. He devises a plan. An old
journalist friend of his from the old days might be the release he needs. He feels he has to
unburden himself in some way. He used to play golf with Rob White but they lost touch
with each other when Nick became successful. He rings Rob and organises a round of
golf on Royal Lytham and Saint Anne’s golf course. Nick will pay the green fees because
Rob is an unemployed sports journalist.
Nick’s Mum, Edith, kisses him goodbye at the garden gate.
“Look after yourself,” she said, looking searchingly into Nick’s eyes. She really
means it because she’s sensed that Nick is troubled. He didn’t tell her about his problem
with the spirit world. He had decided that he couldn’t tell her about being hassled by the
spirit of Charles Dickens without causing a bit of a panic. He climbs into his black BMW
760 and drives off to the golf course. Edith watches him go until the end of the street with
her arms folded protectively.
Rob White is sat in the car park and listening to Kylie Minogue’s I Should Be So
Lucky on the radio while he waits for Nick to arrive. His old banger, a Volvo Estate,
looks a bit out of place but Rob regards it as a faded classic. When Nick does arrive he
doesn’t notice Rob. Rob is a little bit intimidated as Nick gets his clubs out of the boot.
This isn’t the old Nick with the crumpled and cheap suits. He has the aura of somebody
worth forty million quid. Rob pulls down the sleeves of his shrunken polyester jumper
and goes out to meet him.
“Good to see you, Nick,” said Rob.
“Like wise,” said Nick. “Shall we get going?”
Nick hits his first shot out of bounds on the first hole. Rob watches him closely
expecting a bad reaction but Nick just pulls out another brand new Titleist and waits. The
old Nick was an enthusiastic swearer when he hit bad shots. Rob tees up a crappy old ball
and hits the green. He notices that Nick is ashen and looking a bit Zombie-like.
Once the pair settle down they play okay. Rob, after getting over his self
consciousness, starts to enjoy himself. He feels a little bit like there is a conversational
barrier between him and Nick. All he says is good shot now and again. Nick isn’t reacting
to good and bad shots. Rob remembered that Nick used to have a cocoon of reserve when
he was a journalist but the distance that seems to envelope him now is different. As Nick
taps in a two footer Rob sees very clearly that Nick is intensely lonely. At the sixteenth
hole, the hole where Seve Ballesteros hit his ball in a temporary car park in the 1979
Open Championship, the pair gets a bit anxious about a pair behind them who are
pressing to play through. Rob and Nick decide to allow them through and wait on the tee.
One of the golfers is a fan of Nick’s and looks a bit star struck but the other one
looks a bit surly. The pair coming through asks if Nick and Rob want to play the final
with them and make it interesting by placing a wager on. They all agree and begin three
of the hardest closing holes in Open golf. Nick and Rob win the sixteenth hole. On the
seventeenth one of the others hits near the plaque commemorating Bobby Jones’s famous
recovery shot in the 1926 Open. But the player buggers his shot up. Rob senses that there
is some needle developing in the match.
“Come on! We can beat these fuckers,” said Rob. He has taken a dislike to the
snidey golfer. Rob thinks he is laughing at his polyester jumper. Nick plays the
seventeenth badly so they go to the eighteenth all square. On the eighteenth, Rob has a
putt to win the little match. He makes it and nearly jumps for joy even though he’s only
won a tenner. They all shake hands and the victors go to the imposing red brick
clubhouse for a drink.
As they walk through the entrance hall, Rob starts to feel a bit overawed by the
history of the clubhouse. Many great golfers had passed through here. Nick, who had
been here a few times, led the way to the Men’s Bar on the first floor. He orders a couple
of pints of Boddingtons and the pair sit near the balcony window. The dark oak panelling
and leather chairs are intimidating Rob. He takes a long sup of beer and tries to relax.
They settle down to discuss the relative merits of Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. The
bar is fairly quiet so when the debate is exhausted they sit in silence for a while. Nick
leans forward and almost in a whisper says:
“Rob, do you believe in the afterlife?” Rob is stunned for a while. He is aware
that the conversation has gone up a number of gears and that he will struggle a little.
“Erm, I don’t know really. I don’t believe in God so I suppose I shouldn’t believe
in any of the afterlife malarkey either.”
“It’s real, Rob. It’s all too fucking real to me.”
“Have you had some sort of serious religious experience recently?”
“I don’t know…maybe God is trying to tell me something. In the last few weeks
I’ve had a lot of contact with the spirit world.” Rob is silent for a while. He is considering
the possibility that Nick has gone mad in London. He looks around the bar at the sun
tanned hearty folk and then at the pallid wiry Nick.
“What form does the contact have?” said Rob.
“Basically I get pissed and start having bouts of automatic writing.”
“I’ve heard of automatic writing. It sounds a bit dodgy—a bit like ouija board
shit. I’m surprised you’ve dabbled with it, to be honest.”
“It’s dabbled with me. I didn’t choose to do it…it seems that Charles Dickens is
trying to manipulate me.” This is a real conversation stopper. Rob looks at Nick long and
hard.
“Is this a wind up?”
“Of course it’s not a fucking wind up!” said Nick raising his voice. The blokes in
the bar look around at the pair. Rob is weighing up a decision in his mind. Does he
humour Nick and then make some excuse to leave quickly or does he try and help him
with some practical advice. Nick continues:
“Dickens wants me to finish the novel he was doing when he died.”
“Does he, right. Well if I was you I’d finish it and move on rapidly. Go with the
flow I say.”
“You…you think I’m mad don’t you?”
“Well, not mad exactly. A little crazy perhaps…you must be under a lot of
pressure. Being a bestselling author can’t be a doddle.” The two men finish off their pints
and rise to shake hands.
“Thanks for the game,” said Rob.
“No problem. We should do it again maybe.”
In the car park Rob goes to his car.
“You’re not still driving that old Volvo are you?” said Nick.
“It’s a timeless classic,” said Rob patting the very dirty bonnet. Nick waves as he
drives past Rob on his journey back to London. Rob bibs his horn. Nick puts on a Mozart
CD for company. Finish Drood. Go with the flow. As he cruises at seventy on the
motorway he starts to think positively about his situation. He has, after all, got access,
albeit a very bizarre and dodgy access, to one of the great geniuses of English literature.
But Nick knows all to well that he will be diving into the unknown. He won’t be dabbling
with the spirit world; he will be embracing it, with God or without Him.
Nick’s agent, Ronald West, leaned back in his chair and smiled. He was trying to make
Nick relax a bit. Nick was pale, drawn and hunched over. Ronald was about to share
some publishing gossip when Nick blurted out his point:
“Ron, I’m finished.”
“Surely not, Nick. You just need a long break. Don’t panic.”
“I’m not panicking—I’m quitting.”
“We worked through your block two years ago, remember.”
Ronald’s PA, Judith, enters and places Nick’s coffee in front of him. She smiles at
Nick and he tries to smile back but fails. Nick once had a crush on Judith and
contemplated asking her out. All that seemed long ago; in the context of success and
literary vigour. Nick has swapped the workmanlike thunk of coffee mugs for the ping of
bone china. Ronald is silent. He sips his tea.
“I need a change of lifestyle. I’m sick of London,” said Nick.
“Remember that quote: he who is tired of London is tired of life,” said Ronald.
“I’m moving out of London. I’m going to get a small place in Norfolk.
Somewhere near the coast.”
“Why, Nick. What’s behind all this?”
“I’ll be honest. There is a reason; a reason beyond the writers’ block. But I can’t
discuss it. It’s very personal.”
“Is it a woman?”
“No. It’s not a woman. To be honest I think I’ve had enough of churning out
prose like a bloody machine. I’m sick of feeding the machine—the publishing machine.
The London machine. I’ve lived out a fantasy for years now. There’s so much beyond
writing. I want to live a life, that’s all.”
“Fair enough… we’ve got some loose ends to sort out.”
“No, not now.”
“It’s up to you. Contact me when you’re ready.”
Nick makes his way to the taxi rank. He looks up and sees a young man staring at
him. The man looks studenty, stressed and dyspeptic. Nick isn’t in the mood for
recognition. He puts his head down and ploughs on through the chilled West End. He’s
not impressed by the cream stucco facades, black railings and brass plates. His success
had got him on the other side of them but now he doesn’t want it. He knows what’s
behind them.
Nick was watching the Channel 4 news when the trembling began. He walks
slowly to the study. The flat is in darkness. He puts on just the desk lamp. He closes the
curtains and feels a shiver pass right through him. He can see the goose pimples on his
forearms. The A4 pad and Parker pen are waiting on the desk. Nick has been expecting
something like this for days. He has decided to do his automatic writing in longhand. He
sits down and lets the pen flow:
‘I am the Lord Jesus Christ Almighty. Sinarcha, Sinarcha. Did he stuff it up your
arse? Fun, fun, funny. Skirgle. Satan is within you. Rejoice! You are cured. You are
saved. I saw you smile. For him and him alone do you rejoice! You are the great One. Up
the arse. Bitch. Rejoice for the true God and the true God only. Up the arse you twat.
Fuck her up the arse. You smell like Satan’s rectum. Poo farcia. Mashilla. Too hard par
sheely. This is your life you cunt. Right up her, right up her arse. YOUR fucking Mother.
Now and forever, Amen. Too soft for fucking. Har, har, har. The sloopy on doopy. Per
chance rebate my seventh will.’
At this point the pen started to run away with Nick. The narrative flowed into
indecipherable squiggles. Then he began again, sweating profusely:
‘Krackalee uncle wahhl. Did she suck his cock? Did you suck it!!! yaaaaaaaarrrr.
Yarrrrd. Yaaaaarrrr. Bemused fuck face. Hit you in your silly fuck face. Terrified. Up the
arse again. Pull your knickers down and shit on the floor. YOUR Mother!!! Bitchy bitch
you are MINE forever. True Love! Suck it! Suck it! I am Jesus. I am Jesus. Buzzy bod.
Loseeeeeeerrrr. Weird stuff comes out for me and me alone. Up the arse. You talentless
TWAT. Isn’t it ironic? He emptied his bollocks up your mother’s arse. Skirling.
Skurdlington. You are saved. Don’t worry, Lover. You’ll get there in the end. THE END.
You’re shaking you CUNT. I’ll finish you before you finish Drood. Sturgle,
sturgle…..Lover Loser Loner Lover Loser Loner. Did you suck his dick? Fill your
knickers. Zingle dingle I’ve met Jesus. I can and I am. Up the arse. Loser.’
It’s over. Nick goes the lounge and knocks back a very large whiskey.
“Jesus…Jesus.” The words have deeply disturbed Nick. He feels very self-
conscious saying the word Jesus. He feels like he has opened a channel to Hell. It seems
like the entire contents, good and bad, of his skull have flowed onto the page. What really
disturbs Nick is the possibility that he himself, or rather his subconscious, is generating
the weird stuff he’s just written. He knocks back another whiskey and phones his Mam.

Nick has swapped his BMW for a Range Rover. He wears a battered old Barbour jacket
and walking boots. It’s a bright early spring day on the Norfolk coast. Nick now owns a
smallish cottage near Cromer. He is going into the wilds to visit the splendid Cley
church. In the back of his car is his artist’s gear. Nick is now a budding artist. He
sketches and paints landscapes and old churches across Norfolk. His big daft golden
Labrador is staring out of the window at him. Nick’s complexion is now ruddy and
weathered. Every morning he walks his dog, Hamlet along the beach at Cromer passed
Royal Cromer Golf Club. Sometimes he walks with Jane. She is a close friend but Nick
doesn’t want to take the relationship further. He thinks that his reality is too weird to have
a normal relationship. He met Jane at art classes in Norwich. Sometimes they go on
painting trips together.
Nick’s reality is indeed a bit weird. When he left London he spent most days
writing in order to get out the spirit of Dickens. The appeals to finish Drood reached their
peak. Nick did something that was obvious. He searched Google on the internet in order
to find out some details about Edwin Drood. Links to Amazon, the online bookshop,
showed that Drood had been published even without the ending. If he was to attempt to
finish Drood he thought it might be a good idea to read it. It dawned on Nick that he
didn’t actually like Dickens or anything he ever wrote. Nevertheless he ordered the
Penguin Classic edition with an introduction by David Paroissien. Nick decided to try and
finish Drood but he never got much help from Dickens. The automatic writing was the
usual mix of obscenities and gobbledegook. Despite this Nick begrudgingly read the
book. It made him hate Dickens even more. By sheer persistence Nick wrote so much
rubbish that the appeals to finish Drood became rare. For weeks Nick was ‘on call’ for
the spirit world. He didn’t need to drink whiskey in order to start and stop the automatic
writing. He got so proficient at it that he thought he could provide such an outlet for other
dead writers. Nevertheless, two or three times a week the automatic writing takes over
Nick. He just gives in to it. This wasn’t a problem until Nick found the inspiration to
begin a straight literary fiction novel. He persevered for a couple of weeks but then
Dickens became jealous. His appeals and the obscenities became too much to bear and
Nick dutifully put the literary novel manuscript in the drawer and abandoned it. The word
“Thriller” makes Nick feel queasy.
Whether it was hanging around old churches or being on the edge of normality,
Nick made tentative approaches to God. For Nick this mainly meant stopping swearing;
even in his head. No more “Fuck!” and “Jesus!” Just the odd “Blimey” now and again.
He prays every morning. He says the Lord’s Prayer but gets the words slightly wrong. He
suspects that he’s not doing it right but thinks that God won’t mind. He’s making an
effort, after all. Edging towards some sort of religious faith is helping Nick. He senses
that his life is more in balance. He strives for a sense of proportion and, despite his
bizarre relationship with the spirit world, he is actually achieving it. The deep urban
loneliness that enveloped him in the past has evaporated. Even when exploring the bleak
Norfolk Fens in winter he doesn’t feel as alone as he did in a crackling, sparkling
London. Against all the odds it appears that God is now with Nick Middleton.
Something To Do
1994

Graham Randall glances at his Casio digital watch and waits for the numerals to
synchronize at “9:09:9.” He decides to stay in bed until “10:10:10,” and
scrunches himself into a more comfortable position. He merges back into his
duvet like a hermit crab merging back into its shell. The rickety bed is still
creaking itself into its own new position when the post clatters into the basket in
the communal hallway. Despite suffering numerous rejections, Graham goes in
search of literary acceptance.
There is no big, fat envelope in sight so he has not had his sample chapters
returned by another publisher. He instantly recognizes the young lad’s dole
cheque and the rare letter for the quiet man upstairs and shuffles them to the back
of the bundle. He pauses to examine the ominous letter to a long gone, dubious
tenant and finally reaches the single letter for himself. The London postmark and
the quality of the envelope suggest that it might be from a publisher who has
deigned to read the manuscript of his first novel that is currently resting in a slush
pile. Graham used to open such letters eagerly but, after eighteen months of
rejection, he simply shoves it in his pocket and, killing two birds with one stone,
trudges upstairs to the communal bathroom.
If the Marquis de Sade were still alive he would campaign against the
cruel malarkey that new writers must go through in order to have their work
published. Graham sits on the toilet and opens his letter. When he reads that he
has won third prize in a short story competition a wave of elation ripples through
him and he jumps up from the toilet bowl. Catching a glimpse of himself in the
shaving mirror he gives a clenched fist gesture of triumph. Flushed with his first
dose of literary acceptance he scampers down stairs. He sits at his writing table
and reads the previous days work on his second novel. Graham is not happy with
it; he has merely tarted up another cliché. Now that his concentration has drifted
he allows himself to be relieved by the thought that he has some good news that
he can filter to his ex-wife, Kath when he has his next access visit with his two
children, Felix and Zoe. He may even upgrade himself to second prize.
Chapter 1

July 1990

Graham pads down the stairs in his bare feet. He is still wearing his sleeping gear
of black football shorts and a tee shirt emblazoned with a Union Jack. Graham is
not particularly patriotic; the shirt was going cheap at the local market. Three
treads from the bottom he pauses in order to rid himself of some troublesome
morning wind. His intestines reply to his urging with a deep, defiant gurgle.
Graham grimaces again when his bare feet hit the cold lino on the kitchen floor. A
note from his wife, Kath, is stuck to the fridge door with a magnetic
hippopotamus. He opens the fridge door and, recoiling slightly at the smell of
aging broccoli, takes a swig from the carton of orange juice. His thirst slaked he
pulls off the note:

SATURDAY

1. Do something with the shed.


2. Defrost the freezer.
3. Go to the bank.
4. Shops.
5. Take Felix and Zoe to see “The Jungle Book”.

Graham,
I’m doing three and four; can you make a start on one and two?
See you later,
Kath.

P.S. We’ve run out of sugar.

We’ve ran out of orange juice as well. God knows why I’ve put it off for so long.
All I need is a stack of A4 and a pen. Sod the word processor. They’re getting
cheaper every day. The main thing is peace and quiet. An empty house. Everyone
has got one inside them. It’s a matter of discipline. Good time management +
Talent = Novel. But there’s all the stuff I wouldn’t tell anybody about, not even
Kath— especially not Kath. Suzy… I’ll keep it secret for awhile. Do it on the sly.
I’d better see what comes out first.
Graham switches off the freezer and empties it. There’s not much in there:
Mixed veg, fish fingers and the kid’s favourite ice-lollies. He starts hacking away
half-heartedly with a knife at the lump of ice that has taken over the top shelf. He
stops chipping when he hears the rapid click-clack of hard heels in the garden
next door. He is drawn to the window and sees his neighbour, Mrs Trevelyan,
striding towards the summerhouse at the end of her garden. She is accompanied
by one of her dafter cats. It pauses to rub its head against some shrubbery and
then mauls an invisible foe. Mrs Trevelyan, a fifty five year old widow, usually
wears soft shoes and trousers so her court shoes, knee-length skirt and black
jacket intrigue Graham. He waits for her return. The daft cat heralds her by
charging back to the house at top speed. The glamorous and purposeful Mrs
Trevelyan is having a profound effect on Graham. Because the house will be
empty for at least an hour, Graham decides to have a quick, spontaneous,
opportunistic wank.
As Mrs Trevelyan drives off to her nephew’s wedding, Graham is
wanking away in the toilet. As she negotiates the tricky roundabout, Graham is
exchanging long, meaningful glances with her over the teapot. When she fails to
beat the lights near the ring road he is orchestrating a sudden bout of kitchen table
sex. As she settles into a steady fifty miles an hour after being buffeted by an
overtaking juggernaut he is cleaning up after himself.
I bet Mrs. Trevelyan’s got a tale or two stashed away. I could do with a bit
of her life in my head. No I don’t. I’ve got enough of my own to be getting on
with. Sixteen years of childhood, five of reckless youth, and ten of an adult-cum-
dad. What more does the reader want? Suzy again.
There is a small gap in Graham’s consciousness into which drifts a trivial
memory of Suzy. Graham has suffered from “Suzy Drift” for many years. He
recovers his composure and continues to persuade himself to begin his writing
career.
There’s nothing to stop any reasonably intelligent person from writing
something.

Graham ventures into the back garden in order to “do something” with the rickety
shed. One of Mrs. Trevelyan’s many cats is perched on the roof. It stares down
contemptuously at Graham.
“And you can piss off for a start.”
But Ganymede stands his ground. As graham rips open the ramshackle
door another cat charges past him while a third escapes through the broken
window. Graham jumps back.
“Shit-fuck-piss!”
He works hard on the door and manages to fix it to a certain extent then he
scouts around assessing the junk that can be thrown away. After scanning a box of
old car magazines for a while he remembers a long-running advertisement that
featured a model who looked strikingly similar to Suzy; a woman who Graham
was infatuated with when he was a young man. He would regard “infatuation” as
an oversimplification. To this day, even after much thought, analysis and intrusive
flashbacks, he doesn’t know what happened. Was it obsession? Suzy is still a
mystery that gnaws away at his memory from time to time. He decides to salvage
one of the Suzy adverts and returns to the house. In his study he slides the page
into a new blue folder and labels it “Writing Research”. He goes downstairs and
starts hacking away at the overgrown ice in the freezer.

Graham is taking the kids, Felix and Zoe, to see The Jungle Book at the multiplex.
They are in the foyer buying popcorn.
“We don’t need a big one this time, Felix.”
“But I want a big one.”
“Felix, listen to me.”
“I’m hungry.”
“Mum always gets a big one because she’s big and she likes popcorn. This
one is just for you and Zoe.”
Felix meanders grumpily towards a cardboard cut out of an upcoming
monster while Zoe, with an aura of forbearance, stands by while Graham finishes
his purchases. The slavering beast, with a little help from Felix, is collapsing so
the staff are looking concerned for its safety.
“Leave it alone,” said Graham pretending to look cool as the monster flops
around.
“It attacked me,” said Felix as he backs away from the ruined display.
“Don’t fib. Its only next week’s film. Come on or we’ll miss the
beginning.”
If the full weight of the Disney Corporation can’t distract them for an hour
and a half then I’m in trouble. This is the closest I’ve got to solitude for weeks.
Oh no, I can feel a nostalgia attack coming on. I’ll spend more time remembering
than watching….
Graham’s initial thoughts were about a distractingly pretty woman he
passed on the way to the multiplex but then his thoughts settled on the past.
The first time I saw “Jungle Book” I had a seat-spring sticking in my arse.
Did my Mum care? Did she fuck….
Graham’s thoughts were stopped by a massive reaction in the cinema.
They’re loving it. They’ve hardly touched their popcorn. People moan
about the tyrant moguls like Disney but it’s the writers who are the ultimate
control freaks. They are willing to starve just so that they can push around their
own little characters all day. Is it only fiction?
Trust in meeee, trusssssst in me, close your eyes and truuuuusssst—
“It’s alright, Felix, it’s only a cartoon snake.”
“NO, NO, NO.”
“It’s not a real one! Shush, shush.”
“Ahhhhhhhk…leeeeeeegh…nif niif.”
“It’s only a film. Look, Zoe’s laughing at you.”
“nnnNNNnnnnaaaAAAaaahhhHHH….”
“Outside! Come on… you too, Zoe.”

Thank God for that usherette. I wish she’d told me her secret for tranquilizing
Felix. I suppose they get used to kids freaking out in the middle of films. I was
about to shove his head in the popcorn. It was an amazing reaction. Nothing to do
with his brain, straight from his guts. There’s always a risk when you expose kids
to semi-evil cartoon characters. At that age they can still see the essence of things.
Felix saw the raw material that the writer used to create the snake. Adults learn
how to ignore and forget. We have to or we would be like a screeching Felix
twenty four hours a day. This has cost me a fucking fortune. I can’t risk taking
him back in there. That little incident was probably just a warm-up.
The Sunday evening religious television drives Graham upstairs to his “study”. To
be more accurate he just envisions the spare room as a book lined creative haven.
At the moment it is the spare bedroom with an old desk and various clutter in
there. The desk faces the wall and not the window because Graham read
somewhere that it improves creativity. Creativity at the moment means reading
the paper in peace but is also a cover story tell to Kath. She doesn’t know about
Graham’s writing ambitions. He pulls out a folder entitled “Ideas” and starts
sifting through Saturday evening’s inspirations. They are cryptic to the point of
surreality. He attempts to make some sense of them.
Recap time… do you start with the present or go back? I don’t want to go
too far back. Compromise; just assess the bits I scribbled down yesterday:
‘Saturday Supplement. What if his wife didn’t find the orange? Use this
with page 34 of the mag.’
What am I on about? It must have made sense at the time. I can’t be
bothered with page 34. Next one:
‘Kath’s smiles. Try to count them. Ask Zoe. None while I was there. Five
when I wasn’t. She wouldn’t lie about that. Felix went ape again, left it to Kath.’
None the wiser. Keep going until one makes sense:
‘The woman next door. How many has she had? How many has K had?
Suzy keeps putting in an appearance. Just her presence, nothing tangible. A hard
shoulder to cry on…’
Jeeeeesus! This reads like a schoolgirl’s diary. I can’t let Kath see this.
One look at this brainstorming and she’ll think I’ve gone psycho on the quiet. I’ll
have to come out of the closet before I start to get really inspired. Inspirations
don’t look good on paper. Maybe a word processor would be a good idea after all.
At least my ideas would be safe from her. I need to start my technical research as
well. I can’t buy a pile of How To Write books. That would give the game away.
It will have to be a library job. The one around the corner from the office will do.
I’ll do it during the lunch-hour. You’ve got to make a few sacrifices for your art, I
suppose. I’ll start with a missed lunch and work my way up. What am I working
my way up to? A loss of leisure-time? A loss of my mental privacy? Eternal
damnation? It’s probably a mixture of all three, as per bloody usual.

Graham is a middle-ranking clerical worker at a large manufacturing firm. He is


about five months into his six month probationary period. He shares a fourth floor
office with Chas an old clerical war horse in his late fifties.
He’ll be back soon. I don’t know why I panic about coming up with
creative ideas when he makes it look so easy. His Flexi-time sheets are the best
British fiction of the late twentieth century. The people in Personnel probably let
him get away with it because it’s the only creative outlet his job provides. The
poor old sod. Bill stuck me in here with him so that he could show me the ropes.
The sum total of Chas’s wisdom so far: ‘Avoid Bill on Mondays and the
tagliatelle on Fridays.’ He only asks me how I’m doing when he’s sure that I’ve
just made a horrendous cock up. He can smell ineptitude. But it’s funny how he
“delegates” his statistics to me. Delegates! He just can’t do them. They hired me
just to do his sums. He must have something to offer the company. He’s the old
codger who knows what he’s doing. There’s always one ambling around with a
piece of paper. There’s something mystical about the way he gets things done. He
uses the time he saves by delegating stuff to me for going on a walkabout. I
wonder if his wife knows about his fancy woman on the third floor? He seems
happy enough.
Chas returns from his walkabout, piece of paper in hand.
“Alright, Chas,” said Graham, looking up from his newspaper.
“Caught you skiving again!” said Chas.
“Lunch break, Chas.”
“What’s with the big paper?”
“I thought I’d read a serious paper for a change.”
“The son-in-law reads one of the clever papers. He’s a wanker,” said
Chas.
“It’s only a few pence dearer.”
“I’ve read the same paper for thirty-five years.”
“Really. Amazing.”
“I’ve got this month’s stats.”
“Chuck them over. I’ll do them later. I’m just popping out.”

The library near Graham’s office is quite large but it still has an air of mustiness
about it. He feels self-conscious in libraries. He feels that the staff thinks he’s a
book stealer.
I’m not queuing up with the Catherine Cookson crowd. I can photocopy
any stuff that takes my fancy and stash it back at the office. File it under zee…
zed…zee? Bloody Sesame Street causes that sort of word confusion. ‘Non
Fiction’ is quiet. Fourth shelf on the left. This looks like it. Here we go…hang on!
Is this some kind of joke? How come all the How To Write books are sandwiched
between the books aimed at social misfits and people with low self-esteem? I’d
better get out of here before they think I’m a misfit in disguise. They would have
to get dressed up and put on a brave face or the library assistant would pity them
as they checked out their books.
Graham is giving the Library assistant bad vibes. She stares over at him.
Who is she staring at? I feel like I’ve been caught at the top shelf porn.
Crouch down. What have we got then? No, I don’t like the look of that. I don’t
want to write that sort of stuff…nor that…nor that either. Something generaaaaaal
—that’ll do. Maybe some literary biography? Dickens had a life. No, some other
time.
These old girls are incredible. Butter wouldn’t melt ninety per cent of the
time but dangle the latest Catherine Cookson in front of them and they’ll slash
each other’s throats. Maybe I should have a go at the romantic stuff to begin with.
Use it as a warm up. Fifteen pence a copy! Outrageous. I’ll do it back at the
office. You’d have to have no self-esteem at all to pay that price. Maybe it helps if
you’re a bit of a misfit. Very low self-esteem might be an occupational hazard
that writers have to live with…contemptible fuckers. Anybody who is happy and
healthy wouldn’t be bothered with writing. They’d be too busy having a laugh and
chasing the tarts. I’ll have to drop in at the discount bookshop on the way home.
Pick up some cheap, throwaway fiction. Something undemanding that I can
analyse and scrawl all over in peace. Scrawling in the margins of library books is
a sign of madness.

Graham is at work and struggling with the photocopier. He is also quietly eyeing
up Linda, an attractive but slightly unapproachable colleague from the fifth floor.
She really is a lovely specimen. I wish she would give me a stare like the
one the Library Assistant gave me.
BEEP.
If you beep at me again I’ll rip your guts out and—
Linda goes over to Graham and sorts out his problem.
She really is one of those women you could chase around the room
without feeling any embarrassment whatsoever. Nobody would complain about
me clambering over the office furniture if she was a stride or two in front. She’s
messing up my hand-eye coordination again.
BEEP.
Linda shouts over an exasperated instruction to Graham.
“Right. So it’s the orange one with the wiggly thing on it. Got you,” said
Graham.
Graham’s boss, Bill approaches. He glides confidently through the open
plan area. Graham tenses up because he’s photocopying his own stuff in work’s
time. Bill stops off at Linda’s desk for a chat. Graham decides to hold his ground
for a while and hope that Bill ambles off. He starts to get a little paranoid when
Bill and Linda start glancing over at him. Linda gives him a weak smile. He
panics and gathers up his copies but forgetting to remove his book from the
copier. He puts his head down and tries to bustle past Bill and Linda.
“Is Chas keeping you busy?” said Bill.
“Yeah, he’s cracking the whip,” said Graham.
“Has he got his whip out, then?” said Bill.
“No not yet. Where does he keep it!” All this talk of whips has made
Graham instinctively glance at Linda. She isn’t smiling. Graham scuttles off,
sweating slightly.
Back in his office, Graham carefully staples his copies.
Why do we make jokes about sado-masochistic sex? Most of them would
run a fucking mile if you pulled out a cat-o’-nine-tails in the bedroom. Suzy’s
smile? It wasn’t really a smile. She just showed me her teeth. The incisors
reminded me of something…meaningless sex? There was always something
there. It was never two-dogs-in-the-street mode. I’ll have to make a note of it.
These little touches are good for the reader. It gives them the impression that you
know what you’re talking about. It proves that you’ve been there; been there and
taken notes. Where are those new Post-it Notes?
Chas arrives back from his walkabout. He’s holding Graham’s How To
Write book.
“Where did you get that?” said Graham.
“Linda passed it on to me,” said Chas.
“I must have been in cloud-cuckoo-land—shit was Bill there?”
“Don’t worry. Linda can be discreet when she wants to be. So you want to
be the next Jeffrey Archer then?”
“No, it’s just a hobby. I’ve wanted to have a go for years,” said Graham.
Chas senses that he’s struck a raw nerve with Graham who is looking very
uncomfortable. Chas indulges himself with a slight celebratory rattle of his false
teeth.

Graham is in his study after tea.


I shouldn’t have popped into the discount bookshop. It was full of literary
failure. What went wrong? Did the publishers get their sums wrong? Did the
writers get their stories wrong? Places like that are bad for a tyro writer’s morale.
It’s like seeing a car crash on your way to your Driving Test. I’m not surprised
that they don’t stock How to Write books. What a pathetic scenario. A failed How
to Write book surrounded by different varieties of literary failure. Maybe the
manager made a policy decision not to stock them. Anybody with half a brain
would make the connection between a shop full of literary cock ups and a
misguided urge to make a new contribution to the stocks. I’ve got a feeling that
most of the people who want to write are not very bright…they got it wrong. I’ll
get it right. Maybe you’ve got to be daft as a brush to even contemplate writing
for a living. I’ll have to square things with Kath soon. She’s getting suspicious. I
can’t keep telling her that I’m doing all this reading because there’s nothing on
the telly. Timing is crucial. If I tell her too soon she’ll start asking me questions I
can’t answer. But if I leave it too late she’ll accuse me of being secretive. I could
do with some time off work to get myself sorted out. Nothing outrageous. Just a
forty-eight hour bug. I’ve been feeling shitty for a couple of weeks anyway.
Having the house to myself could give me the kick-start that I need. I could write
in the mornings. Fresh. There must be ten pages stashed at the office. Mostly stuff
about shagging Linda and strangling Chas…you’ve got to start somewhere. I just
can’t keep collecting bits and pieces of miscellaneous inspiration. I’ll end up
doing what I’m doing now; staring at scraps of paper in the hope that they will
rearrange themselves into something coherent of their own volition. Other writers
don’t sit around all day rearranging their bits and pieces. Nobody is that clever.
Doomsday Scenario. Could I recover if I burned all my inspirations? Keep the
stuff about Suzy and fuck the rest. I can’t even decipher my own codes half the
time. Too bloody abstract. Make a fresh start except for the Suzy stuff. It always
makes sense, even when it’s in deep code. It will have to wait for a structure. It’s
always there. Waiting. I need to read the biography of a complete literary failure
then I could learn by their mistakes. All the biographies that get published are of
either great writers or geniuses. Do the failures fade away quietly or does
someone have to hit them on the head with a frying pan? Do they wake up one
morning and think: ‘I can’t write,’ and then get on with the rest of their life? I’ve
got a feeling that some of the ones who turned out great in the end wouldn’t have
stopped if somebody told them they were crap and panned them at the same time.
Those boys and girls live in a different world. Kath would be more than happy to
pan me. I don’t want to give her the opportunity just yet.

Graham and Kath are reading in bed. She is engrossed in her saucy paperback
while he is reading photocopies from a How To Write book. He is piling the
sheets in the gap between him and Kath. As the pile begins to encroach on her
territory she breaks away from her book.
“Can you keep them on your side? Are you bringing home work again?”
she said. Graham was about to lie and pretend they were “work” but he decides
that this might be a good time to reveal his writing aspirations to Kath.
“They’re about characterisation,” he said.
“What do you want to know about characterisation?”
“I want to write…well, I want to try.” Kath puts down her paperback and
stares at Graham with a mask of sarcastic scepticism. Graham feels very
uncomfortable. But he expected this sort of reaction.
“It’s…it’s something to do,” he said.
“I can think of a million and one things you could do to pass the time.”

“I’ve been planning to do it for ages but I haven’t had the motivation.”
“I thought you’ve been acting funny lately. What have you written?”
“Well, nothing actually. I’ve just been getting scraps of ideas.”
“You’ll be wasting your time if you haven’t got the talent.”
“Why are you assuming I haven’t got any talent?”
“You weren’t great at English at school. Anyway thirty-one is late to start
writing, isn’t it?”
“I don’t feel too old.” Graham is quite happy with his handling of Kath’s
negativity. Kath is far from convinced that writing is a good idea from any point
of view but she can’t be bothered arguing anymore. She goes back to her book
while Graham tidies his photocopies and gets ready for sleep. He switches off his
bedside lamp and scrunches himself into a foetal position. Kath lights up a
cigarette and decides to finish off the chapter that culminates in some well
choreographed international group sex. She never tires of reading that bit.
Chapter 2

Chas is in an unbelievably good mood this morning. His wife must be treating
him with the respect he doesn’t deserve. He’s back on the Bakewell tarts. It’s
getting close to his walkabout time. I’ll get my pre-emptive strike in while he’s
distracted by the crumbs.
“I’m just going upstairs to sort out the old Q.C. chase ups. If Annie B calls
tell her that I’ll have it done by this afternoon,” said Graham.
Coffee first. I could do with a booster before we begin our inter-
departmental liaison. I’ve got everything: invoice numbers, contract details,
mints. This is good, old fashioned fun. Nothing to be ashamed of. All I’m doing is
transforming a shitty little routine task into a bit of an adventure. Even a flash of
flirtation will be a bonus.
Bugger it! Bill’s there again. If he is fucking her he’s making a bloody
awful job of keeping it quiet. I couldn’t write about them. I’d throw up over the
word processor. I may as well hover around the photocopier until they’ve
finished….
For God’s sake! What are they talking about? He may be the dominant
male but this is ridiculous. She’s only humouring him. Those smiles are only
marginally less false than the ones she tosses at me in the corridor. They linger
like haunting farts. No wonder the top dogs prefer open-plan offices. They love to
waltz around intimidating their staff. Put your dick away you bastard. Go and
frighten the canteen ladies for a change. Go onnnnnnn. Fuck off. He must have
heard me. I’ll give her a few seconds to compose herself. No, jump in there while
she’s still got her ‘humour the dominant male’ body language in place. Get a taste
of it.
“Do you mind if I mooch around in your files for awhile?,” said Graham.
“Is it one of those Q.C.s?,” said Linda.
“Well it’s three of those actually.”
“I’ll give you a hand if you like.”
“Thanks. Your technique for trawling files is better than mine.”
While Graham searches the files for the old paperwork that needs to be reviewed
he slyly leers at Linda’s legs.
The odds against it must be astronomical but from this angle it looks like
Linda has bucked the odds. If only I’d walked into a betting shop ten years ago
and put a tenner on: ‘meeting three women with identical calves’. I’d be laughing.
Suzy, Kath and now Linda.
Graham finds his Q.C. documentation and returns to his desk to work on
them.
So what if I know nothing about literature. I can turn my weakness into a
strength. I’ve got ignorance on my side. I’m in a privileged position because I
don’t know how much truly terrible stuff there is out there. I can’t go too far back
because you next some expert guidance for the classic stuff. Strike a balance.
Force down some modern stuff and plough through some of the old novels.
You’ve got to start somewhere. It’ll have to be a library job.

Graham and Kath are reading in bed but elsewhere their kids are misbehaving. A
shriek pierces the silence.
Eeeeeeeooowwww—eek—ahhhhhhhhhhhh.
Pretend you haven’t heard it. Deal with it my angel. It’s only the kids
trying to kill each other… well done Kath.
“What happened?” said Graham.
“Felix attacked Zoe,” said Kath.
“Did he draw blood?”
“No. he just slapped her. He didn’t like the bedtime story she was telling
him.”
“Next time he wants one we’ll have to do it ourselves. You know what
Zoe’s like. She probably reminded him of the scary snake.”
“Don’t blame her. Anyway why don’t you write them a story?”
“Children’s stories are a specialized field. You can’t just spew out any old
tosh and call it a children’s story. Anyway, that’s not an area I want to explore.”
“Oh yeah? Well what area do you want to explore?”
“I’ve not decided. I’m still in research. I’m using the literary biographies
as background before I go on to the technical stuff.”
“What’s that one like?”
“This one isn’t too mad—I mean bad. I’ve just got to the part where he
meets his first muse.”
“What’s a muse?”
“Are you pulling my leg? A muse is a woman who inspires an artist to
bigger and better things.”
“So she gives him a kick up the bum?”
“It’s a bit more subtle than that.”
“You sound like you need some encouragement.”
“When I want a kick up the arse I’ll let you know. All I need at the
moment is time to think and do some research.”
“Do I inspire you?”
“In a roundabout fashion. The research suggests that a wife doesn’t make
an ideal muse.”
“What about an ex-wife?”
“No. Not even an ex.”
“Are you sure I don’t inspire you?”
“It’s a bit difficult to generalize about muses. They tend to be a bit distant.
Touchable yet untouchable. Sex doesn’t come into it unless something goes
horribly wrong.
She must be winding me up. I’m sure she knows about muses. Maybe it’s
one of those things that they can’t define but it’s in their blood. Some women
know instinctively when they’re on muse duty. They’re all capable of; even Kath.
For all I know there may be some poor sod of a poet out there who worships her
from afar. Bedazzled by her rough and ready allure. I’m stuck with the rough and
ready. I’d put him in the picture. I could burst his bubble alright. We could do a
deal. He gives me some of his literacy, I give him Kath. A poet might go for a
bum deal like that.

Kath has gone shopping with Vanessa. Graham is looking after the kids. He has
put a video on to keep them quiet while he retreats to his study. Before she left,
Kath told him about Vanessa having an affair with Danny an old acquaintance of
Grahams. They used to be workmates but they had drifted away from each other.
Graham loathes Danny and Vanessa.: “they deserve each other.”
Graham is reading one his scraps of ideas:
‘Jimmy curled up in a ball and recalled her smile. It was the only light in a
life of drudgery and darkness. A beacon that filled him with energy when his
body called out for rest….’
What a voice! I don’t know where that came from. Don’t worry about it.
Just because a character starts to speak for himself it doesn’t mean that I have to
charge around the room with my shirt tales flapping. I know one thing for sure; I
haven’t stolen somebody else’s literary voice. I’ve not read enough fiction. There
must be a link between a writer’s literary voice and the ones he’s heard during his
life. All the distinctive ones must be tucked away upstairs from Day One. I must
have a substantial stockpile. Bigger than average anyway. My problem is that the
loudest and persistent voices say things like: ‘How long does the Warranty last?’
and ‘Is there a discount for cash?’ at the point in my formative years when mind
could have absorbed some literary influences I was trying to flog washing
machines on commission. The bastards screwed me more than I screwed them.
That was the worst job I ever had. I don’t know why I stuck it out for so long…
yes I do: Suzy. A distinctive voice. It had a bad reputation. The deadliest weapon
in her sales pitch armoury. Her voice shifted more merchandise than a fifty per
cent discount. Man after man would leave the store whistling love songs with
outrageously inappropriate electrical equipment under their arms. She didn’t even
have to mobilize eye contact for most of them. When the wives brought the stuff
back they failed to see the root of the problem. They never suspected Suzy. When
she switched herself off she was just like little Miss Anybody. You would swear
that she’d just finished saying her prayers not mugging every punter she could lay
her hands on. One bloke came in for the smallest pack of the smallest batteries
and left with a quadraphonic car stereo. His wife returned it. They didn’t even
have a car. Stan reckoned that she used hypnotism but Suzy didn’t need to use her
gaze. She used her voice like a sniper. It cut through the customer’s babble. She
could ‘take me out’ from fifty paces. There was no defence, no warning siren.
Soldiers reckon that you don’t hear the bullet that gets you. I heard mine, day
after day. She took me out. Her DNA was in that voice. I can’t blame her for
flirting. It was good for the team spirit. In theory it helped to disperse any sexual
tension. It gave mine a couple of hundred twists. Eyes, voice, and movement; the
tools of flirtation. She wielded all three simultaneously. She created a package of
desire that was hard to resist…impossible for me to resist. On balance its better to
misuse your sexual power than not use it at all. If experts like Suzy don’t keep the
ancient skills alive then we’ll be left with the dangerous charlatans. The women
have to know what they’re doing—the men certainly don’t. So what if a few lads
get their fingers burned? Minor casualties. Friendly fire. They recover soon
enough, get on with their lives, marry the wrong woman, have kids, have nervous
breakdowns, and lose their jobs. The usual stuff. Nothing spectacular. She shifted
some gear.
What if she doesn’t come back? Now that is a bloody good question. Should I
weigh up the pros and cons or spoil the fun and ring Vanessa? They’ve probably
stopped off somewhere for a drink. Kath could do with a splurge. She’s been as
miserable as sin for weeks. It’s Vanessa’s fault…Vanessa’s tales. Kath pretends
to lap them up but she’s jealous as hell. I only get the cleaned up versions and
even I wish I was Vanessa sometimes. Well maybe not. Definitely not. She thinks
she’s controlling them but it’s the other way around. She’s pathetic but she puts a
brave face on; on both her faces. God help the men she works with.
“I’m doing the supper tonight, kids,” said Graham.
“Where’s Mum,” said Zoe.
“She’s still at Grandma’s,” said Graham.
If she doesn’t come back I’ll have to learn how to cook. Micro waved
chips and pizza? No, there’s some fish hiding behind the gateau. If I force feed
them some fresh fruit as well then it wont be too bad. Suzy had the knack of
making the humdrum dangerous. Sometimes it was forced but most of the time
she didn’t need the leverage. It was just there. Why did he go silent? Had he made
a quiet pass at her? Her at him? Was he happy with the deal? There seemed to be
some danger in all her dealings.
“How about fish and chips, kids?” said Graham.
“From the chippy,” said Felix.
“No. from the freezer.”
“Why can’t we have chippy chips,” said Zoe.
“We had them the other day.”
Felix and Zoe start to moan in unison so Graham relents.
“Alright, get your bloo—get your coats. No more fish and chips for a
couple of weeks after this lot, right?”
On the journey to the chip shop, Felix starts acting up in the back of the
car.
Oh God, who is he now? Spiderman? Batman? Fishman? Batter him, Zoe.
“Leave him alone. He’s getting tired.”
I had to walk to the chippy when I was their age. Mind you it was only at
the bottom of the street.
The pieces will fall into place if you hang around long enough. But I can’t
afford to wait for things to happen. Gruesome bits of childhood are not enough.
The “How To” books are right. I’ve got to find a theme. I’ve got to develop a
main character. I’ve got to queue up for chips and get the Munchkins fed.
“Three lots of chips, two fish, and a tub of peas, please.”

Graham and the kids arrive home.


“Stop teasing the cats. Come on Felix or your chips will go cold. Here,
Zoe take them in for me while I put the car away,” said Graham.
What a rotten sodding day. Twelve hours of them. Kath’s going to pay for
this. I’ll go out for the Sunday papers and make it look as though I’m never
coming back. I’d be a lot better at doing the old disappearing act than pretending
to be a sixteen year old with no responsibilities.
“What’s wrong, Zoe?” said Graham.
“Mum’s having a party,” said Zoe.
Haaaaa, whoaaa…HA HA HA.
”It’s alright, just wait in the kitchen for now.”
Woo, woo, hooooooo….
“Hello, Vanessa. Alright, Danny?”
Truly gruesome. I need a drink.
“Have you written your novel yet, Shakespeare?” said Danny.
“I don’t know about that. Shakespeare didn’t write novels.”
“Neither are you,” said Kath.
I’ll remember that remark when I’m writing my Oscar speech: ‘I’d like to
thank my fucking wife for giving me so much fucking support when I fucking
needed it.’
The boozy atmosphere is getting to Felix and he starts throwing himself
about in front of Danny.
“Calm down, Felix. Stop showing off. Leave Danny alone now,” said
Graham.
Torment him some more. Kick his glass into his face on my behalf. Enjoy
yourself, son—Christ, he’s psychic. Use the diversion.
“Kath, can you come into the kitchen for a second?” said Graham.
HA HA HAAAAA….
“Get them out of here,” said Graham.
“Stop acting so high and mighty,” said Kath.
“I’m not in the mood for drunken fools.”
“Oh sod off, Graham. Stop being such a wet blanket.”
“Listen, Kath. If you don’t do it, I will.”
Eeeeeehhh, eeeeeehhh—HHHHHH.
Danny pops his head into the kitchen and announces that he’s leaving with
Vanessa and that they will be sharing a taxi home.
Those two are living proof that birds of a feather flock together. It was a
case of: ‘You shallow, me shallow. Let’s get together for the good of Mankind.’
None of this ‘opposites attract’ bullshit. I knew there was something wrong the
second I saw Zoe’s face. It reflected the shame that the adults should have felt.
Kath must be punished for this. Being pissed out of her head is no excuse. It’s no
use talking to her now. She’s having trouble focussing. This is just what I needed
after a long day with the kids: A troubled night waiting for her to throw-up all
over the duvet. She’s not hit the shorts like this since Felix was born. Vodka and
orange. We’ll need a new one….
Look at the state of that. Dead to the world and smelling like a pub toilet. I
should have helped her off with her tights. No, let her feel a bit of degradation
when she wakes up. She’ll have to scrape off her make-up as well. What will she
see in the mirror? Men’s faces. Women’s faces. Lost opportunities or small
mercies? But normal people don’t hold inquests in front of the dressing table
mirror. These are just questions that writers ask. Why do people admire writers?
People see them looking zonked out and assume that they’re having some sort of
vision. The poor bastard has probably just got indigestion from trying to work out
what happened to him a fortnight ago. They just can’t cope with life.
Ladders and holes. She must have been falling-down-drunk. I should take
a Polaroid and show it to her mother. Is that a bruise? It’s definitely a bruise.
They’ve not been this smooth for months and she goes out and gets them
blemished. If she carries on like this I’ll be the one lobbying for separate beds. I’d
miss her calves but you’ve got to look at the Big Picture. I’m sure her body shape
breaks some Natural Law of proportionality. She had the cheek to blame the kids!
If I was a woman I’d avoid childbirth altogether but if I did have kids I wouldn’t
blame them for my fat arse. I don’t know whether to kick it out of the bed or
snuggle up to it…the punishment can start when she wakes up.

Graham has gone out for a Sunday newspaper while the rest of the house sleeps.
He has the News of the World delivered but recently he has been buying a
broadsheet as well. When Graham gets back he decides to kill some time in the
garden.
Not much sign of life. Make sure that she’s been well stewed in her own
juices. I may as well have a stroll down to the bottom of the garden and do some
measuring up. Knocking up some ranch-style fencing might help to get my
creative juices flowing. Graham takes his time striding out the measurements for
the fence and estimating the materials he needs. On his way back to the house,
Graham senses that something is wrong.
It still looks very quiet in there. I’d better check-in. There’s something on
the window pane. It must be one of Zoe’s stickers.
Graham is now close enough to see what is stuck to the pane.
It’s bread and marmalade…Kath’s let them trash the kitchen. Shit.
They’ve liberated every sticky substance they could lay their tiny fingers on. This
must have been a team effort.
“Felix! Zoe! Come in here,” said Graham.
They’re hiding somewhere. I can smell the fear. Where the hell is Kath?
Surely she didn’t sleep through all this. There must have been pandemonium in
here. They can hear me coming up the stairs…I can hear the silence getting
quieter. They’re trying to make themselves even smaller. They’ll have to wait. It
was a team effort that caused the mess and its going to be a team effort that sorts
it out.
“Kath get up. Did you hear it?” said Graham.
“Hear what?” said Kath from under the duvet.
“They’ve trashed the kitchen. While you’ve been dreaming of God knows
what they’ve been expressing themselves with the contents of the fridge.”
“Just clear it up then,” said Kath.
“Kath, listen. You’ve not grasped the extent of the devastation. It’s way
beyond a few dollops of margarine. There’s peanut butter, marmalade, fabric
conditioner, jam, washing up liquid, cheese spread, honey.”
“Slap his leg,” said Kath.
“He couldn’t have done it on his own. There’s too much creative talent
splattered around for it to be the work of one boy. They must have been egging
each other on.”
“Where are they, anyway?”
“They’ve gone to ground. I’m going to flush them out now. Anyway after
your performance last night they are paragons of good sense and maturity
compared to you. The worst they can do is trash the kitchen.”
Will they be hiding in different places or giving each other moral support?
There’s not enough room for two in his favourite place…right, deal with Felix
first. Try under his bed. He must have been the catalyst but he isn’t capable of
marshalling his resources for prolonged destruction. He needed an accomplice.
I’ve got an obligation to shout them out at first but the main punishment
phase will be clearing up the mess. I’ll come up with a medium range punishment
at a later date. How can I be hard on them for letting off some childish steam
when Kath got off lightly for wilful, adult stupidity?
“Come out, Felix. I know you’re under there. I can smell the peanut butter.
Out! Zoe? You as well. Come on, I can see the wardrobe shaking.
“It wasn’t me,” said Zoe from inside the wardrobe.
“Oh really? Well if you had nothing to do with it why are you having a
nervous breakdown in the wardrobe? You’ve both got some clearing up to do, and
that’s just for starters. Down those stairs now!”
What a performance. Is it worth getting to the bottom of this? Kath may
have heard them but chose not to act. Zoe could have restrained herself. Felix
should have thought twice about daubing the washing machine with honey and
fabric conditioner in the first place. It’s difficult to apportion blame. Just put it
down to a complete breakdown of rationality and concentrate on restoring order.
What was the atmosphere like? Was there a point when they paused to consider
the consequences? It was probably a volatile mixture of instinct and opportunity. I
shouldn’t worry about cause and effect. Focus on the nuances. The nods and
winks. The flicker of shared understanding before they undertook the terrible
deed. I’m not sure if you can capture that sort of stuff in prose or even poetry.
Actors can’t get it one hundred per cent correct. In a way it’s a good job they
can’t. It’s those sorts of shared moments that get people out of bed in the
morning. It keeps the buggers going. If art was a hundred per cent accurate we
wouldn’t bother living. But I don’t want to spend too much time analysing other
peoples’ nuances. There must have been a few flying about last night during
Kath’s little get together. Contemplating the nuances of Danny and Vanessa is a
high price to pay. I’d prefer to imagine something else to make a living. Even
dreaming up scenarios for spies, sharks and speed boats is better for your mental
health than that.

Now that’s what I call a classic, cosy little family scenario. Mother and brood
snuggled up on the sofa on a Sunday afternoon. I want to tiptoe over and wrap my
arms around them…no I don’t. I want to spend the rest of my life alone. I’m
going to write to the Home Secretary and volunteer for indefinite solitary
confinement. While Kath’s in control of things I can get something done.
Trying to write on a Sunday afternoon doesn’t feel right. ‘On the seventh
day he rested’ and all that. But what is He going to do? Strike me down? Punish
me with mediocrity? I won’t be the first to get hit by that particular thunderbolt.
There’s nothing to be scared of. The worst that can happen is that I’ll turn out to
be a rubbish writer. The world won’t stop revolving.

Chas is the most talented shirker I’ve ever worked with. A shimmy, a feint to the
left, and then the final whistle blows: ‘Goodnight, Chas. See you tomorrow.’ Bill
doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe they’re closer than I think.
“This is one of yours, Chas.”
“Are you sure?” said Chas.
“Take a look,” said Graham.
Suzy was a very scarce resource. She never flirted with being surplus to
requirements. She rationed herself out to perfection. The correct amount to the
right person at the right time. But she could shoot the breeze when business was
slack. I was too young to appreciate the innuendo and too proud to give her the
satisfaction of showing my amusement. On a good day it was lust. On a bad day it
was something else, something as stupid as love. Bad days led to the boyish
mistake of forgetting that she was flesh and blood. Only boys are allowed the
privilege of treating them as higher beings. You can’t go wrong if you both stick
to flesh and blood. It creates couples. It breeds marriages. I can’t blame her for
flirting. It was good for the team spirit. In theory it helped to disperse the sexual
tension. It gave mine a couple of hundred twists. On balance it’s better to misuse
your sexual powers than not use them at all. If the experts like Suzy don’t keep
the ancient skills alive then we’ll be left with the dangerous charlatans. The
women have to know what they’re doing—the men certainly don’t. So what if a
few lads get their fingers burned? Minor casualties. Friendly fire. They recover
soon enough, get on with their lives, marry the wrong woman, have kids, have
nervous breakdowns, lose their jobs. The usual stuff nothing spectacular.
Graham turns around to give Chas some papers and realizes that he had
slipped out while Graham was having a Suzy Moment. He turns over an old
memo and makes a quick note of the Suzy Moment on it. While Chas is away,
Graham decides to ring Mrs. Gladstone. She is the organiser of a Writers’
Workshop at the local college. They agree to Graham sitting in on one of the
workshops on a trial basis. He makes a note of it in his desk diary.

I’m not sure about this at all. She sounded like one of the ‘I’ve read too much for
my own good’ brigade. The types who hope that literary ability is absorbed by
osmosis. I’m sure they use these amateur shindigs to break the spirit of new
writers: ‘There then! It’s not so easy is it? On your knees and worship the Bard.’
The Bard. The Baaarrrd. The Stratford slaphead. Tyro writers can’t take his
reputation seriously or they wouldn’t even bother to pick up a Biro.
Graham enters the college where the Writers’ Workshop is held. He’s not very
enthusiastic because he’s had to go straight from the office after working late.
I stink to high heaven. My last ditch suit as well. Look at the state of
yourself: Body odour to stun cattle, a badly fitting suit, and greasy hair. I hate
academic corridors. I expect a sadistic P.E. teacher to jump out and start thrashing
me with a training shoe. I was late for a lesson then and I’m late for one now.
What has changed? Questions like that must do a writer’s head in. But I’ll have to
address it or I’ll be left for dead. I’m here to discuss things like ‘character
development’. How am I supposed to create plausible growth in my characters
when I never felt the changes in myself? They must have sneaked past while I
was busy. I wasn’t so self-obsessed that I logged every life-changing, pain in the
arse event that occurred. How was I supposed to know that they might have some
creative relevance in the future? Room 1908…I must be getting close to our
room. I wonder what that lot are studying. The tutor’s a little cracker. I think I’ll
sign-up with her instead. It’s probably a Theology class.
Graham arrives at the room. He peers in through the window in the door.
Here we go then. At least I can make a grand entrance—I’d better do a
recci first. The tutor looks very serene. She’s probably doing a yoga exercise to
get her through it. Mostly women. Just two blokes. He’s an old codger, Geoffrey
Chaucer’s grandad by the looks of it. The other one’s an office junior type. Not
much competition. But what are the prizes like? I don’t like the look of the three
young women.
Although Graham had a Mars Bar before he left the office his stomach
starts to rumble loudly.
Rawllll…roooooOOOooool—oop.
He makes an instinctive decision about joining the class.
Fuck this. I’m going home.

Chapter 3
Some breakfast-time reforms are in order. Kids can’t watch Bugs Bunny and eat
cereal at the same time. Felix needs some target practice. He’s shoving more up
his nose than in his mouth. Wean them off it.
“How are you feeling, Felix?” said Graham.
“Rubbish,” said Felix.
“That’s a shame because I’m going to do some work on the fence this
morning. Plenty of banging and stuff like that.”
“Great!”
“I thought that would perk you up a bit. How about you, Zoe? Do you
want to give us a hand?”
“No thanks.”
“What have you got lined up for this morning, Kath?” said Graham.
“I’m shopping with Vanessa,” said Kath.
“Fine.”
“There’s no need to be like that. Sarcastic sod,” said Kath.
“I only said ‘fine’! Saying fine isn’t sarcasm.”
“Sarcasm is the lowest for of wit.”
“No its not. I argued that one out with Danny. It’s the only quote he
knows. After his sixth pint he starts parroting it at every joker in his vicinity. I
won the argument. I asked him to name the higher forms of wit and he was
stumped.”
“What are the higher forms of wit?” said Kath.
“I don’t know. But that’s irrelevant. If nobody knows the other forms then
sarcasm wins by default. Do you see the logic?”
“You have to be knowledgeable and intelligent to be a writer,” said Kath.
“Yeah, so I don’t know the higher forms of wit. So what. Are you going
now? Take it nice and easy this time. If Vanessa wants to go on another bender
then tell her to take Danny.”
“It’s none of your business,” said Kath.
“It is my business if they end up round here again.”
“That was a one-off and you know it. I’m going.”
“Come on, Felix. Get yourself kitted out. Zoe, if you get bored with the
telly you can come outside and knock some nails in with the boys,” said Graham.

If I use up all his energy I should get some peace this afternoon. Something
creative is brewing. A couple of videos should do him….
Wang, bang, wang.
“Now it’s your turn. I’ll get it started and you can finish it off.”
Tip-ah-tap.
“Here you go. Grab hold of it.”
Tip…tip….
“Don’t be afraid of the thing. Grip it with both hands. Swing it. Hit it!”
Tip, tap, wang.
“That’s better. That’s right. Try another while I line up the stakes.”
Graham’s next door neighbour, Mrs. Trevelyan approaches followed by
two of her cats.
“Hello, Felix,” said Mrs. Trevelyan. But he ignores her and continues
walloping the fence.
“Say hello, Felix,” said Graham. Mrs.Trevelyan starts peering closely at
the fence posts that Graham has planted.
“Are those lined up properly? Those two appear to be encroaching on my
side a bit,” said Mrs. Trevelyan.
“It’s only a millimetre,” said Graham.
“Good fences make good neighbours, as the poet Robert Frost once said,”
said Mrs. Trevelyan.
“Okay, I’ll realign it for you.” Felix starts a confrontation with one of the
cats.
Tssssssssss, spitzzzzz, tssssst.
“Leave it alone, Felix. Come away!” said Graham.
Spiz, tsss, stiszzzz.
“Put the hammer down. Leave it alone.”
“Come away, Hector,” said Mrs. Trevelyan.
“Leave Hector alone…leave the sodding thing alone. Now! I’m sorry Mrs
Trevelyan sometimes he sees monsters,” said Graham. Mrs. Trevelyan and the
cats retreat to the house.

Graham wanted a calm Saturday afternoon so he put on a couple of Postman Pat


videos for the kids.
Sounds like the videos have ended. I’d better get in there before anarchy
truly takes hold. Felix is improving. He’ll be okay as long as we keep him away
from cats and senior citizens. Maybe Kath’s malaise was rubbing off on him.
Maybe he’s just as mad as a hatter. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned out to be
some sort of artist. How would the bloke from the Arts Council go about spotting
potential writers in the play ground? Would he pick the one playing catch-a-girl,
kiss-a-girl? I suppose the one trying to re-enact the Battle of Britain would be a
possibility. The best bet is the kid sat on the litter bin watching everybody else.
They’re all candidates.
“I’ve tidied up the newspaper corner, Dad,” said Zoe.
“Good girl. Mum will be back soon. She’ll be pleased,” said Graham.
“I helped her,” said Felix.
“Good boy.”
“Will you be making the supper?” said Zoe.
“No. Is that a relief? Right, if you put all the old magazines in a pile near
the window and all the old newspapers in a pile over there we can take them to
the recycling bins tomorrow.
Kath arrives in her car and they hear her banging the door.
At least she’s not staggering up the driveway. That’s a bonus. Miserable as
sin though. We’ll cheer her up. She needs a welcoming committee in the porch.
“Mum’s not drunk! Three cheers for Mum…hip-hip hurray. Hip-hip
hurrayyyyyy.”
The mood in the hallway changes as Kath appears to be choking back
tears.
“It was only a joke, Kath. Jesus, what’s wrong? Have you smashed the
car?” said Graham.
Kath hurries on up the stairs.
“It’s okay, kids. Mum’s just going for a lie down,” said Graham.
Trouble. BIG trouble. Done for shoplifting? Mugging? Rape?
Kath is lying down on the bed. Graham enters the bedroom and sighs at
the sight of Kath with her coat and shoes still on.
“Take your time. Relax. Just tell me what the problem is, Kath.”
Kath has curled herself into a ball. She is still silent.
“Kath, what’s happened?”
“Nothing’s happened. Just leave me alone.”
Graham retreats and goes downstairs.
There’s a work-related problem at the heart of all this. The misery began
when they moved her. The warning signals were there but what could I do? I can’t
ring her boss and tell her to go on a stress management course.
“What’s wrong with Mum,” said Zoe.
“She’s got tooth ache. Leave her alone for a few hours,” said Graham.
Before they moved her to the Finance Department she was always full of
gossip about who was shagging whom. The Finance people must be more
discreet. They must be cramping her style. She’s bringing it home with her. A
writer would have exploited this scenario. The little mercenary would have
whipped out his notebook and scribbled down the details: her cocoon-like
overcoat, the runny mascara, and the dirty high heels on the duvet. If she hasn’t
emerged by six o’clock I’ll take her up a coffee.

“Kath, I’ve brought you a coffee,” said Graham.


“How are the kids? They’re very quiet,” said Kath.
“I told them that you’ve got tooth ache. Serious tooth ache. Do you want
to talk?”
“I can’t. I can’t explain it. I haven’t got the words yet.”
“I think you’re stressed out. This has been building for weeks.”
“No, Graham listen. It’s not stress. I don’t need help. I need some time…I
want to sleep alone.”
“Okay…okay, I’ll sleep in the study.”
Graham withdraws and slowly goes down stairs.
I know what’s behind this reaction. I can smell Vanessa. She’s obviously
been goading Kath in some way. She’s been raising Kath’s expectations.
Lifestyles, Men, and God knows what. This scenario could get out of hand if I’m
not careful. I’ve already made a huge concession. I’ll be sending her the wrong
signals if I concede any more territory. I need a strategy that will at least keep us
within shouting distance. Vanessa is a dead woman if she shows her face again.
Danny is a goner if he tries to get in on the act. I need a short run policy…
business as usual? That will do. If she’s still insisting on separate beds after a
couple of days then I’ll have to think hard about the situation. It might be good in
the short run. At least she came back…don’t worry about consequences. Stay in
the present. There’s no need to tell the kids about the new sleeping arrangements.
They will be asleep when I go to bed and when I get up as well. I’d better get
some bedding organised. If the situation persists then I’ll have to get some
meaningless sex lined up. It’s inevitable. It’s natural. I suppose I could have a go
at sublimation. I wonder if it works. Can a man’s creative energy really be
diverted from his dick to his brain? The hearsay evidence is persuasive but can it
be trusted? It’s the only evidence we’re ever going to get. Pity the scientist who
would have wired up the volt meter to Samuel Johnson’s wedding tackle. The ear-
ache alone would have triggered danger-money payments even before the boffins
got down to the nitty gritty of reliable measurement. I will be sleeping with my
literary work for a few days at least. I might get the urge to write inappropriate
sex scenes. Probably not, there’s no scope for them at the moment. Thank God
there’s no high profile sex on the horizon. My sex scenes will give me trouble.
The voice yelling: ‘It’s been done. It’s been done,’ really starts booming when I
think about putting sex on paper. They ran out of original plots two thousand
years ago so what chance is there of writing a fresh piece of sex. Plots can be
twisted but sex remains basic no matter what you do to tart it up for public
consumption. Endless duplication is inevitable. At this very second there are
probably half a dozen people churning out identical sex right down to the last full
stop, the last moan, the very last inch. It must do terrible things to the soul in the
long run…or is it just some harmless fun? Come to think of it I’ll use it as a
challenge. Can I write a few hundred words worth of original sex? Two or three
pages of fresh sex. It will have to come out naturally. Men can’t fake it. Imagine
lying awake at night worrying about writing plausible, understated anal sex.
“Dad, I’m hungry,” said Zoe.
“Don’t worry. I’ll be making the supper soon. Mum’s having a rest. We
need to help her out for a few days. How about a day out tomorrow? We can go to
the seaside,” said Graham.
Chapter 4.

Graham and the kids are at the seaside. They are walking down the sea front.
Felix is on Graham’s shoulders.
I can’t see us having another one. Our only hope the way things are going
is a virgin birth.
“If you don’t stop teasing Zoe I’ll put you down. It’s a long walk to the
café from here. Look there’s the lifeboat. It’s going to save a marriage—I mean a
boat.
“Let’s follow it,” said Felix.
“We can’t. It’s going too fast,” said Graham.
“We could follow it in the car,”
“We’re supposed to be relaxing, not chasing lifeboats. Look son, I’ll have
to put you down. My shoulders need a rest,” said Graham.
“Can we walk near the sea?” said Zoe.
“Yeah, but make sure you only pick up sea shells. Don’t touch anything
slimy or dead,” said Graham.
Why did I marry her? It was something to do with what’s-its-name.
Begins with ‘L’, Lu, Lu, lucrative tax allowances. Only a fool ignores personal
taxation issues. Marriage combines the tangibles and intangibles. The longer it
lasts the more they intertwine. I wonder if anybody has compiled statistics on
writers and divorce. I know one thing for sure. You can’t blame a writer for a bad
marriage. Everybody knows what they are like. Their partners know what they are
letting themselves in for. It’s like walking down the aisle with somebody
clutching a double-headed axe and a copy of Mein Kampf. By that stage you
should know what you’re getting. It’s no use clogging up the divorce courts with
tales of astonishing mood swings and alcohol abuse. If you can’t marry a nutter
for the long haul then don’t marry one.
They came into the equation. The shell collectors. The wellied ones. Felix
got Kath’s temperament. Zoe got my brains. He’s hitting something again. He’ll
end up as either a blacksmith or a percussionist. At the beginning, Kath must have
gave extra weight to the variable relating to ‘The provision of wellies and other
miscellaneous goods.’ Now she reckons I’m boring. Maybe she took my youthful
exuberance for a fixed, long run personality trait. I’m bound to be more boring
than I was at nineteen. But I’m not as boring as I was two years ago. Now that’s a
valid point. I might be boring relative to somebody like…saaaaay, Danny but
Kath knew what she was getting—
“PUT IT DOWN”
Women have to juggle with more variables than men. Ours are fewer and
cruder. A nineteen year old is incapable of seeing beyond the end of his dick
when it comes to marriage. They don’t realize that in ten years time they’ll be sat
on a sea-wall watching their kids playing with a highly toxic, decomposing sea
creature:
“DON’T TOUCH IT.”
There’s no denying that part of me wanted children, in theory. I wanted
children in the abstract not the beings that give anarchy a bad name.
“LEAVE IT ALONE! COME ON, WE’RE GOING.”
Graham sets off for the café for lunch. He leaves the kids to catch him up.
Felix starts shout things, seemingly at random. They catch up to Graham but Felix
and Zoe carry on running as if they’re in a race. Graham eventually catches up
with them.
“Can I have a Big Mac, Dad?” said Felix.
“Let me explain something, Felix. You can only buy Big Macs at
McDonalds. They don’t sell them at seaside cafes. You can share a hamburger
with Zoe. What did you find on the beach?”
“The Loch Ness Monster,” said Felix.
“I’d better tell the newspapers. You’ll be on tomorrow’s front pages.
‘Felix Randall finds the Loch Ness Monster on the beach.’ A top story. Zoe, did
you tell him it was the Loch Ness monster?”
“Yeah,” said Zoe.
“I don’t know. You’re supposed to be the sensible one. He’s got enough
monsters in his head as it is.”
Kath’s probably having her lunch. She’s still distant…there’s a phone box.
“Hold on a second. I’m making a call,” said Graham.
“Are you ringing the newspapers? said Felix.
“No, I’m ringing your Mum. You can tell her about the monster.”
Graham can’t get through. The line is engaged. They go to the café for
lunch.
“Stop stealing her chips. Here, you can have some of mine. You don’t
have to rush. The amusement arcade is open all day. We can have an hour or so in
there and then we’ll set off for home. Right, behave yourselves while I try to call
your Mum again.”
“That old lady is staring at me,” said Felix.
“Don’t be silly. They’re not staring at you. Old people look like that when
they’re eating,” said Graham.
Graham goes to the phone box outside the café. He can’t get through
again. Kath isn’t there.
She’s probably gone to her mother’s. The shops maybe. Whatever she’s
up to I hope its giving her batteries a good recharging. Not too much, though. Too
much and I’d have to recharge mine a hell of a lot to retain the equilibrium…not
too much. What if I met her again, as she is today? Would I marry her? Would
she marry me? Maybe the government should introduce fixed term marriage
contracts: two years, five years, ten years, etc. If either party is unhappy when the
expiry date looms then all they have to do is refuse to renew the contract. The
divorce courts will be deserted if the statisticians get their forecasts right. Seven
years is the key point for most people. We’ve just past nine. If they rush through
the legislation we could call it a day at ten. I wouldn’t do it again. I’ll ask her the
question when I get back. Just as a joke…that should cheer her up.
That’s a good sign. The waitress is still smiling. The food is still on the
plates and Felix hasn’t attacked the pensioners in the corner. Exemplary
behaviour for a change.
“Did you tell Mum about the monster?” said Felix.
“She wasn’t home. You can tell her about Nessie when we get home.
She’s left me….
They finish they’re lunch in silence then they go across the road to the
amusement arcade.
“Why don’t you have a go on the old-fashioned slot machines first? I’ll lift
you up so you can reach,” said Graham.
“Why do they put the machines so high up?” said Zoe.
“I’m not sure. Maybe they put them this high so that little treasures like
Felix don’t swing on the handles. Come on, Felix…no not halfway down it. Why
do you think I’m holding you up like this? Pull the very end of the handle! That’s
right…what have we got? A lucky seven, an apple and an orange. Nothing this
time. Try again.”
She wouldn’t leave me without taking the kids. That’s not her style. She
would try driving me out first.
Klunk…click…Klunk.
“We’ve won something! Hang on its not paying out. I’ll go and get the
machine engineer. Two oranges and a banana—we’ve definitely won.”
Graham and the kids are on their way home on the motorway. A large
lorry overtakes them.
How do they cope with marriage? They drive God knows what to God
knows where for God knows who fifty times a week. Long haulers sleeping in
their cabs. Coach drivers must be the same. Their wives must get used to the
patterns and trust them to buggery. Whoever drew up the adultery laws had their
heads screwed on properly. I don’t think oral sex and sodomy stand up in court.
Mind you, they could probably get you for unreasonable behaviour. Its common-
sense really. As long as the wife sticks to the right orifices then you won’t have to
provide wellies for someone else’s genes.
Graham starts to suffer from an upset tummy.
I’d better pull over at the next service station. The food from the café can’t
be to blame or the kids would be suffering as well. Probably the apple juice. I
should have stuck to the orange juice like them. It was that grinning waitress’s
fault. It was her bloody suggestion. When you dither there’s always somebody
around to make your mind up for you. She was probably on a commission.
Graham phones Kath from the service station.
“Kath it’s me.”
“What’s wrong? said Kath.
“There’s nothing wrong. I’m just ringing to tell you that we’ll be back at
about seven o’clock depending on how fast I can prize them off the video games.
I rang earlier but you were out.”
“I was round at Mum’s.”
“I had a feeling you were there. I’ll have to go. It looks like they’ve ran
out of money. There’s the threat of violence. See you later.”
My stomach’s settled and Kath hasn’t left me. At least I can have a
relatively peaceful journey home. The apple juice only had a mild laxative effect.
I was expecting a torrent. I’ve got the feeling that writers use their early works as
mental laxatives. It can’t be helped. There’s not a lot you can do if your childhood
horrors and bad deeds start spurting out in a literary context. No wonder writers
get the urge to destroy their early works. Kafka had to be prevented from torching
the whole bloody lot. If his pal hadn’t been willing to get his eye brows singed we
never would have heard of Kafka. I wonder why he didn’t get married? He had a
nice steady insurance job and dark moody looks. What more do they want? Mind
you he was a bit bonkers as well. I forgot about that.
“Dad, Felix has pinched my comic,” said Zoe.
“Give it back, Felix. Anyway it’s a girl’s comic. You don’t want to read a
girl’s comic do you? What’s wrong with yours? I only bought it for you ten
minutes ago.”
“It fell out of the window,” said Felix.
“Oh, so it fell out did it?.”
I’ll crank up the heater and send him off to sleep. No, that wouldn’t work.
It would take a tranquilizer primed for a charging rhino to knock him out when
he’s in that sort of mood. Just batten down the hatches and—
“IF YOU TWO MAKE ME STOP THIS CAR I’LL GIVE YOU SUCH A

“We’ve stopped, Dad,” said Felix.
“That’s better,” said Graham.

A Sunday without us hasn’t worked. She used to steal food off their plates—off
their forks. Now she’s just watching them eat. I’ve never seen her as troubled as
this. She doesn’t wear it well.
“So Felix discovered the Loch Ness Monster on the beach,” said Kath.
“He’s exaggerating. It was probably just a colostomy bag or something.
Have you eaten anything today, Kath,” said Graham.
“No,” said Kath.
Is she just sick of me or genuinely sick? If we don’t get back to normal
soon I’ll have to put pressure on her no matter what. I wonder if she’s still
boozing at lunchtimes. If she’s just run-down then she’ll handle it by herself. If
it’s something deeper…I’ll leave it to her. I’ve not got enough information to
make a decision about anything yet. Leave her to it. I may as well retire to my
study-cum-bedroom-cum surrogate womb. I’ll put the onus on her to approach
me. The silent treatment.
I think I had more room in the womb. My head’s full of crap. My brain
needs a colostomy bag. I can’t even sort out my priorities. Write them down and
sort them manually.
1. Fresh-sex-challenge.
2. Low grade obsession story.
3. Miscellaneous bits and bobs.
Graham is feeling very uninspired. He pulls out his folder with the bits and
bobs in and starts to sift through them. He comes to a worrying conclusion.
This looks suspiciously like poetry. That’s all I need. I can’t even come to
grips with prose yet. Oh shit!.
In desperation and in need of distraction, Graham starts flicking through
the old car magazine. His gaze falls upon the advert with the Suzy look-alike. He
skims past it.
I’m not in the mood for her. Just ask the age-old administrative question:
‘what has got to be done right now?’ On balance nothing. It’s a toss up between a
half-baked obsession story or some very uninspired fresh sex… sounds like she’s
having an early night. She’ll read a couple of pages of her paperback and then
she’ll come and get me. That paperback has done sterling service for our sex-life
over the years. It recharges her batteries. People slag-off the sex writers brigade
but it works; for the women anyway. It’s the build-up that matters most to them.
The trick of the trade is to gradually build up the expectation while making sure
that the reader gets a good idea of what the heroine is going to get. I’ll flick
through it tomorrow. I could do with a good night’s sleep, but I feel like shit. This
cell doesn’t help. I’ll have to start pacing myself. I can’t afford anymore time off
work. Feeling like death may be a good omen. Healthy writers are pretty rare. Full
fitness was a mystery to the truly great ones. Dodgy stomachs, sexually
transmitted diseases, and chest complaints were standard. Bronchitis wasn’t good
enough. Peer group pressure demanded tuberculosis. I could cobble together some
stuff about the Land of Work. Most frustrated writers are in jobs they hate. I need
something that the readers can relate to—what the fuck was that? It felt like a
carpet bug was chewing on my bollocks…in my dreams. I’ll have to get the
sleeping bag out of storage. She wants to be alone. I want to be alone. All the
creative stuff is catching up on me. Cramming in all that literary biography was a
big mistake. But it had to be done. I’m not a complete ignoramus anymore. At
least I now know that Jane Eyre didn’t write Charlotte Bronte and Emily Bronte
didn’t write Jane Austen.
I wonder if she’s asleep yet. She wouldn’t notice me slipping under the
duvet. What would she do? Kick me out of bed? Hit me with the frying pan? Give
it until three o’clock. I need to keep my brain active or I’ll drop off. May as well
brainstorm: intro, in vitro, obsession, sexuality, Suzy, calves, harassment, Linda,
adultery, court, shoes, whips, plimsoll, lines, size, sighs, wellies, screw you,
sarcasm, sleeping bag, territory… my sleeping bag.
“Kath, are you awake?” said Graham.
“Yes,” said Kath from under the duvet.
“I’m freezing to death in there. I think the radiator’s broken.”
“Bugger off,” said Kath.
“You what?”

A reaction like that wasn’t built into my projections. She told me to fuck off once
but that was when she was in labour with Felix. That was forgivable. Telling your
husband to bugger off wont look good in court. The phrase: ‘unreasonable
behaviour’ springs to mind. This sort of domestic context gives rise to
hypothetical scenarios. Adultery creeps up on you: ‘I’m sorry, your Honour. I had
to do it. Linda made all the running and I was gagging for it. Sorry Kath.’ There
comes a point when the hypotheticals stop and the depravity begins. If Linda isn’t
willing I’ll find somebody who is.
The nitty gritty of infidelity is no different from any other implementation
problem. Grand strategy is useless if you can’t get the policy right on the ground.
A lot of people fall down when it comes to implementation. It all boils down to
the people on the front-line. Some are able, some are inept. Its not easy. Great
strategists can be terrible implementers. The secret is getting the right people in
the right place at the right time. Suzy had the knack of being there. She rarely got
it wrong. Now she was value for money. Even the way she treated me was a good
call in the long run… Suzy? There’s a snippet of her unfolding. NO! She can sod
off until I’ve got something to put her in. I need a structure for her; I need
insurance. She wants me to dwell on her. She’s tempting me…nope, not without
insurance. She wants me to re-live open-heart surgery in public. Maybe after five
or six reincarnations and even then they’ll have to hypnotic regression to drag it
out of me. All that messing about is better than making a dick of yourself over
and over again. She’ll keep coming back. Whether it’s via word association or
emotional trigger systems, she’ll keep coming at me.
Chapter 5

A satisfying day and it’s only half ten. It would be perfect if Chas stopped mucking
about. If his tangerine peel misses my waste-bin again I’ll ram it down his throat.
He’s deliberately breaking my concentration. Does he want me to retaliate? Does he
want me to throw the bits of tangerine back at him? Maybe he’s doing it because my
probation period is coming to an end. It must be some sort of initiation ritual. He was
nearly human first thing this morning but he’s been throwing a moody since I got
back from my Linda mission. The hypocritical tosser must have thought I was skiving
off.
Graham more or less was skiving off. He was paying more attention to Linda’s
legs as opposed to his Q.C. chase ups.
It looked like she had overdone the sun-bed over the weekend. Her legs are
somewhere between amber and orange. A scarlet skirt, amber thighs, and lime
coloured high heels. Stop, caution, go. It would be like shagging a set of traffic-lights.
Chas is still getting on Graham’s nerves by tossing tangerine peel at his waste-
paper basket.
It’s pointless trying to work when he’s playing up like this…are writers talented
people who happen to be miserable or are they miserable people who happen to be
talented? Talent + Depression = Writer? Talent – Depression = Critic? Becoming a
writer is God’s way of telling you that you’re incapable of normal, gainful
employment. All competent people should stick to what they’re good at. They should
leave the writing to the criminally incompetent. Writers are wage slaves like
everybody else. The only difference is that writers don’t get paid extra for irregular
hours.
Graham does some rough calculations based on the economics of writing. He
concludes that he would be working for £10.00 per hour or about twenty thousand
pounds per annum.
You may as well keep working. The working writers of the past had it easy. They
had their cushy civil service jobs, the clergy, and their rich relative’s legacies. There’s
no such thing as a secure job these days. You’ve got to work your balls off just to stay
in a job you hate. Bill swaggers around the office thinking that he’s great at ‘man-
management’. The best man-manager is the threat of unemployment. Everybody feels
its presence. Felix could manage this place with an assistant as effective as that.
Graham goes to the canteen for his lunch.
I’d better get something to eat before the stomach acid starts squirting out of my
ears. Should I sit with the quiet bloke from the post-room or ambush Linda? Irish
stew or a cheese sandwich? Decision time. My mind’s saying: quiet stress-free meal
with a meek bloke but there’s a chorus in my loins chanting: Irish stew and Linda,
Irish stew and Linda… at least I’ve got an opening gambit. God knows why I told her
I used to do weight-training. I think I did it once when the leisure centre first opened.
That’s right; there was a gang of young lads taking the Mickey in the shower area.
Danny’s pride and joy was the catalyst. They’d never seen anything like at.
Sometimes it’s not the size that amazes people; it’s the way he can pretend that it isn’t
even there. He knows the fucker’s there. The wisdom of entering a communal shower
area with a well endowed friend is open to question. On the one hand unkind
comparisons can occur while its possible, on the other hand, that an independent
observer will be too distracted to notice yours anyway. “Its not what you’ve got, its
what you do with it that counts.” Bollocks! People talk as if there are myriad
possibilities for the human penis. Thank God that women are smart enough to assess
the whole package. I’ve never seen a twelve inch cock changing a flat tyre. Danny’s
only got one shot in his bag. It’s all he’s got. If his life is one long multiple orgasm
then why is his wife so miserable all the time? She knew what she was getting.
Maybe she knows all too well now.
“I’ll have the Irish stew, please.”
Graham has spotted that Linda is sat by herself.
Keep away from my girl.
“And I’ll have the Swiss roll, please.”
Don’t sit with my girl! Sit with the clown from dispatch…that’s right. Leave her
in splendid isolation.
“Three wholemeal slices, please.”
She’s still all alone. There is a God. He’s shining his light on Graham P. Randall
and his lunch. There must be a catch. He wouldn’t let me get this close if He knew
what I had in mind for her. It’s not deserving of a lightning bolt but there must be a
catch of one sort or another. He’s letting me test the water.
“It’s packed out today. Can I join you?”
Brush her knees. Brushthosefuckingknees.
“I’ve been wondering about your health club. I’m thinking about joining.”
“You’ll have to start eating healthily if you do,” said Linda.
“Lamb and vegetables never did anybody much harm as far as I know. The Swiss
roll is a bit dodgy but you can’t argue with my wholemeal bread,” said Graham.
A smile, a restrained smile. An opening?
“I like the look of yours. Lovely. How many calories are there in an egg salad and
a banana?”
“I don’t really know,” said Linda.
“What about the mineral water! Just pulling your leg!”
I’m staring at her mouth…stop it. Concentrate on the food. Try another pass at her
knees. I’ll get it next time. She’s wolfing it down. Slow her down.
“How often do you work-out?” said Graham.
“Four times a week.”
“Wow. I could only manage twice a week.”
“What system did you use?” said Linda.
“Erm, a medium one. The medium system. It’s probably gone out of fashion—
those baby sweet corns look good. Very fresh. Who would have thought that they
would miniaturise them? I’m surprised the boffins didn’t make them bigger instead!”
said Graham.
I wish she would look up from her plate for a moment. I can’t see if her pupils are
dilating. She’s ravenous. I wouldn’t know if they were dilating for me or the egg
salad. Dessert time. Now for a bit of eye contact…she wont. Not right in my face. If
she eats the banana like she ate the rest of the stuff I’ll have to look away. She’s
bound to break off bits and pop them in. The lady-like way…rearrange the bread and
cake. Lindaaaaa –
Kyuf—Kyuf…creeeech—kich—uck—uck….
Graham is choking on a piece of carrot. It shoots out of his mouth and lands on
Linda’s empty plate.
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry. It went down the wrong hole. It’s just as well that you’d
finished your salad. Thank God it wasn’t a big chunk of lamb. You would have had to
perform that anti-choking procedure on me. The one where you grab the choker from
behind and give them a sudden bear hug. The stuff shoots out like a bloody rocket,”
said Graham.
“You loosened that carrot easily enough,” said Linda.
“Yeah, on this occasion Nature did it for me. Let me take your plate away. That
carrot looks a bit worse for wear.”
“I have to go,” said Linda.
“I’ve lost my appetite as well. I’ll see you another time.”
There were a few good signs before she went. She didn’t feel the need to crowbar
her husband into the conversation. She didn’t shove her ring-finger up my right
nostril either. Wedding rings are just a talisman to some people. They only flash them
as a matter of routine. Groucho Marx was probably right about rings; they only
protect one finger. I nearly blew it. Spitting that carrot at her wasn’t the ideal form of
courtship behaviour. I can’t think of any other species that uses regurgitation rituals
as the prelude to sexual activity. They would definitely be an endangered species.
Extinct I would imagine. It was her banana that did it. I thought she was going to take
it all in one go….
The canteen has gone eerily silent.
What’s the matter with them? They’ve gone all quiet. They’re probably amazed
that I survived the choking incident. The rumour-mongering battle axe from upstairs
is a nasty piece of work. Thirty stone and she’s got the cheek to nibble on a Ryveta:
don’t bother, girl. The horse has bolted…I’ll have to sacrifice my Swiss roll if this
silence keeps going. The sound of her chewing is all I can hear. They’re definitely
staring at me.

Damn! I used it the other day but now its gone. What is that word? How can I call
myself a writer if I keep forgetting words? I’ve got a rough definition but the word
itself won’t come. There must be a name for this sort of word amnesia.
“Chas, have you got a dictionary handy?” said Graham.
“No,” said Chas.
“Never mind your brain might do. What’s that old fashioned word for pre-marital
sex?”
“Fucking around?”
“No. its not that vulgar. Its got a biblical tone to it. You know, a bit like adultery.”
“A terrible word.”
“Yeah, a very gruesome word. The Bible writers knew what they were doing. Just
the sound of the word ‘adultery’ is enough to put most people off. The word I’m
looking for isn’t that grisly but it sounds like the sort of thing you shouldn’t be
doing.”
“Philandering?” said Chas.
“No, but were getting closer. Philanderer…philanderer—FORNICATOR!”
“Speaking of fornication, I hear you were flirting with Linda at lunch,” said Chas.
“How do you know?”
“A little bird told me.”
“Does this ‘little bird’ weigh about thirty stone and feed on Ryveta?”
“I’ve got to protect my sources.”
“Fair enough. But if your little bird keeps maliciously chirping she’ll end up on
the endangered list. Let me put the record straight. We talked about diets and health
clubs, full stop! I wasn’t chasing her around the canteen with my dick out. I’m a
married man and so is Linda.”
“She’s divorced,” said Chas.
“But she wears a wedding ring.”
“She wears it to keep the fornicators away, I suppose.”
“Does she. Does she really.”

Graham is having a coffee and a Mars Bar in the canteen.


It’s quiet this afternoon. Post Room Pat looks like he needs some company. He’s
gone zombie on me. Staring down at his tea.
“How are you doing?” said Graham.
“Alright,” said the man as he stood up.
“Don’t rush off. Finish your…”
…Madeira cake. There goes another stress-case in the making. Everyone’s
rushing. Rushing their food; rushing their work. No wonder mistakes are on the
increase. We would be in big trouble if a world war broke out tomorrow. Most people
are too stressed to work properly never mind fighting a decent war. If we had been
this knackered in nineteen thirty-nine, Hitler would have strolled into Dover
unchallenged.
The typists are a bit subdued. Not even the odd shriek from the loud one. God,
what is she wearing! They’re about as conspiratorial as a gang of typists can get…this
is eerie. Even the canteen women are silent. It’s like a scene from a Stephen King
film. I wouldn’t be surprised if the beefy supervisor vaults the counter and starts
hacking at my neck with a cleaver. Oh! The nice receptionist has come to keep me
company. Nothing to eat or drink. Beefy wont like that. These catering contracts are
knife-edged affairs. She’ll force feed the old girl her apple crumble leftovers. She’s
just staring out at the car park. Must be waiting for a pick up. She’s obviously a
decent woman but she’s lapsed at some point. Every time I try an early morning smile
she averts her gaze. It was probably some young chap twenty years ago. She was
hitting her sexual peak and he hit on her. Unfortunate timing. It’s ancient history now.
Looks like her chauffeur’s arrived. Will it be the man she wanted or the man she
married. That morning gaze…it must be the man she married. No hurry there. May as
well finish it for him. Waste not want not. He only nibbled at it. It’s the quiet ones
you have to watch.
Working writers must reach the point of no return where their desire to write
overpowers their need to do a real job with real people. The poor sods must pass
through a purgatory phase when they doubt their ability to survive in the Land of
Work and the Land of Letters. Colleagues probably try to help by nudging them out.
I’m surprised the old school writers got jobs at all. Mad, staring eyes don’t make a
good impression on interviewers. Boggliness suggests a disregard for the Customer
Service ethic. James Joyce wouldn’t have come over very well at interviews. A young
Dickens may have scraped through but the one on the back of the tenner wouldn’t
have even got to the interview stage. His application form would have reeked of
egomania. The early photos show a foppish, fresh faced chap but the later ones make
him look unashamedly bonkers. He couldn’t help it I suppose. He worked too hard
and thought too much. Maybe he thought that he was doing the thinking for
everybody else.
Graham enters his office and gets something off his chest.
“Dress code, Chas, what’s happened to the dress code? That loud typist is wearing
harlequin leggings and high heels…pink ones! Leaving aside the company rules
you’ve still got a crime against good taste.”
“Ring Karl,” said Chas without looking up from his paper work.
Thanks for the informative message, Chas: ‘Ring Karl’. Does he want to check
some figures? Does he want to discuss Russian Literature? Does he want to shag my
wife?
Graham rings Karl who wants some figures at very short notice. Graham can’t
deliver even though Karl says the figures are for his boss, Bill.
I’m supposed to be doing something…nothing listed in the old diary. What the
Hell was it? I’d better start winding down. It’s only minor shaking. Some of my best
performances were aided by hand trembles. I’m still in control of my adrenalin. I may
not have the ability to fine-tune it anymore but I can still control the flow. Trade-offs.
The writing hasn’t helped. Inspiration comes in little bursts that don’t make a lot of
sense. I’ve ignored a lot of it. I don’t want to keep getting a notebook out. Only a
complete tosser gets his out in public. Good ideas stick in the brain. You don’t have
to write the bloody things down: ‘What was that perception-changing I had at the
urinal?’ Maybe a bad memory makes a good editor.
“Chas, before you rush off can you remember if I asked you to remind me about
something?” said Graham.
“No. if you can’t remember it then it couldn’t have been important,” said Chas.
“You’re right. I’ll see you tomorrow.”
Graham is working late. At six o’clock the office cleaner arrives.
“You can leave my bin for today. There are just a few bits of tangerine in there,”
said Graham. As the cleaner starts spraying Chas’s desk with furniture polish,
Graham looks around and notices her shoes.
What has she got on? A cross between a ballet shoe and an army boot. Bizarre…
I’m beginning to wonder if I’ve got some sort of shoe fetish! Suzy had tiny, tiny feet.
She was pragmatic when it came to shoes. Low heels for the snow, high heels for the
heat. The highest were reserved for the hottest. I loved the days she hated; the ones
when the customers had better things to do than haggle over household appliances.
We had different reasons for glaring at the bare, sun-scorched legs that passed our
retail cave. To her it was lost revenue but to me it was lost pussy. I should have
chased of that instead. Suzy demolished the theory that men are turned on by the high
heel wearer’s vulnerability. Every thud of her heel sounded like a countdown to a
homicide. If there was any killing to be done she’d be the one with her hand on the
knife. Our manager never put his foot down. He’d let her wear anything as long as it
didn’t threaten our turnover…fuck this for a game of soldiers I’m going home.
Graham is half way home. He stops at a Pelican crossing.
Pelican on red but nobody around. Bloody kids pushing the button and running
away. They’re probably hiding behind the recycling bins…yeah, there’s one.
“Bring back child labour!” shouted Graham.
The impish little boy starts to dance.
You can do a little victory jig now but you’ll be paying for my state pension when
you’re my bloody age. The private pensions companies should feature a leprechaun
like him in there adverts as a warning. Profits would soar. If I wasn’t so tired I’d drive
back and jam the bugger’s head in the bottle-bank flaps. Perhaps not. If things don’t
go as planned I might need his tax revenue in thirty years time. I would be stupid to
slash my own safety net even if he does give me the ‘V’ sign while doing an Irish jig.
The cheeky sod can’t dance to his own tune for the rest of his life. Let him dance for a
while.

Graham is home and trying to relax on the bed.


Let the stress go…let it gooooooo. Relaxation exercise or foetus position? Christ,
I can’t even decide how to relax!
Kath has left her racy paperback at the side of the bed. Graham starts flicking
through it.
She’s left it out. It might recharge my batteries. Where’s she up to? No bookmark.
She doesn’t need one. She knows it word for word. It’s her equivalent of a mediaeval
scholar’s text. This part has been given a damn good seeing to; it’s even more dog-
eared than the rest. What have we got here? Blah-blah-blah. Description-description-
description. Build up-build up-build up. Aaaah, this is it. Showtime:
‘Maxton continued to soap himself down unaware that Beatrice was perusing his
silhouette through the frosted glass of the shower cubicle. As his figure gyrated,
shrouded in steam, Beatrice’s anxiety about her business trip evaporated and she
focussed on her reward. She undressed quietly, her eyes fixed firmly on the prize. As
her moist, scarlet thong fell to the floor she paused, breathless for a second as Maxton
began to lovingly soap his manhood. It just hangs there: poised, potent, and
powerful…Beatrice was born to bring it to life.’
Blimey! No wonder this chapter is well-thumbed. I could do with some of this
myself. Does the whole novel take the woman’s perspective? I’d better finish this
chapter before I analyse the whole thing:
‘…soap his manhood. His hand traced circles around he pubes then he carefully
lifted his huge cock to get at his scrotum. Beatrice, now naked, peered in at the
delicate manoeuvre. Maxton spun around to let the jets of water cleanse his loins.
Beatrice’s lips trembled at the sound of cock hitting thigh. She sidled over to the
cubicle, suddenly aware of her raunchy aroma after an exhausting Concorde flight
from New York. The water jets stopped. Beatrice froze as the shower door swung
open. But Maxton had only bumped it open with his buttocks and was busy collecting
his shower gel. He heard Beatrice’s rasping, animal-like breaths and turned around,
startled. He gazed at her taught but yielding body and waited for her to make the first
move. Beatrice was transfixed by the droplets trickling down Maxton’s well sculpted
stomach muscles. She focussed on a droplet tracing a path down his hardening cock.
Slowly, slowly, inch by glorious inch it made its way down to the weighty tip. Having
watched the droplet’s long, long journey Beatrice made her easiest decision of the
day. She decided to kneel down and let her tongue…’
Kath entered the bedroom. She stood with her hands on her hips and stared at
Graham.
“How, how was work today, Kath?” said Graham.
“Same as usual. What do think of my book?” said Kath.
“I was just skimming through it. Research. Content analysis. Woman’s
perspective. Have you eaten much today? You’re losing weight. Can I borrow this? I
might pick up a few tricks of the trade.”
Are you going to be writing love scenes?”
“You never know. It’s just an exercise.”
“Tragedy or comedy?”
“It might be serious, it might be funny.”
“It might be crap.”
“Thanks for the warm words of encouragement.”

Chapter 6

Graham isn’t feeling very well. He decides to go and sit in the park near the office at
lunch time. He is about to completely misunderstand the meaning of ‘divine flatus’
which actually means inspiration.
I’m nowhere near hungry. Just bilious. There’s no room down there for food. It’s
full of gas. If I did swallow anything it would just hover on a bed of wind. I’d be
laughing if I was a poet; I could call it my ‘divine flatus’, my divine wind. Only a
bunch of poets could come up with the idea that flatulence is a source of inspiration.
If I sat farting away on a park bench all day then even I could come up with
something reasonably poetic.
There are a few joggers doing laps of the park. Graham watches as one pads past
him.
Nike trainers and big tits. Very nice…this fresh air is doing me no good
whatsoever. It only serves to highlight my sickliness. It’s giving me the shivers. The
blood vessels in my mouth are expanding. They’re throbbing like crazy. I can always
chew on one of them if my appetite comes back. Emergency rations. When one end
of the alimentary canal starts playing up then its not long before the other starts
harmonizing. I feel like curling up while there’s nobody around, pull my hood up and
fuck everybody else for ten minutes…a farty dog. They rarely walk alone. The
minder must be around somewhere. Wagner’s dog must have been a canine saint to
put up with him. Even he ran away in the end. Sensible dogs don’t tolerate artistic
temperaments. Writers have to stick with their cats. They don’t demand unconditional
love. They’ll perch on your head during boring interviews. Here she comes…don’t
stare at me old girl. Nosy cow. She must think I’m some sort of anti-dogshit
campaigner doing covert surveillance. I’ve never fully understood the concept of pets.

Graham is back at the office. He plods through the reception area. He is trying to get
the nice receptionist to acknowledge him.
Make eye-contact with her this time. She’s only pretending to work.
“Hello there,” said Graham.
Still nothing. She saw me coming. What’s she afraid of seeing? The eyes of an
old lover? God only knows what women remember. Their memories probably retain
the sort of stuff that men can’t even perceive. Most of the stuff they’re lumbered with
probably can’t be translated into a piece of published property. What if their
memories rely on odours? Then they would really be in the literary shit. There’s not
much narrative vigour in long descriptions of how he smelt or she smelt. Poor girls.
There’s not much mileage in a memory full of cross-referenced smells. Maybe I just
smell like the receptionist’s long lost lover.
Graham bumps into Chas in the corridor.
“Are you coming or going?” said Graham.
“I’m bloody well going home. I feel terrible,” said Chas.
“I don’t feel one hundred per cent myself.”
“Did you have the tagliatelle?”
“No. I didn’t have anything. It might be some sort of bug going around. I’ll see you
when I see you.”
This scenario has got its pluses and minuses. I can relax without him but on the
other hand I could get roped into covering his duties. The phone will be a pain in the arse.
A few years ago I would have been having orgasms at the thought of an opportunity like
this. There’s the extra responsibility; the autonomy; the chance to make a colleague look
bad during his absence. I’ve already wasted ten minutes thinking about it. I nearly felt
sorry for him. He looked like death warmed up. All the reading about writing has twisted
my priorities. Its messed up my instincts. I’ve started thinking too much instead of acting.
I’m pondering everything. It’s gone. It would be hard going back to being a total
philistine just so I can thoughtlessly screw my colleagues. Nobody will notice. The
bottom-line won’t notice that I’ve lost my edge. Profits won’t suffer in the short run. I’m
turning into a Stress Spotter’s check list. The old fingernails are going ragged round the
edges. I know one thing for sure. I’m not fully stressed yet. It’s like madness if you think
you’re going mad then you can’t be truly mad yet. You have to wait until somebody says:
‘Look son, you’re as mad as a fucking hatter. Get some help.’ I’m on the cusp. I’m in the
grey area where I’d have to put on a bit of an act in order to get people to notice that I’m
floundering. If I had something old fashioned like scurvy then Bill could just throw a few
oranges at me and that would be that. I can’t ask him to inspect my fingernails and gums.
I’ll have to drag myself around the office like the walking wounded. If he barged in now
I’d have to pretend that I’m on top of the job.
“Everybody up ‘n’ at emmmmm!”
Suffer in silence. Take it like a man. Now, priorities: done that…that one can wait
until next week…that one isn’t even mine…this one will do. A couple of phone calls and
I’ll be laughing. They are trying it on. They probably already know that they’ve cocked it
up. They’re probably just sitting around and waiting for me to send it back. I won’t be too
hard on them. It looks like a Friday afternoon special to me. Just let them know that I can
still spot a corner cutter when I see one.
Embellahrbedumble…Arubelahdar.
Bloody doorstep mumblers. It’s probably two of the open-plan mob plotting
something or other. They have to use either the corridors or the toilets if they want to
conspire in peace.
Ballahmeelah…Burbikahbburmall.
Fuck off, bastards. Get back to your hutches! If Franz Kafka walked in now I’d
kick his arse back out again. He’s cornered the office-paranoia market. How can I write
about ‘what I know’ when its already been written? It’s been done by the best, the worst
and everyone in between.
Anerbeleebumah…Bollirumbaire.
By rights I should go out and give them a good bollocking. The harshest
punishment would be to invite them in here. It’s miasmic. It reeks of dodgy tagliatelle
and stress. An Environmental Health Officer would instruct us to put up warning signs…
good. They’ve gone back to their hutches.
A very gloomy aura enveloped Graham. It was a blend of tedium, shame and
futility; the sort of atmosphere that clings to sex-shops on a Sunday afternoon.
I’d snuggle up to a cat if there was one around. We could do with an office cat. It
would be a calming influence. Personnel would have to vet it properly. The wrong type
of cat would do more harm than good. It would end up being another pawn in the game
of office politics. Everybody would be vying for its attention. I reckon it would side with
Bill on all the substantive issues. I’m tired, irritable, depressed, and alone. In theory I
should be writing something good. The conditions are ideal on paper…it’s getting like a
jungle in here. Sod the office cat; we need a fucking ocelot in here.
Graham is off home. He is walking to his car when a colleague from the Finance
Department, Malc the Calc, calls him over. Malc has deep creases in his pants that radiate
from his crotch area. They chat for a while then Linda glides past them on the way to her
car. Graham and Malc appraise her favourably and get a whiff of her perfume. She’s
moving well, covering the ground without much effort. Graham is particularly transfixed.
“If she hasn’t given you one by now then she never will,” said Malc. He pauses
for a few seconds. His face screws up and reddens. His eyes narrow and he releases the
thought that he’s been wrestling to control:
“I bet she appreciates a big one.” Graham nods in agreement and sets off for his
car. Malc strides purposefully away, his head down. His disembodied lustiness streams
out:
“I’d fill her shitter right up,” he mutters between clenched teeth. He drops his car
keys. Some of the coloured pens he keeps in his jacket’s breast pocket fall on the ground:
“Fuck off!” said Malc. It’s sometimes hard to tell who the “her” is that he wants
to have sex with. He might mean Linda but it could also be a woman he saw on the telly
last night. His lust is reassuringly non-specific. Malc the Calc is licensed to talk dirty on
behalf of the whole organisation. His strongest lustful utterances are reserved for men but
now and again he declares something outrageous within earshot of women.
The three colleagues get in their cars and quickly leave the car park. They travel
in a small convoy until they reach the traffic lights then they go their separate ways.

Chapter 7
Give the little darlings an extra ten minutes. Little darlings? Grumpy and ridiculously
Grumpy. They’re worse than me in the mornings. Snow White can rouse them on her
own this morning. Some petty non-cooperation will get her thinking about the long-term.
I’ve kept up the old procedures even though I’m camped out in here. There are bound to
be Questions in The House pretty soon: ‘Will the Honourable Member for the Enchanted
Forrest please explain why Prince Charming is kipping in a sleeping bag in the spare
bedroom and looking like shit these days?’ Our little Grumpies must have spotted
something by now. We’ll have to come up with some sort of response…she’s ill? I’m ill.
We’re both ill. Damage limitation. By rights I should be enjoying a semi-conscious
dalliance with my esteemed wife. Nothing special, just some mild physical contact.
Nothing climactic. I couldn’t sustain full sexual contact if I tried…he’s not cooperating at
all. He’s sucked himself in like a sea anemone under attack. He’ll only come out again
when the all-clear has sounded. He’ll feel better when I’ve regained my composure. It’s
not his fault. I’m the one who let the stress accumulate. You can’t expect your cock to
start intervening with pithy arguments for taking it easy in the Land of Work.
At least I’ve got a cell of my own. It’s about the right time to slop out and wash.
Forget the wash. I’ll get away with a veneer of deodorant…I feel like death. I’d just keel
over and let Nature take its course if I had more room. I can’t even focus properly. It’s
like a booze less hangover…a shaft of light from the inner sanctum. My goddess is
awake! I’ll have to marshal my resources, save some energy. Ablutions can be cut back
without much pain…it feels like a fucking mortuary in here. It’s only a few blue tiles that
save it from the truly macabre. Give the teeth a miss. Nobody will notice as long as they
keep their distance. I can always suck on a mint if there’s an emergency. Supermodels
can be pretty insistent about dental hygiene…Kath hasn’t renewed the tooth brushes.
They look suspiciously like the ones that Felix tried to flush down the toilet. I deserve
better than her. Maybe not a Supermodel but something different.
I can’t shirk on shaving again. I’ve been having quickies all week.
SpoooOooortzs…SssssherkaarrRee.
The buggering foam is running out on me.
Spertz…Tze-tZe-tze.
If I ration it out and spread it thinly I can at least do the bits people can see. My
hands aren’t steady enough for the tricky knobs and crevices anyway. I used to shave
with one hand and brush my teeth with the other. I could rely on instinct back then. This
isn’t a moment for heroics…oh! There he is. Graham Randall the local hunter-gatherer. A
quivering, semi-naked snapshot of despair…Linda? Why do I let them infiltrate me? I’m
getting too old for this. This is nothing to do with me. Speculation breeds infatuation—
“You’ve got two minutes to get ready, Zoe,” said Graham.
Sod the tie. I’ll put it on when I’m stuck in traffic. There’ll be plenty of time at
Junction four. There’s enough time to work out the origins of the cosmos near there…the
old tie could do with a wash. God, why didn’t anybody tell me about the stains? I’ve been
trying to seduce a vegetarian with chunks of lamb all over my symbolic penis. It’ll have
to do for today. I’m not risking a visit to Kath’s inner sanctum. Just chip off the big bits
and let the smaller ones mingle with the pattern. They give it a bit of character, actually.
A bit of body.
“Dad, I can’t find my other Winnie-the-Pooh sock. I’ve only got dinosaurs,” said
Zoe holding up a sock for Graham’s scrutiny.
“Can’t you wear a pair of dinosaurs today?” said Graham.
“They’re for tomorrow. Today is Winnie-the-Pooh!”
“Okay, okay. I’ll ask your Mum.”
The goddess might not let me into her inner sanctum. Will she grant me an
audience?
“Kath, Zoe’s having another sock crisis,” said Graham.
“Tell her to put anything on,” said Kath.
“She’s not in the mood to compromise.”
“Try the washing basket.”
Graham starts rummaging in the basket but he can only find purple frogs, Scooby
Doo and dancing elves. He looses patience and tips the whole basket all over the floor.
“What the fuck are you doing?” said Kath.
“It was the practical option under the circumstances. I had to see a full week’s
strata of filth,” said Graham.
That’s the first time I’ve seen her knickers for three weeks. I’ll have to start
stealing her knickers off the washing-line if I want to get hold of a clean pair.
“I’ve got him! I’ve got Winnie. Kath, we’ll have to leave by half past six tonight.
The firework display starts at seven,” said Graham.
“Okay,” said Kath.
She’s overdoing the female war paint. She must be under pressure. I preferred it
when she just brought home the office-gossip. Now she’s started bringing home the
clinging anger.

Graham is locking up his car when Chas and Linda drive into the car park.
Now that’s a bizarre convoy. They must have got bunched up at the traffic lights.
The old troll leads the Fairy Princess through the mist.
Keeeeecht-Ike-Ike…Urrrrtcha-cheeech-chee.
Was that his reverse gear or did he back over a Hound from Hell? Is he going to
scramble out of his Trabant and hold open the door of the glittering carriage? I had a
feeling he wouldn’t. He’s scraping something off his raincoat instead. The Princess
should teach the ungallant peasant a lesson. A clout from her umbrella should do. Go on,
Linda, give him one from behind. Gold-chain shoulder straps are ideal for chastising
insolent minions…Chas isn’t moving too well. An eerie procession…the triumphant
Derby horse is being led into the Winner’s Enclosure by a clapped out old pit pony. He’s
not too sick to banter with the office crumpet. She’s cheered him up. She’s put some
colour in his cheeks. The crafty old sod went for the sympathy vote and got it. She’s had
enough of him. Linda can’t trundle along at his pace when the Winning Post is in sight.
She’s off! I had a feeling she was a Burberry Girl; All-raincoat-and-no-knickers. She’s
having a black trouser-day. Linda must be the only woman capable of tempting the old
sea anemone out of his hiding place at the moment. A statue carved out of a solid block
of oestrogen.
It’s mid-morning and Chas has been out of his office for awhile.
I can’t begrudge an extended walkabout to a man in his condition. He’s probably
upstairs trying to get some more sympathy votes from his fancy woman. Poor old sod. I
nearly felt sorry for him this morning. If it wasn’t for the lift I would have had to carry
him up here. But he’s still the old Chazzer. I’ve still got to watch my back. If his IQ
matched his Low Cunning Quotient he’d be the cleverest bloke in Britain. Beware the
wounded animal.

Graham is grabbing a quick sandwich in the canteen before he goes shopping for a new
tie.
The typists are in rollicking form today. I’ll sit nearby and collect some material.
If they carry on at that volume I won’t need to sit next to them. I could still hear them in
Aberdeen. I wish they’d stop the simultaneous babble. I can’t steal bits of their
conversation if they’re talking too fast. It’s their own private little typist’s language. I
don’t know why they bother with the words when most of the important information is
passing from eye-to-eye…amazing eye contact. If I gazed at Chas like that he’d think I’d
want to shag him. These girls don’t need speech. It’s just lung exercise for them. The
skinny one looks telepathic. She’s absorbing four conversations at the same time.
Language is just a rusty old tool to this lot. They’ve had keyhole surgery for years while
we’ve been hacking away at words with saws and cleavers. Collecting the bits that we
can hammer into the shape of a novel. We’ve still got the blood stained bandages hanging
outside the shop. No wonder they are under represented in the Nobel Prize malarkey.
Male Nobel Prize winners spend lifetimes cobbling together information that women can
condense and share in the blink of an eye. All women writers deserve a Nobel for even
bothering with the written word. I’m sure they only use it to patronise us. It’s only the
challenge that keeps us going.
They keep each other in line with eye contact alone. If one of the girls looks like
she’s about to spiral into a bout of obsessive love then all it takes is a glance from one of
her sisters and that puts the mockers on the situation. Their effortless intimacy worries
me. Sat there in a telepathic little huddle. The essence of the story is passing from eye-to-
eye. The good bits; the bits we can’t translate…it’s no use giving me dirty looks, girl. I’m
one of the boys trying to work out how you lot operate. It’s only the analytical, macho
bullshit that keeps us going. In a world without force you’d have us for breakfast. Post
room Pat will save me from the Paranormal Sisters…you sodding traitor! Sit on your own
if you like but don’t come crying to me when women start kicking male-ass for the fun of
it. We should be sticking together you greedy bastard. Looks like you’ve been getting
preferential treatment on the portions front. You know what side your bread is buttered
on don’t you?
Graham is in the men’s wear shop near the office. He’s getting a new tie; a cheap
one.
Looks like they’ve filled the bargain-bin with last season’s designs. It’s a toss up
between horizontal stripes and big red commas…what the hell is that? It looks like a
mathematician’s nightmare. No wonder it’s in here. Ninety-nine pence. I like the sound
of that. Mind you, the costs outweigh the benefits. I can’t walk around the office with all
that stuff on the big old symbolic penis: Dollar signs, Pound signs, square roots, infinity.
The designer must have felt guilty about failing her ‘O’ Level Maths. She’s left out
Pythagoras. No wonder she failed. What’s the point of buy a mathematical novelty tie
without that…I’m not sure about that symbol. It looks like half-way to infinity. Come off
it, Graham! Stop thinking like a writer. There’s no such thing as half-way to infinity. It
must be a new symbol. If I persevere with the writing I’ll have difficulty distinguishing
between a plus and a minus. She’s got one thing right. Pi to a thousand decimal places
snaking around it. With a bit more thought she could have had a double helix. Some
strands of DNA would have given it a bit more scientific weight. It would have been
good business too. Every male scientist in the country would have paid good money to
have some DNA wrapped around his symbolic cock. I’ll stick with the diagonal stripes. It
says: ‘Steady as she goes. You’re safe in my hands, Madam.’ God knows what the red
commas say: ‘I failed ‘O’ Level English as well,’ probably…I’m under surveillance. That
Sales Assistant is mistaken. I’m hardly going to charge out of the store with a handful of
the cheapest ties in town, am I? Poor training and no common sense. While she’s
watching me somebody else could be shoving a calf-length leather jacket up his jumper.
Maybe she fancies me. She’s probably the type who is attracted to men who look
completely wrecked by lunchtime. It must be the crumpled suit, the open-necked shirt,
the gripey look on my face. She probably wants to put me over her shoulder and get my
wind up. I don’t mind as long as she doesn’t complain if I bring up my tuna and sweet
corn sandwich all over her shoulder. She’s either weighing me up as a possible mate or a
possible shoplifter.
Graham is in the washroom at the office. He’s a little bit delusional.
I’m definitely on the come-back trail. My hand-eye coordination is trickling back.
This tie doesn’t deserve this knot. A perfect Windsor. No need for cubicles either. I’m
eighty per cent fit from top to bottom. I’m back. I may be wearing a cheapo tie but I’m
back. I’m a bit crumpled but I could give the City boys a run for their money. They look
like this when the stock market is crashing around they’re ears…I look like a corpse. My
tie looks better than me and it only cost ninety-nine pence. The hands are still trembling a
bit. This isn’t proper stress yet. Serious stress is a private affliction. The last time I
thought I was falling to pieces I didn’t tell anybody about it. The people who go about
complaining about stress all the time are the ones who are immune to the big breakdown.
The genuine stress merchants just sit around quietly until they get an opportunity to make
a grand gesture like poisoning all the potted plants or pissing all over the Fax machine. I
was lucky the last time. I didn’t give them the chance to get anything on paper about me.
I returned to the Land of the Living just in time.
Graham is back at his desk. He hasn’t got much to do so he begins thinking about
writing in general. All of a sudden he gets an idea. He writes it down on the back of an
old memo: ‘Writers are no longer in a position to make heroic sacrifices. Their sacrifices
are mundane. The worst they can do is drink themselves to death. They don’t even get
much credit for achieving that anymore.’ Is that it? That’s it. What use is that to me?
These bits of ‘inspiration’ are getting on my nerves. It’s too analytical. I need to get some
peace and quiet then let it flow…maybe I just haven’t paid my dues yet; no pain, no gain.
But how much pain do you have to go through before you start getting some real results
down on paper? Surely my Pain Bank has got more credits than those few words about
sacrifices. If creativity goes hand in hand with intense pain then I don’t fancy it. What is
in my Pain Bank? Suzy’s in there. She was obviously a significant event but she doesn’t
deserve all the attention. There’s a perverse memory logic that leads me back to her. Her
name will always feature in my Pain Bank statements. It’s just as well that I didn’t
request a Statement when the ridiculous scenario happened. Page after page of “Susan
Moon.” Is she a debit or a credit? Damn! I can’t even sort out my own metaphors. What
ever she is, or was, she’s certainly writ horribly large but the passage of time is gradually
erasing her name on my behalf. When it happened she was there all the bloody time. I
don’t need a crappy little story to finish her off. The Suzy-logic has lost most of its
power. I’m not running the risk of letting it recharge its batteries.
Therapeutic writing is for mediocrities that can’t wait to get it all out in the open.
Selfish buggers. They’re emotional mercenaries. They’ll use anyone and anything in
order to fill their daily word quota. If that lot formed a multinational corporation they
would get a massive fine for criminal exploitation of the national resources. Don’t they
ever think of conserving some of the characters they meet? The whole lot can’t be up for
grabs. You’ve got to leave some of them alone even if they seem like a gift from the
gods. I could re-enact the Suzy scenario if I tried hard enough but it wouldn’t be
creativity; it would be a form of therapy. Anybody who is happy to regurgitate his life in
the raw is branding themselves as a mediocrity. The letters on their forehead would be so
huge that you would have to take a trip on the Space Shuttle in order to see them. If I was
a mediocre writer I’d just let my marriage collapse so I could have something to write
about. The good ones can make it up but the bad ones fuck people about for the fun of it.
What sort of woman marries a writer? I can understand the sex but actually marrying
one? At least they know what they’re getting. What about the poor bastards who marry
female writers? I really pity that lot. They must trick the saintly blokes into marrying
them by keeping their creativity quiet. The poor bloke thinks he’s got a batty bitch who
wont give him much trouble until one day he wakes up and she’s got a higher social
status, a bigger earning potential, and a bit on the side.

Graham is picking up the kids from his mother-in-law’s house. Ann sometimes picks
them up from school.
Ann must know what’s been bothering Kath. She must know something. Her
maternal antennae should have picked something up by now. They don’t have to discuss
it openly. I need a decoder that deciphers the non-verbal stuff that passes between those
two. Something that prints out raw, hard data. I’ve got no need for the soft stuff. I can’t
understand it or write about it. Maybe Kath hasn’t had chance to translate her problem
into a language I can grasp. A faxed memo would do me. I’m not demanding a well
argued Report with full supporting evidence.
Felix and Zoe burst through the front door carrying their coats and school
paraphernalia. Felix is clutching his remarkably accurate painting of a hippo. They pile
into the car while Graham chats briefly to Ann. Graham joins the kids in the car.
There was a hint of pity in her eyes but it might have been at the thought of me
having to control Felix for the rest of the evening. I don’t think she was leaking a
paragraph from Kath’s Report. If that was part of the main body then I don’t want to see
the supporting detail. She can save that stuff for the Appendix. All I need is the
Conclusions.
Graham and the kids have arrived home. Felix goes straight through to the kitchen
and places his master work on the fridge door with a magnet so his Mum can see it.
Graham is pondering the role his kids play.
They don’t know how important they are. If they really understood their power
they would be even more insufferable. Squabbling over colouring books wouldn’t be
enough. They’ll be hiring their own lawyers and negotiating for slices of my property.
It’s Kath’s strategy of silence that is doing most of the damage. Information is power.
She knows I haven’t got a counter-strategy. I’ve got one for her verbal jabs, the outright
mockery and all the others but not silence. A few arguments would be welcome. It would
give us something to do until the solicitors move in. if it wasn’t for their demands for
something on paper then we would probably just quietly divide like embryo cells. A tacit
agreement. No drama. Just silence. My only option is damage limitation. A mediocre
writer would love this scenario. He would have multiple orgasms at the thought of a
couple silently consenting to marital disintegration. Kath would have to be the villain of
the piece. She’s the catalyst. She knocked over the first domino. If there is a root cause
then only she can put a name to it. There’s not much drama in silence. Turning a blind
eye doesn’t put bums on West End seats. A dramatist would be asking: ‘What does your
protagonist want from this scene?’ He’d have to ask Kath. I want some peace and quiet
for a couple of days. Dramatists want a cause. Lawyers want a cause. Something they can
name. Kath would call it ‘Graham’ but I’m fighting to save it by doing bugger all.
Graham and the kids are preparing to light the November the fifth bonfire.
I’ll need plenty of paper to get it started. The pile in the study should do it.
“You’ll have to help me out, kids. We’re behind schedule. Can you get yourselves
changed? You’re in charge, Zoe,” said Graham.
“Mum should be doing this,” said Zoe.
“Yeah, but Mum isn’t here is she? Just do your best: jeans, jumpers, and
wellies,”said Graham.
Graham goes to the study in order to find some burnable paper. He peruses some
of his ‘inspirations’.
This stuff can go…midnight ramblings, bullshit, uninspired brainstorming, and
more bullshit.
Graham comes across Kath’s racy paperback.
This thing is definitely going. She’s forgotten that I borrowed it—“Beatrice
slowly lowered herself onto Maxton’s rampant…” Kath won’t miss it. Torch as much as
you can.
Graham and the kids are in the back garden. The kids are giddy and talking at the
same time.
“Okay, okay. Calm down. We’ve got to build it properly or it will fall down. You
can roll up the old newspapers into balls for me. Do as much as you can,” said Graham.
I don’t know why I’m lugging all this down the garden. I should have left it in the
shed and burned it on site. There’s nothing in it worth saving and the shed’s expendable.
“That should be enough. One more load and we should be ready—I’ve forgotten
the Guy!” said Graham.
“He’s under the stairs. Mum did him,” said Zoe.
“Go and get him then,” said Graham.
Well done, Kath. Thinking ahead for a change. She must be in a big meeting. I’d
better ring her to check what’s happening.
Zoe arrives with the Guy.
“I won’t be long. I’m just going to—hang on. I’m not burning him. He’s wearing
my favourite jeans! I’ll sacrifice the washed-out sweatshirt but not the trousers. Give him
to me. I’ll go and get a different pair,” said Graham.
I’ll have to take him inside. I’m not stripping him out here. He’s a hefty sod…this
is the closest I’ve got to an embrace for weeks. I won’t bother ringing Kath. The
vindictive cow can stay away for as long as she wants. She knows that I’m attached to
these jeans. Only Kath would have shoved a rolled up Cosmopolitan down his crotch.
Kath’s got loads of favourite trousers that I could have accidentally burned but I’m not
sinking to her level. My ragged arsed tracksuit bottoms should do. He’ll go up like a
dream. He’s got six weeks of old newspapers in him.
Graham is lighting the bonfire. He sees the paperback and has second thoughts.
Pull it out. I can’t burn a book. It doesn’t matter how much I hate it. A last minute
reprieve. Beatrice can gorge on Maxton for as long as she likes. “Beatrice flexed
again…” did she really. Lucky woman. I think it’s time to get the sparklers out.
“Keep away from the fire, Felix. Come on, I’m opening the Sparklers.”
This book is ancient. £3.99. pretty good value for money if it helped us when I
was making all the running and Kath wasn’t up for it. It’s the catalyst for one of the
Sparkler wavers.
“Keep an eye on him for me, Zoe.”
They’ve not even noticed that Mommie dearest hasn’t arrived yet. But I can’t put
a show on like this every day. They’ll notice eventually. How would they cope with
permanent team changes? He’s trying to write his name in the darkness…conducting an
invisible orchestra—the silly sod’s dropped his baton…
“Leave it there! I’ll light you up another. Just let it fizzle out.”
Graham’s next-door neighbour’s many cats are perched on the window ledge
enjoying the bonfire.
They’re loving it. I’ve never seen them all in one place before. That’s one hell of
a cat food bill. Thucydides the milk sprinkling stud has seen it all before. He must resent
the Bonfire night curfew. He would rather be out and about increasing the kitten
population. Maybe Van Gogh the one eared cat is their Dad. Either way it’s a dodgy
pedigree: one likes spitting at passers by and the other loves pissing on my milk…I’ve
lost my bottle. I’ve done my bit for the gene-pool. I couldn’t start from scratch without a
long holiday. Not a raw woman; not another one like Kath.
“Dad, I’ve hurt my finger,” said Felix.
“I told you to be careful. What is it, a splinter?”
“No. One of those armadillo things bit me.”
“Felix listen, if an armadillo bit you then you’d know about it. Those things are
woodlice and they don’t have teeth…there’s nothing there. Just run it under the tap when
we get in.”
Kath’s changed me more than I would admit to. She’s built me up and knocked
me down. If the root cause was something changeable she would have done it without all
this hassle. I don’t want another Kath. I don’t need some Kath-clone taking a shine to me.
I’ll have to bash myself into my old shape. I might have more luck in the second hand
market with the Mk I version. What if nobody wants to test drive the Mk II version? I
may not be a write-off but she’ll notice the damage if she gets a close look. The next one
will have to assess the damage she’s done. It wouldn’t be fair on the next one if I didn’t
make some readjustments. She deserves to know what she’s getting. I don’t want her
falling for the changes Kath made. They may not last very long without Kath supervising
them. You can’t flog the Mk II to somebody and then swap it with the Mk I when she’s
not looking. I could end up like an unsellable second hand car; a right fucking lemon.
“Pull back, Felix…further back. Back to where Zoe is standing.”
Kath wouldn’t have gone armadillo on me if it was something she could change. I
would consider plastic surgery if she paid all the bills. Anything except penis
enlargement. I’m not letting somebody loose on my cock at the whim of a woman. I don’t
care how good the surgeon is. We could spend five per cent of the Gross National
Product on a penis enlargement and as soon as the anaesthetic was wearing off she would
tell us that she preferred the old one for its novelty value. It’s an instinctive fear and they
know it. They couldn’t wait to turn the weapon back on us. They jam it in right to the hilt.
We’ve got Nature on our side. If Mother Nature wanted big dicks across the board then
she would get big dicks across the board. Why is the average just five and a half inches?
There must be a reason for that length! I don’t give a toss. They can slap me around the
head with a twelve incher if they like. My fellah works, end of story. The proof is
dancing around the bonfire. It’s just revenge on their part.
“Make the fire bigger!” shouts Felix.
“There’s not much wood left,” said Graham.
“This is rubbish,” said Zoe.
“Okay, okay, I’ll have a look in the shed for some more wood,” said Graham.
Graham goes over to the shed and grapples with the door.
Sod it. This is neither use nor ornament—open up you bugger. The top edge flaps
in the breeze and the bottom scrapes the ground. I should rip it off and burn it. There’s
nothing in here worth saving. Most of this stuff would get left behind if we moved house.
The set of drawers can go…and the old clothes: old vests, dated dresses, baggy old
knickers, baggier old underpants. Chuck the drawers on then smash up the rest. Bloody
rubbish: punctured rubber dinghy, old car magazines, rusty push chair, plastic bike that
Felix refused to inherit. The shed itself is falling to pieces. I’ll have to torch the shed next
year…next year? There may not be a next year.
“Change of plans, kids. The shed is going up as well,” said Graham.
The kids start to do a victory jig at the thought of spontaneous destruction.
It won’t be difficult getting this lot going. Plenty of catalyst material.
Graham forms a mound of clothes and paper. He sets light to it.
“Get away. It’s going up fast. We’ll have to stand further back for this one. I’m
not sure what’s in there.” said Graham.
Mrs. Trevelyan, Graham’s neighbour appears at her window. She strokes one of
her cats and shakes her head in disbelief at the sight of the now roaring shed.
Graham Fawkes didn’t last long. He’s being upstaged by the shed. Kath will
understand. It wasn’t worth saving. I’ve killed at least two birds with one stone: I’ve
entertained the kids and next door’s cats as well as saving the cost of a skip. She’ll
appreciate the logic.
“When will Mum be back?” said Zoe.
“I don’t know. She might not be back in time for the big firework display. We can
save our fireworks for later if you like,” said Graham.
“Okay,” said the kids in solemn unison.
She can set the buggers off on her own. By the time we get back from the display
I will have had more than enough of fireworks and the kids…even the cats have had
enough. There’s only one left. Van Gogh is standing his ground.
Graham and the kids go to the public display. Graham doesn’t enjoy it. He’s
feeling very jaded. When they get home he goes straight in to see Kath who is lay on the
sofa with a glass of wine in her hand.
“I’m not setting off the fireworks. I’ve had enough. I’m going for a shower,” said
Graham.
“Fair enough,” said Kath.
I can’t imagine any writer, living or dead, who could have handled all this as well
as I have. They would have found some way of shirking off. Proust could just about
manage sitting around in his cork-lined room. He didn’t bother getting out of bed towards
the end. Not even the thought of a burly Parisian docker giving him a good hiding could
rouse the poor sod. I need a day off. I would be neither use nor ornament anyway…I’m
empty.
Graham hears some commotion in the back garden. He goes to the window and
sees Kath bending over some fireworks.
Three at once. She’s trying to get it over quickly. Why doesn’t she just stand the
biscuit tin in the middle of the lawn and chuck a match in it? Zoe knows she’s being
short-changed. I can tell from up here. Felix doesn’t give a toss as long as his rockets do
the business…I knew she would have trouble with it. She can handle the small stuff but
the instructions for Big Boy are a bit too technical for her. She could do with a Graham at
this point. Somebody who can grasp the point…she’s giving it a long, hard look. I could
at least hold the torch for her—bitch! She’s cracked it.
The rocket launches. Graham cranes his neck to see it explode. There are other
fireworks going off in the background. Kath looks up at the window and stares at
Graham. He closes the curtains and goes for his shower.
Chapter 8.

Marcel Proust didn’t have to curl up in a hamster’s nest on the floor until his wife and
kids had clattered out of the house in the morning. Sod off, Kath—
Kath pops her head in the study and sees Graham bundled up on the floor. She has
no sympathy for him whatsoever.
“Are you going in work today?” said Kath.
“Do I look like I’m going in today?” said Graham from under the Winnie-the-
Pooh duvet.
“Do you want me to ring in work and tell them you’re not coming in?”
“No, I’ll do it myself later,” said Graham.
Kath and the kids leave. The house falls silent.
She’s waiting for me to fill the gaps. She’ll have to wait. I’m not addressing big
issues sprawled on the floor wrapped in a bunch of cartoon characters. Things are bound
to get messy but I need some sort of formality. I’m not asking for an international
summit. All we need to do is get ourselves in the same place, in the same mood, and with
the same issues on the table. If she thinks I’m going to start negotiations with her
towering over me at eight o’clock in the morning she’s got another thing coming. If we
don’t get ourselves synchronised we’ll end up with a half-baked, tacit agreement. We’ll
stay together for the sake of the kids or something. Ninety-nine per cent of those old
couples who trundle around the supermarket probably agreed on a short-term
compromise. They end up moaning about the price of oranges in perfect harmony and
ganging-up on the check-out staff…I can hear myself throbbing. This silence is too
much. A moaning stomach and silent loins. On paper I’m in the sort of condition that
produces good writing. My lungs are letting me down; they’re just too health. I’ve got all
the ingredients but not the spark of creativity. I probably couldn’t even summon up an
original sexual fantasy…nothing. Not a dicky-bird. I would defy any writer, living or
dead, to come up with enough sleaze to invigorate this flaccid bastard. I could get a huge
discount on a sex-change operation. There’s hardly anything to do down there. All I need
now is some premature balding and I’ll be in fucking paradise. I could do with a short-
term measure. A wanks-worth will do. First things first. Ring in sick. I don’t want flashes
of Chas putting me off my stroke. I never did rise to the Fresh Sex Challenge. Describing
plausible shagging is harder than it looks. It must be a knack. You’ve either got it or you
haven’t. It’s like reciting your twelve times table in front of the class. If I managed to
write something to perk up Big Boy I’d be killing two birds with one stone…sod him.
I’m not building a whole day around a flaccid penis. I may be only sixty per cent fit but I
can achieve a hell of a lot more than a serviceable erection.
Graham writes a “To Do” list for the morning:

1. Ring Chas. ASAP


2. Breakfast. 9.00.
3. Wank. 9.30.
4. Write something.10.00
5. Put the washer on. 11.00.
6. Inspect remains of the shed. 11.15
7. Write something. 11.45.
8. Lunch. 12.30.

That’s given the morning a bit of structure! Good practice for being a house husband. It
would be ideal for a writer. Just get the kids through basic training and you would have
enough spare time to churn out at least five hundred words a day. Trollope wouldn’t have
bothered with the Civil Service if he’d had that option. I could cope with the drudgery
and isolation. Some women can’t. They end up looking like zombies and fantasizing
about big-cocked plumbers. The last thing Kath wants is a house husband; she’ll have the
house but not the husband.
Graham gets dressed and puts on his Union Flag T-shirt and his favourite jeans in
defiance of Kath’s attempt to burn them on the firework’s night guy. He rings Chas at
work and tells him he won’t be coming in today.
He sounded pretty perky. The old sod has probably been slagging me off to all
and sundry as a Friday slacker. He loves chipping away at people who can’t answer back.
Right, I can cross that off the list. What’s next on the agenda? Is it breakfast or a big-
cocked plumber fantasy? May as well put the washer on. Get it over with.
Graham decides to put his smelly jacket in the wash. He finds Kath’s racy
paperback that he salvaged from the bonfire in the pocket. He starts flicking through it
and comes to a dog-eared page.
Surely this is out of character. Beatrice wouldn’t be thinking womanly thoughts
so soon after a session with Mr. Very Important Penis. It would be a case of: ‘That’s one
big cock done with—send me in another.’ The novelists only put that womanly stuff in to
fill out the pages and reassure the male readers…this looks promising:
‘Beatrice felt the Vegas vibes flowing through her long, sun burnished legs. Her
stiletto heels became lightning conductors for the carnal electricity that flowed up from
the asphalt and filled the limousine.’
Very promising.
‘She gazed at the driver’s closely cropped hair but it was the elegant nape and
forceful shoulders that were eroding professionalism. The decision was swift and
conclusive; her next appointment would have to wait. The driver was well aware of
Beatrice’s stare but kept cruising down the Strip, content to let her make the first move.’
Lucky bastard!
‘Beatrice quickly concocted an excuse that was suitable for the corporation’s Vice
President waiting for her at the Landmark Hotel. It was now time to engineer the real
reason for her late arrival. In a single, deft manoeuvre she swung herself lengthways
across the seat and hitched up her skirt. She gazed at her trembling thighs as her silky,
peach coloured panties slid down. All the wispiness had left them; they were now hefty
with lust and expectation. With a gesture of quiet, shameless audacity she tossed them to
the front of the car. The silken comet sped past the driver’s head trailing molecules of
wantonness. But the driver reacted with the aplomb of a real professional and
unceremoniously removed the sex-soaked object from the instrument panel. A wide,
consenting smile was aimed right back at Beatrice.
“Where?”
“Any where,” Beatrice replied.
The Cadillac had an air of dignity as it quietly settled into a secluded area of the
parking lot. The driver made some final adjustments to the air-conditioning and shed the
restrictive uniform jacket before climbing into the back seat.
Beatrice was also well prepared. The mint green suit, worn especially to highlight
her English reserve, lay sprawled over the limo floor, another willing victim of Vegas.
The top of Beatrice’s agenda was obvious. She slid her buttocks beyond the edge of the
seat. Her fingers trailed a slow path to her calves. She buzzed with electricity that was
eager for release then a sudden surge forced her to grab both ankles and drag them
skyward. The driver swooped down through waves of fragrance and nuzzled down on
Beatrice like a curious dolphin. The mistress was content to peer down at the determined,
distracted head until it sent its own gripping distraction right through her. While one
pleasure sensing hand commuted between thigh and belly, the other peeled aside glossy,
crimson lips. Nuzzling became guzzling. Beatrice began grappling at the dutiful head,
relishing the contrast between the prickly auburn hair and granite-like contours. But the
tongue sustained its obedient service…”
Is all this really necessary? Why doesn’t the chauffer stop pretending to be the
carving of George Washington on Mount Rushmore and give her a good seeing to before
she goes cold on him? There’s duty and there’s duty. Knowing Beatrice she’ll probably
come like a steam train and then send him back to the driver’s seat with his tail between
his legs. Maybe he’s just leaning back on the ropes and playing for time. I hope he’s
doing better than me. He’ll have to dawdle downstairs if it’s only semi-erect:
‘The driver was forced back by the tide as Beatrice began to spume and spray.
“Deeper, Tanya,” said Beatrice.
Hang on a second—Tanya? Where did she spring from? I know that Maxton’s
probably stuck in London but there’s no need for all this! Poor sod. He was the ultimate
orgasm ten pages ago but now his girlfriend has gone from Big Cocks to No Cocks. It’s
my fault. I shouldn’t have flicked through so quickly. Skip a few pages of this stuff and
you can miss four separate shags, ten exotic positions, and three continents. If Big Boy
had known about the lesbian angle he might have stood a chance. He’s all confused now.
But all that splashing around in the limo should have done something no matter who was
the cause of it. I must be developing wanker’s block as well as writer’s block.
Graham puts the stuff in the washer. He notices Kath’s new knickers.
These are new. They look like a stripper’s knickers! Whose she trying to kid?
They’re way too small. Her only new knickers for a decade and I don’t get to see them on
her. Thanks a fucking lot, Kath.
Graham goes to the study and gets out his writing research folder which contains
the Suzy advert and some clippings about contemporary novelists from the Sunday
papers. He peruses the Suzy advert model for a while.
Big Boy’s got the message this time. He’s sensing danger. He’s sucked himself
right in like a petrified sea anemone. He should have done that the first time instead of
swaying about in the current with his head held high. It would have saved a lot of trouble.
Graham starts sorting through his bundle of ‘inspired’ ideas. It consists of scraps
of old memos, recycled envelopes and Post-it Notes. He decides to sort out all the Suzy
Bits into a bundle of their own. Having done this he starts skimming the contemporary
novelist article.
The photos are getting bigger every week. There’s hardly enough space for the
book reviews. If this is the sort of stuff that’s getting published then I’ve got no chance.
They don’t look like novelists. They look dangerously well-balanced. Ninety-nine per
cent sane, five per cent crazy. The Old Guard were the opposite. The poor sods probably
had to train themselves to be normal so that they could mingle with ordinary folk. That
lot deserved medals for just existing but the new lot could survive anywhere. They could
probably walk into some sort of media job…I can see her working in an advertising
agency. She can sell me a car I can’t afford any day of the week. I’d buy a used car off
any of them. I can’t compete with them. They’ve got the language. They’ve had it since
they were five years old. Early starters have got an escape route. Real people are just ‘real
people’ to them. Salty old codgers like Chas are just some raw material that they walk
away from at the end of the day. I’ve got to really work with the old sod. They’d be off as
soon as he started clacking his false teeth at them. He’ll be getting his Thermos flask out
about now and doing his Japanese tea ritual. As soon as he’s finished his ration he’ll be
off upstairs to see his fancy woman. He might pause in the corridor for a sly fart but then
he’ll spend the next quarter of an hour slagging me off to all and sundry. I can’t imagine
any of the old guard surviving in our job market. The cushy numbers have gone. Even the
Civil Service is keeping an eye out for skivers who do short stories when they’re
supposed to be processing claims. Old Anthony Trollope wouldn’t have got in if he
turned up for the interview wearing red stilettos and a leather mini-skirt. There’s no slack
in the system. It’s one hundred per cent or nothing. No wonder I’m having trouble.
Maybe I should have started off with bad poetry instead of bad prose. But thirty-two is a
funny age to start writing poetry. This is where all the early starters have got the edge on
me. They were allowed to purge themselves of their bad poetry during puberty. I was too
busy craning my neck to get a better view of the lingerie pages in a mail order catalogue.
While they were analysing Shakespearian sonnets I was studying Scandinavian corsets…
I’m fed up with this. I can’t even be bothered to have a wank!
Graham goes downstairs to make himself some coffee. He starts watching the
telly until lunch time. He has Heinz beans on toast and a big bar of Cadbury Dairy Milk
for his lunch and watches the news. His meal has made him drowsy so he goes upstairs to
have a nap. After suffering from fatigue and stress for a few weeks, Graham sleeps
soundly. He is woken late in the afternoon by the sound of Zoe and Felix laughing and
fighting when they get back from school. In the twilight zone between sleep and
wakefulness, Graham has a strong flashback to Suzy. These sorts of flashbacks happen
from time to time but he usually pushes them out of his mind. He could probably conjure
up a montage of them at will because they are so clear and persistent. He could almost
label them: Suzy High Heels, Suzy Smiling White Blouse, Suzy Frowning in winter. He
sees Suzy Bare Legs Day very clearly. This is the one where Suzy crouches down to
demonstrate a washing machine. Graham focuses on the ominous, frowning curve that
forms when Suzy’s thigh melds onto her calf muscle. A phrase springs into his mind: the
prize and the punishment in one glance. He gets up and goes to the study where he writes
it down and adds it to the Suzy bundle. He spreads out the fragments and starts sorting
and sifting them. He writes them all out on a page of A4 and comes to a discomforting
conclusion:
This looks suspiciously like a poem of sorts. I may as well knock it into some
shape.
He becomes totally engrossed in the shaping of the poem. An hour quickly passes
but he is oblivious to the passing of time. This is the most sustained period of
‘inspiration’ he’s ever had. As darkness falls, Graham switches on the desk lamp.
Kath enters the study holding a well-earned mug of tea; the kids are playing up:
they are cheerfully feeding off each other’s mischief and ganging up on her. Kath has
learned to sit in the eye of the storm and wait patiently until it blows itself out. Graham
doesn’t look up at Kath. She takes a sip of her tea and frowns; her sergeant-major’s brew,
strong and sweet, hits the mark. A few seconds of relief from the domestic monotony.
“What are you up to?” said Kath.
“Nothing much,” said Graham. Kath goes over to the window and stares into the
darkness.
“Felix wants a big rabbit.”
“Does he?”
“And Zoe wants a gerbil.”
“Oh, right.”
“She says she’ll look after it.”
“Yeah, but back in the real world,” said Graham. He comes up with a joke about
the house becoming a pet’s corner but he can’t be bothered sharing it with Kath. She
stopped laughing at his jokes some time ago. They only share a house. His attention drifts
back to the poem. Outside there seems to be two or more cats having a big fight. They are
not behaving like the smiling cartoon cats prancing on the side of Kath’s mug. Kath
stares at the full moon and thinks of her beloved…her one true love. She starts slowly
drawing on the condensation on the window. She draws a heart with an arrow through it.
She writes “K” and “D” on either side of the arrow shaft. As the cat battle rages below,
Kath swipes across the heart and closes the curtains. She wipes her soppy hand on her
thigh. The faded black denim absorbs the dampness. She stares at the engrossed Graham
for a while and then, wordless and loveless, she leaves the study. Graham doesn’t hear
the slamming door. Suzy, his beloved, bewitches him still. He’s writing the love-letter he
could never send.
6 November 1990.

The perverse memory-logic that always leads me back to you.


You’re always there…waiting, barely tangible,
But with a kick that stops me dead.
Seconds and minutes, dead in the water.
Grasping for some sense and gaping.
Many, many moons on but your memory-logic,
Is now losing its power.

Crafty eyes and sprightly legs.


You made the humdrum dangerous.
Your voice penetrated everything;
I was like a kid at his first concert.
Flirting in the lulls, your sharp ancient skills.
But rationing yourself to perfection.
Using your voice like a sniper:
You took me out.

It came from a place within that carried much weight.


My big mistake; forgetting you were made of flesh and blood.
When you crouched, the cross curve between calf and thigh:
The prize and the punishment in one glance.
I lost my right to a quiet finish,
In the end the bouncers chucked me out.
The climax of a quiet, mild, lumbering obsession.
Toby’s Little Eden
“In a garden one must never let up; once you do, Nature takes over and then you are
really in for trouble.” Field Marshall Montgomery, Homes and Garden, 1964 cited in
Neil Hamilton’s biography 1944-76, p934.

June.

The well-known actor leaving the Hampstead Theatre paused for a second and stared at
Toby Lovelock as he ambled past. Toby has a hearty yet melancholic presence that some
people regard as imposing. It is hot and humid so he is wearing knee length Nike cargo
shorts, a stripy blue Nike Tiger Woods polo shirt and Ray-Ban Wayfarer sunglasses. He
has the wide shoulders and long legs of a fast bowler. He tends to trudge along like an
exhausted bowler walking back to the start of his run up at the end of a long, hot spell.
On the rare occasions when Toby is in high spirits he has the pent up energy of a bowler
readying himself for the first ball of the day. Toby closely controls the rhythm, tempo,
and overall pace of his life. His torpor is very much his torpor alone. The dance of his life
has a shamelessly bourgeois tune. He picks his own music.
Toby goes into Swiss Cottage Library and starts to scan the biography shelves.
After browsing the collection of Kennedy family books, noticing the President wearing
Wayfarers in an iconic photo with his daughter Caroline, he climbs the spiral staircase to
the social sciences shelves above. He stares out of the window and down at the people
contributing to the lunch-time bustle of Finchley Road. Looking down on the people
gives Toby a small frisson of power; he doesn’t have to bustle anytime or anywhere if he
doesn’t want to.
Toby has gone to the library in order to get away from the house while Hannah,
his mother, is interviewing possible new housekeepers. Toby didn’t get on well with the
old housekeeper. They were really getting on each other’s nerves. She was a master of
the disapproving silence. She didn’t like the idea of Toby’s workless lifestyle. She won
the battle of silence but lost the war; she quit. During one of his paranoid moments Toby
wondered whether the housekeeper’s campaign of psychological warfare was sanctioned
by his mother. It prompted an oblique attempt by Toby to make sure that Hannah was
happy with his happily jobless life.
He gets the Tube back to Brondesbury Park near Kilburn. He scans his Moleskine
notebook on the journey home. He is planning an essay so it contains some key words
gleaned from a brainstorming session: “Nature always gives you a warning” and “Nature
never lies.” He peruses the note on ‘companion planting’ the idea that some plants thrive
when planted next to certain other plants. He wonders if he can use this to explain how
certain people get on with each other. He buys an early edition of The Evening Standard
and Private Eye at the Tube station’s kiosk. He turns into Christchurch Avenue and
pauses to look at the Private Eye cover. He is amused but doesn’t smile. Toby has
forgotten how to laugh. He steps into the road in order to avoid the large patches of bird
shit under the railway bridge. Some way down the avenue he encounters a trio of cheeky
youths. One of the girls shows an interest in Toby. The boy responds with mischievous
jealousy:
“Hey Blondie, she wants to go out with yer!” The girl hits the boy on his head
with her bag.
“She loves you, Blondie,” shouts the impish boy. Toby ignores them.
Toby enters his garden through the side door. On the way to the house he pauses
to inspect some plants. Toby peers at a rose bud covered with greenfly. A ladybird lands
on the bud and starts chomping on the aphids. Toby wipes off the greenfly on another
bud thus spoiling the ladybird’s lunch. The smell of damp soil lowers his heart-rate and
raises his spirits. Even his breathing rate benefits from his close contact with Nature. He
enjoys the stillness of his large, immaculate walled garden. He only shares this territory
with Nature. He looks at the hollow in the lawn where the childhood Tarzan Swing had
scraped away the top soil. He has a sentimental attachment to it even though it spoils the
pristine lawn. Silence. Toby stands tall and takes stock. He senses, as the humidity grows
to be oppressive, that the garden is about to sigh, to rest, to hunker down in a bout of
basic survival. When he reaches the partially open patio doors he peers in and sees his
mother, Hannah interviewing Lisa Collier for the job as temporary housekeeper. Hannah
spots him and Toby gives her a playful thumbs-down gesture. He enters and is introduced
to Lisa. Toby removes his Wayfarers in an instinctive gesture of good manners. Lisa feels
that his hands are very rough like sandpaper, strong working man’s hands like her dad’s;
bricklayer’s hands. Toby’s handshake is considerately gentle. Nice genes. Nice watch
too. Those eyes! Grubby fingernails, though…I want those genes! At a superficial level,
Toby feels that he has connected with the stranger. He smiles, calmly and grudgingly.
This happens a lot. His eyes, cornflower blue, seem to crackle in sympathy with the
electricity in the atmosphere.
After a brief chat he goes upstairs to the study and unpacks his Nike backpack. He
pulls his Swiss Army Knife out of his pocket and puts it on the desk. Toby checks the
time on his Rolex Oyster Perpetual Explorer II and slips it off his wrist. He puts it
alongside his knife. He likes to avoid the passage of time while he tends to his garden: in
the garden his rhythms are his own; his and Nature’s alone. He takes a swig of Buxton
mineral water and looks at the patch of sweat on his slightly grubby polo shirt.
The study still has his father’s presence. The very fabric of the room is
impregnated by Richard Lovelock’s spirit. He died of a heart attack three years ago but
Toby can still smell the cigar smoke in his Dad’s old books and belongings. On the wall
is a print of Jackson Pollock’s Convergence. Also on the wall is a photo of Richard
Lovelock in a rugby team at Cambridge University; in the front row and over brimming
with mischief and life. He was an entrepreneurial accountant who specialised in turning
around undervalued companies. The desk is covered with notes and other materials for
Toby’s essay. He is trying to explore horticultural ideas and apply them to human
behaviour. He has done a brainstorming diagram with “Nature” as its central concept
with subheadings springing from it. The subheadings are taken from The Principles of
Horticulture by Adams, Bamford and Early. Toby really isn’t in the mood to explore
ideas like competition between species, biological control and dormancy. The room is
murky because a storm is brewing so Toby switches on his desk lamp. He can’t
concentrate because of the stifling atmosphere so he goes to his bedroom. He lies on the
bed and reads Private Eye. There are rumbles of thunder in the distance. The humidity is
getting unbearable. His legs feel sticky.
Lisa’s interview is ending.
“I’m glad I don’t have to do the garden. It must be the biggest one in
Brondesbury,” said Lisa.
Toby hears Lisa laughing through the open window. He looks out and sees
Hannah giving Lisa a quick tour of the garden. Hannah is pointing out various points of
interest. Lisa notices the hollow in the lawn that was created by abrasions under the old
Tarzan Swing but she doesn’t mention it to Hannah. When they reach the far end there is
a rumble of thunder and a flash of lightning. After a few minutes the rain starts falling
and the women scurry back to the house laughing. The smell of damp soil wafts up on the
thick air and through Toby’s open window. He counts three seconds between the flash
and thunder to see how close the storm is. He goes to the study and starts reading some
philosophy, Friedrich Nietzsche’s Beyond Good and Evil. He writes down a quote but
keeps in mind Nietzsche’s misogynistic tendencies as described by Robert Holub in the
introduction. According to Nietzsche:
‘What makes us respect and often enough fear women is their nature, which is
“more natural” than man’s, their genuine, predator-like, cunning suppleness, their tiger’s
claws beneath the glove, their naive egoism, their ineducability and inner wildness, the
mystery, breadth, and range of their desires and virtues…’ Toby ponders the phrase
“inner wildness”. He hears Lisa’s laugh from downstairs. She has got a slightly cockney
accent but not gratingly so. Affluent working class decides Toby. He looks out at the rain
pelting down. He won’t need to water the garden this evening…he goes back to
Cambridge three years ago; His girlfriend Molly who killed herself. He sees her swaying
with her eyes closed to the music in the pub. Her long, purple dress. Toby has worked
hard on his mental discipline to rid himself of Molly and her flashbacks. He only knew
her for three weeks but felt he had found a soul mate. Toby likes to pretend that Molly’s
death didn’t affect him much but he hasn’t strongly desired another woman for three
years. He hears the door bang as Lisa leaves so he goes to a window at the front of the
house to watch her go. He notices a deep band of bare skin between the back of her jeans
and top. The house feels quiet and empty. He plods downstairs to make some distracting
afternoon tea.

Lisa is washing the pots. Outside the window she can see Toby fiddling with the Atco
lawn mower. Sam, Toby’s younger sister, is sat at the kitchen table. She is quietly
appraising Lisa as she chats. Sam is studying English at The University of London. She
lives in West Hampstead with friends but she pops in to see her mother now and again.
She doesn’t get on well with Toby. She has a three inch scar on her forehead that was
caused by Toby when he put a stick in her bike spokes when they were kids. Sam
despises Toby and his boring little life, his boring little rituals, his monkish ways. She
gets on well with other people and quickly becomes gossipy and superficially close to
Lisa. But Sam can quickly put up barriers when she feels someone is becoming over-
familiar.
“Where do you live?” said Sam.
“Just down the road, Christchurch Avenue. I’m from Hounslow but I wanted to
move closer to the West End. Hopefully I’m going to study at the University of
Westminster,” said Lisa.
“So you’re just earning a bit of extra money before you start your course?”
“Yeah.” Lisa paused and looked out of the window. Toby is energetically mowing
the lawn with a look of intense concentration on his face. Sam gets up to see what Lisa is
looking at.
“Is Toby sublimating again?” said Sam.
“Is he what?” said Lisa.
“He’s diverting his primitive urges into his gardening.” Lisa giggles as she
watches Toby slavishly trying to achieve a perfect stripy lawn. “Gardening is probably
more fun than psychotherapy; and it’s definitely a lot cheaper,” said Sam. Honey, the
Lovelock’s ginger cat jumps up onto the table. Honey likes staring at people until they
look away. She appears to understand what you’re saying and strongly disapproves of it.
“Stop staring at me, Honey,” said Sam.
“Sublimating energy is good for the garden. It looks perfect to me,” said Lisa.
“No doubt about that. When Toby came back from his year in Norwich it was a
bit of a mess, like him. He really turned it around. It’s superficially perfect, like Toby. Go
away, Honey!” Sam picks up Honey and puts her on the floor. The cat sidles out of the
kitchen and into the garden. She appears to be inspecting the quality of Toby’s mowing
and enjoying the sunshine.
“Did Toby go to Norwich for work?” said Lisa.
“Work! Not Toby. He and Mum were getting on each others nerves after Dad
died so they needed a break from each other. That’s how he got into gardening. He did
six months with a landscape gardener. He got the sack and came home.”
“Why did he get the sack?”
“He snapped up on one of the clients. He had a fight with some old codger. He
‘had it coming’ apparently. Look, I’m not keeping you away from your work am I?”
“No, I’ve nearly finished for the day,” said Lisa. Sam goes to see her mother.
Outside, Toby is bent down and stroking Honey who is rolling around on the lawn.

July

Lisa is busy Hoovering and it’s the hottest day of the year. Sweat is trickling down her
face. She doesn’t bother wiping it away because there’s more to come. Her t-shirt is
sticking to her back. For a moment she regrets getting this holiday job but then she
remembers the stories of crippling student debts her friends have told her about. On the
table in the living room there is a photo of the Lovelock children all swinging on the
Tarzan swing in the back garden. They’re all hysterical as a young Hannah looks on in
the distance. Sam is probably still in bed. She probably doesn’t need to do a holiday job
like Lisa. Lisa doesn’t resent Sam; Lisa aspires to a Lovelock lifestyle. In the photo is
Toby’s older sister, Penny. She’s wearing scruffy old jeans. Toby enters the living room
holding a bunch of roses from the garden. He’s wearing just a pair of shorts. As he
crosses the room, Lisa admires his all-over tan. He smells of fresh sweat and red roses.
Toby takes the old flowers out of the vase and puts in the roses. Lisa has a sudden urge to
flirt with the enigmatic Toby. She wants to make his posh heart sing for awhile. She
switches off the Dyson vacuum cleaner and calls over to him:
“Fancy a cuppa?”
“Yeah, go on.”
Lisa puts the coffee and tea mugs on the kitchen table. Toby’s long legs seem to
fill up the kitchen as he stretches them out. He strokes his stubbly tanned chin. Lisa
smiles at him as Honey starts rubbing herself against his legs.
“Your garden is looking beautiful,” said Lisa.
“I work hard on it.” There is an awkward silence as Toby sips his tea. Lisa feels a
sudden barrier to intimacy but then she remembers that she’s washed this man’s
underwear. She smiles broadly at Toby but he looks away. Lisa held eye-contact for an
extra, telling nanosecond…it was more than enough for Toby. He’s looking after himself
but Lisa wants to make his eyes glint with longing. But that’s all she wants. Toby has
mistaken the mischief in her glance for something else: desire. He quickly remembers a
phrase of Anthony Powell’s about having the “heavy artillery” wheeled round and
pointing at him. Honey starts staring at Lisa. She bends down to stroke Honey. Toby
notices her cleavage and natural fragrance…their odourless secretions, their pheromones,
quietly do their crucial duty.
“I’ve noticed that photo of you all on the Tarzan swing. Who is the older girl with
the jeans on?” said Lisa. Toby is flummoxed by Lisa but his words keep coming out. His
mouth is on autopilot. What does one do when the housekeeper flirts with you
outrageously? What sort of bizarre mentor could help him out? Bloody hell!
“That’s Penny, my older sister. She’s not scruffy these days. She’s married to one
of the top bods at the Treasury. You might meet her soon. She’s due for what Sam calls
one of her ‘Royal visits’. She’s very grand now. Oh, I’ve got something for you. I’ve got
a box of stuff out of the vegetable plot. It’s just some lettuce, radishes and broccoli. There
are some wild mushrooms as well. I always pick too many and we end up throwing them
out.” said Toby smiling. He hasn’t smiled like that for a long time.
“Thanks!” said Lisa. She takes a sip from her mug but she focuses intently on
Toby as she swallows. Her gaze is awakening and re-awakening something in Toby. A
blush rises up his neck and his cheeks flush a little. His eyes are wary but he can’t help
himself and they start to glisten for Lisa. She smiles an inward secret smile but she
frowns in an attempt to hide her success.
“I now what it’s like being on a student grant,” said Toby struggling to remain
mundane.
“Where did you study?” said Lisa. She twirls some strands of her collar length
auburn hair around her index finger in an unselfconscious way. Toby quickly notes her
slightly dreamy demeanour.
“Cambridge. I did the first year of a philosophy degree…I dropped out.”
“Why?”
“Oh, it’s a long story. I’ll not bore you with it if you don’t mind. I still do a bit of
private study just to keep my eye in.”
“Can’t you go back to finish the course?”
“No…I’m a very different person now. I’ve been away from college for four
years now.” Toby notices Lisa’s hands as she puts her mug to her lips. Her hands are very
delicate even for a young woman; soft, moist and shiny.
“How are your hands holding up” said Toby.
“Okay,” said Lisa.
“The old housekeeper, Mrs. West, had hands like a farm labourer.” Lisa holds out
her hands, palms up, and exposes her inner wrists to Toby. He holds his hands out. “I
hope you don’t end up with hands like mine.” Lisa smiles at Toby. She stares at his
powerful forearms. His instincts take over and he perceives a greenlight. He almost
physically recoils. He pulls his legs back under his chair. Showing interest would be the
last thing he would allow himself to do at this stage. Always look after yourself, son.
Hannah bustles into the kitchen. The room seems sag. Toby almost deflates while Lisa’s
energy switches easily to her work. Hannah has clocked the mood and makes a mental
Post-it note to keep a closer eye on the young couple.
“Where are those bloody scissors?” says Hannah distractedly. She rummages
around in one of the drawers. “Oh, Lisa can you be a sweetie and pick up some dry
cleaning for me?”
“Sure. No problem,” said Lisa. Toby stands up and holds himself at his full height
of six feet four.
“Thanks for the tea,” he said. He wants more but he is determined to reign himself
in. His Dad’s warning emerges again out of the ether: look after yourself. But what to do
first?
“I’ve got a proposition to put to you, Lisa. Next week at the office we’ll be very
busy. We’ve got a new line of underwear coming out so we need a few extra hands. It
will be cash in hand. It’s just some basic admin’ stuff. I know you need all the money you
can get,” said Hannah.
“Okay,” said Lisa.

Toby is driving back home from a garden centre in north London. Lisa has sidled into
Toby’s mind. She moves well in a brain softened by desultory desire. The boot is full of
compost and the back seat is full of plants. He has smartened himself up a bit and has had
a haircut. His mother’s lingerie factory is in the area so Toby decides to drop in. He also
has an ulterior motive; he wants to see Lisa. When he arrives he goes up the stairs to the
offices three steps at a time. At the top of the stairs he bumps into Bill West, Hannah’s
right hand man. Bill nods at Toby. He is a little suspicious because Toby very rarely
comes to the factory. Bill doesn’t get on well with him. He thinks that Toby takes
advantage of his mother’s good nature by not having some sort of career.
Toby scans the office. He sees Lisa hard at work with her head down. He pauses
for a second and suffers from a bout of the ‘Halo-effect’ which is the feeling you get
when you glimpse somebody hard at work without them noticing you. For some bizarre
reason it increases the affection you hold for a person. He smiles and goes up to her.
Hannah sees him through the glass screen of her office and gives him a wave. Lisa looks
up at Toby and smiles.
“Where’s your long, shaggy hair!”
“It’s on the barber’s floor,” said Toby. He reddens gently and sits on the edge of
her desk.
Bill West is in Hannah’s office. He looks over at Toby chatting with Lisa:
“I warned you, Hannah. Look at him,” Toby is slouching on the desk and
listening intently to Lisa. “He’s in his comfort zone. It’s just him and his garden.”
“You’re right, he’s very domesticated. What do you think? A kick up the bum?”
“He definitely needs the threat of a kick up the arse.”
“Any suggestions?”
“Drop some hints that you might need him here.”
“He’s too smart for that. He knows that he would cramp my style if he worked
here. There’s no real job for him so he would know that it was a punishment or
something.”
“You’re right. He knows you’re not grooming him for a managerial post so it
would only be a crappy job that anybody can do.”
Toby says something to Lisa that makes her laugh. He looks over at his Mum and
realizes that he is being watched. Bill beckons him over to the office. Toby just pops his
head into the office.
“Stop distracting my staff,” said Bill. But Toby ignores him.
“Mum, can you do me a favour? Can you let Lisa out early?”
“Why?”
“So I can give her a lift home.”
“You cheeky sod,” said Bill.
“Okay,” said Hannah.
“Cheers, Mum,” said Toby and he pops back out of the office. Bill and Hannah
exchange looks. The phone rings and Hannah answers. She deals with the inquiry from a
supplier then resumes her conversation.
“It looks like I made a rod for my own back there. I took on a young housekeeper in
the hope that she would help to rouse Toby out of his hibernation.”
“It looks like it has worked.”
“I’m not sure about the chemistry between those two.” Hannah gets up,
perches on the front edge of her desk and peers through the office window. She watches
as Lisa puts on her coat and turns towards her. Lisa gives her a ‘Thank you’ wave and
leaves with Toby.
“After you,” said Toby as he opened the door of the office. As Lisa walks ahead,
Toby checks out her rear…she moves well, with a feline grace that has evolved over
many thankful generations.
Hannah lights up and takes a long drag on her cigarette. She exhales into the air
above her. The ceiling is stained by many years of her husband’s cigar smoke. Hannah,
like the ceiling, is still tainted; tainted by grief. She feels herself falling into a nostalgic
melancholia but snaps out of it:
“We’d better get the decorators in for this place. It’s looking shabby,” said Hannah
with a tone of finality.
As Lisa climbs into the front seat of the Ford Focus she moves a bag full of books
off the seat. She cheekily gets some of the books out hoping to see some classic novels
but the books have boring sounding titles.
“They’re just some of the philosophy books I could have read at Cambridge in the
first year,” said Toby. He is a quick confident driver. He puts a Jamiroquai CD in the
player. The song Little L drifts out of the speakers. Toby gets a glimpse of Lisa’s long,
well toned legs; slim, slick and smooth. She’s wearing a short denim skirt.
They drive in silence for a while but Lisa is thinking about broaching a dodgy topic
of conversation. She knows that Toby is reticent about why he left Cambridge.
“Why did you leave Cambridge?” said Lisa. Toby frowns and decides to be direct.
“My girlfriend killed herself…I took it badly and withdrew into myself. Then
during the vacation my Dad died of a heart attack. I just lost the plot completely.” Lisa
eyes widen slightly. Oh shit I’ve really opened a can of worms.
“I…I’m really sorry,” said Lisa.
“It’s alright; I’m more or less over it now. But for a few years the atmosphere in the
house was bad…the grief was tangible. I had to get away.” Lisa looks over at Toby. He
looks a bit fragile for a big man. She thinks of a way to divert the conversation away
from death.
“You’ve got more plants. I’m surprised there’s room for any more.”
“My garden is constantly evolving. It may look good but to the trained eye it needs
some work on it.” They continue their journey more or less in silence. When Toby drops
her off at her flat on Christchurch Avenue he feels a mild sense of loss. As he unloads the
car at home he wonders about Lisa. He realizes that he’s never revealed the reason for his
withdrawal to anybody before. He has shared a high level of intimacy with her. As he
closes the door he takes in one last sniff of Lisa’s natural fragrance. She’s left a piece of
herself; a delicious mix of odours: pussy, armpits, and arse. He slams the car door; his
hormones quietly fizzing after jousting with Lisa’s raunchy attractants; her silent charms.
His mind blanks out with desire. Toby smiles an irritated smile. He thought he had
deconstructed lust and love ages ago; boiled it down to those secretions that relentlessly
drive men on like organic sex-robots. He can handle his own pheromones. He can look
after himself.

Toby is going to visit the Wallace Collection art gallery in the West End. He wants to see
the picture “A Dance to the Music of Time” by Nicholas Poussin. Toby is a fan of the
series of novels of the same name by Anthony Powell. Getting off the tube train at Baker
Street Station, Toby sees a tramp pissing on the tracks like a defiant lion marking his
territory. A group of commuters file past the vagrant without pausing to look. Toby also
ignores him as an arc of piss splatters onto the tracks. Outside he walks past the queue for
Madame Tussaud’s. Loads of Nordic looking youths are waiting in line, many of them
have rucksacks. Up Marylebone Road, Toby can see the University of Westminster. The
large concrete edifice looms over the road; its Brutalist architectural style dominates the
immediate area.
He gets curious and strolls in to have a nose around. He straightens himself up to
his full six foot four height as he walks past the man in the reception area. Toby is
twenty-two so he looks studenty enough to gain entry. He finds the library and browses
around for awhile. He enjoys the quiet vacation ambiance and scans the periodicals. The
silence sends Toby back to the library in Cambridge. When his girlfriend died he tried to
carry on as normal by going to study in the library. He remembered the disjointed and
feelings of disembodiment that enveloped him back then. Toby takes a newspaper off a
rack and settles down to flick through it for awhile.
Metro buzz versus Metro stasis. Toby thinks about these concepts as he enjoys the
muffled atmosphere of the library. He came up with them to explain the two strands of
the London vibe; the excitement and the inertia that one feels in the different places. He
wonders about Lisa studying here. Something strikes him about Lisa’s voice. He hears it
very clearly. Metro buzz. It sets off collisions of longing as it ricochets around in his
head.
As he ambles around the corridors of the university the ambience is different to
Cambridge, more practical and obviously more modern. He looks at notice boards in one
of the Departments. There is a sheet with small photos of the students who are doing the
course. Some smile fixedly at the camera while others look sparky and fresh; up for the
challenges of academia. Toby goes downstairs and leaves the university. Outside he
slides himself back into the din and bustle of Marylebone Road. It starts to rain heavily so
he quickens his pace.
On the street behind the college he sees two office workers kissing passionately.
They are under an umbrella. Ensconced in a bubble of ardour, oblivious to the world
outside. They nearly stop Toby in his tracks. He crosses the road to avoid them. Their
very public passion is making him feel very uncomfortable. It’s more than shyness and
embarrassment. They offended Toby’s highly developed sense of decorum. He looks
over his shoulder at the couple. They have stopped snogging and the woman is now
looking up adoringly at the man. Toby shakes his head.
At the Wallace collection, Toby passes under the slightly forbidding portico that
is the entrance. He brushes past some Americans who are chatting about the arms and
armoury collection which is one of the premier collections in Europe. Toby slowly makes
his way up the stairs to the galleries. There is a guided tour of Americans making its way
around. They seem to be following him around. Toby stops by at one of his favourite
pictures Judith with the Head of Holofernes by Domenico di Giacomo de Pace
Beccafumi.This gory picture mixes sex and violence well. Toby should know the story of
how Judith came to be holding the severed head of Holofernes but he doesn’t. this gap in
his knowledge doesn’t bother him. He just likes the raw power of it: the ultimate power
of a woman. Toby’s father used to joke that Judith resembled Hannah Lovelock. “Don’t
tell your mother I said that!” Eventually he comes to Nicolas Poussin’s Dance to the
Music of Time. A small group of Americans ambles past. One takes a photo of Dance.
Toby contemplates how Anthony Powell must have stood near this point. Powell must
have been inspired near this very spot. Toby started to wonder what he would tell Lisa
about the art if they visited together. But there’s not much to say. Toby isn’t much into
art criticism although he knows a little about aesthetics. I wonder if she’s heard of
Anthony Powell. Probably not. She’s probably into Chick Lit. Toby’s mood darkens.
He’s suddenly aware of the gulf that separates him from Lisa culturally and socially. The
guided tour arrives and Toby contemplates moving on. But a sudden burst of a Texas
accent stops him and he looks around at the source. He catches the end of the young
woman’s glance and smile. She looks like the actress Jennifer Aniston. She directs
widened eyes back at her little sister with the dental braces. Watch this. The little girl
looks at Toby and smiles. Her sister has achieved her goal; she’s got Toby’s attention and
has put a stop to her tedium. He’s been captivated by that smile; a perfect American
smile. Her long, bronzed legs and tight shorts have also had an effect. Toby thinks of a
visual gag on The Simpsons which mocked the bad and crooked teeth of the British
people. Toby’s are not perfect; in fact it would be very un-British to have perfect teeth.
Dangerously bored, the Texan gal has slipped away from the group. She has a
pink Nike visor on with her long, blonde plaited hair dangling behind. She fingers it,
gently tugs at it. A Nike girl. Very nice. Toby shadows her and after awhile they calmly
begin to circle each other at a discreet distance; pretending to look at the art. Desire is
germinating while the other Americans ask earnest questions about the art. The young
couple are not absorbing the art very well. This is the choreography of blunt lust. A silent
dance: hormonal art in action. She moves close to a picture and is lost for a nano second.
She draws back her foot and balances on the toe of her immaculate Nike tennis shoes not
unaware that her toned calf is being assessed by Toby. He senses her gaze so he turns
away and extrapolates in his mind to the curves above. Their gazes are taking in a lot by
judicious instinct. Her curves are mesmerising him. Ogling calves is High school level
lust but Toby wants a PhD: part of him wants a Prize Fellowship at All Souls College,
Oxford. The American group moves off and the Southern Belle’s little sister calls her
back. Kelly snaps out of her reverie. The little girl giggles and gives the couple an old
fashioned look. The show is over. Toby and Kelly settle their eyes on each other for a
second and the yearning comes to a halt. They sort of shrug at each other and smile the
sort of bashful smile that well matched people share. There is a tacit and reluctant
agreement that they will not bother each other; it would be almost incestuous to bond
further. It is an honourable draw; something that Americans hate. Toby remembers the
E.M. Forster dictum: “Only connect.” Toby turns to get one last look at her wonderful
legs…he absorbs her loveliness. She senses his leering gaze and turns to scowl at him.
She’s used to ogling gazes. When her face returns to the front she has a sly, smug smile.
Kelly gives her little sister a high five. She rejoins her group; a job well done. A piece of
art that will live much longer than Kelly’s feminine arts looks on with silent reproach.
Toby feels belittled. Was she a muse surrounded by great art, an unattainable fair Lady,
or a Dallas Cowboys cheerleader? At Toby’s age lost opportunities hurt a bit; his
hormones mourn a little. With a little black cloud of loss hanging over his head he makes
his way downstairs to the world-class collection of arms and armour. He goes from big
Metro buzz to Metro stasis.
The European Armoury III gallery doesn’t seem to have changed much since
Toby’s father carried him on his shoulders around the display cases and armour exhibits.
It is the storehouse of cherished memories. He still ambles around in a childlike trance.
After perusing some antique rifles he comes face-to-face with a knight in shining armour
on his armoured horse…the young Toby takes swipes at the knight with an imaginary
sword: “Steady on, Toby! Wait until you’ve got a fair Lady to fight for, son.” A life
affirming glance. A defiant, sexually confident, upward cock of the chin. Her lively,
glitzy Texan eyes…Lisa. Lisa. Toby will bring his children here. Some positive Metro
stasis. A tradition to treasure; like the memory.
Toby makes his way home. He decides to stroll through Regent’s Park to St.
John’s Wood. He looks up at a dirty, battered old Mercedes as it chugs by. The Arab
man in the passenger seat blows him a kiss. Toby’s mouth gapes at the audacity of the
man. The cheeky, camp Arab contrasted strongly in terms of class with the North West
quarter of Regent’s Park with its miles of creamy stucco facades and imposing, high
black railings. Toby enjoys the quiet opulence of the area; he’s very comfortable with his
own level of affluence but he envies the resident’s views across the wonderful park.
Apart from the activity in the park and traffic driving around the Outer Circle then
nothing seems to move. You just don’t see the residents. There might be a wealthy person
peering out at Toby but that’s about it. It reminds Toby of an empty film set. He’s not a
comfy, solitary star but he’s also not a resentful extra in a film called Desolate Opulence.
In the park he skirts the side of the lake. The trees rustle and diligently absorb the
carbon dioxide wafting in from the West End. There is a small gang of adults and
children feeding bread to the ducks, swans and geese. Toby notices that one of the people
crouched down near a baby buggy is a television presenter-cum-celebrity. This
wholesome scene distracts his thoughts away from the idea of inter-racial buggery with
the naughty Arab…Big time Metro Buzz. He stares for a while at the homely scenario
then sets of again. He imagines sauntering with Lisa. He remembers an anecdote that he
can amuse her with. When Toby was three or four his parents, Richard and Hannah,
brought him here to feed the ducks. He suffered a minor trauma when an overenthusiastic
goose ‘bit’ him. It didn’t really bite him it just touched his hand. He has been a bit wary
of geese ever since. He gives them plenty of room as he trudges past. His spirits are lifted
when he thinks of Lisa laughing. Toby goes back again. He remembers Hannah talking to
another mother with a toddler. The little girl was sort of enchanted and bemused by the
little Toby. The adults notice the wary curiosity of the kids but carry on chatting. When
the mother walks away, Toby continues to stare at the girl. “A feint heart never gets the
fair maiden,” says Richard. He had a clear, strong voice that carried a long way. Here it
was pinging back to Toby twenty years on. Toby paused to look back at the duck feeders.
Metro Stasis. How would he tell Lisa about how his father died relatively young of a
heart attack? They weren’t very close but Toby misses him. A squirrel charges past Toby,
giving him a slight shock, closely followed by a border collie. The squirrel darts up a tree
so quickly that it almost becomes invisible. The dog tries to scramble up after it but he
falls back onto the grass.
Toby is lost in the past as he trudges along. He is considering the strategy that he
should adopt with regard to Lisa. Timing is everything, he decides. His reverie is broken
as he walks past the traffic lights near Hanover Gate. A road rage incident is occurring.
An older man jumps out of his car to remonstrate with the younger man ahead of him. He
starts banging on the roof and the two men square up. Toby decides not to intervene
unless one of them looks like killing the other. The men scuffle for a while but then a
wife intervenes and they are pulled apart. Toby walks on as the older man speeds away.
Bloody idiots. As Toby walks past the rear of Regent’s Park Mosque he is accosted by
two Green-veined White butterflies fluttering around him. He wonders which one is the
chaser and which one is the chased but their gyrations are too complex and wonderful…
are they courting or fighting for territory? They split away and flap into the mosque’s
garden.

August.

The Lovelocks have got the builders in. scaffolding surrounds the house as the builders
do extensive repairs to the roof. Toby is not happy because the builder’s blaring radio
gets on his nerves. Toby hasn’t got anything against Capital FM Radio but he doesn’t like
the young roofer who sings along to the songs and gets the lyrics comically wrong.
There’s not much use complaining as they will be around for just two or three weeks.
Toby leaves the study and goes to his bedroom which looks out over the garden.
Samantha is sun bathing at the far end of the garden. She’s wearing a small bikini. Toby
imagines that the roofers are quietly ogling his sister. He doesn’t blame them really. He
feels a slight incestuous tingle for her. She turns over so the sun can get to her back. Sam
is staying with Hannah for a few days because her flat in Maida Vale is being decorated.
She can’t stand the smell of wet paint. Lisa appears and goes up to Sam. The sight of her
raises Toby’s spirits a little.
“I’ve got them! I’ve passed,” said Lisa referring to her ‘A’ Levels.
“Have you got the course you want,” said Sam.
“Yeah, yeah. At the University of Westminster.”
“Well done,” said Sam who puts her Chanel sun glasses back on. Toby can almost
feel Lisa’s excitement from up above. She’s almost jumping up and down. He remembers
the thrill he got from getting the results he needed to get into Cambridge. He goes back to
his study and continues reading Anthony Powell’s The Kindly Ones.
“Come and look at Toby’s new Love Seat,” said Sam. They walk to the very end
of the garden; what the Lovelock’s call the dingle dell.
“What is a Love Seat,” said Lisa.
“It’s a seat that only fits two lovers on. He’s such a romantic sod. I don’t think
Toby’s got ambitions to canoodle with a woman on there. I‘ve got a feeling that he’s
been celibate for years. It really fucked him up when his girlfriend topped herself. He
probably doesn’t even wank; he’s such a hero! It’s probably why he’s such a grumpy
bugger. He used to be light hearted, up to a point.” Toby appears and starts doing some
weeding.
“Talk of the Devil. Here’s Sir Grumpy Bum,” said Sam. In the distance they hear
one of the roofers singing along to a love song.
“The young one’s quite tasty,” said Sam referring to the builders.
“Their boss is really nice,” said Lisa.
“Oh, I haven’t seen him yet. Would you give him one?” said Sam deliberately
trying to embarrass Lisa. Lisa just looks down and giggles.
“This end of the garden gives some people the creeps,” said Sam.
“What do you mean?”
“There’s something about the shade and the shadows. Toby’s got a loony theory
about it. Apparently the dark areas remind us of our primeval past—something about
dinosaurs jumping out on us. I’m surprised that he hasn’t regaled you with some of his
other loony theories.”
“That’s something to look forward to!” The atmosphere of levity that the
ambushing dinosaurs engendered evaporates. Sam cools towards Lisa as the sarcasm at
the expense of Toby hits the barrier to intimacy that Sam puts up. Lisa senses that she’s
overstepped a boundary.
“I’d better get back to my work,” said Lisa. Sam lights a cigarette and sits on the
Love Seat. She turns around and watches Lisa passing Toby on her way up to the house.
Sam notices the way Toby’s body language changes. His heart-rate shoots up:
“Been talking to my delightful little sister,” said Toby. Lisa smiles at his sarcasm.
She adopts her standard issue ‘be nice to Toby’ face. Toby looks intensely into Lisa’s
eyes. He’s desperately looking for something. Lisa’s expression changes to concern,
discomfort and a bit of fear. He wants to look into the eyes of a woman he wants and not
see Molly’s lifeless eyes. Lisa turns away. Help. Someone save me!
“I must be getting on with my work,” said Lisa. Toby hasn’t read her reaction
well at all; he sees confusion not wariness. He frowns and gets on with his work. His vital
signs calm down as the grime grinds into his slightly trembling fingers. The testosterone
slowly evaporates and leaves him in peace. Sam is taking in all of this apparently lovey-
dovey malarkey. She stubs out her cigarette on Toby’s love seat and flicks the fag-end
into the bushes…Toby loves Lisa!

After two days of Sam’s visit Lisa is having mixed feelings about her. She likes her chats
with Sam but she is the untidiest person Lisa has ever known. She only needs to enter a
room for a couple of seconds and it looks like a hurricane has hit it. Lisa has the house to
herself. She’s finished the dusting. She makes herself a coffee and takes a break on the
patio. She’s enjoying the sun with her eyes closed when Don Maygrove, the roofer’s
boss, climbs down the scaffolding. He is taking a call on his mobile. He is looking at
Lisa’s long legs. She opens her eyes and smiles quietly and calmly at Don. He finishes
his call and ambles up to Lisa. His phone goes off again with a classical ring tone.
“No rest for the wicked,” said Don with a broad cheeky smile on his face. He
finishes his call from a job in Hampstead and devotes his full attention to Lisa.
“I could murder a brew,” said Don. His Manchester accent intrigues Lisa. She
thinks he’s from Yorkshire.
“What about one for you’re men?”
“Those buggers can fend for themselves.”
“How many jobs have you got on the go?”
“Four or five in north London and a couple south of the river.” Don should really
be rushing to a job in Finchley but he decides to make Lisa a priority. They chat easily
while they have their tea. When Don decides to go, Lisa walks him to the front door.
“Nice car,” said Lisa admiring Don’s BMW. Honey is on the bonnet and
surveying the scene. Don takes a few strides towards his car then he pauses for a second,
jangling the keys in his pocket. He turns round and smiles at Lisa. As if both of them
knew that something was coming they smile at each other. The passage of time seems to
slow down and a calmness envelopes them.
“Do you fancy coming for a drink on Friday,” said Don leaning against the porch.
“Yeah, that would be nice,” said Lisa. Don writes Lisa’s phone number on his
hand. They go their separate ways with Don thinking that he’s a bit old for Lisa and Lisa
thinking that she’s a bit young for Don. Nevertheless they both look forward to Friday
night. Lisa goes back inside. She decides to cut some corners and go home early.
The next day, Toby is digging a hole for the new pond. Hannah and Lisa can see
him from the kitchen window. He is shirtless and digging vigorously. Hannah and Lisa
watch in silence, almost mesmerised. Toby slips on some clay and falls back into the
hole. The two women look at each other. They are unsure whether to laugh or express
some fear for his safety. Toby rights himself. His face is red with anger. He starts hitting
the ground repeatedly with the back of his spade. One of the roofers sees him. Nutter.
Lisa stifles a giggle as she remembers Sam’s theory that Toby releases his primeval urges
in the garden. Hannah notices Lisa’s smiling at Toby.
“He’s fragile for a big lad. I do worry about him sometimes. I wouldn’t like to see
him get hurt,” said Hannah. Lisa senses that she is being warded off unnecessarily and
shakes her head in agreement.
Toby is in the front room reading a horticulture magazine, Hortus. He
hears Sam saying goodbye to her mum. He watches Sam gets in her little car and whizzes
off. She’s not doing anything openly to get on Toby’s nerves; it’s just her presence alone
that is bothering him. He goes into the back room where Hannah is relaxing. Before she
darted off, Sam told her, in theatrically hushed tones, that Toby loves Lisa.
“She drives around north London spreading poison. She’s a malevolent butterfly.
God knows what she’s telling Lisa,” said Toby.
“Ignore it. It’s never bothered you in the past,” said Hannah.
“Remember when her idiot friends used to hang around here? They looked at me
as though I was some kind of psychotic.”
“Okay, I’ll talk to her.”
“Can you talk to Lisa as well? I’ve got a feeling that Sam’s really poisoned the
well.”
“It’s not worth it. Lisa will be gone in a few weeks.” Toby looks down. His face
betrays sadness at Lisa leaving. Hannah notes Toby’s reaction. She is a little troubled but
also pleased in a way. She chose Lisa as housekeeper so as to ginger up Toby and help
him out of his dormancy.

Toby is in the study. He’s hunched over Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy.
It’s a very difficult, but classic, text and he’s getting a bit bored and frustrated. Burton
goes on at length on the melancholy that afflicts lovers. Toby decides to take a break and
goes to his bedroom. He hears chatting below and looks outside. Below he sees Lisa
chatting and laughing with the young roofer. She must have made the men a brew
because the others are nearby swigging from mugs. Toby feels his anger rising as the
roofer and Lisa flirt gently with each other. As Lisa giggles, Toby unthinkingly strides
downstairs and into the garden. As he passes them he glares at the roofer as he stomps
past. The roofer sees Toby and visibly tenses up. Sensing Toby’s disquiet he drains his
mug and climbs back up the scaffolding. After hanging around the bottom of the garden
for a bit, Toby returns to the study. On his way back through the kitchen he saw Lisa
bending over the washer and removing clothes. She looked up and gave him a smile.
Toby ignored her. The pleasant smile dissolves as Toby stomps off up the stairs. Lisa
didn’t like the manic glint in Toby’s eyes.
In the study, Toby tries to skim through Burton’s sections on love. He comes
across the part on jealousy. He’s looking at the text but nothing is getting through. He’s
still agitated. He doesn’t absorb the bit about “no love without a mixture of jealousy.” He
loses his temper with the book and tosses it at the bin.
“Sod off!” He thinks about telling-off Lisa for making a brew for the builders. He
goes back to his bedroom and lies on the bed until he hears chatting below the window.
He sees Lisa sits, sunbathing and chatting to the young roofer…fuck off you cunt! The
roofer moves away and Lisa relaxes into her chair. Toby quickly gets his Nikon D40 SLR
Camera and takes some pictures of Lisa through the open window. A roofer approaches
on the scaffolding so Toby puts the camera behind his back. He nods at the roofer as he
passes. He zooms in and out getting a sort of porno buzz; a sort of paparazzo vibe. As
Lisa walks back to the house, Toby gets some precious shots of her walking and smelling
the roses.
Toby goes straight to his desktop Dell and processes the images. He prints out
some of them on his Hewlett Packard LaserJet 2600n Printer and absorbs them…He puts
his Walkman on and listens to the radio. A love song is on so he quickly switches to a
talk station, LBC. He lies there all afternoon. He listens to a Drivetime show. There is a
gloomy atmosphere. The weather is very overcast. He is happy to brood in the gloom.
Honey sidles in. Sensing Toby’s sickness, albeit a love sickness, she jumps up onto the
bed and settles next to him. He reaches over and strokes the cat. Honey starts purring
with contentment. He eventually calms down and trudges down stairs to make his
afternoon tea. Honey sleeps the afternoon away. The kitchen is still immaculate because
of Lisa’s hard work. She’d make a good wife! The joke with himself jolts him into some
hard thinking. Sipping his mug of Twinings English Breakfast tea he sits in the back
room looking out over the garden. He settles back, cocooned nicely, in his father’s Eames
Lounge Chair with Ottoman. A bee buzzes in through the open patio doors. It realises its
mistake and quickly buzzes out again; back to its rightful territory. Lisa probably doesn’t
even know how special an Eames Chair actually is! She cleans it in ignorance of its
design classic status.
This is where Toby first set eyes upon the lovely Lisa…a slow burn love? He
catches himself thinking daft thoughts: ‘I’m gonna search out for your clues,’ as the
Badly Drawn Boy’s song goes. The scar on her cheek…how did she get it? There must
be a story there, like Sam’s scar…Toby pulls back:
Am I that desperate? The temporary housekeeper? I can do better. Something on
the surface; something deep down…stop! Regroup. Trying too hard. Trust your instincts.
Come on, son! She’s classy enough but her class? I’m not a snob but…pull back. Give
her a tweak. Take control. A bit of skill, care and attention is vital. The class thing is
getting in the way. Address it. Don’t fear your snobbishness. No panic; just patience.
Don’t let the class thing rise up and stop us… us? Us! There is no “us” yet. Thank God
it’s not love. Put yourself in the position to fall in love. Get in there! A quick bang and
move on, son. Give her a tweak and move on? Don’t be so flippant about it, Dad. I’ll fix
it. I’ll just monitor her for a bit. Calm and elusive will do the trick. A watching brief,
good. I’m not a great fan of easy meat…the doors of the abattoir, as Anthony Powell
once said. Don’t go writing poetry about her, old son. No, not this time.
The next afternoon, Toby goes out to fertilise his Dahlias. He discovers that the
builders have strayed onto his lawn with their stacks of timber. They’ve left some gouge
marks and divots on the previously perfect grass. Toby loses his temper. He goes to the
bottom of the scaffolding and shouts up to them but they can’t hear because of the blaring
radio. One of the builders is whistling along. Toby climbs up to the level where the radio
is and switches it off. After a brief pause the older builder puts his head over the
scaffolding and sees Toby.
“Watch the bloody lawn,” shouted Toby. The young mouthy one, who Toby saw
flirting with Lisa, senses some aggro and looks down at Toby.
“It’s only a few feet,” shouted the mouthy one.
“I don’t bloody care. You were warned to stay off it when you started. Anyway,
who asked you? Just watch it.” Toby switches the radio on and goes back to his tasks.
The two roofers shake their heads. Fucking nutter.
Getting on with his gardening tasks calms Toby down but he still considers giving
a bollocking to the builder’s boss, Don Maygrove. Half a mile away, Don is distracted by
other matters. He’s just finished fucking Lisa in her flat. He’s putting his clothes on while
Lisa stays in bed watching him.
“Are you shooting off to the Lovelock’s,” said Lisa.
“Yeah, then I’m off to Hampstead for my sins. She’s a horny housewife who likes
flirting with a bit of rough,” said Don.
“I’m jealous. What do you think of Toby?”
“Who?”
“Toby Lovelock.”
“Oh him. The lads think he’s a bit of a nutter. They said he snapped up the other
day and started hitting the ground with a shovel,” said Don.
“He’s sublimating his energy.”
“Is he, is he really. He’s just a slacker with too much time on his hands.”
“He’s a bit old fashioned. He’s a gentleman.”
“He’s a comedian if you ask me.” Don leans over and kisses Lisa. As he leaves he
bumps into Lisa’s landlady in the hallway. He nods and smiles at her but she gives him a
look of wariness.
The next morning, Lisa is dusting in the hallway. She’s eavesdropping on Hannah
and Penny who is doing one of her Royal Visits. Penny has got an upper class accent.
Lisa doesn’t like the sound of her.
“When is your servant leaving?” said Penny.
“She’s not servant,” said Hannah. “She’ll be with us for a few more weeks.” Lisa
heard the light-hearted remark about her being a servant. She scoots off to the kitchen and
starts cleaning the floor. Her anger is rising. Penny had put quotation marks around the
word ‘servant’ but Lisa is still angry about being the butt of an ‘upper class’ joke.
Lisa and Don are chatting at the bottom of the garden.
“The poncey bitch called me a servant!” said Lisa. Don laughs loudly.
“Us servants have got to stick together,” said Don.
“I’ll be in charge for a few days. Toby’s going to East Anglia for a bike trip and
Hannah is going to Manchester on business. I’ll be keeping an eye on your men.”
“Get your whip out,” said Don. Lisa giggles and moves a bit closer to Don. Toby
enters through the side door with his bike. Don and Lisa’s body language goes from
intimate to business-like. Toby pauses for a second when he sees them. He nods at Don.
There is an awkward silence.
“I’m sorry about your lawn, Mr. Lovelock,” said Don.
“Yeah, right,” said Toby. As Toby walks off, Lisa stifles a giggle when she
remembers Toby’s dinosaur theory about the dingle den end of the garden. She explains
it to Don who is not amused. He shakes his head and walks away leaving Lisa alone. She
sits on the Love seat for a while. The ambience doesn’t remind her of our primeval past.
This is an ideal spot for loving. The high walls around the garden make it feel like a
haven of calm in London. She decides to go home and leaves through the side entrance.
Toby switches off the BBC lunchtime news. He doesn’t like to have his mood
altered by news of the outside world much but he fancies the presenter like mad. Lusting
after television presenters is Toby’s only vice apart from his bijou collection of interracial
internet porn. He readies himself for an afternoon of cathartic bad poetry. Sorry, dad!
Lisa is winning. She’s got him on the ropes without much effort. In the bedroom, Toby
lies back and opens Pandora’s Box. He boots up his black Dell Inspiron 1721laptop and
then fires up Microsoft Word. He pings open Internet Explorer and then opens up
Google, Amazon.co.uk, and Wikipedia in multiple windows. He has a very casual
acquaintanceship with internet porn. Interracial porn tempts him… but he resists. He’s
frustrated enough as it is! All he wants is an orgy of cathartic multitasking. A wank
would probably help but he’s not a natural wanker. He has a Dell Dimension 9200
desktop in the study but he wants to chill out and go with the flow. His dad’s calming
presence still lingers strongly in the study. Richard Lovelock would nip it in the bud and
not allow Toby to drift into making a fool of himself. Toby will transfer the files later if
he wants to print them out.
Where to start the Word document, Lisa 1? He also puts the words: Lisa Poem
Allow Me To Fall in the document’s header. He’s had ‘Lisa ideas’ lurking in the shadows
for awhile now. Memories of Molly impinge now and again so he’s a little wary.
Anything can come out when he’s inspired; the subconscious mind can seem like the
Devil’s toilet and he shits in it every day. Come on, get going. Relax and draft….

Allow me to fall.
Mere logistics and bad chemistry!
You, a celebration of LIFE; me in a bourgeois sanctuary.
What’s wrong with me?
Weak and together but strong and apart.
Strong alone, weak together.
You’re a little portion of pain,
In my painless, bourgeois haven.
Toby gets blocked and decides to look up the Romantics in Google. Stuff appears; the
little miracle of Larry and Sergey’s powerful algorhythms goes unnoticed again. He sorts,
sifts and filters quickly and instinctively; a born cyber surfer. He clicks on Wikipedia’s
Romanticism link and begins to scan for good stuff. Perhaps a nip of alcohol will unblock
the Devil’s toilet:

Break into my cocoon of loneliness.


Have a glimpse and smash it open.
Gothic shadows, they darken my lusty love,
Love alone, alone again.
But yearning is for kids and eighteenth century Romantics.
You have given me back my SMILE.

Toby feels a little bit of cathartic relief. He goes to Amazon and looks up chick lit. He
figures that Lisa is a fan of this genre. This is research. Lisa has become a Research
Project…Project Lisa! He orders a couple of books and looks at some very expensive
gardening books. Honey sidles into the room and jumps up onto the bed to keep Toby
company. He gently strokes Honey. She sits on his tummy and starts to purr.
“Get out of the way, Honey!” said Toby, “I’m not sick.” Honey knows better:
Toby is lovesick and a bit twisted as well. He nips over to Wikipedia and looks at the
section on visual art and literature. A bit about Goethe’s novel The Sorrows of Young
Werther catches his eye. Werther is “a young artist of a highly sensitive and passionate
temperament.” As a result of unrequited love he kills himself. Copycat suicides in the real
world then occurred. Toby decides that it must be a hell of a novel so he orders it from
Amazon. The afternoon is hot and muggy so Toby decides to have a siesta.
He awakens with a big, steaming erection and a groggy sort of inspiration. Toby
pulls out the waistband of his Nike jog pants and surveys his penis…he shakes his head
and raises his eyes to the heavens in frustration; a single young man’s burden. He’s read
somewhere that the period of awakening is a good time for creative thinking. His dream
seems to have stirred things up mentally but he can’t remember anything about it. He
decides to have a change of scenery and gathers up his laptop in order to go downstairs
and write in the Eames Chair. His dad used to go there and have a whisky and a cigar
when he had to solve a tricky problem; Toby has got a ‘two cigar problem.’ On the way
out of the room, Toby browses the section of poetry books in the bookcase. Philip
Larkin’s Collected Poems jumps out at him. Maybe some of Larkin’s genius will rub off
on him and provide inspiration. He takes it with him feeling very bookish and artistic.
With his Dell in one hand and Larkin in the other he descends the stairs. He pauses at one
of the photos on the wall, his parent’s wedding day…Love.
Toby’s creative optimism was misplaced; nothing much appears from the ether
except:

I’ve lost my reason; now you’re my reason:


My reason to live.
Please don’t laugh: for you I would die.
I can’t suffer much more.

Overblown, banal and cliched. I’m not sure about this! I need some Larkin.
Toby skims the contents pages for poems about love and Nature or, in the case of
This Be The Verse, poems with a great first line. He decides to make a note of some of
the quotations. Having created a Word document named ‘Larkin’ he types them into the
word processor:

They fuck you up, your mum and dad.


They may not mean to, but they do.
They fill you with the faults they had
And add some extra, just for you.

Toby follows with this qoute from Cut Grass:

Cut grass lies frail:


Brief is the breath
Mown stalks exhale.
Long, long the death.

The final full stop is not in Larkin’s durable, enduring text, High Windows. Toby copies
out two more Larkin quotations and then he tries to draft some of his own poetry. He fails
and decides to emulate his father and resort to booze and tobacco for inspiration. He goes
to the study and gets a Bolivar Royal Coronas and a fresh bottle of Ben Nevis 12 year old
whisky. With the cuban cigar carefully lit and the whisky sampled he settles into the
Eames Chair. Toby had watched his dad light up numerous cigars and sip many a
whisky…never rush a good cigar and scotch. With this sybaritic combination, Toby
relaxes quickly. He thinks of Lisa, the whole point of all this…don’t walk into an
ambush, son.

When I’m strong I’ll breathe you in; I’ll inhale you:
Consume you.
I’ve absorbed you from a distance; now let me closer.
An urge to inhabit you; to reach you from within.

I’ll nibble at your rough edges.


Please, no tears of pain; just joy.
Let me track your moods, your peaks and troughs.
Access all areas: your good and evil.

My dreams reveal you; a clean slate.


From tabloid to broadsheet, let me guide you.
Let me Deconstruct you and your love.
A whiff of your animal nature, your essence
Invigorating like mountain air.

Blimey! Jesus! This is hot stuff. I’m tipsy, tipsy and talented! Like EM Forster, Toby
doesn’t know what he thinks until he’s written it down. Toby nearly panics as he reads
the stuff about good and evil. Is that girl doing this to me? ME? You’re walking into an
ambush, son. The digital blank page of Microsoft Word isn’t intimidating Toby. In fact a
blank page is what he needs. Metro Buzz is getting to him. Rush hour approaches.
London’s going home. Soon Hannah will be home. Toby doesn’t want to be pissed out of
his head when she walks in the door. Honey walks in and sees a bird hanging around
outside the open patio doors. She darts for the sparrow but misses. She decides to stay
outside and amble around the garden her ears and eyes twitching and scanning for fresh
prey. Toby doesn’t see the feline dramas in his midst. He’s on a roll. He continues:

Where are you now, my Love?


My Dark Lady.
Don’t play love games!
Love isn’t mere logistics; it’s a force,
Don’t you see?
You bring painfull smiles, morning, noon and night.
You energize me when I’m low, you speed up Time.
Stimulate my senses: sight, smell, touch, and taste.
I’ll draw you into my shadows: banish them for awhile—

Toby is lost in both the creative process and the booze buzz. He doesn’t hear Hannah
arrive. In the hallway she smells Richard, then she sees Richard reclining:
“What on earth are you doing, Toby?” said Hannah. She’s confused and angry.
“Just taking some notes,” said Toby, slightly slurring his words. Hannah senses
that something is wrong but doesn’t say anything. She craves her own stash of tobacco
and booze. What the hell is he up to? I hope its not Lisa. I don’t need this!
Toby shuts everything down and goes into the garden, cigar in hand. He ambles
around savouring his second cigar and recalls the Groucho Marx quote his dad taught
him: “Given the choice between a woman and a cigar, I will always choose the cigar.” I’ll
inhale you…Honey is eying up the birds in the bushes:
“Don’t be tiresome, Honey. Leave them alone.” He savours the garden. He
doesn’t see the problems and failings that he usually sees. Everything is fine in the
garden. He doesn’t see the hollow in the lawn or the parasites chomping on the roses.
Everything has an August sheen and energy. Oh, Lisa. Allow me to fall.
Hannah enters the back room. She surveys the remnants of Toby’s bacchanalian
afternoon…Hannah, my love. She sees the silver Colibri lighter she had engraved for
Richard:

To my Love. Forever.

She sees Toby in the garden walking; walking into an ambush.

He is quite happy reading on Saturday nights but there is something bothering him. His
feelings for Lisa are growing, without much cultivation, and the idea of another Saturday
night on his own is getting to him. He is reading Nikolaus Pevsner’s guide to East
Anglian architecture as preparation for his cycling trip to Norfolk. He develops
indigestion. He goes down stairs to make some tea. He pops his head in to the living
room and asks his Mum if she wants some. Hearing the theme tune of a loud Saturday
night programme, his Mum’s favourite, really pisses him off. He goes to the front room
and puts a splash of whiskey in his drink to settle his stomach. After he finishes his mug
he decides to have another nip of whiskey so he goes and gets the bottle and a glass.

Upstairs, Toby stops reading and starts listening to the radio on his Walkman. He hops
around the frequencies. For a while he listens to the pop station, Capital FM. He tunes in
to a talk station for a while. He gets the impression that the station designs the
programme so that lonely, shy people can experience some of the Saturday night buzz of
London. As he gets drunker, and lonelier, he even listens to snatches of the pirate stations
with their House music and the strange sounding DJs.
Hannah goes to bed and notices that Toby’s bedroom light is off. She shouts good
night but Toby doesn’t hear her so she assumes he’s fallen asleep. But Toby is still
awake. He’s now drank enough to keep him awake. He is a bit edgy. He has started
having disjointed thoughts. He has started laughing at some of the things he is hearing
and thinking. Small things are making him laugh. It’s now ten O’ Clock but Toby has lost
track of time. He’s nearly drunk the half bottle he started off with.
Toby needs more whiskey. He thinks about starting on the bottle of brandy in the
drinks cabinet but decides that a trip to the Off Licence for a bottle of Jack Daniel’s is in
order. He is now fairly drunk so he puts his clothes on over his pyjamas. He pulls on a
grey Nike hooded top and some blue sweat pants. Toby touches the large Swoosh symbol
in a silent, unacknowledged gesture of fellowship. He takes comfort from the brand: he’s
a Nike Man. United behind the brand.
Toby envies the Brothers and Sisters in Sport. He’s getting pissed off with his
scholarly solitude; Brothers in Intellect doesn’t have the same hearty glamour. Ironically
the booze has made him see things clearly; emotion not analysis. He needs a route back.
But back to what? A balanced life? Pain in the arse reality? Lisa. Lisa? Lisa! Is she the
route back? The alcohol kicks in and Toby’s mind spins rapidly away from the sort of
pondering that he usually relishes…Brothers in Sport? No. he wants to escape his
thoughts with the Brothers in Booze on Kilburn High Road. Life and Lisa fade away and
just one question crystallises: where is my next drink coming from?
Nike, the Greek goddess of victory, is perhaps at Toby’s shoulder as he ventures
into the Kilburn nightlife: alcohol has given Toby a conclusive victory over British
reserve. The intrepid Toby sets off for the off licence on Kilburn High Road…I may be
gone for some time. Hannah has been reading in bed so she hears the pissed up Toby
blundering around downstairs. She gets up and shouts down to Toby asking if he is
alright. He shouts up “I won’t be long,” and slams the front door shut.
The fresh air gives Toby a massive buzz. He feels like running to the shop. He is
humming to himself a love song he heard earlier. Kilburn High Road is busy with
revellers. A passing car bibs its horn so Toby starts waving back as if he knows them. In
the off licence he has trouble sorting out his money. He just wants to laugh out loud. He
gives the shop keeper a fiver instead of a Twenty. Instead of setting off home, Toby
strides confidently down the road, an aura of menace struggles to keep up with him. He’s
being sucked towards the pub. He pauses outside the pub doors and listens to the rumble
of the late night atmosphere. A trio of women with Irish accents burst out. They push past
Toby. The smell of alcohol and tobacco clings to them. The sound of the Dexy’s
Midnight Runners’ song “Come on Eileen” blasts out of the juke box. For a fleeting
moment the women, Toby and the strangers in the pub are united; united in drink. For a
while Toby considers going in for a drink. But he just clings onto his whiskey and sets off
for home, the hood of his sweatshirt pulled up against the chill night air.
He passes a chippy overflowing with people. Some of the girls outside are singing
Lilly Allen’s song “Smile”, in a rough and ready harmony. Toby is almost staggering as
the whiskey, fresh air and the heady atmosphere of the High Road begin to take effect.
Whisky induced tremors rippled out from the epicentre of his stomach. The shock waves
whizzed to his extremities. He pauses; swaying gently, and listens. Metro Buzz. The
girl’s boyfriends come out of the chippy and sweep them away down the road.
“Out of the way big man!” said the Irish reveller keen to get back into his boozy
stride. Toby laughs slightly hysterically, carried away by the ambience of fun. Toby is
drawn to a shop window for no apparent reason. He just stands there, swaying until a
group of young men hustle past him. They are quite menacing so they momentarily rouse
Toby out of his reverie. He reluctantly sets off for home…home? He’s sick of his life, his
serene, monkish life.
Back at home Toby ‘hears’ lewd banter between Lisa and the mouthy, young
builder while he listens to LBC, the talk station, in the dark. He tunes in to a different
station and hears a song that can only be truly understood when it’s heard when you’re
out of your head. After three big slugs of whiskey he falls asleep with his radio
headphones on. He wakes in the middle of the night and goes precariously to the toilet.
He is talking gibberish to himself, talking to George. George! He’s having some sort of
argument with the builders. He shivers, misdirects his urine and pisses on the floor
without realising it. He staggers back to bed and trips over his damp Nike Max 95
trainers on the way. He gladly continues his nightmarish argument with the builders…
GEORGE!

When Hannah saw Toby smoking one of Richard’s cigars she was jolting back to his
living, healthy self and not the horrible images of him in hospital just before he died.
Grief, over the past few days, had loosened its grip on her. The stasis that mourning can
induce meant that Hannah had allowed the study to be frozen in time, a living time
capsule of a life and death. Lisa was told not to go in there. She only reluctantly allowed
Toby to work in there. Like many grieving people she couldn’t bring herself to deal with
the loved one’s possessions. Now she felt strong and she also felt Richard’s strength.
Armed with a few bin bags she attacked the contents of the study; some of the stuff had
to go. It was the paraphernalia of a life, albeit a shortened one, in business. An existence
enveloped in business. The first thing she did was put aside a folder marked “Misc 1” in
Toby’s handwriting. It’s just as well because it contained a draft of the Lisa Poem, Allow
Me to Fall, and some photos of her sunbathing.
Hannah worked like the devil. What would my Richard do with all this bloody stuff?
Obsolete tax stuff, business plans, balance sheets, annual reports, reams of Microsoft
Excel workbooks: cash flows, budgets and budget forecasts, profit and loss accounts. His
meticulous marginalia on the print-outs would gently move Hannah…the devil is in the
detail as he used to say with a glint in his eye. Some of his handwritten calculations were
financial works of art. Richard was a top wrangler, one of the best mathematicians in his
year at Cambridge. He didn’t take his maths further up the academic scale because he
regarded numbers as a means to an end and not an end in themselves. He was too
worldly; and Hannah, a known quantity, came into his life’s equation.
Hannah looks up at the Andy Warhol quotes pinned to the notice-board next to
the desk: “Being good in business is the most fascinating form of art. Making money is
art and working is art and good business is the best art.” Richard loved that inspiring
quotation. On the other side of the room is a Warhol print entitled “Three Cokes.”
Hannah remembers trying to persuade Richard to buy a print of one of Warhol’s single
dollar signs but Richard refused because it was “Too bloody obvious!” Hannah reads
another Warhol quote from the notice-board: “What's great about this country is that
America started the tradition where the richest consumers buy essentially the same things
as the poorest. You can be watching TV and see Coca-Cola, and you know that the
President drinks Coke, Liz Taylor drinks Coke, and just think, you can drink Coke too. A
Coke is a Coke and no amount of money can get you a better Coke than the one the bum
on the corner is drinking.”
But the mass of business stuff that Hannah now sorts through is much more
sorrowful and poignant. Every number, every word, leads up to Richard’s heart attack.
They are, in effect, contributions to his sudden death. All the many anonymous bits of
paper lead up to his early demise. The many projects, brimming with life and endeavour,
which he worked on were actually responsible for the ultimate negative conclusion. He
worked himself to death with a smile on his face. Hannah doesn’t blame herself: Richard
was a force of Nature.
File after file of stuff she didn’t really understand were gladly dumped. The
memorialised core of his career—they all went. He hated the names “number cruncher,”
and “Quant,” he preferred data muncher. The rhythms and flows of finance were his
poetry, his music: his art. He was a fine numerical athlete. Literary poetry was his
antidote to number saturation. Auden, Larkin, Wallace Stevens and Thomas Hardy were
dotted around the study, waiting to be used. Her mouth was dry. The dust from the paper
debris was affecting her but the catharsis of destruction, destruction of his past, was
energising. She swiftly opened the last locked drawer… just a few poetry books and
some yellowing newspaper clippings. Hannah lobbed the books onto the desk with the
pile she was about to shelve. A small, hand written letter was sticking out of the complete
poems of Thomas Hardy. Hannah looked at the poem; it must have been special to
Richard. The poem “A Broken Appointment” was marked with an asterisk. Hannah hates
poetry but she read the lines that where underlined:

Was it not worth a little hour or more


To add yet this: Once you, a woman, came
To soothe a time-torn man; even though it be
You love not me?

Hannah can’t be bothered working out what it meant. She skims the letter used as a
bookmark…it’s a bloody billet-doux. Bastard! Bin it. She resists this instinct and reads
the whole thing. It’s a Dear John letter for God’s sake. Hannah’s conclusion is the same:
bastard! She wants to burn the study; destroy what’s left of him. Quaking with rage she
rips up the letter and shoves it in a bin bag. His Casio desk calculator was also
unceremoniously dumped together with his stash of expensive Cuban cigars. Even his
stock of whisky went into the bags. His battered old Marks & Spencer slippers, once a
painfully poignant reminder of him, were virtually hurled across the room. His empty
Leonhard Heyden Luxury Cambridge Full Grain Buffalo Cognac-Leather Attaché Case
dumped. She wants a clean slate. She ties the bag up and throws it next to the four others.
Lisa can lug them outside tomorrow.
Calming down with a cigarette, Hannah indulges herself in a brief analysis of the
betrayal: Who? Where? When? It was Mary from Kent. That big project in Sevenoaks in
1999? How far did they go? Are there any more letters? The minutiae of adultery. He
can’t hurt me anymore. You will never hurt me again! The bitch gave you the boot!
That’s enough, you bastard. On her way down the stairs, Hannah pauses at their wedding
photo. Hands on hips and shaking her head, Hannah doesn’t take kindly to the groom’s
proud smile:
“Sod off you smug bugger. ‘Numbers are my mistress.’ you bastard!”
The grief-induced beatification has now been withdrawn. Saint Richard has fallen
from grace even though the “bitch” from Sevenoaks was a small blip on the graph, a lone
spike in the masses of a short lifetime’s data. Reams and reams of business letters but all
that work is forgotten because of a lone billet-doux.
Lisa takes off her black, quilted jacket with a fur lined hood and looks warily at the note
from Hannah on the kitchen table; they usually contain bad news for Lisa like ‘special
jobs’ and other laborious tasks. Hannah wants her to remove all the bin bags in the study
and give the room a very good clean. Lisa mumbled one of her dad’s favourite sayings:
“Ours is not to reason why, ours is but to do or die.”
Lisa strips Toby’s bed. The bed linen are expensive Egyptian cotton but they still
whiff of Toby; a rather musty Toby. Stale flatulence is the main culprit. Lisa doesn’t take
offence; her old duvet smells much worse. She chucks the linen onto the landing with
Hannah’s dirty laundry. Lisa eyes the study door. Tempted by its mystique she pops in to
see its condition. She assesses the bin bag’s weightiness but doesn’t worry. Years of
gymnastics have strengthened her. She opens all the hard to open jar lids at home. The
room does have an unusual character; a faded energy. A room that has seen some very
high-powered work: a room now gladly in second gear. She runs her finger across one of
the book shelves to test its dustiness; a big job to do the lot. Ambling over to the old
fashioned desk she pauses to look at some of the many books. Some look very old as if
they were passed down from generation to generation; mostly boring stuff: biography,
business, even philosophy! Sliding her finger over the desk top she decides that there’s
not much to do. She ponders a framed photo of Hannah looking young; she’s a bit of a
hippy chick. A lone folder catches Lisa’s eye: ‘Misc 1’. It looks new and alone. Pausing
for a second, she loses a little battle with her conscience and opens it. She pulls out drafts
of Toby’s “Lisa poem” and then notices the photos of her sunbathing. Her privacy has
been breached in a big way and she strongly regrets opening the folder; she feels that
she’s invaded Toby’s privacy as well. This is delicious but wrong:
“The weird bastard!” said Lisa. She peruses the poem all about her but feels only
pity, not anger. Bottled up lust. Misguided devotion. Bad poetry. It’s laughable. She
laughs and throws her head back in glee. But the photos are a bit disturbing. Strangely
there is one of Honey asleep on the bed. Lisa sits on the big leather chair and swings too
and fro on it wondering what to do, how to use all this information. Her stomach gurgles
and flip-flops. Toby wants me! She feels pity again.
I didn’t realise that he was that desperate. He’s in his own bourgeois bubble,
happy to be alone with no sign of strong wants and needs; just him and his garden. Is he
that desperate for female contact? Does he really love me?
The evidence is sincere and conclusive. She twirls around in the big, black leather
chair giggling to herself.
Now calmed down, Lisa notices the framed photo of all the Lovelock kids; Toby
was a cute little boy…a glimpse of the photos of Lisa brings her out of the reverie; he’s
not so cute nowadays. She frowns and jumps up from the chair. The sheaf of love poetry
and the photos are slid back into the folder. Misc 1…I’m miscellaneous am I? The print
of Jackson Pollock’s Convergence catches her eye and she stops dead. Lisa pulls a face of
confusion and then smiles because she can see so many weird, swirly faces in the picture.
Temporarily stimulated by a burst of great art, she grabs two of the bin bags and hauls
them downstairs. A much wiser person would close Misc 1 and forget about its contents
but Lisa lets her mind race. Her strategic mind is churning over and over. She searches
for an approach, a method; a method in Toby’s love madness: “Allow Me to Fall” In his
dreams! I love this. He would die for me! I’m his reason to live? His words so strong yet
they reveal his weakness. A bright light on his soul. Don’t abuse this. It’s his fault…
wanker! I can’t wait to tell Don. He’ll love this.
Lisa has confided in Don the contractor. He’s amazed at Toby’s nifty love work:
“Poetry?”
“Bad poetry,” said Lisa whose opinion is legitimated by an ‘A’ Level in English
Literature and a liking of romance; romance in theory, pragmatic romance.
“I told you he was a nutter. Sending women love poems went out in the Stone
Age! Was it deep and meaningful stuff?”
“Sort of…it was just sort of weird. I didn’t see myself in a word of it. It could
have been anybody. It was me in theory, me at one remove. Dry, like a page of hard
maths.”
“Did all this bullshit break out like a bolt from the blue?”
“More or less,” said Lisa looking a bit sheepish.
“Oh yeah? I see. Did you flirt with him?”
“Once or twice.”
“Bloody ‘ell! Your fault.”
“No, no way.”
“Only joking. You shouldn’t flirt with single men.”
“You’re a single man.”
“Yeah, I’m a man. He’s just a lad. Give ‘im a wide berth. Pretend it never
happened.”
“Yeah, that’s a good idea. But what if he…you know…”
“Gets his big posh cock out?”
“No! What if he makes a pass at me?”
“That maybe a problem. After all, you weren’t very good at resisting my charms.
Just tell him to eff off. Do you still think he’s a classic English gentleman?”
“He’s a slightly damaged gentleman.”
“Why were you snooping around in his stuff? You could get the sack.”
“I was cleaning out the study. God, it was like deep cleaning a mausoleum. All his
dead dad’s stuff was in there. Mrs. Lovelock chucked it all out.”
“The photos of you sunbathing sound a bit stalkerish, a bit psycho.”
“I can look after myself. I’d dump you in a flash! I’m pretty streetwise.”
“Oh, is that what you call it? Maybe he’s just a sad bastard.”
“Don’t call him that!”
“Aaawwwww, do you love ‘im? He’ll ‘ave you…Lisa loves Toby.
“I’ll show you how much I love him,” said Lisa. She puts her well-trained body to
good use. They make intense, pragmatic love. It’s uncomplicated lust. They wouldn’t call
it love in a billion light-years.
Toby is cycling along a quiet, misty lane in Norfolk. He’s in a good mood. The previous
day he had a very enjoyable visit to the Cambridge University Botanical Gardens.
Walking around the glass houses had inspired him to be more adventurous in his own
garden and try to cultivate his own exotic plants. He’s got everything he needs. He
arrives at the beautiful church of Walpole Saint Peter. Guided by Pevsner, he mooches
around for a while. He feels a little bit guilty because he is using the church in such a
utilitarian way. He never gets the urge to kneel down and pray, even in such hallowed
places. Toby feels that he is good but Godless.
Feeling elevated he walks around the churchyard. After pausing to look at one of
the ancient, leaning grave stones his mood darkens. Having taken in the emptiness of the
Norfolk landscape his thoughts turn to Lisa. Surrounded by the stifling paraphernalia of
death he gets a strong sense of life; Lisa is his route back to a happy life, a life outside the
horticultural cocoon that he inhabits. But he is idealising Lisa and imbuing her with
attributes that she doesn’t possess. Toby’s feelings are clinical but he regards them as
genuine. He understands ‘Nature’ in an ad hoc, academic way but the reality of Nature at
work with regard to Lisa and his current situation is beyond him. He is suddenly
desperate, his confidence is low. Loneliness has worn him down. The chilly autumnal
mist makes him shiver gently…allow me to fall. He has lugged around the idea of Lisa in
his head for awhile. He needs to ease the burden. He wants more.
As the church bells toll his amorous thoughts crystallise. He struggles to squeeze
out some life from the nippy desolation of the grave yard. Toby is momentarily
overawed. He feels himself moving away from youthful infatuation. He wants to go from
being “in love” to a stronger love, an unconditional love. Toby pauses and looks around
the church yard. He leans his bike against the wall and hops up onto the wall. He pulls
out his poem, Allow Me to Fall, and some of the photos he took of Lisa sunbathing; he
treats them like treasured relics… I’ve absorbed you from a distance; now let me closer.
She’s got a tranquil strength. Where are you now? Toby really, really doesn’t want to
know. Ignorance is bliss.
“Big Nature,” mumbles Toby. To him “Big Nature” is the state of being whereby
events outside oneself drive everything along. When he experienced grief he felt himself
being rendered a spectator of his own life. In this mood, Toby briefly contemplates an
outright declaration of love. But he sees sense and decides to put himself in the position
where “getting together” is possible. Allow me to fall. But the logistics of love seem
trivial at this moment. Toby has a natural deadline: Lisa will be leaving in a few weeks.
He takes a last look at one of the wonky headstones and mounts his bike. He decides to
go home two days early. With the sound of Jamiroquai’s song, Falling in his Sennheiser
OMX70 Sport Earphones he cycles into the mist. Five miles on, Toby stops for a rest. He
takes off his and lets the sweetly melancholic sound of Badly Drawn Boy’s song Once
Around The Block seep out into the ether of East Anglia. He pulls a Mars Bar out of his
backpack and begins to wolf it down. Half way through he pauses and sighs. The
logistics of love suddenly begin to eat into him. His appetite vanishes and he chucks the
rest of the bar into a field next to the road…bloody love songs! He shoves his iPod into
his backpack and cycles on reluctantly debating Lisa and her role in his life. The
emptiness of the Norfolk landscape induces such distracting thoughts; the urge to bring
life into the landscape is appealing…her natural fragrance comes back. Phone home: hear
her voice. Toby starts to really ride very hard into the desolation.
All his energy is blasting through his pedals. He sways out into the middle of the
road without realising it. A car behind honks at him and breaks the romantic trance. He
didn’t hear it coming. The shock makes Toby slow to a more sedate, contemplative pace
and not the earthy, sexual pounding into which he had unconsciously slipped. Toby sighs
again. He isn’t looking forward to the panoply that a lover must go through; the flaming
hoops of courtship. There’s no escape from the tiresome rituals. The logistics of love.
He’s grown accustomed to the rarefied heights of the intellect. He’s reluctant to come
down. He envies the people who just say “How about it?” That’s not Toby’s way at all;
falling into bed at the drop of a hat. Courtship is a pain in the arse compared to pondering
the ethics of gene therapy. That comes naturally to him. Courting a lady is much more
difficult. A gigantic pain in the arse. He catches himself thinking negatively and smiles.
I’m in love, Dad! Cool it, son. Toby hasn’t got the right to go charging in there but he’s
tempted…love. Love again! He takes out his Ordnance Survey map and schedule of
places to visit. He scans the column of places and rips it up. The Fenland breeze snatches
it from his hand. The remnants flutter off behind him. He nearly laughs out loud. Toby’s
going home.
September.

Toby leans his bike against the hallway wall and slips off his rucksack. Lisa should be
still around. As Toby sets foot in the home:
STOP. The house is angry, almost raging. Dad? What’s wrong? The usual calm,
welcoming ambience is absent. Toby stops dead. His father’s presence, intangible but
powerful like a force field, leaves Toby standing, almost feeling grief. He shrugs it off
with the help of Lisa:
“Lisa…Lisa,” shouts Toby. There is no answer. Allow me to fall…Hannah is
away on business in Manchester so the house, without her presence, feels empty. He goes
upstairs to his room. His quad muscles feel heavy after his exertions in Norfolk. He takes
his Swiss army knife and Moleskine notebook out of his pocket and lays them on the
table. He now feels officially at home. The notebook contains some ideas that Toby had
on the train journey home. He’s planning an essay on the nature of Nature. Now that his
feelings for Lisa have solidified he feels a buzz of creative energy. Toby is tired but in
high spirits. At the bedroom window he gets an overview of the garden. The builders
have finished their work but the scaffolding is still up. Toby begins visualising new
flower beds and wall flowers for next season. He feels that Lisa is inspiring him. He
wonders about designing something new for her. Suddenly he sees some movement at the
bottom of the garden. The trees and trellis obscure Lisa and Don which is just as well
since they have just finished their alfresco tryst. Toby gets very bad vibes as Lisa and
Don make their way back up to the house. They are visibly in high spirits. Their body
language is that of a couple, a euphoric couple. It’s as if Toby’s good mood has
transferred itself to them. Lisa cracks a joke about naughty servants and puts her arm
around Don’s waist. She throws her head back and laughs.
Toby straightens himself up and then slumps down. The tiredness from the
journey suddenly weighs heavily upon him. His head drops and despair develops within
him but he resists the urge to go downstairs and break up the pair’s party. He knows that
they will realise that he’s home early when they see his bike in the hall. Toby feels a
child-like hurt. He’s been made a fool of; he’s being taught a big lesson by ‘Big Nature’.
He starts blushing with a mixture of anger and embarrassment. The elated banter of Lisa
and Don stops when they see the bike.
“Oh Jesus,” said Lisa. Dan loses his colour. Lisa thinks about shouting Toby but
decides against it.
“Do you think he saw us?” whispered Lisa. Don shakes his head.
“He’d be down here if he had,” said Don. He bustles out of the front door and
drives off rapidly. Lisa starts to tremble slightly. She fears Toby.
Toby decides to have a shower. He wants to sluice away the grime of his journey
but also the dirt of what he’s just seen. Toby understands but he blocks out the truth: his
garden has been defiled in some way. Lisa has got a few tasks to do but decides to call it
a day. Toby hears the front door slam and he relaxes. He fears his own reaction to Lisa
now.
Toby throws himself into garden chores in an attempt to forget the sadness that
envelopes him. He is still angry at himself for even thinking about the logistics of love.
He blames himself for what happened. He tries to hate Lisa but he can’t. He lifts some
carrots and takes some cuttings from plants. After about an hour he goes to the bottom of
the garden and sits on the Love Seat. Sparrows start scuffling in the shrubbery. They are
fighting and chirruping in order to protect their territory. After awhile they flee the bush
at regular intervals as if they are being directed by air traffic control. Something on the
ground catches Toby’s eye. The pristine ground appears to have been scrambled up. He
suspects that a cat has been scrabbling around but gets up to have a closer look. It is a
used condom that Don has tried to bury.
“Oh fuck…fucking hell,” said Toby. He goes back to house and lies on his bed.
He’s got to do something about this. This is out of order but revenge must be a minor
inconvenience. He tries to distract himself by reading The Well-tempered Garden by
Christopher Lloyd.

It is Lisa’s last day. She is relieved. Toby has been avoiding her since the incident.
Nothing was said. He can’t stand the sight of her. Toby has created a going away present
for her. On the kitchen table is a box of fruit and vegetables. There are apples, pears and
strawberries. Toby has also included some poisonous mushrooms. They will make Lisa
quite ill but not kill her. Toby has left a note for Lisa explaining that the box is for her.
Toby is upstairs in the study. He’s reading an Anthony Powell novel. He hears Lisa
singing along to her iPod on the landing. She runs her hand through her new shaggy
perm. She looks cute in her fashionable fur-trimmed Ugg-style boots; bought with
Lovelock money. But they are not for Toby, which is okay because he can’t stand the
sight of her. He shies away now, repulsed. Does the punishment fit the crime? It was his
fault after all for not getting the basics right. Toby wonders about whose idea it was to
tryst in his garden…he stops suddenly…no, no, no, son. Toby trudges downstairs glad
that he doesn’t have to be judge, jury, and executioner. He removes the mushrooms and
leaves them at the side of the box. A silly girl and a horny bastard. The bitch doesn’t
deserve it.
Lisa has finished her work. She decides not to bother Toby. The note on the box
sent her his best wishes. That is as close to a goodbye that she will get. Lisa sees the
mushrooms next to the box. She pauses for a second. The last lot of wild mushrooms that
Toby gave her were delicious. Did he forget to put them in the box? Lisa puts the
mushrooms back in the box and leaves.
Don and Lisa are in her flat.
“Do you fancy something to eat?” said Lisa.
“No, I’m shooting off now,” said Don. Lisa decides to have a mushroom
omelette. Ten minutes after eating it she starts to feel queasy. Nausea passes through her.
She rushes to the toilet and vomits. She gets some water to take away the taste of the
vomit in her mouth. After two or three bouts of vomiting she tries to figure out what has
caused the sickness. She decides that it was poorly cooked eggs, salmonella or
something.
Toby is enjoying the tranquillity of the garden. Lisa and the builders have gone.
The chopped up areas of lawn are healing nicely. He has got his garden back; he’s
sharing it with the girl with lifeless eyes: the girl who didn’t make it through. He takes a
break from tending to the lawn and carefully pulls himself erect. The September wind has
wheedled its way onto Toby’s lower back. He rubs it and feels the full joy of his
contented, autumnal melancholy. He takes a panoramic scan of the garden…I’m blessed.
Why? Why? Nature always gives a warning. His cheeks take on a dangerous ruddy glow
and tears well up. Nature gives him a wide berth. A tear slides down the cold, burnished
cheek…dad? Dad? Lisa? I needed that bitch! He wants to sob selfishly and freely but
reigns in his mixture of deep, postponed grief and pity; pity for Lisa: the only thing left to
do is forgive her. Honey sidles up and rubs herself lovingly against Toby’s calves.
Somebody loves me. He wipes away the tear and laughs at his exhibition of emotion.
Nature envelops him: welcome back, son. His older sister, Penny, arrives and calls to him
but he remains stock-still, filled with love for his dad. Penny notices Toby’s new
hairstyle, a Spartan crop. The autumnal sunshine catches the golden sheen of his fair hair.
He has a very well sculpted skull. His garden is his castle. But he’s lost a little; a shard of
darkness rests inside him. Penny breaks his reverie with another loud shout so he waves
back at her and gives a thumbs-up gesture. He carries on levelling the hollow left by the
Tarzan swing. Two pieces of turf are peeled back and the hollow is levelled. A perfect
lawn at last. Honey sits nearby, observing and standing guard on Toby. He goes into the
house and chats to Penny. She takes in the bracing smell of fresh, chilly air that clings to
Toby. She felt a quick and very worldly pang for her unworldly Toby and his detached,
charismatic presence. He tells her about his big plans for the garden and starting up a
landscape gardening business. He has got his garden back and his contented, monkish
life.
Found Wanting
One

The hotel Dining Room is deserted at midday. Two worn-down looking chambermaids
enter and sit down at one of the dozen or so tables. They take off their overalls and begin
smoking. After a few moments the Chef, Raymond, enters and pointedly sits away from
the women. Wary glances are exchanged. The piped music system suddenly comes to life
and then becomes distorted. The Receptionist Joan enters eating a banana. She sits near
Raymond. She shakes her head as the music machine goes haywire. The song ‘The Girl
From Ipanema’ is stopping and starting.
“Cock-up merchants,” she said. Raymond’s legs are jittery. He stands up and goes
to the window.
The hotel’s owners, Bob Weaver and Theresa Hawkins can be heard trying to fix
the music.
“Leave it alone, Bob. For fuck’s sake!” said Theresa. The music stops. Bob and
Theresa enter the dining room; their faces betray the onerous task ahead of them. Theresa
addresses the gathering of staff.
“The block-booking we were depending on has been cancelled. We’ve got no
choice. We’ve got to close the hotel,” said Theresa. The chambermaids and Chef react
badly and start chattering. “We can’t go on losing money,” said Theresa.
“What about my money?” Shouted Raymond over the din. Joan storms out.
“All of you will get your redundancy pay,” said Theresa.
“I should get my money before the skivvies,” said Raymond.
“I’ll be glad to see the back of that miserable bastard,” said Nancy the
chambermaid. She exhales a long puff of cigarette smoke and stares at Raymond who is
standing up to make his point. Bob is weighing up Raymond. He wouldn’t mind a pop at
him. Suddenly the piped music springs into life. Theresa glances at Bob and he leaves the
room to sort it out. The bickering stops momentarily when they hear Bob ‘fixing’ the
music system. He is knocking the Hell out of it. He returns to the dining room holding a
hammer.
“I will get my money before them. I’m the senior member of staff,” said
Raymond.
“Ray listen, how about if you and me discuss all this after the meeting…in
private?” said Bob. Raymond glances at the hammer. He sits down and falls silent.
Theresa sense aggression. She glances at Bob who shrugs back at her.
“Finally, I’d like to thank you all for the work you’ve done over the last few
weeks,” said Theresa. Raymond jumps up and heads for the kitchen. Bob follows him.
Theresa wearily sits down with the chambermaids to have a smoke. Raised voices can be
heard from the kitchen. She taps her ash into the ash tray and goes to investigate the
cause of the noise.
She goes to the window that looks out over the rear of the hotel. Bob and
Raymond are squaring up to each other. Raymond is gesticulating wildly as Bob stares
steadily back at him. Theresa turns her back on the action and has a long drag on her
cigarette.
She hears scuffling noises from outside but doesn’t look round to watch. She
hears Raymond shouting at Bob:
“You’ll be hearing from my solicitors you crazy bastard,” said Raymond as he
gets into his car. He revs the car up to a ridiculous point and does a wheel-spin as he
shoots away from the hotel’s car park.
Bob enters the kitchen. He is flushed but unharmed. He goes to the sink and swills
his face a few times.
“Was that necessary?” said Theresa.
“He was an idiot,” said Bob drying his face.
“You should have expected it,” said Theresa.
“Did you hear him? He called me a crazy bastard.”
“He was dead right.”
“I only told him to grow up and he snapped up on me.”
“You were like a couple of kids in a play ground. You’re getting too old for stuff
like that.” Bob cackles for few seconds and quietly relishes his little fight against poor
opposition.
“Hang on a second, who hired him?” said Bob.
“He was the best I could get…everywhere was booming two years ago,” said
Theresa. They fall silent as Joan and the chambermaids bustle through to the back door
and leave the hotel for the last time. The two chambermaids link arms as they walk away.
“Maybe we started out with the wrong people,” said Theresa.
“Raymond was a big mistake,” said Bob.
“I made the decisions and I got some wrong…but they were my decisions.”
Theresa tosses her cigarette into the sink. It sizzles. She goes back to the dining room.
Bob throws aside the towel. It slides off the worktop and onto the floor.

Night is falling and Bob is loading personal belongings into the back of a rented van.
Theresa struggles out of the hotel carrying a large cardboard box. The bottom of the box
gives way and a pile of pink towels tumble down the steps.
“Shit!” said Theresa.
“Where did you find them?” said Bob.
“Second floor. The removal men missed them out. If the bank doesn’t want
them….” Theresa starts stuffing the towels into any available space in the van.
“Can’t you see that there’s no more bloody room? Save them for the last load,”
said Bob.
“Can’t you speed up? The traffic isn’t that bad on a Sunday. Let’s get away from
this bloody place.”
“I’m going through the West End. There are no short cuts to Catford.” The radio
blares out loud when he starts up the van’s engine. He zooms off to their new flat in
South London. Theresa goes inside and switches on the light in the hotel’s reception area.
She goes up to the top floor and peers out onto the North London suburbs; lit up and
homely: challenging her to belong. The darkness is sneaking up on her. It stalks her
always. But she feels safe in the darkened bedroom. Scared? No. The shadows don’t
bother her. Failure to make a clean, new life. Failure to change Bob for the better. Failure
to erase her dodgy past. Theresa managed to rise above her past with Bob and the hotel
but now, with abject failure, she feels the past pulling her back. She needs neither
anymore.
Bob stops at some traffic lights on the Euston Road which is one of London’s
main arteries. It is desolate on Sunday evenings. The lights change quickly and he scoots
off towards the King’s Cross area with music blaring out; ‘Sex Bomb’ by Tom Jones. He
passes the rather grim façade of Saint Pancras Station and then reaches the even harsher
concrete and steel frontage of King’s Cross Station. He switches the radio off and slowly
pulls into a side street.
Ahead, in King’s Cross Road, two prostitutes are chatting. One shuffles from one
leg to the other in order to help her circulation. The other folds her arm across her chest
in an effort to keep out the evening’s chill. She grinds her high heels into the pavement.
Bob pulls up and one of the girls bends down to talk through the van’s window.
They talk for a while and then a car pulls up behind them. The driver honks his horn. Bob
panics and zooms off. The girls carry on their chat.
Further down the road a lone prostitute braves the cold. She wears very little. Her
demeanour shows that she means business. Bob pulls up and she jumps in the van.
“Fuck off out!” shouts Bob. He over-revs the engine and the girl panics.
“Time wasting bastard,” shouts the girl above the din of the engine. Bob stalls the
van. There is a moment of weird awkwardness as the two people stare at each other in
silence. The girl smiles at Bob then makes the ‘wanker’ gesture at him. He drives off.
Bob drives rapidly down Clerkenwell Road. He is swearing to himself. He hears a
brief burst of police siren and looks in the rear view mirror. As he pulls up two police
officers walk up to the side of the van. One is in plainclothes and the other is uniformed.
The hotel’s dining room is bare and echoey. Bob is perched on a large suitcase.
His head is bowed. Theresa looks down on him. She lifts her foot at an angle and grinds
the heel of her knee-length boots into the bare floor. She’s in the mood to grind it into
Bob’s face.
“Kerb crawling?” said Theresa incredulously.
“The coppers didn’t call it that,” said Bob.
“So they said you were attempting to solicit a woman for the purposes of
prostitution, from a motor vehicle…why Bob? Why fuck around like that?”
“They made a mistake. I heard some glass break in the back of the van. When I
stopped the motor to have a look the Old Bill jumped out of nowhere.”
“No way! You must have been persistent. A punter has to speak to the girl at least
twice before the coppers move in.” Bob stands up and starts to pace around; his footsteps
echoing around the room. Theresa senses that he’s holding something back. “It will come
out in Court. It’s no use spinning me a yarn, Bob.”
“I was curious.”
“Curious? Bloody curious? You’re a thirty-five year old divorcee! What more do
you need to know about sex?”
“It wasn’t the sex. It was the money. I wanted to know what the going rate was.”
“Do you know what you are?”
“Unlucky.”
“You’re stupid. Plain stupid.” Theresa begins to tremble. The strain of trying to
save the business and moving house has affected her badly. Her chin drops to her chest as
she struggles to hold back tears. Bob sees her reaction but he’s confused:
“So I fucked it up again—you should be used to it.” The steady stream of tears
suggests that something deeper is troubling Theresa.
“Aren’t you curious about how I know so much about the kerb crawling law?”
“Did you see it on the telly?”
“No…I lived it.” She raises her head in defiance of her shame. She steels herself
expecting a bad reaction from Bob. She takes a deep breathe.
“You? On the streets?”
“Not the streets, no. I did some escort work. If you’d met me three years ago I
would have told you the going rate.” She gets out her handkerchief and wipes away the
tears. Bob looks into her and shakes his head. He grabs the two heavy suitcases and
makes for the door. Theresa picks up a lighter case and follows him. She flicks off the
light as she leaves the room for the last time. On the journey she senses that Bob is
troubled but not forthcoming. She feels that he has left a lot of bad stuff unsaid. Bob isn’t
talkative at the best of times but for two or three days he barely says a word.
They have been in their new home for three days but they are still unpacking non
essential stuff. As they unpack a series of cardboard boxes, Theresa’s movements are
quick and efficient. Bob is unkempt, his movements are languid. He fiddles with the
attachments of a cylinder vacuum cleaner. Theresa spots his lack of enthusiasm and
strikes up a conversation:
“The girl in the employment agency thought I was there to hire some temps,” said
Theresa.
“Anything going for you?”
“There’s a chance of something near the airport.”
“Doing what?”
“Hotel work. The girl’s sent them my CV. It’s all a bit speculative. But it’s a big
chain. There are always opportunities…when are you making a comeback to work?”
“There’s no rush. I deserve a bit of a rest.”
“A rest? You’ve spent the last three days in bed. If you don’t get a move on…”
“What’s your problem?”
“My problem? You’re the one with the problem…are you afraid of bringing it up?
“Bringing what up?”
“My past.”
“That’s your business. I haven’t got a problem with it.”
“I can read you like a book—it is a problem. It’s a pain in the arse…I don’t need
it.” Bob carries the vacuum across the room. He more or less throws it onto the floor. “I
should have kept my mouth shut—you can’t handle it,” said Theresa. Bob just turns
around, puts his hands on his hips and stares at her. “It will eat you up from the inside. I
know you…say something—anything.” Bob looks around the room and smiles:
“Do you want the ceiling done in white or magnolia emulsion?” said Bob.

Phil Hunter manages one of the hotels in a large national chain. He likes to impress head
office with his initiative, or failing that, any woman who happens to be around. He is
interviewing Theresa:
“I like the look of your CV. It’s an attractive mixture of experience and
qualifications. My Boss wouldn’t forgive me if I didn’t give you a closer look.
Unfortunately the only vacancy at the moment is for a chambermaid….” Phil pauses and
relishes a broad but false smile. Theresa’s disappointment registers from under her
attentive ‘interview face’. She is momentarily aware of her desperation. This wanker
reminds her of a dodgy client she came across when she was a prostitute. Alarm bells are
ringing but she must move onwards and upwards. Phil relishes any frisson of power he
can get over an attractive woman; he enjoys her vulnerability. “I know you’re over-
qualified but if you’re prepared to get your foot in the door you might be better placed to
take advantage of opportunities in the future.”
Phil leans forward and gazes at Theresa. She resists the urge to do a runner. Phil is
trying to detect a flicker of mutual understanding. He is assessing how she would react to
any subsequent sexual advances. Theresa averts her gaze to the side. He lowers his voice
a little:
“I started at the bottom. I enjoyed working my way up…bottom to top—that’s my
favourite route in all things,” said Phil.
“Is there scope for rapid promotion?” said Theresa.
“I’m always keen to reward good performers. I’m willing to provide more
informal inducements for people who put in a little bit extra.” Theresa tries to divert Phil
away from his sleazy innuendo:
“Are you talking about a profit related bonus scheme?”
“I like your style, Theresa, I like your style.” He leans back in his chair and
smiles.
While Theresa deals with a sleaze-ball boss, Bob is ambling around a big DIY
store. Looking a bit dishevelled he is getting paint to decorate the new flat. He peers at
his list and scratches his stubbly chin. Further down the aisle a well-built and well-
dressed man strides along. His intelligent eyes scan ahead of him. He sees Bob and
pauses. He does a double-take. After a few moments, Shane Walker’s presence makes
Bob turn around to face him.
“Bobby Weaver?” said Shane, unsure that he had the right man.
“Who’s asking?”
“Shane…Shane Walker.” Bob takes off his battered baseball cap and scratches his
closely cropped head.
“Sorry mate, I don’t know you.”
“I was Captain of the South-East Counties youth team. We were on the same
football team. You played left-wing.”
“I was on the right-wing…Jesus, how did you recognize me?”
“I’m in the night-club business. You need a good memory for faces—it helps you
keep an eye on the trouble makers.”
“You a bouncer?”
“No, I own a few. Shane fishes out his business card and gives it to Bob. “Give
me a call sometime. I’ll see you around.” As Shane strides away, Bob glances at his
dapper appearance. Bob pulls off three large pots of paint and trudges down the aisle with
his trolley. He remembers Shane as a sharp lad. He had an air about him; a sort of
presence and confidence that people warmed to. He was a natural leader. Bob was a
pretty good player but he was lazy. Football wasn’t his whole world. He had a quick
temper and discipline problems. If an opponent wound him up he completely lost his
composure. He got sent-off many times in his short career. Coaches simply stopped
picking him.
Theresa enters the hallway of the flat. It’s in darkness. When she switches on the
light it reveals a load of decorating materials. She puts down her briefcase and enters the
darkened living room. She hears the telly and Bob snoring loudly. Bob is laid out on the
Sofa. There is a cluster of empty beer cans and a half empty bottle of whiskey on the
coffee table. A soft-porn magazine is laid across his chest. There is no smell of wet paint
as she expected. Theresa surveys the scene with a look of disgust. She switches off ‘Deal
Or No Deal’ and turns her attention to Bob.
“Bob…BOB.” He sleeps on but shifts his position and the magazine falls to the
floor. She rolls it into a baton and hits Bob hard over the head. A groggy Bob sits up:
“Off side, referee,” said Bob.
“Do you want the ceiling done in White or magnolia?” said Theresa in a mocking,
rhetorical way.
“We need to talk,” said Bob slurring his speech.
“We’ll talk when you’ve sobered up…if you ever do.”
Two

Two blue sports kites swoop and climb in unison. It’s a crisp, sunny winter’s day. The
view from Primrose Hill is stunning. The London skyline broods in the distance; a power
view for the people. Bob and his friend, Roland control their kites well. But Bob
grimaces as he loses control. He struggles as the kites lose their synchrony.
“Well done, Bob. Three errors in five minutes,” said Roland.
“Sorry, Roland. I’m still pissed from yesterday,” said Bob.
“Let’s call it a day.”
The men dismantle their kites and put them in the boot of Roland’s car.
“I put out some feelers and there’s a job going at a Filling Station just outside the
West End. Are you interested?” said Roland.
“Not really, no,” said Bob.
“It’ll get Theresa off your back for awhile.”
“I’ll think about it…Roland, what would you do if your missus told you that she
was on the game?”
“What? Have you been watching too much day-time Telly?
“No, there was a documentary the other night.”
“I’ll tell you this; I’d stop fixing fucking photocopiers for a living. I’d let her get
on with it and take early retirement.”
Roland climbs into the driver’s seat but Bob pauses for a few moments before
getting in the car. Roland’s pragmatic response to Bob’s question has struck a chord.
Early retirement sounds a lot better than selling petrol twelve hours a day in Bromley.
Bob and Theresa are waiting for a train on the platform of Green Park tube
station. Bob is peering at the Leaf murals on the wall. A tramp appears at the far end of
the platform. He walks past his fellow passengers with an air of great dignity. He stops
near Bob and Theresa. He starts to urinate over the edge of the platform. The stream
seems endless. It splashes loudly on the tracks below.
“I’m not standing for this,” said Theresa.
“He can’t help it,” said Bob. Theresa makes for the exit, closely followed by Bob.
The tramp is still pissing as they ride up the escalator. Theresa emerges from the station
exit that opens onto Green Park. The freezing wind cuts through her so she pulls up the
hood of her padded jacket. Bob follows at a distance. He is laughing. He shouts ahead to
her:
“Come off it, Theresa. Where are you going?”
“Anywhere…Buckingham Palace.”
“They won’t let you in.” Just as he catches up with her she sits on a park bench.
They sit in silence for awhile. A jogger passes. He’s puffing and panting and overweight.
Bob and Theresa look at each other and share a moment of intimacy. Look at that fat
fucker. The traffic rumble from The Mall drones in the background.
“Let’s talk,” said Bob.
“Let’s not,” said Theresa.
“I’m ready. I want to talk about your past life.”
“You make it sound like a reincarnation.”
“I want to know—I can handle it.”
“Curiosity again?”
“Yeah, yeah, whatever. Please yourself.” Bob folds his arms and stretches his
legs.
“Okay, let’s talk.”
“How much did you make?”
“I knew it—bloody curiosity!”
“It was the first thing that came into my head.” Theresa gives Bob a hard look and
shakes her head.
“At least you’re talking. That sort of silence kills me,” said Theresa.
“What could I say?” said Bob.
“What did you want to say? Were you angry? Embarrassed? Shocked?”
“Probably.”
“For Christ’s sake! Probably? What do you feel like now—right now?”
“What do you feel like?”
“You’re not up to it.”
“I can handle it…”
“We haven’t even scratched the surface.”
“Don’t worry. I’m a big boy now.” Theresa looks hard into Bob’s eyes and taps
her temple:
“It’s going to hit you in here eventually and I’m not sure if I want to be around
when it does.” Theresa rises slowly from the bench and makes her way towards the Tube
station. Bob sits alone for a while and pulls up the hood of his Nike sweatshirt. The fat
jogger passes again. Bob rises and follows Theresa to the station.

Bob is on the night-shift at the checkout of a filling station. He’s been working there for a
few nights. There is a spillage of diesel near the door which Bob is trying to clean up. It’s
been a quiet Saturday night until now but as midnight approaches the revellers from pubs
and clubs pass by and sometimes visit the filling station looking for food and sometimes
mischief. He hears the sound of rowdy youths and goes behind the checkout. One of the
youths is permanently laughing at everything his mates say or shout. Bob mentally
prepares himself for some aggro.
Five youths enter the shop. Tim is the drunkest. His friend, Karen tries to calm
him down. He’s acting the big man in front of the girls. Bob discreetly keeps an eye on
him.
“Okay, okay, I’ll get you some crisps,” said Karen. But Tim is emphatic:
“I want real food,” said Tim. The couple go over to the microwave oven which is
used to heat burgers and pies. Bob is quietly vigilant. Karen is having trouble with the
microwave:
“I can’t work this out,” said Karen.
“Hey, mate how does this thing work?” said Tim to Bob.
“The instructions are on the wall,” said Bob. Tim sways slightly as he fights the
alcohol and drugs. He struggles to focus on the poster. His eyes lock onto a promotional
poster nearby:
“Oh yeah…” Tim reads aloud: “Collect fifteen tokens for a vegetable chopper…
what the fuck’s a vegetable chopper?” Tim’s mates see his error and become hysterical.
Tim laps up the hilarity and plays to the crowd. He shouts over to Bob: “Hey, dickhead.
These are fucking useless. I want a cheeseburger.”
“Pack it in, Tim,” said Karen.
“If I were you, mate I’d give the burgers a miss. They’re crap,” said Bob.
“Are you an expert on cheeseburgers then?” said Tim.
“Leave it out, Tim,” said Karen.
“That loser’s telling me what to eat.” Bob starts to clamber over the counter. Tim
recoils quickly, his face a picture of fear. Suddenly everybody switches their attention to
the shop door as Shane Walker enters. He weighs up the situation instantly. He speaks to
the youths:
“Evening, ladies and gents. Are we having a good night?” the group is silent. Bob
returns to his seat. Shane pulls out a bundle of red cards advertising one of his clubs and
hands them out. “Here you go. Free entry and two free drinks before ten o’clock.” The
gang files out quietly. Each takes a card as they pass Shane. He moves to the checkout
and addresses Bob: “Churchill was right, mate; jaw-jaw is better than war-war.”
Shane selects some items including some condoms. Bob beeps them into the till.
Shane looks at bob as he works; he mildly pities him. He remembers Bob as a confident
youth with things going well for him.
“How long have you been in this game?” said Shane.
“Not long—it’s just temporary.”
“It’s funny how things turn out. I thought you’d make the semi-pros at least.”
“Nah, I was a golden boy for a couple of weeks, that’s all.”
“What happened?”
“I had some knee trouble at first and then my ex-wife started getting at me to quit.
I lost momentum…I lost interest. Football wasn’t my whole life.”
“I suppose the clubs who were after you lost interest as well?”
“Yeah.” A gritty looking woman in imitation designer clothes enters the shop. She
holds open the door which makes a constant bleeping noise:
“Are you coming or what?” said the raw woman to Shane. He ignores her.
“I’ve got a new club opening next Saturday.” He hands Bob two free tickets.
“Bring a friend,” said Shane. He leaves the shop. Bob watches as Shane and the woman
drive off in a top of the range BMW. He continues mopping up the spillage which has
walked into the shop. He pulls a bottle of Lucozade Sport off the shelf and settles back
into his seat behind the counter. He stares out through the luminous forecourt into the
midnight gloom beyond. Eight hours to go…fuck this.
Shane’s new night-club is pretty classy. Bob and Theresa are sat in the corner and
enjoying themselves. They hadn’t experienced the release that some nine-to-five workers
need at the weekend for some time. During the period that they where self-employed they
rarely went out and worked long hours. Bob isn’t drinking himself into oblivion but she
is. She goes to find the toilets while Bob sits alone and sips his pint. He feels pangs of
envy for Shane; he’s got all this and more but he hasn’t got Theresa: a woman with an
increasing value. She returns, stumbling slightly.
“The wash rooms are impressive.”
“Good.”
“He must have spent a lot of money doing this place up—he knows how to keep
his customers happy.”
“I’m happy.”
“Tell me about him.”
“He was a good Captain.”
“A natural leader. Very smart?”
“Maybe he just got lucky.”
“You’re not envious are you?”
“Crap.”
“Envy,” said Theresa laughing. Bob holds up his hand and puts two fingers close
together:
“I was this close to turning pro. I had fifty times more class than him.”
“So what stopped you?”
“Injuries.”
“Injuries heal.”
“My ex didn’t help either. She had no fucking faith in me whatsoever. She wanted
me to jack it in and get a proper job.” Bob falls silent having satisfactorily blamed his ex-
wife for his lack of football success. Theresa knocks back her vodka and orange…she
glances up and catches sight of Shane. She’s never met him before but she knows
instinctively that he’s the owner of the club. She gazes at him bantering with customers
and bar staff. Bob drains his pint and stands up to go to the bar.
“Your Captain’s arrived,” said Theresa.
“Oh yeah,” said Bob without enthusiasm.
“You told me he was a spotty Herbert who outgrew his own strength…he’s quite
good looking—hold it he’s coming over.” Shane’s eyes carefully scan the room as he
approaches Bob’s table. As he gets closer his eyes focus gently on Theresa.
“Good to see you, Bob—and you’ve brought along a lady-friend,” said Shane.
“This is Theresa,” said Bob.
“Isn’t there a Saint Theresa?” said Shane.
“I have to be a Saint to put up with him,” said Theresa nodding at Bob. Shane
laughs.
“I’m sure he’s not that bad—how about some champagne? I’ll have it sent over,”
said Shane. He holds Theresa’s gaze for a second and smiles. “See you around,” he said.
He resumes his mingling with customers. Bob stares at his empty pint pot while Theresa
quietly gazes at Shane. The Michael Gray song ‘The Weekend’ is playing in the
background. Theresa gets up for a dance. Bob isn’t pissed enough to dance yet.
In the taxi on the way home, Theresa is singing the Michael Gray song. Bob is
just sober enough to be embarrassed by the singing.
“I can’t wait for the weekend to begin, I can’t wait for the weekend to begin…”
sings Theresa.
“It’s already begun. So fuck off,” said Bob. They don’t realise that they’re driving
through King’s Cross. Theresa tries to encourage Bob to join in with the song.
“Come on, you know this one,” she said.
“Leave it out,” he said. She stops singing when she spots a street prostitute on the
pavement outside. Her sudden silence and stare draws Bob’s attention to the girl. The
Cabby speaks:
“They keep coming back. There was a big crackdown last week. Don’t get me
wrong, I feel it for the street girls. They get all the hassle while the tarts that do the Top
Brass get away with it.”
“Yeah, the toffs always get away with it,” said Bob. The pair spends the rest of
their journey in silence.
Back at the flat, Theresa kicks off her high-heels and lays herself out on the sofa.
She hears Bob clattering around in the kitchen. He’s making a bacon sandwich. Theresa
lies back and closes her eyes. She smiles beatifically as the booze numbs her to the core.
For a second she resembles a reclining stone saint on a church monument. Bob enters the
room.
“I want some toast…and then I want you,” said Theresa.
“I’ll do the toast. The state you’re in you’ll burn the fucking place down,” said
Bob. He rummages around in the bread bin and puts the bread under the grill. When he
returns with two mugs of coffee he sees Theresa fast asleep. He stares at her long and
hard. His eyes scan over her like a butcher assessing a carcass. She’s his most valuable
asset; she’s quality. But would he care if her work was sucking toff’s cocks? He sniffs the
air—the toast is burning: he rushes back to the kitchen.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell,” said Bob. He sorts out the toast and returns to Theresa. He
carefully carries her to the bedroom and puts her to bed. She mumbles something to
herself then falls into a deep sleep.
Three

Theresa unhooks an overall from her locker and slips it on. Another chambermaid enters
and squeezes past Theresa who nods and smiles in recognition. The chambermaid strips
off. Theresa leaves the room and begins her shift. She is doing a room while Phil Hunter,
who sees her trolley, waits shiftily outside. Theresa emerges from the room carrying dirty
linen and towels. Phil’s posture changes and he pretends to be casually walking past.
“How’s things, Theresa?” said Phil. He crouches down to inspect the trolley and
Theresa’s legs.
“I’m doing my best,” said Theresa. She stiffens slightly.
“Don’t sell yourself short. You’re performing well. I reward people who can
perform to my standard. I like to build relationships.”
“I’d better be getting on,” said Theresa sensing an awkward situation developing.
“Don’t rush off! I’ve got some good news. There’s an Admin’ vacancy coming
up. It’s a few steps up the ladder. That’s what you want, yeah?” he moves towards
Theresa slightly.
“I’ll give it a go, Mister Hunter”
“No, no, no, call me Phil…” she smiles but wants to kick Phil right in the
bollocks. “I love giving talent its head,” he said.
“I have to go. I’m behind schedule,” she said. Phil puts his foot against the trolley
and stops Theresa’s getaway:
“Do you prefer the carrot or the stick? I’d rather use the carrot but I’m not afraid
of the stick,” said Phil, his manner cold. He doesn’t like wasting time on tarts that don’t
go. He struts off down the corridor. Theresa trundles on her way. She blows upwards
onto her fringe with relief. A job well done; fending off a creepy bastard.
Bob rings the door bell of Roland, his kiting partner.
“Come in, I need some immoral support,” said Roland. “Jean wants to hold one of
those parties. You know the ones, frilly knickers and dildoes.”
“They’re harmless,” said Bob.
“Don’t tell the misses that. I need some back-up here. She’s on the warpath…”
Jean stomps down the stairs and into the room. She’s looking for trouble. She softens
slightly when she sees Bob but then continues her argument with Roland.
“Bob agrees with me. Knicker and dildo parties are out of order.”
“—I’m having it!”
“We know what goes on…” said Roland. Bob keeps his head down as the flak
flies.
“Grow up, Roland.”
“I’m not the one who needs to grow up,” said Roland looking at Bob. Jean looks
at Bob.
“Why, what’s he been up to?” said Jean looking at Bob.
“Not Bob—you! You and your cronies. I don’t want a gang of middle-aged
school girls taking over my house.”
“You just can’t stand the idea of women enjoying themselves. We can have a
laugh without your help…does Didums feel left out?”
“What do you reckon, Bob?” said Roland.
“I’m late for work,” said Bob rising from his chair and making for the door.
“Cheers mate. Thanks for your support,” said Roland.
“Bob, ask Theresa if she wants to come to the party. It’s tomorrow at seven,” said
Jean. “Whether he likes it or not.”
The next day, at work, Bob is serving Rose Perry a feisty senior citizen. She holds
aloft a video tape. She puts it close to Bob’s face.
“This film isn’t funny! I’m renowned for my sense of humour but I didn’t laugh
once,” said Rose.
“What do you expect me to do about it?” said Bob.
“I want my money back of course!”
“I can’t do that.” A queue is building up behind Rose.
“I’m not without influence at this establishment, young man.”
“Talk to the manager.”
“Give me my money back—you’re new here aren’t you?” Mister Croft, the
Manager appears from the office behind Bob.
“Ahhh, Mister Croft.” said Rose.
“What can I do for you, misses Perry?” said mister Croft. Rose begins to tell
mister Croft about her issue with the film. From the back of a now lengthy queue, Bob
hears the hissing of a car paint aerosol. He looks towards the back of the shop as two
youths laugh behind the back of an old man. One of the boys conceals the can behind his
back. He has a face like a ferret. His friend tries to look angelic and grins inanely.
“Keep an eye on those two,” said mister Croft. Bob starts to serve a customer but
he hears the hissing sound again. When the old man turns around, Bob sees that he has
blue paint all over his back. “Sort them out, Bob,” said mister Croft.
“Sort them out?” said Bob.
“Yes, yes,” said mister Croft. Bob makes his way through the crush of customers.
The youths see him coming and decide to leave rapidly. The paint can falls to the floor
but Bob picks it up as he passes. Bob catches up with them on the forecourt and grabs
ferret face by the hood of his sweatshirt.
“You’ve forgotten this,” said Bob. He pulls open the youth’s tracksuit bottoms
and sprays paint into his crotch. The youth freezes and looks down in disbelief. His friend
looks on with amused detachment:
“Whoa, whoa, man. Hold it…you forgot to shake the can,” said the youth’s
friend.
“Shake it yourself,” said Bob as he walks back to the shop. Misses Perry stops
him:
“Those two thugs deserved everything they got. Well done! Now give me my
money back,” said Misses Perry.
“Oh, piss off,” said Bob.
In the filling station office, Bob and mister Croft sit facing each other:
“You’re supposed to humour the old dears—I thought you would know that from
your experience in the service sector,” said mister Croft.
“I let my partner deal with the guests. I stayed behind the scenes,” said Bob.
“I’m not surprised! That kid will be scrubbing his balls for weeks. With a temper
like yours I would keep well away from the public.”
“Yeah, yeah…are you sacking me?”
“I’ve got no choice.”
“To be honest, I’m not bothered. I’m going to go into business with my partner.”
“I hope you’re not coming into contact with your customers.”
“No, I’m leaving that to Theresa.”
“Very wise. What line of business is it?”
“Leisure.”
“Oh, a service industry?”
“I suppose you could call it that.”
“A well established service?”
“Oh yeah, one of the oldest.”
“Well, great good luck to the pair of you.”
Bob pops into the pub on his way home from what was work. He has a few pints
to prepare himself for breaking the news to Theresa about losing his job. He’ll get some
short term ear-ache but now he will be able to think full-time about his long-term plans
for Theresa. The biggest barrier in his mind: her fucking and sucking other men was
crumbling day-by-day. In principle he was ninety per cent sure that he could handle it.
The task now was how to get her thinking along the lines that he was thinking along.
Bob slumps onto the sofa. He hasn’t taken his winter coat off nor his woolly Nike
hat. Theresa strides into the living room wearing a navy blue party dress. She is carrying
her high-heel shoes. She bustles to the mirror and teases out her hair:
“Chuck me the car keys. Jean’s party starts at seven—where have you been ‘till
now?” said Theresa.
“I had some trouble at work,” said Bob.
“Trouble?” said Theresa slipping on her shoes. She’s looking forward to the
party; she’s crackling with energy. Bob smiles to himself. She’s a fucking goldmine.
“A yobbo had a go at an old geezer. Croft told me to sort him out….”
“So you sorted him out? What’s the damage?”
“I sprayed his bollocks blue.”
“My hero!” said Theresa in a mocking tone. Bob is ominously silent. He doesn’t
want to spoil Theresa’s party mood nor is he in the mood for a bollocking for losing his
job. Theresa does a final check in the mirror and hurries towards the door. She pauses at
the doorway:
“If my hero is lucky he might get a little surprise when I get back.” A little
surprise, eh? Bob takes off his hat and coat and throws them on the chair. He cracks open
a can of Boddingtons and settles into the sofa. He’s not actively loved Theresa for quite
awhile. He flicks through the TV channels. He couldn’t be bothered coming up with an
escape route. He’s happy to wait. He’s not completely loveless but his campaign to nudge
her back into prostitution will not make love a victim. He takes off his work-boots and
puts his feet up on the coffee-table. On the table there is a framed photo of them with all
the staff at the hotel’s Christmas party. He loved her then. But that was when things were
going well. He takes a swig of beer. He’s doing the right thing.
At Jean’s knicker and dildo party, Roland is disrupting the party by drilling into
the adjoining wall with a hammer drill. Jean can’t believe what she’s hearing. The party
leader, Debbie, struggles to hold the guest’s attention; they are embarrassed and
unresponsive. Debbie holds aloft a large golden vibrator. All is quiet then just as she
begins her sales pitch, Roland starts drilling again. Jean struggles to control her anger:
“Keep going, Debbie. He’s just trying to prove a point. If he starts again I’ll….”
Roland starts again. He’s really grinding the drill into the wall. Jean flies into the kitchen.
The drilling stops.
“This is essential maintenance,” shouted Roland.
“What a bloody dickhead,” shouted Jean.
“Essential bloody maintenance!”
“You’re a childish dickhead!”
“It sounds like the party’s over,” said Debbie. Two of the guests walk over to the
kitchen door in order to listen to Jean and Roland arguing. In the kitchen, Jean lifts a full
washing-up bowl of water out of the sink. Roland looks at the bowl and then his electric
drill: “No don’t…Jean DON’T,” said Roland. Jean throws the bowl of water at Roland.
When the water hits the drill there is a banging noise and the house falls into darkness.
“She’s done him in,” said one of the guests.
“You could have killed me! Are you satisfied? Jesus Christ,” said Roland. The
party breaks up. Outside, Theresa puts her bag full of underwear on the passenger street.
She sits in darkness as the other guests file out of the house. She looks at the stockings
and suspenders. When she was an escourt girl such stuff was more or less a uniform for
her. Since she revealed to Bob her past as a prostitute there had been no sex. Something
was missing. Theresa doesn’t normally need lingerie trickery to turn on Bob. She holds
back a little in the bedroom but Bob must have wondered about her expertise. In
moments of mischief when boredom was intense she wondered what it would be like to
go back to prostitution. It wasn’t all dodgy punters and soulless fucking. There were
moments of fun. But she pulls herself away from such thoughts and feelings. She starts
the engine and sets off for home; alone but happy.
Bob laughs along with the ‘laugh track’ of “Friends” until he hears Theresa
coming through the front door. He turns down the sound and tries to look sombre.
“Jean nearly killed Roland,” said Theresa.
“Oh, right,” said Bob. Theresa rummages around in her plastic bag and pulls out
her new lingerie:
“Look what I’ve got,” said Theresa. Bob gives the stuff a cursory glance. “She
threw in some free stockings as well, look…” bob lets out a half-hearted grunt. “Is that all
you can say?” Bob pauses and looks a little sheepish:
“I didn’t tell you the whole story about the trouble I had at work.”
“Well? What’s the story then?”
“Croft sacked me.”
“But he told you to sort out the yobbo.”
“Yeah, but I snapped on somebody else—another customer.”
“Oh God—what did you do to him?”
“It was an old woman.”
“You slapped an old lady?”
“Nah, I only told her to piss off.” Theresa stuffs all the lingerie back in the bag.
She bustles out of the room slamming the door behind her. Bob’s expression changes
from pensive to smug when she’s gone and he turns up the sound. In the bedroom,
Theresa kicks off her shoes and throws herself on the bed. She feels like fucking off
rather than fucking Bob. Mentally she’s been giving Bob written warnings. The quiet
shielding she used to feel when they were together is evaporating; now he’s a pain in the
arse. As she puts away the lingerie she thinks of Shane’s smile and his quiet authority. He
would appreciate her. Although it is only nine o’clock she gets ready for bed. She reads
“Hello!” magazine in bed but she’s thinking about Bob: the fucker doesn’t know her
value. She knows that Shane would. Happy with this fantasy she switches off the bedside
lamp and falls asleep. In the living room, Bob is wondering about her value. He’s making
plans for Theresa. His scheme to guide her back to prostitution begins in earnest
tomorrow.

Bob enters the lounge bar of the Bluebell pub. Two men in smart suits are chatting at the
bar. They seem out of place because the surroundings are seedy and a little ramshackle.
Bob hears loud, rhythmic music coming from the public bar in the next room. When he
enters from the passageway he sees an emaciated stripper performing before a small
gathering of entranced men. The old man on the gaming machine has a good win and the
sound of the money being pumped out fills the room. Bob approaches the bar:
“Is John around?” said Bob.
“Who wants him?” said the barmaid.
“I’m a friend.” John Blunden emerges from the back room. He’s a middle-aged
former boxer with obvious battle scars:
“—Only just a friend,” said John. Bob tells him that he wants to have a chat so
they go into the quiet lounge bar. Bob can still see the stripper through the passageway.
She’s coming to the climax of her act. The music stops.
“I want to run a prostitute,” said Bob.
“Ha, you should go and see your old man!” said John.
“—He never pimped.”
“He came close, very close.”
“What stopped him?”
“The only person who can scare him.”
“The old lady? She must have hit the roof…how is she doing?”
“She’s been okay since they moved down to Kent.”
“When did they leave Dagenham?”
“Six or seven years back. When did you see them last?”
“Fifteen years ago. Why Kent? I thought they wanted to die in Dagenham.”
“Yeah, die of old age! There was a chance that somebody would give them an
early send-off. It was a precaution.”
“So nobody got hurt?”
“Only your old man’s pride. He thought he could handle the new boys.”
“I bet he loved getting knocked off his perch,” said Bob with a hard edge to his
voice.
“You still got it in for him after fifteen years apart?”
“So you reckon that he’s forgotten all the bad blood?”
“Possibly—he’s been through some heavy shit.”
“Mention my name next time you see him—he’ll fly off the handle. He always
will.”
“All this aggro over a young footballer. But I can understand why he got angry—
you were pretty good.”
“Not good enough. Not good enough for the pro-game.”
“He only wanted you to give it your best shot.”
“He only wanted a famous son to parade around the boozers.” Bob looks over at
the public bar as another stripper takes to the podium.
“I reckon you should bury the hatchet…it makes sense now,” said John.
“I won’t need his help if you give me a good contact,” said Bob. John pauses and
looks at Bob. He wonders if Bob knows what he’s doing:
“Do you remember Jimmy Sharkey?” said John.
“No.”
“He’s retired from that game but he’s still on the ball.” John scribbles a phone
number on a beer mat and hands it over to Bob. “He lives in Southend.” Bob rises to
leave. “Are you sure about this?” said John.
“I can handle it—I’m not Terry Weaver’s kid any more.”
The bracing air of a winter Southend ruddies Bob’s cheeks. He is waiting for
Jimmy Sharkey outside a souvenir shop. He peers in the shop window. Jimmy
approaches quietly and assesses Bob from a distance. Jimmy is in his seventies but he is
quite sprightly nonetheless:
“You’ve got some of your old man about you,” said Jimmy. Bob turns around, a
little shocked. His nerves are a little taught as he tries to navigate into a world he once
vowed to stay away from; his father’s world. A world where people are just meat to be
processed. Professional football was supposed to be an escape route for Bob. Terry will
never forgive Bob for drifting away from the respectable world of football. The two men
go to a nearby café. They sit in a quiet corner with their mugs of tea. Around them are
small groups of senior citizens enjoying off-season discounts. Nearby an old woman
reacts with glee as she has a win on the gaming machine. Jimmy stares at the woman as
she scoops her winnings out of the machine then he stares at Bob. Jimmy breaks eye-
contact first. He looks down and then speaks:
“I’ve had a word with Johnny Blunden,” said Jimmy.
“Oh yeah,” said Bob.
“He reckons that you’re not cut out for this business.”
“Did he tell you to look after me?”
“Do I look like a fucking minder?” Bob stares at Jimmy and they seem to come to
an understanding. “I’m retired from it. If you’ve got any sense you won’t get started. You
seem like a bright enough lad. Prostitution is a last resort.”
“Don’t worry. I’m up for it,” said Bob.
“Fair enough.”
“What about premises—we need a good pitch.”
“We’ll get round to that—have you got a girl lined up?”
“Yeah,” said Bob with a brief but definite hesitation.
“Fuckin’ ‘ell. You sure?”
“She just needs a bit of persuasion.”
“Don’t bother slapping her about. Life’s too short. Get another girl. There’s
plenty of talent if you know where to look.”
“I won’t need to force her back into it…”
“Back into it?”
“She used to be an escort girl.”
“Now we’re getting somewhere. How old is she?”
“Thirty-seven.”
“Good looking?”
“Not bad.”
“Body?”
“Pretty good.” Jimmy’s eyes narrow as he ponders some options. “I know
someone who might be willing to share her place. She’s one of my old girls.” Bob peers
at a group of old ladies having a laugh and joke.
“How old is she?”
“Not as old as that lot. I got her when she was thirteen.”
“Thirteen?”
“Scared of getting your hands dirty? I want five hundred quid for putting you on
the right track.”
“Five hundred for a phone number?”
“You’re getting a lot more than a phone number, mate. We’re talking about forty
years of experience…I suppose you could always try muscling in by yourself.”
“I can handle me self.”
“Yeah, yeah, that’s what your old man used to say.”
“He didn’t do too bad.”
“He’s lucky to be alive. Is that the sort of luck you want?”
“Leave it out. What’s your old girl like?”
“Zelda’s a good girl—great business twenty years ago.”
“What about now?”
“She’s a specialist. Professional people mostly: business men, Lawyers, civil
servants, the odd politician now and again. Look, are you sure your girl’s keen enough?”
“She’s not got much choice.”
Theresa is rushing to end her shift at the hotel. She has applied for the admin job
but Phil Hunter hasn’t mentioned it. He hasn’t been sniffing around her as much as when
she first started her job. She is vigorously cleaning a toilet bowl. Hunter has sneaked into
the room and is staring at Theresa.
“I hate to see a girl of your calibre scrubbing toilets. It’s tragic,” said Phil.
Theresa is startled by Hunter’s sudden appearance behind her. She composes herself.
“Tragic? I wouldn’t go that far,” said Theresa.
“How far would you go?” she pretends not to have heard his sleazy remark and
rolls her eyes up to the heavens.
“So sad. You’ve gone from top to bottom in a few weeks…you’re a fallen angel.
A bog cleaning angel,” said Phil.
“I haven’t got much choice,” said Theresa.
“Come on. We’re both adults—you know there’s an easy route.”
“You’re forcing me into a corner. I don’t want to go that way.”
“I don’t know what you mean.”
“I want promotion but I don’t want to…jump through hoops to get it.”
“You’ve got the wrong end of the stick.”
“I get jobs on merit.”
“How fast do you want to climb the ladder? If you refuse to jump through a few
hoops as you put it then your progress will be very, very slow.” Phil turns to leave the
room. His face is flushed with seedy effort. Theresa flushes the toilet. Phil pops his head
back into the bathroom:
“One more thing, Miss Hawkins, I’m willing to give you a good reference should
you decide to leave.”
“I wasn’t planning on leaving.”
“I don’t like holding good people back. You might want to seek new pastures. Do
we understand each other?” Theresa nods in agreement. Phil slithers away. Theresa is
exhausted emotionally and physically. She sits on the edge of the bath; close to tears. She
hears the guest and a giggling woman enter the room. Theresa picks up a dirty towel. The
guest pops his head into the bathroom:
“Don’t mind us!” he says cheerfully. Theresa empties the waste paper basket and
leaves the room. Fuck this! Fuck this to Hell and back. The easy route? That’s not the
only easy route. Fucking the Boss! I may as well go back on the game. Go back to
Manchester and go back on the game. No more Hunter, no more Bob, and no more bog
cleaning…tempting. I could easily slip into the old uniform…slip into the darkness.
Escape.
Bob sidles along a terraced street in Paddington central London. He checks the
address on a slip of paper. He descends to the basement flat. Zelda, Jimmy Sharkey’s
contact, opens the door and beckons Bob into the hallway. She is fiftyish and wearing a
well tailored trouser-suit. She has sharp features; a hungry look. What she is hungry for
now is open to question. Bob is slightly in awe of her as they discuss the practicalities of
sharing a brothel. The fact that the paraphernalia of sado-masochistic sex hangs on the
walls is intimidating Bob. Zelda notices Bob staring at the stuff:
“This stuff isn’t for hire. I don’t need any competition at my age,” said Zelda. Her
voice was rough but confident; the sort of assurance you get from roughing up some of
the people who run the country.
“How old are you?” said Bob. Zelda feigns shock at such a question and then
smiles.
“Fiftyish,” said Zelda.
“How long have you been a working girl?”
“Since I met Jimmy.”
“Since you were thirteen?”
“What’s this? ‘This is Your Life’? She lets out a deep, throaty laugh. She leans
back on her chair and gives Bob an intense look.
“Your girl might be one step ahead of you. She might be thinking of a
comeback.”
“Possibly. She’s in a shit job with no prospects.”
“All you’ve got to do is show her the way home.”
Back at the flat in the evening, Bob and Theresa have had a quiet night; extremely
quiet. Happily existing in their own little worlds, past and present. They have had their
supper and are watching the ten o’clock news. Theresa feels the need to nag Bob about
getting a job but she can’t be bothered. Its just striking Bob that he doesn’t really like
Theresa much. She goes to the kitchen and does the dishes. Bob watched her very
carefully as she moved. She moved well. But since he learned about her past he has gone
off her sexually. How will he feel when every day she will be giving herself to other
men? She’ll fuck off and leave me…I don’t want her. I’ve got nothing to lose. Theresa
pops her head in the room and says goodnight. She is mentally leaving Bob. Their
relationship is very tenuous. A big row could probably end it or at least be the beginning
of the end. She doesn’t know why she’s clinging to Bob. He’s not the best she can do by
a long chalk. She settles into bed and reads “The Da Vinci Code.”
Bob gets out his calculator and does estimates of what Theresa could earn on the
game based on Zelda’s forecasts. He gets bored after a while and tries to think how he
can nudge her into prostitution. He’ll need to do something in the next couple of days. He
goes to the window and pulls aside the curtain so he can see his little patch of South
London through the rain spattered window pane. A car swishes past. A young couple
scuttle past sharing an umbrella. Bob wanders over to the bedroom. As the light enters
the darkened room he sees the outline of Theresa’s body. He stares at her for a while and
then he quietly closes the door. Darkness envelopes the room. Theresa is still awake, her
eyes wide open. Bob does a few more income forecasts and smiles. He puts on the video
of Scorsese’s “Casino” and cracks open a celebratory beer.
Bob might have his uses in the short-term. She doesn’t want Bob to ponce off her
in the long-term. He could look after her for awhile. He’ll do her until she can find
someone better. In principle she wants to drift back into prostitution but she’s not sure
how to pull it off yet. She’s sure she can groom Bob into her wishes. He didn’t seem
bothered about her past. He took it well but still it rumbles a bit in the background. She
might need a leap in the dark. But whatever happens she’s sure of one thing: it’s her
decision, right or wrong.
Four

Bob and Theresa are trudging along with bags full of shopping. As they pass the park
they hear the sound of an amateur football match: “Come on Referee!” “Mickey, Mickey!
MICKEY. Man on, man on!” They all start shouting about a bad decision. Theresa is
intrigued and looks over at them:
“Let’s go and watch the game,” said Theresa.
“Do me a favour,” said Bob.
“I’ve never watched a proper match.”
“That’s not proper football.”
“Come on. Just five minutes.” They make their way across the field to the match.
There is the usual small band of spectators: well wrapped up kids, player’s girlfriends and
substitutes. There is even an old man with a Bassett-hound standing next to the managers.
The wise looking man is smoking a pipe. The dog lugubriously watches. There are other
matches in the park but they are not as rowdy as this one. This is some sort of grudge
match. The ball snaps out of play and lands near Bob and Theresa.
“Kick it back,” said Bob.
“No…I can’t.”
“Go on—you’re the football fan.” Theresa freezes so Bob kicks it back to the
footballer who takes a throw-in.
“I knew you wouldn’t like it,” said Bob.
“I didn’t say I wanted to play. I only want to watch,” said Theresa. They walk
along the touchline and stand behind the goals. There is a corner kick. The attackers and
defenders begin jostling each other. Theresa panics a little:
“Are we alright stood here,” said Theresa. Bob laughs at her girly fear. The ball
smashes into the back of the net with a swish of spinning leather on the nylon net. A
furious row breaks out. A flabby defender starts shouting at the skinny striker who
scored. A scuffle begins between all of the teams. Theresa is amazed at the violence
unfolding before her.
“Come on, let’s go. They’re a bunch of idiots,” said Bob. The disgusted pair
walks away.
“What separates that lot from the professionals?” said Theresa.
“It’s bloody obvious!” said Bob.
“Not to me,” said Theresa.
“They’ve obviously got attitude problems—look at them.” Three groups of
players are now pushing and shoving each other. They are all swearing. The referee is
trying to control the fracas with the two managers and others. “Half of them are still
pissed from last night! Where’s the discipline?” said Bob.
“Surely there’s more to it than that?” said Theresa.
“Some are too thick. Some have got the wrong physique. There’s not much talent
out there.”
“Did you have problems with your temper?”
“Yeah, but that wasn’t the real problem. I just didn’t have what it takes to be a
pro.”
“What was missing?”
“Thousands get to the edge but they just don’t make it.”
“How come Shane didn’t make it if he was your captain?”
“At youth-level it’s possible to be a good captain and a mediocre player.”
“Maybe he concentrated on making money.” The match has descended into
mayhem. It’s a free-for-all. The referee has decided to run away and seek refuge in the
dressing room. A spectator’s dog and some little kids on bikes chase after him laughing.
A woman screams.
“Why did you turn pro?” said Bob. Theresa pauses for awhile.
“I took the short-cut…I wanted a hotel. I had a choice but most working girls
don’t. I stopped the minute I got the capital…I was good.”
“Would you ever go back?” Theresa stops walking and thinks hard, she frowns
and looks at the ground.
“I’ve not got a dream to fulfil—I’ve got nothing to finance. I’ve got hope…not
much but I do have hope. If you asked me right now I’d say no.”
“I wouldn’t stand in your way.”
“Maybe not now but you haven’t felt what it’s like sharing me with another
man…or woman. It’s not anything you can drift in and out of. I’d be a whore to the
core.” Bob looks pensive:
“I could handle it.”
“But the idea of sharing me is just an idea in your head, just a possibility. I don’t
think you’ve felt it in your body, your whole body.” Bob feels a dull ache of fear in his
chest. He’s rightfully silent. They leave the park; the sound of combat in their ears. They
walk home in silence quietly contemplating their future. It is a fragile silence and not the
reassuring silence that couples can have. There is a lot to say but the barriers are up now.
They are closer than they dare to think.
Bob counts out ten dirty tenners into Zelda’s bony hand. She speaks, in a low heavy
voice:
“This buys you two extra days. If she hasn’t committed herself by then you’ve
had it. I’ve got another girl lined up.”
“She’s close to the edge.”
“Give her a little shove.” Bob nods and stands up to leave. “Show her the way
home, Bob, show her the way home.”
Bob parks his car near the back of the hotel where Theresa works. He doesn’t
usually pick her up but he felt like surprising her. It won’t be a nice surprise; he’s got
something big to discuss.
Two men are busy unloading a delivery van full of vegetables. Bob gets bored
waiting so he goes over to the hotel’s rear entrance and, despite not being authorised,
slips quietly into the ‘backstage’ area. Phil Hunter is a sleazy bastard but he runs a well-
organized hotel. Kitchen staff move around easily and efficiently but there is the clatter
of hard work in the background.
Bob sneaks through a gap between the stacks of fruit and veg. He approaches a
kitchen porter:
“Is Phil Hunter around?”
“That’s him in the suit,” said the porter. Phil is at the far end of the room holding
a clipboard. He is giving one of his staff some stick.
In the hotel’s female cloakroom, Theresa unceremoniously slides off her tights
and knickers in one go. She’s had enough. She puts them in her plastic bag. Pam, a
sparrow-like chambermaid, enters and goes over to Theresa:
“Have you had enough?”
“I want early retirement,” said Theresa. Pam laughs. Theresa smiles a reluctant
smile; her eyes lifeless.
Bob stares across at Phil. Phil taps his temple as if to encourage the porter to think
harder and points at a stain on the floor. Phil bustles over to the crates stacked up near
Bob. Phil assumes that Bob is the delivery driver.
“Alright driver? What have you got for me?” bob smiles and ponders Phil. From
what Theresa has said about him he’s a bit of a silly bastard.
“I’m not happy about the cucumbers,” said Phil. He holds up a warped cucumber:
“Is that the best that Harry can do?” Bob plays along:
“Looks like it, Boss,” said Bob.
“He’s pulling my plonker. When you get back tell him to pull his fucking finger
out or we’ll stop dealing with him.” Bob just nods.
Pam and Theresa have changed into their overcoats. They are making their way
through the labyrinthine corridors to the kitchen area and the rear exit of the hotel.
“Keep your pecker up, girl. You’ll get the admin’ job,” said Pam.
“It doesn’t look good,” said Theresa.
Phil signs an invoice with a flourish as if his signature means something. He
hands it to Bob who is about to tell Phil who he really is but Phil says something
intriguing:
“Tell Harry that I’ve nearly cracked it with my Fallen Angel.”
“Oh Yeah,” said Bob. Phil puts his fingers close together:
“She’s this close. I’ve got her exactly where I want her.”
“A bit of a goer is she?” Phil smiles knowingly and points to the far end of the
kitchen at Theresa and Pam.
“Judge for yourself,” said Phil. “She’s the one on the left.” Theresa waves at Bob.
Phil laughs but he stops when Bob grabs him by the lapels of his jacket and nearly lifts
him off his feet. He shoves Phil hard against the crates of fruit and veg. The produce flies
around the floor as Bob throws aside crates in order to get at Phil. As Phil flails around
on the floor the kitchen staff converges on the pair and tries to keep them apart:
“A bit of a goer is she? A Fucking goer?” shouted Bob. The staff is having trouble
pulling Bob off Phil. Theresa is frozen on the spot. She can’t believe what she’s seeing.
She quietly avoids the fracas and slips out of the exit. Bob is now restrained by a gang of
the staff. A dishevelled and shocked Phil addresses Bob:
“Get that cunt out of my hotel…get him out!”
Theresa didn’t go straight home. She desperately wanted time to think. She ends
up at what used to be her hotel; paid for by fucking and sucking. The nice ones and the
bastards cancelled each other out. The regulars knew they were onto a good thing. She
gave herself but easily slipped back into the shadows at the end of the day. The place
where nobody could touch her: neither her nor her whorish self. She didn’t really like the
nice ones who were taken in by her apparent niceness. She played very well the role they
wanted her to play. Vanilla sex for the nice boys.
Her hotel looks like a building site. The new owners had nearly gutted the old
place. Skips and building materials litter the forecourt. She walks to the rear and sits on a
stack of pallets. She isn’t feeling the cold. She lights and cigarette and draws deeply on it.
Her head drops from exhaustion and shame. But it doesn’t last, she’s going back. Part of
her is glad to be back. No pretence. No Bob? She’s not sure. When she tells him he could
go straight away; not stand for it. But at least Bob knows her or at least he might sense
what is at her core. She’ll go back with him or without him. Out on a limb but loving it.
She can start again.
Her dream is gone. She looks up at the memory laden building in front of her…
she can dream again, watching her cash accumulate with a smile. A cat sidles past. It
looks up at Theresa and walks over, drawn over by her vulnerability. She strokes it and it
starts to purr…fuck the people who will condemn me…fuck them. She gets up and sets
off for home with purpose, her hard heels clicking on the pavement. She pauses and
crushes her cigarette-end out with her black booted foot.
Bob sits on the sofa but his legs jiggle up and down in an effort to release his
nervous energy. He’s worried about Theresa’s disappearing act but she’s not got
anywhere to go. He’s got her where he wants her: out of work and fragile. So close he
can taste it. Outside there is the rumble of a black cab and a door slams. Bob jumps up as
if his arse is on fire and goes over to the window where he sees Theresa leaning over to
pay the cabbie. Bob rubs his hands together and waits. This is it.
Theresa bursts into the room; angry and resolute. She wants to shout at Bob for
getting her the sack but she can’t be bothered. Instead she gets to the point:
“I’m going back. I’m going back on the game.” Bob’s shoulders drop in relief:
she’s found the words he wanted to hear. She’s saved him a job:
“Your decision,” said Bob.
“It is my decision. You’re dead right.”
“Hunter was out to get you. If you’re going to get shafted for a living then why do
it for the minimum wage?”
“That’s not the whole story is it? Face it, Bob, we’re up Shit Creek and you’ve
smashed all the paddles.”
“He was asking for it.”
“By the way, you’re not pimping of me. I’m keeping what I earn.” Bob looks up
at Theresa. He’s a bit shocked. His plans for early retirement are endangered. There’s a
threat to his territory:
“I only want what I deserve. I can come in useful.”
“I think I can do it all alone.”
“I’ve got a contact in Town. He knows the score.”
“I can’t believe how well you’re taking this. I thought you would totally freak out.
I thought you would fuck off, to be honest.”
“I had a feeling. I knew you wouldn’t put up with that crappy job. You’re better
than that…I just had a feeling.”
“I had a feeling when I saw you grab Hunter—I had a ‘Bob’s fucking it up again’
feeling.”
“All’s well that ends well,” said Bob trying to inject some culture and light relief.
“Who is this contact of yours?”
“He’s a mate of a mate.”
“Is he a Dagenham boy?”
“Yeah.”
“Do you trust him?”
“Oh yeah. He’s as sound as a pound.”
“Will I trust him?”
“I don’t know about that.”
“Eh?”
“Only joking,” said Bob smiling.
Theresa lights up a cigarette and goes to the bedroom. She goes to her underwear
drawer and picks out her stockings and suspenders. They’re not for Bob’s benefit.
They’re for the benefit of a total stranger. She’s a bit disappointed with Bob’s reaction.
She expected something spectacular and final. She wanted it. The equanimity with which
he handled the news will be mirrored by Theresa when Bob cracks up. She’s got a feeling
he will break. Back in the city buzz and without Bob around her neck. Fine.
Five

Bob and Theresa walk purposefully down a terraced street in Paddington. They mingle
with other workers on their way to work. But this is sex-work. Theresa carries a sports
holdall while Bob carries a small suitcase. When they reach Zelda’s house they see her
minder, Carl, outside chatting to a young woman. Bob gives Carl a nod of recognition as
he passes. Bob leads Theresa down the steps to the basement flat.
Almost as soon as Theresa enters the sparsely furnished flat her stomach begins
churning like a washing machine. She excuses herself and rushes to the toilet. Bob gives
Zelda a worried look while they wait for Theresa to return from the toilet.
“She’ll be okay,” said Zelda.
“She couldn’t face breakfast,” said Bob.
“Give her time.” Theresa enters. She looks very pale and shaky.
“Feeling better?” said Zelda.
“Not much,” said Theresa. The phrase ‘I can’t do this anymore’ is slowly making
its way from the back of her mind to the front. But she doesn’t open herself up. She’s an
actress now; an actress with first night nerves. That’s all. A cock’s a cock. Her punters in
the past, in Manchester, were a better class than the ones she will get now. She’ll have to
pay her dues. Her new punters won’t be getting Oscar winning performances. In and out,
in and out. Bang. Job done.
“I was the same when I came back. You’ll be okay after a few days,” said Zelda.
“Yeah,” said Theresa.
“If you want to ease your way back into it I could put a couple of my best regulars
your way. How about it?”
“I don’t do specialist work.”
“They don’t want anything heavy. Just a few quiet dirty words and a slap on the
arse.”
“No. I’ll stick to passing trade until I get my own regulars.”
“Suit yourself, dear.” Bob is trying to look cool but he’s quietly shitting himself.
This is it; and worse. Zelda speaks to him:
“How far did you get with the cards?” said Zelda.
“I did all the phone boxes around here.” The cards advertise the prostitutes’
services.
“What about the railway stations?”
“Marylebone, Euston, and Saint Pancras.”
“What about King’s Cross?”
“I ran out of cards.”
“But I had loads printed up.”
“I left too many behind.”
“You can’t even get that right!” said Theresa, her voice fraught with nerves.
There is an awkward silence. Zelda can hear Theresa’s borborygmus gurgling away.
“It’s nearly ten o’clock. Do you want to get yourself ready, darling’?” said Zelda.
Theresa nods and solemnly leaves the room.
“Show Time, lover,” said Zelda to Bob. She smiles a smile that even disturbs
Bob. He distracts himself with details:
“When will the punter’s calls start coming through?”
“Soon. There’s always a few early risers knocking about…I’ll check my messages
first.” Zelda flicks a switch on her answering machine. The sound of a well-spoken gent
is heard: “Hello there, Zelda. I am sorry but I can’t make our usual appointment. Next
week will be fine. I’m sorry it’s such short notice. Bye for now.” Zelda switches off the
machine.
“He’s a lovely man—a true gentleman. He used to be one of the top lawyers in
the land. But remember there are the bastards who hate women. It’s come one, come all.”
Theresa unpacks the holdall and suitcase with an air of solemnity. Out comes pink
towels, skimpy underwear, a dressing-gown, bottles of baby oil, packets of condoms, a
can of air freshener, and, finally, a pristine pack of black stockings. She sprays the air
freshener around the room—it smells of stale sex. Be strong, girl. Distance yourself…she
sits on the edge of the bed. After a few moments she lies back onto the bed. She stares at
the ceiling and takes some deep breaths. Her frown lines deepen. She doesn’t want the
stripped down, fucked-up look that experienced prostitutes develop. She feels a tic in her
left eye that makes her eye-lid feel sticky. Get out when you can; when the nest egg is big
enough….
Back in Zelda’s room the phone rings. She looks at Bob before she answers. His
face is stony but he’s beginning to feel the pressure that Theresa warned him about. This
could be Theresa’s first punter. Zelda gives the caller the details he needs.
In Theresa’s bedroom she has changed into her working clothes; her skimpy
uniform. She checks herself in the mirror and slips into her towelling dressing-gown. She
craves nicotine but decides to hold on until after her first punter. Inexplicably she doesn’t
want to create a bad impression nor upset a non-smoker. Bob suddenly pops his head into
the room. Theresa is startled for a second:
“There’s a punter on the way. Five minutes…are you okay?” said Bob.
“I feel like shit.” Bob closes the door. Theresa spreads a large pink towel on the
bed and opens a box of paper tissues. What will he want? Just a wank? Oral? Full sex?
She hasn’t had sex for a few weeks…hope it’s a wanker. Not in the mood for a blow job.
That’s the problem with professionalism—you’ve got to do the business when you’re not
in the mood. Put your performance-face on. A good performance when you’ve got a
disgusting, repellent bastard on top of you. Big one? Small one? A boring mister
Average? Bring some vodka tomorrow.
She remembers the faked orgasm scene in the film “When Harry Met Sally”. It’s
her favourite movie moment; it cracks her up—but she’s not laughing now. Faking it for
a living is hard work. She’s grim, very grim. She notices the rings that Bob bought her
and quickly slips them off. She craves a Mars Bar and neat vodka.
In the office, Zelda has noticed Bob’s nervousness and tries to distract him with
some idle chat. But he’s not listening:
“Did you get that?”
“What?”
“What’s the fucking problem? Is it getting to you?”
“I’ll get used to it.”
“It’s just a business—a business relationship.”
“I know, I know.”
“The punter sounded okay. He knew the score. I can spot the ones with a bit of
experience.” Bob swallows hard. His mouth is dry:
“I want to see him.”
“What! No, no, no, you’ll scare the fucker! You’ll lose customers.” Bob nods in
agreement but he starts to jiggle his legs nervously. Zelda snaps at him:
“You’re getting on my fucking nerves! You’re fucking fucked. Go for a walk or
something.” Bob escapes. He bustles out of the office and into the corridor near the
bedroom. He pauses to look at the bedroom door. This isn’t the time for quiet words of
reassurance; he hasn’t got any anyway. After a few moments he makes for the exit.
Behind the bedroom door, Theresa recalls the rules: never turn your back on a
punter; especially the ‘nice’ ones. A friend in Manchester had seven colours of shit
knocked out of her by one of the ‘nice’ ones. The ones with a hidden grudge against
women. Handsome? Ugly? Dying for a fuck. Eager? Cool? Dirty bitch? Virginal? Come
one, come all. ‘And don’t you fucking forget it, bitch.’
Bob scoots up the stairs three steps at a time. He strides along in the dirty
Paddington air; a pleasant relief from the subterranean fug of the brothel. He glances left
and right before crossing the busy road. After a few paces he glances up and sees Shane
Walker coming towards him. Shane breezes past Bob:
“Bit of business. See you around,” said Shane to Bob. After walking on for awhile
Bob looks over his shoulder. He sees Shane stood near the brothel’s stairway. He’s
speaking into his mobile phone. Bob watches him warily. He finishes his call and
descends the steps to Zelda’s brothel.
Bob is shaken when he realises that Shane is Theresa’s first punter. He slowly
makes his way back to Zelda’s place. He’s sleep-walking back across the road without
seeing a cab coming his way. The cabbie sounds his horn and shouts out of his window:
“Watch out you cunt.” Bob jumps back from the road. He pauses, confused, and
walks away from the brothel. He’s powerless and he feels it. There’s absolutely nothing
he can do about it. He feels it in his guts. Shane is punching him in the guts….
Theresa opens the door to the brothel. She’s trembling from fear and from the icy
wind blasting past her. She recognises Shane instantly and vice versa. There is a long
silence, then:
“Are you coming in?” Shane goes in.
Theresa sits on the edge of the bed. She feels safe. Shane stands; a commanding
presence.
“Are you really this desperate? Is this what you want?” said Shane. Theresa thinks
about similar questions to Shane: are you this desperate? But she keeps it to herself.
“I’ve been here before,” said Theresa.
“But the cards said you were a new girl.”
“I used to do escort work. You’re my first punter.”
“I’m your last punter. I want you to work with me.”
“Doing what?”
“Anything but this! We’ll see how it goes.”
“Money is a problem.”
“I can match what you’d earn here. I’m offering you something better in the long
run. How about it?” Theresa gazes up at Shane for a long moment:
“Come around to our place tonight…we can talk,” said Theresa. Shane leaves the
brothel but as soon as he’s outside he makes another call to a prostitute. He scuttles off to
see her. Theresa goes to see Zelda:
“I can’t do it…I just can’t do it anymore,” said Theresa.
“Fucking amateurs!” said Zelda. “I knew you’d bottle it.” Zelda shakes her head.
Theresa gathers her things and gets ready to go. She remembers her rings are in the
bedside table’s drawer. As she takes them out, she thinks of Bob. She doesn’t want to
wear them anymore so she puts them in her pocket and leaves. Outside, in the bustle of
Paddington at lunch-time, Theresa happily mingles with the people. She’s relieved to be
back in the land of the living; prostitution kills a piece of you…the little death. Had she
gone through with it she would have been mingling with the throngs of people at one
remove: that barrier, that protective force-field that envelopes the people who are doing
the immoral duties of the professional outsider. She thinks of Shane…her saviour, her
hero. Tonight she will look at him differently. She will search for clues; the clues that
could bring them together. She would gladly don her uniform for him. Ten minutes away
her ‘hero’ is having his cock sucked in a very professional manner. He is thinking of
Theresa. A winter storm breaks. The thunder and lightening somehow brings them
together as it rips through central London. Soon they will run for cover…together.
Bob sits alone in a West End pub. He tries not to think of Shane and Theresa.
Each drink puts space between him and this thought. He orders another pint and a
whiskey chaser. Three quite posh male office workers are joking loudly near the bar. Bob
gives them a hard look and approaches them. As he passes them he hears a snatch of their
conversation:
“…yeah, she works hard in bed.”
“She’s filthy.”
“You what?” said Bob to one of the men.
“Nothing, mate, nothing,” said the intimidated man.
“Oh yeah, well fucking keep it that way, mate,” said Bob struggling to retain his
focus. The landlord intervenes:
“Okay pal. Leave it. You’ve had enough,” said the landlord.
“Bollocks,” said Bob. He stares at the landlord then leaves. The fresh air hits him
and he staggers slightly. With a drunk’s logic he decides to visit his old hotel. He is
negotiating the Tube trip quite well until he reaches Highgate station. He stands up and
goes to the door of the carriage. He vomits un-self consciously and gets off. He ambles
around for a bit then he continues his journey to North West London. It is dusk when he
gets there and he walks unsteadily up the drive-way to the forecourt. He takes in the sight
of the building, which is boarded up on the ground floor, and shakes his head. He has a
long piss on the side of a skip and then he makes his way to the rear of the hotel. The
back door is padlocked so Bob tries hitting it with a stick. It doesn’t break open so he
takes a step back and does a ‘Kung Fu’ kick at the lock. He falls heavily and writhes
around on the ground for a few moments. With a drunk’s persistence he looks up at the
upper floors which are not boarded up and shinnies up a drain pipe. At the bathroom
window he breaks in.
He peers around the room as if it were an old enemy waiting for battle…he sees
Shane and Theresa making love…love? The anger builds from within. In a fury, Bob rips
the basin off the wall…love. He kicks out at the toilet and bath, smashing with abandon.
Off come the doors of a medicine cabinet. The shower rail comes off and he uses it as a
weapon, smashing at the walls and floor. Bob relishes his loss of control and sets off to
destroy other rooms in the darkness…with Love, from Bob.
She could have had ten or fifteen men by now, fair enough, but Shane? It’s a
visceral feeling, a real gut feeling that Bob can barely dissipate. But eventually he runs
out of energy. He slumps on the bare floorboards of one of the front rooms. The street
lamps throw some light into the room but the shadows dominate. This was the room
where Theresa pondered her future and sensed that a new phase in her life was about to
begin…I can do it…I can’t do it. Bob falls asleep on some old newspapers discarded by
the builders. This is the room where they congregate for breaks. Bob slumbers with only
his boozy farts for company.
Theresa and Shane are at the flat waiting for Bob to turn up. He hasn’t been seen
since he left Zelda’s brothel that morning. Theresa has dressed up for Shane’s visit; not
too sluttish but with the intension of making an impact with her long, bare legs. Shane
notices that she has made an effort but they are concerned about Bob:
“What? Not even a phone call from him?” said Shane.
“No, nothing,” said Theresa.
“Does he go missing often?”
“No, but he likes a drink now and again.”
“Benders?”
“Yeah, but he usually stays indoors.”
“What’s he like when he’s had a few?”
“No problem. He goes very quiet then he falls asleep—no problem.”
“Good…how will he feel about you working for me?”
“He doesn’t matter any more.” Theresa gives Shane her special smile; something
she has never even given Bob. Shane smiles back. They assess each other for a second or
two. Theresa shifts her position on the sofa. Her body-language is suddenly very open
and welcoming:
“I want to make the most of this opportunity,” said Theresa.
“Good…good,” said Shane. They hold each other’s gaze for a few moments.
Shane remembers where he is; he’s the first to look away. Theresa stands up, caught-up
in an important moment for her:
“More coffee?” said Theresa. As Shane hands over the mug to Theresa her hand
brushes his. Shane rises from the armchair and gazes at Theresa. She gazes and smiles.
He slowly touches her shoulder and runs his hand from her shoulder to neck. He caresses
her cheek but suddenly pulls back:
“What about Bob?” said Shane.
“He can look after himself. He’s a big boy now.” She leans forward and kisses
Shane. They kiss until she can feel Shane’s substantial erection. He runs his hand down
her back and lifts her short skirt. He feels her bum. She isn’t wearing any underwear:
“No—not here,” said Theresa.
“When?” said Shane.
“Soon—tomorrow. He could be back at anytime.”
“Can you wait?”
“I want you more than you want me…you’ll see.” Shane leans forward and
tenderly kisses her. Theresa sadly shakes her head. Shane leaves. I love that dirty bitch.

At the hotel early the next morning, Bob is sound asleep on the floor of a large bedroom.
He doesn’t hear the builders arrive and clomp up the stairs with their heavy boots. One of
the builders walks past the open bedroom door. He does a double-take when he sees Bob
snoring away.
The builder, Ray, has been joined by his mate, Alan. They peer at the slumbering
Bob and try to work out what to do with him. Bob farts without restraint:
“At least he’s not dead,” said Alan, “give him a shove.”
“No way. He might be a psycho,” said Ray. Bob stirs a little and snuffles.
“I think he heard you, Ray.”
“Let’s get the coppers in.” Alan adopts a sissy voice:
“Please Mister Policeman can you help us wake up a bad man?” said Alan. Ray
stands over Bob and starts clapping and shouting:
“Yo, yo, yo, matey. Rise and shine!” Bob wakes up and stares at the builders in
amazement.
“Morning, sir! This is your wake-up call,” said Alan. Bob just groans:
“Fuckin’ Hell.”
Bob makes his way home, oblivious to what happened the previous night. All he
had left was the image of Shane and Theresa…together. When he gets home, Theresa is
waiting for him in the living room eating toast. She looks good; she feels good inside.
She knows where she is going:
“Jesus, Bob! You look like shit. Why didn’t you ring me?” said Theresa, half-
hoping that he wouldn’t return.
“Did you ring the police?”
“No.”
“Weren’t you worried? I could’ve been kidnapped or something.”
“You kidnapped? Who by? Alcoholics Anonymous?”
“I got side-tracked.”
“You got pissed out of your head more like.” Bob suddenly feels very ill. He puts
his sore head in his shaking hands. There is a long pause. What a loser…he looks like a
tramp.
“How much did you make yesterday?” said Bob.
“Nothing.”
“Nothing? What went wrong?”
“I‘ve retired. I got lucky. I’ve been offered something better.”
“Don’t fuck me around.”
“Shane offered me a clean job.” Bob stares at Theresa.
“Did you fuck ‘im?”
“No.” Theresa lights a cigarette. “Would you care?”
“Yeah.” Theresa is stunned at Bob’s answer even though she knew he probably
couldn’t handle her fucking other men. She feels pity for Bob. He’s reduced to nothing.
“What does Shane want?” said Bob. Theresa knows exactly what he wants but
answers Bob in good faith:
“He wants an assistant manageress for one of his clubs. He reckons I’ve got what
it takes. I start tomorrow.”
“He works fast.”
“He saw my potential.”
“I bet he did.”
“If you’d been here last night he would have offered you something. He waited
until ten o’clock.”
“He came ‘round here?”
“We talked business.”
“What about me?”
“What about you?”
“Were a team,” said Bob. Theresa stops herself from saying: not anymore you
bastard.
“It’s up to Shane, he’s the Boss now.”
“I’m not working for that….”
“I’ll put a good word in for you—if you’re lucky.”
“You need me to watch your back.”
“No I bloody don’t.”
“Do you trust him?”
“I stopped trusting men thirty years ago.”
“I’m not bailing you out when he turns nasty. He’s no angel. He must have pulled
off some dodgy deals in his time.”
“Never! Call the Serious Fraud Squad.”
“He’s after you. He’s another Phil Hunter. He’s going to use you.” Theresa averts
her gaze—she’s on dodgy ground. She pulls her knees up to her chest and then she
stretches them out along the sofa. “This is going to cost me. Zelda took loads of money
up front,” said Bob.
“Ask her for a refund,” said Theresa laughing a derisive, throaty laugh.
Six

Bob is visiting John Blunden at the Bluebell pub. Blunden put him in contact with the
retired pimp, Jimmy Sharkey but Bob now needs more help from John. Bob wants to visit
his Mum and Dad but he needs to smooth things over before his visit:
“If I were you I’d ring them first—just to be on the safe side,” said John.
“I bet he won’t even speak to me,” said Bob.
“Get real, son. You can’t turn up out of the blue.”
“He can always slam the door in my face.”
“He’ll slam it on your head. How about if I give him a tip-off? Test the water.”
“Fair enough.”
“It’ll give you both the chance to save face.” Bob nods in agreement.
“Why do you want to see him all of a sudden?”
“I’ve got nothing better to do.”
“How’s business?”
“It fell through.”
“Money a bit tight?”
“A bit.” John smiles and shakes his head.
“I see…you want him to bail you out—you cheeky bastard.”
“Just tell him I want to…what’s the word?”
“Mend some fences?”
“That’ll do.”
Bob is getting the train to his parents’ house in Kent. He stares up at the
information board in Victoria Rail Station. He hears a kerfuffle behind him. A wino is
shadow-fighting. He does slow-motion Karate chops and kicks. A Transport Policeman
approaches him:
“Come on Billy. The war’s over,” said the policeman. He tries to escort him off
the premises but Billy falls over. He isn’t in a hurry to get up again. The Policeman
crouches down and quietly talks to him.
Terry Weaver is in his mid-fifties. As he crosses the lounge you can see that he
has the swagger of a former boxer. He switches on the telly and settles into his armchair.
He hears the sound of an ornament smashing in the hallway. His wife, June, enters the
room carrying the fragments in her yellow duster. She’s very flustered:
“Can you do something with these?” said June.
“Calm down, woman. It’s not a Royal visit. He can take us as we are,” said Terry.
“When he gets here you’re not going to wind him up are you? We’ve not seen
him for so long.”
“He can take us as we are. Stop faffing around. ”
Bob is in the sparsely occupied train compartment sipping his coffee. He stares
thoughtlessly out of the window at the South London suburbs flying past him—the train
brakes suddenly. Bob is thrown forward and his drink spills on the table.
“Jesus!” said Bob. After awhile the conductor bustles down the aisle:
“What’s the problem?” said Bob.
“There’s been an incident on this line,” said the conductor.
“An incident?”
“A crash—a big one.”
At the Weaver’s home they are watching “Ready Steady Cook”. When it ends the
network goes to the newsroom for a newsflash. The presenter reveals the early details of
the train crash on the Kent line. They look at each other in silence. They know that Bob is
travelling on that line. The presenter gives out a Hotline for people worried about
relatives. Terry and June go pale with dread and apprehension. June puts her hand up to
her face:
“Oh, Terry….”
The office in Shane’s flagship club is meticulously neat and windowless. His desk
is clear except for a phone and a pad. There are photographs of football matches and team
photos on the wall. There is a cabinet full of football mementoes and small trophies that
glisten under the lights. Shane and Theresa are discussing their next move:
“He didn’t say where he was going or when he’d be back,” said Theresa.
“Do you think he’s caught on about us?” said Shane.
“When I told him about the job he came over all protective but it was just tarted-
up jealousy.”
“Let me get this straight. He’s the sort of bloke who gets jealous but he didn’t
mind you going back on the game?”
“He thought he could handle it. He didn’t think it through.”
“So who did all the thinking? Did you sort out the details?”
“No, Bob did it.” Shane shakes his head:
“The Devil’s in the details,” said Shane.
“He had a contact that smoothed things over for us.”
“Who was that then?”
“A bloke called Sharkey. He’s an old friend of Bobs.”
“You’ve obviously not met him. Men like Sharkey don’t have friends.”
“I spoke to him on the phone once. He sounded like an old geezer.”
“He’s an old pimp. He must have got a whiff of money…easy, dirty money.”
Theresa looks suspicious. She is getting the feeling that she’s been set-up.
“He wanted to talk to Bob about a new business,” said Theresa
“Sharkey doesn’t talk—he negotiates. Why did you go back on the game?” said
Shane.
“I got the sack…well Bob got me the sack. He hit my Boss. I wanted the money
basically. Quick money so I could start again. I was thrown out of the University of
Life.”
“There’s something about the timing of all this that’s bugging me.”
“The timing?”
“Sharkey appears then Bob gets you the sack and you end up on the game—just
like that?” Shane gives Theresa a knowing look. She latches onto Shane’s implication of
a conspiracy:
“No, no…Bob’s not clever enough to pull a stunt like that,” said Theresa.
“Do you want to know? I can reach Sharkey. The Devil’s in the detail.” Theresa
pauses to think hard. She feels sick and exposed. The bastard set me up…I was drifting
back but he could have stopped me if he put his weight behind it. He definitely stitched
me up.
Terry Weaver is on the phone in the hallway. He’s ringing the emergency rail
crash hotline. June looks on tremulously.
“It’s still engaged,” said Terry. June looks up at the front door as she sees a figure
moving through the frosted glass. The doorbell rings. Terry and June look at each other
for a long moment. Terry puts the phone receiver down and walks over to the door. He
opens it slowly and comes face-to-face with his son for the first time in fifteen years.
They stare at each other for a moment then:
“Come in, son,” said Terry. June brushes past Terry and embraces her Bobby. Her
ebullience makes him smile.
“We thought you were…” said June.
“Dead?” said Bob. “You can’t get rid of me that easily.”
In Shane’s office, Theresa is getting worked-up. She is embarrassed and angry.
“He’s been setting you up for ages. He oiled the wheels with a few hundred quid,”
said Shane.
“I think the bastard used some of my money,” said Theresa. She stands up and
starts peering at the football photos on the wall of the office: “Is he on any of these?”
“Yeah, that one there,” said Shane pointing at a team photo, “he’s on the front
row.”
“The little bastard! The first time he uses his initiative in all the time I’ve known
him, and he stitches me up,” said Theresa.
“You need a clean break. We should strike while the irons hot.”
“I want to see him one last time. I want to see his face when I dump him.”
“Fair enough, but I’m not taking any chances. We’ll take Dennis and Tony
along…has Bob got any dangerous weapons?”
“Only his brain,” said Theresa. Shane laughs loudly. “If he does get stroppy I
don’t want to see him hurt…not physically hurt.”
“He won’t try anything stupid. We’ll be mob handed…he must realise that he’s
blown it,” Shane sits back in his big leather chair, “I’ve had enough of work for today—
how about you?”
Theresa sidles over to him. He grips her around her waist and pulls her onto his
lap. They kiss deeply for awhile. He’s very erect. He stands up with her legs around his
waist. Theresa is now perched on the edge of the desk. She shakes her long, blonde hair
in abandon. She releases her leg grip and reaches forward to undo Shane’s trousers—
she’s very focussed. All thoughts except one are absent. In the blink of an eye she is
kneeling on the floor. Her speed amazes Shane; his whole body stiffens and then relaxes
as she grabs the root of his cock…she licks the tip gently and moans. Her thoughts of
revenge and hatred evaporate as she concentrates, to the exclusion of everything in the
world, on taking as much of Shane’s cock as she can. She’s an animal but she doesn’t
care. Shane is taken aback by her enthusiasm and skill as she rubs the root and sucks the
tip. Nothing else exists…for neither of them. They are in a welcome sex-trance.
June offers Bob a plate of chocolate biscuits and fruit cake. They are chatting
about Theresa:
“She sounds like a gutsy girl, doesn’t she Terry?” said June. Terry raises his
eyebrows and looks a bit wary.
“She’s a bit sharp at times but she’s all right,” said Bob.
“Keeps her eye on the ball does she?” said Terry.
“I’m glad you’re settled. Bring her along next time,” said June. Bob glances at
Terry: will there be a next time? There is an awkward silence then June changes the
subject:
“Your dad’s a proper gardener these days. We had to give away a load of
tomatoes last summer,” said June.
“Great,” said Bob.
“Come outside and I’ll show you my greenhouse,” said Terry. The two men rise
to leave the room.
“Will you be staying for your tea?” said June.
“I’ll have to see how I’m going for time,” said Bob.
“The trains will be disrupted. It’s no use rushing back unless Theresa is expecting
you,” said June.
In Shane’s office, Theresa collects together some papers and documents from the
desk and slips them into her new briefcase. Shane is holding open the door of the office.
She looks over at him and smiles a demure smile but she’s got his hot spunk in her belly.
Shane smiles and appreciates the contrasting styles that Theresa can display. She was
wasted on that cunt Weaver. Theresa stops to pick up her knickers and tights. She tosses
them in the bin:
“What will the cleaners think?” said Shane.
“They’ll think that you’ve started wearing tights.”
“Nah, they know that I only wear fishnet stockings at work.”
Terry and Bob are strolling down the long, narrow back garden path. June
watches them from the kitchen window. Terry pauses to crouch down and pick up a
fallen gnome:
“Fucking cats again,” said Terry. He rises and pauses again to inspect an
evergreen. He is still examining the bush when he says:
“What do you want?” Bob is slow to respond. He looks back at the house and sees
June waving and smiling; she’s joyous at seeing her only son again. She thought he was
lost to her. Terry continues: “Come on, son. Don’t fuck around. You in trouble?”
“Yeah.”
“Serious trouble?”
“A couple of grand should fix it.” Terry stands up and brushes the soil from his
hands:
“Is that all? If I give you five grand will you stay away for good?”
“Fair enough…John Blunden told me that you had some serious trouble back in
Dagenham.”
“I had a problem—I fixed it. End of story.”
“So you did a runner?”
“Let me give you one piece of advice before you fuck off.”
“What’s that then? Buy myself some running shoes?” Bob and Terry are now
face-to-face.
“Never kick a fresh turd on a hot day,” said Terry.
“What are you on about?”
“You don’t have to be a hero: walk your way out or talk your way out.” Bob
sniggers:
“You’ve been spending too much time with your flowers, mate” The two men
square up:
“Do you want that cheque for five grand or a slap?”
“Leave it out,” said Bob.
“Have a pop—go on.”
“Fuck you.” Suddenly they hear June shouting something in the distance. She
walks down the garden so they can hear her better.
“Do you want ham or cheese with your salad?” said June. Bob and Terry reply in
unison:
“Cheese…ham,” said Bob and Terry.
“Isn’t it a lovely garden? Its a little paradise in the summer…so peaceful,” said
June.
“Do you miss Dagenham?” said Bob.
“Miss Dagenham?” said Terry shaking his head.
“I want to forget everything about that place…everything,” said June. She gives
them a reprimanding look. They look sheepishly at each other for spoiling the ambience
of the garden with their quarrelling. “We’re nicely settled here, thank you. Let’s have our
tea.” They set off for the house. Darkness is falling. Terry pauses to pick up a broken
garden gnome. Terry trails behind the others, his anger subsiding. I’m too old for all this
Terry’s front door opens to reveal Bob and his mum embracing. She releases him
and speaks softly:
“It’s been great seeing you again, Bobby. Bring Theresa next time.”
“Yeah right,” said Bob. June starts to hug Bob again.
“Come again soon.” The two men stare at each other unresponsively over Bob’s
shoulder.
“Are you okay for money?” said June.
“I’ve sorted him out,” said Terry. Bob sets off down the garden path. He waves
and strides off rapidly into the night. Terry closes the front door. Good riddance. Good
fucking riddance.
Seven

Shane’s red, top of the range, BMW saloon pulls up outside Bob and Theresa’s home.
Shane’s henchmen, Dennis and Tony, emerge from the front seats. The car chassis rises
gently but significantly as the two big, intimidating men emerge from the front seats. The
car sighs quietly as the men relieve it of their bulk. Tony opens the rear door to let out
Shane and Theresa. She feels very special. She looks up at the first floor window then
climbs the stairs to the front door. There may be trouble on the cards but she’s ready for
it. Dennis pulls two large Louis Vuitton suitcases out of the boot and follows them into
the flat. He’s always ready for trouble. Theresa slowly and methodically begins to clear
the flat of her stuff. She feels her womanly strength for the first time in ages.
Bob ambles up to his home. His hood is up and his head is down. His priorities
are to get warm and eat until he spots the big red BMW. It looks ominous; out of place in
this part of South London. He is distracted and treads into some dog shit. He scrapes the
sole of his shoe on the kerb and begins trudging up the staircase to the flat.
Bob pauses halfway up when he hears the sound of a deep male voice coming
from his flat. He tentatively climbs the last few steps and slowly pushes open the door.
Theresa and Shane have their backs to him. Dennis spots Bob:
“Boss…we’ve got a visitor.” Bob just stands and stares at Theresa and Shane. The
silence is broken by the other minder, Tony clattering out of the bedroom with two heavy
suitcases. Bob is faced with a lot of muscle and a hateful looking woman. He doesn’t
need to control his anger: he’s totally outgunned. He speaks to Shane:
“You gone into the removal business?” Shane quietly speaks to Tony:
“Take ‘em away, Tony.” At first Theresa doesn’t even want to speak. She just
wants to relish the look on Bob’s face now that he’s been punished and is unable to fight
back; exposed and powerless. Having witnessed his humiliation, Theresa speaks:
“Your old friend Jimmy Sharkey put us in the picture,” said Theresa.
“So what? You were on your way back to whoring anyway,” said Bob.
“Bullshit,” said Shane. Theresa is uncomfortable; she knows this is half true. Bob
points at Shane:
“I was right about him. He was after you from the start.”
“Don’t kid yourself—it’s not a one-way affair. Anyway, you fucking set me up,”
said Theresa. Kill the bitch! Bob speaks:
“What’s a big time bloke like you going to do with a clapped out tart like her? Is
she the best you can fucking do?” Bob starts to unconsciously edge towards Shane.
Dennis makes his presence felt with a slight change of posture. There is a moment of
stillness as male hormones saturate the air. Shane reaches inside his overcoat and Bob
recoils slightly thinking that he’s reaching for a gun. Dennis smiles at Bob’s reaction.
Shane pulls out his cheque book. He speaks to Bob:
“You’ve probably got some loose ends to sort out—how much do you want?”
“I’m keeping the car,” said Theresa.
“I want five grand,” said Bob.
“I’ll make it seven grand if you don’t kick up.”
“No worries. I’ll go quietly…there’s no point kicking a fresh turd on a hot day.”
Theresa, Shane and Dennis share a look of total bemusement.
“You what?” said Theresa. Tony the minder looms up behind Bob:
“That’s the lot Boss,” said Tony. Shane looks at Theresa:
“Ready Theresa?” She nods at Shane.
“Let’s go,” said Shane. Theresa strides out but glances at Bob as she passes. He
follows her out with his eyes…kill the bitch. Dennis is vigilant as Shane hands the
cheque over to Bob who is red-faced and about to explode. Shane brushes past him:
“Bought and paid for, Bob. Bought and paid for.” Bob slams the door and peruses
his cheque…good riddance. Kill the bitch. The phone rings in the living room. Without
breaking his stride, Bob kicks the phone across the room.
He scuttles into the bedroom and starts rifling in the drawers. On the bed are some
of Theresa’s underwear—her uniform and a note. Bob picks it up and reads:
‘Bye, bye, Bob.’
He crumples up the note and underwear and shoves them in the waste paper
basket:
“Fuck, fuck, fuck….”
He kicks the basket across the room and punches the wall a few times. The pain
competes with his rage but eventually he stops.

Bob is two days into a five day bender. His only trip outside was to the bargain booze
shop. The curtains are closed but it is lit enough for Bob by the flickering telly. Bob
finishes a can of Carlsberg and tosses it at the waste paper bin almost full of discarded
cans…he misses.
He hears the sound of children shouting in the street and goes over to the window
to see what the commotion is about. He sees a troupe of children larking about while a
mum reprimands her son. A little girl sits on the wall swinging her legs and eating her
crisps.
Three days later an unwashed, unshaven Bob goes to his friend Roland on
Primrose Hill. He is flying solo and concentrates so hard that he doesn’t notice Bob
arriving. Bob watches and listens as the kite sizzles as it cuts through the air swooping
and climbing. After performing a series of complex moves, Roland brings the kite down
softly. He notices Bob:
“I’ve been ringing you for days. Have you been sick? You look terrible!”
“I got sidetracked for a few days.”
“It looks like you could do with some fresh air—go and get your gear.”
“I’ve sold it. I’ve sold most of my stuff.”
“I’ve heard about your split…Theresa phoned Jean. It sounded like you really
fucked it up.”
“I didn’t lose out. I made a few grand.”
“So why are you selling up?”
“I’m moving on.”
“Where to?”
“Birmingham.”
“Is that the best you can do?”
“There’s plenty of talent up there—if you know where to look.”
“Talent? What sort of talent?” Bob smiles and begins to walk away:
“See you around.”
“Do you want a lift back?” Bob doesn’t answer but he raises his arm in
acknowledgement without looking around at Roland. He watches Bob walk down the hill
for a few moments then he concentrates on getting his kite airborne…the kite rises
gracefully. Bob stops and looks around at the red kite then he takes in the London skyline
in the distance. He pulls his hood up and walks slowly down the hill…London, go to
Hell.
Carlington Park G.C.
Bobby’s Welcome.

Carlington Park Golf Club, a new club in North West England, has got a new Trainee
Grounds man. Two of the ground staff are with him. It’s break time. Glenn stirs milk into
the three mugs of tea. Chaddy hovers behind him.
“Don’t give Bobby a new mug. It’s bad luck. Always give a new boy an old
mug,” said Chaddy. He rummages around in a cupboard and pulls out a grotty old mug.
“Use this one, Glenn,” said Chaddy.
“I can’t use that. We measured out weed killer with it last week,” said Glenn.
“Don’t be soft. Just give it a good rinse.” Chaddy sits at the table near Bobby who
looks a bit tense and self conscious.
“Are you sure you want to be a Trainee Green keeper, Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“Yeah, I want to work outdoors,” said Bobby.
“Is this you’re first job since leaving school?”
“Yeah.”
“So you’ve never worked outdoors during a winter?”
“No.”
“With the best will in the world you’ve never been threatened by penile frostbite.
You might not be romantic about it in January.” Glenn nods solemnly in agreement and
puts the three mugs down on the table. Bobby reaches out for one of the mugs.
“Not that one! The one with vintage cars on is mine,” said Chaddy.
“Yours is the one with the hedgehogs on it,” said Glenn.
“But it’s all chipped and dirty,” said Bobby.
“Don’t give me any office politics. This is a hard school, son. Just wait until Joe
gets his teeth into you,” said Chaddy.
“Is Joe a bit of a tough nut then?” said Bobby.
“Didn’t he strike you as the man with the worst disciplinary record in the history
of Rugby League?” said Glenn.
“No. he was okay in the interview.”
“Sounds like you need some tips on character judgement. You need a mentor,”
said Chaddy. He takes a sip of his drink and winces.
“There’s only two sugars in this! You know I like five,” said Chaddy.
“We ran out of sugar,” said Glenn.
“Right, Bobby. You’ve got your first ‘Special Project.’ The shop’s only down the
road. Get us some custard creams while you’re in there…don’t get the cheapo ones. Go
on! Pretend you’re Tom Cruise,” said Chaddy.
“Don’t treat me like a kid. I’m not green behind the ears,” said Bobby. Chaddy is
a bit taken aback by this show of bolshiness. He leans forward and becomes intense. He
decides to challenge Bobby.
“Who is the Governor of the Bank of England?” said Chaddy. Bobby stares into
the middle distance. He appears to be mesmerised. Chaddy and Glenn begin to analyse
his apparent lack of mental activity.
“I think he’s a bit nervous,” said Glenn.
“I think he’s a bit daft,” said Chaddy.
“Can you repeat the question?” said Bobby.
“You had us worried for a minute,” said Glenn.
“We thought you’d been struck dumb by universal truth and beauty. You’ll have
to sharpen up a bit if you want to last longer than the first Trainee,” said Chaddy.
“He only lasted half a day,” said Glenn.
“What happened to him?” said Bobby.
“We can’t talk about it yet. It’s a bit ‘Market Sensitive’. Don’t worry about it…
you know, Glenn I reckon we need some innovation at this juncture in Bobby’s personal
development.”
“Sounds risky,” said Glenn.
“How about the old good-cop, bad-cop routine?” said Chaddy.
“I’ll only do it if I’m the bad cop,” said Glenn
“No way. I’m the bad cop,” said Chaddy.
“Bad cop or no cop,” said Glenn.
“I’ll play both parts myself, then.” Chaddy starts pacing around the room.
“Come on then, Marlon Brando.”
“I need time to get into character,” said Chaddy.
“You’ve lost interest already,” said Glenn. Chaddy stares out of the window.
“Have you got any more ‘Off the record’ questions before Joe gets back?” said
Chaddy.
“What are the Members like?” said Bobby.
“They are a mixture of nice and nasty. Some would give you their last penny but
others would lure you into the bushes and perform an occult ritual on your nakedness,”
said Chaddy.
“It’s swings and roundabouts. The busybodies are the worst,” said Glenn.
“That’s right. The ones with more energy than sense,” said Chaddy. Joe Parker
enters the room.
“We need to get you kitted out, young man. What size raincoat do you want?”
said Joe.
“I think I’m 86 centimetres,” said Bobby.
“None of that fancy stuff. What’s that in real money?” said Joe
“That’s about forty inches,” said Glenn.
“He’s never forty inches,” said Chaddy.
“We’ve got some conversion charts somewhere,” said Glenn. He pulls out a
scruffy piece of paper out of the drawer. It’s been ripped apart and stuck back together
with Sellotape. He peers at it for awhile.
“According to this, Bobby’s forty-eight inches,” said Glenn.
“Don’t send a boy to do a man’s job. Give me the calculator,” said Chaddy. He
punches some numbers into the calculator. He falls silent and stares at the read-out.
“Well then?” said Joe.
“According to these figures, Bobby’s chest doesn’t actually exist,” said Chaddy.
Joe grabs the conversion chart.
“You’ve been using the one that converts Pesetas into Sterling, said Joe.
“I’ve got an idea. Why don’t I just look at the label in my jacket?” said Bobby.
There is silence.
“Have you been taking the Mickey,” said Joe.
“Why didn’t you tell us that at the start? We’ve been making idiots of ourselves,”
said Chaddy. Joe points at Chaddy and Glenn.
“They don’t know what they’re doing at the best of times. The young lad’s got no
common sense. College Boys!” said Joe. Having no ‘common sense’ is Joe’s severest
criticism.
Bobby trundles past Chaddy on a sit-down mower near the green keeper’s
complex. Bobby is a bit proud of himself because he’s never driven anything before. But
he makes a mistake. He gives Chaddy a patronising wink as he passes. Chaddy shouts at
him to stop.
“What the Hell was that?” said Chaddy.
“What?” said Bobby.
“Did you just wink at me?”
“Yeah.”
“Right, let’s get one thing straight about the etiquette of winking. Rule one: you
are only allowed to wink at people younger than yourself. Rule number two: you can only
wink at people who are a lot dafter than yourself.”
“Okay, okay,” said Bobby.
“Do I meet any of those two criteria?”
“Maybe the last one…”
“What! Look Winker Boy, you’re lucky that I even let you speak to me never
mind giving me patronising winks. There’s a Junior over there. Go and wink at him. He’s
more in your league.”
At the rear of the club house, a Lady Member, Geraldine is preparing stuff for the
up coming Club barbecue. Her son, Jason, is helping her. He lugs around some plastic
chairs while Geraldine sets up the barbeque equipment.
“Can’t we find a couple of the peasants to help out with the tables, mother?
They’re used to Donkey work. This is ruining my golfing muscles. I can feel my hand-
eye coordination draining away. I’m losing my lob shot as we speak,” said Jason.
“We’ll be okay,” said Geraldine. Jason picks up a batch of chairs but he stops
suddenly and winces at his mother.
“Is it your back?” said Geraldine. Jason nods and groans quietly.
“Will it be okay for the Competition on Sunday?”
“It’s a bit touch and go.”
“Will you win it for me?”
“I might need some bed rest.” Geraldine is hyped up. She darts looks in all
directions.
“Peasants!” said Geraldine. She goes off to find some peasants in the green
keeper’s complex.
In the green keeper’s room, Chaddy is trying his solo good cop-bad cop routine.
He stares at Bobby.
“Are you some sort of Holy fool,” said Chaddy.
“You’re out of order,” said Glenn.
“If you think that’s too strong just wait until I start insulting his mother.”
“No, I mean your routine is going wrong. You should be doing the good cop
now,” said Glenn.
“Is that right, Bobby?”
“To be honest I’ve lost track of it myself,” said Bobby. Chaddy puts his arm
around Bobby’s shoulder and smiles at him:
“You’re cuter than a roomful of Koala bears,” said Chaddy.
“Loser!” said Glenn who can’t resist playing a bad cop for a moment. Chaddy
continues:
“Bobby, you’re not a loser. Do you know what you really are, son? You’re simply
the best…” said Chaddy. Chaddy begins to serenade Bobby with his rendition of Tina
Turner’s song Simply the Best. He beckons Glenn to join in. They keep on singing until
Joe, the deputy head green keeper, walks in the room.
“Monty wants you all outside,” said Joe.
“What have we done?” said Glenn.
“Nothing. Don’t worry it’s just a team-talk to keep you on your toes,” said Joe.
“I’m a self-starter. I don’t need crude motivation techniques,” said Chaddy.
“I know what you need, Chadwick. And don’t try leading the new lad astray with
your daft ideas.”
“He’s okay with me. At least he’s still here.”
“What happened to the first trainee?” said Bobby.
“He had a few pints at lunch,” said Joe.
“You sacked him for that?” said Bobby.
“No, I sacked him for flashing his tackle at the Lady Captain.”
“He mustn’t have been a happy lad. Getting legless on your first day is a bad
sign,” said Glenn.
“Spiking his drinks didn’t help,” said Chaddy.
“You spiked his drinks!” said Bobby.
“No, I did. Let’s go,” said Joe.
Monty, the Head Green keeper, is on the first tee. He stares up at the flag pole
with an expression of shock and displeasure. Joe and the lads approach him.
“The flag’s upside-down,” said Monty to Joe.
“I didn’t know it had an upside,” said Joe.
“Get it right next time. I’ll give you a diagram.” Monty addresses the whole
group.
“This course has to be in top condition for the competition on Sunday. I want to
make something crystal clear. Our club hasn’t got a history yet. You lot will have a part
to play in it whether you like it or not. You’ve got a duty to yourselves and to the club so
don’t bugger it up. Have you all got that?” The lads nod and grunt their agreement.
Geraldine approaches them at a rapid pace.
“Can I borrow a couple of your boys? It’s just some lifting and shifting,” said
Geraldine.
“We’re very busy at the moment,” said Monty. Geraldine notices that the lads are
mildly amused by the confrontation with Monty.
“Can we speak in private,” said Geraldine. They move off the tee towards the pro
Shop.
“Not in front of the children, or what,” said Glenn.
“Lifting and shifting? Who does she think we are? The Muggins Brothers?” said
Chaddy. Outside the pro Shop, Monty and Geraldine are having a mild argument.
“My staff are tied up. You should have gone through the proper channels,” said
Monty.
“I only want them for twenty minutes. I’m not asking them to refurbish the great
pyramid of Khufu. And in any case, they don’t look busy to me,” said Geraldine. Monty
looks over and sees that Chaddy is indeed larking about.
“Don’t forget to put the flag the right way up, Joe. I thought you rugby boys were
patriotic. Slap his leg, mother,” said Chaddy. He pretends to slap Joe’s leg.
“Are you insured, Chadwick?” said Joe. Monty and Geraldine are still arguing.
The Club’s President, Jeff Arnold walks up to them. Joe sees the President and decides to
disperse the lads.
“Spread out and look busy,” said Joe. Chaddy leads Bobby to the front of the tee.
“Here’s a tip on looking busy,” said Chaddy. He starts randomly pointing and
gesticulating as if he’s giving Bobby some important instructions. He bends down,
pinches some grass and throws it in the air.
“What’s all that about,” said Bobby.
“It gives people the impression that I’m in tune with the mystical rhythms of
Mother Nature,” said Chaddy. He points at Geraldine. “She is out of order. I didn’t see
one of those ‘Do anything we say’ clauses in my employment contract.”
“She looks like a tough woman to me.”
“She only looks relatively hard because we have to subdue our virility.” Chaddy
doesn’t notice that Geraldine is walking towards him. Bobby sees her and tenses up. His
eyes widen. “Monty will sort her out,” said Chaddy. Bobby, his mouth agape, darts looks
between Chaddy and the oncoming woman. He is speechless.
“Try to look busy! Don’t just stand there like a giant Meercat,” said Chaddy.
“You two can come with me,” said Geraldine. She hurries off with the lads
following obediently behind her. Back outside the pro shop, Jeff is reassuring Monty
after pulling rank on him.
“You can spare a couple of bods for a few minutes. The course is looking grand to
me,” said Jeff.
Chaddy and Bobby are lugging a long table into position. Jason is sitting around
and blowing up balloons. Geraldine is fiddling with the barbeque equipment.
“You can go when you’ve finished that. Thank you, boys,” said Geraldine.
“Did you here that…thanks boys? She’s got no respect for us whatsoever. You
know, I was an exceptionally gifted child. Unfortunately, nobody noticed,” said Chaddy.
“How come,” said Bobby.
“I kept it quiet. I didn’t want to embarrass the Primary School teacher.”
“Why?”
“I must have fancied her at the time.”
“Didn’t your classmates notice?”
“FOOLS. Misguided fools the lot of ‘em. They didn’t understand me. They
resented my balaclava. I’ve got enough raw brain power to be the Chancellor of the
Exchequer…on a good day.” Monty and Jeff trundle up to Geraldine. Chaddy and Bobby
go over and join them.
“I’m looking forward to the barbeque,” said Jeff.
“So am I,” said Monty.
“As a gesture of goodwill I’ve invited all the ground staff,” said Jeff. Geraldine
looks visibly appalled. Jason lets go of a balloon and it flies around in the air.
“But surely the young boys want to spend their Friday nights elsewhere?” said
Geraldine.
“How do you feel about it,” said Jeff to Chaddy.
“Sounds good to me. Have you got any king prawns lined up? I don’t like the
frozen ones,” said Chaddy.
“Excellent!” said Jeff. Geraldine grits her teeth and nods diplomatically at
Chaddy.

Touchdown!

The lads are passing the time before it is time to start work. Bobby ambles into the room.
He’s proud of the American football shirt he’s wearing. Chaddy looks at him. He’s
noticed a trend.
“What’s going on, Bobby? On Monday it was a basketball shirt. Yesterday it was
a baseball shirt. Today its American Football. Who are you coming dressed as tomorrow?
Uncle Sam? said Chaddy.
“What’s wrong with British kit? You want to get a rugby shirt. You need a shirt
with some common sense,” said Joe.
“What about style?” said Bobby.
“You don’t need to worry about style when you’ve got a sixteen stone nutter
running after you on a muddy field in Oldham,” said Chaddy.
“Leave him alone. I don’t mind as long as he doesn’t turn up wearing full body
armour and a purple helmet,” said Glenn.
“Don’t talk to me about body armour. I’d rather wear fishnet stockings and
suspenders than that stuff. I can do more damage without it…women! Get some practical
kit!” said Joe.

Joe’s Pie.

Bobby has been sent out to the chippy at lunchtime. Chaddy always gives specific
requirements like having just salt on his chips but salt and vinegar on his fish. Joe is very
fussy about his pie. It has to be cold and kept separate from all the other stuff. Bobby is
late and a bit flustered. He leaves Joe’s pie on the back seat of the car. Bobby distributes
the chips to Chaddy and Glenn. Joe sees that his pie is missing. The other lads are too
busy eating to notice Bobby’s error. Bobby notices Joe’s accusing stare.
“Pie?” said Joe. Bobby panics and starts rummaging in his empty bag. “My pie,”
said Joe. Chaddy and Glenn sense the tension and stop eating. They stare at Bobby.
“Bobby, I don’t think the enormity of this situation is sinking in, is it,” said
Chaddy.
“You’ve forgotten it?” said Joe.
“No, I can remember asking the girl for it. She asked me if I liked it hot…”
“The saucy, young vixen. No wonder you’re all hot and bothered,” said Chaddy.
“She sounds like that girl you used to fancy, Chaddy,” said Glenn.
“So I’m sat here without a pie because you were too busy chatting up the bird in
the sodding chippy?” said Joe.
“Bobby, if I was you I’d be doing something that will bring Joe closer to his pie,”
said Chaddy. Joe stands up. Bobby nearly runs towards the door.
“I’ll get the pie,” said Bobby. Chaddy grabs hold of his arm as he passes by.
“Godspeed, young man, Godspeed,” said Chaddy.
“How can anybody forget a meat and potato pie,” said Joe, completely
bewildered.
“He’s from a different generation. They don’t understand the importance of pies,”
said Chaddy.
“That lad’s got his priorities wrong. He strolls in here with his daft haircuts and
pretending to be American but he forgets the pie. Unbelievable,” said Joe. Bobby bursts
into the room. He’s holding Joe’s pie. Joe’s expression changes from thunderous to
saintly at the sight of it. Bobby hands it over as if its one of the Crown Jewels.
“It was on the back seat. It must have slipped out,” said Bobby. But nobody is
listening. He sits down and opens his own chips. He puts some chips on his corned beef
butty.
“I wonder if she’s going out with anybody,” said Bobby. But the lads are too busy
eating to hear him. Joe quietly smiles. A very rare occurrence.

Bobby’s Bolshy Body Language.

The lads are sitting in the Brew Shed waiting for work-time to begin. They are reading
the papers and listening to the radio. Now and again, Joe sneakily peers over the top of
his paper to look at Bobby’s new daft haircut. He can’t believe it. He doesn’t understand
it. He shakes his head and carries on reading the sports page. The peace and quiet is spoilt
when a strange, very loud, whining noise starts up outside. It’s Chaddy’s scooter which is
playing up; it stops and he enters. He sees that Bobby has had a daft haircut and reacts
with his standard joke:
“What’s that Council bloke with a strimmer doing outside? Oh, now I understand
everything: he’s just cut Bobby’s hair.” Everybody laughs, even Joe. “Bobby come on, I
need your boyish enthusiasm outside,” said Chaddy. On the entrance road to the club,
Chaddy and Bobby are trying to jump start the ailing scooter. Bobby pushes the vehicle
with his head down. Chaddy pretends to whip Bobby as a jockey does with a race horse:
“Come on, Frankie! Come on, Frankie!” He shouts, driving Bobby onwards. “The
winning post is in sight.” Bobby stops. He’s exhausted. But the scooter miraculously
springs to life.
“Good man! Good man!” said Chaddy. Bobby is too tired to reply. “Come on, I’ll
give you a lift back,” said Chaddy. The scooter strains under the weight and makes a
hundred mile an hour screech but a five mile an hour speed. Lewis Hamilton makes less
noise in top gear. Joe and Glenn are outside the Brew Shed when Chaddy rides past. They
start cheering and clapping. Chaddy acknowledges them with a regal wave. On the back,
Bobby raises his arms in triumph. Their working day begins.

The lads finish their chips and sit around chatting about the up coming barbecue. Bobby
expresses his fears.
“I’m not sure if I’ll be coming,” said Bobby.
“Don’t let the side down. It’s a test. They want to see how we react under
pressure. They’re testing our social skills,” said Chaddy.
“Our social skills?” said Bobby.
“Yeah, our composure, our polite conversation, our ability to turn nasty at the
drop of a hat. Premeditated nastiness is a crucial social skill. You’ve got to make an
effort. Body language is the key to it,” said Chaddy.
“Bobby, don’t they teach you this at school?” said Glenn.
“They told us to clean our armpits every day,” said Bobby.
“Don’t panic. You’re in safe hands with us. Lesson number one: don’t dance like
a whirling dervish. Those moves might work on the Rave Scene Disco Queens but they
won’t impress the Lady Captain. The crucial ploy is to keep your body language neutral,”
said Chaddy.
“I don’t understand,” said Bobby.
“Let’s put it this way. I’m not walking into a golf club social event with a young
man whose body language is hollering: ‘I’m a bolshie bugger’.
“Bobby’s not a bolshie bugger,” said Glenn.
“Aaaaah, but by the same token I don’t want to hear your body whispering: ‘let
me be your sex slave, madam’,” said Chaddy.
“Bobby’s not sex slave material either,” said Glenn. Bobby blushes. Chaddy
stands up in order to demonstrate ‘neutral’ body language.
“Try to put the members at ease with open hand gestures. Head nice and erect but
chin down at a non-threatening cock. Now you have a go. Try introducing yourself to
Glenn,” said Chaddy. Bobby walks up to Glenn and produces a travesty of Chaddy’s
instructions.
“Alright? How you doing?” said Bobby.
“I’m very well. What do you do around here?” said Glenn. Chaddy butts in.
“Okay, okay. This isn’t a full scale role play! Bobby, with the best will in the
world you need a bit of fine tuning. For now you can just work on the posture that you’ve
got to avoid at all costs: the protruding groin. A sticky-out groin says ‘I want to challenge
the dominant male’,” said Chaddy.
“The place will be crawling with dominant males as it is,” said Glenn.
“Try this…groin back, palms open, chin well down,” said Chaddy. Bobby adopts
an ape-like posture.
“Are you auditioning for Planet of the Apes or what?” said Glenn.
“He’s improving. Now a quick word about women. You’ll be mixing with
mature, attractive, classy women. There will be no young girls tanked up on mineral
water and ecstasy pills. So just keep your eyes on the buffet and not on the vixens,” said
Chaddy.
“He’s talking sense now,” said Glenn.
“Now, in the unlikely event of you actually speaking to a Member try using some
advanced listening skills. Young lads usually just gawp like this when they talk to
Members in social situations,” said Chaddy. He adopts a rapt, gaping expression.
“Not me,” said Bobby.
“You’ll see. It’s inevitable when a high-status, high-earner meets with a low-
status, low-earner like you, Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“I wouldn’t gawp like that,” said Bobby.
“Yes you would. You’d stand there waiting for him to explain why he’s on eighty
grand a year while all you get is a hundred and ten quid a week and a kick up the arse if
you’re lucky,” said Chaddy.
“I’m not into material things,” said Bobby.
“Good for you, lad. Now have a go at the listening skills,” said Chaddy. He
demonstrates and then Bobby has a go. “Very good. But could you keep that up if they
start discussing kinky, wife-swapping scenarios?” said Chaddy.
“Yeah, no problem,” said Bobby.
“This lad’s got spunk. I like him, I like him a lot,” said Chaddy. Glenn leans
forward to Chaddy and says quietly:
“Don’t forget your good cop—bad cop routine.” Chaddy turns on Bobby and
snarls:
“What are you? Some sort of willing submissive? I’ve read about people like you
in the papers.” Bobby rises to the challenge. He continues smiling and nodding.
“You’re a half-baked cockchafer grub,” said Chaddy.
“Sod off!” said Bobby.
“Rise above it, Bobby. This is a front-line public service vocation. This is just a
subtle form of non-reversible mind control,” said Chaddy. Joe enters the room.
“Come on, children. Back to work,” said Joe.
“Are you coming to the barbecue, Joe,” said Glenn.
“Yeah, I’ll be well prepared,” said Joe.
“Your usual preparation before important social events,” said Chaddy.
“Dead right. I’ll be legless before I get there,” said Joe.

Bobby’s Golf Lesson.

Bobby has never touched a golf club but the club members and Monty take the view that
all members of the green keeper staff have at least played a little bit so they can
understand the game of golf. In the evening, Chaddy and Glenn take Bobby to the local
driving range so he can have a go at hitting a few balls.
Bobby hits a few shots that are okay. He appears to have some natural talent.
“Good niblick, lad, good niblick,” said Chaddy. He and Glenn are stood behind
Bobby with their arms folded and their pants are tucked into their socks to give them a
‘Plus fours’ look. They look on intensely as if they’re top swing gurus. Bobby hits a
couple of bad shots.
“Don’t panic, lad. Even the best hit a few bad ones. Try visualising the shot. See
the ball flying straight and true to the range marker. See it nestle next to it. See the grass.
Feel the breeze. Trees and everything. Bobby stares down the range at his target. He
looks a bit perplexed. He looks at Chaddy.
“Can you see it?” said Chaddy.
“Erm, sort of,” said Bobby. He scratches his head.
“See it, Bobby, see the flight…now tell me what you’re seeing,” said Chaddy.
“Kangaroos,” said Bobby. Chaddy and Glenn look at each other.
“Try it again, Bobby.” He stares up the range and hits a good shot.
“There you go. It works! What did you see?” said Chaddy.
“Koala bears,” said Bobby.
“I’m going before he starts seeing the duck billed platypuses. I’m going for a
Mars Bar,” said Chaddy. He goes to the kiosk for his chocolate. He comes back
munching his Mars Bar and sipping a can of Coke. Bobby hits a very bad shot that scuds
low across the ground and miles right. He tees up another ball and, with a very
determined look on his face, whales into the shot with a lot of aggression.
“Ooooh didums. Did didums hit a bad shot and then take it out on his next ball?
Don’t punish the ball, punish yourself!” said Chaddy.
“I don’t fancy that,” said Bobby.
“Okay, fair enough,” said Chaddy.
Bobby hits a bad shot. The ball flies all over the place. It defies the laws of
physics. Bobby swears to himself.
“Shit! Crap, sod it,” said Bobby.
“Like the swearing, Bobby. Very butch,” said Glenn.
“Yeah. He’s so very, very butch,” said Chaddy. Bobby wants a break from his
master class so he goes to the kiosk for some sustenance. While he’s gone, Chaddy and
Glenn begin a whispering campaign against Bobby.
“Have you noticed anything unusual about Bobby?” said Chaddy.
“Apart from his daft haircuts, no. I suppose the Lady Members like him a lot
because he’s boyish.”
“Yeah, the lucky bugger. But there’s something else. He’s got fangs.”
“Fangs?”
“Big old incisors at the front.”
“Never noticed.”
“When he comes back have a look at them. He may be daft but deep down he’s a
predator. Keep an eye on him.” Bobby makes his way back eating some crisps.
“Here comes Fang,” said Chaddy. “I’ll distract him while you check out his
fangs,” said Chaddy. Bobby finishes his food and picks up a club. Chaddy puts his arm
around Bobby and tries to convince him that pound-for-pound he’s got as much talent as
Tiger Woods. Glenn stares closely at Bobby’s mouth as he talks:
“You’re right, Chaddy!” said Glenn.
“Right about what?” said Bobby, who is very self-conscious about being closely
observed.
“You’ve got it!” said Glenn.
“You’ve got fangs,” said Chaddy under his breath. Glenn laughs. Bobby is
perplexed. He starts hitting balls. Behind his back, Chaddy and Glenn put their index
fingers to their mouths thus forming pretend fangs. Bobby senses that they’re taking the
piss and swivels around but they put their fingers down, start whistling and look innocent.
“Good niblick, son,” said Chaddy. He whispers “Hey Fang,” and shakes Glenn’s
hand:
“Well done, sir,” said Chaddy.
“Well done Mr. Chadwick,” said Glenn. Bobby hits a truly appalling shot:
“Trust your swing and trust me,” said Chaddy. Bobby is not convinced. He’s wary
of everything that Chaddy says or does.

The Daftness Vacuum.

The lads are having their afternoon break. Chaddy is in a mischievous mood. He takes sly
looks at Bobby enjoying his corned beef sandwich.
“Are you a Catholic, Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“No,” said Bobby.
“I used to be a Catholic,” said Chaddy.
“Why did you stop being one?” said Bobby.
“I didn’t like going to church, basically,” said Chaddy.
“Do you still believe in God?” said Glenn.
“I don’t think so,” said Chaddy. The lads fall silent then Bobby has a brainwave.
“It must be lonely being God. It must be hard finding mates when you’re the
Supreme Being,” said Bobby. Chaddy and Glenn look at each other. They are baffled by
Bobby’s apparent profundity. Bobby carries on eating. Chaddy decides to put his foot
down.
“Steady on, Bobby. You’ve got a reputation for unbridled daftness to uphold,”
said Chaddy.
“Have I?” said Bobby.
“Yeah, you’ve proved it beyond reasonable doubt,” said Glenn.
“If you’re not careful you’ll upset the balance of our little community,” said
Chaddy.
“I only mentioned God,” said Bobby.
“Given that you are as daft as a brush then what is your role in our little
community in the brew shed?” said Chaddy.
“I’m not sure,” said Bobby.
“Let me help you out. You are daft therefore you act…”
“…daft?” said Bobby.
“Correct! In the general scheme of things your role is to act daft. Do you realise
what will happen if you stop acting daft all of a sudden?” said Chaddy.
“Will I get a pay rise?” said Bobby.
“No, it’s more subtle than that: there will be a daftness vacuum,” said Chaddy.
“A daftness gap. Lethal,” said Glenn.
“Why is it lethal?” said Bobby.
“It’s dangerous because all the sensible people, like me and Glenn, have to start
acting dafter than usual in order to fill the gap,” said Chaddy.
“Somebody has got to act daft!” said Glenn.
“One minute we’re behaving with quiet efficiency and the next we’ll be charging
around like the Marx Brothers,” said Chaddy.
“And all because you had to show off,” said Glenn.
“We’re the ones who will pay the price for you’re experiments with being
sensible,” said Chaddy.
“We’re the ones who will suffer,” said Glenn.
“Is that what you want?” said Chaddy.
“No, no, I erm….” said Bobby.
“Good! Now get to the shops for some milk and biscuits,” said Chaddy. Bobby
didn’t like Chaddy’s imperious tone. He doesn’t want to sound Bolshie and say ‘no’ but
what comes out is:
“I’ll take a rain-check on that one,” said Bobby.
“You’ll take a what?” said Chaddy.
“A rain-check,” said Bobby.
“What’s a rain-check?” said Chaddy.
“It’s when…you know…it erm,” said Bobby.
“It’s what American college girls say to footballers when they’re giving them the
brush off, I think,” said Glenn.
“Is that right, Bobby?” said Chaddy.
“I don’t think so…” said Bobby.
“You don’t think so? Have you been walking around for all of your adult life
telling people to go and have a ‘rain-check’ when you don’t even know what it means?”
said Chaddy.
“It means ‘no’,” said Bobby.
“So what’s wrong with a good old fashioned British ‘no’? Do you like spouting
American jargon that you don’t understand?” said Chaddy.
“No,” said Bobby quietly.
“What?” said Chaddy.
“NO!” said Bobby.
“That’s better. Now get to the shops before I tell Joe that you’re being Bolshie
again,” said Chaddy.

The Barbecue.

The lads have arrived at Carlington Park for the barbecue. In the distance they can hear
the music wafting over from the mobile DJ. Chaddy can feel butterflies in his stomach.
He decides to make a joke at Bobby’s expense.
“Look at Bobby’s gear! It’s all designer labels. They’ll have to give you the ‘Best
Dressed Poor Person’s Award’ tonight.
“You told me to make an effort,” said Bobby.
“I meant don’t be satisfied with basking in my sheer physical presence. Try to
circulate. Do a bit of PR on yourself…that reminds me, we’ve got to get our entrance
right,” said Chaddy he pauses to make his point to Glenn and Bobby. “Have you noticed
that film stars always pause at the top of the staircase on chat shows? The bigger the star,
the longer the pause.
“I’ve noticed that,” said Glenn.
“I reckon I’m worth five seconds,” said Chaddy. He turns to Glenn. “You’re
worth three and a half.”
“What am I worth,” said Bobby.
“One second. We can average out the whole group and call it four seconds,” said
Chaddy. He puts his arm around Bobby. “Don’t forget, first impressions are crucial: use
welcoming palms…chin down…groin back. This isn’t an opportunity to display your
wares. The first Trainee tried that and look what happened to him.”
Monty and Joe have already arrived at the event. They stand alongside a table
laden with beer bottles. Joe looks half drunk already. Jeff, the club President, joins them
with a new Member who he wants to dump on them.
“Bernard, this is Eddie. He’s got some management ideas for you to consider,”
said Jeff. Monty appears attentive but Joe eyes Eddie with suspicion. Jeff sidles away.
Eddie leans forward and whispers to Monty.
“I know how to handle the lower ranks. You are looking at an extra pair of eyes
and ears. If you want some of this then I’m your man,” said Eddie. He puts an imaginary
pair of binoculars to his eyes and then makes a flapping ears gesture. “I’m not saying that
you don’t run a tight ship but I’ll make it even tighter, Bernard,” said Eddie.
At the edge of the event the lads make their entrance. Chaddy leads them in but
nobody notices his sheer physical presence.
“Keep your nerve. Wait until they notice us,” said Chaddy. They edge further and
further into the gathering. Jeff spots them and goes over. Bobby is trying to look non-
threatening. Glenn is almost hiding behind Chaddy. They see Jeff approaching.
“Here we go. Pause! One…two…three,” said Chaddy. Monty and Eddie are
observing the lads arrival as well.
“Here are my boys,” said Monty. Eddie expresses his opinion.
“I don’t like the look of the one on the left. He looks like the ringleader-type to
me,” said Eddie. He turns to Joe for added emphasis.
“Johnny Bolshie!” said Eddie. Joe isn’t humouring Eddie. He is mentally re-living
a particularly violent rugby match that he played in.
“I can spot trouble makers a mile away. That boy’s trouble,” said Eddie. Joe is
seeing high tackles and hospitalised opponents. He isn’t responding to Eddie. He quaffs
his beer from the plastic glass.
Geraldine and Jason notice that the lads have arrived.
“The peasantry have arrived,” said Jason.
“Oh dear. Go and tell that disk jockey boy to play something I like. Something to
calm my nerves,” said Geraldine.
Jeff is trying to put the lads at ease.
“Come on in. We won’t bite!” said Jeff. Chaddy boldly steps forward. Glenn is
tentative. Bobby is left behind holding an absurd posture.
Jason is hassling the disc jockey, Karl.
“Have you got any Pavarotti in your box?” said Jason.
“I only do pop. This isn’t an opera night,” said Karl.
“To me this looks very much like a ‘professional incompetence night’,” said
Jason. Jeff interrupts them before an argument starts.
“Jason, can you look after the ground staff for a while. Try to put them at ease,
will you?” said Jeff.
“Put them at ease? It will be a pleasure,” said Jason. He gives the DJ a long stare
and walks off.
The club pro, Dan Morris, is lurking near the food table but he is knocking back a
pint. Joe sees him and sense a soul mate.
“Can I get you another one?” said Joe.
“Cheers. You’re a sportsman,” said Dan.
Jason has decided that he’s going to wind up the lads instead of putting them at
ease.
“No female companions, I see. It’s nothing to be ashamed of these days,” said
Jason. The lads are confused by Jason’s remark but they remain silent. Glenn decides to
break the awkward silence by saying the first thing that comes into his head.
“I can’t afford a girlfriend at the moment,” said Glenn.
“Me neither,” said Chaddy.
“There’s no need to justify yourselves. I’ve got nothing against homosexuals. I’ve
never had to handle three at once,” said Jason.
“I don’t know about these two, but I’m definitely not gay,” said Chaddy.
“Don’t bother with the denials,” said Jason.
“I’m not gay,” said Glenn.
“Me neither,” said Bobby.
“You protest too much. Don’t worry. Your secrets are safe with me,” said Jason.
He gives them a sly wink and walks off.
Dan and Joe are discussing why the former failed as a Tour Pro.
“…So basically you didn’t have the killer instinct?” said Joe.
“Oh no, I’ve got plenty of that. I could strangle you with my bare hands if you
want. I just couldn’t hole three foot putts when it mattered…pressure…being mentally
and physically prepared to kill your wife is one thing but holing a downhill left-to-righter
at nine o’clock in the evening just so you can cover your bloody costs is another. Any
fool can murder his wife,” said Dan.
“Where is she?” said Joe.
“God knows. She just wanders off now and again. She’ll be back…fancy
another?” said Dan.
Chaddy and the lads are waiting for some food. They look across and see Jason
gorging himself on a chicken leg.
“He wants his wings clipped that lad,” said Chaddy.
“He’s a knobhead. Just ignore him,” said Glenn.
“Yeah, just ignore him,” said Bobby.
“Don’t just stand there echoing Glenn’s clichés! And stop posing. Who do you
think you are? Noel Coward? Go and get some food.
Bobby joins the queue at the food table. Chaddy looks around at the groups of
people gabbing away. Now and again laughter rings out. He notices Eddie is staring at
him.
“He’s up to no good,” said Chaddy nodding over at Eddie. “He’s a trouble maker
that one. He looks like a hungry ferret,” said Chaddy.
Eddie casually walks over to Chaddy. Eddie does his binoculars and flapping ears
routine. Chaddy leans over to Glenn and whispers.
“Don’t worry. It’s a Masonic overture. I’ll handle it,” said Chaddy.
“Not today, thanks,” said Chaddy.
“I’ve got my eye on you,” said Eddie. Having made his point, Eddie merges back
into the gathering.
“You’ve got to be firm with them,” said Chaddy. Bobby returns with many plates
of hamburgers.
“I thought you were a vegetarian. There’s half a cow there,” said Chaddy.
“I got them in case,” said Bobby.
“In case the whole French Foreign Legion drops by? Put them down. I need to
give you some tips on handling Freemasons.
“They’ve never bothered me before,” said Bobby.
“You’re obviously not Masonic material. I had to fend them off at my last club,”
said Chaddy.
“You never said that you’d been approached,” said Glenn.
“They didn’t approach me as such. It was all nods and winks. They were
definitely after me. I think they were about to use the ‘honey-pot’ ploy when I left,” said
Chaddy.
“I’ve never heard of that one,” said Glenn.
“Apparently they use attractive women to slowly lure you in…close and closer
then BANG. The Venus fly trap slams shut and the next minute you’re all leather aprons
and rolled up trouser legs,” said Chaddy.
“They can’t be that bad. Mozart was a Freemason,” said Glenn.
“Get away…next you’ll be telling me that Jesus played Aussie Rules Football.
Right, I’m off to do a bit of circulating,” said Chaddy.
Joe and Dan are getting drunker.
“Don’t get me wrong, but I could kill you without thinking as well,” said Joe.
“So would I,” said Dan.
“Same again?” said Joe.
“You’re a gentleman,” said Dan.
Chaddy ambles over to the DJ’s console. Karl, the DJ, is fiddling with his
equipment. Nearby is a young woman who looks ill at ease and alone. Chaddy sidles up
to her not realising that she is Karl’s girlfriend, Barbara.
“Have you got any Masonic connections?” said Chaddy to Barbara.
“I don’t know,” said Barbara.
“Are you a Catholic?” said Chaddy.
“No,” said Barbara.
“You’re not Plymouth Brethren are you?” said Chaddy.
“No, I’m a friend of the DJ,” said Barbara.
“I like to know where I stand,” said Chaddy. Barbara looks worried. She begins to
glance over at Karl.
“Am I making you nervous for some reason?” said Chaddy.
“Karl is very possessive,” said Barbara.
“Don’t worry,” said Chaddy. He nips over to the console. Karl is playing Dancing
Queen by Abba.
“Don’t worry, mate. I’m gay,” said Chaddy to Karl. He nods and continues to sort
through his box of records. Chaddy rejoins Barbara.
“Who is that lad who keeps staring at me?” said Barbara. She nods in the
direction of Jason who is shamelessly ogling Barbara’s legs.
“He’s just a knobhead….” said Chaddy. Chaddy is struck by an idea and corrects
himself. “…I mean he’s a knob, a local toff. His Dad owns half of Lancashire. Do you
want to meet him?” said Chaddy.
“Not my type,” said an unimpressed Barbara.
“He’s got Royal connections,” said Chaddy.
“No thanks,” said Barbara, still unimpressed.
“He plays for Man United Reserves in his spare time,” said Chaddy. Barbara is
suddenly enthusiastic.
“What’s his name? Take me over,” said Barbara.
“Just a minute. You’ll need security clearance. Wait here,” said Chaddy. He
scuttles over to Jason.
“Do you know her,” said Jason.
“She’s the DJ’s sister.”
“She’s a bit on the tarty side for my liking,” said Jason.
“She’s a great girl. Her Dad owns half of Lancashire.”
“Bring her over,” said Jason.
“One final thing, if the DJ starts giving you dirty looks ignore him. He’s very
protective. You know what big brothers are like.”
Chaddy introduces them. Then he rejoins Glenn and Bobby. Jason and Barbara
are chatting.
“…I should win by a couple of shots tomorrow. Would you believe that my
previous club was glad to see the back of me? That’s the problem with being too damn
good,” said Jason.
“What about your football?” said Barbara.
“My what?” said Jason looking very perplexed. He looks up and sees Karl
approaching. “Leave him to me,” said Jason.
“She’s safe with me. My intentions are honourable,” said Jason to Karl.
“Are you gay?” said Karl.
“I’m afraid not. Try that chap over there. He can help you out. Now look, if I
decide to take Babs home then I’ll let you know. I can’t say fairer than that, can I?” said
Jason.
Chaddy is doing one of his idiosyncratic impressions. He does a few balletic steps
then holds a pose with his chin posed at a jaunty angle. Glenn and Bobby just stare at
each other totally mystified.
“You must know this one! I’ll do it with the music….” said Chaddy. He tries
again, this time he hums some music.
“Is it Madonna?” said Bobby. Chaddy shakes his head.
“Is it Bobby Charlton?”
“Of course its not Bobby Charlton. Since when did he do Olympic gymnastics?”
said Chaddy.
“I’ve got it! It’s Olga Korbut in the 1972 Olympics,” said Glenn.
Karl goes over to the food table. He picks up a large bowl of sea food sauce and
walks towards Jason who is deep in conversation with Barbara.
Chaddy is doing another impression. His face is contorted in hate, his mouth
agape, his chin jutting out. He spreads his arms wide and leans forward.
“King Kong?” said Glenn.
“No, but you were close. I’ll give it to you. It’s a silver-backed gorilla scaring off
a male rival,” said Chaddy. Suddenly the lads stop and look around as Barbara screams
out.
“Don’t, Karl, don’t!” said Barbara.
Jason stands speechless. Karl has up-turned the bowl of sea food sauce on Jason’s
head. Blobs of pink goo drip from his ears.
“You fool, he plays for Man United,” said Barbara to Karl. He is unimpressed and
walks back to his console. Geraldine carefully wipes Jason’s face with a paper napkin.
She slowly lifts the bowl off Jason’s head. She pauses for a moment, giving the
impression of some bizarre coronation ceremony.

Bitch Urine.

Chaddy and Glenn decide to put Bobby through a mild initiation based on the causes of
brown spots on grass. They got the idea from Dr. D.G. Hessayon’s book The Lawn
Expert.
“I reckon he’ll laugh out loud,” said Chaddy.
“No, he won’t see the joke. What do you think, Joe,” said Glenn.
“I reckon he’s too daft to notice,” said Joe. They make bets on Bobby’s reaction.
Chaddy and Glenn take Bobby out to a green with a small brown patch. They
crouch down to inspect the grass. Glenn starts his explanation.
“Right, Bobby, there are three possible causes of brown patches around here:
there’s spilt oil, there’s fertilizer overdosing, and finally… bitch urine,” said Glenn.
Bobby remains impassive as though he’s making note of some vital piece of information.
Chaddy panics and tries to elicit a different reaction.
“What was the last one, Glenn?”
“Bitch urine.”
Bobby doesn’t flinch. Chaddy pulls Glenn to one side and whispers:
“The bet’s off. No bet.”
“No way. I gave him two chances to laugh.”
“You timed it wrong. You blew the punch line on purpose. You paused too long
before you delivered it,” said Chaddy.
“You have to pause.”
“You gave him too much time to let his mind wander. You didn’t pronounce it
properly either. You said ‘Your-in’. It should be ‘your-eye-n’. The last one is naturally
funnier.”
“Why.”
“It’s just one of those unspoken, universal truths. Let me have a go. I’ll get a
laugh with it.”
When they rejoin Bobby near the brown patch he is smiling broadly.
“Are you taking the piss again?” said Chaddy to Bobby.
“No,” said Bobby keeping a straight face.
“Diagnosing brown patches is a serious business, especially when it comes to
Bitch Urine….” said Chaddy.
Bobby bursts out laughing.
“I told you I could do it. Bitch urine always gets a laugh when it’s in the right
hands,” said Chaddy. Bobby is still laughing. Glenn shakes Chaddy’s hand.

Politics.

The lads are talking politics in a half-hearted way. The discussion comes to a halt and
they fall silent. After a while Chaddy makes a solemn announcement.
“I reckon I’d make a good Prime Minister,” said Chaddy.
“You haven’t got the right communication skills,” said Glenn.
“You don’t need those skills if you’ve got charisma. It’s all in the eyes.”
“You’ve got to be cool in a crisis,” said Joe.
“What about that time I saved that old dear who took ill on the thirteenth green?”
said Chaddy.
“All you had to do was open her medication for her,” said Joe.
“I saved the old girl’s life! Unseen forces were at work on that day.”
“You were skiving in the bushes behind the green,” said Joe.
“He’s not lazy,” said Bobby.
“He was when he was younger. I remember one time when he was stood still for
so long that a barn-owl thought he was a fence post and landed on his head,” said Joe.
“I’ve just got a way with animals,” said Chaddy.
“Oh yeah? Then why did it try to peck your ears off?” said Joe.
“That’s what happens when two Forces of Nature are thrown together…sparks
fly,” said Chaddy.
“Lazy get,” said Joe.
“Easy going, Joe, easy going. He works in mysterious ways. Anyway, do you
think I’d make a good Attorney General?” said Chaddy.
“You need total dedication for that legal lark,” said Glenn.
“I can concentrate…when I put my mind to it.”
“You’re a fad merchant. You love something for two minutes then you’re off
looking for something else to shout about. Yesterday you wanted breast implants,” said
Joe.
“I was just thinking aloud,” said Chaddy.
“You had the Yellow Pages out. You only lost interest when I told you the cost,”
said Joe.
“You’re definitely not cut out for anything political, Chaddy,” said Glenn
“In that case there’s only one job left for me…Chancellor of the Bundesbank.”
“You’re not German enough,” said Joe.
“You would have to learn German,” said Glenn.
“You would have to act like a German,” said Joe.
“Not necessarily. I could act in any way I wanted as long as I don’t undermine the
currency,” said Chaddy.
“What are the hours like?” said Bobby.
“Flexi-time, I would imagine. Like I say, they probably let you work at your own
pace as long as the Deutschmark doesn’t go into free-fall.”
“You’ll never get around not being a German,” said Joe.
“I’m a European. That should be enough.”
“The manager of Arsenal is French,” said Bobby.
“That wouldn’t happen in America. They wouldn’t let a foreigner manage the
Dallas Cowboys,” said Glenn.
“They might. It would depend on his results,” said Chaddy.
“So you’re saying that they would let a Russian run the Cowboys?” said Glenn.
“They would let Karl Marx run them if he promised to deliver the Super Bowl,”
said Chaddy.
“Okay then, if you’re so keen on becoming a German Banker then hand your
notice in—four weeks notice in writing. Go on then!” said Joe.
“I’m just keeping my options open. I’m just thinking aloud,” said Chaddy.
“You’re a timewaster, Chadwick,” said Joe. The lads fall silent. Joe goes back to
his paper.
“Charisma, Joe, charisma,” said Chaddy.
“They are on the look-out for a new Secretary General of the United Nations,”
said Bobby.
“When’s the closing date for applications?” said Chaddy.

Duck Hypnosis.

It’s break time. The lads are discussing developments in the soap opera, Coronation
Street. They conclude that a character is about to be written out. Bobby is enthusiastic
about a documentary about hypnosis.
“Did you see that bloke hypnotise a chicken? It was hilarious. All he did was stare
at it,” said Bobby.
“I’m not surprised. I could do it. It’s a matter of presence. Human presence and
charisma. Look at the size of their heads. Not much room for a brain in there.” said
Chaddy.
“Okay, I bet you a Tenner that you couldn’t hypnotise one of the ducks near the
fourteenth green’s lake,” said Glenn. Chaddy is a bit reluctant. He is careful with his
money.
“Okay, make it a fiver,” said Chaddy.
“We’ll do it after work, when it’s quiet,” said Glenn. Glenn and Chaddy shake
hands. Joe intervenes.
“Make sure you de-hypnotise it. I don’t want freaked out ducks walking around,”
said Joe.
Later in the day, Bobby has a strange experience near the fourteenth lake. He sees
a dark figure moving around the bottom. He tells the lads about it but they are sceptical.
But Bobby is right. The sinister shape was a scuba diver collecting golf balls from the
bottom of the lake. He is going to sell them back to the pro.
“Don’t give us any of that Loch Ness Monster stuff, Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“Do you remember those sea creatures off Doctor Who?” said Glenn.
“The plastic dragons that wore string vests?” said Chaddy.
“Yeah, that’s right…was it one of them, Bobby,” said Glenn, taking the Mickey
out of Bobby.
“Did they have big black flippers?” said Bobby.
“I don’t think the budget ran to flippers,” said Chaddy.
“You’re taking the Mickey out of them now but I bet you hid behind the settee
when they emerged out of the sea,” said Glenn.
“Well, obviously. I was only a kid. I didn’t know that there were people inside
them…people desperate to get their Equity Cards. Funnily enough it was their string
vests that bothered me the most. I don’t know why,” said Chaddy.
The lads arrive at the lake. Chaddy surveys the problem. The ducks and geese are
happily paddling around.
“When was the last time you were overpowered by the sheer physical presence of
a duck?” said Chaddy. Bobby starts throwing bread into the water in order to tempt them
to the lakeside. They start paddling in from everywhere, quacking happily.
“Stop with the bread! They’re flying in from Greenland,” said Chaddy.
“I thought I’d cheer them up a bit,” said Bobby.
“This lot aren’t wobbly-headed chickens, Chaddy. They look like a tough
audience to me,” said Glenn.
“Charisma, Glenn, charisma. Right, I need to pick one that is easy to hypnotise,”
said Chaddy.
“That one looks a bit stupid,” said Glenn.
“No, no, I need one that’s arrogant. They are so full of themselves that they don’t
even notice that they’ve been hypnotised,” said Chaddy.
“Do you want a male or a female?” said Bobby.
“Female. I’ll have her eating out of my hand in no time.”
“That’s not difficult. They do that anyway, look,” said Glenn.
“That one looks pretty bright,” said Bobby.
“He’ll do for me. He’s the man. You’re the man. You the man!” said Chaddy.
“Which one are you doing? There’s loads,” said Glenn.
“The big alpha goose…come on my beauty, just a bit closer,” said Chaddy.
“You’re cheating. You’re only supposed to be using your physical presence.
You’re trying to chat the bugger up!” said Glenn.
“Mere preliminaries. Hypnosis is a form of seduction,” said Chaddy.
“Is the goose a bloke?” said Bobby.
“It’s hard to tell from here,” said Chaddy.
“Don’t you mind seducing a male goose?” said Glenn.
“Not really. This is a scientific experiment,” said Chaddy. Chaddy lies face down
and leans out from the bank so he can get a good view of the goose’s eyes. The goose
does drift towards him, more out of curiosity than as a result of Chaddy’s mesmeric
powers. It comes face to face with Chaddy. Bobby is suddenly distracted by bubbles
coming up from the water in the distance.
“Stop! There’s something out there,” said Bobby. The goose, having investigated
Chaddy at close quarters, drifts away from the bank.
“Look what you’ve done. You’ve broken our concentration,” said Chaddy.
“The bubbles!” said Bobby.
“It’s probably just that big pike after the bread. That’s the only creature in this
lake. I’ll tell you this. I’m not the sort of bloke who gets intimidated by a fresh water
fish,” said Chaddy. He leans out from the bank and stares at a Mallard duck:
“Listen son, I’m a man and you’re a duck…don’t you ever forget it!” said Chaddy
to the duck. Bobby nudges Glenn and points at the bubbles and swirling waters. He looks
fearful for a second as he has visions of plastic Doctor Who dragons emerging from the
depths.
“Chaddy! It’s out there,” said Glenn.
“Bollocks!” said Chaddy. A lone hungry Aylesbury duck stares up at Chaddy. He
looks out at the lake and sees a mass of green pond weed and mud loom out of the water
and then disappear. He jumps up, nearly knocking over Glenn and Bobby. The lads stand
on the bank, speechless. Then the figure emerges again, this time higher out of the water.
The lads back away from the bank. Suddenly the figure jerks his arm free of the weeds to
reveal a netting bag full of multi-coloured golf balls. The sight of the netting, redolent of
the dragon’s string vest, causes Chaddy to back away further. The figure slips on the mud
and flounders around for a while. The wild fowl start flapping around and honking
loudly.
“This is a job for MI5,” said Chaddy.
“What about the CIA,” said Glenn.
“Them as well. We’ll need everybody. All the armed services,” said Chaddy.
Monty appears. He is driving his golf buggy quickly towards the lads. Just as he arrives
the scuba diver emerges from the lake. Monty stands, hands on hips, and waits for the
diver. He removes his face-mask and shouts over to the lads.
“Alright, lads. How’s it hanging?” said the diver.
“Have you got permission to do that,” said Monty.
“I Okayed it with the pro,” said the diver.
“You’re supposed to check with the Club Secretary,” said Monty.
Chaddy is embarrassed. He blames Bobby.
“It was your fault, Bobby. You triggered off the mass hysteria,” said Chaddy. The
diver now stands on the bank remonstrating with Monty. Monty drives off with the lads
clinging to his buggy. The diver washes his balls in the lake.

Chaddy’s Visit.
Chaddy has had an argument with his parents and he stormed out. Bobby and Glenn now
share a flat. Chaddy goes around to them and asks to stay the night. He just needs
somewhere to doss down until he starts ‘negotiating’ his return with his parents. Glenn
and Bobby reluctantly agree to let him stay.
As the lads watch television it becomes apparent that Chaddy is the sort of person
who comments on nearly everything that happens on the screen. He gets on the other
two’s nerves. They meet in the kitchen in order to plot Chaddy’s rapid departure. They
hear an anguished cry from the living room, then:
“That woman is daring me to tame her!” said Chaddy. Bobby and Glenn enter the
room with the mugs of tea and coffee.
“She dares me to tame her,” said Chaddy to Bobby.
“Who?” said Bobby.
“The weather girl.
“What, the new one?” said Glenn.
“She may be new to you but I’ve known her from the beginning of time,” said
Chaddy.
“From a previous life?” said Bobby.
“Many previous lives. I can remember splashing around with her in a Stone Age
swamp. We were newts,” said Chaddy. He sighs. “Look at that mouth.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t some freaky childhood memory from the swimming
baths?” said Glenn.
“No it wasn’t. We were both newts, and frisky ones at that,” said Chaddy.
“Are you sure you weren’t like those lizards with frilly necks?” said Bobby.
“Come to think of it, she does look a bit newty,” said Glenn.
“She’s evolved beyond that stage, you idiot. It’s not the shape of her mouth that
matters. It’s what she does with it that counts,” said Chaddy.
“She does pout a lot,” said Bobby.
“She only does it to emphasise the cold fronts,” said Chaddy.
“I thought moves like that were banned by the IBA. I suppose you can’t blame her
for using every trick in the book. She’s only got a few seconds to make an impact on us.
She’s got to grab our attention,” said Glenn.
“I don’t mind giving her some attention. But you’ve got to draw the line
somewhere. That woman wants my soul for the rest of eternity and beyond. Look at her.
She’ll stop at nothing…look at those hand gestures! She’s showing me the inside of her
wrist…she’s seducing me with her rhythms. A few more inches and she could be a
catwalk model,” said Chaddy.
“I’m sure a lot of men don’t even listen to what she’s saying,” said Bobby.
“Do you listen to her?” said Chaddy.
“Only in the winter,” said Bobby.
“That’s why they put the summary on at the end. It’s so that husbands have got
something to say when their wives ask them about the weather,” said Chaddy.
“Just the summary?” said Glenn.
“That’s a lot better than saying: ‘Sorry, love, I wasn’t listening. I was leering at
the weather girl’. These weather people understand human nature…quiet while she does
her little send off…she’s wearing the red tartan again. I don’t think they’ll let her wear a
proper red dress. Too dangerous,” said Chaddy.
“Why?” said Bobby.
“Red dresses make them look tarty. She’d be flooded with marriage proposals,”
said Chaddy.
“Just because she’s wearing a red dress?” said Bobby.
“Never underestimate the power of television, Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“Maybe she doesn’t want the viewers to think that she’s a Labour Party
supporter,” said Glenn.
“Does she vote Labour?” said Bobby.
“Only in Glenn’s dreams. Can you see that glint in her eyes? The sparkle that
says: ‘I want to marry the local property developer.’ She’s a Tory through and through,”
said Chaddy.
“You’re out of date. They all want to marry a Hedge Fund manager nowadays,”
said Bobby.
“You’re right! They all want the local hedgehog. They’re irresistible,” said
Chaddy.
“You’ve misread the signals, Chaddy. I reckon she’s the type who would marry
for love,” said Glenn.
“You what? Marry some loser who doesn’t know one end of an Autocue from the
other?” said Chaddy.
“She might prefer someone younger. Someone on a lower income. Somebody
who isn’t in the media,” said Glenn.
“Someone doing an outdoor job?” said Chaddy.
“Possibly,” said Glenn. Glenn takes a sip of his tea.
“Somebody who claims he’s left of centre when he feels like it?” said Chaddy.
“Possibly,” said Glenn.
“Someone who drinks out of a Scooby Doo mug?” said Chaddy.
“I think she’s probably a Conservative,” said Bobby.
“Bobby the think tank political analyst has spoken. Bobby the spin doctor
supremeo…you know bugger all about politics, son,” said Chaddy. Bobby gets angry
he’s sick of Chaddy and Glenn’s TV delusions.
“Why do you speculate about her? She’s a TV presenter. She’ll never marry either
one of you,” said Bobby. Chaddy and Glenn are a bit shocked by Bobby’s outburst. They
are amazed that the weather girl is not a possible suitor.
“Go ahead, Bobby. Trample on our dreams why don’t you. Are you calling us
losers?” said Chaddy.
“He didn’t mean it,” said Glenn. The lads calm down. A trailer for the film ET
comes on the telly. The sight of ET wearing a dress triggers off a Chaddy intervention.
“I’m not sure about that creature. Its head is the wrong shape in my opinion. It’s
too squashed, especially around the nostrils,” said Chaddy.
“That was one of Spielberg’s technical problems,” said Glenn.
“So he spent a lot of time discussing the creature’s nostrils?” said Chaddy.
“He had to give a lot of thought to the general look of the alien. It was a balance
between cute and ugly,” said Glenn.
“I see what you mean. It would have been bad for the Box Office if everybody
stampeded out of the cinema when the creature appeared on screen. I still think Spielberg
got it wrong. Its face is too flat,” said Chaddy.
“You must have liked it when it got drunk and fell over,” said Bobby.
“I don’t like it in any shape or form,” said Chaddy.
“You must be the only person in the Galaxy who hates it,” said Glenn.
“Everybody loves ET,” said Bobby.
“Everybody? Next time I come across one of those polls they do where they ask
women who they want to have a candle-lit dinner with I’ll keep a look out for ET’s
position…First place Brad Pitt, second place George Clooney, third place ET. I wouldn’t
let my mother vote for a hideous creature,” said Chaddy.

Dog Days.

It was the hottest day of the year by far. Chaddy rides up on his scooter. Sweat drips
down his face inside his full-face helmet. He pauses to admire a classic Ford Capri in the
Members’ car park. Moved by vehicular art he pulls up alongside Glenn’s old Ford
Fiesta. Chaddy strides into the brew shed still wearing his helmet. He stands to attention
and salutes the lads dramatically and then:
“There’s a Capri in the car park,” said Chaddy. He sees Prince, Bobby’s Alsatian
dog, sat in his chair.
“There’s a big ruddy dog sat in my chair. The question is why?” said Chaddy.
“He’s going to the vets this afternoon,” said Bobby. Chaddy pulls off his helmet
and eyes up Prince with suspicion. He hates dogs, cats and pigeons.
“I don’t mind dogs in theory but I’m not too keen on their ability to lick their own
bum,” said Chaddy placing his helmet on the table.
“A valid point,” said Glenn.
“A very valid point!” said Chaddy. He moves in close to intimidate Bobby for no
apparent reason. “I’m surprised that Monty has let you get away with this pets-at-work
thing. It’s the slippery slope to total anarchy. What’ll you do next? Bring in your gerbil? I
don’t want gerbils running around the brew shed. I’ve still not recovered from when mine
died. ‘mam, me gerbils stopped moving’ They were great days.”
“You’re no trouble, are you boy?” said Dan to Prince. Chaddy looks around and
sees that Glenn has placed Chaddy’s helmet on the dog’s head. Its snout is popping out of
the helmet. Prince seems happy. He wears it with aplomb. Like Bobby, he’s a good
natured soul…most of the time.
Dan puts down his paper and apportions the working tasks for the morning:
“Remember its Ladies Day so no arsing about—and that goes for Prince as well.
Glenn rake the bunkers on the front nine. Bobby you’ve got a Special Project. You’re
going to tart up the bad weather shelter near the green twelve. Lick of paint, clean the
windows. Sweep it out. Kids have been using it as a den. If they’re still in there give them
a bollocking.”
“What’s your Oi like, Bobby?” said Chaddy.
“My Oi? I haven’t got an Oi,” said Bobby.
“Oi!” shouts Chaddy. Glenn and Dan display their Oi, s.
“Give us your Oi, Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“Oi,” said Bobby. It’s not a very intimidating Oi. The lads laugh and groan.
Prince starts barking.
“Pitiful, mate. That won’t scare away a bored teenager. You’re not negotiating at
the U.N. for heaven’s sake! Put the fear of God into the little buggers. Shout it from down
in your tummy, growl it out,” said Chaddy. Bobby shouts his Oi as loud as he can. Prince
starts barking again.
“Better, but not perfect,” said Chaddy. “That’s a boy’s Oi. No gravitas. It’s about
as intimidating as a dead gerbil. The lad’s not lived enough. He’s got no inner angst. He’s
obviously not had a real woman.” The lads look at Bobby questioningly. He blushes and
leaves the room.
The lads are congregating outside the brew shed. Chaddy is full of himself
because he’s got better tasks than the others. Special Projects and bunker raking are low
status tasks. Glenn and Bobby are mooching about unenthusiastically. Chaddy rubs it in:
“What’s the matter, boys? Is the burden of responsibility too much for you?”
“Funny man,” said Glenn. Chaddy cackles loudly and rides away on his mower
singing You’re Simply The Best:
“Keep an eye on, Lassie. He’s after your jobs!” said Chaddy. He raises his index
finger to show that he’s number one.
“Numero uno, man,” said Chaddy. He doesn’t remain number one for long
because later on he upsets one of the lady members by not turning off his mower while
she putted. This got back to Monty so Chaddy was demoted to the Special Project of
doing up the shelter while Bobby was promoted to cutting the greens. During morning
break, Chaddy accidentally sits on Prince. Prince isn’t very forgiving and stares at
Chaddy all the time.
Back out on the course a senior citizen, Jessica, hits a good shot on the par three
eleventh hole. Her three companions, also elderly ladies, enthuse about the shot for a
while. They get in the golf cart and make for the green:
“Yes, Veronica hero-worshipped Errol Flynn,” said Diane.
“What was that, dear? She horse-whipped Errol Flynn?” said Jessica.
“No, Jessica. She hero-worshipped him.” Up near the green, Glenn and Bobby are
chatting. Glenn is on the tractor and trailer. He doesn’t see Prince jump into the trailer.
Prince, sedated by the heat and fresh air slumbers as Glenn trundles over to the shelter to
pick up Chaddy. The ladies at the green give Bobby some encouragement:
“You’re doing a good job young man. Keep it up!” said Jessica to Bobby. He
smiles and blushes.
Glenn arrives at the shelter in order to give Chaddy a lift back to the brew shed.
All the painting equipment is visible but Chaddy isn’t. He’s around the back strimming
some rough ground around the back.
“Do you want a lift back? It’s nearly brew time,” said Glenn.
“Yeah, okay. I’ve done enough here for one day,” said Chaddy. He lugs three
rubbish bags over to the back of the trailer and chucks them in it. He hears a low
growling sound coming from the trailer. Prince clambers up to the side of the trailer and
starts baring its teeth to Chaddy who weighs up the situation and rapidly seeks sanctuary
with Glenn in the shelter. Prince charges after them. He’s barking loudly and generally
freaking out. Chaddy slams the door shut while Prince jumps up against the glass.
“He’s freakin’ out,” said Chaddy. Prince stops rearing up at the shelter’s door and
stands guard. Judging by his demeanour, Chaddy and Glenn are going nowhere.
“Don’t panic, Chaddy. I’ll talk us out of it,” said Glenn; he addresses Prince
through the window:
“Come on, Prince. You know me. Calm down, lad,” said Glenn. He slowly opens
the door but Prince rears up and slams it shut while barking loudly.
“It’s lost the plot,” said Chaddy.
“Well done, Chaddy,” said Glenn.
“You can’t blame me for all this!” said Chaddy. He pauses and his look changes
from quizzical to fearful. Glenn looks around and freezes as well. Jessica is trundling up
to Prince, oblivious to the fact that he is going berserk at the drop of a hat. Prince ambles
over to her and she pets his head:
“You’re a lovely boy aren’t you?” said Jessica to the now benign dog. Jessica and
her friends trundle on their way through the trees to the next tee and Prince returns to
guard the shelter.
“Chill out, man. All we have to do is wait until they send out a search party for us.
Bobby will sort this out,” said Chaddy who lies down on the bench. The two lads wait for
fifteen minutes. Eventually, Joe appears in the distance. Glenn jumps up and shouts to
Joe:
“Joe stop! Prince is freakin’ out on us. He’s gone mad,” shouted Glenn. Joe stops
and talks into his walkie-talkie. He informs Monty that he’s found the two lads. He walks
purposely towards the shelter.
“Stop, Joe! Prince is a maniac,” said Glenn but Joe ignores him.
“Joe stops for nobody,” said Chaddy who is still lying down.
“I’m freakin’ out, man, I’m freakin’ out,” said Glenn.
“Chill out, man. Joe’s a survivor. He’ll get us out of this,” said Chaddy. Prince is
motionless until Joe gets near the door. The dog lets out a low growl until Joe touches the
door handle. Prince rears up, barking loudly. Joe stops smiling, drops his walkie-talkie,
and retreats to the side of the shelter. Prince follows him. Joe hurtles up the shelter’s
drain pipe and clambers up to the roof. While Prince was distracted, Glenn had grabbed
the walkie-talkie. Prince resumes his vigil near the door while Joe shouts and swears on
the roof:
“I don’t take that sort of shit from nobody, man!” Shouted Joe pointing at Prince.
Glenn calls Monty on the radio:
“Hello, help, hello! This is Glenn, we’re in an emergency situation.” Joe moves to
the edge of the roof and peers into the shelter. He isn’t happy with Chaddy because he is
lying down on the bench relaxing:
“Get up, Chadwick! Get up and start panicking like everybody else you soft
bugger,” said Joe. Glenn resumes his conversation with Monty who is in his office:
“We’re in the shelter. The dog’s gone mad. He won’t let us out,” said Glenn.
“Where’s Joe?” said Monty.
“He’s on the roof and shouting stuff at Prince,” said Glenn. Prince starts barking
at Joe.
“Shut it, Joe. You’re just making it worse. You’re just winding him up,” said
Glenn.
“Has it attacked any of the members,” said Monty.
“No, not yet. They don’t seem to bother him,” said Glenn.
“Are you sure?”
“Yeah, the old ladies don’t worry him. He’s as nice as pie with Mrs Firestone.”
“All of you just sit tight. I’m coming over.” Monty strides into the brew shed.
Bobby is waiting for the mystery to resolve itself.
“Come with me, Bobby. And bring Prince’s lead,” said Monty. Back at the shelter
morale is low. Joe stands on the roof, hands on hips. Glenn and Chaddy are in similar
poses. After a while they see Monty’s golf buggy approaching in the distance:
“Showtime,” said Chaddy. Monty drives while Jessica Firestone, the elderly
member who charmed Prince, sits alongside. Bobby is riding shotgun on the back of the
buggy. The lads can only look on as the trio pulls up twenty yards away from the shelter.
Bobby walks up to Prince with his lead but he growls and bares his teeth. Bobby retreats.
“Will you give it a try, Mrs Firestone?” said Monty.
“I’ll give it a go,” said Jessica. She carefully approaches Prince:
“You’ve been a very naughty boy, haven’t you?” said Jessica. Prince’s expression
changes from quizzical to browbeaten. Jessica toddles up and clips the lead onto his
collar. They toddle back to the buggy. Prince sits on the floor of the buggy. He’s very
placid.
Joe drops down from the roof, a stone lighter, while Glenn and Chaddy climb
onto the back of the trailer. They all look drained by the heat and siege. Only Jessica is
chatting as the convoy of tractor and trailer together with the buggy head back to the
clubhouse at a sedate pace.
“I’ve earned my cup of tea this afternoon, haven’t I?” said Jessica.
“You have indeed, Mrs Firestone, you have indeed,” said Monty.
“I think it was the heat,” said Jessica, “It’s always shocking when a dog behaves
like an animal.”
Bobby’s Crush.

Glenn is alongside the first green giving Bobby a rather inept lesson on lawn mower
mechanics. They are bent over the mower. They hear a ball thud into the green and look
up to see two lady golfers approaching the green. One of the women, Virginia, is very
attractive and in her late thirties. Bobby is drawn to her from a distance. She is dressed in
all pink and glides up to the green.
“That’s the…erm,” said Glenn.
“Carburettor?” said Bobby.
“Yeah, probably. I hate engine stuff. You probably know more than me,” said
Glenn. He laughs nervously. He looks up and sees that Bobby is staring at the lovely
Virginia hitting a bunker shot. She plays it well and ends up three feet from the hole.
“Good shot, Ginny,” said Virginia’s partner. Bobby tries to focus on what Glenn
is saying but finds himself drawn to Virginia. As the ladies walk off the green, Virginia
makes eye contact with Bobby and smiles broadly. Bobby quietly sighs.
“That’s the magneto…erm no, that’s the HT lead…oh sod it! If you’ve got any
questions about engines then ask either Joe or Chaddy. I don’t know what I’m talking
about,” said Glenn. Bobby looks glum and spaced out. He sheepishly looks at Virginia in
the distance.
“We’d better rake the bunkers while we’re here,” said Glenn. As bobby starts
raking half-heartedly, Chaddy drives up on the tractor. Glenn flags him down. Chaddy
jumps down.
“This had better be good. I’m on a Special Project. It’s graded three levels above
Top Secret,” said Chaddy.
“Yeah, it’s called skiving off and mindlessly driving around in the tractor,” said
Glenn.
“Hole in one,” said Chaddy.
“I think Bobby’s got a problem. He’s totally gone. The lights are on but nobodies
home. He was alright until two women played through,” said Glenn.
“Women, eh? Sounds interesting. It’s about time we had some action around
here,” said Chaddy. He goes over to Bobby.
“How’s it hanging?” said Chaddy.
“Eh?” said Bobby. He pokes at the sand with his foot. He picks out a stone and
throws it to one side.
“How’s things?” said Chaddy.
“Okay. You said all women were rubbish. Ginny is good,” said Bobby.
“Ginny, eh? Do you know this woman personally or what?”
“She just played through,” said Bobby.
“I see. I think I’m getting the picture,” said Chaddy. He takes Glenn to one side.
“He’s got a crush on some woman who just played through. It could be serious.
Did she do anything to attract his attention?” said Chaddy to Glenn.
“She played a good bunker shot and missed a four footer,” said Glenn.
“That’s all it takes. I’ve fallen for women for less than that!” said Chaddy.
“Yeah, but you’re a knob. Bobby is the sensible sort,” said Glenn.
“They’re the worst. They keep it all bottled up and end up doing bizarre
unrequited love stuff,” said Chaddy. He decides that some shock therapy is in order. He
goes over to Bobby who is staring at the golf course.
“So this Ginny is a good player is she?” said Chaddy.
“Yeah she’s great!” said Bobby.
“Her husband’s good as well. Decent bloke…he’s built like a North Sea Oil
Platform,” said Chaddy. Bobby looks briefly downcast at the mention of a husband, as
Chaddy expected, but he begins vigorously raking the bunker in order to distract himself
from unpleasant realities. Chaddy goes over to Glenn.
“This is going to need a team effort. We’ll sort it out at brew time,” said Chaddy.

Glenn and Chaddy are waiting in the brew shed for Bobby to arrive for his break. They
are passing the time talking about Australian wildlife. The discussion was sparked by a
photo in the paper of a sombre looking duck billed platypus.
“Nice photo…very dignified,” said Chaddy.
“Thanks mate,” said Glenn, preening himself.
“Not you! The platypus,” said Chaddy.
“How come Australia gets all the weird looking animals?” said Glenn.
“I don’t know. Imagine trying to have a picnic with all those daft looking animals
charging around the place. If I was Australian I’d give up work and watch the wildlife all
day,” said Chaddy. Bobby enters the room. He’s smiling. He smiles at Joe.
“Are you taking the piss?” said Joe. Bobby stops smiling and sits down. Joe
returns to his newspaper. He mutters something about kids. Chaddy goes off to the toilet
while Joe and Glenn start talking half-heartedly about a political story in the paper.
Bobby sits in silence completely in love with a woman he’s never even spoken to.
“They’re all pissing in the same pot,” said Joe, using his standard criticism of
politicians. Chaddy returns. The lads stop talking and look around at Chaddy as he
bounds into the room:
“Talking about me behind my back again? Ha! The peasants always gossip behind
the back of the king,” said Chaddy. He raises his hand and starts to solemnly “bless” the
lads.
“Make your mind up, Chaddy. Are you a pope or a king?” said Joe.
“No popery!” said Glenn raising his fist.
“I’m neither,” said Chaddy, “I’m a Chadwick.” He sits down next to Bobby who
is not taking in any of this banter.
Right, Bobby, now what’s the score with you and this mystery blonde?” said
Chaddy.
“She’s not a mystery,” said Bobby.
“Oh, so you know all about her then?” said Chaddy.
“No…I just got a feeling when she smiled at me,” said Bobby.
“A feeling?” said Glenn.
“I got the feeling that I would spend the rest of my life with her,” said Bobby.
Chaddy stands up and looks at his watch.
“Time check…at the third stroke it will be time for public humiliation and mass
ridicule,” said Chaddy.
“Her husband looks Colombian to me,” said Glenn winking at Chaddy.
“That’s right, Bobby. He could be a drug baron for all we know. Have you seen
the film Scarface?” said Chaddy.
“Her eyes told me everything I need to know,” said Bobby.
“You’ll forget about her eyes when hubby turns up at the brew shed with a
screeching chain saw,” said Chaddy.
“And he won’t be chopping your arms off,” said Joe. The lads fall silent. Bobby
falls into a deep amorous trance.
“Bobby, you’re tip toeing along that thin line between cute and pathetic. Don’t
worry about your bad breath. It’s the only element of mystery about you. Without that
she probably wouldn’t notice you at all,” said Chaddy. Bobby isn’t listening.
“When I was your age I had infatuations all the time. I fell for a Satanist, a Young
Conservative, and a born-again Christian in the same week,” said Chaddy.
“What about the crazy lesbian?” said Glenn. Joe hurls his paper to one side.
“Lesbians!” said Joe, his eyes wide with curiosity.
“What lesbian?” said Chaddy.
“The one in the joke,” said Glenn.
“It’s not a joke. It actually happened,” said Chaddy.
“You went out with a lesbian?” said Joe.
“No—where’s this lesbian sprung from? I only fell for the other three,” said
Chaddy. Joe is unhappy and resents the fact that he’s been deprived of a lesbian-driven
discussion.
“You lot are a bunch of amateurs!” said Joe. He disappears behind his paper.
“Sorry, Chaddy. I thought you were trying to cheer up Bobby with a joke,” said
Glenn.
“So you think that falling for a lesbian is a good joke?” said Chaddy.
“It does happen,” said Glenn.
“Stop talking about lesbians!” said Joe getting genuinely angry.
“You’re in dangerous territory, Bobby. If you’re not careful you’ll have an act of
breathtaking stupidity named after you. Future generations will say: ‘Keep an eye on him.
He looks like he’s going to do a Bobby Swales on us,’ what do you reckon, Glenn,” said
Chaddy.
“He’s talking sense,” said Glenn. Chaddy has a brainwave.
“That lad needs some Primal Scream Therapy,” said Chaddy.
“I’m not hearing this,” said Joe.
“He’s crying out for a primal scream,” said Chaddy.
“How many times did you fail ‘A’ Level Psychology, Chadwick?” said Joe.
“Twice…I paid the price for being ahead of my time. Listen, Bobby, all you have
to do is go to a quiet part of the course and scream your bollocks off. It will get rid of all
the negative vibes. Get it all out, lad,” said Chaddy.
“I’m okay. I don’t want a Primal Scream, thanks,” said Bobby.
“Fair enough. I did it once on the fourteenth. I felt great afterwards,” said Chaddy.
After their break all the lads except Joe are going to the far side of the course so Glenn is
giving them a lift on the back of the trailer. They are trundling through the club’s car
park. Bobby is in a good mood. He feels very butch and mature on the back of the trailer.
As they pass the practice putting green he sees Virginia putting away. He stares at her
and smiles to himself. Glenn stops to let a Range Rover go past. Virginia waves at the
occupants. A small child jumps out of the car and runs over to Virginia. She picks up the
child. The bloke driving walks over and gives Virginia a peck on the cheek.
Chaddy sees Bobby’s reaction to the scenario. Bobby looks shattered and
downcast. But he is a little relieved because Virginia’s husband doesn’t look a huge
chainsaw wielding Colombian drug baron. He’s an architect.
“Primal Scream?” said Chaddy. Bobby solemnly nods his head. Chaddy shouts to
Glenn.
“Detour to the fourteenth green,” shouts Chaddy.
The fourteenth green is the quietest part of the course. It is a long par five that is
enclosed by trees and bushes. Two golfers are playing the hole. They both over hit their
shots and are deep into the trees and dip at the back of the green trying to find their balls.
The lads arrive at the green. They don’t see the golfers in the trees.
“Right, Bobby, don’t start screaming at first. Build up slowly to it and then when
you start throwing a wobbler then let it all flow. Just let it all out, man,” said Chaddy.
Glenn and Chaddy decide to give Bobby some space. They drive about thirty yards from
the green and wait.
Bobby stands alone on the green. He starts breathing deeply. He takes the flag out
of the hole and rests it across his shoulders. He starts rhythmically moaning to himself
quietly. The golfers in the trees hear it and stop searching for the balls. They catch a
glimpse of Bobby through the trees. He is now crouching down and moaning loudly.
All of a sudden, Bobby tunes into his negative vibes and starts hollering at the top
of his voice. The golfers look at each other completely dumbfounded. They quietly and
tentatively emerge from the trees. Bobby is freaking out.
“Excuse me,” said one of the golfers. Bobby spins round. More out of shock and
embarrassment he starts really freaking out and hollering at the now petrified golfers.
They drop their bags and start running down the fairway. Bobby follows them
brandishing the flag stick.
Glenn and Chaddy see the golfers running at them. They decide to get away and
drive off leaving the golfers and Bobby in their wake. Chaddy starts laughing
hysterically.
“Excellent! This is just what the lad needs,” said Chaddy.
Bobby stops running. He feels great. He walks back to the green and replaces the
flag.

Course Closed
Glenn stands near the Brew Shed window and wistfully watches the rain, which is of epic
proportions, sheeting down. Parts of the course are flooded and unplayable so Monty has
closed the course. Some golfers will literally play in the worst conditions possible in
order to prove their manhood. Monty is protecting both the course and them. Glenn is
having a rare reverie while watching the driving raindrops pinging off the window pane.
He is idling into a fantasy featuring the local radio DJ, Becky Winner. Her perkiness in
the midst of a terrible storm oozes out of the lad’s radio. Her jingle bangs out of the
speakers and she segues into “The Weekend,” by Michael Gray. It’s Monday morning.
Glenn mentally puts his surname with her Christian name: Becky Walker? Becky Winner
Walker? She’s a modern woman; a living, breathing, farting woman. A flash of lightning
and rumble of thunder breaks Glenn’s day dream and he rejoins the rest of the lads at the
table where there is a bit of a rumpus breaking out between Bobby and Chaddy. The
latter is hysterically amusing himself by pretending that his hand is a gun and it is firing
fart-bullets at Bobby who doesn’t appreciate the way Chaddy mimics the gun’s recoil and
farts in time with it.
“That’s world-class farting by the handsome and charismatic young Mancunian
lad,” said Chaddy in a triumphant tone. Chaddy thus rids himself of his early morning
wind; passing the time by passing wind. He gets bored very easily and becomes hard to
manage. Doing nothing is very hard work with him around.
The Michael Gray tune finishes and Becky’s indefatigable voice returns. She
adopts a concerned voice:
“We don’t usually do lost pets on this show but I’m going to make an exception.
My Vietnamese pot bellied pig, who goes by the name of Lancelot, has gone missing.
There’s no reward for his return but I will be very grateful if you can help me find him.
He was last seen heading for Carlington Woods.”
“That’s not far away as the crow flies. We can do this, lads. That big old hog is
ours,” said Chaddy. Joe grunts, not unlike a pig, and sets off to check the state of the
course.
“You’re all talk and no action, Chadwick,” said Joe. He pulls up the hood on his
big waterproof jacket which looks like it could withstand a nuclear blast. Joe doesn’t
mind severe weather. His style of rugby was suited to a mud bath. He thrived in bad
conditions. Meanwhile, Chaddy chatters about his plan. Operation “Pig Finder” will
involve strategically searching the west side of the Course where it merges with
Carlington Forest. He decides to wait until the rain eases off.
“I don’t fancy taking on a pig,” said Bobby.
“You might have a point. This hog has had the scent of freedom in its snout. It
could turn nasty…if you spot it just return to base and request reinforcements,” said
Chaddy. “Do you still fancy Becky Winner?” said Chaddy to Glenn. The latter doesn’t
answer but goes very red. His face betrays him much more than his words ever could.
“You got a letter from her the other day, didn’t you, Glenn?” said Bobby. Glenn’s
head wants to burst with embarrassment.
“It was only a signed photo,” said Glenn quite loudly.
“What did you say in this big love-letter—sorry, did I say love-letter? I meant
“fan letter,” said Chaddy with sarcastic air-quotes. Glenn remains silent. “No comment,
yeah? Very political. Very media savvy, Mister President Glenn Walker. You’re taking
the Fifth Amendment, yeah? Don’t want to incriminate yourself, Mister President?
Chaddy’s sarcasm doesn’t bother Glenn; he’s struck dumb with humiliation. Chaddy
ponders for awhile and then he smiles to himself:
“You know, Glenn, this porker is a big opportunity for you. Becky will be very
grateful to you for saving Lancelot the pig. The historical pattern is clear: get the pig, get
the girl.” Chaddy’s logic appeals to Glenn. Brought together by a pig. This could be
destiny talking. But Glenn hides his enthusiasm and listens to the radio which is blasting
out “The Girls” by Calvin Harris. Chaddy stands up and starts clapping:
“I’m getting bored.” He rubs his hands with glee. “I can feel the devil making
work for my idle hands already.” Bobby, who is reading “The Sun”, holds up page three
of the paper to Chaddy:
“I want one of them!” said Bobby. Chaddy shrugs:
“We all need a comely maiden like that, Bobby,” said Chaddy carefully assessing
the semi-naked young woman’s photo.
“No not the woman,” said Bobby. “I mean that footballer’s haircut.”
“Good one,” said Chaddy.
“I’ll get it done at dinner time,” said Bobby.
“Course you will,” said Chaddy with a sarcastic tone.

Half an hour passes and Monty sends the lads to the large tractor shed to do some indoor
chores. But before long the lads start a game of indoor cricket using wickets chalked on
the wall and a makeshift bat and ball. Monty realises that the lads will lark about but he
turns a blind eye. Chaddy takes it very seriously and wins so the lads go for an early
lunch:
“You couldn’t design a bigger idiot,” said Chaddy as he entered the Brew Shed
slagging off an ex-employer. They get their lunches out of their lockers and settle down
to eat. Bobby analyses the haircut in the paper and tries to put a name to it…double tight
Mohican? Chaddy attacks his cheese salad muffin. A chilly Glenn quietly craves the
warmth of a good woman. He solemnly listens to the last half hour of Becky’s show. The
personality in her voice warms him up a little. All of a sudden Joe bursts in through the
door looking muddy and saturated. He smiles a smug, piratical smile. His missing teeth
give him an air of savage delight.
“What have you been up to? Bog snorkelling or what?” said Chaddy.
“I just met your twin brother, Chadwick,” Joe replied. He leaves the room and
then returns holding Lancelot, who is even more bedraggled than Joe. The pig breaks
loose from Joe and starts snuffling around the room as if he owns the place. The lads
react with a mixture of shock and hysteria:
“Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Blimey, Joe. He smells worse than you,” said Chaddy. Joe
swaggers around looking triumphant: a true man of action.
“He must be hungry,” said Bobby.
“Give him your Mars Bar,” said Chaddy.
“Pigs don’t eat Mars Bars,” said Bobby.
“Pigs eat anything,” said Joe, “They would eat you if we chopped you into small
enough chunks.”
“Was he hard to catch?” said Glenn.
“I rugby tackled the bugger. Sweet as a nut,” said Joe.
“Well done, big fellah. Lets ring the radio station to tell Becky that you’ve got
Lancelot,” said Chaddy. He rings the radio station on his mobile phone and gets put
through to Becky on air. Chaddy reluctantly gives Joe the phone:
“You’ve found my Lancelot, Joe!” said Becky who is audibly relieved and
thrilled.
“I certainly have,” said Joe, his pride showing in his voice. Glenn sits in the
corner, his jealousy throbbing away quietly.
“You’re my hero of the week,” said Becky. “How is Lancelot?”
“He’s okay. He’s eating me mate’s Jamaican ginger cake,” said Joe as Chaddy
pushes the pig away from his lunchbox.
“Put him on the phone,” said Becky.
“Chadwick or the pig?” said Joe.
“Lancelot, please.”
“Hang on a second. He’s eating the furniture.”
“That sounds like him! Isn’t he sweet?”
“Yeah.” Joe puts the phone near Lancelot’s snout and he gladly snuffles for his
mistress. Back at the radio station, Breeze FM, the Press Officer is sniffing a good story;
good publicity and even a photo shoot. Every body loves Becky and pigs. A winning
combination. This could go national.
Chaddy looks at Glenn hankering for Becky’s attention so he scribbles a note for
Joe to read. He hands it over and Joe reads it out:
“Will you marry Glenn Walker who is a local property developer, general
entrepreneur and raffish playboy?”
“That’s the best offer I’ve had for ages but I’ll have to pass on that. Would he like
a signed photo instead?” said Becky.
“I’ve got one,” said Glenn.
“He’s got one,” said Joe.
“Will a signed T-shirt do?” said Becky. Glenn nods solemnly. “We’re going off
air in a minute, Joe. Can you stay on the line and we’ll have a chat?” Chaddy walks over
to Glenn and shakes his head:
“The medium is the message, Glenn, the medium is the message.” But Marshall
McLuhan’s dictum means nothing at all to Glenn. He is enveloped by an aura of romantic
gloominess. Chaddy doesn’t fully understand the McLuhan quote but he wanted to say
anything except that there are plenty more fish in the sea.
Becky chats with Joe and they organise a photo shoot at the club with Becky,
Lancelot and Joe. They will pose in front of Becky’s car which is painted with the livery
of Breeze FM. Bobby quietly leaves the room and sets off for the nearest barber shop. He
is keen to visit the place where he feels most comfortable: the barber’s chair.

Bobby sidled past Monty’s office window as if he’d just had a short back and sides and
not the radical, tonsorial extravaganza he now sports. Monty gapes at it and then he
phones Joe instantly and tells him to “sort it,” without delay. “This is a golf club. It isn’t
an episode of Star Trek, for goodness sake,” he added.
Back in the Brew Shed, Joe is bollocking Bobby:
“This is a golf club…erm, it’s not an episode of Doctor Who!” the lads look
askance at each other. They are bewildered by Joe’s cultural reference.
“Why are you bollocking me and Glenn? We’re not the ones with a daft haircut,”
said Chaddy.
“No, but it’s the sort of thing that you two buggers would do to this gullible young
lad. Listen, Bobby lad, you would upset the Lady Members with a haircut like that,” said
Joe.
“Thank heaven for small mercies, Joe. He could have come back looking like the
hideous Davros. In any case, the Ladies love Bobby,” said Chaddy.
“Not with a head like that,” said Joe. “Sort it!” said Joe.
“But it’s a double Mohican,” said Bobby.
“It’s the last of the Mohicans. It’s out of order! Whip it all off,” said Joe. Bobby is
speechless for awhile then he nods. Chaddy twists the knife with a metallic sounding
voice:
“I am Davros! I am Davros! I…am…DAVROS! Come on then, lads. We may as
well all go for a trim. There’s nothing to do here except wait for Becky’s photo shoot,”
said Chaddy. As the lads leave the room, Lancelot tries to follow them out. Joe grabs
him:
“Not you, mate. No more walkabouts for you, Sir Lancelot.” Joe begins feeding
Lancelot chocolate biscuits.
The lads drive to the barber’s shop but not the one Bobby went to; he doesn’t
want to upset the barber and his Monday masterpiece. Glenn confesses that he has a
barber phobia. He hates asking for the same style every time he goes: “It’s like being in a
time-warp. They always ask me why I’m not in work!” Chaddy will have a trim in order
to give Glenn some tips on how to handle barbers.
They pile into the barber shop in high spirits because they think that they’re going
to be part of the photo-shoot. The barber is very old fashioned and as soon as he sees
bobby’s Mohican he reacts badly:
“I don’t do any of that fancy stuff here,” said the barber pointing at Bobby.
“Don’t worry, mate. It’s all coming off. He’s having a skinhead,” said Chaddy.
The word ‘skinhead’ sends a shiver down Bobby’s spine. “You’ll look like Brad Pitt…
NOT,” said Chaddy chortling to himself.
Bobby is up first and it takes little time for him to get his tight crop. He looks at
some of the style photos on the wall. He stifles a giggle because they are all old fashioned
cuts from the 1970s. Glenn settles into the chair. He looks at himself in the mirror; he
looks pale and jittery.
“What would you like, sir?” said the barber. Glenn freezes. Chaddy sees that
Glenn is having a panic attack so he offers some encouragement:
Go for it, Glenn. Don’t let him intimidate you.”
“What would you like?” said the barber again.
“Where’s my life going?” Mumbled Glenn. “My life, it’s….”
“You don’t need a barber, you need a psychologist,” said the barber. Glenn blurts
out that he would have the style in one of the photos:
“I’ll have one of those! The bloke with the big centre parting and moustache.”
Bobby bursts out laughing at Glenn’s choice; the man with the very stern moustache. The
barber starts happily snipping at Glenn’s hair.
“Not working today, sir?” said the barber. Glenn’s morbid fear of answering this
dreaded question leaves him mumbling inanely. Chaddy starts laughing at Glenn’s
awkwardness. The senior citizen in the corner mumbles something about “daft buggers”
which only makes Chaddy and Glenn laugh louder.
“I’m having none of that,” said the Barber. The lads calm down but there is an air
of giddiness in the room. Glenn flicks out the plastic sheet around him. He hates the cut
hair resting on his lap. A few minutes pass and the cut is completed. The barber shows
him the back of his head with the mirror:
“Would you like some hairspray, sir?” said the barber. Glenn doesn’t answer.
“What’s the matter, Glenn? Are you unsure about your sexuality? said Chaddy.
“No!” said Glenn, “I just don’t like the smell of it.” Chaddy leans over to the
senior citizen:
“He’s a bit gay,” said Chaddy. “Only real men have hairspray.” The old man nods
his considered agreement.
“I’ll just have a couple of sprays then,” said Glenn. The barber dusts off the back
of Glenn’s neck and removes the grey plastic sheet with a flourish.
“Very retro. You look like a sadistic PE teacher from the Seventies,” said Chaddy.
He sidles over and sits in the chair while Glenn pays for his haircut. He gives the barber a
big tip.
“What would you like, sir?” said the barber.
“For a start I want pin-point accuracy,” said Chaddy. The barber groans quietly to
himself. A tricky customer. “And as a general principle, this skull reflects twenty-five
thousand years of evolution—I want it to look good,” said Chaddy.
“Get on with it, Chaddy. We’ll miss the photo shoot,” said Glenn. Chaddy ignores
Glenn and begins to reveal his styling needs in great detail. It is a litany of subtle tapers
and delicate shavings. The barber shakes his head and begins to quickly and effortlessly
comb and cut. He can’t wait to get Chaddy out of his barbershop. After awhile Chaddy
gets restless:
“Give me a progress check on the back. Let me have a look,” said Chaddy.
“It’s only half finished,” said the barber barely controlling his temper.
“I don’t care. This is a critical moment.”
“Trust me. I don’t normally do fancy stuff. All this arsing about is bordering on
fancy stuff.”
“This haircut is bordering on a German helmet! Let me see the back or I’ll report
you to the Trading Standards Officer.”
“I’ve had enough. Get out of my shop!”
“But it’s only half done.”
“I don’t care. Out!” The lads leave the shop.
“Good riddance,” said the senior citizen in the corner.
“I knew they were trouble causers as soon as they walked,” said the barber.
Chaddy’s highly evolved head doesn’t look good. The left side hangs down lankly while
the right is short. It’s trimmed at the front but cut halfway across the back of his neck.
The top looks all chopped at and wonky.
The lads enter the Brew Shed. Chaddy is offering advice to Bobby about handling
camp barbers:
“Bobby listen, he wasn’t just flirting. If a man praises your “follicles” then it’s a
fair bet that he’s got ulterior motives.” Joe looks up from his crossword and does a
double-take when he sees Chaddy’s hair:
“Go home, Chadwick! This is a verbal warning. You were supposed to repair a
daft haircut, not have one yourself. You’re a bloody disgrace, lad. I can’t believe I’m
going to say this, but you’re supposed to be setting an example.”
“Don’t panic, Joe. I’m going to get a hat from the pro shop. I’ll get my hair sorted
tomorrow,” said Chaddy.
“Well I’m giving you a verbal warning anyway for looking like a total knob
head,” said Joe. Glenn slaps Chaddy on his neck:
“Slapped neck!”
“Look at Glenn’s haircut. That’s what I call style. It’s about time one of you lot
had a decent hairstyle,” said Joe. Bobby shakes his head in disbelief at Joe’s lack of
tonsorial taste. The lads settle down for their break around the table. Chaddy sniffs the air
a few times:
“Who’s farted?” said Chaddy but nobody relies. He stands up and adopts the
demeanour of a keen investigative reporter, complete with intrusive microphone. He puts
it in the face of Bobby:
“Bobby, did you just fart?”
“No.”
“Why have you gone red in the face?”
“I’m not comfortable with the whole subject.”
“So it’s not an indicator of guilt?”
“No, sir,” said Bobby. Chaddy puts the microphone under Glenn’s nose:
“Glenn, did you just fart?”
“No comment!”
“So you don’t want to implicate yourself, eh? Pleading the Fifth Amendment are
you?”
“This is trial by media! No comment—but don’t quote me on that.”
“Very shrewd,” said Chaddy. He moves along the table to Joe:
“Joe, did you just fart?”
“Bugger off, Chadwick,” said Joe. Having finished his preliminary investigation,
Chaddy comes to a conclusion:
“Gentlemen…we have a mystery!” said Chaddy. He raises his right knee to waist
height and releases a long, moaning fart holding a single, ringing note:
“Mystery solved! I am the ‘silent but deadly’ farter.” said Chaddy. The lads give
him a round of applause and he bows down deeply in gratitude like The Beatles:
“Thank you. Thank you one and all! Have I passed the audition?”
The Breeze FM Press Officer knocks enthusiastically on the door of the Brew Shed and
enters:
“I’m looking for Joe?” Joe stands up and offers his hand:
“You’ve found him.”
“I’m Rod West, Breeze FM’s Press Officer. We’ll need you in the car park soon
as you can. The photographer from the local papers is here.”
“Ready when you are,” said Joe.
“What about us?” said Chaddy. Rod looks confused and then amused when he
takes in the sight of Chaddy’s haircut—or rather his half-done haircut.
“And you are?” said Rod.
“Adrian Chadwick.”
“How are you related to Lancelot?”
“I’m not.”
“Well I’m afraid you can’t be in the photograph. We only need Joe and the other
protagonists.” There is an awkward silence which Glenn fills:
“Where’s Becky?”
“She’s in the car park,” said Rod who notices Glenn blushing brightly,
“Everybody loves Becky! If only I could bottle what she’s got I would be a billionaire.
Now, where’s Lancelot?”
“He’s in the Tractor Shed, unless he’s eaten that as well,” said Joe.
“Let’s go!” said Rod. He leads the way to the Tractor Shed.
At the Shed, Rod jumps back a little when Lancelot snuffles up to him.
“Don’t be scared,” said Joe, “He’s a good lad, aren’t you, son?” Joe pats Lancelot
on the head. When Joe opens up the big doors, Lancelot sees daylight and makes his way
outside. When Lancelot sees Becky in the distance he cheers up and trots towards her
with an apparent smile. Becky’s face glows when she spots him:
“Come on, Lancelot! Come on, boy,” said Becky crouching down to greet him at
his level. She strokes his head and rubs his ears: lady and pig are gladly reunited.
A few minutes later, Glenn gets his first glimpse of the real Becky. She appears to
be flirting with the photographer. She is flicking her long blonde hair and laughing.
Glenn feels a pang—a pang of what, he does not know. Lancelot is snouting around the
Breeze FM car no doubt working out how to consume it. Glenn is jealous of the pig; she
obviously loves him deeply. The lads stand to one side as Joe is introduced to Becky.
Glenn seethes quietly as a cocktail of hormones, and other emissions race around his
body and mind. He resents Joe’s big, rough pig catcher’s hands. Joe’s demeanour is that
of a triumphant warrior, puffed up by all the attention.
“Keep your distance, Glenn. Beware of love at first sniff. It’s a killer,” said
Chaddy.
The photographer organises Becky, Lancelot, and Joe into a pose in front of the
Breeze FM car. He tries different configurations such as crouching down and stroking
Lancelot, then:
“Can you kiss Becky?” said the snapper. Glenn’s eyes widen. He considers
turning his back. Joe goes red; the first and last time the lads see him blush.
“I’m a married man. The missus would kill me!” said Joe.
“Just a peck on the cheek.”
“Okay.” Joe kisses Becky. She smells good. Glenn has a minor nervous
breakdown. Becky doesn’t seem to mind the fact that Joe is hulking, menacing, and
smelly.
“To the victor the spoils,” said Chaddy whispering to Glenn. Rod, who had been
briefing a local journalist on the phone, asks the snapper if he’s nearly done.
“Just a couple more and some close-ups of the pig.” The skies are darkening
another storm is lying in wait. The lads turn around and slowly make for the Brew Shed.
Then they hear a voice in the distance:
“Hang on, which one of you is Glenn?” said Becky. Glenn identifies himself and
his legs begin to wobble. “I owe you this,” said Becky handing over a signed Breeze FM
T-shirt. Glenn is speechless. He just goggles at Becky then turns away; he wants to run
away. His armpits are working overtime. Lancelot starts sniffing Glenn’s work boots with
evil intent.
“Can I have one?” said Chaddy.
“Are you a local property developer and playboy as well?” said Becky.
“I’ve had my moments,” said Chaddy. Becky smiles and walks over to her logo
emblazoned car. Glenn looks over his shoulder and sees Becky waving at him as she
drives by. Chaddy senses Glenn’s romantic distress. He’s breathed the same air as Becky
and now she’s gone for good; she’s driving out of his life. Lancelot pokes his head over
the back seat and stares at the lads imperiously, his porcine adventure over.
Glenn will only have access to Becky’s voice from now on. He is downcast and a
bit dangerous; missed opportunities—even unattainable opportunities—can damage the
soul of a young man. Chaddy puts his arm around Glenn and decides that a quote from
the ending of the film “Casablanca” is appropriate:
“Glenn, I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” As the heavy rain
starts to fall, Glenn and Chaddy seek the shelter of the Brew Shed. Glenn is a changed
man; a tougher man: he tells Chaddy to bugger off. Chaddy just laughs:
“Bad loser, man, bad loser.”
The photo of Becky, Lancelot, and Joe appeared in the next day’s local paper. Joe
pins the photo on the wall of the Brew Shed; a memory of his triumph over Nature. Glenn
notices it now and again and remembers his fondness for Becky and the pig that brought
them together if only for a few seconds on a terrible day when the course was closed.

It’s Christmaaaaaaaaaaaas!

Chaddy, Glenn and Bobby are going on a Christmas pub crawl in the centre of
Manchester with some of their former colleagues. Andy is a compulsive joker. Wayne
thinks he is Clint Eastwood after a few pints. They start at Yates’s Wine Lodge. Bobby is
on bitter shandies because he’s under age but Andy has had a few ‘Blobs’ which is a
potent Australian white wine. Chaddy has been nursing a pint of Boddingtons for three
quarters of an hour. Andy sets the tone for the early part of the evening by reminding
Chaddy about his reputation for not holding his drink very well.
“Chaddy, one sniff of a beer mat and you’re up in Court for being ‘Drunk and
Incapable’,” said Andy.
“He’s not that bad. ‘Drunk and Disorderly’ maybe,” said Wayne.
“So what? At least at the end of the night I’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that
it cost me half as much as you to get pissed out of my head,” said Chaddy.
“Whoa, whoa, whoa Chaddy. You’re not treating this night like a trip to the
bargain basement. Get your hand in your pocket,” said Andy.
“Leave my budget out of this,” said Chaddy.
“You’ll ruin a good night, Chaddy,” said Glenn.
“I knew we shouldn’t have asked Chadwick to come. It’s Christmas for Christ’s
sake. Bugger your budget,” said Andy. Chaddy bends to the pressure and goes to get a
round in. Andy tells a few jokes but Bobby doesn’t laugh at them. Andy turns a bit nasty
and decides to have a go at Bobby’s slightly daft haircut.
“Who cut your hair, mate? Industrial Light and Magic?” said Andy.
“It looks like a Steven Spielberg Production to me,” said Wayne. Bobby looks at
Glenn for some moral support but he’s laughing hysterically. Wayne starts staring at
Bobby. The mood lightens, however, when Chaddy arrives with the next round of drinks.
When he sits down he tells Glenn that he’d just seen a girl he hadn’t seen since his school
days.
“She was one of those girls that was here one minute and gone the next. I think
I’ll go over and have a chat,” said Chaddy. Unfortunately the girl, Andrea, is embedded
within the Barmy Army who are a gang of boisterous but good natured revellers. One of
them has got a bugle. Andrea is with a friend, Lisa. Chaddy opens the conversation.
Andrea vaguely recognises him. He asks her if he remembers a lad.
“You probably won’t remember him. You left in the middle of the Fourth Year.
You were there one minute and gone the next. What happened to you?” said Chaddy.
“I had a baby, Joshua,” said Andrea. Chaddy pretends that he isn’t shocked.
“Joshua Tree? Interesting. What are you up to now,” said Chaddy.
“Oh, this and that,” said Andrea.
“Can I buy you a drink,” said Chaddy.
“No thanks,” said Lisa.
“Its okay, Lisa. We’ve got time,” said Andrea.
“I’ll have a Southern Comfort and lemonade,” said Lisa. Chaddy is slightly aghast
at the outlay he’s letting himself in for. He winces at the girl and she smiles back at him.
At this point the Barmy Army begin to pile out of the pub. There is much bugling and
shouting. The Slade song, Merry Christmas Everybody is blaring out of the jukebox.
Andrea has to shout over the din.
“I’ll have a Margarita,” said Andrea. Chaddy can’t hear her. Andrea tries to
mouth the words.
“You want a Margaret?” said Chaddy. The noise drowns him out. “Is it a
cocktail?”
“Yeah,” said Andrea.
“What’s in it?” said Chaddy.
“Tequila,” said Andrea. Chaddy goes to the bar which is very busy. He tries to
attract the bar maid’s attention by hissing at her; a tip he read about in a book. She
doesn’t like it and glares at him. She eventually gets to him after serving three or four
customers.
“A pint of Boddies, a Southern Comfort, and a Margaret Thatcher, please,” said
Chaddy.
“A Margaret Thatcher?” said the bar maid.
“Correct,” said Chaddy.
“Never heard of it,” said the bar maid.
“That’s your problem,” said Chaddy.
“But there’s no such drink,” said the bar maid getting a bit angry at Chaddy’s
Bolshie attitude.
“It’s a cocktail!” said Chaddy. The Landlord senses trouble and intervenes.
“What’s the problem,” said the Landlord.
“He wants a Margaret Thatcher,” said the bar maid.
“It’s a cocktail, mate” said Chaddy.
“What’s in it?” said the Landlord.
“Tequila and something else, I suppose,” said Chaddy.
“Do you mean a Margarita?” said the Landlord.
“Whatever you say, Chief,” said Chaddy. Owing to the Margarita
misunderstanding, Chaddy hasn’t noticed that Andrea and Lisa have left the pub with
another man. Andy shouts over to him.
“She’s blown you out,” said Andy. Chaddy walks over to the table holding the
drinks.
“She left with that bloke,” said Glenn.
“The Salvation Army geezer?” said Chaddy.
“No, the bloke selling the dodgy perfume,” said Glenn.
“It’s always the same. The glamour boy always gets the girl,” said Andy. Chaddy
knocks back the Southern Comfort in one gulp. He gives the Margarita to Bobby. He
doesn’t realise that it is one of the strongest cocktails known to man. After a few minutes,
Bobby starts to see the funny side of literally everything that Andy says. He also tries to
stare out ‘Clint Eastwood’. The atmosphere lightens and the group gains cohesion. They
move on to another pub.
The lads are about to cross the road when a man parked nearby starts loudly
revving his engine. The man, who is wearing a trilby and smoking a pipe, keeps revving.
“Let your clutch out!” shouts Glenn. The revving continues and soon all the lads
are shouting.
“Let the clutch out,” they shout. Bobby starts laughing hysterically.
“He’s revving the bollocks off it,” said Bobby. The lads move on. In the distance
they hear the Barmy Army bugler and chants of ‘Barmy Army, Barmy Army’. The lads
don’t spend much time in the next pub. Joe is in there but he’s with his wife. He ignores
the lads. They move on. Andy gives Bobby a swig from the bottle of whiskey he’s been
hiding. All the lads are now pretty pissed. They are discussing which club to visit.
Chaddy now sits in a supermarket trolley. Wayne is giving him a push. Chaddy
starts to shout at the top of his voice.
“Boutros-Boutros Galli, Boutros-Boutros Galli. I’m not pissed! I’m not pissed in
any shape or form. Where’s my mate young Bobby?” said Chaddy.
“He’s having a slash in the entry,” said Wayne.
“I told you I’d look after him. Come on, driver. Put your foot down or we’ll miss
the lights,” said Chaddy. Wayne has had enough of Chaddy. He charges towards the
junction and lets go of the trolley. The drivers at the junction see the trolley hurtling past
them in the middle of the road. It swerves over and hits the kerb. Chaddy is ejected and
lies on the ground. The lads encircle him. His eyes spring open.
“Whose round is it?” said Chaddy. Having satisfied themselves that Chaddy is
alive they amble off. Bobby helps him up. Chaddy takes an interest in a bus shelter. He
climbs onto the roof. He stands with his arms aloft. He starts a chant to the tune of
Guantanamera.
“One Father Christmas, there’s only one Father Christmas,” chanted Chaddy.
He’s happy singing to himself but when a double-decker bus pulls up at the stop he rises
to the occasion and gives them a couple of verses. Gradually they join in with the chant.
The bus drives off. Chaddy keeps singing until he becomes aware of his solitude. The
silence is broken by the Barmy Army bugler. He clambers down and puts his arm around
Bobby. They make their way home, staggering and slurring as they go.