Archive | May, 2014

THE VICAR OF BUMBLETON

30 May

THE VICAR OF BUMBLETON

cartoon vicar photo: cartoon vicar 7871554-funny-hand-painted-priest-on-white-background--illustration_zpscaa86877.jpg

The youngest son of Lord Pipsqueak of Bumbleton, Daniel, knew he would become a man of the cloth when he was grown up because that’s what youngest sons did. They went to learn about the Good Book, got drunk quite a few times with other youngest sons in alehouses frequented by spotty ladies of the night, and were finally offered a living once a fascinating range of sexually transmitted diseases had been cleared up, and that living was usually not far from the family home where Father could keep a watchful eye on their antics. Then, so far as he could tell, the more interesting part of their lives would be over. Oh, they weren’t dead but they might as well be.

Daniel Pipsqueak, though, did not want that life.

He wanted to travel. He wanted to visit far shores and romance with dusky maidens until he was drained by their embraces, and then romance some more. He wanted to LIVE, and his idea of living had precious little to do with crusty church services, prayers to a deity that appeared to live in cloud cuckoo land and weddings of inappropriate smelly people to equally inappropriate smelly people.

But there was no way out.

He thought of absconding, but that didn’t appeal because, once out there amidst the fields and forests he’d be homeless and, even more important, would have no idea where his next meal was coming from. And that didn’t appeal at all. He needed sustenance more than most because, well, he’d already developed a corporation to be proud of and he was still short of being twenty.

He might, he thought, court the daughter of a rich man, but rich men with daughters kept a weather eye on them for perfectly practical reasons, and he barely saw any. Daughters of rich men were reserved for eldest sons, those with an inheritance worth the meaning of the word, and he was a youngest son.

In addition, his libido was being sadly neglected.

When he’d been sixteen he’d meddled with the pasty cook’s under-maid, a pretty enough young thing with magnificent breasts and sweet breath, but she’d rapidly absorbed the best he had to offer, become pregnant and been shown the door by his angry father who accused her of trying to climb onto the social ladder by seducing an innocent young boy, and had her name truly blackened when she suggested the only seduction had been by that same innocent young boy. So she’d taken her bump away with her, and died in a ditch in Penury, which was a few miles down the road from Bumbleton.

A similar story had emerged when he was seventeen and studying his letters, the girl who swept the University corridors being the recipient of copious quantities of his over-active semen and becoming similarly pregnant. She was to die in childbirth in a room above the alehouse with the local wise woman as midwife, which made the story go away, but he supposed that in a way he’d loved her. At least she hadn’t been either smelly or spotty and had a really charming little bottom she didn’t mind his pinching, and he actually wept when he passed the field in which she was buried, obviously in unconsecrated ground, in a pauper’s grave.

According to his personal prediction he was offered a living at Bumbleton Church when the present incumbent sadly and accidentally stabbed himself whilst conducting an exorcism in the dark at Randyborough Hall at the invitation of the lady of the house who said her ghost preferred a lights-out scenario. That lady was famed throughout the county for her little peccadilloes, and as chance would have it her husband had returned unexpectedly from the wars in mid-exorcism, so to speak, and had died painfully of blood poisoning a week later.

So Andrew became vicar of Bumbleton, and quite miserable about it until he discovered that, if he was careful, he might have quite a jolly time with communion wine and, shall we say, a selection of parishioners (of either sex – he wasn’t that choosy) who enjoyed a free drink and were a little careless with their underclothes.

For several years he was careful.

He’d learned his lesson, after all, with maidens who made the mistake of becoming pregnant and his new source of personal pleasure was unlikely to do that, being largely widows who would be considered past it in any age, or choir boys who weren’t.

But he’d forgotten the rumour machine. After all, he was the vicar and consequently considered to be God’s representative in the parish. And if there’s one thing he knew that particular deity disapproved of it was the things he got up to with those of his flock willing to let him get up to them, and as rumour spread as rumour does he was scared that his father might hear it.

Which, of course, happened.

My boy,” said his father, “I’m afraid I must disinherit you.”

A cold shiver went down Daniel’s spine when he heard those words.

But why, father?” he blurted out, knowing what was coming yet unable to stop himself asking.

I have heard Rumour,” was all his father could bring himself to say.

But father – you know what rumour is!” he squeaked.

It’s the truth by any other name,” nodded his father awkwardly yet wisely,”and rumour’s truth suggests that you’ve done the unforgivable. So I disinherit you. Now get out of my sight, and as soon as you can get out of my church. In fact, get out of Bumbleton. You are no longer my son, and I will set the dogs on you in five minutes flat!”

And that’s exactly what he had to be seen to do.

Next day a new vicar arrived, a sprightly young man with a pile of luggage so enormous it looked as if he might be staying for a life-time.

Then, rather than sloping off miserably and in abject shame, “Do you mind if I hang around?” smirked Daniel.

What for?” asked the new man, surprised, because he, too, had heard Rumour.

You’ll find out,” grinned Daniel. “I know a thing or two, you know.”

And he did find out.

Which gave him an awkward limp three times a week, but never on a Sunday, when the Lady of Randyborough Hall called to worship.

 © Peter Rogerson 30.05.14

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THIS HEAVEN OF HIS

28 May

THIS HEAVEN OF HIS

FRIAR photo: friar tuck medieval monk friartuck-medievalmonk.jpg

Brother Atticus was a Friar with a mission.

He knew a few things about life and a few more things about death. He’d watched people fade into the silence of the grave and decided he knew all about what was going on. It was his belief they were going to a far better place, and he was happy for them.

In Heaven,” he mused to himself, “there are all manner of wonderful things and the hugeness of eternity to enjoy them in! And above all the marvels there is the Love of my lord, which will be truly marvellous, for all forms of human love are barred from me and my order here on Earth.”

And he decided that it must be his own personal mission to spread the word. It must be his life’s toil to introduce those who were dying to the notion of a love-filled everlasting Heaven so that their endings may be as joyful as their lives frequently hadn’t been.

The time came, though, when all those about to pass beyond life had all done exactly that and were no more, and he had to seek for others who, though not obviously approaching the Grim Reaper, might have a sadness or a sorrow in their lives and thus benefit from his good words.

I know that you’re unhappy,” he said to a young widow, “I know that life is intolerable without your lord and Master to cherish you during the cold of nights and that you would be infinitely more happy playing with him amidst the fields of Heaven, rolling in celestial grass and giggling like you never giggled before, and making glorious love without any risks of unwanted occurrences or those dreadful STDs one hears about…”

What are you on about?” she replied, “he was a bully and a bastard!”

But you miss him so, the security, the knowledge that, when the nights are dark and fears stalk this earth of ours, he is there to protect you. But now he’s gone…”

Thank the saints!” she told him.

And I wish to help you… just think, my dear young woman,” his words leered over her, “I wish you to know that living is not in vain, that there is an end to all suffering … just think, for a moment, of the perfection of a life in Heaven … there can be no enemies there, no thieves and vagabonds… no celibacy…”

He was thief and vagabond, but no celibate,” agreed the widow, looking at him and wondering exactly what this odd friar did know.

You see what I mean … no man who thieves can get to Heaven, no man who molests or rapes or does any of the horrendous things one hears tell of … and when you get there, sweet lady, in the perfection of your own youth, the years will pass and you will age no more … that is Heaven and it awaits you… all you have to do is prepare yourself…”

Prepare myself?” she answered, dubiously.

Go to your home, sweet woman, to your cottage by the fields, and rest upon your palliasse, close hour precious eyes and imagine with the clarity of your young vision the perfection of the hereafter … the lightness of the air, the no need for back-breaking toil … the angels around you, tending to your every need, the gates barred so that no sinner may enter … and all you have to do is get there safely … so go to the haven of your little home and lie upon your bunk, and let sleep wash over you … no need for food and drink, there is no need for food and drink in that wonderful Afterlife that is waiting for you…”

And overwhelmed by the thought of a life lived in perfection, she said “what must I do, Master, to reach your Heaven and the life you promise waits for me there?”

And he smiled, the creases of that smile reaching the corners of his kind and generous eyes, and he lay his hands on her shoulders so that she could feel the warmth of him, and he let her bosom lie upon his manly chest (his one small reward for a life of celibate self-denial) and whisper, “do just what I say, child, just what I say. Go to your cot, smooth the harshness in your palliasse so that you might lie there in comfort for ever, and sleep the sleep of the enlightened. Let darkness and daylight roll pass you and dream all the time of your future in the folds of your Lord’s sacred robes…”

And no food, master, and no drink…?” she whispered.

He nodded sagely. “No food and no drink,” he agreed, “for every morsel you eat, every drop that you drink, will perpetuate the agonies of your life here on Earth. Instead, prepare for Heaven. Come, child, let me lead you to your simple cot, let me lie you down with the light of day barred from anywhere near your bed, and let me pray by your side …”

You by my bed, Master?” she asked.

Me, guided by the light of love that shines on me from Heaven, me holding your hand, me soothing your brow … me helping you unclasp your garments so that when your moment comes there will be nothing to hinder your transfer to the Almighty… it is written in the ancient books that I have glanced at…”

You have read them, Master?”

He shook his head sadly. “No. The words are deep and mysterious and in a tongue that is older than me and even older than the ancient order I claim as my sacred guide … the words were written in the Beginning, and they presage the Ending…”

In an alien tongue?” she whispered.

In the tongue of the Angels,” he nodded.

Then I will let you guide me, Master… I will let you banish the light from my bed, I will let you lie me on my cot, I will do what you say, kind friar…”

He salivated. “Then come, child…” he whispered.

And he led her to her humble one-room cottage, he barred the windows so only streaks of light could enter, and he turned to her. She was shivering, though the room was not cold.

You can feel our Heavenly Master’s breath around you?” intoned the friar.

I can feel it,” she whispered.

Then disrobe, my dearest, and lie on your bunk, and dream … dream all you can, let the light of Heaven and the Afterlife enter your eyes and find its way to your heart, and still it for ever…” he breathed, his head so close to hers she couldn’t be expected to see what he was doing, or the rising erection in his weathered hand.

Best make hay while the sun shines,” he thought, “for she’ll be a starved shell within the week, and Heaven-bound, away from me…”

© Peter Rogerson 28.05.14

 

FAIRYLAND DREAMS

27 May

FAIRYLAND DREAMS

FAIRYLAND photo: Fairyland fairys-38.jpg

It was the kind of night when Laura and Dom liked to wake briefly together and whisper in the darkest of hours. They did that sometimes, woke up when the world was asleep and spent a few moments discussing next to nothing before drifting back to sleep again. It wasn’t a sex thing: it just happened now and again.

“Did you know,” whispered Laura teasingly, “did you know that I dreamed that every time I tell you how much I love you, and say it most sincerely, it makes my eyes sort of water and a fairy is born…”

“You sentimental old thing,” grinned Dom.

“But I have to really mean it. It’s no good if I just toss the words out like so much chaff,” added Laura.

“And you believe in fairyland?” teased Dom, yawning.

“I said it was a dream, silly,” murmured Laura. “Now let me go back to sleep.”

“I’m not stopping you,” yawned Dom, and he kissed her. Within moments her regular breathing told him that she was asleep.

He closed his own eyes, and the world went a kind of featureless charcoal grey. And as he lay there Laura took his hand in hers and led him out of their bed and down a black road. He knew it was her without looking because she was the only woman he’d ever slept with.

They’d been childhood friends, then college friends, then lovers, then man and wife. Life had been simple because, hell, he knew he loved her. If anything unpleasant were to happen to her then he knew without thinking that it would be happening to him as well. They were that close.

And here he was on a black road, and her precious fingers were holding his hand, guiding him.

“Where are we going?” he asked.

“Sshh” she whispered back. “Come on!”

And the black road did the impossible and grew blacker. Eventually, ahead, not so far away, a glimmer of light formed in the Stygian night.

“Fairyland,” she whispered.

“What…?” he asked.

“Where all my fairies live,” she breathed. “Those I make when I say, with all my heart, that I love you. Come on! I’ll show you!”

And in that moment they were in her fairyland.

It seemed to be in a clearing in an ancient forest that stretched in all directions into the infinite black of a featureless night. Yet this was no black, like jet or coal. This was a pastel assortment of light, with little folks and their wings darting about.

“This can’t be real,” he mumbled.

“Oh, but it is!” she giggled. “Dom, I do love you!”

And in that instant, exactly as the words left her mouth, a fairy sprung into being, blinking at the shock of sudden life before flitting off towards a group of other little folk.

“See,” sighed Laura. “Come on. I want to show you someone.”

She led him, holding his hand still, to a half-timbered cottage with a thatched roof and tiny windows. Outside its rustic door an ancient figure, wings tucked behind it and a polished head shining in the pastel light, sat in a rocking chair, smiling at everything.

“This is the oldest fairy in my fairyland,” whispered L aura. “He arrived before I met you, Dom, when I was a child at home and I said to my mummy before she died, and only just before she died, that I loved her. And I meant it so achingly because even though I was only little something inside me knew that she was dying…And my fairy came alive in fairyland and built his own little house, and waited.”

“He waited? What for?” asked Dom.

“For someone to talk to,” sighed Laura. “Come on, I want to show you some more…”

She led him to a dark corner of her fairyland where the pastel light shone dimly and the air seemed oppressive. And in that dark corner was a parade of winged folk, military and sprightly and all bearing weapons.

“Remember when you had that affair with Linda Causeman?” asked Laura.

“The affair you thought I was having?” he frowned. “I never was, you know. I didn’t even like her, and anyway she had tiny tits and her breath smelt!”

“Well, when you were perving over her I tried so hard to bring you back to me, but when I said I loved you there was doubt and anger in my thoughts…”

“But I never perved over her! Not once!” protested Dom.

“It was then that this little army came into being,” sighed Laura. “They’re going to war, you know. That’s what they’re training for. They’re going to war against the good guys. There’s bound to be bloodshed. I can feel it in the wind…”

“That’s terrible,” whispered Dom. “All because you thought I was doing something when I wasn’t?”

She nodded. “Are you sure you never hankered after her?” she asked.

“Never! Not a little bit! Linda Causeman never meant anything to me, nor ever will!” he replied, hotly. “I don’t know where you got the idea from!”

“She told me,” sighed Laura. “I was so hurt and upset.”

“Then you’re a silly girl,” said Dom, a little heatedly. “I’ve only ever loved you. You must know that!”

The air grew still and the army of little folk, bristling with weapons of every conceivable kind, started marching towards the other end of the pastel clearing. The officer who lead them called out a rhythm, one two three four, one two three four…

“It’s war, whispered Laura.

“No it isn’t” snapped Dom. “I know all wars are based on lies, but it’s wrong! I’ll kill her, that’s what I’ll do. I’ll go back home and kill Linda Causeman, and then you’ll know!”

“All wars are based on lies…” whispered Laura. “Of course they are! Oh Dom, I do love you so very much.”

And as she spoke those words the magical army wibbled and wobbled, the weapons melted to detritus and the winged soldiers became no more substantial than dust before blowing away on a sudden breeze.

And when he turned round he saw Laura’s head next to his on their pillows, a smile on her face and a drying trail of blood where he’d kissed her.

© Peter Rogerson 27.05.14

Aside

WHAT’S IN A NAME

27 May

WHAT’S IN A NAME?

miserable man photo images_zps44788bf3.jpg

Parson Grimwolde was no god-fearing man. His forename had been given him by doting parents when he had been the long-awaited little cherub they had dreamed of having and who hadn’t arrived until they feared they were getting too old themselves to become parents. He had, in fact, been totally unexpected in the way that most surprises are, and as a welcome to the world they had put their heads together and arrived, in wreaths of smiles, at his Christian name.

What shall we call the angel?” he asked.

He’s a gift from above,” cooed she.

Then we’ll call him Parson!” exclaimed he.

That’s perfect!” gasped she, and they made love with the name Parson ringing in their heads.

So he had passed through life as Parson, been teased at school by flighty girls and scruffy boys who thought it great fun to mock him for his name, had been turned down at many a job interview because the last thing a potential employer wanted was a parson on his books and had eventually reached middle age as a bitter and loveless creature, more devil than man if the truth were known.

He believed, that as a man, he should be served. It was in the Good Book, so it must be right, mustn’t it? And there was no woman in his life to serve him. He had to serve himself – and that was plain wrong.

He discovered that it is easy for a man to become grievously misogynist when he’s got the wrong name. In his teens he yearned for many a rosy-cheeked wench and had to settle for the joys of secret masturbation. In his twenties he eyed the newly-wed angels as they draped themselves on the shoulders of their adoring beaus, and wanted one for himself, but they never came his way because when they saw how his face had soured over time, how his own name had caused rejection after rejection until his heart sunk at the thought of womankind and his mouth turned down as a regular thing, they teasingly laughed at his advances and found more acceptable and even uglier men to partner.

So Parson Grimwolde went through life as a reject. Yet, before his demeanour had been molded by time and the word Parson, he had sometimes been looked on as handsome and desirable. Young women had searched him out and rapidly cooled when he’d introduced himself. The Grimwolde bit had been bad enough, but Parson? That put the kibosh on any future relationship.

Then, in his sixties and giving up love as something other people enjoyed, he fell in love and, to the amazement of all who knew him, the angel he met fell in love with him. She was seven years his junior, which was good, but her name was Ann Summers and she understood the thing about names. She, poor soul, had been blessed with the same nomenclature as a popular commercial business that dealt, primarily, with sex toys for ladies as well as a wide range of explicit garments few women of her age would be seen dead wearing. Her own name had been a greater obstacle to happiness and a full life than had Parson’s. After all, what decent, well-brought up young man would ever admit to escorting Ann Summers to the ball?

Ann Summers became Ann Grimwolde, and she was suddenly and brieflty happy and contented. But Parson wasn’t. He discovered almost immediately that the joys of loving that he’d long believed he’d missed out on weren’t all they were cracked up to be and even demanded personal effort when he felt weary and in need of sleep. Added to that, Ann Grimwolde was far from willing to serve him as he thought she should. They both had employment (of a sort, though he was zooming towards retirement) and yet he expected her to cook and clean and wash his soiled underwear and attend to his personal needs at a moment’s notice whilst he recovered from the day’s labour by prostrating himself in front of the television set and yawning quietly to himself.

You should have been a parson in deed rather than name,” she moaned. “That would have suited you and your misogynist ways! You’re just like one of those old testament types who believed women should be slaves in the home and beaten if they fail to please! That’s what they believed, and you’re just like that!””

I’m no misogynist!” he protested. “I love you. I really do.”

You love me because I’m your slave,” she sniffed. “You love me because I do everything for you as well as go to work where, incidentally, my wages are more than yours!”

I’m a man,” he explained. “Men don’t do domestic stuff. That’s woman’s work. Men need to recover from their day’s toil. It’s only right. It’s always been like that. It’s the natural order of things”

She shuddered, and retreated to their bedroom, where she did a breat deal of thinking on her own. And in that thinking she saw, bright and clear and in precise detail, that she was on to a loser.

I was better off as plain Ann Summers,” she told herself. “This man’s a toad! Do this, do that while I do nothing. Bah!”

So, without any more ado, she packed her bags and left him.

Parson Grimwolde found that once again he had to wash his own pants. He discovered that his kitchen skills weren’t a match on those of his deserted wife and he reflected that, inconvenient as it had sometimes been, sex with her had been marginally better than sex with his hand.

His joys had been short-lived.

But that had been his destiny. It was written in the letters of his name. Parson Grimwolde, miserable misogynist extraordinaire, was a solitary and lonely man and that just had to be that.

© Peter Rogerson 26.05.14

A FEW SNAPSHOTS OF OUR RHINE CRUISE

25 May

A FEW SNAPSHOTS OF OUR RHINE CRUISE

Dutch night aboard the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1005_zps921f7c6a.jpg

Having returned from a cruise along the rivers Rhine and Moselle in Germany I thought I’d share with the few friends that remain on Gather some of the photographs I took. Call it a travelogue, if you like. We sailed on a 100 berth river cruiser, The Prinses Christina, and this vessel has the friendliest and most helpful crew you will find anywhere. Built in 1969, it is comfortable without being ostentatious. It isn’t what you would call an old vessel, though, because it has obviously been modiefied and updated over the years. The cabins are small, with barely enough room for two passengers and the obligatory cat, which needs swinging! But who needs a spacious cabin when there is a sun-deck and so many things to be seen? And a bar bill to fertilise!

Here’s an interesting point. On the last night we were entertained by a talented and highly amusing German entertainer, and he managed to impress me with his up-beat version of the Dambusters March. I mean – a ship moored in German waters in Cologne with a German artiste and a piece of music about the destruction of German dams in the second world war!!! But I guess that it’s a token, one to do with setting the past to bed (without forgetting the lessons it might teach us) and celebrating cooperation and friendship in the future.

Anyway, here are my pictures, views of the Rhine valley taken from the sundeck of the Prinses Chistina.

The entertainment: brilliant photo IMG_1096_zps9d41af9c.jpg

For starters, the entertainer aboard ship for the last evening.

 photo IMG_1097_zpse78bd73e.jpg

I’m the old cove on the right with his arms round my wife, and, on the left, our friend Mavis.

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1061_zpsc4f38a5a.jpg

One of the many fortifications that history has lined the Rhine with. Tales of robber barons and their defenses abound. I won’t even attempt to identify any of them because although we were told their names I have forgotten which was which. There were quite a lot and they are all best remembered as being a romantic historic part of the Rhineland.

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1082_zps06382a68.jpg

Another view from the sundeck.

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1058_zps871fcfcd.jpg

I believe this castle was considered to be impregnable – until Napolean and his forces came along!!

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1052_zps3d55a46f.jpg

Another wonderful, romantic castle. You see what I mean when I say I’ve forgotten which was which?

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1053_zps8bcaee88.jpg

… and there’s more…

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1014_zps461589a7.jpg

This stood out with its obviously freshly-restored stonework.

Seen from the sun deck of the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1025_zps23c79640.jpg

Romance galore…

Thw River Rhine photo IMG_1007_zps94122ebe.jpg

Romance aside, the Rhine is a commercial waterway as witness this barge.

Dutch night aboard the Prinses Christina photo IMG_1004_zpsbdb7ce61.jpg

Although the Prinses Christina cruises up and down the Rhine and the Moselle in Germany, it is a Dutch ship and here the waiting crew can be seen entertaining us in Dutch national costume. Incidentally, only two of the crew were actually from the Netherlands – most from an assortment of Eastern European countries and all excellent.

The ship, The Prinses Christina, taken in 2014 photo IMG_0981_zps69e02fa3.jpg

THE PRINSES CHRISTINA

A WRITER’S WORK IS NEVER DONE…

16 May

A WRITER’S WORK IS NEVER DONE…

My mother colourised, 1930s photo jpeg-1.jpg

My mum, taken years before I was born )possibly 1930s), a black and white picture that I dared to colourise

Just a moment. This isn’t fiction! What’s got into me? What am I doing writing a load of stuff that’s actually based on reality?

Well, I thought I’d let off a bit of gently unscalding steam.

We all have our crosses to bear and mine had its birth a long, long time ago in the late fifties and early sixties.

Mine was a good childhood, albeit not at all wealthy: in fact, my late mother was a widow from the mid-40’s onwards after the smoking (according to her) killed my dad, and the income for widows back then was paltry. There were benefits, but a country still licking its wounds after the second world war couldn’t really afford much.

What follows is my judgement of events. It may (or may not) be actually true, but I believe it.

My mother, Gwen, was prescribed various tablets by her doctor, “for her nerves” she said, and when I got to thinking about it afterwards I realised she had uppers in the mornings to wake her up and downers at night, to help her sleep when all she probably needed was a sympathetic ear. And I seem to recall that the uppers were quite strong.

And this is what made me think that.

When my GCE results came out I reacted by showing my relief and possibly anxiety by going to sleep in the morning as soon as the post brought the dreaded envelope, in the front room, suddenly and unaccountably truly exhausted. I must have been really stressed out by the importance of examinations that I may or may not have failed to pass. And, seeing the state I was in, my mum gave me one of her tablets. Only the one. I can’t remember the conversation, but I do know that tablet worked miracles. I got on my Cyclemaster (a 25cc power-assisted push-bike) to go for a ride, and I rode all day, going from Warwickshire village to Warwickshire village. And I seem to recall I was singing for some of the time. Loud, at the top of my voice, and my voice is no finely tuned musical instrument. Far from it.

That night sleep wouldn’t come for ages, so I read in bed.

And, by dawn, the tablet had worn off and I was back to normal.

And my mum was on those same tablets, bless her, and she had other tablets to reverse the effect at bed time.

They wouldn’t give anyone such strong medication without really good reason these days, and I’m pretty sure that the stresses of relative poverty and bringing up two reasonably well-behaved sons didn’t constitute good enough reason.

The result, though, was that her condition deteriorated until she became as near as damn-it senile. There are quite a few different mental conditions she might have had, but I attribute her almost non-existent mental state to the prescribed tablets. After all, she was only in her fifties and, for years, drugged up to her eye-balls.

Her decline, though, was horrible. I was in my teens when I discovered that she couldn’t cash her widow’s pension because she’d forgotten how to sign her name, and I forged it for her for some time. Then came the instance when a council painter asked her to open the landing window, and that was that. She probably didn’t even understand what she was supposed to be doing when she fell down the stairs and lay, screeching, at the bottom of them.

They switched off the life-support equipment two or three days later.

That was the state she was in, and that the reason why I write my nonsense today. Why I create my imaginary worlds.

You see, I’ve been scared stiff since then of following her down the road to hell, and believe you me, that’s where she was. For the last year or so of her life she was a resident in that Underworld and the blessing was she didn’t really know it.

I decided I must do something positive to retain whatever marbles I was blessed with by my birth, and as I may have some skill when it comes to writing my rubbish, I decided to do just that, from my forties and fifties onwards. No medication, nothing that would soak my personality into itself except for, maybe, the odd glass of something nice in the evening. Just me and, in the earliest days, a typewriter which thankfully was followed, in time, by a steadily improving army of computers.

And that, my friends, is why a writer’s work is never done. At least this one’s isn’t. My marbles have just got to stay where they are!

© Peter Rogerson 15.05.14

A LIFE IN COFFEE

1 May

A LIFE IN COFFEE
He’s there already, thought Saphie as she carefully made her way towards the café where she’d met the stranger Rusty yesterday.
She paused and smiled.
He must be keen to give me that phone back!
Her hip gave a twinge and she winced. I hope that darned thing doesn’t let me down, it would be just too bad, proving I’m an old crock with one foot in the grave…
“You’re punctual,” she said as she drew near, and he looked up. His smile was uncertain. Was it welcoming? Or nervous, like a teenage lad going on his first date and wondering if he’ll manage to get a squeeze of her breasts? Or was it regretful, sorry that he’d come but needing to give her the phone back. Maybe wishing he hadn’t noticed it in the first place?
“I believe in being on time,” he replied, and his smile broadened and became more positive.
“It must have slipped out of my bag,” she murmured, indicating the phone he was holding. “I’m sorry if it’s put you to too much trouble.” She heaved herself into the seat opposite him and was surprised when a waitress brought two coffees.
“I hope your poison doesn’t exclude cappuccino,” he said. “I thought I’d order before you came.”
She shook her head, and smiled. “I like it,” she said, and took the phone from him. “It’s what I would have chosen myself,” she added.
He grinned at her. “I thought that’s what you had yesterday! I hope I didn’t disturb you, phoning last night like I did,” he said,
And,
“Not really, there wasn’t much on the telly, but when the phone started, it made me jump! I don’t get so many phone calls these days. My circle of friends is really quite small,” she replied, trying to sound contented with her life, and probably failing.
“Same here. But I had to return the phone and it took until the evening to charge it up. It was dead flat!”
“I hardly use the thing,” she sighed. “I pay so much every month and really ask for nothing in return.”
“I guess it’s much the same with me,” he smiled.
“There weren’t things like mobile phones back in the good old, bad old days,” she sighed. “My first love was Colin and when he became ill so very young I’d have loved having a mobile phone with me. But I didn’t, I couldn’t, there was no such thing, and so I was nowhere near him when he died … one of us had to work, though we never actually married. Living in sin was so naughty back then! Anyway, the hospital tried to contact me at the end and it took ages … it was a different age then.”
“That’s why I’ve got mine, for emergencies,” he told her. “Why did he die, that first love of yours?”
“It was the cigarettes that killed him,” she sighed. “Even when he knew he was ill, when he was coughing up blood, he smoked. Silly man, but he wasn’t the only silly person back then. And we’d said we wanted to live our entire lives together. We’d promised, like you do when you’re young, when you know you’re immortal and that old age is so far away you can discount it. Then death creeps along and it’s such a nasty shock.”
“Connie was my angel,” sighed Rusty. “I still expect to hear her voice in the morning or see her coming home with her bags and stuff, up the garden path. But she passed away, and I’m a lesser man for it.”
“You said … I understood you to say, rather, that you … helped her on her way?”
He sighed and fidgeted with his own fingers. “I shouldn’t have told a total stranger that,” he confessed, “but I’ve needed a mother confessor ever since, and nobody ever tells the Agathas of this world anything … she begged me to help her end it. And when I looked into her eyes and saw the pain in them, those eyes I’d loved down the years, the soul within them, the soul that was bleeding… how could I refuse?”
“It must have been a nightmare,” she whispered.
“It’s a continuing one. But I know I did the right thing when I helped her overdose on morphine. She was weeping through her last few days anyway. There could be no way back to life for her even if a magical cure was discovered the next day! All she had was the remorseless pain and the way her mind was mushed almost out of existence by medical science’s best attempts at numbing the pain… and I helped her when she begged me. And when she died I knew she’d found peace.”
“Did she believe… in an afterlife?” asked Saphie, carefully. She had no intention of treading on religious toes or causing a stranger grief by grafting her own spiritual doubts onto his grief.
Rusty shook his head. “She knew that the end was the end,” he said quietly. “I wish it wasn’t, but it is. There is no afterlife, no Heaven, no Hell, no God, no devil, lest that devil be in our own hearts…”
“I was a nun once,” she told him. “A bride of Christ. Until they discovered that an unnatural life might lead to unnatural desires and I was found in bed with another nun! And I can confirm, I think, that it’s all mystical gobbledegook.”
“You a nun?” That’s a hard one to believe!”
“They chucked me out. They insisted that I left and divorced me from Christ! Isabel was an angel. And I did like her, maybe for a time I loved her. It’s strange who a person will turn to when the overwhelming power of human instinctive needs are involved! I dared say that, back then and at a pinch, you might say I was bisexual. I hope that doesn’t shock you.”
“No more than being a murderer makes me feel guilty. I rather like the idea of love, true love, because that’s what I had with Connie. And if it is true then it’s wonderful no matter who it’s between…”
“You’re rather broad-minded for a man of a certain age,” she grinned. “What are we going to do about it?”
“Do about what?”
“This sudden friendship based on mutual confessions,” she whispered, so quietly that he had to lean towards her in order to hear. “I’ve got my phone back and I suppose I ought to offer you something in return for your honesty and kindness.”
“That’s all right!” he told her. “I’m not a thief!”
“And I’m not a cheap trollop who doesn’t repay kindness,” she smiled. “Do you fancy a nice glass of wine one evening? And maybe a good long chat?”
“I suppose … maybe … that would be nice…”
“Tonight?” she asked.
“In a pub? Which one?”
“No. Not a pub. Round my place. I’ve got quite a few bottles of good Italian fizz in, brought back from Lake Garda where I went on holiday last year, and I’m thinking one of them is begging to be opened…”
“Are you sure?”
“I wouldn’t suggest it if I wasn’t! And I’m not suggesting anything more than a glass of wine and a chance to talk the evening away. How about it?”
What am I doing? This is what the kids do at the drop of a hat, one glass leads to two and one bottle to three… but we’re too old for that!
“Then I’ll come,” he said, somewhat awkwardly. “I’m going to see Agatha this afternoon and even though she’s well out of it I’ll really enjoy telling her I’m spending an hour or two with a real lady!”
“How you must hate her!”
“She’s not a pleasant person, but I was so bloody lonely,” he said. “So very, very bloody lonely…”
© Peter Rogerson 11.03.14